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the hip and the dead

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Steve moves to Brooklyn despite the protests. SHIELD wants to keep him close, in headquarters for preference, and everyone from Fury on down argues against it. But Steve is adamant, and in the end he bargains them down to letting an agent come apartment-hunting with him.

He settles on a fourth-floor walk-up in Williamsburg. It gets fantastic light and there's a massive claw-foot tub in the bathroom, which is all Steve really needs to know, but the agent has a lot of questions for the realtor. Questions about the structural integrity of the building and whether the landlords have any ties to foreign nationals, most of which the realtor doesn't have an answer for.

When she asks about the other tenants in the building, the realtor just throws up his hands and says, "Look, I don't know. They're artsy types, if they live around here. You know. Hipsters."

And that seems to make sense to her, because she nods, satisfied, even though Steve’s pretty sure that he’s missed something. But he’s been feeling like that pretty much all of the time since he woke up, and doubly so around Tony, so he lets it pass. Later, though, when he’s at lunch at the SHIELD commissary with Jane Foster and her assistant, who seem to have taken him under their collective wing in Thor’s absence, it comes up again.

He tells them about the new apartment, and when he mentions the location Darcy pulls a face and says, “Ugh, hipsters. I hope you don’t mind them, Steve, because they’re going to be everywhere.”

Steve frowns. “I don’t think that’ll bother me. But I’m not sure that word means the same thing it did in my day, because when I hear ‘hipster’ I think of someone who spends all their time at jazz clubs, and probably smokes marijuana.”

“Wait, people smoked pot back then?” Darcy asks, incredulous, but Jane shushes her.

“It doesn’t mean quite the same thing now,” she tells Steve, “although, actually, it hasn’t changed as much as I would have thought.”

It means, as Steve understands it, young people who care a lot about seeming ‘cool;’ people who are discriminating about art and music to the point of snobbery; people who affect a lower class than they were born to. Darcy also tries to explain something about irony that Steve doesn’t really follow. None of it really seems to match up with the people Steve has seen on the street in his new neighborhood, who don’t seem any stranger or more bohemian than anyone else he’s met since he woke up.

Steve moves into his new apartment with a week’s worth of clothes, a meal’s worth of dishes, and a king-sized mattress. SHIELD had offered to outfit the apartment for him, but he’d turned them down, wanting to pick out everything himself. He’s particular about his living space, or he would have been if he ever could have afforded to be, and now he’s finally got the opportunity.

Luckily, there’s a flea market in a parking lot around the corner from Steve’s apartment on Saturdays, and he heads over bright and early, the first weekend after he moves in. It’s a nice day, families and young couples walking between the rows of bright tents, good smells wafting out from a cart selling crepes. Steve doesn’t even make it past three booths before he’s buying something.

The vendor’s got half-a-dozen record players set out, and Steve picks the oldest one that’s still in good condition. Then he turns to the bins of records, starts flipping through them for familiar names.

“So you’re a jazz fan, huh?” the guy running the booth asks him. He’s wearking a pork-pie hat and basketball shoes, which would have been a faux pas in Steve’s day but apparently is just fine in 2012. Steve nods at him, and keeps flipping. “Can I recommend you a few things?”

So that’s how Steve ends up with a stack of records that cover the last seventy years of jazz, along with the record player. He has to make a stop at home to drop everything off, before he can go back to shopping.

He only makes it another few booths before he hits the vintage clothing. At first he’s happy to find something else familiar, but it dawns on him that there’s hardly anything that even comes close to being his size.

“Sorry,” says the girl who the booth belongs to, “but vintage clothes run kind of small, you know? Not a lot of people were your height in the ‘40s.” She looks him up and down appreciatively. Steve remembers towering over the crowds, right after he’d gotten the serum-- well, he still does that, just not as much. “Plus men tend to wear their clothes to death, and anything big would often get cut down to fit smaller people. So not a whole lot made it to today.” She rattles this off with the air of someone who’s said it a lot of times. Steve ends up drawn into a longer conversation; perhaps he’s lulled by the way she looks almost right, almost familiar, with her hair in victory rolls and her flowered cotton dress. But she’s got a rhinestone stud in the divot beneath her lower lip, and bright tattoos snake their way up her bare arms.

