Note: Since I'm English, there may be some variations in spelling.

Authors Note: I don't even remember writing this- I was sorting all the files on my laptop and found it lurking somewhere. Decided I may as well upload it. Not sure if I will continue with this, but if you enjoy and would like me to do more, I will do my best to finish it.

Sometimes, Bruce Banner regretted his decision to steer clear of alcohol.

For the past week it was fair to say that he'd had a lot on his mind, or at least more so than usual. Hoping to submerge himself in research, it had come as no surprise when he'd found himself unable to concentrate, the letters and number becoming a hazy and blurred mess before his very eyes.

Fidgety and irritable, Banner just didn't know what to do with himself.

After failing to avert his attention in the lab, Banner had returned to the privacy of his own apartment within the tower, currently perched in a comfortable black armchair, one of the many luxurious furnishings that graced the vast expanse of his modern accommodation.

Sinking into the cool leather, Bruce surveyed the room languidly with a pair of tired eyes, gazing at the designer furniture and several large paintings which lined the vast walls, all of which were valued pieces of Peppers extensive modern art collection. The physicist had little interest in art and proceeded to gaze at the unique shapes and colours adorning the varnished canvases; narrowing his eyes, he tilted his head slightly as if somehow it would help him identify what the indistinguishable pictures were, simply no idea what any of it was supposed to be.

Upon arriving at Stark Tower for the first time, Bruce had little problem admitting that he'd been rather intimidated by the sheer scale and splendour of Starks home- or rather, one of his homes. It was similar to the nervous pang of uncertainty wreathing in the pit of his stomach when he'd stepped onto the enormous Helicarrier for the first time. After a lengthy stay in India living with mere basic necessities, Bruce had been slightly unprepared for his return to western civilisation, unable to adjust smoothly during the transition from the bustling slums of India to a more prosperous lifestyle in the trendy streets of New York.

It had felt truly alien to him in so many ways, and spending time abroad had taught Banner many things; submerged in the chaos of the crowded streets, treating the sick in the overpopulated slums, Bruce had learned to be grateful for the simpler things in life, no matter how bleak things appeared at times.

Over the past months the scientist had discovered that sometimes, Tony's generosity had no bounds.

During his first evening at the tower Bruce would have been grateful for the basics- food, water, clean clothes, and a bed to sleep in for the night. Of course in true billionaire fashion, Stark had managed to provide him with all of this, as well as so much more. The contents of a single room probably cost more than he'd ever earned in his entire life, and he was still struggling to come to terms with the surreal fact that he had managed to somehow befriend the infamous Tony Stark.

Never in a million years did Banner ever imagine that he would meet the controversial figure in person, let alone be invited to stay at his tower. Sometimes he still resisted the urge to pinch himself to feel assured that this was reality and that he wasn't still dreaming in the noisy depths of Calcutta. For so long Bruce had lived each day preparing to be found, anxious and unable to treat anyone with anything other than suspicion. Now, he wasn't on the run anymore, and everybody was fully aware of the Hulk's existence and his association with the Avengers, yet somehow despite this major development in his life, he was still unable to fully extinguish the constant worry that plagued him like a terminal disease.

He was just waiting for the day that Hulk did something truly terrible, something that he couldn't ever forgive.

Despite Hulk's unexpected alliance with his teammates, Bruce could understand their fear and hesitation. He knew what the Other Guy was capable of, and understood fully that no good deed could erase the fear that had been created by his green counterpart's destructive and angry tendencies. Apparently being the host of an 'angry green rage monster' gave you quite the reputation.

Regardless of his sincere understanding of their concerns, it still struck a nerve with the physicist each time he caused someone to flinch nervously with fear, or when his mere presence managed to create an atmosphere so tense and on edge that he could almost see all of the colour drain from the room.

Since the gym incident he'd managed to avoid total interaction with the rest of the team, entirely 'unintentionally' of course.

In the heat of the moment, the possibility of leaving had certainly crossed his mind. The option had been tempting until Bruce had come to terms with the important fact that he had absolutely nowhere to go. He could easily disappear overnight, pack a bag and see where he ended up, but was there really any point? Someone would manage to find him again, but what if it wasn't an organisation like S.H.I.E.L.D. this time? There wasn't a place in the world where they couldn't find him.

