Fandoms: The Avengers (film)
Characters Thor, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton
Word count: 5,393
Spoilers: vague for movie
Warnings: angst, memory loss
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing.
A/N: Written for avengerkink for the prompt: magical group amnesia
Summary: Waking up without any idea who they are, six people try to figure out what's important to them in a place where no one knows they're the Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
There were screams.
“It’s going down!”
“Grab on, here, you, you, take one, strap on, jump, move!”
Another scream, this one distant, distorted over a speaker.
“I’m coming apart! I’ve got to eject!”
A feeling of absolute horror and fear.
He woke up with the rain pouring on his face, the cold ground leeching the heat from his body. Groaning, he shoved himself up, clothed in nothing but rags. Some of them might have been blue at some point, but everything was shredded, and his shoes were long gone. All he knew was that he was cold, mostly naked, and… He looked around to see the scattered, crumpled forms of others scattered around him, and rapidly got to his feet.
Somewhere further up the mountain was some kind of twisted wreckage, completely impossible to discern what it might have been. But smoke still rose in places, so that meant it had probably been some kind of plane. So… plane crash. He’d been in a plane crash. He fought down a surge of nausea and fear at that thought.
Had the others survived? He knelt down next to the closest one, a tall, heavily-muscled blond man with a short beard and long hair.
“Hey, can you hear me?” he called, shaking the man gently. Please, please wake up. Let me know you’re ok. I don’t want to be alone again.
The man groaned and sat up, clutching his head with one large hand. If the guy’s headache was anything like his own, he was entirely in sympathy. His head was ringing like church bells.
“Hey, you all right? Can you tell me your name?” he asked.
The blond man groaned and blinked, looking over at him blearily. His eyes were a startling shade of blue. “Thor,” he said positively. And then he looked around in confusion. “But I confess, friend, I know not more than that.”
“Thor, I think we were in a plane crash. We need to see if there are any more survivors, so can you help me? I’m-,” he came to an abrupt halt, struck by a sickening realization. Thor knew his name. But he didn’t even know that much. He put his hand on the ground as the feeling of helplessness swept over him, and hard on the heels of that, blessed unconsciousness.
He woke sometime later, staring up at a wooden roof with thatch poking through the boards. The scents of earth, blood, and spices filled his nose, and rough cloth poked into him from underneath. Soft voices were murmuring over to his right, and he shifted onto his side slowly. Blinking to make everything focus, he saw he wasn’t alone. Five others were on pallets near him, and he saw Thor was closest to him. Standing near the doorway of the hut were two thin, brown-skinned men in tunics and loose trousers, discussing something amongst themselves with animated gestures.
And he didn’t understand a word of it. Swallowing, he turned his attention to the others in the room. Other than Thor, there were three men and a woman, all of them in roughly the same shape as him, which was to say battered and bruised. If they all had the same headache, he really wished them well.
“Hello?” he tried tentatively.
The two men in the doorway turned at his voice, then crouched down by the man closest to them. They spoke to him in a tangle of liquid syllables, and the man, older than him and Thor, with shaggy brown hair, shook his head and spoke a few tentative words back.
“You know what they’re saying?” he asked, desperate for any kind of answers.
“A little,” the man said, his voice sounding raspy. “I… they know me.” A long pause. “Which means they’re doing better than me.”
“You too?” he asked, feeling hollow with disappointment. “I don’t remember anything. Thor at least remembers his name, but that’s it.”
“Aye, my name, and a great wish for my head to stop hurting,” Thor said. Now that he’d spoken more than a few words, he realized Thor had a faint accent, British or something.
The two men in the doorway spoke again, and the man by the door shook his head and made them repeat their words slowly. It took a long time, and ended up involving a lot of gestures and some drawings on the dirt floor, but the man by the door was looking a little more cheerful by the time they’d left.
“I hope you got something,” he said.
“A lot.” The shaggy-haired man propped himself fully upright and rubbed his temples. “We’re in India, for starters. They’re speaking Urdu, but some kind of regional dialect. They told me…” he paused, winced, and went on. “I was here for about a month or so maybe a year ago. I’m guessing that’s why I’m only getting about one word in three. I’m a doctor, and I saved some of their children from a fever.”
“You’re a doctor,” he said, impressed. “Well, that’s handy. But they don’t know your name?”
“I never gave it. Just hope I’m a neurosurgeon or something,” the doctor said. “Maybe I can figure out why we’re all a little lost in the identity department.”
