When the team had all moved into what Tony had dubbed “Avengers Tower,” the goal was to form bonds of friendship which, as Steve had proclaimed, would help the six individuals become more of a team. The close proximity with each other, they knew, would no doubt lead to them learning about each other and each other’s pasts.
For them being a collection of six very different people with very different backgrounds, they really didn’t expect to be too surprised by the strange topics that would crop up. They had the man who had been frozen for 70 years, two assassins, a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, a demigod, and a man with his enormous green rage monster alter ego living under one roof; how strange could things possibly get?
About a month after the team had gotten settled in their new home, the first really strange thing happened.
Tony had been off at a conference with Ms. Potts, but the rest of the team had collected on the floor that served as a gym. Steve and Thor were sparring as Natasha and Clint were doing some target practice with a pistol and bow and arrow, respectively. They had managed to convince Bruce to leave the sanctity of the laboratories to spend some time with the rest of the team. He was currently seated against a wall close to where the assassins were practicing, reading one of the numerous science journals he had missed out on while on the run from the government. Tony had stocked the labs with thick tombs when he found out that Bruce wasn’t exactly up to date in his field.
As Bruce flipped the page, he glanced over the top of his reading glasses to look briefly at the assassins before returning his attention to the journal.
Natasha reloaded her pistols and shook out the tension in her shoulders. Next to her, Clint reached over his shoulder to pull another arrow from his quiver, his other hand fiddling with the buttons on his bow to select a certain arrowhead. He drew an arrow that Stark and Banner had developed for him earlier in the week, eyeing it carefully. He didn’t know exactly what it did, but he was determined to find out.
As the redhead next to him began firing her clip of bullets into the targets across the room, he readied his bow. His brow furrowed slightly when he saw the tip of the arrow blinking an ominous red light. “Hey, Bruce?” he called over his shoulder without looking away from the light. “What is this new arrowhead supposed to do—?”
Without warning, the tip exploded.
The other occupants in the room jumped at the sudden noise, all instantly looking over to where the small cloud of smoke quickly hid Clint and Natasha. Bruce was on his feet in an instant and running toward them. A pair of coughing, distinctly female and male, sounded within the haze. Thor and Steve dashed over, the God of Thunder swinging his hammer to create a gust that dispersed the cloud.
“I don’t think it’s supposed to do that,” Clint said between fits of coughing.
Natasha glanced over at him as she attempted to catch her breath. Her eyes narrowed on the hand that was still holding his bow. “Clint, your hand…”
Barton’s eyes traveled to his partner before he followed her gaze down to the appendage in question. That was when he started to feel the stinging sensation shooting up his arm. It wasn’t terrible, but it was just enough to be painful. His bow dropped from his burning hand.
He drew a hissing breath in when Bruce carefully took hold of his wrist to observe the wound. “Mild chemical burn…” the physicist murmured to himself, still intently studying Clint’s hand. “Captain, could you grab the first aid kit from the wall, if you would?”
Steve did as he was asked, musing for a moment that it had been a while since Bruce had called him “Captain.” He didn’t comment on it as he handed over the kit.
“Thank you, Captain,” Bruce remarked with careful pronunciation and articulation as he opened the kit and withdrew some gauze.
As Steve unconsciously felt himself lift an eyebrow in mild confusion, Clint gave a light chuckle. “Feeling formal today, Bruce?” he teased.
Bruce did not respond as he carefully began cleaning the burned area.
Clint frowned down at him for a moment before the scientist started dragging him over to one of the sinks on the far wall. “Take it easy, Bruce. It’s not like I’m dying—”
“You should run the burn under cool water for at least fifteen minutes,” Bruce informed him, sounding like the leading expert on treating burns. He was speaking differently, almost professionally. It was weird, and very different from the nervous mumblings the man was prone to do.
Clint glanced over his shoulder at his three other teammates, giving them a helplessly confused look. Steve, carrying the first aid kit, shrugged as if to say just go with it. Thor followed after the super soldier, looking for the life of him confused as to why such a mild wound was concerning the physicist to this degree. Natasha locked eyes with the archer; he could see the confusion in her eyes, but none of it showed on her face.
They reached the sink and the scientist began fiddling with the knobs to get a right temperature. Clint stood awkwardly next to him. “Really, Bruce, this isn’t that serious.”
“All wounds should be taken seriously,” Bruce replied without looking up.
“When did you become the expert?” Clint asked, his confusion slowly turning to irritation. Why was he acting like this?
Bruce straightened and gently grabbed the archer’s wrist again. “I’m the Doctor,” he answered as he put Clint’s hand under the streaming water.
