A/N: What do I post on holidays? Steve-centric oneshots, apparently. What is this, like the third in a row? Steve is just so lonely I have to make sure he's okay whenever holidays roll around! Give him a life already, Marvel, come on.
Please enjoy the Fourth (or what's left of it, anyway!) and please review!
Their Country Loved
Steve rubbed his eyes awake as he X'd off the current day on his paper calendar.
July 4'th, 2013.
His birthday had, at least, never been a difficult one to remember.
He pulled on his track pants and sweatshirt and headed out of his Tower suite, aiming to get some training in before the day's inevitable festivities began.
He was a tiny bit excited. The Avengers had become like his replacement family, so to speak, now that everyone else he knew was dead and gone. They weren't the 'live and bleed together' type; none of them were; but at least they all shared a space from time to time. After joint missions, they all tended to congregate at the Tower to rest and recover before heading back to wherever they each, individually, called home.
Their most recent mission, to investigate several Hydra uprisings in Bolivia, had been surprisingly low-key for the first few days. On the last day, however, an acid-spraying weapon had been unleashed on the team and now they were recovering from a few minor burns.
All of them excepting Banner, of course, who was recovering from the emotional drain of a Code Green. The Hulk was a willing member of the team—for that, Steve was grateful. That didn't mean the peaceful doctor was overjoyed when they required that particular kind of service.
The Captain nearly ran into the doctor on his way to the gym. "Morning, Banner," he offered a polite smile.
Bruce blinked at him sleepily. "It's morning?"
Steve's eyebrows shot up. "What time did you think it was?"
"I dunno," Bruce slowly reached up and scratched his head. He looked exhausted. "Evening, maybe? The middle of the night?"
"Did you sleep at all last night?"
"No, I was up—running schematics on that—new alien tech-scanner Tony and I were working on," Bruce tried to suppress a yawn, but didn't quite make it in time. "Guess I'd better head to bed, if it's already that time."
Steve hid his disappointment. It was the Fourth of July, and Bruce was going to be SLEEPING for the better half of the day. "Sleep tight," he chuckled, clapping the older man on the shoulder before pushing the door to the stairwell open.
He found Thor already in the gym. Steve resisted the urge to grin maniacally when he remembered that Thor was clueless—he wasn't even from planet Earth, let alone America. He would be surprised and pleased to learn about the annual celebration of the humans he'd become acquainted with.
"Pleasure to see you, as always, my friend," Thor pushed himself up from an insanely high stack of weights and shook Steve's hand with his own sweaty one. "What challenge would you care for us to engage in today?"
"Eh, how about a couple of deadlifts?" Steve suggested, examining the weights. It had been almost two years since he'd gotten his abilities, but he still nearly hyperventilated when he allowed himself to think about the sheer amount of weight either him or Thor were capable of lifting. Easily.
"An excellent choice of exercise," Thor agreed. "In my realm, we have an annual celebration that forces us to engage in similar patterns of movement. There is a mighty contest to see who can throw the most livestock into the river from the furthest distance."
"Sounds like fun," Steve grunted, settling his own weight stacks beside Thor's. Neither of them could work out with ordinary sets of weights—Tony had had theirs custom-designed. Steve would lift at least six hundred pounds each rep while warming up, and Thor could lift nearly twice the amount. At their max, they were both around two thousand.
Steve was just somewhat relieved to not be the biggest person in the room all the time; he hadn't grown up that way. Thor hardly noticed his size—a fact which had caused more than a few accidental bruises among the smaller members of the team.
"You make your lifting appear effortless," Thor grunted, nodding to Steve from his own deadlift position.
Steve cocked an eyebrow at Thor's nearly twice as heavy stack. "You call that easy?"
"I merely suggested that you might require a greater challenge, not myself."
"You're afraid to try," Steve taunted.
"I am not afraid," Thor replied defensively.
"You are most certainly mistaken!"
"Prove it," Steve chuckled, dropping his weights as Thor dropped his own, glared at him, and wiped the sweat from his brow as he added several hundred pounds to his stack.
"This is why I purposefully avoid you guys when I'm working out," a new voice grumbled as Tony entered the room, dressed in his sweats as well. "What is this, a sumo wrestler competition? World's Biggest Sweat Challenge? Come on, everyone knows Thor can do better than that," he taunted as Thor braced himself to lift again.
Steve laughed as Thor gave them both an exasperated look. "By Odin, it's as if the two of you think I am a god or something."
Tony and Steve burst out laughing even harder, and Thor just watched them, confused.
"Did I say something humorous?" Thor glowered.
"Forget this," Tony continued chuckling. He threw the towel he'd brought down with him over the laundry rack and headed back toward the elevator. "Jarvis, tell the chef to send up waffles for breakfast. I'll come back later," he rolled his eyes at the overly-competitive weightlifters.
"Would you like your waffle with strawberries and blueberries in the shape of the American flag, Sir?"
Steve's ear perked up for a second.
Tony stopped in his tracks, thoroughly confused. "Uh—why would I want that, exactly?"
"Because it is Independence Day, Sir."
Steve wasn't expecting the utterly dejected look to cross Tony's face. The Iron Man hung his head backwards, groaning. "Crap," he muttered. "Is it, really? I hate the Fourth of July."
Something told Steve to keep his mouth shut, although he was almost dying to ask why.
Chances were, if he brought up anything holiday-related, he'd get a round of teasing and a whole roster of new patriotic-themed nicknames from Stark.
Steve and Thor finally finished their exercising and came up for breakfast. "Natasha," Steve greeted her as he watched the young assassin stock her plate with a number of—interesting—Russian foods he couldn't begin to name.
Natasha gave him a friendly smile. "Ready to get back to D.C. yet?" she asked him.
