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Turns Out, I Have a Rose Garden

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November 2023

“And then at 10:15 you have that speech to the American Fisherman’s Society in the Green Room. They’re presenting you with a 20lb bass, which I think is taxidermized but I will check on that,” President Steven Grant Rogers’ morning PA wrinkled her nose.

“Wanda, make a note. Let’s schedule more events where someone gives me a really big fish,” Steve remarked as he and Wanda wandered from the residence to the Oval Office.

“Yes, sir,” she replied quickly.

“Wanda, that was a joke,” Steve said gently, trying to conceal his smirk. Two months I’ve had this one and she still can’t read me.

“Yes, sir,” Wanda replied meekly. She was saved from any further embarrassment when she and Steve entered the portico and were met by Natasha Romanov.

“Nat!” Steve cried jovially. “What is this I hear about penguins I’m pardoning?”

Nat rolled her eyes. “He made a – and I quote – game time decision, sir, about how to distract from the Stark meeting this week, sir. You are the one who gave him this job against my better judgement.”

“A, you are the one who technically hired him, dear Chief of Staff, and b, Nat, you were in my grooms party, I think we can do Steve,” he replied, the way he did every morning, as their walk to the Oval was joined by several Secret Service members and a few scattered staffers.

“Yes, sir, Mr. President,” she replied with a smirk, the same way she did every morning.

He grinned and gave her a fist bump before entering the door held open for him by a fellow Marine. “Lt. Jackson,” he greeted the man, who nodded in return. Steve walked in the room and paused, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, the way he had every morning for the 22 months and 14 days he had been President.

After a decorated military service, the American public was not particularly surprised when Steve Rogers declared his candidacy for President. What they were really surprised at was how he conducted his campaign once he started running. He gathered a staff of Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, and even a sprinkling of libertarian-leaning folks who helped him craft one of the most aggressively pragmatic campaigns in American history. His slogan was ‘Whatever It Takes’ and the American people had decided to give him four years to prove it.

His victory was helped by four factors, according to historians. One, his running mate was his famous fellow solider Samuel Wilson who was already a two-term Senator when the men ran. Two, the other candidate put forward was really weak. She was also routinely kerfuffled by his passionate and yet diplomatic answers to her rather pedantic challenges and had a stronger feminist and intersectional campaign than she did. Three, both he and Wilson were essentially made of charisma. Four, his wife died suddenly two months before the election, leaving Steve a single father of a truly adorable 10-year-old moppet named Peter.

Once elected, Steve quickly set about filling key positions. The best advice he had gotten from previous presidents was that the person he trusted with his life and was eons smarter than him was his Chief of Staff. If he had two of them, the least charismatic one got CoS and the other one got Communications Director. He, and Nat had been friends since their moms had been in the same Mom-and-Tots swimming class at the YMCA in Brooklyn. James 'Bucky' Barnes joined the gang a few years later, but they'd all be inseparable since their elementary school years. If the three of them couldn’t lead the charge to execute Steve’s vision of a better America, no one could.

“You have essentially been running my life since we were in diapers, why should that stop now?”

“I’m currently making $450k a year and I’d be trading any future maternity leave for this. You have two sentences to convince me to manage your circus,” Nat had said when he had asked her to leave her gig as a human right lawyer in Chicago to help his campaign.

“Our moms would want you to do it.” Steve said solemnly.

Nat grunted. “Oh fuck you, you did it in one.” She sighed. “More or less than what I make?”

“Bucky thinks you can each swing $1200 a week.”

“So this would be less.”

“That answers the question if I’m putting you forward for Treasury Secretary.”

“Bucky, pal, what did these penguins do that I’m commuting their sentences?” Steve called to his best friend as his executive staff began to enter the Oval for their morning briefing.

“They’re gay,” Bucky shrugged, his mouth full of bagel. “It was Buzzfeed. Some zoo in China was going to kill them. I said we’d take them.”

“You are the goddamn communications director,” Phil Coulson, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, growled at Bucky. “You couldn’t have sent a text to the National Zoo first?”

“Phillip,” Bucky rolled his eyes slightly as Bucky’s deputy and Steve’s Chief Speechwriter, Darcy Lewis, came in to take her seat. “I took that interview about six minutes after Stark opened his fucking gob about how useless he thought this week’s meetings would be. There was no way in hell I was answering questions about that and Darcy found gay penguins and it is Pride month and we got an internet win. Can you climb out of my ass, please?”

