sam_storyteller: (Alternate Universe)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2013-11-02 10:44 am

Avengers: Coulson's Eleven, 7/7

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 Six

***

The pizza place was open, sort of, when the Avengers reached it. The owner was there, anyway, and the ovens were on; they'd been preheating for the dinner rush when the Chitauri attacked. The owner saw them coming -- war-torn, bloodied, bruised, exhausted -- and nodded at Peter, whose cowl was ripped down over one eye and rolled up to uncover his mouth.

"I put a pie in the oven," he said, ushering them inside and turning the sign on the door to CLOSED. "Come in, sit down."

"Should we be doing speeches or something?" Clint asked as they arranged themselves, pushing two tables together to make enough room. The owner set several six-packs of soda on the table, added a pitcher of water, and disappeared again.

"Pep's on it," Tony said, looking up from his phone. Well, a phone he'd found and absconded with, anyway, because his radio was down. He turned back to it with a start and spoke into it. "No, he's fine. Cap looked him over. Yeah, we are too." He rolled his eyes. "Guys, May says Pep sends everyone but me her love, I might be sleeping on the couch tonight. Well, no," he continued, turning back to the phone. "No, I understand -- yes, May. Yes, May. No, ma'am, I won't fly nukes into outer space ever again. Okay." He handed the phone to Peter. "Mama's proud of you, baby."

"Shut up," Peter said to Tony, putting the phone up to his ear. He wandered back out to the street to talk to her, while the others sat down and exchanged exhausted looks.

"I told you," Natasha said finally. "I told you if we waited long enough we'd get a supervillain."

"Admittedly I was hoping for something a little mellower," Clint said. "Like I dunno. Stilt Man."

"Stilt Man?" Steve asked.

"Yeah, you know, he'd be a supervillain on stilts." Clint looked around the table. "What? That's like a mid-level threat."

"I hear you talking but all I can think of is Inspector Gadget," Bruce mumbled into his folded arms. Tony patted his hair, then stood up to fiddle with a television on a rack in the corner of the room.

"Well, I for one -- " Loki began, then broke off with a hiss. Thor was bent over his brother's hands, cleaning them with a bottle of vodka taken from a nearby liquor store (Steve had insisted on leaving twenty dollars on the cash register). His palms and fingers were red and blistered, painful looking. "Have a care, Thor."

"The pain means it's working," Thor said ruthlessly.

"I for one Thor! think it's a shame we weren't on Asgard. There would be epic poems written to our glory," Loki said. "As it stands, we yet have no guarantee SHIELD will not continue to pursue us. They may blame us. We had the Tesseract, after all. Well, this is lovely," he added, holding up his hands, now wrapped in napkins and secured with thin cords of Peter's webbing.

"I told you guys, Pep's on it," Tony said, as the television crackled to life. "Hah."

" -- no statement to make at this time, but we're sure they will soon," Pepper was saying on the television. She looked pale and worried, and she had a million microphones in her face, but she was clearly holding it together. Her head tilted; someone must have called a question, but all the mics were on her. "Stark Industries speaks for the Avengers as a sponsor and with Tony Stark's authority," she said. "Yes, Tony Stark is the leader of the Avengers, and their gear is supplied primarily by Stark Industries. This is a dedicated team assembled by Mr. Stark and committed to the defense of the nation, as Iron Man has been for several years. They are not under contract to any government organization or military power, including SHIELD. Look, you can argue about this all you want, but the Avengers are independent agents. They act within the law under the Good Samaritan clause and they have not, nor will they, otherwise acknowledge the dictates of any specific governing body. They have no power to arrest, search, seize, or imprison anyone. They're here to fight the good fight. That's our final comment for now. Stark Industries will be issuing further press releases in the morning."

"I am so turned on right now," Tony said.

"We got 'em," Clint said. "SHIELD's fucked." He turned to Natasha and held up his palm for a high five. She gave him a withering look and put a can of soda into it. Tony, returning to the table, opened a soda, took a long drink, then picked up the bottle of vodka and poured a shot into the can, swirling it to mix it. He passed the vodka to Steve, who took a drink directly from the bottle and then handed it to Bruce, who set it well out of Tony's reach.

"Aunt May sends her love," Peter said, returning just as steaming hot pizzas arrived. "I think the whole lance of ice thing freaked her out. She's helped herself to the bar, Tony."

"God love her, I wish I could, this is some shitty vodka," Tony said. He shifted in his seat to regard Loki. "Up side, you didn't blow up the building, good job."

"And the Tesseract is secure," Loki agreed. "So long as it remains impaled upon the lance, it remains inert. I took the liberty of storing it in your offensively large freezer."

"Hey, the penthouse is for parties, the caterers need somewhere to put the ice cream."

