I wrote this for the kinkmeme, and you can find it there, but I cleaned it up to post here and . . . I really quite like it. :)
Title: Five Times Steve Waited For Agent Coulson To Wake Up, And The One Time He Finally Did.
Pairings: Steve Rogers/Phil Coulson
Beta: lmeden <3 <3 <3, thank you!
Prompt: Coulson gets stars in his eyes whenever he speaks to Captain America. Someone (preferably Tony) points out that this goes well beyond regular fan appreciation and is a full blown crush. Coulson is very embarrassed . . . until he realizes Steve finds it kind of adorable.
Word Count: 3,500+
Content: Fluffy fix-it fic, nothing much to warn for.
Summary: Coulson had waited patiently for Steve to wake up, and Steve returns the favor. He sits quietly day after day and thinks about the agent—and learns some things about himself as well.
Five Times Steve Waited For Agent Coulson To Wake Up, And The One Time He Finally Did.
Steve sat at Coulson’s bedside and stared. The man was unconscious. He’d just got out of surgery that morning.
“Call it your reward,” Director Fury had said when he revealed the man in the bed.
“You bastard,” Stark had growled. “You lied to us. Just like you always do. You lied to us!”
“I motivated you.”
“That’s enough,” Steve had interrupted. His voice was quiet, but firm, and everyone stopped shouting and looked at him. “We’ll argue about it later. Right now, we should concentrate on Agent Coulson.”
It had been up to Steve, as always, to calm things down. He understood why Tony was angry, but they had other things to worry about now.
Agent Coulson was alive.
The man seemed simultaneously older and younger than Steve remembered. His skin was ashen, the lines of his face harsh under the bright hospital lights. But his face was relaxed, his expression so vulnerable that it had a childlike quality.
Steve remembered Coulson’s childlike adulation of him. That was what he’d thought it was, anyway, until Stark had disabused him of the notion.
“Sorry, buddy, it isn’t just admiration. He has a full on super-boner for you,” Tony had told him yesterday after they left the hospital.
Steve hadn’t had the vaguest notion what that meant.
“A crush,” Stark had explained. “A big-time romantic infatuation. I’m surprised he didn’t orgasm when you told him you’d sign his cards. He really digs you.”
Steve had, of course, blushed at this, which undoubtedly gave Stark no small amount of glee. That was probably the whole point of Stark telling him, in fact. The guy loved to needle Steve. It was his way of letting off steam.
“So what if he does have a thing for Steve? It’s none of your business,” Natasha broke in. “What are you, a bigot?”
And that effectively shut Tony up and ended the conversation.
Still, Steve couldn’t help thinking about it, especially at times like this, looking down at Agent Coulson’s face. That was the face of a real hero. Phil Coulson didn’t have any super powers, but that hadn’t stopped him from confronting Loki. Did it really matter if he was attracted to Steve? He’d never said or done anything to make Steve uncomfortable. Anyway, times had changed. It wasn’t such a big deal anymore.
To while away the time, Steve took out his notebook and began to sketch the man in front of him. Something about drawing always brought his blood-pressure down. Whenever he was upset or his thoughts were jumbled, and he couldn’t put his feelings into words, he found drawing helped clear his head.
This particular drawing didn’t seem to be going so well, though. The nose was right, the chin was spot on, the forehead seemed correct . . . but it was missing something. The sketch had failed to capture the energy of the man. The lifeless lines held none of the sparkle in Coulson’s eyes or the affability of his smile. Steve set his drawing pad on his knees, closed his eyes and tried to remember the man as he was—capable, strong, animated. It gave him hope for the guy in the bed, who seemed so very weak right now.
“Captain Rogers? Visiting hours are over.”
Steve sighed and put his notebook away. The machines continued to beep and whir, and Phil Coulson continued to slumber. Steve got to his feet and gave him one last, awkward look. “Take care,” he said to the unconscious man. “I’ll see you the same time tomorrow.”
The next day he arrived just as Banner was leaving. “Any change?” he asked.
Bruce passed a hand through his hair. “Not a twitch. But his vitals are better.”
“Yeah,” Bruce said. “Call me if you need anything.”
“I think we’ll be okay.” Steve went in and sat in the chair at Phil’s bedside, still warm from Banner’s shift. They had agreed to take turns waiting for him to wake up—Steve, Dr. Banner, Natasha, Pepper and Clint. Once in a while Tony would stop by, but the nurses generally threw him out when he started getting rambunctious. Tony Stark and Sitting Still tended not to work out too well. But they all wanted to be there. They owed him that much.
