Own nothing. All characters property of Marvel, Joss Whedon and the actors thatportray them.
One shot. Tony/Bruce.
Tokyo, Ueono District, the Lab.
It's been 80 days since an incident. 80 days since he fought with the Avengers. He's barely been in contact with most of them. Shield has left him alone for the most part, and it's nearly impossible to reach Thor. After Thor broke the 4th one, Tony and Bruce stopped configuring phones that would work in Asgard.
Since their battle against Loki, he's seen Fury twice, Natasha and Barton a handful of times. Yet for some reason, he sees Tony almost every week. Perhaps because the billionaire texts him excessively, whether to hang out or just bring up their mutual love of the lab and intelligence.
"Pepper's out, come to the tower. We'll mock the warped science in doctor who," another time it was just, "loved the article on gamma radiation."
Sometimes Tony even texts him victory marks, as if he's Bruce's sponsor. "50 days without hulking out, we should celebrate"
He was in the middle of the finishing touches on another chapter in his research book when his phone chimed. He didnt have to look up to know who it was. Tony is the only one to ever text him, and they come frequently, usually once a day.
"Just saw fight club. Wanna hulk out and wreck chaos on the Hammer building?"
Then five seconds later, Tony sent another one. "Only because that tower is an eye sore".
He placed the phone away from him and ignored the message. If Tony asks, he'll say he was busy.
He doesn't know why he avoids Tony. It's not because Tony never shuts up about the Hulk. It's not because Tony criticizes his recent work in neutron reaction technology. Perhaps he's convinced himself that being alone is easier. That it's safer for everybody. But he know that's not the reason. He avoids wanting to go, he resists jumping at every invitation.
He tells himself it's better this way, to see Stark only on occasion. He lies to himself and pretends it's not easy to fall into a rhythm with Tony. Some see the billionaire as unpredictable, but Bruce understands, it's just a boredom. There's little that satisfies the mind of a genius, and he knows exactly how that feels.
It's so simple when he's with Tony, that it makes him uneasy. He still can't understand how the other guy saved him, how he could stop smashing things long enough to jump to Tony's rescue. He doesn't understand how their friendship translated so well, that it penetrated every barrier, every monstrous thought and forced him to be heroic. He does remember just how terrified he and the other guy were when he thought Stark was dead. He doesn't let himself dwell on it long enough to figure out why he was able to save Tony.
One thing he does like about Stark, is oddly enough how insensitive he is about the Hulk. Unlike others, Tony doesn't tip toe around him. Others call it an ailment, an issue, and he hides as deep as he can in his research, behind his glasses and tries to bury the insecurity. But Tony treats it like a victory, constantly acknowledging it.
One time he even texted "SMASH?" and later, called to explain he was bored, and needed to be around someone who spoke the same language, and who understands him. A fellow hero. Tony's only started calling himself a hero lately, but Bruce wonders if it's more for his benefit that Tony's. Tony wants t badly for Bruce to accept the Hulk, he can tell, and that's when he knew he didn't just find a similar mind in Tony Stark, but a best friend.
He feels a kind of clarity when he hangs out with Stark, it's easy to say the things that he would never say, to bear his soul, and his secrets. That terrifies him, he doesn't want to feel so comfortable being so exposed, so vulnerable. Its the one thing that terrifies him most, and he told that to Tony the first day they met. He really does despise how Tony knows everything about him, and how 9 times out of 10, he just can't say no to hanging out. As hard as he might try to fight it.
Tony is incessant, and Bruce reluctantly picked up the phone, as it chimed again.
"Ok no smashing. But we can box again? At least try it..."
Bruce rolled his eyes as he typed out the message.
"Stop trying to provoke me" he wondered if it was harsh, but thankfully Tony didn't dwell on it. Or even acknowledge the comment. Just as Bruce was considering texting an apology, or something to indicate he was joking, his phone beeped again. He wondered if this would turn into another late night texting argument, like that one time he stayed up until 5 texting Tony, explaining to him that NO, time travel is not possible yet. That had been the day Tony had watched 4 seasons of doctor who and became convinced they were all aliens. Reality had been boring that day.
