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: http://i152.photobucket.com/albums/s166/dreamsofnever/Brady/2012Marvel_BangTheSoldierAndTheScientistVI--StoryCover.jpg
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.
ATTACK OF THE FIFTY-FOOT BLUE ROCK MONSTERS!!!
The creatures were enormous, towering over the skyscrapers of Manhattan. They were not Chitauri, for which Cap was grateful. They were rock-like creatures with solid muscle mass, their footsteps making the earth shake. People took one look and ran off screaming, for which Cap couldn’t blame them.
He and Tony had raced for their costume and armor while JARVIS alerted the other Avengers. Soon Cap was standing on the balcony of Stark Tower, no, Avengers Tower, and his fellow Avengers hovered around him as they waited for orders. He restrained the urge to look up and see if the Tesseract portal was open again.
“Yeah, I know…smash!” Bruce smiled ruefully as he transformed into the growling Hulk and leaped off the building to attack.
“Iron Man, you and Thor attack from the flanks. Widow, you and I better help the NYPD with the civilians…”
“Does that include me, too?”
“Clint!” The Widow’s eyes lit up. “Where did you come from?”
“My assignment was over so I hightailed it over here.” Hawkeye had his bow ready, “Cap, is Phil…?”
“S.H.I.E.L.D.’s taking care of him. He’ll be out of harm’s way.”
Relief swept over Hawkeye’s face. “What’s my role?”
“Stay up here and give us the bird’s-eye view.”
Hawkeye laughed. “Right.”
Iron Man and Thor flew toward the behemoths, the one in front letting out an ear-splitting roar. Cap and Black Widow ran back into the Tower and took the elevator down to the ground floor.
Black Widow was a solid presence at Cap’s side. He knew that he could rely on her to watch his back, and he would do the same.
A faint whisper tickled his ear. “What?”
The Black Widow looked at him. “What what?”
“Did you just whisper in my ear?”
She smiled slightly. “I leave that to Stark.”
Blushing a little, Cap said, “Sorry, must have been my imagination.” He shook his head to clear it.
Soon he and Black Widow were helping people get to safety, the NYPD and Fire Department on full response. It was strongly reminiscent of the Chitauri invasion.
Can Manhattan get a break?
The whole situation was bizarre, but that was nothing new in his experience. Ever since he had been accepted for the Super-Soldier Project, his life had been one dash into crazy after another. The Red Skull and HYDRA were only the beginning.
Maybe, he thought wildly, I’m still in the ice and am dreaming all of this. Mom always did say I had a vivid imagination.
Come with us, Captain.
Cap shivered. This was no time to be hearing voices, not in the middle of battle!
The ground shook as the rocky creatures walked, their roars filling the air. They resembled the Hulk with their build but were a hundred times bigger. It was like watching King Kong rumble his way through New York except that there were four of them instead of just one giant. It was felt like a nightmare in broad daylight . One creature swung out a meaty fist toward a skyscraper until Thor blocked it with Mjolnir.
The Hulk smashed into one creature, toppling it over as its legs buckled. It fell on Broadway, crushing cars as it hit the pavement. Thor faced another one, his hammer slamming into it. Iron Man was working on the one closest to the East River. The Hulk’s creature slowly rose from the crushed pavement and roared at the Hulk, the Avenger roaring back.
Cap’s eyes narrowed as the leader of the invaders began to pound its way down Fifth Avenue, heading for a small group huddled by a car. Cursing softly, Cap ran out in the middle of the street and aimed his shield, letting it fly. It clanged loudly against the creature’s knee, and the massive head turned toward him.
Come with us, Captain.
He shook his head and held out his hand to catch his shield. He dodged a searching blue hand and was grateful that speed was not the aliens’ strong point.
How can they exist? All that solid mass and weight? Their bones should be crushed.
The leader’s blue, rock-like body was bearing down on the star-spangled Avenger, and Cap threw his shield again. The leader caught it and attempted to crush it, but vibranium was apparently too tough even for a gigantic rock monster.
Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk were still battling their respective opponents. Hawkeye radioed through the commlink, “All four invaders are engaged. Cap, watch yourself! Your guy is drawing a bead on you.”
“I think Iron Man does that,” cracked the Black Widow.
“I’m fine, guys.” The wail of approaching police sirens could be heard in the distance. “Keep the invaders’ eyes on us so that the police and firemen can do their jobs.”
“Right, Cap,” said Hawkeye.
"Roger that,” Black Widow answered.
One attacker swung and sent Thor flying over buildings for miles. The Hulk roared as he attempted to smash his opponent, who roared right back and managed to clip the green behemoth and send him flying into a building. Iron Man’s repulsors had his foe stymied, but not for long.
Captain America leaped and somersaulted over a row of parked cars, acutely feeling the loss of his shield but determined to keep the leader occupied.
“Cap, to your left!” Black Widow yelled.
Cap saw the fist coming for him and he leaped up just before it smashed a hole in the road.
He ran off and glanced over his shoulder, glad to see the creature following. The leader roared and Cap turned and shouted, “What do you want? Just tell us!”
The creature responded by raising its massive fist again, looking for a moment like a bizarre Statue of Liberty holding the torch aloft, then started to bring its fist down.
“So much for diplomacy,” Cap muttered and waited as the shadow of the alien fist completely blotted out the sun. At the last second the Avenger nimbly avoided the fist as he ran between the sequoia-like legs, barely avoiding chunks of flying concrete. The creature roared again and started a ponderous turn, flinging the shield he had captured at the pesky human.
Cap grabbed it with a grin and reversed direction, twisting the alien around and frowning as he saw wisps of snowy-white ribbons in the blue autumn sky. They twisted and turned, forming into wraiths as they floated down toward Manhattan. He could hear whispers and unconsciously waved at his ear as if swatting an insect .
