The Fantastic Has-Beens, Part 3: Brother can ya spare a dime?

December 07, 2015:

Ben, Johnny, and Reed head out for some pizza and beer. You know, like real bros. What could go wrong? How about finances and a visit from the frightful four. Or three, at least.

Lucky Luciano's Pizzeria

It's the best. You should go.

Characters

NPCs: The Trapster, Medusa, and Sandman

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

LUCKY LUCIANO'S MAGNIFICENT PIZZERIA
LITTLE ITALY
7:53 PM

Something about the smell of fried chicken and cooked dough and the best sauce on the island is enough to put anyone in a good mood. This place was doing it long before Shakey's Pizza, and doing it better if you ask the locals.

Beside the great food, there's also an old school arcade complete with the long claws and teddy bears, the handguns attached to the long cords, which are in turn attached to games that haven't been updated since 1993.

The tables are picnic-style with the red and white checkerboard tablecloth. Cloth is a generous term, of course. These things are made out of pure plastic. Speaking of plastic, that's what the large mugs are made out of that hold the fountain sodas and the beer.

There is beer.

It's been that sort of week.

Reed Richards is fiddling with his phone in a dire attempt to figure out whether his latest patent stands a good chance of selling. The idea is pretty novel if you ask him, and by reading this you didn't but he'll subject you to it anyways. It's a film that goes on the rim of the refrigerator; the part that touches the door. Between being slightly magnetized and being polar, these strips pull on each other to help keep the fridge closed even when the door is starting to go. He's trying to get it approved under the EPAs Great Ideas program. The money wouldn't come until April, the start of the next fiscal cycle, but he can parlay that patent into a loan from a bank to help the immediate concerns at the Baxter Building.

And so, he refreshes.

And refreshes.

*

A particularly handsome, blond haired and blue eyed young man strolls easily through the restaurant, carrying two plastic tankards of beer in one hand, a third in the other. He smiles at people and winks at ladies in passing, strutting with his best gait and damn near perfect posture. He's like a walking champion; he does it with style, grace, and finesse.

Until he comes upon Ben Grimm, who's standing at one of the arcade games.

Storm's foot bumps right into Grimm's massive leg, and he stumbles. "Whoa!!" The two beers (marked REED and JOHNNY) are salvaged, but the third, (marked BO SHUDA) ends up splattering all across Grimm's back. "Ohhhh man! Oh man. Dude." He takes a step back, the plastic mug dripping beer on the floor while he stares in mock horror at what he's done. "I am… so sorry."

Storm holds the look for three seconds, before the laughter bursts out his nose.

*

"C'mon, c'mon! Aw, ya stupid — how ya like them apples?!"

Grimm mutters to himself while trying to play Mortal Kombat on an arcade machine - the only one with controls big enough for him to actually use - when Johnny Storm 'accidentally' trips into him.

"I — hey, what?" Ben exclaims as his trenchcoat gets soaked all the way down his back… in beer. He turns away from the arcade, snapping off one of the control levers in his hand.

"FATALITY!" intones the game, indicating that Grimm's avatar (Sub-Zero) has just died, having had his body torched to death by Scorpion's fire-breathing skullface.

"Why you — ?!" he bellows at Johnny, and he takes a swipe at the younger, nimbler (annoying) fellow with a thick, orange hand. "Ya cost me a game, ya li'l pipsqueak! An' I just had this drycleaned! Why I oughta…"

Grimm's voice trails off once he notices other patrons of the place all staring at him, brandishing the severed control-knob of the arcade machine above his head in a threatening manner toward Storm.

"Uh…"

*

Things are about to get worse.

As Johnny and Ben are beginning to melee, and as the other kind hearted patrons from this fair city are watching on, there is trouble afoot at the picnic table where Reed sits.

"That's going to be $53.80, Mr. Richards."

"Sure, no problem," he says as he fishes out his wallet and produces a black credit card. Reed slides it over across the table to the waitress who disappears.

Reed picks at a piece of pizza and twists his face, deep in thought, losing track of time until the waitress returns.

"Uhm, Mr Richards?" she says with a wince. "I don't know how to tell you this, but your card has been declined."

*

Whoa! A quick duck and a half skip to the side, and his and Reed's beers are sloshing around but still unspilt. Johnny Storm looks from Ben to the patrons, then back to Ben. "Oooh. You hear that?" He raises the empty cup marked BO SHUDA to his ear, and pretends to use it like a magnifying cup. "Yeah. That's it. That's the sound of your action figure sales… dropping back below mine."

Askance, he looks Reed's way. "Hey, Grimm. Hold up a sec." Storm frowns, and while he's tempted to make another joke at Grimm's expense, the forlorn expression catches him off guard. "Put down the controller, Ben." He jerks a thumb Reed's way, then goes trotting over toward the man.

