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The Ballad of Bruce and Darcy

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He stares at the data on the screen, re-reading it for about the seventh time. He’s not sure why he does this, because the results don’t change, no matter how much he’d like them to. The latest formula is no more successful than the last. Or the one before that. Or the one before that. Or…

He sighs, taking off his glasses to rub at his eyes. There’s a small sound near his elbow, the faint thunk of something being set on his desk. Warm steam caresses his face and the scent of herbal tea fills his nostrils. He drops his hand and looks up to see the girl frowning down at him, her hand just withdrawing from setting his favorite heavy mug beside him. He offers her a faint smile of thanks and picks up the mug, taking a long swallow. It is his favorite, a blend of chamomile, peppermint, lavender and green tea that he finds soothing.

“You shouldn’t work so hard, Dr. Banner,” says the girl severely, shaking a finger at him like he is a naughty schoolboy.

Darcy Lewis. He sighs heavily and thinks he replies in a reasonably agreeable and noncommittal manner. He’s not sure, because she confounds him and he’s only really aware of what’s coming out of his mouth about half the time when she’s around. The girl’s mind is as mystifying to him as particle physics are to most people. She is bossy and her voice is too loud and she laughs at things she should take seriously and she is irreverent and scatterbrained. She is also thoughtful and funny, but most of the time he wonders who he managed to piss off, to have his lab saddled with this virago. He smirks a little to himself at his Norse tie-in as his eyes slide over to where Jane is  laughing and shutting down her work station as a single-minded demigod tugs on her arm. She shrieks a little, which goes straight to Bruce’s head, causing him to wince. As Thor loses patience with tugging gently and resorts to throwing Dr. Foster over his shoulder and striding out of the lab, laughing at her ineffectual struggles, Bruce feels a nudge at his shoulder. He turns his head, and sees Darcy’s outstretched palm. There are four small round, white pills in it.

“What’s this?” he asks, bewildered.

“Aspirin,” says Darcy a little impatiently. “Y’know, for your headache?”

“I didn’t say I had a headache,” says Bruce a little irritably. The mother hen treatment grates on him some.

“Duh,” says Darcy in annoyance, offering him the aspirin more forcefully. “You’re just broadcasting it all over the lab! Are you seriously gonna sit there and try to tell me you don’t?”

“No,” sighs Bruce, because the headache has teeth and claws and is gleefully trying to lobotomize him at the moment. When he has gone a while without the other guy slipping his tether, the headaches come no matter what he does, and when his research frustrates him, they are even worse. He takes the aspirin and swallows them all at once with a swig of tea, turning back to his data. The latest compound has performed even less well than the one a few weeks ago that turned out to be a powerful aphrodisiac with no harmful side effects. Not that it had been any good for his purposes, but at least it had been good for SOMEthing. This one isn’t even registering in his blood work. Damn it. Tony keeps telling him he needs to stop worrying about this and just embrace his inner rage. Bruce wants to embrace something else. He hasn’t been able to be intimate with anyone in so long he’s not sure he even remembers how. It seems that no matter what he does, no matter how well he’s managed to retain some small sense of sanity when the Hulk crushes alien skulls or killer robots, gaining full control will always taunt him.

“Okay Doc,” says Darcy firmly, “break time.”

“I’m fine,” he says absently, ignoring her and searching for the mistakes he must have made in this latest formula. He exclaims aloud in startlement when his chair suddenly yanks him away from his desk, rolling backwards to bump gently into the empty desk several feet behind him. He glares resentfully at their lab assistant. Darcy returns his glare with one of her own.

“You’re not fine,” she says loftily. “You have a headache and you’re working too hard. I can always tell. Your face does this.” She scrunches her lips and eyebrows so that her forehead wrinkles. The expression reminds him a little of an irritated puffer fish.

“No it doesn’t,” he protests.

“Does too,” she replies stubbornly, and then she touches him, reaching out to squash his cheeks into an absurd approximation of her own outrageous look, then pulling them back so that his lips are stretched taut. Her touch gentles a little and she rubs the lines of tension on his forehead, thumbs pressing at his temples. He has to stifle a helpless moan of pleasure. He cannot remember the last time he felt a woman’s fingers on his skin, even if what she’s doing is ridiculous. He’s glad he’s sitting down, and that he tends towards slightly oversized trousers, because the pure sensation of her fingertips  soothing the frown lines between his eyebrows sends a crippling bolt of lust straight to his groin. It isn’t her, of course, it’s simply the fact that she’s female and touching him voluntarily. His eyelids flutter closed for a split second while he allows himself to wallow in the feeling, then he opens them again to look at her severely. His lips part on a reprimand, but the words die when he sees the expression on her face. She’s staring at him speechlessly, her full lips parted slightly, pupils dilating. They sit frozen for several long, thick beats of Bruce’s heart, then shake it off abruptly, she with a laugh and he with a tiny shake of his head.

“Thank you for the aspirin, Miss Lewis,” he says a little awkwardly. Of course, a little awkward is sort of his default mode of conversation anyway.

“Dude, really?” she says, tossing her absurd mop of unruly brown curls over her shoulder. “How many times have I told you to call me Darcy?”

“Darcy,” he agrees good-naturedly, which he will call her, at least until the next time she discomfits him and he hides it in formality again.

“You’re welcome,” she says graciously. “Now come on, let’s blow this pop stand.”

“I….what?” he asks stupidly, thinking the discomfiting thing may be happening even sooner than usual.

“You’ve been at this all day. Tony is in Malibu. Jane is…well, we both know where Jane is and what she’s doing right about now, so I’ll just say she might as well be in Malibu too. You don’t have anybody here to talk sciencey gibberish to, cause I sure as hell don’t understand it, and you’re tired and your head hurts so what the heck are you even gonna be able to get done anyway? I wanna go to Chinatown, and you have to take me.”

“Why do I have to take you?” he protests in alarm. He’s gone with Darcy to pick up takeout for everybody a few times, and each and every one of them had been hair raising, not because of the journey itself, as he’s a good driver, but because of how dizzy it had made him to try to follow her endless stream of prattle that always bounces from one subject to another with no regard for logic or rules of grammar or diction or even rationality of any kind.

“Because,” she says impatiently. “Tony’s in Malibu and Thor’s in…Jane, and Steve’s in medical for those tests he told us about yesterday, and Natasha and Clint and Phil are in San Francisco and Nick’s….well, okay, I don’t know where Nick is, but I wouldn’t ask him anyway.” Darcy is the only person besides Phil who calls Fury by his given name. Phil does it occasionally because they are old friends, and Darcy does it because it makes Fury’s teeth clench. Everybody but Fury finds this hilarious.

“And the several hundred SHIELD employees working just a few miles away from here? Or the extensive availability of taxi cabs in a three block radius of this house? Or the subway station two blocks away?”

“Bruce,” she whines, pouting. “You have to go with me. You need a break and I have to make sure you get one because nobody else is home and you have to go with me because what if there are gangs having a turf war out there and I just walk into the middle of it and they kidnap me?”

Bruce stares at her in fascination.

“You are aware we don’t live on the set of West Side Story?” he asks bemusedly.

“Don’t be mean to me,” she says petulantly, and smacks him on the arm. He sits and stares dumbly at her for a bit, because nobody but Tony ever smacks or pokes at Bruce in fun. It’s not really much of a risk, because it would take a lot more than a little jab to piss him off enough to lose control, but that she does it without a second thought suddenly endears her to him in a way he hasn’t felt in a long time

“All right,” he sighs, closing the file he’s been studying and getting to his feet. “Why are we going to Chinatown?”

“Hooray!”

“They sell that there?” he asks curiously. Darcy pokes him and glares unconvincingly.

“That was actually pretty funny,” she admits. “You better watch it or people are gonna find out you have a sense of humor.”

“I don’t have a sense of humor,” mutters Bruce. “I have a sense of never knowing what the hell you’re talking about.”

