A/N: This one's a bit longer, but I just wanted to publish it completed. Just so you guys know, the shameless Clint whumpage is a gift to my buddies on TBB. Otherwise I may not have been so hard on the poor boy. Thanks again to everyone for reading reviewing, and favoriting!
The next morning, Clint was determined to try again. He popped some aspirin, and hobbled down to Tony's lab. He was surprised when he got there that most of the lights were dim. He punched in his code and the door opened.
"Tony?" He tried.
"Mr. Stark is not here currently, Agent Barton." Jarvis' ever-helpful voice answered.
"Well where is he?"
"You are not authorized to have this information."
Clint sighed, slinking into the vacant seat in front of the monitors. That wasn't really unusual. Lazily, he tapped the keyboard to bring the monitor out of sleep mode and see what Tony had been working on. He immediately saw some files on his desktop. Curious, he highlighted the one that said Brísingamen. Schematics and drawings of some sort of pendant popped up, along with notes in both English and something that looked like runes. His eyes scanned over the information. "Jarvis, get Thor and Captain Rogers down here."
Both came down about ten minutes later. Steve scanned the room for Tony. "Where is he?" he asked.
"Not here," Clint said brusquely. "Thor, what is this?" He pointed to the screen. Thor crouched down, reading. Clint could see his jaw clench.
"It is Brísingamen, the amulet of Freyja," he said coldly. "I was not aware Nick Fury had his hands on this artifact."
Clint turned back to the screen. "Enchantress was, apparently. What does it do?"
"For Amora, it would amplify her magic," Thor said simply. "She would be able to summon a dangerous creature from one of the nine realms, or enthrall more than one person."
"Why doesn't Freyja come down and like…pick it up?" Steve asked. Thor and Clint looked at him. "I'm…guessing it's not that simple," Steve said.
"Indeed. Since…since the tesseract," Thor was always careful to tiptoe around the incident involving his brother, "Nick Fury seems to have figured out a number of ways to keep magical objects hidden."
Steve leaned down to look closer at the screen. "If Tony knew about this, why didn't he tell us? Why did he take off?"
Clint rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Cap, you basically threw him out and refused to listen to him." Clint could see the anger bubbling back into Steve's eyes as he was about to say something, but Thor interrupted.
"Perhaps it is not that simple. In the warehouse, I sensed numerous spells, too many to simply be used to control the man of sand."
Clint's eyes widened. "Why didn't you say something?"
"I did not conclude this until I reflected on the incident later. I admit…magic is not my greatest strength."
"Do you know what the other spells were?" Steve asked.
Thor thought for a moment. "At least one was similar to the enthrallment spell we witnessed, but not the same. Do you…think she was controlling Tony Stark?"
"No," Clint said hesitantly. "At least…not directly. Otherwise she'd have just had him shoot me." Clint thought back to their conversation.
I can't explain.
Not that he didn't want to talk about it, or that he was lying about it, but that he physically, maybe, couldn't explain.
Clint voiced his thoughts to Thor, who nodded. "It certainly would be in the realm of her expertise, to create a spell of such a nature." They both turned to look at Steve, who had guilt plastered all over his face.
"I…I…didn't even think…"
"That such a thing was possible?" Clint snapped. He sighed, turning back around. "Sorry. The leg's making me jumpy." He moved to shift his broken limb. "But Jesus, Steve, if you don't start trusting him now, when will you?"
Steve didn't have an answer for that. "Where is he?" he said quietly.
"I don't know, Jarvis won't tell me."
"Jarvis, call Nick Fury. Tell them it's Captain Rogers." Steve knew that most calls from Tony got ignored, and he wouldn't hesitate to drop his own name to get a direct line.
"Speak," Fury's voice came over the speakers.
"Where are you keeping…" he looked at Thor.
Fury hesitated. "Why?"
"Because Stark's gone after it by himself to stop Enchantress from getting her hands on it, and we need to find them before he gets killed himself."
"And then you will permit me to take the item," Thor added.
"Woah, wait a second," Fury interrupted. "Why is he going by himself?" Guilt washed over Steve again. "I'll explain in the debrief. But we need a location, right now."
