(If you are reading this on any PAY site this is a STOLEN WORK, the author has NOT Given Permission for it to be here. If you're paying to read it, you're being cheated too because you can read it on Archiveofourown for FREE.)
Tony was sulking in the circle with the girls when the other tribe came to trade for mates. Tony wasn't a girl, he was special. He knew the law, if you could have babies you shouldn't stay with your birth tribe because... well, he's not sure why, but that's the way it's always been done, and his father hit him when he tried to hide. Tony didn't even want babies. It looked like it wasn't any fun at all getting all bulgy and clumsy, giving birth sure looked like it hurt more than getting gored by a bull, definitely the screaming went on a lot longer, and then you were stuck with a little person you had to carry around with you and if you didn't have a good hunter for a mate, you had to work twice as hard to gather what plant stuff you could eat.
There was a lot of talking before the exchanges began. The girls' mothers from both tribes made a big fuss about how great they were, how clever they were at dressing hides, or cooking, or gathering food. They were trying to make them look good, so they'd be treated well by their new tribe until they were old enough to get their own mate. Or be someone's second or third mate, or worse, not have anyone who'd stay with them so they'd be scrounging for scraps of food and affection. Tony was really bad at most of the things they expected girls to do, and his mother was dead, so she wasn't here to say anything nice about him and his father just said that Tony was 'one of those o-men' and 'if they beat him enough, he wouldn't be any trouble'.
Given the way he was described, Tony wasn't terribly surprised when the other tribe traded four of their girls for four of Tony's tribe, but none of them even bothered to touch him or sniff him.
The same thing happened at the next mate trading session, only it was worse, because the last of the girls of tradable age were taken. After the feast and tearful farewells on all sides, Tony's father handed him a waterskin and a pouch full of dried meat pounded with fat and berries. Then he pointed at the mountains.
So much for being special. As Tony walked into exile, and probably death by starvation unless a predator killed him first, he wondered why his mother had fussed over him and been so proud of him. She said his kind of person was rare even in the much larger tribe she'd come from, and that men fought for the right to be their mates. He didn't see why. If a man wanted to be a father, there were plenty of women who had nice curvy bodies even when they weren't pregnant. And if he wanted a man for his mate, there were plenty of men much stronger, and with bigger dicks, than Tony. Offhand he couldn't think of anyone in the tribe less sexually appealing than himself, no matter what standards you used. He would have agreed to stay with the tribe and not mate with anybody, which would have been easy, since no one wanted him, but that wasn't an option.
It wasn't too bad at first, living alone. His mother had taught him how to find plant food, and he had figured out by himself how to make snares out of braided grass, so most days he had at least a little something to eat. And if he was always hungry, well, he'd been always hungry when he lived with the tribe, so he was used to that. On the bright side, he didn't get hit for being different and he only had to worry about hurting himself too badly to get food, or being eaten by a predator.
Since there wasn't anyone around to scold him for not being manly enough to kill prey with his hands and teeth, he made weapons, too. Real men only used weapons to fight other men, his father always said, but since Tony wasn't a real man, and no one was going to see his shame, he made all sorts of things out of wood and rocks and strips of hide and sharpened bone. He liked making things, it made him feel better to have something to think about and to keep his hands busy when his stomach clenched tight and complained. And it made his little cave feel more like a tribe lived there, with all his weapons piled up against the wall next to his nest of dried grass.
But then the year turned, like it always did, and there weren't any berries or fresh sprouts, the nuts were hard and green, the roots were dry and tasteless, and the few small things he was able to snare were thin. If he couldn't kill something big soon, he was going to be too weak to do it at all, and then the snow would come and that would be the end of him. He didn't want to end. He particularly didn't want to end alone and in his sad little cave.
