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 journey back to the East Coast seemed even longer than the drive to Malibu had been, even when they contacted Fury after putting safe distance between themselves and the mecha to get S.H.I.E.L.D. to pick them up and fly them home.
While waiting to be airlifted from a remote and long-abandoned air strip, everyone was quiet and lost in their thoughts. Pepper cried most nights, in Happy’s arms; the look she had given Steve when they returned wasn’t filled with anger but rather, sorrow. Perhaps she had known it would end that way.
Rhodey was quietly brooding, sitting there with an arc reactor shining in his hands. Steve was thankful they hadn’t risked bringing the War Machine armor with them because he knew the other man might have put it on and headed back to Malibu, never to be seen again. Or perhaps he would have gotten through to Tony… This way, they would never know, and that knowledge hung heavy on James Rhodes’ shoulders, clearly.
Bruce was much the same way; his eyes would stare at the blue shine of the arc reactor, a distant expression on his face, yet he didn’t fail to meet Steve’s eyes at length every time he looked at the scientist, a mutual thought passing between them: they should have done more.
“We weren’t going to fight an army of mecha when we’ve had enough trouble handling one,” Clint told him as they stood outside, waiting for sign of the plane that was supposed to come and get them. His reassurance rang hollow, probably even in the archer’s own ears, but Steve knew it to be true. They would have all died there, all of them lacking the will to actually hurt Tony. Trying to talk him out of it…
Steve checked on Thor regularly. His wound bled but the other Asgardians were convinced he would make it. “He’s stubborn,” Volstagg mused, stroking his beard. “He’s hell-bent on finding Loki – and rescuing your friend who has almost killed him twice now.”
Hopefully the axe-bearing warrior was right; Steve dreaded Thor forgetting their brief alliance with Tony and turning against him, taking his friends with him. The Asgardians had no true friendship with any of them and where Thor went, they would follow.
Thor was noble, however, and he and Tony had put most of their indifferences aside to fight the Chitauri. Just like the rest of them… Steve was adamant in his belief that it was enough and they would all stand united behind the decision that they wouldn’t leave their fellow Avenger at the mercy of their enemies.
When the plane finally arrived, they drove the cars inside it and took off mere minutes later. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents didn’t ask them for progress reports, perhaps not even knowing why they had been out here; they were following orders and all they needed to do now was to get them safely back to base.
As they flew, Steve tried to rest. The cargo plane was big, clunky and uncomfortable, making him wonder if they would even make it, but he knew it was simply some old fears gripping his gut. He had flown enough after crashing into the ice; he could handle this.
Steve opened his eyes to find Happy before him. He blinked the cobwebs from his eyes and straightened up. “Is something wrong?”
The man gave him a gruesome smile. “The world’s ending, so I guess you could say that.”
Steve allowed a humorless chuckle to escape.
Happy sat down a safe distance from him. They had been through much together and Steve liked to think there was a friendship forming between them, yet he knew there were old issues there as well, mainly because Tony had died under his command. That Tony was alive didn’t change that in a heartbeat.
“How’s Ms. Potts doing?” Steve asked when Happy seemed lost in thought.
“She’s… been better,” Happy admitted. “I think it was almost better when we thought Tony was gone. You wouldn’t think coping with that would be easier than knowing he’s alive out there, but…”
“We’ll get him back,” Steve promised.
Happy looked at him, eyes dead-serious. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I heard him out there – saw him. I’ve known him longer than you have. I saw him after he came back from Afghanistan, saw a changed man who put on the armor. What we saw in Malibu…” He fell silent for a long moment, looking at the floor between them. “I think maybe he did die out there, you know? That wasn’t Tony. Not really. It’s like someone broke him, finally, and then crammed the pieces back together to make it look like he was still the same man.”
“You’re giving up on him?” They both looked up at Bruce’s voice, the scientist standing before them, leaning on a crate firmly tied in place as the plane shuddered slightly in turbulence.
