by elfin

Tony came hard, fingernails leaving red tracks along Bruce�s forearms, yelling loud and uninhabited into the room. Bruce was a heartbeat behind, silent, shaking and beautiful, balls deep in Tony�s ass. Tony reached a hand up, curled it around the back of Bruce�s neck and pulled him down into a fierce kiss, laughing softly when Bruce collapsed on top of him.

�You are truly something else,� he murmured, legs still wrapped around Bruce�s waist, kissing the side of his head. �I thought you�d just be a pretty face and a gorgeous mind. Who knew I � of all people - could be wrong?�

Bruce smiled, moved carefully, slipped from Tony�s body and pushed against the strength of his legs to get up. As his feet touched the carpet, Tony reached out, lightening fast and grabbed his hand at his fingers, careful not to circle his wrist like so many restraints had in the past.

�Don�t go.� He watched the play of emotions over Bruce�s face. �Stay.�

�You want me to sleep here?�

He couldn�t help but roll his eyes, stroking Bruce�s fingers, clarifying gently. �I just let you fuck me. Do you know how many men have been where you�ve just been?� He watched Bruce shake his head, look down at their hands. Embarrassed. Tony couldn�t believe it. �Count of one. People don�t get to fuck me. I do the fucking.�

Bruce�s head came up at that, stunned. �Then... why me?�

Pulling on his hand, Tony persuaded Bruce back onto the bed on his knees. He tried to protest with, �I�m all sticky,� but Tony shook his head.

�I don�t care.� He reached an arm up around Bruce�s waist and twisted, dumping him on his back at his side, looming over him. �I let you because for the first time I wanted it. I love to fuck, but I�ve never trusted anyone enough to want to receive until I laid eyes on you. And now I want you to stay, to sleep here. I want to wake up with you, to go for round two, then do some science.� Bruce looked so painfully shy for a man who�d just had his cock up Tony Stark�s ass, it broke a little bit more of his heart, added to the cracks that appeared when he heard Bruce say he'd put a gun in his mouth. That kind of loneliness, that kind of depression, Tony could barely comprehend. But however perversely, he'd imagined Bruce's lips stretched tight over the wide barrel of an automatic, tears running over his cheeks, eyes squeezed shut, finger trembling on the trigger. He kissed him, slowly, licking the tip of his tongue over his bottom lip. �Never underestimate what you mean to me, okay?�

�I still don�t understand.�

�I know. And I think that�s why I�m falling in love with you.�


He wasn�t sure he�d be able to work in Stark Tower, to be around other people, sharing his space on a daily basis. Turned out he didn�t need to.

Even before they�d started to sleep together, Tony had given him his own lab, with technology he needed to understand and access to every published journal that he wanted to read. He had more storage space on the Stark network than he could possibly fill and was apparently put him under the watchful gaze of Jarvis, Tony�s personal AI, the AI that controlled the Iron Man suit. It was stupid to be jealous of a computer, but nevertheless the feelings he had for Tony were a mess and he had no idea what to do with any of it. So he was jealous, until one morning when he stepped into Tony�s lab two floors up and was formally introduced.

Tony was in full flow, arguing with Jarvis over a request to provide an override to SHEILD�s helicarrier internal controls.

�I don�t need engines and weapons,� Tony was stressing, �I just need door locks, alarms, that kind of thing.�

�Hi ��

Tony spun on his chair and beamed, arms thrown open. �Dr Banner.�

He hesitated in the doorway. �I wanted to ask your opinion on something....�

Bouncing off his chair, Tony crossed the lab and caught his hands in such an intimate yet at the same time innocent gesture it stole his breath for a second. �You�ve met Jarvis?�


�Jarvis,� he addressed the room in general. �I�d like you to meet Dr Bruce Banner. My lab-partner and my friend.�

�It�s very good to meet you, Dr Banner.� Jarvis� voice was flat but far from cold.

�You two have something in common,� Tony told him. �You�ve both saved my life.�

After that, he wasn�t jealous, he was glad Tony had someone protecting him, close to him when he was fighting as Iron Man.


