Characters: Tony, Steve, JARVIS
Warnings/Triggers: some references to unnamed, off-screen deaths
Spoilers: quick reference to an event in The Avengers
Word Count 1,736
Summary: Tony and Steve have a late night chat, and Tony discovers that Steve's favourite modern marvel is something pretty simple.
Author's notes: joonscribble and I have been truly epic in our late night comment fests recently, and this story stems out of one of them.
I have seen neither Cap 2 nor IM3, so please accept my apologies for anything non-canon. I'm setting this post-Avengers film, but otherwise, I have no idea when it might be taking place.
It figured that a tower full of mutants and freaks was a tower full of insomniacs. Tony never wandered through the place in the middle of the night without bumping into one of his fellow Avengers roaming the halls. Bruce had abandoned him in the lab for a power nap, because he was a wimp who needed to sleep every three days. Apparently The Other Guy was getting grumpy. Tony was on a kitchen raid mission, getting some snacks for when Bruce stopped being a pansy. The Other Guy needed sustenance, too.
It was Cap who was the fellow insomniac tonight. He was at the island in the rec room, frowning at a pen. He kept turning it over and eyeing it up and fingering it.
“You write with it,” Tony said, helpfully. He made a scribbling gesture. “It's like a quill, only less feathery.”
Steve shot him a glare. “It's empty.”
“Then get a new one,” Tony said.
“I can just refill it,” Steve said. “But I can't figure out how.”
“Aww, that's adorable,” Tony said. “I love it when you do the Fish out of Temporal Water thing. Just toss it. There are about a billion pens floating around this place, 90% of them mine that I've lost. Here.” He took a pen from behind his ear.
Steve caught the pen without looking because he was a show-off. “You just throw it out?”
“Yeah, it's a Bic, you can buy ten of them for a dollar,” Tony said. “JARVIS can make you one in fifteen minutes from recycled plastic. But only if you ask nicely, and he'll lecture you about keeping track of your things. I think Pepper taught him to do that. She thinks I have a pen problem.”
Steve shook his head. “These cost ten dollars a piece in my day,” he said. “At least. I knew a pilot who'd been stationed in Argentina. He brought one back. You had to hold it straight up to get the ink to flow at all, but he liked it because it worked at high altitude, and you didn't have to refill it as often.” He fumbled with the new pen, poking at it.
Tony took it back. “Little thing on the side,” he said. “Click on. Click off. Click on. Click off. That serum made you all tall and muscley, but didn't do much for your brain, did it?”
“Each one opens differently!” Steve complained. “Some have lids, and some click, and some twist. How do you know which one to do?”
Tony laughed. “Christ,” he said. “Computers and cell phones and arc reactors, and the thing that trips you up is a pen.”
“You don't appreciate it,” Steve said. “You don't know how amazing this is. To have something that writes smoothly and doesn't smudge or leak. You don't have to refill it. The nib doesn't break. The ink isn't corrosive. It doesn't poke through the paper. This is amazing.”
“You have got to get out more,” Tony said. “Seriously. Just, leave the Tower and see the world. If this is the best thing you can find about modern life, you aren't looking hard enough.”
“You don't get it,” Steve said. “This is useful. I mean, you used to have to carry around extra ink, and you had to lever it up into the pen when it ran empty and replace the nib when it got worn down. Sometimes it would just explode and the ruin the drawing you'd been working on for hours or the letter you'd been agonizing over for days, or your hand would swipe over it and smudge everything. I get that cell phones are useful—being able to call anyone anywhere is amazing—but why do we need to text? Why can't we call? Why do I need to calculate the calories in my food on my phone? Why do I need to be able to play Angry Birds? This has a purpose, this I get. This is best thing I've encountered so far.”
“No, I'm serious, get out of here,” Tony said. “Go to Epcot. Go to NASA. Go the Sony Wonder Tech lab. Hell, go to a bar, take a road trip, go on a date. See the world, Cap. You sound like an old man.”
“I feel like one most of the time,” Steve said. He clicked the pen on. “Thanks for this.”
“I'll have Santa put a few in your stocking,” Tony said. He moved around the island to see if there was anything good in the cupboards. Thor kept eating all the junk food before Tony could get to it, and he was left with Cap and Tash's protein shakes and hippie granola and fruit. “What are you doing that's so important, anyway? It's...JARVIS, what time is it?”
“03:27,” JARVIS replied.
“It's then,” Tony said, pointing upwards toward the source of the voice. “What are you writing?”
“A letter,” Steve said.
