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Worse Without

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It’s not entirely a joke when Tony Stark says he’s a fan of the enormous green rage monster. He had read Dr. Banner’s file long before meeting him, fascinated as both a scientist and a former arms dealer by the video footage of Hulk’s rampage against the army. One single creature versus a military orgy that made the Jericho missile demonstration look like pop rockets at a family barbecue, and Banner had walked away without a scratch.

Once he met Bruce in the flesh, Tony had found himself compelled on a more personal level. The more Bruce tried to deflect attention away from himself, in shabby suits and lip-biting silences, the stronger Tony’s fascination had become. Bruce held so much depth and power under a modest exterior – not only the Hulk, but a vast scientific intellect, a profound undertow of sensitivity – it was like he hardly knew what to do with himself. Tony had some ideas. Tony, frankly, couldn’t stay away from him.

After the surprise attack, Tony had surveyed the trail of destruction Bruce tore through the Helicarrier, a trail that eventually led to a broken window and a 30,000 foot fall. For a moment, he envisioned the horrible possibility of the Hulk transforming back into Bruce mid-air, leaving that oddly captivating scientist to plunge to his death. No – Hulk had not allowed any other harm to come to Banner, not even harm Banner had inflicted himself. Tony’s learned from bitter experience not to make any leaps of faith where other people are concerned, but he doesn’t doubt that Bruce will survive, and that he will return.

And yes, Bruce proves him gloriously, euphorically, joyously right when he pulls up on that stupid little scooter. Bruce, as dusty and unassuming as he looked, is fucking indestructible.

This soft-spoken, canny-eyed scientist could walk away from a plane crash without a scratch. He could’ve eaten Tony’s captors in Afghanistan for breakfast. Now Tony really can’t stay away from him. When Bruce admits he might go on the run again, it’s unacceptable. Tony negotiates him into staying at Stark Tower, bringing to bear every bargaining tactic he’d ever seen or heard or used in the boardroom. He’s never been so giddy to get what he wants.



He test-drives Bruce through a few battles just to be sure, and Hulk is as durable as expected. Tony gets plenty of opportunity to observe this firsthand, since Hulk tends to stay near him. Big green mother hen, Tony tells Bruce once he’s back to his regular form. Bruce just shakes his head in disbelief, seeming more likely to believe in a flat earth than in his alter ego doing anyone any good.

There’s one battle in which Hulk grabs Tony by the metal-encased ankle and yanks him down out of the air, so quickly the sudden rush of gravity makes Tony dizzy. Hulk pulls Tony against himself and crouches, letting his back absorb the barrage of missiles intended for Iron Man. For all his rational knowledge of the damage Hulk can take, Tony has an instinctual moment of rebellion, no, no, no, Bruce, they’ll kill you—

Except Hulk only staggers forward a little, before he gets up and marches over. His deafening roar of “NO HURT METAL MAN!”, before ripping Tony’s mechanical attacker apart bare-handed and crushing the pieces, is an incident neither Tony nor Bruce are going to live down any time soon. It becomes a running gag among the team, with freaking Steve Rogers even getting in on the act during mission briefs. “Now, Tony will engage in attack pattern alpha, and since it’s been established that no hurt metal man…”

Bruce looks so embarrassed he could crawl under the table. Tony? He preens at the reminder. He preens at every reminder. He’s never met anyone like Bruce.

When they’re alone in the laboratory, Tony himself teases Bruce about it, until Bruce goes bright red in the face (fuck, how can an indestructible person also be so charmingly awkward?) and stutters out a lot of reasons why it’s logical to protect Tony. Notably, he doesn’t deny that part at all. He just offers excuses like well you ARE feeding me three times a day and who else is going to listen to me talk about gamma spectroscopy?

Tony teases until Bruce can’t think of things to stutter out anymore, until Bruce gets frustrated and just grabs Tony up in a kiss. One of the best kisses he’s had in a very long time, in fact. Bruce hasn’t been with another person in ages, and it’s been even longer since Tony’s met someone he trusts not to vanish. It’s kind of like being a teenager again with this chest-fluttering sense of discovery, like the world has become new again.