After the attack on New York, Bruce had done a lot of contemplating.

A void had emerged in his life and he was unsure how to fill it. He needed something- a purpose, not as the Hulk, not as a superhero, but as a Bruce Banner, a person.

All of his life, the physicist had been longing to achieve something, yet so far all he'd managed to do was cause complete chaos.

Raking a hand through his dishevelled hair, the man released a sigh- suddenly, a package resting on the glass coffee table caught his attention. Reaching for the mysterious item, he wondered how on earth he could have missed the 'expressively' wrapped package and its mint green wrapping paper. Whatever it was, it was wrapped in a messy cocoon of thick wrap and what seemed like an entire roll of tape.

Beside the apparent gift was a small white card, and even without the aid of his reading glasses Bruce was able to recognise the familiar scrawl almost instantly, which read barely legibly, 'Try not to burn these ones'.

After a short struggle trying to open the darn thing, Banner couldn't suppress a small smile as he was rewarded for his struggles with a brand new pair of chinos, identical to the ones that he'd managed to catch on the Bunsen burner more than a week ago.


"How can I be of assistance?"

"Could you thank Tony for me? This was awfully kind of him, since he's given me enough stuff already-"

"Apologies for the interruption Doctor Banner. It appears Captain Rogers has just raised an Avengers Assemble alert."

"What colour is it?!"

"Amber if I am not mistaken. You have an incoming message from Captain Rogers on your cell phone device."

Fumbling quickly for the buzzing cell phone in his pocket, Jarvis's words were confirmed by a brief message from Steve, which read, 'Conference room ASAP- no suiting up until briefing is over.'

"Thanks Jarvis. Roger that- no pun intended..."

Shortly after the announcement was made, the Avengers began to assemble in the bland conference room, perched around the large table looking irritable yet inquisitive, gazing at their team leader for Intel and orders. Bruce had arrived in a timely fashion as always, entering quietly and making a beeline for his seat, trying to ignore the fact that this was the first time that he'd cast a glance at his team mates since the incident.

Romanoff was the fourth to arrive, her vivid red hair thoroughly wet and clinging to her damp skin as if she'd literally just emerged from the shower, a noticeable flush of minor embarrassment tinting her cheeks. With a professional air as always, she took her seat without uttering a word and a determined expression swiftly erased the blush from her face.

Stark was the final avenger to arrive, hurriedly stumbling out of his private elevator and emerging through the conference room door, looking clearly as if he'd just emerged from the workshop. The brunette was dressed in a pair of tattered looking jeans and a thin black vest which was unable to conceal the sharp glow of the arc reactor, his arms smeared with what appeared to be black oil, a small smudge decorating his left cheek.

"Is the world ending?" He asked, clearly displeased by the unexpected interruption. "It better be, because I was kind of in the middle of something."

"It looks fine to me," Barton observed, taking a fleeting glance out of the nearby window. "No smoke, fire, aliens, or gunfire- what's the deal Cap?"

"The worlds not ending," Rogers confirmed, his brow furrowing in a serious a manner, "but we do have issues to deal with before they become a serious threat."

"Where's Point-break?" Tony enquired, raking a hand through his unruly brown hair and grimacing as he discovered that his cherished locks were in fact filthy with more engine oil.

"Asgard," Banner interjected helpfully, "something to do with Asgardian foreign affairs- Odin's orders."

"It sounded complicated, so we didn't ask," Clint uttered, "but he didn't look happy about it."

"You missed a few things while you were hiding away in your lair," Romanoff informed the philanthropist in a criticising tone.

"Yeah? Well I wasn't the only one hiding away this week-"

"As interesting as this conversation is, could we please focus?"

After a little help from Jarvis, Steve began to analyse the brief from S.H.I.E.L.D., which was now projected onto the broad white washed wall by a fancy projector installed in the high ceiling, the finest holographic technology that Stark Industries could provide.

