When Phil was six, his grandfather snatched his Captain America comic out of his hands. “Don’t believe everything you read, kiddo,” Papa Dum Dum had said before sliding the comic into a plastic bag with a cardboard back. Then he put it up high on a shelf, unfairly high in Phil’s opinion.
“I just wanna read about Captain America.” He pouted, knowing his grandpa would cave. His french born mother who instead he speak nothing else at home and Granmere Philipa(for whom he was named) could make the same face. It worked about eighty percent of the time and even at six Phil liked those odds.
“You can have the comics so long as you promise to listen to the real stories.” Papa Dum Dum had declared. “He was everything they said and more but he wasn’t no beefy brawler. He was barely taller than you and looked like the wind could blow him over.”
“But he was supposed to be super strong and fast and he faced the Nazis and Hydra.”
“And he did all that. All that and more. He just did it with the body of a bean pole, six inches shorter than everyone around. Its why you should never judge someone by their looks. A hero could be hiding inside. Or a villain, because the Red Skull was tall and handsome and grand as ya please till he pulled off his face.”
Phil gasped. “He pulled off his face?”
“That he did. Cap saw it. Said it was the grossest thing he ever saw. Point is, this,” Papa Dum Dum reached out and tapped Phil on the chest in the vague area of the heart, “Its all that matters. Everything else is packaging.”
“Then why does he always look like that?” Phil asked because he was young not stupid. It made his grandfather smile. He’d been small enough and Papa Dum Dum young enough that he’d been swept into a warm lap and regaled with stories of Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers and Dr. Erskine. “He knew about packaging,” he told Phil, “understood that it wasn’t how a person appeared that mattered but how they performed, comported themselves so no one even knew it worked when Steve stepped out of the chamber.”
“Cuz he was still small?”
Phil watched his grandfather’s lips twitch under his grey mustache into a huge smile. “Yep. They expected their super soldier to look super. Red Skull made the same mistake only Erskine knew it was about potential and intent not pure power.
“Hydra tried to do it but got a monster because Red Skull was a monster to start with. On the other hand, Steve threw himself on what he thought was a live grenade in boot camp for God’s sake. It made a good man unstoppable and kiddo, Steve Rogers made Cap the best. If that assassin hadn’t tried to kill the politicians in the room when the project failed, and accidentally cost us Erskine, Steve never would’ve lit off after them. If his first instinct weren’t to follow this,” he taps Phil’s chest again, “We’d probably never know that and hell we might not be here.”
Phil looked down at his grandfathers large fingers. He could feel his heart beating hard. A small belief blooming was inside him, a sense of something to live up to. The feeling scared him felt amazing too, like jumping a little too high on a trampoline. Phil didn’t know he could get addicted to it. He definitely didn’t know that he would.
Papa Dum Dum gave the Cap comic back two days later. In a week, he had Phil on a knee, watching old footage of the real Steve Rogers, all 95 pounds of him, making plans, laughing, shoving his friend Bucky, giving orders that were quickly obeyed. Then came pictures of him, smiling usually, behind a shield that seemed too big for him but that he handled with grace. And always more stories.
So if asked, later, Phil Coulson would be forced to admit that six was probably the age when he fell in love with Steve Rogers. The Captain America obsession sorta followed after because hey, everyone needs a hobby.
Phil watches Steve while he’s sleeping after the thaw. Unlike the other agents, he doesn’t remark on the small stature, on the short form, the delicate bone structure, the questions about how this could be Captain America. Instead Phil is silently giddy, brushes the hair off the man’s forehead when he is alone with Captain Rogers’s sleeping form and thinks “I can’t wait to meet you.”
Of course when he does, he babbles like an idiot. What the hell, Phil, he thinks. Great first impression. Try better next time you dumbass.
He dies before the next time. He’s given Project PEGASUS and a team of recently promoted Level 7s (and Melinda who he still adores, and is trying to get to work with Natasha again because they are unstoppable together and that is fact), a really nice plane with a bar and Skye.
Skye is…the daughter he always wanted but never had a chance to have. Never would have had even if he were younger and freer because it was always men for him but she is Skye and she’s his. She lets herself be held and protected and talks to him when she has problems. When she calls him A.C. it makes him forget, just for a second, how to be professional because she feels like his girl instead of his asset. He cares for his whole team but Skye is the first person he’s loved in a nonsexual way (hell in any way) in a very long time.
Then the Winter Soldier shows up and Nick gets taken out and Phil just- he can’t. He can’t maintain protocol. He can’t stay away from the agents he handled for years, came to think of as his. He comes back to America to find Clint OUTCONUS and that Natasha, Steve and a relatively new special agent named Sam Wilson have formed their own small branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. That appears to be a separate entity from the rest of the world freaking government based on moral imperative.
Phil could admit to being impressed. He’s tempted to open with that, but he does love to make an entrance.
“I leave for a few years and come back to this?”
Natasha hits him so hard, he trips backwards to land with all the grace of a penguin on slippery ice, right on his ass in front Steve. She shakes out her hand and has a smile on her face, which is worn and desperate under the attempt. He’s always been her favorite.
