“My name is Steven Rogers. I was born on July 4, 1920 in the Lower East Side to Joseph and Sarah Rogers. After being turned away from recruiting offices, I agreed to participate in an experimental super-soldier program called Project Rebirth, turning me into Captain America.”
“On the vague side, don't you think?” Tony asked.
Steve rooted around his mind. “I like listening to the Andrews Sisters and reading fantasy novels, especially Tolkien. In my free time, I draw.”
Steve glanced around the room in hopes of catching the eye of his other teammates. He was met with frowns and it was all rather grim, but he wasn't sure if that was because of him or Tony.
He pointed out Logan. “That's Wolverine. He likes pizza and beer, and he claims his food by slicing it with his claws. The real reason is to freak us out. It only works on Spider-Man.” An affronted noise came from the corner. Sensing an opening, Steve pressed on. “Spider-Man, real name Peter Parker. He loves his aunt and her wheat cakes. When we play Mario Kart, he always picks Toad. Wasp plays as Daisy.” Jan hummed in acknowledgment. Steve came to Tony. “Iron Man.” He couldn't keep the smile off his face. Where to even start? “You're the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, the Avengers benefactor, and the technician. Your favorite stories are about King Arthur. You imagined yourself being part of the Knights of the Round Table when you were a kid.”
The furrow between Tony's eyebrows wasn't as pronounced, and there was a faint flush on his cheeks.
“Iron Man, amnesia isn't the same as being turned into a Skrull. This third degree isn't really necessary,” Ororo reminded him in soft tones.
Tony stole an anxious glance at Steve, and Steve wanted to reach out and offer comfort. A hand on his shoulder, reassuring words and smiles that remained until Tony, even reluctantly, returned his smile.
No Skrull wouldn't have been affected by Tony's wide range of emotions this afternoon. In fact, feeling guilty that Iron Man looked so worried built a good case for Steve being Captain America.
“I wasn't accusing him!” Tony exclaimed. “It's just—” his shoulders heaved when he sighed—“Stephen confirmed himself the effects of the spell are still there, which means you must have forgotten something.”
That was cause for concern, yes, but—There was no discernible chunk of his memory missing, as far as Steve could tell. Since he wasn't exactly the most reliable judge at the moment, he had been able to identify all of his teammates right off the bat. Steve didn't feel scared, or disoriented, or in any way confused whatsoever. He felt fine. Honestly, the most noticeable side-effect had been the wooziness right after he'd been hit by Morgan le Fey's spell.
“Whatever it is I forgot,” Steve said, “if it hasn't come up yet, after—” he began to count on his fingers—“Avenging, dealing with the authorities, handling the logistics of the whole affair, coming back to the Tower, mission debriefing, getting a magical check-up courtesy of the Sorcerer Supreme, and in short, not having interfered with my life up until now; we can take that as a good sign.”
There were a few murmurs and nods around the room, and Steve pressed on.
“It most likely doesn't have to do with my life as Captain America, and shouldn't interfere with team operations,” he stressed. He assumed it concerned his personal life, and so he would just have to deal with that as it came out. “Honestly, it's probably not even important.”
Steve was grateful he hadn't forgotten the Avengers. Sentiment aside, he didn't want to consider what his instinctual reaction would be to a green man with ten times the body mass of a regular person who only spoke in the third person.
Tony and Ororo exchanged a look.
“About that—” Ororo began.
Steve's instincts and the expression on Tony's face prepared Steve for the news, because it couldn't be good.
Ororo hummed under her breath, like she was considering her words. Or stalling for time. “Whatever you've forgotten hasn't come up yet. That allows us be optimistic, but it doesn't mean we can't remain cautious.”
“Right,” Tony said. “For the time being, we can't consider you at full capacity.”
“What?” Steve asked blankly. “You saw me in that fight. I did fine.”
More than fine. The Avengers had worked together effortlessly, and besides Steve getting hit by the amnesia spell, no injuries had been suffered. Le Fay had been apprehended in short order, and it had been a resounding victory all around.
“You were great,” Tony confirmed. “In a very specific battle against some sorceress with a grudge who specifically cast a memory spell on you.” He held out his hands. “Who's to say your memory loss doesn't have something to do with Ultron, or Galactus, or, or telemarketers?”