"This," Rogers said, gesturing to a projected photograph, "is Doctor Louis Fensome, former biologist of S.H.I.E.L.D. His contract was terminated eleven years ago after it was discovered that he was selling classified information to some shady organisations, and according to headquarters, he's been on their radar ever since. After the attack on New York, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been trying to locate all of the Chitauri weapons that couldn't be retrieved after the attack; many have gone missing and undoubtedly fallen into the wrong hands. According to Fury, this guy is in possession of some dangerous alien technology."

"I thought that the agents usually handled this," the archer stated with a frown. "Why do they need us for a retrieval mission?"

"If its retrieving we're doing, I better sit this one out," Banner declared, removing the reading glasses from the pocket of his shirt and perching them on the bridge of his nose, enabling him to observe the projection with ease. "If the big guy makes an appearance, he'd probably break everything."

"There's more to this than meets the eye," Natasha said knowingly, gazing firmly into Rogers piercing blue eyes, "isn't there Cap?"

For a moment, Rogers paused, before addressing the team in a serious tone, arms folded across his broad chest and making it clear to everyone that he meant business. The blonde only wished that the mission was as simple as retrieving some illegal weapons.

"Fensome is in possession of a Chitauri foot soldier- rumour is that it's still alive. Currently, S.H.I.E.L.D. believes that it's the only survivor, however we are unable to confirm or deny this with the limited information we have."

"You're fucking kidding me," Stark uttered in mild astonishment, unable to believe what he was hearing. "There's no way that it could survive- I watched the nuke destroy the mother ship with my own eyes!"

"Nobody knows anything about the Chitauri," Romanoff stated, "even S.H.I.E.L.D. There's only so much information we can get from a bunch of space weapons and a few alien corpses."

"How do we know what happened to the ship after Natasha closed the portal?" Clint asked, resisting the urge to squirm uncomfortably at the thought of another potential alien crisis on earth. He sincerely hoped that S.H.I.E.L.D. was wrong; he wasn't sure that he could deal with more aftermath caused by Loki's invasion- it brought back some unpleasant memories, answering to each and every one of the God's commands.

"Are you calling me a liar?" Stark retorted angrily, unable to restrain his rising temper. After risking his life hauling a nuke through the portal, watching the ship perish with his own eyes, the philanthropist wasn't going to let anyone even suggest that he was wrong about the fate of the Chitauri fleet.

"I'm just saying, maybe you-"

"It doesn't matter what happened to the mother ship," Bruce assured. "Even if the ship survived or if there was another fleet, there's no way that they could establish a connection without a portal. No one really knows what happened that day, so we just have to assume that the ship had an important connection to all of the soldiers; when the portal closed the connection was lost and they obviously were unable to survive without it. There were probably autopsies, but we don't know enough about alien biology for the research to be of any use. This is out of our depth, so let's not make any assumptions just yet."

Stark released a huff of irritation, folding his arms across his chest and obscuring the glow of the reactor. The mechanic had been busy at work as usual, preparing for what would hopefully be another successful Stark Expo- according to Pepper and the board of directors, apparently the minor incident involving Vanko and Hammer Industries wasn't something that they had envisioned for the 'grand return' of the highly anticipated event, and they wanted to give the Expo another try, minus the chaos and destruction this time.

The first Expo had taken place in 1954, and Stark Industries invited companies from around the world to demonstrate their most imaginative designs and prototypes, displaying the most modern advancements in technology. Imagine the philanthropist's surprise when the directors announced that they wanted to modify the usual format, wanting to incorporate some of the most popular prototypes from Howard's earliest shows. Begrudgingly, Tony supposed that it wasn't such an awful idea and surrendered to the fact that he was probably vastly outnumbered on this one.

Apparently people would rather gawp at Howards flying car than see the most impressive advancements of the century...

The car itself had been collecting dust for more than a decade, in need of dire repair and a partial engine restoration. Stark had been tinkering busily beneath the motionless vehicle, cursing his father with expressive profanity when Jarvis had promptly informed him of the assemble alert.
Amidst the peak of his sudden excitement and curiosity the brunette had almost forgotten about the heavy car jacked above him, and sat up with a sharp jolt- or at least he'd attempted to, instead managing to smack his head on the hard vehicle, cursing bitterly as he made his way to the private elevator.