“See?” says Darcy, poking him again, which is actually a lot less irritating than it ought to be, and how sad is it that nobody’s touched him in so long that he’s reveling in being jabbed by the index finger of a girl young enough to be his daughter and annoying enough to be Tony when he’s been without Pepper’s steadying influence for too long. “You’re a pretty funny guy.” He neglects to tell her it wasn’t a joke. “We have to go to Chinatown because I need a cat,” she explains unhelpfully. He raises his eyebrows and feels compelled to wipe off the lenses of his glasses on his shirt tail.

“To eat?” he asks, a little baffled. She laughs.

“That’s like THREE jokes inside of five minutes! You’re doing great!”

“Darcy,” he says patiently, because trying to make her believe he’s just trying to figure out what the fuck she’s talking about would open yet another can of worms on top of the one he’s already trying to pick through.

“You know those really creepy fat gold ones with flowers and junk painted on them with the eyes that move and the smile that makes them look like they just ate your hamster?”

Actually, he does know what she’s talking about, because he’s travelled a lot, and in almost every city in Asia he has asked himself who on earth came up with that particular home decorating disaster. He can’t for the life of him figure out why the things exist, or why Chinese interior designers seem quite so fond of really fat kittens with eerie toothy smiles.

“You’re not putting one of those things in this lab,” he warns her emphatically, and realizes they’re actually walking down the hall towards the elevator while having this conversation. He can’t remember if he actually agreed to accompany her or not, though he probably did, and yet here they are on the elevator down to the garage. He’s still not sure why.

“Of course not, cause ew! No, it’s for my cousin Loreen in Nevada. She’s getting married and I don’t like her fiancée and I can’t go to the wedding anyway and she loves tacky crap and I know he’ll hate it so it’s totally win-win for me, you know? I think it’s kinda nicely ironic that I can’t stand him and he’s not gonna be able to stand what I give them for a wedding present but since she’s gonna love it, I get to annoy him from afar without him being able to annoy me back AND she’s gonna forgive me for missing the wedding.”

“I actually think I understood that,” he says, mildly surprised. “Although I’m not entirely certain that’s irony. It is, however, rather amusing. Let’s go find you a creepy gold cat.”

“Woot!” she crows, which doesn’t really help his headache at all, but what the hell. She wheedles him into taking the convertible hemi cuda. Okay, she doesn’t have to wheedle terribly hard. He considers himself an energy-conscious guy. One of the reasons he’s agreed to stay (and okay, realistically there are a lot of them) is that he admires Tony’s commitment to clean energy and a greener planet. He is one of the many people who agree that owning a car in New York City is not really either practical or responsible (and it’s not lost on him that it’s the same guy committed to clean energy who owns all the cars sitting under Avengers Mansion) but damn. He’s still a guy, and the ‘cuda appeals to him on a purely masculine, impractical and visceral level. The engine purrs and grumbles like a big impatient cat, and it feels like he’s coaxing a great big gleaming chunk of C4 to obey the directions of his hands and feet and yeah okay, he’s weak. It’s a great fucking car. Besides, he tells himself righteously, it would be an unacceptable risk for him to ride the subway. Limiting stressors that might stimulate his inner monster is something he does instinctively, and has for years. Cramming himself into a steel coffin hurtling seventy miles an hour through a small enclosed tunnel along with hundreds of other people he doesn’t know, and while he has a headache and countless hours of failed research weighing him down? Not very stress-free. So, they drive. You can’t actually get a car through very much of Chinatown, not if you don’t have six or seven hours to travel a dozen blocks or less, so they use public parking as nearby as they can and go the rest of the way on foot. Despite the fact that he has made it a practice to seek inner peace, Bruce loves cities. He has found the crowded streets of Delhi and Hong Kong and Beijing to be safer places to hide than the most isolated wilderness, because in them he can find people who need his help. Bruce’s peace comes from making a difference. He’s perfectly aware, thanks, that it’s penance. That he donates his time to those who cannot pay for his skill to make up, in some small way, for those his other half has hurt or killed. Knows also that nothing can really ever tip that scale, no matter what Tony Stark or a bevy of shrinks try to tell him. He loves New York too, although here his affection is based more on the fact that it is like being in several cities all at once, that there seems to be a place for anybody who wants one. It is the first place he has felt in many years as though he has, at least a little, earned the right to live alongside other human beings. It is here, and only here, that the Other Guy (yeah, that’s how he thinks of him, doesn’t like the name the monster has been given, mainly because Bruce cannot humanize the beast and to give him a name, even a stupid one, legitimizes him… so he is the Other Guy, in capital letters) has done perhaps more good than harm. Has saved more human lives than he has stolen. There are children who wear t-shirts with the creature’s face on them, action figures, giant foam hands that, inexplicably, roar. There has even been a time since that fateful day when he first remained at least peripherally present inside the monster’s brain and managed to kill the right things for once, when his arrival on the scene of an emergency has generated cheers from frightened victims or onlookers. It surprises him that the Other Guy is able finally to tell the difference between approving noise and threatening noise.

Chinatown makes him feel a little nostalgic for the time he has spent in Asia. He’s spent a LOT of time in Asia, due to the existence of more overcrowded anthill cities there than on any two other continents put together. The scent of cooking noodles and rice and spices mingles with the stench of garbage and fish and dye. The sheer array of shops, booths, restaurants and street vendors is dizzying. As in the country it is named after, you can find just about anything here if you know where to look. Procuring the luridly leering gold plastic cat statue that has eyes which move back and forth in its head takes all of the five minutes it takes them to walk into the first shop they come to. By mutual consent, they take some personal time to just stroll through the hodgepodge that is Chinatown, and buy noodles from a street cart vendor. Darcy is surprisingly adept at talking both with her mouth full and with both hands while managing her paper carton of noodles. They are arguing about the merits of lo mein versus mei fun when a piercing shriek splits the air. They freeze and look around wildly. Darcy clutches at his arm and points. He follows the trajectory of her finger up to the top of one of the nearby buildings. Most of the structures here are crammed with tiny apartments above all the businesses. While there aren’t as many skyscrapers as there are downtown or in Manhattan, there are still plenty of tall buildings. His brain processes the unfolding tragedy in seconds. A little girl has been sitting out on the fire escape outside her apartment, probably playing. The obsolete and rusting frame of the structure has probably been on the verge of collapse for years. Responsible landlords are not something Chinatown is known for. The bolts or simply the metal of the fire escape itself has finally rusted through, and the platform the child had been occupying has begun to tilt slowly, horribly, out away from the fourteenth story to which it was recently attached. The child, of indeterminate age but certainly less than six, is hanging on to one of the rails of the fire escape for dear life, shrieking helplessly, as her playground sags ponderously towards the ground and her certain doom.

“DO something,” demands Darcy, her fingernails digging into his arm.

“Darcy,” he says hopelessly, “I can’t. I’d probably just kill her faster!”

She whirls to face him, her eyes snapping with fear and rage.

“Fuck that, Bruce! You’re the only person here who can get to her in time. Save that little girl. I know you can do it.”

She is right, in that the monster inside him is the only person here who is capable of reaching the child, nearly two hundred feet in the air, before she falls, as well as prevent the heavy steel framework of the fire escape from crushing onlookers and dozens of livelihoods. He’s desperately afraid that the Other Guy won’t understand what needs to be done, that this will be the time he is unable to retain some semblance of control, that the screams will distress it and unleash a deadly rampage. But he also knows that if he doesn’t try, and the little girl dies, he will blame himself for it. His shoulders slump, and the tears off his jacket, shoving it towards Darcy, sprinting towards the imminent disaster even as he loosens his hold on the constant, pounding rage locked inside his skull. The change is swift; green flooding his skin, his eyes going the flat olive of an anaconda’s. His skin and bones ripple and twist and stretch, and his howl of pain transforms seamlessly into a bellow of rage as his vocal cords lengthen and thicken with his neck. The transition is always painful, like having ligament and cartilage ripped asunder and every bone in his body snapped and shoved back together wrong. Every nerve ending sings with agony, but his eyes never leave the child.