Steve frowned. He trusted his team, and the Avengers should be fine without him when faced with most threats, but—
“We really shouldn't risk having you in battle right now, Steve,” Ororo said as gently as possible.
“I feel okay, though.” Steve couldn't quite keep the petulance out of his voice.
“Did you not say whatever you forgot would come up eventually?” Tony had finally let up, and his unhappiness and worry were back at the forefront. “We can't risk that happening in the middle of a battle.”
Jan eyed Tony before turning to Steve. “You did say that, Cap,” she said apologetically, confirming Steve's hunch that the team had discussed this before the debriefing.
He swallowed. “Well.” How could he argue against that?
Steve ran his hand over his shield, pressing his fingers against its familiar edge. He remembered that much at least.
And thus, the Avengers unanimously decided that Captain America should be taken off of the active-duty roster and placed on the on-call list until the situation had been properly resolved. The unanimous vote, naturally, including Steve himself.
Whatever Steve'd forgotten, it wasn't the name of the characters in Dog Cops.
Steve sighed and leaned back, sinking into the couch. He closed his eyes, matching the characters' voices to their names and faces.
It'd been a week, and nothing in his daily life had triggered some lost memory. So now his days consisted of fact-checking everything from his own past, to the missing years in-between, to every corner of the city he might have passed once in his lifetime, and to the back of the Wheaties cereal box. Steve wasn't sure he remembered what was on that before getting hit with the memory spell.
There'd been a few close calls. On Friday night, Steve had brought Tony a number two combo from their favorite sandwich shop instead of his usual number three. Steve had promptly called Stephen to confirm, because at this point, it was more likely the amnesia had made him forget something as non-world-threatening as Tony's favorite order.
Stephen had come over, Steve had been subjected to various invasive mental procedures that had ended with overwhelming drowsiness and a strong craving for melted cheese. In the end, Stephen had declared that whatever the amnesia had made him forget, it had nothing to do with cheesesteaks.
As it turned out, the place had mixed the orders up.
On Sunday, Steve had gone on his run, same route he'd taken for years, and passed a Mediterranean restaurant he didn't recognize. After an excited group text to the team, and a very alarmed, elderly couple looking like they were about to faint when the Avengers walked in the front door, it had been explained by the place coming under new ownership in a quick sale precipitated by the sudden move of the previous owners. Steve hoped that the business generated from feeding a superhero team's worth of appetites had been enough to assuage them. The falafel had been delicious.
Yesterday had been the most eventful. He'd been helping Jarvis prepare breakfast when he'd been informed that he was supposed to put wet ingredients in after the dry, and when relegated to table duty, that he'd switched the position of the silverware. Steve, on a high, then asked Jarvis to give him a napkin to fold and discovered, to his delight, that his end result collapsed on itself in a sad lump.
Yesterday had also been the day that Wong had very tersely told him he should only call once per day at most, and also that he should politely remind the Avengers that Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and weekends were particularly busy days for the Sorcerer Supreme.
“I still have Tuesday,” Steve had commented to Tony, who had remarked that he'd never heard Wong become that dry.
“That's because Tuesdays are our busy day, Captain Bad-Table-Manners.”
Every day was a particularly busy day now, for everyone but Steve. Steve didn't think even Jan could be having lunch with a friend in town every day for the next two weeks, and that her schedule would be similarly packed for the foreseeable future. Ororo had departed Monday morning, mentioning that Thor wanted to show her around Asgard, and maybe a few other realms in the process. Logan had gone off to the Xavier Institute, or maybe it was Canada. He hadn't been very forthcoming with the details.
Peter began to dart around the nearest corner whenever he saw Steve approaching. It was the most alarming when the nearest corner involved a window.
“I'm good, Cap. I'm really enjoying the view out here!” Peter waved at him, his other appendages safely affixed to the side of the Tower. Steve tried not to look down. “Maybe we can save the sparring for next time! I think I saw Bruce around the kitchen a few minutes ago? You should catch him while he's not being the Hulk for once!”
Weren't spiders supposed to be sneaky? But they'd all learned a while back that Spider-Man had nothing in common with Black Widow, despite the arachnid roots. At least the others had shown more tact in avoiding him.
