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Steve Rogers doesn't have very many friends.

It's sort of sad to admit out loud. He's Captain America! Head of the Avengers, savior of the world a few times over, America's poster boy. Perhaps that's why he doesn't have anyone outside his team-- he's hard to approach outside of asking for an autograph or selfie, untouchable in the eyes of the many. Finding someone genuine would be a shot in the dark this far into the game. Sure, he's got the rest of the Avenger's and he loves them, but it's... different. They're family, but they're also coworkers. Sometimes Steve can't help but feel a tad lonely, finding himself wistfully wishing he knew someone outside the madness that was his superhero life.

He's met a few people. He's a social guy, if not a little behind the times. There's a sort of awe, though, that exists in just about everyone Steve meets. A worship that separates him and them, placing Steve on a pedestal nobody else can reach. He wishes it were different. At his core, he's really just a man. Just a regular dude, with regular hobbies. It would be nice to have someone who knew that side of him. Who wanted to be around him, not for his heroic deeds and superhuman abilities, but for his personality and interests. It's a lot to ask, him being in the position he is. He supposes he signed up for it when he agreed to take that serum. 

Is Steve being selfish? Maybe he's being selfish. He has a good life. He's got more money than he knows what to do with-- Captain America merchandise sells well and saving the world pays as well as one would suspect. He's famous. He doesn't really have to work much. It's not like aliens are attacking monthly, or terrorist organizations are using otherworldly tech to blow civilians up every other week. There are missions, but they're not daily. It leaves him with more downtime than he knows what to do with, and no one to spend it with.

Tony's got tech to build, Natasha's got missions of her own, Clint's got a family, Sam's got a life outside work, Thor's a god, Bruce does scientist things 24/7, Rhodes has a job, Wanda and Vision are in love, and Bucky needs his alone time or he'll snap and probably crush Steve's skull like a watermelon. Bucky's his friend and Steve adores him, but he's not the same man who used to pull him out of back-alley fights in the 40's. Steve doesn't have... anything, really, to captivate his attention. Or rather, there's nobody for him to share what matters most to him with.

The super soldier sighs quietly, sniffing and looking down at the sketchbook in his lap. It carefully depicts the park in front of him, each pencil stroke precise and placed with care. Sometimes he finds himself exploring New York, driving for hours upon hours at times just to find somewhere new. Today has brought him to Queens. It's different than he remembers it, yet somehow still unshakably the same. It gives him something to do and his oddly cathartic. It's easy to get lost in his artwork. At the very least, it kills the time. Gets him out of the tower and doing something aside from wallowing in his own insatiable loneliness.

Steve shakes his head a bit, gripping his pencil with newfound purpose. Right. He's not here to dwell on the friends he does or doesn't have. It's a nice day out. Really, the weather couldn't be anymore perfect. Maybe after this he'll treat himself to some breakfast food. It's the middle of the day, but there's bound to be a diner around here somewhere that does it round the clock. He'll be eating by himself, but he eats a lot anyway, so it'll take him longer. It makes complete sense. Anyone else would be left waiting for him to finish gorging himself, and you can't talk with your mouth full, so--

"Whoa!" The chime of an awed voice breaks Steve out of his train of thought and fills him with a sense of absolute dread. He deftly looks up with a smile plastered on his face nonetheless, ready to be Captain America, but is stunned to see the stranger's eyes aren't on him. No, he's looking at the sketchbook. "Did you draw that?!"

The boy looks amazed and excited, still taking the art in. The boy is young and reminds Steve of himself from before, wiry and not very tall. He's wearing a shirt too big for his frame, with a nerdy science pun on it that Bruce would probably laugh at. Brown hair curls in haphazard waves, sticking up in odd directions and making the boy look even younger. It's his eyes, though, that really get Steve. He feels like the airs been punched out of him. There's a lot of wonder there. It's innocent and soft around the edges, and real. 

Steve blinks at him once. Twice. He looks down at his sketch, registering the question he was just asked a bit belatedly. Of all the things he'd expected to hear out of the kid's mouth it... hadn't been that, honestly. He's Captain America. Nobody asks about anything aside from that. At least, not until now. Steve feels surprisingly shy all of a sudden, but something in him explodes at the same time. Child, teen, adult, elder-- none of it matters. This boy is interested in his art. His art. When has... when has this ever happened? Has it ever happened?

"I-I, uh, yes?" Steve hates that it comes out as a question. He watches with no small amount of bewilderment as the boy flushes, gaze pulling away from the drawing and the beginnings of slight mortification making itself known on his face. He looks notably embarrassed and like maybe he hadn't meant to blurt the inquiry out, staring at Steve with big brown eyes that scream panic. The boy grins, nervously, and Steve can't stop himself from smiling back. It's such an genuine sight. Steve knows already that his week has just been made. 

