Episode One: Home
“You built a what?” The words hung in the air of the freshly renovated building, currently filled to brimming with brand new furniture, each piece looking like it probably cost about a million dollars and didn’t look especially comfortable. Sitting on a chair like that would be like sitting on a golden egg.
“A headquarters. Jesus, Cap, you’d think you’d at least be up to date on things like that. Didn’t they have headquarters in the forties? Because I’m relatively certain that they had headquarters in the forties. And I didn’t build it. Simply renovated what was already a pretty fantastic building, if I do say so myself.”
Steve glared at him, his steely eyes looking almost as cold as the ice that had encapsulated him for 70 years, but with a hint of something else in them, a bit of fondness mixed in with the steel and supposed annoyance. “Of course they had headquarters, Stark. What I suppose I meant was…why did you build a headquarters? ”
Tony’s eyebrows arched. “Why not?” he said, holding out his hands, one of which still clutching a wrench while the other held a soiled red grease rag. His faded black AC/DC shirt was clinging tightly to his muscles, some spots of grease here and there visible despite the similar coloring. He placed the rag in the belt loop on his dark jeans, and almost unwittingly, Steve followed his boots across the fresh white carpet, worried that they would ruin them. But then, what did he care? It wasn’t like this place was his home. It was Stark’s, and only one of many.
“This place is reinforced with all the latest security tech, outfitted with luxuries so sweet they’ll make your old-man brain melt into a syrup of gooey happiness, and has enough space for even the largest of our group. Seriously, I even have a bed big enough for the Hulk in full-on rage monster mode,” Tony continued. “Jarvis, show the Cap the video of what this place has to offer.”
“Sir, would you prefer for me to show him the first, or the second video?”
“The first, Jarvis. Honestly, what’s wrong with you? The second is very serious, for desperate measures only.”
“Of course, sir.”
A flat screen television suddenly descended from the ceiling and Steve staggered back a bit from surprise. He didn’t think he would ever get used to the kinds of technology this new world had to offer. Coming from a time when the latest in entertainment was a black-and-white television set with limited channels, which only the wealthiest of people tended to own, into a time when everyone had a colored set and about a thousand channels was overwhelming to say the least. Spending time with Tony, who made an art of going above and beyond even his time’s technologies, was actually unbearable.
Still, as Tony motioned at the television with a flourish and leaned over the back of the sofa, Steve shook his head and folded his arms, casting his gaze up at it. A series of images, voiced over by Tony himself, displayed everything from a pool at the bottom of the building, to the fully functional Launchpad on the roof, from which a ship that looked like it belonged in one of Bruce’s science-fiction thrillers shot up into the air and disappeared. That was one thing Steve had gotten used to, having crashed a similarly incredible flying machine 70 years ago which had ultimately landed him the somewhat infuriating nickname of Capsicle.
“So, what do you think?” Tony asked, and Steve picked up on a tinge of something in his voice, something like hope and desire for approval. When Steve looked into Tony’s dark eyes, he couldn’t help the sigh that escaped him, and the fond quirk of his lips.
“It’s all very impressive, Tony,” he said, and Tony smirked, opening his mouth (probably to say something about how brilliant he was, no doubt), but Steve stopped him before he could. “But what exactly does it matter what I think?”
“You mean you haven’t figured it out?”
Steve didn’t say anything; merely quirked an eyebrow in curiosity.
Tony stood up straight, throwing his arms out in an all-encompassing gesture. “Welcome to what once was Stark Tower, and what is now the headquarters for The Avengers and home of the greatest superheroes to ever walk the earth.”
Steve let that sink in for a moment, feeling his heart thud against his ribcage though he wasn’t sure why. He was just overwhelmed with emotion—maybe springing from Tony’s use of the word ‘home.’ Home, for him, was a time long-past. He could even remember it now, the tiny Brooklyn apartment with its single bed and peeling green wall-paper and paneling. He could see the icebox in the kitchen, the stove next to it, the tiny table with the two simple chairs on either end of it, where he would spend every morning reading the paper and dreaming of a better future, one where he could be the hero for once, and save the world from bullies.
