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(ficlet) Up to Speed

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"Naturally," said Tony, "We start with old school Trek."

"Naturally?" said Bruce.

"Well, of course," said Tony. "I mean, what else would you start with?"

"When it comes to ubiquitous cultural references? I think you gotta go Star Wars first."

Tony paused. "But Trek has been a much greater influence on society as a whole - technology, race and gender issues, even the way we name manned space flight missions…"

"True, but we're trying to get him up to speed on common pop culture references, not the entire cultural history of the later 20th century."

Steve stood awkwardly, like an eighth grade boy at his first school dance, not sure if he should sit, or stand, or what exactly to do with his hands. Everything in Tony's place looked like it was too expensive for real people to use, like it oughta be a room in a museum, next to the room with the mummies and the pharaoh's gold.

"Besides," Bruce added, "I was always more of a Next Gen guy, myself."

Tony's eyebrows shot up. "I will not have that kind of blasphemous talk in my home, sir."

"Hey, Picard was awesome."

"He drank tea. Kirk drank Romulan ale."

Pepper braved her way into the middle of the battle and pulled Tony's credit card out of his pocket. "Play nice with your friends, or you're not getting any pizza."

"You're paying for it with my money," Tony said.

"I'll order yours with anchovies."

"I'm being good, look - I'm sharing my toys and everything."

Pepper smiled. "Steve - what would you like on your pizza?"

Steve was pretty sure she hadn't meant the question as a test, but for some reason it kind of felt like one. "Oh, I'll be happy with anything, Ma'am. I'm not picky."

Pepper smiled again, and cocked her head at Tony. "Steve calls me Ma'am," she said.

"Steve is a polite gentleman of a bygone era," Tony replied.

"You could learn some manners from him."

"I could, but then I wouldn't be the charming rake you fell for."

"And what a shame that would be. Bruce? Pizza preferences?"

"Vegetarian for me, please."

"Are you kidding me?" Tony said. "You fuel the big guy on a vegetarian diet?"

"No, I just feel like vegetarian pizza."

Tony made a face. "I want…"

"I know what you want," she replied.

"I meant on my pizza."

"So did I." She picked a sleek cell phone up off the bar top and began to dial, walking out as she did.

"Pepperoni," Tony called out.

"And sausage with mushrooms and extra cheese," she called back.

Tony stared after her for a second. "She's too good for me, but if either of you ever tell her that, I'll kill you." He turned to Bruce. "Okay, I concede your point about Star Wars, so we'll start with Episode 4…"

Bruce shook his head. "We should start with Episode 1, so he can get the entire story arc as it was meant to be told."

Tony stared at Bruce as if he'd just grown an extra head. Bruce raised an eyebrow, as if he was preparing for an oncoming attack. "Don't tell me you're a prequel defender," Tony began.

"Don't tell me you're one of those 'George Lucas raped my childhood' guys," Bruce replied.

"George Lucas did rape my childhood, thank you very much, and even if you can find value in the prequels, you can't possibly forgive the Special Editions."

"Oh, please - you know, there are actual children in the world who have been victims of rape, and I'm pretty sure your disappointment over Jar Jar Binks or Greedo shooting first doesn't compare to their experience."

Steve watched them volley back and forth. There was finger wagging. It looked like it could escalate to fisticuffs at any moment. "Are you guys really getting into an argument over a movie?" Steve asked.

Tony and Bruce both stopped and looked at him. "Well, yeah," Tony said. "Obviously."

"Is that wise?" Steve asked. "I don't want to see Bruce turn green over a movie." He held a hand up - conciliatory - to Bruce. "No offense."

"None taken."

"Bruce can handle it," Tony said. "A little nerd rage isn't going to kill any of us."

Bruce nodded at Steve - "It's all in good fun," and then turned back to Tony, pointing at him. "If you were Lucas and had his money to spend, you'd have gone back and told the story you wanted to tell, too."

"I think I do have Lucas money, actually, and I wouldn't have done it like that."

Bruce shook his head. "You don't have Lucas money. No one has Lucas money."

