Requested by anon on tumblr. It took me a while to write this one, but I'm very pleased with the result. Enjoy.
When Bruce awoke, his muscles were aching. The familiar burning in his bones was a telltale sign that he'd recently de-Hulked. He closed his eyes and tried to remember what had happened, but he knew it was no use. He only ever remembered bits and pieces of his time as the Hulk, flashes of what had transpired. Right now, all he could remember was the jet ride into New York.
"So this Brotherhood," Steve asked. "Who exactly are they?"
"Evil genetic freaks," Tony answered through his coms.
"Tony!" Natasha exclaimed from the copilot seat, as though he'd said something terribly wrong.
"I mean, you guys are genetic freaks, too," he added to Steve and Bruce. "But these guys are, well, evil."
"They're hell-bent on mutant supremacy," Natasha clarified. "And they'll do anything to get it."
"We're here," Clint informed them.
"Took you guys long enough," Tony said. A moment later, he was flying next to the copter. "If you land on that high-rise," he said pointing slightly to the right. "You should have a good view of the battlefield, Barton."
"Great," Steve said. "Natasha and I will take the street."
"I think its time for you to suit up, Big Guy," Tony said to Bruce, who didn't look too happy about it, but nodded. When the back of the jet opened fully, he ran towards it and jumped off, feeling the air rush around him before he transformed.
Everything beyond that was blank. No flashes. Nothing. He shook his head and sat up, only then noticing that he wasn't alone.
"Oh my god, Tony," he gasped. Tony's helmet was pulled torn off, revealing his face. He was clearly unconscious, maybe even-
No, no he wasn't dead. He couldn't be. Bruce put his hand under his nose just to be sure. Yes. Yes, he was still breathing. Barely. His suit was trashed. Large chunks of metal were missing completely, revealing bloodied skin underneath. His arc reactor flickered.
"Oh god," Bruce said, reaching for him.
"Tony?" a voice called. "Bruce?" Natasha. Bruce practically flew away from Tony. "Are you guys in here?"
"Over here," Bruce called back, not taking his eyes off Tony. His shock was no doubt obvious.
"Oh thank god," Natasha said, coming around the corner. "We've been trying to find you guys for- Oh my god, what happened?"
"I don't'… I don't remember." That was true. He didn't remember a minute of it. But he knew what had happened. What he had done. There was no other explanation. Tony, unconscious, beaten, broken, with no one but Bruce around. Only one possible conclusion.
He faintly noticed shuffling around him. Natasha calling for medics. Thor tossing him a pair of pants. Steve asking if he was okay, while everyone else fretted over Tony. He hardly heard him though. Hardly anything registered over the minutes that followed. Medics had arrived. People kept talking to him. They moved Tony to a stretcher and carried him out to a helicopter waiting to airlift him back to SHIELD. Only when the helicopter is flying away, did Bruce move.
Tony groaned as he slowly returned to consciousness.
"Morning, Sunshine," Natasha greeted, entering the room. "It's about time you came around."
"How long?" he asked, taking in his surroundings. He was in an infirmary, likely on SHIELD's helicarrier. Several tubes were attaching him to machines that occasionally let out a soft beep. He tried to move, to sit up, but everything hurt.
"Six days," she said. "You were in pretty bad shape when we found you. You're lucky to be alive. Your arc reactor wasn't even working properly."
Tony looked down at his chest with something akin to fear. He could clearly see the familiar ring of glowing light through his gown.
"Its fine," she assured him. "It was just dislodged, not damaged. The doctors were able to get you all hooked up again."
"I'll be the judge of that. I can't believe you let those morons anywhere near this thing," he grunted, forcing himself into a sitting position, despite the pain is caused. He ripped the tubes out of his arms and removed the gown so he could get a proper look at the chest piece. Once he was satisfied, he looked up at Natasha. "What happened?"
"We were hoping you could tell us," she said. "What do you remember?"
Tony closed his eyes and tried to remember.