“Save the girl, save the girl, save the girl,” he chants under his breath, hoping the repetition will fix his purpose in the monster’s fevered brain. Then he feels his presence inside his own mind shrinking, shoved down inside the howling abyss that is the tortured mind of the Incredible Hulk.

 

It’s loud. People scream. Scream at Hulk? Too loud. He shakes his head and slows his headlong charge, snarling. He can make the noise stop. Grab and crunch and throw. People stop screaming then. He hears the voice in his head, the man. The brown man inside, who lives outside Hulk’s head and knows things. Save the….what? Save the girl. He looks around. There are girls. Lots. Too many. He roars angrily. Can’t REMEMBER. So stupid. He feels something. Someone attacks him! NO! He turns to see, to smash. A girl. He frowns. Save this girl? She looks okay. She yells.

“Bruce! Save the little girl! Up THERE!”

Things think in his brain. A name. Darcy. This is Darcy. Darcy touches Bruce. She is touching Hulk now too. He looks at her tiny pale hand on his arm and frowns. Something he should know. Oh. Yes. Darcy is nice to Bruce. HE is Bruce. She isn’t afraid. He feels surprised. He looks where she points. There is a building. It is breaking, maybe the bug things are back? No, he doesn’t see them or hear them. Only a small girl. She is screaming. She’s going to fall. Why is she doing that? She is not Hulk, she will be hurt. She will… He remembers bodies. Many of them. Years of them, broken. Blood and rocks and bricks. Broken by Hulk. He looks at the people. Too many people, in his way. He roars again, and they move. Not fast enough. He looks and the metal thing moves some more. He looks back at the Darcy girl and nods. Hulk jumps. He can jump far. It feels good. His fists punch holes in bricks and he climbs. Leaps and climbs up high, but not as high as he can. He reaches the place where the metal thing is broken and grabs it in his big hands. The little girl sees him. She screams.

“Shh,” he says gruffly. She stops the noise. That’s better. “Hulk….” He struggles with words. They’re slippery. They slide away from him sometimes. Not today though. “Hulk help,” he growls. The child nods. Good child, No more screaming. “Hold…on…” he tells her. Another nod. Nice girl. He pulls on the metal, pulls it slowly towards him, one hand punched through the building. It straightens. He goes slow. Close now. The little girl slips. She screams again. That’s okay. She’s scared. Not on the flat part anymore. She hangs in the air. One hand. Slipping. He lets go of the metal, reaches out. Leans out far. Reaches.

“Help me,” whispers the little girl. She looks scared. Not of Hulk.

“Give hand,” he slurs thickly. Hates his tongue. It never works right. She hears though. VERY good girl. She reaches, and he leans some more. Metal shrieks. Part of the thing snaps off. She falls. Hulk leaps. He grabs. Falls to the street below. Hits hard, twisting so he lands on his back. Metal under him hurts a little. It’s sharp. People are everywhere. Noise, so much noise. Someone pushes them. Yells. It’s Darcy. She pushes more people, comes to him.

“Bruce, are you all right?” she asks. He is Bruce, he tells himself again. Is he? He looks down, opens his hands where they are clasped against his chest. The little girl is there, covered by his big hands, holding on. Only to his finger. She can’t hold his hand. He has not crushed her. She looks up. People scream and yell. No, he tells his brain. CHEER. They cheer for Hulk. They smile for Hulk.

“Thank you,” whispers a little voice. He looks down. Oh. Yes, Little girl. She gets up on hands and knees on his chest. Tiny hands pat his face. She kisses him. He makes a face. It feels strange. “You’re my best friend,” she says. Her eyes are big. She smiles and hugs Hulk. She can only hug a little of him. She’s too small. A lady comes and takes her. The lady says Thank You too. So does a man, and more people. Hulk feels strange. Can’t stay angry. They don’t hate Hulk. They aren’t angry at Hulk! The Darcy girl punches Hulk’s arm. He glares at her.

“Don’t be mad at me, big guy,” she cries, laughing and crying. How can that be? There are tears on her face. “I knew you could do it!”

Something rearranges inside his brain and he feels himself readjusting, recalibrating, able to think and reason. Notices things starting to look bigger as his body shrinks. He looks down at what remains of his pants and winces. He doesn’t mind the loss of another shirt. He minds a little the fact that when he stands up, the tatters of his trousers are going to fall off and he’ll be naked in front of a lot of people. Suddenly, something is tossed over him. A little old woman has draped his lower body with a big piece of embroidered red and gold cloth.

“Thank you,” he murmurs to her, embarrassed and grateful for the preservation of his modesty. He’s frowning at his lap as he tries to figure out how to wrap the thing around him like a sarong while he’s still sitting down. He’s not looking at Darcy, which is why her hands cupping his face startle him, which is why, he tells himself later, he is slow to react and does not pull away from her. Grinning, she leans in and kisses him. On the mouth. On purpose. Another thing he tells himself later is that just because his lips move under hers, just because the feel of her mouth on his renders him breathless, speechless, and he’s uncomfortably aware that the tip of his tongue brushes the fullness of her bottom lip, doesn’t mean he’s kissing her back. Because that would be crazy. And this is Darcy, who kisses a lot of people, and hugs them too, and even if he can’t think of an example of her kissing anybody on the mouth, she must, because she’s fucking kissing HIM. And even if she doesn’t kiss a lot of people on the mouth on general principle, it’s just so Darcy to think it’s an appropriate way to celebrate the occasion to kiss someone that he manages to convince himself it doesn’t mean anything. Well, he’s certain it doesn’t mean anything to HER. And he doesn’t plan to tell her what it’s done to him, after so many long, solitary months wherein the only human contact he has had has been with people in third world countries who were too sick to touch him back, that the only feel of human skin he’s experienced has been flesh gone slack and waxy with disease, feverish and completely unaware of his hands taking pulse or palpating abdomen or probing lymph nodes. Darcy Lewis, for all that she is exasperating and flighty and irritating, has soft skin that is warm under his hands when he brings them to her waist (to push her away, of course) and his fingers somehow slide under the hem of her shirt and tighten helplessly around her waist because oh God, oh fuck it feels so much better than it should, and he is utterly incapable of muffling the groan the sensation of her wrings from his throat. She wriggles a little in his arms, inexplicably seeming like she’s trying to get closer to him, and her fingers slide through the tousled curls of his hair.

“Soft,” she whispers against his lips. He’s pretty sure he responds to the comment, almost positive he manages to vocalize “Hnnnngh,” quite clearly. The utter absurdity of the moment intrudes on the unbearable joy he’s riding on at the first intimate contact he’s had with a woman in years. They are on the ground in the middle of a crowded street in Chinatown. He is mostly naked under the woven fabric the little old lady has given him. People are staring at them as Darcy has, by means he’s completely unable to recall, ended up lying along his chest, straddling his hips, panting into his mouth and continuing to kiss him. He remembers why he’s holding onto her waist and wrenches his mouth from hers with a herculean act of willpower and pushes her back a little.

“Bruce,” she whispers, sounding strangely bereft.

“We are not doing this,” he says firmly, hoping she can’t feel his hands shaking where he grasps her.

“Pretty sure we are,” she says with a slow, sassy smile.

“Were,” he says hoarsely. “And now we’re stopping.”

“Bruce,” she whines, which usually grates on his nerves but which he finds secretly adorable today, “Don’t be a party pooper!”

“A p…pa…” he stammers in astonishment. “THIS is your idea of a party?”

“Well duh,” she says, rolling her eyes, but she does sit back, no longer threatening his self control with the kissing thing. The sitting back isn’t really as helpful as he’d hoped it would be, because she’s now straddling him and he’s achingly, humiliatingly hard where her round bottom perches on his hips. He grits his teeth against the desire to press up against her. “It’s a really good reason to celebrate, Doc! You hulked out and nobody got hurt and you got to be the hero all by yourself which you totally deserve, by the way, and it was awesome!”

“And this is how you always celebrate?” he demands, horrified because he feels the other guy inside him stirring at the thought, glaring out of his mind at the young assistant and REALLY not liking the idea of her kissing anyone else because she feels like celebrating. This is seriously not good.

