For all the gods’ sake why I had to bump into Bruce?’
You were staring into Banner’s dark brown eyes, praying silently that he would not look down and see that you were wearing a green t-shirt with “KEEP CALM AND DESTROY EVERYTHING IN SIGHT” inscription across the front. Apparently, today was the worst day of your life because he did exactly that. You blushed when you saw the look of surprise showing up on his face. It was too late to run away since the elevator’s door was already closed.
“Doesn’t it contradict itself?” he asked before you could even think about any plausible explanation. Luckily, Banner was rather curious and not angry, but it did not change the fact that you were embarrassed.
“Probably,” you answered. “A friend gave it to me.” You needed to tell him that it was not your idea to buy this t-shirt nor it was meant to offend Bruce. “He’s addicted to video games, mostly these where he can blow a lot of stuff up.”
“Oh.” That was all what Banner said before pressing the buttons for both of your floors.
You worked with Bruce and Tony for six months now and you felt more comfortable with them than with the rest of the Avengers. Both of them were into science and that was what got you so close to them. Maybe too close, because after a few weeks of working together, you started to have feelings for Bruce. Most of the people who knew of his green alter ego were very cautious around him. You, on the other hand, felt completely comfortable when he was nearby, well, until you started to fall for him.
You were quite good in hiding how you felt about Banner, at least when there were other people around, especially Tony, whose ego was a very good distraction from the awareness of Bruce’s presence just a few feet away from you. Now, you were both alone in a small metal box.
“Something urgent?” Bruce asked after he noticed that you were checking the time on your watch.
“I was going to the movie theater when I’ve got this message from Fury saying that he’s in need of some files I have. He didn’t even bother to call me directly. He asked J.A.R.V.I.S. to notice me.” You sighed. “And you? Any plans for tonight?”
“I have a new book that I want to start reading,” he answered.
When you looked closely at Bruce, you notice he seemed a bit sad and maybe more than a bit lonely. It made you feel guilty of going somewhere when he was going to stay in the Stark Tower all alone.
“Will go to the movies with me?” you blurted out without thinking twice, earning a surprised look on Banner’s face.
“Weren’t you going with some of your friends?” he asked.
“No, I was going there alone. Come on, it’s gonna be so much fun. My treat.” You made pleading puppy eyes.
“You know that I-” Bruce did not finish what he wanted to say. The elevator stopped so abruptly that you both fell on the floor your head hitting against the metal railing.
Bruce got up and pressed some buttons on the control panel but without any effect. He called for J.A.R.V.I.S. without any luck. You heard him taking out his phone and making a call or at least trying to make one. Elevator’s silence helped you to hear an automated voice saying that there was no service. You opened your eyes and despite the fact that the walls were spinning a little bit you decided to get up. It was not a wise choice. You stumbled on your feet only to be caught by Banner at the last moment. He helped you sit on the floor and started pacing while fiddling with his phone again and pushing the alarm button every ten seconds. After taking a few deep breaths your vision went back to normal but then you felt something wet behind your left ear. When you checked it, you saw blood on your fingertips. You felt another cold shiver. No wonder your head was throbbed painfully.
When you did not hear his response, you looked up and saw his clenched fists. That made you feel a cold shiver running down your spine. If he was going to hulk out then you were already dead, though you had no idea what would kill you first – Hulk’s huge body or the falling elevator.
“Bruce?” you called him again and this time he looked at you.
His eyes went wide when he saw blood on your fingers. He knelt beside you and checked your head searching for the injury. You did not want to make any fuss about that but apparently it switched Banner’s focus and there was no more indication of him being about to hulk out.
“Is it bad?” you asked with a bit of worry in your tone.
“Not really, but you’ll need two or three stitches to stop it from bleeding.” Bruce reached to his back pocket and pulled out a purple handkerchief to press it to your injury. “Just keep a light pressure to it.” You felt his warm fingers over yours when he directed your hand to the right spot.
He was so close to your face that you could see golden specks into his brown irises. For a blink of an eye, the whole world around you disappeared. It would last longer if the elevator did not start moving up again. Bruce stood up and helped you to get on your feet. His relief was so visible that you had a hard time to keep your face straight and not to start laughing tough there was nothing funny about the whole situation.
A minute later the elevator reached Banner’s work floor and you both went to his lab. Bruce told you to sit on a table by the window while he went to search for the first aid kit he kept there just in case of someone being injured. When he got back, he asked you to hold your hair to the other side while he was examining the cut on your head using one of the lab lamps to light the spot.
