sam_storyteller: (Alternate Universe)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2013-11-02 10:42 am

Avengers: Coulson's Eleven, 4/7

Title: Coulson's Eleven
Rating: PG-13
Summary: After Vanko destroyed the Stark Expo, SHIELD instituted a Superhuman Detention program, designed to capture and hold dangerous people -- dangerous people like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and others who made themselves noticeable. The superhumans SHIELD has imprisoned -- and some SHIELD agents themselves -- have other ideas about what constitutes 'dangerous'...

Chapter Three

***

They spent the morning planning, and most of the afternoon as well. Pepper left for New York before dinner, and Tony felt doubly bereft, having been able to see her for so short a time. He skipped dinner and set about making a lab for himself in one of the unused sections of the cabin, pleased with his forethought at buying a secluded mansion nobody knew about. He'd felt a little Howard Hughes about it at the time, but you just never knew when a secret lair would come in handy.

He should have stocked it better; there were barely any tools or useful raw materials. He raided the maintenance shed for the basics, anyway, and set about building himself a forge. Wouldn't be the first time.

"Well, this is definitely an improvement," a voice said from the doorway, and Tony looked up from the workbench he was building. The kid, Parker, was standing there watching him, a tray balanced on one hand. "Cap cooked, he said to take some up to you."

"Captain America cooks?" Tony asked, clearing some tools aside so Peter had a place to put the tray down.

"I think he's more used to a campfire than a kitchen table, but he makes a mean bean stew," Peter replied, unveiling the meal. "And you should have seen his face when he discovered the existence of frozen ready-to-bake bread rolls."

"I can imagine," Tony said, settling himself crosslegged on the table and digging into the stew. "How long were you in with him, up at SHIELD?"

"Couple of months. Pretty sure they put me in his cell because he was the saddest puppy ever." Peter made sad eyes. "He was miserable alone in there. And I've got a snappy stand-up routine."

"You seem like a smartass," Tony agreed. "I know it didn't sound like it but that was a compliment."

Peter hopped up on one of the discarded chairs in the corner and gave a quick jump, hanging from the ceiling by his palms. "What're you doing, anyway?"

"Building a lab."

"Yeah?"

"Gotta keep Bruce on-side somehow, and I get antsy when my home doesn't have somewhere to go and mess things up," Tony said.

"So I could build a lab too?"

"No, you can ask nicely and say please, and I'll give you a spot in this one, because you need adult supervision," Tony said.

Peter dropped to the ground deftly. "You'd do that?"

"Sure. Do you really want space to do science in?"

Peter nodded. "I need more web fluid."

"Uh."

"It's a chemical compound, it's not complicated," he added.

"Somehow I assumed the fluid itself was biological," Tony said. "Are you telling me it's artificial? You invented a chemical that does that?"

"Well, mostly. I mean, I have stood on the shoulders of giants, et cetera."

Tony revised his opinion of Peter Parker from Captain America's Baby Brother to Potentially Interesting Playmate.

"Okay, in that case, when I'm done here you can help me build a welding rig," Tony said, and Peter looked pleased.

***

Pepper arrived back in New York through a somewhat circuitous chain of transit, designed to convince SHIELD that she had been somewhere other than a secluded lake retreat in Canada. When she landed on the Stark Tower helipad, she wasn't sure it had worked, because there was a classic Corvette parked next to the landing area. She wasn't sure how someone had gotten a '62 Chevy onto the landing pad but she sensed it might be trouble.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Potts," JARVIS said as she entered. "Agent Coulson would like a moment of your time. He awaits your convenience in the sunroom."

"I'll bet he does," she replied, passing through the penthouse. "When did he get here?"

"Last night."

"Last night!"

"He offered to find a hotel nearby, but given the circumstances I offered him a room on the guest floor."

"Thank you, JARVIS, that was smart," she said, heading for the solarium off the kitchen -- Tony had wanted to just make it a bigger kitchen, but Pepper had insisted on something bright, with living things in it. Tony had gone to SHIELD before he'd even seen it, but she'd stocked it with his favorite flowers anyway.

("I don't have a favorite flower, guys don't have favorite flowers. Do they? Am I missing out on some secret masculine passion?" "Wow are you overthinking this, Tony." "Fine. Orchids. Orchids are expensive, right? I give you orchids. I'm sure I do. JARVIS?" "Indeed, sir.")

