“In order to rise from its own ashes a Phoenix First Must Burn.”
— Octavia E. Butler
Natasha drove a stolen Hydra jeep through the thick snow covered forest surrounding the Hydra base while Clint stood up in the back firing off arrows at every agent that got a little too close. Tony was flanking them in his suit keeping the way clear for the jeep while firing his repulsor beams, just as Natasha kicked one of the agents in the face who was hanging off the jeep.
A second jeep pulled up behind theirs and began to fire but Thor was quick to put a stop to it dropping on top of the jeep and taking out the soldier before swinging his hammer to take him on top of the lookout post taking out the soldiers there with his fists alone, then with a steel beam when he dropped down to the snow covered ground taking a piece of the structure with him, just as Steve rode by on his motorcycle dragging a soldier along with him by the leg before tossing him into another approaching one knocking them both unconscious.
He threw his shield and it bounced off a tree and a few soldiers before he caught it again and secured it on his back, he swerved on his bike to avoid another oncoming jeep but Aphrodite dropped down in its path pulling up a force field causing it to collide head on and flip over where the Hulk caught it and tossed it aside easily, before continuing on his own rampage of taking out soldiers.
They all began to advance on the barricade that was the only defence left from keeping them out of the base, Natasha swerved the truck she and Clint jumping out and over the barricade at the last second, Steve used his bike to clear it and Aphrodite, Thor, Tony and Hulk had no problems avoiding the barbed wire. And for one brief moment the Avengers were all picturesquely side by side.
Tony flew ahead taking out a few soldiers before heading towards the base, only to be dinged off the side when he apparently encountered a force field. “Shit!” He exclaimed righting himself.
“Language,” Steve reprimanded, the word slipping past his lips without him really thinking about it. He sped ahead actively avoiding the amused glance his girl shot him. “Jarvis what’s the view from upstairs?” he asked the AI instead.
"The central building is protected by some kind of, energy shield.” Jarvis responded easily through the communication devices. “Strucker's technology is well beyond anything of a HYDRA base we've taken.”
"Loki's sceptre must be here," Aphrodite said standing back to back with her brother as they fought off the Hydra soldiers.
"Strucker couldn't mount this defence without it." Thor finished while he threw his hammer past his sister’s head at one of the approaching soldiers and it easily found its way back into Thor's hand, as it always did. "At long last.”
Natasha threw a grenade in one of the trucks and then jumped down taking out a pair of soldiers before it could blow. Once she was finally far enough away from the truck so she wouldn't be in the blast radius she turned back to her ear piece. "'At long last' is lasting a little long, guys." She said before pulling out her gun and shooting a man on the back of another truck.
"Yeah," Clint scoffed, ducking behind a tree again to avoid a bullet. "I think we lost the element of surprise."
“Wait a minute,” Tony interrupted perplexed. “Is no one going to deal with the fact that Cap just said ‘language’?”
“I know,” Steve sighed speeding head on in the direction of one of the remaining trucks before pulling the brakes and standing up with his hands on the handlebars throwing the bike over his head watching it crash into the truck, he sighed again and hung his head briefly. Aphrodite wasn’t going to like that, in fact she hated when he destroyed his bike on missions, he thought before turning back to what Tony was teasing him about. “I just slipped out.”
“Sir the city is taking fire.” Jarvis informed.
“Well we know Strucker isn’t going to worry civilian casualties,” Tony responded, “Send in the Iron Legion.”
While that happened and the civilians protested against the Iron Man in their city, Clint was handling taking out the bunkers that were constantly firing beams at the team. He shot and arrow off and quickly ducked back behind the tree. His brow furrowed when there wasn’t an immediate explosion and stepped out from behind the tree again to fire another arrow but before he could he was knocked off of his feet by a blur.
He groaned rolling over to stand up when the blur slowed down to revel it was a young man who smirked at the older man on the ground, “You didn’t see that coming?” he smirked before dashing off again.
Quickly Clint got to his feet and aimed in the direction he had run off to, but he was long gone. Before he could lower his bow there was a burning pain in his side.
