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“Resilient shits, aren’t they?” Tony complained as he fired another repulsor blast. This one knocked back the giant octopus thing, but didn’t seem to damage it in any way. Its beak clicked maddeningly before it used its purple, slimy tentacles to lever itself off the ground a few feet. Then it slammed forward, swinging extra arms through a nearby building.

 There were four more, though, and the Avengers didn’t seem to be making any headway. Clint and Natasha were in a quinjet firing missiles at one, who seemed unbothered by the blasts. Steve was dodging tentacles on the ground, trying to keep civilians out of harm’s way. The Hulk was pounding in the head of one, but its body was so pliable it was like punching a bean bag chair.

Tony landed in the street next to Steve, firing both repulsors as the beast got too close.  It was pushed back about 10 yards, and roared in frustration. “What’s our ETA on Thor?” Tony asked.

“I think he’s still about 20 minutes out,” Steve said breathlessly, catching the shield he had just thrown.

The Asgardian had been visiting Jane Foster in New Mexico. When it was clear that the Avengers weren’t doing much that was effective against the squids, SHIELD had called Thor.

Tony was doing his best to solve it before the Asgardian got there, but unfortunately he was not getting anywhere. He growled in frustration, launching anti-tank missiles at the beast. It let out a high pitched shriek as they detonated against its skin, but again, the weapons did no visible damage.

“Oh, balls,” Clint mumbled into his comm. Tony turned his head to look, seeing one of the creatures using its tentacles to pull itself up the side of a building, closer to the quinjet. Clint maneuvered the vehicle in to close range, so Natasha could fire the anti-aircraft missiles. The beast screeched, the building underneath it beginning to crumble. But in a last ditch effort with a speed they hadn’t seen yet, it leapt onto the quinjet, swatting the wings madly.

Tony cursed, flying up to it, but the quinjet was already spinning wildly out of control. It flew towards the river, the creature still riding it like a wild octopus ride before it hit the water violently, beginning to sink. The octopus, seemingly judging its mission complete,  let go and  swam back through the surface of the Hudson to the docks.

“Are you guys okay?” Tony said.

“Yeah,” Natasha said, a little winded. “But we’re sinking fast, and it crushed the hull. We’re going to need help; we’re taking on water pretty quickly.” Tony could see the dark outline of the quinjet had already disappeared, depths and calculations flashing to life on his HUD as Jarvis calculated the info.

“Iron Man, get them. Hulk and I can handle these for a few minutes,” Steve said. Tony glanced back and could see the Hulk strenuously pulling one of the arms off the octopus he was fighting.

Tony’s heart rate sped up as he glanced back to the choppy black surface of the river, sweat beginning to break out on his forehead. “Uh…is Hulk almost done?” he asked. He was pretty proud of himself he managed to keep the rising hysteria he felt out of his voice.

“No, Stark!” Clint shouted, annoyed. “We’re already up to our knees, and this ship isn’t small!”

“Assistance sooner rather than later,” Natasha added, voice as calm as ever.

Knees. Knees, and then his face and then it was in the mask and he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t-

Sucking in shallow breaths, he dropped closer to the surface. The fear was beginning to paralyze him, beginning to-

crush him, as tons of concrete pinned him to the ocean floor and the suit couldn’t lift it, it was too much and he was drowning-

“Stark!” Steve shouted, loudly and commandingly. Tony opened his eyes, not even realizing he had closed them. He sucked in another breath, looking down again.

“Our waists now,” Natasha reported, calm beginning to break somewhat.

“Damn it Tony, get your iron ass down here!” growled Clint.

“Ah-ahhhhh,” Tony moaned. “Stop shouting at me! I hear you!” He huffed, closing his eyes. He had been at the bottom of the Hudson before, and his suit hadn’t leaked then.

But was the new one water-tight, he hadn’t tested it, hadn’t gone near the water since-

“Sir, I have detected Agents Romanoff and Barton have three minutes before water completely fills the ship.”

“Stark, MOVE!”  Steve shouted. His voice was out of patience.

“J, get me there!” The suit dove, and Tony thought he could feel the water’s icy tendrils lapping at his hands, his face.  Unbidden, a whimper escaped from his lips.

“Almost there, Sir,” Jarvis’ calm, reassuring voice said gently in his ear.

