The Quinjet landed on the roof of the tower where a detachment of SHIELD guards were waiting to take Fisk into custody; when it came to high tech prisons, SHIELD's couldn't be beat. They had rooms designed for all kinds of mutants and super villains – and a couple made just for the Hulk which was why Bruce made sure there was no green showing while he dashed from the landing pad into the elevator. They'd gotten the move down, choreographed without conscious thought, Bruce in the middle of the team, the others ranged around him in a protective formation. Anytime there were guards or soldiers, they flanked out without any conversation; it was a habit by now.
At least he had pants on, he thought to himself, remembering all the times when he'd been completely naked in all senses of the word, both as the Hulk and as Bruce waking later. Seeing it now, through the Hulk's eyes, he began to understand the way clothes didn't matter to the Other Guy, how he'd always been laid bare to the world like a raw nerve. It was almost too much to comprehend, this influx of data, knowledge of another part of himself … at least most of the missing time was floating in his brain, open for examination. There was still missing time, though, and Bruce didn't prod, leaving them alone. He had time to figure it all out. Right now, he told the Hulk, they needed to focus on Betty and Janet, work on helping them. Janet was walking, using Hank's arm to lean on. Betty was on a gurney, still unconscious, and they wheeled her down to medical; doctors and nurses swarmed around her, taking her vitals. Bruce stopped in the observation room, worried about Betty's reaction if she came to and he was present.
"Where is she?" The man came down the hall, Phil Coulson at his elbow, and Bruce knew immediately this was Glen Talbot. Shorter than Bruce, Glen was a slim man with brown hair and dark brown eyes that were filled with concern. He ran a hand through his disheveled hair; his t-shirt was rumpled, and his pants obviously had been slept in. Flicking around the room, his eyes landed on Bruce. "You're Banner. Son-of-a-bitch." In two steps he crossed the space between them and swung; his fist landed on Bruce's jaw, snapping his head to the side.
"Save that for General Ross. He's the one who caused this," Clint growled, jumping between them; Bruce stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay. I deserved that." God, he thought. What do I say to this man? "Betty's unconscious right now, but you can go in as soon as they give the okay."
Talbot deflated, anguish written on his face. "God, I knew, I always knew it would end like this. Woman is too damn stubborn for her own good."
"On that we can agree." Bruce pulled a chair over for Talbot to sink down into.
"She told me, you know. From the very beginning. First time I ever flirted with her, she turned me down flat, said she could never date anyone who worked for her father." He dropped his head in hands. "When I asked her to marry me, she told me that if you called, she'd go. No questions asked. It was one of her rules."
"That sounds just like her." It did, Betty would lay the law down and you accepted it or didn't. Of course, she'd also go to the ends of the earth for those she cared about, damn the rules.
"The General had been quiet lately. I thought, with the cancer and chemo, that he was done with this obsession. I should have known better." Looking up, he fixed his gaze on Betty through the glass, her face pale and eyes closed. "He couldn't have been working alone. The Army's cut him off. Hell, they've been done with him for years. Who was it?"
"H.Y.D.R.A. Trying to make more Hulks for super soldiers." Phil supplied that answer and Bruce was glad he did. The Hulk was agitated enough already. "Ross volunteered as a test subject. Of course, H.Y.D.R.A. changed the agreement and decided to use Betty and Janet as well."
"Janet?" That brought Talbot up short. "Janet Van Dyne? She's involved too?"
"They captured her father and forced him to work for them by threatening Janet." Phil's voice was calm and even, but Talbot groaned at the news.
"He's dead, isn't he? H.Y.D.R.A. wouldn't leave him alive after they got what they wanted. If Ross and Betty were … changed … then they'd … oh, God." His voice cracked and he stopped talking to just breathe, all the information too much to handle. Clenching his fists, he fell back on his anger to see him through. "The General is here? I want to see the son-of-a-bitch. God damn idiot brought this on. I told him, so many times. Warned him. Fucker wouldn't listen to anyone."
"He's in custody and heading for a special cell. I'm sure we can arrange for you to see him," Phil said.
"Mr. Talbot?" The doctor came through the door. "Dr. Ross-Talbot is starting to wake up. I think it would be best if you were there while we talk. The good news is that her neural chemistry appears to be equalizing and her hormone levels are returning to normal. This last incident actually helped her, but we want to keep her as calm as possible."
