A/N: ahahaha, it's been awhile... still with me? I moved earlier this year, started to go through a divorce... anyway, this story ended up on a computer that went into storage, but I've dug it out now, so here it is :3
Ljubljana Zalog Railway Station, Slovenia
Days Since Last Incident: Hulk - 1, Wolf - 1
"Run!" Bruce hissed.
Tony took off as fast as he could, huffing for breath. There had to be better ways to catch a train. Granted, Tony Stark did not catch trains. Tony Stark had a private motherfucking jet that was ready to take off whenever he was. Shit waited for him.
"I can't believe people really do this - ho boy!" He jumped when Bruce shouted, throwing himself at the open cargo bay door. Bruce leapt in after him and he grabbed at his arm, pulling him up inside.
"This is insane," he muttered, as Bruce slid the door shut.
"This is how we ignore borders," Bruce replied.
Tony wasn't sure it was worth the wad of cash they'd pushed at the conductor, but he guessed it was about fucking time he got used to being a fugitive. He'd seen a clip of a news reel in Lub-Wub or whatever the capital of Slovenia was. Iron Man wanted by United States Government - Award. A motherfucking award that wasn't worth the interest he got in a year.
He felt a prickle of anger spark up his back and forced himself to breathe deep in and then out, until the tingling subsided. Bruce moved ahead of him in the dim space and he followed. The entire train was rumbling, the sound of the wheels starting to blend into a kind of background noise.
While Bruce took stock of their things Tony found a patch of straw presumably meant for them, because there was no live cargo in this particular car. Just crates full of god knows what, and Tony couldn't read Slovenian.
"If this is fruit and a single god damn spider crawls out of there I am going to shit," said Tony moodily, sitting down on the straw.
"Don't be such a baby," said Bruce, and Tony could practically hear the roll of his eyes.
Bruce sat down next to him. Tony yawned into his hand. They hadn't had much sleep since they'd jumped ship. According to Bruce they'd pushed straight into Slovenia from Italy, skirting towns. Tony couldn't remember any of it, considering he'd been much larger and furrier at the time. After that they'd had to find someone willing to smuggle two people out of the country. Bruce didn't want to use the passports until absolutely necessary.
"I've traveled in worse," said Bruce after a minute. He fished a bottle out of the bag and handed it to Tony.
"Oh?" he asked, before he tilted the water bottle and took a deep drink. According to the Slovenian conductor with the passable Italian it was going to be a bit of a long trip.
"Transporting chickens," he said, and Tony wrinkled his nose with the thought. "One of the others developed histoplasmosis. It was a long trip."
Tony shook his head. It wasn't exactly his idea of traveling in style. He handed the water bottle back and wiped his mouth. "What's end game?" he asked, staring at his fingers. He'd been afraid to ask before. He'd been afraid since transforming at the villa. He hadn't told Bruce that he could remember killing, could remember the taste of blood, all too vividly. And perhaps the worst of it was, was that the memory was laced with both disgust at the act, and pleasure.
Bruce looked at him, reached out and threaded his fingers with Tony's. Tony squeezed back. "Laos."
"Never been." Hell, he'd hardly heard of it. Most of his tropical getaways were in either Central America or in Thailand.
"I have," said Bruce. "Briefly, anyway." He didn't elaborate and Tony didn't ask.
"Is it nice?"
Bruce shrugged. "I guess we'll find out."
Tony yawned again. The future looked dark, strange. He wasn't used to having to hide, to being a fugitive. Doors opened when you were Tony Stark, but now every single kind had closed to him. He curled into Bruce's side and sighed, thinking about what he was. What it meant for the everyday people they came across. They weren't terrorists, they weren't backpackers looking for a thrill. They were two lost souls with poison in their blood and monsters waiting on the inside with nowhere real to go.
How the fuck did he do this for so long? How can I consider this? But he smiled, knowing he'd follow Bruce anywhere now. He wasn't sure he liked the mental image the wolf had evoked of Bruce. The only real word that it could have been connected to was 'alpha,' but now that image was bitterly skewed with the Captain, and he saw a hammer striking steel and heard the ringing of authority.
The wolf inside of him growled and Tony shivered.
"We'll be alright," said Bruce, stroking Tony's hair.
