"How It Actually Happened"
As soon as Fury told the Avengers that Phil Coulson was, in fact, still alive, Tony ordered a plane to take them to the hospital.
Steve's hands were shaking, and he broke the glass he'd been holding, barely noticing the shards hit the ground and scatter like ants. They were all in battle gear, having been summoned to SHIELD for an emergency meeting. The wasted no time in leaving for the medical centre.
Sitting, still trembling, Steve held onto the seat. It was when Clint coughed and pointed that he realised he was twisting the metal.
"Come, give me your hand, Steven," Thor said from beside him. "You will not break that."
"Thanks," Steve said, somewhat embarrassed. Honestly. The only person who knew Phil any less than him was Bruce, who had never actually met the agent. It was crazy.
But he held Thor's hand anyway.
The longest conversation he'd held with Phil was in a little plane like this one. He could remember feeling nervous about joining this team of 'exceptional people', wondering whether he'd even have a place outside of fighting. Then, despite their general, work-related conversation up `til then, it all turned when Phil said that he'd watched Steve. His enthusiasm, his friendliness and admiration, made Steve blush and look away.
"Are you all right, captain?" Natasha asked. He looked up, pulled abruptly from his thoughts, and suddenly noticed the tears on his cheeks. He wiped them away, even more embarrassed about his behaviour.
"Fine," he said, and he smiled. "Agent Coulson is alive."
"I know," she said.
"…Well, I'm happy about it."
She inclined her head, and he felt like he was being examined. It was always the same, when people saw him. Except when Phil…
It was stupid to feel this way. He barely knew the man. It was illegal, even considered against God's law, in Steve's day. But when he saw those blood-stained cards, and believed he'd lost the first person who'd made him feel genuinely welcome and needed in the twenty-first century, he'd had trouble concentrating on anything else. He'd failed his fan and protector.
Now that he knew it had been a lie – that he had another chance – there was no way he wasn't going to take it.
It was amazing to see Phil already awake and sitting up, arguing with a nurse. He looked tired, but a lot better than they thought he would after only three days.
"I told you, it looked worse than it really was," he said. "I bleed easily sometimes, and the blade missed pretty much everything vital. It's just painful. Ah." He had noticed the Avengers, and nodded at them. "Be with you in a minute."
"Sir, how the hell do you get into these situations?" Clint said, going straight to his side, Natasha beside him. "Shouldn't you be dead?"
"Nice to see you, too, Barton. Loki was defeated?"
"Aye," Thor said, almost running to Phil's side. "My brother is bound and imprisoned, and will be punished for his heinous crimes." He pulled Phil into what must have been a painful hug. "It is heartening to see you so well, Son of Coul."
"Thank you, Thor. But I'm still healing, so could you please let go?"
"Of course," Thor said, immediately pulling back. He held Phil's shoulders for a moment, nodded, then backed up to the wall.
"Now, tell me all that happened," Phil said, settling back against his pillows.
"A debrief? Now? Really?" Tony said. "By the way, Pepper's on her way here, and she's going to be mad with you. Just a head's up."
"In my defence, I was only providing a distraction. Loki is unpredictable. I'll admit that I should have seen the duplication trick coming." He looked thoughtful. "I'll know for next time."
"No," Steve said. When the others looked at him, he became aware of the fact that he'd spoken out loud. "No more risks like that, Agent Coulson. We're not losing you again."
"You didn't lose me in the first place, captain," Phil said gently. Steve heard what he meant: 'You never had me to lose me in the first place'.
Hesitantly, he walked towards the bed and sat down on the edge. He kept his eyes on Phil's face, waiting for an objection as Steve picked up his hand. When no sign of discomfort made itself clear, he curled his fingers around Phil's, letting their hands rest on the sheets. There was a bit more pink in the agent's cheeks; but nothing else altered.
"I'm glad you're okay," Steve said. "It's been horrible."
"You should be," Bruce said. "Everyone says you're an amazing guy; I'd hate to miss the opportunity to work with you."