Maybe that's what Le Fay's goal was. Get him off the team, and make him so stir-crazy he felt ready to rip things off the wall. Starting from the inside and causing unrest within the team—it sounded exactly like one of those overly elaborate plans that hinged upon coincidence and melodrama that villains adored. If that was what she was going for, she was well on the way to succeeding.
He was faintly aware of a hushed conversation happening at the entrance to the living room. Hushed didn't mean much against super-soldier senses.
“Just look at him,” Jan whispered, “whatever he forgot, it wasn't how to sulk! Go try something!” Steve didn't even deign that comment with replying how he could hear, choosing instead to sink further into the couch.
“That's our Winghead, alright,” Tony's voice was soft and fond, and Steve's heart gave a strange little twinge at the tenderness there.
It was enough for him to turn his head. “I can hear you!”
Tony and Jan exchanged a last glance, before Tony strode forward and dropped down on the couch beside Steve.
“How many points is a basket worth?”
Tony had taken Steve's new drive to trigger whatever his lost memory was in stride, drilling him on his daily life and everyday facts. It really just brought to light the fact that much of what Tony considered common knowledge was, in fact, not. However, this one passed the “average civilian” test.
“Two, unless it's past the three-point line. Or a shot from the free throw line is one.”
“You never make fouls anyway,” Tony sighed.
“Shooting off a repulsor to tilt the ball into the hoop is definitely against the rules.”
Tony snorted. “Well, now that we've established that. One-on-one, you-on-me, uh,” he stopped abruptly. “I mean, do you want to play some ball?”
Steve couldn't truthfully say he did. What he wanted was to remember what he'd forgotten so that his life could return to normal. Something whispered to him that sitting on the couch watching old reruns wouldn't help, but neither would his friends taking pity on him.
As he watched Tony, Tony's eyes darted away.
“Just a suggestion, you could always find me later if— ”
“No, no, let's go.” Steve was already getting up, and he turned around to face Tony, who blinked up at him. Steve saved a moment to be thankful that he hadn't forgotten anything about Tony.
Tony's face broke into a grin, and he held his hand out. “Give me a hand up.”
The ball sailed through the hoop. Steve whistled, bouncing back on his heel. “And that's game.”
There was a grunt from behind him. Tony just about stumbled to the bench, turning around and falling onto it. He leaned backwards, gripping the edges of the bench. His legs were splayed wide, and Steve watched a sweat droplet trail down his throat.
He startled when he realized Tony was watching him back. He quickly averted his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck before he realized that just made him culpable.
Tony sat up, resting his elbows on his knees. “During the war, you worked with— ”
“Bucky, Golden Girl, Miss America, and Whizzer.” Steve took his own seat on the bench, very aware of how close his leg was to Tony's hand..
“You're barely even sweating,” Tony accused as he grabbed a towel and toweled off his arms.
“It was a good workout,” Steve said, which made Tony frown even harder.
Well, it was true. After sitting down, Steve felt ready to spring back up. He wanted to bounce back on his feet, entice Tony into taking another run down the court, maybe out and around the park. It wasn't the adrenaline post-mission that made him feel too worked up, trying to siphon the tension away with a few satisfying digs into the gym's punching bag before debriefing. He felt good, great, high on endorphins and being around Tony Stark.
Steve suddenly beamed at Tony. Feeling emboldened, Steve retrieved his water bottle, held it over his own head, and squeezed. The look on Tony's face as water drenched his skin, running down his face and dampening his shirt, was entirely worth it.
It didn't feel so bad, besides.
“Here, can I?” Steve asked, whipping the towel from around Tony's shoulders and dabbing at his own face with it.
Tony looked aggrieved when Steve handed the towel back, as Steve thought about his own sweat towel dangling out of the bag he'd brought.
“You can use mine,” Steve offered as Tony glanced between Steve and the towel.
The response was a small wheezing noise. “What was that?” Tony was trembling, like he couldn't decide whether to smile or frown. Steve noted the signs of holding in laughter and grinned sunnily.
“You're such a drama queen,” Tony exclaimed. “Oh, scientifically-enhanced-to-the-peak-of-human-perfect super-soldier Captain America won the show of physicality over a flimsy little baseline human, time to break out the celebratory Gatorade.”
