Avengers movie-verse fanfic. 2430 words. POV: Agent Phil Coulson. MOVIE SPOILERS. Follow-up (and probable part 2 of 3) of Avenger, Remembered.
“I don’t like this, Director.”
Phil Coulson made a distinct effort to not blatantly disagree with Director Fury on anything, but on this particular case, he felt it necessary to state what must have been all too obvious from the moment he’d heard about the plan.
“I recognize that fact, Agent, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.”
“You could tell them.” Coulson stood, wincing slightly behind his expressionless mask. The wound had required stitches, and even weeks after the injury, they were sore. “You got what you needed from it.”
“And what then, Coulson?” Fury turned so that he could level a gaze at the agent. “You think any of them are just going to take you coming back from the dead sitting down? You died back there, in front of the cage, and that’s what they need to remember.”
And it wasn’t a lie – Phil Coulson had been dead for a good thirty seconds, long enough that the medical team had actually called a time of death. Fury had never completely falsified the information he gave the Avengers. He had simply refrained from telling them that after that time was out of the medic’s mouth, his heart had started back up again.
He’d been recovering in a discreet portion of the helicarrier since then, being transported to a hospital once they’d landed. And every single one of the Avengers (now that they actually were the Avengers) had been told that he was dead.
Fury was still talking, so Coulson forced himself to get him mind back on track. “I’m giving you an out, Coulson. Most people would jump at the opportunity.”
“If I can speak plainly, Director–”
“I don’t see why now should be any different.”
“I don’t have any desire to leave S.H.I.E.L.D.” Coulson took the interruption in stride, never breaking his gaze from Fury. “I’d rather keep working.”
“You can work anywhere you want, Coulson. You’ve never been legally dead.”
“You had a funeral for me.”
“And if you go back there now, the gravestone has been switched out for the guy that’s actually buried there. There’s no legal trace of your death, Coulson.”
“One of them is bound to figure that out.” Probably Stark, Coulson added to himself. Or Banner. On a second thought, Banner was the most likely to see – since he hadn’t gone to the funeral (and yes, he’d been told who all came, and Tony’s unfortunate lateness), he would look for an obituary…and find one didn’t exist.
And Bruce Banner was the wrong person to think that you’d slighted someone he’d worked with.
The agent wasn’t arrogant enough to think that any of the team truly trusted him – that any of them would have truly mourned the loss outside of one more meaningless death and this time it was someone with a name they knew – that any of them actually liked him. Phil Coulson wasn’t exactly the easiest guy to get to know, or like. Introverted to a fault, hyperfocused on his work, three different shades of socially awkward even before the agency had put a lid on personality… S.H.I.E.L.D. allowed him to hide his shyness and uncertainty behind a sheen of work-oriented indifference.
It had certainly made certain things easier.
“And if they do, we’ll deal with it then. I don’t need to call a whole damn meeting to say ‘sorry guys, just a little white lie, nobody actually died.’ Sure as hell won’t help anything this early on in the game.”
Coulson opened his mouth to say something, but then decided otherwise and just nodded. Something tells me they’d be less angry if they found out from you directly, rather than having to infer and think you just forgot about me… That of course inferred that they’d care.
That wasn’t something he wanted to think about.
“Anything else you need, Agent?” Fury was finished with this conversation, and Coulson didn’t know what else he could argue about.
“What am I supposed to do now?”
Fury turned his back on the agent – now probably former agent – and paused before he answered. “Go live the rest of your life, Phil. Do whatever you want to do.”
So he picked up his stuff, and went home.
Needless to say, “home” had changed significantly since he’d left it in the mid 90s. His parents were gone – his father to sickness, his mother to dementia in a nursing home some five years earlier. He’d visited once or twice before; she hadn’t known who he was, even after reminding her. It had been difficult, but he’d stopped going at that point. So he picked up and found somewhere new to live. He’d always liked New York City – plenty of places to tuck away in a corner and live comfortably in the fray without being part of it – so he found a two room apartment and began again.
