Live to Rise
Together, both Steve and Natasha slowly made their way back to the Quinjet with Clint's unconscious form draped around them. The fact that the movement over the rough terrain they walked across in order to make it back to the jet didn't wake him was a testament as to how bad off the archer really was. When they finally made it back, they carefully laid Clint down on floor of the plane and Natasha gently brushed her hand across his face, showing her deep concern for him, then made her way up to the cockpit where she sat down in the seat beside the agent Fury had selected to fly them to wherever they needed to go.
Steve remained in the back with his friend as he began to treat him the best that he could using the medical kit that was aboard the jet. The captain had little medical training back from his days in the war, but it wasn't nearly enough for whatever was going on with Agent Barton. He needed a doctor or better yet, he needed Bruce as they weren't sure who it was they could trust within S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore.
Nothing but silence filled the plane as they travelled toward home, until it was broken by Natasha, who made her way over to kneel down by her partner and Steve, but kept her eyes trained on Clint as she spoke up saying, "How are you doing, Cap?"
Steve looked over at her and saw the sadness in her face as he asked in return, "Don't you mean, how's he?"
"No, I know how my partner's doing," Natasha answered coldly. "I wanted to make sure you were doing all right. You may not know him that well, but I can see from your face that you're concerned for him and that you want him back as much as the rest of us do. So, how are you?"
"I'm not Dr. Banner," Steve replied. "There's not much I can do for him. You're right though, I do want him to be a part of our team as much as you. As far as I'm concerned, the six of us are the only people we can trust fully, including Fury. I know he has stood by us, even before any of the rest of us did, but who's to say that if a bigger threat than Loki comes out, that he won't lose faith in us and make the same mistake as the council did? What if he chooses to use those weapons S.H.I.E.L.D. was making before we arrived? He still has many secrets that I'm not exactly comfortable with."
Natasha responded, "I know what you mean, but I do trust him. He could have had me killed despite Clint's fight to keep me alive, but Fury didn't. He protected me against the council's objections and he is one of the reasons why I became an agent instead of continuing to work for the KGB. Speaking of which, we need to let him and the others know that we found Barton."
After a few seconds, Bruce came on saying, "Agent Romanoff, Steve, it's good to hear from you. We were actually just about to call you. It looks like this time you beat us to it. How are things going on your end?"
"Not so good, Doctor," she answered sadly. "We managed to find, Clint, but… well, he's sick. We don't really know why except for that he was definitely tortured by the men that captured him, but there's more than that."
"What do you mean, there's more?" Bruce asked. "Is he doing all right?"
Steve continued, "It's obvious that he's been pushing himself far beyond his limits to do whatever it is he's been doing. He's exhausted and ill. However, he's also not himself."
Natasha added, "He's acting cold and distant, but it isn't because he was upset we came after him, it's because… we had to knock him out in order to bring him back to the Quinjet with us. We'll explain the rest when we get back. Look, you need to…"
Natasha was cut off as the Quinjet suddenly shifted down hard causing both she and Steve to collapse and slide across its floor until they hit the back of the seats in the cockpit. They quickly looked up toward the pilot, who they could see was working on sabotaging the plane's controls and cutting the now exposed wires. The Quinjet was now beginning to lose altitude and it wouldn't be long before they crashed into the ocean far below them.
While Natasha moved in to try to level the plane off, Steve pulled the pilot away from the controls and began to fight with him as the captain shouted, "What on earth are you doing? Why?"
"Your so called friend over there killed my sister when he attacked the helicarrier!" the agent shouted back. "He deserves to die for all of the pain and destruction he caused. He's nothing but a murderer and you two are fighting to keep him alive so that he can continue on pretending to be a hero? It's a joke!"
"I can't keep this thing level much longer, Captain!" Natasha suddenly called out as she continued to try to keep the Quinjet up in the air. "We're going to crash unless…"
"Unless what?" Steve asked quickly as he punched the pilot hard in the face in order to knock him unconscious and then moved over to hold onto Clint as the plane shifted down once again. "Can't you fly this thing?"
Natasha replied, "I'm only a co-pilot, but the sabotage is too extensive. The only person that can fly this enough to save us is Clint. You have to wake him up!"
