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History Lessons, Part One

Well, here's my secret santa/gift exchange fic!

Title: History Lessons
Gift fic for: often_adamanta
Author: Memory Dragon
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: PTSD, off-screen torture, minor depression, some spoilers for Classic Doctor Who, the Battle of Thermopylae, Babylon 5, and other various shows and movies that constitute as Steve's education.
A/N: This fic was written for the gift exchange/secret santa on the cap_ironman com.  Original can be found here.  I tried to be as spoiler-free as I could, but sometimes that wasn't possible due to clarity. I'm pretty sure you don't have to be familiar with the fandoms to understand, however. Also, a standard disclaimer: The opinions of the characters do not necessarily reflect my own, and on most accounts, I tried to give multiple view points based on what I thought their characters would like. Except for Adric. I'm sorry, Adric fans, but everyone else really does hate him. I'm fairly sure no one will notice my intense loathing of the movie 300 though, which I consider an accomplishment.

Also, a note on the UST. You said you wanted them to fall in love slowly... Well, see the UST over there? Yup, that's a snail going ten times faster. In 33k, I'm not sure if this really even made it to pre-slash. Hopefully you won't mind too much.
Thanks: Many, many thanks to my betas.  Nar stayed up till 8 am to finish her second read-through, for which I am eternally grateful. You're crazy with your all-nighters, but I love you all the same.  Thanks to muccamukk for looking it over again to make sure the references would be understandable even to those who don't know the source material.  I was going to do further edits on your suggestions after the holidays when I had more time, but the prompter liked those bits so I tried to just make them smoother.  Still, many thanks for taking the time to look over it for me! And finally, thanks to Cy for looking over my edits to make sure I wasn't going overkill with the Howard bits. 
Original Prompt: Tony catching Steve up on the television he missed
Things you'd like to see: falling in love slowly, steve surprising people with his knowledge of movie/television, the team teasing them about "date night"
Things you don't want: steve being homophobic or extremely naive

Word Count Over 33k. Sorry. I apparently couldn't write a simple trope prompt without making things complicated.
Summary: Steve hates modern television shows and history. Tony is determined to remedy both of those, provided they can survive each other.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

History - from Greek ἱστορία (historia), meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation"

Television – from Greek τῆλε (tēle), meaning “at a distance, far off, far away, far from” + Latin visum, “seeing”

Steve Rogers stared down at his broken tablet, wishing it would turn on again if he just stared at it long enough. It wasn't that he didn't know how to use it - Steve was fairly proficient at most technology now that he'd given in and started lessons. He'd even taken apart a computer and put it back together under the watchful eye of a SHIELD agent. He just didn't like using it.

And since he didn't like the technology in the first place, it tended to be the first thing to get thrown against the wall when he got frustrated.

Steve sighed, pushing the tablet aside and closing his eyes. The history he'd been reading had caused him to throw the tablet. History Director Nick Fury was starting to insist he read. Which, fine, he liked reading well enough, but to say the fifties and sixties were giving him trouble was an understatement.

How could people talk so casually about the assassination of a President? He'd heard people joke about President Kennedy before and now... He couldn't understand how people allowed blacklisting and Communism as an excuse to start a witch hunt, either. Don't get him started on Vietnam. What had happened to America while he'd been sleeping?

Steve pushed those thoughts aside and looked down at the tablet again with dread. It wouldn't charge or turn on, though it didn't look to be physically damaged. It just didn't work. Mentally, he ran through his options. Clint and Natasha were busy at SHIELD, due to Agent Coulson not being as dead as they were lead to believe. Thor was just as bad with breaking tech as Steve was, and he was with Jane at the moment anyway. And Bruce...

"Is it fixable?" Steve asked Bruce some time later, since Director Fury expected a report by the end of the week. The Director had realized Steve ignored the history files on the tablet without some sort of incentive to read it, and no matter how much Steve wanted to buck the order and drag his feet some more, he was honest enough with himself to know it wasn't a bad order. That didn't mean he liked it.

Bruce turned the tablet over in his hands, then shook his head and glancing over at the temperature of one of his experiments. "Sorry," he said. "Something probably got jarred when you dropped it-" and, no, Steve didn't feel bad at all for that little white lie "-but I wouldn't know where to start on fixing it. That's more Tony's area of expertise."

Steve's heart sank as Bruce continued. "I'm pretty sure he's down in the lab right now if you want to go ask him."

"Mr. Stark is probably busy," Steve replied, taking the tablet back from Bruce. Explaining to Director Fury why he needed a new tablet would be easier than asking Tony Stark a favor.

Bruce winced, pulling his attention away from the lab to give Steve his full attention. He was obviously reading far more between the lines than Steve had intended to let slip. "You guys still aren't on first name basis?"

Steve didn't look down, but he didn't exactly meet Bruce's eyes either. Bruce sighed. "People are going to notice that."

"Is that a problem?" Steve asked, already knowing what answer Director Fury would give.

"Yes and no," Bruce replied with a shrug. "You've both proven you can work together, in battle and with clean up, but you remember how the press pounced on Natasha's unease around me?"

Bruce's eyes darkened to an almost green color, and Steve was reminded of yet another reason he hated this time period. "You know she doesn't feel that way anymore," Steve said, slipping into a gentler version of his Captain America voice, the kind he used to reassure people while on the job. Absently, he wondered when he'd lost the ability to reassure one of his team mates as Steve Rogers.

Bruce smiled, though the anger remained hidden behind his dark eyes. "I'm aware of that, Steve. We had a few talks when the media started blowing things out of proportion. It's them I'm angry at, not her."

