Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers. Duh.
A/N: this is a quick and dirty one-shot. Please ignore the grammar and spelling mistakes
Steve had fallen off the chair.
It was like someone had popped the balloon of exhaustion. Everyone had laughed and Thor nearly choked on some inhaled shawarma. The atmosphere grew ten times lighter. It shouldn't have been so funny except that they were all well past the bounds of sane humor at that point. It was hilarious until Steve started moaning when he tried (and failed) to get back up.
"Steve, you ok?" Natasha asked. She was the only one not laughing like an idiot. She had chuckled, sure, but she wasn't laughing like the others. Mostly because she felt like hell. Adrenaline was wearing off but pride wouldn't let her curl up and cry like a little girl over her broken fingers and deep tissue bruises. She couldn't afford that when she had to work twice as hard to be as tough as the guys (and three times as hard as the super human guys). "Steve?"
Steve moaned again as he planted a hand on the table and pushed himself upright, falling into his chair with a pinched expression. "I'm fine," he said breathlessly.
Now the others were paying attention. There was no more chuckling.
"You don't look fine," Tony said dubiously.
"You don't look great either," Steve shot back in an unusually irritated tone.
"You all look like you need to take a trip to the emergency room," Bruce added.
"I feel hale and healthy," Thor insisted.
"Which is why you're dripping blood on the floor…" Clint pointed out.
Thor hesitated. "Perhaps I should see healer."
Steve suddenly grabbed the edge of the table. He'd gone pale and his face was a careful mask of control. They all got quiet as they watched him. And then Steve was quickly leaning to the side and heaving up a stomach-full of shawarma.
"Whoah!" Tony exclaimed.
"That's not fine," Natasha insisted. Steve's eyes were squeezed shut and he nodded as he slumped back against the chair.
"Maybe not so fine…" he muttered around a handful of quick shallow breaths. His hand was clamped around his stomach.
Tony snapped his fingers at the men behind the counter, demanding a cell phone because, apparently, none of them had managed to hang on to a cell phone during the fight with intergalactic aliens. Bruce was at Cap's side, asking him questions in that calm voice of his, not showing even a hint of the raging green monster he'd been just hours ago.
"I'm starting to think that ditching Fury was a really bad idea," Clint said.
After they'd handed Loki off to S.H.I.E.L.D, Tony had staged another daring escape from the prodding doctors and the army of S.H.I.E.L.D lawyers and an angry looking Fury (who wasn't necessarily angry…he just always looked pissed). High on adrenaline and winning, they'd all joined in on the stealing of a S.H.I.E.L.D helicopter and booking it back to New York.
…which was now half-digested victory shawarma all over the sticky shawarma-joint floor.
"We gotta get him to a hospital," Banner said to no one in particular. "He might be bleeding internally."
"All the hospitals in the area are full," Tony announced as he tossed the phone back to the man behind the counter. "Looks like we're going back to S.H.I.E.L.D." He came alongside Steve and helped him stand. With Banner on one side and Tony on the other, they slowly walked Cap through the restaurant. Thor followed. Natasha stood and started to follow but then stopped.
Clint wasn't standing up.
"Let's go, Barton. You're driving," she snapped. He didn't move. Their eyes met.
"I think I pulled something," Clint admitted.
"Walk it off. You'll be fine," she insisted. But then she noticed the drops of sweat beading up on his forehead. "What the hell did you pull?"
He looked a little embarrassed but he hadn't moved an inch. He didn't even take his foot off her chair.
"How bad?" she asked, kneeling beside him. Now that she was really looking, she could see the pain in his eyes.
"If I don't move? Tolerable."
Natasha gently prodded his back with her fingers. His muscles were rock hard and not in a sexy sort of way. Clint sucked in a breath and snapped his eyes shut, his face screwing up in pain.
"That…" he hissed, "that feels like lava…"
"Clint, I can't get you help with you in this chair. We have to move you. Ok?" She was calm but firm. Clint nodded but looked none too pleased at the prospect of moving. She put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Thor?"
Breathe, Barton. In and out. Nice and smooth.
He repeated the phrase over and over in his head. It kept him from whimpering. He'd been electrocuted once, in Brazil. Touched a live wire. All of his muscles as tensed up so tight, he'd thought they'd snap. One of the other agents had to physically push him away from the wire because he couldn't move. This felt similar. Only this time he could move but moving sent shafts of burning pain through his body.
Thor appeared at his side and Natasha was quickly explaining the situation to him. Thor nodded gravely. The embarrassment of being carried was enough to make him want to at least attempt to stand and he started to sit up…
…only to have his muscles lurch into shuddering spasms.
Quite involuntarily, Clint curled up and sort of felt himself hit the floor but the sensation was quickly swallowed by the searing agony that was tap-dancing along the length of his spine. For several fingernail-splitting-teeth-pulling sort of minutes, he twitched and flailed on the floor.
