Agent-in-Training Lambert whips his head back, eyeing the sky to find his target. Something wraps hard around his ankle and yanks, and he faceplants on the pavement. "Fuck!"
"Halt exercise!" Agent Coulson says over comms, and everyone holds position. Except for Lambert, who flips onto his back to see what the hell has been thrown around his ankle.
"What the fuck?!" he yells when he sees a long, wet tentacle surrounded by other long, wet tentacles. He can't see what they're attached to. "WHAT THE FUCK."
"Goose. Be handsome," an agent to Lambert's left says.
The tentacles move backwards as though they're getting sucked into a vacuum. When they're all gone, all Lambert sees is an orange tabby cat. It's staring at him, and it licks its chops.
"Lambert, on your feet!" Agent Coulson shouts as he jogs down the stairs from the observation deck. "Explain to me why you looked up."
Lambert hops to his feet, shaking his left leg to check it for damage. There's a vague tingling around his ankle, but no pain. He looks down. There's no tear in his pants leg, just a wide stripe of moisture all the way around just above his shoe.
"Lambert," Agent Coulson says, a sharp warning in his voice. "Why did you look up?"
Lambert looks at Agent Coulson, and he blinks a few times. "You said…" He stares at Agent Coulson. "You…"
"Shit," Agent Coulson says. "Epi pen!" he shouts and holds out his hand.
"What?" Lambert asks as someone slaps an epi pen into Coulson's palm.
"We went over this in the classroom," Agent Coulson says as he takes the epi pen out of its case and pops the lid. "Sit."
Lambert sits, his vision blurring along the edges. "My eyes."
"Yeah, that happens sometimes," Agent Coulson says. He presses his hand to Lambert's leg, feeling along the length of his thigh for a moment before jabbing the epi pen home.
"Ow," Lambert says, though he doesn't really feel it poke him. He just figures it's something you say when you get jammed with an epi pen.
"Okay, you're gonna pass out in about thirty seconds from the paralytic," Agent Coulson says, meeting his gaze. He doesn't look concerned, so Lambert doesn't feel concerned. At this point, though, he really doesn't feel much of anything.
"Goose," Lambert says and flaps his arms. Or, he thinks he does. He isn't sure. Everything's kind of spinny.
"Usually, yes," Agent Coulson says, "But in SHIELD, 'Goose' is code for someone trying to get you from behind. Possibly with poison or bullets."
"Oh," Lambert says. "Am I…" He licks his tongue on the roof of his mouth a few times. It feels fuzzy. "Am I okay?"
"You'll be fine. Some people have an allergic reaction to whatever's in space-cat saliva. The epi pen clears it right up, but you'll be in medical overnight just to be sure."
"Space-cat?" Lambert asks. He mouths it two more times before he passes out.
Phil turns to look at Goose once the medics have gotten Lambert on a gurney. "We did not give you the go-ahead to use the hard stuff. This is a training mission."
"Meow," says Goose.
Phil gives him a dark look. "Back at you."
Maria leans back in her chair and gives her suspect a slow, steady once-over. "Nothing else to say for yourself? Just name, rank, and serial number?"
"You haven't got shit on me," the man says. His name is Walsh. Marine. Caught selling various pieces of Stark Tech on the dark web. He'd found it all while on tour in Iraq and Afghanistan and had thought by waiting a couple of years, no one would notice it was all coming from the same source. He'd been smart enough to wait a couple of years, but not smart enough to check for the secondary serial numbers.
Maria glances at Phil, who is standing along the far wall, arms crossed and looking about as interested in the conversation as he'd be watching grass grow. "What do you think?" she asks.
"I think we need the box," Phil says.
"The box?" Walsh snorts. "Lemme guess. You stick me in some hot, dark hole and leave me there to think about my choices? I humped ass through Iraq for three tours. Back-to-back-to-back. There's nothing you can do to me that'll be worse than that."
"I didn't say we're putting you in a box," Phil says.
Maria keeps her posture loose as Phil leaves the room. She meets Walsh's glare with a bland look, secretly loving the way he shows his anger by his ears turning red when she seems completely unimpressed by him.
Phil returns a few minutes later, a cat carrier in one hand. Maria doesn't take her eyes off Walsh as Phil opens the carrier and coaxes Goose out with a few cubes of ham.
