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Someday You're Going to Realize (that I'm passing you by)

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One.

Sam hadn't wanted the dubious honor of guarding Stark, but he was the only one with air support capabilities and Steve had insisted. So he dutifully waited above the entrance of Stark Industries, watching the people below going about their daily routines.

Thor's warning of Thanos' incoming fleet had forced the United Nations to reconsider their stance on the Accords and the true heroes who had rightfully rejected it. A special amendment had been added to account for situations of potential global extinction and conditional pardons, thus allowing the Avengers to leave Wakanda. In all likelihood, they would not be returning to Wakanda once the world saw and accepted that it needed the Avengers. The whole process was a formality wrapped in red tape.

Some chatter drifted upward and Sam made no move to hide his location. The world needed to see the Avengers working together again, even if Stark had insisted on operating as a separate entity, citing differences in beliefs and difficulties with trust. Which was rather ironic, coming from the man who tore the Avengers apart in the first place when he signed. 

There were people who welcomed the heroes home and others who did not, with the latter outnumbering the former by the hundreds-of-thousands but the former made up for their lack of numbers with violence. The Captain Rogers' Anti-Accords Alliance Party was an extremist group in possession of explosives that seemingly appeared out of thin air, inciting mass panic and severely limiting response time for official agencies.

Sam desperately wished CRAAAP wouldn't proclaim their acts were done in the name of Captain America, because causalities and destruction were the opposite of endearing.

Also, it was a terrible acronym and the media had a field month with it. The many variations of "Steve's CRAAAP" were cycled through the headlines and parodied on talk shows. To say it was a public relations disaster would be an understatement, especially after CRAAAP aimed their latest threat toward Stark in the name of avenging Captain America's wrongful exile.  

The United Nations panel increased its safekeeping measures, stipulating Stark needed at least one other enhanced beings present until the terrorist organization was eliminated. Hence Sam's current Steve-appointed job as a glorified flying babysitter. 

Two teenagers shouted something angrily and made rude hand gestures from below. Sam ignored them, keeping his posture unchanged and cursing Stark and his erratic schedule. This would have been much easier had FRIDAY cooperated as they'd requested, but the A.I. refused to alert her creator of Sam's arrival with an unholy glee that was deeply unsettling. 

A ripple in the crowd signaled Stark's exit from the building.

Slipping on his best polite and concerned teammate mask, Sam began his descent and landed neatly by Stark. "About time, man."  

Stark didn't look up from the pane of glass in his hands or acknowledge Sam in any way.  

Sam reached out to tap the distracted man on the shoulder, but a voice made him pause in his movement. 

"Mr. Wilson, I'd strongly advise against initiating physical contact with Boss unless you have a strong desire to add assault to you list of crimes." FRIDAY's voice boomed from the speakers in Sam's helm, confirming his paranoia about FRIDAY's omnipotence and potential as an evil robot overlord. 

"Call off your crazy A.I., Stark." Sam hissed, mindful to keep his voice down and his hands to himself. "I'm trying to keep your rich ass from being killed, we're on the same side." 

"Then you shouldn't have come back." Stark finally glanced up, eyes dark and furious. "And no, we are not." 

"Let it go, already." Sam huffed. "This is why you don't have friends." 

"Oh, I have friends. And I've even made some new ones." Stark's grin was wide and sharp.

Just then, a suit of armor landed in front of them. It had the same color scheme as War Machine but the shape was noticeably different. The overall frame was larger, not as sleek though not bulky either, extra plating could be seen along the spine and legs. 

"That's not what making friends mean. You can't just surround yourself with Transformers–" 

The face plate popped open and Rhodes' face appeared. "Transformers? That's the best you got, Fail-con?" 

Sam blinked, brain struggling to process the sight of Rhodes piloting a new suit and to determine if the Fail-con insult was brilliant or childish. 

"How long have you been waiting to use that one, honey bunny?" Stark howled with laughter as the Iron Man suit unfolded flawlessly from his wrists, ankles, and waist to cover his body. 

