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Steve hummed to himself and bent over to peek into the oven, checking the cookies. Hot air wafted out, smelling of sweet chocolate chips and cookie dough. He loved having a chance to bake, for once. Jarvis was out visiting his mother, or else Steve never would have been able to play in the kitchen. Tony, Clint and Peter had done enough damage to Jarvis' various kitchens over the years that no one, not even Captain America, was allowed to use most of it. A blacklist of appliances and the people permanently barred from using them was stuck to the refrigerator. Since the Avengers team was always changing, and Jarvis never took down any of the names, it took up most of the available space from the top down to knee-level. Tony's part was written in thick, bright red marker and each article underlined. Twice. It came very close to being an inventory.

Other people had extensive lists too. Spider-Man wasn't allowed near the toaster, since he'd webbed it up that one time, and neither Thor nor Ororo were allowed to handle anything programmable, since they sometimes fried computer chips.

One day, Steve would find out what Clint had done to be banned from the manual can opener.

The cookies were spreading just right, just starting to plump but not yet firm. Steve grinned to himself and closed the oven gently. He turned back to the counter to ready the next pan. Tony's kitchen had a huge oven, big enough for ten trays at once, but Steve preferred baking a dozen at a time. If anything went wrong, it wouldn't affect the whole batch.

Without warning, a tingle shot up his spine, buckling his knees and locking his breath in his chest. Cabinet doors jumped as Steve fell against the counter to keep himself upright. Cool, polished granite slipped under his grip, but he hung on. Numb prickles crept from his knees to his stomach, and then his throat, like a limb that had fallen asleep. As soon as they reached his chin, they vanished, leaving him bent over the kitchen counter.

Carefully, Steve pushed himself upright, keeping his hands on the counter in case he fell. Arms, legs, torso—everything looked like it was in working order. No sudden changes of skin color, no extra limbs, no change in clothing. He flexed his knees, testing them, and then his shoulders and arms. Nothing. Just in case, Steve undid the top button of his jeans and snuck a quick look.

Still there. Thank goodness.

Putting it down to one of Tony's experiments, Steve shrugged and returned to his cookies. It wouldn't be the first time Tony had done something that had been felt through the whole mansion. They were lucky if a mild prickle was the worst of it. The last time it happened Steve had ended up plastered to the ceiling, and glitter had gone everywhere.

The little balls of dough looked cheery as he plopped them onto the baking sheet. Because it was summer, and summer called for bright colors, Steve had added food coloring to his mix. There were eight bowls total, covering the whole rainbow and one unchanged. He dragged tiny teaspoons through the dough to swirl the colors together, humming again. "♪♫♪♪♫"

Something appeared overhead, just at the edge of his vision. Steve froze in place automatically. When it didn't vanish, the way tricks of the light sometimes did, he slowly lifted his eyes. A little callout box hovered over his head, filled with dancing music notes. As he watched, the notes faded. "?" he said, followed quickly by, "! :o!!! Blue cookie dough smeared over his forehead as he pushed his hair back, thinking.

For the most part, the mansion was empty. Everyone who could had taken time to enjoy the nice summer day, before the weather got too hot. Peter and Clint were around somewhere, but neither of them were up to this level of mischief. The only other people around were him and...

">:[ ... ♥♂!", he shouted, running out of the kitchen.

A second later, Steve ran back into the kitchen and straight to check the oven. The cookies were almost done, looking just a little damp in the middle. Steve shut the oven door and started bouncing on the balls of his feet. Every few moments, his hands started to drift towards the oven door, but he yanked them back. The more he checked on them, the longer it would take.

After what felt like a short eternity, Steve estimated that the cookies were done. He peeked again, and was greeted with a rainbow of perfectly crisp chocolate chip cookies. Mindful of the heat, he grabbed an oven mitt and pulled them out, dropping them to the counter and turning off the oven.

Then he ran out of the kitchen.

In socked feet, the polished wood floors were slippery. Steve used it to his advantage, taking the turns and open spaces at a break-neck slide that let him zoom around without losing much momentum. When he reached the basement stairs, he picked up speed and leapt down, tucking into a roll that brought him upright directly in front of the lab door.