There’s a lot of sex in ridiculous places around Stark Tower, plus in a few ridiculous places around S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters should they happen to get called in for a briefing or a mission. There’s a lot of showing up to meetings with Tony’s hair sticking out in all directions and Bruce looking more rumpled than usual. Everyone politely pretends it’s an absent-minded scientist thing, so Tony busts out his seventh-grade champion hickey skills and leaves a fat one just under Bruce’s jaw. Because hey, Bruce might not be one for strutting, but Tony lives for it.



It changes in a second.

They’re at an outdoor café. Bruce’s salad sits before him, half-eaten, since he’s caught an idea from some offhand remark Tony had made about neutrino probes, and obsessively has to map out every theoretical application. Tony eggs him on, wondering how many people overhearing this realize it’s kind of their version of dirty talk.

Tony dimly hears the whistled displacement of air, and the puncture that follows. In the brief moment it takes to register as danger, Bruce’s eyes have already rolled back in his head and he’s slumped sideways in his chair.

Barely has a horrified shout left Tony’s throat when it’s drowned out by chaos. There’s gunfire, and an explosion that shatters the empty table next to them, and the café patrons screaming and running. Tony dives for cover, but not before pulling Bruce, chair and all, down along with him.

“No, no, no—” Tony cries, seeing Bruce flop against the ground and remain motionless.

He drags Bruce, heavy and limp, behind the cover of an overturned table. Though he’d heard in Bruce’s own words that he couldn’t be killed by guns, Tony instinctively runs hands along Bruce’s chest and neck and head, looking for a bullet hole to stanch. What he finds is a dart, buried under curls in the side of Bruce’s head. Tony plucks it out, holding it up with shaking fingers: a glass vial stained with some brackish residue. Tony pockets it.

“Bruce, come on.” Tony shakes him, flips him over. Another explosion rips the air, perilously close. “Stay with me, talk to me—”

The only thing out of Bruce’s mouth is a pinkish, sickly foam, bubbling over his lips. His eyes are open, but they’re blown wide and catatonic, and there’s a glassy green swirling and tightening in the irises. The same green pulses under his skin, trying to spread, but it can’t. Bruce spasms with the effort, croaks out a frightened, incoherent noise.

Tony wonders if the shot was meant to tranquilize Bruce, or to put him down.

“JARVIS,” Tony barks into his wristpiece, “get the Mark VII to my location now, and tell S.H.I.E.L.D. to be ready for—“

“Already on its way, sir,” comes the cool response.

“On its way? Why?”

“Stark Tower has just come under attack, presumably in conjunction with whatever requires your use of the Mark VII. The armor was successfully launched per emergency protocols.”

“Just attacked—” Tony breathes. There goes his plan to get Bruce the hell home. “Where’s Pepper?”

“Miss Potts’ office has been secured with her safely inside. Agents Rogers, Romanoff and Barton are estimated to succeed in holding off the attack for another two hours, longer if the communication to Mr. Odinson’s location is successful. I assume you and Dr. Banner will arrive before then?”

“Bruce is incapacitated.”

“Oh dear.”

“Fucking tell me about it—” Tony shouts, hauling Bruce along the ground inside the café. “Get Coulson on the line. Tell him if S.H.I.E.L.D. can fix this, I’ll do whatever public relations bullshit Fury wants for the next six months—”

Tony’s just made it behind the bar, and pulled Bruce underneath it, when another explosion nearby interrupts. It’s chased by a burst of machine gun fire, and footsteps coming closer.

“Tony Stark,” calls a voice.

Male; hostile. It’s a hard voice, slightly rough with age. Military all the way. Great.

Tony stays quiet, waiting.

“Mr. Stark, you are not our target,” the voice continues. “Give us Banner, and you can walk away.”

Tony’s fist curls up in Bruce’s shirt, a low anger darkening his face. Still, he makes sure to appear calm as he stands and holds his hands up in a surrender gesture. He’s faced by a tall man in combat fatigues, ruddy-faced and barrel-chested, with tightly focused eyes and a dark buzz cut. The soldier levels a gun directly at him.

“He’s not mine to hand over,” Tony says. “Who wants him?”

“General Ross.” The soldier slides a contemptuous look down, guessing Bruce’s location with discomfiting accuracy. “The United States military wants its property back.”

“Ross can want in one hand and piss in the other,” Tony answers. “You’re not getting him.”