He laughed, then stopped because it made his head hurt. The doctor smiled in pained sympathy.
“They told me I’d traveled in the area before. So they trusted me when they found us up there. Sometime last night, part of the sky fell. They sent some of the villagers out this morning to see what had happened. And they-.”
“Found us,” he said.
“I was up before you came around again,” the doctor said. “The others don’t know anything either.”
The doctor shook his head. “Not even their names.”
“Damn,” he swore softly.
“It is a challenge,” Thor said. “But we will be certain to meet it. The loss of memory cannot make me less than I am.”
He looked at Thor curiously. “But what are you?”
Thor considered that with care.
“I am here.”
Well, one could hardly argue with that. It was the only thing of which they were all certain.
One by one, the others slowly woke up. The villagers had returned with food and water, and then once more with a bundle of things scavenged from the wreckage, wrapped in a ragged bundle of cloth. As much as he wanted to dive into it, he held back. Maybe together the six of them could figure things out, and they couldn’t do that if he or Thor or Doc were too distracted by shiny objects to listen to them.
Besides, he knew how frightening it was to wake up and have no idea what was going on. And somehow that felt like more than just now. Something in this situation resonated inside him somewhere, and damn if he wasn’t going to hang on to the first sign of memory he’d had since waking up.
The red-haired woman had been oddly quiet when she woke, covering any confusion until everyone awake had confessed their ignorance of, well, anything approaching identity. Then all she’d wanted was answers to anything they did know.
“He’s Thor, and he’s Doc,” he said, pointing respectively.
“I’m Doc?” Doc said with amusement.
“Why not?” the woman said. “You’re a doctor. Any objections?”
Doc shook his head. “Then you’re Red,” he said.
The woman tugged at a strand of hair to get it in front of her eyes. “So I am. Ok, I’ll be Red for now.”
She shook awake the other man, the one closest to her age, with an odd air of familiarity. “Wake up. Come on, up!”
“You know him?” he asked.
Red looked down. “Maybe. Might have. Hard to say. Do you even have a name yet, Blondie?”
He scowled at her. “I’m not answering to Blondie.”
Doc smiled at that as the man next to Red groaned and sat up.
“Kill me,” the man said, clutching his head.
“Can’t,” Red said, almost sounding smug. “Can’t kill you if you don’t know who you are.”
“Oh.” The guy thought about it for a minute. “Yeah, still don’t have anything more than the last time I was up.”
His eyes darted around the room and alighted on the bundle. Something in him lit up, and he tugged back the cover despite everyone’s protestations. Under the cloth were several bits of red and yellow-painted metal, some wires, and, oddly, a battered but intact case that held about a dozen arrows and a folded bow. He all but lunged for the bow, picking it up, snapping it open, and pulling the string in a motion that looked very practiced.
Everyone all but held their breath, waiting for a breakthrough, but after several long minutes, the bowman released the string slowly and blushed.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I just thought… I know this. This is mine, it has to be.”
He held out his hands, and they could all see the calluses that fit the bowstock and the string.
Doc looked down and nodded. “You’ve been doing that for years, easy.”
“So, you’re Archer,” he said positively.
“Archer,” the man said slowly, and nodded. “That works.”
“We still need a name for you, friend,” Thor said, putting his hand on the first man’s shoulder.
“Adam?” Doc suggested. “First one awake?”
“I guess you’ve got to call me something…” he trailed off into silence and gestured at the last remaining sleeper. “Doc, is he ok?”
Doc looked reluctant, and finally sighed. “Look, I want to wake him up, but I don’t want everyone to… freak out. He’s… got some kind of prosthesis or something, maybe a high-tech pacemaker. Look.”
Doc gently pulled back a blanket from the last man’s chest. He was a little older than any of the others, maybe a year or two older than Doc, shorter, with dark hair barely touched with gray. He had a moustache and goatee fit for any bad movie villain, Adam privately thought. But when the blanket had fallen away, it was clear Doc hadn’t been exaggerating. A circle of steel glowing with white lights was solidly implanted in the man’s chest, dug deep into his body. Adam shuddered slightly at the sight of it.
“Holy. Crap,” Archer said with extreme precision.
“Yeah,” Doc agreed. “I don’t know if he remembers he has it so…”
“No freaking out,” Adam repeated, and looked at everyone else until they nodded.
