Unlike some of the other Avengers he could name (but politely would not) Steve actually went through his fan mail personally. Everything was passed through a sorter and x-ray machine, and some device that checked for poisons and anthrax, and then the letters and stuffed toys and requests for autographs were sorted into bins for the team, or for the person SHIELD assigned to write rote thank-you notes with a stamped signature in reply.
There weren’t that many tangible items; a lot of the communication came by email, and that was sorted too, by JARVIS.
Some of those contained proposals and propositions. After the first several dozen, it just got wearing.
But this emailed message was flagged as “not spam* (though Steve thought Spam was pretty tasty, so he wasn’t sure why it had been connected to something as irritating as junk email these days) so he clicked the envelope:
Really interested in finding out what you thought about the script. We loved your work back in the day. It’s just a cameo, but we’d be honored if you’d consider it.
His “work” had been propaganda films for the war effort. But still, he’d been told they were inspiring, even if he’d been teased mercilessly for them by the Commandos, and more recently by Tony:
“This striking paragon of manhood in tight pants will save the world. With acts of stunning bravery and derring-do! For freedom!” he’d intoned, imitating the newsreel announcer as Steve groaned.
“Oh shut up, Stark.”
Steve shuffled through his cleared bin and located a thick, sealed envelope that someone else had signed for. Inside, he found a sheaf of paper, which he took upstairs and leafed through as he tackled a roast beef sandwich. He had eighteen lines -- basically a pep talk for an attack force as they prepared for a mission to stop an alien ship from sucking the atmosphere away from Earth and delivering certain doom. He wondered why Captain America wouldn’t be recruited to join the mission, but the team had been specially selected because they were misfits with...space skills, and the movie already had a big name actor playing the hero.
“Whoa. A-list” Tony had said, impressed. “Don’t let him talk you into being audited.”
“Audited?” Steve asked, confused.
“It’s a thing. If somebody gives you a book on Dianetics, give it back. And turn down any invitations to the Celebrity Centre. Their snacks suck.”
Okay, it wouldn’t be real acting, playing Captain America in a cameo role. Steve knew that. But in a way, he was putting on a persona every time he donned his spangled uniform.
“Uniform? You mean costume.”
“Can it, Tin Man.”
Tony’s mouth made a little o. “Oooh. Burn.”
As far as the script went, Steve wasn’t busy doing anything else at the moment, so why not?
Thank you for the offer, he typed carefully. I would be honored to appear in your film.
It turned out that he needed a SAG card; his stint making movies for the Army during the war meant he hadn’t been a part of a union. He signed the paperwork and got his card. And then he had an offer from an agent with a sunny office in a tall building on Wilshire Boulevard with palm trees lined up in front.
“I don’t think I need an agent,” Steve demurred. Wasn’t that for big stars? But he was informed by an actor playing one of the baddies on set that he should take the offer:
“This one’s great...she’s a shark!” he said to Steve. “She represents that guy from War Horse. Dude. Come on.”
He signed that paperwork, too.
The movie biz these days was different to the way it had been in the early 40s, and the same. There was a backlot full of costumed performers running around nondescript buildings with tape all over the floor and a shouty director. Par for the course. Steve recognized some of the slang the crew used (and the crew was still a lot of fun) but some of it was new. The green screen and the special effects were definitely something else; the villain in this thing was an alien with floppy, oozing tentacles that looked ridiculous when the actor was hefting a Red Bull at the craft table, but incredibly creepy and menacing in the dailies.
“It’s down to all of you now,” Steve intoned on the set, hitting the same mark he had in the read-through. “You may be ragtag, true, and the odds are stacked against you, but you’re humanity’s last, best chance.”
“CUT! I’m not feelin’ it, Rogers. Sell it to me!”
It was just a cameo, but Steve appeared in the trailer, and Clint cheered and punched his arm when he appeared on the big flatscreen TV in the briefing room. It was embarrassing.
“Did you get Xenu’ed, Steve?” Tony asked.
“...no?” Steve shook his head. He’d look it up later, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t.
Thor, Natasha, and Tony accompanied him to the New York premiere, Tony fussing over Steve’s black tie ensemble.
“I don’t understand it,” Tony whispered against Steve’s neck in the half-dark of the theater. “You even look good in HD.”
“Tony.” Steve felt a flush climb his collar.
“It’s a sincere compliment.”
“...thank you, then.”
“You were marvelous!” Thor said, at the after-party. “This was an epic tale.”
“Great delivery,” Natasha confirmed with a small nod. “Not over the top. It’s tragic how they underutilized you, though.”
