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the only thing that's real

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They were fighting mechanical spiders, large red bulbous bodies, dripping acid from their bellies as they crawled along on jointed metal legs. The battle had mostly devolved into Iron Man tossing spiders up in the air for Hulk to smash and toss against the warehouse buildings surrounding them. Natasha left in a black SUV before she did damage to Stark for telling her they are killing her babies. Steve is pretty sure there will be some form of recompense later.

"Cap?"

"Yeah, Hawkeye?"

"There’s a girl on your three. She’s headed right into Hulk’s homerun zone."

"On it," Steve replies but his feet are already moving, running across the empty back lot, dodging round the burned out shells of cars and the crumpled bodies of the plague of mechanical spiders, some still twitching as they haemorrhaged acid onto the asphalt. He gets to her just in time to raise his shield and block the stray body of a spider the Hulk has absently tossed as Tony leads him further away.

“Are you alright, ma’am? Ma’am?”

“Help me,” the girl says, lip trembling as she tilts her head back to look up at the sky. Her eyes are dark, pupils dilated so wide they appear black with only the thinnest ring of silvery blue. “There should be rainbows,” the girl murmurs, forehead wrinkled, teeth scraping against her bottom lip.

“What happened?” he asks, frowning as he catches sight of her hands. Her nails are ragged and torn, knuckles bruised, skin broken, slender wrists ringed in bruises, and rubbed raw. A small knife, covered in blood is held loosely in her hands. She is covered in dirt; blood dripping sluggishly from a wound hidden in her mass of tangled hair. More bruises circle around her neck and disappear under the collar of her grey gown. The gown itself is covered in spatters of blood and a single bloody hand print, too large to belong to the girl.

“I don’t remember,” she says and frowns as she looked down at her own hands. The knife falls with a clatter beside her bare feet and she turns her hands palm up. She reaches a blood covered hand up towards his face, and he catches her arm below the bruised and reddened flesh around her wrist. She frowns at his gloved hand, head tilting to the side. “The needles, they hurt. The light it burned. They took it all away. They made me forget. They took me away.”

"Who did this to you? Who hurt you?"

"I don’t remember," the girl says, voice barely above a whisper. She surges forward, her free hand brushing the backs of her fingers against his cheek. Her touch tickles and feels strangely warm, despite her fingers feeling icy against his skin. Her brow furrows and her lips form the ghost of a smile as he pulls her hand away from his face. He watches in alarm as her eyes roll back and he barely has time to get a better hold of her before she collapses unconscious against him.

He shifts his hands as he lowers her to the ground, and his gloves encounter something hard along the ridges of her spine. He turns the girl on her side, leaning over her, and he sees a small metallic object very much like a miniature version of the red-bodied spiders they've been fighting today. There are no legs and the thing looks battered and broken, the skin around the mechanism is bruised and covered in drying blood. “Hawkeye, Iron Man, we have a problem.”