He had been the first to arrive on scene, as always. The destruction was already in full effect, but he did what he could to hold off the mutant attacks before the rest of the team arrived. Some of the mutants had been easy to take down, but most of them were more powerful than he'd anticipated. Bruce had jumped from the back of the jet and the Hulk started taking out mutants on the ground. Clint took position at the top of one of the buildings, while Natasha and Steve took the streets. Things had not been going well, not by a long shot.
"Where are the fucking X-Men when you need 'em?" Tony asked no one in particular. "I thought this was their gig."
Clint said something back, but Tony wasn't paying much attention as he shot at dozens of copies of one man. Every copy dissolved, none of them the real one. Fucking mutants.
"Tony!" Natasha suddenly shouted over the coms.
"What is it?" Tony asked, looking around for her.
"Eric Lensherr is here!"
"What?" Tony asked, rising away from the multiples. "I thought our intel said he was on the other side of the country!"
"Well, he's here now," Clint said. "I just saw him."
"Tony, you have to get out of here, you're no good to us if he's in play."
"Right," he said, flying away. "Stark out." He didn't need telling twice.
It was only a moment before he lost control and plummeted to the ground.
He hit the ground, shattering the concrete around him, then was sent into the air again against his will. He landed at the top of one of the tallest towers, where Magneto was waiting.
"Mr. Stark," he greeted, as Tony struggled to stay on his feet. In all honesty, his suite was probably the only that kept him from falling in a heap on the ground. "It's a pleasure to meet you. That's a brilliant suit you have."
"Suck it," Tony said defiantly. His knees buckled under the force of Magneto's power.
"You are ill suited to argue with me," he said. "Not when I control your every move. Tell me, Mr. Stark, how much will your friends trust you when you turn on them?"
Tony was in the air again, looking down at the fight below them. His weapons retract and target a group of civilians.
"No!" Tony shouted. "No! Stop!"
"You bastard!" he shouted, watching, unable to look away, as the missile got closer and closer to its target. Moments before it hit, Captain America jumped between it and the people, his shield taking the brunt of the explosion. Tony let out a sigh of relief.
"Your friend has good reflexes," Magneto said. "But will he always be there to save the day?"
Tony had some kind of snarky comeback, but he couldn't quite remember what it was. They argued. Magneto thrashed him around a bit. There was nothing Tony could do to stop it. His coms were down, and there was no one around. Magneto ripped the metal off his right leg, cutting into his skin with the sharp edges. He was seeing red. The only thing keeping him upright now was the same thing that kept him floating just above the roof.
"Let's see how you do without your precious arc reactor," Magneto said, tearing a chuck of his breastplate away, revealing the arc reactor. It started to twist. Tony could hardly hold back the sound of pain trying to escape him. He wouldn't give this dirtbag the satisfaction.
Over the next few days, Tony tried to escape the infirmary 22 times, and failed each and every time. He was visited by Fury, Clint, Thor, Steve, half a dozen doctors, and at four SHIELD agents whom, he had on good authority, had massive crushes on him.
"Morning, Tony," Steve said, entering his room, carrying a newspaper and coffee.
"Please say that's for me," he practically begged. Caffeine had been on the contraband list and hadn't been allowed anywhere near him since he'd woken up.
"Yep," Steve smiled, handing the coffee over, and setting the paper down. "The doctor's said it's okay now. They also say you should be allowed out sometime this afternoon."
"Thank god," he replied after gulping down half the mug.
Steve rolled his eyes. "You need anything else?"
"Get me out of here now?" Tony asked.
"Sorry, no can do."
"Then no, you have noting for me."
Steve nodded and moved toward the exit.
"Wait," Tony said. Steve turned back to him. "Where's Bruce? Everyone has come to visit me, except him."
Steve's face fell. "I thought Natasha… she didn't tell you, did she?"
"Tell me what?" Tony asked, suddenly very worried.
"Dr. Banner is… gone."
"Gone?" Tony repeated.
"He left not long after we found you. We haven't been able to track him down."
Bruce had found himself a nice little hut in Peru. It was secluded, just in case he had any problems, but close enough to a small town where he could get necessities and help the sick and wounded. He'd been there for over three weeks with no disturbances, no one coming to bother him. It would seem he might have actually fallen off SHIELD's radar.