That was a relief. Steve knew far too well how important trust was on a team like this, and Peggy would have had a real row with him if he'd let such a mistrust linger. He wasn't sure he could put up with even the mental image of her disapproval. Which was exactly what she would have given him for the whole Stark situation, but fixing his own problems was much different from fixing someone else's.

"Why don't you try talking to him?" Bruce suggested after short pause. "I know he's a bit difficult at times, but... you were one of the first people to trust me when we first met. Tony was one of the first people to trust the other guy. That means a lot to me, and I'd like both of my friends to get along, if possible." Bruce fiddled with his glasses, cleaning them for an excuse to look down. "It's not something I've had a lot of experience with, so I may not be the best person to go to for advice on this. But you just have to realize that his heart really is in the right place."

He could almost hear both Peggy and Bucky calling him out on his cowardice for not attempting to talk with Stark sooner. Even his mental attempts to argue that he wasn't being a coward fell short. He hated it when they were sensible. It meant Bruce was probably right, and Steve should do something about the situation.

"I know he's a good..." Steve said, wincing at Bruce's raised eyebrow. He added, "Now I do, really. I just..." He and Stark had apologized after the battle. But while Loki's staff had made them say those things, that didn't mean neither of them hadn't been thinking those thoughts originally. The intent was still there.

Besides, it was still... It still hurt a little too much, seeing Stark. He was too much like his father in all the wrong ways that caught Steve off guard, but also too different in all the wrong ways when Steve went looking for Howard behind those intelligent brown eyes. And he shouldn't look for Howard. Steve knew that, he did. It wasn't fair to either Stark or himself. But for some reason, Steve could stop himself from trying.

Bruce had replaced his glasses and was now looking at him expectantly, silently chiming in with Peggy. "I'll try to talk with him," Steve promised finally. He couldn't exactly say no after what Bruce had said. The team was all he had left right now; Steve couldn't intentionally cause a rift like Bruce was describing.

"Thanks," Bruce said with a small smile.

"No, it's me who should be thanking you," Steve said. "I needed to hear that."

Bruce smiled again, this time with less tension than he normally had. "I'm glad," he said, fumbling with a beaker as he returned to his experiment.

Clearly dismissed, Steve made his way down to Stark's lab. It was a decent amount of ground to cover, which gave him enough time to... not reconsider his promise, exactly, because he couldn't let Bruce down like that without at least trying. But it was long enough for him to regret making it.

He stood at the door, out of sight from the window as he debated knocking. Stark had invited them all to live in his ugly tower (and Director Fury had strongly encouraged then flat out ordered Steve accept the offer. Yet another order Steve wanted to ignore but knew he shouldn't, but in the end, his apartment and the Tower were just a place to live, and there wasn't much difference between the two, not to Steve), but he hadn't seen much of Stark in the past few weeks. The others did, but after the first few days or so, Steve only caught glimpses of the other man. Probably due in no small part to how awkward those days had been between them.

Come on, Rogers. Nazis weren't this hard to fight. Facing the son of one of your few friends shouldn't scare you this much. How do you expect to be able to ask Peggy to mar-

Steve closed his eyes, wishing he hadn't thought that. The pain that accompanied it once he realized it was never going to happen nearly overwhelmed him. The tablet and his promise to Bruce could wait, at least until he'd calmed down or-

"Are you going to go in, Captain, or are you just going to keep standing there?"

"Ms. Potts!" Steve started, automatically cataloging the number of ways he could have been killed for being caught so off guard before he remembered he wasn't in a war zone anymore and didn't need to be on high alert.

Ms. Potts's expression softened when she saw his face. "Are you alright?"

Steve took a deep breath, pushing all thoughts of Peggy aside for now. "I'm fine, Ma'am. Thank you," he said nervously, making sure not to stutter. It helped that Ms. Potts wasn't eying him like a well cooked steak like a lot of women have since the serum changed him. Between her and Natasha, Steve felt like he was getting regular practice with the whole 'talking to beautiful women' situation. It was one of the few things he was making headway with.

He held up the tablet in explanation. "I was going to ask Mr. Stark if he could fix it."

"His bark is worse than his bite," Ms. Potts said, not looking convinced, but willing to let it pass. Thank God for small mercies. "I could take it in for you though, if you'd rather not deal with him right now. Tony was in a bit of a mood last time I checked on him."

That was an easy out, and Steve was half-tempted to take it, keeping his promise to Bruce another time. He wasn't sure he could take seeing Stark right now, another reminder of the future in his own time that he'd lost. But if he left now, leaving his excuse to talk to Stark... "Thank you, Ma'am, but I should try talking with him myself this time."

That got him a genuine smile from Ms. Potts, which made it slightly more difficult for Steve not to blush and turn into a stumbling mess, but he held on to his dignity. "Well, I'm glad one of you is finally willing to stop being stubborn. I know you and Tony haven't always gotten along, but he really is trying to make this-"

"Ms. Potts, Captain Rogers," JARVIS interrupted. "Mr. Stark has forbidden me from informing you of his condition, but seeing as you are already here, I would recommend that you both enter the workshop quickly."

"What?" Ms. Potts yelled, pushing Steve aside as she darted to the door. She quickly put in a complicated code onto a panel that hadn't been lit up before and was rushing in as soon as the door slid open. Steve followed close behind her.

The sight that greeted them nearly made his heart stop. "Tony," Ms. Potts whispered. They both ran over to the prone figure on the floor, Steve nearly skidding to a halt on his knees. He had to blink for a moment, pushing away the image of Howard that was juxtaposed over the man lying on the floor. "JARVIS, update now," Ms. Potts said in a stronger voice.

"He's breathing," Steve said in relief as his fingers reached for Stark's pulse. The skin under his fingers was burning hot, and there was an unhealthy flush on Stark's face, but the reactor was still bright and the pulse was weak, but there.

