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Not About Superheroes (A Private Little War)

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August 1

"With all due respect, Director, please piss off and let us do our job," said Cap, his voice tight with strain.

In retrospect, Tony thought much later, that's what should have been their first hint that something was off with their golden boy. At the time, though, he'd nearly wet his suit laughing, and Hawkeye's hastily choked-off giggle hadn't helped.

"Sure, Captain, I'll tell my agents to go back to their needlework, then," said Fury's calm voice over the comms, as though having America's favorite son telling you to piss off happened to him every day. "Let us know if you need anything. Ice tea, lemonade, scented towels. A magazine or two?"

"Sorry, Director," said Steve brusquely. He paused. "We could use SHIELD presence on the north perimeter. Iron Man's going to herd that thing to the pier."

"I am?" said Tony. "Herding. That's usually a term for more than one thing," he muttered. "Shepherding a giant wall of slime, how is this my life."

"It should dissolve in the water. That firehose seemed to irritate it before it got out of its range."

"Should. I'm sending you the cleaning bill if it doesn't." Tony sped off, blasting the giant wall of pink slime and earning himself what looked for all the world like an aggrieved glare, if a blob of amorphous pink could glare. The wall slowly started to shuffle towards him through the shimmering heat, and Tony congratulated himself over his air-conditioned suit, sparing a moment's sympathy for the rest of his team fighting on the ground amid the lovely New York-in-August miasma.

"Northern perimeter covered," came Fury's voice. "About fourteen robots neutralized. You're welcome."

"Think that's Fury-ese for I Told You So," grunted Tony, dodging swipes from the gelatinous fuchsia and trying not to think of what went into industrial lunch meat. "JARVIS, memo, never bring commercial processed meats into the Tower."

"Yes, sir. Organic only."

"Good man."

He caught a glint of sun off Steve's shield and glanced over at Steve, who somehow appeared to be single-handedly keeping a large group of poorly coordinated robots on the southern perimeter from attacking Natasha as she worked on the door to what looked like a control... outhouse. On wheels. "How's Widow?"

"Still trying to get into the control room," Steve said. "Widow, out of the way, I think you've got that hinge weakened enough." He paused, then flung his shield at the door. The door cracked open with a sound that was almost the exact opposite of what a rickety wooden outhouse door should sound like, heard even off-comm from Tony's position three blocks over.

"Cap, duck!" Hawkeye's voice was quickly followed by an arrow that passed over Steve's head and buried itself in a robot right behind him, shorting it out and causing it to spasm into the ones lurching up behind it. Steve nodded his thanks hurriedly, moving into the outhouse and picking up his shield on the way.

"Yes!" Tony crowed as the pink slime, goaded beyond reason - or what passed for reason for a house-sized blob of goo - sank into the water, hissing and, according to JARVIS's read-out, giving off a strong smell of cinnamon.

He looked around. The destruction had been minimal. There was no sign of whoever had caused all of this, his team and the SHIELD agents all seemed sweaty and tired, but uninjured, and the robots were twitching aimlessly in the bright sunshine. Apparently Steve and Natasha had dealt with the control... toilet.

Game over.


"Director, I apologize for my actions today," Steve began, standing up as soon as Fury and Hill entered the briefing room.

Clint traded a glance with Natasha. This oughtta be good.

"At ease, soldier," Fury said mildly. "You were a little preoccupied and I was distracting you."

"I showed disrespect over an open comm line."

"And what a thing of beauty that was," Tony grinned. Clint covered his smirk by grabbing and chugging down the nearest water bottle; no point pissing off the boss, and while an involuntary - and slightly embarrassingly high-pitched - giggle over the comm might be forgiven, he wasn't gonna compound it by egging Tony on during a meeting.

"I'm not your superior officer," said Fury. "And SHIELD's not really a military organization."

Tony's eyebrows went up. Clint and Natasha's went down.

"Still, it was unprofessional of me."

"Fine, apology accepted," said Fury, waving a hand and picking up a water bottle for himself. "Now, can someone tell me what happened here?"

Clint cleared his throat. "Uh, looked to me like a giant wall of slime came down to find friends in Brooklyn, brought some robots that make Dummy look like the Iron Man suit, all controlled from an outhouse. I already wrote up my report," he said, and handed it to Fury.

Fury rolled his eye and read it out loud. "Pink slime - dissolved. Robot chaperones - disabled. Outhouse HQ - flushed."