Tony Stark 4:55 pm
I've been listening to assistants jabber on about parties all day
Tony Stark 4:55 pm
I need some intellect
Tony Stark 4:56 pm
Rhodey's coming over. You still have to meet him. Can't make a bad impression
Bruce Banner 5:00 pm
I'm half way around the world
It was easier to pretend he wasn't interested. He did want to meet Rhodey, after all Tony had said about him. He is also starved for intellect, he realized. Besides, it had been more than a week since they'd been in the lab together, trying to replicate a prototype model of the car from back to the future. (Tony was still going through a time travel phase.)
Tony Stark 5:02
Great, I'll send the jet, where are you? Still in Paris?
Somehow Tony hadn't seen it as a dismissal. Bruce was shocked to find that Tony knew he had been in Paris.
Bruce Banner 5:03
I'm not flying in just to meet Rhodey
He wondered if he should add " be sensible" but ignored the nagging impulse.
Tony Stark 5:04
You'll stay the week. Weapons convention this week
Bruce Banner 5:06
Do you think that's a good idea?
He stopped for a moment, before adding With my condition?
in case Tony didn't get it. But maybe because he needed to hear, once again, that it was not a disability.
His phone rang just as he had sent the text. Tony sounded tired on the other line, and it was early in the morning for him.
"Stop stalling" Tony started, and before Bruce could even say anything, he continued, "and the hulk is awesome do I have to remind you that you saved me? Remember Loki, small guy, dressed in green, horns, you hated him-"
"Tony" Bruce's voice cut in. He hated talking about Loki. He had been foolish in his want of a compliment, of assurance that the hulk wasn't an ailment. Talking about Loki could bring on an attack Tony knew that, but nevertheless, he always offered a kind word about the giant green rage monster.
"and you, even in hulk state saved me, so stop with the pitying-" Tony stopped, only for a moment. "I don't want to get into this again, Where are you?"
"I'm working in the lab"
"City Bruce" Tony saw through the dismissal easily, and he wouldn't let Bruce go without a fight.
" Tokyo" Bruce sighed, giving up.
" Jet's on its way. Pack light. Weapons expo is in Europe" the line dropped dead seconds later and Bruce laughed to himself, trying to ignore the excitement swelling in him. Being friends with Tony never had a dull moment, that was for sure.
He wondered vaguely, on the trip there, if Tony kept in contact with the other avengers much. If he hung out with them as much as he hung out with him, but he didn't want to dwell on it. He wanted to pretend, at least for this, that he was an exception. It felt incredible to have a friend, to not be trapped alone surrounded by a different language, illnesses and destruction. He wanted to pretend he was Tony's only friend, too.
The weapons expo only interested them for a day. Then Tony started going off about how he could, and had made better, and it was just embarrassing to be seen, as Iron Man, next to these infantile weapons. They caught the jet back the next morning, and since Bruce had already resolved not to work for a week, Tony insisted that he stay in the tower for that time. It felt like it had at the beginning, when they'd just defeated Loki and built together in New York. He got the same guest room, and it already was starting to feel like a home, with the amount of time that he had spent there.
They were discussing the disadvantages of all the weapons they had seen in the expo, when Jarvis alerted them of a visitor. Rhodey was dressed in Tony's iron man suit, and was cross as he entered the suite.
"You here to give that back? You're not treating it right" Tony commented, barely looking at Rhodey, concentrating on his screens.
"You were supposed to pick up weapon designs from the expo" Rhodey scolded.
"Remind me again why" though he didn't sound the least bit interested.
"We made a deal, I had to be here in New York," it was very important to Rhodey, that much was obvious.
"Right military business. Well, it was too boring. Right Bruce?" Bruce waved to the newcomer and forced his glasses further on his face, examining Jarvis' mainframe.
" I don't have to remind you that you have a responsibility to this government" Rhodey began, with a tone of condescension. Bruce was listening, as hard as he tried not to, and for some reason, he just really didn't like Rhodey. He was too kind and reserved to ever say anything about it, but the way in which he spoke to Tony just rubbed him the wrong way. For some reason he couldn't stand it, and he tried to control his emotions, forcing his attention back to the computer part in his grasp.
"Nor do I have to remind you that I practically invented this government, me and my suit" Tony gloated. "Which you should give back,"
"You're shrugging off responsibility like a teenager" Rhodey pointed out, practically asking for disrespect from Tony.
