Fury walked into Bruce Banner's lab where Bruce and Tony were relaxing. "What are you doing, Mr. Stark?" Fury demanded.
"Uh, kind of been wondering the same thing about you." Tony retorted.
"You're supposed to be locating the Tesseract."
"We are." Bruce countered. "The model's locked and we're sweeping for the signature now. When we get a hit, we'll have the location within half a mile."
"Yeah, then you get your cube back." Tony said. "No muss, no fuss. What is 'Phase 2'?"
Buffy and Steve walked in carrying the HYDRA weapons they'd discovered in the bowels of the Helicarrier. "Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the cube to make weapons." Buffy said.
Steve looked at Tony. "Sorry, computer was moving a little slow for us."
"Rogers, Summers, we gathered everything related to the Tesseract." Fury said. "This does not mean that we're making…."
"I'm sorry, Nick!" Tony said, turning his monitor around to show a weapon's blueprints. "What were you lying?"
"I was wrong, Director." Steve said as Thor and Natasha joined them. "The world hasn't changed a bit."
Bruce looked at Natasha. "Did you know about this?"
"You want to think about removing yourself from this environment, Doctor?" Natasha asked.
"I was in Calcutta. I was pretty well removed."
"Loki is manipulating you."
"And you've been doing what exactly?"
"You didn't come here because I batted my eyelashes at you."
"Yes, and I'm not leaving because suddenly you get a little twitchy. I'd like to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction."
Buffy crossed her arms and looked at Fury. Despite her small stature, the threat was clear in that one movement. "I think we all would like to know that."
"Because of him." Fury pointed at Thor.
"Me?" Thor asked.
"Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously outgunned."
"My people want nothing but peace with your planet."
"But you're not the only people out there, are you? And you're not the only threat."
"Uh, hello!" Buffy waved a hand. "I've been handling those 'other things' pretty well the last sixteen years."
"Not well enough."
"The world's still here, isn't it? Pretty sure that means well enough."
"The world's filling up with people that can't be matched, that can't be controlled."
"Is that why you brought me on? To control my Slayers through me?"
"I told you when we met that I didn't want your Slayers."
"Then why even bring them up?"
"I didn't. You did."
"'The world's filling up with people that can't be matched.' Your words not mine."
Fury sighed. "We don't want your Slayers, but they are a factor that needs to be closely monitored."
"You destroyed an entire town and your record isn't exactly squeaky clean. Now there are hundreds, almost thousands, of girls with strength and abilities like yours? They make me nervous. If any of them decide that your buddy Faith is a good role model…."
"You are walking on some seriously thin ice."
"They need to be monitored. They need to be controlled."
"Like you controlled the cube?" Steve asked.
"Your work with the Tesseract is what drew Loki to it, and his allies." Thor said. "It is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war."
"A higher form?"
"You forced our hand." Fury said. "We had to come up with something. A nuclear deterrent."
"Because that always calms everything right down." Tony said.
"Remind me again how you made your fortune, Stark."
"I'm sure if he still made weapons, Stark would be neck deep…" Steve started.
"Hold on. How is this now about me?" Tony asked.
"I'm sorry, isn't everything?"
"Guys, stop!" Buffy said, getting between them.
"I thought humans were more evolved than this." Thor said.
"Excuse me, did we come to your planet and blow stuff up?" Fury snapped.
"You treat your champions with such mistrust."
"Are you boys really that naïve?" Natasha asked. "S.H.I.E.L.D. monitors potential threats."
"Captain America's on threat watch?" Bruce asked disbelievingly.
"We all are!"
"Wait, you're on that list?" Tony asked Natasha. "Are you above or below angry bees?"
"Stark, so help me God, if you make one more wisecrack…." Steve threatened.
"Threat! Verbal threat! I feel threatened."
"Oh, stop it!" Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
"Summers, you need to take care of your partner before he steps into Crazytown."
"Show some respect!" Steve snapped.
"Respect what?" Tony asked.
"You speak of control, yet you court chaos." Thor said.
"That's his MO isn't it?" Bruce asked. "I mean, what are we, a team? No, we're a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We're a time bomb."
"You need to step away." Fury said.