“Clint!” Natasha shouted after hearing his groan and looked over in time to see him falling to the ground and rushed over to him.
Everyone on the ground froze when they heard Natasha frantic shout, Steve turned to head that way when he was hit by the same blur. Only he adjusted himself so that he landed back on his feet. “We have an enhanced in the field.” He reported.
“Clint’s hit.” Natasha responded sliding down through the snow to her knees to cover Clint’s wound “Somebody wanna’ deal with that bunker,” She called out, and no sooner than she said it the Hulk came roaring in and ran straight through it destroying it. “Thank you.” She said politely before digging into her tactical belt and pulling out a needle and injecting the painkillers into his neck.
“Stark,” Steve grunted throwing this shield, “We really need to get inside.” He pressed catching the shield when it flew back to him encased in gold, Aphrodite landing right after and taking out another set of soldiers.
“I’m closing in,” Tony responded easily then a few moments later his voice happily came through. “Drawbridge is down people.”
Thor landed nearby with a flourish of lightening that took down the last set of soldiers for now. “The enhanced?” he questioned as the three of them turned to each other.
“He’s a blur,” Steve reported looking around as if he expected the young to come out of nowhere again. “With all the new players we’ve faced I’ve never seen this. In fact, I still haven’t.”
“Clint’s hit pretty back guys,” Natasha concerned voice came through coms again, “We’re gonna need evac.”
“I can get Clint to the jet, the sooner we’re gone the better.” Aphrodite said volunteering, “You and Stark secure the sceptre” she said nodding to Steve. “You keep it clear out here.” She told her brother and they both nodded.
“Copy that.” Steve responded.
“Looks as if they’re lining up.” Thor said curiously tilting his head in the direction of the approaching Hydra soldiers.
“Well they’re excited.” Steve huffed holding up his shield and bracing himself while Aphrodite took a step back when Thor brought his hammer down on the shield where the lightening reverberated off and hit the soldiers knocking them all down.
“My boys,” Aphrodite cooed and wrapped her arms around them both though that could be said quite loosely since they were both so broad shouldered she even had to tip toe a little, “Working together.” She said teasingly.
“Find the sceptre.” Thor said into the coms shrugging off his sister even as he smiled taking off, Aphrodite doing the same seconds after.
“And for gosh sake’s watch your language.” Tony exclaimed sarcastically into the coms.
“That’s not going away anytime soon.” Steve said looking down at the snow covered ground.
“How’s he doing?” Aphrodite questioned immediately upon landing next to Clint and Natasha.
“He’ll be fine as long as we get him back in time.” Natasha responded.
“Alright let me take him,” Aphrodite said closing her hand over the blood soaked rag currently being held over Clint’s wound. “You finish up out here.” She added catching the redhead’s eye.
Natasha nodded albeit reluctant and stood up taking a step back.
Aphrodite placed her other hand around the back of Clint’s head. “This won’t feel good.” She warned him and he could only groan in reply before Aphrodite made them both disappear with a sharp cracking sound.
She dropped Clint onto the table in the centre of the jet as gently as she could before setting to work cleaning and dressing his would with the first aid materials stored on the jet.
“Alright we’re locked down out here.” Natasha’s voice came through the coms moments later.
“Then get to Banner, it’s time for a lullaby.” Aphrodite instructed, “Then I’m coming to get you.” She would need Natasha to set up an IV for Clint to help keep him stable.
“Roger that.” Natasha responded.
“We have second enhanced, female. Do not engage.” Steve suddenly reported, then his voice came back second later. “I got Strucker.”
“Yeah, I got something bigger.” Tony’s voice sounded distracted as he reported on his progress with the mission. “Thor, Aphrodite. I’ve got eyes on the prize.”
On the jet Tony was flying it back to New York, Thor and Steve were in one corner standing over the box the sceptre was in whispering between each other, Natasha was hovering over Clint making sure he wasn’t being jostled too much during the plane ride, not that Starks jet was capable of such things Aphrodite was also nearby keeping an eye on the archer. Bruce was in one of the jets seats with his headphones on listening to the soothing music that helped him relax after hulking out.
