The elevator rushed to a rapid stop, and Steve exited with urgency into Stark's poshly decorated great room, situated high above the city. He didn't need to look for long before spotting the man himself, leisurely spinning from side to side in a sleek, but plush leather office chair behind his desk.
"Wow. That was quick." Tony stated flatly, mildly impressed, before continuing on with his trademark and expedited surliness.
"What, did you fly here? Which I know you didn't...because you can't. Unless... Are you holding out on me, old man?"
Steve could feel his ire rising. So he took in a deep breath before exhaling it in exasperation, crossing his arms across his chest in the process.
"Please tell me there's an actual emergency."
Tony was apparently unaffected by the clearly visible annoyance that Steve didn't even try to hide.
"There is indeed, my friend." Stark said nonchalantly.
He then rose from his chair and walked at an equally carefree pace towards the wet bar at the opposite end of the room, to fill his now empty glass.
Steve silently watched him, not moving from where he stood, his brows furrowed as he waited for him to elaborate. But the man merely pointed to the open set of double doors across the spacious expanse, before wordlessly swirling the amber liquid in his cup and downing a good portion.
"It's in there."
Raising a brow in confusion, Steve looked to the darkened room, and saw that it was illuminated from one end, probably by a television. He turned back to stare questioningly at Tony. And at his undoubtedly perplexed expression, said Stark gestured with a wave of his finger.
"A little to the right."
Shifting his weight in the opposite direction, he craned his neck to peer in the vicinity just indicated. In doing so, he caught sight of four women, and easily identified each as Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanoff, Jane Foster, and Darcy Lewis.
At the sight of the last woman, he gave a small smirk.
He remembered her telling him the day before that they'd have to postpone this evening's ‘epic bowling match' because she and the 'girls' were having a movie night for Natasha's sake. Since Clint apparently pulled a 'dumbass stunt' and got caught for it.
Though, he figured the four of them would be going to the theater for the latest big box-office hit, not taking up residence in front of one of Tony's giant screens.
Turning back around, he fixed Tony with a glare, "I'm not seeing the emergency."
Tony responded with an over-exaggerated roll of his eyes, and walked over to where he stood, glass in one hand, while gesturing the other with an upturned palm at the shotgun theater.
"The emergency, Cap'n, is the fact that camaraderie of the female persuasion," He paused for dramatic effect, "has descended upon my man-cave."
Steve was speechless for a moment.
"Are you serious?"
"Very. Especially since they have tainted the new, custom floor-to-ceiling window display with their horrible chick flicks."
Steve was pretty sure his increasing glare could have burnt a hole straight through Tony Stark's brain, if that was even physically possible. Not that his threatening gaze had any effect, as the man didn't even seem to notice the growing animosity simmering just beneath his stoically cool exterior.
"So..." Stark segued randomly, holding up a deck of playing cards, "how about a game? Hold'em? Five card draw? Your pick. And don't worry about losing and not being able to pay up...we can bet in pretzels."
He really was about to let him have it. Particularly for making him think that something was seriously wrong, when there clearly wasn't. But before he could offer his verbal assault, a familiar voice called his name.
"Hey," Darcy greeted with a smile, though her expression was also puzzled, as she padded lightly and barefoot across the floor.
"What are you doing here all suit-ed up? Not that I'm complaining." she added with a smirk and blatant appraisal.
At least what he thought was blatant appraisal. He was never good with that sort of thing, and Tony didn't comment on it, so he wasn't sure what to make of it. She was his friend, and a sense of awkwardness settled over him for reading into something that might not even be there.
He was about to respond to her, but he watched as the realization of why he was there, 'suited-up' with no pressing emergency, clicked in that pretty little head of hers. And then as she turned and fixed Tony with a half exasperated, half scolding expression.
"What? You wrangled Pepper into watching sap-saturated movies with you and your girly brigade...in my man-cave, might I add. It's only fair I get a poker buddy."
"And you couldn't have called him like a normal person?"
"Where's the fun in that? Besides, he ignores when I call like a normal person."
Darcy gave a snort at that.
"Gee, I wonder why."
Having removed his mask at some point along the process of figuring out that there was no emergency, Steve raked his fingers through his hair, giving a heavy sigh. He should have known.
He wasn't exactly sure how he ended up on the couch next to Darcy watching what she informed him in a whisper was Titanic. And he couldn't deny the fact that he was a bit uncomfortable sitting in a roomful of women watching what Tony had previously and disdainfully referred to as a 'chick flick'.
