Fantastic Heroes and Where to Find Them
“It’s 1926, and New York City has been gripped by a spate of unexplained killings. But MACUSA are closing in on the killer, and two young boys from Brooklyn are about to witness a magical event that will forever change the way they see the world.”
…or, The Urban Spaceman writes a ‘Captain America’/’Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ fanfiction crossover!
Disclaimer stuff: Captain America and all related characters are owned by Marvel. Fantastic Beasts… and all related characters are the property of J.K. Rowling. This story is strictly for funsies and not written for profit or remuneration of any sort. The resized image below is © Anthony Quintano, reused under the terms of CC 2.0
Fantastic Heroes and Where to Find Them
Lights flashed and smoke flew and Steve Rogers pressed his frail body further back into the underground service tunnel as his jaw fell open at the sight of the battle raging before him. “Don’t play in the subway!” Mrs. Barnes had told them time and time again, but he and Bucky couldn’t help themselves; they loved sneaking onto the trains too much to give it up. It was the best way to see new sights, and Steve was definitely seeing something new right now.
“Are you seein’ this?” Bucky whispered beside him. The taller boy rubbed his eyes and stared again. “I’m not imaginin’ it, am I?”
His question was answered a few seconds later when the massive, violent cloud of black smoke came crashing into the wall right above their hiding place in the service tunnel. Steve and Bucky screamed as dust and broken bricks came tumbling down around them, but the fighting was too loud, and their cries went unheard.
As fast as it had come, the black smoke was gone, hurtling off after the two men who’d followed it down into the subway. Steve finally dared to open his eyes. His left hand was crushed in Bucky’s grip, his fingers squeezed tight in sheer panic, and his own hand was squeezing back just as hard. Inside his chest, his heart raced madly, and he coughed up a lungful of dust.
“Are you okay?” Bucky asked, putting others before himself, as usual.
Steve nodded, then realised his friend wouldn’t be able to see him too well in the dusty darkness. “Yeah. I think. But what—”
The cloud was back again, raging through the subway tunnel until it finally came to rest on the platform and began to coalesce into the form of a dark-haired young man. Steve barely had time to process that before somebody else arrived; a woman, carrying a stick, just like those other two men who’d been fighting the black smoke. A stick that could make lights flash through the air like… like magic.
Witches! These must be witches and… and… manwitches! That crazy lady with the pamphlets was right! Witches were real, and they were here in New York battling some sort of smoke-man. Did that mean they were good witches? The smoke-man was pretty scary, and he’d nearly killed Bucky and Steve.
There was talking, and Steve didn’t understand most of what the adults said, because they used strange words he’d never heard of before, not even that time he and Bucky had hopped off the train at one of the Lower East Side stations and accidentally wandered into Chinatown.
He felt an elbow jabbed into his ribs, and followed Bucky’s pointing finger to a group of men led by a woman, making their way down the station to where the others were. He and Bucky shrank back further still as the newcomers passed their hiding place. He had to resist the urge to call out a warning when the newcomers brought more of those flashing-light-sticks out; he didn’t like the way they walked. They reminded him of Mrs. Montgomery, his bossy homeroom teacher, only, Mrs. Montgomery wasn’t black.
Without warning, a violent stream of blinding light came from the ends of the sticks the newcomers carried. It looked like a lightning storm, and it hit the smoke-man all over his body, making him scream in pain. Steve clutched at Bucky’s hand again. He was no stranger to pain, but he’d never heard anything like that before. It was like the sound of a wounded animal, and it made him shiver deep inside.
Bucky wrapped his arm around Steve shoulders, and as the flashing lights grew brighter, and the screaming grew louder, they both closed their eyes against the intensity of the light. With one final cry, it was over. Steve dared to open his eyes, but of the dark-haired young man who’d been wreathed in—or made from—smoke, there was no sign. Instead, the the station and the tunnels around it were filled with ash. It fell like black snow, swirling and dancing to an unseen wind. One large piece drifted past the service tunnel, and Steve reached out his hand—Bucky failed to hold him back—to pluck the ash from the air.
It crumpled to dust at his touch, and a shiver of something ran over his entire body, like gooseflesh puckering his skin. He stared at the grey smear it left on his fingers. His stomach wanted to throw up everything it held; fortunately, it was empty.
As more talking broke out amongst the adults, more strange and unintelligible words, he shared a look of horror with his friend, and saw in Bucky’s eyes the same question he wanted to ask. If they catch us here, will they do this to us, too?
