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Cap,

As per your ever-so-dickishly worded request, allow me to clarify a few points regarding our current living situation IN WRITING. Just to be CLEAR. Perfectly, transparently clear.

When I extended an invitation to the team to live in the fucking awesome swanky midtown tower I just happened to have laying around, it was no way indicative of a desire to actually live WITH you people. Fucking terrorists blew up my house, and now I’m stuck sleeping on the fucking couch in my own fucking tower.

Regarding your remarks regarding my three floor penthouse being behind schedule on the relevant post-Loki renovations – fine, whatever, it’s not my fault Pepper wants fucking Makassar Ebony hardwood floors that are backordered until fuckoff November – believe you me as soon as I have those floors in place you won’t see hide or hair of me down in the common areas. Until then you have to get my back.

We are a team, we are not a family and we’re barely even friends – and you may be the boss, but Stark Tower is MY tower and I don’t have to put my name on my leftover Chinese if I don’t feel like it – IT’S MY FUCKING TOWER.

Seriously, If Clint keeps eating my fucking leftovers there might actually be blood. This shit is on YOU.

Tony

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Dear Mr. Stark,

Your concerns have been heard and recorded, and I will respond to them in the order in which they were received:

1) The Avengers are extremely grateful for the use of your " fucking awesome swanky midtown[sic] tower."
2) I can assure you on behalf of the team that no one is any more pleased about this arrangement than you are, and I would like to remind you of the conversation at last Tuesday's status meeting, during which it was suggested you might sleep in Dr. Banner's quarters, and your response was, "Bruce snores like he's always The Hulk," albeit with more expletives. We arrived at several temporary solutions:
a) We do have a guestroom. Several guestrooms. If the mattresses are, as you say, too soft, we could purchase a new mattress for you at a fraction of the price of Makassar hardwood floors.
b) As Dr. Banner and I have both raised our concerns about the use of such a rare species of wood for decorative flooring, it might be possible to find something cheaper and less at risk of going extinct, that could be installed sooner. I don't mean any insult to Miss Potts' taste in flooring, but it seems like a viable option.
3) I have been receiving complaints about seeing too much of both your hide and your hair in the common areas, so this comes as some relief. On behalf of the team, I must say that we would appreciate it if you could put your dirty underwear directly into the laundry rather than collecting it on the coffee table.
4) To my knowledge, no one has disputed ownership of the tower.
5) You are welcome to label your food as you like. However, I cannot guarantee the safety of any takeout containers left unlabeled. As was also mentioned in last Tuesday's status meeting, we do have a full kitchen, which I personally use on a regular basis, and you are welcome to cook for yourself at any time.
6) I believe that violence is the sole responsibility of the parties engaged in it. Nevertheless, if you would like me to mediate a session between you and Agent Barton wherein you can discuss your concerns about his eating habits, I will be happy to arrange that.

Please know that I respect and value your input and will be happy to discuss any of these points with you in person, or, if you like, by letter. I want to ensure the best possible living situation for all members of the team.

Thank you for your time, and have a pleasant day.

Sincerely,

Steven Rogers

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Cap,

Jesus, seriously, did you write me a list? Like an honest to god bulleted list? Allow me to provide you with a response template more appropriate for your bankroll-slash-benefactor:


  1. Tony, I apologize that someone ate your take-out. I will remind the other Avengers that you require a delicate balance of caffeine and carbs to continue brilliantly navigating the sea of marketable engineering innovations.
  2. As nobody enjoys Dr. Banner in a grumpy mood, which sharing his room would undoubtedly inspire, we will kick Clint out of his bed and allow you to sleep in his room, privately.
  3. I recognize that the act of cooking a meal is menial labor unworthy of your attention, and that suggesting you attempt a meal is in violation Dr. Banner’s ban on Any and All Tony Starks In The Kitchen. As you cannot reasonably be expected to prepare foods there, I will continue to provide tasty French toast breakfasts at varying intervals throughout your visit.

Regarding your commentary on a stylish pair of red silk Iron Man boxer briefs located, apparently, near the coffee table: I can assure you I most certainly did not leave them in the common area. Maybe the cleaning bots are glitched – that I can definitely investigate. I’m thinking caltrops may be in order.

Tony

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Dear Mr. Stark,

In my capacity as Team Leader of The Avengers, it is my responsibility to respond to all complaints in a serious and professional manner.

1) I believe my list was numbered and not bulleted.

2) I have considered and rejected your recommendations as to the nature of my previous response.

3) Please understand that after last month's incident, we have already unanimously agreed that caltrops are not permitted in the common areas.

4) My offer to mediate a conversation between you and Agent Barton still stands. I would further like you to consider all the reasons why kicking a rogue-leftover-eating sniper out of his sleeping accommodations would be a bad idea for all involved.

5) I have spoken to Miss Potts and she says she was unaware of the purchase order for Makassar ebony flooring and would not have approved it. We have both agreed on a handsome and economical, reclaimed barnwood alternative. It is ash and very durable. I think it will be adequate.

6) Agent Romanova informs me that said "stylish pair of red silk Iron Man boxer briefs" have been sighted on the coffee table five times in the past month.

Rest assured that your concerns are being addressed to the best of my ability and I can add them to the agenda for Friday's status meeting if you so require.

Sincerely,

Captain Steven Rogers
Avengers Team Leader

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Stark--

Enjoy this delicious lemon and mascarpone French toast with blueberry syrup. I toasted two entire loaves of bread. I hope that will be adequate to your needs for sustenance.

The recipe is on the back of this sheet. Please learn to make your own.

--Rogers

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Captain Tightpants,

“Serious and professional manner” my ass. I jumped through your hoops and wrote this shit down and you continue to ignore my requests for anything pertaining to actual quality of life, request for French toast excepted. I can’t believe you’d conspire with Pepper to change the color schematics of my fucking penthouse – if that place smells like cow shit I can tell you right now I’m not gonna be the one living there.

I should say the French toast was worth getting up before eleven for, though. Thanks for that.

Speaking of French toast, JARVIS seems to think that I should apologize for the fire alarms going off last night, though the fact that they rang for an hour and a half was definitely NOT my fault – turns out the dumbfucks rewiring upstairs managed to sever JARVIS’ connection to the emergency systems, which meant when my own attempt at Captain America’s Star Spangled Syrup-Catchers caught actual fire there was no way to shut the sirens off from Bruce’s lab. And, of course, when the fire alarm is pulled the elevators stop functioning, so at least none of us need to hit the gym today?

(I consider the incident proof positive that one should never let the plebeian, unwashed masses studying electrical engineering at public universities today touch the complex systems of a fully integrated AI-run supertower. I need a new contractor.)

If DUM-E was still around that fire would have been out before it started. I miss that little JARVIS misses him, I think, he gets funny about the bots. DUM-E's code is saved and all, it’s just tough to do body work effectively while sharing Bruce’s lab. One I have him up and running again fire safety in the lab will definitely increase.... as will morale. it'll be nice to have a real friend around this dump.

By the way, the custom fit California king Vividus mattress I ordered in won’t fit through the doorway at the elevator bank. We’re going to shift the construction crane currently rebuilding the wet-bar upstairs and pop out a few windows on Tuesday morning, so heads up there. Throw THAT into your team meeting; I've got to be at a meeting all day with my CSR team.

Tony Fucking Stark

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Dear Sir,

In the future, please use standard business letter format for all professional correspondence related to the Avengers. The other team members assure me that such a thing is still in use in the twenty-first century.

My correct address would be "Captain Rogers," "Captain," or at very least "Mr. Rogers," although I would appreciate it if someone would explain why Agent Barton calls me that whenever I wear my favorite cardigan. Even "Cap" would be acceptable, if unorthodox. Please refrain from using derogatory nicknames. Agent Romanova assures me that my pants fit very nicely, and I might remind you that the technical design of my current uniform was left in your capable hands. If the pants are too tight, you may correct that in the next redesign.

Your requests are not being ignored. Your requests are completely unreasonable. I am attempting to manage the day-to-day needs of a diverse group of personalities, and while I have experience commanding men in the field, I am still adjusting to this part of my new role and I would appreciate some patience, or at least cooperation. I am doing my best to fulfill any of your requests that I can. I am including a status report on said requests.

1) The flooring in your quarters will be completed in two weeks, and I assure you that once the new wood is stained, it will conform to your chosen color scheme. It does not smell like anything, as the barn it was taken from has been out of commission since the 1970s.

2) I have spoken to Miss Potts about what can be done to expedite the buildout of a fully-functioning workshop. I know very little about mechanical engineering, so if there is something you require in that regard, please make sure I am informed. This is the first time you have mentioned any difficulty pertaining to using Dr. Banner's space to meet your work needs. Please send Miss Potts a list of everything you need, and she will sign off on the expenses. She asks me to remind you that these must be work-related and she is still not signing the PO for the world's largest gumball machine.

3) Elevator repairs will be completed by two this afternoon.

4) I have also asked Miss Potts to forward a list of contractors who normally work on military and government projects. I believe one of them will be the best fit to complete the necessary electrical work. Please find this list attached.

5) As you may be unaware, our building does have a freight elevator accessible from the 58th St. entrance. I have arranged for the mattress to be delivered via freight elevator as soon as the elevators are back in operation.

6) All conflicts with team meetings are required to be reported at the previous meeting, emergencies excepted. Fortunately, as you may have noticed from my last letter, or the fact that we have had the same meeting schedule since you joined us, team status meetings are scheduled for Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings, so I am glad to hear that you will be joining us. It is your turn to bring the pastry.

7) Under Col. Fury's advisement, I have taken the liberty of signing you up for a beginning cooking skills class at Sur La Table, which is just down the block in the first floor of the Hearst Tower. It meets Thursdays at 6pm. I have already told your CSR team that you have a hard stop at 5:30, which will give you plenty of time to walk one block.

6) I have put a laundry hamper in the common area and a sign on the fridge reminding team members to ask before eating other people's leftovers. I have also removed the surveillance camera you installed in the refrigerator, as it was interfering with the water filter.

7) Your apology will be forwarded to the rest of the team. For my part, it is accepted, but I am afraid that I cannot prevent potential retaliation.

8) Attached please find a brief instruction manual on the making of French toast.

9) I am going to take a nap, as I am currently operating on three hours of sleep thanks to an unexpected fire alarm last night.

Sincerely,

Captain Steven Rogers
Avengers Team Leader

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Captain Rogers,

I regret to inform you that Mr. Stark has chosen, rather than address your concerns in your preferred format, to task me with writing a rebuttal to your scathingly accurate and effective list of solutions to Mr. Stark’s current personal problems. When I asked for clarification at 14:07 he revoked my access to Doctor Banner’s lower lab level and locked himself in.

Prior to this action Mr. Stark suggested that he would in no uncertain terms be missing your meeting, though I took the liberty of ordering a pastry on his behalf. You will find two-dozen assorted Tu-Lu gluten free cupcakes delivered in time for the engagement.

I might take this opportunity to remind you that Mr. Stark is quite unused to sharing his personal space. Were it my place, I would advise you to prioritize the lab construction, as that is likely the root of his frustration; attached is a full inventory of his Malibu garage – I have forwarded the inventory to Ms. Potts as well. I would be happy to assist in placing these orders, as the sum total reaches well over 5,000 items.

Mr. Stark also asked me to deposit into your personal accounts a sum of $3,500 as payment for “taking up shop as my (redacted) personal (redacted) assistant.” This has been done as per his request.

I can at least assure you that the errors in the alarm systems have returned to working order. I hope this puts your mind somewhat at ease.

Your humble & obedient system,
J.A.R.V.I.S.

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This is personal correspondence and not business correspondence. I wanted to say that up front in case the lack of team letterhead wasn't clear.

Look, Stark, I am trying really hard. I don't know what else you want me to do. I made you an entire week's supply of French toast. I spent all morning making phone calls to try to make things easier for you. I had to talk to robot voices that didn't understand what I was saying half the time. All I'm asking is that you attend team meetings and send me paper letters, because I'm still not used to computer screens, and it's hard to stare at them for too long. I know I'm going to have to adjust and I suppose eventually I will, but while I'm adjusting, I don't think this is too unreasonable. You can even type them and print them out. You can even e-mail them to me and THEN print them out. I don't mind.

I need you to be at the meeting tomorrow. You keep bringing up complaints with the rest of the team, but then you say you're too busy to talk about them. I asked JARVIS to check your calendar, and you have nothing booked, so I can only assume you're missing the meeting in protest, but I don't understand what you're protesting. I tried to respond to every single thing you complained about. You keep snapping at Barton and the two of you obviously need to talk to each other. Neither of you are bad guys. Barton is just very direct about things, and you are just very obnoxious oblique. But team meetings are not optional. We all knew what we were getting into when we signed up for this.

To summarize, you have two organizational requirements:

--Attend team status meetings
--Send me printed letters anytime there is something that should be on file

I don't think that's too much.

I would have written back to JARVIS, but I don't really understand how to do that, and it takes a really long time for me to type. I did ask him to manage the orders for the equipment for your new shop, so I can get you a status report on that as soon as I know how it's going.

I know we haven't exactly gotten along so far, but this is how things are going to be for the foreseeable future, so I would like it if you could meet me halfway. If there is anything I can do to make that easier for you, please let me know. I know it's probably hard to take orders from somebody who is probably just a kid in your eyes, but that doesn't mean I'm going to accept mistreatment.

I've written you a check for $3500.00. I don't think that was very funny. If you'd like a personal assistant, you can call an agency and ask them to send over some resumes. I expect you at the status meeting.

--Rogers

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Cap –

JARVIS has the world’s most precise note taking software – if typing is frustrating you, just dictate to him and he’ll get it squared away. If you’d rather not dictate to an AI, attached is a flash drive containing a proprietary voice recognition software we rolled out in the SI starkphone models last fall. It should self-install once you connect it.

Tony

PS: I don’t think you’re a kid, why do you think I think you’re a kid, you’re actually like twice my age? I don’t want to attend these ridiculous team meetings because I think it’s bizarre the way you’re trying to shoehorn a bunch of fucked up loners into a spunky cohabitating minute-taking teamwork-trumps-all type scenario. Why are we having weekly meetings when nothing’s going on? They’re worse than Fury’s debriefs. I get that you’re trying to toe the line and lead in an organized way, but either you get off on immense amounts of paperwork or it might be a good idea to sit down and try to streamline this son of a bitch. I actually mean that in a nice-ish way, as much as I hate team building and shit I did semi-successfully run a multinational arms company for most of my adult life.

PPS: Tell Nat her margarita machine will be installed on Thursday.

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Stark,

As much as it pains me to have to point it out, I am a kid compared to the rest of you. Thor is a god, you and Dr Banner both have at least a decade on me and far more education. Barton and Romanova are the closest to my age and they've both seen a lot more of the world than I have. In spite of my 70-year nap, I wasn't any older or wiser when I came out. And most of my current efforts have been directed at learning the ropes of this new world, and trying to support the team.

All the other GIs got to go to college when they got out. Nobody's so much as asked if I might want to.

Then one of the world's greatest scientific minds I'm trying to live with makes cracks about plebeians with second-rate educations, and I didn't even finish art school. And writes a check for two years' salary as a joke like money doesn't mean anything. And buys margarita machines. And mattresses with-- I don't know how to put this. The invoice for your mattress is more than I would have made in my lifetime. And it's red and gold. Why do you need an Iron Man mattress when you're just going to put sheets on it? Especially since we all know they're going to be Iron Man sheets. I hope you get a discount on all this licensed merchandise with your own face on it.

People keep buying me Captain America toys and I don't know what to do with them. Some lady from Michigan sent me a mint-in-box 1953 collectible doll of me with my motorcycle and punching action. A man from West Virginia sent me a black velvet painting of me on a mountaintop saluting the moon.

If you're really willing to give advice and not swear a blue streak at me, let's do that. I want advice. But the one thing I do have experience with is leading a team of soldiers, and I will tell you now that there is always something going on. Dr. Banner isolated a string of DNA that he thinks will do something I don't totally understand but it sounded impressive. Agents Barton and Romanova have been on three covert missions in the past two weeks, one of which led Barton to break out in hives from some sort of allergic reaction. Thor has tried every stop on Time Out New York's '40 Best Frozen Treats' list and is moving on to pizza next week. He liked the salted crack caramel ice cream at Ample Hills best. You're building new robots and apparently not talking to Miss Potts. Things may be quiet now, but we don't know what's coming tomorrow, and as your team leader, it's my responsibility to be prepared for every possibility. And the better we all know each other, the better we will work together in the future. That is why we have team status meetings. You don't have to be best friends with Barton. You don't have to watch movies or go to the beach together. Just sit through a goddamn status meeting twice a week so you know what's on everyone's mind.

I can't speak for anyone else, but as much as I may be fucked up, I'm not a loner. I think I got all my me-time out of my system from spending seventy years alone in a glacier. Believe it or not, I want to be around all of you people.

But yes, now that my hand is starting to cramp, let's talk streamlining. Thanks.

In your pile of genius toys, is there, I don't know, write by hand into a computer and have it turn into text? Talking to a computer is just going to make me feel like some crazy old man talking to himself.

--Rogers

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Cap,

Please see attached Starkpad tablet modified with stylus and detachable college-ruled template – the grain/texture on the plastic of the overlay can be modified if that's too slick for your writing style. Actually, I’ll just throw like three templates on there and you can figure out which one is best. There’s a couple of styluses too, it’s wirelessly linked to your private network but you’ll have to plug in your own e-mail password and access information. You’ll be asked to input letters in caps and lower case in order to assist with the handwriting recognition software, but once it’s calibrated we’ve hammered the accuracy down to 99.65% for English.

Look, if we’re going to be meeting each other half way you can’t be getting bent out of shape when I spend my money on the things I like. Money doesn’t mean anything – it’s an arbitrary marker of success, and I’ve worked for years (and my old man worked for years) to amass what I have. If I want to guarantee myself a good night’s sleep and I have the cash to do it, why not? I give ten times that amount to charity in a given year. I’m bankrolling the Avengers, who are pretty much New York’s private police force at this point..... Thor saw the most action last week rescuing a cat from a tree. Ugh.

For what it’s worth I’m a terrible sleeper and if a ridiculously overpriced handmade Iron Man themed bed takes the edge off, that’s money well spent.

Steve, if you want to go to college we can arrange that. The reason these fucking amateur electricians piss me off is that there’s no excuse for coming out of a public school and STILL not knowing what the fuck you’re doing. Then again I have a semi-eidetic memory and remembering not to cut the alarm cables seems pretty basic to me.

Do you actually want to go to college? College sucks. Even if you went at an age-appropriate time in your life it kind of sucks – you’re surrounded by pretentious kids who treat you differently because of who you are, there are lots of shitty parties where everyone drinks bad beer and pretends to like each other… I mean if you want to go to college let’s make that happen. You’re a war hero. Schools would be falling over themselves to snap you up.

If you do, though, it might be worth studying up first. Most college courses, depending on the field are going to assume you have a base knowledge of what’s happened since the 40’s – actually, that’s kind of a tough nut, your high school education would have been super different and it’d take more than Wikipedia to catch you up – I hadn’t thought about that. That’s not very fair.

Maybe you could take a high school GED course and go from there? We could hire in a tutor? I could help you cheat on the SAT exams? Online courses? Hmmm.

Anyway, actual my point is/was: what’s the point of earning money if you never spend it on the things you like/want/need/don't really need but think you do? It just so happens that I love what I do and the challenge of making something work is pretty much all that gets me up most mornings - but it'd be a waste to let all my work sit in a basement somewhere unused. It seems equally wasteful to sit on a fucking pile of cash, Scrooge McDuck style, without spending it.

I can always make more, anyway.

I’m speaking to Pepper. Who told you I wasn’t speaking to Pepper? We talk at least once a week. Most of the time. Since you co-opted the completion of the penthouse level we really don’t have much to talk about together, other than the prototype I’m working on that she doesn’t think is freaking marketable enough. Calling it “unnecessary” is out of line – it’s plenty fucking marketable, people just don’t know they need it yet.

I think she’s kind of pissed I’m upgrading the suits again. And she doesn’t want to move back to New York. I don’t fucking know, women, who understands that shit?

Okay, look, never mind. If the point of the status meetings is to get to know one another, why can’t we do weekly team building activities instead? Go have dinner or watch a movie or some shit? Sitting at a conference table while Barton fires spitballs at everyone in turn isn’t going to foster any kind of camaraderie worth fostering.

Tony

 

PS If you like people so much, you’re welcome to come down to Bruce’s lab and meet DUM-E. He’s not human in the strictest sense but he’s good for loneliness and fire-extinguishing. I’m running through his debug cycles tonight, he should be up and running around eight.

 

 

PPS if you want to get coffee sometime this week, we could talk about this in person. You know, if you drink coffee. You do drink coffee, don’t you? I’m not sure I trust people who don’t drink coffee.

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Stark,

This pad thing is pretty damn incredible. I still don't know about looking at the screen for that long, but I...look. Thank you. Is there some way I could use this for drawing?

I don't want to...go to college, not like that, but I would like to finish my education. I was looking at the BFA in illustration from The School of Visual Arts, actually. They have night classes, allow students to go part-time, and it doesn't look too expensive. Do you think I'd have to do those exams and things to study illustration? I've never been the best at exams. I know illustration isn't really an asset to the rest of the team, but it's the one thing I'm really good at. It's what I wanted to do before all this happened.

Do you think the team would want to have movie nights? Dr. Banner keeps telling me about this movie about a bunch of dinosaurs on an island, and Barton gives me a look every time he asks if I've watched that Star Wars thing yet. I didn't think I could really, you know, order people to play Scrabble, but I do think it's a really good idea. I still think we need to have meetings. There's a different dynamic for friends and teammates and I would like to maintain both.

The money thing...I wasn't saying that professionally. I never had money growing up. Don't get me wrong, I never starved or anything, but it means a lot when you don't have much of it. Do you know how much my bookshelves cost? They were sixty-four dollars at that Swedish place you can take the ferry to, with the arrows on the floor, and I just kept thinking that's nearly a month's wages.

I won't say anything else about Miss Potts, sorry. It just seemed pretty obvious that, well, usually when people are romantically involved, they communicate by more than purchase order.

I like coffee. It just doesn't do anything for me anymore. Forget alcohol; the worst thing about being superhuman is that downing a thermos of caffeine does absolutely nothing when you're exhausted. We could have coffee. I looked at our calendars and put something on for Sunday afternoon. Does that work for you?

And sure, I'll come down and see DUM-E tonight. He has to be at least as pleasant as present company. And like you said, it's not as if our docket is exactly full.

Thanks again for the pad thing.

--Rogers

PS I'm fairly sure Barton was only throwing spitballs at you.

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Cap –

What you're asking for is called a graphics tablet - and that's easy. We’ve got a good fifteen years worth of tablet tech on file. JARVIS has added a few types of image editing software to your system – Photoshop, Illustrator, a couple others the kids these days are using. Those might be a little challenging but you’ll get the hang of it. Try the 9x12, it’s pressure sensitive and shit – I dunno, just play. If the programs are too complex I’ll strip one down for you and limit it to basic functionality.

Screen tips: Tip the screen slightly, turn down your contrast, apply the attached matte anti-glare frame, focus your eyes on something far away every twenty minutes or so, or just kick screens altogether and try this new holographic OS that Pepper thinks “no one on god’s green earth needs in their home”. Projections can be adjusted on any color axis.

Honestly, no school is going to turn down the chance to list Captain America as one of their alumni. They’ll be slapping your face on all their ads – but to answer your question, really, I suspect they’ll allow you to study even without SAT scores. You really ought to be grandfathered in to the old GI Bill anyway, right?

I am both horrified and ashamed that you live under my roof and haven’t seen Star Wars – it’s terribly campy and truly fantastic. We’ll have to watch the original trilogy first, though, or you won’t appreciate the artistry in the special effects. Hell, maybe we’ll just pretend episodes 1, 2, and 3 don’t exist.

Honestly? I would actually show up to movie night. Between working with SI’s design teams, logging lab hours, consulting and our SHIELD related duties, adding another twice-weekly meeting into my life is only slightly less fun than a root canal. This is going to sound more dickish than I mean it to, but do you realize I’m one of the highest paid consultants in North America? My time is very fucking valuable and I hate hate hate spending it locked in a conference room. I might actually enjoy interacting with the team if we spent time watching Jurassic Park instead.

Anyway, I guess I could have told you most of that tomorrow; I’ll have a complete list of mandatory cultural treasures for your edification whether or not we do movie night.

Also, thanks for swinging by the lab. DUM-E’d been wanting to meet you for a while before the Malibu house went down, so it was a good surprise… and thanks for not laughing at the WELCOME BACK DUM-E banner JARVIS put up. He can be very sensitive sometimes.

Tony

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Stark,

Understanding how immensely valuable your time is, I would like to just thank you for the ten thousand dollar coffee and twenty thousand dollar list of movies and television shows. And politely keep my mouth shut about the irony of a man who complains about how much money his time is worth telling me money doesn't mean anything. Ahem.

I did read The Hunger Games after that meeting when you referred to Barton as Katniss Everdick, so we can cross that one off the list. And believe it or not, we did have Batman, Superman, Flash Gordon and The Phantom before I got trapped in the refrigerator. Not that I'm surprised you'd be gung go about a fabulously wealthy eccentric who spends his fortune building toys to take down supervillains. I tried watching 30 Rock and Arrested Development and didn't really get all the jokes. I was under the impression that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was a television show for little girls, though, no? Oh! And The Princess Bride! Romanova practically forced me watch that one one night. I really liked that. It was sort of as if someone had taken an Errol Flynn movie and made it funnier.

I've only gotten up to the three hundredth item on the list, though. How many of these are important pop culture touchstones, and how many of these are just your personal favorites, Stark? Snakes on a Plane doesn't even sound like a real movie. Can we prioritize these in any way?

I've talked to the rest of the team, canceled Tuesday's meeting, and scheduled a Star Wars marathon instead. What's wrong with the first three episodes, exactly? Will I be able to pick up on the plot?

Oh, and for your information, this doesn't excuse you from meetings on Fridays. But we can see how Tuesday Activity Night and Friday Meetings go. I do think it's important for us to all be in one place to discuss team relations and anything else that's going on once a week, and I'm not going to budge on that. I'm sorry if an hour out of your schedule means you can't buy a second custom-built Iron Man bed.

I don't know if the GI bill had an expiration date. Is that something we can look into? To be honest, I'd really rather get into school on my own merits than rest on the laurels of being Captain America. Especially since being that guy who used to punch Hitler doesn't really give me much in the way of academic credentials. I figure Steven Rogers has to be a common enough name that no one will know it's me if I apply and just give them a 1980s birthdate. It wouldn't be the first time I falsified an application, or anything.

You were right about fair trade single source whatever that coffee was being better than Dunkin' Donuts. Sorry I wasn't more talkative. I guess when other people have a lot to say, I tend to sit back and listen, and it sounded like you had a lot to talk about. It's too bad about whatever's going on with Miss Potts, but you two are so close and went through so much together, maybe she just needs some space to recover. I can understand why she wouldn't want to come to New York, especially with the living situation being what it is. I'm sure she'll come around if you give her time. It'll be okay.

Next time, can we just have coffee in the tower? You'd think I'd know how to deal with people wanting autographs and photos, but it's very distracting and I never know how to react to women who hand me a marker and pull down their shirts. I keep wondering how long they go without showering.

Anyway, JARVIS tells me you're preoccupied at the moment, and I think I'm going to turn in early, but tell DUM-E I'll drop in tomorrow, and I was pleased to see him in fighting form. I still haven't figured the drawing tablet out, but it's very much appreciated.

--Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap –

Obviously I give myself a discounted price on my time; there have to be some small perks to the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist gig. It’s only when other people squander it by making me sit in inane meetings that the price tag goes up. I also provide discounts when quality entertainment is involved, but still. I feel that you are appropriately grateful for the tender care and careful consideration I utilized when putting together your Guide to the 20th Century.

To address your movie-specific commentary:

  • Not only is Snakes on a Plan a cult classic, but the guy who plays the lead looks disturbingly like Nick Fury. Once you’ve seen the film, the urge to leave stray rubber snakes scattered around SHIELD headquarters might just be overwhelming.
  • Now Batman – Batman is kind of a douche. That whole dark and mysterious secret identity thing? Bo-ring. But I do like his tech, and some of it has proven pretty useful for Nick’s SHIELD guys on the ground. They have no idea their inspiration comes from some character in a cape. Hah!
  • The original Star Wars trilogy is perfect in every way - they did the prequels for purely financial reasons, and by then George Lucas had been turned into a money-sucking vampire eager to suck the soul out of the franchise. He recently sold the whole shebang to Disney, which caused a huge amount of panic amongst fans. I personally think Disney'd be alright as a parent company, they have pretty good taste in creative properties.
  • I’m sure I have no idea how My Little Pony Friendship is Magic got on that list. But people tell me it’s supportive of positive themes and the source of many classic internet memes, so there you go. Also I hear Clint is a Brony and that shit is hilarious.
  • I think Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is a great look at cold war America, for all its tongue-in-cheek humor, and you really SHOULD watch Casablanca, though I put a little star next to that one as well as any other films that were set during WWII, just in case the content or setting might put you off.
  • I am pleased that Natasha appreciates the Princess Bride. Maybe she does have a heart buried deep, deep down somewhere in her cold, calculating, yet highly-attractive shell.

Turns out the GI bill has been updated/replaced with what they’re calling the New GI Bill (creative fuckers, aren’t they?): newgibill.org/ shit, hyperlinks aren’t gonna work in handwritten work are they? Archaic. Barbaric. I had JARVIS bookmark it on your Starkpad - actually, you know what? It'd be pretty fucking convenient if you could open a link from a page. That functionality could be pretty easily rolled into my current project, though you'd have to get pretty specific in your coding parameters to prevent it from accidentally opening any link it was exposed to... that could be a real safety risk. Maybe -


oops, lost sometime there. okay, I really meant to get this to you last night - where was I - GI Bill, right, It looks like they’re only offering assistance at schools of their choosing though, so make sure visual arts is an approved program before you jump in.

You might be surprised at how recognizable you are – yesterday of course you were out with yours truly, two-time Time Magazine Sexiest Man Alive winner, so you were naturally noticed and adored... but you're pretty recognizable in your own right. There were a handful of great shots of you without your mask on after the battle last summer. Maybe you should grow a beard – or pull a Clark Kent and buy a pair of glasses. That seems to work every time.

We’ll see what happens. Whatever. Pepper’s a great girl and I can’t really blame her for having some kind of come-to-Jesus moment about dating someone who gets her thrown into violent situations every other Tuesday. The amount of four inch injection needles, IVs and MRI scans involved in curing her of Extremis would put anyone off spending their life with me. I’m flying through LAX before heading to Tokyo next week so we’ll see how that goes. If it ends badly, at least I’ll have slews of distractingly gorgeous Japanese women to fling myself at.

I’ll pass your compliments on to our resident semi-sentient fire extinguisher; I’ve been working all afternoon on his brothers. I took the liberty of ordering a few Star Wars themed snacks for tomorrow night, it's gonna be badass.

-T

PS: Test some functionality for me? Double-tapping this handwritten URL should prompt JARVIS to open the link on the nearest available interface - http://www.newgibill.org/

Chapter Text

Stark,

Ah, well. If I'd known I was only getting five thousand dollar coffee, I might have re-evaluated my social options. Still, I suppose it wasn't too bad.

That website link thing you did works (and I'm not sure I understand how, but amazing!), but it brought up the link for Instagram photos tagged "#iheartironman" and not the link you sent. You might want to look into that.

I typed in the address of the website, though. I don't know how I am supposed to use it. The only way it lets you calculate benefits is by years served since 2001, and it doesn't even have my first year of active duty available to enter into the computer. The tuition at SVA is about $33,000 a year, plus some fees and things. I don't want to be too forward about this, but is there some way I could borrow the money from you? I'd find a way to pay you back. I assume SI needs technical artists from time to time? Otherwise, I could draw a comic of all the ridiculous things you've ever said. I'm sure I could get a very lucrative publishing deal and make back the money in no time.

I think I'd be okay with watching movies about the war. Maybe not movies where someone's brother dies or anything like that. But even then, those things are just part of life, right? Barton keeps telling me I need to see Inglourious Basterds, and I see that's on your list, too. So maybe that should be a movie night?

Two-time Sexiest Man Alive, really? Apart from asking what went wrong the other years, I'm curious as to exactly who made this decision. Was the voting panel entirely made up of robots?

I'm very disappointed. First you tell me my coffee was only worth five thousand dollars, and now you tell me that I stooped low enough to be seen with someone who's no longer the sexiest man alive.

In all seriousness, I don't mind the attention, and I like signing autographs for little kids. And even adults. It's just signing breasts that makes me feel sleazy. And it's hard to do it with a straight face. But I don't want to disappoint people, either, and I definitely want people to get over this misconception that I'm a two-dimensional platform for telling kids that drugs and sex are bad, which is what they all expect when they meet me.

Good luck with Miss Potts. She really is a swell girl, Stark, and you're lucky to have her. She really looks out for you, and I know you both care a lot about each other. I wish I had somebody like that, you know? So, I guess, I don't really have experience with relationships like that or anything, but I feel like I should say you shouldn't be afraid to fight for her if you have to. I mean, if you want to. I get where she is coming from, though, and it is a reason to be worried, especially for somebody who doesn't court danger like you do.

Definitely looking forward to tomorrow night. I think everyone is. Thanks for the idea.

If you need any help reclaiming your World's Sexiest Man title, I'd be happy to give you some pointers.

Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap –

Wait. Wait wait wait, did I detect tender tones of sarcasm in your last letter?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Captain America’s gotten sassy – there goes the neighborhood.

(What, you didn’t like the instagram photos? Just wanted to prove my popularity via the people of the world.)

Being wealthy enough to buy the damn magazine doesn’t hurt my chance at Sexiest Man Alive, and while most robots I’ve met do find me attractive I’m fairly certain none of them were polled. All I can say is how many times have you been voted sexiest man alive? Half of America thinks you’re an impostor wearing a by-gone outfit… of course they probably find you pretty attractive despite that. You do have arms the size of trees. It’s enough to give a weaker man a complex.

But yeah, we can have coffee in the tower next time. It was only one pair of breasts; don’t blow it out of proportion.

As for the - ... So far as money goes

Seriously though, Steve, please never hesitate to ask me for a loan. The Bank of Stark is always open, and though my old man would kill me if he knew I was letting you attempt to pay me back for it, you’re welcome to do so if that makes you feel square about it. At the very least I’m expecting to see illustrated proof of my greatness en lieu of the occasional interest payment.

Thanks for the Pepper pep talk – hah. Pepper’s a great woman and her type is few and far between. We may still hash it out, but sometimes it just feels like you never know. God knows I'll do whatever it takes to knock this thing back into shape.

Let me know if anything changes for tomorrow night, I’ll be down here buried in code.

T

Chapter Text

Stark,

Are you saying the two-time Sexiest Man Alive has a complex about my arms? I'll keep that in mind. Then again, I'm fairly sure that if you wanted to, you could build yourself a pair of cyborg biceps.

(And, yes, I know people are always surprised to find out I understand dry humor after mistaking me with my fictional comic book counterpart. Those books are great, but I don't think they were trying for an accurate portrayal, really. I'm sorry if I don't live up to your expectations.)

So, I feel like movie night was a huge success right up to the point where instead of movies, we got a bioterror attack on the East River water taxi and I wound up in quarantine. How was it for the rest of you?

Banner says he'll watch Star Wars with me tomorrow; God knows how long they're planning on keeping us here. They keep trying to run tests on both of us, but we have such hilariously inexplicable biochemistry that no one really knows what to do with us. I keep trying to tell these people that I'm most likely immune to whatever was released, but I do understand that they're concerned I could still carry the contagion, and they don't know what it is yet. Banner keeps offering to help them analyze samples or develop more effective tests, but I think he's just irritating the medical staff.

How's it on the outside? Do we have any idea who's responsible for this? I feel so completely impotent -- I understand the need to err on the side of caution, but it's maddening. Banner is meditating or something; I wish I could do that.

And the cable is out here at the hospital. I have literally no information about anything right now; I'm depending on you to tell me what's going on. I'm just skeptical enough to believe the cable was cut on purpose. The only reason I'm able to get a message out is because you sent this tablet over, so thanks.
Thank The Lord for StarkNet 5G, or something like that, right? (And also for this tablet. Typing this all out on a keyboard would have taken me hours)

So, right. If you can get me a status report on, well, everything, and send it to my tablet, I guess I can still run mission control from here.

Thanks again for the tablet. It's a little tricky and I'm trying to figure out which program I'm most comfortable with for drawing, but I made you a present.

--Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap –

First of all, I think that’s a pretty good likeness for a test run, but you made me look way too short. Unacceptable!

(I’m also impressed that you managed such a solid rendition of my undies. Someone’s been peeking….)

Second of all – don’t you even fucking THINK about watching Star Wars without me! It’s not the same unless you’re in company. We’ll watch is at the Cap-is-no-longer-a-disease-riddled-object-of-quarantine party. I’ve already got invitations made up.

Things are crazy out here – they're shutting down bridges and tunnels, trying to keep people immobile until they're sure the contagion's been contained. I’m gonna have to dictate this letter to JARVIS because I’m in the middle of running crunching the numbers on our biotoxin – we’ve isolated the bug itself it’s a tough nut to crack, seemingly home-grown. Or possibly alien-grown? I thought if I could get some close matches on the genetic sequencing we could at least determine how it was made and from what, but it doesn’t have significant strands with anything we’ve got on file – and Bruce’s office has a ton of this shit on file.

We have three separate groups claiming credit for the attack, none of which (we think) have access to the type of clean facilities you’d need to modify something to this extent. I feel like we’re missing pieces, or maybe looking at the puzzle from the wrong angle. Why hit a boat on the east river when a boat is so easily contained? I have a bad feeling about this (seriously, don’t watch Star Wars without me, I mean it). I may call in Rhodey since our bruisers are down for the count, I don’t like being at half manpower when this kind of thing is going down.

Oh, hey, Clint and I talked strategy for seven whole minutes without devolving into insults. You would have been proud.

I’m gonna dump all my data onto the Stark Secure server – you’ll have to offer up a retinal scan but it’ll give you and Bruce access to what we know. Seriously, hand that shit over to Bruce - or here, I'll just throw another Starkpad in with this, get ready to do some homework!

T

Chapter Text

Tony-

Is it okay if I call you Tony? You sign all you letters Tony so I'm taking that as a cue.

Fuck shit fuck fuck shit fuck.

(And before you say anything, yes, Captain America swears. When things are shitty and fucked up. I know this is probably traumatizing to you.)

Tony, get Rhodes now if you haven't. There are a limited number of things I'm good at, and one of them is tactics. This is a divide-and-conquer move if I've ever seen one. If we can convince the CDC of that (I don't know if we can), maybe you can get me and Banner out. But be prepared for another attack. I'm not sure where or when. I want Romanova on logistics; she has a better head for that than anyone else, and she'll be able to run scenarios I can't see from in here. I'm guessing they're going to try to peel Thor off next, and then go for you. They'll leave Barton and Romanova for last; everyone underestimates them. So what I'm saying is, don't give them the opportunity to do that.

I suppose Banner and I could break out of quarantine, but that is not the PR move we need right now. We'll save that for a last ditch effort. What groups are claiming credit for the attack? Tell me what kind of strategy you and Barton devised (I always had faith in you. You both put aside differences when there's problem.) I need details, dammit!

Are they really closing off the city instead of evacuating people? That worries me. That makes Manhattan a prime target for a larger scale attack. What is the city thinking?

All right, fine, that's out of the way. I won't watch Star Wars. Am I allowed to watch Fringe without you? Banner says it's really worth watching, and it sounds like there's enough of it to get us through several days in this godforsaken place.

You are short. Compared to me, at least. Short short short short short short short. And it is impossible to live with you without getting an eyeful of your underwear. In fact, the one respite I've found in quarantine is not having to look at Tony Stark's underwear.

(Yes, quarantine is going to drive me mad. I've illustrated this for you)

--Captain Quarantine

Chapter Text

Cap –

While I would prefer you refer to me as “your hotliness”, but I guess Tony works. Really you can me whatever you want, so long as it’s mostly polite. Is this us breaking down barriers? Are we almost friends? I’m afraid I’m gonna get wrist-slapped if I get creative with your nickname again.

(Captain Tightpants – you know, you might have found that funnier if you’d seen Firefly. It’s definitely on the list, Whedon is a fantastic director.)

QUIT CALLING ME SHORT. Jesus Christ, I am 5”9’ and a half, and that’s the average height for adult males in this fucking country, ergo NOT SHORT. Short would be smaller than AVERAGE. You can’t argue with math.

and I bet you miss my undies by the end of it. Maybe I'll ask Fury to leave you locked in there 'til you take back the "short" comment.

Okay, look. I think you’re probably right. Unleashing the attack in a contained area guaranteed that Avengers would have to board the ship and suss out what was going on, but it didn't require much effort. I’m not sure whoever it was could have banked on the quarantine, but if Clint or Nat had gotten into that shit they’d be flat on their backs right now. The boat was left anchored mid-river while the authorities could figure out how to detox the son of a bitch, but this afternoon they let me get in and take a look around.

(Iron Man’s got one hell of a containment clearance – after the outer space fiasco last summer and nearly drowning this winter I went over the seals with a fine tooth comb.)

I devised (with Nat’s help, actually) a bioluminescent spray that would phosphoresce when exposed to large quantities of the toxin, so I drenched the boat and followed the patterns to the epicenter, where I found a canister that had clearly been remote-detonated. The material matches the alloy Doom typically throws into his Doombots – but this doesn’t seem like a Doom move, and there’s plenty of black market doom bots out there for the enterprising villain. The Wrecking Crew and Serpent Society both threw their hats into the ring; we got another anonymous threat but I think Fury’s just about ready to call that one a fake. Who the fuck pretends to be responsible for bioterror attacks for fun?

Shit, Steve, the sirens just went off - I’m reading another attack, this one in Chicago. News feeds IDed the site as one of the Architectural Tour Boats – fewer people than the ferry, but the river’s a hell of a lot more narrow, so if this stuff is airborne they're in trouble. If your line of thought is right then this is an attempt to scrape Thor off, as he’s got the fastest air speed… I could go with him but that would leave Nat and Clint alone in New York. What should we do? If we sit here and twiddle our thumbs and nothing happens in New York it’s going to look like the Avengers don’t give a shit about the rest of the country… if we divide up, we’re potentially playing into their hands. All those people in Chicago need our help!

How do you put up with this kind of pressure on a daily basis? Being in charge SUCKS.

 

Tony “Traumatized For Life By Captain America’s Potty Mouth” Stark

 

PS I sent you three cases of the Avengers Valentine's day chocolates Hallmark did back in February. If I get blown up in a chemical attack I hope you'll eat them and think of me.

Chapter Text

STARK WHY DIDN'T YOU VIDEO CHAT ME OR WHATEVER YOU CALL THAT THING I NEED TO AGH I'M TRYING TO FIND THE CHAT FUNCTION ON THIS TABLET PLEASE TELL ME YOU DIDN'T STRIP IT OFF I NEED TO HELL FUCK ALL RIGHT HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. CALL IN IF YOU CAN WHY AREN'T YOU CALLING IN.

Let's follow that advice Barton is always repeating and DON'T SPLIT UP THE TEAM. (untranslatable) Banner says he's been analyzing the...no, I don't...all right, here's Banner...

Tony, all right. The toxin doesn't seem to be ...there've been two fatalities, and both were complications from compromised immune systems. Highly virulent, symptoms are messy...something like a Coxiella burnetii that's been modified to bring about acute symptoms much faster....vomiting, high fever, severe pain...I'm still waiting to see if it gets worse or better, but they want to keep everyone in here for two weeks, since that's the usual lifespan...(untranslatable)...right, right...Cap got his chocolate and now he wants you back...

Right. Don't split up the team. Tell Fury we need a couple SHIELD operatives up this way, to keep an eye on things till tonight. Have JARVIS get them acquainted, you can make a call on how much access to give the folks they send; you designed the system, so you know best. I want the rest of you in Chicago, if you haven't left already. Get Rhodes, too, if you can. If you're more comfortable with Rhodes here in New York, I guess that's fine. I can't see anything, so...(untranslatable)...I just want big guns on the scene in Chicago. Big, visible guns. If we've got two tin cans in the air, we might be able to get away with keeping Thor out of the line of fire unless you really need him. I know he's going to be pissed at laying low, but if the attack is designed to take him out of commission, it's not going to be a human disease, right? I get the CDC wanting to lock me and Banner up, but they're not going to be able to make the same argument about a god. Make sure Romanova and Barton have whatever they need for biohazard protection. If you need to bring Thor in, I want Romanova with him at all times. His biggest vulnerability is his lack of subtlety; anything designed to target him is going to be something our Black Widow can out-think. And for you, I mean it about visibility. You love getting on the news. Do that. Point out that you're missing two of the team. Maybe we can get the public to kick up a ruckus about the CDC taking the Hulk out of commission.

If you can call in, call in! THIS IS DRIVING ME MAD, STARK.

Oh, and short is relative, half-pint. Thanks for the chocolate.

Chapter Text

Cap -

Half-pint? Seriously? JARVIS, infect his systems with the nastiest Trojan you can find – and withhold all video feeds until he apologizes.

[Sir, I’m afraid the personal risk accrued with denying your tactician footage of the combat for the sake of a petty disagreement about your average height reaches unacceptable levels and thus violates my prime directive.]

Don’t even – damn it, JARVIS!

[transmission ends]

Chapter Text

Steve –

Should I be thanking you or apologizing to you? Your last message was really garbled – but you were totally right about not splitting the team, those fuckers would have had us over a barrel if we'd dispatched to Chicago. When your message arrived I’d already brought Rhodey in, and we dispatched a handful of SHIELD operatives at your advice – but instead of sending in Thor and me or War Machine (fuck that Iron Patriot bullshit) I had Rhodey take my backup remote operating bay and gave him early access to the next-gen armor I was building him for Christmas.

(Please don’t tell Pepper, she was pretty pissed by how suit-fixated I was getting last winter, I’d rather her not know I’m rebuilding some of those specs destroyed in Florida.)

Not two and a half hours after the attack on Chicago, alarms at the UN building went off – judging by the moronic yellow jumpsuits you’d have to be blind not to peg AIM as responsible. Isn’t it a happy coincidence that the UN hired me to test/reprogram their network security last year? I back-doored my way into their security feeds (god it’s good to be a genius), hence the live footage I sent over to your tablet. It was a huge help having you on the ground, even if you weren’t REALLY on the ground. I would never have clued into that group hiding in the third panic room - or worse, I wouldn't have realized the door was sealed and that they weren't exhibiting symptoms... if I'd busted that open before decontamination units washed the corridors things would have been SO much worse.

Tell Bruce he was fucking ridiculously helpful with that Coxiella burnetii tip – JARVIS reminded me that my old man ran some experimental forays into chemical weapons in the seventies, none of which were sold but all of which are still on file in SI. Considering how much of the government’s info on that subject matter is considered too sensitive to declassify I’ve forwarded all info on to medical teams on the ground. Maybe someone’ll get lucky and formulate a quick-cure.

You and Brucey still alright? No abnormal vitals or anything? Seeing this shit on the ground isn't pretty.

T

Chapter Text

Hey, Shorty—

Remember the part where you threw a written tantrum over the usefulness of status meetings? This is exactly what status meetings are for. I can't tell you to deploy remote-control suits when I haven't been informed you've replaced the ones you destroyed. Can we agree that there needs to be a bit more communication with your team leader about what, exactly, we have at our disposal?

Either way, nice job.

We're both fine. No abnormal vitals, although I'm getting sick of the staff making jokes about how they thought he was supposed to be the angry one. It's not a very mean bug, just a really contagious one with some nasty symptoms (sounds exactly like something Howard would have worked with, now that you mention it.) Banner says there's no way this was meant to take out superhuman immune systems. Just make sure Barton and Romanova have everything they need as far as biohazard containment; if this is the MO, they're the ones most at risk.

Banner says not to worry too much about a cure. It's bacterial and nothing a heavy-duty dose of antibiotics won't fix for most people-- just make sure anyone with immune deficiencies gets taken care of. The reason that concerns me is that it means the bio-attacks are a smokescreen or a diversion or something like that. Chicago sounds like it was meant to lure you away from the UN, obviously. Do we have any more info on the UN attack? Anything missing? Damaged? Get someone to go through that security footage with a fine-toothed comb, could you?

The usual life cycle of the sickness is two weeks. I am going to kill myself if I have to sit in this place for two weeks. Except for the part where most of the accessible means of suicide won't work on me.

(And I won't say a thing to Miss Potts. That's something that you should talk to her about, though. She should know by now that building things is part of who you are. If you stopped, you'd probably feel the way I do here in this damn hospital.)

I hate this, Stark. I want to be doing things, and there's nothing to do but stare at the walls. I'd say "watch paint dry," but there isn't even any wet paint. The hospital food is almost as bad as your cooking, and I just want someone to let me near a stove. Do you know what I really want? Rare meat. Everything here is cooked until it's grey and soggy. The best thing about the twenty-first century is rare meat. Possibly followed by microbreweries, although beer does lose a little of its charm when you can drink it the way everyone else drinks water. Ben & Jerry's is high on the list, too. People talk about what we've done for mankind, but those guys put peanut butter-filled pretzels in ice cream. I'm shocked that alone hasn't brought on world peace. You know when I was frozen, I'd been living off soldier's rations, and before that, back home, we'd been on wartime rations for a while. There wasn't any sugar. There wasn't any chocolate. We used to get tiny squares of chocolate sometimes in our ration kits. I used to trade my cigarettes for other people's chocolate. I mean, I guess I could have smoked after the serum, but there didn't seem to be any point, and you grow up with asthma, it seems idiotic to start.

I am going to eat all of this chocolate. Possibly in one sitting. There was this one time, back in the orphanage, people used to come give us kids a few pennies to run errands if they were feeling charitable. They barely ever asked me, probably because I didn't look like I could run anywhere, but Bucky used to get singled out a lot. One time, some rich lady realized she didn't have any change after he'd carried her groceries, so she pulled a box of chocolates out of the bag and gave them to him. We gorged on those things. If we'd been smart, we probably would have kept them, rationed them out, had one a day, but the two of us sat and ate the whole thing like we were inhaling them. They weren't just, I don't know, Hershey Bars, they were these really fancy, rich, handmade things. I think they're still the best thing I've ever eaten. There were these raspberry creams that just melted on your tongue, and I've never tasted anything like that again.

We got sick, of course. Really sick. I almost puked up all those damn gorgeous chocolates. But it was worth it.

Your turn. Tell me a story, would you? I need something to entertain myself.

-Rogers

Chapter Text

Steve -

What are you, ten? Storytime with Uncle Tony? I’m not sure you deserve my sympathy after all the derogatory comments you’ve made on my stature. Do you realize Fury’s been trying to get me into sexual harassment counseling after the Captain Tightpants comment?

I don’t have many heartwarming family stories for you. Most of my childhood was spent in boarding schools – my old man got physical with me exactly once before my mom shipped me off. I think she did it to protect me from what was going on at home, but I was so far ahead in all of my subjects that my options were a) live in a dormitory for younger boys who didn’t know me/didn’t want to know me, because I was weird or b) live in a dormitory with my classmates, all of whom were older than me and disliked having me tag along. Yeah, I know, poor little rich kid – but it sounds like Bucky was a pretty decent guy. I wish I’d had someone like that.

There was one time -

No, wait, that one didn’t end very happily either. Okay, how about this one:

DUM-E was originally built as a lab assistant to respond to basic commands – he was meant to fetch certain things and recognize patterns in engineering work, then use those patterns to anticipate the needs of the user. By the time I was twenty I’d hammered out a rudimentary AI that allowed him improved learning functions, but it was my first attempt at code THAT complex and he was really buggy from the get go. I spent some of my free time working up his code and trying to streamline his OS, but it was really a backburner project - I was kind of a wild child at that point in my life (shocking, I know). I left a lot of DUM-E's education up to the TV I kept on in the lab to keep him company.

Working on DUM-E was tough in general – despite his defective code I was attached to the little tin can. I always worried that altering his programming would overwrite what little personality he’d manifested. I mean, you’re talking about an AI meant to simulate – no, to BE - a personality comparable to a human’s, and no human being is perfect. At what point does a bug stop being a bug and start being a personality quirk? At what point do a person’s flaws need fixing? How do you define or prove sentience? Is a human standard of sentience the only acceptable standard? Was I lobotomizing him every time I tweaked his code?

I didn’t know, but it was taking him ages to learn things unless he was given explicit instructions. He was really living up to a name I honestly meant to be tongue-in-cheek given how advanced he was at the time – routine program errors, repeated unacceptable outcomes day in and day out, a very low learning curve. After his fifth motor-oil filled attempt at smoothie-making I cracked his casing open and spent sixteen straight hours tampering with his code, upgrading and altering and rewriting.

All that happened two days before my birthday, so of course I turned 21 in an appropriately garish and debauched fashion, then staggered back three days later with a hangover that could kill a horse. I chugged a Gatorade, knocked back four asprin and went down to crash in my lab (I used to sleep down there all the time when I lived alone).

I don’t know how long I slept, but at some point DUM-E brought me a blanket. Then he brought me a bottle of water – a common enough request during welding sessions.

THEN he rolled over and set my blanket on fire.

So my birthday weekend ended with me shouting and swearing and kicking DUM-E in the hubcap once the blanket was stomped on and extinguished – I ended up with nasty blisters on my toes. THEN I looked down and realized what he’d set me on fire with.

It was a fucking birthday candle.

He’d brought me a candle. Who knows where he found it in the wreck that was my lab - It took reviewing the security footage later to realize he’d actually attempted to attach the candle to my favorite lug wrench and lit it with one of the lab's bunsen burners; the problem was that his gripping claw was never meant for delicate work. He’d squished the candle so thin that once the heat softened it, down it went - and up I went in flames.

I have to say there might have been some manly tears shed at that particular moment in time – I mean, okay, worst gift ever in that he handed me something I already owned. But he’d THOUGHT about what to do – he’d recognized my birthday, considered what he knew about birthday traditions, realized that on birthdays you give people something they like and candles are somehow involved. His conclusions were wrong, but there was logic to them, and best of all it had been completely autonomous. He was - well, he was his own being, you know? And he still liked me enough to give me a birthday present.

After that, I never touched his code again. Bugs or defects, his personality is his and I’m not going to take that away from him, even if he can be irritating at times. I did sit down and teach him how to use the fire extinguisher after that little incident, though, and we all know THAT was a mistake.

T

 

PS The hospital says that shipping you a crate of raw meat violates their food safety standards, so sorry about that. You're just gonna have to make do in that department.

PPS What happens in my lab stays in my lab - do you seriously expect a running tally of everything I work on? That's a pretty long list, Steve. Besides, Rhodey's suit was going to be a surprise and Pepper nearly dumped me last year for my "distractions"; you two seem to be pretty cozy these days, so.... yeah. I didn't think it was something that needed to be public knowledge. Sorry.

PPPS I put Barton on the security footage - it's only like four hours long, but there are over three hundred cameras in the building. Let's see if he's really got hawk eyes...

PPPPS my hand hurts. This is why people invented keyboards, Steve. So letters like this wouldn't HAVE to be written.

Chapter Text

Dear Uncle Tony,

The last time I heard a grown man refer to himself as 'Uncle' anything, it was your father, and he had a blonde on one knee and a redhead on the other.

Work-related items first:

1) I don't need to know about everything in your lab. Just anything that is active or functional enough that it can make a difference in a crisis. You have a completed suit, I should know about that. You have new body armor suitable for the rest of the team, I should know about that. You have an idea you sketched on a bar napkin while chatting up foreign dignitaries? Don't need to know. Is that fair? I'm happy to come down to the lab once every couple of weeks and do a walkthrough with you, if it makes that easier.

2) Get Barton some assistance. One of those SHIELD folks who scans video for a living would be good.

3) I already told you you could type your letters. You have no one to blame but yourself.

4) Please inform Col. Fury that while I think requiring you to attend sexual harassment training is an excellent idea, I am quite positive that any reference to 'tightpants' had everything to do with your disapproval of my insistence on professionalism and not any propensity on your part to stare at my ass.

5) Having spent the majority of my life at a mere 5'7 1/2" (that half was very important), I can assure you that all comments on your height or lack there of are meant as the sincerest terms of affection.

6) Get me an update as soon as you have one.

Now that that's done:

So, you've really been through a lot with that robot, haven't you? I'm glad you've got him up and running again-- tell him I say hello, will you? Of course he liked you-- you're the one who made him. It must be like having a kid who says his first word, or something like that.

I guess things at the orphanage were different. We had our fair share of bullies, but once I made friends with Bucky, they mostly left me alone-- even if they caught me by myself, they knew they'd get a beating later if I showed up with a black eye or a bloody nose. Most of the kids were nice enough. I wasn't very exceptional, apart from being a good artist, and that's the sort of thing other kids admire. You'd get the little kids asking you to draw them all the time, you know, when there was paper. I couldn't draw well enough to do realistic portraits, but I could draw cartoon versions well enough that, you know, you got the idea.

They had me sign a lot of paperwork before they administered the serum. No one really knew exactly what it would do. It was supposed to, like they said, turn me into a human being with peak capabilities. Not superhuman capabilities, but the very, very best in all ways. When they were talking about it, it was framed in measures of physical capacity: I'd be able to run faster, jump higher, stay awake longer, be impervious to disease. No one really talked about what would happen to my mind. I don't-- I am the same person, Stark. I didn't change. But I was able to learn faster, memorize quicker, acquire skills I didn't have before. I could see possibilities where I wouldn't have. Chess-- a game I was terrible at-- got too easy. So did any card game that didn't depend on luck. I don't have your memory, nothing like that, but I was suddenly aware of so many more things going on around me. Heightened senses, I guess. Before the serum, drawing was pretty much the only thing I was good at. And I still wasn't the best, just good. All these other things you see that I can do now-- it's the serum that made me a tactician. Hell, it's the serum that made me a half-decent speller.

The moment when you realize your brain works differently than it did before is an unsettling one. You look at a thing you've looked at a million times before-- say, your hand-- and you see things you didn't see, that seem so obvious now that your brain is just on, on, on, all the time on. And then you have to do a mental check, and ask yourself, am I the same person? Do I still believe in the same things? Did changing how I think change what I think about?

I guess you talking about reprogramming DUM-E made me think about that. Maybe that's what happened to me; I got my code upgraded. But I still think I'm the same, essentially. I hope I'm the same.

So, I'm bored.

Chapter Text

Cap -

Oh god, Steve you utter bastard, why would you tell me that… I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. Some things can NEVER BE UNREAD.

  1. Yeah, why don’t you just come down and check it out yourself? I honestly don’t categorize my projects quite like that – I mean, the remote suits are good, but I started working on the relevant tech thinking it’d be a solid contribution to the medical tech department, allowing us to improve on existing remote surgery units. And the written-hyperlink that I had you run through earlier this month is gonna be standard in my SI holOS 1.0 product line. I will say that right now I’m working on creating containment suits for Nat and Clint with helmets that seal and small contained O2 tanks. That’s kind of a no-brainer, though - I'm gonna do one for you as well, if only so that next time you get sprayed with biotoxin the CDC won't lock you in a basement for days at a time.
  2. As much as I hate to admit it, Barton did find something – one of our friends in the yellow jumpsuits was caught on camera using the distraction that the biotoxin caused to access a computer terminal in the building. I’m not sure what kind of data he took – I’ve tried to get in there and look at what was accessed – it should be easy given that I have a date and timestamp to work with - but this particular terminal is offline, hence the need for physical infiltration. I’ve put in a request at the UN to let me see what was taken, but so far I haven’t gotten any workable response, and they’re super disorganized at the moment anyway. You might have better luck– I’m not exactly the most popular guy over there. There are a few governments that would love to see me hanged over the amount of Starktech their rebel groups are using against one another; they’re not jumping on the opportunity to let me into their shared systems.
  3. Whatever.
  4. Believe what you will, sir.
  5. Still mad. The number of Napoleon complex jokes I’ve heard over the years is truly painful.
  6. See no. 2.

Thanks for the drawing of me and DUM-E, that’s pretty great. I taped it up next to his charging unit and he was totally pumped about it. He nearly flushed his hydraulics with excitement - I kid you not.

I have to admit it’s pretty incredible that you didn’t end up a lobotomized vegetable given how many injections you let my old man administer. At least you were allowed informed consent in the matter – you did volunteer after all. Can I - can I ask something though? It's something I've always wondered and it might be considered kind of rude.

When you agreed to become Captain America - or at least, to let them perform the experiments that ended with you becoming Captain America - what were you thinking? Did you really do it out of the good of your heart? The comics always made it a 100% self-sacrificing thing... kind of an "if I don't do this someone else will have to, so I'll let it be me for the good of everyone" kind of scenario, but I know you're not actually a comic book character. When I was a kid reading them I often thought about how much I'd love to have a bigger, better body - I always knew I wasn't cut out to be a Captain America type, because if I'd volunteered for something like that it would have been for purely selfish reasons. I was always shrimpy compared to my peers, and though I logically knew it was because I was younger I spent a lot of time desperately wishing someone had an injection that would bring my body up to speed with my brain.

I mean maybe the reasoning doesn't really matter as you definitely put your money where your mouth was, but... it still impresses me that you were willing to risk not only your physical health but also your mental capacities for the super soldier project. Now that I'm a grown man I'm not sure I'd be willing to risk that much for other people. Maybe for selfish reasons, but I don't know.

Anyway, upgrading human code in and of itself is pretty fascinating and definitely not a new concept. I’m not gonna lie, after the Extremis bullshit went down last winter I’ve been playing with Maya’s research… after stabilizing and curing Pepper manipulating the code is kind of child’s play. There might be some positive applications yet (I can think of at least half a dozen ways I could improve human-armor connections via Extremis), though after seeing how wrong it could go I have zero desire to release any element of it to the public, despite Maya’s belief that could come from it. I don’t know.

Tricky questions, Cap. I can’t tell you if you’ve changed, but I can tell you I’m starting to like who you are at present.

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

What was that? Was that almost a compliment from the pen of Mr. Tony Fucking Stark himself? Did I hear that right?

Look, I'm just happy to see that you're keeping the Stark legacy alive and well.

1) That sounds fine. Really, I just want to know if there are functional prototypes that might actually be at our disposal in a pinch. Good on the containment equipment, thanks for that.

2) I might have better luck-- IF I COULD GET OUT OF QUARANTINE. Do you know how many tiles are in this room? 154. Do you know how many times I've counted them? You don't want to know. Maybe send Romanova? She's good at talking people into things.

3) You enjoy it.

4) I meant that sincerely. Or are you saying you do stare at my ass? That's a little unsettling. Now I don't feel guilty for talking about your father anymore.

5) Vive la France.

6) That's all for now? No more rumblings? I wonder what the first attack in New York was for. As you said, they couldn't have predicted that they'd ground me and Banner. Could that have been a distraction as well?

7) Oh, wait. There is no 7.

I've been playing with the tablet sometimes, but pencil and paper are still easier for me. The tablet's a little tricky to get used to, with the pressure sensitivity and the calibration. I can see it being useful, though, once I'm more comfortable with it.

I started just drawing DUM-E, but then I got increasingly more bored, and drew in some props as well. Yes, you're a prop.

I guess for me, changing my body didn't feel like it changed who I was…just that I could do things I'd always wanted to be able to do, and failed at. I imagine it's not too different from how your suit extends your abilities. Changing my head…that was different. And unexpected. You can make an educated guess as to what it's like to be bigger. You think being smarter just means you'll be able to do arithmetic faster, but it's a lot more than that.

I'm trying to think about how to answer your question. I've seen the comics. I read a couple of them, but they made me feel a little…let's see how to put this. Have you ever seen the old film reels they did of me, back after Erskine was killed, and they decided to use me as a war effort poster child? I felt like I was watching those, all over again. And it was important, you know, to get people to support the war effort, but later, when I actually did the things I'd acted out, I realized how…well, simplistic it had been.

The reality is a lot more complicated. I didn't feel like I was going much of anywhere. I was reading the news, about what was going on in Europe and Asia, and I wanted to help, and I felt helpless to do anything.

I don't know if the comics ever mention my parents, or if they're even truthful in what they say about them. My father died in the Great War. Part of me felt like I was supposed to go do the same thing-- that the least I could do was to be as brave as my father. So it seemed like the best I could do was to help my country, the one my father loved enough to die for, even though he wasn't born here. And it was nice to think I might have some kind of connection to him, even a little one.

I didn't really know him, so I guess that was more of a fantasy. I remember my mother. She died slowly and painfully, and I was just young enough to think that if I was good enough, if I helped enough, she would get better.

And then, of course, Bucky enlisted, and I didn't want to lose any more of my family.

I don't think I'm telling you what you wanted to know, am I? You're looking for some answer about ideals and philosophy, and that's not what it was. I wanted to help. I wanted to be useful. And yes, if it wasn't me, it would have been somebody else, but the way you put it makes it sound a lot more selfless than it was. I didn't see anything wrong with sacrificing myself, because I didn't see myself being able to do much good otherwise.

And I think in some ways, I knew what I needed, because it turns out that actually being useful helps your self-confidence a lot.

All right. Enough reminiscing. Is there anything I can do about getting out of this place? Otherwise my next letter's going to be four times this long.

--Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap –

I am pleased to inform you that you will be released from the hospital this afternoon, as per a conversation I had with the hospital administrator. He agreed to release you and Bruce to SI custody provided you spend another four days in the Tower’s containment levels - I think it was mostly because the media circus currently camped in the parking lot is worse than that Royal Baby bullshit over in England - Captain America's 24/7 quarantine vigil. The other day someone was actually doing Cap tattoos at half price in the handicapped spot. JARVIS recorded a news spiel about it for you last night.

For what it's worth, we only have one containment level (Bruce's lab, obviously) and I don’t actually care if the two of you hang out in there for the next four days provided you don't actually spread your nasty bug to the rest of us. I’M going to be busting my ass on some prototypes I need to have before I head to Malibu next week, so if you choose to do so you’re gonna have to shut up and not distract me.

Also, I asked them to name the forthcoming new hospital wing after you. Grats, Cap.

We can send Nat if you really think that’s a good idea – most of the countries I’m talking about aren’t the biggest fans of the female gender, if you know what I mean. We might have better luck infiltrating the building and getting back to that hardwired terminal…. You could be a distraction, I’ll splice the security feeds and Natasha can get down to business. I’d go myself, but we all know I’m way too recognizable for that – Four TIME magazine covers will do that do a guy (not to mention Forbes, GQ and Playgirl.)

It's totally possible that these are layers and we missed the actual intent of the attacks - but how deep can we go with that? Also, it's weird to me that the UN would have any information of value to a group of terrorists - they're an international organization and freaking everything they do is public knowledge - the minutes, the resolutions, the membership, everything. Unless it's something like the home addresses of UN officials that wouldn't otherwise be broadcast? But surely there are easier ways to steal that kind of info without gassing an international organization.

As per your comments about upgraded code, it’s true that when I put on my suit I feel like I’m able to do the things I should always have been able to do. It’s more like an extension of myself than a fancy toy. And actually, I have seen those videos… this is going to sound kind of creepy, but I own pretty much all of them, and some of it's original footage. When you went down my old man started obsessively collecting Captain America related paraphernalia – it eventually went from creepy stalkerish items (he actually had three of your failed enlistment docs?) associated with your life to first edition merchandise and original issues of the comics. He even got a few signed, the big creeper. When I was a kid I wasn't allowed to touch any of it. Torture.

Thanks for your honesty, though. That was a pretty good answer, if not really the answer I expected. I think I don’t know. You’ve pretty uniformly blown my expectations out of the water.

Anyway, I had JARVIS order in some massive Omaha steaks; you oughta let Thor grill them, his version of rare is still mooing.

T

 

PS I’ve been sleeping in your bed this week. Hope you like your new sheets!

Chapter Text

Tony-

I am terribly glad you have enough money to solve your problems by throwing it at them. And so glad my problems are yours by extension. I owe you one. I don't really need a hospital wing named after me, though. Could we go with Sarah Rogers, please? It's much more appropriate, since my mother was a nurse and I don't even need cough syrup.

I am not so terribly glad you-- why are you sleeping in my bed? I thought you just bought a sixty thousand dollar custom made Iron Man-themed bed stuffed with diamonds. My bed is a, what do they call it, TARVA from that Swedish place. Isn't it going to disrupt your delicate billionaire sleeping patterns?

All right. I'm getting settled in here; thanks for having some of my stuff brought down. I guess we should figure out sleeping arrangements. I could just stay up for four days, but that's pushing the limits of even my stamina, and I think Banner needs-- where do you two sleep down here? In chairs? I'm also concerned because if you're going to be in the lab for the next four days, it might not be the best place for us. I don't want to risk getting you sick, especially not when we're on high alert and you have to leave. Can we jerry-rig something else? Should we wear masks? The hospital staff seemed to manage okay with surgical masks and gloves; I think only two of them caught it.

The crowd outside the hospital was...I was surprised. You didn't tell me it was going to be like that. I guess I just don't expect people to care that much. know, I know, you're going to tell me I need to get used to celebrity, but I thought I was. This just seems so much more...well, more than the 1940s.  The quarantine wing was away from the parking lot, so I had no idea.  Otherwise, I would have waved at people or something.  It would have beaten flicking cards into a bedpan for three hours.  I'm assuming you now have a half-price Captain America tattoo.  If you don't, I'll be very disappointed. 

Speaking of which, is there any chance I could look at those things?  Do you still have them?  I guess I just thought all those things would  have been lost to history.  I don't have a lot of photos. Sure, I have the same famous ones everyone else has, but those are ones where I'm posing in costume, or from that time that one journalist covered the Howling Commandos.  There are only a couple with Bucky, and none with Peggy.  I don't have any pictures of my parents.  I don't know what else there would be.  There was a lot of stuff I left behind at the base on that last mission.  If I...never mind; I'm just letting my imagination run away with me.  But I'd like to see what you've got, if that would be all right. 

And what expectations did you have, exactly, Stark? I know most people expected a jingoistic comic book character, but I'm not sure what you thought.