"Of course." Talbot jumped up then turned back to Bruce. "Look, I'm sorry about the face. It's just …" he shrugged, unable to find the words. "Strange thing, though. I was in Jakarta, chasing down a lead on an A.I.M. base there. They were selling a new drug, one that would 'open the doors of the mind,' marketing it as a way to make better soldiers. Seems they were in cahoots with this guy in Vegas, Richard Fisk, a H.Y.D.R.A. guy. Think it might be connected?"
"She's waking," the doctor said, and Talbot quickly went to his wife's bedside.
"Fuck," Clint breathed.
"Agreed. Where one door closes …" Phil started.
"A window opens," Clint finished.
Bruce watched as Betty's eyes fluttered open, confusion and fear in their green depths. Then she saw her husband and the corners filled with tears as a smile spread across her face. She reached for him and he bent down to whisper in her ear, hands cradling her face as she cried. Turning away, Bruce didn't need to see the sweet kiss that followed.
"She's going to be okay," Clint told him.
"He's good for her," Bruce agreed, and he wrapped his fingers around Clint's wrist. "That, I can understand."
Numbers don't lie. The lines of data spun across his screen, the answer dancing somewhere just behind the stream, escaping Bruce every time he got near. These were Clint's results, the test after test he'd undergone in the last few days. Clint's vision was 20/-5, a virtually impossible number for a human. Granted, he already had 20/10 before, but a hawk's vision was 20/2, considered the best possible acuity. Add to that not just night vision, but infrared as well, and Clint was better than his namesake now. Switching tabs, Bruce brought up the video of Clint at the range, blindfolded, in the dark, hitting eighteen targets in a row; throwing in a two-for-one shot and a back flip just to show off. The efficiency of movement –the targets seemed to appear in front of the arrow – increased his firing rate by almost 50%. Overall, reaction times were off the chart. Clint had freaked a little when Tony called him psychic – too many memories associated with con artists and carnivals – but it wasn't foreknowledge that allowed him to lead a target, it was the enhancement of his ability to read people and calculate angles. Logic, Clint had argued when Tony called it "whoo-whoo crap;" watch, learn, see patterns, and predict action, that's what he was doing.
Bruce had already poured through Janet's file. After the initial blast and the allergic reaction, she'd been exposed for a short period; the nannites had activated and were accelerating her natural genetic mutation. So far, the only noticeable change was an increase in healing speed, although Betty argued that Janet was even more outspoken, more reckless than before, but that could be the grief talking. The insane heroic gene, Janet was calling it; she'd always been sure of herself, Bruce remembered, but she was not only accepting the situation now, she seemed to be dealing with it in constructive ways. She'd taken to hanging out in the lab with Hank, fascinated by his work with Pym particles, and joining Carol in the gym, working on the trapeze, laughing about wanting to fly. When Clint had joked that Janet needed a superhero name, Hank had objected strenuously. Janet, however, immediately started arguing with Tony about possibilities. The current front runner was Lady Dynamo. Bruce's biggest worry was when she crashed and had to deal with her father's death; her current attitude, he suspected, was bravado.
Tony and Steve had been hit by the beams and, much to Tony's dismay, they both had to undergo a battery of tests as well. Steve's metabolism and healing factor seemed to have negated the initial blast, as soon as the reaction began, his body shut it down. Tony spent two days hyped up on Benadryl and caffeine – his effort to not drink while on the medication – and invented a faster quiver to keep up with Clint, a dampener field to shut down teleportation, and comm unit that could be grafted on the skin behind the ear. Plus, an automatic doughnut machine that produced excellent yeast glazed confections. Both of their basic DNA structure seemed unchanged, so the theory that it took a second exposure to start the process held sound.
Clicking another tab, Bruce's screen filled with the image of General Thaddeus Ross's current cell in a SHIELD prison. Within hours of the General's departure on a secure jet, Tony had sent the link to the live feed. Through the tiny corner camera, Bruce could see the various comings and goings; watch Ross pace the cell from side-to-side, spending increasingly longer amounts of time as the Red Hulk. The strange part was that Ross seemed better adjusted and in control while in his hulk state; he held conversations with a psychiatrist, big body hunched down into a chair as he spoke. Although Bruce didn't have sound, he could see the change in body language, the way the Red Hulk was more comfortable in his skin than Ross ever was.
