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Avengers: Earth's Smallest Heroes

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Getting called in by Fury didn’t happen often, but when it did, he needed them for a fight. Usually, it was HYDRA they were fighting, sometimes AIM. This time? A sociopathic god in search of a super powerful space cube. Sadly, it wasn’t the weirdest thing they’d faced as a duo, SHIELD or otherwise. Far from, honestly.


They met Agent Romanoff at the usual rendezvous point just outside San Fransisco, uniforms carried in unremarkable dufflebags. They had been given the basics of the mission: who they were up against, where they were going, and the objective. Agent Romanoff was supposed to fill in the blanks on the trip to Germany of all places.


The shorter of the two, a young woman in her early-20s, was using the time until Romanoff arrived to tie her chocolate-brown hair into a tight French braid, needing it well out of the way if she was going on a field mission. Her partner, a young man around the same age but considerably taller, was playing a game on his phone to pass time. It sounded like solitaire of some kind.


Gradually, the sound of an aircraft approached the duo, drawing them away from what they had been doing. The man put his phone away, while the woman laid her braid flat down her back.


The aircraft landed a few feet in front of them, a door opening so they could enter. Once they were on board, they started changing, a habit they’d picked up early in their career of saving the day.


“Agent van Dyne, Dr. Pym,” Romanoff greeted with a short nod. “What did Fury tell you?”


“We’re heading to Germany,” Pym said. “Fury wants us to detain a crazy god so he can see what the guy knows,” he went on, tightening a belt around his waist and adjusting the rather large, circular buckle so it sat flush with the belt instead of crooked. “Guy’s armed, dangerous, and has no problems with killing humans he can see, which is why we got called in. Can’t see us, can’t kill us,” he shrugged, tugging on his gloves to complete his uniform. Van Dyne was changed as well, meaning her paper-thin wasp wings were on display and fluttering slightly to straighten them out.


Neither van Dyne nor Pym noticed the other person on board until he spoke up, evidently confused, judging by his tone.


“I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but are those wings?” the blond man asked with wide eyes, pointing to van Dyne’s back.


“They are,” van Dyne nodded, halting the fluttering once she deemed them straight enough to fly with. “Science is a wonderful thing,” she mused. “I’m Agent Janet van Dyne, but in the field, they call me the Wasp,” she introducedd, holding out a gloved hand to the man.


“Captain Steve Rogers,” the man told her, shaking her hand firmly. “And your partner?” he inquired, nodding towards Pym.


“Dr. Hank Pym,” the other man said for himself. “Ant-Man works for now though. Any plans for taking this guy down yet? Janet and I can distract, if needed,” he asked.


Romanoff and Steve proceeded to fill the duo in on what they had in mind, Hank and Janet working themselves into the plan.


When the pilot called out that they had arrived, Steve braced himself for a jump while Janet and Hank seemingly disappeared. Romanoff located her weapon, getting herself in position as Steve hurled himself out of the aircraft. A faint buzzing sound trailed behind him, though the rush of wind in his ears blocked it out.


“You know, last time I was in Germany and saw a man standing over everyone else, we ended up disagreeing,” Steve said idly, having deflected an energy blast back towards the god that knocked him back.


“Ah the soldier, the man out of time,” the god mused, getting back to his feet and somehow making brushing dirt off himself look elegant.


“I’m not the one out of time,” Steve shook his head. As if cued, the aircraft they’d arrived in came into view, Agent Romanoff aiming a rather large machine gun at the god.


“Loki, drop the weapon and stand down,” she ordered, tone even and almost cold. Loki responded by firing an energy blast towards Romanoff, though Steve deflected it with his shield. Angered, Loki approached Steve, sceptre glowing blue as he did. Just as he went to press it against Steve’s chest, something grabbed his elbow and jerked his arm back. The momentary shock caused him to drop the sceptre, which then began moving on its own accord somehow. Loki wrestled his arm out of the grip of whatever had grabbed his elbow, lunging forward to grab his sceptre. He was intercepted by a well-timed punch from Steve, sending him skittering backwards a half a foot.


“What is this trickery?” Loki snarled, stepping towards Steve again. The sceptre had travelled a fair distance on its own, and was now hovering in the air, pointed at him. “You will return my sceptre immediately,” he said darkly, holding out a hand for said weapon. “I do not play games with Midgardians. You will return it, and you will kneel before me.”


“Not today,” Steve shook his head, shield held in front of him defensively. “Why don’t you come with us? If you co-operate, we’ll talk about giving it back.”


Loki let out a dangerous growl, lunging towards Steve and sweeping his leg at the soldier’s feet to knock him off balance. Steve stumbled, falling backwards and hitting the ground. Loki pinned him down with a foot firmly on his chest, only to hear some sort of Midgardian music screeching from an unknown source. Steve didn’t recognize the song, but apparently Romanoff did, as she scoffed and rolled her eyes.


“Agent Romanoff, miss me?” came a mechanical voice, accompanied by a robotic-looking suit hovering in the air. One of its arms raised, palm flat as it fired a blast straight towards Loki that knocked him back. The suit then landed next to Steve, weapons poking out from various hidden compartments along the shoulders and arms. “Make your move, Reindeer Games,” he said warningly.


When Loki put his arms up in surrender, a person appeared holding the sceptre, where (seemingly) none had been before. A second person appeared from thin air almost, standing behind the one with the sceptre and glaring at the man in the suit heatedly.


“Mr. Stark,” Steve nodded curtly as Romanoff landed in order to deal with Loki.


“Captain,” Stark nodded back just as curtly, turning to the other two as the mask of his suit pulled away to reveal his face. “Bug Twins,” he greeted, though he sounded unimpressed and a little annoyed. “How’d you weasel your way into this one, Pym?”


“Fury assigned us to the mission,” Hank said flatly, just as unimpressed as Stark. “I could ask you the same thing, Tony,” he reminded the other man.


“You three… know each other?” Steve frowned, sliding his shield into place on his back.


“You could call us business rivals,” Janet nodded, sliding her goggles off so she could see better without the yellow haze. “Pym Tech is a lot newer than Stark Industries, yet we put Stark to shame in almost every way,” she added with a sickeningly sweet smile directed towards Tony before boarding the aircraft with Hank.


Tony said nothing as he boarded as well, though he was red in the face. Steve boarded as well, making a mental note to look into Pym Tech when he had the chance.


Janet had taken the sceptre from Hank once they were back on the aircraft, sitting a safe distance from their detained passenger so she could inspect it. She could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, getting louder and louder by the second, which made her head snap up with wide eyes.


“We best not be flying into a storm,” she said cautiously, grip tightening on the sceptre.


“Nothing on the radar,” Romanoff shook her head, frowning. “Where’s this coming from?”


As soon as the thunder had started, Loki began staring out the window in clear disdain. That caught Steve’s attention, eyebrow cocked in amusement and curiosity.


“What, scared of a little thunder?” he asked Loki mockingly, though the ice-cold glare he received made him shift in his seat.


“I am not overly fond of what comes after the thunder,” Loki said bitterly, turning back to the window. Before anyone could respond, the aircraft’s doors flew open suddenly, a blur of blond hair and silver metal heading for Loki. The blur grabbed Loki by the throat, turning and jumping back out of the aircraft with him.


“The brother?” Hank wagered, casting a glance at Janet to tell her she should probably go after them.


“Probably,” Tony nodded, pressing the side of his helmet to deploy the mask. “Whoever he is, he’s got Loki. Whether he lets him go or kills him, he’s the only one who knows where the Tesseract is,” he reminded everyone, jumping out after the blur. Janet seemed to disappear as well, after pressing a quick kiss to Hank’s cheek to assure him she’d be back.


“Might want to sit this one out, Cap,” Romanoff commented. “Wasp’s got this, she always does. Save your energy for interrogation later.”


Steve looked like he wanted to protest for a minute, but decided against it. Instead, he leaned forward in his seat, looking over at Hank. “How do you two do it? The disappearing thing?”


Meanwhile, Tony and Janet had found the blur and Loki somewhere in the European mountains. Tony didn’t know Janet had followed him though, assuming he was going solo. He tackled the blur, which he could now see was a beefy guy with blond hair and a giant hammer. He dragged the guy a few hundred feet before dropping him, landing on both feet and retracting his mask.


