sam_storyteller: (Alternate Universe)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2013-11-02 10:43 am

Avengers: Coulson's Eleven, 5/7

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 Four

***

Tony -- probably, realistically, Pepper and Coulson, who had been tasked with preparing the Stark Tower sub-basement -- had tried to make their new home hospitable. It was warm, and there were carpets all over the concrete. Most of the rooms had fabric hangings on the walls to cover the bareness of them (Peter had already pinned up photos on his, Steve saw him doing it). But it was still underground, no big windows like in the cabin, no noise at all.

He woke in the middle of the night to utter still silence, like there had been in the prison on the carrier, before he'd had Peter's constant daytime chattering and at least his breathing at night. For a second he thought he was there, that everything else had been a dream, and the shivers hit with a sudden sharp jolt he hadn't felt in months.

He pulled the blankets around him and got up, curling up in front of the hot air vent, but it didn't help. Back before, on the carrier, hitting the heavy bag to work up a sweat had helped, but he'd seen the gym Tony fitted out for them and there wasn't one there. He'd meant to ask about getting one, but it seemed like a ridiculous request, given everything.

He hadn't needed it at the cabin. Freedom and open windows had been enough to keep it all at bay.

He was still shivering when he reached the kitchen, despite the blanket wrapped around his shoulders and the warmth in the air. He knocked over a pan while trying to fill it with milk, then spilled the milk and cursed.

There was a knock on the doorway and he turned, startled; Pepper was standing there in a STARK INDUSTRIES t-shirt and a pair of fuzzy-looking sleep pants.

"Did I wake you?" he asked.

"S'fine, I'd be up in an hour or two anyway," she said, yawning. "Sit. I'll do it."

"I was just -- "

"Sit, you look like death," she ordered, and Steve retreated to the kitchen table, watching warily. She tossed down a tea-towel over the spilled milk, then filled two large mugs with what was left and put them in the microwave box on the counter. Bruce had shown him how to work one at the cabin, but he didn't trust it. The results of the microwave were wildly unstable.

She took down a tin of cocoa while the microwave hummed, adding a generous spoonful to each mug of milk, and stirred while he tried to stop shivering. She offered him one by the handle, so he wrapped his palms around the warm mug and sipped carefully.

"Tony had some bad nights after the caves," she said, her voice even, not particularly sympathetic or pitying, for which he was grateful. "We weren't together then, but I lived in a suite at the Malibu place. Easier than going home every night. He tried to hide it, but all evidence to the contrary, Tony's not a great liar if he doesn't have time to rehearse. I'd wake up and every light in the building would be on. That was his thing, he couldn't have the lights bright enough. I wasn't ever sure if he was trying to drown out the…" she tapped her chest, "or if it was just really dark, where they kept him. Probably both. Anyway. It got better once I convinced him he could tell me about it. I think maybe he talked to his friend Rhodey about it some, too. It's harder to let someone else see, but it's easier once they do."

Steve sipped his cocoa, the tightness in his chest easing, though his hands still shook. He curled his feet up into his pajamas, toes cold.

"There's a certain kind of personality who gets involved in this work," she continued.

"Arrogant?" he suggested. She smiled.

"Proud. People like Tony -- people like you -- have difficulty asking for help because you're so proud that you can offer it. If you need help, then why are you helping other people? But Iron Man is a suit Tony puts on. They can call you Cap all they want but in the dark, in the cold, he's sitting on a stand with your shield and you're here, Steve. And it's a lot easier with someone else around."

He nodded, tremors easing a fraction more.

"It was better after Peter," he offered. "And this morning, with everyone around, I liked that. It's not often. Once we're not living underground…"

"Good. I don't like to think you had to do this much at the cabin."

"Not once. All those windows…" he said wistfully. "It's not even...I don't think it's battle fatigue -- I don't think this is from the war. I think it's from the carrier. I don't like being pent up. I don't like the silence."

"Do you want to stay with us tonight?" she asked, and Steve blinked at her. "There's a couch in our bedroom. Tony won't care."

"I couldn't do that."

"You could move in with Peter again."

"I might. I might ask, I mean," he said. "Not sure."

"He'd probably like that. He looks up to you, we can all see it."

"I try to be a good example," Steve said, sipping again. Warmth was beginning to spread, from the hot milk in his stomach through his arms, down to his hands.

"Are you staying up?" she asked. He nodded. "Mind if I do some work?"

