Title: No Last Call
Author: marcicat

Word Count: 2900
Rating: T

Summary: Flash meets Coulson’s new team (two of them, anyway) just as they’re becoming his former team.

The library closed at ten, which was why he was currently drinking coffee and trying to look like he was just a college student with a weird schedule. All-night diners were his favorite. On a good day, he could get away with keeping his hood up and one hand on the coffee cup for hours. He was pretty sure this wasn’t one of those days.

It wasn’t that he had nowhere to go. Really. But he’d gone straight to the diner after the library, and now he was inside and warm, and going anywhere else would require giving both of those things up.

The door squeaked open while he was still trying to convince himself to leave, and cold air eddied around the room. He looked up, then quickly down again, trying to resist the urge to hunch down around his cup.

The two women walked right by his table on their way to the counter. “We’re taking a break, Skye. Fifteen minutes of OSHA-mandated time, someplace warm.”

He didn’t turn around to watch them order, but they settled at a table along the opposite wall — it was a small place; they weren’t exactly out of sight. It was impossible not to notice that Melinda May was drinking coffee less than twenty feet away from him. He’d heard of her — she was a whisper, a legend — just like Mr. Coulson, probably, so of course he’d run into both of them in the most mundane places in the world.

Flash was technically getting a paycheck from the Maria Stark Foundation, but he mostly just stocked the kitchens and answered questions. He sometimes couldn’t tell what information he’d officially been given and what he’d just picked up by proximity (or been told by JARVIS, which, okay, was a thing that happened sometimes). Coulson’s non-Avengers team was one of those gray areas.

Plus, if they were taking a work break, that meant they were working, and he shouldn’t interrupt them. (Besides, what would he say? ‘Hi?’ ‘How’s Coulson?’) The guy had disappeared from the principal’s office the same way he’d showed up — overnight, and without any explanation. It wasn’t like they’d ever really talked. And anyway, the Avengers had checked in every day when he was at the school, they must be keeping tabs on him, right?

His phone chimed, and the alert sounded loud in the late-night crowd. It was followed up almost immediately by (much more irritating alarm sounds) from the other side of the diner, and he tried to look clueless and unaware when all three of them drew stares.

Unknown energy signature, his phone informed him. Priority four.

Priority four wasn’t him. Priority four wasn’t even a mandatory evacuation, just voluntary. Still a good idea, though, and he was fumbling for his gloves when his phone chimed again — the city-wide text alert system informing him of the issued alert and the impacted areas. The Foundation always got him the news first, but he liked the backup, and it was good to know what everyone else was being told.

The woman behind the counter gave a loud whistle. “Okay, we’re closing down the kitchen,” she said. “The library two blocks over has a public shelter if you’ve got nowhere better to be for the evac. Next shift’ll be in at five; you know the drill. Everybody out.”

There was a generalized grumbling, but nobody outright argued. City law said no business could require their employees to stay on shift during a priority four or higher, and he’d seen her in the diner with kids before — she probably wanted to get home and make sure they were okay.

Somehow, despite trying to avoid them, he wound up shoulder to shoulder with the SHIELD agents as they all shuffled out the door. His brain blanked for a second — he was standing next to Melinda May! Darcy would go nuts — and then they were out on the street and everyone was dispersing, heads down, phones out.

The agents went left, so he turned right on automatic. Six steps down the sidewalk his phone chimed again. MSF priority one. Call in. Priority one was everyone — all hands on deck.

He called in. (It probably said something uncomplimentary about his life that his workplace was speed dial 1 on his phone, but it did come in handy in certain situations.) He had to pull his gloves off again to get his codes entered, and he blew on his fingers while the line connected.

“Priority one call-in line, what’s your status?” The voice sounded familiar.

He didn’t bother saying his name; his phone should have identified him already. “Safe. Ish. I’m at the edge of the priority four evac zone. Is this Darcy?”

“Hey Flash. Yeah, it’s a madhouse here. I’ve got you on the map now; thanks. The P4 is messing with GPS like crazy. JARVIS, is he near anyone?”

There was a click, and then JARVIS said, “No one else has called in from that sector.” He sounded totally calm, which was actually sort of alarming. Total calm tended to indicate there was something else going on that he didn’t have the clearance to know about.

Hoping he was doing the right thing, he said, “I just saw two SHIELD agents at the diner. Melinda May and someone else — Skye, she called her.”

Darcy said, “You met Melinda May? I’m so super jealous right now. They’re not on the Foundation’s list, so they wouldn’t have gotten the call-in alert anyway. What are they doing there, though?”

He wasn’t sure she was still talking to him, so he stayed quiet. JARVIS said, “Confirmed sightings of Agents Ward, Simmons, and Fitz in the evacuation zone.”

