Victoria held Phil's hand tightly as Fury hurried in.
"Sorry boss, the guy rabitted." Phil breathed.
"Just stay awake." Fury said. "Eyes on me!"
Victoria tightened her grip. "Come on, Phil."
"I'm clocking out here."
"Not an option!" Victoria and Fury growled.
"It's ok. This was never gonna work if they didn't have something to…"
Victoria let out a sob as Phil's eyes closed. She barely felt Fury's hand on hers, prising her fingers from around Phil's.
"Agent Coulson is down." he said through the comm. link.
A medical team ran in and surrounded Phil.
"A medical team is on it's way to your location." Victoria heard over the comm. Link.
"They're here." Fury said.
A guy from the med team shook his head and stood up.
"They called it."
Victoria sat next to Tony, his hand linked with hers. Rogers was sat a few seats away.
"These were in Phil Coulson's jacket." Fury threw some cards across the table. Victoria shuddered as she saw bloodstains. "Guess he never did get you to sign them."
Rogers looked down at them.
"We're dead in the air. Lost our communications, location of the cube, Banner."
Victoria looked up. "What?"
"As soon as you left Banner and Thor alone, Banner went psycho and jumped from the helicarrier." Fury told her. He then turned to Rogers. "Yes, we were going to build an arsenal with the Tesseract. I never put all my chips on that number though, 'cos I was playing something even riskier. There was an idea, both the Starks know this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people and see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea. In heroes."
Victoria couldn't listen anymore. She stood up and felt Tony do the same.
"Well, it's an old-fashioned notion." Fury said as they walked away.
They walked to the detention room and looked at the spot where Phil had lay. Tony wrapped his arms around Victoria. She put her head on his chest next to his arc reactor and breathed in the familiar scent of whiskey and engine oil. She opened her mind and felt Tony's mind meld with hers. They stood in silence for a while, sharing their grief, just like they had when their mother died. Tony's grief was a low, broken keeping that throbbed through Victoria's head, while her own grief was a numb feeling. Their grief worked together, Tony's giving Victoria an outlet and Victoria's quieting Tony's.
After a while the noise in Victoria's head stopped and she lifted her head from Tony's slightly. "He told me to say goodbye. To Loki." she sniffed.
"I don't like Loki. I don't like what he's doing to you."
"We're finished. If we see each other again it'll be to kill."
He tightened his grip. "You're ok with that?"
Victoria shook her head.
Tony sighed. "Torie, you have to let it go. You can't hide from your problems forever."
"Like you? When are you going to tell Fury the reason why the suit only works properly for you, that you're a technopath?"
"I'm not. He doesn't need to know, and it won't help."
Victoria looked up at Tony. There was pain in his eyes and she sighed and tightened her arms around him. "We can do this, Tony. We can beat him."
"Was he married?"
Victoria and Tony turned to see Rogers walk in.
"No." Victoria said shortly.
"There was a cellist, I think. In Portland." Tony added.
"I'm sorry." Rogers frowned. "He seemed like a good man."
"He was an idiot." Victoria said quietly.
"Why? For believing?"
"For taking on Loki alone." Tony said.
"He was doing his job." Rogers argued.
Victoria ran a finger over the railing. "He was out of his league. He should have waited. He should have -"
Tony hugged her as she broke off.
"Sometimes there isn't a way out."
"Right." Tony scoffed. "We've heard that before."
"Is this the first time you've lost a soldier?" Rogers asked.
Victoria whirled around. "We are not soldiers! We're not marching to Fury's fife."
"Neither am I. He's got the same blood on his hands that Loki does. But right now, we gotta put that behind us and get this done. Now, Loki needs a power source. If we can put together a list -"
"He made it personal." Victoria murmured.
"That's not the point." sighed Rogers.
"No, Captain, that is the point. That's Loki's point. He hit us all right where we live, why?"
"To tear us apart."
"He had to find a conquering spot." Tony thought out loud. "Great, but he know he has to take us out to win, especially Victoria, and I'm not sure he can do that. He wants to beat us and he wants to be seen doing it."
"He wants an audience." sighed Victoria. Loki had always been a show off, but it had always been just for fun, never life-threatening.
Rogers walked forwards. "Like he had in Stuttgart?"
Tony waved a hand in the air. "That's just previews, this is opening night and Loki is a full-time diva. He wants flowers, he wants parades, he wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered…"
Victoria realised what Loki wanted, and what Tony had now figured out. "Tony!"
"Son of a bitch!" Tony yelled, then ran off.
"Where the hell is he going?"