He'd stopped checking on Betty after Talbot – Glen, he'd said to call him Glen – had invited Bruce down yesterday to talk to them both. She had laughed at one point, when Glen was telling some crazy story about their wedding day, and had given her husband grief about the fact he thought she didn't know exactly what he did for a living. Flashes of the old Betty that gave Bruce hope, and then she'd gotten angry when the story led to her father walking her down the aisle. Bruce had slipped out while Glen helped her through a breathing exercise to calm down. They'd both asked him back, and Bruce had decided to go. Maybe, just maybe, this time things wouldn't end in tragedy.
With a sigh, he went back to the data. Too many strings, he thought, too many things they still didn't have answers to. Who was on the inside, helping Ross and Fisk? If A.I.M. was involved, how many others were working on the same goal? If M'ordin was just a herald, what the hell was coming down the pike? And who was Mab?
"Hard at work I see," Clint said, stopping to lean against the counter next to Bruce's stool.
"This is where you ask me if I know how long I've been down here." Bruce knew the drill. If he stayed too long in the lab, one of the team eventually showed up to talk about food or sleep or, in Tony's case, another project. "In my defense, I did eat and I slept six hours on that couch over there."
"Un-huh," Clint nodded but he didn't look convinced. "How long?"
"Depends …. Is that a.m. or p.m.?" Bruce was startled to see the clock read 10:07 p.m. That meant he hadn't left this room in … oh wow.
"And sleeping on the couch? Not big enough for the both of us, Doc." Clint smiled, and Bruce could feel the warmth from his body he brushed against his shirt. "Almost four days, Doc. My ass is lonely in that big bed by myself. Needs someone to come fill it. You up for the task?"
"Yeah, I can do that." Heat flushed his cheeks and the Hulk rumbled an emphatic yes, his stance on the issue very clear. "Let me save this data and lock it down; I'll be right there."
"I've had a long day myself, so don't be too slow." Clint kissed him, sweet and tender, and suddenly Bruce couldn't think straight. All he could see was that sexy smirk and all he could feel was his cock's insistence he do something about it right now. "I'll sic Jarvis on you … and then I'll pull out the big guns and get the Hulk on my side. As extra added incentive, tell the Big Guy there'll be cuddling afterwards."
"He's on your side already," Bruce laughed; the Hulk was doing a little happy dance in his head. "And, for the record, that's a damn effective way to get me out of the lab."
"Been saving it, haven't I?" Clint winked and strolled back out. Bruce watched his jean-clad ass the whole way and even sighed when the door slid shut behind him. He started the security protocol and clicked save, watching as the files flitted across the screen one-by-one, closing down. Not really focusing on the data, he just let the numbers float by and that's when he saw it. In the same sequence of the strand, the difference looked random if he read from beginning to end, but page after page he could see it. He typed in the search parameters and waited as the data collected, excitement building with each new point that appeared. This was it, the key. All he had to do was go back and compare, plug this into the various formulas, recalculate … he got to work, pulling up all the necessary information.
Bruce paused in the middle of a page long equation. Blinked. Looked up at the clock. 11:24 p.m.
"Damn." He clicked on security and started the shutdown. "Jarvis, be sure and secure this data on Tony's personal server." Knowing Jarvis would, he hustled and finished up, leaving the string of numbers unfinished. He made the elevator in three minutes flat and their door in just under five, beating himself up the whole way, hoping Clint wasn't too upset. Crossing into the bedroom, he saw Clint, sprawled on his stomach, fast asleep in the middle of the bed, towel underneath him, face squished into the pillow … and he was buckassed naked. Bruce let himself admire the view for a moment, okay more like five minutes, quite enough to get hot and bothered thinking about running his hands over that expanse of skin.
"That you?" Clint mumbled, eyes cracking open. He shifted, sliding his knee out.
"Sorry, I got caught up."
"Ummm." He drifted back to sleep.