“You don’t need sutures,” he said while opening the kit to put on purple nitrile gloves. When you gave him a skeptical look, he added quickly, “Trust me, I’m a doctor. I know what I’m doing.”
You chewed on your lower lip to prevent yourself from laughing when he quoted one of the songs you liked, even if that was just a coincidental choice of words.
“But cleaning the wound may hurt a little.”
“It can’t be worse than getting a tattoo,” you spoke, still holding your hair to expose the injured spot.
“You have a tattoo?” Bruce asked without thinking twice.
It did not sound like him, but when he was around you, he seemed to act in ways he would not in other circumstances. It was easier when Tony was around distracting him enough so he could focus on work and not on you. Now, his best friend was not here so Banner was a bit nervous.
“You don’t?” you asked him, this time not even trying to hide your amusement.
“I don’t like needles,” he answered quickly and started to clean your injury as thoroughly as possible.
You laughed forcing him to stop his actions because you could not sit still anymore. That was hilarious how he was scared of these pointy pieces of metal while he spent so much time in India helping people there with his medical expertise.
“Sorry,” you mumbled straitening up again so he could continue cleaning the wound. “It’s kind of funny for you to say that when you’re practically a medicine doctor from what Tony has told me. Usually people who don’t like needles also don’t like stabbing others with them.”
“So… what is it?”
“What is what?” you asked and hissed loudly when he applied some antiseptic ointment. “Shit! That thing stings like hell.”
Bruce held you head bent a little more to the side and the next thing you felt was some cool air he blew on the injury to help you with the burning. You were so flabbergasted by his actions that you could not utter even a single sound.
“Thanks,” you mumbled when he moved his hands away to prepare some purple liquid. “What’s that?”
“Liquid skin,” he replied and tilted your head again. “Don’t move for a moment. It won’t hurt.”
You wanted to ask him more questions, but right now, he just needed to focus on dressing your cut so you remain silent until he was done with it.
“All done but wait a few minutes until it dries completely. It’s waterproof and it should peel off by itself in about five days so-”
“Bruce, thank you,” you interrupted him. He flashed you an awkward smile and started to clean up to put things away.
It took him a few minutes to bring everything back in order. Then he checked the dressing and gave you a green light to put down your hair. You combed it gently with your finger and hopped down from the table.
“So, there’s The Flying Deuces screening in this small movie theater two blocks from here.”
You were not going to quit your plans for the night. Screw Fury and his files. If it had not been for him, you would not have ended up in the elevator and your head would be intact.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea for you to go out alone with head injury.”
Bruce seemed too worried about you considering the size of your wound and the fact that it was not hurting that much anymore, it was more like annoying throbbing slowly fading away.
“Have you already forgotten that I asked you to come with me? Come on, Bruce.” You gave him pleading puppy eyes again. “It’s gonna be fun.”
~ * ~
Twenty minutes later, you were buying tickets for The Flying Deuces. Neither of you wanted popcorn or soda thus you went straight into the screening room. You saw only a few people there who wanted to see the movie though you did not want to end up with some loud teens behind you so you chose two seats in the middle of the last row away from other viewers.
“Do you come here often?” Bruce asked during the block of commercials. “I overheard you joking with the girl from the box office.”
“I’m here once a week, sometimes more often if they have something interesting on the screening list. I like these small movie theaters; they have soul, this something that makes them unique. And it’s the nearest one that has screenings of the old movies.”
“Tony set up a movie room on his floor, you know that, right?”
“I’ve been inside of it once, but it smelled there as if a workshop had a child with an ice cream factory.”
You were lucky that commercials were still going on the screen when Bruce could not contain his laughter.
“Sorry,” you said quietly to people who shot you disapproving looks.
When you glanced at Bruce, he was smiling sheepishly and that was the last thing you saw before the lights went off, bathing the room in complete darkness for a few long seconds followed by the movie projector lightning up the screen.
A little bit more than hour later the movie ended, the theater employee turned on the lights and the rest of the viewers started to leave the room. You were still sitting in your chair catching breath after all the laughing you had while watching the screening. One long glance at Bruce told you that he had fun too and seemed more relaxed than he had been earlier.
“There’s this great Indian restaurant just around a corner. What about grabbing some food before going home?” you suggested after getting up from your seat. “They’re about to close soon.”
