Pairings/Characters: Steve/Tony, Natasha/Pepper, Bruce, Clint/Coulson, Thor, JARVIS, Nick Fury and assorted OCs
Fandom Universe: Marvel Cinematic Universe
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Warnings: Scenes of near-drowning and suffocation
Spoilers: For The Avengers (2012)
Artist: marian_leywald. Link to art:
Summary: Wraith-like sirens invade Steve’s dreams, trying to lure him back into the ice. During his waking hours, he and the Avengers are fighting another invasion of Manhattan, this time by giant, Hulk-like figures. During the battle, Pepper, a convalescent Coulson, and a S.H.I.E.L.D. nurse are stuck in an elevator at Avengers Tower.
Can the beautiful owner of a mysterious antique shop help them fight the invaders and also prevent Steve from succumbing to the sirens?
Dates Of Completion: June 4, 2012-August 11, 2012
Date Of Posting: November 16, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 21,520
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for the 2012 marvel_bang.
One gazes out at the sky,
And sees the stars
Glitter and twinkle,
Is anyone else awake?
"Like Edward Hopper
And Other Poems"
Blue and white swirled like ribbons of glittering sapphires and diamonds against liquid onyx, their brilliance cold and hard as he reached out and touched them as he floated in the sea. The cold seeped into his bones, paralyzing him as he saw the stars glitter in the universe, his heartbeat slowing as sleep closed his eyes and he sank into the crystalline abyss…
Tony entered the kitchen, hungry after a two-day session in his lab. He was surprised to see Steve sipping coffee at the table. The digital clock on the stove read 3:00.
“You’re up late.”
Steve smiled slightly. “You’re not the only one with odd hours.”
Tony smiled and poured a cup of coffee, sprawling in a chair at the table. “The world looks different at 3 A.M., eh?”
“Very.” Steve sipped his coffee again. “How’s the latest invention coming?”
“Brilliantly, but then, why wouldn’t it? I’m the inventor, after all.”
Steve chuckled. “Of course, how could I forget?”
“You can’t,” Tony said smugly. “Everyone all tucked in and sleeping with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads?”
“I got that reference.” Steve’s eyes sparkled.
Tony laughed. “Good ol’ Clement C. Moore.” He took a swig of coffee. “Everything seems quiet.”
“Good.” Tony inhaled his coffee. “Once I finish my invention, you’ll have me in our bed again.”
“Ah.” Steve took a sip from his mug. “How about tonight?” He put a hand on Tony’s arm. “I miss you.”
“Aw, Cap, you flatter me.”
Steve’s smile was pure love. “I say what I feel, and I’d like you in my bed.”
Tony felt a little thrill. It never got old, Captain America wanting him. Though truth be told, it was Steve whom he loved as much as Cap. They were the same man, but with different facets.
“Okay, I could use some sleep.”
“Sleep?” Steve arched an eyebrow.
Tony laughed. “Or something.”
They finished their coffee and left the cups in the sink after rinsing them out, Steve kissing Tony with ardor. Tony forgot what he had been inventing.
“Let’s go, Steve."
They ended up in Steve’s room, which was pretty much his and Tony’s room by now. Tony had rarely used his own room, anyway, even before he had begun running a halfway house for wayward superheroes.
Tony pulled Steve’s shirt up out of his sweatpants, enjoying Steve’s hands squeezing his ass. Tony shut the door behind them. and he pushed Steve down onto the bed, kissing his face and jaw as he pulled the shirt up, exposing that impressive set of abs and that amazing chest. He brushed his fingers over Steve’s nipples and smiled as his lover squirmed. Once he had discovered Steve’s sensitive nipples, he had given both of them a lot of pleasure.
He played with a nipple as he stroked Steve’s groin with his other hand, as always impressed by his lover’s size. He pulled down the sweatpants and boxers, revealing treasures that Tony never failed to admire. He took Steve in hand and soon had his sexy lover writhing beneath him.
Tony laughed and kissed Steve’s thigh, tasting salty sweat. He had Steve all hot and bothered, just the way he liked it. He ran his tongue along Steve’s hard column of flesh, his heart pounding as he took Steve into his mouth.
He was skilled. False modesty had never become him, anyway. Steve’s fingers tangled in his hair, urging him on. He was more than happy to follow that nudge. Steve cried out as he came, giving one final thrust with his hips, eager for completion.
Tony swallowed all of him, good to the last drop like Maxwell House coffee, he thought almost giddily.
Steve should appreciate that. Didn’t FDR come up with that slogan?
His own cock throbbed as he released Steve’s cock and gazed down at the perfectly-sculpted body. The super-soldier serum had certainly done its work as advertised, though he doubted that Dr. Erskine had intended it for this purpose.
Make love not war is a ‘60s slogan, not a ‘40s one.
Steve’s eyes were half-lidded as he collapsed in afterglow, that magnificent chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath.
“You’re right, Steve, this is way better than working down in the lab.”
Steve chuckled. “You should listen to me.” His hand reached up and brushed Tony’s cock, which jerked at the contact. “Let me help you.”
Tony smirked. If anyone could see the wanton Captain America now! He settled between Steve’s legs and touched himself. Steve watched avidly as Tony played himself like a master violinist, or at least a cellist.
Tony saw the pleading in Steve’s eyes and smiled. He maneuvered himself to straddle Steve and touch his cock to Steve’s full lips. His lover licked the pre-come off Tony’s cock, opening his mouth as Tony gently pushed in.
Tony groaned as Steve sucked him, the mouth that exuded honesty and patriotism skillfully bringing him to climax. It was Tony’s turn to collapse as he slid out of Steve’s mouth and curled up around with him, Steve’s arms sliding around him. Tony still marveled how quickly he fell asleep in Steve’s arms.
Steve gently stroked Tony’s back. He was feeling at peace, something that seemed to elude him a lot these days, unless he counted… he resolutely thought of Tony in his arms, and how now he would not be afraid to fall asleep.
A glint on the nightstand caught his eye and he looked wth satisfaction at the new ring he had purchased a few days ago. It was heavy gold set with a sapphire ringed by tiny diamonds, topazes and rubies, flanked by a raised eagle on each side. It sparkled as the rays of the moon hit it, creating a magical aura of glitter.
Sighing, Steve looked at the stars outside his bedroom window and let himself fall asleep.
WELCOMING HOME THE HERO
The wounded hero
Into our home.
