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), J.A.R.V.I.S., Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Thor, Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Quest stars: Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, Darcy Lewis, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Betty Ross, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, Erik Selvig.
Pairings: Bruce/Tony, Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor (also: Clint/Natasha, implied past Pepper/Tony, past Bruce Banner/Betty Ross, implied/off-screen Betty/Leonard Samson)
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.
Complete. 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.
Author’s note: This chapter was written in response to an anonymous prompt at avengerkink (LJ): “Bruce/Tony, Hulking out in defense of Tony’s honor” (see full prompt on the site).
“We should go on a date,” Tony proclaimed.
Bruce looked up from his notebook, eyes finding the other man over the rim of his glasses. “We just were on a date, a few days ago.”
“Yeah,” Tony breathed, “with another couple. I meant a date with just you and me.”
Bruce blinked then looked back down at his calculations which, right now, seemed unimportant. “Okay,” he finally said.
“Okay?” Tony echoed and dropped the hand-held device that measured micro-cracks and strain in his armor. Bruce cringed at the sound because he knew that device was one of a kind and probably more expensive than most of Bruce’s own lab equipment. “What kind of answer is that?” Tony demanded almost furiously.
“Well, how about a ‘yes’?” Bruce tried, failing to see what the problem was.
Obviously the problem – whatever it had been – was solved as suddenly as it had appeared, because Tony broke into a bright smile. “Right, then,” he clapped his hands together. “You’ve said ‘yes’ and won’t be allowed to back out later.”
Bruce grew suspicious, abandoning his work in order to look properly at his boyfriend. “I’m saying yes because I would love spending time with you – on a date – but you know we can’t just… do anything crazy, right?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “And here I thought you were actually going to relax for once.”
“I am relaxed! Well, I’m relaxed when I don’t get the distinct feeling that you’re plotting something.”
“I’m not plotting – I’m planning our first-ever date. Where would you like to go?”
“A quiet restaurant with a lot of exits,” Bruce blurted out. Tony didn’t even seem that surprised. “Can’t we just do this in the Tower?”
“That’s not much of a date. We’ve done that.” Tony’s smile had vanished, his tone more cautious now. “I want to go out and… act like normal people – normal people who go out on spectacularly awesome dates and then have great sex afterwards. Rose petals and all.”
“I thought you disliked rose petals because of the chance of getting pricked by thorns,” Bruce teased.
“Good point. No roses,” Tony nodded but wasn’t distracted so easily. “I don’t want to have a date at the Tower, or at the Mansion – or on any property that I own. It… defeats the idea of it, don’t you think?”
“Do you own a restaurant?” Bruce asked carefully. He knew Tony had briefly owned a bar, at least – before demolishing it.
A bar that had been a particular favorite of one Thaddeus Ross…
“No, and I’m not going to buy one as a romantic gesture to you,” Tony informed him.
“Okay, let’s say we find a nice place where I can sit down for a couple hours without getting wound up by the crowd or the noises, or the fact that we would be out in the open…”
“I’ll protect you,” Tony promised haughtily.
“What about you?” Bruce continued explaining his original concern. “Everyone and their pet goldfish knows who Tony Stark is. Can you really afford to go out in public on a date? With a guy,” he added, because that was bound to be part of the problem for some people.
Tony’s lips twitched in thought. “I can… I’ve done it before, believe it or not. Minimal fuss, no distractions. Let me worry about it.”
Bruce wasn’t sure what to say to that. It felt like too much trouble just because Tony wanted to have a date outdoors. However, rationally speaking, if they wanted to make things last between them, going on a date now and then would probably be a good idea – to get away from the others, just by themselves. Honestly, Bruce was actually less worried about potential dangers and triggers, seeing as everyday-life caused him very little problems. The real issue was with Tony being such a public figure, but he trusted the other man to know what he was doing.
Bruce was moderately surprised when they walked into a rather casual-looking bar & grill establishment. It smelled delicious, not so greasy as to be just fast-food, and Tony had a table reserved for them. If the young man who showed them to their seats and offered them the Beer & Wine list recognized Tony, he didn’t say anything.