There's a slight sense of panic that fills him, however. Something in him very firmly instructs him not to scare this boy off on accident. Why, Steve isn't sure yet. But he listens anyway, doing his best to make himself seem smaller and therefore less intimidating. 

"Sorry! I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. It just-- it looks really good, sir. I think you might be even better than my friend MJ. But, uh, d-don't tell her I said that." The boy sputters out. He takes a small step back, sheepish. Steve watches the kid awkwardly scratch the back of his neck, looking like he's about to melt into the sidewalk. "I really didn't mean to pry, or look, o-or bother you. Sir." 

The boy gives a slight, apologetic sort of bow that's so endearing it makes Steve feel impossibly fond out of nowhere. Steve laughs a little, feeling like he's been made brighter by this one encounter alone. The kid looks like he has no idea what to do with himself, his doe eyes pulled back towards the drawing in Steve's lap despite himself. His clumsy politeness the kid displays once again reminds Steve of himself growing up. He wonders if this boy jumps in front of bullies for the sake of others too. He gives off that vibe-- takes one to know one. Steve hasn't felt this happy in a long time. Which is pathetic, considering he has no idea who this is and has known him for all of two seconds, but you know. 

"I really don't mind. Thank you for the compliment." Steve beams, and the boy's cheeks flush further. Steve angles the drawing so that he can see it better when the teen's eyes flicker to it again. Steve doesn't often feel flattered, but seeing someone so genuinely interested and amazed by something he made makes his heart thump a few beats faster. "I... I have a few others, if you'd like to look. Though I'm not sure how good they actually are."

Suddenly, he's the one feeling flustered and insecure. The kid was just being nice, but now he was going to feel incredibly pressured to say yes. Steve doesn't really show people his art. He's not sure why he's offering now-- to a child, no less. Maybe it's because of the initial compliment, or maybe it's the spark in the boy's eye every time he glances at Steve's drawing. He looks at it like he's trying to greedily drink it in. Steve used to be the same way. Artwork drew him like a moth to a flame, and he'd spend hours soaking in every line and texture. He'd try to memorize whatever work he saw, no matter the quality or medium. 

"W-Wait, really? Are you sure?" The kid asks, and Steve feels the pit of warmth in him widen at the hesitant excitement and anticipation on the kid's face. In invitation, Steve scoots over slightly and pats a spot on the bench he'd commandeered for himself. The brunette scrambles over, clearly bashful but eager nonetheless. His wild bangs flop into his eyes, and he hurriedly pushes them back as he plops down with a respectable amount of space still between them. Steve turns the book towards him with more readiness than he'd expected of himself. The teen is pretty much bouncing, and Steve feels like he could maybe bounce too. "Thank you! I'm sorry again, I-- I'm Peter! Peter Parker!" 

He holds out his hand, face flaming but eyes so painstakingly open that Steve can't stop himself from feeling charmed. He feels well and truly delighted, a pleased hum forming in the center of his chest. Peter is polite, and Steve can see the honesty rolling off the kid in waves. He knows he's good a good kid just looking at him. Steve has a sense for this sort of thing, he likes to think. He's not sure why he's being so inviting to someone he just met. This is a stranger whom he knows absolutely nothing about, but his interest is so invigorated and present. The first thing he'd looked at hadn't been Captain America. It had been Steve's art.

"Nice to meet you, Peter." Steve grins. He grasps his hand and is pleased to find the kid's got a firm shake. "My name's Steve. Do you like art, son?"

Peter beams back at him and seems to relax a little at the introduction and question, and that's when it hits Steve right between the eyes. His own giddiness ramps up, which embarrassing, but he can't help it. Because right now? There is not a single bit of hero worship in this kid's eyes. Steve doesn't like to toot his own horn, but he's also Captain America. He's a hit with pretty much every age group out there, and he can tell right away that Peter doesn't recognize him at all. This kid is here talking to Steve. Just Steve. About art that Steve did, that he coincidentally saw, that he likes. 

How pitiful is he right now? He's over the moon that a teenager is talking to him. Normally it's entirely the other way around. Steve doesn't want to be a creep, but this is unprecedented. A new experience in uncharted territory. Ever since waking up after the ice, he's been Captain America. This is the first time he's been just Steve. Even if it's to a kid who looks like the sun when he smiles, it's something. Like a breath of fresh air he hadn't realized he needed. When was the last time he felt like this? 