It was too tempting; the Hulk wasn't big on resisting and neither was Bruce when it came to Clint. So he undressed, dropping his clothes on the chair, opened the drawer then crawled slowly onto his knees on the bed. Slicking up his hands with massage oil, he rubbed them together to warm them before he laid them flat in the dip of Clint's back. Sliding them up to Clint's shoulders, back down to the start of the curve of his ass, Bruce repeated the action, a motion that soothed him as it excited him. With long strokes, thumbs on either side of Clint's spine, fingers dragging over his sides, he massaged the oil into Clint's skin as he slept. Each time, his hands slipped lower, then up to the neck where he pressed the sensitive spots at the base of Clint's skull, earning a sleepy groan and a little wiggle. Across Clint's shoulders, down his arms, lingering on the biceps and capturing his hands, Bruce caressed with gentle touches before he trailed back down to Clint's ass, curving over it, around it, and down his legs. Shifting, he reached for and then traced the contours of the bottom of Clint's feet, curled his hands around his ankles and worked his way back up to the place where leg met ass, letting his thumbs slide between the cheeks for a quick brush before he made the whole circuit again. Clint let out little sighs, huffs of air, so relaxed and only half-aware. This time, his thumbs brushed between and he discovered Clint was already slick and loose; one finger easily sank in up to his knuckle, a second no problem at all.
"Well, damn," Bruce murmured. "You were a busy boy."
"Thinkin' ahead," Clint said, voice clouded with sleep. "'sides, you like it this way."
"I love you every way." Bruce dropped a series of light kisses in the line of Clint's hair and along the nape of his neck. Clint shivered and pushed back into Bruce's fingers. Bruce straddled Clint, keeping his fingers buried inside, pushing them in further and sliding them back out. The third finger got Clint to open his eyes, at least halfway, and he exhaled a moan, canting his hips up a little to meet the thrust. Bruce was hard now, tension pooling in his gut, a slow burn; after only a few slick movements with his fingers, he drew them out, wiped them on the towel, and stroked himself with his other hand, sticky with lube. He pushed in slowly, the hot passage opening for him as he filled Clint in slow increments, all the way until he had to lift Clint's hips up for that last little thrust.
"Feels good," Clint groaned, trying to rise up on his elbows, but a hand between his shoulder blades settled him back down, right where Brue wanted him.
"Tell me if it's too much," Bruce instructed. Turning his head, Clint looked back, his eyes groggy but comprehending, and he nodded agreement. Bruce started to change, just a little, the Hulk rising to the surface and sharing his body. He grew, skin patchy with green, Bruce still in control. The fierce pleasure of the Other Guy filled his chest and his brain, driving numbers and logic and science back; what made Cupid happy made the Hulk happy, and if Clint's moans were any indication, he was enjoying the easy strokes Bruce started with.
"God, that's good, yes, fuck." Clint was definitely awake now, if still relaxed. "I can take more."
"You want it?" Bruce growled in his ear. Or maybe that was the Hulk. He wasn't sure what the difference was right now when they both had the exact same goal; making Clint fly apart.
"Yes." Clint arched his back and raised his hips even more, changing the angle so that he shivered and clutched the bedspread with the next slide in.
"As you wish." Bruce planted his hands on either side of Clint and pressed down into the bed, keeping his weight off of Clint as much as possible as green washed up his arms.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," Clint chanted under his breath.
"Cupid okay?" The Hulk paused, worried about hurting him.
"More than okay. Great. Wonderful. Fucking amazing. Even better if you move faster," Clint opened his eyes long enough to say, then closed them as Bruce pulled back and snapped his hips in again. "Fuck, yes. That's it."
Clint was bucking under him every time he thrust and Bruce couldn't last very long with the clench of tight muscle around him no matter how much he wanted to draw this out. The Other Guy's simple joy was a wash of emotions and sensations, Bruce's own coiling tension and the love he felt as he held onto Clint's hips and set a punishing pace – it was a heady mixture that threatened to swamp him, and yet he never felt out of control, never worried about transforming too much, not with the Hulk right here with him, working on making Clint writhe and beg. And, if he reached out in his mind, he could feel Clint's pleasure spiraling up, know when he brushed the right spot, and tell just how much Clint wanted him. That pushed him over and he strained forward, pressing inside, closing his eyes as he came, holding tightly, hands on Clint's slick skin. He floated, the release doubly good for both of them.
"Roll over." He slipped out and smacked Clint lightly on the ass. With a moan that was half complaint/ half unresolved tension, Clint turned over, scooting the towel back under him as he did. Blue-grey eyes, hooded and hazy, followed Bruce's hands as he settled between Clint's legs, pushing them apart. With a smile that promised more, he let the Other Guy take the lead and bent his head, licking a strip up the underside of Clint's hard cock.
