Daylight was streaming in through the huge windows as John Watson slowly woke up. He blinked quietly a few times, taking in his throbbing headache and the various other people scattered around the room, all in various states of dishevelment. What the hell happened here? First things first. Dry mouth, headache, photosensitivity, memory lapse… hangover. Second thing, where was Sherlock? He scanned the room hastily before spotting the tall man curled up in the corner next to the man in a bow tie and fez. Alright. Now where in god’s name were they?
Oh. Oh. That’s right. Karaoke night. Amy’s brilliant idea for group bonding in their off time. It was all coming back to him now. God, he needed a drink…
Three Weeks Earlier:
When all was said and done, the orders to round up the Avengers and gather them back together hadn’t been as difficult as Agent Phil Coulson had anticipated. The most difficult had been Thor, that particular contact requiring a bit of ingenuity on Jane’s part. Jane didn’t tell and Phil didn’t ask. She was close to the god and on good terms with S.H.I.E.L.D., and that was good enough.
As to the others, Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner could often be found in the same place these days. The home of one Tony Stark. Admittedly, Steve spent far more of his time there than Bruce, but Bruce would often vanish for weeks at a time into the remote, backwoods wilderness of Godforsakenstan or some such place and Phil couldn’t be bothered to track him down. He was a doctor. He went there to doctor. Much to some of the higher-ups’ dismay, Phil saw nothing wrong with allowing the man to find a purpose for himself outside of being a terrifying, green rage monster at the military’s beck and call.
Steve, by contrast, seemed to view Stark Tower as a refuge from the world. He was confused, and sometimes a bit depressed and frightened, by the twenty first century. Tony had always been very fond of his gadgetry, but when he had seen how bothered Steve was by the pervasiveness of the technology around him, he had stripped Steve’s suite of everything beyond a radio, a television, a basic desktop computer, and the intercom system which granted access to JARVIS. He had insisted on the computer and Steve’s cell phone because he was determined to get the man at least partially up to speed, but this really was what he had offered all of the Avengers after the great battle. A place to call home. Somewhere they could stay without worry, that they could make their own, and where they could be comfortable. And to some extent, each of them had taken him up on the offer. But Bruce and Steve were by far the most present.
Perhaps the most truly challenging, however, had been Hawkeye and Black Widow. Clint and Natasha were not Steve, the good soldier. They were not Bruce, who seemed ever determined to avoid a fight. They were not Tony, who was always willing to show off. They were not even Thor, willing to come when called merely for the sake of being helpful. They had their own priorities and their own agenda. And having been S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, they knew how to play the system and exactly how much play they could give. These were the things that set spies and assassins apart from other superheroes, Phil reasoned. When finally he had tracked them down with a reason and motivation they would accept, they were in Budapest. They had hit a lull in their work, and that seemed to be their main motivator. The world could wait when they had their own to do lists. Then again, they knew there were four other perfectly capable sets of hands poised to handle the matter.
And of course the six of them made up the Avengers. Steve, Tony, Bruce, Thor, Natasha, and Clint. Except that they didn’t. Not anymore – a fact Phil had shared with no one except the one person who needed to know.
One Week Later:
They had been on Alpha Centauri when the call came. Amy had been skeptical and Rory had been nervous, but the Doctor seemed to know the man – Fury, he said his name was – and that was good enough. Something about an urgent matter, something that required a Doctor. Fate of the universe level chaos. Amy had rolled her eyes at that. Wasn’t that always the claim? Surely it could wait. They were time travelers, after all, and the Doctor had been promising to take them to Alpha Centauri for months. But he had insisted. There had, however, been one detour along the way. Something Amy and Rory hadn’t expected.
Jack woke to the tell-tale vroosh-vroosh of the T.A.R.D.I.S.’s systems in the operations center. Quickly, he roused Ianto and bolted from bed. Hastily tugging his trousers on, he grabbed his military issue rucksack, the one he always kept packed for occasions such as this. As Ianto stumbled around getting dressed, Jack added his things to the pack. It wasn’t strictly necessary as the Doctor would be able to provide them with clothes, but he knew how attached Ianto was to his routine and his surroundings. And since Jack had no idea where they might end up, the least he could do was grab Ianto some of his own clothes.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Jack battle-ready and Ianto made presentable in record time thanks to Jack’s long military history, the Doctor was leaning against the door to the T.A.R.D.I.S., that knowing smirk plastered all over his new face. He had regenerated since Jack had seen him last. He had new companions, too, and they stood gawking up at the pterodactyl circling the ceiling.
“Yeah, I’ll have to leave Gwen a note to feed him,” Jack broke in, humor in his voice.
The woman startled as she finally noticed him. “You’re who we’re here to get, then?”
“Hi, Captain Jack Harkness,” he greeted with a coy smile and a firm handshake. “And if I may inquire to whom I have the pleasure of speaking?”
“Hey,” the Doctor jibed. “Don’t start with that. This is Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Amy, Rory, Jack Harkness. Domesticity suites you, I must say, Jack. And may I ask who the lucky man here is?”