"Sup, Stretch?" he asks, and sets Reed's beer down in front of him. "Oh, and miss? Could I get another one for the big guy here? I, uh, spilled the other one."

*

Ben stands there - in a trenchcoat soaked in beer all the way down its back - grumbling aloud for a few moments more, until he finally, gingerly, replaces the knob atop the arcade machine by standing it up in the slot from which he took it.

It's a little wonky, but it stays.

"What's goin' on?" he inquires as he trudges up to Johnny and Reed, glowering at the words 'I, uh, spilled the other one'. He comes to a halt just behind and to the side of the Human Torch, waiting for Reed to explain the problem… and quietly raises a forefinger and thumb behind Johnny's head as if to flick the back of his skull as one would a dead fly off a window-sill.

*

"My, uh," Reed says as he winces, looking up at the waitress. She looks down at him sympathetically, before looking to the others. She says nothing, leaving it to Reed to explain.

"Sorry, guys, this is the first time this has ever happened to me. My credit card has been declined." Blow to the moral. Since he was 14, Reed has had money to burn. That's when he sold his first piece of technology. Now, things are finally starting to sink in.

"I need to call Jian, this must be some sort of mistake."

True to her training, the waitress provides alternative options, "Maybe there's some different way you could pay? Cash? Another card, maybe?"

*

"Shit, dude," Johnny croons. "I bet your number got stolen and the bank blocked it." Ever the optimist, Johnny is last to consider that the card may have been maxed out. "You should call your bank right a… way with your finger, Stone Cold Ben Austin, I have eyes in the back of my head!" He casually swats at Ben's hand, only to pull his hand back to cradle it with a wince.

"Ow."

*

Grimm snorts in derision - if not quite 'innocence' - and starts to move his hand from behind Johnny's head, but that does not stop him from grinding his fingers together near the Torch's ear, like two tectonic plates, or the sound of the Rock-Biter from the Neverending Story eating a meal of quartz and limestone right by Johnny's head.

To Reed, Grimm offers: "Yeah, call 'em, Reed. Meantime, I ain' got my cards with me - but Hotshot here, has." Then he turns to the nearby waitress and smiles, laying his hand on Johnny's shoulder.

"My friend here likes ya, sweetheart. Put everythin' on his tab - an' give yerself a decent tip. Compliments o' the Eff-Eff." With that, he 'pats' Johnny on the shoulder, grinning from earhole to earhole.

*

The young lady looks between Ben, Johnny, and then finally at Reed. She's not sure what to make of Ben's offer on behalf of Johnny and seems relieved when Reed sort of waves it off.

"I'll take care of it guys. I promised you pizza and beer."

Reed sighs and looks up with dough eyes at the waitress, "This will take just a moment. I'm really sorry for the inconvenience."

"It's no problem, Mr. Richards. This happens all the time. I'll give you a few minutes to get things situated."

With that, the understanding young woman leaves the three and Reed starts to work on texting Jian.

"Problems, Richards?" The shrill, arrogant voice cuts across the room towards Grimm, Storm, and Richards. It's the Trapster, of course, and he's apparently loving this. At a table not far away sit Medusa and Sandman, enjoying a meal of their own.

"You know, if you want to borrow some money, I think we have some to spare," adds Pete.

*

The sound causes Johnny to grimace. It's like nails on a chalk board, and it happens right as he begins to sit down! The seat wobbles a bit and he's forced to steady his beer.

"No, really, it's no problem," he says, echoing Ben's offer. "I mean, I'll totally write you up an IOU, Stretch. Maybe put it in flame above the Baxter Building if you haven't covered it by your birthday, but it -"

His words are cut off when the shrill voice calls across the room toward them. Turning with raised eyebrow, Johnny spies the three who are taunting them, and feels his fingers clenching. "Who are those goons?" he stage whispers toward Reed.

*

The grinding continues.

This time, however, it does not come from Ben Grimm's granite-like fingers.

It comes from his teeth.

"Lemme pound 'im, Reed," he grates softly between his teeth. "Just a li'l. I won' even make a mess. …On the outside o' him…" and he shoots Trapster a venomous glare. "The li'l Lint Trap set this up - or his Keeper did. Whatsisname - Dumbledore! I know they did… C'mon! Ya'ain't gonna just sit there an' take this sh — " he hesitates when he notices a young girl (probably 11 years old) sitting on her knees on her chair, facing him while slurping from a milkshake. Her innocent blue eyes bore into the back of Grimm's skull, daring him to finish his sentence.

" — sh…urely inappropriate behaviour?"

