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The Stinger

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Director Fury strides away from the bridge feeling like he could walk on air. Relief has his knees shaking and he can’t stop the mantra of “holy shit, they did it” that keeps repeating in his head. He doesn’t bother hiding the grin on his face because he may be a hardass, but it’s not every day your ragtag team of messed up superheroes saves the world from an alien invasion. He thinks he’s entitled to a little elation. (The terrified looks he gets from the probationary agents in the halls is just icing on the cake.)

He heads to the medical bay, bypassing the open wards where many agents and engineers are recovering from Loki’s attack on the helicarrier. Most of them will recover, which is a small mercy, but there are still twenty-seven dead men and women resting in the morgue.  

He comes to the block of secured rooms, all airtight and completely isolated from the rest of the wing. They are usually reserved for quarantines, injured prisoners, and mentally unstable patients. Only three people have access to these rooms at any given time: the base doctor, the head nurse, and Fury himself. He stops at the last room at the end of the hall and types his access code into the keypad. He leans over for the retinal scan and the door slides open with a soft hiss of decompressed air.

The room is a metal box with a single bed in the middle of it. The steady beep of the heart monitor echoes against the walls and Fury’s footsteps ring across the floor as he moves closer.

Phil Coulson has definitely seen better days. His skin is ghostly white and there are dark smudges around his sunken eyes. Even through the plastic of the oxygen mask, Fury can see the tight lines of tension around his mouth. There are still brown flecks of dried blood staining his lips. The collar of his hospital gown sags low enough to expose the swathes of white bandages wrapped around his chest.

Fury slides into the vacant chair beside the bed and grins at the wounded agent. “You look like shit,” he says.

Phil’s eyes flutter open and focus on the director. The corner of his mouth twists up in a wry smile. He pulls the oxygen mask away from his face to speak.

“I got stabbed. I’m not surprised.” His voice is a soft, breathless rasp and Fury has to lean in to hear him.

“But you were right,” Fury says. “It worked. They won.”

“Of course it did,” Phil says, taking a deep breath through the mask. “Gonna cut them loose?”

“For a little while, at least. They deserve a break.”

“Not the only ones.”

“Yeah, not happening. A chest wound’s not gonna get you out of writing a sitrep, you know.”

“Darn. Foiled again.” Even as he gasps into the mask, his eyes are sparking with amusement.

“There’s also the requisition forms for the gun.”

“You know you owe me four Captain America cards, right?” He takes another breath of oxygen. “Vintage. Collectible. Limited Edition. Took me eight years to track those down.”

“I’ll trade you the cards for the sitrep and the insurance claims for the helicarrier.”

“Let me take my medical leave in Key West and it’s a deal.”

“Only if you take Barton with you. I need him off the radar for at least that long while everything quiets down.”