pepper-binkley

I fucked up the tiiiiimeliiiine~~ Lmao the timeline can just go fuck off I guess. Don’t worry. This isn’t the last we’ve seen of Thor.


Thor was monstrous in size, with a thick, golden mane like threads of actual gold. His paws were large enough to crush a grown man without even involving his claws, and whatever humans didn’t get crushed under them were body-checked into the walls, which were still live with lightning. The electricity made his mane stand on end, and it should have looked comical, but he just looked even more terrifying.

He’d scooped Tony and Yinsen up in his teeth like kittens and carried them out of the cave. The change from cold and damp to hot and arid made Tony’s teeth ache. He could hear Yinsen, babbling something—they were probably prayers. But who wouldn’t pray when they were literally hanging out of a monster’s mouth?

Yinsen wouldn’t remember. He’d think it was a storm, a short, an explosion—anything but what had really happened. Thor had made sure of it. Tony had begged—Yinsen had kept him alive, kept him sane, it wasn’t fair that he wouldn’t remember. But Thor had calmly explained that most humans could not handle the truth, that monsters were real—and not everyone was as clever as Tony was.

Tony clung to Thor’s back and shivered as the monster trotted further out into the sand. Yinsen had been left near a town where he could get help, but Thor had insisted on taking Tony with him. He’d been too tired, sore, and thirsty to argue.

“Here,” Thor said, like he’d decided something. He knelt. “Dismount, child.”

“’m not a child,” Tony mumbled petulantly, but obediently slid down onto the ground, the monster’s silky fur slipping through his hands like water.

Thor looked at him, somewhat fond. “Even your oldest human is yet a child in comparison to me, Anthony.”

Tony blinked up at him blearily, rubbing his eyes to try and block out the haze. “Are you leaving me? Why couldn’t you leave me with Yinsen?”

“I could not be certain you would not insist on telling him the truth again. Most humans cannot handle that, Anthony.” Thor smiled, and his teeth were long and sharp beneath his lips. “You must be special, Anthony, for Loki to reach out to me for help.”

Tony blinked up at him again. “Loki?”

“Yes, Loki, my dear brother,” Thor chortled.

“What,” Tony said, either too dehydrated or, more likely, too baffled to understand the link between a white deer and this golden, leonine creature. “How did—”

“I leave you here, Anthony,” Thor boomed, and then there was a crash of thunder, a flash of lightning, and the monster was gone. There weren’t even any paw prints.

“…You left me in the desert,” Tony told the air.

But he wasn’t going to get anywhere just standing there like an idiot. He shielded his eyes from the sun as he looked up at a dune. He might be able to see something from there. He started trudging toward it.

Tony didn’t notice that Rhodey had been approaching, and he yelled and flailed when an arm wrapped around his waist, elbowing his friend in the cheek.

Rhodey didn’t even mind, which meant it was like being elbowed by a baby bird. “Next time,” he said sternly. “You ride with me.”

“Okay,” Tony said, unashamed of how tearful he sounded.

Rhodey  tightened his grip around his waist. “I got you, man. We’re gonna get you home.”


Pepper and Obadiah brought Tony home. The monsters would have wondered why they had instead of whoever Loki had sent for, but they were just too happy to have him back. It was irritating that they had to hide in the shadows and wait to greet him. Obadiah always set their teeth on edge, though, and Pepper… Pepper always sighed when she saw them.

“What is that?” Steve whispered, jerking his elbow into Bucky’s side. “Bucky, what is that?”

“What’s what?” Bucky asked, then grunted when Steve elbowed him again. “Ow!”

Steve pointed. “Look!”

Bucky grumbled to himself, rubbing his side and cursing Steve’s pointy elbows. He frowned when he finally saw the glowing blue light under Tony’s shirt. Sometimes Steve saw things on different frequencies if he wasn’t focusing. He wondered what the light was, but was too distracted by worrying. Tony had been gone a month, and looked it, the way his clothes hung too loosely on him and his eyes were sunken in his face, with deep bruises under each eye.

He hoped at least Obadiah left soon. He wondered what he should feed Tony.


Obadiah left, and Pepper chased Tony to the bathroom when he took off at a sprint.

Steve slithered after them, peering into the bathroom. “Everything alright?”

“The doctors told him a cheeseburger would be too much,” Pepper sighed, gently rubbing Tony’s back as he heaved his stomach contents into the toilet. “Hi, Steve.”

Natasha dropped from the ceiling and onto Steve, ignoring his offended noise as she slammed his upper body into the ground. “Is he okay?”