Victoria rolled her eyes. "Better pack your suitcase, Capsicle. We're off to New York."
Victoria walked in just as Tony was suiting up. "I don't think you're going anywhere."
He looked up. "Actually, I think I am."
"Not without me."
"Tony, just don't. I'm coming."
He sighed and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Hold on tight." he told her.
Victoria gasped as she saw what was on top of Stark Tower. "Erik!"
"Sir, I've shut off the arc reactor, the device is already self-sustaining." JARVIS told them.
"Put me on the roof." Victoria told Tony, who did as she said, then flew back up. "Erik, shut it down!"
"It's too late!" he cried. "It can't stop now, she wants to show us something! A new universe!"
Tony raised his arm and Victoria ducked. Good thing too, as the blast backfired and hit Tony.
"The barrier is pure energy. It's unbreachable."
"Yeah, got that." Tony snapped at Jarvis. "Plan b."
"Sir, the mark 7 is not ready for deployment."
"Then skip the spinning rims, we're on the clock."
Tony grabbed her and flew down the platform. He put her down, before flying back to take off the suit.
Victoria stiffened as she saw Loki walking inside. "Really?" she muttered. "This is how he wants to play things?"
She walked inside and promptly ignored him.
"Please tell me the two of you are planning to appeal to my humanity."
"Er, actually we're planning to threaten you." Tony said abruptly.
"You should have left your armour on for that."
Victoria rolled her eyes. "It's seen a bit of mileage and you've got the, ah, glow-stick of destiny."
Tony smiled tightly. "Would you like a drink?" he asked Loki.
"Stalling me won't change anything."
"No, no, no. Threatening you." Victoria gave a sweet smile that she knew Loki would see through in an instant. "No drink, you sure? I'm having one."
Tony handed her a bright green drink. "1 part Hpnotiq, 1 part Hennessy. Thought it was appropriate."
Smiling at the irony, Victoria sipped it.
"The Chutari are coming. Nothing will change that. What have I to fear?"
"Loki seems to be trying to persuade himself, rather than us."
Tony smiled. "The Avengers." he told Loki. "It's what we call ourselves, sort of like a team. Earth's mightiest heroes."
"Yes, I've met them." Loki chuckled.
"Takes us a while to get any traction, I'll give you that one. But, let's do a headcount here. Torie, if you wouldn't mind."
Victoria settled herself onto the couch. "Your brother, the demigod. A super-soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend. A man with breathtaking anger-management issues. Iron Man, technical genius with a full-on war suit. Your very pissed off ex-girlfriend who's just itching for a chance to kick you in the balls. A couple of master assassins and you, big man, you've managed to piss off every single one of us."
"That was the plan." he smiled tightly. Victoria could tell the 'ex-girlfriend' comment had thrown him. Well, what did he expect? That she'd sit there and take all his crap? No chance.
"Not a great plan." Tony walked forwards. "When they come, and they will, they'll come for you."
"I have an army."
Victoria stood up. "We have a Hulk."
"I thought the beast had wandered off?"
"You're missing the point." Tony argued. "There's no throne. There's no version of this where you come out on top."
Catching Loki's eyes for a second, Victoria tried not to smirk. There was, but Tony didn't need to know about that.
"Maybe your army comes and maybe it's too much for us, but it's all on you. Because if we can't protect the Earth you can be damn well sure we'll avenge it."
Loki sneered. "How will your friends have time for me, when they're so busy fighting you?"
Victoria sipped her drink as Loki pressed the tip of his sceptre to Tony's chest and was met with a metallic tap.
"This usually works." he frowned.
"Turn it off and then turn it back on again." Victoria snickered, then gasped as Loki's hand closed around Tony's throat. "JARVIS, any time now!" she called anxiously.
"You will all fall before me!" Loki hissed.
Victoria screamed as Loki threw Tony through the window. She ran forward and slapped the god. "You asshole!"
A bright red blur shot past her and she smiled. Maybe Tony wasn't going to fall to his death. She looked out of the hole in the window.
Iron Man flew up from the street, shiny and new. Victoria grinned then turned to Loki. "And there's one other person you pissed off."
Tony appeared. "His name's Phil." He fired at Loki, just as the portal opened. "Right, army. Torie, your stuff's downstairs."
Nodding, Victoria ran towards the stairs, stopping to kick Loki on her way past. "That's for trying to kill my brother. No-one gets to do that but me."
A.N. - If anyone gets the drink reference, let me know and I'll write an Avengers one-shot for the first person to get it! Hope you like!