But there was one thing weighing on his mind – foolish as it might be. So he enlisted a little help and finally did something he’d been waiting for years to do.
He was a distance away, not wanting to be too visible, but he close enough that he could hear the conversation as the preteen boy ran up to the door of the apartment complex and buzzed the intercom.
“Hello?” came the confused reply through the speaker a moment later.
“Sir, I have somethin’ for ya, but you gotta come down here. I ain’t allowed in the building,” the child parroted back.
“You…alright, hold on just a second.” The intercom went dead, and the kid turned to look in Coulson’s general direction. The man, feeling incredibly out-of-place (still) out of his suit, just nodded. The boy turned back to the door at the affirmation. Coulson’s palms were sweating; this was ludicrous. He was making a mistake, he was going about everything in the wrong way, he was holding onto something absol–
The train of thought was promptly derailed by the complex’s door opening, and the oh-so-familiar shock of blonde hair making the former agent’s breath catch in his throat. Steve Rogers hadn’t changed an ounce in the years he’d been frozen – and since the debacle in the city, he’d still come out unscathed. It was something comforting for Coulson – that his boyhood hero could still be as…well, heroic as he’d always read about. His mother had raised him on patriotism and looking forward for those that would bring the future – and so when he’d found an old trading card in a garage sale, kept pristinely in a case, she’d encouraged his collection.
He’d spent years learning everything that he could about Captain America, reading stories and comics and absorbing everything. He’d always had a great respect for heroes of any kind – but Captain America…had been a real hero. Someone that had actually existed…and then vanished. One of the greatest tragedies. But then when they’d found him in the ice, and Coulson had gotten the call to tell Director Fury that sir, there’s someone they’ve found down there where Howard Stark had been looking all those years ago…
The man shook his head. Mind in the game.
“What can I do for you?” Rogers’ voice was hesitant, wary. People didn’t know where he lived; hell, Coulson wasn’t supposed to know. However, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. did have some perks, especially when Fury had neglected to cut your log-in from the system.
Little chance that wasn’t intentional.
“Got somethin’ t’ ask ya, sir.” The kid reached into his pocket and carefully took out a stack of playing cards, a little more worse for the wear than they had been earlier. (Coulson would never forgive Fury for getting blood on the cards. He’d gotten some of it out, but the rest was stained forever. He was livid – inasmuch as he ever showed that around Fury.) “Can you sign these?”
It was quite possible that Rogers hadn’t even heard the final question – because as soon as he’d seen the playing cards, his eyes widened in shock. The former agent could feel the stunned silence from across the distance. Rogers scanned around, looking for anyone. Phil sunk back in the shadow he was near, and luckily, Rogers seemed to miss him.
“Where is he – who gave you these?” Steve grabbed the playing cards, fanning them out in front of him carefully.
“Can’t say, sir. Just asked you to sign them an’ give ’em back.”
“What did he look like?” Rogers was insistent – and it took Coulson a moment to figure out why. He thinks Fury is here. And in his next breath, Rogers confirmed that. “Because if Nick Fury is back, taunting me with my failures in order to get me hooked into whatever his next project is, I’ve got a pretty foul string of comments you can send back to him.”
“I…” This wasn’t anything the kid was prepared for, and Coulson could tell he was fighting not to turn around and gesture for direction. “I can’t tell ya, sir. Just got asked.”
“Well, what can–” But then Steve stopped…and Coulson froze. He was looking right at him; somehow, the soldier’s eyes had sought him out. “Never mind, kid. Give me the cards; I’ll give them back to him myself.”
“But…” The kid followed Rogers’ gaze, looked at Coulson, and seemed to understand that the gig was up. He handed Rogers the cards, and with a final glance to Coulson that the former agent couldn’t respond to, he ran off. Phil didn’t blame him; he’d done his job.
Slowly, painstakingly, Rogers made his way over to Coulson. Phil couldn’t move, just watching Rogers’ eyes as they got closer, trying his best to keep the S.H.I.E.L.D. facade up as much as he could. “You died.” Steve’s voice was low, almost rough.
