This is my last little oneshot about these two before I launch into a longer story which may or may not be good. Hopefully, this one rivals my last one, Social Father, but I didn't dare compare them because that one was so good and I liked this one. Anyway, let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: If I was Marvel, I'd be awesome. I am only semi-awesome, therefore I don't own the Avengers.
Being a superhero comes with its risks.
Sure, the fame is nice. Sure, you generally end up more or less taken care of by S.H.E.I.L.D. Sure, you end up with pretty cool friends. Sure, you're usually near invincible. You also get tossed around a lot. Smashed into walls, smashed into floors, generally just smashed. You always end up going home with bruises, tired to the bone and a very good idea of what Death's face looks like. Dangerous stops meaning very much.
They stop worrying about each other. At least, not the way any of them remembers worrying about their loved ones before they were constantly dappling into dangerous pursuits for a living. It's more of a hope that nothing bad will happen because you've been in worse and they can handle it as well as you can.
It doesn't matter how close Bruce gets to Tony or Pepper or even JARVIS in that… certain AI-man/beast bonding way. He never really worries about Tony when he's in the suit, fighting alongside him against insane odds. He's sure that the feeling is mutual and that Tony never worries about the Hulk.
It's different when Tony isn't in the suit. When he's only human.
Bruce is the only one who can break through the daily baddie's security system with Tony out of commission, with some help over a com-link with Pepper and JARVIS, who occasionally start bickering in very Tony-like ways in the lulls between instructions. Pepper is panicking, Bruce knows, and JARVIS isn't even alive, but they doesn't miss a beat. Bruce is immensely grateful, because they calm the fury that rises at the idea that anyone could even think about kidnapping Tony.
Between the three of them, they make it more or less flawlessly through the security system. The rest of the team is off distracting the villains-du-jour and only Natasha remains as Bruce's shadow, silently keeping an eye on him, always wary of the Hulk. Bruce doesn't blame her. He doesn't trust himself either.
They find Tony strung up like a puppet, drugged to the gills.
Bruce's heart rate doubles, then promptly triples. His blood feels like it's done the same, beating an insane rhythm against every inch inside his veins. A voice drifts though a green fog to him, repetitive and increasing in volume. It takes him a way to interpret it as his name, and he startles, struggling to focus on Natasha.
To her credit, she manages an encouraging smile. He's not sure if it's an act or if they really do have that same friendship, deep and sympathetic, as he's starting to have with the rest of the team. "Still with us, Banner?" she asks softly.
He nods, mouth dry and numb. "Bruce… is he alright?" Pepper asks quietly over the headset.
He shakes away his anger for her because they're in the same boat. They all share that unspoken responsibility for Tony, her and Bruce and JARVIS, all taking care of him in different ways because although it seems otherwise sometimes, Tony really can't take care of himself. Not well, anyway. Sometimes they agree that he does it on purpose to keep them around.
He steps forward, gently pressing fingers against Tony's neck. "He's alive," he declares the moment he finds a sluggish pulse. He can hear Pepper's sigh of relief, and he's not totally sure he imagines the suddenly lack of tension in the silence from JARVIS.
Tony stirs at his touch and mumbles something incoherent, trying to lift his head and failing. "Bruce?" he manages to slur out.
"I've got you," Bruce chokes out past the involuntary gritting of his teeth that is going to shatter his jaw soon. "Don't worry."
Knowing Tony, the response is probably a quip of some kind, but all Bruce can make out is, 'self' and 'arms' and maybe something similar to 'banana.' He doubts it would make much more sense if Tony was fully in control of his tongue at the moment. He smirks a little and doesn't respond, instead working at the ties around Tony's wrists. Natasha quickly runs to help, and in the end only she manages to undo them, because Bruce's hands are shaking from the bloody tracks left on Tony's wrists.
Bruce takes up the slack by catching Tony as he slumps forward, knees buckling uselessly. "Thinn' I mighta drunk t'mussssh," Tony mumbles, boneless in Bruce's arms.
"Let's go with that, buddy," Bruce squeaks, because his human form isn't built for carrying fully grown men. Still, he doesn't let go. He doesn't want to ever let go. Tony launches into a long speech that Bruce doesn't at all understand, but he's fairly sure Tony is talking about when he was seven, so he might just be very glad about that.
It takes a bit of floundering to get Tony steered between him and Natasha, the a lot more to start walking down the hallway. It's such painstaking work that it takes Bruce a moment to notice why Natasha has stopped. He looks at her, confused, then at the glowing red dot on Tony's chest. "I wouldn't try to continue walking, Dr. Banner," some voice drawls from somewhere.
Bruce doesn't give a damn. Not one. All that matters is that little dot that comes with so many images and the fact that it's hovering right on Tony.
Threatening Tony is not allowed. Tony is his friend, his Tony, hishishis.
The first punch is thrown before he even realizes he's flung himself into the path of the laser and at the speaker in the same motion. The Hulk arrives a second later, and then there's really trouble. Bodies are flying, walls are torn apart, and chaos is let loose. And although the Hulk would most like tearing the people apart too, he is satisfied with leaving them frightened to death and then returning to Tony.
Natasha seems unconcerned that the Hulk will hurt Tony. She's good with people, after all, and she has seen them work together. She supports Tony until the Hulk pulls him into his arms, bridal style, and then gets out of the way. She moves up a few places in the list of people the Hulk sort of likes, and he grunts at her to show it. She smiles warily back, and there is an unspoken connection.
"He's in good hands," she says to a question Pepper has asked, though the Hulk can't hear it – transforming takes its toll on equipment.
It takes Tony two days to come find Bruce. Bruce is sure that he spent about a day asking Pepper where he was, receiving an answer, and then very busily pretending not to care. His suspicion is confirmed by Pepper's smile when she brings him food to the lab occasionally. She seems to have a better hold on Tony and Bruce's relationship than they do, and she welcomes it. She's as little afraid of the Hulk as Tony, and Bruce wonders if this is naivety or wisdom.
Tony acts as though nothing has happened. Bruce wonders if Tony has ever been given the tools to handle being held like a child. He wonders if Tony was held as a child. He's silent, though, as Tony jokes and teases and asks about his projects. His answers are short and soft and slowly even Tony manages to run out of things to say.
There's a long, comfortable silence. Bruce values it for what it is: Tony trusts him enough to let down the façade he has for everyone else, and simply stop being obnoxious. It's Tony's acceptance of him into their makeshift family, Tony and Pepper and JARVIS and now Bruce, too.
"Thanks," Tony says finally, very quietly.
Bruce just nods, because nothing more is needed.
Anyway. Lots of implicit stuff and… sort of lacking in the rest of the team this time. I hope you liked, and review!