Tony Stark hadn't expected Captain America to get the hang of text messaging so quickly. Possibly at all. But the guy was a master. He didn't seem to like email, and he was impossible to get on the phone. Fury had pointed out that phone calls were expensive as hell back in his day and not always private, and you had to have an operator set the call up for you. "You wanted a message to get somewhere fast and cheap?" Fury said. "You sent a telegram. No wonder every damn thing I get from him's a hundred and forty characters long. I'm just glad he doesn't put STOP at the end of every sentence."
"Yeah, I guess," Tony said, poking at his latest message. What do u do w/fan mail?
Pepper has a firm or something. Why?
SHIELD has mine. Unsure that's good LT solution.
"Mr. Stark?" Fury asked. "Are you planning on joining this meeting?"
"You're the one who called it," Tony sulked, shoving his phone back in his pocket.
He didn't think much of the text until a week or so later, when he and Bruce were sitting up on the roof after lunch and Pepper came up with her arms full. "Tony, your package is here," she said, handing him the thick padded envelope. "And some highlights from your fan mail," she said, handing a stack of papers to Bruce.
The envelope was expected, with the new capacitor he'd been waiting on-- "Fan mail?"
"Yeah," Bruce said, a bit sheepishly. "Apparently a lot of kids find a big green, uh, rage monster appealing. Pepper said the firm could pass on the special letters."
"Remember?" Pepper said, in that why yes, I continue to be three steps ahead of you, Tony tone of voice she got when she was feeling smug. "You had me set up our firm to handle Captain Rogers' email. I offered the rest of the Avengers the opportunity as well."
Bruce was flipping through the stack. "Can you believe he gets over a hundred emails a week?"
Tony could. In fact, that number sounded kind of low. "So Cap's getting his fan mail through our firm too?" He hoped Pepper wouldn't expect him to remember the firm's name.
"On a trial basis. I think his mail's organized into categories," Pepper said.
"What, 'stalker, ancient, maybe she's single?'"
"Very funny," Bruce said. "Look at this one. This is from a mom whose kid has bipolar disorder. He's ten. He's got a big Hulk poster in his room and he says he wants to be a scientist when he grows up now."
"Yeah, yeah, that's sweet," Tony said. "How much fan mail do I get a week?"
"It depends," Pepper said. "And I don't really have a separate category for hate mail."
"Right." She hated him, really. He'd known it for years.
Pepper was poking at her phone. "Here's Captain Rogers now."
"Everything okay?" Bruce asked.
"He needs a security check," she said cheerfully. "A girl's invited him to her prom."
"You're kidding me," Tony said. "Prom?"
"Apparently she has health issues. She thinks his story's inspiring. He thinks it'd be a nice goodwill gesture." She looked up at him. "I mean, he's right."
Prom. Steve 'Grandpa Iceberg' Rogers at a 21st-century high school prom. "This isn't happening. This whole conversation is just an elaborate practical joke. Bruce really just has orders for widgets or something."
Bruce waved the printouts at him. "Fraid not. I don't really do practical jokes. Messing with other people's moods just seems. I don't know. Karmically unwise."
"Prom," Tony said. "He won't last past the first Lady Gaga song."
"I wanted to check with you first," Steve said. "I wouldn't--"
"Dad used to talk about you sometimes," she said. "As Allison probably told you."
"Yeah," he said. Grandpa never liked to talk about the war, but we all knew how proud he was to have supported you and the Commandos. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"He lived a long life," she said. "Six grandkids, including Allison."
He smiled. He didn't remember John Rodriguez, but he'd met a lot of people in the field. Falsworth might have remembered, he was always better with that stuff, but he'd been gone for a decade. "I'm glad to hear that," he said. "So it's all right with you?"
"Of course," she said. "It's -- it'll really be an honor, Captain."
"It'll be my honor to take her, ma'am. I'll have her back by curfew."
Steve hung up the phone and smiled to himself. I realize you must get all kinds of these letters, but Grandpa told me you had asthma when you were growing up, like me, and....
"So you're going to prom, huh?"
Steve didn't turn around. "How did you get in here?" Every time he started thinking that maybe Tony Stark was a halfway decent guy after all, the kind of guy you could get along with, he would do something like showing up in Steve's apartment without even bothering to knock.
"Pepper sent me. She says you need a decent tux."
"I hadn't even thought about that." And why had he just admitted it out loud? "Why didn't she come herself? And how did you get in here?"
"She's busy. She is a CEO, you know." Tony looked around Steve's apartment. "I think she thinks we need to bond."
"We've bonded," Steve said, crossing his arms over his chest. "And you still haven't told me how you got in."
"Bypassed your security system, a kid could do it. You can't trust SHIELD security." Tony was studying the Chagall print on the wall. "This is nice," he said. "You meet him?"
"No," Steve said.
"So anyway, if I leave it to SHIELD, they'll probably hook you up with a star-spangled tux or something equally stupid, and I'm sure your style's ideal for 1942, but--"
"I get it, Mr. Stark. I get it."
"Anyway, you need a tux. Pepper says I can't get you anything too expensive, has to be Macy's or Bloomingdale's or something. You been to Macy's since--" He gestured in a way that Steve realized meant seventy years in the ice. They'd really been spending way too much time together.