Rhodes smirked. 

With a nod to each other, they fired up the repulsors and hovered a few feet off of the ground, looking down at Sam with smug satisfaction. 

"How?" Sam gaped, finally finding his voice. They had heard about Rhodes' paralysis and assumed retirement for the colonel. 

"I'm James mothereffing–" 

"Sugar plum, when you censor yourself, it really takes away from the message." 

"So does interrupting me, honey cake." Rhodes' rolled his eyes, but still took the advice. "I'm James motherfucking Rhodes, that's how." 

 

Two.

Clint smothered a sigh as he pulled himself onto the suspended walkway overlooking the warehouse. The building was old, like most in Hell's Kitchen, and the cables pulled worryingly with the added weight. At least the room was well lit, a sharp contrast against the pitch black night outside. A large light structure glowed brightly over the stretches of work tables littered with bomb fragments. 

Good lighting was, understandably, essential for explosive manufacturing. At least the dozen of workers below seemed to appreciate it. 

"Iron Man, report." Clint called quietly into his microphone, scanning the area but not finding any gadgets that could teleport explosives. He was grateful for Scott's help in linking his communication system with Stark's. Scott was taken off of the roster after Pym Technologies claimed the Ant Man suit, their army of lawyers had swarmed Scott the moment he set foot on the tarmac. He still wanted to contribute though, which made him more of a team player than Stark in Clint's eyes.  

"Legolas? What the hell are you doing here?"

Clint rolled his eyes. "I'm here to–" He made a swoosh sound imitating a flying arrow. "–and babysit your hypocritical ass, since you being out on your own is against your precious Accords rules." The anger seeped into his words despite his best efforts. It was a part of him. Always. An all-consuming fury waiting impatiently to be unleashed, and Clint knew who he'd aim it at. 

Stark.

The United Nations wanted to tie the Avengers' hands and he gave them the ropes then tried to convince the team at least it was better than chains. 

Steve was right, the safest hands were their own. The governments had their agendas and even the very people the Avengers fought to protect had believed the ridiculous drivel in the media.

So did his family. 

Clint could understand Laura's frustration and the children's disappointment at the interrupted family vacation, but it wasn't the first time he'd taken off without an explanation. The planet's safety was bigger than himself or his family, Clint had made it clear from the beginning. Retirement didn't mean he stopped being a hero, a protector of this world, or an Avenger. 

They, however, disagreed. 

Laura called him a criminal who abandoned his family. Cooper glared hatefully with pursed lips. Lila screamed incoherently at him. Nate wailed like he was a stranger. 

The divorce papers had arrived earlier that day, at their United Nations assigned dormitory. Stark, spiteful bastard he was, claimed the Avengers Compound was still undergoing repairs and their previous floors at the Stark Tower had been re-purposed.

Needless to say, Clint needed to shoot something. Soon.  

"How did you–" Stark scowled. "FRIDAY?" 

"Guilty, Boss." FRIDAY admitted. "I felt bad for Mr. Lang and his charmingly obvious attempts to infiltrate the communications system." 

Clint closed his eyes to fight off the waves of red anger clouding his vision, snarling between clenched teeth. "You–" He didn't see the man who just walked into the room, stride confident and posture sure, obviously a lieutenant. 

"Shut it, Katniss." 

But it was too late. Clint had been heard, then sighted. With no other choice available, he let his arrow fly. 

It landed solidly in the center of the man's chest but he did not fall, only staggered back a few steps. Body armor, which meant the man was definitely high-ranked. 

A flurry of gunshots rang out and a stray bullet shattered the light. 

Clint gripped his bow tightly and willed his eyes to adjust. He hadn't noticed it before, but the windows were opaque, likely to prevent surveillance by law enforcement or competitors. Hawkeye's perfect vision was useless if he couldn't see

The world below was a chaotic swirl of shouting voices and running feet. 