“Hey,” Steve said to the agent’s sleeping form. “Still not ready to join the land of the upright, huh? That’s okay. I guess you’ve earned a break. But soldier, I expect you to be up and back at the job tomorrow.”
The machines continued to hum and beep. It wasn’t much of a conversation.
That was okay. Steve felt pretty much at peace, and he wasn’t much of a talker anyway. He smoothed a hand down the sheets; the linen was clean and fresh. That was good. They were taking good care of the man.
Steve wished he could help, too. Unfortunately, punching Nazis wasn’t useful training for playing nurse, so he just sat quietly. After awhile, he took out his notepad again and looked at his drawing. He wished he had a better one. His sketch was so bland; it didn’t capture the personality of the man he knew. He tore it up and started over.
He thought about how Coulson had looked at him, when he talked about designing the uniform, when he asked Steve to sign his cards, or when he tried to explain how he’d visited when Steve was unconscious. He’d seemed so shy and eager.
Steve tried to capture the way Phil smiled. It had been a nice smile.
Maybe Coulson really had been infatuated with Steve—or with Captain America. He’d been dating a cellist, but Steve heard that was brief and not very serious. Steve wondered what it would be like to take another guy on a date. Hell, he wondered what it would be like to take a girl on a date. It was all theoretical in his case anyway. He’d never shared so much as a dance with anyone.
After an hour, it was time to leave. Coulson hadn’t moved at all.
Steve stood up, feeling discouraged. Was the man even improving? He couldn’t tell. He hated feeling this helpless. “Same time tomorrow, champ?” he said, trying to sound upbeat. Captain America, rallying the troops.
Coulson didn’t bat an eye.
Fury was sitting beside Coulson when Steve arrived the next day. Steve nodded to the man, but didn’t say anything. All of the Avengers were feeling a bit cold toward the S.H.I.E.L.D. director just now. Steve understood why he’d done it, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.
“He’s a lot better,” Fury told him.
“How can you tell?”
“I can’t. The doctors can. That’s what they tell me, anyway.” Fury sighed. He was sitting in the only chair. Steve went and stood at the foot of the bed and clasped his behind his back. “I got this,” the man told him. “You can take a day off.”
“Nah. I don’t have anything pressing to do. I’d rather be here, anyway,” Steve said earnestly.
“Well, loyalty is a fine thing,” Fury said. He stood up. “Right now he doesn’t give a shit, but when he wakes up and hears you came to see him, he’ll be very excited. That I can promise.”
Steve made a noncommittal noise.
Fury took his coat off the back of the chair and shrugged it on. “He really worships you, you know,” he said.
“So they tell me,” Steve replied.
“Don’t fuck that up,” Fury said as he walked away. “Man’s got enough war wounds.”
Steve didn’t answer. He just took his usual seat. He wondered if Coulson would wake on his shift. He wondered if the man really would be that happy to see him. He wondered how he could say thank you, or how he could apologize. If Steve had been a better leader, if they’d been a better team, Coulson wouldn’t be in this bed at all.
Steve settled in, took out his notepad and began retouching his drawing of the man. Some small, superstitious part of him felt like if he could only get it right, if he could only bring the picture to life, the man would rouse. He tried to capture the warmth and wit of Phil Coulson’s eyes. That was better. The trick was, it wasn’t just the mouth that smiled; Phil’s eyes had smiled, too. Once Steve had the eyes right, it started to come together. Steve ran a thumb over the paper thoughtfully, looking at those smiling eyes. Had there been infatuation in those eyes? Love? Affection, at least. It was interesting to think about.
He folded the paper and carefully put it away. He watched Agent Coulson’s unconscious, expressionless face. There was a tube coming out of his mouth, and another one from his nose. A bandage rode low on his forehead, partly covering one eye. It was hard to see any Phil Coulson in the Phil Coulson lying there.
And all Steve could do was wait and see if he got better. Wait to see if he woke up.
The machines whirred and beeped.
The nurse smiled at Steve approvingly when he arrived the next day.
“Any improvement?” he asked, voice full of hope.
“No, but no news is good news,” she told him. “His body just needs the rest, that’s all.” She gave his shoulder a squeeze. “But I’m sure he’d appreciate the company.”
