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Sidekicks'

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There is a bar. It is small, and well-lit, and the door is utterly inconspicuous; there is no sign outside, and the only indication that the bar is not simply a basement is the tiny ‘Open’ sign hanging from the doorknob. It does not have a name. And – this is the important bit – it is only visible to the people who need it.

John Watson found the bar three days after he moved in with Sherlock Holmes, that glorious madman. He drinks there two or three times a month, because the beer is good and the company is better, and everyone who drinks there knows exactly what he is talking about when he puts his head down on the table and moans, “Geniuses.”

Sometimes John drinks with a very short fellow in a gardener’s togs, who never wears shoes, and does not talk about his Person. He has a strong aversion to jewelry, especially rings.

Other times John will find himself speaking with a young Welsh fellow who always makes his own coffee – it is very good coffee – and tells improbable stories about an immortal man and a pterodactyl and aliens. John rather thinks that he’s mad, but that’s a hazard of the job.

There are only two rules at the bar, and they are posted above the array of bottles: No Names and What Happens Here, Stays Here. John obeys both scrupulously, so in his head he has labeled the charming young woman he drinks with most often as ‘Patience.’

She meets him maybe once a month, and on the days she comes in she’s as likely as not to be bruised or have smudges of ash on her cheeks. She tells stories about a mad inventor who built himself a heart and cares nothing for his health, and John offers his own tales of a crazed detective who uses far too much cocaine and knows nothing of literature. They laugh together, and sometimes Patience cries.

He nearly died again today, she will say. Or, He hasn’t come out of his lab in a week and even his butler is worried, and last time he did this it was because he was secretly dying. Or again, I think he accidentally blew up an incredibly expensive piece of equipment in the course of creating a new element, and I don’t know whether to congratulate him or beat him about the ears. John nods and pats her hand.

*

Pepper Potts found the bar a month after she agreed to work for Tony Stark. She goes there as often as she can, though that isn’t very often and she doesn’t stay long. Mostly she doesn’t talk to anyone, but there’s a quiet older man, a doctor by his black bag and occasional tales, who makes her laugh and does not mind when she cries. She thinks of him as Doc, of course; she has never tried to find out who he really is. The bar is too precious to ruin.

She almost tried to convince Tony to take up the violin once, listening to Doc’s stories of his crazed detective, and then she thought of the inevitably destroyed Stradivariuses that would result and dropped the idea. Her mad genius and Doc’s are different enough that they can’t trade all that many tricks – there are only so many ways to coax someone to eat, and both of them have already tried all of those – but oh, it’s good to talk to someone who understands.

He drugged himself into unconsciousness again today, Doc will say. Or, Today he solved two crimes, got shot at three times, and pretended to have been killed in order to lure a criminal close enough to punch. Or again, He tried to brew tea in his chemistry equipment and I had to stop him before he poisoned us both. Pepper sighs and hands him another beer.

*

There is a bar, somewhere or everywhere. It has no name, though most of its regulars think of it as ‘The Sidekicks’ Bar.’ The beer is good, and the company is better, and everyone there is guaranteed to understand.