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Anthropos Polytropos, Chapter Two

Anthropos Polytropos
By: Memory Dragon
Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers movie-verse, nor do I make any claim to.
Characters:  Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanov, Bruce Banner, Thor, Amora the Enchantress, Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, Happy Hogan.
Warnings: PTSD. Mentions of past torture. Temporary character death that the characters are aware is (probably) only temporary, though it still takes it's mental toll on them.  Mentions of potential child abuse.  Mind fuckery.  Minor self-abuse.  Cliff hangers.  Implied bullying.  Generally dark fic, though there is a happy ending and no one actually dies.  Not Iron Man 3 compliant in the slightest.  If you have any questions about the warnings, I'd be more than happy to clarify as best I can.
Rating: I think I'm just going to leave this at an M due to how dark it gets and some of the themes.
Summary:  He doesn't remember much from before he woke up, but he does know two things.  He doesn't like being called Tony Stark, and he hates Captain America.
Thanks: Many thanks to narwhale_callin who stayed up to help me fix my numbers problem.  Because yeah, the numbers were the clusterfuck I thought they would be when I started writing this.  -_-  Also thanks to Salmastryon, Teyke, Wr3n, Kassandra, Chleom, and anon for commenting!  I appreciate the comments and the kudos.
Notes:  First of all, the warnings have been updated.  Chleom's comment made me realize I'd forgotten implied bullying, so please take note of that if it's one of your triggers.  I knew I'd forgotten one.  I really do apologize for not having that in there earlier.  Second, I'm pretty sure my numbers got mixed up.  We blame Tony entirely, because both my beta and I are English majors who are no good with numbers, and therefore it's all Tony's fault.  Still, it should be fixed now.  Finally, take a good look at those warnings before continuing on with this chapter.  There's a lot more PTSD on the way, and those things I've mentioned as temporary start to come into play now.  And more cliff hangers.  Because I like that sort of thing.

Prologue Chapter One
~

Chapter Two: To The Last, I Grapple With Thee


Tony jumped to his feet, ready to dash back to the trees for cover, but Cap just moved towards the arrow. "Cap, if someone's shooting at us-"

"It's one of Hawkeye's normal arrows," Cap said. "Don't worry. He wouldn't hit us."

"That arrow seemed pretty close," Tony said dubiously.

"Barton would have hit us if he'd been aiming for us." Cap plucked the arrow out of the sand, turning it over in his fingers.

"There's a note tied to it," Tony said, tapping his fingers against the arc reactor nervously. Cap hummed an acknowledgement as he untied it. Hawkeye. Barton. With a bow and arrow for a weapon? Cupid/Legolas/bird brain? Intelligence level yet to be determined, but it felt right. Robin Hood/Apollo - no, Apollo sounded too God-like. Skip that one.

"-ony, are you listening?"

"I said not to call me that," Tony snapped rather than replying that no, in fact, he wasn't. "What were you saying, Capsicle? Wait, Capsicle? That wasn't on the list." Tony frowned, wondering where that one had come from.

"The list?" Cap asked, looking just as perplexed.

"Of names to call you."

In retrospect, maybe that wasn't the best thing for Tony to say. Cap blinked at him, then sighed as he looked down. "You have a list of names to make fun of me with?"

That... that sounded bad. Actually, that sounded really bad, when Cap put it like that. And there goes Cap's Frown of Eternal Disappointment. "Not... really?" Tony said. Yeah, that sounded convincing. Tony tried again. "It's just a list? Of nicknames and stuff. I just started one for Barton. Is that bad?"

"Usually the names aren't very flattering," Cap said, but the disapproving frown was gone as he searched for spitefulness in Tony's eyes and found none.

"Oh." Okay, that... actually didn't actually make much sense at all, because none of the names felt particularly malicious to him. Then again, he also didn't remember how he used to use them. But right now, not malicious.

"You really don't mean them as insults, do you?" Cap scrutinized him, careful gaze that left Tony feeling unsettled.

Tony fought the urge to tap the reactor again, knowing it would just make him look nervous. "I... don't think so? Tony might, I guess. I don't."

Cap was silent for a long while, long enough that Tony looked at the notepad he'd dropped despite how much it freaked him out that it drew itself. The silence was just too long.

Before he could break the silence with more babbling (Twenty-five, data collection complete. Babbling is definitely a coping mechanism), a second arrow landed at his feet. Tony yelped and jumped back.

Cap wordlessly picked up the arrow, unrolling the note. His lips quirked. "Hurry up," he said.

"Hurry up what?"

"Oh, you... you weren't listening earlier, were you?" Cap smiled, though Tony still didn't know if their last conversation had ended favorably. Was that a good sign? The data was inconclusive, though Tony had collected enough. He just couldn't decipher it.

"Agent Barton said he was trapped on the ship I told you about. There's a boat pulled up on the beach down there. We should go pick him up."

Tony stilled. That ship was a long ways away, and over open water. He hadn't thought about it earlier, but now that he was closer to the water... Cap seemed to realize that Tony wasn't responding favorably, and he felt another hand squeezing his arm. "Do you want to wait here?" Cap asked.

