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Tear Us Apart (To Let Us Heal)

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Tony wasn’t going to take anyone’s crap this morning.

No, he absolutely was not going to deal with Cap’s complaining, or Nick Fury’s early morning/really late night calls, Clint’s over-enthusiasm, Natasha’s sullen silence, Wanda’s teenage moods, Vision’s annoying statistics, Thor’s inept social interactions, or ANYONE ELSE’S CRAP.

Why? Because he, Tony Stark, leader of the Avengers, and genius billionaire playboy philanthropist that he was, was going to have a calm, Sunday breakfast before anyone else could ruin his morning. 

“FRIDAY?” he asked.

”Yes sir?” the AI replied pleasantly.

”Are any of the hooligans up yet?”

”No, sir.” She managed to sound amused and exasperated at the same time.

”Let’s make sure it stays that way.” He popped a blueberry in his mouth. “Warn me when one wakes up.”

Humming, he puttered around, pulling items off the shelves, half of which he had no idea how to use.

He was actually in a relatively good mood, until he heard the creak of the cover being lifted off the vent and a certain Clint Barton dropped from the ceiling into the hallway. 

“Ooooh!” Tony’s heart sank as Clint came barreling into the kitchen at top speeds like a heat-seeking, SHIELD agent-shaped missile. The archer beelined right for the muffins. Tony’s muffins. He grabbed two, tossed one to Steve, who had appeared in the doorway, and jumped up the counter.

Suddenly, the once peaceful kitchen began to fill with people. Natasha was at his elbow, shoving him further down the counter, Bruce was rifling through drawers, and Cap had somehow produced himself a salad bowl’s worth of cereal and was sitting down at the table, politely stuffing his face.

”FRIDAY,” Tony said plaintitively. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

”My apologies, sir,” said the AI, not sounding very apologetic at all. “But I assumed that it would do you well to be with people. By my calculations, you haven’t had any human interactions for approximately 63 hours.”

”That was the point, FRIDAY,” Tony mumbled. “And now everybody’s here.”

Wanda groaned incoherently as Vision gently guided her through the kitchen and into a chair beside Cap. The teenager looked about as diametrically opposed to Clint as was physically possible. Tony began to worry that she would start to fall apart and ooze all over his kitchen table. He hoped not. The table had been very expensive. He reminded himself that he also didn’t want to lose a member of the team. He didn’t want that kind of responsibility on his hands if a teenager suddenly started melting in the middle of the Tower. But the table...

“Please tell me that you were up all night doing something productive, like homework,” he said.

Vision looked up at him with that infuriatingly calm expression of his. “I will remind you that Wanda does not attend school. And no, Wanda was up all night with me watching a little show that she called F.R.I.E.N.D.S.”

Tony looked at him in horror. “So she was doing teenage things.”

“Yes, I suppose you could call it that.” Vision agreed. He nudged Wanda, who had apparently fallen asleep again, head on Vision’s shoulder. She blinked awake, and he offered her a glass of Tony’s chlorophyll smoothie. She took it from him, took a sip, and immediately gagged.  Tony felt indirectly offended. Those smoothies had saved his life. Well, not saved it. Prevented him from dying faster, but still. “She fell asleep at four fifty-three AM this morning,” Vision supplied helpfully.

”Greetings, friends!” Thor came storming into the kitchen, squeezed into a T-shirt and a flannel shirt, looking for all the world like a lumberjack, if lumberjacks carried hammers the size of roast turkeys. He grabbed the omelette Clint had been preparing (“Hey!”), sat down next to Natasha, and scooped up the omelette with his hands.

With his hands. Like it was a freakin’ taco.

Tony put his head in his hands. “One peaceful morning,” he mumbled to nobody in particular. “Just one was all I asked for.”

