Title: Oh, Holy Shit Steve!
Series: Wild #4
Word Count: 2424
Summary: Steve gets asked about what he likes about the 21st century and what he doesn’t.
Author’s Note: See the end for the inspiration for this story
“Thank you, Captain, for doing this interview. I know you’ve been asked a lot of questions on how your life now and how you’re adjusting, but I wanted to know if there was anything about the 21st century that you are particularly happy with?” the reporter interviewing them ask. Margot Eely was a slickly presented woman and Steve had no idea how to read her.
“The advances in medical science, in food and water safety, in worker safety, in people having a work/home/life balance that actually seems to be good for people…,” Steve stared into space for several seconds. “Yeah, I’m going to say all of that. I don’t think there are many kids born today in the US who would have the sheer number of issues I had. Plus, the general acceptance of who people actually are and how they act.”
“It’s been well documented that you had a number of health concerns,” Margot confirmed. She tilted her head as if she was considering something. “I take it Project Rebirth cured you of all of them?”
“Yes,” Steve agreed simply. “And as much as it was possible to do at the time, I was poked, prodded, and studied to see if the changes I had gone through could be used for anyone else. I went into the ice before I ever found out of my contributions were useful, so that’s something I would be interested in finding out.”
“Some of the diseases you had were ones that you had to have gotten as a child, correct?” Margot pressed.
“Are you asking if the rheumatic fever I had was something I contracted as a child? Or maybe sinusitis?” Steve asked. “Yes, I did develop most of the issues I had as a child. Even though my mother worked as a nurse, we didn’t have a lot and I was a very sickly child. Also, despite my mother dying of TB, I was never diagnosed with it before I entered the Army. Even then, my test came back inconclusive.”
Margot sat back slightly and a small frown moved over her features before they smoothed out again into a professional mask. “And now?”
“Now, I’m immune. My immune system attacks the virus with prejudice and neutralizes it quickly. I also can’t spread it to anyone else,” Steve admitted without a care. “I’ve been exposed a number of times to different diseases and my immune system kills them every time. So I’m safe to be around.”
“Good to know, Captain,” Margot said with a small smile. She shifted slightly and waved a hand. “I’d like to touch on one of the points you mentioned… Acceptance of people?”
“Hmm,” Steve hummed softly and smiled. “So everyone knows I grew up in Brooklyn, correct?”
“Yes,” Margot agreed with a single nod. “What does that have to do with acceptance?”
“Bucky and I rented a very small apartment in Brooklyn. At the time we did it, the area we settled in was heavily queer. My boss lived with his bachelor best friend and had for more than thirty years,” Steve shrugged at her startled look. “No one batted an eye at Bucky and I living together.”
Margot’s jaw dropped and then she gulped. “What?”
“I lived in the queerest section of Brooklyn for more than seven years while working for a gay man and his partner. My neighbors were drag queens, transvestites, and at least two transsexual men. One of whom had two children while I lived in the building with his partner,” Steve admitted calmly.
He’d had plenty of time to research what had happened to his old neighborhood. Jarvis had even been kind enough to help him find his old neighbors. He’d managed to meet up with several of their descendants on the sly. It had soothed something inside of him to be able to see that the people he had known had carried on.
“I feel utterly gobsmacked,” Margot admitted after several seconds. “I know, intellectually that LGBTQ people have existed for the whole time humans have been around, but I never really expected to…know about it. So, you don’t have a problem with LGBTQ people?”
“Nope, never have,” Steve confirmed.
“Right,” Margot said once before she took a deep breath. “Okay, so that’s something that I may want to talk about again, if that’s okay with you, Captain?”
“Certainly,” Steve agreed. He was very certain that SHIELD was having kittens at his openness and Tony was likely laughing his ass off. His lover was nothing if not blunt about his orientation. Steve had made several decisions when he’d researched his legacy and found that he’d been made into a strawman for the ‘American Way’ movement. The way history had whitewashed him pissed him off and he’d made it a goal in life to fuck with everyone’s perceptions of him.
“Thank you,” Margot said before she took another breath and smiled again. “So I want to return to some of the other things you touched on if that’s okay?”
“Sure,” Steve said with a nod. “I’m thrilled with the EPA and its mission statement. Water safety is a legit thing since so many diseases that can kill quickly are carried on bad or contaminated water. And frankly, we’ve been destroying our environment for millennia, so having an agency designed to safeguard it only makes sense.”
“You do know that there are a number of people in the US who believe that the environment is there for humans to use,” Margot asked. She seemed hesitant to inform him of a possible issue.
“I’m aware,” Steve admitted. “But if we don’t husband what we have now, our grandchildren won’t have anything to offer their grandchildren. Acquiring wealth for the sake of wealth is just repugnant.”
“And yet, you’re involved with one of the wealthiest men on the planet,” Margot reminded him tartly.
“I’m aware of Tony’s wealth,” Steve said. “It’d be pretty hard to miss, given the Iron Man suits, the building with his name on it, his company, and a thousand other things that I can’t even articulate. However, he uses his wealth for more than making more wealth. He personally gives more than 40% of his personal income to charitable causes ranging from the Maria Stark Foundation to the Make a Wish Foundation to Meals on Wheels. He’s not hoarding his wealth, he’s using it.”
Margot tilted her head as if she was considering what he’s said. “That’s amazing to know and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know that Mr. Stark donated quite so much of his income.”
“It’s something that he’s been doing since he took control of SI,” Steve shared. He’d made damn sure that he had permission to say anything regarding Tony’s charitable giving with anyone. “Once I figured out how to move my money around, I started to give to several charities that fit.”
“That’s lovely. Can I know which organizations you decided to give to?” Margot asked.
