The inevitability of them ending up in a Canadian shack is not lost on him. It’s cold, the same blistering cold that he felt in Russia but worse because in his mind it didn’t get this cold in North America. It was supposed to be civilized here, and there was nothing civilized about wearing five layers and sucking marrow out of rabbit bones. There was a blizzard yesterday, wind that had confused him so much he had finally unhooked the sledge and covered them with a tarp until it had passed.
This hadn’t been the plan. There had been a perfectly good snowmobile that he has used to get to the cabin and had been planning on using to get them out until it had been smashed. What should have been a gentle four-hour ride back with GPS was now a slow march, pulling a sled with everything he thought would be useful and one really pissed off and drugged Bruce Banner.
He had seen the Northern lights for the first time four days ago, when this had still been an adventure. They had stopped at the edge of a frozen lake and the scientist had looked at him sadly.
“I’m going to miss them the most.” Bruce Banner had confided to him, speaking for the first time in days from a nest of fur and blanket. He felt guilty then, for taking this unassuming man away from his cabin in the wilderness, drugging him till he barely has any idea of what’s going on. Guilty that he was part of this system of involuntary recruitment. He’s seen first hand what Hulk can do, but it isn’t Hulk in front of him now. Just an unassuming man who was meditating in peace when he burst through the door.
“You’ll see them on missions, I’m sure.” Banner had laughed then, his voice cutting through the night and the crackle of the sky above them.
“Agent, I won’t see anything except the inside of my lab and he won’t care.”
He falls through the ice two days later and for the first time in a very long time he thought he was going to die. The current carries him a foot before the harness snaps him steady and he pulls himself towards the hole his weight had made. The sled slips once and he thinks God, don’t let him follow me down here. It takes less then a minute before he’s on the bank, shedding his clothes. Banner sleeps through it all, wakes only when he is pressed half naked against him stealing body heat.
“I fell…” he mumbles, shifting so that more of this head is in the warm cocoon. He’ll be fine if he gets warm. There is a spare thermal suit somewhere in here and in a couple of hours they can move again.
“Shit. Are you going to die?”
“No. Just…give me a few hours.” He felt hands grab his own and move them upwards, hot air gently restoring feeling and he realises that Banner has them inches from his face and is blowing softly, messaging feeling into them. He feels cold melt a little from them.
“Shit. Don’t die.” Banners words are the last thing he hears as his mind slowly slips away.
He doesn’t die. They lose a day. Well, he loses a day. Banner talks through most of it, sometimes to him and sometimes to himself, and he finds himself sad when he realizes that the best course of action is for him to get up and keep them moving. It turns out there is no spare suit, so he puts on every piece of clothing he stole from Banner’s cabin, shoves his feet back into the frozen boots and prays he’s heading in the right direction.
The snowstorm comes and he crawls back in with Bruce, pulling the tarp over them to keep the worst of the wind out. You can call a captive by their first name in your head when you are pressed up against them for warmth for the third night in a row, he tells himself. Bruce just huffs a bit and if they wake up spooning with sunlight filtering through above them neither cares. He knows he has blood smeared on his face but the idea of put water anywhere near it makes him shiver.
“I know we have everything two heterosexual men need, but how are you getting us out of here?” Banner asks as he holds one of the centrefolds sideways and eats a chip. They’re huddled around the heater and warm for the first time in days. He knows he should be more worried about security, but Banner hasn’t made a move and they both know there is no escape at this point.
“We wait for the helicopter.” Banner nods, humming slightly as he turns the page.
“And how do we let them know we’re here?”
“I wouldn’t want to ruin the epic ending.”
He uses his last arrow to shoot the gas canister and blow the whole shack up a mere 13 hours later, just before dawn. It had been hard to judge when the helicopter had been at it’s closest but it turned out he shouldn’t have worried. During the debrief, Phil tells him they could see the fireball six miles off and the view from the helicopter had been spectacular. He’s congratulated on a job well done and given a week off to recuperate. He doesn’t see Bruce Banner for nearly a month, but when he does they exchange weak smiles and he knows there are no hard feelings.
10 months and 53 missions later, he makes up an excuse and takes Bruce back to the lake they saw the northern lights at. It’s just as cold, but this time they have a snowmobile and coffee so when the lights do appear it’s almost like being at the movies. He wants to say he’s sorry for those five days, sorry for taking Bruce away from that peace and his part in everything that’s happened but Bruce won’t let him. He just shyly pulls one of his hands out of a glove, circles it with his own and blows softly on it.
“It’s ok. I’ve been promised there is an epic ending.”
Clint feels the cold melt a little.