Distracted, he yelped in pain as the fist grazed his shield, still powerful enough to jar his arm and shoulder. He was flung out over the East River and plunged down after an agonizing space of seconds in which he hung suspended in mid-air. Fear closed his throat as he plummeted and hit the gray water, which swallowed him up as he disappeared.
Of my heart,
Trembles as I fear
For your life,
"Smoke Over The Battlefield"
Iron Man frowned. These creatures were a strange bunch. They were huge and seemed to be made of solid rock. Scientifically they shouldn’t exist. Such dense mass at such a height and width should have a lot of difficulty moving. From what he could see, they did have some difficulties.
Lucky for us that they are moving so slowly.
He kept his attention on his opponent, JARVIS keeping him focused but he took a quick look at the battlefield below, grimacing as he saw Steve out in front.
Does he always have to the one out in front with that star on his chest like a fuckin’ target?
Tony tried to clamp down on his frustration as he battled one of the creatures. JARVIS gave him a steady stream of information and he frowned. The numbers were not right: height, weight, mass…what kind of creatures were these? And what did they want? Mindless destruction? Or something else?
They shouldn’t exist. If one of us grew to their size, we could move for a space of time, but their density…damnit!
Iron Man’s repulsors were firing right at the massive chest of one of the invaders, , but the creature seemed unfazed by the energy, almost brushing it off. He swooped down and fired again. The creature swung its arm around but was far too slow for the Avenger’s speed and maneuverability. While he fought, he worried.
Something was wrong with Steve. He was too quiet, too subdued lately. And finding him mesmerized by the water had shaken Tony more than he cared to admit.
I should have pushed. He flew around behind the alien. I should have gotten him to tell me. He fired at the broad back looming in front of him. He’s too much of his generation when men didn’t admit to weakness. He never will volunteer the information.
He made another sharp turn and let loose with his repulsors, blasting his opponent. There was much roaring and flailing but except for some scorch marks, didn’t appear to affect the creature at all. A quick look over at Thor and the Hulk showed similar lack of progress.
He looked down and saw Black Widow efficiently helping frightened civilians to safety. But where was Cap? He looked frantically for the star-spangled Avenger and found him running from his opponent, then turning around and shouting. The creature lifted its fist and brought it down just as Cap scooted between its legs, the creature ponderously turning. Heart in his throat, Iron Man watched the creature as it flung Cap’s shield back at him.
Distracted by his own opponent, Iron Man turned his attention to defeating it. He tried a barrage of firepower.
A pause as JARVIS analyzed, then…”I can’t find any, sir.”
“There are always weaknesses.”
“Most assuredly, sir, but I can’t find any at this time.”
Iron Man resolutely turned to end his part of the battle.
It was tougher than he thought as the creatures seemed to be impenetrable. Something caught his attention from the corner of his eye and he turned back to where Cap was fighting just in time to see him knocked into the East River.
Iron Man wanted to dive right into the murky water but the creature that had knocked his lover into the water was heading straight for a screaming knot of civilians.
Steve, I’m sorry.
Iron Man did his duty as he flew down to head off the invader.
Cap wanted to scream as the icy cold hit him as the waves closed in over his head.
It shouldn’t be this cold.
The gray-green water rippled as sunlight pierced the gloom. Cap tried to swim but his limbs were sluggish as the cold seeped into his bones, the wraiths slipping into the sea. They swam down and ribbons of silky white began to entwine around his body as he sank down, down, down…
Iron Man was determined to bring down his opponent. as the seconds ticked by and Cap still hadn’t returned to the surface. He tried to get a handle on the situation, the Hulk’s roars and Thor’s battle cries echoing out across the sky, but they were having no luck, either.
Suddenly he heard a splash and saw Hawkeye diving into the river. Relieved, he concentrated on his own battle, more determined than ever to end things and get his lover out of the ocean.
Because something deep inside him told him that it’s vital to get Cap out of the water.
Cap flailed in the water, his limbs steadily growing heavier. He floated down as the wraiths followed, their ethereal bodies shining in the light reflected from the surface. The cold closed around him as he screamed silently.
“Agent Coulson, you can’t get up.”
“We might have to evacuate, Nurse.” Phil tried to get out of bed. He had tried contacting the agents that located in the lobby but there had been no response.
Nurse Sarah Rossetti was determined to keep Phil in bed but her fellow agent was right. The Tower was a prime target during the rampage and they had to be ready to move fast.
Sarah pushed a strand of blond hair back. She was not petite but was in good shape, her curves deceptive as she was one of the best agents in hand-to-hand combat. Dressed in casual clothes, she checked the small gun she carried that was standard-issue.
“You need more firepower than that,” Phil rasped.
“Maybe so, but that’s all I’ve got.”
“Look in the closet. Top shelf.”
Sarah obeyed, taking down a long box. Opening it, her blue eyes widened. Lifting a sleek rifle out of the box, she said, “Cool.”
Phil laughed, ending in a coughing fit. “Give me…your gun…you keep the rifle.”
“Okay.” Sarah handed Phil the revolver. “Are you expecting a battle?”
“I expect everything (cough, cough) during an alien invasion.”
She laughed. “Good thinking.” She looked at the window. “The Avengers are engaged, but victory doesn’t seem close.” Sarah winced as Thor was hit and flew back for several miles. “Perhaps we’d better see about going to the ground floor, sir.”
“A good idea, Agent Rossetti.” Phil began to get out of bed but Sarah was immediately by his side.
“Sir, you need help.”
“Sir, you may be my superior but I am your nurse.”
Phil smiled ruefully. “All right, point taken, Nurse.”
