Bruce scowled as Tony came into the living room wearing the big, green foam hands. Thor, who was sitting on the couch across from him, looked amused.
“Tony, those aren’t funny. Kids shouldn’t be idolizing-”
“You?” Tony interrupted. “Look, they already make toy lines for my stuff, Thor’s Hammer, Cap’s shield, Hawkeye’s bow and…” Tony considered. “Well, honestly, kids probably shouldn’t be idolizing a defecting Russian spy with a gun,” Tony briefly glanced around to make sure Natasha wasn’t hiding behind the recliner, ready to shoot him in the head. “But you? C’mon. You’re big! You’re awesome! You’re green!” Tony smashed the foam Hulk hands together making a little ‘grrrr’ noise.
“No, Tony. What if some kid thinks Hulk’s his friend, and runs up when…when-”
“No kid thinks the Hulk’s his friend, they have access to the Internet, Brucey. Besides, it’s too late! They’re already in production.”
“Tony, this isn’t some game! It’s too dangerous, I don’t want those made.” Bruce had taken his glasses off and was glaring adamantly at Tony. Thor knew enough to remain silent from where he sat on the couch, following the conversation back and forth.
Tony took the Hulk hands off and tossed them on the coffee table. “Look, you’re not in charge of the merchandising. Someone else-”
“-is. So it’s already a done deal. Kay? Kay.” Tony readjusted the suit he was wearing. “So you guys have a nice night, I’m out.”
“Where are you going?” Thor asked curiously.
“Out. Look, I don’t expect you two to understand, but I’m still the majority shareholder in a major company, I have an image to maintain. But if you wanna order a pizza or something, Jarvis can do that. Just remember to charge it to the credit card, and tip the guy in cash. Otherwise he gets really pissy.” Tony wheeled around humming before Bruce could retaliate, shuffling off to the front door where he had a limo waiting.
The driver was holding the door open for him, and he slid in easily. He was a little surprised and gratified to see a skinny blonde in a tight dress sitting in the seat across from him. “Alright, getting the party started early, are we?” He grinned cheekily, reaching forward for the champaign bottle and two glasses. She moved over to the spot next to him, squeezing his thigh and gently rubbing her lips against his neck. He grinned, pouring the champaign. She interrupted him by moving her lips against his. He felt a slight tingling, then laughed as he spilled the champaign on the floor. “You sure do get right to the point, don’t you? But what is in your lipstick, tobasco sauce?”
She sat back smiling smugly. “Magic.” As he watched, the tight, white, hip hugging dress morphed into a green corset and leggings. Something like a golden crown appeared across her forehead. Tony mentally sighed.
“Hi, Enchantress,” he said disappointedly.
She frowned. “Did you not recognize me out of my usual dress?”
“Um…no, actually. Do you realize how many leggy blondes I come into contact with on a weekly basis? It’s a lot.” He sat back, sipping on his champaign. She hadn’t tried to kill him yet, so he supposed he might as well engage her in conversation. “So, what is it I can do for you?”
“I just wanted to talk to you about the last time we met,” she said, twirling her hair around her fingers. Tony winced. The last time had ended with a possessed Thor, a cracked rib cage for him, and a dislocated shoulder for Clint.
“Yeah, I was about to say, I didn’t expect you back so soon.”
She smiled dangerously. “I will admit, our last encounter left an impression on me. And since you were the only one I could get alone, I wanted to convey a friendly warning to you. I will be in Midguard for a small amount of time. You may be…busy, while I am.”
Tony was thoroughly confused. “Look, lady, I understand that I am a stunning, Midguardian specimen and all, but why are you telling me this? Villains don’t usually go around broadcasting their-” Tony stopped mid-sentence, thinking it over. “Well, I take that back.”
She rubbed her ankle against his, and suddenly he didn’t find it so enticing anymore.
She leaned in close and whispered, “It’s more fun this way,”
He pulled back abruptly. “So you know I’m just gonna tell SHIELD and everyone and they’re going to be on the lookout for you and you’re not going to get anything done. So this was like, the stupidest plan ever.”