“Actually this is kind of a first for me,” she says thoughtfully. “You just looked like you needed kissing.” She grins at him again, unapologetic and blissfully ignorant of the danger she is in if he allows his alter ego to fixate on her in any way.

“What I….what we both need is to get back home before someone calls the press.” He’s not even going to begin to go into the myriad other valid reasons they need to stop right now and get the hell out of here.

“Oh fine,” she pouts, and he closes his eyes for a few seconds to mentally cauterize the visualization of leaning up to bit that plump little bottom lip she’s sticking out at him so adorably. “Be that way. Just you wait and see how long I make you wait before I kiss you again!” She clambers off him and to her feet, offering him her hand, which is just silly. He needs both of his, of course, one to hold the tapestry around his waist and the other to lever himself upright. A dozen people pat him on the back or arm as they make their way out of the neighborhood towards their car, and he hears thank you aimed at him in half a dozen Asian languages and dialects, hears someone thank the gods that he was here, someone else bless him. It is the first time he has ever returned to his own form from letting the Other Guy slip his leash and felt good about it, ever. He smiles and nods at the people, but he’s thinking hard about the last thing Darcy has said.

“You’re going to wait for the rest of your life before you kiss me again, Miss Lewis,” he says sternly.  She glares at him.

“I told you not to call me that,” she snaps irritably. “And why should I?”

“Because it’s a monumentally bad idea,” he retorts, adjusting the cloth around his waist and keeping his fist clenched tightly right at the front, hoping his state isn’t blindingly obvious to everybody they pass.

“Bruce,” she says irritably. “In case you haven’t noticed, I like you.”

“No you don’t!” he exclaims in horror. She raises one eyebrow.

“Smooth talker,” she says, unperturbed. “What, you think I make up personal blends of herbal tea for everybody?”

“Well….yes?”

“God, have you always been this obtuse, or am I just specially lucky?”

“Is there an ‘all of the above’ option?” he asks with some chagrin.

“Ugh. Whatever. No, trust me Bruce, I like you. As in LIKE you, like you. You’re cute and you’re smart and you have that whole sexy awkward professor mojo workin’ for you. Why is that so hard to get?”

“Darcy,” he says as calmly as possible when faced with statements this outrageous, “I don’t date. It never works out. When people see what I…become….they run away as fast as they can.”

She raises the eyebrow further and glares at him pointedly.

“So that was what, a complete stranger punching the big guy in the arm a little bit ago?” He opens his mouth to argue, but this one’s pretty hard to dispute.

“And then there’s the fact that I am probably never going to be able to control the beast, and I’m likeliest to hurt the people I am closest to by nature of spending a proportionately larger amount of my time with them.”

“You know he’s not as stupid or as out of control as you think, don’t you?” she asks gently. He frowns and shakes his head a little.

“Couple that with the fact that when my….heart rate…is…elevated….I can’t stop the change,” he adds, blushing at hating that he’s so awkward about it.

“You’re saying that getting a boner makes you hulk out?” she asks curiously. He feels his ears turn even redder and nods stiffly. “Huh,” she muses thoughtfully. “You sure about that? Cause you’ve been sporting wood since you kissed me back, Bruce honey, and you don’t look a bit green to me.”

Bruce stumbles a little because damn it, she’s right. She laughs at him, and he glares severely at her.

“That’s just because I so recently changed,” he says stubbornly, and he thinks this is true. Probably.

“This is what you’re working so hard on, isn’t it?” she asks, ignoring his answer. “Controlling the change?”

“Yes,” he replies, though he’s only half listening to her because Jesus FUCK, he’s been hard as a rock for like fifteen minutes now and his heart is banging in his chest like it wants to pound its way out of him and he doesn’t feel even a little like turning green. It’s because he’s just changed back to himself, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

“So okay, let’s assume for a minute that you work that out, okay?”

“A hypothesis?” he asks, and when she nods, he agrees. “Okay.”

“You do that, so you don’t have to go big and stupid when you get turned on. Would you ask me out then?”

“I…,” he stammers, because what the hell? He’s at least ten years older than she is, isn’t he? And he must have said that out loud because she smirks at him.

“Still a consenting adult here, Bruce. And if you like it, I’ll sit on your lap and call you Daddy, or Dr. Banner, and tell you where it hurts.” Her lush mouth curves in a purely filthy smile and he stumbles again and his heart pounds even harder because fuck. That’s…just fuck. He comes to a standstill and gapes at her, utterly at a loss for words. Taking this exactly as it’s intended, she grins unrepentantly at him and sashays on towards where they parked the car, looking back over her shoulder.

“Um,” he whispers.

“Tell ya what, Doc,” she calls, “I promise I won’t kiss you again. Not until you ask me. And Bruce?”

“Huh?” Huh is good, it’s actually a word, sort of, and has more letters than um.

“You’re gonna have to ask reeeallll nice.”

Jesus Christ, he thinks helplessly, following her to the car. He’s so screwed. Lab now. Lab would be good. There are fucking experiments to run, damn it!

Chapter Text

They’re sitting around the sectional in Jane and Thor’s suite after a really excellent dinner which Jane had cooked, something Clint really admires. He’s had the occasional urge to learn to cook, but mostly he’s just too busy to take the time. You can’t have 2 lovers on 2 different coasts and a job to which you’re on call all the time and fit in cooking classes. Increasingly, Phil spends a couple of days a week in New York, because he has the West Coast Division running like a well-oiled machine and thus isn’t urgently needed every minute of every day anymore. Plus he and Fury have some kind of scheme they’re working on, which was brought on by the Vespucci mission in which a number of otherwise normal people with special abilities were discovered. Clint’s pretty sure it’s got something to do with working low-level super beings into SHIELD’s normal operations. Privately, he thinks he has a lot more business being involved with something like that rather than something a huge as the Avengers Initiative, but whatever. Besides, he’s not absolutely sure that’s what they’re working on, he just has thoughts. Tasha agrees with him, which lends a lot of credence to his thoughts. Phil and Fury will fill them in if and when it’s time, so he doesn’t worry about it. Besides, having his Master here practically half the time is awesome. Just now, his head is in Tasha’s lap where she scratches her fingernails absently through his hair which feels great, and his legs are thrown over Phil’s lap and Phil’s right hand is lying innocently on his thigh except his thumb sometimes brushes softly against the seam of his jeans and it’s just close enough to the crease where his leg meets his hip that it sends a little zing through his blood every time Phil does it. Coulson’s not even looking at him, he’s talking about football with Thor, but when the muscle in Clint’s thigh tenses as he does it again, his fingers clench slowly around the archer’s leg in warning. Clint sighs happily and squirms a little, looking up over his head at Tasha and Jane, who are just watching them all. Jane looks all soft and gooey inside over Thor having man time with Phil, and Natasha’s expression is as close to amused affection as it ever gets, which is to say she’s smirking at him and doesn’t look like she’s in immediate need of bloody slaughter. Life is good. There’s this one little thing that’s been bugging him lately.

At a lull in the football conversation, he shifts a little and clears his throat a bit.

“So,” he says, “Bruce and Darcy.”

“What?” asks Phil curiously.

“Oh I know,” gushes Jane. “It’s so cute!”

“Cute?” says Tasha with one eyebrow quirked.

“Are Bruce and Darcy dating?” asks Phil, looking around like there’s something he’s been missing.

“No,” sighs Jane. “But they should!”

“Because you wish it or because they are attracted to one another?” says Thor curiously. Clint stares at him.

“Wow, you really only go to the lab when you’ve got a hard-on, don’t you?” he snickers. Thor shoots him a dirty look. Clint makes a face at him to show him he’s just kidding. “Seriously. They’ve been dancing around each other for months. Hasn’t anyone else noticed how she makes him tea and pays attention to when he gets those headaches?”

“I have,” says Jane. “She’s got a huge crush on him, she told me. She thinks he’s cute and smart.”

“He is,” says Thor, as though this is a given. Clint raises his eyebrows at Thor. Thor raises his own back.

“So what’s the problem?” asks Tasha, leaning back and tossing a couple of kernels of popcorn into her mouth. “He doesn’t like her back?”

