Title: To Friends

A/N: I know there are several of these fics, with the team protecting Bruce when Ross comes after him, but wanted to do my take on it. Starts out at a SHIELD base, but on the ground, not the helicarrier.

"General Ross, I expected this would be your request, so I have a consultant standing by. Let's get his opinion before any decision is made." Of course, Fury hadn't told Stark this was what he would be consulting on; and there was no way Fury was granting the General's request. But Ross didn't need to know that just yet. "Hill, send our consultant in," he said through the intercom. Fury would have smiled, except that Nick Fury didn't smile. This was going to be good. A Stark showdown, with someone other than him, was always entertaining. With him, it was annoying and frustrating.

A moment later the door opened, and Tony Stark strolled in, acting like he owned the place. "Fury, I've told you about consulting hours…" He fell silent as he saw Ross.

"Stark. It's been a while," Ross greeted.

"Not long enough," Tony replied.

"Ross wants us to hand Dr. Banner over to him. I thought you might have an opinion on the matter, Stark."

"As you might say, 'it's a stupid ass idea'," Tony replied.

"I hear you even have that monster living in Stark Tower," Ross cut in.

"Don't call him that again while I can hear you," Tony warned, his voice cold and hard. "I have my best friend living in Stark Tower, along with a few other friends. I'd warn you against trying to get Bruce from the Tower, but please… try it. I'd love to see what Barton and Romanoff do to you… And we could bet on whether or not the Cap would throw a punch at a General. My bet is a million dollars on 'yes'. He may be big on order and respect, but he's even bigger on friendship and loyalty. And if Thor is there..." Stark gave a dangerous smile. "As for Bruce; he's brilliant, and kind, and a better man than you or I will ever be. You call him a monster, send the Army after him, then blame him when the Hulk protects him. How much of the destruction and death Hulk caused – which Bruce blames himself for – could have been avoided if you'd just left him alone? I'm betting most of it. Like… 95%. So who's really to blame for those deaths, and all that destruction, Ross?"

"He's going to destroy your Tower," Ross said, ignoring Tony's taunt.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Really? That's what you're going with? Do you seriously think I'd have invited the Hulk to live in the Tower if I wasn't prepared to deal with some structural damage?" He turned to Fury. "This is getting pathetic. I'm leaving. Even think about helping him get Bruce, and I pull all the funding and tech I give SHIELD."

Fury gave Stark a look. Of course he wasn't turning Bruce over to the idiot General. He'd never liked Ross anyway.

Tony walked out.

Just as Ross was about to leave the building, he saw Captain America.

"Ross," Steve said, refusing to give the man the honor of addressing him by his rank.


"I may just be a Captain, but I wonder what your superiors, your troops, and the American people would think if I granted a couple of the press conferences the media is always asking for, and used them to speak against you… Stay away from my friend." With that, Steve strode past the General, his shoulder 'accidentally' rammed the General, knocking Ross into the wall with significant force.

A week later Ross was out with his troops on a training exercise when lightening lit the sky and thunder sounded. A moment later Thor landed in front of Ross.

"Thor, I presume?" Ross managed, as his troops stared.

"Yes, General. I would say it is a pleasure to meet you, but lies are my brother's talent, not mine. The Man of Iron told me of your visit to SHIELD. I have been working on learning to control my temper, but I do not suggest you tempt it by trying to capture or hurt my friend – the one you call Hulk. I enjoy having a sparing partner in this realm that I don't have to be careful with. You humans are so fragile." To prove he was serious Thor caused several lightening strikes dangerously close to Ross before leaving. For the first time in his life, Ross felt fragile.

The next day Ross was in his office when something flew through the open window, past his ear, and broke the glass of the near life size picture behind him. It was of his promotion to General. Looking, he saw an arrow in his eye in the picture. Pulling the arrow out, he read the attached note.

Come after Bruce and the next one won't hit a picture of you.

He'd heard rumors of Hawkeye, but never quite believed the man was really that good – until now.

That evening Ross went to the Officer's Club. A stunning redhead in a black dress was suddenly in the chair beside him. He hadn't seen or heard her approach.

"General Ross."


"Natasha Romanoff. I have some information-"

"About Hulk? Finally, one of you with some sense."

"You didn't let me finish. I have some information you would like to keep private." She rattled off a list of things that Ross definitely wanted kept private. Some of the information she'd gotten from Stark, due to his hacking, and some she'd gotten herself. "Leave Bruce alone, and this information stays between us. Make any move, any move at all, against Bruce, and this information goes public."

"You're black mailing me?"

"We're all giving you a choice… which is more than you deserve. Do you want to try to destroy Bruce badly enough to destroy yourself as well?" She gave him a deadly sweet smile. "While you're deciding, keep in mind that we won't let you succeed in hurting him, but we will succeed in destroying you," she added, and then left.

Days later Bruce looked at the letter, which had no return address. It had simply been addressed to Bruce Banner at Stark Tower. Curious, he opened it.


You win. I'll leave you alone. Call your friends off.

T. Ross, Gen. US Army

Bruce couldn't help his smile, and made a mental note to ask his friends what they'd said or done to Ross.

That evening at the dinner table, he pulled out the letter. "I got a message from Ross today." He noted that everyone tensed. Tony grabbed the paper, and read it aloud to everyone.

They all put on innocent faces. Bruce quickly rated them. Thor was the worst at a 4. Steve managed a 6. Tony pulled off an 8, the look in his eyes giving him away. Clint got a solid 9, and Natasha won with a 10. Pepper he didn't rate, since he believed she was innocent. Bruce rolled his eyes at their attempts to play innocent.

"Thanks, guys," he said.

"I know it's been a while, Bruce, but this is what it's like to have friends," Tony said, his tone unusually subdued and sincere.

Clint held up his glass. "To friends."

"To friends," the others all echoed, raising their glasses.

A/N: Hope you liked it. I'm thinking of doing one for each Avenger, the Team has to protect them from something. I've started on with them protecting Natasha when Red Room comes after her, but not happy with how it's going. Can't seem to get her properly in character for that fic… And ideas/suggestions would be welcome.