"Likewise, Dr. Banner."
Bruce seemed to perk up at that; but Steve returned his attention to Phil, watching him even as they all talked, bringing him up-to-date on the clean-up in Manhattan, what the press was saying about the Avengers, and how they were trying to get along with each other.
Steve had been determined to ask Phil out to coffee. Now that they were all together, and seeing Phil surrounded by tubes and weak in spite of his attitude… the words wouldn't come. So he just watched, trying to work out what to do next, and absently agreeing with whatever the others said when they asked his opinion. Sometimes, Phil looked at one of the others, nodding as they expanded on some point or other.
Most of the time, however, he was staring right back at Steve. It was easy to pretend they were the only two in the room at those moments. The others were just background noise, matched only by the buzzing in his ears. For a good two or three hours they all talked, about the battle, about each other's bravery and heroics, about the rebuilding on the Helicarrier. Anything and everything was up for discussion. They were all sitting down when it became apparent that they weren't leaving anytime soon.
"You can have more water to drink now," a nurse said, placing a jug and a cup on the table by the bed. "Not too much now."
"I'll help him," Steve said, already reaching for the jug.
"Okay," the nurse replied, and he left. Steve shuffled closer, and used his left hand to tilt Phil's head up and his right hand to regulate the sips.
Every so often they repeated the process, his hands remaining longer each time. It caused a significant break in the conversation every time it happened, which should have made Steve feel more awkward. But he was too busy reeling from being so close to Phil. Then he would go back to clutching the agent's hand like the lifeline it was.
"You know, I'm starting to think you two should just get a room," Tony said. Pepper was there by then, and she hit him up the back of his head. Steve scowled at him.
"How dare you say things like that, Stark?" he said sharply. "Apologise to Phil." Tony mumbled something which sounded like an apology. He repeated it a bit louder after Pepper elbowed him. "That's better. I'd never… I'd never use Phil like that. He's a good man, and he deserves more than just one night. Not that I'm a one night kind of guy." Now he was babbling. "But that's what you're implying, isn't it?"
"Never mind," he said, turning his back on Tony and just concentrating on Phil, who looked confused. "I wouldn't want something that's just casual."
"Okay," Phil said softly, squeezing his hand. "Good to know."
"Mmm." Steve nodded, then stood up. "I'll be back. I'm just going… you know, bathroom."
He left the room quickly, then went to the nearest restroom. Once in there, and sure he was alone, he pulled out his cell phone and called the director.
"Sir?" he said. "Would it be a threat to Phil's career if he went out with me?"
"Are you thinking of asking out one of my best agents, Captain Rogers?"
"Only if it won't impact his career negatively."
"We don't discriminate at SHIELD, captain."
"Good. It's just that I've noticed that people can be in… I think they're called same-sex relationships, but I wasn't sure…" He glanced at the doorway, not really seeing it. "Thanks. I'd better go now."
"Take care of him, captain."
"I will, sir."
The rest of the team left eventually, but Steve insisted on staying. He wanted to approach the subject of maybe going on a date, if Phil was interested.
"I was wondering—"
Steve's eyes widened, and he leapt to his feet, dropping Phil's hand and standing to attention. A tallish, grey-haired man stood at the door, holding flowers and a card and looking stunned.
"Sir," Steve said weakly.
"Hey, Dad," Phil said. Steve swallowed.
"Would you, uh, like to sit down, Mr. Coulson?" he asked, pulling one of the chairs closer to the bed. Mr. Coulson nodded slowly, and weaved his way around the other seats the team and Pepper had left behind. He sat down, looking between Steve and Phil.
"What's going on?" he said.
"I don't know," Phil said. He was bright red, and he sat up straighter. "Mom couldn't make it?"
"She tried to sneak out of the house, but a plastered foot isn't exactly quiet, and the nurse caught her before I got home from work."
Phil chuckled. "Sounds like Mom." Then he met Steve's gaze again, and the laughter died away, though the smile stayed.
