The helicarrier was never designed for a ground landing, and right now it sure as hell won't float, so emergency repairs are carried out while it limps in a slow, wide arc around Manhattan. They're a couple of miles out from the city, and from this distance, this height, the only activity Nick can see is a swarm of medevac and news choppers circling around the smoke that clouds midtown. Still, he knows that there are people down there—thousands, hundreds of thousands of people—and he thinks about ants, and ant hills, and the resilience that can be found in common cause.
Around him, the command centre buzzes with activity: his people co-ordinating repairs and clean-up, compiling reports on the Avengers' current movements and the President's recent statement. The bones of his face ache with tiredness and he can't remember the last time he slept, but Nick knows he won't see his bed for hours yet. After the battle is when the real war begins, and he won't give Loki the satisfaction of victory through slow attrition, through a lack of resolve.
The sun is sinking towards the horizon when Hill appears. She's got a low-level staffer with her, who sets a tray loaded with sandwiches and a large teapot down on top of the nearest console before leaving. Hill doesn't say anything, but the faint arch of her eyebrows is expressive enough. Phil would be proud.
Nick pours himself a cup of tea—a strong Assam blend, with a heaping spoonful of sugar to counteract the effects of exhaustion, of loss—and takes a sandwich. Before he bites into it, however, he stares at Hill until she rolls her eyes and selects a sandwich of her own. Wouldn't do to let the student think she's become the master, after all.
They stand and eat in companionable silence while Manhattan lights up in front of them, its neon glory striped here and there with the gashes left by the Chitauri forces. Stark Tower stands tall at its heart, its glow dimmed but still visible. It's only when Nick's eaten his fill, when the warmth of his third cup of tea is taking some of the chill from his old bones, that he says, "Hill, did you know that an ant can lift fifty times its own body weight?"