I'm baaaaaaaack. And I hope I didn't kill to many readers with that last update.

Special thanks to Chocopipe, grayember13, CaseClosed621, Fellowship of Avengers, Ravenclaw Slytherin, Ghibly101, BurnedSpy, b00kw0rms, WelshGirl4Life, MirrorFlower and DarkWind, PiercedAmethyst, Lioness32, dasserk, Rayner Fox, FartingRainbows, Frostivy, NoNameX, Archer83, Dragones, Kazane Sayuri, amy, The Dark Lady55, Ahappyfan96, blown-transistor, and the guest for reviewing! Looks like we're going post Avengers with this one! :D

And here we go...

Steve couldn't help but wipe his eyes, though it streaked his face with soot and ash even more.

So that was it? Toni Stark was really dead, and they were all alive because of her sacrifice.

She'd lain down on the wire, and not just for them. No, Toni saved the entire city of Manhattan and it's surrounding population with her final selfless act.

The super soldier couldn't have felt guiltier if he tried.

The entire team of heroes remaining on the ground stood there quietly, including the Hulk, really not knowing what to say to each other. With the exception of Bruce, they'd all had their doubts about the Iron Man pilot – the ever narcissistic, opinionated, stubborn and clever woman could get under just about anyone's skin.

"I guess she really is gone." Clint mumbled out loud, frowning over the entire situation.

Steve squeezed his eyes shut, absolutely hating to process those words. "She didn't deserve that fate. She didn't deserve half of the flak she got."

Even the Hulk, who was recovering on a rooftop, looked fairly distraught over Toni's departure from this world. Sadness laced the monster's features, and if one looked hard enough, they could see Dr. Banner's sorrowful, dark eyes shining through.

The moment of silence was short-lived, however. Thor interrupted the solemn mood, pointing to the sky and shouting. "Look!"

Steve turned his head in the direction Thor was pointing to, looking for whatever was making the Thunder God so excited. When he locked eyes onto the object, his heart skipped a beat.

It was Toni. She'd made it out. She was alive.

However, the genius superhero was making no move to slow her descent, making it highly likely that she'd crash into the hard concrete. At the speed she was falling at, Steve couldn't say with certainty that hitting the ground would be survivable, even in her suit.

"Why isn't she flying?!" Steve was getting upset, hoping Toni would snap out of it and land safely.

"I don't believe she can stop!" Thor looked nervous. "Someone needs to get to her and break her fall." Without another word, the demi-god began to swing his hammer, intent on saving the woman from near certain death.

Before Thor could act, though, the Other Guy came flying through the air, out of seemingly nowhere. He was able to catch Toni mid-jump, and used a near by building to slow his own fall on the way down. The green giant slid down the side of the building with ease, shielding the battered Mark VII from debris.

Upon landing, the Hulk made his way over to the group of heroes. In a surprisingly gentle move, the beast placed Toni cautiously on the ground near the group. Thor wasted no time ripping the faceplate of the armor off, tossing it haphazardly to the side.

The genius' dirty, sleeping face was enough to make Steve's heart leap into his throat. It wasn't that she appeared to be seriously injured, minus a small trickle of blood down her face starting from her hairline.

No, that wasn't it at all.

The super soldier was more startled by the fact that Toni Stark actually looked peaceful, completely accepting of the hand that she had been dealt. It was as if she'd known what her fate was going to be long before the rest of them did...possibly long before the battle of Manhattan.

Steve quickly dropped down beside the unmoving genius, removing his gloves without looking away from her.

"Ms. Stark...please wake up."

Agonizingly long seconds passed. No response.

The blonde hesitated for a moment, but did tentatively extended a hand towards Toni's face. Steve touched her cheek gently, hoping it would stir the fallen hero. Fingertips brushed the small woman's forehead, smearing the dirt and blood that had accumulated.

"Toni." Steve smiled at her still form tenderly, sadly. "Wake up, for me. Please."

