Disclaimer: The Avengers characters are not mine, just borrowed for this story.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

It was the first mission in two months since the Avengers found themselves back in the council's good graces. The team seemed to be doing better and things had gone back to business as usual, whatever that was to begin with. The battle was quick, a further demonstration of how the Avengers had managed to start to come together. It was probably their best showing since Manhattan a year ago.

The Hulk gave a triumphant roar as he proceeded to step on the rusting cars in the service yard. Captain America was going over clean-up details with the recently arrived SHIELD team. Thor and Black Widow were sitting on the back of a flatbed truck taking a breather and watching Iron Man zip around checking for any stray drones in the area. The currently defeated terrorist had created an army of drones reminiscent of Hammer's Iron Man knock-offs and, while they weren't very effective, what they lacked in formability they made up for in annoying abundance. They were easily destroyed, but the sheer numbers had exhausted the team.

"I think the Hulk likes it when we fight in the abandoned warehouse district. Lots of things to smash without us having to scold him for it," quipped Stark as he hovered above Barton. Clint finished unscrewing some of the heads from his spent arrows and placed the shafts back in his quiver. He looked up as Tony pulled out the new tranq gun he'd built for the Hulk. The team's standard for delivering the serum Bruce had come up with to knock his alter ego out was usually delivered via arrow but Tony decided they should have a back up just in case Hawkeye wasn't available to take down the green giant.

The Hulk was doing pretty well with the whole team thing but there were times that he wasn't so willing to let Banner regain control. Sometimes the appeal of an un-smashed building was just too tempting. The doctor had been somewhat reluctant to give Tony's latest invention a trial run, making this the first chance to test the device.

Stark loaded the electronic dart and pulled the trigger. Its homing abilities clearly needing some work as the dart barely brushed the side of the Hulk's leg and failed to administer the shot. Clint let out a chuckle at Tony's poor shot.

"You think you can do better, Barton?" asked Stark as he dropped the gun down to the archer. Clint dutifully reached out and caught the falling object. Just as his hand closed round the gun the dart in the Hulk's leg malfunctioned sending an electric jolt through the Hulk. The beast howled in pain and then turned his snarling face towards Hawkeye and Iron Man; his green eyes focused on the device now resting in Clint's grasp.

"Oh shit," mumbled Clint as the Hulk started charging towards him with a singular goal plastered on his angry face. Barton booked it towards the nearest empty warehouse with the beast hot on his trail.

He offered Stark the one finger salute before disappearing inside the enormous building as the billionaire called out, "Run Legolas, run!"

Thor and Romanoff jumped to their feet as they saw Barton take off with the Hulk in hot pursuit and Tony chuckling to himself as he watched the chase from above. They knew Clint would be alright; he'd put enough distance between himself and the Hulk in the warehouse, fire a tranq arrow then squirrel away somewhere safe until the drug knocked the giant into a deep slumber. It didn't hurt to be prepared just in case the archer did need a hand.

He would never admit it, but Thor enjoyed getting to tangle with the Hulk. The beast offered a challenge, a chance to use the strength that he could not against the rest of the team when they sparred. It reminded him of the battles of his youth. Knowing how Bruce felt about the Hulk, Thor decided not to broach the subject of sparring matches with the beast during training exercises at Stark Tower. Tightening his grip around his hammer, he began to follow after Barton and the Hulk just in case the enraged beast proved to be too much for the archer this time.

Clint ran around a few pillars turning the dial on his bow. The tranq arrowhead was locked and he was just about to pull the arrow from his quiver when he his eyes fell on something very disturbing. The Hulk, who was hot on Barton's heals, took the archer's brief pause to close the gap between them and swiped a large hand at his target.

Barton managed another, "Oh shit." He didn't even realize how close the Hulk was until a giant green hand had him flying towards the wall. Clint smacked hard against the brick wall and crumpled to the ground. He didn't even have time to assess his injuries when the bomb that had been secured to the support beam flashed zero. The force of the explosion brought down the building, burying Barton, the Hulk, and Thor in the rubble.