Hulk likes puppies and kitties. Hulk does not like tiny, yappy puppies or kitties with claws. It is hard for Hulk to avoid puppies and kitties since they get everywhere. Hulk once found a kitty in a tree and when he got it down it hugged his feet with its whole body and purred and Hulk was so happy he disappeared! Hulk lets America-man save the kitties from trees now.
Hulk likes tiny people. Hulk does not like tiny people who scream and cry for their mamas and make his ears hurt. Hulk avoids school zones. He feels bad for the tiny people trapped in their schools with their desks and their yellow pencils and their math. Ew. Sometimes he thinks he should liberate them (Hulk knows big words too! Banner isn't special!) but if they stopped screaming and thanked him, he might get too happy like he did with the kitty and then Banner would ruin everything. Banner would like school and send the tiny people back.
Hulk likes Tony too, but Tony is mean like Hulk (only not so big) and smart like Banner (only not so stupid) and knows how to have fun with smashing. Hulk doesn't have to avoid Tony.
More than anything in all the world, Hulk likes smashing. It is fun and good exercise too! Things make silly noises when they are smashed, especially robots. Hulk loves smashing robots. Hulk grabs one out of the air and throws it into another flying robot. They explode. It is pretty.
There are lots more robots to smash, more than Hulk could dream of (and Hulk can dream very big, bigger than he is!). Hulk jumps (has Hulk mentioned that Hulk loves jumping? Jumping is almost like flying, only with fun, ground-smashing at the end!) and lands on another robot. He wiggles his toes and the smashed robot sparks and the robot's unsmashed arm twitches.
Someone screams. Hulk winces. Hulk hates screaming. Screaming ruins all the fun of smashing.
Hulk runs towards the screaming and smashes a robot as tall as a building. When it falls cars jump. The screaming stops. The woman is safe now and Hulk can get back to smashing in peace. Except Banner wants Hulk to make sure the woman is okay. Banner is insistent. Hulk hates when Banner is insistent. He uses things like logic. Ugh.
Hulk turns to the woman. He does not go closer to her. He does not look at her. Because this is dumb. Only dumb Banner would think this was a good idea.
"You okay?" he asks. He hears an explosion a few streets away. He could have made that explosion.
"Y-y-y-yes," the woman says.
"You find shelter. Stay safe."
Hulk nods. Banner cannot say Hulk did not try.
Someone whistles. Whistles are not as bad as screams, but Hulk does not like them either.
"You okay over there?"
Hulk knows that voice. Banner listens too. It is Darcy, Dr. Lady-with-bad-taste's friend, who comes to the tower and brings pop-tarts and helps Tony scheme and who tells the news people that the Avengers are good and Hulk is a hero.
Darcy climbs over cars to reach the woman Hulk saved. She uses her soft voice on the woman and looks for injuries the way bird-man and Natasha do.
Darcy is wearing a sweater that is too big for her. One of the sleeves is burned. Hulk grabs her arm.
The woman squeaks.
Darcy's arm does not feel burnt. It feels soft and tiny and like it should be wrapped in poppy-bubble plastic and put in a box marked "FRAGILE." But it is not burnt.
Hulk looks at Darcy and knows he has made a mistake. She smiles at him. She knows why he is holding her arm.
"That was some awesome smashing you did there, big guy," Darcy says.
Banner is strong in Hulk's head, making Hulk feel tiny and too big all at once. If Banner grows any stronger Hulk will go away! Hulk does not know what to do. Banner is no help. He only wants to stare at Darcy's boobs. Hulk yells at him. There is no time for staring at boobs! There are explosions happening and robots to smash and what will Darcy think if Hulk gives up his dreams of smashing for boobs?
All Banner hears is "boobs." Hulk would smash Banner if he could.
Hulk is desperate now and so does the first thing he thinks to.
"HULK NO LIKE DARCY!" he yells so loudly it makes her pretty hair move. Hulk jumps away to smash more.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hulk lied. Hulk is a liar. Hulk has never been a liar before. Banner is the one who lies. Banner says his name is Alan or Elijah or Peter. Banner says he was born in Canada or Mexico or Germany. Banner tells Thor Gilligan's Island is a true story. (Hulk likes that lie.) But this is the first time Hulk has ever been a liar himself.
Hulk is mad. Banner is in control. This makes Hulk even madder.
When Hulk is in Banner's head, Hulk helps him. He tells him it's okay to kill Tony's music and reminds him to eat all his dinner even though there's science to do and makes sure he remembers to look at Darcy's face instead of her boobs. (Darcy has a pretty face. Hulk does not understand why Banner keeps getting distracted by her boobs.)