"Why shouldn't the guy let off a little steam?" Tony demanded.
Steve slapped Tony's arm away from him. "You know damn well why. Back off!"
"Stop it!" Buffy said, staying between them.
"I'm starting to want you to make me." Tony threatened.
"Yeah, big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
"Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist."
"I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you."
"I think I would just cut the wire."
"Always a way out. You may not be a threat but you better stop pretending to be a hero."
"A hero? Like you? You're a laboratory experiment, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle." Buffy was now squished between the two men holding them apart.
"Put on the suit. Let's go a few rounds."
Thor laughed. "You people are so petty and tiny.
"Enough!" Buffy yelled, throwing Tony and Steve across the room on opposite sides and effectively ending the argument as they landed in heaps. Everyone was staring at her in shock. "This is stupid! It's nothing but a pissing contest in here. We are in real danger. So, how about we focus on that? If Loki is trying to get Bruce to go all Hulk, then Bruce…."
Fury nodded. "Agent Romanoff, would you escort Dr. Banner back to his…."
"Where?" Bruce snapped. "You rented my room."
"Bruce." Buffy said. "Chill."
Fury said, "The cell was just in case…."
"In case you need to kill me. But you can't. I know. I tried." Everyone in the room was dead silent. "I got low. I didn't see an end. So, I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spit it out. So I moved on. I focused on helping other people. I was good. Until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk. You want to know my secret, Agent Romanoff? You want to know how I stay calm?" Without realizing it, Bruce had grabbed Loki's staff off the table.
Natasha's and Fury's hands went down to their guns. "Dr. Banner…." Fury said. "Put down the scepter." As Bruce looked down at it in his hand and started to calm down, the computer began a frantic beeping. "Got it. Sorry, kids, you don't get to see my party trick after all."
"You located the Tesseract?" Thor asked.
"I could get there fastest." Tony said.
"The Tesseract belongs on Asgard. No human is a match for it."
Tony was already walking out. Steve grabbed his arm. "You're not going alone."
Tony slapped Steve's arm away. "You're gonna stop me?"
"Put on the suit. Let's find out."
"I'm not afraid to hit an old man."
"Put on the suit."
Buffy stepped between them again and glared up. They realized she would throw them across the room again and backed off. The computer was still beeping, but Bruce's face was what caught Buffy's eye. "Oh my god…." He said.
Just then, an explosion rocked the Helicarrier. The fire spread and blew up into the room they were standing in. Natasha and Bruce disappeared out the window. Buffy, Steve, and Tony landed in a heap near the door. They were the first ones up.
"Put on the suit." Steve said to Tony.
"Yeah." Tony allowed Buffy and Steve to help him up and out the door. They maneuvered their way down to where Tony's suit was being held. They could hear everything going on in the control room in their earpieces. They were directed to go to engine three where the explosion had happened. Tony pointed them off to the engine while he turned a corner to get to his suit. "Engine three. I'll meet you there."
Buffy and Steve headed off, but Natasha's voice came on the earpiece. "Summers, I may need some extra muscle down here."
"What's going on?" Buffy asked, confused. Natasha didn't seem like the type to ask for help. Then she remembered that the red head had been blown out the window with Bruce. "Steve, I've got to help her."
"Go, I've got this." Steve said.
"Please don't kill Tony."
He smiled slightly. "I'm not making any promises."
Buffy shook her head and raced back to the lab. She jumped through the broken window down into the room that seemed to house all the duct work and a lot of very large computers. It was clear that the Hulk monster had been here. She listened for the signs of destruction and heard them not far off.
Running in that direction, she saw Natasha running away from the Hulk monster while he smashed through the computers. Since she was faster, she ran around the chaos and came out in front. Buffy grabbed Natasha out of the way and shoved her to the side. She grabbed the nearest pole and swung around to kick the Hulk in his chest. Natasha watched in amazement as the Hulk slammed into the far wall from the tiny blonde's power.
"You ok?" Buffy asked Natasha. Natasha just nodded, clearly rattled. Buffy turned back to the Hulk as it was raising its massive fist. She braced for the fight, but suddenly Thor was there tackling the Hulk through the wall. "Men." Buffy rolled her eyes and headed over to the hole in the wall. They'd landed in a large hanger-like area. The people that had been working there were all running away. Thor was getting to his feet, keeping his eyes on the Hulk. "You know, I had it." She called to him as she climbed through the hole.