"I'm glad you've never told us what you do for a living," Mr. Coulson said, shaking his head. "You survived a stabbing again?"
"They breed us tough in our family," Phil told Steve. "Yeah. He missed anything important."
"Who is 'he'?"
"The guy who led the attack on New York."
"The one with the horns?"
"Loki," Steve said, making his disgust plain. Mr. Coulson looked up at him again.
"You didn't say who you are," he remarked.
"Captain Steven Rogers," he said, shoulders back as he held himself like the soldier he was. "Also known as Captain America, both in the nineteen-forties and now. I was frozen for almost seven decades—"
"Long story," Phil added.
"—and I would like to ask if I may court your son."
Both Coulson men stared at him, then at each other. Mr. Coulson's expression was almost comical; his mouth had dropped open, his eyebrows were nearly touching his hairline, and his eyes were wider than dinner plates.
"Y-yes, of course," he stuttered out. Steve's shoulders dipped as he exhaled in relief.
"Thank you, sir," he said, and he met Phil's eyes again. "Would you like to go out," say coffee, he thought, "for fondue?" What? No! Idiot, idiot… "I, uh, I've heard it's something people do on dates? I don't know what it is…"
"It's food," Phil said.
"Oh. Uh, where do you get it?"
Mr. Coulson had left them to hash out the details after his visit, where he sat and filled his son in on everything that was happening. Mrs. Coulson had been playing tennis when she tripped over a ball which landed by her feet at the wrong moment. She broke her lower leg, which had left her in a knee-length cast. Steve ended up promising to sign it when they met, even if she was no longer wearing it by then. It seemed like the Coulson family was made up of faster healers on both sides. Phil was lucky.
Now they were at a restaurant eating cheese fondue. The forks were so tiny that Steve handled them more gingerly than necessary, and kept losing his pieces of bread. He blushed furiously, especially one time when Phil rescued a piece first, and fed it to Steve. They'd asked the waiter for advice on which wine would go best with the meal, and were having such a good time that Steve couldn't stop himself from asking for a dance.
"Oh," he said. "Unless we're not allowed to?"
Phil gave him an 'Are you kidding me?' face, and stood up, hand outstretched. Steve took it, smiling ear-to-ear, and let Phil lead him to the dance-floor. They ended up shuffling around just like everyone else, and Steve grew in confidence.
"I keep thinking I'm going to wake up," Phil said, resting his head against Steve's chest. "Find this is all a dream, that you're not really here. That I'm still alone."
"I won't ever let you be alone."
Phil smiled, then leaned up and kissed Steve's chin. It was barely a brush of his lips, but Steve's heart leapt.
"I'm falling in love with you, Phillip," he blurted out. He then froze in horror; surely nobody said things like that these days? It was all about… about sex, from what he'd seen on television, and his cheeks felt hot enough to fry an egg on them. But Phil didn't seem to mind.
"I love you, too, Steve Rogers," he said, gazing into Steve's eyes.
It was for him. Not Captain America. Someone wanted Steve Rogers, the little kid from Brooklyn, not the military science experiment with a corny stage name.
"Hey," Phil said, flexing his fingers in Steve's tight grasp. Steve relaxed his hand.
"Sorry," he said, and he rested his head on Phil's, breathing in deeply. "Just nervous."
"About messing this up."
Phil shook his head slightly. "Not possible. You just have to hold me, and I'll be okay."
This was pretty much the best feeling in the world.
Steve saw Phil to his apartment, and tried not to tower over him as they stood on the steps while Phil unlocked his door. He reached out and cupped Phil's cheek, stroking the skin there with his thumb.
"Sweet dreams… my darling," he said, trying out the words. They fit just right. Phil ducked his head.
"If I can even sleep tonight," he said, but he was smiling as he raised his head. "Good night, Steven."
He was just closing the door when Steve felt something in his jacket pocket, and he held the door open.
"Wait," he said, and he pulled out the gift. "I almost forgot. This is for you."
Phil tilted his head, and then brightened. "This is one of my cards. You signed it for me."