“Do not touch me again,” the man scowled, gripping the handle of his hammer tightly.


“Then don’t take my stuff,” Tony said simply. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something appear suddenly, turning towards it with a frustrated grumble.


“I would apologize for his actions, but I really don’t care what happens to him right now,” Janet commented idly. “What I will do is ask what you plan to do with Loki, Thor Odinson. We need him long enough to find the Tesseract and secure it. Afterwards, he’s yours.”


Thor blinked a few times when Janet appeared, caught off-guard by the sudden distraction. “My brother will face trial on Asgard for his crimes,” he stated. “If you Midgardians had more tact and diplomacy, I would consider a compromise that satisfies both our agendas, but the ones I have encountered have been nothing but hostile.”


Janet cast a glance towards Tony that read ‘dumbass’ even behind her yellow goggles before turning to Thor. “I can assure you, your Highness, there are Midgardians capable of diplomacy. My…. associate just happens to not be one of them. Come back with us, and we can discuss that compromise in a more friendly environment than the base of a mountain in the middle of Europe somewhere.”

Chapter Text

When they arrived at the Helicarrier, Hank and Janet removed their headpieces, revealing to Steve just how young they were. Barely into their 20s, if he were to guess. The way they carried themselves however, led Steve to believe they were far more experienced than Stark, in this situation and many others.

 

The group that had brought in Loki made their way to the briefing room they’d been directed to, silent for the most part save the faint fluttering of Janet’s wings as she worked out some of the creases she’d gotten fighting Loki. No one said a word as they watched Loki’s interrogation on the screen, Thor’s back facing the screen so he wouldn’t see what Fury was doing with his brother, and vice-versa.

 

No one spoke for a few moments after the screen went black, the air rife with tension of all kinds. Finally, Banner broke the silence, probably trying to make a joke to lighten the mood.

 

“He really grows on you, doesn’t he?” Banner commented, though no one seemed amused.

 

“Loki looks like he plans to drag this out. Thor, do you know what his play is?” Steve asked, drawing Thor from his absent state of thought.

 

“He has allied himself with a race known as the Chitauri, which is the only fact on the race anyone in all the Nine Realms has found,” Thor explained stiffly, straightening his posture and claspinng his hands behind his back. “He plans to lead an army of these Chitauri to win Midgard for his own, in return for the Tesseract, I suspect.”

 

Despite the serious air in the room, Janet couldn’t help but let out a small cheer under her breath at the mention of aliens, turning to whisper in Hank’s ear. “This’ll be better than our last call-in,” she told him with the faintest of a smirk on her face.

 

“An army, from space?” Steve repeated in disbelief, though he was brushed aside by Banner, who started suggesting theories.

 

“So he’s building another portal,” Banner realized. “That’s what he needs Erik Selvig for.”

 

“How’d he get Selvig into the picture?” Hank spoke up with a frown. “He’s not one for being pressured into things. At least, the last time I saw him.”

 

“Loki’s got him under some kind of spell,” Romanoff answered, “along with one of ours,” she added in a sombre tone.

 

“Is that why..?” Janet trailed off in realization, eyes widening slightly. “Oh Nat...” she trailed off, a sad look in her eyes. Nat simply nodded, trying not to let her face show how badly she was taking this all.

 

“What I’d like to find out is why Loki let us take him so easily,” Steve spoke up. He’s not leading an army from here,” he reasoned.

 

“Right now, I think we shouln’t focus too much on Loki,” Banner commented. “That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats; you can smell the crazy on him.”

 

Thor sent a rather unimpressed look towards Banner, who stepped back in response. “Have care how you speak of Loki, Midgardian. He is beyond reason, but heis still my brother,” he said shortly.

 

“He killed 80 people in two days,” Nat reminded him idly.

 

“He is adopted,” Thor added without missing a beat.

 

“Anyway. Iridium, what would he need iridium for?” Banner started thinking out loud, Hank and Janet moving closer to help him out where they could. Janet was just about to share a theory when Tony entered the room with Coulson and Agent Hill, a smug look on his face.

 

“It’s a stabilizing agent,” he stated, looking more cocky than usual thanks to getting the chance to one-up the Bug Twins. “It means the portal won’t collapse in on itself like it did last time.” Hank glared at him ever-so-subtly, never amused when Tony showed up just in time to be cocky, especially if it meant stealing their thunder. Sure, Hank and Janet were nearly half Tony’s age, but they were still adults, that he didn’t need to treat like children in a freshman science class.

 

“That would mean the portal can be opened as wide as, and for as long as, Loki needs,” Janet jumped in before Tony could go on. “It’s kind of like the quantum gate we’ve been working on. Without a stabilizer, it’s going to fail spectacularly and probably explode.”

 

“Oh, Bugette does have a brain,” Tony taunted, rolling his eyes as he turned towards the computer banks of crew members in front of him. He covered one eye with his hand, trying to figure out how Fury managed this task with only one eye. “Anyway,” he hummed, turning back to the others. “The rest of the raw materials, Barton can get his hands on pretty easily. Only major thing he needs now is a power source. A high energy density to kickstart the cube,” he said almost too casually for the three SHIELD agents currently in uniform to work alongside him’s liking. Nat scowled briefly at his lack of tact, while Janet wanted to shrink down and buzz near his ear for a few minutes to piss him off.

 

“When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?” Agent Hill asked with a skeptical look.

 

“Last night,” Tony answered smugly. “Selvig’s notes, the Extraction Theory papers? Am I the only one who did the reading?”

 

“I’ve read them before,” Hank told him with dry expression and tone to match. “Several times over the last few years, in fact. So you can stop trying to show off like you understand anything you read.”

 

“Men, focus,” Steve said sharply, which got Hank to back down but Tony to smirk as if he’d won something. “Does Loki need a specific power source, or can he find something generic?” he asked, mostly to Bruce and Janet, since they weren’t being petty assholes.

 

“Unless Selvig’s figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect, he needs to heat the cube to 120,000,000 Kelvin just to break the Coulomb barrier,” Banner supplied, which made Janet’s eyes light up and Hank’s darken slightly for unknown reasons.

 

“If he has figured it out, he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on Earth,” Janet supplied, glancing at Tony out of the corner of her eye to watch his frustrated reaction.

 

“You’re right,” Banner nodded at Janet’s statement. “Selvig could’ve been close, but there’s only two quantum-physicists who’ve ever achieved anywhere close to that.”

 

Hank and Janet shared a brief, knowing glance and raised their hands. “That would be us,” they said in unison, enjoying the way Tony’s face contorted in annoyance far too much.

 

“You’re going to have to give me the basics, if we’re going to stop this,” Banner nodded, an impressed flicker passing over his face. “I’ve read some of the research papers you published, but they’re all inconclusive.”

 

“Not a problem,” Hank assured him. “It’ll be nice talking to an actual person and not a robot for once,” he commented, making Tony huff in annoyance.

 

Just then, Fury entered the room, hands clasped behind his back as he surveyed the agents and allies surrounding the table. “There’ll be time for that soon,” he nodded to Hank, Janet, and Banner. “For now though, I want to know how he turned two of the sharpest men I know into his own personal flying monkeys.”

 

“I do not understand,” Thor frowned. “What is a ‘flying monkey’?”

 

“It’s a reference to some old books, and the first technicolour movie ever produced,” Steve answered with a faint proud smile. “They’re pretty much normal monkeys, but under the control of a wicked witch, they can fly in order to do her bidding wherever she sends them.”

 

“On it,” Hank and Janet said at the same time again, both looking towards Bruce.

 

“We’ll need your help, Dr. Banner,” Hank told him. “We’re not experts on gamma radiation, but you are.”

 

“You can explain the quantum tunneling while we work then,” Banner nodded, getting up to follow the two towards a lab. Fury glared at Tony, making him follow as much as he hated the idea of working with the Bug Twins on a research mission.

Chapter Text

Hank, Janet, and Bruce made themselves comfortable in the lab they were using, Tony begrudgingly sitting on the other side of the room while the other three talked quantum science and theoretical physics. He tossed a rubber band ball into the air and caught it repeatedly, hoping they’d need his help eventually.

 

“The gamma readings are consistent with Selvig’s reports on the Tesseract, but it’ll take weeks to process,” Banner sighed, running a hand down his face.