“Can you get me a cameo in the sequel?” Tony asked the director, and had sulked in the limousine afterward.
“You’re not an actor though, Tony,” Steve pointed out. “Don’t you have enough to do between missions?”
“Well, I could do a cameo. I could play myself. Obviously,” Tony sniffed.
“You could wear elevator shoes, like the star in this one,” Steve said.
Tony paused, then snapped his fingers. “I've always suspected that guy wore lifts.”
“You would know,” Natasha pointed out.
“Shut up, Natasha,” Tony said with a grin. “Height doesn’t matter when you’re horizontal.”
There had been a real battle against aliens for Steve to lead, and then it was back to the day-to-day; working out, catching up on his reading, and doing a bit of sketching here and there, until JARVIS let him know he’d forgotten to check his messages for several days and his agent had called six times.
He did another film, this time not playing himself, but playing a small part as a major in the Army, leading troops into battle in World War II, nonetheless. It was a less-pleasant-experience working with a truly crazy director, and the lead actress seemed to delight in being alternately outrageously flirtatious and incredibly rude to him.
He wasn’t featured in the trailer for that one, and the movie didn’t do as well. It didn’t do well, period. Steve had been too busy with a mission to attend the premiere, it opened in fewer theaters, and it was rushed to DVD soon afterward.
“Bomb time,” Tony said, pointing at his screen. “Stinkerama. 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. I hope they paid you well.”
“Shut up, Tony,” Steve said.
“No, but...” Tony added, scrolling. “You’re the standout. Everybody who panned this dog still liked you." He pulled Steve over to the largest projection monitor and read two of the reviews aloud.
“Well...” Steve said, mollified. Tony flung an arm over his shoulder.
“How could they not? You were really good.”
“Thanks,” Steve replied with a shiver. Tony’s hand was warm through his cotton shirt.
“You cold, Cap?” Tony asked.
“Um,” he said.
Steve turned down the next two scripts. They were roles pretty similar to the last.
His agent called again.
“A drug-addicted lawyer?” Steve blinked.”Oh, I don’t think I should do that.”
Tony snorted in the kitchen. “It’s the lawyer part, isn’t it?”
“Exotic dancers, Steve,” his agent enthused over the speakerphone. “It’ll open really big. Channing Tatum?”
He gave himself credit for not asking Who? “No, thank you, ma’am,” he’d said instead, definitively. Kids looked up to Captain America. He couldn’t do some film where he ripped off his pants and...
“What? You’re not doing it?” Tony squawked upon hearing the news. Steve, sitting on the sofa, buried his face in his hands.
“No. I’m not. Nobody wants to see me drop my drawers and gyrate onstage with an umbrella.”
“Oh... Steve.” An indefinable expression crossed Tony’s face. “Steve, Steve, Steve.”
Clint just quirked a brow. He'd been in a music video once, and he wasn't saying a word.
“I’ve got the perfect vehicle for you, Captain Hard-To-Get,” his agent said the next time. And it did sound interesting, but more importantly, different, though it wasn’t a big studio picture and the pay wasn’t up to the amount he’d made for the cameo. This was a big part, abandoned by an actor who’d had a better offer, but the rest of the cast were newcomers.
It was a story about a street graffiti artist who falls in love with a top gallery owner, but is too ashamed to reveal his art, and it was being shot in New York. “See, it’s been hard to cast; a couple of names have turned it down, because they weren't the first choice, and it’s, you know, very low budget, and it’s a gay romance, but if you’re not averse...”
“No, that’s not a problem, of course,” Steve said. He decided he really didn’t need the peanut gallery commentary from the team, so he kept the job to himself. It was easy enough to bug off and spend his early mornings through afternoons on set. He’d simply leave Stark Tower in his workout clothes, jog easily downtown, and change into the costume of the day...from the brown deliveryman’s uniform (Steve was used to uniforms, which were not costumes most of the time) he wore at the character’s day job to the t-shirt, jeans and battered black leather motorcycle jacket he wore when he was out tagging subway cars and the sides of buildings.
“I could, I could maybe...” Steve said, and then just went ahead and launched into the accent everybody had around him when he was growing up, the accent he’d lost overseas, being around fellows from all over. As it turned out, the director liked it.
Steve finished his last scene out-of-sequence, scrawling a message across the gallery’s picture window in blocky script with spray paint. He shook the cans in both hands one last time and listened to the mixing balls rattle before he threw them (not like a superhero who could lob them over the building, but like a normal actor, who would toss them a dozen feet away.) The director yelled the order to cut. “Perfect,” she said, and folded him into a hug.
“You know,” she said. “My dad really liked you. He was so happy that you took this part.”