"It's succinct," said Clint proudly.

"It's a nice try," said Hill.

"Thanks," grinned Clint.

"Try again," she shot back.

Steve leaned forward, his face carefully blank. "To be honest, that's pretty much the whole story, other than the outhouse wasn't really an outhouse, obviously. Just disguised to look like it. And, um, smell like it. We can fill in details in our reports."

"You're right," said Fury, and Hill shot him a look of bewilderment. "Any injuries?"

"Got a nasty cinnamon-scented nasal burn from the slime," said Clint.


"No, I just really feel like getting cinnamon buns. Other than affecting my boyish figure, nothing dangerous."

"Anyone else? Iron Man? Black Widow?" The two shook their heads.

"Some sunburns. Two agents were slightly injured on the northern perimeter," said Hill. "Bay cracked a rib and Wong twisted his ankle. Nothing serious."

"So, other than not finding whoever was responsible--" Fury began.

"Sorensen's got a team on that, sir," said Hill.

Clint frowned at her. "Sorensen? Why--"

"He thinks it looks like the work of the Verminator," Hill continued, ignoring Clint.

"AKA the Mean Teen." Fury rolled his eye again. "In other words, amateur night," he said. "Go home, folks. And thank you."


"What's on tonight?" asked Natasha, entering the common kitchen. "Are we done with From Here to Eternity yet?"

"We finished it and On the Waterfront while you were with the Russian delegation," said Bruce, chopping some vegetables that Steve recognized, along with other stuff he was pretty sure was grown in his lab. "We're on to Marty now."

"Good," said Natasha with satisfaction. "I've already seen Waterfront and I don't like Brando. And the Eternal movie wasn't doing anything for me."

Steve started to make himself a couple of ham on ryes as Clint entered the room and took up a perch on the counter. "It wasn't that bad. Marty's better, though."

The Eternal movie hadn't done much for Steve either - or rather, it had done a little too much, what with all the overly-familiar-looking battle scenes near the end. It had actually been uncomfortable as hell, but it wasn't like he needed anybody to know that. This was supposed to be for his benefit, anyway, and there was no point in making them feel bad about it.

Tony had taken one look at Steve's 're-education' program, a month after the Battle of New York, and nearly pissed himself laughing. They'd been at SHIELD headquarters after a battle with Doombots (and it had only been the third battle with them, but even by then, Steve was beginning to get tired of them). Somehow, Tony had gathered packages on each of them, including the one named, 'Re-integration, Rogers, Steven.'

"How handy," he'd said, reading off his StarkPad. "They've got your schedule all color-coded and everything. There's therapy, The History of America's Greatness, The History of Everyone Else's Not-So-Greatness, military training... and your expenses, wow, a tiny apartment in Crown Heights - good God, it's gone a little gentrified, have any of your neighbors tried selling you patchouli yet? Must be close to where you grew up or there's no excuse for living there. Huh. A Quinjet's weight in punching bags... and a set of pencils."

Oh, they'd been generous enough with those. And they'd given him a stipend while they worked out back pay, and it was more than enough for him, but--

"You can't live like this, man," said Tony in disgust. "You're a national icon, you deserve better. There's entire floors of the Tower ready for occupancy, right now, and nobody in them. Consider membership in the Avengers to be your rent."

Steve had wanted to take offense, but Tony was still busily insulting everyone else's current life choices.

"And Bruce, seriously, you can't be thinking of going to back to your shack in India, not cool. Can't have both you and Pepper skip out on me at the same time." He turned to Natasha and Clint. "And you two? Barracks life? Really?"

"Some of us like barracks, Stark," said Natasha.

"I liked you so much better when you were my PA, Natalie from Legal," said Tony. "Natalie from Legal would've been happy to move into a plush new apartment in the cushy part of town. With lots of possible boyfriends in clubs nearby."

"Natalie from Legal would drink pink drinks with fizzy things in them," said Natasha. "And umbrellas."

"And Natasha from SHIELD is a good little spy who lives in Spartan quarters and drinks vodka," said Tony. "You like working the stereotype?"

"I put fizzy pink things into the vodka."

"Hey, you don't need to convince me," Clint had said. "Cool new digs for free? When do I move in?"

He hadn't said that he probably didn't want to go back to the barracks where there were empty rooms because of him. According to Natasha - and from what Steve could see when he was at SHIELD - nobody blamed him, not really. But the bare rooms were still there.