 

“If I can bypass their mainframe, I should be able to directly reroute to the Homer cluster, we can clock this in about six-hundred teraflops,” Hank told him, pushing his glasses back up his face when they began to slide down.

 

“You sure you can manage that?” Banner asked uncertainly, though Janet looked entirely confident in her partner’s ability to basically bend the quantum realm and all things related to his needs, if needed.

 

“Back at the office, I could get it done faster, but this is all I’ve got for now,” Hank nodded, turning his attention to the screen to begin working.

 

“Hey Banner, don’t let the Bug Twins get to you,” Tony called over, holding his rubber band ball instead of tossing it up and down. “Bugette’s only gimick is that she can fly, and Ant-Boy’s got a complex about being smarter than everyone else. They can really suck the life out of any party.”

 

“Oh really, Stark?” Janet asked with a raised eyebrow and an amused expression. “The last time we did anything remotely recreational with you and Pepper, you got drunk and tried to get in my pants. With Pepper standing ten feet away, and Hank standing with her,” she reminded him. “And I was barely 19,” she added as an afterthought.

 

“See what I mean, Banner!” was Tony’s response. “They try to make everyone else the bad guy, so they look like saints in comparison.”

 

“Tony, there’s a reason you’re in Pym Tech’s ‘do not admit’ list,” Hank called over while he was working. “In fact, we made the list because of the fact that you flew down to San Fransisco and tried to steal one of my protoype nanobots so you could use it for your armour.”

 

“You’re still not allowed in San Fran, by the way,” Janet added idly, smirking. “Pepper and Happy are more than welcome to come down, but the mayor’s iffy after the ‘lightshow’ you put on last time.”

 

“I think I heard about that on the news, actually,” Banner commented, half-focused on Hank’s work and half-focused on Tony and Janet. “Didn’t you blow up half the Pride district when that happened?”

 

“Details,” Tony scoffed, waving a hand dismissively. “The only details I’d like to know is how you keep so calm. It’s gotta be hard. What’s your secret? Jazz? Weed? C’mon, it’s gotta be something.”

 

“Tony, just focus on the problem at hand, not my anger management,” Banner said simply, turning fully to Hank’s work to make sure he wasn’t screwing up anything with the gamma radiation. Tony huffed, leaning back in his chair and unceremoniously chucking his rubber band ball at Banner’s head, hitting him right at the bridge of his glasses.

 

“What the Hell, Tony?” Banner exclaimed in surprise, taking off his glasses to make sure they hadn’t been broken.

 

“I wanted to see what would happen,” Tony shruggedd innocently, just as Steve entered the room.

 

“Is everything a joke to you?” Steve asked Tony bluntly, though before he could answer himself, a monotonous ‘yes’ echoed from Hank and Janet, all without Hank looking away from his work or Janet stopping what she was doing with the scepter.

 

“Only the funny things,” Tony said defensively.

 

“Threatening the safety of every person on board isn’t ‘funny’, Mr. Stark,” Steve said evenly, as if this was something he’d said frequently in the past. “No offense, Doctor Banner,” he added, gesturing to Banner briefly.

 

“None taken, Captain,” Banner assured him. “I wouldn’t have agreed to come along if I couldn’t handle blunt projectiles.”

 

“You’re tip-toing, big man. You need to strut,” Tony suggested with a smirk.

 

“And you need to focus on the problem at hand,” Steve shot back without a beat, adding further evidence to Steve’s past experience with this kind of person. Janet hid a smirk behind the scepter as she worked, having a pretty solid hypothesis on the matter.

 

“You don’t think I am?” Tony challenged, sitting up straighter. “Why did Fury call us? And why now? Why not before? What isn’t he telling us? I can’t do the equations without all the variables,” he speculated, standing with his hands moving in front of him as he spoke.

 

“You think Fury’s hiding something?” Steve asked with a raised eyebrow, confirming Janet’s hypothesis soundly.

 

“He’s a spy, Captain. His secrets have secrets,” Tony pointed out, looking over to Banner and Hank. “It’s bugging the Ant-Kid and Banner too, isn’t it?” he jabbed, smirking at the huff Hank let out at the nickname.

 

“I, uh… I just to get my work done,” Banner stuttered out, not wanting to escalate the situation.

 

“For once, Stark’s right,” Hank said, glaring at Tony in silent warning about letting that go to his head. “‘A warm light for all mankind’,” he quoted. “That’s what Loki said to Fury, among other things,” he said, having acquired Tony’s rubber band ball and was tossing it between his hands to occupy them as he spoke. “I think it was meant for Tony, not Fury,” he went on. “Even if Clint hadn’t plastered it all over the news,” he added, far too accustomed to refering to the corrupted agent by his first name to realize his slip-up.

 

“You mean the Stark Tower?” Steve wagered. “The giant, ugly… building in New York?” he said, taking Tony’s glare in strides. His patience was wearing thin in a way it hadn’t since 1944, and there was only so much he could take before he exploded.

 

“Tht building is powered by Stark’s reactors, a self-sustaining energy source,” Bruce pointed out. “It could run itself for what, a year?”

 

“That’s just the prototype,” Tony nodded. “I’m really the only name in clean energy right now.”

 

“Exactly,” Hank nodded. “So why didn’t Fury call you in earlier, in the early stages of the Tessaract project? I mean, c’mon, SHIELD’s got no place in the energy business,” he rambled, still tossing the ball.

 

“Yeah, I should probably look into that once my decryptor is done with SHIELD’s files,” Tony hummed, watching Steve’s brows furrow in confusion, Hank’s in annoyance, and Janet’s in confirmation.

 

“You didn’t,” Janet spoke up with an even tone, wings stopping their movements and just standing straight out. “Tony, you have no idea what you’re going to find in those files,” she said warningly.

 

“Too late,” Tony shrugged. “JARVIS has been running it since I hit the bridge. In a few hours, we’ll have all of SHIELD’s dirty secrets, the ones they didn’t want anyone to know,” he grinned slyly, holding out the bag of blueberries he had seemingly pulled out of nowhere towards Banner. “Blueberry?” he offered, though Banner turned it down.

 

“Nevermind,” Hank muttered with a scoff. “Now I know why Fury didn’t bother calling you in. Now who’s the one with the smart guy complex?” he commented. “Trust us, Stark. You don’t want those files.”

 

“I think it’s still you,” Tony shot back. “An intelligence agency that fears intelligence, to the point of putting a mad scientist on their payroll? Historically, didn’t work well.”

 

“I think Loki’s trying to wind us up,” Steve said sharply. “This is a man wanting to start a war, and if we don’t focus, he’ll succeed. We have our orders, just follow them.”

 

“Yeah, ‘following’ really isn’t my style,” Tony shrugged mockingly, throwing a blueberry into the air and catching it in his mouth.

 

The smile that settled on Steve’s face somehow mixed melancholy and mockery, which made Tony uncomfortable. “You’re all about style, aren’t you?” he said in a sickeningly calm sort of way.

 

“Tell me: which of us is wearing a spangly outfit, and is entirely useless?” Tony retorted, which snapped Steve’s second-last nerve.

 

“Captain, tell me this doesn’t seem like a set-up to you,” Janet said carefully, not wanting to push him over the edge but also wanting to diffuse the tension building before Hank did something he’d regret.

 

“Just find the cube,” Steve said a little too sharply, turning to leave the room as he made an attempt to control his anger by clenching and unclenching his hands into fists. Howard Stark had his moments of arrogance, but he did really mean well and wanted to help. When Steve was first told he’d be working with Howard’s son, he expected a similar type of genius. The one who’s a bit off-kilter, but still knows when to draw the line. Oh dear, was he wrong.

Chapter Text

Hank and Bruce had no plans to go anywhere but the lab that night, though Janet excused herself so she could ‘get even just a little sleep’, even though Hank knew it was a lie. She was on to something, and he wasn’t going to stop her. In her absence, they had to recruit Tony to help, as much as Hank didn’t want to.

 

While the men worked, Janet shrunk down to wasp size, zipping through the halls of the Helicarrier in search of Steve. She wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to endanger himself or anyone else, seeing how angry he was getting with Tony. He reminded her of Hank, that way. Tony Stark had a way of getting under the skin of the most well-meaning people, making them angry enough to do regretable things.

