I do not own the characters mentioned in this ONESHOT. They belong to the beautiful minds at Marvel.
The Other Guy.
Bruce refused to call him anything else. Tony could say whatever he wanted about him saving his live but Bruce would never agree.
Same as Bruce would never agree to willingly unleash The H-him, even if it was to save the world. Bruce didn't trust him nor would he ever. He'd spent years hating himself and forcing himself to be good – he hadn't hurt anyone for a long time and refused to change that now.
After New York, Bruce ran away again. He knew S.H.I.E.L.D. would be on his tail and it wouldn't surprise him if the other Avengers came along too.
Bruce knew though.
Bruce knew he was a monster that didn't deserve to breath. Even if he had done the right thing, he'd broken his promise. He had been good and then he was dragged back into the politics, the mind games, the freak show. The freak show that included geniuses and men who hadn't grown old, that included gods from outer space and spies who swore on their life to help him when it should be themselves they were protecting.
Bruce went back to that place – the place where he had swallowed pill after pill, the place where torn rope still hung from the ceiling, where he had fired and then The Other Guy had spit… That's where he went. That's where he contemplated.
The bustling city nearby was where he had stumbled, covered in blood and sweat, the green just leaving his skin. From his raging temperature and furiously beating heart, the people thought he was sick. Bruce told them he was – and that he couldn't be cured. They feared infection but he assured they would be fine. And he began to look after them.
No one had shown him caring for a long time and he had to repay these people somehow.
But still, even though he was being good and helping other people, Bruce still wandered back to that empty house. It was his sanctuary.
And it was where he got manipulated into going back and becoming another puppet, another toy, another circus freak.
No matter the memories there though, Bruce always went back. He knew what other people would call it, his fascination with the place. They would say sentiment. And Bruce would agree.
Bruce would agree whole heartedly.
Bruce entered the old house, noting all the furnishings looked the same, if not a little more worn. He made his way through the house and soon saw the window the small spy had disappeared out of. Bruce looked down to the ground, a twisted smile on his face.
"Should've got paid up front, Banner." He had mocked himself. He was still mocking himself now. Bruce shook his head and looked darkly at the window as he had done last time.
He knew he wasn't really though – he was darkly looking at himself. Mocking himself again. All his stupid decisions – and the most stupid choice he'd ever made.
Bruce turned and dropped his bag. What he'd brought with him thudded dully.
Silently he went to work – the large gas bottle, the large petrol bottle, the small matches that would change everything. It would look like an accident to the locals. It would like something much more sinister to the outsiders who he knew would come.
Bruce paused - would this work? Nothing else had; The Other Guy had always intervened. And Bruce didn't know if it was a human survival instinct that brought him out or something else entirely – there was no way to test the theory either.
As he continued to deliberate, Bruce walked to the table where Natasha had sat, persuading him to go with her.
The phone she had slid to him still lay on the table, covered with a layer of dust.
Bruce pressed a button and the screen lit up. He paused.
One new message, it read.
He looked up, wringing his hands together. Bruce opened the message.
Just you and me.
The number was unknown but Bruce knew who it was. He smiled another twisted smile as he fumblingly replied.
Stop lying to me. He said – there was no actress this time, no need for her to tell him who she was or that she had started 'that' young. He'd seen her in action. Bruce knew she had started much younger than that.
There was no need for her to tell him why she was there either. Bruce would play their little game. He would let them think he was just another puppet once more. But now Bruce was making his own decisions. Now, Bruce had made his own decision.
Bruce walked away from the phone, the light still shining.
He had soon emptied the petrol bottle and the matches rattled as he tossed it down, a few drops spattering. Bruce gazed at them longingly. He paused again and the phone's alert rang out in the silence. Bruce tore his gaze from the matches – he looked to the bright phone light.
That much gamma exposure should have killed you. It didn't for a reason.
We're going to be okay. Listen to me. We're going to be okay, right? I swear on my life I will get you out of this.
Bruce knew who it was from. Natasha and Tony. They'd said these things to him before – they'd cared before. Bruce put the phone down and rested his fists either side of it. His hands shook.
"I don't always get what I want." He murmured before pressing his lips together. Bruce pushed away from the desk, exhaling sharply. His eyes locked on the matches again.
Bruce stumbled over to them, unable to face the messages again.
With shaking hands, he picked them up.
With trembling fingers, he loosened the nozzle on the gas bottle.
With faltering steps, he moved to where the most petrol lay.
With numb fingers, he pulled out a match.
Bruce pushed the anger down, pushed the emotion down.
"You will not beat me this time." He half spat-half sobbed.
With shaky breaths, he raised the match and pressed it against the striker.
"Dr. Banner, put down the match." Said Captain Steve Rogers. Bruce looked up – the Star-Spangled-Man stood at the door, one of his hands reaching out. Bruce could see Agent Barton's face peering over his shoulder.
"Bruce, stop. Breathe." Bruce's head whipped around to see Tony in one of his suits – the mask was lifted up and his eyes were filled with worry. Thor looked over Tony's shoulder – he turned Mjölnir in his hand.
"Hey, Bruce," came the familiar voice. Bruce turned for the last time to Natasha climbing in the window that her actress buddy had climbed out of last time. She moved slowly, with her hands up. Bruce could see no weapons on her but he knew she would undoubtedly have some hidden. "Look at me, Bruce. Just look at me."
Bruce's jaw was locked but he didn't take his eyes off Natasha. She continued to slowly move towards him. Her eyes were filled with worry, same as Tony's. Bruce could feel the eyes of the other Avengers on him. He knew they were scared for Natasha's, and their own, safety.
Natasha stopped in front of Bruce and her soft hands rested on his.
"Just stay focused on me Bruce. Eyes on me, okay?" she gently tugged the matches out of his hand and threw them behind her. Bruce nodded numbly, half unsure of why. So much emotion whirled around him – and yet, he felt numb. "It's just you and me."
Bruce shook his head and Natasha touched her hand to his cheek to stop him.
"The others…" he murmured, knowing the rest of their team was still there. It was Natasha's turn to shake her head.
"Just you and me."
Bruce finally nodded, feeling an unordinary amount of faith in this woman.
"I promise you Bruce, we're going to be okay. You're going to be okay." Natasha murmured. "I swear on my life, you will never feel you want to do this again. I swear."
Bruce knew Natasha wasn't lying – he could see it right in her eyes.
In everyone else's eyes, he saw himself as The Other Guy. In Natasha's, he saw himself as Bruce Banner – he saw the man he wanted to be.
Author note: So, this was just some random ass thing that popped into my head about two hours ago. I hope you enjoyed and I would love it if you reviewed :)xx