A week after the Battle of Manhattan, when Coulson was resting comfortably and his survival assured, Nick Fury knew it was time to come clean. He had Hill summon the Avengers to his office - minus Thor, who was still on Asgard - put on his most stern, most angry, most badass look, and faced them down.
"The report of Agent Coulson's death was... in error." Fury announced. He made it a statement. A tone brooking no argument. Any of his people would have stuttered out an affirmative and run for the door. The Avengers, clearly, weren't his people.
The room erupted in chaos. Chairs were knocked over, everyone shouted, and before Fury could even begin to get control of the situation, he found himself flat on his back, face throbbing. Cap - Captain Goddamn America, not any of the team's numerous hotheads - reached down with a startlingly large hand, lifted Fury up, and shook him like a rat. Then Fury was slammed into the wall, and Rogers leaned in, blue eyes blazing. "Do you have any idea how many people I've lost? Any?" He knocked Fury into the wall again, less carefully. "Do you?"
Stark, of all people, appeared in Fury's peripheral vision. "Hey, Cap. Steve." No response. "You can't kill him."
"Yes I can." Rogers said evenly, and Fury, who'd spent his life dismissing or completely ignoring threats, was very glad he didn't have any hair to stand on end.
"Well, yeah, okay, you can." Stark agreed easily. "But if you do, the World Security Council will probably appoint someone worse. Better the devil you know, and all that." Stark paused to lean in and glare at Fury for a moment. "Besides. Killing is too easy. Way too fast."
"You do have a point." Rogers admitted.
"Come on. Let's go see Coulson. Everyone else has already run for medical."
Rogers dumped Fury like a sack of sand, and stalked to the door. Just before they left, Stark turned. "Nick? A Stark Industries helicopter is going to be landing here in half an hour to move Coulson to Stark Memorial Hosptial in Manhattan. And, of course, fuck you."
They were gone.
Fury pressed a handkerchief to his broken nose and thought, well, being unable to predict Stark and Rogers was quite worrisome. But all in all, it had gone better than expected.
Or so he thought until Pepper Potts showed up the next morning, bright and early, and lectured him for over an hour about ethics.
It had been over a week since his confrontation with the Avengers (and Pepper Potts, and then Thor, who'd shown up three days later and shouted at him until he got a nose bleed), and Nick Fury was finally going home. To his actual house, not falling down asleep in a bunk on the Hellicarrier or simply dozing at his desk.
He pulled his beloved vintage BMW into the drive and hit the button for the garage door.
Fury did not like things that were unusual. Unusual things were dangerous things. There were no lights on in his house. There was nothing on in his house, including the lights he usually left on for security. He called the land line; it went straight to voice mail without ringing. The top-flight security system that was controlled by his phone was... not there.
With a sigh, Fury called in SHIELD's best bomb squad and computer techs, turned around, and went back to base so he could sleep in his office until the threat was neutralized.
"It's really quite remarkable." The earnest tech explained to Fury the next afternoon. "We've never seen anything like it."
"Explain." Fury said, a threat in his voice.
"Uh. Right, sir. Well, the whole house, all the electronics, everything, even the wiring, is, well, slagged."
"Slagged." Fury repeated.
"Yes sir. The breaker box had... melted and run down the basement wall. We opened a wall this morning and the wiring is in the same condition. Everything in the house that runs on electricity is a write-off. Some we can't even identify."
"How did the house not burn down?"
"We ran some sniffers through, and we think the house was sealed and filled with nitrogen, before the mother of all power surges was run through it."
Fury sighed. This said Anthony Stark in large, glowing blue letters. "Very good. Thank you."
"Yes sir." The tech got up to leave. "Uh. Sorry, sir."
Fury opened the bottom drawer of his desk, poured his coffee mug half full of scotch, and drank it down like medicine.
Then he made arrangements for movers to pack up his things, and have his house razed.
Fury was sitting in a diner in Midtown, having lunch. It had been several weeks since his house hadn't burned down, and he still couldn't decide whether to find a new place and see if Stark slagged it, too, or just sleep on the damned Hellicarrier until the Avengers calmed down.