"No, of course not," he said as she opened a little computer, the kind Tony used, and started typing.

"What did you do, before the war?" she asked, without stopping typing.

"Whatever work was going. Stocking, loading, sometimes office work when I could get it. Sold flowers for a couple'a weeks once. Tried to get into art school, but I couldn't get a scholarship."

"You paint?"

"Draw. There was this artist when I was a kid, Leyendecker, I don't imagine folks know him now -- "

"Sure. A lot of his stuff's on the internet."

"I am really gonna have to learn more about that," Steve sighed.

"Leyendecker."

"Yeah! He was great. When I was sick Mom'd bring me all these old Saturday Evening Posts to read. I thought, that'd be a good job, drawing covers and ads and stuff, and I could do it when I was sick, even. I used to scrounge rag paper from the printers for drawing. Bucky gave me a sketchbook for my birthday every year."

"Were you allowed to draw when you were…." she looked up briefly.

"On the carrier? I suppose I could have. Never occurred to me to ask for the stuff for it. Not much to draw, anyway. Not up there."

She stopped again, and after a second she stood up.

"I'll be right back," she said, disappearing down the hall. He nursed his cocoa and sat quietly until she returned, carrying another computer, one of the flat ones, but bigger than hers. She set it down in front of him and tapped the screen with a finger so that it turned white.

"Here," she said, offering him what looked like a pencil without any lead in it. He hesitantly took it and touched it to the screen. A black dot appeared.

"Hold the button on the side to erase," she said." When you're done, I'll show you how to save it. No paper required. Never runs out of ink, either."

He tapped again, then tried sweeping the stylus over the screen. A long, arcing black line appeared. He held down the button, concentrating hard, and managed to erase it. He set the cocoa aside and, tongue caught between his teeth, tried drawing simple things -- shapes, lines, cross-hatched shading.

There were a bunch of little pictures on one side of the screen, and he experimented with them while he worked -- he could change the color of the ink, even the shape of the lines. If he pressed harder, he got a darker line, too. He'd always been fast at picking up new things, and it was sort of pleasing to be able to learn something from the inside out, especially something as swell as this.

When he looked up again, the dregs of his cocoa were cold, Pepper was gone, and Thor was sitting in her place, watching him. Hours had passed. Steve flexed his fingers.

"These artificers of Midgard make amazing things," Thor said solemnly. "Draw my picture."

"I'm not…"

"I demand it. I am passionate about portraits," Thor ordered.

"Uh, okay," Steve said, but just to be contrary he drew him with a ridiculously square jaw, flowing hair that reached to his waist, and that silly helmet only with the wings three times the size they should be.

Thor's roars of laughter woke the rest of the Avengers.

***

Taking down Lizard -- something SHIELD had failed to do, something Peter had failed to do because of SHIELD -- turned out to be almost laughably easy.

In cosmic terms he was more of a nuisance than anything else -- certainly when compared with the Ten Rings, which was a multinational terrorist corporation, or even with Loki, who had managed to level a small New Mexico town. ("I said I was sorry.")

But he was dangerous, and he had killed. New Yorkers didn't go out after dark, because that was when he hit. Sometimes he seemed to hunt people for sport. He robbed chemical warehouses, and there had already been one outbreak of disease traced back to him -- quickly contained by the CDC, who had a permanent office in New York that was fast swelling with the best scientists SHIELD could provide. Still, people had died.

"He's not my fault, you know, I mean that isn't my E! True Hollywood Story," Peter had said in the briefing. "I didn't cause him, whether SHIELD thinks I did or not. It's science run amok. I knew him, I tried to stop him, but if I was out of the equation he'd still have got there sooner or later. He's the reason I ended up in SHIELDcatraz with Steve, so I want to take him off the streets."

Tony thought the kid was protesting a bit much, but he understood. He hadn't caused Vanko's breakdown either, except that his family had, the blood industry he'd used to work for -- and he had been flippant and arrogant with Vanko when they spoke, which probably hadn't helped matters. A degree of guilt was usually associated with the bad guys whether you could actually claim it or not.

The point was, SHIELD hadn't been able to find Lizard, but SHIELD no longer had a combination of Peter's acute spider-sense, Tony's technical acumen, and Captain America's startling skill as a hunter.

"I thought you were a city boy," Tony said on their third night searching, following as Steve crept noiselessly through a section of drainage sewer.

"I was born and raised in Brooklyn," Steve said. "Closest I ever got to hunting was chasing stray cats."