Tony didn't reply, closed his eyes, resolved to get some sleep. He hoped this was the right thing, for both of them.
Three Weeks Later, MIT, Boston, United States
Steve walked with Thor down a corridor at MIT. Steve felt somewhat out of place amongst the halls, and it helped he wasn't the only one. He glanced at Thor, who smiled at him. Steve felt a small bubble of warmth in his stomach and shook his head. Ever since he'd done the allegedly impossible by lifting Mjolnir they'd become close, closer than he'd ever thought.
"According to the directions provided by Miss Potts's handmaiden, the laboratory should be up ahead," said Thor, reading off of a small piece of paper.
After the battle at the villa SHIELD agents had shown up within a few hours. They swept the area to clear it of possible WSC incursion. It seemed Fury, in agreement with NATO and top members of various countries within the UN, was granted permission to move from the WSC as a separate division entirely. They still hadn't completed their goal, but according to Maria Hill it wouldn't be long before SHIELD was an independent agency which would work with the WSC only when their goals intercepted. They had no plans for a repeat hostile takeover from Ross, or any other agent of the World Security Council.
Steve had expected a court marshal when they returned, but other than safe screening to ensure no infected blood had damaged anyone SHIELD burned the remaining bodies and sent out agents to make nice with the local authorities. According to information that Nick Fury had gleaned from double agents, the soldiers which had attacked them had been a special kind of mutant they'd developed with baseline healing powers and had been augmented with the same super soldier serum Bruce had attempted to develop. Rather than creating more Hulks, though, it had merely enhanced them, apparently like it had done to Emil Blonsky.
Steve and Thor had completed their mission and were given some free time. With SHIELD looking the other way with Barton and Romanoff, on a mission in Asia working with MI6, Steve felt it was safe to start looking for Betty Ross.
"Here it is," said Thor, pausing by a door. The placard read Dr. Elizabeth Ross, Microbiology, along with a few names listing other doctors and student helpers. This was her research lab. According to what information Pepper had dug up for the two of them, Betty Ross had left Culver University after the second incident there with the Hulk and had accepted a grant for research at MIT.
"Do we knock?" asked Steve. It wasn't a private office, but...
Thor shrugged, reached out and opened it. "God's do not wait for permission," he said, letting himself inside.
Steve rolled his eyes, smiling a little. Thor had his own set of rules.
The lab was bright and clean. Steve could honestly say he didn't know what anything was, just that if Howard Stark had been able to see it he would have been jumping with glee. Some music was playing, some modern thing Steve didn't recognize at all, and a woman was seated at a computer station. She was pretty, wearing glasses and had long brown hair. She was bobbing her head to the beat, tapping her foot, and completely unaware anyone had entered at all.
Steve glanced at Thor, who nodded. This certainly looked like Dr. Ross. Steve stepped forward. "Excuse me? Ma'am?"
The woman jumped, letting out a startled sound, before she whirled in her rolling chair. She looked between the two of them, eyes jumping up and down their bodies in assessment. "Omigosh, if this is Sally's idea of a joke... Who sent you? It's not my birthday, whoever said that was lying."
Steve frowned, wondering what a birthday had to do with two men showing up in her lab. "Uh, no. I'm Steve Rogers and this is..." he looked at Thor, wondering how to introduce him.
"Donald Blake," said Thor, but he looked confused as well. "What does the date of your birth have to do with why we have come?"
Betty blushed. "A practical joke war between another girl and I in the office. It's nothing, never mind I said it. She threatened... well, never mind. What do you need?"
Steve stepped closer to her, and she looked a touch leery of him. "We were sent by Bruce Banner."
The effect that single name had on the woman was shocking. She stood up, fists bunched and eyes wide, flicking back and forth between them while her lip trembled. "You're Avengers," she said, stepping forward. "Oh my god, Steve Rogers, you're Captain America, and you're the alien, Thor. Bruce sent you? Really? Is he okay? What's happening, what's going on?"
Steve felt a little taken aback by the sudden desperation in her words. He wished now that he'd gotten more of a background on Betty Ross than that they were colleagues at Culver University. He sensed something more, something deeper. Bruce had mentioned once he'd been engaged before… could this be her?
