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There Where Things Are Hollow

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"Here's your mail," said Tony, tossing a couple of envelopes onto the table. "'Roger Stevens.'"

Steve turned away from the window, with a soft, "Thanks," and dropped into a chair to scoop them up.

"Seriously, 'Roger Stevens'? Didn't you ever learn anything about making up an alias, old man?" Tony poured himself a drink at the bar.

"Generally speaking I don't bother with formal introductions before punching people in the face," he said, shuffling the envelopes around and then poking the biggest one. "You don't have a letter opener, do you?"

"Who uses letter openers these days?" Tony drank the shot, poured another. "Who gets mail these days? I mean, I assume you're not getting hardware store fliers and re-register your domain name with our shitty service notes at your secret not-really-anonymous post office box in Brooklyn."

"Domain? Name?" Steve shook his head, dismissing it, and carefully opened the largest envelope with one finger.

"If you just want a mail drop, you know I can do that for you. Could give you an office and business cards. Grandpa Steve, Director of Disapproving Looks."

Steve looked up at him and shook his head, then shook the contents of the envelope out into his hand.

"What? Would you rather 'Vice President for Moral Self-Righteousness'? I'm flexible." Tony leaned against the bar. "'Chief of Ethical Integration'?"

"That would not be a not-really-anonymous post office box in Brooklyn," said Steve, and frowned at the letter as he started to read it.

"Well, I mean, you ask me to pick up your letters--"

Steve stopped reading and frowned at him. "I did not," he said. "Claire in bioengineering happened to mention she was picking up some things at the Shake Shack in Brooklyn and did I want anything, and I asked her to stop by and pick up my mail for me."

Tony snorted. "Well, you ask my employees, that's basically the same as asking me. I brought it to you, didn't I?"

Steve stared at him for a moment, and then tried to go back to reading his letter.

"So, you and Claire, is that something--"


"You can tell me." Tony set the glass down on the bar.

"No. She's a married woman, Stark."

"I knew that," Tony blustered.

Steve's expression of overt disbelief was as level and unbreakable as his shield.

"Senior Director of Disapproving Looks," said Tony, eventually. "I should've thought of that originally."

Once again, Steve shook his head and looked back down at the letter. He sighed.

"Bad news, Cap?"

Steve shrugged. "The usual."

"Usual?" Tony reached over and snagged the letter before Steve could stop him. "We regret to inform, blah blah, not suited to our gallery at this time. Wait, you submitted work to an art gallery? And this is usual?"

Steve stood, and scowled, and pulled on the letter; Tony let him take it back. "I think my style is too old-fashioned for them."

Tony's expression went luminous. "But this is great! I could do a whole exhibition for you. I own three galleries, you know. Captain America: Artist. I mean, assuming you're any good. But even if you're not! It would pack people in."


"But it'd be great! And you'd get your show, and--"


Tony stared at him. "Why not?"

"You think I didn't know I could just ask you and you'd," he waved a hand in a circle, "make it happen? But I don't want that."

"Why not?"

"I don't want it to be Captain America's art show. I want my work there. Just me. Just Steve."

"'Roger Stevens', you mean," Tony said, with an edge of mocking contempt.

"I didn't want to lie to people," Steve said, deliberately choosing to ignore it. "But I couldn't use my actual name, or people would--"

"Make it about Cap. But you are Cap."

"It's more complicated than that, Stark."

"No it's not."

Steve shook his head, turned back to the window. "Don't you ever want something that's just... yours? Something human, that isn't part of this... story? Something that doesn't sweep into the grand narrative of--"

He stopped, because Tony's expression was incredulous.

"Of course not." He grinned. "I am Iron Man!" he proclaimed, with a gesture with one hand that conjured the computer system in the Tower to playing a predictable, grinding guitar introduction. "If you want to martyr yourself to anonymity and merit rather than exploit your fame, Rogers, I'm not going to stop you." He turned to walk back to the bar.

Steve turned his head slightly to watch him withdraw, and said, softly, "I don't believe you, but you can keep your secrets."