AN: Hello all! Welcome to what is really the first story in my Avengers/Marvel Universe of stories. If you read "Hulk Like Tin Man", you were treated to a snippet that hit me in a dream that is from some time in the future for this pairing. Thank you for the faves and follows on that story, I hope you like this one!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own or make claim to the "Avengers" or any other part of MARVEL, Inc. I am worth nothing, please don't sue for having an imagination.
After the Chitauri Incursion, after Loki was returned to Asgard, there hadn't been much use for staying. But he did, because Tony Stark asked.
Granted unlimited lab access and gifted with a plush apartment suite he was nearly lost in, Bruce was completely overwhelmed the first few days. On the third, he was starting to settle and chose to catch up on the world that had passed him by. Tony found him later that day, sitting on the plush couch of the living room and reading the Journal of American Medicine index on a translucent tablet screen.
"Bruce!", Tony called, knocking on the door, "Are you hiding in there?"
Bruce laughed, drawn out of his reading, "No, come in Tony." Tony Stark fairly strutted through the door, his trademark smirk fixed to his face. Bruce idly wondered what mischief he was concocting now.
"You haven't been to see the lab since you arrived! Something wrong with it?", Tony vaguely felt insulted at the idea. He had stocked that lab with the latest equipment just to entice Banner and here the man was, hiding! In swank, modern accommodations, if he said so himself, taking a quick glance around the living room. Aside from the couch, there was a pair of dark colored leather arm chairs, with a coffee table nestled between the three pieces. The gas fireplace was currently unlit, leaving the fireplace screen dark in front of the space. A few artistic arrangements of paintings along a wall rounded out the modern look.
"I was catching up on some reading," Bruce equivocated. Tony didn't need to know Bruce was having a hard time adjusting to this new life. Stark had everything, and had it for years. Bruce had had nothing but what he could carry, for as long as he could remember, even before Culver. Foremost man on physics and radiation aside, it was all because of the work he'd done, or he shuddered a bit, been forced to do, on himself, since then.
A snap of fingers brought him back to the present. "Hey, you were a million miles off there, man. You okay?", Tony asked. Bruce just nodded. Tony's smirk lifted into a real smile then, "Good. Now, do you want to help me with some upgrades to the suit, or start your own stuff?"
"What are you trying to do with the suit?", Bruce asked, intrigued.
"May I?", Tony flicked a hand at one of the chairs across from Bruce's spot.
"Oh sure. My manners appears to have taken a vacation," Bruce laughed self deprecatingly. Tony folded his lanky frame into the arm chair and propped his feet on the coffee table between them.
"Well, that whole space thing rattled me. I mean, Pepper, more than was obvious," the slip didn't evade Bruce at all, but he ignored it, letting Tony save face, "She swore at me for an hour, wanting to know what I was going to do to fix it." Here the billionaire genius shrugged, clearly at a loss. Stable relationships were not Stark's forte. Bruce could well imagine the fiery dynamo that handled Stark Industries' day to day operations and it's owner so ably, spending an hour verbally flaying strips from Stark's hide. Pepper Potts was as much a force of nature as her boss.
"I would need to know the current schema of the armor," Bruce said. This was a huge step. Stark trusted no one with the technology of the Iron Man armor. And while Bruce had heard that there was a military suit out there, he didn't know the details. He hadn't dug far enough into the records available yet, and wasn't sure he would, with the word 'military' attached to the idea. The ball firmly in Tony's court, Bruce watched his associate's face to see if he discern his thoughts.
Tony was thinking of almost the same thing as Banner. With a few extras thrown in for good measure. Bruce was not Obidiah Stane, and had no interest, overt or covert in weaponizing Iron Man. Even Rhodey hadn't turned over the War Machine armor to his superior officers. Tony also knew that Banner had no personal use for the armor, given his 'green rage monster'. Every Hulk appearance would destroy a suit like a frat boy flattening a beer can. Tony also thought that Bruce could be interested purely for the joy of working on a new project.
After what felt like an hour, but was truly only a few minutes, Tony said, "Sure. JARVIS, forward Dr. Banner all the records and data on the armor, ASAP."
