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Five Ways in Which Steve Rogers is a Thoroughly Modern Man (+1 Way he Isn't)

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1. He can drive


“Steve, my God,” says Tony as Steve stalls the car for the third time in twenty minutes. “You drive like most people who were born in the same year as you. The difference is that most of them now have cataracts and varicose veins, or they’re dead.”

Steve grimaces and pulls on the clutch. Tony facepalms. The car groans (literally; Tony has programmed it with a basic AI system) and fails to start.

“Steve. I can drive us home,” Tony continues. “Unless you’ve broken the car completely by then, of course.”

“I won’t break it,” argues Steve, fiddling with the gearstick. Tony wishes he’d given Steve an automatic.

“You will, actually,” says the car.

“Your input is greatly valued, thank you,” says Tony to the car. “You will,” he says to Steve.

“I won’t!” Steve insists. “Look, I’ve got the hang of it now.”

He presses his foot onto the accelerator with rather more force than necessary before Tony can stop him. The engine makes a sound that’s not dissimilar to a death rattle.

“Stop being dramatic,” Tony tells it.

“Oh, you’ve gone and done it now,” sighs the car. Tony thanks the gods that he had the foresight to build a Steve-proof prototype. They’d probably be flipped over in a ravine by now if he hadn’t.

-

“I really thought I’d got it, you know,” Steve laments half an hour later. They’re standing outside the car, pulled over on some dusty highway in the asscrack of nowhere, and Tony is improvising a system to get signal on his cell phone.

“You nearly did,” lies Tony.

“I’m really sorry,” says Steve.

Tony waves Steve’s apologies away with a nonchalant gesture. Steve scratches his neck. He hates waiting, Tony knows. It makes sense. He’s done his fair share.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tony tells him. “Really. It’s fine. I’ll get it fixed up in no time. First, though, we have to get back to civilisation.” He waves his phone at Steve. “No signal here,” he adds. “If I had time, I could rig something up, but I don’t have the tools necessary, unless you have a soldering iron hidden in those pants.”

Steve shakes his head.

“No such luck,” he says, biting his lip worriedly. He’s silent for a few seconds before his face lights up. “But we did pass a diner about a mile back!”

Tony looks at him blankly.

“A mile,” he states.

“Yes,” Steve affirms. “A mile.”

Tony folds his arms and raises an eyebrow.

“I thought we were going for a drive,” he says. “Not a hike.”

“We were,” says Steve. “But that was before I broke your car.”

Tony sighs. He doesn’t really have a choice, he realises. Either he walks a mile in the heat – and it is hot, the winding road marked by mirages – or he stands for a few hours in it, drenched in stagnant haze. Neither is particularly appealing, but at least one option involves bearable human company.

He takes his sunglasses out of the back pocket of his jeans and puts them on. Steve furrows his brow in confusion.

“Lead on, Macduff,” says Tony, gesturing for Steve to go first. He does.

“I understood that reference,” says Steve, grinning.

“Well, it’s more your era than mine,” Tony replies. Steve shoves him. “Tell me, what was it like back in the good old days when the men were chivalrous, the women were buxom and the children were all dead from cholera?”

“You know, it’s a good thing I can tell when you’re joking,” Steve sighs.

“Who says I’m joking? Infant mortality rate is a serious issue.”

Steve shoves him again, and this time Tony shoves back. Steve laughs.

“You won’t win this one, Stark,” he says.

“Try me, Capsicle,” Tony challenges. Steve pushes him again and he nearly falls over. Tony goes to shove him back but Steve manages to dodge it and Tony ends up lunging into thin air. Steve finds this hilarious, of course, and Tony gets a winning shove in while Steve is doubled over laughing. Tony doesn’t think the mile will pass so slowly after all.

“I’ll just wait here then,” says the car.

