His team was kidnapped.
The thin, small man carefully stared at the person through the glass, completely and utterly still. His dark brown eyes were blank, not letting a single emotion slip through. In another life, he would’ve made a good spy.
As it was now, Phil Coulson doubted the man could do much of anything.
If Natasha was here, she’d draw the words out of the agent like a fly to honey, gladly giving her all she needed to know. If it was anyone else really, Phil knew that the rest of the team would be well on the way to being rescued. But… this was Bruce Banner.
Bruce Banner on a good day weighed a 160, well underweight for his height, and was about as threatening as a panda (he studiously ignored the fact that Panda’s were in fact one of the volatile species on earth) and when he was Hulk… he was good for smashing and only smashing.
“Has he spit out the location at all?” He asked slowly, quietly, his voice calm and flat as a desert.
“Hmm, may I try asking him?”
Bruce lifted his hands, still flecked with blood from where he had been saving a child’s life in China. The glass of water, drawn from a nearby well had been gifted to him at the last second as he rushed away, and the crude cut wood was dark.
“You can try.” Phil doubted the man could draw up anything.
Bruce nodded slowly, staring at the water in the cup, before his mouth quirked upwards. “I think I know what I’ll do.”
Banner didn’t expound, merely walked towards the door as if the entire world was on his shoulders, slowly pushing it open, staring down at the cup of water. The man in the room turned towards him, suddenly tense and taunt. “What’re you-“
Bruce settled the cup onto the table, and said very seriously, “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.”
The man scoffed at him, and Bruce settled into the chair across from him. “Did you know that there are two-hundred and six bones in your body?”
Outside of the room, Coulson wondered where this line of questioning could possibly be going. Judging by the agents face, he was wondering the same thing as well. “At least half of the bones are in your feet and hands. Which means that you can remove half of the bones from a person without killing them.”
Bruce smiled, a quiet little smile that was almost dreamy. “The best part about it is if you’re good with a knife, you can remove all of those bones without even needing an anesthetic, because you can compensate for the thrashing. Or you could just tie them down.”
Blindly Coulson groped for something to wet his suddenly dry mouth. In the room, the agent mirrored his movements, grasping for the cup Banner had left sitting out innocuously on the table. He took a sip from, it, and Bruce sighed.
“I told you not to drink that.”
“Why, what’s going to happen? You gonna dissect me?” False bravdo rang through the words, fast as a beating drum.
Bruce shook his head. “It’s far too late for that. You see, in that water is a sample of a small virus. This virus burrows its way up through the bloodstream to you brain, where it will latch onto the surface and grow. Eventually you will die from oxygen starvation, as your brain chokes and splutters for air- strangled to death by the bacteria growing on it.”
Coulson put his cup down without taking a drink. The man stared at him with wide eyes. “You’re joking.”
“Maybe so, maybe not. Even if it doesn’t kill you, irony might. Because you see, I like Irony.”
Bruce smiled, a small little smile that sent chills down to the very bone. The agent scoffed, “I know your file. I know everyone’s file. You’ve been off in India all of this time, helping the poor folk.” He sneered, the falseness falling away leaving just bravado.
“Well,” Bruce murmured, suddenly very interested in picking off the drying blood on his hands, “It isn’t like anyone’s going to notice if a few people go missing here and there. Or if someone gets better, only to get sick again from some other disease that the doctor can’t cure, but is certainly willing to try.”
A pale white face stared at him. “It was like I was talking about earlier, that you can remove half the bones of a body. Certainly someone had to try before you could come to such a conclusion, don’t you agree?”
“Y-You wouldn’t do that. You’re far too nice for something like that, besides, you don’t have it in you.”
One eyebrow cocked upwards, as Bruce’s voice lowered to a rather amused hum. “Me? Not have it in me? If you read those files of yours, then you’d know that I was originally recruited by the military when I attempted to make a bomb to blow up the entire school. And my accident happened when I was developing a super-serum to create soldiers.”
Bruce leaned forward on one arm, staring the man directly in the eyes, his smile not falling off one wit. “On file they were considered failures- but you know, they don’t have to be that way. To have an army backing up my research? To prove that the serum worked? I won.”
