“East end of the building’s clear.” Steve cleared a three-foot wall of rubble in two steps, adjusting his communicator a bit deeper into his ear. “Kronis is in custody, en route back to the helicarrier. Where is everybody?”
“By the hole in the roof, Hulk’s out front,” Barton’s voice crackled back. “Exterior looks secure. That you in the hall, Thor?”
“Indeed. I will meet the Captain where he--”
“Downstairs NOW!” Natasha barked over him. “Stark’s out cold and losing blood fast!”
Clint looked over his shoulder into the mostly-destroyed scrapyard. “HULK! INSIDE!” he bellowed, making sure he heard and followed before leaping down into the exposed hallway. Thor and Steve both pushed by him towards the basement stairwell. “Hill, how soon can you get a medivac out here?”
“At least forty-five minutes.”
“Then deploy it half an hour ago.” The three of them raced down the stairs. “Nat, where we headed?”
“North wing of the basement, observation lab. I’ve got him on a table.” An outsider would have thought her voice rock steady, but the rest of the team could pick up the half-note of tension beneath it. “They tore half the suit off him. Some of this gear looks like high-grade electromagnets.”
Steve spat a couple of words that Clint wished he’d recorded for YouTube. “The reactor look okay?”
“Visually intact and operational. Thank God.” Not two words that came out of Natasha’s mouth very often. The three of them finally made it to the lab, and even Thor’s face twitched a bit at the amount of blood on the floor, specifically how much of it had clearly been shredded from their partner’s body.
Natasha was carefully checking the wounds that were reachable on Tony’s chest and left arm. She looked up quickly. “Jarvis isn’t responding on my comm or his -- they broke contact somehow. If there’s an emergency release on the thing, I can’t find it.” She looked carefully at a profusely bleeding slash down Tony’s side that definitely had a few broken ribs beneath it. “I got the faceplate off, but I can’t move the entire headpiece without wrenching his neck around. Clint, find something to clean this with in one of these cabinets.”
Clint nodded, and Steve moved to Tony’s head quickly, grabbing the metal at the thinnest strip below his chin and carefully bending it back and forth in increments, trying to get it to split. “Gonna take a while but I can do it,” he reported. “Thor, try to pull the rest of the armor off him without moving his body around too much. Slow and steady.”
“Of course.” Thor dug his fingers between Tony’s tattered flight suit and the armor, the metal creaking as its joins began to split and rivets popped. Natasha continued calling instructions to Clint, shifting into Russian as her tone grew more frantic with each worsening injury she found.
The quick rhythm they fell into was interrupted when a loud thud and crumbling concrete accompanied Hulk forcing his way through the doorway -- Steve noticed that he’d ducked and turned sideways to minimize resistance, which threw him a bit.
Before any of them could speak, Hulk’s jaw set hard and he strode across the room, pushing Thor aside and kneeling over the bed, staring down at Tony’s prone form.
“Who hurt Tony?” They’d become used to him speaking, but the simmering hatred in his voice was a deeper rage than any of them had heard before.
It was also the first time he’d used any of their first names.
“We got them.” Clint put a hand on Hulk’s arm. “We stopped them and we took them away. We’re trying to help him now.”
“Got it,” Steve barked, tossing the helm aside and pushing Tony’s sweat -- no, blood -- dampened hair back from his forehead. “Major contusion on his head here, about halfway back.”
Natasha spat a string of Russian that didn’t particularly need translating. “He’s still bleeding from his side, must have hit a blood vessel. I can’t get it clean enough to see where...”
Hulk flung Clint’s arm away, moving over to lean over Tony’s face. Two massive fingers rested on his bloodstained cheek -- so gentle his head didn’t even turn. Steve stepped back to watch as Hulk’s face contorted. The anger didn’t leave, but it tempered itself with... pain? Fear?
“Hulk,” Steve said, quiet but firm, stepping up near him. “Tony is very hurt. We’re helping as much as we can, but he needs a lot more. Dr. Banner could help us a lot if he were here. Do you think he can?”
Hulk watched him, taking a moment to process the sentence, before shaking his head. “Too slow.” He took a step back, looking slowly at everything around them, eyes closing as if he were listening closely to something very quiet. The others kept working, but were all staring cautiously at him.
Then he lifted one hand to point at a wall lined with cabinets. “Open.”
Clint glanced at Natasha, who gave him a quick nod. “Which one, buddy?”
