The Last Bastion

October 27, 2017:

Atli Wodensdotter requests Phil Coulson's help. Phil begins a careful dance of damage control which tests even his resolve.

Outback Steakhouse, NYC

Try the chips. They're delicious.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Rocket, Groot, Peter Quill, Loki

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It is immense.

Grotesque, even.

Piled high with shattered propriety and anything resembling a reasonable portion, the Triple Dingo Burger is the Outback Steakhouse's premiere cheeseburger. It is also likely deadly to those without Godly constitution.

This is no problem for The Girl of Thunder.

It is not so much a bite she takes as a great HAUMPH, making more of a mess of the burger than she really ingests, he mug raised high as she drops the mess on her plate, as if ready for a toast. And why shouldn't she be? Her friends had completed a grand quest and now she has begun one anew.

Atli Wodendottir needs to find a place to call home.

So of course, she called the Son of Coul, who certainly would help her on this new quest. After dinner, perhaps. Or tomorrow, once this meal has finished settling. It is very fortunate that Phil knew a guy who could keep this place open after hours, because Atli refused to eat anywhere that wouldn't allow the Goat.

Toothgnasher eats exactly the same thing Atli does, and somehow even makes more of a mess. Before long they'll see he's finished the burger in just a few bites, and has moved on to eating the plate.

"Verily, Son of Coul, this Austrailian food is made for the Gods. Not since Asgard have I tasted such fair as to satisfy my hunger so. It is as if this distant land is in my very blood, and consuming it's food has brought me home again."

Her smile beams across the table and she takes another long drink of the beer that she might otherwise have a hard time ordering if not for the likes of Phil Coulson. She might look 18, but he knows the truth. A few thousand years are behind her, and who knows how many ahead of her.

*

By contrast, Phil works his way through a sedate surf and turf; a polite filet mignon and the graceful arc of a lobster's tail.

To say that his work takes him to some strange places is an understatement; to say that it brings him into some strange scenarios is even more so. Sometimes they manage to surprise even him; he is, even now, getting paid by an organization with a budget in the trillions to sit in an Outback long after the stroke of Midnight and long before the crack of dawn, supping with an enthusiastic Asgardian, and her goat.

It is enough for this man in his very sharp dark suit with his crisp dove grey shirt to shake his head with a fond, if rueful smile; even his recruiters could not have anticipated just how very surreal it could all get sometimes.

"I'm glad you enjoy it," he says, and that's pretty sincere. And then a question for the ages: "If you're only now just finding housing, where have you stayed up until now?"

He expects any number of answers ranging from the whacky to the strange, but he feels like it's probably an important thing to make note of. Truthfully, he probably should have taken the time to figure that out before this meeting, but a dozen other concerns have proven to be a source of distraction since his last meeting with the Daughter of Thunder. He hadn't heard of any destruction warranting his intervention, and in truth, that has been enough.

*

Well, as far as destruction goes.. you know. What Phil didn't know couldn't hurt him.

Right?

The Agent of Shield will catch her shoehorning half of her plate of fries into her mouth at once, sideyeing the goat as if some competition has been called between God and Beast. Finally she bites down, settling on only half of half, and dropping the rest on her plate before pulling her cloak up to wipe her hands and mouth. Somehow, that thing never stays dirty no matter what Atli puts it through, and being used as a napkin is certainly the least of it.

"Ah well. At first I had decided to survey the land. To do this meant climbing the highest tower I could find! This was many weeks ago, and the Goat and I were not on speaking terms. So I made my way above this building, the glare of it's strange lights offensive to my eyes. I had to resist the urge to pluck the lettering from the side of it. Finally, I made it to the very top, a place of great wind and turmoil. I.. well. Somewhere during the climb I had forgotten why I had made my way up."

Her expression crinkles here, and it edges into a smile. "But I remember now, and I am certain it is because I am clever."