As the pain receded from intimidating and mildly terrifying to teeth-clenching, Clint was able to actually take note of his current surroundings. Thor was peering down at him… which meant that he was on the floor (dangerously close to a puddle of super-vomit). But what immediately got his attention was the fact that Natasha had his head in her lap.
It was incredibly distracting.
He stared up at her in confused wonder but was met with stark concern that was pretty distant from any sort of romance.
"You good to move, Barton?" she asked.
"Yeah…yeah I think so," he croaked, not happy with how breathless he sounded.
And then Thor was there, throwing him with as much gentleness as the demi-god could muster onto his shoulder. Clint hissed and grunted but managed not to scream in pain - a feat for which he was proud. Thor carried him outside and into the chopper, setting him flat on the floor which was much more comfortable than Clint thought it should have been.
"Um, taking a nap, Agent?" Tony asked rather dubiously.
"I uh… I pulled something," Clint admitted.
"He's messed up his back," Natasha said.
"Oh great! Guess I get to fly this thing…" Tony said with a considerable lack of enthusiasm.
"Just…don't hit the red button," Clint said.
"You're hilarious," Tony muttered as he slid into the pilots seat.
"Can you fly it?" Banner asked.
Tony put on a cocky smirk. "You ask the man who is a genius…" It was a good show of confidence. But deep down in those dark and dusty corners of his soul, Tony wasn't entirely sure he could fly the thing. Why? Because he was almost 100% sure he had a severe concussion. Oh and most of his ribs were cracked, if not broken. Oh and he was having a little bit of trouble breathing properly thanks to being out in space for all of ten seconds. Oh and a tiny little wire in his chest piece was shorting out, sending uncomfortable little jolts of electricity into his chest cavity.
But it wouldn't be prudent to tell the others that. No need to worry them.
As soon as the door was shut, Tony pushed the craft into the air. His vision was dancing a little bit. But it wasn't anything he couldn't handle. Just a little dizziness.
The S.H.I.E.L.D base loomed ahead.
When did that happen? Weren't they just in the city?
Natasha was talking into the radio, demanding medical teams in the hanger.
He felt dizzy. Really really dizzy.
"Um, Agent Romanoff? Do you happen to know how to land one of these things?" he asked casually.
She looked at him with a critical eye. "No, why?"
"Oh I'm just a little concussed. No worries."
"Can you fly?" she asked.
"Can I? Maybe. Should I? No." Tony said shortly. The edges of his vision were going dark. "Take the controls."
"Now. Take them now." He felt himself listing sideways and Natasha was shouting for Bruce who was immediately at his elbow. "Oh hey, Banner," he said somewhat dreamily.
As Bruce caught Tony's bulk, he breathed a prayer of thanks (to whoever was listening) that the Iron Man suit had been left behind. He laid Tony flat on the floor as the helicopter dipped dramatically. Romanoff loosed a string of curses as she climbed over Tony and pulled at the controls.
Bruce squatted over Tony and checked his pulse and couldn't help but chuckle to himself as the dark and totally inappropriate humor of the situation finally hit him. They were so high on victory only a few hours ago. And now they were falling apart. Gaze upon their super human strength, America. See how they stride into the sunset with all the swagger of any clichéd action hero.
Agent Barton was splayed out in the back, one arm awkwardly thrust to the side in an effort to brace himself. Captain America was half-limp in one of the seats, holding his stomach. Vomit had made another appearance. Thor looked a little paler than normal. Tony was passed out at his feet.
Gaze upon their stoic glory…
"Hang on, everybody," Natasha said, an edge of panic in her voice.
The helipad was rushing up at them much faster than was normal. The chopper hit the ground with a crunch, bouncing once then twice. It skidded down the length of the helipad. Bruce saw people lunging out of the way.
Eventually, in a screeching shower of sparks, the helicopter came to a stop.
For a moment, no one moved.
And then Natasha let out the breath she'd been holding, her fingers still tightly wound around the steering controls.
And then the back door was swarming with medical personnel.
And then Bruce sat down in the co-pilots chair, feeling utterly and completely exhausted.
He wanted nothing more right now than to curl up in a ball and sleep for a month. The Other Guy didn't get out much and when he did, it was never for this long. The sheer physicality of it was much like running a marathon on a beach in diving fins…while on crack. Only this time it was a triathlon. With open blisters on the bottoms of his feet.
"Mr…Odin's…son…Please sit still," said a pretty young voice. Bruce looked over at Thor who was batting away the tiny pen light.
"Cease this needless action," Thor commanded in his best 'I-am-a-god' voice. "I am hale, I assure you."
The woman made an annoyed face. She pressed a couple of fingers into his stomach and he winced. "Than what's this?" she challenged.
"It is but a scratch," he insisted – his voice not nearly as strong as before.
