6'4. 240lb. Blue eyes, blonde hair. 50 inch shoulders and 30 inch waist. Sixteen year old Dan Maven of Turtle Bay NYC recited these numbers like a litany, the official stats of Captain Steve Rogers AKA Captain America AKA the warm beating heart of Dan's childhood imagination. While most kids outgrow their comic book fixations upon teendom, Dan took the notion that if Captain America wasn't around anymore then he sure as well was going to try and replace him. Straight As, braces, a gym addiction, and a truly masterful grasp of the art of home hair dying had left him with a not quite Captain body (narrow shoulders and waist, stumpy nose, about six inches too short, he prayed for a late puberty growth spurt) and very little time for friends. He didn't care, he had his Captain-Perfect-Pants Tumblr in which to reblog recent collector finds and trivia about the search for Cap's downed plane and SHIELD rumors. And fan art.
The best thing that ever happened in Dan Maven's life was when Captain America gave a press conference to confirm that he had been brought back into the world.
The second best thing that ever happened was when the Chitauri ship flattened his house.
Maria Hill called a meeting. The subject? Public Relations. Steve, Tony, Clint and Natasha sat in a narrow conference room (Thor being off-planet and Bruce declining to attend future meetings not directly research-related). They watched a montage of news clips showing the bloody-faced Dan Maven outside the rubble of his 46th street apartment complex, moving rocks and pulling out crushed Captain America merchandise.
"This is currently the most watched clip on YouTube that doesn't feature flying aliens or kittens." Maria straightened her uniform as she sat down.
"There are thousands of displaced citizens in New York why does the media care about this one?" Clint barely looked at the footage.
Tony perked up. "Cause he managed to stay calm enough to give an on-camera interview about how wonderful and amazing we are despite his bedroom looking like a rock quarry, while at the same time being the biggest damn Captain America fanboy in the world, present company excluded."
Steve's ears grew red at the tips and Tony mentally awards himself ten points. "I think" said Steve, "We should look into helping him. It would be the right thing to do -"
"Lots of people need help." said Clint.
"It's too neat." Natasha flipped through the folder in front of her. "It's like he dropped out of the sky to be a charity case."
"Lots of people fall out of the sky." Tony said.
"Look." Nat played the video of the reporter asking Dan what he's going to do with his life and Dan saying that he was applying for an internship at Stark Industries." It's a Xanatos Gambit, if we refuse we look bad and if we accept then he's inside."
"We just saved the planet and you're worried about looking bad?" Clint made a face.
Maria looked at Nat. "You're worried about spies?"
"Children often make the best spies, they're unassuming, easily forgiven, and lie convincingly."
"He's not exactly a child." Tony said.
Clint snorted. "Yeah until he wakes up with blood on his hands and a big gaping hole where his twenties should be."
Clint felt Nat glower at him despite not moving her face. How does she do that?
Maria continued. "His record is clean, upstanding citizen, everything all in order, nothing unusual aside from some ....interesting Livejournal accounts."
And if Steve knew what that meant his ears would be bright pink right now so Tony only awards Maria 5 points.
"A plant's record would be clean." Nat turned toward Maria. "I've seen this sort of thing before."
There was a pause, Tony found it unbearable.
"The P.R value would be immense. Superfan gets job with Superfriends, win-win." Tony slapped his hands together.
"He's in High school." Nat closed her folder.
"His High school got crushed by intergalactic eels, I say give him a chance. You gotta run before you walk, right Steve?" Steve, nodding with Tony "It is partly our fault. He does seem like a nice kid and he's lost everything. That's not ...easy."
"Fine" Maria sighed. "Put him someplace out of the way, but he's your responsibility Captain. If anything happens I can assure you my report to Fury will be both long and colorful. Dismissed."
They all got up to leave.
"Oh one thing, Mr. Stark, Ms. Romanov, can I have a word with you?"
Yes, having his house smashed into a series of small piles by an invading alien force bent on enslaving the human race was bad. Yes the crash ruined all his belongings and collectables (and put his father in the hospital, but whatevers he'll be fine) and yes he is, technically speaking homeless but right now the only thing Dan's brain is able to comprehend is that Captain Steve Rogers is right there, shaking his hand (Oh what big hands you have) and looking him in the eyes (Oh what blue eyes you have) and smiling at him (Oh what straight teeth you have) and welcoming him to Stark Tower and directing him to an elevator down to something called Information Operations.
Dan tries to keep his expression neutral and his gaze dead ahead cause looking at Steve is like looking into the sun. The small elevator gives him an excuse to learn in and steal a whiff off Steve's neck, just level with Dan's nose. Bay Rum. Dan makes a note to go out and buy a case of it as soon as he's able to process thoughts like shopping and walking and breathing again.