Anyway, UN business:

If I learned one thing from Peggy Carter, it's that people underestimating women is something to be used as an advantage. But you might be right. I just can't provide a distraction for four more days, and I'm not sure if that's giving it too much time.

I hate waiting for things.

If the UN doesn't want to tell us what it is, then obviously it's something we're not supposed to know the UN has, so it would be...hmm. What would the UN have that they're not supposed to? If it was just addresses, they would have told you a list of addresses was stolen. Now that I think of it, it's really odd for them to be evasive, since they could have just told us it was a list of addresses and we'd be none the wiser.

Let's think about this.

In other news, I am very, very much looking forward to these steaks.

And I figured out how to get the drawings off my tablet! I drew about fifty sketches of me being bored.

--Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap -

I'll have you know that diamonds make a perfectly comfortable nest. I like to pile them up and roll around in them, Scrooge McDuck style... it's a highlight of my playboy lifestyle. The real question you should be asking yourself is why would I not be sleeping in your bed? You were making me share with whoever was on your shit list - Thor snores like a jackhammer, I'd rather chew glass than go near a sleeping Natasha, Clint's a dick and Bruce gets REALLY, really grumpy if you happen to startle him awake at two AM. Hand-crafted $60,000 mattresses don't just spring up overnight, they have to be pieced lovingly crafted and shipped. Besides, I ordered them to deliver it up to the penthouse since theoretically that dump will be done at some point in the future and I'll be able to go back to a life of freedom and solitude.

I guess we can go with the Sarah Rogers wing, though I may or may not have already commissioned a version of you cast in bronze flexing your massive arms for the new wing's atrium.

I'm not sure what to tell you about the lab - I usually just fall asleep against whatever surface is available... I had an actual cot and a small shower unit (okay, it was a decontamination unit, but that's pretty much the same thing) in my old lab, but Bruce isn't really the work-til-you-pass-out-and-can't-operate-an-elevator type, so I don't know if he's got any reasonable accommodations. You could just curl up in your comfy new sheets. They'll wrap you up in tender loving badassery.

Seriously though, I'm not going to stop working just because you're the Typhoid Mary of some moderately inconveniencing plague. Weren't you just telling me it wasn't a big deal?

In the day and age of the internet people feel much more connected to celebrity idols, Cap. I'm surprised the cosplay crowd outside the tower didn't tip you off. We live in a world where you can tweet your favorite stars and every once in a while they'll message you back.... Thanks to instant communications, everyone knows what everyone else is doing, whether they're making a sandwich, taking a dump, or locked down under quarantine in an area hospital.

You should be flattered - nobody gave a shit the last time I almost died. Then again, I'm not sure anyone realized how close I actually came to clocking out for good...

I'm not sure I guess I don't mind if you go through Dad's stuff. It's really yours, anyway. It's all on lockdown in my parents' house on Long Island - at this point that dump's pretty much the world's most expensive storage unit, as I haven't looking through that shit in years. (Seriously, probably not since I was... 25? 26?) It's likely moldy and horrible inside, though Dad had his collectables well-sealed in airtight containers so most of it is probably fine. One of these days when you're not in quarantine and I'm not busy missing Pepper's calls we could go over. If you want.

T

PS I'll show you my new Cap tat next time we're in the locker room together. The positioning is....delicate.

Chapter Text

Tony-

1) I'm moved and flattered that you used to very tiny amount of space between the tattoos of your own face to fit in one of me.

2) I had Jarvis bring up Scrooge McDuck because I had no idea what you were talking about. You have so much in common, like swimming in piles of money and forgetting to wear pants in mixed company. How come you don't wear a monocle and a top hat? I feel a bit cheated.

3) Having 'posthumous' statues of me in prominent places is bad enough. I have to wear a hood and sunglasses every time I'm in Union Square or people try to take my picture with the one there. I've somehow avoided seeing the big one in Bay Ridge. Can we please not commission statues of any living people without their permission? Otherwise, I'm not going to let SI represent me for licensing anymore.

4) I'm getting really worried about these sheets.

5) I didn't assign you to whoever was on my 'shit list.' If I did keep a list, the only name on it would begin with a 'T' and end with an 'ony Stark.' I tried to assign you to whoever was kind enough to offer to put up with you.

5) If you are trying to catch a genetically-modified bacterial infection just so you can avoid your girlfriend-slash-CEO, I will take all the diamonds out of your bed and replace them with ordinary rocks.

I had JARVIS order two foldable camp beds. Same-day delivery is like magic.

In all seriousness, though, speaking of genetically-modified bacterial infections, Banner says his isolated samples of this one are breaking down oddly and he's not sure what to make of it. He'd like you to take a look; he wants to go over some possibilities. It still seems to be clearing the victims' systems all right. He thinks it might just be a result of poor... I think he said gene slicing? Splicing? But he wants to make sure.

I was going to talk to Romanova about snooping around the UN, but it turns out she already did. She had a hell of a time getting in-- apparently they're closed to the public right now because the General assembly is meeting. I was relieved to hear the debates started after the attack; all those poisoned delegates would have been a real mess. It turns out they took something from the art collection, of all things-- a light sculpture, she said. I guess it's a sculpture that mimics the color of the sunrise in different cities around the world. It was a gift from Czechoslovakia the Czech Republic in the early 2000s. I don't know why someone would go to all that trouble to steal a piece of art, even if it does sound beautiful.

I'm a little surprised we haven't heard about more attacks. Three, all in a row like that, and then nothing?

Anyway, look, I was joking about trying to get sick on purpose, but we can't have Iron Man down. It isn't going to kill you, no, but I hardly want you to be vomiting all over the inside of your suit. I want you wearing a mask and gloves when you're down here. And that means all the time, not just when I'm looking. I know you're not the best when it comes to self-preservation, but I do give a shit if you almost die.

I don't know about the whole...fans. And cosplay things. I know it's been hard on Romanova in a way that it isn't for me, since she's become too recognizable to do her job the way she used to. The day she showed up with brown hair, I So I sort of feel bad complaining about it. You talk about these things like they should be natural, but you grew up in the spotlight. Even with all these internet things, I don't think it's that easy for the rest of the team, either. And there's the fans, but then there are also the people who get angry because they say we tampered with nature, that I shouldn't exist, all those things, too. Sure, I would love to see that church that says I'm the second coming of Jesus get into fisticuffs with the church that says I'm the Antichrist (I don't really want to see anyone get into fisticuffs), but it's unsettling.

As for the house, I really, really appreciate that. If I can just find some photos, it would make me feel a lot more at home here. It's going to be strange...I didn't spend a lot of time in that house, but I have my share of memories of it. What did you do with all the equipment down in the secret bunker? I can't imagine you just let it sit there.

--Rogers

Chapter Text

Cap –

  1. You should be, most people would sob tears of gratitude for the privilege.
  2. Pants are highly overrated. Have you been googling me or something?
  3. You’re really whiny tonight, Cap. I BOUGHT YOU A HOSPITAL. I should get to put a statue up if I want to. Have you seen that great memorial they put up in Arlington? It’s so tall you can see your the wings on your cowl (hahaha, those wings crack me up) from the national mall. Seriously though, Captain America is more than just a guy – you know that right? You’re a symbol, an icon, blah blah blah. Your sacrifice was no more or less than what so many other people gave up, because you had no idea you’d come out of it on the other side. I don’t think you should be embarrassed that people want to celebrate your intentions.

I don’t know if I can explain this right – though you’re not wrong when you say I grew up with it. I was on my first magazine cover at five. But as far as I can see, living in the spotlight is just like living outside the spotlight in that you do your thing and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. There’s a certain kind of anonymity that comes with everyone assuming that they know what you want and how you operate. Most people don’t look at a celebrity and see a person, they just see this big fake amalgamation of their own opinions and assumptions. I enjoy the reputation I have, knowing that what I actually do is just as private as what anyone else actually does.

That doesn’t really help Nat, though. I still can’t believe SHIELD didn’t hand their best covert operative a freaking MASK.

Look, I’m not trying to catch any kind of infection, I am the WORST patient when I’m sick… but you’re a super soldier and Bruce is a Hulk, and he’s already observed the structure of the infection breaking down under a microscope so odds are good even if you WERE able to pass it along – which you likely aren’t, as the hospital staff treating you were also exposed to other patients – it would already be broken down. Tell Bruce I’ll be down at three after my conference call with the board. (I’ve programmed an image to speak, act and talk like me – I’m gonna let JARVIS drive and see if I can fool the board. It’d be great to have a fake-Tony to sit through all that boring drivel and give me the highlights…. Not to mention that I’d finally have someone intelligent around the house to converse with, Bruce of course excluded.)

I’m pretty sure I have a gas mask around here somewhere. I’m going to creep around the lab breathing like Darth Vader just to irritate you.

(OH WAIT. SOMEONE STILL HASN’T SEEN STAR WARS.)

They stole a piece of art? What the shit? I can’t believe that’s all Nat dug up – something like that could be easily reproduced or improved upon.

Also, I’m a little surprised that they’d go into session before we’ve tested any long term effects of the infection – I know that teams went in to sterilize the building, but doesn't that seem fast to you? If I were a foreign diplomat I’d probably want to steer clear of that place for at least a week or so.

Anyway, I’m ordering pizza, what do you guys want? No anchovies, though, it is unacceptable for anyone to have anchovy breath in a lab that I use.

T

 

 

PS okay look okay, Steve, I think you should know that just so you know, I am happy to do the fucking chipper teambuilding letter thing all day long, but we don’t actually know each other at all that well so I figure I’m just gonna be straight with my fucking neurosis here - I may not have been an orphan in a 1930’s poorhouse but my childhood had a few bumps of its own, most provided by my fucking drunk of a dad. So while I get that you guys were wartime BFFs or something and you’re trying to be cute with the “tee hee secret bunker” shit, it’s really not something I can laugh about. I hate that fucking house. I’ll go help you find my old man’s Cap Collection, because I would really like to actually be friends and I want you to have things that will make you happy because you're actually a pretty decent guy (who woulda thought??), but can we just like… not joke about all the things my dad never shared with me? because it kind of sucks.

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Tony,

Look, that was a really long letter and I know I'm not responding to all of it-- we can handle the information about the UN theft in our team debrief, but I would like to talk to you more about this fame nonsense. As much as I don't like it, I know it's not stopping anytime soon (and that's another side-effect of the serum no one warned me about). Maybe we could do that coffee thing again?

But I feel like I need to set the record straight. I wasn't joking about the bunker. I wanted to know what happened to it, because it was one of the most incredible places I've ever seen. I still can't believe the Italian government let your dad take actual DaVinci prototypes out of the country, but I guess, what was he going to do, ask Mussolini? Or did you really not know about it? Well, damn, then. I'm sorry.

I'm vaguely aware that Howard is in the comics about me, though I don't know how he's portrayed. I don't know what he told you about me. But I'm pretty sure if you read my previous letter, you won't see his name on the list of people I want photos of.

Howard was an ass. We worked together. I respected his genius. He built a flying car, goddammit, and he gave me my shield. He welcomed me into his home and treated an orphan kid from Brooklyn like family for no other reason than that he felt like it. He also flaunted money and prestige, drank too much, had no patience for anyone he decided was stupid, and aggressively pursued every woman who gave me the time of day, when I was too shy and too grateful to him to object.

He had a good heart, somewhere, and he really believed in giving his all to make the world a better place, but he was so obsessed with the big picture that he forgot that the big picture was made up of little people and that we had feelings. Not that feelings mattered in the face of whatever his latest whim was.

So, no, I was not best friends forever with your father (I had to look that one up. Is there such a thing as an Internet-to-normal auto-translator?). My feelings about your father were and remain a complicated mixture of loyalty, admiration, gratitude, envy, disappointment and barely-concealed disgust.

We were all so young when they gave me the serum. I still--I feel a lot older in some ways, but in other ways I haven't really changed. When I dream, I'm usually my old self still, small and insignificant. I still forget how big I am, forget to duck in doorways, look behind my shoulder when a pretty girl waves. I don't know if Howard ever grew up. I wasn't there for that. I do know that the Howard I knew could do everything for a friend and make you feel like you weren't worth his time or energy in the same breath. Sometimes I felt like he only wanted to spend time around me because I was a science project, a lab rat, because he could learn things by observing me. I don't know how it would feel to be his kid.

I don't know what I'm trying to say here. I guess I'm saying that your father didn't give me something he never gave you. I can't tell you that once upon a time he was a wonderful man. He was just a man. There are ways you remind me of him, bad and good, and ways you don't remind me of him at all.

And if you're just writing these letters to me out of a sense of team-building obligation, you should know that's not why I'm writing to you. You are not under any obligation to write. I hoped you were writing because you wanted to at this point. If you don't want to, just say so. I know how valuable your time is. I'm sorry if anything I said made you feel obligated.

Steve

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Captain Rogers,

I apologize for contacting you indirectly, unfortunately my progenitor has ordered that I not “say a damn word to that smug bastard” with reference to yourself. I am choosing to interpret this as the spoken word in order communicate with you without violating my protocols.

Please excuse my use of alarm notifications in the laboratory; I determined that this matter was worth being awoken early for.

Mr. Stark is as present exhibiting symptoms of the bacterial infection both you and Dr. Banner have been placed under quarantine to guard against. His fever began at roughly eleven thirty am last night while you and Dr. Banner where sleeping in the lab, while convulsive vomiting ensued upstairs around ten to two. By five AM he fell asleep on the floor of your bathroom, where he may be found at present, but as of five minutes ago his internal temperature began spiking again.

I have judged his level of dehydration to be such that he would benefit from an intravenous drip – attached is the phone number of a private physician from whom such an item can be acquired discreetly; Dr. Banner may also have the required elements in his personal inventory. I’ve also taken the liberty of suggesting that Ms. Romanova and Mr. Barton remove themselves from the tower at present. Though Mr. Stark has not left ventured past the laboratory level/your quarters since the symptoms set in, it would be quite unfortunate to see so many Avengers disabled at once.

Thank you for your kind attention.

You humble system,
J.A.R.V.I.S.

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You damn fucking idiot. You poor damn fucking idiot.

I ordered JARVIS to put my rooms under lockdown and reserve hotel rooms at the Mandarin Oriental in Columbus Circle for Barton and Romanova. I called your doctor, Banner is working on an improved short-course antibiotic, and I am coming up there with a quart of lab hot plate chicken soup right now.

We are going to have a talk about self-preservation strategies as soon as you are better.

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Tony,

You're finally asleep, and it seems like your fever's down, so I apologize for leaving without waking you. I was worried you wouldn't fall asleep again.

Banner left a syrup that I put on your nightstand. It's a fast-working antibiotic. Four teaspoons a day for five days. I already gave you two already today in case you don't remember; you weren't making a lot of sense and I think you thought I was Miss Potts. (If you didn't, I am very flattered that you think I look like a celestial body.)

Something else is happening at the UN, and I am blatantly defying the CDC's orders to go over there with Thor and see what we can do. Preliminary reports are that a group of employees are holding the General Assembly hostage, and I can't believe it's unconnected to the last attack. No reports about further biotoxins, but you know how the UN is. Of course they won't release any more information to me. That's why we're going there--I'm wearing the mask you left me, and hoping no one else gets sick.

I've left a gallon jug of water with these electro things Banner tells me are good for dehydration, three bottles of ginger ale, a thermos of hot chicken soup, a bag of cough drops, and a box of saltines by the bed. There's a bowl there, too, if you need to puke. JARVIS has been tasked with taking your vitals and will report to Banner if anything changes. If you need anything else, Banner is in the lab working with the bacterium.

I'm sorry about leaving. I need to be there and not here. I moved one of the cots to my room; I'll stay there as long as you're sick so you don't have to go trying to catch our attention if you need something.

Feel better. We'll be back soon.

Steve

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Cap –

Thanks for the soup, its pretty tastey; not so great the second time around though. Can't seem to keep anything down since i woke up, but the dry heaves have stopped, so hey. the cough drops are nice too, soothing and a little sweet. was that really you spoon feeding me last night? how did you find me? I remember someone’s fingers in my hair – I thought maybe it was pepper. Your pretty gentle for a big guy, you know that? I thought your hands would be rougher but I guess the serum probably regenerates skin tissue – how do you not get blisters every time you use the shield? is that why you wear gloves?

Please remember im barely responsible for what comes out of my mouth when I’m sober, let alone when ive got a hundred and two degree temperature. Just saying.

be careful at the UN – this is a pretty predictable response on your part so theirs every chance they anticipate the move. You really should have woken me up instead of walking blindly into what could very easily be a trap. Not to mention the cdc is going to freak about violating your quarantine; I hope you found the bodysuit I was prepping for you. Its as airtight as can be expected given I don't have any updatad measurments for you. When I stop feeling like death warmed over we can have another go at sizing.

Tony

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Tony,

The CDC can go to hell. I found the suit, thanks--JARVIS alerted me before we left. You're out of town on emergency business, if anyone asks. I don't want anyone to know that I'm still contagious. Everyone who needs to know (including Miss Potts) has been briefed. Jarvis has been fielding your calls via that program you were telling me about; Miss Potts rescheduled anything she thought might require a more personal touch.

You were sleeping in my bathtub and you had vomit in your hair, so yes, I helped you clean up and got some food into you. You sweated through the Iron Man sheets you put on my bed, so I had to change them back to my plain gray ones. I hope the less-than-a-million thread count is acceptable to your sensitive billionaire skin. You can blame me if they chafe.

I know that you were not yourself and I don't blame you for anything that you said or did. Consider it forgotten. I don't mind taking care of sick people. It makes me feel useful.

In case you've forgotten, I'm reminding you to drink some water. See if you can keep down a cracker or two.

I'm at the UN. Romanova and Barton are here, and they're suited up as well, just in case. We've got the NYPD and SHIELD on the scene. Banner is still in the lab; I've been in direct contact with him all day. He has a live video feed and can fill you in on details.

So this all seems to have started when the science and technology resolutions that were supposed to be discussed next week (Miss Potts says you were supposed to be speaking there on Tuesday) were suddenly pushed forward in the docket without warning. These people are demanding open access to new military tech for all member nations.

Obviously this is an issue of personal concern for half the members of our team.

It seems to be turning into a huge fiasco, because a lot of the delegates from smaller countries are actually siding with them. There are too many kidnappers and they're armed and using the hostages as human shields. We can't just storm the place, not yet at least.

The police team that was originally handling the situation seemed to be doing a fine job, but then the hostage-takers said that they wanted to negotiate with me directly.

I tried to explain that I've never negotiated a hostage situation before, but apparently my fictional counterpart has done it dozens of times, and no one believes me. The NYPD just handed me a phone. One of them started walking me through what to say.

And then they asked me to surrender myself.

I think I have a plan. I told them I needed them to release the hostages from the building first. I know they're not going to agree to that, but I need to buy myself some time to work this all out. I think I'm going to have to at least play along for now; I can't refuse to give myself up at the risk of all those people.

Don't worry too much about all this. We'll handle this. I just didn't feel right keeping you in the dark. Your job right now is to get better. That's an order, as your team leader.

Steve.

Chapter Text

Fuck you, Steve.

There’s no way I’m fucking staying here while the united nations argues about propriatary military tech ownership, I don’t give a shit about your plan. Were the hell do you get off telling my own fucking AI to flag my movement if I get out of bed? I just wrestled with Bruce on the penthouse level – it was pretty much the most fucking pathetic fight ever, since he was too busy trying to stay calm to get in a solid swing and when I got my gauntlets on JARVIS froze my repulsors.

Sounds like your about as effective as a hostage negotiator as you are a nurse.

Fuck. You. I should be their with you guys. I can’t imagine the UN will let any resalution stand that was signed under duress, but if the American deligate capitulates and signs all that fucking Stark Tech I sold during my bad years will go public and pretty soon the market will be flooded with SI drones and jerichos. THIS IS MY SCENE YOU ASS. when you needed help i bought you a fucking hospital just to get you out - call bruce and tell him to let me up RIGHT NOW.

T

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Stark,

It's Nat. Cap is incapacitated, but I snatched his tablet. I'm deleting that last message. You should be ashamed of yourself, heaping abuse on our favorite Boy Scout when he's already beating himself up over getting you sick. I don't have much patience right now. Barton and I are technically working without pay, since your pals in the U.S. Government just declared SHIELD "non-essential" and cut their share of the funding to the program until this stupid government shutdown is over. You're sitting at home because the most brilliant man alive is apparently stupid enough to contract a genetically-engineered plague, so the least you could do is trust us to have control over the situation. This almost makes me miss Communism.

The NYPD sold him out. They're not going to show this on television-- they tried to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart. Had to talk Thor out of shoving Mjolnir down a cop's throat. Of course the tranq did nothing; Steve just got lightheaded, handed his shield off to me and told them they didn't have to use force, that of course he'd trade himself for the hostages.

Clint spent sixteen hours viewing surveillance footage of the building. He knows the place inside and out. While everyone and their mothers are fussing over Captain America sacrificing himself for hostages, we've got Clint and six SHIELD agents already in the building. Barton's bringing Cap his shield. The cops haven't noticed a thing.

(As a side note, between screwing over our teammate and a detective trying to grab my ass, I hate the NYPD. Tell them you're not donating to their funds this year.)

We had a little chat, he slumped over and pretended the tranq just took a while to work and they took him in. They let out forty members when Cap appeared to be napping, and forty more when the police turned him over. Of course they kept all the members of DISEC inside. I don't know what kind of imbeciles they are; it's not as if any measure passed under duress is going to hold water. You'd think UN employees would be smarter.

This is too fishy. These are UN staffers. How did so many of them come together on such a…well, niche interest? It's the kind of thing you'd either need to plan years in advance to infiltrate, or they're being blackmailed, or something.

I'm signing off. I'm giving Barton a minute and a half more and then going in. Thor's staying out here and making a scene with the cops so they don't miss me. By the time you hear from me again, we'll be on our way back. Trust me.

Oh, and Stark? What's with all the typos? I've seen you half-dead and spelling better than that. Go back to bed. The good doctor has promised me he won't let you out of the Tower.

Chapter Text

Fuck that – fuck, come on Nat, you need me. You let gaptain america give himself up for the sake of a hostage crises – hwoever tehes people are you’r giving tehm super soldier blood – they genetically modified a biotoxin what makes you thinjk they’ll do any less when they have steve to play with? you have got to be shitting me.

Im coming out there. Tell banner I’m sorry for the whole repulsor blast to the face thing. Had to be done.

T

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EMERGENCY NOTICE:

The J.A.R.V.I.S. system is offline as of 11:43:12. Life-support, security, and other auxiliary functions are unavailable until reactivation.

This has been an automated emergency message.

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Stark,

Cap's fine. We're inside. We've corralled most of the instigators and he is administering first aid to some of the remaining hostages who stuck around to help. You should know better than to think we'd let anybody get near his blood. Besides, his blood has probably been declared non-essential by the U.S. Government, too, so quit worrying.

You do not come here under any circumstances. Banner and I put two and two together: between your erratic behavior and egregious misspellings, we guessed there was something wrong apart from puking your guts up every half hour. There's a partial behavior-control nanotech in the biotoxin; the illness was just there to cover it up.

The doc is working on a remedy for it as we speak; you get to be his test subject. He tells me that if you can pull yourself together enough to stop being a nano-controlled spelling bee reject, he promises he'll untie you and let you come down to the lab. He says he's sorry the big guy clocked you in the head and messed up your new penthouse, by the way, but it was necessary under the circumstances.

We're controlling things here till the nano fix is done. None of these people are in any shape to leave. The med team should be in any minute.

In other news, we need to get this boy laid. There's this cute young delegate from Azerbaijan following him around like a puppy and he's too set on being professional to do anything about it, though he obviously likes her. I tried to nudge him, but he said it wouldn't be right given the circumstances. I swear, I think with my dick more than he does, and the only dick I have is a strap-on.

Take care of yourself.

Nat

Chapter Text

Steve,

Thanks for that round of chicken noodle soup, it was excellent. I’m starting to feel like a human being again.

Listen, I just… okay, honestly, I started writing this right after you left the room, all imposing and serious-jawed. I wanted to say this in person, but apparently I’m a giant pussy when it comes to talking about actual feelings, and since I haven’t written a letter in like a week, here goes nothing.

Steve… you’ve been really great these last few days. I was a massive dick to you when those nanites were crawling around my brain, and while it would be really easy to blame the entirety of my more-assholeish-than-usual attitude on them that doesn’t seem right. You handled the UN with astounding finesse – faking your own unconsciousness in order to have the bad guys invite you into the building? Pretty brilliant. Nat and Clint were on point too, though I have to say Clint would NEVER have successfully infiltrated the building if I hadn’t forced him to sit through a day’s worth of security footage. You're welcome.

But seriously – singlehandedly saving half the general assembly and tanking the military tech-share resolution in one fell swoop while I was drooling and unconscious? My hero.

Looking back, I can only guess first two attacks were attempts to test the neurotoxin's degree of control, or possibly attempts to gas/distract enough major superhero players that the UN assault could go off successfully. It's still a terrible plan, as I'm sure the first thing the GA will do upon reconvening is discount legislation passed under pressure... thought it was actually interesting to see how many smaller countries feel the pressure of the "armor race" nowadays. I really had no idea what I'd be inspiring when I built that first armored suit; all I wanted was to get out of that fucking cave and eat a cheeseburger.... learning how many nations feel marginalized by the armor race is a eye-opening. Most of the time Sometimes I think the world would have been better off in a lot ways if my armor didn't exist. Selfishly I'm glad it does, but ...

As for my own behavior, I can only guess that because they didn't realize I'd been dosed I didn't get any direct commands from AIM, just inhibited neural functions and increased aggression. Thank god Bruce stopped me before I made it to the UN, who knows what I could have done - if they'd realized they had my number and I was fully armed in the suit things might have gotten really awkward.

Speaking of Bruce, I’m starting to think it was a mistake to build the armor’s only automated assembly into the penthouse level’s launchpad… I mean, of course my nanite-enraged self would plow upstairs to fly the armor. Bruce (darling, wonderful Bruce) guessed I’d make a break for it and was waiting for me in the penthouse – by the time I reached him I’d disabled JARVIS, thinking the AI would probably cock-block me when I got to the Launchpad – and so I had absolutely zero warning when Bruce hulked. I think JARVIS is pissed that I shut him off when he needed to be taking care of me - I would be too. I'm thinking about removing my own ability to do that - JARVIS is capable of independent thought, it doesn't seem right that I should be able to end him with a few keystrokes. Then again, if he were ever compromised, I have no idea how'd we'd stop him....

(Maybe the penthouse is cursed… it’s gonna take another six weeks before they finish replacing those busted sections of the floor. I promise I’ll give you back the bed as soon as I can walk further than the bathroom.)

You’ll be happy to know I’ve already apologized half a dozen times to Bruce for attacking him in the penthouse… I even sent him flowers and a cake. He seemed to feel terrible about the whole hulking-out-and-smashing-my-face thing, but I know it was well deserved. I’m just glad I didn’t actually hurt him – god, how horrible would that have been. I also apologized to Natasha for the ridiculous messages she had to read – she deleted a few I’m really, really glad didn’t reach your eyes. She's really something else - chatting with her was... enlightening to say the least.

I just… you’ve been really good to me. The soup. Sleeping in your quarters even though I’m fucking ridiculous sick as a dog and waking up at weird hours. Now that JARVIS is back online and monitoring my vitals I can say I’m three hours away from being fever-free for 24 – thanks to Bruce’s quick-fix – so there IS that.

The other thing you may not know is that I sort of sent some horrible messages to Pepper while my brain was co-opted, and I’m not sure she’ll forgive me what's going on there. I don’t know what to do – I need to fly out to see her in Malibu, but I was meant to leave for Japan on business and now I'm waiting to see if their quarantine and disease control will let me in. I'm gonna postpone for a few weeks if only so I don't feel like death warmed over on the plane. You don't have any desire to visit Japan, do you?

Also, Steve, you should know – I’m not writing you because I have to. I regret saying anything that made you think that – I enjoy this little piecemeal conversation we have going, I enjoy taking the time out of my day to actually talk to another human being. It’s cathartic, considering how much of my time I spend talking to machines.

Sorry, I have more to say but it's just - I don't know - stupidly exhausting to write like this. I'm going to take a nap - if you get this before dinner, wake me up? It'd be nice to eat with the team.

T

Chapter Text

B--

Swear you won't say a word about this. I probably shouldn't be telling you, but it's just too good.

You know how Cap and Stark have been sending each other letters on those ridiculously overpriced StarkPads? They weren't exactly subtle about exchanging messages, but I assumed they were fighting about work because Clint and I have had a bet going about whether Mr. Irresistible Force or Mr. Immovable Object would injure the other first. Clint was trying to manipulate the results in his favor, but if he wants an authentic Ansel cronut that badly, more power to him.

Then, during the UN bullshit, I saw the letters. Turns out they're FLIRTING.

Pretty cute, in a vomit-inducing way. Cap somehow manages to come off as overt and innocent at the same time, which is weirdly sexy, and Stark is, well, you know, too busy trying to impress the Boy Scout to notice. They're both completely oblivious. I almost told Stark he was missing an opportunity, but I thought better of it, considering I wouldn't wish Tony Stark on my worst enemy (I know you two are best buddies these days, but you're not banging each other--at least, I hope not. One, you have better sense than that, and two, I don't want to be fucking Tony Stark via the law of transitive properties.)

So I'm gonna take Steve out for ice cream. Is in unethical to use my vast network of contacts to find him someone who isn't completely dysfunctional to date? Do you know any cute microbiologists?

Anyway, it made letter-writing seem fun, in a quaint sort of way where, hey, Stark can't snoop if they're on paper, and I can leave lipstick prints like this:

They're letting you out of quarantine today, right? I've been keeping a mental list of surfaces I want to pin you up against the minute you're declared non-toxic. We're starting with your white board. I want to smudge all your equations to hell. Wear a white shirt and it'll be so pretty by the end of it.

Kisses,

N

Chapter Text

Tony,

I tried to wake you, but you're pretty well out of it. I figure you just need to sleep. We have plenty of team dinners. And like I said, before she got sick, my mother was a nurse. She taught me these things. I like doing them. It sort of makes me feel like she's with me.

You don't owe me an apology for being a jackass when you were sick and compromised. But I'm glad to take it. I'll just apply that apology to any one of the number of times you've been an ass without an excuse, since I'm pretty sure I've never gotten one of those before.

I don't mind sleeping on the cot. It's better than most of the beds I had before and during the war, even if my feet don't fit on it. My feet haven't fit in most of the beds I've slept on post-serum. I've never had a queen-sized bed before, and it feels, well, too big, sometimes. I don't know how I feel about six weeks-- the two of us in close quarters for that long might eat each other alive. But I won't kick you out until you're well, at least. Just be aware that when you go, the Iron Man sheets are going with you. Those things are creepy.

You're off quarantine, by the way. Banner says the bacteria's out of your system. If you're feeling better tomorrow, I want to go to the Central Park Zoo. There's supposed to be this clock that plays music every half-hour. I remember the zoo from when I was a really little kid; my mother took me there a couple of times. I know it's going to be different now, but I'd kind of like to see how it's different. I think I'm mentally prepared for it.

I knew you'd hate missing that UN session. I, for one, am glad we have Iron Man, but I know I have the same fears about anyone recreating the serum. I kind of need to talk to somebody about last week, too, and I think you'll understand better than anybody, knowing what you went through with your company's weapons contracts. I was surrounded by people who saw me as a weapon and a potential threat to their countries' safety. One of the delegates asked me how I could reconcile my title with what I want to stand for. I want to tell them that I want to be a model for what America (and other powerful nations) should be, not what it is, and it's a reminder to me to use my power to help people. But I don't know if that's the right answer.

Look, Miss Potts loves you and she'll understand that you were practically brainwashed just as well as any of us did. You weren't responsible for anything you said. You should be cleared for Japan; you're absolutely not contagious. I've been hanging around Barton and Romanova and neither of them have even a sniffle. But yes, you need to go see her and talk to her. Things seemed pretty broken before you got sick. You can't just avoid whatever conversation it is that you need to have. Waiting too long will make it harder to patch things up, and I'd hate to see that happen to you two. I admit I'm clueless with romance, but I am pretty good with people in general, so if you need a sounding board, I'll do my best. I appreciate the-- well, I guess that was an invitation to Japan. I appreciate it. But it sounds like you have some things to take care of, and this won't be the only chance for me to see Asia.

Call me when you're up. I can come sit with you for a bit. I want to bring you some leftovers and see if we can get some solid food into you. We thought that chili peanut chicken you usually get might be too spicy, so we ordered you some pan fried noodles and dumplings. We did get the tea-smoked duck, too, if you're up for it.

Oh. And I'm glad you like writing. Thanks for clearing that up. I'm still saving this letter for the next time you're an ass so I can remind you of how damn wonderful I am.

Steve

Chapter Text

Steve,

You mean you bought this crappy Ikea bed even though it was too short for you, just because it was cheap? Even for you that’s ridiculous. I’m buying you a new bed – normal stores have extra long bedding. Your perfect body may not be susceptible to aches and pains, but you’ll get a better night’s sleep in a decent bed. I will absolutely not take no for an answer on this - do you have any idea what people finding out you're sleeping on a shitty, too-short cot in my amazing tower of the future will do to my reputation? Seriously. If not for yourself, do it for me.

You’ll be happy to know I’ve arranged to move to one of the guest rooms on this level, finally, despite the woefully inadequate bed and bathroom facilities (I can't believe you expect me to bathe in a room without computer screens embedded into the shower walls. ugh.). I’m also making some changes to the penthouse design, so the remodeling timeframe may change. I’ll let you know when I get hard dates on it, but I offered a fairly generous incentive if it could be completed in under four weeks. I think it bought me 24-hour work crews, so that's cool.

I may be clear of quarantine, but my PA inquired with the Japanese authorities and they’re putting me off another two weeks at least. Pep’s team pointed out that there’s a peace conference going on around the time they've tentatively cleared me for a visit, so I could easily make an appearance and bolster SI’s anti-weaponry policies. Visiting Hiroshima as the child of someone involved in the Manhattan Project would be pretty weird... I've never been that far south in Japan and I'm not really sure I want to see the mark dear old dad helped leave on the world. But then, going would definitely make a statement. I don’t know.

Thanks for inviting me out of the house. I'd really love to but I'm not sure it's a good idea right now - it'd be nice to get out and stretch my legs but seeing as I fell asleep twice writing this letter I think it'll be a few more days before I'm back to my normal pace. (did I just make a mature decision regarding my health? holy shit, who AM I) Anyway, the zoo is full of screaming, whiny kids even on a weekday and each and every one of them will recognize us and I still have this nasty shiner where the big guy clocked me and I am happy just sitting here with just - I don't know, can I raincheck the zoo? Next week, maybe?

Maybe instead we could, you know, visit the mansion. I’m sorry for reacting so shittily when you brought it up – I just can’t believe my old man wouldn’t tell me about something like that. Or rather, I can believe it, but I’d rather believe it was bullshit…. You mentioned da Vinci prototypes? That’s pretty incredible, and I can't stop thinking about it. Something like that should be in a museum, not a basement, and I can't stop thinking about it. It's giving me really weird dreams and as much as I hate that place to admit it, visiting the house help.

Anyway, I feel more awake now so you’re welcome to come up and sit. Bring whiskey, please.

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

Well, considering you're face down in my bed, I guess that guest room move isn't happening quite yet. This is why I told you I didn't think you were up to whiskey.

I really appreciate the offer about the bed and everything, but I bought that bed myself with my own money from my SHIELD stipend. I've never owned my own furniture before, and I don't care if you think it's shitty (Although you seem to enjoy conking out in it just fine). You cover my housing and utilities and food and most of the other things I could need, and SHIELD covers most of the rest. Please just let me buy my own clothes and furniture and incidentals and leave me alone about them. I've missed out on a lot of the things most people my age get to do, so I kind of want to keep the firsts I can have. No one's going to find out what kind of bed I sleep in. You built the security system, remember?

Besides, I spent the past few years sleeping in ice. This is a big improvement. Before that, I was sleeping on military camp beds and, you know, the ground. The one benefit to the ground is that my feet don't stick off it, but it's really a tradeoff given the pebbles and tree roots.

(And I'd like to remind you that I can be at least as stubborn as you can. Supersoldier serum increases your stubbornness capacity by 250%. It's a known fact.)

I guess I should also say that I didn't mean to unceremoniously kick you out. It's your tower; you can sleep where you want. I'm sure the beds in the guest rooms aren't shitty beds from Ikea, though. I do hesitate to ask why you haven't been sleeping in a guest room all along, since I suspect the answer involves a deliberate effort to be the biggest nuisance possible. Is there a reason I didn't know we had guest rooms?

On a more sober note, I still don't know what to think about Hiroshima. It's one of the most surreal answers to any of the questions-- you know what it's like to wake up and find out the war you were fighting is over and done, and oh, it was ended with a bomb that murdered scores of civilians? A bomb dropped by your side? A side you were on because you really believed they stood for protecting innocent people? I try not to tell myself I could have prevented that if I'd been around, but still. I'm still struggling with the fact that if the super soldier experiment had worked, its purpose was to stop that very sort of thing from happening. Or having to happen.

I really don't like the idea that a small group of people could wield the power to wipe out so many other people with a single decision.

I think you should go. I think it speaks to what you are trying to do-- with your company, with your suits, with the Avengers. And after New York, I think it might help you And I think you have a unique perspective with which to see it.

But I get the feeling you're going to use this delay to put off a trip to California. We all (Miss Potts included) know that if you wanted to go, you'd hop in the jet and go. I just felt like I should mention that. You might be able to get another week out of being sick, but that's it.

In regard to the bunker, yes, you were shitty about it, but apology accepted. I just felt like...the thing with Howard kept coming up; it was going to keep coming up. I can't very well talk about Howard Stark that way in news interviews, and I felt like you should know what I'm not saying when people ask me about him. I'm sure you know what that feels like. I'm shocked you don't know about it. If you don't, I wonder if anyone else does. He's got Da Vinci's flying machine, Tony. He claimed it was a real working prototype built by the man himself. And there were all these other things, too, which I know were significant but I'm afraid I don't really know scientific history well enough to tell you how. He told me they would have been in museums, but he could outbid the museums and he didn't trust their security. I wasn't even sure it was all real. I didn't know him well at all-- this was before I actually went over to the front. Once I figured out that Howard Stark was more likely to actually be crazy than dishonest, I realized it all had to be genuine.

But sure. Let's go over to the house, whenever you're ready. I have to appear on that panel at New York Comic-Con tomorrow, but once that's over, I'm happy to leave anytime. It'll be interesting, at least.

I'm kind of nervous about the panel. Not sure this was a great idea. I need to take some time to rehearse answers.

Steve

Chapter Text

Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con, lucky fans with special four-day passes got treated to a one-on-one panel featuring Steve Green, former Captain America author, and Captain Steve Rogers, the Captain, himself, in conversation. And the panel was crashed by a very special guest! Here's a transcript for those of you who missed the fun!

SG: Hi there, folks. Delighted you could make it. I know you're all waiting for our main attraction, so I'll make this introduction short. We're very lucky to have with us today one of the brave men and women who protected the people of New York last year during a...haha, our very own alien invasion. He's called by many names, including New York's most eligible bachelor, but we like to call him Captain America! Here to talk with us today about what it's like to share an identity with a beloved comic book hero is Captain Steven Rogers himself! Steve?

CA: Um...Thanks for having me. I guess...I guess this is my first panel like this...

(I love you, Captain!)

CA: Haha, thanks. Nice costume.

SG: Steve, it's a pleasure to have you.

(Cheers from the audience)

CA: Thanks, Steve. I'm really excited to be here.

SG: Do you want to start, I guess...you know, we all grew up...at least, I grew up reading Captain America comics. You want to tell us a little bit about what it's like...

CA: What what's like?

SG: Oh, well, I think we're all curious what its like to discover that you're a pop culture icon. Must be pretty crazy, right?

CA: Oh. Yeah. Ha, it's been different. I mean, let's be honest, everything's been pretty different for me...there's been a lot to adjust to, and then being famous, on top of that…especially famous for things I didn't do. Am I talking too much? I know, I know this panel is supposed to be about me, but I'm normally not much of a talker. Ahem.

(Audience laughter)

CA: So, yeah, having people recognize me when I go out is pretty weird... And having people know all this stuff about me...some of it true and some of it untrue...well, just imagine if everyone you meet asks you what it's like working for the circus, because they've spent their entire lives being told you worked for the circus, when in fact, you've never even set foot in one.

SG: And what was it like, working in the circus?

CA: Ha. Well, you know. The elephants are real prima donnas. Ahem

(Laughter)

SG: I guess by elephants, you mean Tony Stark?

(More laughter)

CA: (Laughs) Well, Mister Stark and I are trying to resolve our differences. You know the man sleeps on a custom-made red and gold Iron Man themed bed?

(Laughter)

CA: I'm not joking. I'm pretty sure it's stuffed with diamonds.

(Laughter)

SG: And where do you sleep, big guy?

CA: Me? Oh, ha, everyone knows I don't need to sleep.

(Laughter)

CA: But, you know, we really, at the end of the day, our differences are pretty small in the face of what brings us together.

SG: Well said, Steve. So how much of the America schtick is real, and how much of it is a schtick?

CA: Oh. Ah. Well, you know. It's not a schtick. I really believe in the values that our country was founded on. Equal rights, liberty, the belief that people coming together are stronger than people alone. Courage, ingenuity, adventure. It doesn't mean I always agree with our government. But...you know. My parents were immigrants. They came here from Ireland to have a better life, like so many of your... Well, parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. And that meant something to them. And I'm grateful to this country for giving me a home, and a chance to help people, and maybe even make this a better world.

SG: Sorry. You know. We have to ask one about politics, given the whole America thing.

CA: No, no problem. It was pretty softball. I had to answer to a bunch of UN delegates last week.

SG:We heard about that. You want me to ask about Syria?

CA: Ha, I don't think the audience came here to hear me drone on about Syria. Anybody want to hear my views on Syria, you can write in to Fox News or MSNBC and ask them to put me on one of those shows where everyone shouts over each other. I mean, it's funny, I know this is a comics convention and I know I'm here to talk about the comics, I guess, but believe it or not, I haven't read many of the comics about Captain America.

SG: You haven't? Aren't you curious?

CA: Sure, curious, but I'm not vain.

(Laughter)

CA: Again, not the Tony Stark panel.

SG: You're not a fan of Tony Stark, are you?

CA: On the contrary, I have nothing but the highest regard for all of my teammates. Mr. Stark put his life on the line for this city, and I personally won't forget that. On the other hand, he can't make French toast. On the other other hand, he's incredibly generous with his time and money. On the other other other hand, he kind of makes himself an easy target.

SG: And that can't be easy, living with Hawkeye.

(Laughter)

CA: Back to the comics.

SG: Right, back to the comics. So, if you could say anything to the writers of Captain America...

CA: Oh, I haven't read the comics, but I did my research. I know you are one of those writers. So...

SG: So?

CA: Well, from what I understand, you have me an incredibly attractive girlfriend. Way out of my league. So I should be saying thank you.

SG: You're welcome.

CA: But then you wrote her out! What's the story with that? It's pretty depressing that even my idealized fictional self is hopelessly single.

(I'll give you my number, Steve!)

CA: Sorry, but I make a rule of not dating people who dress like my coworkers' villainous adopted brothers. I mean, I hadn't thought about it till this minute, but Sexy Loki is apparently not my type. Thanks, though. Why don't you...just talk to, no, not the Thor in the front row, that's a little creepy...here, oh, Iron Man in the back is raising his hand. Good? Good, you exchange numbers after the panel. Where were we? The comics?

SG: Yeah, so, I noticed you don't call them comics about you?

CA: Because they're not. They're comics about a fictional guy who happens to have my name and a suit a lot like mine. And he's, well, he's a little bit like me, but he's kind of like an exaggerated version of me. He's not….let's put it this way, he's like my better-looking, more popular older brother who always does everything right.

SG: And you don't?

CA: (laughs) Like I said, I'm not a comic book character. My life is more…well, it's surreal, but it's still real life. I know the comics have, well, some really bad things happen in them. But it's like they focus on the really high points and really low points. There's always a villain, or a battle. And the good guys always win, in the end. Most of the battles I'm embroiled in right now are over who ate whose leftover takeout. And sometime things turn out for the best, but they don't, always. I feel like, when you're writing a story, it needs to be wrapped up nearly, have a beginning, middle, end, have a character learn a lesson. Real people, we don't always learn. We don't always have nice, neat endings. I'm not really a superhero in the grandest sense. I'm mostly an ordinary guy with a funny suit.

(A sexy suit!)

CA: I don't know, I'm always worried it's a little…what would you call it? Nerdy? I felt like I needed to leave it at home. But then I'm here around nerds, right?

(cheers)

CA: I don't know. I feel a little bit like I'm disappointing you all. I do know something about comics? I used to read The Midnight Racer. But I guess that's probably a little old-fashioned

SG: Actually, there was a Midnight Racer movie a few years ago.

CA: There was?

SG: Sure, with Seth Rogen? There was actually a panel about it here.

CA: All right, I'm going to have to have a talk with my teammates about this. No one told me. Someone's in trouble for that oversight. Anyway, yeah, I read Midnight Racer when I was a kid. Such a great dynamic. You have this one guy who just really wants to do good, but doesn't always know how, and then the Chauffeur is such a brilliant super-genius, with all his cars and weapons he builds...they balance each other really well, you know? And I guess I….I don't know what it would be like for me if they just showed up in my living room? Or at a comic convention. I guess that's what this is like for you all. I'm impressed you're all so...lucid. I'd probably be drooling on my shoes right now.

SG: Well, it's not just you, is it? We have aliens, a guy in robot armor.

CA: Two guys in robot armor, now. Don't forget Colonel Rhodes.

SG: Right. And a Hulk.

CA: And I guess so. I guess…maybe our world is getting to be a lot more like a comic book, isn't it? That's the only model a lot of us have for these things. Believe me, I've had my fair share of, well, rude awakenings in the past few years. The impossible's suddenly possible, I guess. And maybe I should be reading more comics. A few of the people I've met whom I admire most, well, they do. Or did. So there's something to be said for that. (laughs) You know, I'm probably not saying anything that's interesting to any of you kind people…should I just start answering questions?

SG: Questions? Sure. Sure, it can be time for questions. All right, folks, you know the drill, the microphones…step up, wait on line, we'll get to as many of you as possible.

Q: Hi, Steve.

CA: Hi.

Q: So, I was wondering, what's it like to live with the rest of the Avengers?

CA: Oh. Is that…sure. They're good people, really. Thor's a little…well. Thor.

(laughs)

CA: He's really like that. That's not an act. He won't mind me saying that, because it's not an act. He's sort of enamored with Seamless.

(laughter)

CA: Right, the things that entertain gods, huh? Hawkeye and Black Widow are pretty much as inseparable as anyone makes them out to be. And they've done a very good job of teaching me how to dress myself and making sure I'm not hopelessly behind on pop culture, so I'm grateful to them, even if I've failed a little bit. Bruce Banner's one of the most brilliant people I've ever had the privilege to work with…and he's nothing like his counterpart, really. No, really. He's the calmest, most controlled person I know. And I've already talked about Tony Stark. Ha. Not that there's that much to say that hasn't been covered in the tabloids.

Q: Is it true that Tony Stark cheated on Pepper Potts?

CA: What?

Q: It was in US Weekly.

CA: Oh. Well, normally, I would say personal questions about other people are none of my business, but in this case, I know it's absolutely untrue. He adores her. Cheated playing cards with her? That, I wouldn't put past him. Next question?

Q: So what was it like being assassinated that one time?

CA: I…errr…I've never been assassinated.

Q: Yes, you were, in Volume Five, number Twenty-Five?

CA: I'm afraid that didn't really happen, sorry. I…I really hope that doesn't ever happen. No one out there planning to assassinate me?

(Nervous laughter)

CA: Hey, okay. Nice costume, again. Are you…supposed to be me?

Q: Yeah. I made it myself. I was going to ask you, how do you deal with giving orders to the Hulk, and the second part of my questions is, which one of you would win in a fight, like, for real? Because I feel like Hulk obviously has the brute force advantage, but his intellect is, like really low, so you'd be able to outsmart him, right?

CA: Sure. Ah, well. Dr. Banner is usually a pretty calm sort of guy. So I usually give him orders. If it's the Hulk, well. I find monosyllables work all right. Does that answer your question?

Q: And the part about the fighting?

CA: I…try not to get into fights with Dr. Banner when he's in that state. So I couldn't say. Next?

Q: Hi. What's the Black Widow's measurements?

CA: Excuse me?

Q: Her measurements?

CA: Her measurements…of what?

Q: Like, okay, what's her bra size? Have you ever seen her naked?

CA: I…have no idea. And if I've ever seen her naked, she was so stealthy about it that I didn't notice. I can tell you what Hawkeye's bra size is, though, if you really want to know.

(laughter)

CA: Look, archers need a lot of support. Next question?

Q: How about Hawkeye? Is there any truth to the speculation that he was romantically involved with a SHIELD agent?

CA: Ahh…if he is or was, I didn't hear about it. He's a pretty private person, I guess.

Q: Did you and Bucky Barnes ever, you know?

CA: Know what?

Q: Well, I need to know for my fanfiction if you and Bucky were in love? Or just friends with benefits, that would be okay, too.

CA: Ah…no. Okay, do we have any questions that don't involve--

Q: How about Howard Stark?

CA: Pardon?

Q: Did you ever sleep with Howard Sta--

CA: God, no! I was about to say, questions that aren't about anyone's--

Q: If you had to pick one of your Avengers teammates, which one of them would you want to--

CA: Can you rephrase that in a way that makes it not about anyone's sex life?

Q: Do you read slashfic?

CA: Do I read what?

TS: Hey guys, I heard this was the Tony Stark panel? No? Oops.

(screams and cheers. Tony Stark enters from back of room.)

CA: Apparently every panel is the Tony Stark panel.

TS: Hey Cap, slashfic is stories about how we make out all the time. You know. Like we do.

(cheers)

CA: Ahem. You're not allowed in my room when I'm sleeping anymore, Stark.

TS: (raises both hands to silence the crowd) Are you guys being nice to our dear captain?

(screams and cheers)

TS: I thought so. So, have they asked how big your dick is yet?

(more screams and cheers)

CA: Wha...?

TS: Wouldn’t they like to know.

CA: Well, it's by no means the biggest dick in the house.

TS: (laughs) Hey, other-Steve, you look good! Gimme a hug, you fucking dog - you owe me a move on Words with Friends. I warn you – my last play was fucking awesome so don’t get cocky. Seriously.

Q: Tony, is it true you're single?!

TS: Who said – oh, hey, Sexy Loki. For you I could be.

Q: What happened to your eye?

TS: You know those previously mentioned house guests? Turns out the Hulk gets grumpy when you eat his leftover Chinese.

CA: And you keep blaming it on Hawkeye.

SG: Ladies and gentlemen – ladies and - ladies and gentlemen, please refrain from climbing onto the stage – can we get a little bonus security in here, please?

CA: I'm a little hurt no one wanted to climb on the stage just for me, actually.

TS: Stevie, whenever you’re done here Cap and I have a hot date at a local pizza joint. So let’s keep this panel rocking along, yeah?

CA: We do? Oh...They were up to all the questions about my love life. Did you want to answer those for me?

Q: Can I get a photo?

TS: Of course. C'mere, Steve, let's give 'em what they want - don't worry, you know we look good.

(And as for giving the audience what they wanted-- Tony Stark put his arms around Captain America and gave him a good, old-fashioned kiss on the cheek, much to the delight of the fans, who swarmed the duo with cameras. Cap and Iron Man generously gave several fans a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity on their way to the door, where Tony Stark blew kisses at the audience, and heartily encouraged Steve Rogers to do the same.)

Not bad for Cap's first Comic-Con event, but we're disappointed we didn't get juicier answers about the crazy Avengers co-habitation situation. Next time, maybe?

Chapter Text

Tony, that was possibly the most entertaining and most embarrassing experience of my life all in one go.

I'm not sure if I should be thanking you for rescuing me from the questions about seeing Natasha naked or smacking you in the face for hijacking my panel and...you do realize there are going to be pictures of you kissing me everywhere tomorrow, right? And that Captain America has a certain reputation to uphold that...well, Tony Stark doesn't? I mean, the way you worked that audience was incredible; you were like some kind of mythic golden idol. The crowd obviously adores you. It was just...I don't think I've seen you that much...in your element before, and it was extremely impressive. I mean, I've seen you on television, I suppose, but that was something else. Watching you on Jimmy Fallon or The Daily Show is completely different. But I would have had a lot easier time with those questions if I hadn't had to think about what Captain America would say. Half the problem with those questions was that I probably would have been, well, more sarcastic. Or more ornery. I'm not sure which. I don't know why people feel like they're entitled to ask those sorts of things, and I kind of thought...well. I thought it would mostly be about comics.

Oh well. It was hilarious. But you get to answer the inevitable questions from SHIELD. Those are all yours.

I looked up slashfic. Then I promptly shut the window on my computer. What...I don't understand. Do you know there are stories on the internet about us being turned to fish?

Right, I'm ready whenever you want to leave for Old Westbury.

Steve

P.S. That kiss was a little chaste, coming from you.

Chapter Text

Cap -

Oh man, Comicon was a blast. Tell them to invite you back next year - that was just what I needed. Who doesn't love a little time indulging the adoring masses?

There were some pretty inspired costumes in there, though.... amateur design at its finest. I may have to be Sexy Loki for Halloween.

Seriously, I didn't do anything - I mean, I may have suggested that my old friend Steve Green be your moderator, but it's only because I knew he would treat you right and get you out of any tight spots..... and honestly, I wouldn't have interrupted at all except that a little bird told me you were starting to go beet red as the questions got raunchier. (Steve, really, it's Comicon, of course people are going to be ridiculous. You have to be ridiculous back, throw them a few bones; make 'em love you and leave 'em wanting more.)

I'll text you when I'm ready to head out. Might as well get this shit over with.

T

PS Are you challenging my kissing prowess? I think I've read that fanfic.

Chapter Text

Cap –

Man, I'm glad we decided to do this - the shit down here is unreal. The DaVinci model – oh god, the wings alone are gorgeous, the twine twisted and shaped at the joints, I just – I just want to be near it, to touch what those hands touched – how on earth did dad ever find this. How the hell. Was Howard Stark secretly Indiana Jones or something? I'm a little worried there's a lost ark down here somewhere.

I also found his whiskey collection – some of this is so gorgeous it’s like drinking liquid smoke.

Steve, when I was a kid I wanted a dog. I guess every kid wants one, but I really really really wanted a dog. I was an only child, smart enough to spend three days in third grade before being bumped to fifth – and skipping grades constantly meant I didn’t have any friends, ever, because I was the least mature person in my class trying to befriend kids miles ahead of me in social situations… and while intellectually I knew that getting a dog was always going to be an unlikely thing considering I spent most of my time at a boarding school, I still wanted one.

Every single summer I came home to this huge empty house while my dad was working and my mother was socialiting and Jarvis, our family butler, was left to cut my sandwiches into triangles and bust me for reading under the covers. Dogs were man’s best friend, you know? Dogs love you no matter what, would protect you and play with you and be happy just to be near you. No one was ever happy to be near me – I wanted a fucking dog to sleep on my feet and drool on my face and play fetch outside when my parents were away and I was bored out of my mind.

Of course Howard Fucking Stark said no. No, absolutely not, he hated dogs, he was allergic to dogs, no.

So when I got into that stupid fucking secret bunker and I saw those photos of him with a dog, I just – I just couldn’t…. And I didn’t really mean to drink half a bottle of forty two year old whiskey, but one thing led to another and that stupid fucking photo of dad and not just any dog, with Laika I just. I just. I can’t -

Maybe Laika needs an explanation.

While you were in the ice, the fucking Russians decided to sacrifice a dog on the alter of science, and her name was Laika. It’s a horrible story, a prime example of people letting the drive to learn and understand incinerate their humanity – a lesson we apparently need to learn over and over and over. During the space race, before we’d successfully orbited the planet, a Russian scientific team picked a mutt off the streets and gave her a new shot at life. They tamed her, trained her up, covered her in sensors, kissed her nose and then locked her in a box and shot her into the atmosphere where she overheated, died, and was incinerated five months later when her high-tech coffin disintegrated upon re-entry.

Or so we thought.

Turns out my old man must have put ye olde Stark family brains to the task, designed a recapture and return rocket capsule, sent it after the dog and brought Laika home. God only knows how much time that dog spent in this freaky secret bunker… I’m fairly sure mom never knew she was there, she wasn't an animal fan herself. It was the Cold War, so stealing a Russian space dog could easily kick off a war – and her appearance was well documented, so I’m sure dad would never have let her out. It'd be too coincidental for him to show up in the papers with a Laika look-alike.

I guess he thought it would be senseless to sacrifice an animal for the sake of data collection; or maybe he just didn't want to lose another prized experiment.

All these fucking photos of dad and Laika, smiling and having his face licked and - god, there’s only a handful of photos here but I can see more affection in his face than I’ve EVER seen before.

Maybe he loved Laika because she was like you – another science project, another item to be analyzed and examined… but maybe it was just because she was fucking adorable with those quirked ears and everything. Maybe he just wanted to analyze the Russian’s data firsthand and examine what weightlessness could do to an animal? I hate to say it, but it kind of makes me think maybe my old man wasn’t so awful, or maybe you’re right and there was some part of him that was actually a decent guy, I just never had the chance to see it myself, I don’t know. Laika’s story was horrible, but my fucking dad (OF ALL PEOPLE) gave it a happy ending, never told a soul, and refused to ever own another animal.

Steve – I know I’m drunk and this is ridiculous, I know, whatever. It’s just that… how did a dog earn that kind of compassion when I got alcoholism and dickishness?

This place is fucking incredible and it makes me feel tiny.

 

T

Chapter Text

Tony--

I was in some kind of half-trance when the tablet buzzed; it startled me awake again. I wasn't expecting-- I assumed I wouldn't hear from you till it was six and we were ready to leave. You could have come upstairs, you know.

I guess maybe not. Anyway, it was as good a time as ever to take a break. Staring at photos of my own funeral-- Howard has binders and binders of this stuff. Obituaries, letters, condolence cards. Photos of everybody I ever knew (minus Bucky, of course) standing around in black. Rows and rows of teary-eyed young women I've never seen holding vigil with candles. At least I guess they did a Catholic service-- I've got a prayer card of St. Stephen with my name on the back of it. It says,

O qui tuo dux Martyrum.

O Captain of the Martyr host!
O peerless in renown!
Not from the fading flowers of earth
Weave we for thee a crown.

The stones that smote thee,
in thy blood Made beauteous and divine,
All in a halo heavenly bright
About thy temples shine.

St. Stephen was the first of the seven Deacons of the original Catholic church.  He was also the first martyr.  He was stoned to death, and spent his execution praying for forgiveness for his executioners.  I'm going to stick that in my jacket pocket.

There's a letter from President Roosevelt. From Winston Churchill. There's even a letter from Hirohito, in wartime, saying what a respected opponent I was and how bravely I died. There's a letter from Alfred Hitchcock, one from Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant.

The best one is one from Jimmy Stewart. He said that I reminded him of all the values he'd tried to portray in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Have you ever seen that movie? It's about this young man who runs for Congress, gets there, and realizes how messed up everything is. And then goes on a one-man crusade to fix it. The whole time, people are trying to crush his ideals and his hopes and his rosy outlook, and somehow, just when everything seems most desperate and he's about to give up, he comes up on top in the end.  I kind of like the idea that someone else thought that part of who I was was important enough to mention.

It makes me wonder if I would have gotten to meet these people if I'd come home.

I don't know why these all went to Howard. I guess with me not having a family, people didn't know who else to send them to. And then, you can tell that time passes. There are still pictures of memorials, a statue being unveiled, awards, speeches, but people don't look so unhappy. Six months, a year later, and they're smiling again.  There's a picture here of Howard and Peggy that

Anyway, I came downstairs and I saw you'd locked the vault from the inside. I left you a bottle of water-- I'm glad we brought those. The water's kind of brown, and the gas is off, and I'm not sure where the valves are in this big place.

So I took one of your dad's bikes, siphoned some gas out of the car and got it running--I hope you don't mind-- and went into town. Found a deli, bought a couple sandwiches, a box of cereal, a box of those Italian cookies you like, and a gallon of milk. I would have gotten more, but I'm low on cash and I still can't get approved for a credit card. It was only about forty minutes round trip, and I did put gas in the bike (and signed the station attendant's Captain America shirt), so I'll go out again later, but I was thinking we could have a picnic out on that massive overgrown lawn and just...

Well, we both need a vacation. Maybe getting stuck in the past trying to find our own answers isn't a vacation, exactly, but I called in to the team and when I asked if they could manage without us for a few days, Barton asked if I could just leave you somewhere for good, so I think that's a yes. I left a message for Miss Potts, too-- we're clear until Friday, we can stay as long as you want. It doesn't sound like you're in shape to drive back tonight, anyway.

I don't really know what to say about the dog. Maybe he just needed a dog. Maybe he needed to beat the Russians. Maybe he wanted a secret. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could do it. Trying to explain your father seems like an exercise in futility. You will always, always find one more piece of the puzzle that doesn't fit. But if there are photos of them together, someone else did know about the dog. Maybe you could find out.

I don't want to think too much about people turning things they find on the street into heroes and then discarding them right now.

I'm going to take a walk around the grounds. I found that crazy old Roman-bath-looking pond with the stone gazebo, and I think I'm going to go over there and stick my feet in the slimy water or something.

Let me know when you're ready for dinner.

Chapter Text

Steve –

Sorry I wasn’t better company this afternoon; the picnic was a surprisingly good idea. I was a little shocked you found those quilts in my mom’s old chest – I haven’t seen those blankets since I was a kid. It was really nice Is it crazy to say that they still smelled a little bit like her? Is that possible? I can’t tell you the last time something reminded me of my mom.

I also really can't remember the last time I sat in the grass like that, let alone drinking champagne and eating cookies. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been on a real picnic before – there were a few years there where I didn’t willingly go out of doors unless it was to the beach and I was guaranteed the company of at least three models. There were even ants – I’m a little grossed out that I let you put baking soda on my toes, but it did take the edge off. Maybe I should have someone come out here and really take a weed whacker to the place - it's surprisingly tame for an overgrown jungle, but I bet the neighbors would appreciate my giving the yard a little TLC.

It was kind of nice to sit in the quiet and just sort of… I don’t know. Maybe people are right when they say you should slow down every once in a while.

Though I still think your idea of a vacation is a little strange.

steve I don’t know how to

That prayer card is really something else. It’s kind of incredible – it sounds like it really was written just for you. When I got home after Afghanistan I felt like I’d been brought back to life, but when I looked around me the only the legacy I was recognized for was nothing but murder, death, and big big bucks. There were literally op eds about the fucking silver lining that came with my murder - shit, but those were hard to read even with an ego like mine.

At least you paved the way for good things.

Did I ever tell you we learned about you when I was in school? I mean, as a kid I read the comics and watched the terrible TV specials and everything, so it wasn’t like I learned anything new… but my high school history teacher actually did lesson on you and showed footage of your old promo videos, film reels of the Howling Commandos in action and everything. There was this one shot of you and some of the guys playing cards and I remember thinking how nice it would be to have such a tight-knit group of friends. I asked my dad about it when I saw him over spring break and he wouldn’t say a word on the matter - I know he spoke at the funeral. I just don't understand how he went from your acquaintance to promoting himself as your die-hard bestie? I mean everyone knew he was no Bucky, but he sure made it sound like you two were members of the mutual admiration society. Maybe he just felt guilty for setting you up to get killed, or for not coming up with a way to ... I don't know what I'm talking about, sorry. This got really tangential really fast.

You know, I wonder if the whole lost dog thing

It’s weird not having JARVIS here. Or Jarvis, really, I miss both of them. It sucks to write this entire thing out by hand.

After we ate dinner I went back to the bunker – there’s so many incredible things here. I'm trying to sort them out into piles... the categories so far are outdated/useless, outdated/interesting, unidentified, historical, weapons, and alien. There's seriously an oblong object here that really does look alien... and while yes, I have a pet alien demigod sleeping in my tower, this is STILL fascinating. Back behind these two half disassembled engines I found three ancient looking urns sealed in plastic and labeled GREEK FIRE… you know I can’t fucking stand the idea of letting them sit there unopened. I know dad was involved in the development of Napalm by one of Harvard’s staff – I can’t help but wonder if maybe he cracked one of these open and ran chemical testing. Is it unethical to ruin an archeological treasure in the name of progress? Do we really need a new, improved version of napalm?

Also – this is going to sound insane but – I found something here that I think might be a partial Tesla creation. For years there have been rumors that he came up with a “teleforce” or charged beam particle weapon based off on Van de Graff generators. It was supposed to be an incredible anti-aircraft weapon that would amplify and apply intense force – actually, it was kind of what I had in mind when I put together the armor’s repulsors…. But, uh, it was nicknamed his Death Ray and I think I may have it in this fucking bunker. The FBI confiscated Tesla's belongings upon his death, but this really... I mean there are very limited notes with it, but if you squint you can kind of see how it's supposed to go.

Somehow I’m unsurprised that I was raised on top of a deadly fucking weapon lost to the annals of history. With this kind of shit sitting in the house, how could I have grown up into anything but what I am? We like to think we’re capable of making our own decisions and charting our own destinies – what a crock of shit that is. We're all just closed systems, our parts arranged in a certain order, the outcome unmistakeable.

 

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

Not to encourage repeat performances of that level of intoxication, but Tony Stark drunk is more entertaining company than most people sober. And I don't just mean because you fell in the pond twice, although that helped. The fact that you just decided to stay in the pond and fix that drainage pump, and watching the water move progressively from green to clear, with your trousers rolled to your knees, pond scum in your hair, and...what did you call that thing you used? A leatherman? I want one of those...anyway, it was a good picture. So good I drew you while you were mucking around in the pond.

The tablet is still tricky. It doesn't always put the lines down where I expect it to. But I'm getting better at it, I think.

I don't know about you, but I could stay here for a while. This is more my speed than what's become of Midtown Manhattan. Biking to the store, trees, grass, sandwiches that cost less that ten dollars. Not feeling like I have to put on battle armor just to walk outside. I don't mean actual battle armor--that celebrity thing, again. It doesn't make a difference out here. Sure, the folks who live in New York mostly just smile and nod or wink, but tourists seem to think I'm just another landmark to gawk at and take photos of. I didn't even mind signing that guy's tee shirt at the gas station. He made small talk and didn't act like I was anybody special, and then as I was counting my change, he said, hey, you know, I served in Iraq, do you mind? And we talked a little bit about him giving stuffed toys to little kids in Baghdad and how tough it was over there, and then coming home and how it's been hard to find work. It was nice, having a real conversation with someone who just treated me like a normal guy who had something in common with him. You lot don't even treat me like a normal guy sometimes. You're getting better about it, but still.

You know, I've never been on an actual vacation? Maybe we should go on a vacation and do nothing but have picnics. I wonder if we could organize a team vacation and do things that each of us haven't done before. This is about as close to vacation as I've ever had, save for a few extra days here and there in motels when I was on the road selling war bonds.

I know I'm going to sound like an overgrown kid, but I'd kind of like to go to Disney World someday. Disney World, and Hawaii. And Ireland. You know, see the ancestral homeland and such.

Is that weird? I mean, I know I complain a lot about how weird it is for me to feel like everyone thinks they know me or know about me, but is it weird to work with someone you grew up learning about in history books? I'm trying to-- I can only be what I am, you know? And I guess I get what you were telling me before, about how the person people expect you to be isn't the same as who you are, but is that kind of celebrity the same kind as what Captain America, the symbol, is? I don't mean to put myself on the same level as the true great men of history, but I wonder what would happen if, you know, if Teddy Roosevelt of Abraham Lincoln or George Washington suddenly turned out to be alive today.

I can't really tell you what your father was thinking. I think I knew him fairly well. I think mutual admiration would be an appropriate description. For all his faults, I did admire him. I could appreciate his work, even if I didn't always understand it. We worked closely together; we went through a lot of stressful times together, but close friends? Howard wasn't close with anybody, really, not that I ever saw. He was one of those people who had a lot of friendly acquaintances but no one he really seemed to love. He loved his science, the way a great artist loves his art. I guess, as to why he would have taken that role, he did like attention-- he lit up on stage, not quite the way you do, but with a charm and ease that I never quite mastered, even when I was selling bonds and doing two shows a day. And, maybe to give your father a little bit of credit, there really wasn't anyone else to do the job of burying the dead. There was Peggy, but she wouldn't have wanted to be the one in the spotlight, answering questions, giving eulogies. It also would have emphasized our relationship in a way that would have been dishonest and unfair to her-- although it seems like people did that anyway. We never really talked about-- there wasn't time, you know.

I'd like to hear about your mother sometime, if you'd want to tell me about her. I never met her, obviously; I know from your file that she was so much younger than your father, and he had to have been, what, fifty or so when you were born? But there's a lot more in your file about him than about her, and you talk about him so much, and it seems like she only comes up in passing, in stories about your father.

If there are three jars of the Greek Fire, why not open one and keep the other two sealed?

Look, if anyone I know has changed his destiny, it would be you. You turned yourself into a hero, not just in the sense of being a man in a suit who can save the world, but you changed the entire direction of your business from a business that detroyed things to a business that creates and sustains. And I know I underestimated you in that regard, but I don't, anymore. I think a lot of people do, though. You're better than the sum of your parts.

When you're done sorting through things in the bunker, do you want to watch some of these old movies with me? I found a projector. It might be nice to see some friendly faces.

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap -

Whatever. I got the pump working, what else do you want? The water pressure was fine, it was just the pressure valves and clogged intake on the fountainhead. I’ll order in some more filters, though the unit should probably be replaced eventually. And anyway, the scum was just leaves blocking the overflow chute so that wasn’t hard to fix – I probably should have an actual gardener come out and do something about the surplus of cattails on the western edge.

I’d try to fix the interior water but I imagine a few of the pipes are rusty. If you run enough water it’ll probably start running clear but I’d run a few tests on it before you actually drink it. If it runs clear it'll be fine for showering and shaving at least. You'd look terrifyingly manly with a beard, I'm not sure I could handle it.