Tony had told the SHIELD employees who were attending the warehouse in upstate New York to beat it. They hadn't known Iron Man was coming, and luckily they were more frightened of him when he was angry than they were of calling their boss to find out why Iron Man was there.
It had made his job easier as he stomped down to a lower level of the warehouse. He was just reflecting he might have made it here first when a huge axe, the blade the size of his whole chest plate, came swinging down.
He hopped backwards, as he heard a laugh from Enchantress, and her personal bodyguard, an angry-looking Skurge, stepped into view. The man was all bulk, black armor, greasy-looking face, and wickedly huge axe. He was growling menacingly.
"Oh come, now, you didn't think it'd be that easy."
"I thought that…" he felt his jaw locking up as he tried to fire off an insult at her.
"Hmm, there's no need for that anymore I suppose." The muscles of his face relaxed, and he breathed a sigh of relief before aiming his repulsors at Skurge.
"I'm giving you guys one chance to take your renaissance-fair asses and leave." Enchantress sauntered into view, leaning lightly in the doorway behind Skurge, twirling the pendant around her finger.
She gave a fake pout. "And here I was hoping you two would entertain me. Tell me, Stark, where are your friends?" He could tell by the mocking smile on her face she knew he was alone, and that his teammates had abandoned him, but he didn't give her the satisfaction.
"I told them I could handle you myself. You are sort of a pushover. I mean, c'mon, you just enchant a bunch of men to do all your fighting for you. You don't have any real strengths-"
He was cut off by the axe swinging horizontally at him. "Guess again," Skurge rumbled. "I'm here of my own free will."
Tony fired a repulsor blast at him. Skurge crossed his arms over his chest and planted his feet. Tony was surprised to see it only pushed him back a few feet and seemed to do real little damage. "So, you're the type who voluntarily gets on the losing team? You must be a real masochist."
"You don't have a team, Stark," Enchantress smirked again, and began moving towards the exit. "But I've had my fun with you. Kill him," she waved her hand and Skurge moved to attack, rushing him. Tony's hands flew to the axe handle where he grappled with it, the force pushing him backwards. But he used Skurge's momentum against him and whirled him around, letting go. Skurge stumbled and Tony turned back, starting after Enchantress, but Skurge had recovered quicker than he expected.
Tony began to turn back around, but Skurge's strike was too quick. The axe embedded itself in the right side of his back.
He gave a howl of pain as the axe split through his armor with a screech and he felt the blade slice open his back. He fell to his knees. "Flares!" he growled through his teeth. The flares went off, making Skurge let go and cry out, as Tony reached around trying to get the axe loose. His armor had stopped most of the hit, but he could still feel the edge of the blade in his flesh from his shoulder blade down to the small of his back.
A foot landed heavily on the other side of his back, and he grunted as it pushed him down. He gave another small cry of pain as he felt the axe rip free. Skurge raised his axe over his head for the killing blow. "It's been fun," he growled.
A huge clang sounded, and Skurge was knocked off his feet as Thor's hammer hit him squarely in the chest. With a bestial roar, the Asgardian flew into the room, tackling Skurge as he tried to get up and together they hurtled through the wall into another room.
"Tony!" Suddenly, Steve was at his side. He tried to move his hands underneath him, to push himself up. But he was dizzy and he started to fall to the ground.
"Ugh, hey, Cap," he said. The sounds of Thor and Skurge could be heard from the other room.
"Tony, I'm so sorry, for everything," Steve said in a rush. Tony turned his head so he could see the man's face better, guilt-ridden and anxious.
" 'sokay," he slurred. "Wouldn't have…believed me either."
Steve shook his head, looking for the manual releases on the chest and dorsal pieces. "No, Tony, that's not fair. Especially from me. I was too quick to pass judgment."
"Save it," Tony said. "Where…is she?"
"Gone," Natasha's voice said from the doorway. "Is that blood?" she asked, coming over to help Steve and pointing to the darkening pool leeching through the crack in his suit.
"Help me get it off him," Steve said urgently. There was another crash, followed by a whooshing noise. A minute later, Thor came back through the hole he had made in the wall.
"Skurge has escaped," he explained. He watched as Steve and Natasha gently pulled the back plate off of Tony, who gave a whimper as the indented metal came loose from his skin. A hiss escaped Steve, who winced in sympathy.
