Author: Milady Dragon
Pairing(s): Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones; Patrick Delaware/Alice Carter; Martha Jones/Tom Milligan; Arthur (Harkness-Jones) Pendragon/Merlin Williams-Song; Clint Barton/Phil Coulson (Past); Owen Harper/Diane Holmes; John Hart/Cadi Harkness-Jones
Warnings: Language, Violence, Mpreg, Angst, Time Travel, Perceived Character Death
Spoilers: Up through Torchwood Series Three, through Agents of SHIELD Season One, for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, none really for Merlin, Doctor Who, and Sarah Jane Adventures.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, I would have treated it better. Nor do I own Merlin, Doctor Who, anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the Sarah Jane Adventures. Oh, or Josh Gates either, although I'd kinda like to.
Author's note: This is the sequel to the story, "Decisions", and is a crossover between the Dragon-Verse Post-Series and the Future Adventures. It's also "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" compliant and "Agents of SHIELD" season one compliant.
A/N2: I meant to have this up last night, but after working a total of eleven hours yesterday I just crashed. Hope this was worth it.
Summary: Torchwood London gets a surprise...a displaced time traveller who is the double for a long dead friend. Meanwhile, the Cardiff Hub also plays host to a visitor that is somehow linked to the man in London. Who is he, and what does his presence mean for the timelines?
Unknown Time and Place
Clint Barton groaned, flailing about the moment he realised he wasn’t in the Hub2 any longer. One hand hit something cold and hard, while the other waved about in the air in a manner that had to have been ever so slightly crazy if he wasn’t disconcerted enough by finding out he wasn’t where he was supposed to have been.
It came back to him in a rush; the intruders back at the base, how they’d held Tish hostage…and what those bastards had called their visitor from the future.
Phil Coulson, Director of SHIELD.
There was also some fighting, and how he and Pendragon – or Coulson, which was insane enough to be completely and utterly true – had fallen easily into step with each other, taking down another four of the intruders before…well, Clint thought he’d been shot, but he didn’t feel like there were any unusual holes in his hide anywhere. Must have been one of those future sonic guns, then. Vaguely he seemed to recall that he’d thrown himself at the disappearing bad guys, which would certainly explain why he wasn’t at the Hub2 any longer…his propensity to jump into danger was well-known among his friends and family and had Alice swearing at him in a highly out of character way every time he’d been caught doing it. He wasn’t supposed to know about the betting pool that had odds of Alice killing him before him dying in an alien invasion or falling to his death off the side of a collapsing building.
He opened his eyes, and they darted sharply around to take in his surroundings despite the headache he had. He was in some sort of room or bunker, the walls, floor, and ceiling made of industrial usage concrete, but there was nothing else in the room except for a steel door in one wall and a bare lightbulb in the ceiling putting out a weak glow that barely illuminated anything.
Levering himself upright in order to lean against the cold wall, Clint felt pain stab through his ribs and jaw, and it brought back more of the fight he’d been involved in before being unceremoniously shot. He’d really thought they could get one over from the intruders into the Hub2, once they’d taken out the one holding Tish at gunpoint…and it had helped that he’d fallen so easily into synch with Pendragon…Coulson…whatever the hell anyone would be calling him these days.
That made him think of their visitor, and Clint felt suddenly nauseous. He turned his head, finding the man who’d claimed to have been from the future.
He was seated against the far wall, his legs pulled up to his chest and his broken arm cradled on his knees. Blue eyes were watching Clint’s every move, set in an inscrutable mask that the archer recognised well enough, having seen it many times before in the past.
But there were cracks in that mask. Clint doubted anyone else would have noticed, and him seeing that was more than enough to bring it home to him that this man was…well, was the man he’d loved for years and who was supposed to have been dead for years. There was worry in those cracks, but it wasn’t worry for himself; it was worry for Clint, and he was trying to hide it and failing.
Clint really didn’t know what to think about that.