“Let me get this strap over my shoulder. Okay, let’s go, Agent Coulson.”
Sarah helped Phil out of bed and disconnected his I.V. They started for the doorway and Pepper suddenly appeared.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“We’re evacuating,” Sarah answered.
Pepper frowned. “Do you think that’s necessary?”
Sarah inclined her head toward the window. “The battle isn’t going well.”
Pepper looked out the window and bit her lip. “I’ll help.” As she took Phil’s other arm, she asked, “Should we get Clint’s help? He’s up on the roof.”
“No.” Clint shook his head. “I don’t want Clint distracted.”
Pepper and Sarah exchanged smiles as they helped Phil out of the bedroom and down the hall to the elevators. Just as they reached them, the building shook.
Comedian Jimmy Brannigan
Iron Man watched in horror as the lead alien headed straight for Avengers Tower just as Hawkeye broke the surface of the water with Cap in his grasp.
“Iron Man! You’ve got to stop that thing!” Hawkeye shouted.
“I know.” Iron Man said over the commlink. “Don’t worry, Hawk, I’ll take care of your man. Just take care of mine.”
Hawkeye watched as Iron Man jetted toward the Tower.
Hawkeye swam to the embankment, dragging Cap out of the water. He looked blue around the lips. Quickly Hawkeye started to pump the broad back, forcing water out of Cap, who began to cough and retch.
“Wha…happened?” he choked out.
“You ended up in the drink.” Hawkeye gently squeezed his friend’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“I…yeah.” Cap coughed again. “The wraiths…”
“I saw them…coming down from the sky…in the water.”
Hawkeye frowned. Was Cap delusional? Or were these wraiths of his somehow tied into the attack? He hadn’t seen anything and neither had anyone else if their lack of comment on mysterious wraiths was any indication.
Cap’s eyes widened. “The creatures!”
“One’s headed for the Tower,” Hawkeye said in a tight voice.
Cap looked up and blanched. He struggled to stand. “Come on, we need to help Iron Man.”
“Hold on.” Hawkeye ran to the water’s edge and plucked Cap’s floating shield out of the water. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” Cap stood and grasped his shield but nearly fell down again.
“Steve, are you sure you can make it?”
Cap nodded. “Sure I can.”
Hawkeye thought for sure he saw a haunted look in Cap’s eyes, but it disappeared as he stood straighter with Hawkeye’s help.
“The elevators could be risky,” said Pepper.
“Yes, but it we go down the stairs, Agent Coulson won’t make it,” said Sarah.
Pepper knew that Sarah was right. Still, she wasn’t happy about taking a ride sixteen floors down. In her opinion, elevators were risky at the best of times, and this wasn’t the best of times.
“Why didn’t you get Phil out earlier?”
“We were getting ready to go when the creature started for the Tower. The agents assigned to the Tower aren’t answering their comms.”
“All right, let’s hurry.” She Pepper jabbed the button as the building continued to shake.
“Agent Rossetti, Ms. Potts, you should take the stairs,” Phil said.
Pepper snorted. “And leave you up here alone? Clint would make like William Tell without the apple on my head.”
Sarah chuckled despite their situation. “Never cross an archer.”
“You bet.” Pepper wanted to press the button again but knew it would do no good. They simply had to wait.
Pepper felt as if she was in a nightmare, the giant monster steadily approaching and the three of them stuck waiting for a slow-moving elevator. She wanted to scream, “Hurry up!” but JARVIS was doing the best he could.
Sarah looked a little nervous, too, despite her S.H.I.E.L.D. training. Phil looked pale and swayed slightly in the women’s grasp. Out of the corner of her eye, Pepper could see the creature getting closer.
The elevator pinged and the three of them hustled inside, the doors closing and cutting off their view of the outside.
All three of them looked up at the numbers as they started their descent: 16, 15, 14, 13…
They yelled as the elevator shook violently and began to plummet.
Iron Man let loose with a blast of repulsor rays and the creature staggered as it punched the Tower. He tried to keep his emotions in check as the Tower shook. He hoped that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents had gotten Phil out by now. Hawkeye would pitch a royal fit if his lover was hurt again.
Not that I blame him.
He was feeling very worried, distracted, put out, put upon…he was running the gamut here.
A superhero’s work is never done.
Iron Man blasted the creature as it shot out a fist, much faster than previously thought and grazed the Avenger, who pinwheeled away.
Cursing, Iron Man tried to right himself. He saw the creature raise its fist to strike the Tower again. Desperate, Iron Man performed a mid-air somersault, straightening out to fly back to the Tower.
“I see it.” Hawkeye notched a bomb arrow and let it fly, the shaft bypassing the creature but exploding right next to its ear. Roaring in pain, the creature staggered.
“Let’s hope he collapses backwards, not forward into the Tower,” Cap said grimly. He and Hawkeye ran toward the building.
“Ugh,” Pepper said. “Everyone okay?”
“I think so,” grunted Sarah. “Agent Coulson?”
Sarah checked him over as Pepper stood. Her companions remained on the floor. The elevator was slightly tilted.
Phil allowed Sarah to fuss. His back was killing him and his wound was throbbing. Slightly nauseous, he watched Pepper stab at the buttons.
“Nothing,” she said, tension clear in her voice.
“Then we wait,” Phil said quietly.
“But everyone’s too occupied with the invasion to come looking for us,” Pepper protested. “Wait, JARVIS! Hey, JARVIS!”
There was no answer.
“Maybe he’s off-line again,” Sarah said. “Listen, I can get out through the trapdoor.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure. I’m a champion climber. Give me a boost, Ms. Potts.”
“Call me Pepper. We’re boost buddies now.”
