When Steve is - well, debriefed seems like an inadequate word, but once he ascertains that he is, in fact, no longer living in the forties, he has a nice sit-down with Director Fury and Agent Hill, where they try to tell him what he needs to know to get along in the future. Mostly, they hand him a really thick folder of all the relevant history, and also tell him not to broadcast to the world that he’s Captain America, along with a whole other list of rules that Steve more or less tunes out. After all that, they set him up with an apartment and a stack of user manuals for all the gadgets inside it. It seems a little cold, but he figures they’ve got important, world-saving stuff to do. Or something. He’d rather be left alone, anyways, and it’s surely better than living at SHIELD HQ.
It’s hard to fill up his time, at first - what does he do when he has no friends and no responsibilities, at least for the moment? The history file seems like a good place to start. It’s dry reading - he’d expected no less from a SHIELD document - but when he gets to the part about the moon landing, he throws the whole file across the room.
“No way,” he says. “No fucking way.”
He hasn’t bothered with the laptop they gave him until now, but he flips it open and turns it on. It’s simple enough to use, pretty user-friendly compared to some of the Hydra technology he saw during the war, and it’s not long before he’s googling “moon landing 1969.”
Steve keeps his space geekery mostly to himself - in the form of an extensive bookmark folder and a framed print of “Earthrise” hanging over his couch - until he meets Thor (again, for the first time when they’re not trying to save the world and are instead just, you know, hanging out. Like superheroes do.)
The guy is an alien. Literally. So literally. Steve is sitting on the couch with an alien and they’re sharing a pizza. His life is so fucking surreal, he’s not sure where he went wrong. Or if he even went wrong.
It’s all very overwhelming to think about, so he decides to just eat another slice of pizza. There really is no delicate way to bring up “So, you’re an alien. What’s that like?”
Yeah, safer just to eat another slice of pizza.
Thor, bless him, either doesn’t notice or doesn’t comment, treating him with the same courteous joviality he always has, but his starstrucked-ness doesn’t go unnoticed by Tony. Even though Steve thought he was being subtle.
“So,” Tony remarks, leaning up against the kitchen counter with his arms crossed and one eyebrow raised rakishly, “you crushing on the god of thunder?”
Steve just came to the kitchen for another glass of soda, not the fourth degree. He ignores Tony and goes about his business, but Tony won’t drop it.
“I mean, I wouldn’t blame you,” he continues. “Have you seen that guy’s biceps? And the hair. Man.”
Steve stays silent. What he doesn’t say can’t be used against him, after all.
“Oh, come on,” needles Tony. “Something’s eating you. You can tell me.”
“Do you ever think about how Thor’s an alien?” he turns and asks Tony suddenly. “There’s an alien sitting in your living room eating your pizza.”
Tony shrugs. “Could be a lot less attractive,” he says. “Why, does it bother you?”
“No,” says Steve. “It’s just… I slept through the moon landing, and now I’m hanging out with aliens. It’s a lot to adjust to.”
“Oh, so you heard about the moon landing, did you?” Tony asks conversationally. “What about Skylab?”
That’s the end of their conversation, at which point Steve returns to the living room with a glass of ginger ale and Tony goes back to whatever Tony does, but after that JARVIS queues up the latest space media - from science magazine articles to scientific papers to youtube videos - and sends them to Steve’s email account.
Steve still meets with Peggy once a week, when the world’s not ending. Some days her memory is clearer than others. They’re both laughing over a shared memory - that one time the Commandos spread rumors among the new recruits that Peggy could kill them with her brain (and she hadn’t discouraged it) - when Steve decides to bring it up.
“So,” he says, “I’ve been catching up on history, since I kinda missed a lot. I guess I was just wondering - what do you remember about the moon landing?”
Peggy chuckles. “I remember a lot of idiots with conspiracy theories,” she admits. “The kind of people who work for SHIELD tend to question everything.”
Steve’s still curious though. “Did you watch it?” he asks. “Where were you?”
“We watched it,” she says. “I was at SHIELD HQ, and we were supposed to be working, but all of the agents that could fit in the lounge with the television were there, all packed together, and the room was absolutely silent.” She pauses, lost in the memory for a minute.
“It was amazing,” she finally says. “Absolutely chilling, to see it as it was happening from thousands of kilometers away.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a room full of SHIELD agents be quiet for that long before,” she remarks. “Or since.”
They laugh, and the conversation turns to other things.
Steve moves into Stark Tower after things go to hell in DC, because he can’t be bothered to find a new place (no one actually wants Captain America as a tenant, after what happened to his last apartment) and the rent’s free at Tony’s, which is a bonus since he took down the government agency that was signing all his paychecks.
It helps that Tony’s suite for him includes an entire room decked out for nothing but art.
He’s not above taking the offered Stark Industries credit card (courtesy of Pepper) to fill it up with supplies, and once he’s carefully organized his new collection of goodies, he has nothing left to do but stare at a blank canvas.
He hasn’t so much as sketched anything in weeks. He’s been so emotionally drained by searching for - and failing to find - Bucky that he just hasn’t had the energy to, never mind any artistic inspiration.
He thinks of the stack of space books sitting on his coffee table - mostly courtesy of Rhodey, who chats aerospace engineering with him whenever he’s around the tower, which isn’t as often as Steve would like - and of all the amazing conceptual art contained within them. And that’s inspiration enough - he pulls up a few reference pictures on his laptop, settling on a spiral galaxy, and starts to paint.
Tony’s decorating sucked anyways (although he happens to know that Pepper has excellent taste in art, and he makes a mental note to invite her to a gallery sometime) - and it’s not long before the walls of his new abode are redecorated with space-themed paintings.
Tony’s too amused to be offended.