The Hulk turned its attentions on her. It grabbed what looked like a Zamboni and threw it at her. She dodged out of the way and Thor came around to stand beside her. "I thought perhaps you might need some assistance." They both dodged the colossal fist headed their way.
"You know," Buffy shoved the Hulk back a few feet. "Usually I'd say I can handle it, but," Thor grabbed Buffy up and swung her around so her feet connected with the Hulk's chin. "Not when I'm up against something this big."
Thor caught the next fist and held it. "We are not your enemies, Banner!" He said, straining. "Try to think!" The Hulk lifted Thor off the ground and punched him back through some hard plastic containers.
The Hulk turned to Buffy and she decided speed was her best option. She ducked, dove, and weaved her way around the Hulk, using the containers and Zamboni-things to her advantage. There was a loud banging noise from where Thor had been thrown and Buffy's attention was diverted. She was grabbed by the waist and turned around to stand behind Thor as he appeared with his hammer, swinging it up into the Hulk's chin. The Hulk flew backward across the hanger, landing against a plane and smashing it.
Buffy let Thor go after the Hulk. She pressed her hand against her ear, activating her earpiece. "How's it coming down there boys?"
"Almost done, sweet cheeks." Tony said.
"That just earned you a slap in the face, Tony. Whoa!" Buffy ducked out of the way of the flying plane wing that the Hulk had thrown at Thor.
"Are you ok?" Steve asked.
"Oh, I'm just dodging airplane parts flying at my head. Another day at the office. I think Thor's got this covered. I'm on my way back to you." She turned and headed back through the ship, following the signs to the engine. The wind was howling when she got to engine room three where the explosion had happened. Two commandos were sneaking out and she could see that Steve hadn't spotted them yet. Silently, Buffy snuck up behind them and knocked the first one to the ground. The second one turned and pointed his gun at her, but she grabbed it and yanked. The gun went off loudly behind her and she heard the bullet ricochet somewhere inside the Helicarrier.
The first one threw a grenade, but Steve was there, swatting it out into the open air. He took on the first one while Buffy took on the second one. She didn't want to hurt him too bad since he was just a human under Loki's spell, but her instinct kicked in when he pointed another gun at her face. Lifting her leg, she kicked the gun to the side and the man lost his footing. She tried to grab him, but he fell off the platform and out into the empty space below.
Steve grabbed her and pulled her down just as a third guy with a gun showed up. Buffy felt the bullets whiz past her and Steve. She spotted a large hunk of torn metal and grabbed it. Steve released her and she threw it at guy number three, but he dodged back. Before she could get her balance, Steve pulled her up and jumped back to where he had been before. By the time the third guy recovered, Steve had grabbed a gun and was shooting back at him.
"I hate guns!" Buffy yelled as she started to climb up to get over the third guy. Suddenly the Helicarrier leaned sideways as another engine went out. Steve yelped as he lost his footing and fell off. Buffy let go of her hold and slid down back to the perch. Grabbing onto the grating with one hand, she caught Steve with her other.
"Nice reflexes!" He yelled.
"Hang on!" She looked around for something to brace against, but there was nothing.
"Cap, hit the lever." Tony's voice came over their earpieces.
"I need a minute here." Steve said back.
Buffy summoned up all of her strength and hauled Steve up, throwing him at the big red lever. He pulled it and reached around to grab Buffy before she flew off. They were holding on tightly since the Helicarrier was still leaning. The third gunman showed up again and aimed, but Tony was suddenly there tackling the guy away. The Helicarrier righted itself and Steve helped Buffy up.
"Are you ok?" He asked her.
Buffy looked at the graze on her thigh where a bullet had whizzed past. "Thank god for Kevlar."
Steve leaned down to examine the graze. "Nice suit. It didn't even penetrate."
"If the mask is made of the same thing, maybe I'll give it a second chance."
"You two wanna stop flirting up there?" Tony asked, appearing in the doorway. "It's making me jealous."
Buffy shook her head at him. "Don't you have a girlfriend?"
