Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie, after “Blue Glow” fic.
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, J.A.R.V.I.S., Darcy Lewis, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Thor, Tony Stark (Iron Man)
Pairings: Bruce/Tony, Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor (, Clint/Natasha, implied past Pepper/Tony)
Summary: It starts with a dream and ends with something that resembles strutting more than tiptoeing; in other words, Bruce has a new-found obsession with Tony, Tony finds that endearing and wants to take it further while everyone else – including Bruce – seems to think it might actually be a very bad idea.
Work in progress. Part of the “Turquoise” –series.
Warnings: Slash (m/m relationship) and some sexual content, past and current het (f/m), superheroes vs. villains violence, language.
Written for: anonymous’ prompt at avengerkink, Live Journal (Bruce/Tony, Protectiveness – Thor, Clint, Natasha and Steve have to worry about Bruce attacking them as well as the enemy when he becomes the Hulk. Tony has to worry about the Hulk grabbing him, sticking him somewhere safe (or at least somewhere defendable) and smashing anyone who comes near said safe place.)
Author’s note: I’m not familiar with the Wrecking Crew, other than from their brief visit in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I apologize for any errors in their criminal behavior (then again, they haven’t been introduced in the MCU yet, so my take on them can’t really go wrong.)
Tony was returning from a meeting in Union City, New Jersey, and he swore that if he heard another exclamation in Spanish he was going to start banging his head against the first solid surface he could find. No, he didn’t mind the language and yes, he knew the meeting had been important, but when people began to digress from the schedule and just had to involve Iron Man and the Avengers in the discussion, prolonging the already exhaustingly long meeting, Tony couldn’t help but try to stave off the inevitable headache.
The towncar was just leaving the Lincoln Tunnel, which meant they weren’t that far from Fifth Avenue and the Avengers Mansion. Sadly, Tony’s brain seemed wired to take the path a crow – or Iron Man – flies, rather than considering actual roads – and rush hour. As the car stopped moving, Tony sighed at the sensation of stifling air. Sure, the car’s interior was pleasantly cool and all he had to do was wait, but the honking horns and impatient people all around him set him on edge.
He missed Happy; at least with his old driver he had felt a kinship in this kind of misery; they would have shared a joke, commented on the other commuters and talked about things Tony was interested in. This new person Pepper had hired was still wet behind the ears – so wet that instead of acknowledging who Tony was, he would rather not bring it up at all, clearly avoiding the subject just as he avoided Tony’s gaze most of the time. Not that Tony cared, but he noticed. Maybe it was a new professional policy in SI to not bring up Tony’s superhero life, but it felt like he was being dismissed and ignored – which just wouldn’t do.
Looking out the window, Tony undid his tie and pulled it off, throwing it on the seat beside him. His jacket followed and he worked the cuffs open when the car moved forward a couple feet before stopping again. He would have gotten home quicker on foot – and even faster with the suit, but Pepper seemed to think taking the suit with him to meetings wasn’t professional. Maybe Tony should tell her that since those people were more interested in Iron Man and the Avengers than their newest business proposal, maybe he should attend in the armor.
At least then he could skip the traffic.
“Everything okay, sir?” the driver called from the front. Did he actually care, or did his paycheck require him to annoy Tony?
“Yes,” Tony replied, rubbing a hand over his forehead then lowering it to grab his phone, working the top button of his perfectly pressed shirt open with the other. There were no messages – not even from Bruce, which kind of hurt. Maybe he should call the guy and ask what was up with that, although he suspected the other scientist was working on something and J.A.R.V.I.S. would answer in his stead.
The car jerked forward another few feet and Tony considered walking. Or maybe if Thor was still visiting, he could come pick him up. Hanging onto the God of Thunder while flying across Manhattan wasn’t Tony’s first choice in travel modes but if he was confined to this car a moment longer –
“Mr. Stark,” the driver spoke up again. It wasn’t as if they had even exchanged that many lines of conversation but the guy deeply annoyed Tony. He couldn’t explain it, nor should he need to since he was the billionaire and was allowed to be eccentric.
Opting to ignore the obvious attempt for conversation, Tony glanced out the window again – only to see a motorbike sailing through the air before landing on a car in the lane next to theirs. His head whipped around, noting broken glass and dented metal but nothing more serious, then began to turn around to see where the bike had come from.
