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(If This Is Paradise) I Wish I Had A Lawnmower

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Phil pretty much hates his entire life.

It's depressing to think of each individual day now that he's more than three years in, so he tends to just generally go with a blanket hate of his entire existence. He knows what day it is, of course he does. Even if he didn't have a direct line of sight to at least four different computer screens as well as a large wall calendar, he'd know, because he's still Phil. Somewhere. Under all the fur.

So he knows what day it is. He just tries not to think about it too hard, because frankly--what's the point? Either he'll get out of here, or he won't. It's not like he himself has any say in the matter, his only option is pretty much just to sit around and wait to be rescued. Like a damsel in fucking distress, Phil thinks bitterly, which is a stupid expression anyway, since the only women he knows are all SHIELD agents and therefore frighteningly competent.

Phil grumbles and sighs.

It's almost 5pm, which means one of his handlers is going to come by to check on him. Phil hates his handler. Pre-groundhog existence, he hadn't had a handler in years, and even when he did, they weren't this annoying. For a long time he tried hiding, but given the size of his habitat, he didn't have any greater success at it than he did escaping. And he's tried escaping a lot.

The first thing he tried was biting them when they picked him up at the first Groundhog Day event. That didn't work. His handler had just neatly avoided Phil's repeated attempts to sink his teeth into any part of the hands holding him, and declared, "He sees his shadow!"

After that, he'd tried getting out of his habitat at night, but that hadn't worked either. In fact, nothing worked.

Phil's not a pushover, okay? He's a goddamn fucking US Army Ranger, Rangers Lead The Way, Agent of SHIELD, certified BADASS about fifty times over. So the fact that he's as of yet been unable to escape this stupid little cage in this stupid little town is just... awful. And without question, caused by magic.

He may not have functional opposable thumbs anymore, but goddamnit, without magic interference, Phil would have blown this joint years ago. His habitat is up against a window, and he gives the quiet streets a grim look, before turning his back and waiting for his stupid handler to come feed him and attempt to stroke his back.

He's just considering whether to bite his handler today or not (it won't help him escape, but it makes him feel better) when he sees something out of the corner of his eye. A quick flash of red! He doesn't even have time to really think about it, before he hears the unmistakable sound of repulsor engines rapidly coming closer, before suddenly stopping--and then the library doors burst open with a loud bang!

The Avengers storm in and spread out, and Phil's entire body goes from I hate my life to FUCKING FINALLY in nanoseconds. Natasha and Clint take the flanks, eyes scanning the shocked people scattered around the tables, quickly deeming them non-threats and calling out "Clear!" The Hulk is looming in the background and snarling at someone--probably onlookers in the street--while Captain America spearheads their group to face the shocked librarian running out from behind her desk, with Iron Man right behind him, the suit clunking against the floor with each step.

"Ma'am," Captain America says, and Phil has one moment, one fleeting, terrifying moment, where he thinks, Maybe they're not here for me? Maybe they don't know? and then all his doubts are erased as Captain America says directly to Carol the librarian, "I'm terribly sorry about this, but would you please step away from the groundhog?"

Carol gasps, but does as the Captain says.

Phil squeaks and squeaks, which is only a little embarrassing, and throws himself against the glass, and feels absolutely dizzy with the thought, Captain America came to rescue me! Then The Avengers part a little to reveal Thor. He strides forward, regal and determined, and he's holding something clenched tightly in one fist.

"That one," Iron Man says, aiming a laser pointer at Phil, and Thor hurls whatever's in his fist towards him.

Phil catches a glimpse of something sharp and shiny and has just enough time to think, Fuck you, magic, before it shatters his habitat and everything goes black.

*

When Phil wakes up, his entire body feels heavy and strange, but he immediately knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's his body.

He also quickly notices he's completely naked.

Fortunately, he can tell that someone has covered him with a SHIELD issue thermal blanket, and when he blinks his eyes open he sees all six Avengers peering down at him. Tony's got his helmet off and in his hand, Steve's hood is pulled back and Bruce is, well, Bruce.

"Welcome back, Agent Coulson," Steve says with a huge smile, and Phil throws all composure to the wind and says, heartfelt, "Oh thank fucking God."

He's on the floor of the library, and they're alone; no sign of Carol the librarian or any other people.

"We brought you some clothes, sir," Natasha says with a smirk, and hands him a garment bag.

"Suit?" he asks, and she laughs, more open than he can recall her being when he was first--displaced.

"What else?" she asks.

"What about--?"

"Prick the Magic Dragon?" Tony interrupts. "Dead."

Thor smiles. "We vanquished the villain who put this foul curse on you long ago, Agent Coulson."

"That part was over pretty fast," Steve agrees with a rueful smile. "He'd barely gotten his spell off when Hulk sort of--landed on him."