She smiled again. “You can try. But I wasn’t lying when I said that was a magic kiss earlier.” She pulled back, and in the blink of an eye was sitting in the seat across from Tony. “Any time you try and communicate anything about me, or my intentions, you will find yourself unable to do so.”
Tony snorted. “Yeah, okay. I’m going to arrest you now. It’ll…uh, have to be a Citizens’ Arrest, I suppose, since I’m not technically…you know what? Just turn the car around.” He banged on the dividing glass between the back and the driver.
“He is under my control,” she said, indicating the driver. “And you have seen me, and both Loki and Thor in action, yet you still doubt my words. Very well.” She disappeared in a green flame and Tony yelped. A moment later she was gone, but the upholstery seemed to be intact. He frowned as he heard her voice echo around him. “I look forward to seeing you then, Tony Stark.”
He banged on the glass again, muttering something about how 21st century feminism had gone to shit. The driver rolled down the window. “Hey, next time don’t let just any old lady back here, okay?”
The driver gave him a puzzled look out of the corner of his eye. “Sir?”
Tony rubbed his temples. “Just…take me back to my house.”
When they got there, he stormed in through the foyer. Banner, still irritable as ever, looked up from reading something on his lap top. “I thought we had the pleasure of not having your company around this evening.” Tony made a face at him.
“Well, you’ll never believe-” he felt his jaw lock up, and the strange tingling sensation from Enchantress’ kiss found its way to his lips again. He glared at Bruce who was looking at him expectantly. “Give me your laptop,” he ground out, relieved to find that he could talk again. Bruce wordlessly handed it over and Tony practically threw it onto the kitchen counter. He opened a new document, but as soon as he tried to type, his fingers froze millimeters from the keys. He gave a cry of frustration before shoving it back towards Bruce who had gotten up to see what he was doing.
“Are you…okay?” the other man asked confused.
“Just fuckin’ peachy,” he asserted, as he stormed off towards his lab.
Bruce briefly wondered what that had been about, before something caught his eye on the web browser and he promptly forgot all about the Tony’s strange tantrum.
Tony spent the next forty minutes essentially trying to trick himself into writing down something that had to do with his new predicament and failing. Anything remotely related to “Asgard”, “spell”, “evil”, “hot blonde”, “Viking” or “Norway” would cause his fingers to freeze. He tried emails, word documents, HTML code, text messaging and straight up paper, none of which worked. He was just starting to go for binary when his cell phone started buzzing at the same time Jarvis’ voice came over his speakers. “Sir, your presence is requested immediately. Fully-armored.”
“For fuck’s sake,” he mumbled, pounding the table. He got up to get his armor assembled before he flew outside, hovering around the quinjet his teammates were getting into.
“Yo, Tony, you want a ride?” Clint called up at him.
“No, I’ll meet you there…uh…where is it?”
Fury’s voice came over his comm unit and Tony winced. “SHIELD facility. Trenton.”
Tony barely contained a snicker as the HUD displayed coordinates, and he sped off followed by the quinjet. “You guys couldn’t take care of it yourselves?”
“Not this guy, no.”
They soon found out what he meant when upon entering the facility, Thor took a huge, sandy club-shaped fist to the chest.
They scattered immediately, everyone diving for cover as Hulk went to smash the offending guy into dirt.
“What the hell…is he made of fucking sand?” Clint asked over the comms.
“Gee, Fury, a little heads up would have been nice!” Tony shouted, charging his repulsors.
“I gave you one,” Fury replied. “I said he’s got some sort of weird power that my agents couldn’t deal with, but you were all busy arguing over who’s uniform was in need of an upgrade.” He sounded unapologetic.
The Sandman’s arms turned into tentacles which wrapped around Hulk’s arms and threw him through the roof of the warehouse. Steve jumped out from behind cover, hurling his shield as Clint stood up and let loose a volley of arrows from his bow. They sunk into the body of the man, and he grinned. They all watched somewhat perplexed, before they were forced to take cover as the shield and arrows were spat back out at them.
