- Death-Major Character
- Action Adventure
- Established Relationship
Three Weeks Post-Chitauri Invasion
Coulson fidgeted in the wheelchair, dissatisfied with this level of mobility. Next to him he heard Natasha snort, and held back any comment he wanted to make. Her earlier retort still rang in his ears, “You wouldn’t let Clint go straight to crutches, why do you think I’m going to make an exception for you?”
It didn’t feel like a reasonable response. Even now, one week after waking up, Phil felt fine. His legs twitched, ready to be up and moving; his hand wanted the heavy, familiar feeling of a gun against his palm. There was no reason he couldn’t be standing on his own to feet. And a pair of crutches. He pushed the frustration down and tried to focus back on what Tony was saying.
Ever since Phil had woken up and it had been revealed that Clint was missing, Tony had been on a one-man mission. He had busied himself setting up searches, coordinating with JARVIS, and keeping tabs on Phil’s recovery. The moment they had given the okay, Phil was being sprung from his secret hospital room and settled in a nice, nondescript apartment in Stark Tower.
Tony had explained away the blandness with a wave of his hand, “I didn’t have time to find a set of vintage Captain America posters that look good with purple, but I’ll get there.” Phil just thanked him, and moved on, trying not to imagine how Tony knew what kind of decor he’d prefer, much less Clint’s preferences considering they’d only met for approximately an hour.
“I just don’t see how our search hasn’t turned up anything,” Tony tossed the greasy rag in his hand across the room at Dummy. Phil had introduced himself the last time he’d been in Tony’s residence.
“However, Sir, that is what I regret to inform you. Our search has turned up nothing,” in any other situation JARVIS’s dulcet tones would have been relaxing, but Phil wasn’t in the mood to be calmed down. He was in the mood for answers.
“What databases do you still need to search?” he asked, leaning forward in his chair.
“That’s the problem!” Tony threw up his arms and almost hit Natasha, her reflexes allowing her to duck out of the way just in time. “We searched every database. There isn’t anywhere else to look! It’s like he’s vanished into thin air!”
Phil frowned thoughtfully, there weren’t many agencies that could make it seem like someone had disappeared, and there were even fewer who could manage to make it seem that way to Tony Stark. In fact, there was only one he could think of.
“Have you looked at the World Security Council?”
Tony snorted, “Have I looked at the World Secur—Of course I looked at the World Security Council! They shot a nuclear missile at New York! There’s nothing there, and that’s from the little I could actually find about them. If they hadn’t shot a missile at us I wouldn’t even be sure they even existed!”
“They do operate in the black,” Natasha agreed. “I could barely find anything myself.”
“Where did the trail end?” Phil thrummed his fingers, trying to relieve the tension that was building as he grew more certain he was on the right trail. In his business no news meant there was something to find.
“Our trail ended somewhere around Florida,” JARVIS responded, and on screen maps and bank statements flicked up. Phil let his eyes trace over the names and highlighted places before one caught his attention.
“Yes,” Tony agreed, “he’s one of the few we can tie to the World Security Council for certain, although I’m not sure in what capacity.”
Phil nodded slowly, “I saw him meeting with Nick at one point, but I wasn’t able to sit in on the meeting myself. I did hear he was involved in something big, and that he spent a lot of time in the Caribbean.”
Tony snapped his fingers and turned back to his monitors, “JARVIS, you heard the man! Start looking for any connection you can find between Pierce and the Caribbean, and while we’re at it, see how many of SHIELD’s pies he has his fingers in.”
“Right away, sir,” JARVIS answers as the screen started flickering and zipping as websites and documents started opening and closing. “Based on our previous attempts to gain information about the World Security Council and enter into their databases, I expect this search to take upwards of twenty hours.”
Phil frowned while Tony nodded absentmindedly, his attention already obviously focused on some of the documents being sent to his personal monitors. Natasha tapped her foot against Phil’s chair and he smoothed his expression out before looking at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Twenty hours, Phil. I don’t think we need to be here for that entire time.”
“I disagree,” he turned back to the screen, “however, there is something you could do for me.”
“Name it,” Phil chose to ignore the hint of desperation in her voice.
“I believe there’s something at our apartment that shouldn’t be left alone for much longer. Otherwise Clint would be very disappointed in me.” Natasha smiled at him, obviously understanding where he was going with this.