Steve crosses said room and picks him up. Then he dusts off Phil’s shoulders because no matter what situation, he has to be dreamy in some way whenever Phil is embarrassing himself in front of the man. That is Phil’s life. He looks up at Phil and says, looking nervous, “I’m not sure what protocol is these days for a returned KIA but would you mind a hug? Its just that I feel like I failed you before and a handshake, doesn’t really do it justice to making me feel like you’re real so-”
Which is how Phil ends up with his arms full of Captain America. “You didn’t.” Wilson catches his gaze over Steve’s head. He knows. His glance at Nat means she does too. Especially when Steve sighs and sags against Phil’s shoulder.
This isn’t just for Phil. Steve needs to be held and no one else has a good enough excuse. That’s okay. Skye’s taught him how to be that guy and not let it be sexual.
Except the Winter Soldier turns then out to be Bucky fucking Barnes. Steve manages not to lose it until they make it to the safehouse, aka The Bus. Natasha and Steve aren’t talking what with the whole “you were in Russian love with my best friend and never mentioned it” thing while Sam and Skye get along just fine, far too well for his tastes.
For the most part, the Bus stays airborne and radio silent for two days and everyone stays out of Steve’s way. He starts in the gym but once he’s destroyed every heavy and speedbag in the room, he moves to the cargo bay and starts taking it out on the cars. Although from his spot on the catwalk, Phil is pleased to see he has a moment of sanity where he pets Lola like a kitten before reaping the freaking whirlwind on the other, less valuable requisitioned vehicles.
The sight is incongruous – a five foot nothing been pole of a man punch holes (actual literal holes) in the sides of jeeps and sedans – and it gets worse as his actions grow more manic. When he tears the hood off a 4-wheel drive SUV, Phil goes onto the floor and says his name over and over until Steve slows down enough to be caught by the arms and not break Phil’s hands pulling away.
“Steve, it’s all right.”
“It’s not all right. Nothing’s all right. Jesus, eighty years. I was asleep but what they did to him because I couldn’t catch him? It was beyond torture. I didn’t know you could go beyond torture but they did. They unmade him.”
Phil shook him. “No. No you didn’t. My grandfather was a friend of yours, Dum Dum Dugan? He said there was nothing you could do. You couldn’t reach and neither could he. It happened. What matters now is what you do next.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s even in there.”
“Yes you do.” Phil touches his narrow, fragile-feeling chest and thinks of Natasha and the Red Room, of Clint and Loki, of himself and SHIELD doctors and knows Papa Dum Dum was right. “This is what matters. What they did, how he is now, that’s just packaging. We just have to open it so Barnes’s heart can get out.”
Steve stares up at him with his sharp features and blue, blue eyes and shakes his head. Then nods. Then shakes his head again before he says “I am so so stupid, feel free to hit me after,” before wrapping his arms around Phil’s neck and using that to literally pull himself off the ground to kiss him.
Phil groans loud and low directly into Steve’s mouth before wrapping his hands around his waist. Around his waist because his fingers almost meet. Steve is so skinny that its nothing for Phil to hoist him up, and then there are legs forming a tight circle around Phil’s hips and that is at least partial super strength. Oh god he could come just from being held that way.
“You’re brilliant,” Phil pants into his mouth. “Welcome to the 21st century. You can kiss me, be with me, and be safe. No hitting risk from me, sir.” Phil winks. “Unless that’s your thing.”
“I- uh- no, I don’t know. I’ve never-“ Steve stopped, choking on the admission and ducking back in for another of those soul-deep tongue kisses to hide the hugely bright, red flush creeping up his neck
First: Fucking holy God in heaven Steve wanted him to be his first. It’s beyond an honor. It’s hot like burning. Second: the trust is overwhelming. He’s pushed down what felt like a figment of his imagination that he’s been missing what Steve’s been subtly throwing at him since that hug, Jesus a hug. Natasha hadn’t even hugged him and when Clint saw him Phil doubted he would either. He couldn’t allow himself false hopes with an impossible dream and even as he kisses Steve again, he wonders if he should even be allowed this moment.
“I’ll make it so good for you, Steve,” he promises when they break for air, “So good, I promise.”
“I believe you,” Steve says with a lopsided grin. “I think you like me a little under your packaging.”
“A little,” Phil chokes. “Steve, I could probably love you, pretty easily given half a chance.”
“Me Cap or me Steve? We’re not really the same you know. This is me. Cap was a way to cover up that part of the Super Soldier Serum that didn’t work.”
Phil’s chest clenches so tight speaking is difficult. “You. After all, its hard to love something that only half exists.”
“Something?” Steve asks, tracing his fingers in the hair at the back of his neck
Steve looks flabbergasted. It’s strange to see that kind of look up close. He smiles back but its sad because they shouldn’t be in the belly of the Bus. Steve deserves better dammit so does Phil but there. It’s out.
“Yeah. I was raised to believe that Captain America was an ideal, a thing, but that you were a real man and I- I’ve gotten to know that man over these last couple weeks, and he’s amazing.”
