by elfin

His protective steak is in full bloom by the time they land on SHIELD�s helicarrier. Too many people have looked at Bruce in a funny way and it�s painfully obvious that the guy�s scared to death of what he might be flying back to.

Tony�s read the files, the other files, the top secret ones he�s had Jarvis hack into the military�s database to download and decrypt. He�s mad at Fury for not telling him the whole story. He�s mad at himself for not finding out earlier what that bastard Ross actually subjected Banner to. He�s a little mad at Bruce for agreeing to come, although given the circumstances and remembering he was ready to beg, Tony couldn�t really blame him.

On deck, he puts himself between Bruce and Captain Bloody America, although he is somewhat placated by Rogers� words to Bruce and feels a little guilty for decades of cursing one of his Dad�s heroes. He puts a hand to the small of Bruce�s back as they peer over the edge when the engines start up, reassuring him that it flies rather than dives but not seeing any reassurance on Bruce�s face. He understands his reservations completely, but he can barely hide the fact that he�s dying to meet the other guy and the idea of watching the transformation leaves him hard as nails and unable to walk or think straight.

On the flight deck, Fury thanks Doctor Banner for coming and Tony�s crowding in, almost growling. It�s amusing Bruce, whose wary smile is finally starting to break through his suspicion.

�Thanks for asking nicely,� Bruce says in response to Fury and casts a long glance back at Tony, smiling � really smiling � at him. Tony feels like all his Christmases are about to come along at once. Bruce doesn�t hate him for talking him into this, doesn�t blame him for dragging him back to an organisation he�s imagined he�s been running from for years. He can�t quite believe the relief he feels, it�s important that Bruce trusts him and if he needs to prove himself to earn that trust, he will do.

Where the hell all this has come from is anyone�s guess. He isn�t usually as affected by sex as he has been by sex with Bruce.


The lab is all glass windows which makes anything explicit a no-go because as much as he�s happy with public exhibitionism, he doesn�t think Bruce would be down with it and if he�s being honest with himself he doesn�t want everyone else on board getting an eyeful of a man he hasn�t actually seen naked yet.

So he has to make do with getting off on teasing the guy. He pokes him in the ribcage because he loves playing with him, loves to see that gorgeous little smile, and it freaks out Steve which is an unexpected bonus.

They share snacks � there�s a seemingly unlimited supply of food from the canteen � and Tony suspects that Bruce thinks he�s using it as some weird substitution for sex. Maybe he is and it�s nice but it�s not anywhere near as satisfying.

Being in Bruce�s company is easy. He�s a genuinely lovely guy. Tony can�t remember being this drawn to someone, this fascinated. Watching him working is an absolute joy. He knows his way around a lab as well as Tony himself but he has a grace about him that Tony thinks he�s probably lacking. He drops the invitation to Stark Tower as casually as he can and he isn�t sure if Bruce accepts or not, but he�s determined to take him home after this is all over, whatever he needs to do to make that happen.

They work together like they�ve been doing it for years. They share the same paranoia, finish each other�s sentences, bounce off one another when they�re trying to explain to the others about energy, weaponry, Loki�s staff. His stark confession about his suicide attempt is upsetting, heartbreaking even but far from a surprise. Tony has never been that low. But maybe if he knew his very existence threatened the people he loved, maybe if he had to keep running from an army hell bent on capturing and experimenting on him, maybe if everyone he ever met treated him with suspicion and fear, maybe then he�d be tempted.

There might not be a chance for a repeat of what they did in the hut in Kolkata, but that doesn�t stop Tony from touching Bruce at every possible moment. A hand at the small of his back, kisses to the back of his neck, brushing his fingers as they sweep over the monitors. Every little touch awards him a smile and Tony gets how much Bruce is trusting him not to break him into pieces.

They have an argument, the so-called team, shouting over one another, he and Bruce against the rest of them. Loki�s said something about using the monster against them and they want Bruce to step away although it isn�t clear how the hell he�s supposed to do that on a flying boat.