Steve aimed the bottle at him and threatened to squeeze. In a show of reflexes that surprised even Steve, Tony slapped the bottle upwards, spraying the both of them.
Steve let out a startled giggle as Tony blinked uncomprehendingly at him. It snapped his friend back into action.
“Oh, give me that!” Tony lunged for him.
By the time Tony had wrestled it away from him, they were both drenched, and Steve was laughing harder than he had in weeks.
Steve was sitting at the kitchen table, spreading peanut butter on his bagel when the alarm came in.
Steve hesitated as he looked toward his own identicard, but Luke walked into the room, peering down at his own card.
“What's up?” he asked, and Steve wandered over, peering over his shoulder.
Iron Man popped up on the screen, frowning, although technically the armor had no facial expressions. “Animatronic. Brings toys to life.”
Luke snorted. “You having trouble with some Tickle-Me-Elmos?”
“Well, we could deal with the rubber ducks and even the little GI Joes, but this happened at a carnival. So, you know, all the carnie game prizes, plus their mascot, a giant fire-breathing dragon. Luckily, the brave knight also got animated, so he's...mostly able to take it on. He sent his steed off to find him a sword not made out of plastic.”
After a prolonged silence, Tony sighed. “It's the annual medieval fantasy fair.”
Well, that explained why Tony was on the scene so quickly.
“So, let's see,” Luke said, “there's me, you, Storm. Wasp is in Italy, Wolverine's in a bar in either Harlem or Canada, Hulk is at an animal sanctuary down in Jersey. Spidey must be in the middle of that algebra test.”
“I'm offended,” Peter called out from his identicard. “I'll have you know, I graduated high school years ago.”
“I think we're forgetting we have a backup roster member right here,” chimed Ororo, walking into the kitchen with her own identicard in hand.
Steve glanced around the room to make sure Tigra wasn't taking a cat nap in the corner before sitting up, eyes widening.
“It's been nearly three weeks,” she said. “Whatever it is you forgot, if it hasn't shown up by now, I don't think it's worth depriving us of a core, valued team member for much longer. Sitting out won't do us any favors against Dotty, the Great Fire-Breathing Dragon.”
Steve was sporting a decidedly unprofessional, non-leaderly grin.
Tony let out a laugh. “Welcome back, Cap.”
Steve swung his arm out, grabbing the stuffed rabbit by its ears. It struggled fiercely, throwing out punches and kicks that would have been impossible without its anthropomorphic body.
“Winghead! On your right!”
Steve threw it into a nearby bucket, slammed his shield over it, and scrambled for another proper lid.
Something grabbed him and shoved him backwards. Steve rolled and slammed his shoulder against them, tackling them into the wall. Overhead, a toy helicopter hurtled into the nearest wall, smoke streaming from where the repulsor beam had hit it.
“Iron Man?” Steve said from where he'd landed on his hands and knees.
“Ow, ow, ow. I told you to watch out, didn't I?” Tony sounded like he was the one who should have been watching out. “Those bullets from the toys are real, by the way.”
“You did? Sorry,” Steve said. He was supposed to be proving he was once again fit for the team, wasn't he? He didn't think he could get this rusty after just two weeks without a mission. “You okay there, yourself?”
“You mean, after getting tackled by two hundred and forty pounds of super-soldier into a concrete wall? No, I'm perfect, Cap.”
“I really am sorry,” Steve tried again, and Tony waved a hand.
“No worries, Steve. We have more important things, like angry teddy bears.” He said this as he shot a hole through a Care Bear sporting a magician's hat. “Winghead, duck!”
Steve saw stars as he plummeted to the ground, bowled over by whatever had hit him. When he got to his knees, rubbing his head, Tony had taken care of his attacker—a seal whose body was too big for its head. Head too small for its body. Whatever.
“Seriously?” Tony asked him. “Are you sure you're feeling okay?”
Steve gingerly touched the back of his head. He'd have a hell of a whopper there after this was over, but the seal hadn't been made of concrete or anything.
“So,” Luke told them over the comm, “Dotty just turned tail and ran.”
“That's a good thing, isn't it?” Ororo said.