"Mr. Stark has a fever of 103.2 Fahrenheit, his breathing is uneven, and his voice was hoarse the last time he spoke. He collapsed just before you opened the door, but did not hit his head and appears to have suffered no ill consequences due to the fall."

"Damn it, I knew he was hiding something from me," Ms. Potts said, cursing under her breath. With his super-serum hearing, Steve picked up a few of them and felt his face heat. Which was an accomplishment considering Steve had been sure the Howling Commandos had long since cured him of that. Also, he was pretty sure that last one wasn't anatomically possible, but he wasn't going to tell her that. Dames were something else, these days.

"Should we take him to the hospital?" Steve asked, hoping to distract her.

"JARVIS?" Ms. Potts asked again, hand resting briefly on Stark's forehead before she brushed her fingers through his hair.

"Provided Mr. Stark gets enough rest and fluids, a hospital visit should be unnecessary," JARVIS replied. "However, given his current record of resting, he might need to in the future."

"Noted," Ms. Potts said grimly. "He'll need a guard 24/7 to make sure he doesn't try to work himself to death." She sighed, pushing back her hair as she did a quick mental assessment. Steve bit his lip to keep from interrupting her. "There's a board meeting in half an hour, and then I've got to fly out to the West Coast branch. With Natasha busy with Phil..."

Her eyes fell on Steve and he fought the urge to fidget. "Bruce is upstairs," he suggested, really hoping that she wasn't considering what he thought she was.

"Bruce gives into his puppy dog eyes too easily and gets distracted when Tony starts talking science," Ms. Potts said with a hint of a smile.

"Thor?" Steve tried again, knowing it was a lost cause.

"Off with Jane. Think of it as a crash course in Tony Stark, Captain Rogers," Ms. Potts said, sealing his fate.

Steve really hated history.

* * *

They had nearly gotten Stark to his bedroom when he woke up and started protesting hoarsely that it was undignified to be carried about by Captain America. That caused a detour to the couch while Stark attempted to argue his way back to the workshop. Key phrase being "attempt." Steve highly doubted Stark could get five paces before falling over, and his arguments with Ms. Potts tended to fade halfway through the sentence.

"Captain Rogers hasn't seen Doctor Who yet. You could start watching it here on the couch," Ms. Potts said sweetly after Stark trailed off again.

"A television show?" Steve asked. More like whined. What little he'd seen of modern television had left a lot to be desired. Dealing with both Stark and what passed for entertainment in this time was not going to be fun.

The look Ms. Potts gave him could have rivaled a bayonet for its piercing quality, and Steve had personal experience with the former from a very frightened old man on the Polish border. "Yeah, sounds great," he amended quickly.

"Have to start with the First Doctor..." Stark said, and Steve winced in sympathy at his voice. He finally stopped fighting Steve and let the comforter be wrapped snugly around him. "JARVIS, put on..."

"Starting An Unearthly Child now, Sir," JARVIS said. The screen on the wall flickered to life. Ms. Potts gestured for Steve to follow her before he could really get a good look at the screen. He heard some oddly electronic music starting up behind him as he followed her into the next room.

"Sorry," she said, gesturing towards Tony. "Bad sci-fi is about the only thing that will keep him occupied in this state."

Internally, Steve winced. How bad was bad sci-fi compared to the rest of modern television? "Understood, Ma'am," he said, thinking back to some of the chores he'd had to do once he joined the military. This would be easy, right? "Is there anything we can get for the fever?"

"I'll send Bruce down with something on my way out," Ms. Potts said before turning stern. "Before I go, there's something you need to know. Tony's not a bad patient once he's settled, but he'll try to push himself too far and too quickly. I'm pretty sure he hasn't slept since I left him yesterday, which is probably what got him in this state in the first place." Ms. Potts crossed her arms over her chest and leveled Steve with a hard expression. "That's why you're here to keep him from working. That, and make sure he eats."

"Yes, Ma'am," Steve said. He smiled a little painfully as he remembered Dum Dum throwing a sniffling Howard over his shoulder to pull him out of the workshop.

"One more thing." Ms. Potts hesitated a moment. "Tony... talks sometimes, when he's sick. I want you to understand that you are under no circumstances to repeat what he tells you, especially not to him. I don't need another paparazzi scandal on my hands on top of him being sick."

He felt his gut twist sharply at that, the thought that someone would take advantage of anyone that vulnerable and talk to the press afterward... Steve's hands curled into fists, and he had to remind himself that Ms. Potts didn't know him well enough to overcome that well-earned distrust. She was just protecting Stark. "I won't take advantage of him, I promise."

Pepper nodded, glancing at her phone and typing out a quick message before looking up again. "I guess Captain America's word is good enough that I don't need that in writing. I've got to get going. Take care of him for me, understand?"

There was a desperate concern in her eyes that Steve felt a little jealous of. There was no one left who would worry like that for him. "I will," he promised.

"Thank you," she said, touching his shoulder gently before walking out in a flurry of clicking heels.

Gathering his patience, Steve went back out to the living room to face 'bad sci-fi'. He blinked in shock when he saw the wide screen television though. Two people were sitting in a car, discussing a young girl... their student? Which wasn't very extraordinary in itself, but the movie was in black and white. Clint had assured him repeatedly that everything was in color now.

He didn't have much time to dwell on it though, because he could hear Stark muttering about a tablet to finish the schematics on. "What'd I miss?" Steve asked, hoping to distract Stark.

It worked. Stark's eyes were glazed over as he looked up, and Steve could see the effort it took to concentrate. "Cap?"