"Not going to be long," Clint said as he arched up his hips, chasing after the moist friction as the Hulk curled his tongue around and sucked him in. Clint was heavy in his mouth and groaning with each pull then Clint thrust upwards and came with a long sigh, collapsing, boneless and sated. Rolling over, Bruce became Hulk size, flopping over on his back with a satisfied grunt. For a moment, they both lay there then Clint rolled off the side of the bed and stood up.
"Cupid?" Hulk grumbled at the move.
"Don't worry, just heading to the bathroom. I promised cuddles, I know." Not bothering with the light, Clint cleaned up. "There's stuff in the drawer, remember?" He hadn't, but now he did; he used the little bottle of soap stuff that smelled like cotton candy – he'd picked that one out – and the towel already on the bed. Clint grinned when he saw the Bruce-sized Hulk already under the covers; crawling in on his side, he held his arms out and the Hulk snuggled into them, half on top of his Cupid, his head nuzzled down into the crook of his neck, smelling the unique scent that made him feel like he was home. One arm wrapped tightly around Clint's waist, and he hooked a leg over, pulling them close and wiggling as Clint tightened his hold as well.
"Little Guy happy. Hulk happy. Cupid happy," he mumbled. For the first time, someone was embracing him, not the other way around. The lazy circles Cupid was drawing with his fingers were better than a lullaby, the soft press of lips in his hair soothing. "Love Cupid."
"Love you too, Jade Jaws." Tugging up the covers with a hand, Clint settled more comfortably under him. "You're not going to go big on me in the middle of the night are you?"
"Little Guy says no. Hulk stay where Hulk wants." And he did want to stay in Cupid's arms, all warm and relaxed. Safe and protected. He closed his eyes and started to drift off. "Agent man right."
"Phil? Yeah, he usually is." Clint rubbed his cheek in the Hulk's hair; his exhale made the short strands move. "What words of wisdom did he impart?"
Clint tensed and drew his head back. "What?"
"Cupid and Little Guy. Get married and stay with Hulk." He wondered if he'd said something wrong so he looked up to see the confusion in Clint's eyes. "Cupid mad?"
"No. Just surprised. Bruce and Phil talked about this?" He sounded like he didn't believe it.
"Signed name on papers. Agent Man said marriage easy. Little Guy like it." Hulk snuggled further into Clint, burying his face on his shoulder. "Cupid not want to marry Hulk?"
"You? In a heartbeat. But you know how Bruce is; he'll have to figure out all the possibilities, make a spreadsheet. And me? Well, I'm not very good at the whole lifetime commitment thing. It's not that simple for us."
"Little Guy love Cupid. Hulk love Cupid. Cupid love Little Guy and Hulk. Simple," Hulk declared. "Talk to Little Guy. Promise."
"Okay, I promise. We'll talk." Clint kissed his head again and hugged him tight. Hulk felt him relax again, and the Little Guy sighed inside his head, trying to say something, but the Hulk ignored him and went to sleep.
Six hours. That was as much sleep as they got before the next crisis hit and they were off in different directions as a series of events demanded their attention. Clint left first, on the way to Latveria of all places with Steve and Natasha; all doubts about his new abilities were put aside when the intel showed Victor Von Doom was working on his own variation of the neural inhibitor, one designed to push even the most mild-mannered of person into a berserker rage. The dungeons under Doom's castle were a warren of deadly traps and dark places. Clint's new vision and reaction time let him make it through in time to rescue a number of patients and shut down the whole program. He was gone for two weeks; by the time he got back, Bruce was in New York at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Children, along with Hank and Janet, working with Dr. Henry McCoy on Operation Fast-Track. The recurring abnormality Bruce had noticed turned out to be the crucial piece of information in cracking Dr. Van Dyne's work. Janet decoded her father's notes, Hank solved the question of shutting down the nannites, and Bruce created the logarithm for predicting the effects of the triggering energy. Somewhere in the middle of months of work, Janet managed to plan her father's funeral and move into an apartment in New York City. If she harbored anger and other emotions about her father, she kept them in check, pouring herself into the work; she was turning out to be the best damn lab assistant Bruce had ever had. Even with the constant bickering between her and Hank … or maybe it was flirting, Bruce had never been good at telling the difference between the two … Bruce worked with a sense of calm and control the whole time.
