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a little tied up right now

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Bruce wakes up with a throbbing pain hovering just behind his eyes. He groans, goes to put a hand to the spot, but can't lift it above shoulder height. Someone's actually gone and put him in restraints. Who the hell had the -

No. Bruce breathes in deep. He can't just go on a rampage. He has to think first.

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

Calmer, he flexes and twists his arms around, testing the restraints. The big guy could get him out of these, no problem. And his surroundings don't look like the kind of place he'd mind the Hulk going to town on. But before he can do it, his hands get pulled back a little the other way.

He's not handcuffed to a wall, he realizes. The chain of the handcuffs go through a hole in the wall to the other side... where they're cuffed to another person.

"Is someone there?" he asks, hoping the sound reaches the other side.

Someone sighs. "Doc. How you doing over there?"


"I've been better," he admits. Handcuffed to the Black Widow, god. He wants to meet whoever came up with this ingenious plan, and shake their hand before he lets the Hulk rip their head off. "You?"

The cuffs shift upward slightly. A shrug. "Eh, I've had worse." Bruce listens closely, waiting to hear... he doesn't know what. Some sign that she's bothered by this situation. That she's afraid - as she should be, as he knows she can be. But if there's any sign of that in her voice, he can't hear it. Consummate professional that Natasha is, there probably isn't any sign of it on her face, either.

He should probably meditate, keep calm so Natasha doesn't have to worry about Hulk interfering in their escape. But... "Any idea where we are?"

"None. Last I remember, I was in DC; you?"

Bruce hears a metallic scrape and clink, and speaks a little louder to cover the sound, just in case someone's watching. "New York. Stark Tower."

"Yeah?" More scraping sounds. "How is he?"

"Stressed out. Worried. Pepper went through this thing - I wasn't really paying attention during the story, but apparently she has these... abilities now?" Bruce shrugs. "There was talk about fire-breathing."

"You don't say."

Click. That sounds like a promising click. He twists one hand in its cuff, tugs gently at the chain as he speaks. "What about you, what have you been up to?" It's looser, but there's still some resistance. Natasha isn't free just yet.

"Doc," she says with a smile in her voice, "you know that's classified."

He laughs, just a bit. "Were you even really in DC?"

"I never said I was working in DC."

"Oh?" Another clink, a pained grunt, and a shifting of metal links that has Bruce suspecting she's loose. He tugs a little, but he's met with sharp resistance. Okay, message received: for whatever reason, they're not getting out of here yet. "Care to share?"

"Not really." She sounds... hurt? And quieter, like her voice is coming from farther away.

"No?" Bruce swallows against a tightness in his throat, suddenly worried. Is someone else in the room with her? Has she been taken away - or is she leaving him behind? "Natasha?"

"Keep your pants, on, doc." The door swings open. Natasha looks good - hair longer, straighter, but the same deep red it was the last time he saw her. "I don't like to kiss and tell, that's all," she says with a small smile, but there's something in her eyes...

"There was kissing?" he asks dumbly. She gives him a look that makes him feel twelve years old. "...never mind. You going to get me out of here?" he asks, gesturing to his restraints. And yeah, there, there's something she's not saying. "Can you get me out of here?"

She only hesitates a moment. "The cuffs are rigged to blow if you try to break out of them."

Ah. "Then how...?" She approaches, holding out her hands. Something looks off about how she's holding her fingers. "You dislocated your thumbs?"

"Help me put them back in?" He's not so tightly restrained that he can't do that much. It's not something he's done before, but between his basic knowledge of anatomy and her instructions, they manage to get her thumbs working again. She massages the muscle around the joint, rotating each finger to make sure it's properly back in place. "Thanks."

"No problem." She stands to leave, and panicking a little, he asks, "What about me?"

She pauses in the doorway for a moment, crouching down to dig around in her boot for something. "Give me five minutes."

"And then?"

She stands up, her hand flexing around a wicked looking knife. "Get angry." And with that, she's gone.

Five minutes, huh? Bruce breathes in deep. He can do that.

Three hundred. Two ninety-nine. Two ninety-eight. Two ninety-seven...