Sex and the Single Superhero
May 2, 2013
Last month, HiLobrow announced its eighth micro-fiction contest: FANFICTION. The contest was sponsored by our friends at the used and rare bookseller Pazzo Books.
Here is the winning story: “Sex and the Single Superhero,” an Avengers movieverse [plus Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comic] fanfiction by Lyette Mercier (of Boston, Mass.).
Illustration created for HiLobrow by Rick Pinchera!
Steve Rogers was confused. The magazine in front of him said sex was standard after the third date, but the previous issue had a poll about whether kissing was expected on a first date. Steve knew everything moved faster in the future, but kissing to sex seemed like a lot of ground to cover in two dates.
Tony wandered into the kitchen, coffee in hand. Clint and Natasha followed shortly after, both in their workout clothes. Steve pointed them to the pans of scrambled eggs and homefries he’d made.
Natasha moved his stack of magazines to make room for her plate, and Clint grabbed one. “Uh oh,” he said through a mouthful of food. “Who gave you Cosmopolitan?”
“Jane,” Steve replied. “She said it might be helpful.”
“Helpful?” Tony echoed. “You need shoe shopping tips? Want to learn thirty-seven ways have sex in a tree?”
“Because Tony totally knows all that stuff,” Clint added.
“Let’s see. Steve makes breakfast. You talk smack. Guess which one of you gets billed for back rent?”
“Helpful?” Natasha asked quietly as Tony and Clint bickered.
“Figuring out dating in this century.”
Natasha snorted. “Magazines aimed at teenagers aren’t going to help.”
“Jane’s not a teenager.”
“Did Jane say she read Cosmo?”
“You need dating advice?” Tony interrupted.
“No,” Steve replied. He’d learned the hard way that Tony Stark TMI and breakfast didn’t mix.
“I wasn’t going to — okay I was — but also I know things. Useful things. About wooing ladies. Dames. Broads.”
“Shut up, Tony,” Natasha said.
“I’m just saying,” Tony continued. “I know I’m a little, what, loose? Slatternly? By your standards, Cap, but I do an excellent grand romantic gesture. Ask Pepper. Wait. No. Don’t.”
“Thanks, Tony, but I’m just trying to figure out how to do dinner and a movie without making a fool of myself.”
“You fight in a skin-tight red, white, and blue suit. I didn’t think making a fool of yourself was high on your list of concerns,” Tony said.
“Do you have someone in mind?” Natasha asked, glaring at Tony and peeling an apple with a large knife she’d produced from nowhere.
“No, just, you know,” he paused, wondering how much to share. “There are some things I’d like to be better at this go-around.”
He probably should’ve expected looks of appraisal instead of pity from two assassins and a futurist, but was pleased by them nonetheless.
“Practice,” Clint announced. “You gotta practice. Find a girl. Ask her out.”
“SHIELD agents don’t count,” Tony added. “Find a human girl and ask her out.”
Natasha threw an apple peel at him. “One whose life you haven’t just saved,” she said, “because that’s cheating, Clint.”
“Hey, he may be from the ’40s, but I was raised in a circus. Meeting girls doesn’t come easy to me either!”
“Sell it somewhere else, you trollop.”
“OK, no coworkers and no rescuees,” Steve laughed. “Unfortunately, that’s every woman I meet. And should I find someone interesting in” — he flipped open a magazine — “a hiking club or cooking class, how do I explain that I’ve been thrust seventy years into the future and am in the middle of a crash course on the modern world? Oh, also: I’m a superhero.”
“Well first of all, don’t use the word ‘thrust,’” Tony muttered.
“Online dating?” Clint suggested.
“I can’t.” Tony put a hand to his forehead. “I cannot even deal with trying to explain that to him. Next suggestion. Natasha? You got any single friends? Or, you know, friends, period?”
“Says the man who talks to robots like they’re people,” Natasha replied.
“Point. But seriously, ideas?”
“Ideas for what?” Bruce asked from the door.
“Getting Cap laid.”
Steve made a mental note to never let Tony summarize anything, then said, “Modern dating, Dr. Banner.”
“Oh, well, I’m useless, then. Come back to me when you have a question about analysis via discrete-time Markov chain.”
“That doesn’t even make sense, Tony.”
“Perhaps I may be of assistance,” Thor boomed. They’d adjusted to Thor’s mid-conversation entrances upon discovering that his hearing was superhuman, too.
“This oughta be good,” Tony said to no one in particular.
“Of humanity’s many mystifying aspects,” Thor intoned, “your complex courtship rituals may be the most baffling. Find someone who is pleasing to your eye. Request to spend time with this person. Speak honestly, and ask your beloved to do the same. Enjoy your time together. What more is there?”
The kitchen was silent until Clint asked, “Did we just get schooled by an alien?”
Tony snapped his fingers. “I know,” he said, pulling out his phone. “Pepper? Hi. Find Steve a girl, please.”
“What? I said please. Yeah, no, what’ve you got? Okay, good. Set it up.” He put down the phone. “Captain, you have a date.”
“Stark, how are you always so inappropriate?” Natasha said at the same time Clint noted, “That is totally not what Thor said to do.”
“Natasha, you haven’t weighed in,” Bruce said.
Natasha raised an eyebrow. “Doctor, my codename is Black Widow. I was trained to make people love me, then kill them. I’m probably not the best source of relationship advice. And even if I were, I wouldn’t share with people who could abuse my expertise.”
“It’s like you go out of your way to insult me,” Tony said.
“Why aren’t we listening to Thor?” Clint asked.
“Because,” Tony said, waving his hand dismissively, “humans aren’t rational like that. Too many variables; logic doesn’t apply.”
“So, in that case,” Clint replied, “even if we were heroes of dating — in which case Manhattan would totally have ended up nuked because, dude, what a crap superpower — our advice would still be useless because every relationship is its own irrational snowflake.”
“Huh,” Steve said. “I think that might be the most useful thing anyone’s said so far.”
“Really?” Clint asked, as Tony said, “Terrifying thought.”
But Steve knew terrifying. It was familiar. If dating was on par with HYDRA and alien invasions? He figured he’d be fine.
ALL CONTEST WINNERS! 1. TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN: Charles Pappas’s “The Law” | 2. CATASTROPHE: Timothy Raymond’s “Hem and the Flood” | 3. TELEPATHY: Rachel Ellis Adams’s “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | 4. OIL SPILL: A.E. Smith’s “Sound Thinking” | 5. LITTLE NEMO CAPTION: Joe Lyons’s “Necronomicon” | 6. SPOOKY-KOOKY: Tucker Cummings’s “Well Marbled” | 7. PULP HERO: TG Gibbon’s “The Firefly” | 8. FANFICTION: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”