*

"The frightful four. Or three of them as it were," Reed says under his breath, low enough so only really Johnny and Ben can hear him. After that it's all smiles and politeness. "Trapster," Reed says, as he stands and takes a step forward, trying to put himself between Paste Pot Pete and the Thing.

"Good to see you. Yeah, having a bit of a money issue. You know how it is. This economy."

"I heard this economy has been extremely bad for your team," echoes Medusa, an evil grin sliding across her lips as she t-t-t's and shakes her head. "So sorry you and your boys have fallen on hard times. Maybe if Sue were around more, she'd be able to look after things. Where is she? Atlantis?"

"Guys," Sandman says as he shakes his head and pleads with his teammates. "Can't we just eat our dinner?"

Reed's phone buzzes and he looks down to check the message from Jian, their CFO. If they're lucky, she'll provide Reed some form of getting out of this other than washing dishes.

*

Now, Johnny's not one to back down from a fight. His cheeks are getting redder by the moment, and Ben just might feel a bit of unnatural heat coming from the young man… but he doesn't burst. The pizzeria is full of innocent people, and it would look horrible if three of the Fantastic Four started a fight.

"Grimm…" He looks up toward the thing, and gestures for Ben's empty seat. "Come on, man. Sit down. They're not worth the trouble."

He leans over his beer and mutters, "Or the terrible tweets."

After taking a drink, he casually removes his wallet and sets his Capital One Platinum Visa on the table. It's one of his oldest cards, but the one with the highest interest rate. He never uses it… perhaps there's a reason why he's turning to it now? He's not gonna say a word about it, though. He'll just slide it over toward the waitress when she brings Ben his new beer, and nods his head at her while Reed's occupied with the Frightful Four. For once in his life, Johnny Storm is trying to be subtle.

*

Grimm takes his time sitting down.

But sit, he does.

"Biggest pepperoni pizza ya got," he tells the waitress in a gruff voice, staring solidly at the tabletop. "Make that two of 'em. Extra pepperoni. Thanks." Scowling darkly, he casts the odd glance over at Reed, and then at Johnny, his shoulders hunched so that his head (which already lacks a neck of any description) looks like it's sprouting from his sternum.

"We gotta do somethin' about them…"

*

Almost on queue, the waitress comes to scoop Johnny's card off the table and happens to have some beer ready for Ben. Reed gives Johnny a nod as it looks like he might have diffused the situation; no pun intended.

Meanwhile, Trapster and Medusa seem pleased as punch while the Sandman just stays quiet, poking at his food. It seems like they're pretty much done after a few moments, with Medusa grabbing her things. As they pass by, the Trapster can't help but stop and give his parting shot.

"You know, Richards, if you hare having money troubles I think the Wizard is looking for some interns. Just saying, bud." He gives Reed a pat on the shoulder, just as the older man closes his eyes in annoyed anguish.

"I'm really sorry guys," mutters Sandman as he grabs his coat.

"Just ignore them, Ben," Reed says quietly. "Thanks Johnny."

*

"We are, you big, dumb twat," Johnny mutters. "We're makin' 'em look like dicks." He reaches out and swats Ben on the back of his head. "Now sit up and enjoy your beer, stop hunching over like you got no pride."

To Reed, he shrugs. "You should really be glad I didn't shoot them a big, flaming bird. And I'm not talking the cardinal type." As the bullies leave, he passes Sandman a parting look, and a casual upnod.

*

Grimm bares his teeth and glares sidelong at Johnny.

"I jus'… I can't shake this feelin' that they're playin' us. The sludge-things, the stupid credit cards…Ya know what? Fine. I ain' had my pepperoni fix anyhoo." The big fellow reaches for his fresh beer and guzzles down most of it in a single go. Smacking his lips afterward, his mood starts to improve.

"Alicia sold another sculpture of my head," he mentions casually, trying not to smile with pride.

*

"I hope she paid got paid in cash. Heavens knows what Johnny bought that for," Reed says, finally able to make a joke for the first time all night. "Live it up, boys. Who knows what happens tomorrow."

_ _ _ _ _

SOMEWHERE DEEP INSIDE SOME LAIR
9:42 PM

Medusa, the Trapster, and Sandman all walk through a metallic corridor, into an extravagant laboratory with an extravagant monitor at the front, perhaps a full story tall.

"Yo Wizard, how's the work coming?" the Trapster says as he almost dances over towards their leader. Sandman looks like a guy who just wants this to be over already. Medusa, however, leans against one of the computer banks seductively without even trying to come across in such a way.

"It won't be long, now," the Wizard says with an evil smile, emerging from some sort of contraption of futuristic styles. Getting a good view of it is impossible now, of course, since this is only the third scene in the plot.

"Soon you all will be rich and my revenge on Reed Richards will be complete!"

"Patience, my friends. Patience."

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