Sam moves into the tower too, once they’ve ascertained that they’re really not going to find Bucky unless he wants to be found. They talk it over and figure that, with HYDRA still out there, Sam might be better off living with the rest of the Avengers. Safety in numbers and Stark tech, and proximity to the team is a bonus so he can join in the action on short notice. Free rent is not to be scoffed at, either.
One of Sam’s first actions upon becoming Steve’s official roommate is to set him up with social media.
“I know you don’t think you need this,” he says as he patiently walks Steve through jumping through the one million hoops required to create an appropriate password, “but you do. Don’t tell Pepper that it exists. She’ll either kill you, or love it, and either one of those is a bad option.”
Steve’s not sure what exactly he has to say to the general public at first, but he and Sam tweet a selfie to start things off and it takes Pepper about five minutes to find the account despite the precautions they took. She favorites the tweet just to let them know she saw it, and doesn’t say a word.
“Public image is important,” says Sam, and Steve can see there’s a note of wisdom to that, especially with how Avengers-related stunts usually end up with a lot of property damage attached. He still doesn’t use it much. Most of the things that are going on in his personal life really don’t need to be broadcast to his soon thousands of followers.
The next thing Sam does is teach Steve about TV marathons. Marathons are not a laughing matter; you go hard, and Sam is a pro.
He spends a few hours in the kitchen first, making everything from chex mix to gourmet popcorn (“I know you with your superhero metabolism and we are not getting off this couch for at least three hours, so prepare yourself”). Once they’re well situated with snacks, pillows, and blankets, he turns to Steve and says, “so, what do you wanna watch? I’ve got Star Trek, Game of Thrones -”
“I was thinking Cosmos,” says Steve thoughtfully, “although Star Trek has been on my list for a couple months.”
Sam laughs. “Maybe we better start easy,” he says. “Star Trek is not for the faint of heart. Star Trek is like, seven hundred plus episodes if you do all the series. And let’s be real, you’ve gotta do all the series, at least eventually.”
Steve’s eyes are wide. “How many series are there?” he asks. Sam shrugs.
“I dunno, a bunch,” he says. “You’re right, let’s start with Cosmos. We can probably get through that in a couple days. Start small, and then Star Trek. Star Trek’s great, you’ll love it.”
They start with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and then blaze through Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot. Steve can’t stop talking; it’s absolutely amazing how much they’ve learned in just a few short decades, and he can’t help but tweet Dr. Tyson about it. He pretty much pukes his enthusiasm onto Twitter.
He shouldn’t be surprised when he tweets him back, but he freaks out about it anyways. Not as much as he freaks out when the astronauts on the ISS tweet him.
He shares every single one of their silly videos on his Facebook page.
“Technology is so fucking cool,” he says to Sam, laying back on the couch in some kind of effort to process it all. Sam just laughs.
(And he’s totally right about Steve loving Star Trek.)
Steve doesn’t know that Dr. Foster has a lab set up at Stark Tower until Tony introduces her to him one day, completely out of the blue.
“Sorry,” he says over her shoulder as she enthusiastically shakes his hand. She’s got quite the grip; it almost surprises Steve, because she’s an entire foot shorter than him, but then he wonders if there’s any point in being surprised by anything anymore. “I had to introduce her while I had the chance, you know? Otherwise you’d have never known she was here.”
“I’m standing right here, Stark,” says Jane -- as she’d immediately insisted Steve call her - testily. “I have a lot of work to do. Stop harping on me about it.”
“I’ll stop harping on you when you stop waking me up at three in the morning,” retorts Tony.
Steve snorts. “Like you’re not up at three in the morning anyways,” he points out. “Please, you don’t come out of the lab for days at a time, and then it’s only because JARVIS makes you.”
“Whatever, I’m a scientist,” Tony shrugs, waving a hand around. “I’ve got science to do.” With that, he disappears, leaving Steve and Jane to their “space geekery,” as he lovingly referred to it.
“I don’t know why he’s so offended by that,” Jane rolls her eyes. “What a hypocrite.”
“Yeah,” Steve has to agree. “Anyways, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Jane. I had a few questions about your work…”
He doesn’t tell her that he’s read all of it, and printed out the articles and annotated them no less, because her work is really cool and he wants to understand it. In reality, he has about a million questions, and a few hours later when Thor comes looking for her, they’re still talking astrophysics.
Later, when Jane has excused herself to go to her lab and get some work done, he says to Thor dreamily, “Jane’s work is amazing.”
“I know,” agrees Thor, smiling fondly.
When they do finally find Bucky, they have a lot of explaining to do.
“So, the Avengers,” Bucky says, with his eyebrows raised incredulously. “You’re telling me you’re part of a… superhero club?”
“Better,” says Tony, grinning. “He’s our fearless leader. And I like to call it a super secret boy band, myself. Although I guess it’s not so secret anymore, is it.”
“I’d have to say not,” agrees Steve, “considering that most of our secrets are now all over the Internet. Although the Internet has provided, and there are now photoshopped posters of the Avengers as a boy band. Plus Natasha, obviously. Actually, there are a few that leave out Natasha, and they piss me off.”
“I don’t want to know how you know that,” says Tony, shaking his head. Bucky just looks vaguely horrified. Steve can sympathize.
“Well, anyways,” continues Steve. “Yeah, the Avengers. We saved the world one time, and now we’re a boy band. Club. Thing. It was fun. There were aliens.”
“Aliens?!” Bucky yelps.
Bucky sees the aliens for himself - or at least another variety of them - on his first outing with the team.
“Aliens,” he mutters to Steve. “It had to be aliens. This is fucking unreal.”
Steve just laughs.
“Welcome to the future, asshole!” he shouts, and then jumps out of the plane.