"Sorry,dad" came Tony's remark.
"You can't just ignore this, Tony. We had a deal." Rhodey pushed.
"I don't play well with others" Tony shrugged, offering a smile and a wink to Bruce. Their eyes locked for an instant and Bruce looked back to his project hurriedly, wondering why he suddenly felt like he couldn't control his emotions.
"You did with the Avengers" Rhodey's reply was bitter, jealous almost.
"Sorry you weren't invited Rhodey " Tony responded bitterly. Suddenly Rhodey sent a shock at him. He missed him by a foot, on purpose.
"Missed" Tony bragged, turning around to face him, his back to Bruce. That was the final straw, Bruce found himself loosing control suddenly, he gripped the table with his hand, trying to stop it, trying to control it. He repeated peace mantras in his head, but the second he looked up and saw Rhodey again, it was too late. He was already transforming, and neither of them had noticed yet.
"Listen to me" Rhodey tried again.
"Rather not, thanks. Jarvis you can kick him out now, and take my suit while you're at it"
"Tony you're being insensitive, childish, completely flaking off responsibility, you think you can just run around, acting like a -" but he wouldn't hear what he was like, because suddenly something else demanded their attention. They had been too caught up to look at Bruce, who was now transforming quickly, growls and the sound of fabric tearing calling their attention back. Bruce was already a sick shade of green, and larger than his usual size, the piece of computer in his hand crushed in his giant fist, his glasses fell to the floor and broke as he roared once more.
" Bruce?" Tony tried, quietly, but the damage was done. He transformed into the final stages of the Hulk, and the very computer he had been so carefully examining moments before, fell in broken pieces from a clenched fist. He roared and fixed his gaze on Rhodey suddenly, advancing. Bruce was long gone, blinded by his jealousy, and anger at Rhodey.
"What the hell!" Rhodey yelled suddenly.
"I guess you bring it out in him," Tony half teased, watching the Hulk uneasily. As he had no armor on, he felt exposed. He stepped away slowly.
"You might want to run Rhodey," Tony commented as the Hulk leapt towards him.
He smashed desks, overturned the computer in his leap to attack him.
"Jarvis, get me my suit!" Tony tried, but the second half of his sentence died out against the Hulk's roars and the computer couldn't hear him.
" BRUCE!" Tony tried, screaming over the Hulk's roars. Bruce didn't hear it, too busy advancing on Rhodey to listen to Tony.
"Does that work?" Rhodey asked, stepping back slowly towards the elevator, his helmet coming into place.
"I have no idea" Tony remarked. The Hulk leapt for Rhodey, who took off flying and managed to get on the other side of him before he swung, seconds later and he would have been plastered into the wall. The wall crumbled where the hulk hit it and there was a huge dent in it. The hulk turned around, more angry if possible and swung his punches, breaking everything in his way as he advanced on Rhodey. In his way he knocked over the computer that operated Jarvis in this room. It crashed to the floor in a billion pieces, wiring spraying shocks and crackling with smoke. Tony didn't have time to lament the loss of it, and he knew Bruce would help him fix it later.
"Tony I suggest you suit up" Rhodey said, desperately as he leapt out of the Hulk's way. He sent bullets at the hulk, but that just made him scream louder. He snarled before he reached forward. He picked up Rhodey by a limb and held him at arms reach, ready to pound him into the floor as he had done with Loki on the same floor only months prior.
"TONY DO SOMETHING!" Rhodey screamed, trying to send blasts against the Hulk. Even at this close distance, they did nothing to his skin, causing no damage, but only enraged him further.
" HEY OVER HERE!" Tony yelled, and the Hulk stopped, turning suddenly to face Tony. He blinked slowly, staring at Tony now, and Tony panicked. Bruce saw a glimmer of something, but he couldn't control his actions, not through the murky fog of the monster's mind and emotions controlling him. He wanted desperately to stop it, but he wasn't in charge, he could barely tell what was going on.
