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Applied Ethics

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“Tony, I’m serious. That’s the seventh new one this year. We’ve got to do something about this.”

“Steve, honestly, my hands are tied. I don’t know what to do about it, and quite frankly, I’m sick of being the one that always has to come up with the problem-solving ideas around here. I don’t hear you making any suggestions for how to fix it.”

Steve frowned and his forehead creased for a moment as he contemplated their options. “If we just recruited them, then they wouldn’t turn into criminals,” he finally said.

Tony rolled his eyes. “First of all, you don’t know that. Second of all, the board would never go for that.”

Steve threw his hands up in the air, incredibly frustrated at the mere mention of the board.

“Why wouldn’t they go for it? We recruit new members all the time.”

“Not enhanced ones, we don’t. And as I said, you can’t guarantee they won’t turn evil anyway, and then you have enemies working inside your own team.”

“But we run the same risk of that with non-enhanced people, Tony,” Steve complained. Arguing proper superhero protocol felt like running in maddening circles.

“But non-enhanced ones are less dangerous.”

“You mean, like you?”

Tony rolled his eyes for the second time in five minutes. “Sorry, what I meant was non-enhanced people without access to arc reactors and nano-technology.”

Steve finally sat down opposite Tony across the man’s desk. He felt utterly defeated by everything about the Avengers these days. “We recruited Wanda and Bucky and Vision. They haven’t turned evil, and they are all huge assets to the team.”

“None of those situations were cut-and-dry, nor were they really a form of recruitment. Not to mention, we’re working in a different time now. The rules aren’t the same anymore, Cap. You know that.”

“Tony, I really think this is something we need to do. Every one of these enhanced individuals turns to crime because they feel like they have no other option. We give them a better option, and the crime will stop. We recruit them, make them the good guys before they ever even consider turning bad.”

The man opened up his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of vodka. He let the room remain silent as he refilled the glass that had probably been sitting on his desk, unwashed, for god knows how many days. Eventually, he brought the glass to his lips and took a long swig before saying, “Steve, I understand where you’re coming from, I really do… but you’re preaching to the choir. I have no pull anymore. Everything we do is out of my hands. If you want something to change, want something new to happen with this team, you have to present it to the board.”

Steve leaned forward in earnest, elbows resting on his knees and hands clasped under his chin. “Well, that’s why I’m talking to you, isn’t it? You’re the one that always takes the new suggestions to the board. Can’t you do the same with this?”

There was the third eye-roll since Steve had been in this office. “I’m always the one to take the suggestions to the board because I’m always the one to come up with the suggestions. This one was all yours, Capsicle, so you can present it.”

Steve lowered his hands and ran his fingers through his hair. “But I don’t even know where to start. I’m more of a ‘go with my gut because it’s always done the right thing’ sort of soldier. I can’t spin some grand tale of how a new recruitment program will make the world a better place.”

“Sure you can. Just brush up a bit on some ethical terms, and write down a few notes. You’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hands.”

“Ethical terms,” Steve said with the utmost vitriol in his voice, “That’s the problem, isn’t it? Does no one just know the right thing to do anymore without having to spend hours in a debate deciding how to define what’s good and what’s bad? Back in my day—”

“I’m gonna stop you right there, buddy. You’re only allowed to use the ‘back in my day’ phrase once per year, and you’ve already met your quota for this one. Times have evolved a lot since the forties Mr. America, and you better get with it because the Avengers are evolving too, and we can’t afford to lose our dashing leader just because he’s made sworn enemies with the government instated Ethics Board.”

Steve let out a pathetic sigh in a last attempt to make Tony feel sorry for him and offer to do the presentation.

“Not gonna happen,” Tony said after another swig of vodka. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got some business to attend to.” He was gesturing toward the door, which he clearly wanted Steve to walk out of promptly.

 

 

Hours later, Steve was in his room, pen hovering over a blank notebook page as FRIDAY recited various moral principles and ethical theories that might pertain to Steve’s situation. He had no idea where to even begin in presenting a case to an ethics board. He hadn’t even met any of the members since they had been here for the past six months.

Many of his fellow team members thought the board was a reasonable compromise to the Accords. Steve felt it was equally as constricting as the Accords had been. Sure, they didn’t have to get direct permission from the US government to do things anymore; instead, they had to waste their time convincing a panel of ethics professors to vote in favor of whatever they needed to do in order to save lives.

“FRIDAY,” he said, interrupting her ethical lectures, “what can you tell me about each of the board members?”

“There’s Donny Crestwell. Age sixty-three. Harvard graduate. Professor of ethical theory for thirty years…” and she went on, listing all thirteen of the members, most of which were old men that Steve thought might be able to understand his line of thinking. He was technically an old man himself, after all. As she spoke, FRIDAY displayed the faces of the individuals on his computer screen. When she came to the final member, Steve was surprised to see a young woman. FRIDAY told him that she was thirty-one and had only taught ethical theory at Cornell for three years before transferring here. Her name was Y/N. She was beautiful, and Steve instantly became a hundred times more nervous to stand up in front of that board and say his piece in a couple of days.

Chapter Text

You had enjoyed teaching well enough, but this job, this was what your heart had been calling for you to do. Most of the time, professing at a university consisted of trying to peak the interests of enough freshmen to encourage them to take more philosophy courses throughout their studies, despite it being viewed as a useless field by many nowadays. Some found the ethical debates interesting, but almost all of them often forgot the material or its implications in the real world the second they walked out of your classroom door.

At times, it could be rather draining watching the seventy-five sets of eyes glaze over as you began to explain Metaethics to a class of eighteen and nineteen-year-olds. And other times, it just felt downright useless: if they had no desire to study philosophy, then nothing you said in the span of fifty minutes three times per week was going to convince them to become devoted philosophers for life.

So, after earning your Ph.D. in Ethical Theory from Columbia, you joined the ranks of Cornell’s finest ethicists. It was a surprise to everyone including yourself that you got hired considering the majority of the philosophy department consisted of very old white men. You took your singularity in stride though, going out of your way to show young women that this field of study was not male-exclusive. But still, after three years of this disheartening and repetitive routine semester after semester of students never enrolling in another philosophy class after taking the basic requirement, you craved something new, something more purposeful to do with your time.

That’s when you applied to be on the Avengers Board of Ethics. You believed that what you had meant to do with your degree all along was to put your knowledge to practical, real-life use. This is what you would be doing every single day if you were voting on what enhanced superheroes should be doing with their time. Theories written in books for centuries that you had studied meticulously as an undergrad and then obsessed over as a graduate student would now be applied to each choice made about who the Avengers should save and how they should go about saving them.

Again, the fact that you got this job surprised you. The demographic was rather similar to the professors at Cornell. There was one other woman in the group of thirteen board members, and she was twenty years your senior. All of the members, however, seem to relate to this same drive that you found in yourself: this drive to prove that issues of morality did need to be discussed in the real world and that ethical principles were anything but useless theories.

The most unanticipated thing about working with the Avengers was that Captain America seemed to have little to no concern for the Ethics Board. You had thought, going into this position, that you would be working closely with the man. After all, who gave valiant speeches about moral obligations and duty more often than the Star-Spangled-Man himself? You couldn’t count the number of news interviews he had been in where he spewed some noble words about the right thing to do. Despite the board having been required for the team by the US government, you had strongly believed that Steve Rogers would want to be involved with the decision making as much as possible. How wrong you had been.

Here you were, six months into the job and just now meeting the man for the first time. Most days on the board consisted of Tony Stark rambling on about a new experiment he wanted to do in his lab that he needed approval for. There had been a few presentations from Bruce Banner and Pepper Potts, one notable one from Clint Barton about a new type of explosive arrows, and then a few debates with Natasha Romanoff concerning the ethical stance of her covert operations, aka spying. Now, a blond-haired, brilliantly blue-eyed man stood before the large panel looking nervous as all hell as he straightened his tie for the millionth time and took yet another sip of water.

“Mr. Rogers, the floor is yours. You can proceed at any time,” Daniel Johnson informed him with a slightly annoyed tone.

“Right, sorry.” He shuffled the notecards around in front of him on the podium. He began reading off a jumbled mess of points that had no coherent relation or relevance to each other. Still halfway through it, you weren’t even sure what he was trying to argue for. You knew it had something to do with recruitment practices, but the man really wasn’t making any sense at all. You were cringing internally at the fool he was making of himself, and you tried your best not to let it show on your face.

The vote was a rather unanimous no, and Steve Rogers’ face was redder than a fire hydrant, but you couldn’t tell if it was in humiliation or anger. He grumbled a quick, “Thank you for your time,” before getting out of there in a speedy fashion.

 

 

When you were wandering around the compound for lunch, you accidentally ran into him again in a random hallway. He was on the phone with someone, bitching about the Ethics Board. “Not a single fucking yes vote. I swear not one of them even understands what we’re trying to do here. They’re useless, and it’s complete bullshit that we have to answer to them.”

You cleared your throat to announce your presence. He looked up at you, and his face visibly paled. “Tony, I’ll talk to you later,” he said into the phone before hanging up.

“Useless, huh? Let me explain this very clearly, Captain: you’re just pissed off because not everybody in the goddamn world takes your fucking gut feelings as an ultimate moral code. The things your team does are very serious and almost always involve life or death situations. That can’t all be left up to the whims of a few hot-headed superheroes. It needs to be discussed in great length for the betterment of everyone. I’m sorry that your 1940s brain is too old fashion to understand any basic concept of ethical theory, but that does not give you the right to completely insult my job and my purpose in life.”

He looked thoroughly ashamed of himself but said nothing as he stood there staring at you.

“You can kindly go fuck yourself,” you told him before stomping off.

Chapter Text

“Tony, pleeeeeeease.”

“Nope.”

