Since Bruce Banner and I had a relatively close friendship to begin with, not much had changed when things stepped up to a more romantic level. Indeed, there were a few altered circumstances; a free floor on Stark tower, countless tabloid magazine covers with our faces on them, peculiar initial glances from passerby's and SHIELD agents alike, but nothing we didn't adjust to almost instantly even before all that subsided. Besides the obvious, though, our lives continued almost identically to how they were before. We would wake up, make out in the elevator, work in the lab for several hours, order take out, make out some more, maybe occasionally hop into a SHIELD mission at some point in the day, and go to bed like normal. It surprised me how I was actually fond of routine for once, although it shouldn't have considering just how much I was willing to distort myself in order to appease the humble scientist with the crooked smile and wit to match mine.
Three months into our relationship and I was thoroughly convinced that I had an understanding of Bruce. That was until I came into the lab after a brief video conference with Fury to lay my eyes upon the sight of $50,000 worth of equipment in ruins. "Oh, shit." I followed the trail of debris vigilantly until I heard a distant all-too-familiar roar and ran towards it by instinct. Sure enough, amidst the irrepressible transformation, Bruce had managed to fumble down the hall and into the incubation chamber Fury demanded be installed on every floor (that I had deemed useless until that very second).
Before me, an eight-foot-tall, 1400-pound, viridescent humanoid ran rampant in the cylindrical chamber, throwing his fists into the ten-inch-thick, bulletproof (almost hammerproof) glass. I silently hoped it wouldn't falter as I had never seen the cage in practice. I looked up at the figure and, as he turned, I immediately met his radiant green eyes with my own and recognized the frightened expression as the physicist did everything in his power to fight his way out of the monster he was imprisoned within. Upon making eye contact, the Hulk ceased his motions formed a look similar to a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi. He stood in front of me, his breathing ragged and body stilled momentarily. I took a few cautious steps forward and let my hand press against the glass, never letting my eyes leave his. He met his hand with mine as gracefully as a colossal beast possibly could.
"Bruce…" I warily said.
He huffed. "Hulk," he said, almost declaratively. "Hulk no like cage."
I sighed. "You know I can't let you out." He began to growl in retaliation. "None of that. Give me Bruce," I demanded.
He responded by forming a fist with his free hand and hitting the glass.
I looked at him incredulously. "Come on, don't be like that."
Those scared eyes transformed in pure rage and his fist connected with the barrier once more.
I rolled my eyes. "I've got all day, Banner. You feel like playing? Go for it, but I'm not going anywhere."
A menacing grin appeared on his face and I knew it was gonna be a long day. I grabbed a chair from the other room and pulled it next to the control panel near the chamber, sitting and watching the man I loved uncontrollably lash out against thin air.
Four hours later, Hulk finally grew tired and retreated into his original form; my timid, brilliant, stark naked scientist who was 75% of his size and 10% his weight and curled up in the middle of the chamber, trembling and hyperventilating in his restless slumber. I punched in the code to open the doors and stepped in, sitting beside him and running my hand through his hair. "Fuck, Bruce…" I whispered, biting my lip and fighting my own fear of the inconsolable figure in front of me and what brought him to his first uncontrollable incident in years.
His eyes eventually opened and immediately met mine in panic. "…did I…?"
I nodded. "Nobody was hurt, just some damage on lab machinery. Nothing irreplaceable."
His body relaxed a little before his eyebrows arched once more in worry. "Tony, I'm so-"
"Don't," I cut him off. "These things happen. You do all you can to prevent it, I'm sure this was no different." I brushed a lock of hair from his eyes. "Wanna call it a day?"
He nodded. I stood and helped him up and he grabbed my hand tightly as we walked to the elevator, paying no mind to the wreckage and his lack of clothing.
Bruce's eyes didn't leave his plate once during dinner. Hell, he hadn't bothered giving me eye contact even as he pulled on a pair of my sweats and a t-shirt that could have been either of ours. He hadn't so much as uttered a word and I had no clue where to even begin, so I remained silent for the majority of this less-than-comfortable meal together.
However, me being Tony Stark, we both knew that wouldn't hold up and finally I couldn't take it anymore. "…so what exactly happened, Bruce?"
For the first time that night, his eyes met mine. "I'd rather not talk about it."
I placed my fork on my plate. "Yeah, well as respectful as I'd like to be of your reservation, I'm gonna have to disregard it due to the fact that, had anyone else been in the lab or had you not been close enough to the incubator, my equipment would have been the least of my worries."
He rolled his eyes. "Tony, for once can you just not make every minor situation about you?"