Sarah laughed. “Guess so.” She put her foot in Pepper’s joined hands and was boosted up, shoving open the trapdoor and disappearing up into the shaft.
Phil watched, outwardly calm but inwardly frustrated. His wound would break open if he tried to help, and he was weak, anyway.
Not to mention the pain in my back.
He said nothing about it. There was no medication available in this elevator, so why say anything ?
He rested his head back against the wall. He hoped that Clint was all right. If he lost him…
No, I won’t think that way. Clint will be fine. He’s come through more missions that I can count.
Pride swelled within him as Phil thought of all the dangerous situations that Clint had survived, either alone or with Natasha.
I’ll get through this if just to be here when Clint gets back.
Of course he was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and therefore responsible for Sarah Rosetti and Pepper Potts, though these two women could take care of themselves.
But that doesn’t mean I can lie down on the job.
Phil sat up a little straighter. Pepper was craning her neck as she tried to see Sarah, who had disappeared through the trapdoor.
“Do you see anything?” Pepper called up.
“Ugh, the car is tilted. We’re hanging by a couple of cables. The others are broken.”
“Fuck.” Pepper quickly glanced at Phil. “Sorry.”
He chuckled. “Perfectly all right.”
She grinned and stretched, trying to see Sarah. “I feel like I’m in that episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show when Rob and Laura are stuck in the elevator with Lyle Delp, Don Rickles’ character.”
“I hope I’m handsomer than Don Rickles.”
“Oh, you are.”
“Was there a marauding fifty-foot monster in that episode?” Phil was short of breath.
“No, and come to think of it, we haven’t felt a jolt since the elevator was affected.”
“Quiet, don’t (cough) tempt fate.” (cough, cough)
Pepper looked at him worriedly. “You okay, Phil?”
“As well as I can be stuck in an elevator with The Attack Of The Fifty-Foot Creature out there.”
Pepper laughed. She toed off her Mayam Bialiks. “Can’t go running in these.”
“Are we running somewhere?”
“Ha, I wish. But if we get out of here, we’ll need to move fast. I can’t do that tottering on these heels. I should have learned that after Obadiah.”
“Ah, yes.” Phil rubbed his arm. “He chased you wearing his own version of Tony’s armor.”
“Yeah, and it wasn’t a good feeling.”
Sarah’s legs dangled from the trapdoor opening. “Coming down!”
Pepper grabbed the nurse’s legs and helped her down.
“Thanks,” Sarah huffed. “There’s no way to get out of here by that way. Even the Hawk couldn’t climb up those doors.”
Phil smiled at mention of his lover.
“So what do you think?” Pepper asked.
“We are well and truly stuck.”
“Damn. Okay, I guess we wait.” Pepper slammed a hand against the small doorway covering the emergency phone. “Nobody’s in the building to answer this.”
“Should you try, anyway?” Sarah asked.
“Why not? Maybe JARVIS is back on-line.” Pepper tried and hung when she got no answer.
“I’m surprised that JARVIS is off-line,” Phil said.
“Normally he wouldn’t be, but ever since the last invasion, Tony’s been having problems with him .” Pepper sighed. “It doesn’t matter, anyway, he couldn’t get us out of here by himself. With those broken cables, JARVIS can’t do much with the elevator.”
Sarah sat next to Phil. “Do you think anyone will miss us?”
“Not in all this chaos.” Pepper sat down, too, resting her back against the perpendicular wall. “We’ll just have to hope King Kong out there doesn’t step on us.”
Sarah laughed as Phil smiled, hiding his worry.
He felt something wet on his back.
Before the fall,
Into the blackness.
The quiet was unnerving, Pepper thought. She wouldn’t say anything but she was unsettled by the absence of JARVIS’s smooth tones. Who knew she would miss a machine? But JARVIS seemed more than just nuts-and-bolts.
She wished that she could hear his soothing voice now as she tried to keep a lid on her fear. The creatures outside were like living nightmares and being trapped in this stuck elevator wasn’t doing her blood pressure any good.
“You said that running from Obadiah…wasn’t pleasant,” Phil said. “But you got away.”
“Yes, I did.” Pepper scowled. “Obadiah betrayed Tony in every way. I can’t stand seeing someone I love hurt.”
“What about Natasha?”
“She’s been hurt way too much.”
Pepper noticed how pale Phil looked. Sarah checked his pulse and frowned.
“Don’t worry so much, ladies,” Phil said in gentle amusement.
“I suppose all this activity contributes to less-than-ideal vitals.” Sarah released his wrist. “How are you feeling?”
“You mean besides being stressed by being stuck in an elevator during an alien invasion?”
Sarah smirked but pressed, “Any pain? Headache?”
Phil was about to answer when a loud shriek sounded through the elevator shaft.
“I hope that’s the aliens and not our guys,” Pepper said nervously. “You said that your agents couldn’t get you out at the first sign of trouble, Phil?”
“Yeah, I tried to get in touch with the head of the security unit but received no answer.” Phil bit his lip. “I hope it was just faulty equipment and nothing more. Let me try again.” Phil used his commlink but there was only static.
Sarah and Pepper silently exchanged troubled looks.
“How’s it feel to have Avenger nurses around-the-clock?” Pepper teased Phil.
“Oh, just peachy.”
She laughed. “Especially a certain Hawk and a star-spangled war hero?”
Phil blushed a little. “Maybe.” He became contemplative. “Cap seems a bit…melancholy lately.”
“Oh, well, I suppose he’s having a hard time adjusting.”
“You may be right.”
A noise brought their heads up as they looked at the trapdoor.
Iron Man gaped as he reached the creature threatening the Tower and he flew right through it. “What the fuck?” He had to slow down and turned around, looking for the creature.
“Never mind that one, Iron Man. We’d better go after the others.”
