Captain America punched the HYRDA general in the face. The general went soaring straight into a wall
"Take that, evil HYDRA!" Phil said, shaking the Captain America action figure. He marched the toy to the top of his bed, resting his chin against the edge. He rearranged the arms so that they were on his hips. "You'll never win against me. For I am Captain America! A true hero!" He pointed out one plastic arm. "You can't win against good!"
Phil retrieved the general from where he had dropped it by his stack of Captain America comic books. He made the general struggle up. "That's what you think," Phil said, affecting a deep, rough voice. "If you don't surrender, Captain, I will set off the bomb!" Phil laughed as maliciously as he could manage.
"No! You villain! I will not let you win!"
"Try and stop me!"
Phil dropped both toys, grabbing his cardboard shield, colored with crayon, and posed dramatically. "You cannot beat freedom, general!" Phil pretended to fling the shield. He twirled it through the air, making whooshing sounds. He bounced it off the wall, off the dresser, and off the closet door, before it came at the general, knocking him from the cliff.
"No!" Phil cried as quietly as he could as the general fell to his doom. With a great splash, the general landed in the water. The Captain stood on the cliff, his pose triumphant.
The shouting floated through the door.
"This is the last time! I cannot-"
"I didn't mean to-"
"You always mean to! I can't 'put up' with it anymore!"
Phil grabbed Captain America and his cardboard shield and crawled underneath the bed. A flashlight was hidden behind his dresser, nudged up against his bed. He blindly fished it out and turned it on.
"It's okay," Phil said, in his best hero voice. "The HYDRA agents won't find us here." Phil pulled out three comic books from the same hiding place. "Do you want to read some comics, Captain?"
"Of course, Phil!"
Phil propped Captain America in the crook of his arm and held the flashlight with that hand. He flipped open one of the issues and began reading out loud. "Last time, Captain America received an ominous letter, signed only with a skull with six tentacles -- the symbol of HYDRA!"
He could still hear his parents, but their words were muffled.
He read each of the comics four times through. He didn't really need to read them. He had memorized them by heart. But he still followed the words with a finger, and his small Captain America would chime in now and then, gasping and cheering in all the right places with Phil.
Phil woke up to the sound of his mother moving around his room. He had fallen asleep underneath the bed. He had to unstick Captain America from his check. He tucked the flashlight and comics away as quietly as possible and waited for his mother to leave.
But she didn't like she normally did. Instead, the bed sagged a little under her weight, and Phil held his breath for a moment. Then he heard the sniffling.
He crawled out from his hiding place. His mother gasped in surprise. Phil looked up at her. Her cheeks were wet, with her make-up running a little. Her hair was mussed, and it was unusual to see his mother, usually so put together, looking anything that might be called careless. She was holding the HYDRA general in her hands.
She smiled at him and patted the bed beside her. He crawled up to join her, and she pulled him to her side. "Is that where you always go?" she said. She sniffed again and wiped delicately at her eyes, the HYDRA toy in her lap.
Phil brought up Captain America and had him walk lightly over his mother to the Hydra agent. The Captain looked down first at the general and then up at Phil's mother. "I thank you for your help in capturing this villain," Captain America said.
Phil's mother laughed. "Oh, you." She kissed the top of Phil's head. With one hand, she took both the general and the Captain and put them next to her. "Phil," she said, straightening him up so she looked him straight in the face. "I love you, honey. I want you to always remember that. Can you do that for me?" Phil nodded. His mother smiled, and she picked up Captain America. She had him walk over to Phil and say, "You're a brave boy, Phil Coulson."
His mother's voice didn't suit Captain America at all, and it was a little silly. But he said thank you to the Captain anyway, because that was what he was supposed to do when an adult complimented him.
His mother's smile faltered. She looked at Phil for a long moment before pulling him into a hug. "Oh, Phil," she whispered into his hair, "I'm sorry. I really am." She pushed him back and picked up a small package Phil hadn't noticed. "I was going to give this to you for your birthday, but... I thought you'd best have it now."
Phil didn't feel excited for the present, but he opened it obediently. However, he couldn't help grinning when he saw what was inside.
"Alright!" he said in his excitement. He held out the three Captain America trading cards. They were classic, back from the 40s. Phil had seen them in a pawn shop, but his mother had said they were too expensive.
"I'm told it's not the whole set," she said with a smile, petting Phil's hair. "But I'm sure you'll get the rest someday."
"Thanks, mom!" He jumped off the bed and placed the cards carefully on his dresser, spread out. They were so cool. His favorite was the one where Captain America smiled out from the card with a salute and a hand on his hip.
"Phil?" He turned back to his mother. She beckoned him over and kissed his head one more time. "Be good, okay?" She put his Captain America toy in his hand. "Always be the best you can. And you'll be a hero, just like Captain America."
"No one can be like Captain America," he corrected. "He's a true hero."
She chuckled and stroked his face. "I'm sure you can be one, too."
She left him alone in his room, and she was gone the next morning. He sat on the stoop all day, cards clutched in his hand, hoping she would come back.
Phil opened his eyes slowly. He felt like he'd been asleep for ages. His body responded slowly, taking too long for his eyes to focus and his head to turn. He looked up and saw Captain America standing at his bedside.
"What-" Phil began, but his voice rasped.
"Hey, take it easy," Captain America - Steve Rogers - said. He held up a straw to Phil's lips, and Phil drank carefully. "You've been through a lot," Steve continued. "We did it, you know. We saved the day." Steve laughed, shaking his head. "You were right about the world needing heroes."
Steve pulled up a chair and sat down. Phil tried speaking again, but like the rest of his body, his voice wouldn't cooperate.
Steve filled the silence for him. From their brief acquaintance earlier, he had not expected Steve to be so chatty, but something set him off today.
"I, uh, signed your cards while you were... out," Steve said. His smile was nervous. "I hope that was okay?"
"That's... fine..." Phil said with some effort. His voice was scratchy and hoarse, but Steve offered him some more water. "Thank you."
Steve's smile softened. "I should say that to you. Thank you." He clasped his hands together, resting them on the bed. "You are a brave man, Phil Coulson, and a hero. We couldn't have done it without you." He cast his eyes down. "But next time, I'll be there to watch your back. Agreed?"
Phil tried to nod, which wasn't very successful, so he smiled and said, "Agreed."
Steve picked up Phil's hand and held it in his own. "Good."
Phil fell asleep with Steve's hand in his.
A week later, Phil found out what Fury had done to his cards. He was still bedridden, and Fury was his commanding officer, so there wasn’t much he could do. But Steve, who had been coming to visit Phil every day, promised to get him new ones and sign them again.
Phil shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said, meeting Steve‘s eye. “I don’t think I need them anymore.”