Waiting would be good. He could even go back to the desk and the bed and get out of this annoying jungle heat. And there'd be no water. No large bodies of water that people could hold him under and... where did that thought come from?

Yeah, this was not cool. At all. Tony Stark, or what remained of his feelings, refused to be afraid of water, because that was a ridiculous fear and it was so not number Twenty-seven. "Let's just go already," he said, pushing Cap aside and marching straight over to the boat. "Come on, chop chop. I've only got two days left to live, remember? So hurry it up, Uncle Sam. America wants you to get your-"

Tony snapped his mouth shut when he reached the edge of the waves, afraid his voice was giving away too much of his panic. If the tide came just a little higher, it would have dragged the small boat out to sea. He almost wished it would, so he wouldn't have to get closer to the water.

He nearly jumped at Cap's hand on his back - honestly, national icons should not be this touchy-feely. It was creepy. He turned around to glare. If Cap was going to suggest he wait again, Tony would-

"Why don't you sit down and I'll push us out?"

-would have his anger completely deflated by Cap's suggestion. He honestly had no idea how to respond to that or to the hand on his back that stayed put until he moved towards the small boat. Carefully avoiding the water as he stepped in, Tony refused to meet Cap's eyes. He did not clutch the sides of the little boat either, but he may have had a little too tight a grip on the oars as Cap pushed them out.

This... wasn't so bad. Maybe. Okay, it was terrible, constantly hearing the waves crash against the side of the boat without knowing why he didn't like the water. Speaking of, this boat sucked too. He could totally make a better one, with an engine that ran off solar energy and taller sides that wouldn't let the bigger waves splash him.

Cap tried to start a conversation a few times, but Tony didn't dare take his attention off the oars in front of him. He couldn't have said how long it took them to row out to the ship, but Cap had to physically grab Tony's hands to keep him from rowing them into it. He pulled up his oars after that and let Cap direct them to the ladder.

Tony went up first, which nearly made him angry because Twenty-seven was that he was not afraid of water and he didn't need to be babied like this. Except he really didn't want to stay this close to the water a second longer than necessary and arguing counted as longer than necessary. The trip out here was more than enough proof for him that the water did (not) bother him.

The deck was deserted when he got there. The ship looked sort of what he'd always imagined a pirate ship would look like, if he'd been the sort to imagine such things. Was he? Actually, much like the little boat, Tony looked at the wooden monstrosity and the clunky steering wheel, and he itched to make it more efficient. Wood was a crappy material for a boat. There had to be some sort of alloy he could make that would be a lot better defensively. And those canons? Those were disgraceful. Though the harpoon on the bow was a different story. That looked sleek and deadly, and Tony could appreciate the design even if it was old-fashioned.

The complete lack of people was creepy though. Tony was glad when Cap came up behind him, looking around curiously. "Hawkeye?" he called out, raising his shield in front of them when there was a lack of response. He could feel Cap's suspicion and a bit of worry that something might have happened to this Hawkeye person.

Tony did not need to be protected, though, and it irked him that Cap assumed he needed it against a fat lot of nothing. First the water, and now this - Tony pushed the shield out of the way, stepping forward with far more confidence than he felt, yelling out as he went. "Hello? Anyone here? It's rude to call us here and then keep us waiting when-"

"You guys were the ones who kept me waiting," said a voice to his left.

Tony twisted around so fast his already tense muscles protested. There was a man wearing a sleeveless sort of body armor that was black with purple highlights and a quiver of arrows strapped to his back. He stood where there hadn't been anyone a few seconds before with his arms crossed over his chest. That quickly changed to raising his hands in a non-threatening manner. Tony heard a metallic whine nearby that sounded familiar, even if he couldn't place it. "Easy there, Stark," the man said, "You're not-"

"Don't!" Tony said as the man started to walk forward. "That's not... Don't call me that."

Cap was moving behind him, and he felt pressure on his arm. Cap was trying to push it down. When had Tony lifted his arm? He was holding it palm out at the stranger, and he could see a curious red out of the corner of his eye. He didn't dare look away from the stranger to see what it was.

"Ton-" Cap started, cutting himself off as Tony tensed. "Sorry. But that's Clint Barton. He's Hawkeye, one of your friends. He's here to help you, just like I am, so you can relax."

"I don't need help," Tony said, though he tried to get his mind to process the information. His arm still wouldn't go down, and why was it red anyway? Not bloody, but metallic-looking.

"Not from where I'm standing," he heard Barton mutter under his breath. The man looked at ease, despite his hands still in the air, and he gave Cap a questioning glance.

"He doesn't have any of his memories," Cap explained. "Only feelings. He's been on a hair trigger since we got on the boat, and he doesn't like his own name for some reason."

Barton drew a sharp breath at the information, cursing softly. "What's setting him off?"

"I think it's the water."

Barton cursed more and Tony felt like pointing out that not only was he right there when they were talking about him, but also that he was fine with the whole water issue. No, not issue. Water was totally not an issue. Except it was taking all of his concentration not to fire the weapon - and where the hell had it come from? It wasn't the taser he'd made. He didn't even spare a thought to how he knew it was a weapon.

