He had signed the cards. Ever last bloody one of them. And slipping them into Coulson's coffin earlier, Steve regretted that he hadn't done it sooner; that at the time, uneasy with his surroundings and dreading coming events as he was, he had thought of signing them as merely something to get around to eventually.
The coffin is a good one, or so Steve was told. He heard the words "timber" and "oak" and something about rope, and apparently that's quite decent. Mr. Stark had wanted to go all out for and get a top-of-the-line casket made of solid mahogany. Agent Barton had explained that a fallen agent is buried in a coffin paid for with a collection taken from his friends and colleagues. Stark didn't like it, and said that he refused to accept the departed being defined as was one of 'those people'. It took Agent Romanoff to talk him into changing his tune.
Phil Coulson was a veteran. Steve hadn't known that, and to his small solace, neither did some others who'd known him for longer. He'd been a Captain in the 82nd Airborne, and had fought in the war in Kuwait over twenty years ago. His coffin, covered by the American flag, was carried out of the hearse in Brooklyn's Green-Wood cemetery by pallbearers six.
First among them was Steve, because Agent Hill told him that whatever issues Steve was having, Agent Coulson would have been honored. It wasn't strictly speaking a military funeral, but he's seen fit to come in uniform, as did Fury, who'd been a Colonel in the Army's Special Forces, and Barton, who was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps.
The rest of the pallbearers were another Army Colonel, who'd been in Kuwait with Coulson, and Jasper Sitwell and Alex Pierce, fellow SHIELD agents and Coulson's best friends.
They carried the coffin through Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, and set it down by the open grave. Each of the six took hold of the flag by the edge as they prepared to fold it. Steve remembers doing this a few times, and has no doubt that the others have as well. They fold lengthwise, and twice more, then make a triangular fold at the end, and again until it ends in Fury's hands. He hands it to Hill, who clad in buttoned down black coat, presents to one of the attendees, a willowy blonde woman of her late twenties, similarly dressed and similarly stoic. Steve thinks she must be Coulson's cellist.
They lowered the coffin into the ground with black cords, and the proceedings got underway. Steve scanned the crowd of mourners to see some familiar faces. Stark and his companion Ms. Potts stand shoulder-to-shoulder, dressed well though visibly distraught. Thor who attends conservatively dressed in a black suit and an overcoat, carrying a walking stick. There were Doctor Selvig and Doctor Banner, who both look mildly uncomfortable, and finally Natasha, who in a rare display of emotion squeezes the mystery blonde's forearm comfortingly. The woman smiles faintly in appreciation.
Barton must have noticed Steve looking, because he muttered, only loud enough to be heard over the priest's words,
"That's Phil's daughter."
"I thought he wasn't married." Said Steve, thinking back to right after the attack on the carrier.
Both have the sense to say nothing further as the service goes on. They stand in silence unable to focus on anything but the utter finality of the fact that a good man, a hero, is gone.
After the service, when the priest has left and the mourners have begun to disperse, Steve shook and woman's hand and offered his condolences. She nodded appreciatively and thanked him. She said that her father would have been honored to meet him.
Her hand is calloused and her grip is firm. There was a sense of familiarity as she departed with Barton and Romanoff. Certainly not a cellist, but a secret agent instead. Clint said her name is Sharon.
He'd seen the sky open and forces literally out of this world emerge out of it to annihilate and subjugate, and then it was over and it was business as usual once more. The Avengers had scattered, more or less. Stark couldn't disappear if he tried to, Banner was headed west, Thor was off-world, Hawkeye and the Widow were laying low, and Rogers was out there on his motorcycle, traveling on his own, doing the Easy Rider thing.
He'd played jailer to the trans-dimensional terrorist Loki for a couple of days incident except the younger Agent Coulson getting into an unauthorized confrontation with him. It could have ended badly, but ended up fun to watch for the look of Loki's face at some of the things Agent 13 had said to him. After that it took two days for Selvig, Banner and Stark to figure out a way to get a teleporter together to get the Asgardians back to their homeworld.
It had been a tough week, and it wasn't even over. Three days after the Chitauri's repelled invasion, two days after Coulson's funeral, ten hours after Loki was extradited and two hours after his videoconference with the World Security Council, Fury found himself at The Icepick.
The Icepick is a hospital of sort. Situated in Massachusetts, it is one of twenty-eight SHIELD facilities in the United States, built by black budget funds, that only Nick Fury knows about. The staff there perform extreme forms of medicine, using radical techniques with roots that the world at large doesn't want to know about. In there, they make sure certain people get to live on, no matter what the cost, because certain need –and deserve- to live on.
Phil Coulson is one of those people.
Doctor Pym, after getting back to size, informed him that restoration operations have begun and that things are looking up. Unlike many other scientists in his employ, Pym doesn't inundate him with complicated and lengthy talk about his field, and that despite the staff's earlier trepidation, it looked like Phil was on his way toward a full and speedy recovery.
"How long until he's deployable?" Fury asks.
"Eight-point-five weeks, maybe."
"Five weeks, Doctor. I need that agent."