The dark shadows before him solidified into a dark, sleek shape, bubbles escaping far too quickly.  Tony maneuvered to the hatch, seeing where it had been bent by the tentacles.

“Okay,” Tony panted quietly to himself, “okay. Guys, swim to the hatch. I’m going to…going to pull it open,” he trailed off, fear again threatening to numb his mind.

“And then hold our breath?” Natasha prompted.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to pull it off, grab you two, and then we’re gone.” He gripped the metal hatch, ready to pry it off. “Ready?” He braced his feet against the bottom, rotten leaves and wood floating upwards as he did.

“Ready,” Clint reported. “On three. One. Two. Three!” He roared, ripping the hatch off where it clanked into the mud behind him-

-like the pieces of concrete, falling, falling all around him-

And reached forward grabbing both of his teammates around their waists. They grabbed him in turn and he fired his thrusters upwards, bursting forth with a splash. Tony sucked in a shuddering breath, feeling like he could breathe again. He flew towards the docks, doing a running landing. He let both Natasha and Clint go, and they both stumbled somewhat. Tony stumbled as well, but didn’t catch himself. He fell to his knees, wrenching the helmet off his head, sucking in air harshly. He couldn’t get enough air! His stomach chose that moment to clench painfully, and suddenly he was heaving all over his gauntlets.

He choked, tears streaming from his eyes, as he heaved again, but there was nothing to bring up. He distantly heard roaring and shouting, but they seemed very far away. The smell almost made him gag again, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He angrily pulled the gauntlets off, looking up as he did so.

Steve was there. As Tony quickly tried to wipe the tears away from his face the other man just gave him a small nod. “Thank you for saving them. We won, by the way.” Tony blinked, confused, before he looked behind Steve and saw Thor there. The Asgardian’s hammer was hanging from his wrist and behind him were the smoking, charred remains of the creatures. Tony cursed, letting Steve pull him to his feet. He was trembling slightly, but he hoped the others wouldn’t be able to tell.

“Damn, you mean I missed Thor lighting up the bastards like a Hibachi grill?” He felt himself give a weak smile, which Thor returned.

“Next time, I will make sure you are present to see the spectacle,” the god assured.

The Hulk rumbled over then, flaring his nostrils at the mess on the ground in front of Tony. “Tin Man  sick,” he growled. He reached out and yanked Tony away from Steve. Tony let out a surprised woah, before he felt his stomach protest again.

“Okay, big guy, I appreciate the sentiment, but you’re not helping.” He patted the big, green hand that was wrapped around his upper arm, and the Hulk let go with a grunt. “Thank you,” he said, some of his usual cheer beginning to find its way back into his voice.

“Seasickness sucks,” Clint said. Tony turned to look at him, and it was clear the other man knew what had happened, but it seemed against all odds he wasn’t holding it against Tony. “Natasha almost puked on a Carnival Cruise Line.”

“That was a private cruise where we were investigating an Italian dignitary, and no I didn’t,” she said rolling her eyes.

“Yeah, free drinks and entertainment on a boat makes it a Carnival cruise,” Clint said as he picked up Tony’s discarded and vomit-covered gauntlets. He walked to the side of the pier, leaning down to dip them in water a few times before coming back.

“Clint, they were free because the man we were investigating had ties to the Sicilian mob. I also remember you using the bed nets to hold you on the bed in calm waters.” Natasha took the gauntlets from Clint, before handing them out to Tony.  She even gave him a small smile as he took them.

Clint narrowed his eyes. “Hey now, have you seen the sinking rate of Italian cruises? It’s not too good.”

“Well, since the quinjet’s gone,” Steve said, “And before Fury chews us out about that, let’s call some cars to go back to the tower.”

“Agreed,” Thor said quickly. “It was a long, quick flight from the New Mexico to here, and I find myself weary.” The Hulk grunted and dropped to the ground, shaking the pier. The green began to leave his skin as he shrunk, Bruce Banner quickly taking his place.

“I’d like some towels, too,” Clint mumbled. As Steve made the call and they all sat down to wait, Tony once again eyed the remarkable people around him. They had all acknowledged his attack, in their own way, but weren’t making a big deal about it. He was both embarrassed and grateful.

This was what being part of something felt like.  This was friendship and acceptance in the face of one’s own faults. This was friendship and need and camaraderie.  This was protection and duty and danger all rolled into one broken but effective package.

This was the Avengers.