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Captain America's Art Crawl Adventure

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The hallway leading to the illegal sublet Wendy shares with another young, photogenic artist
37 minutes until ART CRAWL o/

Wendy stepped back from the painting she'd just hung on the wall--it was a swirling, chaotic work featuring velociraptors eating stormtroopers that were riding giant fish while peas rained down from ominous green clouds--and eyed it critically.

"That's really something else."

She turned to see a blond guy wearing khakis and a white t-shirt that clung lovingly to an amazing chest and pair of shoulders. He looked like he might be even more square-jawed and broad-shouldered than her boss.

"I meant it as a compliment," he said, when she continued to stare at him. "I'm Steve. I'm looking for Wendy?"

"I'm Wendy," she said, shaking herself out of her daze and taking the hand he offered. "What can I do for you, Steve?" He pulled one of the Art Crawl flyers she and Lacey had pasted up all over the neighborhood out of his pocket. "You're a little early."

"No, I was hoping--" He lifted the portfolio in his other hand; she hadn't noticed it, being dazzled by his amazing pecs. "I understand there's space for local artists who don't live in the building to display their work."

He didn't look like any of the art students she and Lacey'd gone to school with, but she tried not to judge people too much by what they wore. After all, her boss dressed like Eisenhower and still used Brylcreem in his hair. And this guy looked like his blonder, buffer twin.

"Oh, sure. Here you go." She handed him a package of the sticky hooks that would come down easily during clean up and waved him down the hall to the space they'd left in case anyone new actually showed up. All their friends loved Art Crawl, but they didn't get many outsiders.

"Thanks."

"No problem. Art Crawl!" She pumped her fist and he frowned. Whatever. He'd learn.

*

The hallway leading to the illegal sublet Wendy shares with another young, photogenic artist
14 minutes until ART CRAWL o/

After making sure the pineapple rocket punch was ready and the vegan hors d'oeurves were visibly separate from the non-vegan hors d'oeurves, Wendy went back out into the hall to see how everything was shaping up.

She found Steve with Noser, who was saying, "Benny Goodman, huh? Hey, Wendy Watson, I might have found someone here who can actually stump the band."

"Never happen." She looked at the sketches hanging on the wall. "These yours, Steve?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Please don't call me ma'am," she said. "It makes me think I'm turning into my mother."

"Yes...Wendy."

"You'll get the hang of it." She patted him on his very broad, well-muscled shoulder and reminded herself that she had a boyfriend she loved a lot. She gestured towards his drawings. "These are really good." They were more realistic than most of the art featured during Art Crawl, charcoal and pencil sketches of people, places, and vehicles, but they were well drawn, with a sure, fluid line and a good eye for detail and composition. Some had small accents in color, where it made the strongest impression--one fine-featured lady had a perfect red bow for a mouth. Wendy wondered if it was drawn from life and if so, what kind of lipstick she'd worn. Next was a series of sketches of various World War II fighters and bombers, radiating kinetic energy. "My dad was a pilot," Wendy said. "He would have loved these."

Steve blushed and ducked his head. "Thank you."

"You're cute," she said, enjoying his response. "Noser, I think we should keep him."

"You're the boss, boss," Noser said. "I guess I better bone up on the big band era."

*

The hallway leading to the illegal sublet Wendy shares with another young, photogenic artist
ART CRAWL o/

The Middleman (Wendy still couldn't bring herself to think of him by his first name, let alone use it in conversation) arrived when the party was in full swing. He was dressed in civilian clothes--khakis and a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up--so Wendy figured the world was safe for the moment and refilled her cup of pineapple rocket punch before she went over to greet him.

"Hey, boss, what's up?"

"Hello, Dubbie. Quite a turnout tonight."

"Well, you know, Art Crawl." She thrust her fist in the air and he gave her an indulgent smile. "There's a guy here tonight, you two would probably get along like a house on fire. And seriously, you have to see the shoulders on this guy. I wonder where he works out, and if we can sell tickets."

His smile disappeared. "Not that I don't appreciate the effort, Dubbie, but I don't tend to be attracted to men."

"What? Oh, no, I didn't mean that." Wendy wanted to stay far away from his love life after everything that had happened--or not happened--with Lacey. "I just mean--He's over there. With Lacey." In fact, Steve looked a little spooked as Lacey tried to sell him on the merits of fake bacon mini-quiches and soy cheese mozzarella sticks. At least Perfect Warren wasn't hanging off her neck the way he usually was.

"At least try a pickled green bean," Lacey was saying, shifting the tray of finger foods until the green beans were facing Steve.

Wendy could feel the Middleman stiffen at the sound of Lacey's voice and she wished there was something she could do for him.

"Yes, ma'am." Steve ate his pickled green bean with a faintly puzzled look on his face, which turned into a smile when he saw Wendy.

"Pip's in the kitchen," Wendy said, "deliberately mixing up the fried regular cheese and the fried soy cheese."

"I'll take care of him," Lacey said, straightening her shoulders and holding her tray like a weapon.

"Hey, Wendy Watson," Steve said, mimicking Noser.

"Hi, Steve, this is my--"

"Take the A train, Dubbie! Do you know who this is?"