"That's right," Steve asked, a little helpless against the smile toying with his lips at the sight of Stark curled up in the over-sized comforter. It was kind of hard to remember how much of a pain Stark could be when he was about as helpless as a de-clawed kitten. It also made it easier to remember Howard. "What did I miss?" he asked again, gesturing towards the screen.

Stark blinked, then looked back at the screen. Steve took a seat on the couch beside him and wrapped Stark a little tighter in the blanket before Stark's attention left the screen again. "Barbara and Ian followed Susan home," Stark said eventually.

The information didn't mean much to Steve, but he figured he could pick up on context clues easier than getting a full explanation from Stark in this state. On the screen, the teachers were exploring a junkyard.

"It's cold," Stark said absently, unfocused eyes watching the screen.

Steve remembered being that sick as a child, more frequently than he cared to admit. The blankets were always too thin, but his mother or sometimes Bucky would... Hesitantly, Steve tugged Stark closer and wrapped his arm around his back. Steve knew that since the serum, he always ran a little warm, and even giant comforters were too thin without a hug to go along with it. "Is that better?" he asked.

Stark blinked again, his head now resting on Steve's shoulder and a slightly baffled expression on his face. "Um, yes?"

That was good enough for Steve. Apparently good enough for Stark too, who was out like a light within minutes. Steve returned his attention to the screen as an old man chided the teachers about the ridiculousness of keeping someone in a phone box.

Steve was surprised by the rate he became absorbed in the show. The time machine disguised as a phone box that was bigger on the inside, and the old man who piloted her, it drew him in before he realized it.

He was even a little annoyed when Bruce interrupted just as the cavemen kidnapped the Doctor. "JARVIS, is there a way to pause?"

The movie stopped and he heard JARVIS say, "I can resume playing whenever you wish, Captain."

"Thank you."

"What are you watching?" Bruce asked, peering over the couch.

"Ms. Potts called it bad sci-fi," Steve said, though he was secretly enjoying it now. "She said it was the only way to keep Stark occupied."

"I'd believe that," Bruce said, ruffling Stark's hair fondly. Stark mumbled something unintelligible against Steve's shoulder and cuddled closer. "You might as well call him Tony given how he's curled up on you."

That... was a point. He considered it as Bruce frowned, touching Stark's forehead. "He's really burning up," Bruce murmured, all sense of his earlier humor diminished. He sat a couple of pills on the table next to Steve and got a glass of water from the kitchen. "Have him take those the next time he wakes up, and try to get him to drink something. I'll bring down some soup in a little while."

"Are you sure you wouldn't be better at watching him?" Steve asked.

"Puppy dog eyes," Bruce said, barely hiding a smile.

They were lying, Steve realized with a start. Both of them were lying to keep him here instead of staying here themselves. That was sneaky and underhanded and... and he wouldn't have a reason to find out if Barbara and Ian ever got home if he called them on it. Darn it.

Steve quickly schooled his face into disappointment, not giving away that he'd caught on to their game. He got the feeling it wasn't about trying to get out of taking care of Stark, but... well, they both appeared to be shoving him into Stark's company, and Steve supposed it wasn't too bad so long as Stark stayed asleep.

"Have JARVIS give me a call if he gets worse," Bruce said, ruffling Stark's hair one last time before retreating.

Steve looked down at the man curled up against him. Both Bruce and Ms. Potts cared a lot for Stark... for Tony. It seemed strange that they would want Steve to be looking after him considering that they'd never really gotten along. This wasn't exactly helping Steve be friendlier towards him... Granted, it was awfully hard to hate someone who was curled up against him for warmth.

He asked JARVIS to start up the episode again, quickly becoming engrossed in the story. Bruce left a small container next to the pills at one point, but it had been sometime during the escape scene with the flaming skulls. Steve's mind made a note of Bruce moving around, marked him as non-dangerous, and decided it not worth taking his attention off the screen for.

Except soon the credits started rolling, but the next episode didn't start up. "Was that the last one?" Steve asked, feeling gypped. They had just gotten away from the cavemen only to wind up in a scary looking forest!

"That is the end of this serial, Captain," JARVIS replied. "Would you like me to start up the next one?"

"What do you mean by serial?"

"The classic episodes of Doctor Who were often organized into serials rather than seasons. The serials consist of all the episodes following one particular plot line," JARVIS explained. Which made sense, Steve supposed. He was more than familiar with the short films and radio programs that used the word, and it fit for what he'd just watched.

Tony stirred before he could ask JARVIS to start up the next one though, muttering into Steve's shoulder. "Hey," Steve said. "You up to some soup?"

Tony looked up at Steve, then at the TV screen, then back to Steve. "Cap?" he croaked out, wincing at the sound of his voice. "What are you..?"

"We're watching Doctor Who," Steve said, reaching over for the glass of water Bruce had left and handing it to Tony. He was surprised when Tony let him help hold the cup as he started shivering, but Tony still looked a little dazed. Steve pressed the pills into Tony’s hand and said, "Take these. They'll help bring down your fever."

Tony blinked at them for a moment as if he were trying to figure out how the pills got there, before he obediently swallowed the pills dry. Steve was beginning to see the amount of trust Ms. Potts had put in him for this, if Tony was this out of it when he got sick. It took some of the sting out of the promise she'd made him make. "How are you feeling?" Steve asked, pressing the back of his hand to Tony's forehead. Still burning up.

"Cold," Tony said. "And it hurts to move. My head is... I'm just going to..."

As Tony lost track of the thought, Steve pulled the lid off the container of soup and searched for the spoon he knew Bruce had put - ah, there it was. "This will warm you up," Steve said, replacing the water with the soup bowl.

Tony wrinkled his nose at the soup, pushing it back to Steve. "You're handing me things. I don't like..."

"Bruce made it," Steve said a little desperately, making a mental note to next time give Tony food while watching the show to keep him distracted.

