NOTE* This is my first Avengers FF, so I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know what you think!
Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen
Captain America sliced through the monstrous-worms as they came up from the earth, each one more gruesome than the others, or so it seemed to him. He couldn't believe that just hours ago he had been at home appreciating a well to due "vacation" thinking nothing could possibly go wrong.
He should have known better.
The avengers had been at Stark tower, enjoying what rarely for them was a needed day off from saving the planet. Steve had been in the gym, per his usual training schedule, beating away on the boxing bags. Sweat ran down his hair into his eyes, causing him to blink furiously as he scrubbed a hand over his face. He wouldn't admit it to anyone should they ask, but he honestly always felt most at home when in the gym. He loved his team, even the most annoying members (cough x STARK x cough), but never once had he felt like he really fit in with them and he supposed that came from his being of the past, rather than the present age.
The pressurize air release of the gym door sliding open caused him to look up as one Anthony Edward Stark walked in. Tony, the self-proclaimed "King" of technology and weaponry was perhaps the last person Steve wanted to see so early in the morning.
Granted, the man truly was a genius and this was, by all rights, his home. However that didn't make Steve anymore excited about the prospect of conversing with the man 24/7 than it did the first day he moved in, which was several months ago after they saved the planet from Loki, the brother of Thor.
"Ah Cap, just the stars and stripes guy I wanted to see" Tony said as he flashed a grin towards the blonde man who stared at him with something akin to annoyance. Stark as usual, ignored the look.
"What is it Stark?" asked Steve with a sigh, when he realized the engineer purposely ignored his warning gaze.
"I have been looking over your shield data again and I noticed that…"
"This again?!" huffed Steve, "Stark, I thought we agreed that you would leave my shield alone. No, I won't let you break it down for scientific mumbo-jumbo."
"I wasn't going to…" started Stark before he narrowed his eyes, "It is not scientific mumbo-jumbo. Your shield would be a great asset to uncovering the working developments and molecular sub…"
"No. I told you that before and I am saying it again. No."
Tony huffed and crossed his arms, but he didn't leave like Steve had thought he would. Stark wasn't a man to be turned down and usually when he was, he threw a hissy fit. Then again, he thought to himself with a grumble, the man was a stubborn as they came. No doubt, he was about to go into a rant.
It surprised Steve completely however when instead of ranting, Tony just walked over to where the shield was laying on top of Cap's clothes and picked it up, running his scanner over it.
"Stark!" Steve roared, angered that the man had literally ignored every word he had just said.
"I'm not…" but before Stark could reply, a fist slammed into his nose sending him reeling back into the lockers behind him.
Both Steve and Tony stood at one another in shock. Steve surprised at himself for losing his cool and Tony, surprised that the Captain had just him without warning. While the two constantly fought, they never physically attacked one another before.
"Stark, I didn't mean…" started Steve, but Tony stuck up a hand as his other wrapped over his now heavily bleeding nose.
The man turned and left the room without another word, passing Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff on the way. The two stared at him in stunned and curious silence before turning to look at their leader inquisitively.
Steve just sighed as he rubbed a hand through his hair and plopped down on the gymnasium bench.
"I lost my temper", he muttered.
Hawkeye coughed out a laugh, but Natasha just narrowed her eyes at the two.
"What could he have possibly done to cause you to hit him?" she asked, completely serious.
Clint also waited patiently for the answer, curious as to what made the great and perfect Captain America strike a comrade. Even one as knowingly annoying as Stark.
"He touched my shield and started scanning it. After I told him explicitly that I did not want him anywhere near it."
"Ah", she muttered, but didn't say anything else as she started towards the dressing room.
Clint watched her go before turning back to the captain, a smirk on his face.
"He deserved it Cap, so don't worry about it. Stark needs to know he can't do whatever he wants without consequences."
Steve just sighed again.
"Yeah maybe, but not even he deserved to be hit for scientific curiosity. I know how scientists are and when they put their mind to something, it is difficult to convince them otherwise. I shouldn't have hit him."
"I would have", laughed Clint.
Steve glared at the other man. If he was being honest with himself, the only other person who could annoy him nearly as bad as Stark was Clint Barton. Where Stark was arrogant, stubborn, and talkative; Clint was cocky, mischievous, and hot tempered. While both were bad characteristics, he couldn't stand people who allowed their temper to get the better of them. The fact that Steve had done just that and had caused even Clint to cheer on his actions did not make him happy. At all.
A shuffling sound at the door caused the two to look up at Bruce Banner walked through the door, a serious look on his face.
"I just passed Tony and spoke with him. What exactly happened?"
Steve groaned as he let his head fall. Of course, everyone would know what happened almost immediately. He was already beating himself up and last thing he needed was a lecture from their resident "papa-bear". He already had the unhappy glare of the "mama" who was currently changing clothes. No doubt when she re-entered, he would have to face the music for his actions. If it was one thing Natasha and Bruce were protective of, it was Tony Stark; though Steve had yet to understand why.
Banner waited patiently for the story as Clint chuckled, enjoying the entire situation. Most of the time he was the one getting in trouble. The fact that Mr. Perfect himself was the one being lectured made Clint's day already look twenty times brighter than normal. Not to mention seeing Stark silenced for doing something boldly stupid, such as touching the captain's shield without permission.
'This is so not my day' thought Steve when their coms went off.
"Avengers, this is Nick Fury, do you read?"
"We hear you Sir", reported Steve as the others turned serious, crowding around to listen.
"We have a disturbance in Wakanda, Africa. Black Panther is already fighting with his tribesmen, but he has requested help. You are to head there immediately and offer assistance after rendezvousing with Black Panther."