They were in his lab this time, but it didn’t matter the setting, Steve was still just as frustrated with the man. “Look,” he said in his sternest voice, “we tried it your way. I presented it myself, but I sounded like an idiot in there and got a resounding ‘absolutely not.’ I clearly am not cut out for this part of the job, so I think it’s time for you to step in and do what you do best.”

“I’m sorry, I was under the impression that what I do best is build suits. Didn’t know that presenting to an Ethics Board was at the top of my lifelong achievements.”

Steve huffed. “All I meant was that you have a way with the persuasive word. You’re good at swaying people. I, clearly, am not.”

“Clearly,” Tony agreed without even sparing Steve a glance. He was currently tinkering away at some holographic display. Steve couldn’t make the slightest bit of sense out of it.

“Tony, I’m begging you. I’ll do absolutely anything in return.”

“This isn’t about exchanging favors, Cap; it’s about the principle of the thing.”

Steve furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, if I do it for you this time, then you’ll expect me to do it for you the next time you have some idea that you insist needs to be approved by the board… and then the time after that and the time after that… See where I’m going with this?”

“I shouldn’t have to be good at presenting to do my job as Captain America.”

“Yeah, well, none of us should have to, but it very much is in our job descriptions now. Either learn to live with it or retire, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna speak on your behalf every single time you think a change needs to be made to this team.”

Steve swallowed heavily. He wasn’t mad… at least, not anymore. It was more that he felt defeated and at a loss of what to do. “Okay, Tony, I… I get it. Can you at least tell me how to improve my presentation so that I have a better chance of getting it approved?”

Tony’s voice was kinder this time as he said, “Maybe you should start by learning what it is exactly that the board is looking for.”

“How do I do that?”

“Perhaps, talking to a board member one-on-one might help.”

Steve didn’t have a response to this. He really didn’t want to have to listen to bullshit ethics lessons from one of the board members just to get his recruitment idea passed.

“And maybe don’t make an enemy out of one of the members?”

His eyes snapped back to Tony, narrowed and pinning the man to his spot. “How’d you know about that?”

“FRIDAY.”

“That nosy little AI,” Steve said under his breath.

“I invented her, so of course she would be loyal to me. Just go apologize to Miss Y/L/N, and win her over with that charm I know you’ve got somewhere in you when it’s not being suppressed by all your stubbornness.”

 

 

An hour later, Steve was standing outside the door to her office, feeling rather unsure of himself. He should probably knock soon, but he couldn’t seem to muster up enough courage to connect his fist with the wooden door. So, he stared at it for another five minutes, thinking of all the ways she might ream him anew when she saw his face outside of her office. He wondered how many times she might use the word “fuck” in this lecture he was sure to get.

“How long are you going to stand out there?” he heard her voice call out from the other side of the door.

When she opened it, Steve could only greet her with a look of complete shock. “How’d you know I was here?”

“FRIDAY told me.”

Steve made a mental note to have serious words with the AI later. He was getting really sick of her interfering with his personal matters. “Right. Could I possibly have a moment to speak with you?”

“Depends… are you here to tell me how much you hate the Ethics Board?”

“Um, no. I’m here to apologize about yesterday, actually.”

“Ah, an apology,” she was smirking at him now, “that would be the ethical thing to do in this situation, wouldn’t it?”

She gestured to the spare chair in her office, and Steve awkwardly took a seat before officially saying how sorry he was for how he had behaved the previous day. She claimed to forgive him, just like that, but Steve was wary of angering her further.

“Could you tell me one thing, Miss Y/L/N?”

“Please, call me Y/F/N.”

“Y/N, what exactly is the board looking for when they decide to approve a suggestion?”

“We have a certain code that we follow. First and foremost, our decisions must be free of any bias. This means that we cannot grant the wishes of Captain America simply because he is Captain America.”

“That’s understandable, I suppose.” He slunk down a little in his chair though, feeling like he was about to be put in his place once again.

“Secondly, we expect the suggestions to be based in reason. Now, I’m sure you have good reason for the changes you want to make in the recruiting system, but you did a piss poor job of making that reasoning clear to us Captain. Your speech was too weighed down by ethical jargon that you clearly didn’t have a firm grasp of. You didn’t need all that; you just needed to explain, in your own words why it would be a rational decision for us to vote yes on the matter. This includes explaining what good it will do not only for the team but for the citizens of this country and the world in general.”

“Okay, that makes a lot more sense… but I’ve never been good with words. I still don’t think I would be able to go back in there and make a convincing argument.”

“Stew on it for a bit. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

Steve leaned forward slightly, making sure to meet her eyes with all the charm he could muster. “Do you think… would it be out of line for me to ask for your help with this?”

“In what way?”

“Could you help me prepare my presentation in a way that will guarantee it gets approved?”

Chapter Text

The audacity of this man. He was certainly charming, you had to give him credit for that, but god did he try his damnedest to get out of something he really didn’t want to do. You couldn’t be sure if he still believed himself above ethical discourse, or if he was just genuinely in over his head with the presentation.

You should have told him no.

It really was a conflict of interest to be personally helping one of the Avengers work on a presentation that would be presented to the board you were a part of. Obviously, if you had helped write it, it would be impossible to remain unbiased and even consider giving it a negative vote. But if the reason was sound, and the argument you helped him write was for the betterment of the Avengers and the world, was it really such a bad thing to give him a hand?

Instead of asking him to leave your office, you found yourself indulging his proposal. “I’ll help you, Captain, if you can explain to me why exactly you hate the idea of an ethics board so much.”

He sighed, clearly not wanting to get into this, but you knew he’d realized he had no other choice in order to get what he wanted. “I just don’t understand why there’s such a huge debate surrounding the subject. Everybody has duties in life, acts that they know to be good when committed, and if you don’t perform those good acts, it makes you a bad person. That’s all morality boils down to, and the fact that we’re saying morals are up for debate lets bad people parade around under the guise of an ethical code.”

“So, you think morality is all about the act and never the consequences?”

“Exactly. If you go through life with good intentions, then you’ve done good in the world.”

“All right, Mr. Textbook Deontologist, what happens when those good intentions get people killed? Still make you a good person?”

He looked down at his lap, lips pressed firmly together, clearly not liking your statement but finding himself unable to refute it.

“You don’t think the ends ever justify the means, Mr. Rogers?”

“Please stop calling me that. I feel like I’m being lectured. Call me Steve.”

You cleared your throat awkwardly. “Sorry, I was a professor for a while. It’s sort of hard to fall out of the habit of lecturing people.”

He smiled, and you were nearly blinded by his beautiful teeth, perfectly framed by plump lips. Was it some sort of requirement that superheroes must be so devastatingly handsome?

“Well, Steve, the point I’m trying to get at is that when dealing with life or death situations, not only the acts themselves must be considered, the possible results of the acts must weigh heavily on our decisions. The Ethics Board isn’t necessarily concerned about writing up a strict set of rules, or duties if you will; we’re more focused on positive results coming from the actions of your team.”

“What was that word you called me earlier?”

Your quirked a brow. “Deontologist? That simply means that your moral code is means based. Whereas the Ethic’s Board follows an ends-based reasoning, so we define ourselves as teleologists. I guess you could say that’s why we’re at odds here.”

“Or maybe it’s just the fact that all these made-up words are maddening. Ends versus means, why’s it all gotta be defined by that?”

Now it seemed you were arguing in circles with him. “Steve…,” you said, trying to backtrack from your previous agreement to aid his presentation, “maybe this isn’t such a good idea for me to help you. We seem to still be butting heads quite a bit. Why don’t you ask Tony? He always gives rather articulate presentations.”

He let out an annoyed groan. “I already tried that. He refuses to help…. Look, I’m really concerned about these enhanced kids being out on the streets and getting into trouble because nobody has ever been there to look out for them. The sooner we are able to enact an enhanced recruitment program, the better. That’s all I want.”

You looked at him, eyes wide. This was the first time that the selfless and duty-bound side of Captain America was actually showing in your presence. Up to this point, you’d sort of pinned Steve Rogers as an arrogant prick, but the enhanced teens and young adults that were turning to crime clearly seemed to pull on his heartstrings.

“Then why didn’t you simply say that, Steve?” you asked him genuinely.

“I figured the board was looking for more than just that…”

“Well, sure, you need to build on it a bit, but the most important thing is sounding as concise and coherent as possible.”

“Will you help me, then? I promise not to argue with you so much about ethics.” And really you couldn’t seem to find the capability to say no while staring into those lovely blue eyes, consequences be damned.

 

 

Two days later, on the weekend, you and Steve ended up in one of the lounges of the compound. It was empty except for the two of you, and Steve glanced skeptically at the stack of books you carried in tow.

“I thought you said I needed to stick to simplicity,” he practically whined.

“Doesn’t mean a few principle examples won’t help to support your case. You said you wanted a guaranteed affirmative vote. That’s what I’m working toward here, unless you decide to fight me every step of the way.”

You went to work together, sipping from cups of coffee and discussing Steve’s plan for recruitment and making sporadic notes. Every once in a while, something he said would jog an ethics connection in your brain, and you would hastily look it up in one of your books. It was actually rather exciting being on this end of the discussion once again. As a professor, you explained how ethics worked. As a board member, you judged whether a situation’s morals were right or wrong. But now, you felt like you were an undergrad again, following a thin thread of reasoning all the way to a full-proof justification. It was almost thrilling.

You caught Steve watching you with a strange look a few times, but he would soon look away once your eyes lifted up and met his for a split second.

“Why do you love it so much?” he asked eventually.

Your pen didn’t even stop writing across the notebook as you spoke. “Ethical theory? What’s not to love?”

He chuckled. “Okay, let me rephrase that. What made you decide to study it when you were a freshman in college?”

A darkness flittered across your brain at the reminder of that year. A depression that had darkened your nineteen-year-old soul. You’d been acquainted with Steve Rogers for barely a week; that line of discussion was certainly off the table.

