A/N: Wow! Thank you for all the watches and the favourites, I'm so glad you enjoyed the first chapter! A special thank-you to everyone who reviewed - tmmdeathwishraven, lovelessblackinu, Suga Bee, the anonymous Margret, Radwoman, 13tash07, Vixilles, and AlmostHeaven! Reviews always make me excited and get me writing. There's nothing I love more than knowing that I brightened someone's day with something I wrote.
The action continues! This will be a bit of an intense story, but I promise to ease off every now and again and fill the gaps between the copious angst and whump (because it won't just be Tony, hurr hurr) with something lighter and bits of humour. Also, I apologize if I don't write Steve Rogers or Thor well, I'm trying, I swear!
Disc: If I owned anything to do with the Avengers, Bruce and Tony would have kissed instead of just eye-fucking each other :3
There was nothing gradual and comforting as Tony came out of the dark. First there was rain, then the darkness, and then this. He wondered if death should hurt as much as it did, and thought about how unfair it was. Hadn't he suffered enough yet?
"...Extensive fractures to his right humerus, and both his femurs and tibias. Dislocated left shoulder and right elbow, shattered left clavicle..."
Tony could hear a voice cutting through a myriad of beeping, alarms, and a rush of panicked voices. He needed that voice, had to find it. Lethargy pressed down on him, spread over him like a heavy blanket. He forced his eyes open but couldn't stop them from rolling back into his head. Bright white light glared down at him, shapes were moving around the bed. He tried to curl his fingers, to get up, to find the voice, to beg them to just fucking kill him. His shoulder was pulsing where each tooth had sunk deep, his bones felt like shards of glass digging into his flesh, like an iron maiden digging slowly into his muscles.
He tried to speak, but he couldn't make sense of anything, make words come out right. He could taste blood and dirt in his mouth turning to mud in his saliva. He gagged, wanted to throw up. He winced away from hands that were assaulting him, their pressure forcing the shards deeper and deeper into him. They were torturing him!
"...T-12 disc in the Thoracic nerves and down to L5 of the Lumbar nerves has been... Jesus, it's been completely crushed."
"He's coming to, Dr. Banner."
Banner swore. "Alright, I want 600 mg of lidocaine with epinephrine stat. Jarvis, I want you to pull up a full body scan and put it to that screen there. There's been damage to his arc reactor. If we want him to live through surgery we're going to have to fix that before we can work on everything else. I'm going to need my tool kit."
Tony felt another wave of lethargy rolling over him but not all the pain subsided. It was like there was something else in his mind, something primal and angry. It was thrashing at its cage, snarling, trying to break free.
A wash of feverish heat moved down his back, pooling at the small of his back, growing hot like acid. Tony wanted to scream but the anaesthetic was making it as if his mouth was full of cloth. Something was on his chest, tugging at him. His heart started to thrum against his ribcage in erratic bursts. There was a spark and his entire abdomen jerked upwards as he gasped, the air sucked through his lungs like he was breathing in water.
The wave of heat and pain was concentrating in his back, his arms, his ribcage. Splinters of white hot metal were piercing him all over. He stared to thrash, trying to yell at Bruce, telling the doctor to kill him. The pain was beyond what the wolf had visited on him.
"Tony, I can't understand what you're trying to say, just please, I'm trying to-"
He tried to keep yelling through the fog, twisting his arms, trying to pound them against the bed but nothing was working properly.
How was the pain getting more severe? Tony thought he'd heard them say they were giving him drugs, but the howling in his mind was getting even louder, just when he thought he couldn't take it anymore everything got worse.
He found his voice, but it was weak. His throat felt like it was full of fish hooks, each word like a scratching fingernail. "Bruce, there's something in my head!"
"There's nothing in your head Tony, just try and be calm. The anaesthetic isn't working, we're going to have to sedate him. Give him 6mg of Lorazepam."
"There's something inside me! I'm not alone in here, there's something in my head!"
"Tony, you've got to calm down. Try to focus, okay? We're going to put you out so you won't feel anything anymore. There's nothing inside of you - damnit, his heart rate is out of control! He's going to go into cardiac arrest!"
"My back!" his body was twisting up, forcing against the hands that were holding him down. White hot wires were wrapped around his spine, constricting tighter and tighter. "It hurts, it hurts, please, kill me!"
There was a snap and Tony tried to cry out but no sound could come, like the wind had been pushed out of him. He'd thought there been an edge to his body but it doubled. He could feel his legs writhing on the gurney, his skin was hypersensitive to the cloth, to everyone's hands. He could see now through some kind of fog as Bruce bellowed orders at everyone in the room. The beast inside of his head, inside of everything, was howling, its claws were slicing and searing through his flesh and...