“Mr. Stark,” the driver started again, louder this time, and Tony saw it in the same second: a black man wearing a getup no sane person – save for superheroes and villains – would show themselves in public places, swinging a wrecking ball in the air as if it weighed nothing, slamming it into a van few cars ahead. The side of the van dented, punched in under the pressure as if it were made of cardboard, after which the vehicle jerked and started tipping over onto the car on its other side.
Yanking the wrecking ball free, the man continued walking, swinging it again as if considering his next target.
“Okay,” Tony commented. “That’s new.”
“Should we call the police?” his driver asked.
The wrecking ball changed direction in the air and was brought down to the asphalt, hard. The ground rippled, as if in an earthquake, making the cars jump slightly all around them. People were starting to panic, leaving the limited safety of their vehicles and spilling in every direction where the attacker wasn’t.
While Tony was certain the police were already drowning in calls about the incident, he wasn’t certain if they could actually do anything about this. Keeping his eyes on the action, the villain still several cars from him, Tony palmed his phone again and started to send J.A.R.V.I.S. a message; they needed to get him suited up, right now.
This was going to be another good reason why he should go to meetings dressed up as Iron Man.
Something smashed against the top of the car, denting the roof. The driver screamed like a little girl. The extra strong windows rattled as the metal around them bent under the weight. Tony started, looking up, deciding that moving might be the best plan of action.
Whatever had hit the car moved, scraping along the roof and falling onto the hood. Tony saw a glimpse of the wrecking ball before it was snatched back and he dreaded what might come next. Moving across the seat, his hand shot to the handle of the door but nothing happened. He pulled at it furiously a few times until his eyes moved up and decided that with the twisted frame, the door was stuck. That didn’t stop him from lifting his feet and trying a couple kicks to dislodge the door anyway.
The wrecking ball came crashing down again, a few of the windows slipping free from their places. The driver shouted incoherently, moving into a small ball on the front seat while the roof caved in even further. Had Tony not been lying down on the back seat, his headache would have been magnified at this point.
He gave the door another kick but it didn’t budge. The roof, however, was suddenly being peeled back, metal crying as it was forced to bend in two. Sunlight burst in and Tony sheltered his eyes, blinking – then felt a hand grab his front and yank him out as if he weighed nothing.
“Stark,” a voice announced.
His eyes finally working, Tony peered at the man holding him – but it wasn’t the man with the wrecking ball. No, this guy was blond, with spiky hair, looking suspiciously average in every way – if you dismissed the large hands holding Tony in the air. And when he said ‘large’, he meant unnaturally proportioned to the rest of his body, which made him want to make a rather inappropriate joke considering the rest of the situation.
“You could have just called my assistant to ask for a meeting,” Tony ground out, the grip of the large hand making breathing uncomfortable. People were still running away from the scene of destruction, none of them stopping to consider if he needed help. Not that he needed help; he was Iron Man, after all – only sans the armor at this very moment and he realized he had just misplaced his phone, which made gaining access to said armor more difficult than he cared to think.
The guy with the wrecking ball walked closer, still spinning his weapon of choice lazily in the air as he considered Tony. “Did you call the Avengers?” he asked.
“I can take you guys on all by myself,” Tony replied – then felt the grip on his upper body change and he flew briefly before hitting the hood of a car and tumbling down from it to the hard ground. Voices chuckled, more than two. Tony pushed himself to his knees and noticed another two men arriving, one with a funky-looking helmet and the other carrying a crowbar. “What’s the name of your circus act?” Tony asked as they closed in on him. “Bob and the Builders? I’ll write it in your obituary –”
“We’re the Wrecking Crew,” the man with the crowbar informed him, then smacked said tool across Tony’s face. Tony didn’t feel bone breaking but it was close, sending him back to the asphalt as half his face went numb. “Get up, Iron Man,” the man – clearly the leader of the group – ground out.
Tony spat blood from his mouth, testing the inside of his cheek with his tongue. Teeth were in place but his tongue was bleeding from where he had bit down on it, and he was certain he would have some difficulty finding his face from beneath the bruise that was forming. “You sure you don’t need back-up?” Tony asked, although the truth was that if the others hadn’t already been alerted to this, Tony would be toast.
The blond with huge hands lifted him up again, slamming him back against a car. “I’ll shut him up,” he promised.
“Not yet,” the man with the wrecking ball denied the request. “Let’s prepare for the arrival of the Avengers. If they take too long, we’ll just have to motivate them a bit better – and that’s why we need Stark alive for the time being.”
