The battle was brutal. Bruce had lost count of how many times Spiderman swung by, shouting and screaming at the monsters, or how Hank Pym was gleefully taking count, or how Reed and Sue were obviously not talking to each other.
It niggled at him, a quiet little bit of mournfulness that he had caused such a split. But- well, they started talking again when Reed was nearly bit in half by one of the giant snake things, so Bruce took it as a good sign.
He slipped among the rubble, completely forgotten as he urged people to their feet, dragging them to areas where hopefully they could be safe. Up in the Stark building, a shining, glowing portal flashed and shone.
Then, Iron Man rocketed past him, holding onto a nuclear bomb. Every particle of Bruce froze up, as he could see it now, A giant green monster roaring and screaming, the sound of grenades as they popped off, the low roar of a man in pain, a child's desperate terrified screams, the bright flash of something with too much force, anger and hatred, pain, no darkness only light
Then, it was over, leaving him breathless and terrified as Iron Man disappeared through the portal. I have to find him. Feet propelled him along the road, though he didn't know what he could do. It wasn't like he could catch him.
The portal flashed, began to close, and then Iron Man began to fall. He can't stop himself.
The knowledge let fear lend wings to his feet as he scrambled over a disabled alien, towards the portal. Spiderman swung by, heading for Iron Man as Thor took to the skies. Bruce stared up at the figure, wondering what it was that disabled the suit- or if Tony's arc reactor was still working.
He considered that world for a second, a world without Tony Stark.
No more crazy inventions being teased and tantalizingly dangled in front of his nose, no more points that jumped his own research, no more crazy smile and a smooth voice that clocked a mile a minute.
No more glints of a smile as he said something that teased Stark back of his supposed genius, unable to help himself, flash of whites as sun gleamed off of that mouth, the rough goatee… what was he thinking?
"I am insane to come to this realization in the middle of a war!" Bruce yelled to the world, the world patted him on the head. Then it kicked him in the rear because the world is like that.
He pulled himself up over the edge of the rubble to find Spiderman panicking as Captain America crouched next to the prone body of Iron Man. The reactor wasn't glowing.
Bruce reacted instantly, moving quickly to Stark's side- he had roughly two minutes before the metal shards in Stark's heart worked their way through, permanently killing the man. He pulled out Starktablet, and tore it apart, pulling out wires.
Spiderman turned towards him as he knelt next to Stark, attaching wires to the core, and attaching them to the shield. "You can't be planning on using that as a kick start unit-"
"No, the electricity would just burn him, nothing more. Plus we have no way of checking to see the amperage or voltage. So no, we'll be going by concussion. Thor- hit the shield."
"I do not understand." The tall blond man complained, even as he geared up for a strong swing, "How will this help?"
The hammer fell, and Bruce shrugged, "The element Stark has in his core runs on vibrations. It's man-made, not naturally occurring, so the vibrations should transfer itself from the shield to the core, and kick start it enough to restart."
The hammer hit shield, and ears rung for one solemn moment. Stark's eyes flew open, "Nobody kissed me, right?"
Captain America sat among the dust and rubble, the world's first and greatest superhero, and laughed. He sat and laughed, before looking up at Thor. "He's alive."
"No seriously, nobody had better of kissed me."
Spiderman leaned over to consolingly pat Iron Man on the shoulder, "Don't worry, we won't kiss and tell."
"Who does that?"
Pepper Potts, the ultimate woman of power, ignored her top employee/major man/whatever he was calling himself that day, to concentrate on her paperwork. "Who rescues someone's life- someone who happens to be a billionaire and can give them whatever they wanted in the world, and then just vanishes off to India?"
Tony Stark was throwing a temper tantrum (not that hard to believe) over his dearly missing beloved doctor.
Pepper would be jealous if it weren't for the fact that she and Tony had an understanding- if Tony was with a man, then she could watch. If the other man couldn't deal with it, then he swiftly got booted out, because Tony may have been an idiot, but he was a loyal man once you sank your way deep enough into his heart.
