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Creature in the Woods

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They were called into Alaska, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to be exact. SHIELD received intel that some suspicious ‘creature-like’ activity was happening. Originally they weren’t going to send in the Avengers. SHIELD agents were more than capable of looking into some local fairytales, where they stay fictional or not. But after sending in a few agents that haven’t reported back in over 48 hours Nick Fury decided to send the cavalry.

Now normally Tony would have told dear old Nicky to stick it where the-sun-don’t-shine but the bastard stooped low. He called Steve. Of course the second captain righteous got word of the situation, they were packed inside a Quinjet heading northwest at 0600.

It was pushing three o’ clock and they hadn’t seen anything more exciting than local wild life.

This is exactly what Tony wanted to do on his Saturday. Yes, it was happening, all his dreams were coming true. He was wandering around aimlessly in a giant forest hunting for monsters. I’m going to shoot Fury’s other eye out of existence with Captain America’s spangled ass not too far behind.

Currently Steve was leading the group, outfit tight and face pinched tighter into a scowl. Natasha was close behind him with Clint beside her. Both spies had their eyes and ears trained on the surrounding woods, completely alert. Bruce and Tony, who had his suit on standby, were behind them. Thor was taking up the rear end behind them, quiet and ready for battle with Mjölnir in hand.

They’d been walking around for almost two hours with no signs or hints of the creature (if there even was one). Frustration was building amongst them. On top of getting up super early to be dragged out here, they’d spent seven hours flying in the jet (which would have taken up to eleven hours in a normal plane) to end up in a forest running around on some wild goose chase. It was only a matter of time for them to start squabbling.

Tony’s idle chatter was starting to bother Steve. Almost as soon as they arrived Tony had disengaged from the armor to walk beside Bruce. His poor friend was a walking ball of nerves, jumping at random sounds and squeezing his hand whenever an animal moved. It wasn’t necessarily the fear of Hulk coming out. They’d all welcome the beast if they were to come across something out here. On top of that they were miles from civilization at this point, no breaking Harlem in the great wilderness of Alaska. But it was mid-October…which means Halloween. Bruce Banner is not of Halloween. Ever since he was a small little science nerd, Bruce had a hatred for the holiday. A single day that has (somehow overtime) become a whole month for tricks and horrors, of people scaring each other for the hell of it. Bruce had enough scary things in his life, he didn’t want anymore.

So walking in a creepy forest, fog thick from the constant showers of rain made Dr. Banner very green. Seeing his friends stressed state Tony immediately moved to help. He stepped out of the armor, grabbed Bruce’s hand and said, “Brucie, tell me about the stars.”

So while they walked, Tony talked, or pushed Bruce to do so. Really doing what little he could to keep his friend’s mind off of their situation. Steve was starting to forget that as the ‘hunt’ dragged on.

“Christ Tony, could you shut up for five seconds! You might not like it but we are on a mission. Why don’t you do something useful like check our surroundings.”

“What the hell am I supposed to check out Rogers? The fog is so thick I’m more likely to run into a tree than pick something up on a scanner. Also, you are the one that dragged us out here.”

 It was like a gun was fired at the races, they were off. Bickering and snapping at each other, it didn’t take long before the others were chiming in. Thor unsuccessfully tried to end the fight but somehow insulted one of them instead. Natasha added to the fire as always with Clint not far behind, making unnecessary commentary that seemed to add to the fuel of the fight. Bruce reminding them of the dangers he as an individual is and how they as a group are quite frankly a mess. It must be Tuesday.

In the blink of an eye Steve and Natasha are in each other’s faces, Clint and Thor are having a “dick measuring contest” and Bruce is trying to calm them down with threats of a Hulk-out.

Tony’s not sure how he ended up watching his teammates fall apart from the sidelines.

Like Bruce, he’d like to defuse the situation. But...he could hear something. Something...calling him.