"His legs are moving, Dr. Banner!"
Bruce's voice was low, terrified, filled with disbelief. "That's impossible. Fuck, that's impossible. His spine was shattered."
Tony felt a ripping sensation spread through his muscles. His mind, which had barely been able to cope with the pain, was rocketing forward. Rage followed the scream of the demon in his head. He had to get out, had to save himself. He could. He would. Strength surged as the painkillers must have finally kicked in. He was getting out of that damn bed, and someone was going to pay.
"Jarvis I need a blood tox done now. That thing did something to him."
Tony could hear something snarling in the room, like the wolf was there and it was going to kill someone. He didn't give a rats ass about most of these people, but he cared about Bruce, he had to save him from the creature.
His fists clenched, his muscles strained. He felt his joints crunching and popping, his ribcage snapping. His senses went into hyper drive - scents and sounds magnified, his vision got clearer as objects and colours grew more pronounced. He could hear the pounding heartbeats of everyone else in the room, could smell their fear.
He flinched at the feeling of weight on top of him. Bruce's face was over his, horrified, eyes burning green, hands hard on his shoulders. He was yelling, he could hear his name occasionally but nothing made sense.
"Bruce," he gasped as his chest jerked, jostling the gurney. "Bruce, what's happening to me?"
Bruce pulled something from his pocket, his face pale as he yanked the cap from a cylinder. Something pressed against his neck, there was a sting, and Tony jerked once before he slumped back, the rage withdrew, and his muscles relaxed. He sank into the blessed darkness.
When Bruce let himself into the debriefing room his entire body was shaking with fatigue. He was surprised to see Rogers, Thor and Agent Barton were there, and wondered when they'd gotten in. The entire team was seated around the round table, each of their expressions reflected the same worry. In a kneejerk reaction he wondered dully if they were afraid the Other Guy was going to come out, but berated himself - of course they were worried about Tony, not him. And he'd never been so in control of that aspect of himself as he was at that moment.
"You do not look well Bruce Banner," Thor's voice rumbled from across the table.
Bruce didn't even have the energy to roll his eyes. He fell into a leather chair, tossing his tablet aside with a clatter. He didn't think he could stay awake now that the adrenaline of the surgery room had worn off, and doubted that Fury would look kindly on him if he just fell asleep at the table.
"How... how is he?" Bruce glanced up in surprise at the concern in Steve Roger's voice.
"Stable... sleeping." He rubbed his face, wishing he could sleep too.
"Dr. Banner, Agent Romanoff, if you would please debrief us on your last mission," Nick Fury's voice held none of the usual impatience. It was almost gentle.
Bruce didn't make any motion to look up or speak, and heard Natasha clear her throat. Bruce listened, detached, as she described how the mission had gone, to the point where Tony had begun to scream over the intercom, and she'd tried to fly to the location before too much damage had been done. It was around that time that Bruce had lost it.
The idea that Tony was in danger had enraged both him and the Other Guy. He could remember Romanoff's horrified look as she caught sight of his eyes, and the sound of the cargo hatch opening. The last thing he could remember was the roar of the Hulk in his mind as he tore out of his safety belts and ran towards the open hatch. The stormy night had opened up to him as he'd leapt out into mid air without any notice of where he was pointed... After that it was all disjointed images and feelings, none of them good.
"After I landed I found Dr. Banner transforming back into his natural form. He was trying to apply on-scene first aide. The... creature... was neutralized. We placed Stark in the carrier and left for the home base immediately, and I radioed for a site cleanup."
"Do you have any idea what the creature was?"
"Undoubtedly alien," there was a click, the room dimmed, and the holoprojector booted up. Several shots obtained from Jarvis appeared on the screen, blurry photos taken during Tony's assault. "From what I could tell, it was wolf-like, covered in fur, and big." There was another click. "Stark scanned the area and found several shards of metal. The debris appeared to be like tempered steel. When they are recovered we might be able to determine what they used to be. He also found evidence of a Einstein-Rosen Bridge. These images," she changed the picture again, "extrapolated by Jarvis, formed a vaguely Nordic pattern. We were hoping Thor could shed some more insight on what the creature could be."
Bruce lifted his head from his arms to look at Thor. The images from the surgery played in his mind, completely impossible. Tony's eyes...
"It does look like the pattern of the bifrost," said Thor, frowning at the slowly revolving picture before them. The image of the pattern was fractured, but resembled the intricate knot which Jane Foster featured in her research as the imprint from the 'bifrost' wormhole. "From Natasha Romanoff's description of the creature, the only conclusion I can draw is that the creature you encountered was an ulfhedinn.
