I'm sorry it's been so long, faithful readers. I have not abandoned Uncle Bruce. Just been having trouble getting inspired. Here's a simple little snap shot to tie you over. It was inspired by real events that also turned out as well as this. :D
Let me know where this hits on the fluffometer.
Michael has just turned 5. His little sister is brand new.
Bruce was Michael's best friend. Those were Michael's words at age 3 which he relayed to Pepper who then relayed them to Bruce. The kid loved him from the beginning. When he was a baby Bruce could always make him smile, even when Tony couldn't. By the time he was one year old, he'd light up when he heard the name "Uncle Bruce". When he was inconsolable, Uncle Bruce was the secret weapon to get him to calm down. "We can go see Uncle Bruce." Pepper or Tony would say to him and almost instantly he would calm down. Bruce was the babysitter of choice, and the first person, after his parents, who he would relate funny stories to. The same went for if he was upset. Michael wasn't the brooding type. If he was upset, he made it clear.
It was raining on a Monday afternoon. Bruce was just back from his volunteer doctor gig in the city. It had been a slow and uneventful day, which was fine by him. He stood in his kitchen, drinking orange juice from the bottle, and watched the rain hit the large glass expanse of a window. It was a peaceful thing to stand, very protected, yet completely exposed to the full brunt of the weather.
"Dr. Banner, Michael is arriving in the elevator."
Bruce took another sip from the OJ bottle as a mopey 5 year old shuffled into the room.
"Hey Michael. What's up?"
"Mommy and Daddy don't like me anymore." He said plainly and flopped into the closest chair.
Bruce chuckled slightly. "Why would you say that?"
"Because they like Ginna now."
"Well I hope so."
The joke was lost on Michael. He simply sighed in response.
"Come on." Bruce said and took his godson by the hand. Michael hopped off the chair and followed moodily.
Jarvis admitted them into the lab. Once inside, Bruce pointed to the nearest microscope.
"Safe stuff?" Michael asked, being well trained in lab safety.
"Safe stuff." Bruce assured with a nod.
Michael half skipped over to the desk where the microscope sat. He quickly climbed up and knelt on a stool. Leaning over the microscope he bit his lip in concentration. It never mattered what was under the scope, Michael was always happy to get a look.
"So why do you think they like Ginna and not you." Bruce asked casually as he leaned against a nearby counter.
Michael looked up from the microscope. "Can I play with something else?"
Bruce laughed. "Sorry, bud. You know not in this lab."
Michael shrugged and hopped off the stool. It was worth a shot to ask though the answer was always the same.
"Come on. Let's have some ice cream." Bruce said. Michael liked that plan and headed for the lab door followed by Uncle Bruce. By the time he got to his kitchen Michael was already standing on the countertop leaning over into the open freezer.
"This one says chocolate chips!" Michael said as he inspected the cold box that he held in his hands. Pepper and Tony had gotten him started on reading early and he had picked it up very quickly.
Bruce gave the go ahead. "We can open that one."
"So," Bruce began again once they were seated at the table and Michael's mood was markedly improved with ice cream. "Why do you think your mom and dad like Ginna and not you."
"'Cause they always hold her and always do stuff for her and I want to sit on mommy's lap, but she always has Ginna."
"Always?" Bruce said incredulously.
Michael looked a bit sheepish, and mostly stood his ground. "A lot."
Bruce nodded thoughtfully.
"Did your mom and dad stop hugging you and talking to you?"
"Did you know that you were the same as a baby?"
Michael nodded vaguely.
"You were. Your mom and dad were always holding you and always taking care of you. For a while your dad never had time to do work with me in the lab and finish projects."
He had Michael's attention now.
"But do you know what?"
"I knew they had to take care of you so much because you were so little and couldn't do anything. So I didn't think your dad didn't want to work with me. I knew he had to spend so much time showing you how much he loved you because you were so new and didn't know yet. That's what they're doing with Ginna." Bruce, of course, knew this was different, but he figured the perspective would be somewhat helpful to the 5 year old. "Do you know what else?"