 

2. He’s all for equality


It’s early morning at Stark Towers, which means it’s nearing 2pm and Tony has just woken up. He’s sat in the kitchen in his dressing gown and pyjama bottoms, eating a piece of toast and working on some concept ideas for the next Starkphone when Thor comes in, looking rather bashful. Tony sets down his piece of toast and fixes the Asgardian with what he hopes is a concerned look.

“Something up, big guy?” he asks. Thor sighs and somehow manages to sit down dramatically, which Tony thinks is an act he needs to learn. He makes a mental note to ask Thor for tips on theatricality.

“Alas,” says Thor, and it’s immediately apparent that something is very wrong as he’s talking and not shouting for a change. “It is my lady Jane.”

“She OK?” Tony questions. He’s heard a lot about this Jane woman and unfortunately, due to the energy efficient and super light-weight walls of Stark Towers, knows rather more than he’d like to about her bedroom preferences. He decides to keep this bit of information to himself.

Thor shrugs and steals a piece of toast.

“I assume she is well,” he answers. “I have not spoken to her as recently as I would like.”

Tony runs this through his Asgardian to Midgardian translator.

“She dumped you?” he says. Thor drops his piece of toast and puts his head in his hands. Tony realises that he could have handled that more delicately, but takes Thor’s devastated response as an answer to the affirmative. He’s so busy trying to console Thor by patting him on the shoulder that he almost doesn’t hear Steve enter.

Steve mouths ‘what’s up with Thor?’ and Tony makes a face. ‘Is it Jane?’ Steve mouths. Tony nods. Steve winces. He claps Thor on the back.

“You’ll always have the Avengers,” Steve tells him. Thor manages a small smile.

“Thank you, friends,” he says. “And I am glad of it.”

Steve takes the seat next to Thor and opposite Tony. Thor rests his head on the table again and Steve looks worriedly at Tony. Tony’s stomach does something odd – it feels like it flips right over - but he ignores it, as usual. He hasn’t had enough toast to confront that.

-

“It is not merely the fact that she left me,” Thor is saying through a mouthful of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Steve is listening intently and occasionally providing helpful advice. Tony is mostly uhhming and ahhing in the appropriate places, but Thor seems to appreciate it nonetheless. “It is more upsetting that I did not see it coming.”

Steve gives him a sympathetic look and offers him a tissue. Thor takes it and dabs at his eyes. Tony knows that Steve was hoping he’d wipe his mouth and suppresses a smile. He can’t be seen grinning like a loon as his friend has a breakdown over the love of his life.

“Did she say why?” Steve asks. Thor shakes his head.

“Nay,” he replies. “But I discovered the truth, nonetheless.”

He puts his spoon down and places the now empty tub onto the coffee table. Tony sighs and places it with the other nine that Thor’s got through, and hands him a new tub. It’s Cookie Dough this time, which seems to please Thor inordinately, and he promptly digs in.

“So, why’d she do it?” Tony prompts. Thor looks at him levelly.

“She had fallen in love with another,” he manages to say. Steve pats him on the shoulder reassuringly.

“Ouch,” Tony empathises. “That sucks, man. Who was it?”

Steve looks at him warningly. Tony shrugs. Thor is oblivious to their subliminal conversation and sighs into his ice cream.

“It was lady Darcy,” he says. Tony’s eyes widen. Steve claps Thor on the back and stands up.

“This calls for something stronger than ice cream,” he says. Tony’s mouth falls open. He must have missed the memo announcing Steve’s transformation into one of the bros. Thor manages a smile at the suggestion of alcohol and Steve grins, heading over to the fridge. He rummages around for a few seconds – Tony’s not going to lie and say his fridge is well stocked, because it isn’t; there are a few microwave meals, a few cartons of milk (one of which might even be in date) and some of Clint’s protein shakes – and eventually finds two small bottles of beer. He takes them out and, making sure that Tony’s paying attention – of course he is, he has a pretty enviable view from this angle – tosses them in his direction. Tony catches one and Thor, not turning around to look, reaches out and catches the other. Tony is impressed.