"So how do we get rid of this thing?" Peter asked around a mouthful of pizza. "It's like nuclear waste. It's there, it's dangerous, it's our problem."

"Father must be aware we have it," Thor said. "He may wish to collect it, or send an emissary to do so." He glanced at Loki. "We could return to Asgard."

"Suit yourself," Loki said. "I shan't."

"Well, Midgard does need champions," Thor said.

"What are we, chopped liver?" Clint asked.

"You fought very valiantly with your little bow," Loki said, grinning.

"Oh man, if I wasn't sore everywhere I would fight you," Clint groaned.

"I choose my offensives," Loki said. He fumbled around with his bandaged hands until he got a slice of pizza in them, eating as daintily as the bandages and the pizza would allow.

"Well, SHIELD got the message," Natasha said, consulting the phone Tony had tossed onto the table. "Coulson says Fury offered to rehire him if he could bring us back."

"Us, us?" Clint asked.

"All of us. He's offering amnesty for any Avenger who wants a paid gig with SHIELD."

"Tell Coulson to tell Fury he can shove it up his helicarrier," Steve suggested. Peter choked and thumped his chest, reaching for one of the sodas.

"Excuse you, negotiations are my job," Tony said.

"Did you have a different response?" Natasha asked.

"No. But tell him I said it."

She smiled and returned to texting. "Tony, Coulson says he'd sell you out to get his Captain America trading cards back from his locker, but we need your bankroll."

"There are trading cards?" Steve asked faintly.

"Don't think about it right now," Tony said. "Though I'm making a note about action figures."

***

That night, the Avengers exhaustedly dragged themselves home and fell asleep without much concern for social graces. The following morning, May, Pepper, and Coulson began chiseling them out of the basement and escorting them upstairs to their new quarters.

"The top of the tower," Steve said appreciatively, standing at the wide, tall windows of the penthouse. This was Tony's domain, but the Avengers had spent too long sharing spaces to be overly concerned with knocking or asking permission. Tony had offered each of them a floor, but they were using barely half that -- Peter had insisted Steve move in with him and Aunt May, Loki and Clint were setting up what sounded like the ultimate bachelor pad with Thor, and Natasha was splitting an apartment with Bruce. The only one who seemed to prefer solitude was Coulson, who pretty clearly liked his own space.

"Have a look at that view," Clint agreed, lounging on a nearby sofa. "I feel like a king."

"I feel like I got the crap beat out of me yesterday," Tony replied. Overnight, bruises from where he'd been thrown around in the suit had blossomed, huge and purple, on his forehead and shoulders, one large one peeking out from under the hem of his pants. He was laid out on the floor, an ice pack on one shoulder. Natasha was next to him, face down, with a heating pad on her back.

"Well, yeah, that too," Clint agreed, scratching the bandages over cuts from where he'd gone through a window at one point. Steve felt a twinge of guilt; he and Peter and the Asgardians could heal quickly, and Bruce didn't even take damage the way they did, but the rest of the team was suffering.

"We have time, and luxury in which to recover," Thor said, eating cold cereal straight from the box. Nearby, Loki rolled his eyes from behind a newspaper. "Besides, should another threat arise, my brother and I stand ready to fight."

"Don't rub it in," Tony groaned.

"Sir, I am receiving an urgent request for access," JARVIS announced. Tony pushed himself up on his less-bruised elbow.

"Just one?" he asked.

"This may be the most relevant one," JARVIS replied, flicking the giant television screen on. A security camera from the lobby showed a woman and a man standing in front of the elevators. She was looking up at the ceiling; he was looking up at the camera.

"Erik Selvig!" Thor cried in surprise. "And Jane Foster! I must go to them!"

"Hang on, hot stuff," Tony called, as Thor hurried towards the door. "JARVIS, elevate them up here."

"Of course, sir," JARVIS replied, and on the screen the elevator doors opened.

"You know them?" Steve asked.

"Yes! Jane Foster is my estranged beloved," Thor said cheerfully. "Selvig is a good friend."

"I should go," Loki announced, but Thor grabbed him by the arm before he could move. "Thor."

"You will accept whatever punishment the lady Jane sees fit to mete," Thor said.

"I never touched her!"

"You blew up her town," Thor said.

"It wasn't even hers. And I gave her a very interesting experience -- really, she should thank me," Loki replied, as the elevator dinged and the door opened.

Thor surged forward, releasing Loki, and swept the woman, Jane, up in his arms. She squeaked in surprise. He set her down and clapped the man on the back so hard he nearly fell over.

"Welcome to Stark Tower, yadda yadda," Tony said, waving a hand and not getting up. He had the ice pack over his face now. "Make yourselves at home, god knows everyone else has."