 

She found Steve just as he’d reached 10-C, one of the most heavily guarded storage facilities on board. While she was impressed at how easily he pried the steel door open, she had to move quickly if she was going to get in behind him before it closed. Thankfully, with the power of flight on her side, she made it just before the door closed completely. She stayed out of his sight as he lept for the catwalk in one try, following him up so she could see what he found. She was morbidly curious at that point, unable to back away without some kind of answers.

 

“Agent van Dyne, was it?” Steve suddenly called out a little too casually. “I know you’re there. Even bug wings can echo in an empty room made entirely of metal.”

 

Sighing, Janet landed on the ground a few feet away, returning to full size. “I wanted to make sure you didn’t hurt anyone, or get hurt,” she told him honestly. “I know how Tony can get on people’s nerves, have seen first hand the kind of reactions it generates. We’re on the verge of war right now, and we’re going to need a Captain if Fury’s not telling us the whole story.”

 

“Your heart’s in the right place, kid,” Steve told her with a heavy sigh, shaking his head. “You don’t need to worry about me though. I’ve dealt with Stark men in the past.”

 

“In case you find that he gets too much, Hank has some herbal tea he mixed specifically to calm himself down after spending more than five minutes with Tony,” Janet offered with a nod.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Steve nodded, turning to the metal crate in front of them. He searched the edges for a clasp of some kind, unable to find one that was obvious to him. Janet, on the other hand, knew exactly where to go, as she and Hank had helped design the crates.

 

With a few short blasts that seemed to come from the gauntlets she wore on her wrists, Janet had the crate open, revealing something neither was prepared to see.

 

~*~*~

 

Come morning, Hank was the only one still awake in the lab, having learned to sustain himself on the particles that allowed him to do what he could do a while ago. Banner and Tony were passed out in two of the seats, Tony snoring rather obnoxiously. It was so loud Hank had taken his noise-cancelling headphones out and put on some music to drown it out so he could concentrate. He was so locked into his ‘science zone’ that he didn’t realize that someone had entered the lab and rudely awoken Tony and Bruce.

 

Sliding his headphones around his neck, Hank switched off the music so he could listen.

 

“What are you doing, Mr. Stark?” Fury snapped, looking not at all pleased.

 

“Sleeping. What does it look like?” Tony retorted, which was a bad idea. Hank would’ve felt sorry for him if it wasn’t Tony.

 

“You’re supposed to find the Tesseract,” Fury reminded him evenly, his eye twitching in frustration.

 

“Still working on that, Director,” Hank called over from the computer, somehow not looking exhausted in the slightest. “The model’s locked, and we’re sweeping for the Tesseract’s signature. When we get a hit, we’ll have the location within half a mile,” he informed Fury.

 

“You’ll get your cube back, don’t worry,” Tony yawned, attention drawn to the other computer in the room when it made a noise. He went over to investiage, the screen displaying numerous SHIELD files that he read through quickly. “What’s Phase Two?” he asked, just as the lab door swung open and Steve and Janet entered. Steve got everyone’s attention by slamming an assault rifle onto one of the free tables, looking more pissed off than he ever had before.

 

“Phase Two is SHIELD uses the cube to make weapons,” Steve said darkly, eyes boring directly into Fury’s head. “Just like Schmidt was doing, back in the 40s. These weapons, to be exact,” he went on, gesturing to the gun. “They’ve got crates of them, just waiting for a reason to be used.”

 

The tiniest bit of panic raced across Fury’s face so quickly only Janet and Steve noticed it, replaced by a false front of a man trying to explain the situation to someone who was over-reacting.

 

“Rogers, we gathered everything related to the Tesseract. That doesn’t mean-,” he started to lie, only to be cut off by Tony turning the screen of his computer towards the group. It displayed detailed plans for heavy-duty weapons even the Red Skull couldn’t imagine.

 

“What was that you were lying about?” Tony said, in the most serious tone he could muster.

 

“I was wrong, Director Fury,” Steve said sharply. “The world hasn’t changed at all.”

 

Seconds later, Thor and Nat entered the lab, completing the ‘set’ of recruits Fury was working against in that moment.

 

“Did you know about this?” Banner asked, trying his hardest to stay calm.

 

“You want to think about removing yourself from the situation now, Dr. Banner?” was Nat’s rather cold response.

 

“I was in Calcutta,” Banner reminded her stiffly. “I was pretty well removed.”

 

“Loki’s manipulating you,” Nat went on, pretty much ignoring Banner’s statement.

 

“And you’ve been doing what, exactly?” Banner shot back, already feeling himself losing the fight with his anger.

 

“You didn’t come here because I bat my eyelashes at you,” Nat stated, again ignoring his statement.

 

“Yeah, and I’m not leaving because you’re suddenly a little twitchy,” Banner said through clenched teeth. “I’m not going anywhere until I find out why SHIELD is trying to manipulate me into helping make weapons of mass destruction.”

 

“You want to know why?” Fury asked rhetorically, pointing straight to Thor. “Because of him.”

 

“Me?” Thor frowned, honestly taken aback by the statement.

 

“Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that levelled a small town,” Fury said, emotionaless as ever. “We learned that not only are we not alone in the universe, but we’re hoplessly, hilariously out-gunned.”

 

“My people want nothing but peace with your people,” Thor said, trying to reason with him.

 

“But you’re not the only people out there, are you? And you’re not the only threat,” Fury went on. “The world is filling up with people that can’t be matched, can’t be controled.”

 

“Like you controlled the cube?” Steve interjected bitterly.

 

“Your work with the Tesseract was what drew Loki to it, and his allies. It is the signal to all Nine Realms that Midgard is prepared for a higher form of war,” Thor said stiffly, straightening his posture and gripping his hammer in both hands tightly in front of him.

 

“A higher form?” Steve muttered in confusion, and slight panic.

 

“You forced our hand. We had to come up with something,” Fury tried, attempting to cover his tracks.

 

“With nuclear deterrents? ‘Cause that always calms everything right down,” Tony snorted darkly, shaking his head.

 

“Remind me again, how you made your fortune Stark?” Fury reminded him.

 

“If Stark was still making weapons, I’m sure he’d be neck-deep by now,” Steve spat, the words tasting bitter on his tongue as they conjured memories of a different Stark man, one that wasn’t afraid to rebel if it meant things got done right, and not how the military wanted them done.

 

“Wait, wait, hold up!” Tony called out. “How is this suddenly about me now?”

 

“Isn’t everything?” Janet snapped, speaking up for the first time since arriving.

 

“I thought humans were more evolved than this,” Thor muttered to himself, shaking his head. Evidently, Fury had heard him, as he spun on his heel to face the Asgardian.

 

“Excuse me, did we come to your planet and blow it up?” Fury snapped.

 

“Do you always give your champions so little trust?” Thor asked with narrowed eyes, but Nat managed to cut through the din with a sharp whistle.

 

“Are you guys all really that naive?” she chastized. “SHIELD monitors potential threats.”

 

“Captain America is on the potential threat watchlist,” Banner noted, making Tony scoff.

 

“You’re on that list? Are you above or below angry bees?” Tony snapped, standing straight and looking Steve directly in the eyes.

 

“I swear to God, Stark. One more crack...” Steve said warningly, which even made Hank flinch in fear and uncertainty. That was why Captain America was on the threat watch list.

 

“How threatening,” Tony mocked. “I feel threatened!”

 

“You speak of control, Director Fury, and yet you court chaos,” Thor observed harshly.

 

“It’s his MO, isn’t it? I mean, what are we? A team? No, no, no. We’re a chemical mixture. A… a ticking time bomb,” Banner rambled, gripping the edge of the desk in front of him forcefully.

 

“You need to step away,” Fury said evenly.

 

“Why shouldn’t the guy let off a little steam?” Tony said, throwing an arm casually around Steve’s shoulders.

 

“You know damn well why,” Steve huffed, shoving Tony off of him.

 

“I’m starting to want you to make me,” Tony commented, coming face-to-face with Steve. Well, as best he could with Steve being three inches taller than him with a much more imposing build.

 

“Big man in a suit of armour. Take that away, what are you?” Steve challenged, arms crossed over his chest.

 

“Genius, billionare, playboy, philanthropist,” Tony retorted with almost no pause, trying to mimick Steve’s pose.