"Well the scratch is still bleeding. I'm going to have to stitch this up. Please sit down on the gurney," she said.
"I shall walk—"
Thor sat. He folded his hands on his lap and tried not to look pathetic as they wheeled him inside. They gave him a shot of something that made his stomach delightfully numb. Which only made it harder for him to sit still as they swabbed out his knife wound and made neat little stitches in his skin.
This was taking too long.
"Thor, please hold still," said the nurse.
"I will not. You have done your job well. I feel well once again." He stood. Something pricked his thigh. His head swam. "What was that?" he demanded though the words were sluggish and sounded more like "whaa ss tht".
"It was a sedative," the nurse told him, guiding him back down onto the bed as his legs started to give out.
His eyelids grew heavier and heavier and reminded him of nights spent at the tavern after drinking too much. It was not an uncomfortable memory…
…it smelled like antiseptic. And he could hear heart monitors. And he felt rather…floaty.
"Cap?" came Natasha's voice.
Steve blinked away the blurriness in his eyes and looked around. He sat up and felt a sharp stab of pain his abdomen. Natasha pushed him back down. "Easy, Rogers, you just got out of surgery."
"Surgery?" he rasped.
"Looks like you punctured your spleen with a broken rib. I think you win the prize for most drastic injury."
He frowned. "Thanks…I think. Where's everyone else?" As he asked, Steve found that he was a little disappointed that only Agent Romanoff was here on his return from lala land.
"Stark has a severe concussion and is off getting the wiring in his chest fixed so he'll stop being electrocuted. Thor was knocked out with sedatives so they could check for further injuries. Banner is sleeping – and by sleeping I mean he's so far gone that it would take a plane crash to wake him up."
She hesitated and Steve saw some genuine, fearful, concern flickering in her eyes. "I'm not sure. He's my next stop. Turns out I'm the only one healthy enough to walk around."
She said the word 'healthy' but she didn't exactly look it. And, with a jolt, Steve realized that he could look at her without feeling guilty for looking at her. The skin tight, curves hugging, outfit had been replaced by gray sweat pants and a hoodie. Her fiery red hair had mostly been pulled back into a tiny little ponytail.
"You sure you're ok?" Steve asked.
She shrugged. "I busted some fingers and got a few bruises. It's nothing." She waved her bandaged hand at him to prove it.
"Well…take it easy, ok?"
Natasha smirked. "Will do. I'm gonna go check on Barton."
She left Cap's room with more strength in her walk than she actually felt. But as soon as she turned down the corridor, Natasha slowed down and let herself limp again. Fortune smiled upon her when she found out that Clint was just down the hall. Truth be told, the only reason she had visited Tony and Steve and Thor was because she didn't want to walk the whole way over to Clint in one go. The little stops along the way kept her from passing out.
Natasha pushed open the door to Clint's room and found him lying flat on his back. "Clint?"
He looked over at her and a wide silly grin split his face. "Tasha!" he exclaimed.
Ah, yes, those would be the pain meds and muscle relaxers kicking in.
She came in and sat by his bed. "How're you feeling?"
"Like hell but thank Thor for victory morphine, right?"
She snorted a laugh. "So what'd you do to your back?"
"Grade 3 muscle strain," he said with a grin. "Which means I tore some muscle back there. You can feel it. It's gross."
"How do they fix that?" she asked, suddenly worried. Torn muscles? That was not ok.
"Surgery. Doc says I'll be fine." He reached suddenly and grabbed her damaged hand. "You ok, Tasha?"
"Eh, just some broken fingers. I'm ok." She casually peeled his hand off her broken one (careful not to let the wince show on her face).
"Good. That's good. I'd be pissed at some aliens if it was more than broken fingers," he said vehemently.
She grinned. "This is just like Singapore."
Clint frowned dramatically. "I…don't remember Singapore."
"I know. That's because I drugged you." She winked at him.
"Hey…you're still holding my hand," Clint pointed out. Natasha looked down and, sure enough, she was still holding his hand.
"Oh." She let go.
He narrowed his eyes at her. And then he reached out and snatched her good hand back. "It's not like I'll remember in the morning," he said.
She was about to protest and then thought better of it. "If only you hadn't thrown your back out like an old man. Then I could really reenact Singapore."
He looked at her for a long moment. "What exactly happened in Singapore?"
She winked again with a coy grin but didn't answer.
His eyebrow hitched up.
"Agent Barton? I'm going to take you into surgery now," said a nurse who hovered in the doorway. Natasha pulled her hand back.
Clint's face got serious as he looked at her. "You gonna be here when I get back?"
She nodded. "I'll be here."
Clint visibly relaxed. "Good."
She watched as they wheeled him away.
And then she lay down in the bed that had been next to his. She'd be here. Waiting. And possibly sleeping. Natasha yawned, feeling the dull ache of exhaustion roll throughout her body.
Definitely. She would definitely be sleeping.