In the end, he’d gotten his dream, hadn’t he? It was just a shame that many of the people he cared about, like his parents, hadn’t gotten to see him achieve it.
“Shall I show him the other video now, sir?”
“Steve?” Tony’s voice cut into his musings, and the tone was so light, and it was so odd that he was calling him Steve and not Captain, or Cap, or Capsicle, that Steve couldn’t help but allow his eyes to flash up to meet Tony’s once more, startled to find them so close. While he hadn’t been paying attention, Tony had gotten closer to him, one hand on his shoulder. Tony seemed to realize it and quickly removed his hand, though Steve really hadn’t minded.
Suddenly, another video started playing on the screen, and Steve’s eyes widened as it opened with: “Tony Stark: genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. And he is giving you the great opportunity to join him in his new home—“
The words were accompanied by a series of images of Tony doing various things, such as flexing one of his biceps, signing autographs at a luxurious gala, or giving a rousing speech at one of his expos. One image even showed him about to step out of the shower, and that was the exact moment that Tony finally realized what was happening.
“Jarvis!” Tony said, his eyes widened. “Stop! Stop the video! Right now, you stop the video or I will rip out your processing core and feed it to a hoard of baby sharks!”
“What is the problem, sir?”
“The problem is that for all your supposed intelligence, you are truly and bafflingly stupid. I didn’t want you to show that video! I told you, desperate measures only!”
“I requested confirmation, sir. Forgive me, I took your silence as a yes.”
“You didn’t—I didn’t—“ Tony spluttered, and Steve couldn’t stop chuckling, earning a dark glare from the billionaire.
“He’s right, you know,” Steve said, still chuckling, “He did ask for confirmation, but you ignored it.”
“You shut your trap,” Tony said, pointing at him before pressing a button which caused the television to retract into the ceiling, where it disappeared as if it had never been at all. “I honestly should have known that you would be the last person I ought to approach about this. If you hadn’t distracted me with your sad, pathetic puppy eyes—“
“Hey!” Steve protested, but Tony continued, moving around the bar in the living room to start fixing himself another of his cocktails. It was too early to drink, in Steve’s opinion, but his opinion mattered very little to Stark, especially when it came to appropriate drinking, both in the levels of drinking that occurred and the timeframe in which it occurred.
“--then I never would have missed Jarvis’s voice, and all of that could have been avoided.”
Steve chuckled a little bit more, and then silence seemed to descend as he glanced down at the carpet and Tony chugged the drink, then another. Finally, he set the glass down.
“So what is it? What’s wrong? What issue is preventing you from accepting this glorious…”
“There’s nothing—no, there is no issue I just…” “…invitation? What have I done that is not sufficient for you? Have I offended you somehow? I try to play nicely, really I…” “Tony…” “…do. And we need some kind of headquarters where we can all be so that we can react much quicker to threats. How many more times are you going to have to struggle to text us the words ‘Avengers Assemble?’ Because I think it’s definitely a little bit ridiculous, and forgive me, but you’re not exactly a wiz when it comes to tech—“
“Tony!” Steve finally shouted, temporarily silencing the brilliant, albeit motor-mouthed, mechanical scientist. Steve ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “There isn’t anything wrong with the headquarters. It’s great. It’s just…”
“Just what?” Tony began.
“Is it me? Huh? Is it personal? Is it the idea of living with me that has you doubting? I can’t blame you, honestly, I can’t. Even Pepper, bless her heart, can’t imagine living with me full-time. But you have to admit, Cap, that we need a base of operations. We need a place where the Avengers are already assembled. And I know what you’re thinking, that that wouldn’t be worth the living nightmare of having me as a roommate, but—“
“Tony,” Steve ground out, rubbing his head. “Would you shut up for a minute? For the love of God and country—“
“I’m sorry, but that is the most patriotic and adorable thing you have ever said. Could you say it again? Except, maybe, with a little more feeling this time, and look into the camera over there.”