Wendy blinked. "Um, Steve from--You didn't actually say where you were from, Steve, but I'm guessing somewhere in Brooklyn, since you're here now, though if you took the A train, I'm pretty sure you had to change at Hoyt-Schermerhorn for the G."

Steve had a resigned look on his face. "I don't think I'm who you think I am," he said.

The Middleman leaned in close. "Sir, I want you to know that even though you were in the army and I was in the navy, you were a great inspiration to me." He clutched Wendy's arm like Lacey would at a Varsity Fanclub show. "Dubbie, this is Captain America."

Wendy reared back in surprise. "No way!"

The Middleman's eyes were lit with fannish adoration. "Yes, way."

"I'm afraid you're mistaken," said Steve.

"I understand," the Middleman said. "Your civilian identity must be protected. But I've seen the communiqués from SHIELD."

"We get communiqués from SHIELD?" Wendy asked, trying to keep up.

It was the Middleman's turn to blush and look uncomfortable. "Not exactly. Ida intercepts them on the HEYDAR."

"Wait, Captain America is real?"

"Yes, Dubbie."

"And he's standing in my hallway?"

"Yes, Dubbie."

"Sweet." She smiled. "Does this mean Batman is real, too?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"Dude. That's awesome."

"That wasn't an answer."

"It was enough of an answer for me."

While they were chatting, Steve was making an effort to slip out of the corner in which they'd cornered him, but Wendy wasn't the kind of girl to let a pair of shoulders like that slip away.

"Steve, wait--"

Someone screamed, which, well, Wendy didn't want to say that was good, because in her experience, screaming usually meant tentacle monsters or Mafioso apes, but she'd had a couple cups of punch and wasn't sure she could come up with a compelling reason to keep Steve from leaving, but screaming definitely would.

Lacey appeared, hair tousled and (hopefully empty) hors d'oeuvres tray clutched to her chest. "Dub Dub, why is there a giant glue monster rampaging through Art Crawl?"

"I don't know, Lacey. Why is there a giant glue monster rampaging through Art Crawl?"

The Middleman said, "I think the more pertinent question is, how do we stop a giant glue monster from rampaging through Art Crawl?"

Wendy thought for a moment. "Turpentine!"

Steve, Lacey, and the Middleman all turned to stare at her, their faces concerned, hopeful, and thoughtful, respectively.

"Turpentine?" asked the Middleman.

Wendy nodded. "Turpentine. I have a gallon of it in the loft." It was her turn to square her shoulders and set her jaw in determination. "Cover me, boys, I'm going in."

*

The illegal sublet Wendy shares with another young, photogenic artist
23 minutes post-ART CRAWL o/

"Honestly, Pip, the smears only improved your paintings," Wendy said as she shoved him out the door and shut it behind him. She turned to lean against it, wrinkling her nose at the stench of rubber cement and turpentine that clung to her clothes and hair.

"My hair is officially a disaster area. Now I get why you wear that funny helmet," she said to Steve.

"It's not--"

"It's okay," she said. "Secret identity, I get it. But I've never seen anybody throw a tray like that, and I trained with Sensei Ping. You totally decapitated that thing."

"But you were the one who made sure it stayed down," he said graciously. "I'll make sure you get a new can of turpentine as soon as possible." He grinned, and wow, he probably didn't need anything but that smile to dazzle his opponents into submission. Even the Middleman seemed a little dazed by it, which meant that his fanboying had been toned down to a steady gaze of admiration.

While Wendy rinsed out her hair and changed out of her ruined clothes, the Middleman had poured himself and Captain America--and seriously, Wendy was getting over that approximately never--glasses of milk, though when she came back downstairs, she'd surreptitiously switched Steve's out for punch. He gave her another grateful smile and she felt light-headed. She told herself it was the turpentine. He wasn't even her type, really. She couldn't believe there were two such upstanding, lantern-jawed, straight-arrow heroes in the world, let alone her living room.

"Is Art Crawl usually this exciting?" Steve asked. He wasn't covered in glue and turpentine the way she had been, but he didn't take a seat when she waved him over to the couch.

"Usually, Lacey's performance is what brings down the house," she said. "I think everybody will believe us if we say this was one of Joe 90's new projects that got out of hand, though."

He took another sip of punch and set his cup down. "I should probably get going."

"It was an honor to work with you, sir," said the Middleman, saluting crisply.

Steve saluted in response. "For me, too."

"I don't salute," Wendy said, pulling him into a hug. He didn't smell like glue and turpentine. In fact, he smelled really good. She probably held on a little longer than was polite. "And seriously, there is usually a lot less screaming and crying at Art Crawl, especially if you avoid Pip's paintings. Don't be a stranger."

Steve gave her another one of those bright smiles. "I won't."

"Wow," the Middleman said after he was gone.

"I know, right?" Wendy answered, collapsing onto the couch.

"Captain America."

"Seriously." She untied and retied her ponytail, trying to keep the wet hair from touching her neck. "He was my dad's favorite, you know. I always liked Batman best, but my dad, he was a Cap fan."

"I didn't know that." The Middleman sat down next to her and put a warm, reassuring hand on her arm. "So often, our heroes don't live up to the hype when we meet them. I'm glad this one did."

Wendy swallowed past the lump in her throat and smiled at him. "Yeah," she said. "Me, too."

end