Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie
Genre: Action, drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, J.A.R.V.I.S., Loki, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Lady Sif and the Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor
(Brief/smaller appearances: Odin, Maria Hill, Darcy Lewis, The Other, Benjamin “Benny” Pollack, Erik Selvig, Jasper Sitwell, Claire Wise.)
Pairings: Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor. Mentions of: Benny/Claire, Pepper/Tony
Summary: Iron Man never fell back through the portal. The Avengers must deal with the loss of their comrade and move on – until Earth once again comes under an attack from the Chitauri and their new-found weapons that decimate everything in their path with unmatched power and intellect. As cities and nations collapse around their decreasing resistance, the heroes of Earth must find a way to defeat their enemy before there is nothing left to avenge.
Work in progress.
Written for: Apocalypse Big Bang, Round One (apocalypsebang at LiveJournal)
Art: Imaan (insteadofdeath at dA/DW/LJ)
Warnings: Graphic description of torture, major character death, apocalypse & invasion themes (including but not limited to: mass destruction, terrorism, holocaust, death, violence and gore), brain-washing & mind-control, language (including some remarks that could be seen as racist). Serious spoilers for the ending of The Avengers (and other random spoilers for the rest of the movies in the Avengers cinematic universe).
The earth was trembling, dust, sand and fine pieces of concrete falling on them as they ran back along the narrow passage, all attempts to hide abandoned. Roars rose above them, metal grinding, chorused by explosions. Every now and then someone would falter in the middle of the group, making the people behind them stumble and halt, trying to see what was going on. More often than not, as far as Steve could see, it was Pepper looking up, listening to the obvious sounds of battle overhead. Happy and Rhodey always pulled her forward, though, knowing there was no time to linger.
When the group finally got to the doorway they hurried towards the tree line. Steve glanced up once he had a view of the sky and felt dread assault his stomach; above them the large, dark mecha was moving, tail whipping the air, its feet firmly planted in the earth on either side of the house. The other mecha had moved from the beach and a plane circled overhead, shooting at them.
“That’s not one of ours!” Rhodey shouted over the noise. “Maybe Chinese or Japanese.”
“Whoever they are, they flew a long way to die,” Clint noted, his sharp eyes tracking their movements.
“There were five of them,” Lady Sif told them once they reached her and the three other Asgardians. “Four of them have already been destroyed. They tried to attack the floating ship over the water.”
Steve nodded, watching the battle. For the time being, it seemed their presence was being ignored. “Rhodes,” he called out, “take Pepper, Happy and Jane back to the cars. Natasha, go with them and make sure they’ll remain safe.”
“No!” Pepper argued at once, stepping forward. “Tony –”
“We’ll get him,” Steve turned to face her. “We won’t leave without him.”
“We won’t?” Clint asked, doubt in his voice. Steve knew he wouldn’t leave them, though, and would do all he could to help, yet this small note of hesitance was his way of stating that the odds weren’t good. Steve knew that.
“Did you see a small mecha come out of the building?” Bruce asked Sif and the Warriors Three. “A dark suit, just before the battle started.”
“It went into the big one, disappearing inside it,” Hogun replied with certainty.
“Any suggestions how we’re going to get him out?” Clint questioned.
“The hard way, if we must,” Bruce answered and started to tug off his shirt.
Above them the plane made another circle. The large mecha picked up a large stone, big enough to crush a car, weighing it in its mechanical hand and then tossing it into the air. The plane narrowly missed it – but wasn’t as lucky when two other stones were thrown at it by the other mecha. With an explosion it fell from the sky and into the water.
“We can’t wait much longer,” Clint observed the situation, glancing at Natasha. “Take them to the cars. Be ready, we might have to leave quickly.”
“I can help,” Pepper insisted.
“You can also get killed,” Rhodey disagreed, grabbing her arm. “They’ll get Tony.” His dark eyes met Steve’s, willing him to not let his words ring hollow, then he and Happy maneuvered Pepper around and into the trees.
