In the Dark

Jun. 4th, 2013 03:41 pm
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[personal profile] ladydeathfaerie posting in [community profile] marysuevirus
Title: In the Dark
Chapter One: Reunion
Fandom: something like the Marvel Universe, leaning mostly toward the Movie!Avengers branch. but dark. and really, really, REALLY AUish. kind of a What If-ish type of thing
Rating: 18 and up
Warnings: lots of sex and violence, language, non-con involving tentacles, anything else that strikes my fancy
Disclaimer: the recognizable characters and places contained herein are the property of Marvel and whoever the hell else owns them.. i'm merely borrowing for the sake of entertainment. no money is being made from this venture. the Sues are the sole property of their originators, [livejournal.com profile] dazzledfirestar, [livejournal.com profile] mistress_o_muse, [livejournal.com profile] ginevrasm, [livejournal.com profile] rylan_m, and [livejournal.com profile] ladydeathfaerie. the concept and title of The Mary Sue Virus are used with permission from Dazzledfirestar.

Author's Notes: this is an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for a good long while. because i have a twisted mind. and Daz is a horrible enabler. no, really. she is. and i love her for it. so basically, the premise of this story is that somehow, some way, Loki and the Chitauri end up winning the Battle of New York. The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. are forced into hiding, hunted like criminals by the enemy. but there are small pockets of resistance popping up all over the world, heroes determined to defeat Loki no matter what. and the girls from LCA find themselves smack in the middle of it.

i could tell you more, but that might spoil the fun of the fic. i will say that my warnings are serious. there will be non-con at some point in this fic. and it will involve tentacles. so... just putting it out there.

In the Dark - Index Link

~*~

"I realize you have misgivings about this kind of raid, Captain Rogers, but the hard truth is that we can't afford to not attempt it. There are supplies we are running out of that make this raid more than necessary." Nick made sure to give the other man a hard stare out of his good eye. He well understood Rogers' concerns, but the need for said supplies superceded everything else. They wouldn't survive without those medical supplies. Maybe once they'd had the luxury of simply putting in an order and waiting for it to be delivered, but those days were gone.

Ever since the Chitauri invasion, what was left of S.H.I.E.L.D. had been scattered to the four winds, hiding away from the alien forces and their leader. They were broken apart, small pockets of fighters here and there that kept trying to put an end to the insanity that had come with the invasion. They were little more than outlaws now, fugitives from unjust laws and tyrannical rulers. It wasn't like they could just run down to the local pharmacy and pick up some supplies. Anything they needed to keep their resistance fighters going were things they needed to get themselves. Nick recognized that it was a risk to launch a raid now, so close to their last skirmish. That it was complete foolishness. But they had no choice, crazy world leaders be damned.

Loki, self-proclaimed ruler of Earth, had put prices on Nick's people's heads in the hopes that someone would turn them in to the insane god. Anyone associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. High up on that list were the Avengers. He still couldn't figure out how it had all come to pass. They'd been winning. The fight had damn near been in the bag. Then something had gone wrong and the tides had turned. The Chitauri had pushed the Avengers to the brink, forcing the newly minted team to turn tail and run. Within an hour, Loki had taken control of New York. An hour later, he held the entire United States in the palm of his hand. By the end of the day, the whole world had fallen prey to his madness.

That still boggled Nick's mind. By the end of one single day, Loki had taken control of the entire world. It still felt like a really bad nightmare. The only problem was there was no escaping the fact, not when awake or when asleep.

"Sir, I'm not denying that these supplies are desperately needed. But sending out a party to raid a store or a pharmacy will only draw unwanted attention," Rogers replied, his tone careful and filled with reason. "The patrols will figure out patterns and then we'll be caught before we can bring first aid back to the wounded. Maybe we can get aid from our allies?"

"And just what allies would those be, Captain Rogers?" Nick crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the man to finish his line of thought. Not that Nick didn't agree with him. Each raid brought more eyes their way and someone was going to eventually put two and two together.

"What about Wakanda? Can't we request aid from T'Challa?" It was a good idea. And Nick had considered it. But...

