Three days after the Battle of New York, Nick Fury knocked on Ellie's door, a black garment bag draped over one arm. The knocking was just a polite gesture and when Ellie didn't answer, as expected, he used the key he had made to her lock. The apartment was well lit, with vases of flowers littering the counters and the dining room table. He tossed the garment bag on the back of the couch and found Ellie on the bed. She was still in her uniform and still covered in dirt.
"Get out of bed Johnson." Fury's words were commanding but his tone was gentle. "That's an order."
"Go away." Ellie's voice was soft.
"He wouldn't want you to do this. He wouldn't want you to shut down." Fury said.
"I don't know what else to do." Ellie admitted.
Fury sighed. "There's a memorial for Coul—Phil—in a couple of hours. You should be there. He should be remembered by the ones who loved him the most."
"What about his body?" Ellie asked. "Can I say goodbye?"
"You know our protocols. You know that you can't." Fury said. "Memorial's in two hours and Hill sent over something for you to wear."
Without another word, Fury left, locking the apartment behind him. The memorial was buzzing with dozens of agents and the Avengers. There was an open bar and a podium where the other agents could talk about Phil if they wanted to. He had made a lot of friends in SHIELD. Nobody had seen Ellie, though.
"Do you think she'll show up?" Tony asked Clint, a glass with some scotch in his hand. They were listening to an agent tell a story of a prank that Phil had played on them.
"Can you blame her if she doesn't?" Clint countered.
"Should someone go get her?" Steve asked Tony. "Maybe check on her?"
"She just lost the love of her life." Pepper chastised them. "Give her some space."
The room had gone silent and the Avengers looked around, trying to find the source when they spotted Ellie in the door way. After Fury had left, Ellie had lain in bed for a while longer but then got up, showered, made her hair and makeup presentable, then put on the dress Fury had left for her. It was black with long sleeves that covered her palms and had thumb holes cut out of it. The skirt fell to her knees and a pair of black pumps had been left but she opted for ballet flats, finishing off the look with one of Phil's zippered sweatshirts. She held her head high as she walked through the crowd of agents.
The agent speaking quieted as Ellie walked up to the row of chairs set up and sat down. She gestured for the agent to continue speaking. Next it was the Avengers turn. None of them really knew Phil so they said generic nice things about him and then it was Ellie's turn. The podium was a few short steps away and she clutched the cheap wood tightly. Letting out a shaky breath, she started to speak.
"I've known Phil Coulson since I was six years old. After complaining to his mom that I was a girl," -there were a few scattered chuckles- "He asked me if I liked Captain America. I said, 'yeah. He's my favorite.'" She saw Steve smile a little half smile and she sniffled before clearing her throat and continuing. "Phil always believed in heroes, he wanted to be a hero for as long as I can remember and what I think he didn't realize is that he was my hero. Not the kind that comic books are written about but he was to me. He would always protect me, even if he got hurt in the process." Her eyes started to water but took a deep breath to steady herself. Her voice broke when she spoke again. "He was my first kiss, my first love, my first everything and I was his. I keep expecting him to come home with a bag full of Thai food and we'd camp out in the living room, eating takeout and catching up on Supernanny." She let the tears fall and toyed with the bracelet hidden under her sleeves, a few seconds later she covered her eyes with her hands and sobbed. The first one to comfort her was Pepper, taking the sobbing girl in her arms and hugging her tightly.
"It's going to be okay." Pepper repeated softly, tears in her own voice. "You're going to be okay."
One by one the rest of the Avengers approached their team mate and put their hands on her shoulder or back, showing that they were there to help her, that they were a team. The rest of the agents gave the Avengers some privacy, filing out of the room. Ellie felt the others let go of her and looked up to see Nick Fury standing in front of her. "I'm sorry, Director. I tried to finish my speech."
Fury's response was to hand her a tissue and squeeze her shoulder gently. "You did him proud."
The Director left and Pepper put her arm around Ellie's shoulders. "You can come stay at Stark Tower with us for a while."
Ellie shook her head. "No, thanks. Everything of Phil's is at my apartment: all his comics, collectibles, and the photo albums are there. I can't leave all that already."
"Bring it with you." Tony suggested. "New place might help you move on faster."
"Tony!" Pepper scolded.
"Thanks but no." Ellie laughed at Tony's offended look. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "I think I'm going to go. I can't handle all these people staring at me."
"You're right." Tony said, putting down his glass and clapping his hands together. "Let's move this party back to your place."
"I am so sorry about him." Pepper groaned as Tony walked away.
"It's okay but I think I'm going to leave before he gets any ideas." Ellie said. She thanked the others and quietly made her way outside and flagged down a cab.
"Are you sure you don't want one of us to come with you?" Steve had followed her outside to the curb.
"I'm just going to look through the photo albums." Ellie said. "It's really not necessary."
"I'd feel better if you'd let me keep you company." Steve said sincerely. She seemed unsure so he amended his comment. "For a few hours, at least."
Ellie thought for a few minutes then nodded. A cab pulled up to the curb and he held the door open for her as she slid in. He slid in the seat next to her and she gave the driver her address. She unlocked the front door and flicked the lights on. "Excuse all the flowers. People keep sending them."
"It's fine." Steve said, looking at the framed pictures on the shelves. There were dozens of pictures of Ellie and Phil, a few of them in formal clothes but most of them were silly. Even though neither of them could get drunk, Ellie poured them both a scotch.
"Phil liked pictures." Ellie handed him a glass and took a drink from her own. "I do too but he wanted to capture everything."
Steve saw a picture of them on Halloween when they were 16 and dressed up as Captain America and Catwoman and smiled. "He was really a fan, huh?"
"The biggest. We both were." Ellie said, smiling at the picture. She caught Steve looking at her and blushed. "This is really embarrassing."
"What is?" Steve asked.
"Talking to my favorite superhero about my childhood crush on him." Ellie said. If she didn't know better, she'd have said the scotch was making her feel a little better.
"Crush?" Steve chuckled.
Ellie was relieved when the doorbell rang and she answered it, revealing Tony, Pepper, Natasha, Clint, and even Bruce. Clint had a big box of assorted takeout containers in his arms.
"You invited the Capsicle to the party but not me?" Tony feigned hurt. "That hurts, Ellie, that hurts."
"I didn't expect you guys to be here." Ellie said, putting her glass down and taking the food from Clint, placing it in on the kitchen counter. "Steve wanted to make sure I was all right."
"Well, the fun has arrived now." Tony said, examining her stereo and CDs.
Pepper roller her eyes and sighed. "Tony doesn't know how to let people be. We just wanted to make sure you are okay. Director Fury told me you hadn't eaten in a few days so we brought food."
"You guys didn't have to do this." Ellie said.
"You're part of the team." Steve said. "We're with you til the end of the line."
A/N: The next chapters will be Ellie developing friendships and moving on with her life. Thanks to the new followers/favoriters/readers/reviewers. You guys are amazing. Please feel free to leave a review. They're always welcome. xo
Rylee: I'm glad you enjoyed the battle chapter. Thanks for leaving two reviews on two separate chapters. You rock.