There were some aspects to the super-soldier serum that were not very obvious. Yes, Steve was exceptionally strong, fast, quick-healing, with good senses and incredible reflexes; all of that was well-documented. He processed drugs so fast they didn’t even make an impression on him, and had managed to survive seventy years frozen, also well-known facts. But less well-documented was his stupidly good memory, and not just for facts or faces. Yes, Clint was aware that the description was a contradiction; he didn’t care. It was still true.
And it was mostly all his own fault for introducing Steve to Bruce Lee movies.
Seventy years asleep had given Steve a huge backlog of history to catch up on. The man could speed-read with a one hundred percent comprehension rate (yet another lesser-known fact), but watching TV and movies, or listening to music, had to be done in real-time, usually between missions or on long flights. And Clint knew that even just covering the high points of pop culture left a lot of ground, usually really interesting ground, to cover.
“Way of the Dragon?” Steve asked, looking over the compressed file set Clint had given him that held the complete works of Bruce Lee.
“Kung fu films. This is the guy who brought martial arts front and center in America. And he was one of the best martial artists of the century. Cheesy films, but awesome fight scenes,” Clint said with a grin.
Steve shrugged appreciatively and added them to his list. As much as Steve preferred watching movies as a group, the only way he’d ever watched them before waking up in the future, all the Avengers had schedules that could be charitably described as “erratic, bordering on the bizarre,” and more often than not, Steve caught up on things on his own. Clint didn’t pester him for his opinion, because Steve has people telling him he has to watch this, listen to that, give this a try every time he turns around. The man has a list as long as Washington Monument, and it gets longer every day. He’ll get around to it eventually.
But Clint sure as hell remembers that little conversation in a hurry when Steve and he get pinned in some rubble, both of them hemmed in with maybe an inch of space above them. Clint calls for back-up and is about to settle into a routine of not panicking when Steve takes a deep breath and punches.
One inch of space, one fucking inch, and broken concrete goes flying off of them like he’d just set off a mortar.
Steve clears the two very surprised evil lackeys who’d been probing the wreckage looking for them and hauls Clint up after him.
“The one-inch punch?” Clint says with incredulity.
“Yeah. I’ve been practicing,” Steve says, looking around for more danger as if it was no big deal.
If he weren’t so earnest and modest Clint could hate him.
Apparently Bruce Lee films are followed by some of the fantastical wire-fu stuff, because some months later they’re chasing some speed-enhanced courier with lethal skills over the crowded rooftops of someplace in South America. Tony’s dealing with a bomb the guy left behind, and the place is way too crowded for Thor to come thundering in, so it’s up to the others to catch him. The route is a nightmare of uneven roofs and Clint is entertaining a doubt or two before Steve is skimming over the rooftops like gravity is half-normal, or even optional.
The baddie looks back once, presumably to gloat, and Clint is privileged to see his surprise as Steve meets him with a well-deserved shield to the face. Hell, not even Tony could have gotten there faster.
Clint has to ask.
“What the hell was that from?”
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Steve says, wrestling their bad guy into a SHIELD van.
“You realize those guys were on wires, right?”
“…Huh,” Steve says, nonplussed.
“Have the decency to blush, Rogers,” Clint says.
A month later, Steve, Clint, and Natasha are in close-quarters combat against a hideous snake of a degenerate piece of crap. Steve can’t pull any punches, but this guy is tough as hell, and deflecting everything they have. Clint and Natasha double-team to give Steve one clean shot, and Steve takes it with a grim set to his mouth. His hand snaps out in a sharp, deliberate sequence over the man’s chest. The snake spins away, takes a couple steps, and dies in his tracks. Steve looks somber, but not sorry, and nods at both of them in thanks.
“What did you do?” Natasha asked, out of professional curiosity.
“Five point palm exploding heart technique.”
Clint chokes. “From Kill Bill?”
The penny doesn’t drop. “Steve… they made that up.”
“Worked, didn’t it?”
It’s not until a year later that he actually manages to top himself. Clint would have put a moratorium on Steve’s kung-fu film watching, if he hadn’t liked them so much.
This time it’s Steve versus some Hulk wanna-be, not quite strong enough to warrant bringing Bruce out (and that’s what the fucker wants, and they all refuse to give it to him). For a few minutes, due to the chaos of the battlefield, Steve is alone versus the giant, with Clint on a nearby rooftop, taking shots where he can.
Then he sees Steve grab the guy’s hand with two fingers, and crook his pinky.
There’s a soundless explosion, and Clint spends from then until when the dust clears cussing Steve out in every way he knows how.
“The Wuxi Finger Hold? Seriously?! You expect me to believe you made some bogus joke kung fu move from a cartoon actually work?” he demands, leaping down from his perch to stomp over to rim of the crater where Steve is standing. Of the wanna-be, there isn’t a sign. Of course there’s not.
“I love kung fu,” Steve says, completely deadpan.
“All-American black belt. Fine. Get out of your Wuxi Crater and let’s go for noodles, Po.”
“You didn’t just call me a panda, did you?”
“You just used the Wuxi Finger Hold successfully. I will call you whatever the fuck I want,” Clint says. He’s earned that privilege over the past year and a half of Steve’s kung-fu move obsession and sheer ignorance of the rules of reality as he’d known them.
Steve just smiles as he jumps up.
“Tony Jaa films. Then all the wuxia I can get my archer’s gloves on. Then we’re entering you in a tournament and I’m gonna call myself your sensei,” Clint says.
Steve grins as Tony touches down and opens his faceplate, looking around with wide eyes.
“Where’d the bomb come from?”
“Steve’s pinky,” Clint says nonchalantly, and watching the look on Tony’s face is completely worth every incredulous moment.