"T'Challa and his people are busy keeping the Chitauri out of his lands. It would be wrong of me to even think of taking him away from that. Not to mention it would be unfair to every other group of resistance fighters because I'm pretty sure that T'Challa can't deliver supplies to every single one of them."

Rogers sighed and shook his head. Nick's words were obviously not what he'd wanted to hear. "Sir, I really think we need to look at other options because--"

"Director Fury, word from the scouts. We have incoming." The report came from a junior agent who had been given the task of monitoring radio frequencies. No doubt he'd gotten said word from the ancient walkie talkies that looked like surplus from the last big war. He nodded to let the agent know he'd heard, then casually dropped a hand down to his waist and let it rest on the butt of his Glock. They'd had Loki try to sneak brain washed agents in before. He saw one of Cap's hands reach for his shield while the other took up residence on the butt of his own gun. Given the prices on their heads, they couldn't be too careful.

The heavy steel doors opened slowly from the other side as whoever the incoming was reached Fury's war room. A pair of expertly trained agents entered the room first, the reason the doors were opening. For a moment, no one else passed over the threshold and Nick felt a faint flutter of anxiety. Then there was a muttered curse and a pair of familiar faces stepped inside. A second pair of agents were behind the two new arrivals, hands resting menacingly on their semi-automatics.

Nick remained silent and waited. "This is some fucking welcome, sir. These jackasses are lucky I don't have my goddamn wrench in hand. I'd have cracked some fucking skulls by now," Quinn grumped. She looked tired and a little thinner than the last time he'd seen her, but who wasn't a little thinner these days? Barton stood beside her, eyes carefully taking in everything there was to see. He was quiet and reserved. Cautious. Given all that had happened, Nick didn't blame him.

"Agent Quinn. Agent Barton. Nice to see you again," Nick replied. He cut his gaze toward the guards and nodded, sending them away without a word. The doors closed with an echoing thump, leaving Nick and Captain Rogers alone with the new arrivals. "Why don't you two make yourselves useful and scrounge up some drinks and sandwiches for my guests?" Fury requested of the two remaining guards.

They looked at one another for a second, then back to Nick. He could see the hesitation in their eyes and frowned. "Was there a problem with my orders, gentlemen?"

"No, sir. Its just... Sir, can we trust him? He was working with Loki and--" The guard closed his mouth the moment Nick shot a hard glare his way.

"I know exactly what happened that day, Agent Spencer. I was there. I also know that everything that happened was because Loki had him under mind control. I also know that Agent Barton is one of my best agents. If he was still working with Loki, I doubt Agent Quinn would be with him. And I also highly doubt any of us would be having this conversation. So unless you can offer me one damn good reason why I should allow you to slander a fellow agent for events beyond his control, I suggest you get out of here and do as I've ordered. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," Spencer nodded. He and his partner moved at admirable speed to fill Nick's orders, leaving him fully alone with the new arrivals. Nick motioned to a grouping of chairs in the corner.

"Have a seat. I think we need to do an informal debrief." Nick turned to Captain Rogers. "I hope you'll stay with us. I think you need to hear this."

"Of course," Rogers agreed, then made his way over to the corner. He sat down and waited for the rest of them.

"Thank you, sir," Barton nodded and moved toward the indicated seats. Quinn was right behind him. They settled side by side and waited for him to join them. The marksman still looked tired, like he hadn't been sleeping well. Quinn gave off Nick the impression that she was edgy and tense. He made a mental note to check with the guards at the lair's entrance and make sure no one had been hurt. When the three of them were settled, Nick shot them a serious look and waited patiently. Silence prevailed for a while before Barton shifted uncomfortably. "Where do you want us to start, sir?"

"Battle of New York. When the shit started going sour. That would be a good place," Nick replied.

He watched in silence as Barton and Quinn exchanged a glance. Nick had no doubt that they had worked out their own form of wordless communication during their time together, so it was likely that he was seeing evidence of that now as they stared at one another. Finally, Barton gave a shrug and motioned with his head, prompting Quinn to sigh. She turned to face him and frowned. "I was with my parents when the tide of war turned, sir. And Clint showed up on the doorstep, battered and bruised and looking kind of dazed. He didn't have to tell me that the Chitauri had won. I could see it in his eyes. Then reports started coming in over the radio and the television and the Internet. My own city had been turned into a fucking war zone."