“Like it so far?” Tony asked as they sat down. Their corner table was as discreet as it was going to get in a place like this, not making them look out of place or particularly shady. They weren’t actively hiding or avoiding being seen, but still had some shelter between decorative columns.
“Yes,” Bruce offered him a small smile. “How’s the food?”
“Good, as far as I’ve been told,” Tony said, glancing around the room and then at the menu. They spent some time selecting what to eat – Bruce had expected Tony to take him to some five-star restaurant where one had to reserve the table a year in advance, but here he could afford anything he wanted, and it felt like Tony was making an effort to stoop to Bruce’s level, so to speak.
They decided to share a mixed BBQ plate, have mozzarella sticks and a nacho platter for starters, and ordered a couple bottles of beer from a local microbrewery – Bruce’s choice, with Tony’s approval.
“I heard the waffles here are great,” Tony mused as they waited, sipping on water.
Bruce nodded, looking forward to dessert although he needed to go through the appetizers and main course first – and of course there was the whole aspect of being on a date. Suddenly he felt nervous, uncertain whether Tony was expecting something special. Bruce didn’t want to disappoint him, after a rather good spell that they’d had. The last time he had been on a date, though – if one didn’t count that evening with Jane and Thor – was too long ago to remember. In fact, he wasn’t certain if he had ever been on a proper date, even with Betty, because they had been so involved in their work…
“Stop fidgeting,” Tony whispered to him and smiled, then gave their waiter a small glance as he brought over the starters. Bruce squared his shoulders, and Tony dared to laugh. “You look like you’re preparing for battle. Relax. Have fun. That’s what this is all about, right?”
“Is it?” Bruce wondered out loud. “I don’t… I haven’t done this before, a lot. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.”
“Be with me. That’s it. The rest should come along naturally,” Tony shrugged and reached for a mozzarella stick, munching on it thoughtfully before the look on his face turned cheery, which meant it was good.
So they ate, which was easy. They talked about this and that, although Bruce tried to avoid bringing science into the conversation because they talked about that enough. However, one couldn’t go wrong with it, either, because Tony always said Bruce could talk his pants off with science – “The sexy way.” – and Bruce wanted to be charming, just as much as he was charmed by Tony every day. The little things the other man did, unconsciously and unthinkingly, reminded Bruce that he had done the right thing by staying and giving this a chance.
Their appetizers were delicious, and when the main course arrived and they dug in, Bruce was glad Tony had brought them here because the BBQ meat and veggies were incredible and they enthused over that for a bit. Tony even used his phone to check that the restaurant offered takeout – not that that was ever a problem when it came to Tony Stark.
They were in the middle of eating when someone approached their table. Bruce looked up in time to see a blonde coming up and halting pointedly beside Tony. A quick look towards the bar suggested that the young man who had been serving their table had noticed as well, looking uneasy.
“Hey, Tony,” the woman called out with a bitingly fake cheer.
Tony looked up, not at all thrilled by the interruption. It was clear he either didn’t know the woman – or didn’t remember her. Bruce suspected it was the latter.
The blonde snorted before Tony could come up with a reply. “Let me guess: you don’t remember me? Why would you? We only shared the best night of your life,” she added viciously.
“That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, honey,” Tony finally said. “I’ve had a lot of great nights.”
“Yeah?” she narrowed her eyes and actually shoved at Tony’s shoulder.
Bruce’s hands tightened around the edge of the table.
“I think it’s best that you leave before someone calls the cops,” Tony told her, tone sharp. He tried not to sound concerned, and he probably wasn’t. Bruce tried to relax, but found himself on edge, watching the situation unfold.
