The Promise of Rain

being a continuation of the avengers

with made up science

and much fuckery

There is a voice. It's a quiet voice, as far as voices go, and it is quick and steady over the snapping static of a small white communicator.

It says, "Banner, you there?"

The hand which picks up the communicator belongs to Bruce Banner, who is swallowing visibly, and he fumbles with the device before answering.

"Yes. Is there – a problem?" The pause is small, but distinct.

The voice replies instantly, and even the crackling communicator cannot erase the calm it invokes. "No, thought you might've run out on me. You wouldn't believe how many people do that when I bring them home. There was this girl once – into some really weird stuff, I heard, so –"

Bruce leans forward on the counter, arms folded, and the steel coldly presses up into his skin. He hears faintly, in the background, that Tony Stark is still speaking. Occasionally a phrase slips through ("I didn't know someone could do that with a bagel") and despite the fact that Bruce really, really, doesn't want to know this, he is grateful – because in his own strange and not-very-helpful way, the other scientist is trying to reassure him. But then Stark mentions that he'll never be able to think about rubber ducks in the same way again, and Banner decides that that's probably enough reassurance.

"Well, if there are any problems, they certainly aren't with me," he says dryly.

"Aside from the small matter of that huge angry green monster you occasionally turn into, I agree," Stark fires back.

Bruce laughs after few stunned moments. He is becoming used to these jibes, to the mentioning of the unmentionable. Stark is silent on the other side of the communicator, but if Bruce thinks – which he does – he can imagine him smiling.

When his laugh fades away, Bruce shakes his head and rubs his palms on his slacks, more awkward than nervous. "I must be crazy to think this will work," he says.

"You think you're the crazy one," Stark says. "I'm currently standing up the lovely Miss Pepper so I can perform a scientific miracle on a guy in serious need of a hairdresser and anger management. No offence," he adds.

Bruce says, "None taken," a little incredulously.

"You know we've done the theory, Banner. We did the neuroscience, the math, a thousand experiments –"

"Simulated experiments. And there were only three hundred and twenty one of them."

"Right, yeah, and we've been working on this for a damn year. It's not gonna get any less crazy, man."

Bruce stares at the counter, arms tightly crossed now. "You're right," he says at last.

"Of course I'm right. I'm always right. It's just one of my countless qualities," Stark says.

Bruce resists rolling his eyes and instead asks Stark to begin recording. After a final burst of static ("Sure thing"), the communicator falls silent, and a red light stares patiently up at him. A glance up at the corner of the small room confirms that the camera is also recording, and as he slides on a pair of wraparound safety glasses, Bruce Banner feels his residual worry slip away.

This is his element.

These white rubber gloves, this lab coat and clean table, those test tubes and droppers and neatly labelled chemicals – they are familiar. They remind him of shelves, stacked with books, written by people with strange names that come with strings of letters after them; of professors, with thick glasses and thin hair; of long white rooms and longer black nights. He reaches out an unlined rubber-white hand and the cool glass of a beaker calms him.

"This is Dr. Bruce Banner, beginning practical experiment one," he tells the communicator-recorder. The circle of red does not blink in acknowledgement, but he did not expect it to.

Thirty four floors above him, Tony Stark watches. Behind the glasses Banner's eyes are dark and unfathomable; a sliver of incomprehensible colour refracted and bent into a swollen, intent purpose. They don't scare Tony – nothing does, these days – but whenever he is taken by surprise by those voids he talks just a little less. Banner's eyes are what make him think (what make him know, because Tony Stark doesn't just think things, he damn well knows them, and he knew them before everyone else too) that the Hulk has always been there.

And that's so awesome.

"Opening subject's blood sample, type A+; Banner, Bruce." Brief static as the scientist pauses, gloved fingers neatly manipulating the implements. "Placing blood sample in container. Sealing… repressuring… complete. Running analysis checks – blood sample is stable."

Stark has seen this before, three hundred and twenty one theoretical times. This would be an extremely boring show, he thinks, if the host wasn't so cool. And Bruce Banner is, he really is, the coolest scientist Tony Stark knows – except from himself, but he doesn't hold this against the guy. Unlike Tony, Banner is modest, gentle, and the last (somewhat ironically) to anger – they're simple qualities, but amaze him nonetheless. Another, longer, stretch of static interrupts his thoughts as Banner fiddles with the container.

The container is another example of Tony Stark's brilliance. It's been engineered over the past year with this specific experiment in mind – the only flaw being that Tony doesn't exactly know what the outcome of the experiment will be. Fuck it, he thinks. Once sealed the thing is, to all intents and purposes, impenetrable. He's even thrown in some back-up safety measures (see: explosives), just so Banner will stop getting his damn panties in a twist.