Six weeks on and his only complaint was the coffee. The freshly roasted coffee brewing in the private lab kitchen every morning was too bitter for his tastes. He was a decaf man, which meant he needed to have his caffeinated coffee so weak it barely tasted like coffee. One morning, he asked Jarvis if there was any place nearby where he could get a decent latte, and instead of an answer from the AI, Tony�s face appeared on one of the monitors to the left of his head.

�I know a place,� he said, as if they were continuing a conversation that had already started, and maybe they were. �Meet me in the lobby in ten?�

Bruce had watched Tony dress that morning, lying in the obscenely large bed in Tony�s bedroom, loving to watch the way he moved, the unselfconscious way he flaunted himself in front of Bruce, not hiding anything of himself. He could see the mini arc reactor in his chest glowing slightly through the old, worn material of the AC/DC T-shirt as Tony grinned at him and pushed open a door with �STARK INDUSTRIES� etched into the glass. They stepped out onto the pavement, into the real world of civilians going about their lives as if an alien army hadn�t tried to wipe them out a month ago, as if the city wasn�t being rebuilt around them. Looking up, he could see the work ongoing to put the top quarter of the tower back together after the battering it had taken, Tony�s name already glowing again in electric blue. He looked around for a car, but Tony shook his head. �It�s three blocks, I thought we could try walking.�

�I thought you drove everywhere.�

�Don�t believe everything bitter female journalists write in newspaper columns.�

It was a hot day in the city. People were everywhere. It was a shock after six weeks of isolation in the labs following six years of isolation away from the world, but it was more than that. Within three steps away from Stark Towers, he was feeling claustrophobic. Tony was as comfortable weaving through the hoards on the pavements, crossing roads in front of honking taxis, as he was doing absolutely anything else. But Bruce could feel himself tensing, felt his pulse rate rising, his heart thumping.

�Easy, big guy.� He felt Tony brush his back before an anchoring hand settled, a casual arm across his shoulders. �No threat here, just moody New Yorkers.�

Bruce took a deep breath, leaning into the touch. Here was a man who�d fought his own demons and won, who�d faced the legacy of his father and risen above it. Billionaire playboy might be right, self-centered and with an ego that required a building with his name on it towering over the city. But he�d done more for Bruce in a month than most people had done his whole life.

�You think my coffee�s too bitter.�

He smiled to himself at the inevitability. �Jarvis tells you everything I say?�

�Not at all. Although he did say you don�t know the lyrics to �Eye of the Tiger�.�


Tony smirked. �I just asked why you�d want to go for coffee when there�s a never-ending supply of it provided. It is not a big deal.�

He followed when Tony dropped his arm and turned into a narrow alley which led away from the crowds, down a gentle slope between two stone buildings to a doorway which he pushed open. It was a tiny place, just big enough for a large espresso machine, a small selection of pastries and a barista built like the other guy. Only not green.

�Tony! Long time, no see.�

Tony returned the ferocious handshake. �Bob, this is Bruce, my... boyfriend!� He sounded surprised and pleased to say it. �Bruce, this is Bob.�

Bruce gave a little wave. Bob grinned. �Good to meet you, Bruce. Usual, Tony?�

He nodded, turned to Bruce, palm out in an open question.

�Black Americano. Decaf.� He felt a little like cringing. �Sorry.�

�Would you stop with the apologies?� Tony�s usual turned out to be a triple shot vanilla skinny latte, which was a surprise. His hand settled at the small of Bruce�s back.

�I thought you�d be more a quadruple espresso kind of guy,� he commented as Tony added two almond croissants to the order and they took it all out through a back door into a tiny square yard with three empty round tables and a selection of metal chairs squeezed into it. Looking up, New York skyscrapers looked down at them.