"S.H.I.E.L.D. are sending a small team to pay the Doctor a surprise visit, and want at least two of us in on the mission," Rogers's informed them, military training evident in his flawless posture. "There weren't any names specified in the report, so I assume Fury's trusting me to assign them myself."

"Come on Cap," Natasha uttered eagerly, "the suspense is killing me. Who's going?"

"I'm a team leader, not a dictator. I thought that we could make that decision together," Steve replied honestly, presenting the team members with confidential and official looking copies of the mission brief. "We'll assess the situation and come to a mutual conclusion."

"You're not fooling anyone Rogers," the billionaire joked casually, "we all know that you can't read."

"Hilarious," the Steve replied blankly, clearly un-amused.

"Just read the brief Stark."

"Okay! I'm reading..."

S.H.I.E.L.D. - Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division



Doctor Louis Fensome, 'The Chitauri Project'

FILED BY; Agent Hill

SUBJECT HISTORY; Doctor Louis Fensome is an accomplished biologist, formerly employed by S.H.I.E.L.D. Fensome' s field of expertise lies in animal biology and he also possesses substantial knowledge in extra terrestrial anatomy.

During his career he was invited to contribute his knowledge and skills to aid various classified investigations, including the analysation of seized specimens that were produced in an attempt to recreate Abraham Erskine's Super Soldier Serum.

The Doctor was dismissed on April 5th 2001 for breaching the code of conduct, guilty of forwarding classified information to several criminal organisations (DETAILS CLASSIFIED). He faced interrogation for several weeks before he was willing to comply with any information, and was sentenced to a minimum of 3 years imprisonment. After his release, the Doctor's movements have been strictly monitored, despite his incorrect assumption that he managed to slip unnoticed from our radar. Fensome has been assuming a new identity for the past 4 years, adopting the name 'Robert Fowler'.

SUBJECTS CURRENT STATUS; The Doctor lives in a house in rural Tennesse and the building is believed to contain an extensive underground facility, where we believe he is conducting a series of experiments in an attempt to harness Chitauri technology.

PROJECT DETAILS; The project began shortly after the attack on New York, when the Doctor managed to retrieve several weapons with the help of a close associate Edward Stevenson, a specialist in modern weapons technology. There are suspicions that both men are working for a larger organisation, however data retrieved so far has proved inconclusive and we are unable to support this theory.

The facility contains the corpse of a Chitauri foot soldier, rumoured to still be alive- (CURRENT STATUS UNCONFIRMED- PENDING FULL INVESTIGATION).

MISSION OBJECTIVE; Theaim of the mission is to apprehend Fensome, Stevenson, and any other persons that may be present in the facility. Fensome must be retained for interrogation and it is important that he doesn't sustain any life threatening injuries; if you must use force, aim to restrain the Doctor with minimal damage. All threats should be terminated as soon as possible and once the building is fully secure, all contents are to be seized and transported back to headquarters for appropriate analysis and data retrieval. The Chitauri specimen is also to remain intact unless it poses as a serious threat to the lives of the team members or the residents of the local area.

Once the mission objective has been fulfilled, reports are to be submitted in full detail to Agent Fury.

Further briefing will be provided on route to destination by Agent Rumlow.


-Agent May

-Agent Ward

-Agent Rumlow

-Agent Rollins

(Minimum of two members of the Avengers Initiative required)


Infiltrate the facility, terminate all threats, and apprehend all persons that are present on site. Arrangements will be made to collect all seized items from the location.

"Well this seems intriguing," Banner announced after finishing his reading, placing the brief onto the table and removing the glasses from the bridge of his nose, placing them on top of the file in a swift motion. "I'm curious as to why they want the specimen- hopefully it's just for research purposes and not any unsavoury projects..."

"If it's alive we should kill it," Clint declared seriously, eyes narrowed in determination.

"S.H.I.E.L.D. says otherwise," Rogers responded promptly, "and there's no room for compromise."

"I can always make it look like an accident," Barton retorted with a detectable smirk. "Right guys?"

"We have your back Clint," Natasha replied, skimming through the remainder of the report inquisitively. "If anyone asks, we'll say you sneezed and lost control of the arrow."