The solarium had roses and sunflowers too, but the purple orchids were the prettiest. Coulson was studying a row of them with the air of a man who has nothing better to do.

"Phil," she called, and he looked up. "Is that your car on my landing pad?"

"That's Lola," he said with a faint smile.

"Why is she a hundred stories off the ground?"

"Ever try to find street parking in Manhattan?" he asked, joining her when she sat at a small table near the sunflowers.

"JARVIS, send someone up with tea," she said.

"Of course, Ms. Potts," JARVIS replied. Pepper leaned back and gave Phil a once-over. He looked tired.

"What brings you to Stark Tower this time?" she asked sympathetically. "Don't tell me Fury's sent you to collect me."

"I've been fired," he said. "Lola was my severance package."

"I've had worse," she said. "Well, good."

"I'm afraid I don't quite see it that way."

"You will when I hire you."

He raised his eyebrows.

"I'd like you to be my personal head of security," she said. "Sort of an executive bodyguard. You can blow people up if they look threatening."

"I'm not entirely sure -- "

"Honestly, with your background and access to the biggest anti-espionage budget in the country, are you telling me you wouldn't have fun?" she asked.

"I do like what I do," he admitted.

"Then come work for me. I mean, why else did you come here?" she asked.

He shrugged. "You don't make a lot of friends in this business. I didn't know where the others went, and I didn't have anywhere else to go."

A man arrived with a tea service, set it down, and left quickly. Pepper poured and offered him sugar.

"This is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship," she said. "And on that note, let me tell you about the Avengers…"

***

Natasha and Clint, who Tony had officially placed in charge of their return to New York (mainly because they would have taken charge anyway) seemed to be waiting for something, and so the newly minted Avengers Initiative settled down to life in the cabin on the lake. They fell into a routine eventually, set by Tony but regulated by Steve, who was less inclined to blow things off because there was urgent science that needed doing.

In the mornings, Peter and Steve got up early and went running, Peter willing to forego the delight of sleeping in for the pleasure of racing Steve through the forest around the cabin, leaping from tree to tree, really stretching his muscles for the first time in months. When they got back they cooked breakfast for the others, and once the morning meal was finished everyone fell in for practice: learning how to be a team, in some cases learning combat as a formal discipline. Steve had been through boot camp, and Clint and Natasha were trained agents; even Tony had some boxing, and Thor and Loki had trained under war-leaders and kings. But Peter had just made things up as he went along, and Bruce had mostly learned how to run. They were studying how to play to each others' strengths and shore up weaknesses. Some of them were better at it than others.

"I was right," Steve said one day, watching Tony direct Thor and Clint in a tricky airborne maneuver.

"About what?" Peter asked, lounging in the grass.

"Stark. He told me he wasn't a team player."

"Well, he wasn't wrong."

"No, but he wasn't right, either. He's never been on a team in his life. I looked him up, y'know, and his dad. From after I went down," Steve said, shielding his eyes against the glare of the sun. It was the first time, Peter thought, he'd mentioned it without flinching. "Tony was groomed since birth to run Stark Industries. He never had to be on a team. But he's been leading teams since before his voice broke. He's good at it."

"I've had worse," Peter agreed. "But then nobody ever picked me before, they just got me when they picked last."

"I know a little about that."

"Well, we sure showed them," Peter said with a dry twist of his mouth. Steve laughed.

"Aw, life's not so bad. Fresh air, all the space we want, and someday soon we'll be back on top," he said. He was opening his mouth to say something else when Peter turned his head suddenly, face going sharp like a hound on scent.

"Someone's coming," he said, turning towards the dirt road that ran through the treeline, six miles up to the first paved road and thirty past that to the nearest highway. Cap joined him; Peter turned to wave his arms at Tony, who dropped out of the sky with Clint sitting on his shoulders, Thor following.

"Peter says we've got company," Steve said. "We're not expecting anyone, are we?"

"Nope. Fall in. Clint, get upstairs and make a nest -- find May and get her into the lab, she's safest there," Tony ordered. Clint nodded and took off for the house. Loki, who had been toying with a couple of curious crows and grackles on the balcony, joined them on the grass. Peter couldn't see Natasha, but he guessed she was hanging back with Clint as an ambush, or possibly prepping Bruce to go all berserker.