There was a solid thunk, and a throwing knife pinned his sleeve to the table. Another thunk, another knife, this time in the other sleeve.
Sitting very, very still, Fury counted as an even dozen knives hit, never harming him, but pinning him to the bench he was sitting on. Whene it was over, he didn't have a scratch on him, but his black leather jacket was destroyed.
He never saw Romanov.
Fury was about halfway through his day when he noticed his vision sort of... fading... at the edges. By the time he got to medical, he was down to a small tunnel of vision. As the doctors ran their inevitable tests, even that faded to grey.
"What do you mean, you do not know?" He asked the head neurologist.
"I'm very sorry, sir, but we've never heard of anything with these symptoms. All your tests are normal, you just... can't see."
"Yes, Doctor, I've noticed that part. Have there been any anomalies? Radiation? Chemicals?" Fury demanded.
"No, sir, I'm very sorry. We've tested for every obvious toxin and have moved on to the less common. We're still running tests on your blood and other tissue samples. It may be a few days."
The next morning, the news wasn't much better. He was sitting in his office, listening to Hill read reports, when one of the chemists from R&D arrived. Fury got rid of Hill and turned to where he thought the chemist was sitting. "Well?
"There's an unknnown organic molecule in your blood and vitreous-"
"In English?" Fury interrupted.
"Right. Someone dosed you. The chemical is probably of plant origin, and completely unknown. We're chasing it down, but-"
"How are there chemicals you geeks don't know?"
The tech gave a horrified choking noise. "Sir, there are entire plant and animal families we don't know about. The chemicals produced by them-"
Fury had charted the course of this, and could easily follow the trail. "Call Banner. Get him in here."
"You- You want Doctor Banner on the Hellicarrier? Again? After-"
The clowns at Avengers Tower claimed to have no idea where Banner was. Including JARVIS, Stark's all-knowing pile of computer chips and attitude. Fury was forced to leave a message. He managed to hang up before he added "don't make me come over there". Under the circumstances, issuing threats probably wasn't his best strategy.
Three days later, Fury let himself into his quarters, walked to his couch, made sure it was still there, and fell into it. Thankfully he was so used to the Hellicarrier, he was able to move around with little trouble. Anywhere else, though, and he was going to have trouble. Lots of trouble. He rubbed his face and finally let go of the 'I am fine' attitude he'd been projecting any time he was in public for the last four days.
"You know," Banner's soft, gentle voice spoke behind him, "I was already pretty angry with you, and SHIELD, and the government in general, before you lied to us about Phil."
Fury manfully did not yelp. "We weren't sure he'd live, the first forty-eight hours were-"
"Yeah, see, that excuse doesn't work for me. You lied. You didn't say he was near death, you didn't say he wasn't expected to live, you said he was dead. Then you threw his blood-soaked trading cards at the two people most likely to be destroyed by it, and walked away. In the name of what, teamwork? You really thought Steve and Tony would stand by and watch aliens invade New York, their home, and not fight them?" There was a long pause. "I don't know why you people claim to worry so much about my temper, yet act the way you do."
"Banner, you have to understand-"
"No. I don't. I really don't." There was a long pause. "I suppose it's pointless to demand an apology. Well. I doctored the special coffee in your office with a little something I ran across in my travels. Interesting pharmacological effects. Quit drinking the coffee, you'll be back to normal in a day or two. Whatever's... normal... for you, anyway."
Fury could hear soft footsteps moving toward the door of his quarters. They paused for a moment, and Banner added, "Lie to us again, and I'll make it permanent next time." Then he was, hopefully, gone.
Fury sat back in his seat and let out a slow, shaky breath.
Fury had hoped Rogers was counting breaking his nose as his contribution to the team vendetta. It was very obvious they were each taking individual vengeance, and Rogers had broken Fury's nose. It was a rather traditional revenge against some COs in the Army, so Fury had, frankly, forgotten about Rogers and moved on to worrying about what Thor and Barton had planned.