"I'm sure I could talk her into a three way."
"Even if you could, which I highly doubt, you'd have a hell of a time talking me into it."
"Agent Coulson is down." Fury's voice suddenly said on their earpieces. All three of them froze, looking at each other in shock.
"A medical team is on its way down to your location." An agent said.
"They're here. They called it."
Buffy, Steve, and Tony sat at the table on the bridge while Fury stood at the head. Tony was in his civilian clothing while Steve had just taken off the top of his uniform and Buffy had taken off all the weapons on hers and detached the breastplate. The mood in the place was somber as they all thought about the loss of Coulson. Riley was back at his station, but he wasn't working. Buffy looked at him and pulled her knees in tighter to her chest.
"These were in Phil Coulson's jacket." Fury said, holding on to the Captain America trading cards Coulson had had so much pride in. "I guess he never did get you to sign them." He tossed the bloodstained cards in front of Steve. Steve looked at them sadly, picking them up. "We're dead in the air up here. Our communications, the location of the cube, Banner, Thor…. I got nothing for you. I lost my one good eye. Maybe I had that coming. Yes, we were going to build an arsenal with the Tesseract. I never put all my chips on that number, though, because I was playing something even riskier. There was an idea…. Stark and Summers know this…. Called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea. In heroes." Tony stood up and walked out. "Well, it's an old-fashioned notion."
Buffy looked up at Fury. She hated being backed into corners. She stood up and Steve looked up at her, surprised. "Sometimes a little old-fashioned is what's needed." Buffy quoted Coulson before following after Tony. Steve got up and went after her. They ended up in the containment area where Loki had trapped Thor, dropping him out of the Helicarrier, and killing Coulson. Buffy stepped gingerly over the pool of blood where Coulson had died and moved up behind Tony. "You ok?" Tony just shook his head.
Steve stood on the other landing and leaned against the railing. "Was he married?"
"No." Tony said. "There was a cellist, I think."
"I'm sorry. He seemed like a good man."
Tony looked up. "He was an idiot."
"Why? For believing?" Buffy asked.
Tony moved past her and walked over to the blood stain. "For taking on Loki alone.""He was doing his job." Steve said.
"He was out of his league. He should've waited. He should've…."
"Sometimes there isn't a way out, Tony."
"Right, I've heard that before." Tony started to leave the room.
"Is this the first time you've lost a solider?"
"We are not soldiers!" Buffy put a calming hand on Tony's bicep. "I'm not marching to Fury's fife."
"Neither am I."
Tony looked down at Buffy. "Hey, I march to my own fife and my own drum for that matter. Hell, I have my own marching band!" She said. "And if you ask me, Fury's got Coulson's blood on his hands just like Loki does. But right now, we've got to get past that and we've got to finish this."
Steve moved up behind Buffy. "Loki needs a power source. If we put together a list…."
"He made it personal." Tony interrupted.
"That's not the point."
"That is the point. That's Loki's point. He hit us all right where we live. Why?"
"To tear us apart."
"Yeah, divide and conquer is great, but he knows he has to take us out to win, right? That's what he wants."
Buffy caught on to what Tony was saying. "He wants the credit and to get that, he has to have an audience. He has to be seen defeating us." She turned to Steve. "Look at what he did in Germany."
"That was just previews. This is opening night. And Loki, he's a full-tilt diva, right? He wants flowers, he wants parades. He wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered…." Tony paused. "Son of a bitch."
Buffy knew exactly what Tony was saying. "Stark Tower!"
Tony grabbed Buffy up in a spontaneous hug. "My god, you're a smart one!" He kissed her forehead dramatically. "And here I was thinking you were all beauty and muscle and no brains." Buffy punched Tony in the shoulder just hard enough to leave a minor bruise. "Ow!"
"You're lucky that's all you're getting for that comment. Let's go!" She turned and started out of the room, but turned back. "And don't call me 'sweetcheeks.'"
"Yeah. Warn me before you hug me next time."
"Sorry. I promise I'm not trying to spoil your crush on the Cap here." Tony said, following her.
"Shut up, Stark." Steve said, but it was lacking the bite. Apparently Buffy wasn't the only one with a bit of a crush.