“Look!” Bucky hissed, his eyes sliding past Steve to the adults on the platform.
Something else was happening. There was a brief fight of lights between one of the men on the platform and the group of newcomers, and he seemed to be winning. Just as he was about to make his escape, the second man—the strange one with the English accent—threw some sort of monster from his hand, which bound the arms of the first man behind his back. The second man pulled out one of those light-sticks and pointed it at the first. He said something that sounded like “Re-veely-o,” and Steve’s mind boggled again as the tall man’s face and hair began to change.
“Gellert Grindelwald,” the scary black lady said.
Witches could change how people looked! A moment ago, the man—Grindywold?—had been tall and dark-haired, clean-shaven. Now he was blond-haired and looked kinda crazy.
“We gotta get out of here,” Bucky whispered, his hand shaking in Steve’s grip. “We gotta tell… someone!”
Steve nodded. “But let’s wait till they leave, or they might see us.” Besides, he wanted to see what else these witches could do. The more they saw, the more they would have to tell later.
So they waited, and they watched, mentally cataloguing everything that happened, so that they could tell their parents, or the police, or perhaps even President Coolidge himself. Steve could picture it in his mind: the steps of the White House, President Coolidge presenting him and Bucky with medals for bravery or something, photographers snapping the moment, their pictures in the morning newspaper. Young Men Expose Manwitches, the headline would say, because Steve refused to think of himself as a boy, and because Manwitches sounded so much more dangerous than regular ol’ Witches.
The words of the adults turned ominous. They talked about Obliviating the whole city! Steve’s heart very nearly stopped beating. His Mom was part of the city! He couldn’t let them Obliviate her. But what could he do? He was just a b—young man. How could he stop manwitches from doing to his Mom what they’d done to that guy made out of smoke?
Before he could ponder it further, the funny-sounding English man opened up his battered old luggage case, and Steve almost fainted when something ginormous flew out of it. It was some sort of giant dragon bird thing; huge claws tipped its feet, and its beak looked sharp enough to rend flesh from bone. On the corner of Clarendon Road and Flatbush Avenue, a street magician pulled rabbits out of hat every Saturday morning for the entertainment of passers-by, but those fluffy white rabbits were nothing compared to this beast. Was it some kinda monster the manwitches had made? Were they gonna use it to terrorise the city? To Obliviate it, whatever that meant?
“You know what to do,” the English man said to the monster. He held out a vial of something, which it took in its beak. Then, with one mighty whoosh of its wings, it was airborne, climbing higher, escaping through the really big hole the manwitches had made in the roof of the tunnel with their fighting. Steve mentally added hole in subway to the list of manwitch transgressions.
“Is that No-Maj still here?” asked the scary lady who reminded Steve of Mrs. Montgomery. A tubby, nervous-looking man stepped forward, and the woman’s eyes turned cold. “Obliviate him.”
Steve whimpered in terror, and felt Bucky squeeze his hand again. They were gonna Obliviate him, just like they’d Obliviated the smoke-man! He didn’t wanna watch. Wanted to look away and pretend this was all a bad dream. But he forced himself to see. It was one more crime to report.
It started to rain. Steve saw the flash of lightening, followed by a deafening peal of thunder—the toll of some grim bell. The downpour was heavy, rain coming in through the hole in the subway roof. The funny-sounding English man and two other women led the No-Maj away, probably to Obliviate him somewhere secret and hide the evidence. Meanwhile, the other manwitches took out their flashy-light-sticks again and began waving them around. As if by magic—which Steve now knew this was—the hole in the ceiling began to close up. Bricks flew of their own accord, slotting themselves back into place. The rain ceased pouring in, and it was as if there never had been a hole in the subway ceiling.
The manwitches took one final look around, then left. For several long minutes, Steve and Bucky remained in their small nook in the service tunnel, waiting in case the manwitches came back. When it was clear they really were alone, they tentatively left their shelter and climbed up onto the platform. Everything was spick and span, as Mom would say. Not a single brick out of place. No rain on the floor, and no grey ash from the Obliviated smoke-man. They hunted for almost twenty minutes for some clue, some scrap of evidence to take back. But nada. It was as if none of it had even happened.
“Loadsa people must’a seen that huge bird thing,” Bucky said. His face was streaked with dust from the wall that had partially collapsed around them. He looked like what Mom would call a ragamuffin, and Steve suspected he looked no better. “Let’s go see if we can find someone to help us bring those witches to justice!”