Manhattan, New York, NY, USA
It was a few days after Bruce had gathered them all together to clear the air. Things had gotten back to normal after that: Bruce and Tony worked, the latter attending meetings and other company-related functions; Clint and Natasha trained, as did Steve, and Thor had decided to stay with them for a bit instead of immediately returning to Jane Foster in New Mexico.
Tony had left early that morning and hadn’t gotten back when J.A.R.V.I.S. called the Avengers who were present into an emergency meeting. Screens were already alive on the walls when Steve entered the underground floor, noting that Bruce’s face was filled with concern. Fury’s face floated on one of the screens, scanning the limited view he had of the room and its occupants. Thor finally arrived as well, setting Mjolnir on the floor carefully.
“What’s going on?” Steve asked, seeing as they were all here; Clint and Natasha were at S.H.I.E.L.D. and would probably hear of anything alarming that way.
“We have a situation,” Fury jumped right into it. “A group of four criminals has made an appearance in Manhattan. They call themselves the Wrecking Crew.” Data appeared on one of the screens, detailing the group members and their powers. Steve scanned over it as quickly as he could: Wrecker, the leader, whose choice of weapon was a crowbar of unknown power; Thunderball wielded a wrecking ball, capable of conducting energy bolts; Bulldozer, who seemed to favor ramming into people and things with a helmet and a piece of armor on his shoulders and neck; Piledriver, whose large hands apparently rivaled his teammates’ powers. They all had enhanced endurance and strength, making them a formidable group.
“I know this man,” Bruce stepped forward, pointing at Thunderball. “Dr. Eliot Franklin. He also specialized in gamma radiation, although his methods of gaining funds for his research landed him in jail.”
“He’s the brains of the operation,” Fury agreed, “although Wrecker’s the one in control. They were incarcerated before their most recent escape – and apparently they’re trying to attract the attention of the Avengers.”
“Consider it done,” Steve replied.
“They are currently located at the corner of 9th Avenue and West 30th Street. They’re taking the high ground.”
“Should we wait for Tony?” Bruce frowned.
“They have Stark.”
Steve felt cold dread squeeze his insides and his eyes shot over to Bruce.
“What?” the scientist asked so calmly he had to be feeling the exact opposite.
A video feed from one of the surrounding buildings showed them the scene of destruction on a rush-hour street: destroyed cars, upended vehicles and broken glass, people running away from the action. The image zoomed on a dark car, its roof being pried open by Piledriver before he pulled out a man and threw him to the side after a short pause.
Thor let out a sound of deep disdain. “They shall pay for attacking our teammate in such a fashion.”
“Doctor,” Fury started. “If you are uncertain whether you can handle the situation –”
“Don’t worry,” Bruce bit back, calm disappearing from his voice as they watched Wrecker lift his crowbar and smack Tony across the face with it. Without his armor, Tony was defenseless. Against the four of them, he didn’t stand a chance, although Steve wouldn’t count him out just yet. “I’m going to handle it,” Bruce went on, voice dropping a notch as his eyes followed the Wrecking Crew’s movements into a nearby building where they had clearly taken refuge.
“Barton and Romanoff have just taken off from the Helicarrier. They’ll join you on location,” Fury informed them.
Steve nodded quickly. “We’ll suit up and meet them there,” he agreed then turned to look at the other two Avengers – only to see Bruce turning and leaving the room, his hands raised to his chest. “Banner,” Steve called out, taking a few quick steps after him. “Bruce,” he repeated, trying to draw his attention, “he’ll be fine. We’ll get to Tony, we’ll bring him a suit and he will help us beat up those –”
Bruce wordlessly yanked off his shirt, now unbuttoned, discarding it on the floor. There was something about his posture that made Steve halt, to back off, and he did so just in time before Bruce’s skin begun to take on a green tinge and the familiar yet sickening sounds of muscles and joints reordering themselves rose to rival the animal growl coming from his throat.
“I think he is not listening to you,” Thor mused from Steve’s side, Mjolnir in hand.
Steve laid a hand across Thor’s shoulder, signaling for him to wait: perhaps Bruce was in control and the Hulk knew exactly what to do and whom to go after; Bruce hadn’t looked like he was fighting the transformation.
Deep huffs of air filled the brief silence that had fallen as the Hulk stood before them, barefoot on top of the tattered remains of Bruce’s shoes, the torn pants barely clinging to his widened form. The poisonous, green eyes regarded the two of them as the Hulk turned to look at them over his shoulder.
“We need a plan,” Steve started.
