"I can never adequately repay you for all you've done," the tiny old one said to Bruce. She squeezed his arm, and Hulk shivered. It tickled when the tiny old one touched Bruce. Hulk wished she could touch him, wondering what the tickle would feel like then. But that would make Bruce unhappy, so Hulk was content with just the little tickles. But maybe one day, Hulk would get to touch the tiny one, and he would know.
Bruce smiled at her—Bruce liked the tiny old one. She wasn't scared of him. That made Hulk happy. He wanted Bruce to be happy, even if Hulk didn't know how to make that happen all the time. "Anytime—I'd do it all over again, even if Tony hadn't asked me to," Bruce told her.
He wished he could tell the tiny old one that he liked it when she came to Bruce's lab, or when she invited Bruce to eat the teensy bits of food, and drink the little cups of hot liquid that Bruce loved. Hulk liked those feelings. The tickles those times were like a warm day when the rain fell in the sunshine. It was a good feeling.
Then the tiny old one looked up at Bruce, and she smiled. It was like a secret. Hulk froze. It was as if she were looking at him, not Bruce. Did he tickle the tiny old one like she did Hulk? He reached out, he couldn't help it, and then Bruce was squeezing her hand. Bruce was embarrassed. He was pushing at his glasses.
"I'm sorry," Bruce mumbled, trying to pull his hand back. But the tiny one wouldn't let him go, holding his hand in a tight grip. The tickle became a frisson of warmth.
"Why?" she asked. Her eyes held laughter and Hulk smiled. She wouldn't let Bruce pull away; go back to hiding them from the world.
"Charlotte—" he began.
Hulk felt him arrive; so did the tiny old one. If she was like rain in the sunshine, the ancient one was like standing in the lightning, the bolts crashing down all around. The puny god, he'd felt like that too, but he had made Hulk angry, and Hulk had smashed. If Hulk had known the Immortal ones then, he would have done more than smash. The puny god had hurt the tiny old one. The puny god would pay for that if Hulk ever saw him again.
The tiny one let go of Bruce, greeting the ancient one. "Methos!" Their lips met, and the tickle and the electricity melded; Hulk hummed.
"What did I miss?"
Bruce was flustered at the question, and the tiny one giggled. "Doctor Banner and I were…communing," she replied.
"Is that so?" The ancient one's eyes held the same secret that the tiny one's smile had. Then he was looking at Bruce, through Bruce, and Hulk was certain he could see him. Hulk's hum became a song. A song Bruce couldn't ignore.
"You're aware of him." It wasn't a question. Bruce knew, just like Hulk did. The Immortal ones knew Hulk was there. "The other guy, you feel him."
The tiny one looked at the ancient one, then at Bruce. "Not right away, but over time. It's not like one of us." She pointed at Methos and herself. "But it's…he's…there, the other guy, once you know what you're looking for."
"The other guy; I don't know, it seems rude," Methos said, an impish light in his eyes. "Doesn't he deserve a name?"
Bruce was startled. Hulk could feel it. It made Hulk laugh. Then Bruce laughed. That didn't make Bruce happy. Hulk wasn't sure how, but the Immortal ones brought him closer to Bruce's world, without being in his world. Hulk didn't feel as lonely when that happened.
"What did you have in mind?" Bruce asked, though he seemed surprised that he did.
"Oh, I don't know," the ancient one replied, grinning. "Kermit?" Next to him, the tiny one laughed till she cried, and Bruce was appalled.
Hulk didn't care. He liked 'Kermit'! He had a name. Bruce would come around. He would make sure.