A/N: Obviously, I own neither The Avengers nor Star Trek, but I'd imagine that Q would have great fun tormenting Nick Fury. He'd have to watch out for the Hulk, though, who'd be more than happy to just smash him. Rated for discussion of death, Fury's bad language, and my own personal paranoia.
It was true, the toll could have been far, far worse. Instead of hundreds dead, it could have easily been millions. The physical damage to Manhattan would take years to repair, and the psychological cost could never be fully assessed.
However, only one death truly stabbed Nick Fury through the heart, leaving a hole that could never truly be filled. Filled.
Fury couldn't remember a single instance in which he called the man by his first name. He was always 'Agent Coulson'. His only superpower was efficiency, his only magic lay in logistics. He wore a suit and tie and was happy to vanish into the background. Hell, he was good at it.
The trick Fury'd played on the Avengers with the blood on the trading cards he's taken from Coulson's locker sat bitterly in his mouth. It had worked, even better than he'd hoped it would. Earth was safe, for now. But now that he had time to sit in his office and take stock of the damage, he realized just how much he depended on Phil Coulson. There were other agents, obviously. Coulson's duties would soon be redistributed, reassigned. But the man, with his dry wit, unwavering patience, and cool head under fire-
"Oh, quit feeling sorry for yourself!" a sarcastic voice suddenly drawled, cutting through Fury's inner monologue. "It gets so dreary after the first five minutes."
Fury snapped around, gun pointed at a fellow sitting in the chair nearest him - a fellow who hadn't been there a moment before. He was dressed outrageously in a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, sunglasses, and shorts, and had a Mai Tai in one hand, complete with a pineapple spear and lime peel. Altogether, he looked like a tourist lounging at a tropical cabana. "It's been a really bad day, and I've had just about all I can stand of so-called gods," Fury snarled menacingly, returning his sidearm to its holster. Guns were useless in this encounter. "Go mess with someone else today, Q."
The omnipotent being rolled his eyes most expressively, obviously unperturbed by Fury's irate words and generally hostile demeanor. "Come now, Nicholas! Is that any way to greet an old friend?"
"We aren't friends, Q, except in your delusional mind. Why the Continuum hasn't bounced your ass to amoeba-hood, I still don't know." Fury sat down at his desk and pulled out the scotch. He was going to need it.
"Such hostility," Q chided him, as if Fury were a naughty schoolboy. "You remind me of Benjamin. He hit me once, you know."
Fury glared at Q out of his good eye as he poured probably more scotch than he should into a glass. "Don't start giving suggestions I'd be tempted to take, Q."
Q sighed mightily. "Oh, very well. Let's talk about something else, then. Loki, for instance. Alien invasion, so gauche. I'd expected more creativity out of-"
The SHIELD director punched the obnoxious superbeing hard enough to knock him clean out of the chair and onto his omnipotent backside. The contents of the highball glass went flying, coating the floor in a brightly-colored alcoholic spray. His straw hat, perched lightly on his head, popped right off and landed on the ground. Fury ever-so-calmly sat down and took a sip of his scotch. "You wanna try again, or just get the hell outta here?"
"Well, that wasn't very polite," Q complained from his new seat on the floor. He snapped his fingers, and with a flash of light he was sitting in the chair again, his hat and Mai Tai restored to their proper place. "Why're you so upset? You run a massive military intelligence operation for oh-so-noble purpose of defending mankind against alien invasion and whatnot. It's not as if this is the first time you've had employees get themselves killed."
"This isn't about employees, Q."
"No," he agreed, sitting up and leaning towards Fury, almost in accusation. "This is about one employee. Phil Coulson. Your favorite agent. I remember him. He was the one who wouldn't play. I turned his hair pink, and he ignored it completely. I lit his pants on fire, he put them out and kept going. I even turned him into a woman once, and she didn't even bother begging me to turn her back into a man. And we all know how obsessed men are with their manhoods. She just kept doing paperwork as if nothing important had happened. As if paperwork is more important than me. That took all the fun out of it, so I changed her back."
About pretty much any other human being, this story would have probably surprised Fury. But it sounded like pure Phil Coulson. "And?"
"Phil Coulson was a beacon of order in a chaotic universe. A sort of anti-entropy, if you will. The thought of the Borg assimilating him is enough to scare even me - give him a few days, and he'd be running the Collective." Q shivered theatrically. "Anyway, the point is that people like him exist to make sure that people like me don't accidentally blow a hole in a corner of the multiverse. Naturally, some planets wouldn't be missed at all, but it tends to give those bean counters in the Continuum conniption fits. So, unfortunately, Earth-199999 is off-limits until a replacement appears."
Fury instantly saw the problem with his statement. "And yet, here you are."
"What a perceptive secret agent you are! Yes, here I am. You see, Jean-Luc pontificated whenever we met. It was annoying, really, always droning on about responsibility. And Benjamin was like you, so angry and just plain rude! Kathryn, now she was perfectly delightful. I let her babysit Junior, did you know?" rambled Q.
"Unlike you, I'm not immortal. Get to the point."
"I'm saying that it takes someone truly special to simply ignore me. I'm perfectly aware what charming fellow I am, and yet no matter what I did, your favorite agent simply accepted it, filed it away, and moved on. So, now that he's dead, I feel need to pay him back for all the grief he gave me by not playing along, and I've got the perfect idea. Everyone will be happy, and I won't need to stay away from here after all! Oh, and by the way... you're welcome." With that, Q snapped his fingers and vanished in a flash of light. When the flash faded, seated in his place, wearing the same absurd tropical tourist outfit, was Phil Coulson, very much alive.
The formerly dead agent set the Mai Tai down on the desk slowly and took off the sunglasses, his expression somewhat bemused. "Director Fury? Would you mind explaining how I got here, and why I'm holding a Mai Tai?"
Fury downed the rest of his scotch in a single gulp.