“Really?” Steve asked. Even her father wouldn’t have been old enough to remember his old films.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “He studied your stuff. He directed Patton, you know, in the 70s, and he always said it was sort of the answer to the films you did for the War Department, in a roundabout way.”
“Huh,” Steve said. “How about that?”
“Great work,” said Steve’s agent. “Top billing at Sundance and TIFF next month!”
“TIFF?” Steve squinted, typing the letters into Wikipedia as he spoke and reading quickly, covering the delay with a strategically-timed cough. “Oh. Wow!”
There was another premiere, this time at the Regal Union Square. Steve invited everyone, but Thor was visiting Jane, Bruce had the flu, and Clint was on a mission with Natasha, so Tony accompanied Steve and sat silently with him in the theater as the opening credits rolled to an indie rock song.
“Is this a hipster movie?” Tony whispered.
Shhhh,” Steve whispered back.
Tony kept brushing against Steve on the armrest. It was distracting.
It was distracting, also, when the sex scene happened. It was tasteful, of course. It hadn’t been sexy to shoot the thing. There had been blinding bright lights everywhere and modesty patches and a few dozen people milling around the drafty warehouse where the set lived, but still.
When Steve kissed his co-star, over and over to get the angles right, it hadn't been his co-star he thought of.
He hadn't planned that. It just happened.
Steve couldn’t help glancing at Tony out of the corner of his eye, waiting for commentary that never came. Tony simply sat rapt through that scene, and the next. And the next.
“I did it for you,” Steve’s character was saying, onscreen, rough voice gone quiet. “You know, thought maybe you’d like it.”
“I do.” said his love interest. “God, you know I do.” The characters, one besuited, the other clad in leather, melted into a kiss in front of the gallery window and the extreme closeup became a wide shot and then an extreme wide shot and the camera panned upward smoothly to the sky as a plane flew by overhead and the screen faded to black as another indie rock song began to play.
There had been a lot of pressure to get the take just right. It was one long tracking shot to the plane. Steve smiled to himself.
“Is this...OK Go?” Tony murmured over the closing credits. “Hipsterrrr.”
“Tony.” Steve warned, but Tony gave Steve’s wrist a light squeeze and clammed up as the lights went up and the premiere audience applauded. The remainder of Steve’s evening was spent shaking hands and being interviewed.
"So," Tony said, poking at the items he'd received in the premiere party goody bag on his bar later: a mini-can of neon green Krylon paint, a picture frame with graffiti art inside, a box of chocolate truffles, and a cologne sample. "So, what was that like? Doing a sex scene?"
Steve felt himself color again. "Oh. Well. Not, um...sexy. There are a lot of people around and you're told to adjust the angles for the cameras a lot."
"Mmm," Tony said. "I was convinced."
"That's good," Steve said, rubbing the back of his own neck with a laugh. "It was supposed to be convincing to the audience. Acting and all."
"Have you ever kissed a man before that?" Tony asked.
"No, I hadn't."
"Did you mind?"
"Mind?" Steve squinted at him, arms folded.
"Because you know, you don't. You're not..."
Steve shrugged. "It was acting. I'm not exactly a graffiti artist."
"You're an artist, though," Tony lifted his glass, then set it down.
Steve stood and hooked a finger around Tony's shoulder and kept it there. "Stand up," he said. "Oh wait, you are."
"Short jokes? Really?"
"No, I'm kidding around," Steve rolled his eyes. "Besides, it doesn't..." he took a breath. "It's like..." He looked up. "JARVIS, lights at 100 percent. Wait, is there a 150 percent?"
Tony raised a hand to his eyes as the room brightened to a degree he'd probably never seen. "Hey, that's my AI you're ordering around," he said, but he was smiling.
"It's like..." Steve canted his head to the side, considering, then raised his other hand to the side of Tony's face, tracing along the side of his jaw with a thumb. The last thing he saw before closing his eyes were Tony's, widening at his approach. He pressed his lips to Tony's, smoothing his fingers into his hair. "Like that," he said, as he pulled away, but it hadn't been like that, really, kissing another actor on a film set in a drafty warehouse in the meatpacking district. Steve bit his bottom lip as he watched Tony open his eyes, slowly.
"Like that, huh?" Tony asked.
"Not exactly, but sort of," Steve said. "Brighter, and there were cameras, of course. And people milling around."
"Oh," Tony said. "Yeah, that was..."
"Not sexy or anything, right?" Steve asked with a shrug.
"Hmm. Do it again."
"Sure." Steve placed a hand at Tony's back and pulled him closer. "We can rehearse that as much as you like.""