"All?", Bruce clarified, with a quirked eyebrow.
"Clearer understanding towards the final product," Tony shrugged again, not quite uncomfortable. But the slight edge of tension was there. He was trusting Banner, hoping for something, but not sure what he would get in return.
"Should I sign a nondisclosure contract?", Bruce offered, though it frankly galled him. Stark, no, Tony trusted him, and the Other Guy to live here, in a fragile peace amongst glass and metal and even more fragile lives. With that kind of trust, this early, yeah. He'd not give up the information on Iron Man short of dying. And that, was a non-starter.
Tony waved the offer away, "Not necessary. Consider it tit for tat after we hacked SHIELD." And Bruce knew what he meant. Tony knew everything in Bruce's files. His face scrunched up in dismay. He worried. And the big guy rumbled in the back of his head.
"Don't freak out, man. I don't know anyone with a white picket fence life. Just doesn't happen," Tony explained. Bruce settled back, minutely relaxing. Tony watched his face, especially his eyes. While most people carried plain tension lines, Bruce Banner carried those and more. And Tony was determined to learn all the signs.
"So with access now, I bet you'll need another day or so to do the reading," and Tony smirked again, "Which is good because Pep's tightened the work noose and I have to do business things." He nearly sounded allergic, he was so aggrieved at the idea. It was why other people were always CEO. At least, people Tony trusted. He sighed a little bit, then surged out of his chair, and headed for the door at a brisk clip. "However, join me for dinner, say 7? We can go over any questions you have then," he flung behind him, itching to be away.
Bruce was surprised and stuttered, "S, sure, I guess. Meet where?"
"Oh, here's fine. I'll bring something by. Tell JARVIS about any deadly allergies for me will ya? Ta!" And force of nature Tony was gone out the door. It thumped back into place, Bruce staring after the genius in bemusement.
After a full minute, Bruce shook himself from his reverie, and stood. "Well, no time like the present. First, lunch," he said out loud. He made his way to the small kitchenette, which honestly was the size of most New York studio apartments. He pulled open the fridge and rummaged a bit more thoroughly than his recent forays. Someone had taken care to stock not just the basics, but things that would make Bruce's favorite recipes. A lot of information was in SHIELD's files.
That thought prompted him, "JARVIS?", he asked, speaking to the room in general, knowing the AI would pick up his voice.
"Yes, Dr. Banner," was the AI's immediate response.
"Inform Mr. Stark that I have no 'deadly allergies', or mild ones for that matter, please."
"Right away sir," the AI replied.
Bruce proceeded to make a vaguely Asian dish of fish and vegetables over rice. Balanced, but heavy on the 'brain food' end. He figured he'd need the protein. JARVIS neatly recorded what was made and in what portion size, cataloging the information ostensibly for restocking the apartment's pantry. But also gathering data points as a side request for Tony. Once Bruce had finished his meal and the clean up – rinsing and putting his plate and utensils in the dishwasher as he'd cleaned up after himself as he prepped his food – he made a preparation of green tea he'd found in a cupboard beside his stove on a tray, with an iron kettle also found there, and a small, delicate porcelain cup. He'd put a regular kettle on to boil, full to the brim; then went to wash up. The first boiled water went into the iron kettle to heat it and the regular kettle was refilled with hot tap water before being put to simmer.
Twenty minutes later, the iron pot was ready, so Bruce drained it and replaced it with the fresher hot water. The tin of tea powder, a whisk and tea cozy patterned in pale pink chrysanthemums found their way to the tea tray. The whole affair was moved to the coffee table and Bruce eschewed a chair in favor of a cushion on the floor.
He prepared his first cup slowly, contemplatively. Allowing his movements and breath to slow into the ancient practice he'd been shown years ago. It helped center his mind, as well as clear it. But it helped him do one vital, and secret thing.
Talk to the Hulk.
AN2: I don't know what my update schedule will be like. Some stuff is written, but I write long hand, then type it into the computer before deciding if it's ready to go. I am also currently working without a beta. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Flames are ignored and deleted.