“Roger that, Cap.”
“Hey, the others are vanishing, too!” said Hawkeye.
The other two creatures were already fading as Iron Man looked at them.
“We’ve go to check out the Tower. Phil’s not answering his cell,” Hawkeye said urgently.
“Pepper, you guys all right?”
Black Widow looked down through the trapdoor opening. “Well, you guys are in a pickle.”
“Positively drowning in brine,” Pepper said dryly.
Black Widow grinned. “Come on, let’s see about getting you out of here.”
“What about the monster?” Sarah asked nervously.
“I don’t know. I just dashed in here to see what was going on.” She pointed at Pepper. “You didn’t answer your cellphone.”
“My phone battery’s dead. I didn’t have a chance to re-charge it before all this hit the fan, and JARVIS is M.I.A.” Pepper said, frustrated at the culmination of technical events.
Black Widow shook her head. “All right, the women could climb a rope but you present a problem, Phil.”
“Dear Natasha, always the diplomat,” Phil said fondly.
She smirked and said, “Wait here.”
“Yeah, like we’re going anywhere,” Pepper called up to her lover’s retreating form.
The three of them waited, Pepper tapping her foot impatiently. Phil was amused by her barefoot tapping.
She leaned down and picked up her shoes, looping the straps through her belt loops and tying them off. No way was she going to leave her Mayam Bialiks behind!
“You’re amazing, Pepper,” said Phil as he tried to ignore the increasing pain in his back.
She flashed him a smile. “Hurry up, Tasha!”
“Keep your shirt on!” Natasha stuck her head back down. “Or maybe not,” she smirked before disappearing again.
Sarah got up awkwardly, brushing her pants. “We’ll get you up, sir, when it’s time.”
“Of course, Agent Rosetti.”
Phil rested against the wall, feeling lightheaded as they waited. He thought of Clint, a smile gracing his face.
A rope slid down through the opening and Natasha appeared again. “Okay, baby, you up first. Then we can pull Phil up and we’ll pull Sarah up last.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Pepper approved. She grabbed the rope and tugged. “Good and sturdy. Okay, I’ll help you get Phil up, Sarah.”
Phil couldn’t help but groan as Pepper and Sarah helped him get to his feet. He staggered and they kept him upright.
Pepper gasped, “What…?” Sarah saw the wall, too. It was streaked with bright red. “Why didn’t you tell us?!”
“And what…could you do…” he stifled a groan “…but worry?”
Sarah checked his back. “You’ll need treatment when we get out of here.”
“Mmm.” The elevator was spinning, and he didn’t think it was because the building was shaking again.
Pepper grabbed the rope and began to climb as Natasha grunted, pulling her up. Phil averted his eyes. A pleated skirt showed an awful lot, Phil thought. Sarah seemed amused.
Finally it was Phil’s turn. Sarah helped him tie the rope around him and he braced himself for the pain.
The voice was distinctive and stentorian. “Thor!” Sarah cried.
The blond Asgardian smiled down at her. “Yes, fair maid. I shall be down forthwith.” He flew down and put an arm around Phil. “Ready, Son of Coul?”
Phil laughed. “Yes, God of Thunder.”
Thor smirked and gently picked Phil up after untying the rope and flew out of the elevator. He placed him in the care of one extremely concerned lover and flew back down the shaft.
“You okay?” Clint kept Phil upright. He began looking him over and nearly panicked as he saw the blood on the back of Phil’s shirt.
“It’ll be okay.” Phil put a hand on Clint’s arm and squeezed.
Clint looked ready to jump out of his skin. “You’re going to the S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital.”
Phil didn’t argue, which made Clint even more frantic .
Captain America and Iron Man were heading their way down the corridor, Phil was relieved to see.
“What about the invaders?” he asked.
“Gone,” Tony said as he lifted his faceplate. Cap pushed his cowl back and hurried to help the women out of the shaft, or Pepper as Thor had Sarah and Natasha took care of herself. “Strange thing.”
“What?” Phil asked, trying to keep from slumping. He looked at Steve. “You’re all wet.”
“Not the first time,” Tony smirked.
Steve made a face but wasn’t irritated.
“Tony, you’ve got to get Phil to S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Clint said urgently. “He’s bleeding.”
Tony and Steve were immediately concerned. “Let’s go,” Tony said, scooping Phil up into his arms.
“Why, Tony, I didn’t know you wanted to carry me over the threshold,” joked Phil and Tony laughed. The agent enjoyed the ride despite his dizziness. “You’re a good pilot, Stark.”
If Tony wasn’t wearing the faceplate down, Phil would have seen his smile, but he knew it was there.
“Well, of course, Agent Coulson.”
Phil rolled his eyes but hid his smile. He tapped on Iron Man’s arm. “Don’t let Clint get too crazy.” He took a deep breath, wincing at the pain. “No matter what happens.”
“Hey, now,” Iron Man said. “What’s all this? You’ll be fine.”
“But just in case…”
“No in case.”
Phil sighed. Superheroes! Never say die.
Clint was fussing in a major way, Fury was furious, and Sarah calmly tended to Phil. His wound had been sewn up again and he was resting in bed here at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters in the medical section. Tony and Thor watched the scene and Thor drew Tony aside.
“Is our good captain all right?”
“What do you mean? Is he hurt?”
Thor looked troubled. “He seems…withdrawn.”
Tony frowned. “I thought so, too, but he brushes me off.”
“You must not allow that.” Thor put his hand on Tony’s shoulder. “You are his mate. If something troubles him, you have a right to know.”
“He does have a right to privacy, you know.”
“Really?” Thor looked amused. “When has that ever stopped you, Friend Tony?”