But the more he sat there realizing that the majority of the room's occupants were too fixated on what was on the screen...or window, apparently...too even notice his discomfort, the more he began to relax and somewhat enjoy the movie. As much as any man could enjoy, given the circumstances.
Yet, despite him growing somewhat more comfortable - and possibly because the beginning of the movie was kind of slow...and definitely because of the look she gave him when she'd said hello...imagined or not - every time Darcy shifted in her seat next to him, he couldn't help his thoughts and eyes as they strayed to the feisty brunette.
He had, for several months now, been warring with an attraction he felt towards Darcy, with the distinction that she was...rather, is... his friend weighing heavily in his conscience. It didn’t help that his feelings towards Peggy Carter were still very present in his heart, despite the gap of time that would prevent him from ever seeing her again.
To be honest, he didn't think he would ever be able to let go of his love for Peggy. And he didn't want to. She was the first woman to see him for who he was as a person, regardless of his exterior. The first woman to want to know him when he was a 90-something pound asthmatic, and the only woman who cared to know him for more than his serum-enhanced physique. And she respected him, respected him for who he was and his conviction. Maybe even...no...definitely strengthened his conviction.
So, it somehow felt like a betrayal of the love he held for Peggy, to develop an attraction to another woman. The rational part of him knew that with everything else he had lost, he would have to move on. And Darcy was a big part of that, making him feel...normal, and not like an overly exalted legend.
Peggy's advent into his life made him realize for the first time how much he wanted to be part of something, to make a life with someone. Peggy was unlike any dame he'd ever met. She wasn't superficial, and her unrelenting faith in him only made his desire for a life with her even more solidly concrete.
But his life had taken a turn for the extraordinary with the serum, and the even more extraordinary well after the serum. And one thing Steve had come to learn, is that extraordinary wasn't always good.
He never would have imagined waking up nearly seventy years in the future.
At first, it was a daunting notion to grasp. The future had always seemed to be some kind of fantasy world. What with the movies he'd seen and the books he'd read. And given the feats achieved by Howard Stark in his day, he couldn't help but think that the future would be riddled with unimaginable marvels that would make life better and easier.
But when he woke up and suddenly found himself actually in the future… it was a far cry, and a loud, bright, and harsh contrast to what he'd always imagined. Everything was violently jarring and seemed to move at an even more brutal pace. He had holed himself up in his own solitude, craving for the life he left behind.
He learned quickly though, just how bad it was to dwell on what he'd left behind. Because it only made him desperate to find it again. And when he did find it, carved deeply into the hard, granite face of a tombstone…it made him feel even more heart-achingly alone.
He'd felt like a lost ship, wrecked in a decade he didn't know, with no way of ever going back.
And then the attack, and the call to duty.
Not that war and alien invasions were a welcome distraction from his desolate thoughts. But they were a distraction nonetheless. And more importantly the war was won, and he had formed new friendships. In an unorthodox sense of the word.
It wasn't perfect. Hell, it was sometimes...more like, most of the time…pretty damn un-perfect. But it was a step towards better.
It had only been a few weeks after the destruction to New York City almost a year ago, when he'd first met Darcy. Actually, it was more like she just popped into his life one day.
Literally... she just peered over his shoulder one day while he was sketching, and he didn't think he could ever forget the first thing she said to him.
What guy would ever forget a gal saying 'Holy shit, that's fucking awesome!' followed up with a 'Seriously dude, you've got some mad skills.' He didn't even know what half of what she'd said meant, aside from the obscenities, but he was pretty sure 'awesome' was a good thing.
At first, she overwhelmed him. She was quirky, forward, and quite bawdy. The opposite of Peggy and her stately dignity.
Not to mention she had a bad habit of tossing around foul language in casual conversation like it was socially acceptable. He'd only found out later, that it actually was socially acceptable, more or less…compared to his life in the Thirties and Forties, where there was a certain kind of decorum. Still, she was an exception to the rule.
However, the more time he spent with Darcy - which initially was instigated by her - the more he grew to enjoy her company and actually began to seek her out on his own.
After the weeks, that turned into months, that was closing in on a year…and after many movies, very odd history lessons, and day excursions to various new and old places, he grew to learn that Darcy did everything she did for no other reason than she liked being around him and wanted to be his friend. After all, when they'd first met, she hadn't greeted him with a 'Holy shit, you're Captain fucking America!'
No, she complimented his drawings.
Albeit obscenely. But she complimented them nonetheless. And more importantly, she complimented something that was innately him, not just the outside of the package.