“Ohh, he does,” says Jane with certainty. “I think that’s maybe a recent thing, because all I ever got when he’d look at her before was kind of…bafflement.”

“Darcy’s really good at baffling,” agrees Clint.

“But a couple of weeks ago...you remember, Thor, it was that day you came up and made me…knock off work early.”

“Jane,” says Tasha irritably. “I’m pretty sure everybody in this room knows you and Thor have sex.” Jane ignores her.

“Everyone who resides on our floor certainly does,” says Thor with a wolfish grin. “My Jane’s a bit of a screamer.” Jane turns scarlet.

“Don’t worry Jane,” says Clint, “so am I.”

“I’m reasonably certain the context is a bit different,” murmurs Phil.

“Dear God, every single one of you people are horrible,” cries Jane plaintively. “Can we please just….get back to Bruce and Darcy? Anyway, that day when I came back to the lab, they were gone. But they got there not long after, and Bruce was wearing…you know, I’m not actually sure what it was, some kind of tapestry thing, I guess, and there hadn’t been any news reports of collateral damage from a Hulk sighting, and I swear to you, I am almost sure he was….um….aroused. And Darcy had this total cat that ate the cream expression on her face, and now he…he watches her, I guess. More than he did. It’s not….well, he doesn’t look baffled anymore, more like….”

“Hungry,” supplies Tasha. “I know what you  mean. I saw him in the caf yesterday, and she came in to get lunch. Talk about eyes burning a hole in a person. It’s sort of a wonder she didn’t spontaneously combust. So okay, he likes her back. What’s the problem?”

“Tasha,” says Clint sympathetically, “we try to make allowances for the fact that you’re the most blindingly practical person on the entire planet. He’s scared, I bet.”

“Of what?”

“He doesn’t want to hurt her,” murmurs Phil.

“That’s exactly it,” says Jane. “I got him to talk about it a little, because they’re both good friends, and I probably know her better than anyone else here. And in his case he’s terrified of literally hurting her. More like killing her. He doesn’t think his control is good enough to handle…intimacy.”

“Has he tried?” asks Phil curiously. Jane blushes again.

“Yes,” she says, “I asked him.”

“How?” demands Tasha. “HOW did you manage to ask him that? You can’t even say out loud that you’re fucking Thor like a damn bunny!”

“There was a lot of fill in the blanks going on,” says Jane primly.

“When?” asks Clint, not diverted by Natasha’s outburst.

“It was with the girl he knew back when he first became….well, infected. Betty, I think her name was.”

“That was years ago,” muses Phil.

“Yeah, and he’s totally got a better handle on the big guy than he did even when we met him! I mean, it’s got to be apples and oranges. He didn’t…kill the girl he was with, did he?”

“No,” says Jane, “he stopped things before they got too carried away. But it frightened him badly. He said…oh God,” she does a face palm and mutters into her own hand, “he said he kept imagining what would have happened if he’d undergone the change while he was…in her.”

“Fuck,” says Clint feelingly. “But surely he knows there are other forms of intimacy than intercourse?”

“I’d assume so,” says Jane, “but I don’t think he’s willing to risk any of them. He says it happens too often when his heart rate raises to a certain point, and then that part of his brain can’t tell the difference between sexual arousal and hyperawareness associated with the fight or flight impulse. He’s hurt or killed too many people by accident already. Now that he’s better about not letting that happen, he’s even less willing to allow himself to be in circumstances where he feels it’s likely. All the work he’s been doing recently is aimed at helping him control the change, or retain more of himself when it happens. He hasn’t researched a cure in months.”

“That means Dr. Banner hasn’t had intimate contact with another human being in something like seven years,” muses Phil, and Clint can see the pity in his eyes. “Did you know that one of the experiments conducted by Nazi Germany during the war proved that infants can actually die if they are not touched, held?”

“It seems to me our friend Bruce should be encouraged to try again, based on what we know of his self control at this time,” says Thor solemnly. “People of all worlds need to be touched. It is…necessary. To our sanity, if not our very survival. We are warriors all, and I believe we all know what it is to crawl from the abyss of blood and rage and loss, of unspeakable things and grief and horror, and to only be able to becomes ourselves again in the arms of one who understands this.”

Clint finds himself unbearably sad at this, because Thor is right. They DO all know this, even Jane a little. He’s even taken that comfort from a relative stranger, before there was Tasha and then Phil. How often have he and Tash savaged one another following a fight, tearing away the scabs and scars of sorrow until they have found the joy underneath? How many times has he lain under Phil, raising his hips to meet brutal, punishing thrusts that force him back into his own skin even as blinding pleasure forces away all vestiges of pain, washing it away in the bright, pure light of release? A dozen? More? Bruce has been a part of several of those fights, and there has been no one to comfort him. Clint finds this suddenly unbearable.

“I agree,” says Natasha. “But how? He’s not going to try it with Darcy, not with the risk involved.”

“It needs to be someone he knows he can’t kill if he can’t handle it,” says Jane softly. She’s staring at Thor. Although American idioms and innuendo are often lost on him, this time it’s clear he knows exactly what she’s saying. He smiles at her, and Clint is a little blinded by how fucking beautiful Thor is when he smiles that way.

“You are an amazing woman,” says the demigod, “and it happens I agree with you. Had I known his dilemma was this severe, I admit I would have brought the subject to you long before now. But,” he frowns a little, “I am fair certain Dr. Banner is not attracted to me. I feel that even the promise of actual release with a real partner would not erase the fact that my size and strength would be off-putting to him and might actually render it more likely that our large irritable friend would make an appearance.”

“What if Thor was there to…handle things if Bruce hulked out but someone else did the….um, touching part?” wonders Clint out loud. Jane agrees, speculating about who, but Natasha and Phil are gazing at him with matching looks of amusement and concern. To his relief, there is nothing of anger or censure or refusal in either expression.

“Clint….” Says Phil guardedly. Tasha just looks into his eyes for a moment and then nods. He raises his eyebrows questioningly, asking if she’s sure. She nods again. He turns to his other lover.

“Sir,” he whispers back.

“Don’t look so anxious, baby boy,” says Phil with a small quirk of his lips. “I find I’m strongly inclined to not just allow this, but to be terribly proud of you for wanting to do it, and to encourage it. But there must be parameters, Clint.”

“Of course Master,” he says, relaxing in relief. He doesn’t have the hots for Bruce. Doesn’t have the hots for anybody but Tasha and Phil, actually, beyond just being able to appreciate a nice body and a good smile. But his years as an abused child and a lonely orphan make him pretty sensitive to the idea of such aching loneliness, and he cannot, simply cannot live in the same house as a friend as lonely as Dr. Bruce Banner and not try to help.

“As long as Thor’s there in case of sudden outbreaks of incompatible size kinks, I’ve got no issue with it,” says Tasha. “Bruce is a good man. He didn’t deserve the cards he was dealt. If we, any of us, can help him, then we have to. What exactly are you proposing, Clint?”

“I’d say whatever he’s comfortable with, but that wouldn’t be honest,” admits Clint. “I don’t…I don’t think I can let him fuck me. I don’t think I could enjoy it really, and I think it would make him too uncomfortable. I don’t think Bruce is bisexual, or at least not strongly so, and besides, that just….wow, ok there are kind of a lot of reason why I don’t want it to go that way. One, I’d have to be really into him for it not to just be awkward and probably painful. Two, it would feel too much like cheating. Three, it would require a level of control from him I don’t think would be fair to ask.”

“Good enough,” says Phil, putting his hand on Clint’s knee to stop him. “I don’t want you to let him fuck you either. That’s for me. Go on. I want to hear what you’re thinking too.”

“I kinda figure I’ll go down on him til he can’t fuckin’ see straight,” says Clint with a rather wicked smile. “It’s something I think I’m pretty good at.”

Phil makes a small growling noise in his throat and the hand on Clint’s knee flexes a bit. He leans in close and puts his mouth next to Clint’s ear.

“Your filthy little mouth is practically made for sucking cock,” he whispers. Clint whimpers.