A new sound entered the fray. A piercing swoosh as something flew through the air, reverberating with force, then a series of groans and whimpers, interspersed with the distinct thump of bruised flesh and the crack of broken bones. Within moments, there was nothing but silence. 

The telltale blue of the arc reactor illuminated the room, Stark must have somehow obscured it earlier, as Iron Man flew down to secure his target under one armored arm. Repulsors blazed as he took to the air, pausing by where Clint was perched. 

The face plate was open, so Clint saw every line of annoyance edged on Stark's face. "Stay out of my business, Barton." Then he was gone. 

"What in the hell was that?" Clint muttered, incredulous and irritated. 

"Not what, who.'" FRIDAY chirped. "Until next time, Mr. Barton." 

A high-pitched whine filled Clint's audio feed, making him curse and rip out his ear piece forcefully. A soft thud made his head snap up in alarm and his heart pounded at the sight of a horned figure dressed in an armored suit of ominous maroon. "Who the hell are you?" 

"The Devil of Hell's Kitchen." The gravelly growl promised darkness and terror.

 

Three. 

Natasha strode through the police station as she would invading an enemy base, clearing her path with ruthless glares and the myriad of visible weapons she had on her person. Her steps purposefully loud and harsh, telegraphing her foul mood. Stark bringing the CRAAAP operative to a police station instead of the Avengers residence, was an obvious and pitiful attempt at asserting dominance and hindering their reinstatement. 

The Black Widow never backed down from such a pathetic power play. 

When Natasha had heard of Thor's return and the global summit that was called, she had known instantly the board was shifting and acted accordingly. She had surrendered herself to the newly founded Wakandan embassy in New York and negotiated an arrangement for herself that would later be presented to the other Avengers. 

Full pardons of all charges, conditional of performance during the impending invasion. Conditional. 

Natasha had signed with full confidence, smirking at the arrogant language as though the outcome would ever tip in their favor. 

In the extremely likely event that they were victorious, the chances were good given the Avengers had successfully prevented global extinction twice, they would be fully pardoned. Not to mention the ability to operate outside of the Accords, citing their pardons as precedents. 

In the unlikely event they were not, their chances of survival were much higher than those of politicians and civilians. 

They had practically won already. 

The lack of calls for Avengers to assemble had not worried her. The public was still reeling from the dramatics of this so-called Civil War and it would take time for them to adjust. Steve and the others had mistakenly believed they'd be welcomed back with open arms, but Natasha wasn't so naive. Stark and the United Nations had nearly a year to influence perception and present alternative facts. It would be foolish to think they could undo the damage in two months. 

As Laura had said, after giving birth to Cooper and eyeing a pair of jeans longingly, "It took more than a day to gain it, it'll take more than a day to lose it." 

That quote somehow became an internal mantra for Natasha, providing encouragement whenever the red in her ledger threatened to overwhelm and offering perspective in multi-faceted situations like the one the Avengers were facing. 

Natasha missed Laura and the children with an intensity that surprised her and despised them with a ferocity that didn't. Though neither mattered when Clint was clearly suffering, now with the added frantic ramblings about meeting the devil.  

The sight of a man in an ill-fitted suit and an Asian woman in a stylish dress outside of the interrogation room which held her target halted her thoughts and her steps. 

"Agent Romanoff." The man greeted with a nod. He did not extend his hand.

"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage." Natasha smiled, coy and apologetic. It was test. To see whether Captain Gregson of the 11th Precinct would take her statement as a compliment at having bested the Black Widow or a slight at his inability to warrant her knowing his identity.

The woman spoke up instead. "This is Captain Gregson, though you should already know that unless the Black Widow lost her touch while on the run." She winked at Gregson. "I'm heading in." 

Natasha narrowed her eyes, taking in the woman's business-casual outfit, lack of weaponry, and familiarity with the station. "Don't assistants usually wait outside?" 

Gregson inhaled sharply as the woman scoffed, entered the room then closed the door in Natasha's face. 

"Is such lax security common in your precinct, Captain Gregson?" Natasha hissed, torn between storming into the room and not causing a scene. "She is not authorized to be in there." 

