Author: D.B.R Hazlewoode PM
'No, he thought, thank you. For helping me to understand.' Post credits. A quick, introspective one shot about Dr. Bruce Banner's new life after Loki's attack. Bruce/Tony sciencebros, but mostly Bruce.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship - Hulk/Bruce B. & Iron Man/Tony S. - Words: 1,026 - Reviews: 27 - Favs: 124 - Follows: 9 - Published: 05-08-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8099299
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
a/n: All that I can say is that it gets better after the line break.
"Boys, playtime's over," Pepper called out, sashaying into Tony's workplace with a glass of wine. Bruce, gradually blinking himself out of a trance, removed his goggles and stretched broadly, good-naturedly ignoring Stark's mock flinch.
"Awh, mom, ten more minutes?" Tony whined, knocking his goggles off with one hand and reaching out for Pepper with the other. She grinned as she took his hand and spun gracefully into his arms.
"It's eleven thirty," she reminded them both, pausing to kiss Tony's cheek, "Just because you don't believe in sleep doesn't mean you can keep Dr. Banner from his."
"Bruce," Tony began seriously, "Have you been cheating on science with sleep?" Bruce shrugged and smiled to himself as he unrolled his shirtsleeves.
"What can I say?" He never really did know what to say, or how exactly he was expected to say it. He'd become so introspective, so reclusive, that working with someone like Tony often left him inarticulate. Working with Tony had unambiguously been a blow to his self-being, but he was moderately adjusting to the constant snarky comments and benign humor. And when he wasn't sure what to say, he simply smiled as if the world had just told a joke, and he was the only one to hear it.
"We'll finish this," Dr. Banner suggested, motioning to their project, "Tomorrow." Stark offered a salute in reply and then held out his fist.
"What?" Bruce inquired, somehow already knowing that it was coming.
"Sciencebros," Tony declared, raising an eyebrow in that maddening fashion of his, "Come on. Can't leave until you do." Bruce shot him a withering look, but smiled nonetheless and returned the fistbump.
"Sciencebros." Pepper rolled her eyes amicably and went to lounge on the sofa. Dr. Banner retrieved his notebooks and started toward the elevator.
"Goodnight, Dr. Banner!" Pepper called. He waved in return as the elevator doors slid silently closed before him.
As Bruce fumbled for his new keys, he suddenly recalled that Tony had insisted upon decorating the apartment. He recognized that hoping Tony hadn't gone overboard was a lost cause, and he settled instead on hoping that the things could be returned. Living in a third world country for the past months had significantly lowered his expectations. While a bed and running water were always appreciated, they were no longer necessities. Not to him. He was perfectly content with a blanket and the floor. Re-adjusting was a process, and he wasn't quite sure if taking an apartment in Stark Towers was expediting or hindering said process.
There was a small bundle of envelopes at his door, and Bruce balanced them on top of his notebooks as he unlocked the door and strode into his new living space. He was silent for a moment as he took it all in. He had specifically asked for small. Small and simple. But Tony Stark was a rebel, very often without a cause, and he'd seemed to ignore Bruce's requests completely. He hadn't seen the entire apartment yet, but already, it seemed much too large for just himself. With sweeping ceilings and a panel of floor to ceiling windows, the apartment quite literally left him speechless. The only thing that he was favorable to was the lab and work station that dominated what would have been the living room. It was wonderful to once again have technology, all of it, at his disposal.
Wandering into the master bedroom, Bruce pulled a comforter and a pillow from the bed and carried them into the sitting room, beside the windows. A flash of lightning and the accompanying thunder signaled a coming rainstorm, and he unlatched the window, allowing the pleasantly muggy air to filter in. It was one of his favorite smells, rain. Calming. Peaceful. And he absolutely needed those things in his life.
Sliding on his glasses, he sat on the floor, back against the wall, and untied the twine that held the mail together. He had received much recognition for his part in defeating Loki. (The other guy had, anyway.) Hoping to avoid seeing his face on television, Bruce had steered clear of the newspapers and news, and found himself pleasantly ignorant of what was going on in the world. As he thumbed through the assorted papers, cards, and letters, he realized that they were all for him. Thanking him. Congratulating him. Even a few marriage proposals. (He set those aside with a wry smile.)
In the hour that followed, Bruce Banner read them all. These people, more than anything, were a beacon of hope. Of reason. He had saved them. (Well, the other guy had. He'd also destroyed more than half of New York City at the same time, but mostly he'd saved people.) They told him that the other guy was good. But he didn't want to believe it. He hated it, hated losing control, hated not being able to live a somewhat normal life. He was a physicist, for Christssakes. He spent his life in laboratories, invariably attempting to prove this and prove that. Things like this didn't happen to people like him. They just didn't.
Gathering the letters together again, Bruce realized that he had missed one. It was folded in half, albeit unevenly, several times. As he opened the single sheet of paper, he saw that it had been penned by a child. In shaky print, the child had scribbled:
Deer Mr. Hulk,
The kids make funn fun of me at skool school. Mommy says it's because I'm diffrent. But your diffrent, to, so now I'm not alone. Your my hereo hero, Mr. Hulk.
Bruce removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose as he laid the letter down beside him. He said nothing because he could not, and he did nothing because he could not. So he simply closed his eyes. No, he thought silently, Thank you. For helping me understand.