"MINOR?!" I retorted, completely baffled. "This is your first uncontrolled incident since Harlem, and you wanna call this minor? Bruce, I'm only trying to help you," I said as I reached my hand out to graze his, only to have him recoil from it. "How can I trust that this isn't going to happen again unless I know what ever problem it was that started this has been taken care of?"
"I just really don't feel comfortable discussing this, all right?" Bruce's tone was relaxed, yet firm nonetheless.
"Was it something in the-"
"No, Tony, there's nothing in the lab or any of our projects that can even remotely trigger the other guy."
"Tony," he cut me off again. "Just drop it. You didn't do anything wrong. Like you said earlier, I do all that I can to prevent these things from happening, but they do and all I can do is learn from it to avoid it again. Can we please forget about this?"
I had approximately twelve billion things to say, but decided to sit this one out. "Fine. For now." I picked up another piece of asparagus and took a bite, trying every bit not to get angry. After all, Bruce was a grown man and perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I just couldn't stand the idea of being entirely useless when he was clearly in distress. I'd never enjoyed seeing people suffer, hence the construction of all eight of my suits.
As soon as he was finished eating, Bruce got up and walked to our bedroom and I heard the shower running soon after. No words. No eye contact. No acknowledgment of my existence.
I got up and cautiously followed his path, but stopped at the bathroom door and decided against prodding at him and let him have his space. Without thinking, I made an about-face and went straight to the lab to tinker with whatever I could find. Despite my excruciating yearning to get Bruce to open up, something told me he would let me know soon enough once things had settled. It just bothered me how serious of a problem it had to be in order to make Bruce lose complete control, yet how he disregarded it as petty. I sighed and ran my hand through my hair, knowing everything wasn't going to be dealt with overnight regardless of my persistence. I decided to give Bruce the space he needed and just hoped he'd come to be when he was ready.
Funny, I thought four days would have been enough time for Bruce to calm down and open up to me. However, as luck would have it, I was absolutely incorrect.
In fact, in four days, the most progress made was his eventual return to the lab. Even that was unbeknownst to me until I finally got sick of sleeping on the couch and, in the midst of attempting to woo him into letting me return to my own bed, I entered my bedroom to find him gone. At first, I expected the worst before I remembered that I had JARVIS, who informed me that Bruce had been in the lab since I had left it. Seizing the opportunity, I made a cup of chai tea and headed for the lab, where I found him at his desk.
I approached him slowly from behind. "Checking Facebook or completing another thesis?"
He jumped, startled, and minimized a window. "Shouldn't you be asleep? It's almost one in the morning."
I chuckled, setting the cup beside his keyboard and gently laying my hands on his shoulders. "I can ask you the same thing, Banner."
"Yeah, well I couldn't just hide away forever," he said, shrugging. "I've had a few days to settle my nerves and I figured insomnia's best cured by making up procrastinated work. It worked in college at least." He took a sip of his tea.
"I couldn't tell you, I haven't been to college in over 20 years." I gave his shoulders a firm squeeze and felt how tense he was. "You know, I know this great acupuncturist that-"
"Tony, the big guy really doesn't like needles," he said, turning his head to give me that lopsided grin before having more chai. He sighed, moving his hand to place it on one of mine. "Thank you."
I gave a small grin. "When're you coming to bed?"
He squeezed my hand and returned his focus to the computer to save his work and shut it down. "How about now?" He stood with his tea and took my hand in his.
"That certainly works, Doctor."
We made our way to our floor and, as soon as we got to the bedroom, I let my hands find their way beneath his shirt to splay my fingers across his back and hold his hips close to mine. He gasped as our lips touched; tenderly at first, but progressively escalating as our tongues met and hands began to remove garments. We both broke apart to remove each other's t-shirts and his hands moved behind my back to grab at my shoulders and press our chests to each other. I let my erection press against his thigh as I palmed his through his black sweats that matched mine. "Tony…" he whispered, tilting his head back to expose his neck. I nipped at his jugular and collarbones gently to make him abruptly draw in his breath once more.
I began moving Bruce until he met the edge of the bed, to which he took the hint and climbed up to lie back. I kneeled atop of him and continued planting kisses along his neck and upper chest. leaving subtle bruises in their wake as I roamed lower to his sternum and firm abdominal muscles. "You're absolutely amazing," I murmured while looking up at him and tugging on his sweats and briefs. He obliged and kept his eyes on mine, his hand moving to my hair only to brush his fingers through it almost comfortingly. One of my hands grasped his erection and began pumping as I nibbled on his delicately-protruding hips, causing him to wince forward.
