It was bound to happen at some point; it was just a matter of when really.
They, as in the Avengers, had been put in isolation within Stark Tower after a very unfortunate incident with the USA press, and it was Direct Fury’s orders that they keep a low profile before they cause “another fucking press war on the way home. It fucks with the traffic”. Everyone’s tensions were running high; everyone was snapping at the smallest of things.
And one thing Bruce couldn’t cope with was loud noises.
Thor and Clint had been arguing, an unusual circumstance all in itself as the two men rarely found the need to quarrel, over the last of the frosted shreddies in the cupboard. The voices seemed to echo loudly around his mind, increasing with every syllable produced. Bruce, who was sitting quietly on one of the bar stools, gripped the edges of the broadsheet newspaper tightly and struggling to regulate his breathing.
The echoing smash of the bowl hitting the floor, separating into four pieces, milk and wheat stretching across the tiled floor, seemed to be the breaking point. The sound jolted him, his body jerking, and broke his concentration. He growled under his breath, causing the argument to come to sudden stop and for all eyes to turn to him.
The last thing he saw was the startled looks on the faces of Thor and Clint, before everything went black…
Tony chewed on his sandwich, examining the hologram specs for a reinforced car, Batman inspired after his three day Batman movie marathon. After all, if Bruce Wayne could have a battle ready vehicle, why couldn’t he?
“Um, JARVIS add the steel shields to the left and right wing mirrors, and let’s add some pernase for the shape and colouring this time, yeah? That last design lacked…flare.”
“Of course sir; I will add some…pernase…” JARVIS replied, once again bringing forth the question why Tony had created an AI that was capable of being sarcastic.
“No one likes a cynic JARVIS,” he muttered.
His phone rang loudly, echoing through the room, and Tony stuffed the rest of his lunch in his mouth before answering.
“Stark, code Green – the big guy’s here for a visit,” Clint’s urgent voice came through the speakers, followed by the loud shout of an angered Hulk that echoed through the phone and the rest of the Tower.
Tony sat up straight, his legs dropping from his work desk. “Green, really? What did you do Barton?”
“What makes you think it’s my fault?” he snapped in frustration, “Banner’s been on edge since the doors were sealed. We all are. It was only a matter of time before he finally cracked.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I’m on my way – keep him under control, yeah? I just had the kitchen renovated.” He hung up before Clint could reply and sighed deeply, “JARVIS, save the specs to my private server – oh, and open all the doors on the way to Hulkie’s location on my way.”
“Certainly sir…but might I suggest wearing the suit before you confronted Dr. Banner?”
Tony paused at the doorway of the lab for a moment. “…Nah. Hulk loves me,” he reasoned with a wink and a cocky smile (neither of which were really necessary), and sped out of the room.
Hulk breathed heavily though his nose, muscles taunt with anger. The god called The-or was calling up at him, which only seemed to annoy him further and he grunted at him. He wanted to smash, but something stopped him.
He was in the house of Toe-knee; he didn’t want to smash. It could make Toe-knee sad. He didn’t want to do that.
So instead, he just made frustrated noises and swiped his hands at the annoying puny men, who jumped out of the way.
Then he rounded the corner.
Hulk watched closely as the smaller man approached him, arms spread to show he wasn’t a threat and a large grin on his face. “Hulk, baby, it’s been a long time. I’m Tony remember?”
“Toe-knee,” Hulk nodded solemnly.
“That’s it, big guy, Tony. What’s this about this time?”
Hulk pointed accusingly at the two Avengers. “Birdy and The-or made loud noise. Hulk no like.”
Tony sent a pointed look at the other men, before focusing on Hulk once more. “I know you don’t, big guy. I’m sure Thor and Barton didn’t mean to – we’ve all been locked in here for too long, tensions are running high, something was bound to snap at some point.”
Hulk nodded, blinking widely, accepting the explanation.
“And Barton and Thor are going to say sorry, aren’t you?” he continued, turning to glare a dark warning at the two men at the far end of the room if they didn’t do as they were told.
“Yes, I am sorry for startling you my friend. I was unaware that my battle for sweet cereals would harbour such unexpected consequences,” Thor bellowed.
“…Yeah, sorry,” Clint grumbled, arms folded across his chest in a show of stubbornness.
“See, they apologised. It’s all good big guy,” Tony patted the larger green hand gently.
“All good, Toe-knee,” Hulk repeated.
“Exactly…so do you think you could pass the steering wheel back to Bruce? Everything’s okay now – no more loud noises – but Bruce promised to help me with some very important, delicate work and, quite frankly, I think you’re too big to fit into the lab…”
Hulk grunted, looking downhearted but understanding. He huffed out heavily once and closed his eyes, before he slowly transformed back. Limbs became smaller; green faded from the surface of his skin; facial features softened and relaxed into something more familiar.
Bruce lay in the middle of a crater, blinking widely as he tried to stop is vision from fading in and out so dramatically. A blurred figure lent over him and placed his glasses on the bridge of his nose. He squinted in an attempt to adjust.
“…Tony?” he croaked.
“That’s right Brucie,” he grinned widely, “Good to have you back!”
“What’d he wreck this time?”
“Nothing, you’ll be surprised to know – unless you count the Hulk shaped hole in the floor, which I don’t just so you know – although I should probably put like some cones, or some warning tape or something; you know to stop someone falling in and me getting sued…again.” He glanced down at Bruce, “You feeling okay?”
“Um, a little tired, headachy…kind of cold actually,” Bruce shivered, moving on shaky arms to sit up properly.
“Well, that probably has something to do with your lack of pants,” Tony arched an eyebrow, lips twitching with amusement. His eyes darted downwards before sliding up slowly.
Bruce flushed pink and immediately curled his upper body protectively around his lap, his legs shifted closer together. Clint smothered laughter behind his hand somewhere to his right, and Bruce bit his bottom lip, his cheeks darkening in colour.
Tony clapped him on his shoulder, squeezing comfortingly. “Come on Bruce, let’s get you…clothed, before Pepper shows up and you give her a heart attack. Although I have to admit pants would be a terrible disserve to the world.”
Bruce ducked his head and pointedly refused to answer.