"And you, Spangles," Tony had turned back to him, with the same relentless determination his father had always had. Though even then, Steve knew better than to comment on it. "You live in that tiny little closet and watch documentaries. You need pop culture reintegration. I could help with that."

"Stark, your version of the twenty-first century is more likely to kill him than any Doombot," said Natasha.

"OK, pop culture taken slowly. Watch any good reality TV lately?"

"I did look up some of the movies that won Oscars after I went down..."

"Really? Cap, I'm so proud of you. And you'll have to learn when not to say 'going down', context can be a tricky thing sometimes. How far had you gone? Your plane was lost in 1945 - was that before or after the Academy Awards that year?"

"I hadn't really been watching a lot of movies during the war, Stark."

"It's Tony. What have you watched?"

"Um, I was up to Gentlemen's Agreement."

And so they'd all moved in to Tony's tower, and the Oscar Project had begun. They watched a little while together almost every night, unless pink slime hit particularly hard. They'd worked their way from Hamlet to From Here to Eternity in the months of June and July, and were now on Marty, the winner for 1955. It was all still perfectly understandable to Steve. It was almost... nice. Familiar. If he ignored the blank stares of the people around him at some of the jokes and references that only he got, their impatience with some of the plot elements... it was almost like home.

"What's it like?" Clint asked now, breaking into Steve's thoughts and filching a piece of lettuce from Steve's sandwich. "Watching a movie about a war you fought in?"

Natasha slapped his hand lightly. "Get your own food. You mean Eternity?"

"Yeah. I kept wondering what it would be like to see stuff we lived through, seventy years from now," Clint mused, sneaking one of Bruce's weird veggies when he wasn't looking.

"Try a year from now," said Natasha. "That's what it feels like for you, doesn't it?"

"About that," said Steve, carefully keeping his voice neutral. "Sandwich?"

"Sure. Rye?"

"Yeah." He handed over the one he'd just made and started on another.

"Thanks," said Natasha, taking a bite. "It really shouldn't be any different from watching The Hurt Locker," she said to Clint. "You were in Iraq."

"Taking out shady underworld people for SHIELD isn't the same as defusing bombs for the Army, though. Cap here was actually fighting on the ground."

Steve shrugged. "I was never stationed in Hawaii though. It was fine."

"Huh. OK, then, I'd think you'd be upset about the whole officer's wife being unfaithful with a non-com," mused Clint. "Didn't upset your sensibilities, there, Cap?"

"People were having affairs before that movie," said Steve dryly. "I think the first one was recorded in 1936. I heard about it in art school." He tossed back a long pull of his Coke, wincing slightly as he set the glass down.

"Hey, what's up with you?" said Clint.


"You get snarky when you're in pain," said Clint. "And when you're not watching yourself."

"Pulled a muscle, probably."

"That should heal itself in moments," said Bruce. "You probably dislocated something, then."

Steve shrugged again and started spreading mayo on his bread.

"And you didn't report it?" said Clint. "Hey, Captain Hypocrisy; you'd bench me if I did that."

"It's healing."


"You have to report because we need to know if you're incapacitated," Steve pointed out. "I won't be. Unless we get called in in less than two hours, I'll be fine."

"You could use some painkillers," said Bruce.

Steve finished spreading the mustard. "They don't work on me. You know that."

"A high enough dosage should be enough to overwhelm your fast metabolism--"

"By the time the dose is high enough to affect me, it's also high enough to just about poison me," said Steve. "We tried during the War a few times. I just ended up throwing up. Simpler to just grit my teeth through any injuries." He closed the mustard and mayo jars and brought them to the fridge.

"Have you tried anything in this century?" asked Natasha.

He nodded and wiped the counter where he'd made his food. "Yeah, a few things. Acupuncture's OK sometimes. It's just unreliable, and kind of time-consuming."

"Yeah, and you know, acupuncture's great for when the problem is that you're in pain," said Clint, "but what if your problem is that you've got tiny needles stuck all over you?"

"What do you think was going on with Fury today?" Natasha asked Clint in a low voice as they brought their food into the living room.

"Mr. We're Not a Military Organization?" Clint shook his head, frowning. "News to me."

"Maybe Steve gets special Captain privilege?" Natasha gave Steve a smile.

"Maybe." Clint sat down on the oversize couch, putting a bowl of chips on the coffee table before them.

"Hill's not happy," said Natasha, settling down next to him and making room for Steve next to her.

