Prompt: Xenophobe. 474 words, Gen (Bruce), PG-13
Warning for animal cruelty/death. Also, sorry but this is just depressing as hell.


When he was six, Bruce Banner found a dog on the side of the road. It was mangy and malnourished, so he took it home.

His father wasn't impressed, and Bruce spent the next three days hiding the bruises from his mother by wearing long sleeved shirts and baseball caps. Brian said the dog was bound to be diseased and flea infested, and how dare Bruce bring such a disgusting creature into his home.

But Bruce kept the dog. He hid him in the empty lot down the road, kept him on a long leash and snuck him food twice every day. He named him Roger, and played fetch until it was too dark to stay out any longer.

He petted and hugged Roger. He played with him in the rain and the snow, until one day Roger broke free of his lead and followed Bruce home.

Roger scratched at the door late that night, and while Bruce was asleep, Brian stumbled to the door, drunk and belligerent, and shot Roger once in the head, leaving him on the stoop for Bruce to find the next morning.

Bruce buried the dog in a shallow grave underneath an oak tree in the backyard. He scrubbed at the mess of blood and viscera on the concrete of the steps and path. He hosed and scraped and brushed until there was no trace of Roger, or what had happened to him. He dared not cry.

Now Bruce is thirty-five, and a mangy, malnourished mess of a human being. He's aimless, and hunted, and has some serious anger management issues.

He's standing in a laboratory, two thousand feet above Manhattan, waiting for the chains to clamp around him. He's waiting, but they aren't coming, and even though he's seen fear in the eyes of those around him, he knows it's not just him that he's afraid of.

He sees terror and unease in the eyes of the junior agents when they look at Natasha. There's an uncomfortable silence whenever Steve walks into a room, and nobody seems to be able to look at Thor at all.

Then there's Tony. All bluster, and snark, and deliberately obtuse comments. Like he's trying to make people dislike him. Bruce can see that Steve thinks Tony is a bully, but Bruce thinks that Tony's just as lost and desperate as the rest of them.

When he was six, Bruce Banner found a mangy, malnourished dog on the side of the road. He kept him in an empty lot and named him Roger. He fed him and played with him, but Roger still ended up dead.

Now Bruce is thirty-five, and he is the mangy, malnourished mutt that's looking to be rescued. He's just hoping that being found by more of his own will stop him from becoming a smear on the pavement.