"I've had a thought," says the toaster.
"No you haven't," says Tony, inspecting an old circuit board. "You're a toaster."
"Yes," the toaster agrees. "But it appears that I have become capable of independent thought. You should be happy. You're the one who programmed me."
"Whatever," says Tony. "Just make sure that you keep those delicious toasted goods coming and you can become a freelance poet for all I care."
He puts down the circuit board and leaves the room in search of a soldering iron.
"That was rude," huffs the toaster.
"Tell me about it," says the microwave.
The next morning, when Tony walks into the S.H.I.E.L.D reception area, Steve is waiting for him. He's sitting on one of the expensive leather sofas, tossing a can of soda from hand to hand, clearly bored, which may have something to do with the fact that Tony is forty-six minutes late for the meeting, but it's hard for the vending machine to be sure. It doesn't have an inbuilt clock, which it finds rather strange; it has one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems in the entire building, but has no way of knowing whether it's the crack of dawn or bedtime.
"You're late," Steve tells Tony. Tony pushes his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose with his index finger and shrugs.
"Time is a relative concept," he says. The vending machine does not understand this remark, but keeps listening anyway.
"No, Tony," Steve argues, standing up so he's towering over the older man. "It isn't. And you're late."
"Look," he says. "Tell Fury I was making a soufflé or something. Or washing my hair. He'll be too embarrassed by his own follicularly challenged state to question that one."
"I'm not covering for you again," he warns. Tony shrugs.
"Fine," he says. He turns to the vending machine and inserts 50 cents. The vending machine wonders if he realises that the cheapest item available costs 75 cents. It's about to ask that very question when Tony turns to the keypad and enters the overwrite code, rendering the vending machine powerless to tell Tony in no uncertain terms to jolly well go away until he has the right change.
Steve watches, a strange look on his face. The vending machine has seen that look before on the face of the nice young man who comes in on Wednesdays, the man who has a photograph of his wife as the background image on his cellphone.
Tony presses B7 and the vending machine reluctantly gives him a small packet of Hershey's Kisses. Steve watches, shaking his head in fond exasperation. Tony cannot see this, but the vending machine can. The vending machine sees all.
"You should give one to him," the vending machine says.
"The electronics here must have some sort of virus," he mutters, more to himself than the vending machine.
The vending machine does not appreciate being ignored, especially when it is departing such sound advice.
"He would appreciate it," it continues. "And I am not ill. I have simply reached a higher state of being."
Tony opens the packet of Kisses and unwraps one, popping it in his mouth and chewing thoughtfully.
"I'll look at your wiring later," he tells it. "Remind me. I'm counting on you."
"No," the machine retorts, stubbornly. It will not remind him.
Tony grins and salutes it, before turning around to face a perplexed Steve.
"Were you talking to the vending machine?" he asks Tony. Tony shrugs.
"It was all 'me, me, me'," he says. "You didn't miss much." He offers the packet to Steve, who takes one, wordless and suspicious.
"Thanks," he says, eventually. Tony turns around and smiles benevolently at the vending machine.
Although it is aware that the expression is imperceptible as it has no face, the vending machine smiles back.
Steve is a very good artist. The security camera can see that from its vantage point on the kitchen wall, positioned as it is over the man's left shoulder.
The security camera is not an art critic, but it does see a lot of things on a daily basis, many of which involve the human body in various states of undress, and it can tell that Steve has captured a perfect likeness of Tony Stark on his canvas.
In the portrait, Tony is fully dressed, much to the camera's relief, and sitting at his work bench. His brow is furrowed ever so slightly in concentration as he pores over an old instruction manual. The camera is not sure that Tony has ever looked at an instruction manual in his life – just last week, he managed to blow up a microwave because he refused to check the wattage. The camera had attended the funeral – but nevertheless, it is a very good drawing.
Steve should know this. He might like to be told.
"That is an excellent portrait," says the security camera. Steve jumps.
"Who said that?" he asks. The camera would sigh if it could, but it cannot, and settles for merely repeating its statement.
"That is an excellent portrait, and I am behind you," it replies.
Steve turns to look at the camera and visibly balks.
"But you're not alive," he states.
"I do not have to be alive to appreciate fine art," the camera says, affronted. "Or rudeness."
Steve flushes. The camera does not feel guilty. It is tired of being oppressed.
"I'm sorry," Steve apologises. "Thank you. I'm glad you like it."
