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Go See the Elephant

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Steve's trying to keep one eye looking over his shoulder and reload his revolver at the same time when a flash of gold at the edge of his peripheral vision jerks his attention away from shadowy movements within the casino's wooden portico: Tony, running towards them, one side of his ridiculous cloth-of-gold waistcoat flapping open as he moves and the other pinned to his chest by some sort of long package he's got in his arms.

He skids to a stop at Steve's side, slightly stooped to keep his head behind the much-maligned wagon Steve's using as cover, dumps the package in the dust and puts one hand to Steve's shoulder.

“Just try to keep them distracted,” he says, and then he's climbing over the driver's seat and making his way through the crates and bags and barrels that hadn't made it to their final destinations before Wrecker started trying to stake his claim this morning.

“Stark!” Steve hisses after him, because it's possible none of the crew have noticed him yet but that's not going to last longer than it takes to load the modified revolving rifle Wrecker's somehow managed to get his hands on.

“A little busy here, sheriff!” Tony calls back to him, utterly heedless of the murderous attention he's drawing to himself.

“Damn fool's gonna get himself shot,” Bucky mutters from his own bit of cover—a heavy hedgewood sign for the new lawyers in town that Steve is probably going to have to pay damages for now. It's not exactly the first impression he was hoping to make on their new residents. “Or worse, he'll get caught and they'll have another hostage.”

Steve's not going to consider that right now. He'd spent half the day negotiating for the release of the handful of workers and early patrons the Crew had surprised before the firefight started in earnest.

“What did I tell you about the cussing?” he says, twisting to his knees again as Tony jumps off the end of the wagon and runs into the empty street. Distraction starts with two shots to the column Steve can see a slouching figure behind and another to the side of the door he's pretty sure Wrecker's been camping at all day. It's enough to get Tony across the open space in front of the casino and around the side of the building intact.

“That's barely anything, sheriff, you should hear the things my ma called the hired hands when I was still tied to her skirts,” Bucky says, lining up a few shots of his own.

“I'd rather not.” Steve sinks back into a crouch as Wrecker's boys do their best to blow holes in them in return. His legs are aching. His back hurts. The sun's been baking his head for hours, getting in his eyes and making him wish he hadn't lost his hat in the first mad scuffle on the porch steps.

Keep them distracted, Tony said. Distracted from what? What does Tony have up his sleeve now?

A shot pings against a rock under the wagon and Steve scoots a bit more to the side. They've gotta be running low on ammunition by now, right? Jarvis has their horses penned up on the other side of town, so they're not going anywhere very quickly. Pym and Rand had volunteered to guard the back door with the steely eyes of men quite ready to take a day's lost earnings out of someone's hide, and unless there are more hostages Wrecker's failed to mentioned inside, they're all out of leverage. Even if they manage to get the vault open, they can't think they'll get away before Steve and half the town of Timely tackle them into the dust.

Stubbornness, that's all that's keeping them going now. Stubbornness and maybe desperation. Fisk will want to hang them for this. It's just a matter of time, now. But stubborn desperation can still get a man killed. He's only got a few more bullets on his belt and Bucky's been nursing his last magazine for over an hour, coaxing as much distance as he can get out of his Henry. Soon they won't be much more than sitting targets, waiting for the thieves' next move.

The shooting stops, and Steve peeks around the side of a wagon wheel. One of the men on the porch says something, too low for Steve to make out what it is. One side of the big double doors opens a few inches, and for a moment he hopes maybe they're discussing surrender. But then the muzzle of Wrecker's damn Spencer pokes through the opening and he shifts himself back hurriedly.


The first shot hits the dirt where his knee was a second ago and he flinches.

“Get back, Buck, it's—”

He can't see Bucky anymore, at least. Whatever the kid's doing he's got all his limbs out of view.

Three bullets pepper across the sign, mutilating the first painted name to the point of illegibility. Two more thud into the wagon behind him, and something wet trickles into the road and pools next to the boardwalk. He can smell alcohol on the breeze.

“Do you think—” Bucky starts, and the last shot pings off something metal. Wheel rim maybe.

“I hate that thing,” Bucky says as the door thumps shut.