This time, Tony accepted the soup, though he still looked at it dubiously. Seeing Tony like this when the man was usually sharper than a blade... it was a little scary seeing Tony reduced to a butter-knife. "We can start watching while you eat," Steve said. "JARVIS, what's the next serial?"

"The next serial is called The Daleks."

"I like that one," Tony said, leaning against Steve's shoulder again. "It's creepy. Probably scarier... in the sixties."

"Why would it be scarier in the sixties?" Steve asked, but Tony was hesitantly testing the soup and had lost track of the conversation. "JARVIS, do you know?"

The AI was one thing Steve really liked about the future. JARVIS never got tired of Steve's questions and was endlessly patient when he got frustrated with the time period. "I believe he is referring to the nature of the planet Skaro, Captain, which was destroyed by a neutron bomb in a war between two factions. The planet was then saturated with deadly radiation, plaguing the few survivors. While it still has a possibility of occurring on Earth, in the sixties the United States and the Soviet Union were at a nuclear stand-off. The threat of such large scale destruction was also still relatively new," JARVIS explained.

Steve processed that information, putting it together with what he'd been reading earlier. Weapons of Mass Destruction and nuclear power were things he'd read about, but he didn't think he'd realized the scope of it. A quick glance at Tony told him his teammate was still eating, and he asked JARVIS to start the serial.

Tony ate at least half of the soup before dozing against Steve's shoulder. Steve had meant to put the lid back on so that Tony could eat more later, but the serial really was disquieting and Steve discovered he was a little hungry. Fairly soon there was nothing left of the soup but a faint lining of guilt on the bottom of the bowl.

Putting the soup aside, he watched with growing suspense as the strange metallic aliens paralyzed Ian. "Could have been us, ya know," Tony said.

"What?" Steve asked, starting. Thankfully, he didn't knock Tony off.

"The Daleks," Tony explained. "They're not that different from Germany or other dictators. If they'd had nuclear weapons back then, that could have been our future."

The serial was suddenly a lot more terrifying.

* * *

Tony slept through most of The Daleks, and right through two episodes that were more confusing than Steve could follow. He checked on Tony, whose fever seemed to finally be going down. Bruce brought more soup and medicine, along with dinner for Steve which was demolished without waking the man sleeping against his shoulder.

"Would you start the next serial please, JARVIS?" Steve asked finally.

"I'm afraid there is a small problem with the next serial, Captain," JARVIS said.

Steve felt disappointment wash over him. "Is there something wrong with it?"

"Not wrong, necessarily," JARVIS said. "But the original film of many of the early Doctor Who episodes were lost when the BBC purged their old files. Only the audio portions remain."

"Only the sound?" Steve asked, not entirely sure what that meant. How had the video been lost but the sound survived? Weren't they together?

"Indeed, Captain Rogers. You have a few options available if you wish to view these serials, however. Mr. Stark has reconstructions of the episodes using the audio and still pictures, along with audio-only versions with bridging narration."

"The audio-only version, that'd be like listening to the radio, right?" Steve asked.

"That is correct," JARVIS confirmed. "Would you like to continue with Marco Polo in one of those formats, or watch the next complete serial?"

"Could you play the audio-only version please?"

With Tony curled up against his side, a warm reminder that Steve wasn't alone on his floor with nothing but a punching bag for company, Steve settled in to listen to the next serial.

* * *

Tony slept through several serials, and Steve was getting a bit twitchy. Bruce had offered to sit with Tony for a while, but Steve was really enjoying Doctor Who, and he didn't want to jostle Tony awake. But this long without any sort of physical activity was starting to get to him.

Bruce had brought down Steve's sketchbook before he'd gone to bed, at least. Steve knew he should get some sleep himself, but he started drawing Barbara and Ian in The Reign of Terror. Sleep always made Steve feel cold, and he wasn't quite worn out enough yet. That's what he got for sitting on the couch all day, he supposed.

He didn't realize Tony was awake until Tony's fingers brushed against Barbara's face. "These are really good," Tony said, looking much more lucid than he had before.

"Thanks," Steve replied, a small coil of pleasure wrapping around him as he remembered similar words from Howard. It wasn't often other people commented on his work, especially now that everyone he was close enough to share his artwork with were dead. Steve winced at the thought, pushing it away. This was why he usually spent a lot more time exhausting his body before it got this late. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," Tony said, though he didn't move out of his comforter-cocoon, or away from Steve. "I always wanted the Doctor to find me when I was little, so I could travel with him as one of his companions."

"Really?" Steve asked, smiling at the mental image of a small Tony trying to take apart and reverse-engineer the TARDIS (which was what Steve knew would happen, even if he couldn't tell if it was his knowledge of Howard or of Tony that fueled it). He wondered if he could find a picture of Tony as a kid and draw the scene. He'd have to ask Natasha. She had the best blackmail.

"Yeah, the Doctor's companions were always special," Tony replied, eyes shifting from Steve's drawing to the screen as Leon betrayed Ian. Steve bit down a smug smirk when it was revealed the French traitor was a bad guy. He hadn't liked Leon due to his flirting with Barbara. She and Ian were a much better couple, especially now with Leon out of the way.

Tony continued on, pulling the comforter tighter around him. "I always thought that the Doctor would see how smart I was. I'd have been much cooler than Adric. Everyone hates Adric."

"Who's Adric?" Steve asked, but Tony kept talking over him.

"Then the Doctor would teach me how to fly the TARDIS, and he'd tell Dad about how smart I was. And Dad would have had to believe him, because he was the Doctor," Tony said, the words slowly breaking Steve's heart with how carelessly they were tossed out. It was like Tony wasn't even aware he was saying them.