"You're Dr. Ross, I take it," said Steve. She nodded. This was good. No one else was around, but he remembered the way Ross had had his daughter on CCTV, quite possibly had her tapped. She could be being monitored even now. "Let's go somewhere a little more private and talk, Dr. Ross."
"Of course," she said, snatching up a purse and wind breaker from her desk. "And call me Betty."
They found a small hamburger joint well away from campus. Steve didn't want to go anywhere Betty was reported to frequent, since he never knew who might be listening in, so she'd chosen this place for its noisiness. After ordering their food, Steve began to tell the entire story. He knew most of it would be classified, and if running from SHIELD with two fugitives hadn't gotten him court marshaled this certainly would, but he didn't care. Bruce needed him, Tony needed him, and this was the way it had to happen.
Betty picked at her fries, frowning at him. "So you're telling me that the famous Tony Stark was... well..." her voice dropped, "bitten by a werewolf?"
Steve nodded, decided to eat some of his hamburger while she digested most of the story. Thor, beyond a brief explanation of the ulfhedinn, hadn't done much beyond working his way through several triple patty super burgers and nearly every flavour of milkshake they had.
"So Bruce is with Mr. Stark looking for a cure?"
Steve shook his head, swallowed his mouthful. "The two of them were researching in private, and thought they'd come up with a solution, but then General Ross," Betty wrinkled her nose, "attacked us and they were forced to flee. I asked them to stay with us, but Bruce was sure that he could go further with Tony on his own."
"Bruce knows how to slip past borders," said Betty, looking a little glum. "So where do I come in?"
Steve pulled the StarkTech phone from his pocket. It was wrapped in a bit of cloth to protect it. The explosion had caused the screen to spider web, but according to Pepper and her PA, Miss Li, the data was still perfectly intact. "This contains all of their research, as well as the solution."
Betty took it gingerly, examining it. "I've never seen a computer like this."
"It's a phone, actually," said Steve. "Don't ask me how it works because I don't know. But Bruce seemed sure that they wouldn't be able to utilize it wherever they were going and wanted you to have it. I think he means for you to finish the research and perhaps create the cure?"
Betty shrugged. "I won't know until I see what's on here. From the sounds of it, this virus... well it's dangerous, volatile, and it comes from another world. I'm not sure how much help I can be. This 'SHEILD' organization would probably help more."
"No. SHIELD can't know this survived," said Steve. "So far they're still connected to the WSC, and until they're independent all research relating to Tony would fall into the wrong hands. If they had a cure for being able to create werewolves that didn't shed the virus…"
"An army of ulfhedinn would be a plague upon your world, destroying friend and foe alike.You are our only option," said Thor. "From what we understand, you are greatly skilled in the sciences of biology, and if Bruce Banner has decided that you are worthy to possess the information, then he must think extremely highly of you and think you capable of helping."
Betty looked somewhat taken aback. Steve didn't blame her, Thor's mannerisms took getting used to. "Well, thank-you, um, Thor. I'll get on this as soon as I can. Anything to help Bruce. And if Mr. Stark is suffering the way you say he is..." she frowned, looking troubled. "Well, of course Bruce would want to help. No one would want to see their friend go through that."
Steve smiled. "Thank-you, so much," he said. "Now, on the last bit of business, Pepper Potts, the CEO of Stark Industries, has said that if you do decide to work on the cure she knows it will be within your own personal time, and has decided to put forth money for a grant."
"Oh, no no -" Betty blushed, waving her hands. "No, it's no trouble."
Steve shrugged, reached into his jacket, and pulled his wallet out. He took out a cheque and handed it to her. He'd gotten a look at it, and wasn't surprised to see Betty's face go even redder. It was a lot of money.
"Oh my god," Betty said, covering her mouth with her hand. "I can't, this is insane, I - this would fund me for years."
"Her words were, half now, half on completion."
Betty looked up. "So, so I can have access to half this amount? Why give me the check if I only-"
"No, that's half."
Betty squeaked, her hand tightened around the cheque, and she started shaking her head. "That's insane. Insane. The General would notice this, he'd-"
"Pepper also says if scrutiny is an issue, she has plenty of lawyers able to get you out of your tenure position with MIT to move on at Stark Industries Research and Development full time. Your choice."