And that's it. There's no end to the story. In remembering that she sought to climb the tower to get a better view, she'd forgotten all about Phil's question, adding another surreal step to the ever daunting climb his job has become.

A quarter of a blooming onion disappears. The goat gives a honkling cry and Atli tosses much of the rest of it his way.

But so to, does the goat remind her to finish her story.

"Ah, yes! So there I was, on this perfectly good tower. It had a stairwell for sleeping in, and a perfect brazier for me to light a fire. Which I DID, several times! These metal men with sirens continually sought to extinguish the flames but I fought them off until a man with no body asked me to leave, very loudly, and always while I slept. Jarvbjorn the Unbodied, a foe I have yet to conquer. But one day. Camping on the tower did not work out. Then I sought to make my home in a Yard of Junk, where I met my dear friend, Rocket the Combustable. He allowed me to sleep in the back of a car he had found in front of someone's homestead, certain they would not need it anymore and that it was for a good cause. This we took to a place called Shadow..glen. Glencrest? I remember not. But it has a lovely back yard, in which I slept many times."

*

And that's the moment when Phil realized he should have been thinking about living quarters for the Asgardian from Day 1.

Day. One.

He manages to restrain from rubbing his head only through the greatest force of will; his smile adopts a pained quality as he puts his fork and knife down to listen to the entire thing. Gods. Power undreamed of at their fingertips. And they can't manage simple things, like leases.

Then again, what was she going to use for proof of income? The goat?

He pulls up a display on his watch, scanning the list of available furnished SHIELD safehouses. "It would have been well had you come to me earlier, Atli, to tell me of these issues with your accomodation. I would have been pleased to help. But I can help now, at least. I have, I believe, a cottage that might suit."

Cottage. The city ordinances about this goat alone are going to give SHIELD lawyers headaches for the next month. The 'cottage', located in the suburbs of New York City, is probably worth over half a million dollars. Here's hoping she keeps the animal in the back yard, and doesn't send him running around the hardwood floors. Here's hoping she doesn't use the furnishings for target practice. But he can't see putting her in an apartment in the city.

*

Ah, hope. The last bastion of sanity.

Well, let it be known here. Atli Wodendottir hopes for nothing. Which might explain a whole lot about her when it comes to sanity.

"Ah, a cottage. Is this another word for fortress? I will require a place for Toothgnasher to lay and… lick himself." She makes a face when she sees that the goat is up to a little after dinner grooming, laying his pelt in ketchup and who knows what else was on that burger.

"I will also need a place for my companions to stay. Rocket, full of clever tricks and thunderous power. Groot, bastion of all things right and true. And… Foul Loki. God of lies. My great uncle, and a fool, but.. I must give him a chance to redeem himself."

She seems adamant in that, and finishes her beer before taking Phil's glass and moving to get some more for the both of them.. and leaving Phil to ponder, you know.

All that.

Toothgnasher looks up to stare at Phil the whole time Atli is gone. In truth he is looking at the lobster shells with gluttonous intent.

Finally, the Girl of Thunder returns, setting a big mug of beer in front of Coulson, and having found an even greater ornamental mug that she has taken from one of the walls, she now drinks like an Asgardian truly should.

*

Getting drunk isn't wise, but Phil just…takes a gulp of that as he slooooowwly passes his plate over to Toothgnasher with something like fascination and something like disgust. He takes another one. It's 5:00 somewhere. Kabul, to be exact. That means it's not really like he's drinking in the morning. Or is it still drinking at night? Whatever it is? The Son of Coul is just getting right on that as he contemplates a house full of Rocket, Groot, and Foul Loki. With Quill for good measure.

He tries to decide if that is a DEFCON 4 situation, because he has a feeling it is. He tries, quite honestly, to decide if there's a pocket reality in a box he can just trap them all in, something that just spawns endless things for them to blow up, hit, and otherwise generally destroy.