"And?"

"And then I went to war," Steve answered simply.

There was a cough over their comm lines, and Peter's voice crackled down to them. "Found his nest."

"Is he there?" Tony asked.

"Yes," Loki replied. "And he has minions."

"Minions?" Steve inquired.

"Lizardites," Peter supplied. "Maybe a dozen."

"That's fine," Tony said. "We stick with the plan. How far ahead of us are you?"

"Maybe fifty, seventy-five feet."

"Thor, Widow, you in position?"

"Holding," Natasha replied tersely.

"Hawkeye?"

"I've got eyes in the sky. If SHIELD shows up, I'm ready."

"Bruce?"

"I'm nearby."

"Get ready to get angry if you have to," Tony said. "A dozen lizard people running amok in Manhattan was not on the docket for tonight. Cap, you want to run this show?"

"On my mark," Steve said. "Three, two, one, and mark."

The fight was spectacular, if Tony said so himself, and he did. Cap and Loki went in after the Lizardites (he couldn't break Peter of calling them that, and stopped trying) while Peter and Tony flushed Lizard up towards the streets. Peter, who did have extra motivation, was like a dog on the hunt, ruthless and quick. Nevertheless, Lizard knew the sewers better than they did and made it up to the street ahead of them, which would have been a pretty decent escape if Thor hadn't been waiting for him. Natasha was there in a flash, and they played with him long enough for Tony and Peter to arrive and help finally pin him down. Loki and Steve sounded like they were having fun with the Lizardites.

By daybreak, fourteen lizard-people had been deposited in various police cars in the area, and the Lizard himself was left dangling from a streetlight outside the local precinct, webbed tightly and with adamantium-alloy handcuffs stamped STARK INDUSTRIES on his wrists.

An image had also gone out on the internet, quickly the topic of hot debate: it showed two giant, musclebound men holding the Lizard's arms. One had a blue jacket with a white star on it and some kind of cowl, while the other was in what most of the internet agreed looked like well-made cosplay armor. A redheaded woman sat on the monster's shoulders, her thighs around his throat, and kept his jaw clamped shut with both arms. Spider-man, or someone in a similar costume, could be seen binding him up with webbing.

Iron Man was waving in the background.

THE RETURN OF IRON MAN? the newspaper headlines read, speculating that Tony Stark's self-imposed "hiatus" from superheroing had come to an end. Spider-man got a byline as a "former suspected terrorist", which made Peter somewhat despondent over brunch. Thor, Steve, and Natasha were listed as "concerned citizens, unidentified."

SHIELD showed up at the precinct-house where Lizard had very publicly been displayed, and by noon had spirited him away somewhere. Coulson came down to the sub-basement to inform them that Operative D, their woman on the inside, had contacted him to assure all of them that Lizard was in Thor's old room on the carrier. He was also being carefully examined for forensic evidence that might lead them to the Avengers.

"I hope they have fun with that," Tony said, inclined to amusement by the fact that they had totally kicked ass. "Did she say if Fury's blown a vein yet?"

"I'm sure he's working on it," Coulson replied. "This was good work. And now we can set our sights on the Mandarin with a clear slate. Stark, Natasha -- I want all the intel we can get. While we work that angle, we'll be starting night patrols."

"Cap and Peter, you're up," Tony said, pointing at them. "Peter needs the exposure, I'm tired of people calling him a terrorist. Can we put a flag on you?" he asked Peter. "Can we maybe give you some kind of rebrand? Just consider this: Captain America and Free Spirit."

"I got the webs and the stick-to-walls thing, I think I'm kind of locked into the Spider-schtick," Peter said.

"Tony, Peter's a grown man and he's perfectly capable of choosing what costume he wants to dress up in," May said, dropping a kiss on Peter's head as he passed. "By the way, Pepper called down. She says SHIELD is searching Stark Industries factories upstate."

"Let 'em. I hope she's got legal on the line so we can sue for lost productivity when they find squat," Tony replied.

"That was oddly similar to what she said," May assured him.

***

Patrolling was the most fun Peter'd had in ages. It was really always what he'd enjoyed most about the gig; it was simple, and even if they occasionally had to play hide-and-seek with SHIELD, it was satisfying. After the first week, usually two teams a night went out, splitting up the city into quadrants according to some equation Steve and Tony had cooked up between them, based on an intent study of crime patterns on Google. Once they'd gotten Steve onto the internet, prying him off was actually pretty hard.