“Come on,” Natasha urged Jane who was determined to hug Thor firmly. It was hard to tell whom was more reluctant to let go, her or the God of Thunder.
“We will see each other soon,” Thor promised.
“You can do it,” Jane said encouragingly.
Thor nodded grimly and watched the women disappear. Once they were gone, he looked at the mecha who seemed to have calmed down. “What is the plan?” he asked Steve.
Letting the air out of his lungs, Steve calculated the chances. “How likely is it that the three mecha we can see right now are the only ones in the area?”
“Highly unlikely,” Bruce spoke up first, sounding grim.
“If we can get to Tony somehow, there’s no way we can just take him back with us,” Clint mused. “I don’t think these things are just going to stand idly by while we snatch him.”
“Especially if he is the one controlling them,” Thor added.
Steve tried to see a path ahead of him, a plan unfolding, but there was nothing. There were too many unanswered questions and if Tony’s alliances were, for the time being, with their enemy, how much damage would they have to deal to subdue him? However, he refused to just leave him here, not knowing if they would ever get another chance. Their friend, their fellow Avenger, was out there, still alive, and they owed it to him to bring him home.
It troubled him, though, how certain Tony had sounded when he said he was going to kill them all the next time they saw each other. He had been too calm, too much like himself. What if he really had turned?
Steve searched the large mecha with his eyes, seeing it turn, scanning the area then finally spotting them. So many times in the past this had been the moment to run, to hide, to try and save what they could.
The dark mecha moved one foot, then the other, stepping over the house. It was careful, every movement calculated, and it was glaringly obvious Tony had come here for a reason; he had come home.
Which meant a part of him would know he was fighting for the wrong side and Steve would help him find his way again, to shake him loose from whatever the Chitauri had done to him.
The mecha was only one stride away from them when Steve lifted his shield, pulled down his cowl and knew the others were taking their positions around him. “Avengers,” he called out, then glanced briefly at the Asgardians, wondering if they would take insult if included among them. Thor, however, nodded his head and smiled, the Warriors Three brandishing their weapons and Sif shifting her stance. Deciding that the four warriors were with them, Steve turned his eyes to Bruce whose eyes were nailed on the mecha, as if staring it down. “Do you think he’ll know –?” Steve started.
“He knows,” Bruce nodded slightly. “I can… feel the other guy.” His eyes were green when he cast Steve the smallest of looks. “We won’t lose Tony today. We’ll take him home with us.”
‘Home’ meaning whatever base was left standing – a place with people who loved him and cared about him, and who wanted to help guide Tony back to the light. To welcome him back.
The mecha’s forearm moved, a familiar-looking blade sliding forward past the twitching, clawed fingers. It moved into place, locking down, then began to glow blue, energy running across the surface.
“Take it down,” Steve called out. “Find Tony. Destroy the others if possible.” Well, the last part was a bit unlikely since they hadn’t been able to destroy even one mecha up till now, but they were all filled with new resolve and Steve knew how that worked on the battlefield.
They had nothing left to lose – and everything to gain. As if the fate of the Earth hadn’t been motivation enough…
Thor let out a battle-cry and took to the air. The other Asgardians rushed forward along with him. Clint fingered his bow then moved to the side; the mecha moved, slashing out with its blade, almost cutting down the attackers, the huge weapon becoming embedded deep into the ground, carving a deep gash into earth and rock to slide it free again. Steve took that moment to dash forward, searching the huge machine for any sign of where Tony might be. They had said he had gone inside, and there was a lot of size to the mecha.
The other two mecha had climbed up from the beach and advanced, meeting Thor’s furious attack. One of them hadn’t quite found its balance yet and when both Mjolnir and the Thunderer smashed against its chest, it toppled over and fell back down, a large spray of water signaling its impact with the ocean. Thor emerged a moment later, attacking the other mecha and the other Asgardians moved to help him.