He'd never been taken along on the hunt, but sometimes he'd heard the b-men and a-men talking about it, so he had a vague idea of the different methods. There weren't many that were possible for a single, inexperienced hunter. Lying in wait near the watering hole seemed his best bet. His father had always complained that Tony smelled bad enough to scare away game, so he bathed in the water first and scrubbed himself down with sharp-smelling leaves before he found a hiding place between two boulders with a view of the trampled mud where animals came to drink. He waited a long, long time before the first animals came. He threw his spear and missed, scaring off the young deer. Most of the day went like that, long, long time sitting and waiting, and then a few seconds of wasted opportunity because at least one animal out of the herd would see him move. Finally a scarred old buck came to the water by itself. Tony waited until it had its muzzle in the water, drinking deeply, before he threw his spear. The buck leaped up at the same time, so the spear didn't take him in the heart, but it wounded his haunch. The deer bellowed and ran away, leaving a trail of dark blood. Tony scrambled up and followed, excited and proud and hopeful. If he could just get to it before a predator, there would be enough meat to fill his stomach and to dry and eat for days and days.
The deer ran a lot faster than Tony had thought it could, and he got out of breath, with his blood rushing in his ears so loud that at first he didn't hear the growls. He slid to a stop the moment he realized something big and not a deer was nearby. He crawled under a bush to peer out in the direction of the sound. His deer was there. And ... what the heck was that eating his deer? It was green like a lizard, but sorta shaped like a man. But really, really, really big. And strong. It picked up the deer and ripped off a leg with less effort than Tony would have used to snap a branch. Well, there was no way he was going to challenge that for his deer. He wriggled back in the bush to go away. Something snapped under his leg. He froze in place, and held his breath.
The big green man dropped the meat he was eating with his big white teeth and stood up straight, nostrils flared and big green eyes looking around angrily. Tony whimpered silently and flattened himself to the ground. He didn't smell like leaves after all that running. He hoped that he smelled like something nasty, something no one would want to eat. Please, please, he thought as hard as he could, take the deer and go eat it somewhere else, somewhere that doesn't stink like a stupid little o-man.
The big green man walked directly to Tony's bush, and ripped it out of the ground. Tony yelped and covered his head. He didn't want to see those big white teeth. He heard a loud sniff, and then the man growled. Tony wished he could dig into the ground and hide like a worm. Something hard and blunt poked him in the shoulder. Tony cringed away, and opened his eyes. Big green was looking at him and poking him with a finger. He wasn't showing his teeth. He didn't even look angry. Maybe he really was a person. People don't eat people. Not even if they're from different tribes.
"Hello," Tony said. He did his best to smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner." Big green didn't say anything. Maybe his tribe spoke different. But everyone knows what a smile is, don't they? Tony tried for another smile. "It's a nice day, isn't it? For the time of year, I mean. Pretty soon the leaves will be turning different colors. Do you turn different colors? The green looks nice. I never met anyone who was green before. Does it make it easier to hunt? Well, probably not in the winter, when there's no green leaves to hide you, but then, someone like you doesn't need to hide from anyone. Do you?" The more he talked the more the big green man's expression changed. Tony wasn't quite sure what it meant, but hey, he wasn't being hit or bitten, so he counted that as good. Big green reached out his hand toward Tony. Tony cringed, and he could have sworn that big green looked hurt. "Oh, no, it's all right." He patted big green's arm. "Wow, you are strong."
White teeth flashed in big green's face. "Oh, you're smiling. We're friends?" Tony stayed still this time as the big green hand moved very slowly to pat him on the head, as cautiously as Tony would handle a bird's egg. "Great! Oh, hey... do you think... maybe... I could stay with you? If your tribe doesn't mind? I'm only an o-man, so I couldn't help much with the hunting, but..." Tony found himself talking to the back of big green's head. "Is that a no?" he asked, feeling sad. He missed people, even people who were mean to him, and big green had actually been nice.
Big green went back to the deer. "Oh, yeah, you just go ahead and finish." Maybe big green would let him have the scraps. A mighty hunter like that doesn't need to scrape bones clean. He watched as the deer got ripped open more and big green took out the liver. It looked so good, Tony couldn't help his mouth watering. The hunters always got the best parts, but sometimes when there was a really successful hunt, they'd share with their mates. His mother had sneaked him bits of liver a few times. It tasted better than anything. Big green pulled a big leaf from a tree and put the liver on it. And then... he brought it over to Tony, and put it in front of him. And smiled with all his big white teeth.