Steve beams and sits back down on the sofa next to Thor. Tony cracks open both bottles of beer.

“You not having one?” he asks Steve. Steve shakes his head.

“No point,” he says. “I can’t get drunk and I don’t like the taste.”

Tony catalogues this fact for future reference.

“Thank you, friends,” Thor says, taking a swig of beer. He grimaces. “It is not quite Asgardian ale, that is for certain.”

Tony thinks that’s probably a good thing. He’s seen Thor under the influence of his so-called ‘ale’ and it’s not a pretty sight. He takes a swig of his very Midgardian alcohol. Steve announces that he feels like a cup of coffee. Tony tells him that he doesn’t look like one. Thor laughs, his mirth booming and reverberating around the room. It’s a good sound.

-

After they’ve packed Thor off to bed, with special instructions to JARVIS to provide a hangover remedy upon his waking up, Tony and Steve set about cleaning up the kitchen. There’s not a huge mess; Thor’s managed to get ice cream all over the sofa in the corner and Tony keeps finding tissues everywhere, but it won’t take them too long to clear up. Steve is collecting ice cream tubs from various corners of the room when something strikes Tony.

“So, how do you feel about it all?” he asks. At Steve’s look of confusion, he clarifies. “About Jane and Darcy, I mean.”

Steve shrugs.

“I think it was rotten of her to leave Thor like that,” he says, lifting up the sofa cushions to check for mess. “But I guess that if you fall in love, then you fall in love. Can’t be helped.”

“Huh,” says Tony. He almost leaves it at that, but Tony doesn’t like leaving anything at anything if it can be helped, so he continues. “It doesn’t bother you, then?”

Steve narrows his eyes.

“What doesn’t bother me?” he asks.

“You know,” Tony pushes. “Lady loving. The fairer sex having sex with the fairer sex.”

Steve blushes. He deposits his armful of ice cream tubs into the trashcan and turns to face Tony.

“No,” he answers. “Not really. I mean, it doesn’t keep me up at night. What two people get up to after dark is no-one else’s business, be it a guy and a dame, two dames, or... well. You get my drift.”

Tony is surprised by this. He supposes he’s always had Steve pegged as a guy stuck in the past, someone with views nearly as old fashioned as his haircut. But then, Tony supposes that he wasn’t around when Steve was. He only knows what he’s read. He has the same mental image as everyone else of the ‘40s; prudish husbands and hen-pecked wives, nuclear families who didn’t talk about homosexuality in the hope that ignoring it would negate its existence. He’s seen pictures, though. He’s seen documentaries on the drag queens of Berlin, the gay scene of London. He knows that it can’t have been black and white, even then.

He grins.

“It sure keeps me up at night,” he says. Steve throws a dishcloth at him.

“Wipe the coffee table down,” he orders, and Tony does as he says.

 

3.  He can cook

 

The smell coming from the kitchen is ungodly. Tony rushes in to see what’s burning. It smells like nothing pretty. As soon as he enters the kitchen, he’s faced with a wall of thick black smoke. He can hear coughing.

“Bruce?” he chokes.

“And Steve,” Bruce coughs.

“But he’s busy at the moment,” comes Steve’s voice from somewhere behind the smoke. Tony is very aware that he’s about ten minutes away from having survived attacks by megalomaniacal aliens and kidnap attempts by equally megalomaniacal terrorists only to die in his kitchen, and he’s not about to stand for that.

“JARVIS, re-route all the vents to the kitchen,” he says.

“Yes sir,” says JARVIS. Within seconds, the smoke starts to clear, and Tony can pick out the figure of Steve standing over a frying pan on the hob and Bruce standing next to him, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to waft the smoke away. Steve looks guiltily at Tony.

“What the hell happened?” Tony asks, making his way over towards the oven.

“Terrible, terrible things,” Bruce explains.

“Stir fry,” clarifies Steve.

