SUMMARY: Let’s take the Hulk to Antarctica, she said. It’ll be fun, she said.
RATING: PG-13 (for swears)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: So sorry it's taken me so long to get this last chapter up. It's ridiculous to make you wait so long for this final little bit, but Christmas happened, and relatives, and then I had a brainstorm for another project that totally demanded my attention ... in other words: life. But it's finally done and I did it. Thanks for reading, everyone! Peace out.
“If the sum of external forces acting on a fluid element is zero, the fluid will be either at rest or moving as a solid body—in either case we say that the fluid element is in equilibrium.”
“Cap, what’s your twenty?” Tony asked over the comms. “Nevermind,” he added a moment later when he saw a familiar flash of red, white, and blue arcing across the sky. He winced as Steve came to an ungainly landing in a snow drift. At least Tony hoped it was snow and not solid ice. “You okay, Cap?” he asked.
“Fine,” came Steve’s grunted reply. “Anyone got eyes on the target?”
Tony shot up into the air and twisted to survey the area. “Thor, coming in from your four o’clock.”
Only belatedly did it occur to Tony that Thor didn’t really have the hang of orienting himself according to earth timepieces. Thor spun the wrong direction and was promptly run down from behind by a big green blur. The Hulk didn’t even slow down, just kept right on on going as Thor was tossed into the air like a crash test dummy on a catapult.
“Anyone besides me noticed we’re getting our asses kicked?” Tony said. “Whose idea was this, anyway?”
“That would be me,” he heard Natasha say. He had no idea where she was. Or how she could so effectively hide her bright red hair and black catsuit in the middle of a snowy-white landscape.
“That’s right, it’s all coming back to me now,” Tony said. “Let’s take the Hulk to Antarctica, she said. It’ll be fun, she said.”
“This isn’t fun?” Natasha asked dryly.
“I’m having a great time,” Barton piped up.
Tony rolled his eyes, even though no one could see it. “Of course you’re having fun, Ahab. You’re kicking back in a nice warm room, watching everything over the video feeds.”
“What’s Hulk doing?” Steve asked, always the good little boy scout who refused to get distracted from work by anything as irresponsible as fun.
There was a brief pause followed by a snort of laughter, and then Barton said: “At the moment, chasing penguins. Looks like he’s having fun, too.”
“I am having much fun as well!” Thor announced, having picked himself up off the ground. “Perhaps the Man of Iron would enjoy himself more if he were to engage the Hulk in battle directly rather than hovering in the air above the fray.”
“Did Thor just call Iron Man a coward?” Natasha asked. “Because it sounded to me like Thor just called Iron Man a coward.”
“I’ll have you know I was up here formulating a plan,” Tony snapped.
“Hope it’s a good one,” Clint said. “’Cause Hulk got tired of the penguins. Incoming from the northeast.”
“See that ridge about 200 meters south of here?” Tony said. “I need you guys to lure the big guy up there.”
The Hulk was making another beeline for Thor, but the Norseman flew up into the air, trying to lure him in the direction of the ridge. The Hulk followed him a little ways, then gave up in frustration and started looking around for another target. Which is when Captain America leapt out in front of him and took off running. Hulk roared after him, gaining a little more ground with every thunderous step. Just when he was about to catch up to Cap, Black Widow popped up out of nowhere and executed a seriously impressive series of flips, launching up herself into the air and off the top of a very surprised Hulk’s head. The green guy forgot all about Captain America and took off after Widow, who’d already vaulted her way up onto the top of the ridge. She spun around to face the behemoth bearing down on her but held her ground, calmly staring into the oncoming storm. In the moment just before the Hulk reached her, Thor swooped in, grabbed her, and flew her up out of the Hulk’s reach.
Which was Tony’s cue. The Hulk was standing right on top of the ridge, just like he’d wanted, so Tony poured all the power in the suit into the thrusters and aimed himself on a collision course. The Hulk seemed to sense his approach at the last second but by then it was too late. Tony plowed into him at full speed, sending the Hulk flying over the top of the ridge and crashing down into the canyon 400 feet below—the one Tony had spied from the air earlier.
Tony came to a wobbly landing and promptly collapsed on the ground, his head ringing from the impact.
“Not so bad,” Maria Hill’s voice cut in over their comms. “Bit of a rocky start, but you managed to pull it together there at the end.”
“I’m sorry, that transmission didn’t come through clearly,” Tony said, still grimacing. “I’m assuming what you meant to say, Agent Hill, is that we were awesome.”
“Uh huh,” Hill replied humorlessly. “Let’s call it day and pack it in. SHIELD Ops, deploy the Hulk retrieval team.”
“Above the fray,” Tony muttered. “I’ll show you above the fray.”
“Are you seriously trying to take the credit after we did all the hard work?” Natasha said.
“You did all the hard work?” Tony replied, incredulous. “I’m the one that hit him. With my head.”
“It was a team effort,” Steve interjected. “Everyone deserves a share of the credit.”
“Sure,” Tony said. “If by everyone, you mean me.”
“Stark,” Steve said in that schoolmarm voice he only ever seemed to use on Tony. Tony hated that voice. Mostly because it always worked on him.
“Sorry,” Tony said flatly. “Obviously I meant rah rah rah, go Team Avengers. Hooray.”
“Clint didn’t really do anything,” Natasha pointed out. “I don’t think he should get any credit.”
“Hey!” Clint protested half-heartedly. “I was the lookout. It’s a very important job.”
“What’s the score on the Phillies game?” she asked.
“Cards are up 4-1 in the top of the sixth,” he answered automatically. “Uh, I mean, I have no idea, I’m obviously way too busy right now to watch a baseball game.”
“All right, enough,” Steve said sounding more amused than annoyed. “We all worked hard … except maybe Barton—”
“Hey!” Barton protested again. “Gimme a break, I’m still on the DL.”
“I think we should celebrate,” Steve finished.
“An excellent suggestion!” said Thor. “In Asgard, after a great battle we would cut off the heads of our enemies and drink a toast of victory from their hollowed out skulls!”
“Wow, that sounds great,” Tony said. “We should definitely save that for a special occasion.”
“I was thinking something more like a foosball tournament,” Steve said.
“I am in favor of foosball!” Thor announced.
“How about a foosball tournament with strippers?” Tony suggested.
“I am also in favor of strippers!” Thor declared.
“No strippers,” Steve said firmly.
“A margarita machine?” Tony tried.
“Fine,” Steve said, sighing audibly.
“Sweet!” Clint said. “Count me in.”
“I call dibs on kicking Stark’s ass first,” Natasha said.
“Oh, it’s on, Romanoff,” Tony said. “Hey, you guys think we should bring one of these penguins back for Bruce?”
“Sounds like an excellent idea,” Barton said.
“Definitely,” Natasha said.
“Last one back to the helicarrier has to explain the penguin to Fury.”
Once upon a time there were a bunch of strangers with some freaky superpowers who came together to save the world. And sometimes, when they weren’t saving the world, they’d hang out and watch movies and play foosball and drink margaritas. They also might have a pet penguin, but don’t tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because Nick Fury said he wasn’t going to cover their asses on that one if they got caught.