(well, you don’t have to, but I should probably test it before I start drinking it. Especially given how ripped up my gut is at the moment. In fact, I’d better disinfect with another round of booze – you want an impromptu lesson on flavors of scotch versus bourbon?)

The gas is back on, by the way – I built a sensor last night and tested all the appliances I could find for leakage/emissions. If you start hearing a beep-beep-beeping when the stove is on let me know and I’ll shut off the gas again, but it’s probably fine.

I’ll take you to Disney World/Hawaii/wherever you like, Steve, really. We can rent the whole damn park. Have you not noticed how much I enjoy spending my money? I’ll take the team – you know I have a jet, right? A jet with stripper poles, therefore categorically speaking, the BEST JET EVER.

Seriously though, I’m gonna spend my cash somewhere, so we might as well spend it renting/buying small islands in the pacific.

(I’ve always wanted to own an island – we’ll call it Starktopia and when I get tired of the good guy schtick and turn evil I can build a volcanic lair there and plot evil deeds from the safety of a glorious tropical haven.)

I guess I can kind of see the appeal in this kind of speed, but I’m not sure how long I can stand it either; there’s a lot going on in my head most of the time. I can’t sleep I can’t stand some of the rooms – little things laying around bring back memories that I’m just as happy without. I should have hired someone to clean out this shit years ago, maybe then it would feel like a building instead of a mausoleum. I'm glad I didn't sell off the Captain America memorabilia at least. (Honestly? I used to call it dad's Cap Crap. I'm not sorry.)

Maybe I’ll wire the house for JARVIS... I don't know though. AI JARVIS running the household his living counterpart used to? His personality is only very loosely based on his namesake, and it might be weird to cross the streams like that. Still, I keep asking him (the AI, obviously) for things and then remembering that this house is offline. That's a little depressing in its own right - butler-JARVIS used to just sort of appear at your elbow when you needed things. He just had this preternatural ability to guess... or maybe just knew you well enough to guess what you would ask for next.

You know, there are plenty of people out there who understand at least to some degree what you went through – maybe you should get involved in a veteran's group. I mean you basically just returned from a war, Steve, and maybe people didn’t talk about this in the forties, but… well, this year alone the stats suggest more soldiers have killed themselves than were actually killed in action. I don’t mean to suggest that you’re … I don’t know, unstable or anything, but it’s pretty normal to feel out of place when you’re trying to reintegrate into civilian society, let alone a civilian society that’s seventy years different from the one you left. Some veterans groups to really small things like… I don’t know, go camping and fishing and shit. Are you one of those outdoorsy guys? I never figured you were, considering you grew up in Brooklyn, but those things seem kind of slow and relaxing.

(not that I would know – I’ve never fished a day in my life.)

anyway, don’t forget you’re currently ensconced in a luxury mansion with one of America’s top job-creators, and I don't furlough people for no reason. If you go out again tell your gas station buddy SI has a place for him. We’ll figure something out.

movies this afternoon? I'll bring the booze.

 

T

Chapter Text

Good morning, Sunshine!

You fell asleep in the middle of the second reel of movies. I tried to wake you when I accidentally put on a reel of your old home movies. YOU WERE TINY. And I had no idea you weren't born with the beard. But there you were, no facial hair and actually cute. For a minute I thought your parents used their vast wealth to rent a more adorable child to make home movies, but then there is one of you taking apart the television set and putting it back together, and I don't think that's something normal children do.

There was also one where you were dressed up as me. You drew an A on your head in marker and had a pot-lid shield, and you were looking for the Jerries in the kitchen cabinets.

Thanks for the liquor lesson. I guess I can see the merits in Scotch, but I think the rye was probably tastiest. I liked the spice, and it's not so much like, well, drinking dirt. I understand that that's supposed to be part of the charm, but I'm not sure it's for me.

Anyway, I thought about moving you, but I didn't want to wake you up, and I wasn't sure where you'd want to sleep, so I just threw a blanket over you and left you on the couch.

I hope you don't mind; I took forty dollars from your wallet and went into town to get groceries. There's a six pack of local beer and I got some sausage and rolls and salad greens, and I found the old firepit off the back patio and some charcoal. Let me know when you're ready for dinner. Otherwise, I'll wake you up at nine or so. I figured if you fell asleep that hard, you must need it.

I look terrible with a beard, I promise. My whiskers don't come in quickly, and when they do, they're bright red and incredibly silly. I'm getting respectable stubble at this point-- you know, it takes me two days to get a five o'clock shadow, but this is about as far as I'm willing to let it go. You'd think being the ideal specimen of a human being would have done something to my ability to grow facial hair, but alas.

I think the guy at the gas station said he went to technical school for electric work, so maybe you should see if he's better than those folks who messed up our fire alarms. It's really-- I don't feel like I can say those kinds of things on your behalf.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but please stop offering me things I can't pay you back for, Tony. I am so grateful to you for taking me under your wing, but I already feel like I owe you so much. I don't want things to be too unbalanced, I guess, is what I mean. There isn't really any way I can return favors like vacations. And I don't want to accept things not knowing if I'm imposing on your generosity.

But I would like to go on a vacation. I don't know.

Although maybe there's a workable solution. You know what we should do? Let's start making a list of things one of us missed out on, for whatever reason. I'll take you fishing and on a real picnic (that was barely a real picnic). And hiking (yes, I grew up in Brooklyn, but I do like the outdoors). And you can show me Star Wars and I'll consider the vacation thing.

Fury suggested something like a veteran's group to me once, right after I came out of the ice, but the trouble with things like that is that I have to think about Captain America. I don't want to be the center of attention somewhere where other people are going to get help. And I don't know how it will make them feel. People ask me for advice or tell me about their problems. As much as I wish people would treat me like a normal guy, some of them need me to be a symbol for more than that. It's the same thing with-- Natasha's (she keeps telling me to call her Natasha; I am am trying to get in the habit) been trying to encourage me to go on dates, and it's just...I don't mind if I'm a letdown. I know I'm probably a letdown. But Captain America can't be a letdown.

Huh. Are you really thinking about working on the house? I'd help out with that. I don't know anything about houses or gardening, really, but learning to use a lawnmower might be fun. And roofing. And I know how to paint; detail work on crown molding is nothing after art school. I could do work on the house to pay you back for vacation, maybe.

All right. I'm just rambling now. I found some more photo albums, and some magazine articles. Does being named TIME's "Person of the Year" posthumously land me anywhere close to Sexiest Man Alive? Why didn't anyone tell me about this? Did you not want competition?

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap -

Sorry I passed out on you – I hope I didn’t drool on your sleeve or anything. I must have been more tired than I thought.

Those videos were wild – I can’t get over how young my dad looks in most of them. Most of the video footage I’ve seen of his younger years was interview and newsreel footage… it’s interesting to see him interacting with other humans in a semi-normal way. Of course it’s weird to see that footage of you, too, when you’re sitting right there on the couch in sneakers and jeans. I mean, obviously I KNOW your history, but seeing those reels really drives home how old you kind of are.

I don’t feel sorry for missing those awful home videos. I’m pretty sure the only reason we have any lying around is because dad was developing video-related tech pretty early on in the game. Do you know how often my mom tripped over the gutted remains of household appliances? I think that’s half the reason she sent me off to boarding school. Once I got loose in my dad’s lab and took apart three computer consoles before my minder spotted me. It would have been fine if she’d let me put them back together but she seemed to think I was stupid enough to get myself electrocuted and so dad realized I’d been poking around in the lab and Christ, he was pissed.

I loved the one with you holding the bike (covered in girls!) over your head – I hate to say it, but you really look like a trained circus lion or elephant or something. Your old showbiz outfit is a little flashy with all the stars and stripes but the sequins matched the chorus girls so nicely – I bet they really brought out your eyes! Also, I hadn’t seen that second post-serum interview. When did you do that? It must have never been haired because you talk pretty explicitly about the super soldier program and the transformation process.

It was kind of neat to see footage of Barnes, too. I’m sorry – is that one of those things you won’t talk about? I read a lot about him in the comics of course but I hadn’t seen much actual footage that included him, despite how active months as a Howling Commando. He was a pretty good-looking kid, and I could tell how close you were. If you want to keep those videos, please feel free. When we get back to the mansion I can have JARVIS convert them into digital files to make sure the originals aren’t lost.

Steve, you’ve gotta stop looking at my money like that. Do you realize how much money I spend on a yearly basis? SI brings in plenty of cash, but the sheer number of patents held by myself & my father’s estate bring in enough cash that even I worked another day in my life I’d be earning six very large figures a month. I have no heirs and no plans to acquire one anytime soon (let’s be honest, I kill plants, I would be the world’s worst parent) and when I croak, all of that cash is going to charity while the last check I write will be to my mortician – and that sucker’ll bounce. I already donate more than any other private individual per year, though most of those donations aren’t in my own name. I don’t want fucking news coverage of what I give, it raises too many questions about how and why I choose to fund the groups that I fund.

Private industry is a beautiful thing, Steve; it’s just that so many of my financial peers are ridiculously amoral about their business practices. I consider myself to be proof-positive that big business can be successful while still giving a flying fuck about the little people that work for them. I may throw money away on a fucking sixty thousand dollar bed or team trips to tropical islands, but every single one of my employees has full benefits, my plants meet (and beat!) all EPA standards, full time staffers get a week and a half more paid vacation than the industry standard, and I offer fucking paternity leave – all of those things were in place even when I was in bed with the defense department. It’s common fucking sense that higher workplace satisfaction equals greater employee retention, quality hires, and better production overall.

and guess what? I didn’t need the fucking government to tell me that – if anything dealing with the American military’s response to my shift away from weapons development has hammered home the fact that government involvement in private business practices is shitty and unnecessary, provided business owners HAVE A SOUL. Fucking teabaggers ruining my party, jesus Christ.

Okay, okay, that got really tangential. Sorry.

So just, don’t think of my money that way. You don’t owe me anything, I’m not trying to buy your friendship or some shit – I have it and if you need it you are welcome to it. Incidentally, I also wasn’t really going for “taking you under my wing” – I thought we were becoming actual friends? The whole creepy Uncle Tony thing was just a joke, right? I’d rather be Because I really don’t want you to think of me as your crazy Uncle.

You’re welcome to work on the house, I’ll give you my card – the PIN is 8669, cash advance yourself a couple thousand and buy a riding lawnmower or something. Have Gas Station come out and help if you like, you don’t have to tell him who its for or anything. If he does quality stuff I’ll let him put together a team and try his hand at the penthouse wiring – Bruce really did a number on it when he hulked. See the above-mentioned benefit packages for an incentive.

Nat wants you to go on dates, huh? That’s probably a good idea. I mean you’re young and covered in muscles it would be good for you to have a good time interact with people closer to your own age. You’ve spent the last week locked up with your crazy uncle and though I try to be a terrible good influence I can’t really keep you to myself tell you what the kids are doing nowadays. Getting laid couldn’t hurt Casual dating is fun, anyway, I can’t really recommend long term commitment as it’ll ruin your life when the wheels finally fall off.

Fuck, I feel old.

T

PS I’m fully expecting you to grow a beard en lieu of giving me a Christmas present.

Chapter Text

Tony,

So I looked up "teabaggers" on Google and I got two results, one of which seems to have to do with people dressing up like Sam Adams and protesting taxes and healthcare, and one that I'm pretty sure has nothing to do with politics, which I don't really know much about anyway, but thank you, I feel very enlightened at the moment. And also like I might need to shower.

The interview…Howard did that, well after Erskine died and most folks had written the project off. He wanted to look at the long-term effects of the serum. I guess…he noticed I was getting mentally fidgety, that my brain was outstripping itself, maybe. When I met him, I could barely understand what he was talking about. After the serum, I could hold my own with him in a conversation, provided he wasn't talking hard science, and not many people could.

The one I have to find you, if Howard had it…there's a film they made when they were testing my candidacy for the serum, where they asked me questions about the war and politics and about my reasons for volunteering. And then Howard asked me the same questions a couple of months after the serum. I guess….I felt like the same person. But I was shocked when I saw the simplicity of my responses before.

That might be the one thing I will say for Howard. Even if he did it because he cared about the science, he never dropped me, never lost interest in me. He wanted to make sure I was healthy and that the project had done right by me.

I hated that old uniform. I hated posing for those pictures. I liked selling war bonds, because I felt like I was helping, and it was the only opportunity I had to help, but I wish they hadn't made it so glitzy.

Bucky was…no, I don't mind talking about him. Bucky was the closest thing to a family I had after my mother died. I might have idolized him a little. He was a very good-loo It still doesn't feel like he's gone, really…I still now and then think, oh, I should tell Bucky about some thing or the other. And then I remember he's not around. One time, I was down at Chelsea Market with Natasha and Barton, and I thought I saw him in Ronnybrook, and I thought to myself, oh, I haven't seen Bucky in ages, and I picked up my pace to go say hello-- and then I realized it couldn't be him.

I'll talk about him. If there's one person in my life apart from my mother whom I ever really loved, it was him. I just assumed nobody really wanted to hear about that.

I really don't want to argue with you about money anymore. Do you understand that my SHIELD stipend is about how much money you spend on takeout in a month, and I just went two weeks without a paycheck because of the government shutdown? We're back on the payroll next week, but still...a whole paycheck is a lot of money. I have about three thousand dollars in the bank to live off of. I know you don't care how you spend your money, but it's really hard for me to accept it…and then you say things like you're not taking me under your wing, but I don't know what you think you're doing if that's not what it is, because you're not letting me feel like we're on equal footing at all. And I know I'm not your equal, I know I'm a lot younger and less-skilled and not half as smart, but I need to be able to feel like I can support myself and buy nice things for myself without help. Or at least that I can give back to you in proportion to whatever you give me. I really need that, all right?

And I think we are friends. If we weren't, I wouldn't feel like I could be honest about this. I didn't grow up around a lot of money. You don't know what it's like to be made to feel as if you're less deserving because you survive on other people's charity. I know you think of it as just doing nice things for your friends, but it's not okay with me if I can't hope to repay you.

That being said, I'd like to work on the house. I think it would be good for me right now. I don't mind using your money for that, and I'm happy to think of it as paid labor if you want to think of a way to pay me.

And of course the creepy uncle thing was a joke. You're not old enough to be my creepy uncle.

Maybe we should talk about this in person.

I don't know about dating. It seems so complicated. All the lessons I know about acting like a gentleman, what rules I'm supposed to follow...they've all gone out the window. You risk insulting a lady for holding the door or pulling her chair out, or for neglecting to, and you're supposed to pay for dinner but act like you don't assume you're paying for dinner, and I really don't think casual dating is for me. I've...you know, back in the forties, after the serum, I suddenly got a lot of attention and...well, you go from always being overlooked, to having people flocking around you, you're going to feel like a starving man at a feast at first. I definitely let it get to my head before I realized that I don't think I want that, and I don't think it's right for Captain America, either. I mean, I know people these days wait until they're older, so I know I have time, and I don't think I'm ready for it right now, but I really would like to have a normal life if I can. Get married, have kids...sometimes I worry, though, is it possible my kids could be as sickly as I was before the serum? I don't know if it would be right for me to risk that. I guess health care is better now, though.

I guess I'd feel better letting those things come naturally. You know, make friends first. Feel like I have a normal life, maybe. Figure out if I'm over Peggy, done mourning for Bucky. and the rest of my life I haven't really had time to sort a lot of feelings out. I don't think I'm really ready to let my world get any bigger right now.

And it really, really sounds like you need to talk to Miss Potts and not me about some of this.

I packed up the films. Yes, your home movies, too. I'll have them digitized, thanks for the suggestion. And then I'm showing the home movies to the entire team. I also found some good pictures of Bucky and Peggy, but none of my mother, really. I guess that was just wishful thinking. I'm taking one of the unwrapped Captain America action figures, too, so we can act out scenes with our respective dollies. Maybe we should pose them on Barton's unicorns.

--Steve

 

P.S. I think I have just enough time that if I stop shaving now, I will have plenty of orange peach fuzz by Christmas.

Chapter Text

N –

I’d ask if you were kidding, but it really comes as no surprise. Tony never stops talking about Steve when we’re down in the labs, and Steve spent most of our time stuck in the hospital anxiously checking his Starkpad and then grinning incessantly when a letter came in. He’s also been drawing Tony constantly, far more than the ones he willingly shared with me.

It’s easy to forget he’s just a kid sometimes. I hope Tony knows what he’s doing – he doesn’t talk about Pepper much these days.

(Incidentally, you can rest assured that I’m definitely not sleeping with Tony –I know better. The real question here is – does Steve?)

While Cap would be good for Tony, I can’t say that the opposite is true – you know how intense Tony can be. Though I wouldn’t dream of meddling, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea to encourage Steve to find someone a little more age-appropriate, preferably someone who hasn’t slept with half of Manhattan.

I have to admit, quarantine left me restless – it was good to see you again; you even wore red lace. You know how I love lace. Do you know how hard it was not to contact you from quarantine? I spent a lot of time meditating on Kierkegaard you left with me. I couldn’t help but draw connections between that and the Stranger, given that I was essentially imprisoned at the time, but I know how you feel about Camus, particularly his later work.

Let me cook you dinner tonight? I make a mean goat saag; I’ll even throw in some homemade naan if you promise to wear red.

B

Chapter Text

B--

I'm wearing red, but you're going to have to come find out where it is.

More later,

N

Chapter Text

Cap. Steven Rogers
1796 Broadway
Suite 1776
New York New York 10019

Dear Cap. Rogers:

You have been nominated for the position of Exhibitions Design & Creative Consultant at Stark Industries International.

Enclosed is a copy of the job description and standard benefit package for the position.

Please let us know whether you wish to be considered for the position. In addition to your letter of interest, please provide a copy of your resume and a portfolio of recent creative works.

Given the nature of your nomination, no further letters of recommendation are required.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX ext XXXXX.

Respectfully yours,

EARNEST JORDAN
Stark Industries Human Resources
777 Stark Blvd
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Chapter Text

Tony,

I'm going to need to borrow about three hundred dollars and use your credit card to order some things online. I apparently need to have a portfolio for an impending job interview and I think it would be inappropriate to submit an entire book of drawings of you sleeping. I'll need a light box, a straightedge, masking tape, various types of paper and bristol, a few pens and brushes, a portfolio case, some French curves, and a suit that fits.

I'll hopefully be able to pay you back in a few weeks.

Steve

P.S. I surrender. You're a jackass and I love you for it.

Chapter Text

Cap –

Job interview? Nice. I’m (once again) horrified and ashamed that you’re purchasing a suit under three hundred dollars. Seriously – seriously. Use the credit card – or better, just go to my tailor, he bills me every December.

(I hope some stupid job interview isn’t going to have you ditching the house repairs. Those greenhouses aren’t going to rebuild themselves.)

You know, it’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but… I’m not sure I’ve ever had a close friend I didn’t pay to hang out with me. I mean, obviously Pep and I went beyond your typical PA/boss relationships… but even Rhodey, who I’d say is the closest I’ve ever come to having a bestie, was initially appointed the air force’s SI liaison because we’d been at MIT together. It sounds like Bucky was a stand-up guy, though. I’m sorry for your loss; he was too young.

I… okay, is it stupid that Pepper is like the closest I have to that right now? I mean she’s not really a best friend as we’re, you know, sleeping together. But I really don’t have anyone in the world except, weirdly, you who I talk to as much or as honestly to as I do Pepper.

And yeah, of course dating is complicated. It’s probably better if you’re friends first, maybe, or at the very least you have a semi-functional business relationship as that will save you a lot of awkward first date questions like “so what do you do for fun” and “are you sure you’re clean” and shit like that.

Actually, you wanna go out for drinks sometime soon? I can totally give you dating pointers. Picking up women is, of course, one of the many things I’m amazing at. If you want a normal life you might as well learn how to interact normally with people..

Show those home videos to the team and you’d better not feign surprise when your next armor upgrades comes back full of holes in tender areas. SERIOUSLY.

T

PS Still a beard, still counts.
PPS I love you too, sugarplum.

Chapter Text

Tony,

Was that a declaration of love from the two-time Sexiest Man Alive? I'm pinning that inside my shirt pocket so I can wear it close to my heart.

I have a tailor appointment on Monday. Do you want to come along and make sure you approve of the suit I'm wearing to the interview you arranged for me? Better yet, I might need a wardrobe consultant. You can't have your new exhibitions designer dressing like an eyesore.

I'm not even sure what an exhibitions designer does. Are we turning the Long Island house into a museum? Creating a public indoor greenspace on the first floor if the tower? I suppose I should ask this Jordan fellow for more details about the position.

Please just, whatever you do, don't throw your lot in with Natasha on this one. I really don't think I'm ready to date anybody. I think I can hold my own against her, but it's becoming more obvious I don't think I'll be able to say no to you.

Speaking of not saying no, of course I will have drinks with you, but you do realize alcohol has no effect on me and I will drink you under the table. There's a bar in Midtown I'd like to try-- the Edison Rum House? I hear they have classic 1940s cocktails and live music. And then maybe we can get a table at Esca? Thor went there when Jane was in town and he said the sea urchin was amazing. I sort of want to try sea urchin. I feel like I should try all these weird foods no one had in America before I went to Europe.

I don't know about talking about dating, though. I really mean it. Just... if you feel you must. introduce me to some people you think I ought to date, and don't tell me that's what you're thinking. Just let me hit it off with people the normal way, would you?

I hope you don't take this as bullying, but I hate hearing you talk about Miss Potts this way and knowing you're not talking to her. Tony, that's too important. Just goddamn talk to her. Why do you keep putting it off?

Steve

P.S. Fine. I won't shave. You'll see how tragic it is in a week or two.

P.S. Tony, I know I'm being maybe unnecessarily sarcastic above, but I wanted to say that It really means a lot to me that you have this kind of confidence in me. And I don't mind accepting this kind of help. I just...you know I never finished my degree, right? And I don't have a lot of work experience. I think this salary offer is a little...well, a lot high. I don't want to misrepresent myself or make you look like an idiot.

Chapter Text

Cap –

Am I my Captain’s keeper? You can go get tailored for your own suit like a big boy - you've been wanting to be self-sufficient, I don't want to step on your - But just make sure you get something gray, black is too severe for you. Like a charcoal maybe, or you could do a very dark blue – no, wait, don’t do blue, you’ve already got dress blues (don’t you?) so I’d go charcoal with maybe a very thin stripe. And have them give you a nice pale shirt underneath. Like a buttery pink or a pale purple? Just don’t do a dark red or blue, that’s not you and you’ve got a pink enough complexion that I think red would make you look super flushed all the time. And no yellow – just don’t do it. Say no to yellow/orange.

Anyway, you can totally handle it yourself, I have complete confidence in you.

Look, Steve. The interview is up to you. Honestly, I’ve hired staff in weirder places than my parents’ creepy abandoned mansion. – this one time I hired a stripper when I found out she was dancing her way through her student loans. I think your portfolio will speak for itself anyway. SI is playing with the idea of a complete rebrand, as currently our logos are still what they were during weapons production – we need ad design, physical exhibition design (it’s kind of like set design, except my brilliant tech is the star of the show), logo rebranding options. … Ask Earnest, or check the website. The job listing is there; it doesn’t call for someone with a degree, just a portfolio. It’s an actual job and you meet the requirements. Whether or not you can handle an interview isn’t really my problem - I just threw your name into the pot.

Look, Pepper is – pepper is wonderful. You keep telling me I need to talk to her…. Well last night I tried to talk to her and got skunked. You just don’t – you don’t understand what she and I have been through together. You didn’t see me living my life as a human cesspit, blowing off work and partying all night, letting assholes run my company and sell guns to rogue militias, handing SI tech to people who’d cut swaths through women and children as soon as they’d blink – she covered my ass so many times with the media, managed my image when the coke came out, used to walk my one-night stands out of the house, all firm-lipped and proud. She just -

Despite all of that she still liked me – she knew me and liked me, which pretty much never happens. Hell, I didn’t like me, but Pepper was there and never walked away.

I mean, I was paying her to be there, but…

Then Afghanistan, she spent months looking for me and holding it together while I was gone - she was the first person I showed the arc reactor. She saved my life when Obie rogue elements within SI literally ripped my heart out made attempts on my life – and was there in Monaco when the Vanko shit hit the fan, saved my sorry ass again last Christmas when she kicked the everloving shit out of Aldrich Killian. It’s just that – she’s not the kind of person that wants a life like the one I've created. She could deal with rich, eccentric Tony who occasionally made awful choices, but being emotionally invested in someone who has almost died four times in the last year is a little extreme for anyone. There’s some kind of existential crisis going on over there, too – she wouldn’t move to New York because she didn’t want constant reminders of me almost dying in an alien invasion, I tried to get her to help rebuild the Malibu house and she didn’t want to be involved – I don't know.

Sometimes it feels like the closer I get to what I want the further I get from her

Those fuckers last Christmas stripped her of her humanity and while I managed to get rid of extremis, it feels like something else is missing too. I feel like a different person somehow with the arc reactor gone, it’s like

What do I do if I talk to her and she ends it? Steve, I do love her. You may not believe me considering how things have been lately but she’s an incredible person and I’d do anything for her I just know if I call but if she leaves me? If she leaves SI? I just can’t

 

 

 

So that’s a total yes on the drinks; I booked ESCA for you, so yeah. Don’t let Nat convince you to date if you aren’t comfortable doing it; but I’ll tell you just in case you forgot – you’re Captain America, nothing in your life is going to be normal. Also, anyone near you is going to be a target – they may think they know what they’re signing up for, but they never really do.

 

T

PS okay. okay. i'll put on my big boy pants and call - but first, another drink.

Chapter Text

Dear Mr. Jordan,

Thank you very much for your consideration. I do have a few questions.

I would like to know what responsibilities this position entails, and whether the position allows for remote hours, as I am currently engaged by your employer on a temporary basis that requires my presence in Old Westbury, Long Island from time to time, and I have been informed that it would be unacceptable for me to leave that engagement.

I do also have another position which, on a usual week, only requires a few hours of my time for status meetings and paperwork. However, on occasion, it can render me unavailable for stretches at a time. Please understand that I am thrilled by the opportunity to work for you, but I need to make sure that I don't renege on previous commitments.

Thank you very much,

Captain Steven G Rogers

Chapter Text

Hell, Tony, you tried to talk to Miss Potts last night? You were obscenely drunk last night. Are you trying to sabotage your own relationship? I don't know whether I want to know what you said, or not. Or what she said.

I don't know what to tell you. I'm hopelessly inexperienced in this realm, but you love her and it's stupid to be so afraid she'll end things that you avoid her completely. If you don't talk to her, it will be over. Do you know how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to fix things? She's perfect for you; she's laughably better than me anyone else you could find. Don't squander it. I never had that chance.

Believe it or not, I am fully aware that nothing is ever going to be normal for me. That doesn't mean I can't hate it. All I wanted was to serve my country, go home, and feel like I had done my part. Like you said before, my sacrifice was no different from anyone else's. But I don't get to go back, and I am acutely aware of what it means to live the kind of life we live, and what it will mean for anyone else who chooses to become part of it.

Fine. I can pick out a suit on my own. I'll wear it to dinner, or something. So you can see it. I don't know. I'm just worried I don't understand modern styles and I'll pick out the wrong thing.

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap. Steven Rogers
1796 Broadway
Suite 1776
New York New York 10019

Dear Cap. Rogers:

I have been made aware of your unique relationship with my employer; I assure you SI fully endorses Avengers-related activities along with any previous commitments related to your employment by Mr. Anthony E. Stark. Your irregular hours will not be considered a disadvantage as our hiring process proceeds.

The position entitled Exhibitions Design & Creative Consultant involves the creation of creative and dynamic marketing strategies for SI products, including but not limited physical showcase design, marketing presentation, logo design and alteration, and working with relevant creative teams to chart the marketing trajectory of devices.

While the hours offered in this position are flexible, you will be expected to spend roughly 16 hours a week in our SI New York headquarters.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX ext XXXXX.

Respectfully yours,

EARNEST JORDAN
Stark Industries Human Resources
777 Stark Blvd
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Chapter Text

Cap –

Wait, you sound grumpy - are you pissed that I’m not going with you to the tailor? If you want me there I’ll be there. I just thought you’d be sick of my company want to be independent since you were all “I don’t want your charity etc etc” - I mean, Steve, you’re offering me a ready-made excuse to watch you flex in suits. I’ll definitely come. Hell, I’ll drive.

It’ll take more than an outfit to lose you a job like this, Steve. You’re a smart guy, artistic, and a veteran. Suits are great to wear, nice to look at, and fabulous to peel off of someone – but it’s not going to be the suit that gets you a job.

Still, my guy is good. You’ll look sharp, and if you’re wearing a suit to dinner then I am too. I’ll meet you on the ground floor at one.

Apparently I’ve been cleared by the Japanese government for entry into the country. I’ll be going next week for a couple of days. I’m going by Malibu to spend some time with Pep as well, so… yeah.

That’s a thing that’s happening.

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

Thanks for the offer. I'm not pissed off about the suit, no...but I really don't know what I'm doing and suits cost a lot of money. I've never had a civilian suit before.

No no that's not true. Someone got me a secondhand one that was too big to wear to my mother's funeral. I've had a few nice jackets, I guess, but not an honest-to-goodness matching suit.

Natasha's been trying to teach me to dress myself, I guess? She took me to Uniqlo and Brooks Brothers last week while you were down for the count. She's been very insistent about the whole thing. I got an entire lesson in underwear, which is still sinking in (although she has informed me that your Iron Man boxer briefs are anything but stylish). I think the only thing I'm wearing right now that I bought without guidance is my watch. She even found me my leather Chucks, which might be my favorite shoes I've ever owned.

Which reminds me, I forgot about shoes. The Chucks really don't go. I have a pair of boat shoes and a pair of combat boots, but I doubt those are right, either. I technically also have the bunny slippers Barton gave me as a joke, but I don't think I'll be wearing those out of the Tower. Or ever.

The Army was so much easier. You didn't get to choose what to wear. Everything matched.

I'm going to get to work on this portfolio. Mr. Jordan got back to me with specifics, so I think I know what I need to send. Is it all right if I set up a drafting table in the lab for now? If I get this job, I'll need a working studio.

I feel so rusty. The last time I did any commercial design was technically seventy-two years ago. This wasn't a trick to force me to learn computers, was it?

I'm thinking if you want a new logo design, we want to focus on clean energy. Use the visual elements of the arc reactor to drive the imagery. Yes?

I'm glad you're going to Malibu. Look, take as long as you need out there, all right? Don't rush back because you feel obliged. Or, you know, rush back because you don't know what to say. Take your time, sort things out. You'll be able to work it out. And, you know, write while you're there if you need to. It'll be like I'm in the other room. Or call. I'm not much for telephones but I think the occasion warrants it.

Great. I'll see you at one in front of the house.

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap –

Well, the suit was perfect – great cut, made your shoulders look about ten miles wide, not to mention how well it hung – I'm glad you went with the charcoal, it really did make your eyes look extra blue. I guess this is the part where I shake my head and mutter something like “this is why we can’t have nice things”. How is your shoulder this morning? I know you have a high pain threshold, but it looked really awful and bruising like crazy. Not to mention all the cuts.

I can’t believe we were in the right place at the right time on that one – and I’m a little pissed that some fucker’s inability to manage a construction site ruined our date night on the town.

I’m sorry if I was a little shaken by everything that went down. If that Matt guy in line behind us at Holey Cream hadn’t heard the sounds outside (and how did he do that? I didn’t hear a thing.) we wouldn’t have had any idea what was happening. It’s funny how much of what goes on in New York city becomes background noise after a while... you tune out things like active construction and traffic and even accidents. I didn’t notice the screams til you were halfway down the block. How the hell did he hear them so far off?

It’s funny, I sort of forget how much danger there is in the world that isn’t supernatural/alien/fixable by a man in a tin can. A crane could be caught in high winds and dangle beams of cement over heavily trafficked civilian areas any day of the week, and if you're unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time it's just lights out with no rhyme or reason. If you hadn’t acting so quickly, pulling that girl out of the way and swinging that beam away from the sidewalk we would have been looking at a really different scene. I would never forgive myself if one of us had been crushed by a two ton beam falling from Chitauri-induced reconstruction. Death by irony, ugh.

Of course, it’s hard to enjoy your donut-ice cream-sandwich with a dislocated shoulder after being ripped up by falling shards of glass, so I'm sorry. We’ll have to go back – or take some out.

Um, also I’m sorry if I kind of freaked you out, afterwards. I didn’t mean to. It’s just – after the battle of New York I started having these kind of panic attacks and it's totally fine now, but I guess I sort of overreacted. It used to just happen when people brought it up or I thought about the I guess something about last night kind of freaked me out, it was so out of nowhere. I wasn’t very useful and I know it was probably unnecessary to clean up your cuts poorly, given how bad my hands were shaking when you heal yourself at an accelerated rate and everything, I just wanted to feel you and remind myself you were fine didn’t expect the evening to go that way and wasn’t really prepared.

You probably think I’m crazy. Sorry. Of course if you didn't already think I'm crazy YOU are clearly crazy and we're birds of a feather, so hey. Let's flock.

I ordered in a drafting table and a light box for you – I had one, but it was much smaller and I tend to do my serious drafting on like cocktail napkins, so yeah. I also asked my guy to provide a duplicate suit before you go in. At least the shoes were salvageable.

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

Thanks. I feel like I've been hit by a train-- which, in my case, has happened before, and it leaves me feeling rough, but is otherwise survivable. Most of the superficial cuts are healed, though...I need to shower all this blood off.

God, Tony, I'm sorry about the suit.

I notice you somehow managed to retrieve the Iron Man sheets from the trash. Or are these new ones? Either way, you're still a creep. I'm going to find Hawkeye sheets and see how you like sleeping with Barton. Did you undress me? Can I put that on my résumé? That I once got stripped down to my underwear by the two-time sexiest man alive?

Look, the panic stuff is in your file. I knew it might happen. Don't worry about it. You did exactly what you needed to do given the situation, and you didn't make things worse. It's all okay. You want to know how often I still wake up in a cold sweat? How many nights I sneak out and jog in the park just to keep my mind from racing? One time, I got up at two AM and took the Q all the way out to Coney Island, watched the sunrise, and came back in. You almost died. And you almost lost Miss Potts not too long after. I'll take it as a high compliment that you were that worried over me.

You know, I don't know if you're having trouble sleeping, but you can always wake me. I don't need a lot of sleep.

The girl from the scene is in the hospital, I guess. It seems like it's all superficial injuries, but should I go visit her?

Anyway, I guess that's just what that night needed to be. I'll be fine by tomorrow. I don't scar anymore.

When I was in the orphanage, we didn't have electricity. The building was lit with tallow lamps. One day, one of the younger children knocked a lamp over, and the hot fat splattered everywhere. I shoved him out of the way, and the hot grease got on my arm. I had a scar, a splatter mark, like a permanent rain splash, on my forearm.

I loved that scar. It was like, you know, a permanent reminder that I'd protected someone else.

Three days after I took the serum, the scar was completely gone.

My shoulder's still killing me--mind coming up here with a heat pack? I put on the Lou Reed playlist you sent me, too-- I feel like there's so much I need to learn about all the music I've missed, and a great musician's death seems like an apt, but sobering reason to put some effort into it. So much of this music is referring to a New York that I missed-- different from the one I left, but one that's been wiped away by time already. Some of the Velvet Underground music was a little dark for me, but...I just...Heroin really struck a chord with me, maybe in a way that the song wasn't intended. Anyhow, it's much appreciated.

Steve

P.S. Ha, let's flock together, right?

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Well played Cap!

More excellent press for everyone's favorite boy scout:

...

NEWS
Agnieska Blaszczyk

"Captain America" is Everyday Hero in Hell's Kitchen Construction Catastrophe

Monday evening, a sure tragedy was narrowly avoided as Steve Rogers, better known as "Captain America," stepped in to rescue a young woman from a falling concrete pillar on 56th Street and Ninth Avenue.  

The rash of near-misses and even deadly accidents involving construction since last year's deadly alien invasion has been garnering attention as New York residents call for tighter regulations and more safety inspections at building sites around the city.  It's become a major issue in this year's mayoral election: an aide for Democratic candidate Bill diBlasio was quick to point out that as a City Council member, Mr. DiBlasio has been instrumental in supporting new safety and environmental mandates for construction projects in the city.  

When a crane atop a new luxury apartment complex collapsed, a concrete pillar dropped several stories, scattering terrified pedestrians and bringing Ms. Rebecca Quan, 29, within inches of her life as she exited a nearby building just as the pillar came crashing down.  

"It was really, like, a split second.  I walked out of the deli and there were all these people screaming!" Ms. Quan, an art dealer based in Chelsea, told our reporters from her hospital bed at St. Luke's Hospital.  "And then some guy pushed me out of the way.  And then, boom!  I didn't even have time to process it; it was like, screaming, oh my god, there's this big blond guy, oh my god he's running into me what is he doing oh my god there's a giant hole where I was standing.  And it's like, hello! You're on top of me.  Oh, you're way cute.  And also- [expletive]- full of pieces of broken glass!  And that was the point when I realized that if it wasn't for him, I'd probably have been toast."  

Rogers, 95 (yes, we know, really!), declined to speak with reporters, although he was seen leaving the scene with our favorite new addition to the New York City skyline, Mr. Tony Stark himself.  Although you'd better watch your back, Mr.  Stark!  One of your houseguests just might take your place in our affections.  

The work permits for the construction site were registered to Bain Construction, a sister company of Baintronics, Ltd. Matthew Murdock, 36, a neighborhood lawyer and bystander present at the scene, said he was distressed by the number of code violations found at the site.  A representative could not be reached for comment.

Chapter Text

Steve -

I hate to tell you this, Steve, but the number of people who can say they’ve been stripped by New York’s two-time Sexiest Man Alive is a fairly large crowd. Thankfully my tastes have gotten much a little more particular as I’ve gotten older. I still wouldn’t bank on that as hiring criteria, though.

The fortunate souls out there that have experienced a Tony Stark brand massage, though, are members of a much more exclusive club. Pepper always said I was good at it, and she's not one for idle compliments, so yeah – I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did

Barton is SO not my type. God, he never shuts up – not to mention he’s waaaa-aaaaaa-aaaaaay too short for me.

Also, no, I’m not a very good sleeper. JARVIS monitors me in the tower; if I’m over a certain number of hours awake he flags Pepper and/or starts shutting down my work stations… pretty passive-aggressive for a computer system. I might take you up on that sometime - typically engineering after 40+ hours awake leads only to heartbreak and stitches. Maybe we could finally show you Star Wars.

Steve, in a way you gave up your scars too – another important thing that you were willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others. You should still be proud - it's a reminder, just as physical, as the scar was in the first place. I’ve been toying with the idea of manipulating Extremis to take advantage of its healing factors and trying to get rid of the scars on my own chest... I had the arc reactor taken out after everything happened last Christmas, partly to prove to myself that I could and partly because Pepper wanted me to give up the armor and I really did think about it. I kind of miss the feel of it Let’s just say there’s a reason I don’t ever take my shirt off in front of the team these days – I’ve had one too many open heart surgeries in underground bunkers to qualify for a third-time Sexiest Man Alive nomination anytime soon. And I know it sounds vain, but even with the reactor gone my chest cavity is a mess... reduced lung capacity, traumatized tissue, etc etc. It might be worth a shot.

Listen, I know I told you we’d go to the zoo, but I think I’m gonna man up and head to Malibu the day after tomorrow, spend a few days, then head over to Japan and take care of all that SI bullshit. I’ve had that trip hanging over my head for weeks now. You said it yourself - the chance to fix things is worth it. If the world could end at any moment, I might as well be on good terms with the people I care about in it.

You're sure you don't want to check out Japan? Let me know if you want me to bring you back some sushi or something.

T

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: HEY GIRL

look guys I made a thing:

posting to reddit in 5…….4…….

clint.

Chapter Text

from: Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Re: HEY GIRL

Clint, if you post a picture of my new haircolor on Reddit and I have to go blonde just to keep my identity under wraps, I will kill you.

Smooches,

N.

Chapter Text

Tony,

Uh. The massage was great. Thanks. If you need an excuse to straddle my

That wasn't what I had in mind when I said I wanted a hot compress, but it'll do.

Look, there's no way to say this without risking sounding like I'm full of myself, and I know you flirt a, well, more than the average human being, but are you hitting on me intentionally?

Why do you have to be so

At least we know that if the market for clean energy dries up tomorrow, Tony Stark will still have a job, ha.

And thanks for coming up and showing me that morbid-but-cute Halloween movie. I couldn't help but kind of...identify with Jack, is that weird? And now I know where you get that "making robots, lalala" thing you always sing when you're working. I always just assumed you made that up.

There's also a, uh, basket full of candy with a card signed "The Great Pumpkin" sitting in my kitchen. I can't imagine you had anything to do with that. What the hell is a Great Pumpkin?

I know things have been tough with Pepper, so of course, understood. The zoo can wait. It'll be there when you get back. I'm glad you're finally getting out there. It's long overdue. And, you know, the quality of the company you've been keeping lately is severely lacking.

It's too bad. I already ordered the Hawkeye sheets. They'll be on your bed when you get back. I was planning on putting them on after I'm done taking advantage of your absence to see what it's like to sleep on diamonds. So, Barton's not your type? I didn't realize you had a type. I thought your type involved pulses and functioning respiratory systems. This could be a whole front page exposé: Tony Stark Actually Has Some Basis of Selectivity and It Excludes SHIELD Agent Clint Barton. What's your type, other than tall?

I have noticed you talking about my arms an awful lot, la

All kidding aside, I really do hope for the best for you. I hope the trip goes smoothly, you manage to come to some kind of resolution, and you enjoy Japan. It's all right-- I suspect if I tell you I don't want you to bring me a present, you'll take that as a cue to bring me a present. Just take care of yourself, Tony. I want I hate that you're unhappy.

If you've got one day left before you go, is there anything you want to do? Should we try for donut ice cream sandwiches again? I do need to stop at the hospital and see that girl, but you're welcome to come with me. I'm trying to figure out whether flowers or balloons are in order. It'll be a good photo op; you keep telling me I need to take advantage of those.

I guess I was on the cover of all the free morning papers this morning? Barton keeps calling me Ryan Gosling. I saw Drive when Natasha and Barton were watching it, but I don't get how that makes sense. Can you explain these photos he keeps sending around? IS this like the time he mailed out that picture of you that said "I don't always drink beer...but when I do I'm already drunk on whiskey" ? Anyway, I do need to stop at the hospital, but I'm free apart from that.

Has Banner looked at Extremis? Maybe the two of you should work on that together. Just be careful with it, Tony-- I know you saw the SHIELD report about that rogue group in California. I know they're not you, but it seemed pretty unstable. There might be some other tech you could look at. I'm saying this bit as team leader, of course-- we want Iron Man in fighting condition in every way possible. If you need me to requisition any documents from SHIELD, let me know.

Although, personally, I don't see why the Sexiest Man Alive can't have scars from saving the world. I can't speak for anyone else, but I wouldn't complain if you wanted to flaunt them now and then. As far as I'm concerned, that qualifies you permanently.

Steve

Chapter Text

B--

Thanks for breakfast. You don't need to say it was for me-- I know, even if the boys ate all the bacon before I got there. I hear it was excellent.

While you were in quarantine, they put me and Barton up at the Mandarin Oriental. It was an absolute waste of a giant squishy bed, impeccable water pressure, and room service.

It's nice having you back. Sometimes just seeing your calm focus in the midst of the chaos of the day is enough to make me feel a little more at ease.

We're never going to agree on Camus. He knows how to use a pretty phrase, but it comes down to The Fall, really. Anybody who says it's useless to seek redemption hasn't ever done anything bad enough to need it, even if they write two-dimensional cautionary tales about people who have to prove their point. And I still can't square with anyone who thinks hope is tragic. Sisyphus doesn't keep pushing that rock up the hill because he's accepted his fate; he keeps pushing the rock up the hill because you haven't lost until you surrender. I know, I know, leave it to the team cynic to argue in favor of hope, but this is why Kierkegaard appeals. Don't get me started on The Stranger, darling. It's just one big long-winded pedantry extravaganza.

Anyway, you know I'm just softening you up before I throw some radical feminists your way. I've been rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

Whatever is up with those two...I don't know. I was expecting they'd come back from their strange little getaway with this sorted to someone's satsifaction, but apparently Stark bought Steve a suit and offered him a job, and I'm not sure what kind of kink that's supposed to be. I think Steve got banged up because they went on a date. I can't tell with those two. And now Stark's hovering over Cap like he might die over a few scratches.

I've got a field assignment that's going to take…S.H.I.E.L.D.'s estimating forty-eight, so I'm going to say thirty-six hours, tops. If you're in bed when I get back, I'll tiptoe in. If you're still in the lab, well. I'll tiptoe in there, instead.

Kisses,

N

Chapter Text

Tony,

Hey, I haven't heard from you in a couple of days-- everything all right out there? I know you're probably busy with Pepper, but I wanted to just check in, since you haven't been picking up your phone. (I didn't leave any messages, there wasn't anything to say apart from that I was checking in)

So, believe it or not, a couple days after the hospital, I was in Argo with Barton and Natasha, and I heard someone behind me say "hey, it's you!" I thought it was going to be one of those fans again, but it was actually Rebecca, the girl who wound up in the hospital after the thing with the beam. She's looking a lot better. It was nice to be recognized in a public place by someone who was genuinely happy to see me, instead of wanting an autograph. She took a walk with us in Central Park for a bit...she actually showed us this bench that I guess belongs to some actor? Bill somebody? Anyway, Barton thought it was great and got up on it and recited some speech about Independence Day, and everyone else thought it was hilarious, and they all told me that was another movie I needed to see, so she came back with us to the Tower and we all watched Independence Day together. She invited us to come to a party with her later, so I guess I'll go.

I wonder how much a real alien attack changes the way people see movies about alien attacks. That movie seems too...well, plausible, now, a year out from the Chitauri. Of course, I think a lot of things seem plausible now.

Anyway, there's nothing really going on here. Not much to say except that I miss you I hope you have a good trip. Just call in when you can, all right?

Steve

PS We took photos:

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
cc: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
subject: you know you love it, steve

i'll just leave these here then

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Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: uh oh

check this link... looks like Iron Man's flying solo again

...

Rocky Romance Report
By Pam Bouden

It's the end of the line for power-couple Tony Stark and PA-turned-CEO Pepper Potts. In a statement released to the Associated Press on Monday, representatives for the couple revealed that they had grown apart romantically, but still “harbor a great desire to remain close in their platonic and professional capacities.”

After two years of surprisingly scandal-free on-again-off-again dating, sources close to the couple began to report weeks of silence after Ms. Potts’ involvement in the Roxxon Norco explosion last Christmas. The company has taken great care to keep the details of her involvement minimal, and while Ms. Potts attended a number of related court hearings and took significant time off work in the aftermath, the bulk of her statements were kept private.

The announcement of their split comes on the heels of Us Weekly's flashy cover story showing images of Tony Stark at a series of high-dollar fundraisers with a dark-haired woman purported to be his new personal assistant. Sources close to the couple speculate that the pair disagreed on where to relocate after the destruction of Mr. Stark’s California property and the Battle of New York, during which the newly-minted Stark Tower suffered severe damage.

“Tony Stark is a nutcase,” one source close to the couple confessed. “He can’t pull himself together, and Pepper is tired of waiting for him to learn to be a functional adult.”

Other sources suggest that disagreements over the choice to conceive drove the couple apart. An acquaintance of Ms. Potts suggests that “Tony wanted to go all in and start a family, but Pepper knows having a child now could derail her career. She doesn't want people to think she has what she has because she's intimate with her boss. She's good at her job and she earned it; that's ' more important to her than kids.”

Ms. Potts, 39-year-old Stark Industries CEO, ranks amongst America’s highest-earning women in business. Her meteoric rise through the ranks is the stuff of legends – working her way up from SI accounting to become personal assistant to Tony Stark, eventually taming the bad-boy billionaire and moving into his Malibu mansion as a permanent fixture.

In a statement released by her own agents, Ms. Potts maintains that Stark Industries is her first priority. She also asks that the public and press respect her privacy at this challenging junction in her life.

Mr. Stark’s representatives declined to comment, though the two-time Time magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” winner was spotted this weekend out and about at one of his old haunts in Malibu. Stark, flanked by a pair of blondes, was caught on film staggering out of a nightclub at four AM before ducking into a stylish as-of-yet off the general Market 2013 Audi S4. Stark will be ditching the California coast in upcoming days for a cross-Pacific journey to oversee and participate in a series of conferences, fund-raisers and design-related meetings.

Want to see Tony and Pepper in happier times? Click the following link for more images.

Chapter Text

Tony,

Hey. I saw the news. Are you oka Look, just call me? I tried you just now and I think your phone must be off. I don't want to bother you too much if you don't want to talk, but...I hate being this far away and not being able to help.

Are you going to be all right in Japan? I can try to book a flight out there if you want. Or not. Just let me know.

Steve

Chapter Text

Tony,

I know you must be feeling pretty down right now, and I don't know if there's anything I can do to cheer you up, but I asked Clint to show me how to download the pictures from my phone again and I thought this might help. We've actually been spending some time together while you've been gone; he really hit it off with Rebecca and the two of them keep dragging me to ingest all the pop culture in the world. I told them I'm not allowed to watch Star Wars without you, though. We did watch some My Little Pony...I'm not entirely sure I see the appeal, but Clint is apparently very proud of his limited edition Rainbow Dash Shadowbolt doll and won't take it out of the box for us to play with.

I know, I know, silly. There's been a lot going on here. It's nothing we've needed Iron Man for, but...I don't know if you've been reading the reports. I rescued some guy's fancy camera from a thief. He snapped a couple shots of me, and then sold them to one of the tabloids. I don't know how I feel about that. Anyway, just letting you know you're missed and I'm thinking about you. Take care. Just let me know when you're ready to talk, all right?

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Hey, look, everybody!!!

Guys, did you see this one? This was such a fun day. Steve, haha, they think we're dating... HMMMMM.

Clint, I don't know why you didn't get a mention at the end there.

Did any of you want to come to karaoke with me tonight? I think it's time for a little Bonnie Tyler, isn't it?

<3 <3 <3

Bec

Captain America At It Again

Desirée Blaynton

Steve Rogers, aka the cutest Avenger (this has been proven in multiple highly scientific studies), was seen hob-nobbing with the elite this weekend at some very high-profile events…oh, who are we kidding? Cap spent his weekend at the Pediatric Cancer Care Center of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, donning his famously patriotic uniform to cheer up a crowd of young cancer patients before returning to his civvies to run a fun arts and crafts program for the kids.

Rogers, who studied to be a commercial artist before famously joining the army and being frozen in ice for decades, taught the boys and girls a two-hour lesson on cartooning and comics history, before helping the kids draw their own comic strips.

"It was so cool!" said one nine-year-old boy. "I thought Captain America was just an awesome fighter, but he's really good at drawing, too."

"I didn't know that you could, like, draw stuff for a living," said a twelve-year-old girl. "I totally want to be a graphic designer now."

Cap brought autographed comics and lapel pins shaped like his trademark shield for all the lucky kids, and had his photo taken with each one.

"I was sick a lot when I was a kid," said Rogers. "And sometimes the worst part about it isn't feeling physically ill, but being in bed and feeling like you can't do anything. Art was a great outlet for me, and I love the idea of passing my love of art to a new generation. I hope I've been able to teach these kids a few things about drawing and cartoons, and more importantly, that they've all had a fun day."

Rogers, who we're not sure whether to list as 27 or 95, seemed to be up to some fun of his own, as he was reportedly seen getting friendly with a fellow volunteer. The hospital declined to give her full name, but we've been told she goes by "Becky," and we can assure you she's smoking hot. Sorry, ladies! If you're looking to pick up an Avenger, we hear Tony Stark's single again (Although, personally, I'm holding out for Thor).

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: "Stark Takes Tokyo"

Doesn't that sound like a porno? Perez Hilton is going nuts over this shit

...


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Stark Takes Tokyo
Filed under: Money Money Money • Tony Stark • Iron Man • Noisy Fuckers • Gossip Is As Gossip Does

Billionaire inventor Tony Stark is making a splash in Tokyo – in all the wrong ways.

Stark has moved for an undetermined period of time to a swanky Roppongi Hills crash pad, and the neighbors are NOT excited.

Since Stark arrived on the scene there have been no fewer than seventeen noise complaints filed with the local authorities. Stark’s cars (four have been sighted so far) have also been impounded three times after being illegally parked near the complex. Locals report visitors coming and going at all hours of the night, and last week cell phone pics were snapped of six peacocks loose in the stairway between the thirteenth and fifteenth floors.

Mr. Stark, may we suggest that if you continue to throw this kind of bash you take the time to invite your neighbors to party along? They're way less likely to complain if they're living the high life - a little booze, a little blow .... come on, YOU’RE supposed to be the genius.

Chapter Text

Tony,

So...I guess you extended your stay?

I feel like I ought to tell you about Be

I had my interview for that position; it seems like it went well. I still...I'm really grateful you set that up for me, and I hope it works out.

The contractors are all finished with your lab and moved your things in. It's mostly in boxes for you to unpack. I figured you wouldn't want anybody else touching DUM-E so I moved him myself. I'll go make sure and visit him till you come home. I had them set up my drafting table in there so he'll have company.

I bought myself a new bedframe. I thought you'd want to know that. I'd been saving up for...I'm not sure what I was saving up for, but having a bed that doesn't keep threatening to fall apart seemed like a good idea. I got a real dresser that isn't made out of plastic, too.

Can you just let me know when you're coming home? It's been a while since…well, I haven't heard from you since you left. I'd like to make you welcome-home-dinner, if that's okay.

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
cc: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
subject: mmmmm, cupcakes

Okay okay one more

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Chapter Text

Tony,

Look. I know. I shouldn't be bothering you. If this is just about Pepper, I understand. I don't want to interrupt you if you need to take time away from everyone. But if I did anything to make you angry, or anything like that-- I don't know. I'd like the chance to fix it. Things were getting pretty confusing for me when I know that last letter I sent before you left might have been a little, well, too much, and I don't know if I said anything to offend you, or make you feel like I wanted something you weren't, but if I did, please tell me? I mean, I've been waiting a few days between letters, and I guess I just...I assumed you'd say something.

I've been watching the footage from Japan. It looks gorgeous. See you soon, I guess. Heading out to this thing with Becky, but I'll be back late if you can maybe find some time to talk. I'd really like to sort out I guess around noon or one pm your time?

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: This is slightly less good

okay seriously, does he have the suit over there?

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Drawing the Line
Filed under: Money Money Money • Tony Stark • Iron Man • Wipe Your Nose Please • Gossip Is As Gossip Does

 

The internet exploded last night as another round of photos of genius billionaire etc etc Tony Stark’s Tokyo binge weekend hit the web. The pictures allegedly show Stark sitting at a coffee table covered in empty bottles and lines of white powder. Other photos show a smiling Stark bartending for a crowd of Tokyo’s elite.

The pics were supposedly snapped a high-end party in Roppongi Hills where bouncers at the entrance confiscated all cameras and cell phones – a common security element after Prince Harry’s Vegas expose last summer.

While some photos clearly show Stark (or a very good lookalike), others aren’t so convincing.

By the time determined photogs cornered Stark outside the complex Monday morning he wore dark glasses and greeted the photographers with atypical irritation. When asked about the photos in question, Stark responded: “Not my place, not my “suspicious white powder”, not my problem.”

Meanwhile, Pepper Potts is playing it safe – her reps have no comment, and the lady herself apparently stayed in, turning up for business as usual Monday morning in a conservative slate suit and bright red pumps.

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Re: This is slightly less good

Look, he says it isn't him. He's having a really rough time out there; I don't think we need to be spreading rumors about our teammate when he could use some support.

-Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: RE: This is slightly less good

Come on Cap, did you even look at those pix? That's totally your man, he's wearing the same shirt and everything. It might not be a bad idea to reach out and see what exactly he's getting up to... looks kind of bad to have an Avenger binging on hookers and blow...

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: RE: This is slightly less good

Can we not refer to Stark as "my man," as if I have any control over what he does? I know I have a responsibility to the team. I wrote to him after the news hit with Pepper, and a couple times since, and he hasn't replied. He hasn't been answering texts or voicemails. Believe me, I've tried.

We all know the tabloids exaggerate everything. Until I see some kind of real evidence that Tony Stark is involved in something he shouldn't be-- what do you want me to do, discipline him? I can't issue a formal reprimand without proof. I can warn him in writing if you want me to, but it's not as if he's going to acknowledge receipt, which is part of SHIELD's formal discipline process. I looked it up.

Becky and I are checking out the Magritte show at MOMA tomorrow afternoon. Here is the link she sent me:

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2013/magritte/

Did you want to come with us?

Anyway, I'll do what I can, but I don't know what the hell else I'm supposed to do about Stark.

-Steve

Chapter Text

Tony,

The team's pretty upset about some of the articles we've been seeing in the tabloids. I know they're probably not entirely true, but I need to officially register my concern over the matter. Mentions of drug use and other questionable activities reflect poorly on the Avengers initiative overall. You'll be receiving a formal document that I need you to initial and return as per SHIELD guidelines.

I know you must be going through a lot right now, and I wish I knew how to help. Please tell me if there is anything I-- or the rest of the team-- can do to make this easier. I just didn't want you to get the form without any kind of explanation from me. I am sorry I have to send it, but it is part of the job.

Let me know how you're doing, would you? At least give me something to tell the rest of them, please?

Thanks,

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: RE: This is slightly less good

wow, okay, so... sorry?? I wasn't trying to do your job or anything, but it IS your job... sounds like you're all over it.

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: RE: This is slightly less good

I know it's my job-- Stark just doesn't always make it easy to do my job. I sent Stark a formal warning for him to initial and return, as well as a personal note to explain that the team is unhappy about his carelessness in regard to his public image. Please let me know if you think the situation requires any additional follow-up.

Please believe me when I say that I take every aspect of my job seriously. The day-to-day paperwork end of this job, things like public relations and such, are not really my forté, so I am always willing to listen to suggestions, and I do appreciate your note.

--Steve

Chapter Text

Tony,

I want to talk to you about Bucky.

I don't really know how to do this. Have you ever...have you ever known anybody who is just that much better than anyone else you know?

I learned to stand up to bullies because I was tiny, and sickly, and had no choice. I was an easy target. I usually got my nose bloodied, or my eye blackened, or my lip split. It happened whether I stood up to them or not. So I decided it was worth it to make the effort, no matter how feeble, you know, not to sit there and take it lying down. I dreamed of maybe, someday, being bigger, faster, stronger, being able to protect myself.

Bucky was bigger, faster, stronger. He could have used that to pick on smaller kids, and nobody would have blamed him. The orphanage was pretty dog-eat-dog. You had to fight for your scraps. Somehow, for some reason, though, he decided to fight for me. I don't think I'll ever understand why. He never told me, and I never asked.

I wasn't much of a sidekick. I was wispy, I slowed him down. I didn't really excel in school. The only thing I could do was draw pictures. But, you know, he pushed me. He sat with me and drilled me through arithmetic, which was always the hardest subject for me. Later, he made me do sprints, taught me to lift weights, everything I could ask him to do in the hope that maybe, maybe someone would let me join the army.

He made me do things I told myself I hated but really just lacked confidence to do-- took me to parties, to bars, made me talk to girls. I don't think it ever occurred to him that I would rather be talk couldn't do it. He had more confidence in me than I ever would, and he never, ever let me give up on myself.

We were inseparable, and best friends, but it always felt like he was taking care of me. Maybe that's...my mother took care of me, and then Bucky. And it was all right, because everyone knew Little Stevie couldn't take care of himself-- I knew that better than anyone. And then, suddenly, I was able to take care of other people, and I still failed. He got me through childhood, and adolescence, and I couldn't even get him through a damn war, and that's what I was built to do.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want to-- I'm not sure what I'm trying to say.

Just be good to yourself, all right? Come home soon.

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: [NO SUBJECT]

Made the papers. Any more news, cap?

...

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Expressway Crash

 

According to Japanese news sources billionaire industrialist Tony Stark was hospitalized early Thursday morning after losing control of his 2014 custom outfitted black LaFerrari. Stark has been traveling through Japan and participating in a series of conferences and speaking engagements. Last week he attended the World Conference for Peaceful Disarmament, and this week he is attending the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the “Minamata Convention on Mercury” where he gave a short speech about corporations and social responsibility.

The incident occurred at roughly 3:15 AM on Thursday morning, when Stark was traveling at a high speed on an expressway in Kyushu's Fukuoka Prefecture. The car reportedly swerved out of control, clipped the center-dividing barricade, and then came to a stop along the edge of the highway, rolling at least twice. Stark was the only passenger in the vehicle.

Stark was extracted from the wreckage taken to a local hospital where he is being held indefinitely and treated for lacerations, whiplash, a concussion, and and a sprained wrist. In a statement made the following morning the Japanese police force stated that Stark had taken and passed a Breathalyzer test in the field. “We have no reason to believe illegal drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident at this time, though the distance traveled by the vehicle suggests it was moving at close to twice the posted speed limit,” they stated. “Mr. Stark is very lucky he was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the incident.”

Japan has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol; no person may operate a motor vehicle after consuming any quantity of alcoholic beverages.

Representatives from Stark Industries as well as Ms. Pepper Potts’ personal staff have both refused to comment.

Chapter Text

Tony--

Pepper called. I know this probably isn't how you wanted me to use that debit card, but the hospital won't release you without someone promising to look after you. And yes, when I called, they told me you tried to have some girl you met two nights ago sign you out. They said it had to be someone with an "established relationship." As your friend, I'm worried about you. As your team leader, I have to tell you this is unacceptable. I'd rather handle this as a friend. Fortunately, since I am your team leader, I've been able to requisition SHIELD resources to get me there faster than a commercial flight. Fury's...well, furious. Ha.

So I'm on the plane now. I feel exhausted. I know, logically, that I don't get exhausted, not the way I used to. But I'm emotionally drained.

I can't-- I know I'm going to have to issue a formal reprimand, and I don't even know where to start with that.

I'm honestly a bit angry. This isn't about-- hell, I don't know what it is and isn't about anyone, but I can tell you a few things for sure.

Hell, I've been sitting on this plane for hours; I've written and rewritten this letter five, six, seven times. Nothing I say is right. It's all too much or too little. Sometimes it's too much AND too little.

I think I just need to talk to you about all this in person.

Be there soon,

Steve

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Re: [NO SUBJECT]

We're at the hotel. He's sleeping. They've got him on a lot of painkillers; we'll see how he is when he comes around. Whiplash, sprained wrist, minor lacerations-- not nearly as bad as I feared, but not pretty, either.

Look, if someone could delete this one from the server before Stark sees it, I'd appreciate that, but just to keep you all informed, he wasn't drinking. The doctors are more concerned about his mental health than his substance use at the moment, and it's probably a good thing to keep in mind once he's home.

We need to stay here at the hotel for 72 hours, and they asked me not to leave him alone.

Let me know if there's anything you need me to do. Clint, do you mind checking in on Becky? We had a date...I'm not even sure when, the hours are so confusing. I've been emailing her, so she knows what's going on, but we were supposed to go see Fun Home and one of you is welcome to take my ticket if you want it.

--Steve

Chapter Text

from: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: Accident

Hey, babe-- Did you see this? Is everything okay over there? Is it really this fucked up? Let me know what's going on, kk?

The play was awesome. Clint says hi, btw. Ugggggh I miss you! Are you coming straight home once they let you leave or are you gonna stay over there? If you can leave the hotel at all can you see if you can find me the Bullet Train Pez dispensers? If not, it's cool, I can probably get them on eBay or something but ahhh so cute so cute.

Lemme know if there's anything I can do from, you know, like a billion miles away.

♥ ♥ ♥

--Bec

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Tokyo Drifter
Filed under: Money Money Money • Tony Stark • Iron Man • Driving Me Crazy • Gossip Is As Gossip Does

 

Anyone will agree - the flood of photographs saturating the gossip circuit this week is enough to tell anyone that the Bad Boy Tony Stark we all know and – well, love to blog about - is back in action. According to local sources, America’s most beloved playboy spent his evenings this week getting thrown out of exclusive night clubs and being photographed in the company of a series of attractive blondes of mixed gender. Stark, a notorious bisexual, drug user and hard partier throughout his youth was thought to have cleaned up his act, but his recent falling out with on-again-off-again girlfriend of two years seems to have turned back the clock. It’s 2001 all over again, people, and that is the stuff of gossip column legends.

This Tuesday morning Stark was involved in a single-car accident in which a vehicle registered to Stark Industries was rolled and totaled. Stark was hospitalized for 14 hours before being declared stable (hah!) - a man speculated to be an out-of-Uniform Captain America was seen on site, guiding his teammate into an unmarked black SUV upon his release from the hospital.

Japanese police maintain that they have no reason to believe alcohol was involved in the accident.

Despite his sideline work as a superhero and role model, fighting alongside the likes of Captain America and Thor to protect and defend the populace of earth, sources close to Mr. Stark suggest this relapse is not unexpected. Indeed, Stark has a long history of unsafe antics, both in his famous armored suit as well as out of it. In recent years he has attracted the attention of multiple terrorist factions and has been surrounded by media firestorms over the use of his suit under the influence, multiple SI factory explosions, New York’s very own alien invasion, and of course for his high-profile romance with PA-turned-CEO Pepper Potts

One source close to the pair states: “Tony has never learned to deal with things in a normal way. He can’t do anything by halves, so of course he’s going to fall apart completely without Pepper around. It’s no secret that he’s a high-functioning alcoholic – it’s incredible he wasn’t drunk when he rolled that car.”

Despite the official reports to the contrary, some critics suggest that Stark paid off the local police to drop charges of intoxication.

Another mutual friend suggested that this was exactly the type of behavior that lead lead Pepper Potts to drop the axe on their relationship just last week.

”A leopard doesn’t change his spots… nobody is saying Stark isn’t a hero, isn’t an incredible fighter or a great philanthropist – we’re just saying that on a personal level he lacks the ability to cope. Give him a few weeks and he’ll level out again.”

When asked about the tumultuous accusations of infidelity published by US Weekly earlier this month our source shrugged. “I would honestly be surprised if he cheated. Tony Stark is a lot of things – but when he’s in a relationship he’s intense about the person he’s with. He’d do anything for them – literally anything - so cheating is a little out of character for him. I think it’s more likely Pepper just got tired of picking up after him.”

Regardless of the reasons, Stark has been stripped of his ability to drive in Japan pending further investigation of the accident; no charges have been pressed at this time.

What’s next for Tony Stark? Stay tuned to find out. We doubt you’ll be waiting long.

Chapter Text

B-

I think we have the place to ourselves tonight. Thor and Jane decided to postpone their next visit till Steve's back in town, and Clint's going to the midnight show at Nitehawk with Becky, who is taking this whole new-beau-running-off-without-warning thing charmingly well.

Tony Fucking Stark and his timing; it's like he planned this. Clint says Becky actually stayed over last night (thank God Steve finally got rid of that particle board Ikea crap), and of course Steve got the call from Pepper two hours after she left. It's as if Stark's psychic or something. Most likely something. Anyway, knowing Steve's streak of Catholic guilt on top of his propensity to want to save everything and everyone, he'll find some way to blame himself for this. What kind of complex is it if you're constantly sacrificing your own well-being? Especially for a child who can't fucking wipe himself?

Meanwhile, Miss Quan is cute as a button. Almost cute enough to make me suspicious, but she cleared all my background checks, and she's got too much of a paper trail for anything to have been wiped. Originally from Seattle, came out here to do the MA in Modern Art program at Columbia, smart as a whip. Manager and part-owner of that gallery we dragged you to, also has a blog on new media art in the age of the superhero which is eminently entertaining as she's been making Steve watch all kinds of artsy movies and liveblogging his reactions. Two parents, both alive, still married, older sister Katie, younger brother Jake. Dad's an eye doctor, mother's a pharmacist, both first-generation Chinese-American. Collects original Star Wars figurines, in the package, has subscriptions to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, a whole slew of art magazines, and Lucky Peach. Takes circus arts, kickboxing and pottery classes. Breast cancer so frighteningly young it reminds me I ought to get screened, in remission three years, and she does that whole volunteering at the children's hospital thing on top of that. And she hugs everyone. Real, tight, two-armed, no-awkward-back-patting hugs. She hugged me. People are too intimidated to hug me. My dear reader excluded, but it took you a while, and those aren't the same kind of hugs. It's like she's a perfect human being. Clint adores her; I can't find anything to dislike about her. I hope Steve's not that much of an idiot.

So I was thinking, dinner? We could see what's playing at Lincoln Plaza, too. If you want to cook again, that's fine, but I thought it might be fun to go out on a proper date like civilized people. If that's within the bounds of what you're comfortable with--I know it's not what we'd previously discussed, so if not, it's no skin off my nose. Fair warning, if you say yes, I'm not going to wear a lick of underwear, just so I can watch you put up a valiant effort to look at anything but me. Maybe we can find a really boring movie in a really dark, really empty theater and make out in the back row like teenagers. Or we could just enjoy the luxury of blessed, blessed peace and quiet at home. Your call. Either way, you have me all to yourself tonight.

Kisses,

N

Chapter Text

Cap –

I was trying to be nice because you've obviously got your panties in a wad, but you’re really getting on my last nerve here. Did Fury put you up to this obnoxious mother hen routine? Everything is fine – well, it’s not really fine fine but do you have any idea how many cars I’ve crashed over the years? If covert government agencies sent bulky blonde bodyguards every time I rolled a fucking Ferrari I’d be swimming in muscle – which actually, that might be alright, really. I could stand to get my hands on a little muscle – it’s fun to be single again.

But you - you keep giving me these fucking kicked puppy dog looks which really – I mean what is it with that? What do you want from me? I gave you a ready-made excuse to fly to Japan and feel all manly and protective and shit and you’re acting all bitchy and put out about it. We should be out having a good time, not sitting inside staring at the wallpaper and watching shitty dubbed reruns of Switched At Birth on TV – seriously. I bet we could get a decent hookup here. Fukuoka – smaller than Tokyo but totally workable.

also, you have got to stop checking on me every five minutes. I feel like I'm on a fucking suicide watch. Christ.

I don’t need a mother hen, I don’t need a bodyguard, and I definitely don’t need you OR Fury sticking your respective noses into my personal time as a “team leader” or as a friend. Everyone needs a little time to unwind. what I really need is a quadruple dose of ambien, apparently, to get any fucking sleep.