Clint was constantly on the move. He and Tony hit the A.I.M. cell in Jakarta, gathering some important intel, and then he and Natasha went after a terrorist group in Helsinki that had nannite technology. Canada, Brazil, the Seychelles, Uzbekistan … as the months passed, Bruce saw Clint a grand total of maybe seventy-two hours, and half of those were spent falling into bed and just sleeping. Hell, Bruce saw more of Betty than he did of Clint, helping her make the move when she accepted a position at a SHIELD facility in Virginia. Her job was to develop safer methods of balancing brain chemistry after radiation exposure in an effort to limit the effects on test subjects, and she took to the project with a vengeance. Glen was closer to Langley, and he requested a six month leave of absence despite Betty's objections.
It was, of course, Tony who called a time out. He'd simply shown up with a couple jets at Xavier's and had not taken no for an answer. When they landed and the cars ferried them across the bridge to the island, he knew Steve had a hand in the planning; Tony was more of a Monaco type of guy, not Holden Beach, North Carolina. The house Tony rented was on the West end in a gated community with views of the ocean and the inland waterway and a big pool just steps away from the sand. Pepper had thought to call ahead and talk to the city council – the island had its own little municipal building right between the ice cream shop and the tiny beach rental store with kayaks and surfboards piled along the colorful walls. They'd been thrilled to have the Avengers vacation there, especially since mid-September was the beginning of low season for tourists. The houses around theirs were either empty or homes of permanent residents; the only interest they raised was when one of the neighbors brought over a delicious batch of lasagna, two big pans, and a German chocolate cake that disappeared quickly. Everyone else pretty much ignored them, although a few kids ventured up when Tony and Thor decided to build the biggest architecturally correct Asgardian castle they could. It was large enough for the smaller kids to run through the arches and even Tony admitted that hearing the ringing laughter as the Hulk played hide and seek with them made the seemingly endless search for the insider more bearable. Knowing they were coming back here took some of the sting out of leaving for small trips to NYC and DC and longer ones off on missions.
Bruce found two rooms in the house turned into a lab for him; Tony had his own area to work, converting the garage downstairs, and the whole place was wired in just a day and a half with video feeds back to Hank McCoy and the Tower, Jarvis' comforting voice answering inquiries. Janet and Carol bunked together in one room, leaving the room on the other side of the jack-and-jill bathroom for the elusive Natasha who liked her privacy. Tony and Steve took one of the master suites on the top floor, Thor and Jane took the other one, and Bruce chose the bedroom down by the lab with the balcony and bathroom that overlooked the ocean. That left Hank in the smallest room with bunk beds, and Phil snagged the office with a daybed so he could catch some sleep whenever he had a break from his workload.
It took almost a week before Clint was able to make it back; Tony sent GPS coordinates to Clint and Natasha as they returned from their latest mission. Sitting on the side balcony, working on the latest in a series of possible ways to use gamma as a genetic stabilizer, Bruce saw the car arrive, a black convertible BMW, and he recognized Clint's sunglasses and Natasha's red hair. They were tanned but weary, both moving slowly as they got out and slung their ready packs over their shoulders. Sensing Bruce, Clint flicked his gaze up and broke into a smile.
"Good timing," Bruce called down. "Steaks are marinating and Janet made some sort of peanut butter chocolate concoction for desert. Tony's going to mix Mai Tais; as soon as Steve gets back from his run, he'll start grilling."
"Steak." Natasha took the stairs to the front door two at a time, Clint right behind her. "Chocolate and alcohol. That's a welcome home party."
Closing down his tablet and cutting the feed, Bruce slipped on his flip-flops and went back into the bedroom. Clint came in seconds later, dropping the pack on the floor and toeing the door shut behind him. Then he was all hands, grabbing Bruce and planting a desperate kiss on his lips.
"Missed you." His hands roved and he yanked up Bruce's polo, searching for skin to skin contact. "God, it's been too long."