Joan V. Rossetti
"The Home Front"
Natasha scrambled eggs in a large frying pan as she kept an eye on the coffee percolating in the pot. She liked the easy way the cooking tasks were divided here: strictly on a voluntary basis, whoever wanted to, cooked. If no one felt like it, take-out was the answer.
Natasha was an early riser so she usually cooked breakfast. The eggs would be fluffy and the bacon would be crisp, with juicy, plump sausages to add to the meal. Her mouth watered at the thought of the hearty breakfast she was whipping up. Tomorrow she would make her waffle specialty, maybe add strawberries or blueberries.
“Hey, I smell something great,” Bruce said as he came into the kitchen.
“Thanks, Doc. Would you mind getting the oranges out of the fridge and separating them into slices?”
“Sure.” Bruce took out the oranges, deftly peeled and separated the fruit and put the slices in bowls, one for each Avenger. “I’ll pour the orange juice, too.”
Natasha set out the bacon on paper towels to drain. She and Bruce would eat hot food. If the other Avengers were late, then they could microwave their meals.
Natasha didn’t feel nervous around Bruce anymore, or at least not excessively so. He seemed to have the Big Guy under control.
Good thing, otherwise we’d all be in danger.
Bruce was dressed casually in dark-blue slacks and a light-blue shirt. She was dressed in jeans and a blue plaid flannel shirt borrowed from Clint, glad to ditch her skintight suit for once.
“Anybody else stirring?” She put the eggs on plates for the two of them.
“I heard Thor singing in the shower.”
She laughed. “Yeah, that’s not hard to miss. Once Clint smells bacon and sausages, he’ll be up.”
Bruce snickered. “Usually Steve’s up by now.”
“Unless Tony’s all tangled around him.”
Bruce laughed out loud. “Well, you’re right about that. Tony’s no early riser unless he’s never gone to bed.”
Clint yawned and shuffled into the room while rubbing his eyes. “Sausages and bacon, tovarisch?”
“That’s right. Get your delicious butt into a chair and you can help with clean-up after.”
“Okay, sounds like a deal.” Clint flopped into a chair and drank his juice.
Thor breezed in. “Ah, a fine repast, Natasha! Verily, I am enamored of your excellent cooking skills.”
She bowed slightly. “Thank you, Thunder God.”
Thor beamed like the sun, pouring cups of coffee for all who were present.
“Oh, my god, is that coffee I smell?” Tony staggered in while Steve followed with a happy smile on his face.
“’Tis,” Thor said.
Tony immediately drank down his cup and held it out for a refill.
“Natasha, darling, you’re a lifesaver,” said Pepper as she walked in.
“Hey, Pep, when did you get back?” asked Tony.
“Late last night.” Pepper put her arm around Natasha’s waist and kissed her.
“Whoo hoo! Girl-on-girl action ,” said cheered Tony.
“What are you, thirteen, Stark?” asked Natasha.
“I’m not surprised.”
Pepper nuzzled her neck. “Don’t feed the bears.”
Natasha chuckled. “Have a seat, Pep dear.”
“I’m jealous,” Tony said. He grabbed Steve and nuzzled his neck. Steve blushed brick-red and the rest of the Avengers exchanged smiles.
“Aw, c’mon, Steve, everyone knows you and me are sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”
Steve rolled his eyes but played along while looking happy.
“Sit down, ladies and gents,” said Natasha.
“Don’t have to say that twice,” Tony said as he and Steve sat down right next to each other. Steve happily sprinkled paprika on his eggs from a large shaker set that Tony set by his plateby his plate by Tony.
Soon a hungry roomful ofthe hungry Avengers were eating good food and praising Natasha’s cooking. She took it with serene grace, pleased to be recognized for something besides fighting skills.
“So what’s on the agenda for today?” Pepper asked as she stabbed a forkful of eggs.
“We’re bringing Phil home from the hospital ,” Clint said with a smile.
“That’s great,” said Tony. “I’ve got his room all ready.”
“Do you need help at the hospital?” asked Steve.
“Thanks, Steve, Phil would love to see you.”
“I’ll go, too,” said Natasha.
Thor leaned forward toward Clint. “What food can the Son of Coul eat?”
“I can give you a list, but soup would be good for a start.”
Thor looked thoughtful. “Soup it shall be. Nothing too spicy?”
“Not right now.”
“Does he like fish?”
Thor looked pleased. “Miss Potts, could you accompany me to the market?”
“I’d be delighted, Thor.”
“I’ll check the room,” said Bruce. “They should send over a list of medications and when to take them, and as well as the meds themselves. Make sure that they do, Clint.”
“You got it, Doc.”
After breakfast everyone had their tasks. As promised, Clint helped Natasha clean up while Pepper and Thor departed for the fish market. Tony showed Bruce where the linens were and the two of them changed the sheets on Phil's new bed. Steve poked his head in.
“I’m going to the hospital with Clint and Natasha.”
“Okay, see you later.” Tony changed the pillowcase as he watched Steve leave, a happy sigh escaping him.
Bruce smiled to himself. He was glad for the simple task. Complex computations were stimulating but sometimes the simple things were the best. His life had become a complex mess ever since the accident, but being part of the Avengers helped…a lot.
One of the reasons was the man he was sharingshared housekeeping duties with at the moment. He and Tony had instantly connected, two scientific minds coming together like a pair of supernovas. It was a thrill to be able to speak on the same level with another person.
Not that the other Avengers weren’t highly intelligent. Clint and Natasha picked up things quickly, able to cram all sorts of details in their brains for missions. Thor knew all sorts of magical and mystical things that Bruce could notcouldn't even begin to figure out. Steve was a quick study, absorbing nearly seventy years of history in a very short time. Bruce admired all of their different intelligences.
“It was really nice of you to take Phil in, Tony.”
Tony slipped a pillowcase on a second pillow. “He would’ve been stuck in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility otherwise. He had no one to take care of him at his apartment.”
“He has us.”
Tony smiled. “Yeah.”
Bruce had been alone for so long that he was almost unsure of all this togetherness, especially considering his unique condition.
As he smoothed the sheets he thought that caring for Phil was a good thing. Phil needed looking after and it would give Bruce something beside himself to worry about. Helping the sick in India had been a good thing until Natasha had shown up and recruited him for the Tesseract mission.
