Shameless feel-good ficlet. Reflects a phenomenon I've seen in the fandom, but never seen explained.


The only thing more inconceivable than SHIELD not having a plan in place for when Captain America went down and couldn't get back up, was what actually happened when he did.

See, as much as Fury might glower with the killing strength of a thousand supernova suns at anyone coming towards him with something to sign, SHIELD was a legitimate organisation and that meant paperwork. It meant plans and budgets. It meant human resources running seminars on appropriate behaviour and how to apply for hazard pay and overtime. It meant policies that covered everything from the personal adornment of the janitorial staff all the way up to crisis scenarios where all major commanders were taken out.

Except, apparently, no-one had ever thought that Captain America, leader of a loose team of so-called 'super heroes', could or would ever be taken out.

Until he was.

Hovering thousands of feet above the pacific ocean, well out of any flight paths and only connected to the battle in Singapore by a faulty satellite uplink, SHIELD had dropped the ball.

But then, hundreds of miles away, Iron Man of all people had caught it. And then he carried it all the way home.

"Widow, double back 20 meters and take cover - Hawk, cover her - Thor get up on the- yeah, wait for my mark. Hulk! Hulk, we need you to clear a path, buddy. Head towards me and flatten anything that gets in your way, got it? Go. Now!"

They'd gone. With live CCTV and the odd shaky cell-phone footage being streamed into command central, Fury and his entire bridge crew had witnessed the rest of the Avengers fall into line behind Tony Stark like there'd never been a question, never a doubt, of who held command priority if Cap didn't.

Fury couldn't conceive of which member was blowing his mind the most. Hulk, who sometimes snarled even as he grudgingly obeyed Captain America's orders was responding to Iron Man like bending his neck to another's authority had never been and could never be a problem. Thor, a Prince from another Planet, who every shrink they had on payroll had said would respect only those who could match or beat him in strength, took orders from a frail human in a tin can who was not only arguably the physically weakest member of the team but whose greatest strength - his mind - was considered the least worthy aspect of any person in Asgard. Not only took orders, unhesitatingly, but seemed to anticipate them like he'd somehow spent enough time with the human to become familiar with how he thought.

As the only member of the team who hadn't moved into Stark Tower, Fury could only conclude that someone was screwing up somewhere.

But seemingly even more unlikely were Widow and Hawkeye. Those two were infamous for a lot of reasons, but the two biggest ones were their dual reliability and utter unreliability. Both of them were perfection in the field, able to salvage a blown op on the spot or follow it up successfully where no other agent could - and yet both were profiled as a moderate security risk.

Hawkeye was an in-your-face maverick, a man who seemingly made no bones of his own conditional loyalty and used it as a shield against SHIELD. When Coulson had been around… well. They'd lost a lot more than just a good agent, that day. Now Hawkeye was only on the payroll so long as he believed SHIELD was fighting the right fight the right way and odds were good that if either he or Widow decided SHIELD didn't live up to expectations, the other would follow them out.

Widow was the worst. She was just so damned good at following orders. So smoothly, unhesitatingly obedient when any normal person with a sense of survival would hesitate to weigh their instincts against their desire to serve. And yet, this was the same woman who only ever gave as much information as she felt was warranted. She never lied - he didn't think, and wasn't that damning enough - but her faultless obedience was tempered by a tendency to go off grid at the drop of a hat, to simply ignore orders (and always in a way that followed with her coming out smelling of roses) in the field and to very occasionally put her own values before SHIELD's. Almost never, but it had happened - and in an organisation like theirs, that just wasn't the sort of shit that got tolerated for anyone but the best.

And even then… they'd mostly been tolerated because Coulson had been the buffer between the two of them and SHIELD, forward and back, he'd made both of them trust the other a little more.

If Coulson had started giving orders after Cap went down, he would have understood the two agents' instant, unhesitating obedience.

But Tony Stark? Just… no.

Fortunately for his blood pressure, Stark's stupid plan went off without a hitch, the enemy force was almost completely decimated and Iron Man himself was evacuating Cap even as he continued to give orders (if 'good work, team, round up the stragglers then go get drunk on me' could be considered an order) which continued to be followed without even a sarcastic remark.

Shock. It must be.

Still, he decided, sharing a significant look with his second, the debriefings would be very illuminating.

They had better be.


So, Iron Man 3. Without spoiling anything, Tony Stark is effing BOSS!

The second and final part of this short story will be out within the week.