With that Doc took a steadying breath and gently shook the man’s shoulder.
He’d managed to take the whole pacemaker thing incredibly well, declaring it obviously had been there for years and belonged there. As a matter of fact, he started on some kind of comparison of the thing in his chest with Archer’s weapon, the fragments the villagers had left, and what Adam remembered of the wreckage.
A half-hour later, Adam privately thought they should have kept Tin Man asleep. If they had, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten tagged with “Tin Man” in the first place, but he’d been so very, very mouthy, of the “absolutely wouldn’t shut up trying to analyze the situation despite having virtually no facts” variety that Adam had finally cut in with,
“Cut it out, Tin Man! This isn’t helping anyone.”
“Tin Man? Seriously, that’s all you got?”
“You got a better one?” Adam demanded.
Tin Man nodded, grinning. “We can call Archer ‘Katniss.’”
“Oh hell no,” Archer said. “Katniss was a girl.”
“Katniss?” Adam asked, confused.
“What, you get the Wizard of Oz reference but not the Hunger Games? You’re sadly behind the times, Cap.”
Tin Man looked smug at the way he’d managed to shut down the conversation, until he realized everyone was staring at him.
“What did you call me?” Adam asked.
“Um…” Tin Man had to think about it. “Cap. I called you Cap.”
“Why Cap?” Adam asked urgently. It sounded like a nickname, but it also sounded right, better than Adam.
Tin Man lost the cocky expression and looked troubled. “I don’t know. I guess… I know you from somewhere.”
“We all do,” Red said flatly.
“How do you know that?” Doc asked.
“Doc, look around you. We’re not from around here. That plane crashed with all us on it. Did the villagers find any more bodies?”
Doc shook his head.
“So we were the only ones on the plane, all together.”
“We parachuted out,” Cap said, reaching out to touch the fabric Archer’s bow had been wrapped in. “This is parachute material. That’s how we got out alive.” He touched the fabric, and something in him whispered, yes, he knew that.
“And someone was pissed at us,” Tin Man said, picking up the pieces of twisted metal. “This isn’t in pieces because it fell and hit the ground, it’s been blown up.”
“Maybe there was some kind of malfunction?” Doc suggested. “Engine failure?”
Archer shook his head. “Doc, look at this.” He waved at his bow. “This isn’t cheap. I don’t remember what these buttons on the grip are for, but they must have been for something. This is an expensive weapon.”
Doc crumpled slightly as Red nodded. “People with expensive weapons don’t parachute out of planes for kicks. I think someone wanted us dead.”
“What was I doing with you, then?” Doc wanted to know. “I’m no fighter, look at me!”
“All warriors need good healers. You must have tended to our injuries,” Thor said positively.
Cap felt the rightness of Red’s guess, Archer’s and Tin Man’s assessment. “They’re right. They have to be.”
“I would meet these cowards in battle, them who would try to bring us low as we flew high. Whoever they are, they are dishonorable,” Thor said cracking his knuckles with a sound like low, rolling thunder. Doc’s reluctant bewilderment was giving way to a simmering anger, and Cap didn’t blame him in the least. Bad enough to not remember who you were, but to have people being ready to kill you on top of that… Cap was angry too.
“Wherever they are, we don’t know,” Red pointed out. “They might think we’re dead already. We don’t have any way of knowing.”
“Should we leave?” Doc said. “If our enemies come back, the village will be in danger. These people don’t have much-.”
“We have less, right now,” Archer said. “We got shot down off the grid for a reason. I don’t think they expected us to survive.”
“Someone has to be missing us,” Cap said. “We need to stay. We have some answers right here in the wreckage, but if we go wandering around, it’s going to be too easy to get lost.”
“Yeah, and we might not remember our way back,” Archer muttered. Red snorted, and Archer grinned behind her back.
“Are you two sure you don’t know each other?” Doc asked.
Red and Archer looked at each other for some long minutes. “Maybe,” Red said meditatively. “Wouldn’t swear to it.”
“Fuckin’ A,” Archer said, earning another snort from Red.
“Ten bucks says you do,” Cap said, and had the strangest feeling of déjà vu as Archer took the bet.
The next few weeks were the strangest Cap could remember. And even if, technically speaking, he couldn’t remember any days before the village, he was pretty certain that these days were decidedly not typical.