 

“Yeah, I knew someone like that once,” Steve commented, looking Tony right in the eyes as he spoke. “He was worth ten of you combined. The only thing you fight for is yourself. I thought you’d be more like him, but it looks like I expected too much from you,” he said sharply, hitting Tony right where it hurt.

 

“Big words, coming from a lab rat,” Tony scoffed. “Everything special about you came out of a bottle, Rogers. I worked for what I’ve got, and what did you do? Put on some tights and danced with showgirls. If anyone doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s you, Captain,” he grit out. “Without the serum, which my father helped develop, what would you be? A scrawny kid who could barely stay healthy long enough to realize he wasn’t made for fighting schoolyard bullies, let alone a war.”

 

Others had been bickering in the background, but when Steve and Tony’s argument started to get really heated, the room fell into an eerie silence as everyone listened to what these two were hurling at each other.

 

Steve’s face was set in a scowl that had Nat stepping back a few feet to get further away from. Hank was livid, as usual at Tony for being such an arrogant prick, while Janet tried to calm him down before he lost control like he did last time. There wasn’t enough room for that this time.

 

The tension in the room was at a breaking point, Banner’s eyes beginning to turn an alarming shade of green around the irises.

 

“Agent Romanoff, please escort Doctor Banner back to his...” Fury began, cut off by the man in question.

 

“Where? You rented my room,” Banner reminded him shortly, eyes beginning to emit faint green light.

 

“The cage was just in case...” Fury tried again, only to be cut off by Banner once more.

 

“In case you needed to kill me, but you can’t,” Banner snapped. “I know. I’ve tried. I hit a low, didn’t see an end in sight, so I put a bullet in my mouth. The other guy spit it back up. So I moved on. I focused on helping other people, and I was doing fine until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk!” he added darkly, turning to Nat. “You want to know my secret, Agent Romanoff? You wanna know how I stay calm?”

 

“Doctor Banner, put down the scepter,” Janet said cautiously, preparing to blast him if needed. That seemed to snap Banner out of his daze, a confused and shocked look on his face. Behind him, the computer Hank was sitting at beeped, causing everyone to turn.

 

“Got it,” Hank muttered, feeling overwhelmed by all of the shouting and anger. Putting down the scepter, Banner made his way over to the computer to verify Hank’s findings.

 

“Guess you don’t get to see my little party trick, kids,” he said.

Chapter Text

Suddenly, an explosion rocked the Helicarrier, throwing everyone around the room. Hank and Janet instinctively went small, Janet holding Hank close to keep him in the air with her. He had no protests, clinging to Janet like a castaway holding a life raft. He needed to calm down, needed to get his head straight if the fight was coming to them here on the Helicarrier. Janet helped as best she could, humming calming songs into Hank’s hair and finding them a spot to sit out of the way of the fighting for the moment.

 

Meanwhile, Tony and Steve bolted straight out of the room, Tony going to retrieve his suit and Steve going to throw himself right into the fight, like he always did. The force of the blast sent Nat and Banner through the floor, into a storage carrier below the lab. Banner’s eyes were still green, but he gripped the grated floor in hopes of distracting himself from the anger with pain. Thor spun his hammer a few times, lightning sparks jumping off the metal as he took off towards the fight, where Loki almost certainly was. Fury was communicating with Hill and Coulson, giving shut-down orders faster than an auctioneer sold cars.

 

The more the Helicarrier rocked and shook, the more Janet knew she couldn’t calm Hank down forever. He was getting fidgety, hands tightly around Janet’s wrists with enough force to snap them if he tried, but she knew he wouldn’t. Not to her.

 

Pushing off the ledge she landed them on, Janet led Hank down to the storage carrier Nat and Banner had fallen into, guiding him a safe distance from the rapidly angering scientist. Hank grew to normal size almost as soon as Janet put him gently on the ground, Janet returning as well to make another attempt to reason with him.

 

“Hank, you need to calm down,” she said quietly, voice heavy with desperation. “You almost didn’t surive last time, and I don’t want to lose you, especially not like this. Please Hank, focus,” she muttered, hugging Hank tightly and burying her face in his neck to hide the scared tears forming in her blue eyes.

 

Hank seemed to be aware enough to return Janet’s hug and kiss her forehead. “This isn’t last time, Jan,” he muttered, attempting to sound reassuring. “I’ve been practicing, remember? I think I can do this,” he told her, just as an angry growl tore through the air of the storage carrier. “Go, find Nat and help her. I’ll deal with Banner,” he urged her, both getting to their feet quickly. Janet kissed Hank as if she may never get to again before shrinking down and zipping off to find Nat. Hank, on the other hand, rolled his shoulders and neck, letting his anger take over his control of the particles within him.

 

Just as quickly as the Hulk replaced Banner, the Giant-Man took Hank’s place, standing at almost the exact same height as the Hulk before him. As all Hell broke loose all over the Helicarrier, the Hulk and the Giant-Man had finally found an adversary worthy of a fight. Giant-Man had the advantage, however, possessing more of Hank’s awareness and understanding than Hulk did of Banner’s. They went shot for shot, not straying from the storage carrier as they went at each other, effectively keeping both giant angry scientists from destroying everything else.

 

The other recruits were scattered all across the Helicarrier, taking out waves upon waves of what they believed to be Loki’s army, which was no doubt being led by Agent Barton himself. Steve and Tony worked to mend some of the enginges, but when that failed, they just started attacking. Janet couldn’t find Nat, so she found Agent Hill and Director Fury to assist them instead.

 

Thor, on the other hand, had been tricked into the Hulk’s cell, Loki locking the door behind him. “The Midgardians think us immortal, brother. Shall we test that?” he taunted, Agent Coulson attempting to ambush him but failing. Ultimately, Loki impaled Coulson through the chest, deploying the cell holding Thor and sending it rushing downwards, into water or land, he knew not which.

 

Some cruel twist of fate saw Nat being the first to face off against Barton. She’d been conditioned from a young age not to grow attached to anyone, lest something like this happen, but she’d grown attached to Barton. Fighting him like this, she hated every minute of it. The biting, the kicking, the slashing, the flipping. It all drove nails into Nat’s almost non-existent heart, the final hit coming from Barton as he faded into unconciousness with a barely audible mutter of ‘Natasha?’ before he went still.

 

As Loki escaped with the scepter and what few men remained, the SHIELD agents and their allies were dropping from exhaustion, pain, or some combination of the two. Janet had just eough energy to fly down to the last place she’d seen Hank, nearly crying in relief when she saw him, back to normal size and breathing, passed out next to an equally normal-sized and exhausted Banner, who needed some pants. She landed in front of both of them, returning to full size so she could take stock of their injuries. Hank almost certainly had a concussion, which he was going to hate being told about, while Banner was relatively unscathed save some lingering patches of green skin that were still fading away.

 

While seeing Hank was alive made Janet almost cry in relief, watching him come to a few minutes after she arrived did make her cry, her arms wrapped tightly around Hank and her face buried in his shoulder.

 

“Oh God Hank, you’re alive,” she muttered in frantic relief, not wanting to let go. “You’re alive,” she repeated a few more times, feeling Hank return her hug as best he could with the pain he was in.

 

“I told you I’d be fine,” Hank reminded her with a faint teasing chuckle. “Nothing’s going to keep me away from you for long, even the Giant-Man.”

 

Janet giggled softly into Hank’s shoulder before pulling away, both turning as they heard Banner groan awake.

 

“What… what happened?” Banner muttered, stretching out his stiff shoulders. “Did I…?” he realized, noting his lack of pants with an embarrassed flush in his cheeks.

 

“You did,” Janet nodded solemnly. “However, the only thing you really did was give Hank a pretty nasty concussion,” she assured the other scientist. “C’mon, both of you. Let’s get you looked at, and get you some pants,” she suggested, standing and offering both a hand to pull themselves up with. While Banner dropped her hand once he was up in favour of finding something to cover himself with, Hank made no attempt to let go of Janet. She was the only thing keeping him from thinking none of this was real, and he didn’t want to risk it being not real and letting go. She was right about one thing, though: he’d gotten a bitch of a concussion that was going to haunt him for a few weeks at least.

Chapter Text

As the remaining fighters were tended to by medical professionals once the Helicarrier managed to not crash on the shore, Nat was sitting on the edge of a table, to which Barton was strapped as a precaution. She felt her heart hammering in a way it never had before, hands twitching with the desire to see just how badly she’d hurt her best friend.