“You’re right,” Steve said, silencing him again, “Living with you would be a nightmare.”
Tony swallowed thickly, the bobbing of his Adams apple the only sign that anything had ruffled him. His face was as impassable as the mask he wore with his Iron Man suit, though a bit of a smirk decorated his lips. That smirk was incongruous with the look in Tony’s eyes, a look that Steve couldn’t begin to dissect and understand, as it seemed so distant and remote.
Shaking his head, Steve moved over and slowly, almost hesitantly, reached across the bar and placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “But that isn’t what I was going to say. I think I could handle the horrors of that particular nightmare.” He grinned, showing Tony that he was joking, and the dark-haired man seemed to release a bit of tension from his body. Steve patted the shoulder and took his hand away, then took up a seat in one of the stools, his back pressed up against the bar and his arms spread out over the surface.
“Then what is it?” Tony asked, this time in perfect seriousness.
Steve sighed. “It’s just that…Tony, you have to understand, I’ve been asleep for 70 years.”
“How could I forget?” Tony said wryly, though a quick look from Steve prevented him from continuing with that.
“And in that time, everything has changed. I don’t…I don’t really belong here, do I? This isn’t my time. This isn’t my Manhattan. These aren’t the kinds of people that I knew. When you said that this was my home, that I could possibly belong not just in this time, but in a proper home—it’s just a lot to take in, you know?”
“Hence the sad…puppy…yeah, okay, I hear ya, Cap.” Tony moved around the bar and grabbed one of the stools, which he positioned just in front of Steve, and then quickly sat in it, staring at Steve. “So…where does this leave us?”
Steve shook his head with a vague smile; leave it to Tony to hear him bear one of his most pressing insecurities and worries and just brush it off like it was nothing. Steve wasn’t sure what he was expecting. Some heartfelt pep-talk about how of course he belonged there, maybe, or perhaps just a small, ‘I understand.’ But no, nothing.
Still, it was somewhat refreshing. He wasn’t sure what he would have done if Tony had treated it like a big deal. As if he were some fragile thing that needed to be protected from the big bad modern world. There were many at S.H.I.E.L.D. who thought that way, and he resented them for it.
Slowly, he glanced up. “It leaves us here, where I think you just recruited a roommate.”
Tony grinned and held out his hand and Steve shook it with a wry grin. “Then it’s a deal! Roommates. Now, to convince the others…”
“I somehow don’t think it’ll be that hard. That video of you is pretty darn irresistible…”
“Isn’t it though? Come on. I’ll show you your room and then we can call the others,” Tony explained, moving to a door that stood off to one corner of the sitting room. A fancy display was next to the door, and Tony quickly bashed out a series of numbers, telling Steve that he had to remember them. Thankfully, Steve had a pretty good head for numbers, though his math abilities were nothing compared to the Starks, and committed it to memory almost immediately, filing it away in the back of his mind for future use.
“So I was the first one you approached about this?” Steve asked as Tony lead him down a hallway. The walls on either side of them weren’t walls at all, but aquariums filled with lovely aquatic life. Steve’s eyes took them in with wonder, curious about how such lovely things came to be inside of a tower like this.
Tony shrugged. “Well, I think the others suspected. I’ve consulted with Bruce a few times about the security measures, and asked the others about things they would want in a high-tech base for The Avengers. But in the end, you were the first one I wanted to unveil the completed headquarters to.”
Tony shot him an amused look as they arrived at a door. He put in another series of numbers and swung open the door. “Isn’t it obvious? You’re the first Avenger, chronologically. And, as much as I hate to admit it, you’re our leader.”
“I’m not anybody’s leader, Tony.”
“You are. Or haven’t you noticed? Anyways,” he nodded into the door, “Take a look. Let me know what you think.”
