Steve is accustomed to working with actual soldiers, people who understand the chain of command. People who have, at the very least, some idea that they are part of a team. He's really not at all sure he can do anything with this bunch of... well, for the most part, civilians...he's been handed.
During the war Clint and Natasha would have been scouts sent in undercover. He thinks maybe he has some sort of handle on them. Give them missions with priority-weighted goals and don't ask too many questions about how they fulfilled them, and things would be fine. They'd take orders without protest, although they'd feel free to interpret them. At least they wouldn't interpret them to his face. If he led them, they'd pretend to follow. He wouldn't be publicly undermined.
Thor... well, Thor understands battle, and he had followed his father, so all Steve has to do is convince him that he's a leader worth following. Right, convince a being who's been worshipped as a god, and who can bring down lightning, that Steve deserves his respect. Still, Thor wants to belong in a world he doesn't understand even as well as Steve does, so he's motivated to try to get along with the group. Also, Thor is basically a good-natured man who doesn't think he's got all the answers. He's willing to listen. Sometimes.
Bruce is... oh, Bruce is great. Just what he needed. An extremely intelligent, gentle man who belongs in a university pottering about with test tubes, except for the fact that he has a Mr. Hyde side with the I.Q. and temperament of a pit bull who can flatten tanks. With his breath. So all Steve has to do is protect him until he can get him angry, and then somehow channel and redirect that anger onto the enemy. Fury would also like him to prevent non-combatants and innocent real estate from being squashed. Frankly, Steve has already written off protecting property. Any building that gets in the way of the Hulk is history.
And then there's Tony. He's not sure what he's done to deserve Tony, but it must have been something terrible. Steve is pretty sure he saw Director Fury's eye twitch when he told Steve he'd have Tony on his team. If he could manage not to kill him. Steve's also pretty sure Fury didn't really mean that. Maybe.
The term 'loose cannon' was invented to describe Tony, probably by Tony. Tony is certain he knows more than anyone about everything, and he's got a chip on his shoulder all the time. Steve has only to give an order for Tony to do just the opposite-- except when Steve tries reverse psychology, then Tony mocks him and goes poking for weaknesses. And Tony is excellent at infuriating him. At infuriating people in general. It seems to be his secret power. Tony's amazingly good at riling up Bruce, so Steve frequently has the additional joy of persuading the Hulk not to spread a thin layer of Tony toothpaste all over Tony's ridiculous mansion.
Steve wouldn't believe Tony could manage to run a business without all the employees quitting in a week if he hadn't met Pepper and seen her smooth over Tony's ... antics. Pepper is fantastic. Steve wishes she was the the one wearing the suit.
So Tony has this truly amazing metal suit. Is that any reason to let him on the team? Anyone could use the suit if he weren't so selfish. He's, 'it's my baseball, we'll play by my rules or I'm taking it and going home', Tony. He's playing at being a soldier-- no, not even a soldier, playing at being a black knight, one of the ones that was always running around outside of Camelot, ignoring King Arthur and having a whale of a time picking fights with dragons and winning fair maidens and showing up at tournaments without an invitation.
And really, the worst part of Tony is that he reminds Steve of Howard, and apparently Steve reminds Tony of Howard, and the Howard Steve remembers is obviously not the Howard Tony remembers. And there's some kind of weird childish jealousy going on there for the part Howard had in making Steve into Captain America, even though that all happened before Tony was even born. Steve honestly doesn't have the time, energy or experience to raise a child. Particularly not a spoiled brat who is biologically older than he is.
But he has orders to somehow drag this bunch into line, and mold them into a fighting unit, and he's not going back to Director Fury to admit that he can't do the job. Since none of the group has gone through basic training, not even the abbreviated wartime, guinea pig experiment, version that Steve had, he figures he needs to find a substitute for it. Something to show them they can work as a team, can learn to trust each other. Normally, he'd ask for advice, maybe even go to the library, but Tony, in a fit of show offness, had given all of them computers the day they'd set up Avengers headquarters in Tony's mansion on Fifth Avenue. They were there because Tony had refused to keep his armor on SHIELD property, and also there was something about SHIELD not making good enough coffee, and Tony being unable to face the day without sufficient high-quality caffeine. So Steve has a computer with wifi and all the bells and whistles. He learns fast, a lot faster than Tony takes into account. The internet is a vast ocean of information, some of which is actually true and useful.