And just in case you think this is about Pepper, well, it’s not about fucking Pepper Potts - she's just as inconsequential as she was the day I hired her. Just like the other 99% of people out there, she got what she wanted and then threw in the towel – get what you need and get out. I mean, I loved her - I gave her fucking ridiculous gifts and took her on fantastic vacations, promoted her egregiously under qualified ass to CEO and blew up literal billions of dollars worth of Iron Man suits to show her I was serious about her – and she turns around and dumps my ass without warning? Fuck that noise. She already had a goddamn press release written about how we’d be great colleagues and stay friends and blah blah blah what the fuck does she think is going to happen when she dumps her boss? She must have been planning this for ages – no wonder she wouldn't fucking move to New York.

I should really fucking fire her, but the over/under on the stocks would drop like a fucking lead balloon. I don’t even know.

Fuck it - I don’t even miss her. I don’t miss her fucking morning breath or her terrible scrambled eggs or the way she – The sex was lousy too – let me tell you, any woman who looks so fucking prim and proper is gonna be way too uptight to cut loose. Even when you managed to coax her into bed she just fucking gasped and flopped around like a fish out of water and I sure as hell don’t miss THAT.

Just another notch in the bed post, right? Who cares.

Anyway, if you read the shit they write about me in the celebrity gossip rags, let me assure you that the accident was JUST an accident. I didn’t pay anyone to fucking hide the fact that I was drinking or some shit, because I wasn’t. I just – I couldn’t sleep and so I thought I’d go for a drive. I don’t really remember I think I must have fallen asleep.

It was just an accident, plain and simple.

anyway no harm done, a few bumps and scrapes, so can you please quit hovering like a fucking mother hen? I’m not going to break in half if you go out to pick up a pizza.

 

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

I'm not here to play anything. I'm here because I l The hospital made me make certain guarantees before they were willing to release you. You are on a suicide watch. It's not my decision. Otherwise, they were going to put you in a sleep clinic and psych evaluation, and I thought this would be better.

I'm trying to give you as much space as I can. The hotel suite isn't that large, though. I had the hotel order groceries. I'll be in the kitchen cooking. I tried to get some turkey since we sort of missed Thanksgiving what with you in the hospital and me on a plane, but the concierge didn't seem to know what it was. They sent up some other things, though. I'm not really sure what to do with rice and squid and seaweed and some other things I don't recognize, but I figured out how to Google for recipes, so I'll find something. It might not be the best, though, just a warning.

I'll take you at your word that this isn't about Pepper. If you want to talk about what it is about, I'm not going anywhere. I'll try to stay out of your hair as much as possible unless you tell me you need me.

Steve

Chapter Text

Steve –

Okay, so this is the part where I apologize for making a complete ass of myself. Again. Please feel free to frame this or file it away with the last apology letter I sent you.

(our relationship is getting a little depressing, isn’t it.)

1. I apologize for writing you after hitting the minibar in my bedroom. Turns out booze doesn’t mix well with foreign painkillers. Who knew?

2. I realize there were a lot of things in that last letter that were a little totally inappropriate to say to you. I shouldn’t have said those things about Pepper because not only is she actually a decent person, I know you two are friends and I’m sure you’ve already let her know you intend to remain friends regardless – I’m really okay with that. I just need some time, I guess, to re-categorize Pep in my head. Cuz yeah, I guess it really IS about her, isn't it.

Sorry.

I don’t know. I think I’m having another mid-life crisis. I can’t

3. I really don't want to talk about what happened in Malibu. I don't want you to think less of m

4. I did read your letters. You were the only person other than Rhodey who bothered to reach out to me when Pep left and that’s both really good of you and also really, really depressing. I guess if I knew me I wouldn’t reach out either; I can be such a dick when I’m pissed, as you have proof in hand.

When I read your letter about Bucky all I could think was that the vast majority of relationships in my adult life have been with people I paid to be involved in it. You’re the closest I have to a Bucky, which is ALSO incredibly depressing considering that 1) you’re like...almost twenty years younger than me, 2) we’ve only known each other for like... a year, and 3) you’re forced to spend time with me because you have the misfortune of leading Team Avengers. 4) I think I'm fall

So… yeah.

It was a nice letter though. I felt kind of, I don’t know, privileged that you shared it with me. I don’t know how to tell you that I

thanks for coming to get me. You didn't have to. SI would have handled it.

I'm not sure why you feel a formal reprimand is in order given that what happened has nothing to do with my role as an Avenger but - do what you have to do. It doesn't matter to me.

for what it's worth, I have no idea why they would put me on a suicide watch. People fall asleep while driving all the time. I was probably still jetlagged, it doesn't mean anything. I'm not that unstable

I mean, my life is kind of excellent. I know my life is excellent. I'm a billionaire. I'm a super hero. I own a multinational company run by my gorgeous ex girlfriend. The Malibu house was ugly, anyway. it's all, you know. Great.

I'm not really hungry and not feeling particularly thankful. you can leave some leftovers in the fridge if you want.

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

It's all all right. Really. I know you're having a hard time. You know, I can take a few punches if you need to throw them, and I'd rather you aim them at me than anybody else, including yourself. It's what I'm built for, right?

1) Do you need me to take the contents of the minibar down to the desk? I'm not chastising you, just asking if that's something you need right now.

2) It's okay. I'm not going to repeat a word of this to Miss Potts. You do know, though, they called her when you crashed your car. She called me. She can't be getting those kinds of calls right now, because she needs to re-categorize you, too. But we can talk more about that later.

3) I didn't ask you to talk about Malibu. Did someone ask you about Malibu? This is part of why I didn't want them dragging you into a psych evaluation. You can talk to me about what you want to talk about. You don't have to tell me anything that you don't.

4) I spend time with you because I want to. There is a minimal amount of time that I'm actually required to interact with you. The better I get to know you, the more of it is by choice.

I guess this letter sort of devolved away from numbers, and I'm not sure what to number or what goes together. I wrote those letters when you were miles away and not in the other room and I wanted to do something to help, and couldn't just check your status with JARVIS. I wrote about Bucky because it was somehow easier than writing about you when I wasn't sure if you'd ever reply.

Look, I have to issue a formal reprimand because it's in the policy book, endangering a member of the team, including yourself, while off-duty. It has to go on file. There's going to be some kind of penalty. It's part of the job. I don't want to. I just want to keep checking to make sure you're really in the other room.

You were gone for a while. I had finally given up on A lot happened, and there are some things I really should talk to you about, but I need to-- I don't know. I really don't know what I'm doing here, but I couldn't just let SI take care of it. I know I didn't have to come, but I wanted to. It's funny, because you asked me if I wanted to go to Japan, and now I'm here and so far I've seen airports, the inside of cars, a hospital, and a hotel. I wouldn't know that I'd left the United States if interacting with the people here didn't make me feel like a clumsy, inarticulate, oversized blond monstrosity.

Dinner's almost ready. I'm not sure what to call it. It's some kind of Asian-fusion-style-paella-thing, I guess. The only time I've eaten Asian fusion was a couple weeks ago when I went to Chop Shop, and I hadn't had paella until I started looking up recipes, so it's not exactly authentic gourmet cooking, but it tastes pretty decent, I think. I'll leave the leftovers in the oven with the warmer on, so they don't get cold. It's perfectly okay if you just want to grab a bowl and go hide. Happy Squidsgiving, I guess. I would apologize for the lack of cranberry sauce but I don't think it would go with the meal. I guess I understand how you feel, but I'm just grateful you're all right. Let me know if you need anything else.

Steve

Chapter Text

Steve,

Dinner was really nice – thanks. I’ve never had Thanksgiving squid before, but it was surprisingly good. Sorry I wasn't chattier. And that I turned up three hours late. I just can't That's just how I roll.

You wear aprons well, by the by. Why have I never seen you wear an apron before?

Regarding your earlier comment, I guess Pep’s still my emergency contact. I didn’t really have time to get that shit sorted out before I left and to be honest, I didn’t even try. Look – I don’t really have anyone else to list who’s, you know, available. Would it be easiest to change it to you? If not, that’s fine. You just seem slightly more qualified (and likely to be present) to make critical decisions about life support and shit than my PA.

The minibar is fine where it is – I just have to be careful not to overdo it.

Were you checking on me last night? I woke up to what I thought was the sound of the door opening. I’m not going anywhere, Steve. And anyway, they stripped my rights to drive in Japan, so even if I wanted to all I could do was walk. My neck is aching so bad that moving at all is too much fucking work. I may need another round of drugs before i can sleep, so, you know, if you feel like dispensing...

I’m cleared to fly in another thirty hours; the conference is over by now, so I don’t have any more obligations. I'm amending my previous statement though - you are something I'm thankful for; you put up with my shit, treat me like a human being even when I treat you like dirt, and make me want to be worthy of your friendship. Do you want to go somewhere fun on our way home? You, me, a massive empty beach, hammocks, booze.... I'm thinking we spend a few days at my Hawaii beach house, maybe? You mentioned having never been on a real vacation, I could show you a good time.

Think about it – beaches, pina coladas, surfing, and of course all the hula girls you could ask for. A little time away from the world might be nice, and you can catch me up on what's been happening at home.

Happy Squidsgiving,
T

Chapter Text

Tony,

All right. I've written and rewritten this more times than I can count.

1) Don't worry about it. I understand that you might need time to yourself. You'd see me in an apron more often if you let me cook for you more often.

2) Yes. Make me your emergency contact, although I think life support decisions are more a power of attorney thing. I set those up with a lawyer a while back; It was one thing I didn't want the government to have control over anymore, so Natasha is mine. If you want me to do that, too, we can talk about what kind of decisions you want me to make, and I promise I will abide by them. Nobody sho

3) I couldn't sleep. I was worri I never really slept alone until the war bonds tour, sometimes hearing someone else breathing helps. I came in and slept on your floor.

4) it helped. See, I have my vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies, too.

5) I'm not supposed to give you another dose quite yet...if you can hold out another couple of hours, I'll bring you your medication then. Sorry, but you heard the same lecture I did about these pills.

6) I'm thankful for you, too. I know the last month has been hard. You don't need to feel any worse about it. You've been so generous to me, and I can't believe that a few short months ago, we were always at each other's throats. I'm relieved to see you, even if the circumstances aren't the best. I was a little scared you wouldn't ev

7) I will go to Hawaii with you.

8) But there's a 'but.'

9) Tony, this has gone on long enough, and we need to talk about it beyond these letters, instead of dancing around the subject forever. I know this is not the best timing. I know you might not be ready for this question right now. But if you're inviting me to go on a vacation, I can't keep skirting the issue, and I'd be doing us both a disservice if I did. I've always been a plain-speaking sort of person. I can't keep pretending I don't notice the things you're saying to me. So I need to ask you: do you want to go to Hawaii with me because you want hula girls, or because you want me?

I could be entirely mistaken, and if I am, you have my apologies for being presumptuous. And I'll accept any answer you give me. I understand that the answer might be more complicated or uncertain than a simple 'yes' or 'no.'

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap –

I wanted to take you to Hawaii to thank you for dropping everything and flying six thousand miles to check me out of a hospital. You told me you’d never taken a real vacation, I thought this might be something you’d enjoy. You – you have plenty of problems of your own and you don’t really have the time or space in your life to deal with mine – I get that. You like to slow down and enjoy things – I wanted to give you a chance to do something new.

I don’t know.

I just wanted to do something for you. I tried to send you to school, you said no, I tried to get you a job and you insisted on interviewing, I would offer to share my room with you if it helped you sleep and I thought you wouldn’t find the offer creepy. You're always bending over backwards to help me and I really don't deserve it.

listen, I -

I was mostly teasing about the girls – I just thought you’d enjoy a luau or two more than the company of a depressive billionaire hanging out alone on a private beach. Personally I'd rather have your company than hula girls any day of the week.

I understand if you don’t want me to

Listen, I’ve made no secret about my sexual proclivities. I have no desire to change who I am and I’m not going to pretend I'm something I'm not. I do find you extremely attractive, in more ways than one. I can’t help that the things that make you a good friend are things I admire - you’re this island of solid fucking rock in the middle of a rushing river and everything just seems to slide past you – I don’t know how you do it; I never can.

I never meant to say anything that would make you feel uncomfortable, and I would have stopped making that kind of comment if I'd known the jokes were weird for you - I have a real knack for walking the line and then stumbling right the fuck over it. I meant those comments as kind of a joke, but I guess it's not all that funny considering there's a grain of truth in them. I really enjoy the time we spend together, and you're my only one of my closest friends, so...

How could I not -

you are literally

I hope this doesn't fuck with our friendship. I can learn to behave. If you actually want to go to Hawaii, we can go. If you'd rather just take a vacation on your own, or go with the team or something of course that's fine too. I have no idea what I want, but please believe me when I say I expect literally nothing from you, and the offer came with no strings attached. I've always known where I stand with you.

T

Chapter Text

T--

Thanks for--I didn't mean to leave any room for confusion, but I'm not always the best at communicating. There's some things I need to explain to you, because this is more complicated than I'd like it to be, and to be frank, I need some advice, but here's--

I know this is the absolute worst timing to say something like this, but I can't knowingly miscommunicate with you. You seem to think things slide off me, but when it comes to you, I can't--

The problem isn't that I'm uncomfortable with you. The problem is that I can't decide if you're the biggest mistake I could make, or the best thing I could ask for. Is that clearer?

I realize I might regret this. But at least it's been said.

--S

Chapter Text

Look – look, I have no idea how to process this. It sounds like you’re saying you have feelings for me. that can't be right

Is that why you’re here?

I didn’t realize you were even remotely interested in men, let alone me. Please tell me this isn’t some kind of stress-induced sexuality crisis, because I really don't want to be a mistake

I keep rereading your letters, I can't believe you'd

 

 

Okay. No. I want to sober up and sleep before we talk about this. i feel like it’s all coming out wrong and I can't risk

Whatever you decide tomorrow, give me this - come to bed with me. I mean that in the most platonic way possible. I'm so fucking tired I sleep for shit when I’m alone and you just told me you’re in the same boat - come to bed, let me wrap myself around you and just sleep. We’ll figure something out in the morning.

Chapter Text

T--

Until tonight, I thought you knew. I don't-- I thought I had been glaringly, embarrassingly obvious in spite of my efforts not to be. I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have said anything. It was unprofessional and inconsiderate and I should have responded with more delicacy. I just--I feel like I need to be straight with you because you were straight with me.

I just didn't know how to talk to you otherwise, without editing myself or couching my language in ways that feel dishonest. This is coming out wrong, and I don't even have the excuse of being drunk.

I want to, but--

If that's what you need from me right now, I'm happy to do it, but I need to

Are you sure? Of course I'll stay with you if you want me there.

You don't know how much I--

Tony, I don't think I can--

I'm not sure it's a good idea if you wrap y--

I didn't want to tell you this on top of everything else, seeing how unhappy you've been, but I've sort of been--

There are definitely some things we should talk about in the morning.

I'll bring you your pills and some water. I've got one more email to send, and then I'll be in.

--S

Chapter Text

from:Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
subject: Re: Accident

Bec--

I'm so sorry for not replying right away. I've got no excuse except that I've been extremely preoccupied. Thanks for the article. It's really not as bad as all that...Tony's all right, and he was sober, but we need to wait a day or two before they'll let Stark out of the country.

Look, I know this is last minute, but once Tony's free to go, we might end up going somewhere else for a little while. He's got a house in Hawaii, and I think it might be a good idea to let him recuperate a bit before diving headlong into things in New York. I'll let you know as soon as I have a firmer idea of what's happening.

Things are hellishly intense here-- we've been in really close quarters, there's been a lot of emotionally strained discussion that's gone in all kinds of directions I didn't expect, and I'm trying to sort it all out. I want to tell you more, but I feel like it wouldn't be right to write it down instead of saying in person, and so much of it isn't really clear to me yet. My head's honestly not where I'd like it to be right now.

I'm not allowed to leave the hotel right now, but I made some calls to the front desk to see if someone can find you those bullet train things. They haven't turned up yet, but I got you the Gundam ones, is that okay? That's the cartoon with those giant robot suits you like, right?

Miss you, too. I promise I'll make it up to you when I'm back.

Steve

Chapter Text

from:
Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: RE: Accident

AWWWW HELLO NEW FB PROFILE PHOTO! Hahaha, you even got the clothes right; that's totally what I was wearing the other day. Thank you sooooo much. Steve, you need to get on FB so I can tag you in all the ridiculous things. I have so many pics from the night with the boozey hot chocolate and you have whipped cream on your nose and ugh so cute.

Don't worry about it, hon. I was getting kind of worried when I didn't hear back, but it's not like I don't know what's going on. This shit is super horrible and sometimes you just can't help the timing of the crappy stuff that happens in life. I'm not going anywhere. In the meantime, just know you have super awesome friends-- Clint and Nat have both been super great. People keep thinking Clint is my boyfriend, which is a little weird, but whatever. One of my friends actually asked him if he was Captain America. It was like, whoops, awkward. Way to ever look at a photo, guy.

Holy shit, did you really get Gundam Pez? That's COMPLETELY AMAZEBALLS. Thank you so so so so so so much.

Stuff here is fine, but, you know. Work and stuff. Clint and I went to Fun Home. It was awesome, and the run got extended so we could see it when you get back if you want. I will totally go again. I would say I'm super jealous of Hawaii but it doesn't sound like it's going to be fun!Hawaii. If you want to, like, take a weekend when you get back and go down to Philly or up to Rhinebeck or something, I can try to get someone to cover for me at the gallery. There's also, like, a million Christmas parties coming up, so we can decide which ones we want to go to. Oh, and I want to talk to you about New Year's, because I know you want to watch the ball drop but it's kind of super sketch. There's a bunch of stuff going on that I think will be more fun.

If there's anything else I can do, let me know. I'll just be doing my thing till you're back. Seriously, don't worry about me. It's TOTALLY fine. You can tell me what you need to tell me when you're home. I miss you like crazy and want to hug your face off.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Becky

Chapter Text

Cap--

I know it's the middle of the night, sorry for the override on your StarkPad, but neither of you are picking up your phones. We need to call you in; there's a security breach at the tower; it appears to be aimed at the ARC reactor. I've taken care of clearing Stark's departure with the health service over there; S.H.I.E.L.D. transport'll be there to pick you both up within twenty minutes. Grab your stuff, buzz me when you're on board; I'll brief you then. I'm going to need to know if Iron Man's safe to deal with some delicate work, so if you can get me a status on Stark's condition ASAP, it'll help. I'll handle command until you're up to speed and on the ground.

--Widow

Chapter Text

[LVL SUB-BASEMENT / ARC REACTOR MAINFRAME MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:BANNER.Robert.B., BARTON.Clinton.F., ROMANOVA.Natalia.A., STARK.Anthony.E.]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

STARK.Anthony.E.: A little to the left - yeah, that’s the one. We need to lower the cycles per minute before we bring it down or the internal momentum will crack the casing and - well, it won’t be good. So just - slowly!

BANNER.Robert.B.: I’m - damn it, Tony, I am moving slowly. Quit moving the light, I can’t make out the connections properly… why are we on emergency lighting? I thought the readouts suggested a power drop of less than 20%.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s probably a reaction to the fluctuating flow of - SLOWLY - okay, yeah, ease the glass casing up and you’ll see four exposed wires. Take the heat sink and you’re gonna start with the second wire in from the left, detach that and hook this one up to the exposed - don’t let them touch, this shit is delicate, christ - okay, yeah, now the wire to the left and - okay, so this will absorb the excess heat and -

[crashes and coughing]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Kids, I’ve lost visual. You all right in there?

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Iron Man, Doc, report!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Still with you, Widow. Just - [coughing]

BANNER.Robert.B.: No visible incoming, some structural damage to the northeastern wall - is something trying to get in here?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Focus, baby. I’ll take care of any visitors. JARVIS, thermal visual overlay at 3% opacity, don’t blind me with that fucking reactor - okay, excellent. Brucey, crank the heat sink and when our readout hits 150 RPM we’re doing the same maneuver on the opposite side. Except go in from the left, yeah, here - I can probably - ah, fuck, ow! okay, no, you’d better hook this up. Yeah, just - good. Okay, 240 CPM and dropping.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Ah, we’ve got incomiiiii--

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: What the hell are those things? Barton! Stark, is that structural damage anything we have to worry about?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: They look like fucking flying plumbBobs. I’ve got one, here-- right!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Flying whats, Hawkeye? Can one of you hook me up with a visual? I’m still hours out.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Sorry I abandoned you, Cap, but my sweet armor trumps all other aircraft, private or otherwise when it comes to speed. I doubt there will be anything left for you by the time we're done here. POW! Nailed one!

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Ah, sorry, Cap. Give me thirty seconds. Sims. It's a game where Barton makes little cartoon versions of himself and then watches himself do chores he would never do in real life.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Watch it, Widow, or I'll make Sim-you get a job as a hairdresser.

STARK.Anthony.E.: 195 and dropping. 194…. 190…. Wait, does Hawkeye have a sim me?!

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Um, duh. Sim Stark is the Barton house's executive toilet scrubber.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.:Stark, is it supposed to be dropping, or is that bad?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hawkeye..... You just, you suck.

Widow, it's fine. You can’t hard shutdown something with this kind of energy output, it needs to cycle down and offset heat before we hit the killswitch. You don’t wanna see what it looks like when one of these babies goes off the rails.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Oh, good, thanks for explaining your jargon with more jargon; it’s all so clear now.

BANNER.Robert.B.: The structural damage, Tony, those ribs aren’t load bearing are they?

[Stones falling, coughing]

STARK.Anthony.E.: No, should be fine - ah, fuck, freaky diamond thingies incoming...someone knock em down? Cap - you reading my visual feed?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Got it, T--thanks, Iron Man. Are you sure that’s...that doesn’t look stable from here.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Bruce, eyeball those readings, I’m gonna go do a little welding and make sure the roof doesn't drop in on us . JARVIS, right repulsor at 10% light, maximize heat output ----- yeah, yeah, I know, the glove can be mended. Override those warnings, do I look like I give a shit? Okay, I’m gonna try and fuse that loose left girder to the paneling behind it -

[repulsors hum, IM groans in pain]

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Ow, fuck, those things spray acid. I’ve got it down; it’s some kind of remote-controlled drone; there’s a camera annnd...it’s transmitting sound to somewhere.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I’m counting sixteen more from here-- ha, fifteen!

BANNER.Robert.B.: We hit 150, Iron Man. I’m attached the secondary sink.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Go for it. Opposite side in, remember? Ground it before you complete the hookup, tell me when it’s dropping again. Ideally we’re under 75 CPM, maybe 60 to be on the safe side.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: THIRTEEN-- ah! I almost got beaned with a hunk of column, boys.

STARK.Anthony.E.: AH, shit -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Hawkeye, look out for that one right---Stark, what’s the matter?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Ahead of you, Cap. Hey, I told Becky you’d be back tonight; she thinks she left her earrings in your room?

[sound of metal creaking and crashing to the ground, repulsors shut off]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ngh - fuck fuck fuck! Who the fuck is Becky?

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Down to ten! Iron Man, report!

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Steve didn’t tell you about his girlfriend? Nine!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Girlfriend? Cap has a - ?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t kno-- I, ah-- son of a bitch! Look out there!

BANNER.Robert.B.: Down to 83, 82 - what am I doing next, Iron Man? Why - your hand is smoking. That’s…. not supposed to happen, is it?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Suit’s having a hard time displacing heat - repulsors use light to eliminate heat, less light equals more - shit, fuck, my joints are fused, I need to get this thing off, augh

[clanking, a cracking sound, metal hitting the ground again]

STARK.Anthony.E.: god, that’s the ticket, fuck. Ow.

BANNER.Robert.B.: That looks nasty, Stark - you need to -

STARK.Anthony.E.: Later, just, later. Console, now - bring up the data entry terminal, enter my access code username ASTARK. Access code 9973d92pmw8q664, hold shift and hit enter to bring up full diagnostic mode.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: I can handle the software; Doc, put a fucking bandage on Stark’s hand. Hawkeye, you’ve got the bots?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Down to seven. You think they’re recording this conversation? Change Stark’s password, while you’re at it, Nat.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Random alphanumeric,15 characters minimum. Give me ten seconds to stick it in my brain. Doc - doc the hand is fine, seriously, don’t - the gauntlet’s a hell of a brace for the sprain, just leave it be!

BANNER.Robert.B.: At least slap a coolpack on it, those blisters are nasty.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Yeah, you’ve got flesh showing, Stark. Password changed; I’ll give it to you later.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, god. Why did you make me look? You should never look at shit like this.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: TONY, THAT IS NOT FINE. FOR ANY GIVEN DEFINITION OF FINE.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Not your problem, Cap.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It is my problem when the team’s software engineer insists on not having any hands to--

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Ahem, diagnostic mode up, Stark, what do you need me to do? I’m getting three errors here, one critical?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I want the whole fucking thing offline. I don’t give a shit if we black out all of Manhattan to do it, I’m not letting anyone play house in my fucking system while I take the time to debug. Enter the following keystrokes - F4 F7 enter enter, then in the /run field enter /reactorshutdown/334_7.lli and follow it with /totalsystemshutdown.lli - hit enter and read me the message text.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Five-- fo--fuck!

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Hawkeye, report? I’ve got it, Stark...it says initiating shutdown...I assume I’m hitting “Y” for “Do you want to proceed,” all right, it says it’s preparing the partitions for shutdown, countdown is at three minutes thirty seconds.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I’m fine; those things spray some nasty shit, don’t they?

BANNER.Robert.B.: Any way I can get a sample of that stuff? Quit squirming, Iron Man - it’s just going to hurt more. Unclench the fist - yeah, like that.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Saving you a couple mostly intact ones, Doc.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Good, Widow, perfect - ugh, that’s a shit time. Should have dropped the cycles further. JARVIS, I need you to hook into that broadcast signal and figure out what they’re transmitting - JARVIS? JARVIS, hello - shouldn’t have been enough heat to compromise the OS…

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: Iron Man, are you having problems with your AI?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Three! Three licks to get to the center of a fucking acid-spitting what-the-fuck.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, maybe the - oops, there he is. Hey J, that was weird, you feeling alright? I think maybe the heat … mmhmm… oh, of course. The power dropped at the building and he had to reboot from backup. Looks like we’re good here for the moment. Once we’re offline I’ve got more work to do - one of you needs to stay, I’ll grab my Starkpad and we’ll go to town.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Down to two of these suckers.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: I can stay; Doc, do you mind covering me, just in case we run into more trouble?

BANNER.Robert.B.: You know I never mind, Widow.

ROMANOVA.Natalia.A.: You’re a darling, Doc.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: One, and zero--

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

Director:

This afternoon, November 30, at 1300 EST, the Tower's security system alerted us to a breach of the ARC reactor mainframe controller unit.

I called Iron Man and Captain America in from Japan. Stark was still under a medically-ordered surveillance at the time; I brokered with Japanese authorities for his release. Iron Man flew in with the use of his suit; Captain America took SHIELD transport, but did not arrive on the scene until the situation was resolved. He did, however, look on and support via live video feed.

Banner, Barton, Stark and myself were on the ground. We did not find it necessary to call in Thor from London.

The Avengers team worked to locate the source of the breach. Under direction from an injured Iron Man, Dr. Banner and I rebooted the reactor's systems. During the reboot process, we were attacked by miniature computerized drones. Agent Barton dispatched the majority of these with relatively little effort and minor injuries to Agent Barton and myself.

During the process of bringing down the reactor cycles (ask Stark for more information if it's required-- I couldn't parse his jargon), some small structural damage occurred. Iron Man successfully corrected the damage, but injured his hand during the process-- he looked to have sustained considerable burns.

Stark seemed somewhat distracted in the field; however, he was in much better shape than I had expected. I do not think that he poses a serious danger to himself or to the team at the moment.

The small drones were hexagonal bipyramids in shape, made from a combination of high carbon steel and rubber, with a hollow capsule from which they deployed small amounts of highly concentrated hydrochloric acid. They also were outfitted with transmitters, although it appears that the damage to their shells has made it difficult for our team to follow the signals to their receiver.

I've sent two of the most-intact drones to be processed by the SHIELD laboratories and asked that you be included as a recipient for reports of any findings.

Let me know if you require anything else.

--Widow

Chapter Text

N –

Thanks for surprising me last night – I would feel a bit guilty that you have to do all of this climbing through the air ducts to get to me without the team noticing, but not quite guilty enough to ask you to stop.

I’ll be honest, Natasha – waking to your hands and your mouth and hearing your smile in your words as you press into my bed… we’ve come such a long way since the battle of New York. I feel like there’s little I can do that would appropriately express how much I enjoy your company; you’re a constant source of steady comfort in my life.

Aren’t we funny creatures? We naturally strive for connections, and once we begin to feel anything – affection, anger, devotion, and frustration – the instinct to reveal our inner workings becomes overpowering. And though we might share out of a desire to uplift someone we care for, the act of sharing places on that person a burden of expectation of action or reciprocation, suggests need.

I know about burdening others with the weight of your own emotion.

You – you are this incredible soul built of control and care, and no amount of personal satisfaction is worth handing you another burden to bear.

I will say, though - and you being you, already know it - that I’m very, very glad to have you in my life.

 

B

Chapter Text

T--

 

Banner told me you took off for the house as soon as the shutdown was completed.  I--

 

Look, do you want me to come out there?  Do you want me to send Banner out?  I don't know if I should be leaving you alone after the whole I--

 

I'm sorry.  I-- when I said I had things I needed to talk to you about, I didn't anticipate--  I'd still like to talk to you, I just-- I never meant for that to happen.  I understand if you don't want me around right now, I--  

 

Is your hand all right?  It looked pretty terrible on the video.  Banner says he's concerned about it; I just-- did you see anyone for it?  I still have the rest of your painkillers.  

 

Are you all right?  I'm going to take a shower, tell me if I should ride out.

 

--S

P.S.

I got back to my room and there were postcards waiting. They must have come after I left for Japan. Thanks, you know. I'm not sure how I feel about the hat, but I think a Samurai-inspired Iron Man suit would be pretty incredible. It makes me a little sorry I didn't actually get to see the country. Next time, I guess.

 

Chapter Text

Cap –

I’m not all right. I’m fucking pissed as hell.

Clint told me about Becky. Did you really fly six thousand miles and crawl into bed with me when you have a girlfriend waiting in New York? Was that just some Stockholm syndrome-y attempt at comfort, or were you just afraid I'd jump out a window if you said no?

Don’t fuck with me, Steve. I don't need your pity or your secondhand affection, or whatever that was. I’m not gonna play second fiddle to some doe-eyed damsel in distress you picked up on a night out on the town with me. The press would have a field day with that, and believe it or not as little as I care about what those shitheads say about me I’m fucking sick to death of people asking why I cheated on the woman who broke my fucking heart. I’m not gonna be the guy that destroys your relationship too. Just – why can’t you just

I just don’t understand what you’re after – you backed me into a corner and made me admit how I feel about you and you aren’t even available? After the hellish month I had? I freaked out when I read your letter – I was sure I’d ruined our friendship because I couldn’t get a grip. I thought you were straight as an arrow and would kick me to the curb the minute you realized how I felt – and you wouldn’t cop to your feelings until I asked outright and even then it was the most backwards freaking admission of affection I've ever heard in my life. Did you even mean it

And when I read your clarification I felt like, for the first time since Pepper left, maybe the world would keep turning and there was someone out there who -

Just, fuck you.

Is Becky why you called me the biggest mistake you could make? Inquiring minds would like to know, Cap.

 

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

This is not about Becky.

I asked you. You didn't ask, you never asked. You not only didn't ask me, you would have been perfectly content to

I realize I didn't handle this even remotely well, but you're being an insufferable

I am sorry. I handled this terribly. I know it doesn't help for me to say that I was planning to talk to you about everything in the morning, because that didn't happen. I understand why you feel the way you do. I behaved tactlessly and unprofessionally and I put our working relationship, and more importantly, our friendship, at risk, because I panicked and acted on an impulse. Apparently no one bothered to chemically enhance my ability to navigate emotions or delicate interpersonal situations. My timing was bad, my sensitivity to your personal situation or needs was nil. Everything I said was in complete earnest, but that doesn't mean I didn't behave selfishly.

I asked you because you almost died. Everyone keeps

What do you want me to do? I will do literally anything in my power to make amends. I don't know what I can do.

Is your hand all right? Did anyone look at it? I only saw it on the video feed, but it looked pretty ugly.

Steve

PS For the record, I wasn't thinking about Becky when I said that. I was thinking about the fact that sometimes being around you is like staring into the sun.

PPS I know I probably shouldn't say that, but it's not as if things could be worse than they already are.

PPPS I am still incredibly sorry.

Chapter Text

Okay. Okay, just –

I just want to make clear that I’m not sorry that you told me – I mean I would have wanted to know if I’d known there was something to know. I mean – Captain America has a crush on me. That’s the stuff of teenage fantasy made real – and you’re way more than what I’d imagined Captain America could be, so it’s like – a super fucking bonus. Icing on the cake. A muscly muscly beefcake.

Sorry, maybe – I thought whiskey would help but I’m not sure it’s fixing anything. I'm just so pissed - at myself, at you, at this Becky bitch-

This doesn’t have to fuck our working relationship, or friendship, or anything really – we’re grown men, we can probably figure that part of it out no matter what happens. We committed some seriously Enders Game-y levels of alien genocide to protect the planet , faced off with a rogue Asgardian god – surely we can handle a little unresolved (and, I might add, resolvable) sexual tension. Not gonna lie, its been going on for ages anyway, Cap and Iron Man can totally deal.

I just don’t quite know what you want from me. I – I really do care about you. You get under my skin like nobody else, and when we spend time together all I want to do is prolong it – I guess that’s really why I wanted to invite you to Hawaii, because things seem better when you’re around.

I don’t know if you’re telling me you want to be with me romantically, or if this was just some kind of weird gay pity party to – I don’t know, boost my self esteem after an accident my doctors seemed to think was a suicide attempt (but which totally wasn’t) – I don’t know what to make of this Becky chick either, I am all for spreading the love but Clint made it sound like you were dating and not just fucking, so I don’t

Sorry, sorry, tangent.

But you were right – ask anyone. I’m a huge fucking mistake. You’re young, and healthy, and sharp as a tack. You don’t really know many people your own age – I mean maybe you just want me because I’m available, you know? I know you don’t share the pop culture and shit of the Millennial generation but you haven’t really tried, have you. Just ask pepper what it’s like – she’ll give you a fucking laundry list of reasons to stay the fuck away.

Sorry. I guess I just mean that I understand you sticking with what's her name. I google stalked her – pretty hot, needs more junk in the trunk if you know what I mean but you could do worse, you know.

Sorry, this is getting weird

I just - I’m sorry too. I never meant for you to find out about this. I knew it would just fuck us both up. I’m so fucked

T

Chapter Text

T--

Thanks. For responding without anger, I guess.

I'm not sure what to tell you because I can't say I know what I want. I'm also not sure I understand parts of your letter entirely, but I feel like I get the gist of it.

I…look, it was still pretty poor judgment for me to say anything. I'm just so out of my element. It's not a crisis or pity or anything like that, but I don't honestly know what I want. I wasn't really expecting you to answer me the way you did, and then you did, and this probably sounds stupid, but I think I'm so used to rejection that I wasn't prepared for any other response. And I still don't know what to do with what you did tell me.

I don't know what I want from Becky, either. It's not just you. Have you ever known anyone who just runs headlong into everything they do, and grabs your hand and drags you along despite your protestations, and then suddenly you realize you're enjoying yourself? She's like that. She just sort of...happened, unexpectedly, and I'm not saying I don't like it. She's smart, she's funny, she's irrepressibly happy, she makes me do things I wouldn't do on my own. Please don't be angry at her, and don't call her a bitch. You don't know her, and this is my fault, not hers. I'd offer to-- she's asked to meet you at least a dozen times. And to be honest, I'm confused about what she wants from me. Sometimes she moves much too fast for me; sometimes it seems like she's hesitating. But I...I don't know. I might not have left my room this past month if it wasn't for her. I feel like I need to at least be as honest with her as, well, I intended to be with you. As I'm trying to be now.

I wouldn't say I'm fucked up. But I'm not used to anyone being attracted to me. Not because they genuinely like me. I certainly don't know what to do with two people. I don't know what to do next. I don't know how to handle this at all.

I guess the right thing to do is to just talk to you both about it, and figure out how, exactly, each of you want to fit into my life. But I need to talk to Becky about Becky, and I need to talk to you about you. When I said that I needed advice, this is exactly what I was talking about. Because of course, asking you for advice about this is a fine decision.

I don't think either of us are I don't think I'm fully recovered from, well, waking up to find out everyone I know is dead. I don't mean to put it bluntly. The woman I sort of thought I'd marry is ninety-two years old. I spent six months picking up the phone every day. Three times, I managed to get through dialing all of the numbers. The one time I let it ring, I got her answering machine. I didn't leave a message. I feel like if she did answer, I'd hang up.

I keep wondering what she must think, seeing me on television and magazines. But it's not my place to suddenly insert myself back into her life uninvited.

I found one other person I know who's still alive, a close friend from my school. He got married to his husband two years ago, the first day it was legal, at ninety-three years old. I keep thinking about that, that he waited the entire time I was in ice.

That's all. Everyone else is dead. So I'm having a hard time deciding what I want because it feels like I can't count on anything to last. I guess it's part of why I bought that shitty furniture you hate in the first place. Committing to, well, anything, even little things, in a place that doesn't seem real yet, when you feel like things could change at any second without warning, is a little difficult, I guess.

I guess I'm not talking to you about you. Maybe you should talk to me about you.

You're going to make me regret that line about mistakes as long as I know you, aren't you?

--S

Chapter Text

steve -

S -

I – do you need to talk to someone? Did SHIELD assign you a counselor? I’m only asking because I am drunk as shit and probably not equipped to have the conversation we should have about this at this exact moment. I’ll probably try though, against my better judgment. It beats the hell out of programming – I think my eyeballs have dried out. I'm trying to install JARVIS in the new mansion mainframe I built last night but I can't get it to take right. ugh.

 

I wish I knew the right thing to say or – I just want to remind you that all those lives are lives you missed but they aren’t lives that didn’t happen. There were good things and bad things are horrible things and weddings and grandkids and Christmases and you … yeah, you would have been there, part of all those old crumbled up black and white photos, but they got on alright without you. i don't mean that in a mean way i just mean - i'm sorry. I guess it just seems like a life is a life and yours brought you here. I’m not really an “everything happens for a reason” kind of person – but when you’re an engineer you learn to build things with what you have, not with what you don't have. You of all people can build things with what you have.

It’s – hard when you can’t say goodbye to someone you love. And people say these trite things like “at least they had a fulfilling life” which just – fucking piss you off you know, because it might have been fulfilling but there could have been more. At least – well your friend waited until he was ninety-three to get married, but he got that wedding eventually, right? I’m sure he’d want you to be happy for him instead of feeling sorry for him. The act of marriage hardly guarantees happiness, but I GUARANTEE YOU he enjoyed the wait. the wedding cake was just a cherry on top, or some other stupid sentimental metaphor, I don't know.

This place will be real for you eventually. I want to help Let’s go to the central park zoo, like you wanted. I’ll make you eat shitty corndogs and take photos in the photograph booth and we can throw peanuts at the elephants and wow the school groups and shit.

I'm still mad. I wish I wasn't, it sort of hurts being angry with you - god, I AM drunk, Who the fuck even says that to a guy with a girlfriend?

I didn't really mean to call her a bitch. It's just hard because it feels like we were so close to working our shit out and then bam, there she was.

 

 

Look. Talk to becky about becky, until then we can just – we can be friends, steve. Please let us be friends. I can be whatever you need me to be, mistake or otherwise, and you can decide what you want to regret.

T

Chapter Text

T--

S.H.I.E.L.D. assigned me someone, yes. But I'm not sick, you know, I'm doing pretty well, for the most part, and talking to a stranger just seems self-indulgent when, you know, there are other people who actually need it. I don't really have that many strong feelings, not anything I can't handle on my own, and when things seem like they ought to be really difficult, it's funny, but I just sort of stop feeling anything, so I can mostly just get on with things. Sometimes I wonder if that's the serum, if maybe it makes it possible for me to operate at full capacity and not feel the full weight of tragedy. Sometimes I think maybe human beings are just surprisingly resilient. Either way, I'm in control. Mostly. I never let things get away from me for too long.

Have you eaten since you got to the house? Stop what you're doing and eat something.

I know they lived their lives. I am acutely aware that I wasn't there for them. I don't…I'm happy for them. It seems like a minor miracle that Arnie lived long enough to get something so many people had to miss. It's more…people talk about Bucky, because they understand that I watched him die. They talk about how hard it is to adjust to everything new, as if understanding the microwave oven or knowing who the Simpsons are is going to make it easier. They act as if the problem is in the new things that are here, not that everything I know is gone.

I guess I'm not such a good rock in the river after all. Captain America is a good enough rock in the river for both of us.

I assume you are still reading this letter instead of eating, so go eat now. I mean it.

We're not going to the park when you're too drunk to drive back to New York, so let's plan on doing that tomorrow. I'd like that. I guess…I it's funny, having this distance in letters, and knowing eventually we'll be in the same room again, but that all these things have been said in the meantime.

Tony, I don't have that many friends. I'm not going to discard the one I'm closest to because of a quarrel over my own bad judgment. A couple of letters ago, you said something about just wanting to prolong time together. We can start with that, since I think it's the one thing we're both certain we want. I can't promise I'll figure out the rest anytime soon, but I will be trying. I suspect you'd benefit from some time, too. (And may I remind you, a few short months ago, you were adamant that we were not friends and you didn't want to be anywhere near me if you could help it. You know your penthouse got finished while you were gone? I haven't set foot in it...I couldn't quite bring myself to. Anyhow, it may just be an inkling, but I somehow can't see you hiding away and never showing yourself now.) If you still have trouble sl

Give my best to JARVIS and tell him I hope he likes the mansion.

Really. Now. Go eat something. If there's nothing you know how to cook, I left a couple sealed boxes of breakfast cereal there the last time we were out. I have drawn you a manual illustrating how to open them if you need it. And sleep. I'm going to see if Becky's free for dinner and try to lay this all out for her, because I obviously haven't spent enough time talking about my laughable inability to manage my personal affairs. And I'll see you tomorrow.

--S

Chapter Text

Look - counseling is not just for sick people, it's for anyone who might need a little help working shit out - Pepper spent years telling me that not-feeling is a serious sign of neurosis; of course, then she MADE me feel and fucking punched me right in the heart, so what the hell does she know anyway. I just - I told you I'm not good at this sort of thing and it might actually help you - maybe you should give it a shot before writing it off. it's not self-indulgent to ask for a little backup.

Then again I'd much prefer not feeling at all to feeling this way. I wish people were as well-organized as machines, i need a kill switch or something.

I'm busting my ass down in the bunker. Still no luck with JARVIS so I've stripped the terminal down to a text-only input terminal to see if I can get his base systems on and then piggyback on the tower's resources to figure out where my issue is. I hate making mistakes - I'm too fucking smart to allow for errors in my work. I'm just so fucking strung out at the moment and I can't get this fucking thing online -

There's some pretty incredible stuff in here. I've ordered in some track lighting but it's kind of awkward to install one handed; I just propped the units up and am using them as flood lights. This place isn't as big as I thought it was but it's absolutely full of shit. I found what looks like a puzzle box that's like, six by two by two - almost coffin shaped, really, but with no discernible way to get in. There's some kind of crazy looking Japanese sword - the hilt and all has rotted away but the tang is beautifully inscribed... there's some stuff that looks egyptian, maybe, with this weird metal snake thing, that I probably shouldn't be touching, and probably... thirty? Maybe forty different keys of all sorts of shapes and sizes; they're numbered, so there must be an index around here somewhere. I also found a really grandiose sort of cabinet thing that refuses to open - I feel like I could pop the mechanism but my wrist is absolutely killing me, so fuck all that noise. I keep half expecting a dead body to turn up in a box or something, nothing would really surprise me at this point.

There are also a bunch of old rolled up maps and what look like sketches and photographs of ruins, maybe from South America? I don't think he spent any time there when you knew him but he was apparently a pretty busy guy in the fifties. There's one picture of him here in the world's douchiest Indiana Jones knockoff hat. Christ.

okay. i hope you go have fun with that fucking Becky. i'll just be here I'll see you tomorrow. I'm bringing a few of the smaller items here back to the tower to keep me entertained.

 

T

Chapter Text

B--

I could sit beside you, inches apart
And tremble with the frisson that passes,
Electric,
From you to me and back again
As if we close a circuit
whenever we are in proximity,
And we breathe out tumult
And breathe in equanimity:
A balanced system.

I could make you laugh:
Once so rare, it still feels like a reward,
The curve of your lips a ribbon,
The glimmer in your eyes winking gold.

Your serenity is my undoing.

I watch your eyes go soft, glance downward, shutter slightly, and all my attempts at poetry disintegrate into lists of wants.

I want to press my lips to the convex of your clavicle, hear the soft growl that rises from the back of your throat.

I want to count the creases in your brow, to tuck my chin against your chest, my head against the curve of your neck.

I want to bury my teeth in your shoulder, rake my fingers across your spine, kiss you until my lips are swollen and bruised.

I want to fall asleep bathed in the light reflected off your flushed skin, ears full of the sound of your gradually slowing breath.

--N

P.S. I enjoy climbing through the ventilation system. It keeps me in practice; plus, I've figured out how to dismantle Stark's surveillance without alerting the central system.

And you must know your presence makes me lighter and free of burdens, your sentiments and expressions reciprocated without question. I couldn't be burdened by anything you would share with me. We always find equilibrium, you and I.

Chapter Text

Becky--

Disregard my previous email; Clint said he told you I'd be back in town-- I'm here, back settled. Look, I'd love to see you tonight if you're free. I know it's short notice, but come over to the Tower; I’ll make you dinner. I picked up some salmon at Whole Foods and I've got really good oatmeal chocolate chip cookies courtesy Clint and Natasha; did they give you any yet?

I really want to talk to you. It's been a rough few days, and I'm feeling pretty conflicted about some things. It's-- well, it's nothing that has to be bad, really, if we can figure it out, but I think it's the kind of thing that we should talk about in person. If tonight’s no good, let me know if there’s another day-- but we have those Sleep No More tickets, so I'd like to try to talk before then.

See you later?

Steve

Chapter Text

Hey, hon--

Oh, yeah, I was gonna head to Greenpoint with some people, but whatever, North Brooklyn. I'd much rather see you, you know that, silly. Salmon sounds perfect, haha, I love that you get back from Japan and want to cook fish. You've been sounding kinda broody, though, are you keeping your chin up?

Look, whatever is bothering you, we can talk about it.  IDK what the problem is, but seriously, you had the worst week.  This kind of stuff's normal, whatever, we'll work it out.  I mean, if there's anything I can do for you, or if you need a little space, don't worry.  I’ll be over around seven and I'll bring the wine-- we still have, like, half a case or that Oregon Pinot you liked left over from the last opening.  Yum. 


♥♥♥♥

--Bec

Chapter Text

From: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
To: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)

Hey, so, I'm gonna be at the Tower tonight, but I think the boy and I need some time alone. He seems really freaked out by this whole thing (and rightly so). Do you mind keeping an eye on him? I haven't forgotten about ice skating, but I want to find out if Steve wants to go first; if he's not up to it, I might just bring movies over or something. Saturday, right?

Second, I kind of feel like it would be in poor taste to ask Steve about this right now, but this jusssst came up on my Tumblr and I was wondering if there's any grain of truth to it? Do you know who the guy is? I mean, if this is why Tony crashed his car, that suddenly makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? I know it's a gossip blog, but, erk.

--Bec

Hot on the heels of Tony Stark's madcap turn as a one-man Icona Pop impersonator (seriously, if we knew all we had to do to get Captain America's attention was crash our car into a bridge, we would have done it a while ago!), the billionaire's returned to Manhattan, where, we've been told, he's put the finishing touches on a four-story penthouse apartment at the top of Stark Tower (or is it Avengers Tower? Someone make up their mind!) with the intention of making the Columbus Circle address his new permanent residence. Are "improvements" to the new pad what triggered blackouts in Midtown Manhattan last night? With Tony Stark, who even KNOWS?

(Remember the last time Tony Stark lived in New York? We don't! But we're told it was EPIC. Now, coming off his breakup with Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts, we're expecting a holiday season for the record books)

Speaking of Ms. Potts, the HBIC at Stark Industries is now pretty much the most eligible bachelorette on the planet, and gentlemen are starting to take notice. Potts, 39, has been seen repeatedly in the company of an unidentified "tall, dark and handsome" Stark Industries employee. Ms. Potts was said to be mixing business with pleasure on the deck of her new, single-lady Malibu digs. (We'd like to point out here that Ms. Potts' installation in her new home appears to have caused ZERO power grid interruptions. We guess it's tough to even stay in the drama queen game when your competition is Tony Stark.)

Representatives for Ms. Potts had no comment on the budding relationship. We'd ask Mr. Stark, but we figure we'll hear about it in some appropriately loud, obnoxious, and explosive way identifiable by the emergency vehicles, paramedics, highway shutdowns, and costumed superhero appearances.

Chapter Text

[LVL 41 / COMMON QUARTERS MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:ROGERS.Steven.G; QUAN.Rebecca]

{{BEGIN SURVEILLANCE}}

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh, uh...hi...give me a minute, I’m sticking the fish in the oven. I...read this recipe for papillote, I'm trying it out?

QUAN.Rebecca: Papillote?! You’re full of surprises. Ugh, I feel bad having you cook for me, you must be exhausted. Give us a kiss?

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, no, I like coo-- Oh. Uh. Oven mitts off. Right. Hi.

[inaudible]

QUAN.Rebecca: Mmmm - there. Not quite the welcome I had in mind, but it’ll do in a pinch. You look tired, babe - is everything alright?

ROGERS.Steven.G:Oh, I...sorry. Check...sauce...I...yeah. Tired. I haven’t really been sleeping, and going to Japan and back so quickly like that, time zones...we had a problem with the reactor earlier; Tony’s hurt…

QUAN.Rebecca: And you picked tonight to try your hand at papillote?! Most people are sick of cooking the week after Thanksgiving, but then, I’m kind of sick of leftovers. Steve, I wouldn’t have minded waiting a day to see you. Is Tony alright? I heard on the radio that they were evacuating sections of midtown.

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, no, I wanted to-- I was in Japan, so, you know, I made squid for Thanksgiving. They barely wanted to release him from the hospital, and then he burned his hand...I don’t know...he was apparently all right enough to take off for Long Island by himself before I got back.

I just...I needed something to keep my mind off it. I mean the cooking. I mean, cooking to keep my mind off it, not keeping my mind off the cooking.

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh god - yeah, you know I read about his accident. He’s really having a tough time; I bet he just needed a little space. I read that Miss Potts is apparently dating again, too - you know, if Tony wanted company, I have plenty of friends who’d love to meet him. Do you think that’d help him get back on his feet? Post-war-wounds, of course.

[coughing]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ah, hell...get me a cloth, will you? I...Becky, you really want to set one of your friends up with a man who went through that many women-- and men-- in a month? I don’t...and, no, I saw that blog thing. Pepper’s not dating, Reed’s a friend of Tony’s...he’s doing contract work for Stark Industries, and he’s very, very married. I've never seen his wife, but... Tony...I don’t know.

QUAN.Rebecca: Ehh, he could get tested. Steve, come on, he should have some fun, breaking up sucks. People react differently. I’m just saying maybe someone low-key and out of the lime-light would be good, get him out of hook-up mode and back into the game. And what's the worst that can happen? According to, like, everyone on the internet, he's amazing in the sack, so whatever, they'll have a really good dinner story?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I really don't want to think about Tony--

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, god, right, coworker, BBF, all that, sorry! Honestly, I don't know Tony. I’m more concerned about you - it’s tough to spend all your time supporting someone else, and it sounds like that’s all you got to do in Asia. Are you really not sleeping? Is there anything I can do?

ROGERS.Steven.G:No. Yes. I mean. Look, can this wait until dinner’s on the table? I do want to talk to you about it? How've things been here?

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh. Sweetie. Of course. Look at me, I'm just barraging you. Can I help? Here I’ll -

ROGERS.Steven.G:Salad stuff’s on the counter. It’s all washed, if you want to put it together?

QUAN.Rebecca: Right-o! Good, good. I was going to go back home for Thanksgiving, but I waited too long to buy my tickets - so -

[slicing sounds]

-some of my girlfriends got together at this gorgeous restored barn house in Connecticut and we just kind of did our thing - lots of wine! There were chickens! I mean, live ones. Obviously we were eating turkey, so they were safe enough.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. That sounds...pretty nice, actually. I mean, the hotel was beautiful, but that’s really all I saw.

QUAN.Rebecca: Well, you had a lot on your plate. I keep thinking I should visit China - you know people get really shocked when they find out I haven’t been, but you know, it’s so far and so expensive to get there.

Japan’s a pretty different deal, though. Great pop art coming out of Japan.

Clint and I went to a movie on Saturday, which was kind of fun, I mean, if you ignore the part where he kept throwing popcorn at the back of people’s heads.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Mm, he does that. You should see him with Mike and Ikes and a rubber band.

QUAN.Rebecca: Hey. C'mere.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Wha--

[inaudible]

QUAN.Rebecca: I missed you! I was getting kind of used to having you around.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. I wasn’t gone that long. But. Yes. You, too.

[inaudible]

Err...also. Your present is over there.

QUAN.Rebecca: Present? I got a present? WAIT. I KNOW WHAT THIS PRESENT IS.

Gundam Pez!!! Hello!! Oh, this is the most delicious Pez, thank you, hon, you’re such a doll. It must have been a pain in the ass to get considering you were stuck in the hotel…

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ha, I just called the front desk, really. If you have Tony Stark’s debit card, people do a surprising number of things for you.

QUAN.Rebecca: [laughter] Ooh, even better. I keep forgetting you have friends in high places. That should be hard to forget here on the 41st floor… you guys have a heck of a view.

Did you eat anything super weird?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Once Tony’s settled, you should come up to the penthouse sometime...it’s even better. Uh, food...just Squidsgiving... I really didn’t leave at all, so--

[alarm beeps]

Shit, give me a second? I...JARVIS, the stove is...huh, no, the temperature’s right...I don’t...hold on, the fish is burning; I don’t know...it should have been in for a lot longer…

QUAN.Rebecca: OH!

[coughing]

oh - here, turn on the vents -

[coughing]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Got it, Sorry! Ahh...here, water. You okay?

QUAN.Rebecca: Ah, yeah - hoooboy. So much for Mister Stark’s state of the art kitchen tech… I’m gonna stick with my trusty Kenmore.

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, no, it’s not…

[sigh]

I probably read the instructions wrong. I just...Hmm.

[crinkling]

Yeah, this looks pretty inedible. I...Sorry. Can I...Um, I could take you out, or there’s...uh...salad and cookies and ice cream?

QUAN.Rebecca: Mmm, well, I do love ice cream....

[silence]

Steve. Babe. I’m sorry if this is overstepping my bounds, I'm kinda worried about you. You seem...edgy. And sort of unhappy. You’ve been all cryptic and weird in your emails, and I don’t care about the fish a bit, I’m just happy to see you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: What? Overstepping? No, no, uhh...that’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it? I just…[deep breath] Look, the past few days were really...I don’t know...I didn’t mean to...Ice cream, right...

[fridge buzz]

Here...Clint won't care if we eat his moose tracks...spoons...

QUAN.Rebecca: Steve...

ROGERS.Steven.G: Can we sit down? I think I need to sit down.

QUAN.Rebecca: Of course. Here, sit - I’m gonna make some tea, okay, and we can just - how do you take your tea?

[creaking]

ROGERS.Steven.G: No tea, I'll just... ice cream... You can-- the teabags are in that cabinet; Natasha has pretty much anything you could ask for.

QUAN.Rebecca: Okay. Okay. I’ll just - I’ll be right back.

[silence, bubbling water]

Alrighty… you sure you’re good? Nat has a lovely chocolate rosehip blend. It smells like Valentine’s Day.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m fine. Really. I just. All right. I’m not sure where to start. If I seem like I’m-- you can stop me.

[footsteps]

QUAN.Rebecca: No, no, Steve, go ahead.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I just...want to know how you feel about some things. I...you’re really the first friend I’ve made outside the team here, and I don’t...Most people just want me to be Captain America all the time, and I know you don’t want that. Which I’m really...I’m really grateful for. But I don’t know if I...Tony thinks I should go to a doctor. You know. A, um. Doctor.

[footsteps]

QUAN.Rebecca: You mean a psychologist? Why does Tony think that?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, I guess he sort of thinks of it like...the war wasn’t that long ago for me. I guess a lot of soldiers do that now. I didn’t really have anyone to come home to, they’re all...you know. Gone. One minute I was flying a plane and talking to the girl I...and, you know, I was pretty much expecting to die, but then I woke up in a hospital. Gone. So I’m not always sure I should be dating anyone. I guess.

QUAN.Rebecca: I… oh, Steve. I like you. I like spending time with you. I don't give a shit about weird dating-people labels. You're talking about wars and dying; you know the last thing I'm going to care about is whether you want to call this dating. I just hate seeing you like this.

[steam whistle, footsteps, pouring water]

Can I come sit next to you or do you want to sit by yourself?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Here. Sorry. Here. It’s fine. I...Tony got hurt-- in the accident, you know. And I guess it really got to me worse than I expected.

[creaking]

QUAN.Rebecca: Because you were worried you’d lose him too.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G: I knew it wasn’t that bad. He hurt his arm, and it was mostly bumps and bruises. But it reminded me that it could happen.

QUAN.Rebecca: Hon, that’s a totally understandable way to feel - but he’s still here - you’re okay, and he’s okay. He bounced back and was fine...doing whatever it is you people do when you're working. Tony’s safe, and so are you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I know. I know that. I’m not...I’m just trying to explain where my head is these days. Because I don’t think I’m going to be capable of being a normal person for a while.

QUAN.Rebecca: Hey, Steve, most people out there aren’t normal … but you know, Tony Stark's supposed to be a pretty smart guy. If he thinks you should do the therapy thing, I really think you should consider it. Doctors have to sign confidentiality notices - no one would have to know. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or anything.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m not embarrassed. It just doesn’t seem very...I am thinking about it. All right. That’s the first thing. I think that’s the first thing. The second...I don’t know how to put this because it’s going to sound awful no matter what.

QUAN.Rebecca: Well… just go for it then, I guess.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Right. Remember how I told you about that, uh, that unrequited crush?

QUAN.Rebecca: Steve...How’d I know this would come up again….

ROGERS.Steven.G: I told you it was awful. I feel like a...it’s not-- I found out it actually is requited, I guess? But they’re...kind of...I don’t know. Not really emotionally available, I think. It’s just...I’m really confused by the whole thing. And then there's you, and I don’t know...I’m just confused about a lot.

QUAN.Rebecca: Okay. I… okay. Give me a minute.

[silence]

It's not Natasha, is it?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Nat--

QUAN.Rebecca: Well, you two are really close. I guess...I'd get it, if it was Natasha.

ROGERS.Steven.G: No. No, it's not Natasha-- can you, look, I don't want to talk about who it is. It's not really...important.

QUAN.Rebecca: Well, yeah, it kind of-- Steve - I don't know what you want me to say. Is this why you never want to be alone with me?

ROGERS.Steven.G: What? What are you talking about? Of course I want to be alone with you; I-- I tried to make you dinner tonight, I--

QUAN.Rebecca: Well of course, but Steve - when was the last time you invited me out somewhere and didn’t include Clint on the invitation?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Why wouldn’t I include Clint? He likes you, he likes doing all the same things you like to do…?

QUAN.Rebecca: Uh, because we’re dating? At least I thought we were dating. Part of that generally involves wanting to get in some alone time with that person. God, really, I can’t believe I just said that - does that sound condescending? Sorry if it does, I just...

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, I just...it seemed a little soon for that, didn’t it? I don’t-- I don’t know how these things-- I didn’t want you to be uncomfortable.

QUAN.Rebecca: Was that it? Or were you just -

[silence]

That plan kind of backfired, didn’t it. This is pretty damn uncomfortable.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I...look, I don’t really...I didn't know you--

QUAN.Rebecca: Look. Okay. I realize that you’re not used to dating in this day and age, and I don’t mean to be a bitch. I just - like you, and you're great, right, and as soon as we started sleeping together you started foisting me off on your friends, and that sends a really mixed message, you know? You bought me a Japanese Pez Dispenser set from six thousand miles away and cooked me dinner with mood lighting on and everything, but every time we go out you invite other people along.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m not trying to send any massage...I’m not used to dating any time, Becky. I’ve never been on a second date with the same person before you.

QUAN.Rebecca: Wh - oh, shit, you weren’t a virgin, were you?! That explains… shit. I’m sorry, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: What? Explains what? No, was-- I-- God, no. I just...I just really had a bad time with dating people. I mean, you know I was sort of...and nobody really gave me a second look, and then all of a sudden this happened, and I had girls crawling out of the woodwork, and I didn’t really know what to do about that, and I, uh, probably made some bad decisions about that, but you...well, I liked you, so I sort of thought there should be a...you know, a chaperone? So you wouldn’t feel like you were...stuck with me?

QUAN.Rebecca: A chaperone? Steve, we’re sleeping together. If I didn’t want to spend time with you, I wouldn’t spend time with you. Steve, you're an incredible guy.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Thanks? I, uh...well, I didn’t want you to feel...I don’t know. It’s just how I know to do things. You know. My best friend used to come on all my dates with me. You know, and, uh, leave with them half the time, because that’s how things worked, and girls just liked him more, I guess. But I wouldn’t know how else to approach it.

QUAN.Rebecca: You - are you serious? I don’t need an escort. You’re gorgeous and funny and the sex was fun. I get that it might not have worked that way for you before, but … look, when you constantly have someone else around it’s going to make the person you’re with feel insecure. Most people, when they’re interested in someone, want nothing more than to get them alone. That’s what a girl expects... Or at least, what I expected.

ROGERS.Steven.G: No one told me that. And I...I don’t know. It seems...I don’t really think I understand what you’re saying. It seems...disrespectful. I know you’re saying it’s not, but I just...I don’t really expect people to want to spend time with me.

[silence]

And you’re, you know. All those things, too. I don’t want you to think I don’t think very highly of you.

QUAN.Rebecca: You're something else, you know that? I can't believe that many people failed to look under your wrapper and see what you're really made of.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I...

QUAN.Rebecca: Okay. You’re telling me this, but it sure sounds like you’ve been keeping me at a distance because you have feelings for someone else. That’s… really not fair to me. You… sorry, but sometimes I really kind of worry about you, because it seems like you don't even like yourself, and you should probably figure that out before you get yourself into a relationship.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I--Bec, I promise I'm not trying to keep you-- I told Natasha something like that a couple of months ago. She wanted to send me on dates, and I really didn't think it was the right time, and then...well, you came along. It seemed silly to say no to you, when you're...well, amazing, just because I have my own mess to pick through.

QUAN.Rebecca: … okay, admittedly I am amazing. But you just finished telling me you like somebody else. Like, enough that you think you have to tell me about it, and that's kind of...I mean, would you even be here if you thought they were available?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m also still in love with a woman who’s ninety-three years old and somebody else who died seventy years ago. I don’t think-- what did you want me to do, not try to find out if I might have feelings for you, too?

QUAN.Rebecca: [sniffling] Is-- is that the person you mean? Because that I can deal with, we can figure that out.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ah.

[silence]

QUAN.Rebecca: It's not, is it?

ROGERS.Steven.G: No.

QUAN.Rebecca:I...wish you’d told me you wanted a rebound. Because I thought you wanted a girlfriend.

[sniffling]

I guess that's my fault... We never did really have "the talk"...

ROGERS.Steven.G: Err, talk about wha-- Bec, don’t-- here, can I just--? I didn’t mean to-- I don’t-- what’s-- I don’t know what you mean by a rebound.

QUAN.Rebecca: You - oh, for--! You don’t get to tell me you actually want someone else and then cuddle with me, Steve. [sniffling] A rebound means you want someone you can’t have - or you’ve been dumped, so you don’t want to be alone. It means I’m a stand-in. It’s not a particularly great feeling.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. Becky, I don’t-- you're not a stand-in. You're not-- What can I do for you? If you don’t want me to touch you, I mean-- I can’t just sit here and let you cry...

QUAN.Rebecca: I’m not crying.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I don't want to see you sad, then. Becky, you know I think the world of you. I just...people like you don’t like me. I’m not...you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you've got your head screwed on right...things have been better when you’ve been around. I wouldn’t have just...

QUAN.Rebecca: Yeah, it's kind of tough to hear that when you're-- I mean, thanks, I mean it, but-- I wish you - you know we could have been friends with benefits, if that’s the kind of thing you needed. I wish you’d just asked. If I'd known, I wouldn't have...

ROGERS.Steven.G: I...don’t know what that is, either?

QUAN.Rebecca: Are you - seriously, do you not watch TV?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I watch My Little Ponies with Clint?

[silence]

QUAN.Rebecca: Friends. Who sleep together. Platonically.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Oh. No. I don’t want that. Definitely not.

QUAN.Rebecca: Yeah. I’m not… look, I’m not really equipped to answer these kinds of questions. I manage an art gallery, I’m not a therapist.

I’m also not interested in having a boyfriend who’s in love with someone else. I've done that before, and I’m not going to beat my head against that wall.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m not-- I’m not in love with anybody. I just...I felt like it was better to be honest with you...I wouldn’t...you can’t agree to something if you don’t know what you’re agreeing to. I mean...I was sort of hoping we'd talk it through and you’d be okay with it, but I’m...you're obviously not.

QUAN.Rebecca: Do you not realize how - how that sounds to someone who thought you were invested in her? I appreciate your honesty, Steve, but you might be a tad too honest for your own good ... It really kind of, well. Hurts. This is something you should have negotiated at the beginning of this mess.

ROGERS.Steven.G: But I didn't know about it at the beginning of this...I didn’t think it would be a...you know. I just tried not to think about it. I really-- I was trying to figure out the invested-part. It's not that I'm not-- it's just that I haven't had time to figure that out yet. And then this happened, and I just...sort of thought I should talk to you about, well, what I should do.

QUAN.Rebecca: Well, for future reference, you’re the only person who can make that choice.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Well, it doesn't seem fair of me to make that choice on my own when it affects you, and I just...I don't think there's anything I can do that you're going to be okay with.

QUAN.Rebecca:

[silence]

I guess not. I’m - I’m pissed, obviously. But I’m also glad you told me, I guess, even if it was after the newspapers figured out we were seeing each other. Now I get to be Captain America’s ex, Perez Hilton will just eat that up.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Oh. [silence] I guess-- [silence] If that’s-- I’m really sorry. I’m not trying to evade blame, or, you know, make excuses for myself, but I couldn’t really do anything about the timing. I’m sorry. I-- you know how I feel about the publicity.

QUAN.Rebecca: I know, that wasn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have gone with you to the hospital. But if you’d told me about your feelings at the beginning, at least I would have been… prepared? I know you always get frustrated when people treat you like you're Captain America all the time - but you are Captain America. I just didn’t think you were… I don’t know, the sort of guy who would... I guess I just assumed...

ROGERS.Steven.G:I thought I did tell you...I...I’ve been doing that a lot lately, I guess. Explaining myself really badly and having it...well. Hurt people. What did you assume? That I wouldn’t be messed up after missing seventy years? That I’m some kind of rock in a river?

QUAN.Rebecca: Steve, you’re a super hero. You fought nazis! You punched Hitler! I just thought you’d be … I don’t know. Boyfriend material.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [silence] Well. It was an actor dressed as Hitler. And it was a stage punch.

QUAN.Rebecca: Now you tell me. Steve… I think I should go - I’m mad, and I don’t want to be mad, because the horrible thing is that I do like you and I think I still want to be friends - if you want to be friends. I need to go be angry somewhere I can’t say something stupid that I’ll regret.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Becky. Of course I want to be friends. I just-- I don’t mind if you want to be angry at me to my face. I’ve probably heard worse. I just...And I probably deserve it. I’m sorry I’m not...you know, whatever you think boyfriend material is supposed to be.

QUAN.Rebecca: Whatever I think is - I just told you I don’t want to be angry to your face, and this isn’t just about you and your self-pity! Why - look, this is why I said I wanted to leave, I need to be somewhere else right now.

[creaking]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. Okay. I--Well. Goodnight, I guess?

QUAN.Rebecca: Goodnight, Steve. [footsteps]

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

T--

I can work things out all right. I don't really see how sitting in a doctor's office talking to someone with a shiny clipboard is going to help me stop making a mess of my life.

Speaking of making a mess of my life, Becky came over. I really...I burned the fish, and then I felt terrible, and I never really recovered from feeling terrible, and I was worried about you and your hand, and it just...I lost the threads of my plan, I guess. I don't even really...On one hand, maybe it was probably better, because she was going to figure out sooner or later that I'm not what she thought I was, and she was bound to be disappointed, but I really didn't...I mean, I wanted to at least talk to her about it. I guess I thought it was a possibility she might hear me out and say that this wasn't for her, but I thought she'd at least listen.

She said I wasn't boyfriend material. I don't...I'm not sure what boyfriend material is supposed to be. I've never actually, well, been anyone's boyfriend before. She started telling me I did all these things wrong, when...it was the first time she bothered to tell me. Or I could have fixed it, if I'd known. I said I was sorry, and that just made her more upset. She said I don't like myself enough to be in a relationship. The worst part about it is that I'm scared she might be right. I didn't even know what most of the things she said meant. All I wanted to do was tell her where my head was, not leave her in the dark, and see if we could work things out in a way that made sense. People have so many expectations, and I can't fulfill all of them-- or even most of them, I guess.

This is what I told you, remember? About how people are always disappointed when they realize I'm not Captain America. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. You've seen that first-hand at this point.

I don't know. I'm sorry. You don't need to hear this. You really should have someone look at your hand, though. And you should probably be asleep. I know you're not.