"Hill's doing double duty," said Clint, and Steve winced. It was still sad to see just how much Coulson was missed. "She's also still answering to the damn Council every two days."

Natasha gave him a long look. "Think she's sold him out?"

Clint shrugged. "They're still breathing down his neck. Maybe."

"What do you think of this latest thing?"

"Nothing. Why?"

Natasha chewed her lip. "It just... makes me uneasy."

"Really? The Verminator? Mean Teen?"

"Not the Mean Teen. But the way SHIELD is handling it. Sorensen."

"Delhi, all over again," said Clint.

"More like Oordvarsk."


"Fair enough."

Cryptic as always when it came to SHIELD, thought Steve as he bit into his sandwich. The Assassin Twins, that's what Tony called them, and mostly Steve didn't agree - they were just people, no stranger than anybody else on their team. Times like these, though...

"Fuckin' SHIELD," muttered Clint.

"Am I hearing dissent from our resident SHIELD representatives?" Bruce asked, coming into the living room and settling down on the loveseat. "Please tell me I'm hearing dissent."

Clint smiled. "Ooh, mild-mannered Doctor Banner has a snarky comment. How'd SHIELD piss in your tofu today?"

"Brucey's pissed because SHIELD's pressuring him to talk to their company shrinks," said Tony, settling himself down next to Bruce with a whiskey and immediately reaching for the remote to queue up the movie.

"They want you in for counseling?" asked Natasha.

"No, just helping their research into my 'condition.' And I'm not pissed off," he clarified. "I just think it's a little ironic that they'd think I'd trust anybody working for SHIELD with anything personal. Present company excepted."

"The shrinks aren't the same, though," said Clint. "They're pretty hard-core about patient confidentiality. They have to be."

"Really?" said Steve.

"Well, you'd know, wouldn't you, Cap? You've got therapy every week, looks like. You know you can tell them stuff. They don't report to anybody."

"They don't?"

Clint paused with a chip halfway to his mouth. "Are you kidding?"

"I just assumed they did."

"So..." Clint blinked. "You only tell them what you think Nick Fury'll hear and see?"

"I just assumed that's how it worked."

"So what do you talk to them about?"

"Adjustments to the twenty-first century. Issues within the team."

"Do you ever actually talk to them?" asked Natasha.

"About what?" asked Steve.

"You know, personal stuff," said Clint. "The stuff you're supposed to talk to therapists about. Hopes, fears, dreams, nightmares, all that shit."

"That's what we're here for," said Tony. "And if twenty-first century adjustments are what they're here for, you need to tell them about our Oscar Project."

"I already have," said Steve, keeping his voice neutral. Talk to SHIELD? Seriously? About the nightmares and insomnia and sudden anxiety and - what the hell?

"Yeah? What'd they think?" said Tony

"They approved."

"Yeah, see, why does Steve need SHIELD shrinks when he's got us?" said Tony, and turned on the movie, about a perfectly normal butcher from the Bronx. Steve silently thanked him for the distraction, and, once again, for the relative sanity of the world around him right now. Odd to have Tony Stark to thank for sanity, but this crazy, bewildering century he was in...

Not everything about it was bad, he kept reminding himself. In fact, much of it was wonderful and amazing. Medicine was much more powerful, and most of what Steve and his mother had struggled with was no longer a problem. Food was plentiful. So much that so many people he knew had struggled with had gotten so much better...

But there was so much to learn. Seventy years of newness to adapt to, in science, technology, culture, politics, society, language, people places and things. So much that he'd been taught and accepted as normal, to be thrown out. And he could do it, mostly, until it got completely overwhelming. Because just how much was he expected to change? Just how little of his old life - of his old self - was he supposed to drop, like it was old clothing? Like this generation dropped old clothing, the moment it got even the least bit frayed, instead of living with it, or even trying to repair it?

Sometimes it felt like his fingers were being pried, one by one, from the ledge of his old life. It made him want to cling on all the tighter.

He couldn't do that, of course. That wouldn't adaptive or rational, as the SHIELD therapists said. And he agreed with them; he had to adapt. He didn't have a choice.

It wasn't that he wasn't grateful for his team, for SHIELD, for being alive and able to do something useful with his life. But there were days when the disorientation, the loneliness, the fear that kept him company during every single battle - if he thought about it, it almost felt like too much. The gnawing sorrow that he could never go home, the grief that never seemed to leave, the endless sleepless nights spent wrestling dark thoughts...