The silence among the destruction was deafening for the young captain. He wanted nothing more than to remove the rest of the battered armor and check the woman for any sort of vital sign besides the arc reactor, but the he deemed the risk of potentially injuring Toni further too great for his liking in her current state. He had no clue if anything was broken or what state the woman underneath all the armor was in.

Still, seeing what was essentially Toni's life source without even a flicker of light was killing him on the inside.

"Toni, come on." The super soldier felt his eyes welling up with tears. "You can't leave yet. The world needs you." He gripped the suit's shoulders, giving them a slight shake. "We need you."

When he still got no reaction out of Toni, he began to lose any glimmer of hope of the brunette surviving this disastrous day. Steve cradled her limp body in his arms. "I need you." Leaning in the blonde's forehead touched Toni's; tears rolling down his cheeks and dripping onto hers. "I'm so sorry." He was whispering at this point, his voice being lost a long time ago in the chaos.

'Please, God, don't let her die on me.'

Maybe it was spur of the moment, maybe it was emotional overload, but Steve did not realize his next actions until his lips were planted fully on Toni's. Call it cliché, but somewhere deep inside Steve hoped that the fairy tales his mother used to read to him contained some truth. As he made contact, he silently pleaded with Toni to open her eyes once more.

He would have no such luck. Toni's lips were cold and pale, unmoving against Steve's own warm pink ones, and nothing he could do would change that.

Finally sitting back up, the blonde let out a breath, throat hitching in the process. This was all so very wrong.

The rest of the mismatched team of heroes now surrounded the pair, unable to find the words to say to their captain. It wasn't until the Hulk let out a deafening roar that Steve knew the world hadn't stood completely still.

In that instant, the arc rector flickered back to life, sending it's owner back into the world of the living with wide eyes and gasping for air. She looked around, disoriented, unsure of what was going on.

With groan and great effort, she managed to use her hoarse voice to speak. "What...what happened?"

Steve beamed at the Iron Man pilot, relief flooding his body. "We won."

"No..." Toni coughed, racking her whole body and setting her nerves alight with pain. "How am I back here?"

"Don't worry about it." Steve's smile never left as he brushed a few sweaty strands of hair out of her eyes. "The most important thing is that you're alive."

Toni groaned out loud, squeezing her eyes shut at all of the faces smiling at her. "Please tell me nobody kissed me or something." Steve's cheeks burned as Toni thankfully turned toward the Hulk, ignoring the sly grins from the rest of the group. "Especially you, Big Guy. No offense or anything, but I'm not into that."

The Hulk roared with what almost seemed like mirth, and Thor burst out with a hearty laugh at the scene before him while. It always made him happy to see such honest and genuine affections. "But, Woman of Iron, before you awoke the Captain..."

Steve cut him off with a look that was something between pleading and a full on glare. The demi-god simply threw his free hand up in surrender, his thunderous laughter growing louder by the minute as the other blonde grew more and more red in the the face.

Toni paid no mind to Thor and shifted to take the pressure off of her probably-broken hip, not even caring that the movement pressed her firmly up against a certain captain's chest. Steve tightened his grip on her, looking down at the battered woman with warmth in his eyes. "Are you going to be alright, Ms. Stark?"

Toni took a breath in an attempt to steady her voice. "Nothing a couple of cocktails and a nap can't cure, Spangles." Steve simply shook his head, chuckling.

That was convincing enough, right?

At that moment, Toni realized just how funny people tended to act when they thought someone was dead. It wasn't that she minded the soldier's actions, but she did find them odd considering how differently he'd acted toward her a scant few hours prior.

That's when everything came rushing back to Toni. The words she and Steve had gone back and forth with came rushing back in full force, making her stomach turn. She needed to get away from him. The genius tried sitting up without Steve's help, but instantly regretted it. Agonizing, fiery stabs of pain radiated from her hip, causing the billionaire to involuntarily shriek.