He was grateful to be helping others again. Phil Coulson had been severely injured in the line of duty and deserved the best of care. He was looking forward to using his medical skills again.
“We’re going to be getting notes on Phil’s condition and a list of his medications. Is S.H.I.E.L.D. providing the meds?”
“They should. I spoke with Fury. He’s very interested in Phil’s welfare.”
“He should be. Phil nearly died going after Loki.”
Tony fluffed the pillow against the headboard. “He’s a brave man.”
“Yeah.” Bruce pulled the blanket up and smoothed it. “Well, he’ll get the best care here.”
“I have no doubt of that,” said Tony with a smile.
Steve and Natasha walked down the hospital corridor as Clint hurried ahead. Natasha smiled fondly. “He's really happy to get Phil home.”
Steve smiled. “I can’t blame him.”
Her smile faded. “It was close.”
It was, of course, the life of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and an Avenger, but neither one said it aloud. They both knew it.
In the cramped hospital room, Steve smiled at Phil, who was delighted to see him. Pale and thin, Phil needed a lot of care but he was improved enough for home care. Flowers and cards were on every available surface, attesting to the mild-mannered agent’s popularity with his fellow agents.
“Nice to see you, guys.”
“Hey, we arewe're your escort home.” Clint lightly squeezed his handler’s shoulder.
“Home as in Avengers Tower,” Natasha said. “You’ll have nurses galore.”
Phil blinked. “Avengers Tower? I…wow .”
Steve smiled. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Sir, this haddock must be of the finest quality.” Thor’s voice boomed across the expanse of the market.
The fishmonger blinked as Pepper grinned. He probably hadn’t sold fish to many gods before.
“Um, it is.” The middle-aged man rubbed his nose. “Ya want it or not?”
“Verily, I do.”
Pepper enjoyed watching people’s reactions to the blond Asgardian . He certainly cut a larger-than-life figure. The fishmonger’s brown eyes had widened at the sight of Thor and he seemed skeptical of all the grandiose talk. The guy seemed like a regular joe from Brooklyn and probably thought ‘fancy talk’ was suspect.
“Do you have herring?” asked Thor as he looked over the haddock.
“Herring? Nope.” The fishmonger stuck a toothpick in his mouth, his unshaven jaw working as he pushed the Mets cap he wore lower over his eyes.
“A pity, but haddock will do. A pound times five, my good man.”
“Um, Thor, five pounds of haddock?” asked Pepper, surprised.
“It will go quickly. Fish stew for the Son of Coul and I love fish. And if my fellow Avengers like it, we will make short work of it.”
“Ah.” Thor had an appetite the size of the Hulk. The haddock would notwouldn't last long even if he was the only one eating it besides Phil.
Pepper enjoyed going to the fish market. She loved lobster and oysters and all kinds of fish. It was interesting to see the early-morning hustle and bustle of the fish market, though admittedly they were later than the restaurant buyers. The buyers had already been here to purchase pounds of fresh fish for the day and were long gone back to their establishments. There appeared to be fish of every imaginable kind (though no herring for Thor to buy), dozens of seagulls screeching as they wheeled overhead. Water lapped up against the pier, the salty spray tickling Pepper’s nose. Pleasure and working boats bobbed in the harbor off the pier as a large freighter blew its horn on its way out to sea.
She felt relaxed. Instead of running around doing CEO-type things first thing in the morning, she was taking the time to simply go to the fish market and enjoy the fresh air and the ambience of the wharf. She also enjoyed Thor’s company. Not only was he easy on the eyes, but he was relentlessly cheerful.
“So you know your fish, eh?” she asked teasingly.
Thor smiled. “It is a staple of Asgard.” His smile faltered. “Loki always preferred the fish feasts to those of boar or venison.”
Pepper carefully refrained from making a comment. While Loki had brought the Chitauri down on their heads, he had still been raised with Thor as brothers they had still been raised as brothers . They had been close as children.
Sibling bonds are hard to break.
Pepper put her hand on Thor’s arm and he looked at her with a shy grateful smile. He returned to haggling with the fishmonger.
Tony and Bruce greeted the caravan from the hospital at the front door. “Good to see you, Phil,” said Tony. “Lucky the heat wave broke.”
“Must be global warming,” Phil said with a wan smile. “It shouldn’t be that hot in October.”
“No, it shouldn’t.”
Phil noticed Bruce. “Hey, Dr. Banner.”
“Hi, Phil.” Bruce put a hand on the stretcher’s railing. “Looks like my med school skills will be put to work.” He smiled reassuringly.
Phil’s eyes drifted close. “That’s good, Doc.” He sighed. “Clint?”
“Right here.” Clint grasped Phil’s hand and squeezed.
A small smile graced Phil’s lips as he drifted asleep.
“This way, gentlemen.” Clint directed the ambulance attendants to the elevator.
“Clint seems to have things well in hand,” said Tony with an amused quirk of the lips.
Natasha nodded. “He’ll be a lot happier now that Phil’s out of the hospital.”
Steve brushed his hand against Tony’s and the billionaire grasped it. He could understand Clint’s feelings very well.
Natasha smirked as she went to the kitchen. Thor would be needingneed some things to make his stew.
All was well at Avengers Tower, at least for now.
FISH STEW AND YOU
Soothes the soul.
"Food For The Soul"
Phil’s arrival was the focal point of the day at Avengers Tower. The ambulance attendants and Clint settled the wounded agent into his bed, a special design built by Tony to work like a hospital bed but far more comfortable, in his not-so-humble opinion.
The attendants left the room and Bruce took over. He checked Phil's the vitals on his patient while Clint watched. Once he was done, Bruce said, “You are in good shape , Phil. How are you feeling?”
“That’s to be expected.” Bruce consulted the chart that had been sent with Phil in the ambulance. “It’s time for your medication. Clint, come with me. You should familiarize yourself with his meds and schedule. Be right back.”
Bruce and Clint went out into the hall. Clint demanded, “Is something wrong?”
“Not anythingNothing unusual. You really do need to know his meds and schedule.”
Bruce squeezed Clint’s arm. “You don’t have to worry, Clint. I know that Phil’s been through a helluva lot. It wasn’t that long ago that Loki skewered him through the back. He was close to death and had that setback recently, too, but he’s coming through.”
“I know.” Clint rubbed his face. “God, Bruce, I’ve almost lost him twice. More than twice!”