In our three months of being together, I was still shy about sexual activity on my part. It had nothing to do with Bruce, really; it was just a new experience for me entirely. While my self-proclaimed title of Playboy was indeed genuine, my exposure to men was minimal unless it was some form of group sex; which, even then, I hadn't enjoyed much unless I was the only masculine form involved. Bruce had been understanding that he was, indeed, the only male I was attracted to (and more than likely ever would be) and agreed to take things slow. That being said, the act of me giving him this much contact was most likely startling to him, but he didn't seem to complain.
"Babe, you don't have to-"
"Ssh," I cut him off. "Just don't make me gag." I let my tongue swipe across the head of his cock experimentally as my hand kept moving ideal to the way I would handle my own manhood, eliciting a gasp. Discovering no negative outcome, I ran my tongue around it and began moving my mouth slowly downward. I thought of the different techniques used on me countless times by women and Bruce alike and couldn't help but wonder how they were capable of such oral maneuvers.
Nevertheless, I began bobbing my head along his length, only taking as much as I could (which still spared a few inches) and moving my hand along the remainder. My tongue moved along every inch almost sloppily, but Bruce seemed not to mind in the least. "Fuck, Tony," he moaned as his fingers ran through my hair. "Y-you sure you've n-never done this?" His head leaned back and I lowered my eyelids to focus, making note that it was maybe the simplest things that counted the most. "Can you go faster?"
I indulged him as his gasps became more frequent and his moans more apparent, knowing all too well the signs of impending orgasm. His grip tightened and I moaned around his length as I attempted to take even more of him than initially.
"T-Tony, I'm gonna…" he moaned, his breathing becoming heavy. "Fuck, baby, please, stop."
I halted abruptly and raised an eyebrow. In a completely alien maneuver, Bruce began to take control and pushed me off of him to flip us over and straddle me. In one swift motion, he yanked my boxers and gym shorts off and grabbed my erection as he took my hand to mimic his actions. "You really thought I was gonna leave you hanging like that?" he whispered huskily into my ear, his hot breath lingering and sending a chill down my spine.
"Honestly, you're the only thing in this world that makes me forget about myself," I replied. It was true, I hadn't thought once of my arousal until his hand made contact with it. However, I knew it wouldn't take much longer for either of us to reach our climaxes.
I rotated my hand in a contracting fifteen-degree motion around his cock as I moved it up and down to match his own motions and, sure enough, a few moments of synchronized moans were shared before our grips both stiffened and we let go almost in unison. His eyes squeezed shut and I met my mouth with his again as the translucent fluid shot from both of us to adorn our stomachs and chests. My heart raced and I was surprised Bruce had maintained the control to prevent the adorable green monster from taking over.
He collapsed beside me and rolled onto his back, our chests rising and falling and eyes meeting once more. "That was…"
"…yeah," I panted. I caressed his face and smiled, the post-orgasmic glow more-than-apparent on him.
He grabbed my boxers from the side of the bed and wiped the cum off of both of us. "You're absolutely marvelous, you know that?"
"Mhm," I mumbled, completely exhausted as I rolled onto my side to face him. "Love you."
"I love you so much…" were the last words I heard before I let the overwhelming bliss of sleep consume me.
When I awoke eight hours later and reached over for Bruce, I wasn't entirely surprised when all I found was an empty space. I sat up and stretched, recalling the previous night's endeavors and smiling to myself. "JARVIS, call the lab and let Bruce know we still need to talk."
"Sir, it seems Dr. Banner left the lab early this morning."
I raised an eyebrow and hurriedly went to the living room in hopes of finding him, with no success. "Well, where is he? Avengers floor?"
"Unfortunately not. It appears he left the building four hours ago. Shall I try his personal phone?"
"Is that a serious question, JARVIS?" My heart began to race as I had a strong suspicion that something was awry.
A few moments later, my AI spoke again. "Sir, it went straight to voicemail."
I thought for a moment before remembering that he had access to my cars. "Which car did he take?"
"The last car checked out was the Spyder. According to its tracking system, he is currently fifty miles outside of Bedford, Pennsylvania. He's shut off all communication systems from the vehicle itself or I would call it, Sir. Of course, we can reenable them easily."
"No, no, don't worry about it. Has he used the GPS? Any idea where he's headed?"
"Negative, Sir. Though he did print a document just before leaving."
"Well, let's see it, shall we?"
Immediately, a map was projected in the living room. "Huh," I mumbled, zooming in. I read the destination listed and the city rang a bell. "JARVIS, does Dayton, Ohio sound familiar?"
"According to Dr. Banner's personal file, it is his place of birth."
"Son of a bitch." I began to think. I could easily take the suit and find Bruce within an hour at most, and I almost ran to the lab to do so when I stopped for a moment. "Wait…" Something didn't add up. Bruce had made no mention of any family in Dayton, nor friends. "JARVIS. Personal file. Now."