"Many years ago, when Asgard was at war with the frost giants, my father Odin had a pact with the creatures. We did not know what realm they originally came from, but something - a malfunction perhaps, with the bifrost - brought them to us. They were a group of men and women, savage and rowdy, living for the fight. They asked if they could be any service to us in our war, and despite their unpredictable natures my Father agreed to let them join us. We thought we could tame them, but when they entered battle or were faced with high emotions they would change into creatures of great power and they attacked friend and foe alike. When we could see that there was no controlling them my father banished them from Asgard into the far reaches of the universe. It is possible that one landed here, on Midgard."
"How long ago was this?" asked Rogers, frowning.
"Just over one millennia, by our reckoning, Captain Rogers."
"So how is it only now getting here?"
"The bifrost is not impeded by time. The ulfhedinn were scattered so they would not band together, and would perish in the universe alone."
Bruce swallowed. For once the physics involved with the bifrost didn't fill him with any wonder or curiosity. Tony's eyes burned in the back of his mind. "Tell me, were the creatures contagious?"
"I do not understand your meaning, Bruce Banner."
"If one of your own was bitten, did they get infected? Did they change like the ulfhedinn?"
Thor looked uncomfortable. "None of Asgard could be affected by their madness, but sometimes, if one strayed from the battle and found a human village..."
Bruce felt his mouth go dry. His watch, a gift from his old girlfriend, began to beep as his heart rate started to climb. The ulfhedinn were sounding too familiar for comfort. "What would happen?"
"They were animals, Bruce Banner. Wild things that weapons could not stop unless they were injured beyond their own ability to heal. And any humans left alive would join them as animals as well."
And so the myths and legends began, thought Bruce with a tightening in his chest. The silence around the briefing room was thick. Bruce didn't doubt they were all thinking the same thing, and the very idea that Tony could be a... He shook his head, refusing to think the word, like it might come true if he acknowledged it.
The quiet was broken by a series of beeps next to his hand. He looked down at the flashing display on his tablet. It was a message from Jarvis. Tony's tox screen had come back.
"Play," he said.
"Sir, I have finished analyzing the blood sample from Mr. Stark."
The display changed, providing a picture of Tony's blood cells and toxicity levels. "His blood toxicity levels have revealed high levels of gamma radiation, and the presence of a contaminant."
At the word 'gamma radiation' his watch beeped faster. "What are the radiation levels?"
"Approximately 5 siverts of radiation is being maintained within his body by the contaminant."
"But that would be fatal!"
"It appears that the contaminant has genetically modified Mr. Stark's cellular structure to withstand high levels and prevent cellular breakdown."
"Show me the contaminant."
A picture of the contaminant cell appeared, rotating on the small screen. It wasn't the colour of his green, mutated cells, but there were several similarities he'd have to compare and break down. Whatever it was, it was alien. Possibly even engineered.
"Is it a virus?"
"Comparable sir, but it is not destroying the parent cells. It is merely reproducing, altering the genetic coding within the parent cell, and moving on."
"Fuck, fuck!" he slammed his hand on the table. The glass cracked beneath his fist. He could hear pistols cocking - knew without looking up it would be Agent Hill, Fury, Barton and Romanoff, knew it was a useless gesture. He wasn't going to lose it. The Hulk had transformed back once he recognized that the 'Little Tin Man' needed Bruce's skills as a doctor, and had agreed to stay away until he was well again. He looked up to see the barrel of Agent Hill's gun trained on his face. "No need to point those at me. I'm fine, and they wouldn't do you any good. You know that."
He didn't blame them for their reactions. For them drawing a gun was as natural as closing your eyes in response to something dangerous or unexpected. He was a little disappointed that after all this time, though, they still thought that having a gun might somehow stop him if he really was going to lose it.
"Please, I'll be fine. Tony needs me, more than ever now." He looked up, saw the confusion in everyone's eyes. Or perhaps it was denial and fear. He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes. "The virus, whatever it is, is mutating him, like what the gamma radiation did to me during my experiments. Tony's mutating into... well, I think he's becoming a... a - Jesus, I can't say it. Only, unlike me, he's going to be contagious."
Steve Roger's normally confident voice had a quaver to it. "What do you think he's becoming?"
Bruce supposed the supernatural and occult wasn't as popular in his day. "When Tony was in the medical bay, he started to change. His eyes, his body... basically, I think Tony Stark is becoming, well... a werewolf."
R&R please! Until next time!