“I know.” Bruce let the sympathy shine in his eyes. “But he’s making progress now.”
Clint shook his head. “He’s too weak! If he caught a cold he’d end up in ICU.”
“He’s all right. If he wasn’t strong enough to leave the hospital, they never would have let him go.”
Clint looked at his friend with worry. “I know. I just…”
Bruce smiled gently. “I understand. We’ll all take care of him, Clint.”
Clint nodded, looking thoughtful for a few minutes, then excitement flashed in Clint’s his eyes . “That’s right, we all will. Nat and you and Steve and Thor and Tony will all help.”
Clint was babbling but he couldn’t help it. Bruce smiled again. He put a hand on the archer’s arm and left it there this time.
“It’s all right to be a little worried, you know. Phil has been through the wringer but he’s tough. He’ll make it.”
Clint sighed smiled with a tinge of melancholy, looking down at his boots. “I know. I just want him to be all right.”
“He will be.”
Clint looked up. “I should quit goin’ all emo on you, right?”
Bruce laughed. “Not to worry. You’ve got a right to be a little shaky.”
“Okay, you’re all right, Doc.”
Pleased, Bruce went over the medications with Clint.
Steve came down the hall and listened to the conversation for a moment before going into Phil’s room.
He was struck by how frail the agent looked. He knew how serious the injury had been, but it always shocked him a little when he saw the results. He thought guiltily of blowing Phil off about signing his trading cards but Phil had forgiven him. Steve had signed the cards and had promised to sign any replacements.
Phil Coulson was a handsome man, shy and sweet and with bright hazel eyes that had dulled with pain and medication. He was firm as an agent but got things done through quiet persuasion instead of bombastic threats.
Steve checked the nightstand. The pitcher was full of water and there was a box of tissues next to a glass. Phil’s eyes were closed and he could be sleeping. Steve started to turn away when a soft voice said, “Hi, Cap.”
Steve smiled as he turned back, “Hi, Phil. I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
“Nah, just resting my eyes.”
“Good. Resting is highly recommended.”
“Talking to Bruce.”
“How’s he doing?” Phil coughed.
“He’s concerned about you.”
“He’s a good man.” The agent turned his head to look at the nightstand.
“Would you like a drink of water?”
Steve poured the cold water into the glass, putting a straw in it and helping Phil drink.
“Thank you.” Phil rested back against the pillow.
“You’re welcome.” Steve put the glass back on the nightstand.
“People don’t say, ‘you’re welcome’ anymore.”
“No?” Steve pulled a chair up to the bedside. “What do they say?”
“Really? I’m gladI prefer to express my gratitude the old-fashioned way.”
Phil chuckled. “Old-fashioned can be a good thing.”
“I hope so. I’m afraid I’m hopelessly old-fashioned.” Steve smiled ruefully.
Phil smiled. “Part of your charm, Cap.”
Steve always felt better after talking to Phil. Maybe it was the hero worship thing, but the agent’s open admiration soothed any sore spots he suffered from this strange new world.
One thing that he found easy to adapt to was the openness of gay relationships. At first he had been shy about his romance with Tony but he had quickly grown accustomed to being open by holding hands or kissing Tony in front of others. It was a freedom he could have never enjoyed with Bucky as they had been prisoners of their time.
He knew that Clint’s concern for Phil was for more than a handler or friend. He had seen the way the archer talked to Phil and worried about him. It was the way he had felt about Bucky then and felt about Tony now.
The silence between him and Phil was comfortable. It was a balm to his troubled soul.
I haven’t had the freezing nightmare for almost a week. Maybe I won’t have it again.
The thing that worried him was that this particular nightmare was different from the usual dreams he suffered about being frozen .
Or maybe I’m just imagining it. Frozen dreams are frozen dreams.
“Would you like a radio, Phil?”
Steve crossed his legs as he interlaced his fingers. “I can get you a really nice Bakelite from an antique shop on 32nd Street. It’s red." He smiled. “It’s where I got my ring.” He displayed it to Phil, who was immediately interested.
“That sounds nice about that radio. And this ring is really cool.”
Steve smiled. “I’m afraid it’s not fancy. The radio, not the ring.”
“Perfectly okay.” Phil tapped the ring on Steve’s finger. “It suits you. Strong and masculine but with sparkle.”
Steve had no opportunity to answer that because the door burst open and Thor swept in, carrying a tray with a steaming bowl that wobbled precariously.
“And what is this?” Phil asked.
Phil perked up. “What kind of fish?”
“Haddock. Fresh from the day’s catch.”
Thor set the tray on the bed, the snapped-down legs holding it steady. Steve leaped up and arranged the pillows more comfortably as he pushed the bed up electronically with the touch of a button.
“Oh, this smells wonderful, Thor,” said Phil.
“I checked to make sure that this could be allowed for your stomach. I put in much fish but mild spices. If it upsets you, please speak upsay so. Do not eat something you are not ready for, Son of Coul.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure not to get carried away.” Phil tasted a spoonful of the pungent stew. “Oh, man, this is great, Thor! I’m glad they took me off a bland diet.”
“Take it slow, Phil,” Steve cautioned.
Phil measured his spoonfuls, clearly delighted with his stew.
“Hey, you’ve got a good appetite, Agent Coulson,” teased Clint as he came into the room.
“After weeks of hospital food, you would, too.”
“Thanks, Thor,” said Clint as he took Steve’s vacated seat.
Tony poked his head in. “Hey, you look all settled in, Phil.”
“Thanks, Tony.” Phil ate another spoonful.
“C’mon, men, lunch. Thor, you made enough stew for an army!”
Thor beamed. “Let us indulge in the repast, friend Tony.” He gently touched Phil’s shoulder. “I am glad you are enjoying your meal. There is Mmore where that came from.” He left the room with Steve and Tony.
The Avengers were seated around the kitchen table, enjoying bowls of stew and slices of wheat bread.
“You’re quite the culinary artist,” Natasha said to Thor, who graciously accepted the compliment.
Steve liked the taste of the fish, the tomato stock laced with red pepper. His mouth tingled as he ate, thinking of Coney Island and the sea and the darting of silvery fish beneath the pier. He thought of the deep-blue sea, staring down into shimmering depths, so cold and blue and white as the sun sparkled down onto the water, creating whitecaps.
Steve shivered as he suddenly felt cold. He ate more spicy stew, sprinkling red pepper flakes into the bowl, trying to heat up.