“Even with me-“
“Being noble? And selfless? And brave?”
“And small, and gawky, and what was the term Skye used? Anorexic looking? I mean you’re not even tired holding me up.”
“Being able to do that is a plus and you’re beautiful. I’ve wanted you since Papa Dum Dum showed me those shirtless group shots from France when I was eleven.”
“Oh my god someone still has those? That was a dare. Peggy and Jacques had-“
“You looked amazing,” Phil promises and he would know. He’s got those pictures pretty well burned into his brain. Much self-exploration had been done with those photos. He’d never been so grateful for his grandfather to be behind a camera in his life.
“I looked like I’m dying of the latest plague. I always do.”
“You don’t. You have this smile that makes your eyes shine and your eyes, Steve. God, Steve.” He kisses Steve again and his knees give then, but not from the weight but the want.
He goes down to the metal floor on his back. Its not his first time so he’ll take the discomfort. Steve looks amazing perched on top of him anyway. It’s a living fantasy.
“I’m your fantasy?”
“Did I say that out loud?”
“It’s okay. I mean, a lot of people are into the Star Spangled Man thing. The real guy’s name was Jake Morris though.”
“I didn’t say Cap. You’re the living fantasy, just like this, in my arms, like Time and Space said here Phil, have your impossible wish come true.”
“Oh. So, how do we- Uh. How do we do this?”
“Clothes come off. Hands go on. It’s fairly simple stuff.”
That makes Steve laugh, and when he laughs tears glitter in his eyes. He’s still wound so tight. He’s still hurting so badly for Bucky but he’s also still here with Phil, peeling off his t-shirt and cargo pants while Phil gets on with the more complicated task of divesting himself of the suit.
Somehow it feels sudden that they are against each other in nothing but their underwear. Phil reaches out and traces the waistline of Steve’s utilitarian Army issue boxes. “Can I?” He asks? The ass underneath is tight and boney but the cock is long and hard and has decent girth and he wants to feel both in his hands now, now, now.
Half a dozen breathless “Yeahs” are more than enough motivator. Phil officially hates his boxer-briefs. They were a bad choice. He can’t feel Steve. But his right hand can knead the pert globe of his ass. They’re perfect to Phil, a palm sized fit that makes him groan and buck upwards even and Steve moans and grinds down.
The wrongness of the whole thing hits Phil like an asteroid. Steve deserves better than sex on the floor of the cargo bay for his first time. Phil deserves better too. The bunks are out but he has an even better idea. “We should move.”
“Just trust me. I’m gonna get up. Would you put your legs around me again?”
“Ugh, yes. That’s good.” Steve chokes out. They’re keyed together, locked by Steve’s ankles. The massive strength in his skinny legs is such a strong dialectic that Phil’s hardon feels explosive. He barely makes it to Lola without going off.
“Oh man,” Steve sighs when Phil sets him on the hood, proving just how fucking special Steve Rogers really is. “This is the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.”
About to get better, thought Phil but he just grinned the way he did when his best gal was complimented. He opened the passenger side door and hit a button. All the extras in the backseat suck into the upholstery with the exception of straps on the side. The gurney function looking sexy totally disconnected from any medical kink.
“I bet the dames were falling all over themselves to get into that backseat before this.”
“It was never dames but,” he grins and holds out his hand, gratified when Steve takes it, “oh yeah. Come check it out.” There is no hesitation when they lie down together in the back seat.
The image of Steve sprawled on Lola’s white leather, head thrown back and fingers digging so deep goes a long way to ease the fear that burns into Phil’s brain when he has to let Steve, Natasha and their new ally Wilson go back into the field not long after. Yet they are awkward standing in front when all Phil wants to do is kiss him goodbye. Steve’s hands keep swaying towards him before being brought back to his sides, determinedly.
He and Steve both begin at once and break off with nervous laughter. However, Steve is ever the gentleman. “You first, Phil.”
“I,” Phil swallowed even knowing it would click in his throat over the comm system. He took the man’s virginity. He’s allowed to want more, etiquette dictates he should even. He’s nervous anyway. “When you’re back on the radar, I’d like to call you.”
“Yeah. Yes. We should get dinner,” Steve says over the secure channel as he and his team descend.
“We should,” Phil agrees. “I know a great place in the Bowery.”
“There’s a burger joint that’s been open since before I was born on Baltic,” Steve offers.
“That sounds perfect.”
Steve’s smile seems bigger than his face with the cowl on. It glows bright and clear like sunshine in the dark world they fought on. “Perfect.”
Walking away in the Captain America suit, Steve didn’t look small at all. He was reminiscent of a sleek red, white and blue arrow, ready to be launched at a dangerous target. Like Hawkeye’s own arrows, Captain America doesn’t miss.
Phil can’t resist the smile he feels as he watches their vehicle depart. They’ll win. He has no doubt. Melinda even goes so far as to ask and he says as much without a stutter of hesitation.
When the chaos is over, then Phil makes a phone call that requires Level 8 security clearance. He’s got a burger date to make.