Betty put the cheque down, like she was suddenly afraid it would burn or bite her. "I - I mean of course I'll help Bruce, but I didn't need this incentive. Gosh, I... I'll need to think about this."
"Take all the time you need about the money and the position but try not to take too long with the phone."
"No, of course not." She scooped it up, wrapping it back tenderly in its cloth, and stowed it in her purse. "How will they know when the cure is complete? Do you know where they are?"
Steve shook his head. "I assume he'll contact us."
She nodded, looked sad again. "Right."
Steve was more than sure now that this had been Bruce's fiancée. He wondered how she'd feel about Tony and Bruce being closer than friends, or maybe how she felt that in the last six months Bruce had never tried to contact her, despite being back in the United States. He felt sorry for her, and knew that it was beyond cruel to ask her such a favour, but they really had no choice.
She checked her watch, and after a moment picked up her cheque. She held it reverently, and mouthed the number again before hiding it in her purse. "I need to get back to the school. I have class soon." She frowned at him, looking apologetic.
"Don't worry about it. Would you like us to take you back?"
She shook her heard. "No. I'll take a cab, I'll be fine. The General probably isn't targeting me, not over this. Maybe if I ever deposit that cheque, but..."
"I'll get lunch," said Steve. Pepper had also supplied him and Thor with a shiny black SI credit card. Steve didn't know what the limit was, but he was betting high.
She smiled. "Thank-you, so much, for... for the information, for the opportunity. Tell Miss Potts, too. Oh, screw it," she shifted around the table and threw her arms around Steve's neck. Steve blushed, patting her on the shoulder. He saw Thor give him an amused look, but then Betty was letting go and moving towards him, and she hugged him too. "Thank-you. Take care!"
A moment later she disappeared out the door. Steve knew they were making the right choice with her. Everything about her was sincere, an exact opposite of General Ross. Steve doubted there was a sincere bone in that man's body.
"Done?" he asked Thor.
Thor had several dishes in front of him, and his fifth milkshake, half drank. "Indeed. I am very fond of this American food."
Steve grinned, standing up. "Traditional is good," he said.
Thor finished chugging the last of the shake. Steve smiled, expecting Thor to get a brain freeze, but Thor banged the plastic cup on the table, smacking his lips, and a few neighboring tables goggled at them as they left.
Outside the wind was biting. He looked around for Betty, but she'd already vanished into a cab, he supposed. He'd ask Pepper for an update on her status later to be safe and sure that Betty wasn't going to do anything with that phone that could lead them into danger.
"Where do you think they are?" asked Steve, as the two of them headed for the rental car they'd brought.
Thor shrugged. "Heimdall knows," he said. "I am sure they are both doing well, regardless."
"Hope so," said Steve, blushing a little as Thor wrapped his arm around Steve's shoulder.
Seven months after the bite, Batangas, Philippines
Days Since Last Incident – Hulk: 201, Wolf: 42
"You're done," said Ana Cachuela from behind the counter.
Bruce looked up, his back cracking a little as he straightened. "Just let me finish putting up these bottles for you, Ana? To spare you the trouble."
Ana smiled, her wide face creasing a little. "Oh, alright then. You're a dear."
Bruce smiled back, lifting the flats of beer and setting them on the shelf. When he was done he took the cardboard around to the trash out back. The other employee, Theresa Navea, smiled rather brightly at him from where she sat on a small crate sipping at a bottle of juice and perusing a magazine. She was on her fifteen.
"Off, Bruce?" she asked, as he tossed the cardboard away.
He heard the box shift as she got up. "There's a new movie out, I was wondering if you might want to see it with me? I mean, I work tonight, but..."
Bruce sighed, but smiled when he turned around. "I can't, Theresa."
She frowned. "Oh?"
"It wouldn't be a good idea."
She fingered the bottle of juice. "If it's the age, that's not a problem. My mom -"
Bruce shook his head. "I'm seeing someone, Theresa," he said.
"Oh," she said, looking taken aback. "You've never mentioned."
It took her a moment before her face flushed red. "Oh! Oh my gosh I'm sorry. I didn't realize... Your roommate - oh! I'm... I'm sure Ana needs me," she said, and fled inside of the store.