Steve caught the shield, but Clint ducked with a curse. “Thanks Fury, so I’m pretty much useless here,” he grumbled.
“I’d like to think all my agents serve a purpose,” the Director replied smugly. Tony grinned inside the helmet as he saw Clint almost take his earpiece out, before he just covered it and shouted,
“I hate my boss!”
“We all hate him,” Tony replied.
“I heard that, Stark.”
“I was TALKING about this Sand Guy!” Tony fired his repulsors at Sand Man, who was blasted apart. “Ha!” Tony shouted in triumph. He walked over to Steve, who looked pissed (as per usual) and rapped the back of his gauntlet against his shield. “Job done, let’s go home.”
Thor came flying back in then, looking troubled. “Thor buddy, sorry you missed the action, but it’s taken care of.”
“I beg to differ,” Thor said, pointing. Everyone turned to look and Clint gave a loud groan of annoyance as they saw the sand beginning to fuse back together. “Besides, he is only half the problem. Someone is compelling him to do this,” Thor explained.
Steve looked back at the Asgardian. “What do you mean?”
“He is enthralled,” Thor said, shooting meaningful looks at Tony and Clint.
Automatically, Tony tried to make a sassy remark about the last time Enchantress had enthralled someone, but he felt his jaw locking up again and the nauseatingly familiar sense of tingling in his lips.
“You mean Enchantress?” Clint asked, confused. Thor nodded.
Tony inwardly groaned, since he couldn’t outwardly do much. This must have been what she meant. Which meant that she was here now, or had been.
“Is she here now?” Steve asked urgently, shooting a sidelong look towards the Sand Man, who was almost completely back together.
Thor shook his head. “I do not think so, for she has not made herself known.”
Tony still couldn’t say anything, so he aimed his repulsor at Sand Man again, who promptly exploded outward from the force displacement. It made no sense. Why would she enchant random bad guys to attack them, tell Tony, but not let him tell anyone else? Unless…
“Natasha! What does SHIELD keep in here?” Everyone looked at him.
“I don’t…I’m not sure. Why?” He was about to tell them why, but found his jaw locking again. Goddamn it, this was getting annoying.
“Never mind,” he said, booting up his thrusters and flying to the other end of the warehouse, trying to read the text on various crates and boxes as he went.
“Tony! Get back here! Where are you going?” Steve’s irritated voice floated over his comm.
“Bathroom,” he said, not even bothering to try and explain.
As the Sand Man began to reform, Steve had to physically fight the urge not to run after Tony just so he could pound his face in. He didn’t know where the man had gone, and right now he didn’t care. He still had three teammates who would more or less do what he asked. And Hulk.
“Clint, do you have any arrows that…freeze things?” He knew the man often carried explosive and gaseous arrows.
Clint looked at him sourly. “Oh, sorry, I left that in my OTHER quinjet,” he quipped.
“Not helpful,” Steve snapped. He couldn’t help it. Tony’s hasty departure had made the frustration with the whole situation rise to new levels. He was granted a slight reprieve as Hulk fell through the roof, roaring and trying to pound the sand into the floor.
“I know where I can find something that would help in here,” Natasha added quickly. She sped off the other direction without waiting for acknowledgement.
“Good to see one of you knows what your boss keeps in here.”
“It’s not my job to catalogue every single item SHIELD has. This place is like Raiders of the Lost Ark! Oh, I guess you haven’t seen that, since it…was sorta…about you…in a way…” Clint trailed off, unsure of how to continue. Both Steve and Thor looked at him strangely. “Never mind,” he mumbled.
This was hopeless. There was no way he was going to find what Enchantress had been looking for, one, if it was even here and two, if she hadn’t already taken it. She didn’t seem to be here now though, but he would probably have to hack into SHIELD’s files later (again) to see what could possibly hold any interest for her. He zoomed around, moving back towards the sounds of battle.
