Never. Never, since the day the Other Guy had first come into his life, had Bruce thought this moment would happen. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smiled this widely, so that his eyes were crinkling and his cheeks hurt. He could feel his heart thudding in his chest, fit to burst, and even the Other Guy, in the back of his mind, was rumbling happily, content to be merely a murmur behind Bruce’s eyes.
Growing up, Bruce had always wondered what was wrong with him, that his father would treat him so badly. The other kids at school would gush about how Daddy played catch with them all weekend, or had spent six months building them a house for their dolls. Bruce would sit and listen, slowly realizing that it wasn’t normal to have a daddy who was constantly yelling at you and beating up Mommy.
As he grew older, Bruce decided that, if he accomplished nothing else in life, he would be the best damn father to ever walk the planet. His sons would be fucking Cy Young winners, and his daughters’ dolls would live in a goddamn mansion.
And he would prove that “Like father, like son,” was a load of bullshit.
As his friends got married and had their own children, Bruce would smile and congratulate them, while inside, he would seethe with envy, with the yearning to have a tiny little someone look up at him with utter and complete trust in their eyes.
But then there was college, and then his doctorate, and then the research, and the little voice in the back of his head said, Later. We can have that later.
And then came the Other Guy.
Back when he’d first realized what the Other Guy was capable of, and how He came out when Bruce’s heart rate hit a certain level, Bruce had pretty much taken an unofficial vow of celibacy, especially after that time with Betty where He had almost leapt out of Bruce’s skin and squashed her. Bruce had enough to worry about, constantly fighting with the Other Guy in his mind, so he’d shoved his hopes of little baby Banners into a small corner of his mind and told himself, Never. Not for you. Not anymore.
At least he no longer had to worry about passing on any bad Banner genes.
And it had been okay. Once he'd joined the Avengers, and was accepted by the team, he told himself to be content with the fact that he had friends. Friends who didn’t run screaming, friends who made sure the Other Guy wasn’t too destructive, friends who stayed up late in the lab coming up with special pants so Bruce wouldn’t have to be naked in front of half of New York again.
So he could never have a wife. He could never have children. At least he wasn’t totally alone anymore.
And then he’d met Darcy. And suddenly, “okay,” wasn’t enough.
Early on in their relationship, Darcy, who’d pursued him with a single-minded determination that was both incredibly flattering and a little bit frightening, had told him, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way he was going through life without sex (“How long has it been? God, no wonder the Other Guy is so frustrated all the time.”) and that she would be more than willing to be the guinea pig in figuring out how to get around the whole “heart rate” issue. “It’ll just take lots of…practice. And patience,” she’d whispered into his ear as she’d grabbed him by the lapel of his lab coat and dragged him off to bed.
With her wide smile, infectious laugh, and mischievous spirit, she’d torn her way through his defenses. She’d reached deep down into his heart and yanked open the box into which he’d stuffed his hopes and dreams, pulled them out and draped them around his neck, forcing him to want them again. He’d lie next to her at night, his eyes roaming over her sleeping face, and wonder what it would be like to have a child with his eyes and her nose. And his heart would beat faster and a little voice inside him would say, Maybe. Maybe.
But he’d ruthlessly quashed that little voice. The Other Guy was still around; but Darcy insisted that the Other Guy loved her, too, and with every day, with every kiss, the voice grew louder and more insistent. Maybe. Maybe someday.
And now, it was no longer maybe. No longer someday. With trembling hands, Bruce reached out to take the tiny creature being handed to him by a beaming nurse.
“Congratulations, Doctor Banner,” she said. “It’s a girl.”
And Bruce and the Other Guy looked down at their daughter. And, for once, they were in complete agreement.