"That explains a few things," Barton said when he was a bit calmer. "And of course he wouldn't stay behind. He's a stubborn son of a bitch."

"Twenty-eight," Tony said, only vaguely aware his mouth was moving at all. He started to tremble with tension as Barton started moving again. "Don't..."

"Sucks not having memories," Barton said, his voice calm. The dark, murderous expression on Barton's face from when Cap mentioned water was gone, replaced with an easy smile. "Because while you know there's danger, you don't have a frame of reference for it. You don't know why it's dangerous, or when the danger's passed. But you can trust us, right Stark?"

Cap, who had kept the pressure on Tony's arm, managed to lower it an inch while Barton had been talking. It came right back up at the name. "I'm not Stark. Not Tony either. I don't... Don't call me that."

"Right. I'll remember that. So what do we call you? Ex-Tony? Anti-Stark?

"Agent Barton..." Cap said warningly as the metallic whine started again. It was getting hard to breathe, but there was still... Tony couldn't give in, not yet. He had to fight this. He just wished he knew how.

Barton paused. He still had his hands in the air where Tony could see them. Empty. Safe. "You can trust us, can't you? To tell you when the danger's over?"

"I still don't like Captain America." Tony heard Cap's breath hitch, but the deflection was worth it. Cap stayed in place though, keeping a light pressure on his arm without forcing it. A suggestion, instead of a command, and probably the only reason Tony hadn't thrown him off to fight him as well.

"What about me then?" Barton asked, before his face turned grim. "Actually, if you only remember feelings, I don't think I want the answer to that."

He couldn't keep this up for much longer. Something was going to break, and Tony knew if it did, the weapon would go off, killing Barton, possibly the rest of them too. Tony didn't want to hurt anyone. He could though. He always ended up hurting people, even when he was trying to protect them. He always- "Frame of reference?" Tony bit out, all of his control on keeping that metallic whine from firing.

"You..." Barton looked uncertain, his eyes going to Cap. Tony couldn't see what Cap did, but it reassured Barton. "Okay, this might get worse before it gets better, because you've never talked about this to anyone. So we've got to figure out what happened based on what you feel, alright? Natasha and I have noticed a few things since we moved into the tower. You get nervous around water, like when Thor and Cap were splashing water around in the kitchen sink while Cap tried to teach him how to do dishes by hand. He offered to teach you too, but you wouldn't even go in the kitchen." Tony listened to the description and shivered. He didn't remember the scene... hell, he didn't even know who Thor was other than the fact that Cap had mentioned him a few times. But not wanting to get closer to water? Yeah, Tony understood that one. "Though it doesn't seem to effect you as much when you're in the suit. You've gone underwater a few times while wearing it, without problem. Our theory is that they may have used a form of torture on you while you were captured in Afghanistan," Barton continued. "It's called water boarding. It's basically simulated drowning."

Captured in Afghanistan? Tony filed that away for later to number, trying to parse through the important information. Simulated drowning. Except that didn't feel quite right, and the wrongness only made Tony feel more agitated. Suddenly, all he could feel was Cap behind him, around him, where he could so easily push and hold Tony down.

"Get away!" Tony shouted as he struggled out of Cap's grip, too terrified that he'd start to see Cap as a threat and use the weapon on him as well. Cap moved away, holding his hands up just like Barton.

Was like Barton. Barton now had his hands at his side, balled into fists, and a blank expression on his face. "They held you down," was all he said.

Tony took a step back, hitting the wall of the ship. He couldn't back up any more without falling in.

"Hawkeye, you're making it worse!"

Tony wasn't paying attention anymore. He had to - He wouldn't let them. He had a weapon this time. No, he couldn't make them a weapon, but one of his own. He could defend himself. He could-

"Tony!" He couldn't breathe. Were they already holding him down? "Tony, listen to me. You're safe. There's your frame of reference. Neither of us will hold you under the water. We won't. I promise. Tony, look at me!"

Tony looked, his eyes unfocused, barely able to make out Barton standing in front of him over what felt like water surrounding him. "Tony, listen to me. Just breathe. You can, right? No one is holding you under the water. The men who did that to you are dead, and neither me or Cap would let anyone else to do that to you. Just take a deep breath, Tony. Trust me."

He couldn't breathe - but he didn't want to hurt anyone else. He couldn't. Tony tried breathing like Barton said and... it didn't work, not a deep breath, but it was a breath. He wasn't drowning.

Tony lowered his arm, collapsing against Barton's shoulder as he gasped for air. He'd have fallen to the ground if the archer hadn't been supporting him. "Take it easy, man," he heard Barton murmur soothingly as Tony's lungs begged for air. Then, lower, so that Tony barely heard, much less comprehended in his air-starved mind, "Thanks for trusting me."

It was getting easier to breathe, but it was slow going. And it really didn't help matters to have Cap hovering around like concerned kicked puppy who didn't know where to put his paws where it wouldn't hurt someone. Tony grabbed Cap's hand to keep him in one place once he'd gotten his bearings. It was soon after that when Tony found himself squished against Barton in the middle of a giant Cap hug.