The Hulk snarled at him then turned away again, marching down the hallway that was just wide enough to let him do that without brushing the walls. “Open,” the Hulk demanded when he got to a door leading to the stairs, “or Hulk makes a new door.”
J.A.R.V.I.S., perhaps knowing the green rage monster would do just that, opened the door promptly. The Hulk pushed through, roughly and uncaring as one of the doors was torn from its hinges and left lying on the floor in his wake.
“We may have a problem,” Steve admitted and looked at Thor. “We have to follow him, make sure he doesn’t go rampaging in the city.”
Thor nodded and they rushed to the stairs, following the Hulk’s path upstairs and into the main hallway, from where the beast had exited to the world outside. Steve wished this wasn’t one of the fears he’d had when Tony and Bruce got involved, but Bruce and the Hulk were often two different beings entirely, so he had hoped one wouldn’t affect the other in this case.
Had he so easily forgotten the Hulk’s protectiveness of Iron Man in the months after the training incident?
When they got to the yard, it was empty and suspiciously quiet. “For a beast his size, he moves very quickly,” Thor observed, shifting the hammer in his hold.
Steve swore. He hadn’t even had time to suit up, and they had planned on bringing one of Tony’s suits along, if possible. Now what were they going to do?
A roar traveled through the air and they looked up just in time to see the Hulk jumping up high, from one building to the next, skipping a block at a time, heading south – towards Tony’s last known location if they were in any luck.
“We have to move,” Steve decided, looking at Thor. “Can you fly and carry me at the same time?”
Thor nodded, clasping Steve’s arm firmly, Steve doing the same, then felt himself being yanked off the ground as Thor lifted off, gripping Mjolnir. Steve wondered if flying always felt like being a toy dragged along for the ride. Wind whipped past him and they avoided a few choppers hovering over the city. Without his uniform, Steve felt naked but there was no time to go back for it and he would have to count on the others to deal with this – especially when he had also forgotten his shield. He couldn’t believe himself and this was going to be the last time he was so unprepared.
The Hulk, once they arrived at the scene, had landed heavily in the crossroads of two streets. Cars were everywhere, people milling around, some of them running away while others seemed drawn to the fact that at least one of the Avengers was present. Cops were beginning to arrive, sirens blaring, and Thor took them down to the ground beside the green figure.
As they touched down, the Hulk lunged at them, stopping as Thor and Steve both took a step back. The Hulk snarled and grunted, pacing slightly, looking balefully at the people and cars, clearly annoyed by all the noise and commotion.
“Where are they?” Thor asked, looking up at the buildings towering over them. “Are these cowards hiding?”
Behind Tony’s back, Steve felt like adding but knowing how riled up the Hulk already was, he dared not to voice that thought. “Hulk!” he called out, “we must find the Wrecking Crew – with as little smashing as possible.” There were people around and he didn’t want anyone to get hurt who didn’t have it coming. Looking up, he wondered how far out Clint and Natasha were, seeing as they had left the Mansion without means of communication. This day just couldn’t get any better.
Thor, who was in armor although not wearing his customary cape, looked around and then up. “Captain, up –”
It was as if a mountain had rammed into them, out of nowhere, although Steve was certain they would have seen if it they had been on the lookout. Thor smashed into him, hard, making them both sprawl out on the ground while something – someone – came to a halt beside them. For a brief moment he feared the Hulk had decided to take his frustration out on them, but instead he was faced by a more unfamiliar face – Bulldozer.
“Welcome, Avengers,” another voice greeted and Wrecker showed himself in a smashed window. “I see Iron Man’s arrogance is contagious, seeing as all of you didn’t even bother to put on their armor. You’ll regret it. Ram them again!”
Steve rolled to the side, just avoiding another hit. Thor met it, shoulder-to-helmet, grunting then lifting Bulldozer clear off the ground and tossing him to the side. People started screaming again, moving away, not wanting to be caught in the fight.
The Hulk roared briefly and Steve raised himself up, trying to find something he could use as a weapon. Thor had moved on to face Wrecker who had joined them at street-level, meeting his crowbar strike for strike while Bulldozer was still picking himself up. That left two more of the Wrecking Crew missing and Steve looked at the building from which Wrecker had emerged.
On cue, glass smashed far overhead and the Hulk glanced up, sniffing the air. A cry carried down to them and Steve watched as shapes moved across the expanse left by broken glass, high above the ground. He made out Piledriver and his huge hands, one of them holding Tony right on the edge.
