He's used to waking up in piles of rubble, ruined rooms with gaping holes in the walls and ceiling, tangles of pipes and wiring, shattered windows and cracked tiles.
He's used to waking up deep in the forest, or high in the mountains, at the end of a trail of broken trees, the area around him eerily silent because he's frightened all the birds away. He's used to waking up cold and naked and having no idea where he is, what country he's in, how many people he hurt to get there.
Bruce is used to waking up in a lot of unfamiliar places after he comes back to himself. He's learned that he can get used to just about anything, eventually.
But waking up with the sun on his face beside a glistening infinity pool overlooking the ocean--that's a new one.
The floral print silk robe is new too.
And, he's fairly sure, designed for a woman.
He blinks a few times--it never hurts to be sure he's not hallucinating--and sits up. He's rarely badly injured after he changes back, but it never feels quite right, like there are parts of him that take longer to fit together than others. He picks at the lacy hem of the robe and yawns.
"Hey! You're awake!"
The shout comes from behind him, but Bruce doesn't bother looking around. A moment later Tony is standing over him, blocking out the morning sun.
He shoves a cup of coffee into Bruce's hand and leans down, presses a smacking kiss to Bruce's forehead and says, "Rise and shine, sweetheart. You're missing all the fun."
"What fun?" Bruce asks. Waking up after to kissing and coffee, that's new too, and he's definitely not used to it yet.
There's a crash from behind him--glass breaking, wood splintering--and Tony grins, wide and a little bit wild.
"We're investigating," Tony says. He's already wandering away again, toward the racket and laughter. "Thoroughly. Confiscating evidence. Get in here and join us."
They're outside a massive white house, all ostentatious pillars and replicas of classical statues, and the glass doors are wide open. There's another crash, and a shout of laughter. Steve, laughing so hard he can't say whatever he's trying to say, because waking up poolside in a woman's silk robe isn't weird enough, Bruce thinks. Now he's also got to process the fact that Steve Rogers is apparently having a grand old time violently ransacking somebody's house.
Then Thor is laughing too, and Tony is yelling for them to save some for him, and Bruce hasn't been awake long enough for any of this to make sense.
Bruce leans back into the chair and takes a sip of coffee. Another shadow falls over him, and he looks up. This time it's Pepper, and she's smiling.
"I don't blame you," she says. "It's getting messy in there."
Pepper sits on the edge of Bruce's chair and leans over to kiss him--always slower than Tony, softer, more thoughtful--and when she pulls away she covers her mouth to stifle a yawn. She's got her phone in hand and she's dressed like she spent all night at work, skirt and blouse a little wrinkled, jacket gone and sleeves are rolled up, her hair in wisps around her face.
"Do I even want to know?" Bruce asks.
"This," says Pepper, with a decidedly wicked glint in her eyes, "is the vacation home--one of the vacation homes--of one Mr. Jerome T. Haggington, President and CEO of FluxTech Enterprises."
Bruce doesn't remember much of the fight the night before; the memories will come back, but slowly, in pieces, as they always do. It's been happening more quickly recently, with less confusion, the more time he spends as the other guy. He doesn't like to think about what that means.
But he does remember crashing through the side of a warehouse wall with FLUXTECH FOR THE FUTURE painted on it in garish yellow.
He also remembers... Huh. "Were those saber-toothed tigers?"
"No," Pepper says, but she's biting her lower lip and she's still smiling. "Those were genetically-engineered cyborg saber-toothed tigers equipped with a facial recognition targeting system. There wasn't much left after you finished with them."
"Oh. Right." He does remember smashing a few of the leaping creatures, and he remembers the satisfying crunch of fist-through-cyborg-predator-face. Bruce doesn't know if he'll ever get used to waking up and discovering that what he's done while we was the other guy was something people want to talk about, laugh about, and sometimes even thank him for.
He doesn't want to get used to it. He knows that won't end anywhere good.
He drinks some more coffee and wonders he might be hallucinating after all. But for all that every member of his team is a little bit in love with danger and more than a little mad, he can trust Pepper, at least, to tell him when the other guy does something terrible. If he did, she would still be here, but she wouldn't be relaxed and happy, her leg pressed against his, playful smile on her lips.
There's more crashing from behind them, and Thor's booming laughter again--nobody laughs quite like Thor, it's a force of nature--and this time it's followed by what sounds very much like an argument between Natasha and Clint about who gets to set the explosives. Bruce hopes they warn him if they decide to bring the whole house down. The two of them sometimes forget details like that.
"Mr. Haggington is a little bit paranoid," Pepper says. "He keeps a lot of company secrets in secure safes hidden throughout his property." She waves one hand dismissively. "In the floor, in the walls. Tony found two safes in the first floor powder room."
Ah. The early morning demolition derby makes a little more sense now.
Pepper's phone beeps and she glances at the screen. Then she gives a squeak of delight, wriggles happily and throws her arms around Bruce's neck and kisses him again.
"Good news?" Bruce says.
"We just bought out FluxTech for four dollars a share," she says. "Yesterday it was eighty-five, and five members of the board of directors have been arrested trying to leave the country." Nothing makes Pepper happier than a bit of vicious corporate raiding first thing in the morning. "But if Tony decides to use those plans he just found in the bathroom to build the robot dinosaurs, I won't be held responsible."
Bruce pats her shoulder, brushes a stray hair back from her face. "Don't worry. Nobody will blame you."
Pepper rolls her eyes. "Please, Dr. Banner. I have plenty of practice making sure everybody blames Tony, and you for enabling him."
"I will not comment on that accusation, Ms. Potts."
"You don't need to. I know you want to build robot dinosaurs just as much as he does." Pepper laughs and stands up, wanders toward the side of the pool to make some calls, arrange some meetings, bring herself one step closer to world domination, the usual.
What Bruce wants right now is to finish his coffee, and maybe find something to wear that isn't pink and silky, and maybe check out what kind of research his team is digging out of the marble floors inside. The robot dinosaurs can wait.