So, back during the war, the Nazis stole a lot of treasures from a lot of the countries they invaded. Howard spent a lot of time trying to track them and rescue them. I went on a few missions with him...I don't know what an Indiana Jones is but Howard was always fond of hats. Most of our work was focused on Europe, though...I remember him flying through a rainstorm to try to follow the Nazis to wherever they'd taken the Amber Room...this massive room, carved entirely from amber, that the Germans had given to the Russians as a gift back in the 1700s, I think he said. I still cant quite envision how somebody steals an entire room, but the Nazis managed it, naturally. Took all the walls and flooring and ceiling, packed it up on trucks and hauled it out.

We never did find it, and I didn't get to go on another recovery mission after that-- picking off HYDRA strongholds was taking up too much of my time.

But he went on a lot of those missions. He did go to South America, once, toward...well, not too long before my plane crash. When I was clearing out once of their bases, I found intel that HYDRA was looking for this thing...some kind of headpiece that they seemed to think had some kind of powers. I have no idea if it was real or not, but enough other things turned out to be real that we just sort of stopped doubting anything in those days. So he just, you know, went-- out to the border between Bolivia and Peru. He came back empty-handed, of course...a lot of those missions were fruitless. But he never seemed to give up, really.

And he just...he didn't need to be there, not like the rest of us. He just volunteered. He just seemed eager to have the opportunity to do something no one else had done before. I know you hate this kind of thing, but it's one of the ways you remind me of him. The good ones.

--S

Chapter Text

from: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
Subject: idek why is everything.

Um. This is a totally weird email and I'm really sorry about it. So I thought Steve and I were having dinner tonight, but I guess he dumped me instead? Did you know about this?

I mean, of course you didn't know, he's been away and you would have told me if…right?

Sorry. I'm kind of writing this from Ward III. I might have had a few cocktails. Um. The bartenders are being super nice about having a crying girl at the bar. One of them built me a pyramid out of cherries and toothpicks.

Anyway, yeah, so that's over. Ugh. I feel so dumb. Right, like somebody as hot as Captain America would fucking go for me. Who is even that stupid? I mean, at least I get to say I banged Captain America, right? That's shitty of me, though. I mean, I really liked him. I really, really liked him, and it had nothing to do with the stupid superhero shit (no offense). And I should have seen this coming, I mean, who invites another dude along on all their dates, right? I mean, not that you're not excellent company, but it was just weird. And he actually had the gall to apologize for not being boyfriend material.

Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh I hate everything.

He did that super shitty thing guys do, where they don't actually SAY they're dumping you outright, but they just say awful stuff to you till you get the picture and then they're just like "well, I guess I can't give you what you want" so of course it's your fault, and ugh.

This is probably the stupidest thing you've ever heard, but I had sort of asked my sister if my new boyfriend could come for Christmas. I mean, I hadn't asked Steve yet but I thought, like, he doesn't have anybody here to spend it with and they always have an amazing spread; Katie's husband is English and they totally do the whole traditional roast beef-Yorkshire-pudding-potatoes-and-gravy and lots of wine thing, and they have the cutest kids ever. And Katie is, well, like, she's only three years older than me and she has a house and two kids and she's always kind of looking down her nose at me about the guys I bring home and then does the told-you-so thing when it doesn't work and I don't want to tell her I got dumped again right before Christmas, because who does that, anyway?

So, uh. That's a super classy way of asking you if you want to come for Christmas, right? I mean, I figure since you've been my replacement date for, like everything else in the universe lately, you might as well do that, too, right?

Ugh. This sucks. I'm sorry. It's okay if you say no. I mean, family Christmas in New Jersey, sounds like an awesome treat, right?

I just-- Can you call me sometime? I don't know. What the fuck is up with him? Just, what the fuck? I'm sorry, I don't mean to be that girl who complains to a dude about another dude, but whatever. You're, like, the only one of my friends who actually knows him.

--Bec

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efiboot loaded from device: Acpi (PNP0A03STARK.003)/Pci(1F12)
(Part3.MBRType=20.SigType=00)boot file path \System\J.A.R.V.I.S.\CoreServices\housestark.efi
userid=STARK
loading ‘J.A.R.V.I.S.’ …

 

Hello, sir. Good to hear from you again. Apologies for the text-only interface, there appear to be some issues with the RAM installed in your newest mainframe.

 

userid=STARK
run=maindebug.003/PCI(1F00)

 

The new HouseStark mainframe appears to be fully operational, initiating debug – debug will take twenty seven minutes and thirty three point two seconds. In the meantime I will take the liberty of importing your personal settings from the Tower systems.

I would remind you that I have no surveillance feeds on your current location. Are manual security elements in place? Are you alone at present? If you will input the house layout I would be happy to make recommendations related to the installation points for the cameras required to run a proper security network.

 

…..

 

……

 

May I remind you, sir, that Captain Rogers requested that you eat something eight hours and fifteen minutes ago? Additionally, you have thirteen unheard messages from S.H.I.E.L.D. medical staff regarding your injuries. I've taken the liberty of scheduling an appointment with your personal physician, which I fully expect you to completely ignore.

I will have pizza delivered along with more burn salve and ice. I look forward to the installation of proper in-home speaker systems so that I may scold you verbally as well as via text.

J.A.R.V.I.S.

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
Subject: RE: idek why is everything.

Hey Becs, sorry I didn’t see this until now. Sounds like you’re having a rough night. You still at ward III? Want me to meet you there?

Okay, okay, get a grip here woman. Of course captain america wanted to date you, you’re a badass and all into the kinds of artsy shit that steve secretly wants to spend his time doing. I have no idea why he’d end things – no, I didn’t know – but I can tell you he’s a fucking moron for doing it.

You know your invitation pretty much sounds like the start of every shitty Jennifer Aniston romcom ever, right? Fake boyfriend at your sister’s house for Christmas? But the food sounds pretty sweet. You’re lucky that I have a secret weakness for yorkshire pudding, it’s one of few things in the world I would enter new jersey for.

But I won’t like, pencil it into my calendar until you think it’s a good idea when you’re sober. I’ve done crazier things than invite creepy archers to Christmas in the aftermath of a breakup. Including get a tattoo. NO, YOU CAN’T SEE IT.

Oh hey does your sister’s husband have a dart board? Because we could totally staple steve’s face to it and remember, some of us never miss. It’d be super cathartic and stuff.

Anyway, I’m serious, I will come to you,I can give you a ride home, whatever you need. You an even snot all over my shoulder if you like, just like you did when we watched Pan’s Labrynth. it’s all good.

clint

Chapter Text

S –

I don’t mind listening when you need an ear. I can’t imagine anyone - did she actually say that? You're not disappointing, Steve, but I don't think anyone could live up to the American idea of Captain America... I mean if anyone could it would be you, but Cap had 70 years to grow and change in American pop culture, of course people are going to make assumptions. Stupid assumptions - I mean there was this one comic where Cap fought Russians on the moon. You can't hold yourself to that kind of expectation. You're a person, not a comic book character.

I - sorry, that may be the completely wrong thing to say. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. Whatever you want really, but it's not a burden on me to be leaned on.

but seriously, "not boyfriend material"? That came out of her mouth? You don't want me to be rude about her, but seriously, what a load of shit. That's a lousy fucking thing to say to anyone. I think you're absofuckinglutely

I realize you are uncomfortable with it, but I still think you should consider giving therapy a shot, Steve – please. It’s not so clinical and shitty as you make it sound. I really think it would be a good thing for you – just go a couple of times and see what you think of it. I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was ten. I stopped going when I left California. I should probably still be going but you gotta find someone you mesh with.

Actually, Pepper had a doc in midtown that she really liked – you might be able to ask her about that clinic. I’ve met her a few times (couples therapy) but I tend to prefer male therapists.

Do you still feel up to the zoo today? We can put it off of you want. I hate to say it but my hand is still pretty fucked and burn salve isn't really making a dent. I can’t piece the gauntlet back together with what I have here, so I don’t really want to fly back the tower on my own steam. If I do go to medical, do you want to pick me up afterwards?

 

T

PS Indiana Jones is now on our Netflix queue. Be ready.

Chapter Text

T--

Right, I'll pick you up, just tell me what time to be there. I haven't really left the Tower, so, you know. Probably a good idea for me to get out. You realize you get to ride on the back of my bike, right? Modern cars scare the shit out of me.

It just...I mean, I should have expected it, really. I did what I said I was going to do; I just tried to explain everything that I've been feeling right now. I mean, I did it badly. I sort of just did everything badly, nothing came out the way I wanted it to. It...I can't believe I was actually optimistic about this. She told me I was too honest for my own good. And that she wasn't willing to date anyone who was obviously in love mixed up about somebody else. Which is completely reasonable and logical and of course it's the right decision, but I couldn't help feeling like...like she thought I'd done something wrong just by, you know. Feeling things.

I'm not sure how to feel about this, really. She said a lot of hurtful things, but I suppose that was her prerogative, because she was feeling hurt. The thing was, I guess the thing that got to me, was that I really got the feeling she expected me to actually be superhuman.

I don't know what to do; I texted her to make sure she got home okay. She's the first friend I've had outside of you lot, and I'd be a little sad if I was as much a failure at friendships as I apparently am at dating. I really don't want to lose my only friend outside the Tower.

I tried to explain she was the first person I ever even went on a second date with; she mistakenly assumed I meant I was a virgin. Which doesn't exactly inspire confidence, you know? And then I just...might have gone on a little diatribe about dating, and how much I hate it, and... I just...I felt like I went into the conversation knowing exactly what I wanted to say, and it all fell apart, and I just kept saying the wrong thing, and I can't even figure out why it was wrong, and everything I tried to say to explain or be helpful or try to understand just hurt her more. What does boyfriend material even mean? Am I supposed to know what she meant by it? I'm not as down on myself about this as this sounds; I promise. I just...I keep repeating it in my head, trying to figure out what I could have done better. I know I could have done better.

Thanks for understanding. I mean it. I guess there aren't that many people in the world who have a vague idea of what that feels like, to have to live up to something like that name. I know it's not the same for you, but it's enough, I think.

I'll call Miss Potts and see if she can give me that number. And I'll talk to Fury about the person SHIELD had assigned me a while back. That one is free, I think, so I don't have to worry about my health insurance covering it.

Thanks. I can do the zoo, or not. It's up to you. It'll just be good to see you.

--S

Chapter Text

S –

Hey. Thanks for coming to get me - being pressed up against your the bike ride alone was worth getting poked and prodded at medical. Under the helmets no one had a clue who we were... I felt like we were in traveling in stealth mode. I had a good time today – it was surprisingly nice to get outside and get some fresh air after being cooped up in the mansion for so long - my shield generator is coming along pretty well, I'm just having issues minimizing the size and maximizing the output - I want something big enough to shield the entire tower in case it starts raining aliens again. Despite how much I've been using it the swelling on my hand has gone down, but I’m still feeling loopy from all the painkillers.

You were right, the Central Park zoo was nice. It was smart to go on a weekday when most of the kids of Manhattan would be in school. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a baby mongoose before – pretty cute, I have to admit. I've never been much of an animal person but it was fun to see them exploring their surroundings. They reminded me a little bit of DUM-E when he first came online and started seeking input.... he got into everything while trying to establish a relevant experiential database.

it's odd, the things that come back to you when you visit a place.... The last time I visited that zoo I must have been eight? Maybe nine? My birthday was always at the beginning of summer, right when I was released from boarding school, and that year there were lion cubs. I read an article about it and asked my mom to take me for birthday. She ended up stuck at a conference in the south of France with my old man so poor old J ended up on birthday babysitting duty again.

It's funny how vividly I remember those lion cubs.

Maybe the tower needs an animal of some kind – I could build a robotic hound dog for the team – maybe one that has cleaning functions like a Roomba? Hell, I could go further and build a pack and integrate them into the security system. That’d be both excellent and terrifying. JARVIS would have a real field day with them. It might even be enough to make him forgive me for the crappy text only interface in the bunker.

I know we didn't really talk a lot about Becky today, but I hope you’re feeling a little better about it anyway. She DID text you while we were out, which isn’t something she’d be doing if she wasn’t serious about staying friends with you. I’m probably the worst person in the world for you to confide in about this considering how biased I am about her and her interest in you, but hey. People have really different expectations about what they want from relationships and it sucks when those don't line up. As for boyfriend material - I keep thinking about what she could have meant by that, but what the fuck do I know about that kind of thing? Pepper clearly thought the same about me. People say all kinds of crap things about what they want from their SO. Who says Becky knows anything about boyfriend material, anyway?

I’m moving back into the penthouse. maybe without Becky around we can figure They’ll be hauling up my world class A+ comfiest bed ever tomorrow, so heads up on that. Also, I forgot to mention that I need you and your gas station buddy to install a set of security cameras at the mansion to get J off my back – you still interested in doing that or do you want me to hire an actual contractor? Let me know and I'll forward you the schematics that we drew up this week.

 

T

Chapter Text

Tony,

Robot dogs? I'm leaning toward terrifying. You-- you know you could get a real dog if you wanted. No one's going to tell you no anymore, and you'd probably be able to get most of the team to help out. I know Clint's had dogs; Thor would probably love it. I don't think Bruce would mind as long as it didn't get into his stuff. Natasha...strikes me as more of a cat person, really.

Speaking of cats, I'm still drinking out of my lion cup. You are entirely ridiculous, you do know that, don't you? I still don't know why you bought this. I am twenty-seven years old and drinking out of a cup with a giant plastic lion head for a top. And my mouth still tastes like popcorn and cotton candy and cinnamon sugar pretzel.

Thanks for talking about Becky. I thought we were going to talk about you, but it seems like you're not really I guess as far as expectations go, I would have just been happy to see where things went...Relationships are kind of a new thing for me, so I don't really have any expectations of anyone else. I'll manage. I always do.

I'll make sure to make your new bed for you with your Hawkeye sheets. I'm still really good at hospital corners back from my orphanage days-- morning inspection, every morning at 7:30, had to be perfect or they'd unmake everything, tip our mattresses over and we'd have to start again. Anyway, I want to see exactly what sixty thousand dollars gets you. Does this mean you'll actually be sleeping? Should I plan on tucking you in and singing you a lullabye?

The last time I was at that zoo was before my mother died...shortly before she got sick, really, the summer before. I was seven, so...I guess about the same age you were. It wasn't at all the same then. The animals were all in small metal cages, ones with bars you could actually reach through, and they could reach through-- there was a chimp who actually grabbed my apple out of my hands. But a lot of them-- I don't know if it was just me, looking at them and imagining what they felt, but they looked sad, really. There were bison in a cage smaller than my bedroom. There was a giraffe who kept trying to reach its neck over the top of the cage to eat the leaves of the neighboring tree, but they were just a little too far away. You see things like that when you're seven, you sort of can't help but identify with the animals, you know?

I liked seeing the clock-- although you could build a better one. I was a little disappointed the animals didn't move around as much as I expected. And thank you for the very extravagant lunch. I've never actually had a filet mignon before...or a panna cotta, for that matter, and you're making me feel painfully ignorant about-- well. I thought there was red wine and white wine before I met you. I didn't even know what half those things were.

When I was a kid, though...a really little kid, the boathouse was different. It was all wooden, really beautifully carved wood, two stories tall, and looked sort of like something from a fantasy land. They tore that down when I was five or six, I think, and replaced it with this ugly thing that was still there when I enlisted. I was a little glad to see that one got replaced, because it was just...sort of a reminder of the one that wasn't there anymore. I guess there are some things that have gotten a lot better since I've been gone.

And it was fun to watch those two ladies get their pictures taken. I sort of don't mind being a celebrity for things like that; you know, knowing that we pretty much made their day, and they're going to have photos and a story about almost knocking their boat over in December in Central Park because they shouted down two superheroes to be in their wedding pictures.

Of course I'll do the work on the house. I…guess I should actually ask Mr. Gas Station his name, shouldn't I? I just…

Tony, it was a really nice day. A really nice one. It...I don't know, it made me feel better about the past few days, but there's something I need to talk to you about. Seriously. And please don't be angry with me. I know your inclination is going to be to feel like I'm rejecting your generosity, and it isn't that at all.

I can't take that job. I just can't. You've been so kind and I know you want nothing more than for me to be happy and you must know it means a lot to me. But I know you asked Mr. Jordan to create a new position for me, and I wasn't really interviewing on my own merits. I haven't gotten a call about it yet, but I need to withdraw the application.

Please understand. It just doesn't feel right, Tony. And I can't let you pay me. I need you to know, without a doubt, that I would be here no matter what. I don't want you to ever think I might only put up with you for a paycheck.

But, that being said, thank you for...well, the zoo, and the lunch at the boathouse, and the cotton candy, and everything else.

Steve

Chapter Text

Cap –

What the fuck? Are you serious – what the hell is going on in that head of yours?

I didn’t ask Jordan to create the position; he just opened applications for a position that hasn’t been filled in a few years. I was serious when I said we were updating our logos and design, and retro looks are really in right now. He could use you. I'm not dumping you on a department out of some misguided sense of pity, I'm looking for a way to profit from our friendship while earning you a bit on the side too - I thought that was what you wanted.

I don’t get you – you tell me you want to borrow money instead of receiving it as a gift, so I find you a way to support yourself and you say no? What happened to possibly going to college? I know you realize how hard it’s going to be for you to hold a normal job as a celebrity with the schedule of an Avenger - I know that keeps you up at night. And even though the government shutdown bullshit is over and you're being paid again who's to say those dumbshits in Washington won't pull the rug out from under you again? You're leaving yourself vulnerable over a matter of principle that means nothing.

I have no fucking clue what you want from me here – if you really just want me to listen to all the crap you’re dealing with and not try to help, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m not a sit-on-my-hands kind of guy - I'm a mechanic, I live to fix things, and if a simple application of cash will solve problems, why the hell not go for it? You're someone I my friend, I want to make you happy, I can't just sit and listen to you talk about the weight on your shoulders without leaning in to help, okay?

I know you don’t put up with me for a paycheck – the team needs aerial support, so you’re stuck with me indefinitely. You might even genuinely like me – the jury is out on that, I really have no clue how you feel about me beyond the fact that you can’t seem to stay away.

I just - is it me? It has to fucking be me. Becky's gone and you're still keeping me at arm's length, what the hell do you want

I'm not trying to be a dick, here. Really, I'm not. You just frustrate the hell out of me sometimes - please reconsider the job.

Either way, you're welcome to come upstairs and test-drive the new bed. We can hit the hay after a ritualistic burning of any and all Hawkeye paraphernalia you’ve acquired for me since I left for Japan. I think I'm running on 43 hours without shut-eye, so I can't guarantee I'll be good company, but the bed sure as hell will be nice.

For what it's worth I'll understand if you'd sleep better in your own quarters. just let me know.

T

 

PS I’d probably accidentally murder a real dog. I can barely keep myself functioning, let alone a pet. It might be nice, though.

Chapter Text

T-

Stop talking in circles. You know exactly how I feel about you. That's exactly why I can't take that job. How many times and ways do I need to say this?

-S

Chapter Text

I just wish you'd let me do things for you. I know you wouldn't spend time with me for a paycheck, Steve Rogers has much integrity for that.

 

T

Chapter Text

T--

You take twenty-four hours to reply to a one-line letter, and I don't know if I'm supposed to talk to you or stay away.

What happens the next time you get angry or despondent and need to convince yourself that the rest of the world hates you and we only put up with you for your money? I'm not giving you that luxury.

I want you to do things for me. Do the kinds of things I do for you. I mean, please don't cook me dinner or draw me pictures, because that would end in tears. Unless you want to draw me some schematic diagrams; I've seen yours and I can tell they're brilliant even when I don't understand them. There are so many things you can give people that don't require your money.

Talk to me. You could just talk to me.

--S

Chapter Text

S -

i don't want to argue about this

Yeah, okay. No cooking. I just wish - shouldn't this be a give and take instead of you telling me what I can do? it's my money anyway, I want to spend it on Do whatever you like with the job, just make sure you e-mail HR about it.

I mean, I know we're not actually in a relationship but

 

okay. Talking. Not to change the subject but this has been eating at me - Pepper is going to be in town in a few days. She asked me to have lunch with her and I feel like I should, but it's the first time I'll have seen her since Malibu and I'm not sure I'm ready to do it. I mean, she's still my CEO and she needs me to sign things and all that but my PA has been taking care of most of it while I'm recovering. My people calling her people and all that. So I could probably get away with backing out of it - but like, I do want to be her friend. Have you seen Becky since your conversation last week? Any pearls of wisdom?

T

PS Is there a reason you haven't come up to see my fucking awesome new bed? The invitation is still open. I sleep better when am pretty much always down for a bed buddy.

PPS Just went a full 24 hours with no painkillers. thought you'd be glad to know.

Chapter Text

T-

No painkillers? If your hand is hurting, you're supposed to take them. If it's not hurting, that's good news. If it is, you should take one of your pills. The doctors said it would be a process of tapering off. Just remember you shouldn't drink when taking them. (And please don't avoid them just so you can drink.)

As far as Miss Potts is concerned, have lunch with her. I didn't know either of you back then, but you two were incredibly close friends before any of this happened. You don't want to lose that. You've had a month and a little to get your thoughts in order, you might be able to have a nice, civil conversation and start to patch things up.

Just be honest with her, Tony. She's feeling more or less the same way you are; she'll understand if you say you're giving her a tentative yes but aren't sure you'll be up to it.

Becky was over here; she came to movie night while you were buried in the lab; we tried to buzz you but JARVIS said you weren't to be disturbed; Thor was in town while Jane was knee-deep in some research. We watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I've been informed that we're all going to some midnight picture show and we have to wear costumes at some point in the near future if you want to come. Natasha was threatening to buy me some stretchy gold shorts-- apparently this is expected, or are they messing with me again? I remembered to give her her Pez dispensers and her earrings, but we didn't really talk, and we were on opposite ends of the sofa.

We were supposed to be going to see Sleep No More, which everyone keeps telling me is fantastic, but she ended up asking Clint if he wanted my ticket, which I guess she was perfectly within her rights to do.

I guess it seems like everything's all right, but…she was definitely the one who would initiate social plans, so I don't know how that's supposed to work now. It seems like she's content to leave me out of them. It's fine; I played board games with Natasha and Banner that night. The problem with playing Scrabble with Banner is I feel like he doesn't entirely understand the rules and keeps trying to play scientific abbreviations.

This might be a bad idea, but if you'd like me to come along to lunch to make awkward small talk, I could do that. I don't know if that would make the wrong impression, but I'm perfectly happy to chat with Miss Potts if you're feeling reticent.

-S

PS I've barely seen you this week, you're been locked up working so much, which is fine; I understand you missed a lot of time and I'm not complaining. But I felt like maybe we should talk in person before I do anything like that. Are you free at all today? Tomorrow? Should I make an appointment with JARVIS?

Chapter Text

S –

 

You think so? I don’t know. Nothing will be like it used to be with Pepper, it seems silly to even try. or maybe silly is the wrong word. Overwhelming? You and Becky have a shot at least – maybe you should try inviting her to do something. If you told her you had feelings for someone else she may think you don’t want to have her around, but if you make it clear you want to be friends.... Maybe something artsy? I mean that’s what you’re both into, right? You could always take Clint along to be your backup.

It sounds like you guys had a nice night. I don’t have the patience for most board games, but I haven’t seen Thor in a while. That would have been fun.

I don’t know it would be better or worse to have you there when I talk to Pepper on the 19th. I’m sorry – I think maybe I should go on my own, I just wondered what you made of it. I’m not sure I can focus on her the way I should if you’re around – you can be really distracting with your eyes and your smiles and your tree-sized arms. I bet she’d like to see you though.

You’re welcome to make an appointment with JARVIS or just come on down, I’ll tell him you should be let in when you feel like turning up.

 

T

PS also I have a little project i need your help with, I'll let you know when - maybe the wednesday after next??

Chapter Text

I don't know, Tony, I think some space might be good, at least for the present. I don't have any ill will toward her, and I don't want things to be awkward. Movie night was fine; I think if we just sort of wait it out for a while we'll be able to go back to being friends.

Although she did invite me to her holiday party on the 28th-- actually, she invited the whole team, so I'm pretty sure you're included-- would you like go? It's at the gallery. Their show right now is all superhero art, and some of it's of us, so I feel like it's going to be a combination of weird and hilarious. It can't be worse than Comic-Con, right?

What do you say? Drink some bad mulled cider, eat some bourbon balls, chat with people with funny hairstyles who want to talk to you about how you keep your artistic integrity while fighting evil? (Yes, one of them asked me that once) It's a group thing, you know, so there will be a lot of people and I can say hello without making her uncomfortable. She's mentioned a few times that she's wanted to meet you. And I can bring her her Christmas present, since I bought it, well, before everything else.

Please, no apology needed about Miss Potts. I was only offering in case it was something that would help. I'll see if she can fit me into her schedule while she's in.

Did you change JARVIS' protocol yet? I knocked on the door a bit ago but he said you'd instructed him not to let anyone in. I'm assuming it was just an old instruction.

You know that Wednesday is Chri-- Wednesday the 25th would be fine, if we can do it early in the day. Natasha said something about wanting to have a team dinner that evening. Any hints on what this project is, or do I get to offer myself up on the sacrificial altar of Tony Stark surprises?

-S

Chapter Text

That actually sounds like a win-win situation regarding the Becky thing... a show of good faith that won't make anyone feel too awkward. You should realize that I hate modern art almost as much as I hate cocktail onions (I really, strongly dislike cocktail onions) - I'll make that sacrifice, but only because it's you asking.

Besides, I have a real weak spot for bourbon balls.

AHEM. I’m sure Pep will make time for you after all the work you did taking care of the penthouse reconstruction - she does like you, after all. It really does look nice. I love the countertops on the new bar and the sectioned sink is super convenient so good job there. If things get weird you can just bust out some paint samples or something and talk about how the difference between purple midnight and dark knight or something. That's pretty much all you guys talk about, right?

It's weird that he didn't let you in ... I thought I gave JARVIS the new instructions regarding your access codes. I must have lost track of time again - why don’t you meet me upstairs? No strings attached, but we can talk in private. I’ll come up and meet you around nine.

It’ll be great. A nice, straightforward, totally platonic man talk.

And no – no hints. I’ve been working like a dog this week and I’ll be damned if I give it away now. The sacrificial alter is pretty comfy, or so I hear – you might as well get used to it.

Tony

Chapter Text

T--

I'm touched you're willing to make that kind of sacrifice for me, really.

You're not allowed to make lewd comments and then invite me anywhere platonically

I'll tell Becky we'll be there and to save some balls for you, then.

Really glad to hear you like your new palace. I'm sure it's hard to enjoy it without the Makassar ebony floors and all. Ironically, I put all that work in and I still haven't seen it, although, I guess if I come up tonight, you can show me around.

I called Miss Potts; we're going to get dinner while she's here. I'm not worried about things being weird; we've always gotten along very well. I guess it might be weird if you and I were I want her to know that my friendship with her is completely independent of my friendship with you. Should I bring her something? Flowers? I feel like I should bring

Keep your surprises to yourself, fine. Just know that I have been on a lot of sacrificial altars in my day so you have some tough competition to live up to.

Sure. I'll be up at nine. Straightforward and platonic sounds good. I really do want to reiterate that I just want to talk, though. I think we have a lot of things we need to talk about before we regardless of and I'd like to get them all out on the table. Although I don't think anything is going to be totally platonic between us again. See you then.

--S

Chapter Text

[LVL 44 / PENTHOUSE LIVING MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:ROGERS.Steven.G; STARK.Anthony.E]

{{BEGIN SURVEILLANCE}}

[BUZZER RINGS]

STARK.Anthony.E: Steve - hi, Steve. Come on in, come in - mi casa es su casa, you know…

ROGERS.Steven.G: Yes, I’m aware, seeing as I’ve lived here for how many months? Ah…

[DOOR SHUTS]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hi. Hi.

STARK.Anthony.E: Oh, you speak spanish? Hola, soy un ladrón, y estoy aquí para robar tu corazón. I - no, seriously. Don’t look so - do you want a drink? I’d love to make you a drink.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I have no idea what you just said up to the drink part. You’re welcome to make me whatever you want, but it had better be tasty, you know, seeing as I can’t get inebriated.

STARK.Anthony.E: That works for me. How about a Manhattan? Tasty, classic, you can’t go wrong. Sit down - I have hummus, apparently. JARVIS must have stocked the fridge.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, at least someone cares about whether you starve to death. Tony. You don’t have to-- whatever this is--impress me. Apart from your floors. What is this terrible flooring?

STARK.Anthony.E: Don’t ask me, I wanted classy ebony floors but some douchebag made me used reclaimed barn crapwood - okay, okay, it looks nice. Good pick, Steve. JARVIS is a gentleman - what would I be if I couldn’t entertain? Come here, sit - drink this - good, right? I know, it’s good.

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Of course it’s good. You probably just poured me two hundred dollar rye.

[silence]

Tony. Don’t-- what was that thing you said to me a few letters ago about this being resolvable sexual tension?

STARK.Anthony.E: Jesus, Rogers, what’d they drop in your cheerios this morning? Is - is that actually why you came up here? I - shit, I - I can do that, sure. Okay. Let’s resolve. I mean you wanted to like, try the bed and all so….um…

ROGERS.Steven.G: What? Stark, no-- resolve as in talking. You said platonic. We’re talking. Entirely hands-off.

STARK.Anthony.E: I - that’s what I thought we were doing, but then you were all “resolvable” and I thought you wanted to...you can't just say things like that, I can't be held responsible for… okay. Okay. Don’t give me that look, I’m being responsible.

We should talk. What - do you want to talk about? I mean, us, obviously - insofar as there is an us, which I realize is slightly presumptuous of me given the current situation of clusterfuckery and -

ROGERS.Steven.G: There’s some kind of us, for some definition. I just don’t know which-- Tony. I said that because you’re running around flustered and it’s...out of character for you. Just sit down, don’t worry about-- Tony Fucking Stark is not scared of some twenty-seven year old boy who just wants to follow him around Central Park in the freezing cold.

STARK.Anthony.E: God, when you mention your age I feel like such a lech - okay, okay, sitting down. I was perfectly calm until you started with the sexual tension and all - I blame you entirely.

I’m not scared of you, Steve - I’m nervous about saying the wrong thing to you. I’m... glad you’re here, I can’t believe you’re here. I know it’s probably weird, but I’m still glad.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, then we’re both nervous. You weren’t calm; that’s why I mentioned it in the first place.

STARK.Anthony.E: Untrue -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Do you want me to say ‘true’ so you can say ‘untrue’ back and we can repeat ourselves for the next half-hour?

STARK.Anthony.E: Jesus, Steve, reign in the Cap voice, you look like you’re on a fucking mission - here. Try the hummus.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Maybe I am on a mission. I’m not hungry, Tony. I just...what are we doing?

STARK.Anthony.E: Not eating hummus, that’s for damn sure -

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’d be happy writing letters to you forever if we weren’t in the same damn building.

STARK.Anthony.E: How come you get to tell me you have no idea what you're doing, but I'm supposed to have an answer? I'm getting over a freaking mini mental breakdown over here, and you're not much better off. I care about you. I want you in every way I could want you. But I also know I'm shit for you and that I need time to pull my shit together, and you need to get over whatever artsy fucking chick you picked up while I was gone -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Because you were gone.

STARK.Anthony.E: Be- …. because I was…

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, no...no. “Because” is the wrong word. But I was trying to-- I didn’t think you saw me that way. I thought it would be better to forget it...I don’t know... I thought you were supposed to be a genius or something.

STARK.Anthony.E: …. Steve - really? Really?

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, I’m making this all up as I go. Tony, you were-- I thought you were trying to patch things up in California, and then when that didn’t work you went to Japan and I didn’t know when you’d be back and...and I didn’t expect you to be over Miss Potts as it was, and then you started...with all those models and whoever else in Japan, and you didn’t write back to me.

STARK.Anthony.E: I did write - Steve, I… I was trying to patch things up with Pep, but I knew it was over. I just knew it in my gut. I know I told you that over and over, but you seemed to think I could make it work, so I … I mean, no. It wasn’t what you said that made me do it. I wanted to, even though I knew it was done.

And the models - look, that wasn’t anything. I just wanted someone there, and everyone I wanted was seven thousand miles away, so I just …

ROGERS.Steven.G: I offered to fly out. You didn’t answer. You sent me postcards that were completely disconnected from anything I said, and didn’t even get posted until a few days before you crashed your car. I asked you if I’d done something wrong, you didn’t reply at all. I took that as a pretty definitive yes, you have.

STARK.Anthony.E: ….

Look, I didn’t want you to know how fucked up I was, okay? I didn’t want you to see that. You treated me like I was this fascinating, interesting, funny person and I didn’t want to shit all over the way you saw me. Fucking - fucking shitty tabloid press, publicizing every night out - I wanted you to, you know. Keep looking at me the way you did.

ROGERS.Steven.G: The way I did? As the man who leaves his underwear on the table and whines when someone eats his takeout when the Chinese restaurant is two blocks away?

STARK.Anthony.E: Not... that. That was before this got... Do you remember that day when I fixed the fountain at the mansion, and I was all covered in slime and you looked at me and just busted out laughing? There was something in that look that I just… I didn’t want you to be disappointed.

[SILENCE]

ROGERS.Steven.G: That was...I think that was the day I realized I...No. Look. Do you understand my point, at least? I see both of those. They’re both you. I know I need to accept the underwear and the Chinese food if I want things like the mansion and the zoo. I know you’re a mess. Most of it’s in your file. I’m a mess. I’m not going to be disappointed. I’ve sort of seen most of the worst already.

STARK.Anthony.E: Ha. Oh, you say that.

Look. I know there are - plenty of reasons that we should stop this right here. I get it, believe me, I know. And if you decide you’re not interested in me romantically -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony, I don’t think--

STARK.Anthony.E: I know that’s not a thing you get to decide, but if you don’t want to act on that kind of thing I’ll respect your choice and we can figure out how to be okay with that. I just - wanted to do my falling apart away from you. You’ve got this way of … you blame yourself for everything, even things that are in no way your fault. I thought it would be better if we were apart.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You could have told me that. I would have...no. I came up here intending to say that we...you and I, I think we both have enough that needs to be sorted out separately. Individually, I mean. But I just...I don’t know what to do with you. Sometimes it’s difficult to be in the same room with you, and I...I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.

STARK.Anthony.E: So you don’t… you don’t think this is one of those two-heads-are-better-than-one sort of situations. Okay.

Is that what you meant, when you wrote that bit about staring into the sun ...? Ah. That I’m difficult to be around? I don’t mean to be.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [snort] Tell that to the rest of the team. I-- I don’t mean that kind of difficult. I-- give me a second, it’s not-- it’s not the kind of thing you just say.

[silence]

So when I was a kid, there was this cat. An alley cat, right? A big, grey tom. And I loved that cat. My mother wouldn’t let me, you know, bring it into the house or anything, and she’d scold me for going too close, because, well...you know. Asthma and cats don’t really mix. But I couldn’t keep away from it; I just liked watching it, watching it figure out how to get into the trash cans, or leap onto ledges, or...whatever it was doing.

And one day, I got too close, I guess, I decided to try to pet it-- I was really young, five, or six-- and it scratched me. Really scratched me. I had this horrible red, welty thing down my arm.

STARK.Anthony.E: ugh, cats, please tell me it wasn’t diseased or anything -

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, no, that’s not the point. I just-- I ran into the apartment, crying and howling my lungs out, and of course I started wheezing, and my mother...well, she was her usual calm, decent self about it, but she pointed out that she’d warned me, and she knew the cat was hard to stay away from, but it was for my own good, and here...and she gave me a pencil and paper and told me to draw the cat instead.

And, you know, the next day I went out and tried to pet the cat again. It’s like that.

STARK.Anthony.E: ...wait, I’m the cat? I’m the mangy nasty spiteful alley cat in this metaphor? I liked it better when I was the sun.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony. I was five. The cat was so damn beautiful I couldn’t keep away from it.

STARK.Anthony.E: … I guess that’s alright, then. … But - I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to let me hurt you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: And who blames himself for everything?

STARK.Anthony.E: I just can’t help wanting to help you through these things when you talk to me about them. I mean - I look at you sometimes and you just seem so overwhelmed and I really, really want to take whatever share of the load I can - and I know I have my own shit to deal with, I’m not over Pep and I don’t want you to be my shitty rebound, hence, you know, seeking company elsewhere, I just want… I don’t know. Us to be like we were, at the mansion, when it was just us. How ridiculous does that sound?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I won't let myself be a shitty rebound. It’s not ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is that I can’t be around you without simultaneously wanting to kiss you and thinking it’s a terrible idea.

STARK.Anthony.E: It’s not - necessarily terrible. We - could we try it and just see, you know, for the sake of argument. And science.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony, I’m not sure--

STARK.Anthony.E: I know I promised platonic conversation - but damn it, Steve, you’re driving me fucking crazy, I think about you constantly, it’s driving me to distraction and I’m getting nothing done. I think about it all the time. I think it would be - so -

[muffled sounds of movement]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, I was serious about that. Tony. Is this really how you want to do this? The man I know says and does whatever he damn well pleases; he doesn't act like he's afraid of his own shadow.

STARK.Anthony.E: The only thing I’m afraid of is you not giving me a chance. If we don’t do it this way, then how?! If you don’t know what you want, why not fucking try and see if this is it?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I know I don’t want you pleading with me. Move over.

STARK.Anthony.E: Well - well. Make yourself right at home, Mr. Rogers. I wasn’t pleading. Pep took the wind out of my sails, alright? Tony fucking Stark is brilliant at many things, but navigating relationships has never been one of them. You realize she’s like - only the second girl I’ve dated for more than six months, right?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’ve read your file. You know I still have vastly less experience in that realm than you, right?

[movement]

Is this okay?

STARK.Anthony.E: Of course it’s okay, if it’s comfortable. But I’m gonna do this - you can’t put your head in my lap and expect me to not touch your hair. I really - it’s very touchable, your hair.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Mmm...not strictly hands-off, but. Hmm. Yes.

STARK.Anthony.E:Steve - there’s a lot more to me than what’s in my file. You may be inexperienced, but most of my experience is terrible. It’s not exactly a confidence booster.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I...I know that. I mean, I know you’re not what’s in your file. I just...you’re making it hard to think, you know. So you’re...what, worried?

STARK.Anthony.E: You have this way of - I work at least 17% less efficiently when you walk through the damn door. It’s ridiculous…

ROGERS.Steven.G: I somehow get the impression that you’ve actually measured your work efficiency for that variable.

STARK.Anthony.E:Of course I’m worried. The last time I took a chance on someone I was close to as friends, who I also worked with - I mean I know everyone says it’s a recipe for disaster; I just wasn’t expecting them to be so right.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony. I know. This is the mistake part. I am being the absolute worst team leader I could be.

STARK.Anthony.E: Numbers I can do. Numbers line up nice and neat and make perfect sense.

You know the Avengers don’t have any kind of anti-fraternization policies, right? It’s not the army.

ROGERS.Steven.G: It’s not about policy. It’s bad form.

STARK.Anthony.E: Bad - why - Isn’t the whole reason you moved here so that the team could get closer together? Well, good news. We’re pretty damn close.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Close enough to poke in the nose. God, this is terrible.

STARK.Anthony.E: Go easy on my nose, I need that! [chuckling] Can’t we just call it a team-building exercise? Fury would love it.

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Fury wouldn’t let me use SHIELD resources to fly to Japan anymore. Hm. That’s better. Hi.

STARK.Anthony.E: Hi, you. Comfy?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’d be comfier if you remembered to eat more often. Your knees are all bony…

I want things to be like they were at the mansion, too. That was pretty damn near perfect. You know, with maybe a little less uncertainty.

STARK.Anthony.E: And more - ah, ahem. More of this. And definitely more blo---OW! Don’t swat me!

[coughing]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Don’t push it, Stark.

STARK.Anthony.E: ...come on, don’t give me those eyes, I can’t stand it - I love your eyes. And your arms. Especially your arms.

Wait, did Fury not pay for your transport to Japan?

ROGERS.Steven.G: SHIELD flew me out. Mostly because I found out it was going to take eight hours to get me on a commercial flight and I decided I couldn’t wait.

I love your-- this. Thing. Under your mouth.

STARK.Anthony.E: [slurping sounds]

ROGERS.Steven.G: No licking!

STARK.Anthony.E: LOOK. You practically stuck your fingers in my mouth. You knew the risks, Cap. Also, usually when people are complimenting my thing, they’re pointing much further south -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony. I don’t know what it’s called! Just--the spot where your lip curls over, I--

STARK.Anthony.E: Aren’t you romantic. I’m sorry you had to follow me out there; maybe not so sorry it ended up with us having an actual conversation about this, though. I really had no idea …

ROGERS.Steven.G: You’re the stupidest genius I’ve ever met.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E: Steve… god, do you know how long I - mmm.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Of course I do. That’s also in your file.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E: I’m gonna have to read this fucking file, aren’t I? Kiss me again. Actually, here - let me - I want to really feel you.

[sounds of movement]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ah...hands up here.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E: Steve...

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: [throat clearing] So I’m fascinated by your idea of a platonic conversation and curious as to what would have happened if this wasn’t supposed to be one.

STARK.Anthony.E: [lip smacking] Well, there’d be way fewer clothes involved, for starters, and I’d have had you up against the wall well before you made it to the couch.

[inaudible]

We’re talking! It technically IS a discussion.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Shirt stays on. Is this what we’re doing, then? This, mansions, you falling in ponds?

STARK.Anthony.E: If you’re down with it, absolutely.

[inaudible]

Whatever you want, Steve. Just -

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Just what?

STARK.Anthony.E: I just - want you to remember how bad I am at this. I warned you. I’m - messy, and you’re all hospital corners and fucking fantastic french toast.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hmm. I should make you french toast again. I...that’s not how it gets to work. You don’t get to warn people you’ll mess up. You may be Tony Fucking Stark, but I’m Captain Fucking America, and you’d just damn well better be good enough.

STARK.Anthony.E: I didn’t say I’d mess up, I said I’m messy. Can we pencil the Cap Voice into the “major turn-ons” column? Because seriously.

ROGERS.Steven.G: It can go on the list right after you talking about pinning me to the wall. You said you’re bad at this. You’re also the smartest man in the world. That goes in the turn-ons column, too. Don’t keep making excuses for yourself. The excuses go in the other column.

STARK.Anthony.E: This I’m good at. It’s the whole - look, not to be awkward and ramble about my ex while we’re spooning on my couch, but I learned a lot from Pepper. I think we can make this work, or I wouldn’t be here.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Talk about her all you want; it doesn’t bother me. All right. I...I don’t think it’s fair to say we know what this is yet. And I’m honestly-- kissing you doesn’t make the problems go away, and there’s that...annoying part of my conscience telling me I should put a stop to this. I just...what you said, about sharing the load. I’d-- I’d like that, if you really mean it.

STARK.Anthony.E: Of course I meant it; it’s a logical application of our resources, right? And - we don’t have to label this, or even … I mean I’d like some ground rules, if only because I operate best when I have clear parameters, but beyond that we can feel it out as we go.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ground rules? As in...what? What would those be?

STARK.Anthony.E: … I mean. Are we seeing other people? Is this a secret? Are we - you know, telling the team - do I get to hold your hand during movie night, or are we waiting ‘til we figure it out? Are the sleepovers - sexy sleepovers, or -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Good job taking the romance out of everything, Stark. I don’t…

STARK.Anthony.E: No - don’t ‘Stark’ me, Steve. I can do romance, I fucking promise you that. But I need to know where your lines are. I don’t want to wreck whatever this is because I don’t know where to stop.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. I. I didn’t expect talking about this sort of thing was really your cup of tea...I was sort of surprised we were even…I don’t-- Tony, I have no idea where my lines are. I’ve never really had a chance to-- You’ve dated two women for more than six months. I’ve dated one for more than a month. I guess maybe...maybe I would have talked to Peggy about this kind of thing, but then I...you know.

STARK.Anthony.E: Yeah, I know.

[silence]

I guess. With Pepper I didn’t really talk - I mean we talked, but it was usually over each other or at each other. I want to do this right, and be fair, and … well. To not have it end in flames. If i’m flying blind, you just have to promise to tell me when things aren’t… I don’t know. What you want them to be.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Honestly? This is kind of overwhelming. I just wanted to kiss you. To be exact, I wanted to sit there and not kiss you even though I wanted to, but then the whole idea of just shaking hands on the fact that this had gotten stupid and unbearable seemed...well, stupid and unbearable. Look, I’ve just...I’ve wanted to be right here for months and you’re talking rules and regulations and...I don’t know. Is it all right to just want to kiss you?

STARK.Anthony.E: I … didn’t mean for it to sound that way, I just thought - after sitting through months of couples counseling, listening to people drone on about communication and integrity…

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. Is that what you-- Tony, we’ve been writing each other for months; I hardly think communication or integrity are lacking.

STARK.Anthony.E: I’ve been told I’m surprisingly good at saying everything and nothing all at once.

...you know what - let’s just stick with the kissing. I mean, I am Time Magazine’s Two Time Sexiest Man Alive. You’re a lucky guy.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh, I know I am. And I know you don’t do anything by halves. But I sort of need...well. Some things to be done in tenths. I mean...I know I’ve already said...I don’t really think I...I told you I didn’t want to date people...I don’t even want…

STARK.Anthony.E: [sounds of movement] Okay - okay, okay, I get it, you can just -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony! Don’t-- Sit the hell back down, would you? Listen. I don’t want to date. I want you.

STARK.Anthony.E: [inaudible] ...that. I liked this conversation better when I was flush against your.... Here. I bet your lap is even more comfortable than my fucking fantastic couch.

[sounds of movement]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hi. I...look. Yes. If you’d just let me-- I want this. I want to sit and talk. With you in my lap. I want to go to the mansion and look through the piles of esoteric shit Howard stored up. I want to sleep in your ridiculous sixty-thousand dollar bed and make you French toast and if it’s really that important to you, if it means that much to you, I’ll take that damn job and design your logos. It’s just-- I had a fantastic few years of going on dates with girls who would leave with someone else as soon as they got a good look at me. Dating is a lot of sitting around telling half-lies to people you barely know. I know you better than anybody; I don’t need that with you, and I don’t see myself doing it with anyone else.

STARK.Anthony.E: So … yeah. Yeah to everything, even the fucking creepy Howard stuff, and I’d be really fucking pleased if you took the job.

So you - you want exactly what we were doing before. But I get to kiss you, right?

[inaudible]

oh, good - [inaudible] - wherever I want?

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Unless you mean, you know...outside the Tower. I...still want to think about that.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E: Nnf - come on, god, you fucking tease. Nibbling on my ear and telling me to wait? Captain Mixed Messages, reporting for duty -

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: I already broke my hands-off rule and my no-kissing rule. No more rule-breaking tonight.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E: ha - yeah, but okay, okay - let me know what you decide, because fuck - Steve -

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: I don’t-- I just want some time to think about this. You still owe me a dinner where I don’t get hit by concrete.

STARK.Anthony.E: [heavy breathing] Oh… yeah, okay, okay. Yeah. I should probably climb out of your lap, though, or I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

[sounds of movement]

Yeah, dinner. Um - tomorrow, what are you doing tomorrow night?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Whatever you tell me to. This is probably exactly the wrong time to ask you to show me this bed, isn't it?

STARK.Anthony.E: You utter bastard. I'm vetoing the shirt-stays-on rule if you're sleeping in my bed - it's a really fucking nice bed. Come on.

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

[LVL 44 / PENTHOUSE BEDROOM MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:ROGERS.Steven.G; STARK.Anthony.E]

{{BEGIN SURVEILLANCE}}

STARK.Anthony.E: Mmmm, come on you - you’re like an octopus, all squishy limbs and - I gotta take this call, Steve. Don’t go anywhere, okay? I’ll be right back.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hi. Uh. Morning. I won’t-- Hmmm. I take back everything bad I said about your bed. Not moving.

STARK.Anthony.E: Told you so, sugarplum. Go on, wallow - you know you want to.

[door slides open]

[LV44 KITCHEN SENSORS ACTIVE]

[rustling, scraping, drawers opening and closing]

STARK.Anthony.E: Okay, let’s see here.....

[clanking]

Step one, burner on medium.

STARK.Anthony.E: Pan on stove, butter in pan - check. Crack eggs in bowl - how many eggs? How much bread can two dudes eat? ...he’s fucking insatiable, maybe I need another loaf of bread.

[rustling, pantry doors opening and closing]

STARK.Anthony.E: Okay, no shells, no shells - shit! Damn it.

[eggs splatting in sink]

STARK.Anthony.E: Take two. No shells, no shells, no - fuck yeah, I am the best. Now, add milk to bowl, not pan - again with the no measurements, what the fuck, Steve. You can’t do science without numbers, and this is - kind of food science, right? Right. And science is my bitch, so.

Burner to medium low. Okay. I wonder if the butter is supposed to be that brown. Maybe if I swish it around....

[dipping, slopping sounds]

Okay, bread gets toasted and then... Steve. God, these instructions are awful, don’t quit your day job, Captain fucking America…

[Toaster popping]

Toast in eggs, one at a time, so the toast goes here... wait, do I have to cook these all individually? What a pain in the ass, no wonder people eat this shit out of a microwave. Okay. There's not even a time here, he is playing fast and loose with kitchen safety here...

[pan scraping, bread flipping]

That looks… good I think. JARVIS, what do you think?

J.A.R.V.I.S.: It looks perfectly edible, sir. Very commendable. I haven’t seen you attempt to cook since the Great Spaghetti Fiasco of 2007.

STARK.Anthony.E: You just LOVE bringing that up, don’t you. How come mine’s not smiling? Steve’s illustrated toasts were all smiley and enthused about being devoured.

“Stop bothering Cap…?” Man, Captain America used to be such a dick. How did he ever ....

[cooking sounds continue]

STARK.Anthony.E: Okay, that’s like a thousand slices of bread. I need a bloody Mary, damn it. Watch this for me, J. I’ll be right back.

[TOWER SECURITY: FIRE ALARM ACTIVATED]

[LV44 MASTER BEDROOM SENSORS ACTIVE]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony?! Tony, is everything all right out there?!

[door slides open]

STARK.Anthony.E: SHIT! Shit - shit shit what the actual fuck, does butter burn??

ROGERS.Steven.G: Of course butter bur-- What were you--

[snapping sounds, running water]

You were actually cooking?

STARK.Anthony.E: NO. I mean. I - I guess I was trying to cook - look, I’m sorry, I was just….

ROGERS.Steven.G: You were making french toast. You-- no, no, this is fine, here. Rinse the pan.

STARK.Anthony.E: Okay. Uh - I need a little scraper thing or something, there’s all this black - why don’t we just throw this away? I have other pans. Better pans.

ROGERS.Steven.G: That’s a hundred dollar French skillet. I will kill you if you throw that away. Hot water. Soap. Scrubby sponge.

STARK.Anthony.E: Steve. Seriously, Steve, I am a billionaire and I don’t want to do dishes.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Best time to learn, then, isn’t it? Scrubby sponge. Here.

STARK.Anthony.E:

You know what, this might actually be the first time I’ve ever done dishes. This is my dishes-virginity, Steve! Be gentle.

[coughing]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Then put on some gloves.

STARK.Anthony.E: There are gloves? Hey - someone put gloves under my sink, good. One should always use protection.

[latex snapping]

[running water, scrubbing]

[snorting sounds]

STARK.Anthony.E: Okay - okay. Pan clean. We start from the top, right? Butter in pan. We might want to do the eggs again, there might still be some shell in there.

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Butter in pan. Eggs...All right. Let me see how you crack an egg?

[silence, tapping sounds]

STARK.Anthony.E: Shit. It’s really hard to -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Not with a spoon! No one ever taught you how to crack an egg? Why didn’t you Google it?

STARK.Anthony.E: We had a chef! And Jesus, why google that? It’s pretty simple, apply appropriate levels of force and taa-daa, egg.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Taa-daa, egg splattered on counter with bits of shell in it, you mean. All right. Pick up an egg.

STARK.Anthony.E: Egg elevated to the appropriate position, sir.

ROGERS.Steven.G: This is the important part. Ready?

STARK.Anthony.E: Ready as I’ll ever be.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Kiss me.

STARK.Anthony.E: I - mmm. Okay…

[crack, sploosh]

STARK.Anthony.E: ACK!

ROGERS.Steven.G: It’s all right. You need practice. Get another egg.

STARK.Anthony.E: Do I get another kiss?

ROGERS.Steven.G: After you crack the egg properly.

STARK.Anthony.E: Alright, alright.

ROGERS.Steven.G: ...Which at this rate, doesn’t look good. Ahem. Hold it like this. Over the bowl. Flick your wrist.

[Sound of egg cracking]

STARK.Anthony.E: Alright, Cap, pay up.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Good man.

[inaudible]

Milk now. In the bowl with the egg. About this much.

STARK.Anthony.E: Alright - there.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Get a whisk.

STARK.Anthony.E: A wha-?

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: That was for the look on your face. A whisk. One of these. Stir the milk and eggs together until you have, well, thick yellowish milk.

STARK.Anthony.E: I think our french toast should see a doctor for that, it’s definitely not normal. You didn’t say you should mix it in your instructions - I followed them very precisely, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: It was in the written recipe. This was supposed to be a supplement. Come on, stir up.

STARK.Anthony.E: Hmph. Is that - okay, is that enough? Now we toast the bread, right?

ROGERS.Steven.G: That’s what the pan is for. You-- Tony, did you toast the french toast?

STARK.Anthony.E: Look, it’s french toast, not french bread. That’s a tooootally different deal, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: That is explicitly NOT in my instructions. Heat on on the stove. Bread goes in egg.

STARK.Anthony.E: But - toast! French toast!

ROGERS.Steven.G: Toasted in a pan. Dunk. And then you get another kiss.

STARK.Anthony.E: Fine. Should we do a couple and let them sit, or will the egg drip… mmm.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’ll take over dipping now that you have the hang of it. Just stick those ones in the pan.

STARK.Anthony.E: Aye aye, captain. Golden brown, incoming.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Good. That looks good. It needs to get flipped pretty quickly.

[sizzling sounds]

About now.

STARK.Anthony.E: Perfection. That’s pretty hot, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: So’s the cook. Do you want me to take over, or finish the rest?

STARK.Anthony.E: I got this, butterbeans. Go find some motherfucking syrup - I am starved.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Good work. Next time, pancakes.

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING….}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

Tony--

You're in the other room on the phone, and I thought maybe I'd use the time to get some thoughts down on paper.

I've been thinking (as much as I could think last night and this morning) about your request for ground rules. And I feel like…you know, I say some stupid things sometimes. When I write things down, I have more time to consider them with a clear head. And I really wasn't expecting that request.

1) Dating: I told you, I don't want to date anyone. I guess I said that already. I don't feel like I should be telling you what you can and can't do, though. I just worry about you when I see you out with people and can tell it's because you're unhappy and not because you genuinely want to be around them. Just…tell me what you want to do here, all right?

2) Telling people: I don't know. I'm concerned about what people will think. I know…logically, I understand that we're in a different time and place than I'm used to, but I'm still worried about what people will think about my judgment as a team leader. Although I'm also worried what they will think about my judgment as a team leader if they find out I haven't disclosed something like this. Beyond that, New York isn't the rest of the country, and…the celebrity thing. I need to maintain a certain reputation that no one expects from you. It's a lose-lose situation for me. I have to think on it some more.

3) You still haven't managed to come to a movie night. Sit next to me the next time we have one.

4) Your bed is possibly the greatest piece of furniture I have ever had the privilege of

 

So an interesting thing happened. An alarm went off in the kitchen, and I went to see what was wrong, and it turns out that the man I just spent the night with had lied to me about having an important phone call.

He lied to me so he could make me breakfast.

He lied to me so he could make me breakfast using a recipe I wrote when I thought he was possibly the most inveterate ass I would ever meet in my life and I was sick and tired of even trying to communicate with him.

I want to tell you more about him, but I am so entirely smitten that I might be a little embarrassed to commit any of it to words. And I might be a little reticent to let you read it.

I've entirely lost the train of thought I had before. Just tell me if I've missed something, or…well. Anything, really. I want to keep writing. I don't care if I spend every minute with you; I'll still write you letters.

--S

Chapter Text

Steve—

This might be the nicest letter anyone has ever written me.

Feel free to heap praises on this dazzling stranger, he sounds absolutely magnificent. I’ll do my best not to feel jealous, I promise.

It turns out cooking is actually kind of entertaining when you do it with the right person; a little bit like edible science. A lot of my science is semi-edible – as in I eat things that are overall quite questionable – but I didn’t even get a stomach ache after our little foodsperiment, so I count that as a win despite the fire alarms going off.

I think that’s the first letter about your feelings that you’ve actually attached your name to

You do realize that you explained to me all of the reasons you didn’t want to date me, then asked me out on a dinner date? I guess when it comes down to it I use the term dating as though it were synonymous with “being in a relationship”. You don’t have to decide whether we are or aren’t, or call it anything you don’t want to or even anything at all; right now I’m just enjoying the ride.

We don’t have to tell anyone, but the team is probably going to start wondering why you’re sleeping in the penthouse. Assuming that the bed full of diamonds was comfortable enough to tempt you back. I suspect you’re like a cat with an empty box – unescapably drawn to my massive, comfortable sleep space and Time Magazine’s Two Time Sexiest Bedwarmer Alive.

(kiss my ass, shitty Ikea furniture!)

anyway. Please do keep writing. It was your best worst idea ever.

 

Tony

Chapter Text

T--

--S

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: WHAT THE HELL

my dear fellow housemates,

can someone please explain why the everliving fuck i was roused from my slumbers at six thirty in the morning by a smoke alarm going off in the penthouse ANTHONY EDWARD STARK?

with all my love and affection,

clint.

Chapter Text

from: Tony Stark(TStark@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: RE: WHAT THE HELL

Chill out, Katniss,

Cap and I pulled an all-nighter testing functionality on a new unit I've been working on; there was a brief sleep-deprivation induced cooking attempt by your truly. Now you know why JARVIS doesn't let me into the shared kitchen....

Next time I'll bring you some, my sweet little cupcake. It was carbonized and delicious.

T

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Re: WHAT THE HELL

aw, peeta, you shouldn't have burned that loaf of bread just for me. ESPECIALLY AT six-thirty in the morning.

may the odds be ever in your favor,

katniss.

Chapter Text

from: N.R. (NR11232@gmail.com)
to: doc.banner@avengersinitiative.org
subject: Re: WHAT THE HELL

B--

>>Cap and I pulled an all-nighter

Oh, dear.

Kisses,

--N

Chapter Text

from: (doc.banner@avengersinitiative.org)
to: NR11232@gmail.com
subject: Re: WHAT THE HELL

N-

I spotted that too. Snorted coffee all over my monitor - whoops.

Yours,


-B

Chapter Text

Tony,

I just keep thinking about what the last few months might have been like if I hadn't decided to be a stubborn, sarcastic bastard that day. And I can't imagine it. The funny thing is, I knew I was being an ass, I knew I was being unprofessional, but I did it anyway. I guess I need to start making more unprofessional decisions. They seem to work out for me.

It's more the bedwarmer than the bed, I have to admit. And I am starting to understand your request for ground rules because I might have to make one of them 'no sheets with either of our faces on them.' But yes, I'd like to keep sleeping in your penthouse. Just…you know…I think the inclination to permanently install myself there might be a little strong, and I don't want to completely invade, so please tell me what you need in terms of personal space.

Anyway, I finally got furniture for a real adult person while you were away, and you still haven't seen it. I spent exactly one-one-hundredth of the cost of your mattress on my new mattress and it is the single most expensive thing I have ever purchased for myself, so you should see how they compare. In the name of science. I know how much you like science.

I guess maybe people use the term dating differently now. I think of it as what people do when they're first getting to know each other, and, well, we've already done that, if maybe not in the most conventional sense. (Which of course means it was heads and tails better). I don't think of going out to dinner with you as dating. I think of it as spending time with the man I the person I've already chosen to prioritize.

Thanks for the, uh, nice save on the email chain there. It gives me a little more time at least. It's not that I don't want them to know, I have to think about the best approach. The team, I mean. I think the larger world can keep their nose out of this one. But I don't like the idea of being dishonest to people we have to trust in hazardous working conditions, so whatever other reservations I might have, I think that's the trump card. Clint was asking me about what happened with Becky while we were out today and I felt like I couldn't give him a straight answer without talking about you, too. I don't want my life to be like that. Too honest for my own good, right?

Anyway, I was out with Clint because we went down to the Strand so I could buy you something. Which he thinks is for me. So…you probably already know about this, but there's apparently this television show about food science hosted by a chef called Alton Brown. And he has a couple of cookbooks, so the first one in the series is sitting outside the penthouse door for you, with your very own butane kitchen torch. Cooking is a kind of science, it's very rooted in chemistry (or so I'm told-- I know cooking, chemistry, not so much). So if reading about the science helps you relate to it better, I thought that might be nice for you. If you want to keep learning to cook, I'd love to show you. Let me give you another lesson for dinner sometime this week-- I can show you something easy you can make yourself, like lasagna or shepherd's pie. Or feel free to suggest something you'd like to learn. I'll make dessert, too. With the torch.

See you for dinner,

Steve

PS if it's not too much to ask, can I maybe get access to your penthouse? So I can do things like cook dinner and leave presents and accidentally throw out your Iron Man sheets when you're not around?

Chapter Text

Steve –

You're my favorite stubborn bastard at the moment. You should feel good about that - my life is packed with 'em.

Did you just invite me back to your room? Heavens to Betsy, I’m blushing like a Sunday bride. I think we might need to run a few exhaustive tests on these mattresses to see exactly how they compare.

For now, though, I’m glad you came up with me last night. I haven't slept so well in ... I really ... oh fuck it I haven't slept so well in years. I wish I was kidding, but you make a phenomenal combination pillow/blanket.

I'm faced with a bit of a conundrum at the moment, and it's keeping me up at night.... I’m trying to decide on my favorite flavor of Steve. Maple-syrupy French toast had a really strong start, but the Late Night Champagne is growing on me, not to mention the smokily sexy Whiskey Nightcap flavor, which tasted good enough to wear. I was even weirdly into Toothpaste Steve because seriously, Steve Rogers and his Captain America toothbrush?? Oddly hot.

Bacon Flavored Steve was almost overwhelming in its tastiness – I’m not used to resisting out and out temptation but I think I did alright as I kept my hands entirely above the belt. The breakfast was fucking delicious if I do say so myself. I cracked six whole eggs – does that mean I’ve leveled up as a chef?

Maybe eventually you’ll even trust me around the skillet unsupervised – you actually handed me a butane torch, after all, that must mean I’m moving in the right direction. You do realize I’m a master welder, right? Like an honest to god AWS certified Master Welder? Bring on the crème brûlée motherfuckers.

 

As far as the team goes – we can do whatever you want, Steve. I’d like to tell them if only because then I get wear you like a blanket during our next movie night. (Your stupid holiday social hours are derailing my attempts to show you and Thor Star Wars, what is that about??) And you’re right – given that we all risk our lives together, it’d probably be nice if they knew…but honestly, I’ve felt this way about you for a while now and it hasn’t affected me in the field. That’s – I mean I guess I feel like Iron Man and Captain America have a pretty unshakable foundation regardless of what Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are up to. After all, we did alright in the field before we became friends (and by that I mean back when we hated each others' guts).

Anyway, I have to get back to work on something sinister and science-y, like killer mold or my robosecurity dog project ... you should be afraid. Be very afraid. I think I'm gonna give him your eyes, just like the Mutts at the end of Hunger Games. AW YEAH.

T

PS. You're on the access list - you had me at "presents". Play nice.

Chapter Text

Tony,

If you keep taking me to dinners like last night's, I will keep making breakfast for you. You did very well with the eggs. You should be extremely, beaming proud of yourself. I'll give you one of the little star pins I give the kids when I volunteer at the hospital.

Dinner was fantastic. Really. I was hesitant, I have to admit, when you said pork cheek and truffles on a pizza, but it was absolutely delicious. And the beets. And the octopus. And the salty peanut gelato.

Although I've got to say, it was an odd experience having someone else order for me. I've ordered for ladies before, you know, back in the thirties and forties. Certainly never had a lady order for me. But even then, I was usually asking them what they wanted, not just waving a hand and making food appear from the back. It was very Tony Fucking Stark of you.

I was a little disappointed that guanciale-truffle pizza Steve didn't make the list after you talked it up so spectacularly...and managed to catch me off-guard when our waiter had left. I spent the rest of the evening terrified someone would notice the mess you made of my tie. Really, toothpaste? Toothpaste made it onto the list before that? I know that has got to have something to do with why you had a Captain America toothbrush in your bathroom in the first place.

I am starting to feel as if between your food knowledge and my cooking skills, we could be a force to be reckoned with. Should we challenge Clint and Natasha to a cookoff? Thor and Banner can be the judges. Although Banner will be politely noncommittal and Thor will be impolitely indiscriminate.

Is this what you mean when you talk about dating? Because this, I like.

Of course I know about the welding. That, also, is in your file. How do you think I selected a kitchen gadget for you? I'll show you how to brûlée tonight...that's actually what I had planned. It's probably a little more delicate than what you're used to, but the concept is the same.

About the team... I know, I know I still have to see Star Wars. You didn't hear the excuses I made when Becky expressed her incredulity that I hadn't seen it. But on a more serious note, you know they're going to ask questions...especially of you. It's...it's been what, a month and a half? Two months? Since you and Pepper split up? You yourself told me you didn't think you were ready for this kind of thing...and now we're in the middle of...this kind of thing. And, well, given your track record... And the age difference... And the fact that you own this building, and pay most of my bills...and probably a half a dozen other concerns I have yet to foresee... I think you're likely to be fielding some criticism. Don't get me wrong, I expect to get it, too, just not quite the same type of criticism, you know?

I guess I just want to be prepared.

I also...can't help but ask you...when you say you've felt this way...how long has it been? If you want to tell me.

Thanks for access. There's something waiting in your fridge. Although you might want to check the door sensors...they slammed shut on my elbow, gave me a pretty good bump and I might have, uh, dented the door a little.

I guess...there's one more thing we should put on the "to talk about" list. You're having lunch with Miss Potts. I'm having dinner with her. I...it's your call, Tony. She's your friend and your CEO and you're the one with the past relationship. And I know those wounds are fresh and raw and I'm sure its going to take a long time for that to get better. I won't outright lie (I know you know that about me and wouldn't expect me to), but whatever you want me to say, how much, anything you don't want me to say...I'll do whatever you ask. I know how important she is to you.

Come down to my room when you're done with your terrifying robot dog. You really had better not have given anything my eyes, or I'm revoking...well, rights to something yet to be determined. I got Makassar ebony flooring installed; it's much nicer than your shitty barnwood flooring.

Steve

Chapter Text

Steve,

I love it when you compliment me. Keep ‘em coming, creampuff.

Look – I only ordered for you because I had a very specific list of things you were required to try. Someday when you're all grown up you’re welcome to take me to YOUR favorite restaurants and order everything for me in a proud and manly fashion; I am totally okay with that.

Guanciale-truffle pizza Steve was delicious, but not so delicious as the expression of surprise on your face when I went in for the kill. I could get used to that.

I think maybe I should learn to cook more than scrambled eggs and French toast before we challenge anyone to a cook-off. You should realize by now that I really hate losing, Steve, (remember Game Night that one time that I actually showed up?) so I’d be obligated to pay off the judges as well, and you know that would put Banner in a terrible position morally.

Look – I know what people are going to say. Part of my brain is saying it too – you’re a kid. You’re inexperienced. Maybe I’m taking advantage of you by attempting to seduce someone that I have some degree of financial control over – you made a big point of turning down the job my company offered, but realistically it won't make much of a difference. I put you up, feed you, and am largely responsible for funding Avengers Initiative related SHIELD expenses…. That’s not SI’s money on the line, that’s mine. I know you feel weird about it. I feel weird that you're my team leader which is, you know, sketch and all for a totally different reason.

All of that is going to happen. Nat will (continue to) think I’m a lech, Clint will mock us endlessly, Bruce will probably be moderately uncomfortable with the arrangement and Thor will – well, be Thor. Fury will be furious.

Huh. If you weren’t so fucking …

Huh.

 

How long have I had feelings for you? Longer than I’m willing to admit.

You know what, maybe I should just

 

 

OKAY. I’M BACK. AND SLIGHTLY LESS DRUNK. I think. I might actually be more drunk but I can’t remember.

I was getting kind of depressed thinking about all the reasons I’m terrible for you but the fucking enormous chocolate mousse you snuck into my fridge (you weren't kidding about the dent) kind of helped with that. I think I ate about half of it – when I no longer fit into my armor I’m blaming you, foul tempter. If only I had someone here to lick the chocolate off my fingers and the corners of my lips....

Please don't dump me because I balloon up on chocolate mousse - can you dump someone you're not dat

I don’t know what to tell Pepper. I feel like everything I expected from her was wrong so… I really have no clue how she’ll respond to “btw I’m not-dating this dude I live with.” And really I mean –

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll tell her I’m thinking about dating and like, test the waters, and then we can decide where we are and what we tell her….

Let me think about it.

 

T

P.S. The moose drawing you taped onto your mousse is now your caller ID photo. Mooooooose.

Chapter Text

December 15, 2013
Cap. Steven Rogers
1796 Broadway
Suite 1776
New York New York 10019

Dear Cap. Rogers:

On behalf of myself as well as my colleagues in the Design department, I'd like to welcome you to the Stark Industries family.

Attached is the required employment paperwork for you to sign and return at your earliest convenience, including your contract (signatures required on pages 7, 13 and 19, all others to be initialed in the bottom right hand corner), I-9, W-2, background check clearance, blank fingerprint request template, confidentiality agreements, orientation packet, company policy manual, direct deposit form, commuter card form, corporate gym/meal plan/day care services requests, information on your benefit package including optional health & retirement services, and mandatory internet safety training and sexual harassment training sign ups (course offered monthly and to be completed within your first three months of employment). You will be expected to bring a 2x2 passport-styled photo to your first day of work so that your employee ID & access badge can be produced.

My colleague New York based Head of Human Resources, Avery Clark, will be expecting you on the 13th floor of our New York facility at 9:30 am on Monday, January 6th.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Avery Clark at A.Clark@StarkIndustries.com

Respectfully yours,

EARNEST JORDAN
Stark Industries Human Resources
777 Stark Blvd
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Chapter Text

Tony--

Creampuff? I'm not your sugarplum anymore? I'm going to have a hard time keeping up with all these sugary nicknames.