"Actually, she is." Gregson sighed, rubbing a tired hand across his forehead and muttering about not getting paid enough. "Mr. Stark requested her expertise." 

Natasha hummed doubtfully and darkly. "Which is?" 

"Observation and deduction." 

"Guesswork, then." 

"If you say so." Gregson shrugged, pivoting away as a signal to end their conversation. "You can go in when she's done." 

The door opened shortly after their exchange ended. 

The woman stepped out and shut the door gently behind her. "All yours." Her smile was cuttingly saccharine as she started down the hall, tapping out a message on her phone. 

A stolen glance revealed the text was addressed to Stark and confirming a previously shared theory. Natasha's mind ground to a halt at the realization that this woman had already retrieved whatever information Tony requested. "Who are you?" She croaked.

Long black hair slicing an intimidating arc through the air as the woman turned. "Joan Watson, consulting detective." 

 

Four.  

Wanda stood in line at a popular coffeehouse. The place was bursting with activity and energy, chatter and laughter from the scattered tables filling the air. She squinted at the overhead menu, her dark sunglasses made reading difficult but they were necessary to soothe an easily spooked public. 

Though the Avengers had received pardons, there were still groups of hateful people who targeted her ruthlessly. During her last outing, she had been besieged with shouts of monster and screams of killer. Her powers had flared defensively, and she had only barely directed the energy blast downward at the ground instead of hurling it toward her tormentors. It should have been viewed as an extraordinary show of restraint, but the United Nations disagreed and tried to intimidate her with ambiguous and toothless warnings like there will consequences and three strikes and you're done. Steve's commendation of her efforts soothed the sting somewhat.  

There were three other people in line ahead of her, so Wanda took a cursory glance of her surroundings to ease the boredom of waiting. 

A group of women giggling about their children's antics. A middle-aged dropping an odd item the size of a key chain figurine in his emptied cup before walking away. A college student browsing social media instead of working. A businessman talking quietly but urgently on his phone. A bomb appearing suddenly atop shattered ceramic pieces with the timer counting down steadily. 

Immediately, her powers activated in defense. Red mist crept from her fingers and covered her in a light layer. The panic escalated in volume and intensity when the crowd realized her identity and scurried away. A stray elbow grazed her side and Wanda hissed at the rudeness, bright sparks firing erratically and hitting several targets unapologetically. 

In the chaos, she didn't notice the portal appearing in the back of the coffee shop until she heard Stark's voice in the suddenly silent café. 

"Stand down, Maximoff." Stark commanded. 

"Strike one." A new voice drawled. 

Wanda turned to glare at them both, eyes widening in shock then narrowing in distaste at the ostentatious cape on the newcomer and the jeans and hoodie combination on Stark. "Don't tell me what to do." Red energy crackled menacingly around her. 

Four minutes. 

Patrons who had stopped to gawk at them suddenly remembered why the superheroes were there and resumed their escape. Both men kept careful watch on Wanda, disapproving of and discouraging any further attacks on civilians. 

Three minutes. 

Stark paced around the coffee shop, picking up an uneaten bearclaw from a deserted table and biting into it with glee. "I repeat, stand down." He said through a mouthful of pastry. "Let Magic Fingers here handle this." 

The caped man gave a small playful bow. 

"I was here first." Wanda snapped. "And I have it under control." 

"That doesn't inspire any confidence." Stark mused, brushing crumbs off of his goatee and missing a small piece in the left corner. 

Wanda scowled and pushed her powers toward the bomb, surrounding it with a dense crimson fog. "I have it under control." She repeated. 

Two minutes. 

"Strike two." With an annoyed huff, the other man performed a series of quick and complicated movements with his hands, snatching the bomb out of the clouds of Wanda's magic. He then made a spinning motion to create another portal before depositing the bomb into it. It closed soundlessly. 

"How dare you!" Wanda snarled and leapt, landing closely in front of them. Multiple strands of red lightning surged from her hands. 

