"Ok…one glass of milk, you sure I can't get you something else? A plate of eggs and bacon maybe? Toast?"
The barista gave what she hoped was an encouraging smile. It was only 10:45. Plenty of time for the guy to get breakfast. It was the one thing that she never understood. This man with his dark hair and tired eyes always came here for breakfast every few months, said it was a routine trip he'd been making since two-thousand-seven. The older workers confirmed it, and they never had any trouble from him but something about a grown man just ordering a glass of milk was…odd.
"I am an oddity, you could say. Never cared for soda or liquor, and water was always too bland for me." He said with a chuckle.
"So, you prefer a cold glass of milk because you can't handle soda?"
"Can't a guy just want to strengthen his bones without a steroid?" he waited for her to rise to his own bait. Witty banter was lacking but he hadn't come all this way for that. "That will be all, and thank you, Rachel, for the drink."
Rachel rolled her eyes as she walked off. She was a good kid, 'kid' being the most accurate word to use given the circumstances.
"Trouble sleeping?" a new, gruffer voice spoke up as he took the first sip. "You know, usually a cold glass of milk is only used to put people to sleep, not wake them up."
"And you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"
The man was African American, dark skin, black trench coat, and an eye patch.
"I won't give you a lecture on knowing that, its not exactly secret anymore…but I don't see why we can't be more pleasant."
"Pleasant?" he scoffs "Sorry, you will have to forgive me. Where I am from…men like you are more paranoid than pleasant. But, if you want to be civil, then why not ask your friends who have been following me around all morning to lose interest first."
There was a slight twitch of the older man's brow. Muscles in his face were twitching, a small shift but not something that was foreign to the younger man across from him.
"Who are you?"
"Usually one introduces themselves before asking the other do just that." He holds up a finger "But I do know who you are, do you prefer Agent, Colonel or Director, Fury?"
Fury sits up straight. His right hand along his hip.
"I wouldn't pull that out if I were you. I mean no offense or harm to you. I am just passing through."
"Passing through? For what?"
Fury leaned forward, eye narrowed on his new 'friend' "And just what does that mean?"
"A trade perhaps?" he bargains "Information for information. You ask a question of me Fury, I answer it. Deal?"
"Alright…who are you?"
He smirks "Alec Summers. I am from Earth before you ask the bigger question, don't get used to me saving you questions though. Now…tell me something, how are the Avengers doing here? It's only been four years since New York, can't imagine they have fallen apart yet."
"Fine. Though I don't see how that is any of your business." Fury answers, still holding onto his air of distrust. "What are you doing here?"
"Checking on a friend," Alec takes a sip of his drink "Though after that I will not be returning again."
"No, Director, the deal was a question for a question, do try to pay attention." Alec's smirk was getting on Fury's nerves. Good in his opinion, the man could use a kickoff of his pedestal. "I…well…hmm…Is Loki doing well? With his new love life of course."
"You are here for the girl."
Alec gently nodded his head "In a way…I am, and I am not."
"Well…what do you know about her?" Alec held up his hand "Promise, your answer to that will determine how much I need to explain first. Please, Director."
Fury leaned forward. The other patrons paying them no mind. Their attention was focused on purely two things as the door opened. Their own food…and the Avengers.
"Nine years ago we get an energy reading out in New England. Five years later, there are reports of an golden knight fighting away from the Avengers, and apprehending Loki – in his own words – before the team can get to him, just to let him go. Now four years later, another crisis comes up and again that same energy reading from before is linked to it."
"You didn't answer my question, Director." Alec sighs, leaning back in his seat. His eyes ran over the faces of the heroes as they entered. Widow. Hawkeye. Iron Man. Thor. Hulk. Captain America. He knew those faces well enough, and he knew the face of Loki all too well too. But the last one, the plus one, made his hard gaze soften. "Tell me…truthfully, what do you know?"
Fury held his gaze. His face the perfect stoic mask. "She appeared in '07 right after Stark announced his identity. We had her apprehended by the police when we didn't get a hit on facial recognition. Her ID, drivers license, passport, school ID…all were perfect copies…but she was not in the system. We tried her phone, numbers didn't exist. Interrogated her as if she were a civilian and her story was genuine, but nothing matched it. It was like she didn't exist."
"Her memories are real, Director Fury. Of that I can assure you, but you won't believe me anyway," Alec leaned forward, whispering lowly to the man "She's…special. Who you have your eyes on is as much a threat to you as the very blood that runs through your veins. I'd say 'air', but I know firsthand how that can harm you. She has no powers, no government connections, no training. But she is the kind of person you will want to have your back."
Fury didn't buy it. Begrudgingly he had to concede the point, as flimsy a point as it was. "That still doesn't answer why you are here. Who is she, really?"