Bruce laughed softly, following after. He picked up his now ragged backpack from behind the front counter and slung it over his shoulder. He headed for the front door, waving at Ana. Theresa was hiding somewhere, Bruce could hear the clatter of bottles.
"Your money," said Ana, holding out an envelope.
Bruce smiled at her and took it, stared at his name written at the top. It was becoming familiar, but it had been strange for the first month seeing 'Bruce Danford' instead of Bruce Banner. "Thanks," he said.
"God bless," she called, and Bruce let himself out onto the street.
The evening was hot, humidity making his hair curl tighter than normal. He already missed the air conditioned shop where he worked. The sun was beginning to dip, and soon the entire city would be dark, light up by the sodium lamps. The road was packed with little cars and every example of motorbike known to man, roaring up and down weaving through tight holes in traffic. Brightly coloured jeepny's, private run Filipino buses which vastly outnumbered public transit, rumbled by, full of people, and the streets were teeming with shoppers.
Bruce liked the Philippines. The locals were friendly, helpful, and primarily English speaking, so when Bruce's Tagalog failed him he could fall back on something else. He jumped from the side of the sidewalk, avoiding a Dual Sport bike rumbling up the gutter. A rider yelled an apology and Bruce waved.
The next second he noticed an unmarked van and ducked his head, pretending to be interested in a nearby shop window. Old habits, but necessary ones, he thought to himself, staring at dress clad mannequins as the vehicle passed.
Twilight was starting to set in as he neared the apartment building. It was three stories tall, banked up against other buildings. In areas like this everything was stacked together, a mishmash of houses and people living nearly on top of each other. But there was no crime, people were happy, helpful, living in a tight knit community. Bruce said hello to one or two people as he climbed the stairs, eager to get home.
Bruce let himself into their third floor apartment, setting his bag down next to the door. He could smell something good but doubted Tony had done anything so rash as cook. Sure enough when he entered the living area he could see the white paper bag and cardboard box that dinner had come in, although it was a point in Tony's favour that he'd made rice. The little cooker sat to the side with a bent spoon sticking out of the white mass within.
The man himself was sitting in front of the TV on their tiny sofa, feet up and watching a cartoon. He was muttering as he ate, a massive and somewhat bedraggled example of the cathood at his feet swishing its long tail. The sight took Bruce back, remembering all those times he'd tried to immerse himself in the different languages using children's programming to pick up the language.
"Hey," he said, walking over to the table. A plate and fork already sat out ready for him. Next to the bag sat a Filipino beer he was fond of, the glass covered in a dew of moisture. In the take out tray there was bistek sitting next to the rice cooker. The scent reminded him of how long it had been since lunch and his stomach rumbled.
"Welcome home," said Tony, stirring his food.
Bruce helped himself to some food and a beer and headed for the threadbare couch. He sat down next to him and cracked his beer, paying no attention to Tony's look of disgust. Bruce started to eat, ignoring the cat at their feet.
"How long are you going to let him in here?"
"Señor Juan Cortez answers to no man, and comes and goes as he pleases," said Tony. He flicked a piece of beef at the huge tabby. The cat snapped the meat up, licking its chops.
Bruce wasn't much of a cat person. He wasn't much of an animal person actually, with the exception of his dog he'd had in Rio de Janeiro. The cat, however, seemed to like him too much. With a soft, rumbling meow it rubbed up against Bruce's foot, and he had to resist the urge to push it away. Tony wasn't really an animal person either, but something about Cortez's ragamuffin appearance with his patched fur and tattered ears endeared him to the beast. Quite possibly it was because it was the only animal that either didn't sense or didn't care about what was lurking inside of him.
With a click of the remote Tony changed the channel to the world news, one of sixteen or so channels they got. The two of them were always on the lookout for any sign they might be needed, although neither of them ever discussed going back.
When they were done eating Tony took both dishes and headed for the sink, leaving Bruce alone with the annoying cat. With the plates out of sight Cortez jumped up and started beseeching him for an ear scratch. Bruce huffed in annoyance.
"So how was work?" asked Tony. The kitchen tap was going and there was a soft clink, clink as he washed the dishes.