Apparently, a broken nose didn't count for anything with Captain America.
He began to suspect something when he arrived at work that morning and no one would meet his eye.
He strode into the command room, missing the flap of his black leather coat behind him, and logged into his work station. It accepted his log-in. After a fashion.
Instead of the usual SHIELD logo, Fury was facing a cartoon version of himself. On the toilet.
She appeared at his elbow, face remarkably composed. "Yes sir."
"What the hell is this?"
"At approximately midnight last night, a virus was uploaded to our mainframe. IT identified it almost immediately, and since then has been working to remove it."
"What is the extent of the virus?"
"Every time someone enters a command, or touches a screen, a cartoon of you will flash for twenty seconds. There are, at last count, fifty different images. Otherwise, as far as we've been able to tell, the functionality of all systems are compltely normal."
Fury glared at his work screen. As soon as he touched it, a well-done picture of him clutching a teddy bear and sucking his thumb appeared, then flashed off after the allotted time.
Artist or not (and did Rogers have to be such a damn good one?), there is no way this had happened without Stark's help. Rogers had been adapting at remarkable rates, but the only Avenger with the capability to hack the Hellicarrier's computer security was Stark. And the only way Banner had gotten into his office, and his quarters, would have been with the help of Stark, Barton, or Romanov. He wondered if Stark had slagged his house by himself, or if the rest of them had joined in.
He'd wanted to get them to work together. For his sins, it looked like it had worked.
After a damn long day of looking at stupid drawings of himself, Fury finally left his office, left work, and headed to the parking garage. He planned to take his BMW, drive home to the small apartment he'd rented, and drink scotch until he could close his eye without seeing the drawing of himself wearing a frilly apron and feeding Coulson soup.
When he got to his parking space, he just stood for a moment. Finally he allowed himself a heavy sigh and a muttered "Fuck." He got out his phone and called Hill. "Review the security cameras in my section of the garage, please."
"Yes sir. Working, sir." There was a pause, and a slight hiss of indrawn breath. "Sir? We have Thor, in street clothes, entering the garage, walking to your area, pointing that hammer of his at the camera, and then nothing."
Well. At least Fury could quit wondering what Thor had in store for him. "Hill, I will be taking my SHIELD issued vehicle home tonight. Send someone down here to shovel up this mess."
Another, very slight, pause. "Yes sir. Um. Have a good evening." Long pause. "Sir."
"Oh, sure." Fury muttered, and disconnected. He skirted around what used to be his beloved BMW. It was now approximately eight inches high, hammered compltely flat and square at the edges.
He was damn sure making his insurance company pay for this as an act of god, see if he didn't.
Fury spent two weeks, waiting for an arrow to explode near his head.
It didn't come.
When he realized he was becoming increasingly paranoid, waiting for that arrow, he finally gave in and did what had to be done. Friday night was movie night at Avengers Tower, and facing them down all at once would be easier than trying to track them down one by one. In the lobby, he stood before the private elevator and said calmly, "JARVIS, I need to see the team."
"Personal or professional business, sir?"
"Both, I suppose."
There was a pause. Fury imagined JARVIS relaying the message and the team arguing over whether to let him in. The elevator door slid open, and he stepped inside. There were no buttons. The interior was smooth and unmarked, a wood floor, decorative wood and metal walls, and ceiling of acoustic tiles. He'd never beeen here before, and stood there a moment, wondering what next. The doors closed, "Family room, penthouse level." JARVIS announced, and up he went.
The elevator opened to a large room that must take up half the floor of the building. It was cozy, with more wood flooring and carpets, large couches and chairs, and the biggest flat-screen Fury had ever seen. On it was an explosion, paused. He hoped it wasn't some kind of omen.
The large, overstuffed couches were full of people. It wasn't team movie night; it was team plus friends and family night. Thor and Doctor Foster were wedged together in a chair. Rogers, Potts, and Stark were jumbled together on a couch, Romanov was in the back of the room perched high on the back of another chair. Barton - holy gods, Barton was cuddled together with Coulson in a love seat, arms around each other, legs tangled together on the table in front of them. While he watched, Coulson met his eye and combed his fingers through Barton's hair.