Hulk will not help Banner today. Not after Banner abandoned him yesterday. He will not help smash Tony's speakers or fill up the plate at lunch time or keep from looking at Darcy's boobs.
Banner heard Hulk think that.
Hulk is not sorry! Hulk hopes Tony plays the extra loud, extra angry music all day! Hulk hopes Banner forgets to eat at all! Hulk hopes Darcy is wearing a white shirt today and that Tony starts a fire in the lab and the sprinklers come on and-
"Shut up!" Banner says.
Banner never speaks to Hulk out loud. Banner must be very mad.
Hulk is happy.
"Uh oh, what'd JARVIS do?" Darcy!
Banner jumps. (Banner is not as impressive a jumper as Hulk.) "Miss Lewis!" Banner says. His voice is high and silly. Hulk is embarrassed to be in his head. "What brings you to the tower today? Visiting Dr. Foster?"
Banner is afraid he will look at Darcy's boobs. He is already having trouble. Hulk hopes he does look. Banner walks with Darcy so he does not have to look at her. Banner is a coward.
"Actually, no. After yesterday, Nick thought it'd be a good idea if the Avengers got some good press. I'm interviewing the others for my blog."
Others? Why not Hulk?
"Oh," Banner says.
That is not what Hulk said!
"I'd love to have the Hulk on, don't get me wrong, but … after yesterday …"
"You weren't hurt, were you?"
Hulk would never hurt Darcy! Banner should know this! Banner is not listening to Hulk. He is looking at Darcy's arm. Darcy's arm is right next to her boob. Sometimes Banner is even less subtle than Hulk.
"No! I'm fine! I meant since you don't like me. Which is cool. I mean, I like you fine but sometimes people just don't click, you know?"
"What! I never said-"
Darcy smiles. Hulk feels a little better because she is looking at Banner like he is stupid. Hulk knew Darcy was smart.
"The physical manifestation of your subconscious mind - at least that's how Jane puts it - said he didn't like me. You don't get much clearer than that. But like I said, we're cool." Darcy almost touches Banner's arm. She stops herself and smiles and gets on the elevator.
Bruce stares at his reflection in the closed doors. Hulk knows Banner is really staring at him.
"This is your fault."
No. This is Banner's fault. Hulk asked for Banner's help and Banner only cared about boobs!
Banner has no answer for that.
Oh my gosh, so many people left comments and kudos and just general love on the first chapter of this. I'm overwhelmed. Thank you all so much! :D
Also, you might recognize Banner's lie to Thor from Galaxy Quest, aka the greatest movie ever. I imagine that's where Banner got the idea from.
I miscounted my chapters and it turns out there are only six, not seven. Sorry about that.
Hulk and Banner are fighting. Banner says they are not. Banner says it is unhealthy to fight with your own subconscious. Hulk says Banner knows he will lose.
There is no more smashing. Banner does not even crumple up papers. He puts them gently into a shiny, new recycling box. Banner does not try to stop Tony's angry music. Banner does not even go to movie night. There might be smashing in the movie. Banner sits in his room and reads poetry. Hulk says "in my pants" after serious lines. Hulk says "in my pants" a lot.
Banner throws the book. Hulk feels a little better.
Banner is getting angry with Hulk. Banner uses logic (ugh) to decide getting angry with Hulk is stupid. Hulk thinks it is a good idea. Banner does not listen. He turns on a lawyer show. Lawyer shows are boring. Hulk cannot even hate them because they are so boring. The only good thing about lawyer shows is that Banner is bored too. Banner cannot stand his own revenge anymore and turns off the TV. Hulk wins!
"JARVIS? Can you play Ms. Lewis' interview?"
"Certainly. Would you like the video itself or the unedited footage?"
"Unedited," Banner says.
"Would you like to watch the full three hours and twenty-seven minutes of footage or only the parts relating to the Hulk?"
"Three hours and- how did that happen?"
"Mr. Stark and Mr. Barton began a food fight which extended to the entire team and halted the interview for some time. Shall I only play the sections relating to the Hulk?"
Yes. Hulk is serious now. Darcy is going to ask questions about the others. Hulk and Bruce already know about the others. Those parts will be boring.
Banner still hesitates.
Hulk gets ready to yell.
Banner laughs and tells the computer voice to play the Hulk parts. Banner says Hulk used logic. Banner is a liar.
Hulk likes Darcy's videos more than her articles. He gets to see her in them. When Banner reads her articles he only gets to hear her voice in his head. It never sounds enough like Darcy, always too much like Banner.