“Children,” Steve called, “do I have to be here for this meeting?”

Mumbles of “sorry, sir” and “yes, Mr. President” sounded as the morning briefing got underway. Darcy had some quick notes on the messaging around the Environmental Improvement Summit, which was the official name of what everyone was internally calling the ‘Stark Meeting’ since Tony Stark had been the one to call it. Sam had slid in with some concerns his office had about an event he was doing on his next international trip that he needed Bucky and Darcy to work with his office on. Nat’s deputy, Scott Lang, had an update on some negotiations he was working on with Phil that day with the AFL-CIO in their ongoing attempts to avoid a potential strike amongst various electrician unions.

To Steve’s great relief, the meeting concluded with only the minimal amount of squabbling and pretty soon he was sending everyone back to their quarters. His staff generally got along and they were all professional, but stressful seasons brought out the worst. The Stark Meeting had them under more stress than any of them were willing to admit as one of Steve’s core campaign promises had been to decrease the impact of climate change. The results of said promise? Fuck all, as Nat liked to say. They had gotten distracted by about seven other seriously pressing issues and climate science had fallen by the wayside.

It probably, as much as Steve hated to admit this, would have stayed there if billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark hadn’t gotten kidnapped earlier that year. As a result of that event, he had shut down all of his weapon productions – major blow to the DoD that SecDef Danvers had not stopped screaming about – and was funneling all of his resources into clean energy. And calling out President Rogers’ administration in the process.

The staff were all on edge because they knew Stark was right and they were embarrassed. They were also on edge because Stark was being a gloaty jackass about it.

“Sir,” Bucky said as the meeting wrapped up. “Do you have, like, fifteen to stick your head in once His Royal Greenness shows up?”

“You better start calling him Mr. or Dr. Stark now, because if you slip and call him one of your inane nicknames…”

“I won’t, I won’t. Dr. Stark and his pals are here at 10am. Wanda said your giant fish thing is at 10:15, which in presidential time is 10:30, so can I snag the 10 slot? Stick your head in, remind him who is actually in charge?”

“Do you need me to whip out my dick and measure it against his?”

“I mean, I’ve only seen his in porn, but it can’t hurt,” Bucky smirked.

“This guy made porn?” Steve’s jaw dropped.

“Sorry, Grandpa. I forgot you've always been a dork who avoids the internet and normal, generationally appropriate society. Yes, Tony Stark’s sex tape was – Nat, when did Stark’s sex tape drop?” Bucky called across the Oval.

As the pair debated Steve could not help but let his mind wander slightly. Of all the conversations I was sure I would have this room, this didn’t even crack the top 4,000.

“Anyway,” Bucky pulled him out of his reverie. “10am, Roosevelt Room, the big one with the giant portrait of the dead white guy,” he called as he started walking out.

“Does not narrow it down!” Steve was sick of his staff making fun of his inability to remember his way around the West Wing. “You know, I’ve never met him.”

Bucky stopped dead in his tracks as everyone else exited the office. “What. That cannot be possible! The Stark Foundation is one of your main donors.”

“And every campaign event, he sent Pepper Potts or James Rhodes,” Steve said, taking a seat on the couch and opening a file to read quickly before his next meeting. He had approximately four minutes of alone time and he was going to revel in it. “I’ve met them loads of time and they’re lovely. But the man himself was always busy.”

“Shit, then no dick whipping for sure,” Bucky smirked.

“Why?”

“He is 100% your type.”

Steve made a face and waved his best friend off. Yes, because I would jeopardize everything Peggy and I worked for because I can’t keep my dick in my pants over a narcissistic billionaire who flirts with everything that moves and I think that may include plants. Coming out is not part of my re-election campaign.

“Sir,” Wanda called from the door. “Secretary Mjabi is on the phone.”

“I’ll take in the private office,” Steve replied and his day was off and running. Before he knew it, Wanda was leaving him at the door of the Roosevelt Room and reminding him he only had 15 minutes. Or 30 Presidential Minutes, Steve corrected in his head, keeping the smile off his face.

As he entered, everyone stood up and he waved them back down. “Sit, please, I just wanted to poke my head in and see how the final preparation was going for the summit.”

“The elusive President Rogers,” said Tony loudly, but not unkindly, and turned the full power of his smile in Steve’s direction.

For a hair of a second, Steve was rooted to the spot and his only cognitive thought was Goddamn it, Buck, why are you always right?!