The ornamental mug is bigger than his head, and it takes him two hands to hold on to it, but he sure keeps up.

Maybe he can quarantine the entire block. That's an option. Set up some sort of perimeter that alerts him every time they leave it en masse. Or when the inevitable nuclear explosion happens.

Finally he says, "There should be adequate space. Remember, pray, to be gentle with the property, for it would be very difficult to replace." That's the bare minimum of the damage control he can do. Sedatives in their water supply? Can he get that thing off city water, get them on some sort of contained system, and spike it with sedatives? No, the problem is anything that would impact the two Asgardians would simply murder Rocket.

*

"Ah, then this cottage will do! Hopefully it's walls are fortified, for my enemies are vast and full of stupidity." Her brow crinkles a little as she reaches down to take one of the lobster shells from Toothgnasher to try it herself. "In fact, I do believe fire demons from Muspelheim may have uttered some sort of.. ah 'blood oath'? SON OF COUL!"

Her eyes go wide and she swallows that bite of shells, bewilderment taking over her expression. "I have had many things on this world called chips, all of them most vile. But this one.. this one I like! So much so that for this meal, and for this home of yours you offer so kindly, I shall commit to you one desire in all the world. Do not hesitate to ask for a think, and I shall move mountains and buildings and certainly vehicles to find it. And please, do not worry yourself on the mired details of how I will acquire it. Know that I will pay for it through and through, and that in ten thousand years no one will care! For everyone on this world will have perished by then!"

The gleeful way she speaks of it is a reminder that, in her time, the world they are now on is all but a blasted landscape with dry riverbeds named for the worlds mightiest heroes.

*

"That's a—"

No. This is an opportunity.

"I desire but one thing, Atli Wodensdotter. For every last piece of furniture, every last door, every last window and wall of yon cottage to remain unbroken for a year and a day. If it is as beautiful on that day as it is when I show it to you, I shall count this boon as granted, this desire as met."

Dirty and rotten of him, really.

No. Nevermind. It's not. It's really not. And by a year and a day, he might have found another way to buy more time; another thing that inspires her to grant him another boon.

One. Can. Hope.

He keeps that smile on. The Cheshire Cat's smile that is so characteristic of him. He puts down his booze, because the appearance of this one and only opportunity has given him some heart and some hope that this situation may be contained.

Not a lot of hope. But enough to avoid giving himself alcohol poisoning.

*

The scrunching of her face intensifies, as if her task is no task at all! But then she notices that Toothgnasher has begun eating the carpet, her eyes widening slightly and a hand coming to her chin to rub there.

One might imagine she has some great epiphany, but really she's just trying to look poised. Buying her own time, you know, glancing at Phil, trying not to look a little concerned about the Goat and how it interfaces with the quest she's been given.

"Very well then, Son of Coul. You shall have your unbroken fortress. Make sure it has room for you to visit, for revels and other such things! There will be many denizens from the worlds beyond who come visit, and some of them would certainly love to meet a defender of this world such as yourself. But not the fire demons. They do not seem to like anyone, unless they are very flammab-TOOTHGNASHER! THAT TABLE IS NOT FOR THE LIKES OF YOU!"

And just like that, Atli sets upon the Goat to scruff it like a misbehaving cat, which in turn produces goatly wails that carry the power of the Bifrost itself.

*

Her shift from beliving this is no thing to seeing it as an actual challenge is noted. It sparks, in the heart of the Son of Coul, much satisfaction.

Then he's watching this display with the goat, and he just loses all his infamous composure. He pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Revels? Maybe if he's feeling suicidal, or like taking an early retirement in an insane asylum. He breathes deeply, then drops his hand. That is an excessive display of emotion and impatience right there. At least for someone in his line of work.

"Your kind invitation is noted and appreciated," he says noncommitally.