Tony laughed. “True, my Asgardian friend.” He looked over at Phil, who asked, “Is Cap all right?”
“Don’t let him brush you off.”
Tony sighed. “Never.” He went over to Phil’s bed and put his hand over Phil’s. “Heal up fast, Agent Coulson, and come back home.”
Phil’s eyes misted over but he nodded. Tony turned to leave and looked back, Clint standing beside Phil’s bed protectively as Sarah showed Fury Phil’s chart.
“I won’t let him,” he whispered.
Back at Avengers Tower, Steve stared out the window as the sun began to set, its rays shining on the water. He was still clad in his wet costume. Slowly he put his hand on the glass.
It was ice-cold.
When Tony arrived at the Tower, he asked JARVIS to locate Steve.
“He is not within the Tower, sir.”
Tony swore. “All right, any idea where he went?”
Tony knew that it was a long shot that Steve had told JARVIS anything. Frustrated, he said, “I’m going out looking for him.”
Iron Man left theeh Tower as he began scanning the streets below. Where would Steve go?
He searched close to the Tower at first, but saw no signs of his lover. He grew more worried. What if Steve had suffered a head injury? He could be wandering around in a daze right now.
The jetstream from his boots made streaks of yellow light in the growing dusk like fireflies on a summer evening.
He thought of the close call of only a few hours earlier when he’d watched Steve playing tag with the monster. The captain had ended up in the water and…
“The water!” Iron Man turned and headed for the nearest water as JARVIS approved.
Steve was still in costume but his cowl was pushed back. His costume was still wet from the dousing he’d taken earlier that afternoon.
“Steve,” Tony said quietly.
“Don’t you hear them?”
“The sirens.” Steve stared down at the water. “They’re calling me.”
“What are they saying?” Tony inched closer.
“They’re saying, ‘Come with us, Captain’.”
“Don’t go with them,” Tony pleaded.
Steve was perilously close to the edge of the embankment. “I have to go,” he whispered as he leaned far over the starlit water.
“No, please, Steve, don’t!”
Steve turned, a bewildered look on his face. He shook with cold. “Tony?”
Tony grasped Steve’s arm. “Come with me.”
Tears glistened in Steve’s eyes. “I have to go back into the ice.” His voice sounded small and child-like.
Tony’s blood ran cold. “You don’t want to go back into the ice.”
“I have to.”
“No, you don’t.” Tony’s eyes began to mist. “There’s nothing for you there.”
“Sometimes I’m so sad here.”
Tony swallowed. “I know, it’s hard, love. Everyone you knew, the America you knew, is gone, but you’re part of this century now. You have people who love you here.” He smiled tentatively. “You have me.”
Steve blinked, tears running down his face. He looked like he was about to speak but suddenly his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell to the ground just as Tony caught him .
THE SLEEP OF THE JUST
And reap the
"A New Day Dawns"
“Come with us, Captain.”
Steve floated, his limbs stiff and freezing as he felt the ice clamp around his arms and legs. The wraiths danced and sang, one of them crooning, “You will know peace. You will never be out of place again.”
“But I have a place here. I have Tony and the Avengers.”
“You will never fit in.”
“I already fit in.”
“You will never fit in.” She swam closer, her hair swirling around as the ice crept up his body. A chasm opened and Steve saw a distant figure falling down into the endless crevasse. His heart lurched. She reached out and the ice began to descend, closing in around him.
Tony rubbed his face. He felt bone-tired. Steve lay in their bed as Bruce looked at his patient wearily. He had just changed back from the Hulk and was drained, but Tony had asked him to check on Steve.
“He’s not waking up, Bruce.”
“I know.” Bruce ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He should just open his eyes and get up.”
Tony copied Bruce’s gesture and ran a hand through his already-mussed hair. “I told you about how strangely he’s been acting. What the hell’s going on?”
“I don’t know.” Bruce rubbed his face, this time copying Tony’s gesture. “This is beyond my skills as a doctor.”
“What do you mean?”
Bruce took hold of Steve’s wrist. “I just have the feeling that conventional medicine isn’t going to cut it, unless Steve is developing some sort of psychosis.”
Tony’s fear ratcheted up. “Psychosis?”
“That’s right. You say Steve’s been hearing voices?”
“That could be indicative of developing mental problems.”
Tony shook his head. “No, Steve’s as solid as a rock.”
Bruce set Steve’s arm down. “Tony, mental illness isn’t a sign of weakness. It has nothing to do with strength or weakness. Illness can come to anyone.”
“I know, but…”
Bruce smiled. “Yeah. It’s Steve. Hard to believe he isn’t the Rock of Gibraltar.”
“I just don’t buy Steve hearing voices.”
“Tony, he’s been under tremendous stress since waking up from the ice. Hell, since before. He never had a chance to try and deal with the war before he was thrust into a new one, and in a new century with everyone he knew dead and gone.”
Tony rubbed his face. “I know, I know, and I don’t discount that, Bruce, but it just doesn’t feel right, not that diagnosis.”
Tony suddenly noticed how exhausted Bruce was and brought over a chair, which the doctor gratefully sank into with a sigh.
There was a light knock on the doorjamb and Tony looked over. “Come in, Thor.”
The blond Asgardian came into the bedroom. “How is he?” He kept his voice low, an effort for an exuberant man who didn’t quite understand the notion of an ‘indoor voice’.
“He seems to have slipped into a coma,” Bruce answered. “We’ll have to bring him to S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Thor leaned over the bed, gently touching Steve’s face. “The captain has been troubled as of late.”
”He has,” Tony agreed.
Thor looked up at him. “His heart has been heavy.”
“He’s been mysteriously drawn to the water and has been having weird dreams. It’s all very strange.”
“He said he saw wraiths in the water.” Clint was standing in the doorway.