Nick nodded without saying anything. He could remember those first few moments after the Avengers had failed. Then the real chaos had started. That was the exact moment he'd given the orders for everyone who was still on the ground to go into hiding.

"Then came word that there were bounties on the Avengers' heads. That Clint was wanted. I couldn't endanger my mother and father like that. So Clint and I threw some stuff into my dad's truck and left the city." Nick was sure that their evacuation had happened only after a long, loud argument about Quinn staying far away from Barton. "I grabbed as much cash as I could from my bank account, then we hit the road. Drove north and east. Out of New York and up until we crossed the border. We ended up in New Brunswick. There's a small cabin up in the Appalachians on the Canadian side that Uncle Alex left to me. We holed up there."

Nick flicked his gaze to Barton. The distant look was still there, though not as openly visible as it had been only moments before. It appeared he was trying to pull himself together, but it was taking him longer than he liked. That was fine. Nick would concentrate on Quinn for the moment. She seemed to be a little more together.

"I'm surprised you didn't stay there." It was both a general observation and an invitation to continue. Quinn nodded and looked at Barton for a moment before pressing on.

"We would have stayed longer, but it isn't a very well hidden cabin. People know its up there. And even though we were pretty much by ourselves the whole time, people knew we were there," Quinn explained. "Unfortunately, I had to go into town to get supplies because I am not a hunter. So people saw me."

"And while most of them were harmless, there were a few who weren't?"

"There were," Alex nodded.

"Loki's got regular humans on his side," Barton interjected. There was a tension in his jaw that said he was thinking about his time at Loki's side. Quinn reached out and laid a hand on his. She didn't say anything, merely waited for him to decide if he was going to add more to the conversation or not. After several moments of nothing, it became clear he wasn't.

"I'm sure you already knew, sir, but its true," Quinn added. "He's recruited greedy humans into his service. They're moderately organized and carry their own weapons. There is no uniform to speak of, but you can spot them a mile away. Its a loosely formed militia. And they're not brainwashed. They're doing this of their own volition."

"We've run into a few around town. Nothing we couldn't handle."

Quinn nodded and glanced at her hands. "They got close to us, sir. We found out that Loki really wants Clint back. We may have left some bodies in our wake."

"You did what you had to do to survive, Agent Quinn," he told her softly. She nodded and, for the first time, Nick saw Clint react. He dropped his hand on hers and squeezed it gently. Nick knew that they were both highly trained and highly skilled, that they were top agents and good at their jobs. But it was one thing to kill an enemy in the heat of battle. It was another thing to kill innocent civilians, no matter how misguided they might be.

"Yes, sir."

"So what brings you back here? Why not continue farther up into the mountains? Why not head for the northern territories?" Nick asked in an effort to move the conversation along.

"It didn't feel right to run away and leave everyone here to deal with the shit, sir," Quinn replied softly.

"You were doing what was best for you at the time, Agent Quinn. I would have done the same had I been in your shoes. And I know that Agent Barton wasn't in the right frame of mind to deal with the events happening here. He needed to be away from people for a while." Nick made sure he put how much he believed that into his voice. Not just for her but for Barton, too. When things returned to normal, and he wouldn't rest until they did, he was going to see to it that all of S.H.I.E.L.D. had access to the best head shrinkers in the business. "That wasn't the only thing that brought you back to the city."

"No, sir," she answered as if he'd asked it as a question. "Some of those regular humans we encountered inadvertently gave us some information that we thought you might want to hear. I don't know how much intel you've been able to get on Loki and his army so you may or may not know this. Even if you do, it was worth it to come back."

Nick nodded and waited for her to continue.

"Some of those humans that Loki is using in his militia are creating problems inside of his organization. He's been trying to present an image to the public as a benevolent dictator, but that's a hard order to fill when some of his higher ups are skimming money off the top. There is apparently some grumbling happening. People are unhappy and they're making waves. He's trying to keep it under wraps, but lips are flapping. Its leaking out slowly."