"If we'd had GPS during the war, my life would have been so much easier," he groaned, studying a nightly crime report in preparation for their evening patrol.

"Goes both ways, though," Tony pointed out, from where he was diagramming satellite photographs of a suspected Ten Rings compound. "If you can find you, anyone else with network access can find you too."

"Besides, for GPS you have to have satellites in space," Bruce put in.

"So?" Steve asked.

"So to get satellites in space, we needed German scientists," Tony said. Steve frowned. "Google Operation Paperclip sometime."

"Werner von Braun went straight from building Nazi missiles to building American rockets. The history of cellular telecom is the history of the machinery of war," Bruce finished. "You know who the biggest name in telecom is right now?"

"Stark Industries."

"Who, ten years ago, was the biggest name in arms manufacture."

Steve looked down at his phone, dismayed. Tony grinned.

"Don't let it get you down, Cap. At least it wasn't in vain, right? And if you hadn't won the war -- "

"I didn't, the Allies did," Steve corrected automatically.

" -- then we wouldn't have been able to get the scientists on-side, and human progress might have had to wait a few decades for in-pocket global mapping."

"Augh, science!" Clint yelled as he passed through on his way to the gym.

"Technically history!" Tony yelled back.

"You Midgardians," Thor said from a nearby chair. "Seventy years and you call it history."

"I'm gettin' out of here," Steve declared, pocketing his phone as he stood up. "Peter, you coming?"

"Yeah, just gotta get my shooters on," Peter said.

"Loki and Tasha, report for patrol," Tony yelled.

"Hey, can we hit up that all-night slice shack again afterward? I'm craving some foldable pizza." Peter asked.

"Pizza," Steve sniffed, as if it was some kind of exotic delicacy. "Maybe, we'll see."

***

Loki and Natasha, both accomplished liars and practiced in secrecy, tended to seek out targets rather than wandering in search of them. They'd broken up a small illegal gambling ring, knocked down an entire building of drug dealers (not literally), and almost been caught by SHIELD when the NYPD went after a forced-prostitution racket at the same time they did.

Still, one never knew what one would find, and when they heard the commotion coming from the alleyway, naturally they investigated. With prejudice.

Loki preferred to hang back and sow chaos from afar while Natasha dove in. He took no small amount of pleasure in watching her work.

"Oh, bad form," he cried, as one of the three burly men she was battling went after her from behind. She flipped backwards and choked him with her knees, stabbing another in the thigh as the sneak-attacker went down. The third one tried to flee, and Loki neatly clotheslined him with a thick stick he'd taken to carrying.

Six zipties later, they were piled at the mouth of the alley for the police (or possibly scavengers even worse than themselves; Loki wasn't picky, and he knew Natasha wasn't).

The woman they'd been attacking was crouched in a corner, wisely keeping out of the way. As Natasha straightened from dumping the third body, the woman called, "Hello?"

"Are you well, madam?" Loki answered. "Should we summon an ambulance van?"

"No, I -- I think I'm okay," she said, her voice wavering slightly as she approached. She reached into her purse for something, and Natasha immediately went on the defensive. The woman drew a phone from the bag, hand shaking a little.

"You -- you're some of them, aren't you?" she asked. "The Avengers."

Loki loved a good sweeping bow, and he used it very well, he felt. "Indeed. Loki of Asgard and the Black Widow, at your service."

"Oh, my god," she said.

"Yes?" he replied, grinning.

"You're Avengers! Everyone says you aren't real! This is so cool!"

Loki glanced at Natasha. This had not happened before. Generally, the Midgardians took to their heels.

"If you don't need us, we'll just…" Natasha jerked her thumb at the street, a clear gesture that they should be going.

"No, please! Wait!" the woman said. "Um, this is -- I mean, can I have a picture with you? My friends will so never believe I got rescued by actual Avengers."

Loki was prepared to argue the point, because it seemed like fun but he doubted Natasha would agree. She surprised him; she nodded with a very sincere-looking smile and moved a little to one side as the woman positioned herself between them. She held up her phone, snapped off a photo of all three of them, didn't notice Loki giving her curly-helmet-horns behind her head, and turned to hug Natasha.

He felt rather put out by that.

"Thank you for saving me and being cool, can I Instagram this?"

"Absolutely," Natasha said firmly. "You should tweet it too."

"Thank you guys so much. We love you," the woman said, and walked away with her nose buried in her phone.