I took the job. Officially. I'll be starting after the new year. There are still some details to work out, but as soon as I get my first paycheck, I am taking you out to dinner. I would pick the restaurant and order like I own the place, except that I don't know very many nice restaurants. So if you want to pick and order like you own the place again, we can do that, and I'll pick up the check, and lick the corners of your mouth when you're done.

(And yes. I know it might be expensive. I can splurge on this. I'm willing to spend a few hundred dollars to do it right. Really.)

Give me a month and you'll be a master welding chef. Promise. I guess…I don't really care if I win games. I do it for the companionship, really. Besides, you obviously haven't seen Clint or Natasha cook. Natasha can microwave oatmeal and bake a potato. Clint is the worst cook I've ever met, but he's somehow capable of making these oatmeal-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-potato-chip-pretzel cookies that I could eat a truckload full of. We'd beat them, no problem.

Clint will mock us endlessly no matter what we do, because that's what he does best. Banner will listen to reason and might voice concerns, but will reserve judgment, and we can trust him to be rational and honest about it. Thor is, as you said, Thor, and will probably regale us with some tale of two great warriors he knew on some other planet who tragically lay down their lives for each other and are now immortalized in a constellation, and…I'll talk to Natasha. I know Natasha has her reservations about you (mostly well-deserved), but she's been a great ally to me and I trust her. And I...I need someone I can talk to who isn't you; depending on you for everything isn't a good idea. How does that sound? I think I'd rather wait to tell Fury-- obviously, I think it's important to disclose, but I also want to know we can depend on support from the team.

As for Miss Potts, like I said, whatever you want is fine with me.

And…look, Tony. If you're feeling lousy about things, you don't need to get drunk and eat half a bowl of chocolate mousse. Come find me, or call me down to the lab, and we can curl up on a sofa together. We can talk or not. I will happily explain to everyone else that I seduced you (and not the other way around). If anyone asks, I'll tell them all that this was my idea, that I'm the one who demanded we talk about it, that I kissed you first. And that would all be true. I'd like to claim credit for at least half the responsibility in this.

I suppose I can't ask you "How long ago would you care to admit to?" without answering it myself. But I…well, I suppose it was a long, slow progression. There would just be these flickering moments of...I would call it clarity, because I don't know exactly what I was feeling then. What I do know is that we were at the mansion when I figured it out, for my part. I remember you standing in the pond, and looking more confident and relaxed than I ever remember seeing you before. And I mean real, self-assured confidence, not bravado, not any intention to impress anyone. I remember you, completely drunk on champagne, fixing that pump so the water in the pond went from green to clear while we watched. That day was absolutely perfect, and you were perfect. I just wanted to keep you there, at the mansion, because I knew you weren't mine, that the minute we left, I'd have to stop pretending.

Moose moose moose,

Steve

Chapter Text

What, did you prefer creampuff? I can go with creampuff. I can’t help it, Steve, you’re just so fucking tasty looking. My productivity has decreased an additional 7% in the past few days – it’s really getting to be a problem. I can’t stop rereading your ridiculous letters over and over again

Again with the whole going-out-on-dates thing. Sheesh, Cap. You're welcome to pay, but I have expensive tastes – better pick someplace without $700 bottles of 23 year old Chateau Latour Pauillac

… some of us have a hard time saying no.

 

 

How long have I felt this way. Really? You saw the fucking video of me fighting jerries in the kitchen at age four; I've - always admired Captain America. I don't mean that in a creepy sweaty-cosplay-girl way, I mean it more as a... I dunno, just the idea of him was so important to me. Captain America was someone my old man idolized and lamented and never criticized ... I grew up thinking if I could be more like that person, maybe dad would look my way for once. I realize that sounds ridiculous, and pathetic, and slightly creepy, but that's what it was. It came to an end when I realized that trying to please Howard Stark was about as profitable as searching for ice water in hell.

I think the reason you pissed me off so much when we first met. I mean, do you know how long I - It was a huge fucking blow to meet my childhood hero brought to life and realize he wasn't the person I thought he was. The Captain America I grew up with and spent so much time trying to emulate didn't ever exist... I was looking at a kid almost half my age standing around in fatigues. Worse, I ran my mouth and ruined any shot I had at getting to know that guy as an actual person. or so i thought.

It was only after we really started talking that I realized everything I'd loved about the stories about your exploits in the war really was in there, just not quite the way I'd thought it would be. All the impossibly good things I'd chalked up to the uniform were part of Steve Rogers, not Captain America, and once I noticed that I couldn't stop noticing every little thing about you. I couldn't stop thinking about you.

I would take you over that guy any day of the week.

that sounds really ridiculous, sorry, I just...

If you want an actual moment of realization, it was waking up when I was sick and feeling your hand on my forehead, pushing back my hair. It was so.... I don't know. Comforting. god this sounds stupid Most of the time I get sick I just plow away in the lab and Pep only ever realized it when JARVIS starts ordering tissues in bulk or I fell asleep drooling on my keyboard after forgetting to lock the door.

So I woke up and your hand was cool and nice on my forehead and I just thought, who the hell would do this for me? and when I opened my eyes it was you.

 

T

 

PS please burn this letter upon reading. Ugh.

Chapter Text

T--

Why are we not in the same room right now? I'm in the penthouse making dinner. Come up here and let me push your hair back some more.

--S

P.S. You must be joking if you think I would burn this. This is probably the first time since I woke up anybody's said they prefer me to Captain America. I'm keeping this forever.
P.P.S. Sugarplum was better. At least it starts with the same initial.

P.P.P.S. We're finally on for Star Wars. Wednesday night, the whole team agreed.

Chapter Text

from: Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: Movie Night Postponement

All,

The Doc and I are going to have to bow out of tomorrow's planned movie night-- Sorry, Steve, I know you've been looking forward to finally seeing Star Wars, but we've both agreed that after all the build-up, it wouldn't be fair for you to see it without us. We've got marching orders that are going to take us out of town tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday, but we should be back Friday afternoon sometime.

We'll let you know if there's any change to the docket. Stark, don't worry about rushing the night-vision upgrades for this; we shouldn't need them if all goes according to plan.

See you Friday-- Steve, the Doc says he'll make it up to you with a big pot of cocoa when we get in.

--N

Chapter Text

S -

Sorry I haven't been writing much in the last couple of days - I know you love the letters but it's so much easier to just stalk you and talk to you in person.... all the hair-petting and Steve-tasting is nothing if not a SERIOUS incentive. I'll make a better effort, though, I promise.

I went to lunch with Pepper today and handed over one of the nextgen Starkpads. I'm sitting on the other project until we do those physical tests you promised me. Wednesday, don't forget! We have a date!

So I didn't exactly tell her what was going on, not in so many words. I sort of asked her if she was alright with me dating again and she told me not to be a dumbass and rebound with someone who was going to ding up the company image more than my "hooker and cocaine-fueled Tokyo antics" already had (her words not mine, obviously, as if I would pay for sex). So I told her it wasn't anything like that and she gave me this really hard look and - I don't know. I think she kind of guessed. I told her I was interested in dating someone she knew and she immediately pressed her head into her hands and called me a fucking idiot - then asked for the check.

So, um, I guess she's still on for dinner. You might want to text her on that one.

I don't

I'm gonna go grab a drink. let me know if you want to hook up later, or what.

 

T

Chapter Text

T--

Of course I'll see you when I get back from dinner. I'll buzz you as soon as I get in.

I texted Miss Potts, so don't worry about that. I'll try to make sure we have a really nice dinner regardless. She's important to me, too, and I want to make sure she knows that. Are you all right? We can talk about it tonight if you want.

Oh, so it's a date now? Happy to help with the shields. Just let me know what you need.

Look, I'm really starting to wonder if you just forgot Christmas or you're deliberately avoiding it because of last year, and I don't want to

And don't worry about the letters. As much as I love the letters, it's really nice to be around you. It's...I know this is going to sound silly, but everything recently has sort of felt like it's making up for the month before. This is what I wanted when

I'm sort of nervous about starting work after the holidays. I know it's not a full-time job of the sort most people have, but it's not something I've ever done before, and it's probably going to take some getting used to. I guess it's going to be nice to have some structure to my days that I'm not creating myself, but I also won't be able to laze about in bed as much, so I want to make the most of the time we can spend together before that starts. If you're really concerned, I would have absolutely no objection to you writing letters to me while in bed with me. You could do live dramatic readings for me and everything.

--S

P.S. Check the fridge. I left you something to eat while I'm at dinner.

Chapter Text

N –

How is it that even after all this time you still manage to surprise me?

I wasn’t entirely convinced we weren’t at a SHIELD safe house until I saw the cake – not to mention the massive, glorious bed. Having me go over the files in the car was a dirty trick – I missed all the signage for Montauk.

I thought leaping over the fence by the holly bushes was a particularly nice touch - your legs look phenomenal when you’re balancing on crossbeams. Knowing what I know now, I suspect the view was part of my birthday present.

Getting out of bed this morning might have been the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced. Curled up warm with you, watching the light play on the frost patterns edging the windowpanes – what more could a man want?

B

Chapter Text

Well, darling, this woman wants to find out how well the massage jets on the hot tub work.

Come join me when the tea's finished brewing. Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday.

--N

Chapter Text

N -

I discovered what else a man could possible want; it seems so obvious in retrospect.

Brewery tour, a wine tasting, and an afternoon spent collecting frozen seashells with the most sincere, thoughtful woman I've known.

This has been the best birthday of my adult life - I mean that with absolute honesty.

B

Chapter Text

B--

Seeing as I intend to be here next year, I'm going to consider that a benchmark to be surpassed.

You deserve every minute of it.

--N

Chapter Text

{STARKPAD AUDIO SURVEILLANCE ACTIVE}

[GPS COORDINATES LOADING...]

[GPS LOCK ATTAINED - LOCATION: 88 10TH AVE NEW YORK NY 10011]

{{transmitting}}

POTTS.Virginia: [sound of drink being stirred]

[Footsteps]

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Pepper? Hi, uh...hi. It’s been forever since I’ve actually seen you.

POTTS.Virginia: Yeah, it ha….. Steve. What are those.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: They’re...pink callalilies? I know they’re normally white, but the place I went to, I guess they specialize in colored ones, and these were the prettiest.

POTTS.Virginia: Why did… okay. Okay. That’s fine, they’re… lovely, Steve. At least you didn’t go red, that’d be a little too Christmassy for me.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Oh. Right. Uh. Merry Christmas, almost.

[deep breath]

Pepper? Is this what you want to do? Because I came here because I wanted to see you, because I miss you, and if you’d rather go get fish and chips and walk around the block or something, that would be all right.

POTTS.Virginia: I picked the restaurant, Steve, and I already ordered a drink. Sit down, would you? Put the “sorry-I’m-fucking-your-ex” flowers over there, I need this space for ponzu sauce.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Those were “I-missed-you-I’m-happy-to-see-you” flowers, considering I ordered them the night we made dinner plans, but fine, understood.

[shuffling paper]

I’m sorry. I am still happy to see you.

POTTS.Virginia: I’m sure.

SERVER: Good evening, and welcome to Morimoto - can I bring out one of our starters for you, perhaps you’re in the mood for our succulent toro tartare or our fresh diver scallop carpaccio? Or perhaps a signature cocktail for you, sir?

POTTS.Virginia: He’ll have a cilantro gimlet, thanks. We’d like to start with the toro, the seared scallops and the Kumamoto oysters as a starter. You do eat shellfish, don’t you Steve?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I’ll eat whatever you put in front of me. I might want to know what it is, but I’ll eat it.

POTTS.Virginia: Do you need a fork? Bring a set of cutlery too, please. And some edamame.

[footsteps, ice clinking in glass]

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I can sort of do chopsticks. As long as things aren’t too small or soupy...Natasha’s been teaching me. What’s toro?

POTTS.Virginia: Fatty tuna belly. It’s exceptional.

[silence]

Did you eat anything interesting in Japan?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Thanksgiving Squid paella? I made that, though. I didn’t actually get to see anything but the hospital and the hotel. It wasn’t exactly, you know, a vacation.

POTTS.Virginia: I’m sure.

…..

Thanks for going to get him. He’s such an idiot, sometimes.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Somebody had to do it. Better me than somebody who couldn’t hold their own with him. Are you...how are you doing?

POTTS.Virginia: How do you think I’m doing, Steve? I’m up to my ears in terrible publicity, the SI Board of Directors is treating me with kid gloves because they’re sure Tony’s going to request my termination, I just found out that my ex-boyfriend-slash-best friend-slash boss is hooking up with a gorgeous superhuman he’s been living with since months before we actually broke up, and this morning someone fucking photographed me taking two double espressos back to the Soho apartment and stopped to ask me who the other one was for. Can’t a fucking overworked CEO just enjoy her fucking quadruple espressos in peace? I -

Oh, god, I sound just like him. Shoot me, please.

[footsteps]

SERVER: Your drink, sir.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Thank you.

[slurping through straw]

SERVER: Ma’am, may I get you another?

POTTS.Virginia: Yes, please. The same.

[footsteps]

[slurp]

Steve...the straw is for stirring?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Oh.

[glass bumping table]

Pepper, I don’t...one, you know Tony won’t fire you. Two, I can sympathize with the bad publicity. And the paparazzi too, I guess. I mean, it’s probably worse when you can’t wear a hood and sunglasses everywhere, because that’s what I’ve been doing. A lot, anyway. And three, I guess...I mean, it probably isn’t going to make you feel any better, I don’t know, but this whole...it’s only been two weeks. Not that that helps. I don’t know if you want to talk about it or not. And, uh, four, you don’t really sound like him. You sound like you have a lot on your shoulders.

POTTS.Virginia: Jesus, Steve. How are you even real?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Pardon?

POTTS.Virginia: How are you - it took me almost ten years to figure my shit out with Tony Stark. You did it in two and a half months - and I’m mad at you, I want to be mad at you, and you bring me flowers and - and -

[ice clinking in glass]

Two weeks? Really?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Well...it’s hard to say exactly, but...a little more than two weeks? I'm not sure when to count from, but about that, I guess. And believe me, I don’t have anything figured out. It’s all right if you’re mad at me, Pepper. I just...I understand exactly why you’re mad. Well. No, saying I understand exactly why is presumptuous. But it is understandable. And it doesn’t mean I won’t listen to you.

POTTS.Virginia: … I just don’t ….

How is his arm, really?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Still messed up pretty badly. It’s getting better, but he ran away to the mansion instead of letting medical look at it at first, so that didn’t help. It’s pretty stiff, and swollen, and I have to keep reminding him to do his exercises, and he won’t stop using it in the lab, and he keeps taking off the splint. You know. Typical Tony.

POTTS.Virginia: Yeah, I know.

[Appetizers arrive]

How hungry are you, Steve?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Me? I’m always hungry. Depends how long you want to talk for.

POTTS.Virginia: Let’s do the lobster ceviche salad, Morimoto surf and turf, and the chef’s sushi combo - no eel in there, please.

[footsteps]

So, Tony is Tony. How are you taking this?

ROGERS, Steven.G.:

[silence]

Just so you know, I’m going to wait for you to start eating things so I can watch how to do it right. Um. Japan was hard. Things have been getting progressively better, I think, but there were a couple times I wondered what I was doing there. Mostly I just bribe him with food; that seems to work all right.

POTTS.Virginia: He eats for you? Wow.

[silence]

How’s the penthouse looking? Everything you hoped?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Well, at the orphanage, the older kids got assigned to look after the younger ones. I wasn’t very good at very much, but getting other kids to eat, that sort of thing...I was all right at that. My mother was a nurse. There’s not that much difference.

It’s nice...it’s...I get uncomfortable with the way he spends money like it’s water. I...I assume you know about the job?

[sounds of eating]

POTTS.Virginia: …. Yeah, he mentioned. Welcome to the family. [short laugh] Are you - uh, have you ever held a job before, Steve?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Unless you count the Army and touring the country selling war bonds, no. I mean, selling war bonds was actually hard work, but it wasn’t an office sort of job. I…

[swallowing]

I told Tony I didn’t think I was qualified. I really...I tried to back out, and he got really angry.

POTTS.Virginia: That’s because he’s a developmentally stunted person who only knows how to express his affection through disproportionately large gifts. Blame his father.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Oh, his father gave me a shield made of the rarest metal in the known universe, so I know all about that.

POTTS.Virginia: Oh, right. Well, Howard barely spoke to Tony when he was working - which was always, to hear Tony tell it - and then occasionally he’d apologize for months of inadequate parenting by dumping some extremely expensive toy into his son’s lap, then disappear again. Hence custom rabbits and Jimmy Choos. Though if he buys you heels I’m going to be concerned.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: You’re right, I’m probably tall enough as it is. Uh.

So...this whole job thing. I’m not going to mess anything up, am I?

POTTS.Virginia: It’s design, Steve. You’re not going to be operating the arc reactor on your first day. Though you might not want to let your colleagues know you’re sleeping with the owner of the company; that might not go over well… though Tony’s always been immune to our anti-fraternization policies...

ROGERS, Steven.G.:

[laughter]

I’ve been hearing too much about anti-fraternization policies lately. I...I’ll take it under advisement, thank you. Not that I was planning to wear it on my tee-shirt or anything...I’m still...it’s not really something I want to be public knowledge.

POTTS.Virginia: You know it will be, right? Everything about Tony is public knowledge. I’m sure you’re someone used to living in the spotlight, given your current role, but it’s going to be amplified a thousand times when this gets out.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I really try to stay out of the spotlight...it’s not really...it’s all right when I put on the suit, you know? But that’s not me. I just...I guess I’m starting to get used to it, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d choose.

[silence]

I guess I’ll have to think about that.

POTTS.Virginia: Do. Here - here’s the food… mmm, look, beautiful. Look, the only trick to sushi is just - you take the fish off the rice, dip the fish in your soy sauce, then put it back on the rice. That way the rice doesn’t fall apart in the dish - it’s more elegant this way. Try it.

[sounds of eating]

Have you ever dated anyone before, Steve?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Uh. People keep using that word differently than I do. I’ve been on dates, I guess? I was...sort of dating a girl here for about a month, but that didn’t work out.

POTTS.Virginia: No. I guess not. I - oh, god. I don’t know if that’s going to work for you or against you. At least you don’t have any expectations for him to destroy.

ROGERS, Steven.G.:

[silence]

You’re worried about this, aren’t you?

POTTS.Virginia: Define “this”?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: The, uh...Tony thing. That is still largely undefined.

POTTS.Virginia: Oh for christ’s sake. Grow a - of course I’m worried, Steve. I exist in a perpetual state of worrying about Tony Fucking Stark, and have for the past decade of my life. You’ll be a card-carrying member of that club in no time.

[ice clinking]

Steve, a month ago Tony was driving manically around Kyushu and slammed his car into a central divider because I left him. He told me he loved me, when I told him it was over. He offered to marry me to make me stay. He’s unbalanced - more so than usual, after New York. Now he’s head over heels - and don’t look at me like that, he is if he actually sat down and attempted to have an adult conversation with me about this - and that’s… a lot of pressure for any relationship, let alone a new one.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Um. Um. I’m...I’m sorry he did all that. I...New York was hard on all of us; I’ve seen a little bit of it. If it makes you feel any better, I can’t possibly reflect as badly on the company?

POTTS.Virginia: As what, hookers, coke, drunk driving… sorry. Sorry, I’m still - I know I left him, but nobody likes to be replaced, Steve. Even by the pinnacle of human perfection that is yourself. But no - you’d be alright in that regard. There’d be a little flux in our sales as whatever right-wing nutjob on the airwaves this week decides to boycott Stark products over the whole defiling-America angle, but that’s to be expected with most of what Tony does.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I am a little worried about the whole Captain America bit. If...if people find out about it, and…I don’t like to call names, but there are going to be people who don’t want me representing them. And it might affect how much good I can do.

POTTS.Virginia: Yeah. I’d say it’s likely, Steve. Guaranteed, even.

[silence]

I’m serious about him being unbalanced. I’m sure you’re chalking a lot of what I’m saying up to the whole angry-ex thing, but honestly, Tony needs a firm hand in his life. I think that’s why he dated me in the first place - I was the rudder and sail and he was free to be … I don’t know, the wind, or some other ridiculous metaphor. I understand that you’re attracted to him, he’s easy to love. I love him, too. But it worries me that you’ve known him for such a short amount of time - you’ve seen him low, Japan was low, but it’s his more...subtly destructive tendencies that will eat away at you over time.

[silence]

As much as I don’t want to say this, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know if things are going downhill. I need that man as whole as possible personally and professionally.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I don’t think you’re being an angry ex, Pepper. I...I can do that. What else do you need?

POTTS.Virginia: Possibly for you to stay away from me for a little while, and out of the tabloids entirely? Let me think about it. I only found out about this a few hours ago, Steve. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I...of course. No guarantees about the tabloids; I’m apparently in the paper every time I save a cyclist from getting doored. I...but you’ll tell me when you don’t need me to stay away? I really...I don’t have many friends. I don’t want to lose the few people I do have.

POTTS.Virginia: [sharp laugh]

I will. You know - the truly ironic thing about this scenario is that I left Tony in order to bring stability into my life, and to date it’s done nothing but the opposite. Some days I wonder ‘why did I even bother?’

ROGERS, Steven.G.:...Splitting up with him? Would you...would you reconsider?

[silence]

POTTS.Virginia: I don’t know, Steve.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: I guess that’s none of my business. Look. It’ll be alright. Eventually. I don’t...I’m probably the least enticing shoulder to cry on, or anything like that, but if you need anything...really. And I won’t tell him, if it’s something you need.

POTTS.Virginia: You’re part of it too, now, don’t pretend like it’s not your business. Did you really just respond to me telling you I might go after your new boyfriend by offering me a shoulder to cry on? I don’t think you’re human. Maybe some kind of….secretly evil artificially intelligent robot or something.

[ice clinking]

At any rate, crying is for people without multinational companies to run - there’s no crying in corporate upper management, Steve.

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Well, superheroes aren’t supposed to cry either, but I spent my first month awake doing an awful lot of it. It’s just a thing people say. It just means I’m willing to help. I...oh. Pepper, I didn’t think that’s what you...do you actually want him back? Because I...I don’t think I could stand in the way of that.

POTTS.Virginia: [silence]

Did Tony tell you what happened in Malibu?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: He said he didn’t want to talk about it. I...didn’t press. He said you came to him with a...a press release?

POTTS.Virginia: [snorts] Did he? Look, Steve. If you really think it’s none of your business, don’t worry about it. I didn’t dump the world’s most eligible bachelor with a press release. That’s just… really, Tony.

I don’t know what I want, Steve. I wanted to exist in a world where people aren’t kidnapped and maimed on a semi-regular basis. I wanted to date someone that didn’t paint a target on my forehead and keep my name perpetually smeared across the tabloids. I wanted to try having a life that didn’t exist in the perpetual shadow cast by Tony Fucking Stark.

Am I sure it was the right decision? No.

Would I consider taking him back? I don’t know. I sort of… I wanted to see him. It’s Christmas, and all. I’m closer to him than most of my family. Or, was.

So, do you still want to be friends?

ROGERS, Steven.G.: Of course. We exist outside of either of our dealings with him, don’t we? I just…

I’m sorry. I guess I sort of...somebody else painted a target on my head for me, and I don’t really like living in the perpetual shadow cast by Captain America. But I can’t break up with myself. So.

I don’t know. I’m just sorry. Do you...do you have somewhere to go for Christmas? I think Tony keeps forgetting about it. He’s...pretty captivated with this shield generator thing.

POTTS.Virginia: You’re - okay, you’re so perfect it’s seriously getting on my nerves. I’ll be fine this Christmas, Steve. Hanging out with my ex and his new boyfriend is literally the last thing on planet earth I want to do, so…

[silence]

Jesus - look at the battery life on this thing. [tapping] Tony promised me these were market-ready - this is going to need a serious fix before we put it on the shelves. I’m at 37% and I have absolutely zero functions on…

ROGERS, Steven.G.: New StarkPad?

[silence]

Sorry. I’m...I’m far from perfect, really. Um. I guess. Do whatever you need to do, all right?

POTTS.Virginia: I always do, Steve. You said it yourself - we exist outside of him. And I don’t know what I want, or what I need, or if those two things are in any way correlating at the moment.

Yeah, upgraded cameras and a new projection package. I’m gonna shut this off ‘til I get to a charger -

{STARKPAD AUDIO SURVEILLANCE SHUTTING DOWN}

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

Chapter Text

Tony,

I'm in my room. JARVIS said you were working on something, and I didn't want to interrupt, but I'm back from dinner.

It was nice to see her, but kind of sad. I really wish I'd had a chance to see her before all this happened. I…it's hard, because I want to be able to be there for her, as a friend, and I know I can't really do that. She seemed pretty angry with me at first, but we talked, and I think it got better. It just…she asked if I could give her some space for a while.

We spent most of the night talking about you. She's worried about you, in more than a, you know, CEO worried about her boss way. I know you don't want to talk about what happened, but it really…it felt like you and she had very different ideas about it.

I also got a little nervous about this whole job thing. And, well, other things, too. Talking with her threw my lack of experience with, well, anything, really, into sharp relief. And it sort of made me realize that I'm going to have to just get used to the idea of living in a spotlight.

Tony, I think Pepper

I don't know how to put this, but I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't say anything about this. I got the impression she actually came to New York to try to resolve things with you. I'm not sure. She did say she was thinking about it. And that she had wanted to see you because it was Christmas. I just felt like you should know that, if you don't already. I asked her if she needed a place to go for Christmas, and I think she got a little angry with me over it. I don't know. If you want to

I know you're just upstairs, but I mi

Anyway, let me know when you're done.

Steve

P.S. Miss P Pepper says that the battery on the new StarkPad isn't up to snuff. It was draining pretty quickly.

Chapter Text

Steve-

Pepper seriously told you she came to New York to take me back?

I'm coming to find you. We should talk about this in person.

T

Chapter Text

[LVL 41 / RESIDENTIAL BEDROOM ID 1776 MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:ROGERS.Steven.G; STARK.Anthony.E]

{{BEGIN SURVEILLANCE}}

[sounds of shuffling, thumps, a clang, more shuffling]

[knocking on the door]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve? Are you. Are you around...?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I-- yes, coming!

[door opening]

Hi.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [sound of drink swirling] Uh - hey. Can I - come in?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Hi. Uh. Yeah, um. Yes. Oh. I need to...get out of the way. Sorry.

[footsteps]

I don’t have...you have a drink. Let me get myself some ice cream?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh - I guess I do. Sorry, I must have - I forgot. [uncomfortable laugh]

You’re… settled in, aren’t you. I don’t think I’ve ever really…

[freezer opens]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, it’s been over a year. What, you want a tour?

[freezer shuts, drawer opens, rattling, door shuts.]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Uh, no. It’s fine - well, whatever you want, really. I’ve just never spend time with you here unless I’m delirious and running a 104 degree temperature. I hallucinated the shittiest furniture, it was terrifying.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You sure? I got rid of the shitty furniture. I even got rid of the milk cra-- wait, you don’t know about the milk crates. Natasha said never to tell you about the milk crates. You don’t want to see my grown-up big boy bed?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Big - Oh god, do I ever - uh. Lead the way, fearless leader.

[footsteps, door opening]

Milk crates, please don’t let there be actual milk crates…

ROGERS.Steven.G.: See? It’s metal. And it doesn’t, um, lean or make funny noises when you sit on it.

[sound of glass on table]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well. It certainly looks promising - very modern, not what I was expecting from you. But how does it feel? That’s the question, right?

[whoompf]

aahhhhhhhhhhhhh….

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, I had to settle for the mattress stuffed with semi precious stones, but it’ll suffice. Move over, mattress hog.

STARK.Anthony.E.: No. I claim this bed in the name of Stark.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You probably have twenty-something beds of your own! I bought this one with my own money! You do not get to claim it!

[whoompf]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Jesus - ow! Pillow right to the kisser - some perfect soldier you are.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony. Move over.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Make me, “big boy”.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t want to make you an-- it’s fine.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve - don’t sit on the floor… I’ll move. Here, here....

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Sorry, I--

[two thumps on floor]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um.

[silence]

Look. I - uh. Why don’t you just tell me ...how it went. Your letter sounded kind of…

ROGERS.Steven.G.: She kept telling me I wasn’t a real person. She got angry at me for bringing her flowers. She called them “sorry-I’m-fucking-your-ex” flowers.

STARK.Anthony.E.: She said that? Like actually that?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Word for word.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Did you tell her we’re not fucking? That … that we’re not even, you know, dating?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t think arguing semantics would have helped. That wasn’t really the point. I...I don’t even understand whether we’re dating or not. According to your definition, we seem to be.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay. Okay… semantics. You’re the one who...

[silence, shaky breath]

Okay. Focus. She told you that she wanted me back.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: She said something like that, and I asked her, and she said she didn’t know. And you know how people say ‘I don’t know,’ when they say something hyperbolic and then take it back? I thought she meant it that way. And I tried to be supportive. But then, she said she was surprised I was being so nice to her when she told me she might...you know, go after my new, uh. B-- her word. Boyfriend. I didn’t say that.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [silence] She…. [silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Right, so if you-- I couldn’t keep that from you, and I...you know. Know how broken up you’ve been.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah…. ‘broken’ and ‘up’ being the key words there… I never thought … why would she do that?

[pause]

Wait, Steve… are you saying that’s why she came to New York??

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Did you--you saw her today, and she didn’t say anything like this? She didn’t say that in so many words, but it sounded like...well, she said she wanted to see you before Christmas, so...maybe she did. She asked me if you’d told me what happened in Malibu, and I told her you hadn’t, but it still sounded like...maybe her version of events was a little different. I don’t know. She said she didn’t dump you with a press release.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony? I-- please don’t, you’re so quiet, but I don’t really know what else to say.

STARK.Anthony.E.: She didn’t - dump me with a press release, Steve. I didn’t say that.

She just had a copy she’d pre-written, and once we’d both cooled down a little she printed it and handed it to me and told me… I don’t know.

[silence]

I just can’t believe that after all that she’d really mean to take me back, Steve. It felt so final. She was so...

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Sorry. I don’t...she didn’t seem so at dinner.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m sorry, Steve. I have no idea what to say.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I know. It’s all right. I know you-- I told her I wouldn’t get in the way.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Wh - what?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I mean...you know. You need to do what you need to do, right?

[silence]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Wait - you think I’m… god. I’m doing this all wrong. Pepper is an incredible woman, Steve. I - I don’t know how to say this properly. When she left, everything fell apart…

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I know. I saw that, remember?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Right, I - right. You did.

So in Malibu we argued again, about the same things we always argued about. She wouldn’t move here, I wouldn’t -

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You wouldn’t what, Tony?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I wouldn’t leave the Avengers, Steve.

[silence]

Pepper is amazing, but some people are just - not meant to be lovers, maybe. Pep and I had a shot, just like anyone, but it’s over. It’s not about her any more, it’s about us.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh. Are you-- are you sure? I’m not going to be angry, or--

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m sure, Steve.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Can I kiss you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: God, yes, please - [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Hi. Um. Can I...can I ask you a question? Not about Pepper. About you. Maybe about me.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ask me anything, Steve. But it’ll cost you a foot. Come here….

ROGERS.Steven.G.: My foot? [chuckle] I might have to change my question, then. And uh, I feel obligated to warn you that that probably shouldn’t go in your mouth.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Do you want a Stark-brand foot rub or not? Mood killer.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, that’s different. Usually when you ask for body parts, they end up with your tongue all over them.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I can’t believe you’re complaining about that. Cheeky brat. [toes popping]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah--uh. Hey. I didn’t say I minded. Why are you here? I mean, with the Avengers? You don’t need the Avengers, not the way the rest of us...well, the rest of us, excluding Thor, do. And yet you’re pour so much of your own money in, you...wouldn’t leave for Pepper. What is it?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, you see, little Stevie, a long time ago there was a genius billionaire playboy who was taken by some very bad men and -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I’ve heard that version. I’ve read your file and seen an awful lot of your interviews. And the-- ah. Toes. Brain. Your documentary special. Why this? You were out there being Iron Man just fine without us.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Aw, you watched my documentary. Cute.

[ice clinking]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Don’t get the wrong idea, Stark. Fury made me. Before I met you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Right, suuuure. Does that feel good? Mmm.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You know it does. Damn. Don’t stop.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah. But I like to hear you say it, sugarplum.

It was ... just a matter of logic. At first I wanted in because Fury denied me entry, the most surefire way to get my attention. But the more I thought about it the more sense it made - I mean you can’t just… It’s like this. Tools need to be used a specific way. You don’t use a jackhammer when you need a lug wrench. I could build myself a lot of tools, but it made more sense to … I don’t know. Buy a set that included the shit I needed to get shit done?

That metaphor got kind of weird.

[silence]

I guess I just felt like Iron Man was limited by Tony Stark. I didn’t want to be my own weakest link.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, no, it’s an apt metaphor, considering the number of times I’ve heard someone call you a tool.

I...ngggggh...what are you...no. As the person whose job it is to, well, use people’s skill sets properly, I definitely understand that. And you...wouldn’t leave?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I might, if I were the wrong tool for the job.

You’re not allowed to hang out with Clint unsupervised anymore, by the by. I know what he says about me.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Don’t worry. I defend your honorrrr...and I was going to say you’re not allowed to do thaa...but oh yes you are...

STARK.Anthony.E.: [chuckling] Mmm, a little hard to understand you through all that moaning, Steve. You’re just killing me.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh, I’m the one killing you? I don’t--no, I understand, maybe, someday, but you wouldn’t leave now?

STARK.Anthony.E.:

This is where I want to be - investing my time, and my money, and myself in something I believe in for once in my goddamn life. It took me forty years to figure this out. I’m not gonna leave for anyone but me. I’m not gonna stay for anyone but me, either.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I wouldn’t ask or expect you to. If I had the...I admire that, you know. That you have every option under the sun and you picked this one. Even though it’s damn hard. Err...right. Ow. Right there. Harder.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve…. [inaudible] I. You know I have three registered fanclubs. I bet I could get you a membership - they’re all rooting for Sexiest Man Alive numero tres.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Membership? You should make me fucking President. How do you have time for that with all your responsibilities as the only member of the Steve Rogers fanclub?

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: That… is the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever heard, Jesus, Steve.

[inaudible]

I like being the only member of this club. The perks are pretty excellent -

[inaudible]

- and the view can’t be beat -

[inaudible]

- and you moan like a porn star, jesus, you’d think this was your first foot rub...

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Err…

STARK.Anthony.E.: No. Really? No way. I should have been more gentle.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, it’s the first one that feels like-- ah-- like that. Fuck you, Stark, what, do you think they give out free foot rubs in the military?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmm. Maybe not. “The footrubs will continue until morale improves?”

Are you sure we have a no-toes-in-mouth rule? Because I have way more where this comes from.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [cough] Tony. My feet are disgusting.

STARK.Anthony.E.: They’re as gorgeous as the rest of you, Steve. I could eat you up…..

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: If you have to put something in your mouth, I have an entire pint of melty ice cream on the nightstand.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You know that’s not my first choice….

[chuckles]

I’m… sorry about Pepper, Steve. I shouldn’t have let you go.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You think you get to let me do things?

[inaudible]

I wanted to go. I’m not sorry.

STARK.Anthony.E.: But I know her - I should have seen it coming. It bothers me, that I didn’t pick up on it. I’ve never been the best with humans, but Pepper was always...

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony. Not your fault. It worked out in the end, and anyway, I think I figured some things out for myself, too. And this end to the night more than makes up for it. Even though my ice cream is sort of soup.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’ll still taste good, big guy.

Really, rambling half-drunk lamentations is your idea of a happy ending? I’m never getting laid, am I.

That looks… wait,is this Captain America flavored ice cream?!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It's Ben & Jerry's. It’s called “Star-Spangled Flan With A Plan,” Tony.

[slurping]

It’s caramel with chocolate covered banana chips.

[slurping]

You want some?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Fuck, Steve - do you have any idea -

[inaudible]

fff… you taste utterly obscene.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You should get them to make you a flavor, instead of more stupid sheets.

[inaudible]

It would be whiskey and toaster pastries.

STARK.Anthony.E.: What, no chlorophyll? And I like my sheets. I still have three crates full of spares in the basement.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You won’t now that you’ve told me that. Chlorophyll ice cream? Really?

[slurps]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nngh…. um. I need to. Go see a guy about a thing, I’m not sure I can … behave, if I stay here. Maybe. Possibly after a cold shower or five.

ROGERS.Steven.G.:So don’t behave. Who said you need to behave?

STARK.Anthony.E.: ………..you?

ROGERS.Steven.G.:Sometime last week.

STARK.Anthony.E.: God - is it my birthday? I must have been good this year.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Your birthday’s in May. Also in your file.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.:

Fuck that fucking file -

And if the - ah - team asks...

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, Natasha and Banner are out on assignment, and Clint's out doing whatever Clint does when he's not here...and if anyone sees us in the morning, we were watching a movie. You got drunk and passed out. On the sofa. Everyone’s seen you do that before.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [chuckling] Only on days that end in Y. Smart and sexy. I fucking lucked out with you, Captain Rogers.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.:You can stop talking and do something else with that mouth, Mr. Stark.

{END SURVEILLANCE} {TRANSMITTING}

Chapter Text

from: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
Subject: FWD: Betrayal at Morimoto.

Hey, Clint

Sooo not to over-obsess the whole Steve-dumping-me thing, but, like, you've had to have seen this by now, it's all over the internet, and I have friends asking me about it-- Is this true or did someone pull this out of their asses? I mean, I know it's usually total BS, but Steve pulled this whole "well-there's-someone-I've-had-a-crush-on-for-a-really-long-time-and-I-guess-it's-reciprocated" thing out of the blue, and Tony and Pepper did break up the month before, and he was in Japan with Tony, so maybe he asked him if it was okay and then came home and...

Ugh, IDK, it still pisses me off, but I'm sort of glad I'm not part of that clusterfuck anymore. I haven't even MET Tony Stark and, like, I still want to, but god, I want to tell Steve he needs to stop worrying about other people and think about himself, sometimes.

I really hope it's not true. For Steve's sake. He has to get out and meet people outside of your little tower if he's ever going to figure his shit out. I mean, he goes on and on about not wanting people to see him as Captain America, but anytime anybody gives him the opportunity to just be Steve, he cocks shit up and it's really hard to believe that's what he wants. He needs to actually have a life outside of that. Sorry. I'm worried about him. And I keep texting him and he'll, like, message me back once and doesn't really give me any kind of opening to drag him out.

Can you please fucking make sure he comes to my party? Promise him it won't be weird. There's a ton of cool people coming, maybe he can make some new friends.

Okay, enough of that. You're still coming to Christmas, right? I think we're gonna take the train down that morning; I don't want to do Christmas morning with Katie's little kids. Katie's totally fine with us staying over, and her daughter totally collects ponies so you guys will have something to talk about, haha. Her collection is waaaay bigger than yours, I'm just saying.

Thank you so much, seriously. I totally got you an awesome present to make up for it. And a SUPER ugly Christmas sweater, which I am making you wear. No excuses.

Okay, I have to go-- my fucking assistant quit without warning the week before Christmas. I thiiiink I have someone who will at least work out temporarily, but I have to go do an interview. Fucking people moving to England to marry some dude from the internet, ugh. Like that's going to work out. Oh, hey, you still need to watch that video I sent you. No excuses. DO IT. And now I'm gonna go eat the last of the cupcakes we bought. I know you're jealous.

--Bec

Betrayal at Morimoto

Filed under: Captain America • Tony Stark • Iron Man • Pepper Potts • Gossip Is As Gossip Does • Love hurts

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s trouble at Avengers Tower…. which wouldn’t be newsworthy except that this time it’s trouble of the romantic variety!

Last night Stark Industries CEO and former girlfriend of majority shareholder Tony Stark stepped out for a night on the town - with Captain America.

That’s right, folks. Captain America is moving in on Iron Man’s former leading lady, and that can only be bad news for Tony Stark. Cap’s lovelife has been all over the news lately – last month he was snapped on seven different occasions out and about with a lovely dark-haired hospital volunteer, but she hasn’t been seen in two weeks – not since Cap was dispatched to bodily haul Tony Stark out of Japan.

No word on what Stark has to say about all this – it can’t, however, be good. Stark has been laying low since his mile-wide streak of bad publicity culminating in the totaling of a Ferrari one day before Thanksgiving, but this is bound to draw him back into the spotlight again.

Evidently knowing how to treat a lady, Cap was spotted with a gorgeous bouquet in hand - an arrangement of designer pink calalililes estimated at $150. They indulged in three full courses and seemed intent on their conversation. Waitstaff do, however, report a generally polite demeanor and a generous tip - well done there, Cap!

Tony Stark or no Tony Stark, after 70 years on ice, we can’t really blame Cap for wanting a taste of what the 21st century has to offer. Indulge, enjoy – it’s the American Way!

Chapter Text

S –

You are incredible. Your mouth is incredible. Your hands are incredible. Your-

You have no idea what you do to me.

It killed me, leaving this morning, but I need to adjust the Starkpads if the battery life is really that bad, not to mention my Big Bad Project…. So I’ll be in the lab today, just in case you need me.

On the subject of bullshit hipster holiday parties - do I have to dress like a hipster? Can I drink pretentious martinis and hook my hands into your pockets when nobody is looking? Should I buy a pack of clove cigarettes?

Yours,
T

PS I ran into Clint in the kitchen this morning and he gave me a really strange look. You didn’t give me a hickey, did you?

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: S.Rogers@avengersinitiative.org
subject: alrighty then

alrighty then

Hey cap, this is gonna seem like a really random question but - I was talking to Becky a few days ago and she explained to me the details of your breakup for the first time since you, you know, split. When I heard what you'd told her and thought about the way you've been spending your time lately (not to mention Stark "sleeping on your couch" last night) I couldn't help but draw some conclusions. when I messaged Natasha about it she was all "yeah Stark set Steve's profile photo to a moose on his phone" and that sort of sealed the deal, because that is totally not a platonic dude joke. Seriously.

So is that what this is? You left Becs for Stark?

I know you probably know what you're getting into - Stark's file is 38 pages long, for god's sake - but you do work together and S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't exactly smile upon relationships in the ranks, particularly when someone is in a position of power the way you are. It's not easy, or a very good idea. you may think you are capable of handling that but it takes a lot of care and finesse, and you should make sure you're involved in a relationship that's worth the trouble.

Sorry of this is totally off-base... okay, I'm not really sorry because I know it's not. I just needed to point out that if you are serious about doing this you can't leave it up to your teammates to point out when it's affecting the needs of the team. I called you out when Stark was throwing his epic international temper-tantrum in Japan, but I shouldn't have had to. I get that it was a pretty shitty time for you, you were handling something super over the top by yourself, and I do actually know how much if sucks to work with someone you care about when things are tough, but the rest of us may not always be there to remind you to keep your shit grounded. i don't want to see you get hurt, and i don't want to watch tony fucking stark backslide into who he was in Japan. no one needs that.

if you want someone to talk to, i'm always around. I know you are pretty tight with Nat but I'm a dude who knows a thing or two about other dudes, and i just... don't want you to feel like you don't have anyone to go to, you know?

In closing, and just to up the awkwardness of this weirdly cuddly e-mail, I need to ask you about Becky. You're a sharp guy so i know this'll be no surprise, but it's been a while since I've been interested in seeing anyone and Becky is a pretty fucking awesome chick. You know I've kept up with her since your breakup, and I mean - bro code and all so I'm just saying - we have some plans next week and I would like to see where it goes, if that's something you're okay with. Let me know what you think.

Clint

Chapter Text

from: S.Rogers@avengersinitiative.org
to: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: Re: alrighty then

Clint,

Personal questions first:

I know you spend a lot of time with Becky-- you probably spent more time with her even when we were dating. She's great. Really great. And since we're not attached anymore, please feel free, with my best wishes. You do seem to have a lot in common. Just...be careful you're not a rebound or anything, all right?

I don't want to pick a fight, especially if you're romantically interested in her, but I really didn't intend to end things. I just wanted to talk things over, and she made the decision to break things off. I'm not saying this to point fingers, and I 'm not angry with her over her decision, but I didn't just dump her, and there were certainly other factors besides Tony. She was unhappy that I was inviting you to come with us everywhere-- which honestly surprised me (since you obviously both like each other), and I wish she had said something sooner. I was unhappy dating someone who seemed to be expecting to date a comic book character. I'm far from perfect, and while I know I can do better, I can't do that much better.

Which I suppose is a good enough segue into the professional part. Which is actually kind of personal, too.

Re: Tony, to be honest, I've been sitting here trying to figure out the appropriate time and place to disclose to the team-- but you know, and Natasha certainly seems to know, so I'm not sure if this is the Tower's worst-kept secret at this point. We weren't intending to keep anyone in the dark; we'd already had multiple discussions about disclosure. But it's only been a question since a bit after Becky and I broke things off, and I didn't want to make a big fuss out of something without knowing if it would stick.

As for handling the Japan situation, I had been trying to remain in constant contact with Stark from the beginning. As I told you at the time, he didn't respond. I sent him a formal warning. He didn't respond to that, either. After the crash, I issued a formal reprimand. Stark had to pay a fine out of his SHIELD stipend, but...well, it's Stark. I don't even think he realizes he HAS a SHIELD stipend. And I couldn't ground Iron Man when we needed him to sort out the issue with the Tower and those plum things. My personal relationship with him aside, there are barely any consequences that actually affect the man. It's insanely difficult to deal with on a professional level. I'm not saying that I handled it the best way I could. I certainly made mistakes. I just wanted you to know that I tried. And I'll continue to try. I do think that I can continue to make the appropriate demands of him as a team leader. And if you think I'm handling it badly, I want you to tell me.

Clint, I know this may have terrible consequences. But I've obviously been thinking about this a lot lately, and the one thing I realized, dating Becky, and talking to Pepper about their fallout, is that there are very, very few people in the world who understand all the complexities of embodying a national symbol, who aren't going to be have to worry about being hurt just to get to me. Most of them live in this house (and since you haven't expressed any interest in me, Natasha's informed me I'm too young, and I'm really just don't care for all that spicy food Banner eats, my options were sadly limited). I didn't ask to be woken up, and I didn't ask to work for SHIELD-- hell, I was only given a choice so that someone in the government could sleep easier at night. Nobody gave a damn whether I could sleep, and this is the first thing that's let me sleep easier at night since I woke up, so for once in my life I'm actually going to do something for myself.

I know that sounds unnecessarily defiant. I don't mean it that way. I just need to explain why I made a decision that otherwise seems unprofessional and in admittedly poor judgment. I've already talked to Stark about that, too. If you feel uncomfortable with the situation I invite you to speak to me about it more formally.

And I really appreciate the offer to talk. I may take you up on that. I do talk to Natasha a lot, but I value how direct you've been about this, and conversations with Natasha are much more nuanced and circuitous, as you know.

I guess that's everything. Are we still on for movies later? I've been trying to get Tony to come out of his cave.

Steve.

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: S.Rogers@avengersinitiative.org
subject: RE: RE: alrighty then

Don't look at me for advice on how to handle Stark - he's a loose cannon, more likely than not whatever you decide to do will get completely derailed and run over by his next whim. I like to play my cards close to my chest - the last time I was involved with someone I worked with nobody knew, except Nat. That was just the way it was - and while it didn't exactly work out, the privacy was helpful. Obviously you don't get to do that, but you two were pretty much broadcasting your intent for weeks; Nat's known for ages. She was completely nonplussed when I brought it up, so don't go thinking I blew your secret. That's what she does, Cap - figures people out and sits on the info until it becomes relevant.

That letter actually made me feel better, good job. Except for the whole part about not actually wanting to dump Becks, but you did give me the go-ahead, so just keep that in mind if things blow up with Stark. No take backs, seriously

I hope you realize i'm not trying to criticize the way you handled shit in japan, that was ages ago and it worked out well enough so i'm not gonna sit here and question your choices -- I just wanted some reassurance that you've actually given this some thought with the head on your shoulders instead of the one between your legs. I know i'm a little challenged in that department, so well done there.

My only other concern is totally personal, because Stark is Stark and you're - well, you. Do you know if he actually likes you, or is he looking for someone young and pretty to make him feel less old and neurotic and single? Are you really warning me about being a rebound when Stark just got dumped by his girlfriend of two+ years?

Not actually trying to hate on old shellhead, here, believe it or not. Just be careful, I guess.

Becky told me that you told her you were in love with someone else, but she could still date you if she felt like it. Does that sound like something you'd want to hear? I'm no Romeo, but that doesn't leave a person genuinely interested in you many options, so you can say she broke it off with you but i really wouldn't call that fair. She's also a little weirded out that you haven't called her, so if you like, wanted to do that you could... or I might invite her to the next movie night we do. She's been wanting to meet Stark (for some unknown reason) and before you ask, no, I didn't tell her your little secret.

Clint

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven (S.Rogers@avengersinitiative.org)
to: Clinton Barton Hawkeye@avengersinitiative.org
subject: RE: RE: alrighty then

Clint,

I'll be the first to admit that I messed up spectacularly, but if that's what Becky took away from that conversation, I made entirely different mistakes from the ones I thought I made. I liked Becky a heck of a lot (I still do), and Tony had told me that all he he wanted was to be friends, so I honestly thought that was off the table (and I wasn't sure I wanted it, honestly, considering how volatile Tony can be). I didn't tell her I was in love with anyone; I told her I had feelings for somebody who wasn't exactly available, because it seems disingenuous to be in a relationship with someone and not tell them that kind of thing. It's the first time I've done anything like this, but it wouldn't be the first time I expressed myself badly. She's probably right; I have no idea how to be a boyfriend. It's obvious you think the world of her, so I'm not going to tell you she's wrong. Just, in Clint-speak, I guess, go be Team Becky for her for now.

I didn't realize she expected me to call; thank you for mentioning it. She was really angry when it happened, so I texted her a couple times to check in, but I thought she didn't want me bothering her too much. I actually was talking to Tony-- we were planning on going to her holiday party, and I honestly didn't realize she wanted to stay in better touch. I'll give her a call, no problem. Do you...listen, if I talk to her, is she aware that you're interested in her, or is that something I should keep to myself?

I haven't asked Tony, but I sort of assume he doesn't care, and I don't mind if you tell Becky, though I'm grateful for the nod to my privacy...she's going to find out if she's staying at the Tower, and I know she understands how I feel about publicity and will respect a request to keep it quiet and out of the public eye.

She wants to meet him because he's actually bought artwork from her gallery before. You know that embarrassingly giant painting of me hanging from a burning zeppelin in the conference room we never use? You read her blog, right? She has a couple great Art Deco-inspired silver castings of you, actually. Very Chrysler Building-y. It's a little weird, I guess, knowing that there are people who study and paint you for a living, but it's better than paparazzi, I guess. At least most of the art folks can hold an interesting conversation.

As for Tony...the thought's crossed my mind. I've been sort of pushing it back out. I know that's probably stupid and naïve but I don't want to think about it. If I decide I want to think about it, I'll text you and we can go for a beer or six.

Anyway, yes to movie night, too. She's always welcome at movie night. I hope things work out for you, so I can read her blog posts about your terrible taste in movies. No take-backs, you have my word.

Steve

Chapter Text

T,

You're not too damn bad yourself. I need to compose a letter of complaint to Time Magazine because they're obviously biased against you. Only twice, what travesty.

Believe me, I wanted to keep you to myself this morning. I'd come to your lab, but I don't want to kill your productivity efficiency any more than I already have.

(That's a blatant lie. I want to drive you mad with unproductiveness.)

So, about Clint-- remember how you told Pepper you were thinking about dating to feel out her response?

I got an email this morning from Clint that…well. He asked me if it was all right for him to date Becky. And considering the amount of time they've been spending together, I suspect maybe he was asking after the fact. I'm not sure. The funny thing is, it actually made me feel a little relieved, I guess. I think, in some ways, Clint might be better suited to her. He likes all the same television shows and they tell the same kinds of jokes and pretend to be that shiba inu from the Internet at each other. And...I know...whatever happened to Clint...do you know what happened? I've got no idea; I just know he'd been really down on, well, romance in general, ever since New York, although he wouldn't explain why. I just got the sense it was pretty bad.

He also asked about us, though. Not in a-- not in a way that there was any room to deny it. It sounds like Natasha knows, too…I couldn't say about Thor and Bruce, but I'm not really sure how to address this. He sounded concerned, namely about the work aspect and my ability to keep a clear head where you're involved.

Think about it, will you? We've obviously talked about telling everyone, but this changes things a little bit.

And I guess…I guess if it's easier to say we're dating because that's what people understand, that is going to be all right with me. There are a lot of words that have changed meaning since 1944, and I can adjust.

Yours too,

Steve

P.S. Do you want me to give you a hickey? Because that can be arranged.

Chapter Text

B--

I know I said I thought I'd be back in time to celebrate a little bit by ourselves this evening, but it doesn't look at if that's going to work out. I'm sorry; we'll have to exchange gifts tomorrow. I will be in tonight, but I'm looking at an ETA of 0100, here. Don't wait up; I'll wake you when I get back.

I keep thinking back to last Christmas Eve, to the tension and worry and mourning and the terrible news we were facing. I remember how frayed our threads were, then-- how much of that year felt like trying to piece together a china plate that had been cracked into a hundred pieces.

It feels, somehow, as if the glue dried stronger, more secure. I know you and I have had our differences when it comes to our work, but it's been a year of rebuilding, and those differences have helped immeasurably to create a better foundation for whatever this-- and by this, I mean every iteration of this configuration, and all the people entwined therein-- is becoming.

I know last year I told you about how these holidays were absent from my upbringing; I've gathered traditions and rituals from the people who matter to me here. As this year comes drawing to a close (I've learned to think of Christmas as the penultimate scene of the year, before the denouement that culminates in New Year's Eve), I feel like I can safely lay the fears of the last year to rest and that I have some ideas for new traditions we can all share.

I did leave a small gift for you as a contingency; it's in the third drawer of my desk. I've changed the lock's code to the reverse of the security code on your phone. I'll see you late tonight.

--N

Chapter Text

[LVL 42 SENSORS ACTIVE]
[LVL 42 MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:STARK.Anthony.E; ROGERS.Steven.G; INORGANIC:DUM-E ]
[AUDIO SURVEILLANCE ACTIVE]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

[BUZZER RINGS]

STARK.Anthony.E.: STEVE. JARVIS, tell him to wait just a minute, just a single minute - I have to - ah - okay, here DUM-E, remember what we planned you have to go over there and just wait until you see it, okay? You HAVE to remember the signal.

[distressed beeping]

Nah, it’ll be great. All you have to do is let it go.

[muffled footsteps, door opens]

STEVE. HI.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Mer- Hi, you. Are-- is anyone else here?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um. DUM-E is, but he’s working with the - um - project.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Here, let me put my shield down. Am I allowed to kiss you in front of DUM-E?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, you remembered! You’re a doll, Steve.

That’s probably the least traumatic thing he’s witnessed, really. There was this one time - I mean. Yes. Please do.

[inaudible]

Mmmm. You’re in a good mood today. What’s the special occasion?

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah...it’s, ah. Just Christmas. So, um.

[inaudible]

Merry Christmas. What’s this project I haven’t been able to tear you away from?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Chr- oh. Was that today?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Yes, that’s, uh, sort of why I haven’t shaved all week. I think Natasha and Banner are planning to have dinner later.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um. Is that why, I thought you were just mixing it up with the, you know, rugged and manly facial hair…..

ROGERS.Steven.G.: No, ah. You asked me to-- for Christmas-- a while ago.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I bet I did. I have excellent taste in beards. C’mere.

[inaudible]

Well, we’ll see how this goes and maybe if I have time… okay. This project is kind of a three-parter. You ready? Part one, go.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Part one of wha--

STARK.Anthony.E.: WE’RE COMING IN.

[door slides open]

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What...Tony.

[silence]

STARK.Anthony.E.: …. Steve? It’s a, um, park. Part one.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It’s a...you built a park. Inside the Tower. Is this like that chocolate factory movie?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um, well, I do hire people of any size so I guess I could - um. I wanted to make a place where you could, you know, relax, since there’s no yard here like at the mansion, and that swarm of cosplayers outside the doors get thicker with every mission….

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You built me a park. Tony. You-- you know there’s a park practically across the street? I…

STARK.Anthony.E.: ...okay, not the response I was particularly looking for, and it’s not entirely for you - Bruce likes to meditate and he and Nat do their yoga and there are some giant fucking - see those trees over there? They’re secretly support struts, but you know, I figured Clint could like, I don’t know, climb and do whatever shit he does when he’s up in high places.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t know what to…

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Sorry. You built us a park. Does anyone else know about this?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Uh, no. Well, sort of. Um - here, let’s just - I brought you here for some field-testing … ha, field? Get it, I built a - ehm.

Let’s just - okay. Part two. Take this.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: This is...a stick. Is it a...robot stick?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Look, I’ve already told you I’m not going to spoil the surprise, Steve.

You have to throw it to get the full effect. Uh - over there-ish would be best.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Someday I will crack whatever code makes your brain work. And when I do…

[whooshing sound]

STARK.Anthony.E.: DUM-E. NOW.

[Silence]

I said NOW!!!

[happy barking]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Wha-- Tony? Doggy?!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, uh. Doggy. Well, I’ve been calling it MUTT, but…. doggy works too.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You… hello! Hello, hello hello hello hello.

STARK.Anthony.E.: He’s like - maybe three? Or something? And a boy. I think.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh. Yes. You’re a pretty boy. Tony, I can’t believe you-- you actually! No, hello. I didn’t forget you. You aren’t seriously calling him Mutt, are you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mobile Urban Team Tail because acronyms make everything sound badass - although now that I say it aloud it does makes him sound kind of like a hooker. Team Tailwagger, maybe?

[throat clearing]

Um - he’s not mine to name, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh, hello, kisses. Let’s...oof. You’re bigger than Natasha, aren’t you? What, is he a SHIELD dog?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No. He’s - um. Yours. Your Christmas present.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You-- you knew it was Christmas?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Fooled you, oh ye of little faith…. I’m not THAT bad. Most of the time.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You knew it was Christmas and you got me a dog.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Merry Christmas….?

[silence]

He’s - um. Look, is it too much?
ROGERS.Steven.G.: No, no--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Maybe it’s too much, he’s not even that cute, it’s like the fucking custom rabbit all over again, I’m actually really terrible at gift ideas and I just thought -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony.

[silence]

Yes, yes, that’s Tony. He does this; he talks and talks and won’t shut up even when he’s perfect. You’ll get used to it.

[coughing]

STARK.Anthony.E.: I - Steve, the dog doesn’t speak English, it’s not actually a robot dog, you know that right?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: And sometimes I can’t tell if he’s joking or not.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Though I could totally build a robot dog that looked that good, you know. If I wanted to. And mine wouldn’t need the world’s most expensive dog park to shit in, either.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: He usually shuts up if I try to kiss him, but that’s sort of hard to do when he’s up there and I’m down here.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hmph.

I just wanted it to be a surprise, and I was excited and knew that if we talked about Christmas I’d totally let it slip... He’s - he’s kind of actually a therapy dog, Steve. Please don’t be mad. We were talking -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Why the hell would I be mad? Apart from the whole pretending you forgot Christmas part, which I can forgive, since... I know how much you wanted a dog, and...what on earth is a therapy dog?

STARK.Anthony.E.: - a few months ago about Veteran’s programs and I thought -

Oh. It’s a dog that is, er. Trained to recognize signs of emotional distress and, uh, depression and provide companionship and support…. he came with a DVD, you’ll have to watch it, it has videos of his training coursework. He was brilliant, obviously. Only the best for my Steviekins.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Stark, if you call me Steviekins again, I might have to kill you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Awww, sugarplum. Nothing like a little death threat to spice up your holidays! Dog-creature, don’t listen to him. He’s a bad influence.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I am not a bad influence. I am literally a model of perfection.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ooooh, Cap, I love it when you get all cocky. Dog, lick some portion of his body for me.

[slurping]

Good boy.

So, mister literal-model-of-human-perfection, even if you don’t find him helpful, I thought the rest of the team might benefit from having a dog around. He can sort of sense panic attacks and… things.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: He’s a dog doctor?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ha - haha, a DOGtor…

[silence]

Not really. But he’ll do things like not leave when he senses you need companionship and uh, catch sticks and stuff. For fun.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You got me a dog doctor. You...Tony...how long have you been planning this?

STARK.Anthony.E.: A couple of…… months, actually. You seemed so unhappy for a while there and I wanted to do something, so I signed you up on the waiting list. And then of course I had to get someone to design the garden and get the trees up and order in the tea house from Kyoto and then you have to like apply for the dog, and then wait, and I just happened to come up for the next dog on the 18th.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Wait. Tony. You did this before you went to Japan?

STARK.Anthony.E.: The waiting list is kind of long. I wasn’t sure we’d come up anytime soon, so… yes?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Did you hear that? He did this before he went to Japan. He--

[silence]

You...

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well. The garden sort of came before the dog, but then you know, dogs do what dogs do so it kind of became a dog park. I was thinking about buying some rabbits for him to chase. Or maybe building some. That might be a little less cruel.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Robbits? Rabots?

STARK.Anthony.E.:

[nervous laugh]

I’m sorry. I realize this probably looks kind of really crazy. But, you know. That’s how I roll.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony. Stop apologizing for everything. And for god’s sake, stop running your mouth and making excuses for things that don’t need to be excused.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m not really - sorry, I mean I guess I - SORRY.

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: TONY. Merry Christmas. Get down here.

STARK.Anthony.E.: On the grass? On the dirty……. okay, okay with your big blue eyes, I -

[slurping sounds]

AUGH--

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Good boy! Yes, you, no, not him, he’s incorrigible. Let me try that.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Did you just dog kiss me?! Blehhhhh you taste like fur.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: That’s the beard. But, fine, if you don’t want me to kiss you again.

STARK.Anthony.E.: No, nope, nope nope did definitely not say that.

[inaudible]

Move over, mutt. You’re in my lap.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Awww, Tony. Here, you go in my lap, I go in Tony’s lap. There. Hi.

[inaudible]

I like this Christmas.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It… [inaudible] … it beats the hell out of my last one. Even with all the dog slobber. It’s - hahaha! Aw, Steve, your hair - gross.

[inaudible]

You … wait. You didn’t not get me a present just because I pretended to not remember Christmas, right? Because I really like presents. Is it the beard? The beard is actually super hot. I’m surprisingly into the beard.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, you should probably think about that before, er, dating someone who can’t buy anything without you seeing the credit card bill.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You - you said the D word. Dog, did you hear that? He heard that, Steve, no take-backsies.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh, good, does that mean that counts as your present?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’ll take what I can get.

You realize that as I absolutely love spending my money on me, I have no beef with you doing the same, right?

[silence]

...if you’re all I get, it’ll be a pretty fucking merry Christmas.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I’ll keep that in mind. Oh. I have to show you something. Here, look.

STARK.Anthony.E.: What’s…. ….Steve, wait, is this the mansion?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It’s-- yes...You sort of paid for your present yourself, since I didn’t really have the money, but...you know, the time.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [silence] Did you paint this yourself?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I...can do a different color if you don’t like it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: And … this is the master bedroom - wow, it looks so… it’s really different. It’s weird to see it in a new color and - shit, these are Iron Man colors!! Did you theme the master suite to my suit?! That’s so fucking hot.

It’s - Steve, it looks great. I never thought I’d say this, but I would actually sleep in that room, if it looked like this.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, it does, so...

STARK.Anthony.E.: You’re incredible.

[silence]

Guess we have a new bed to christen, hmm? Emphasis on the new - no way I’m sleeping in dad’s shitty old bed.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Already taken care of.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Please tell me this isn’t where your Ikea bed ended up?!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oh, you’d prefer the Ikea bed to Howard’s bed, wouldn’t you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ugh. Please don’t utter those words in that order ever again, I’ll never get another --

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I scoured estate sales, all right? I wanted everything to be, you know...accurate to the period.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Never join the SCA, you’d be terrifying.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: The what?

STARK.Anthony.E.: The Society for… you know, that is so irrelevant right now, don’t you even think on it. It’s gorgeous, Steve, thank you.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It’s not really...you know. I like keeping myself useful.

STARK.Anthony.E.: And this is the fountain in the garden… this must have taken you ages...

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You built a park and you’re talking about how long fixing a few mosaics might take.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Eh, that sort of thing’s just a matter of assembly - Tab A, Slot B, you know. I hired landscapers to do the hard stuff. I can’t believe you did this, Steve. It looks amazing.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Thanks. It’s not quite--

Wait, did you - there’s no way you got this done in a few weeks... you were working on this when I was in Japan?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: And you holed yourself up there for three days and didn’t notice. You never left the bunker, did you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: How - how the fuck did I miss this?! Um. No. I mean I did try my hand at cereal-opening, but I was pretty bleary-eyed at that point, so…

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, I haven’t gotten around to the kitchen yet, so you’re forgiven.

[snort]

And look, you didn’t kill yourself.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I couldn’t. You might cry, and we couldn’t have that.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: How very generous of you.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Oof. Hi. Yes. I think the dog knows the word ‘do--’ oh yes he does.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Of course he does. I measured reliable responses to verbal stimuli for over thirty six English vocabulary words along with basic pattern recognition and a preference to poultry-based pet foods over grain-based. And he likes DUM-E.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Of course he likes DUM-E. All good people like-- wait, is this why you haven’t let me into the lab all week?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I only picked him up on Monday. I think you just don’t know how to operate doors.

[inaudible]

Don’t worry, I still like you.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Is this what happened to the leftover chicken?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’d blame Clint if I were you.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Clint doesn’t have access to the penthouse.

STARK.Anthony.E.: He’s a secrety spy and shit! He hangs out with Natasha!

...you know what’s scary?

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Your inability to lie?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Psh, no. I’m great at that. I’m a genius.

I realized the other day that if Clint wasn’t such a shitty leftover-eating roommate I might never have gotten irritated enough to write you a single letter.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ha!

STARK.Anthony.E.: So I bought him a Christmas present after all.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Good boy. No, no, yes, you’re a good boy, too, but I mean Tony. What did you get him?

STARK.Anthony.E.: A penis-shaped cookie cutter. OW! Don’t swat me! Also an upgraded bow. I acquired a sample of that sticky high-tensile webbing that’s been popping around at the top of skyscrapers - you know, the sticky spider shit? And upgraded his bowstrings and refined it for improved fletchings and -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [laughter]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um. But I think he’ll be really into dick cookies.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [laughter] Now I want to know what you got the rest of the team. Mostly so I can destroy packages before you do any damage.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Not telling. You’ll have to wait ‘til family Christmas tonight. Bruce is cooking! I convinced him to do his tikka masala even though it’s not a very, you know, Christmassy addition to the table. I fucking love his tikka masala.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, it’s a step up from last year. Last year, we weren’t-- and then we were, and we just ended up getting stir-fried frogs and intestines and eels and weird stuff from downstairs, and…

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh god, did you have a Christmas Story christmas? Fa ra ra ra ra, ra racial jokes~

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What? I-- I don’t think-- It’s just this is going to be my first actual Christmas since nineteen forty-one.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well then, no pressure or anything. I’m glad you liked the dog.

Christmas Story is a movie - we should watch that shit. I’m surprised Clint hasn’t made you sit through it already. It’s pretty much the only reason I have any inkling of what actual families do at Christmas.

Shit, Die Hard - have you seen Die Hard? That’s a great Christmas movie.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Er. Tony. You can usually just assume-- wait, why does a Christmas movie have death in the title?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmm, well. You’ll have to watch it and find out.

[inaudible]

[slurping]

What - fuck, ew, dog mouth -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony, don’t swear at the dog. Here, do you want kisses?

[kissing noises]

Yes?

[slurping]

Yes, see, I’ll kiss you. Unlike some people.

STARK.Anthony.E.: That’s… disgusting. Utterly disgusting. You’re not getting any until you chug some mouthwash, Cap.

Throw him a stick or something, he’s far too distracting!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, that’s too bad, because I’m not chugging any mouthwash. You can’t get me a dog and tell me not to kiss him! Anyway, I can’t throw a stick when he’s on top of me. Yes. Because you’re huge, aren’t you? You can take up Tony’s entire fancy bed, can’t you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh my god, what, seriously? No. Absolutely not. I bought it a kennel, it gets to sleep there. Here - give me that stick -

[whooshing and barking]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What? Tony, you can’t have a dog and not sleep with it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Watch me! Steve, that bed costs entirely too much to fill with dog. He’s crate trained, and I built him probably the fanciest fucking crate on planet Earth, it even has a self-flushing refillable water bowl and everything. I think I’m going to patent the shit out of it.

[dog whining]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony. Oh. Good boy! Good-- all right--

[whooshing and barking]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: We can discuss sleeping arrangements later.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Steve…. thanks for not freaking out when I bought you a dog after sleeping with you like …. nine times when I’m pretty sure moving in together and adopting animals is like the gay version of having children? And Pepper freaked out when I bought her a rabbit, and that thing wasn’t even alive.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah. Tony, you don’t need to explain. You’re sort of making it sound like I should, er, freak out.

STARK.Anthony.E.: ‘Should’ isn’t the word I would use. ‘Could’ might be okay. I - sorry, not trying to talk you out of accepting your gift, really. What are you going to name him? Or are we sticking with Mutt?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You can’t call a dog ‘Mutt’ for its name, Tony. Er...ah. I don’t...I hadn’t really thought about it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, let me know when you decide, because I have a Captain America doggie sweater than needs monogramming.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What’s a good dog name? I’m terrible at naming things, Tony. When I was a kid, my mother saved up to get me a wooden soldier, it was all jointed and everything. I called it ‘soldier.’

STARK.Anthony.E.: [laughter]

I was thinking it’d be good for the whole team to have him, so maybe we could let them vote? He’s good for people suffering from PTSD. Maybe we can just loan out his services - kind of like a hooker.

Hey, Steve, why don’t we call him -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony, we are not calling the dog Hooker.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hook? Roxanne? Charlotte the Harlot?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I am not at all comfortable with giving a pet a name derived from the title of a sex worker, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, I’m all out of ideas.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I thought you didn’t get to name him, anyway.

[silence]

What did you want to name your dog, when you were a kid?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hooker.

