"Darcy!" Doctor Bruce Banner looked up from his work to see the young brunette approach him with a tray of food. "Hello! What brings you here?" He asked giving her a pleasant smile and dropping his pen. His hands folded and he rested his elbows on the desk gazing up at her with tired eyes.
"Have you eaten today?" Darcy asked, putting the tray of food down and folding her arms, looking cross at him. Bruce frowned, his mouth gaping slightly before he checked his watch. He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair before turning back to her.
"What… What day is this?" He asked.
"Tuesday," Darcy replied.
"Then, the answer to your question is no." He replied smiling slightly.
"You haven't eaten today?"
"Well… I…" He pouted slightly. "No… Not really… Or… Yesterday…"
"So the last time you ate was…?"
"Sunday morning?" Bruce tried.
Darcy hit him on the arm. "No wonder you look so ill!" She cried. "Jesus, Bruce…"
"Who told you that I needed something to eat?" Bruce got up and moved towards one of the impressive screens that was calculating some mathematical data that Darcy couldn't understand. He tapped some of the numbers before writing the change down in his notebook. He looked back at her when she didn't answer. She stood uncomfortably in his gaze, shifting slightly and pulling the sleeves to her sweater down.
"I just…" She stopped herself. "I was told by Tony."
The scientist frowned. "Tony?"
"Tony knows I'm here?"
Bruce ran over to his desk and began to punch up numbers. He gazed at the screen before relaxing slightly. Darcy frowned. "What just happened?" She asked.
"Tony wants me to go to a gala tonight," He explained. "Tuxedo's, drink… Ambassadors… I'm not doing it."
"Ah… One of those… 'Let's have the Avengers and the Public know each other well in case of time of trouble'?" Darcy asked. "Gotcha… But… Wouldn't it… Really be a good idea?" Bruce gave her a look and she held her hands aloft in mock surrender. "Hey, I'm just saying!" She cried, giving him a big cheesy grin before finding herself a chair and sitting next to him.
"Clint or Natasha or Steve can do that," Bruce muttered. "I'm not great with public events."
"In case you get drunk, Hulk out and smash shit?" Darcy asked lightly, spinning on her chair.
"That…" Bruce nodded and leaned back, knotting his fingers together and letting his hands rest on his stomach. "And I'm terrible in social situations…"
"I dunno Doc, you're handling this one pretty well…" Darcy shrugged.
"That's because I'm with you," Bruce said absent-mindedly. She looked over at him as he leaned over for the tray of food. Her heart fell just a little bit. Maybe he didn't mean that like the way it sounded.
For over two months Darcy Lewis had been working with Bruce and Tony as Jane Foster had become a resident of the Stark Tower. Darcy came as an extra surprise for the three science nerds. Pepper, Tony's long suffering girlfriend, didn't mind though, thinking more the merrier and assigned her to help out in the labs, despite her poor knowledge of the subject.
Tony had hoped that the prospect of science would scare Darcy off, not that he hated her, but because he just didn't want someone inexperienced in his labs and causing a mess.
To all of their surprise, Darcy had become quite attached to the labs. She liked listening to the science jargon even though she didn't understand some of it.
Bruce sighed and brought the cup to his lips, taking off his glasses. He sniffed it slightly before putting it down. "Darce? Is this coffee?" He asked.
Darcy looked over. "What?"
"Coffee?" He asked again. "Is this coffee?"
"You don't like coffee?" Darcy asked.
"I do!" Bruce replied, putting the cup aside, not taking a drink from it.
"Then… Why the fuss over if it's coffee or not coffee?" Darcy asked, frowning completely bewildered.
"I can't drink it," He replied sadly.
"Why not?" Darcy continued to look at him before it clicked. "Oh, because of the other guy? But… Surely he's not going to make an appearance over a cup of coffee…? Is he?"
Bruce let out a laugh and Darcy smiled with him, knowing that on so few occasion he did actually allow himself to be humoured.
"No, nothing like that!" He replied, pulling his sandwich forward and looking between the cooked bread. "Coffee's an irritant. Designed to stimulate the mind and other senses…"
"You're one of those 'I don't like polluting my body with unnatural chemicals' kinda guy aren't you," Darcy looked unamused. "I bet it's all herbal tea and yoga and soya milk…"
"What's wrong with yoga?" Bruce asked.
"Oh my god, you are that guy!" Darcy laughed. "I hate those guys!"
"Oh, thank you," Bruce chuckled, wiping his hands with a napkin and taking a bite.
"Not you!" Darcy rolled her eyes. "Those hipster twats who y'know…" She bit her lips.
Bruce's eyes narrowed. "What's a hipster?" He asked.
Darcy jumped up and pointed, shrieking. "You're one of them!"
"One of what?"