“Right. The general's aware you're the type of bloodsucker who puts money over patriotism," sneers the soldier. “I’m authorized to write you a check, for whatever price Stark Industries puts on such a one-of-a-kind weapon.”

“You want me to sell you a human being,” Tony says, “and I’m the unpatriotic bloodsucker here?”

“A human being! Don’t get cute, Stark, I know you’ve seen that thing Banner really is.”

“Yes I have, and neither one is for sale.” Tony keeps his arms raised, keeps his eye on the sky outside. “Stark Industries finds him more valuable as an in-house asset.”

“I’ll bet you do.” The soldier snorts. “They always said you went soft after Afghanistan. What happened, Stark, they fuck you in the ass so hard you ended up needing more?”

“Goodness. Don’t we have some vivid, if fairly pedestrian, fantasies,” Tony says.

“Tony—” Fingers grasp at his pant leg.

He glances down to find Bruce still badly drugged, but fighting his hardest to assert control. That freakish, catatonic green fades in and out of his eyes. It’s like Bruce himself is fading and reappearing, and the Hulk is trying to reassert himself, and he’s caught in some weird void in between the two.

“Let me go–” Bruce dredges up every bit of willpower to choke out. “Not—worth it—”

“Sssh, Bruce. You don’t surrender when the cavalry’s about to arrive.” Tony says, a slick smirk dawning on his face as his bracelet blinks red. He steps forward and lifts his arms. “Especially not when you’re dealing with someone stupid enough to help you run out the clock arguing.”

The soldier’s face drains, his eyes popping as the Mark VII shatters through the window. “What the hell—”

He fires, but the armor’s already begun snapping into place around Tony’s body. A hail of bullets deflects harmlessly off Tony’s chest and faceplate, leaving the soldier to stop and lower his weapon helplessly. The soldier drops back. Not far enough to avoid the brutal energy blast Tony retaliates with, and then he’s gone but for a smoking hole in the wall.

“C’mon,” he says, pulling Bruce against his chest and taking off.

Those awful, choking spasms still rocket through Bruce’s body; his eyes are fully green now and threatening to bulge out of their sockets.

“Stay still,” Tony shouts, “if you can help it. I don’t want to drop you—”

Bruce’s uncontrollable seizing isn’t his only problem. Tony doesn’t dare fly at top speed lest the force of it hurt Bruce’s unarmored body, but he’s not accustomed to deliberately slowing himself in battle. And it is a battle, because damn, General Ross has decided he really wants Bruce back. Tony barely dodges RPG strikes and gunfire, especially when he’s got to twist awkwardly to shield Bruce from the same. Could really use a mother hen right now. He wonders if Hulk has spoiled him.

The answer’s a conclusive yes when a rocket explosion knocks Tony sideways. Bruce picks the worst possible moment to squirm and then he’s gone, plummeting out of Tony’s grasp toward the sidewalk below. Tony fires down after him despite the smoking dent in his left leg, catches Bruce and swings them both toward an awkward landing.

He gets up, and finds Bruce staggering around, clutching the side of his head where they’d shot him. Bruce lopes low like Hulk, his vocal cords trying to produce the same roar. It’s like the Hulk is pounding to get out, straining underneath Bruce’s skin, but Bruce’s body can’t make the change. Bruce looks like he’s gone out of his mind from the strain.

“Bruce,” Tony shouts, hurrying forward, retracting his mask to show his face. “Bruce, listen to me. It’s me, okay? We’re going to get you out of here. You don’t need the other guy. You’re safe—”

Another explosion nearby rattles the ground, nearly throws them off their feet. Bruce’s normally calm features twist up in the most incredible red-faced rage.

“No hurt,” Bruce shouts, in his rage turning toward the person who had just fired. “NO HURT!”

Bruce talks like Hulk, thinks he’s Hulk, but he’s in Bruce’s fragile, normal body. He charges forward like he isn’t. Tony rockets after him, but he’s too late to save Bruce from the next explosion.



This wasn’t ever supposed to happen again.

Tony paces the room in fits, wanting to break something, afraid to touch anything. All the medical equipment is hooked up to Bruce. Bags of blood hang at his bedside, since he’d lost so much; a little clear oxygen tube running along his upper lip and into his nose; clear painkillers leading into his arm; antibiotics, antiemetics, whatever chemicals the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors think will neutralize General Ross’ venom. They’re theorizing. They don’t really know. Nobody does.