As he got closer, he saw Hulk grappling with the Sand Man and losing. He couldn’t get a grip on the guy, and seemed to be getting more and more frustrated by it. Thor and Steve were trying to back up Hulk and distract Sand Man as Natasha ran towards him with something. Clint stood off to the side, unable to help much.
Something caught Tony’s eye, and the HUD highlighted a floating piece of concrete above Clint. Tony narrowed his eyes at the green glow surrounding it, before it started dropping. He tried to call out Clint’s name, but his jaw had locked again.
He couldn’t blast it apart; Natasha was too close, and the chunks were too big to not do damage to her or Clint. He flew right at Clint, who didn’t seem to notice that the big, hulking, loud iron armor was rushing towards him.
He crashed into the archer who gave a yelp of surprise, but he had been going too fast and the wall was too close. He banked, trying to whip the stabilizers to the side to turn them, but they were in imminent danger of being smeared across the floor. His shoulder bounced off the concrete and he unconsciously let go of the archer, his knee slamming into Clint’s lower leg. He felt it give.
“Clint!” he shouted, quickly looking behind them. The magically floating concrete was gone. Tony inwardly cursed.
Natasha had just thrown the freeze grenades, rendering Sand Man inert when she heart Clint’s cry of agony. All four of them including the Hulk turned around to see Tony pulling himself off of Clint. As they rushed over, Natasha saw Clint’s hands hovering above his shin.
“Shit!” she leaned down, trying to assess the damage. As soon as her fingers touched his shin, she felt bone shift and Clint bit back a scream. “It’s broken,” she said.
Steve roughly pulled Tony up by the arm before practically pushing him away from the injured archer. “What the hell are you doing?!” Tony staggered backwards looking from Clint on the ground back to Steve. “Well?”
They were all looking at him, expecting an answer. Even Hulk quivered with barely contained energy from behind Thor.
“I…I…can’t explain,” Tony stuttered.
“You’d best start,” Natasha seethed.
“It...was…an…accident…” They couldn’t see his face, but Tony’s words sounded very strained.
“That wasn’t an accident, Tony! That was you being irresponsible and injuring a teammate!” Steve was practically face to face with the mask now, but Tony kept it closed, which irritated him more.
“See what, Tony? You barreling into Clint and breaking his legs because you don’t care what happens to anyone else around you?” Steve turned around and they could see the muscles in his back and arms tighten. “Just…leave. Just leave, Tony.”
The suit fired up, and Tony flew out of the warehouse as Natasha gently lifted Clint to his feet.
A few hours later, Clint hobbled in on crutches into the house, a newly made cast plastered around his leg. Natasha walked closely to him, as if expecting him to fall at any moment. “I can manage,” he hissed at her. She shrugged.
As they made their way to the living room, only Steve sat there, reading a newspaper. Clint assumed everyone had gone to do their normal post-mission stress relief type-things. They all needed alone time after missions, even relatively light ones. As they got closer, Steve stood up.
“How are you feeling?” He asked.
“Like I have a broken leg,” Clint mumbled.
He could see Steve’s jaw clench. “I’m going to go talk to him,” he said.
Something tugged at the corner of Clint’s mind, but he couldn’t quite place it. He had the nagging feeling like there was something he had missed. He nodded. He was still somewhat pissed at Tony, and didn’t feel like talking to him himself.
“You better do it before I do,” Natasha asserted, moving her hand to her gun. Steve’s eyes widened and he nodded, before moving downstairs.
Obnoxiously loud music was blaring from Tony’s lab. Steve approached the door, punching in his numerical passcode to open the door. He expected the door to open, but the interface flashed red, with the words “DENIED.”
Puzzled, he tried again. The same thing happened. He sighed. Tony was restricting access to his lab. He knocked loudly on the door. “Tony!” The man either couldn’t hear him or was ignoring him. This was becoming irritating quickly. Just when he thought he had calmed down after today’s mission, Tony’s behavior had taken almost no time at all to get under his skin. He hit the door loudly, taking some small, guilty satisfaction as he saw Tony flinch, but the man didn’t turn around. Muttering, Steve gave up and turned back around, walking back up the stairs.