He cocked his head, and for the first time he really took a good look at the person he now knew was somehow Phil Coulson…but from the future, if that wasn’t some sort of really intricate lie, which Clint really doubted if he was being truthful to himself. Coulson hadn’t changed at all, despite claiming to be from the 52nd century and having enough knowledge of that time that he’d actually convinced Jack. It was impossible to even consider that he’d been telling the truth, unless there’d been even more secrets between them than just work ones…which of course wouldn’t surprise him in the least.
“You can ask me anything, you know,” Phil said quietly. Resignation lurked in his eyes.
Clint knew he’d been caught staring, but didn’t care. This was just way too bizarre; and this was for him, who saw one alien invasion at least every few months and had experienced things that were even stranger than what one saw in the crappiest sci-fi movies. Hell, he’d fought against giant walking alien penises, for God’s sake!
The dirty jokes hadn’t stopped for weeks, and that wasn’t even the ones from Jack.
“Okay,” he said. After all, he’d been given permission. “Just who are you, anyway? ‘Cause from where I’m sitting you look a lot like someone who shouldn’t be walking around like he wasn’t actually dead.”
That caused a small, tired smile to flutter across Phil’s lips. “I’m exactly who you think I am.”
“Riddles? Seriously?” Of course it would be a guessing game. Clint really should have known better. “Then, if I think you’re an entitled prick who should go and fuck himself, I’d be right?”
Okay, he should have expected that little huff of laughter. “Yes, you would.”
“Screw you, Phil,” Clint snapped, letting nearly two years of grief and guilt get the better of him even as he fully accepted that this, indeed, was his Phil Coulson. “I mourned you, and you were out doing God knows what?” He swallowed the hard knot of anger down, trying to remain calm. “Look, why don’t you just explain to me what’s going on? Cause I gotta tell you, this is confusing as hell.” And it would help him decide whether he’d consider forgiving the man for putting him through all the shit he’d had to deal with.
Any sort of humour that Coulson had been feeling vanished, leaving an exhausted expression in those familiar blue eyes. “It’s long and complicated, but I was dead…and then I wasn’t. I don’t like to recall how it was done, because it was just…wrong, I guess is the correct thing to call it. But, the procedures that were used somehow reacted with the residual magic left in my body from Loki’s staff and I was made immortal. So, I didn’t just go off to the future, Clint…I lived through every year of it, up until Bayl decided he was going to make some sort of play involving me.” He shook his head wryly. “You wouldn’t believe just how freaked out I was when I realised when I was. And then when Jack came in and began talking to me…I’d hoped that me using Galactic Standard would have put an end to any questioning. I should have figured out that Jack would be fluent; I have no idea why I didn’t take that into consideration. But I couldn’t give myself away, so I fell back on just enough of the truth to cover myself. Of course, all that stuff about being religious and not wanting to be closely examined was…well, let’s just say the scar I got from Loki is very obvious and I couldn’t chance someone putting two and two together.”
Any anger that Clint had been feeling was washed away in a wave of concern for the man sitting across from him. He wasn’t sure how much of it he believed, but he couldn’t imagine living that long. How had it worn on Phil? How had it changed him? Did he really want to know? Was he truly immortal?
Phil dropped his gaze, and immediately Clint knew it was because he saw the pity Clint was feeling. He wanted to say he couldn’t help it, that he’d been around Jack and Ianto enough time now to know that immortality wasn’t the gift that books and movies made it out to be. He cleared his throat, wanting to change the subject because he simply didn’t want to consider the man he’d loved for so long being in that same boat…or that it all led back to his actions while under Loki’s control.
Guilt made him say the first thing that came into his head. “So, what was all that stuff about being a grand master or something?”
“SHIELD’s changed over the millennia,” Phil explained. “I can’t say too much, timelines and all that, but we’ve had to adapt in order to survive. Now, the Shieldsmen are the Empire’s guards and spies, answerable only to the Imperial throne.”
“And you’re the Grand Master?” Clint snorted. “That’s such a pretentious shit title, you know?”
Phil shrugged. “It wasn’t my decision, but it was done because there were already two Directors out there, and it avoided confusion. Personally, I don’t care what I’m called as long as I can do my job properly, although I do claim to be a different rank because I want people to underestimate my presence. Besides, it make the true Grand Master that much more mysterious and allows me to go where someone with that sort of power normally wouldn’t be allowed.”