"My friends," Thor said. "May I introduce Doctor Jane Foster, the valiant astrophysicist, and her mentor Doctor Erik Selvig, the brave and foolhardy."

"I went drinking with him once," Selvig said.

"All is explained," Peter agreed.

Steve had kept an eye on Loki, who was quietly trying to sneak around them and into the elevator. Thor caught him again at the last second and dragged him in front of Jane.

"Tell her," Thor said darkly. Loki glared at him. "Do it, brother."

Loki sighed. "I am very sorry for New Mexico," he said.

"Loki."

"And for causing you much pain."

"And?"

"And I will submit myself to any punishment you see fit," Loki finished, turning what Steve knew was his best hangdog look on Jane Foster.

She put her hands on her hips, scowling. Everyone tensed.

"If it's any consolation," Natasha said, "He means like sixty percent of that."

"It's not," Jane replied. She slapped Loki, hard enough to turn his head. "That was for New Mexico."

Loki reached up to prod his jaw, gingerly, and almost startled away when she leaned over and kissed his cheek.

"That's for saving New York," she added.

"I like her," Loki said to Thor.

***

Two days after the battle, JARVIS summoned the Avengers to the helipad from their new digs at the top of Stark Tower. Most of them arrived just as the helicopter touched down. Pepper, who had gotten there first, saw Nick Fury disembark and start towards him.

"Get back in your helicopter and go," she said.

"Ms. Potts -- "

"No, you have no business here. You are trespassing on private property and if you don't have a warrant I'm going to call Security and have them watch while the Avengers remove you from my tower."

"Wasn't my aim to hurt you," he said. "Side-effect of my line of work."

"Well, it's so comforting to know my personal suffering was your business as usual," she retorted. She could hear the others coming forward; Tony took her hand, and Natasha placed herself slightly in front of her, almost nose to nose with Fury.

"We have some business to discuss," he said instead. "I come in peace. Amnesty papers," he added, holding up an envelope in one hand. "I'm hoping we can do this like civilized people."

"Director Fury," May said, and Fury glanced to the side. "I really do think this is bad manners."

"There's no elegant way to admit defeat," Fury said.

"How about admitting defeat?" Jane asked.

"Dr. Foster. Unsurprising to see you here."

"Well, I thought the tower was free of jack-booted thugs," Jane replied.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," Steve said. "Apologize and go, Director."

"We did what we did with the best of intentions for the general welfare," Fury said.

"Wow, that sounds nothing like 'I'm sorry'," Peter said. "Steve?"

"Well, I'm not up on modern slang," Steve said.

"The situation has changed," Fury continued, ignoring them. "We've come to the understanding that exceptional threats require exceptional responses."

"There were nuclear weapons," Bruce remarked.

"That was not our decision."

"You had the nukes," Tony pointed out.

"That's not the point!" Fury said, briefly showing a flash of anger before cooling. "SHIELD acknowledges that imprisoning superhumans without just cause is no longer an option."

Bruce tilted his head and said, "Huh." Everyone looked at him. When Bruce said "Huh" that way, it generally meant he'd made a leap the rest of them hadn't yet followed.

"What is it?" Thor asked him.

"Word's already leaked that the WSC was behind the nukes," Bruce said. "Must have been quite a PR coup for you. Got them off your back, too. I wonder what else they were behind?"

"SHIELD acted alone in imprisoning you," Fury said, but it was obviously a recited speech. He gave Bruce a quick side-eye.

"So you're not even the enemy," Peter said.

"The WSC gave you orders," Natasha said. "They pulled the strings on this."

Fury looked at her. "You are formally offered your job back, Agent Romanoff."

She said something in Russian.

"My grandmother spits on your shadow," Tony translated, out of the corner of his mouth.

"Understanding that you've rejected our offer of direct oversight, moving forward, SHIELD would like to be kept abreast of Avengers actions in order to provide assistance," Fury said.

"We'll send you a postcard," Pepper replied.

"Then our discussion is concluded," Fury said. "Agent Coulson, I'd like a private word with you if I may."

Tony started forward, but Coulson put up a hand and strolled over to the edge of the Tower.

"Thor, if Fury throws him off the edge, you go after Agent," Tony said. "Cap and Peter, you take Fury."

"What if Coulson throws Fury off?" Clint asked.

"Eh," Tony said with a shrug.

***

Fury leaned on the railing, peering over for a moment. "So who goes after you if I throw you over?"

"You're incorrectly assuming that you could," Coulson responded.

"Yeah, maybe. I cleaned out your locker," Fury said. He handed Coulson a slim box. "Thought you'd want your cards back. Surprised you left them behind."

"I got held up," Coulson replied, tucking the box in the inner pocket of his suit.