"That was strange, yes?" Loki asked. He felt oddly satisfied inside.

"That was patrols starting to pay off," Natasha answered. She caught his look and grinned. "Feels good, huh?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Being liked. Being admired for what you do."

"I don't require the affection of Midgardians. I was King of Asgard, you know. For five minutes or so, but still," he said, levitating himself upwards as Natasha leapt to a fire escape and began scaling the building.

"Well, I don't need it," she said. "But it's nice all the same."

"Hey, spy kids," Tony's voice came over the comm. "Someone just instagrammed a selfie with you."

"She was nice," Loki replied.

"You better scram, if I've seen it then SHIELD's seen it and the picture is on her map so they know where you've been."

"Already on it," Natasha grunted, reaching the roof. She took off running and Loki had to land, gather up his cloak, and give chase just in order to keep her in sight.

When they were suitably distant from anywhere SHIELD was likely to look, Natasha settled down on the edge of a roof with a pair of binoculars to watch SHIELD quinjets circle the area, and Loki dropped next to her.

"So how did you get from king of Asgard to bank robber in Berlin?" she asked, without looking away from the search.

"The vagaries of fortune."

She glanced at him sardonically and then went back to the binoculars.

"Thor told me he had to break the rainbow bridge to stop you. You fell into a void," she said. Loki sighed.

"Well, we all make mistakes on our first foray into politics," he said.

"So what, this void just happened to suck you down to Midgard?"

"Not precisely."

"You know, I'm respecting you here and just asking you. I could have spent a week manipulating you into spilling it."

"Yes, but a week is a long time, and you don't like me enough to spend that much time focused on me," he pointed out.

"I like you just fine. I'm curious, that's all."

Loki leaned back, looking up at the pathetically distant stars in this pathetic little realm.

"When I fell into the void, I drifted," he said. "For a long while. I was conscious for some of it. Eventually I was discovered."

"By?"

"A somewhat ungentlemanly being," Loki said. "It is not in his nature to play caretaker, but my worth is more evident to some other forms of sight than weak Midgardian vision. He recovered me from the void. He offered me a part in a glorious conquest."

"I've learned to mistrust the word glorious," she said.

"I learned that long ago on Asgard. Glorious generally means a lot of mud and blood in the near future."

She smiled, still watching the quinjets, now fruitlessly moving off in the other direction. "So?"

"He offered me wealth, too. The imperial throne of Midgard, should I lead his army in battle against it."

Natasha lowered the binoculars slowly. "He offered you rule of Earth if you could take it."

"Indeed."

"What did he want with Earth?"

"I didn't inquire. There are some people one just doesn't question overmuch," Loki replied.

"What did you tell him?"

"Bearing in mind that my title was once Prince of Lies, what makes you think I think you'll believe me?"

She turned to him, pulling her legs up to sit cross-legged at the edge of the roof. "I think you resented Thor because he was bigger and louder and stronger than you, in any way that Asgard values, and you resented your father for not being your father, and you did something immature. I think you got spanked for it, possibly out of proportion to the crime, but maybe not; I bet they wouldn't think so in New Mexico. You act with good intentions, Loki, you just sometimes fuck it up with your ego, and when you do you usually try to blame it on other people. You say they knew you were a liar and thus shouldn't have trusted you. You're like Tony; you forget that smarter than other people doesn't mean wiser than other people. A frontal assault isn't your style, but a long game isn't either. You don't have the patience for it."

Loki swallowed. Natasha had a way of seeming unarmed right before she stabbed you in the face.

"I told him no," he said. "He told me I could suffer with the rest of you, then, and consigned me to Midgard. Berlin was just where I happened to fall."

"Why?" she asked, tilting her head.

"Must you twist the knife?"

"From my point of view it's just gathering intel."

Loki sighed and looked out over the rooftops of Manhattan, the new home he wasn't truly permitted to see yet.

"I once sat on the throne of Asgard, however cravenly or briefly. I am a prince of two realms, neither of which will have me, both of which I reject out of hand -- but I once ruled the greatest of them. What do I care to rule a little backwater like Midgard? I know enough of Midgardians not to want that headache. More trouble than it was worth, in the end."

"What about this warlord? Is he still coming?"

"I doubt it. If he could get here from there, he wouldn't have needed me."

"He needs a gateway."

"Yes."

Natasha stood up, dusting herself off. "We should head home. I know a place we can get some pierogies, we'll stop on the way."