"He's also using up precious resources looking for Thor," Barton added. "I heard from a few of the militia people that he's almost insanely desperate to find his brother. He's been looking for ways to bring Thor to him. And that includes looking for Astrid." The man turned a curious look Nick's way, letting him know that the marksman was more invested in this conversation than he'd let on.

"She's safe. Thor whisked her away as soon as the battle broke up. I've been in contact with her. She doesn't know where Thor went when he left."

Quinn nodded and didn't push for more information. "How are we doing, sir? Really."

Nick considered the question for a moment or two, then heaved a sigh and slumped a little in his chair. "It isn't good, Agent Quinn. In fact, its really damn bad. S.H.I.E.L.D. is scattered to the four winds. My agents are being hunted down methodically and systematically. Loki and his space monkeys are making it very, very difficult for me to do anything about fixing that."

"We've encountered some of the militia here, but they don't appear to be very organized," Rogers added. It was the first he'd spoken and Nick had almost forgotten that he was there. "Things have a surface appearance of normal up there. Most people are going on with their lives as if nothing happened. The city is still a mess and the rebuild is slow to begin. There are wanted posters hung everywhere offering a large sum of money to anyone who can turn us in to the authorities. The people don't seem to want to turn any of us in to Loki, though. There have been a few occasions where people have had a chance and they've chosen to ignore it."

"There are rumors of other heroes forming groups to fight Loki," Barton added. "A few people we talked to mentioned that they'd heard stories of fighters going up against Loki's militia and some of the Chitauri. It sounds like Wolverine and Deadpool are leading a group or two in Canada."

"There are small pockets of resistance all over the world," Nick informed them. "I don't know the details involving everyone, but I do know that Wakanda is one of the only countries in the world that isn't under Loki's control. Doom and Latveria remain untouched, too. Word has it that the Fantastic Four are there. We haven't seen or heard anything from Namor and the Atlanteans. We get reports in over the telegraph telling us about what's going on and where. The X-Men are scattered."

"How bad is it, sir?" Quinn asked. She looked like she was about to fall asleep. He'd have to get the two of them a bed to share for a few hours when this was all done. They also looked like they needed a good meal. Nick was about to start bellowing orders when there was a knock on the door.

"Enter!" he called. A pair of agents entered with a couple trays of food. Surplus military chow line trays that had been loaded with sandwiches, bags of chips, and single serve cups of pudding. They each had a bottle of water with them. Nick's sharp eye followed them as they carried the trays over to where Barton and Quinn sat. There was no exchange of words between them, but based on the looks Quinn was shooting, he suspected that they'd been subjected to unpleasant stares. "Gentlemen. Perimeter sweep. The entire thing. If I see you back here in under three hours, I'll make you do it again."

"Yes, sir," came the reply, then the two of them slipped out of the room.

"Eat. I know it isn't much, but its better than nothing," Nick prodded. He watched as they stared at the trays in their laps for a long minute, then sighed and reached almost in unison for their sandwiches. Once Nick was assured that they were going to do as they'd been told, he got around to answering Quinn's question. "Its bad. The helicarrier came down two days after Loki's attack. I'd hoped to keep it up for a while longer, but it wasn't to be. As soon as we brought her down, I split S.H.I.E.L.D. up into different groups. Hill has one group and I sent her out west. Sitwell took another group south. I kept a small group of agents, plus the Avengers here in the city with me. I figured this would be the best place for us. As soon as I was able, I got our people down into the subway tunnels."

"How many--" Barton began, only to stop when Quinn's fingers pinched at his arm. He turned a dark look her way. "Stop it, Lexi."

"I'll stop it when you stop doing this to yourself, Clint. It wasn't your fault. I've told you this. Loki fucked your mind and took it hostage. Quit blaming yourself," she told him. The hand that had just inflicted pain curled gently around his arm. "I love you. And I hate seeing you beat yourself up."

"Lexi, I'm responsible for all that damage. It doesn't matter if I was in my right mind at the time or not. I still did those things. My actions destroyed the helicarrier and they took lives. And--"

"Agent Barton," Nick said, voice sharp as it cut across the other man's words. Barton looked up at him, responding to the order that was his name. "Any mass casualties we received happened after the attack on the helicarrier. Loki's attack resulted in very few."