“Maybe they’ll call the press instead,” the woman challenged. “I have a lot of stories to tell. A lot of interesting facts that would make him squirm in his seat,” she went on as she looked at Bruce for the first time. A frown sat on her face, which showed a few crinkles. She was old enough to be an old flame of Tony’s – possibly an embittered one-night stand. Not that it mattered: she was looking at Bruce like she was figuring out a puzzle, and that was the one thing Bruce had been concerned about, besides being recognized; Tony had made no move to let the world know he was in a relationship with another man. He probably never would, which worked for Bruce just fine. It took only one comment, however, to inflame the press…
“Who are you?” she asked, finally, and looked back at Tony, who was looking a bit edgy. “Your boyfriend?”
“A colleague,” Tony snapped back so fast it could have burned.
“Wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of him, then,” the blonde stated.
“Miss,” the waiter came over, finally. “You need to leave if you’re not going to order anything.”
“I’m not going anywhere!” she replied heatedly. “I have a few choice words for this piece of shit –”
“Then let’s hear them so I can get on with my dinner,” Tony cut her off. A mask was firmly on his face, hiding his true feelings – a mask he wore for the public. However, Tony was quickly coming to the end of his patience and a part of Bruce clung onto that and saw her as a threat – which was starting to irk the other guy.
He clutched the table a bit harder, trying to keep it down and reason that this woman was going to be removed from the premises very soon if she went on like this; Bruce didn’t need to lift a finger to help that along.
“You’re a selfish asshole,” the blonde accused Tony. “You have no respect, and you cover up your shortcomings by paying up the right people. You smooch up to those who matter and the rest of us are like disposable waste to you.”
“Tell me something I don’t already know,” Tony commented snidely, then made eye-contact with the waiter. “Please escort her out.”
The waiter nodded and grabbed the woman’s arm. She pulled back and yelled: “Don’t touch me!”
People were starting to look their way.
“If you hadn’t been born to money, no one would take a second look at you; you would be a nobody,” the woman went on. Her insults were starting to veer away from those of a scorned lover and off to a whole different level. “You inherited your daddy’s company, which he built. No one seems to remember you almost ruined it, too, because everyone’s going gaga over your flying metal suit. Who did you steal that idea from, Tony? The Japanese, maybe?”
Bruce was starting to see green. She was insulting Tony’s horrible experience at the hands of the Ten Rings, which had forced him to build Mark I. She was completely ignoring the fact that Tony was a decorated hero, and had by now saved countless lives without anyone’s help. She wasn’t the only one with that kind of attitude, but this was the first occasion when Bruce came face to face with an actual person spouting those lies.
Tony, as per usual, wasn’t fazed by any of it – not visibly, anyway. Later he would stew in silence and feel guilty about all those things, thinking he wasn’t worthy of being an Avenger or the man he was today, and Bruce wasn’t about to just let this slide.
A growl rose from his throat.
Tony looked over and an expression of alarm appeared on his face. The woman and the waiter also whipped their heads around, the young man immediately backing off a few steps.
“Bruce,” Tony leaned towards him, “keep it cool, okay? She’s going to leave.”
“What’s wrong with him?!” the blonde asked loudly.
Bruce fought to breathe evenly. He was aware of people watching, murmuring, and he could imagine the sickening green tint spreading over his skin like some disease in a science fiction movie. He stood up shakily, needing to get away – but that desire wasn’t as great as the one to protect Tony because the threat was still there.
“You,” he growled, pointing at the blonde, who squeaked as if his finger were going to morph into something disgusting and dangerous. Well, it was definitely getting greener, swelling… “What have you ever accomplished in your life?” he asked her, his vision blurring a bit with anger. “Maybe the greatest moment of your life was the few hours spent with him, and that’s driving you mad because you’ll never be able to reach that high up, ever again.”
“Fuck you, you… freak!” the woman exclaimed and took a healthy step back, colliding into another table. “Stay away from me!”
“Bruce.” Tony was on his feet, moving between him and the blonde who was currently talking to the other patrons in the restaurant, sharing her viewpoint of the events. More lies, no doubt, and heat boiled in Bruce’s stomach. “Bruce!” Tony snapped louder. “This isn’t something to get upset over, okay? I need you to go back to a healthy shade of pink.”