Until he heard the familiar sound of a humvee approaching. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No need to get angry.
He moved to the door and pulled it open as the humvee came to a halt and the man inside stepped out.
Tony was alive.
His arm was in a sling, and his face was covered in small gashes that hadn't fully healed yet, but he was alive. Bruce could almost feel a laugh coming. Tony was alive. Hadn't that been the thing he was most afraid of, someone telling him that Tony was dead? Hadn't he run so that he wouldn't have to hear it? Hadn't he avoided every news source, knowing that Tony Stark's death would have been the headline everywhere?
And yet, here he was, alive and mostly well.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, when the shock wore away.
"I should ask you the same thing."
"Well, I heard you ran away, and I've come to bring you home."
Home. Bruce hadn't had a home in years, not since the accident. Tony, and the Avengers, had been the closest thing to a home he'd had in a long time.
"I don't have a home."
"Nonsense. Mi casa es su casa."
Bruce hated it when he said things like that. He hated how welcoming Tony always was. Like he wasn't a monster. Like he couldn't destroy him.
"You know, this running away thing? I can't help but take it as a personal insult. I know, I know, textbook narcissism, but really, why did you run? Why now?"
"Because I thought I killed you!" he exclaimed.
Tony looked completely and utterly shocked. "What?"
"When I came to, you were unconscious, practically dead. I thought for sure you wouldn't make it, even after the paramedics showed up. The other guy, he- I tried to kill you!"
"He saved me!" Tony shouted back at him. "You saved me."
He'd nearly lost consciousness when suddenly the Hulk was flying over him, slamming a heavy fist into Magneto, smashing him into the ground, before turning to Tony, who had fallen to the ground the moment the mutant has lost his hold over him. The Hulk scooped Tony up into his arms, and jumped away.
"Thanks, buddy," Tony said weakly.
Hulk let out a grunt that Tony translated to mean 'No problem, tiny tin man.' A moment later, they landed in a building that was mostly collapsed in ruin, but no longer seemed to be under siege. Tony was starting to lose consciousness again, when the Hulk roared, jolting him back to the world of the living.
"I'm tired, big guy," he said.
"Tin man hurt," Hulk said.
"Yep," Tony affirmed, struggling to keep his eyes open.
"Hulk can't help. Banner can."
Something about his voice makes Tony force his eyes to stay open. He had seen Bruce transform into the Hulk on several occasions, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. He had also seen the Hulk transform back into Bruce, always after fighting and smashing until he had worn himself down and passed out. Never had he seen the Hulk try to become Bruce. Never, until then.
"You saved me," Tony said again. "I would be dead without you. Now please, won't you come home?"
"Why?" Bruce asked after a moment of thought. "Why do you care so much? I'm a monster. Maybe I saved you, but that doesn't change what I am."
"Honey, we're all monsters," Tony said. "Just because you're anger takes on a more physical form, doesn't make you any better or worse than the rest of us."
"Why do you care?" Bruce asked again slowly. "Why is it so important that I come back?"
"Because you're my best friend, and I love you," Tony said. His tone is so characteristically Tony that he can't tell if he's joking, or hiding.
"Now the real reason?"
"Fine. Aliens are about to invade and we could use your help. I convinced Fury that it would be better to send me than a team of heavily armed soldiers. Happy?"
"So happy," Bruce replied sarcastically.
"So, are you gonna come back, or do I have to kidnap you?"
"I'd love to see you try," Bruce said over his shoulder as he walked back into his hut. Tony followed.
"I like what you've failed to do with the place," Tony said, looking around, as Bruce shoved his few belongings into a duffle.
Forty minutes later, they were in Tony's private jet, flying home. It was only then that Tony told him the truth.
"I lied," he said.
"I said there was about to be an alien invasion. I lied. No invasion. In fact, things have been shockingly calm the last couple weeks. Of course, I've probably jinxed it by saying that."
Tony shrugged. "It looked like it was the only way to get you back. You don't belong out there. You belong with us. With me."
Bruce couldn't help the smile that formed. "You missed me."
"Alright, fine, I missed you," Tony admitted.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?"