A phone rang.
Now this was, in itself, not unusual. But sitting on the helicarrier, in the middle of an Avengers briefing on the latest von Doom incursion, any phone other than Tony Stark’s blaring some annoying ringtone was… uncommon.
For that phone to be ringing from Agent Phil Coulson’s pocket was beyond unusual.
It was inconceivable.
Checking the screen, he said blandly, “Excuse me, I need to take this,” ignoring the dumbfounded expressions on the team he unfortunately was responsible for managing.
At least his son had given him practice.
“Hello dear --- Really? Did you get a good look at their faces? Automobiles? Weapons? --- Of course. Yes. Naturally. Enjoy your day at the spa honey.”
He hung up, slipped the phone back into his pocket, and turned his still utterly placid expression to his team. He did not feel so unfortunate for that possessive at the moment.
“My son has been kidnapped.”
Within two hours, Stark had been able to get images from his satellites covering the kidnapping. Clint gritted his teeth and felt his knuckles go white as he saw the suburban home, the lawn covered with toys, and the too-small, too-bright blonde head of hair get swarmed by black-garbed goons.
He had to smirk though, when there were clearly some difficulties getting the now struggling hellion in the car, involving teeth, nails, and a stuffed tiger that probably had a brick in it judging by the way that one idiot went down when it hit him in the face.
At least some things bred true.
“The lad has fight in him! Your spirit breeds true, Son of Coul!”
“Does that make the kid Son of Son of Coul? Son of Coul Squared? Son Squared of Coul?”
“Stark. Shut up.”
Phil hadn’t spoken a word since he’d hung up on his wife. Clint couldn’t imagine. He’d clearly gone to some effort to keep his family off the grid, just like he had. No one even imagined that Coulson had a girlfriend, much less a wife and child in some perfectly quiet little suburban neighborhood. For that much work to have gone into keeping them off the grid, keeping them away from this chaos, only to shatter?
Worried wouldn’t even begin to cover it.
At least they had some safe house procedures set up and recognition codes.
No mother would go to a spa when her child had been kidnapped after all.
“Got the car!” Stark whooped, JARVIS probably having done all the work, neatly printed GPS coordinates appearing on the screen. It was an abandoned warehouse, of course. In the middle of a warehouse district, of course.
In the middle of a recession hit warehouse district, so no one else was around to hear a small child crying in terror.
Natasha looked grim – she always looked grim at mission-time, but this was grimmer. She had a particular red-button issue with children being kidnapped and used as leverage. Reminders of her own less-than-remembered and certainly less-than-ideal youth, and children of those she cared about? Well, he would feel sorry for the kidnappers.
But he felt the exact same way.
“Let’s get in the air,” he said shortly, leading the way to the plane. Phil was jogging behind them, as per usual, and was still completely calm. Clint had seen him lose his calm exactly twice – and both those times he or Natasha (and the latter time, both) had been seriously injured, nearly dead. He would bet that Phil was holding onto his composure by the skin of his teeth and was ready to go crazy-ninja-with-a-bag-of-flour on those absolute idiots who’d dared touch his son.
(They were idiots, but not in the way Clint was anticipating).
The moment the black SUV had pulled up on the curb, Calvin had known what was coming. Hadn’t he prepared all his life for this moment? Hadn’t he been trained, practiced and fought and bled against these fiendish foes? Against these slavering ghouls? Against these wretched imperialists?
“ZOGS!” he bellowed, one of the disguised goons grabbing for him and he ducked, latching on to a leg and clawing for the phaser at a belt. “Spaceman Spiff will never surrender, foul beasts! HRAGH!”
His transmorgrifier gun was jammed! Blast, he’d thought he’d managed to repair that last week after the Martian Brain-Sucker encounter!
Well let it never be said that Spaceman Spiff went quietly into that good night!
“Take this foul cretins!”
“AND THIS!” Hobbes roared, launching at another exposed face, the goon screaming as claw-marks raked his eyes.
