The next chapter! I hope you like it, please let me know!
I don't own the characters or places!
"Five years ago, we lost. All of us. We lost friends... We lost family... We lost a part of ourselves. Today, we have a chance to take it all back. You know your teams, you know your missions. Get the stones, get them back. One round trip each. No mistakes. No do-overs. Most of us are going somewhere we know. But it doesn't mean we should know what to expect. Be careful. Look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives. And we're gonna win." After looking at all the others in the group, Steve's eyes found Tony's and his husband smiled. "Whatever it takes. Good luck."
"He's pretty good at that." Rocket muttered after Steve's speech.
Scott grinned. "Right?" Steve couldn't help noticing that he looked quite excited. Most probably because it was his first real mission with the Avengers. From the corner of his eyes, he could also see Thor and Loki exchanging a long, serious look.
"Alright. You heard the man. Stroke those keys, jolly green." Tony called to Bruce, who'd just been waiting for their sign to start.
"You promise to bring that back in one piece, right?" Rocket turned to Clint now, who was holding the shrunk jet in his hand.
Steve noticed that Clint didn't look convinced, but he nodded anyway. "Yeah, yeah. Okay. I'll do my best."
"As promises go, that was pretty lame." Rocket crossed his arms.
Somehow, seeing their friends interact like this made Steve's heart swell. For a moment, he could even forget that they were just going to start a very dangerous mission. He looked at Tony, just to see that his husband was also watching the others. As if he knew that Steve was looking at him, Tony turned his head and a soft smile appeared on his lips.
"See you in a minute." Natasha was smiling first at Clint and then at Bruce, looking even more excited than Scott. Steve could see the concern in Bruce's eyes, but before he could reply anything, the machine was ready and they were travelling through time.
New York, 2012
"Alright, we all have our assignments. We know where the Stones are and what we'll do. Just try to remain unnoticed and keep an eye on the clock." Steve said seriously and looked at the four others.
They all nodded without hesitation.
Suddenly, they heard loud noise not far away and the Hulk from the past passed them, smashing everything in his way. Bruce looked quite embarrassed at that and Loki tried his best not to flinch.
"Feel free to smash a few things along the way." Steve told Bruce and couldn't stop himself from smiling slightly. Even if they should all remain serious, seeing his friend this embarrassed was kind of funny. Suddenly, something else came to his mind. "You looked worried just before we started the mission."
Bruce shook his head. "It's nothing. Just a dark thought, most probably it's just the tension. After all, no one knows what's going to happen today." He didn't sound convincing.
"We should get going." Loki threw in. "I thought we have a tight schedule?"
They parted ways. Bruce was going to Bleecker Street to get the Time Stone while the others would get the two Stones at the Avengers Tower (well, at that time it was still Stark Tower). The plan was easy. Steve would get the Sceptre while the others would deal with the Tesseract, making it look like the Tony from the past had a heart attack. Steve didn't like this at all, but it was the best plan they had. And Tony was sure that it would work without problems. He really hoped that the Tony from the past would be alright. Even if it wasn't his Tony, the thought that something could happen to him was unbearable to Steve.
"You've got to make haste, Steve." Tony, who was just flying around the Tower to sound out the situation, told him through the comms. "We'll go downstairs soon."
"Got it, I'm approaching the elevator now." Steve muttered and walked towards it slowly. He was feeling uneasy, but no one seemed to think that it was odd that Captain America was walking through the Tower while he should be upstairs with the others.
"Please don't remind me of the things going on up there, Tony." Loki, who was going to wait downstairs, muttered. "I can already feel the pain just by thinking of it."
"Alright, I wasn't even going to say anything!" Tony threw in. "We're on our way down now."
"Did your past self just check out Cap's ass while he wasn't looking?" Scott, who was in the Tower with Tony, suddenly asked. "You weren't even together yet, right?"
"Of course I wasn't checking him out. Don't listen to him, love." Tony said hastily.
"Oh, you were! You did it again just before you went downstairs. Though I really can't blame you. As far as I'm concerned, that's America's ass." Scott continued.
In this moment, Steve was glad that the others couldn't see his face. He felt his cheeks heat up.
"Don't talk about my husband like that!" Tony snapped. And then, after a short hesitation. "He's right, by the way, Steve. That is America's ass."
"Oh my god, I'm here with a group of children." Loki noted dryly.
"Wouldn't you say that Thor has Asgard's ass?" Scott asked curiously, but Steve interrupted the conversation.
"Guys, we have to focus! So no more talking about body parts!" However, the fact that Tony had already been checking him out soon after they met made him feel really satisfied.
