Feel free to ignore this chapter, it's pretty self indulgent of me and had no place in the movie, which is, rather obviously, what this story has been about. I just wanted to tie up some loose ends I left in other chapters, which some of you have noticed, I've seen.
Thanks for reading, and dealing with the huge update gaps!
It took several weeks to get them all together again, and Fury would be lying if he said he thought that he was looking forward to this meeting.
Captain Rogers had been the hardest to track down, as he had no real way to track the man. Finally, he'd had to ask Stark to find him, and found that he'd apparently been doing so already, in a way; Rogers had been sending post cards.
Now they were all gathered in the bridge once again, and the scene was familiar, with a new face in the form of Barton. He was still on leave, as was Romanov, and Fury had no idea what they'd been spending their vacation doing. He made it a point not to track his agents when they needed a break, unless he had a good reason to do so. He'd been close to making that call anyway.
"So, Cyclops, what was so important we all needed to be here? Some of us have three other jobs, you know." Stark lounged backwards in one of the chairs, fiddling with his tablet. The others seemed rather immune to his attitude; Barton even laughed, just a small chuckle, into his sleeve.
"Well, damn Stark, I'd forgotten for a moment how important you are. Please, feel free to come back when your social calendar will allow." Stark rolled his eyes, but didn't look up.
"Nah, now I'm curious. Like a cat, that way."
"You'll die?" Barton leaned forward to look at him, as though signs of death would be apparent on his skin. Rogers rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Satisfaction revives me, come on, don't you know this saying?" Stark looked up to leer. "And that's any form of satisfaction, by the way."
"You offering?" Stark laughed, and looked back down.
"I may be currently unattached, but I'm not that hard up." Barton made to retort, but Fury cut him off.
"You two can flirt later. I have an announcement to make to the five of you." They were all looking at him, disguised interest and less-than disguised interest apparent.
"I told you all, seven weeks ago, what had happened in the containment area of the Helicarrier when Loki attacked." A few nods, a shuddered expression from Barton.
"I lied." Heads snapped up.
"Agent Phil Coulson, while gravely injured, was reached swiftly enough by the medical team that he did not die in the cell, and made it to a private medical unit aboard the Helicarrier. He had lost a lot of blood, and had dangerous internal damage, but I was informed by his doctor that he is expected to make a full recovery, and he has regained consciousness. Wanted to offer his congratulations to you all on the final battle in New York." He stopped, and watched for the fallout.
"Aw, damn." Stark fell forward with a snap, and pulled a five out of his wallet, to hand to Barton, who grinned. Rogers looked confused, and Romanov sighed.
"What was-" Stark turned to Banner, who paused in his question.
"We were betting on whether he'd have the guts to say it to our faces. I thought he'd just send an email, or better yet, send Coulson back into his office and pretend nothing ever happened." Banner shook his head.
"Stark, what the hell?" Fury felt like he was living up to his name, though he felt some amusement as well. Not a little relief, too, that they had already known. Barton might have killed him, otherwise.
"You think that editing the original footage, deleting his medical papers and turning off the cameras in his private room were enough to fool me? I'm offended, really." When the others turned to him in confusion, Stark shrugged. Apparently he hadn't told them how he'd known?
"JARVIS was already in the system, and I wanted to see it for myself. He got the video of the fight before Fury did, and it wasn't a huge leap to find a room without any video recordings. Gaps in security are pretty telling, especially after…" he stopped himself. Rogers looked up at Fury, earnest.
"Sir, if Agent Coulson is conscious, will he be up for visitors any time soon? I have something of his." Fury would be willing to bet his eye patch that he'd signed those cards.
"Not yet, or not all together. His doctor wants full relaxation for another week before he has to deal with this circus." he moved to leave them, before Romanov caught his eye. She nodded, once, slowly, before she turned back to the group, and Fury wondered how long Stark had held off telling them before spilling, how long they'd been sitting and waiting to find out the truth.
He didn't want to know.
This did prove that Coulson was the man for the job, though; their concern for him made him a valuable member of their team.
Fury grinned to himself. Good, that meant he didn't have to deal with them. The Council could fuck themselves, if they wanted someone else.
Coulson woke from the fog, and felt clearer than he had in days. He knew that he had watched the final battle, that Fury had told him he'd live, but beyond that, he had no idea what had happened, or how long it had been since.