"Karen Hui." Alec began slowly "She's…well, not from this Earth, this dimension is a better word for it. Your Earth, your entire reality, is but the work of fiction where I am from. Your life, your past, present, and future, all are just comic books and movies to my world. You look like the actor that played you, lucky for me anyway that your world is just another copy of the movies…doubt the old school version would be so lenient…then again, I could just run him through and move onto the next world."
"So, you are interested in conquest."
Alec shook his head "No. Liberation. However, I chose this world to drop her off in because I knew the original."
"Her." Alec turned his head, eyes fixed on the window, the crowds of New Yorkers walking aimlessly down the sidewalk. "The Karen that you have met is from a different reality…lets just say in her world, there isn't much of a world to call home. I took her memories, all the bad but I left the good. Couldn't let her know her family sadly…maybe that makes me a bad guy, I don't know."
"What's your point in telling me all of this?"
"A fresh start. I handled the major problems before they could become problems. Even got contingency plans ready to get to work." Alec gave the veteran agent a grin "So, you going to arrest me?"
Fury was tempted. An unknown entity: A man claiming to be from another world, another universe even, just casually shows up and brings a foreigner from her own world into theirs. He could leave at any time if he wanted, of that Fury was certain. But he had the evidence to prove that the man before him had done more to back up his claims. Pierce and Hydra were a thing of the past, casualties were under a few dozen barring those who worked for Hydra itself. They all ended up dead with their affiliation on the walls.
"So why us? Why this world in particular?"
Alec gazed down at his half empty glass "Well…the one everyone else would think of has already achieved peace at a great cost. This one however, has yet to face its greatest threat and I only meddled to ensure it could. Director, as hard as it is to believe, you know that this world is already better off having Loki as a reformed criminal and having Karen here to keep him on a tight leash. Besides…I would say she is pretty happy here, wouldn't you?"
A slight smirk formed on Fury's face "Yeah…I guess she is happy here. So, why wont you face her yourself? After what you've done for us here, I doubt she would be against seeing you now."
Alec shook his head, he gave a bitter chuckle as he looked the man in the eye "Knowing me only put the original in danger, on the radar of some pretty terrible people and organizations. Besides that, I couldn't… How do you tell someone that you could have…" Alec struggles to find the words. His eyes, heavy with emotion as he spots the group enjoying their own time together in peace between missions.
"She means that much to you?" Fury pressed "You did all of this…and you want nothing in return?"
"That so bad? Being the hero was all I ever wanted when I was young, and after a lifetime of trial and error…I've made my peace with it. This version of her won't know that pain, she will only know this life."
Fury leaned forward against the table, all but whispering to Alec "Then help us. You said something was coming, Loki confirms that, so why not stand and fight with us?"
"Not my fight Director. I've done enough fighting for many lifetimes worth, don't deny me this." His eyes shift to the right, glancing in her direction. A smile tugs at the corners of his lips as he sees those brown eyes light up, a smile on her face. "This is all I ever wanted. What's so bad about making her smile…seeing her smile…one last time?"
Alec stood up, playing it off as the end of a pleasant conversation. Even with Rachel, the barista, coming by to ask if he needed anything, he gave her a warm smile and said "No, nothing else could top this time here."
"You know what you are doing then? You walk away now…there is no chance of undoing what you have done."
Alec smiled gently, taking the first of many steps as he pushed the door open and walked out of the café. Fury sat almost in stunned silence, the questioning of his own agents coming through his earpiece as he let the man walk on. The Director of SHIELD turned his head slightly, sneaking a glance at the Avengers little group. Not a one was aware of just who had walked out or what he had made happen. But as he watched the young woman talking, laughing, smiling alongside the Asgardian known as Loki; the war-criminal who should have had no trace of anything resembling humanity in him…he wondered: Were they all right in their original assumptions? Or was Alec correct?
Alec didn't care one way or the other. His job was done. Mission complete and all that… "So why do I not feel happy about this?" he mutters to himself as he turns the corner down an alley "She might not be the original, but at the very least this world will be in better hands now because of her…fragment or not."
He took one last look up at the sky. Bluer than his worlds. Even with the surrounding skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of the big city…Alec could feel the sun and its warm glow.
"Yeah…not one thing to regret about this. Happy Birthday, Brightness."
With those words he was gone. Fury would get a report later on that same energy reading from years and months gone by. But he wouldn't tell a soul about the conversation he had or who his partner in it was.
AN: Before everyone who read this goes on their review rampage…I am coming back. I have ideas in my head, rewrites planned, updates planned. And a whole lot of watching to figure out in the future. I don't abandon my work, put it off for a while and rewrite it maybe but never abandon. Lets not talk about that one story….anyway; most of my stuff is either going to be on a hiatus while I compile everything I need or left in limbo for a time. I can say that I have a few ideas that some of you may like for the more popular stories here. Anyway, just a one shot for a friends birthday. Happy birthday, and to the rest of you…till next time.