“Not… gonna happen,” Bruce managed. Talking was getting harder. It wasn’t that he couldn’t make a sound, but it took effort to get the words out.
“Shit,” Tony hissed. “Shit, shit… Okay, outside, now. There’s the back door.” He guided Bruce backwards, away from the blonde who stared at them but didn’t follow. If she had followed them, Bruce was fairly certain they wouldn’t have made it to the door or through it to a small hallway and then out somewhere that had to be an alley between buildings.
“Bruce, honey,” Tony was talking again, now that they were alone. “Can you hold it off?”
The transformation was coming, there was no stopping it. Bruce lacked the willpower to prevent it, but he focused on Tony, staring at him as he heard the first telltale sounds of his body starting to bloat and stretch. A haze clouded his mind, blessedly distancing him from the pain, and then a familiar darkness descended over his consciousness.
Tony should have been paying attention. He thought he had been, but clearly not enough, and now Bruce was transforming, slower than when he was doing it willingly. All Tony could do was quickly salvage the man’s phone and wallet from the pockets of his clothes before they were torn from the seams, unable to maintain their form around the bulk of the Hulk’s growing body.
It was too late to complain and curse, so Tony waited it out, cautiously, looking up at the green eyes when it was over and the rage monster towered above him.
“Hey, big guy,” Tony greeted tentatively, forcing himself to be casual. The Hulk was surprisingly good at reading moods and didn’t like being lied to.
The Hulk blinked and frowned, then looked up and down the alley.
“We good?” Tony asked.
“Good,” the Hulk rumbled. “Enemies?”
“No enemies,” Tony explained. “No smashing. Hold on,” he said and found his own phone and called J.A.R.V.I.S. “I need a suit at my location, stat.” He didn’t dare to hope that the Hulk might de-Hulk and let Bruce out again. Besides, he would be half-naked…
“Very well, sir,” his AI confirmed and Tony sighed, pocketing his phone.
“Good?” the Hulk asked.
Tony nodded. He supposed the big guy didn’t remember why he had come out, which was good. That bitch inside didn’t deserve to be smashed into a bloody pulp, no matter how embittered she was over Tony’s success in life.
If only she knew…
It didn’t take long before the familiar roar of thrusters reached them and an Iron Man suit halted, descending down into the alley, a cloud of dust rising in its wake. The Hulk growled and tried to swipe at the dust, to make it go away, and Tony covered his face until the worst of it was over.
“How about we go home?” Tony suggested.
The Hulk just grunted, then growled: people had appeared at the mouth of the alley, peering in. Many of them were filming with their phones.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., please destroy the recorded footage,” Tony murmured. He was fairly certain no one had recognized Bruce, but one could not be too careful. Just because General Ross knew where Bruce was now didn’t mean everyone else did, and there were many who knew the man behind the Hulk…
“Freak!” a familiar voice shouted, and Tony spotted the blonde in the crowd.
The Hulk snarled, which quickly shook her back to her senses; even if she didn’t know about the Battle of New York and the Avengers, only an idiot would go up against the Hulk.
“Big guy,” Tony called out, grabbing onto the hand nearest to him. “Let’s go home. Maybe do a little jumping on the way there, yeah?” Exercise would be good for the big guy, in case some of Bruce’s anger lingered with him.
“Stupid girl,” the Hulk growled after the blonde.
“She is, but she won’t get any smarter even if you smash her.”
“Shellhead blast?” the Hulk suggested.
Tony dared to laugh. “That won’t do it either, pal. Come on, let’s go.” He tugged on one green finger, then let go and motioned for J.A.R.V.I.S. to open up the suit so he could slip inside it. Once that was done, he could see that the Hulk was still standing beside him, which was good. “Bet you can’t catch me,” Tony taunted and took off, and the Hulk jumped right after him, almost grabbing his feet before Tony sped up even further and watched as the Hulk landed on top of a building below him, then launched up again with a roar that wasn’t angry but more like a war cry responding to a challenge.
