Disclaimer: The Avengers universe and all its characters belong to Marvel. Likewise with Harry Potter.

Chapter 1: In Which Bruce Banner Woke up Naked and with Strange Company

"It took seven years of bitter warfare for the Alliance to end World War 2. The Americans ended the Japanese regime with two atomic bombs in nine days. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagashaki, the few that still live, call us butchers, death bringers. The unveiling of atomic bomb technology halted the world and plunged us into a Cold War that lasted for forty-five years, ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Even to this day, the mere rumor that particular terrorist states hold even the scrapped blueprints of atomic technology is enough to send the world into panic. And it all started with those first two bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man. What we just discovered today, my fellow Avengers, might very well turn the Boy and the Man into schoolyard bullies."

Nick Fury, 2012

This was how it started.

Bruce woke up to the view of expensive wood ceiling, sore, wet, and aching. It was a well-made ceiling; deeply brown African Mahogany with authentic all-natural knots and patterns. Waterproof, very handsome, and probably cost an arm and a leg in this high-tech city. He had half a mind to realize he was feeling the aftermath of a Hulk episode, and the other half idly wondering 'Who in Manhattan has the money and the taste for wood ceiling in their apartment?'

The last time Bruce could remember still being Bruce and not… well… the manifestation of his angry subconscious he had taken to calling the Other Guy, he was still in the Helicarrier floating in the skies of Manhattan, overlooking the statue of Lady Liberty.

At some point after his Hulk Out, there must have been some emergency parachuting from the Helicarrier without any parachute, because Bruce was sure there was no such apartment (with expensive African Mahogany ceiling that smelled like honest-to-God Mahogany and not that artificial stuff they grew in five months from sapling to the woodcutter in a dingy factory somewhere in a Third-world country of choice) anywhere in that gadget lover's wet dream Nick Fury called the Helicarrier. That… and the window above him was showing a decidedly ground level view of a rundown brick wall and some glimpse of a neighborhood park. He could even hear the squabbling sounds of children playing outside.

He sat up. The wet towel on his forehead fell to his lap. The blanket slid down to Bruce's navel. Bruce's very naked navel.

"You're awake?" Said a voice in clear British accent.

"Uh…" Bruce stammered, blushing as he gripped and gathered the blanket to hide his naked form, cursing the Hulk's inability to play nice with clothing and the lack of ultra-stretchable textile in male underwear market. He looked up. His gaze crashed head first into a pair of green eyes, which he remembered reading somewhere existed in only about two percent of the world total population. The owner of said eyes was looking down at him, a young twenty-something man, black hair, lean build, whose hand was holding the handle of a smoking pan. The smell of freshly-fried omelettes wafted into Bruce's nose. Green-eyes (a bit corny but Bruce didn't know what else to call him except for maybe Omelette Fryer which sounded like the name of an electronic appliance, or Rich African Mahogany Ceiling which didn't really stick because it was way too long and what did African Mahogany ceiling have to do with a man anyway?) was also wearing a funny-looking pink Kiss-the-cook apron.

"You're made of some tough stuff, aren't you? Didn't think you'd be up so soon. You were pretty out back then. Fever, sweating, I was thinking of calling the local hospital cause I didn't know if I could handle you here. I live alone you see, except for Mrs. Twiddletum next door who sometimes visits, but… ah, it doesn't really matter. You're right on time for breakfast. Want some mister…" Green-eyes (again, because Bruce felt that Pink Apron was more appropriate in the mind of an eight year old girl and not in a thirty-something physicist with anger management issue) left the sentence hanging with the obvious question.

"Uh… uh… Bruce…" Bruce's eyes were glued to the pink Kiss-the-cook apron. It really was hideous. The kind of hideous that made him wonder if the dyer was color-blind. "…Pink…" His mouth voiced the train of his thought unbiddenly. "… I mean. Banner. Bruce. Bruce Banner. No Pink. And yes, I'd like breakfast. If you don't mind."

"Laundry accident. My neighbor wears a lot of red. It was white before." Green-eyes explained with a sheepish smile Bruce was sure would make some hundred women go weak in the knee with its bashful boyishness, and left to put the pan back on the kitchen stove. There were a few minutes in which Bruce spent sitting naked and awkward on the coach which he had woken up on. Then Green-eyes was back, bearing a bundle of clothes on his arms.

"Call me James." He said as he handed the clothes to Bruce, who put them on graciously. Within the next two minutes, Bruce was standing in a shirt and trousers a size too tight for him… in a room with a man he didn't know, after a Hulk episode he couldn't remember much of.

"Hmmm… that will have to do. You're taller than me and I haven't kept my cousin's castoffs for years." Call-me-James James commented, before pulling Bruce to the room next door and sitting him down in a chair in front of a dining table. A full English breakfast was laid out in front of Bruce.