"Uh, Cap?" Barton said, fidgeting against him.

"Yeah, didn't think Cap would be that clingy either," Tony said a little breathlessly, deciding that blaming Cap was a far more logical reason for why he was still leaning against them than the fact that he didn't think he could stand on his own.

"Clingy?" The question was followed by two raised eyebrows and a blush from Cap, but the national icon still didn't let go. This time, Tony didn't feel threatened by Cap. Just tired.

"Cap? I like you and all, but can you let me go now?" Barton asked, sounding awkward.

Reluctantly, Cap let go of both of them, and Tony tried to move away as well, except his legs were still jelly and he might be trembling a little. Or a lot. It was hard to tell exactly, since his body felt numb.

Barton stopped him before he fell over. "Hey, I meant him, not you. You just had a flashback, so don't try to move yet." Looking around, Barton helped him over to the steps leading to the bow of the ship where he could sit down. He started to reach for Tony's shoulders, before thinking better of it. "Put your head down, okay? It'll help you feel better."

Tony tensed again as he felt Barton's hand on his back, but he kept breathing. It was tough, but he managed to relax as Barton's hand rubbed small circles into his back. Cap sat on his other side, a comforting bulk that was probably more for Cap's own comfort than for Tony's, but at the moment Tony couldn't spare the energy to mind.

He almost wished he knew how to take advantage of their proximity, because it just felt awkward. Tony didn't know what to do with touch, but he wished he did.

When he could feel his extremities again and the trembling subsided, Tony decided some answers were in order. "So I'm afraid of drowning. Twenty-seven B." And now that he had the though process to spare for it, Twenty-nine: Captured in Afghanistan. Which, that needed more explaining. "Why am I afraid of drowning? That... was that normal? Because it sucks if it is."

"You don't normally react this badly, but you do react," Barton explained. "I just don't think most people have noticed. Like I said, even Natasha and I only noticed after we'd moved in. I think this place is part of the reason it hit so bad this time though. You can't suppress emotions very well here, especially not strong ones."

He was speaking to Tony like he was a frightened animal, and he kept rubbing Tony's back. The latter Tony found he didn't mind all that much despite the awkwardness. The former, however, he minded. He minded a lot. "And you can't tell me where we are?"

"Got it in one, Stark," Barton said with an easy smile.

"I'm not-"

"Not Stark, got it." This time there was relief in his voice, and he spoke over Tony's head to Cap, "I think he's actually back with us this time."

"What..?" Tony raised his head, looking back and forth between Cap and Barton.

Cap touched his shoulder gently, and Tony only tensed a little at the contact. He forced himself to relax once no other pressure was exerted. "You've been babbling for the last ten minutes," Cap said. "Pretty much since you collapsed."

Tony did not remember any of that, beyond a short quip about Cap being clingy. Great. More things he didn't remember. "But why? Why am I like this?"

Barton's hand hesitated for the slightest second on his back, even though his face didn't show anything. For a place where it was harder to hide emotions, Barton had a damned good poker face. For some reason though, Tony still felt Barton's reluctance to speak.

"A while back you were kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for three months," Barton started carefully. And yeah, Tony knew that. Twenty-nine. "A terrorist cell called the Ten Rings wanted you to make weapons for them, and that's where you got the arc reactor because of shrapnel you'd taken in the chest. It keeps the shrapnel from moving around and killing you."

Tony nodded, feeling oddly distant from the events even though he knew it was part of the memories he'd lost. Listening to Barton talk was a bit like hearing a story, rather than a fact of his life. It was nice to know what the arc reactor did though. Other than serve as a source of energy for tasers and cause him pain when he took it out, that is. He looked down at the arc reactor, touching it gently through the cloth of his shirt. "So did I make the weapons?" he asked after a moment.

"You made yourself one to use against them." There was... something odd with Barton's voice. Not bad odd, but it took Tony a few seconds to place it, and even then it felt strange directed towards him. It was almost like Barton approved. Thirty: Approval didn't happen to him often. Well, if Twenty-four was to be believed about him being an ass, that was probably why.

"And what does that have to do with what just happened?" Tony asked impatiently. The data wasn't complete enough to draw conclusions from.

At this, Barton paused, giving Cap all the time needed to butt in. "Agent Barton, are you sure we should tell him? He's getting tense again."

"I'm not-" Okay, maybe he was. Tony suppressed a comeback in favor of responding later, once he forced his shoulders to relax.

Barton shook his head, giving Tony's arm a gentle squeeze that wasn't nearly as threatening as Cap's hand, though it was firmer. Tony wondered if it was because of how high up Cap's hand was on his shoulders.

"If I'm going to be Cap's teddy bear when you get 'clingy', you might as well call me Clint. That goes for you too," Barton, or, well, Clint said as he poked Tony on the nose before turning back to Cap. "And it's better for him to understand it, rather than to keep him in the dark."

"A frame of reference," Cap sighed, not looking happy about it.

"Hello! He's sitting right here!" Tony cut in.