Shaking his head, Steve moved past Tony…and stopped short in the doorway. The room was perfect. Huge, too. Bigger than any apartment he had ever lived in. He had expected a big, tacky, tech-filled room with a red-white-and-blue color scheme and a big poster of himself somewhere on a wall. It seemed like something Stark would do. Instead, he was looking at a relatively simple room, with a vintage feel to it, as if it had come from the forties directly.
A simple, but very comfortable looking, steel-framed double bed stood against one wall with a plain grey blanket and white sheets drawn over it neatly and a stack of pillows at the head of it. Dark nightstands, one with an old-fashioned alarm-clock stood on either side of it. A matching dresser stood up against another wall, this one with a series of windows along the length of the room, the thick maroon curtains drawn for privacy and to keep the sun out.
Steve stepped into the room, taking in the hardwood floors and the pristine, dark-green wallpaper on the wall, which reminded him of his old apartment once more. In a corner, a brown leather couch sat across from what appeared to be a vintage television set, and next to that, an old jukebox. A coffee table sat between the couch and the television, a vase of dark red flowers that he did not recognize decorating its surface. A small ice-box, what he had come to know of as a mini-fridge, was also next to the couch. A quick inspection revealed several bottles of beer and some pop, the kind he had always liked as a child when his parents could get their hands on it. Growing up during the Great Depression was hard, and such luxuries were difficult to come by, but not impossible, and Coca-Cola remained popular even during those trying times.
Another wardrobe, this one smaller and seeming slightly more high tech, stood directly across from the bed, and Steve made his way over to it and pulled it open, revealing his Captain America suit. One of the doors held a button, but he didn’t touch it for now, simply running his hand across the suit for a moment.
“I took the liberty of upgrading your suit,” Tony said, startling Steve and causing him to turn in surprise. He had nearly forgotten he was there. “But don’t worry—nothing too flashy. Just strengthened the material so that if you somehow find yourself without your shield, you won’t be entirely defenseless. I’ve also added a slight magnetic pull, so if you drop your shield, it’ll come back even from greater distances than you’re used to. This particular magnetic pull is only attracted to vibranium, so you won’t have to worry about accidentally getting a car or other useless metal objects attached to you.”
Steve nodded, turning his attention back to the suit, then glancing about the room once more. “Tony, I don’t know what to say.”
“I personally oversaw the construction of this room,” Tony continued, as if Steve hadn’t said anything, and with one hand in his pocket, he dragged the other over the surface of the dresser. When he reached the end of it, he leaned against the corner and placed his other hand in his other pocket. “So I’m afraid that what you’re seeing isn’t quite the whole picture.”
Steve sighed. “Oh, no. What else is there? Nothing too difficult, I hope…”
Tony made a face. “Nah, of course not. But your dresser doubles as a computer, and when you tap it like this…” Tony demonstrated, and a sudden display appeared in the air alongside a glowing keyboard, both of which looked like holograms. “You can interact with Jarvis and let him know when you need anything, or surf the internet or call for a snack if you get hungry. You can also personalize what clothes will appear in your dresser, so that you won’t have to do any rummaging for the clothes you want. Just type in your preferences here…” Tony’s fingers flew across the glowing keyboard, and there was a sudden projection of various parts of Steve’s hitherto unknown wardrobe; apparently, the billionaire had gone shopping. How he knew Steve’s size was beyond him, but he watched as Tony made some selections. A moment later, the top drawer opened and the carefully folded clothes were ejected.
Steve was suitably impressed, although he found the technology daunting. Tony, apparently recognizing this, quickly put the clothes away. “Of course, these other drawers are perfectly fine for good old fashioned rummaging, in case the tech is too confusing at first. Wouldn’t want you running around naked, would we?”
Steve laughed. “Probably not,” he agreed. “What else have you done?”