“Just seemed interesting to me,” you lied.

You could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t believe you in the slightest.

Chapter Text

After that first meeting in the lounge at the compound, Steve and Y/N had taken to doing their presentation prep sessions at a nearby coffee house. She had suggested they meet there in order to avoid being spotted by any of the other board members, and Steve had no choice but to agree that it wouldn’t do well for them to be found out. On the days that Steve didn’t have some mission to attend, they would meet in the evening at a hipster-style shop that emanated an overbearing aroma of coffee beans.

When she walked in for their third meeting, second one in the coffee house, Steve was already waiting for her on one of the many cozy couches covered in a great number of multi-colored pillows. Ever the gentlemen, except for maybe when his temper got the best of him, Steve had already grabbed her coffee order, and the steaming latte was waiting on the table in front of him.

She was still in her business formal clothes, a fitted skirt reaching to her knees and nude pantyhose covering the remainder of her legs. Her feet were resting at an awkward angle in high heels that Steve surmised might just be a form of torture. Her light blue button-up blouse was tucked into the top of her skirt, and a nice jacket was worn over that. She always looked incredible, so much so that Steve had been finding it pretty difficult to focus when she went on a tangent about random ethicists from over a hundred years ago. He could never stop himself from staring at her glossed lips.

“You didn’t tell me that your two idiot best friends were planning a presentation for the board,” she said with a huff as she sat down on the couch beside him. The books in her arms were practically slammed down on the table, making her latte almost slosh out of its cup.

“It’s not very ethical to call someone an idiot,” Steve said in his best imitation of a professorly tone, “and I had no idea they were planning something. What was the presentation about?”

“Well, it was more of a debate, really. Mr. Barnes was trying to convince us to have Tony engineer Falcon-like wings for himself and others on the team. Mr. Wilson had gotten wind of it and barged into the board room in order to protest the former’s request.”

Steve’s eyes widened. “What the fuck would Bucky do with a set of wings?”

“Probably something terrible, such as ripping off Sam’s mid mission because they got into another fight” Y/N supplied.

Steve could only nod in agreement. “I think the term idiot fits in this situation. Please tell me you denied his request.”

“Of course, it would be to the detriment of everyone if those two shared an airspace. Still had to listen to them bickering at each other for nearly two hours though. Made me want to bang my head against a wall.”

“You should try having to be best friends with the two of them. Perhaps you have a better understanding of why my temper is so short these days?”

She sat up, ready for a friendly argument. “No, no, no you don’t. You’ve been a hot-headed stubborn fool since the day you were born, Steve. All the history books say so, so don’t go blaming that on Sam and Bucky.”

He hastily held his hands up in surrender, knowing better than to counter such a statement from her. “Fine. It’s nobody’s fault but my own.” He flashed her that charming smile that had been working wonders lately at getting her to ease up on him. However, he was starting to find it a little unfair that she seemed to know so much about him but he knew very little about her. Anytime he asked her a somewhat personal question, she evaded the answer with practiced determination. He wasn’t quite sure why she wouldn’t tell him the truth about how she had gotten into ethics.

He cleared his throat. “We should probably get started on the next part of the presentation.”

“Right. I’m thinking you need to provide us a case study, a real-life example in order to evoke some emotion from the board.”

“Emotion? I thought ethics was supposed to be separate from personal feelings.”

“Ethics is at its best when reason and emotion are working together in harmony, Steve. And it’s not about personal feelings, it’s about giving us a living individual that we can see will be impacted negatively if we don’t go through with your plan. Show us who will hurt from it if we give another no vote.”

Steve couldn’t get over it, how she had a way of stating things so matter-of-factly, yet broadening his horizons and opening his mind in a single sentence. She certainly knew her stuff when it came to ethics, but Steve found her passion far more captivating than the facts themselves.

“Umm, yeah, uh, I could talk about this kid that the team and I found causing trouble last month. He’s got some sort of enhanced abilities that affect electricity, and I believe he’s living on the streets right now.”

“How old is he?”

“Just over eighteen. Tony looked him up in the system. His parents are rich, and he’s got a couple of siblings. Our working theory is that they kicked him out and cut him off when they found out about his powers.”

“But you don’t know that for sure?”

“Well, no.”

“Okay, our next step should be for you to talk to him. Find out if his parents actually kicked him out and if that’s why he’s decided to turn to crime.”

Steve wasn’t sure when he’d find the time to do a little investigation between missions, but he figured he’d make it work somehow if it meant helping all these newly enhanced individuals that were living on the streets.

Y/N started explaining to him the best ways to approach a case study in an ethical argument, but Steve zoned out a little, glancing around at all the happenings of the coffee shop. In a secluded corner, a woman with a laptop and headphone in her ears seemed to be typing away rather furiously, possibly writing a book. On one of the other couches, two awkward teenagers appeared to be on a date. At the counter, tapping a foot rapidly and crossing his arms in impatience, a man in a suit waited to be served his coffee order. When the barista finally gave it to him, he snatched it out of her hand without so much as a ‘thank you’ and didn’t even bother to leave a tip.

“That was really rude,” he muttered.

“What was?” Y/N asked from beside him. “Steve, have you even been paying attention to what I was saying?”

He cringed internally. This woman had a tendency of making him feel like he was back in school getting scolded by a teacher… a very hot teacher. “Of course I was, but I just noticed a man getting his coffee without even leaving a tip. Wouldn’t you consider that unethical?”

“In most cases, yes,” she said before looking back down at the textbook she was flipping through.

“And in which cases would you say no?” Steve was perplexed that morals always seemed to be so ambiguous with her.

“If one knows for certain that giving a tip will put more bad in the world as opposed to good, then it is unethical to give the tip; at least, according to the principle of utilitarianism.”

“How could leaving a tip possibly create more bad?” She was back to speaking the absolute nonsense that Steve could never wrap his mind around.

“In theory, if the barista were very very rude to every customer, yet was still rewarded each time with a tip because of the customers feeling obligated to leave it despite the rude service, then it might encourage him to continue being rude because there would never be any consequences. This creates more bad for each future customer.”

“Or you could say that leaving a tip is always the polite and good thing to do, and it might even result in putting the theoretical barista in a better mood, making him nicer to future customers,” Steve countered. “It doesn’t have to be so morally complicated like you make everything else,” he remarked at the end.

He could see her eye twitch a little, the perfect tell that he had ticked her off. “And yet,” she stated hotly, “it’s rather maddening that you still insist on looking at things only as black and white. Can you tell me why tipping is an inherently good thing to do without relating its goodness to the results of the act? Go on then.”

Steve thought for a moment. “Well, it uh… it makes the person happy. It makes me happy when I leave a tip. ”

“Those are both consequences of the act. Try again.”

Now he was ticked at her for treating him like one of her students yet again. “I don’t know, okay? It’s just good, and it always has been, and people who don’t leave tips are rude.” His tone was one of frustration.

“If you can’t explain why you believe something to be the case, then it probably means you should do some research and change those beliefs, Steve,” she informed him. Her face was rather red now; Steve figured he had probably raised her blood pressure a bit by riling her up.

This wasn’t the first fight of this sort they had had this past week, not by any means. They fought over the nuances of right and wrong almost constantly. Steve would get so mad and consumed with the desire to outsmart her in the moment, but when they had parted and he was alone in his quarters, he’d think back to how she looked when he’d gotten her thoroughly frazzled, and he couldn’t help the feeling of arousal that would course through him. She was so damn gorgeous when she was arguing with him, and Steve was learning that everything the challenging woman said and did ended up turning him on.

Chapter Text

You wondered if this coffee shop was open twenty-four hours a day. It seemed you and Steve were bound to test that question eventually for you stayed here later and later into the night each time you met for presentation prep. It was well past ten on the second week that you’d been meeting Steve here, and the two of you were the only souls still sipping caffeine concoctions. The single employee was scrolling through his phone, paying you no attention.

You and Steve were each lounged across a couch of your own, your heads close enough that you could still carry on a conversation. Steve was tossing a wad of paper up in the air and repeatedly catching it. It was driving you mad.

“Any progress with that kid? Jay was it?”

“Yeah, his name’s Jay. And I’ve spoken with him a couple of times now. I think I have enough to use for the proposal.”

“What’s his story then?”

Steve tossed the paper ball high into the air for the hundredth time. You huffed.

“Says his parents kicked him out of the house when he accidentally revealed his powers to them. They’re very religious, and they think his abilities are evil, like witchcraft.”

“Where’s he living then?”

“He bounces around to different homeless shelters. He could really benefit from being able to stay at the compound.”

You nodded your head, but Steve couldn’t see it from the position he was in. “Has he said why he started stealing?”

“Not in so many words. But it’s obvious that he’s angry with the world for rejecting him because of his gifts, and from what I can tell, he only steals to survive.”

You sat up and grabbed your notebook off the table, quickly writing down all of this relevant information. “That’s good Steve. You should be able to go ahead and schedule your meeting with the board next week.”

You could hear is loud, nervous gulp. “I’m still not sure I’m ready to go through all that again.”

“You said it yourself that these enhanced kids need help, surely Captain America can put on a brave face and get the job done in order to be able to help them. Besides, I have complete faith in your readiness this time.”

He sighed. “You’re right, and thank you… Does this mean we can talk about something other than ethics for once?”

You glanced at your watch. It was so late, and you had work early the next day, but something kept you glued to that couch, willing to listen to anything Steve Rogers had to say. “Sure, Steve. Tell me about your life before you went into the ice.”

“Oh, are we sharing our tortured pasts now? That means you’ll have to tell me about your college years if I’m going to delve into the pre-serum details.”

“I’m making no such agreement. You can choose to tell me or not tell me about anything you want. I was simply trying to make conversation.”