Steve nodded. “Did you hear what they said? They’re gonna Obliviate the city. I hope our families are okay.”
“We’ll go check for ourselves as soon as we find a cop or something.”
Together, they made their way up the nearby stairs to the subway’s exit. They crept forward, alert for more magical trickery… but there was none. The subway entrance was empty, and they were alone.
Daylight greeted their eyes, along with the sight of a few dozen soaked men and women staring up at the sky. The rain had stopped, but not before it had drenched the whole of Manhattan. Bucky and Steve ran over to the nearest man, tugging at the sleeves of his jacket until he brought his dazed expression down to their faces.
“Didja see it? Didja see it?” Bucky demanded.
“Yeah…” the man said. He had a funny look on his face, like he’d only just woken up from a dream. “Yeah. One heck of a thunderstorm. Came outta nowhere. Damn weather reporters never get it right; I knew I should’a brought my umbrella.”
Steve could scarcely believe his ears. The man was standing not twenty feet away from where the hole in the subway had been. He must’ve seen what happened!
“What about the giant dragon bird?” he asked. “The one that came up out of the subway?”
“Giant bird?” The man scoffed, and pulled his sleeve out of Steve’s grip. “You got one hell of an imagination, kid. Shouldn’t the pair of you be in school right now?”
“But it’s Saturday!” Bucky objected.
“Oh. Yeah. Saturday. That’s right. I got places to be. On Saturday.”
And with that, the man wandered off. At the same time, the rest of the crowd seemed to come back to life. Men and women resumed their journeys, some of them looking as dazed as the man, none of them screaming hysterically about giant dragon birds or men made out of smoke.
Steve and Bucky caught sight of a police man, and they tried to tell him what had happened. Even made him go back to the subway with them, and showed him where the hole in the roof had been. The man threatened to escort them home and tell their parents they were trouble-makers, so Bucky and Steve ran. Telling their parents about this sounded like a fine idea. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes would believe them.
They rode the trains back to Brooklyn, then took a streetcar, then ran all the way back to Bucky’s house. They found his parents in the living room, peeling off their sodden jackets. Mrs. Barnes smiled when they both came rushing to a halt and practically stumbled over their own words in an effort to explain what they’d seen.
“—in the subway, saw witches—”
“—a man made out of smoke, and they shot him with lights—”
“—and then one of them had a dragon—”
“—it looked like a really big eagle—”
“James Buchanan Barnes, what have I told you about playing in the subway?”
“But Mom—!” Bucky objected
“But nothing. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: stay out of the subway. It’s not a park.”
“But Mrs. Barnes—!” Steve tried.
“And you too, Steven Grant Rogers. You may not be my son, but don’t think you won’t feel the sharp side of my tongue if you continue playing recklessly in those tunnels.”
“But—” Steve and Bucky interjected together.
“Cal,” Mrs Barnes sighed.
Mr. Barnes, fighting with his damp shoelaces, looked up. “Stay out of the metro stations, kids.”
“Now,” said Mrs. Barnes, “why don’t you boys go get dried up, and I’ll make you some hot cocoa? That was quite a downpour we had.”
Steve looked at Bucky and saw disbelief on his friend’s face. Why wasn’t anybody believing them? A giant dragon bird thing had flown in the sky! Somebody must’ve seen it! Bucky tried one last time.
“Mom, this is really serious. We saw some real live witches, and they killed a man who was actually a demon or somethin’, and then they said they were gonna Obliviate the whole city!”
“Oh, boys,” Mr. Barnes chuckled. He reached out to ruffle Bucky’s hair. “There’s no such word as ‘obliviate.’ It’s ‘obliterate.’ I’m sure the city’s safe from people wanting to obliterate us; the city Guard are more than a match for witches.”
Steve’s inner scowl was the twin of Bucky’s external one. He could tell when he was being patronised. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes were just like the people in the street; they didn’t believe what Steve and his friend had seen. They thought it was just make-believe.
“We didn’t get caught in the rain,” Bucky said. “And we don’t want cocoa. Can we go play out again now?”
“As long as you’re home for six and stay out of the subway,” Mrs. Barnes agreed.
Steve and Bucky raced for the front door. As it closed behind them, they heard Mr. Barnes call, “Watch out for those witches!”
“Nobody believes us!” Bucky grumbled. He kicked out at a dandelion head, sending its fluffy seeds swirling on the breeze… just like the ash of the smoke-man had swirled in the tunnels.
“Do you really think he was a demon?” Steve asked. “The man made of smoke, I mean.”