The goon Calvin had attacked with his own fingernails wasn’t quite as devastated, but he’d managed to get a finger in an eyeball at least. And he’d yelped quite satisfyingly – definitely a Zog, no man would make such a squeaking sound – when he chomped down on the creature’s false appendage, tasting the copper of Zog blood.
He was wrenched from the back of his latest victim but rather than surrender, he kicked off the damaged Zog’s back so he could ram his head into the latest one’s nose, Hobbes roaring a challenge. But his helmet – ah! He had foregone his helmet, as this was to be a peace-keeping expedition and he had not expected an encounter with Zog forces so near his home base; there was no helmet to protect his fragile head from the notoriously harsh, pointy, and firm Zog nose.
A satisfying crunch told him that while he was dizzied from the encounter, he was not leaving the battlefield without shedding his enemies’ blood onto the soil! Rise, my pretty little death flowers, rise and FEAST!
After two years of fresh blood-sacrifices, a full-moon cycle, and a dark-moon double eclipse, of course. So no help at the moment, unfortunately. But next time, oh next time, yes. Yes.
They would feast.
Somewhere in an abandoned warehouse district, near a certain abandoned warehouse, a group of goons was realizing just what a mistake they had made.
“THAT IS NOT A CHILD! THAT IS A DEMON FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL!” a man now down one eye, a finger, and wearing one-lensed sunglasses screamed into the radio, the unmistakable roar of a fearsome jungle cat echoing in the cavernous depths.
“Feast my loyal friend! Tear these wretched slime space squids apart!” said demon laughed maniacally, riding an oversized tiger around the flimsily walled corridors, having somehow broken out of his cell in one of the experimentation labs within twenty minutes of them securing the unconscious little monster and obtained an actual tiger.
(Exactly eighteen minutes ago, Calvin had woken up to Hobbes licking his face and made a screeching sound of dismay at tuna-breath being what woke him up.
Sixteen minutes ago, they had made short work of the supposedly unbreakable door and bindings (helpless against Calvin’s sheer belief in his and Hobbes’ abilities), finding themselves in a lab filled with gear and devices the Hydra-hired goons had been paid to find, but had not yet been able to deliver.
Including one particularly shiny and glittery red rock.
“Oooh…” Hobbes said, bouncing over to it, “Look Calvin! It’s beautiful! And so shiny!”
Calvin was admiring some less-than-shiny headgear. It was a helmet, looking kind of like a Spartan-style legionnaire of doom helmet from his comics, and though it was dented a bit, a little warped – it fit his head snugly and comfortably when he slid it on, and it would break Zog noses like nobody’s business.
All it was missing was flames painted up the side – with skulls and crossbones! Oooh – and a propeller!
Hobbes saw him pick up the helmet, shrugged, and picked up the shiny rock.
The Infinity Stone immediately absorbed into the ensouled stuffed animal, and the tiger gave a back-popping stretch-and-yawn, bearing entirely real, sharp and gleaming teeth. Pacing through the lab to Calvin’s helmet-wearing side, Hobbes, crouched down and said, “I feel bigger.”
Calvin eyed him appraisingly and nodded, “You look big enough to ride now. Sweet! Spaceman Spiff and his intrepid local companion take on the foul Zog plot, riding to victory on the screams of their crushed foes!”
He leapt onto Hobbes’ shoulders, tangling his fingers in the tiger’s fur and raising the wrench he’d picked up on the way to the heavens. “Onward, my friend! Onward! To Victory!”
They crept out, despite his warcry, crept out and lurked, lurked in the shadows, a glimmering red gem occasionally catching the light from where it rested on Hobbes’ brow. They listened to the Zog’s plot – wretched creatures, but mere goons. They were hired help, no the true imperial masters Spaceman Spiff viewed as his most atrociously slimy of enemies.
He would go for them next.
“Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, in the darkness of the night,” he chanted, Hobbes letting out a rumbling growl that made the air vibrate with menace.