And then, hoping that he is not similarly betraying the strain in his voice: "Atli, have you trained that goat at all? I don't remember Thor's goats being quite so…vigorous. In their desire to destroy everything they come into contact with." How big of an interplanatary incident will it cause if the goat gets a sudden and unavoidable heart attack? That's the real question. Except it's probably like everything else from Asgard, in its own way. Really. Really. Hearty.

*

It takes her a moment but she finally manages to convince the goat to simply sit and not try to eat anything else. With a heavy huff of a sigh, the goat hangs it's head and then suddenly flops onto it's side in a bout of inconsolable depression at being spoken of as if it is just a thing to be trained by it's good friend Son of Coul.

Atli lifts her brows at Coulson's suggestion, sneering at the mere thought. "My fool of a Grandfather did not train them! He ate them whenever they got out of line! I am no barbarian, Son of Coul. I am a warrior, and we do not eat our companions in battle."

Thats right. Thor ate them when they got out of line. And other times too.

A small smile creeps across her face, the face of a teenager, though steeped in years, it is not, decidedly, steeped in wisdom. "He is my closest friend. When I came to this place I thought I might never see some incarnation of him again. But here and now, it is like he remembers me all the same. I.. no, I shall not train him. From time to time we will disagree, and a table will suffer. I will grab his neck and ring it thusly, and in turn he will bite me. Likely while I am asleep, and my hindquarters are unprotected. But it is, as all things, the cost of such of having family."

A hand settles on Coulson's shoulder where he's sitting, and Atli stands beside him, outside of the booth they had occupied, her expression softening from the near madness it often displays. "One day, Phil, Son of Coul, it is my hope we will be family. One day, I hope that you might know my hand on your neck and your bite at my hindquarters." Her little nod gives no indication of how that comment might be taken, except she means it to be a compliment.

*

Huh. That thing is smarter than it looks. Noted.

It is well that Coulson is adept at dealing with a number of cultures. He is aware this is a compliment. He is aware that it is not a come on. Stoicism is once more restored.

Besides. She's just given him the key to dealing with her. If he's willing to get his ass bitten, he might be able to stop her from unleashing havoc on New York simply by taking her by the scruff of her neck and giving it a firm shake. And really, he has endured worse for this job.

So he places a hand atop hers and looks into her eyes. "You honor me greatly, Atli Wodensdotter. Let it be so between us."

He's going to regret this, but a mere mortal does not stand as the world's shield without enacting some plans that are pure crazy. He just hopes this doesn't turn out to be the ONE thing he is ever known for. Oh yes, Agent Coulson. He saved the world by letting an Asgardian bite his ass.

He do anything else?

Not that I recall.

*

"And so it shall be that the companions Phil and Atli rode henceforth towards revels! We shall celebrate, for once again I hunger! Now I have been told of an Earthly creation that can freeze brains, but usually only cools tired tongues. I beseech you, good friend, honorable friend." Her gaze grows distant, and she looks off towards a sunset.

And there is one, painted on the wall. Overlooking a kangaroo. What an awful mural.

"I would sample this.. iced cream."

Now Phil knows of at least one more way to sway Atli. Is there any being, God or Mortal that can break the hold that rocky road can put on someone?

Certainly, they will find out.

Toothgnasher is gonna find out too. Hopefully Phil has deep pockets.

*

He's expensing all of this, so yes. He calls for the check and puts in another call. Touching his finger to his earbud: "Yeah. I need you to pull a 127 on the Baskin-Robbins. Yes, I know I already pulled a 127 on the Outback."

Pause.

"That's an order, Chad."

Pause. He taps it again. Chad's taking care of it. He wonders if he should just plan on taking the entire scoopable tub of the goat's favorite flavor out for him so he can stick his face directly into it. Credit card swiped and put away, he says, "Come and let us revel in the halls of brain freeze." If she's not making him revel with 40 of her favorite rowdy Asgardians or fire giants or whatever else he's going to count it as a win, honestly. One takes them where one can get them.

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