Hey all, here's another Tony/Bruce fic! This one has so much angst that even I, as the writer, started feeling angsty. I was 'burdened with glorious purpose' however, to continue. The first part was written to "Stay" by Safetysuit, and the second part was written to "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" by Celine Dion. I'm apparently in a mood, and who better than to listen to than Celine Dion if you want to write angst right? You should definitely listen while reading. This fic is dedicated to three AMAZING reviewers who pretty much got me out of my hospital blues after getting some not-so-great news yesterday. Thank you, Aimi-chan, Maranni123, and MsMagpie for being awesome! Btw, the phrase 'bullet dream' refers to the . percent chance that a bullet will hit and dislodge another bullet in a person's body. So, if you got shot, and were going to die, and then got shot in the exact same spot and the second bullet dislodged the first one, and then the second passed through too, and you lived, that would be a bullet dream. Just thought you'd want to know what the title and a line in the story means. So here you have it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Marvel or the Avengers, because you probably wouldn't recognize it if I did.
There were just some days, every once in a while, that Bruce Banner felt low enough to attempt the impossible all over again.
The gun quivered as it was drawn up to his left temple—he knew by now that the Other Guy would spit out anything attempted by mouth—the hand shaking because he wanted, oh god he wanted this to be it. Please, please, let this be the last day my shadow darkens the world…he pleaded with anything, any deity from Asgard or beyond, to hear him just once, and let this be the end.
And…if he was going to pray, he wanted someone to be there as he left the world behind. He had killed too many people, dealt out too many horrors, to go to Heaven. He was ready to face Hell, but if he were honest with himself, he didn't want to be alone as the breath left him. If he was going to go to Hell, he wanted to be selfish one more time and have a comforting hand on his when he greeted the flames. And if I could choose anyone…
But of course, it was always, had always, been too much to ask for. The earth had no greater punishment laid out for him, because his mere existence was enough to make him writhe in the acutest of agony. It made sense, since his 'other' body could feel hardly any physical pain. So of course justice would have to be dealt in his soul, his mind, his heart. Wasn't that how it went in fairytales and comic books?
The bullet sank through his flesh and the shell of his skull, squishing into his brain, and he nearly smiled at the horrifyingly painful scream he emitted. If he could not pay for all he had done with his death, he would pay in his life. He knew the Other Guy would emerge in a few seconds, enraged at its host, to blow the bullet back out so hard that it would probably be stronger than the gun it came from.
But until then, he could feel the ripping of skin and the dripping of blood, his own blood, in blissful rapture. Unbalanced…they don't know the half of it. He idly wondered about the science behind the ability to continue thinking when you had metal slicing through your neural connections, but it didn't matter, because Mister Jolly—Green—Fucking—Giant was a bit peeved, and had had quite enough of Bruce's self-loathing. The rage was now channeled outward, rather than internally, and the release was all he could have asked for and more.
As he lay on the floor of his "Hulk Out" room, shrunken back to the miserable shell of the man he once was, he couldn't help but laugh at the irony of the state he was in. Clothes torn and scattered, furniture overturned, breathing heavily and flushed a healthy rose; spent, sated, and mind-numbingly blissed out…it was almost like making love.
He choked on a sob.
These thoughts would get him nowhere. So he was miserable, and angry, and alone. When had he ever been anything else? Life hadn't been lived since his 'accident', so why wasn't he at the goddamn lab working on a cure? Someday…someday…I have to believe that. He pleaded with himself to get off the floor and get a grip; to charge into the amazingly beautiful lab given to him by an even more amazingly beautiful person that he could actually call friend and do something productive.
Instead, he lay on the ground, weeping. Why do I have to do this every time? Why can't I keep my promise to him and not let things get this bad? He wondered. I say I'm alone, but I'm not…not really. Pepper and Clint and Natasha and Steve and Thor, there are so many friends to choose from. Tony is always around, and always helps. So what if it's not the way I want? You can't have what you want, Banner. Get over it. I need to just…calm down. Do some yoga. I'm not going to lose control twice in one night. That is Not. An. Option.
With that, he slowly sat up to dash the tears from his eyes, only to whip his head to the side as he realized he wasn't by himself…probably hadn't been for some time. He scrambled to grab his torn shirt to cover his prone form, blushing furiously as he realized who it was.
"Tony," he said it without an ounce of regret.
"Bruce…can I ask what set it off this time?" came the quiet response. He always asked; he was never told. Bruce's alter personality may be a monster, but neither he nor It was heartless. Tony didn't need anything more heaped on his plate, and he had as many insecurities as himself—if not more. If Tony knew that he was what set Bruce off…
"Same old. Just the stress." It sounded hollow even to his ears. A heavy sigh left the mouth that had been slowly driving him insane since he came to live at Stark Tower. It was such a disappointed sigh. Good, make this more difficult. I certainly deserve it.
