A/N 5/10/15: This is not a slash fic. I've had a few people asking about this within the last week... which is odd, I think because the number of people who've asked this before is pretty low, but I'm putting this here to assuage some reader's concerns. The only romantic relationship in this fic that is explored in any detail is Hermione/Tony. And even then, as some readers may know, even that's not explored that much. Nor will there be any slash; the plot simply does not allow for it.

Hope that clears some things up.

Lot's of love!


Part One: Great Expectations

Chapter One: Freefall

It was not a well-known fact that Nick Fury hated the heat.

Those that did know were few and far between; isolated by geography, or time, or in many cases, death. It was an interesting revelation for one to learn when presented with the image of the man, clad as he were in his well-worn leather coat and trademark skivvy. One could imagine that he wrapped himself up so, as a sign of rebellion against his (admittedly minor) weakness. He was a spy- hell he was the spy. A pathological hatred for high temperatures was not about to stop him from looking like a badass.

Of course, that was not to say that he wasn't above turning the thermostat on the Helicarrier as low as possible at any given opportunity. Being the super spy had its advantages; complete monopoly over the air-conditioning being one of the more important ones.

Which was why, when he woke up this morning, he was left wondering why in all seven hells was it so damn hot. Either he was going through menopause (which would have been interesting, given Nick was quite sure he was not a woman) or someone had touched the temperature gauge. Unsurprisingly, Nick was more inclined to side with the latter possibility.

He strides down the halls of the helicarrier at a brisk pace, but not fast enough to make it look like he's running. Never let it be said that Nick Fury runs for the thermostat.

He reaches the bridge just in time for the to-the-point words of Agent Hill to blurt from his earpiece, "Sir, there's an unidentified aircraft in our flight path."

He doesn't bother replying via com, instead content to walk the five meters onwards to the sliding doors, key in his command code and bark out a suitably intimidating "Status?" as he marches through the doors. Hill, as ever, looks unfazed, though numerous other agents jump in their seats.

He'll get her someday.

"Unknown," She states when he reaches her, "But it's losing altitude quickly. It might be one of Stark's, but there's no identification signature. It just popped up out of nowhere; could be a stealth craft." He fights the urge to grimace. He can remember the last time they had to deal with one of Stark's inventions; it was a bloody nightmare. Granted, the plans had been stolen and reproduced by someone else, but that didn't excuse the fact that it had been one of the self-proclaimed genius' creations.

"Bring up visuals."

A screen flickers to life in the middle of the bridge and the room draws a collective breath of surprise and horror (well, Fury does neither, but that's hardly shocking news). He hears a muted 'Good God' from someone to his left; he can't help but agree.

It's just a smudge on the huge screen but there is very obviously a man, uncovered and unprotected, falling from the sky some several hundred meters above them. What looks like a cape flutters behind him violently, like broken wings.

"Get a pilot out there, now." He snarls, unable to tear his eyes away. He can hear Agent Hill snapping out hurried orders over the com. The man draws closer with each passing second, almost directly above the helicarrier now. He twirls uncontrolled in the wind, beautiful and horrifying in his freefall, and Fury can't help but pray to the God he doesn't believe in that the man is either dead or unconscious. Preferably dead because if not, then he is in for a world of pain when (or more terrifyingly, if) they catch him.

The agents in the Bridge look on in silence as the jet speeds out, fast as lightning but not fast enough. The body drops past before the pilot even has a chance to reach him. Determined, the jet streaks down in an effort to overtake the free-faller but it's to no avail. The body and the plane fall closer and closer to the ocean below, neither making headway of the other.

Finally, tragically, the jet is forced to swerve away.

The room watches in a collective state of shock and helplessness when the body hits the water with what they can all imagine is a sickening smack. Some of his agents look like they're about to cry… or vomit.

He wants to shoot something. Bite and tear and scream. Instead he allows himself a moment of quiet, closing his eyes to the horror before them. There was nothing that could be done. The man was dead the moment he began falling. The excuses do nothing to alleviate the rage at the failure, but they at least sooth the pain. If there is one thing Fury hates above all else (above even heat), it is failure.

"Pick up the body." He murmurs into his earpiece when he opens his eyes.

And they all sit and observe, silent and transfixed, as a helicopter comes down to retrieve the body of the freefalling man.

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