The Hulk roared again, one fist pounding the ground before he braced himself and jumped five stories up, climbing up the building’s side as if it were a ladder, fingers and toes digging in for purchase. Responding to the new threat, Piledriver moved once the Hulk was level with the broken window, pushing Tony out and dangling him over the drop of over a hundred feet.
Steve started, trying to calculate how to catch Tony before he hit the ground if the villain let him fall. The threat was clear even from below, and if the Hulk didn’t see it and Thor couldn’t untangle himself from the battle in time, there was very little anyone could do to keep Tony from hitting the sidewalk.
Before he could formulate a plan, Bulldozer attacked him, forcing Steve to move or take another hit. He dodged to the side, jumped over a few cars and saw the villain following him, sending a vehicle he had just been standing on flying. Without his shield, Steve felt naked but he was far from vulnerable. He let Bulldozer come to him and leapt at the last moment, avoiding the impact and searching for the means to end the fight.
“Hey, bucket head!” a call rang out and an exploding arrow hit Bulldozer in the shoulder, making him turn around so fast he almost lost his footing. Steve looked up as well, noticing Hawkeye and Black Widow down the street, moving closer.
“Where’s the Quinjet?!” Steve called at once.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. agents dropped us off and pulled back to manage the civilians. Why?” Natasha asked once she was within hearing distance.
Steve clenched his jaw and pointed up. The others looked up and noticed the situation, only to let out sharp cries each. Steve followed their gaze just in time to see Piledriver release his hold on Tony, letting him fall.
The four idiots were hell-bent on facing off against the Avengers. Tony guessed that with all the cellphones and news cameras available these days, in a place like Manhattan, it would be only a matter of minutes before the others were alerted to the situation.
If only he were on his way to go suit up with the others instead of being dragged along in the firm grip of the guy with over-grown hands. ‘Piledriver’ they had called him. Tony had asked who came up with their names – so that he could seek out that person and sue him for such unimaginative thinking – and got a punch in the stomach for that. If he didn’t have cracked ribs he would be sporting some seriously painful bruises in the aftermath of this adventure.
It felt like hours – and several bumps against corners and thresholds – before the Wrecking Crew settled on the top floor of an office building. Everyone had left, alarms ringing, intensifying the pain in Tony’s head. He was glad for the quick evacuations because people didn’t have to stand by and watch Tony Stark being hauled across the floor by his foot. Seriously, Piledriver could pick him up like he was a feather pillow, so why drag him around?
These people owed him a new suit, too. Armani clearly wasn’t designed for this.
When a roar finally echoed off the buildings, the leader of the Wrecking Crew looked down from a wide window. “Bulldozer, you’re with me. Let’s greet the Avengers. You two stay here with Stark,” he ordered and took the helmet-wearing man with him, heading back to the elevators.
Thunderball, who carried around the wrecking ball, stepped back and forth restlessly.
“They’ll come for you, too,” Tony promised from his place on the floor. “The Avengers are generous folk, they won’t let you leave without a parting kick.”
Thunderball sneered at him and lifted the ball. Tony braced himself, knowing that if that thing even touched him, he might die – or at least break bones. Instead the wrecking ball smashed against the windows, glass raining down to the street, allowing the wind to come in and caress Tony’s bruised left cheek. “Put him out on display,” Thunderball ordered and Piledriver grinned and picked him up, fingers squeezing his painful ribs. His grip didn’t feel nearly firm enough on his clothes and flesh as Tony was lifted to his feet and shoved over to the window. An involuntary cry escaped his throat as vertigo threatened to upset his stomach; if he leaned back, he might fall, so he did everything but that, clinging the best he could to the massive hand holding him.
Beneath them, the Hulk had arrived and upon spotting Tony, started to make his way up along the building’s side. On the ground, Thor was fighting Wrecker and someone – possibly Rogers, although not in his Captain America uniform – was trying to avoid a collision with Bulldozer.
The Hulk reached their floor, clinging onto the building, eyes narrowing. He was a couple dozen feet from Tony, too far to reach, and suddenly Piledriver lifted him off the floor, dangling him in the air above a fall that was sure to kill and too short for any kind of maneuvering even if he had an armor right here.
“Let him go,” the Hulk ground out, his voice loud enough to make a few loose pieces of glass tremble free and fall to the ground – the way Tony was going to if Piledriver let go.