“And where would I find this something?” This time her voice was tinged in amusement, which Tony was not picking up on based on his focus on the screens in front of him.
“If it’s not in our apartment, I believe that you might find it located with our neighbor.” Natasha squeezed his shoulder and walked to the elevator.
An hour and a half later, during which Phil was really regretting being stuck in his wheelchair, a bark echoed out from the elevator. Tony startled in his rolling chair and almost tipped out of it. His focus on the screens had been so absolute that Phil was doing his best not to imagine the illegal documents that were most likely flying across his screen and the dirt he was gaining on different top level politicians.
Actually, that didn’t bother him so much.
Phil wheeled his chair around in anticipation, already leaning over by the time the elevator doors opened and Lucky bolted towards him. The one-eyed dog pulled up short of running him over and tilted his face up, covering Phil with slobbery kisses. Phil smiled softly at the dog Clint had rescued and then insisted on keeping, claiming they were meant to be: one could barely hear, and one could barely see. Phil had given in gracefully, especially after Clint promised to be in charge of all bathroom-related walking. He was especially thankful for this condition after Lucky had shown an inclination for pizza.
Holding Lucky was the closest Phil had felt to Clint since waking up, and listening to Tony’s squawking made the situation feel a little bit better.
“Where did the dog come from? Whose dog is this? Agent Agent! Did you steal this dog?”
“Of course not,” Phil murmured from where his face was still pressed into Lucky’s ruff. “He’s Clint’s dog.”
“I did not agree to a dog!”
Phil’s chest started hurting—a weird sensation because it hadn’t hurt much since the third day he’d been awake, a fact he was willfully ignoring.
“If you don’t want him here, I’m sure Alicia wouldn’t mind taking him back until I’m up and out of this chair.” As much as he might want Lucky close by, he wasn’t going to force him on Tony, not when the man had been kind enough to open his home to him.
“Alicia?” Tony’s hesitation was clear in his voice.
“Clint’s and my neighbor. She looks after Lucky when we can’t,” Phil pulled back slowly and ruffled the top of Lucky’s head. The retriever whined a little at the distance, but settled back onto his haunches with his tail thumping steadily behind him. Phil turned back to face Tony, “I can have Natasha take him back. I just wanted to see him.”
Tony’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head, “No, you don’t need to do that. I was just…surprised, you don’t seem the type to have a dog.” He brightened a little, “I always wanted a dog. Howard said no. You don’t mind sharing a little do you? How house-trained is he?”
“Very,” Phil nodded, and looked at Tony critically. He took in the shy eagerness he was trying to hide, and the quick glances he flicked towards Lucky, “I guess I don’t mind sharing. Although, you’ll really have to take it up with Clint when we get him back. Lucky’s really his dog.”
Tony nodded firmly and gave Lucky one more longing glance before swirling around to face the computer monitors again, “When we find him.”
Phil relaxed a little in his chair and ran his hand through Lucky’s fur. The dog nudged closer. Phil let his hand settle before motioning the dog towards Tony. Lucky slunk over to him and nudged his thigh. Tony startled a little before letting his hand drop and gingerly scratch behind Lucky’s ear. Phil smiled as Lucky pushed even closer, no shame at seeking even more love from a complete stranger. Clint’s dog indeed.
“Sir,” JARVIS’s dry voice interrupted Phil’s thoughts, “I have narrowed our search parameters and am ready to begin searching with your permission.”
Tony waved a hand, “Go ahead, JARVIS.”
“Of course, Sir. I am beginning the search now. Estimate time to completion: 20 hours.”
Phil sagged in his chair, the exhaustion he’d been feeling becoming more relevant and apparent now that he knew there was a timeline. He’d always operated better on a timeline.
“Phil,” Natasha’s worry leaked into her voice, “I really do think you should be resting now. I’ll keep an eye on the search.”
“No,” Phil shook his head, “I need to be here for this. I need to be here when we find Clint.”
“If you don’t get any rest soon you won’t be able to sit up straight when we find Clint,” Tony retorted from his chair, fingers typing away as he studied the monitor.
“I’ll be fine. I feel fine.”
“Really, Phil, I think you’ve proven yourself here, but rest is the better part of valor in this situation, as someone wise once told someone dumb when they tried to escape medical with four pins in their knee.”
