Lashes beaded with moisture, lids red, vibrant green eyes themselves shining far too bright. Lashes meshing, as they close, he shakes the man, again, again, but there is no response, the heavy head lolls to rest against his neck, bloodied lip smearing warmth that turns cold, onto his skin. His hand comes away dripping, his sleeve soaked.
Tony laughs, as they walk, his turn with Loki on his back, and apparently the trickster god said something funny. Thor and Bruce turn, and ask, Tony shakes his head and grins, and looks at Cap, on Thor’s back. Bruce and Coulson share an exasperated look, and Bruce falls back a little, to walk beside him.
Clint and Natasha are off ahead, and so far, crazily, this has worked.
The suit is crumpled red paper, the helmet gone. Dark hair matted black with blood, eyes wide with fear, unseeing because they can’t. Beside, Steve lies broken and bleeding, red and blue and so much red.
This is what a team is. A family. Not okay all the time, but not a moment of question whether it will be later. The knowledge that the importance of each others bonds is far greater than any fight or petty squabble. And somehow, in the middle of all of this, Coulson has landed, is walking, an arm around Loki’s back, steadying a tired god who can barely hold his head up.
Coulson wishes he would stop doing this, pushing and pushing until he falls, no matter how small the fight.
The red cape spreads over the ground, dripping, running in rivulets on the dry riverbed, the shape giving it form draining out, staining grey stone black. Loki, under his brother’s cloak, body still and empty and cold.
The others, fallen later, scattered like dry leaves, bodies sprawled undignified where they fell.
Coulson struggles onto his hands and knees, looking at the creatures looming tall; blue and grey and grotesque and terrible. Between them, in the heart of their circle, a small woman stands, her smile wide and white.
Loki falls to his knees, legs giving out beneath him, surprising Coulson, who does at least manage to keep him from falling flat on his face. He’s trembling, as Coulson crouches, pulling his arms around his own neck, to lift him piggy-back. Thor leans down, Steve practically choking him in his effort to not slide off onto his head, placing a hand on Loki’s back, “brother?”
Loki looks up, at the three of them, and the small, tired, weak smile makes Coulson blink. Then, slowly, nod. He doesn’t like the god. But...would rather he be at peace than suffer.
It’s right then, in sight of their goal, that the air starts to cool.
Coulson crawls to where the Hulk fell, pulls the battered, naked body against his own. Natasha, the only other one still moving, pulls herself towards him, as he starts to drag Bruce across the stones.
“What do you think you’re going to do?”
Coulson ignores the woman, focused fully on his task, now joined by Natasha, pulling Bruce to where Tony and Steve lay. Ice is creeping over the folds in Steve’s uniform, the cracks in Tony’s broken armor. Coulson breaks, it, shoving it away, the sharp little bits of the unmelting crystal cutting into his hands.
Staggering upright, he pulls Natasha up, and together they roll Loki over, so he’s face down on top of the cloak, instead of lying under, arranged like a corpse for a funeral. The cloak makes it easier for them to drag him, and it only takes maybe ten slow, stumbling minutes to get him to the others, twenty yards away.
Again he attacks the ice forming, sustaining tiny cuts from finger to elbow, the clear, cold stone breaking sharp like soft glass. They don’t move Clint. He fell, crumpled from his perch, and if anything’s broken, they don’t want to damage it more.
Wait until Bruce is awake.
Natasha goes to Clint, settles in beside him, her last small knife clenched tightly in her hand. Coulson sits, with Tony and Steve, and Bruce and Loki, his gun drawn, two bullets left in the magazine, using the butt of it to break the ice climbing over his twisted leg, “win. We’re going to win.”
She laughs, Coulson raises his gun, it’s far too far away, but it doesn’t matter, he shoots anyway.
She falls, blood spurting from between her eyes.
If it was a mistake, tactically, he doesn’t care, even as the Ice Giants start to attack.
Blades of ice seep up through the ground, Coulson drops his gun, and pushes the others out of the way, frantically, he can’t do it fast enough, and he’s too exhausted to move Tony at all, and Thor barely. One big one is starting to come up, he pulls the twisted shoulder panel off Tony’s suit, and tries to break it, but it won’t break, a mountain of ice is forming right beneath them.
A shot shatters through the heart of that mountain. He turns to look. A male, of the people here, standing just at the edge of the river. A small gun, of some kind, trained and ready.
More ice, sharper, comes up to replace what was gone, this time tinged and veined red, with the blood soaking into the ground.
The man breaks that as well, starting to walk down the curve of the bottom of the river bed.
More ice, less this time, entirely red.
Coulson pounds at it, until it crumbles to the ground.
Ice starts slithering towards them, flowing between the cracks in the rocks, no moisture left in the ground directly below them.
The man shoots again, misses, the shot pings off Tony’s suit. He groans, and mumbles, and wheezes, asking Coulson for help. Coulson pulls the emergency latch, on the side of the suit, releasing him from the twisted metal. He reaches out, Coulson grips his hand, pulls his bruised body from the titanium trap.
Shuddering with the effort of breathing with broken ribs and broken head, he leans on Coulson’s chest, stuttering a question.
“Everyone’s still alive. Barely. But alive.”
Tony nods, and slides down into Coulson’s lap. Coulson thinks he’s gone unconscious again, but instead, he grips Coulson’s hand, and starts to spell, writing out a plan. His fingers tremble, but his words are certain.
The man reaches them, as Coulson breaks the ice again. He, long, spindly grey fingers apparently stronger than they look, is the one to get Tony’s suit into position, and he and Coulson keep the ice from taking hold, while Tony works to get Steve and Bruce back to the waking world.
The ice giants are approaching. Coulson smiles, for the first time.
The Hulk loves Tony. Apparently a better judge of character than all the rest of them combined, it had a demonstrated history of saving Tony’s ass even when it didn’t need saving, for a long time, before they really got that Tony loved his masks, and wore them well, to the exclusion of ever seeming like not an jerk. This is to their advantage today, as many days before, because on emerging, the Hulk’s first action is to grab, then stop, and gently lift, him into its arms, instead of going on a blind rampage. Coulson and the alien man push the suit against its leg. It looks at them, the suit, and then at Tony, leans close to hear Tony’s at this point broken, painful words.
It’s lucky, really, that the suit is so badly damaged. They would never have gotten it into the Hulk’s hand, otherwise, its fingers wouldn’t have found a way to fire, if it hadn’t essentially fallen apart when they lifted it.
Nobody ever thought it would be a good idea to give the Hulk a gun. But out of any of them, it is the only one who can stand the radiation in the gas. The sharp, needle-tendrils of glasslike ice invading its veins that stopped it before, will go away very quickly, in the face of the output of the newly modified reactor, sending out intense heat, instead of a repulsion blast.
How long the wiring will hold is a pretty big question, especially since it’s running on auxiliary power.
How long the Hulk will go, especially now that its seen that Tony’s hurt, really isn’t.