Happy’s face hardened. “I don’t want to. Doesn’t mean I won’t have to. We don’t even know what was done to him, if he…”
“He couldn’t have changed so much on his own,” Bruce argued.
“You never saw the darkness in him,” Happy replied. “How much time did you spend with him?” He looked at Bruce and Steve both, challenging them. “Hours. You don’t learn to know a man in mere hours, no matter what you go through together. From what I’ve heard, you spent most of that time fighting.” He fell silent, a stubborn expression on his face. “I had his back for years, seeing the highs and the lows. I knew things about him Pepper never wanted to hear. If you really… left him to die out there, who’s to say he doesn’t want a little payback?”
“Then he would have struck us, not the entire world,” Steve said. “He put his life on the line for this world; he wouldn’t try to destroy it, no matter what. He took that missile and he did what none of us could. He knew what he was going to do.” Steve remembered that one last exchange, of telling Tony that it was a one-way trip. Had he known how it would end, he would have said something different. He would have thanked him.
“That wasn’t him in Malibu,” Bruce agreed. “We owe it to him to save him – or give him the proper death he deserves.”
Steve looked at him briefly in horror but knew it to be true; if they couldn’t save Tony, they should at least try and end the horrors he had faced in the hands of their enemy.
“I hope you’re right,” Happy sighed and bowed his head, clasping his hands. He looked so sad and tired, a man ready to let go – only he couldn’t; others depended on him and he had to keep fighting, to keep going.
In that respect, he was no different from the Avengers.
It was late when they finally got to the last Helicarrier. Most of them hadn’t been able to sleep more than a few hours on the way back but they knew debriefing was unavoidable and none of them would actually get any rest before they knew what was going to happen next.
The Helicarrier currently sat in the water like the day they had first been flown out there, well hidden but not invisible. Patrols constantly moved around it, on their toes, aware that even one slip would compromise their position.
Fury and Agent Hill were waiting for them as the group gathered in a meeting room, along with Darcy and Benjamin Pollack. Darcy rushed over to hug Jane and then Thor, who had been tended to by the S.H.I.E.L.D. medics on the plane; any further examination would have to wait until their debriefing was over.
Fury and the others listened in silence as they told their tale. Steve did most of the talking with only limited input from the others. Afterwards, while a stretched-out hush encompassed the room, Fury closed his eye and rested his face in his hands.
A worried look passed over Hill’s face. “Sir?” she prodded carefully.
Fury straightened after a moment, looking at the recent arrivals as if to read their reactions to the newfound knowledge. His gaze eventually landed on Rhodey. “You got the arc reactors?”
“Yes, sir,” the pilot nodded.
“I hope you’re not thinking of flying back to Malibu once the War Machine armor is operational,” the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. added.
Rhodey’s face froze yet his eyes burned hot, betraying his reaction. “I don’t see how I can stay here while Tony’s out there –”
“You won’t be of any use to us if you get yourself blown out of the sky and trampled by the mecha,” Fury told him flatly.
“We won’t abandon him,” Steve joined Rhodey, standing up.
“He might be the key to this whole thing,” Natasha agreed by taking a different route. “If he indeed controls the mecha, extracting him is our top priority. We’ve never had such a chance to slow the enemy down, or completely cripple their assault.”
“It’s not Director Fury’s decision,” Agent Hill spoke up. “The other world leaders and commanders –”
“They’ll agree,” Fury interrupted her. “They have to.” He looked at the Avengers and their allies once again. “In the meanwhile, I have to be able to trust that you won’t go to meet him on your own. You didn’t manage to contain him the first time, so this needs to be a concentrated effort. If he’s been here the entire time, I don’t think Mr. Stark will be going anywhere. To be honest, I think we’ll be able to make him come to us.”
Fury waited for their response and Rhodey was the one who finally nodded his agreement. That seemed to be enough for Fury and he got up and left the room, silence engulfing the space once more as all of them fell into their own thoughts.
to be continued…