"Come on- do you really think that they'd buy that Nat?" Barton asked seriously, a hint of pride detectable in his voice. "Best marksman in the world loses control of the arrow? I don't think so."

Natasha glanced questioningly at the archer with an elevated brow, her amusement clearly evident as a genuine smirk tugged at her coral red lips. "Well apparently the 'Best marksman in the world' has a short term memory and doesn't seem to remember a certain mission that happened in Italy last summer."

The archer frowned in response, trying deeply to suppress his embarrassment as he began to recall the particular incident that Romanoff was referring to. He'd hoped that she'd forgotten about that...

"This sounds promising," Stark interjected as he paused his reading, his curiosity roused and clearly intrigued by the prospect of his favourite little archer making a hilarious blunder in combat.

"Sorry Cap, but this sounds amusing," Bruce apologised to an irritated looking Rogers, who had since ceased his pacing and was currently seated at the head of table, arms folded across his chest and a disgruntled expression tarnishing his handsome features.

"We were sent to rescue some hostages," Natasha uttered coolly, remembering the feeling of the warm summers breeze caressing her skin as she'd strolled through the bustling Italian neighbourhood. In a complimenting red summers dress, several pistols sitting snugly in the holsters that were strapped to her thighs, her black heels had clicked against the pavement as she walked confidently towards the target, following the directions from the voice resonating from the ear piece.

"Barton was supposed to be watching from the top floor of the hotel while I caused a distraction."


"Just as Clint was concentrating and taking an aim, the maid knocked on the door and scared the crap out of him. He dropped his bow out the window."

"I can't believe you told them that you traitor," Clint protested, "you swore you would never bring that up again..."

"I'm sorry, am I ruining your reputation?"

"It's ok Barton," Stark replied in amusement, "it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I've done worse things, and there's probably footage of said 'things' lurking all over the internet to prove it. Right Jarvis?"

"Indeed Sir. If I recall correctly there's a rather popular video that was taken at a fundraising event three years ago, which gathered more than three million hits. There were high levels of profanity and nudity involved-"

"I think they get it Jarvis."

"There's no need to be embarrassed," Bruce said sympathetically to Clint. "If it makes you feel any better, I once woke up naked in the middle of a field in Vietnam with a bunch of cows looking on. And if things weren't bad enough already, the farmer caught a pasty white man stealing clothes from his scarecrow."

"Oh my god. I just- I can't even-" Stark was unable to suppress his laughter, a wide grin of amusement perched upon his lips as he wiped the tears from his eyes. "You know, I'm starting to think that you a bit of an exhibitionist Doctor Banner. I bet you've stripped more times than a porn star-"

"Stark," Rogers scolded with a disapproving glare, desperately trying to retain his professional composure.

"Sorry reverend," the philanthropist replied with a smile, raising both hands as a gesture of peace and surrender. "Am I making you feel uncomfortable?"

"Just drop it Stark."

"There's no need to be embarrassed about it," Tony insisted. "There's nothing wrong with a bit of harmless nudity, right guys?"

"You want to play dirty huh?" Clint uttered to Natasha, who was still smirking prominently, a sparkle of glee in her eyes. "Well how about the time in New Zealand when you tried to fly kick that guy in the head and you ended up splitting your pants?"

"It worked didn't it?" The red head replied simply. "What's the matter, jealous of my figure?"

"This is getting good," the mechanic interjected, "can you guys hold on a second while I get some popcorn?"

"Has everyone finished reading the report?" Rogers asked, jaw tense and uttering his words through gritted teeth as he displayed a deadpan expression that could rival even Fury's straining temper. The team nodded in response, averting their attention back to the reports that were perched across the table top, various pages scattered messily across its surface.

"I hate to be obvious, but I think we can all agree that it's better if I stay out of the way on this one," Bruce said with an awkward smile. "First of all, what do we know about these agents?"

"Rumlow and Rollins are part of the Strike division," Steve said, "I don't know much about Rollins, but Agent Rumlow is Team Operative. We've worked together a few times- he's reliable."

"Strike?" Bruce questioned, "That sounds... friendly."

"Black ops division," Natasha clarified. "Strike is a counter terrorism team."

