The first time it happened, Steve was in an airport bathroom. He’d been in this century for a month and things had certainly changed. Everything looked cleaner, brighter, all metal and white walls, even here in the bathroom.
In the mirror his jaw clenched and he tilted his chin from one side to another, inspecting the bit of stubble under the fluorescent lights. He could do this, he would do this. He was a National Icon, a War Hero. “Come on, Rogers,” he told his reflection. “You’ve faced worse foes. Red Skull was scarier than a little time travel. You are a-”
The silver machine next to him came to life. It dispensed a square of brown paper that hit his shoulder; Steve startled and punched. The machine exploded into pieces, paper and metal and circuitry spilling over the floor.
“Is everything alright in there, Captain Rogers?” his S.H.I.E.L.D issued handler asked, from the other side of the bathroom door. Steve leaned forward. His hands gripped the sink as he tried to catch his breath. All of a sudden the water started flowing from the faucet. Steve jumped back and kicked forward. The marble countertop erupted into pieces.
His handler was inside the bathroom now, weapon raised as he surveyed for any threats. Steve leaned against the wall, hand up as a signal for the man to lower his weapon. He felt his blood pressure return to something resembling normal but nothing was normal about this. The water continued to spray from the broken pipe and a part of the automated paper machine chirped from the floor.
His handler, Coulson, if he remembered correctly, had lowered his handgun to his side and assessed the damage then trailed his gaze over Steve.
“Everything started moving,” Steve explained when he straightened, shoulders back because he was a soldier goddamit, a National Icon, a War Hero...who just attacked a bathroom.
“Moving, sir?” The man asked before pressing his lips together and Steve wondered if he was annoyed or suppressing a smile.
Steve flicked his hand to the pieces on the floor. “That lowered some paper and it hit my shoulder. I was not expecting it.”
“And the sink?” The man’s lip curled into a smile and Steve let out a huff of laughter and shrugged. His handler nodded, once, and allowed that to be enough of an answer. He turned back to the door, holding it open.
“So, automated appliances are just one more thing I’ll need to get used too?” Steve asked as he passed through the doorway.
“Afraid so, Captain. ”
The second time it happened was at a bookstore. Steve had been in this century for three months now and, finally, he was granted permission to walk a three block circumference around his apartment. Lovely.
New York was different now, he had accepted it. But yes, he still missed the streetcars and the top hots and all the places that seemed familiar but wouldn’t be anything like a place he remembered. Except Katz Delicatessen, he had happily discovered that remained unchanged.
The only people Steve had seen in the three months were his handler Coulson, Nick Fury and a red-headed S.H.I.E.L.D agent who refused to reveal her name. He missed people. Steve had always been social, even when it was it just Bucky taking him to meet some gals. And while Coulson provided company, his presence usually contained companionable silence or offhand commentary. Steve yearned for some normal human interaction.
So, he headed to the streets. His goal was a bookstore that his handheld computer device explained was only two blocks north. The street bustled with people, everyone walking fast, and most with small speakers in their ears. No one met his eye. Steve pressed the brim of his baseball cap further down his forehead.
After another few feet, Steve’s handheld computer beeped. Steve stopped in front of a glass wall. A man behind him bumped into his shoulder and pushed passed. The glass wall slid open as the man walked through.
Right, even the doors were automated these days. Through the glass he saw a line of people, families, waiting to check out. He watched as one young boy and his mother walked to a cashier. There was no person behind the counter, the woman scanned the book, pressed two buttons, and slid a card.
Even the bookstores were automated. Steve walked through the glass doors the next time they opened and hoped there would be a staff member who could direct him to the History section. He really did not want to ask a robot but, luckily, stores still had employees.
Steve did find himself face to face with a robot one week later when he was sent to stop Loki. The robot’s name was Iron Man or, more appropriately, Tony Stark. Then the Avengers were saving of the world. By the time the battle was over Steve had seen automated doors, automated cars, automated food dispensers, automated phone calls. He saw a man brought back from the dead. He thought he had seen it all.
Then he moved in with Tony Stark and the Avengers.
“Come in, come in,” Tony greeted as his robot held open the door for the team. Coulson had bustled them from S.H.I.E.L.D to a car to an elevator. Now, one of Tony’s robots bustled them into this room on the ninetieth floor of Stark Tower. “DUM-E, give them some space.”