Still, she’s a sweet girl, and enthusiastic about her chosen profession. She knows a lot about the last hundred years or so of fashion, though she clearly knows more about women’s clothes than men’s, and she offers him a bunch of Internet addresses, for sites that sell men’s vintage or reproductions that might come in his size. Steve suspects that’s where SHIELD procured the limited wardrobe he already has, but it’ll be nice to pick some things out for himself.

By the end of the morning, Steve’s bought a leather sofa, a red-and-white enamel-topped breakfast table with matching chairs, a battered old steamer trunk to use as a coffee table, and a stack of modern art books, along with an assortment of pictures and knickknacks. He’s also got another list of websites to look up, places where he can buy light fixtures and a bed frame and some new cookware, though he’d be just as happy to buy it second-hand.

He carries what he can back to the apartment, passes a happy afternoon hanging pictures and rearranging furniture, and at suppertime decides he’s going to try and brave the Internet. He has a sleek and shiny Starkbook that feels entirely too fragile in his big hands, and enough lessons in using it that he shouldn’t feel nervous about it. He does, nonetheless.

But online shopping doesn’t turn out to be all that much of a challenge. He picks out a wrought-iron bedstead from a company that makes historic reproductions, and some new clothes, and orders a bunch of history books. The prices make him boggle a little, but so do the numbers in his bank account, and so, for that matter, do his rent and the price of a cup of coffee. He’s getting over it.

It’s a few days later that Bruce and Tony show up unannounced, Tony bearing an expensive bottle of scotch. “Housewarming present,” he announces, offering it to Steve.

“Thanks, but I can’t really--” Steve begins, but Tony cuts him off.

“No, no, it’s so you have something to offer your houseguests. If I’m making the trek out to Hipsterville on a semi-regular basis, I’m going to ensure there’s something decent to drink waiting at the other end, see?” Tony glances at Steve’s little kitchenette, which is still a bit bare. “Anywhere you want me to stash this? And do you even own glasses yet?”

“I own a glass,” Steve says. “I was going to buy more in the next couple of days.” There’s a thrift store the girl from the flea market had told him about that he wants to check out, but he’s not telling Tony that.

“I like how you’ve set the place up,” Bruce offers. “It’s starting to look homey.”

“Thanks,” Steve says. “I still need a few things, but I’ve got the basics.”

“That is categorically untrue, you don’t even have a television,” Tony says. “And is that vinyl? Oh god, you’re assimilating! Williamsburg is turning you into one of its own. I knew this would happen.”

“Hey,” Steve says, starting to get annoyed, “I actually know how to operate a record player, and it’s not like I have a burning need to catch up on the television shows I’ve missed. And anyway, I don’t need a lot of stuff.”

Bruce chuckles, suddenly, as if something’s dawned on him. “Actually, Steve, you might fit in just fine in this neighborhood.”

Tony considers this, and then brightens. “Hey, yeah! Lots of people here like to pretend it’s seventy years ago. You can find some folks to go swing dancing with, then can some organic produce and feed your backyard chickens.”

“Chickens?” Steve asks, confused. “Who keeps chickens in Brooklyn?” And he’s never canned food in his life; that’s for farmers. Canned food is something you buy at the store.

Bruce and Tony don’t stay long, and when they leave, Steve’s not sure what to do with himself. SHIELD hasn’t given him anything like a real job yet, saying he still needs time to settle in, but Steve thinks that if he settles in much more he’ll start to go stir-crazy. He decides to go for a walk, explore the neighborhood, maybe get to know some of the locals.