Because the sun-sparkling water could be deceptive, luring you in like a siren song.
On the window
Glitters like dew
On the grass,
Dance of diamonds.
The routine of the Tower settled in with Phil’s arrival. The Avengers took shifts in sitting with the agent, sometimes leaving him alone so that he could sleep or simply have some time to himself. Clint stayed for hours, leaving only to train, taking his meals with Phil unless his lover was asleep. JARVIS and a rotation of S.H.I.E.L.D. nurses kept their eye on Phil via technology, the humans checking on him periodically.
Phil remained quiet. He was still weak and tired but his grievous wound was healing. Bruce was worried about infection after the last bout a few weeks ago, but Phil was slowly making his way back.
Thor had spoken with Phil in private, Steve suspecting that he was apologizing because of what Loki had done to the agent. Thor was preparing at least half of Phil’s meals , Clint the other half.
The Avengers welcomed the distraction of Phil arriving at the Tower. They were in a lull, keeping up their training but as there were no major threats requiring their attention. They were learning about each other and the various in-house romances amused and intrigued them all. Natasha gently teased Clint about his devotion to Phil but she was proud of his loyalty and caring.
Steve was pleased at the harmony among the members of the team. Unit cohesion was so vital to a team’s success, but even more importantly, the team was becoming a family.
Tony ambled out of his lab in search of coffee. “Anyone seen Steve?” he asked as he entered the kitchen.
Natasha and Clint were enjoying coffee at the table while Thor rummaged around in the cabinets for Poptarts.
“I saw him head out on his run a little while ago,” Natasha volunteered.
“He should be back by now.” Tony poured a steaming cup of coffee from his re-designed machine.
“Give him a beep on his cellphone. He knows how to work it now,” Clint suggested.
Tony took out his phone and punched in Steve’s number. He frowned. “He isn’t answering.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to answer it,” Natasha said as she took a sip of coffee.
“No, Clint’s right, he knows. JARVIS, did Steve tell you where he was going?”
“Is JARVIS boycotting you?” Clint teased as Thor put the Poptarts in the toaster.
“No, there’s been some problem with him being on-line. I’m trying to find out just what is going on.” He flipped his cellphone shut. “Fuck it. I’ll go look for him.”
“Call us if you need help,” Natasha said as Tony left the kitchen.
Tony appreciated the offer. He was worried about Steve. Nightmares were usual for him as a war veteran, and he certainly understood PTSD after his own ordeal in Afghanistan, but this felt different. He wasn’t sure how, but he trusted his instincts.
He put on good walking shoes and went out in his lab clothes of ragged jeans and Black Sabbath T-shirt. He put on sunglasses so that people wouldn’t recognize him, or at least it would take them so long before they did it would be enough time for him to get out of their line of sight.
He was glad that he had run with Steve on some mornings and knew his usual route. He walked through the park and made his way to the waterfront. There was where he found his errant lover. Steve was on a footbridge and leaning over the railing. He seemed absorbed by the play of sunlight on the water.
“Hey,” Tony asked casually as he jogged up. “Everything okay?” When Steve didn’t respond, Tony grabbed his shoulder. “Steve, you okay?”
Steve seemed to come out of a trance and blinked at Tony. “Huh? Oh, hi, Tony.”
“Steve, what’s going on? You blanked out.”
“Oh, sorry.” Steve rubbed his forehead. “Guess I just got lost in memories.”
“Understandable.” Tony squeezed his shoulder. “Come back with me to the Tower. I need company in my workshop.”
Steve smiled slightly. “Okay.” Tony put an arm around his shoulders but Tony had the distinct impression that Steve was reluctant to leave.
Steve glanced out the window as the sun rose over the Chrysler Building. He was pleased to see that landmark had not changed since his time, or the Empire State Building, either.
A pity Avengers Tower isn’t a little more Art Deco, Steve thought in amusement. He put his hand on the glass. Despite the warming rays of the sun, it felt cold.
He blinked as he saw the white clouds drifting across the blue sky, the cold seeping into his bones. His wrist ached as he stared out at a beautiful sunrise.
“Oh, hi, Tony.” Whatever spell had been cast over him was broken as Tony nuzzled his neck, sliding his arms around his lover’s waist. “You’re pretty frisky this morning, aren’t you?”
“Easy to do around you.”
“Didn’t you get enough last night?” Steve closed his eyes as Tony began to nibble on his neck.
“Never get enough of you.”
Steve felt happy, frowning a little as the old familiar melancholy undergirded that happiness with a sweet, piercing pain. It was the familiar feeling of loss and grief and depression that he had battled ever since waking up from the ice. His little incident this morning was proof that he needed more rest.
I understand feeling this way sometimes but I have Tony now, and the rest of the Avengers.
And he was happy with Tony. The pain of losing Bucky would never fully leave him, but Bucky was never coming back. He would have to accept that. Tony was here and was everything Steve wanted: brilliant, funny and courageous, a man whom Steve was happy to fight at his side. Tony was every inch a hero, even if he didn’t believe it.
I’m probably reading too much into a moment of melancholy.
Early morning frost glittered on the window .
When Clint suddenly got a new assignment , he went directly to Fury to try and get out of it. He returned stomping his feet like a two-year-old.
“We’ll take care of Phil, Clint, don’t worry,” said Steve, hoping to reassure his friend.
The archer paced the living room as he ran his hand through his hair. “I just hoped I wouldn’t be sent out so soon.”
Steve understood Clint’s frustration. If he had been forced to leave an ailing Tony, he would not have been happy.
Natasha came into the room. “Clint, go and complete your mission successfully. Phil will be in good hands, my friend.” She put a hand on Clint’s shoulder and squeezed.
He rubbed his face. “Yeah, okay. Thanks, ‘Tasha.” Clint went into Phil’s room to explain his departure.
“Clint won’t be too distracted on this mission, will he?” Steve asked worriedly.
Natasha reflected his worry. “I hope not.”
While one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. nurses stayed with Phil, the Avengers went out for lunch. Part of their requirements as Avengers was to get out among the people from time-to-time.
Steve was never quite happy with these appearances. His U.S.O. training stood him in good stead, but he was never quite certain of what people would say or do. Crude language was often used, as people thought nothing of using four-letter words in mixed company, an old-fashioned term these days, but Steve was an old-fashioned guy.
