"You know that's not going to—" Sam broke off, sticking his hands in his pockets. Maybe it wasn't his place to say. He knew Steve still kept a notebook somewhere with a list of stuff he'd missed that he wanted to learn about. It was full enough, and painful enough, and weird enough—every entry a reminder to Steve that he'd slept for decades while everyone he loved grew old—that Sam didn't like contributing to it.
"Not going to what?" Steve asked, twisting off the cap of his water bottle and downing the contents in one long, steady gulp. Even after all this time, Sam was still morbidly fascinated by just how much the guy could consume in a single sitting. It was like one of those NatGeo documentaries where a snake could unhinge its jaw to eat a whole water buffalo or some shit.
"If you're looking to keep out of the headlines," Sam said with a sigh. "Stuff like this isn't going to help."
"Natasha's usually the one to give me the cryptic stuff." Steve set the bottle down and pulled up the hem of his t-shirt to swipe at his sweaty forehead. Not like it was going to do much good, though. Pretty much every inch of the cotton was already soaked; not surprising when a super soldier went a couple rounds in the ring with a god of thunder.
Sam was just surprised the gym was still standing around them.
"There are folks here who'll take pictures, sell 'em to the tabloids," Sam said. "They'll, you know. They'll twist things. It'll be like what went down with Stark in São Paulo all over again."
"It's a Boys and Girls Club, Sam," Steve said, setting his hands on his hips. "They're just kids, they—"
"It's like you've never heard of a smartphone or met a fifteen-year-old," Sam said. "Plus, have you seen their moms? Thirsty." Steve Rogers had been born without a self-preservation instinct. That was a given. Sam and Barnes had groused about it often enough among themselves; it was like watching a bug be congenitally attracted to a fast-moving windshield. But Steve seemed to think sometimes that if he just ignored how the modern world worked, then it wouldn't apply to him. That was the attitude that could only be maintained by a guy who'd been defrosted a few years and still had never heard of TMZ.
"Natasha's also sent me links to one of those websites that rates Avengers' rear ends," Steve said. "So."
"Yeah, but none of those photos have you and Thor all sweaty and, you know..." Sam made a gesture that tried to convey 'grappling', but would definitely have his mother hitting him upside the head. "Suggestive."
"Suggestive," Steve said, frowning.
"Yeah," Sam said. "I mean, you do you either way—or not, not my place to judge. But this is the twenty-first century, a lot of people get sort of... antsy about this sort of thing. I know in the Thirties it was mostly innocent when guys, you know—"
Steve quirked an eyebrow. "Engaged in Asgardian wrestling?"
"No." Sam felt obscurely flustered, but he'd seen enough old black-and-white movies to know that times had changed some. What was pals then might be something very different now. He wasn't sure Steve really got that. The guy thought dating a woman with a nose ring was too out there for him. "Well, yeah—but I mean the touching in general. People can read these things in ways you maybe wouldn't want."
"That's what's got you worried?" Steve said. "That a bunch of websites everyone knows lies about everything would tell more lies about me and Thor, just because we sparred and Thor took his shirt off?"
"Yeah, but you know Fox's been out to get you since your speech, this'll just give them another excuse to bash—"
"What, now I won't be the out-of-touch Commie pinko, I'll be the out-of-touch Commie pinko queer?" Steve's voice shifted, taking on that particular timbre that Sam only ever associated with the cowl and the shield. "I'm not going to act like I'm ashamed of any bit of that. If they want history lessons, I'll be glad to provide them."
Sam blinked, feeling for a moment like he'd been the one taking hits to the head. "Wait, are you saying you and Thor—"
Steve rolled his eyes. "No, but I'm saying that people knocked boots in all kinds of ways in Brooklyn when I was a kid, and people talked about it back then, too. I'm a hundred, Sam, I'm not blind and I'm not deaf. Hell, I accepted the invite for Hill's wedding last week, you think no one's going to raise hell about Captain America at a lesbian wedding?"
"You know, I got a feeling a whole bunch of biographies about you need to be updated." Sam was even mentally revising a couple of conversations he'd had with Steve, things he'd chalked up to innocence because he sure as hell wasn't going to presume flirting.
"Yeah," Steve said, and that wasn't quite his Cap voice, but it was something close—something serious and deep that still had a shiver running down Sam's spine. He took a step closer, held out a hand to Sam, the clearest, surest invitation he'd had since a voice called out on your left. "They've definitely got something to write about."