Knowing they had just averted a potentially hazardous situation, Tony arched towards the Mansion and took a small detour before landing. The Hulk touched down right after him, jogging over with footfalls that made the ground shake – then scooped Tony up without warning and stilled completely.
For a second Tony figured that the Hulk wanted to wrestle, but instead he was cradled to the green chest like something precious – not unlike after the incident where the Hulk had almost killed him and felt protective towards him afterwards. A protectiveness that hadn’t exactly disappeared…
“I’m okay,” Tony reassured the big guy through the armor’s speakers. “You can let me go.”
“Hug,” the Hulk said.
“Let me down and I’ll hug you back.”
The Hulk did, and Tony turned to face him, then hugged him. It was awkward due to their size difference, but Tony wasn’t going to ask why the Hulk wanted to be hugged in the first place. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the Hulk liked kisses. All in all, it was a good thing, and when the giant arms capable of crushing buildings and alien space whales let him go, Tony felt almost giddy with relief.
“Now Tony hugs Hulk,” the Hulk demanded.
“I just did.”
The Hulk shook his head in annoyance, and Tony caught on quickly, before the Hulk had reason to call him ‘stupid’; he ordered the armor to open, stepped out onto the Mansion’s lawn, and looked up at the rage monster apprehensively. In the armor, he could take a lot more pressure, but like this, he felt small and fragile. It was a rare thing for him, to have those feelings, even with the Hulk – whom he trusted – but they were still feeling each other out on these things most days.
The green arms moved, slower this time, and Tony stepped into the embrace, hooking his arms around the Hulk’s neck because his shoulders were too wide. Instead of being pressed painfully into the firm chest, the arms tightened fractionally, carefully, and Tony heard something like a contented sigh.
“Puny Banner was angry,” the Hulk finally told him in what could be described as a whisper for the big guy.
“He was,” Tony agreed. “For a stupid reason. I’m glad you kept your cool.”
“Next time, Hulk smash,” the Hulk promised.
“Or maybe not,” Tony suggested. “Some things won’t be solved by smashing.” He held onto the green neck a bit more firmly. “In fact, I think a great many things could be solved by hugging.”
The Hulk made a sound like he was mulling over it. “Maybe.” He paused, then went on: “Or, Hulk crush,” he offered, arms tightening just a little, to show Tony he could probably cut his body in two just like that.
Tony gave up, deciding it was a battle for another day. “Just don’t crush me,” he pleaded.
“Never,” the Hulk promised and finally let him go. Again, Tony felt a bit breathless as they separated, as if his blood were trying to find the proper direction in which to flow.
“Ready to go to sleep?” Tony asked. Sometimes, it was still hard to say how exactly the transformation happened from the Hulk to Bruce. Sometimes sleep was involved; sometimes it was a similarly conscious choice as Bruce deployed during battles. Also, Tony didn’t want to insult the big guy by bugging him into letting Bruce out.
“Tony wants puny Banner,” the Hulk guessed.
“I need to talk to him,” Tony agreed, then took the Hulk’s hand – or, a finger – in his. “But I’ll see you soon, right?”
The Hulk nodded and stepped forward, towards a wide set of doors that led into one of the labs. Tony motioned for the armor to follow, J.A.R.V.I.S. pulling it back together and trailing them inside.
Bruce surfaced with an unusual clarity: he knew where he was, instantly – in one of the Mansion’s labs – and was aware of what day it was – they had been on their date earlier. Plus, he recalled what had happened right before he let the beast out.
Mortification didn’t quite describe what he felt, and as soon as he could, he jumped up from the floor, shoved Tony’s arms away from him and went for the first door he could find – which was one of the storage closets. He opened it, went inside, closed it, and jammed the lock by yanking a half-empty shelf from the wall he had seen upon entering and placing it beneath the handle.
“Bruce?” Tony called from the other side. “Uh, will you come out?”
Bruce breathed hard in the dark. There were no flashes of fight and destruction, and he didn’t feel tired or battered.
“Bruce?” Tony called again, knocking this time. “Please come out.”
