1. Like most arranged couples, they didn’t meet until their wedding day.
Bruce was dreading it. He knew Tony by reputation. (Everyone knew Tony by reputation.)
At best, Bruce would be married to a high society playboy who would make him play the happy spouse for the social circuits. And for the press.
Bruce hated the press.
But then there was the distinct possibility that Ross or some other official had a hand in this marriage. Maybe they figured if anyone could detain – or kill – the Other Guy, it was brilliant (crazy) Tony Stark. Tony Stark, who put a fucking nuclear reactor in his own chest.
And if Tony really were just a philandering spoiled narcissist (which was, sad to say, the most Bruce could hope for), then Tony was probably horrified to end up with someone who could turn into a monster at any moment.
When they met, it was a military man named Rhodey who introduced them – the best man, apparently, Bruce noted, wondering if that was a sign that he should run like hell.
But Tony and Bruce shook hands politely as expected. They had their picture taken for the society pages; Tony grinned widely for the camera, while Bruce managed an awkward, unconvincing smile. Bruce tried to adjust his tuxedo jacket so he looked less frumpy but it didn’t really work.
Tony barely said anything, which is not at all what Bruce had heard about him. He supposed that Tony was being reserved since the press was there.
Or maybe he was just as upset about the marriage as Bruce was.
When they say down for their pre-wedding interview with the magazines, right before the mikes were set up, Tony poked Bruce in the side with a pen.
Bruce looked at him, eyebrow raised.
Tony poked him again.
“Don’t get angry, okay?” Tony whispered.
“I think I can handle the presence of writing utensils,” Bruce said. “I’m not going to hulk out.”
“Hulk out all you want. I mean, I’ve always wanted to meet him. But don’t get angry about what I did.”
“What did you do?” Bruce said warily.
“I may have arranged for stink bombs to ruin the ballroom scheduled for our ceremony and reception. Then we can get married in Stark Tower -- no press, no government officials. Just us and our friends. Is that… okay?” He looked at Bruce, surprisingly nervous.
Bruce just stared at him and then blurted out, “That is spectacular.”
Tony grinned at him, excited. “You’re awesome. I can’t wait for you to meet our robots!”
2. They didn’t sleep together on their wedding night. Bruce mumbled something about how Tony shouldn’t feel obligated, and Tony just nodded and showed Bruce to a nearby guest bedroom.
But they seemed to get along well enough. Tony set up a lab for Bruce in the tower, and they both worked a lot. Sometimes they would have a polite breakfast together, but Bruce still felt like Tony was keeping his distance.
It was a month into their marriage before Bruce heard an explosion in Stark Tower.
He ran into Tony’s lab, trying to quell the terror, trying not to let the Other Guy out.
He was surprised to realize how desperately he wanted Tony to be all right.
Finally, he found Tony, who was yelling at Jarvis, “the fire’s out, you can stop spraying me already!”
Jarvis kept spraying.
Finally, it stopped and Tony looked sheepishly at Bruce. “Just a little setback in an experiment. Sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m sure you wish that – I mean, I’ve tried to be careful since you’ve moved in--”
“Which experiment?” Bruce asked.
“The one to create a semi-permeable invisible security wall. Except if you permeate it…”
“It blows up,” Bruce said.
Bruce shrugged. “It happens. Hey, are those the formulae?” he said, pointing to a virtual screen.
“Yeah, I’m playing around with the binding agent.”
Bruce said, “You know, if you changed to a silicon base--”
“It would turn into a goo instead of blowing up,” Tony said smacking his own head, “Of course! Banner, you’re a genius. Well, you knew that already. But still.”
“Still not your semi-permeable security field, though. But…”
“What?” Tony asked.
“You know that guy who keeps trying to get us to join that thing?”
“Yeah. You know I bet you could put in a test wall next time we have to go to his office,” Bruce said, glint in his eye.
Tony practically jumped up as he burst out laughing, “Fury’s office, doused in purple glue. You are the best husband ever!”
“Director Fury is likely to retaliate against such an action,” Jarvis pointed out calmly.
“Bruce and I don’t care,” Tony taunted.