�Usually, if I�m in a hurry. But it�s you, so I�m not.� They pulled two chairs up to a table on the uneven paved ground. It made Bruce feel slightly like an adult sitting at a table for kids but the aroma of his coffee assured him it was going to be worth it and it made him curious about how good the croissants would be. Tony offered him one and he took it, biting into it, closing his eyes momentarily and despite himself. It was really, really good, and he didn�t usually appreciate taste. When he opened his eyes, Tony was smiling at him. �I�ll get some good decaf in. You could have said earlier you know.�

�I know. I�ve been slightly distracted.�

�Work going well?�

�Not what I was thinking of.�

Tony grinned. �I�m distracting you? Cool.�

�You�re distraction incarnate.� He held Tony�s gaze for a time then shook his head and looked down into the inky black of his coffee. He took a deep breath, then another. Tony waited. Tony would wait forever for him to say what was on his mind, and if he didn�t he wouldn�t ask.

�The last two years� not a single incident. A couple of close calls but I really thought I had the other guy under control.�

�You have. You proved that the day Loki�s army attacked. The only damaged you caused was to the bad guys.�

�Thor said I punched him in the head.�

Tony laughed. �We all wanted to punch Thor in the head. You saw an opportunity and took it." He reached into the centre of the table, brushed his thumb over the back of Bruce's fingers. "You let the Hulk come to the fore when we needed him. You saved the world that day. More importantly, you saved my life.�

Bruce shrugged. �I have an element of control. At least, I thought I did.� He crossed one arm over his chest. �But on the carrier, I almost killed Natasha. I almost killed a pilot.�

�Almost being the operative word here.� Tony leaned forward, across the table. �I think you wanted to lose it. You were doing just fine in Kolkata, you were helping people, saving people. Two years without an incident and along we come, guilt-trip you half-way around the world so you find yourself onboard a giant flying boat that�s come under attack. You�re scared, you�re angry, and you�re trapped with the woman who brought you back! I think you wanted to lose control. She was the only one you went after until Thor threw a hammer at your head and a pilot started shooting at you with a fighter plane. And after all that, after falling twenty thousand feet into a warehouse, you came back. On an old Harley - coolest entrance ever, by the way.�

Bruce could feel his throat closing up. Everything that Tony had said, he needed to think about it. �You�re wrong you know,� he said when he could talk again. �I was actually enjoying myself, before the attack, before it all went to hell.� Tony looked skeptical. �For the first time I can remember, I was being treated like a human being, a normal person.� He paused. �And by you, of all people.�

Tony put his hand to his heart in mock-hurt. �Don't spare my feelings at all." Bruce shot him a smile. "Tell me about your control problem.�

�He scares me, Tony. If I let him... come to the fore, as you put it, I never know if I�m ever going to be able to push him back, if he�ll ever let me. I never know if it�ll be the last time I�m me or if that�s when I die and he takes over for good.�

�You know he�s you, right? Just another side of you.�

He sighed softly. �And yet you still want to sleep with me.�

�Still want to have lots of sex with you too.� Tony wiggled his eyebrows and Bruce couldn�t help but smile. �So we need to work on that, letting that side of you come out to play for a while, making sure this side of you can come back. Make sure the other guy knows it's safe for you to come back."

"You still think he's protecting me."

"I think you�re protecting you. You're not Dr Jekyll, he isn't your Mr Hyde; he doesn�t want to live. You're threatened and the Hulk pushes forward. Of course, you can push him forward when you want to, but how many times has that happened? Once? Twice? The other times, what's been happening?"

"I've been attacked, or they've found me and I've had to run."

"Which backs up my theory that he's protecting you. Or� he�s you protecting you. I would do the same. If anyone threatened you, I'd go ballistic too. I can understand the motivation. I'm not scared of either side of you."

"You've made that clear." He couldn�t remember ever being made to feel this warm by another human being before. "Natasha is. She's terrified."

Tony shrugged again. "Her loss."

He sipped his coffee. This was how it was supposed to taste. Decaf wasn�t the same but it was necessary. This was good coffee, decaf that tasted like the real thing. He took a mouthful and savored it.