“This is very peaceful,” Thor boomed cheerfully, spraying poor Bruce with bits of omelette. “On Asgard, you can sometimes watch giants skewer each other until their spleens–“

Cap cut him off with a polite cough. Thor frowned. “I was just describing the glory of Asgard to you mortals, for you sadly will not be able to travel there unassisted.”

”Yeah,” Bruce said, wiping his glasses. “I’m sure it’s fantastic, Thor. Really. It’s just—here on Earth, people don’t tend to talk about blood and death at the breakfast table.”

”What for?”

”Because it might gross them out,” Bruce explained like he was talking to a small child. Tony admired his patience.

“Oh,” Thor said, looking downcast for a total of five seconds. Then he brightened. “Well, then I shall tell you all about the decay of Ymir!”

“Decay?” Wanda asked. Her usually impeccably styled hair was a rat’s nest, eyes bleary and unfocused. Tony wagered that she had picked up on about 10% of the conversation so far, tops.

“Yes,” Thor informed her sagely. “His body formed what is now the Nine Realms. Even the maggots on his skin became the first dwarves.”

Tony began to softly bang his head against the countertop. Clint rubbed his shoulder until the billionaire slapped his hand away. Barton guffawed.

The day, Tony decided, could not get any worse. No, because almost every single thing that he had tried to avoid this morning had come right back to bite him. He resigned himself to sitting quietly at the counter, staring down at his untouched smoothie as Wanda snored into her waffles, Natasha glared at everyone, and Clint threw darts at muffins that Steve threw in the air, all the while listening to Thor’s retelling of a disgusting ancient Norse anatomy story.

Only Bruce was not participating, and Tony loved him for that. 

“Tony?” Bruce’s voice filtered through his head.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled, pulling himself up from where he had been, facedown on the counter. “Just a little worn out, you know? What with everyone jumping around like caffeinated frogs—well everyone except for Wanda, I guess. She could stand a little more coffee, looks like. I’ve been meaning to tell you– there’s this prototype I’ve been working on—“

“Tony.”

“What?”

”FRIDAY’s got someone on the line.”

Tony realized that the over the chatter, FRIDAY’s voice was speaking. “Hold on a second, Fri.”

He rushed into the next room. Tony never usually rushed anywhere, but he was desperate to get out of that room. Once he was safely away from the chaos, he said, “FRIDAY, whatcha got for me?”

”Nick Fury, sir,” said the AI’s lilting voice. “He says it’s of utmost importance.”

”Yeah? Well, so is my breakfast.” Not that he was enjoying it, but that was beside the point. “Tell him I’ll call him later.”

”He insists that you respond, sir.”

”I insist that he goes and kisses his—“

”Sir, he says that there is an immediate threat being posed to New York City that needs the Avengers.”

Tony paused. He hated complying with SHIELD. Hated it. But he knew when a battle wasn’t worth fighting. “Alright, page him through.”

He almost instantly regretted it. Fury’s voice was like a foghorn in his ear. “Stark, you know that you’d be the last person I turn to.”

”Fury, that hurts. I thought I was your go to man.”

”Shut up and listen. We got issues, and whatever problems I have with you need to go flying right out the window until the job’s finished.”

”Well, it would certaintly help if you told me what the issue was.” Tony leaned against the wall and inspected his fingernails. “The team’s already awake. What should I tell them is breaking up their private Sunday morning?”

Fury ignored the last part. “An army, Stark. It’s a fucking army, marching through Tennessee.”

The words felt like a punch to the gut, winding him. He gasped for air. The room began to blur around him, filling with spots and dark edges, fluctuating like a tidal wave. Vaguely, he felt his back hit the wall as his knees went out from underneath him, but it didn’t matter as much as the wave of memories hit.

Titanic, dinosaur-like monsters with thousands and thousands of soldiers

that just kept coming

and coming.

He remembered being

alone

and scared, trying to say goodbye,

But it was too cold. 

So cold.

Couldn’t breathe.

So dark.