He was starting to see why five different people had warned him not to mention Howard to Tony. "I'm sure Howard knew-"

"He never showed it," Tony said, his body tense against Steve's. "He talked about you all the time. How proud he was to be your friend and how he was still looking... Me, he just showed the back of his hand and kicked me out of the house if I was in his line of sight for too long. If I was lucky, he just ignored me. Though I kinda hated it when he did that."

Steve suddenly felt like his asthma was back full-force, even though all he'd done was sit there for the past several hours. Howard did all of that? "I'm sorry," Steve choked out, not sure if he was apologizing for Howard, Steve's absence, or the fact that he just couldn't imagine Howard doing that to anyone, much less his own kid. Part of him wanted to be furious and defend Howard, but Tony was practically trembling with tension. Curled up against Steve as he was, Steve could feel every shake. Not to mention Tony was still so sick, too sick to handle that sort of argument.

Steve forced himself to take a deep breath then sighed internally, wondering if that was why Tony had brought up the subject now, when he knew Steve wouldn't fight back.

"I don't think Dad would have listened to the Doctor anyway," Tony continued, completely oblivious to Steve. "I saw a video a while back that Dad made and... I don't know what to think anymore. Sometimes I wish I could go back to just hating him." The tension drained out of Tony as he relaxed against Steve. He wished he could do the same, but Steve was still reeling with the information about Howard. He couldn't even think of anything to say to Tony after that but more meaningless platitudes.

"Everyone wants me to be Dad," Tony said sometime later as Robespierre was lead away clutching his shattered jaw. "Even you. I always liked to think the Doctor would see me."

Steve couldn't even deny it, because it was true. It felt like Tony had just gutted him with a few simple words, and Steve was still trying to wrap his mind around it. When the episode was over, Tony started to navigate the comforter like he was trying to get up. "Mr. Sta... Tony..."

"I'm fine now," Tony said, pushing off Steve's shoulder. "I need to finish the designs for your new armor and Clint's bow. Plus that fail safe on the reactor that I promised Pepper. I should..."

"He'll try to push himself too far and too quickly," he heard Pepper tell him, and Steve had to find his voice again fast. "Why don't we watch another serial?" Steve managed, his voice sounding rough to his own ears. "What's the next one, JARVIS?"

"That would be Planet of Giants, Captain," JARVIS chimed in.

Tony stopped fighting the comforter to snort. "That one was the Master's fault. Had to be. He's testing the T.C.E. on the Doctor."

"Who's the Master?" Steve coaxed, relieved to hear the now familiar theme song starting up as JARVIS didn't wait for the command to start. At least JARVIS was on his side for this.

"Not technically a character yet, but it's still his fault," Tony said, letting Steve fuss with the comforter around him as his attention was diverted to the screen. "But him and the Brigadier are my favorites. They had the best facial hair. Sarah Jane was also aweso- Why're you laughing?"

"Only you would pick a favorite character because of his facial hair, Tony," Steve said, after he'd gotten his breath back. And he decidedly didn't think of Howard's mustache and why Tony would like characters who... No, he couldn't... Steve couldn't think about how one of his friends had neglected and possibly abused a child, not right now. His laughter had been slightly too hysterical as it was.

"Only me?" Tony asked, turning his attention from the screen to Steve with a lucidness that Steve hadn't seen since before they'd found Tony on the workshop floor.

Steve sobered at that, his breath caught in his throat again. "Only you," he said, reaching out in an aborted movement to touch Tony's shoulder and wishing this was enough to make up for his past treatment of the man. Except something this simple couldn't even come close.

Tony smiled at him, open and honest in a way that Steve still didn't know how to deal with. It just made Steve feel worse. "Good," Tony said, turning back to watch the show.

He was asleep again within minutes.

This time when the serial ended, Steve got off the couch and headed to the bathroom. He splashed water on his face, looked at the time, then went to the kitchen, avoiding his eyes in the mirror. "JARVIS?" he asked.

"How may I help you, Captain?"

"Can you tell if Ms. Potts is still awake?"

JARVIS was silent for a long moment, then he responded with, "She has answered affirmatively to my inquiry. Would you like me to call her?"

"Yes, please. Can you direct the call to my phone?" Steve said, resting his head against the wall. He pulled the phone SHIELD issued him out of his pocket to find it already ringing.

"Is Tony alright?" Ms. Potts asked immediately, not even letting Steve say hello.

"He's... he's fine," Steve said, trying to clear the exhaustion from his voice. "He's sleeping right now."

There was a brief pause, and Ms. Potts' voice was softer. "Are you alright?"

"I don't think so," Steve said, sliding down to the floor and rubbing his eyes. And wasn't it telling that the only person he could think of to call right now was one of Tony's friends? He didn't have anyone else to turn to. Steve missed Bucky, with a dull ache that sharpened to the point of searing pain.

Ms. Potts was silent on the end of the line, waiting for Steve to talk. Except she'd made him promise... Steve had to swallow the frustration in his throat before he could speak. "You said not to mention anything he said, especially not to him, but I can't..."

"What did he say?" Ms. Potts asked sharply.

That was enough of a permission for Steve. "He... talked about Howard."

Phones nowadays were really pretty swell, because he could hear Pepper's sharp intake of breath over the line and she was halfway across the country. "Was Howard really..." Steve couldn't finish that sentence, not wanting to know the answer of it.

He heard Pepper sigh, and her response wasn't what he'd been expecting. "Captain Rogers... Do you mind if I call you Steve?"

"No, I don't mind, Ma'am."

"Good. Please call me Pepper. It's a bit ridiculous having this sort of conversation while still using last names. Look, Steve, people change, even when we're not around to see it."

"I know that," Steve said, trying not to resent the obvious platitude.