“Wraiths?” Tony frowned.
“Yeah.” Clint entered the room. “He told me when I got him out of the water.”
Thor looked over at Clint with a frown. “Wraiths, you say? Were they singing a siren song?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say.”
“Why are you here?” Bruce asked. “Is Phil all right?”
“Yeah, they stopped the bleeding. He asked me to come back here and get his pajamas. He hates the hospital johnnies.”
“I’m surprised he doesn’t have Captain America footie pajamas,” Bruce gently teased.
Clint smirked and even Tony chuckled despite his worry.
“Why did you say siren songs, Thor?” Tony asked.
“Because one of the Greek legends speaks of wraiths tempting the unwary with their siren songs. I may be wrong, but if Steve is compelled to go to the water, magic could be involved.”
Tony’s eyebrows rose. He was a man of science, not magic. He could feel panic rising as he thought of magical forces that he had no control over digging their hooks into Steve. There had to be a way out of this!
“Can you help revive him?” Bruce asked.
Thor shook his head. “His mate should do that.” He smiled at Tony.
“Just tTalk to him, Friend Tony. Your words may call him back from where he has been drawn.”
Tony pulled p a chair, a little self-conscious as he took Steve’s hand but he soon forgot his audience as he began to talk.
“Steve, I know you’re kinda thrown for a loop, but I need ya, babe. I know you’re cold…” he rubbed Steve’s hand “…but you don’t have to be. We took off your wet costume and put on nice, warm cotton pajamas. I put a quilt on your bed. You should be nice and warm.”
The ice was closing in all around him. He was suffocating as the hollow-eyed wraiths swirled around him, tendrils of wispy hair smoking around his limbs and pulling tight, crushing him as he saw stars prickle around the edges of his vision.
“Tony,” he sobbed.
“It’s all right, Steve. I’m here.”
Steve moaned, writhing on the bed. Tony felt his heart clench as he watched his lover suffer. It was all so weird lately, Steve and his nightmares and the creatures that had attacked Manhattan. He just wanted Steve to be all right.
Thor put a hand on Steve’s brow. “Continue to talk to him, Tony.”
Tony felt like babbling, the desperation bubbling under his words. He gazed upon the beautiful face and felt his heart ache.
“Steve, really, it’s okay. I won’t leave you, I promise.”
He was going to sleep as he had done before. So cold, so cold…
He heard a voice. Not a siren song, but a voice of warmth. The ice began to melt.
“Tony,” Steve whispered.
Tony leaned forward, his grip on Steve’s hand tightening. “Right here, Steve.”
Steve opened his eyes and smiled wearily .
But when it wakes
Beware its siren song!</i>
Nick Fury glared at the people sitting around the table in the conference room of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. The attendees were his agents and those Avengers not in ill health or attending a loved one’s bedside.
“So, you tell me those creatures couldn’t exist,” he growled.
His head scientist, Dr. Lincoln McCafferty, was not intimidated . The man wore glasses and was slight of build, but he’d worked too long for Fury to be cowed. “That’s right, sir. The numbers just don’t compute.”
“That’s right,” Bruce spoke up. “The massive weight of these creatures should have had them sinking through the concrete.”
“So you’re saying it’s impossible?”
“No,” Thor interjected. “Could be magic.”
“Magic!” Fury scoffed.
“Stranger things have happened in this world,” said Natasha.
Fury scowled at her but she remained unfazed. He turned his wrath onto Thor. “What kind of magic are we talking about?”
“The kind that creates creatures which science says cannot exist,” Thor replied.
Fury’s expression said, Ha, ha, very funny, with the sarcasm practically glowing like a neon sign but he shuffled the papers in front of him. “Keep gathering information, gentlemen.”
Thor quietly entered Steve and Tony’s bedroom. Tony was watching a sleeping Steve.
“How did the meeting go?” Tony asked, pulling the blanket up over Steve.
“Director Fury was not happy.”
“Director Fury’s never happy.”
Thor laughed. “True! He is most grumpy, as you say.”
Tony snickered. “Nick Fury was born grumpy.”
“How is the good captain?”
“Sleeping peacefully.” The relief was evident in his voice.
Thor’s gaze was attracted by a glint of light on the nightstand. “May I?” Tony nodded and Thor picked up the ring from the table. “I wish to take borrow this for awhile.”
“A theory I am formulating. I promise to return it.”
Thor regarded the peaceful visage of his sleeping friend and quietly left the room.
Out in the hall he gazed on the sapphire-and-diamond ring. White striations ran through the sapphire in the center like a star, the light of the jewel sparkling . He held it in his large hand and felt the thrumming of power before he gently closed his fingers over it.
“You know that was a close call,” Natasha said as she wrapped her leg around Pepper’s waist. They were sitting on Pepper’s bed and Pepper slowly pulled the zipper of Natasha’s jumpsuit down. Natasha reciprocated by pulling the shirt out of her companion’s waistband and running her fingers up her ribs.
Pepper smiled and drew Natasha close, brushing her lips over the Russian’s. Natasha’s hand cupped the underside of her lover’s breast, fingers slipping up underneath her bra to touch warm flesh. Pepper squirmed and kissed Natasha again, sliding her tongue inside the agent’s mouth.
Natasha flipped them onto their side on the bed, kissing Pepper’s jaw and throat as she squeezed her breast. Pepper cupped the back of Natasha’s head and urged her closer.
A knock on the door startled them. Thor’s voice, less booming than usual, asked, “Natasha, may I speak with you?”
Natasha groaned and rested her head on Pepper’s chest. “Brilliant timing.”
Pepper laughed. “He must know something’s up, otherwise he would never knock at my door looking for you.”