And he was

f

  a

     l

        l

           i

              n

                 g

                    .

“Stark? Stark?”

“Sir, I advise you to take ten deep breaths.” FRIDAY’s voice filtered into his brain.

”Deep breaths, got it,” he muttered, the numbness slowly receding from his hands and face.

”Stark, do I need to send Coulson in there to make sure you are fully capable of leading right now?” Fury asked.

”No, I’m good,” Tony replied automatically. He staggered to his feet, wiping his sweaty hands on his pants. “In fact, I’m great. Where’s the threat?”

”Like I said: Tennessee.”

”I heard you. Where in Tennessee?”

”Rose Hill. I’ll send you the coordinates.”

”Always a pleasure working with you Fury. FRIDAY, end call.”

Sighing, he rubbed his face. It had been a long 48 hours without sleep, and it didn’t look like he’d be getting any anytime soon. “Well,” he told no one in particular. “Time to ruin breakfast.”

”The others appear to have already finished eating, sir,” FRIDAY informed him. “Agent Barton and Thor seem to be engaging in some sort of activity involving your muffins and the table—“

“Thanks, Fri. Tell them that we’re having a meeting in five minutes. I’m about to ruin their day.”

 


 

Natasha Romanoff was under the opinion that some people (Steve Rogers) were often too polite. Whenever someone said a cussword, he reprimanded them.

Natasha, on the other hand, believed that a few cusswords a day was beneficial to one’s health and welbeing. It let out pent up feelings, aptly described people, and helped put words to situations that couldn’t otherwise be classified in any other way.

For instance: when a large army of well trained soldiers dressed in blue fatigues on a decimation mission rip through Tennessee, and two assassins/SHIELD agents are completely surrounded ten to one, it’s only proper to say: 

“I fucking hate these guys!”

”Language!” Steve shouted into the intercomm, and Natasha rolled her eyes. Typical, Rogers. “FRIDAY, how’re things looking?

“It looks like the troops are forming some sort of barricade around the east side of the city. Soldiers appear to be carrying some sort of automatic assault weapon. Definitely not of this planet. There seems to be a figure in the center of the crowd that is rallying them.”

“What’s our guy look like?” Tony asked. “Never mind, I see him. FRIDAY, give me everything you’ve got on this guy.”

“The subject appears to be male, but I can’t identify the species.”

“Great,” Clint muttered from where he stood next to her. Agent Barton, she reminded herself. When in duty, being an agent always came first. That way, no attachments or sentimentalities could get you caught up and distracted from a mission. Duty first. If your partner got shot down, you reported to your superiors first before panicking.

She dodged a kick to the head and retaliated with a jab to the temple. The soldier went down. Another went for her, but Clint shot him in the gut before he even made it three feet. The two of them worked together like a well-oiled machine, each one knowing how the other worked, each one strong where the other one wasn't. It was the upside of having worked together for a little less than ten years.

"Hey," Clint said. "I've got an idea."

"Oh? What's that?" Another soldier fell under Natasha's widow bite. Tony had been perfecting the lethality of the electrical discharge so she could control the levels of the bite. If she used it at minimum capacity, it would give a small shock that would stun an opponent for a few seconds. Full capacity, and it could kill a fully grown elephant.

Right now, she was only using it to knock out the soldiers. If they turned out to be humans, that would be a casualty tally that she didn't want on her hands, for legal purposes obviously.

Clint was using his new arrows, the ones with the sedative stored in the shaft. When it hit an opponent, it transferred from the shaft to the tip, delivering the sedative and knocking them out. He hadn't shut up about them for the past week and a half. Right now, he knocked one of the arrows and hit the very last soldier in the shoulder. The guy stumbled and fell flat on his face, asleep. "You see that lot over there?”

Natasha looked up. The area Clint was pointing to was where the army was the most clogged. Years of working together made her hyper-aware of how his brain worked, and she understood. “You’re thinking of making a barricade?”