"Bruce, you promised."
"I know." Ah, now there was regret. Because if there was one thing Bruce hated most about himself, it was his almost innate ability to hurt the people he loved. The battle would ensue in a few moments. They would yell and say words they didn't mean but still always managed to flay him alive, before staring awkwardly at each other and Tony would mutter something about them being best friends before they went to their rooms and Bruce wept and ached and needed to hold Tony and tell him how sorry he was and that if he couldn't be with Tony then Bruce needed to leave, before he did something that couldn't be healed to both of them.
Because the monster in me is so despicable that it would rather see you dead than near anyone else. Just like Betty, only a thousand times more powerful.
But poisonous words never came.
He could feel Tony move next to him and sit, he just didn't think it would be wise to acknowledge him. Otherwise he may do something very stupid, like kiss him. And Dr. Banner was anything but stupid.
"Bruce…can we at least talk about it? 'Cause I don't know about you, but I'm fucking sickof being woken up at two in the morning because of this shit," he chuckled, without malice, but it still stung. He was bothering Tony when he most needed sleep (they had just finished another mission recently), and it was over something no one needed to worry about. He could try to kill himself all he wanted; both of them knew it wasn't happening. So the fact that Tony was losing sleep over him would only make him feel guiltier.
"I don't—I don't know what there is to say," he explained.
The metal avenger choked out a laugh, more wearily than before. "Oh, I don't know, how about explaining why you keep putting a bullet in your head…especially when you know it won't do anything. Correct me if I'm wrong, Doc, but the definition of insanity—"
"Is doing the same thing, again and again, to try and get a different result. I know. So I'm insane, that's not news," the scientist chuckled, almost genuinely. Bruce let his gaze drop when Tony raised an eyebrow in question. It clearly asked if Bruce really wanted to fight that battle tonight. The beast rattled in its cage at the challenge. But he sighed, "Fine. I'm not crazy. Just 'unbalanced'. Don't worry about it, Tony. I'll be fine in the morning. Just needed to blow off some steam."
This time, the laugh was bitter. "You've got a really fucked up version of 'blowing off steam', Bruce. If it were me or Clint, we'd drink a lot, sleep with a hot woman or two, pass out and be great in the morning." He paused for a moment, thinking. "Okay, that's messed up too, but yours is worse, just sayin'." He gives a small smile, which Bruce returns. This is just one of the reasons he loves Tony so much that it hurts. He can always make him feel better. That doesn't seem like much to most, but it's a lot for Bruce.
It had been such a tentative love he felt at first. How could he be anything but hesitant? He had a monster inside of him, ready to spring forth at any moment. Would it emerge if he were to be turned down? Or worse; if he wasn't turned down, and he destroyed Tony without ever even needing the Other Guy. Tony had so many problems of his own. The pair of them together…it would be as dysfunctional as it would be beautiful. Like a hurricane or a fire or a nuclear explosion is beautiful, even though it kills you. All of them, all of the Avengers, were damaged in some way. It's what made them work so well together. But he wasn't going to put Tony through that kind of roller coaster relationship. Tony deserved someone who could make him whole, not rip him up further.
But now…his love just grew and grew and he didn't know how to stop it. It was like cancer the way it spread through him, but the feelings it left were the cure; good, and wholesome, and not at all what he deserved. So he let it just stay cancer in his mind.
Could heartache destroy me where bullets and poison could not?
"Earth to Dr. Banner," Tony said softly as he watched the emotions play out on Bruce's face. The shorter male startled a bit as he was drawn out of wherever he had gone.
"Ah, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to check out," he said guiltily, smiling lopsidedly at Tony. Surprisingly, it was returned, only more rakishly.
"You checking out just means I have more time to look at you." Bruce closed his eyes in pain, because those words meant nothing. Tony teased everyone.
A brief chuckle that sounded more like a sob to his own ears escaped him. "I'm sorry the view isn't better."
"You kidding? I happen to find the view quite appealing."
He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose and suddenly remembering that he needs to find his glasses. "I wish you wouldn't say things so carelessly." It was meant for himself; a reminder that Tony is playful, and sweet, and funny and a jokester and his Words. Mean. Nothing. And that's okay, because Bruce adores that side of Tony and he's normally willing to twist the knife a little deeper so he can keep listening to Tony's nonchalant comments, even when they wound him so badly. Just...not tonight. Please, not tonight.