"Yes, but you never actually know it until you see it for yourself," Ms. Potts said, her voice soft. "I used to think I knew Tony pretty well before Afghanistan. But when Rhodey finally brought him back... It was only three months, but it was like I didn't know Tony any more. The masks were still the same, but the person underneath was radically different. I had to re-learn who Tony was."

Steve swallowed, leaning his head back against the wall as Ms. Potts... as Pepper spoke. What had been in Tony's file was mostly conjecture, but even the conjecture was enough to make Bruce Hulk-out when he'd been debriefed. SHIELD had made sure both Steve and Thor were on hand before they let Bruce near the file, and Steve didn't blame him. Most of the Avengers' files were things Steve never wanted to see happen to anyone, ever again.

Steve's mind flickered back to Bucky, no matter how much he couldn't handle the image of Bucky right now. Torture was never an acceptable response.

"For a while, I let Tony fool me," Pepper continued. "Because I wanted to be fooled. I wanted the old Tony back, and I was angry at the new one for taking his place."

"That's not fair to Tony," Steve said, closing his eyes against the weariness that threatened to overwhelm him.

"No, it really wasn't," Pepper agreed. "I couldn't take the next step in our relationship until I'd accepted the changes, and by that point he'd nearly died because of the palladium poisoning."

"So you two are-" Steve started, then backpedaled furiously. "I'm sorry. That's none of my business." Just because no one would give him a straight answer (not even the tabloids, though Steve did not read those. Not even for curiosity. Except that once) on that, and 'he'd been wondering' was no reason to be that rude to someone trying to help him.

Pepper laughed, which was a nice sound. Steve wondered when the last time he'd made someone else laugh like that had been. He didn't like the answer he came up with. "It's alright, Steve. And it's a bit more complicated than that. We're on and off again, and... I'm pretty sure we're off again right now, actually."

Steve had no idea how people could stay in a relationship like that. He didn't suppose getting along with Tony was an easy thing even for Pepper. "I see," he said, though he didn't really.

"You know what I found out though?" Pepper asked, picking up the earlier conversation. "That it's okay to love both of them. The memories of the old Tony, and the Tony who is here now, both of them are important to me. Howard Stark changed while you weren't here, Steve, but that didn't make him any less your friend back then."

It wasn't the same, not really. Pepper still loved both versions of Tony Stark. But this version of Howard... What she said made sense, however, no matter how much it stung. "Does it ever get easier?" he asked, because he still felt too off-balance.

"With time," Pepper said, sorrow filling her voice. "But that's never what anyone wants to hear."

Steve had already lost so much time. Hearing that he needed more of it was just depressing. "I don't know if I should be around Tony," he admitted. "He said everyone wanted him to be like Howard. And that I was like that too."

"Do you want him to be like Howard?"

"Yes." Steve pulled his head off the wall, only to strike it back sharply. Not enough to hurt, but it kept his mind off the sick feeling in his stomach. "I've tried not to. It's not right to keep wanting to see... But I can't stop. I just can't..."

"That's not going to get better by avoiding him," Pepper said, without any of the judgement he'd expected in her voice. "The only way that will change is by learning to like Tony for himself."

"Why is everyone so damned reasonable?" Steve complained, getting another laugh out of her.

"Because we're on the outside of the drama looking in," she said, and that made him smile weakly. "It'll get easier with time, I promise. But if you need a break to process some of this, I can call Bruce to take up Tony-watching."

"What about his weakness for puppy dog eyes?" Steve asked innocently.

Another laugh, this time slightly guilty. "So you caught us out. We were hoping you'd find it easier to deal with him when he's not up to verbal sparring. I didn't expect him to start talking about Howard. If you need to get away from him for a bit, we'd understand."

"Thank you," Steve said, considering. "I think... I'd like to keep trying though. Besides, I've actually enjoyed watching Doctor Who."

"I've created another Whovian," Pepper said. He could hear a mixture of amusement and exasperation in her voice. "Clint will never forgive me."

"Ms. Potts-"

"Call me Pepper, Steve," she reminded him warmly.

"Pepper," Steve said, testing the name. "Thank you for talking to me. I must be keeping you from work."

"Thank you for looking after him," Pepper countered. "And thanks for trying. Not many people do, you know. Before the Avengers, he only had me and Rhodey."

He has more than me, Steve wanted to say, but he held back. He bid her goodnight and gave himself ten minutes of sitting in the kitchen before going out to check on Tony.

The den was just as he left it, but Tony was shivering again. Had things gotten worse when he'd left? "JARVIS, can you give me an update on his temperature?"

"Mr. Stark has a temperature of 101.9, Captain. He appears to be recovering at an expected rate."

That was a relief. At least he wasn't messing this up any more than he already had. Sitting down on the couch, Steve pulled Tony into a hug and settled down to watch the next serial.

* * *

Steve didn't remember falling asleep, but he woke up to see a pair of brown eyes staring down at him with honest confusion in them. "Feeling better?" Steve asked, stretching out the kinks in his body. At least the pain in his neck would be temporary, but oh, he should never have slept like that.

He raised an eyebrow as he felt Tony's finger poking his bicep. "You're actually here," Tony said, slightly baffled.

Steve snorted, brushing aside Tony's bed head and feeling his forehead. Tony tensed for a moment, then relaxed. "I think your fever is finally gone," Steve said. "And what did you think I was, an illusion?"

"Yes," Tony said so swiftly that Steve was reminded of Pepper's words from last night, about Tony only having her and Col. Rhodes. At the time Steve had been stuck in self-pity, but now... He thought back to Tony's confusion at being hugged and the surprise every time he woke up to find Steve still there. At least Steve had his mother and Bucky when he'd been sick.