Natasha pressed her hand to her ear, summoning a med-team.
"Tony, I'm sorry," Steve said again.
"Happens all the time," Tony painfully joked.
Steve's gut clenched again in guilt at the words.
Tony lay on his stomach, his chin resting on his arms as the doctor started placing gauze over the stitches down his back.
"Eighty-seven stiches. Eighty-seven!" Clint said disbelievingly from a chair next to the gurney. Steve stood off to the side, arms crossed, and head down. Thor was also nearby, sucking down a mug of black coffee.
The armor had stopped the blade from cleaving Tony in two, but it was still deep and before he had gotten the localized anesthesia, he had felt his skin shift unnaturally every time his arm moved.
"Seriously, Tony, what's the point of having armor if it's not gonna do anything?"
"It was a magical axe," Thor pointed out. Clint rolled his eyes.
"My armor did enough," Tony mumbled. The combination of blood loss and drugs had made him sluggish, and he didn't much feel up to having company watching every single stitch put into his back for two hours, but that's what had happened. But the drugs had been wearing off for the last half hour, and the renewed pain was making Tony testy. "I'm not dead," he said succinctly, trying to settle it.
"You might have been," Clint mumbled, shooting an accusatory look at Steve.
Thor saw the look that passed between them and lowered his mug. "I think that is enough, Clint Barton. Captain Rogers could not have foreseen the circumstances preceding the event," he said evenly. "Nor could I, even."
Tony's gaze passed between all of them before he closed his eyes warily. "Look, guys," he mumbled, keeping his eyes closed. "It's done. Don't worry about it. Let's just…find her and take the...Bir-thing back-"
"-and forget this ever happened." He turned his face away.
"Tony, I'm sorry," Steve tried for the thousandth time, but Tony cut him off.
"I said forget it. Stop apologizing, Steve, you sound like…well, I guess they did have broken records in the 40s…didn't they?"
Any reply Steve might have made was cut off by Jarvis.
"Captain Rogers, Thor. I am sorry to interrupt, but Director Fury wants you immediately. He says it's Enchantress."
Both of them stood up, looking all business, before they left the room casting furtive glances back at their injured teammates.
The doctor finished applying the gauze, and Tony sat up with a wince and a mumbled thanks.
As soon as the doctor had left the room, Clint turned to Tony who was doing his best to shrug into a scrub top without jostling his back muscles. "Why are you doing that?"
"Even though it is my house, I doubt everyone would appreciate it if I walked around without a shirt all the time. I don't have Banner's beautiful physique."
"Why won't you let Steve apologize?"
"He has apologized. Like, 90 times." Tony hopped off the bed, Clint grabbing his crutches to follow.
"You know what I mean."
Tony glanced at him suspiciously over his shoulder. "Why do you care so much about my feelings all of a sudden? You never did before. Besides you haven't forgiven him either, I can tell. I may not have great social skills, but I can still read facial expressions, Clint."
Clint tensed up, but continued following Tony. How did he say he was afraid at any moment the team could fall apart at the seams? That he was afraid at any moment the most worthwhile unit he'd ever been a part of could just vanish. That he was afraid at any moment he could lose the only friends he'd ever had.
"Maybe I'm just a spiteful person," Tony continued, "and I want him to feel just a little bit bad."
"I can't argue with that," Clint said. "You know, before he came along, I was Fury's golden boy?"
Tony snorted. "You were not,"
"Was too," Clint shot him a grin.
"Clint, I can name like, nine people off the top of my head that Fury likes better than you, Coulson, Hill and Natasha only the tip of the iceberg. The only reason he likes you is because having me on the team makes you look like…the Lusitania compared to my Titanic."
"So, I'm the lesser known sinking sea disaster?"
"Uh…something like that. It's a horrible example, I blame the drugs." They had arrived at Tony's lab. He punched in his code, and Clint followed him in, sinking into a chair nearby. "Are you just going to hang around all day?" Tony asked him, but not in an annoyed fashion.
Clint shrugged. "What else am I gonna do? Thor and I were supposed to have target practice."
"For you?" Tony asked, shifting his screens around and reading them.
"No, for him. I was gonna chuck stuff off the roof and he was going to try and hit them with lightning bolts."