Tony had known when he left that warehouse that he was going to have to finish this like he was used to; by himself.
Normally, he didn’t care what other people thought of him. But these were people who he trusted with his life. Who he thought trusted him.
But apparently they didn’t.
And it hurt. More than he would care to admit.
So he did one of the things he was best at. He compartmentalized.
He focused on perusing through SHIELD’s files, effectively forgetting about the events of the afternoon. Besides the Tesseract, he was interested to see what other Norse items they had gotten their hands on.
He had figured out the game. It was meant to be a distraction, to keep all of them on edge. To keep Tony from putting the pieces together, and to keep the others suspicious of Tony’s strange behavior.
He ignored Steve when he came down. He had locked everyone out. He didn’t want to talk to any of them. They would just interrogate him with questions he couldn’t possibly answer. He was somewhat surprised when Steve lost his temper, banging on the door and making him flinch. He winced. The guy must really be angry with him. He put it out of his mind.
He began to go through the listings of some of the top secret stuff SHIELD was guarding in that warehouse. He had no idea what any of these names meant. He didn’t want to have to ask Thor, but it looked like he had no choice. He had been looking through them an hour, when he heard another door lock. Cautiously, he glanced over his shoulder.
Clint was standing at the door, on crutches, looking at him …not accusingly, but expectantly, Tony decided. He gave a sigh, told Jarvis to lower the volume of Styx and to unlock the door. He turned back around, staring at the monitor. Clint hobbled up behind him.
Clint wasn’t really surprised at Tony’s hunched, unwelcoming form. When he was out of the suit, the man was all body language, and the archer wasn’t surprised that his body language right now said he didn’t want to talk. “Hey,” he started.
“I’m sorry,” Tony mumbled. He didn’t look up. “How’s the leg?”
Clint leaned heavily on his crutches. “Hurts,” he admitted. “But it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before. Look, uh…I know I was sort of on the ground riddled with pain before, but…we never got your side of the story before you took off.”
“Does it matter?” Tony mumbled, chin in his hand.
“Yes, Tony, it does.” Clint inwardly cursed. Steve should be down here doing this, he was the fucking team leader. But Tony was always a stubborn asshole when it concerned personal feelings. And Clint could tell he was hurt.
Tony huffed, turning in his chair to face him. “I already told you, I can’t explain.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re lying.”
Tony’s lips tightened into a thin line. He looked at Clint with a mixture of appreciation, anger, and determination before he finally spoke. “I’m sorry about your leg,” he said again. Clint gave a breath then nodded.
“I’ll see you later,” he said. It was clear to Clint that Tony didn’t want to talk any more than the little he had said, so he hobbled back upstairs.
Natasha was waiting for him. “What did he say?” she asked.
“He apologized,” Clint said, sitting warily sitting down on the couch. He had just about reached his excitement quota for the day, and even thought he had gotten pain killers, his leg was starting to twinge, badly. He winced. “But he didn’t say anything else.”
Natasha gave an exasperated sigh.
“I think there’s something he’s not telling us,” Clint said.
“Yeah, like why he broke your leg.”
“No, I mean…” Clint wasn’t really sure how to explain it. He saw Steve walk in out of the corner of his eye, hanging around the door frame, listening. “Why would he do that? I saw him come back from the storage area and then I turned around. He was just…hovering there. He didn’t come back at full speed.” He looked from Natasha to Steve, the latter of whom looked at the floor guiltily. “Look, I’m just saying…we didn’t really…give him a chance.”
Steve’s eyes flashed angrily. “Yes we did, Clint. Two, actually. The second time he wouldn’t even open his door to me, and he didn’t tell you anything. If he wants to be stubborn, that’s fine, but not about our teammates’ health.” Steve angrily whirled around and stomped down the hall.