It’s a funny mix of things. There are tiny, fancy boutiques; and bars that look like they haven’t changed since Steve’s day, except that all the beers they serve are something called microbrews; there’s synagogues and churches and hole-in-the-wall antique stores. Steve has lunch in a restaurant with dozens of paint-by-number paintings hanging on the walls, where all the waiters wear plaid shirts for some reason. It doesn’t seem to be the uniform, they just... all like plaid. The food’s good, though: much better than what he’s been eating in the SHIELD commissary. For the first time he has a tomato that doesn’t taste watery and strange.

And in the scree of concert fliers and homemade ads posted on the bulletin board by the door, Steve finds a notice about life drawing classes at a nearby studio. He tears off a strip with an e-mail address to contact, and heads home.

Coming in the door, he nearly collides with someone on their way out. “Oh!” she says, flustered. “Sorry!” She’s wearing thick-framed glasses, a little too large for her face, and her hair’s swept up in a messy topknot. “You’re the new guy on the fourth floor, right?”

“Um, yeah,” Steve says, and offers his hand to shake. “Steve Rogers.”

Her handshake is firm. “Lindsay. Nice to meet you. How are you settling in?”

“Oh, fine,” he says. “Just been exploring the neighborhood. It’s changed a lot since the last time I was here.”

“Oh, it’s totally gentrified,” she agrees, or he thinks she agrees. “But I guess we’re part of the problem, huh?”

“I guess,” Steve ventures. “Have you lived here long?”

“Just a year in this building, since I started working in the city. Before that I had a loft in a warehouse with a bunch of friends, but now I make grown-up money so I got my own place. It’s nice. What do you do?”

“I’m, uh, a consultant for SHIELD,” he says, stumbling through his cover story. “But I just finished a big project for them, so I have a while before the next thing starts up. I’m sort of at loose ends right now.”

“Well, there’s always a lot to do around here,” Lindsay says cheerfully. “Do you like music?”

Lindsay, it follows, is a costume designer for a theater company in Manhattan. And it turns out she knows the girl from the flea market-- “Oh, you should go to her store!” she tells him. “It’s totally your style.”

“But not my size,” he says ruefully, and she laughs.

“No, that’s true, but I? Know people who can sew,” and that’s how Steve ends up with an invitation to a D-Day anniversary party where everyone goes in period clothes.

When he mentions this, the next day, Clint nearly chokes on his drink, and Natasha almost has an expression. “You sure that’s a good idea?” Clint asks him, his face wary and a little concerned. “I mean, the people who’d go to that sort of thing... probably don’t mean the same thing by it that you do.”

Steve shrugs. “Well, it could be fun. And it would be nice to meet some people I have something in common with who don’t work for SHIELD.”

“You don’t have as much in common with them as you think you do,” Natasha says, and won’t elaborate.

The week is a busy one, for Steve: he takes delivery of the rest of his furniture; he sits through a series of meetings at SHIELD about the rebuilding efforts New York is putting forth after Loki’s attack; he finds out that Casablanca is playing at a theater in his neighborhood and watches it three times in two days. It was one of the last movies he’d seen before the plane went down, and he’d loved it, been enthralled by the love story and Ingrid Bergman’s luminous face. Now he watches it and feels keenly for Rick, going on alone, knowing the woman he loves is finding happiness without him.

By the third time he buys a ticket, the cashier at the movie theater knows his face. “So I guess you’re a fan of the classics, huh?” he asks. He looks young, to Steve’s eyes, just a kid, though Steve’s probably not much older than him in actual years lived. He’s got the sides of his head shaved, the stripe of hair down the center grown long enough to get in his eyes.

“You could say that,” Steve agrees, and goes to buy his overpriced popcorn. He misses newsreels, but the stadium seating’s an awfully good idea.

On his way to his first life drawing class that weekend, Steve passes a bike shop, and goes inside on a whim. Inside, it smells like axle grease, and everyone who works there is heavily tattooed. Steve ends up buying a massive old cruiser that’s clearly been sitting in the shop for ages; it’s built like a tank, with fenders and a headlight and three speeds. He gets a basket for it, and a bell, and decides he’ll ride it the rest of the way to class.