Tony looked at the villain’s face, ready to negotiate, then saw a wicked, cruel smile twist his lips. “Whatever you say, hero,” Piledriver said and his big fingers relinquished their hold of Tony, pushing him away for good measure. The sickening sensation of falling tugged at him and Tony knew he was too far from the wall to grasp at it. Panic hit him as air whipped past him. Above, he saw the Hulk’s green mass hit Piledriver, flinging him through a wall with a deafening roar – and then the green blur was moving, diving down after Tony, feet seeking purchase on the wall to help the gravity along.
He was so focused on his own imminent death that he didn’t even reach up. His brain had frozen on the fact that this was it, there was nothing he could do, and when too-strong arms wrapped around his body and the fall turned into a grinding halt, it felt like he was still going to smash to the ground.
The Hulk groaned, one arm digging into the wall, concrete and surface materials raining on them both. Tony dug his fingers into the firm skin beneath them, trying to hold on, eyes closed because he couldn’t keep them open even if he wanted to. In the next instant they were moving, defying gravity and Tony dared to look long enough to realize the Hulk had just kicked away from the building he had fallen from and was crashing into the one opposite from it.
Promptly closing his eyes, Tony avoided most of the rubble as the Hulk’s body smashed through glass and wall, into another office. People shouted but all Tony could do was breathe and realize that he was still alive, the Hulk’s arm squashing him against the wide chest in an unmistakable urge to keep him safe.
Opening his eyes and peering up, Tony was met by the green gaze. It was hard to tell if the Hulk was concerned, but Tony guessed he should inform the other that he was fine. Before he could, something smashed into the wall beside them and Tony felt himself being swung to the side then released, his body continuing with the motion until he hit a solid wall. Dazed, he slowly lifted his head and noticed he had rolled under someone’s desk. The occupant of the cubicle wasn’t there, thankfully, and Tony struggled to lift himself to his knees.
Pieces of wood and plastic flew past him and he ducked further under the table, getting a glimpse of the Hulk and Thunderball fighting. Electricity sparked, making lamps explode above them and the wrecking ball sent the Hulk back with a sound of air leaving the rage monster’s lungs.
Tony knew there was no way the Hulk would lose but he still didn’t like to see a hint of green blood on the wrecking ball’s surface. Especially when said thing suddenly neared his face at a threatening velocity and Tony crawled out of the way, lying down flat on the floor as the table, cubicle and office supplies went flying above him.
“I really expected so much more from you, Iron Man,” Thunderball mocked him as Tony tried to move away, yet his path was blocked in most directions and the wrecking ball was coming at him again, smashing into the floor with enough force to upset his already precarious balance. Support structures gave in beneath him and Tony felt himself being sucked in as the floor began to collapse.
“Hulk!” was the first and only thing he could think of shouting. On cue Thunderball went careening across the room and the Hulk arrived on the scene, holding something that looked like a support beam in his hands as a baseball bat. Letting the reinforced concrete drop, one large hand moved to fish Tony out of the hole in the floor and tucked him once again against the firm chest.
“Safe,” the Hulk murmured and Tony agreed this was a bit better.
They moved back to the window and Tony didn’t want to look down and see the drop beneath them. Instead of going down, the Hulk went up, jumping on top of the next building. It was almost like flying, only a fall came soon after, followed by the impact of landing and then they were off again, sailing through the air. Tony surmised that he might have actually enjoyed this if he hadn’t been falling to his death just minutes ago.
If there were actual selection criteria, Tony didn’t see any. The Hulk simply chose a building, higher than any of its neighbors, and deposited Tony on top of it. The Hulk took a step back once Tony was steady on his feet. “Stay,” he ordered. “Safe,” came the added comment and then the green shape was gone, jumping off the edge and Tony leaned forward, peering down. He was half-a-block away from where this had started and he had no idea how he would get back there. Turning around, ignoring the pains in his body, he scanned the empty roof and spotted the only standing structure – which was a door leading into the building. Walking over to it he tested the lock, finding the door firmly shut.
“Damn it,” Tony swore and then began to look for something to help him break through it or pick the lock. There weren’t many useful things on the roof and he was still kicking around it to discover something when a thump reached his ears and he whirled around, taking cover behind the structure of the roof access door – which was the only thing to hide behind on the entire roof.
A familiar exhale of air soothed his nerves and Tony closed his eyes briefly, letting the air out of his lungs. He wouldn’t admit how afraid he had been, for a moment, that one of the Wreckers had found him and he would be tossed off yet another building in the same day – within the same hour! He stepped out from his hiding place, finding the Hulk standing out in the open, looking around, clearly searching for him. The green eyes didn’t light up, per se, but the Hulk definitely looked pleased when he saw Tony and moved over immediately, touching his face carefully.