This, watching movies with the team, this felt normal. This was as close to normal as anything got.


August 8

Normal was good.

Not that abnormal was necessarily a bad thing. Steve's job, for example, was not normal, but that didn't make it bad. It was good to have a purpose, to know that he was good for something in this bizarre world. He might not be able to understand half of the gibberish Tony and Bruce talked about, Clint and Natasha baffled him when it came to internal politics at SHIELD, and he was almost as lost as Thor when it came to understanding the loud, plastic world around him, but he was still good at military strategy and leadership. He was quick to see when the enemy was amassing, and good at listening to opinions. It was a heavy responsibility, but it was also gratifying to know that he could make a difference, that his team of highly skilled, strong-willed people trusted him, and listened to him.


"Hawkeye, get off the roof."

"Can't, Cap," said Clint tightly.

"Why not?"

"I'll lose the line of sight--"

"If you don't, we'll lose you," said Steve. "There's a group of robots headed in your direction."

"No, I can--"

"Yes. Off, now."

"What? No--"

"Iron Man, get him," said Steve, and Tony blasted off.

"He's gonna be pissed at you," he said conversationally.

"He can yell at me after he's down from the roof," said Steve.

"All due respect," said Clint, "Cap, in a minute you're gonna need--"

"I said you're getting off the roof, Hawkeye," Steve snapped.

There was a momentary silence over the comm. "Um, Captain my Captain," said Tony. "That was very manly and forceful. I think Hawkeye and I may have wet ourselves in admiration." There was a slight pause. "I'm bringing him back, by the way. He's not kicking and screaming, but only because he doesn't want me to drop him."

"This is BULLSHIT!!" he could hear Hawkeye yelling. "I woulda been FINE, this is so FUCKING--"

"Iron Man, please make sure Hawkeye's comm isn't broadcasting to public waves," Steve said, and turned his attention to a fresh wave of robots cresting towards his position.

Oh, shit.

There were far too many of them. They were going to come over the overpass, and if he didn't jump into their midst they were going to start firing on the civilians cowering underneath, and this was what he was here for and it felt good to know exactly what to do and how to protect people, but at the same time--

They were going to be here any moment and, poorly made as they were, there were too many of them, and he'd sent Hawkeye off so there was no air cover, and Iron Man was probably still flying away from him, and Thor was occupied with the ones who were swarming over the east side, and he had no idea where the Widow was - trying to find the control tower, probably, using some kind of weird power recorder, because Iron Man had determined that the controller had to be somewhere nearby - but the robots were coming closer and he had to give Widow just a few more minutes, and without another thought he flung himself into the fray. At least this, he could do. It was dangerous, and it would be painful as hell, but at least this, he could do.


"The fuck was that, Captain?" Clint burst into the debrief room, totally pissed, and Natasha winced. She could've told Steve that Clint would not react well. "I can't protect the team if I'm taken off my perch the moment there's a fucking problem!"

"You were exposed--" Steve began.

"Of course I was exposed, you jackass!" Natasha put her hand on his arm, trying to sit him down, but he shrugged her off. "We're all exposed! I'm supposed to be your eyes! Why would you--"

"Because you're not here to take stupid risks, you're here to be useful!!" Steve snapped back. "Because I don't want to see you take a dive off a building - again - and know I could've stopped it! And that would've been the only way to get away from those robots--"

Tony whistled. "Ooh, over-protective Captain, I may swoon." Natasha snickered, then felt her smile slip as Steve brushed his hair back from his forehead with a weary gesture and she noticed his hand shaking. Tony was still speaking. "Hawkeye, you have to admit, he's got a bit of a Papa Bear thing going here. It's pretty awesome. And those things really were going to get you. Besides, what do you care? I put you down on another building, the view was fine!"

"That's not the point!" Clint slammed down his quiver and thumped down into the chair next to Natasha. "It wasn't fine. It was barely adequate." He glared at Steve. "And what about you, Captain? I saw those other robots coming; you stepped right into their path."

"I knew I could--"

"You're healable, sure. You're also our leader. What happens if you get taken out?"

"Iron Man takes over," said Steve.

"And that's a joy. He's usually busy punching and blasting things and flying around like a bat outta hell. You're our goddamn strategist, Captain. You don't get to take me away from my job and then blow off your own with stupid reckless--"

"I'm sorry, is Clint Barton really calling somebody else stupid and reckless?!" Hill asked incredulously, entering the room.

