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The Old-Fashioned Way

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Steve's been called old-fashioned so often that he hardly notices anymore. Sometimes it's said with just enough venom that he realizes it's supposed to be an insult. Other times, it's accompanied with a small smile and a shake of the head, and then it's supposed to be endearing. Or something.

Either way, he doesn't care. He is old-fashioned, and he knows it.

And that's why he's here today.

He had to wait a long time for everyone else to clear out. He never realized before just how many of them there are. It doesn't help that they all have wildly different schedules. Even on those mornings when there are six or more of them sitting around the table, the Mansion just never feels that crowded. But now that he's deliberately waiting for them to all go, it seems like he finds Avengers everywhere he looks.

But at last Carol and Jessica wander off, sharing the last piece of bacon in between them, and Steve is alone in the enormous kitchen. He lingers by the coffeemaker, and he looks up eagerly as Jarvis walks in bearing a tray full of dirty dishes.

"Here, let me help you with that," he says. Now that the moment has come, he feels unexpectedly nervous. Simple manual labor will ease his nerves – he hopes.

"I have it," Jarvis replies. "But thank you, Captain." He sets the tray down on the counter beside the sink, a tall man with the regal bearing of someone who knows his own worth. "Was there something you needed, sir?"

Steve swallows hard. "Actually, yes. I wanted to ask you something."

"Of course," Jarvis says. He looks expectantly at Steve.

"Um," Steve says. "Why don't we…" He gestures to the table, still half-covered in dirty dishes and glasses, the remains of this morning's breakfast slowly cooling. "I'll, um, I'll pour us some coffee."

"Well," Jarvis says with a faint smile. "I can't remember the last time someone poured me a cup of coffee."

The joke doesn't do much for Steve's nerves. He suddenly wonders if Jarvis took offense from his gesture. He's always been somewhat uncomfortable with the role Jarvis has in the Mansion. He's not like Tony or even Jan; he didn't grow up with money and he doesn't really know how to give orders to people who are there to serve him.

He pours them both cups of coffee and takes them over to the table. He sits down across from Jarvis and he cradles his mug with both hands.

Jarvis sips from his cup and nods. He sets it down and looks at Steve. "You had something to ask me?"

"I did," Steve says, a little bit too loudly. "I mean, I do." He takes a deep breath. He feels almost silly, all of a sudden. This is supposed to be the easy question, after all. If he can't even get this one out, he's in for a world of trouble later on.

"I guess you know how Tony and I feel about each other," he says.

Jarvis gives him a smile. "Yes, Captain, I believe I do."

Of course he does. They all know. It's hardly a secret, although Steve did worry a little at first about what the other Avengers would say. But they've all been wonderfully supportive, and now it feels perfectly natural to give Tony a good-morning kiss in front of everyone at the breakfast table – just like he did today.

"And I know you've always been there for him," Steve says. "Even when he was just a boy."

Something shifts behind Jarvis's eyes. He knows, Steve realizes. He knows exactly what Steve is about to ask.

It was the date that finally decided him, finally made him understand that if he didn't say it soon, he never would. To most of the world, today is just another Sunday in June, but it's also a day to celebrate fathers and their role in their children's lives. And Jarvis, whether or not he's ever really understood it – although Steve is pretty sure he has – is a father. To all of the Avengers, in his own way, but to one man in particular.

There's no way Steve was ever going to do this without asking Jarvis first. He's old-fashioned, after all, and he wants to do this right. It doesn't matter that he's technically speaking to the wrong man. Because in all the ways that matter, Edwin Jarvis is the right man.

"I love Tony," Steve says, and he makes himself stop right there. He could go on for hours if no one stopped him, talking about how beautiful and clever and good Tony is, and how utterly exasperating and exhausting he can be. He could tell Jarvis how he feels when he's around Tony, how just being with him challenges Steve to be a better, stronger person.

But all that can wait. Right now he has a question to ask.

"I want to spend the rest of my life with him. And…I'm going to ask him that. But first I would very much like your blessing. Please."

And there. It's done. He said it.

Jarvis stares at him for a long moment. He's always had an amazing poker face, but Steve can see that he is deeply touched by the question and all that it implies. Then Jarvis reaches out and places one hand atop his, where they still clutch the coffee cup. "Nothing would please me more," he says simply.

Steve exhales loudly and drops his head. He huffs out a little laugh, wryly amused by his own dramatic reaction. He lets Jarvis peel one of his hands off the mug and squeeze it tight. "Thank you," he says.

"I know he loves you," Jarvis says. He speaks of Tony with pride and love. "And he is happiest when he is with you. I've seen that for years. You are two of the stubbornest men I have ever known – but when you are together, you are formidable."

"Thank you," Steve says again, because he doesn't know what else to say. He's already done everything else; he has the gold band in his upstairs dresser drawer and he knows the time and the place. And now he has Tony's father's approval – the only one who ever really mattered, that is.

It hits him then, what Jarvis's answer really means.

"This is going to happen," he says. He looks up, and he's suddenly smiling, unable to do anything else. He feels incredibly happy.

Jarvis lets go of his hand. "Indeed it is," he says. "And I wish you both the greatest joy." He stands up. "Now, if you don't mind, Captain, I have a kitchen to clean."

"Oh," Steve says. He stands up hurriedly. "Yeah. Sorry. I, um." He wonders if he should offer to help. After the rather intimate conversation they just shared, it seems like the right thing to do.

Then he sees the way Jarvis is looking at him, with fond affection but little else, and he realizes that the intimacy is over. He asked his question, he received his answer, and now Jarvis has resumed his role as the Avengers butler once again. The man who practically raised Tony, who was more of a father to him than Howard Stark could ever have been, is nowhere in sight.

But Steve knows he's still in there.

"Okay," he says. He gulps quickly at his coffee, then sets the half-full cup back on the table. He nods once, and then he turns around and he leaves the kitchen.

His heart pounds with anticipation as he moves through the Mansion. It's a bright sunny day, and Steve can't wait to get it started.