"SHIELD is earnest in its offer of support for the Avengers."

"Are we speaking as equals now?" Coulson asked, sounding almost surprised.

"You want me to do this with Stark?"

"Then someone really would go over the rail," Coulson said. "Why didn't you say the WSC was behind the Superhuman Detention op?"

"People like the WSC don't understand theory, only practical," Fury said. "We needed the Avengers, who needed a reason to come together, and we needed to give the WSC enough rope to hang themselves. Seemed to kill two birds with one stone."

"You imprisoned good people. They had lives."

Fury nodded. "And then they got powers. I didn't choose that. I could only respond." He leaned in a little. "What we're seeing here is an idea that's come to stay, Phil. How we react now to superhumans in our midst for the next thirty, fifty, a hundred years, we're setting that precedent right now. The Avengers will be a blueprint for times yet to come."

"Getting a little Messianic there," Coulson said, but he was smiling. "Message understood. We'll be in touch."

Fury nodded, starting towards the helicopter. "Call me."

"I'll just yell into the bug you put in the card case," Coulson replied, pointing to his pocket.

"Had to try," Fury said, spreading his arms. "Got my eye on you, Phil."

***

"What was that about?" Tony asked, when the helicopter had taken off again with Fury inside it.

"Just returning some property to me," Coulson said, checking his phone.

"Check it for bugs," Natasha said.

"Way out ahead of you," Coulson replied. "Upshot is, the Avengers are free and clear."

Peter jumped up on Steve's shoulders, smacking him on the arm. "Hear that? You and me, running tomorrow morning. After dawn. Broad daylight."

"Oh good, I can go outside if I ever decide that staying inside away from the population is less than necessary," Bruce said with a smile.

"Come on, Pep and I'll take you out to dinner at our favorite place," Tony said. "Very exclusive, very quiet, I promise."

"So what do we do now?" Peter asked. "We're still going to be patrolling, right? Do we start chasing down bad guys again? Because taking out Lizard, that was a good time."

"I hadn't thought past getting amnesty," Steve said. "What do we do now?" he asked Natasha.

"Oh, I thought we'd all be dead by now," she said.

"I don't think that question will be a problem," Coulson said, still scrolling through his phone.

"Why not?" Steve said.

Coulson held the phone up. A headline on the screen read JUSTIN HAMMER - DARING DAYLIGHT ESCAPE.

"Someone texted me about it but the text says he was taken from prison by superhuman...'ninjas'," Coulson said. "I think it autocorrected from villains. I hope it autocorrected from villains."

"Are ninjas in my contract?" Peter asked.

"Who's Justin Hammer?" Steve asked.

"He's a eunuch," Natasha said.

"Seriously?" Steve asked.

"He will be when I find him."

"He's an old business rival, almost blew me up one time," Tony said. "He's in prison for being a dickpull."

"I wasn't aware that was a crime," Steve said drily.

"It is when he does it."

"I'll start assembling intel," Coulson interrupted. "Clint and Natasha with me. Stark -- "

"Gonna get a jump on putting extra security in place," Tony said. "Bruce, you can help, it's just some programming. Justin's predictable, he'll probably try to kidnap Pep."

"Ugh, male chauvinist supervillains," Pepper said, as Tony took off for his workshop. Bruce offered her his arm to escort her after Tony.

"I need you to bring me up to speed," Steve said in an undertone to Peter.

"On what?" Peter asked.

"Ninjas, is that a thing now?"

"Come on, I'll show you some movies," Peter said.

"Oh good, I love ninja movies," May added, herding them inside.

They drifted off in twos and threes, leaving Thor and Loki standing on the pad, looking out at the city.

"We could have gone home, you know," Loki said. "When Father sent for the lance and the Tesseract last night. He offered."

"Did you wish to?"

"No," Loki admitted. "I find myself reluctant to abandon this."

"I think we have much to learn from Midgard. It can only improve our education."

"I don't deny it has some charms. I'm only saying, we could be feasting and flirting with beautiful women right now."

"I can feast and flirt with a beautiful woman right here," Thor replied. "So could you. We are veritably surrounded by the most beautiful women of the realm. The Lady Natasha looks fairly on you."

"You're making a joke," Loki said. "You're trying to be funny, aren't you?"

"Would you prefer the Allmother May? She is comely and wise."

"At least she wouldn't kill me for trying. Well, probably," Loki amended. "And you know Midgardians don't know how to properly feast."

"We shall teach them, in time. Come, Loki," Thor said, grinning and clapping him on the arm. "We may return to battle soon. That's heartening, isn't it?"

"Feasting," Loki said meaningfully.

"We will make you popcorn while we learn of these Ninjas with Peter and Allmother May," Thor replied, hauling him towards the door.

END

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