Tony likes to host parties. It didn't take five minutes of googling to discover that, which really, Steve could have guessed. He's known puppies that demanded less center of attention 'look at ME' than Tony. Tony owns an absurd number of extravagant houses-- Steve can't call them homes because mostly they sit vacant-- around the world, and all of them have swimming pools, bigger and fancier than most municipal pools Steve remembers. And from the online photos,Tony likes having beautiful girls in bikinis and handsome men in bathing suits at his parties. Steve thinks it's nice that at least they have one thing in common.
So Steve gets snacks and non-alcoholic drinks and sets them on tables around the pool at the mansion. Then he puts on the tiny blue swim trunks that had magically appeared in the closet in the room he'd been given, along with clothes in his size for every possible social occasion. Since Tony doesn't actually like him, Steve assumes this is more of the 'I'm rich, look how rich I am' game, and everyone else on the team has been given equivalent wardrobes. He goes down to the kitchen with a towel thrown over his shoulder right at the time he's figured Tony would have emerged from his lab/workshop/sulking room to re-caffeinate his bloodstream. Tony, wearing grubby black jeans and an equally grubby gray, grease-streaked undershirt lit in the center by that weird thing in his chest, is standing by the coffee machine when he enters. He sees Tony notice him and he sees the way Tony's pupils dilate, nice and dark and interested. Tony is so transparent. Anything shiny and pretty catches his attention.
Steve doesn't actually flex his abs as he pours himself a glass of orange juice, but he doesn't cover up, either. "Nice day for a swim," Steve says. "You don't mind if I use the pool?" Tony doesn't say anything, which Steve counts as permission.
Steve wanders out to the pool. "Hey, computer... Jarvis? Could you put on some party music, please?" After a few minutes of listening to snatches of what Steve assumes Tony considers music and Steve thinks sounds more like people having arguments in the middle of a battle zone, they compromise on something that has a lively beat, but no lyrics. It's set loud enough for everyone else in the mansion to hear it, but not so loud that Steve can't think as he sits in a deck chair, awaiting events. By the time Steve has finished his juice, Natasha ghosts up next to him with Clint at her side. Steve isn't surprised that they're both wearing swim suits. They'd probably been spying on him.
He raises his empty glass in salute. "Tony doesn't mind if we use his pool."
Natasha looks at the pool and then at Steve. "This should be fun." Steve grins back at her, not bothering to misunderstand. "Yeah," he says. "We need to relax, get to know each other better."
Clint laughs. "Oh, you're so subtle." Natasha pushes him into the pool and dives in after. Steve watches in appreciation as they play a weird sort of tag, which, if it has rules, probably the winner is the one who breaks the most of them. They are quite noisy. He's glad they're willing to cooperate. He gets in the pool and stands at the shallow end, leaning back against the deck, being patient and calm and really, playing the Captain America dignified, but friendly, card for all it's worth.
Bruce arrives a few minutes later, fully dressed, and looking wistful. "Bruce!" Steve waves him over. "Get your suit on, join the party."
"Party?" Bruce helps himself to a handful of yogurt-covered pretzels while he doesn't exactly watch Natasha, but doesn't exactly not watch her. "I don't know."
"You need practice in controlling other emotions beside anger." Steve says it quietly enough that Bruce could ignore it, if he wanted. After a moment, Bruce shrugs. "All right." He walks away with his pretzels and returns in a few minutes, pretzelless, and in his swim trunks. He walks down the steps into the pool and over to Clint and Natasha who are now sort of semi-cuddling, or perhaps testing secret immobilization holds.
There's a loud, wordless yell from up high, a flash of pale skin (not bisected by a bathing suit) and Thor cannonballs in from the roof, sending a tsunami over the deck. "Aerial attack!" Steve shouts and lunges for Thor to grapple with him, laughing. Bruce is laughing, too. Natasha comes over to grope Thor in a helpful distracting spy sort of way while Clint uses his hands to make water squirt very accurately at them. "Put the music louder, Jarvis!" Steve shouts. He enjoys play-wrestling with Thor. It's good to be able to exert himself without worrying about breaking someone.
But while he's playing, he's not forgot his purpose. He's listening for Tony underneath the music, and the laughter, the splashing, and the talk. It's only a few minutes before he hears Tony's sneakers, the ones with the white two inch layer of rubber on the soles which Steve is quite sure is not for purposes of electrical insulation, squeaking on the wet deck. He turns to face Tony. He has one arm thrown around Thor's shoulders and the other around Natasha's so they turn with him. The array of wet, shiny, rapidly breathing torsos facing Tony is probably taking unfair advantage, which is fine in Steve's book. The most efficient use of resources not only wins the battle, but leaves you with the wherewithal to win the war. The only thing Steve's wondering about is if the gadget in Tony's chest is waterproof, but since Tony apparently manages to shower without electrocuting himself, he figures it must be.