"Careless…" Tony suddenly mutters angrily, disgustedly. "If you think anything I have ever said to you has been without care, then you owe me the thirty dollars we bet, because you clearly don't have one P.H.D, let alone eight." His voice begins to tremor and Bruce is, at that moment, terrified. He thought he had escaped the fight, but he was actually walking into it. "You want to talk about careless, Bruce? Careless is when I cook dinner for us—without JARVIS's help, I might add—and you choose to stay in your lab, even though I went to all the trouble to hope that you might want to hang out with me every so often." The fire is building, and Tony suddenly stands to tower over Bruce. Please, stop. "Careless is when you'll hide in your room for days after a Hulk Out, while I go out of my mind with worry, because god forbid anyone be allowed to comfort you when you need it." The words keep flowing, and Bruce can feel his shoulders shaking in the acutest misery, but he can't find words to say. Don't! "Careless, Bruce? Careless is when you put a fucking bullet in your head, or mouth, or heart, or anywhere else you've tried, because I'm not fucking enough for you! My desperate need to see you happy; no matter what I do, it'll…I'll never be enough," the words fade to a whisper, and Tony puts his head in his hands and sobs.
Bruce tries to find words, tries, but he's always been better with actions, so he pulls Tony down next to him, and just holds him like he's been wanting since day one. He knows what Tony is saying. And he is so, so grateful to finally know that he has given his heart away to someone who will give his in return. He doesn't think about it. It doesn't…it can't change anything.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs, trying to stem the flow of tears that will not get them anywhere.
The whispered words hit him like a missile; they are the most beautiful promise anyone has ever made to him. But—but I can't…don't give in, you're only going to—
"I hurt everyone I love. And I know you know how that feels, Tony." He can hear his friend's breathing stutter. He tries not to hear it. "If things were different, I would have gladly allowed myself to fall into whatever fairytale you or I wanted. But this is reality, Tony. And I will hurt you in so many ways, but I'll be damned if I hurt you in some way that can't be fixed. I'll be damned if I let you hurt me in some way that you won't forgive yourself for. I love you far, far too much for that."
There is a long stillness, a kind of perfection in the life of an Avenger, before Tony breaks it. "So…you hurt me because you don't want to hurt me." The briefest of smiles. "That's faulty logic, Dr. Banner. And we all know you don't do faulty logic."
Their mouths meet, before he can stop it, not violently as Bruce would have expected of such a chemical mixture, but in only the briefest of touches. It's so fleeting, that Bruce feels like an awkward youth all over again. In a way, he is; it's been so long. But that doesn't deter either of them. It's too late. He's lost, he's given up, he's letting this happen. This time, the kiss is anything but gentle. There is fire and need and burning and still, it is no less loving than the first. It is a kind of proof, he supposes, that Tony can handle both sides of his bizarre coin. It is a comforting thought. They kiss again; it is brief, it is sweet, and tastes of the innocence that was ripped away from them a long time ago.
"Tony," Bruce breathes, hesitant and shy and unsure, yet he needs Tony like he needs air. It is necessity, not wanting. But he loves him. If love is not sacrifice of the self for another, then he does not know what it is. He will try once more. "I don't want to hurt you. I'm so…so tired of hurting people."
Tony kisses him again for a moment, before laying them softly against his throat and giggling giddily like a teenager. "If you do, you know I will forgive you. And the time after that, and the time after that. Because you, Bruce, are a scientist's bullet dream. You are what heals me, even if you hurt me. I trust you."
Those words...those words mean something. I trust you.
He is not going to plan. He is going to live. Day by day, hour by hour, second by second if he has to. Anything if it means he can draw this out as long as possible. Maybe they would find a way out of the black hole they'd fallen into. Maybe not. But at least Tony had given him what no other person on this planet or any other had given him: hope. He had experienced love before. Tony was not the first in that regard, but in a way, he is. Because no one else had ever tried to love both Beauty and the Beast.
If this was a fairytale, readers would have put the book down long before this chapter. It was a shame, really, that they would never read about renewed faith in humanity. It was so poetically expressed between these two dysfunctional beings that sought solace in each other.
Lips meld and shape to each other's, fitting in a way even puzzles don't. Their connection was beyond the physical properties and deep, deep into the molecular realm. They were both so wounded and volatile and just an absolute mess…and yet, when Tony drew Bruce's tongue out to play, it wasn't like the deadly games they were so used to.
It had been two months. Two months before Bruce would even consider being together with Tony intimately. He tried and he tried and he tried to get Tony to leave the matter alone. Too dangerous. He was even willing to let Tony have other lovers, so long as he made time to be with Bruce, but that suggestion had not ended well. Tony had cried—for an entire hour—after he said that. "Why, Bruce? Why do you not see it? I love you, goddammit, I don't want anyone else! Why do…why do you have to hate yourself so much?" He'd opened his mouth to reply, before realizing that he didn't have an answer. He could spout off something about the Other Guy, or his childhood or whatever he wanted, but none of them were remotely accurate to describe his self-loathing. If anything…he wondered if it had just gotten to the point where it became habitual. And habit was not a valid reason for hurting Tony. He'd broken down as well, and they'd held each other. It was the first time their tears held anything other than bitterness. So he tried to let go of that self-disgust. He tried, and with Tony's help, he was slowly inching his way towards freedom. It was another month before neither could keep their hands off each other any longer.