“It will heal,” Tony reassured him, although he still felt like his cheek bone may have been fractured. All this jumping around hadn’t made him feel better and the aches were beginning to catch up with him. “Take me down?”
The Hulk nodded and Tony allowed himself to be lifted into a one-armed embrace before the Hulk took off again, climbing down in a good imitation of King Kong. Tony was thankful the other man didn’t just jump down, knowing the Hulk could do that easily.
At street level, people were gathering, including the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in full gear. The police seemed to be handling a safe retreat of civilians and keeping the press out of the way.
“Tony!” Rogers called out, coming closer. He was still in his ‘civvies’, his shield nowhere to be seen. It looked like he had done a fair bit of rolling around on the ground himself.
The Hulk froze, turning his body away so that Tony was shielded by it, growling at the approaching group. Tony didn’t see them stop because he was too busy freeing himself from the firm embrace which was just a shade on the side of discomfort.
“Big guy, you can let me down now,” Tony reassured the Hulk and slowly the arm loosened enough for him to hit the ground. Tony could have fallen to his knees and kissed the solid, beautiful asphalt but he still had some dignity left and pushed around the green body, ready to tell everyone he was okay.
Instead the Hulk shoved him back, hard, roaring loud enough to rattle the windows around them and start the alarms on a few parked cars. The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tensed, weapons lifted slightly in response to the Hulk’s obvious threat.
“Stark,” Romanoff started, “can you –”
The Hulk took a step forward, shoulders wide, muscles tense.
Thor pushed forward from the midst of people, Mjolnir in his grip and clearly ready to have another round with the Hulk, but Rogers reached out to hold him back before sparks could start flying, whispering something that made the God of Thunder lower his weapon and visibly stand back.
“Put your guns down!” Tony called out to the rest of them. “Jesus, fucking amateurs,” he muttered and pushed around the Hulk again, only to have one large hand grab him by the shoulder and start moving him backwards again. “No!” he protested. “I’m fine; you don’t need to protect me from them. They’re friends, remember?” He didn’t think the Hulk would forget whose side he was on but Tony had to admit the situation could get out of hand very fast if someone so much as twitched the wrong way.
The Hulk huffed and clenched his left hand into a fist while the right still attempted to keep Tony behind his body.
Tony, not about to be pushed aside with or without his suit, reached up and caught the Hulk’s hair in his grip. “Look at me,” he demanded and with a snarl the Hulk crouched lower, looking at him. Tony released the grip and instead ran his fingers through the dirt-covered strands that were so much like Bruce’s but only… thicker and coarser, in a way. “I’m fine and these people are here to help us, okay? The Avengers are our team and those guys from S.H.I.E.L.D. are on our side. The bad guys are taken care of, right? Right?” Tony confirmed, looking at Rogers.
“Hulk smash Wreckers,” the Hulk boasted.
“That he did,” Rogers agreed. “We couldn’t have done it without you, Hulk.”
“See? All good. You’re a hero,” Tony smiled at the Hulk and lowered his hand, taking a step towards the others.
Apparently things weren’t going to be simple today; a person in S.H.I.E.L.D. gear moved closer, probably a medic. Tony tried dismissing him, to signal that he didn’t want to tend to his injuries in such an open place. The Hulk rushed forward at once and tried to strike down the medic who refused to back off. Only fast reflexes kept the man’s head where it belonged and before Tony could even turn and start calming down the rage monster yet again, a shot rang out.
Everything froze for several seconds.
Tony looked at the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had fired his gun, as did a whole lot of other people. The rest were looking at the Hulk, who was now starting to look much angrier, green blood seeping out from a bullet hole in his chest.
What would have been a truly impressive roar began to escape the Hulk’s throat and Tony whirled around, planting himself between the Hulk and the idiot who had shot him. “Wait, wait!” Tony shouted, catching the beast’s attention and receiving an angry huff that made his hair stir. “They just got scared of you, and look, barely a scratch,” Tony said, pointing at the Hulk’s chest where the bullet was being pushed out of the wound that was healing rapidly. “Such a small weapon could barely make an scratch, right?”
“Puny weapon,” the Hulk agreed, scowling, scratching at his now-healed chest.