"Agent May was a pilot," Barton said informatively, gazing down at the name with a questioning stare. "She retired to administration a while ago. I've worked with her before. She must be back in the field or something. As for this Ward guy, I've never heard of him. How about you Nat?"

"The name doesn't ring any bells, but I wouldn't worry about it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is huge, of course we won't know everyone," Natasha replied. "Jarvis, does S.H.I.E.L.D. have anything on file?"

Almost instantaneously the projector flared to life; concealed within the high ceiling, its bright glare emerged through a glass panel and projected the database onto the wall beside the conference table, which was situated behind Captain Rogers. The blonde swivelled in his seat and craned his neck to read the text, straining his eyes as he adjusted to the blinding brightness.

[Requesting access to S.H.I.E.L.D. Database]





100% LOADED...



#13 FILES FOUND FOR 'Agent Ward'

OPEN FILE 001 {SCREEN 01/13}



OPEN FILE 003 {SCREEN 01/22}





"Over ride it," Stark ordered, his curiosity immediately roused.






"How about May?" Clint asked, head in one hand and drumming his fingers on the table top with the other in a repetitive fashion, watching Jarvis work with mild curiosity.



70% LOADED...


"We're probably just having problems with the server," Natasha guessed, "or maybe Jarvis has a virus."

"Excuse me? This is Stark Towers," the billionaire stated, almost offended on his AI's behalf. "Technical issues don't happen under this roof, especially not with Jarvis."

"I have to admit, it does sound unlikely," Banner admitted, "but all systems are capable of catching viruses and spyware, even yours. It happens."

"Possible, but very unlikely," Tony replied, folding his arms across his chest defensively. "I'll have you know I vaccinate my tech regularly. Anyway, if there was a problem, Jarvis would have picked up on anything suspicious."

"A virus?" Rogers asked, clearly confused by the technological terminology being uttered so casually throughout the room. "You know what; don't even explain it to me. It'll just make my head hurt. Technology these days is more hassle than it's worth."

"Computers get sick too Cap," Natasha retorted in a languid tone. "A computer virus is a programme that inserts copies of itself in different files. People can gain access to your information and even change it if they want to."

"That sounds... pleasant."

"Like an STI for computers, right Jarv?" Stark replied humorously. Retrieving the Stark phone from his jean pocket, he began to type speedily onto the custom keyboard, which also featured a unique set of pictograms consisting of various engineering symbols and glyphs from Mayan mythology.

After a few seconds of brief configuration the engineer was logged into the system; an intrigued Bruce Banner retrieved the glasses that were situated on the table top and peered through the transparent device and asked, "Are those Mayan glyphs?"

Tony responded with a prompt nod, to which the scientist replied, "You can't possibly need those."

"They're more useful than you think," the brunette responded, still typing fluently with a single hand. "I use it more like a code than a language. Anyone can use a fancy password to protect their files, but how many people can read Mayan these days?"

"Maya-what?" Barton asked with confused stare.

"It's a really ancient writing system that was used by the Maya civilisation- basically hieroglyphics."

The archer averted his attention to the billionaire and uttered simply, "Nerd."





"Beginning diagnostics- estimated completion time, two hours and thirty three minutes."

"Now," Steve began, "can we please continue?"

"So we have a pilot and a few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents," Bruce replied. "I'm no expert at this kind of thing, but I'd say we need some more specific skill sets. We're dealing with aliens and foreign weapon technology and we don't even have an expert on the team."

"I'm not suited to enclosed spaces," Clint said frankly, "it's better if I sit this one out. I'd just be a liability. I see better from a distance anyway. This one's all yours Captain."

"Alright then," Rogers replied, glancing over to Natasha. "Widow?"

"It would be my pleasure Cap," Romanoff responded with a smile. "I've got some new martial arts that I've just been itching to try..."

"Well, it looks like we're done here," the blonde finalised. "The Quinjet will be here tomorrow at eight thirty. I'm sure that Rollins wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the monitoring station."

"Hold on a second," Bruce interjected. "We don't have a weapons expert." For a short while the room remained silent, and Bruce glanced over at Stark, who proceeded to gaze back at the scientist with a pair of slightly narrowed hazel eyes.