I asked myself how I had let this slip by. I read to find out that Bruce's mother had been murdered by his father's hands and his father followed suit several years later, a year before Bruce went to college. I ran my fingers through my hair. It would take Bruce five hours at least to make it to Dayton, which would give me plenty of time to get to him and even fly him there or home.
"Then again, if he wanted to fly to Dayton, he would have asked," I realized and decided not to interfere, figuring if I needed to I could take the suit or jet and fetch him myself. "JARVIS, you keep a close watch on Bruce. Let me know if he does anything funny."
The hours passed like days as I showered, attempted to eat, closely monitored Bruce's whereabouts in the lab, dissected my Maserati's motor for the third time, paced, even talked to Steve on the Avengers floor momentarily. However, as the clock approached one in the afternoon, I couldn't stand waiting any longer. "JARVIS, I need the jet cleared for takeoff in 45 minutes."
Being a billionaire has its advantages. I have unlimited hot water in the shower, a building with my name on it, and a personal jet and crew on-call that can get me from Manhattan to Dayton in an hour and a half. After picking up a bouquet from the nearest florist, I called a cab and let the Spyder's tracking system pinpoint Bruce's exact location once we reached the cemetery that I knew Bruce would be at.
Within moments, I found Bruce sitting across from a headstone, cross-legged, head in his hands. I approached him slowly, making sure to stand a few yards behind to give him his space. "Hey."
He jolted upright and looked behind him. "Tony? What're you doing here?" he moved to stand.
"Bruce, take it easy. You really thought the Spyder wouldn't have a global homing device?"
Bruce relaxed a little and turned his focus back to the headstone. "It certainly has its advantages."
"Were you planning on calling?" I asked, taking a few steps forward.
"I don't know," he said. "I woke up and just…I couldn't stay long enough. I didn't even pack anything, just grabbed some leftover pizza and a Red Bull and left."
"Yeah, I noticed." I sat beside him and sat the flowers in front of me. I read the headstone that was elegantly engraved.
DECEMBER 27, 1950 - MARCH 14, 1980
"IN MY LIFE, I LOVE YOU MORE"
"Are those Beatles lyrics?"
Bruce chuckled. "Yeah, I guess she had a thing for Ringo till she met Brian."
We were silent for a little while.
"Y'know, he would have gotten away with it if he wasn't so pompous."
He sighed. "I was the only witness and I was too fucking scared to testify. I mean, I was six years old. What was I supposed to do under that kind of intimidation and sheer horror? It wasn't until about five years later he was bragging about how I let him get away with cold-blooded murder that the police caught wind and locked him up."
"Did he ever show any remorse later on?"
He shook his head. "I refused to go up there to speak to that bastard. He ended up offing himself just before my sixteenth birthday. Funny how that works out, huh?"
"Bruce…" I reached over for his hand.
"You know, I have no pictures with her," he continued. "None. The bastard destroyed them soon after everything happened. He thought I was some freak, something to do with radiation when he was still employed, said it messed with his genetic pattern. Even when I was building skyscrapers taller than me with my erector set at the age of four, he still thought I was a mutant. He would have killed me first had she not interfered. Fuck, even if I glowed bright orange out of the womb, she still would have loved me." His voice began to waver. "She had such high prospects for me, knew I'd go on to become more than him. At least I did something right…"
I put my arm around Bruce and pulled him close and I saw a few tears fall onto my jeans.
"I don't remember too much of her anymore…" he mumbled. "…but I think she would have liked you. My aunt said she fell in love with everything I loved…"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
He shrugged. "I don't really like talking about it. Honestly, I'd tried forgetting about it until I checked the calendar the other day and realized it was the anniversary of…" he trailed off.
"You really did become one of the most remarkable human beings on the face of the planet, though," I said to lighten the mood. "Most people resort to all sorts of shit later on to hide the baggage, but you didn't let that son of a bitch ruin you."
"I couldn't," he said. "She deserved better than that."
We sat there for anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, wordless, as he clutched to my shirt and let the frustration seep out gently in the form of tears. The sun had begun to set and the ten-hour drive had finally taken its toll on Bruce. He yawned. "You know I would have been home by tomorrow."
I nodded. "I didn't want you alone. You don't get the luxury, Dr. Banner."
Bruce smiled. "Can I get the luxury of you driving halfway?" he sat up.
I stood and helped him up. "Well, since you asked nicely."
Bruce took a long last look at the headstone and grabbed my hand as we walked to the Audi. "Can we fly here next time?"
I laughed out loud. "I'll make you a suit, it's so much quicker."