The man took in his words for a few moments, then sank back in his chair as if all of the air had gone out of him. "Sir."

"Here's how it stands. The media isn't allowed to speak out against Loki in any way, shape, or form. So what little information we get comes from using older sources like the telegraph. Once in a while, Stark is able to grab a secure phone line to make some calls. But it never lasts long. We have to be careful how much technology we use, in case Loki decides to track us that way. This is how we know about the pockets of resistance around the world. And that the Fantastic Four are in Latveria."

"I'm sure Doom loves that," Quinn replied with a grin.

"Well, you know how Doom is. No one can take over the world except for him. Stark's assured me that he and Dr. Richards are working on a way to rid the planet of the Chitauri," Nick informed them. Even Barton smiled a bit at that. "People are going on with their lives. But it is martial law up there. We have to be careful about how we move around above ground. Some of my agents have disappeared. Standard protocol is to distract and misdirect. Seeing that Loki hasn't found us yet, I have to think that its working."

"We made sure the militia in Canada knew we were heading to a base up in the Northern Territories," Barton told him. Nick nodded and fell silent. The two of them were eating pretty much on autopilot, minds turning over everything they'd heard. There was more that Nick could have told them, but he wasn't about to give away all of his information He didn't know who he could and couldn't trust.

"Sir?" Quinn asked moments later after downing the rest of her sandwich and half the bottle of water. He lifted a brow at her when she hesitated, a silent prod to go on. He had a feeling he knew what was coming. "My family, sir. How's my family?"

"I've had people checking on them every couple of days, Agent Quinn," Captain Rogers told her. "They were fine as of two days ago. Some of Loki's men paid your mother and father a visit shortly after you left. I believe your mother might have made them think you were heading to Hawaii for your honeymoon."

Agent Quinn sighed hard enough to prompt Barton to reach out and lay a hand on her shoulder. She flashed a small smile at Rogers. "Thank you, Captain. I appreciate that."

"Agent Grant insisted that we keep an eye on them for you while you were gone," he told her.

"Oh, shit! Miri. I totally forgot about her. Where is she? Is she okay? I should really go see her," Quinn came halfway out of her seat before subsiding back into her chair. "Will you be okay on your own for a little bit if I go see her, Clint?" There was a touch of guilt in her voice when she asked the question, as if she didn't really want to leave him alone. He gave a faint smile and nodded his head.

"Go. I know you've been worried about her. Go visit her."

"Agent Barton can stay here with me," Nick told them. They shared a glance, then turned to look at him. "A little more debriefing. When I'm done, I'll have someone bring him to you, Agent Quinn."

They looked at one another again, once more falling into that silent conversation mode that came with knowing one another well. After several moments, Barton nodded his head in the direction of the door. She smiled at him, then leaned in and pressed a kiss to his lips. "Behave yourself or I'll take the wrench to you."

Nick hid his grin and turned to the other man in the room. "Captain Rogers, would you take Agent Quinn to see Agent Grant?"

"Of course, sir. Agent Quinn? If you'll follow me?"

~*~*~*~*~

Alex followed behind Steve Rogers, mentally mapping out her surroundings. He looked no less impressive in a pair of battered jeans and a grey t-shirt than he did in his Captain America uniform. She made note of the weapon at his side and the grim determination that lived on his face. This was a harder version of Captain Rogers than she remembered and she wondered what he'd lost in this crazy war to bring that aura to life. Fear flashed through her as she thought of Elsa. She knew they'd been getting close in the days before Loki and the Chitauri. Maybe something had happened to her.

Alex debated with herself about asking him. He didn't act like he'd lost a loved one, but she didn't really know him well enough to say she was right. She didn't want to cause pain if something had gone wrong. But she wasn't going to know if she didn't ask. Decision made, Alex lengthened her stride until she was walking beside him. He glanced at her casually, eyes holding a touch of curiosity. "How's Elsa doing, Captain Rogers? Things got so busy and hectic there at the end and it wasn't until later that I didn't know what had happened to any of my friends."

"Elsa is doing just fine," he told her, a smile breaking across his face. They came to a intersection of tunnels and he motioned her to the left. After she'd turned in the appropriate direction, he fell into step with her again. "She's here, actually. I tried to convince her to stay on the surface, but she swore she could be of help. I don't know what she thought she'd be able to do, but she came with us and she took up a spot in medical."