Phil wasn’t sure how to deal with that.
“Yes.” There was no sense in lying. “And the medical team pronounced me dead. I just…didn’t stay dead.”
Rogers’ eyebrows furrowed, staring almost too intensely in Coulson’s eyes. “How…no, I don’t want to know.” The solder reached out – hesitated – then set his hand on Coulson’s shoulder, almost too carefully.
“You’re not imagining things.” Why would he imagine this? The thought flitted idly through Phil’s head before he pushed it aside.
“I thought…” Now there was no doubting it – Rogers’ voice was rough and shaky. Coulson didn’t let the confusion coursing through his mind show on his face. The soldier cleared his throat. “I felt terrible, not signing these before…” He gestured weakly with the cards, failing at the rest of the sentence.
Coulson shrugged, shaking his head. “It’s no big deal. It was just a–”
But Rogers wasn’t about to let him finish that. “No, it was a big deal. It was a tiny question, and I had time to do it, and I never found you on that…flying whatever we were on to get that done. It would have been two seconds, but I was too busy being shell-shocked and coping with all of the other egos on that thing.”
The former agent allowed for a faint smile at that. It was true – the egos in the room could almost be as big as a Hulk in the room. “I understood.”
“But it wasn’t acceptable.” There was that stalwart Captain coming out again – refusing to let a slight go by. “I’m sorry.”
“You still have a chance,” Coulson offered, making a small gesture to the cards. “I mean, if you don’t mind.”
“I wish you’d asked yourself.” Rogers chanced a glance up to Coulson, and the man was fairly certain he forgot how to breathe for an instant. “I don’t have a pen on me.”
“I…I’m sorry, what?” Phil mentally slapped himself as he came back to the conversation.
“Pen. I don’t have one. To sign these?” Rogers mimed his signature above the cards, and the light bulb went off. Right. Writing. Requires something to write with. He shoved a hand in his pocket and produced a fine-tipped Sharpie pen – his usual writing implement. Rogers took it, and leaning against a nearby building to balance himself enough to use his thigh as a writing desk, jotted a signature on each of the cards. “Seems…”
Coulson’s eyes tracked over to him again. “What?”
“I don’t know.” The soldier put the cap on the pen and handed it back to Phil, holding onto the cards a moment longer – and looking up at the former agent. “This seems so small.”
“Oh believe me, sir,” Coulson responded, perhaps a bit too fast. “It’s not small at all.”
“Well…” Rogers crossed his arms, unconvinced. “It seems like not nearly enough to me. I mean, alive or dead, you put yourself on the line to try and wake our sorry asses up, and that takes guts. You’re a hell of a hero yourself, Phil Coulson. You deserve more than just a couple of old trading cards signed.” Rogers offered said cards back to him.
Coulson tried to ignore the swelling feeling in his chest as he slipped them into a pocket. “Just doing my job, Captain. I’d do it again if I had to.”
“I don’t doubt it.” The soldier’s voice was sincere. “Well, if I didn’t think you w–” Just then, something struck Rogers, and he took another look at Coulson. “Coulson, you’re not in a suit.”
“Nope.” He put his hands in his pockets, thumb brushing over the cards gently, almost on instinct. “I’ve been…well, given an indefinite leave of absence from S.H.I.E.L.D. for right now.”
Rogers seemed almost more stunned by that than the lack of a suit. “You got fired?”
“Something like that.” The man shrugged. “So I decided to buy a pair of jeans. Really rebel against the dress code.”
There was a moment where Coulson thought the joke had been lost on Rogers, but then the soldier gave him a warm smile. “Well, if you’re off the clock then, C– Phil,” he said, catching himself before using the surname again, “how about you let me buy you a drink?”
He wasn’t supposed to be drinking yet – shouldn’t after the injury, though it was doing so much better – and besides, he never really drank so he’d probably be incoherent after two or three beers.
“Call me Steve.”
He allowed another small smile. “Sure. …Steve.”
Fury would be livid. And Phil Coulson didn’t care. He was getting a beer with Captain America.