"28 days." Bruce was just as frantic; he'd had hours of waiting, thinking about touching Clint again. Even the lure of the answers that were now within his grasp couldn't hold his attention; he'd been distracted all day, so much so that Carol had kicked him out of the lab and sent the Hulk down to the beach to do some body surfing with Thor. Now, the kisses were fast, tongues dipping in quick; Bruce's hands gripped Clint's hips and yanked their bodies together, grinding down hard.
"I'm dirty and smell bad," Clint moaned against Bruce's neck just before he nipped the skin with his teeth; Bruce retaliated by sliding his hands around and squeezing Clint's ass. "Jesus, Bruce, you feel good. Don't stop."
"Don't plan to." Damn, he was going to come quick if they kept up this pace. "Maybe lose those pants and …" Clint canted his hips and got a hand between them, working inside the elastic band of Bruce's swim trunks. The first brush of his fingertips made Bruce's cock jerk; Clint circled the head then trailed down the thick shaft until he touched wiry hair before sliding back up to push material down and out of the way.
"No time," Clint responded, sucking in a breath as Bruce managed to get his buckle undone and unzipped his pants; in seconds, aroused cocks were rubbing against each other, two hands circling them, fingers twining together. "Need you."
"Fuck," Bruce moaned the word then grabbed Clint's neck with his other hand and dragged his mouth back within reach so he could plunder it. The aching throb was escalating, and he understood exactly what Clint was saying. There'd be time later, he hoped, for a lengthy session of cataloguing every inch of Clint's body, taking his time taking him apart. But right now, an immediate release was what they needed. Thrusting up, the kiss deeper and more intense, they worked their way through the tightening coil of desire. He was burning now, needing air; he broke the kiss, inhaled and dropped his head back as he came. Clint's forehead came to rest on Bruce's shoulder as he followed with a long contented sigh.
"Just call me Jackrabbit," Bruce joked. When he saw Clint's confusion, he explained. "Quick start."
"Later," Clint said, blue-grey eyes glinting with humor, "we may even manage to get undressed." Sticky hands separated and Clint wandered into the en suite bathroom, big and extravagant and very Stark-like.
"Assuming there's a later." Bruce followed him and staked out the second of the double sinks to wash his hands. "And you don't hie off again to parts unknown. Or the Big Guy gets called up to smash something."
"You might not believe this, but I've got five whole days off. Seems my new status at SHIELD entitles me to days off – I'm a probationary contractor or some such shit that Phil worked out once the Avengers Initiative became a subsidiary of Stark Industries –and puts me under a different set of OSHA rules. They owe me about two months' worth of downtime as it stands right now, if Phil's calculations are correct." Clint dried his hands on a towel and went to paw through his ready bag for something to change into.
"Check the second drawer of the bureau. I packed you some things." Bruce leaned against the door jamb and just enjoyed watching Clint strip out of his black shirt and pants to switch them for a pair of purple board shorts and a white t-shirt with a purple target on it. "Five days? Maybe we just won't leave the room for the first couple of them." He had to touch Clint again, so he wrapped his arms around his waist so Clint could rest his weight backwards. "Remind me to thank Phil; he has the best ideas."
"Yes, he does," Clint said, looking at Bruce in the mirror about the bureau. "Man's pretty smart about a lot of things."
Ah, the conversation. They'd hardly had time to start an in-depth exploration about their future, not when they were basically passing in the night. Bruce was worried about changing the status quo and, with precious few hours together, he didn't want to them to have to run off to points unknown in the middle of an argument or a tense discussion. So he'd taken the chicken route and ignored it.
"It's not that I don't love you," he started then decided that was the wrong tack to take. Sounded far too negative. "No, wipe that. I love you and the idea of spending the rest of my life with you makes both me and the Other Guy happy. It's just … damn it; there are things I can't have. No white picket fence in my future, not since I injected myself with that formula. I might have to run again; if it's not Ross, it's Fisk or A.I.M. or Mab or someone we don't know yet. Anyone connected to me will be at risk … and no I'm not saying you couldn't handle anything that came your way. But they'd target you, use our connection against me, and I can't promise I won't give in to their demands to protect you."
"It's too late to dodge that bullet, Doc. You stood right there in that other house and let Fisk take you because of me. It works both ways you know; we're already compromised. And we've had the discussion about 'where you go, I go' before." Clint turned in Bruce's arms and placed his hands on Bruce's shoulders. "Plus, I've got my own set of enemies coming after me, so I think we cancel each other out on that point. I've certainly not been a saint; there are things in my past that I prefer not to remember much less talk about."
