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Title: We can't all and some of us don't.
Author: jazzypom
Rated: PG for language and concepts.
Beta read: Thanks to [profile] empty_splendor for giving it a once over.
Universe: Ultimates (1610)
Summary: Steve goes on a double date, shares commiserations and hates string theory.
Disclaimer: Characters and situations are the property of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. No profit is being made off this fan-written work.
Notes: For [profile] pensive1: Double-date. Steve/Jan, Tony/your pick. Awkwardness points for Jan and Tony geeking out over a project, while Steve and Tony's date are left in the dust and exchanging pleasantries. Super double bonus points if Jan mentions Hank and if Tony suggests a foursome. I'm hand waving science because I couldn't find a physics student on short notice.
Approximately 2000 words.



"-really, Tony?" Jan trilled with amusement, brandishing her fork as if it were a baton, rising and falling with the beat of her voice. "I can't believe that you invested all that money in it. There must have been a pretty scientist involved."

"Janet darling, you wound me. I do believe in The Higgs boson, I do."

"That might be the only God you believe in."

At this Tony had the grace to look abashed, causing Steve to roll his eyes. They were at Tandoori, a luxe Indian restaurant located in the Tribeca area. It was one of these stripped down eateries - stout wooden tables, with matching benches. The food was supposed to be the centre of attention, along with impeccable service. There was the distinct layered notes of sitar music in the background, a pleasant foil to the ripples of conversation and the subtle clink of cutlery against crockery. The lights were low, the waiters discreet.

"You're lost too, huh?" the smoke filled drawl dragged Steve's attention away from Jan and Tony intensely jabbering way, and for the first time, Steve Rogers got a good long look at Stark's date. No surprise, she was pretty; slender as a reed, hair the colour and texture of a dandelion, big green eyes and a mouth the colour of bruised plums. Not that Steve was given to flights of fancy, but she reminded him of the Good Folk stories his late mother carried over from the Old Country. Her slim bare shoulders and a silver slip of a dress did not hurt the image either.

"Yes ma'am," Steve replied with a nod, as he poked at his lamb korma with the tines of his fork.

"Call me Tinker," she introduced herself with a wink; and Steve was taken aback at the flash of metal on her tongue as she continued, "when Tony promised to show me a good time," Tinker paused to take a sip from her wine glass. "I thought he had something else in mind."

"A foursome, darling?" Tony paused in his conversation with Jan as he toasted Tinker with his high ball glass.

"That would be too much like work, darling," Tinker shot back with a toss of her head, the movement causing her top to shift dangerously low on her slight chest, forcing Steve to keep his eyes on her face.

"A what?" Steve queried, not quite believing his ears.

"It's Tony's way of being funny," Tinker's voice was as sharp as a slap. "Two's a company, three's a crowd and four's an orgy. Ha."

"I..." Steve started, wondering if he would ever get used to women speaking about sex so frankly. It was one thing women asking men to dance -and that was pretty nifty- but to be so openly forward? Manfully, he moved on to another subject, as far away from sex as possible.

"So, Tinker," Steve asked, "what do you do for a living?"

For a moment, Tinker's face clouded with suspicion, her eyes cool as stones, and Steve found himself the object of her intense study. After a few seconds, the wariness in her eyes gave way to surprise, which baffled Steve even more than that Collider thing Tony and Jan were talking about.

"I'm... an actress," Tinker wrinkled her nose as she traced the rim of her high ball glass with the tip of a dark fingernail.

Steve could only nod. Of course she was. Tony Stark tended to date actresses or models. The last time Tony strayed from that mode, he almost got himself killed for his troubles.

"Hank actuallyknew scientists who were convinced that it would create a black hole, he had a hard time convincing them otherwise."

"One could argue that science has its own superstitions, rather like faith."

"Hah," Jan said giggling, "tell me about it. I remember Hank had this habit before -"

Steve jerked his head up, and shot Jan a sharp look. She must have felt the press of his stare on her, but Jan only took a sip of her wine, holding the stem of her glass with both hands. Then she leaned over, placing a hand on Tony's arm. Steve took in the odd intimacy of the scene before him; the pale form of Jan's hand against the dark grained wooden surface of the table, her fingers the colour of aged porcelain on Tony's suit jacket. Flashing Tony a smile, she opened her mouth, and Steve felt the distance before she even spoke.

Hank had this sixth version of the string theory-

Oh do tell-

"And you're a superhero," Tinker's attention was fully on Steve now, resting her chin on her fist. Her voice now warm with interest instead of the distant, guarded preoccupation of before.

"Yes ma'am," Steve smiled, because Tinker was pretty and seemed nice and speaking to her was no hardship. "According to the media."

"How's that working out for you?"

"It works, I guess," Steve shrugged his shoulders. "When I signed up for this gig, I thought I'd get one thing -"

"-and find out it's a whole other ball of wax," Tinker laughed, and for a moment, shadows flickered in her eyes. "I know what that's like. Christ."

Then she lifted her glass and took a healthy swallow of what Steve knew to be gin. When they first sat down, Tony ordered gin and tonic for he and his date, while Steve and Jan had wine. Before Steve could comment on her choice of drink, Tinker continued, "When I got my first movie, I thought it was what I wanted..."

"What sort of movies do you do?"

"Tony didn't say?"

"No," Steve shook his head, "he just said you were an actress, and a very good one. What do you do? Broadway? A... soap?"

"Specialist movies," Tinker's voice was smooth, very smooth. Steve almost did not notice the hitch, and found himself wondering what her story was, but manners prevented him from pushing further.

"Oh. Well."

"I don't enjoy 'em, not any more." Tinker laughed, and Steve flinched at the brittleness of it. Tinker was too pretty to be bitter.

