Title: Heroes
Author: elspethdixon
Rated: PG
Pairings: None.
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations depicted herein belong to Stan Lee and Marvel comics. No profit is being made off of this derivative work. We're paid in love, people.
Summary: Even superheroes need someone to look up to.


Steve wanted to be an artist before he wanted to be a soldier. If Hitler hadn't invaded Poland, he would have ended up painting WPA murals, or drafting advertising copy ("Quick, Henry, the Flit!"), or, if he got lucky, doing art for a magazine like the Saturday Evening Post.

But then the war came along, and after that, art school just didn't seem as important anymore.

He kept drawing -- sketches in the margins of after-action reports, hand-drawn maps of German fortifications, little cartoons their sergeant that he taped up around the base, because they made Bucky laugh -- but nothing serious. Drawing always helped him relax, process things, but all of the destruction and death and waste and blind human stupidity he and Bucky and the other Invaders saw every day... he couldn't find a way to put that down on paper. So he drew caricatures of Dum Dum Dugan as a walrus, and sketches of what Namor might look like if he actually took pity on the rest of them and put on some clothing.

Then Nick lent him a copy of Stars and Stripes -- the one with the picture of Rita Hayworth in it -- and halfway through the paper was this rough-edged, black and white cartoon of two soldiers in a foxhole that was exactly the kind of thing Steve wanted to draw, but couldn't.

Every Veterans day, Steve finds a bar or soda fountain someplace and orders a glass of root beer, and he and Snoopy toast Bill Mauldin.

Clint mocks him for this extensively. Steve lets him, because Clint doesn't really get that it's got nothing to do with Snoopy.

Battlin' Jack Murdock was one of the greats. The man could take more punches than any two boxers, and no matter how many times he got knocked to the mat, he always came up swinging.

He was past his glory days by the time Happy Hogan started out in the ring, but one punch from Battlin' Jack had still been enough to knock Happy flat on his back. That was when the press first started dubbing him "'Glass Jaw' Hogan." Big fists and broad shoulders weren't the most important thing to being a great boxers; you had to have endurance.

Happy had been a very young nobody when Murdock died (as opposed to the slightly older nobody he was when he finally quit the ring), but everyone in the boxing business heard about it. How the Fixer told Battlin' Jack to take a fall, and how Murdock refused to go down, how he took the other guy's punches, picked himself up off the mat, and won. Murdock never gave up, even though he had to have known even in the ring that the Fixer's enforcers were going to make him pay for it (which they did. Beat the poor mug to death, and Jesus, but that wasn't a way Happy would have wanted to go).

Back during his first few years as a boxer, Battlin' Jack Murdock had been Happy's hero, the kind of legend he dreamed of being someday, until he got smart and got out of the sport while he still had some un-concussed braincells left.

These days... Battlin' Jack Murdock isn't the only stubborn cuss Happy's looked up to, just the first. The boss is kind of like that too, once you look past the slick cars and expensive suitcoats. No matter how many times Tony gets knocked down or beat to hell -- heart attacks, financial setbacks, the government coming after his patents, alcohol, bad press, even getting shot in the spine -- he picks himself back up and keeps on going. And if some days Happy has to give him a shove or two to get him back in the game, well, Murdock always had that skinny, red-headed kid yelling his name from the stands. Everyone needs a cheering section.

When Matt Murdock was in tenth grade, his English class read To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind. When he convinced his guidance counselor to write him a recommendation to the pre-law department at Columbia two years later, he cited Henry Drummond's passionate defence of freedom at her, explaining that the play had inspired him to look up Clarence Darrow and the Scopes Trial transcripts in the New York Public Library and that ever since then, he'd wanted to be a lawyer.

Well, the John Grissham thrillers the library had on booktape hadn't hurt either.

If asked, he says that someone like Drummond or Atticus was the hero he'd been looking for as a kid -- someone who fought for justice with words and the law, not with fists.

It's true, but it's not the whole truth. Matt's real hero, the one he is occasionally ashamed to admit to when Millia or Foggy are helping him wrap broken ribs, or when he's washing some drug dealer or mugger's blood off his hands, Matt's hero shook down store owners for the mob so he could buy his son shoes.

In 1907, a motorcycle manufacturer named Glenn H. Curtiss attached an eight cylinder, 40 horsepower aviation engine of his own design to a custom built motorcycle frame and set a world land speed record of 136.36 mph, faster than any living man had ever gone. Like nearly all early motorcycles, Curtiss's bike had no brakes. He rode the speed trial himself.

The record remained unequaled and unbroken by any other motorcycle until the 1930s.

The same year, Curtiss was asked to join Alexander Graham Bell's Aerial Experiment Association, and in 1908, the AEA June Bug, a flying machine using a Curtiss engine and partially designed by Curtiss, made the first official American airplane flight. The Wright Brothers promptly sued Curtiss and the AEA for patent infringement, a case Curtiss ultimately lost despite the fact that his design differed significantly from Wilbur and Orville's, largely because the patent lawyers couldn't understand the difference between ailerons and wing-warping.

Tony understands the difference between ailerons and wing-warping, and can explain it at great length, a process that requires numerous hand gestures and occasional incoherent noises. Because the sheer brilliance of being able to look at the Wright brothers' wing design (genius in its own right; they were building their own wind tunnels in 1900 to test their airframe) and come up with a way to achieve the same effect with a single control surface... And Curtiss, like Wilbur and Orville, like Edison, was self-taught, did it all by trial and error and pure mechanical gift -- the ability to simply look at something and know, instinctively, how it worked.

Tony never uses blueprints when he designs things; all the work is done inside his head, or with working prototypes. The detailed line drawings and mathematical formulae come later, once he's already figured out how to make something work the way he wants it to, and has reached the "drafting instructions for other people" part of the process. He's always worked that way, even as a kid playing with toy robots.

And he tests every one of his designs himself, partly because Curtiss did, but mostly because it's fun. And because a man should never let someone else run his risks for him. Steve never would.