Natasha grumbled as she untangled herself from Pepper and went to the door, not bothering to zip up her jumpsuit. “Yes?” she asked as she opened the door.
Thor smiled a bit ruefully. “Sorry to disturb you, m’lady. I wish to speak with you.”
Pepper’s cellphone trilled so Natasha left the room. She looked up at the tall Thunder God and asked, “What’s up?”
Thor produced Steve’s ring. “I wish to return to the antique shop and learn more about this ring.”
“I believe there is something magical about it.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow. “Why do you need me?”
“You are the finest Warrior on the team. I also value your powers of observation and keen insight.”
Natasha felt flattered despite herself. “All right. What’s your play?”
“Yeah, how do you want to go about this?”
“Ah. Will you accompany me to Maximoff’s?”
“Sure.” She glanced back into the bedroom. “Let me get changed and I’ll be right with you.”
She went back into the bedroom and signed to Pepper that she was leaving with Thor. She went to her room and changed out of her costume and into jeans and a dark-green turtleneck sweater. She slipped on her bracelet purchased at Maximoff’s and was ready to go.
Natasha bowed her head slightly in acknowledgment of Thor holding the door of the antique shop open for her. He had briefed her on his theory. She had come across weirder things so was unfazed.
She liked the strong scent of patchouli as she and Thor entered the shop. She immediately scoped out the shop as was her habit, but saw no other customers.
“We should just go directly to the source,” Natasha said. She saw a bell on the counter and hit it.
Beads clacked as the shopkeeper appeared from the back room, clad in dark-green robes shot through with gold threads. “How can I help you?”
Thor took the ring out of his belt pouch. “I believe this ring has magical properties.”
Her eyes flickered and she held out her hand, Thor placing the ring in her palm. She studied it and said, “You’re right.”
Natasha hid her surprise. She hadn’t expected the shopkeeper to freely admit it. Somehow it seemed too easy. She had seen the expression on the shopkeeper’s face when Thor had shown her the ring. The woman had registered worry for a brief moment. Now she was immediately confirming Thor’s assertion.
I guess I’ve been trained so often to read double meanings into everything that someone just freely opening up about something throws me off.
Thor asked, “What magical properties does it contain?”
Allison Maximoff picked up the ring, the center sapphire and circle of diamonds and rubies sparkling in the light cast by the pumpkin pillar candles on the counter.
“It appears to be a ring that can activate any number of spells.”
“Perhaps a siren song?”
“Perhaps.” Allison set the ring on the counter and took a picture with her cellphone. “I can get more information for you.”
“I would appreciate it.” Thor picked up the ring and put it back in his pouch. “A siren song is meant to be alluring, unlike the Furies or the Valkyries, yet can be just as deadly.”
“True, Thunder God. One who is lured by the siren song needs great strength to resist.”
“This gentleman has great strength, both physically and within.”
“Good. This man will need it.”
Natasha wondered how much this woman truly knew. Did she know the arcane arts or simply put on a good front? Natasha knew about playing a part. She rubbed a finger over her bracelet. This shop contained many oddities, one of which could be the owner.
“Ms. Romanoff, do you wish to add anything?”
“No, Ms. Maximoff.” Natasha was irritated that the other woman had caught her off-guard.
“I will see what can I do,” Allison told Thor.
"I'll be in touch when I have something for you." He gave her his phone number. She started to head for the back room. "Oh, keep an eye on the seduced. Restrain him if necessary.”
“Yes, Miss Maximoff.”
Allison disappeared into the back, the beads clacking as she passed through.
“Is that all you plan to do?” Natasha asked.
“What more is there to do? The Lady Maximoff will give us what we need.”
“But can you trust her?”
“She was most straightforward. And if she plans to betray us we will deal with her.” Thor clapped a hand to his pouch. “These sirens can be most alluring, like the Lady Sif.”
“Who’s Sif?” Natasha asked as they left the store, the bells over the door jingling.
“A fine Asgardian Warrior.” Thor smiled. “She would find you most worthy of respect.”
Natasha felt pride at Thor’s warm words. “Well, a female Warrior of Asgard interests me greatly.”
“You would make a fine Amazon , m’lady.” Thor laughed. “Or Valkyrie. I have known both types of women, and they are formidable, indeed.”
Natasha smirked. “Oh, yes. Great warrior women of legend.” She tapped Thor’s arm. “C’mon, let’s go get some ice cream. My treat.”
Tony worked on his tablet as he sat by Steve’s bed. He looked up as Thor entered the room.
“Did you find out anything?”
Thor reached into his pouch. “Just that this ring truly is magical. Miss Maximoff is researching the possibilities.” He handed Tony the ring.
Tony took it and placed it in the nightstand drawer. “Thanks. I wish she could have told us what to do, though.”
“She will know better what to recommend when she knows what we are dealing with.” Thor looked at Steve, who appeared to be enjoying peaceful sleep. “She did suggest that we keep an eye on him and restrain him if necessary.”
A glint entered Tony’s eye. “Restraints, huh?”
Thor laughed. “Just make sure you know the wordsafe.”
“Wordsafe?” Tony frowned, then his eyes lit up. “Oh, you mean safeword!”
“I believe I said that.”
Tony grinned, suddenly feeling much better.
“Come with us, Captain.”
“You must.” The wraith swam closer, her long tendrils of hair undulating in the water. “You have no place here.”
“I do have a place! I have Tony and the Avengers.”
“You do not belong.” She swam closer, her sisters writhing and swirling around her and Steve as the ice glittered high above them. “Do you not feel the melancholy? Do you not feel the sorrow? You are the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Captain. You must return to the ice and know the longing and grief no more.”
Steve felt the tug of his melancholy draw him down…he gasped as a shriek split his eardrums.