As the archer drew another hissing breath in as the water hit his burn, Natasha leaned against the wall, crossing her arms over her chest loosely. “Now isn’t exactly the time to start quoting British sci-fi shows, Bruce,” she said smoothly.
The scientist kept his hold on Clint’s arm, lest he should withdraw his hand from the water, and gazed over at the assassin against the wall.
Natasha felt her eyes widen when his eyes met hers. She saw no green in his irises, but she abruptly felt on edge. His normally deep brown eyes were suddenly streaked with thin ribbons of silver, shimmering like mercury. The tension in the air increased when she noticed that the tips of the scientist’s fingers were also a faint shade of grey.
As Bruce returned his attention to the rushing water, Natasha stole a glance at Clint. Clint was staring down at the silvered fingertips wrapped around his wrist with wide eyes. He slowly glanced over at Natasha, as if to ask if he was seeing what he thought he saw.
When he looked back down, the hand on his arm was back to its normal flesh color. He looked at Bruce’s face to find the man blinking rapidly. “You feeling alright, there, Doctor?" he asked, emphasizing the title.
Bruce looked up at the archer with a slightly startled expression on his face before he smiled wryly. “Feeling formal today, Clint?”
There was nothing mocking in the doctor’s response; it sounded like an honestly innocent question, not at all like a mimic of the archer’s previous comment. A mildly confused look appeared on Bruce’s face when Clint stared at him in bewilderment.
Bruce nervously cleared his throat, unsure why the archer was looking at him like that, and released the arm in his grasp. “Just keep your hand under there for a bit,” he instructed in a murmur, not meeting his eyes. He had reverted back into the anxious scientist the team knew, no longer playing the part of the self-assured medical expert. “It doesn’t look too bad. The tips Tony and I designed weren’t supposed to blow up like that, just so you know.”
“I didn’t think so,” Clint replied distractedly, still staring at the man beside him.
The meek physicist glanced at each of the team members in turn, looking for the life of him as confused as they did. He cleared his throat nervously before he awkwardly patted the archer on his shoulder. “You’ll live,” he murmured. “Just wrap it up after you’ve rinsed it.”
With that, he made a hasty retreat from the strange situation.
The four teammates watched him disappear, more than likely back to the labs, before the two assassins exchanged concerned looks.
Thor, surprisingly, was the first to break the uneasy silence between them. “Is there a Silver One that we have yet to meet?”
“Not to my knowledge,” Clint replied, still sounding mystified.
“Or his, it seems,” Natasha added quietly.
Two weeks passed by without another silvery incident. The four of them watched Bruce carefully for nearly two days before they began to relax again. Bruce had no idea why they kept looking at him strangely, but he tried to ignore them. He had been getting looks like that ever since his accident. He had wondered if maybe he had come close to letting the Other Guy out after the exploding arrow incident, but he knew that wasn’t the case at all.
So when they decided to let the event slide, he did too. The whole awkwardness of the event still nagged at him, but Bruce had other more important things to focus on in the laboratories. It slipped from his mind, and everything went back to normal…or as normal as things could possibly be in the Avengers Tower.
Two weeks later, however, another strange thing happened.
It was only a few hours before dawn when the elevator dinged in the Avengers living room area. The God of Thunder stepped out with a sleepy Jane Foster, still in her overcoat. “Tonight was a lot of fun. I still can’t believe that you made the sky light up like that,” she said fondly in a quiet voice as the couple stepped through the darkened room toward the kitchen.
“Mjölnir has many wonderful abilities, Lady Jane,” Thor replied with a smile in what he would describe as soft voice, which was really more along the lines of normal conversation.
They heard a breath, like one who was disturbed from slumber but not quite to awareness, from a nearby couch. Thor and Jane froze, remaining still until the breathing evened out again and sleep had returned. Jane silently crept forward and gazed over the back of the couch to see who they had disturbed.
Thor saw a soft smile appear on her face. She turned back to her boyfriend and mouthed ‘Bruce’ to him before creeping back to his side. She took his hand and led him into the kitchen, where they would be able to talk quietly without waking the obviously exhausted physicist from what was probably much-needed sleep.
“Is Tony keeping him up for days on end again?” Jane asked softly once they had reached the safety of the kitchen. She started to move toward the table to sit down.
“They have indeed been working on something quite continuously for the past few days,” Thor disclosed, grabbing two water bottles from the refrigerator.
He paused when he heard Jane make a soft cooing noise. He had never heard her make such a sound before and he turned to her, looking concerned.
Thor found her staring down at sheets of paper on the table, an adorable look on her face and a sweet smile on her lips. “These are so cute!” she declared quietly. She picked one up and turned it toward her boyfriend. “Here’s one of you!”