And suddenly there was a third voice on the line. “That wily bastard!” Sounded like Tony Stark, with the volume turned up. He held the phone further away from his ear. “He’s cutting them loose so they can’t be used against him. Taking advantage of the GPS blackout to take their own shots at a getaway; ever the optimist. Prep the Tower. If he shows up there I want total security lockdown the instant he’s inside.”

He didn’t want to interrupt, because now he was totally sure no one was talking to him, and he wasn’t even sure they knew he was still listening. But he assumed they must have called the priority one for something important, and maybe he should — do something about that? “Darcy?” he asked.

The reply was gratifyingly quick. “Yeah, sorry about that. Jan’s on her way to you now; she’ll explain all of it. Can you get back to that diner?”

He eyed the foot traffic around him. Sometimes the good samaritans got a little overzealous during evacs, but it looked like everyone was safely ignoring him. “Sure,” he said. “It’s closed now, though.”

“No problem. The owner’s a Spidey-ally; she’s got his logo above the back door. Just get there and enter his code; Jan will meet you there.”

There was just one problem with that. “I don’t know the code.”

There was a short silence on Darcy’s end. Then she said, “Really? It’s his birthday. I mean, not that I know it at all, officially. But unofficially, totally his birthday. Year-year, month-month, day-day.”

He rolled his eyes and headed back the way he’d come. “I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to tell me things like that.”

“I’m pretty sure you could have guessed that on your own,” Darcy replied. Which maybe was true.

He had about a hundred more questions, but he was sure Darcy had better things to be doing. “I’m on it,” he said, and hung up, hunching his shoulders up closer to his ears. Turning back towards the diner meant turning back into the wind. At least he could put his gloves back on.

Even better, a blast of warm air greeted him when he got the code entered into the keypad. There were at least a dozen bolt holes like the diner scattered around the city, and that was just the ones he knew about. Mostly businesses, with owners who were willing to — at least covertly — ally with Spiderman. They were all well-heated. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that spandex wasn’t all that insulating; no one wanted a frozen Spider-hero on their hands.

Jan showed up less than a minute later, in uniform — the first thing she did was grab a sweatshirt from the pile and pull it around her shoulders. “It’s way too cold out there for this,” she said. “Hi, by the way.”

“Hi,” he said. He watched her put what was probably some kind of signal jammer on the counter and switch it on. “You know that’s going to get his attention.”

“Kind of the point,” Jan said. “I’m less confident in this plan than some people. Backup would make me feel better.”

He tried not to let that make him nervous. “Darcy said you’d fill me in on what’s going on?”

There weren’t actually any chairs (or room for them; it was probably a utility closet), but the counter looked sturdy enough. He hoisted himself up on it to get out of the way while Jan paced around. “Right, it’s like this,” she said. “After Coulson turned out not to be dead after all, he seemed pretty okay. At the school,” she added, and he nodded.

“Except then he left, and there was this whole ‘new team’ thing, and everyone was split about whether he just needed space or if it was something else.” She looked over at him, so he nodded again. “But then he started leaving coded messages for JARVIS in his reports. And now this?” She waved a hand.

“So. Best case scenario, Coulson’s being coerced in some way and is trying to reach out for help. Worst case scenario, Coulson’s been brainwashed and SHIELD — or the World Security Council — are using him to expose JARVIS as a lot more than just a robot butler. His team is even more confusing. Is he protecting them? Escaping them? It can’t be a coincidence that they’re all here, in the middle of an unexplained energy event that’s blocking GPS signals.”

He frowned. “So we’re…”

Jan made a face. “The welcome wagon, yeah. I voted for snatching all of them and questioning them later, but this is what we went with. I’m representing the Avengers, you’re representing the Maria Stark Foundation. We get to tell Coulson’s ducklings that they have other choices. You know, if they want them, and aren’t actually bad guys.”

That sounded — okay. Other than the fact that it could all go horribly wrong in at least a dozen different ways. The backup made more sense after that.

Something pinged, and Jan pulled a tiny screen out of her pocket. “Right on time,” she said. In miniature, he could see the two agents from the diner, pretty obviously trying to break in. (It didn’t take them long.)

Two people in a space meant for one had been a tight fit. Four people was just ridiculous. He edged to his right when Agent May gave him a suspicious look, and wound up bumping into Jan. She patted his shoulder.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she said brightly. “Agent May,” she added, nodding politely.

“Wasp. What do you want?” Agent May asked.

“I’m pretty sure we get to ask that question, actually. You’re the ones who broke in; we had the code.” She paused. “Which is just one of the many benefits of not being villains, which you too could experience. If you’re not villains.”

Flash tried not to roll his eyes. Jan was clearly not an expert at the whole ‘figuring out which side people were on’ speech. It was nice to know there were some things the Avengers weren’t good at.