The villagers welcomed them with quiet appreciation. They didn’t ask for anything for tending to the nameless strangers in their midst, because apparently Doc had refused any payment but food and shelter the last time he’d been here. But once the headaches had finally subsided, and the bruises faded to the point where moving wasn’t a torment, none of them were willing to sit idle.
Archer wasn’t just comfortable with that bow of his, he was a wizard. An absolute prodigy. When some of the villagers had come home empty-handed from a deer hunt, Archer had taken just two of his arrows with him, and came back later to announce he needed help bringing home two deer. Even if Cap couldn’t understand more than a couple of words, he knew the villagers were impressed.
Red was impressively stealthy. And aggressive. She was the one who snuck out of the village every night to try to bring home bits of the wreckage for everyone to study, despite the protests of the elders. Something about the wreck scared them, but Red was very discreet in bringing back bits and pieces in case something triggered a memory for someone. When she wasn’t doing that, she usually had Archer’s back during hunts. They were a practically unstoppable duo. If they hadn’t remembered anything specific about each other yet, it didn’t seem to stop them from being a team.
Doc seemed to fall right back into a routine, with the villagers bringing him their sick or wounded without complaint or comment. He seemed to thrive on it, genuinely happy when he could recall a symptom, or remembered a plant that helped with one problem or another. Beneath that was a layer of anger, however, that never seemed to leave him. Cap figured it was frustration; how could any doctor want to treat a patient with his memory not being reliable? Even so, Cap held out high hopes that Doc would be the first one to make a breakthrough.
Tin Man lived up to his new name. He’s discovered the village well had an old crank that ran up buckets of water for irrigation, but it had been broken for over a year. Instead they relied on the strong arms and backs of the young men to haul water, instead of tending to the crops themselves. Something about that challenge piqued Tin Man’s interest, and one day he commandeered every tool he could get his hand on and disassembled the thing right in the middle of town.
“Damn it, this was put back together wrong, I knew it! Look at this, it’s geared all wrong, it isn’t tight, the teeth aren’t meshing, and it’s a fricking miracle they didn’t grind this smooth trying to force it. Just put these back in the other way…”
There had been more in the same vein, much more, and everyone had been impressed when Tin Man put the crank back on, fully functional again. He wasn’t satisfied, and a week later had a cranked bucket chain pouring water into the irrigation channels.
That didn’t satisfy him either, but after that, all he could do was confine himself to the scraps of metal and wiring Red kept bringing back from the wreck. Cap was pretty sure that by the end of the month they were either going to have a full-functioning radio or a particularly elaborate Rube Goldberg machine. He wasn’t sure which; Tin Man was so frustrated at the lack of materials that he sometimes got a little nuts.
Cap and Thor turned their strength to repairing homes and walls and fences, finding not even the toughest jobs were beyond them. Whoever they had been before, they were well fed and fit, and both were eager to do something, anything, to help the people who’d taken them in. Thor in particular was good at building, a talent that seemed to surprise him. Cap wasn’t a natural in that area, but he found an intense satisfaction in every new project they finished.
Red was picking up the language from Doc with uncanny speed, Tin Man right behind her in slowly gaining proficiency with the local tongue. Something about the words agreed with them, where the others struggled past the basics. It was through her they figured out why none of the villagers would tell them their own names.
“They think it’s bad luck we don’t remember ours, and it would be unlucky for us to learn their names without knowing ours. They think it might confuse our wandering spirits,” she explained, rolling up a last twist of flatbread and eating it neatly.
“I doubt I could be any more confused,” Cap said, shaking his head.
Nights were for memory; no one ever specifically announced that, but when darkness fell, all the strangers could be found back at the home they’d been given, rehashing their day and trying to bring up any new fact or association that came to mind.
Red, Archer, and Doc were all scarred. Not that any of them had done a full striptease in front of the others, barring when they’d first woken up barely decent, but all information was valuable. Doc had a lot of random wounds, scarred hands, roughed skin on his back and chest, toughened feet, like he spent a lot of time exposed to the elements. Red and Archer’s wounds were more specific, and more disturbing.
“That’s a bullet wound,” Doc said, tapping at a starburst-shaped pattern on Archer’s side. “Christ, that’s four of them.”
“Four bullets, at least a dozen knife wounds, two punctures, and a partridge in a pear tree,” Archer said, pulling his shirt back down. “Apparently I was a human target in my last life.”