The demigod approached the table with the two bottles of water in each hand, eager to see what had made his lady so excited.
On the slip of paper was a drawing that very loosely resembled him. The drawing had him in full warrior’s gear, cape billowing in the wind with his hammer raised high as a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky behind him. He smiled as he looked at the crudely shaped letters that formed his name and what he could only assume was an attempt to spell Mjölnir.
As Thor gingerly took the drawing into his hands, Jane started going through the others, emitting those cooing sounds again that Thor was beginning to find utterly intoxicating. “Here’s one of Agent Romanoff…and Agent Barton—wow, look at the detail on Iron Man! This is too—” She let out a squeak that turned into a giggle. “Look at Steve! Oh! These are too precious!” She grinned up at her boyfriend. “This kid has some serious talent! This…” she paused to inspect the corner of the Captain America drawing she was holding, “Robby.”
“Young Robby indeed has great skill!” Thor agreed heartily, moving around the table to wrap an arm around Jane and look at the other drawings.
“He has to be somewhere between six and maybe eight years old, given how he wrote his name,” Jane said as she shuffled through the papers.
A small frown appeared on her face.
Thor, in turn, frowned. “What troubles you, my lady?”
“I don’t see one of Bruce,” she answered quietly.
There indeed didn’t seem to be a sketch of Dr. Banner or the Hulk amongst the drawings. Thor’s frown deepened. The Midgardians did not seem to like Bruce, nor did they honor the Green One as the noble warrior he was.
He was broken from his thoughts when the woman in his arms yawned. He smiled down at her as he placed a light kiss on her forehead. “Come, my lady. It is most late. Let us rest.”
Jane smiled up at him as she put the sketch in her hand down upon the surface of the table to rest amongst the rest of the papers. “Maybe there will be drawings of the Hulk someday,” she said quietly as the demigod led her toward the door.
“He is most deserving of recognition,” the God of Thunder concurred.
Jane flicked the light switch, throwing the room into darkness as they left the kitchen. They snuck with their water bottles past the sofa where Bruce was sleeping peacefully toward the elevator.
A few hours later, Steve stepped out of the elevator with a towel draped across his shoulders and a thin layer of sweat upon his brow. He was still wearing his gym clothes as he walked into the living room, slowly beginning to brighten with the first rays of dawn. He found Dr. Banner passed out on the sofa and shook his head, smiling knowingly. Tony really worked that man too hard, he thought to himself as he made his way to the kitchen.
He was about to grab a bottled water when his eyes spotted a collection of papers on the table. Curious, he made his way over to the surface. A smile crossed his face as he took in the drawings. He felt his breath hitch when he found one of himself. The piece of art consisted of him standing at the ready to toss his trademark shield. What blew him away was that the left half of the image was a black and white representation of World War II, while the other half was in full color with a backdrop of New York City. The two halves meshed together in an almost seamless blend. His blue eyes spotted a crudely spelled name in the bottom corner of the page. The child who had done this could only have been maybe seven years old. This little Robby had a great deal of talent!
With a smile on his face, he turned to head back to the refrigerator to grab that bottled water before he made his way down to the gym for the rest of his morning workout. He paused again when he found that a drawing had slipped to the ground and was lying under the table. He knelt down to retrieve it. It had landed with the backside facing upward, where in the same messy scrawl was “my fAmiLy.” He flipped the page over.
In the background stood the tower and the rest of Manhattan. He found himself staring down at five of the six Avengers; he frowned when he realized that Dr. Banner was missing. The Avengers who were present all looked happy and carefree, smiles on all of their faces.
Steve sighed in spite of the happy scene pictured. Bruce should have been included, but he supposed this seven year old Robby would be afraid of the Hulk.
He placed the drawing with the others on the table before he moved again to grab that water. Sunlight peeked over the top of a nearby building and began to illuminate the kitchen. The super soldier felt himself come to yet another stop when his eyes landed on the island separating the kitchen and the dining table.
He felt his brow furrow in confusion as he approached the marble surface. He carefully picked up the box of colored pencils lying atop the counter. That was strange… He glanced over at the drawings, thinking for a long moment, before he opened the box and studied the tips of each of the pencils. One of the pencils was missing, but even in his day, he knew that at least one pencil would always get lost. Some things never seemed to change. He noted that it was the light blue colored pencil that was missing. He grew even more confused when he realized that all of the pencils that looked especially worn were the same colors that he had seen on the drawings by Robby.
That was when he realized that none of the drawings had been folded, as they should have been if they had come in the mail. He also realized that there wasn’t an envelope to be found either.
The drawings had been done here.