The elevator opens onto a windowless corridor. Dan follows Steve to a small room that seems to be doing double duty as file storage. Somewhere someone was clicking away at a laptop but Dan's attention was fixed on Steve giving him a hearty pat on the back and telling him good luck. Steve turns to leave and Dan tries to figure out just how much he can turn to watch him before it becomes ogling-
"Hey!" Dan's reverie is broken by a dark female voice. A woman in glasses and an office-inappropriate shade of lipstick juts her head around the laptop screen.
"You're the intern right?"
"I -suppose? They weren't real big on explaining things."
"That's them for you. You'll get used to it. Sit." She returned to her screen. Dan walked over to the desk facing her and opened up the laptop with the big glowing SHIELD insignia on the front.
"Let's just set you up here. The job is pretty boring-" Dan's screen jumped around, access ports, permissions, shell programs. "Mostly just managing social networks, updating official twitter feeds, accepting friend requests, moderating the subreddits so nothing actually important gets out. Super easy, even I can do it. I'm Darcy by the way."
"Dan. Dan Maven." He extends his hand across the table.
Darcy doesn't even look up. "I know, I read your file."
I have a file? Dan thinks. He notices the framed taser on the wall behind Darcy.
"And so the first thing you're going to do is update 'Captain-Perfect-Pants' with how you're fine and Stark Industries is taking good care of you and about your wonderful new job as an office intern. Wait, let me get a pic-"
His laptop camera made a little whir.
"Ugh. Look up and smile."
Dan grinned like a madman. Click-whir.
"Much better. Post that. Also you need to subscribe to some of the newer post-invasion tumblrs."
"My job is to ....reblog?"
"With extreme prejudice." And for the life of him Dan can't tell if she's kidding.
Dan's first day as the Information Operations Intern went like this.
"You mind if I play some music?"
"You okay with Norwegian Death Metal?"
"I am totally fine with whatever."
"Okay, but fair warning it gets a little loud."
She wasn't lying.
"I'm sending you something."
"Something funny is happening on Steve's sMail. I think he's being taken in again."
A window opened on Dan's screen WELCOME TO sMAIL CAPT. STEVE ROGERS. A highlighted exchanged showed Steve expressing genuine concern for the poor disposed Prince and offering to help in any way he can.
"Does this look hinky to you?" Darcy pointed a pen at the screen.
"Isn't this supposed to be private?"
"Nothing communicated over Stark Industry tech is private. Here, this is how you delete and ban." Darcy showed him a bunch of keystrokes and handy hidden dropdown menus. "And here is how you send a private message to Steve. Tell him to leave the official e-mail to trained professionals who are not 94." She paused. "But say it nicely. Oh! And remind him to treat e-mail attachments like he would a package, have us look at it first."
"Do a lot of people send him stuff?"
"One woman sent him a toe."
Dan's mouth snapped shut.
"Well we think it was a woman, it was painted. You want coffee?"
"It's almost one, do you want to get something to eat?"
Dan's eyes lit up "Oh yeah like we could go down to the kitchen and grab a snack or something see who's around?"
"Well I assumed there was a kitchen and common room and movies and a ...toaster."
"We're in a windowless annex behind the laundry. My keycard doesn't even open the parking garage."
"There's a pizza place with a completely shell-shocked delivery boy however."
Dan sighed. At least some things were true.
"This is bullshit!" Dan knits his brow at his laptop.
"I know right?" Darcy begins furiously clicking around the Pottersmore site.
"I am NOT Hufflepuff. I am ABH, Anything But Hufflepuff."
Darcy frowned, "I got Slytherin. I hate black and green. The system is clearly wrong and needs to be washed clean with the blood of muggles."
"IS THIS SONG ABOUT LOKI?"
"WHAT? YOU SPEAK NORWEGIAN?"
"NO THEY SAY IT LIKE 300 TIMES."
"OH YEAH IT'S ABOUT THE INVASION, WE'RE TRYING TO PUSH THEM FOR A US TOUR."
"IS IT PRO OR ANTI-LOKI?"
"I HAVE NO IDEA."
Dan got a reply to his private message saying thank you for looking out for him and for all his help and he's sure to get a grip on this thing soon. Dan stared at the postscript "Best Regards, Steve Rogers" for a particularly long time. Then he saw the cursor on his Steve sMail window pull over to Compose New and letters tap their way into the TO: and SUBJECT: fields. TO: Shellhead@sMail.com Subject: Dinner On the 27th!! and Dan quickly minimized the window and switched back over to Captain-Perfect-Pants.