There is, quite literally, no precedent for Bruce’s physiology. The closest thing they have is Steve, a fellow super-soldier experiment, and his records are useless because there had been no gamma radiation involved. They can’t even reference Bruce’s own medical history, because post-Hulk he doesn’t have one. He’s never needed it. Everyone assumed Hulk was indestructible, and Tony doesn’t think he could hate himself more than when he thinks back on how giddily he had assumed the same.

In the meantime there are still seizures, horrible moments when Bruce’s body jerks around and that sickening foam bubbles out of his lips and his monitors start screaming and flashing. When he’s not seizing he still makes a terrible sight, legs and right arm and half his face either burned up or shredded by shrapnel or both. They’ve wrapped him in gauze, and then wrapped the bandages in those lead aprons like the kind usually used for X-rays, because Bruce’s blood itself is dangerous.

Nick Fury’s sheltering them on the Helicarrier in case Ross tries again, and because the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors are the only ones willing to put on hazmat suits and even try patching him back together. They keep coming in and murmuring grave things about hemorrhaging in Bruce’s liver and brain, whether he’ll be able to process the poison out of his system at all, whether the next seizure will cause irreparable damage before it does -

– whether you’ll ever wake up oh God not again please not again –

Hollow-eyed, Tony sits in a chair at Bruce’s bedside. He tries not to see Yinsen’s dead face in the pallor of Bruce’s skin, tries not to see his mother and father in the injuries mangling Bruce’s body. He tries to convince himself that Bruce is different, he’ll shake this off, he’s strong even if he’s not indestructible, only to be that much more crushed every time he looks expectantly at Bruce’s comatose face and finds no change.

Natasha comes to visit, says very little except a few businesslike words of reassurance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Thor proclaims in a loud voice something that’s probably very inspiring, but Tony’s in no mood for it.

Coulson and Clint visit together. Tony should be reassured when they tell him Fury and General Ross are locked in the most heavily militarized custody fight in history over Bruce, and that Fury is, well, living up to his name. Great. But Tony’s distracted, irritated, because all he can see are the little looks that pass between Phil and Clint, the flutter of Coulson’s hand at the small of Clint’s back when they think Tony isn’t looking. They certainly don’t intend to remind him of the way Bruce flirts when they’re alone together in the laboratory, but, well.



Steve announces himself by way of an awkward throat-clear and the smell of coffee.

“I noticed you prefer it black.” Steve’s got a steaming cup in each hand.

“Hm,” Tony grunts, and accepts it. It’s going on thirty-six hours since the attack and he’s slept for maybe three.

Steve wanders closer to the bed. He surveys Bruce, unhappily, but with a soldier’s reserve. An aftershock of territorial anger goes through Tony. What would a bloodsucker like me know about patriotism, huh? He knows it’s not fair to get angry with Steve over what Ross’ lackey had said, but still, that mindless military bullshit really isn’t helping right now. He’d been suffocated enough times by Howard’s worship of it.

“What are you here for?” Tony says.

“I’m worried about him too, you know,” Steve says quietly. “Have they said…?”

“No, they haven’t said.” Tony doesn’t know how Steve wants to end the question, but it hardly matters. The doctors haven’t said anything he cares to even acknowledge, let alone repeat.

“Listen, Tony.” Steve shifts. “It’s… an inevitability, with what we do, that there’s going to be danger.”

Tony swings a blistering glare toward him.

“Sometimes it just… doesn’t make sense, in battle, who makes it and who doesn’t.” Steve swallows hard.

“Gee, maybe I should be the one asking you what the doctors are saying, if you’re going to talk like he’s already dead.”

Steve’s eyes widen. “No – I didn’t mean…” he says. “I’m sure he’ll make it.”

“Yeah.” Tony puts the coffee down on the bedside table, pointedly not drinking it. “Again. What are you here for?”

“I’ve – look, I’ve lost men before. I’m trying to help.”

“And you think that’s the kind of help I need,” Tony spits. “You think this is all brand new to me, and I’ve never been to the funeral of somebody important to me. Fuck you very much, Steve.”

“I didn’t say anything like that,” Steve protests, but Tony doesn’t hear it. A frustrated sigh escapes him. “Okay. Well. Let me know if you want to talk.”