"The Hydra agents are there now to take the Sceptre from us." Tony informed him.
"I thought they were SHIELD?" Scott asked, sounding confused.
"That's what we thought back then. We didn't know that SHIELD had been infiltrated yet."
"You really didn't know that? I mean, come on! They already look like the bad guys."
"For such a small man, you're talking very loud." Tony muttered. "We're in the elevator now, Steve. Things can start."
"Alright, I'm on it." He already prepared himself for a huge fight, not sure if his plan would really work. To his surprise, it did. After whispering Hail Hydra to Sitwell, they gave him the Sceptre without complaints. Steve was already convinced that he'd made it when a voice called after him. He knew that voice very well. When he turned around slowly, he was looking at his younger self.
Loki watched the scene in front of him closely. So far, everything worked. Those Hydra agents wanted to take himself and the Tesseract from the Avengers, but Thor and Tony protested, just like they'd done it back then. Then Scott did something with Tony's reactor and it looked like the Tony from the past was having a heart attack, catching everyone off guard.
They managed to get the case with the Tesseract, but then something unexpected happened in the form of the Hulk. A very angry Hulk, who was still complaining that he had to take the stairs instead of the elevator. He pushed Tony out of the way and the genius fell to the ground, the case sliding across the room. Right towards the Loki from the past, who was already watching it through narrowed eyes.
For half a second, Loki froze, knowing that this wasn't the intelligent, tame Hulk of their time, but the monster of the past. The monster who hated him very much. But then he was able to forget his fear and ran across the entrance hall faster than any normal human being could do it. He was also wearing a disguise, looking like a fireman, but he knew that it couldn't fool the Loki from the past. Or Thor. They could both sense his magic.
He reached the case only seconds before his younger self could grab it. Since they didn't just tie him up but also made it impossible for him to speak, the younger Loki just stared at him with raised eyebrows. He grinned. "Sorry, but that's not for you."
"Do you have it?" Tony asked, using the moment the others were distracted and kept talking about his 'heart attack' to rush to Loki's side.
"We have to get out of here." He muttered. "Before Thor notices -"
"What's going on there?!" Too late. Thor had turned to them and stared at the scene. Luckily, both Loki and Tony were wearing disguises. "What are you doing with the case?"
His mind was racing. What should they say now?
"I hope you have a good explanation." Scott whispered through the comms. "We can't knock out all of them."
"Who are you and what are you doing with my brother?" Thor demanded to know and took a step towards them, Mjolnir raised.
"This man wanted to escape!" Tony exclaimed loudly and pointed at the Loki from the past. Now all eyes were turning to him.
"Something's off here." To his discomfort, Thor was looking directly at Loki now. It wasn't the fond look he was used to see on that face by now. His expression was full of mistrust. "You. Who are you? Hand over the case."
Loki resisted the urge to take a step back when Thor held out his hand. He knew that it would only make things worse. Next to that, his younger self was still watching him closely, only waiting for the right moment to escape. Maybe they should just run away? However, they still had to wait for Steve and running away would surely lead to a fight with Thor...
In this moment, another person came running towards them. It was Steve Rogers, but not the one from their time. He looked confused. "How did Loki escape? I just saw him upstairs and he had the Sceptre!"
In other situations, Loki would have laughed at the utter confusion that followed those words, but now he didn't. Instead, he grabbed Tony's arm, hoped that Scott was somewhere close to them and pulled him towards the door leading outside. Thanks to the discussion that was caused by the younger Steve's words, they were able to leave unnoticed. Only his own eyes followed them, but since Thor had grabbed him in the course of the argument, there was nothing his younger self could do. Luckily, he also couldn't talk.
Outside, they met their Steve, a look of relief on his face when he noticed them approaching. "There you are!" He exclaimed. "What took you so long?"
"Nothing of importance." Loki muttered as they hurried through the streets of New York. At some point, Scott appeared next to him back in his normal size.
"You saved us." Tony smiled slightly at his husband. "Your younger self caused lots of confusion."
"Good. I was hoping he would." Steve said. "Otherwise, I would have knocked him out."
"Now we just have to wait for Bruce." Scott noted.
"Not necessary." A voice behind them said and they all whirled around, ready to fight. Loki already had one of his daggers in hand. As soon as they'd left the Tower, he'd changed back to his normal appearance. In front of them stood Bruce, a smile on his lips. "I have the Time Stone."
Steve smiled. "Good. We have the other ones."
"Then let's get back." Tony exclaimed with a triumphant grin on his lips.
"The stone is down there." Both Natasha and Clint looked at the cliff in front of them. The uneasy feeling Clint had ever since they travelled through the time only got stronger with every passing moment.