“Good luck getting that thing up hills, man,” says the guy who rings him up. He looks doubtful. He also has half-inch discs in his earlobes. Steve wonders how he did that, and why.

“I think I’ll manage,” Steve says, smiling.

“Yeah, well, you’d do better on a fixie,” he says, but Steve doesn’t follow, or much mind. He rides off down the street with his portfolio slung across his back, wind in his hair, and is the happiest he’s been for a while.

The class is good: Steve is rusty, but by the end of it he’s feeling comfortable again with charcoal in his hand, and the other people in the class look to be at about the same skill level. Some of them obviously know each other, sitting together and chatting about mutual friends, and Steve tries to remember if he ever knew how to insinuate himself into a group like that. It had always been him and Bucky, really, the two of them against the world, and while he’d had other friends none of them had been anything like as close. He doesn’t think he’ll ever have another friendship like that, doesn’t think you get second chances at those kinds of things, but right now, he’ll settle for people who are happy to see him.

He manages to get himself invited to something called a sketch crawl. Apparently it involves going to a series of bars and drawing things there. “I don’t really drink, but it sounds fun,” he says to the guy who invited him.

“It totally is,” the guy promises. His art is angular and cartoony, the model’s limbs stretched out impossibly long on the page in front of him. Steve just drew the way he’d been taught in art school, but a couple of people have already commented on his old-fashioned style. They sounded approving of it, at least. “You’ll have a blast.”

So that’s how Steve’s life goes for the next few weeks: the occasional meeting at SHIELD, a systematic sampling of the restaurants in his neighborhood, a trip to the farmer’s market where he buys heirloom peppers and artisanal ham and cage-free eggs, and takes them home to make the best omelet he’s eaten in seventy years. He meets Lindsay’s friend for a suit fitting, and goes out for drinks with some people from his art class. Tony teaches him to play Mario Kart. Darcy offers to be his date to the D-Day dance, and the two of them go vintage shopping to find her a dress.

He has nightmares of Bucky, falling, and once a dream of Peggy standing alone at the edge of a dance floor wakes him up in a cold sweat. He misses his own time like a limb; it dulls, but it doesn’t fade. Still, he throws himself into 2012 as hard as he can, and it helps some. He doesn’t really know how to do anything else.

The dance rolls around sooner than Steve expected it. He and Darcy pile into a cab with Lindsay and her girlfriend, and when they arrive, only half an hour late, there's a scattering of people in 1940s clothes standing outside smoking cigarettes. Steve can hear big band music spilling out the open doorway. Darcy adjusts the tilt of her hat, and lets Steve help her out of the cab.

"So how does it measure up to the real thing?" Darcy asks him, once they're inside.

There are crepe paper steamers and honeycomb balls hanging from the ceiling, and there's a pink glass punchbowl surrounded by a fleet of little cups. People are drinking and talking, a few couples dancing to the music the band plays in their immaculate white tuxedos. Everyone's dressed up: some in daywear, others, like Steve and Darcy, looking fancier, and quite a few in uniform. Steve spots sailors and nurses, WAVES and WACs, men in neat dress uniforms and others looking like they've come straight from a battle. He's not quite sure how he feels about that: so few people serve, anymore, and it's not likely that any of these people have seen combat. It feels a little wrong, a little disrespectful.

But maybe people don't see it that way anymore. "It's not bad," Steve answers at last. "Not the real thing, but not bad."

It's little things, mostly, that give people away: the makeup, the fit of the men's uniforms, even people's posture. The women aren't wearing girdles under their dresses, most of them, so they don't hold their shoulders back and their spines straight the way they ought to. And, of course, there's a lot of tattoos and piercings, occasional flashes of unnaturally bright-colored hair. It's not home. But it's nice.