"I signed all of them," Steve said. "I asked Mr. Fury if I could keep them; this was before we were told you were alive."
"You've… you've got the rest of them?"
"Yeah." Steve smiled, slyly this time. "You'll get another one each time we go on a date."
"Oh, really?" Phil asked, leaning against the doorframe, crossing his arms and smirking. "Isn't that corruption?"
"If you don't want to, I could—"
"No, no. It sounds fair to me."
Then – and Steve would never forget this for as long as he lived – Phil leaned forward and kissed him on the tip of his nose. His lips were warm and soft, and Steve missed the feeling as soon as the kiss was over. He must have looked pretty lovesick, because he sure as heck was floating as he made his way to the subway.
He definitely never slept that night.
Phil couldn't sleep, either. He still wasn't sure, despite their declarations, how things were going to go. When Steve basically tried to bribe him into more dates, he finally knew where things stood. He wasn't going to rush Steve; a kiss on the nose seemed pretty safe.
One thing was for sure. They were good together. They shouldn't have been; on the outside, they looked to be too different. But the conversation had rarely stopped, only pausing for food or drink, and then for some comfortably silent dancing.
Not that all the dancing was in silence. If this really was all a dream, at least he'd told phantom-Steve how he felt.
It wasn't until they met the next day at SHIELD, and Steve spoke to him about the date, that Phil accepted the fact that he really was dating Steve Rogers. Every time he passed a window or some other shiny surface, he saw his goofy grin out of the corner of his eye, and he finally knew what it felt like to walk on air.
Some months later, after Steve had given him the last of his trading cards, and after they'd kissed on the lips for several dates, they moved into a new apartment together, just for the two of them.
"And any pets or guests we acquire in the future," Phil said, prompting a beaming smile from Steve.
With the Avengers gaining more publicity, Fury insisted they all try to connect with the online community. Now Phil was fiddling with a laptop and a webcam, squinting at the small writing on the screen. He was aware of Steve's eyes on his back (or lower; he'd 'corrupted' Steve a week after they moved in together, and several times since then). Once it all seemed to be set up properly, he switched on the webcam to test it out for the first post to their blog. With any luck, this would work.
"Uh, is this thing on? Is it…" Steve frowned at the laptop, and poked the webcam clipped to the top right corner.
"It's okay, love; it's on."
"Sorry." Steve half-smiled, and settled back beside Phil. "I… I don't know if it's a good idea."
"Don't worry," Phil said, clasping his hand. "You'll get used to it soon. For once, I totally agree with Mr. Fury." He shrugged. "I am sure that some kind of hobby will be a good thing, to get rid of your shyness; and soon you'll be a real twenty-first century boy." Steve rolled his eyes, and Phil elbowed him. "You need to get to know your fans, captain."
"…If you say so. You know I trust you."
Phil's heart skipped a beat every time Steve said something like that. Unfortunately, that meant his heart skipped a beat an awful lot. He kissed his boyfriend on the cheek. "I promise, if you don't like it we'll stop. Besides, I don't have much free time after work, and I'd rather spend it with you; so it won't be a burden for you, okay?"
"Well, yes." Steve blushed, and Phil wondered whether he was thinking about the other ways they spent their free time in private. "Let's wait for questions now. If people happen to be interested. If there actually are people on this… internet."
His strange way of referring to things like the internet was endearing, and Phil was close to melting. He snuggled into Steve's side, almost purring when Steve slung an arm over his shoulders.
"Don't worry," he said, looking straight into the camera. "I'm afraid they will be interested," he raised an eyebrow, "probably more than expected."
Steve chuckled, and kissed the back of Phil's neck.
Uh, I might or might not have altered some of the dialogue from AskCapsicoul's blog entries slightly. I tried to stay true to them, but I think I might have got the trading cards timeline wrong. B-but I did my best! Honest!
I mean 'honestly'.
I love the song 'Skyfall', and I keep listening to it. Just an interesting, and smegging useless, fact.
So what did you all think of the story?