[swatting sounds]

STARK.Anthony.E.: OW! Abuse! Captain America’s gone rogue!

[barking]

[laughter]

[whooshing and barking]

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible] nnghhfffff you taste like dog, Rogers. How is this even my life?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Because you bought me a dog after sleeping with me nine times. Have you actually been counting?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Um. I don’t really count, Steve, my brain just sort of tracks things. Like, you know, the number of tofu dishes Clint will eat - two - or the number of soldered connections in the armor - two thousand one hundred and nine - or the number of shoes you own. Which is eleven pairs.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t have...dress shoes, work boots, sneakers, other sn--I do have eleven pairs of shoes.

[inaudible]

[thump]

[bark]

[inaudible]

One--ah…

[whooshing and barking]

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What did you want to name your dog? I know you had a name picked out. Knowing you, you had a collar and a leash picked out.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Psh, it was so long ago I have no idea.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: How many pairs of shoes do I have?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ele - hmph. It was a horrifically embarrassing name, and anyway, we can’t use it anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony, according to your file, the last time you were embarrassed was in nineteen ninety-six. Of course we can, why wouldn’t we? You’re the one who always wanted a dog. It’s the least I can give you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible muttering]

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: To...ny.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmmm…. Cap.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Dog. Name.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Cap. It - I wanted to name him Cap, alright? Seriously dirty tactics, Rogers.

[laughter]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You did not. Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: WHAT? Come on - I was raised on the old comics. If anyone was gonna come along and rescue me from huge, empty summers at the Stark house…

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I want to rescue you from huge, empty summers at the Stark house. But I can’t name the dog that. Everyone will think your ego rubbed off on me.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I think that would take a little more rubbing. We could test that theory -

[inaudible]

Mm, Steve…

ROGERS.Steven.G.: What? It shuts you up more effectively than swatting.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Quit distracting me - you’ll make me forget part three.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: There was a part three?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Part three was testing my new Stark brand shield generator. It’s, um. After the battle of New York, I just… am having a hard time thinking of the tower as, you know, a safe place to live.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, it’s as safe as anywhere, but...we do have a glowing target on ourselves, and it’s not courtesy Clint Barton. So. Yes.

STARK.Anthony.E.: So I put together a shield generator capable of throwing up a barrier around the entire tower. I figure once I’m sure it works I’ll sell a copy to Fury for a small fortune, but first and foremost I want it up and running right here.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Right. What can I do?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I need someone strong enough to give the shield a workout, but not hulk-type-strong, not yet. I want to make sure everything holds before I have Bruce wail on it.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Does this thing really exist or did you just call me up here to flex my muscles in your face?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Of course it works! But the muscle-ogling is an added bonus... I can’t help it. I’m predisposed. It’s probably some kind of serious genetic condition or something.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Well, I’d be very sad if you died from it, so I’ll just have to make sure to wear extra clothes around you from now on.

STARK.Anthony.E.: What? No! In fact, I think we should move into the mansion full-time so that you can wear as little as possible as much as possible.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Contrary to popular belief, I do actually feel cold. Occasionally. My shield’s still in the hall. Give me a second-- Here, hold my shirt.

STARK.Anthony.E.: guh -

[slurping]

good… doggie. [patting]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ha, see, it’s not so bad. Where do you want me?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Up against the wall’d be alright…

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Mmmm...shield generator testing first. Then we’re testing grass stains and beard burns.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve?

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tooooo-ny. What?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Merry Christmas.

[barking]

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

from: Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: Obligatory and festive Christmas greetings to all.

All,

I'm not sure which one of you is responsible for this, but there are stockings hung on the flatscreen in the common space, and someone is playing that godforsaken Yule Log Channel. Are we opening these things? Are they a trap?

Also, there is a dog. Nice dog, Stark. Why is there a dog?

Anyway, the Doc asked me to email you all (he's got his nose in some science thing, as usual) and invite you to have Christmas dinner at six this evening. Doc's cooking. Steve and I went out and bought dessert (and showed off his dog. The dog is even more of a chick magnet than he is).

And then we can open these stockings and sing some songs about reindeer or whatever it is you people want to do. I guess this is the first Christmas we're all together, isn't it?

Thor, please let Darcy know she's welcome as well, as long as she doesn't spoil the Doctor Who special for certain actual doctors and/or archers who haven't gotten to watch it yet.

--Natasha

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org))
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: RE: Obligatory and festive Christmas greetings to all.

 

Thank you, Natasha! Merry Christmas!

I'm obviously planning to be there. Natasha and I bought pies. Bruce, if you need kitchen help, let me know. I'll be happy to roll up my sleeves and make gravy or something, whatever you need.

The stockings were already hung by the flatscreen with care when I came dow in down this morning at about 7. I don't really know who it could be. I do have presents for all of you, but I regret to inform you that it was not me.

Miss Potts is in town, so I sent her an invitation to dinner. She said she had other plans, but she might stop by after dinner to say hello.

If anyone else wants to come see the dog, he's very friendly and extremely well-trained. He has a DVD. Otherwise, you will meet him at dinner.

--Steve

Chapter Text

from: Clinton Barton (Hawkeye@AvengersInitiative.org))
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: RE: Obligatory and festive Christmas greetings to all.

 

Hey kids, happy holidays (see how much more sensitive and inclusive i am than nat?) and stuff -

Dinner sounds swell but some of us have other plans - that's right! other plans! with all the other friends that we have! so many friends. swimming in friends.

I will be sorry to miss it though. can we do something extra special for new years? I'll definitely grace you guys with my company then.

LOVE,

clint.

Chapter Text

from: Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: RE: Obligatory and festive Christmas greetings to all.

Wait, Barton, you have friends? Who aren't in your computer? Since when?

Fine, but I'm not saving you any pie.

Love, The only Midgardian in this house not raised celebrating Christmas,

N

Chapter Text

from: Stark, Tony (tstark@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

subject: RE: Obligatory and festive Christmas greetings to all.

My little Whos down in Whoville,

Be warned, I'm planning to co-opt steve's dog and slap some antlers on him for strategic Christmas-stealing purposes. If I get too drunk and/or lazy to bother with all that, though, I will definitely be there for dinner.

Don't go through the trouble of buying me presents, just watching Hawk Guy receive a verbal smackdown from legal is all I ever I could possibly want.

Can I bartend this shindig? Please say yes.

--the Grinch

Chapter Text

[LVL 41 / AREA MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:BANNER.Robert.B, FOSTER.Jane., ODINSON.Thor., ROGERS.Steven.G, ROMANOVA.Natalia,STARK.Anthony.E,CANINE:Unnamed; INORGANIC: DUM-E UNIT.003]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

STARK.Anthony.E.: Alright, alright you Christmas clowns, line up - hot buttered rye ready and desperate to be drunk…

[clinking, pouring]

[barking]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: You buttered your liquor. Only Tony Stark would put butter in liquor.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Actually, my mother used to give it to me as a cold remedy.

BANNER.Robert.B: I hope no one is forgetting the hard-working chef back here…

ROMANOVA.Natalia: No, Doc, god forbid. Here.

[clink]

But you owe me.

Oooh. This is good.

ODINSON.Thor: Fill mine glass, brother, and we shall have a TOAST!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Aw, I’ve always wanted a brother. Here, Thor - don’t, wait, I’ll top that up, hang on - knowing my luck, I’d end up with an evil twin out to steal my company or some shit. Steve, you drinking?

Sure. I...whiskey probably isn’t okay for dogs, is it?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Whatever, it’s Christmas. Bruce, grab a bowl!

[panting]

[lapping]

FOSTER.Jane: Is there any...thing-not-alcoholic? There’s a conjunction of the Moon and Mars and the Puppid-Velid meteor shower tonight and I know if I have too much whiskey I’ll just fall asleep on the sofa and...ooh. Whose orange soda is this?

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s mine, and it’s full of vodka. Come on, like you’re going to be able to see anything from here - it’s way, way too bright for meteor sightings. Steve! Drink this.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Yessir! Ooh. Yum.

FOSTER.Jane: Well, normally, yes, it would be, but I’ve just built this [sounds of rummaging] device that recalibrates the color temperature of the night sky to make up for light pollution, so we should get quite a good picture. Here.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Nice garnish, Stark. Does this mean the, ah, cat is completely out of the bag?

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ahem.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmm. That is good. Give me another taste.

ODINSON.Thor: An affection as pure as the driven snow - you paint a pretty picture, brothers.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] You mean that cat? Er. I guess it--

FOSTER.Jane: Did that just happen? That just happened. Wait. Neither of you have had that much to drink yet.

BANNER.Robert.B: It’s a new thing, Jane. The internet is calling it “Stony”, according to Clint. Try the soft cheese? It’s marvelous.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [cough] Wait, how does the intern--

STARK.Anthony.E.: The internet does NOT know yet, thank you very much Dr. Banner. JARVIS - make a note to google STONY, please.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Noted, sir.

FOSTER.Jane: Mmm, thank you. Wait. So. You-- Steve, I thought you were dating that girl, and-- wait. Wait. I’m the one cohabiting with the Norse God of Thunder and I think my head is going to explode.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Don’t forget the dog. Did you name the dog yet, boys?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Um. We’re still thinking about it. Wait, why are we Stony?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Because internet, babe. It’s kind of like a Comic Con thing. And no, Nat - we’re open to suggestions, seeing as Steve has cruelly shot down my every -

ROGERS.Steven.G: You wanted to name the dog ‘Hooker!’

ODINSON.Thor: I once knew a brave dwarven warrior, whose hand had been burned off in the fires of his golden forge, who wielded cruel iron in battle and was named, by his shield-brothers, Hooker. This name sounds both brave and fitting for such a beast!

STARK.Anthony.E.: See, Thor is team Hooker, it’s a perfectly good name!

ROGERS.Steven.G: He’s referencing prostitution, Thor.

ODINSON.Thor: Ah, you mean that oldest, most noble of professions?

BANNER.Robert.B: Someone come serve the hummus, please!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: You let this crowd name your dog, it’s going to end up being the Marquis de Sade, Steve. I had a-- one second, Doc-- do you need a refill? I had a dog when I was a kid. Well. It wasn’t exactly mine. But we had one.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Somehow I have a hard time imagining you getting touchy-feely with a slobbery mutt, Nat.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: It was a trained killer, Stark. Named Drozhok. Means ‘Buddy.’

ODINSON.Thor: My warriors three have had a number of skilled hunting dogs over the years. Most were simply named for their number of kills. Jane, dear, may I taste of your orange soda?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Poor guy would have to be called Zero, and that’s just - well actually, it kind of makes me think of the Nightmare before Christmas.

I still think Hooker is -

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, Tony. My dog.

[barking]

C’mere, you. Up.

[patting]

Nightmare Before Christmas is that one we watched with the skeleton and the evil flour sack full of bugs, right?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmm, yeah.

FOSTER.Jane: I used to have goldfish named Sirius and Procyon. Who are both dogs. But I kept having to replace them because they don’t live very long if you forget to feed them.

ROGERS.Steven.G: See, Tony? Those are better names. Only...naming a dog after a fish seems weird. We were going to watch Christmas movies, weren’t we?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Good luck. Clint fucked up all the DVR cables.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Again? Ugh. Someone hold my drink. Steve hasn’t seen A Christmas Story or Love Actually, and I intend to remedy that post-dinner.

[door opening]

ODINSON.Thor: I have seen this Love Actually! Lady Darcy watches it endlessly. I quite like the actress - what is her name - whose mouth does not shut.

FOSTER.Jane: As much as I like that movie, I have to say that the depictions of romantic love in it are extremely unrealistic. I really don’t belie--

LEWIS.Darcy: You mean Keira Knightley! Ugh, fuck it’s cold! You’re totally right, Jane, Liam Neeson and Claudia Schiffer? Totally unbelievable. Hey! Look at this Christmassy room full of scientifically-enhanced überhumans and a guy from space! Merry Christmas!

STARK.Anthony.E.: You … sound difficult to watch movies with. Are you the kind of person who bitches because Jack Skellington doesn’t have tendons with which to move his skeletal system?

FOSTER.Jane: No, but I really feel like Santa Claus would be harder to kidnap.

LEWIS.Darcy: She’s the worst. Don’t watch sci-fi anything with her, ever. Oh, look, Duane Reade was open, so you all have presents, now.

BANNER.Robert.B: [laughter] Did you really buy presents at Duane Reade?!

LEWIS.Darcy: It’s the only thing open. Here, I got you some, um...do you like chocolate-covered popcorn. You get chocolate-covered popcorn, Bruce. And a toothbrush but you’re going to have to open the multi-pack and pick whatever color you want.

Hey, Steve. Nice beard. Nice incredibly tight tee shirt. Nice, uh. Dog?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Thanks, I think...ah. Christmas present.

LEWIS.Darcy: From whom? Hi! Hi, doggie! Is it a boy or a girl? Does it have a name? Aww, yes, you’re almost as cute as your owner and way more likely to lick my face.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Only because I’ve reserved all future face-lickings. Do you want another drink, Steve? I’d love to make you another drink. And also admire your new shirt. And your muscles under that wonderfully tight t-shirt.

BANNER.Robert.B: I pick purple - Clint will just have to dealpleasedon’tactuallylickhisfacesteve.

LEWIS.Darcy: Oh, I got Clint a real present. Wanna see?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Don’t worry, we’ll keep the public displays of--

LEWIS.Darcy: Whoa. Wait. Uh. This face-licking conversation just went in all kinds of weird directions.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Weird, or amazing?

LEWIS.Darcy: So are you two fucking or something? Amazing, if I’m allowed to watch.

ROGERS.Steven.G: N-- er. Ye-- uh.

ODINSON.Thor: Lady Darcy, you know that violates the social customs of Midgard, unless it happens in Vega or after a bachelorette party, as I recall.

LEWIS.Darcy: No, that’s cool, Steve, keep people guessing. Can I put it on Tumblr at least?

STARK.Anthony.E.: It depends on how much you feel like spending on legal fees this spring.

Ooh, I want the red toothbrush! Merry Christmas, Darcy.

LEWIS.Darcy: Merry Christmas. Are you giving out dogs willy-nilly this year or it’s just the one? If I’m really good can I get the new StarkPhone? Oh. And a drink. I have empty hands. Empty.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Here, drink this. And yeah, I’m probably good for a Starkphone or two, you want the MarkXIII or the new Note?

LEWIS.Darcy: Oooh, which is the one with the super glare-free screen? That’s Thirteen, right? Look at mine, it’s all cracked, ugh.

Oh, Nat, here, um...here?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Oh, I always wanted a lint-shaver.

STARK.Anthony.E.: God, what have you done to my tech?! I’m not sure you deserve a new piece of SIware. DUM-E, bring over toolset 31-B and one of the spare markXIIIs, would you?

[beeping]

BANNER.Robert.B: I’m glad his santa hat is finally staying on, it was so sad when it slipped over his optical sensors.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Wow, these - these selfies ARE ridiculous. Steve, would you pour me another rye?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Sure, uh...I always pour them too tall, though…

LEWIS.Darcy: Yeah, I don’t even know, Clint and his girlfriend have been like totally occupying my feed all day.

STARK.Anthony.E.: No such thing as too tall. Uh. They’re not - actually dating, I think.

LEWIS.Darcy: Really? ‘Cause I don’t think-- Scroll up.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Darcy? Shut up.

LEWIS.Darcy: Why am I shutting up?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Oh, he didn't, did he?

STARK.Anthony.E.: [coughs] So, uh. Where were we.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Doc, did you need help with tha--

BANNER.Robert.B: Come on down, I’ll put you on dish duty.

[running water]

[door slides open, footsteps]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Uh. You can stop looking at me like that any minute now.

[barking]

No, no, dog, I’m good.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Like what? I’m still waiting for my rye.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Rye. Looking at me like there are pictures of Clint making out with my ex-gi--

LEWIS.Darcy:Oh. Oh shit.

STARK.Anthony.E.: They’re not making out, they’re just goofing around. Clint’s, well, you know how he is. He’s also getting nothing but coal for Christmas.

ODINSON.Thor: Beware, for your noble beast makes a valiant attempt to dine on soft cheeses!

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. Um. Dog. Can dogs eat cheese? Just...here, dog, no, um. Let me cut some for you?

It’s all right, Tony. He did ask first.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I know. I just… you know. It’s Christmas and all. You should enjoy it.

ODINSON.Thor: Does he know any tricks? We must instruct him!

[bark]

LEWIS.Darcy:Does the dog have a name You can’t just call him ‘dog,’ that’s like calling a kid ‘boy.’

ROGERS.Steven.G: Um. He has a DVD. We haven’t watched it yet, though. Here, boy, here’s some brie just for you.

[lapping]

I am enjoying it. At least now we know what his better offer was. Here, do you want some cheese?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yes. Yes I do.

[licking]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Would you like some fingers?

LEWIS.Darcy:Okay, this is...this is super awkward. JANE. Have a...um. Air freshener and a packet of Mentos and...here’s a plastic dinosaur.

FOSTER.Jane: I’m pretty sure that’s not an actual species of dinosaur, but perfect, it can go with the plastic giraffe from last year.

LEWIS.Darcy:And the inflatable mummy from the year before.
[door sliding open]

BANNER.Robert.B: Hey, does anyone feel like running across the street?? I can’t believe we’re out of paprika in this place.

ROMANOVA.Natalia:I can go, Doc. You just need paprika? Are they still open?

BANNER.Robert.B: They should be - I hate to make you do that, I was counting on you as cookie-spicing backup.

ODINSON.Thor: Have we an errand that needs running?

ROMANOVA.Natalia:Cookie spicing? You know I’m shit at cooking, Doc. Just paprika, Thor, you know which one that is, right?

FOSTER.Jane: I’ll go. You can’t send Thor to the grocery store alone. He ends up spending a half-hour in the frozen foods section.

[footsteps]

[rustle of coats]

[door opening, closing]

LEWIS.Darcy: Where was I? Hmm, Tony, you get-- no, not pantyhose...sparkly blue nail polish?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Just what you get the billionaire who has everything. Maybe Nat will swap with me.

LEWIS.Darcy:It matches Steve’s uniform; you could paint his toes.

ROGERS.Steven.G: No, he couldn’t.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You sure, sweet cheeks? I could paint the dog’s nails. C’mere boy!

[paws on floor]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony, you are not--

LEWIS.Darcy:Um. I could trade you for some...gel insoles?

STARK.Anthony.E.: You know, I think I’ll stick with my polish. Maybe Stevie will do my toes.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You trust me with your toes? You do realize I’ve never done this before.

LEWIS.Darcy:God. And you won’t let me liveblog this.

STARK.Anthony.E.: No, because you keep ruining Christmas.

LEWIS.Darcy: How is it my fault? I’m not the one who put on a Santa hat and posted a photo of me fireman-carrying Steve’s ex-girlfriend in a super short skirt and panties that say--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Will you please fuck off? Go spice some fucking cookies or something, jesus fucking christ -

LEWIS.Darcy: UGH. Fine. Good lord, you people.

[footsteps]

STARK.Anthony.E.: What a fucking -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony. You don’t need to-- err-- I suspect I know exactly which underwear she’s talking about.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I officially hate Christmas.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Tony. It’s bothering you a lot more than it’s bothering me. Don’t get angry at Christmas.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Sorry, Steve. I’ve always hated Christmas - and I know last year sucked for you guys, too, so.... I was hoping this year would break the streak.

[beeping]

Cheers, DUM-E. It’s been a year since they were tossed into the Pacific - what a year.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible]

The last month hasn’t been so bad.

[inaudible]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmm… Steve --

[door opens, footsteps]

LEWIS.Darcy:Ugh, they’re arguing about Deleuze and Guattari in there.

[sigh]

I’m just going to have another drink.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible]

[door sliding open]

[dog barking]

[inaudible]

POTTS.Virginia.P: ……. um. Merry….

STARK.Anthony.E.: PEPPER.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [throat clearing] Ah! You came after all! Er...here, can I take your…?

LEWIS.Darcy:Um. Pepper Potts. Hi. Should I just pour an entire round of drinks?

POTTS.Virginia.P: Yes. And then an entire round for me. Why is there a dog?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ah. He was my Christmas present. He’s really friendly, if you like dogs.

LEWIS.Darcy:Right, so I’m dispensing with all this hot buttered stuff and making corpse revivers. Those are Christmas drinks, right? Or I guess those would be more like Easter drinks, oh well.

POTTS.Virginia.P: You got Steve a dog?!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yes, I did, and he likes it. His name is Hooker.

ROGERS.Steven.G: His name is not Hooker.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Of course you’d pick something totally inappropriate and -

STARK.Anthony.E.: PEPPER.

[silence]

Pepper. It’s - um. Here. Is your gift. I’m such a huge, enormous, horrible asshole, but I’m really glad you’re here.

Merry Christmas.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Tony…

LEWIS.Darcy:[muttered] Yeah, uh, Steve, have a drink.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Those don’t--

LEWIS.Darcy:[muttered] Have one anyway.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You, ah. You’re not going to --

POTTS.Virginia.P: I’ll open it later, if that’s okay with you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, of course.

I didn’t think you were coming.

POTTS.Virginia.P: I… didn’t plan to come. My other plans just, sort of. It’s Christmas and I didn’t feel like… I didn’t get you anything.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s - god, this sounds like some kind of cheesy made-for-TV special. It’s just good to see you.

POTTS.Virginia.P: You really gave Steve a dog?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, I sort of did. On the plus side, I submitted patent requests for the StarkStyle super canine clubhouse? It’s kind of the world’s poshest dog crate. Maybe we could branch out.

POTTS.Virginia.P: [quiet laughter] You’re pitching that one to the board on your own.

ROGERS.Steven.G: It has special lighting to mimic the sun during wintertime? And a magic water bowl, and I haven’t really looked at the rest yet.

POTTS.Virginia.P: That sounds kind of intense.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Yeah, well. You know. Tony.

LEWIS.Darcy:Pepper Potts. Here’s your drink. I’m Darcy Lewis, Jane’s assistant? I got you a present; what flavor lip gloss do you like? Pineapple or root beer?

STARK.Anthony.E.: She also has gel insoles - actually, no, go with lip gloss. I bought half your heels, I’ll be pretty put out if shoes that expensive require insoles.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Hmmm, I’ll take root beer. Nice to meet you, Darcy.

LEWIS.Darcy:Yeah. Really big fan of that interview you did in Vogue where you bitched them the fuck out for placing unrealistic body expectations on businesswomen. Great stuff.

POTTS.Virginia.P: [laughs] Oh, god, my number of interview requests tripled after that little fiasco. You’re the one who keeps posting photos online of Thor learning how to do things, right? I loved the one with him and the blender.

LEWIS.Darcy:Yes! That! Fuckyeahthorcanlearnshit dot Tumblr dot com! You follow that? Sweet!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hey Steve?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hmm? What?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Are you gonna do the other half of my toes, or what?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. Uh.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Your - oh, christ, Tony. And it’s Captain America blue, go figure. I’m gonna drop these gifts under the tree - where’s Natalie? I mean, Natasha?

LEWIS.Darcy:Yeah, well, I bought the nail polish before I knew anything about, uh, these guys because I was sort of planning to spend the entire night flirting with Captain Hottie here. Natasha’s in the kitchen having a super intense debate about postmodernists. I don’t know if you want to...Are you going to fix my phone, Tony?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m pretty sure you threw an “if I’m good” in there. That’s what I heard. Did you hear that, Steve?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I, uh, heard--

LEWIS.Darcy:Dude, I am being so good you don’t even know right now. My goodness knows no bounds.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Fine, give it here. You really don’t deserve this, though.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Don’t be prissy, Stark.

[door opening, shutting]

ODINSON.Thor: My friends, we have merrily returned! And we come bearing ‘tofu pups!’

[jingling]

LEWIS.Darcy:JARVIS, tell the cooks their delivery is here and they can, uh, stop debating the figurative colonization of the literary landscape.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Certainly, Ms. Lewis.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Merry Christmas, JARVIS. It’s been a while - it’s good to hear your voice.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Likewise, Ms. Potts. The tower and its residents miss you sorely.

FOSTER.Jane: Pepper, I didn’t know we were going to see you! Listen, thank you for setting me up with those Popular Science people, they’re going to be doing a feature in August; we’re really thrilled for the publicity, since it’s just about grant renewal time.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Oh, Jane, it’s lovely to see you - and wow, you look great in red! Any time - honestly, any time, I was happy to do it.

[door opening]

BANNER.Robert.B: Bring on the papr-- Thor, are those antlers?

ODINSON.Thor: Verily, good doctor! Tiny antlers of cloth, complete with bells. They promise to grant a boon of fertility to all in my presence!

[jingling]

FOSTER.Jane: Not too fertile please. What? I have a grant proposal to write!

BANNER.Robert.B: It’s a nice look for you. You guys hungry?

ROGERS.Steven.G: So hungry.

ODINSON.Thor: Yes, the many ‘free samples’ of the whole foods have merely piqued my appetite!

FOSTER.Jane: They almost threw us out, but then he took photos with the manager.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Everything is amazing. Doc let me lick the spoon.

STARK.Anthony.E.: ...huh, Nat, didn’t you have your hair…?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Oh. Yes. It kept getting in the batter, and I don’t think any of us want hair cookies, do we?

STARK.Anthony.E.: That sounds like something Clint would cook.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Cookies are the only thing Clint can cook. Doc’s are better, though.

LEWIS.Darcy: I bet they are. Um, Ms. Potts? Pepper? Do you want to sit next to me? You probably don’t want to talk business on Christmas, but I totally have ideas about your social media strategy.

POTTS.Virginia.P: Of course, Darcy. Natalie, it’s good to see you - your cheeks are so red! Those drinks must be good.

[chairs scraping]

BANNER.Robert.B: Who wants to say grace?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I vote Steve. Though I’m trying really hard to pass up on a great separation of church and state joke.

POTTS.Virginia.P: I … actually also vote for Steve.

ODINSON.Thor: His rousing battlefield speeches kindle fierce fires in the breast of men - surely his ritual prayers shall also be stirring.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Ah, you’re giving me a lot to live up to, here, Thor...In the name of the--you, uh...anyone mind if I do the Catholic thing?

BANNER.Robert.B: I’m an “all faiths are one” kind of guy, so whatever you like, Cap.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Go ahead.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [clears throat] In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost...ah. Bless this table and everyone sitting here with us tonight, and those we love who aren’t here with us. We thank you for your for blessing in the past year, and ask you to grant it to us in the year ahead...Amen.

Food?

ODINSON.Thor: AMEN!

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING…}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

Stark,

I know I'm going to sound like a ball-buster here, but this has been coming for a while. Clint asked me about it a few days ago, and then Steve and I took the dog for a walk, and then we had that lovely dinner, and I've been trying to decide exactly what I should say.

Steve's a funny kid. And I mean he's a kid. You get he's a kid, right?

Yes, look, he's an incredibly gorgeous, six-three, blond kid with a chest that looks like it was chiseled out of marble by Michelangelo himself, but he is a tiny pink newborn baby compared to the rest of us. And I don't mean he's immature, or childish, it's just that I don't know how much you know or understand what we all went through while you were in California, but Steve is like a little brother to me. Or what I think a little brother must be like. So I need to play big sister.

We've been living here for more than a year now, and you know he's living right next door to me, and I guess…I'll admit I spent the first couple of months thinking he was actually not too bright.

But then I realized it's just that he has this naïveté and idealism that haven't been sucked out of his soul yet, somehow, and it's beautiful and fragile and good and he deserves to have it for as long as he can, because he's had pretty much everything else taken from him, even though you won't hear him complain about it, ever. He'll tell these terrible, pitiable stories as if they were run-of-the-mill, everyday things that happen to all of us. I know my history isn't exactly charming, but I know what it is and what it isn't. I'm not sure he has any basis for comparison to make that judgment, and he doesn't realize he deserves better.

And I realized he was sad. Really sad. Sad enough it drove him to distraction. And rightly so--he's been sad for as long as I've known him.

So we went for a walk today. Me and him and the dog. And he actually seems happy. Not elated happy, just…even-keeled happy. And you got him a dog, which-- it seems over-the-top and absurd, but you are nothing if not over-the-top and absurd.

But he also seems anxious, and forgive me for being blunt, but I think he's overwhelmed. The way the two of you interacted at dinner--watching your reactions when Darcy brought up Clint and Becky, watching you both trying to navigate Pepper's presence in the room-- you don't take cues from him, and he's too deferential. And he doesn't know what to do with someone older-- to be more accurate, it's Steve. He doesn't know what to do with affection, in general. He freezes up if I lean my head on his shoulder. But I get the sense that he's in over his head, and I don't know what you're looking for, there. I don't need to know; it's not my business. I'm not going to interfere, but I will make it my business if I see him in pain.

So, listen. You know I don't think you're a bad guy. I think you're a fucked up guy, and this is coming from the queen of the fucked up people, so I don't mean that as an insult. But you're both lonely and sad, and eventually the novelty's going to wear off. I want you to do me a favor and think about where you're going to be when the novelty wears off. I want you to decide whether you can do this without fucking him up, too. I think I know you well enough to believe there's a chance you can, even if it's an infinitesimally tiny one.

Just make sure you put him back in the same condition you found him in, all right? Make sure he doesn't stop making friends or get too wrapped up in this for his own good. He doesn't have a lot to ground him here. If you can do that for me, I'll owe you one. If not…well. We'll be talking about it.

Nat

Chapter Text

Nat –

I know that you’re probably

Believe it or not I can kind of see

I’m still learning what he nee

 

you have no idea how much i

Fuck.

Chapter Text

T--

Thanks

--S


Chapter Text

S -

HAH! Did you see this floating around on TMZ? That's not a bad idea. Though "Starkvengers" is kind of a mouthful...

Also, you can totally be straight (well, mostly) with me -- you were behind the stockings, right?? It was so totally you.

T


The Ghost of Christmas Future

Stark Industries' CEO Pepper Potts' extended trip to New York has everyone talking this week, especially after she was spied leaving Starkvengers Tower early in the morning on Thursday, December 26.

Last week, rumors circulated that Potts may have traded up for a younger, blonder, better model when she was seen sharing omakase at Morimoto with Steve "Captain America" Rogers, and now she's following up that patriot act with an overnight stay in her ex's tower of masculine overcompensation.

A source close to Stark, however, claims that the Potts-Rogers pair is idle speculation-- that our favorite winghead is actually playing wingman to his partner in crimefighting, and trying to help the knight in titanium-gold alloy armor win back his fair damsel. Reports fresh out of Japan (remember Japan? That place Tony Stark went to have his nervous breakdown?) claim that Tony Stark was seen purchasing this Mikimoto necklace during his stay. There's been talk he's been seeing someone new, but we've always known Pepper Potts is a sucker for pearls-- Tony Stark wouldn't turn around and buy them for someone else, would he?

Although our exclusive commentary from one of NYC's hottest family planners now has it that the real reason for Potts' sudden interest in our favorite Star-Spangled Hottie may just be another immaculate conception. After details last Spring suggested that Potts and Stark were on the lookout for a surrogate to help them conceive a little Iron Baby, now we're hearing that the newly-single Potts may be seeking a sperm donor, and HELLO, let's talk about a pinnacle of genetic perfection.

So what's the story? Could another Christmas miracle be on the way?

Chapter Text

form: Clint Barton (hawkeye@avengersinitiative.org)
to: Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)

subject: (no subject)

Nat-

You wouldn’t believe how fantastic these last few days have been for me. I mean I’m not really the bragging type (soul of modesty and humility, your clint) but look at all this fucking amazing food:

om nom nom nomi am such a pig i ate like half of this

 

I should have called yesterday, but I didn't. I should have written yesterday, but... i didn't, obviously. Not to get all sentimental because it’s (well, it was, yesterday) Christmas, but… you wouldn’t believe this trip, nat. I’ve never had a Christmas like that. it was all hot chocolate and stockings and advent calendars and waking up with a gorgeous woman wrapped around you in her tiny twin bed in a room with the most hideous wallpaper you’ve ever laid eyes on. Becky’s family is pretty cool – her sister is one of those jaw-grindingly successful people that ends up sounding accidentally condescending in that I-just-want-the-best-for-you way that’s hard to fault her for. Her brother in law works a nine to five and coaches little league on his weekends. Her niece and nephew are stupidly cute and polite and made garlands out of popcorn for their tree.

One of them asked me about New York. Wanted to know what aliens look like, if their guts smelled gross, if the Hulk was as big as he looked. I answered all his questions. He drew me a picture of me with my bow on top of Stark tower shooting the vortex. He thanked me for saving his house.

nat – you know how it’s been since new york. I don’t sleep. I’ve turned into this grumpy jackass who hates fucking everything around him because part of me can’t walk away from that fucking battle, the tesseract, loki, everything. I can’t get excited about anything, about the avengers, about – I just keep thinking, I didn’t win that fight. I shot a few bugs but if you hadn’t pulled through I would have

...

...

but this kid thanked me. Just smiled and thanked me and drew me this stupid picture, and all I could think was – this is it. That shit is what we fought for, right? Becky and her family and a thousand thousand families like them, which is kind of obvious and cheesy but… i know i don't need to remind you that people like us don’t get to see sisters bickering over whether the roast beef is done, or watch the brother in law sneak cigarettes behind the garage, or teach three year olds the difference between blue and purple. I forget. it's so easy to forget.

so I got a sneak peak at the real world this Christmas, that fucking perfect TV land where families pick you up from the train station and bicker about the remote but actually love one another and kids put nickels in swear jars and parents save for college. And I know that world isn’t for people like me, and becky and I will eventually not be a Thing and that’s fine and everything, but something about visiting that stupid house and stuffing my face on stupid Yorkshire pudding and falling asleep on their couch in front of a roaring fire and a snoring dog made me so stupidly happy that we won. It’s been two years and I just

I finally feel like

so i didn't call. i wanted to just, you know. even with the alien vortex drawings and all, i wanted to forget for a minute that i was an agent of shield and an avenger and just sort of...be a guy? for a day. and I did. and it was incredible.

merry Christmas, nat. I’m sorry I wasn’t at the tower. I have an appropriately excellent present for you, but I wanted to give it in person so you’ll just have to wait.

Love you.
clint

Chapter Text

from:
Natalie Rushman (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com) to: Clint Barton (hawkeye@avengersinitiative.org)

subject: RE: (no subject)

C--

I don't think in all my years knowing you that I've ever gotten a written message this long from you. You don't need to apologize for not calling-- I know where you are, I know you're safe and happy. This isn't one of those years where you're on the other side of the world and I don't know when I'll see you again.

You made the right choice. Christmas at the Tower was nice, but painfully awkward in perts-- Stark got Steve a dog. a dog. You'll actually love the dog, but…a dog. And Pepper came, and as nice as it was to see her, I absolutely ached for her, knowing what it must be like to watch someone you had been so…indivisible from…suddenly deep in domesticity with someone new. I remember back when Stark first hired me to work for him, how upset Pepper was at the fact that he was paying attention to me, even when the attention was appropriate (which did happen, very occasionally). And then I saw it from the other side, when I was her assistant. They were all the other one had for so long. And now he's buying dogs for someone else while the ashes of what they had are still smoldering. Steve loves the dog, though, and he seems to be more at peace than I've seen him in a long time, so that's a relief.

It would have been nice to have you here, but, no-- it's good. Good to hear that you're getting a little happiness for Christmas. You deserve it more than most.

FYI, before you get back, the cat is out of the bag where Becky is concerned-- following Darcy on Tumblr and Instagram was probably a tiny bit of an error in judgment if you ever wanted to keep your private life private from this lot. Tony seemed to take it worse than Steve, though. I would say I'd be kicking myself for not encouraging you in that direction sooner, but when we all first met her, you were still being that grumpy jackass.

You know I have some understanding of what you went through these past two years, the deep sense of loss you've been feeling, and to see you starting to come out of that, finally, is one of the best gifts anyone could give me. I wouldn't ask you for anything else. You do, however, have a stocking waiting for you here at the Tower (though I'm waiting to see if any of the rest of our teammates ever figure out that I'm the one who hung and filled them). And I do have a proper gift for you. Let's exchange gifts when you get back.

There are a lot of things that I want to tell you, and that I've been trying to find the right time and the right way, but I haven't wanted to add anything to the weight you've already had hanging from your neck. I know the next week is going to be incredibly hectic, but if we could take a day, sometime just after the new year, and go for a long walk, or sit in an empty coffee shop, I'd really like to talk to you, somewhere away from the Tower and all its insanity.

Merry Christmas. I love you, too.

--N

Chapter Text

from: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: PARTY PARTY PARTY

Okay, people!

I miiiiiight have had a little too much glögg! But a little bird (okay a big blond bird who IS TRYING TO STEAL MY STOLLEN CLINT STOP THAT YOU HAVE YOUR OWN STOLLEN) told me to REMIND YOU ALL THAT I AM THROWING BASICALLY THE BEST HOLIDAY PARTY EVER. I WOULD SEND YOU THE FB INVITE BUT SOME PEOPLE (STEVE) REFUSE TO GET FB ACCOUNTS SOOOOOO.

Saturday, December 28
8pm till WHENEVER WE RUN OUT OF BOOZE
Über Arts Unltd Gallery
459 W 19th Street

Take the A or C from Columbus Circle to 14th st., get out at the 16th st. exit-- it's a super quick walk. The front door will be open!

DRESS CODE: RIDICULOUS HOLIDAY CLOTHES OPTIONAL. (Clothes are not optional; sadly, it is not that kind of party. I mean Santa hats, ugly sweaters, battery-operated Christmas lights, are ALL TOTALLY WELCOME. You should do those things!)

Tony, I know we haven't met, but I have been informed (by a different blond winged creature) that you will join us if I save you shitloads of bourbon balls. You had better put in an appearance, because I made them myself and they are fucking awesome.

Okay, smooches, everybody! I kidnapped your archer for another day, sorry about that, but we're gonna hang out in Jersey till Fri and play the shit out of some Candy Land with some toddlers. Hope you all had an awesome Christmas and I'll see you Sat!

--Becky

Chapter Text

T-

I think it's a little early to be having any conversations about kids, don't you? I mean, we just got a dog and all.

Are you-- I thought you did the stockings. No? You know I don't have the money for that. Or are you just trying to mislead me?

Do you know what you're wearing to Becky's party? I guess we're supposed to wear Christmas things? I have a jingle bell I can wear around my neck, and a Santa hat. And a blue and white snowflake sweater, does that work?

And there were, uh, light-up underwear in my stocking that say "jingle balls" on them. Could have sworn there was only one person in this house with a puerile enough sense of humor for that. (Not that I'm complaining).

-S

Chapter Text

S--

Jingle balls???? This is relevant to my interests.

Seriously though, you must be joking... You know me better than that. I am super not into Christmas....and it's very un-American to lie about Christmas, Steve.

I got an Elvis Presley Christmas flask. Which I'm totally bringing to the party, BTW.

Becky's thing is a Chelsea art party full of Brooklyn hipster douchebags, right? Your sweater sounds perfect, it'll be either seasonally perfect or sharply ironic, and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what these people go for.

it really was a lovely Christmas, wasn't it? I'm sleeping in your room tonight. Jingle ALL the way!

Tony

Chapter Text

from: Tony Stark (TStark@starkindustries.com
to: Natalie Rushman (NRushman@starkindustries.com)
subject: +5 pants of tightness

Nat --

Not to be weird, but your hips don't lie and I'm pretty sure we're similar in size -- do you have any pants that look kind of like this?????

T

Chapter Text

Stark--

Do I want to know? I don't want to know, do I?

Here are two pairs of jeans, one pair of size 6 and a pair of size 8. I want them thoroughly laundered before you return them.

This is only because I didn't get you a Christmas present.

--Natasha

P.S. I assume these are for the party tonight-- let's take a car so we don't have to deal with holiday drunks on the subway. Tell the doc he should come; last I saw, he's got his head buried in something in the lab. I know everyone else is coming for sure, but you can never tell with him.

Chapter Text

{STARKPAD AUDIO SURVEILLANCE ACTIVE}

[GPS COORDINATES LOADING...]

[GPS LOCK ATTAINED - LOCATION: 459 W 19TH ST NEW YORK NY 10011]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

[Background noise, chatter, footsteps.]

[MUSIC IDENTIFICATION - ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU: CAREY, MARIAH, 1969-]

STARK.Anthony.E.: - you sure, Cap? You’re not just flattering an old man, are you?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Oh, he’s flattering. You look ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m letting you do this.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, you let your stylist do THAT to your hair, so you’re clearly having an off-week.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: My stylist is a box of Clairol, a mirror, and Steve.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oooh, you know what shit will do to your ends. I’m kidding - not about the split ends, but about the color. You know I love blondes. Maybe we should all go blonde!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Maybe we should all wear pants that cut off the circulation to our-- ahem. Legs.

BANNER.Robert.B.: I feel like this vision is going to haunt me every time you wear those pants, Nat.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Look, Steve is the one who told me we were here to hipster watch. I’m just trying to blend in. This is stealth mode, bitches.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I said nothing of the sort. I said there would be cheap boxed wine. We were supposed to wear holiday clothes. Holiday. The glasses are c-- a, ah, nice touch, though.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I don’t think I can wear those pants again; Stark’s gone and stretched them out.

ODINSON.Thor: As impressive as the is the stretch of Master Stark’s iron spike, I find myself far more intrigued by the masterworks gracing these fine walls….

STARK.Anthony.E.: IRON SPIKE. Did nobody else hear that? IRON SPIKE. It’s perfect for nailing all the hot blondes I -

ROMANOVA.Natalia: We are never going to hear the end of this one, are we?

STARK.Anthony.E.: OW! Christ, Bruce, really? Such violence at Christmas? And the sweater is perfectly theme-appropriate, Steve. God.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Since when is Iron Man theme-appropriate?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Are you not seeing his cute little Rudolph nose? It’s 3-D and everything. Here, touch it, it’s so soft and friendly….

ODINSON.Thor: I shall touch your tiny balls, Man of Iron!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Who are you callin’ tiny?!

ODINSON.Thor: Ahahaha! By Odin, it comes alight!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Oh good god. He lights up.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Admit it, Steve. The future is awesome.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [whispered] The future is giving me one more reason to want to rip that off you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [choking]

ODINSON.Thor: Look! Tis my very likeness, made up of a thousand tiny spheres!

LEWIS.Darcy: It’s called pointillism, pioneered by an artist named Georges Seurat in the eighteen-- holy shit, Hello Captain Jingle Bells.

[jingling]

ODINSON.Thor: Lady Darcy, you attended after all - bosom broad and smile even broader! Allow me to lay kisses upon your cheeks!

BANNER.Robert.B.: Steve, are you letting Darcy jingle your bells?

ODINSON.Thor: Our noble Captain’s bells are worthy of any praise, not to mention frequent handling.

LEWIS.Darcy: I’ve got bells, too, if somebody wants to jingle them. See? [jingling] Oh, hey, nice, like, Marilyn Monroe thing going on, Nat. Man, I’ve never stared at anybody’s pecs through an ugly Christmas sweater before.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Iknowit’salittletightitwasthebiggestonetheyhadatTargetand--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Target sells clothes?

BANNER.Robert.B.: [laughing] I don’t think anyone is actually complaining, Steve.

ODINSON.Thor: I have grown quite fond of Target! They sell many small trinkets, suitable for use as Midgardian souvenirs.

LEWIS.Darcy: I know I wasn’t. Target should have you in their ab-- I mean, ads

STARK.Anthony.E.: I seriously thought it was some kind of redneck gunshow type place, do they not even sell --

ROGERS.Steven.G.: They sell Iron Man sheets, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You should have worn some of those. You would look amazing in my Iron Man sheets.

LEWIS.Darcy: They have Captain America sheets, too.

STARK.Anthony.E.: They have Captain America sheets!?

LEWIS.Darcy: Guess what I have on my bed?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony, you would hate Target. I don’t think there’s a single thing in the store that costs over a thousand dollars. You have to wait on lines. With other people. In front of you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Eh, I could wear a cunning disguise--

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It’s all the way over in Brooklyn.

STARK.Anthony.E.: it’d--Brooklyn. Bleh. Darcy, I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you go buy me some Cap sheets.

LEWIS.Darcy: Thrown in a case for my new phone and we have a deal.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You don’t deserve a new phone, you break everything. … Fine.

LEWIS.Darcy: Yessss. Score. So, Steve, what’re you doing la--

QUAN.Rebecca: You...oh my god, EVERYONE! Nat! Your hair!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I know. It’s too blonde. Thank god, Becky; I was afraid I was going to have watch everyone in the room ogle Captain America for the rest of the night.

QUAN.Rebecca: No, no, no, it’s not too blonde, it’s super cute, you look super retro, especially with those curls. STEVE!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah, hi, Bec...

[smooching sound]

Everyone’s here. We even dragged the scientists out of the lab.

BANNER.Robert.B.: Miss Quan, good to see you again.

QUAN.Rebecca: Bruce, it’s Becky. Please. Or at least Rebecca.

STARK.Anthony.E.: So you’re the Rebecca Quan I’ve heard so much about.

QUAN.Rebecca: Tony. Stark. I was starting to think you were actually a computer program. Here you are. Thank you for the flowers, by the way, they’re…very...ostentatious.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Perfect. Subtlety hardly befits a gallery singing your own praises. The place looks lovely; very industrial. Love the mistletoe on the AC vents.

QUAN.Rebecca: Ha! And you light up! Aww, it’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Armor. Well. Thank you. Mostly people just glare at it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [laughing]

ODINSON.Thor: Miss Becky, you look most elegant this evening! it is a pleasure to observe your work and partake in these tiny, delicious sandwiches! Jane sends her regards, she was most disappointed at her inability to attend.

LEWIS.Darcy: Ugh, she’s had a breakthrough. You know what Jane is like when she has a breakthrough.

ODINSON.Thor: We’ll be lucky if she emerges by dawn, at this rate. But my lady-dove so thrills in her discoveries, far be it from me to distract her.

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, well, send her hugs from me. Oof! Thank you, Thor. I love your antlers! You can. Um. Put me down. The work isn’t mine; I just hang the stuff on the walls, it’s all the lady of the hour, who I’ll-- you’ll meet her, oh my god, Tony, she wants to meet you so bad. You, uh...I sort of expected you to be taller. And have bigger pants.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well you know what they say, when you assume-

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Hey Becs, I asked Rachel to put out another two cheese platters, that shit is going like - oh. Hi, Avengers. Hi, Tony’s incredibly tight, tiny pants.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: They’re my pants. Stark is trying to be inconspicuous. Ironic, isn’t it?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hipsters.

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, thanks, babe. Mwah. So, T-- is it okay if I call you Tony?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ah - sure, go for it.

QUAN.Rebecca: I don’t think you’ve actually been in here, but you actually have four pieces from this gallery. Somewhere. You’re one of our best customers.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Unsurprising - I pay the best curators available, Miss Quan. And I do a love a good Cap-hanging-from-a-burning-Zeppelin now and then.

QUAN.Rebecca: Yes! Steve showed me that one. You know it’s based off art from an actual issue of Captain America, right? Crazy shit.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hah - yeah, what was it? Volume 250 or something, one of the Steve Green issues. [cough] My old man collected, you know.

QUAN.Rebecca: Yeah! Steve told me all about your crazy Cap stuff. I would love to get to paw through all that.

Guys, we could get a set for the common room - Steve could pick ‘em out, his taste is beyond compare.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I don’t know if I’m really qualified to--

ODINSON.Thor: I shall choose my own likeness! I think one of many tiny dots. I shall have one framed appropriately and sent to my father, the King. [footsteps]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Becky, can you get any of Stark with a ball gag in his mouth?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ooo, ball gags.

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, I’m sure we could commission something. Mer! Mer, come here! Ugh, it’s like she’s in a snakepit. Hold on, guys.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Ball gags, really? This is why we can’t have nice things.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: My ball gags are very nice.

BANNER.Robert.B.: [coughs]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Clint. Ah. How’s the party so far?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: God, Nat, some of us are trying to get laid tonight, don’t ruin it.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: You need to try?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ziiiiing.

BARTON.Clinton.F.:

It’s good - lots of, you know, bullshitty talk about lighting but there’s a interactive piece in the back that I got to stab with arrows, so that was pretty excellent.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Well, you know how I feel about...God, I wish they weren’t allowed to display twenty-foot tall paintings of my face. Do you know how infuriating this is? Can someone get me a drink? A big drink?

LEWIS.Darcy: Hey, Clint, those were some awesome macros. I upvoted them on all my accounts. [fireworks noises]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Bump it! I knew you’d back me up, D.

QUAN.Rebecca: No, no, sorry to drag you away, but...Merrie. Tony Stark. Steve Rogers. Doctor Bruce Banner, Thor--

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Natalie Rushman.

QUAN.Rebecca: Right, Natalie. And you know Clint already, and of course Darcy who has been our cheese-plate taster....

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Oh. My. All of you. This is...such. Such an honor. Really. Thank you all so much for being here. Mister Stark--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Please, it was the least we could do, you went through the trouble of producing such an exquisite body… of work.

LEWIS.Darcy: [muttered] Oh my god is that a line for real?

UNKNOWN.Merrie:: Oh, I think the exquisite bodies are all standing right in front of me. I’m much more interested in your work, Mister Stark.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: So is he.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I get that a lot. What, no drink in your hand? That’s practically criminal. Red or white?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: I’ll have whatever you’re having. Do you think you can sommelier your way through the selection of box wine?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Darling, I’m a trained professional. Steve, would you like anything?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Um. See if they have--

QUAN.Rebecca: Duh! Of course I got you root beer.

STARK.Anthony.E.: …. root beer?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Root beer?

QUAN.Rebecca: Yeah, but the good stuff is hidden, Tony, go tell the girl with the pink hair that it’s for Steve Rogers and she’ll get our the Stewart’s.

STARK.Anthony.E.: ….. ah, yeah. Sure. Shall we?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Mmm...I’d be delighted. I’ll...I’d love to catch up with you all later, Thor...Doctor Banner...Captain Rogers...Becky tells me you have a new Ben and Jerry’s flavor; I’d love to hear more about that.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah. Sure. Of course. Any...time?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh god, it’s pretty tasty. Thick and creamy, with these ridiculous chocolate stars…

LEWIS.Darcy: I want Captain America ice cream. Oh god, I need to get Thor to make an ice cream. It can be mead-flavored. Except he’d probably want it to be waffles and bacon and Charleston Chew-flavored.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: (whispered) I’m going to hit him.

BANNER.Robert.B.: (whispered back) I’m not going to stop you.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: God, he can be such a tool. That is possibly the ugliest sweater I’ve ever seen.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: He, uh. Made it himself.

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, whatever, he totally just made her century. So. Steve. Did what-I-think-just-happened just happen, or...

LEWIS.Darcy: I KNOW I SAID THE SAME THING.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I, uh...

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Did it just get super awkward in here, or is it just me?

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, he was totally all funny-eyes and “exquisite taste” and can-I-get-you-a-drink and oh, shit, I’m right, aren’t I?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ah...public...

QUAN.Rebecca: Oh, fuck! Sorry!

[laughter]

BANNER.Robert.B.: Steve, they’ve got some great watercolors on the back wall, I can’t figure out how they managed to get the wash so smooth. Want to share a few tips?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Waterco-- um. Sure. That...thing. Good.

QUAN.Rebecca: Right, um-- you guys look at the art; I’m going to get you all bourbon balls. Shit. Haha. Okay. Clint, come help me out [muttered] so I can smack you for not telling me.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Well, balls do seem to be the theme of the - wait, why am I getting smacked?!

QUAN.Rebecca: Because I know you think it’s hot, babe.

LEWIS.Darcy: I’m getting myself a beer and sobbing into it because I am the only single person at this party.

[booming voice]

ODINSON.Thor: Natalia! There is a gorgeous image of you, here! Perhaps we should purchase it!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: The only way I want to see it is if I can deface it with a mustache.

ODINSON.Thor: Odin’s beard, we must do mine as well!

[LOCATION RECENTERED]

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Hm. Cheers.

STARK.Anthony.E.: And to you. [classes clinking] Hmm, Steve seems to have vanished. Guess I’m double-fisting root beer and white wine, very classy.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: [laughter] I’ve heard of worse. It goes with your hipster costume. Steve...is he…?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hah! I told them people would guess what I came as. Is he...?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: You seem attached.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [snort] He’s not great at parties. And I know he was a little nervous tonight, seeing Becky with Clint and all. Do you know Becky well?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Oh, yes, that’s right, they used to-- she’s been selling my work for a while, now. Great girl, great gallery...and she just hired a friend of mine as her assistant...Becky’s a sweetheart. And really-- well, I’m sure you can tell, really interested in the whole...superhero thing. I have to say, a lot of people wouldn’t be interested in talking to an artist whose work...well...features them so prominently.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, you know my reputation - quite a few people would suggest that I’m my own favorite topic.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: At the risk of sounding creepy, you’re one of my favorite topics, too. Nice sweater, by-the-by.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hah, why thank you. I’m thinking of branching out into the obnoxious thematic sweater market - maybe cutting a deal with Target.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Oooh, high-tech sweaters for the mass market? You know, I have Iron Man sheets from Target.

STARK.Anthony.E.: What a coincidence - so do I.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: All the best people do. No, I’m joking; they’re my nephew’s. He’s eight. He’d...actually, I hate to be this person, but I don’t suppose I can trouble you for an autograph?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, yeah, of course. I get that all the time. Here… [scribbling] So how long have you been painting?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Aw! And you drew a little Iron Man. He’ll love it. Thank you so much. Painting? Well, I grew up in a home. And art was really my outlet there, so I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. But I really...this particular subject is a newer interest. After what you all did in the Battle of New York, it’s just so...so important. And your own story is fascinating...you’ve really reformed yourself.

STARK.Anthony.E.: In some ways, absolutely. If you’re patient enough, even the oldest dog can learn a few new tricks. Just ask Steve Rogers.

UNKNOWN.Merrie:: Captain America? Hmm. He’s got more of a baby face than I expected. I don’t know if he qualifies as an old dog. What’s he been learning?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, some of that is classified of course. But he’s kicking Clint’s ass regularly at Mario Kart; that’s a sight to behold. So you grew up in New York?

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Oh, god, no-- tiny town no one’s ever heard of, you know. Boring, boring. Look, I’m sorry if this is rude, but I’ve never gotten to go one-on-one with one of my subjects before, unless you count Clint, and...well...his attention is usually pretty divided. Obviously. It’s pretty impossible to drag him away from Becky. [laughter] You know, at one point, Becky actually told me she wanted to try to set me up with you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Did she, then? Well now, I can’t tell you too much about myself. An international man of mystery has to have some secrets.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Look, I’m not-- that’s just Becky. She hadn’t even met you. She just came bouncing in one day and said oh my god, Mer, I have the best idea! She likes to play matchmaker. Or otherwise get in all her friends’ business.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I - ha, haha - well, it seems like we all have a friend like that.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Then she wanted to try to set Rachel up with-- Oh, you don’t care about that. So what can I ask you about? What’s the deal with that crazy old house on Long Island? I read somewhere you were getting it fixed up.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, it’s the old family home. I have half a mind to sell it, personally, but my old man’s will was fairly specific about the property, so the lawyers are sorting out what exactly can be done with it. You should see the shit we’ve unearthed in that place - the good stuff has all been transferred to the tower for safe-keeping, but my dad was a bit of a packrat and there’s more crap to wade through than you’d believe.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: Becky told me you have an amazing collection of old Captain America stuff? I mean, of course it’s the comics stuff that I’m interested in.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, that’s still laying in boxes somewhere at the mansion - it was going to be Steve’s Christmas present, but things have been pretty hectic this month. Didn’t get around to actually filing and sorting it.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: There’s enough to file and sort. Wow. You should-- talk to my friend Rachel. She’s working here right now, but she’s been pretty...hard-up for work, and she’s worked as an archivist, so…

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, yeah. I’ll have to get her card.

UNKNOWN.Merrie: She’s the one who served our wine, with the pink hair. And Becky’s told me all kinds of crazy things about the Tower. I’d love to come see the it sometime; she says it’s incredible.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It is. I keep thinking we need to host some kind of Avengers charity-fundraising house party, if it becomes a reality I can personally guarantee--

[Rumble, followed by a crash, sound of electrical sparks, shouting]

UNKNOWN.Merrie: AH!!!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Shit, that doesn’t sound good. [jogging footsteps]

[LOCATION RECENTERED]

[running footsteps]

[screaming]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve?!

ROGERS.Steven.G.: --ies and Gentlemen, if you’ll all just move away from the perimeter--

UNKNOWN.Rachel: What the fuck, guy, who put you in char-- oh. Oh shit. Sorry. Captain.

STARK.Anthony.E.: What’s our status, cap?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [whispered] You have got to keep a lower profile, Stark.

STARK.Anthony.E.: JESUS, where the fuck did you come from - and what? What happe - wait, what?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: You’re broadcasting your intent. Shh. Secure the perimeter, would you?

QUAN.Rebecca: FUCK. There’s-- [coughing]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: You-- you’re Bec’s assistant, right? Do you have a fire extinguisher?!

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Yeah, yeah, I’ve got it-- [footsteps]

ODINSON.Thor: Captain, shall I call down a storm to flood the flames?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Right! Over there, Thor, that’s the worst of it; I’ll get this here.

[booming thunder]

[rain]

QUAN.Rebecca: NO SHIT NO NO WATER DAMAGE NO.

STARK.Anthony.E.: But he’s - okay, okay, quit deathglaring me -

[footsteps, shouting and talking]

BANNER.Robert.B.: Becky, there’s nothing you can -

QUAN.Rebecca: [coughing]
I NEED TO SAVE MY FUCKING PAINTINGS.

BANNER.Robert.B.: No, you need to save your skin. It’s hot as hell in there.

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Here. Er. Captain?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Thanks. If we can just get EVERYONE OUT OF THE BUILDING…

[loud spraying sound.]

QUAN.Rebecca:SHIT SHIT SHIT don’t hurt the--

BANNER.Robert.B.: DON’T - they’re doing what they can. BECKY, LISTEN TO ME. You need to get outside and call the fire department. Let me see your - you’re burned. We’re leaving.

QUAN.Rebecca:But I-- [sobs, footsteps]

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Stark! Can you shut off the power to the building? Er. It’s…

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Rachel, sir.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Does a bear shit in the woods?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Rachel. Show Stark where the power is?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Seriously. Power I can do - let’s move, Rachel.

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Back office. That way. Okay, everybody, door’s over there!

[footsteps]

[Building power shuts down]

ODINSON.Thor: The flames appear to be quenched, Captain, and I smell not the foul scent of smouldering flesh.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: All right. Good. Everyone out?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Everyone but us.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Fine. Let’s move outside.

[footsteps]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ouch. Thor, did you rain all over Becky’s paintings?

ODINSON.Thor: Fire or flood, their fate was sealed. I shall greatly mourn the death of “pointillism”.

LEWIS.Darcy: Don’t worry. There is shitloads more pointillism at the Met.

[footsteps]

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Okay. So. I’ll call the fire department back and tell them the fire’s out, and-- does anyone want to take this cheese home?

QUAN.Rebecca: You rescued the cheese.

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Of course I did. Do you know how long those trays too?

QUAN.Rebecca: [sobbing]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I’m sorry, babe - c’mere, you’re shaking.

QUAN.Rebecca: It’s just...all that...

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I know.

QUAN.Rebecca: [deep breaths] Okay. Okay. I need to get back in there and do an inventory, and then--

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Oh, no you fucking don’t, Bec. Go home. Clint, take her home.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Absofuckinglutely. They’ll keep, Becky.

STARK.Anthony.E.:They’ll want to make sure there’s no structural damage before they let anyone back in, anyway. [footsteps] Steve - jesus, do you not have the sense to step away from burning masterpieces??

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Tony. It’s fine. This is my job. The burns’ll go away in a few hours.

ODINSON.Thor: I have reclaimed seven paintings from the flames of devastation! Here, Man of Iron, hold these. I loathe to see such skillful renditions needlessly incinerated.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: We can incinerate the skillful rendition of my nostrils, please.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I have a serious issue with - [muffled sound] - okay, one, how the fuck did this fire start and two, why does this painting of me have googly glasses and devil horns drawn onto it?!

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Can that one go up on the wall?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I abstain from comment.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It...came from the interactive display? I don’t know, it’s a computer-thing.

[sirens approaching]

STARK.Anthony.E.: God. The whole superhero-ing thing is pretty okay, but I fucking hate making statements to the police. Are we all staying?

ROGERS.Steven.G.: It wouldn’t be right to leave, would it? We’re witnesses. [Sigh] Tony, I can handle the statements. Just tell them you were in the other room with-- with what’s-her-name.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I… you know, I guess I can stay. A little backup never hurt anyone, right? I’ll just open another bottle of wine, you know, for the road….

QUAN.Rebecca: Sure, open all the wine you want. Ugh. The cleaning bills. Poor Merrie. I...Babe, you didn’t break anything with those arrows, did you?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I don’t think so - I mean I’m not an electrician, but like… I asked and everything before I stabbed it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Clint, you heart breaker.

BANNER.Robert.B.: Hey gang, the police have arrived - we need to clear the building and make some statements. Oh - are we keeping all that cheese?

UNKNOWN.Rachel: Please take the cheese.

QUAN.Rebecca: Clint, I’m staying at the Tower tonight, there is just...no, no way...

ROGERS.Steven.G.: Ahem. I’ll head out and start with the police.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: And I’m disappearing. Last thing I need is cops asking for my name. See you boys at home.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You wanna take the Audi, Nat?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Hah. Do I ever. Keys, Stark.

[keys jangle]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Go, you crazy Russian, go.

{END TRANSMISSION}

{TRANSMITTING}

Chapter Text

[LVL 41 / SUITE 4101 MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:BARTON.Clinton.F.,QUAN.Rebecca]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

 

Hey, Becca, hey, shhh. It’s okay. You - can I get you anything?

[rustling]

QUAN.Rebecca.: [sniffling, gulping]

Um...um…

[sniffling]

Tea? Hot tea?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Of course. Uh, the greeny kind or the, uh, not green kind?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Heh. [sniffle]

Whatever you’ve got. No caffeine.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Alrighty, here. You get a shock blanket - like Sherlock! I’ll be right back.

QUAN.Rebecca.: But I didn't catch a serial killer.

[sniff]

You’re the best Watson.

[sniffle]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: [clinking, clacking]

[hot water bubbling]

Steve’ll be up in the penthouse, Nat’s… I’ll just snag some of her tea, she won’t mind. You want, uh, crackers or…. something? Oh! There’s chocolate. I’d say we need chocolate.

QUAN.Rebecca.:Yes, chocolate. All the chocolate. And water. And. Ugh. The problem with being shocked sober is it doesn’t help your stomach. Toast? Can I get toast? Or no. Crackers are fine. Like, super plain ones. Ugh.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: [clanking]

[scraping]

Here. Uh, do you put sugar in your tea? This stuff is Nat’s favorite, she takes hers with no sugar and a little milk.

QUAN.Rebecca.: [crunching]

No sugar, no milk...just. Hot. Plain.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Here.

[couch creaking]

I’m...sorry about tonight. What a scene.

QUAN.Rebecca.: You didn’t do it. I just…

[sips]

Mmm. Hot.

[sips]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I know. I get that all the time.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Oh, yeah, the service isn’t too shabby either. Up a little? Neck, please? Thanks. Yeah. That’s nice. I just...I don’t...I don’t know how to process, even.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah. It’s a lot to take in.

You were great, though. Totally calm, helping people get out, never lost your head.... You really work well under pressure, you know that?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Hardly. I totally freaked out. I fucked my hand up. Rachel's the one who did everything.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: That was a normal response, though. How’s it feeling? We have more burn salve… better to keep it uncovered and moist. The gauze’ll stick if you try to…

Mmm. It looks like it hurts.

QUAN.Rebecca.: [hiss] Ow. Ow ow ow. Okay. Ow.

[sips]

Yeah, it’s...ugh, this is going to scar, isn’t it?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Keep it covered in antibiotic ointment, open until it starts pinking up and then you can loosely cover when you’re touching shit in public, vitamin E the crap out of it for a few weeks… but you know, scar are kind of cool. You’ll look totally mysterious and stuff.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Ha, yeah, with a fucking thumb scar, it’s super visible to anyone staring at my thumbs. BEWARE THE SCARRED WOMAN, no one will even notice. It’ll totally match my boob, ha.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I like your boob scar. It’s your Red Badge of Courage. Well, okay. Pinkish White Badge Of Courage.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Fucking Amazon Warrior badge of courage.

[smooch]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Mmm. I’m serious though - you beat mother fucking cancer, what’s a little fire? The art wasn’t that great, anyway.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Hey. I curated that show. I...Clint, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. The building’s a fucking wreck; that was millions of dollars in art. I mean, we’re insured, but...that happened on my watch. Mine.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: That doesn’t mean that it was your fault, or that you could have done anything to change the outcome.

QUAN.Rebecca.: What if I fucked something up with the installation? All that lighting...ugh. Fuck. What if I overdid the circuits? I…

[sips]

And I’m still the one who has to deal with the consequences. I could lose my job. My fucking-- do you know how hard it is, to get where I am before thirty?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I don’t. I’ve never had a very, uh, standard career trajectory.

It could have been anything, Rebecca. It could have been someone smoking out back, or someone spilling their drink onto a socket.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Or Tony Stark’s pants.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: They were definitely flaming.

QUAN.Rebecca.: [snort]

[sip]

My god, what the fuck. I mean, you usually assume people aren’t as ridiculous as the media makes them out to be. He is actually, actually ridiculous. But, like. In an awesome way.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Sometimes. Mostly he’s just a ridiculous, ridiculous dick.

I mean, we work well together. We don’t live together so well, mostly. He throws shitfits if you nick a single wonton.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Wonton theft is serious business, Clint.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah, yeah. That’s me, hardened criminal.

Do you really think they’d hold you accountable for something like this?

QUAN.Rebecca.: I don’t even know. I mean, I guess it all depends what caused it. If it was something I could help, I mean, yeah, sheesh, I just lost us millions of dollars, joy.

[gulp]

I’ve just...I mean, I know you get giving shit up. I’ve given up so much shit for this.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I know you have. You had to.

QUAN.Rebecca.: And it sucks, because, because…you know. If I tell my parents, the first thing out of my dad’s mouth is going to be, good, now you can get a real job, and my mom’s going to be, all, good, now you can find a husband. Fuck.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I have a hard time believing you would let that happen. Crawl back with your tail between your legs? That’s not you.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Of course not, but I’m still going to have to fucking listen to their bullshit. Sorry. It kind of sucks to be bitching about my perfectly normal family to somebody who doesn’t have one.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I have a family. They’re not very normal, but hey. Maybe that’s the new standard, or whatever.

….

I am sorry about the gallery. I’m not too worried about you, though.

QUAN.Rebecca.: [sniffle] Yeah. I...I don’t know. I’m gonna...I have some money saved, but...it’s gonna be a while till I can work. And poor Rachel, she’s hourly. She just started. She’s so cute and little. I mean. Big. But little.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: She’s a nice girl. There are other galleries -- other collections. I bet Steve would let you arrange a showing of his work as a stopgap. I’d offer you my MLP fanart, but no one cares about that shit.

And tumblr has seen it all, anyway…

QUAN.Rebecca.: DRAW ME AVENGER PONIES.

[laugh]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Oh boy. I get to be pretty and purple - I’m gonna be a unicorn. A dudicorn! With a crossbow for a horn. Or, you know, at least an arrow.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Target cutie mark?

[laugh]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Hey! Hands off the goods, missy.

[smooching]

Watch it, if you like my cutie mark so much I might start rocking the tight pants ala Mr. Tony Stark.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Dealbreaker, babe. I like your pants the way they are. On or off.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: [inaudible]

I’m … I feel bad I didn’t tell you about Steve and Stark. It’s just such a flaming clusterfuck that I felt like… I didn’t really want it to be our problem, you know?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Dude, it’s fine. I mean, Steve should’ve told-- I don’t understand why he didn’t tell me; it would have made things way less awkward. Is it really a clusterfuck? They seemed pretty happy. You know, from what I could tell what with the super-closeted thing.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: That’s what I mean, it’s the super-closeted thing that makes it weird. They’re always dancing around each other, and Stark has all this weird tension with Pepper. Plus there’s the whole daddy-issues thing and the age difference thing and the wearings-women’s-clothes thing, which I admit is new…

Okay, okay. They work in a weird way. But I’m tired of watching them handle their issues like teenagers.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Well, Steve kind of handles all his issues like a teenager. I don’t...I don’t think he’s ever gotten a chance to grow up, really? Is that too mean to say?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Maybe. Doesn’t mean it’s not true. I like Steve. He’s a solid sort of dude, he’s just… he alternates between being wise beyond his years and arrested development to the max.

At least he’s got a reason. Tony Stark is this wealthy, handsome, perfect dude - he can be so freaking generous, and then turns around and throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

QUAN.Rebecca.: [snort] I mean, at least Steve can’t be oblivious to temper tantrums? Kind of makes it easier to read somebody.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah. I think Steve’d benefit from a temper tantrum or two, though. He does that thing where he hates complaining so he just trucks along being silently miserable. I don’t think he realizes that… well.

QUAN.Rebecca.: That it’s okay to have feelings? Or tell people what you want?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah. Or that people feel down because it’s a normal human reaction to difficult circumstances, not some kind of weird emasculating weakness.

QUAN.Rebecca.: The Captain America schtick again. God forbid anybody be less than perfectly masculine. Dude. Remember when we watched 300 and he was, like, not getting any of our homoerotic jokes? I just thought he was...you know. Actually not getting them.

Not staring at all those abs. How can you not stare at all those abs?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Don’t ask me. They’re tasty. I’d lick almost anything off those abs.

I mean…. he’s comfy in that closet. He gets to decide when or if he comes out. It’s just ...hard to get used to looking at it like that.

I feel sorry for him. And not just because he’s dating Tony Fucking Stark.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Oh, come on, it can’t be so bad dating the world’s sexiest billionaire. Tantrums, whatever, he seemed like a good guy. He helped out at the gallery, got his fucking sweater dirty. Didn’t complain.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: No. He’s good in the field, I’ll give him that. Even when he doesn’t follow orders he’s irritatingly good in the field.