“So, want to dance?” Darcy asks, and he gulps a little. He can dance, more or less, he just hasn’t had a lot of chances to practice. But most of the couples already dancing are just swaying to the music, no flashy steps, and he can at least manage that.

So he leads Darcy out, and doesn’t make a total ass of himself for a few songs. Lindsay and her girlfriend sashay by, and Lindsay gives him a thumbs up-- he’s pretty sure she thinks he’s sweet on Darcy. He’s not, really, but she’s a nice girl, and he appreciates her coming with him.

It’s a few songs later that Steve’s drinking a glass of punch and absently wondering how Lindsay and her girlfriend decide who leads when they dance, when there’s a bit of a commotion at the door. The crowd’s been growing as it get later, more and more people arriving, and the group that’s just come in is causing some sort of a fuss.

Steve stands to see what’s going on, and his eyes lock onto Bucky Barnes.

Or, no. It’s a man wearing Bucky’s uniform, his hair combed neatly, a sniper’s rifle slung across his back. Next to him, a man with Dum-Dum Dugan’s mustache is twirling a bowler hat in his hands, and there’s another fellow in a beret who’s obviously meant to be Jaques. There’s a Gabe, and a Jim, and a Falsworth, and-- of course, Steve realizes, of course there is-- there’s a Captain America.

The man in Steve’s old uniform is half a head shorter than he is, but he’s broad across the shoulders and he makes up for it with swagger. It’s a good copy, right down to the stains, and the shield he carries has every blemish in the paint lovingly reproduced. From the way he holds it, though, Steve can see the weight’s all wrong, and it wouldn’t throw worth a damn.

“Oh, wow,” Lindsay says beside him. “I heard those guys were coming, but I wasn’t sure if they were going to be done with their costumes in time. They’ve been working on them for months. Pretty great, huh?”

Somewhere behind him, he hears Darcy say, “oh jeez” in a small voice.

“I don’t know if ‘great’ is what I’d call it,” Steve says. “Those are real people they’re dressed up as. You don’t think it’s a little disrespectful to--” he bites back on what he wants to say, but he can’t keep his voice from getting louder-- “to the dead?”

Lindsay’s girlfriend looks up at him, obviously confused. “They don’t mean anything by it,” she says. “It’s not a big deal.”

Suddenly the whole night seems rotten and false, every bit of make-believe revealed to be hollow at the core. Steve doesn’t want to be there anymore, where people turn real soldiers into Halloween costumes and play-act at belonging to an era they can’t begin to understand.

“You know, I’m not feeling so hot,” Darcy says just then, with a bright, false smile, and Steve turns grateful eyes upon her. “Steve, would you mind cutting out early?”

“I really wouldn’t,” he says, through his teeth, and they go.

The cab ride back to Steve’s place is tense. There’s a lot Steve wants to say, and none of it fit for public consumption. He doesn’t want to yell at Darcy, though, especially since from the look on her face she’s expecting him to, and when they get back to his apartment the anger fizzles instead of exploding. He slumps, all over, feeling tired of just about everything.

“Are you okay to get home?” he asks Darcy, once they’re inside. “I can have SHIELD call you a car.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” she says, still looking nervous. “Steve, about those guys at the party--”

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he cuts her off. “I’m kind of tired. I think I just want to turn in.”

His dreams that night are fitful and half-remembered, fragments he can’t quite grasp upon waking. He knows he dreamt of the people he’s lost, because that’s what he dreams about most nights, but the details escape him. In the morning he goes for a run, and as he passes his neighbors on the street he tries to look closer at them, to figure out what’s going on in their heads that’s put such a gulf between them and him.

When he gets back, his apartment isn’t empty. Tony is crouched in front of the milk crate Steve’s been using to store records, flipping through them, one of the tumblers Steve bought at the thrift store half-full in his hand. Bruce is lying on Steve’s couch, reading one of his art books, and Clint and Natasha are sitting across from one another at the breakfast table while they flip through his portfolio.