Stark dove behind the taller man. "Save me, Dumbledore!" 

A golden shield of geometric shapes appeared and absorbed the attack. "That was uncalled for." The sorcerer reprimanded. "Also, strike three." His hands flew through another set of moves, ending with an open-palm strike to Wanda's forehead. 

At first it felt like nothing more than a mild tap, then a tingle spread from the point of contact and traveled over her body. It felt like being submerged underwater, a light yet unbreakable resistance that hindered her range of motion and muted her senses. 

Wanda fell to the floor, and her first move was a forceful wave of her hand that resulted in nothing. "What did you do to me?" She growled. 

"I've bound your magic, a necessary precaution given your volatile state." He explained, earning an impressed whistle from Stark. "When–" 

"If." Stark coughed unconvincingly. 

"–you are ready to learn control and earn your powers back, you may seek assistance at 177A Bleecker Street." 

A new sensation crept up Wanda's spine, cold dread combined with icy terror, as her new reality set in. She was outmatched. "Who are you?"  

"Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme."

 

Five.  

Steve rubbed a tired hand over his face, his phone loosely grasped in the other. His appeal to the United Nations panel fell on deaf ear. Wanda would not be getting her powers back without undergoing rigorous impulse control training and extensive mental health counseling. The assistance was available whenever she chose to pursue it. If she chose to pursue it. The emphasis on that word felt like an insult.  

Natasha pointed out that the magic binding, whatever that entailed, was a more merciful alternative than the suppression collar.,While that observation was true, it did not offer them, nor Wanda, any comfort. 

If only Steve could just talk to Stark, they would be able to clear this misunderstanding up. Except all of Steve's calls were either rerouted or placed on hold indefinitely. 

"–Dyne and Mr. Stark will be holding a joint press conference at Stark Tower within the next hour. This is the first time the two technological giants–" 

The newscaster's voice caught Steve's attention and a quick glimpse of the scrolling news ticker gave Steve the details he needed. He left for Stark Tower immediately.   

The security at Stark Tower seemed taxed to the limit, guards scurrying about and technicians hammering at the scanners. FRIDAY was unusually silent.

Steve felt validated by the general chaos. He'd made the right call coming here; it was clear that Stark needed help.  

A light tap on the shoulder and a politely phrased question led Steve to a side office where Stark was supposedly preparing his notes. 

"What are you doing?" Steve frowned, a note of reproach in his voice, when he opened the door to find Stark pinning a middle-aged man in place with a well-aimed gauntlet. 

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Rogers." Stark scoffed. "To answer your horribly biased question, I'm doing my duty as Iron Man by arresting the mastermind behind all this CRAAAP. Meet Mitchell Carson, former Head of Defense for SHIELD and current HYDRA operative in possession of the Cross Particles." 

"Captain Rogers, it's a pleasure to meet you at last. You've been quite an inspiration." The man, Carson, cooed. 

"Yeah yeah, Cross Particles now and fangirl later." 

Carson shifted subtly. "Do you think I'm stupid? Once I hand–"

Stark rolled his eyes. "Of course I think you're stupid. You thought a few false alarms and an embarrassingly inept virus could bring down my system?" He tapped his ear piece. "Left calf." 

Carson stiffened upon hearing those two words. At the same time, a woman in a black and yellow suit suddenly appeared and seized the vial of yellow liquid.

A moment later, a group of armed guards entered and dragged Carson away. The woman followed. 

Steve watched as Stark retracted the gauntlet and picked up a tablet. It was several minutes of silence, punctuated by clicks and taps, before Steve found his voice. "This is why Wanda needs her powers back. We need to be a team, to stand together, to let HYDRA know they can't break us apart." 

"Really? That's what you took away from all this?" A woman with short black hair had returned, leaning against the door frame and shaking her head. "Tony, the conference's in ten, you better get going. I'll catch up." 

A silent conversation took place between them, ending with Stark's lips quirking up into a smirk. "Alright, just don't make him cry, that's not the kind of headline we need." Then he walked away. 