Michael shook his head as he spooned more ice cream into his mouth.
"It's a lot of work to care for a baby. That's why they're so cute, so adults won't get tired of helping them do everything. Your mom and dad love you and Ginna the same amount, they just have to do a lot of work right now to make sure your sister can grow up so great just like you."
"Mom and dad love you so much, buddy. You're just learning to share them like a good big brother. It's kind of scary, but it's ok. Right now little Ginna can't take care of herself the way you can. She's new and is getting to know Mom and dad well as you do."
Michael was looking a little brighter now.
"How's the ice cream, bud?"
"I'll take you upstairs when you're done, ok?"
Michael nodded, his troubles all but forgotten as he took another mouthful of ice cream.
Bruce couldn't help smiling. He would let Pepper and Tony know what Michael had told him. They would be sure to compensate with some extra affection. Knowing Pepper, she would find a way to incorporate Michael, at least conversationally, into some of the baby care. Tony would probably freak out with guilt, but hopefully push through it quickly. Pepper could be counted on to keep his thinking rational. At least a little rational.
In the mean time, Bruce enjoyed the ice cream with his small friend.
. . .
"Hi Pepper. How's it goin'?" Bruce said as he stepped out of the elevator. Michael followed behind with the usual bounce in his step.
"Hi guys." She said as she sat down on a couch. "Just put the baby down, Jarvis is screening all my calls for the rest of the day, and Tony should be back in a minute. So I'm well."
Bruce found a chair to sit in while Michael went over to his mom. Pepper beckoned him with her hand and he immediately climbed onto the couch with her. She put her arms around him as he snuggled close, and kissed him on the head. "What've you been up to since you came up here after your martial arts lesson?"
"I sparred Uncle Clint!" Michael exclaimed suddenly, just remembering that he hadn't told Uncle Bruce about it.
"You sparred with him." Pepper clarified.
"Yeah! I won."
Bruce chuckled, as did Pepper.
"Then I had ice cream with Uncle Bruce!"
Pepper looked at Bruce. He put his hands up in surrender. "Extenuating circumstances, Pepper. I'll tell you about it later."
She rolled her eyes in a friendly way. "Whatever you say, Bruce." She gave her son an affectionate squeeze. "Don't accept ice cream from this man."
Michael only laughed. All three of them knew that would never happen.
They heard Iron Man land outside. From where they sat they could watch as the suit was disassembled and stowed away. A moment later Tony walked in.
"Hey, Banner." He said and plopped onto the couch next to his son.
Bruce gave a wave.
"Hi Pep." He said, leaning over Michael to kiss her. Then Tony put a hand out for his son. "Gimme some." Michael slapped his hand as hard as he could. "Ow. Good one. ...So! What've you been doing since I left?"
"I beat up Uncle Clint."
Tony chuckled. "Fantastic. ...You know what you haven't done?"
"Hugged your dear old father."
Michael got to his knees and wrapped his arms tight around Tony's neck. Tony feigned choking, which made Michael laugh. He freed his dad and whispered in his ear.
"Ask your mother." Tony said, though he could have just as easily answered the question.
Michael turned immediately to Pepper and whispered in her ear.
"Of course." She said.
"Uncle Bruce." Michael announced. "Want to have dinner with us?"
Bruce laughed lightly at the unnecessary conspiracy that led up to the question. "That'd be good."
Michael cheered, jumped, and landed with a bounce on the couch.
Tony looked at Bruce with a completely straight face. "I'm getting you a #1 Uncle mug."
"Please don't." Bruce said.
"But it's your destiny." Tony said, pretending to be shocked by Bruce's response. "I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner!"
Pepper just tried not to laugh. She couldn't believe it either and, in all honesty, neither could Bruce.