Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own The Avengers, or anything that belongs to Marvel. I do have an Avengers keychain, though...

Author's Note: Well, my first foray back into fanfiction in a loooooong time. Any comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated, thank you all so much for reading!

"Shh, Steve," Pepper practically cooed, "Almost done.."

There wasn't an inch of the supersoldier that didn't ache, but the searing pain in his side was by far the worst. He hadn't given the shot from that...thing's gun much thought at all until the awful post-Schwarma adrenaline crash when he stood and suddenly sagged against Thor like a ragdoll and the Asgardian had been forced to lower him to the dusty floor of the tiny eatery. Banner had been on him in an instant, all concerned eyes and expert hands, applying pressure to the quick, nearly black bleed with the jacket Barton managed to shed with alarming speed. Tony'd barked something into his com about not actually caring how many civilians were injured right then, Hill, because Captain-fucking-America was bleeding pretty goddamn profusely.

To be totally honest, Steve didn't remember much after that, until Thor gently deposited him on Tony's big, soft bed at Stark Tower, or what was left of it. At least the more private living quarters seemed relatively alright, barring, of course, the Loki shaped indentations in the concrete floor courtesy of Bruce's "friend".

"Where are the goddamn medics?" Tony, already relieved of his suit, was pacing back and forth at the foot of the bed. Pepper, still out of breath from her charge up the last few flights of stairs to the penthouse once the elevator simply refused to go any higher, glanced between Tony and Steve with big, worried eyes. "Banner?" Tony practically demanded.

"I'm doing the best I can, Stark."

"'m fine," Steve muttered, eyes screwed tightly shut, "Taken...a bullet or two...before."

Someone gently brushed the sweat-soaked hair off of his forehead. The soldier realized with a start that it was Natasha, balancing on the very edge of the bed. There was a long crack in her icy front, as she surveyed each member of the team with shockingly soft eyes. Steve caught her gaze, and she spoke quietly: "Hey...thanks for the boost out there."

"H-happy to oblige, ma'am."

"Banner," Tony demanded again.

"Cut him some slack, Stark, he's doing the best he can."

"I'll live," Steve replied, swallowing. He was promptly ignored.

"No, why don't you cut mesome slack, Hawkass-"

"Why don't you both cut it out," Pepper was slight, and the only non-superhero among them, but her voice was authoritative, like a teacher at the front of a rowdy class, and both Tony and Clint fell quiet immediately.

"He's starting to heal up already," Banner supplied, once he could finally get a word in.

"I guess you weren't kidding when you said you'd live," Clint half teased.

A small smile crossed Steve's face, "I'll b-be fine."

"Yes, you will," Banner added.

"Hear that, Stark," when Clint spoke up again, Natasha barely contained an eyeroll, "Just fine."

"Once a med team gets here and gets you somewhere sterile," Bruce's voice was quiet and even, "They'll just put you under for a little bit and get that piece of junk out of your liver."

"Well, there's your problem," Tony's voice cut through, surprisingly void of...everything but an unhealthy shield of 'I told you so', "How well do you really think his body is going to tolerate anesthesia?"

Quiet. Clint arched an eyebrow, "What?"

"His metabolism is four times anybody else's, birdbrain. Nothing Manhattan General has is going to put him under."

More quiet. Finally, it was Pepper who muttered a quiet, "Well, fuck."

"So what are you saying?" Natasha asked a she paced. When she passed by Clint, seated on the non-splintered half of the couch in the living room, he caught her hand and gave it a squeeze.

Bruce took a deep breath, pulling his glasses off and pinching the bridge of his nose. Deep breaths, Banner, in and out, "Things are moving too slowly."

"With Steve?" Natasha asked.

"No. Yes. Yes and no," Bruce replied, "The med team is too slow-"

"JARVIS!" Tony barked, "Get the suit," he pointed a firm finger and Thor, "Blondie, you and me are going to take him somewhere, there has to be a bed in a hospital somewhere-"

"Yes, I agree that this is the best strategy-"

"It won't matter!" Bruce finally interjected, his right hand beginning to tremble. He stayed it with his left and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly before he dared speak again, "There's something...wrong about his wound."

"'the hell could be wrong with a gunshot wound?" Clint interrupted, "He's Captain America."

"He's not immortal, Clint," Natasha supplied softly.

"He's starting to show signs of infection already," Banner continued, "With his rapid healing...he shouldn't be. Did anyone see what exactly he was shot with?"

"What are you thinking, Dr. Banner?" asked Pepper.

"Alien technologies, alien bacteria, any number of complications."

"It was indeed a creature's weapon that felled Steven," offered the god of thunder, "I fought by his side when he was stricken.

"What did it look like?"

"It blasted through the atmosphere like a weakling's bolt of lightning! A child's blast to an Asgardian warrior!"

"Well, great. Perfect," Tony crossed his arms over his chest, obscuring the arc reactor's glow, "Anybody care to translate the Thorspeak?"