Ianto turned a faint shade of pink at the remark. “Ianto Jones. Transplant from Torchwood London.”
“Well, Ianto Jones, welcome to the team,” the Doctor greeted. “Now, then. We’ve just come from Alpha Centauri –”
“Did you really?” Jack broke in with a grin. “Hell of a planet. Went to a party there once. Don’t remember half of it…”
“We’ve gotten an urgent call from S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the Doctor continued as though Jack had said nothing.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Ianto asked. Jack, meanwhile, had gone from jovial to deadly serious in no time flat.
“I’ll explain on the way,” he told his partner. “Let’s go.”
Sam could smell trouble from a mile away. He had to be able to, since his brother seemed to walk them straight into it at every turn. And the man in the suit approaching their table in the shabby little diner was definitely trouble. He looked like he had walked straight out of Men in Black. And worse, he was staring right at them.
“Dean,” Sam whispered. “We need to go. Now. Right now. Don’t turn around, just trust me. Come on.”
Not quick enough. The man moved to stand at the entrance of their booth. He was nearly half a foot shorter than either of them, but despite his small stature he exuded confidence. He was definitely imposing.
“Sam, Dean,” greeted the man. “My name is Agent Phil Coulson. Perhaps we could take this somewhere a bit more private?”
Feds. Shit. They were screwed. Okay, Sam, calm down. They needed to find a way to contact Bobby. That was priority number one. Get the impala towed pronto before anyone could search it. “I think we’d prefer to stay here, thanks,” Sam replied much more calmly than he felt.
“Don’t worry,” the man called Agent Coulson assured. “I’m not here to arrest you. I’m here to ask for your help.”
“Our help,” Dean replied incredulously.
“Yes,” the man in black replied calmly. “In fact, if you’ll help us, I can make all those black marks on your record go away.”
“Yeah, and what makes me believe that?” Dean scoffed. “And what would the feds ever want our help with?”
“This is beyond the feds,” the man said. “We’re on the brink of war with the Chitauri and a legion of scorned angels. You boys are renowned hunters. We need you.”
“No,” Dean said firmly, moving to stand.
Sam grabbed his sleeve, pulling him back down. There was something about the small man that seemed utterly sincere. Quietly he pulled a flask from his pocket and unscrewed the cap, splashing the liquid inside onto the agent.
“And no,” the man replied, picking up a napkin and wiping his face. “I’m not a demon.”
“So wait,” Sam began hesitantly. “You know about the police records?” Coulson nodded. “And the fact that we’re both supposed to be dead?” Another nod. “And you can fix all of that?”
Agent Coulson folded his hands in front of him, giving the brothers a small smile. “Boys, my organization operates above the law and beyond the government. I tell the feds ‘jump’, they ask me ‘how high?’ Especially after the last debacle when they didn’t listen to us. If I tell you I can clear your records, your police records and your death records, I can do it. Sam, I’ll bet I could even get you into law school if you still wanted to go.”
“Alright,” Sam said softly after a long moment of tense silence, glancing quickly to Dean for confirmation. “If you can clear our records, we’ll do it.”
They had been running down an alleyway after a murderer when the tall man had stepped in front of them. Big, imposing, an eye patch covering one eye, costumed like a superhero. Sherlock had made to weave around him after he had told them to stop and the man had clotheslined him like it was nothing, laid him out flat when he was running full tilt. The detective hadn’t been happy.
At first Sherlock had been absolutely convinced that the man, Sergeant Fury he had called himself, was one of Mycroft’s. However, when he had identified himself as a representative of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sherlock had scoffed. Clearly, John had missed something.
“That’s impossible,” Sherlock had told the man dismissively. “S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded.”
“I assure you, Mr. Holmes, it has not,” the man replied. “S.H.I.E.L.D. is alive and well and has revived the Avengers initiative.”
Sherlock eyed the man suspiciously. John, meanwhile, was completely lost. Perhaps not completely. Sergeant. Sergeant Fury. This S.H.I.E.L.D., whatever it was, was military or paramilitary. He could work with that. “Captain John Watson of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers,” John introduced himself with a salute. “If you wouldn’t mind explaining, Sergeant, what exactly is S.H.I.E.L.D.?”
“I know who you are, Dr. Watson,” the man replied. “Your presence has been specifically requested as well. Your unique skill set is just as valuable to us as Mr. Holmes’. S.H.I.E.L.D. will be explained to you in a briefing when we reach the base. Suffice it say we are a military organization beyond the scope of any one national government. We are who the world calls on when it is in danger.”
“And what’s the case?” Sherlock interjected.
“The Chitauri, the alien race Loki aligned himself with in the last great battle, are threatening an invasion. But this time they’ve got a flock of angels on their side,” the man explained. “We’re reopening the Avengers initiative in order to combat that threat.”
Sherlock stopped for a moment as though considering this. “Interesting… Very well. We’ll be there.”
“Good,” the man smiled, though it lacked any real warmth. “My agents are at your flat right now packing your things.”
John did not miss the way Sherlock’s tight-lipped smile oozed irritation at that idea, if only one knew how to read the enigmatic man’s expressions.