Actions

Work Header

The Legend of Cobra Bubbles

Work Text:

The first time Tony Stark heard the name Cobra Bubbles in the SHIELD commissary, it was spoken amongst some senior agents at the table behind him. It was remarkable, the reverent silence that fell over the table at the name. And even more remarkable how quickly any scoffing was shot down.

"Cobra Bubbles? He doesn't exist." a younger agent walking past remarks. The looks the agent receives are truly terrifying.

"Agent Cobra Bubbles is the greatest agent to ever work for SHIELD." Agent Sitwell declares coldly. "Only Agent Coulson ever came close. And he was trained by Agent Bubbles."

The comparison and the tidbit about Coulson are what really make the name stick in his Tony's mind. He files it away to ask Natasha and Clint later.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Cobra Bubbles? What did you hear? Is he back? Is he back doing missions?"

Clint's reaction to the name is somewhat frightening. Somehow even when they're joking and being people and not the Avengers, the sniper tends to have a patience and stillness about him. The sudden hyperactivity Tony's question brings reminds him of a dog who's been shown a bone.

"I don't know. Sitwell just said he was the best, that was all. Who is he?"

"No one knows." Natasha states. "But he's a legend."

"Supposedly he saved the Earth from an alien invasion back in the 70s." Clint says. "Single handed."

"Aliens? Really?" Tony raises a skeptical eyebrow.

"Well sure, you didn't think Roswell was completely faked, I hope."

"There's a rumor that he once completed a mission after getting bitten by a cobra, because he was too stubborn to die, and after that Cobra became his codename." Natasha furthers. "All records of his true identity were erased."

"So where does the name Bubbles come from?"

"Before he retired, old Dum Dum Dugan claimed it was after he saved a school of children that had been kidnapped by hydra for experiments back in the 80s." Natasha frowns, deep in thought. "That one's probably not true though, Dum Dum was well known to be paranoid about Hydra, was always bringing it in to everything whether they were involved or not."

"So what happened to him?" Tony wonders. He's been consulting for SHIELD long enough to know that an Agent that good doesn't disappear without good reason.

"No one knows." Clint says. "The records show he was sent to Hawaii for a nice easy relaxing mission, and after he never returned."

"what type of mission?"

"Social services."

Tony Stares at him blankly.

"A lot of Agents will do temp work with social services when they need a break. Working with kids seems to help them relax and remember there's more to life than killing and spy stuff and fighting, even for SHIELD agents." Natasha explains. "And it feels good to remind underprivileged kids of that too."

"How would you know?"

"Sometimes I teach ballet to intercity kids." She states pointedly, examining her nails.

"Uh huh. So all of this is fact?"

"As far as SHIELD agents are concerned." Clint confirms. "I mean, a lot is extrapolation though. And by a lot, I mean like 90%. Anyone can get a list of mission dates and locations, but no one ranks high enough to access the details but Fury and Hill. And Coulson, when he was alive."

Tony files that fact away for future hacking prospects.

"So I don't suppose you know how he lost his eye?"

"Fury? Hand to hand combat with a Russian spy." Clint rattles off.

Natasha frowns at him. "That's not right."

"Yeah it is. Coulson said so."

"He told me it was from a rogue agent who took a blow to the head and thought he was the Dread Pirate Roberts."

The two stared at each other for a long time, trying to decide whose leg Coulson had been pulling. The fact that both explanations were sadly plausible, is what led Tony to leave them and ensconce himself on his laptop, connecting to Jarvis to begin his hack of the SHIELD mainframe.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cobra Bubbles never existed as a junior agent. When his file begins, he's already a level 3 agent. As Clint promises, anyone can access his mission dates and locations, but the details require level 7 clearance and a pay grade higher than any of the avengers get. The security on the file is excellent, but it's also outdated and oddly familiar. In fact, Tony was hacking these encryptions as a teenager, breaking into Stark Industries file servers just to annoy his father.

It figured that Howard would have known this Cobra Bubbles, and would have been the one to protect his identity. He did help found SHIELD.

It turns out Natasha's Cobra story is true. The very first record in his file shows a SHIELD action against Hydra gone wrong during the Vietnam War, with several men from both agencies being bitten by King Cobras after walking into a nest. Cobra Bubbles is the only one bitten who survived, and only after spending three days in a coma, barely breathing. At this point in the file, the man is only named as 'The Cobra' the same way Natasha is only referred to as 'The Black Widow' in her main file. Both she and Clint have smaller separate ones that detail the few missions where they've used their real names instead of their code names. Tony suspects something similar has been done with Cobra Bubbles' file.

There follows a couple more missions in Vietnam followed by a few in the former USSR. In 1973, the file places him in Roswell, New Mexico, preventing the Earth's destruction by convincing the aliens come to do it that mosquitoes are an endangered species. The Cobra receives a commendation for it, and notes that this is the Earth's first actual encounter with aliens. Not knowing anything about the greater universe, the Cobra's quick thinking is still considered to be a legendary feat by SHIELD. Tony skims along the page until something completely out of place jumps out at him - his own name.