"For one of you. For the other... In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love. An everlasting exchange. A soul, for a soul." The strange guide said calmly.
"It's not a coincidence." Natasha said after thinking about it for some time. "Thanos left here with the Stone and without his daughter."
Clint sighed. "I think you're right." He swallowed thickly. He'd really thought that he would get a chance to see Phil again. But now things had changed. One of them wouldn't come back. He knew who it would be.
"Whatever it takes." Natasha said and he didn't like the look on her face at all.
"Whatever it takes." Clint muttered.
"If we don't get that stone, billions of people stay dead." She stated.
"I guess we both know who it's going to be." He said after breathing in deeply.
"I guess we do." He took her hand and squeezed it. However, there still was this determined look on her face... "I think we're talking about different people here, Natasha."
"I promised that you would see Phil again." She whispered. "I'm keeping my promises. You will see him again, Clint."
"What about you and Bruce?" He argued quietly, trying to remain calm. He wouldn't let her die for him. Not even if it meant that he would be able to get his husband back. Natasha was one of the most important persons in his life.
"For the last five years, I've been trying to do one thing. Get to right here. That's all it's been about. Bringing everyone back." Natasha said simply. "Bruce knows this."
"I won't let you do this." He stated seriously.
"I'm trying to save your life here, you idiot." She argued with a soft smile on her lips. "I want you to be happy again, Clint. That's all I ever wanted in the past years. You've suffered so much. First with Phil gone and just after you got him back, you lost him again. I'm doing this for you."
He shook his head, still trying to hold back the tears. "Natasha, no! Let me do it."
"I had good years with Bruce." She smiled sadly. "Just tell him I love him, will you? I never said it in all those years. It's the only thing I regret now."
He tried to stop her. He really did. However, this was Natasha and she could be very stubborn when she wanted something.
He would never forget the moment he saw her fall. Or her last words. It's okay. Not even if he would get Phil and everyone else back. He knew it would haunt him for the rest of his life. They got the Soul Stone. But at what cost?
The moment they all appeared back in the Compound, Tony knew that something had gone completely wrong. His eyes landed on Clint and then it hit him. There was one person less on the platform than before.
"Did we get them all?" Bruce asked.
"Are you saying that this actually worked?" Rhodey replied questioningly, but then they also stopped, realizing that someone was missing.
Tony reached for Steve's hand next to him blindly and his husband squeezed it. When he glanced at him, Tony saw that he was pale and biting his lip. The others all looked equally shocked. Thor had his arms wrapped around Loki tightly.
"Clint, where's Nat?" Bruce whispered and when Clint just shook his head silently, a heartbroken look on his face, Bruce broke down with a cry.
They had all the Infinity Stones now. However, they'd lost one of them in the process.
"I'll do it." Bruce said loudly when Rocket asked who would use the gauntlet Tony had made. He really hoped that it would work properly.
"Are you sure that it will work?" Thor threw in, looking undecided. Tony noticed that Loki was holding onto his hand to tightly that his knuckles were white. It was obvious that he expected his partner to do something stupid. "I mean, shouldn't someone stronger than you use it?"
"I would say Bruce knows what he's doing." Loki threw in quickly and Thor sighed.
"Nothing will happen to me, love."
"The gauntlet nearly killed Thanos." Loki reminded him.
"Loki's right." Bruce threw in. "None of you could survive."
"How do we know you will?" Steve asked and Tony knew exactly what he was thinking. Did Bruce even want to survive this now that Natasha was gone? Clint had told him about her last words. That he should tell Bruce she loved him. It had broken his heart even more.
"We don't." Bruce said simply. "But the radiation is mostly gamma. It's like... I was made for this." He shrugged helplessly. "I feel like it has to be me."
"When you're sure about this." Steve said slowly and Bruce nodded.
"But remember, everyone Thanos snapped away five years ago has to come back. And back to right now, today. I think it would be better if you don't change anything from the last five years. Who knows what will happen then." Tony felt nervous now and from the looks of it, the others shared his feeling.
"Got it." Bruce took the gauntlet and stared at it.
"JARVIS, activate Barn Door Protocol. Will you?" Tony wasn't sure if it was necessary, but he felt better with it.
"Of course, sir." JARVIS replied and then all the doors and windows were shut.
They all prepared for the worst when Bruce put on the gauntlet and screamed in pain. However, he managed to snap his fingers and then... nothing seemed to change.
Until Tony got a call from Wakanda.
It was Okoye. However, before she could say more than "It worked!", the sky above the Compound darkened and he knew instantly that it wasn't over yet.