Steve has a process for adapting to the modern world. Almost 70 years is a lot of time to miss and a lot of information he has to familiarise himself with because it’s taken for granted by everyone around him. They reference entire decades as though that explains everything (“Don’t worry about it Steve, it’s an 80s thing”), but it doesn’t and it makes him want to scream. So, he has a process.
Every morning he reads the newspaper from cover to cover, laptop on the table in front of him, ready to look up anything he isn’t sure about. It’s helped a great deal when it comes to politics. Steve’s immensely proud of his country on that front. There have been mistakes along the way, but there was a female candidate running for president and there is a black man currently in that position. He thinks Peggy would have loved this time. Sport had carried it’s own issues. He still can’t believe the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
“Boy scout,” Tony scoffs, as he looks from Steve and the newspaper he’s holding, to the pencil he uses to underline terms of interest, to the laptop he has open in front of him.
Steve’s not entirely sure what’s so wrong about that. New York had had an enormous scout enrolment and Steve remembers desperately wanting to join, but never being well enough to take on the physical challenges. They’d even lent a helping hand during the 30s, when the Depression was at its worst. He could think of worse things to be than helpful, dutiful and prepared. But there’s something in Tony’s tone that makes him cautious, that makes it seem like this is not something he should be proud of.
Putting the newspaper aside, he runs a search on ‘boy scout’. The results don’t impress him much. The first entry is a Los Angeles Times article detailing the way the boy scouts discriminate against gays and atheists. There are a few sites dedicated the boy scouts organisation itself, but most of the other results detail prejudice after prejudice until it all becomes a blur of words like ‘ousted’, ‘deny’ and ‘ban’. He flushes in embarrassed fury, because he knows that his attitudes are a little old-fashioned, but he doesn’t consider himself that out of touch and he hadn’t thought Tony did either.
He looks at Tony, who’s in the process of making coffee now, there’s no point in conversing with him until he's done, and wonders if they all see him like that. As an antiquated relic with no place in this future.
“We need to be aware that there will be media fallout from our actions,” Steve insists. Their last mission had ended with fatalities among their opponents. Their very human opponents. They’d stopped a terrorist plot, but all anyone seemed to be seeing was that superhumans (and gods) had killed humans. It didn’t help that the whole team’s reaction to the backlash had not been handled well. On a personal or professional level. A series of interviews had managed to mitigate some of the damage, but not all, by any means.
“Of course there will be, there always is,” Tony says dismissively. Steve knows that he relationship with the media is a little love/hate on both sides, that Tony does what he wants to and tends to let the media spin it however they want to, but Steve can’t do that, not when the consequences are further reaching than Tony on the cover of some trashy magazine.
Most of Steve’s exploits during the war had been classified and what had been released was carefully determined by a more involved procedure than he cared to consider, but they didn’t have that luxury anymore. What any of them did reflected on all the others and on the team as a whole, and if they didn’t take that into account, the media would obliterate any good will they’d manage to build up. Opinion was divided enough after the Chitauri invasion. There was enough to fight without fighting the people they were trying to help.
“A little more caution wouldn’t hurt,” Bruce ventures. He’d trashed one of Tony’s labs when an experiment he’d been working on for a month had exploded, destroying any results he might have been able to salvage from the failure.
“Tony, all I’m asking is that you be a little more discreet, that we all be a little more careful.”
Thor looks a little sheepish and, for some reason, so does Clint.
“I’m always discreet,” Natasha says glibly.
“So, no casual sex, no obscure pagan sacrifices, no outrageous parties. No deviant behaviour whatsoever,” Tony says, mouth twisted in disgust. It might be feigned or it might not. Steve can never tell with Tony. “You suck all the fun out of everything.”
“We could use some contingency plans, in case something goes wrong,” Steve continues, doing his best to ignore Tony’s diversions.
“Would you stop being such a boy scout,” Tony says, annoyed. He moves across the room to where his bar is and starts pouring a drink. “You don’t have to worry about your reputation. Captain America’s virtue is virtually unassailable.”
“Is that really what you think?” Steve asks with a frown. “That I care what people feel or believe?”
“Of course not,” Tony says sarcastically, “you just care what they say.”
“That’s not-“ Steve begins, but Tony cuts him off.
“You know, at some point you’re going to have to realise you’re living in the 21st century.”
“Well, it certainly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Steve shoots back.
“Come on, boy scout, lighten up,” Tony says when Steve refuses to go along with another one of reckless plans. Steve’s had enough.
“Is that what you all really think of me?” Steve asked, trying to wrestle with a confusing mix of angry and hurt.
“What?” Bruce asks.
“That I don’t tolerate people who are different.”
“No. What does that have to do with anything?” Tony asks, looking at Steve like he’s completely lost his mind.
“You all keep saying it.”
“That I’m a boy scout.”
“Well, yeah,” Clint says, as though the comparison were an obvious one. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
“What is a ‘boy scout’?” Thor asks.
“It’s a group that teaches boys useful life-skills. Their motto is to always be prepared,” Bruce explains.
“And they rescue kittens and help little old ladies across the street,” Tony adds.
“You forgot to mention that they discriminate against homosexuals, agnostics and atheists,” Steve says. He crosses his arms and he’s suddenly angry, everything just boiling to the surface all at once. “I thought things were supposed to be better. You all keep telling me about the way things have changed. Black people have the vote. Homosexuals live openly. Women can work the same jobs for the same pay as men do. There are measures in place to make sure everyone is able to pursue their dreams, freely and without harassment.”
He wipes a weary hand down his face. He’s been carrying this for a while. There's a woman who lost a job she loved, the boy who lobbied against prejudice only for the boy scouts to solidify their position of discrimination, and thousands of other voices he refuses to let be silenced any more.
“Except there’s this organisation, right at the heart of America,” he continues, “where people have to hide, where people are told, implicitly if not explicitly, that they are dirty and wrong, and their dreams don’t matter. That’s not okay.”
He can feel them staring at him and he grows uncomfortable with their scrutiny. He doesn’t want to be made to feel like he’s overreacting and that he has no right to feel offended, and half the other excuses they use in the media.
“You’re right,” Bruce is the first to say.
“We must rectify this grievous situation.”
“I might have some ideas on how to go about that,” Tony says, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Natasha nods in agreement, but Steve thinks her plans might be a little more creative than Tony’s.
“I...” Steve trails off, not entirely sure how to tell them what he’s feeling. “Thank you. So what’s the plan?”
“You are such a girl scout,” Clint says with a grin. Steve glares at him a little. “What? They don’t discriminate and they’re also prepared.”