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"You can't be fucking serious," Steve said. "This is going to be a steaming shit circus."

"You know you used to say 'pardon the expression, ma'am' before you busted out language like that on me," Maria said dryly.

"I'm told that on certain matters it is in fact better to seek forgiveness after the fact," Steve said. "And you'll excuse me if I don't apologize for telling you that this is a skullfuckingly stupid festering boil of an idea. Maria, you can't send a reporter on one of these raids with us, we're going after Loki's scepter, HYDRA tech--"

"You manage to keep all sorts of civilians safe, you'll protect one more just fine," Maria said briskly. "You've caused major property damage in six different countries in the last two months--you're going to have NATO after you if you don't show people what you're fighting for on these missions. You take some reporters along, you--"

"You fucking said one reporter, Maria, Jesus Christ, one--"

"Yes, I meant a reporter and a photographer, not two reporters, but that does bring me to another point. You need to look like the good guys."

Steve closed his eyes, thinking of the wreckage they'd left behind them, the shattered bodies. Grimly he said, "We are the God damned good guys."

"Well, you need to sound like it on the news," Maria said. "Every one of you needs to sound like you've got a microphone pointed at you the whole time, because you will."

Steve stared at her, lost for words for a couple of seconds, and then he said, "Horseshit."

"Get it all out now, Cap, because I'm serious."

Steve rubbed his forehead. "Donkey-cock swallowing douchepistol weaseldicked motherfucker."

"Grandmotherfucker," Maria replied blandly.

Steve didn't think he'd ever heard her swear before; it made him look up at her.

"You missed out on my generation's mothers," Maria explained with a slight smile.

"Don't talk about your grandma that way, Maria, she was a nice lady," Steve said, digging up a little bit of humor for this colossally fucked mission she was sending him on. "We didn't fuck, we made beautiful love, and our night together was very special. To me. Not to her, because she was a pox-ridden whore. I hope she got some penicillin for that eventually."

"Well, Nana's a sharp businesswoman," Maria said easily. "And if you're going to talk about her like that you probably can't afford her company anymore."

"Story of my fucking life," Steve agreed. "Are you seriously going to make me the language police of this clusterfuck?"

"Set a thief to catch a thief," Maria said pitilessly. "Set a foul-mouthed soldier to catch five considerably less foul-mouthed operatives."

"Come on, I seriously just got Tony to stop leaving me gifts of denture cream and Depends, if I tell him to mind his fucking language--"

"This is your grenade to fall on, Cap." Maria gave him a tight smile, not entirely unsympathetic. "Seriously. You've gotta be family-friendly."

"In the middle of some gaping monkey's cunt of a raid," Steve sighed. "What am I even supposed to say?"

"Well, first of all you say as little as possible that isn't tactical," Maria said. "And if anybody else slips up, you just put on your Cap-knows-best voice and remind them not to."

"We're just doing this once, right?" Steve asked, already squeezing himself back into the habits of speaking in front of a lady who wasn't a harder bastard than any man he knew. "One raid, and then I don't have to be a prissy little killjoy at my team every time they cuss?"

"One raid," Maria said. "Get the press off your back, save the reputation of the Avengers, and then you can have all the language you want."

"Gosh, ma'am," Steve muttered. "You're too kind."