Tony said something about it making sense, that he 'needed a little weird and crazy to balance out an old fashioned old-timer like him'. To which he promptly reminded the infuriating man to be respectful of Darcy...and that he was twenty-five.
So far, the movie had been what seemed to be a love story that merely played out on board the RMS Titanic, and not about the infamous ship itself.
He wasn't opposed to romance in movies. But he had taken a particular liking to action movies, since Darcy decided to take it upon herself to make sure he saw only the 'most awesome' flicks, of which the majority were action based. Comedies were pretty fun too, though the more modern ones took some explaining for him to understand all the references.
"I figured you'd show up for this part."
It was Pepper Potts' voice that broke into the film's dialog, and Steve glanced in her direction to see that Tony had entered the room and half-sat on the arm of the chair that she occupied.
"I don't know what you are you talking about. I was just getting tired of being the only one out there while everyone else is in here... since short-n-bossy over there stole my poker buddy."
Steve didn't miss the glare Darcy directed at Tony.
"Hey, I'm being genuine here."
"Mm-hm... maybe twelve percent of you is."
Tony sputtered for a moment, clearly caught off guard by the very smooth dig the calm and collected woman dealt him. It was apparently an inside joke of theirs, but anyone would be able to recognize the dig, judging Tony's reaction.
"Pep, that was a year ago…"
"And I've only sixty-eight percent gotten through not letting you live it down." she got in the last word with a satisfied smirk.
Steve couldn't suppress his amusement at the predicament Tony managed to get himself into, and returned his attention to the screen, once Ironman himself was put in his place by the clever red-head.
However, when his eyes focused again on the film, he froze.
The actress featured prominently before them, let the thin, silky robe that draped her shoulders, slip to the floor in a single fluid movement, exposing very bare and feminine curves.
He certainly had not expected that. Nor did he expect the camera angle to shift to show the woman from the front. Nude body and pert breasts illuminated by the soft, warm glow of the room she occupied.
Averting his gaze, with heat growing beneath and warming the skin of his face and ears, he found that the other viewers within the room didn't seem the least bit fazed by the nudity. Tony actually seemed happy as a clam as he appraised the naked actress with raised eyebrows. Pepper next to him simply shook her head in resignation.
He shifted his gaze to Darcy - who didn't have any discernible aversion to the nudity either - in another effort to not have to look at the movie playing out before them.
But the awkwardness he felt only grew - probably due to what he'd just seen that he wasn't expecting to see, and the fact that Darcy's shirt formed a perfectly low 'v'- because he had a sudden desire to be in the same position as the actor playing the young artist... but with Darcy as his subject.
The flush only deepened even further. And an equally sudden shame overcame him, as his unplanned desire spawned a host of unexpected images involving a very nude Darcy doing...things, with an equally nude him.
He jerked his gaze away, back to the screen, grateful to find that the actress was finally dressed again.
He needed to calm down. He shouldn't be thinking these things, especially about Darcy. He always tried to be a respectful man. So these unwarranted thoughts were, well, unwarranted. What made it worse, was that it had never been a real problem before. Even with Bucky's unabashedly liberal propensity to disclose details of his own intimate exploits.
Maybe, part of it was this decade's culture of blatantly capitalizing on sex.
True the nudity in the movie caught him off guard. But he'd come across magazine advertisements that were ten times more risqué than any pinup he'd ever seen. Not to mention that modern medicine had actually developed a drug to help a man...keep it up - if the proliferation of commercials on the History station were any indication.
He also had a feeling these unbidden thoughts were a culmination of his serum enhanced physiology and a notable lack of never-ending fight-or-flight scenarios to distract him.
He had never and would never admit to it, but certain parts of him had been more...virile, since the transformation. Of course he'd never had such a long span of idle peace in which threat of war wasn't the foremost thought on his mind. So now that he did, well, he had more than a few mornings where he woke up hard enough that ignoring the 'problem' was not an option.
"Alright over there, Cap?"
He tensed instantly and chanced a glance in Stark's direction, only to find the man wearing the most smugly conspiratorial grin on his face.
"Weren't expecting that, we're ya?" Tony continued with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.
"Can it, Tony Snark." Darcy commanded flatly.
Tony looked like he was about to come with some sort of retort, but Pepper's jab to his ribs effectively silenced him.
Steve was infinitely glad Darcy had been the one to speak up first. At that point, he didn't know how to respond. And even if he did, he was pretty sure he'd trip over his own words, making his situation even worse. He was also very thankful that everyone else in the room, by habit, ignored the irritating Stark.
"Hey, sorry about the movie," Darcy spoke up as he walked her back to her apartment.
