Dinner was just finishing up. Gail was still just as good a cook as ever. Steve was so glad that she had finally stopped hiding from him. It was still bizarre for everyone at the table, but the faint air of awkwardness that had been pervading his visits seemed to finally be fading. He was trying to figure out if it would be proper to hug Gail goodbye when she spoke.
“Dear, it’s almost 7 o’clock. Steve, would you like to stay and watch with us?”
It took a moment for Steve to register that he’d been asked a question, and once he did, it just served to confuse him more. Thankfully, Bucky took the silence as a cue to fill him in.
“Every night at 7, there’s this game show on that we like to watch. It’s called ‘Jeopardy’. It’s a sort of trivia show. Me and Gail keep score to see which of us can answer the most questions right. And then after is ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ That one’s a word puzzle game. They’re a good way to keep our minds sharp.”
Well, Steve supposed, he could stay for a little while. He found the concept of television to be pretty exciting. He’d always loved pictures, but he’d never imagined the possibility of being able to watch cartoons and movies right at home whenever you wanted. Of course, he’d been so busy trying to catch up on sixty years of history and modern advances that he hadn’t had much time to really investigate the wonders of television.
As it turned out, “Jeopardy” was very entertaining. Steve had experienced some difficulty with the contemporary literature category, but he’d nailed just about all of the Renaissance art questions. To top it all off, he’d actually learned quite a bit to boot. Perhaps “Jeopardy” could be employed as a means to catch up. The SHIELD files wouldn’t have everything he’d missed. Besides, Bucky said that while some of the questions were obscure, a good bit of them were common knowledge and any average, well-rounded adult would be able to answer at least a handful every show. SHIELD had been encouraging Steve to begin adapting to newer technology, so maybe watching trivia shows on television would be a good place to start.
The SHIELD gym facilities were just what Steve had expected them to be: impressive and entirely too flashy. If it weren’t for the fact that the old gym a few blocks from his apartment was being fumigated, Steve would never have stepped foot inside this decadent place. They had televisions attached to the treadmills, for chrissakes! Who needed to watch television while they worked out? And what was half this equipment even for? Good old-fashioned weights were all a fella really needed. He chalked all the excess up as just another of the confusing things about the 21st century.
Still, that television on the wall was awfully inviting. He hadn’t really explored beyond “Jeopardy” after that awful venture into the five o’clock news programs. Bucky had mentioned a whole channel that was devoted to game shows. Maybe if he could find that he’d have something new to watch. Surely there wouldn’t be anything else like that newscaster who had been spewing nonsense about “the homosexual agenda destroying America.”
Steve was still weighing his options as he worked the heavy bag when a SHIELD agent wandered into the gym. The gentleman went over to one of those funny machines that were basically moving sets of stairs, picking up the television remote as he went. Resigned to search for the game show channel another day, Steve went back to pounding the sandbag and focusing on more important things.
He’d nearly forgotten about the other agent, enthralled in his exercise as he moved to weights, when a loud, sharp scream sounded. Steve dropped the weights immediately and spun around to face whatever assailant had caused such distress. Instead, he saw only the agent fiddling with the remote. The agent glanced over at Steve and blushed scarlet.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to turn the volume up so high. I just wanted to unmute it to hear what they were saying. This shit is too dramatic for captions.”
Behind him, a woman on the television screen wept into her hands while a man kneeled in front of her clutching at the knife planted firmly in his gut. The agent caught Steve’s gaze and grinned.
“I know these shows are cliché as hell, but my mother used to watch them when I was a kid and they just remind me of her. Plus the drama is great. For instance, that chick there just woke up from a coma and found out that her fiancé, the dude that was stabbed, has been sleeping with her half-sister who is now pregnant. And what neither of them knows is that the half-sister has been having an affair with coma-chick’s doctor, who-”
The agent continued to explain a very intricate plot that seemed to involve more sex and violence than seemed possible for something that was supposedly set in a small town. The agent finally quieted as the commercials faded and the crying woman once again appeared on the screen. Curious in spite of himself, Steve turned to watch the story unfold as he continued the rest of his work-out. He made note of all the questions he’d need to ask the agent at the next commercial break.
When the episode ended with a shadowed figure watching the murderess burning evidence, Steve was fit to burst. Someone knew what she had done, but who? The soothing tones of the announcer assured him that answers would be given in the next episode. The agent turned to Steve with a grin.
“I know that look. You’re hooked, right?”
He climbed off the machine and grabbed a towel.
“Same time tomorrow, Buddy?” He called out as he left.
Maybe…maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to keep working out at the Triskelion.
It was Thursday night and Steve was terribly bored. “Wheel of Fortune” had just ended. The last puzzle of the night had ended up being some new slang term that had really thrown Steve for a loop. What the hell was a “mosh pit”? Melancholy from his failure to understand 21st century terms, Steve wondered if he’d ever be able to catch up to the new culture of America.
He’d thought the trivia shows and soaps were helping, but there was still so much that he didn’t understand. Steve sighed wearily as a new show came on. He usually read a piece of “classical” literature with a glass of milk and side of cookies before bed, but To Kill A Mockingbird held no appeal at the moment. His attention returned to the television as one of the actors proclaimed that the victims of a bus crash were on their way to an overcrowded ER.