"He's the one who's supposed to be leading us! He flung himself into a god damn army of robots like they were a mosh pit!"

"A what?"

"Look it up later, Cap," said Tony. "Kids, we're not working and playing well with others today, are we?"

"Yes, boys, settle down," said Natasha firmly. "Hawkeye, I took out the robot controller, the Captain's fine, everything worked out." She looked at Hill, who'd sat down in the Director's chair. "Where's Fury?"

"Busy. I'm on this one. So, we found the teenage menace."

"Hey, don't underestimate teenagers," said Tony. "Even if this one has a weird taste in science projects."

"Is it actually a teenager?" asked Clint.

"As far as we can tell, yes," said Hill. "Doris Grey, fifteen years old, calls herself the Verminator."

"Can I talk to her?" asked Tony. "Her workmanship's shoddy, but I want to ask her about--"

"The World Security Council has already moved her."

Tony blinked. "What? To where? I--"

Natasha interrupted, alarmed. "Why would the WSC--"

"That's all I know," Hill said flatly.

"But we - the fight was over forty minutes ago," said Clint. "How did the Council - why would--"

"Because that's their prerogative. Now, Dr. Banner, I think you were still taking a look at that pink slime; we'll need your report on that. We're not sure why Grey didn't bring it out this time, but we'd like to make sure that if Grey has any friends, and they have the ability to make another wall of slime of any color, we'll be ready for it."

Clint and Natasha exchanged worried looks as Hill continued the meeting, distracted and hurried, and dismissed them just a few minutes later with a brusque, "Good work, thank you. I'll send your reports in to the Director."

"What the hell?" said Clint softly, as Hill left the room.

Natasha turned to look at him. "Clint?"

"The Avengers is Fury's baby," said Clint.

"I know."


"You know he was planning on eventually cutting us loose, before," said Natasha. "I think he doesn't want WSC oversight on us."

"But isn't this a little extreme?" Clint frowned. "And where the hell is he? Coyne at the armory said he hasn't seen him in days."

Tony leaned forward. "Is Dad in trouble, kids?"

Natasha smoothed out her features automatically. "Possibly. It's none of our business. Let's go." She stood up and they left the briefing room, and she reflected that, though living so near to Tony was a lot more bearable than she would've ever suspected - pleasant, even - it certainly made keeping up with SHIELD news more difficult. And, to judge from Clint's closed-off expression, he was probably thinking the same thing.

"Look, Clint," said Steve as they exited the building, "for what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"What?" Clint turned to Steve, puzzled.

"The call I made today. I stand by it, but I'm sorry you felt it made your job more difficult."

Clint blinked, then nodded. "Yeah, whatever, it's fine. Next time, just... trust me a little more."

Steve nodded. "Trust me to make the call, though. I won't pull you off a perch unless I honestly feel you're in too much danger to do us any good."

Clint huffed out a breath. "Fine."

"Oh are we kissing and making up? I love this part!" said Tony.

Natasha gave Tony a slap upside the head and entered their Quinjet. "All right, let's go, we've got a movie to watch."

"What is it this time? Did we finish Around the World?"

"Yeah, tonight's Bridge on the River Kwai," said Clint. "'Cause the way to help Cap here to adjust to the twenty-first century is to make him re-watch World War II about a dozen times. JARVIS, how many more Oscar movies are set during World War II?"

"Six, sir. The Sound of Music, Patton, The Last Emperor, Schindler's List, The English Patient, and The King's Speech. The Last Emperor is not necessarily about World War II, though part of it does take place during the War."

"OK. Well, we've got a ways to go before we get to Patton. And The Sound of Music's not exactly battlefield-related."

"It's all right, I don't mind," said Steve, and Natasha noticed him wince as they strapped themselves in. "JARVIS, out of curiosity, what about the Great War?"

"There is only one movie on your list set partially during World War I. Lawrence of Arabia."

Steve whistled. "That's it? The War to End All Wars gets one Oscar-worthy movie, and the second one gets ten?"

"To be fair, Captain, there were two other Oscar-winning movies filmed before 1945 set during World War I: Wings, and All Quiet on the Western Front. And Cavalcade also took place partially during the War. But yes, your point is appreciated."


