Author's Note: This ficlet came to me shortly after watching the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD. No spoilers for that, but mild spoiler from The Avengers.
Author's Other Note: Why? Because Coulson is awesome.
Special Agent Phil Coulson sat up and glanced around, instinctively clutching at his sternum. The pain had dulled quite a bit from the impalement, but his fingers found no wound, though he would have sworn Loki's staff had come out the other side. He also expected there to be quite a lot more of a clamor-hello, thoractic impalement tends to be serious business, even in SHIELD-but instead he found the room to be largely empty.
He got to his feet, brushing off his suit, and was just about to go find out where the hell everyone had got to, when he heard hoofbeats in the next room, followed by an unfamiliar woman's voice muttering. Coulson figured it was one of the other SHIELD agents left out of the loop during the latest round of briefing, but it was hard to tell anymore. Fury's secrets had secrets. He headed in that direction, figuring that he would get some semblance of an answer.
In the conference room next door he found the expected round table with its twenty identical chairs, and a strangely dressed blonde woman sitting on the back of a white horse. She was peering intently down at a parchment scroll and muttering to herself, her beautiful face contorted into a frown of confusion. She wore ancient Norse armor, complete with a winged helm, and the horse was likewise decked out in elaborate barding. It wickered at him as he approached, and only then did the woman glance up.
"Oh," she said. "Sorry, I'm just here to… I don't know, I don't usually come here these days. Maybe you can help."
Coulson smiled; he knew he just had the sort of face that made people instinctively trust him (in most cases, anyway). "I can try, anyway," he said. "What's your name?"
"My name is Göndul," she said, "I'm scheduled to meet with someone here, but I haven't been to Midgard in over a thousand years." She sighed. "I'm here to pick up the soul of a great warrior."
Coulson raised his eyebrows.
She offered him a fleeting smile. "It's sort of my job. I'm a Valkyrie."
"I figured that," he said, nodding. "So what's the name of this great warrior you're due to pick up?"
She consulted the scroll. "Philip Coulson. 'Died valiantly facing down a foe of superior power, got off awesome one-liner before expiration.'" She looked up at him. "He died a hero's death."
Coulson adjusted his tie modestly. "Well. I'm afraid there's been a bit of a mix-up."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I'm Philip Coulson."
She stared at him in silence for several long moments. Coulson grinned, scratching his ear.
"Oh," she said finally.
"Not what you expected?" he asked.
"I was expecting someone taller."
"I get that a lot."
"Well, SHIELD does offer a great fitness program."
"The warriors here have changed, Göndul. And… while I'm very honored that one of you came to claim me…" He shook his head and shrugged. "Fury still has work for me here."
That caught her by surprise. "Wait. I'm here to take your soul to a warrior's reward-to Valhalla! You can't just refuse that!"
"Look, I'm sure Valhalla's a very nice place this year-feasting and drinking and fighting and everything, right?"
She nodded. "It's the greatest reward any warrior can receive," she agreed.
"Well, I'm not sure that I've done everything I can down here, and SHIELD still needs me. I'm sure if I try really hard I can come up with a more heroic way to go about besides getting stabbed in the back by a batshit crazy Jotun, agreed?"
She sighed. "Skuld isn't going to like this. I have a quota, see, and-"
"Look, I understand completely," Coulson said soothingly. "I know how bureaucracy is, and I know you have your job. I'm not denying that. Tell you what-if things come to a head there's going to be lots of heroes on Midgard-not just the super kind-who would be more than deserving of Valhalla. You might even want to call some of the others to help round them up."
She thought about this, and then nodded. "Yes. I will do this. You would put their souls over yours?"
"Every time," Coulson said.
(Clear!) A jolt ran through Coulson, distant but tingly.
She sighed, a gesture that did interesting things with her breastplate. "Very well," she said. "The next time you fall in battle, I will come and claim you."
"I look forward to it," he said.
(Clear!) The jolt came again, stronger this time.
"Come closer," she said, beckoning with a gauntlet-clad hand. "I want to give you something before you go back."
He stepped forward until he could reach up and touch her stirrup. She leaned down and softly kissed him on the forehead. He closed his eyes.
"Until we meet next, Philip Coulson," she said.
Coulson arched and whooped in a breath as someone sent 200 volts across his nipples. These SHIELD guys really knew how to party.