Hi, everyone! This is my second Avengers fanfic, and I wrote this one completely spur of the moment, so there's a good chance that it's not my best :) But I decided to put it out there anyways, and thank you all so much for reading! Reviews are always appreciated!
Warning: Mentions of child abuse and suicide.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Avengers-related at all!
When Bruce thought that he was dying, he thought it wasn't too bad. It was easier than living, after all.
Fighting was the hard part. So much thought was involved. When Bruce watched green spread from his chest to the rest of his body, the familiar feeling of panic and frustration and fear and anger came rushing forth. His mind went through ten million thoughts before his shirt was even torn off from his body. His hands shook violently before they grew in size and became the hands of a monster. His eyes took in Tony, shot his best friend that same look of fear, before they turned green. It was hard. Always had been. Even if it was necessary.
It was hard to win the battles, too. It took a lot of work from the six Avengers. Sometimes the fights would last until Steve was on the verge of tears and Thor's sculpted body was almost broken. They would last until Clint refused to let go of Natasha's hand, terrified, because he thought if he let go he would never see her again. They would last until Tony wasn't making any more jokes or sarcastic comments, and all he wanted to do was watch the Hulk swing from window to window, destroying everything in his path.
And it wasn't even easy for the monster. Near the end, when the six friends were in pain and some near death, Bruce could feel himself again. When he was hit, the pain was almost unbearable. When another robot or drone or any kind of villain came at him, Bruce could feel his shoulders drop slightly, wanting to give it all up. The worst was when citizens ran away from the Hulk faster than the villain.
This was a particularly long fight. After their job was done, and Bruce became himself again, he slumped against an overturned car in the shirt and jeans Tony had given to him. Clint was nearby, talking in soft tones to Natasha, holding her broken and bloodied arm. Steve and Thor talked in the same quiet voices, as if they were trying not to wake a baby. Or maybe after hours of explosions and screams and panic, a whisper is just what was needed. Usually Tony surveyed the area, seeing his good work, stalling for some time so he could think in peace. He and taken off the armor and Bruce saw that he had been bruised even through the iron. Tony turned around and caught Bruce's eye. Bruce opened his mouth to say something, but found that a lump had formed in his throat. He didn't know why. Tony turned away again.
There was a soft explosion nearby. Bombs had been planted around the city, and the Avengers had been able to destroy all of them. Or so they thought. The friends jumped. Bruce stood up quickly and walked over to Tony. He glanced over his shoulder to see Clint and Natasha. Clint had pulled Natasha close to him, and while Natasha looked annoyed at first, there was a hint of a smile on her face. She still held her gun tightly. Bruce stood beside Tony, immediately relaxing into his side.
"You okay?" Tony grinned, looping an arm around Bruce's shoulders.
"What was that?" Bruce asked, still scanning the empty streets.
"It sounded like a small one. I think we're fine." Tony's dark eyes met Bruce's, and Bruce let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding in.
It was then that it happened.
An almost-whisper to Tony, and then a deafening explosion.
Shrapnel flying towards the two friends. Bruce's hand on Tony's side, pushing, pushing, pushing. Tony's arm was gone.
Sharp pain in Bruce's chest.
A deep scream.
And then nothing.
And it was easy now. Bruce lay on his back, gasping, taking in the sight of a jagged piece of metal sticking out of his chest. Why couldn't the other guy come out now? What happened? Bruce gasped sharply again, letting his head fall to the side. In the distance, he saw a father and son. They both wore baseball caps. The man carried the boy, who was straining to see what had happened. The man laughed. A real, genuine laugh and a smile. He leaned up to kiss his son on the cheek, and the little boy laughed in return.
Blood and shouting and self-hatred.
The calloused hand of his father coming down on Bruce's cheek.
A mother's scream.
A scared little boy's strained apologies and pleas.
Bruce gasped again, and the father and son disappeared. Instead of his father's calloused hand, he felt a smooth, soft touch on his cheek. Bruce looked up again to see Natasha. His head was spinning. He couldn't even hear anything. He only saw Natasha's mouth opening in a scream, for once at a loss for words. Clint appeared next to her, a trail of blood from his mouth to his chin. He was trembling horribly, only staring at Bruce. Neither knew what to do. So when Clint pulled Natasha away and Thor and Steve took their place, Bruce was relieved he didn't have to watch Natasha scream anymore. He had a soft spot for her. Always did.
His head was spinning.
He couldn't hear anything but the blood rushing to his head.
Bruce shut his eyes tightly, but once again saw his father's scarred face and threatening eyes. He hadn't thought about his father in years. Eyes open. Closed. Open. Closed.
Memories came flooding back to him and he didn't know why. He couldn't stop them. They made him scared and lost. Bruce didn't realize tears were streaming down his face until he felt a strong hand on his cheek.
When Bruce opened his eyes again, it was Tony above him. Tony who was cupping Bruce's chin and shouting. Tony whose scream broke into a sob. Tony who gathered Bruce into his arms and rocked back and forth. Bruce found his eyes closing once again as he leaned into Tony's touch.
If this was dying, it was easy.
Dying in someone's arms wasn't so bad.
Bruce remembered the gun he put in his mouth not so long ago. He wouldn't have died in the warmth of Tony's arms. He wouldn't have died with a kind woman begging for him to live. He wouldn't have died with friends surrounding him.
He would have died alone.
This isn't so bad, Bruce thought as his eyes closed again.
The whisper of his name was the last thing Bruce heard before he slipped into unconsciousness. The whisper that escaped Tony's lips, the whisper into Bruce's dark curls, the almost inaudible whisper was what saved Bruce.
Because when Bruce woke up on the sixth floor of Stark Tower three days later, he woke to the same whisper. He woke to the same face—Tony's face—right next to his bed. Only this time, Tony was smiling and he wasn't crying because he wasn't scared. Bruce didn't even have to say anything. He just smiled a slow, exhausted, lopsided smile at his friend.
And he knew.
Maybe living wasn't so bad, either.