When the car emerged from the treeline, two things were immediately evident: the first was that this car wasn't a threat, and the second was that it was flying over the dirt road rather than riding on it.

Also, the top was down, and jazz was playing.

"Agent?" Tony asked, dropping his defensive stance in favor of crossing his arms. The car slewed to a halt, tires rotating down to a fixed position as it landed, and a man in a suit climbed out. Peter hung back, just in case.

The man was maybe in his forties, with a tidy military haircut and a suspiciously forgettable face. He was wearing a pair of Ray-Bans, which he took off as he came around the car.

"Pepper Potts tells me you need an eleven," he said to Tony.

"And you just decided to swoop up here with your flying car that I'm pretty sure my dad built and apply?" Tony asked.

"Oh, maybe I gave the wrong impression. Pepper Potts tells me you need an eleven, and I'm it, and to tell you that if you disagree, you can talk to her about it," the man said with a faint smile. Faint, but oddly menacing. "Nick Fury fired me. I've been staying at Stark Tower since you escaped the carrier, improving S.I.'s counter-espionage measures. I find myself with some spare time on my hands and a moral obligation not to squander it."

"I'm sorry, maybe I'm supposed to know this, but who are you?" Peter asked.

"Former SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson," the man said. "Mr. Parker, it's a pleasure to meet you in person. Thor. Loki," he added, putting a little drawl on the last name. Loki looked intimidated. "Interesting to see you again. And Captain Rogers," he added, turning a much brighter, less terrifying smile on Steve. "I'm a big fan, sir."

Steve gave the man a matinee-idol smile in return. "Well, any friend of Pepper's. Come on up to the house. You're in time for lunch, and a couple of turncoats probably want to say hi."

***

Phil had to say this for Tony Stark: when he hid out, he hid out in style.

Clint and Natasha met them in the kitchen. Bruce Banner was helping a middle-aged woman, whom he recognized from the dossiers as Peter's aunt, lay out platters of vegetables and sandwich fixings. His two former agents looked like they were expecting a whupping from Dad.

Phil smiled. He'd washed his hands of the Superhuman Detention op, but he hadn't done anything to stop it, so he wasn't the saint they thought he was. And they weren't quite the sinners they assumed he thought they were for joining the op, either. After all, they'd worked out what they were doing was wrong, and here they were, on the other side of the wall by choice rather than coercion. And he'd asked to be left behind.

He went up to them and rested a hand on Clint's cheek, another on Natasha's.

"It's good to see you safe," he said. "Glad you stuck together."

"Boss -- "

Phil tsked. "Don't bother. It's over now."

Clint nodded. Natasha looked wary, but her trust issues ran a little deeper than Clint's. He let them go and went to the table, seating himself. Natasha slid into the chair on his left, but Captain Rogers sat down in the chair on his right, which made functioning a little difficult. Captain Steve Rogers had been the central hero of young Phil Coulson's life.

"You were the one we left behind when we ran," the Captain said. "Weren't you?"

"Yes," Phil said, groping for something to add.

"You're the one who got me my shield," the Captain continued. Phil could see Clint holding back a snicker. He never should have showed them his trading cards.

"It was a privilege to throw it. Even just the once," he managed.

"She's great in the air, huh? Flies like a devil. It's all in the wrist."

"Yeah," Phil replied. He was talking about shield-throwing with Captain America.

"Agent," Stark said, and nodded at his empty plate. Phil belatedly reached for the bread that was being handed around, accepting a jar of mustard from Natasha when she offered it. Other conversations rose and fell around him as he assembled a sandwich and glared when Natasha dumped some carrots on his plate.

"So, what news from the city?" Stark asked, around a mouthful of roast beef. "I assume Pep had some reason for sending you here now, unless you're lying and SHIELD sent you to murder us all in our sleep."

"Can he do that?" Parker asked nervously.

"Yes," Natasha and Clint said together.

"Pepper thinks your new headquarters in New York is ready for occupation," he said. "I'm tasked with the logistics of covertly bringing you back and settling you in. She seems to think your repeated requests for her to manage this are outside her job description as either CEO of your company or your girlfriend."

"Old habits," Stark said. "Boring stuff used to be her job."

"Now it's apparently mine," Coulson said.

"We have a headquarters?" Bruce asked. "Like the Batcave?"

"Less drippy," Clint said. "We've been talking with Pepper about it. Stark Tower's almost complete. There's no reason we can't steal a few floors for personal use."