There was silence for a moment, and you figured he was probably rolling his eyes. You suppressed your grin by chewing on your bottom lip.

“Fine. I’ll talk about my life before the ice.”

“I’m all ears,” you told him.

And then he spun a tale so bleak and harrowing yet powerful and heroic. You couldn’t believe half the things Steve was describing about the early parts of his life. Each beating from a bully that Steve had picked a fight with. Each dame that wouldn’t give him a second look. Each humorous moment with Bucky Barnes. And then that incredibly stupid risk: Steve becoming a super-soldier. You couldn’t believe it had worked. And you couldn’t believe everything that happened after that either.

You almost wanted to stop him, to climb over to his couch and press your hands firmly against his beautiful mouth, when he started talking about the day Bucky fell from the train. You wanted to stick your fingers in your ears to prevent the sorrow in his voice from seeping through to your brain. Most of all, you wanted to pull the large man into your weak arms and squeeze him tighter than you’d ever hugged anyone.

“I still think about that day all the time. It’s strange, too, because Bucky’s here with me now, alive and well. He’s happy most of the time, and I’m not sure if me saving him on that train would have made his life turn out any better… But if I had to do it all over again, I’d do whatever it took to save him every damn time.”

“Because he was your best friend?”

“Well, yeah, but I’d like to think that I’d do it for anyone in that same position.”

Suddenly, you couldn’t help your philosophical nature from spewing from your mouth like inconsiderate word vomit. “What if you had to choose between saving three strangers and saving Bucky? What would you do then?”

Steve sat up. “What the hell kind of question is that?”

You shrunk back in the couch you were sitting on. “It was only a hypothetical. I’m sorry. I know it was insensitive.”

“You think?” He didn’t look all that mad though, and you couldn’t help but continue to wonder what his answer might be.

“Take Bucky out of the equation,” you suggested. “You’re on a trolley, and the brakes have failed. In the tracks before you are five people, strangers, and the only thing you can do to save them is to pull a lever to switch over to different tracks. But on the other tracks is one person, also a stranger. How do you decide who lives?”

Steve rested his elbows on his knees, dropped his head into his hands, and let out an exasperated groan. “Do you ever stop turning things into an ethical dilemma?”

“Not really, no. I’m sorry if it bothers you, but you seem to be quite fond of my company, so I don’t exactly think that it does.”

You could see a blush rising up his muscular neck. “I wouldn’t say fond exactly.”

“Oh? You’re welcome to stop meeting me here anytime.”

“But then I would fail the presentation.”

“Doesn’t explain why we stay here extra hours talking about things other than the presentation.”

“Fine. I’m fond of your company. You win.”

“Great. Now answer my question.”

“God, you’re relentless, woman.”

You raised your eyebrows and gave him a look that said, “Call me woman one more time, I dare you.”

“I’d find a way to save everyone.”

“That’s a cop-out.”

“So? This situation would never happen in real life. It’s ridiculous.”

“You’ve never found yourself in a tight spot on a mission where you had to decide who lives and who dies?”

“…. Yes, but that’s different.”

“How so?”

“Because I do everything I can to save everyone, but sometimes I just can’t get there quick enough.” His brow was creased in frustration. It seemed that Steve Rogers really did beat himself up over every life that slipped through his strong hands.

You put on such a cold demeanor all the time. You guarded yourself, made it seem that you only cared about your job and studying ethics. But emotions swirled inside of you constantly: regret from past choices, worry over both your own future and the state of the world at large, and now this tender care that pressed against your heart and moved you closer to the blue-eyed man. You stood from your own couch and walked over to sit next to Steve. You placed your hand on his shoulder.

“Steve, I know you always give 200% on missions, and I promise you it’s enough. I’m sorry if my hypotheticals made you feel otherwise.”

He pulled your hand off his shoulder and into his lap, keeping it clasped within his own large palms. “No, it’s okay… Sometimes, you just force me to consider things that I’ve honestly never thought about before in my life. It’s a lot… but I also think it’s good for me.”

“Yeah?”

He smiled at you, those impossibly white teeth on display again. “Yeah.”

Chapter Text

“And that’s why I believe it is of the utmost importance that you approve this new initiative and instate it immediately,” Steve finished his speech. He put on a hopeful smile and gave a respectful nod to each member of the board. Now all that was left to do was await their vote.

His slight smile crept into a broad grin as almost every member was in favor of his proposal. The final vote: ten in favor, three against. Steve had succeeded, all thanks to Y/N’s help.

He had a pep in his step as he made his way to her office. She wouldn’t be there yet, still discussing things with the board, but Steve would wait there as long as it took to be able to greet her with a giant ‘thank you’ hug. He really wanted to show her how much he appreciated all that she had done for him these past few weeks.

And when she came round the corner of the corridor, the bright smile she wore could rival Steve’s own. As he hugged her, the flowery scent of her shampoo wafted to his nose, and Steve couldn’t help but let out a tiny pleased sigh. It felt splendid to have her pressed up against his chest. He wished they could stay like this forever.

“Congrats, Steve. You did a spectacular job in there,” she whispered against his fast-beating heart.

“All thanks to you,” he assured her. And then something idiotic slipped out of his mouth. “Hey, why don’t you let me buy you dinner tonight as a thank you for all the work you put into that?”

She stiffened. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea,” she told him in that professorly tone of hers as she extracted herself from the warm hug.

“Y/N, that wasn’t meant to sound like me asking you out, I swear. I just really want to show my appreciation.”

“Not a date?”

“Not a date, guaranteed.”

“Good because I really think that would be a conflict of interest, don’t you?”

Steve cringed. Sure it hadn’t been meant to sound like a date in so many words, but he’d been hoping to turn it into a date by the end of the night. He was beginning to realize that Y/N wouldn’t be so fond of that idea as long as he was Captain America and she was an Avengers Ethics Board member.

“Of course! That would be totally inappropriate for us to date,” he managed to say.

 

 

 

Now, Steve was sitting at a table for two, playing with the label of his beer bottle and waiting for his date— uh, colleague/friend to arrive. As much as this was just supposed to be a ‘thank you’ dinner, Steve still found himself buttoning up his best blue shirt, taking extra time to comb his hair, and spritzing himself with his most expensive cologne before leaving the compound. God, he wanted to impress her so damn badly.

“Hey, Steve,” she said in greeting as she slid into the booth opposite from him.

“How was the rest of your day?”

“Pretty boring. No presentations from Sam and Bucky, so that’s something to be thankful for, I suppose.”

Steve laughed in response and then waived the waiter over to take Y/N’s drink order. She got a lemonade. Maybe she didn’t drink alcohol at all? Or maybe she was afraid of this seeming too date-like if she ordered a beer or something…

They chatted easily over the time that passed while they waited for their food. Steve animatedly told humorous stories about his fellow team members while Y/N listened with amused little creases around her eyes and chimed in with related philosophical topics here and there. The restaurant was the sort to have dozens of TV screens positioned at every angle, but they paid them no attention, too enthralled by each other’s company.

Then their food finally arrived, two separate orders of spicy wings. They shared a batch of fries, and Steve tried his best not to let his high-speed metabolism tempt him into eating more than his fair portion.

He asked her about her family, a topic they had yet to broach in the coffee shop. She answered his questions, but only vaguely.

“What do your parents do?”

“My mother is an elementary school teacher. My dad was never around when I was growing up. I don’t really know what he does these days.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be. That’s all in the past now.”

“The past still affects the present, as much as people try to deny that fact, it’s true.”

“You don’t think anyone can ever separate themselves entirely from their past?”

Steve shook his head. “We are our own culmination of every past experience. If we try to reject it all, then we have no identity.”

She smiled proudly. “Look at you. Steve Rogers, getting all philosophical on me.”

His face heated a little, but he returned her smile.

Out of the corner of Steve’s eye, a breaking news story caught Steve’s attention on one of the many screens. A ten-day-old child had been found abandoned on a bench at a local park, clearly left there unwanted by her parents. The thought of that poor baby girl made Steve’s stomach sick.

“That’s terrible,” he said.

Y/N followed his eyes to the news story and nodded her head. “People are so senseless. Why couldn’t they just leave her at a hospital or police station like a responsible person?”

Steve looked back at her. “Huh?”

“The parent. They should have left the girl at a hospital where she would have been perfectly safe and no questions would have been asked.”

“I— wait, that’s the only problem you see with that situation? The location at which they dumped their newborn child?”

“Steve, not everyone can care for a child, and it’s perfectly legal to leave an infant under the age of 30 days at a place of public service as long as they are left with an employee. I don’t see a problem with that as long as the child is safe and not abandoned on a park bench.”

“You don’t see a problem with a parent getting rid of their own child?”

Her eyes widened, clearly baffled by his stance on the situation. “No. I don’t. As long as it’s done in a legal manner, it is not my place to pass judgment. Neither is it yours.”

“I would never abandon my child like that.”

She was fiddling with her purse now. Her food was only half-eaten, but Steve could tell she was itching to leave. “Good for you. But you’re a very privileged man, Steve Rogers, and you haven’t the slightest idea of what many people go through that makes them incapable of caring for a child.”

“Why are you taking this so personally? This is about the baby on the news, not you,” he said as she stood from the booth.

“Because it is personal. And for the record, people can choose their identities, so if someone wants to decide which parts of their past make up who they are now, then that’s perfectly okay.”

She began to head for the door. Steve stood up as well. “Y/N, wait!” But she ignored him, and he wasn’t sure that chasing after her would be for the best right now. He still had no idea what that little fight had really been about, but he got the feeling it had something to do with those complicated college years that she never would speak a word of to him.

Chapter Text

Your house. Dark but comforting. You. Alone in your thoughts. A raging whirlwind of self-doubt, then frustration, then pride, then guilt, then indignity.