"As I've said, you've never really talked about it, not to anyone, much less SHIELD. And there weren't any survivors to ask," Clint said. "But it's likely you were tortured before you started to play along. Natasha and I had thought water boarding, but given what you were saying about being held down, I think they were a lot cruder about it. I'm willing to bet they just held you under the water."

"I-I didn't say..." Had he? He hadn't said anything about that. He couldn't... if they held him down...

"Whoa, there. Easy," he heard Clint say. "Cap, move your hand away from his shoulder."

Tony wanted to go back to hiding under the desk. It was safer there and the road to self-discovery sucked. He'd already decided he didn't want to know more and-

"You're babbling again," Clint pointed out calmly.

Tony snapped his mouth shut, shivering miserably as he pushed all thoughts of water and drowning out of his head. Denial was a beautiful thing, even if in this case it wasn't a particularly easy one.

While Clint and Cap murmured soothing platitudes, Tony decided it was time to get a grip. Obviously, the old Tony hadn't freaked out this much if the others hadn't even known. He could do the same, even in this stupid place where it was impossible to hide anything.

Maybe.

"You're angry," Tony said to Clint after a while, once he trusted his mouth to only say what he intended to.

"Yeah, I am angry. Not at you or Cap though."

Tony scowled as Clint ruffled his hair, the easy affection catching him off guard. He honestly didn't know what to do with that since he didn't seem like the sort of person who had a lot of people who were genuinely fond of him - Thirty-one. Especially not when the said person was also angry.

"What are you doing out on this ship, anyway?" Cap asked, sensing the need to change the subject.

"I woke up here," Clint said with an odd stare at Tony. "There's no one else on board, and it's too big for just one person to sail. No lifeboats either, so I couldn't get to shore. I was up in the crow's nest because I was about to die of boredom when I saw you guys on the beach. I - Hey!"

Since he was getting stared at oddly, Tony decided to steal one of Clint's arrows. He eyed it suspiciously, running a hand along the shaft to the feathers. Still not satisfied, Tony reached out for the bow that was compacted against Clint's back.

Clint recoiled, attempting to protect the bow. "What the... You think you could ask before grabbing other people's things?"

Blinking, Tony thought about it. Note to self: People liked being asked permission to glare at their objects suspiciously. "May I?" Tony asked finally.

"Yeah, sure," Clint said sarcastically. "Go ahead and take my life bl- Tony!"

Sarcastic or not, that was more than enough permission for Tony. "Don't call me that," he snapped, unfolding the bow and looking at it with disapproval. "And this bow couldn't have shot an arrow that far. That distance is impossible for anyone to hit, even if you're good. And scratch that, not even a real hawk could have seen that far. How did you even see us? What? Stop laughing! It's true!"

He gave a small squeak that he would never admit to as Clint pulled Tony against him for a tight hug. Before Tony could work up annoyance about being everyone's personal teddy bear, Clint's forehead rested against Tony's neck and his relief was palatable as his breath sent shivers down Tony's spine. "Even without your memories, you never change."

Tony sensed relief and guilt..? It was coming from Clint. For being the reason Tony flash-backed. For having to bring up the non-memories again before he could help. Clint was... afraid of hurting his team mates again?

Tony couldn't have said how he knew this information. He also had no idea what to do with that information. This physical affection thing was still beyond him, and Tony didn't know how to respond. Cap and Clint seemed like naturals at it, while all Tony could do was sit there helplessly. Thirty-two. He looked at Cap, half pleading for some sort of clue.

Which was apparently enough for Cap to join in the cuddle pile. "Is everyone this touchy-feely normally?" he asked, wondering if he was really that different.

"No," Clint said, though he didn't move. "This is weird. And I should have more control than this, but..."

Tony awkwardly patted Clint's arm that was wrapped around him, hoping that was enough. At least being in the center of the cuddle pile was comfortable, even if he didn't know how to actively return the favor. "You never answered my question earlier," Tony pointed out once Clint was calmer.

"I saw you with the telescope in the crow's nest," Clint replied against his neck, not even needing a repeat of the question. The hug tightened for a fraction before Clint pulled away. He gave Tony a small smile in response to his silent question - not that Tony would admit to being worried, certainly not about someone he'd just met. Especially not with the grin that smile turned into. "And don't look at me about the impossible distance. I didn't think it would work, but this place is-"

Clint cut himself off, rubbing his temples lightly. "Yeah, this place really does make it hard to keep secrets from you. Don't think I'm letting you live this down though."

"And what other secrets aren't you supposed to tell me?" Tony asked innocently. He heard Cap give a small laugh, which Tony used as a distraction to wiggle out of Cap's hug. He still didn't like the guy, after all.

Clint on the other hand... Clint he liked, so he was glad of the laugh that statement got from him. "Only that Tasha was right. You grow on people, whether we want you to or not."

Tony frowned at the statement. Taken on Clint's word, that should be Thirty-three. But that would imply people sticking around long enough for that to happen, which didn't feel right. Data inconclusive. Further testing needed.

"Did you see any shadows while you were up there?" Tony asked as he pointed to the crow's nest, since he didn't quite know how to respond to Clint's earlier statement.