Steve continued to stare down at the box of colored pencils in his hand, looking deeply confused, when he heard movement in the next room. He realized belatedly that it was probably Bruce waking up. He didn’t know why he suddenly felt nervous, but he quickly hid the colored pencils.
Right as he closed the refrigerator with a bottle of water in his hand, Bruce walked in. He looked groggy with sleep and his clothes were rumpled, but he still greeted the super soldier with a small smile and a sleepy “G’morning.”
Steve smiled and returned the greeting apprehensively. “Work late last night?” he asked, trying to sound casual.
The physicist made a noncommittal noise as he moved to put some water on the stove for some tea.
Steve made a humming noise of agreement, not at all sure what Bruce had meant by his response, but feeling the need to answer it somehow. He was about to turn to leave the room when he heard the scientist make a softly amused sound. He turned to find Bruce looking at the drawings on the table.
The doctor paused on the illustration of Captain America and looked up at Steve, looking more awake with a genuine smile on his face. “The Avengers have some talented fans,” he said quietly.
Steve offered a nod. “Yeah…” he replied lamely.
Bruce gave him an odd look, regarding him curiously, before he returned his focus to finding a box of teabags from the cabinets.
The super soldier took the distraction as an opportunity to make a hasty flight to the next room. He remained there for a long moment, his mind trying to make sense of the realization he couldn’t begin to understand. That table had been clear when he had gone to bed the night before. Drawings of all of them except for Bruce appear overnight, one of them with the proclamation of “my fAmiLy” on the back. No way that the drawings had come in the mail.
And Bruce found sleeping in the next room.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard footsteps behind him, hardly realizing he had been standing there, lost in thought, for a few minutes. Bruce walked around him, giving him another confused glance. “Are you alright, Steve?” he asked, sounding concerned.
Steve watched the steam from Bruce’s tea dance in the air for a moment before he looked the scientist in the eye. He smiled. “Yeah…yeah, I’m fine. Just didn’t sleep too well, that’s all.”
Bruce regarded him for a moment longer, looking like he didn’t quite believe him, but not forward enough to pry for answers. Instead, he took a sedate sip of his tea and started moving toward the elevator. “I’ll see you later, I guess,” he said softly. “Have a nice morning.”
“Yeah, you too,” Steve replied. As the scientist disappeared behind the elevator doors, his blue eyes shot to the sofa. He quickly approached the couch, moving around the piece of furniture to study it. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but—
He felt his jaw drop.
The light blue colored pencil that had been missing from the box was lying on the floor next to the sofa.
“It’s just weird, is all,” Steve said again, his eyes dropping again to study the drawing of Clint. He, Clint, Natasha, and Tony were seated at the dining table two or three hours later, the colorful pieces of paper scattered between them.
“What I find weird,” Tony began, sounding only mildly peeved, “is that none of you thought to tell me about Bruce going silver until now.” He regarded the two assassins for a moment before he looked over at the captain. “Did you guys not think I’d find this interesting?”
“It was a one-time thing, Tony,” Steve explained softly, glancing up from the illustration. “It only lasted for, what,” he gazed at Natasha and Clint, “two minutes?”
“It was brief, Tony,” the archer said. He glanced down at his hand, which was healing really well. “Slightly-Silver-Bruce called himself The Doctor, and then suddenly Bruce was back, looking just as confused as the rest of us.”
“You think Bruce did these drawings?” Natasha spoke up at last, nodding down at the pictures between them.
Steve looked hopelessly confused as he shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know,” he mumbled helplessly. “It’s just…” He let out a quick sigh. “Where did they come from? Why was Bruce sleeping in the next room, and why was there a colored pencil lying there next to the sofa?” His eyes traveled back down to the childish signature in the corner of the drawing. “I don’t know if it was him…it’s just a feeling, I guess.”
Natasha carefully reached forward and slid one of the drawings toward her, her eyes coming to a rest on the clumsy handwriting in the corner. A small crease appeared on her forehead as her brow furrowed slightly in thought. She glanced up and over at Clint. “You’ve read Bruce’s file at SHIELD, right?”
She knew he had, and he gave her a look to tell her such.
“So did we,” Steve said, gesturing between himself and Tony. “What did we miss?”
Natasha looked from Clint, to Tony, and then to Steve. “Bruce’s full name.”
Understanding dawned on the archer’s face immediately. “Oh, of course…” he groaned as he pulled the nearest drawing toward him to study the signature. “Robby…”
“Okay, I’m still missing something,” Steve sighed, looking lost.
The two assassins looked at him. “Bruce’s full name,” Natasha began, “is Dr. Robert Bruce Banner.”