“My ass,” Red muttered. She had scars on her hide too, only one bullet, but a lot of knife scars, many of them very carefully placed. Doc had gone a little white after seeing them, and Red had pressed her lips together. It had taken Cap the better part of an hour to appeal to them to reveal what they’d figured out.
“I was tortured,” Red said finally, after Doc kept hemming and hawing. “They’re in the wrong place for self-harm.”
Cap swallowed hard. Tin Man had his own set of scars, mostly the ones around his chest plate, but his hands were those of a working man, small cuts and burns from someone who worked with metal and machine parts all the time. But him and Thor… their bodies were flawless. That wasn’t vanity talking, both of them were uncannily unscarred. Not even working with rough stone and wood for days and weeks on end had managed to damage them in any way. Thor simply didn’t get hurt, and the few times Cap had scraped himself enough to draw blood, he’d healed fast and clean. So fast that he hadn’t even needed to mention it to Doc.
All of that together had to add up to something. Cap just wished he could figure out what the hell it meant.
The day of the first storm of the rainy season, however, rendered everyone’s speculations moot.
The storm had swept in from the south, crowding against the mountains just north of the village and then sitting there, pouring out buckets of rain on the slopes. The nervous elders kept an eye on old stream beds, on the paths into the village, and worried constantly. Thor seemed to be in his element, standing outside in all hours, watching the flickering lightning and listening to the thunder. Doc had stopped scolding him to get out of the rain a day ago, because it seemed to be pointless to try to make Thor do anything he didn’t want.
That, it turned out, was wise.
The storm had taken a turn for the worse, rain pouring down so hard that it was difficult to keep up with the roof leaks, and lightning striking so constantly that even the glow of Tin Man’s chest light was dimmed. But even above the thunder, above the rain, above the restless stirrings of everyone to keep their house reasonably dry, they heard Thor’s shout.
The title tore at something inside Cap, and he was outside before even consciously deciding to move. Thor was out there, pointing at the roaring wall of mud bearing down on the village before running towards a huge boulder that sat in isolated splendor at the top of the hill. There was an old channel there, that was what the elders were so worried about, but if he and Thor could move the boulder to block it, they might be able to divert the flood before they were buried.
He was strong, Cap knew he was, and so was Thor, but the boulder was the size of a house. They had helped build the stone houses here, but this was a whole new order of magnitude.
But the was either move it, or everyone died. Everyone who’d been so kind to six strangers in their midst, who’d fed them, clothed them, and helped them find some kind of purpose here.
Cap dug deep for strength as he ran, building up momentum on the slippery slope, and hit the boulder at the same time as Thor. He expected nothing, or maybe for it to rock a little, at best. Instead, it moved. It moved. Cap and Thor threw themselves after it, shoving the enormous thing with all their strength, moving it through the sticky mud to block the mudslide barreling towards them.
The lightning was growing more intense by the second, and by the time they have the boulder securely in place, and the flow of mud splashing away, diverted, Cap was amazed they hadn’t been hit. And right at that moment was when something eye-smarting flashed right to him. Shielding his eyes, he saw Thor get hit, saw him take a full strike right to his body… and nothing happened. Thor just smiled.
Cap was still shaking when Thor tugged him back to the house, past lines of astonished villagers, a solemn expression on his face.
“My friends,” he said, his voice somehow easily carrying over the thunder outside. Cap took a closer look at him, and saw something in Thor’s face he hadn’t expected. Awareness. Understanding. A lack of the fear that laid in the backs of all their minds. “Our time here is at an end.”
The rain had dislodged things from the wreckage, and they lay spread over the mudflow like toys left by careless children. Thor had led them up there at first light, and the elders didn’t even try to stop them.
Cap saw it first, the red, white, and blue shield, and picked it up with trembling hands. Something was tickling at his mind, screaming for entrance, but he wasn’t sure he wanted it back. Thor clapped his hand on Cap’s shoulder, something like pity in his eyes.
“Captain Steve Rogers.” Just those words, just his name, his real name, and the weight of it came crashing down on him like the mudslide from last night. The memories came up intense and raw-edged, flashing before his eyes in quick-time, Bucky, Peggy, Erskin, the transformation, fighting, Schmidt, the plane, Fury’s face, the aching displacement of seventy years that had passed him by, the Avengers-.
-The Enchantress’ cruelly beautiful face as she called the winds to her and took off, her taunts ringing in the Avengers’ ears as buildings came down around her. They’d pursued, and she had led them on a merry chase before casting her spells of destruction at them. The Quinjet had broken up, Tony’s suit had cracked apart in mid-air, and it had been all they could do to get safely to the ground. Being able to avoid the Enchantress’ last spell hadn’t even been possible.