Steve braced her as she fell back, instantly worried about the brunette. "It doesn't look like you're alright to me..."

"I'll be fine." Toni's breath hitched, and she realized just how badly the chest plate of the Mark VII was bent inward, causing her air supply to be cut short. "I just need to get this armor off of me. I can't really breathe. But JARVIS is down so I can't get it o-"

She barely finished the thought before Steve acted.

With a squeaking, squealing sound, Toni felt a weight being removed from off of her chest, and her lungs burned at the sudden rush of air. "I can help with that." Steve tossed the chest plate (that was now little more than scrap metal) off to the side as if it were nothing. "I think your suit is kind of...beyond help...anyway."

Beyond help. Funny. That was Toni felt about herself as well.

"Yeah...sure. Just not the left hip piece, please."

Steve's brow furrowed. "Is there a problem with that piece of armor?"

Toni shook her head. "I..." She quickly bit her tongue, not wanting to talk about the events that had transpired with Loki. She didn't need a lecture right now. "One of those things got me good, earlier. It's too painful to remove."

'I'm also pretty sure that it's the only thing holding my hip together,' she thought bitterly, frowning.

Steve wasted no time in removing the armor piece by piece, being almost overly meticulous and careful not to injure Toni further. He frowned upon removing the forearm plates, unhappy at the sight of the long needles that came out of the woman's wrists as they were pulled away.

Toni seemed to sense the blonde's distaste, and decided to clue him in. "They deliver painkillers while I'm in the suit." She sputtered at the deep breath of air that entered her lungs.

Steve pulled the brunette close as she shuddered, intent on protecting her from the rest of the world if need be. "Why...?"

Toni shut her eyes again, her lids finally feeling too heavy to open. No one else needed to hear the answer to that question. That said, Toni made no move to answer it right away, and Steve took it as incentive to lift the injured woman up into his arms and get her help as quickly as possible.

"You guys apprehend Loki and meet up with Natasha. I'll let it be known that he's coming back to the base." Thor nodded and the Hulk grunted in acknowledgement. The thunder god looked on toward the captain and Toni, receiving an answer for his unasked question. I'm going to get Ms. Stark medical attention before things get any worse." Where Steve would find help he wasn't sure, but he would damn well try.

As if on cue, the comm link crackled to life with the cool toned voice of the Black Widow. "Head toward the outskirts of the city block, Cap. Away from the major damage." He had to strain to hear the redhead's voice, but he was able to make it out. "S.H.I.E.L.D is bringing backup, but they can't get too close because of the blocked streets."

Without more than confirmation that he'd heard her, Steve started off in that very direction. As he got out of earshot of the rest of the team, Toni forced her head up and locked eyes with the blonde, looking up at him with tired brown orbs.

Upon seeing - really, truly seeing - the blonde's dirty face since she'd woken up from what she thought was a permanent slumber, Toni did the unexpected.

Yes, for the first time in ages, Toni Stark willingly, openly let tears fall in front of someone.

She smiled at the soldier, but it did not reach her eyes.

Then again, none of Toni's smiles seemed to come from a genuinely happy place.

"...Because I'm not superhuman like you, Steve." The blonde blinked, partially caught off guard by the use of his first name by the genius. He hadn't expected an answer to his earlier question. "I'm no hero."

Toni did not last long after that. Her head drooped against the stunned soldier's chest as he continued to walk with her in his arms. Steve still responded to the brunette, though, even though she was thoroughly passed out. Leaning his head down slightly, he kissed Toni on the top of her head, murmuring into her hair.

"You're a hero to me, Toni Stark."

So we're at the awkward in-between phase before the story takes on a life of its own. Just bear with me and grab your flashlights, it might get a little dark in here.

And please review and let me know what you think! Reviews keep me going and let me know what you want to see. *Reviews also let me know if you all want to see more, and will make me update quicker*

Keep in mind, I also do OC stories within the Avengers universe, so check those out too!

'Till next time!