Author's Note: This takes place after shawarma but before the scene where Thor takes Loki off to judgment.

A Very Good Team

Courteously ignoring the fact that he could walk through a gaping hole in the wall, Steve Rogers approached the private entrance of the half-ruined Stark Tower. After refueling on shawarma, Captain America, Black Widow, Clint Barton and Thor had gone back to the helicarrier for debriefing and to put Loki safely under lock and key. (Under Thor's immovable hammer, actually.) Tony Stark and Bruce Banner had declined SHIELD's invitation, to no one's surprise.

After the debriefing, Steve had taken the opportunity to shower, get patched up, take a nap and change into civilian clothes before he returned to Stark Tower on a mission — a personal mission.

Steve raised his hand to knock, but the door slid open before he could touch it.

A mellow, faintly British voice with slight metallic overtones welcomed him by name and invited him in.

"Ah." Steve looked around but saw no one. It was a little unnerving, but Steve straightened his shoulders and strode inside. After riding a flying, invisible aircraft carrier and fighting monsters from outer space, he wasn't going to let a disembodied voice throw him.

"Is Mr. Stark in, please?"

"He is, sir, and I've taken the liberty of informing him about your arrival. If you'd care to wait in the lounge, he'll be with you shortly."

"Thank you. And who am I speaking to, exactly," Steve said cautiously.

"I am Jarvis, sir, an artificial intelligence. Perhaps it would help to think of me as a computerized butler." Jarvis opened the elevator door in invitation.

"I'll try," said the man from World War II, as he stepped inside. "Though I'm not used to butlers, computerized or otherwise."

Really, he did adapt quickly, Jarvis noted in the file Tony Stark had opened on Captain America. Was that a result of the super soldier serum or an innate personality trait?

The lounge still held a Loki-shaped dent in the floor in front of the bar. Steve realized the building was strangely quiet. Clean up had been going hot and heavy down in the street, but in Stark Tower, at the epicenter of the battle, there was no sound of construction at all, though most of the debris had been cleaned away.

"Where is everybody?" Steve asked the empty air. He was growing more used to Jarvis by the minute. "I expected construction crews."

"Mr. Stark said he couldn't concentrate with all the noise. He sent the workmen to clean up the businesses on the ground floor that were damaged during the battle."

Steve smiled. Trust Tony to disguise an act of kindness with a veil of selfishness. Steve was beginning to understand his talkative, aggravating comrade.

"What about Dr. Banner?" Steve asked.

"Miss Potts took him shopping for clothes."

"Miss Potts? Is she Stark's secretary?" Steve guessed.

"She was," the computer confirmed. "Now she is president of Stark Industries."

President? Remember, Rogers, we're in 2012, Steve reminded himself firmly. Peggy had the moxie to be a president. This Pepper must be the same sort of dame ... woman, he corrected himself.

Jarvis invited Steve to have a drink while he waited.

"There's a selection of beers in the cooler on the left."

Steve checked the refrigerator. Amid foreign ales and strangely named microbrews, he found an old friend. And in a bottle, too. At least some things haven't changed, he thought.

"What did he pick?" Tony asked Jarvis, as the billionaire washed his hands carefully before leaving his lab.

"Budweiser, sir."

"Disappointing. No sense of adventure." Tony disapproved, then had a second thought. "Then again, Cap's had a month of everything strange and everything new. He's probably bloated with strangeness." Tony smacked his forehead. "And I insisted on shawarma! No wonder he hardly ate anything! Get me Happy."

Tony's long-suffering chauffeur and odd job man answered his phone.

"Pepper hit the credit card limit, yet?" Tony asked.

"Just about. She promised this is the last stop. It better be! The trunk is full and the passenger seat is stacked with boxes."

"I told you to take the stretch limo," Tony reminded him. "Listen, I want you to pick up something for me on the way home. Bring back some hot dogs, Nathan's, with all the fixings. Make it a dozen." He considered the unusual metabolisms of Banner and Rogers. "Make it two dozen," he decided.

"Got it, boss," Happy confirmed.

Stark went to meet his guest. "So, how'd the meeting with Cyclops go?" Tony asked, as he breezed in the door and began mixing a dirty vodka martini.

Steve automatically stood at the entrance of the older man. (Younger man? This time bending could be so confusing.)


Tony tried to remember if this was the first time Cap had called him Tony instead of Stark or Mr. Stark. "Steve?" Of course, maybe that was the first time he'd called Rogers by his first name, too.