"Jarvis, where's my suit!" Tony tried, feeling cornered, but the computer could only respond with static. Rhodey sent another blast against the Hulk's side and he snarled, dropping him onto the floor. Rhodey fell with a clank and groaned at the sudden impact. The Hulk was advancing, gunning for Tony, who had no armor, and no way to protect himself. Rhodey tried to send another blast after the hulk, it ricocheted off his back, but didn't even cause the monster to turn. Bruce tried to stop, hoping he wouldn't attack Tony, but he could do nothing to control the other guy, then he realized, the Hulk was trying to protect Tony from Rhodey.
It was as if he was shielding tony from Rhodey's lasers. He snarled furiously and snatched at Tony, who landed in his giant arms, not able to duck in time Tony screamed trying to hit the HUlk furiously with his fists, hoping he would let go, but after he tightened his grip, Tony stopped that method. The Hulk gripped Tony against his body, holding him in one arm. He turned around to scream furiously at Rhodey before advancing for him, using his spare arm to swing at anything in his way.
"MINE!" he growled and Tony looked up to the Hulk confused.
"Great, the first new friend I make in years," Tony managed a half laugh, though the weight of the Hulk's arms was crushing his ribs.
" Bruce, buddy, its me" he tried to push against the Hulk's skin and to break out of the tight embrace, but the Hulk's arm remained in the same spot, as if nothing had touched it at all. It did, at least cause the Hulk to stop his advance at Rhodey, who was now queuing up for another attack.
"Don't!" he said suddenly, knowing that if the hulk applied even a little pressure, his ribs would break.
"Hey Bruce, it's Tony" he tried, but there was no indication that he hulk registered what he was saying. " we discussed quantum physics last week, you like me remember? just put me down" Bruce did remember, but it still wasn't strong enough for him to stop the monster.
"Are you serious?" Rhodey asked, now in battle position.
"Got a better idea?" Tony asked, trying to once again push the hulk away, so he could slip out of his arm, but It was no use.
"I got a shot," Rhodey responded, aiming for the hulk's other, exposed side.
"All I know is if he moves an inch, my ribs are going to snap-" before they could discuss their plan anymore, the Hulk began a run at Rhodey, who managed to scramble out of the way in seconds. Tony and the Hulk plunged through the window, glass spraying everywhere, the hulk screamed as the glass ripped at his skin, but it did more damage to Tony, who was now bleeding, with small cuts and scrapes on his legs and face.
The Hulk tried to latch onto a nearby building, but broke through that window as well and landed on the floor. Tony was released from his grasp. He rolled away and stood up as quickly as he could, inching away from the Hulk who was still growling and getting up from where he had fallen. He looked at Tony for a split second before he turned around and leapt back out of the window, latching onto the Stark tower. Breaking floors as he climbed it, each new disembodied floor caused rubble to crash to the ground, impaling parked cars and causing citizens to scatter. Lights flickered on the floors as the Hulk made his ascent, back to continue fighting with Rhodey.
Rhodey was in front of Tony in a matter of seconds, and the Hulk clearly still believed him to be in the Stark tower. He tossed Tony the suit, and within moments they were both in the air, flying towards the Hulk.
"We have to stop him before he does more damage," Rhodey screamed.
"BRUCE!" Tony tried again, wondering how much he understood. He stopped, mid climb and stared at Tony in his Iron Man form.
"YOU CAN CONTROL IT, Ok?" he tried, wondering if Bruce could even understand him.
"We're all good, we're friends. WE LIKE RHODEY," Tony screamed, still keeping a hand out in case the Hulk attacked.
"Tony what are you doing! He's unpredictable!"
"No he's not!" Tony argued. "Bruce you're stronger than this, you CAN control it. We can learn how to control it together.
"You think this is gonna work?" Rhodey asked again, as cop cars pulled beneath them.
"YOU ARE IN CHARGE, not the other guy!" Tony screamed and recognition passed over the Hulk's features for a split second. He looked as if he would stop, but as he swung at Rhodey, he fell backwards and began to fall, racing towards the ground with speed. He didn't see Rhodey flying through the tower at the power of his swing. Bruce tried to register through the haze of fury that was controlling him, that was forcing him to battle Rhodey, steaming with jealousy.
Sirens blared as he crashed on a few empty police cars and seconds later, the green form shrank into Bruce's small shape. Bruce opened his eyes slowly to the damage above him and saw debris falling from the Stark tower, the crushed cars under his weight, the sirens blaring. Tony was there in a second, offering him a hand. Without saying a word, he flew him to his room so that he could change.