“You know,” says Bruce, turning the book sideways in his hands, “I never really got postmodernism.”

“I’m pretty sure you get it better than I do,” Steve says. He’d looked it up on the Wikipedia, once, but he hadn’t really understood it, and half an hour later had ended up reading another entry entirely. “What are you all doing here?”

“Darcy told us,” Natasha says, and though she doesn’t have much of an expression, her eyes are compassionate. “Tony insisted we stop by.”

“I did not,” says Tony, standing up. “I said I was going to stop by and did anyone want to tag along, and I ended up with a carful of you people. We’ve all been very curious about what you’ve been doing out here, and apparently the answer is antiquing.”

Steve sighs. “I’m fine, really,” he says, and it’s more or less true. “I got a little upset, is all. It’s not a big deal.”

“The way Darcy told it, you were three seconds from punching a cosplayer,” Tony says.

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration,” Steve answers, though it’s certainly true that he’d wanted to put his fist through the faux Dum-Dum’s bowler hat. He hadn’t, though. He’d been good and hardly said a word, not even shouted, and now everyone is treating him like he’s snapped, which is just unfair. “I think I have the right to be a little upset.”

“Of course you do,” Bruce says. “But do you get exactly what you’re upset about?”

Steve grits his teeth. “I’m not stupid,” he snaps, “and I’m not simple. People are different today, and that’s fine, we’ve come on some as a society, people think in different ways. I get that. But I don’t-- and I won’t-- get how it’s okay to show that kind of disrespect and treat it like a game! Like it’s funny, like it’s nothing to take seriously, when those are real people who fought, and-- and died, and--” He stops, out of words. Or words he’s willing to say out loud, anyway.

Clint whistles through his teeth. “Darcy said you were pissed.”

“Hey, you chose to live here,” Tony says. “We warned you that everyone for a forty-block radius is obsessed with nostalgia, and you thought that meant you’d fit right in. But they don’t mean it the way you do.”

“I guess they don’t,” Steve says, and his shoulders sag. Maybe it was a mistake, after all, coming back to Brooklyn.

He mopes around for most of the day after the others leave. It’s not just Brooklyn that’s the problem, really, or the people here. Tony and the others made jokes about hipsters, about ironic detachment, about affectations and poses. But the real problem was that, to Steve’s eyes, everyone in 2012 was detached, ironic, postmodern. Nobody seemed to take the important things seriously, most of the time, whether they claimed to be hip or not.

But later, on his way out the door, he runs into Lindsay. "Hey," she greets him, "is your friend all right? You guys left kind of suddenly."

Steve tries to paste a smile on, but his heart's not in it. "Yeah, she's okay," he says. “We just needed to go."

Lindsay nods, apparently convinced, because Steve’s time on the war bond circuit taught him nothing if not how to fake a smile. "We were worried," she says. Then she pauses, looks around conspiratorially, and adds, "Want to hear the weirdest thing? I swear I saw Tony Stark coming out of the building this morning."

“Um,” says Steve, because he can fake a smile but he’s never been much of a liar when it counts. “That’s... so funny.”

“Yeah, it’s like seeing Bill Gates at the laundromat or something,” she says.

“Who?” Steve asks. “Uh. I mean. He knows lots of people, right? Some of them have got to live in Brooklyn. ”

Lindsay frowns at that, and shoots him a probing look. She says “Wait, do you know Tony Stark? How do you know-- oh my god.” Her voice rises in pitch. “Oh my god!”

“I have to go,” Steve blurts, and makes to flee.

But Lindsay won’t be deterred. “You’re Captain America!” she says, raising a shaky hand to point at him. “Oh my god, you totally are Captain America. I’m an idiot, I am so, so stupid--”

“You’re not,” Steve tries to assure her, and looks around to make sure none of the other tenants are in earshot, “you’re really not, but if you could maybe keep your voice down--”

“I took you to that party!” she says, her voice a wail. “There was a guy dressed up as you there, what was I thinking, no wonder you left early.”

