"Hulk! Calm down!" Steve approached the Hulk slowly, hands raised. "They're gone now. It's fine."
The Hulk dropped the car. He turned to Steve, huffing. Then he roared, shaking his hands.
"Hulk! Down!" Steve did not take his eyes off of the Hulk. At last, the Hulk snorted and shuddered.
He shrunk down back to Bruce, the green fading. It was like he was collapsing in on himself, and Steve almost worried he'd shrink into nothing one day. Bruce fell to his knees, breathing heavily.
Steve helped him to his feet.
"Thanks," Bruce said, smiling up at him.
"Not a problem." Steve kept his arm around Bruce as they left the battlefield.
Steve found Bruce in his lab. He was bent over a test tube that was hovering over a burner. Using an eye drop, he put several drops in a Petri dish. He wrote something down. Then he looked at the substance under a microscope before writing some more.
After several minutes, Steve politely coughed. Bruce looked up, and a smile spread across his face.
"Steve," Bruce said. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Sorry, just getting some work done."
"What are you working on?" Steve allowed himself further into the lab. He glanced at some papers, but none of it made any sense.
"Uh, just redoing some tests involving the super soldier serum." He ran a hand through his hair. "Thanks for the blood sample, by the way."
"Anytime." Steve crossed his arms. He'd run through this a dozen times in front of the mirror. It was simple. "So," he began, "did you have any plans for dinner?"
Bruce had returned to his work. He shrugged as he made another note. "Not anything special, no."
"Well, I was wondering if you might like to go to dinner." Steve bit his lip. "With me, I mean." Bruce looked up at him. "As a... as a date."
Bruce took off his glasses again. He looked down, and Steve couldn't see his expression.
"Sorry, I should go, I didn't-"
"No," Bruce said and met Steve's eye. He smiled, a little ruefully. "It's just been a while since I've considered, well... My last relationship, the big guy didn't really help with that." He played with his glasses in his hand, and Steve resisted the urge to go over and take them from him. He was quite fond of Bruce's glasses.
Steve took a step forward. "So, is that a yes?"
Bruce considered him for a moment. Steve bit his lip again to calm himself. Then Bruce nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, it sounds... fun. Um, I'll be done about six-ish?"
"That sounds good. Great."
They shared another smile, and Steve felt much lighter as he left.
They went to a Chinese buffet. Steve enjoyed it, but Bruce kept talking about how American Chinese didn't hold a candle to the local food he ate while wandering China.
"But this is the best place for American Chinese," he said.
Steve laughed, and their conversation turned to other topics.
He felt easy and comfortable around Bruce. It was true that when he had first met him, he'd been overly cautious. Bruce had proven to be a valuable member of the team, and even more so, a good friend. Steve liked Bruce. It was that simple for him.
He reached out and wiped a little sauce from the corner of Bruce's mouth.
"Umm..." Bruce flushed a bit.
Steve realized what he had done. "Sorry. I didn't mean..."
"Okay, I'm taking your romance novels away from you."
"Tony bought them for me. And I do not take romance advice from them."
Bruce shook his head, but he was grinning. "If you did, we wouldn't even be here. You'd throw me down, and I'd hulk out. Don't pay any attention to Tony. Trust me."
After dinner, they started towards the mansion. But Steve caught Bruce's arm. "Do you want to take a walk through the park?"
"Romance novels, Steve."
But Steve grinned. "Nothing like that, I promise."
He led Bruce through the park, enjoying just strolling beside Bruce. They reached the water, and Steve took in the sight of the New York skyline rising above the park.
"A lot of things have changed since I was last here. But I'm glad of those changes."
Bruce hummed beside him.
After a few moments, Steve said, "Well, shall we head back?"
He turned around, but Bruce didn't move. "That's it?" Bruce said.
Surprised, Steve looked down at him. "What's it?"
Bruce shook his head. "Tony was right." Then he grabbed the front of Steve's shirt and pulled him down into a kiss.
When the kiss ended, Bruce said, "I wouldn't Hulk out you know. I can control it."
"That's good to know." He couldn't stop the grin on his face. Steve bent down to kiss Bruce again.
Bruce stopped by Tony's workshop on the way down to his rooms.
Tony leered when he saw him. "Those are the same clothes as yesterday, aren't they?"
"Haven't been down to change yet." He might have blushed a little, but it was slight. He grinned at Tony.
Tony whistled. "Score, man. So the books worked?"
"Not at all. Too much of a gentleman, and reverse psychology doesn't seem to work. I had to pull the romance stunt."
"Told you. Well, maybe I'll lend him some romcoms. Then he'll be leaving flowers at your door. Little less risqué."
"I think we're good now, thanks."
"Yeah, right." Tony leered again. "Oh, hey, I'll get you the reverse ion particle exchange today."
He whistled as he showered and dressed. He'd let Steve go at his own pace; now Bruce was going to show him how a real relationship with a guy who sometimes turned into a big green monster really worked.
Steve wouldn't know what hit him.