Bucky dies on a mountain in Russia, and Steve's vision goes grey. He doesn't remember a lot after that, just cold steel and hot blood and so much screaming his ears buzz with it. He's a super soldier, he was created to kill. A lot of people don't remember that until it's too late. In later years, people forget Captain America. There's something darker there now, and Steve Rogers is just another Manhattan Project, a trained attack dog that turned on its owners, bit the hand that fed. He was always a weapon. They just didn't count on the weapon having a mind of its own. They forgot that the weapon was human. And humans can be broken.
The serum stops him aging, and eventually Captain America is a myth, the perfect soldier who went MIA in the war. People never connect the blond haired blue eyed shadow with the Star Spangled Man.
And if they do? Well, they don’t live long enough to tell anyone else about him.
“This is what I was built for.”
There's always been something dark in Bruce's soul, something jade green and harsh, broken glass smile glinting when the older boys push him in the playground. He tells people that the serum hadn't worked, that he wasn't a super soldier, but the truth is, the serum worked exactly as it should. The inside became the outside, and Bruce's heart races, emerald in his veins and in his eyes.
He also tells people he can’t control him, the other guy, as if they’re two different people, Jekyll and Hyde, not Hyde and Hyde. That’s a lie too. He chooses when to change, and he’s at the wheel. It thrills him, feeling the power rushing through him, muscles tense like steel cable, and it’s better than being human. A better man would have used this to do good, would have been a super hero.
Bruce was never a better man. He's always been a monster. People can just see it now.
“It’s nothing to do with being angry; it’s about being better than everyone else.”
Natasha was born twice. Once in a hospital in 1928, and again ten years later in a small white room underneath the Kremlin in Moscow. She kills her first man (boy, really, seventeen years old with fine blond hairs on his upper lip) when she’s twelve, snapping his neck before he knows she’s behind him. She writes his name in her ledger in scarlet ink. After World War Two, she’s recruited into the Black Widow program. By this time she’s filled three ledgers and red stains her fingertips, and when she closes her eyes at night she doesn’t hear screaming. If your victim screams, you’re too slow. None of Natasha’s victims have ever screamed. She meets the Winter Soldier and when he curls metal fingers around her throat, she looks him in the eye, bored, and stabs the hydraulic cylinder that allows him to move his arm with a knife no one knew she was carrying.
Fifteen years later and she still looks twenty five, and she’s lost count of how many ledgers she’s filled with blood. She’s the only survivor of the Black Widow Program, and she’s the monster Russian parents tell their children about. Natasha doesn’t kill children though. Children haven’t done anything wrong yet.
Forty years after that she’s sent to kill a man with a bow and arrow. He comes close to killing her, a million miles closer than anyone else. With an arrow in her leg and one in her shoulder, she holds out a hand, drops her gun and asks him to run away with her.
“You know they’d never catch us.”
Clint broke seven bones by the time he was ten, and thirteen more by the time he was twenty. He was taught that violence is the only way to make your voice heard, and that if you keep your mouth shut, it doesn’t matter what you think, because no one can read your thoughts. Barney taught him how to survive, but Clint’s always been sceptical, because Barney’s dead, and how could he preach survival from six feet under? The Swordsman and Trick Shot taught him that there are other ways to hurt people that aren’t fists.
Clint works for SHIELD because it’s that or jail, and he meets Coulson, who teaches him that violence isn’t the answer, but Clint thinks he’s lying, because sometimes the question is a gun, and it’s fight or die. Clint always was a survivor in the way that Barney never could be. Barney never broke any bones, Barney never had to learn to keep his mouth shut because Clint was there opening his. The rest of SHIELD doesn’t like him, doesn’t trust him, and he’s not surprised, because he’s Clint Barton, eyes of a hawk and temper of one too, and he puts three other agents in medical before he’s tapped for black ops, partly because he’s dangerous and they need dangerous people in black ops, and partly so Coulson can keep a closer eye on him, takes him on solo missions only. He’s like a pitbull, point him at the enemy and let go of the leash.
In Budapest, they point him at a girl with red hair and a smile that matches his, and she’s fun. They fight and fuck and fight again, and right at the end, he’s standing over her, and she’s bleeding from an arrow to the shoulder, another to the knee, and he has a knife in each hand; she has a gun in hers. She points it at him, and he tenses, but her hand is shaking, and he was always fast.
When she drops the gun and holds out a hand instead, asks him to run away with her, he says yes because he’s never liked Coulson anyway, and his knuckles itch for retribution.
“Can we go to Iowa?”
Thor was born a prince of Asgard. So was his brother, Odin says.
But then they go to Jotunheim, and everything goes wrong. Thor gets banished and Loki changes while he’s gone, becomes Loki Lie-smith instead of Loki Odinson. Except he was never Loki Odinson, not really. Was he? He’s still Thor’s brother, he’s just blue skinned, red eyed, colder than Thor’s ever seen, but he still loves him, wants his brother to come home.
They’re on the Bifrost when it happens, Loki hissing curses and Odin bellowing back, and Thor caught in the middle, just like always. He’s always been the good son, the peacekeeper, ready to rule Asgard one day with Loki by his side, but Loki’s not his brother, he’s Loki Laufeyson, and he could have done it, he could have won, but Odin looks at him with his one remaining eye and tells him he couldn’t. Thor watches his brother change again, watches him fall and screams his name, curses his own, curses his father, and for once, Thor can’t be the good son, the prodigal, the soon to be king.
Thor lets go of the Bifrost and follows his brother, to the ends of the world if he must. He’d follow him to Hel, and he just might have to.
“You’re my brother, and you’re all that I need.”
Tony’s really not sure why everyone is so surprised by this. He’s always floated between good and evil; he donates to charity with the profits he gets from building weapons. It was never about being good or evil. It was about what would be the biggest fuck you to Dad. It's so easy to be anonymous in the suit, so easy to turn off Tony Stark and turn on Iron Man, drown out JARVIS with AC/DC, except Tony Stark IS Iron Man, and he can't escape from the arc reactor in his chest.
So in the press conference he denies being Iron Man, and announces his retirement as CEO, and Tony Stark isn't Tony Stark anymore. So now he's disconnected himself from everything, he can be who he wants. And he really wants to blow something up.
When SHIELD eventually catch up to him, and he's almost insulted that they did it so fast, except he let them catch up, really, it's Fury himself, who looks at Tony with his single eye, and tells him that he can keep blowing up buildings, destroying city blocks, working with the scum of the earth, the lowest of the low, but SHIELD will stop him.
Tony laughs, because the only reason that they found him is because he stopped hiding, was sitting in a giant metal doughnut in Florida when Fury rolls up so really, they must be joking, he thinks. They can't possibly be serious.
He flips the faceplate down, swallows his mouthful of doughnut and he's gone, leaving Fury standing in an empty parking lot, and he thinks that they'll never catch him, because he's Tony Stark, and really, that's reason enough to get up in the morning.
"It's not running, it's living to fight another day."