“Wait, what?” The second agent — Skye, and he wondered whether that was a first name or last name — looked around. “We’re not the villains here. I thought maybe he was.”

She was pointing at him. “Me?” Flash said.

Even Jan looked a little taken aback. “Flash? Why?”

Skye just shrugged. “He got the alert early. This diner’s nowhere near his listed address.”

He very carefully didn’t flinch. Didn’t so much as blink. “Because no one has more going on in their life than what’s listed in their official file.”

“Yeah, like villainy,” Skye said pointedly.

“Or,” Jan said, moving to stand between them. (He thought she might have used her powers for that one. It was an awfully small space.) “We could focus on the point of all of this. Which is Phil.”

He got his phone back in his hand when both agents turned to look at Jan, and felt slightly less nervous. That was the whole point of doing things on the up and up, he reminded himself. So you could trust people to have your back. He didn’t take his finger off the panic button, but he didn’t push it, either.

“Phil,” Skye repeated. And then, “Agent Coulson?”

There was just the tiniest twitch when she said it. Tiny enough so he couldn’t tell if she was faking being surprised, or faking that she was faking, and that was definitely why he wasn’t a spy. Once they got into lying in layers, he was out.

Jan tapped her little mini-screen on the counter, like she was thinking, and he glanced down. It was still showing the view from the security camera outside. Peter was standing right there, arms crossed, head tilted to one side. Probably listening in, if he had to guess. Trying to figure out if he should bust down the door or call for reinforcements, he hoped. But more likely just trying to figure out if he should bust down the door or knock.

He went with knocking, and everyone jumped a little. The noise was surprisingly loud in the small space. “Come on in,” Jan called, and Agent May just raised an eyebrow.

“Well, this is cozy,” Peter — Spiderman — said. He talked differently in uniform; it was usually easier to separate them. Definitely easier when he wasn’t shivering from the cold.

(There was actually a box of hot packs on the counter, so he pulled two out of their packages and tossed them towards the door.) Peter grabbed them out of the air with a nod. “Thanks. I would have been here sooner, but I ran into a few suspicious characters lurking around an unidentified object.” Skye twitched again. “So I called in the team. Big fight. Whole block ceased to exist for a few minutes. It’s back now.”

There were a few seconds of complete silence. Agent May somehow managed to look even more unimpressed. Then she said, “Are you always like this?”

“Yes,” Jan said. “It’s part of our charm. Also, you did this?” She seemed more relaxed, and he wondered if part of Pete’s explanation had been the all-clear code.

It was Skye who nodded. “Coulson was never going to leave on his own. No matter how much he wanted to. This is our way of saying thank you.”

Peter said, “SHIELD should really work on that. Maybe a seminar, or something. Anyway, your P4 effects will last another twenty minutes, depending on how long it takes Dr. Banner to finish yelling at your science team.”

“I can’t believe you created a device that would cause a priority four event.” Jan sounded impressed.

“Oh, they didn’t make it,” Peter said. “They ‘found’ it. That’s what the yelling was about.”

Jan’s screen beeped and buzzed, and she held it up. “Go for Wasp,” she said.

Black Widow’s voice came through with no distortion. “Coulson’s safe; we’re locking down.”

Jan said, “Tell him hi for us, and leave the lights on, will you?”

“Copy that.”

“So.” Jan tossed the device on the counter and clapped her hands. “That’s that. Door number one: you’re both free to go. Door number two: come hang out with the Avengers. Door number three: the Maria Stark Foundation.” She gestured at Flash and he gave a little wave.

“Just like that,” Agent May said.

Jan shrugged. “What do you want me to say? SHIELD’s not big on options. We are. Your call.”

He figured they weren’t going to do anything without checking in with the others, so he added, “It’s not a one-time offer.”

“Thank you,” Skye said. “There’s a plan, though. It’s not horrible. We’ll be in touch?” She looked at Agent May when she said it, and got a nod. They both slipped out the door without looking back.

He wasn’t — entirely sure what had just happened. He thought it was probably good, though. “That was good, right?” he asked.

“Sure,” Peter said. “Probably. I hope so? Yes?”

“Let’s go with yes,” Jan said. “Let me just —“ She pulled the screen back out of her pocket and tapped at it. “Share that latest gem. They have a plan. Quote ‘not horrible.’ We’ll see what Steve wants to do with that.”

He didn’t think they’d hang around after that, but Peter took his mask off and said, “I’m not going back out until the alert is cancelled. Not that either of you need an invitation, obviously.”

Jan laughed. She also handed him a sweatshirt. “You’re the one who picked the password. Twenty minutes, you said?”

“Give or take.” The words were muffled by the fabric. “There’s probably snacks in the cupboard.”

(It turned out it was one of those good days after all.)



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