"No promises!" She called out after Stark's retreating form before swinging her gaze back to Steve like a punch. 

"Um." Steve twitched. 

"Let's be clear. HYDRA didn't ruin the Avengers, you did. You did that when you couldn't be bothered to listen to over one hundred countries telling you to respect their sovereignty, when you refused to compromise but expected everyone else to, when you prioritized one person above all other lives. In fact, you were so effective at tearing apart your own team that even HYDRA supported you." Her eyes a vivid and sharp green, perfect match for her incisive words. "Or maybe it was before all this Civil War mess, maybe you ruined the Avengers the moment you decided to lie to the man who housed you, clothed you, fed you, and considered you a friend so you could use his resources–" 

"I didn't lie!" Steve protested. 

"Again, that's what you took away from all this?" She smiled, mirthlessly and with all her teeth. "A lie of omission is still a lie." 

"But–" 

She leaned in, the invasion into Steve's personal space suitably and successfully intimidating. "What you did was despicable." A razor-sharp hiss. "What you're trying to do now is equally so. Stay away from Tony unless the world is literally ending, and even then, I doubt we'd need you." 

"With all due respect, ma'am." Steve gritted his teeth to maintain a semblance of manners. "You don't know what you're talking about. You can't believe everything they print in the tabloids." 

"Oh, but I do." Her voice was condescendingly sweet. "My name is Hope Van Dyne, one of Tony's oldest friends and owner of The Wasp suit."

 

One.

Thor landed at the top of Stark Tower with a thunderous boom, unsurprised to find the crowd already gathered there. He had alert Midgard's protectors of the day of his arrival, though not the specific hour. The lightning storm that always acted as a precursor of his travel must have informed them. 

"Greetings!" He called out, grinning happily at the new and familiar faces before him. 

"Thor, good to have you back." Steve said. Weariness lined his eternally boyish face. 

"Same to you, Captain! I was most distressed to hear the news of your mutiny and subsequent exile. It was of great relief to learn it had been resolved and we have joined together as one to guard the Nine Realms from the Mad Titan." 

"Mutiny?" Steve grimaced at the choice of word. "It was just a misunderstanding, really. We cleared it up." 

"Oh have we?" Tony arched a disbelieving brow. 

Clint gripped his bow a bit tighter. "Shut it, Stark, or–"  

"Or what?" The face plate on the War Machine armor slid shut, signaling its readiness for battle. 

"Boys." Natasha stepped in. "Let's save our ammunition for Thanos." 

"Yeah, what can you tell us about him, Thor?" Sam asked, hoping to move the conversation toward a more productive and less violent direction. "We got the overview but details would be helpful. What powers does he have?" 

"I profess I do not know much of his abilities but he has a vast army at his disposal, fierce warriors and skilled mages–" 

"Great, more magic." Tony grumbled. 

Stephen cleared his throat and the cloak fluttered brusquely as though offended. 

"Ah, I've been remiss." Thor reached out a hand. "I am Thor, Son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, God of Thunder, Wielder of Mjolnir, and a proud Shield Bearer of Midgard."

A look of amusement flitted across Stephen's face. "I am Stephen of the House Strange, the first of his name, Medical Doctor, Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the New York Sanctum, Chosen Guardian of the Cloak of Levitation, and Protector of Earth. 

Thor looked delighted at such a worthy ally before turning his attention to Hope. "And you are, milady?" 

"Hope Van Dyne." At Thor's crestfallen pout, she sighed and added. "Chairwoman of Pym Technologies, Daughter of Hank and Janet, and Holder of the Wasp Suit." 

Tony rolled his eyes. "Sounding a bit like Game of Thrones here, which doesn't bode well for me. Being a Stark and all." 

"I much enjoy that series." Vision offered. "It has been a useful reference of human interactions." 

"What? I don't even–" Tony squawked the way an alarmed parent would. "What?" 

"Hey Strange. You left out ‘Arrogant Bastard' in your little intro." Clint snarled. "What you did to Wanda was wrong." 