Pepper grimaced. “Ehm… Kinda?”

“Kinda,” Clint repeated, filling the doorway. “What’s kinda mean?”

“…He’s alive,” Pepper decided.

Tony sat up straight, gasping for breath, making concerning little wheezing noises. Then he bent forward to puke again, sobbing quietly.

Steve sat up so fast that he sent Natasha flying into the bathtub. He ignored her cursing and threats to slither up beside the boy, placing his hands on his ribs gently. “Tony, it’s okay. You’re home. We’ve got you.”

“Hurts,” Tony whispered.

Steve pretended that didn’t make him want to panic. “Where does it hurt, honey?”

“Everywhere-!”

Steve slumped a little, stroking the brunet’s sides helplessly. “I can’t help with that.”

Pepper reached out to touch his shoulder and proved how far she’d come in accepting them by not flinching when her skin met his scales. “I don’t think anyone can help with that, Steve.”

“Is he done puking? Give him to me,” Clint ordered, holding his wings out. Natasha wet a washcloth in the tub to wipe Tony’s face with before Steve handed him over. Clint bundled the human into his wings, hiding all but the toes of his shoes and a little bit of his hair. He turned and hopped gently out of the bathroom, being careful not to jostle him. “This is mine now.”

“What the fuck, Clint?!” Steve called after him, and he would have followed, but Pepper’s hand was still on his shoulder, which was very unusual. He turned toward her, frowning. “…Ms. Potts?”

Natasha paused from clambering out of the bathtub. “What’s wrong?”

“Tony was… injured,” Pepper explained slowly, trying to find the right words. “He almost died. Should have, really.”

“…But he’s alright now,” Natasha said, more statement than question, but open-ended enough to be corrected.

“He’s… alive,” she repeated. “When he was attacked in Afghanistan, he was hit with shrapnel from a bomb. In the chest.”

Natasha unconsciously covered her own chest. “That’s where all your important bits are.”

Pepper stared at her for a moment. “…Yes. Especially the heart.”

“Something’s wrong with Tony’s heart?” Steve asked quickly, alarmed.

“Yes,” she said softly. “It—you need to understand. He should have died. It’s a miracle that he’s here. But that miracle cost him.”

Steve squirmed. “Is that why he was throwing up?”

“He was throwing up because he’d been eating a handful of rice for a meal for a month and decided he was okay eating a goddamn cheeseburger,” Pepper snapped, then sighed and closed her eyes. “…I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”

“It’s okay. We know Tony has poor decision-making skills,” Natasha offered.

Pepper sighed again. “Thanks. No, Steve. He has an electromagnet in his chest keeping shrapnel from tearing up his heart.”

“But he’s gonna be okay,” Steve tried, falling silent when Pepper just stared at him somberly and shook her head. “…But… why?”

Pepper took a deep breath. “Steve, the shrapnel is in his chest, it should have killed him on his third day in Afghanistan. We don’t… we don’t have a way to remove the shrapnel. Not without killing him anyway.”

“…What the fuck!” Steve snarled, jerking away from her. “What good is all your medicine if it doesn’t work?!”

“Steve,” Pepper began, but he slithered out of the bathroom, so fast that his scales scraped the tiles. “…Does he think that I don’t wish there was a way to help Tony?”

Natasha reached out to put one of her hands on the human’s shoulder, then thought better of it. Her prickly hairs irritated Pepper’s skin. “I understand, Ms. Potts. Steve… Steve and Bucky are always going to be more invested. They can remember when Tony was just a baby. I think sometimes they believe he’s still that helpless.”

Pepper tilted her head thoughtfully. “…I do not believe for a minute that Tony was ever helpless, even as a baby.”

“Bucky says that Tony nearly tore his ear off when he didn’t want to go to sleep for the night.”

Pepper huffed out a tired laugh. “That sounds about right.”


“Broth,” Bucky said, trotting into the den, and then paused when he saw Clint rocking back and forth on the back of the couch. “…He needs something in his stomach, Clint.”

“You can’t have him,” Clint snarled.

Bucky was about to snarl back, but then he noticed that Clint’s words had lacked his usual snarky bite. He approached the other monster carefully. “Clint. Steve said he vomited. He needs something in his stomach.”

Clint was still and silent for a moment before he drew his wings down just enough to expose Tony’s head, tucked safely beneath his chin. “You can’t have him.”

“Clint what the—” Bucky began angrily, then paused. “…This is about the blue light, isn’t it.”

You can’t have him.