"Dig in." James commanded before taking up a spoon and fork and helped himself to a plate of steaming omelettes and bacons. Bruce sat there in the chair, slightly bewildered. He had half a mind to ask James if naked strange men often wake up in his apartment and did James make them breakfast every single time? But aside from the few instances where he was Hulkified, Bruce was a generally nice and polite fellow, verging slightly on meek because of his alter ego, and asking that kind of questions seemed offensive, even to the point of being homophobic maybe, so instead of voicing his question, Bruce picked up his own fork and tried to ignore the creeping sense of surrealism.

"So… what happened?" It was James who asked midway into their breakfast.

"Uh… what?" Bruce countered eloquently. For all intents and purposes, it should have been Bruce who asked that question. After all, Bruce wasn't the one who was calmly having breakfast with a strange man who was passed out and naked and also not the embarrassing aftermath of a one night stand here. A strange man who could be anyone from a perfectly respectable post office officer who just happened to have, maybe, lost a fight with a particularly vicious dog to a homicidal person who liked to go about his business sans clothes.

But on the other hand, out of the two persons currently in the room, Bruce was the one who had a very green, very big anger management issue, the mentioning of which never failed to put him in a guilty and shameful mood. Still, he didn't see how he could possibly explain himself adequately to this man, who was kind - and weird - enough to take him in after an episode of Hulk-all-night. He didn't want to lie, and he wasn't in the mood to deal with a screaming-his-lungs-off James. Confronted with these problems, Bruce opted to play with his food, feigning temporary deafness.

Awkward silence ensued.

James calmly cut up his bacons while staring at Bruce.

"Okay." Said James, chewing thoughtfully, apparently already decided that Bruce didn't want to talk and James was fine with it. "You have a place to go to? Have some changes on you?" The look in James's eyes was one reserved by a Good Samaritan for a homeless person.

"I'm not a hobo." Bruce blurted out.

"I'm not saying you are."

"I'm a physicist."

"Yes, right, you are." Said James indulgingly. 'A physicist who was naked and unconscious in a stranger's apartment.' hang unvoiced in the air.

Awkward silence two-point-zero ensued, during which Bruce wondered just where the heck S.H.I.E.L.D and its grabby agent hands were, then prayed fervently for divine intervention. Divine intervention, unfortunately, had chosen not to come so Bruce spent the next ten minutes or so pushing his egg scramble in circles.

"I must have… drunk quite a bit last night." He ventured finally, stealing looks about the apartment. So far, he could see no collateral damage and since no question of the 'Green' kind was forthcoming from James, so perhaps James hadn't caught him in full Hulk mode. Dared he hope? Yes, he dared. He hadn't remembered much aside from the chaos, very likely created by Loki and his S.H.I.E.L.D agents. There was an argument about the Tesseract and its potential for producing weapons the like of which the world had never seen, then the attack, then the anger boiling under a thin film of perpetual stress.

In the chaos, he must have gone Hulk and fallen off the Helicarrier because there was no other scenario in which S.H.I.E.L.D let him flounce around New York unsupervised like this… not after going Green, no. So what after?

Bruce was used to waking up naked amidst rubbles and destruction of his own making. This was the first time he'd actually woken up on a bed after going Hulk… correction, a coach, but the same thing applied, and he was at a lost at what to do… or think for that matter? How could he explain the lack of broken buildings and smashed up streets?

"Yeah, you must have. I've never seen someone going starker right in front of my door quite like that before. Do you know how many ladies live in this apartment block?"

Bruce winced.

"Yeah, I thought so." James helped himself to a long gulp of coffee, then opened this morning New York Daily. A screaming title head 'Pandemonium in the Heart of Manhattan, Debris from the Skies' greeted Bruce. A little bit below that front page header was a more conspicuous 'Stuttgart Riots – Megalomaniac Man in Leathers - Hooligan or Terrorist?'

Bruce swallowed a mouthful of egg, then stabbed the bacons. He was hoping that there was no 'Naked green man on rampage' inside. Most likely not. News like 'Naked Green Man' usually weren't relegated to page two, but in this case, 'Naked Green Man' had probably had to compete with 'Manhattan Pandemonium' and 'Megalomaniac Man in Leathers' (Bruce deduced 'Megalomaniac Man In Leathers' might have won in The National Enquirer, but The New York Daily was a more straight-laced publication so 'Manhattan Pandemonium' had had more chances). Perhaps…, Bruce prayed fervently inside his head, … perhaps someone had knocked him out. He could think of a few members of the Avengers and even some of SHIELD with the appropriate equipments who were capable of such feats. Or perhaps it was the fall from the Helicarrier itself. God knew it was high enough up there. And here he was, alone and in ill-fitting clothes in James's apartment.