Phil resisted the urge to smile, “Clint never could sit still when he thought something more exciting was happening somewhere else.”
“Well, don’t follow Clint’s example. This is not exciting, and you need the rest.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Well,” Tony stood up, “I guess I’ll go get Pepper then. That always works on me.”
It seemed to work on Phil too, much to his chagrin. Just a look from Pepper Potts, and Phil was meekly putting his wheelchair into gear and heading towards the elevator. He refused to make eye contact with Natasha, who he knew was laughing at him. He snapped his fingers for Lucky, because he was damned if he was going to let them enjoy his dog if he had to suffer.
The retriever scampered over to him, not stopping fast enough this time and pushing Phil’s wheelchair into the back of the elevator. Phil braced himself for a jolt of pain as his chest rattled in the chair. After ten seconds, he relaxed. No pain. He should probably be worried about that. Phil put it on his to do list for later. Much later.
“Come on, Lucky. Apparently it’s nap time.” Phil didn’t bother to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but Lucky only wagged his tail eagerly, clearly recognizing the words “nap time.” There was nothing Lucky loved more than curling up with someone on a cold morning. Unfortunately, the dog also had some of the worst timing ever and that meant there were some awkward interruptions to his and Clint’s morning shenanigans.
“Yes, it is,” Pepper said firmly as she ignored Phil’s frown. She reached in and pushed the button for the eighty-seventh floor. As the door closed she turned back to the rest of the room, and Phil heard her begin, “And you, Tony. Don’t think I haven’t—” The rest of what she said was lost as the elevator moved. Phil buried his hand in Lucky’s ruff again and sighed to himself. Lucky whimpered at the emotional shift and licked his wrist.
– – – –
Three Weeks Post-Chitauri Invasion
Unknown Location in Caribbean
Clint sat huddled against a brick wall, knees pulled up to his chest. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he’d been brought here, but he knew it had been weeks. He had been questioned repeatedly, and it didn’t seem to make anyone happy that his answers hadn’t changed. There was a harsher tone to their questioning recently, though, and he had a feeling they weren’t going to be asking those questions in the same way any longer.
“Who are they?” he whispered to himself, the sound echoing in his cell. It had become obvious that they weren’t who they said they were. His questioner had been switched out repeatedly, which didn’t allow for a bond to form, which didn’t make sense. Bonding meant answers. Their tactics made him feel extremely uncomfortable.
Even SHIELD wouldn’t go this far to question him, especially when there was plenty of video recordings to back him up. SHIELD recorded everything; they had to have him on tape under Loki’s control—plus Natasha was there to back him up.
He’d been thinking about possibilities for a while. The information they had, the pictures he’d seen—hell, his own file. They had access; he didn’t know how, but they had access. They just didn’t seem to care about what they should care about.
“Clint, you are so fucked,” he knocked his head back against the bricks. It wasn’t much more than he deserved, “Stupid bastard.”
He’d been repeating this to himself constantly over the who-knows-how-many days. First, he got Phil killed, then he gets himself kidnapped? What kind of agent was he?
“The worst kind,” Clint flinched. There was very little Clint hated more than being incompetent. He was pretty sure that was how he caught Phil; he might play at being a smart-ass, back-talking pain, but he was a smart-ass, back-talking pain who go the job done and done well. He clung to that thought.
“What do they want?” he discarded the who, because he couldn’t answer that question—not right now, “Think, Clint.”
There were so many possibilities, they’d asked so many questions. “All focused on magic and control,” Clint realized. They hadn’t wanted to know the plans, or the secrets; they’d wanted to know the how. That was not good. There was a lot someone could do with that kind of power, “Even if they aren’t a mythical Norse god.”
He could practically hear Phil’s snort in his ear, and he shied away from it. He couldn’t pretend Phil was still here; he couldn’t let himself imagine it for a minute. Not when Phil was dead, and it was his fault. Time hadn’t made it any easier. All he could do was distract himself.
“How can they get it, though?” Last he knew, Loki was captured, Thor had claimed ownership and Fury had given in. There wasn’t much they could do to stop him anyway. Magical hammers and lightning powers had a way of making any protests a little harder to form. “Do they have the staff?” The obvious answer to that was no, of course. Thor would never hand that over, he’d made it clear. “The tesseract?” No, he’d taken that, too.
What are they up to?