Bella had never been on the helicarrier before. She had to admit it, the place was impressive.

"You're going to like this," promised Agent Romanoff as they headed down the hall to Wishbone Lab. "We've got all the toys."

"The only thing I'd like is to know what happened to Agent Barton."

"An alien who calls himself Loki is somehow controlling his mind," replied Natasha. "An alien who wants to take over the planet."

Like the aliens from all the science fiction movies she'd seen people watching while she was working for a certain organization that wanted to build weapons to defend against attack from extra terrestrials. That had been an interesting few months of Bella's life. Those people had been, as far as she was concerned, completely insane. She had been very thankful when she'd finally been sent elsewhere.

"How original an idea," she remarked.

"Yeah, it does sound a little cliché," admitted Agent Romanoff. "This way, Miss Stark."

She stepped inside the lab to find a man already there.

"Hi, who's this?" asked the man.

"Hello, Dr. Banner. This is Bella Stark. Miss Stark, this is Dr. Bruce Banner."

The name was familiar, but she wasn't sure where from.

"Miss Stark. Is your father here?"

"No," she replied. "He's on his way to Germany, to find Loki, they spotted him there."

"Miss Stark will be helping you with locating the Tesseract," said Natasha.

"So, Dr. Banner, you work with S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

"No. They called me in. Have you done anything with gamma radiation in the past?"

"A bit, yes. Some people were trying to unlock super solder serum using gamma. It doesn't work very well."

Dr. Banner made a small choking sound.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Was your dad involved in that project?"

"No. It was… before he adopted me." Shortly before she'd been sent to Afghanistan, she had been "rented out" to someone who was attempting to replicate the Hulk, a former scientist who, as a result of experimentation, turned into a green monster if his heart rate went up too high. She had later – after she'd woken up from her coma – learned that her work had been key in creating something similar to the Hulk. More awful things Bella was responsible for.

"What have you done with gamma, Dr. Banner?" she asked.

"I tried the same thing you did, actually. Among other things. My experiments didn't really work, so I've gone from place to place since. I was in India just recently, as a doctor. Do you know how it all this equipment works?"

Bella nodded, noticing the quick change of topic but not commenting. "Tony has plenty of advanced equipment like this. What have you done so far?"


"So, how are things are S.H.I.E.L.D., Izzy?" asked Tony. He flew over the water. Loki was supposed to be in Germany, he had to get there at once.

"Good. We're tracking the cube and it seems to be going smoothly. No appearances from Agent Barton – as much as I like him, I can't say I'm sad about that."

Bells was good at hiding her thoughts and emotions, but he could tell she was upset over the whole thing.

"We'll get him back, Izzy. You know we will."

"I hope so. So, Loki's been spotted in Germany and you're going?"

"Yeah. I wonder, though, why Germany?"

"I guess you'll find out."

"I hope so. Met anyone interesting?"

"I'm working with a Dr. Bruce Banner. He's quite nice."

Tony made a small choking sound. Dr. Bruce Banner? As in, the Br. Bruce Banner who turned into a green monster if a person made him too angry? The Dr. Bruce Banner who had destroyed Harlem in New York? S.H.I.E.L.D. hadn't told Izzy about that?

"Are you alright?" asked Izzy.

"Yes," said Tony. "Just… do you know who that is?"

"No. Should I?"

"Dr. Bruce Banner is the Hulk. Destroyed a part of New York a year or so ago, along with other places."

Bells released a squeak.

"Just don't do anything to set him off," added Tony quickly. He was going to have a long talk with Coulson when he saw him next.

"Why didn't they tell me?"

Probably because they thought she'd refuse to work with him."Just don't do anything to set him off," said Tony. "Or, if you're planning on it, at least wait for me to get there first."

The sound of shock left Izzy's voice. "Tony? Really? Why on Earth would you want to do that?" She didn't sound at all surprised that he wanted to see it happen.

He'd like to see the Hulk up close and personal. Why not? He'd be protected by his suit, and all he'd seen so far of the Hulk was footage of when it had destroyed part of New York. "Why not?" he asked.

"Because you could get killed."

"You can get killed crossing the street."

"Yes, but the chances of being killed in proximity to the Hulk and the chances of being killed crossing the street are very different, the chances of the first being lethal being exponentially higher than the other."

He laughed. "I think you worry a bit much."

"No, I've got Pepper to do most of the worrying about you for me, and I still do it nearly twenty four hours a day. Pepper… she's in Washington, right?"


He'd been meaning to ask Izzy something for a while. Was now a good time…

"What do you think about Pepper?"

"Pepper? As what? As your assistant? As your girl friend? What? Are you planning on proposing?"

Well, might as well drop that bombshell now. "I might be."

Izzy squealed. Tony instinctively clapped both his hands over his ears, but it did no good because he was wearing the Iron Man suit.

"You're going to propose to Pepper?" Her voice was a little softer now.

"I was… considering it. After all this is over. I wanted to know what you thought, since Pepper would be your mother."

Izzy spoke slowly. "I think that… I've been expecting it for months."

"Dreading or anticipating?"

"Would I be this excited if it was dread? You're perfect for each other."

Meaning Pepper was probably the only woman in on the planet who'd be willing to put up with him for even a month, let alone for the rest of her life.