Chicken Parm

June 07, 2015:

Howard and Steve have some dinner, and the recent attempt on the former's life slips out.

Some pasta place

A place where they serve pasta.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Howard has money, but he doesn't always have expensive tastes. Sometimes his roots as a poor kid from the Lower East Side shine through. It's a little hole in the wall Italian joint - the kind completely bypassed by tourists or visitors and visited almost exclusively by those who live within a few blocks. His plate is half-cleared of canneloni and he's sipping on a glass of red wine. "Seriously, Steve. You should bring Peggy here. We used to eat here all the time. Or, well, I guess it was the previous iteration of this place. The original SHIELD office was right around the corner."

Steve chuckles and looks down at his beer and his chicken parm, "Well, I'd love to if either of us found much time to do anything other than work. I suppose that's what we signed up for. I consider myself lucky I'm able to get out here with you."

"You are an in-demand guy, as always. At least they're not making you sing and dance anymore." Howard raises the glass to his lips and pauses before he sips. "Did you sing, or just dance? You know, I don't think I ever caught one of your shows in person." He grins. "I have all the old film reels, though. Originals. Unless Tony let them fall to pieces."

"Singing and dancing wasn't so bad. I got one hell of a singing voice and the best legs this side of the Mississippi," Steve says with a grin. "What's keeping you busy these days, Howard? How's the THINK thing going?"

Howard exhales and scratches his neck. "Oh, fine. Fine. Lot of work. Got some brilliant minds signed on. You should come by and check the place out. Not a lethal weapon to be found. Got a couple of young ladies working out of the garage. Doctorates and not even out of their teens. I guess I still have a decent rep, huh?" He holds up a finger. "…not that rep."
He clears his throat and pushes a bit of food around on his plate. "Did…Peggy tell you about the incident in the restaurant?"

Steve smiles, "I wasn't going to say anything. That rep speaks all for its own." He rolls some spaghetti around upon his fork, filling his mouth. When Howard mentions an incident he shakes his head slowly as he swallows and reaches for the beer, "No, actually I haven't seen her for a bit. I've been out of town on a mission. Everything alright?"

"Well, that would explain your cheery demeanor. I was wondering if you were actually being that polite," Howard drawls wryly. "So these Soviets…" he holds up a hand, "…sorry, I guess they aren't Soviets anymore. Eastern Europeans? Is that the right term?" He waves a hand. "…walked into a steakhouse while I was having dinner with Tony and Peggy. With guns." He clears his throat. "…they tried to kidnap me and Tony. And this one guy came out with a chain of overloaded repulsors strapped to his chest."

Steve stares at him for a long time trying to wrap his head around that idea. "You'll have to pardon me," he says vaguely, "The whole Eastern European Communist Cold War thing was while I was taking my nap. Back when I was around, we were still begrudging allies." Again, another pause, "Who was it? What did they want?"

"Peg's been investigating. They have the guy in custody - the repulsor guy. He claims that a factory in his village started chugging away two weeks before I made my announcement that I was alive." Howard clearly is troubled by all of this, but he's trying to be casual. "This was one of Obadiah's weapons plants that he was operating under my nose. This guy though, this Erben fellow, claims he saw me tour the factory when he was a kid." He rubs his forhead. "He actually fought with Tony, and with SHIELD, to help stabilize the region."

"And he attacked you for revenge?" Steve says, not sure that he's clear. "I don't suppose he'd be willing to give it a truce on account of the Stane issue. You mind if I ask Peg about it? See if I can lend a hand…"

"I don't know. I guess? Peg's actually talked to him, but…" Howard raps his fingers on the table. "I don't know if she trusts me. It was like an interrogation when she came to talk to me about it. She gets a badge again, and all of a sudden she goes full SHIELD agent." He pushes the plate away. He seems to have lost his appetite. "I can't say I blame her. I wasn't always honest with her back in the day, so she doesn't really trust me, not entirely. But with her counterpart, we grew to trust each other completely. I guess I forgot that I need to earn that kind of trust all over again. Feel free to talk to her about it if you want to."

"I wouldn't take it personally, Howard. To be honest, she's that way with me too. I think that's just Peg, really," Steve snickers a bit and then adds, "But she was doing that before the badge; let's be honest." He finishes his beer and nods, "I'll talk to her and see what's what. They don't have me on anything new, yet. After the stuff with the Congress they're keeping me on a short leash and only putting me on important stuff. Since I've been back, I've been staring at the walls."

"Oh, we can't have that. I should work on a training program for you. Something that'll put you through your paces and keep you sharp. I'm sure the THINK scientists would love to work on holotech and robotics to give you a real challenge." Howard's deflecting. He's pretty good at that.

And for his friend's comfort, Steve plays along. The tough questions will be saved for Peg. "Well I'll be happy to come on down and see what's going on in the exciting world of science, technology, and other things I don't understand well. I'm sure you have training guides all made up."

Howard smiles. He's got a quip on the end of his tongue, but he stows it. Instead, "This guy came after my kid, Steve. For something he thinks I did to his village." Him, too. But he's never been afraid to take the shit for his own actions or the perception of his actions. When it rolls on to others, especially his family?

Steve nods gravely, "I know, Howard. I'm going to help in any way I can. And I know this won't help, but Tony is a big boy. He has taken on bigger threats than this scrub."

"Yeah, but that was his choice," says Howard. "That kid's had enough heartache caused by me. He doesn't need my demons chasing him." One might say that Tony has enough of his own.

Steve nods solemnly, "Whatever it is, we'll get to the bottom of it and get it cleaned out." He sets down his fork, finished with his meal. "I might touch base with Tony as well."

"What are things like between you and Tony, anyway? I've never asked him. Not that he'd tell me." Howard smiles a little sadly. "I uh, I told him a lot about you when he was growing up."

"Things have always been fine. We were thrown on each other's side early on, and we've always been pretty business oriented. He's a good man though, deep down, and we'd go to bat for each other whenever we need to," Steve says plainly and with a shrug.

"Just so you know…if he ever gives you the side-eye or a hard time, that's probably my fault," says Howard with a sheepish little grin. "I bet for him, meeting you was a bit like meeting the real Santa Claus."

Steve shrugs, "Most of the time we've really been around each other it was in some dire situations. He's quite the hero in his own right these days. I'm not sure if there's much of an awe factor, really. And honestly, someone giving me a hard time rather than staring is a welcome change."

"I don't approve of the suit. I really don't," says Howard with a heavy sigh. "But I am starting to understand it." As if on cue, he drains the rest of his wine. Which might be worrying if he could actually get drunk. "Anyway, I'm hoping this nutjob is an isolated incident. There's a security guy outside in a car watching me. Tony insisted, despite the fact that I'm having dinner with Captain goddamned America."

Steve laughs, "He's a lot like his dad, it seems. I'm going to head out and go try and track down Peg. I'll give you a call in a couple days and see if I've been able to scrounge up anything the others hadn't. Thanks for dinner. I'm assuming you're paying." Steve gives a wink as he stands.

"Oh, but I've forgotten my wallet," says Howard, eyes wide, clear sarcasm in his voice. He pats himself down and pretends to not feel it. He stands when Steve does and offers out his hand. "It's good to see you. I admit it's a little surreal every time. So uh…keep that in mind when it comes to Peg, all right? She's probably feeling that too."

Steve nods, "That's good advice. And think I have a little bit of that shock in me, too." He shakes Howard's hand and nods, "Thanks for dinner. We'll talk soon."

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