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The Missing Queen Job

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John McRory's Place is little more than a hole in the wall, another Irish pub in a city known for its Irish pubs. Situated in the basement of an apartment building nearly as old as Boston, it's the type of place where everybody knows your name, and if they don't, they'll buy you a beer and ask. Pepper Potts runs the place--John was her grandpa, and her mom took it over from him when he got sick--but what very few people know is that she doesn't technically own it.

Phil Coulson does.

He doesn't care much what Pepper does; it was never his intention to run a bar. He just wanted a place that's his, some place safe for him and his team--his family--and after the incredible financial success of their first job together, he had the means to do so. God knows there's not many places that would give them sanctuary. He used to track criminals like them for a living, before a crisis of faith drove him to the other side of the law, and he knows the lengths his former employers would go to put them all behind bars.

Natasha Romanoff is a wanted woman in more countries than not--and under a different name in most. Phil knows more about her past than even she does, including the name she was born with. (It isn't Natasha.) She's a world-class grifter, with enough charm to convince the Queen of England to give up the Crown Jewels, and trained from childhood in hand-to-hand fighting skills that put most men to shame. She used to steal for the money; now she does it for Phil.

As unlikely as it seems, Clint Barton actually has more warrants in more countries than Natasha. Raised in a circus, he's an Olympic-caliber archer with a penchant for hanging out in air ducts and jumping off tall buildings, and he specialized in art theft before he hooked up with Phil. Whenever a new museum exhibit opens, he'll disappear for a week or so, just to keep sharp, he claims. Phil doesn't mind--everyone needs a hobby.

Steve Rogers was a Captain in the U.S. Army when his team--including his best friend and partner, James Barnes--went down in a poorly-planned mission. He was the only survivor, and so he was the default scapegoat. He came to Phil for help clearing his name, but refused to return to the system that betrayed him. Now he's Phil's heavy-hitter instead of the Army's, and a surprisingly adept art forger.

Tony Stark is a mouthy young hacker with an ego the size of Boston--but it's mostly earned. Raised a trust fund baby, he didn't do much with his brains until his company was stolen out from under him by a man he considered family, before he even graduated MIT. In the five years since, he's gotten into every secure system Stane Industries has put out, stealing from its clients to fund his vendetta against Obadiah. (He also hacks the Pentagon monthly, but Phil ignores it; plausible deniability is something he learned early on in his previous career.) He doesn't trust many people, but in their line of work, that's more of an asset than a liability.

Bruce Banner is their other tech, a physicist and inventor whose genius gives Tony a run for his money and an explosive temper he takes great pains to leash. His painful past isn't something he discusses openly, but his innate dislike of anything military speaks for itself. Phil knows the gist of the story, and keeps tabs on General Ross as a precautionary measure. He'd once asked Bruce if he wanted them to go after Ross--righting unrightable wrongs is their gig, after all. He'd shaken his head, smiled sadly, and murmured one word: “Betty.” It's explanation enough for Phil.

John McRory's Place isn't much, but it's theirs. It's where their clients come to tell Phil their stories, where they rant and cry about the unfairness of life. He listens thoughtfully, coffee mug in hand, and promises that he'll do what he can.

Phil can't always protect them from the pain and the wrongs that have been done, but he can damn well help avenge them.