Title: The Nature of the Beast

Pairing: Helen Magnus/Bruce Banner Sanctuary/Avengers crossover (yeah, how's that for a crossover?)

Rating: R

Summary: I did not think this up. I came across a gif set made by the talented tumblr user creepymcpaintsalot where she implied Bruce and Helen met and well. I ficced it up.

It was after he tried to put a bullet in his mouth and the other guy spat it back out. That had been the lowest point in Bruce's life. He tells the other's he moved on, but the truth is more complicated. Or maybe it's more simple.

It's about a woman. (Isn't it always about a woman?)

Explaining Dr. Helen Magnus to someone like Tony or Steve though…Banner gets a headache just thinking about the attempt. So instead, Bruce just says "I moved on." He catches Natasha's face when he speaks, however, and understands that she knows some of it anyway, though probably not the whole story. Hopefully not the whole story. On some level Bruce understands that 'knowing' is what SHIELD does and he accepts that most of his life is an open book to these people.

This particular chapter, however…Bruce doesn't want to share.

In the grand scheme of things he probably shouldn't concern himself with what Tasha or Fury know. It's probably a moot point. After all, Magnus is the one who created the design for the cage that is supposed to be for him and is instead Loki's temporary digs. SHIELD came to her and she had turned right around and told him what they wanted. He helped her with the blueprints.

That had been later, however, after he'd been working with the unfathomable (and apparently immortal) British scientist for three weeks.

In the beginning Banner had enough trouble just wrapping his head around this woman who had materialized out of the night after the other guy finally finished his rampage from Bruce's attempted suicide.

He'd been lying - naked of course - in the ruins of a building, self-loathing and helplessness and futility a burning poison cocktail flooding his entire body until he could barely breathe through it. There had been the sharp, precise clicking of stiletto heels on concrete and then there she was, simply standing in front of him in a leather jacket and a skirt that showed off a remarkable pair of legs. Bruce had looked up, and up (she was tall) and met eyes like blue steel that even in the murky light of the street lamp seemed to burn. He blinked and there was a simple business card being proffered to him by a well-manicured hand.

"Dr. Banner. Perhaps I can be of assistance." The clipped, precise tones were British, upper-clash and oh so very educated.

Bruce's impulse was to laugh in her face and tell her to go to hell, but something else in that voice, in her even gaze, her manner… something made him pause and turn the card over.

Sanctuary for all.

Those words and the woman behind them changed him forever.

He still didn't have total control, especially not once the other guy took over, but Magnus helped him find what tattered shred of humanity was still left after the radiation remade him. She nurtured it, prodded it and goaded him into accepting that tiny, much battered spark once again. That's when the Other Guy became the Other Guy and not the Monster. His transformation might be a consequence of hubris in the face of science and power he wasn't ready for, but after meeting some of Helen's other patients, well…it was hard to feel like the freak in the room when you were talking to a guy with two faces, or Big Foot, or a mermaid, or things that looked like they sauntered out of a sci fi show.

And then there was Dr. Magnus herself. Stunningly self-possessed with an intelligence and experience that so far outstripped his own it was staggering…who never flinched around him. Banner didn't remember how good that felt until he started working with her. It had been so long since people weren't scared of him…

They're sitting in her study one evening sharing a drink when he finally asks her how it is she isn't afraid of the Other Guy.

He regrets it instantly when he sees the pain flash in her eyes. No, not pain, this is more than pain, it is bleeding, gaping emotional wounds. It's a humbling insight that Bruce has in that moment. He's spent so much time fighting his own demons he'd forgotten the kinds of burdens other people can carry inside them, with no visible manifestation to warn the world of what lay beneath.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have," he says quietly, hating himself for marring the exquisite features in front of him with remembered agony. He looks away, sipping his wine and letting her collect herself.

To his surprise - and, though he won't admit it, delight - she speaks.

Then her words begin to make sense and he almost wishes she hadn't.

Helen tells him of a man named John, and Bruce learns why the woman in front of him has no fear of his particular brand of rage.

Banner isn't sure what makes him reach out and take her hand after her words falter. He caresses her knuckles with his thumb ever so carefully. It's an apology, an offering of support and something more, but only if she wants it to be.

Her answer is as graceful and deft as everything else she does and when her fingers entwine with his, Bruce's heart leaps with something else he'd thought gone from his life…desire.

The walk to her bedroom is comfortable and quiet. She gathers herself, he tries to calm his pounding heart. Behind her mahogany door its another matter entirely.

He undresses her with reverence, she rips his shirt buttons. They kiss with ferocity and tenderness and he can't get enough of the feeling of her skin beneath his hands. Her nails dig into his shoulders and her breath hitches when he teases between her legs with his fingers and they both still when he finally moves inside her. He almost wants to stay like this, memorizing how blue her eyes are and how her lips look, passion-reddened and swollen, but then she rolls her hips and he's not thinking at all; just moving, just feeling, just losing himself in her. Her body tightens hard around him and she cries out, rough and throaty. It sends him over the edge with a sound of pure joy.

Afterward she lets him pull her close, his fingers running through her glorious hair and resting at the nape of her neck. He hasn't been able to touch anyone like this in so long, his skin nearly burns for the feeling of another's body pressed against his own. If the way she closes her eyes and tangles her legs with his is any indication, he's not alone in his need.

Things don't really change much after that, with the exception that sometimes she'll look at him and they won't get much work done for the rest of the day. He likes to pin her down and torture her gently with his mouth and she has no objections whatsoever.

Those months are some of the happiest of his life since the Other Guy became a part of him.

But like all good things, it has to end. Eventually he realizes he can't stay. She has a mission, and he needs to work on his control in the real world. When they part, however, it is more sweet than bitter. She gives him the contact information for all the Sanctuary network across the world and her own personal number. He promises to keep in touch, and means it.

He was actually planning to visit her new Sanctuary after Calcutta, but Natasha showed up and things got…interesting.

Bruce finishes the last of his shawarma and leans back in the uncomfortable cheap plastic chair. He's too tired to try and find a better position though. He's not alone either. No one is talking, they're all too exhausted. By chance, Banner's glance catches on Natasha as she absently brushes her fingers over Clint's leg where it rests on the assassin's chair. Its as if she's checking to make sure he's really there.

Bruce understands that feeling.

"Hey Tony, can I borrow your phone?"

Stark is so tired he doesn't even ask who Banner is calling as he hands the tiny device over.

Bruce manages to lever himself up out of the chair and walk outside with dragging feet. Standing on the cracked and dusty sidewalk, he dials a number from memory.


"Helen? It's Bruce."

"Bruce? Oh thank goodness you're alright. What the hell happened in New York?"

Relief, pleasure, warmth, consternation, curiosity. She hasn't changed a bit.

Bruce laughs, suddenly feeling lighter than he has in months and begins to talk.