"Did I hurt anyone?" Bruce asked, as he hurriedly forced himself into a pair of jeans in the apartment. He was most angry at himself for an outbreak, but that wouldn't help him now, he grumbled, hating how he had been so long without an incident, even with all of Tony's attempts to get one out of him.
"Rhodey's in the hospital, you made a hell of an impression, right before you fell you punched him through three floors of the tower" he paused before he listed off the rest of the damage. "Few parked cars turned over, not too much damage " Bruce examined Tony's stance, the way he guarded his chest, the cuts on his face.
"And you, did I hurt you?" Bruce asked with a nervousness in his voice.
"I'm the only one you didn't hurt, tried to protect me if anything, of course sprained my ribs in the process" Then it clicked, and that terrified Bruce. He knew suddenly why he had caught Tony, why the other guy loved Tony, but he didn't want to verbalize it, he didn't want to think about it. He did not want to feel this way, not about his best friend, charming billionaire, playboy that he was. He cringed as he listed off apologies.
" Jesus...Tony I'm sorry..."
"Hey I wasn't wearing my suit, would've been a lot worse, you were trying to protect me, I think"
"The other guy...he uh saw Rhodey as a threat" Bruce answered, wondering how transparent he was. He was smarter than this, if he had been paying attention and not denying it, maybe he would have realized his feelings for Tony sooner.
An uneasy pause settled in between them and Tony forced the question out, unable to avoid it any longer. "Is that how you see him?" Tony asked, his voice low.
"What are you asking me?" Bruce asked, slipping into one of the shirts he'd brought with him.
"You're a genius, I think you know" Tony responded. "And the other guy, or you maybe did scream "mine" at Rhodey, so correct me if I'm way off book here, but something is definitely going on,"
"I uh can't really explain it, I think it just hit me," Bruce gulped under the weight of his confession. "well the other guy, he uh loves you," Bruce cleared his throat, this was easier than the truth. The truth that was just dawning on him and suffocating him. A part that was so in tune with his emotions, of course the Hulk knew first. Of course Bruce had been suppressing it for ages, because it had felt easy. Didn't that mean it was too good to be true?
"It uh doesn't real, it's easy to be with you, to hang out and work in the lab, and you like the other guy, I mean everyone else tip toes around it, doesn't say it, not really, or it's an illness, but you make me feel ok about it," Bruce tried, struggling with his emotions.. The hardest thing that had happened so far in the course of their friendship.
"Well good, because I thought I was out on a limb here, dragging you over to my house, I mean I figured you didn't mind, but you weren't ever actively inviting yourself over, so I thought maybe you didn't feel the same way, but then again, it is me we're talking about," Tony grinned, causing Bruce to laugh.
"I was resisting," he said with a laugh. "I didn't really know why, but it makes sense now,"
"Rhodey's not a threat,"
"He was mean to you," Bruce justified.
"That's how we are," he paused before he spoke again, "So is this going to happen all the time?"
"Everytime you get jealous,"
"I wasn't jealous!" Bruce defended with a laugh, but they both knew it was a lie.
"You're not going to rage at Pepper, are you?"
"Are you still seeing her?" Bruce asked, serious.
"It depends on you," Tony answered. Bruce shook his head, burdened with the thought suddenly.
"Don't do that, don't make my fault,"
"I'm saying I'd rather...look Pepper and I kinda fell apart, kinda due to the whole being very attracted to my best friend dilemma I've been dealing with since uh..well October, it's not your fault at all, you can't control your charm, besides she doesn't really understand my wild side, I mean, you get it, bored geniuses at play, but you just suit me more, no iron man pun intended-" Tony reeled off. Bruce smiled at the end of the speech and laughed.
"I mean you're not gonna scold me for being reckless, are you?"
"Are you giving me an interrogation?"
"I have to make sure we are compatible. You kinda didn't catch on to all my flirting, I mean allegedly being a genius and all,"
"Allegedly? Tony, I was in denial,"
"I mean you can still have sex right, you don't hulk out when you get too excited or anything do you?"
"Let's find out," Bruce shrugged, with a smile. He was suddenly strong, forceful as he pulled Tony towards him and kissed him. Realizing he had wanted to do this since he first met him.