In the room they entered, tiny airplanes hovered between the kitchen and the dining table with trays of meats and fruits on their backs. They whirled around Tony who stood in the middle of a sunken living room, martini in hand.
“Welcome, Avengers,” JARVIS greeted from above. Steve looked up, knowing he wouldn’t see the source. He did see the smirk of amusement Tony sent his way but he hadn’t been the only one to look up. Maybe this automated, gadget-filled world was not second-nature for everyone. Seventy years wasn’t that long ago.
“Please make yourselves comfortable,” JARVIS continued. “After dinner I can direct you to your rooms.”
“Come!” Tony welcomed. “Let’s eat.”
The group walked towards the table but their eyes swept around the room. Bruce looked out the large glass window, Thor at the wide array of food on the floor. Clint and Natasha surveyed exits and Steve was with them, taking it all in.
He walked up to the table and almost waited for the chair to move itself out for him, but it was made of wood and not metal, so he took that as a hint and pulled it out. Tony slid into the seat next to him.
“You’re looking a little winded, Cap,” Steve felt the other man’s hand pat his shoulder. “You feeling okay?”
Steve looked over Tony, his martini rested on the table and his forehead furrowed with concern. Overhead a tiny plane hovered and Steve sat back as it lowered an empty plate in front of him. “Would you like something to drink,” the tiny plane asked him in a polite voice that sounded nothing like Iron Man. In fact, it sounded like a very nice lady.
Instead of answering not-real-lady, he exploded into a fit of laughter.
“What?” Tony asked him. “What is it?” He asked again when Steve couldn’t answer. “Are you okay? Guys, is he okay? Did someone press the gas button in the elevator?”
“There’s a gas button in the elevator?” Bruce asked concerned, but also focused on lifting a skewer from the tray in front of him.
“Blue button next to the red emergency button,” Tony answered, still looking over at Steve.
“Don’t want to mix those up,” Clint commented around a bite of burger.
“Or maybe you do,” Natasha countered as she slid into a chair, looking skeptically at the food.
Steve continued to laugh and laugh.
“Okay, seriously, what broke Steve?” Tony asked the group.
“You did, Stark,” his handler’s voice came from around the corner. Tony looked at Coulson then at Steve, still confused. Steve lifted a finger at Coulson and nodded. That was the only answer Steve was capable of giving at the moment.
One of the small planes rushed over with another plate and placed it next to Clint. When Steve finally gained control of himself, Coulson had already brought over a chair and had a hamburger in his hand.
Tony hadn’t touched the food. He leaned back in his chair, instead. His martini was back in his hand but his dark eyes were squinting with calculation. “It’s the technology, yes?”
Steve nodded as he caught his breath.
“Bad?” Tony asked, “Because I can make modifications to your room and the adjoining bathroom and maybe even make a room or wing devoid of -”
“It’s okay, Tony, I’m adjusting.” One of the planes landed on the table, done for the time being of any task. It chirped twice before powering down. “It’s kind of cute, in a way. Like a helpful pet.”
In the Tower, everything was automated. Lights illuminated with every step as JARVIS led him to through his quarters. They each had a floor, a whole floor. Between JARVIS and Tony’s technological assistance he would say words and things appeared! Like a television or radio or even the internet. It took surprisingly little time to get used too.
So you couldn’t blame Steve when he thought, months later, that the bottle of lotion would be automated. He waited with a hand under the dispenser, thighs thrown on either side of Tony’s hips.
“Hurry up!” Tony groaned under him. Hands gripping hard on Steve’s hips
They had danced around each other for weeks. Steve kept finding reasons to go Tony’s workshop and Tony invaded his personal space and locked gazes a little too long with Steve. The feelings those gazes inspired hadn’t been new to Steve. He had felt them with Bucky and Peggy and it did not take long for them to fall into place.
“It won’t come,” Steve explained as his hips grinded Tony. The other man answered with a thrust of his own.
“We aren’t coming!” Tony lifted up onto his elbow and glared at Steve’s hand placed under the bottle, waiting. “Are you kidding me, Cap?”
“What?” Steve asked, but it turned into a moan when Tony lifted his hips again.
“Press. The. Button.”
Steve groaned for an entirely different reason. “Are you kidding me? I thought it was automated!”