Steve stretched his shoulder, covering a wince as the bone he'd pulled out of its socket during the skirmish with the robots let him know just how unhappy it was with him. He'd pushed it back into place as soon as the robots were gone and it was healing quickly, but it hurt. It hurt a lot. And there was nothing for it but to grit his teeth and concentrate on the movie. Even though this was yet another World War II film, Bridge on the River Kwai this time, and damn, the images of those soldiers in a Prisoner of War camp...

No. That was done. He wasn't going to think of Bucky, strapped to a table and babbling, suffering God only knew what, and Dum-Dum, and Dernier, and Morita and all the others.

Why couldn't all Oscar movies be about puppies and sunshine? Why couldn't they skip this thing, and go straight to Gigi, which was apparently a lighthearted musical comedy whose greatest contribution to Western culture was a song called, "Thank Heaven For Little Girls"?

Briefly he considered asking to do just that. But that was silly. It was a good movie, everyone else was enjoying it...

Or maybe he could just say he was tired and go to bed. This wasn't a mission, after all, and nobody had ever said that any of them had to watch every movie all the way through. The rest of them - except for Bruce - certainly skipped out on enough of them. And even though this was supposedly for Steve's benefit, there was no law that said he had to stay all the way through every single movie. He could just go to bed.

Except the last thing he needed was to go to bed before he was really tired. That way lay nothing but flashbacks and nightmares and anxiety, and he'd had enough of all of that.

Briefly he considered talking to the therapist at his next appointment. He'd been open enough with the one they'd assigned to him right after he'd woken up, taking the man at his word when he'd explained the symptoms of PTSD and explained that SHIELD wasn't going to turf him for mental instability during his recovery. He'd worked with the man to get back on track, dutifully doing breathing exercises, working out, getting out to see the city, following all of his tips on how to deal with his troubles. All of that had been helpful.

But that was then, and this was now, and he was back on track. He couldn't very well go whining to them when he finally had a job to do and a purpose again. No matter how dark things got at night sometimes. And sometimes during the day.

Oh good. The Japanese soldiers were taking Alec Guiness out of the horrible little box they'd put him in, and Steve's stomach abruptly roiled.

"You know the Japanese officer this was based on apparently wasn't that bad a guy?" said Bruce.

"No?" said Tony, his eyes glued to the screen.

"No. The English soldiers under him testified on his behalf afterwards. Stopped him from being convicted of War Crimes."

"Did he ignore the Geneva Conventions?"

Bruce hesitated. "Well... the conditions were pretty bad, but the officer himself was a decent guy."

"So this was based on a true story?" asked Steve.

"Only very loosely. For one thing, the real English colonel pretty much sabotaged the building of the bridge."

"No 'showing them what the British soldier is capable of doing,' then?" asked Tony.

"Not exactly, no," said Bruce.

"I also don't think there was anyone who escaped the prison camp and then was forced to 'volunteer' to go back," said Natasha, coming into the room with a fresh bowl of chips.

Steve's stomach lurched again and Clint blinked. "What? When did that happen?"

"Oh - sorry, we're not there yet, are we?"

"Yeah, thanks for the spoiler, Nat," said Clint, and Steve debated pretending to take a sip of his Coke to cover his nausea against the real possibility that he just might throw up if he did so. This was ridiculous. It was a movie. It shouldn't make him physically ill to think of a fictional character escaping from horror and warfare and then being asked to plunge himself right back into it. Just like Bucky, just like the other Commandos, just like--

Maybe he could take out his sketchbook, distract himself that way.

"It is disturbing that your people take true tales and twist them," Thor was saying.

"Yeah, disturbing." Tony took a long pull of his beer, his voice a little husky. Steve turned to look at him, avoiding the screen for a few moments.

"You know, I think maybe this is one movie not all of us need to watch to the very end," said Natasha a few minutes later.

"You thinking maybe Cap's not the only one who shouldn't be watching old war movies?" said Clint. He paused. "Especially with scenes of torture in them?"

Tony swallowed his beer. "What?"

"Afghanistan," said Clint.

Tony shook his head. "Hey, I'm fine. Got over it. Copious amounts of therapy, alcohol and all the very best meds."

"Well, I'm gonna go make pizza," said Bruce, standing up. "Don't stop the movie on my account."

"I'll help," said Tony, standing up. "Anyone else?"

Steve didn't realize he was going to stand up until he'd done it.

"Make mine with lots of pepperoni," said Natasha, and Steve shot her a grateful look and followed Tony and Bruce into the kitchen.