"Will do sir", Steve agreed as he shut off the com, "Time to go to work people. Avengers, assemble!"
The ride to Wakanda was anything but comfortable. Iron Man sat in the co-pilot chair next to Hawkeye who was flying the quinjet. Cap sat behind Hawkeye next to Black Widow and Thor and Bruce Banner sat in the very back, clearly analyzing the atmosphere. Since getting the call to assemble in Africa to help Black Panther, hardly anything had been said between Tony and Steve. In fact, Stark refused to even look at the Captain who clearly was suffering from a bad case of guilt. One look at Stark's face was enough to do it, as his nose was clearly swollen; though luckily not broken.
"ETA in 10 minutes" reported Barton who glanced over at Tony. The iron suit made it impossible for his team to know his current mood, but his silence was enough of a hint. He was furious. Those who knew him best also knew silence meant more than just anger though. Silence meant self-contemplation and for those who knew Tony best, self-contemplation usually led to self-loathing. If there was one thing the man couldn't stand most, it was himself making a mistake.
"Iron man, when we arrived", started Steve, trying to break the ice, "go skyward and see if you can't report a clear picture of what is going on."
Iron man was silent for a moment before a reply finally came.
Steve winced at the title. It told him more and more how angry Tony really was beneath the mask, though honestly he himself was still angry about what had happened. He knew sooner or later they would have to discuss what had occurred, but he didn't look forward to it.
When the quinjet finally arrived at its destination, iron man didn't wait for another order before blasting out the door and taking off into the sky. Stark's eyes widened beneath the mask at what he saw.
"Holy Crap", he whispered, but the whisper transmitted to the others who glanced at one another in concern. When Iron Man said such a thing, you knew it was bad.
"What are we looking at Stark?" Steve asked in a professional manner.
"I don't even know how to describe what I am seeing" came the awe-struck response, "they are…worms."
Steve blinked. The others also looked confused.
"Worms?" repeated Steve.
"Yeah, large monstrous worms. Dozens of them, everywhere. From what I can see on my scanner, they are burrowing tunnels miles underground and popping up in different areas. If I had to take a guess, I would say they are trying to submerge the entire landmass in the ground."
"Can you see Black Panther from where you are?"
"Yeah, he is on the ground with his warriors. They are clearly overwhelmed Cap. We need to hurry."
"Alright, let's not wait any longer than. Avengers, let's move out!"
And that was how it led them to their current problem. Giant, monstrous, earth-digging, slime-covered, acid spitting, carnivorous worms. Their speed was probably the most amazing and unexpected thing. They were fast and not just a "running speed" fast, it was more like "racecar" fast. The avengers literally had to jump from place to place to keep from losing their fitting as the ground gave beneath them; the worms trying hard to trap the heroes.
"We must stop them!" shouted Black Panther, "my village is not far from here and they cannot defend themselves."
"We will" agreed Steve, but even he was lacking a plan on how to deal with this infestation.
"Cap, I have an idea!" yelled Tony into his com.
"Let's hear it Stark" came the reply.
"I can see their movements from up here and it seems to me they have a pattern. If we wait until they go to repeat the pattern, I think I might be able to trap them in their tunnels."
"Can't they just burrow through?" questioned Clint.
"Not if I set off a bomb inside the tunnel after closing them in" came the snarky reply.
"Sounds good", replied Steve, who honestly at this point was willing and ready to try anything.
"Alright, I need to get down there and place the bomb. Hulk, Thor, I need you to beat them down into the ground should they start coming out after maneuvering them."
"As you say man of Iron", Thor replied.
Hulk just roared, which was plenty for Tony who smirked as he began his descent.
"Cap, Birdbrain, and Nat…I need you guys to cover me!"
"On it" came Natasha's quick reply.
"I hope one of those worms eats you Stark" Hawkeye retorted at the "birdbrain" comment.
Tony's smile widened at the response.
"I think they might prefer roasted chicken instead, so be careful not to get fried in this explosion Clint!"
Hawkeye glared at the fast moving red blur as it passed. He wouldn't honor that comment with a response which only caused Tony to cackle in the com, enjoying every minute of Clint's obvious annoyance.
Steve just rolled his eyes and Natasha ignored them all as they took off, trying to cover Iron Man the best they could.
Everything was going well and it seemed like the plan was going to work. Too bad no one took into consideration the worms being semi-intelligent. One moment everyone was working together, blasting the slugs back into their holes and the next thing they knew, the ground was literally gone beneath their feet.
Hawkeye jumped, trying to get a perch on stable ground. Natasha was beside him. She landed with a roll, firmly planting her knee into the ground. She turned to help Clint, but stared in horror the sight that met her. Hawkeye was wrapped up by one of the worms and being dragged beneath the soil. She attempted to reach him, but Black Panther grabbed her back.
"You will only get dragged in too!" he shouted.
She glared at him furiously, but she knew he was right. She turned back only to see Clint vanish out of sight. A yell from her right had her sprinting to help her other friends who were struggling to find a stable place to land. Thor and Hulk landed, a rumble shaking the ground beneath them at the weight. The two slid to a halt, each staring as the worms and the ground collapsed in on each other. Natasha looked around desperately. Neither Steve nor Tony were in sight.
"Rogers, can you hear me?" she yelled into the com, "Stark?! Clint!"
Static was her only reply.
"We need too…" she started when a fiery explosion erupted below the earth and pieces of worm rained down around them.
"God…no", she whispered as she collapsed onto her knees beside the hole Clint had disappeared in; "Please guys…be alive."