"Not off my fucking roof you're not!" Clint grinned.
Two hours later Clint found himself coming out of a light doze as Jarvis bleeped a few times. "Incoming call from Director Fury to you and Agent Barton, Sir."
"Are you calling us to gloat?" Tony asked distractedly.
"I need you two…to suit up," Fury said hesitantly. Clint and Tony looked alarmed at each other before Tony spoke. "Uh, in case you didn't get the memo, I have a gash the size of the Grand Canyon in my back, and Clint has an inert limb."
Fury sighed. "Enchantress has…the rest of the team is…indisposed."
"What do you mean?" Clint growled.
"She's enthralled them, or whatever Thor calls it."
"All four of them?" Tony shouted.
"I'm sorry to have to ask you guys to do this, but you have to go in there and stop her."
SHIELD doctors arrived a few minutes afterwards, with a boot for Clint. It certainly hurt more than walking around on crutches, but at least he was mobile. He refused the painkillers they tried to give him. He needed to be alert to aim.
As he was strapped into it, he watched Tony's robots assemble the suit on him. Tony winced, leaning forward as the back plate was pressed over his injury. A small whimper escaped his lips as it was actually snapped in place connecting to the front plate. "Jesus, can't you give him more anesthesia?" Clint snapped at the nearest doctor.
"He already has a lot in his system, it's…too risky…"
"It's fine, Clint," Tony interrupted as the helmet snapped over his face. The eyes lit up as he walked forward. The suit covered up his condition remarkably well, and if it wasn't for the strained note in his voice Clint wouldn't have been able to tell he was injured.
They boarded a quinjet being piloted by two other SHIELD agents, and soon they were on their way to the SHIELD complex in Pennsylvania where Enchantress was holding their teammates captive.
The quinjet deposited them in front of the warehouse before it took off. Fury wanted his agents clear, they were dead man walking if they got in the middle of a fight between the Avengers.
Tony entered first, with Clint shuffling along behind him. There was still no sign of any of their teammates, and it was beginning to be a little nerve-wracking.
Clint's leg was like a small flame licking at the edge of his senses. Goddamn Asgardians. He was really, really fed up with the whole mind-control schtick. Thank god Thor couldn't do it. Maybe after this Stark would make them goofy helmets to protect them from it. Stupid, sure, but well worth it in his opinion. They soon came upon the stairs leading up to the scaffolding that led to the rest of the warehouse.
"Think you can get up there, give me some cover?" Tony whispered. Clint nodded. He couldn't deny that he'd be useless in hand to hand combat at this point, but it made his gut clench to think Tony had to fight everyone by himself, and injured to boot. He'd give him the best damn cover imaginable.
Slinging his bow over his back, he started pulling himself up the stairs, mostly using his arms to push himself up on the rails and swing his feet onto the steps. Stark walked off loudly, drawing attention away from him.
When Tony entered the largest space in the warehouse, he wasn't surprised to find Enchantress waiting for him, smiling. She was sitting on top of a large crate in the middle of the room, seemingly quite comfortable with the prospect of being without cover. Bruce was standing at her side, his eyes tinged green, but not the green of the Hulk. His other teammates were nowhere in sight. The amulet of Freyja hung around her neck.
"Why don't you just give that back and let my teammates go, and we'll call it a day," Tony suggested.
"It's not yours to keep," she said. She reached out, taking Banner's chin gently and stroking his hair. "Besides, why not have a little fun with the people who cause me so much trouble before I get up to any real mischief?"
Tony scowled at the treatment of his teammate. "Please. You're incapable of real mischief. The only thing you've ever done is mind control people to be annoying. I've fought lawyers, in my own legal department I might add, that packed more punch than you." He raised his repulsor to fire it at her, but there was a schwing noise, and before Tony could comprehend what was happening, Steve's shield bashed into his arm, making him misfire.
Steve and Thor stepped calmly into the light, their eyes tinted the same shade of green as Bruce's, who hadn't moved during the whole thing except to rub his face further into Enchantress' touch.
That in itself was making Tony decidedly uncomfortable for his friend. "Forming a new club, I see?" he bit out, leaning into a fighting stance. His back twinged and he winced.