***

"Here's what I want to know," Peter said, later that night over crispy, greasy slices at the all-night pizzeria. The two of them had shed their masks and turned their uniform jackets inside-out, a thoughtful addition of Tony's in case they needed to go incog quickly. They really shouldn't be out late off patrol, but the pizza was an indulgence in a life of few luxuries at the moment. "SHIELD knows who I am. They did mug shots. I know, because I was there. They have hours of footage of all of us, probably ID photos for Clint and Natasha. So why don't they use them?"

"How do you mean?" Steve asked.

"Well, like, why am I Spider-man, suspected terrorist? Why am I not Peter Parker, confirmed traitor to the nation and wanted criminal?"

"Bad PR for them."

"SHIELD couldn't mock-up some bombing to blame me for?"

"If they do that, you could step out and say what happened."

"They could get to me before I managed."

"Well, playing the odds. This is what as known as a detente," Steve said, around a mouthful of food. "Maybe our Operative D is interfering. She must be pretty high up to get into Coulson's faith."

"Maybe," Peter said dubiously. "Makes me nervous, though."

"I just think they probably find no point to it. If you're walking around bare-face in daylight, can't one of their face-recognizing traffic cameras get you anyhow? I thought that was why we couldn't go out." Steve chewed thoughtfully. "Future's a little creepy, I gotta say."

"SHIELD doesn't seem the type to hold back."

"Well, let's be grateful for small favors. Come on, we should get home," Steve said, just as his comm beeped. "Go, Iron Man."

"On your way back?"

"Sure."

"You should hustle. Wait till you see what Natasha and Loki did."

"I fear to speculate."

"Nobody died. Come on home."

"Acknowledged. Eat up," Steve said, as Peter finished his slice. "Mother hen's calling us back to the roost."

***

Avengers and me. Hot one is super-nice, cute one has a sense of humor, the Instagram message read. She had also tweeted, facebooked, and tumblr'd it. They had a lot of reblogs, whatever those were. It wasn't the first photo of the Avengers at work, but it was the first clear, crisp image from up close, with an eyewitness account to match.

"I think I'm the hot one," Natasha said, at the summit the next morning over The Instadent, as Tony called it.

"Well, you don't have a sense of humor, so probably," Clint replied.

"It is rather refreshing to be appreciated for it," Loki put in.

"I appreciate your sense of humor," Thor said, frowning.

"You really don't, but it's nice you try," Loki replied.

"How many people have seen it?" Steve asked.

"Calculation is difficult," JARVIS said. "Somewhere between thirty thousand and fifty thousand, roughly. The photograph was posted during off-peak hours; we expect one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand by noon."

"Honestly, I think it's fantastic," Tony said. "You can't buy publicity like a hot redhead and a funny norse god posing for the camera after rescuing a pretty girl from thugs."

"Later, I'm going to deconstruct what you just said and explain to you all the things that are wrong with it," Pepper told him. "But you're not wrong about PR. And now that one of them has done it, you can expect more requests."

"I'm so glad we got you braces when you were thirteen," May told Peter. "You have a lovely smile, Peter, don't forget to smile."

"Oh, please tell me there are photos," Clint said.

"Aunt May, I wear a full-face mask," Peter reminded her.

"I know that," she said. "Roll it up to your nose, give people a look at those thousand-dollar teeth."

"Did you know we have a Yelp page?" Steve asked suddenly. He held up his phone. "The photo's already been added to a gallery that is, I have to say, kinda focused on our behinds."

"Wow, that is a lot of butts," Bruce said.

"Look!" Thor said delightedly. "Mine is described as the most glorious!"

"What's our score?" Tony asked.

"Four stars. We got a few one-star reviews from people who are clearly criminals. Also some of the four-stars are indecent discussions of Natasha's...feminine attributes."

"JARVIS, find them, wipe them," Tony said.

"Already done," JARVIS replied smugly.

"I'm glad you're all here," Coulson said as he entered. Steve quickly cleared his phone, while Tony wiped the image from the big screen. "We have new, solid intel on the Ten Rings. I think we're finally ready to move."

"Do you think he's seen it?" Clint whispered to Thor.

"Nay, he would have attended us sooner," Thor whispered back.

"Also, Natasha, I'm having the description of you as super nice framed for you, since I don't think anyone has ever called you that before," Coulson finished.

Tony leaned across to Clint. "I think he knows," he said in a stage-whisper.

Chapter Six

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