“Yeah,” Tony agreed. “Don’t worry about it, and… please just stay put, okay? Trust me,” he pleaded then turned back to the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, striding over to the man who still held his gun pointed at the Hulk. With an angry swipe of his hand, Tony tugged the weapon from the stricken agent’s grasp and without looking at the gun more than once, took it to pieces with practiced ease. “Idiot,” he hissed at the man, dumping the gun parts in his shaking arms, listening to most of them clatter to the ground. “Next time, I’ll let him rip off your head. Are we clear?”
“Yes, Mr. Stark,” the agent replied shakily.
Tony was fuming, in pain and tired. He had almost died several times today and he still had to make sure the Hulk wasn’t going to throw a hissy fit. He didn’t need jumpy, armed agents with shaky trigger fingers on top of all that.
“That was way too close,” Barton muttered.
“Maybe you should… keep talking to him,” Rogers mused, nodding towards the Hulk who had stayed still, just as Tony had asked, but who didn’t look at all happy.
Tony sighed and nodded, walking back over to their green teammate. “Hey,” he called out. The Hulk turned his face away, as if offended by what had happened earlier, so Tony went with his gut and slid his hand around one of the thick fingers. That gained him the Hulk’s attention and Tony peered up at him. “We’re good, right? You’re not hurt.”
“Hulk smash,” the Hulk informed him, then looked more closely at Tony. “No Shellhead. Tony got hurt without Shellhead.”
Tony blinked. “Yeah, well… it’s not that bad and I don’t think I’m even bleeding so that’s a win. I can’t always wear the armor, you know that.”
The Hulk huffed and sat down in the middle of the street. He didn’t move to dislodge Tony’s hold on his finger, however.
“It’s a good thing I can count on you to have my back when I’m not in the suit,” Tony mused – and meant it, too. He wished he had a camera to capture this moment for Bruce to see.
The green eyes studied his face and the Hulk nodded. He appeared calmer although he snarled every now and then when S.H.I.E.L.D. agents moved around, securing the Wrecking Crew and making sure there was nothing threatening the safety of the general population left in the area.
Eventually the other Avengers dared to approach them and Romanoff was the one to speak up: “Most of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s personnel has been a bit on edge after the Hulk almost destroyed the Helicarrier. However, what just happened was unprofessional and unacceptable. I’m sure Fury will make sure it won’t happen again.”
“It’s not my feelings he has to worry about,” Tony snapped back. “We got lucky today – I hope that doofus knows that.”
“I’m certain he does,” Rogers reassured him. “Thanks.”
Tony shrugged, refusing to take all the credit. After all, it took the Hulk’s agreement to make this work but he had a feeling they had crossed a couple of milestones today. “Let’s go home,” he suggested then and the Hulk got back to his feet, pulling his hand back so that Tony had to let go of it. “You know the way?” Tony asked and got only a grunt in return – after which the Hulk braced himself, jumped up high and at least started in the right direction. Tony decided they would have to trust him to make it back to the Mansion – or the Tower.
The others looked a bit more skeptical but Tony refused to look like he cared to hear their concerns. Instead he turned, trying to see whether they had a transport waiting, then noticed his driver in the crowd that had gathered behind the police tape. He walked over to the man, nodding tersely.
“Mr. Stark,” the man greeted quickly then offered him his phone, suit jacket and tie.
Tony took all of them and turned to leave. “Take the rest of the week off after the car’s been towed to the garage,” he called back over his shoulder and didn’t stop to listen whether he got a reply.
Barton had found them a vehicle by the time he was done sliding into his jacket and they all got in, the police moving the road block to let them through. Tony sank into the uncomfortable seat, closing his eyes, wishing the day would be over.
“You know it was a close call today, right?” Rogers mused.
Tony forced his eyes open. “Some days… are going to be like this. And where the hell was your uniform, Captain?”
Rogers blushed slightly. “We were in too much of a hurry going after the Hulk once Bruce saw you were in danger – I didn’t exactly have time to go change.”
Tony huffed and closed his eyes again. “Some rescue party you are,” he mused.
“You know, this is exactly what I –” Rogers cut himself off and didn’t press on. Tony was too tired to go after the bait and chose not to comment. He wasn’t fond of the topic and if he could somehow avoid it, he would take that chance.
There was no hiding the heavy looks the others gave him but as long as they stayed quiet, Tony wasn’t about to complain. After all, he had one Bruce Banner to deal with and that was sure to suck the rest of the juice out of him before the day was over.
Maybe it would have been easier if he actually had fallen to his death.
to be continued…