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d thought that you took me on a date.”
At this point, you were grateful for Natasha Romanoff to be your friend and for her lessons of how to keep your face straight in any situation. You gave Bruce a warm smile although internally you were having a mild panic attack that he might have realized that you were keeping him way outside a friends-only zone.
“Let’s go before I’ll starve enough to buy a bag of popcorn. You don’t want to hear me beefing on about the kernels’ shells stuck between my teeth.”
You used to do that every single time after having popcorn, letting a river of multilingual profanities flow out your mouth freely. Once Steve walked on you during one of those rants and poor guy had a very hard time recovering from it.
~ * ~
You left the movie theater and turned left. The restaurant was a few minutes away from there, as you said, just around a corner. The front door was already locked.
“They’ve just closed for today but that restaurant belongs to my friend Saanvi family. Wait here, while I’ll catch her through the back.”
You left Bruce at the front door and entered the delivery alley leading to a small parking lot at the back of the building. Someone broke two of the lamps, leaving only the ones at the ends intact so you have to go through a very dark spot. It was then when you heard footsteps behind you. You looked there, and in the last moment you stepped to right not to collide with a young man who seemed to appear out of nowhere in front of you.
“Just look who we have here,” the man spoke in a tone suggesting he did not have any good intentions. “What’s your name, kitten?”
“Not interested,” you replied and tried to pass by him but he blocked your way.
After glancing over your shoulder for the second time, you noticed that there were two of his friends standing arm to arm. There was no way you could squeeze past them fast enough to leave before they would try to grab you. All of them were in their early twenties and to your relief there was nothing in their clothes and accessories suggesting they belonged to some street gang. The one in front of you seemed to be their leader. He was taller and more muscular than the other two.
“Come on, kitten,” the leader of this little trio almost purred like a cat and you thought that he might have some kind of obsession with felines. “I know that’s not your name. Don’t be such a tease.”
“Listen, dickhead, I’ve already said that I’m not interested so if you and your pals don’t want to be mewling like a bunch of pussies, I recommend you to go fuck yourselves somewhere else.”
You saw the anger flashing in his eyes only a second before he wanted to grab your arm. You caught his hand midair and twisted it just as Natasha taught you, pulling at his wrist to the point a hair away from breaking it. He went on his knees instantly with a high-pitched whine. His two pals jumped forward to attack you but you moved behind their friend’s back without letting go of his arm what caused him even more pain, especially when a kick from one of his buddies landed straight into his face, knocking him out cold. You let him fall and stared at his pals with a confident smirk on your lips.
“Who’s next, dickheads?” you asked in a light tone as if you were in a middle of an afternoon tea party.
One of them made a move but you ducked and punched him in the balls as hard as you could. He screamed like banshee before falling on the ground holding his crotch and crying like a baby.
“(Name)?!” Bruce’s voice echoed at the entrance distracting you enough for the last guy to pin you to the wall.
The sound of surprise came out from your lips. Your head hit the wall with a slight thump but you felt only a flash of pain; your eyes focused not on the assailant but on Banner who was staring at you, his fists clenching while he tried to suppress his anger and prevent Hulk from showing up. It left you seconds to get to him and calm him down. You did not want to be the one who got Bruce or Hulk into troubles.
“Pal,” you started talking to the guy who was holding you against the wall. “If I were you, I would let me go immediately. You saw how dangerous I am and for sure you don’t want to know what my friend is going to do once he gets here.”
He hesitated and you use that moment to knock his hands off you, push him away, and knock him out with your right hook. It hurt like hell but you did not have time to notice that. Before he even touched the ground, you were already on your way towards Bruce.
“(Name), stay where you are!” he warned you taking a step back but you did not stop until you reached him.
You saw his brown eyes turning green, one of the first signs that he was going to hulk out; at least that was what Natasha and Tony told you about this process. There was this lullaby thing to calm Bruce or Hulk down but you could not remember the words so you did the only thing that could work in these circumstances. You closed the gap between you two, cupped Bruce’s faces, and kissed him.
At first he tensed, evidently surprised but after the first seconds he started to relax. You felt him responding to the kiss, his hands unclenching and finding their way to your waist. You gasped when his fingers moved under the hem at the back of your t-shirt, so warm that they were leaving burning trails on your bare skin. Bruce took this opportunity and his tongue slid in between your lips. He tasted like a dark chocolate, sweet and rich in flavor, completely intoxicating.
