Living with the Avengers

Chapter Nine

Laynie closed her eyes as she fell, and didn't open them until a few minutes later. She was being jostled around heavily, and she felt half-awake. When her eyes popped open and adjusted, she found that she was being carried by a running Bruce Banner.

"Bruce?" she asked, distress evident in her voice.

He nodded, not looking down for a second.

He seemed to be straining every muscle in his body, face included. His teeth were grit tightly, and his eyebrows almost concealed his eyes. "Bruce, I'm safe," Laynie said soothingly, knowing immediately what was going on. She turned her head slightly and found the exit not far away, and two more leather-clad mercenary-type men standing guard there. "Bruce, turn around!"

He didn't obey her. Instead, he hulked out.

On the other side of the store, Natasha had thrown Carter over her shoulders in a fireman's carry. The girl was nearly in tears at the pain in her leg.

"What's happening?" Carter shouted at her.

Natasha quickly hid behind a large stack of boxes and brought the girl off her shoulders. She ignored her and said, "Stay here." Whipping out her gun once again, she ran off to help Steve, Thor, and Bruce, who were currently attacking the men attacking them.

Carter bit her lip as the pain of the bullet in her leg became evident to her. Clutching it tightly, she whimpered. These must be the people Director Fury was talking about. The people Mom and Dad were dealing with. The thought of her parents made the tears burning in her eyes fall. I wish they were here. Before the thoughts could go much farther she pushed them to the back of her mind and looked cautiously around the corner of the boxes Natasha laid her behind.

She searched anxiously hoping to find some sign that her friend was alive. A sigh of relief came from her mouth when she saw Laynie laying on the floor behind Steve, who was fighting off two men.

Laynie made eye contact with her, and she instantly brightened. It seemed that both girls had thought the other dead or injured. She began cautiously crawling toward Carter, ducking behind boxes as she went. Once she was a safe distance from the fight, she ran, standing in a hunched position so as not to be seen over boxes.

"Oh God," she said upon seeing her friend's leg. "Carter, did you get shot?"

She nodded, gripping it tighter as the pain came to the front of her mind again.

Laynie signaled for her to remain right where she was and ran off into another isle. She took a giant package of paper towels out of an abandoned cart and tore the plastic with her teeth, grabbing one roll before running back to her friend. A bullet ricocheted off the metal shelves and nearly hit her. She had to bite her tongue to keep from screaming and giving away their position.

Sliding into a crouch near her friend, she tore off ten sheets of paper towel and folded them tightly, pressing on the general area of the bullet wound. "Sorry Carter, sorry. I'm going to put this inside your jeans so we can move. We need to get out and I know where the emergency exit is."

Though Carter protested through tears, she shoved it inside the hole in her jeans the bullet had made and secured it with a couple other sheets, tied in a knot to keep the makeshift compress there. She pulled Carter to her feet and supported her as she hopped on one leg alongside Laynie.

They hobbled toward the exit carefully, keeping watch for anyone else who may want to hurt them. They were only a few feet away when two men jumped down from some shelving.

"Really?!" Carter growled. "Not this again."

But, before the two men could even raise their guns, a large hammer flew at them, knocking them both into a wall.

And that was when Thor appeared. He held out a hand. The hammer came flying back and he curled his fingers around the handle. "Go now, we will take care of these brutes." He told the two girls.

Without a second thought, they ran out the emergency exit. Ambulances were already outside tending to anyone who was injured in the crossfire.

A paramedic ran over to them, "Let me help." She went to grab Carter's other arm.

"We've got it handled, thank you." A man's voice said.

Director Fury was the source of the voice. Behind him sat a vehicle that looked like an ambulance, but was being managed by SHIELD agents.

The SHIELD agents quickly grabbed Carter and pulled her to the vehicle. Laying her down on the gurney inside, they started to take off the makeshift bandages.

"What happened?" Director Fury asked with a grimace.

"Thor and Steve-"

"They're the Avengers. This is their job. They can handle it," the man said.

Laynie sighed, her shoulders falling forward. Her mind still felt hazy from passing out while falling, and the more she thought about it, the more she felt weak at the knees again. She sat down on the asphalt and looked up at Director Fury, who was already crouching down beside her.

"They just came out of nowhere and started shooting at us. I think they might be the people who... Mom." Her voice cracked on the last word, and she wrapped her arms around herself. "I'm scared," she admitted. Her head suddenly snapped up as the SHIELD-staffed ambulance drove away. "Wait! Carter! Will she be okay?"

"She'll be fine, Laynie. They can't care for her here."

"She's all alone..."

"She won't be conscious much longer anyway. I promise, I will have somebody escort you to the helicarrier the moment they allow visitors. For now, let's get you back to Pepper and Tony. The rest will be with us shortly."

"Is it safe there anymore? I mean, even with the Avengers around..."

He held out a hand and helped her off the ground, guiding her to their car. "I have had a twenty four hour guard placed around the building. The Avengers will now be working double time as well, they will always have a weapon nearby. Do not worry about your safety, we won't allow harm to come to you."

"Okay," she said numbly.

They slid into the back seat of a car.

"On another note, the social services have narrowed down your father's location to New Mexico."

"They're looking for my dad?" Laynie spat, giving him a shocked look.

"Of course. He is the next immediate member of your family. If they find that his living conditions are suitable, you will be placed with him and he will take custody." He looked at her out of the corner of his good eye. "Will that be a problem, Miss Combs?"

She crossed her arms, thinking better of arguing with him. She tried to dig up some of the things she would say to Carter when she was tempted to punch somebody.

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