You made it to your shower, shaking a bit from the heaviness of the night. This secret had weighed on your for so long. It reared its ugly head at the most unexpected of times, and Steve had taken the brunt of that tonight.

He didn’t know, obviously. Couldn’t know, couldn’t have guessed how deeply his words would have cut you. But if Steve truly felt that way, then the two of you were much too adverse in your moral codes to ever properly get along and form any sort of relationship. You suspected if he did know, he’d look at you in a new light. One of disgust.

Despite your conflicting feelings that you felt over the situation, all these twelve years after the fact, you know deep down that you would have done things exactly the same every time. You’d been broke, barely able to afford your first year in college. No support from your equally as broke mother, no support from your nonexistent father. Nineteen. Very alone in the world. You hadn’t managed to make a single friend in the biology department in which you studied. Your dorm roommate barely spoke to you.

And then you’d met a boy. A math major who gave you a second look. A flirt, but a cute one. He took you on a few dates, persuaded you into his bed a few times. But that all ended when the situation became far too hauntingly real. He’d used condoms each time, you swore. You’d been on birth control. But everyone had failed to mention that it was ineffective while taking antibiotics. A sinus infection had resulted in your unplanned pregnancy.

Nineteen. Scared. On the cusp of a future, of a career. The math major ditched you when he found out. He wanted no part of such a responsibility. You told no one else. You went to a women’s health clinic. You had an abortion.

A depression consumed you. You lost interest in school. You felt ashamed, disgusted with yourself. You knew that there was no way you could have raised that child, nor could you have dealt with a pregnancy for nine months while maintaining your part-time job and schoolwork. It had been the right decision, but that still did not stop your guilt.

The rest of freshman year was a haze, a darkness so stark that you had trouble remembering the details sometimes. You barely passed your spring classes. The summer was spent trying to wash it all away. You somehow pulled yourself out of that stupor, despite never having spoken to a therapist about it like you should have.

When the fall semester came, you switched your major to philosophy and studied with a vengeance. It became your obsession to comb over ethical theories as a way to find justification for the choice you had made. You looked for validation in the words of moral scholars, instead, you found love for the material and an inkling of a realization that that validation you craved could only come from yourself.

You didn’t regret it… most of the time. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it felt necessary for you in that situation, and you rose up and became successful despite the pain. What matters is that you had the choice in the first place.

As the scalding water of the shower caressed your face, you let your unshed tears finally fall. Was Steve right? Would you always be defined by this decision that you made when you were nineteen years old? Could your identity ever be anything other than this? You wanted so badly to believe that it could.

You dragged the luffa so roughly across your skin that it would probably leave irritated patches. It seemed that most of the time, you could feel secure in the life you had lived. You had so many days where you worked toward making the world a better place, and that was enough. But days like today threw you right back into your nineteen-year-old mindset, and you couldn’t stop feeling like the walls were caving in.

Once out of the shower, you pulled a large sweater over your head and stepped into some soft leggings. Hot tea. A fluffy pillow. An episode of The Good Place. These were the things you needed for self-care. You wondered if Steve would have understood ethical theory much better if you had simply made him watch this show.

Your eyelids fell heavily, bringing peace for the first time this evening, but it was short-lived. A rap on the door forced you out of your slumber.

To absolutely no surprise, it was Captain America standing there when you opened it. “I’m so sorry,” he blurted out before you could speak a word.

“How do you even know where I live?”

“Don’t be mad… Tony gave me your address from your employment file.”

“Steve! That’s a complete invasion of privacy and wrong on soooo many levels.”

He held up his hands in surrender. “I know, I know, but I really didn’t want to leave things the way we did back there. I know I fucked up, said something wrong, but I’m still not sure what. Please help me understand, Y/N.”

He had been so narrow-minded in his opinions, so quick to judge. But he was here now, asking for your forgiveness, asking for you to help him understand. He was willing to listen and learn and probably change. Steve was a good man. He deserved to know the truth about why his words had affected you so personally. And if he still held the same opinions after speaking with you about it tonight, well, then you could kick him out of your house and never speak to him again. Simple as that.

You opened the door further. “Come in. I’ll make some more tea, and we can talk about this properly.”

Chapter Text

“I thought about what you said, that I’m very privileged and I couldn’t possibly understand the various situations that cause someone to give up a child. You’re right that I don’t understand, but I’m willing to try. My mother was poor, but she still kept me and raised me right. It seemed so simple. Is it not anymore?”

You sighed as you set his steaming tea down in front of him. “It was never that simple. And your mother had no other options but to keep you and raise you back then. Not to mention that her Catholic beliefs probably influenced her sense of obligation when it came to a child. But even if your mother ever had doubted whether it would be good for her life and your future life for her to keep you, that doesn’t suddenly make her a bad mother, Steve.”

“And now people do have options if a baby isn’t best for them, so I guess it would make sense that many people choose to not have the responsibility.”

“It’s not just about relieving oneself of the work. It’s about money, proper healthcare, a community of support, none of which most women have in America. On top of that, some might find themselves pregnant in a very unideal situation, like an abusive marriage or during a struggle with addiction.”

Steve was nodding his head now. You knew he had a decent moral compass, you knew he had just needed to be steered in the right direction.

“I see what you mean. If my mother had been struggling in any of those ways and had had a better option, I would have wanted her to take it.”

You gave him a small smile. He took a sip of his tea. You inhaled deeply, bracing yourself for this next hurdle.

“Steve, I had an abortion when I was in college, my freshman year.”

He was silent, blinking at you a few times with his vibrant blue eyes. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” he finally said in barely a whisper.

Your breath hitched.

“Did you have anyone… at the time… to talk about it with?” he asked hesitantly.

As you moved to shake your head no, the tears welled up in your eyes once again. “You’re the only person I’ve ever told other than the father.”

“Did he support your decision?”

“He wanted nothing to do with me or the baby when he found out.”

You could see the heartbreak written so clearly in his eyes. That was for you. Steve’s heart was breaking for you. And as much as you knew that the validation had to come from within yourself, it didn’t hurt to finally have someone there for you. Someone on your side.

“Can I have a hug?” you asked softly.

“Of course,” he said as he pulled you into his solid arms. “I’m sorry that I made you feel like you were nothing more than this event. I’m sorry that I judged you so intensely.”

“You didn’t know it was personal.”

“But I should have picked up on the cues you were giving when you protested it so vehemently. I’m sorry for that. Even Captain America is an insensitive asshole these days.”

You let out a watery chuckle.

“Only a little, but I accept your apology, and I’m glad this opportunity arose for me to finally talk about it with someone. You’re really easy to open up to when you’re not making hasty judgments,” you told him with a small smile.

“You’re pretty easy to talk to as well. I enjoy all of your scorching philosophical takes about my daily life.”

“Good because those scorching takes will never cease.”

He squeezed you tighter in response, and the warmth of his body seeped through you like a comforting heated blanket.

“Y/N?”

“Yeah?”

“I really care about you. I was wondering… could we call this friendship? Because I talk to you more these days than I do Bucky.”

“I’d love to be your friend, Steve Rogers. I really don’t have many of those, and I have to agree that you’re the person I talk to the most lately.”

“Great. Friends it is.” And he sounded so genuinely happy about this development that your heart swelled. Steve wasn’t giving you comfort now simply to impress you and get into your pants later. He was such an admirable character in moments like this. He was a guy worth having by your side.

“For the record, I really care about you too.”

“Thank you,” came his gruff voice.

You finally pulled away from the hug and gave Steve a look that said how appreciative you were of how he had handled the situation. “Now, have you ever heard of a show called The Good Place?”

He shook his head.

“Oh boy, you’re in for a wild philosophical ride,” you said with a conspiratorial grin.

“Even the shows you watch are about philosophy?” he whined. “Do you ever think about anything else?” But his tone of voice let you know that he was asking these questions jokingly, and he actually seemed rather fond of your affinity for all things philosophy.

You didn’t bother to answer him as you clicked through Netflix to restart the show at season 1 episode 1.

“It’s pretty late… are you sure that you want me to stay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine. Unless you don’t want to?”

“No, no, I do,” he assured you.

You stood up and headed to the kitchen. “I’m just gonna make some popcorn before we start. Do you prefer sweet or buttery?”

He followed you and leaned against the kitchen counter, his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. “Please tell me you don’t like sweet popcorn. Because I honestly don’t think this friendship is going to work if you do.”

“God, no,” you said. “I was only trying to be polite in offering it. It’s buttery popcorn or die for me.”

His serious face broke and he let out a beautiful laugh. You loved his laugh. It was as deep as the blue in his eyes, as loud as the colors on the uniform he wore, and as pure as his dutiful heart. It was the kind of laugh that made it hard to be simply friends with Steve Rogers.

Chapter Text

“And this….” Steve gestured to the large gym area with every state-of-the-art piece of equipment one could imagine, “is the training room.”

Jay’s eyes were big as he looked over the obstacle courses, sparring ring, target range, and punching bags throughout the expansive room. “And I can come here? Anytime I want?”

“Anytime you want,” Steve confirmed. “But remember that FRIDAY has a security protocol to prevent anything in here from being taken outside of this room. That means if you try to pocket any of the weapons to use out on the streets, myself and Mr. Stark will be notified.”

“Got it,” the young man said, looking a little terrified of ever being in trouble with the two heads of the Avengers.

“There’s usually always a member of the team that’s not busy, so if you ever want someone to spar with or teach you any techniques, simply ask FIRDAY to notify anyone unoccupied.”

“When will I be an official member of the team?”

“You’re still pretty young, kid, despite you technically being an adult. For now, you’ll be an unofficial trainee, but the Ethics Board has mandated that official trainees must be at a minimum age of twenty. You’ll still be given a room in the compound barracks if you need a place to live though.”

Jay looked a little embarrassed about his difficult housing situation. “I’m staying with a friend right now.”