"Well, she's got a basic knowledge of anatomy. I'm sure that helps." Alex said. He nodded and let his smile broaden a little.

"We haven't had many really serious emergencies. But I'm kind of glad that she's here where I know she's safe. Things on the surface are really sticky for anyone who has been involved in S.H.I.E.L.D. in any way, shape, or form." They stopped before a door. There was nothing to mark it as anything special beyond a faded sign on the door. "Its good to see you, Agent Quinn. You and Agent Barton. I'm glad you're safe."

The door opened to show what appeared to be a waiting type area. Steve let her enter before him, then stepped in behind her. He pointed to a door in the far corner. "Agent Grant is in that room. I'd come with you and pay my respects, but I have to go make plans. Say hello for me."

"Of course," she nodded, then stepped into the room. The door closed behind her, bringing a pair of heads around to look at her. One belonged to Dr. Elsa Jones. The other belonged to Dr. Bruce Banner. She wondered what the two of them were doing with their heads together like that. Then her exact location dawned on her and she felt a little bit of panic bubble up inside. Steve had said that Elsa was working with medical. And here Elsa was. This was medical. And Miri was here.

Oh shit.

Not bothering to say hello to either of the not medical doctors, Alex hurried to the door and put her hand on the knob. What the hell was she going to find on the other side? She considered knocking. But there was no guarantee that she was even conscious to hear it. Steeling herself for whatever she might find on the other side of that door, Alex turned the knob and pushed it open. And stopped dead in her tracks the moment she stepped into the room.

Miri was sleeping in a chair, head tipped to the side so that she was going to wake up with a crick in her neck. A blanket had been tossed over her awkwardly and one foot, covered by a sock, was not covered by the thin length of material. Her hair was loose around her face. Alex was relieved to see the steady rise and fall of her friend's chest.

The bed next to Miri's chair was where she got her first real shock. Agent Phil Coulson lay stretched out on old fashioned hospital bed. It was the kind that had a crank at the end to adjust the position of the mattress. He was awake, his attention centered on Miri. There was a look in his eyes that Alex had seen before, that she knew well. And one hand idly stroked through the length of Miri's brilliant red hair. "Welcome back, Agent Quinn." Coulson's voice was soft, so as not to disturb Miri's sleep.

"You're not dead, sir," she stammered out.

He turned to look at her, a soft smile on his face. "It would appear not."

"I'm glad, sir." And she was. It was never easy to lose a friend or colleague to death. She'd mourned him properly, after she and Clint had made it to the mountains. They both had. To see him here, sitting up and very much alive, took a weight off her chest. And she had hope that maybe Clint could stop blaming himself for Coulson's death. "Do I need to give you the shovel talk, sir?"

"You aren't good enough to bury me, Agent Quinn. Loki tried and he failed. He's a god. What makes you think you could succeed?"

"Because she's my best friend, sir. I would do anything to see her happy and I would commit murder to keep her from being hurt," Alex replied. Coulson valued honesty. He always had. Here's to hoping he never used it against her.

"Rest easy, Alex. Hurting Miri is the furthest thing from my mind," he told her, as honest in his feelings as she'd been in her own. She nodded to acknowledge that. He motioned toward the foot of the bed. "Have a seat, Quinn. You look ready to fall over. How's Agent Barton doing?"

"I'm worried about him, sir. He's still laying a lot of the blame for what happened on his own shoulders." Coulson nodded at the information. Alex could only imagine what kinds of things Coulson was going to say to Clint when he next saw the man. Maybe it would help. Her gaze slid back to Miri. "So. This is new."

"Not so new as you think. Miri and I have been together for several years. But after taking a magical spear to the chest, I've decided that protocol be damned. Miri needs to know and understand how I feel," he told her, his own gaze sliding toward her face. Alex felt slightly uncomfortable to see such open and honest love on the man's face. She shifted nervously, drawing his attention to her again. "Quinn, don't make me order you to sit. Please. Take a seat and rest."