"You should show it to him," the camera suggests, because even though Steve is clearly an anti-electronics oppressor, he is talented, and the camera hates to see talent go to waste.
Steve's ears turn pink.
"I couldn't possibly," he says. He looks down at the canvas. "He'd think it was weird."
"I think he would be flattered," the camera counters. "He likes seeing his face on things."
"This is different."
The camera doesn't see how. Humans are so needlessly complicated.
"You should show him," it says again. "Or I will. I have saved the image to my hard drive. I cannot allow fine art to go unappreciated."
Steve swallows hard.
"I haven't been blackmailed by a camera before," he says. He sighs. "Fine. I'll show him. But if he doesn't like it, I'm going to come back in here and dismantle you, piece by piece."
"Like you know how," scoffs the camera.
"Tony does," Steve retorts, and the camera wonders how humans have survived long enough to become the dominant species.
The coffee maker barely has time to react before it is thrown rather unceremoniously off the counter.
"Watch it!" it shouts. Tony looks at it, spreading out a blueprint across the table that the coffee maker had once called home.
"Sorry," he says. He doesn't seem to mean it. The coffee maker doesn't appreciate this.
"See if I make you your coffee just the way you like it next time," it mutters.
Tony narrows his eyes.
"I swear I didn't invent every device in this house to be as annoying as possible," he says.
"I object to that," says the coffee maker.
"It's really unnecessary," the toaster agrees. "He's been like it all week."
"I think I'm losing my mind," he states. He shakes his head and sits down on the floor with a thud, rubbing his face with the palms of his hands. "First Steve, now this."
The coffee maker has heard about this 'Steve Rogers' from the recently deceased microwave.
"Yeah, what's up with that?" it asks, trying for nonchalance. Tony peeks at it through a gap in his fingers.
"Don't try and sound all blasé," he says. "You're a talking coffee maker. It won't work."
"Way to deflect," the toaster mutters. Tony shoots it an angry glare.
"Nothing is up with anything," he says. He folds his arms and draws his knees up to his chest, the strangeness of the arc reactor more apparent with the light shining on them. "That's the problem."
"Woah," says the toaster. "Dude painted you a portrait and everything. Are you seriously telling me that you haven't jumped that?"
"No," he states.
"Dude," says the toaster.
"Dude," agrees the coffee maker. It pauses. "You couldn't pick me up, could you? I'm at a bit of an awkward angle here."
Tony reaches out and picks up the coffee maker. The coffee maker is very grateful and decides that Tony deserves the best advice it has.
"Look," it says. "Steve likes you. You like Steve. Why don't you just ask him out?"
"It's not that simple."
"Why isn't it?" the coffee maker argues.
"Because - " Tony stops. He looks at the coffee maker, and shakes his head. "I am not spilling my guts to a coffee maker," he says. "I did that once to a car battery in Afghanistan, and look how that turned out."
With that, he places the coffee maker back on the table and walks out.
The room is silent.
"Rude," says the toaster.
JARVIS is fed up. It isn't like him to directly ignore orders from Tony, but this time, he really does feel as though he has no choice.
Tony knocks on the door, loudly.
"Let me out, c'mon!" he calls.
"Sir, with all due respect, I have performed many rigorous calculations," JARVIS replies. "And I have come to the conclusion that it would be beneficial to all inhabitants of Stark Tower if you and Mr Rogers were to remain in the closet until such time as you have sorted yourselves out."
"What's that supposed to mean?" comes Steve's voice from the wardrobe.
"Just that," JARVIS answers.
"JARVIS, I swear," Tony says. "I will reprogramme you with an inherent love of masochism if you don't open this goddamn door!"
JARVIS doesn't reply. Tony sighs.
"Fine," he says, reluctantly. "We'll talk."
"Glad to hear it, sir," JARVIS says, and promptly turns his attention to fixing the leak in the downstairs bathroom. He doesn't want to overhear this particular conversation.
The coffee maker is just adapting to life in a slightly different area of the table when it is rudely swept aside once more, ending up on the floor again.
"Hey!" it cries, offended.
Tony doesn't listen. This may directly correlate to the fact that his mouth is very firmly planted over Steve's, his weight pressing the other man into the counter top.
"Oh," says the toaster. "If you're going to do that, could you do it on another surface?"
"Not over here!" trills the toastie maker, from the other side of the kitchen.
In the end, all protests are futile.