Video-Darcy sits on a couch with Tony and America-man.
"Now, about the Hulk. He couldn't be here today but-"
"What's up with that?" Tony asks. Tony is very rude. "He can't be busy, I just saw him this mo-"
A pencil flies in front of Tony's face and sticks in the wall behind him. Hulk chuckles.
"Shut up and let the woman finish a question," bird-man says. Hulk cannot see him on the screen.
Tony laughs at bird-man, but lets Darcy finish. Hulk will be extra nice to bird-man in the next battle.
"As I was saying, the Hulk is a bit of a mystery and a lot of people don't know what to think of him. You guys know him better than probably anyone on the planet and I'd like your opinions."
America-man says Hulk is a misunderstood hero. Natasha says Hulk is dangerous like all the Avengers. Bird-man says Hulk is the nicest Avenger after America-man. Tony makes jokes.
Banner does not like Tony's jokes because they are almost telling the world about him. Hulk does not like Tony's jokes either. Hulk is the hero, not Banner.
Tony asks Darcy what she thinks of Hulk.
Banner listens. Hulk listens.
"You've met him too after all," Tony says.
"He's … sweet," Darcy says.
Tony, America-man, and Natasha all say, "Sweet?" at the same time Banner does.
Hulk can be sweet! If Darcy thinks Hulk is sweet, Hulk is sweet!
"That's what I said," bird-man says.
"Yeah!" Darcy says. She is mad now. "Hulk can be sweet."
What did Hulk say?
Darcy smiles right at Hulk. At Banner too but she is talking about Hulk. "I ran into Hulk during the battle yesterday. He had just saved a woman's life and - well, earlier I'd burned the sleeve of my sweater. I'm fine, obviously, but when Hulk saw my sleeve he made sure to check if I was all right before going off to smash more bad guys. Sweet."
"She thinks the Other Guy is sweet?" Banner asks.
Yes. She does.
Hulk does not want villains to attack New York. Hulk is not evil. (No matter what that stupidhead Ross says.) Hulk is just very, very bored.
Banner only does boring things when he is in control. Like science and math.
Hulk does fun things! Hulk smashes and jumps extra high and beats up bad guys.
There are no bad guys today. No jumping. No smashing. There is only science and math.
Hulk is bored.
Tony is not in the lab today so there is no one to blow things up. What Hulk would not give for a supervillain.
The lab door opens. Hulk wonders if Loki has heard his prayers.
Darcy! Darcy is in the lab!
Banner continues to look at the small, boring, wiggly things.
Darcy is here!
Banner does not move. He keeps thinking about decay rates and long-term viability.
Darcy! In the lab! She is coming closer! Stop being so stupid and listen to Hulk!
"Dr. Banner?" Darcy puts a hand on Banner's shoulder. Banner jumps and trips over a stool on the way down and falls painfully on the floor.
"Darcy!" he gasps, his voice high-pitched.
Yes! Darcy! If Hulk had control of the eyes, they would be rolling so much right now.
"Sorry about that," Darcy says. She kneels down beside Banner and pushes his hair out of his eyes. Darcy is touching Banner. Darcy is touching Banner!
Banner knows! He would appreciate it if Hulk shut up now and let him enjoy what is obviously a dream.
"What are you doing?" Banner says to Darcy.
"Making sure your eyes aren't turning green. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and someone told me yours show when your soul is about to start ripping through walls like tissue paper."
"And?" Banner asks.
Darcy smiles. "Nope. No green."
Banner nods and scoots away.
Darcy sits too. Banner's eyes move down.
No! No boobs!
Banner's eyes move up.
What would Banner do without Hulk?
Banner stares at Darcy. Darcy stares at Banner. Hulk is getting bored again.
"So," Banner says.
"Oh! Sorry!" Darcy closes her eyes tight and shakes her head. "Uh, listen, I just-" Darcy takes a deep breath and looks at Banner. "I got a lot of comments on that last interview and it got picked up by a few news networks and when people aren't praising the Avengers or complaining about them - that is a very small minority, by the way - they're all saying the same thing. They want to see the Hulk."
Banner does not like where this is going. Hulk is not sure he likes it either.
Darcy looks down at her hands. "I know you don't like me, we can get someone else to do it, but Nick's kind of insistent. I think he's having some trouble convincing the government that Ross is a tool and it'd help if people got to see Hulk as a person instead of a weapon."
"Why do you do that?" Banner asks.
"What?" Darcy's eyes are wide and she is blushing. Hulk thinks Darcy is pretty when she blushes.