But as they yell at one another, Tony realises several things in quick succession; that the cell they�re holding Loki in was meant for Banner, that he walked him into a trap, and that the alarm they set up to register the gamma radiation from the tesseract was sounding. He might have realised something else too, something that doesn�t register on a conscious level, not until much later when all hell has broken loose and his new best friend is missing, dropped 30,000 feet after being shot at by a fighter plane.

He isn�t worried about Bruce being dead, he�s certain the Hulk will save his life. He�s worried about never seeing the guy again and he�s worried about how heavy that makes him feel.


There isn�t enough time during the battle to say everything he wants to say. He�s the only one who believes Banner will return. He brushes away the doubts of the rest of the team and hates that he misses the moment. �Tell him to suit up,� is all he can say right then because there�s a huge fucking scaly snake with teeth on his tail wearing a full metal jacket and he needs something big and strong to stop it in its tracks. His first real life glimpse of the Hulk in the flesh makes him wish the suit wasn�t so damn tight and unforgiving. He watches him take out the giant snake monster with one great fist and his giant feet planted in asphalt and whoops with joy because that�s EXACTLY what he�s been trying to say.

With Banner on their side they�re pretty much invincible. The Hulk takes about a million bullets then brushes thirty aliens away like they�re flies. Tony gets half a chance to wonder how much damage it all does to Bruce, whether he remembers anything about these times, whether he has the most horrific nightmares because it�s all buried in his subconscious. Then he�s flying a nuclear missile into space and for a moment he�s staring at a hundred thousand alien soldiers poised on the brink of attack against the backdrop of a billion stars. He�s falling and everything goes black.

�What the fuck...?!�

Heart pounding, chest screaming, paralyzed due to the weight of the suit, he opens his eyes and stares at the Hulk in close proximity for the first time. Strangely though, Shawarma is all he can think of, that and wanting so badly to touch the big green guy.

�Someone needs to get me to the top of the Tower,� he says, but he doesn�t expect to be taken up in one giant arm and swung like Ann Darrow up the sides of a couple of ruined apartment buildings until with one great leap they�re landing hard on what remains of his landing pad. The machinery�s still intact and although there are a couple of mis-starts and a lot of unnecessary whirring, the suit�s finally removed as Thor deals with Loki, Clint and Natasha head out to help with the immediate needs of the city ahead of SHIELD�s cleanup crew arriving and the Hulk sits on the edge of the landing strip at the top of Stark Tower with his thick legs dangling over. Tony goes to sit at his side. His head aches. In fact, he aches, from head to foot. But he sits and waits and eventually Bruce changes back. It�s slower than the outwards transformation, it somehow looks more painful and when it�s over Bruce drops to his back and curls up onto his side, pulling his knees to his chest and screwing his eyes shut. His shredded pants have stayed on, although there isn�t enough material to leave anything to the imagination.

Tony reaches across and settles one hand on Bruce�s bare shoulder.

�You okay, big guy?�


He squeezes gently. �Let me know when you feel like making it to the shower.�

�Sure. Right after I throw up.�



The soap stings in his myriad small injuries but he doesn�t mind. Bruce�s hands are achingly gentle and despite his exhaustion, Tony�s predictably hard, his erection not seeming to both Bruce in the slightest.

�Want me to wash that too?� he murmurs suggestively, and Tony can only stare, lost for words for once in his life, as incredible fingers wrap around his dick and he�s slowly jerked off while Bruce holds his gaze with an intensity that�s almost too much.

He wants to reciprocate but Bruce isn�t hard and when he touches light fingertips to his flaccid cock, the doc shakes his head, uncharacteristically unashamed. �The Hulk exhausts all my reserves. You won�t get a rise out of me, so to speak, until I�ve eaten and slept for a day.� He nips Tony�s bottom lip with his teeth. �No offence meant.�

�None caused.� He catches his breath. �I can wait. Wanted to feed you up and take you bed... back in Kolkata....� It�s getting harder to form words as Bruce twists his hand on the upstroke and Tony�s orgasm surges forward without warning, forcing a yell from his throat, water washing them clean.

