a/n: So I saw Iron Man 3 last night and, damn, my muse came back for this story. So yeah, here's a warning. There's some serious spoilers for that in here. Like from the START. So don't read this if you haven't seen this and don't wanna know what happens. I'm sorry, I know that's gotta be annoying. But it's like 3 weeks after the release date so I have to KINDA be safe. Y'know. But I'll post another chapter after this, maybe in a couple days, which the yet-to-see-IM3 brigade will probably be able to see. I'll try to keep all of the spoilers out, anyway. Just coz I might disappoint some people and that'd be sad. But yeah, stop reading now if you haven't. It'll be better for ya.




But OH MY GOD HOW GOOD WAS THE ENDING?! And I mean the proper ending, not the end of the film, the one in the credits. Daymn, I laughed. It was worth sitting an extra (what felt like) half an hour after an already excruciatingly long-on-the-arse film watching fucking names roll by when I'd already spent the morning sitting for three hours doing a chemistry exam with a numb arse on a wooden chair after like 10 mins, just to see that. It was great. So this is my idea of the lead up to that. I'm gonna put some more dots in case you don't get the hint and see the spoiler in the first line and blame me for it. Just so you don't complain. Just, seriously, just stop reading.






Alright, I'm kinda liking the dots now. I'm getting carried away. IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK!



It was three weeks after Tony's heart operation that Pepper decided she needed to go into work and air some things out. She scurried past Bruce in her best suit and high heels, throwing an apologetic glance his way and saying,

"Look, I know it's a pain but can you keep an eye on Tony? I have some stuff I can't put off any longer but I don't want him straining himself when I'm gone."

Before Bruce could open his mouth, she was gone.

And he wasn't even qualified in medicine but he'd done enough of it in his life to know that she'd been through some shit that needed more than a couple of weeks off work. And surely she could get someone else to do it. Natasha was moping around with a gunshot wound somewhere, and be damned if Bruce was about to suggest recuperation to her. She would have his head off with her thighs before he could become the Hulk. Surely she could help. She'd done it before.

On the other hand, he'd helped Tony with the equation to fix Pepper. Tony had decided he needed to get very drunk to remember how to do it, so he'd stepped in before Pepper could… overheat. And they'd managed, she was fixed. And they were stuck in New York, because their stupidly positioned house was in the sea. Again. And Bruce couldn't complain because this was Tony's house after all, but it was a lot more noisy. And he wasn't sleeping great while he was worrying that someone was gonna annoy him or get him with a cattle prod and turn him into a big green monster.

So he'd helped with Pepper, and he'd helped install Tony's adopted son's workshop. And he'd also helped with the new Iron Man suit design because Tony couldn't do any heavy lifting, and he was pretty shocked to see the stamp said Mark 43 but what could he do? Obviously Pepper didn't need to know about that, but Tony was having some sort of midlife crisis where he decided he was Iron Man, not the suit and he could be a superhero like the rest of them, so, yeah. Good on him.

But poor Pepper was obviously going to work for downtime, and that was all kinds of fucked. So God only knows what Bruce had to look forward to.

Turns out, he had to drive Tony to Starbucks to get the most complicated coffee they made out of principle and then complain because his robot didn't make it like that and demand another one even though he'd never had it before. Which was embarrassing. And then he brainstormed more suit ideas, drawing them out in the air because Tony didn't understand what paper was for anymore. The Tony was trying to work out how to get Pepper into the Avenger's because he figured they needed a fire-breathing woman, but he didn't know if Pepper would want to join because she doesn't really like violence, but then neither did Bruce and his monster still kicked ass. Then he had to go back to Starbucks for more coffee with a very apologetic glance to the staff, who looked pissed off. Then hunt down some tuna in New York because it's Tony's new thing but fucking nowhere seemed to have any, then drive Tony to the hospital to see Happy, which was miles away, then fend off some reporters who wanted to talk to Tony about terrorists by pretending he was going to Hulk out, which made the Hulk a little excited and turned him a really funny shade of green, then drive Tony home and do the muscle work rebuilding Dummy from the remains Tony had dragged out the sea.

And suddenly he could understand why Pepper went back to work.

He was already tired, and so by 1:45am he was wrecked. Pepper still wasn't home, and they were both a little concerned about that because the last man she spoke to in the office turned out to be a terrorist, but Bruce was more concerned about the pricking under his skin. Which was never a good sign.

Tony went to bed eventually; exhaustion taking its toll from an operation, a crazy couple of days prior to the operation and a lot of pain medication. Bruce had been trying to crunch up meds for his PTSD into his food, but he noticed every time and started shouting. Bruce didn't even want to. It was all Pepper's idea. But she never got shouted at for it. The shouting would always end in glaring and petulance, and snitty comments about whether or not Bruce should be taking medication for his anger issues. Which, you know, he kinda expected from Tony Stark. But he'd mostly given up now. The man had amazing tastebuds.

Bruce was making tea when he suddenly realised all he wanted to do was sleep, but he'd boiled the kettle so he kept on going. The bag split when he was squeezing it out, which was just typical, someone, somewhere, clearly didn't want him to have tea before bed. And because of this, even with the strange lumps floating around, he vowed to drink it anyway.

He sat on the sofa with a crossword puzzle and the only biro he could find – a pink one – because it was impossible to find a normal pen when everything was written in the air in this house. He tried not to let the weird colours get to him.

His eyes were twitching from tiredness and he took a swig of tea, ending up with a mouthful of teabag. He sighed.

Pepper crept into the room behind him and he jumped. She raised a hand apologetically.

"I am so sorry! Don't go all green on me!"

Bruce smiled.

"Only if you don't breathe fire at me."

Pepper rolled her eyes.

"I'm off to bed. You should too, Bruce, you're dead on your feet."
"Yeah, you're probably right."

The prickling was still there and New York was a noisy place, so, to be safe, he slept in the Hulk-out room. But he fell pretty deeply asleep pretty quickly, and felt content in the knowledge that all was safe.

He awoke when it was light to a stack of pizza boxes, a board game and Tony Stark's grimacing face.

"Bro, we seriously need to invent those magic pants. I've lost count how many times I've seen your dick."

Bruce blinked a couple of times, confused.

"Sorry. What, ah, what happened?"
"You hulked out."
"I was asleep."
"Yeah, you did it in your sleep."
"That's never happened before."
"It's cool. I couldn't sleep so we played mouse trap and giant jenga and ate pizza."
"What time is it?"
"Geez. Pizza for breakfast. Thought I'd gotten past my student days."
"I won't tell if you don't."

The spinning in Bruce's head had lessened, so he sat up and pulled a blanket over his lower half. Because he was still self-conscious. Even after the amount of times he ended up naked in front of Tony.

"Anyway, now you're awake, I was thinking."

That was always a bad start to a sentence from Tony.

"Well you keep trying to put medication in my food-"
"That's Pepper-"
"But isn't PTSD cured better by counselling? Like, talking about the shit that's happened and how it's upset you?"
"Wouldn't it be better if I just talked to someone. Told them what I've been through?"
"Well, uh, yeah. I mean that might help."

Tony jumped to his feet, a disconcerting smile on his face.

"Great. Get your pants on, I'll see you downstairs in five!"
"You're a doctor, man. I'll talk to you."

Before Bruce even had the chance to mutter 'I'm not that kind of Doctor', Tony was gone. Bruce sighed.

"These people are all the same."

But he looked for his pants anyway.