“All I'm saying,” Tony argued, gesturing to the pizza place up ahead, “is that after smashing all those tanks yesterday, the Big Guy deserves a greasy, New York-style extra large.”
Bruce almost rolled his eyes, already regretting accepting the insomniac engineer's 3am invite to get take-out. But after spending 12 hours passed out post-transformation, cooking was the last thing he’d wanted to do, and pizza sounded infinitely more tempting than whatever was left over from Thor and Steve’s inevitable binge when they’d gotten back from the mission.
“For the last time, Tony, he doesn’t need to eat. And the physiological implications for me—”
“C’mon, Bruce. I watched you consume your bodyweight in pasta last month after the Siberia incident. One pizza’s not going to—”
“Give me your money.”
The voice came from behind them, followed by the click of a gun ready to fire, and they turned to find two muggers, only one of them armed. As Bruce stared down the weapon's barrel, icy tendrils of fear crept up his spine – and not for himself.
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, we know who you are, Stark,” the gunman said.
Tony smirked, nodding at Bruce. “I meant the other guy.”
“Don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s—”
“Tony!” Bruce snapped. They were too close; a transformation now would likely crush his friend, not to mention what could happen once these petty thieves had been pummeled into broken, bloody sacks. The Police Chief himself had issued a ‘do not engage’ order for the Hulk after the Battle of New York, but rules were made to be broken, and if there was one thing Bruce Banner had learned, it was never to trust trigger-happy authority figures around an enormous green rage monster.
The engineer sighed, unconcerned. “I don’t carry cash.”
“I do,” the scientist said, slowly pulling out his wallet.
“Bruce, what are you doing?”
“This isn’t worth their lives, Tony.” He emptied the billfold’s contents. “Here.”
Mugger #2 looked confused, but took the money and held out an open palm toward Stark. “Gimme your watch and your phone.”
“First, it’s not a watch. Second, it’s locked to my biometric signature, so it’s useless to you. And third—” he said, tapping on his Stark Tech cell, “—you might want to have a look at this.”
Bruce didn’t even need to see his own headshot on the screen to know that Tony had accessed his file; Mugger #2’s reaction as he scrolled through was enough. The man’s eyes widened, realization building into horror, and Bruce looked at the ground.
“Put the gun down,” the man whispered.
A distinctive roar echoed through the speaker. Whenever possible, the team took surveillance footage of each mission at Bruce’s request, to ease his conscience that no innocents were harmed, but he hadn’t yet had a chance to review this one. Hearing the destruction that followed, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
“Put the fucking gun down!” Mugger #2 demanded, his shaking hand dropping the phone.
A hologram of the video shot up between both pairs of men. The camera had captured the Hulk as he charged at a firing tank, tearing off its mounted gun and using it to bludgeon nearby Hydra agents to death before leaping onto the armored vehicle. He smashed it into a pile of scrap as the driver and gunman’s screams pierced through the cracked metal frame. Bruce winced.
The clip ended on Hulk’s monstrous features settling into a relatively calm grimace, as if pleased with his work. When the image cut out, it was Bruce the muggers faced, and once seen, the resemblance between the monster and the man was impossible to ignore.
Mugger #2 was shaking, tearful eyes darting between Bruce and his armed friend. Mugger #1 simply stared in shock, so focused on Bruce that he didn’t even respond as Tony plucked the gun from his hand.
“I’ll take that,” Stark said. He pointed to the money Bruce had surrendered. “And he’ll take that.”
Mugger #2’s trembling fingers held out the wad of cash. The scientist calmly tucked it back into his wallet and looked between the would-be thieves.
“Leave.” They merely blinked at him, neither man moving a muscle until Bruce took a step forward. “Now.”
Instantly, they took off running, almost tripping over each other as they scrambled to escape. When they’d disappeared around the corner, Bruce bent and picked up Tony’s phone, slipping his glasses on to scroll up his file.
“I’m 5’8” and a half, actually,” he said, tossing the thin glass device to his friend.
“Sure you are, big guy.” Tony clapped him on the shoulder, and as they continued on their way, the engineer paused, eying another open take-out place. “Do you think he likes cheeseburgers?”
Bruce sighed. Next time, he’d just cook.