Tony turned away from the arguing Avengers. He couldn’t see anything aside from a few trees and a lot of fog but he knew something was there! He couldn’t see what it was but it called to him. Without a voice, without a physical representation it called him.

His eyes glaze over, rich intelligent brown eyes dulled to a murky, watery brown. His racing thoughts pulled in for a pit stop, taking a break on the back burner. Without the notice of his team, Tony wandered into the fog. Something was waiting for him.

 


 

It takes a while for the others to realize Tony is missing.

Steve pulled back from his argument with Thor, “Tony.” Rubbing his forehead he tried to fight off and incoming headache, something he’d never thought he’d suffer from again after the serum. When no reply came from the genius, which is more shocking than the headache, he snapped to attention. “Tony!” But nothing, looking around he did a head count. Clint, Bruce, Natasha, Thor, To–

No Tony in sight, “Damnit Tony! Where’d you go?” Steve yelled.

The others were looking around too, double – triple checking the number of people standing around. It was just them and the armor. Bruce rushed over to the armor, “JARVIS open up!” The A.I. did so without question revealing an empty suit. “JARVIS track Tony.”

“…I’m currently unable to find Sir’s whereabouts.”

“What? JARVIS – where is he?”

The A.I. seemed very unsure of himself when he responded, “I – don’t know Dr. Banner. I’ve lost Sir.”

Steve stepped forward next to Bruce, “JARVIS what do you mean?”

“I had Sir’s location, he was here with us while I remained focused of surveilling a perimeter. But then when Dr. Banner requested Sir’s location and I turned my focus there, he – his position vanished. My sensors tell me he was with us this whole time, only disappearing just now.” JARVIS sounded confused to even admit that.

It made every warning bell flare to life inside Bruce. But he ignored them, pushed aside the need to flee and instead focused on the important thing. Tony’s missing.

Bruce was going to lose it. Hulk was right under his skin. Feeding off his anxiety and fear, ready to be let loose on the woods that dare to take away their Metal-Man, the Hulk is angry. Bruce spun on his teammates. “Where is he?”

“Whoa Bruce – man, calm down. You’re looking a little to green there buddy.” Clint held his ground but put his hands up in surrender, hoping like hell Bruce wouldn’t Hulk-out on them.

“Calm down!? Clint, Tony is missing!” Bruce was panting with adrenaline, ignoring how the others subtly moved into a defensive position around him.

Natasha tried her hand, “Bruce, I know you’re worried, were all worried but losing your head like this isn’t going to help us find him.”

Steve stepped forward, taking the lead as always, “She’s right Bruce, this isn’t the time or place for this.” Thor moved closer, hand tightening on his hammer but Steve quickly gestured for him to stand down.

How did it come to this, he was on the verge of Hulking out and at a standoff with his supposed team all while Tony is missing. He frantically looked at them, at Thor standing back but ready to fight him should he let the Hulk out. Natasha and Clint, they each had one hand visible, the other hidden. Most likely reaching for their weapons. And Steve standing in front of him with a bit of distance, shield on his back and hands out towards him. The armor, empty of the genius that he was freaking out for.

Everything was still except for the breeze.

…the breeze. He could smell something in the breeze.

–tal man.

Bruce blinked in surprised. His eyes briefly losing focus of the others as the Hulk tried to tell him something. What?

METAL MAN!

As soon as he heard the growled voice of his angry counterpart Bruce could smell it. It was so clear he could almost see it. Tony’s scent, a lingering trace of where he was and where he’d gone, it was right there!

Bruce took off. Hulk guiding him while letting him remain in control. The other’s ran after him, shouting and calling for him but Bruce and Hulk were on a mission. FIND METAL MAN.

 


 

Bruce broke through the tree line and froze. The scent-trial stopped here in this small clearing of dirt and rocks in the woods. Bruce looked around frantically to see Tony but all he was seeing was trees.