“Well, yeah, but when she turned tail, said tail got Sir Geoffrey in the process. I can't find him anywhere.”
“Aww, no,” Tony said, echoing Steve's thoughts. Steve had grown fond of Sir Geoffrey's chivalrous catchphrases in their short time fighting side-by-side, and now had a metric for what the team meant when they referred to “Cap's completely-genuine-motivational-poster catchphrases.”
“The only time dragons ever retreat is if they fear their hoard is being threatened. In fact, that's the only reason they get out in the first place,” Tony mused. “But what the heck does an animated blow-up dragon want to hoard?”
“Think fast!” Peter swung by, dropping a bunch of playpen balls from his hastily webbed together bag. A blast of fire followed him, and the heat felt like it'd char Steve's skin right off.
Dotty followed a few seconds later, raising her head to the sky and letting out a mournful wail.
“I really don't think it's a great idea for your treasured hoard to be made up of things you'll melt when you breathe on them.”
“She looks so happy, though,” Steve said to Tony. “Who knew that the play pen was shaped like a dragon?”
They looked up at Dotty and the netting in her stomach that revealed a massive ball pit. Some of the carnival workers' children had snuck back in, the appeal of no long lines overcoming any fear of dear Dotty's recently animated adventures, and were currently screaming in delight as they pelted each other with balls.
“Well, I found our little animatronic,” Luke said. He had his arm around a lanky, pimply teenager who couldn't look them in the eyes. “He was hiding in the fun house. Meet Marcus.”
“Ouch,” Tony said. “I'm sure he regretted that once Sir Geoffrey freaked out and started smashing all the mirrors in there, yelling about how he was about to fall under a sorceress's enchantments.”
Sir Geoffrey had been safely retrieved from under the cotton candy machine and was back in his usual spot at the entrance, welcoming visitors into the fair.
“I didn't mean to hurt no one,” Marcus said, blushing furiously. “I didn't know she'd go so crazy cause I took some balls. I tried to stop it, but couldn't.” His shoulders slumped. “Too angry, and here I thought I had control over my powers.”
“In the end, you did manage to stop her,” Steve reassured him. After Marcus had given back the plastic balls he'd taken in his bag, that was. “And it's hard to understand how your powers work, especially if you've been doing this solo since you gained them. We know some people who can help you learn how to control them that we can call for you, if you'd like.”
“That sounds alright.” Marcus stared at his shoes. “I just wanted to prove those jerks wrong about my character,” he said plaintively.
“Right,” Luke said, and waved an inflatable mace in his other hand. “I think he meant to be the hero.”
“Kid,” Tony told him, “you really need some more constructive D&D sessions.”
“So,” Tony yawned and stretched as they exited the debriefing room, free of the armor, “your first mission back, and you passed it with mostly flying colors. I think I'm still reeling from that football tackle earlier, Winghead.”
“I've been meaning to ask you about that, by the way,” Steve said as he adjusted his gloves, a smile breaking out over his face.
“Why 'Winghead'? Is that another pop culture reference I'm not getting? What's it from?”
Tony stopped in his tracks. Ororo turned from before them in the hallway and looked at him. Luke popped his head out of the doorway and looked at him. Peter let out a high squawk from the ceiling and looked at him. Even through the people wearing masks, Steve could feel the collective team's judgment.
Steve fingered the wings on his helmet, feeling abashed. “Oh.” He thought he was flushing. He thought back to the first time he'd heard the nickname, and how taken aback he'd been at the fondness in his voice.
“Question: does the name 'Shellhead' mean anything to you?” Tony asked him.
“Can't say it does. Are Winghead and Shellhead a matched pair?”
“In a sense,” Ororo said with a pitying expression.
“Well,” Tony said, face blank, “we found the subject of your amnesia.”
After the team visited the Sanctum Santorum, where Stephen declared Steve back to sorts and Wong seemed cheerier than he'd ever had as he waved them off, Steve tried to find Tony. He found him surprisingly evasive. Tony had declared a nap the moment they'd arrived home, and a few hours later Steve checked the common rooms, roof, and lab in search of him.
He finally caught up to him in the kitchen that he'd checked ten minutes earlier, Tony's hand literally in the cookie jar.