Aphrodite stood from where she was kneeling near Clint’s head and began to make her way over to her boys, as she passed by Bruce she touched his shoulder and gave him a meaningful look. He recognized it instantly and gave her a tight smile while shaking his head. She’d offered in the past to take away some of the grief and pain he felt after coming back from the hulk but he refused, not wanting to burden her with that. But the offer always stood.
She approached Thor and Steve who immediately ceased their whispering once they saw her approach making her arch an eyebrow suspiciously at them, but decided to let it slide. If it was important one or both of them would tell her, if not she could always persuade Steve, she thought slyly as she slid under his arm and started up a new conversation with the two of them.
Meanwhile Natasha took a seat in front of Bruce making him rush to remove his headphones.
"Hey, the lullaby worked better than ever." Natasha offered him a small encouraging smile, but Bruce just continued to sulk.
"Just wasn't expecting a code green." The doctor said almost in a whisper.
"If you hadn't been there, there would've been double the casualties." Natasha continued on, “My best friend would have been a treasured memory,” she added glancing back at Clint.
Bruce gave her the same tight smile, not wanting to come off as rude, but this just wasn't helping like she might have thought it was. "You know, sometimes exactly what I want to hear isn't exactly what I want to hear."
Natasha's own smile almost disappeared as she tried to make eye contact with him. "How long before you trust me?"
Bruce studied her for a beat, "It's not you I don't trust." He admitted softly.
Natasha nodded and gave him a once over before looking down. "Thor, report on the Hulk."
"The gates of Hell are filled with the screams of his victims." Thor said smiling and raising his fist triumphantly but dropped it when everyone turned to look at him in disbelief Natasha especially as they all knew that the God literally could have said anything else other than that. Bruce put his hands on his head, and groaned thinking of the people he had probably killed in his state. "But not the screams of the dead," Thor spoke again, quickly trying to correct himself after receiving a glare and a swat on the arm courtesy of his sister. "Of course." Bruce nodded as he appreciated Thor’s effort to backtrack. "No, no, wounded screams. Mainly whimpering, a great deal of complaining and tales of sprained deltoids and gout.”
"Hey, Banner, Dr. Cho is on her way in from Seoul." Tony cut in from the cockpit. "Is it okay if she sets up in your lab?"
"Yeah, she knows her way around." Bruce responded quickly.
"Thanks." Tony told him shortly before going back to the controls on the jet. “Tell her to prep everything Barton’s gonna’ need the full treatment.” He muttered to Jarvis, before exclaiming loudly for the benefit of the team, “Jarvis take the wheel.” The last time he abandoned the wheel quietly letting Jarvis take control he’d all but spent the team into a multi-person coronary, so now he made it a point to announce it loudly when he was letting Jarvis take control.
“Yes sir, approach vector is locked.” The disembodied voice responded as Tony moved to join the other three who were standing above the sceptre.
"It feels good, yeah?” Tony began placing his hand comfortably in his pockets. “I mean, you've been after this thing since SHIELD collapsed. Not that I haven't enjoyed our little raiding parties, but…" he trailed off.
“But this, this brings it to a close.” Thor finished for him staring proudly down at the sceptre.
"As soon as we find out what else this has been used for." Aphrodite cut in looking at the sceptre curiously.
Steve was also staring down at the spear, but with a furrowed brow, "We don't just mean weapons. Since when is Strucker capable human enhancement?"
"Banner and I will give it the once over before it goes back to Asgard." Tony assured looking at the sceptre then back at the Gods on the team "Is that cool with you two?" He asked just to make sure. "Just a few days till the farewell party." Hoping to coax them, "You're staying, right?"
"Yes, yes, of course." He looked back to the sceptre, placing one of his hands on the box with a smile "A victory should be honoured with revels."
"Yeah, who doesn't love revels?" Tony spoke lightly. "Captain?" he asked looked past Thor to the super-soldier and his lady
"Hopefully this puts an end to the Chitauri and Hydra, so, yes, revels." Steve replied while using the arm around Aphrodite’s waist to squeeze her hip.