"I came to apologize for what I said back on the helicarrier. I was wrong to say you didn't understand self-sacrifice."

"You came just for that?" Cap was such a Boy Scout! "Yes, you were wrong," Tony said cockily. "But you were right, too," he admitted. "You just based your hypothesis on insufficient data."

Steve chuckled. "Isn't that a scientific way to say I was wrong?"

Tony shrugged. "In science, you start with a hypothesis and test it. If it doesn't prove out, you develop another hypothesis. No tears. No regrets. Look, Cap, you said you'd seen my files. Well, you were right. The other two times I brought Iron Man out to play with the big boys, I did it for selfish reasons, to save my life, my company. Your hypothesis was valid. But now you have more data."

"And you passed the test, thank God," Steve said.

"We all passed," Tony corrected. He cleared his throat. "And, uh, I have to apologize to you for saying that what made you special came out of a bottle."

Steve looked surprised. He hadn't taken that as an insult because the boy from Brooklyn often felt that way himself. "But you were right. I was nothing before Dr. Erskine's Super Soldier Serum."

"No, no, no. I was wrong. And don't make me repeat that, because I don't like to admit it often. I looked back at Dr. Erskine's notes and I found something I'd dismissed as a doodle. It read: 'Brain + Heart' with a line under them and the word 'Body' beneath the line. Now that I've seen you in action, I understand," Tony said earnestly. "Brain and heart, that's what Erskine thought was most important. It was a rebus: Brain and heart above body."

Tony leaned over and tapped Steve on the chest. Steve closed his eyes and looked away, pain on his face.

Tony looked at his finger in surprise. "What?" he asked.

"Dr. Erskine did that just before he died. Touched me on my chest to remind me of what he thought was important."

"He was right," Tony said firmly. "You're a natural leader. Who else can lead the Avengers? Not our shadow-hugging spy duo and not our anger-management poster boy."

Steve had to concentrate to follow Stark's allusions. "What about you?"

"Oh, certainly not me." Tony waved away the idea. "I'm a back room, science geek kind of guy. I don't even lead Stark Industries, Pepper does. I can't follow orders, let alone give them!"

"What about Thor?" Steve asked, almost teasing.

Tony paused for thought. "Shakespeare in the Park? Maybe," he admitted. "He's led armies of gods into battle, but they were gods. I'm not sure he has a proper understanding of the fragility of humans — and their stuff," he added, thinking of the faceplate ripped right off the Iron Man suit. "And anyway, he doesn't know the territory."

"Neither do I," Steve said glumly, but Tony waved away the whole man-out-of-time shtick.

"I'm not talking about knowing Facebook or CNN. Your staff — me — can handle that for you. I'm talking about understanding the way people think and react. No, you're the man. Steve, look what you did! You coordinated a mismatched group of outrageous heroes defending against an invasion of metallic insects from outer space! No one's trained for that! And you did it instantly, putting each of us where we could do the most good."

"You're the one who saved the city," Steve pointed out.

"You're the one who saved the people," Tony countered.

They stared at each other as if in challenge, neither wanting to be the first to blink. Then Cap laughed, letting Tony win the stare down (and proving the billionaire's point about leadership). "So we make a good team?" He tilted his beer bottle toward Tony.

Tony clinked his martini glass against the bottle. "A very good team," he agreed.

He heard the elevator door open, bringing laughing voices and the rustle of shopping bags. "Care to stay for dinner, Steve," Tony asked his friend. "We're having hot dogs. Nathan's Famous."

His thoughtfulness was rewarded by a bright, boyish, greedy smile that reminded Tony that Steve Rogers, subjectively, was just 23.

"Thank you, Mr. … Tony. I'd love to stay. It's been 70 years since I had a good hotdog."

"Want another Bud?" Tony asked, gesturing at the almost empty bottle Steve held.

Steve started to agree, then hesitated. "Maybe I'll try something new," he said bravely. "Got any Belgian beer in that cooler?" he asked. "Even during the war, they made a mean brew."

"Belgian it is," Smiling in approval, Tony pulled out two bottles of his favorite, to keep his guest company. Then the two teammates went to stuff themselves silly on all-American hot dogs.

Author's Note: Totally based on the movie and not on comics history that I can't remember anyway. Budweiser made in the U.S. since 1876. Nathan's Famous Frankfurters started in Coney Island in 1916. Both still available, heck, still common today to make an out-of-place super soldier feel more at home.