Another ten minutes passed before James decided that he was finished with reading. He took a look at his wristwatch, then at Bruce.

"So… I have work in about twenty min…"

"I have a place to go to…" Bruce cut in quickly. He wasn't about to burden this kind stranger anymore if he could help it.

James went silent for about a minute or so, looking at Bruce with green eyes that made him rethink his 'passed out in naked human form and not Hulk form in front of James's door' hypothesis, as if James knew some embarrassing secret of Bruce but was merciful enough not to say anything about it.

Bruce's heart skipped a beat. Did he…?

Then the moment passed, and James was standing up with his coat in his hands. "Yeah, well… come by my place if you need to… " He pushed a name card into Bruce's hand before carting the dirty dishes off to the sink.

'James P. Evans' The name card announced in neat cursive letters. 'PhD, Museum of Exotic Arts and Hogwarts Archive, Curator'.

The rest was a flurry of activities in which Bruce found himself pushed into the next room, then into a pair of rain boots only big enough to not be uncomfortable on him, then into an oversized coat that most definitely came from a second hand shop, and into an old pair of leather gloves to fend against New York's chilly disposition this time of the year.

Then suddenly Bruce was standing in a busy street in front of an old building.

"Is this it?" He blurted out to James, who was standing next to him on the pavement. James blinked at his question, uncomprehending.

"Do you just… what… take in a strange naked man you found on the street, let him sleep the night, feed him breakfast, and then let him go… no questions asked?" Bruce elaborated.

This time, the silence between them was filled up with the noises of the steady streams of pedestrian passing by, over, and through them.

"Do you want me to ask questions, Bruce?"

Bruce blinked as his first name rolled out of James's mouth with a warmth and certainty more befitting for old friends… or lovers. Not even Natasha Romanoff had done that to him, not in their first meeting at least.

"I don't really need to know a man's full story to know he's in need of help, do I?"

Bruce opened his mouth, closed it. He was suddenly struck dumb by James's question. James patted his shoulder once. "Well, I still have work, and I'll be late if we keep staying here. Off you go, Bruce…" There it was, again, 'Bruce', not Banner, or Mr. Banner. James said his name as if he had said it for decades. "Have a nice day."

And just like that he was suddenly swallowed by the sea of people, off to his Museum of Exotic Arts and Hogwarts Archive, leaving Bruce alone and flabbergasted on a busy Manhattan street.

Bruce wandered the streets of Mahattan for exactly five minutes before being unceremoniously scooped up by a team of SHIELD agents. Then, before he could so much as blink, he found himself face-to-face with a very irate SHIELD director in a conference room of the Helicarrier.

"Dr. Banner, are you saying that you spent the night in an apartment in Harlem, Manhattan, while half of SHIELD personnel combed the street looking for you?"

Bruce opened his secondhand coat in reply. "He even lent me his clothes."

Nick Fury eyeballed him coldly. "Dr. Banner, you were Green when you left. You left a trail of broken buildings and ruined streets across half of New York. If I weren't the director of SHIELD, I would have said how lucky we were that no one managed to snap a picture of a very green, very angry giant. But because I am the director of SHIELD, I will have to fill out the bills for several hushing campaigns or we will all find ourselves in a sea of screaming journalists. If the Helicarrier weren't hanging by a hairline from another billion dollars of collateral damage, I would have sent the other half of SHIELD after you. After all this, you're telling me you spent the night sleeping in an apartment in Har-motherfucking-lem, Manhattan?"

"I was passed out. I didn't remember a thing." Bruce parried, carefully keeping a lid on the Other Guy. "You knew this when you tried to recruit me. Are you having second thoughts now?"

That put a stop to Nick Fury's oncoming tirade. Bruce watched as the director of SHIELD squeezed the bridge of his nose, then heaved a long-suffering sigh.

"I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault."

"That's alright. I don't remember much, but I'm guessing Loki is driving us all around the bend."

"He is." Nick acquiesced, before pushing a row of buttons on his fancy desk. "James, you said?"

"Evans. James P Evans. He's a museum curator." Bruce offered reluctantly. He didn't want to give James more problems – the man had pretty much saved him from a very embarrassing awakening on the streets unconditionally – but there was no hiding anything from SHIELD. If Bruce had tried, it might have made matters worse. Plus, James hadn't really done anything except providing help to an unlikely recipient. Bruce was sure the most SHIELD was going to do was put a few bugs in his apartments and got some feelers out where he worked. He was a museum curator for a museum named Exotic Arts and Hogwarts Archive for Christ's sake! "Lean build. Not tall, but not short either. About five-feet-nine I think. Black hair. Green eyes. Hard to miss those. Oh, and I think I saw a pair of glasses on his table."