"Call Fury 'Nick.' Aren't you afraid he'll have you deported or something?"
"I was born in Queens."
Darcy laughs. It's pretty. Hulk wants her to do it again. So does Banner.
"I've got a few ideas for who can do the interview," Darcy says.
Banner stops listening. He wants to do this. He's surprised that Hulk is already promising to behave. Hulk is insulted. It is Banner who will need to behave. If Hulk is with Darcy it will be easier for Banner to take over.
"I'll do it," Banner says. Darcy was still talking and her mouth hangs open.
Hulk says he also wants to smash something while he's out.
"You're sure?" Darcy asks.
Banner sighs. Hulk can smash. After the interview. "Positive. The Other Guy'll behave."
"Great! I'll just get you that list-"
"No. You do it. He- we- I want you to do it."
"You sure?" Darcy is almost smiling.
Banner nods. "Yeah. You're more comfortable around the Other Guy than anyone else will be."
"He'll be fine."
Hulk is free!
He is not allowed to smash until after the interview. Banner told Natasha and bird-man to take Darcy away to a secret safe place if Hulk does any smashing, so Hulk must be very good.
Hulk is sitting on a concrete bench on the patio. It is very hard not to fidget. Darcy is next to him, smiling at him. Her smile is pretty. It makes Hulk's heart do funny, not-angry things.
Banner says to focus before he starts shrinking.
"All right, Hulk, why don't you start off by telling us why you fight alongside the other Avengers, why you feel compelled to help people."
Banner starts telling Hulk what to say. Hulk is not stupid! Hulk can answer questions, especially obvious ones.
"Hulk bigger than other people. Stronger. Monsters are bigger too. People can't fight monsters. Hulk can. Hulk smash monsters!"
Darcy smiles more. Her hair is shiny in the sun.
Banner says focus.
"Are you scared when you … smash monsters?" Darcy asks. She doesn't say it mean, like Hulk is stupid for liking to smash. She says it like she is interested in Hulk.
"Hulk not scared. Monsters can't hurt Hulk. Hulk strong!" Hulk shows Darcy his muscles, in case she did not notice them before. "Hulk like smashing," he says.
"Sometimes I like smashing things too," Darcy says.
Darcy's likes Hulk's most favorite thing! Hulk smiles. Darcy smiles back. Banner starts reciting the periodic table. Hulk hates the periodic table. Hulk is annoyed with Banner. Banner says good, no changing back on camera.
"And what else do you like?"
"Smashing," Hulk says again because it is the best thing in the whole world to do. Darcy looks a little unhappy that Hulk said the same thing again. He quickly says, "And kitties! But not kitties who scratch. And Hulk likes puppies too! But not yappy puppies who make Hulk's ears hurt." He puts his hands over his ears so Darcy can see how much he hates the noise. "And tiny people. If Hulk could, Hulk would free all the tiny people from school so they could play all the time. And Tony. Tony knows how to smash good, even if Tony is a normal-sized person. And Hulk likes D-"
Banner has been telling Hulk to stop because thinking about the things he likes makes Hulk get smaller. When Hulk almost says Darcy's name, Banner yells as loud as he can. He does not have to. Hulk has stopped himself. His eyes get so big he doesn't think they can fit on even his head anymore. Hulk cannot believe what he just almost said.
What should Hulk do? Hulk knows stopping in the middle of a sentence in an interview is a Bad Idea. Hulk does not know how to fix this! Banner must help Hulk! Banner must focus and not look at Darcy's boobs. This cannot be like last time. No looking at boobs!
Banner yells at Hulk to stop saying "boobs"! Banner says it is very hard not to think about boobs when people keep talking about them.
Hulk reminds Banner that Darcy is waiting and that Banner needs to think of a way to fix this.
Darcy is still waiting!
Banner knows but Banner cannot think of anything to say.
Hulk does not know either!
Banner thinks maybe Hulk should say-
"Hulk? Are you okay?" Darcy touches Hulk's arm. Darcy was given very specific rules before the interview. Hulk knows one of them was "no touching Hulk." Natasha and bird-man are behind the camera. Both are closer than they were before.
Darcy's hand is so tiny and soft and warm. Hulk is not used to being touched. No one touches Hulk except to hurt him. Even Banner barely ever gets touched.
"Hulk misses touching."
Banner is yelling so much he isn't making any sense anymore.
Hulk did not mean to say that.
Darcy is sad. "No one touches you?"