“Clint.”

“They can’t take him back!”

Bucky closed his mouth, biting back the retort he’d had ready. “…Clint, do you think that’s a tracking device on his chest?”

Clint started rocking back and forth again.

“It’s not,” Bucky told him gently. “Steve told me it’s not. And he got the information from Ms. Potts. You know Ms. Potts doesn’t have the patience to lie.”

Clint shifted his grip on the human, loosening a little. “…Then what is it?”

“It’s a… magnet?” Bucky frowned. “It… keeps shrapnel from a bomb from killing him.”

Clint unwrapped one wing enough to carefully run his taloned fingers through Tony’s hair. “So they can’t find him?”

“No, Clint,” Bucky answered softly. “And even if they could, we’re here, aren’t we? We won’t let them take Tony again.”

“Petting me,” Tony murmured after a moment, nuzzling under Clint’s chin again, and seemed to sink deeper into his feathers. “Nice.”

Bucky stepped closer, putting a hand on Clint’s shoulder to stop his rocking. “Tony, honey? I made some broth for you. You wanna drink some?”

Tony was silent for a moment, then extracted his hand from Clint’s feathers just far enough to close his fingers around the mug. He paused with the mug pressed to his chin until Clint raised his wings again and hid him from view.

Bucky wanted to smile when the empty mug was thrust out of the sea of purple feathers, but then he remembered the light in Tony’s chest, the way Clint had been protecting him and fearing that someone would track Tony down. Clint sometimes got like this, on edge, and they could never tell what exactly triggered it, but clutching Tony in the safety of his wings always seemed to calm him down eventually.

He glanced up as Hulk lumbered into the room, tensing up a little when the giant monster reached out both hands toward Clint. He relaxed again when Hulk simply scooped Clint and Tony up in his hands like they were a delicate flower.

“Hulk worried,” Hulk said, stroking down Clint’s back with one broad thumb. “Glad you’re home.”

Tony’s head poked up out of Clint’s wings again. “I’m glad I’m home too, Hulk.”

Hulk’s lips quirked upward into a small smile. “Troublemaker.”

“That’s me,” Tony said tiredly. “…’m sorry.”

“Sleep,” Hulk ordered, so gently that it was jarring in and of itself.

Tony made a small noise of agreement and ducked back under Clint’s wings.

Clint shuffled his grip, hopping up one of Hulk’s arms to perch on his shoulder. “This is mine now. I live here.”

Hulk rolled his eyes.

“Surprised Loki isn’t in here gloating about how he helped save Tony,” Bucky said after a minute, looking around.

Clint frowned, rubbing his cheek over the top of Tony’s head. “He saw the light and freaked the fuck out. Well, as much as a guy like him does. He beat it real quick. …’s kinda why I thought… I mean…”

Bucky tilted his head. “That it might be something to track him with?”

“…Yeah.” Clint adjusted his grip on the boy. “Like I knew he was fast because deer are, but… man, he barely cleared the door, he leapt so far.”

“Weird,” Bucky mumbled. But Loki was usually weird anyway.

Hulk grunted and sat down, much more carefully than he usually did so as not to jostle Clint and Tony. “Puny monster.”

“…You are literally the only person who thinks that but okay,” Bucky told him.


Natasha raised her eyebrows when she found Loki huddled in the library. “Surprised you’re not out gloating about helping to save Tony.”

“That—” Loki began, then stopped. “…That was not natural.”

She tilted her head, frowning. “…What?”

“Having—having a cylinder of flesh missing.” Loki put a hand over his chest. “Human hearts are… are delicate. I cannot believe—they should have just let him die.

Natasha disagreed, but she understood. Humans were quite ill-suited to injury. They were squishy, didn’t have leathery skin or scales to protect them. Many times Natasha had come upon dying soldiers and put them out of their misery before the cold or wildlife got to them. She even felt sorry for them sometimes, but often help was too far away to get to them in time.

“Tony has shown a worrying propensity to live if only to spite people,” Natasha said after a moment. “And I doubt that will ever change.”

“Horrifying,” Loki said. “Disgusting. I may vomit.”

Natasha fought not to smile. “You like him!”

“I am definitely going to vomit.”

Natasha stopped fighting, grinning under the other monster’s glare. “You like him.”

“I am going to vomit on you.”

Natasha let out a short laugh. “You think Tony hasn’t already done that? Whatever you vomit on me will never be as bad as beer and chili-cheese dogs.”

Loki actually looked a little green at hearing that.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Anthony, Chad, Flea, John