"So … you want to …" Bruce tried to get a read on Clint's emotions; he wasn't upset but he was playing his cards close to his vest, and Bruce knew that meant he was afraid of getting hurt. "Because, well, I wouldn't be adverse to the idea. Assuming you aren't. Against it, I mean."
"There's one problem for me." Clint fell into his resting face. "You and the Hulk, you're going to be around a long time, if you keep aging at the current rate. Me? I've got a limited shelf life, Doc. One day, not all that far off, I'm going to take a hit and that will be the end of me in the field. If I'm lucky, I'll get to retire to a desk job or become a coach or trainer or end up a crotchety old retired guy who slowly fades away while the rest of you stay young and viable and go on. You really want to saddle yourself with someone who's going to be old and infirm a lot faster than you? Are you ready to be a widower long before your time?"
"God, Clint." Bruce couldn't help it; the Hulk was demanding that he pull Clint in and wrap him up tightly, holding on as if their lives depended upon it. For a few breaths, Bruce couldn't think of any words, any way to confront what was a stark truth that couldn't be denied. He could feel Clint's heart beating; feel the soft exhale of warm air on his neck where Clint's nose rested. Gathering the Hulk's courage, he opened his mouth to explain. "I don't care if it's forty years, forty months, forty days, or forty minutes, I'll take it and be glad for it. And I really don't want to waste whatever we have left talking about what might be."
Clint huffed a little laugh and then lifted his head so their eyes could meet. "That was a good answer."
"Sometimes even miracles happen." Bruce couldn't contain the smile that spread across his face. "Besides, the Big Guy wouldn't mind pushing your ass around if need be. I hear they have accessible beach houses; we buy one of those to retire in and you can toddle down to the sand in the morning for your exercise while the dog and I go for a run."
"Whoa, whoa, you decided on a dog? What if I want cats?" Neither of them let go, so they stayed entwined together, just standing in the middle of the room.
"Two to one, sorry, we win. A nice lab mix or retriever. Always wanted a dog." He'd adopted a couple on his sojourns around the world, but inevitably had to leave them behind.
"Oh, I see how it's going to be. You and the Hulk double teaming me. A beach house is well and good, but I'm thinking a condo in New York so you can be near the Tower and your lab. As long as it has an elevator, I'll be okay. And a shooting range. And a media room with a big screen TV so I can become a couch potato." Clint paused, cocked his head and got serious again. "So, did we just decide to do this thing?"
"Yeah, I think we did," Bruce replied and was rewarded with a feather light kiss, the barest brush of lips. He kept his eyes open so he could see the blue-green-grey changing colors of Clint's eyes as they lightened, something that looked suspiciously like happiness creeping up in them.
"Hey, you two!" Carol shouted through the door. "Finish up quick before these vultures descend and there's nothing left. We're eating outside at the bar and the hot tub's warmed up."
"Hot tub?" Clint asked. "I could use a drink and a soak. I think I pulled something in my shoulder getting out of a building before it came down."
Bruce didn't comment on the nonchalant way Clint talked about near misses; that was how their life went. "Hot tub. Pool. Outdoor kitchen with granite countertops. All the bells and whistles."
"Plus steaks and chocolate and alcohol. Nat almost got it right." Clint brushed another kiss along Bruce's jaw. "Wherever you are is home, Doc." He pulled away and took Bruce's hand, coaxing him to the door. "Come on, I know the Big Guy's hungry."
Fluid and smooth, Bruce's skin turned green and the Hulk grew a little bigger, staying compact to avoid damaging the house. "Hulk always hungry. Star Man make good steak. Wasp make whole pan of dessert just for Hulk." Now he was the one pulling Cupid along down the hallway as they changed places.
"Wasp?" Clint asked.
"That what Tiny man calls her. Always busy, always fast, lots of energy." He nodded his head towards Janet who was arranging platters of food along the bar on the deck and wiggled his eyebrows. "Tiny Man like Wasp," he added in his overly loud whisper, but they were still inside so no one heard.
"Really? Interesting." Cupid eyed the two. "Huh, that just might work."
"Cupid and Hulk help them?" The Hulk was happy; why shouldn't everyone be the same?
"You bet, Big Guy. Let's go get started."