“It occurs to me that our friend Bruce would find it less rife with anxieties if he were to be…restrained in some way for this experiment,” says Thor meditatively. “I can provide that.”

“Jesus,” gasps Natasha. “You’re going to hold him down and force him to let Clint suck his dick? Phil, do we have access to a shrink ray or anything? That Pym guy and his particles somewhere we can get ahold of him in a hurry? I’d pay serious money to get to watch this. Fuck, Barton. You get all the best assignments.”

“Do you want me to ask Thor to hold YOU down while I go down on you?” he asks her with a leer. The answering flare of desire on her eyes is a little surprising, but not too much. Tasha has a tiny bit of a thing for Thor’s incredible strength. And he’s eye candy no matter what team you’re batting for, if you’re comfortable enough to be honest about it. He’s suddenly thinking the next vacation might be pretty interesting. “Thor,” he quips lightly, “you’ve been promoted from demigod to bondage toy, congratulations.”

Proving once again that’s he’s a fast learner, Thor grins wickedly at him and fires on right back.

“The title had best come with a trophy,” he says loftily, and everybody laughs, because though it’s not that they didn’t realize Thor had a sense of humor, it’s that they don’t often realize how well-developed it actually is.

“Okay, so yeah, something pretty much like what Thor said is what I had in mind. I wouldn’t be able to restrain Bruce if he gets angry, but I know my reflexes are good enough to keep  him from getting ahold of me. Thor IS able to restrain him, at least during the early stages of the switch, and that’d give me plenty of time to beat feet if it comes to that. IF we can get him to calm down and relax enough to let me get at him, I’m pretty sure his arguments fly out the window when he feels somebody’s mouth on his dick for the first time in…did you say SEVEN years?” Phil nods. “Fuck. That’s…..fuck! Okay yeah, that’s what I think.

“As plans go, it’s as good a one as I’d have suggested,” agrees Phil, and the tension Clint had been able to see around his eyes when the topic was raised has vanished. He’s really okay with this, and Clint’s grateful. Score one more point in the “Name the reasons Clint Barton trusts Phil Coulson” game. It’s getting to be a pretty damn long list. “There’s something else to consider though,” he cautions. “And that’s consensuality”

Clint sighs, because Phil’s right, and he’s going to have to give Bruce an out, or what they’re planning amounts to nothing more than sexual assault. He’s just afraid Bruce will take the out before giving it a chance.

“I’ll give him a safeword, first thing Sir, I promise.”

“Agreed,” says Thor, and then he winks at Clint. “You shall simply have to be very persuasive in proving quickly that he does not want to use it, my friend. Perhaps this is where having the tongue of a lizard will be of good use?”

“A what now?” he asks in confusion, but Tasha snorts into her vodka Collins and he suddenly recalls her, naked and flushed and gasping from the sixth orgasm his mouth has coaxed from her body, pushing weakly at his head to make him stop his assault on her clit and groaning, “Jesus fuck, Barton. You’ve got a tongue like a goddamn lizard!” He snickers a little.

They talk over the logistics of the plan for a while longer, interspersing their plotting with the casual banter and random tangents that mark the conversation of good friends. He looks around the room and is still struck by how extraordinary he finds it that his life has become one in which he no longer considers himself an outsider, that at any moment he could call upon more than half a dozen people he hadn’t even met just a little more than a year ago, and every one of them would drop what they were doing to be there if he needed them. It had taken him years to really believe that of Phil and Tasha, but then, when he’d met them, the circus hadn’t been that far back in his past, nor the hard-earned lessons that he had only himself to truly depend on. More than once he stops to wonder if he should feel weird about plotting to con a team mate into letting the archer blow him, because he doesn’t feel weird at all. Even once he admitted he wanted Phil, wanted a physical relationship with him, Clint hadn’t considered himself bisexual. Pansexual fits better, he supposes. It isn’t that he finds men in general attractive, or even comparatively attractive next to a pretty girl. It is that he simply finds certain people attractive, and it doesn’t seem to be at all dependent on how many x or y chromosomes they have. He throws in the science metaphor since he is, after all, proposing to seduce a scientist.

He and Phil and Tasha tend to sleep in his room when Phil’s in town. Tasha had tried to give them alone-time when the visits had started, but Phil wouldn’t have it. The agreement, he’d pointed out, had been that Natasha’s claim on Clint’s time takes precedence over his own when they are in New York, and that Phil’s takes precedence while in California. They share quite well, his lovers, and so they stop trying to pretend Clint’s in two separate relationships and just lump themselves all together. This is so very okay with him he can’t even express it in words. Of course, he expresses it in whimpers and gasps and moans a lot. Which is also very okay. When they share him it’s fantastic. When Phil watches him top Tasha, it’s fantastic. When Tasha just wants to hold his hands and stare fiercely into his eyes while Phil fucks him so hard he can’t walk straight afterwards, that’s fantastic too. When they’d tied him spread-eagle to the bed and he had been forced to lie there unable to move or touch while Phil kissed Tasha for the first time, he’d almost come all over himself just watching it. That’s as far as they’ve gotten at this point, but the very idea of it, and that it’s becoming more and more of a likelihood, makes him insane with YES.

“You get to do this, baby boy,” hisses Phil as he pushes Clint towards the bedroom later that night. “I think it’s really lovely that you want to. I understand that you aren’t doing it out of lust for our good doctor. There will be no jealousy or mistrust from either myself or Natasha, because this is something Bruce needs and we both believe what we’ve discussed tonight is possibly the only way to give it to him. That being said,” he licks the side of Clint’s neck and makes the younger man shiver, “I hope you won’t have your feelings hurt if I’ve decided to mark my territory a bit and send you off to Bruce tomorrow with a very sore little asshole.” He reaches around Clint’s waist and unbuttons his jeans, sliding them down his hips and pushing him facedown over the edge of the bed. Clint whimpers. Natasha helpfully tosses Phil the bottle of lube and then lays down across the bed on her stomach, chin propped on her crossed arms, her face only about a foot from Clint’s as she stares avidly into his eyes. It just flat fucking does it for her, watching Phil fuck him. The harder the better. Two slick fingers entering him roughly make him groan a little, and she uncrosses her hands, one of them sliding down her side and under her belly where he knows she’s going to be touching herself while she watches them, and that she’ll come when he does. He grins like a fiend. Phil’s fingers burn a little, but it’s glorious pain, and he rocks his hips up into the thrust and stretch.

“Yeah,” he whispers. “Oh yes Sir, please. Want you to.” He gasps when the fingers twist harshly and scissor apart.

“Enough stretching, Coulson,” growls Tasha, ever helpfully looking out for his well-being. “Fuck him already.”

“Ungh,” agrees Clint, “yeah, fuck him already. Please, Master!”

Phil, being the generous soul that he is, gives Clint what he’s asking for and presses into him on one long, slow, burning slide that makes Clint whine through gritted teeth and clutch at Tasha’s one free hand like it’s a lifeline.

“God, god, god,” he chants. It’s agonizing and perfect. “Jesus, fuck, yeah, do it, fuck me Sir, make me hurt for you, want you so bad Phil. Hnngh. Ahhh!” His litany is strangled short by a brutal thrust that steals his breath and slams mercilessly into his prostate. Phil Coulson is a sex ninja, and forces three painful orgasms out of his boy’s shuddering body through heartless stimulation of his sweet spot, and Clint is sobbing in agony and happiness when Phil finally grunts and digs his fingers into Clint’s hips, groaning as he empties himself into the archer’s quivering hole. 

Clint doesn’t have time to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow, doesn’t have a chance to bedevil himself with concerns over what Bruce is going to do or say, or whether he will forgive them. He’s too wrecked, and he slips into blissful sleep in about two minutes once he’s under the covers and safe between both of the people he loves the most.

