Tony was snickering rather loudly when Bruce explained why Thor dragged him to Asgard.
"So let me get this straight... the big bad Asgardians were terrified of a cat-girl?"
Clint was snickering as well, imagining Loki trembling before the lazy Bruja.
Bruja was lazing about on the odd couch Tony had bought just for her to sleep on in the sun.
"Diana's personality is a combination of Lina Inverse from Slayers and Akeno Himejima from High School DxD. Whereas MY personality is closer to Koneko from High School DxD. You really don't want Diana out longer than necessary...she gets creative," explained Bruja.
Naturally Tony had to look up the characters Bruja mentioned.
"So...Diana is a sadist who has little regard for the safety of others and loves to blow things up?" asked Clint, having looked them up as well.
"Diana was turned into a living weapon by a senile old man with delusions of the greater good. If she hadn't agreed to become a Chosen of Hel, she would have easily become a super villain strong enough to give even Steven Strange problems. We'd much rather remain as Bruja," she yawned, showing her kitten fangs, before rolling over to her side.
"Chosen of Hel?" said Natasha.
"The gods of the dead can't act freely like the other ones can. Thor, for instance, can freely manipulate the weather. However those that govern death are considerably more powerful, because they control that which is freely given and often carelessly taken away. So they require Chosen to act as their hands in the world of the living."
"Freely given and carelessly taken?" repeated Tony.
"Life is something that occurs naturally...but giving it back after it has been taken is something only a god of the dead can do. And even then there's restrictions. Because of that, their power is considerably stronger than even that of the 'chief' gods in any pantheon. They do, after all, have a near infinite amount of people they can draw upon to fight in their name, which is something that can't be said of the others."
Seeing them run that tidbit through their heads, they slowly got what she was telling them.
"Because of that, there were restrictions placed on them to limit the danger they presented. One of which was that they couldn't act freely among the living or have access to their full power when they do come out of their realms. But that restriction only applies to them. If they find someone compatible with their power, like me, then that restriction is lifted to the point that when we act in their name or are granted power by them, we have a nearly infinite level of potential power. The only downside is that most can't sustain the level of a god for long, and there have to be certain requirements met."
"So basically you're an acolyte for the Norse goddess of the dead," said Clint.
Seeing the looks on everyone's faces, he shrugged.
"I used to play Dungeons and Dragons a lot as a kid."
"Sounds like you have a lot of power. So why were you stuck in the form of a cat?" asked Bruce.
"Diana became an Acolyte almost immediately after the war. The thought of turning into a living weapon didn't appeal to her, no matter how much of a sadist she was. So she asked Hel for a favor in exchange for her service to her."
Every eye was on Bruja, some with incredulous looks.
"Wait... You're telling us you asked to be trapped in the form of a cat?" said Tony in disbelief.
"No one pays attention to stray cats. And it's easier to get the measure of someone in the form of an animal, because they don't feel pressured to hide what they're really thinking. After all, who would a cat tell of their secrets? As for how I ended up in South America in the first place... I blame Hel for it."
Seeing she had confused them once again, Bruja smirked. Time to really shock them.
"So Hawk, you say you used to play D and D a while back?"
"I still play MMO's, if that's what you're asking," said Clint.
"Then do you know what it means when someone talks about a 'tank'?"
"A tank is a character that is centered mainly around taking heavy damage, while at the same time dealing damage after a certain period of time. Pretty much like the Hulk when he's pissed off," said Clint immediately.
"And what's the biggest weakness of a mage character?"
"They have high magical power, but when it comes to taking physical damage they're often weak. Most people generally concentrate on raising their mana or MP, and only boost their ability to take a hit as an after thought. Some do concentrate on lowering their MP requirements for spells though," said Clint. "Their best ability is generally summoning, blasting things from a long range, or in some cases healing damage or boosting the ability of the party."
"...And here I thought Bruce and I were the nerds of the group," said Tony in disbelief.
Bruja's eyes gleamed with mischief.
"So would you say that a heavy-hitting spellcaster like Diana and the Hulk are a perfect match for each other?" she asked with a small grin.
"In terms of attack and defense, they suit each other scarily well. The Hulk can take the physical damage so long as Diana is within range, allowing her to blast people without having to worry about close range fighters. And she can defend against long range attacks against him, which is often a downside to having a 'tank-type' character," admitted Clint.
"Which is why Diana considers the Hulk to be her equal. The fact she happens to like Bruce as much as I do is almost considered a bonus."
"Almost?" repeated Bruce faintly, as he barely had any idea of what they were talking about.
"Diana likes you for you. The fact you're practically the perfect 'tank' to match with her magical ability is a major bonus in her mind. Which means if she ever went all out on someone who pissed her off, the only one safe from collateral damage would be you," said Bruja, using her tail to point directly at Bruce.
"...Do you play MMO's too?" asked Clint.