Bucky nodded fervently. “Father Rice talks about demons all the time. He says they’re always lurking in dark places, trying to tempt us. What else could he have been?”
The man’s face appeared again in Steve’s mind, fear in his eyes and pain in his screams as he died. He wasn’t so sure he agreed with his friend’s assessment. Right now, though, they had more important matters than trying to figure out what the smoke-man had been.
“But why doesn’t anyone believe us?” he asked. “I mean, those people outside the metro station were staring up into the sky. They must’ve been looking at something.”
Suddenly, Bucky slapped his palm to his forehead. “Of course! The rain! Don’t you think it’s weird that all those people were just standing around looking up after they got rained on, instead of trying to find somewhere dry to shelter? The giant bird must’ve done something to the rain! That must’ve been what was in that vial! It made everybody forget what they’d seen.”
“Witches sure are crafty.” Steve rubbed a little of the dirt from his cheek with his sleeve. If everybody in the city had got rained on and been made to forget, who was left to believe them? “Mom!” he gasped, as the thought suddenly hit him. Bucky glanced around for Mrs. Rogers, then frowned in confusion when he didn’t see her. “My mom worked the night shift at the hospital last night,” Steve explained. “That means she’s been in bed all day, on sleep-in. So she wasn’t outside and she didn’t get rained on and she’ll believe us!”
“Alright!” Bucky said with a triumphant air-punch. “If we can get your mom to believe us, she can tell my parents, and they can all tell the city Guard, or the NYPD, or something.”
And then, thought Steve, President Coolidge will give us medals.
They hopped on a streetcar and took a short ride to the next stop. From there it was a quick jog to the dilapidated apartment block that Steve reluctantly called home. The stairwell stank of pee, but for once, Steve ignored the smell. He and Bucky raced up the stairs… until Steve’s lungs finally complained at the treatment they’d received during the day. Coughing, wheeze, struggling to draw breath thanks to his cursed asthma, he slowed. Bucky slowed too, though he practically bounced on the spot.
“Want me to give you a piggyback?” the taller boy grinned.
“No, I’m fine,” Steve wheezed, hands gripping the banister rail as he hauled himself up with his arms to give his legs a break.
They stopped outside Steve’s apartment door
“Maybe we shouldn’t mention the subway,” Bucky said. “It’s like parents hear ‘subway’ and ignore everything after that.”
“Okay,” Steve agreed. “We’ll just say it happened on the street or somethin’.”
Plan in place, he opened the apartment door with his rust-speckled key and they tumbled into the living room.
His mom wasn’t in sight, but the smell of food permeated the air; scrambled eggs cooking slowly, and the acrid scent of slightly burned toast—just as his mom liked it. He beckoned Bucky to follow him into the kitchen. As they passed through the living room, he automatically lowered his eyes as they walked beneath the portrait hanging on the wall. He knew it was stupid, that he oughta be happy he had such a lifelike picture of his Dad to look at, but he didn’t like the way the eyes had been painted; they seemed to follow him wherever he walked. A trick of the light, Mom called it, but the light was never that tricky anywhere else in the apartment.
In the kitchen, they found Mom humming a song to herself as she buttered her toast. A pan of scrambled eggs was cooking on the stove.
“Mom, we saw something out in the street a couple of hours ago and you’re never going to believe it, but you have to believe it because it was real!”
A smile graced her lips as she turned her head to examine them both. Her long blonde hair was a little messy still from bed, and there were dark circles of tiredness ringing her eyes, but to Steve, she would always be the most beautiful woman in the world.
“Oh? And what’s this unbelievable real thing you saw?”
“And wizards!” Bucky added. “Like the guy who pulls the rabbits from his hat, only scarier.”
“And one of them had a giant bird!” Steve added.
“How frightening that must’ve been,” she said. “But I thought you were more into cowboys and Indians than wizards and witches?”
“It’s not something we’ve been playing, Mom,” Steve insisted. He tried to keep the scowl from his face. Mom said it made him look young when he sulked, and too many people thought he was young enough already. “It was real.”
“Honey, you know there’s no such thing as witches. It’s make-believe. Just like that street magician who pulls rabbits from his hat to earn his breakfast.”
She turned to continue buttering her toast, and Steve shot a plea for help at Bucky.
“But Mrs. Barnes, we didn’t make this up. It was real. Really real. There was a man, and he looked like a demon—”
“He was made of smoke!” Steve added.