"You are all so exceptionally strong willed, it wasn't easy," Enchantress said. But with you all out of the way, and with this," she lightly moved one of her hands from Bruce's head to touch her amulet, which was glowing.
"Clint," Tony said into his comm. "You have to shoot the amulet. Get it off her. She might lose control of the others if you do."
Clint, who was leaning heavily on the rails of the scaffolding above, drew the bow string back. "Already on it," he said. His leg twinged again and he grit his teeth, but kept his aim steady. He let go of the string.
The arrow sailed through the air, straight and true, but Clint grumbled in annoyance as he saw Steve take notice and chuck his shield, knocking it out of the air. "Shit," he mumbled.
Enchantress laughed. "You brought the lame little bird with you! How fortunate!" She looked up towards the dark area where she knew Hawkeye now was. "My spider is hungry."
Clint felt a weight on his shoulders crashing down on him. As he fell to the floor, he realized it was Natasha's knees.
Thor and Steve used that moment to attack Tony full out. Thor's hammer slammed into his chest, propelling him backwards. He hit the floor on his back and gave a small cry of pain. Steve was leaping towards him, and looked like he was ready to jam his shield into Tony's helmet. He rolled sideways, and Steve landed with the shield splitting apart the floor.
Tony picked himself up hurriedly, firing a blast at Thor as he ran towards him, shouting. The blast knocked the Asgardian off his feet and he grunted as he hit the ground. Tony spared a glance at Enchantress who was watching distastefully with Bruce still at her side. Why hadn't she sent Hulk after him? Unless…
Clint grabbed Natasha's hamstrings and squeezed, hard. She let up her grip enough for him to pull his head out of her lethal grasp. Panting, he scooted backwards, wincing as the movement jostled his leg.
Her face contorted in snarl and she leapt for him. He grabbed her wrists as she got close, swinging her to the side and giving her an extra kick in the back with his good leg. She hit the rails, groaning. "Clint!" Tony's voice sounded over the comm. "Hit Bruce! She can't control him in Hulk form!" Tony grunted again and Clint heard another clang from down below as he scrambled for his bow before Natasha got to her feet.
"You want me to shoot Bruce?"
"JUST DO IT!"
Clint grabbed the railing, pulling himself up as he took aim at their teammate. He shifted his aim to Bruce's shoulder, hoping it wouldn't hurt him too much later. Mentally apologizing to the man, he let loose.
Bruce stumbled backwards with a cry of pain, clutching his shoulder. Enchantress whirled, fury and then fear in her eyes when she saw the arrow sticking out of him as he began to tremble. His eyes shifted color from the light green of her magic to the electric green of the Hulk. He began to change.
Tony was on his back, gripping Thor's wrists as he tried to bring his hammer down on his face, but he heard the roar that signified the change, smiling slightly to himself. Enchantress shouted the name of her axe-wielding body guard, but as soon as he appeared out of thin air, the Hulk's meaty fist sent him flying across the warehouse.
Thor leapt away from Tony, he and Steve running towards the Hulk to protect Enchantress. Tony got shakily to his feet, before flying at Steve and tackling him to the ground away from Hulk. Thor may be able to survive a few Hulk punches, and Steve could too, but it'd certainly hurt him more.
"Clint, shoot the pendant!" Tony gasped into his comm as he got to his feet, narrowly avoiding another shield swing from Steve.
"LITTLE BUSY HERE," Clint shouted back. Natasha had gotten to her feet right after he fired the shot, and he hadn't had time to dodge as she kicked him ferociously with the heel of her boot in the cast, cracking it. He had fallen to the ground and swung his bow around, hitting her in the face with the limb.
She stumbled backwards, but recovered quickly enough, flipping in the air and using the momentum to bring her leg rushing towards his shoulder. He brought his arms up to block it, grunting in pain from the force of the blow. It hadn't broken his bones, but it certainly had come close. He grabbed her ankle, slamming her down again and using the rail to pull himself to his feet.
He winced as he tried to put some distance between them, and aimed again at Enchantress who was screaming at Thor and Skurge to bring down Banner. He aimed.
The amulet was ripped free of the cord, slamming into the wall.
"NO!" Enchantress screamed.
