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Hulk is smashing and even puny Bruce inside is happy because he has been angry ever since Tin Man and Birdie were stolen. They are here, the ear thing says in Red’s voice, and she is angry too. But she cannot smash like Hulk can, and now that he knows he will not smash a room on top of them he can smash all the harder. Walls fall, and the roof caves in, showing sky, and there is Goldhair, flying.

“We need Bruce!” Goldhair calls down, swatting the beam Hulk throws at him to one side. “Clint’s injuries are dire!”



Never has he wished to be more magician than warrior, not in a thousand years. Like Hulk, he is better at destruction. But Hulk has Bruce-within, and Bruce has mastered the subtle art of healing. Bruce would say that his dual nature is science, not magic, but it is miraculous all the same. As the mighty green giant concedes his place to the fragile man, Thor knows a moment of envy. But only a moment. He sets aside regret and does what he can do, spinning Mjölnir to lift them both back to the quinjet where Clint and Tony await.



Occasionally, she hates the Red Room. Actually, she hates it constantly, but there are times when the reasons she’s hating it are... different. Having panic beaten out of her when she wasn’t much older than the small boy huddling on the floor next to the medical cot is new. He is so lost, and frightened, and he clearly knows as well as she does that Clint’s injuries could still be fatal. It’s like looking into a mirror, and finding someone else’s reflection there.

Her hands are steady as she helps Bruce clean Clint’s wounds.

She hates it.

But they are.



When they get back, Cap’s going to ask for an instantaneous antidote to cyanide. Because if anyone can come up with one, it’s Tony and Bruce and Jane, and Steve is so fucking tired of watching the people he needs desperately to interrogate take the easy way out. He drops the dead man and looks around. The file drawers are leaking acid onto the floor. The computer is stuck to a big electromagnet on the wall. He flips the switch to off and grabs it anyway.

They’ve got Tony and Clint and the arc reactor. Anything else is just gravy.



Tony hasn’t believed in magic since he was three. Or grownups, except for Jarvis. (And even Jarvis has to break his promises sometimes.) And he knows that he probably shouldn’t trust Clint, because people don’t grow backwards; the math doesn’t work like that. Besides, Clint says they have a team and Tony knows that Starks don’t play on teams; they stand (or fall) on their own. They might lead, but they don’t follow. And Clint says a friend of his father’s in charge of the team, but Tony’s pretty sure that his father hasn’t got that kind of friends. Clint even talks like he knows superheroes to talk to and who does that? There’s a whole lot of reasons not to trust Clint, but it’s awfully hard to remember not to when Clint is getting hurt because of Tony.

So Tony does his best not to believe that there’s a team, or that anyone will ever come except the bad guys. He doesn’t tell Clint that, because he can see that Clint is going to die pretty soon and Tony isn’t mean enough to tell a guy who’s dying that he’s stupid for believing in people.

And then they come.


Natasha comes first, and she’s scary. She kills the bad guys without even blinking, splattering brains and blood all over the room, but that’s not as scary as the way she looks when she sees Tony. She’s furious, and it’s all that Tony can do not to run away really fast. But Clint smiles at her, and she makes herself be less mad and Tony begins to understand that she’s angry at the dead guys and not him. Or Clint, who can barely stand up, much less walk, not even with both Natasha and Tony trying to hold him up.

Thor comes next and he looks like a superhero. He even has a cape! And he’s huge! Tony barely comes up to his waist. He picks up Clint like he doesn’t weigh anything and starts for the door, and Tony scurries to keep up. The floor is rough and his feet are bare, and Tony doesn’t think he makes any noise, but Thor stops all the same and crouches, telling Tony to climb up on to his back and hold on tight. And maybe if there was time to think about it Tony wouldn’t, but there isn’t, so he does.

Bruce is third, and he’s naked. There’s a cot and medical equipment on the jet where Thor leaves them, but even Tony can see that Natasha isn’t a doctor, and Clint keeps making soft little sounds of pain until Thor brings Bruce and Bruce, for all that he isn’t wearing any clothes and his hair is full of brickdust, knows just what to do to make Clint relax against the webbing. Clint hasn’t reassured Natasha or Thor, but he reassures Bruce, saying he’s okay even if it isn’t exactly true, and asking if Bruce is okay until Bruce lies too.

Cap comes last. Which is probably a good thing, because by then Tony’s not sure any of this is real, and he’s wished for Captain America to come rescue them so often that it almost makes sense that he’s there. Besides, Clint said that a friend of Tony’s father’s led the team, and his dad knows, knew, Captain America once upon a time. So that fits, even if Captain America is probably dead after all these years. But it looks like him, and everyone listens when he gives orders, so maybe he isn’t dead after all. Tony sure hopes so.