"There were, actually," Clint said, letting the earlier topic slide with a curious glance. "They were off to the east of the jungle... which again, not letting you live down. Even this boat is low tech. I'd expected more machines, I guess."

"It's not my fault this ship is inefficient!" Tony said, just a little defensively. "I could make one with much better alloys."

"Sure you can," Cap said with a smile.

"With an engine that doesn't need fossil fuels," Tony said. He frowned at Cap, his good humor slipping away.

"So what was this about the shadows?" Clint asked, cutting in with the practiced ease of someone who diffused their fights often. It implied that Twenty: He Hated Captain America was correct even in the normal world.

Completely ignoring Cap, Tony stood up and peered to the east, though he made sure to stay well away from the side of the ship.

"That's where Ms. BDSM Boots and Corset is waiting. If I don't find her in two days, I probably die a painful and horrible death."

"Then we don't have a lot of time left. Time passes differently here," Clint said. He completely lost his easy-going demeanor at Tony's last sentence. "Come on. With the three of us, we can bring the ship closer to the shadows and we won't have to walk as far."

"You're coming too?"

"Yup. Just like a bad penny. You can't get rid of me," Clint said, his eyes surprisingly kind with a hint of the earlier guilt. "And we've wasted a lot of time here. Don't worry, Tony. We'll get you out of here."

"I'm not Tony," he insisted absently, running through the pros and cons. Pros: He actually liked Clint. He trusted Clint, and he kind of liked Clint's hugs. He was good with a bow and with fighting, in case any more Hydras showed up. Cons: This place was freaky and emotional, and Tony didn't like people knowing that much about him (Thirty-three). The longer Clint stayed, the more he would find out. Then there was the fact that he was a normal human. Unlike Cap, he might not survive though through the shadows.

"You're Not-Tony then," Clint said, interrupting the internal debate. "The Engineer that was formerly known as Stark?"

"I'm not Stark anything!" Tony nearly shouted, the knee jerk reaction to that name nearly overwhelming him when he didn't guard against it.

"Clint," Cap said warningly.

"You really hate that name, don't you?" Clint asked, a sad look crossing his face. "That shouldn't surprise me, given your file, but I never thought..."

"Come on," Cap said, touching Clint's arm lightly. "Let's get the lifeboat up and we can set sail."

Tony let them handle the leaning over the rail to bring the boat up. He glanced around and saw a door leading below deck. There was probably an engine down there, because 'setting sail' was just out of the question, but he'd be under the water level...

Hell no. He was done being afraid of that, wasn't he? He was... well, he wasn't Tony Stark, but he damn well wasn't going to let a fear of water stop him.

Tony marched up to the door and went down without giving himself time to hesitate again. It was a little nerve-wracking, but Tony pushed all thoughts of water away and forced himself to explore. The first room he found was an office of sorts, then a kitchen and... beds? Well, you could apparently live comfortably on this boat. Tony grabbed a packet of dried mangoes from the kitchen and continued wandering. There were a few more rooms Tony didn't recognize before he found the engine.

He whistled when he saw it. "You are a sexy thing, aren't you?" he purred to it, running his hands along the cool, clean lines of the metal casing. "This is what I'm talking about: clean energy!"

Tony tapped the arc reactor in his chest as he looked over the larger version of it in front of him, pushing away the unease he felt as part of his non-phobia of water. The engine itself was a little beaten down and warped, but it shouldn't take long to fix, especially if... Yup, closet full of tools, exactly what Tony needed. He could probably even improve it before they got the life boat up. Tony started working immediately on the familiar-looking design, losing himself to the engine.

He had no idea how much time had passed, but it seemed like a decent while before he heard a low whistle. Tony pushed himself out from under the engine to see an upside-down Clint leaning over him. "See? Clean energy," Tony said, still lying on his back.

"Never doubted you, Not-Tony."

Tony scowled at the name, but he accepted the hand up as he inched the rest of the way out from under the engine. At least Clint was impressed by the work he'd done on the engine. As he should be. "You look like you haven't seen it before," Tony said with a smirk. "Didn't you do a search of the ship earlier?"

A blank expression flickered across Clint's face for a second before it settled into one of Clint's easy grins. Tony immediately felt his guard rise. "Must have missed it," Clint said, only a slight pause when he realized Tony wasn't buying it.

"It wasn't here earlier," Tony said flatly. He looked at the engine that bore a surprising resemblance to the one he'd designed before. He hadn't thought about it, pushed it away so that he wouldn't have to think about it. But it was there, in his pride while showing it off to Clint. This was the engine he'd designed that appeared on the paper without drawing it, which had now appeared here without being made. If this was normally his life, Tony didn't want it.

That didn't mean he had to listen to Clint's answer. Denial was still a gorgeous lady to court. Too bad she didn't seem to want to give him her hand at the moment. She was such a fickle lover. "So why were you angry earlier?" Tony asked as Clint opened his mouth to answer his earlier question.

Clint saw right through the diversion tactic, but he played along for now. That was why he liked Clint, Tony decided. "I don't like hearing about my friends being tortured, is all," Clint replied, unconsciously reaching out to touch Tony's arm. He hesitated the moment he realized it, but continued with the motion, squeezing gently. "Don't let this go to your head, but there are some people who like you."

