“--avenge,” Phil says, and blinks.
A moment ago he had been sitting on the floor of the helicarrier, dying. If the blood filling his mouth and lungs hadn’t been enough of a tip-off, the horrified look in Fury’s eyes would have done the trick.
Now he’s--standing, or maybe floating, in a stark white space. There’s nothing to see, nothing he can hear. Phil waves a hand in front of his own eyes to check his vision and then, belatedly, touches his chest. The hole in his shirt and the bloodstain attest to the fact of Loki’s spear, but the piercing wound has vanished.
In his experience “dying” generally leads to “dead,” although this is no afterlife he might ever have envisioned. Not that he ever spent a lot of time contemplating such things. Phil prefers, on the whole, to keep his mind on things he might actually be able to do something about.
But there’s no bright light to go into, no glowing tunnel, not even a river with a skeletal boatman. Phil clears his throat uneasily and looks around into the nothingness. “Hello?”
The girl next to him gives him a cheerful smile. “Hiya, Phil. How ya feeling?”
She hadn’t been there before and now she is, with nothing so much as a ripple in the air between states. And not a girl but a young woman, slender and pale-skinned, dressed in black with goth-type makeup around one eye and a large silver ankh hung around her neck.
Phil has studied enough mythology and symbology to guess what that might mean, but as always, more information would lead to a better conclusion. “...pretty well, considering.”
The woman snorts. “Yeah, no kidding. Loki stuck you good.” She pokes her hand toward his chest, although her long fingers never quite make contact. “But you got lucky.”
“Lucky,” he repeats, at a loss.
“Totally.” There’s a sparkle in her eye and a bounce in her movements, even on nonexistent ground. “The spear is connected to the, ah, what you call the Tesseract. That kind of power, it tends to leak, you know? So when Loki stabbed you, you got a little of that energy as well as the pointy bit.”
“But I’m still...dead, right?” he asks, because Phil likes things to be quantified. Under the circumstances, he might be excused for asking an obvious question.
The woman beams at him, like he’s just won a prize. “Oh, sure. The thing is, though, you don’t have to stay this way.”
This time he manages to restrain himself from the repetition, though barely. “Because...of the Tesseract energy.”
“Gold star.” She tilts her head at him. “You’re doing pretty great so far. Keep going.”
“All things considered, ma’am,” Phil says, because he’s not sure the being he’s talking to is actually a “ma’am” but it never hurts to be polite, “I’d rather be alive. If I have a choice in the matter.”
“That’s the best thing about being human,” she says. “You always have a choice.” She pauses, like she’s about to say something else, then shakes her black hair. “Well, never mind. See you around, Phil Coulson.”
“--wait,” Phil says, and blinks.
The medic standing by his--not a bed, it’s a cold table, he’s in the damn morgue--lets out a shriek and drops his tablet. Cataloging the dead, Phil knows. Of whom he is now, evidently, not one.
His chest hurts and his suit’s a mess, but otherwise he seems to be intact. The digital readout on the wall says it’s a couple of hours later than he recalls from his last glance at a clock, right before he headed down to the containment cell. All right, then. Phil grabs for the earpiece on the table near his...slab...and calls his commanding officer. “Back in action, sir. Where do you need me?” he asks, and can’t help but grin at the sound of Fury’s startled curse.