“B-But the Hulk-“
“Like I said, irony. I love irony.” Bruce leaned back, completely at ease while the agent looked at him with eyes that screamed sudden insecurity, “Irony runs in the family you know. My father killed my mother in front of me by bashing her head against the pavement. Several years later, he’s found dead, head bashed in on top of mother’s grave.”
“M-Muggers, that’s what it was said officially, no one…”
Bruce leveled him the kindest, sweetest look, more mocking and crueler then a mirror. “You don’t honestly believe that, do you? It was mother’s death anniversary. I always visited her grave, and one day I didn’t and my father died? Oh, how convenient.”
The smile slipped off, a hungry, predatory look filling his face instead. “Irony dictates that since you kidnapped what was mine, I get to take you and yours back. I’m not just talking about immediate family though- I’m talking all the way down the rotten roots you sprang from. Cousins, second cousins, anyone who shares a strand of your DNA is now mine.”
“W-Wait a minute, you can’t-“
“Of course, we’ll have to take blood samples, and track down your family, but it doesn’t take much, does it? I just have to kill you, leave your mutilated body pieces across the world, watch as those who ever considered you kin flock in, ready to collect, and then it’s easy to take them.”
Bruce smiled easily, “It’s not as if anyone notices me, or the small little pill the puts them to sleep. How horrified would they be, when they saw you? Would they cry? Scream? Or would they just realize that what I’ve done to you, is what I’m going to be doing to them?”
The agent was beginning to back for the door. “You can’t do this to me, I know Shield, they won’t allow it-“
“Who said I needed Shield to help me? Or that Shield could stop me? There’s two problems with that- One, I’m smarter then them, and I can disappear. Two- even if they shot me, it wouldn’t work.”
That caught the spies attention, as a cold, hard, crystal feeling began to squeeze around the heart that Loki had stabbed. “They’d never be able to take me down. And quite frankly, by the time they found you, they wouldn’t dare get close. They’d be far too busy trying to figure out what to do with you. Having all of the bones in your body removed isn’t pretty.”
The man stared at him. “Not possible, you’d have to saw it off-“
“Ah, the beauty of scalpels and their ability to cut through meat swiftly. It’s such a wonder of life… don’t you agree? James?”
The agent flinched. “How- no, it had to be on the files-“ He looked agitated at the door, as if trying to beg someone to save him.
In the split second he looked away, Bruce moved until he were mere centimeters away, smiling gently as he would with a child. A startled scream died in the room as the agent slammed his back against the wall, Bruce looking on amused. “Nobody is going to save you. Who would? Why would they? Why would I let them save you when you took what’s mine?”
Long fingers reached out to tap against a chest. “A heart remains beating at least a minute after its ripped out of an open chest. Longer, if you stab the correct nerve endings which put you into intense pain, but prolongs your life. But, you can’t have life without a little pain, now can you?”
James went completely white. Bruce smiled, a small little smile that Coulson shuddered to see, leaning in close, hissing soft words into an ear that none could hear.
The man broke down into a whimpering, shivering mess as Bruce threw his head back and laughed.
Coulson sucked in a deep breath as he finished writing down the last of the information, and nodded sharply. James continued to rock back and forth, babbling almost incoherently about locations, what they were going to do, and please, spare him his little sister didn’t deserve that. It wasn’t his fault.
The Shield agent stepped out into the hallway to find Bruce calmly watching the man through the window. “I don’t know how much of what he said was true, but it at the very least gives us a base to look off of.”
Bruce turned away, heading for deeper within the helicarrier. “Wait, Bruce.”
“The news report, for your fathers death- it said that his body was found in a gutter, not in the graveyard.” Coulson said it, in a reflexive gesture to reassure himself. Bruce wasn’t… wasn’t the kind to kill, was he? Hulk didn’t kill people outright, more in a gigantic flailing of limbs with too much strength to realize he should hold back.
Bruce regarded him flatly for a few moments. “They lied. The body was found in the graveyard, but because someone who knew someone, who knew someone asked, they misreported it. If you take a look at the police reports, you’ll see that I was right.”
A sharp, insane glint that had nothing to do with the Hulk appeared in his eyes, the same sort of glint that had built the bomb in the school, tested out the serum on himself, that promised darker secrets then could be found on any file. “Don’t you ever wonder if perhaps the Hulk wasn’t created to save me from the explosion, but the world from me?”