Tony waves him off, too frustrated to produce more than a disgusted hiss.


“You saved him, you know.”

Tony glares. “Excuse me?”

Phil’s in the doorway, by himself this time. Clint’s nowhere to be seen. It’s early evening – maybe late – Tony’s lost track of time, only knowing that the lights in the hallway outside Bruce’s room have been dimmed for the day. Bruce himself still lies in a heavy coma, his vital readings especially weak after another seizure.

“If you hadn’t recovered the tranq dart,” Coulson says, pulling up a chair beside Tony, “we’d have no idea what Ross used on him.”

“From what I hear, you still don’t.”

Coulson accepts that with a duck of his head. “They’ve ruled a lot of things out, Tony. It’s a start.”

“A start. Great. Is he going to die before they get to the finish?” Tony doesn’t exactly hit the pure sarcasm he’s aiming for, a raw note creeping in.

Coulson says nothing. No wonder he had gotten in with Pepper so well, and been the first S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Tony tolerated as a point of contact. By now Phil knows him well enough that it’s better to say nothing than to offer platitudes about something as serious as this. Indeed, Coulson surveys Bruce’s unconscious form with a grim tightening of his jaw, and Tony realizes that he knows this situation more painfully than he usually lets on.

“How do you do it?” Tony says quietly. “Barton’s even more—“ Vulnerable. Soft. He’s a selfish asshole for even mentioning that, but Coulson takes it with a shrug.

“I don’t know myself, sometimes,” Coulson says, still staring at Bruce. “Just that it’s worse without him.”


“When Loki had Clint under his control—” Coulson looks away, his face very tight. Tony’s startled, because he never brings this up. “Nobody knew if there was any way to get him back, or if anything permanent had been done to him.”

Tony, curious, watches Coulson’s jaw clench.

“I know it’s not the same,” Coulson says, with a loose gesture at Bruce.

“Different flavor of horrible,” Tony says.

“Yes.” Coulson swallows hard. “I’d love to tell you I was philosophical about it, and took heart from knowing we’d gotten a chance to make each other happy, even if it was a short time, and all that. But when the time came, the only thing that made me feel really good was getting my hands on the biggest gun I could find and emptying it into the bastard’s chest.”

Tony turns to him, a little bug-eyed. “Weren’t you dying at that point?”

“I didn’t care.” Coulson looks down at his hands. “But that part of it was stupid. I should have cared, because Agent Romanoff got him back, and I wasn’t there when he needed—” He breaks off, glaring up at the ceiling to collect himself. “Nothing happened like it was supposed to. I felt like I failed him, and he felt worse. It didn’t matter. It was… yeah. Worse without each other.”

Tony swallows and looks away.

“You’re not going to like hearing this part,” Coulson sits back, not as casual as he pretends, but Tony appreciates the effort. “But I remember tracking Bruce. He used to leave new places after a few weeks, Tony. It’s… kind of amazing you got him to stay in one place longer than that, let alone an entire year.”

Tony narrows his eyes. “Because this is definitely an ideal time for you to remind me of other ways he might go away.”

“He won’t.” Coulson sounds for all the world like he’s giving a simple, professional briefing. “I tracked him myself, Tony. He looks like a different person now. Healthier. Calmer. Younger, for crying out loud.”

“Wonder what Pepper would say about such a glowing review of my influence.”

“Something you don’t want to hear, no doubt.” Coulson claps him on the shoulder. “He's not going anywhere.”



Tony’s fallen into a thin sleep, propped against the bedside with his face mashed awkwardly against Bruce’s shoulder. He’s awakened by weak fingers tangling in his hair.

He sits up in a bolt, and finds Bruce’s one good eye open. They stare at each other for a strange moment, Tony unable to believe his days of grief have ended in just as sudden and random of a moment as they had begun.

“Bruce,” Tony says hoarsely, “Bruce, God, fuck—”

He surges forward and kisses him. Bruce’s fingers slide along his cheek, around to the back of his neck. It’s an awkward meeting of lips, Bruce having little strength and tasting strange, medical. After they pull back Bruce tries to say something, but it comes out as an incoherent rasp.

“Hey, hey,” Tony chides, reaching for the water and sponges at the bedside table. He wets a sponge, and lets Bruce roll it around in his mouth. “Take it easy, big guy.”