“Steve,” Tony said, stuffing another chocolate chip cookie into his mouth. He took his time chewing before he was polite enough to speak. “What's up?”
“You seemed a bit...quiet, earlier today,” Steve said.
“Yeah. You did really well with Marcus. I mean, we called the Professor for him, but you were the only one he'd really talk to.”
“Well,” Tony shrugged, “D&D-obsessed teenager who was shunned by most of their peers? Admittedly, when I did it I was in college, where there are way more drunken parties. Although, who knows with kids these day?”
“Um,” Steve tried. “I'm sorry I forgot about the Winghead and Shellhead thing.”
Tony stared at him, before laughing and waving him off. “Oh, what, that? No, no, I'm just happy it was something so minor—you were right that it wasn't even that important.” Tony laughed again, just to prove his point. “No big deal. It was kind of embarrassing anyway. The rest of the team always made fun of us for it.”
“Tony, look at me?”
After a moment, Tony turned toward him.
“I wish I hadn't forgotten anything about you. But I'm telling myself, at least I didn't forget you. That would have been—awful.” Beyond awful. “But I still remembered you're my friend, and that's the most important thing. Even if I forgot what I'd used to call you, you're still a person I'd give a nickname to.”
Tony cocked his head. The surprisingly open expression on his face shifted to a smirk. “Oh? What other nicknames would you give to me?”
“Er,” Steve said.
“No, no, tell me,” Tony laughed, warm. “I need to know what other corny nicknames Captain America has in store for me.”
All that came to mind was sweetheart. Oh, and maybe honey. Which was not what you said to your teammate and friend who was in no way to be clued into the hopeless crush you had on him.
“Um.” Steve dug around in his thoughts. “Shiny?”
Tony's eyebrow arched elegantly. “...Shiny? Can the crows just not keep away from me?”
“Like a knight in shining armor!” Steve exclaimed, and Tony's eyes widened comically. “But 'Knight' doesn't roll off the tongue well, and 'Armor' is kind of...overly direct. But, something off the phrase, because it's perfect. You're brave, and kind, and will always swoop in to save the day.” To the pointed silence that followed, Steve added, in desperation, “plus you always wanted to be a knight.”
Steve felt more wound up in the seconds that followed than dodging dragon breath earlier that day.
“Is that so,” Tony finally said, no trace of what he felt in his words. Steve thought he'd vibrate out of his skin any second now.
Then there was that familiar flash of teeth, and Steve was so relieved he smiled back helplessly.
Tony laughed, a giggle at first, quickly turning into full-bellied laughter. “Oh man, Cap. Oh man.” He slapped his thigh, and okay, Steve's glee would turn to irritation if he kept it up for much longer. “That's great, amazing but also, ahaha, never ever call me that.” He looked back at Steve, his eyes shining. He held back another giggle. “Alright, so I might have overreacted to you forgetting our nicknames.”
“Not really,” Steve said. “If I had remembered, I would have heard your warnings and you wouldn't be all bruised.”
“Point,” Tony said, and then his eyes flicked to Steve's, fleeting. He coughed, too obviously, and it would have been comical if his sudden, intense expression wasn't making Steve's breath run short. “Although, I have to admit I'm curious.”
Tony carefully placed his hands on Steve's arms, his touch light and careful though it made the points of contact between their skin burn. “Winghead?”
Steve thrilled at the name, and it was a shame he'd forgotten about it for even a short period. “Yes, Shellhead?”
“When you say I'm just like a knight in shining armor, did one of those qualities I have also include handsome?”
“Oh! Yes, yes, very much so,” Steve replied automatically, and Tony's hands on his arms squeezed.
It was a short peck, like Tony was still building himself up to the thought. It was okay, because Steve was too. However, by the time they'd pulled apart, Steve was very much done preparing himself for this moment, and Tony let out a wonderful, pleased noise against his lips when Steve went in for their second kiss.
After it was over, Tony sighed, leaning his head against Steve's shoulder. “Thank you, Le Fay. Thank you, Marcus. I'm paying that kid's college tuition.”
Steve laughed, wrapping his arms around Tony. The breathless, giddy feeling he got when he was with Tony washed over him, something he'd never forget.