"And you're one of them?" Tony asked. It didn't feel like Clint was lying, and by this point Tony was sure he'd be able to tell if he were. It was just strange, thinking that someone actually cared. It was a little scary, how lonely the doubt made him feel.

"Against my better judgement, yeah," Clint said with feigned exasperation. He must have seen something in Tony's eyes, because he dropped the act. "Hey, I mean that. You aren't the easiest person to get along with, sure, but the whole team does care about you. Even Cap. That's why we came here to help. Besides, who would make new arrows for me if you died here?"

That Tony could understand. Thirty-four, he made things for the team. He was useful, therefore people stayed around.

Clint frowned, and that link which had told him about Clint and Cap's thoughts earlier? Yeah, apparently it worked both ways. Either that, or he was babbling again, and Tony preferred to think he had more control than that. This place sucked. "Tony," Clint started, "It's not like-"

"Let's get this thing started," Tony said, looking around for where he'd put the On switch. "And I'm not Tony. He has memories, I don't."

His eyes fell on panel that was on the side of the machine. It had a camera and a speaker, but both were dark and lifeless. For some reason, that was... It was more than upsetting, actually, though he didn't know why. "That panel is dark. Why is it dark? It shouldn't be. It shouldn't... Why is it dark?"

"It looks like one of JARVIS's panels," Clint said.

"Jarvis?" Tony asked. That name. He knew that name, and it was someone important. Someone important that shouldn't be dark.

"Your AI. He's... Hey, he's okay. He just can't be in this place with us."

"He is?" Tony desperately needed the assurance, even if he couldn't have said why.

"JARVIS is fine. He just couldn't come to this place," Clint said firmly. Tony let out the breath he was holding as relief flooded through him, though he didn't relax completely. Clint continued, "I don't even pretend to understand the relationship between you and your bots, but he'd have been here in a heartbeat if he actually had one."

"An AI with no heart?" Tony asked, sorting through quotes that came to mind. "Like Tik-Tok?" Something about that seemed right. Faithful. Though if he were to build a robot, Tony would try to give it feelings.

Clint just looked perplexed. "I have no idea who Tik-Tok is, but JARVIS is safe. Don't worry about him."

Safe, just not here. That was still a little disconcerting, considering the panel was still dark, but he'd taken Clint's word once. Might as well this time too, especially since he didn't feel like he was lying. Tony glanced at the dark panel with unease, but forced himself to calm down. He refused to be this panicky all the time, and this was getting ridiculous.

"You really do care about them," Clint said, something like pity on his face. "I mean, you made them, but I never really thought about it, I guess."

He's learning too much.

If Clint stayed, he would learn more things about Tony. And then he'd leave, or use them against him. People always left when they saw the real Tony. Always. Thirty-five.

Clint was frowning again, his eyes slightly unfocused as if he were trying to get a read from Tony. No.

The archer blinked. "Tony, how did..." He shook his head, as if to clear it. "I didn't get a clear picture of what you were thinking, but it wasn't-"

"So I just need to hot wire this, right?" Tony asked, ignoring the platitudes. He ran over the wires he'd need to connect in his head and moved to the back of the engine as he tried to put space between them.

"Not letting you deflect this time, Tony. What-"

"Don't you have to go up and be the albatross or something?" Tony said, clearly dismissing him. He caught a glance of Clint, who wasn't even trying to hide his frustration. "I've got this. Go help Cap do whatever he's doing."

"Tony, you-"

It wasn't Tony that cut Clint off this time, but the ship rocking precariously. Tony lost his balance, his gut becoming far too intimate with the engine for comfort as he fell on top of it. The breath was knocked out of him as he was rocked back, his attempts to grab on ending with Tony flying into the wall. Only the wall was a lot squishier than wood should be, and it grunted in pain when Tony rammed into it.

One of Clint's arms wrapped around his chest as the rocking petered out and they both stood there for a moment as the ship righted itself. Just when Tony caught his breath, the ship started to rock violently again, but this time he used the momentum to pull them both into the door-way, his hands grabbing on to the door frame as Clint arched his back against it.

"We need to get up top," Tony said breathlessly.

"Yeah," Clint said, his arm tightening briefly around Tony before letting go.

They took off as soon as the boat stopped rocking enough that they could move. Racing through the ship, they knocked into each other a few more times as they ran. Cap met them half way to the upper deck.

"What's going on?" Clint asked, clinging to a door handle to keep from barreling into Tony.

"It's one of the Chitauri war beasts trying to capsize us," he said, motioning for them to follow. "We've got to get to shore."

"Chitauri?" Tony asked, looking back at Clint.

Clint had stopped running. His hands were balled in fists and a look of pure rage was on his face before he schooled it to be blank. The ones who hurt his friends. The ones who gave Loki the staff. The ones Clint helped invade Earth. And Tony was putting him up against them again. "'To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee,'" Tony said unconsciously, feeling Clint's emotions ripping through him.