 

Before she could do anything, Clint groaned awake, his eyes noticably not inky black. They were confused however, but that was understandable.

 

“Tasha?” Barton muttered hoarsely, tugging on the restraints holding him down.

 

“Just in case,” Nat told him, quickly releasing the bindings and helping him sit up so they were side-by-side. “We didn’t know how long it would take for you to come back to us,” she explained. “Fury’s idea, thought you might still be hostile.”

 

“To him? Probably. To you? Never,” Clint shook his head with a soft smile. “How did you turn it off?” he asked curiously.

 

“Cognitive recallibration,” Nat told him with a faintly amused tone.

 

“So… you punched me in the head,” Clint determined with a pretend heavy sigh. “Thanks, Nat,” he muttered, leaning against her side when he started to feel a bit light-headed. “Thank you for not letting anyone else try to do what you did.”

 

“That’s what friends are for,” Nat pointed out jokingly, smiling the widest she had in a while, even if it wasn’t that visible to anyone but Clint.

 

~*~*~

 

It took an hour for everyone to regroup, sans the missing Odinson. Hank was more alert than most concussion patients, relying on the particles once more to keep him stable. Janet was all but stuck to his side worrying about him, even though she knew he’d be fine. Banner was sluggish as well, but he was managing to stay on his own feet fairly well. Fury, as expected, was nowhere to be seen.

 

Even though Janet had just sat down when Clint and Nat arrived, she carefully got up and ran over to the archer, pulling him into a hug.

 

“You’re okay then?” she asked when she pulled away. “We heard you were taken, but no one gave us any details.”

 

“I’m fine, Janet,” Clint assured her with a nod, glancing over at Hank. “I don’t think your man is though. What hit him? The Incredible Hulk?” he asked jokingly.

 

“Yeah, actually,” Hank nodded, groaning at the pain the nod had generated. “He’s got a hell of a swing, but the Giant’s got the tactics. Pretty even fight.”

 

“You went Giant again?” Clint blinked in concern. “Hank… You need to fill me in after this is done, because last time you did that was in Italy, and that didn’t end well.”

 

“I know, Clint, I know,” Hank groaned, Janet moving back to her spot next to him. “I forgot how much of the Mom friend you are, buddy,” he teased.

 

“Someone needs to be,” Clint pointed out, finding a place to sit and listen to what happened, as told by various parties involved. He got a pretty good grasp of the situation, even the bickering no one wanted to mention. He’d read everyone’s files beforehand, save Nat, Janet, and Hank, so he knew what he was up against.

 

“So what happens next?” Banner asked uncertainly. “We don’t know where he’s going, or what he’s going to do, just that it’s going to happen.”

 

“Think about it,” Tony muttered. “He attacked us here, where we technically live right now. He killed an ally to taunt us, and splattered the poor guy’s blood on the walls like a message. He made this personal.”

 

“He’s greedy,” Clint spoke up. “I got that pretty quickly. And more of a drama queen than Stark at a fancy party,” he added with a smirk. “He wants a grand showcase of what he’s capable of, wants everyone to know who he is. He wants his name where people can see it.”

 

“Son of a bitch,” Tony cursed in realization.

 

“You on to something, Stark?” Nat asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Think about everything we’ve determined so far. He needs an insane amount of power, wants to have an audience, wants people to see his name,” Tony said, walking them all through it. “He made this personal by attacking here and killing Coulson. I can think of two places that satisfy his needs and desires, and one’s got my name on it.”

 

Janet’s eyes widened in realization as Tony explained, a cold chill passing through her at the thought of Loki using Pym Tech’s labs for his schemes. Hank was having a similar thought, though the pair must’ve wore matching panicked looks, because Tony gestured towards them as if they proved a point.

 

“They’ve got it,” Tony said. “I know what you’re both thinking, because I’m thinking the same thing. I don’t want that asshole in my home as much as you don’t want him in yours.”

 

Banner seemed to clue in as well, a contemplative look on his face. “He’s put himself up against the world’s leading experts on different sources of energy: clean, and quantum,” he explained for the ones who weren’t quite getting it. “Stark Tower, as was mentioned, could power itself for a year without help.”

 

“And Pym Tech is equipped with enough failsafe protocols that even your AI couldn’t get through, Stark,” Janet added grimly. “If he can get access to the quantum tunnel in our lab, there’s no stopping him. Forget Selvig’s work on making the tunnel for Loki, we’ve already got a fully functioning one back home,” she said, panic rising in her chest.

 

“So how do we do this?” Steve asked, preparing to lay down strategies. “Stark Tower and Pym Tech are on opposite sides of the country, and we don’t have time to make the trip down to California, especially if it ends up being for nothing because Loki chose New York.”

 

“There’s a defense protocol in my lab back home,” Hank spoke up. “It’s still in the prototype stages, but it’s meant to shut down all access to the quantum tunnel without biometric confirmation that it’s me or Janet using it. If that works right, and Loki tries us first, he’ll get frustrated and go to Stark.”

 

“And you’re sure he’d give up?” Steve asked skeptically.

 

“Captain, with all due respect, Dr. Pym once annoyed the US Secretary General into letting him do some dubiously legal things while we were in DC a few years ago,” Clint said simply. “If Hank’s AI is anything like him, Loki’ll last ten minutes, fifteen tops before he bails.”

 

“We’ve also got some… friends that can give us status updates on the lab,” Janet added, almost having forgotten. “As long as nobody steps on them, we’ve got eyes and ears all over the building.”

 

Steps on them?” Tony blinked in confusion. “What are they, tiny lizards?”

 

Ant-Man, Tony,” was Hank’s simple response, which made Clint chuckle.

 

“Alright, the two of you, get everything set up with those friends of yours,” Steve directed, naturally falling back into ‘captain’ mode. “Stark, you and Banner keep an eye on the Tesseract’s location while we’re on the move. Barton, Romanoff, is one of you able to fly a quinjet?” he rattled off, turning to the last two in question.

 

“I’ve got it,” Clint nodded. “Nat’s not allowed in the pilot’s seat of anything ever again,” he added vaguely, earning a giggle from Janet and a teasing eye-roll from Nat.

 

“Alright then,” Steve nodded. “The show starts now.”

Chapter Text

The only voices on the flight to New York belonged to Hank and Janet as they got the ants set up in case anyone showed up. The bullet ants were strategically arranged so anyone trying to get into the lab had a wall of painful bites between them and the door, while the crazy ants were working surveillance inside. Carpenter ants were covering every entrance into the building, armed with tiny weapons Hank had made. If anything showed up, Hank got it on the tablet in his hands.

 

“So far, no sign of anyone,” Hank stated, just as they came to land in New York. Tony had taken off early, wanting to have a chance to ambush Loki if he was already in his home. Hank didn’t blame him though, because if there was a higher chance Loki was in California and their home was in danger, Janet and Hank would rain Hell on the mischief god.

 

As Tony landed on the tower, a series of small robotic arms began dismantling the suit he was wearing, leaving him in just his jeans and t-shirt, arc reactor glowing through the fabric. It seemed Loki had beat him there, as he was standing near the edge of the balcony, observing the New York skyline.

 

“Please, tell me you are here to appeal to what little humanity I may have,” Loki commented idly without turning around right away.

 

“Actually, I was going to threaten you,” Tony responded, trying to sound casual.

 

“You should have kept your armour on, in that case,” Loki said idly, turning to face Tony finally.

 

“It’s seen better days, you’ve got the blue stick of destiny. Would you like a drink?” Tony shrugged, stepping into the penthouse and heading straight for the bar.

 

“Stalling will not change anything,” Loki said with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Oh no, no, no. Threatening. You sure you don’t want a drink? I’m having one,” Tony tried again, though he knew it wouldn’t work.

 

“The Chitauri are already on their way. What do I have to fear?” Loki reasoned.

 

“The Avengers,” Tony said dramatically, though Loki’s confusion ruined the moment. “That’s what we call ourselves. An ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heros’ kind of thing,” he explained, droppin a few ice cubes into a glass tumbler and locating something strong.

 

“Yes, I have met them,” Loki nodded dryly.