"My entire childhood was like a crappy MMO. That being said I will pwn you on World of Warcraft, but in exchange you'll have to watch my shows with me," said Bruja.
"Deal. Prepare to get your ass kicked in the arenas," said Clint immediately.
"What just happened?" asked Bruce.
"Bruja and Clint found another reason to bond as brother and sister," deadpanned Natasha, already feeling a headache coming on.
Bruce filed this new overload of information under Bruja...and promptly moved on.
He had learned years ago to smile and nod whenever something weird or confusing as hell happened around his cat. Otherwise he never would have maintained his sanity.
Especially since he saw Clint and Bruja playing some weird fantasy game on the special servers Tony made to visualize what he was making...and saying things he didn't have a clue about.
He did not speak gamer or otaku...and quite frankly he didn't want to know.
He was dreaming. It wasn't hard to figure that much out.
For one thing, he was face to face with the Other Guy.
"Pathetic. I do not understand what that One sees in you. You are weak and do not possess the strength to keep her."
Bruce was in shock that the Hulk could even talk in full sentences like this.
"What is it that you want?"
"What I want, puny human, is not something you can give. She is a rare thing indeed, to match my power. Only She can give me what I require. Humans are weak, and do not deserve my protection."
Before Bruce could say anything, he felt the familiar presence of Bruja.
"You're a troublesome Shield, you know, Nya. She has openly claimed you, so quit bullying your Other self. It's unbecoming."
"He is weak. He is not worthy."
"Sometimes the Sword and the Shield are not enough, and the Dagger is required. Brute strength is good for a tank...but occasionally that which is weak can overpower even the gods. Besides, you two are stuck together, so deal with it. Not even Hel herself could separate the two of you," said Diana.
The Hulk was clearly displeased with that.
Diana's smile was anything but reassuring.
"You are right though. Humans haven't yet earned the honor of being protected by Us. When the time comes that they begin to fear your rage, all you have to do is ask and I shall take us somewhere that the pitiful Earthlings cannot easily follow. After all..."
"I am the Cheshire."
"What a weird dream..." said Bruce to himself. He didn't even react when he realized Bruja was using him as a pillow...without a stitch on.
Well he did, but he was able to ignore it.
Throughout the day, Bruce had trouble getting the dream out of his head.
The Hulk was apparently bound to him in a way that not even the gods could separate them.
"Nya...you seem troubled today," said Bruja.
"I had a weird dream."
"That wasn't a dream, nya. That was the Hulk getting tired of you trying to hold him back and wanting us to do something about it," said Bruja.
Bruce stared at her.
"The Hulk is a God of Rage and Power. Gods can't freely be born into this world, especially new ones, so his soul was tied to yours. Unfortunately a failed god was born before you, and he decided to take out his fear on you instead. Your father didn't understand anything."
"Bruja..." said Bruce, unsure how to react.
"You're not a monster. Do you know the concepts of Yin and Yang?"
"The concept of eternal balance. Yin is darkness, and Yang is light," said Bruce.
"That's the simple version of it. The Chinese believe that in every existence there must be a balance of weakness and strength. Yin, or darkness, represent the weakness in everything. Yang, or light, represents the strength. To put it simple terms, you represent the 'Yin' half of a god. The weakness of the body, but the strength of the mind to compensate. The Hulk represents the 'Yang' half of a god. He has a body that can talk almost any damage and come back swinging, his rage feeding into his power and increasing it exponentially...however this comes at the cost of the weakness of a mind. The Hulk allows the rage to consume him, thus he is 'weak'. Whenever one side takes over, the circle revolves until one side is dominant."
Bruce blinked. That was actually the best explanation he had ever heard for his condition. And it made a lot more sense than anything else he had believed.
"So you're saying..."
"Denying the fact he exists will never help. The only way to have any true control over the 'Hulk' is to accept that you and he are one and the same. Just opposite sides of the same coin. If you can do that, you'll prove your father wrong once and for all that you are not a monster like he was."
"It's hard to accept that kind of idea, you know."
"We know. But there is another option. You entrust us with your 'heart' and we shall help you achieve the balance you lack," said Bruja.
Bruce looked at her, then chuckled. It was hard to believe they were having this weird discussion in a park with no cameras, but there you had it.
"If I entrust you with the 'heart'...then how will I know you would do the same? Diana and Bruja are two different people after all."
"Is that really what you think?" asked Bruja.
Bruce looked at her.
"I am me. No matter what name I go by, or what 'side' is dominant, there is never any doubt of 'who' I am. I accept that Diana is me and she accepts Bruja is her shield against the evils of humanity. You may be my perfect match, Bruce Banner...but you don't know a thing about why Bruja exists."
Bruce was openly puzzled by that declaration, but he understood one fact.
They had just had their first 'fight' as a couple. And he had said something to offend Bruja.