"Isn't it rather public?" Loki asked.

"What do you know about it?" Stark shot back.

"What don't I know? Large, architecturally doubtful building in the middle of the island, with your name in lights -- not that I disapprove, I like a spot of ostentation, but it seems like we'd be somewhat noticeable there."

"There is a private elevator," Phil said. "And an extensive, one might almost say unnecessarily large and labyrinthine network of basements and sub-basements. It also has the advantage of being so far into plain sight that SHIELD probably hasn't considered it."

"Back to the fluorescents," Bruce said softly.

"For a time."

"So you agree that Natasha and Clint's plan is sound?" Captain Rogers asked him. "You think if we just show up, an opportunity will present itself?"

"I don't think it's quite as simple as that makes it sound, but essentially, yes," Phil replied. "I think in the meantime, you can do a lot of good on a smaller scale. It's time we brought you home, time you started showing SHIELD the mistake it made."

"We should flip a coin," Parker said to Stark. Phil raised an eyebrow. "Oh we have, uh, we have an ongoing debate about what we should do first because Tony thinks we should go after the Mandarin and Ten Rings -- "

"They're bigger and more of a threat in the long run," Stark put in.

" -- and I think we should take down the Lizard because he's local and I'm an 'impatient child'," Parker finished, putting airquotes around the term. It sounded like an argument they'd been having a lot.

"Sweetheart, you do have something of a grudge," May Parker put in.

"Aunt May!"

"Regardless, the first order of business is to get you back safely," Phil said. "You should begin packing. There's a shipment of furniture going into the Tower tomorrow and you'll be in it, so try to travel light."

"So what are you now, our unofficial handler?" Stark asked. Phil steepled his fingers.

"I wouldn't say unofficial," he replied.

***

The Avengers returned to New York with less elegance or comfort than some of them would have liked, though they had to admit it worked. Loki, enjoying his role as an obstinate truck-driver, delivered a series of large crates to the dock of Stark Industries and then heckled the loaders into carrying them to the cargo elevator, using a simple trick to cloud their minds and make them a little more obedient than they otherwise would have been. Out of a deep-seated sense of sibling vengeance, he opened every other crate before he opened Thor's once they were safely in the basement.

He was uncertain -- had been from the start -- about throwing in his lot with these mortals, but what was to be done? They had got him free, fed and housed him, and were less obnoxious than most of Thor's friends. They were a trifle too upstanding for his tastes, but he needn't join himself to them forever. Simply long enough to kick himself free of the title of fugitive, and then he could be off to whatever caught his fancy.

It was amusing to watch the mortals react, at any rate; when he freed Stark, he went first to the crate with his armor inside to inspect it, then immediately ran to greet his mistress when she arrived. The others looked away as they reunited; the Captain seemed equal parts envious and embarrassed.

"Guess we oughta start setting up housekeeping," the Captain said, ignoring the foreplay taking place on the far side of the room. "May, you all right?"

"I'm fine, thank you, Steve," Allmother May said, dusting down her clothes. "Peter, be helpful and find which box has my clothes in it."

"Got it!" Peter cried. Loki liked Peter; he sensed a kindred mischief-maker if the boy could be properly corrupted. "Okay, lead the way, where do we go now?"

"We have a mighty task ahead of us, brother," Thor said to Loki, slapping him on the back. "Are you prepared?"

"I am. Are you?" Loki asked. "Following another into battle rather than leading -- unlike you, Thor."

"Well, he is a hound at bay; besides, we are both wiser than we were," Thor replied. "Stark! Where are our new quarters?"

Loki sighed, picked up his bundle of odds-and-ends he'd collected since arriving at the lake house, and followed his brother along.

***

Tony was clearly happy to be somewhere with a real workshop, Steve thought. He understood; Howard had been the same, always complaining on the occasions he accompanied the Commandos on raids, happy to return to his armory not because it was safe but so that he could get back to building.

The morning after their return to Stark Tower -- he hadn't slept well, the nightmares returning with this enclosed, artificially-lit space -- Steve discovered a heap of clothing and machinery on the table in the makeshift kitchen.

"Ah! Don't touch! Santa came," Tony said, looking cheerful and underslept. He'd been stockpiling designs for months, but Steve didn't think any single human could get all of them built in a night.

