Characters: Steve, Natasha
Warnings/Triggers: background sick children
Spoilers: Generalized movie spoilers for Cap and Natasha
Word Count 936
Summary: It shouldn't be surprising to her how good Rogers is with kids. Of course he'd be. Of course he'd know how to talk to the smallest and the sickliest ones. He was the smallest and sickliest one, once upon a time. He can coerce even the saddest, most standoffish, most hollow-eyed children in the hospital to smile.
Author's notes: I've been having sudden and inexplicable Captain America feels. I... I don't know, people. I don't know.
A bit kid!ficcy, because it's me. Very fluffy, also because it's me. Short and written quickly, apologies for errors.
Natasha shouldn't be surprised. She's read Rogers' profile. She's read everyone's profiles. She's memorized them all. She knows all of her team's history, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. She knows to take any one of them out if necessary. She knows what spots to hit--physically, emotionally, and mentally. She knows them.
So, it shouldn't be surprising to her how good Rogers is with kids. Of course he'd be. Of course he'd know how to talk to the smallest and the sickliest ones. He was the smallest and sickliest one, once upon a time. He can coerce even the saddest, most standoffish, most hollow-eyed children in the hospital to smile.
Steve Rogers doesn't always do well with grown-ups. He's a bit socially awkward, a bit too stubborn, a bit too good to be rational sometimes. He's 25 and 94 at the same time, and neither suits him well--too young and too old. He doesn't fit into the world; he stands outside of it or gets jostled along with it. When he's Captain America, though, when he's with the kids who gape at him and idolize him, he's damn near flawless.
Nat doesn't normally come with him for this sort of thing. She's filling in because half of the agents in SHIELD have been taken down by the Flu From the Nether Regions of Hell (Hawkeye's description; he caught it on a field mission). There's no one available to keep Rogers company as he visits Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. It's part of some sort of PR program for the Avengers. Captain America is the best (and only) person to represent them in the public eye.
They've been at it for two hours already, and they are barely halfway through the hospital. Steve stops to talk to every child, in every room, on every floor. He sits and plays, he draws and colors, he listens and comforts, he poses for pictures, he signs autographs, he holds hands. He seems indefatigable. He just carries on--long after Nat would have been contemplating getting out her taser and making a swift exit.
The children love him. They listen wide-eyed and -mouthed to what he has to say. Even the shyest ones come and sit on his lap, whispering secrets in his ear like he's Santa Claus. He listens and nods and whispers back. He falters sometimes. He needs a moment between floors after one little girl told him something that made his whole face fall. Natasha stands nearby in case he wants to talk about it, but he just bows his head for a few seconds and blinks, then gets out of the elevator, a fresh smile on his face.
He's in the playroom now, sitting at a table far too small for him with a group of children gathered around, their IV poles carefully placed not to tangle around each other. He's fielding questions patiently.
“Who made your costume?”
“Is it uncomfortable?”
“Not as much as you'd think.”
“How do you go to the bathroom?”
“I take it off.”
“What's your favorite color?”
“How old are you?”
“Have you met the president?”
“The American one.”
“Have you met Elmo?”
Steve shoots Nat a confused look, and she shakes her head. “Um, not yet.”
The questions roll on, and Steve keeps at it. One little girl is very quiet and keeps opening her mouth, but closing it again as someone gets there before her. It takes Steve a while to notice, but eventually, he sees her and raises a hand. The whole table goes silent like he's hit an off switch. Captain America gives a command and the world listens. He gives the girl an encouraging nod.
“Do you ever get scared?” she asks.
“Oh, all the time,” Steve says. “Always.”
“How do you be brave?” she asks.
This is the first time Natasha has seen him at a loss for words. Someone like Rogers doesn't think about being brave. He just is. It's there in the profile. It was bred into him.
“I look around me, and I see my friends and people I care about, and they help me be brave,” he says, after a few moments thought. “I'm brave for them, and they're brave for me.”
Two more hours pass before they've covered everyone. Natasha is more than happy to get out of there. His relentless optimism is exhausting. She needs to get back to people who are aware that the world actually sucks. She thinks even Steve is ready to go. He's been hugged and kissed and is carrying a dozen drawings that she knows he'll probably keep in some box somewhere.
“You're pretty good at this,” she says, as they take the elevator down to the bottom floor.
“I do my best,” he says.
“They like you,” she says.
He shakes his head with an embarrassed smile. “When you're sick, any change of pace is exciting,” he dismisses it. “Especially when you're a kid. No kid wants to be stuck in a hospital or a sick room. You feel like the world is passing by without you.”
One more child catches them on their way out. Captain America dutifully kneels down and chats, despite his fatigue. That's the difference between a superhuman and a superhero, Nat thinks, rather idealistically for her.
She doesn't know why she's surprised. It's all there in the profile.
She just didn't think it was true.