Tony stayed close to him, cheerfully deflecting fans and reporters’ questions. Steve was confident as leader of the Avengers but appreciated Tony’s assistance.
You’re a good man, Tony Stark.
The bistro hosting the event had good food and Steve didn’t object to the company. Every Avenger had his or her own brand of humor: Tony was bombastic and sarcastic, Bruce quietly sly snarky, Natasha pure slyness , Clint ironic , and Thor boisterously good-natured. He wasn’t sure how to classify his own sense of humor.
He rubbed his chest. There was that sweet, piercing sense of melancholy again. He shrugged it off. He would always feel that way on occasion. Losing Bucky and then waking up to a Buck Rogers type of world would throw off any man.
Tony looked at him with a smile and Steve smiled back. The melancholy faded.
After the delicious lunch of smoked turkey on wheat with crispy lettuce, Italian plum tomatoes, red onions and honey mustard with hand-cut French fries, they took their leave and wandered down the street, still noticeable in civilian clothes but for the most part people were too wrapped up in their own lives to attract much attention, which suited the Avengers just fine.
“Hey, this is the shop I stopped in the other day,” said Steve.
“Really?” Tony said as he looked at the façade that proclaimed Maximoff’s Antique Shop.
“Yes,” Steve said, expecting a crack about him being an antique, too, but none was forthcoming. “I got this swell ring , see?” He held out his hand. The heavy gold ring was set with a sapphire ringed by tiny diamonds, rubies and topazes, flanked by a raised eagle on each side.
“That’s beautiful,” said Natasha, examining it. “I’d love to see their selection of jewelry.”
Steve held the door open and the tiny bells overhead jingled. Natasha went in, followed by Bruce, Thor, and Tony, who paused and whispered in Steve’s ear, “You’re beautiful.”
Steve smiled as he followed Tony inside.
PATCHOULI AND PUMPKIN
Are the scents
As mystery swirls
The shop smelled of patchouli, a scent close to incense. Steve was familiar with that scent from Mass, both as an altar boy and a member of the congregation in the pews.
The shop was a charming mishmash of antiques: posters, books, paintings, Bakelite radios, lamps, furniture, toys and tins. Pumpkin-scented candles burned on the counter as a tabby cat padded down the aisle.
“Looks like a combo antique/New Age-y shop to me,” said Tony.
“New Age-y?” Steve asked.
“Candles, aromatherapy, crystals…a definite way of life,” Natasha said. She saw a glass case and looked over the jewelry within.
Thor was delighted with the multitude of vintage goods, immediately wandering through the aisles.
Tony rubbed Steve’s shoulder. “Looks like your kind of place, love.”
Steve chuckled. “I do have a liking for this place. I feel comfortable here.”
Tony looked around. “Where’s the shopkeeper?”
“Probably in the back. I have to see if the radio I promised Phil is still here.”
Tony followed Steve down the aisle in fond amusement. Steve’s eyes lit up as he saw different items.
“There it is.” Steve carefully lifted a red Bakelite radio with a distinct Art Deco flair.
“I could get JARVIS to pipe in any music Phil wants.”
“Maybe Phil wants to listen to deejays and ads.”
Tony laughed. “Sounds like you.”
Steve flashed a smile as he headed back to the counter while carrying the radio.
Tony spotted a stack of Life magazines and flipped through them, careful of their age. He stopped at one set of pictures.
“I put it on the counter by the cash register. What’s so fascinating? Pin-up girls?”
“No.” Tony held out the magazine with a slight sad smile .
Steve took it, his heart hammering as he looked at the picture of him and Bucky in the full-length glossiness of Life Magazine. Their arms were around each other’s shoulders as they smiled into the camera.
“Thanks,” he rasped.
Tony squeezed his shoulder and picked up a batch of magazines. “I’d like to get some of these. Just put that one on top when you’re done with it.” He headed for the counter.
Steve carefully flipped the pages, seeing the pictures of the Howling Commandoes. His fingers felt icy as he traced another photo of Bucky.
“Steve, the bracelet is gorgeous” Natasha appeared with a sparkly piece. “The tiny icons are set in between with rubies, see?”
Steve closed the magazine. He tried to breathe past the weight on his chest. “It’s beautiful.”
Natasha admired the bracelet on her wrist and Steve smiled. He brought the magazine to the counter.
The candles were the thick, twisting, pillar type, the flames letting off the strong scent of pumpkin. He warmed his hands over one of them. Suddenly he wanted very much to be with Tony.
Steve found his lover in an aisle inspecting a well-preserved sled. “Look, it’s a Flexible Flyer!” Tony said in delight.
Steve bent over to get a better look. “Someone really took care of this.”
“Did you have one?”
“Bucky did.” He smiled to let Tony know that the memory wasn’t so painful. “We’d go sledding in Central Park when I wasn’t laid up with a cold or broken bones.”
“Broken bones?” Tony’s brows knitted.
“Yeah, if I took a fall or the neighborhood bullies got a little too enthusiastic during the daily beatings.” Steve wasn’t sure why he’d said all that but maybe the sense of melancholy had pushed him. He saw the look on Tony’s face and smiled faintly, patting him on the leg. “Hey, it’s okay. I survived and now I’ve got a sexy boyfriend.”
“Damn right you do.” Tony still looked a little shaken but smiled. Steve loved him fiercely in that moment. “Hey, I found some real cool toys over here.”
Steve felt better as he and Tony exclaimed over the toys. “A Lionel train! With a whole set of tracks, tunnels and buildings.”
“Over here’s an Erector set.” Tony smirked.
Steve laughed. “Are you ten years old?”
Natasha popped up at the head of the aisle. “When Clint gets back, I’ll have to bring him here. Phil’s a retro kind of guy. He’d love this stuff.”
“He’d love this.” Tony picked up a small Captain America doll, slightly the worse for wear but still in good condition.
Steve straightened up from his perusal of the train set. “Considering what happened to his trading cards I’m sure he would.”
“Where’s Thor?” Tony asked Natasha.
“I don’t know.” Natasha looked around. “I don’t know where Bruce is, either.”
“Thor’s awfully quiet,” Steve said as he scanned the aisles, but this shop had many nooks and crannies.
“Not his usual mode of operation,” Tony said.
Steve laughed, “No, not his usual.”
“Let’s go looking for them. A quiet Thor is not a good thing.”
