Disclaimer: I don't own Coulson or Fury or any of the characters or organizations from the Marvel universe. Unfortunately.
Fury heard the sound of Coulson's footsteps exactly thirty seconds before he burst into his office. There was no mistaking the sound of those wingtips. The director had just enough time to clear his computer screens, and then his top agent flung the door open and lurched into the room, gasping for breath, tie at an awkward angle. Fury raised his eyebrows, amused.
"Agent Coulson. Where's the fire?"
"Sorry, boss," he panted. "I was just…somebody said you…needed to see me."
"Oh?" Fury replied. "Who was that?"
Coulson fixed his tie, straightened his lapels, and avoided Fury's singular gaze. "Just…somebody."
Fury leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands over his chest. "Well tell somebody they were mistaken."
Coulson gave a curt nod. "Yes sir. I…most definitely will."
"Thank you, Coulson."
Fury watched his agent squirm with no small amount of satisfaction. He knew exactly why Coulson was here. He was content to sit back and wait for him to admit it. "Is there something else you wanted to see me about, Agent Coulson?"
"What? No. No, nothing." The man kept moving his hands, clasping them in front of him, clasping them behind him, rubbing them in front of his face. His gaze moved around the office, directed at anything but Fury. "I was just…wondering…I missed the last briefing meeting."
"You did. I have it on record. You know you're cleared from that."
"Yes. Yes, sir. I know that."
Fury waited. He waited for a long time. "Coulson?"
"Why are you still in my office?"
Coulson opened his mouth and closed it again two times before he spoke. "I was just…wondering if I missed anything. Anything important."
"Especially important. Like…any new operations, or…projects…."
Fury leaned forward and put his elbows on the desk, fingers in front of his lips. "Operations? What kind of operations?"
Coulson shrugged. "I…wouldn't know, sir…I missed the briefing."
"I know you did. You were handling a situation in Michigan, weren't you."
"Your niece's birthday party."
"How did that go?"
"…good…it was nice…."
"She's six now, isn't she?"
"That's a nice age."
Coulson made a noncommittal sound and looked at his shoes. Fury allowed another long pause before he spoke again.
"Why are you still in my office?"
Coulson looked up and clenched his jaw for a moment. Fury could see him working up the nerve to ask his question and he held back a smile. "Sir, there are rumors."
"About…a new operation."
"Operation Stars and Stripes…sir."
"Oh that." Fury rose from his chair. "Go on."
Coulson's lips twitched. "Well they're…they're saying you…found something."
"Er…someone. In the Arctic."
Fury chuckled and Coulson frowned. "Found someone in the Arctic? That's absurd."
"Is it, Director Fury?" The agent looked truly troubled. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't…Steve Rogers disappear in that region?"
"Steve Rogers? Back in the forties?" Fury gave a slight shake of his head and suppressed a smile when Coulson's frown became even more defined. "Howard Stark searched that area with a fine-toothed comb. He didn't find anything."
Coulson's tone, enriched with a note that sounded almost pleading, was one Director Fury had never heard before. "But with our current technology…we could conduct a more efficient search…."
Fury enjoyed his quiet satisfaction for a minute longer. Seeing Coulson fray a little was something many of the agents would pay money to see. But finally he decided to let him off the hook.
"There's no need to search," Fury said. "A small team of researchers stumbled upon an abnormality in the ice a few weeks ago."
Coulson's eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "An abnormality?"
"A large flying vessel," Fury replied with flawless articulation. His top agent had his hands clenched together in front of him, knuckles yellow and fingers red with anxiety. "And they found something pretty interesting inside."
"What? What is it? Sir."
Fury pursed his lips against yet another smile. He felt a bit like Santa Claus. "It would seem the world isn't finished with Steve Rogers just yet."
The corners of Coulson's mouth moved into the closest thing to a grin that Fury had ever seen. "He's alive?"
"He's completely encased in ice."
"Well we have to get him out!"
"We're working on it."
"We have a team of medics and biologists thawing him out right now."
Coulson was all but bouncing on his toes, yet remarkably, he maintained his composure—but there was a slight, excited tremor in his voice as he asked, "…may I supervise?"
Fury lifted his chin. "Supervise?"
"Yes. To make sure things are handled…adequately."
"Hmm." Fury narrowed his eye. "Not a bad idea, Coulson."
"No, sir. Thank you, sir."
"You think you're up to the task?"
"Definitely." Coulson nodded quickly. "Sir."
Fury let out a long sigh through his nose. "You don't think Agent Hill would—"
"No. No I do not."
At last a smile broke the surface of the director's face. "Very well, Coulson. You've just been assigned to Operation Stars and Stripes."
"Thank you, sir. Thank you so much. This means a—this assignment means a lot." Coulson nodded once and practically ran out the door.
Fury chuckled and shook his head and called to his agent. "Coulson! You don't even know where you're going!"
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