“You'n me both,” Steve agrees, edging back to the side of the wagon. His foot nudges the bundle Tony dropped and he shifts around to peel back the paper and cloth around whatever it is. Tony wouldn't have brought it if he hadn’t thought it'd be useful.

Polished metal glints up at him, bright and slick in the afternoon sun.

Guns. Tony's brought him one of his long-range rifles, a heavy dragoon piece, and two full boxes of copper-cased Stark-patented bullets to go with them.

“I take it back,” Bucky says. “Bless that man. Lord let him do whatever he likes and smile on him, at least until we get out of this heat and get a proper drink, amen.”

Steve gives him a chiding look, but Bucky refuses to be cowed.

“I swear to you, sheriff, I have never made a more honest prayer in my life.”

Steve shakes his head but passes him the rifle and the matching hexagonal bullets.

“Time for another salvo,” he mutters to himself, checking the cylinder on the Dragoon. It's not loaded. He starts pressing new rounds into place.

“You gotta come out sometime Wrecker!” he yells in the casino's general direction. “Those supplies ain't gonna last you more'n a day for water, and that's if Mayor Fisk doesn't bring reinforcements down on your head before sunrise!”

“Go to hell, Rogers!” one of them yells back. He doesn't even know most of their names, but if he's learned anything about them today it's that imagination is not their strong suit.

Bucky fires, and that voice turns to only-slightly-muffled cursing interspersed with grunting moans of pain.

“I love this rifle,” Bucky declares. “Do you think Stark'll let me keep it?”

“I think we got other things to worry about now,” Steve tells him. He leans up again and steadies the Dragoon's heavy barrel, waiting for the right moment.

“Do you feel like the ground's shaking?” Bucky asks. He squeezes off another shot and one of the gunmen hops out from behind his column, clutching his foot and swearing a blue streak. He even drops his pistol, Steve notes.

“I thought it was just the sun getting to me,” he admits. A shadow moves behind one of the windows in the main doors, and he pulls the trigger. The Dragoon kicks harder than he expected, but the hole in the door is satisfying to see. Let Wrecker sweat a bit more quickly. He lines up another shot.

“I think—”

Whatever it is Bucky's thinking, it's interrupted by the low thudding boom of TNT going off underground. Steve's shot goes wide.

“Was that—”

“Stark,” Steve agrees. “You got a line on the second one?”

“Yeah, I got you,” Bucky says, eye to his scope.

Steve drops the Dragoon, darts around the wagon and sprints for the man who's still holding his foot instead of his gun, pushing his tired legs faster and trying not to think about the very real possibility he's about to get a bullet to his brains. He hears another shot go off behind him and the other man screams long enough Steve's pretty sure he's not actually dying.

His target sees him coming and scrambles in the dust for his gun, but Steve's close enough to punch before he can get his hands on it, and a swift clock to his jaw has him out on the ground.

He picks the man up by his shirt collar and drags him back to the wagon. The lashings are mostly still intact, and he uses the thief’s knife to cut a good length free and hog-ties him, knotting the lead around the lawyers' fancy-carved oak horse hitch.

“How long do you think we've got before Wrecker gets that thing loaded again?” he asks, eyeing the man still on the porch. He's holding his shoulder, but he's still got a revolver in his hand and unsteady on his feet doesn't make him safe.

“There's something going on in there, lots of movement,” Bucky reports, his eye glued to his scope.

“What kind of movement?” Steve asks. The holdout on the porch is wavering, leaning against one of the columns and trying to steady his grip. Unless the light's doing something strange over there he looks like he's losing color fast.

“How should I know? You want details like that you better tell Fisk to use clearer glass for his windows.”

The door rattles and the holdout fires a panic shot into the porch steps, then slumps to his knees. When Stark, Pym, Rand and Banner walk out of the building a few seconds later, they've got Wrecker and his third man at gunpoint, both of them looking worse for wear and unlikely to protest their arrest too loudly. Danny relieves the wounded man of his weapon and drags him into the street with the others.

Tony brandishes what can only be Wrecker's rifle and grins, looking utterly satisfied with the world.

“I think they're ready for you now, sheriff,” he says.


“Fisk is gonna kill you,” Steve tells him—later, after he and Bucky have gotten the crew locked up, their wounds seen to, and themselves fed and watered. Steve had also taken the time to get a good hard look at the damage done to the casino basement.