For a fraction of a second, Nick Fury stiffened at Bruce's descriptions. If it were an agent of SHIELD standing in front of him, he or she might have detected the almost imperceptible signs of alarm coming from Nick. But Bruce Banner was a physicist and, on some occasions, an angry green giant, so he saw nothing and thought nothing of it.

"You appear none the worse for wear, doctor." Nick said after a long string of pleasantries and situational updates, cracking rapidly on his keyboard. "You must be tired. You should get some rest. Before you do that though, you should probably go for check in with the Med department. We never know right?"

"Will do." Bruce threw a curt line as he walked out the door, straining in his ill-fitting clothes.

Left alone, Nick Fury waited as he listened to the sound of the physicist's footsteps down the hall of the newly repaired Helicarrier. When he was sure he could hear nothing more from Bruce Banner, he picked up his BlackBerry, dialed a number hardcoded in the phone's memory.

"Grey?" He barked out, then waited for confirmation from the other end. "I'm sending doctor Banner to you. Give him a thorough check… and a deep scan. Take his blood sample too. No, don't let him know. Not yet. Anything that happened to him in the last twenty-four hours, I want to know. All of them."

He put down the phone, pushed down a sudden anxiety in his stomach, and waited.

The entirety of the scan went on for a full two hours, during which Bruce Banner put up some haft-heart protests. The blood sample, however, only took about fifteen minutes to go from Bruce's vein to the other end of a long string of bioinformatics analyzers.

So it was after this fifteen minutes that Jacquelin 'Jack' Ellsbeth Grey, PhD, geneticist, found herself staring at some very peculiar blood result. It took another five minutes for Jack to force herself into fully understanding the analyzer's readout, then another five minute for her to get up from her little cubicle, walked to the water corner where she helped herself to a steaming cup of coffee and watched as her blood sugar rate went up through the roof – Energy, her mind crowed, clarity! – then went back to the machine to punch in the command to reanalyze.

She stood there for ten minutes, turning her cup of coffee this way and that while conjuring up images of Nick Fury in a pink tutu and diamond tiara saying 'motherfucking motherfuckers' and her trying to explain to him what the blood test was telling her. Then the machine pinged loudly and vomited up a piece of paper which Jack immediately snatched up from its metal jaw.

Her eyes ran down the diarrhea-worth of black words on it, coming from conclusion, to denial, to conclusion, and then finally to resignation.

There was something in Dr. Bruce Banner's blood. The result read. Something strong enough that it acted as a tranquilizer against the Hulk! The sudden spike and ebb in Bruce's blood chemistry read. There was a part where Jack separated 'this thing' and tried to make out its composition. Its structure is halfway between snake's venom – from a kind of snake that did not exist on this Earth, said a venom specialist Jack had rang up at three in the morning in Chicago (It don't exist! Or I'll eat my pillow! He screamed at her through the phone as his girlfriend grumbled for him to come back to bed) – and some kind of cure-all elixir – which Jack's own PhD degree protested because there was no such thing as a cure all in the annals of her doctorate.

A poison and a cure both, but that still wasn't the kicker. Jack found as she went down further the machine's readout.

The punch line of this bad joke was… 'the thing' would have been human blood if it weren't for one little deviation in its DNA structure. One little deviation right smack-dab in the ninety-two percent of genetic materials all life forms on Earth share… which ultimately meant that whoever owned this blood did not evolve anywhere on Earth.

Jack knocked back her head and downed her second cup of coffee in one go, then got up and rang Nick Fury. As the other side picked up with a curt 'Fury', Jack concentrated hard on the image of Nick in a pink tutu giving a flawless rendition of Swan Lake as she reiterated her analysis to him.

Their conversation went on for half an hour before Nick hang up and Jack went back for a third cup of coffee (Clarity!), then Nick called and they were back in the thick of their conversation again.

Five hours later, Jack found herself trailing after Fury on the way to the main conference room while contemplating asking for a pay rise in her head.

Nick opened his meeting with the full members of the Avengers Assemble with a clap, dismissing Tony Stark's jabs with a pointed look, and a long-winded introduction that went like this.

"It took seven years of bitter warfare for the Alliance to end World War 2. The Americans ended the Japanese regime with two atomic bombs in nine days. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagashaki, the few that still live, call us butchers, death bringers. The unveiling of atomic bomb technology halted the world and plunged us into a Cold War that lasted for forty-five years, ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Even to this day, the mere rumor that particular terrorist states hold even the scrapped blueprints of atomic technology is enough to send the world into panic. And it all started with those first two bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man. What we just discovered today, my fellow Avengers, might very well turn the Boy and the Man into schoolyard bullies."

In a café in Manhattan, a green-eyed wizard sneezed violently.

End Chapter 1

To my watchers who think I can only write dark and brutal fics. I so could write cracktastic humor.