He leans forward, arms around Bruce�s shoulders and waist. �Never thought life owed me anything,� he murmurs, �must have done something incredible to deserve you.� He feels Bruce�s lips against this throat, enjoys it for a while before straightening and wiping the water from his face. He runs fingertips along Bruce�s prominent collarbone. �Steve said you saved my life out there.�

�I did?�

�Caught me when I fell.�

�Where did you fall from?�

�Space! Keep up!�

Bruce looks at him with confusion. �You were in space?�

�Rode a nuclear missile up through the portal, no less! Tell you what, we�ll bring you up to date over shawarma.�

He smiles. �Why the sudden need for shawarma?�

�Why not?� He finds Bruce�s mouth, kisses him, tongue sliding between his lips. �After shawarma,� he says, �bed. Sleep. Sex.�

Bruce slides his hand down over his chest, stopping with his palm over the arc reactor. �And after that, science.�

�God, yes.� He covers Bruce�s hand with his own. �You�re staying.� It�s not a question. He doesn�t ask questions like that unless he can be certain of the answer.

�Until just before I outstay my welcome.�

�Not happening, jelly bean. You�re welcome for the rest of your life.� He reaches around Bruce to shut off the water with a wave of his hand, steps out of the shower and grabs a towel to hand to Bruce before grabbing one for himself. Bruce wraps it around him and closes his eyes with a sigh.

�Not had a fluffy towel in a while, huh?�

Bruce looks at him. �Is that a euphemism?�

It makes Tony laugh. �No.� He steps close, runs the backs of his fingers over where the towel cover Bruce�s genitals, over the swell of his dick. �You�re so fucking gorgeous.�

�I can�t quite take you seriously when you say things like that,� he laughs nervously and it makes Tony want to throw him up against something and show him just how true it is, over and over again until he believes it.

�You will eventually,� he promises, lips finding Bruce�s, letting the kiss linger.

He leads the way through into his bedroom where Jarvis informs them that the rest of the team are waiting for them in the remains of the lobby.

They dress, Tony pulling on an AC/DC T-shirt and dark grey chinos, finding Bruce a blue button down shirt and jeans that are slightly too big. �They cost $700,� Tony points out, �so if you could refrain from letting the other guy destroy them....� For a moment Bruce looks uncertain, and he rolls his eyes. �Oh, come on. I know you have a sense of humour....�

�$700? Are you serious?� Then he smiles, and Tony laughs.


In the elevator, he folds his fingers through Bruce�s and they�re holding hands when they step out to greet the team. No one says anything. Thor beams at them, and maybe same-sex relationships are more open on Asgard because he looks almost proud. Steve looks at them as if everything�s falling into place. Natasha�s smiling as if she knew all along and Clint... Barton looks like he wouldn�t turn down an invitation if this was an open party. Tony tightens his fingers and waves everyone to the exit, keeping Bruce close, not so subtly assuring him that it isn�t.

It feels like the most natural thing in the world to walk across New York hand in hand with a gorgeous genius scientist. The city is in chaos, of course. SHEILD�s arrived with an army of people starting the cleanup operation but the street lights are still out and while residences are being hooked up to the arc reactor powering the Tower, they cross four blocks in darkness.

The owners of the tiny restaurant look at them as if they�re utterly insane, but Tony pays up-front, and enough to cover every repair that obviously needs doing to the place, so the chef cooks up their order happily and they eat mostly in silence but it�s the easy, comfortable silence of the completely knackered.

Bruce is almost asleep when they leave, leaning on Tony as they walk back. There are enough intact rooms in the Tower for everyone to crash over, especially given Bruce and Tony are in Tony�s room and Natasha and Clint are happy to share.

Happy everyone has a bed underneath them, even Thor who doesn�t look sure of his welcome but was bashing the pillows into submission when Tony left him to it, he wanders through his own room to the en-suite to take a piss and finds Bruce passed out half-under the covers, stripped down to his borrowed boxers, lying on his side with one leg pulled up and his hands folded in front of his chest. Tony stares at him for a minute, feeling more than he has in so very long.

Five minutes later he crawls into bed, facing Bruce and watching him sleep, wondering at this thing that�s happening between them until his eyes finally drift shut and the Tower falls into calm silence and inactivity.