"Fine. Working in a liquor store get's pretty boring after awhile," he said, getting up to help Tony. "And Theresa asked me out."
Tony's answering sound, something like a growl mixed with a huff, made Bruce smile to himself. "Oh?"
"I told her I was taken," said Bruce. He kissed Tony on the neck. "How was your day?"
"How do you think?" Tony muttered, scrubbing the plate with more force than necessary.
Bruce sighed. Because of the arc reactor Tony usually was forced to hide away. When it was cool enough for him to wear a thicker shirt he would be able to work and go out and about. It was something that had worked out fine for them during the rainy season, but now that it was getting hotter again Tony was forced to stay inside and out of sight, leaving only to go to the market and in the nearby area.
"I liked Laos. At least I could work."
Bruce picked up the clean plate and started to dry it. They were in Laos in the cool season, and because Tony spoke fluent French he had an easier time communicating and was able to find a temporary job. They'd been found by WSC troops there and had to run. It hadn't been close. Bruce had spotted them well before they'd been seen. But it was close enough.
"I'm sorry," said Bruce.
Tony shrugged. "At least I can go out at night sometimes."
Bruce put away what food was left in their small refrigerator while Tony put away the plates. Bruce glanced outside. The night was fairly clear, and darkness was descending fast.
"Want to go for a ride?"
Tony looked over at him, wistful. "Where to?"
The one they liked to go to was a very long ride. It wasn't very private, but it was rocky and not many people went near at night. Bruce was practiced enough in many martial arts he wasn't worried about anyone bothering them, and Tony was practicing Kali with a local man whose silence they bought.
"Yeah, square deal," said Tony, grabbing his sweater off of the chair. He zipped it up over his tank top, hiding the arc reactor from sight. "Puto?"
"Puto," smiled Bruce. Tony had developed a strong fondness for the sweet rice cake.
Tony was slipping on his sandals when he noticed Cortez on the table. One of Bruce's firm rules that all windows and doors were shut and locked when they left, and the cat was to stay out. Tony clapped his hands. "Vamonos, Senor Cortez! Make haste!"
The cat flicked its tail at him and, despite its girth, managed to jump from the table to the window, where he slipped onto the fire escape and disappeared to wherever the creature kept its home. Bruce shut the window after it, shaking his head.
"If we go home," said Tony, "that beast is coming with."
Bruce rolled his eyes.
"Come on, it's the only cat that, well... can stand my furry problem." That was the closest Tony ever got, lately, to admitting to Paws. Bruce supposed it wasn't any different from his deflections about the 'Other Guy.'
Outside night had finished falling. Bruce followed Tony down the stairs and to the street. Their bike, which Tony had found and fixed up, was an old 79 Honda CB. It had likely transferred through many hands, and the one time red gas tank was chipped and scratched and rusted so the original colour was best to be guessed at. Bruce unlocked it from the pole, stowed the chain in the ratty saddle bag.
"Who's driving?" he asked.
"You," said Tony. "I want to enjoy the wind."
Bruce knew he shouldn't neglect the helmet, but he didn't have the heart to tell Tony to put one on. He unlocked his helmet, slipped it over his head, and swung his leg over the bike. It took two kicks to start before the engine rumbled to life.
"Sounds like she's having troubles idling," said Tony. He climbed on behind Bruce, held onto his hips.
"Something for you to fix," said Bruce, and Tony squeezed in response.
Bruce pulled out, driving off of the sidewalk, merging into traffic.
The drive was long, and the traffic never seemed to slow. Bruce was used to this kind of driving though, and weaved between cars and drove down gutters, blending in with the locals. Eventually they found themselves leaving town, leaving the constricted patterns of the city onto the free flowing highway. Tony whooped softly behind him as Bruce took his speed up to sixty.
Bruce took an off ramp onto a nearly empty, rougher country road, the lights of Batangas began to disappear, and they were in darkness.
Bruce adjusted one of his mirrors to see Tony. Tony was smiling, his head tilted back as the wind rippled his hair. Bruce was happy to see Tony looking so peaceful and resolved to take him up into the mountains one day, up where it was cool and there were less people.
He pulled up to their favourite stretch of beach. Tony hopped off the bike, holding a packet of paper wrapped cakes they'd bought on the way. Bruce followed Tony, who at once began to hop over rocks, heading for the surf.