Some things are supposed to be private.
On Darcy's request, Dan puts up an Ask Me Anything post before clocking out for the day. He picks up his backpack and tries to figure out the maze of grey corridors back to the elevator. He's so giddy and flush that he doesn't really think about where he's going to go next (Back to the shelter?) or when he's going to get paid (is he getting paid? He didn't ask) that he almost doesn't notice someone calling his name.
"Mr. Maven!" Down the hall is a short blonde woman in a lab coat standing in the doorway of an unmarked room.
"Can I see you for a minute?"
Dan shuffles toward her. "Oh god, this is where they find out it's been a terrible mistake and tell him to leave and never come back." He reels. The back of his shirt is dark with sweat when he enters the room. Inside is a bare bones examination room with a table, metal chair, harsh lighting, little jars of cotton swabs and a spent needle box on the wall. The short blonde woman holds out her hand. "I'm Dr. Block with medical. All new employees are required to have a quick examination."
"Trying to figure out if I'm a Skrull?"
Dr. Block gave the smallest, tightest smile. "Nothing that interesting I'm afraid. Please, sit."
He does and then Dr. Block picks up a tablet and runs him through some basic examinations. He doesn't have to take his shirt off (thank god) cause her tablet is making little tricorder noises so Dan assumes it's another one of Stark's toys.
"All right. Everything looks in order." She tapped away on the tablet. "Just one more thing." She took a small white cube out of a red envelope she had stuffed in her lab coat. "Put this on your tongue." Dan held the white cube away from him. "SHIELD wants me to ...trip balls?"
Dr. Block smiled again. "It's a new type of nano-diagnostic tool, perfectly safe."
Dan nodded his head. This has been the weirdest day. He put the cube on his tongue, sure as hell tasted like sugar, and let it dissolve into sweet spit. Dr. Block was looking at him funny, she hadn't changed her expression or posture but suddenly she was ...more. Her outline was vibrating and blurry.
"Look at me." She said, her voice deeper now, slower. "Look only at me."
The room began to pitch and roll like a ferry ride.The lights had become, not red exactly, not directly, there was now a suggestion of redness all over the room. Dan could swear he heard muffled pizzicato stings, like someone rehearsing in the basement.
"Alpha. Beta. Gamma. Sigma.-" Dr. Block went on, low and slow, not breaking her gaze. Dan felt like he weighed a thousand pounds. His mouth refused to work and his tongue went dry.
"November. Echo. Case. Nightmare. Green." After that the doctor seemed satisfied. The lights snapped back to dull office overheads. The band in the basement put away their instruments and Dan could move his mouth again. "Thank you for time Mr. Maven, you may leave now." Dan obeyed, walking out of the room with a slightly loopy, drunken gait.
Natasha scratched her head. They can make flying robot suits but they can't make a wig that doesn't itch. Picking up the tablet, she allowed herself a slightly furrowed brow - Well that rules out one thing. If he is a plant, he doesn't know it.
Dan wandered the hallways of Stark Tower. Didn't he just pass that vending machine? Was it two rights or three? He was still unsteady on his feet from that nano-diagnostic-drug-cube-thing. Being not terribly experienced with futuristic mind-altering substances he was finding it difficult to keep his eyes focused. Everything was running together, the walls, the rooms, the hallways that bent back onto themselves. He just needed to find a sign or a map or something. Not someone, people couldn't see him like this. He felt tired, the floor looked so clean and cold and inviting, he nearly swooned. No, stay up, one foot in front of the other - maybe just lean against the wall for a while. Dan spots a slightly open door into an unlit room. He nudges it open to find racks of medical supplies in a shallow, dark room. Behind one of the racks is a cot, the kind doctors might use during long shifts.
He doesn't even stop to take off his backpack, he lands face first into the cot and falls into the deepest sleep of his life.
Darcy is packing up for the night, unlike some people she has a life outside the office and would like to keep it thankyouverymuch. Before heading out she decides to check on thier latest hire's work. Let's see here - folders Sunshine_Rainbows_Unicorns, Stupid_gifs, Jams. She switched over to browser history - reddit, twitter, sMail, tumblr, metafilter, gawker, ao3, and the Plastic Surgery Helpline. She scrolled down further. "Manhattan's cheapest rhinoplasty!", "The Journal Of Facial Reconstruction." "Choosing your plastic surgeon", "NyMag's 100 best Doctors (and 5 terrible ones)."
Oh dear. Darcy made a mental note to get a good look at his nose the next time he came in, she doesn't normally miss stuff like that.