"I saw it from the rooftop," Clint supplied, "Looked like one of your blasters, Stark."

"Was there a projectile of any kind?" Banner asked either witness.

"I believed there to have been," Thor replied.

"If it's fucking with his healing ability..." Natasha trailed off. Surreptitiously, Clint gave her petite hand a squeeze.

"Well," once again, Bruce removed his glasses, massaged his temples, "The med team just officially ran out of time. Tony?"

"What do you need?"

"A scalpel and your best bourbon."

"Non-essentials out," Natasha observed a familiar phenomenon in Bruce. At that moment, he wasn't Bruce, a man shaky on his feet and trying to keep a constant rage simmering instead of rolling into a boil, he was Dr. Banner who had a patient to tend to, suffering to ease. She knew what it was like to just...let go of everything else in your mind and become so singularly focused on what had to be done that everything else melted like ice and flowed away from you. Her hands did damage when she drew that particular breath and cemented herself away from the thought of who her target was, only what had to be done to kill them; Banner's hands healed when he focused on his patient, how they were a fellow living, breathing human being, and what had to be done to save them, "I mean that, I don't need an audience."


"Come on, Hawk, don't argue with him."

"But he's Cap-"

"I-I can hear you Clint," the team turned their eyes back to the pale figure in Tony's bed. Steve grabbed the archer's hand and gave it a not-quite-reassuring squeeze, "I'll be fine. Go, t-take Natasha with you."

The red head smiled sadly at the supersoldier and leaned down to kiss his forehead, "Always the gentleman, Steve." He replied with a small, shaky salute.

"May the gods smile upon you, Steven," even Thor's booming voice was hushed, and with a nod, he ushered Natasha and Clint from the bedroom.

After a moment, Banner looked to Tony, his arms still folded across his chest.

"I'm essential," he stated matter-of-factly.

"Me too," added Pepper.

Banner watched them both for a long moment, then: "Fine. I might need assistance."

Steve tried to sit up, only to be met by a small cry of pain and Pepper's small, warm hand on his bare shoulder, gently pushing him back down against the pillows, "Whoa there sweetie."

Tony's jaw tightened, "Easy there soldier."

Still trying to catch his breath, Steve met Banner's eyes, "What's h-happening?"

"We've got to get whatever's in there out of you, Steve," Banner's voice was even and calm, "I'm so sorry."

"F-for what?"

"It isn't going to tickle," Tony supplied. Pepper thwacked his leg sharply.

Steve's lips settled into a grim line and he nodded, "I can han-handle it."

Pepper took his hand in hers and laced her fingers with his; she could feel his thready pulse, "We're going to stay right here with you sweetie, okay? We're right here," she brought her other hand up to envelope his, "Right here no matter what."

Tony was attempting to stay stoic, but he had gone very white, "What she said."

There was a long silence, and then: "Jarvis, get Dr. Banner the field medicine kit."

Pepper wasn't accustomed to blood. Sure, she'd seen blood before - she lived with Tony Stark – but not in amounts like this. She tried to keep her grey eyes trained on Steve's pallid face while Banner worked, but when that got too, too hard, she turned her face away and closed her eyes, trying to focus on her breathing, on Steve's pulse that she felt between her fingers, on Tony's hand that had a crushing grip on her shoulder, on anything but the red staining Bruce's gloved hands and arms, nearly up to the elbow now, on anything but the lines of pain etched deeply into Steve's handsome face.

"Stark, he needs blood," the doctor was doing an immaculate job of keeping the tension out of his voice, of keeping the monster at bay (after all, the big guy had played enough for one day...).

"How badly?"



"Both Mr. Barton and Dr. Banner are positive matches, according to the SHIELD databases, sir."

How had he done that, Pepper wondered idly, how had Jarvis spit out the information before anyone had even really asked, and with a hint of...emotion?

"You don't want me," Banner supplied as he wiped a stray, red rivulet away from the incision he'd been forced to make in the supersoldier, "I have no idea what my blood could do to him."

"Great. Wonderful," said Tony, "Barton it is. If his smartassedness infects Steve, I'm holding you accountable, Jarvis."

"Duly noted, sir."

"Talk Pepper through collecting."

"What?" Pepper herself asked.

"Go borrow some blood from Barton. Not like his birdbrain needs much of it to function. I'll stay with soldier boy and...hold his hand. Or whatever," Tony was trying his best to remain extremely nonchalant.

"T-Tony, I'm try-trying my best not to cr-crush Miss Potts' hand...wouldn't...wouldn't b-be so careful with...with you."

A moment of tense silence and then. "Fine. Alright. I'll go. Don't die."

"S-sir y-yes sir."

Banner dove back into the operation and Steve very nearly whimpered. "Shh, Steve," Pepper practically cooed, "Almost done."

Part of her knew she was lying.