"A hipster! Oh my god, you're so hipster, you don't know you're hipster!" She cried. "Please tell me you don't use instragram or flickr…"
"Darcy, I don't understand what you're talking about!" Bruce cried.
"Oh, Bruce…" Darcy looked completely devastated before looking back up and smiling at him. "I'm just messing with you big guy… Jeez, how long were you in India?"
"A… Couple of years…" He let his half eaten sandwich fall back on the plate before leaning back.
"So… A decade?"
"No." He rolled his eyes. "I've been other places other than India…"
"Ooh, quite the explorer are you?" She teased, but fell silent letting him continue. He gave her a soft smile.
"I move and shake," He grinned playfully.
"Ooh, do tell,"
"Urm… Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Britain, that was nice… Urm… Germany, Egypt, Africa, China… Then… India…" He gave a sad smile. "I never stayed anywhere more than 4 months after the events in New York."
Darcy was leaning against the table, her head in her hand, gazing up at him. "I'm sorry, I know you were talking, but…"
Bruce smiled. "That uninteresting was it?" He laughed.
Darcy returned the smile. "No, nothing like that," She replied. "Your voice is just like melted chocolate fudge pie with cream."
"That sounds like diabetes in a nutshell," Bruce replied before catching on to what she had said. "What?"
"Nothing," Darcy muttered. "Would you like a drink or something?"
"There's a bottle of water in that fridge over there," Bruce pointed before putting on his glasses leaning into his microscope and writing down something in his notebook. Darcy got up and went to the fridge, pulling out the bottle of water, trying to hide her surprise at finding vials of blood samples labelled and stashed away amongst the food and returning to him.
"What you working on anyway?" She asked, handing him the bottle. He waved his hand and she frowned, putting it on the desk.
"I'm…" He stared into the microscope for a second longer then leaned back, sighing and pulling off his glasses.
"What?" Darcy asked. She looked into the microscope to see that he was examining blood cells. They had seemed to have cracked the magnifying lens. "Jesus, what did you add to them?"
"Nothing," Bruce muttered, rubbing his eyes. "That's my blood. I was checking it because… Well I haven't done it in a while and…" he sighed.
"They cracked the glass of their own accord?" Darcy asked.
"Yeah," He cleared his throat. "Which means only one thing,"
"You need a new microscope?" Darcy quipped.
"That… The other guy is getting stronger." He said.
"Oh," They had reached that point in the conversation where the elephant in the room had finally revealed itself. As a lab assistant Darcy was told that she had to be completely prepared for the worst. This included always having a spare set of clothes ready for Bruce just in case. "Merely a precaution" Pepper had told her. She hadn't actually been able to talk to Bruce about his darker side and found the situation to be immensely uncomfortable. Not for her sake, but she always figured it was something that he had never wanted to openly discuss with her. "Is that… Bad..?"
Bruce smirked. "What's the worst experience you've ever had..?"
Darcy had no idea how this fit into their conversation but she answered anyway. "I got felt up by a sweaty, hairy, fat 40-year-old pervert at Comic Con when I was sixteen." She said.
"Comic con? That's the worst experience?" He raised his eyebrows.
"What? He wouldn't take no for an answer!"
Bruce shook his head. "Okay, maybe that was the wrong thing to ask you to compare it too…" He said. "Just, take it as bad news…"
"Maybe…" Darcy tried. "Maybe it's not the Hulk. Maybe you're getting stronger." He laughed. "No seriously, like hear me out! You haven't had an incident in what… 2 months? Maybe it's a good sign."
"Or maybe, it's further proof that any day now he could make an appearance." Bruce sighed and rubbed his chin.
"When did you last shave?" Darcy asked, changing the subject, hoping to make him feel a little better. She mentally face-palmed herself, for choosing his personal hygiene as something "comfortable" to talk about. "Or get a haircut? Not that I don't like the curls… Just…" She cleared her throat.
Bruce was laughing. "Oh, you do amuse me Darce," He smiled.
"In a good or a bad way?" She asked.
"Oh, a good way, I doubt you would ever make me feel bad." He picked up his water bottle and drank deeply.
"Bruce I…" She paused, thinking things over. "I like you Bruce, a lot."
Bruce smiled at her. "I like you too, Darce, a lot."
Not like that! She swore internally. He had returned to his work and she sighed. "Um… Okay, I should really… Go,"
Bruce nodded. "If you want to," He smiled. "Hope you come by again,"
"Yeah, I'll… I'll be around to make sure you eat that bloody sandwich," She laughed smiling and waving a goodbye to him. Bruce watched her silently before cursing softly under his breath.
"Way to go Bruce, well done…" He put on his glasses again sighing. "Can't even tell a girl you love her…" He picked up his notebook again and began to scribble silently.