Steve shrugged. "Not really," he replied, as he and Thor began working in tandem to cook their usual fare: eggs and bacon with toast, cereal, and at least two kinds of fruit along with generous helpings of fruit juice and coffee. "It's been really nice, having the whole team back together again. Even if it is for a short time."
"Can't deny that," Natasha raised him a glass of vodka.
Steve tried not to wince as the scent of it wafted toward his nose. "I can't believe you drink that stuff for breakfast," he pushed it away.
Natasha grinned and sipped it herself. "Your loss."
Thor was talkative at breakfast, but Steve felt himself rather moody as he ate so Thor and Natasha ended up chatting over his head. He'd forgotten Natasha was a proud Russian and probably didn't even care about the Fourth.
His team could have at least remembered to celebrate his birthday, though. Really. They'd celebrated Natasha's only a few days ago, and of all people, Natasha was the most likely of the group to hide her birth date from the rest of them.
Steve's day was kind of obvious. It was recorded in comic books printed between 1946 and 2004. He was used to everyone knowing annoyingly personal details about his life, and now not even his team seemed aware.
None of that took into account that Steve, Cap or no, loved the holiday. Ever since his mother had taught him its meaning, they'd celebrated it solemnly together. America's freedom had made all the difference for their family. It had made it possible for them to live, and for his momma to have a full and meaningful life.
It had meant she could make enough money to take care of him, and they had never had to be separated because of his illnesses. In Ireland, he might have ended up permanently housed in a charity hospital. Instead, he had gone to school and lived a good life. He had fought. He had been there for his mother's final years. He had met Bucky.
Independence Day wasn't important to him because he was Captain America.
It was important to him because he was an American.
A loud explosion suddenly shook the Tower, rattling the three Avengers' table and causing their food to crash to the floor.
The three of them froze for a second, unsure of what to do.
That was when Natasha sighed, loud and exasperated. "Clint! I know that was you!"
Clint, in his everyday clothes—actually, blue jeans and a red-and-white T-shirt—appeared in the doorway sucking on the edge of one thumb. His face and hands were covered in soot and grime. "Uh—" he started, "—where's Tony?"
"What just happened to the Tower?!" Tony came thundering up the stairs, seeing Clint staring at him as soon as he threw open the door. He pointed at the archer, who had a guilty look growing on his face. "What did you do? 'Fess up!"
"I—might've set off one of the fireworks that was meant for tonight—?"
Tony stared at him blankly for a second. "Why the heck were you setting off fireworks?"
Clint gave him one in return. "—because it's the Fourth of July?"
Tony continued to stare.
"Independence Day?" Clint exclaimed, throwing his hands up. "The best day of the year? The anniversary of the greatest country on Earth? –Steve's birthday? C'mon, Stark, you needn't act like you're surprised."
The sound of someone else's feet on the stairs preceded a half-asleep Dr. Banner stepping into the room, looking mildly alarmed but more like he just wanted to go back to bed. "Did something explode?" he asked Tony. Then he saw Clint. "You burned your thumb."
"Yeah. Hurts like the dickens, too."
Bruce blinked at him sleepily. "You should—you should be more careful with your fingers. You're an archer."
Clint rolled his eyes. "Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, I am. But this is Independence Day! Come on, guys? A little patriotism, here?"
"I'm not even from America, Clint," Natasha, apparently used to this yearly display, complacently sipped her vodka.
"Neither were any of our forefathers!" Clint exclaimed loudly, with the air of giving a practiced speech. "Every one of us came to this country with a purpose in mind, and even after three generations, mine is finally starting to figure out how to actually be free and to live with opportunity and equality as an undivided nation under God, and I'll be darned if I don't burn my whole hand off if I have to to show how proud I am that I can live to defend it every single day!" he finished, his face turned bright red as he stood an inch or two taller than he normally did.
Steve grabbed the last slice of bacon off of his plate and leaped up. "I'll help you!" he exclaimed, running toward the elevator.
"Finally, at least somebody else cares!" Clint threw his hands up in relief, stepping back inside with Steve. They hit the button and headed back up to the roof, watching as the rest of the group gawked at them as they left.
"Well, there's a side of Legolas we don't see every day," Tony quirked an eyebrow.
"Every year, it's the same story," Natasha sighed, shaking her head as she finished her breakfast. "He's nuts about this holiday, I swear. It's ridiculous."
Clint and Steve, meanwhile, emerged just below the rooftop access door together and immediately headed outside onto the roof of the Tower.
Steve's eyebrows shot up when he saw the stockpile of fireworks Clint had managed to obtain; also, when he noticed the damage caused by the rocket that decided to go rogue on him a few minutes ago. "It's a wonder you didn't lose your head," he commented with concern, picking up some stray pieces of debris.
"Yeah, got a little too excited, I guess," Clint grinned at him from behind his sunglasses.
Below them, New York City stretched out like a panel on a map; a living one, with moving cars and tiny people inching their way block to block.
Steve looked out at it and grinned back at the archer.
"What are we waiting for? This is going to be amazing!"
"Thank God, someone else actually appreciates their own country!" Clint directed the last part of this sentence through the roof access door, down into the hallway.
Steve chuckled, sorting through boxes of firecrackers and actual, full-blown fireworks. "I don't think they can hear you."
"Nat can," Clint informed him matter-of-factly, grabbing a box and ripping it open with an arrowhead from his pocket. "I ask her to help me every single year. She thinks I'm crazy."
"Well, we'll show them, won't we?"
Clint laughed. "We sure will!"
They worked for a few moments, Steve exclaiming over a few of the really cool designs he found in Clint's stash.
"Oh, and Cap?"
"Before I forget, happy birthday."
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