“Well, if that changes at any time, there will always be a room waiting for you here. Come on, I’ll show you to the recreational area.”

They had to go back outside to get to the building that contained the living quarters, kitchen, and rec area. A cool autumn wind whipped around them, and Steve glanced appreciatively at the changing colors of the tree line that surrounded the compound. New York this time of year was always his favorite.

“What’s in that building?” Jay pointed at one that they were swiftly walking past.

“That holds all the offices of the Ethics Board members and the proposal room for anytime one of us has to present a new idea to them to be voted on.”

“And that’s how I’m allowed to be here? You proposed this to them?”

“Yup. I think any person with superpowers should at least be given the option to use them for good, and the means to do so if he chooses.”

Just as they had almost passed the building, a familiar face came walking out the door and in the direction of the parking lot. “Y/N!” Steve called out to gain her attention.

Her head whipped around and a lovely smile flashed across her gorgeous face. “Steve! What are you up to?” she inquired as she made her way over.

“This is Jay. He’s the kid I told you about. I was just giving him a tour of the facilities.”

“How lovely!” She finally reached them and held out her hand for Jay to shake. “I’m Y/N, one of the thirteen members of the board.”

“Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

“Please, just call me Y/N. Ma’am reminds me of my teaching days, and I have no desire to return to them.”

Jay nodded.

“You leaving this early?” Steve wondered, as she had been heading to her car.

“What? Oh, no, I simply forgot some important papers I had been working on last night in the floorboard of my car… I’ll probably be here pretty late today, unfortunately.”

Steve gave her a sympathetic look. “I’ll come by your office with coffee later to make sure you’re not asleep at your desk.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about it, Steve.”

“I insist,” he told her with a smirk. It was his ‘won’t take no for an answer’ face.

“Okay, okay. I’ll see you later then. Nice to meet you, Jay!” And then she turned away and jogged off to her car.

“That your girlfriend?” Jay asked Steve as soon as Y/N was out of hearing range.

“No, she’s just a friend.”

“But you want her to be your girlfriend, right?”

Steve sighed. “Maybe… it’s complicated.”

 

 

 

“Two coffees? Who’s the other one for?” Bucky asked as Steve stirred some almond milk into both cups.

“Don’t worry about it, Buck.”

Bucky dropped the can of diced tomatoes that he was currently juggling around the kitchen for sport and walked over to Steve, grabbing the man’s upper arms firmly. “Stevie, Stevie, Stevie,” he said disappointedly as he shook his head. “We tell each other everything. This dame must really be somethin’ if you’re keeping her a secret from me.”

“Bucky, I really don’t think it would be a good idea for anyone to know.”

“Guess eighty years of friendship means nothin’ to ya, huh punk?”

Steve rolled his eyes and groaned. “You have to swear on everything that you won’t tell a soul.”

Bucky finally let go of Steve’s arms. “I swear I won’t. You can trust me, you know that.”

“I’m not dating anyone, but I’m pretty sweet on one of the board members.”

Bucky’s eyebrows rose. “Y/N?”

“How’d you know?”

“Steve, there’s only two women on the board, and one of them is in her fifties.”

“So? You got something against women in their fifties, Buck?”

It was Bucky’s turn to roll his eyes. “She’s a real pretty gal, Steve. I bet you’re already in way over your head, huh?”

Steve smiled fondly just thinking about her. “Maybe…”

 

 

 

It was nearly nine o’clock when he knocked on her office door. “Come in!” she told him.

He carefully maneuvered both cups into one of his hands and then turned the handle. She looked more frazzled now than he had ever seen her besides that night at her house. Her hair was messily tied up with a multi-colored scrunchie. Her heels were kicked off, and Steve could see her painted toes peeking out from under her desk. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah,” she said, but it didn’t sound genuine. “It’s just… I promised to write this essay for the Stanford Ethics Convention next month, and I can’t seem to focus at all. I should be halfway done with it already, but I’m barely over a quarter of the way through.”

She took the cup of coffee from him with a grateful look in her eye. She basically chugged the entire thing and then leaned back dramatically in her chair.

“Tell me about it,” Steve said as he got comfortable in the chair opposite hers.

“About what?”

“The essay you’re writing.”

“Steve, it’s full of a bunch of really complicated philosophy jargon.”

“So? I’m curious. And I think it will help get your inspiration flowing if you talk it out with somebody.”

She looked surprised and also slightly impressed.

Steve wasn’t actively trying to push for more than friendship with her. But he thought, if it happened, it wouldn’t be the result of some grand romantic gesture. It would be a slow buildup of comforting patterns and pleasant complexities that emerged in their relationship due to simple gestures like this one. He’d win her over with all the little things.

Steve closed his eyes and focused on her beautiful voice as she read words from her computer that he tried his best to understand.

Chapter Text

“Bags all packed?” Steve asked you, trying to sound noncommittal, but you could tell he was sad that you were leaving for a week.

“Yup. Double and triple checked my packing list. Everything’s all good.”

“Are you sure you don’t need a ride to the airport tomorrow? I’d be happy to take you.”

“I’m sure. My flight is super early. It’ll be easier to just take a cab.”

He couldn’t help it, he had to let out that cute little displeased sigh. You forced an annoyed look, but really, you were so fond of all his little mannerisms.

“What will the board do now that their down a member?”

“They’ll just postpone any proposals until I get back next week… So, don’t come up with any world-changing emergencies while I’m gone, Rogers.” You winked at him, and then instantly regretted it. You really shouldn’t be encouraging flirty behavior.

He rubbed his chin with his hand, pretending to be thoughtful for a moment. “I might plan something to propose with Bucky and Sam the day you get back.”

You narrowed your eyes. “Don’t you fucking dare. If I went a year without hearing from those two, it still wouldn’t be long enough.”

“Wow, that’s harsh. I’ll make sure to tell Bucky you said that.”

You shrugged.

Steve grew silent and somber once again. You continued walking in the direction of your car. You’d try your best at a good night’s sleep and then be headed to California tomorrow to present your essay that you had managed to finish for the Stanford Ethics Convention.

Steve cleared his throat. You glanced up at him. “I—” he started to say but then stopped himself.

“What is it, Steve?”

“Uh… nothing. It’s nothing. Have a safe flight, okay?”

“Will do,” you promised, and then you carefully wrapped your arms around him for a quick hug. You never wanted to let go.

 

 

 

Twenty-four hours later, you collapsed into the cushiony mattress of your hotel bed. It was a nice-looking king size with a thick duvet and fancy pillows. Your trip was being paid for since you would be presenting at the convention. The room was definitely a step up from what you would have reserved for yourself.

You kicked off your tennis shoes and pulled your cellphone out of the back pocket of your jeans. Three new messages.

Steve: I know you’re probably already in the air, but I just wanted to say have a safe flight one more time.

Steve: I told Bucky what you said. He’s planning his revenge.

Steve: I’d love to hear from you once you land. I’ll be free all evening.

You let out a contented sigh. It felt so nice to have someone care about you the way Steve did. The problem was, you constantly felt the line blurring between friends and more than that. These days, Steve doted on you constantly as if you were his best girl, and in truth, you wanted to be. But you couldn’t date someone that would influence your work. It would make things far too complicated. So, you had to keep him at a safe distance.

You clicked his name on your phone screen to dial his number. It only rang once before he picked up.

“Hey,” he said and his voice sounded sleepy. It was much later in New York than in California.

“Hey, Steve. I’ve just made it to my hotel room. It’s pretty nice. Like ‘Tony Stark might consider using this as a broom closet’ nice.”

He let out that deep laugh that you always made it your business to hear whenever you could. “Wow, that does sound fancy.”

“Oh, it is. And Stanford is covering all of the room service costs. I’ll be eating like a king for days. Don’t be surprised if I come back twenty pounds heavier next week.”

“I’d be surprised if you even remember to eat a single meal while you’re there. I’m the one that has to remind you to stop for lunch or dinner when you’re at work most of the time.”

“Well, sounds like you’ll just have to call me every day to make sure I’m eating then.”

“I’d be okay with that.” And you could hear the smile coming through his voice.

“Any exciting missions this week?” you asked him to change the subject.

“I think we’ve got something on Wednesday, but it should be an easy job. Don’t worry, I’ll still make time to call you.”

You let out a little giggle. God, you were giggling now? This was pathetic.

“Y/N,” Steve said so softly you barely heard him.

“Yeah?”

“Yesterday, when I was walking with you to your car, I wanted to say that I was going to really miss you…”

“Oh…” Your heart was suddenly doing odd fluttery things in your chest.

“And it wouldn’t have been a lie… I miss you already… so much.”

“Steve,” you said in an attempt at a warning, but there wasn’t a lot of feeling behind it.

“What? Is that so wrong of me to say?”

“It is when I know why you’re saying it… We can’t do this, Steve. We can’t be more than friends with our current work situation. You know that as well as I do… So, you have to stop trying to make me swoon by saying such sweet things like that.”

“I just think that if the work thing is the only thing stopping us, it’s not a good enough reason to keep us apart.”

You chewed on your lip nervously. “I know how this plays out, Steve. When I worked at the university, one of my female colleagues dated a fellow professor. They weren’t even in the same department, but when word got out about it, she lost her job. The man still has his, and his reputation barely even suffered. If things were to go poorly with us, who do you think would suffer? Captain America or some irrelevant board member? I know from experience that I’d be the one to lose everything, not you.”

There was a long pause.

“You’re right… I shouldn’t have pushed the matter. I just care about you so much, Y/N, and I feel like there’s nothing but honesty between us now that you told me about what happened in college. I feel so close to you, and sometimes it feels like we’re already dating anyway. I guess a part of me just knows how easy it would be to take that next step.”

“I feel that too. Really, I do… But until something changes with our work situation, we cannot take that next step.”

“Okay.”