"It's nice to meet you too, sir! A-And yes, I really do. I'm not very good at it myself, but seeing the things that other people create is just so... so cool. Like, you just used your brain and made that. With a pencil!" Peter scooted a little closer, eyes wide as though he were trying to convince Steve to see his point. He gestured to Steve's drawing with purpose. "It's awesome. You just walked over here, sat down, and then drew that! And it looks perfect!"

"It's not that good." Steve laughs, good natured. The kid doesn't budge. He shakes his head, narrowing his eyes and meeting Steve's blue ones with determination that apparently overrides whatever anxiety the kid was feeling before. Steve's smile softens, and he glances down at his park depiction idly. "Perfect's a strong word, but I'm flattered. It means a lot." 

"Mr. Steve." The kid says firmly. Steve breaks out with a grin, because oh my god. Mr. Steve. Who even is this kid, and where did he come from? "You need to give yourself more credit. I was stopped in my tracks. I never talk to strangers, but I literally couldn't stop myself! I would buy that for so much money. Like, with real dollars, sir. You could submit that to a gallery and they'd frame it in one of those fancy golden plaster ones, and it would look totally justified. Rich people would come by and nod at it and then bid obscene amounts on it. And it would hang in their hallway and guests would come stare at it and nod too at parties, and--"

The kid's adorable and absolutely heart-warming dump of praise is cut off by the sound of ripping. His mouth closes so fast Steve can hear his teeth clack together even without his enhanced senses, and he offers the paper towards him with a smile that makes his cheeks hurt. He feels bubbly, like his insides have been turned to honey. He has no idea who Peter is or where he came from, but Steve is so happy right now. Insane levels of happiness. Forget his week being made, this is an encounter that'll have him feeling exuberant for the rest of his life whenever he thinks back on it. 

"Here." He offers. The kid stares at the paper with big eyes but doesn't take it, even when Steve gives it a little shake. "No real dollars required, son. I'm not sure anyone's made me feel as talented as you just did. Pretty sure my ego just got around ten times bigger. It'll just sit and gather dust in my sketchbook otherwise. It'd make me happy to know someone who appreciates it has it."

"Is this real?" Peter asks, and Steve laughs. The kid reaches up carefully, cradling the paper like it's made of gold. He gawks at it, and then at Steve. His brown eyes are still open and still honest, which only makes his endless stream of praise hit harder. Steve doesn't actually know this kid, but he loves him. The same way you love a puppy when you see it, because it's a puppy, and how could you not? "I-I can't possibly accept this! You spent valuable time making it, and I'm just some random kid who decided to bother you! Which, sorry about that. I really didn't mean to. That's totally not the point. Actually, no, it kind of is. There's no way I can take it!"

"Well, I don't want it." Was Steve grinning too much? Steve was pretty sure he was grinning too much. "I saw a trashcan not too far from here, if you want to--"

Peter jerked away from Steve, horrified. 

"Never mind. I'll cherish it for the rest of my life and frame it. It'll be a family heirloom for generations to come." Peter rushed out, drawing the picture closer as though afraid Steve would snatch it away and dispose of it himself. Steve let out another laugh at the scandalized look on the kids face. "You're a horrible person, Mr. Steve. Absolutely horrible."

Steve laughed again, and the kid broke out into another smile, this one just as big as the last. Steve had forgotten what it felt like to have fun like this. To joke around and laugh without any worry. It felt great, and the ball of loneliness that normally sung in his chest quieted under the attention. Peter was impossible not to like, all natural charisma and earnest grins. Steve found himself shamefully wishing this moment could last forever. Which is sad, and stupid, and again, pathetic... but Peter is talking to Steve. And hardly anyone ever talks to Steve. 

"I try, I try." Steve says easily. He glances down at his sketchbook and bites the inside of his cheek, hesitating only briefly before he flips the page back one. Is he getting ahead of himself? Is Peter forcing himself because he's just too nice of a kid to admit he wants to leave? Did Steve rope him into this against his will by mistake? This kid probably has a million other things he could be doing, but instead he's sitting with Steve on a bench looking at scribbles. "I have a few others, if you want to see them."

He glances at Peter and has to do a doubletake. Peter's gaze is trained on the sketchbook, expression shockingly unreadable. Steve raises a brow as the kid slowly turns to look him dead in the eyes. The sudden flip makes Steve want to burst out laughing, because the firm expression Peter now sports really does look out of place on such a soft face. 

"Mr. Steve." Peter says in all seriousness. Steve snorts a bit as the kid leans closer. "Is that actually the Death Star, or am I hallucinating?"

Steve, grinning wider still, is suddenly glad he'd followed Sam's chronological 'catch up' list of things to watch. Especially when the kid starts bombarding him with questions about how much of a Star Wars fan he is. After all, the more trivia he knows, the longer the conversation will last. Right?