There was one question he really wanted to ask, and while Clint would normally censor himself while he was in the hands of a time travelling maniac who wanted Phil for some reason he didn’t know what, he just couldn’t help himself. “Were you ever going to tell us you were alive?”
Phil closed his eyes, resting his forehead on his cast. “Yes,” he murmured. “In fact, if this is when I think it is, then I’m in Cardiff right now getting support for SHIELD.” He lifted his head, meeting Clint’s eyes. “My next stop was going to be London, where I’d hoped I’d be able to explain everything to you and Patrick, and try to earn your forgiveness.”
“It’s been nearly two years, Phil,” Clint said, not meaning to sound plaintive but not being able to help himself.
“And it’s been over three thousand for me,” Phil countered. “And I never really stopped missing you. There were times when I wasn’t sure what was I was missing – humans weren’t meant to be immortal, I think, and we have a tendency to forget things – but that feeling was always there. Seeing you again made me realise that you were the hole I didn’t even know I needed to fill. And now,” he sighed, “I’ll lose you all over again once this is done.”
That made Clint’s heart crack. He could hear the loneliness in Phil’s voice, and once again couldn’t help but think just what a curse was to be immortal. Or that, because of him, because Clint hadn’t fought against Loki harder, that Phil had even died in the first place. Would Phil even forgive him for his part in it all? He didn’t have the courage to ask.
He did have to wonder if Phil’s not telling them sooner had a little to do with what had occurred on the Helicarrier that fateful day. But no, he wouldn’t also punish Patrick and the rest of his family, not over Clint’s actions. His Coulson simply wasn’t that petty.
It did make him wonder if it might have had something to do with the fall of SHIELD, Phil not coming forward sooner. That had been a bad time for everyone who’d even been the slightest bit affiliated with SHIELD; even Torchwood had gotten the blowback when some of the leaked SHIELD documents had mentioned the agreements between the two agencies. Hell, the files about Loki’s brainwashing and Clint’s participation in the attack on the Helicarrier had gotten out as well, and that had almost led to a diplomatic incident when a strike team had attempted to bring him to whatever the hell justice was being meted out on former SHIELD agents and their families. Thank God that same strike team had been caught trying to raid Torchwood House and had been apprehended before they could come for him although he had absolutely no doubt that his teammates would have defended him to the death.
So much had gone wrong when HYDRA had been outed. Clint was still bothered by what had gone down. And here was Phil, a Phil Coulson who’d lived so very long. Would he be able to even answer half the questions Clint had?
“You’re in Cardiff now?” he clarified.
Phil nodded. “I was the new Director back then...or now, I guess. Having allies only made sense, and SHIELD always had a close working relationship with Torchwood.”
“Should I congratulate you then?” He tried so hard not to sound snide, but knew he’d failed at the miniscule flinch he saw Phil have. Still, there was no one else he could see as a better fit as SHIELD’s new Director. Despite what had been done before now, Phillip Coulson was the Agent’s Agent, the one who got things done and still managed to keep his humanity intact. He truly cared about the innocent people who got caught up in what SHIELD did, and tried to never leave a man behind.
He hadn’t noticed that he’d leaned his head back against the wall, and was no longer looking at Phil, until his ex-lover’s voice spoke his name. Clint moved his head forward enough to see Phil leaning forward, his knees now down, earnestness in his face.
“I know I don’t have the right to say anything,” he began, “but in Cardiff there’s a man who still loves you very much, despite the distance and whatever it was that came between you two. I only ask that you give him a chance. You might not think he deserves it, and maybe you’re right, but after what he’s been through he needs friendly faces around him. You don’t have to promise or anything, all I ask is that maybe you could at least try?”
Clint didn’t want to really answer that question, and he didn’t have to because the unmistakeable sound of a key turning in the lock of the cell door. It was pulled open to reveal the man in the blue shirt, the one who’d led the attack on the Hub2. He looked angry, and the silvery gun he held was obviously dangerous.
It was pointed at Clint.