Steve shifted his attention and rolled to the side as the blade swept down again, narrowly evading it and dodging between the mecha’s legs, knowing that no matter its agility, this was the safest place to be. He kept searching for any sign of the small mecha suit, and a possible point of entry to the larger one. There was no door, nor had he expected one.
Lack of a door had never stopped the Avengers from getting in, though; a roar cut through the air, furious and dark, and a moment later the Hulk came running over, jumping high, aiming a punch at the mecha’s face. Energy crackled and the Hulk howled, yet at that same moment Clint let loose an arrow and either the backlash of the charge or a reload gave him an opening to actually sink in the exploding arrow and the mecha made a gesture almost like rubbing its eye.
Hulk came pounding back a moment later, more determined than Steve had ever seen him before; even in the midst of all that rage, he was confident the Hulk knew exactly what they were after; that simply smashing the mecha wouldn’t get them what they needed. Since the beginning of their brief time together, Tony and Bruce had been friends, and perhaps that was how they were going to win this round: the Hulk recognized the years of regret and sorrow, the misery of losing their teammate, and now that he was right there…
The mecha let out a furious sound, attempting to zap the Hulk again, but the rage monster had managed to punch through, to sink in his fingers and was holding on, tearing deeper, roaring at the pain as the surface current made his skin crackle and blister in places.
“Come on,” Steve muttered, waiting for an opening, for when it would matter most.
In the background, the Warriors Three had managed to tie one of the mecha’s legs with some kind of cable, keeping it busy every time the machine tried to cut itself loose. They weren’t doing much damage but at least they were keeping it still and occupied. However, one mighty tug of the bound leg broke the ground, forcing more of the cable out from where it had been buried. The cablesparked, spluttering angrily as the electric current was cut.
The large mecha halted momentarily, as if noticing this turn of events even with its back turned. The Hulk kept snarling and tearing at its shoulder as the surface current seemed to disappear.
“Do you think we just did something?” Clint shouted, moving to the side to see better.
Steve wasn’t certain. The cable led to the house, he was certain of that, seeing as that was the only place he had seen that had electricity in the area. If they had damaged a power-line…
The large mecha above him twitched then, and its chest appeared to unfold slightly, a few feet below the Hulk. Something moved, crawling out – which the green beast didn’t notice in his destructive frenzy.
“Tony!” Steve called out, the small suit blending in well with the dark mecha’s colors, but it had to be him, reacting to whatever had happened.
The Hulk moved his head and looked down, spotting the small suit just beneath him. A moment passed and for a second Steve feared the Hulk would attack Tony and tear him apart.
He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
There was a flash and the Hulk was falling to the ground, his grip losing its hold. The mini-mecha jumped up deftly, climbing to the bigger one’s shoulder, one of its palms appearing to smoke.
“I think we may have just pissed him off,” Clint noted just before the suit – Tony – lifted the smoking hand, aiming at the captured mecha, firing something that looked a lot like a repulsor blast at the caught leg, snapping the cable in half. The Asgardians fell back, seeking cover as the enraged mecha began to freely hunt them.
“Regroup!” Steve called, knowing that if they got separated they didn’t stand a chance. “We need –”
A shadow moved above him and landed on his right with a faint thud. In the dark he saw faint yellowish lights moving along the mecha suit’s surface as Tony stood up, regarding him through the glowing, golden eyes; Steve could feel the weight of his stare even if he couldn’t see it.
“Tony,” Steve started, lowering his shield. “You don’t need to do this.”
“You’re right,” Tony agreed, his voice so distorted it was almost unrecognizable but it was him.
Steve felt relief rush through him. Perhaps Tony saw it now, in a moment of clarity. In the background he heard the other mecha move and the unmistakable sounds of battle continue as the Asgardians fought to overcome their opponent. “Call it off,” Steve begged.
Something like a laugh reached his ears and something akin to the blade of the mecha slid out of Tony’s forearm, gleaming in the moonlight. “It’s never been about what I need, Cap,” Tony said almost conversationally. “It’s about what I want. What I deserve. And what you deserve.”
