Title: From The Rubble
Word Count: 2,050
Characters: Clint Barton; Tony Stark; Pepper Potts; Steve Rogers; Bruce Banner; Natasha Romanoff; Phil Coulson; James ‘Bucky’ Barnes; Thor; Jane Foster; Darcy Lewis; Nick Fury
Disclaimer: I don't own them. They belong only to themselves, and the people that created them. This is a figment of my imagination--fiction. No money made. Any mistakes are mine.
Summary: Second Chances; Avengers, Coulson, rebuilding trust; didn't come out quite the way I planned. The second chance is so very slim.
It was a time of hardship, deep mourning, and building anew. New York City after the battle with the Chitauri gave everyone a new start…a new prosperity.
It was also a time for strangers becoming a team—becoming friends—becoming a family. They had come together to avenge the death of a man who drew a line in the sand and defended it to his last breath. To avenge the most heinous of violations to body and soul of the men and women touched by Loki’s scepter, and to avenge those lives lost in a battle in the streets of their home.
Strangers—exhausted, dirty and injured broke bread in a partially demolished restaurant. Strangers scarred by their lives in the darkest of shadows. Scarred by greed and the insanity of zealotry—they came together as warriors.
By the time the meal was finished, Tony’s brain had concluded many things about the ‘Avengers’. Knowing very little about the two assassins, but coming to the conclusion that Clint Barton would be persona non-grata at SHIELD, Bruce would not want to go anywhere near SHIELD, and Steve had no way of knowing if his apartment still existed…he cleared his throat.
“Sleepover at my place, kids.” He declared.
Five sets of exhausted eyes blinked owlishly at the declaration.
“Hawkeye and I should report to SHIELD…”
Natasha looked up when she felt Clint stiffen at her words.
“That would be no.” Tony insisted. “Not until he can be protected from becoming Fury and the WSC’s scapegoat. Pepper will be home tomorrow and we can hash that out and find out the arrangements for Agent.”
“Arrangements for…Agent…” Clint’s brain translated Tony’s nickname. “Coulson…Phil…Tasha?” Storm colored eyes questioned desperately.
“When we get to the Tower, Yastreb, this is not a thing to be told in public.”
When they were safe, showered, and their wounds bandaged, they gathered in the living room of the undamaged penthouse, and told Agent Clint Barton his handler of ten years and lover for five was dead.
From their grief a family was born.
Being dead was the most exhausting mission Senior Agent Phil Coulson had ever undertaken. He missed his life, his friends, but mostly he missed Clint.
For fifteen years Clint Barton walked at his left shoulder. For the last five they’d walked side by side. He planned to ask the archer to marry him on the night Loki stole his heart.
It had taken SHIELD Medical and R & D six months to bring him back to health. Polymer fibers with incredible tensile strength replaced ligaments and tendons. Nanites repaired cut lung and muscle. He was a medical miracle on a mission of which only he and Nick Fury were privy.
Nick kept him in the loop in regards to The Avengers. He spent many of Phil’s PT sessions venting his spleen over Stark stealing his best assets, making them troubleshooters for Starktech, contracted to SHIELD by the mission.
When he asked about Clint, Fury had deflated. Pepper and Natasha was SHIELD’s only contact and they refused to give personal details about the team. Hawkeye had not stepped into SHIELD since he left with Captain America and Black Widow to fight the Chitauri. The only information came from mission reports and footage from video surveillance.
It had taken two years, but his mission was finally complete. His team had systematically destroyed the Red Room and retrieved as many operatives as they could salvage from their cryogenic facilities as well as their active agents. Phil’s heart had nearly stopped when one of the cryogenic chambers contained the Winter Soldier, who was identified as James ‘Bucky’ Barnes, best friend to Captain America.
As soon as they finished deprogramming Barnes, Fury would call for a meeting with The Avengers, Phil Coulson would join Barnes in rising from the dead.
Clint Barton sighed feeling everything let go with that one breath. He, Tony, Pepper and Natasha had just returned from the ribbon cutting for Stark Industries newest arc reactor powered building in Dallas. Tony had tasked the assassins with setting up the building’s security, hiring and training the personnel.
The building had a Steranko security system installed and peripherally monitored by JARVIS. Their security personnel were veterans of various elite military forces, and retired SHIELD and IMF agents as administrators. They’d done a surprise security check two days ago while everything was in an uproar in preparation for the ribbon cutting. Clint and Natasha had succeeded—barely, but there were very few people or machines that could match the combined skill sets of Hawkeye and Black Widow.
When Natasha told him Phil was dead, Clint thought he would lie down and die when his heart shattered. He didn’t leave the Tower for three months except for missions. He barely spoke for six. He’d wandered the streets helping clear rubble getting lost in the mind numbing work. One of his team mates always found him, and would stay with him—hiding their identities under ball caps, tinted glasses and work clothes.
When nightmares of Loki and a parade of dead agents kept him from sleep, he joined Tony in his workshop where his agile mind and intrinsic understanding of mechanics led to armor, arrows, and all manner of gadgets until Pepper or Natasha would appear to drag them to bed, which eventually turned in to being dragged to one bed, Tony’s always the closest as JARVIS flies—who knew an AI could be such a yenta? That one bed with those four bodies, somehow managed to knit together his shattered heart.
Now he was stretched out on sinfully cushy carpet, leaning against Tony’s legs, Pepper’s fingers in his hair, Natasha curled in his lap, belly full of his favorite pizza while Bruce, Betty, Thor, Jane, Steve, and Darcy filled them in on all the Tower gossip. The Tower had become a haven in the middle of their chaotic and sometimes horrifying lives.