“—and then there were these men, and there was a black woman with them, and they attacked the man made of smoke with these wooden sticks which shot lightning from the ends!”
The sound of butter being scraped over toast faltered as Mom’s hands stopped moving. When she turned her head back to regard both boys again, she looked even more tired than before.
“Boys, you can’t go around saying those sorts of things,” she said. “Everybody knows there’s no such thing as witches, and people will start to think you’re liars. Now, how about I fix you up with a glass of milk and some cookies?”
Mom reached up to the shelf where the glasses were kept, then brought the milk from the icebox. Steve could feel hope bleeding out of him. If even his mom wouldn’t believe him, who would?
He decided to risk her anger and try one more time. He had to show her, somehow, that this wasn’t a game. That witches were real, and they were dangerous.
“We’re not making it up, Mom. It really happened. After the fight, the man with the big bird sent it up into the sky, and it had something in its beak that made the rain fall, and everybody forgot what they saw, even the people who’d been staring up at the bird.”
“And there was another guy there,” Bucky added. “They changed his face right before our eyes! What’d they call him, Steve?”
Even though he saw the glass slip from his mom’s hand, he still jumped when it hit the floor with a loud smash, sending milk and broken glass all over the linoleum tiles. Bucky and Steve jumped back to save their shoes, but Mom seemed oblivious to the mess; she stood staring at the floor tiles, her face pale.
“Mom, are you okay?!” Steve asked. He’d seen her tired before, and sick when she caught flu once, but he’d never seen her so pale. It was as if she’d seen a ghost.
“Mrs. Rogers?” Bucky added, when Steve’s mom didn’t respond. “Do you, um, want us to fetch a physician?”
“What?” Her gaze finally came up to their faces, but the colour didn’t return to her cheeks. Reaching out with one hand, she held her robe closed around her, as if she’d just come out of the icebox herself. “Oh. No, James, thank you.” Her blue eyes danced over the floor as she finally saw the mess she’d made. “I’m not feeling very well, that’s all. It was a long, difficult night at the hospital.”
Her words immediately stoked Steve’s sympathy. His mom worked hard as a single parent, scraping together just enough money each month to feed them both, clothe Steve in mostly new outfits, and pay the rent. But there wasn’t much left over for anything else, and Steve hadn’t failed to notice that his mom didn’t eat as much as Mrs. Barnes did.
“Why don’t you go lie down, Mom?” he asked. “We can clean up this mess.”
“Yes. Yes, I will. Thank you, boys.”
Mom stopped to stroke his hair briefly as she passed. When she was gone, Steve turned off the stove so the eggs wouldn’t burn, pulled a few rags from the drawer and began mopping up the milk, while Bucky brought out a dustpan and brush tucked away behind the kitchen door.
“I hope your mom’s okay,” Bucky said, halfway through clean-up.
Steve wrung his rag out over the sink, and hoped that hadn’t been the last of the milk. They couldn’t afford to buy more until next week.
“I’m sure she is,” he nodded. “She just gets tired.” It didn’t help that at weekends, she’d started doing cleaning for some of the well-to-do families of Brooklyn. Sometimes, the well-to-do paid their cleaners better than the hospital paid their nurses. Steve hadn’t told Bucky about that.
Once the mess was cleaned up, Steve finished cooking his mom’s eggs—they were practically finished anyway—and took them into her bedroom, along with the toast and a cup of tea. She was asleep, curled up beneath her blanket and facing away from the door, so he put the plate and the cup on the bedside dresser and silently left the room.
“Whadda we do now?” Bucky asked. “Nobody believes what we saw. Nobody’s ever gonna believe what we saw.”
“Maybe we should keep watching out for more witches,” he suggested. “Sooner or later they’re sure to slip up again.” But it wasn’t as if he and his friend could get evidence. They didn’t have a camera, and without something real, like a broomstick or one of those flashing-light-sticks, adults would just think they’d been inventing games to play.
“Yeah. I s’pose.” Bucky sighed, deep and wistful. “I sure wish I wasn’t a kid anymore. I bet if we were adults, nobody would say we were lying.”
Steve nodded. “C’mon, let’s go back outside. Now that we know what we’re looking for, maybe we’ll see some signs of witches in New York.”
And maybe, one day, Steve would have a camera of his own, and catch a witch in the act of Obliviating somebody else. Then he could prove to everybody he wasn’t a liar. He could prove that witches were real.
This is, he thought, as he ducked past the portrait of his father once more, a very strange world to live in.