It's The Cobra's first 'vacation mission' and it seems the mission was guarding a three year old Tony Stark, while one Edwin Jarvis recovered from injuries sustained during an attempted kidnapping. His first attempted kidnapping, in fact. Also, probably the most traumatic, until Afghanistan. It's been a long time since he's remembered that, let alone seriously thought about it.

That incident alone had halted all attempts to have Tony attend a normal school, had resulted in private tutoring until he was 10 and then boarding school until he graduated. It had involved armed gunmen on his preschool playground - and Jarvis being shot 3 times while protecting him before the kidnappers were apprehended, by SHIELD agents, according to the file.

Tony doesn't remember Jarvis' temporary replacement very well, but despite there being no photos in the file, he does remember him. To the eyes of a three year old, he was a gigantic black man. With his shaved head and business like demeanor, Tony supposes he would have intimidated and even scared any other children. Tony though, recalled being distinctly fascinated by the letters tattooed on his his fist ("Is Cobra your name? It's not a very good one." "It's a code name." Cobra supplied after a long suffering sigh,) and determined to make him be less serious. He remembers an afternoon two weeks in spent blowing soap bubbles at the man and explaining how refraction and reflection cause rainbows on the surface. Eventually Cobra had made him sit and told him to enjoy the bubbles, and stop thinking about science for five minutes. Even Tony isn't sure why he started calling Cobra 'Bubbles' after that, but the name stuck, apparently with more than just Tony and Howard. less then a month after the babysitting mission, there's a note stating that the full name on the file has been changed to Cobra Bubbles.

From there on, the file is mostly mundane. Cobra Bubbles has missions in during the Gulf War and exceeds expectations meeting them. He's promoted repeatedly, reaching Level 7 by the end of the war, and in line for SHIELD command. In 1996 he's sent to Hawaii for vacation with social services. He never returns.

From that point, the file is completely cold. Nothing added, nothing removed. Tony leaves it, disappointed, to get some sleep.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It's days later that Tony returns to SHIELD's computers hacking out of boredom this time, instead of curiosity.

He pulls Fury's file and amuses himself for a while reading the exploits of junior agent Fury. He completes each of his missions exceptionally, and it becomes mundane and routine. Until Fury is deployed with a SHIELD unit in Vietnam to stop a Hydra plot. His file states that most of the unit was killed in a freak King Cobra attack accident, but he survived. After this, the file is blank until late 1997, stating only that Fury is undercover on special assignment. No details. When he returns, he's a level 7 agent and wears an eye patch. There's a record about preventing the destruction of Hawaii due to more aliens. Which explains the note about a near breakdown when he first finds out about more aliens in New Mexico during the whole Thor incident, which is described under a huge heading entitled "The Big Week" (and also includes the whole Tony-is-dying and Hulk-is-Smashing things).

But it's the Hawaii thing that really grabs Tony's attention. His sudden appearance there, a year after Cobra Bubbles vanished from the same location, is suspicious. Combined with the fact that Fury vanished onto a 'special assignment' immediately following the same mission Cobra Bubbles appeared in just increase his suspicions. He pulls up the Helicarrier security cameras, watching Fury on the bridge. There are similarities between his memories and the man on the screen but Tony can't say how many differences are actual differences and how many are just caused by a child's perception.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tony is still puzzling it out hours later when Fury unexpectedly takes a seat next to him in the deserted commissary, frowning at the mug of coffee and the clock behind him that reads 03:00.

"I hear you've been digging in my computers again."

Tony gives a noncommittal shrug.

"Find anything interesting?"

"Apparently Phil Coulson isn't the only legendary SHIELD agent who had the honor of babysitting me."

"You gave Cobra Bubbles half his codename." He nods to himself. "I'd forgotten about that."

Fury taps his fingers against the table a couple times, just enough to draw Tony's attention to his hand. His eyes widen when he notes the lack of the fingerless gloves Fury usually wears, the word 'cobra' tattooed across his knuckles. Startled he looks up, and Fury gives him a knowing look as he rises.

"It's good that you've learned to have fun, but do refrain from doing so in my files."

He's almost to the door when Tony hails him, curiosity getting the better of him.

"Hey Bubbles!"

Fury turns back, eyebrow raised.

"How'd you lose the eye?"

He stares at him for a moment, and Tony thinks he's going to leave without answering. But Fury again surprises him.

"There may have been an incident involving a surfboard, a coral reef, and an alien named Stitch."

And Tony being Tony, his mind sticks on the word surfboard instead of the word alien.

"You know how to surf?" he doesn't bother to hide his disbelief.

"Well, once long ago, I got stuck baby sitting this three-year old genius, who decided I had this problem where I was too serious."

Tony snorts. "Sounds like a nice kid."

"He turned out okay. Though, there are still some days I'd like to strangle him."

Tony chuckles, shaking his head.

"So, any myths about Cobra Bubbles I can help you perpetuate?"

Fury looks thoughtful. "You know the mission with the rogue agent?"