"Well, why do you do them?" Steve asked, curiosity getting the better of him. "If it makes you unhappy-"

"Have you ever thought about walking away from what you do?"

Tinker's question gave Steve pause. He looked across at Jan speaking to Tony, with lights at her ears, crystal butterfly slides in her spiky hair.

Nantechnology it's not only for Iron man armours -it's the little things, like drug delivery via nano particles. It can be developed to monitor, repair and control human biological systems at the molecular level. Instead of having to take a pill and wait for ages for it to affect the human physiology -

It's just localised-

It would be a more efficient way of consuming vodka tonics.

Oh, Tony. Jan finished, eyes dancing, and Steve felt a twinge, knowing that he couldn't give her that. Despite his accelerated intelligence, Steve was still sixty years out of time, and all that it entailed.

"When I signed up," Steve started, turning his full attention towards Tinker, "I thought I'd just serve my country, come back, marry my girl and finish school on the GI Bill."

"White picket fence."

"Children."

"A dog."

"Tire swings in the back yard."

"Camping trips in the summer."

"But then I got frozen," Steve said, looking into her eyes and seeing some understanding there. "When I woke up, sixty years passed, and I'm here. I can't help that, Tinker."

"But-"

Strangely, Steve felt some sort of camaraderie with this slip of a woman. She seemed to have similar battle scars that he had.

"If you're unhappy, you need to do something about it."

After a long pause, Tinker smiled faintly. It was sweet, with a tremor at its edges. For the first time tonight it wasn't tinted by anything bitter, and for a brief second, Tinker looked very young.

"Yeah," she said, offering her hand to him, and automatically Steve shook it. "I should. It was nice meeting you Steve."

"Night, Tinker."

Then Tinker raised her voice a bit louder, "Hey Tones. Thanks for the offer, but I'm going to go."

"Tinker... are you sure?"

Tinker nodded, as she slipped from her seat, all limbs and shimmer as she shrugged into a patched coat that looked strangely new to Steve's eyes. "Yeah, I'm sorry."

Steve was surprised to see the flash of relief on Tony's features, but his voice and mannerisms were his usual jaunty tones, so he did not think much about it.

"Let's talk while we wait on my driver, darling," Tony crooned, placing his hand at the small of her back as they moved away from the table.


After the pair left, Steve and Jan faced each other across the table. Without the distraction of Tony and his date, the press of the situation was on them. Neither of them spoke, and Steve was aware of the murmur of humanity around them , the fact that he and Jan were surrounded by people, but were so distinctly alone.

He did not know how long they sat there, Jan's lashes were dark fans on her cheeks as she looked down at her arms folded at the table in front of her. There were the plates of unfinished meals, and Steve oddly thought about a lifetime ago, and how food was a concern then. It seemed a shame to have the majority of their meal untouched. Gamely, he picked up his fork, speared a piece of the cubed meat with its tines, took a bite and started to chew. The meat was tender, with the mellow and faintly sweet flavour of coconut.

Jan drank her wine, cleared her throat, and spoke. "It's not working out, Steve," she said, point blank. "I-" Jan paused, collecting herself for a minute, then went on, "I... just talking with Tony tonight, I realise we can't do this any more. I-"

"It isn't about Tony," Steve said.

Jan opened her mouth, and then closed it. She dropped her eyes to the table , and lifted them up to Steve a few moments later, and Steve was not surprised to find them tear shimmered.

"I have to go."

"Jan-"

"Tell Tony thanks for the dinner. I'm sorry."

Then Jan was gone, kinetic movement in a swirl of brightly patterned fabric and on skinny heels. Steve sat there at the table, watching her as she ran past the doorman as he held the door open for her, knowing that tonight was not about Tony. It was never about Tony or pressures of the team or -

"What? No foursome? Was it something I sa- oh."

Then again...

Steve shifted his gaze from Jan's exit to look at Tony sitting at the table, sipping at a fresh vodka and tonic. Steve surmised that Tony might have stopped by the bar before coming over.

"In addition to your other gifts, Steve," Tony began, " does the super soldier serum give you the ability to find virtue in a cat house?"

"Excuse me?"

"My darling Tinker. I don't know what you said to her, but she blew off a meeting with Andreas Höller."

At Steve's obviously confused expression, Tony prompted, "The German skin king?"

"I-"

"Steve," Tony's voice was gentle, like a tutor teaching a slow child. "Tinker does ... porn, Steve."

Oh? What- oh.

"Tinker's a lovely girl," Tony sighed, "I'm glad she said no. However, a more pressing matter is at hand, I'm afraid. For the first time in well... ever, I've been abandoned on a date. I'm... I'm... stag. The third wheel."

"Jan went home."

Steve was subjected to a pitying look from Tony, and could not disagree with his pronouncement, "Dating. Rogers, you are doing it wrong."

In spite of everything, Steve had to laugh.

"So it's just..." Tony made a sweeping gesture that encompassed them both, "you and me?"

"We're not on a date, Tony."

"You're not my type, Steve. I like my dates a little more... adventurous."

"I'll say."

"How droll, Steve," Tony murmured as he pushed the sleeve of his jacket away from his wrist to look at the dial of his watch. "The night is still young, and since our dinner is spoiled, there's no need to stay. My driver should be here shortly, can I give you a ride anywhere?"

Steve looked at their plates on the table, and then at Tony. "Can we get this to go? It seems a shame to leave it here-"

"A boy scout," Tony sighed the sigh of the put upon, as he caught a waiter's eye. "I'm on a team with a boy scout."

"I'm on a team with a guy that dates adult actresses," Steve shook his head in wonder. "Unbelievable."

"We're never doing this again."

"Promise?"

"Done."

Fin.
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