Tony blinked in surprise. "For me? Really?" Tony slowly picked up the meat, watching big green's face to make sure he hadn't misunderstood. "Thank you." Tony ate the liver as slowly as he could, making happy noises as he chewed and swallowed and his belly gladly took in the really good food.
Big green sat on the ground watching him, making little happy growly noises of his own. He slumped down bit by bit, and after a while Tony noticed he was getting smaller. Tony stopped eating for a moment. People get bigger, not smaller. But then, most people aren't green. Maybe it's different for big green's people. By the time Tony finished eating the liver and was licking his hands clean, big green looked like one of the a-men from Tony's tribe, only he was a lot hairier, with a nicely furry chest that looked soft and cuddly. The big difference was that he was looking at Tony and smiling. "Hello," no longer big green said. Tony liked his voice, it was warm and friendly, and soft. He sounded the way his chest looked.
"Oh, you can talk! That's great. How do you get all big and green? Does everyone in your tribe do that? Could you teach me?" Tony grinned. He knew he was talking too much, but it had been so long since he had anyone to talk to that he just couldn't stop. "Oh, and what's your name? I can't call you Big Green when you're not big and green. My name's Tony."
No longer big and green laughed. "I'm Bruce, and... I don't know how I get to be the Other Guy." He sighed. "I don't have a tribe any more, they sent me away when I grew up into... you know... big and green."
"Huh. Why did they do that? That's stupid. You're amazing! You must be the best hunter ever! I bet you never have to go hungry."
"Well, yes, the Other Guy can kill anything. That was the problem. Everyone was afraid I'd get mad when I was big, and kill them. Aren't you afraid of the Other Guy?"
"I was at first, but then I saw he was a person. And he gave me the liver!" Then Tony stopped to think about that. "Wait, why did he give me the liver? The bones, or even a bit of meat, all right, but you don't share the liver with just anyone, do you?"
Bruce coughed and ran a hand through his hair. Tony thought he looked nervous. "Well, no. In my tribe, we give the liver to... well... when we want someone to like us. Really like us."
"The Other Guy really likes me?"
"Um. Yeah. And I do, too." Bruce ducked his head and rubbed his hands together. "But you don't have to... um... let me... you know. The Other Guy could tell that you haven't... aren't... you know, ready. To do. It. Because, you know, you haven't been getting enough meat. Skinny o-men don't... well... they don't...ripen ... oh, this is embarrassing."
"Is it? Why?" Tony had never seen an a-man embarrassed. They didn't care what anyone thought; they did whatever they wanted, which mainly was a lot of shouting and fighting, with a touch of bullying b-men and, of course, Tony.
"Because you're an o-man, and I should have been courting you for weeks before I even... I should have showed you what a good hunter I am, and how I could beat up any other a-men who came sniffing around you, and they would be all after you because you smell so good."
"Oh, yeah." Bruce looked up at Tony and smiled. "You smell really good."
"Huh." Tony moved closer to Bruce. "I can have babies, you know. I think. Maybe?" Tony wasn't quite sure that was what Bruce wanted, but if it was-- well, Tony really liked Bruce, and Bruce babies... he'd like Bruce babies. He was pretty sure he would, even if they were green. That would be worth the bother. "We could start our own tribe?"
Bruce moaned and put his arms around Tony. "Oh, I'd like that, Tony."
Tony leaned back in Bruce's embrace. "Kill something big for me? I want to eat a lot of meat."
Bruce growled and his arms swelled and started turning green. He grew as big as he had been before and stood up with Tony in his arms.
"Hold on a sec, Other Guy." Tony clambered up to sit on the big green shoulder and look around in satisfaction at the world, lying under his feet. "Niiice." He drummed his heels against the warm green skin and wrapped an arm around the tree trunk neck next to him. "Oh, if Dad could see me now."
The Other Guy growled... well, no, it was more of a purr... and strode off in the jungle, with Tony giggling on his shoulder and feeling warm and good and really, really, special.