"Anyway, thanks Cap. It's been fun, but now that I'm better I should get back down to the workshop to-"

"Don't," Steve said, grabbing Tony's wrist as the man tried to pull away on unsteady feet.

It wasn't hard to see the anger in Tony's eyes. "I have a company to run, if that didn't escape-"

"Pepper's given you the day off," Steve cut in. "Why not come to the kitchen with me? I'll make breakfast, and we can keep watching Doctor Who. I'd like that."

"Why?" Tony asked, his voice sharp with suspicion.

Steve considered his answer before speaking, making sure to keep the pity out of his voice that Tony had to ask such a question. "Because you're still sick and could use the rest. I don't want you to make yourself worse again. Also, I've really been enjoying Doctor Who. It's a lot different from the TV shows Clint has been telling me to watch."

Tony waved that off dismissively, but he sat down again. "Clint is a philistine who watches reality shows and Lost. Absolutely no taste. Doctor Who blows those out of the water. It's classic. Fifty years old, over 800 episodes, and still going strong. Of course you like it better. I'm officially taking over your TV tutelage."

That... was a lot of Doctor Who. 800 episodes? Still, he enjoyed it so far and it'd be a good way to connect with Tony. He could do this. Maybe. Good heavens, 800 was daunting.

"That's not the whole reason though, is it, Cap." Tony's voice left no question in that statement.

"Please, call me Steve?" he countered hesitantly.

Tony looked surprised again. "...Right. So, uh, Steve. You're not getting out of that question."

Steve smiled, feeling a sudden warmth at hearing his given name. "Ms. Potts was the one who told me to watch you. I really don't want to think about what she'd do to me if I let her down."

"That's a good reason," Tony said, giving a sympathetic shudder. They both ignored the fact that they knew it wasn't the answer Tony had been looking for. "Right. JARVIS, what serial are we up to?"

And they left it at that.

* * *

"But the Doctor just died! Who's this new guy?"

"No one told you about regeneration? It's a thing. He's still the Doctor, with all the same memories, but his face and personality change to keep up the continuity. How do you think the show has kept going for fifty years? Happens all the time, whenever the actor decides to move on. It's pretty ingenious."



"I don't like the new Doctor."

"Oh, my God. Steve's first fanwank over a new Doctor! This is precious. JARVIS, are you recording this? Not even Captain America is immune. I'm so proud, I'm getting misty-eyed."

Steve didn't feel the slightest bit guilty over throwing a pillow at a sick man.

* * *

Steve found that Tony had really meant it when he said he was taking over getting Steve caught up. After Tony got better (and Steve had decided that the second Doctor wasn't that bad after all), Steve expected to fall back into his regular routine of exercise, reading, and drawing in his free time. Always by himself, unless there was a scheduled training. But now after a shift of construction work to help rebuild the city, Steve found himself being dragged off (sometimes literally) by an over-excited Iron Man.

He found out that Tony's favorite Doctor was the third, the Brigadier was his favorite character, and Sarah Jane, Leela, and Ace were his favorite companions, followed closely by Donna, Tegan, and Jack Harkness. Steve himself still didn't know most of those characters, but after they finished the second Doctor, they knocked out the new series. He liked all the Doctors so far, and Donna. Rory was definitely growing on him. He was still attached to Ian and Barbara though, and Ben and Polly were probably his favorites so far. Steve couldn't help but relate to Ben--chasing after a girl who was out of his league, but winning her over anyway.

"I really don't like Rose," he said one night as her picture was shown in the TARDIS's databanks while the Eleventh Doctor ranted at it.

"You, me, and Bruce both," Tony replied. "But don't let Natasha hear you say that. Rose was her first companion, and it's skewed her opinions. It's a sad fate."

It wasn't like they were keeping his new-found fandom secret or anything, but it'd simply never come up with the team. That is, until they were on clean-up duty in a shopping center near the tower, and one particular item caught his eye.

At first, he thought the flash of red might lead to a body. They'd found plenty of those before, and Steve steeled himself to get a closer look. But when he looked closer, Steve found something else all together. He reached for the dark mahogany and dusted it off, sticking it on his head as he turned around to face the team, minus Tony who had been caught by Pepper on their way out for a meeting. With a grin, he announced, "I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool."

Natasha, Clint, and Bruce's jaws dropped open. Thor just laughed. "It is indeed a hat worthy of you, Captain."

"Oh, hell no," Clint said, regaining his voice first. "I am not living under the same roof with another Doctor Who fan. I refuse. Who started this travesty?"

"Pepper," Steve admitted.

"The traitor! We were anti-Whovian soul mates. Thor! Thor, buddy. You have to stay strong on this. It's only you and me against the rest of them now," Clint lamented. Thor just laughed, patting Clint on the back hard enough to make him stumble.

"I approve," Bruce said, smiling shyly. "Eleven is my favorite Doctor, but I've only really seen the new series. Was that what you were watching when Tony was sick?"

"Yeah," Steve said. "Tony apparently has all of them."

"Molto bene," Natasha said dryly, though she was secretly hiding her amusement if the slight quirk of her lips was anything to go by. "Welcome to the Whovian fandom. Now convince Stark to make a sonic screwdriver I can use on missions."

In retrospect, Steve really should have ducked when he heard the whine of repulsor blasts powering up. As it was, the fez was already blown to smithereens before he could bring his shield up. He frowned at the newly arrived Tony, feeling petulant.

"I, for the record, am completely in agreement with River and Amy on the subject of fezzes," Tony said, his faceplate up to show his smug smile. "Right, people. This rubble's not going to move itself. Allons-y, Alonzo!"

When Natasha secretly passed him and Bruce new fezzes later that day, he forgave her for being a Rose fan.

-Part Two-