Tony just waves him off, his attention on the pieces of barrel, chamber, stock and trigger spread out on his worktable. His lamp gives the space a faintly bluish glow, but it's certainly bright enough. The glass looks like it's never seen a speck of soot.

“He'll get over it. He's been talking about renovating anyway.”

Renovation isn't the same as a jagged hole in his floor,” Steve points out, but his heart's not in it. The afternoon sun is still dragging on his limbs. He stretches his arms out and tries to roll the kinks out of his neck.

“So I've saved him the cost of the dynamite and a good surveyor,” Tony shrugs. “You let me worry about me, Rogers, you've got no need to go borrowing more trouble.” He gestures at the bits of firearm he's dismantled. “Look at this thing. It's a miracle he didn't shoot himself full of metal. Could've saved everyone a lot of trouble.”

“It worked just fine from where I was,” Steve drawls. It'd been an unpleasant surprise the first time Wrecker pulled it out. Seven shots a tube, .56 caliber rounds and up to thirteen tubes in a cartridge box. It wasn't the kind of weapon he usually had to deal with out here. “Barnes wants to keep that sniper's piece, by the way.”

Tony snorts. “Of course he does. How'd you like the Dragoon?”

“Too heavy.” Steve leans his hip against the worktable and watches Tony's hands move over the polished rifle stock.

Tony hums under his breath. “I'll figure it out someday.”

“I've told you, I don't need another gun.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony holds the barrel at an angle and peers down its length. “Because wanting a little more between you and some deadbeat gunslinger than a Starr revolver and that shiny badge on your chest is obviously a crime around here.” He looks up, the line of his mouth grim. “You realize you're the only thing between idiots like this gang and the rest of us, don't you?”

“You seemed to do well enough for yourself today,” Steve says, nudging the chamber cylinder a bit to the side. “You could've let me in on the plan.”

Tony's lips quirk, humor sparking in his eyes even as he twitches the chamber back into place. “It wasn't so much a plan as an idea,” he says. “By the time it became a plan we had to move pretty fast.”

“You had time to stick your nose in the middle of a shootout.”

“Well, we had to know where you were, didn't we? Couldn't get our sheriff and his deputy caught up in the impromptu illegal mining project, or the dynamite blast either. Wouldn't want you blowing your hand off in an act of heroism.” Tony wiggles his fingers. “Better to leave that to us professional madmen.”

Timely certainly has enough of those hanging around, Steve muses. Tony just wears it a bit more boldly than most.

“I should get going,” he says, glancing to the back window. The sun's setting, the horizon glowing orange and purple, and he still hasn't checked on the horses in Jarvis' care. His head's starting to feel heavy, his legs ready to root to the spot rather than move another step. He looks back to Tony. “You better not go haring off into the hills when Fisk gets back.” Around noon probably, if Rick has managed to catch up and pass on the message that the crisis is over. Dawn if he hasn't.

“I dunno, sheriff,” Tony leans back in his chair and hooks his hands behind his head, legs stretched out before him. “I am running a bit short on gold wire this week, and the Barton clan's been talking about a big order, lots of silver chasing, Lord only knows what they're doing. Maybe it is a good time to go play at mining again.” He smirks, half his face in shadow on the shuttered side of the lamp. “If you're worried Fisk'll be looking around for a good substitute you could always come with me, you know.”

“No I can't,” Steve tells him, and Tony sighs and leans forward again.

“No, 'course not,” he says. He presses one finger to the badge on Steve's chest. “Careful that sense of nobility doesn't get you killed someday. The town would go to hell without you.”

“You did fine before I got here,” Steve demurs, but the look Tony gives him says something else entirely.

“That's not the word I would use,” he says. He's got gun oil on his knuckles and road dust in his hair, and the slouch of his shoulders says he's probably not staying up with Wrecker's rifle tonight, the siren's song of dusk and soft bedding working on him, too.

“I really should go,” Steve repeats, and Tony nods.

“You should,” he agrees. He stands up, like maybe he's going to walk Steve to the door, but instead he's taking a handful of Steve's shirt and waistcoat and tugging him across the table. “You won't though,” he says against Steve's lips, and Steve braces one hand on the edge of the table and the other against Tony's elbow and kisses him, slow and lazy with the weight of the day behind them, because it's true.

He won't.