“Feeding America, the Ronald McDonald Houses, the ACLU, Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Campaign,” Steve informed her with a smile. “There are several others I give to occasionally, but those are the ones I give to on a monthly basis.”
“Those are some very diverse charities,” Margot said with a smile. “I’m sure that the HRC and the ACLU will be a surprise to many.”
“Not my problem,” Steve said with a shrug. “I’ve learned a lot over the last few years and I was never someone who could let unfairness, bigotry, or injustice stand. I just found some organizations that share those values.”
“Indeed,” she said after a beat of silence. “I know that the minimum wage was instituted right before WWII, but have you looked into where things are now?”
“Yes,” Steve grimaced as he thought about it. “When it started, the minimum wage was $0.25 an hour in 1938. It got a bit better before I went under the ice and moved only grudgingly thereafter. I also know that the buying power of that amount has changed a bit over the years. However, that is only 60% of the buying power of the minimum wage as it stands today. And that’s pretty damn pathetic.”
“To run a business…,” Margot started.
“If you can’t pay people enough to survive and thrive, then you shouldn’t be running a business,” Steve cut in sharply. “Making everyone else subsidize your employees with food stamps and community assistance just means that you’re robbing your people while you profit from their labor. I don’t know many ways to call it other than that. It’s not right, it’s stupid and it means that eventually, no one will be able to afford to live in this country because their wages mean they will starve even if they work 40 hours a week on a job. If they don’t want to starve, people need to work at least two, maybe three jobs with almost a hundred hours a week on the various clocks. That doesn’t leave time for living.”
Margot drew in a deep breath before she let it out slowly. “That’s a bit blunt and harsh. What does Mr. Stark have to say about this?”
“You mean my belief that the minimum wage should be set at such a level that anyone working 40 hours a week can support themselves and not starve?” Steve asked. At her nod, he smiled. “He’s all for it. SI has been paying a competitive, livable wage since Howard started it. To keep the people he needed in the company, he needed to pay them enough that there was no way they wanted to leave. And he was well aware that the little people, the ones who clean offices, guard the doors, and serve the food, can be the best spies. He always made sure that they were paid well enough that there was no temptation. Tony carried on the tradition and from what I’ve learned, SI hasn’t had an issue with industrial spies in years.”
“That’s…pretty amazing,” Margot said finally. “And you’re right. Nothing in any of the research I’ve done on SI says that they treat their people badly. It’s good to know that they do care for their employees.”
“Oh, I’m sure there were some very cold calculations going on, but the better you are to your employees, the better they will be to you,” Steve reminded her. “My boss before the war? Paid me enough to live on and with the salary that Bucky brought home, we had enough to eat, have clothes, and occasionally have fun.”
“Wow.” She was silent for several seconds and the inclined her head. “So this is something that you’re passionate about?”
“Yeah,” Steve confirmed. “I’ve been poor. The laundry list of ailments I had when I entered the Army? A number of those were genetic, but more of them were because we were poor. Money means health in this country and that’s another thing! Why do most first-world countries have universal healthcare and the US doesn’t? It’s bullshit that we as a people would rather a person died from not having health insurance than put in the effort to insure the whole country!”
The laugh Margot let out was rueful. “Oh, Captain. No one is going to be prepared for this when they see it.”
“It’s not my responsibility to cushion these people from reality,” Steve told her. He was starting to get irritated and he didn’t need to climb on his soapbox to bitch about everything he found wrong with the US of 2014.
“No, it’s not,” Margot agreed. “Has anyone told you about anti-vaxxers?”
“No,” Steve drew the word out and stared at her as he processed the word. “Vax for vaccination?”
“There are people who are against a lifesaving medical advancement that means they either won’t get sick or if they do it will be a mild version of the disease?” Steve pressed for clarification.
Margot nodded. “Yes. And the movement has led to a resurgence of diseases that were well on their way to being eradicated from the US population. There have been children who died of these diseases and many more who have been detrimentally affected by them as well. Their parents and the other people in the movement say they don’t trust the science behind vaccines, their religion prohibits it, it’s a childhood disease so can’t be that bad, or they think it will make their children autistic… There’s a whole host of reasons they don’t get their kids protected.”
“Jesus Christ,” Steve breathed. “I just can’t.”
“Sorry to break it to you,” Margot offered with a small shrug.
“People need to vaccinate their kids,” Steve said with a shake of his head. “It’s… it’s the best and safest thing you can do to make sure your kid grows up without the issues I had. For fucks sake!”
From the shocked look Margot gave him, she wasn’t expecting him to cuss. Oh, well.
“I think that’s where we’ll leave this interview with Steve Rogers, Captain America. Thank you for your time and a very interesting interview,” Margo said after giving him a professional smile.
“You’re welcome, Ms. Eely. You’ve also given me plenty to think about,” Steve admitted. He held out a hand to her and shook it carefully.
“I don’t think anyone is going to quite know what to do with you, Captain,” Margot admitted with a smile that seemed much more genuine.
Steve eyed her briefly before he slanted a glance over at Natasha. His fellow Avenger was looking amused, but that seemed to be her default mood. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but there are some deeply fucked up people in this timezone. I thought the idiots I grew up with were bad, but voluntarily letting your kids get a deadly disease because it’s technically a ‘children’s disease’? That’s bullshit.”
From the twitching Natasha’s lips were doing, she was restraining herself from laughing out loud. Margot wasn’t quite as restrained. She was laughing while being a bit flabbergasted. “Oh, Captain. You really do hide your light under a bushel, don’t you?”
“I really don’t,” Steve said. His opinions had been getting him in trouble since he’d been a kid. Nothing had actually changed now that he was healthy and an Avenger. Now he just had a larger audience to make his views known too. “Thank you for giving me things to talk to Tony about.”
Margot smiled softly and nodded once. “You’re welcome, Captain. Have a good day,”