“What the hammer, what the chain? In what furnace doth thy brain?!” he possibly misquoted, raising his voice and resisting the urge to cackle when they started looking around, one asking his buddy, “You hear something?”
“Get ‘em, buddy.”
The goon’s further complaints to his superiors were interrupted by the demon child turning his grin to him, the helmet they’d stolen from the feds’ basement dented and menacing on his tiny face. “My former foe!” he bellowed, wrench acquiring a new menace he’d never considered possible in his grip, “We meet again at last, honor-less scum of the universe! I will give you one chance to flee, to flee my wrath and return to your imperial masters, and tell them that I, Spaceman Spiff, have once again befouled their plans! Spoiled their schemes! Wrecked their warblings!”
The tiger paused and spat out a mouthful of goon, said mouthful wailing as he splatted against the floor. “Warblings? Really?”
“Hush my intrepid local companion! I, Spaceman Spiff, know how to most direly insult these wretches!”
The tiger rolled its eyes and got back to chasing goons, ignoring the bullets being fired at it as if they were mere water-pistols.
Little did the goons know water pistols would have had more of an effect. Hobbes hated getting wet.
They would have at least died faster.
“Whatever, you betcha, Spaceman Spiffy,” the tiger grumbled, claws swiping those trying to get to their crawling comrade.
The demon child (likely insane, the goon gibbered mentally) turned again to him and laughed, “I see you have failed to accept my generous offer! I will grant you this, Zog, you are brave! Brave, but foolish! Face my righteous wrench of justice!”
He was so flabbergasted, so confused, he didn’t even dodge the wrench flying at his face.
He should have. As it was, he broke his nose, was knocked unconscious on the way to the floor, and woke up near choking on his own blood to find himself being stood over by the Avengers, quite livid at having their agent’s kid kidnapped.
The Hydra agent called Bob shouldn’t have gotten out of bed that morning, the horoscope had said so. He’d never scoff a horoscope again.
The jet touched down three warehouses down from the one desired, no need to warn the honor-less scum they arrived. Thor strode down the ramp, purpose and determination marring his usually carefree face. One of their own was taken and a child no less. These fools would rue the day they stole the Son of the Son of Coul.
As the team created a perimeter around the warehouse, Clint going above to find a different entry point, they heard the screams.
All Avengers tensed, they were hurting the innocent child! Those foul goats! How dare they mar the human race with their presence, be of the same species as the lovely Jane, as his noble battle-brothers?
The Son of Coul sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Son of Coul? We shall save your progeny, never fear! And these wretches will rue the day they dared harm him!” Thor growled, hammer thrusting into the heavens and clouds appearing from a blue sky, all the darker for his rage.
“…That’s not Calvin.”
Phil would like to be able to say he was surprised, no, shocked. Maybe even startled – startled was a word he was jealous of – yes, he would like to be able to say he was startled by the fact that, on following the Avengers into the warehouse where his son had been held captive, he found nothing but a heap of bloody, groaning goons, lounged upon by a tiger glowing with a ruddy-red light, and his son standing at the top of the heap with a wrench in one hand, a radio in the other, and what looked suspiciously like a helmet that had formerly belonged to one Erik Lensherr on his head.
But he was not any of those three things.
He wasn’t even mildly bemused.
“Take that foul Zog space-squids!” Calvin was bellowing, raising his bloody wrench to the ceiling, “Spaceman Spiff shall not be defeated! He SHALL NOT REST UNTIL EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU IS WIPED FROM – oh – hi dad! Hobbes! Stealth mode!”
The glowing tiger he was standing on sighed, and then became the stuffed animal his son had dragged around ever since he pulled it in from the yard, babbling about catching it with a tuna sandwich.
The stuffed animal he had treated as a friend, had talked to like a comrade, and that Phil would never have ever believed was something approaching real – as in, real enough to be responsible for the groaning heap of goons that was serving as a throne for the pair.
The stuffed animal that had a teardrop shaped red-orange gem glistening on its forehead.
His son’s stuffed tiger had found an infinity stone.
Why had he ever thought having a child was a good idea?