He hummed, unintentionally, making Tony grin. �Amazing.�

�You should trust me once in a while.�

�I do trust you, Tony. Or else I wouldn�t be here. And you don�t owe me, for what happened at the end of the battle, just in case you thought you did. It was war. The other guy� usually knows which side he�s fighting for at least.�

Tony looked at him, head tilted to once side. �Is that what you think this is?�

�Maybe. Possibly. Not the sex. The other stuff.�

Tony huffed, shaking his head and letting out a deep sigh. �Would you please just accept that I like you? A lot? Like I said, kinda falling in love with you here even if you�re not, so let me have this, okay? And let me help you. I like helping you. No strings. You don�t have to love me back.� Then he pouted. He actually pouted. And Bruce did something he never ever thought he�d do in public; he leaned across the table and touched a brief but meaningful kiss to Tony Stark�s frothed-milk laced lips.

�You get that I can�t just� don�t you?�

Tony nodded. �I get that. But at some point you need to accept that you have friends now, and we will protect you and love you and we won�t betray you. Natasha will come round. Look at Thor. You threw him through a dozen crates of ammo and he was all, �my warrior brother in arms� when you were saying goodbye.�

Bruce drank more of his coffee. �How do you propose helping me?�


It wasn�t at all what he�d been expecting to hear. �Sparring?�

�Iron Man and Hulk, toe to toe.�

�Are you insane? You were there at the battle and I know you�ve seen the files SHEILD holds on me. He could kill you, Tony, and he will if you piss him off.�

Tony shook his head, Bruce thought he might bang his fist against the unstable table and lifted his coffee just in case. �He won�t because he�s you. And I know you�re sweet on me however much you want to deny it. That means he is too, somewhere deep down. He won�t hurt me. You won�t let him. Besides, don�t intend to piss him off.� He must have read the fear in Bruce�s face because he spread his arms, hands open, palms up. �What have you got to lose?�


He watched Tony drop his arms to his side before sitting forward and reaching one hand across the short distance between them to brush his fingers through the hair over his ear. Tony had an obsession with his hair that he couldn�t seem to rid him of. He�d thought about getting it cut shorter but he kinda liked that Tony liked it, even if it did make him feel a little like a cat at times. There was enough in their relationship to assure him that Tony definitely did not think of him as some kind of pet the way others had in the past. The kind of pet they liked to torture and maim.

�You are not going to lose me. There�s nothing you could do. Well, maybe, if I caught you in bed with Steve. More than twice. Three times max.�

Bruce laughed. �Really not my type.�

Tony�s hand lingered at the side of his face. �Is it the spangley Lycra suit or the Holier-Than-Thou thing he�s got going? He just needs someone to show him how things work these days.�

�I think� he�s scared of me too. At least wary. I mean, he should be. You all should be.�

�Not me. And while we�re on the subject, I want you to know I knew nothing about the room � the cell - on the helicarrier. I�ve admired your work for a great many years and yes, I�ve seen the files. I saw them before Fury brought them to the Tower. I would never have suggested they build a fucking cage �just in case�.�

�They were just being cautious.�

�They were being fucking idiots. I mean, I�m glad that it was there and all, so Loki could play us for twenty four hours before sealing his brother in it and dropping him out of the sky. What would we have done without it? But if I�d known it was for you I�d have launched it the moment I stepped aboard. How was it ever supposed to work anyway? Were you supposed to willingly get inside it when you were feeling antsy? Knowing about the 30,000 foot drop? Could you survive a fall like that in a steel cell? Would give you a slight headache or would it fucking kill you? What if you�d turned back on the way down?�

Bruce held up a hand to stem the tide. �It�s okay. You�re the only one who sees me and doesn�t see the monster. The others see me as a weapon at best. And General Ross� he thinks of me as his property.�

�Fury might have dissuaded him of that notion some time ago. Don�t worry about him. And the others don�t see you as a weapon, they see you as a friend and a fellow� Avenger.� Bruce loved the way Tony cringed whenever he had to say it. �They�re wary. They�ll get over it. Hey, they follow my lead.�

Bruce chuckled. �Really?�

�No. But they should because I�m the obvious leader.�

�Oh, and what, oh Mighty One, makes you the obvious leader?�

�I�m the financier, the weapons technology expert, and I�m screwing the guy with the brains.� Bruce laughed again. He laughed a lot around Tony and it felt good. Finally Tony sat back and drank his coffee. �So are we doing this?�

What was the point in arguing? More often than not, Tony got what he wanted. �If you�re sure�.�

�I�m sure.�

�Then I guess, yes.�

Tony lit up. �Awesome. Iron Man and the Hulk are officially on.�


The Tower�s repairs were complete. It was impossible to tell Loki had ever opened a portal to another world in the centre of his Zen garden, or had shouted at the Hulk and had his ass kicked in his living room. The same couldn�t be said for the city below, but Tony and Stark Industries were doing as much as they could.

He was suited and ready to go, watching Bruce standing out on the helipad, looking out over the side and down. Tony wondered if he was considering jumping just to find out what the landing would feel like. Knowing he couldn�t kill himself probably didn�t stop him from thinking about it and while Tony�s ego demanded him to acknowledge that he�d made a difference even he wasn�t so na�ve to think that a couple of months of affection would make a dent in a lifetime of shame and pain. Maybe in a couple of years Bruce would be happy enough to stop looking longingly at sheer drops and high caliber bullets.

He was about to tell Jarvis to put the helmet on when he got a call through from Fury. �What�s up, Long John?�

�I was wondering what you were doing with Dr Banner.�

�Do you really want details? Actually, I�m not sure I�m willing to give you details, they�re kinda personal.�

�Is he still at the Tower?� He was using his long-suffering voice, one Tony heard often. �Because we need his help.�

�Send co-ordinates, we�ll be over tomorrow.�

�I said I need Banner�s help, not ��

�We�re a team now, we work together. You want one of us you get us both.�

�You�re not his keeper, Stark.�

�No, I�m his friend, his partner,� he put particular emphasis on the word, �and We. Work. Together.�

�Fine. Whatever.� Fury sounded intentionally long-suffering. �We�re docked in New York. It�s just for a couple of hours, nothing to get paranoid about. You have my word we won�t move with him onboard unless we absolutely have to.�

�And I take it the drop cell hasn�t been replaced.�

It was a sore subject. �I have no intention of asking Dr Banner�.�

�Get rid of it, then we�ll talk.�

�Tony, be reasonable.�

�I said, get rid of it. Until then, you can come to us.� He ended the call with a flick of his finger. �Jarvis, helmet up and online.�

�Yes, Sir.�

He stepped outside, watched Bruce turn and see him, then watched the incredible transformation for the first time, up close and personal, a thousand different thoughts and feelings crowding in. It had to hurt, bones breaking and resetting, muscles stretching, tearing and reforming, the strain on his organs. At the same it was so majestic, so much power wielded by such a graceful, self-effacing man. The Hulk roared, and Tony had a moment to wonder if seeing his lover become a big green hulking giant shouldn�t be creepy or squicky in some way that it just wasn�t before he had to launch himself into the air just to come face to face with him.

�Hey, big guy. Long time, no see. I hear I owe you my life, so thank you and I�d appreciate you not squashing me this time around either�.� The hulk thrust out one giant green fist and instinctively Tony put an armored hand out to block it. There was no weight behind it, Tony realized, and he closed metal fingers gently, wanting to feel it for real, without the suit between them. �You recognize me, don�t you?�

Big green eyes stared at him, and he thought maybe he could see Bruce in there somewhere, looking back at him.

�Metal man,� the Hulk said quietly, and Tony nodded.