Bruce scrapes his foot against the floor. "He had it coming," he mumbles.

"He was a decently powerful warlock," Natasha adds, "but he was still only human. It wasn't until after that we realized we couldn't find you anywhere."

"So," Phil says, clearing his throat as he gets up, carefully wrapping the blanket around him so Steve and Bruce won't get a view of his ass. "A lot of questions, I'd imagine."

"You have no idea," Tony says, and he sounds downright gleeful. "And so many pictures. So many pictures."

"Tony," Steve warns.

Tony continues, undeterred, "You know, every Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney is documented in national newspapers, TV stations and all over the internet. There's pictures and videos and soundbytes and autotuned songs on YouTube."

Phil ignores him for now. His mood has decidedly taken an upswing on account of no longer being a fucking groundhog, and he ties the blanket to his waist like a towel and finds an undershirt and a shirt in the garment bag.

"How did you find me?" he asks, pulling them on.

"It was all Bruce," Tony says, pride evident in his voice.

Bruce blushes a little and looks away. "I guess I did my share."

"More than, I'd say," Steve says with warmth in his voice, and Phil marvels at how much closer they all seem. "As far as I've understood it, he's written history."

Clint speaks up for the first time, leaning back against a table. "The good doc found a way to trace magic in the air, sir."

Phil feels his eyebrows climb up. "Really? What kind of magic?"

"Any kind," Clint says again, as Bruce protests, "It's not--that's not--you can't really... rely on it yet, there's still a lot of glitches."

"Well, it did the trick," Clint says, grinning. "We picked up a faint signal at ground zero, managed to get a trace, and followed the trail here. Once we located the end of the trail, it wasn't hard to figure out."

Thor's face darkens, just a little, just for a second. "In my experience, tricksters find great joy in such ironies," and none of them say Loki's name, but they're all thinking it.

"So what happens now?" Phil asks, getting into the boxer shorts that Natasha had helpfully supplied with a shimmy and a shift of the blanket that makes almost everyone look away except Steve (whose eyes remain firmly and politely on Phil's).

"Well, sir," Steve says, "you've been away for a while. Director Fury is waiting at HQ, he wants to debrief you himself."

Phil closes his eyes for a moment and thinks of the massive amounts of shit Nick is going to give him for this, and almost thinks Tony would be kinder.

"They have to check for lingering traces of magic," Steve continues. "We turned you back with some assistance from Asgard, but the Security & Supernatural Department will want to make sure you won't randomly turn back into a groundhog."

Phil would very much like to be sure of that as well.

"And then there will definitely be psych evaluations involved."

"Fuck the SHIELD shrinks. Make Bruce do them," Tony says with a dismissive wave of his hand. "He's a great listener."

Bruce scowls. "I'm not that kind of doctor."

"Coulson will pass the psych eval," Clint says confidently.

Natasha smirks again and adds, "All of them." Phil puts on the suit pants, and tucks his shirt in. He knows they're right, but he thinks this time he might actually benefit from some real talking, and not just bullshitting to get a pass ASAP. Three years as a famous groundhog has fucked with his head some.

"There will be a psych evaluations," Steve says again, his tone making it clear there's no more interruptions tolerated, though it lacks any real bite. "After that, I guess it's up to you, sir."

Phil steps into the leather shoes he found at the bottom of the bag, and then grabs the tie. Blue silk; he approves and makes sure to aim a grateful smile in Natasha's direction. She just rolls her eyes at him in return.

"What do you wish to do?" Thor asks, kindly.

"I don't know," Phil says, and they stand in silence for a few while he ties the knot and then shrugs into the jacket. As he straightens his cuffs, he takes a deep breath and finally feels like himself again.

"I want a fucking burger," he finally says. "And then I want to see Lola."

Thor laughs big, casting his head back with the corners of his eyes crinkling up, and they all start heading towards the exit. "Don't worry," Clint says, a glint in his eye. "Tony took good care of her."

Phil stops dead in his tracks and feels all the blood drain from his face. "You let Stark touch Lola?"

Tony puts a metal hand on his chest. "Really, Phil? I'm wounded. I took great care of her. I know how to take care of cars, you know? I love cars!"

"You love tinkering with cars," Phil says, a note of desperation in his voice. "Not the same fucking thing at all!" He's not actually that worried. Not that he'll ever admit it, though, but--it's true. Tony does know cars, and Phil's certain Lola will be waiting for him, clean and shiny and in peak condition.

Clint claps him on the shoulder and they keep walking. "Rodent life leave you with a potty mouth, sir?"

"Fuck you, Agent Barton," Phil says pleasantly, and loves his team a lot.

Just as they exit the library, Tony asks, "Hey, can we still call you Punxsutawney Phil?" and Steve slaps him upside the head.

End.