 

 

Bruce can’t decide whether having the lab to himself is a good thing or not. When Jane had messaged him this morning to let him know she and Darcy were taking the day off to do some shopping and other girl stuff, his reaction had been pretty equally divided between relief and disappointment. Darcy’s presence disturbs him. Moreso now than ever before. She still makes no sense to him half the time, yet touches him with her attentiveness to the small comforts he never things to provide for himself. Now that’s she’s pointed the tea thing out to him, he notices that his mug rarely has a chance to get empty. This makes him realize other little things he hadn’t noticed before. She makes sure he eats. She fields calls from Fury when he wants to interrupt their current projects for some urgent SHIELD analysis of some this or that bit of matter somebody scraped off the bottom of their shoe in Dubai. She fields Fury’s calls with such skill and cheerful willingness to lie her ass off that when Tony’s here he has to stop whatever he’s doing and offer to buy her a small country. Reasons one or another of them can’t take the Director’s call at the moment have ranged from temporary lockdown due to unidentified chemical contamination (she’d taken Fury’s message and sworn to him she was writing it on a piece of paper and holding it against the window so they could see it. There had, in fact, been a piece of paper, but what she’d written on it was “Nick’s on the phone Tony. He says to tell you he can’t live without you for another moment. Also his favorite movie is Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.”), to a new experiment with the portal thingy they’ve been working on opened up some kind of black, shimmery thing and everybody vanished, to using a voice changer to inform him that the Avengers Mansion is now under control of Doombots and to leave a message at the beep, to telling him in an entirely creditable tone of voice that she couldn’t possibly disturb anyone right now as they’ve been at this formula for days and they’re down to the last few critical steps and it’d undo days of work if they had to stop now (if he remembers correctly, they had actually been freezing stuff with liquid nitrogen and using repulsor beams to shatter it all that day). They always end up having to talk to Fury about whatever it is he wants, but Darcy makes sure they almost always get to do so on their own terms. That’s actually no small thing. There’s a glare reducing film on his monitor that hadn’t been there when he’d started here. It had just appeared one day. Curiously, he’d asked where it had come from. Jane had looked up from what she’d been doing.

“Oh Darcy bought that,” she’d replied offhandedly, going back to her notes. “We were picking up some office supplies last night and she tossed it in the cart, said she’d noticed you kept sitting back and rubbing your eyes like the screen glare bothered you.”

It had. Bright lights of any kind tend to be a problem for him. They spark headaches, which make him irritable, which  makes him less controlled, which he doesn’t like. He’s not even sure he ever remembered to thank her for it.

There’s a new lumbar support cushion on the back of his chair now too, that has only been here since a week or so after Darcy Lewis arrived, and he’s pretty sure it didn’t come from Tony.

She continues to quietly do things that make all of their days just a little easier, his in particular, but now she does them while shooting him brazen, sultry glances, and bending over a little more than she needs to in order to set his tea on his desk, and accidentally bumping into or brushing against him just about every chance she gets. Nobody teases Bruce. It’s just about inconceivable to him that she could possibly be oblivious enough not to understand how dangerous that could be.

With that in mind, he decides to choose relief, and gets down to some serious work on his latest calculations. Yesterday she’d rubbed those lush breasts against his arm for about the dozenth time this week when she reached across him to borrow a pen and he’d found himself longing to either tug her into his lap and demonstrate what could happen to girls who tease, or to shove her up againt the wall and use his lips and tongue and teeth on those breasts she keeps taunting him with until she begged him to fuck her and Jesus H. Christ what is wrong with him? He’s never going to find the right formula if he doesn’t focus, but his concentration is now shot to hell. It is with some relief that he hears the door open and looks up to see Clint hovering a little uncertainly in the doorway.

“Hey,” he says with a smile, “what’s up?”

“You realy busy right now, Doc?” asks the archer, looking around. Barton doesn’t come into the lab very often. He says science makes him feel stupid. Privately, Bruce thinks Clint tends to sell himself short a lot of the time. The sniper can make split-second adjustments for wind and weather conditions in the amount of time it takes him to loose one arrow and nock another, which he can do in fractions of a second. It’s uncanny. And definitely not stupid.

“Not at the moment, actually. What can I do for you?” he asks. A distraction actually wouldn’t come amiss just now.

“Me and Thor have been working on some hand to hand stuff down in one of the gyms,” says Clint, which explains why he’s not wearing a shirt and only snug black bike shorts that really leave nothing at all to the imagination, and why he’s a little breathless and flushed. If he’s working on hand to hand with Thor, it’s actually a wonder he isn’t bleeding from somewhere.

“How can I help?” he wonders aloud, but turn in his chair and is already half on his feet.

“Well I was wondering if you could bring like a camera, and film us, and then see if you have or could maybe write some kinda program that’d…I dunno….analyze force and leverage and….whatever? I don’t have super strength or a flying suit. I’m not a slouch, and I do know how to take care of myself, but Thor’s point is that more and more races from other planets may show up with abilities like his, so I need to come up with some new ways of getting myself outta trouble or one of these days I’m gonna get my ass handed to me. In, you know, not a fun way.” He leers cheerfully and Bruce laughs. It’s next to impossible to be offended by Hawkeye, even when he makes statements a lot more outrageous than that one.

“I think I can probably help out with something like that, just let me grab a camera,” he says, getting up and going to snag one out of a nearby cabinet. He fiddles with it, checking its available memory and battery as they walk to the elevator. Clint’s excited at the prospects, animatedly chattering about how he thinks it’d be awesome if Bruce can make a program that’ll analyze how much force Clint’s able to exert against Thor and then calculate how much he’ll need to use and at what place on the thunder god’s body to knock him off balance.

“I know I’ll never beat someone like Thor if they come for me at close range, but if I can learn enough from something like this that I can at least knock em off their feet long enough to get away, I’m gonna be happy. I really appreciate this, Bruce, thanks.”

“No problem. I wasn’t getting anywhere on what I was working on anyway,” he says with a shrug. Clint peers at him sharply.

“Anything wrong?”

“No, just not very focused today is all.”

“I get ya. Is it…and hey, if this is outta line, you tell me, okay? Are you still working on…a cure?”

“It’s not out of line. We work together, and we fight together. I guess that gives any of the the right to ask what I’m up to when it comes to the Other Guy. But no, I’m not working on a cure. Not now, anyway. Someday I still hope to find a way to reverse what happened to me. I suppose you could say that the Chitauri convinced me that the world may need my alter ago more than I need to be rid of him. For now. I’m actually working on a formula that will enable me to retain more of a sense of myself when the transition occurs right now. If He’s useful as a walking, breathing wrecking ball, imagine how useful he’d be as a walking, breathing wrecking ball with a brain!”

“You know he’s not exactly stupid, don’t you?” asks Cint, looking keenly at Bruce as they step onto the elevator.

“Funny,” says Bruce, “you’re not the first person who’s said that to me recently. What makes you think so? I only remember bits and pieces, flashes really, and usually only of the really exciting parts, once I recover.”

“Well, he talks to us more now than he used to. Yeah, we’re all really careful not to piss him off, and we don’t compare our thoughts on the global economy or shit like that. I guess me and Thor probably talk to him the most. I’m not really sure why. Tony gets on his nerves. Tasha doesn’t talk a lot to anybody when we’re working. Steve gets along with him okay, but Steve’s got his own sort of….reticence….I guess?”

“He does,” agrees Bruce absently, because he’s occupied with being startled that Hawkeye’s telling him he actually talks to the creature. On purpose.

“Anyway, Thor started talking fast the next time we all worked together after the battle, because you know right before that, the two of them sort of got into it a little, and Hulk’s first impulse seemed to be to pick up where they left off. Thor may not be a slick talker like Tony, or all earnest and heartfelt like Steve, but he managed to get it across that he was sorry they had fought and that he admired the Hulk’s power and was all glad an shit that they’re allies now because there was nobody else he’d rather have at his back and stuff, and the Hulk sort of sat back and listened to him, all suspicious and shit, but finally he nodded at Thor and they’ve been okay since then.”