Coulson took a tiny step back, and Bruce causally stuck his hands in his pockets, and strode off towards the control bridge, whistling cheerfully.
Coulson swore up and down, all across the board, before a full room, that the lights flickered and dimmed in the man’s presence.
But it wasn’t important right now. Right now he needed to locate the Avengers and fast before Bruce thought they were working too slow and decided to kill them all in their sleep. Or in their face. Either one.
Several hours later, he could have cried in relief when the news came on. “Sir, we found them.”
Bruce’s head twitched towards them, eyes sharp as the news was passed down the line. When the news at last reached his ears, he smiled, nodding in response. He then quietly said he was going ahead.
Nobody stopped him.
Tony groaned pitifully as he stirred on the cold, hard metal table. He was strapped down like out of a kinky, cheap porno, but he really didn’t feel like anyone taking advantage of him unless they had an scary alter ego that was big and green.
At least he was first. That way he didn’t have to see everyone’s eyes when they were dragged back, tortured. Selfish, yes. But he thought he deserved to be selfish for at least a little.
“Really Bruce, wish you hadn’t snuck off to the back of nowhere it would make things much easier-“
Tony’s heart leapt in joy. The Calvary had arrived!
“Hey, big guy, mind giving me a hand over here?” He called out, confident in the big green guys hearing.
The wall next to him crumbled as Hulk came charging in, dragging along what looked to be half of the entire building with him. Hulk eyed him for a moment, before turning away. “Tin man safe here. Hulk come back later.”
“What?!” Tony’s mouth dropped open. Really? Really? Safe? Here?
At the very least he didn’t have to indignant alone for very long when Clint was placed in the room with the admonition not to move. The archer crossed his arms, shooting the most unimpressed look after the Hulk.
Tony bribed him into getting him out in exchange for getting a quiver that would hold more arrows (he had no idea where he’d stuff those arrows, but he was determined to find some way scientifically and not that magic stuff. Ew gross no) and Clint was working on it when Steve and Natasha were deposited in the room gently.
The captain looked about as flustered as one could look when a giant green guy growled at you to “Sit. Stay,” like some kind of puppy. An ill-trained puppy at that. Tony resisted the urge to ask Steve to speak.
Steve went charging out into the battle again. The three left in the room looked at each other in perfect understanding, and weren’t surprised when Thor was tossed in with Steve.
Steve looked heartbroken.
Thor quickly leant his strength into getting Tony unfreed from his kinky porno table.
Steve just blushed, as the building crumbled around their ears. The roars stopped, and the heavy stomps came back, slowly pitter-pattering into a lighter and softer tune of someone they knew just as well, and the entire team turned to look as Bruce Banner stumbled in through the doorway.
Bruce smiled sheepishly, moving towards them as Shield agents cautiously began pouring into the wrecked building. Tony began to complain, “You know Bruce, the service here has been just awful. Drugged water, the room service is lousy, only a thin, cold, hard mattress- I missed you.”
“I missed you as well.” Bruce reached out, brushing across his arm, “I tend to forget to keep control of myself when you all aren’t around anymore.”
“You? Loose control? Say it isn’t so!” Tony laughed, eyes flickering up to the door as Agent Coulson walked through the doorway, “In fact, I bet you could’ve won the award for ‘Best Behaved Avenger When Your Teammates are Captured!’ Do they have that kind of award?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Bruce murmured, “But I like to think that I was very restrained when you were kidnapped yes.”
Tony could have sworn something akin to fear flashed across Coulson’s face, but it went ignored as he buried his head into a bare shoulder. “Since you’re the nicest guy we’ve got on the team, take us home?”
“If you want nice, ask Thor Tony.” Nonetheless, despite the fact that he himself was exhausted from his ordeal, he shifted Tony’s weight into him, burying his nose into hair. “You know, I’d burn the entire world for you.”
“I should certainly hope not.” Tony muttered back, content to be still for once, “I’m not worth it.”
“Hmmm?” Bruce hummed softly. “That’s for me to decide and you to accept. If you died, the world wouldn’t know what hit it.” It sounded like a promise. But it didn’t make much sense- Bruce was a quiet kind of guy.
“Whatever you say Banner- whatever you say.” Tony settled down next to him, threading fingers through fingers, just relaxing where he was safest.
It wasn’t like Banner was serious.