 

“Yeah, took us a bit to gain some traction, I’ll give you that,” Tony nodded, opening a bottle of what he assumed was whiskey and pouring it into the tumbler. “Let’s do a head-count, shall we? There’s your brother, the god of lightning; a super-soldier living legend that lives up to the legend and then some; a guy with breath-taking anger management issues; two scientists with so much potential they’re almost scary; and a couple of master assassins, one of which you brainwashed,” he listed off. “And you, big fella, you’ve managed to piss off every single one of them.”

 

“That was the plan,” Loki said simply, eyebrows raised in amusement.

 

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t a very good one,” Tony shook his head, slipping something out from under the bar without Loki noticing. “They’re going to come for you, and you won’t know what hit you.”

 

“I have an army,” Loki reminded him.

 

“We have a Hulk,” Tony countered. “And a Giant.”

 

“I thought the green beast had wandered off,” Loki taunted, though he knew nothing of a giant on their team.

 

“You’re missing the point,” Tony shook his head. “There’s no version of this fight where you win. Even if your army overpowers us, it’s all on you. If we can’t defend the Earth, we’ll sure as Hell avenge it.”

 

Loki approached Tony menacingly, reaching out with the scepter and pressing it against the centre of Tony’s chest.

 

“How will they have time to fight me, if they are too busy fighting you?” he smirked, though it faltered when the scepter didn’t do anything. He tried again, then another time, each attempt a failure. “Impossible,” he muttered. “It always works.”

 

“I’ve been told I’ve got no heart,” Tony shrugged, having an idea as to why it hadn’t done anything. “Hey JARVIS, any time now!” he called out, as Loki seized him by the throat, lifting him off of the ground.

 

“You will all fall before me,” Loki sneered, effortlessly throwing Tony out the window. Loki thought he had bested the man, but a sudden blur of red told him otherwise. It seemed he could summon various suits of armour when needed, which was a rather larg inconvenience. Tony flew back over to Loki, landing a few feet from him.

 

“There’s one other person you pissed off. His name was Phil,” Tony said sharply, hitting Loki with a repulsor blast before Loki could fire, knocking him back.

 

Outside Stark Tower, the war had begun. Chitauri soldiers poured out of a hole ripped into the sky by the hundreds, all brandishing large weapons. Tony took off, mask settling back into place as he began firing at the Chitauri.

 

The quinjet came into view behind Stark Tower, though it looked like no one had left to join the fight yet. Tony knew better though; Janet could fly and carry Hank with little effort, even when tiny. They’d be out here in no time, unless they were co-ordinating an attack in San Francisco through their ant army (which Tony would never admit he thought was awesome).

 

As expected, brilliant bolds of yellow energy flew towards Chitauri soldiers from what appeared to be thin air, cutting through them with ease. The source of the blasts finally showed itself, in the form of a brunette women dressed in gold and black being propelled by paper-thin wings as she zipped through the skies, taking down Chitauri as she went. She never got close enough for Tony to speak with her directly, meaning he had to use the comms.

 

“JARVIS, connect me to van Dyne’s comm on a seperate channel,” he ordered the AI, who did so without question. A small image of Janet appeared on Tony’s viewscreen, telling him he was connected.

 

“Wasp, where’s Ant-Man?” he asked carefully, still firing away at the Chitauri. “He might be useful up in the Tower with Thor. I heard what you guys managed in Germany against him, and we’re running out of plans.

 

“Ant-Man’s where he needs to be,” Janet told him, sounding both ominous and elusive. “He’s got a plan, and I’m not going to get in the way. You shouldn’t either, if you know what’s good for you.”

 

“Just keep in touch with him,” Tony sighed. “I know you’ve got a comm line with just him, and I don’t expect updates, but make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.” With that, Tony had JARVIS severe the private channel, switching back to the main one.

 

“Why wouldn’t I?” Janet muttered softly after Tony disconnected, shrinking down once more to fly faster as she wove in and out of hoards of Chitauri in flying chariots, trying to block out their screams of pain when the blasts eventually hit them.

Chapter Text

All through the streets, mayhem rained from the sky, destroying anything in its way. The Avengers could only handle so much on their own, and they were quickly approaching that limit. Clint was darting around to re-collect arrows of the non-explosive variety to reuse, cursing something about needing ones that were easier to get back. Nat covered him as he did, blue electric bolts flying from her wrist-mounted gauntlets, bullets following alongside them. Steve was on the ground, taking down Chitauri with just his person and his trusted shield, the metal disc tearing into the enemy soldiers easily. Tony kept to the skies, firing everything he had at these things.

 

Janet and Hank, however, were nowhere to be seen. Not even Janet’s tell-tale bolts could be seen, which meant something was going to happen involving either a giant man or a shit-tonne of quantum physics and/or nanotech.

 

Neither probability was correct, it seemed. Instead, giant ants the size of school buses took to the fight, various types for various reasons. Massive carpenter ants filled the skies, carrying bullet ants to drop like bombs onto large clusters of Chitauri. Crazy ants and fire ants hit the ground running, some crazy ants forming clusters that supported various electricity-powered unmanned weapons, likely of Hank’s own design. Civillians were smart enough to scatter when the ants showed up, but the Chitauri charged towards them.

 

The appearance of the ants brought a confident grin to Janet’s face, renewing her strength to channel more bio-energy through her hands. If she was a tornado before, she evolved into a hurricane right then. Her blasts got bigger and brighter, no mater what size she was, destroying dozens of Chitauri in one go.

 

“There’s my girl,” came Hank’s voice in Janet’s ear, through the direct channel they always had on missions. Even without seeing him, she knew he was grinning proudly like he usually did when she did anything he thought was ‘badass’. “Can you get closer to the Tesseract?” he asked, switching from proud boyfriend to Actual Scientist, as he called himself when he was being serious about his research for once.

 

“I can sure as Hell try,” Janet nodded, staying tiny and heading for Stark Tower as fast as her wings could carry her. “What am I looking for?” she asked as she got closer, though the sight in front of her gave her a pretty good idea.

 

“Thor said the power surrounding the cube is impenetrable,” Hank informed her, and she could hear the faint sound of typing in the background. “Might be impenetrable for them, but not for me or you,” he mused. “I’ll hitch a ride on one of the carpenter ants and meet you up there. For now, don’t let Selvig or anyone else see or hear you. Got it?”

 

“Of course,” Janet nodded, having reached the top of Stark Tower, just outside the field of energy surrounding the Tesseract. She landed in a small groove in the floor that looked flush with the rest of the material but actually wasn’t, peeking over the top.

 

Buzzing wings let Janet know Hank was there, quickly making her way over to the carpenter ant’s location to retrieve the already-tiny Hank to get him to the ground before the ant flew off into battle again.

 

On the ground, Steve was coordinating the others, Banner having finally made his way to the epicentre of the battle. Steve was the only one that was informed of Hank’s plan, and he was sworn to secrecy lest Tony try to stop either of them before they could do it. For that reason, Steve intentionally directed the others to places that weren’t the top of the Tower, rather to ground recon or on a vantage point lower than the top. Hulk was the only wild card, as his only orders had been to smash, but he seemed to having too much fun tearing apart leviathans to go for the Tower quite yet.

 

“Appreciated, Captain,” Hank said into the team’s comm, confusing the others that were actually paying attention and not distracted by the roar of the battle around them. Nodding to Janet, the two ant-sized heroes moved closer to Selvig’s unconscious body on high alert.

 

“Janet, I need you to find the weakest point in the shield you can,” Hank instructed, returning to normal size to read everything Selvig had on the computer about the shielding. Janet nodded, zipping around the visible shielding faster than even Hank could follow, locating a spot that seemed lighter in colour than the rest.

 

“Got one,” Janet called over. “It’s about the size of a post-it note, the normal ones.”

 

“Alright,” Hank nodded, done reading. “Selvig couldn’t figure out the quantum tunneling, so if you hit that weak spot directly in the centre, the whole square should flicker long enough for you to get to the other side.”

 

“You sure I should be going in?” Janet asked, her usual battlefield confidence replaced with uncertainty, almost fear.

 

“Janet, you’re the only person I’d trust to do this,” Hank told her seriously. “Even if any of the others had the type of energy we need, I’d still choose you. There’s no doubt in my mind you’re going to do this right.”

 

Janet nodded, a soft smile on her face as she aimed both hands towards the weak spot, palms facing outwards as she charged her largest blast of the fight. Just before she cut it off, she took a deep breath, giving Hank a head’s up.