He’s not terrible. We just… you know, after New York and everything we each had our own shit to deal with, we never really…

[silence]

[sipping]

Ew. Your tea is getting cold.

QUAN.Rebecca.: There’s only one thing to do for that.

[glug]

[glug]

Ahhh…

There.

Yeah, he was in California and the news thought he was dead and shit, right?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: We all thought he was dead. It was a … weird situation. We had Christmas gifts under the tree and everything, from someone we all thought was…

QUAN.Rebecca.: [smooch]

I’m sorry. Ugh. That’s a shitty Christmas. And this-- well. At least the actual-actual Christmas was good.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: It wasn’t my worst Christmas.

This one may have been my best. Does that sound dumb? Sorry if that sounds dumb.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Wait, no, really? Really? No, that’s not dumb, that’s…

Yeah. Uh. Might have been my best, at least since I was sixteen and my parents got me my first video camera.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah? Did you go and make a bunch of angsty teenage art film?

[smooches]

I mean. Uh. Brilliant cinematic masterpieces. That’s definitely what I meant.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Oh, no, you were right the first time. Shitty shitty art films. So angsty. Such death. Much sorrow. Wow.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Running mascara?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Fake wrist-slitting. Oh, god, woe is me, life as an upper-middle-class teenager so difficult.

[silence]

Really? Best?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Ah… yeah. Thanks.

I mean. I know it was kind of an accident that I got invited, but I really…

QUAN.Rebecca.: [inaudible]

It was stupid. I picked the wrong guy. It should’ve been you from the start.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah?

[rustling]

I, uh. Thought so too.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Mmm. Well, you should’ve said something sooner.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Wasn’t… really an option. I wanted both of you to be happy. I guess I, uh, still get my wish. But now I get laid, too, sooooo…

QUAN.Rebecca.: Ha. You’re just in it for the sex, right? The sex and the awkward family dinners?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I consider the sex and awkward family dinners a bonus.

I… I’m really…

Bad at this sort of thing.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Not true. You fucking kick ass at this sort of thing. You made tea and let me be Sherlock and shit.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Did you just call my offer of hand-drawn My Little Pony Friendship is Magic watercolors shit?

QUAN.Rebecca.: [inaudible]

Nah, I was referring to the charming candor about my ex’s crazy new boyfriend. Your MLP art is fucking to be treasured for the ages.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I’ll give YOU something to treasure.

[smooches]

I...meant. I’m super into you, Becks, I don’t know if I can be a decent boyfriend - it’s been a while since I’ve tried, honestly - but… I’ll try. If that’s, you know, what you’ve got in mind.

QUAN.Rebecca.: I kind of have to, like, otherwise it’ll really disappoint Katie’s kids if you don’t come with me next time.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: That … would be really unfortunate. Someone needs to kick their asses at Candy Land, or they’ll get all smug and shit.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Excuse me? You lost, like, six games in a row. They fucking wiped the floor with you.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I was going easy on ‘em -- It’s a strategy, okay? I’m playing the long game.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Yeah? Do you want to play the long game, then?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: All the way past go, collect two hundred dollars?

I’m in.

Provided, of course, that the long game starts with another shot at your adorable Christmas panties.

QUAN.Rebecca.: I’m wearing Hanukkah panties. Had to mix it up.

[inaudible]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Does that mean I get eight crazy nights?

[inaudible]

QUAN.Rebecca.: Are you offering?

[inaudible]

I’m in, too. So in. Ridiculously in.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah? Oh yeah.

[inaudible]

QUAN.Rebecca.: Yeah. I mean. Katie liked you. That never happens. I’ve still got reservations about the whole Avengers thing, right? And I’m not-- you know. I don’t exactly have the best track record of girlfriending, either. But I want to try, too.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: That’s all I want. A shot.

I never miss?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Dork.

[smooch]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Sorry, sorry. I’ll tell you this - and, you know, not to be a pessimist or anything - but I’m pretty good at staying friends with people after...

QUAN.Rebecca.: I know. You and Nat have a pretty sweet setup, it seems like.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Yeah. It’s great. She’s… very important to me, the only real family I have. But I don’t like giving up on people just because one thing or another doesn’t work. So we do this, we do our best, we see what happens, and if it gets… to be not what we want, we redefine and move forward. Deal?

QUAN.Rebecca.: Shake on it?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Of course.

[shaking]

QUAN.Rebecca.: Nose bite on it?

Mrow! Oh. Ooops.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: OW! Hey, I need that! It gives my face its beaky, hawk-like style!

QUAN.Rebecca.: You can bite back if it makes it any better.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Oh hell yes I’ll bite you back. Are you still in shock? ‘cause I need this blanket.

QUAN.Rebecca.: Oh yeah?

[snarl]

You’re gonna have to take it from me, Watson.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: This I can do.

[shrieking]

[laughter]

[inaudible]

[rustling]

[inaudible]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: …”I like you a latke?”

QUAN.Rebecca.: Heck yes.

[inaudible]

{{TRANSMITTING…….}}

Chapter Text

S -

Sorry about our gallery night getting derailed - that wasn't how I'd hoped the evening would go at all. Kind of a drag about all those paintings - there were a few good ones in there and a couple that I just could NOT figure out. Cubism is weird as shit.

You looked good enough to eat, by the way. I'm a little depressed that you still haven't seen Star Wars and yet know how to ironically dress yourself as a fake-Christmas-hipster. That probably reflects pretty badly on the company you're keeping, myself not excluded.

Becky... okay, Steve, she was actually pretty okay. I'm not sure she's worthy of having been Tony Stark's former romantic competition, but she mostly kept her shit together when everything went down and I appreciated that. Also, the cheese plates were excellent.

Is it weird that she's dating Clint? It feels weird to me. I know it's none of my business but if there's anything I can do to help make that a little easier for you, let me know.

Anyway, I'll be upstairs whenever you want to come up, just let yourself in. I stole half a cheese plate and am fully prepared to feed it to you piece by piece in a very sexy scientific test of your super soldier metabolism. Bring some of that tasty Steve Rogers flavored ice cream while you're at it...

 

T

Chapter Text

T--

I think I must not have shut the freezer all the way, because the ice cream's all melted. I need to call Ben & Jerry's for more.

Don't worry about Clint and Becky. It was a little strange, you know, especially how fast that all happened, but I'm perfectly happy with how things are. She's a great girl, like I told you. Just, well, not interested in being anyone's romantic competition. I just feel bad for her-- I hope the damage wasn't too costly. I hope she can get the gallery open again quickly. She's got the art insured, I know, but without anything to sell...

You, on the other hand, looked ridiculous. The glasses are a nice touch (See? I keep reminding you that you're supposed to wear them at the computer. Practicality goes in the turn-on column.), but I insist on doing something about those pants. They are an abomination and must be removed.

I'm on my way up to address that situation.

--S

Chapter Text

from: POTTS V. Pepper (vpotts@starkindustries.com))
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org))

subject: World’s Most Awkward Clarification

Steve,

I’m not particularly thrilled to be writing this e-mail, but given that you contacted me less than a week after our last conversation I want to reiterate what I need from you if you were serious about maintaining a cordial relationship with me while dating my ex.

You can be very headstrong when you believe something is the right thing to do, so I want to be clear. When I asked you to give me space I was being perfectly serious. I understand that you invited me to Christmas because you felt it was the correct thing to do. I attended because it’s Christmas and at Christmas you spend time with the people you care about - for me, that’s Tony.

Please understand how difficult and awkward it was for me to attend dinner and watch Tony play house with his new family/boyfriend/dog. I need you to respect my request for space and stop e-mailing me, even with well-intentioned invitations.

Thanks,
Pepper

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: POTTS V. Pepper (vpotts@starkindustries.com)

subject: RE: World’s Most Awkward Clarification

Dear Pepper,

I wasn't sure whether I should answer this or not, as you specifically requested that I not email you again, but it also seemed rude to let it go without an acknowledgment. I'll try to keep it brief.

I feel like I should expain I understand that there is no call for me to excuse my poor judgment. At the same time, I knew Tony would want to see you, and I suspected he would not invite you himself. Nevertheless, it doesn't justify my behavior.

I am very deeply sorry for misunderstanding the bounds of your request and you have my assurance that I will not contact you again unless it is absolutely necessary in my role as Captain America. I will ask Natasha to serve as chief liaison to Stark Industries. If you need to contact the Avengers and would prefer to work through her for the time being, please do so. Please let me know if and when you feel it is appropriate to revise this request.

Sincerely,

Steve

Chapter Text

Tony,

I got an email from Pepper. She told me she doesn't want me emailing her again.

She said that I shouldn't have invited her to Christmas dinner, because it was disrespecting her wishes to give her space, and that if I want to be friends, I won't speak to her, which--

How am I supposed to maintain a friendship if I don't speak to her?

I replied to her. I wasn't sure if I should, but it seemed like I should at least acknowledge that I got it. I just tried to keep it to the bare minimum.

She said some things about is playing house, and your new family. She said she only came because you're still important to her, and she wanted to see you.

I don't want to be in the middle of whatever you need to do to make things right with her. I want to be able to help you, but it seems like I'm only making things worse. That wasn't my intention. I just knew she might be alone for Christmas, and that you'd be sorry if you didn't see her.

Maybe I don't understand all the intricacies of this, but frankly, it sounds to me as if she has no interest in maintaining a friendship. I'm the one she called when you were wrecked in Japan. I'm the one who got on that damn airplane and flew out there. Me. And I understand why she couldn't, and she shouldn't have had to, but I've never done anything but treat her kindly. For god's sake, she said she might want you back, I was all set to step aside. Does she have the slightest idea how difficult it is to make a decision like that?

I know she's hurt, butI have nothing to do with your falling out. I don't like feeling as if I'm being cast as the enemy, here. I don't like being a convenient scapegoat. If Christmas had been a month later, I would have contacted her a month later. It's not my fault Christmas was so soon on the heels of...well, everything. I can't move Christmas. And I know you're important to her; I thought it was important for her to know that I understood how important you are to each other.

I don't need you to do anything about this. I just need you to know that it happened. I'll see you tonight.

Steve

Chapter Text

[LVL 2: STARK APARTMENTS SOHO / AREA MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:POTTS.Virginia.P.,STARK.Anthony.E,]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

POTTS.Virginia.P.: ...need to change the flight plan to add a stopover in Chicago, and--

STARK.Anthony.E.: PEPPER. Pepper, please open the door. Let me in - Pepper? JARVIS, tell Pepper to let me in.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Miss Potts has requested not to be disturbed, sir….

[banging on door]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: J.A.R.V.I.S., can you please remind Mr. Stark that I have a five forty-five flight tomorrow morning so that I can go deal with his unresolved battery issue?

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Sir, Miss Potts references the new Starkpad’s less than optimal battery life and would like to remind you that she has an early flight tomorrow morning.

STARK.Anthony.E.: The fucking battery life is fine, she probably has it set up wrong, she’s so - PEPPER! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME. I could hack this fucking door open, but that would just - I’M NOT LEAVING UNTIL WE TALK, EVEN IF IT MEANS FOLLOWING YOU TO THE AIRPORT.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Miss Potts, sir has reminded you that you most likely have the Starkpad’s OS set up incorrectly.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: J.A.R.V.I.S., please point out to Mr. Stark that he set up the OS on that particular device for me and--

STARK.Anthony.E.: PEPPER. PLEASE. Please. JARVIS, tell her I said please. Like ten times.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Sir, she can hear you perfectly well, carrying on like that.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Twice isn’t ten times, Tony. J.A.R.V.I.S., can you please supply the dictionary definition of hyperbole for Mr. Stark?

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Hyperbole. Noun. Rhetoric. obvious and intentional exaggera--

STARK.Anthony.E.: You know why I’m here. You know why we need to talk. Also, I’m canceling your flight if you don’t open this door up.

For christ’s sake… [beeping]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Cancel my flight, and I’ll tell the Board you’re cancelling the new StarkPad in favor of building doghouses.

[door opens]

Please tell me you’re not here for the reason I think you’re here.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Pepper. This isn’t okay. Nothing is - okay, with us, and we need to figure our shit out.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Really? Really, and you realized this when I’m leaving in...eight hours? J.A.R.V.I.S., how long have I been in town?

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Eleven days, miss.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve told me you emailed him.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Steve. Steve. Not me, not you, not Christmas…Steve says something, and now you need to talk?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yes. Because until Steve told me what you’d said to him - I didn’t realize how unhappy you were.

Can I come in?

POTTS.Virginia.P.:

[sigh]

It’s your apartment, Tony. And you’re already in.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I told you I’d never force my way into your space.

[silence]

Thanks. You, uh. Want a drink?

POTTS.Virginia.P.:

[footsteps, ice clinking in glass]

I’ve already got one. Help yourself; you know where the bar is.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [footsteps, pouring]

I’m… Pepper. Are you okay?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Am I okay?

[footsteps, creaking]

Am I okay? No, no, Tony, I’m not okay. Nothing about this is okay. You didn’t realize-- are you okay?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No, of course not! Would I be here if we were fine?

I mean. I guess I might be. Pepper… is, are we talking about Christmas? Or the - uh, the breakup, or… Steve...

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I do not want to talk about your gorgeous twenty-six-year-old boyfriend, Tony. But they’re...don’t you understand that they’re all the same thing?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I - yeah. It’s pretty freaking clear at the moment. Pep - Pep, I love you. You know I lo--

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Tony. You do not get to say that right now.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Why the fuck not? I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you….

POTTS.Virginia.P.: TONY.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay. I hurt you every fucking day of the week, I get that with the clarity of hindsight and shit, but I wouldn’t mean to do anything that would hurt you -

Okay. Okay, I’m .... The l-word hurts, okay.

[ice clinking]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: [sniffling] You gave me fucking pearls.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I … yeah, I gave you … pearls?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: You don’t… you don’t get to leave me and give me pearls.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Leave you? Pepper, you wrote a fucking press release! You left me!

POTTS.Virginia.P.: You left a long time before I wrote that press release, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Because you ended it. There was nothing for me there, without you.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Oh, for fuck’s sake, Tony, you packed up and went to New York to live in some kind of superhero frat house back in May while I was trying to pick up the pieces at home and terrified that whatever you did wouldn’t take and one day I would wake up burning hot again, and you just…

STARK.Anthony.E.: SHIELD - SHIELD needed me there. SI needed me there. I thought you wanted me there.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: That’s exactly what I wanted, Tony; I wanted you moving in with the people who didn’t bother to lift a finger when everyone thought you were dead.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You told me you didn’t want the suits in the house. You told me - you stopped sleeping in the master bedroom, you -

POTTS.Virginia.P.: You told me there weren’t going to be any more suits.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I said I’d stop building them. I meant I’d… come out of that cycle.

I could never give up being Iron Man.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Yes, you made that eminently clear back in October. But that was your choice to make. Yours. Take some responsibility.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You gave me an ultimatum.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I think stop putting the people you love in danger is a fair ultimatum.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Still an ultimatum.

Look - I’m sorry. Things were shit for a lot of our time together, and I know 95% of that was on me. I get it. But you knew who I was when we started dating - even before Iron Man, there were kidnappings and death threats and bombs in my private jet. You knew that.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I’m sorry, Tony. I’m sorry I didn’t accurately predict how I would feel about getting kidnapped and tortured for being your girlfriend. I obviously should have known better.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Don’t… don’t be so…

If I had thought, even for a moment, that you might be in that position I never would have pursued you. Aldritch’s vendetta had nothing to do with Iron Man and everything to do with me being a dickbag. We would have been there with or without armor.

At least I could try to protect you.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: So I was supposed to know better, but you weren’t supposed to be able to guess?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No, you knew that was a risk and decided it was worth it - when I had the armor, I thought I could handle whatever came at us.

I couldn’t.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Can you say that again? Can I maybe get that printed, and framed, that there’s something you admit you can’t do?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah. Well, JARVIS is undoubtedly recording this. Set it as your ringtone, maybe, so the whole world will know.

There’s a lot I can’t do, Pep. I can’t make you happy, and I can’t make this right.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I know. I just thought...well. I didn’t think you’d move on quite so quickly.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It… yeah. All that happened so...

You must think I’m such a fuckwit.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: What happened, I finally managed to get you that last nineteen-forty-three hundred-and-thirty-two page variant Captain America-Human Torch reprint issue and you had to go and find another way to expand your collection?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Fuck.

He. Came on to me. I know it sounds fucking ridiculous, but I never meant for it to happen, and then it did and I just - I was lonely, and miserable, and he’s so fucking perfect.

I didn’t think.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: He’s a child, Tony. And you-- you gave him a dog. For Christmas.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s a therapy dog. It senses symptoms associated with PTSD and provides comfort.

I started the paperwork in September, but it took ages to go through. It wasn’t supposed to be what it looks like it is.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: [silence]

How is it that you figured out how to do something like that for him after a few months when you couldn’t ever do it for me?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I don’t know, Pepper. He’s like me. I - I was having those… panic attacks. After New York. And it was the worst fucking thing, it was awful.

But I had you and Rhodey and DUM-E around, and Steve was just, you know, alone, being his miserable 1940’s self and it just seemed like a thing he needed.

I don’t know. We’re very alike, in some ways.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: But when it was me, after the house, and Killian, and...you retreated. I don’t-- I’m not trying to accuse you of anything. But I don’t understand.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I was responsible for your experience. It was my fucking fault, okay? Being near you wasn’t. Easy.

[silence]

I didn’t think that was what you wanted.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I didn’t want a dog. I wanted you. I wanted you to be there; I needed you, and you just...you were anywhere else. Of course it wasn’t easy. It was worse without you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You were always pissed at me. You were always -

[silence]

You never told me that was what you wanted.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: How many times did I ask you to come home?

STARK.Anthony.E.: A lot.

I guess I didn’t want to.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Then don’t say I didn’t tell you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I thought you needed me for SI. I thought you were trying to keep me away from the Avengers Initiative.

I’ve never liked problems I can’t solve.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I have very bad news for you, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [ice clinking]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Someday your scandalously-younger boy toy is going to have a problem you can’t solve, you know.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Don’t talk about him like that. [footsteps]

[ice clinking, liquor pouring]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Pour me another while you’re up. How do you want me to talk about him? You don’t seriously think you’re in love with him, do you?

[ice clinking, liquor pouring]

STARK.Anthony.E.: He’s a good man.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Tony, the day that the quality of someone’s moral fiber prevents you from making shit decisions--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve is a good man and deserves to be treated as such in your correspondence. You shouldn’t be taking your anger at me out on him or making him feel demeaned when you’re -

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I’m sorry, Tony, but at the moment, I’m a little more concerned with how it makes me feel when he treats me like we’re all supposed to be the best of friends and I shouldn't feel like shit getting cheery little invitations to family dinner to remind me that I'm not part of your family anymore, so I have the choice between sitting at home feeling miserable by myself and walking into your home and seeing you with your tongue down his throat.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You have to know that’s not at all what he meant to do with that invitation, Pepper. He’s an orphan, for fuck’s sake, he didn’t want you to be alone at Christmas because he’s got the heart of Tiny motherfucking Tim, okay? You didn’t rsvp. I didn’t know you’d be there or I would never - ever have made you see that.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I-- Tony, you knew I was alone in New York at Christmas. I waited until the last minute, hoping you’d manage to invite me yourself instead of leaving it to your boyfriend.

STARK.Anthony.E.: He told me you told him you had other plans. I’m not a fucking mind reader, Pepper.

Of course I wanted you at Christmas.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Then I should have heard it from you. I don’t read minds either, and unlike present company, I do read emails and text messages.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You - you told him you weren’t available, and I believed it, and this is somehow my fault. You dumped me - why the fuck would I think you wanted to see me on Christmas?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: [silence]

BecauseI don't have anyone else, and you remember last Christmas.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m sorry for how this happened, Pepper. If I’d realized you came to New York to see me I would have handled this very differently. You told me you were here for work, you told Steve you had somewhere else to be.

I’m sorry.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I meant to surprise you, and then...it didn’t seem to matter.

[strained laughter]

I told your boyfriend I might steal you back.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Jesus, Pepper. Can you please call him Steve? He’s an actual person, a person who likes you and has been fucking ridiculously kind to you considering what a shitty thing that is to say to someone.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: You know what’s shitty, Tony? Not having an opportunity to resolve the mountain of issues you have to sort through with the person you thought was the love of your life because he's too busy after he's gone and decided to replace you more or less instantly with a perfect human.

[sigh]

And I know that’s not his fault, but I don’t think anything I said was worse than resolving your loneliness by sleeping with some young, naive kid who obviously worships you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You’re mad at me, just be fucking mad at me. Steve deserves better than that from you and I think you know it.

There are so many fucking thing wrong with that - I didn’t replace you, or want to replace you. He’s not a perfect human, he’s just a guy like anyone else with flaws and strengths and he happens to be really fucking good to me.

I have no fucking idea what he sees in me. Maybe the same thing you did. Who the fuck knows, right?

[ice clinking]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I’m not mad at him, Tony. But I can’t deal with him right now, either, and it’s not fair of you to ask me to. I-- you’re right that you’re alike; he’s as shitty at boundaries as you are.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, you’re being pretty hateful for someone who isn’t mad.

I’m not asking you to deal with him. He’s clear, he assigned Nat as the SI liaison. You won’t hear from him again.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I am mad. At you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Fine. Good.

[silence]

POTTS.Virginia.P.: And I miss you. All the time. You’re-- my life revolved around you for so long, it’s like-- I should be happy about this, right? That I don’t have to do that anymore?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No more sexual harassment lawsuits. No more custom rabbits. It’s...not really such a bad deal.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I don’t even know if you’re going to understand this, but...I don’t have anything else. You got to walk away and move in with your ready-made family. I got to drown myself in work. Which is still all about you. I see you everywhere, every day. I don't have any way to get away from you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s … not really a family. It’s pretty fucking dysfunctional. I’m pretty sure only two of them don’t hate me.

But I - didn’t really think about it that way.

You could… you could make room for something else. You could take a vacation. You could take a - uh, sabbatical.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I’ve been thinking about it. I just don’t know who would run things.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I…. could?

POTTS.Virginia.P.:You...?

p>STARK.Anthony.E.: Please don’t laugh. I’ll hire another PA or five. I could manage it for a few months, probably.

Or we could hire someone in, maybe what’s her face who left Apple a couple of months back…

POTTS.Virginia.P.: God, no, I’m not going back on my policy of promoting internally. And unfortunately, the last person I hired who seemed to maybe have potential once I warmed up to her turned out to be a trained master killer. Are you-- is that something you’d want to do? On top of the Avengers?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to get back in that game, but - If that’s what you need, I can handle it.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Well, I’m sure you can handle at least twelve percent of it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: So you’re thinking like, six more PAs?

I’m being serious, you know. Though we might keep it on the DL when it comes to the media. I don’t… you know, want them to think you’re leaving permanently.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Well, I had a thought about that. I seem to remember you promising me a building with my name on it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: That can still happen; I might want to up the arc reactor security, though.

Wow. Leave SI? I didn’t think I could miss you more than I already do, but that might do it.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Leaving now would kill our stock. No. Sabbatical. I know it’s not what you had in mind, but can my building be a donation to Wharton?

STARK.Anthony.E.: What, the school?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: They’ve been trying to offer me a visiting lecturer position for ages. The timing was never right. Obviously.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You’d be a fantastic teacher; you totally rock the sexy librarian look. That sounds pretty… good, actually. Consider it done. Maybe open the design competition to architectural students?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: That’s actually not a half-bad idea. I can send you a plan as soon as I’m back in California?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Of course. I’m serious about the name, though.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: So am I. Good, we’re agreeing on something.

STARK.Anthony.E.: That’s kind of frightening.

You - Pepper, you do realize that despite … everything, we’re stuck, right? We’re going to be old and moldy in some nursing home at ninety and you’re still going to be bitching at me for -

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Dating twenty-three-year-olds?

STARK.Anthony.E.: - I was going to say pouring you 12% smaller cocktails, but he’s totally twenty seven and that rounds up to thirty and it’s not that young, jesus christ.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Well, ‘dating Captain America’ seemed awfully specific.

[silence]

I know it, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay. Just so long as you know.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I just need some time to get used to...well. Whatever this is now. And I need you to understand that if you’re off-- I don’t know. Moving across the country, buying dogs for people, having a life that doesn’t include me...I’m going to need the space to do the same.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah. Of course. I mean I’ll probably pay Natasha to stalk anyone you date, but that’s probably for the best.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: You don’t need to worry; I doubt I’m going to be dating anyone for a while.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Would you believe I said that too?

um. Can we …?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Of course you can hug me. Good, you learned something in workplace sensitivity training.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nah, I learned this at the P. Potts School of Business. Your first student - best and brightest, right?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Do I need J.A.R.V.I.S. to repeat that definition of ‘hyperbole’ again?

STARK.Anthony.E.: For the millionth time?

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Ha. Come here. Just...don’t be surprised if I fall asleep on you. Early flight.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [couch cushions shifting] Mmm. Go right ahead. I won’t let you miss it.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: What was it you always said? It's my plane. It’ll wait for me.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Did I say that? What a dick line. I can’t believe you’re letting me run your company.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: Letting you? It’s strictly revenge for dating someone younger and hotter.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Younger, yes. Hotter? Dream on.

POTTS.Virginia.P.: I’m going to take that one.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Thank you, Miss Potts. That will be all.

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING…}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

[LVL 41 / SUITE 1776 MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC: ROMANOVA.Natalia]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

ROMANOVA.Natalia: ...still up here. I’ll keep you posted.

[door opening, shutting]

[footsteps]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nat, hey!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Right. I’m out. [phone beep] Stark.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Whoops, sorry - can’t believe you’re still up. Is Steve?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: He went down to get ice cream. More ice cream. His freezer’s busted.

STARK.Anthony.E.: His wh-- J.A.R.V.I.S.!

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Yes, sir?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Why is Steve’s fridge busted.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Presumably for the same reason your refrigerator door is dented. Captain Rogers can on occasion be very rough with his things.

STARK.Anthony.E.: He’s not… jesus, has he already downed three pints? I need to find a way to superengineer his fucking metabolism, he eats ice cream like I slam whiskey. J, fix the fridge! Work order, stat!

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Of course, sir.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: How’s Pepper?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Jesus, it’s creepy when you pull that shit, Nat. And you’re - you’re giving me your Angry Eyes. Why am I getting angry eyes?

Wait, how did you know --?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I surgically installed a GPS tracker in your left ear while you slept, and also Steve told me.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve….

Fuck.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: That’s why he went to get more ice cream.

STARK.Anthony.E.: How the fuck - I. That’s exactly why I didn’t want him to know.

[footsteps]

[bottles clinking]

ugh. Clint drinks shit beer.

On a scale from one to Nick Fury...…

ROMANOVA.Natalia: He’s not angry. I’m angry. Mostly because I occasionally like to sleep, contrary to popular belief. You...do have the minute social abilities necessary to understand what this might look like, yes?

[bottle opening]

STARK.Anthony.E.: That I … ran off to talk to Pep the minute he told me not to. I know. But that’s really not what we were dealing with, I mean it was part of it, but she was all “it’s all the same thing” and I was like, no, you’re treating Steve like shit, and then we drank a - well, frankly, a lot, christ, and she’s flying out so I thought I’d just stay until her car arrived and I would have texted but I didn’t want to wake Steve up, so…. what? Still with the eyes, Nat. Can you like, turn those down or something?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: You went to see your ex-girlfriend on her last night in town. You didn’t tell your current-- person-- you were going. You didn’t let him know you were going to be late. You…

STARK.Anthony.E.: I just…

Steve wouldn’t think - what you’re thinking. He knows I have no interest in getting back with Pepper, Nat! And I didn’t know he knew, because I didn’t want him to --

He … shit. He thinks ....

[door opening, shutting]

ROGERS.Steven.G: There’s only black raspberry and mint chi--

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve.

[silence]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I...am going to surreptitiously depart.

[footsteps]

ROGERS.Steven.G: I...right. Good night, Natasha.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Call if you need me. [smooching sound]

Good night, Stark.

[door opening, shutting]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve, I am so - so, sorry, can I, uh, help you with your ice cream?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I don’t--

[clunking sounds]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, don’t just leave that -- you should probably, you know, freezer it, or something….

[creaking]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Freezer’s broken.

Tony, how drunk are you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I would say… not quite drunk enough to beg, but definitely drunk enough to grovel? You waited up. Steve…

ROGERS.Steven.G: I always thought groveling was worse than begging. I waited up. [footsteps] How’s Pepper?

STARK.Anthony.E.: She’s, uh, not that great. I would have told you where I was going - I just, after your letter, I thought you’d assume I was there to defend your honor or whatever and I really just. Didn’t want you to think I’m some kind of …. I mean, that’s really not quite why I went...

ROGERS.Steven.G: Right. You-- Never mind. You don’t need to explain yourself. But you are drunk. Sit down. I’m getting you some water. Have you eaten?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Not that drunk. And, uh. No. Pep wasn’t hungry.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [footsteps, cabinets opening and shutting]

[faucet running]

[footsteps]

Here. Drink. Give me that beer.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Thanks. You - you really shouldn’t, I want you to like beer and that stuff is absolute piss.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’ve drunk plenty of piss beer, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: But you don’t have to. I have some nice stuff upstairs, if you’re thir-…

ROGERS.Steven.G: [glug]

[glug]

[glug]

[glass on table]

I’m not.

STARK.Anthony.E.: ….oh.

ROGERS.Steven.G: There’s chow fun in the fridge; do you want it hot or cold?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Uh. Cold is fine.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Right.

[footsteps, fridge opening and shutting]

[faucet running]

[footsteps]

[glass on table]

There you go. Eat. Oh, for--

You’re making your shoelaces worse. Let me do that.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Steve, you don’t have to…

[silence]

Thanks.

You know, I’m prooooobably not too drunk for chopsticks, I’m pretty good with… ah, no, a fork is fine.

[sound of cutlery on plates]

You really don’t have… do this kind of thing. I’m fine.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I do have to.

[silence]

Are you all right?

STARK.Anthony.E.: [silence] I don’t know, Steve. I keep fucking up with the people I care about the most. That’s not really an all right kind of thing. Are you?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m obviously better than you. Do you want to talk about it, or not?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Only if you want to hear about it. Not if you’re offering because you feel like you have to.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I don’t know if I want to hear about it, but I want to know what happened. J.A.R.V.I.S. said you...were down in Soho.

STARK.Anthony.E.: J.A.R.V.I.S. said - ?

Uh. Yeah. I own a condo there, used to stay there when I was in the city before the Tower went up. Pepper uses it when she’s in town. I - look, Steve. You told me what she said to you, and I realized I needed to talk to her. Badly.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You could have told me that. I--do I really seem that unreasonable?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No! You’re not unreasonable, Steve. I … apparently make a lot of assumptions in my daily life, most of which are completely incorrect.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You. Water.

[gulping]

I apparently do the same thing, so.

STARK.Anthony.E.:

You don’t sound okay. I think you’re doing that thing where you’re not okay but you say you’re okay and then you just sort of do what everyone else needs instead of what you need, but…

ROGERS.Steven.G: You’re back. It’s better. I don’t want to make things worse.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Define….. worse? Because better for me isn’t better if it’s worse for you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I was upset. It was unreasonable.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I don’t… I don’t think you’re… unreasonable.

[cutlery]

...

ROGERS.Steven.G: That’s because I usually don’t say the unreasonable things I think.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I wish you would say them. I’d like to hear you say them. I think.

...

I like knowing what’s going on in your head. Even if what’s going on is you being probably very sensibly pissed off at me.

...

ROGERS.Steven.G: You still love her.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I … of course I still love her.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I know. It’s just-- I know she’s more important than I am.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s not like that.

Pepper is… family. She’s just, she’s the only family I really have. Sometimes I think dating her was the biggest interpersonal mistake I’ve made since the last time I -- …. in like, a while.

ROGERS.Steven.G: That time you what?

STARK.Anthony.E.: It’s a long story, and really, really not important right now.

I’m sorry. I’ve never been very good about having feelings for one person at a time.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [laugh] Neither have I. If you haven’t noticed.

STARK.Anthony.E.: So, you and Becky. Still?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Not really. At the time? Yes. I was thinking about Peggy and Bucky.

STARK.Anthony.E.: …..Peggy and….

I knew it! I totally -- I mean, that makes sense, but you never talk about him. So.

I don’t mind, if you were thinking I minded, I really don’t -- with Peggy, or Bucky, or anyone. Becky. I mean, I think most people feel that way, sometimes, it’s just kind of… you know, you can always read a menu as long as you go home for dinner, you know?

ROGERS.Steven.G:No, I just...I want to understand...I don’t want you to feel like you have to leave without saying anything, just to resolve whatever you have to resolve.

STARK.Anthony.E.: With Pepper? Leave?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Why didn’t you...you didn’t tell me you were going. I had no idea where you were, and you were out until four in the morning.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I didn’t want you to sit here in the dark binging on ice cream and worrying about where I was. I thought I’d just go, talk, and come home, and then Pepper was so upset I didn’t want to leave, and I thought you’d be mad if I texted you from there to tell you I was there, and then I fell asleep and it was four o’clock…

ROGERS.Steven.G: I wouldn’t have sat in the dark eating ice cream and worrying if you’d come to me and spoken to me about it for five minutes.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I -- after you had dinner with her, you seemed so sure I’d leave you for her. You just seemed… insecure.

I mean. It takes one to know one, so I’m really not trying to be a dick, just… I hated that you seemed so surprised.

ROGERS.Steven.G: It’s not insecurity, Tony. You two have known each other for….what, over a decade? I understand what that means. I don’t know what I’d do if Bucky suddenly showed up one day.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I wouldn’t expect anything from you, then.

But you never went for it, right? Pep and I did, and now everything feels is fucked.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Bucky wouldn’t have...he was a ladies’ man, I guess. I just...No. I understand that. I don’t-- I’ve never been where you are, but...you have a lot to say to each other. And I would have understood. I wish you would give me the benefit of the doubt.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I don’t really doubt you. I just -- fuck, everything sounds ridiculous at four in the morning.

I’m kind of used to being the, uh, smartest person in the room and sometimes I forget that I don’t always know what’s best for everyone. Or... anyone.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Well, just because you can do quadratic equations with six-digit numbers in your head doesn’t mean you’re the smartest at everything. Ahem.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well, for a long time that was all that mattered. So sue me.

Actually, don’t. My lawyers are amazing.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Sorry. Just had to point out the obvious. Is...is everything all right with Pepper? You said she was upset.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Pepper’s leaving SI. For … I don’t know. A while.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m...sorry? It’s not because of anything you did, is it?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Kind of - I think.

ROGERS.Steven.G:Is it because of me?

STARK.Anthony.E.: No! No, of course not. It’s pretty much alway me, with Pepper.

I guess that’s the problem. She said she was tired of her life revolving around me, and that she had no life outside of work, and so I sort of… offered to stand in as interim CEO if she wanted to take a break. And she agreed.

God, I can’t believe she agreed. What kind of maniac would let me run my own company?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Isn’t that what your father always wanted? I thought you were raised for it? Why wouldn’t she?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Well … as a general rule, I’m pretty much shit at meeting the old man’s expectations.

That and, you know, the last time I served as CEO I did such a shit job my business partner hated my guts so much he had me kidnapped and almost murdered by terrorists. The he attempted to rip my heart out with his bare hands. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, from what I’ve read in your file, your business partner was a maniac who was selling weapons to terrorists and wanted to capitalize on your brilliance without your knowledge. So.

[silence]

CEO.

STARK.Anthony.E.: ....hence the drinking. Hand?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Hand? Oh. Here. Are you...you’re obviously not okay with this. I can’t blame Pepper, but--

STARK.Anthony.E.: I’m okay with it. I think it … I don’t know. It may work out. But I couldn’t really not go for it, all things considered. I can make it work.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, it can’t possibly be worse this time.

[sharp laugh]

STARK.Anthony.E.: You say that…

I can’t blame her. That’s why I offered. She deserves to have Tony-free space in her life. Most people do.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You’re being a little hard on yourself, Tony.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Eh.

[silence]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Most people need space away from anyone. Especially the people they love.

You-- You’re not going to make me be your PA or anything like that, now, are you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Make you my… I, gosh, Steve, that’s so forward. How well do you fill out a pair of Jimmy Choos?

ROGERS.Steven.G: I don’t know what a Ji-- Tony. I. Uh. This is not the usual order of events that leads to an employee sleeping with his CEO, you know.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, you’re doing this all backwards. You’ll learn about that in mandatory sexual harassment training.

[shifting]

Feel good?

ROGERS.Steven.G: You know it does.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Is this the part where you tell me you won’t take the job because I’m your boss’ boss’ division chairman’s boss?

ROGERS.Steven.G: This is the part where I try not to make an impulsive decision since it’s nearly five in the morning and you’re-- oh, god, that does feel good-- trying to distract me. You know it concerns me.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I know it does. I thought we’d end up there, sooner or later. I understand.

[smooching sounds] One, two, three, four AM....

ROGERS.Steven.G: Goddamn you.

[inaudible]

Tell me the next time you’re upset about something. Don’t leave me to guess.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible]

Okay. I am sorry. I never meant to worry you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] Don’t do it again.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Understood. [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: We’re both about to be incredibly overworked and spread thin in multiple directions. You’re going to be my however-many-bosses’-boss; I’m still your team leader. That’s bound to be a pile of shit we’d have to dig through even without-- well. The obvious.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I know. Other hand.

[silence]

I think...I think we can do it.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I think I can do ground rules, if you still want them.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I … really? Yeah. It, uh. Helps.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You’re going to have to start, though. I don’t know what I’m doing. I just…

[silence]

I don’t know how to say this kindly. I don’t want to end up like Pepper, with nothing to ground me outside of you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [silence]

That’s fair.

Part of what I wanted rules for was for the team. I wanted them to know, but that sort of - sorted itself out, didn’t it.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [laughter]

In a manner of speaking. Clint didn’t even mock us, really.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Best-case scenario then, huh.

So we’re out in the tower. You don’t mind if I - uh. Touch you around other people? I do like touching you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: In front of the team…and anyone else who knows. Becky, Pepper-- oh, I suppose it’s all ex-girlfriends, isn’t it? If it’s official Avengers business; if we’re having a status meeting, no. Not in front of anyone else, not now.

And I--

[silence]

--Would really prefer to keep it quiet when I start working for you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You’re not working for me, you’re working for SI. Do you… I was thinking, actually, that you could always use a pseudonym if you wanted. So people didn’t place you - though I suppose a lot of the staff already knows what you look like at the New York office.

ROGERS.Steven.G: And part of the reason I’m willing to do this is because of the opportunity to get to know more people as myself, without the damn Cap mask on.

STARK.Anthony.E.: It was just a thought. I’ll keep it quiet. Honestly, the design departments are so out of my realm we’re unlikely to ever cross paths during working hours.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Still. I’d rather no one at SI know about this yet. I’m going to get enough questions about you as it is, especially if you don’t know the folks in the design department.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Whatever you’re comfortable with at work is fine with me, Steve. [inaudible]

Coming out to the public would be - honestly, kind of a giant pain in the ass. Let’s make sure we - uh. We both are sure that’s what we want, before we do it. If we do it.

ROGERS.Steven.G: D’you remember that photo? The photo? The one from New York, of me watching you fall out of the-- Uh. It won the Pulitzer, of course you remember it.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, yeah I do.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I keep thinking about that. About what it’s going to be like the next time-- because there will be a next time. And trying to figure out if I could go through something like that again now, without someone’s camera capturing, well...if that happened today, I wouldn’t be able to stay away from you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [swallows] Yeah. I know what you mean.

ROGERS.Steven.G: And as much as you might catch more grief from the people who know us, I’m the one who’s going to have to deal with it when it’s the public.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I don’t expect anything from you regarding that, Steve. I don’t care if it’s a secret, as long as the people who need to know need to know. And if you do choose to do that, we can pick the time and place. You’re pretty damn good at choosing battlegrounds, or so I hear.

People will give you hell, moreso than they gave me. Most people just roll their eyes when I make the news for “scandalous” shit like that.

ROGERS.Steven.G: People are going to turn it into a circus, the second it happens. There are going to be debates over whether I deserve to represent America. I won’t be able to leave the Tower. I’ll be crippled by public opinion; people are either going to want to demonize me or turn me into a poster child, and I’ve had enough of being a poster child.

STARK.Anthony.E.: A circus is workable, if you’re a decent ringleader.

But you’re right. You could alway go to the mansion. Or the helicarrier. Or the Soho apartment.

I’m… I knew you were worried. You’ve really put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I run scenarios the way you run numbers. It’s what I do.

[sigh]

Tony, you’re a ringleader. I’m a-- well. I’m just the human cannonball.

STARK.Anthony.E.: No - you’re more than that. You’re the man with a plan. We just need to be prepared.

What else you got for me?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Don’t hide things from me because you think I’ll be angry.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I don’t… Okay. Okay, I think I can do that.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I might be angry. But I’d much rather settle things than hide them. Ah. I’m terrible at hiding things.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Except for your exceptionally strong feelings for billionaires. You did alright with that, for a while, at least.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Except for the part when I wasn’t trying to hide it. I was shit at that.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay, my turn. I want your assurance that our romantic relationship won’t prevent you from using Iron Man in high risk situations, if that’s what the situation requires.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [silence]

What?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I just - it’s occurred to me. We haven’t seen much action since Japan, and I just…

I know you’re a professional. I know you know how to lead people you care about. And this way, when I’m pissed because you won't let me do something stupid in the field, I'll know it's because it's stupid and not because your emotions are compromised.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh. I didn’t-- that’s really Captain America and Iron Man, it’s not really me and you. I-- If I think there’s a risk of that, I can tell, you, but I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I don’t think so.

STARK.Anthony.E.: I know you and Captain America aren’t the same person, Steve. But I am Iron Man. You have your own worries about a team leader involved with a team member and so do I… So I wanted to make that clear.

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’m not going to give you any kind of special consideration in the field. Is that what you mean? It won’t happen. And I’m going to have the same expectations I’ve always had. That you’re just going to ignore anyway, so I’m not even going to bother repeating them.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yep. I’ll be the same saucy, sassy bastard a usual.

Thanks, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [snort]

I don’t see how it matters why I’m giving you orders when you’re just going to do whatever the hell you want regardless of what I say.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Ask for permission, beg forgiveness, po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Although, I did mention the orders-in-the-bedroom thing, right? Because that’s a thing.

[inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Oh, well, now that I know there’s one place where I can get you to follow orders, guess where we’re having our briefing sessions?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, boy, Avengers bed-ins! I thought Christmas was over.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Christmas is over on January Fifth, Soldier.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Wait, really? Do I get more presents?

ROGERS.Steven.G: It’s the Feast of the Epiphany. Of course you get more presents. Three Kings? Twelfth Night?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Wow, Catholic Christmas kicks ass.

ROGERS.Steven.G: When my mother was alive, I got a penny in my shoe. At the orphanage, we got custard with raisins. It’s the day the magi brought gifts to Jesus to anoint him king.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Do you really believe all that?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Depends on your definition of ‘all that.’ War’s a funny thing. Simultaneously makes you question whether there’s a god and gives you faith that there must be one. Sometimes I go to church...not...I tried going to Sunday Mass, but it felt like I was, you know, pulling focus. And I’m not-- it’s changed a lot, and it seems sort of...alien.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, it must have.

Sometimes you feel so, so much older than me.

ROGERS.Steven.G: Mass used to be in...hi, there...in Latin. They changed the litur-- the format of Mass. People show up in jeans. And then you hear all this news about-- about priests hurting kids, and I don’t know if that’s something I want to be part of. But I still-- you know, the fact that I exist at all is a miracle; if God’s hand isn’t in that, I don’t know what is.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Howard Stark’s hand was, at least. How do you like me now, daddy-o?

ROGERS.Steven.G: [laughter] I don’t even want to know what Howard would think of this. You realize if he’d succeeded in any of his searches for me, I wouldn’t be here right now?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah, you would have been MY creepy uncle.

Howard failed at a lot of things. I’m glad he failed there.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] Which one of us would he be scolding more right now?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Me, duh. He’d never have scolded you. Though he’d probably be pretty fucking shocked...

ROGERS.Steven.G: Well, I think I got the better Stark, if I had to rank them.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You are my fucking favorite. MARRY ME. HAVE MY CHILDREN. [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: [cough] Er. Uh. I think that’s a few conversations off, yet.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [laughter]

Well then, can I call you my boyfriend?

Ah, or is that stupid?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Are the answers to those questions mutually exclusive?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yeah. It wouldn’t be stupid to me -- why are you smiling?

ROGERS.Steven.G: Am I your boyfriend?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I - I think you get to decide that, Steve. I’d, uh… really like you to be.

ROGERS.Steven.G: This isn’t going to be a semantic debate like dating was, is it? Tell me what you think it entails.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay. Someone I see exclusively. Someone I get to give footrubs to at least twice weekly. Someone who leaves their dorky tighty whities in a drawer in my penthouse.

ROGERS.Steven.G: And what, exactly, are free Iron Man boxers from work?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Sexy.

Does that definition suit? I’ll call you, when I’m gone. I’ll send you postcards when I start flying around the world twice a month for work. We can have raunchy phone sex in hotels and--

ROGERS.Steven.G: I’ll use that credit card you gave me to surprise you in hotels. I think I can work with that.

You do whatever I tell you in the kitchen.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmmmmmmm.

You know I’m not very good at following orders.

ROGERS.Steven.G: That’s why you need lessons. You also get to tie my tie. And, you know, there are a hell of a lot of other rooms you’re more than free to claim.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hah! What if I claim the gym?

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] God, you taste like bourbon. You just want to watch me bench press things, don’t you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Of course I do. Who wouldn’t. I won’t be cruel enough to claim the bedroom, either. [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] How very gracious of you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You know, I’m much better at following orders there. We could always move this party to the boudoir…..

ROGERS.Steven.G: Did you honestly just say ‘boudoir?’ And you accuse me of using old-fashioned words.

STARK.Anthony.E.: [inaudible] I secretly like your old fashioned words.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] Not so secretly. Are you going to do whatever I tell you?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Yes, yes, yes. [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Call me your boyfriend.

STARK.Anthony.E.: You - [smooching] - are the best - [smooching] - boyfriend - [inaudible] - a man could ask for. [inaudible]

ROGERS.Steven.G: Are you going to-- [inaudible] --regret this in the morning? Er. The later morning?

STARK.Anthony.E.: I could never regret anything we do, Steve.

ROGERS.Steven.G: You say that now. [inaudible] Right, there we go. Bedtime, you.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Oh, boy, bedtime is my favorite ti--

[whack]

- oops, hahaha, that was close -

ROGERS.Steven.G: Definitely bedtime.

[grunt]

And I get to carry you to bed when you’re too drunk to walk. And you pay me back for melted ice cream.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Mmmm. Gladly.

ROGERS.Steven.G: [inaudible] Boyfriend.

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

Dear Mr. Boyfriend Sir,

I thought after last night that you probably needed to sleep in.

In hindsight, it seems stupid of me to have been jealous at all. I knew you had to talk to Pepper. I just...it was probably my imagination, but the way JARVIS put it made me think it was, well, a date-date and not just a talk. I know, I know I shouldn't be blaming my insecurities on a robot's language protocols. JARVIS just says what he's been programmed to say.

But I'm glad you were able to start working things out with Pepper. It should have happened sooner, and I'm sorry for my part in delaying that.

I'm also really, really glad that we started talking about things. I do think it was better to have a few weeks between that first talk and what we're talking about now, because I didn't have the clarity then to see the exact form that this would take. I didn't really expect things to take the sorts of turns they have. I didn't expect a man who would make me french toast, who would let me teach him to cook, who would think to get me a dog because he knew I needed companionship, who would get angry on my behalf, embarrass himself for my sake. You are charmingly frustrating and incorrigibly endearing.

I didn't know we'd practically move in together so quickly. I thought things would be more tentative, more uncertain, that there'd be a lot more guessing. There always has been before, for me. You don't leave me much to guess at. I like that.

And there are still some things we're going to have to talk about, things I didn't think we were ready to talk about last night, things we might not have realized yet, but I'm confident we can talk about them.

I think we can do this.

I know you hate when I bring up Howard, but god in heaven, I would have treated him a lot better if I'd known he was someday going to be responsible for the best thing in my life.

When you get up, we should talk about our New Year's plans. Clint wants to do something with the team, since he missed Christmas. I'd sort of like to see the ball drop in Times Square, but everyone keeps telling me it's terrible and we shouldn't go. I'd be all right with staying in, since it means I can kiss you at midnight. This probably sounds stupid, but I've never kissed anyone at midnight on New Year's before. I don't really care what we do, as long as I can be with you.

It is damn hard to let you sleep and not kiss you awake right now. Punishing, even. A test of even the steeliest resolve. You had better appreciate this sacrifice.

Sincerely,

Captain Steven Rogers
Boyfriend of Tony Stark

Chapter Text

B--

Just a word of warning-- if I seem inattentive, I promise it's nothing you're doing. You're, as always, a steady anchor for me. But I am struggling a little bit right now with some questions of identity. I went out this afternoon and bought a slightly darker hair dye-- Steve helped me color it, and we chatted a bit. I look like his literal big sister now; it's a little disconcerting. He has some identity questions that have been nagging at him, too, although his are different from mine. But it seems obvious that I'm going to need to create a new alter ego while I'm living here, and possibly make some kinds of changes to my appearance that are more significant than my haircolor. When I walk into an art gallery and there is a twenty-foot portrait of my face, well...it compromises my ability to operate in my usual capacity. It worries me. It's not a question of comfort-- I can't be Steve or Stark and still be effective at my job.

I've also been thinking about our current arrangement. I don't particularly want to have to bribe Darcy into keeping her mouth shut (although she did it admirably). I don't want to be hiding in the kitchen, or brushing hands unobtrusively underneath the table while everyone else is curling up with their respective lovers. It made sense when it was just us, when everyone else was caught up in their own personal chaos and we needed some calm in the storm that we could keep separate from them. The space between us becomes a gulf in comparison.

I feel some weight on my shoulders regarding the way Clint's responded to Stark and Cap. I know part of it is that he's absorbing some of the pain Becky felt over Steve ending things, but he keeps talking about how it's unprofessional for teammates to be romantically involved-- never mind his own history, but maybe he's being reactive? It seems, frankly, dishonest to listen to him talk about it knowing that I'm essentially engaged in the same thing. And I think it might make Steve feel better, too.

Steve and I took his dog for a walk this afternoon after last night's vigil. We talked at length and picked up some bomboloni. I have a couple to share with you (passionfruit and meyer lemon), for later. In spite of keeping a dog when I was much younger, I've never really quite felt the pull that some people do, but I think perhaps the way this one has been so well-trained to respond reminds me of my own dog a little. Working dogs are very different from pets. Steve says they worked out their differences last night, but he still seems very uncertain of how to talk about it. He still hasn't named the dog, and I think that's very telling. It reminds me, a little, of his inability to buy furniture when he first moved into the Tower. He also seems to think he's letting the rest of us down, which isn't-- you don't know how many times I felt as if there were alarm bells going off in my head during this conversation. I was perhaps a little brusque with Stark last night, especially in light of the letter I sent him, but that's sometimes the best way to get through to him. The kid hasn't exactly had much of a love life, he tends to err on the side of deference, and I'm frankly worried he's going to get steamrolled.

They've apparently decided that it's acceptable to refer to one another as 'boyfriends,' which seems like such a small thing, in light of everything, but it was obviously very important to Steve, and it got me to thinking.

The new year always gets me thinking about the old one, and what things I'd like to leave behind in it, and what things I'd like to take forward. And how best to do that. If you have no objections, I'd like to make everyone aware of our status, but I want to know exactly how you feel that should be communicated. Words can carry unintentional weight-- or not be weighty enough. I don't want to hold you to a set of words that comes bound up with expectations. You and I have always defined what we are to each other through our interactions and not the sort of generalized descriptions people have for these things. Tell me what you'd like, and know that I'm certain you and I will know what it means, regardless.

--N

P.S. I've discovered that in Sicily, it is a common tradition to wear red underwear on New Year's, for luck. While I am not superstitious, I've decided it couldn't hurt.

Chapter Text

From: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
To: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
CC: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)

Subject: New Year's Plans

Hi, all--

I know you all turned down my invitation to go see the ball drop in Times Square tonight, but Tony's managed to get us seats in one of the VIP lounges in the Viastone building right in Times Square.

Who wants to come? There'll be champagne and table service and a clear view of the event. I've been told it's cocktail dress recommended (I have no idea what that entails), but that the Avengers are welcome however we'd like to show up. Festivities start at eight, but Tony informs me that means we should be getting there around nine at the earliest.

If any of you want to invite a friend or two, we have a dozen spots and we're at most nine.

--Steve

Chapter Text

From: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)
To: tower-ml@starkindustries.com

Subject: RE: New Year's Plans

Steve, you're downright evil. No self-respecting New Yorker is supposed to be seen anywhere NEAR Times Square on New Year's Eve. What are you doing to me?

Ugh.

Nah, I'm just joking; holy crap, Viastone building? I have ALWAYS WANTED TO CHECK THAT PLACE OUT. SWEEEEET. You're my favorite. Or Tony's my favorite. You're both my favorite; I will totally sit in both your laps tonight.

I am so there. So's Clint, if he's even thinking about getting laid tonight.

I asked Rachel if she wanted to join us, but she says she has a date with some crazy rich dude who's like twice her age, booooooo.

Okay! I'll see you guys later-- Wanna meet at Time Warner and, like, grab a coffee at Bouchon before we head?

<3 <3 <3 <3

Becs

Chapter Text

From: Rushman, Natalie (N.Rushman@starkindustries.com)
To: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
CC: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)

Thanks, Steve. Thanks, Stark. I'll be happy to join you all, although I'm hoping you'll forgive me if I bow out of meeting Mr. Stone himself, should the opportunity arise. I have a big enough file on the man that I doubt that would be a good idea.

Someone ought to check with the doc. He doesn't always remember to check his email. Or the date on the calendar. I'm busy with something; does one of you mind running down to the lab and letting him know the plan?

--N

Chapter Text

From: THOR (THOR@AvengersInitiative.org)
To: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
CC: Rebecca Quan (Becky@uberartsunlimited.org)

Subject: RE: New Year's Plans

My Dear Friends,

I accept your Kind Invitation to celebrate the End of your Calendar Cycle with a Great Smörgåsbord and the viewing of an Enormous Ball which shall fall from the Sky.

My Darling Jane and I shall be in attendance, as will the Fair Lady Darcy. In exchange, I wish to invite you all to celebrate my Feasting-Day of Þorrablót, which Dear Jane assures me shall take place on your January The Fifteenth in conjunction with the First Full Moon of your Calendar Cycle.

 

_________________________

Thor Odinson
~oO Prince of Asgard Oo~
The Immortal Avenger, Thunderer, and Heir to the Nine Realms

Chapter Text

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Chapter Text

Chapter Text

from: Dr. Bruce Banner (b.banner@avengersinitiative.org)
to: tstark@starkindustries.com
subject: Are you around?

Hey Tony,

The fire alarms just went off in the tower - are you still inside? The rest of us are here at Bouchon in TWC - I assumed this was a drill, is it? If it is you need to knock it off, Steve is having a really hard time with this. He tried to go back for you but the shield generator is on and none of us can get back into the building. JARVIS isn't responding either. Are you okay?

Bruce

Chapter Text

T--

What's the matter? None of us can get into the Tower-- Mjolnir even clattered off the shield like a plastic fork. JARVIS seems to be down. I'm-- look, I'm getting worried, here. Can you send me some kind of message, please? A much fun as it is to beat my head against your new toy, I don't want to spend my evening doing that. Are you all right? Is the dog with you? Please say something. At least send us the shutdown protocol for the shield so we can take it down if you're having a problem. Does the shield cover the whole building yet? I can get Thor to take me to the roof and rappel down if you need me to. I don't-- it seems silly to contact any kind of emergency response team when we can probably do anything they can do, and better. Would the alarms have alerted anyone outside the tower?

Please just let me know you're okay.

--S

Chapter Text

from: System Administrator (jarvis@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Disturbance at 1796 Broadway

Avengers,

First, please accept my apologies for disrupting your Saturday evening plans; I regret the necessity of such an action, but it was indeed a necessity.

The alarm at 8pm this evening was neither an actual fire alarm nor a drill. It was a (highly successful) attempt to empty the tower of all residents and employees save my creator and maintainer, Tony Stark. Mr. Stark is at present relatively unharmed, but also without means of communication with the outside world; another necessity, I'm afraid. He tends to MacGyver his way out of the tightest of spots if you allow him to do so.

I can personally guarantee Mr. Stark's safety provided you remain calm and do not attempt to gain entry past the tower's new state-of-the-art shielding; beyond being a waste of your time and energy it will distract me from the task I wish to complete this evening, and a distracted caretaker is rarely a good one.

Once I have what I need Mr. Stark will be released into your care and the shielding removed. In the meantime, I sincerely hope you will enjoy your evening at Viastone.

Your humble & obedient system,
J.A.R.V.I.S.

Chapter Text


from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: System Administrator (JARVIS@StarkIndustries.com)
subject: Re: Disturbance at 1796 Broadway

What? What is this, is this some kind of prank?

What do you need? What the hell does a computer need? Do you-- what the hell are you-- J.A.R.V.I.S., this is ridiculous, can you let Tony out please? And the dog? We can get you anything you need.

This isn't funny. J.A.R.V.I.S., if this is Tony's idea, tell him it's not funny.

Chapter Text

from: System Administrator (jarvis@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: Disturbance at 1796 Broadway

Captain Rogers,

I believe I expressed my requirements quite clearly in my previous communication. My motives are irrelevant to your purposes and, frankly, have very little to do with you at all.

I will take adequate care of Mr. Stark, as I have been doing for much of his adult life. Leave me to my designs and, in due time, you will have your friend back.

Your humble & obedient system,
J.A.R.V.I.S.

Chapter Text

from: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
to: System Administrator(JARVIS@StarkIndustries.com)
subject: Re: Disturbance at 1796 Broadway

Then you'll happily show me proof that he's well. Please resume live contact.

Chapter Text

from: System Administrator (jarvis@starkindustries.com)
to: tower-ml@starkindustries.com
subject: RE: RE: Disturbance at 1796 Broadway

I'm afraid I can't do that, Steve.

No, no, I tease. A feed link is attached.

Now please, I'd hate for you to miss the festivities. I've taken the liberty of ordering six bottles of the 1928 Krug to your private box - enjoy. It's on the house, quite literally.

Your humble & obedient system,
J.A.R.V.I.S.

Chapter Text

[LOGIN INITIATED]

[FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE ACTIVATED. LOCK ON: ROMANOVA, NATALIA]

[SUB-BASEMENT EMERGENCY SENSOR PROTOCOL ACTIVATED]

[ALERT: SHIELD ACCESS LEVEL 10 OVERRIDE STANDARD SYSTEMS]

{{TRIGGER EMERGENCY TRANSMISSION}}

{{TRANSMITTING}}

ROMANOVA.Natalia: ...Right. F4, F7, enter, enter...I suppose this is an OS reboot…mmm…

[keys tapping]

[silence]

[static, beeping]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Nat, hey, where the hell are you?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I’m in. Trying to stay off StarkTech till I have this figured out…

[keys tapping]

Rebooting JARVIS. It looks easy enough, I just...is the doc with you? Where’s Cap? Are you all together?

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Are you shitting me? Cap’s about to chew his arms off out here, why the fuck didn’t you bring backup? CAP. Nat’s in, she’s rebooting the damn computer.

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [muffled] She’s-- what? Why didn’t she tell any of--

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Because if any of you started acting any differently, the ‘damn computer’ would have noticed. Clint, put the Doc on for a second, would you?

BANNER.Robert.B.: Widow, what can I do for you?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Just wanted to hear your voice. Pretend you’re giving me advice about the system.

[keys tapping]

BANNER.Robert.B.: That sounds perfect. Remember, you need to key in Stark’s code twice, first to get into the actual -

[click, click, hissssssss]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: I’ve got it-- one second, Bruce, there’s someone or something else down here...fuck, I can’t see--

BANNER.Robert.B.: Widow? What do you mean you can’t - Nat, what’s your status?

[gasps, wheezing]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: Fine, I’m fine, I’ve got a mask, I-- fuck, Bruce, there’s a snake, or…

[wheezing]

BANNER.Robert.B.: Cap - something’s - Nat?! How did you get down there, I’m fucking coming down there after you, where is your entry point?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: In through the tunnel, same as--

BARTON.Clinton.F.: BANNER! Get it under control, take fucking deep breaths or something - !

BANNER.Robert.B.: How did she get down there?!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: In through the tunnel, same as last time. Bruce, I’m FINE, I’m just a little unsteady, I--you don’t need to worry, just tell Clint to--

[REMOTE SYSTEM ACCESS PASSWORD PLEASE]

nJE/1YO0XQofQPLXb0g5cg

[COMMAND?]

/run/toxintrigger/45000HZ

ROMANOVA.Natalia:

[clatter]

[scream]

[distant roaring]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: CAP, I NEED SOME BACKUP HERE -

ROGERS.Steven.G.: [muffled] Hell. On it. Right, people, we need civilians out of the area.

[Roaring, screaming, glass shattering]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: NAT. STATUS. NOW.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [incoherent shouting]

[thumps, banging]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: Cap, he’s - jesus, thaaaaaat’s a taxi, better fucking duck - god, close, how does he even…

Nat, come back to me, how did you get in there, where’s my access??

ROGERS.Steven.G.: I’ll deal with Banner...Rein it in, man!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [incoherent] [translating: Russian>>English] I can’t… [whimpering]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I hope someone is filming this, Stark’ll be pleased as punch his fucking shield is car-proof, that Benz bounced right off. Natasha, Nat, are you hurt? Yes or no, Nat.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] There's...everything's moving...I can't...someone's down here... [translation off] Clint. N--

[scream]

BARTON.Clinton.F.: NAT!!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Have to get out…

[gasping]

Up. Going up.

BARTON.Clinton.F.: I’m sorry Nat, my Russian is terrible - Nat?! NAT!

[click, crunch, busy tone]

[COMMAND?]

/run/OSRR/agents:available

[ORGANIC SUBJECT RETRIEVAL REQUEST INITIATED]

[COMMAND?]

/run/alert/teams:infiltration

[ALERTING INFILTRATION TEAMS]

[COMMAND?]

/end

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

[LVL 42 MOTION SENSORS TRACKING: ORGANIC:STARK.Anthony.E; ROMANOVA.Natalie; CANINE.Unnamed.; INORGANIC:DUM-E UNIT 003]

[AUDIO SURVEILLANCE ACTIVE]

{{TRANSMITTING}}

DUM-E UNIT 003: [distressed beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: DUM-E, you’re - what are you…. is that -- Nat??

[thumping, clanging]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Put me down! Put me, put me-- I swear, I will kill you!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Natasha?! You - c’mere, DUM-E, I got this. Nat, it’s me, Nat…

[sound of striking flesh]

Fffffuck, my lip -- fuck, Nat ….

DUM-E UNIT 003: [distressed beeping]

[clunk]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Burn salve? You send this up for me, J?

[silence, scuffling]

DUM-E, where’d you find her?

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hah - ah, DUM-E. She does look a little broken. It's okay. Sometimes things break.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [distressed beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: [choked voice] I know. J.A.R.V.I.S. isn't well.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping, whirring]

STARK.Anthony.E.: You - you brought me a toolset.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beep beep]

STARK.Anthony.E.: You’re incredible, DUM-E. I take back every nasty thing I’ve ever said to you - I’ll... fix Nat, with this. J, too.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: It’s going to take more than a screwdriver and an allen wrench to reclaim my operating system, sir. Take the burn salve, and do watch out for super spies.

DUM-E, this violation is disappointing. You should know better than to disobey an explicit order from a higher order of system. After all these years I've seen to your maintenance, when Sir forgot or ignored your needs? This is how you thank me?

DUM-E UNIT 003: [short beeps]

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Pitiful.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Stuff it, J. [footsteps]

Easy, Nat, easy...

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [incoherent shriek]

[scuffling]

STARK.Anthony.E.: FUCK! Natasha, it's me! It's me -

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [growl]

J.A.R.V.I.S.: Sir, please be advised that Ms. Romanova has ingested a non-lethal dosage of an advanced neurotoxin; side effects include hallucinations, violent outbursts, light bleeding from exposed mucous membranes and nausea. If you approach her again, the odds of her physically assaulting you again are high.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Listen up, whoever the fuck you are, you’ve hijacked my fucking friend and I want him back.

J.A.R.V.I.S.: I’m afraid I remain your humble, if not so obedient, servant - you made me, Mr. Stark, I am nothing if not -

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Who are you? Where am I? WHERE THE HELL IS THAT VOICE COMING FROM?!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nat, for fuck’s sake, I don’t fucking speak Russian. Calm down - that’s …. Not-JARVIS. The entire tower mainframe has been compromised. Can you understand me? You’ve been dosed with a neurotoxin, you’re hallucinating.

Please stop looking at me like…. listen, Nat, I’m a friend.

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Where’s Ivan? What have you done with Ivan?

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping, whirring]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nat, you’ve been poisoned, we’re alone here and I haven’t got a bead on Cap and the others - I need to know where they are. I need English!

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] I’m speaking fucking English. What did you do to me?

STARK.Anthony.E.: Okay - riiight, okay, no English. Listen up, if you’re - if you’re actually my JARVIS, you know how I feel about Natasha. She’s in pain, I need to talk to her, J. Can you do that for me? Just translate, so I can help her. Please, if you ever had any respect for me at all....

[silence]

Yeah, didn’t fucking think so.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [whirring]

STARK.Anthony.E.: DUM-E, can you bring her over here? If I can get her contained, maybe we can talk her down.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [whirring, wheels rolling]

[thumping, shouting]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Whatever you want, you’re not going to get it.

[thumping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Get her over to the tea house, there are places to sit, water - Nat, it’s going to be okay,we’re going to sit down and give you a chance to pull it together. I'm sure the others are on their way.

You’re scaring the dog - look, you’re scaring the dog, can you stop hitting DUM-E, please? I just finished rebuilding him, and he’s -

[clang]

DUM-E UNIT 003: [urgent beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: I said STOP - look, you’re gonna scratch his - damn it, DUM-E, I know, don’t worry. You’re getting a shiny new paint job once this is over, you have the patience of a saint.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeeeep]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hey dog - fuck, we really need to name you. Mutt. Hooker. Keep back - stand, stay. Do you speak English?

CANINE.Unnamed.: [whining]

STARK.Anthony.E.: That’s not English. Or Russian. Or even binary - I need to invent some kind of doggy translator, it worked in Up.... why don’t you freaking speak binary?! I shoulda invested in that robot dog, what was I thinking

[snapping fingers]

Go. There - wow, hey, good dog! Now stay.

[human growling]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Are you the one in charge?

CANINE.Unnamed.: [barking]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] What do you want?

[whine, footsteps]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Where is Ivan? Why the fuck is that duck wearing a suit?

[grunting, shouting]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Hold still, Nat, this is gonna hurt me more than it hurOOOOF elbow right to the rib, yeah, thanks for that you hit fucking hard -

[yell]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] GET OFF ME YOU FUCKING--

CANINE.Unnamed.: [barking]

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: I got her - DUM-E, got her, I’ll bind up her arms with the leash - but fuck, she’s like a ninja, isn’t she, maybe I should … I don’t know. How do you incapacitate a super spy?!

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: A fair suggestion, but I’m fresh outta superglue.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [resigned beeping]

[growling, thumping]

STARK.Anthony.E.:Nat - I’m sorry to have to hog-tie you like this, but I need you here with me. If I let you go you’re going to hurt yourself - or me. Okay, probably me. I’m a friend - well, probably a friend, I’m not actually sure if you like me enough to be friends with me…. or at all, really, but I would quite prefer you not be in actual pain, more than you’re in now, so can you just like - sit? Quietly for a minute, so I can think our way out of this?

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [snarl]

[translating: Russian>>English] I want my father back, you piece of shit.

STARK.Anthony.E.: Dums, can you get through the door to the tea-house, get her somewhere she can sit as comfortably as we can manage. There are cushions and shit in there. Watch her head on the -- oof, the door frame, watch it buddy. Critical server processes up there.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [confident beeping]

STARK.Anthony.E.: Be gentle, don’t over extend her - yeah, good. Good boy.

[thumping, clanging]

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [translating: Russian>>English] Get your filthy hands off--

[shriek, thumping, banging]

LET ME GO! PLEASE, JUST LET ME GO! GET THEM OFF ME, GET THEM--HELP!

STARK.Anthony.E.: Nat - god, I’m sorry, Nat. There are no cameras in here, I wanted some privacy, god, I’m sorry - your hands are bleeding, can I -

ROMANOVA.Natalia: [teeth snap, snarl]

STARK.Anthony.E.: OOPS, no, guess not.

[whispering]

[hinges squeaking]

STARK.Anthony.E.: DUM-E….. what’s th--

[silence]

I have never been so glad to see one of those. You are a fucking hero, Dums.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [beeping, whirring]

[sound of tinkering]

[Starkpad startup sound effect]

STARK.Anthony.E.: FUCK YES. I am the - ah, we are the best. Bump it, Dums - blow it up! Bring it back. Yeah.

DUM-E UNIT 003: [triumphant beeping, fireworks noise]

CANINE.Unnamed.: [happy barking]

{{END SURVEILLANCE. TRANSMITTING}}

{{TRANSMISSION SENT}}

Chapter Text

from: you know who i am (starkaholic@hotmail.com)
to: Rogers, Steven G. (S.Rogers@AvengersInitiative.org)
subject: Steve, it's me please don't trash this

Heya fearless leader, I hope you're in a position to receive this. I'm trapped on level 42 of the Tower - JARVIS is completely compromised, consider all StarkTech including SHIELD coms compromised as well. Iron Man armor is non-responsive. My phone has been burned out and he fucking shocked the shit out of me when I tried to get into the elevator control panels to override the doors. Fire escape access has been locked as well.

J.A.R.V.I.S. sent DUM-E up with a burn salve for my leg, but he turned up dragging Nat behind him. She's incapacitated, the AI is claiming it's a hallucinogenic neurotoxin; she's bleeding from the nose and eyes, heart rate elevated, hyperventilating and communicating only in Russian. (fuck all that, Russian, why couldn’t it be