“That was not stir fry,” Bruce scoffs. “Stir fry consists of vegetables, chicken, noodles and occasionally – just occasionally – soy sauce. The recipe does not call for choking fumes of death.”

Steve sighs.

“Well, it was supposed to be stir fry,” he amends, prodding the blackened mess in the frying pan with a spatula. He looks so crestfallen that Tony has to fight the urge to pinch his cheeks and tell him it will all be OK.

“What did you do wrong?” Tony asks. Steve shrugs. “Did you try and cook it with hydrogen or something?”

Bruce dissolves into a fit of giggles. Steve sighs.

“Another reference I don’t understand,” he says. “And I don’t know. I guess I overestimated my newfound affiliation with modern technology.”

Tony feels a pang of guilt at having made fun of him for his archaic ways.

“To be fair,” he says. “It’s more a problem with Stark technology than modern technology. I mean, you can use the library computers just fine, right?” Steve nods glumly. “You see? It’s just that Stark interfaces are geared towards the thoroughly modern man. You’ll get the hang of it. Just give it a while.”

Bruce looks shell-shocked.

“Did you just say something nice?” he asks. “And self-deprecating? Who are you?”

“A man with a higher IQ than you,” Tony retorts, and Bruce says something about how IQ is an outdated and useless measurement of intelligence, but Tony isn’t listening. He’s trying to think of a way to salvage the situation. He’s also ravenous. A day in the workshop with little more than black coffee to sustain him has left a pit in his stomach that can only be filled with one thing. Shawarma.

“Hey, hey, cool it, green bean,” he says. Bruce clenches his fists and opens his mouth to retort, but thinks better of it. He grits his teeth and, wordlessly, storms out of the kitchen.

Steve sighs.

“That went almost exactly as planned,” he deadpans. Tony grins.

“Welcome to my world,” he says. “Although when I say that, it’s usually not sarcastic.”

Steve rolls his eyes, but there’s no anger behind the gesture. Tony claps him on the shoulder.

“Next time you feel hungry,” he says. “Let me know and we can grab something to eat. Outside. In the real world. It’s a scary place, Cap, but someone’s got to see it.” He pauses at Steve’s confused expression. He sighs and prods the charcoal mess on the hob. “Unless your idea of a slap-up meal is carbon, that is. Yummy.”

Steve shakes his head.

“Fine,” he says. “We’ll eat out next time.”

Tony feels his heart-rate suddenly increase. Steve has, unknowingly, just agreed to accompany Tony on a date-like situation. It’s purely platonic, sure, and the only purpose behind it is to ensure that Steven eats like a human being, but Tony just knows that he’s going to spend the better part of tomorrow picking out a shirt and doing his hair and crying down the phone to Pepper that he doesn’t look pretty enough.

“Six o’clock tomorrow suit you?” Tony asks.

“I guess,” says Steve. Tony grins.

“It’s a date,” he adds, because making life difficult is his forté. Steve laughs and inspects the remains of his dinner rather closely.

“I suppose it is,” he says.

 

4. He doesn’t mind not paying for dinner

 

To his credit, Tony only takes four hours preparing for his not-date with Steve the next day. It helps that he’d picked out three potential outfits the previous evening and scheduled an appointment with Pepper to help him decide on a pair of socks. You could say what you liked about a man, but in Tony’s experience, you could tell pretty much all you needed to know by his socks. There were men who wore mismatched socks, and these men were to be avoided at all costs. Then there were men who wore tailored suits and crisp white shirts and looked, by all means, like respectable businessmen, until you noticed the sliver of bright yellow between the shoe and the trouser cuff and you realised that they were a secret miscreant, a rebel without a cause, and equally as untrustworthy as the mismatched offender.

That’s what Tony thinks, anyway. Pepper tells him he reads too much into these things.

 She arrives a minute early, as usual. Tony is in a mess. He has opened all his closets and his clothes are strewn liberally about the place like some kind of miscalculated interior design statement. Pepper sighs and closes the door.