“For the record, I already really miss you too, Steve.”

Chapter Text

The rapid-fire of bullets would make most flinch and duck, but Steve had grown accustomed to the battlefield way back in another century. Bucky quick-firing beside him only motivated Steve to punch harder, kick faster, and throw his shield further. They spun together in a circle, taking on enemy after enemy as Sam swopped around above them, shooting any masked men that Steve and Bucky might have missed.

“Did you take her on a date when she got back from California?” Bucky yelled over the gunshots and grunts.

“We’re not dating, Buck! I’ve told you that a hundred times!”

“So you didn’t go see her at all as soon as she was back?” The way his friend said it, Steve suspected he already knew the answer.

“I went to her place to watch a TV show that we’ve been binging together. It wasn’t a big deal.”

Steve ducked as a particularly eager masked man came at him with a clobbering swing of his fist. He quickly grabbed the man’s abdomen and tackled him to the ground with ease, knocking him unconscious with a tap of the shield to his temple.

“I just don’t understand it. You literally do all of the things that dating couples do. If she’s so worried about her relationship with you causing trouble for her job, shouldn’t the way you two are now cause that same problem?”

“It’s about plausible deniability. Right now, if we’re questioned about the nature of our relationship, we can both easily say that we are only friends. If we crossed the line of physical intimacy, we wouldn’t be able to deny it in good conscience.”

Bucky’s magazine ran out and he resorted to fighting off the enemies with his metal arm. He did it effortlessly, barely having to use his right arm for backup.

“So what are you going to do? Be in love with the woman forever, but never cross that line? Be miserable forever?”

“For now, yes. Until I can figure out some other solution…”

And then the battle was over, every last member of the opposition defeated. But Steve didn’t feel satisfied. He felt that his own battle was still raging.

 

 

 

“Faster, Jay. You’re running a slower time than yesterday.” The young man increased his pace only slightly, making his way around the indoor track.

It had been two months now since Y/N came back from California. Two months since she had practically admitted over the phone that she felt the same way as Steve. That they should be more than friends… but they couldn’t. And it had been two months since Steve’s mind and body had been battling against each other in a gruesome war. For all Steve’s mind wanted to do was respect Y/N’s wishes and listen to her when she said that a relationship between them would ruin her career. But all Steve’s body wanted to do was ravish her.

He had taken to busying himself in any way that he could find. Sparring with Bucky every day, releasing his frustration as the two of them beat the absolute shit out of each other. Running with Sam in the pre-dawn hours, feeling the slight satisfaction at the man’s frustration each time Steve lapped him. And devoting any requested extra time spent training the recruits. Since Jay’s training status wasn’t official, Steve tried to be available anytime the kid came around for instruction.

Despite all of Steve’s efforts to remain self-occupied without the woman, he could never muster a ‘no’ when she asked him to get coffee with her or to watch another few episodes of The Good Place at her house. And these friendly evenings together were Steve’s worst nightmare because of each ethical term, each double-shot-of-expresso filled mug, and each brush of her bare feet against his jean-clad thigh as they watched a ridiculous show about a demon torturing people by making them think they’re in heaven; all of it forced Steve to love her. He had no choice in the matter. He loved her deeply. Loved her immensely. Loved her wholly.

And being with her had the appearance of heaven, but maybe he was really in a hell-like torture because he could never seem to work his way through to an answer of how they could happily be together.

“Hey, Steve,” a familiar voice called out, and he whipped his head around in surprise because he had never seen her in the compound’s training rooms before.

“Y/N, what brings you here? Fancy a workout?” and then he immediately blushed at how that had sounded.

She smirked but ignored his slip up. “I was looking for you, actually. I just received an invite for dinner from some of my old friends at the university. I was wondering if you’d like to come along…”

Steve’s eyebrows raised to his hairline, but he knew better than to assume this was an actual date. He glanced at Jay to make sure the kid was far enough on the other side of the track that he wouldn’t overhear them. “Tonight?”

“Yes. At seven. Got some other big plans, do ya?”

He let out a nervous laugh. “Not really, no. I just… I don’t know if this is a good idea, Y/N. Won’t your friends assume we’re dating.”

“Not if I tell them otherwise,” she answered easily with a shrug.

Steve should have said no. But then again, she always brought him to his knees faster than a stomach punch from a bully in his pre-serum body. He couldn’t say no to her.

 

 

And by the time they were in the trenches of laughter over cocktails and silly anecdotes from her days as a professor, the battle had already been decided. No amount of reinforcements and furious fighting could keep Steve from walking her home. No gun to his head could stop him from capturing her lips, taking them prisoner when she looked up at him with those pleading eyes and whispered “Kiss me… only to see what it would be like.” But once they had committed to a side, choosing bodies over minds, there was no turning back. So, they did it again and again and again, only to see what it would be like.

By the time Steve was bare and sweaty and panting on her bed, the war was over, but he wasn’t entirely sure if he had won.

Chapter Text

How could you possibly turn away from this?

Then again, how could you embrace it?

How could you abandon a chiseled god with golden locks and sleepy blue eyes, a satisfied smile the first emotion to show itself on his face the moment he entered a state of consciousness?

A man who was and would always be Captain America, leader of the Avengers, essential member of the team, and a huge conflict of interest for your own work.

A man so certain of his actions the night before. So happy to oblige your desperate requests. So nimble and deliberate in his caressing of your body. So sure that what felt good must have been the right thing to do.

You’d been eager to agree with him. Egged him on. Gave in easily to the pleasure. But in the clear morning sun filtering in through the blinds, you wondered if it was fair to let your morals be pleasure-driven.

He rolled onto his side and pulled you closer. You could feel him quickly growing hard against you, and even with all this conflicted contemplation in your head, it was far too easy to give in to pleasure once again.

 

 

 

 

The next time you both came up for air, you checked the time and thanked the heavens that it was a Saturday. The insatiable man had convinced you to stay in bed until noon. You typically never did such a thing.

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” he said, and you realized it was the first real sentence he had uttered all morning beside the mantra of “You’re so fucking sexy,” that he’d said a few times while buried deep inside of you.

“Do what?”

“Convince yourself to pull away from me. It doesn’t have to be that way…”

“I… what… that’s not what I was thinking.” But it was a feeble lie.

“Please. Your thoughts are so loud I can practically hear them. You’re telling yourself to be reasonable, to stop doing what feels good, and to start doing what’s right. Right?”

“…. Right.” You looked away from him. How had he grown to know you so well without you even realizing it?

He sat up in the bed and wrapped his arms around you, easily pulling you into his lap. “Y/N, I will resign from the team before I give up what we’ve found. This…” he motioned between your chests, between your fast-beating hearts, “I never thought I’d get to have something like this in a million years. It’s so special to me, incredibly delicate, and I’ll be damned if I let some stupid bureaucracy force me to let it go.”

“I can’t be the woman that forced Steve Rogers to stop being Captain America.”

“You wouldn’t be forcing me. It would be my choice.”

“No.” You climbed out of his lap and stood from the bed. As you walked to your dresser to grab some underwear, you continued, “I won’t accept that option. I’m open to exploring others, but I assure you that I will never be happy in a relationship where I’ve caused you to give up something so significant.”

As you slipped into your panties, you watched him glance at the clock. “Okay,” he said, “it’s only halfway through Saturday. We have the rest of the weekend to come up with a better solution… What do you say we spend it together, doing whatever the hell we feel like, and maybe brainstorming options as we go?”

You kept him in suspense long enough to pull a baggy T-shirt over your head. “Fine… but you’re buying me pizza, Steven Grant.”

He lunged from the bed, snatching you up swiftly and throwing you over his shoulder fireman-style. As he tickled the backs of your bare thighs, you let out humorous squeals. “Now, don’t go using that professor tone on me, or we’ll definitely be spending the whole weekend in that bed,” he warned you playfully.

You finally wiggled and squirmed enough for him to carefully let you go. As you slid down the length of his body, your arms hooked behind his neck and you used all your strength to pull him in for a fierce kiss.

“You make it impossible, you know,” you mumbled against the softness of his mouth.

“Make what impossible?”

“To pull away from you. How can I when you’re everything I could possibly want?”

He placed a sweet kiss to the tip of your nose and then another to your forehead. “I’m not the only one making things impossible.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, you make it impossible for me not to love you.”

You glanced up, but his eyes were closed. He’d been nervous to say it, clearly. He was afraid you’d laugh in his face.

“I love you too, Steve,” you whispered, and you were rewarded with those sky-blue eyes opening wide and looking down at you so fondly.

 

 

 

 

He ordered four pizzas, and at first you’d made a big show of judging him for it, but snacking on pizza leftovers anytime you pleased for the rest of the weekend ended up being rather nice. It was Sunday morning now, and you were eating a thin crust slice still cold for breakfast. His head was resting in your lap as you sat on the couch watching your go-to show. You almost had him caught up to the final season.

After you’d finished munching on your slice, Steve sat up suddenly and pulled your arm to get you off the couch. “Where are you taking me?” you complained.

“Shower?” he said as more of an invitation than a demand.

“Will there actually be cleaning involved? Because my hair desperately needs it.”

He sighed, as if you had asked something so burdensome of him. “I promise there will be actual cleaning… among other activities.”

You smirked knowingly and gave his ass a swat before leading the way to the bathroom. It didn’t take long to return to a state of nakedness considering you’d both spent the weekend in only your underwear. As you stepped under to warming spray and Steve soon joined you, your foreheads pressed together beneath the torrent, that anxious dread clenched your heart once again. You’d said ‘I love you’ now. How could you possibly back-track from this if you and Steve couldn’t find a way to save both of your careers? How could you navigate this properly without a decimating heartbreak?

“What are we gonna do, Steve?” You were glad for the water pouring down your face because it kept him from realizing that you’d started to cry.