Steve gave her a smile as he stepped past her and walked over to the bed. He looked down at the agent. He wasn’t nearly as pale as he’d been yesterday. Steve took a seat beside him. He glanced at the door, but the nurse had already gone.
“Hey,” he said to the patient. “You look a lot better today. Now we just need to get you out of that hospital gown and into some real clothes and you’ll look real sharp.” Even saying it aloud in an empty room, Steve felt his face grow warm. But where was the harm? No one would know, and more importantly, no one would care. The agent really did look improved, much more like the man in Steve’s sketch. Steve could almost picture his eyes fluttering open. He imagined them widening as he realized Steve was there.
The thought made him feel both pleased and anxious. What would he say if Coulson woke up? He really felt like there was something good, something right, something Coulson would want to hear, but he couldn’t think what it might be.
For some reason, the sounds of the machines got on his nerves today. He was sick of the quiet. He wanted to hear Phil’s voice. He missed the way the agent got all excited around him, missed the way he stammered and smiled self-consciously. He was a real nice guy.
And he made Steve feel good. About himself, and in general. He thought Steve was really something, and it was flattering. Steve couldn’t remember anyone getting all bashful and adoring around him before. He was like a puppy. Agent Puppy.
Steve shook his head, smiling a little at the memory.
His smile faded when his thoughts turned to the bloodied trading cards. He would have to make it up to the man. He wasn’t sure how. They were probably irreplaceable. Maybe he could offer something else, if he could think of something. Maybe he could invite him to a ball game, or ask him to go out for drinks. That would be okay. They might have fun. He couldn’t see why not; he liked Phil. It might be nice.
Phil’s hand had an IV sticking out the back. Carefully, Steve slipped his own hand underneath. Phil’s was cool and limp, and didn’t reflexively curl around Steve’s. That was all right. Maybe next time he’d respond in kind.
Steve sat and listened to the machines keep his friend alive until it was time for the nurse to come in and change his IV and do whatever else it was the nurses did.
He waited until he got home to take out Phil’s picture and work on it. He erased a line here and there and made a few minor adjustments. Better. It looked almost right. Phil Coulson, who had gone head-to-head with Loki, and had lived. Phil Coulson, who collected cards with Steve’s picture on them. Phil Coulson, who might even like it if Steve kissed him.
Steve looked at his sketch for a long time that night, and thought about things he’d never thought about before. Maybe it was a bit strange to feel this way, but it really wasn’t that bad. Phil was a nice guy. Steve liked him.
And everything was going to be okay.
Steve’s phone rang in the middle of the night. He was groggy, and the room was cold and dark, and he was still sort of stiff from sleep. It took him a few minutes to remember how to answer the cell Tony gave him; he still struggled with technology, and these new phones seemed too small in his hands. “Yeah?” he finally managed.
“Get over here,” Tony said.
“Where?” If Steve had been more awake, he wouldn’t have said that.
“The hospital, genius,” Tony replied impatiently.
“He’s up.” Tony disconnected the call, and Steve stared at the phone, mind racing.
He wished he’d been the one there when Coulson woke up. He hoped the man would be all right. He wondered if there would be lasting damage, and how bad that damage might be. Would Phil be able to walk? Talk? Remember what happened? Remember Steve? Was he in much pain?
Steve felt numb as he threw on his jacket and raced out the door. His bike seemed to find the hospital by itself; he’d driven the twists and turns so many times he didn’t even need to think about it.
But when he reached Agent Coulson’s room, the door was shut, the lights were off and everything was quiet. Steve’s heart leapt into his mouth, and blood thundered in his ears. Maybe he misunderstood Tony. Had they moved him? Or did he take an unexpected turn for the worse? Steve felt sick and confused. He rubbed his sweating hands on his jeans, trying to get up the nerve to open the door.
But then Natasha rounded the corner and waved him over. “Hey,” she said.
“Is he all right?”
She smiled. She didn’t really smile all that often, but he could tell she meant it now. “He woke up for a bit, but he’s sleeping now. Give him a few hours. Come back in the morning,” she suggested.
“I’d rather stay.”
“I don’t think the nurses will—”
“They’ll have a hell of a time physically removing me,” Steve promised, surprised by his own vehemence.
After considering things a moment, Natasha nodded. “I’ll talk to Fury. They’ll listen to him.”