“I don’t understand,” Steve blinked. He was aware he was letting his guard down, that perhaps he had miscalculated that they would get through to Tony. “You have to believe me, we didn’t –”
“You left me to die!” the miniature mecha stepped forward, betraying the emotions of the man within it. “And you would have cast me out either way, letting me burn. I was never an Avenger; Fury just needed me to help you win, to deliver the final blow. Too bad, I survived, and I didn’t come here for anything less than what the world deserves: extinction.”
The arm with the blade swung forward and Steve felt his arm move to block it while his mind still tried to understand the hatred in Tony’s voice. Did he truly believe what he was saying?
“Someone really unscrewed you, man,” Clint quipped from the side and the back of Tony’s suit seemed to explode. However, the arrow didn’t do much damage and Tony turned with a snarl, his posture annoyed. The mecha which had stayed still above them came back to life and began to move towards the archer. Steve saw Clint’s eyes flash back and forth, trying to make a decision.
“Hawkeye, go!” Steve ordered. “I’ll deal with him.”
The mini-mecha turned back around to regard him. Now that he had looked at it for a while, Steve began to notice how it moved much like Tony’s Iron Man suit had, only more fluid in its movements. How had none of them seen the similarities? How many times had Bruce actually said out loud how Tony could unlock the secrets of the mecha?
“I told you to leave,” Tony reminded him, brandishing the blade, ready to attack. It was harder to read the mechanical body, with no muscles visible, but Steve knew his reflexes would save him. “You didn’t need to die here but if that’s what you’ve chosen…” He pounced forward, like a beast, slowing Steve’s response a little; it seemed Tony still fought the same but the approach was different, lower and faster. Steve blocked it with his shield and Tony went with it, not using brute impact which would only work against him as Vibranium worked its magic; Tony moved along with his defense, pushing slowly, sliding the blade along the edge of the shield, the contact jarring Steve’s arm, sending him backward. He rolled over his shoulder and back to his feet, blocking another slash that would have cut him in two had it met flesh. He was yet again reminded of Thor’s injuries, recalling this was the very blade which had caused them.
“Tony, I don’t want to hurt you,” Steve grunted beneath another blow, pinned beneath the weight of the suit.
“Then roll over and die,” came a hissed reply. Above them, a tree sailed through the air before crashing somewhere, glass breaking. The suit’s head shifted, looking up, a dissatisfied growl escaping Tony’s lips. “Damn it…” he muttered then shoved back, taking a few steps away from Steve. He stood there, looking at the battlefield. The Asgardians were still battling two of the mecha, one of them having crawled back up from the water, while Clint seemed to have been joined by the Hulk to defeat the larger one. Steve followed Tony’s gaze, looking at the tree which had embedded itself through one wall of the house. Whether there was something important there, he wasn’t sure, but a part of him was beginning to think Tony wanted to salvage this part of his life and every attack that went sideways had the potential to destroy his house.
A wordless form of communication seemed to pass between him and the mecha, for all three of them straightened up and came closer to him. Steve got to his feet, walking backwards, away from the giant robots that didn’t need to do more than take a step and squash him. Thor may have survived it but he had no delusions he could do the same.
“This is going to end,” Tony declared.
“My friend,” Thor called out, landing between Steve and Tony, his hair wild and scratches on his skin. “You needn’t fight us!”
“Did you learn nothing during our last encounter?” Tony asked him, stepping forward.
That seemed to spark something in Thor and he strode forward, Mjolnir held tight in his grip. “Where have you taken Loki? Where is my brother?!”
A twisted chuckle met Thor’s demands. “Do you feel guilty for bringing him here? For letting him fall into the hands of those whom he betrayed?”
“You took him to the Chitauri, not me!” Thor defended his actions hotly.
“Cap,” Clint whispered, appearing from the dark. “I think we need to… re-think our strategy.”
Steve frowned and looked at him. “If we get through to Tony,” he started.