Tony saw Thor and Steve stumble, holding hands to their heads. Unfortunately for Thor, Hulk couldn't tell the difference and he cried out as a huge green arm swung into him again. Tony winced before shouting, "Hulk! Get her! Get Enchantress!"
Hulk turned towards the woman, spitting, as Tony fired up his thrusters and jetted to the wall where Clint's arrow was handily pinning up the amulet. He snatched it up before landing.
He knew he'd be unable to break it, so he just tossed it smugly and caught it instead. Steve had recovered and was glaring at her and Skurge, and Thor was pulling himself out of the wall. "AMORA!" The look on his face suggested he was ready to tear her face off.
"Time to leave," she hissed at Skurge. With a flash of green fire, they were gone.
"Oh, and here I was hoping to use a witty comeback," Tony said, taking a few steps forward. He suddenly felt weak and fell to one knee as Steve rushed over.
"Tony, are you alright?"
He flipped the faceplate up, wincing. "May have…popped a few stitches…" Steve helped him to his feet, as Hulk, sensing the danger was over began to calm down. A few minutes later, Tony caught sight of Natasha helping Clint down the stairs, his arm hooked over hers as he winced with every step. "Well, look at that. The invalids had to come save your asses!" Tony said half-heartedly as the room began to swim.
Thor picked up the unconscious Banner, slinging him over his shoulder. "I am truly sorry for the nature of Asgardians," Thor grumbled.
"Us too, big guy," Clint bit out, as Tony slapped the amulet into Thor's outstretched hand. Let him deal with it.
Also, Fury would be pissed.
"We should just call ourselves the 'Asgar-vengers' and be done with it," Steve smiled.
"That was horrible Rogers, even for you." Natasha said.
Steve smiled at her again. "God Fighters!" he tried.
"No," she said hurriedly.
"Stop it, Steve, I'm already about to pass out from blood loss, I don't need half-assed, G-rated jokes to be the last thing I hear."
Together they hobbled back outside.
As Clint was getting his leg x-rayed and re-casted on the helicarrier, and Thor had disappeared with the amulet, the rest had been taken back to the mansion so Tony could get his armor off and his back re-stitched.
"Oh, gross, look at all the blood in there!" Tony giggled, light-headed.
Steve brought over a wheel chair, which Natasha pushed him into. "Sit the fuck down," she snarled. He supposed it was her own way of apologizing, as they both pushed him to the infirmary.
"Who's gonna help me scrub out my armor?" he grinned cheekily at her.
"You can do that yourself."
The doctor seemed a little peeved he had to come back a few hours later, remove the stitches, and then restitch Tony's wound. Now that the adrenaline had died down, everyone was feeling most uncomfortable about the whole situation. Tony was still really embarrassed on Bruce's behalf for his actions in particular.
So, of course he talked about them as much as possible to downplay the awkwardness of the situation.
"Bruce, buddy!" he smiled as they pumped more painkillers into him. They wouldn't risk more anesthesia, so Tony was high as a kite, even though he occasionally winced as he felt the pull of the sutures. "I could see you pitching a tent from space when Enchantress had her hands all over you!"
Bruce looked like he was trying to push his eyeballs out of his head with his fingers.
"That didn't happen," Steve said, turning a slight shade of pink. Natasha took the opportunity to cuff Tony over the head again.
He laughed. "Hit me all you want, sweetheart, I can't feel it!" She grabbed his hair, pulling her face close to his.
"Then I'll make sure to hit you when you can feel it. Don't call me sweetheart." She dropped his head.
"Can I still talk about how Bruce wanted to show Enchantress his gamma radiation?" Everyone groaned loudly as Tony giggled hysterically before the doctor told him to stop moving and ordered everyone to leave before drugged them all.
They all grumbled, turning to file out. "Wait, Cap!" Steve turned back, moving over to the gurney Tony was on. To his surprise, Tony reached out and grabbed his wrist. "I wanted to tell you…I forgive you. For not believing me earlier…okay?"
Steve swallowed thickly around the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. He supposed he had forgotten how much he wanted that forgiveness in light of the events of the afternoon. He nodded. "Okay."
Tony looked at him for a moment more, before letting go. "You're too nice a guy to mope all the time. But… I still think you're an asshole." He grinned widely. Steve frowned, then smiled.