A dubious look comes to Bruce’s face. Like I’m going anywhere? Tony gets the most hysterical urge to laugh because that look, more than anything, tells him that Bruce is okay.

Bruce pulls the sponge out of his mouth with a hoarse swallow. “Where are we?”

“S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. I know, not your preferred port of call, but it was the best I could do.”

A smile – exhausted, kind of helpless – warms Bruce’s face. “Well, if it’s up to Mr. Stark’s standards...”

“See? You are coming around.” Tony strokes Bruce’s hair back from his forehead. “How do you feel?”

Bruce takes in a long breath, surveys his injured body with some disbelief. “Not great.”

“Yeah.” Tony toys with his hair. “You know I’m pretty much never letting you out of the tower again.”

This gets a weak attempt at a laugh out of Bruce, followed by a cringe when it aggravates his internal injuries. “Tony…”


Bruce turns his head away, mouth a thin line, for a long quiet moment. “Were they trying to capture me, or kill me?”

“You don’t need to worry about that now.” Tony glares off. “Fury’s gotten Ross’s people off your back, and I will never—”

“Ross,” Bruce repeats. His good eye widens, skips along Tony in alarm. “Did he hurt you?”


“But you fought him…” Bruce says, a distant horror dawning.

“We all fought him.”

This doesn’t reassure Bruce. If anything, it troubles him more. “Ross never stops. He’ll come after you, Tony.”

Tony tightens a fist. “I’d love it if he tried.”

“You wouldn’t talk like that if you knew him.” Bruce swallows. “God…”

Tony lays a hand over Bruce’s, pulling together their fingers. “Did I tell you not to worry about this right now? Maybe wait until you’ve regained mobility in a couple of your limbs? Just a thought.”

“Yeah.” Bruce smiles to himself, a little uncomfortably. “About that. The other guy, he’s – not liking this.”

“Conversation?” Tony says.

“No,” Bruce says, and holds up his lead-wrapped arm, glances at the monitors. “This.”

“Oh. Well, he’s a little late to the party. The last ten days have been kind of a downer for everybody.”

Bruce’s good eye bugs. “Ten days?”

“Yeah.” Tony winces, realizing he should’ve broken that news a little more delicately. “They, uh, really did a number on you.”

"I believe it." Bruce glances toward the door. “I don’t want to hurt anybody.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re suggesting,” Tony answers, and they share a smile that reminds him of the first day they’d met, on this very Helicarrier no less, when they were the only people in the room who really got each other.

Ten days of strain leave his muscles as Tony wheels Bruce’s bed down the hallway, picking up momentum as they hurry past startled doctors. Bruce actually laughs, and when Tony glances down he’s got the most disbelieving grin on his face. They escape into an elevator, through a few more twists and turns of another hallway and then burst out onto the Helicarrier flight deck, with plenty of free open sky above them.

The arrival of a medical bed is an odd sight if there ever was one; Bruce modest about how the wind catches his medical gown, right before he turns over on his side, hunching over, and rips it during his transformation anyway.

Tony’s seen him transform countless times, but this one – this one holds his particular attention. It takes longer, Bruce straining more than he usually does, as the Hulk’s massive form swallows up and heals the burns and the shrapnel gashes. The bandage falls away from his right eye, which has grown out and restored itself. It’s always strangest when his face distorts, but Tony even welcomes the green regression to Cro-Magnon, because it’s rough and alive.

Tony gets a bullhorn and clears one of the runways, not that an announcement is needed once Hulk springs out of the broken medical bed and bounds for freedom. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on deck scatter and start making frantic phone calls; Fury’s console must have just blown up.

Hulk runs and leaps, as if there’s no other way to shake off the last ten days of confinement, and springs up into the sky. He does not attack, because the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents know how this works, and none are stupid enough to provoke him (no doubt Fury is bellowing reminders in their earpieces). They all stand clear, but for a few brave souls who find hiding places to watch.

Their fascination is right.

Tony sits by himself in a jeep one of the agents had abandoned, with an awed little smile as he watches Hulk roar at the sky. And he finds himself laughing as an enormous green thing comes bounding toward him, flinging himself from place to place like a thousand-pound acrobat, flying and joyous and green and defiant. Maybe Bruce isn’t indestructible, but for now, it’s enough that he looks for all the world like he could be.