“All.” Clint jogged down the row, pulling them all open. Hulk walked slowly past them, squinting at the contents one at a time.
It was a good minute later -- Thor had one leg of armor pulled away and was working on the other -- when Hulk abruptly spoke again. “This.”
The conscious Avengers exchanged brief, questioning glances. Steve walked over to the cabinet, where Hulk pointed roughly at a row of IV bags. Steve read the label, brow furrowed. “It’s... medicine of some kind...”
“Bring it here.” Steve walked back over and handed Clint the bag. “Just fluids with a low dose antibiotic...” He looked up at Hulk guardedly. “Is this what Dr. Banner thinks we need to do?”
Hulk nodded solemnly. “Arm.”
They all looked between each other quietly. Hulk leaned up and put a hand on the table next to Tony’s leg, looking Clint in the eye. “Bruce... too slow,” he said, insistent, but the anger had almost entirely drained from his face. “Help Tony.”
Clint nodded decisively, putting the bag on a mostly-upright IV stand and pulling open drawers until he found the needles and tubing required to put together a rudimentary line. Thor stepped back, dropping the last of the armor to the ground, and looked up at Hulk. “Is there any other action we can take until further help arrives?”
Hulk slipped deep into concentration, staring intently at a spot on the ground for a few moments, before looking up. “Blood.”
Thor looked over at Steve, confused. “Have humans reserves to resupply lost blood?”
“Donations, yeah,” Steve replied, lips pursed, hood pushed off his head in the heat of all six of them in such a small room. “But I highly doubt they had--”
“I’m O negative,” Natasha piped in, unzipping the top of her jumpsuit and peeling it back. Steve choked softly, but she shot him a glare as she pushed it down. “It’s called a sports bra, Rogers. Don’t have a coronary on us.”
She darted over to the arm the IV wasn’t in, wrapping a cloth bandage around her arm as a makeshift tourniquet. Hulk shuddered softly, limping backwards towards an empty wall and leaning heavily against it. He pointed vaguely at a standing fan in the corner, sliding to sit down, eyes closing.
Steve picked it up. “Do we need to keep him cool?”
“Not really,” Clint called back. “Might be for him.”
Hulk nodded slowly, the familiar sickly paleness coming to his face as his skin began to loosen, almost liquefy. Steve pointed the fan at him and turned it on, watching with mixed fascination and revulsion as the massive form folded in on itself, tightening and constricting around shrinking muscles, until Bruce Banner’s exhausted form lay slumped against the wall. He was awake for only a moment, eyes flicking confusedly around the room before slipping out of consciousness.
“Evac’s half an hour out,” Clint reported. “But he looks stable. Nothing to do now but wait.”
Steve pulled a lab coat from one of the open cabinets and draped it awkwardly over Bruce’s waist before picking him up and laying him gently across one of the other -- they looked like dissection tables. “Hopefully Bruce will sleep that long.” His brow knitted. “If everything I read about what people have done to him was true... I don’t know if I’d want him to wake up in a place like this.”
“A wise observation, Captain. Such memories can be as painful as the events that created them.” Thor walked over, standing next to Steve and looking between their two prone teammates. “Does Bruce remember what transpires when his other form overtakes him?”
“I’m not sure. He didn’t remember much from Manhattan.” Steve smiled thinly. “I had to tell him he saved Tony’s life that time, too.”
Thor nodded solemnly. “The bond between them is strong. The Man of Iron showed faith in Bruce’s abilities when he lacked it in himself. There are few greater debts that one can owe a fellow warrior.” He looked back down at Bruce. “But the beast seemed to commune with the doctor today. Perhaps that will aid in his recollection.”
“I’m not sure.” Steve looked back over to the other table. “Maybe I’ll just tell Tony and let him handle it.”
Thor grinned. “So he may lavish praise upon his sword-brother once more? Bruce hardly takes such accolades in stride. Perhaps Tony can break him of that habit as well.” He turned around to clap Clint on the shoulder. “Hawkeye! Come watch the building above with me. Further interference could be disastrous.” Clint nodded once, picking his bow up and heading out the door.
Natasha looked back at Steve. “He’s close to coming to. You wanna get over here before he tries to cop a feel and I have to kill him?”
“Sure thing.” Steve gave Bruce one more once-over, saw no obvious injury or distress, and went to sit with Natasha, waiting to get his team back home safe.