 

“Going in,” she told him, moving closer to the square but not cutting off the blast yet. “If something happens to me while I’m in there, I want you to know… I want you to know that I love you, Hank.”

 

Hank could hear her voice wavering as tears formed in his own eyes, but he knew he had to stay strong and focus on his end of the plan. “I love you too, Janet,” he told her softly. “We’ll do this. You’ll be okay,” he assured her, and himself really.

 

Janet didn’t say anything more, cutting off the blast and flying straight through the flickering sqaure of shielding.

 

“I’m in,” she stated, landing on the table next to the Tesseract. “What next?”

 

“There’s a failsafe in place, since the quantum tunneling fell through I’d assume,” Hank informed her. “You’re going to need to be as small as you can possibly be, and you’re going to have to use your blasts to punch a hole into the cube. Any size hole should do it, but to minimize the chances of you getting hurt, you need to be tiny.”

 

Chapter Text

Suddenly, Steve’s voice cut through the team’s comm line, sharp and commanding.

 

“Head’s up, you two,” he said. “Someone’s started firing nukes. Stark said he knew what to do with them, but you two need to be careful, just in case.”

 

“Tell us when, and we can close the thing,” Hank responded, knowing the team as a whole would hear his message. “Just… make it quick. This isn’t the safest route, but it’s the best we have.”

 

“I’ll do my best, Hank,” Tony cut in, sounding strained. “Nuke’s almost too heavy for the suit with this little power, so I’m flying on sheer faith right now. Anything you’ve got that can help would be great right about now.”

 

“Your suit has an electric charge, right?” Hank asked, a plan forming already.

 

“Yeah,” Tony confirmed, though he was evidently straining himself.

 

“I’ve got just the thing,” Hank assured him. “As long as giant ants don’t scare you,” he added as a warning, tapping a button on his wrist gauntlet to link with the carpenter and crazy ants still alive, instructing the carpenters to take the crazies to Tony as fast as they could.

 

“I know this is really not the time for questions, but why the Hell would the ants be helpful at all?” Clint asked with a frown, watching as the bugs in question took to the skies, heading for Tony.

 

Nylandria fulva are a sub-species of ants that hold an electric charge,” Hank explained, as simply as he could. “I’ve used them to power everything from emergency lamps to a toy car, and that’s at normal size. The particles Wasp and I use, they change how big things are or how small, adapting certain capabilities to fit the new size. So, bigger ants, more power.”

 

“We couldn’ve just had Thor zap him you know,” Clint reminded him, though he sounded impressed.

 

Nylandria fulva don’t have the capability of hurting Tony in the process,” Hank countered. “Thor would hit him with raw, undiluted electricty. My ants won’t have to touch him directly, just the arc reactor in the suit, thus no harm to Tony.”

 

“Appreciated, Pym,” Tony muttered, almost to the portal with the nuke. The ants got to him a moment later, the carpenter ants dropping the crazy ants in front of him so they could charge the suit as they shot back down to the ground. “Should be enough to keep me from getting stuck up there,” he noted, finally breeching the portal with the nuke.

 

Janet had been charging up her blast as the ants did their duty, waiting for her cue to punch the cube. Hank gave her the sign when Tony retreated out of the portal, though he still fired at incoming Chitauri as best he could without the suit shutting down.

 

The sound of the Tesseract being breeched echoed for miles around Stark Tower, knocking people on their feet from the sheer force. The Chitauri were already down and dust from the nuke pressumably taking out their mothership, but the blast made sure they were gone for good.

 

The minute the shield went down, Hank was at the table, searching through the smoke for Janet. When he couldn’t find her, he feared the worst. Until a familiar buzzing noise came from the smoke cloud, the source of it flying sluggishly out of the thing and landing on the ground so it could return to full size, coughing.

 

The sheer relief Hank was hit with knowing Janet was alive brought small tears to his eyes as he knelt next to her, checking her vitals. Satisfied nothing was concerningly wrong, he gently pulled her head into his lap, brushing the stray hairs that escaped her braid away from her face.

 

“Janet’s safe,” Hank informed the team, sounding as if he’d almost had a heart attack and needed to recover. “Tony, how are you holding up?”

 

“I’m not going to make it to the ground, so I’m heading for you and Wasp,” Tony said, voice cutting in and out, proving his point. He landed only a few moments later, retracting his mask and panting heavily.

 

“Tony made it,” Hank declared, figuring Tony’s comm was as fried as the suit. “What now?”

 

“Loki is still free,” Steve stated. “We find him, we get him dealt with. He’s probably still in the Tower. Either you or Tony come down to meet us, the other needs to stay with Janet and make sure she stays stable. Got it?”

 

“I’ll come down,” Hank said, sending Tony a look that said there was no room for discussion. He slipped his comm out of his ear, handing it to Tony once he took off the suit. Tony just nodded, sitting next to Janet and checking her vitals again. Hank stood after pressing a linger kiss to her forehead, mask and helmet returned to his head where they belonged as he made his way down.

 

The rest of the Avengers arrived in the penthouse a few minutes later, where Hank had already pinned Loki so he couldn’t get away. Steve waved him back, the six present Avengers looming over the god.

 

“If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll take that drink now,” Loki muttered, knowing he’d lost this one.

 

~*~*~

 

Janet was in a coma for two weeks following the battle, and Hank refused to leave her side the entire time she was in the hospital. He felt responsible for what happened to her, because he was the one who sent her in there. He knew the risks, and he still sent her in there. He felt like such an asshole, and Janet wasn’t awake to quell his nerves, so he felt twice as bad by nature. Just like he could grow, his feelings could too, mostly in bad ways.

 

When Janet finally woke up, her eyes blinked rapidly to adjust to the harsh hospital lighting. Hank had been asleep in the chair next to the bed when it happened, one of the only times he’d slept during the whole two weeks. He groaned awake when he heard nurses and doctors shuffling around, muttering to themselves. One noticed Hank was awake and went over to him, a faint smile in his weathered grey eyes.

 

“Good news, Dr. Pym,” the doctor told him. “She’s finally awake, and everything seems stable. We’ll clear out in a moment so you can see her.”

 

“Thank you,” Hank muttered, no trace of fatigue due to the fact that his heart was racing. True to his word, the doctor and his assistants were gone after anouther couple minutes, leaving Hank and Janet. Her bed had been angled upwards so she was sort of sitting up, but she did seem fine.

 

“I heard you fell asleep,” was the first thing Janet said since waking up, voice hoarse and scratchy.

 

“I can only rely on the particles so long without a recharge,” Hank reasoned with a guilty shrug. “How do you feel? Anything you wouldn’t tell the doctors about?” he asked, because he knew her, and knew she would do something like that if it was non-human in nature.

 

“Not that I can tell without being in the lab,” Janet shook her head slowly, motioning for Hank to move closer so she could grab his hand.

 

“I know what you’re thinking,” Janet mused. “And you, Dr. Henry Jonathan Pym, need to stop blaming yourself, you hear me? We did what we had to for the sake of keeping Manhattan in one piece, and the sake of the world not being taken over by a maniac with horns on his helmet.”

 

Hank just smiled, bringing her hand to his lips so he could press a kiss to the back of it. “Everyone else is okay,” he told her. “I think Clint’s hearing aids are going to need replacing, but other than that, he’s back to normal. No mind control, nothing; Nat had some bruises and scrapes, nothing major; the Captain seems to be unharmed, possibly a side-effect of Dr. Erskine’s serum; Banner’s pretty shaken up, so he’s off to somewhere calm to recover; Tony’s suit held up physically at least, so the only loss he took was the damage to his tower; and Thor’s headed back to Asgard with Loki in shackles, and the Tesseract to deliver to his father.”

 

“What about you, Hank? Are you okay?” Janet asked softly. He wouldn’t tell her unless she asked; it was just how he was.

 

“The concussion got worse, and I ended up with really bad migraines for a few days,” Hank admitted softly, looking away. “Good news is, home’s safe and in one piece. Apparently Loki nor Selvig knew about the tunnel, so we didn’t need to worry.”

 

“Speaking of home, are we in San Francisco now? Or still up in New York?” Janet asked.

 

“San Francisco,” Hank answered. “It was Cap’s idea, so you could go home as soon as you were released instead of having to get on a flight.”