Millions of stupid Quaking Aspen trees, he was so sick of seeing these tall, white, lanky trees that blended with the fog so easily.

Feeling desperate he stepped further into the clearing, twisting and turning every direction hoping to catch a glimpse of Tony. It felt like the world was spinning as his anxiety the longer his friend stayed missing. His feet were moving, ready to take him further, to just do anything to would bring him to Tony, “Tony! Where–”

He froze, paralyzed with fear. Tony was standing in front of him, maybe thirty – forty feet away. Right in front of the creature. Its black man-like form towered over Tony by a foot or so, ghostly white eyes that pointed like those typical Halloween characters watched Tony curiously. At least that’s what Bruce was assuming. It had no iris or pupil for Bruce to gage its view. The creature has enlarged, jagged teeth sprouted from its mouth that held a natural grin. The body of it was ripped like a body builder, black accept for the murky white veins trialing all over its body.

Tony and the creature were angled sideways so Bruce could see that Tony was reaching out for the creature.

Seeing his friend reach out for the monstrous thing Bruce’s breath caught in his throat.

A twig snapped behind him. The creature’s head snapped to attention, looking in his direction but past him somehow. Bruce quickly but carefully turned his head enough to see his team behind him out the corner of his eye. When Bruce turned back to Tony and the creature it looked like the genius hadn’t even reacted. It was as if he was stuck in some sort of trance.

Clint was the first to speak up in a straining whisper voice, “What the fuck is that?”

“I do not recognize this creature.” Thor, miraculously, kept his voice down.

Bruce didn’t give a fuck what it was he just needed Tony away from it. Now.

“Tony! Please, listen to me, back away slowly. Come on Tony, listen to me okay?” His voice was desperate, pleading with his friend to hear him. But Tony didn’t move, just stared at the creature that was watching them. This was a nightmare. Altogether the team tried desperately to gain Tony’s attention, harsh whispers ‘shouted’ at him even, hoping he’d react but nothing. They couldn’t move closer, too much risk, they could trigger the creature into making a move.

Tony remained indifferent, probably possessed by the creature. It was making the Hulk restless.

The Hulk didn’t like this, his favorite person standing next to danger, Hulk wants out. Hulk want to smash black thing.

Bruce was rooted to the spot, fearing what could happen and begging Hulk to wait!

In his dazed state of mind, Tony must have come to a conclusion or didn’t want to wait any longer because finally his hand connected with the creature. The thing’s head snapped down to see the hand on its chest.

After that, it felt like everything moved in slow motion. As one the team moved as soon as the thing’s eyes were off of them but it was too late. In a move faster than any of them could see, it snatched up Tony and took off, disappearing into the fog.

As soon as Bruce lost visual of Tony he lost the battle against Hulk. The green beast roared to life and took chase, trying his best to save his Metal-Man.

Hulk loses them, the creature’s scent nonexistent and fog too thick to see where they’d gone. In his rage, Hulk destroys a valley, turning it into a crater.

 


 

Venom brings them back to their ‘home’ with the man from the woods. Carefully they lay the man down on their bed and take a step back.

He’s unconscious. They’d been hunting in the woods, expending some energy Venom had built up and eating a couple dear when the man had showed up. Venom had just dropped out of tree, ready to take off running. But when their feet hit the ground and he stood up there was this guy, standing in front of them.

Surprisingly Venom was the one to freak out but Eddie calmed him. Telling him to chill and ‘don’t hurt him you idiot, he could be good. Remember good? We don’t eat good.’

Standing beside the bed Venom pulled back, allowing Eddie to come back out. But like a curious child, Venom formed a little snake head. Coming out of his back around hovering over his shoulder Venom waved about between them.

“What is this? Why did we take him Eddie?”

Eddie looked over the sleeping man, taking in his looks and feeling a sharp steady throb deep inside his chest.

Eddie released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, this feeling could only mean one thing.

“That’s our soulmate.”