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Skill Sets

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Sometimes the best way to hide something was in plain sight. It was a rule of thumb that was implicit in most covert organizations, but Nick Fury was an absolute master of the practice. Database VXL-890906, for instance. The list itself was accessible to any number of SHIELD employees; its designated clearance level for read access was a mere three. Yet another seemingly random list of some of the division's persons of interest. It really wasn't a database that needed to be accessed frequently. So as a rule it mostly languished until such time as the director felt that someone needed to be added.

Except in the case of Agent Phil Coulson, whom any log would say accessed the information every few days. All indications were that it was simply routine oversight assigned to the master of paperwork. Hiding in plain sight.

Phil was sitting in his office, slowly paging through the database, noting any changes to the information since the last time. The director was the one who added the names, but the database was crosslinked, and intel was constantly changing. It was important that Phil keep up on those changes, because he had near-complete discretion of what names were removed. One way or another.

Eli Luhman. Black market weapons distributor. On several government watchlists, but had yet to be brought into custody, in a clear case of 'devil you know' syndrome. Lately he'd been making overtures to HYDRA. There were indications that they might be taking him up on some rather lucrative offers. Of course, those indications were moot because the man wasn't going to survive the week.

Phil jotted Luhman's file number down on a post-it and stuck it to one of his to-do lists. He'd access the file again a couple more times, so better to be efficient. The number was specific to the database and doing a general search would turn up something in the area of fifteen thousand files. So even anyone who saw his desk and got curious wouldn't know. Better that way.

He moved on. Tony Stark generated far more requisition forms than a billionaire really had any right to.


Of course I'm going to keep you on, Coulson, Fury had said all those years ago. We'll just have to upgrade your skill set.


The house was dark. Nearly pitch black, not that it made the slightest bit of difference. Entry was trivial. Of course Luhman had state of the art security, but state of the art security hadn't been able to contend with Phil Coulson the human, let alone the vampire.

He navigated through the place easily. Even if he hadn't accessed the blueprints, on nights like this, a heartbeat was better than a GPS. He made his way to the bedroom and doublechecked that Luhman was sleeping alone. Good. He hated changing targets at the last minute.

He flipped on the lightswitch and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Mr. Luhman?"

The man sat up like a rocket and reached for the gun on his nightstand, which he promptly leveled at Phil, who held up his hands calmly, a bland look on his face. "Calm down, Mr. Luhman, there's really no need for that."

"You're in my goddamn house in the middle of the night. You're fucking lucky I haven't shot you already. Who are you?"

"Call me an interested third party. I wanted to ask about your negotiations with HYDRA."

The gun didn't waver. "How do you know about that?"

"Trust me, it's my job to know about that. So do you think that you'll be able to distribute their new tech? It would be very lucrative. I can name dozens of people off the top of my head that would want to be throwing money at your feet."

Luhman laughed. The gun still didn't move. "Hundreds. And yeah, I think I'll be able to get the deal done."

Phil nodded slowly. "All right. Do you suppose there's any way I can convince you not to?"

"What, want in on the deal yourself?"

"No. I'm just aware of the damage that can and will be caused to innocent people if that tech hits the streets."

"What difference does that make to me?"

Phil nodded. "That's what I thought you'd say. I'm very sorry."

"For what?"

"For the fact that it's highly unlikely your gun has silver bullets." With that, Phil took three brisk steps forward. Luhman managed to squeeze the trigger just as Phil was reaching for the gun in question. The weapon was suppressed, and that was undoubtedly kind to the neighbors, given the circumstances. The bullet went through his left forearm and embedded itself in the wall. A nothing injury, really. He knocked the firearm out of the man's grip and took him firmly by the throat with his right hand. The arms dealer's heart was racing and it sounded delicious.

"Wh... what are you?"

In answer, Phil just grinned. At the moment, his smile would say all that was needed. "Enough of my kind do enough damage to innocent people. Someone has to balance that out a little."

"I'll give you anything!"

"You could have given me a different answer. Now you just find out what difference it makes to you." He let go of Luhman's throat and leaned in. As foul as the man was, his lifeblood was sweet.

Hunger sated, Phil pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and went over to retrieve the man's gun. Three shots in the throat to obscure what had actually happened, and then one right between the eyes. Looked like an assassination, which really, it was in a sense. But there were any number of government agencies who would ensure it wasn't looked into in any great depth. Weapons traffickers rarely met with good ends.

He put the gun back on the nightstand and studied the bullet wound on his arm. It was already beginning to close. He used the handkerchief to dab at the ichor dripping down his arm. He'd be healed by the time he got home. The only real concern was his laundry.


Coming home on these nights was always a bit more relaxing than on any other. The hunger was satisfied, and he'd be fine for a few days. He opened the door and paused. Then he chuckled. Clint was asleep on his couch. He walked over and kissed him gently on the forehead.

Clint's eyes fluttered open. "Mm, hey." He smiled. "Was going to surprise you, but you worked later than I expected."

"Sorry," he replied easily. "Come on to bed."

Sitting up, Clint chuckled. "Would have thought you were nocturnal."

"I can nap. Especially with you there."

"That's weirdly sweet for you. So, all of your paperwork taken care of?"

"Something like that." They headed down to the bedroom. "A little left to do in the morning, but nothing I could have finished before I headed out of the building."

Clint stretched out on the bed, almost back to sleep already. "Mm. Never ends, does it."

Phil climbed in next to him, wrapping an arm loosely around his waist and closing his eyes. "No. It never does."