”Well, a wall of sleepy soldiers makes a pretty good wall.” He shrugged. “I could keep them in for a short while, which means the bad dude stays in one place, which also means Tony can get him. You hear that Tony?”

”Copy.” Tony’s voice crackled over the comms. “Well, if you can, also try to nail the guy yourself.”

”I’ll try.” Clint shouldered his quiver. “It might stop the troops.

Natasha could see the logic: take out the head, and the whole thing dies. 

“We’ll cover you,” she said.

“That’s a copy, Romanoff,” Clint said cheekily with a smirk before launching himself out from behind the car towards the lot’s stairwell. 

Cocky little bastard, Natasha thought to herself.

She loaded several cartridges into the magazine of her gun. It was all muscle memory, now, as natural to her as brushing her teeth in the morning. 

She waited, back against the wall, finger poised on the trigger for what seemed like an eternity, although it honestly had probably only been about thirty seconds. The moment Clint’s voice said, “Now!” she ditched her cover behind the van to roll to the caved in section of wall beside her. From there, the leap to the ground level was easy; just a ten-foot drop to the dirt below. No problem.

She dropped right into a pack of soldiers. Sweeping the legs out from the largest, she went about, shocking each one with her widow’s bite. One soldier decided to sneak up on her from behind. She grabbed his arm, flipped him over, and planted her boot on his chest.

The soldier groaned beneath her. In response, she pressed the stiff, unyielding rubber sole of her combat boot harder on his chest. He shut up. “Might want to pick up the pace here, boys.”

“Trying!” Steve panted over the comms. He grunted, and the sound of metal crashing against metal crackled through the tiny device. “These soldiers won’t stay down.”

”Yeah, I’m with Cap on this one,” Tony chimed in. “Wonder what would happen if I gave Fury a call and told him that we quit?”

”I’m not sure we want to see that reaction.” Clint. “Might be a bit nasty, considering that we’ve been committed to doing this for years.”

”Oh!” Tony zipped overhead, dragging two yelling soldiers behind him in a truck. “Has anyone seen the news lately?”

”I have,” Wanda supplied. The teen stood on the ground, holding a horde of soldiers at bay with the light from her hands. Natasha watched as she tossed one through the air. “The king of Wakanda is opening an outreach program in California.”

”You just stole all of my thunder,” Tony complained. “This conversation is now officially over.”

”But you just started—“ Wanda protested, but Tony cut her off. “Over! Clint, how we doing?”

”On the rooftop,” the archer responded. Natasha, who was sparring with another soldier, hooked her legs around the guy’s neck and flipped him to the ground. Delivering one final kick to an approaching soldier’s groin, she looked up. She could just make out Clint on the very top of the building nearby. Below, she saw a figure in yellow and green robes, easily the most colorful of them all. That must be the leader. “Got him in my sights. He’s moved to the west side of the building.”

”Finally.” Steve sounded relieved. Natasha couldn’t blame him; she was exhausted. “Give ‘em hell, Barton.”

”Will do,” Clint replied. She watched as he took aim.

”Wait,” Tony prodded. “Is the great Steve Rogers tired?

”We all are, Stark,” Steve said in a long suffering way, but his words faded to the back of her mind as her trained eyes honend in on the wizard.

The figure in green and yellow raised something up above his head. The metal gleamed in the sun. A sharp knife of panic stabbed her gut. “Wait,” Natasha said. “Clint hold your fire. He’s got a weapon on him.”

But Clint had already loosed the arrow. Natasha felt like someone had put the world in slow motion. The arrow flew toward the figure, the figure dropped the device.

“GET DOWN!” She screamed.

Then an explosion rocked the streets. The ground rolled beneath her feet as the shockwave carried her up into the air, slamming her hard into the side of the parking garage. The back of her head cracked against the concrete. The world turned bright, and then began to dim. The shouting over the comms faded as she sank into the blackness.