The three of them found Thor fascinated by another Lionel working train set. Bruce was with him and just as delighted.
“Such cleverness! I am enamored of such a magnificent toy and all its trappings,” said the Thunder God.
“This is a Lionel train,” Steve explained. “Good vintage.”
“So many clever trappings. The tiny buildings, the tiny trees, the tiny people!”
Steve smiled. Thor’s child-like delight in things was a happy thing to see. He felt much better.
After a little more time spent investigating the shop, the Avengers walked up to the counter, ready to pay for their purchases.
“Hello, Miss Maximoff?” Steve called.
The beads in the doorway clacked as the proprietor emerged from the back room. She was a pretty woman with auburn hair flowing over her shoulders. She wore a dark red dress with wide sleeves, the hem only showing the tips of her shoes. A delicate gold chain with a large teardrop diamond rested between her breasts. Large, brown eyes observed the party.
“Do you have your purchases selected, sir?”
Steve smiled. “Yes, thank you.”
“All excellent choices. “ The shopkeeper smiled. “I see you’re enjoying your ring.”
“Yes, it’s a fine piece of jewelry.”
“Good.” She rang up the purchases and Steve led the Avengers out, the scent of pumpkin trailing behind them.
Is a balm.
It was so cold, the ribbons of snowy white dancing against a background of deep blue. The water sparkled as the ice glittered high above him as it began to descend, voices whispering upon the waves.
“Come to us, Captain.”
The ice pressed down as it began to encase him in white cold, so bitter that it hurt …
Steve awoke with a start, shaking so hard that he woke Tony.
“What is it, Steve?” Tony grasped his arms. “You’re shaking like a leaf!”
“I…I had a nightmare.” Steve’s teeth chattered.
“Hey, it’s all right.” Tony grabbed Steve’s hand. “You’re freezing!” Tony pulled the covers up over their naked bodies and pulled Steve close, kissing his temple. “It’s okay, Steve. It was just a nightmare.” Tony rubbed Steve’s shivering back. “Was it the war?”
Steve couldn’t stop shaking. He had suffered dreams about the ice before, but lately they had seemed more vivid and suffocating. He just wanted to forget about it and concentrate on Tony’s arms around him, safe in their bedroom here at the Tower.
He gradually began to calm down under the ministrations of his lover, who stroked his hair and rubbed his back, murmuring comfort to him.
“I’m here; it’s okay; I love you.”
Steve held on tightly to Tony, finally relaxing enough to say, “I love you, too.”
Tony kissed him and held him close.
Tony had a rush project for S.H.I.E.L.D., though he was reluctant to part from Steve. They were on their way down to the kitchen and Steve said, “It’s all right, Tony. I’m fine now.”
“You’re sure?” Tony’s eyes searched Steve’s face.
“I’m sure.” The blond smiled. “Really, Tony.”
Tony kissed Steve just as Natasha was exiting her room. “Get a room, you two.” She teased as she continued on her way to the kitchen.
Steve chuckled. “We just came from our room,” he called after her. She waved her hand.
“Listen, I gotta get on that project.” Tony squeezed Steve’s hand and started for his lab.
“Hey, what about breakfast?”
“Bring me some when you’re done.”
Steve shook his head fondly as Tony went on his merry way.
In the kitchen Natasha and Bruce were already eating. The three of them exchanged good mornings as Steve poured some coffee and sat down, choosing Cheerios for his cereal and adding fresh strawberries.
“Where’s Thor?” he asked.
“In with Phil,” said Natasha.
“How is he?”
“He’s doing well. He’s made of strong stuff.” Bruce drank his orange juice. “That was one helluva wound.”
“A Loki special,” Natasha said sourly.
Steve’s stomach knotted but he forced himself to relax. He didn’t want the return of tension, trying to escape the lingering remnants of his nightmare.
“I see you’re wearing your bracelet,” he said to Natasha.
She smiled and turned her wrist, the sunlight streaming in through the windows catching the rubies and making them sparkle. “I see you’re still wearing your ring.”
“Yes, I like the colors. Very soothing.”
“Ah, very New Age-y,” said Bruce wryly.
“Mmm, yes, New Age: candles, aromatherapy, crystals…maybe some granola.”
“You learn fast.” Bruce smiled.
The three of them enjoyed breakfast and Steve decided to visit Phil before going to the workshop.
“And so Odin declared three days of feasting!”
“That sounds great.”
Steve knocked lightly on the open door and Phil and Thor looked around.
“Hi, Cap,” said Phil.
“Ah, Steven! You look robust this morning.”
“Thanks, guys.” Steve smiled as he walked toward the bed. “I can say the same about you, Phil. What’s cookin’, good-lookin’?”
Phil chuckled. “Thanks, Cap.”
Thor stood. “I will give you time for a visit. Is there something cooking in the kitchen?”
“’Fraid not. Cereal today.”
“That is fine. I like the varieties of Midgardian grains, though I am not sure Lucky Charms can be grown in a field.”
Steve laughed. “Part of it is, though the marshmallows are a different story.”
“I like marshmallows,” said Thor cheerfully as he gently clapped Phil on the shoulder. “I will bring the midday meal later.” He picked up Phil’s breakfast tray.
Thor exited the room and Steve took his vacated chair. While Phil looked pale as he rested against the propped-up pillows, he looked far better than just a week ago.
“Have you heard from Clint?” Steve asked.
“Early this morning. He’s doing well.”
“Good. Can’t wait to see him back here.”
Steve smiled. He well knew the devotion between Phil and Clint. It was what he shared with Tony.
“Thor tells me that Loki was sentenced in Asgard.”
“Yes, Thor had to attend the trial. He was one of the star witnesses.”
“That probably didn’t set well with him.” Phil’s smile was a little sad. “He loves Loki very much.”
“I think so.”
Thor loved Loki as Steve had loved Bucky when they were kids: just like a brother. He also suspected there might be some of the same feelings that Steve had developed for Bucky but he kept that theory to himself. It was Thor’s business and not Steve’s place to openly speculate about something so personal.
Phil’s hand slid back-and-forth over his blanket. “So Loki’s locked up?”
“Yes.” Steve glanced out the window. It was a beautiful day. “Thor didn’t give any details, just said that Loki had been sentenced.”