Jarvis promptly sprayed Tony and Bruce both with the fire extinguisher, despite the lack of flame.
“Jarvis!” Tony reprimanded, “Don’t do that to Bruce!”
“Apologies, Mr. Banner,” Jarvis said.
“Where’s my apology?” Tony said.
“It could not be located,” Jarvis answered.
“Hey,” Tony said, switching his attention to Bruce, “I have some other experiments too – you want to see?”
Bruce said yes.
They spent the rest of the afternoon talking excitedly about Tony’s projects. Finally, Bruce asked him, “How come we’ve never done this?”
Tony looked at him awkwardly. “You’ve never wanted to. You kind of… got jumpy when I asked you into my lab.”
Oh. Even after Bruce decided that Tony wasn’t a complete ass, he wasn’t all that positive that there wasn’t some kind of experimentation planned.
“Sorry,” Bruce said, “I’m just kind of wary of being in other people’s labs. After…”
Tony’s face softened. “Sorry, man. I get it. I mean, you don’t see me hanging out in caves.” Tony grimaced then, and Bruce could see that there was struggle, could see that it caused Tony pain to admit that anything affected him.
“Yeah, I guess I should also warn you that there’s a guy out there called General Ross. He might be an issue at some point,” Bruce added, as much to change the subject as anything else.
“That dick? I made sure he was forced into retirement as soon as the wedding committee gave me your dossier.”
“I’m having him watched too. Don’t worry man, you think the government wouldn’t love to get my tech for weapons? That’s why I got about five hundred lawyers, the best security system in the hemisphere, and Pepper on the case. They’ve got you covered too.”
Bruce stared at him agape. Then he burst out laughing. “You know what? You want to see what I’m doing in my lab?”
Tony leapt up. “I’ve been dying to know!! I just didn’t want to push. I mean, you’re so private, Banner. But this is going to be awesome, hey, do you want to install a special secret elevator between our labs? Or maybe like a fireman’s pole that we can just slide down?”
Bruce laughed again and walked Tony to his lab. Maybe this whole arranged marriage of the minds wasn’t all bad.
3. It’s the third month of their marriage, and Tony’s lips are around Bruce’s cock.
Bruce thinks that Tony is better at this than he is at science.
Better than he is at science, better than he is at talking a mile a minute, better than he is at making Bruce feel at home in an enormous AI-wired tower, better than he is at walking in a room and making sure all attention is on him.
He’s great at all those things. But Bruce thinks he couldn’t possibly be better at anything than he is at this.
For a second, Bruce wonders what took them this long to get here.
But then he remembers: it was himself. It was Bruce shying away, first out of a lack of trust and then out of fear that Tony just wanted to fuck his spouse once in a while. As much as Tony had grown on Bruce, as much as the sexual tension had roiled between them, Bruce could still see the hangers on, the beautiful and baggage-free men and women who wanted a piece of Tony Stark.
Bruce hated imagining Tony with them. But he had to assume it was going on all the time.
Tony had kissed Bruce a few times. A few of those times led to a little more. But not much.
Bruce was always the one to back away.
Until Bruce reluctantly agreed to go to those awful high society parties Tony sometimes was obligated to attend.
Dozens of people threw themselves at Tony.
Bruce watched Tony politely turn them all down. Every time.
Finally, Bruce told Tony that he could act like he would if Bruce weren’t there. Bruce wouldn’t mind. (Except that he would. He really, really would. But no use ruining Tony’s social life – that would just break the peace between them.)
Tony had just looked at him strangely and claimed that he wasn’t acting any different.
It took a couple more times of Bruce saying that before Tony caught on.
“You jackass! You think I want to cheat on you?!”
Bruce sputtered, “But – wait, you haven’t already?”
Tony’s eyes went cold, but not before letting out a sliver of hurt. “No,” he said, slowly and angrily, right before he walked away.
That night, Bruce apologized.
Finally, Tony said. “That kind of sucks. That you believe what people say about me.”
“I’m so sorry,” Bruce repeated. “I just assumed you didn’t want to -- with me – so you were, you know…”
“Cheating on my husband?” Tony said icily.