"What did you do?" he asked, inspecting the pile cautiously.

"Drank a lot of coffee and put my bots through their paces. JARVIS, are you glad papa's home?" Tony asked the ceiling, and a voice echoed down to them.

"Thrilled as ever, sir."

"Who's that?" Steve asked.

"That is my baby," Tony said. "JARVIS. He's an AI. An intelligent computer program."

"Wow," Steve said.

"Say hello. He's been dying to meet everyone."

Steve looked up, searching for a speaker or a camera (he'd learned about those in SHIELD prison). "Hello, JARVIS. I'm Steve."

"Captain Rogers," the voice replied. It had an English accent, for no reason Steve could fathom. "Welcome to Stark Tower."

"Thank you, we like it here," he said. Thor walked in, just then, and looked at him like he was weird for talking to the ceiling. "That's Thor."

"Welcome, Thor," JARVIS said. Thor gave a start.

"Oh man, I'm going to have to explain this over and over again," Tony sighed.

"Are we haunted by a civil ghost?" Thor asked.

"You know what? Yes. Let's run with that," Tony said.

"Hello, ghost!" Thor bellowed. "We mean you no harm! If you require vengeance upon the living, or know aught of hidden treasure, speak!"

"No, thank you," JARVIS answered. "I am here only to assist you in your efforts."

"Fine. We shall be friends, then," Thor said.

Tony made them wait until everyone was assembled and caffeinated enough to be functional before he let anyone touch the equipment on the table. When Coulson showed up and began to look impatient, Tony got the hint.

"So. First of all, for Captain America," he said, picking up a blue jacket that looked an awful lot like Steve's old one from the war. "This is motorcycle-grade kevlar, but it's lighter than the really industrial stuff, plus it looks cooler in panels. Note the white star on the front, just in case anyone had any illusions."

Steve accepted the jacket, then started laughing when he noticed it had a cowl for him. "I like the little wings, Stark."

"I thought you might. Got you some pants, too, but that seemed weird, I'll give them to you later. Also Pep has some red Docs on order for you, should be here soon. Stickers," he added, handing another jacket to Peter. "This is a lot more durable than spandex and your mask won't come off."

"One time," Peter groaned. "It happens one time -- hey!" he interrupted himself, shoving his head into the full-face cowl. "This is really breathable, what is it?"

"Starktex, I invented it before I went inside," Tony replied. "Bruce, brother of my soul, I got you the best thing."

Bruce sighed. "An escape plan?"

"STRETCHY PANTS!" Tony yelled, whipping a pair of what looked like normal slacks off the pile. He grasped one end of the waistband in each hand and extended both arms. The pants stretched with him. Bruce accepted them with what looked to Steve like a mixture of indulgence of Tony's insanity and awe at Tony's generosity.

"I got like four more pairs. I'd make you a shirt but honestly I think Hulk in a shirt would just look silly," Tony added, as Bruce tested the stretchiness of the pants. "Thor, Loki, I kind of assumed you didn't need armor."

Thor and Loki looked at each other.

"Our courage and valor protects us," Thor said.

"I can do magic," Loki added.

"Okay then, glad I didn't waste time on anything for you. I assume you two came with all the necessary accessories," he added to Natasha, who was sharpening a knife, and Clint, who was eating an apple. "That said, we're off clothing and onto equipment so...Peter, step up, claim your prizes," he said, and offered Peter two silver cuffs.

"You made them!" Peter yelled, grabbing them and slipping them on. Steve looked at them curiously. Peter tilted his hand back, made a sharp little movement, and shot a line of rope thirty feet into the air before it stuck with a wet smack against the wall. Not rope, Steve saw; some kind of fiber, suspended in...some kind of goop.

Peter shook the webbing off his wrist, did a vertical leap, fired again, and swung in idle circles from the ceiling when the webbing caught. Loki gave him a one-handed push, and he swayed like a metronome.

"That's going to make things interesting," Steve observed, keeping one eye on Tony, who was handing new, sleek, evil-looking guns to Clint and Natasha.

"You make what I actually asked you to make?" Natasha asked.

"Yes, I made what you asked me to make," Tony groused, handing her a black case about the size of a large book. When she opened it, silver gleamed from the inside. "Wireless, encrypted-wavelength radios -- well, they will be, I still need to program the encryption. They're keyed to the Iron Man armor, so I'll be running communications. If Iron Man goes down, control jumps to Black Widow. And yes, I built a receiver for Agent Agent, so he can help us out from the ground."