"♥♂!" he yelled, slamming the door open. "D:<?‼" Something hummed and rattled; Steve could feel it in the soles of his feet as he stepped into the lab.

Tony looked up from his work, staring at the symbols over Steve's head. As always when he was messing with electronics, Tony was barely dressed. An undershirt and jeans were really not enough on their own to call clothes. He wasn't even in socks! "¬_¬;" he said, achieving a mumble in emoticon.

Steve crossed his arms stubbornly. There was no way Tony would work his way out of this one. "-.-*"

":)?" Tony asked. Steve kept glaring, and the smiley turned backwards. ":(?" The hum came from the machine on Tony's desk. It hunched low, like a mix of a goblin and a microwave, a green light flashing on and off. Tony turned and poked it hopefully, pressing a button two or three times. Nothing happened. His shoulder slumped, and he waved Steve over. "#$&*@ $%^@# $!@*&^ &@—"

The string of profanity vanished when Steve put his hand over Tony's mouth. ">:("

"... :(" Snapping his fingers to catch Steve's attention, Tony pointed at a button. It was big, green, and unmistakably marked with a glowing symbol for power. Steve nodded that he saw it, and Tony responded by pressing it.

It didn't press down. Again, Tony pushed it, harder. Nothing. He gestured again, and Steve tried next, putting all of his weight onto the button. It didn't even squeak.

">_<" Steve growled, closing his eyes. A stuck power button was far from the worst lab accident Tony had ever had, but he was getting tired of speaking in emoticons. Worse, the longer he let the cookie dough set, the less fluffy the cookies would be. "♥♂ D:< ?‼"

Slowly, Tony slumped down in his chair. ":( ♥♥♥♥♥♥?" Frowning, he looked up at his callbox. "¿♥♥♥♥♥♥? o_O ... =O *o.o*"

"?" Steve asked, wondering how Tony had gotten the little red asterisks. "¿♥?"

Looking away, Tony reached out and tapped Steve's chest. "♥♥♥♥♥♥ D:"

The meaning of the string of hearts didn't hit him right away. It sank in like a chocolate chip into cookie dough, its weight dragging it down until it was snug and undeniable, changing the very nature of the cookie. "O_O ? :o"

"D: < :(" Tony's face matched his emoticons, a picture of absolute dejection. He slouched down in his chair, staring at his feet.

Steve looked at the callbox, then back at Tony, expression blank as he considered the news before making any decisions. After turning it over from all angles, he nodded to himself and tapped Tony's shoulder, making him look up. "="

"=O ¿=?" Tony stared up at him in disbelief, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. He looked like a kid who had just seen Santa Claus. "?! ♥?♥?♥? \o/"

It was a level of adorable Steve wasn't prepared to resist, and didn't want to anyway. He nodded, leaning down to rest his weight on the arms of Tony's chair. Catching his eyes with a pointed look, Steve leaned forward and planted a light kiss on Tony's lips. They were dry and chapped, which Steve had expected. He hadn't expected them to taste like engine grease. For Tony's sake, he didn't wrinkle his nose. "♥"

He meant to keep the kiss short, but Tony surged out of his chair and wrapped his arms around Steve's shoulders before he could pull away, hauling his head down. Steve jumped as Tony's tongue shoved between his lips, slick and rough and just a little dirty. He staggered and flailed, then settled for grabbing Tony's shoulders. Something slipped under Steve's foot, skidding out from under him and throwing his weight sideways. Given the choice between falling into the machine and falling into Tony, he picked Tony, dropping forward to sit heavily on Tony's lap. Under his toes, something went click.

The hum stopped.

They pulled away from each other in confusion. Together, their heads swiveled to stare at the now-dark machine. Steve's eyes fell to his foot, which was still resting on top of a power strip. His stumble had tripped the button. Tony grinned sheepishly and opened his mouth to explain, but Steve laid a hand over it. After Tony's mouth closed, he held up his index finger and, since the callboxes were gone, drew a heart midair to make his point. Then he kissed Tony again.

They could talk about lab procedures later. For now, Steve didn't want words.