"Inserting pheromone X12. Sample obtained from test subject Banner, Bruce," says the man himself.

Tony leans back against the table, tapping his fingers on the steel. The familiarity of his workshop lessens the tension which hangs over him, but he fidgets anyway. Pheromone X12, even he will admit, is a tricky bitch. It was unstable even in the theoretical stage of their work and, he has no doubt, will be even more awkward now. Anger pheromones always are.

The container swallows the slim tube of clear liquid – pheromone X12 – with a hydraulic wheeze. Banner is impassive, black eyes deep but expressionless, but Tony's fingers fall faster now. The clicks echo in the large room.

"Sealing… repressuring… complete. Running analysis checks on pheromone X12. Status stable."

Banner pauses. Tony's fingers still immediately and he leans almost imperceptibly forward.

"Stark?" Bruce says after a moment.

He says, "I'm here."

"Okay," Bruce says, very quietly. "Okay." And then, louder: "Container extracting pheromone X12."

The container does this slowly, and they are left in silence as, unseen, the slim tube of pheromone is opened and lowered to the partition which separates it from the blood sample. Banner gently presses his finger to a green button, careful not to shake the container – which, Tony thinks, is quite unnecessary, as the thing weighs about a ton and Banner couldn't shift the thing if he tried (unless he got very, very angry).

"Initiating sequence 3-20F. Combining pheromone X12 and blood sample," Banner says. His voice is steady but he takes a small step back, and his hands clutch at the pockets of his lab coat. "Compound stable – no, wait –"

The readouts on Tony's display screen dip and then shoot upwards. He rises sharply from the side of the table and strides forward to focus on the data; his eyes flicker as they scan the lists which are rapidly beginning to become unreadable.

The worst part is that the scientist thirty four floors below cannot see the full extent of the chaos; the small display on the container reveals only a limited number of readouts. So Tony understands why Banner still sounds moderately composed as he tells him, "Attempts to stabilize are unsuccessful."

Tony can't answer.

"Stark," says Banner, and he's alarmed, then more than alarmed.

And then Tony can't fucking think, the readouts are going off the scales and JARVIS is panicking in the background and he's never seen anything like this, not even in the tests.

Banner repeats his name and this time he sounds desperate. He's looking up at the camera butTony can't concentrate, he can't even move, because right in front of Banner the container is shaking the entire bolted down table and the numbers are just blurs now and rising and rising and rising and RISING AND –

A shriek of static rips through his frozen world. Tony turns his head slowly, so slowly, and realises – mutedly, as if all thought and sight and sound is reaching him from light-years away – that Banner is roaring his name.

"Tony! What do I do? What do I do?"

This is when Tony realises that Banner's eyes are not expressionless like he had so foolishly thought. They are stirring, rushing, things rising and falling in the black depths. Banner is angry. Banner is scared. Banner is upset. The emotions roil and twist in those voids, and Tony is distracted - just for a moment - before he recovers.

"Hang on, Banner," he says into the communicator, and he surprises himself when he sounds completely unruffled. On the display Banner backs to the far wall of the lab and slides down it. "JARVIS," he says, "Activate emergency protocol 5-19."

The smooth voice of JARVIS answers him instantly. "Already done, sir. Countdown proceeding."

Tony shakes his head. In the corner of his eye, he sees the flickering white numbers turn emerald green. He doesn't even know what that means. "No no no no, skip the damn countdown, just do it."

"Wouldn't you like to warn Dr. Banner before–" the program pauses when, suddenly, the numbers freeze. Tony looks on in sick wonder as he realises that they aren't even numbers anymore; they are strange symbols and shapes that he doesn't recognise. JARVIS wipes the display and then, firmly, says, "Right away, sir."

Banner does not move when the container explodes.

a/n: it's the start, and i'm excited.

i wrote this on the spur of the moment, with no idea as to where it was heading. all i had in mind was a furious determination to capture these characters. i think we've all experienced fanfics which, although satisfyingly smutty or long or well written, just do not in any way represent the characters they are supposed to. what's worse is reading an epic and realising halfway through, with a sickening feeling, that this author apparently thinks that tony stark giggles (a word i will never, ever, write again).

so, instead of bitching about it (as usual), i decided to make my own contribution. i hope i did myself proud. otherwise, leave a review telling me what a hypocrite i am.

and bear in mind that although at first i had no clue what i was writing, i've established a lengthy plot, minus cliches and unoriginality. this will be a stanner epic. don't worry man, i've got this.

i love you just for reading.