"Don't give me that look," Bruce replied. "You know it makes sense. There's no one else on this team that knows weapons better than you do."

"Stop, please, you're making me blush," Tony replied, tugging at the collar of his shirt mockingly as if he were experiencing a hot flush.

"This is Chitauri technology we're dealing with," Romanoff stated coolly, "there aren't any experts that deal with this kind of tech."

"Are you trying to say something Agent?" Stark pushed testily, already not liking where this conversation was heading. Of course the team had been on numerous missions before, although when the mechanic began to think about it, he'd only ever been involved with team projects before, unlike Rogers, Barton and Romanoff, who were almost always heavily engaged with S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Don't twist my words Stark," Natasha retorted, "you know what I mean."

"Do I? You know, I'm not sure I do, so why don't you go ahead and explain it to me."

"That's enough," Rogers interrupted, gazing firmly at the riled up billionaire with a pair of narrowed blue eyes. "We're not starting another one of these pointless arguments again. Let's hear what Doctor Banner has to say."

"It's a little risky infiltrating this facility without an expert on hand, especially when there are all kinds of weapons lying around that we know nothing about. Normal fire arms won't stand up to that kind of power, we already know that from New York," Bruce said, averting his attention to the irritated looking philanthropist. "You might not be a Chitauri expert, but I'm sure the data we got from Loki's sceptre could be of some use, and besides, you always have Jarvis on hand and the scanner systems in the suit to scan the equipment."

"He has a point," Barton piped up in a low voice from a seat at the opposite side of the conference table. "No matter how much training any of these Agents have, they won't have experience with anything like this. All it takes it one wrong move and this Fensome guy could send the whole team back to S.H.I.E.L.D. in a body bag."


Rogers calmly raised a hand to silence the red haired Agent, and quickly averted his attention to Tony, a serious expression dominating his finely chiselled features. "Stark?"

Tony paused for a moment, before responding simply and somewhat reluctantly, "What can I say? You'd fall apart without me."

"This mission requires a lot of planning and communication," Rogers informed him in a somewhat unintentional patronising manner. "I know you're a very independent man, and we've all had our differences lately, but I need you to be a team player on this one."

"Whatever," the brunette replied languidly. He briefly glanced around the quiet room and the several figures perched around the table. Grabbing hold of the report, he proceeded to stand and asked, "Are we done here? We're done here."

"Eight thirty sharp Stark," the blonde reminded him, just as the man was about to disappear through the door, feet scuffing lazily against the thick carpet. The philanthropist merely waved a hand in response, and muttered in a low voice, "can't wait..."

With the sharp start in the morning, Tony knew that he should almost certainly be sleeping. It was dark outside, and the moon hung high in the velvet sky, gazing down upon the still bustling city of New York and the entirety of its thriving night life.

Tony had always possessed a love hate relationship with sleep.

As much as he craved the feeling of refreshment that accompanied the aftermath of a long and peaceful slumber, he found that often his mind was still buzzing in the early hours of the morning, making it impossible to simply just drift off. He couldn't stop thinking about the various projects that he was working on, constantly coming up with ideas and possibilities for improvements and adjustments- Stark was a busy man, and in his yes, the longer he slept, the more time he wasted that he could be dedicating to finishing his work. There were numerous threats just waiting out there, and Tony wasn't getting any closer to being prepared for all of them by just laying there asleep.

More recently however, he liked to keep busy because it distracted his mind from wondering into dangerous territory.

After a long session of laborious work tinkering beneath Howards ancient car, the philanthropist had decided to take a well deserved break at last. Sat on the cold, hard floor of the towers private workshop, he rested against the passenger side door of the vehicle, a mug of lukewarm coffee in one hand whilst the other raked through his grimy hair, legs outstretched in front of him. Although the job itself wasn't exactly complicated, a bit of basic engine restoration had apparently knocked the stuffing out of him. His arms were aching bitterly from all of the heavy lifting, and the brunette could barely lift the mug to his lips.

Taking a sip of coffee, the mechanic grimaced, placing the mug aside and pulling his knees to his chest.

"Jarvis, what time is it?"