They sat together on their favourite rock about ten feet from the water, leaning against each other and not talking. The air smelled like salt, and sometimes when a particularly big wave struck they could lick their lips and taste it. The city lights were dim and the stars were bright and in the trillions over head.
The paper crinkled, and Tony handed Bruce one of the round, sweet cakes. Bruce took a bite, chewed slowly as he watched the ocean with its silver bangles reflecting the light of the moon. This, here, suspended in a moment thousands of miles from the pain of the past, was everything Bruce lived for. Maybe he wasn't helping TB victims in Africa, or black fever in India, but the simpler life gave him peace.
"What do you think the others are doing?" asked Tony after awhile. Bruce noticed he'd demolished the entire packet of cakes.
Bruce shrugged. "Saving the world? Maybe they contacted Betty."
"Maybe there's a cure."
Bruce nodded. "Maybe."
"Two more months." They'd agreed eight months was plenty of time to synthesize the 'cure' for Tony, to keep him from shedding the virus.
Tony turned to look at him. He had a quiet desperation in his eyes that Bruce recognized, had seen every time he'd looked into the mirror after he'd run to South America. Bruce reached up, brushed away a crumb, and kissed him softly, reassuringly.
Tony leaned into it, moaning. Bruce knew it couldn't go far, was too dangerous, but he reached up and ran his fingers through Tony's short hair. He'd cut it mostly off, occasionally grew out his beard to avoid his iconic goatee. Bruce liked it right now, though, just past a five o'clock shadow.
He slid his fingers down, cupping Tony's neck. Tony's hands were tight a moment on Bruce's arms before he shifted, sliding into Bruce's lap.
"Tony," Bruce murmured, pulling away.
"Shut up, I want you," said Tony, almost panting. In the bare light of the moon Bruce could see the tips of long canines glinting.
"It's dangerous," he said, but Tony pulled him closer, his kisses even more demanding. Bruce squeezed Tony's side, slipping his fingers underneath of his clothes, and Tony made a needy sound as Bruce's fingers touched skin. He slipped one hand around Tony's back, pulling his hips down, and Tony rocked against him, kissing harder, needier, one hand wound in Bruce's hair, the other pawing at the rock. Bruce heard the impotent scrape of claws against it and pulled away, knowing how close Tony was getting to the edge of his control.
"LIKE FUCK IT'S OKAY!" Tony was on his feet in a lighting fast movement, jumping over rocks, each movement animalistic. There was a heavy splash, and Tony was in the ocean, moving away from him.
"Tony," said Bruce, scrambling to get up, to gather his thoughts.
Tony was getting deep, up to his waist. Bruce jumped in after him, the cold water going though his shoes and socks, soaking him instantly. He struggled against the waves until they were hitting him in the chest, his face and hair getting wet with spray.
"Tony," he said again, lunging after him, grabbing his arm.
Tony snarled in response, his hand coming around. Bruce yelled as claws swiped through his shirt, cut his arm, but he didn't let go. "Tony, it really is okay. It is."
Tony growled, a lower sound, and Bruce pulled him over. Tony's eyes were silver, his eyebrows in an angry line. There was something mournful there too, and Tony let out a soft whine as Bruce pulled him into his body.
Tony's arms were like a vice around him, squeezing hard. They rocked with each wave, salt stinging the cuts on his arm. Bruce could feel the light pressure of claws pressing against his back, felt every pop of Tony's sobs in his chest.
"We'll figure it out," said Bruce, pressing his lips against Tony's wet hair. It hadn't been so long ago, since the last transformation… which had happened for this very reason, on this same stretch of beach.
Is this how Betty felt? he wondered, remembering the way she'd wanted him so badly and he'd had to pull away. Now he was able to give, but Tony wasn't. It was frustrating, heartbreaking.
"I'm sorry," Tony whispered, "I didn't mean to, I-"
"It's okay," he said again, tilting Tony's face up. When they kissed this time it tasted like salt, and Bruce didn't want to let him go until Tony understood, could feel it. Tony's answering kiss was hesitant, shy, and Bruce ached, wondering why he and the ones he loved always had to suffer.