Pepper was a loyal woman as well, and she didn't like the way Tony had disappeared for several hours over this man. "Bruce Banner, right?"
Tony twisted to look, before slumping into a chair. "Yep. He broke my tablet, handed over his research to repay it, and then vanished. To India. Did I mention he sold his house? And he lost his job?"
"Hmm, Mr. Stark, please sign these papers."
Tony signed them without looking at them- he trusted Pepper. "Tony, please appear at the airport tomorrow at twelve hundred hours. There will be a jet waiting for you. You will greet the person disembarking, and take care of them."
"Don't argue Tony. Besides, it will be a surprise."
Pepper picked up her clipboard and strode out without a backwards look to where a waiting jet took her across the ocean to where a man busied himself among the slums, taking care of those too sick to afford it.
He looked startled to see her there, prim and proper surrounded by filth and muck. He stood up, attempting to wipe off his hands as he attempted a hesitant smile. "May I help you ma'm?" He was polite- unlike most of Tony's conquests.
Her lips pursed in response as she regarded him for a long second. "Yes. You broke Stark equipment, a highly experimental Starktablet."
He blinked, panic beginning to rise. "I left behind enough to counter the cost-"
"No, no, no. There's a contract for those. Anyone who uses them must sign the contract, or imply they have signed the contract. Otherwise you'd have stolen the tablet."
Bruce's mouth, beginning to open in protest, closed, a faintly uneasy look crossing his face. "That is why, per contract agreement, I am having you moved to Stark Property. You will begin working there under the discretion of your new boss which I will be assigning you."
He had a slightly foggy look in his eyes as he attempted to process everything, "You have one hour before your one plane ride provided leaves country. Pack whatever you need or want, and everything else will be provided when needed."
He stared at her, for a moment, blinking. She stared at him back levelly with a look that made most corporate board members run screaming for the hills- and some billionaire geniuses. Never let it be said that Reed and Pym when they visited could walk over her.
"Are you moving?"
"I- Yes ma'm."
Bruce disembarked off the plane, still trying to figure out what was going on. This was crazy. Insane.
What had just happened to him? One minute in India, the next stumbling down off a plane ramp while staring at Tony Stark lazily leaning against a limousine and no.
He contemplated briefly running back onto the plane and refusing to get off until they took him back to India, because he wasn't ready to face Stark. Just not ready.
He looked desperately around, seeking an avenue of escape. Stark on the other hand looked up through his sunglasses, and if Bruce had been looking, he'd have seen the fierce, sudden joy on Stark's face, quickly covered up by an easy smile that had a touch of real joy to it.
"Welcome back to the states Bruce."
"I-I'm not sure what happened, but you're apparently my boss now?"
If that was what Bruce believed, let it be far from Tony to disabuse him of that notion. "Yep. Welcome to Stark Company. Ready for the tour?"
Bruce regarded him for a long moment, all thoughts hidden behind his calm façade, eyes giving nothing away. Tony stood straight, and willed him to find nothing lacking. "Seriously though Bruce- If you want to go back, you can. I just figured that you might enjoy it more being able to work with equipment that's state of the art, and not hide that genius little brain of yours-"
Bruce ran a hand through his hair. "I'm going to regret this." Tony grinned hopefully, "But, yes, I'd like to work with you. Just a warning though- I have rage issues."
"And I have ego issues." Tony waved a hand. "It'll be interesting to see what makes you mad." As he talked he flipped out a pen, and poked Bruce in the side- Bruce jumped in pained surprise, but there was no flash of anger in his face. "Huh. It looks like you got a handle on it."
Bruce's flatly unimpressed look made Tony laugh, a deep, rolling laugh from the gut. "I think you'll do just fine with me."
Tony Stark didn't know everything about Bruce- didn't know why he had chosen to hide his genius rather then flaunt it, didn't know why Bruce had anger issues- But as Bruce followed him like a little lost puppy dog, he did know something-
Nothing was going to keep them apart.