“Sorry,” Bruce said yet again.
Tony sighed. “I did want to. With you. I’m pretty sure you know that.”
Bruce paused. “You were trying not to push.”
“The government basically forced you to marry me. I don’t want to … you know, insist. Until you’re ready. Unless! I meant unless you’re ready. Because you don’t have to be ready, ever. I mean I want you to be. But no pressure. But not because I don’t care. But I don’t care so much that you should feel pressure.”
Bruce put his hand gently over Tony’s mouth. “I’m sorry. That I made you wait this long.”
Tony raised an eyebrow as he moved Bruce’s hand. “This long? Does that mean…”
Bruce leaned in to give Tony a long, possessive kiss. “I can’t believe you went three months without sex for me,” he laughed then.
“I can’t believe it either,” Tony said. “To be frank, it was excruciating.”
“When the other guy first showed up, I was afraid that the heart rate during sex would make him, you know, interrupt,” Bruce said, “So I went a year without.”
Tony gaped. “You really are a superhuman.”
“Shut up, Tony.”
“Shut me up, Bruce.”
He did, with another kiss.
An hour later, Tony’s mouth is working Bruce into a frenzy.
Two hours later, they are lying next to each other, limbs entangled, sweaty and panting and very, very sated.
“Okay, I admit it,” Tony says, breathing hard.
“That was worth three months’ wait.”
Bruce laughs and kisses him.
“You know,” says Tony, “I thought you’d be super vanilla.”
“Yeah. You’re a really nice guy. But lucky for me, you’re a kinky-as-fuck, domineering bastard in bed,” Tony said with a lascivious smile.
Bruce rolled his eyes, but then says, “Lucky for me, I’m married to you.”
Tony smiles, and Bruce pretends not to see the water in his eyes.
He leans in for another kiss.
“Definitely worth the wait.”
4. After a while, Bruce and Tony start to let their guard down around each other.
Tony finds out that Bruce likes to troll anti-science websites.
Bruce finds out how much Tony gives to charity.
Tony finds out that it’s not a good idea to prank Bruce unless you’re hoping for an incredibly clever retaliatory strike.
Bruce finds out that Tony just about loses it when Iron Man visits sick or abused kids at the shelters. He’s all smiles and toys until he comes home and lies on the couch for hours, his head in Bruce’s lap, Bruce’s hands running through his hair as they sit there in comforting silence.
Tony finds out that Bruce doesn’t mind at all that Tony occasionally uses water balloon fights as foreplay. And that Bruce has excellent aim.
Bruce finds out that Tony would do anything for his friends, that Tony can handle almost anything except doing nothing when he knows he can help. He finds out that Tony means it when he says he’s done making weapons, that he still has nightmares about what’s being done with the Stark weapons that are still out there. He finds out that Tony is nothing like what people know of him, that people have no idea that he’s not all brains and ego, that he’s actually all heart.
Bruce is amused at how excited Tony gets that Bruce can go toe-to-toe with him in Tony’s silliest ideas. Or, even more perilously, Bruce’s silly ideas (Pepper now refers to them as the mad scientist twins). At first, Bruce thought that he must have had the reputation of being a complete stick in the mud. Eventually, he realized that Tony just wasn’t used to being around someone who didn’t want to change him.
Quite the contrary. If anything, Tony is changing him (not that Bruce intends to tell Tony that. Ever). But Bruce isn’t so afraid any more of indulging in a little excitement here and there. Maybe letting out the snarky, or even the assertive, side he used to have.
It was nice, to not worry so much.
Calm is good.
Bruce is so calm, in fact, that the Other Guy only shows up when the Avengers need him to (And fuck Nick Fury for convincing them, Bruce thinks when he tears through his favorite shirt yet again).
There are some adjustments to make, like in any marriage. Arguments, sure, but making up after.
Overall, things are good.
Until they’re not.
Until Iron Man is rescuing stranded travelers on an island in a storm. Bruce is watching on TV, proud as he can be.
HYDRA agents pick right then to try to kidnap Tony.
Bruce tries to stay calm but he feels it, the pain, the wildness, the green rage that bursts his muscles into something that he can’t control.