“I thought you said it wasn’t a date,” she says, folding her arms.

Tony looks up at her over a pile of shoes.

“It’s not,” he says. He picks up a pair of brown loafers and considers them before making a face and throwing them over his shoulder. “Too school-teachery.”

“Why are you making such an effort?” Pepper continues. Tony picks up a sock and searches for its partner.

“I always make an effort, Pep,” he says. “How else do you think I look so dashing?”

“You only make an effort on your own terms,” she counters. “Which means that either you think this is a date, or, more likely, you want it to be one.”

Tony gives her his full attention for the first time since she arrived.

“I do not want it to be a date,” he argues. “What a ludicrous thing to say. Can a man not take pride in his admittedly already above average appearance without having his motives questioned? What has become of our modern world?”

Pepper sighs and puts her hands on her hips.

“I’ll help you find something to wear,” she says. “If you admit that this is essentially a date.”

“It’s not - ”

“Tony, so help me, I can ask JARVIS to run a verification scan or whatever it is you call it these days to determine whether or not you think it’s a date. You don’t need to tell me. I just want you to.” A beat. “As a friend.”

Tony sighs dramatically and flings himself onto the bed.

“I concede,” he cries. “It’s a date from my perspective. Two almost impossibly attractive adults sharing good food and wine on a crisp summer’s evening; it’s totally a date, Pep.”

She rolls her eyes.

“Only you would see that as a problem,” she states, sitting on the bed and patting his head. He whimpers.

“It’s a bad thing,” he says. “Because it’s a one-sided date.”

“Oh, you’ve asked him, have you?” she counters. Tony pokes her.

“I don’t have to,” he says. “I’m a genius.”

“And for a genius, you’re doing a good impression of a moron.”

“That wounds me.”

“Your self-loathing wounds me.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be helping me?”

“It’s called tough love.”

“I prefer the gooey, squishy kind with a soft centre.”

Pepper sighs.

“He’s not dumb,” she says. “He probably knows what you’re thinking.”

Tony groans.

“That doesn’t help!” he cries.

“What I’m trying to tell you, Tony,” she says. “Is that he more than likely knows it’s a date and he’s still agreed to go. You didn’t henpeck him into it or anything, did you?”

Tony shakes his head. Pepper smiles.

“Well then,” she says. “Stop worrying about it. Jesus, you men are so complicated. We women are much simpler.”

“Is that why you left me?” Tony asks, and immediately regrets it. Pepper frowns.

“Yes, I left you because you were complicated,” she says sarcastically. “It had nothing to do with your huge crush on Captain America, or the fact that we worked better as friends, or the fact that - ”

“OK, OK, I get it,” Tony says. Pepper looks at him squarely. Tony folds. “Help me choose a pair of socks.”

Pepper reaches across Tony’s lamenting form and picks up a red sock. She grimaces.

“Not these,” she says. Tony beams.

-

Tony finds himself glad that he allowed himself to be goaded into wearing relatively casual clothes as it turns out Steve has a sudden craving for shawarma and they end up going to the same place they went to on the day shit went down big style. That’s what Tony calls it, anyway. He thinks S.H.I.E.L.D have dubbed it ‘Operation Golddust’, but he’s not sure.

Steve is sat across the table from Tony and laughing at some erroneous comment Tony’s made. Lit by the too-bright cheap naked bulbs in the restaurant, he looks more human than Tony’s ever seen him. It’s not unattractive.

Steve puts down his fork and looks at the ceiling pensively. Tony is reminded of that famous sculpture, the one he can never remember the name of but always used as a reference in photoshoots. He thinks it’s by Michelangelo. He’s not sure.

“You know, I didn’t even know what shawarma was before I met you,” Steve says. “Now, I couldn’t live without it. It’s greasy and unhealthy but I love it.”

“It’s essentially gristle on a stick,” Tony agrees. “Pretty tasty gristle, though.”