Steve didn’t care one way or another. He went into Phil’s room and pulled the seat close to the bed. The agent looked so much better that Steve smiled. The tube in his mouth was gone, there was no IV line attached to his hand, and best of all, he was really sleeping—peaceful, restful, healthy slumber. He looked good. Steve wanted to wake him up and pull him into a big hug, but it would wait.
Steve pulled the picture from his pocket and looked at it. It really wasn’t half bad. But when this was all done, he was going to ask the guy for a better one. He’d like a real picture, one where Phil Coulson was smiling. Steve was pretty sure he could make him smile.
On impulse, Steve grabbed the man’s hand and squeezed it. Coulson made a soft noise in his sleep, and for a brief moment, he squeezed back before relaxing and drifting off again.
Steve’s eyes prickled, and he grinned stupidly.
Things would definitely be okay. Yeah. After a few minutes, his head nodded forward and Steve dozed off as well.
He woke up with a crick in his neck, the morning sun bright. He groaned as he tried to stretch it out, and the sound made the man in the bed twitch. Steve froze.
The agent’s eyes fluttered open. He looked a bit disoriented, but when he saw Steve he lit up. “Hey,” he rasped. He gave Steve a crooked grin. “I hear you watched me while I was sleeping,” he quipped.
Steve grinned back. “I was present while you were unconscious,” he corrected.
They have sat in silence for days, and that had seemed just fine at the time, but suddenly there were so many things Steve wanted to say that he couldn’t figure out what to say first. “Your eyes are very blue,” he blurted. “Not—that—it’s just that I never noticed before. You have nice eyes,” he mumbled. They stared at each other. Steve felt himself redden. Had he really just said that?
But Agent Coulson didn’t seem to think it was weird or abrupt at all. “So do you,” he replied. He was blushing a little as well, but his smile was genuine, and pleased.
Steve wondered briefly if he could draw that smile. Instead of being just hopeful and shy, it was . . . it was also gratified. Steve liked the nuance of that particular smile. He wondered how many others the agent had.
“You want to get a drink?” was the next thing out of Steve’s mouth. Oh, hell. He was going too fast, but Steve couldn’t help it. Maybe it was because he’d missed out on so many years of romance, so many years of holding hands and dancing and laughter. Besides, the man had nearly died. Steve was not going to waste one more moment second-guessing himself or being shy. Whether it lasted five minutes or more than seventy years, life was just too short. “I mean, not now,” he stammered. “But sometime?”
Coulson was definitely nonplussed by the question, but nonplussed for Agent Coulson meant the merest blink of an eye. “Maybe,” he said after a moment.
Steve could feel the world sink away from his feet, leaving him drifting and confused. Was the man going to reject him? Had he read everything all wrong? “Maybe?” he repeated in a blank voice.
“It depends,” Coulson told him.
The man’s smile grew. Steve loved how awake, how animated he looked. Warm and happy and so very, very alive. “Will you sign my cards first?” Coulson asked seriously. “I mean, I like to think I’m a patient guy, but I’ve waited an awfully long time.”
Steve laughed. He replied, “That depends.”
Coulson raised his eyebrows, but he was still grinning. “On what?”
Steve opened and shut his mouth. There were a lot of things he wanted to say. He didn’t know how, or where to start. They say you like me. That you want me. You look at me like you do. You look at me like I make you giddy, and I think I like that. I’m starting to think you make me a bit giddy, too. Giddy was the right word; Steve knew he couldn’t get all those words out, not with so much happiness in the way. He didn’t even think he could draw a picture of this, a picture of smiles and warm touches and hope.
Instead, he leaned forward and kissed Phil Coulson. His lips were softer than Steve expected them to be, yielding, welcoming, and Steve could feel him still smiling slightly. He had never imagined kissing a smile, but he liked it a lot.
“Wow,” Coulson said when Steve pulled away. And now his smile was different still; happy, yes, but surprised, and tinged with peace, or maybe a dash of smugness. Steve could spend years trying to capture that smile, or at least years making it happen again and again. “So do I get that signature or not?” Coulson asked, bringing him back to earth.
“It depends,” Steve repeated. He rummaged through his jacket pocket and pulled out the picture of Coulson that he’d drawn. “On whether I can have yours,” he said gently, handing him the sketch.
Phil Coulson looked down at the picture. “Is that so?”
Steve took his hand. “I’d be very proud to have it. After all, everybody needs someone they can admire.”
Phil’s smile got a little wobbly. He had to clear his throat before he could answer. “That’s a fair trade,” he said.
And they lived fluffily ever after. :)