He shoved his hands in his pockets, looking pleased with himself. "Materials for all of us may become a problem. Too many purchases of certain items, SHIELD will ping to who's buying them. But if you guys need tech, come talk to me. We'll make it work. Once communications are up and running, we can start fighting back."

"I have a plan for that," Coulson said from the doorway. Steve glanced up. The man was deceptively harmless-looking -- he was also quiet as a cat, and he looked like he knew things he probably shouldn't.

"So do I," Tony replied.

"In the field, you might be the leader. In here, I'm your handler."

"Excuse me?"

"I'll be deciding your missions, running cleanup, and keeping your ostentatious metallic...armor out of prison," Coulson said. Steve decided he liked this guy. "Do what I say and nobody will get hurt. Badly, anyway."

Tony looked at Clint and Natasha. They nodded. Steve tapped Tony's shoulder and he glanced up.

"Let's let the man do his job," he said. Coulson looked pleased. Peter, still dangling from the ceiling, dropped to the middle of the table and crouched there.

"We need to address the Lizard situation first," Coulson said.

"Yes! Eat it!" Peter cried, pointing at Tony.

"Peter," Steve said, frowning. Peter ducked his head and crawl-walked over to the edge of the table.

"I mean, thank you Agent Coulson," he muttered. Steve crossed his arms. "Sorry, Tony."

"Not technically an agent," Coulson said. "I know the Mandarin is the larger threat, but Lizard is much more visible, and he's a major problem in New York. I want you to...debut with a bang. Ten Rings will be our second objective, but we're going to need to be politic. Between strikes, we'll want small teams on patrol, to keep visibility up. Stark, tell me what you're thinking."

"Small teams? I'm thinking we need a flier on each team, at least as much as we can. Our fliers are usually the hitters too, so we need someone agile with them. I have some ideas. They may not be popular."

"Clint and I have always worked together," Natasha said. She looked a little nervous.

"Then this will be an opportunity to expand your horizons," Coulson answered, not unkindly, Steve thought. "Stark."

"Thor and Clint," Tony said. Natasha glanced at him with narrowed eyes. "Loki and Natasha."

"You want me to keep him in line," Natasha said.

"He likes you," Tony answered with a shrug.

"I am right here," Loki pointed out.

"From there it gets a little hairy, because Bruce isn't necessarily a controlled element," Tony said, ignoring him. "I thought you and I could trade off with Peter," he said to Steve.

"I can go solo," Peter said.

"I'm sure you can, kid, but if we're throwing someone to the lions alone, it shouldn't be you," Tony said.

"I'm not a kid."

"Said every kid ever."

"Tony, come on," Peter complained.

"Look, this isn't just about you. I'm leading this team, and I'm the armorer; I'm going to need time off. Cap needs to reacclimate. Think of it this way: it's taking two of us to keep up with you."

Peter grumbled, but he did seem mollified.

"And I stay here," Bruce said quietly.

"Unless we need some extra brawn," Tony agreed. "This isn't an edict from on high, if you've got problems -- any of you -- let's talk about it. But I've run numbers and this is the highest likelihood of success."

"How are you defining success, precisely?" Loki asked.

"Lowest rate of recapture against highest rate of efficiency, modulated by public reaction," Tony said. "You want the formula, I can show you. Just as an example, Peter's not popular. He needs someone like Cap raising his social capital. This is irrelevant right now anyway. If we are going after Lizard, we do it as a single team."

"That said, let's begin the briefing," Coulson said, and Steve settled into a chair. When Peter sat next to him he casually rested one hand on the back of Peter's neck, squeezed reassuringly, and let go.

The idea of taking Peter with him on these two-man patrols was appealing; they knew each other best, and Peter had become his friend without flinching, even as lost as Steve still sometimes felt and knew he acted. Peter wasn't Bucky, wasn't a replacement for Bucky, but he filled a void Bucky had left.

The others satisfied his longing for his team, for people at his back while he had theirs. He might not have a girl to come home to anymore like Tony did, and the world might have moved on -- he still hadn't properly seen it -- but he had one friend he'd trust with his life and six more he'd trust on a battlefield. There was a mission, there was an enemy to take a swing at, and New York was right outside his door.

Chapter Five

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