Steve was on the ground, coughing and retching as his emotions caught up with him, and felt the stares of the others on his back.
“Thor, what the hell did you do?” Red demanded.
“I gave him back his name,” Thor said gently. “Mine could not be taken from me, but the witch could block what I remembered. But the lightning called to me, restoring me, and I must give you back what is yours.”
“It looked like you were killing him,” Archer said, an arrow knocked to his bow.
“All of us have reasons to fight for what we believe. And they are not painless ones. I am sorry, my friends, but it must be done. This world needs us,” Thor said.
“Since when? When the hell do six people like us save the world?” Tin Man asked.
Steve felt ill. He had an inkling of what his fellow Avengers had gone through in their life, and of all of them, Steve’s life had been a relative walk in the park, even with the war. Natasha? Tony? They had been through hell in comparison.
But they had to do it again.
“You know it,” Steve said, stomach still churning. “Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know it. We have to. They need us.”
“Fine,” Tin Man snapped. “Do me next.”
Steve stepped up as Thor put his hand on Tin Man’s shoulder, knowing he was going to need it.
By the time Thor was ready to do Doc, the man already looked like he had gone through hell face-down. Everyone had been bad, whether Tony’s tight, harsh cries, Natasha’s strangled whimpers, or Clint’s full-throated howl had had subsided into utterly silent sobs. But it was working. There was full awareness back in his friends’ eyes, the knowledge and certainty of what they did, even if it was overlaid by pain. The Enchantress’ spell was broken.
“Thor, I don’t want to,” Doc said, backing up a pace. “I don’t.”
“If your true self could speak to me, he would say to not leave you amongst innocents unaware. Surely you have felt the monster in the back of your mind,” Thor said, relentless.
“I felt something,” Doc whispered.
“You, of all here, know the price of the power you hold inside you.”
“Thor, don’t do this,” Doc pleaded. “We were happy here, weren’t we? Things were going all right.”
“Yes, they were,” Thor said, nodding slowly. “But we are warriors, not built for peace. Not even your calmer half was entirely without anger. You said this to us yourself.”
“Please,” Steve said. “Doc, please.” Behind him he could feel Clint, Natasha, and Tony backing him up. “We need you back.”
Doc stopped backing up, clenched his hands into fists, and finally bowed his head. Steve and the others beat a hasty retreat as Thor lowered his hand; they were sympathetic, not suicidal. And also, not wrong. The Hulk emerged as soon as the spell was broken, howling and destroying everything in a fifty foot radius (mostly rocks and a few bits of wreckage) before suddenly seemingly running out of energy and collapsing in on himself, leaving Bruce dirty and mostly naked in the mud.
Tony was the first one to help him up, but Steve wasn’t far behind. Whatever had been going through Bruce’s mind, it must have even gotten the Hulk down, because a fifty-foot circle of destruction was positively restrained by his standards.
“Shit,” Bruce whispered, after several long and tense moments. “Shit, shit, shit.”
That, as far as Steve was concerned, summed up everyone’s feelings on the matter.
“The witch’s spell was potent, friend Bruce. Take heart that you survived its breaking,” Thor said, reaching over to clasp him on the shoulder. “All of you take heart.”
Thor stepped back and stretched out his hand. There was a groan of metal, and suddenly Mjölnir freed itself from the wreckage and slapped into his hand.
“I will go and find Fury, that he may convey all of you back home,” Thor said solemnly. He twirled the hammer faster and faster, and with a hard throw, was suddenly gone.
Steve sat down in the mud next to Bruce, clutching his shield with fingers that were going numb, and felt the others settle down near him. The Avengers, soaked and streaked with mud, bereft of virtually everything but their new memories, spent the entire morning on the mountainside above a little nameless village in a forgotten corner of India.
Their attention fell on the village below as the sun climbed higher, where everyone they’d gotten to know over the last few weeks of their lives was huddling in their homes, frightened by the strangers’ screams, and probably terrified by the appearance by the Hulk. They hadn’t even had a chance to say good bye.
Steve looked over at Natasha, and she caught his eyes squarely. And nodded once, decisively.
“Yeah, it would have been nice. For at least a little while longer,” he said softly.
No one else asked what he meant. They all understood perfectly.