"Where is the Red Witch?" Thor asked. 

Tony mouthed ‘Melisandre' to his friends with an exaggerated wink, then they all chuckled at Thor's unintentional, though accurate, Game of Thrones reference. 

Natasha pinched the bridge of her nose in a vain effort to stave off a migraine. 

"Wanda is at the dorms. Without her powers, she is a civilian and not fit for combat." Steve explained, casting a disapproving look at Stephen that was promptly ignored. "Dr. Strange robbed us of a valuable team member." 

"Trust me, it's just as likely for her to attack Thanos as it is her own teammates. It was for the best." 

"Yeah, no. I don't trust you." Sam said flatly. 

"The feeling's mutual then." James retorted. "Don't want any of you stabbing me in the back." 

The surge of animosity did not go unnoticed. "Shield Brothers, what is the cause of this hostility? Has friend Stark's wound not been healed by genuine remorse from the Captain?" 

"Genuine remorse?" Hope snorted. 

"I fail to see how that is laughable." Thor frowned, though not displeased only confused. 

"Just that Rogers here hasn't even said sorry." 

"That is not true." Steve argued. "I said it in a letter." 

"A letter, really? How genuinely remorseful of you." Stephen mocked. 

"A phone too." It was added petulantly. "But he never called." 

Tony shrugged. "You said to call if I needed you. I didn't and still don't." 

"Be reasonable, Stark." Natasha scolded. "There is a global threat coming and you can't put aside your ego and pettiness? Earth needs the Avengers, you need us." 

Tony gave an unconvinced hum paired with a seesaw motion of his hand. "We'll see." 

Clint threw up his hands and paced away, muttering angrily. Sam hesitated for a moment before following the archer. Vision hovered after them warily. Thor looked like he was about to weep, for his Shield Brothers, for the doomed Nine Realms, or possibly both. 

"Be the bigger person." Natasha elbowed Steve in a not-at-all subtle move and mouthed silently, tilting her head toward Tony. 

Steve inhaled deeply, looking as though he was about to dive into the ice for the greater good again. "Stark, um, Tony. I'm sorry that you were hurt. Just, just tell me what to do to make it better because we need to be a team and I just can't stand feeling this way." 

Several outbursts happened at once. 

"It's not his job to make you feel better." 

"Sorry that you were hurt? How about sorry I hurt you?" 

"Tony has a team!" 

Steve jerked back at the onslaught, a furrow between his brows and a sternness in the set of his mouth.

Whatever his retort was, it was lost in the deep mechanical wheezes that reverberating in the air suddenly as a blue police call box slowly but steadily materialized. The door opened with a creak and a messy mop of brown hair peeked out. "Oh, ello!" 

Thor stumbled and was grateful when Vision stabilized him, Clint and Sam had decided to head back to check out the noise. 

"Hey Doc, right on time." Tony grinned and wiggled his fingers in a happy wave. 

"That's me, punctual. Well, give or take a year or five and a half hours." His lanky form fitting neatly through the partially-opened doorway as he stepped out. A fleeting glance showed a spacious room with a center pillar within, defying all laws of physics. "Didn't want to miss the defeat of the Mad Titan, since I play a rather integral part in said defeat according to the history books and several dramatic reimaginings. I am quite brilliant if I do say so myself. Which I do. Brilliant." 

Everyone, except for Tony who was busy stifling his laughter, gaped. The new man straightened his brown pinstripe suit and preened. 

"The Oncoming Storm." Thor whispered, cowed and reverent. "Like fire and ice and rage. Like the night and the storm at the heart of the sun. Ancient and forever, burning at the center of time." 

"Or just call him Doc." Tony was suspiciously at ease with the box that was bigger on the inside, Thor's shocked awe, and the man with timeworn eyes. "He's kind of an expert on aliens." A pause. "And time." Another pause. "And space." 

"Yep, that's me." The p was popped with great enthusiasm. "I'm the Doctor."