Banner is still not making sense and Hulk still does not know what to say. He knows he should not have said anything about touching. He knows he should not have almost said Darcy's name. Hulk does the most logical thing he can. (Yes, Banner, Hulk is reduced to logic. This is why Banner needs to stop thinking about boobs.)
"Hulk is fine," Hulk says. He scoots away from Darcy until there is no more bench to scoot onto. He doesn't scoot very far but Darcy is not touching him anymore and that is what is important.
"Okay," Darcy says gently. She smiles encouragingly at Hulk.
Hulk feels terrible. Hulk wants to smash things but the only thing that deserves to be smashed is himself. Hulk has lied. Again! To Darcy. Again!
Banner tries to calm Hulk down. Banner says Hulk did what he had to do.
No! Hulk is not like Banner! Hulk is a hero and heroes tell the truth! That is what America-man says and America-man is right.
Banner tries to tell Hulk America-man is not always right. Hulk yells so he cannot hear Banner. "Hulk is a liar!" he yells.
Darcy blinks. "Come again?"
"Hulk is a liar! Hulk lied to Darcy! Twice! Hulk should not have but Hulk did not know what to say! Hulk asked Banner for help but all Banner cared about were boobs!"
Darcy looks embarrassed. Hulk rushes to reassure her.
"Hulk thinks Banner is crazy," he says. "Darcy has nice boobs, but Darcy's face is much prettier."
Darcy's face keeps turning red and she bites her lip. It is very cute. It makes Hulk's heart feel mushy.
Banner is yelling at Hulk that none of this is helping.
Banner is right. Hulk has still not told the whole truth.
That is not what Banner meant.
Hulk does not care. Hulk is a hero.
Banner has no argument for that. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Hulk knows this means Banner will help Hulk tell the truth. Banner is not blind. Banner knows Darcy's face is prettier than her boobs. Banner knows how shiny Darcy's hair is and how soft her tiny arms are.
Banner starts thinking about how soft other parts of Darcy probably are.
Hulk reminds Banner that is not helping.
Banner agrees and says they should probably come clean.
Hulk takes a deep breath. "Hulk…
"…like you," Banner says.
Banner holds his pants tight to his waist. They are too big now that puny Banner is back.
"When the Other Guy is exposed to things that make him happy, he … becomes me." Banner shrugs. "The other day, he lied so he could keep fighting."
Maybe Darcy does not like Hulk.
Maybe Darcy does not like Banner.
"You like me?" Darcy asks. She holds up a hand before Banner can answer. "I mean … Hulk can still fight around Tony and it's not like smashing makes him so happy he has to stop so … you're saying … you like me."
Banner sighs. "Yes. Which I realize is a pretty big burden to put on someone and, of course, I expect no reciprocal feelings on your part. The Other Guy aside, I'm far too old for you and you've never made any effort to hide your boredom when Jane tries to explain her research. I have a crush. I'm man enough to admit it and dear God, Tony is watching every second of this, isn't he?"
Banner is horrified. He closes his eyes and pinches between his eyes. Hulk does not know why he does this. It never helps.
"Dr. Banner?" the computer voice says. He sounds unhappy. "Mr. Stark would like me to inform you that if would like to seduce Ms. Lewis he has several pre-arranged playlists for just such an occasion."
"Tony has a playlist for seducing me?" Darcy asks.
Hulk does not like that at all. Banner agrees.
"No, Ms. Lewis, but Mr. Stark has several playlists marked specifically for seduction purposes. Many are no longer useful since he and Ms. Potts faced reality, however I believe your music tastes differ greatly from hers."
"This is the most surreal conversation I've ever had," Darcy says.
Banner stands and almost trips over Hulk's pants. "I'll just … let you come to terms with … all of this. Sorry. I don't think I've said that yet. Sorry. For not saying it, I mean, I- I'm just gonna go crawl into a hole and die."
Banner leaves. No one stops him. Natasha and bird-man have disappeared.
Banner thinks this is one of the worst days of his life.
Hulk thinks he didn't get to smash anything.
Banner says there are more important things than smashing.
Yes, like Darcy.
Banner sighs and steps into the elevator.
"Hey!" Darcy runs in before the doors close. She hits Banner on the arm. It hurts.
"You know, hitting me is never really a good idea," Banner says.
Banner is an idiot.
Darcy stares up at him.
Hulk thinks Darcy's angry face is as pretty as her happy face.
Banner thinks Hulk wouldn't think that if it was Hulk she was looking at.
"You left! You didn't even let me say anything! You just left!"
"I like you too, you big idiot!"
Darcy kisses Banner.
Hulk doesn't mind not getting to smash so much anymore.