Steve grins.

“You know, I’m used to much healthier food,” he says. “When I was a kid, my mother cooked three meals a day, including breakfast. If only Pop Tarts had been invented earlier. They’d have made her life a lot easier.”

“Sounds nice,” Tony says. “Me, I lived off fast food and whatever Jarvis could bring me on a silver tray. He could make a boiled egg look fancy.” He gestures at his plate. “Heck, he could probably have made this shit look like it came from the Ritz.”

“We didn’t have anything fancy, especially when rationing came in,” says Steve. “This would probably have been considered pretty lavish.”

“We inhabit different worlds,” Tony muses.

“Not any more.” Steve pushes a piece of what could be either bone or chef’s finger around his plate. “This is a date by the way, right?”

Tony nearly chokes on his shawarma. Steve turns bright red.

“It’s OK if it isn’t,” he continues. “It’s just that you asked and I said yes without even thinking, and then I thought that maybe, you know, and I was going to say no, but I realised that I still wanted to say yes.” He smiles nervously. “I guess I really like shawarma.”

“I spent four hours with Pepper trying to choose a suitable pair of socks,” says Tony. “What do you think?”

Steve grins.

With the elephant in the room well and truly out of the way, the rest of the meal passes in a greasy haze of comfortable conversation and bad jokes (on Steve’s part. Tony’s jokes are awesome) and eventually it comes to the matter of the bill.

Tony looks at Steve. Steve looks at Tony.

“Hey, you asked me out,” says Steve. “I’m not paying. And you’re the billionaire, anyway. I think you can afford to fork out for some shredded meat.”

“You have such a way with words,” Tony quips. “And you’re not going to complain that I’ve emasculated you by whisking you away to a grubby little restaurant, wining and dining you with cheap beer and fried gristle and insisting that I pay, are you?”

Steve shakes his head.

“Definitely not,” he affirms.

“How very modern of you,” Tony says.

“I can be modern too, you know,” says Steve.

Tony is quite looking forward to discovering how.

 

5. He is honest


They’ve been dating for five weeks, give or take a few hours, and Tony’s patience is wearing thin.

He’s not an impatient man, despite what the newspapers say every time they run their libellous little articles about his notoriously bad manners, fill column inches with lies about his mistreatment of waiters in their own restaurants. Heck, he waited years for his father to show even a scrap of emotion, and look how that paid off. He’s good at waiting. He’s used to it. He waited for Pepper to see him the way he saw her and he waited for her to leave. He waited for Fury to let him join his super special secret boyband.

He can totally wait for Steve to put out. It’s only been five weeks. He’s not a 16 year old boy any more. He doesn’t get an erection just looking at a table any more and he doesn’t immediately want to bone any warm-blooded humanoid he encounters.

Which is why he could just kick himself when, during their now weekly movie night, Tony puts his hand on Steve’s thigh and Steve jumps a mile like he’s been electrocuted.

“My hand slipped,” mutters Tony. “Sorry.”

Steve tries to smile, but doesn’t quite manage it. His palms are sweaty and he wipes them on his jeans.

“Tony,” says Steve. Tony braces himself for the inevitable ‘you’re moving too fast’, ‘I’m not actually into men’ or ‘I find you physically and emotionally repulsive’, but it doesn’t come. He looks at Steve.

“Did I do something wrong?” he asks. Steve exhales deeply.

“No,” he answers. “That’s kind of it. I’m sorry about this. I know we’ve been going out for a while and, you know, it’s totally normal for you to want to do...” he gesticulates uncertainly. “...things.”

“OK,” says Tony slowly. But...?”

Steve sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

“But I’m kind of inexperienced,” he finishes. Tony’s eyes widen, and Steve looks alarmed. “I’m not a blushing virgin, if that’s what you think,” he clarifies hastily. “People did have sex in the ‘40s. I just don’t have a wealth of experience to draw on, that’s all. It’s not like the skinny kid of Brooklyn was particularly in demand with the guys and dolls he associated with.”