Clint's anger that was now focused on him. "I know I was pushing, but this is too far, Tony. You-"

"He's not conscious of it," Cap said sharply. "And he doesn't remember. As far as we know, this is the Enchantress trying to stop us from helping Tony by influencing this place as well. But we have to move now."

"What are you talking about? What's this got-" Another shock ripped through the boat, and Tony, who had let go of the door frame he'd been clinging to so he could gesture, stumbled into Clint again. Clint didn't catch him this time. It was Cap that grabbed him, pushing him to a rail he could cling to.

"Hawkeye, we need to move. We can discuss this later," Cap commanded.

That snapped Clint out of whatever it was, and he gave a curt nod as the link was broken abruptly. He walked past them, not looking at Tony. "Clint!" he started, cutting himself off at Cap's warning look. "Is it my fault?" Tony asked, baffled and hurt, because he didn't know why.

"No," Cap said firmly, motioning for Tony to keep moving. "Just leave him alone for now though. He'll realize that once he's calmed down."

The rest of the way out to the deck was rough, but Tony finally stumbled into the sunlight, blinking as he saw a giant armored... It was an armored something. It was a giant mass that came out of the water, practically flying as it rammed the ship. An arrow whizzed by his face and glanced off the armored side as it wheeled around to ram them again.

"That is not Moby Dick," Tony said, shivering as he watched the water slide off the beast's body. "How do we fight that thing?"

"Your armor..." Cap started, shaking his head when he saw the confused look in Tony's eyes. "Right, no armor."

"Cap, get him out of here," Clint said, loosing another arrow. "I'll distract it."

"No, your arrows aren't working," Cap said, his mouth setting in a firm line. "And he trusts you more than me. I'll take care of-"

"I'm not leaving either of you here!" Tony objected, stumbling forward as the beast hit the ship again. This time, instead of wheeling around, it jumped over the ship and headed straight at them with a terrible roar.

Tony didn't think. Cap had his shield, but Clint wasn't... Tony pushed Clint down, falling on top of him as the beast ripped up the railing as it flew by. He cried out as sharp spikes brushed over his back and tore his shirt. He vaguely heard Clint yelling at him, calling him Stark of all things, but Tony was gritting his teeth to keep from screaming as the beast passed over.

It felt like hours, but it was probably only a matter of seconds before the beast swam off to make another pass, this time taking a long swim out in hopes of finishing it.

"-little idiot! You're not wearing the armor!" Clint was yelling at him. There was open panic on Clint's face, and he didn't let go of his hold on Tony this time, so Tony must have done something right.

"They aren't too deep," Cap said, kneeling down as they both helped Tony sit up. Tony’s back seared with pain. "The salt water on the beast is why he's in so much pain, but he should be fine if we can dress the wounds."

Great. It's rubbing salt in his wounds. He missed a bit of the conversation trying not to giggle hysterically as Clint pressed bits of what had been his shirt to Tony's back. "-lifeboat is destroyed, Cap," he heard as he adjusted to the pain. "You're the only one who can not only swim that far, but hold him when he flashbacks. You've got to get him out of here."

"You can't," Tony gasped out, grabbing hold of Clint's wrist. "You have to... I'll make something. I can use the engine. We'll kill it, and it'll work, I promise. I made a taser out of a cellphone and other spare parts that killed the Hydra. I can come up with something that will-"

"Tony," Clint said as he pulled Tony into a careful hug. "This won't kill me. I'm not sure what will happen, but Thor said we couldn't die here. You can."

"He said might. It's still a risk," Cap said, his hands in fists in his lap.

"One we all said we'd take," Clint returned. He focused back on Tony, helping him stand. "Look, go easy on Cap, will ya? He's trying," he whispered in Tony's ear.

Then he let go, and Tony stumbled back against Cap, hissing as his back hit Cap's chest. "Clint!" he heard Cap shout as Tony tried to go after the archer. Except Captain America's biceps barred the way.

"I'm gonna test out this harpoon gun," Clint called back as he circled the weapon. "Good thing I never miss. Looks like I only have one chance at it."

"No! Damn it, Cap, don't let him do this!" Tony pleaded as he tried to fight Cap's grip in vain.

"It's coming back around, and it'll hit hard this time with the momentum it's gained," Clint said, positioning the harpoon. "You know I'm right, Cap. Get him out of here. Now!"

With one more glance at Clint, Cap pulled Tony tight against him. "Don't you dare-" Tony started, trembling in either fear or fury.

"Hold your breath," Cap said before picking Tony up and throwing them both over.

"Don't die on me, Tony. I still have to beat your ass for putting me up against one of these again," was the last thing Tony heard from Clint before he went under the water.

~TBC~

Memory:  As stated in the tags and by the characters, all deaths are only temporary.  So don't fear too much for Clint, because while he's dead, he's not dead-dead.  He's merely pining for the fjords and is not an ex-hawk.  And no, I'm not sorry for bringing the dead parrot sketch into this.  Though I probably should be...

Anyway, next week will feature some Black Widow.  Or was it the Black Swan?  Well, you'll find out next Monday, I'm  sure.

Quote of the Chapter:

"To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick