Steve knew something bad was up the moment he stepped inside Maria Hill’s office. Coulson and Fury were waiting for him, leaning against the walls and chatting with the Assistant Director, sipping at coffee from the communal machine.
“Ah, Steve!” Maria looked up with a smile as he entered the office. “Thank you for coming. Sit down.” She pointed to one of the chairs in front of her desk. Phil gravitated to the other one while Fury remained leaning in the back of the room.
Steve sat nervously. “What’s all this about?”
Maria sat back down and twisted her hair up, using a couple stray pens off the desk to keep it in place. “I’ll be frank with you, because I like you Steve.” Maria sipped at her coffee. “We want you to be classified.”
“C-Classified?” Steve felt something cold dropping into his stomach.
“We know you never took the test, Steve,” Phil chimed in.
“And you can’t technically work for SHIELD unless your classification is on file with our Classification Department,” Fury refilled his mug and gestured to the papers on Maria’s desk. “So we want you to take a team member and go to your appointment at the Classification Office on Wednesday. Short and simple.”
Steve looked like a deer in the headlights as he gawped around at all three of them. “T-There’s not…any way to just… grandfather me in or something?” he asked, not missing the irony of the question.
Phil pursed his lips. “I’m afraid not, Steve. There’s only one way forward, and it’s through the Classification Department. If you don’t do it…” Phil sighed. “The long and short of it is, you can’t be Captain America anymore if you don’t go get tested.”
“We don’t want to lose you, Cap. But we will risk it if you decide you don’t want to get tested.” Fury spoke up again. “And we will know if you fake the results. I’ve tapped Stark to oversee the results as they come in. He’s going to be standing by remotely as the results are uploaded to the database.”
Steve gave a defeated look. “There’s no way around it, is there?” he finally asked quietly, rubbing at his face.
“I’m sorry, Steve,” Maria said quietly, all the respect in the world coming through in her tone. “I know it’s after your time, and you haven’t had to deal with it, but we feel it’s in your best interest. Just in case something does start to…show up on its own.” She said tactfully.
Steve tilted his head. “What do you mean….’show up’?” he asked, looking around at the two men.
“To put it simply, if you deny or continue to deny your biological impulses, whether they be caregiver, teen, or little…it won’t end well. You’ll be betrayed by your own body.” Nick answered.
“We don’t want you to end up compromised in the field, because you put it off and ended up having some sort of headspace episode,” Phil added. “I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty. Hell, when Clint was first classified, we didn’t know he hadn’t taken the test until he slipped into headspace on a mission for me. I had to pull him out because he nearly got himself killed.” Phil shook his head. “Stubborn little shit had lied on his intake paperwork. I should have known Duquesne didn’t give a shit about his headspace and hadn’t gotten him classified when he was with him. Hell, he didn’t hit classification age until he came to me anyway. But the point is, we’d all be safer and have more peace of mind if you just took the test,” Phil said gently.
Steve took the file Maria offered him and sighed softly. This is stupid. “Okay. I’ll take Natasha with me.” He finally agreed.
“Good. That’s all we wanted.” Maria responded. “You’re free to go.”
“Alright.” He stood and nodded around at all of them, immediately taking his leave.
“Bunch of bullshit,” Steve murmured to himself as he rode the elevator to the lobby. “I’ve survived on my own since the 40’s and not needed any dumb classification.” He was still seething as he walked into the tower’s common space.
“How was your meeting?” Natasha asked softly.
Steve flinched. He hadn’t noticed her sitting there. “Fine.” He tossed the paperwork onto the table. “I have an appointment at the Classification Office on Wednesday.” He said offhandedly as he popped the top off a beer and took a long swig. “Apparently I can’t continue being Captain America if I don’t go.”
Natasha looked through the papers curiously. “Stop it, Liho!” she scolded as the cat in her lap tried to bat the papers with her paws. “Go and bug Tony!” Natasha dumped the cat onto the floor. “And you want me to go with you?” She assumed as she finally got a good look at the intake paperwork—which Hill had already helpfully filled out.
“I uh—well, yeah. Yeah, I do.” He said as he sat down across from her. “You’re the only one I trust to really keep a level head about this. You’re a Caregiver. Clint, Bruce, and Tony don’t count. What if they had some sort of headspace episode and couldn’t help me with what I need?” he pointed out.
“You could also ask Phil, or Sam, or even Maria.” She pointed out. “Phil and Maria are also Caregivers. They would be happy to assist you.”
“Yeah, well…I asked you because I trust you.”
“And I’m glad.” She responded softly as she closed the folder again. “I’ll go with you. If you want me to, I’ll even handle the intake stuff for you, so you don’t have to worry about anything else except taking your test and talking to the evaluator.”
Some of his tension dissolved at her assurance. “Thanks.” He mumbled, feeling intensely awkward about the whole thing. What if he ended up being a Little? That’d be a field day for the press. Captain America, reduced to a drooling mess who couldn’t control his own bowels. Yeah, this was going to be great. But… on the other hand, he might be a Neutral Big or a Caregiver, which was better. Or even a Teen Headspace, which he’d take in a pinch over the younger headspaces. Sighing, he pushed to his feet and left the beer on the table. “Gonna go and box for a while, blow off some steam.”
Who knew what the next few days would hold?
The thought taunted him as he ducked and weaved and punched, panting as sweat ran down his face into his eyes. The shock of his fist making contact with the punching bag again grounded him as he pushed through his muscles crying out, whirling and kicking and grunting until he finally dropped. Panting, he slumped to the floor and used the tape on his hands to wipe the sweat from his face, arms and legs trembling with exertion. With shaky hands, he unwrapped his fingers and stared at his reflection in the mirrors on the wall. What was he so worried about? A small part in the back of his mind pointed out that it couldn't be all that bad, whatever his test turned out to say. Clint seemed happy enough at four, and Tony and Bruce were alright as teenagers. So... what was he so upset about?