Tony took a swig of his drink and set the glass down triumphantly on the bar. "I have Lucas money."

"No you don't. You have a lot of money, I'll give you that, but you don't have Lucas money."

"Pepper!" Tony hollered.

"You don't have Lucas money!" she yelled back from the next room.

Tony looked stricken. "Yes, I do!"

"No, you don't! You're ranked six places behind him on the Forbes list this year!"

Tony stood there with his mouth open for a second. "I am shocked - shocked! - by this news."

Steve perked up. "Casablanca, right?" He grinned. "I got that one."

Bruce laughed a little and moved towards Tony's shelf of DVD's. "Okay, so we can't agree on an era of Trek, and I'm sure Steve doesn't want to listen to us bicker about the prequels all night, so let's see if there's anything a else we can get him up to speed on…" He looked up at Tony, his finger on one of the DVD spines. "You own all three Matrix movies?"

Tony was silent for a moment, and then he said, "I thought maybe, if I watched all three of them in a row, the last two wouldn't suck so badly."

"Did that work?" Bruce asked.

"No, it did not."

Bruce turned back to the shelf. "Alien Resurrection?" He turned back to Tony again.

"That was a gift from Pepper."

"No it wasn't!" Pepper called from the next room over.

"You're not allowed to give me crap about the prequels ever again," Bruce said.

Tony sighed. "Fair enough."

"I'm kinda worn out on space aliens anyway," Steve put in. "I mean, after the battle and all."

"Understandable," Tony nodded. He looked at Bruce. "Buffy?"

"Kind of a lot to take in all at once," Bruce replied. "Firefly?"

"Eh," Tony said. "Hey, are you one of those rabid Firefly fanboys? Did the big guy come out in a fit of extreme nerd rage and smash the hell out of a Fox station after it got cancelled?"

"Yep, he sure did," Bruce said.

"Really?" Tony's eyes were wide.

"No, not really."

"Damn. That would have been cool if he had. Dollhouse?"

Bruce cocked his head, his eyebrows shooting up, and Tony frowned. "Not Dollhouse," they said together.

"Battlestar Galactica?" Tony offered. "New version, of course."

"I think you have to have a good grasp of Star Wars before you can really appreciate BSG. X-Files?"

Tony glanced at Steve, who was looking more befuddled by the second. "Too weird. He just said he's had his fill of aliens for a while. How about Kill Bill?"

"Too bloody," Bruce said. "Harry Potter?"

"And you thought Buffy was a lot to take in?" Tony said. "Clerks."

"Too many Star Wars references. And I don't think Steve will appreciate the language."

"I don't care for cursing," Steve put in.

"See?" Bruce said. "Maybe we should go comedy. Holy Grail?"

"Too British. Spinal Tap?"

"Too Eighties. Ghostbusters."

"How is Spinal Tap too Eighties and Ghostbusters isn't?"

While the two of them bickered - all this fuss over a movie! - something on the shelf caught Steve's eye. He moved toward the neat rows of DVD's and picked it up - the picture on the front was of a square-jawed man with stubble on his chin and a dark brown fedora perched just so on his head. Next to him was a pretty dark-haired girl, who kind of reminded him of Peggy, in a way. "Hey, guys?" Steve said, holding it out for Bruce to look at. "What's this one about?"

Bruce took the DVD box, and then he smiled. "Raiders of the Lost Ark," he said to Tony.

"Perfect!" Tony said. "It's got action, adventure, and Nazis. You like Nazis, don't you Steve?"

"Um, no, I wouldn't say I like Nazis…"

"Right, of course you don't like Nazis, but you understand them. You know what they're about."

"Well, yeah...I mean, I guess…"

"Perfect," Tony repeated. "Indiana Jones is perfect - you're gonna love it." He took the box from Bruce, put the disc in the player, plopped down on the nearest chair and told Steve and Bruce to sit. He held up the remote, pointed it at the screen, and then he turned to Bruce. "Not the fourth one, though," Tony said.

"Oh god, no," Bruce replied.

Tony grinned and pushed play.