"We found him."
When Phil gets the call he is ecstatic. Only in his wildest (and most private) dreams had he ever thought Captain America would be found. He remembers his childhood, chasing the other neighborhood kids around with his garbage can shield pretending that he was the Star Spangled Man. He remembers dressing up as Captain America for every single Halloween, and his mother's exasperation that he didn't want to be anything else.
There was never any other option. Sure there were other superheroes, but they weren't real. Captain America had fought the Nazis, and not just the Hitler trained Nazis, but the crazy Schmidt trained magic wielding Nazis. Captain America had put his country first and looked death in the eye, and how could his mother want him to have a different role model when the one he had was perfect?
When Phil listens to the bad news, that Captain Rogers is unconscious and may never wake up, he's less excited, but he still rushes over to where they're holding him and volunteers for first shift. Fury doesn't argue, but there is a look akin to pity in his eye as he opens the door for Phil to walk through.
Phil is determined to be poised, to act like the SHIELD agent he's been trained to be, but when he sees Steve Rogers lying on the bed, his arms crossed over his chest like he's dead and not just sleeping he pauses. His breath catches in his throat, because his idol is lying right there in front of him, but he may also never wake up, and it's too much conflicting emotion at once, and Phil's knees begin to shake.
"There's a chair by the bed," Fury says, cutting into Phil's panic. "Any books you want to request?"
"No," Phil says, a slight tremor in his voice. He squares his shoulders and forces himself to give Fury a 'I'm okay' smile. "I'll be fine."
He strides briskly over to the chair and sits down, waiting for Fury to close the door before grasping one of Steve's hands between two of his. He'd expected it to be cold, Steve had been frozen for 70 years after all, but it's warm, and Phil can feel the quiet hum of life in Steve's pulse.
The corners of Phil's eyes burn and he pretends, even though he's the only one in the room that's awake, that he isn't crying. This is Captain America lying before him. The man with a plan. The man who risked his life to save his best friend and then risked his life again to save his country. There was nothing too small or too big for him to take on, and Phil had adopted that mentality as he trained to become an agent.
Everything is important. Every tiny detail and every big picture. People mocked him for his attention to detail, for what they labeled his anal retentiveness, for his need for everything to be perfect, but all that, he learned from Captain America. That's not to say everything always went smoothly, but that's where quick thinking came in. Whenever Phil finds himself in a tricky situation—Clint's been made, Natasha's stabbed their informant instead of seduced him—he takes a deep breath, reminds himself that not all of Captain America's plans went off without a hitch, and goes to work trying to clean the mess up.
Phil looks at the Captain, and he's relaxed in this slumber in a way that Phil finds difficult to reconcile with the image of Captain America in his mind. He has seen the WWII propaganda films dozens of times, watched Captain and the USO girls perform, and read the comic books until they've started to fall apart, and the Captain has always seemed so poised. His face wasn't hard as much as it was determined, but that's lacking in his sleep.
Phil softly squeezes Captain America's hand. As much as it pains him to see the man like this, he deserves this. Fighting Nazis, fighting HYRDA, dealing with the war must have made his life nonstop go-go-go since the serum. Maybe this is the first break the Captain has gotten since it all started. Maybe he needs this. He sure as hell deserves it.
Phil places Steve's hand back where it was. He trusts that when the world needs Captain America again, he'll know and he'll wake up.
Steve and Clint battle for the most time spent at Phil's bedside, and the only person they'll relinquish the chair for is each other. Steve takes the day shift, Clint the night shift, and everyone knows better than to disturb them.
Steve sits next to the bed and holds Phil's hand. He doesn't think the man can feel it, but Steve finds the soft thudding of his pulse reassuring. It's a reminder that Phil is still alive, still fighting, and that if they only wait long enough, he'll return to them.
Steve never doubts that Phil will return. He didn't get to know the man long, just an awkward conversation on the jet and an even more awkward conversation on the Helicarrier, but he's heard stories from the others. Phil is a fighter, and he won't give Loki the satisfaction of killing him.
Natasha didn't speak at length about Phil, but when she did speak it was in a hushed, reverent tone, and her eyes opened up to show her vulnerability, to show that she'd trusted him, and that look told Steve more than her words ever could.
Tony jokes about Phil, but his smile doesn't meet his eyes, and his jokes are relatively tame, a sign that he cares too much about the man to mock him when he isn't there to fight back or at least ignore him. Pepper leaves the room every time someone starts talking about Phil, her eyes full of tears, her hand covering her mouth, trying to muffle the soft, pained whimpers at the thought that Phil might never wake up.
Clint doesn't talk about Phil, but when he relieves Steve of his position, his eyes are haunted. Steve knows that look, knows that every memory, good and bad, is cycling through Clint's head. The good memories make him want to cry, because he's not sure he'll ever experience them again, because he's not sure he appreciated them as much as he should've in the moment. The bad memories torture him, reminders of where he failed, of what he might not have a chance to apologize for. Steve knows that look, because it's how he feels about Peggy, about Bucky, about everyone he's lost.
He wants to reassure Clint, tell him that everything's going to be okay, but Steve can't give him that kind of hope, because that's even more dangerous than reliving each moment. Steve can only sit at Phil's side urging him to wake up because people need him.
Steve sits next to Phil, and he can't help but notice how relaxed he looks. His eyes are shut, his breathing is even, and he's lost weight, because he's surviving on a liquid diet, but he finally looks calm.
"You can sleep a little longer," Steve says, giving Phil's hand a squeeze. "You deserve it, but wake up soon, okay?"
Steve isn't there when Phil wakes up. It happens on Clint's shift, and it takes two hours before anyone else is alerted. Steve hangs back from the initial rush, because he doesn't actually know the man, and he knows how overwhelming it is to wake up in an unfamiliar place and then be swarmed by people.
So Steve waits a couple days until Phil has had a chance to adjust and recover and start to relax back into routine. He schedules an appointment with Darcy, Phil's secretary and not-so-secret babysitter, and shows up to it five minutes early.
Darcy rolls her eyes but waves him in, and Phil looks up from his pile of paperwork when he hears Steve's footsteps. His eyes already have dark 'I'm not sleeping enough' circles, but his eyes crinkle with happiness, and he has a broad smile on his face so Steve lets it slide.
Steve grins and reaches a hand out before Phil can say anything. "The name's Steve Rogers. It's an honor to meet you, sir."
Phil frowns and hesitates before he shakes Steve's hand. "I don't have amnesia. I was just in a coma."
"I know," Steve says, grin widening. "I watched you while you were sleeping."
Twin spots of red appear on Phil's cheeks. "I, uh-"
Steve puts a box down in front of Phil. "It's good to have you back."
Steve smiles and shoves his hands into his pockets and strolls out the door. Phil tears open the present, and he can't help his laugh when he sees the vintage set of Captain America cards, each individually signed.