"Approximately two thirty Sir. You have six hours remaining until the Quinjet arrives- I strongly advise you to use this time to get some sleep before takeoff. "

"Can't sleep," he responded blankly, a voice echoing from his conscience replied, 'Liar. Can't or won't?'

"Perhaps a more suitable beverage would help Sir. I'm positive there are some sleeping pills somewhere within the facility-"

"It's fine Jarvis."

"If you insist Sir."

Restoring Howards car hadn't only been physically demanding; the entire afternoon had brought back some unpleasant memories for Tony. He wondered what Howard what think if he was here now- would he be proud? Embarrassed? Probably indifferent. Throughout his childhood Tony had grown accustomed to his father giving him the cold shoulder, however he couldn't help but still wonder what had been responsible for the inventor's behaviour.

Attempting to gain any kind of affection from Howard had been like trying to kindle a wet fire.

Of course, he still remembered the man's words from the footage.

"My proudest creation is you." Even then, he'd uttered that single line to the camera without an ounce of emotion tarnishing his features.

"Lies," he thought dismally, "each and every word of it."

Sometimes he wondered if Howard would have been happier without him. He'd always made Tony feel as though he were an embarrassment to the family. Everything had always been met with indifference and cold criticism; - perhaps his only purpose was to be Howard's heir, to inherit Stark Industries, nothing more or nothing less.

But, it wasn't just Howard Stark that thought he was a waste of space, was it?

"Your father helped us build the atomic bomb. What kind of a world would it be if he was as selfish as you?"

"I've seen the footage. You don't fight for anything but yourself."




They don't trust you.

He couldn't ignore the lingering and persistent thoughts in his head that proceeded to erode his rationality. The more he dwelled on their words, the more he became convinced that everything they declared had to be true. They all thought that he was just an arrogant and pompous jackass, who cared only about himself and the contents of his bank account.

People's ignorant opinions had never bothered Tony before. After spending his entire life being raised in the public eye, the billionaire had developed a thick skin and had become almost immune to sarcastic journalists and their unappreciated opinions, their cleverly disguised insults published across the covers of trashy gossip magazines and cheap newspapers.

Of course it wasn't only journalists that took a dislike to Tony Stark, and sometimes, things got personal. Just over a year ago Tony would have taken immense pleasure in responding directly and very personally to these people, because he'd enjoyed watching them squirm. Despite what they thought of him, he'd always managed to take out the trash and wipe the floor with their shitty opinions, retorting with his infamous wit and flashing a charming smile. These days, things had become much more personal, and for the first time in his life, the philanthropist found himself reeling from peoples remarks as if they were a shower of bullets, and they'd chipped away at his 'impenetrable' armour until eventually a crack had finally appeared.

After almost not making it back through the portal in New York, Tony realised dejectedly that he wasn't as strong as he'd originally thought.

He was vulnerable.

Despite the Iron Man suits impressive abilities, he knew that he still had a long way to go before things were finally perfect. After each session engaged in flight and combat, Stark always identified where improvements were needed, making adjustments and alterations to the suit before trying to identify where he should devote his attention next.

It was fair to say that when the suits were involved, Tony was quite the perfectionist, yet to be completely satisfied with his work. There was always something that could be enhanced or developed, and he was constantly learning from his mistakes, trying to fix them- just like his near death experience falling through the portal during the Chitauri invasion. The billionaire had identified a huge problem- the suit was unable to function beyond the earth's atmosphere, and had since been looking into all kind of possible solutions to the 'space problem'.

Night after night he'd found himself running in circles, tossing his sketches across the workshop and shredding blue prints in frustration. Sometimes Pepper ventured down into the workshop to try and persuade Tony to get some sleep, and would often discover the grimy looking brunette muttering elaborate curses and slamming his tools down onto the bench slightly louder than necessary.

Man had already landed on the moon, so why hadn't the Iron Man suit?

Stark took another mouthful of coffee, grimacing as the lukewarm beverage passed his lips. He peered down into the mug with a frown, casting the bitter concoction aside before releasing an audible sigh.

"Jarvis, you still awake?"

"For you Sir, always."

"Good. Where are those blueprints at?"