As soon as he set Tony gently on the floor of the penthouse, Hulk crossed the room to stand over Loki in much the same way he'd done just minutes before in the middle of the streets below. When Clint raised his bow to point a basic arrow at the dazed demigod’s forehead, Hulk growled threateningly and pounded his fists on the floor, moving into a protective crouch.
“Not puny god's..” a pause and a swirl of brown in angry green eyes, “fault.”
Loki gave a confused little sound and curled into a ball against Hulk's side, trembling from head to toe. He knew nothing but the blinding pain in his skull, the suddenness of being alone in his mind pressing fire behind his eyes.
“Something different inside, like Hulk in puny Bruce. Control mind. Hulk smash and take away.”
Natasha's lips twitched and she pressed her fingertips to Clint's hip, “Cognitive recalibration.”
Hulk tilted his head, brows furrowing until a burst of brown around his pupils made him nod with a huff. Tony couldn't tear his eyes away, watching Bruce and Hulk coiled so close together, not fighting for control as most would expect, but cohabiting perfectly. If he focused, he could remember seeing those same flecks of honeychocolate as Hulk's roar shuddered through his arc reactor and jump started his heart. It made his stomach flutter.
“Puny god not bad. When puny god small like sick ones, less cautious. Mind open, weak. Evil one crawl inside, taking all bad and making bigger.” Hulk growled again, fixing his eyes on each of them, lingering on Thor's furious form by the shattered windows. “Puny god not want this, not mean to smash, not mean to kill calm one.”
In the heavy silence following his words, Thor took a deep breath, swallowed hard and stepped forward slowly. Hulk watched him warily but moved away when Thor slipped his arms around his brother, leaning his head back as Loki nuzzled up beneath his chin as he'd done in their youth. Tony handed him a bottle of water as he made for the door, absently asking JARVIS to guide them to a room he thought would be comfortable for two exhausted, confused demigods.
Once the two were well on their way down the hall, Hulk turned back towards the rest of the team, shuffling in the same awkward way Bruce had so many times on the helicarrier. Steve was almost surprised he didn't bite his lip like he'd seen the man do in the lab when he was uncertain of what he should be doing with himself, limbs moving in quick, tense jerks. After a few moments, he took two steps, which effectively brought him to the edge of the floor before it raised up.
The floor and walls shook as Hulk sat in front of Natasha and Clint tensed, fingers moving to ghost over his arrows. She'd told him all about what had happened when he shot the helicarrier. He felt her twinge of fear in the way the soft pressure at his hip became crooked fingers digging into muscle. He was going to have bruises.
“Hulk sorry hurt Tasha.” The dry click of her throat as she tried to swallow was loud and Steve handed her his half empty bottle of water. She took a long sip and handed it back. “Puny Bruce sorry too.”
“I know, Hulk. It's okay. I'll be okay.”
Hulk closed his eyes - I don't think she'll ever really trust us, we scared her too much, it sounds like she has a broken rib. Probably when we threw her into the wall. We don't deserve her trust. Or Clint's or Thor's or Steve's or To - and heaved a trembling sigh. When he opened them again, Tony counted eight little shimmers of brown twisted up in a bottomless sea of green.
“Not trust us.”
It wasn't a question, but she pushed in front of Clint to bring herself closer, breathing deep and steady like the slow roll of a wave on the surface of a lake before she answered.
She thought she might even trust him already, as much as she could bring herself to trust anyone that wasn't Clint and didn't used to be Coulson.
Steve seemed to completely change his mind about the situation in the fraction of a second between words and one big hand reaching for Natasha, from liking the communication between teammates to reaching for his shield and tilting his body into a position that would let him throw it between her and Tony to knock Hulk back. The cold glare from Clint and furious sneer from a still panting Tony made him drop his hand.
When she didn't back away, Hulk gently touched two fingertips to Natasha's belly. He felt her instinctive little jerk backwards and almost pulled away, but she was smiling a tiny smile. It was beautiful and he didn't want to take it away or twist back into himself and Bruce, to avoid touch because deprivation was better than causing fear.
He lifted his other hand and cradled Natasha's hips, tugging as gently as he could. She made a startled little sound but let herself be lifted just barely off the ground and brought ever closer to a mass of pure strength and, everyone assumed, blinding rage. She wasn't sure she could believe that anymore.
The only way to describe the feeling of a very large, heavy head pressed in a very feline nuzzle to her belly would be suffocating . The weight of his head alone was more than Clint sprawled across her ribs, a little restricting but not painful.
Through his jealousy, Tony managed to silently order JARVIS to record the scene. He wanted to be able to re-watch the almighty beast of rage and nightmares -new SHIELD recruits were so unimaginative- purr like a great big mutant kitten with his face tucked up against a ninja assassin's belly, long fingers dragging through short, tight curls so unlike Bruce's.
He purred himself down until Bruce was breathing a little heavily with his forehead resting just above Natasha's knee. He pulled away to take the last sip of Steve's water from the offered bottle, tilting his head back enough to look first at Clint, then at Tony and finally the woman standing very, very close.
“We are very sorry, miss Romanov. Explosions usually mean General Ross, and people running after said explosions usually means sudden realizations that they need bigger weapons. We got a little spooked.”
Natasha just smiled a tiny, beautiful smile and tried to decide whose hair she liked best, Hulk's coarse little spirals or Bruce's unruly, silky mane.