“The mattress on the bed, though it looks simple, completely forms around your body to provide the absolute best in sleep and even emits comforting electro-pulses to help lull you into the REM cycle, which makes sure that you get the right amount of rest at night. The blankets are the latest in thermo-technology, and they reflect and return your body heat to you for a perfectly comfortable experience,” Tony explained, before moving over to the couch. “The couch will give you a massage when you lift the arm and press this button. And the television, though it looks vintage, gets all available channels and some that are not so available, but which I took the liberty of acquiring anyways. Just in case. S.H.I.E.L.D. can also access the television to give you important messages or briefings. The television in the sitting room is set up for this as well, and Jarvis will call us all there for missions and other group-related messages from our sponsors.”
Steve whistled and shook his head; this room was very misleading in its simplicity—Stark had ended up doing way more than necessary as usual. “That all? Or is there more about this place you’re not telling me?”
Tony grinned. “You know me too well. It’s scary, actually, how well you know me considering how short a time we’ve known one another. In fact...”
Tony coughed. “Right. Well, last but not least…” He made his way to where Steve was standing and reached around him. He was close, almost close enough for Steve to feel his breath ghosting across his neck. His eyes met Tony’s for only a moment, a light smirk playing about Stark’s lips as always as he pressed the button that Steve had seen previously in the wardrobe’s doors.
The room began vibrating, and for a moment, Steve almost lost his footing. He was forced to grab hold of Tony in order to keep from falling, and the other man was annoyingly stable as he watched his work in action. The room was changing.
Now, a small boxing ring, a punching bag and a training dummy stood where the couch, television and other things had once been. Weights stood in a rack next to them, and Steve couldn’t help but stare at all of the equipment he was suddenly faced with.
“Well? What do you think?” Tony asked, and it was obvious that he was pleased with himself.
“Don’t be too pleased, Stark. I still have no idea what all I’m looking at.”
“It’s a perfectly functional training room,” Tony said, sounding half-incredulous as he explained, “What’s more, the dummy can be programmed to shoot projectiles at you. And don’t worry about your other furniture, because once you initiate that particular training sequence, you’re actually transported to a small pocket dimension, which can be programmed to fit whatever terrain you wish to practice in. You can also program the training to end at a certain time, or upon completion of whatever quest you wish to complete. All of these things can be specified with simple voice commands to Jarvis, including ending the program manually. And when you’re done with all that…”
Tony pressed the button again. This time, Steve was prepared and managed to keep his balance as the room returned to what it had been before.
“…Everything returns to normal. Of course, there’s a much bigger training room on the tenth floor for everyone to use, but I heard from a little bird, also known as Nick Fury, that sometimes you like to relieve stress by pounding on things. Thought this might help.”
“It’s incredible. Thanks, Tony,” Steve said, and he truly meant it. He had the sneaking suspicion that he wouldn’t be the only one impressed and grateful to the billionaire. He fully believed that Tony had gone out of his way to ensure that each room was perfectly tailored to each individual member of The Avengers and their needs.
“Hey, that’s what I do,” Tony said, and the pleased tone was in his voice again. This time, Steve didn’t bother trying to correct him. “I’m gonna go and make a few calls to the others while you enjoy your room. How about you meet us up in the living room in a few hours and we can knock back a few drinks together to celebrate, maybe even get some dinner. How about shawarma? Think about it. Catch you later.”
Tony made his way to the door, and Steve turned to look at his room once more, shaking his head in awe. This truly was something else. Everything about it, from the simplicity on the outside to the incredible level of technology on the inside was truly mind-boggling and perfect.
“And Steve?” Tony’s voice came from the doorway, and Steve quickly looked over to find him standing there, one scarred hand braced against the frame. He seemed like he wanted to say something, but was having a hard time fitting the words together. He chewed on his lip, a steady gaze locked on Steve as he thought.
“Yeah?” Steve prompted him, not sure what to make of the sudden stare-down.
“You do belong here.”
And with that, he was gone, the door closing behind him and leaving Steve alone in his new room. His new home.
It was all Captain America could do not to hunt him down and hug him. Yeah, that would not end well, he was sure, so he smiled softly and shook his head. “Thanks, Tony.”