“Is it to Queen Victoria?” Tony asked. “Because I think she's the only person in the world without an e-mail address. And she's dead.”
“I'm writing to the families of the agents who were killed in action on our last mission,” Steve said.
“That's not your job, is it?” Tony said. “Fury or Hill should be doing that.”
“I was in charge of the mission,” Steve said. “It was under my command that they died. It's my responsibility to let their families know what that sacrifice meant.”
Tony smirked into a bag of stale Cheetos. “You're just a walking recruitment poster, aren't you?”
“Don't you care that they died?” Steve snapped. “It's not a joke.”
Whoops. Tony had hit Steve's Indignant Button. It was a hair-trigger switch. One wrong statement and Steve went all patriotic on your ass.
“No, it's not a joke,” Tony said. “That's why I set up the Phil Coulson Memorial Fund. The agents' families can access it for help with medical costs or rent or whatever they need. Their kids have college scholarships. It pays for funeral costs. That's how I care. I help the people they left behind. They knew what they signed up for, just like you did when you agreed to become a lab rat, and self-flagellating myself over their deaths doesn't help anyone. Especially not me.”
Steve scratched his head, irritably. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to imply you were a heartless bastard.”
“Yeah, you did,” Tony said. He knocked on the arc reactor in his chest. “But, hey, you're right, so no offense taken. Don't go all boy scout on me. If you want to write letters, go ahead. I'm just saying, you really need to get out of here and have some fun. You can take your pen.”
Steve chuckled, softly. “Maybe after I'm done here.”
Tony peeked over his shoulder to take a look. There was a pile of neatly addressed envelopes and a list of names, the first three which had been crossed off. Two more to go. And a scrap piece of paper with half a letter on it and doodles and drawings in the margins.
“You do rough drafts? You really are a good little boy scout,” Tony said.
“I want to make sure I'm saying the right thing before I commit it to the good paper,” Steve said.
“Oh come on, you can't tell me paper was a rare commodi—oh, yeah, rationing,” Tony said. He clapped Steve on the shoulder. “Live a little, take a risk, use the good paper. We can recycle things now, you aren't even hurting a tree. Or you could use a computer like a normal person and not waste any paper at all. The backspace key is a modern marvel.”
“Just let me do it my way,” Steve said, spreading out his hands in warning. “I don't want to be modern, I want to be respectful. Handwritten letters are respectful. Even now.”
“Fine, fine,” Tony said. “Chicks must love you. I don't know why you don't get laid.”
“Tony!” Steve said.
Tony poked him in the back of the head and grabbed his armload of crappy food. “I'm going,” he said. “You can wallow in peace. Just promise me you'll have some fun later. Be social. Talk to people.”
“I'm going jogging with Natasha in a couple of hours,” Steve said.
“Nope, doesn't count,” Tony said. “I'll schedule a movie night. This place is dead, we could all use some fun. You can practice your microwaving skills with the popcorn. Maybe you won't burn it this time.”
“I pressed the popcorn button!” Steve said. “Why is it there if doesn't cook it for the right length of time?”
Tony handed him a cookie. “It's okay, Grandpa,” he said. “You'll learn. You should go to one of those Senior Citizen classes at the Y. Maybe you'll make some friends. You can play chess in the park and buy really high-waisted pants together.”
Steve chewed on the cookie and glared at him. “You were going?”
“Was I?” Tony said. “All right, then. But movie night tomorrow—” he pointed as he left the room. “Don't miss it. We're doing Indiana Jones. You won't like him, he breaks rules. Put that on the bulletin board, JARVIS.”
“Added to future events, sir,” JARVIS said. “Would you like me to order pizza?”
“You are a God among motherboards,” Tony said. “No Hawaiian this time, we had to get Barton's pineapple off the ceiling with a Roomba. Pepper yelled at me.”
“Yes, sir,” JARVIS said.
Tony lifted his knee to put the tub of ice cream back in his arms before it fell and went to the elevator. “Oh, and JARVIS, order some pens for Cap,” he said. “Ballpoint. Cheap ones. Like, a box of 100 or something. And a fountain pen, just for kicks. Oh, and one of those ones from the 90's that writes in fifty colors, it'll blow his mind. And get him one where the girl's dress comes off when you tip it, he'll dig that.”
“Should I be operating under Intoxication Protocols?” JARVIS asked. “This sounds very much like the Cheese Incident.”
“No, I'm sober,” Tony said. “Skip the naked chick one, fine. Just, make sure he gets them.”
“Yes, sir,” JARVIS said. “They'll be here by the morning.”
“Good. Poor kid needs something to depend on.”