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When We Go

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Steve has no idea why this is all hilarious.

Every time Tony has made a joke the entire time they have been trapped here- in a mall! In a shopping mall!- Steve has not laughed. Tony knows that Steve gets it; they made him watch Dawn of the Dead, after Clint proclaimed it a cinematic masterpiece.

So every time Tony points out that there are fucking movie monsters outside trying to kill them, he can at least count on a tired huff out of somebody, at least the tiniest bit of chin-keeping-up, but never Steve.

Steve has no sense of humor.

They're out of clean water. They've been out of food. At some point like idiots they let Tony apportion it, so Tony hasn't actually eaten for much longer than the rest of them. He divided his portion up without telling anyone, slipping the lion's share to Pepper, for the unborn baby that's not going to make it; then again, none of them are, not its father or its mother or any of its motley band of aunts and uncles.

Fury walks in, followed by Coulson; Tony knows it's bad when he sees Coulson, because Coulson's wearing his Dolce again, despite the fact that one of the shoulder seams is torn and part of his shirt collar is missing. He knows then with a colder surety than he's ever known in his life that they are going to die, they are really going to die, because Coulson would never go out except in style.

Coulson catches Tony's eye and nods.

Coulson is carrying a crate, and he sets it down on the table in the middle of the room they've been occupying. One by one, Fury takes out seven guns- one for everyone but Bruce and Thor, who are just looking at all of them sadly- and lays them in a line down the center of the table.

"Each of these guns is loaded," Fury says. "Divided between them is all the ammunition we have left. I am officially calling this operation."

It had a name at one point, but everybody knows it was Operation Don't Die From Zombies.

"What you choose to do at this point is up to you," Fury tells them, picking up the shotgun and putting it over his shoulder. Coulson takes the Glock and cocks it, and it goes without saying that Natasha and Clint come to join them, Clint putting his hand on Coulson's shoulder as he takes a rifle.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Tony says, picking up a revolver; he takes out all the bullets but one, his hands shaky from hunger. "It has been a pleasure."

Pepper doesn't take a gun at all; she picks up a single bullet and loads it into Tony's.

"I'll see you around, Stark," Steve tells him softly, after the others have gotten themselves ready to go.

"Catch you on the flip," Tony says, and Steve laughs.

Maybe he does have a sense of humor after all.



"Listen here, you overgrown octopus," Steve says, loud and clear. Thor is behind him, gripping Mjolnir tightly and staring the monster down. "I don't know where you came from, but you can go back there right now."

Clint leans back from the quinjet controls, looking at Bruce. "Are we gonna die?"

"Oh yeah," Bruce says. "Oh, we are definitely going to die."

"R'lyeh," Natasha says. "He came from R'lyeh."

"What?" Clint says, frowning.

Natasha turns towards him, a cold light in her eyes. "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

"Nat, you need to buy a vowel," Clint says sarcastically, even though his heart is thumping.

"Oh, Christ," Tony says, seeing the knife in her hand.



"This is fine and fucking dandy," Tony grumbles; he's staring at the controls, right up until the point where he just starts banging on them. When that's not enough he pushes away, rolling backwards easily in the zero-G. He pushes off when he reaches the other side, angling right in so he can stomp on them.

"Well, that was emphatic," Natasha says, crossing her arms.

"We can do it," Tony says. "We can still do it. We can do it fast, and we can do it right." He takes a deep breath. "But we can't do it and get out of its way."

Steve frowns. "You mean-"

"When we deflect the comet, we are going to send it directly into our flight path," Tony says. "If we attempt to run once we've started with the comet, the ship will burn so much fuel that we won't make it back down. So, our choices are stay and deflect the comet or take off at a leisurely pace and never speak of this again."

Someone sucks in an audible breath.

"It's Earth or us, children," Tony says, and he doesn't wait for the inevitable answer. "Who's up for a final meal? I brought champagne. Granted, it was victory champagne when I bought it, but-"

He looks around at them, and Natasha really sees him in that moment, the hopeful shell that is so very close to cracking.

"It won't go with anything we have to eat," she says finally. "Except maybe the ice cream."

"If anybody has any Tang left, we could make mimosas," Bruce says.

"Will it still be fizzy if we drink in space bubbles?" Clint asks.

"Excellent question," Tony says. "Let's find out."



"I'm not saying it's aliens," Tony pants, looking up into Clint's eyes, and it is so like him to use his last breath on something like that.



"This, my friend," Clint says, pulling arrows out of his quiver as quickly as he possibly can and firing them one after the other after the other, "is bullshit."

"I'm not seeing how this is worse than anything else we've been through," Natasha says nonchalantly, because she's Natasha, because she's brave, braver than anyone he's ever met in his entire life, no matter what anyone says.

They lost Bruce a while ago, and he hasn't seen Steve in hours. Tony is down for the count; even if his suit were still working, he's sitting there with Pepper in his lap, Pepper's blood smeared on his fingers, and Clint wouldn't pull him away literally to save either one of their lives.

He'd do it to save Natasha's, but he'd do anything for Natasha.

They all know Thor is going to die, as will his father; Loki and Heimdall are dead already. Thor doesn't seem to care at all about his impending death. Thor cares about their suffering; Clint knows how much that genuinely must cut him to the bone, because Thor loves them all more than they love each other, more than they ever could. But it does not seem to bother Thor in the least that he is going to die. Clint guesses that's what happens when you have centuries to prepare.

"This is not our fight," Clint says. "We're not Asgardians. We're not even Scandinavian."

"This would have ended up on Midgard-" it stopped being Earth a while ago, stopped when the first invasion forces came, stopped when half the world fell to ice and the other to flame- "no matter what we did. It was foretold."

"When I met you, you didn't give a shit about what was foretold," he reminds her.

"That is before we literally met Fate," Natasha tells him.

"We didn't meet Fate," he says firmly. "We met the Norns. The Fates are Greek."

"You know what else they foretold?" Natasha asks rhetorically. "They foretold that there would be two human survivors."

"I love you a lot, Nat, but I don't love you in that way," Clint says dryly.

"Two survivors," Natasha says again. "You know what that means? It means we're not going to lose this one."

"Hooray for humanity," Clint says, only half sarcastic. He's mostly just bitter that he won't see that day.



"Knowing that everyone went down with you," Tony says, relaxing against Pepper. "Wouldn't that make you feel better?"

"Not really," Steve says. "I'd much rather know that someone made it out alive."

"Survivor's guilt is something of a specialty," Tony says lightly, but Steve knows very well not to press.

"Think about how much everybody would save on funerals and memorial services," Clint says, joining in.

"Oh yeah," Tony says. "I mean, mine was going to be ridiculous anyway, imagine how much easier it'll be to lump all of yours in with me."

"Group rate," Clint says.

"I do not know if you are joking or not," Thor says, frowning. "You should wish for grander ceremonies, not less expensive ones."

"It's getting really dark outside," Bruce says, looking out the window.

"It's two in the afternoon," Natasha says skeptically, even though the roiling swirl of blackness is easily visible, sweeping towards them rapidly.

Tony waves a hand. "I'm sure it's just a weird cloud for-"

And then everything is quiet.