So, this came into being after listening to a car alarm go off repeatedly for over an hour. I wish I could do the same thing.
Don't own it. If I did, I'd unleash the Hulk on a lot of people and that would be bad of me. Very bad. Hehehehe.
If anyone would have told him that Tony Stark of all people would help him to control the Other Guy, Bruce Banner would have laughed in their face.
Tony Stark was a train wreck. He was volatile, sarcastic, self obsessed, and never hesitated to dig at other people. Even if said other people turned into a giant green rage monster when things became too exciting. That didn't faze Stark at all. It certainly didn't stop him from prodding Bruce at odd times with sharp, pointy objects, or objects that gave off an electrical charge. He was also a master at verbal provocation, and didn't hesitate to go after Bruce.
Why had they become friends? Bruce really couldn't answer that, except maybe that he'd seen the man underneath all the billionaire playboy fluff. Tony Stark had his own demons, and his own 'terrible privilege' that enabled him to be a hero, while keeping him inches from death at any given moment. Tony, unlike Bruce, had turned his life threatening handicap into a force for good. And worship, since Stark craved the adulation of his fans.
He was bound and determined to have Bruce do the same thing.
Being Tony Stark's friend required so much energy that there was actually less of a chance for the Other Guy to emerge. Bruce had honestly never had interactions with another human being that left him so exhausted. It was a wonder that the Other Guy hadn't emerged to flatten the billionaire, if only to shut him up.
But the Other Guy seemed to like Stark for some reason. They had never wound up in a sparring match when the Other Guy was out of control. The Other Guy had taken shots at every other Avenger, with Thor being his favorite punching bag, but he never went after Iron Man.
Bruce couldn't make any sense out of it. It had now almost become a game. Any time after the Other Guy made an appearance, when Bruce woke to himself, he always asked, eagerly, if Iron Man had butted heads with the Hulk. The negative answer left him baffled. He had flashes of memory that suggested that Stark was just as mouthy and irritating to the Hulk as he was to Bruce. Hulk had thicker skin, maybe?
Because of that seemingly impossible friendship, Bruce felt almost free for the first time since the Other Guy was born. He didn't hesitate to go out in public now, since it was almost always with Stark, and not much could irritate him more than Stark. There hadn't been an accidental unleashing of the Other Guy in months.
Bruce didn't expect the coffee shop incident.
He tried to avoid caffeine, because it elevated the heart rate, and that was never a good thing. Still, Tony frequently dragged him out to a coffee shop that was close to Stark Tower, so Tony could refuel (but most importantly – get out of his own head for a few). Bruce usually opted for a nice decaf tea, if available, or decaf coffee. It wasn't an upscale place, so they would usually hang out for a little, Bruce in his shapeless, ill-fitting clothes, and Tony in grease covered work clothes. It was almost a given that these refueling trips took place when Stark was in the middle of some project.
That's where they were currently. Tony was spewing out his ideas on the current project faster than Bruce could follow, so he just nodded at the billionaire while sipping his tea.
Gradually, another sound intruded. It wasn't near as loud as Tony Stark's feverish mutterings, but it was repeated, and irritating. Bruce frowned, shook his head, and attempted to refocus on what Tony was saying.
Somewhere in between 'particle acceleration' and 'spontaneous fusion', Bruce was distracted yet again. It hadn't stopped. He could identify it now as a car alarm. Constant. Annoying. Irritating. He looked around, to see if any of the coffee shop patrons were taking notice to it, but no one seemed to care.
He tried to focus on Tony's words, but the low (constant, annoying, irritating) sound was spinning along his nerve endings right now. Why wasn't anyone shutting it off? Bruce sipped his tea angrily, sitting the cup down on the table with a little more force than was necessary.
That got Tony Stark's attention. He stopped talking, and leaned forward to get in Bruce's face, studying his eyes. "What's up, Banner? You've got some green going on."
Bruce sat back, and shook his head in irritation. "Do you hear that damn car alarm? It's been going off for like two minutes now."
Stark frowned and cocked his head listening. "Yeah, I can hear it. Barely."
Bruce could hear it in every nerve of his body. "It's very annoying," he rasped. He still had hold of the tea cup handle, and didn't notice when it burst in his grip.
Tony shot to his feet. "Yeah, okay." Looking around at the other patrons, he raised his voice. "Does anyone belong to the car alarm out there?"
A suited businessman, standing in the corner waiting for his order and talking on his cell, waved a dismissive hand, never looking in Stark's direction. Bruce started seeing green. All the guy had to do was pop out of the coffee shop and turn the damn alarm off!
Stark looked down at him with wide eyes. "Uh, Bruce? Find your zen place. Think happy thoughts." He turned around to address the owner of the car. "Hey man, you gotta shut that alarm off. Seriously!"
The guy waved at him again, still talking on his cell. Bruce was barely aware of Stark hustling across the room and pulling the cell phone from the guy's hand.
"Listen, my buddy over there has this inner ear condition, and sounds like car alarms can cause a negative reaction. You need to shut off the alarm."
Inner ear condition? That was a new way to describe the Other Guy. Bruce clenched his hands on the table, no noticing that it splintered in his grasp. It was still there, pounding against his nerve endings, assaulting his ears with a cacophony of sound. He could feel it in every pulse of his heart.
He dimly heard Tony across the way, verbally assaulting the vehicle owner, but the sound had taken over. Bruce's world was going green.
"Oh shit, oh shit," he heard from Stark as stitches in his clothing began pulling apart. But then it was too late.
The Other Guy came roaring out of confinement, flipping the table over and snarling. People screamed and scattered but Hulk didn't care about them. His ears hurt! He wanted to hurt what was hurting him.
He jumped through a big window, and the sound multiplied. Hulk grabbed his ears and shook his head. It was right in front of him. He grabbed the offending thing, picked it up and shook it angrily. It still continued to bleat at him, so Hulk crushed it and then threw it.
The sound stopped, and Hulk started to calm. But the big metal ball struck other objects, and they began making noise at him! And it hurt! It made him want to pound his head to stop the noise. Instead, he pounded anything that made a sound. As soon as he hit the strange metal boxes, they started shrieking at him, so he smashed them, and threw them, but more of them kept making noise!
Hulk paused in the middle of his rampage to lift his head and roar. He didn't like this noisy place. He seized a nearby club and began pounding the noise boxes, ignoring the sizzling strings that dangled from his new weapon. Yet still more of the metal boxes began making noise.
Something hit him in the back, carrying him up into the air. Hulk roared, trying to turn toward his attacker, but suddenly it was quiet. He was away from the noise boxes. The pain that had been skittering through his body stopped abruptly. There was no sound but the rush of air past his ears, and the annoying prattle of the tin can man he sometimes fought with. Tin can man had given him a boost away from the noise. That was very nice.
Hulk landed in a green area that was silent, and it looked like a good place to stay, so he settled down and leaned back against a tree. He gave a pouty look at the tin can man who landed in front of him, and closed his eyes. Too much noise had made Hulk very sleepy.
If Bruce had a good chuckle when he saw the new signs on the street outside the coffee shop the next day, he wouldn't admit it to anyone.
Warning: Local Noise Ordinance
Please be advised that if your
car alarm is active for more than
three minutes, your car may be
destroyed. The city will not be
held responsible for any damage