"No," he said. He wasn't looking forward to it, either. For a second, he was tempted to fall on Tony Stark's largesse and beg for an old-fashioned tailor, a quiet little place with only one or two employees and classical music playing quietly in the background.
But no. He had his pride. He'd go to Macy's.
Maybe it would be fun.
It wasn't fun.
At least they hadn't changed the escalators. Some of them were still the old wooden ones. But the store felt like chaos, and the music was way too loud, and he kept worrying that someone would recognize him. They certainly seemed to recognize Tony; they'd had to hotfoot it out of the Starbucks to keep from drawing a crowd. There were signs and posters everywhere, adding visual noise to whatever was pounding through the speakers. Why did they need to keep advertising? He was already in the store. "Donald Trump suits? Doesn't he have a TV show?"
"Everyone has a TV show, Cap," Tony said, steering him through the suit section. "Want one?"
Steve filed through his memory. "He's a union buster, isn't he?"
"Right," Tony said. "No Trump -- how do you know that? There's not even a TV in your apartment."
"I'm not completely ignorant," Steve snapped. Besides, he'd heard it on WNYC.
There were a lot of suits. A lot of suits. A handsome, dark-skinned man came and helped guide them through all the choices. Tony wasn't too horrible, which was a relief, and the sales clerk, whose name turned out to be Tamir, seemed to find his endless stream of wisecracks funny. They finally settled on a dark charcoal tuxedo by someone Steve had never heard of. Tamir promised that Ralph Lauren wasn't a reality TV star or a union buster, so that was all right.
Steve handed Tony his phone. "Take a picture for me?"
Tony's eyebrows went up, but he obeyed. "The girl already thinks you're handsome, Captain."
"I'm getting another opinion," Steve said, looking up his contacts. Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanoff. He briefly considered sending the photo to Agent Hill, but he didn't want to insult her. He cc'd Fury instead.
Pepper's response was almost immediate. Buy it. Buy two.
Sticking w/one. "I guess I'll take it," he said, and went to change. Looks good came from Fury as he left the dressing room.
"So what color's her dress?" Tony asked. "You need a tie to match? I haven't thought about a prom for twenty years."
"You should probably have a matching tie," Tamir supplied helpfully. "Is it her senior prom?"
"Yeah," he said. "It must be, she said she was a senior. Her mother said the dress was blue, but there are a lot of shades of blue." Of course Tony's prom was twenty years ago. Steve hadn't gone to his -- the best suit he'd had wasn't good enough, and he'd been working that night anyway -- but it'd only been six years back, if you didn't count the time in the ice. He'd never get over the fact that, in a lot of ways, Howard Stark's son was older than he was.
"We've got a nice grey tie with thin blue stripes," Tamir said. "It should be subtle enough to compliment anything blue without clashing."
"I should probably get two," Steve said. "Just in case. I could use another tie, anyway." His phone buzzed. Natasha: Don't break her heart, Captain.
Promise I won't, he sent back.
"I should do this with Thor too," he heard Tony say. "Thor needs a suit, right? He'd like this, right?"
"Is he single?" Tamir asked.
It was a lovely night. The lilacs were blooming, and the sweet scent of the flowers hung in the air.
Allison was a very pretty girl, with honey blond hair and dark brown eyes. Her braces were engraved with a scrolling pattern of flowers and vines, and her dress was fitted and dark blue. Grandpa always told me that Captain America had asthma, just like me, she'd written, and that he'd been sick a lot as a kid like I was. It's kind of dumb how something like that can make you feel better but it always did.
He held out his arm. "Can you--?"
She nodded and took his arm. "I'll be fine," she said carefully. "Thank you." I talk slow, but I still think fast..
The reporter held up her camera as they walked down the stairs together. "Are you ready for a photograph?"
No, Steve thought, but he smiled anyway. At least all those stupid publicity tours had taught him how to pose for a picture. "Thank you, Ms. Jones." Pepper had offered her an 'exclusive,' and she'd kept her word; no one else had shown up to ogle the young lady. Sure, it'd be in the papers tomorrow morning, but she'd have her privacy tonight.
"I'll send you a copy," she said. "And your mom, too, Allison."
"Thanks," Allison's mother called from the doorway. She was darker than Allison, a little shorter; older, of course, but still very pretty.
Steve's phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket in case it was an emergency.
Tony: Don't do anything I wouldn't do.
Steve rolled his eyes.
A second buzz: Fury. Keep Jones to soft questions only.
He let the rest of the texts come in as Ms. Jones snapped a few solo photos of Allison. Have fun from Natasha. Don't get arrested from Clint. Jones behaving herself? from Pepper.
Y, he sent back.
Let me know if she misbehaves.
You'll be the 1st.
And one from Bruce Banner, who never sent text messages. Are u going to make her explain everything?
I know who Madonna & Katy Perry are. & Matchbox 20. We'll b fine.
If she survives a date with you, we'll make her an honorary Avenger.
Steve shook his head, smiling in spite of himself. Deal.
"Ready to go?" Allison asked.
"More than ready," he said.