Pepper had arranged for one of the night time secretaries to find a trench coat that Steve could wear, so he wouldn't be hassled by people once he left for the night.
"I mean, I should've realized, with the iceberg, and sinking things, and frozen Leo..."
He wasn't sure what 'frozen Leo' meant, but he had a sneaking suspicion that she was referring to the events of the movie possibly mirroring his crash that landed him in the future.
Offering a small smile he reassured her, "The movie was good...a bit sad...Don't worry, though. My crash was a lot different. And I'm okay. I'm not going to fall apart every time I see something that might remind me of my past."
Maybe it was true a year ago, but he'd finally learned to accept things. Well, maybe it was more accurate to say he was finally learning to accept things. As best as he could.
With thanks to present company.
She nodded, her face contemplative before she gave a chuckle.
"It wasn't my pick, by the way. The movie. It was actually Natasha's choice."
At this he raised his brows, amusement seeping into his voice, "Really? That doesn't seem like something she'd pick."
"I know right! I figured she'd pick something with a kick-ass ninja woman who beats the shit out of all the dudes!"
She laughed. And he was glad, giving a laugh of his own. He loved hearing her laugh. When she did, she did so freely, not self-conscious in the least. It made him smile.
"Oh, and sorry about the naked scene. I kinda forgot. I've seen it so many times on tv, and they censor that scene so the kiddies aren't exposed to boobage at a young age."
Well, damn. He was hoping she wouldn't bring that up.
"Uh...it's no big deal."
"I really should have warned you. Tony was being a real ass wipe about it too."
"It's really no big deal, Darcy." he said, his embarrassment waning at the sound of her sincerity.
"Besides, Tony's always an ass. I can deal with him."
She gave another laugh at that, using her shoulder to bump his arm playfully.
"You said ass."
And it was his turn to laugh.
"You should say it more often." she continued, which only made him shake his head in amusement.
"Seriously, seeing as yours is really kinda epic."
He knew what epic meant. The modern context was still the same as the old.
"Oh, come on, Steve! It's your own ass! You can't tell me you haven't looked in a mirror."
Even though he couldn't help the smile plastered on his face, he still ducked his head, rubbing his temple and hoping that his hand concealed how red he could feel his skin turning. He never knew what to do when she started on him about things like that, but he also knew she was just teasing him. She did that a lot.
They fell into a companionable silence, still several blocks from her building, until Darcy struck up a new line of conversation.
"So, you're like a big artist," he chuckled. He was by no means a big artist, he just liked to draw.
"What? You are! I've seen your sketchbooks! You have,"
"Mad skills." he said, finishing for her.
He stuck out his elbow and gently nudged her, playfully, like she had done before.
"So how come I've never seen any naked people in them? Half of Leo's sketchbook was naked French ladies."
It finally occurred to him that Leo was the actor who played the artist in the movie.
"I, uh...have never been to France.”
Well, not enough to see the country. Or its people. It was a fast paced tour that sent him off to Italy the next day.
"Oh, ha ha...you do realize that American people are generally naked too right, under all the clothes."
He rolled his eyes, "Yes, I know that."
She looked at him expectantly. So with a sigh he continued.
"I enrolled in a figure drawing class...but then I was enlisted, so I never got to..."
They fell into silence once more, and he noticed that they were nearing her block, remaining quiet, until she brought up a suggestion.
"You should sign up for another class, at one of the community colleges or something."
"That's kind of hard for me. Fury keeps hammering home about the anonymity."
"Hmmm... I'm sure you could find private classes, just have to google 'em."
"Uh...I don't know..."
"Ugh, no you're right. Scratch that. You'd probably end up in somebody's rundown apartment with a group of weirdos drawing some bald chick with nipple piercings, or worse, a flabby middle-age dude."
He couldn't deny, nor hide it from his face, that he found both possibilities just a bit horrifying. Did people really pierce...there?
She just laughed and kept on talking.
"You know, you're probably best off just drawing me," she said it in that joking tone she often uses, "I'm normal looking, not flabby...at least I don't think...and I have no piercings in questionable body parts, except a belly button ring, but that's totally not gross."
She had a tendency to ramble, and when she got on a roll, he often got lost in the detail. He did register something else about piercings, but that was pushed completely to the back of his mind by the very suggestion of what he had imagined earlier that evening, coming to life.
And before he even could process the ramifications of his response, the words were out of his mouth.
"You...would do that?"
"You would let me draw you?"
She paused for a moment. He wasn't sure if she was stunned, because she also seemed to study him in her silence, before giving him a small smile.