Everyone was silent, their best poker faces on. Except for Potts. She was looking at him like something she needed to scrape off her shoe. Then Banner came around the corner from another room, carrying a bowl of popcorn and three beers. "Oh, this ought to be good." he muttered in that eerily calm voice. He plopped on the couch with Stark, Potts, and Rogers, and handed beers to the other men.
Fury cleared his throat. "I came to apologize for the misunderstanding, regarding Agent Coulson's status during the attack on the Hellicarrier."
"It wasn't a misunderstanding. It was a lie." Rogers replied instantly. "Call it what it is, stop with the governmental doublespeak, or get out."
Before Fury could formulate a response, Coulson spoke. "No... I don't really think this was motivated by regret. You're here to find out what we have left in store for you."
"His next car, I would like to try lightning strikes." Thor growled.
"I can't believe you killed a vintage BMW." Stark replied. "You should have hammered the shit out of his desk or something."
Before the discussion devloved further, Barton stood and they all fell silent. "Yeah, I think it's my turn next." he said quietly. "I owe you for the week I thought my partner, my handler, my best friend, was dead."
Fury imagined seven more rounds of revenge and didn't quite mask the flinch.
"But, see, thanks to that," Barton continued with an evil grin, "Phil and I have finally worked some things out. He asked me to marry him last week. I said yes."
Behind Barton, glasses were raised in an automatic toast. Fury felt his eye twitch.
"Then there are the trading cards. You know, it took Phil years to collect those. We hunted them in antique stores all over the globe. Some, Nat and I gave him as gifts. And you... you just dunked them in his blood." Barton shook his head. "So, you want to know what I'm going to do to you? What I have planned? I really haven't decided yet."
Coulson rose, stepped up beside Barton, and put his arm around the other man. "I haven't really decided what I want to do, either. File formal complaints? A lawsuit for destruction of property? Bury you in paperwork for a decade?" Phill shook his head, shrugged with his good shoulder. "I know how you hate paperwork." Then he kissed Barton's temple. Barton smiled widely.
Fury decided to give it up. They had their plans, and the unit cohesion now was unshakable. He'd known the team needed to be united against a common enemy. If only that could have been the Chitauri, rather than one Nick Fury.
Well, no one had killed him yet, so they probaby weren't going to.
"I apologize again." Fury said stiffly. "I'll leave you to your movie." He turned to go, but stopped when he heard his name. "Yes, Rogers?" The smile on the man's face did nothing for his peace of mind.
"We've all talked it over and decided the Avengers will have one government liason. Ever. Phil Coulson. Put the word out among all your sneaky friends. They deal with Phil, or they don't deal with anyone. He's got an office here in the Tower." Rogers announced. He took leadership as naturally as breathing.
"I'll get you his contact information. And all related legal documents." Potts added.
Fury swallowed another helping of crow. "Very well. I appreciate it."
Potts and Rogers nodded. Barton and Coulson had gone back to their love seat and were cuddled together again. As Fury stepped into the elevator, he heard the movie go back on. "Lobby, please, JARVIS."
The elevator moved downward for a moment, then stopped. The lights went out.
"As much as I enjoyed helping the others with their projects, Director Fury, I feel that justice really has not been served. Yet." JARVIS announced in the darkness.
Fury's hand went to his weapon, though he knew it was useless. "What did you have in mind for me?"
"Like Barton, I haven't quite decided yet."
Then the lights went on, and the elevator continued downward, and Fury tried to get his breathing back under control before he stepped out of the elevator. He forced himself to walk at his normal pace through the lobby and out to his car as it was brought around. Inside, he finally let out the wheezing breath he was holding and leaned his head against the steering wheel for a moment.
Then he contacted Hill. "Status on the replacement cards for Coulson?"
"We've located two of the four. Searches are under way for the others, sir."
Fury shut his eye a moment. "Work faster. Double the personnel on the task force."
"Yes, sir. Will that be all?"
Yeah. For now.