Steve looked down at his friend's pale and feverish face as he yelled back, "How am I supposed to do that? He's out cold."
"In the medical kit, there's a shot of adrenaline," Natasha responded fearfully. "You've got to stab him with it, right into his chest. I don't like it any more than you do, but we're all going to die if you don't. Now do it!"
Steve grabbed the syringe from the medical kit and then suddenly thrust the needle into his chest just as Natasha had said for him to do. Almost suddenly, Clint gasped as he awoke, feeling all of his pain as it came rushing back throughout his body, and looked up at the captain in confusion until Steve put his hand down over his chest comfortingly as he said, "I'm sorry, but the jet is about to crash. Our pilot sabotaged the controls, so we need you to do whatever you can do to get it flying again. You can do it."
Clint shook his head and squeezed his eyes closed in order to focus on what his friend had just said and then with Steve's help, he struggled to make his way over to where Natasha was sitting moments before. She moved to sit in the co-pilot seat, fully prepared to help him steer if he needed her to. Clint ignored the annoying sound of the alarms going off all around him as he focused on pulling back on the throttle until the plane straightened out a little more, but it wasn't enough as the left engine suddenly blew.
"Captain, I need… need you to pull back on the throttle… as hard as you can and try… to keep her steady," Clint fought to get out as a wave of dizziness swept through him. "I need to try to re-wire…"
"Are you all right?" Natasha quickly asked as she reached over with one hand to touch the side of his face.
Clint swallowed as he nodded and then began to work on the exposed wires and gears while he answered, "I'm fine. You need to do the same… with your control."
Natasha smiled as she and Steve did as he asked, although Steve had a little more difficulty since he had to reach his arms from around the back of the seat, while she spoke up again saying, "You really need to teach me how to fly before we go on our next mission together."
"If we live… live through this, I… I'm sorry, Nat," he replied as he continued until he suddenly reached up and pulled back hard on the throttle, while shouting out for Steve and Natasha to help him as he was quickly losing strength. "Pull back! Pull back!"
As they did so, the nose of the quinjet finally leveled out fully just as it suddenly crashed hard into the ocean, the force knocking everyone around as they all fell unconscious. It wasn't long before the icy water began to fill the plane's cabin, as the jet began to sink, but as the water first hit Steve, he awoke and quickly moved back toward the cockpit in order to help out his friends, despite feeling groggy and a sharp pain in his shoulder. He made it to Clint first, who had fallen out of his seat and to the floor, as he wasn't strapped in while trying to fix the controls. There was a large gash across his forehead as he had obviously smacked it hard against something in front of him on impact. Natasha was also still out, but she appeared to be fine as her seat buckle protected her against the force of the impact.
Steve looked around for a way out of the jet, but as the water continued breaking its way in, his options were becoming pretty bleak until he suddenly reached out for his shield, which he thankfully decided to bring with them, and threw it with as much force as he could muster toward the windshield, causing the glass to shatter enough for him to break it wide open. Natasha had awoken by then and together, the two of them managed to swim through, holding Clint once again in between them, until they finally broke free to the surface.
When they managed to regain control of their breathing, as the distance from where they swam from was deep below the water's surface, they swam over to a large part of the hull of the Quinjet that had broken off on impact and carefully lay Clint down on top, hoping that it was strong enough to keep him as much out of the water as possible, while both Steve and Natasha remained half way in the water as they held onto the sides of the wreckage.
Natasha reached up to touch Clint's neck in order to feel for a pulse, as it was impossible to tell if he was still alive since he was already so pale. His pulse was weak, but it was there. The archer remained unconscious and barely breathing, while Natasha lowered her hand down to grab a hold of his, which she continued to hold as they remained afloat.
After remaining silent for what felt like hours as the coldness of the water was draining what little strength they all had left, Natasha kept her eyes on Clint as she softly spoke up, "Thank you, St…Steve. You saved… saved us."
Steve only smiled until he looked away from his friends as he suddenly thought he heard the sounds of another plane flying above them from nearby. However, his consciousness was beginning to dim before he was able to locate where the sound was coming from and the last things he could make out before the cold finally claimed him completely was what he believed was Iron Man as he could hear him shouting out their names, followed by the sounds of lightning crackling through the sky.