“We can’t,” he whispered being the first to break the kiss.
He tried to move away from you but you quickly wrapped your arms around the back of his neck, refusing to let him go.
“Why?” you panted out even though you had a rather good idea what he was going to say.
“I’m older than you-”
“I don’t care,” you interrupted him. “And I know what the next arguments you want to use are. And I don’t care about them either.”
“I’m dangerous, (Name). If he’s going to show up… I can’t control him and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Bruce-” you started but he put a finger on your lips preventing you from saying anything more.
“I’m serious now,” he whispered with deep sadness in his voice.
“Hulk won’t hurt me, Bruce. Don’t worry about that.”
You wanted to convince him without revealing your biggest secret.
“You don’t know that!” Bruce shook his head in frustration looking everywhere but not at you.
You cupped his face again forcing him to look into your eyes. It was time to tell him the truth.
“Actually, I know that he would never hurt me. Do you remember that day when we went upstate to test the machine you built with Tony?” Bruce nodded, confusion showing in his eyes. “You hulked out when it exploded and I was there at that moment. You told me to stay behind but I was worried and didn’t want you to do this alone. He roared at me and after that, he was staring at me - huffing and puffing - not knowing who I was and what I was still doing there. I probably should run and hide but I could not leave him and you all alone so I smiled at him and said hello. I told him my name and asked him for his.”
At this point Bruce was in some kind of shock, disbelief easily readable into his eyes.
“Long story short, we hang out for a few hours, gathering the remains of your device. He didn’t hurt me; he even said that he liked me just before he was gone and you were back.”
“Why haven’t you told me about it then?”
“You were disoriented at the time and I didn’t want to worry you more. After that, I couldn’t find the right time to talk with you about what happened there. To be honest, I was a bit afraid that you were going to give me hard time because of my recklessness plus I didn’t want you to ask Fury to assign me somewhere else.”
Bruce kept looking at you and you noticed the storm of emotions in his irises but you did not avert your eyes. You could feel your heart pounding heavily inside your chest while you waited for him to say something.
“I come with a lot of baggage, (Name). It’s not an easy thing to deal with,” he said resting his forehead on yours.
“I’ve got a real good feeling about it. That is, if you give us a chance.”
“WHAT THE HELL?!” You almost jumped hearing a loud male voice with heavy Indian accent.
“Shit! That’s Saanvi’s father,” you whispered and grabbed Bruce’s hand to drag him out of the alley’s entrance. “That was a close one,” you breathed with relief when you were out of the view. “I guess there’s no Indian food tonight.”
“Chinese takeout then?” Bruce suggested and you smiled brightly at him.
“You read my mind, doctor Banner.”
“I can also take care of your hand,” he said pointing to your right palm. “You’re bleeding again.”
“Dammit!” You looked at your bloodied knuckles.
~ * ~
“I’ve been calling him for the last half an hour. He did not pick up even once; it goes straight to the voice mail. Same thing for (Name). Let’s check Banner’s floor first and then (Name)’s.”
Tony Stark went into the elevator in Stark Tower along with his Avengers friends - Clint and Steve. They were all going to check where Bruce Banner was. The briefing with Nick Fury was supposed to start half an hour ago but Bruce did not show up or let them know he was going to be late. (Name) was unreachable as well, though it was a standard when it came to her. She tended to lock people out when he was working on something important.
When they got on Banner’s floor, it was completely dark with all the blinds fully shut down. Tony asked J.A.R.V.I.S. to open them and it was then when they saw Bruce sleeping on the couch in the living room and (Name) snuggled with him, the upper half of her body resting on Banner’s torso.
To Steve’s relief the pair was fully clothed. Then he saw Tony taking out his phone, apparently wanting to snap a few photos of his best friend and (Name). Clint shared a look with Steve and they both flanked Stark, grabbing him by his arms. Barton took Tony’s phone while Rogers covered Stark’s mouth with his hand to keep him quiet while they both dragged the billionaire back into the elevator.
“Don’t be an idiot again, Stark!” Clint said through the clenched teeth. “You were lucky enough to withstand Thor’s wrath. You’re not going to survive Hulk’s rage, not even while wearing one of your armors.”
Steve only rolled his eyes while pushing the button for Stark’s floor where the meeting was supposed to take place. He hoped that they would not have to duct tape Tony to his chair though with Fury’s presence there that option was not completely off the table.