�Yeah, metal man. I thought we could spar, you know? Play-fight? That�s you not hurting me so I don�t have to threaten to hurt you. I mean, you can take a missile and not suffer a scratch so I don�t think I�d stand a chance if you tried. So, play, okay?�


Tony had no idea if the Hulk even knew what that meant but he had to trust that Bruce did, so he took off, flew around the Hulk�s head, off into the distance, then let loose a blank shot from his right glove that went a foot from the Hulk�s face. He turned, spun, jumped and swung one huge hand out, missing Tony�s feet by inches.

�That�s it, big guy.�

They sparred for half an hour, Tony taking pot shots designed to miss, Hulk catching him now and again but not doing any damage, maybe giving him a couple of bruises, nothing serious, nothing structural. After thirty minutes, he lowered himself to the ground with his hands up in surrender. �Okay, big fella, I�m done.�

A great big hand came out for him and he automatically reached to deflect it. He didn�t need to. There was nothing behind it, as there hadn�t been at the start. �Jarvis, retract the suit.�


�Do it.�

The suit was taken from him, retracting into itself, into the pod it started out as, resting on the ground behind him. Under the sensitive skin of his palm he could feel the rough skin of the Hulk�s giant fist. It was the skin on the underside of his foot � hardened but human, not leathery as he�d thought it would be.

�Hey.� It was all he could muster as he gently stroked his hand over huge, strong fingers, flicking his eyes up to glance at the frowning face watching him. �You need to let Bruce come back now, okay?�

The Hulk blew a lungful of air from his nose, but Tony thought he nodded as he sat down hard, legs out in front of him, and Tony sat down too, watched as he shrank back, slower than the first change but looking just as painful. He nipped inside for the sweats he�d left there, handed them to Bruce as soon as he was the right size again to fit in them, helped him on with them. Then they lay back on the concrete, side by side, Bruce recovering while Tony replayed the two transformations in his head, trying to isolate just a few of the emotions accompanying the memories. He felt Bruce reach for his hand and he laced their fingers, squeezing tightly.

�Is changing as painful as it looks?� Tony asked quietly, turning his head to look for the answer.

Bruce nodded. �At the time. Not afterwards. Doesn�t hurt now. I�m just� achy.�

�Do you remember what we did?�

�This time, yeah. I don�t usually. I think it�s like having a car accident. The brain protects itself, only lets you remember what it thinks you can cope with. I don�t remember the battle with Loki. I remember grabbing you out of the sky but not much else. But yeah, I remember what we just did.�

�And? Happier?�

�I still don�t like being him, Tony.�

�I know. Just trying to prove a point.� He sat up to sit cross-legged, keeping holding of Bruce�s hand, stroking his leg through the soft grey material. He could feel the strong muscles in his thigh, make out the tantalizing swell of his genitals. Bruce pushed himself up on to his elbows, watching Tony�s hand on him.

�Why did you trust me, Tony? From the start, you never even flinched. The way the others were� that�s what I�m used to. You� poked at the unstable element, pulled at the wires on the time bomb. How did you know I wouldn�t blow up and take everyone with me?�

�I didn�t know, not for sure. But you were the only interesting person aboard. Steve and Thor doing the �we�re not from round here� thing got old fast. Natasha was tetchy, worried about loverboy, and besides, I don�t think she likes me much. Fury was running on the paranoid ticket. And there you were in the middle of it all, all shy and nervous, mind-blowingly intelligent and absurdly easy on the eyes. Like you said, I�d read your files. I�d seen the footage. All that raw power and strength wrapped up in� you.�

�Um, thanks?�

�That was meant in a good way. You need to learn to take a compliment.� Bruce pulled his hand back and Tony let him take it for the time being, watched him sit up, pulling his knees to his chest. Curling in on himself, taking up the least amount of space possible the same way he did on the helicarrier, the same way he did almost all the time.

�I�m not used to it.�

�So get used to it. Because you�re with me now and I�m fucking crazy about you.� He leaned forward, bent at the middle, putting his forehead on Bruce�s shoulder. �I need a shower.�

He felt strong fingers comb through his hair, Bruce�s face turned into his hair. �I think you need to fuck me first,� he murmured softly.

Tony grinned, half-hard already. �If you insist��