Basic Life Skills

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Tony squared his shoulders and pulled on oven mitts like they were his gauntlets. Steve adjusted his grip on the dish towel he held and edged towards the smoke detector.

Pulling the oven door open, Tony was engulfed by smoke. "Damn it!" he yelled. The rest of his cursing was drowned out by the squeal of the smoke detector. Steve leaped into action, flapping the dish towel around the device until it subsided.

When Steve returned to the kitchen he found Tony regarding the charred lump occupying the loaf pan with weary defeat. Steve couldn't help but feel a swell of sympathy; his apartment's little kitchen was littered with the remains of half a dozen similar disasters.

"I don't know why I can't do this." Tony's voice was tight. "It's just following directions!" He ripped a page out of the cookbook he'd been consulting, balled it up, and pitched it across the room.

Steve turned Tony away from the wreckage and slipped his arms around Tony's waist. "I still don't understand why you need to learn to cook."

Tony leaned his forehead against Steve's, closing his eyes. "It's a basic life skill."

"So you said when you asked to borrow my kitchen," Steve said. Tony had been banned from his own...well, from Jarvis's kitchen. "But it isn't. You can afford to have people cook for you."

Tony was silent for a moment. "It's not important," he muttered.

"Yes, it is," Steve said firmly.

Tony was quiet for so long that Steve would have given up and let him go if Tony hadn't been leaning into the embrace. When he did speak, his voice was even quieter, his tone slightly embarrassed. "I don't like to be laughed at."

Laughed at? It took a moment for Steve to place the reference. The last time the Avengers had been gathered the others had ribbed Tony for awhile about his lack of ordinary life skills, cooking included. "They were just teasing."

"I know." Tony pulled away from him and rifled through Steve's cupboards until he found a garbage bag. "I told you it wasn't important." He started scraping his cooking failures into the bag.

"Your life is far from ordinary," Steve said. "Why should you have ordinary life skills?"

"Not ordinary," Tony contradicted. "Basic."

Steve thought that over. "I think I know why this is giving you so much trouble."

"Why?" Tony asked, scraping at another pan with short, sharp motions.

"It's too basic," Steve said. "It's boring. It doesn't absorb enough of your attention, so you try to do too much, to make it interesting, or you get distracted by something more engaging."

Tony paused and gave Steve a sidelong glance. "I'm too smart for cooking?"

Steve nodded. "Pretty much."

Tony looked down at the encrusted pan he was chipping away at. They should have soaked it. Tony looked over at Steve again. "Am I too smart for dishes, too?"

Laughing, Steve pulled Tony away from the dishes. "Only if they can clean themselves before we get back from dinner."

Tony grinned and let Steve guide him towards the door. "I can arrange that."