"Bruce…" Tony whispers reverently against his collarbone, brushing his nose from side to side, as intoxicated with his scent as Bruce is with the silky softness of Tony's scarred skin. He is surprising himself. He and Betty hadn't even gotten past kissing before he exploded into what Tony called the 'awesome giant green rage monster'. It wasn't awesome. Not at all. Especially when it meant celibacy for nearly his whole life. But Tony, this amazing man who defied explanation anyways, isn't allowing the Other Guy to have his say. Anytime it feels like his heart is going to beat right out of chest, Tony draws him down into a gentle kiss, taming the beast back into submission with lips that have been on his mind more often than he can count. They are invested in bringing forth the life Bruce has never lived.
"I don't think…this is a good idea," he breathes raggedly, moving from being braced over Tony onto his side and just stroking his face. He is every ounce in control. Tony knows that, he just has to make Bruce see it. He crawls over the scientist, pressing him back against the sheets. Whatever room they've ended up in—it has a bed, that's all either of them care about at this point—is lit softly. Bruce is left absolutely breathless at the sight of the skin exposed when he pulls his shirt over his head and tosses it to the side.
"If I've rendered the good doctor speechless, then it must be a very, very good idea," he responds slyly, before leaning down for another kiss, this one less gentle and exponentially more passionate. "If you're afraid of losing control, then let me set the pace," he suggests, reaching down to brush his hand teasingly down the front of Bruce's pants. Bruce stifles a moan before it can escape, but this is not what Tony wants. "It's okay to let go, Bruce," he whispers, even though Bruce is already shaking his head. "Let me be your safe harbor. I want to be that for you. You already are for me." Lips connect once more. This time, the moan is not suppressed. These kisses, there is virtually nothing to compare them too, yet Bruce knows that were he to spend his whole life trying to find someone who can put as much feeling and trust and love into their kisses as Tony can, he would inevitably die alone. He thought he was going to anyways, but Tony has seen something he cannot, and Bruce is going to spend whatever time they have together endeavoring to be worthy of his love. And maybe, just maybe, he'll someday accept the truth he's seeing in Tony's eyes.
Any clothes that remain are shed with abandon, because for once, nobody is in control. There is nobody calling the shots or analyzing or anything of the sort. They simply exist with each other. There is harmony and something that he thought could never happen between two volatile beings like them; a better ending. Bruce finally realizes that to gain control, you have to give it up. Breathing speeds, heart accelerates, but life goes on without interruption. This time, it is a different, better ending. Not a happily ever after, because those only exist in fairytales. But still perfect in its own way.
Their lovemaking was different than any others' experience. But not for any other reason than the fact that they were them, others were others, and things were always different when these kinds of chemicals were mixed at high levels. Hands gripped and clutched, but there was no pain. Nails raked down one another's backs in ecstasy, but their skin did not tear. Bodies tangled and moved within each other, again and again, never sated and needing just once more. Every thrust, every sound torn from their throats, every whisper of their love sent electric jolts of life back into their long-dead hearts. Their words had meaning, and their actions had purpose, and it was never about the me or the I; always for you and us. Their love and completion was both screamed and whispered into the darkness, the contradiction coinciding beautifully with the duality in each of them. Bruce's eyes flash an emerald green as they climax, and then it's gone. They have succeeded. There is no Armageddon this time.
When they finally collapsed against each other, there were few words needed. The simply held each other, with smiles that wouldn't leave and tears that tasted of healing instead of mourning.
"I love you."
The words are so abused and misused by so many people, but between them, it was a promise of never letting go and always…just always. That was the promise.
"I love you, too." The words are also actions, and neither will forget it. They slept pressed against each other, not allowing space or distance, or past, or present, or future to be between them. Peace…it was so far off, but now it was achievable. Change was possible.
Neither Bruce Banner nor Tony Stark had ever experienced a more cataclysmic transformation than they did that night.
Transformation of the heart, mind, and soul has always—will always—be more powerful than a transformation created by Gamma Rays or a cluster of shrapnel.
That's just the way fairytales went.
Read and Review! Did I totally kill the pairing with too much angst? Frankly, I think angst is a given for them, especially if you read the comics, and realize exactly how messed up the Avenger's lives have been/are. The healing process is a long one, but I have a feeling these two will make it just fine. :) Anyways, hope you liked it.