Tony snorts.

“I’ve seen pictures of the skinny kid from Brooklyn,” he says. “He was adorable.”

Steve flushes.

“Well, thanks,” he says. “I think. But I guess that didn’t mean a lot in those days. Well, I mean, there were a few.”

It takes Tony a while to work out what that means.

“A few?” he says, eyes narrowed. Steve blushes.

“Well. One,” he says. “A girl. We were 18. We went steady for a few months. But that’s it. There was no-one else after her.”

Tony blinks. There's a story there somewhere, but it's not meant for now.

“So it’s been what, seventy years since you got laid?” he asks. Steve shoves him, smiling faintly.

“Yeah,” he says. “Feels like longer, though.”

“Wow,” says Tony, and because he feels like it needs saying again, “wow. I don’t know if I could last seventy days, let alone seventy years.”

Steve looks very alarmed. Tony could kick himself. He makes a mental note to see if there any positions vacant in the local area for professional douchebags. He thinks he'd be good at that.

“Kidding,” he says. “I’ve gone far longer than that. I know, it’s hard to believe that with these chiselled good looks and my scintillating wit I haven’t been getting some every minute of every day, but it is my burden and I must bear it.”

Steve bites his thumbnail. Tony quite wants to pat him on the head but refrains. He thinks that would be entertaining kinks that even his sub-conscious wants to put well out of the way.

“Look,” sighs Tony. “I’m totally capable of waiting. I mean, I’m not going to like it, and I’m probably going to end up masturbating like 24/7, but I’ll deal.”

Steve is still flushed crimson and almost shockingly attractive with it. Tony swings his legs up off the floor and onto Steve’s lap.

“We still have to get to the part where Jack and Rose do the dirty in a taxi,” he says. “Titanic waits for no man. And hey, if you’re lucky, I’ll let you give me a foot massage while it’s sinking.”

Steve presses play.

 

+1. He is completely tactless


“You’ve been dating for eight months,” Natasha groans, putting her head in her hands. “The sex can not still be that good. It just can't. Tell him, Clint.”

Clint looks at Tony over a plate of spaghetti and shrugs.

“I’m not going to lie to the guy,” he says. Natasha smiles at him sarcastically and throws a mushroom at him. It hits him square on the eyelid and he retaliates by using his fork as a makeshift mincemeat catapult.

“Now, children,” says Tony. “Your father has cooked you a lovely meal to say thank you for behaving so well this week. The least you can do is appreciate it.”

Bruce grimaces.

“That’s giving me mental images that even hulking out won’t get rid of,” he says. “You and the Captain are so not responsible father figures. No offence,” he adds upon seeing the warning glint in Tony’s eye.

Steve sets a bowl of olives onto the table.

“Dig in,” he says, pulling up a seat next to Tony. No-one takes an olive. Steve shrugs and empties the bowl onto his plate. Tony shudders.

“I’m not kissing you with olive breath,” he says. Steve starts cutting up his spaghetti. Tony never understood why people do that. It's a universally accepted fact that spaghetti is meant for twirling, not cutting. He shudders.

“We both know that you will,” Steve retorts, not looking at Tony to see his reaction. Thor laughs.

“He has beaten you with that one, friend Tony,” he says jovially, shoving a forkful of Bolognese into his mouth and onto his beard.

“We’re not into that, thank you,” Tony quips. Steve raises an eyebrow but ignores the comment. Bruce pretends to gag.

“Eating,” he points out. “Not the time for mummy and daddy talk.”

“So you admit that Steve and I are the parent figures in this house,” Tony crows. Bruce sighs.

“If it shuts you up,” he concedes. “Now please, can I eat my dinner in peace without any more talk of your sexual congress?”

Tony looks at Steve. Steve looks at Tony.

“Your room or mine tonight?” asks Steve.