“That’s-- not why, really,” Steve says. “I mean, I couldn’t care less if people want to dress up as me, it was the others I was upset about. Jim and Dum-Dum and-- and Bucky. Making them into a joke.”

“Oh, my gosh, is that what you think?” Lindsay asks, wide-eyed and a little tearful. “Okay, hold on a minute, we need to talk.” And that’s how he winds up ushered into Lindsay’s apartment, which is cluttered and bright, half-finished sewing projects in a pile on the coffee table, concert fliers tacked to the walls, the furniture threadbare and comfortable.

“Look,” Lindsay says, “I’m really sorry if you think those guys were being disrespectful. But I know a couple of them, and even if they act like they don’t take it seriously, they’re totally faking it. I mean, they spent forever on those costumes, they did a ton of research, they’re huge, huge fans of you and your squad. They really admire you-- all of you, and what you did. They wouldn’t have done it, otherwise.”

“I never thought of it that way,” Steve says. “I guess you’d have to really care, to bother at all.” It makes things slot into his head in a different way, hearing that. Suddenly he sees his neighbors in a new light. “People around here, they do these old-fashioned things, or things that not a lot of other people are interested in, and they act like it’s all a big game. But it’s not, is it?”

Lindsay shakes her head, and quirks the corner of her mouth up in a smile. “Now you know our secret. It’s not cool to care, or whatever. But most people really do, deep down.”

Steve feels a rush of affection, then, for all these people he’d been trying so hard to understand. Tony called them obsessed with nostalgia, and maybe that was right. But that just meant that they loved the past, wanted a piece of it for themselves, even though the distance of seventy years made it hard for them to really get it right. They kept trying, nonetheless. Steve could appreciate that. “Thanks,” he says. “Really. That helps a lot. And, uh-- can we keep this between ourselves? It’s not exactly public knowledge that I live here.”

Lindsay nods. “Yeah, of course! Anyway, who’d believe Captain America lives in Brooklyn?”

“Apparently, not most folks,” Steve says. “You’d think they would remember that I grew up here.”

“Maybe,” Lindsay says, “but it’s not quite the neighborhood you grew up in.”

“It hasn’t changed as much as I thought it had,” Steve says. “I think-- I think I’m glad I moved back.”

And what’s funny is, he means that. Really and sincerely.

The next time he’s at SHIELD, he stops in at Jane Foster’s lab to say hello to Darcy. “Hey, um-- how are you?” Darcy asks, a little uncertain-looking. “Are you sticking it out in Brooklyn?”

“I think so,” Steve says, and offers her a real smile to allay her concern. “I was upset before, but I think I’m starting to get it now. People aren’t as different as I thought they were.”

“Well, that’s good,” Darcy says, clearly a little surprised. “What changed your mind?”

He shrugs. “A friend of mine talked to me. Told me a few things I wasn’t expecting to hear.” A lot of things had fallen into focus, once he’d talked to Lindsay. Even his teammates: for all that they covered it up with bravado or sarcasm or cool detachment, they cared about things as deeply as anyone did in Steve’s day. Everyone did, really. That was the secret. Underneath it all, people were the same.

“I’m glad,” Darcy says. “You seemed really happy to be living there, and I’d hate for some jerks to spoil it.”

“Aw, they’re not jerks,” he says. “They’re really not so bad at all.”

Darcy made a face. “But they’re hipsters,” she said. “Hipsters are evil.”

Steve laughs at her dismay. “Don’t be so hard on them,” he says. “They’re good people, once you get to know them.”

“Don’t let Tony hear you say that,” Darcy warns him.

“You know,” Steve says, lowering his voice and leaning in, “I’m starting to suspect Tony might be a good person, too. Once you get to know him.”

Darcy giggles at Steve’s mocking expression. “Are you starting to get the hang of irony, then?” she asks.

“I’m still working on it,” Steve says. “But give me time.”