“Are you still meeting with a realtor tomorrow to discuss that place in Brooklyn?” Aphrodite asked moving about the kitchen of Steve’s apartment.
Since the Avengers had reformed officially Tony had done a bit of renovating in the tower. Now each Avenger had their own floor. The top floor was split between Thor and Aphrodite, just short of the landing pad. He had one side and she had the other, to make for easy take-off and landing. Though Aphrodite rarely spent time in her apartment.
The next floor down was Clint’s, because he couldn’t have the very top floor and he “see’s better from a distance.”
Steve’s floor was next, which was where Aphrodite spent most of her time if she wasn’t with Thor or Natasha, as Captain and team leader he wanted to be in the middle of his team, it also happened to have the best view in the whole tower which made the artist in him very happy. The Manhattan skyline wasn’t too bad either.
Tony’s floor was next which he shared with Pepper, since he’d given up the penthouse for the comfort of the siblings, he wanted to be as close to the middle of his friends as he could. He suits weren’t too far away either.
Natasha’s floor was close to the ground while still being close to the others, the spy had easy access to most of the buildings entry points from there.
Finally, after the Helicarrier incident Bruce wanted to be as close to the ground as he could possible get for fear of hulking out.
“Yeah tomorrow at two.” Steve answered entering the kitchen roughly drying his hair with a towel after his shower. “You know you don’t have to come if you don’t want to.” He told her taking over.
“Of course I want to,” she responded gladly letting him handle cooking, he was much better at it than her anyway. “I get to finally see your Brooklyn.” She added hopping up to sit on the counter.
“It’s not my Brooklyn anymore.” He said glancing sideways at her.
“It’s always going to be your Brooklyn,” she chided nudging him gently with her foot, then cut him off when he opened his mouth for another protest. “And don’t say that you can’t afford it again, we both know that’s not true. What’s really going on?” she asked tugging him to standing between her legs and he let her, turning off the burner to the stove as she did.
“I don’t know if Brooklyn is still home for me, it just doesn’t feel right.” Steve admitted with a sigh linking his hands together behind her back.
“Home isn’t a just place love,” Steve blew out a breath through his nose but nodded. “But I’ll support whatever makes you happy. But you’re still taking me to Brooklyn tomorrow. You owe me a second date.” She said changing her tone and tugging on the hair at the back of his head to make him look at her.
“Really?” he questioned smiling brightly so that the corners of his eye crinkled.
“Yeah, really.” She nodded kissing him smiling when he kissed back without hesitation.
He broke away long enough to mutter, “I love you.” Before kissing her again.
“I love you too.” She responded then kissed him again with renewed vigour.
It came as a shock to all but two members of the team of the relationship between Steve and Aphrodite. Clint was happy for the couple but was insulted that Aphrodite hadn’t told him herself sooner, he had to find out when he walked in on them cuddling on the couch one night. Truthfully he had a hard time getting over the fact that Captain America was a cuddlier.
Bruce was happy too, though in a much calmer sense. Especially compared to Tony who was relentless in his teasing of the super-solider and his goddess girlfriend. Once he found out that they shared a floor more nights than they didn’t, he really did a number in testing Steve’s patience. Asking him if he should soundproof their floor, if reinforced bedframes were needed, which would have probably come in handy with them, but Steve had only brushed it off.
Steve shut up Tony’s teasing once and for all by responding to one of his raunchier references to their night-time activities with straight-faced confirmation then walked away without another word. Leaving behind a gaping Tony, his blushing girlfriend and Natasha who looked very much like a proud sensei in that moment sipping on her coffee. Needless to say Tony didn’t bring up the topic again, and no one was more relieved than Steve and Aphrodite, expect maybe Thor.
“Alright,” mumbled against Aphrodite’s neck sighing like what he was about to say next took great effort. “C’mere.” He said scooping her up into his arms supporting her with his hands under her ass, without a doubt his favourite parts of her, and walking towards the bedroom.
“Steve!” She squealed gripping tight to his broad shoulders and squeezing her legs around his slim waist despite knowing that he’d never drop her. “Where are we going?”
“To make me happy.” He responded kicking the bedroom door closed behind him.