There was still a touch of order to his voice, anyway, and it saw her obeying without thought. It ended up being awkward to try and turn to face him, so she pulled a leg up, curled it in, and put her back against the metal frame at the foot of the bed. He smiled and turned his attention back to Miri once again.

Alex found herself at a loss for words and feeling very uncomfortable. This was new territory for her. She wasn't sure how she should handle facing Phil Coulson. It wasn't something she'd ever done before. She knew how to act when speaking to Agent Coulson, but the man before her wasn't really Agent Coulson. Not at that very second. Almost dying had apparently seen him rethinking his priorities. The way he looked at Miri made her feel like she was interrupting something meant to be very private and the urge to get up and leave was strong.

She was about to do just that when he spoke again, the sound of his voice in the silent room acting as a glue to keep her rooted to where she sat. "I'm glad you're here, Alex. I think Miriam needs you." Aw, hell. There was that guilt again. She fought not to shift and give away her guilt. But Coulson was Coulson and he didn't have to be looking at her to know what she was thinking. "She doesn't blame you for going, Alex. Neither do I. You had Clint to think of and he'd just come back from being compromised. His emotions were wild and all over the place. He needed time to think. You did what you had to. We would have done the same, had it been us."

"Maybe she doesn't blame me, but I blame me. We thought you were dead. She needed my shoulder and I wasn't there for her. I'm a horrible friend," Alex told him softly. Coulson's gaze sought hers out and a faint frown twisted the smile off his face.

"The world had just gone to hell. You wanted to get Clint as far from it as possible. That is a very human reaction and neither one of us will ever hold it against you. It doesn't mean that you love Miri any less than Clint. It just means that the world had gone to hell and you needed to get away from that for a while."

She decided that it would be best not to argue. Instead, she simply nodded her head and let her attention drift over to where Miri was still sleeping. Coulson reached out and once again let his fingers run through the length of her hair. For the first time since she'd met the man, she saw emotion on his face. Pure emotion that was unfiltered by the necessity of work. He was worried about Miri. The guilt surged just a little more. "I'm sorry I wasn't here for her."

"Clint needed you. There was no way you could help Clint and Miri at the same time, Alex. You needed rest, too. You saw horrors that day just as much as anyone else. You aren't superhuman or without your own wants and needs," Coulson told her softly, the slightest hint of disapproval touching his words. "You took time you needed for your own health. It isn't as selfish as you think it is. And you're here for her now. That's all that really matters."

"I'll do whatever I can to help, sir," she promised him.

"She needs a break. She spends all her time here with me. My recovery is going to be slow. We don't have the medical supplies to make it go any faster. And I'm okay with that. But Miri shouldn't spend all of her time here with me. She should go for walks. Eat a meal at a table. Take an actual shower instead of sponging the dirt off in here while she thinks I'm sleeping." Coulson stopped and took a breath, making Alex wonder if he was tired and in pain. "She doesn't leave here and I think that's because she's afraid something will happen to me while she's gone."

Alex nodded. She understood that fear. She'd lived the past two weeks in fear of what would happen if the control Loki had had over Clint wasn't fully gone. It wasn't the same as what Miri had felt, naturally. But those days that Clint had been gone, had been with Loki, Alex had feared never seeing him again. And now that they were back with S.H.I.E.L.D., she had an entirely new fear to face.

She thought that maybe she could convince Clint to sit with Phil. It might do him good because he'd been blaming himself for Coulson's death even though he'd had nothing to do with it. Miri would no doubt take a breather if she was sure someone was at Coulson's side. Alex would just have to talk to Clint and see if...

Her thoughts came to a screeching halt when she noticed Miri shifting in the chair. She yawned and stretched a bit, sending the thin material of her blanket sliding to the floor. Her jeans were old and worn, her t-shirt faded. Alex didn't miss the handgun tucked between her thigh and the arm of the chair. One hand reached up to brush her hair back and Alex was given a clear view of the soft joy that sprang to life upon seeing Coulson staring up at her. Miri reached for him, leaning across the chair and the short distance between it and his bed, and pressed a tender, gentle kiss against his lips. "Hey, handsome. You're looking better every time I see you."