He opened his eyes, and took in the white walls and TV, typical of a medical ward room. His was private, empty except for him, the machines he was hooked to, and the figure in the chair next to the bed.
Clint Barton was sitting in the chair, a book in his hands. He looked up when Coulson shifted, and his eyes lit up.
"You're awake! Are you lucid?" He leaned forward, not crowding but still in rather personal space. Coulson didn't mind, that was normal for him.
"More or less. What day is it?" Clint rubbed the back of his neck, looking up at the ceiling.
"Thursday the eighteenth. Of August. You've been in here for almost two months, bobbing in and out of consciousness. They're weaning you off of the heavier drugs, now that you're pretty healed up. Are you alright?" He leaned back, hand near the Nurse Call button, or the SHIELD equivalent. Which basically amounted to 'Nurse, doctor, and a full medical team of brutishly strong interns to hold down troublesome patients' call button.
"I'm fine. Drowsy. Are you…" He didn't even know what he wanted to ask.
"Fine, yeah, had some time to get adjusted. Fury told us you had died, when Loki attacked, you know," he said, almost conversationally.
"I know. I may have told him to, when I thought I was actually going to die. You weren't much of a team." Clint leveled him a look.
"Of course you did. Makes perfect sense. But if you ever do that again, I might make sure you weren't lying. Do you know how terrified I was? How bad we all were? Stark defended you to Loki, even." That was a bit surprising.
"He's full of surprises." Clint smiled, ruefully, before turning abruptly behind himself and grabbing a bag.
"Almost forgot. Some things for you, cause the others couldn't be here. We've been on shifts," he added, and glanced at Coulson for a moment before looking back down.
"I had no idea you all cared so much." Clint didn't dignify the rather obvious lie with a response. He hoped it was obvious; if he didn't think he was somewhat important to the Avengers, his death wouldn't have been enough to push them into action.
"Here, from Stark, Natasha, Steve, Bruce and me. We think Thor got the message that you were alive, but it's hard to tell. His scientist girlfriend, Foster, is pretty sure he got it, anyway." Coulson barely listened, as he looked at the pile of objects in his lap.
A new phone, courtesy of Stark, with a note on it that pointed to the side and said 'emergency taser button, don't try it on me.'
Signed vintage Captain America cards, two sets. One was his, a bit foxed around the edges, and stained with blood. The others were perfectly preserved, somehow. Coulson had no idea how he'd gotten a hold of them; these were almost priceless. All said
'To the real super hero.
-Captain Steve 'America' Rogers.
A CD of orchestra music, with a famous cellist on the front. There was no name, but it was so obviously Natasha he wanted to laugh.
A simple 'Get Well Soon!' teddy bear. The bear, somehow, was bright green. This had no name either. Coulson chuckled, and set them aside on the table, trying to twist as little as possible. Clint moved immediately to help.
"There's a card, too, signed by all of us, and there are probably a hundred others from people that Fury didn't want to fill the room with. Other agents, all surviving members of the Howling Commandos, no idea why, and a bunch of random people. I think Stark mentioned you at a press conference or something." Coulson shook his head and grinned.
"He would. I would bet they all say 'Agent' on them, too." Clint laughed, before settling back into his chair.
"We were really worried. Fury didn't say a word until a few days ago, cause it was touch and go for so long, but Stark told us all the day we sent Loki off. Sort of. He passed along the footage and stuff to Tasha and me, no idea how he told the others. Banner is staying at Stark Tower, that might be it."
"I see. I'm sorry I couldn't heal faster, or get some word out that I was going to be fine."
"Did you know?"
"It didn't feel like my time, for the last few weeks. Not a perfect reason, but there it is." Clint nodded, and they lapsed into silence for a few minutes. Coulson felt tired again, and guessed he'd fall asleep before too long.
"Did you bring me a get well gift, too? Some balloons, maybe?" He felt a bit presumptuous, asking like that, but Clint had said his own name as well, and he'd known him long enough to not be worried about his reaction to a brash question.
"Would liven up this place, wouldn't it?" Clint grinned at him.
"Nah, my gift is something I'm told I can't give you until you're actually released from Medical. Doc's orders. So get well soon, okay?" He felt his eyes get heavy, and nodded without much thought.
"Go to sleep, sir." Something brushed his cheek, and he fell asleep, likely grinning like a fool.