They were interrupted by JARVIS with a call from AD Hill informing them Fury wanted to meet with the whole team tomorrow at 0900.
“Conference room 2915E.” Tony said.
There was no way he was letting his family meet with Fury away from the safety of the Tower.
There was a pause. “Fine.” She snapped.
The Avengers were waiting when Nick Fury entered the conference room at nine sharp followed by two men wearing hoodies and dark glasses. Silence filled the room while they waited for Fury to say his piece.
“I called this meeting to read you in on an undercover operation that took two years to complete. After our success with the deprogramming of Agent Romanoff, we devised ‘Operation Redwing’ to liberate operatives and dismantle the remains of the Red Room.”
The only change in the room was the stiffening of six spines, and fingers tangling hidden from prying eyes. Fury continued when even Stark held his tongue.
“SHIELD’s team returned with fifteen viable operatives and twelve cryogenic chambers. We have finished deprogramming four of those people.”
One of the men threw back his hood.
Steve and Natasha whispered.
“James Barnes aka Winter Soldier was one of the people found in cryogenic stasis.”
When the reunion had calmed and Bucky stood between Steve and Natasha, Fury cleared his throat.
“Since this mission has concluded, I will be appointing a new liaison with The Avengers.”
Exchanging a look the other man lowered his hood.
Coulson and Fury exchanged a confused look when no one seemed surprised to see Phil.
“Liaison’s office—fourth floor. I’m sure Sitwell can read you in. “
Tony made air quotes with his fingers as he exchanged a look with Clint. A raised eyebrow and upward curl of the mouth and the two men left, following Steve, Natasha and James.
The SHIELD agents were surprised when Thor and Bruce remained.
“Son of Coul, it is good to see you back among your SHIELD comrades.”
“I’m sure you’re wondering why we’re not more surprised at your resurrection from the dead.” Bruce added green flashing in his eyes.
“I can only assume Barton or Romanoff made a visit to my office since this operation was never on any network.” Fury answered.
Thor’s booming laugh filled the room before they were treated to the anger of an Asgard prince.
“When our Hawk Brother roused from his grief at news of your death, Son of Coul, he and I traveled to Valhalla in search of your spirit.”
Phil Coulson’s heart sank at Thor’s words.
We were unsuccessful, but before we returned to Midgard I asked Heimdall to see if your spirit still lingered on Midgard. Together with Eye of the Hawk they were able to locate Pavel Aslanov.”
“It took another three months to keep him from death by bad guy. He wasn’t suicidal, but he didn’t care if he survived our missions. He wouldn’t talk to us, but he talked to the Other Guy, who is not happy with you. He and ‘Cupid’ are quite the friends.”
Bruce’s chuckle was harsh as he and Thor left the room.
“That went tits up in record time.” Fury growled.
“I’m not so sure that me coming back as liaison is going to fix this, Boss.” Coulson said as they headed to the elevator.
“They’re professionals. They’ll get over it. Sitwell’s a good agent, he’s not match for Tony and Bruce’s big brains backed up by a tactician and an infiltrator fed through Captain America. Throw in Drs. Foster and Ross, and Foster’s PA---it’s like herding cats. I need you to bring them back in the fold, Agent.”
“I won’t be easy, Boss. Clint…Barton…must have been devastated if Thor took him to Valhalla. I never thought they’d go so far as Valhalla.”
“That’s why you get the big bucks, Phil.” Fury chuckled at Coulson’s eye roll. “We should note the whole Heimdall surveillance package—for future reference.”
“For future reference we should probably never lie, mislead, obfuscate or omit anything when it comes to The Avengers. They had trust issues before this, and we’ve just made it monumentally worse.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about your relationship with Barton and Romanoff.” Nick’s voice was sincere.
“Not that it matters anymore, but I was planning on filing a ‘Change of Status’ form before this whole mess with Loki and the Chitauri.” Phil let his friend Nick see the true cost of ‘Redwing’.
“I wanted you to be my best man.”
A hard squeeze to the shoulder was his only reply.
The silence in the elevator held until the car jarred to a stop at the tenth floor. Hands went to weapons. The door opened to reveal Tony Stark.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. JARVIS gets a bit agitated when people shoot as his people, and ashes plug the air filtration system, Clint gets covered with the stuff when he’s in the ducts. Then there’d be that whole emotional thing about crawling through the remains of his former lover.”
Shocked at Stark’s blasé tone as he talked about JARVIS killing them, they remained silent, but watchful.
The doors closed.
“Thought I’d show you your new office, Agent, and to give you some friendly advice.”
Both agents knew Stark could be a ruthless business opponent, but to see the billionaire’s dark side was chilling.
“Barton and Romanoff—you threw them away…collateral damage in spy lingo, I think. They’re mine now…technically Clint’s mine and our Spider has Pepper firmly in her web—but it’s just one big puppy pile in the penthouse…what was I saying? Oh yes…you know I hate when people take my stuff.”
The elevator door opened.
“Gentlemen, office.” Tony pointed to the door across from the elevator.
They stepped into the hall, and turned to see the hard cold look in the normally dancing brown eyes.
Fury moved into the office leaving Phil pinching the bridge of his nose in the hallway. All his half formed ideas scattered like windblown leaves when Tony got on the elevator. It was obvious Stark had no intention of relinquishing anything to Phil or SHIELD in this lifetime.
Phil Coulson considered two things standing in the hall of The Avengers’ Tower—going back in deep cover and changing his name to Sisyphus.