“He’s delaying us,” Clint pressed then pointed out, past the house and over the water. The large space ship was moving, its walls shifting as if large doors were being opened. From its huge guts moved shapes, a few of them dropping to the water. “If we don’t cut this short, we’ll be overwhelmed by mecha,” Clint stated. “If that ship is full of them…”
Steve looked on helplessly as Thor continued to argue and threaten Tony into revealing Loki’s location. The yellow eyes were not on the God of Thunder, as if tuning him out, but directed at Steve instead, as if waiting for him to make his call.
“Too many robots,” the Hulk huffed from somewhere behind Clint.
“Pull back,” Steve ordered although it felt like swallowing acid, the knowledge that they might never get a chance like this again to get Tony back. To have the means to defeat their enemy…
“No!” Thor roared and reached for the neck of Tony’s suit. “You will tell me where I can find my brother!”
“He can join you in the afterlife,” Tony offered and his arm moved.
Thor, in his anger, had moved too close. Even in the dark Steve could see his body jerk and heard the sound of the blade driving itself in, through the armor.
“Just like last time, but I’ll finish you off for good tonight,” Tony hissed. He began lifting Thor up, pressing the blade deeper, but before anyone could intervene, Mjolnir had already been raised and clanged against the side of his face.
With a sound that was akin to a painful groan, Tony dropped Thor’s injured body and clutched his armored head. Steve knew they wouldn’t get another chance. The Warriors Three seemed to agree, rushing to Thor’s side, helping him to his feet and pushing him off towards the trees. The others followed, Clint rushing ahead of them to guide them through the dark woods. The Hulk’s heavy steps trailed behind the group as the mecha began to follow, roars of anger echoing after them.
“We must go back,” Thor said, his words slightly slurred.
“So you can impale yourself on his weapon again?” Fandral questioned. “I think not.”
“He knows where Loki is,” Thor argued.
“He may, or he may not,” Volstagg grunted as he struggled to keep their unwilling friend moving.
Trees were snapping in two behind them as the mecha followed.
“We can’t outrun them!” Sif called out to Steve. The Hulk grunted an affirmation behind the group.
Steve tried to figure out where they were. He knew that they wouldn’t be able to outdrive the mecha either should they find their way back to the cars. All they would achieve was getting them all killed. “Go on ahead; I’ll slow them down with the Hulk,” he decided.
“As much as I admire your willingness to throw your life away, I have an alternative,” Clint called out. “This way!”
Steve decided to trust him and suddenly they found themselves on rocky terrain, leading down a steep slope. He lost sight of Clint soon after, wondering where he had gone. He felt a tug on his arm suddenly and stopped, making the Asgardians run into his back. Clint pulled him to the side and a crack in the rock opened before them. They all pushed through, the Hulk with some difficulty, finding themselves in a cavern between several large boulders. The earth vibrated around them as the mecha approached, hot on their heels, yet it seemed they couldn’t find them amongst the rocks.
For long minutes the machines searched then fell back towards the house. Thor grunted in the darkness and when Clint turned on a flashlight, Steve saw that Sif was trying to dress Thor’s wound, Fandral pressing firmly against it. It looked like it was very close to the freshly healed injury and Thor appeared pained and unhappy.
“He’s trying to take Thor out,” Clint mused, voice quiet although they could no longer hear the mecha moving around. “That’s smart, seeing as Mjolnir is capable of hurting the mecha. However…”
“He hasn’t killed him yet,” Steve nodded. “Maybe he knows, deep down… that he’s one of us.”
Even when it hadn’t sounded like it when Tony spoke… So much hatred, running deeper than anything Steve had encountered in his life – and he had faced a lot of anger and resentment in his early days.
“We should move,” Clint went on. “Find the others and head back. We got what we came for.”
Not everything, Steve thought but didn’t say it out loud. He met the Hulk’s eyes in the semi-darkness and it felt almost like the beast agreed with his unspoken words, looking most disgruntled and almost… sad.
to be continued…