Steve grins at Tony, challenging him. "Come on in, the water's fine!" Tony tilts his head and doesn't say anything for a long moment. He has red-tinted sunglasses on, hiding his eyes, but not all that successfully. Steve can practically see the gears turning behind them before Tony shrugs and sits down to take off his sneakers and peel down his jeans. He's wearing a bright red thong underneath. He doesn't take off the undershirt. Steve is pretty sure that's not good for the pool filtration system, but he's not about to give Tony an excuse to flounce off.
The moment Tony walks into the pool, Steve turns to Thor. "Let's play Chicken Fight!"
"What sort of battle is that? And where shall we get the fowl?"
Clint looks at Natasha, who grins and somehow vaults up from the water to land on his shoulders, legs twining to lock securely. "The rider can do anything they like to try to knock the other riders off," Clint tells Thor. "The 'horse' can't use his hands. He can only push."
Thor turns to Bruce. "I shall be thy loyal steed!" He doesn't wait for Bruce's agreement before ducking under the water and coming up with Bruce clinging to him.
Tony gives Steve an evil look. "Wait, I need to go back and get my spurs."
Steve grins and turns his back to Tony. "Climb on."
Natasha fights dirty, which surprises no one. Clint is very agile. Thor is incredibly powerful. Bruce is courteous and cautious. Tony is trash-talking and reckless. Steve is laughing and throwing himself at Thor, enjoying the closeness and the grounding pressure of Tony's weight on him. Tony is heavier than Steve would have guessed from seeing him in one of his fancy suits, more muscular, more at home in his body than he'd expected. It's... nice, feeling his muscles move cooperatively against someone else's muscles.
Steve is enjoying himself and not just because his team-bonding, trust-building, exercise is going so well. Tony lets out a yell as he does something complicated, pushing and pulling at Bruce's arms with both hands. Bruce goes flying backwards in a huge splash, coming up laughing to shake the hair out of his eyes. He's not turning green, which is fortunate.
Steve charges Clint. Natasha whips off the top of her bikini, which, really... Steve hadn't taken Natasha's utter ruthlessness into account in his battle plan. He steps back in surprise and is half blinded by flying bikini and afterimages of nipples. He feels Tony shift. He lets go of Tony's legs, intending to let him fall safely back into the water rather than risk injury to Tony's back. Naturally Tony picks this moment to show his belief in Steve rather than abandon ship. His legs tighten on Steve's shoulders, throwing both of them out of balance.
Steve's feet shoot out from under him, and suddenly he's under the water, under the water and it's cold and he can't get his head above it, and he throws his hands out, flailing wildly, and he is going deeper and deeper and...
then he's being dragged through the water and his head is up in the air again, facing the bright sunlight, and he's confused. He gropes and pulls his arms up onto the deck and slumps there, chest pressed against the side of the pool, chin digging into the textured deck, blinking and coughing and sneezing out the burn of chlorinated water. There are hands on his back, awkwardly patting, and everyone's talking, and he's so damn embarrassed. "Sorry."
"Captain America doesn't know how to swim?" For once Tony doesn't sound as if he's making a wisecrack.
"Yeah, well, I never learned as a kid and then later...." Steve indicates his body. "I don't float well."
"Mmm." Tony nods. "High muscle mass, dense bone, nearly non-existent body fat. So basically, you sink like a rock."
"Pretty much." Steve sighs. Great, now he's showing weakness before his team.
Tony hmms a moment more under his breath. "You know, you have great lungs. I mean, anyone can see you do. A little work on breath control and you could float like a champion." There's a pause and then Tony says, "I could teach you. I mean... not that I'm the greatest teacher in the world, but at least I know what not to do."
Steve smiles. Tony sounding unsure of himself is actually rather attractive. "And how did you learn that?"
"Oh, dad threw me in the pool when I was two. I learned how not to drown that way, but that's not the same thing. The butler taught me to swim the right way. You have to be relaxed, and... and trust your teacher." Somewhere along the way, Tony's lost his sunglasses, Steve notices. He also realizes that Tony has very pretty eyes which can be very direct and very soft when they're not hidden behind armor or tinted plastic or wisecracks.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I could do that." Steve smiles at Tony, suddenly realizing the secret to gaining Tony's trust is absurdly simple. All you have to do is trust him first.