"What's he gonna do? Claw my eyes out?" Walsh asks.
"Funny you say that," Maria says off-handedly. "But no. Not unless we ask him to."
"Ask him to? You train him to attack on command?"
"Something like that," Phil says.
"Goose," Maria says, scritching Goose behind the ears when he butts his head against her hand. "Smile for the nice man."
Goose opens his mouth, and his tentacles fall out in a wet, messy lump. They twitch independently, taking in the sensory information of the room. Walsh stares in mute horror.
"Here's the thing," Maria says, reaching out her hand so Goose can lap at her fingers with a tentacle. "This guy right here, he's a very good kitty. But he's also not the kind of kitty you're used to. I can't tell you where we found him. That's classified. But I can tell you that if I ask nicely, he'll do just about anything if there's more ham on the line." She looks away from Walsh and holds out her other hand so Goose can wrap a tentacle around that as well. "Goose, give the nice man a kiss."
Walsh tries to scramble backwards, but the handcuffs hold him in place. He rattles them hard and sends his chair flying backwards as he stands and tries to yank himself free. Goose's tentacles never touch him, but they get very, very close.
"Goose, ham," Phil says and puts a few more cubes of ham on the table. All of Goose's tentacles wrap over the ham, sucking them up in an instant.
"You have two choices, Walsh," Maria says. "I can take Goose and give him belly scritches while you tell Agent Coulson here every single thing about your illegal arms business. Or, Goose can stay right here on the table and get to know you better."
"Get that thing away from me," Walsh says, still attempting to yank his cuffs from the bracket on the table.
"Goose, come on. Shoulder time," Maria says, standing. She pats her shoulder, and Goose jumps up, pulling his tentacles back in so quickly that they're tucked away by the time he lands and starts purring in Maria's ear. "Good boy," Maria says as she leaves the interrogation room. "Let's go find you more treats."
Carol comes to Earth for a visit in the early aughts. She goes straight to Nick's office so he knows she's nearby and stops short at the sight of him staring down Goose. "Seems like some tense negotiating," she says in greeting.
Fury looks up and gives her something like a grin. "Danvers. Good to see you. Tell me nothing on space is on fire."
"Well, nothing that shouldn't be," she says. She steps into his office and glances at Goose. "What's going on?"
"He's pretending like he didn't puke on the President's shoes this morning."
Carol chuckles. "Wow. Really?"
"Yeah. The President was displeased."
Carol shrugs. "I mean, it's gross, but it's a little cat barf. Nothing you can't wipe off."
"His shoes dissolved, Danvers. You know the kind of tap dance you have to do to explain to the leader of the free world how a cat's vomit made his shoes dissolve while also pretending like the cat isn't a Flerken?"
"I'd go to that show twice," Carol replies. She crouches down to get a better look at Goose and smiles when he immediately steps close and puts a paw on her leg. "Hey, buddy," she says. "What's up?"
"Meow," Goose says.
"Oh," Carol says. She looks up at Nick. "Goose is sorry he puked on the President's shoes. He has a good reason."
Nick stares at her for a long moment. "What?"
"He has a good reason," Carol says and scoops Goose into her arms. "He was nauseated because of the pregnancy."
Nick stares at her for a longer moment. "Shelving that for a moment--"
"Meow," says Goose.
"He says he tried to tell you, but you guys still haven't figured out how to listen," Carol says.
Nick looks at Goose, then at Carol. "Since when do you speak Flerken?"
"I dunno. A couple of years, I think. Ran into a group of them getting bothered by some Kree, and my translator was able to make sense of what they were saying. I think it's because my suit isn't locked down anymore."
"Right," Nick says slowly. "Were you planning on telling me that you could talk to him?"
"I just did," Carol replies. "I wasn't even sure you still had him around."
"Half the office thinks I cloned my cat because I loved him so much," Nick says, "and while I would prefer that to not be a rumor about me, it at least covers my ass."
"Meow," says Goose.
"Goose says he'd be happy if you could understand him more easily. He appreciates the effort you all take to take care of him, and he's glad to be a part of the team here."
"Oh, good," Nick says. "I wouldn't want him to be bored."
"Meow," says Goose.
Nick holds up a hand before Carol can translate. "Pretty sure I got that one just fine, and back at you, you asshole."