“We’ll think of something. I promise, baby. And if we can’t, I’ll talk to Tony, and I know his big brain will work something out.”

“I hope you’re right,” was all you could muster.

Chapter Text

“Is there anything that can be done about it?” Steve was trying to keep the desperation out of his voice, but he was sure Tony could see right through him. Steve was desperate. He needed to be able to come to Y/N very soon with a solution to their little problem. Tony was his best hope.

“I’m assuming you don’t want to quit the team?”

“I told her I would if it came to that, but she refused to be with me at such a high cost.”

“Smart woman.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’d obviously regret it and be resentful within a month. She knows you well enough to see that that isn’t a feasible option.”

Typically, this sort of remark from Tony would have gotten on Steve’s nerves, but now he could only sit there in the man’s office, unable to suppress his dopey grin as his mind lingered on the thought that Y/N really did know him better than he knew himself.

Tony made a noise of disgust. “Ugh, look at you, you’re fucking smitten.”

“Yeah… I suppose I am.”

“So once again, you’ve made a mess, and it’s up to me to set it straight or else the integrity of the team is at risk…” The words were of a scolding nature, but Steve could hear hints of endearment in Tony’s voice. They’d been friends for a long while now, after all. Despite their monumental fights, they were appreciative of each other’s quirks and personality.

“I’ll have something concrete by lunchtime,” Tony said simply.

Steve’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Just like that? You’ll have all my problems solved by lunchtime?”

“I mean, I’ll have to ask Pepper for some advice first, but we should be able to work something out within a few hours, yeah.”

Steve couldn’t stop himself from pulling Tony up into a bone-crushing hug. “Thank you so much.”

“Yeah, yeah. You can stop trying to kill me now, Capsicle.”

 

 

 

 

When Tony and Pepper approached his table in the compound cafeteria, the man slapped a few papers down on the table in front of Steve.

“What’s this?”

“A contract,” Pepper answered as she sat down in the chair across from him. Tony joined her and pushed the papers closer to Steve, gesturing for him to examine them.

“It’s a way for you to sign away your right to present to the ethics board,” explained Tony.

“How would that work? Isn’t it part of my job as captain to present things to the board? Isn’t that exactly what you told me all those months ago when I was begging you to get me out of doing it?”

“I mean, yeah… But this contract would still allow you to be captain, but any changes that needed to be made to the team would have to be presented by anyone other than yourself so that Y/N will not be biased to vote in your favor. It also stipulates that you’re not allowed to discuss board presentations with her at all.”

“And you think the board members will accept that?”

“I suppose we’ll find out. I’m going to present it to them in an hour.”

Steve nearly choked on the mashed potatoes he’d been slowly spooning into his mouth for the duration of this meeting. “What?! You can’t just present that without me talking with her about it first!”

Tony glanced at his watch. “Then you better go talk with her, Cap. Time’s running low.”

 

 

 

 

“I dunno, Steve. That’s a huge risk. If they vote to deny it, then we’ve already revealed our relationship, and it won’t leave us with any other options.”

She was sitting in her office chair. He kneeled before her and held on to her shaking hands. “Listen to me, baby. If they vote no, I quit. End of story. We take the risk, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be the one to accept the consequences. You won’t be to blame, and I won’t be resentful, I swear it to you.”

The trembling in her hands didn’t cease. “How can you be so willing to give everything up just like that?”

“Because I wouldn’t be giving up everything. I would be giving up one thing for something even better.”

She leaned down and kissed him soundly. Steve could tell as he pressed up against her that the shaking had finally disappeared at his reassurance. They would let Tony present the contract, and then they would hope for the best.

 

 

 

 

“I told you Tony would save the day,” Steve said as he kneeled in front of her once more. This time, she was perched on the edge of her bed, and Steve was slowly pulling the cashmere dress socks from her feet.

“I still can’t believe the board said yes.”

He removed her slacks and pressed lingering, open-mouthed kisses up her legs. “Well, you better believe it, baby. You’re all mine, and there’s nothing unethical about it any longer.”

“I dunno,” she said with a coy smile, “I can think of a few immoral things for us to get up to.”

Steve climbed onto the bed and pulled her on top of him. “I like the way you think.”

He leaned up a bit to reach around and unhook her bra, but at the same time, she had moved to reach behind her and unhook it herself. This resulted in an accidental elbow right to Steve’s nose.

“Oh, fuck,” he said as he placed a delicate finger to the bridge that was already sore. He was a super-soldier, sure, but that didn’t mean he was incapable of feeling pain. It just meant the pain would disappear faster.

“Shit, I’m sorry Steve.” She looked down at him so worriedly, and Steve couldn’t help it, he burst into a fit of laughter.

She rolled off him, and that’s when her own laughter erupted. They lay there together for a solid ten minutes, completely incapacitated by their tear-drawing belly laughs.

As she worked to catch her breath, Steve watched silently while she lifted her finger and brushed it along the line of his nose.

“It’s better already,” he whispered.

“Really?”

“Really. I love you, Y/N.” And then he was diving in again. Ready for another attempt at the immoral things with, hopefully, fewer injuries.

Chapter Text

“Wow, Steve. You really pull out all the stops for a first official date,” you said sarcastically, but there was a happy look on your face. He’d taken you to the coffee shop, the one you’d spent hours arguing with him in. He handed you your drink order as he joined you on your favorite couch.

“Well, when your girlfriend’s a caffeine addict, you’ve gotta take her somewhere real nice like a coffee shop.”

You pulled his muscular arm around your shoulder, leaning into him and planting a sweet kiss to his left cheek. “So thoughtful of you, darling.”

“Anything for you, baby,” he returned with a smirk.

“How’d the mission go yesterday?”

“It was simple. An easy success.”

“That’s good. I do worry about you when you’re away.”

“You shouldn’t. I’m always careful.”

You gave him a look of disbelief. “Steve, we both know that’s a complete lie. You dive headfirst into danger without a second thought.”

He looked a bit sheepish, like he wanted to refute your claim but couldn’t conjure any valid counter-argument.

“I did get word of a presentation for the board that Buck’s planning,” he said in an effort to change the subject, but you slapped your hands over your ears and shook your head.

“We can’t talk about Ethics Board stuff! Remember!?” you hissed at him.

“Right, right.” You knew that when Steve signed that contract, he hadn’t had full intentions of never talking about your work. But you were a strict rule follower when it came to your job, and you wouldn’t be taking any chances of messing up this perfect solution.

He fell silent beside you, and you each sipped on cups of coffee as you tried to land on a new subject of discussion. A woman entered the shop with a baby carrier hooked on one arm and the small hand of a toddler held safely at her other side. As she ordered something to surely keep her up for the day after a sleepless night, the baby startled and began to cry out shrilly. You cringed as it clawed at your ears.

“Did you ever want kids?” Steve asked you quietly as you both watched the scene.

“I’m not sure.”

“Because of your abortion?” he wondered. It was a bit blunt, and you were sure Steve didn’t mean anything offensive by saying it that way, but you knew this was another one of those moments that you would have to make him understand something he had probably never imagined.

“Not at all. Plenty of women have abortions early in life and then go on to have a full family of children later on. I didn’t have my abortion because I didn’t like children. You know that, Steve.”

He looked at you intently, and you could tell he was sensing your defensiveness. “Hey, I’m sorry for how that came out. We don’t have to talk about it here if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s okay…. I just need you to understand that I’m not incapable of that sort of life simply because of something that happened in my past.”

He nodded his head. “I understand… do you mind if I ask though, what makes you unsure about having a kid if it’s not the abortion?”

You gave him a small smile. “It all depends on the person, I suppose. I certainly wouldn’t want to go into such a commitment with someone who wasn’t supportive one hundred percent. And there would have to be love and trust. But I think…” And then you stopped yourself because really this was some intense line of conversation for a first date.

“You think what?”

“I shouldn’t say, Steve.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too soon for such serious discussions.”

“Y/N, we’ve had far more serious discussions than this. Just because this is our first official date doesn’t mean we have to pretend we hardly know each other.”

He kissed the top of your forehead, right at your hairline. You took in a deep breath, gathering your courage.

“I think… that it would be pretty amazing to be a parent alongside someone like you.”

The way his face lit up… it was everything. You knew if you ever decided you wanted a child, there wouldn’t be any objections from Steve.

“Really?” he asked, just to make sure he hadn’t misheard you.

“Really… but let’s wait until at least the second date to start picking out baby names, yeah?”

Your joke worked to lighten the mood. He let out a delightful laugh, and your ears happily soaked in the deep chuckles.

When you finished the final drop of dark roast in your cup, Steve beckoned you to follow him out of the shop. “Come on,” he insisted, “we’ve still got one more stop on this date.”

He led you to his bike parked outside, and the two of you hopped on for a twenty-minute ride through the streets of New York until you arrived at a trolley station. When he shut off the engine of the motorcycle, you let out an incredulous laugh.

“Now, I’m hoping we won’t have to make any life or death decisions on this trolley ride,” he told you as he held out his hand once more to help you off the bike, “but I figured that if we did, there’s no better person to have by my side than a professor in ethics.”

“You’re such a cheeky bastard, Steve Rogers,” you informed him as you playfully slapped his chest.

He played innocent. “I have no idea what you mean.”

There wasn’t a lot of empty seats on the trolley, so Steve sat down and pulled you onto his lap. The car filled with the excited chatter of tourists as they pointed at various interesting sights out the windows. You barely spared a glance out the window, though. There was nothing you cared to see more than Steve’s handsome face. You imagined he might feel the same as he hadn’t taken his eyes off you since you sat down atop his thick thighs. His large hand was rubbing loving patterns across your left knee, and you couldn’t remember a more perfect first date. A feeling of complete content encompassed you. Steve Rogers was definitely good for your overall state of being. You thought you might keep him around for quite some time.