Steve continued to watch as he realized that this new show was some kind of hospital drama. Perhaps it was like that soap opera he’d been introduced to. His suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later when one of the female interns dragged her male coworker into a break room for sex. This was exactly like the soap operas, then. He fetched his cookies and milk, then settled in to try and understand the plot. He hoped there wouldn’t be too many characters he’d have to learn about.
“C’mon on down!”
“ –ale going on now. Two days on-”
“ –rald and diamond necklace. Limited time offer.”
“--get a basket. You get a basket. Everybody gets a basket!”
Steve’s finger paused on the remote. This show seemed to be exciting. There was a whole lotta clapping and screaming going on. He watched intently as the black woman on the screen explained that the value of beauty products in the basket were worth over $200 and apparently great for moisturizing skin. Then she started talking about a book club. Huh. Steve had been starting to suspect that people didn’t read anymore, but the lady – “Oprah,” the sign behind her proclaimed- was holding a God-honest old-fashioned book made of paper and everything. Maybe he should look into this book club deal. It would be nice to read something more contemporary.
Steve wrote down the title and author on a piece of paper as the credits rolled and another show started up. He resumed jumping from channel to channel until he came upon more cheering. A crowd was chanting “Jer-ry, Jer-ry” repeatedly. Well, this looked exciting.
There was not much on television in the early mornings besides those awful news programs. Unfortunately, outside of missions Steve didn’t have much going on in the mornings, either. He flicked from one channel to the next absentmindedly while he munched on a massive bowl of multigrain cereal. He was becoming more and more accustomed to television by the day.
Finally, meal finished, he left the television alone for a moment to wash his dishes. He returned from the sink moments later and noticed that he had paused on some sort of cartoon. Steve had always been fond of the cartoons before the films he used to see. Maybe he’d like modern cartoons too.
Five minutes in and it was apparent that this cartoon was designed for an audience much younger than Steve. On the plus side, Steve had learned how to say “up,” “down,” and “nearby” in Spanish. Fury had been rather insistent that in addition to Arabic, Spanish would be a very good language to learn. Steve had been acclimating to modern English through prime time for a few weeks now. It stood to reason that television could help with his other language problems.
Now he just had to figure out why that fox wanted to steal the little girl’s things.
Steve couldn’t sleep. Everything Tony had put in his suite in the mansion was elegant, plush, and entirely too modern for Steve to feel completely comfortable. The mattress was too soft, the sheets too slippery. Some warm milk and late night television would hopefully be just the thing to help him fall asleep on the not-quite lumpy couch.
Tony had more channels available than Steve had ever seen, including those ridiculous pay-per-view ones that made you cough up even more money for every show you watched. Steve decided to take full advantage of this and gleefully began scrolling from one channel to the next. He was determined to find something more exciting than a home-shopping channel.
Over five hundred and fifty channels later, and Steve was not disappointed. At first, he thought he’d stumbled upon another soap opera filled with crappy acting. Steve was quickly becoming addicted to the drama that accompanied such shows.
The language was a bit more lewd than that of its various daytime counterparts, but he didn’t have any inkling that anything was wrong until the clothes started coming off and nothing was blurred.
And yup, those were breasts; Large and in full color on the massive television screen. After a moment of shock Steve reached for the remote, but in his haste he managed to push it away, where it skittered across the table and landed on the floor with a solid thawk.
Steve scrambled after the runaway remote. He stood triumphant with it pointed at the filthy scene now taking place on the television. When had that second fella come in, and what on God’s green Earth were they going to do with that cucumber???
“Well, I see you’ve found the porn. Congratulations, Cap. But if I might make a suggestion, I believe you’ll find that Skinemax is pretty lowbrow compared to some of the higher quality websites you can find on the internet.”
Steve turned slowly as he blushed scarlet and mortification set in. He tried to stutter out a defense while Stark looked at him over his glass of scotch, eyebrows cocked in playful amusement. His eyes roamed back to the TV for a moment and the smirk grew bigger.
“Well, who would have thought that Captain America would be into hot man-on-man action?”
Steve whirled back around to see that yes, the two men had started furiously making out on the screen while the woman put that cucumber to a rather creative use. Humiliation flared sharp as Steve turned back to Tony to try to spit out a denial, even as he realized that he would never live this down. In the next second, he choked on his breath when his eyes landed on the tent in Tony’s silk pajama bottoms.
“But you know, darling, films can only do so much. If you ever want to experience some man-on-man action up-close and in-person, you only have to ask. I’ll be going back to my bedroom now. If you want to join me, Captain, you know where it is.”
Steve watched Tony’s back until he turned the corner. Slowly, he pointed the remote up and snapped the tv off. He stared at the black screen for a long minute trying desperately not to think about what Tony was most likely doing up in his room right now. He took a deep, steadying breath and glared at his own erection. Not tonight. He forced himself to rinse out his glass of milk and return to his own room. He stripped and settled into bed, with full intention to sleep. Instead, his eyes turned to the remote for the smaller TV nestled on the wall, and his mind automatically supplied the numbers for the channel he’d had on downstairs. He shouldn’t.
The television came to life with a soft click.