Bruce had been doing okay for a while.
Not good, because he couldn't remember the last time he'd been good, but okay.
And okay was better than usual, so he was content with being okay.
But then the whole Avengers thing happened, and it brought up a whole lot of things he'd managed to get over, or maybe just suppress, because he'd do that too. (But hey, suppression worked too, and it generally involved less damage, so he'd take it.)
But it wasn't just that he was back in the States, and that being there brought up so many things he'd worked hard to forget, but it was also the fact that other people wanted to talk about it.
It was his own fault, really, after his outburst in the lab, but none of them were really themselves, under the influence of Loki's spear.
But he didn't lie, he just spoke more freely than he would have.
The bottom line was, everyone else on the team (because apparently they were a team now) knew.
He thought it would be okay, for at least a while, with everyone going their own ways after sending Loki and Thor back to wherever the hell they came from. Steve rode off on his motorcycle, Clint and Natasha went back to do whatever they did at SHIELD, and Tony took Bruce home with him.
And for the first bit, it was good. Tony made him feel welcome, gave him his own floor, a Hulk proof room, a lab.
It was a brilliant lab, bigger than anything he'd worked in before, and it was entirely his own.
So for a while, it was good. Bruce wasn't good, he was just okay, but it was good.
But Tony had obligations, and a company to run, so he had to go back to Malibu with Pepper.
Then he very nearly died and everything almost went to hell, but it didn't.
Bruce was in his lab, and didn't know until it was almost over, and he hated himself for that. He wasn't sure what he could have done, but anything would have been better than hearing it secondhand from Tony when he came back.
He had to lie to Tony, and claim he wasn't listening, because god, what could he say to that? That he should have been there, that he was sorry?
He never had the words when they were needed. Maybe if he did, he would have been able to fix himself all those years ago.
They moved past it somehow, despite Tony being even more damaged than before. And Bruce didn't know how he could have missed it, because Tony hadn't been sleeping, had been working more and more, but Bruce thought it was normal.
And besides, it was what he did. There was the first sign, that Tony was keeping up with Bruce, considering how messed up he was.
He beat himself up for that for a while, until new things came along.
Then it was Thor's turn to save the world.
He wondered to Tony if they should have gone and helped him in London, whether it was just for containment or cleanup or anything, but they were told by SHIELD in no uncertain terms that they were to remain in America. It wasn't like Tony to listen when he was told something, but there they stayed, and Thor did fine on his own.
They didn't see many of the others. Steve came by a few times, the last time to tell them he was moving to Washington for SHIELD. Apparently Natasha and Clint were also sort of living there. Steve wasn't clear on details, which made sense, because they were super spies or something.
They didn't hear from Thor after the incident in London, not like they'd heard from him before that, and it just seemed like that was the way it would be.
They moved past it.
Bruce was still doing okay, and it was possibly one of the longest periods in his life that he could remember being just okay.
It was nice.
Then SHIELD fell.
Steve and Natasha were there on the news, along with a new friend they'd acquired, one with wings, and they singlehandedly took down one of the world's foremost intelligence agencies.
So that was a thing.
Tony insisted everyone move in after that. There was nothing left of SHIELD for Clint and Natasha to cling to, and Steve was lost. Bruce didn't blame him. The man had woken up to find everything from his life gone or completely different, and SHIELD had been the thing he'd clung to since then. It had been the only thing in his life that was steady and made sense.
And then it was gone.
The three of them moved in.
Thor was still off world, not like they'd hear even if he came back, which was what led Tony to hiring his friends he'd met the first time he came to Earth. There were three of them, two scientists and someone who... well, Bruce didn't know what she was. Interesting, from what Tony said.
And everything that had been good (making Bruce okay) was threatened and it almost made him want to run again, because how could Tony keep him safe if something as huge as SHIELD was gone, just like that?
Tony talked him out of it before he even packed a bag, because Tony was brilliant like that, and maybe Bruce didn't genuinely want to leave.
Because here it was good and he was okay, and he loved the stability of it all.