He closed his eyes, trying to block the other man’s voice. Part of him felt like blaming Tony for this – why hadn’t he defended himself against the woman? However, he knew the fault was his and his alone, for losing control. “How many did I kill?” he finally asked.
“None,” Tony answered immediately. “You didn’t touch a single person. The big guy wasn’t even angry. Come out,” he asked again, testing the handle.
Bruce wanted to believe Tony’s words – it would be a miracle, for sure. Tony had no reason to lie, either, because the truth would come out as soon as Bruce sat in front of a device with internet access. With a shifting balance of unease and calmness – two feelings that didn’t mesh very well – he turned and tugged the shelf out from beneath the door handle, and immediately it was opened by Tony, as if he weren’t going to waste the opportunity to get to Bruce.
They stared at each other for a moment.
“Are you okay?” Tony asked at length.
“Are you sure nothing happened?” Bruce confirmed, still inside the storage room.
“Yes,” Tony rolled his eyes. “I was there. Now come out and get dressed, please.”
Bruce nodded absently and did as he was told. Tony already had clothes laid out for him – a simple set of sweats – and Bruce tugged them on after stripping away the lingering tatters of his pants. When he was done, Tony slid Bruce’s phone and wallet onto the table next to him. Bruce stared at them, then at Tony, and offered him a tentative smile. “Thanks.”
Tony just nodded his head and looked away for a bit. “You know none of what she said actually got to me, right?” he asked then, still not looking at Bruce.
“Is that so?” Bruce challenged. “That’s not what I saw.”
The brown gaze of his lover was stormy when it finally moved to meet his. “A drop in the sea, Bruce. She thought she could take a shot at me, and she did. There was no reason for you to get so… invested.”
“Like you had no reason to get so invested when Ross came after me,” Bruce countered.
“That’s different!” Tony snapped loudly. “Ross is a real threat, to you and to the team by extension. This woman was… I’m sure she thought she meant something to me, once, but she didn’t. Her arguments may have been better than most I receive alongside fan letters, but she’ll never bother us again.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I’m pretty sure my lawyers would disagree,” Tony groused.
“Fine,” Bruce rolled his eyes. “She was an annoying insect with a sharp sting. It doesn’t mean she’s allowed to talk to you like that – to put you down – and that I have to sit there and listen.”
“If it had been you and not the Hulk, it would have been fine,” Tony finally said and wheeled around, walking away. One of his armors stood still on the far side of the lab and Tony went over to it, his shoulders tense. It was clear he had been worried the other guy would make a mess, and Bruce started feeling guilty again, now that the brief stab of helpless anger had passed.
“I’m sorry,” he said out loud – loud enough for Tony to hear. “It… I shouldn’t have lost it. She wasn’t that big of a threat, and you don’t need me to defend your honor, clearly.”
Tony looked at him over his shoulder, one hand resting on the armor’s chest. “Apology accepted. And… I guess I can’t really blame you for wanting to be there for me.”
After the stunt Tony pulled where he punched out General Ross, Tony was right to say – and remember – that. Bruce hoped Tony still remembered it the next time something like this happened.
“We didn’t get to eat dessert,” he mused.
“No,” Tony agreed.
“How about I go and check the kitchen for something delicious, and we’ll meet in our room once you’ve stopped fiddling with the armor?”
Tony gave him a smile that was fond and a little surprised. “Sure thing.” He removed his hands from the suit and snapped his fingers. The armor came to life and moved away, without an actual command – a sign that J.A.R.V.I.S. could take a hint.
Bruce nodded and moved to the door and up the stairs, more than happy to spend the rest of the night behind closed doors with only Tony for company; the transformation hadn’t exhausted him but he felt a little tense in its aftermath, and if he had to be with someone, it was going to be his boyfriend – who in some inexplicable way had stopped the Hulk from going on a rampage today. Bruce didn’t believe for a moment that the Hulk hadn’t been angry and willing to smash the blonde woman for her impertinence, but all this could be considered a win and it was only fair they celebrated. With dessert.
to be continued…