And then he remembers nothing.
He wakes up in Stark Tower, naked and cuddled up against Tony.
It’s the first time he’s woken up from the Other Guy at home. The first time he’s woken up with someone else there, excepting someone staring, horrified, from a distance.
The first time he hasn’t woken up buzzing with fear and self-loathing, nauseous with not knowing what irreparable thing he’s done.
“Thanks for the save,” Tony said softly as he helped Bruce to sit up.
“Did I – was it --?”
“Smashed the bad guys, but they lived. Saved me and a bunch of other people too.”
Bruce looked around and saw the broken furniture. And the broken wall. “Sorry about the damage,” he said, still a little groggy.
“I thought I had hulk-proofed it pretty good. This just gives me the chance to play around more with my materials science lab,” Tony said with a smile.
“Did it get – dicey?” Bruce asked hesitantly. Accidental transformations didn’t usually go this well, he knew.
Tony paused, and for a second Bruce was terrified that Tony was about to lie to him. Finally, Tony said, “The other guy was pretty scared there for a while. Pretty angry at the HYDRA agents.”
“Took me a while to talk him down.”
Bruce suddenly realized: “You talked the Hulk into coming home with you.”
Tony shrugged as if it were no big deal. “Big guy needed someplace he could chill out a little.”
“I’m just relieved he didn’t hurt you,” Bruce said, trying not to break down.
Tony wrinkled his forehead and sighed. He leaned over to kiss Bruce on his bicep, and leaned there for a moment. “Someday, you’re going to see the big guy like I do,” he said, voice full of hope.
Bruce didn’t answer for a long time. Finally, he said, “You are nothing like I thought you’d be when I married you.”
Tony smiled. “Is that your way of saying I’m surprisingly awesome?”
“Yes. I think it is.”
5. Hulk and Tony spent most of their tenth anniversary fighting an alien invasion.
When they saunter home, Bruce transforms back along the way. After a moment of disorientation, he keeps walking, covered by the lightweight pants and T-shirt that Tony kept stored in his suit.
Being a superhero was much easier now that they were accustomed.
“Guess what?” Tony said happily when Bruce came back. “The Other Guy got me chocolates for our anniversary. We saved one for you.” He held out a nearly empty heart shaped box.
“Let me guess, he grabbed one from one of the knocked-over kiosks.”
“Hey, when does he have time to shop? I can’t believe he remembered, though. It was incredibly sweet. He called me ‘Pretty Husband.’”
“Don’t be a hater. I’m still going home with you.”
Bruce had to smile a little at that.
“Are you mad that he remembered and you forgot?” Tony wheedled.
“I didn’t forget.”
“Just ask,” Bruce said.
“What did you get me?”
“We’re spending next week in India. Pepper cleared your schedule.”
Tony practically tackled Bruce in a hug.
He grinned and said, “Okay, that’s really, really good. And maybe mine won’t seem as good. But I think it’s good. And the first part we can’t do because, well basically, I was going to take you out to dinner, but we missed our reservation because, you know, aliens. I could buy the restaurant to get a table, but the last time I did that you - ”
“Please don’t do that.”
“Okay. But it’s okay about the restaurant. Because I also got you this,” Tony said and handed him a small box.
Bruce looked inside to find a simple gold band.
Bruce didn’t like to wear his ring any more – every time he turned, the ring ended up lost.
“You can wear this one,” Tony said.
Bruce thought for a moment. “You put a tracker in it? So we can find it?”
Tony scoffed. “For an anniversary gift? Right. Maybe for, like, a Tuesday. It’s just like gold until a certain degree of pressure gives it increased elasticity. It’ll grow with the Hulk and shrink back when you return. You never have to take it off.”
Bruce stared at it as Tony placed it on his finger.
“Tony. The applications of this invention are astounding,” Bruce said, thinking of all the ways this could be used by education, medicine, industry….
He looked up at Tony and added, “And it’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten.”
Tony kissed him then, long and soft and full of promise.
“We’re like, the best husbands ever,” Tony concluded.
Bruce smiled. He didn’t argue.