Coulson smiled at her, his hand once again reaching up to stroke through her hair. They both wore the same sweet expression of love on their faces that saw Alex feeling very much like she didn't belong. And maybe a little envious because she didn't think she and Clint shared that look. They expressed their love through sparring because they always seemed to be fighting about something. God, she was intruding on their closeness. It was time to go.

Alex was careful to slip off the bed as noiselessly as possible. But it did her no good. Coulson's sharp gaze turned her way and shot her a frown. Obviously he saw her for the coward she was. "I don't believe you were dismissed just yet, Agent Quinn."

His words brought Miri's head around, eyes still heavy with sleep widening as they saw Alex standing there. Alex lifted a hand and waved stupidly. "Hi."

"Alex!" Miri exclaimed and threw herself out of her seat in a flurry of limbs. Seconds later, Alex found herself enveloped in Miri's embrace and a sense of warmth flooded her. She returned the touch, wrapping her arms around her friend to hug her close maybe just a little too tightly. When Miri finally let go and pulled back, Alex could see the strain she'd been under for the past few weeks etched into the shadows under Miri's eyes. "You're back! Its so good to see you."

"Its good to see you, too. I'm sorry I ran and left you alone to deal with things. I shouldn't have and I'm sorry."

Miri waved a hand in the air as if to erase or brush aside Alex's words. "You had Clint to deal with. How is he, by the way? Is he any better?"

Alex sighed and shook her head. "I think so? I don't really know. He won't talk about it." She fell silent and frowned. "Maybe knowing Coulson is alive will help. Maybe having something to do will help. It looks like there's a lot that needs doing around here."

"It isn't anything like being on the helicarrier," Miri agreed. "But that might not be such a bad thing. We were sitting ducks up there. Here, we're safe and hidden away. We can rebuild and work on bringing Loki down without exposing ourselves too much. The only problem is that we don't have a lot of things and have to stage raids every so often."

Alex nodded and let her gaze slide around the nearly barren room. The tiles that had been used to cover the wall were amazing, but they would only hold one's interest for so long. No wonder Coulson had been watching Miri sleep. And that thought brought her back to what she'd seen on their faces, leaving her feeling... Not quite uncomfortable, but definitely like she was intruding. It was awkward. She didn't like that feeling. That meant it was time to make her excuses.

"I should probably go. Clint is still twitchy and some of the agents on guard duty were giving him dirty looks. I don't want to leave him alone for too long until everyone comes to some kind of peace about what happened," Alex told them. Both Miri and Coulson gave her a look that told her they knew she was looking for an out. Thankfully, no one called her on it. She pushed away from the bed and made toward the door. "I'll stop by later with Clint to see you again, sir. Maybe I can leave him here while Miri and I take a walk. We could even indulge in some girl talk."

"I like that idea," Coulson replied, going along with it being Alex's suggestion instead of his own.

"I look forward to seeing you again, Alex. And Clint," Miri told her. She came forward to once more embrace Alex in a tight hug. "We'll definitely have to indulge in some girl talk."

When Miri broke from her, the look in her eyes promised Alex that their real talk hadn't even started yet. It took everything Alex had within her to walk from the room when all she wanted to do was run like she had the hounds of hell on her heels.

~*~

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-04 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dazzledfirestar.livejournal.com
EEEEE! Such a great start. I think you've got the world set up beautifully (well... not beautiful obviously but it's clear and messy and wonderful!) I can't wait to see where it all goes. The touches of news from all over the place worked really well.

And can I just say... AWWW! :D :D :D

Great work, hun!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-05 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mistress-o-muse.livejournal.com
I never EVER stopped to consider any 'what ifs' for this...what a freaking awesome idea! :-)

And what a freaking awesome start to that freaking awesome idea!

Love it all, natch, but particularly was amused with Alex's reaction to Coulson not being dead. LOL. Dunno why but that made me grin like an idiot. :-) LOL

Anyhoo, faboo idea bb and can't wait to see what kind of destruction...er, trouble...can be had this go' round. ;-)

*applauds heartily*

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-05 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ginevrasm.livejournal.com
Ooo! I like this. Great idea. I love the feel of it, dark and gritty. I can't wait to see how this unfolds (including the non-con and tentacles).

Wonderful start!

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