He had done some research into Norse mythology. The punishment for the God of Deception was to sew his mouth shut to prevent him from weaving any more webs of lies. Whether Odin had sentenced his adopted son to the old legends’ punishment of a viper dripping venom into his face, Steve had no way of knowing. It sounded barbaric but considering Loki’s actions had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, not to mention Phil almost dying, Steve had little sympathy for him.
“Good.” Phil coughed, grimacing slightly.
“Would you like some water?”
Steve poured Phil a glass of water and handed it to him. Phil drank gratefully and Steve poured another glass for him.
“Pretty thirsty,” said Phil.
“That’s okay. Plenty of water.” Steve chuckled softly. “Though I never dreamed that companies would sell water in bottles and people would actually buy it!”
Phil smiled. “Pretty crazy, huh? Who woulda thunk it?”
Steve shook his head. “So many things I don’t understand or am trying to fathom.”
“The world is a strange place.”
The melancholy settled in Steve’s chest. “I’m not sure I’ll ever fit in.”
Phil smiled fondly as he rested against the pillows. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, Cap. It’ll take time.”
“I guess time is all I have.” He rubbed his face tiredly.
“You have Tony.”
Steve smiled. “Yes, I do.” His eyes sparkled. “As you have Clint.”
Phil appreciably perked up. “I do. I love him.”
“That’s obvious,” Steve said with a wink.
Phil chuckled. “Guess there’s no need to keep it on the down-low.”
“I don’t know exactly what that means, but I have a pretty good idea.”
“See? You pick up things quickly.”
“Well, I was always a pretty good student.”
“A very good one, from what I read.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a file.”
“I suppose not.” Steve was still wary “True. I sure have been in files all over the place since I joined the Super-Soldier Project.”
“You learn a lot from files.”
“And your clearance is high.”
“Pretty much.” Phil closed his eyes.
“I’m sorry. You need your rest.” Steve rose from the chair.
Phil opened his eyes. “Please stay, Steve. I’ve slept all night.”
I wish I could say the same.
“Okay. Hey, let me get the radio I promised you.”
“I’d like that.”
Steve went back to his room, retuning with the prize as Phil watched with interest. Steve set the box on Phil’s lap and the agent eagerly opened it.
“It’s perfect!” he took out the radio. “1930s?”
“Yes. It’s perfectly preserved. Works, too, of course.”
Phil fiddled with the knob and searched though the stations, settling on one that played jazz and Big Band music. He and Steve exchanged big smiles, Steve settling the radio on the nightstand and sitting back down in the chair.
Steve relaxed as he listened to all the old favorites: Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug, Five O’Clock Jump!, and The White Cliffs Of Dover.
Phil was relaxed, too. Steve knew that Hh e loved the music of the ‘30s and ‘40s , which amused Clint but he had the archer liking it, too.
They listened in companionable silence for a half hour, then Phil asked, “Steve?”
“Hmm?” Steve had drifted off with pleasant memories.
“Are you happy with Tony?”
Steve roused. “Why, Phil, are you concerned?”
Phil blushed. “Sorry, I’m being a mother hen.”
“Perfectly okay,” Steve said in amusement.
Phil looked up through his lashes. “Are you?”
Steve laughed. “Yes, Mother.” His expression grew soft. “Tony makes me very happy.”
Fondness showed on Phil’s face. “I’m glad.”
“He’s surprisingly perceptive.”
“Yes, a man who comes across as brash and flashy isn’t generally considered insightful.”
“That’s an insightful insight.”
Steve laughed. “Sounds like someone’s a little loopy on medication.”
“Maybe so, maybe so,” answered Phil with exaggerated solemnity.
They spent a few more companionable moments together when Steve glanced at his watch and realized that he still hadn’t brought Tony his breakfast.
But knowing him, all I have to do is bring a cup of coffee and he’ll be happy.
Maybe it was his Depression childhood combined with his super-soldier metabolism but he was frequently hungry and couldn’t understand how Tony could go so long without eating.
“You know that if you’re ever feeling blue, you can talk to me.”
Steve felt humbled. “Thank you, Phil.” He left the agent and went to the kitchen, heating up leftover bacon and pouring a glass of orange juice. He added fresh orange slices and took the tray down to the workshop.
As always, too-loud-music was blaring as Tony was totally absorbed in his project. Steve watched him fondly.
“Time to eat.”
Tony finally looked up. “Oh, hi.” He looked at the tray. “Fresh oranges and bacon? Fine by me.” He took the tray and began eating. “No coffee?”
“You already have a cup.”
Tony made a face. “It’s cold. Dummy, I need coffee!”
The little bot headed for the kitchen with Tony’s coffee cup.
“How’s Phil?” asked Tony.
“Doing better. He likes the radio.” Steve sighed. “I hope that Clint concentrates on his mission and doesn’t worry about Phil and throw himself off his game.”
“I can’t blame him. If you were sick or wounded, I’d be distracted.”
“I heal fast from wounds and don’t get sick.”
“Ha, you had a cold last month.”
“That didn’t last.”
Tony smirked as he chewed on a slice of bacon. “The common cold gets past even super-soldier defenses!”
Steve smiled slightly as he picked up one of the orange slices and wandered over to the window as Dummy returned. Tony inhaled the piping-hot coffee.
The sun’s rays were reflecting off other tall glass buildings, burnishing them to a fine sheen. They looked beautiful. In his time, most buildings had been solid brick or stone, not glass.
Maybe it’s symbolic. In my time, people valued privacy. Now they tell the world every detail of their lives on Facebook and other social media. Everything’s transparent like those glass buildings. He wasn’t comfortable with his business out there for everyone to know. Guess I’m just old-fashioned.
A shiver went through him. He felt cold and wished he had some of Tony’s hot coffee.
Steve almost answered when he realized that Tony was talking to Pepper over the intercom.
He smiled as he watched Tony’s reflection in the window. His lover was gesturing as he ran his hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up. His old Black Sabbath T-shirt was faded and his jeans were grease-stained. He looked like a bum instead of one of the richest men in America, and Steve loved him with all his heart.
A movement at the edge of his vision ignited his curiosity. He looked over toward the northeast and froze.
“I know, Pepper, but I have to get this S.H.I.EL.D. project out first otherwise Fury will send his ninja assassins after me, and two of them live here!”
“Ha, ha, very funny, but what about your own company?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll have the prototype ready for next week’s Board meeting.”
“We’re being invaded!”
Tony looked up and swore as he saw a host of giant creatures bearing down on Manhattan.