“And what about you? The Other Guy could tear you in half without thinking about it. Why would you risk that, Clint? How do you think I’d feel to come back to myself and find out that I’d…”

“He’s not you, Doc,” says Clint sharply. “I know you’re in there somewhere when he’s walking around, but he isn’t you. If he ever hurt one of us, on purpose or by accident, it wouldn’t be you. And maybe I’m stupid, but it seemed to me that the best way to ensure he doesn’t decide I’m cannon fodder someday is to see if I can get him to like me. I…” Clint hunches his shoulders a little, looking sort of embarrassed. “I bribed him with a case of ho ho’s. I hope that’s okay.”

“Clint,” says Bruce suddenly, turning to face him as the elevator glides silently down. “You never confuse us. You never say ‘you’ when you’re talking to me about him. Almost everyone else slips up sometimes, or else patently refuses to see us as separate entities. I’ve never said anything, but it means a lot to me that you do that.”

“Oh,” says Clint, shrugging a little. “Don’t mention it. It…well I guess I just sorta get why you wouldn’t want people to put you in his box or him in yours, you know? I’ve never been in exactly that same boat, but I do know what it feels like to be taken over by something or someone that ISN’T you, and not be able to stop it or do anything about it, and to know that something or someone did terrible things while they rode you like a fucking demon. I need….I have to believe none of you blame ME for what Loki did with my body, you know?”

“Yeah,” says Bruce, realizing suddenly that of all of them, Clint is perhaps the only one who truly does understand how he feels, and it makes him want to hug the younger man, though he resists the urge. He doesn’t have any idea if Phil allows Clint to touch other men, or how the gesture would be received even if he is allowed, and he doesn’t want Barton to feel uncomfortable. He’s also uncomfortably aware that were he to do so, with Clint in his current state of undress with only a pair of shorts on, Bruce would have an armful of young, vital, warm human skin in his arms and he has no idea how his body would react to such a thing. It actually makes him want even more to hug Clint and find out, but recklessness hasn’t been his MO in a long time now. He settles for smiling brightly at Barton. “I do know. Thanks, Clint. So, has it worked? Making friends with him, I mean? The ho hos? I don’t even know if the monster likes chocolate.”

“He ate the whole box,” laughs Clint. “I mean the WHOLE box.”

“You mean he ate the actual box?”

“Yep. Plastic wrappers too. I’m pretty sure he smiled at me after he finished. I really don’t think he’s stupid, Bruce. He understands more than he’s able to express. It’s almost like there’s some kind of barrier between his mouth and his brain. You can sort of see him struggling sometimes, like he wants to say something and he knows ALMOST what it is, but he can’t get the words to come out. He’s angry, yeah, so that’s part of it. When we’ve really lost our tempers, I mean LOST them, not just when we’re pissed or annoyed, I don’t think many of us are very eloquent. He’s all rage and instinct and stuff. But I think you’re right, to be working on what you said you’re working on now. Cause his brain isn’t bad, it’s just kind of stuck, I think, in fight or flight mode, except for him it’s always fight mode. If you could thin out that barrier even a little, it could help a lot. He even has a sense of humor. Tony loves to call me Legolas, or Katniss, or Robin Hood and shit like that, and I don’t mind really, but it’s fun to pick back at him, so one day I called him a recycled can of anchovies and I swear it, Bruce. He laughed.”

“The Other Guy?”

“Yep. He laughed. Calls Tony fish breath now sometimes.”

“I’ll be damned,” says Bruce thoughtfully. They enter the gym then, and Thor greets them, rising from the pile of mats he’s been using as a seat. He’s dressed a lot like Clint, which Bruce studiously ignores. He’s not gay, at least he’s 99.99% or better positive he isn’t, and doesn’t even really think he’s bisexual. Has certainly never kissed or…done anything…with a guy, or wanted to. But it’s been so long. Years. Just the thought of being able to press his hands against the expanse of another living person’s wide expanse of naked skin makes his teeth ache with longing now. He knows he’s blushing, and keeps his head down while he sets up the camera on its tripod and gets some light readings and checks to make sure the date and time are correct on the screen. Clint has walked over to Thor and they are warming themselves back up after their respite from their sparring.

“Ready whenever you are,” calls Bruce, peering at the digital screen and adjusting the zoom a little. They face each other, circle a few times, then clash, and it’s really no contest at all, of course. Thor restrains and immobilizes Clint easily, every time. Clint doesn’t look upset about it, just thoughtful, and keeps making suggestions about things he might try to get Thor off-balance. They go on for some time, and Bruce films them quietly, watching them, because they are both almost breathtakingly beautiful in their own ways. They pause for some time as Clint tries to ask Thor to explain something and Thor gets frustrated with his inability to explain what he means.

“Friend Bruce,” he calls at length, “would it be an imposition to ask you to come over here and be my… what is the term… Life Model Decoy for Clint so I may demonstrate what I am trying to show him?”

“Um,” gulps Bruce when he realizes this means that Thor is probably going to need to touch him, and that Thor is…well. Thor is a fucking demigod, worshiped not only for his power but for his masculine appeal as well, and Bruce is painfully aware that he’s too touch-starved to be able to remain immune to the effect of having uncovered skin against his body. But he can’t refuse. He wants to help them if they need him to, and he finds he’s suddenly willing to do a lot just to have this chance. It’s not going to be enough, it never is, not a handshake or a fist bump or a hug or any of it, but this will be more contact with another sentient being than he’s had since Darcy sat on him and kissed him, with the unfortunate side effect that now he’s no longer able to make himself not think about it anymore. “Okay,” he says, hoping he sounds casual, and walks over to where they stand, still talking about muscle groups and  pressure points and stuff. “What do you need?” he asks.

“Thank you, my friend. If you would just stand right here please,” says Thor, pointing to the floor in front of him. Bruce swallows and moves to where Thor indicates. Thor puts his hands on Bruce’s shoulders and turns him so that he’s facing Clint and Thor is behind him. The tall, muscular blond is close enough that Bruce can feel the heat radiating from  him. Suddenly one of Thor’s arms snakes under his arm and the other goes behind his neck and Thor twines his fingers together and then gently squeezes. This pulls Bruce’s head back and he finds himself yanked full-length against Thor’s body. He makes a shocked, strangled sound of protest.

“What the hell is this going to demonstrate?” he gasps, horrified that he sounds breathless and frightened. “Thor. Be careful, I don’t want to…”

“I know you do not want to bring out your alter ego this day, my friend,” says Thor softly, whispering in Bruce’s ear, his breath warm and a little tickly. Bruce shudders. “I will not hurt you. I ask you to trust me, and to calm your breathing. Bear with us but a moment, and we will explain what we need of you.”

“I…oh…okay,” says Bruce, sucking in a lungful of air, because of course Thor isn’t attacking him, he’s just demonstrating a really effective headlock. It’s absolutely NOT making Bruce’s pulse speed up. Nope. Just startled him a little is all.

“Bruce,” says Clint softly, and he turns his attention to the shorter man, “listen to me, okay?” Bruce nods as best he can while restrained by the steel bands of muscle that make up Thor’s arms. “I want to ask you a favor, okay?”

“I…sure, if I can,” says Bruce, feeling a little silly standing here like this.

“Let me finish before you make a stupid choice?”

“What?”

“Promise me, please?”

Bruce can see a little of what Phil finds so appealing about the archer. He can do better puppy eyes than anybody Bruce has ever met. Not the kind where you know the person’s trying to play on your sympathies, but the kind that are wide and open and earnest and so sincere you want to give them what they’re asking for. He nods again.

“Yeah, I promise,” he says, squirming a little against the headlock because he can’t help it.

“Okay. Bruce, your safeword is Molybdenum.”

“What?”

“I’m not explaining what it means,” says Clint a little petulantly. “It took me too long to figure out how to say it without tripping over my own tongue. I know you know what it is, and how to say it.”

Safeword? What the fuck? What are they playing at? He starts to feel nervous and annoyed, and those are not great emotions for him when he’s feeling trapped. And he knows perfectly well what the element is AND how to say it AND what a safeword is too. He opens his mouth.

“Mol…”

“No,” snaps Clint. “You promised!”

“Goddamn it, Clint,” he says angrily. But he has promised. “Talk fast,” he snaps.

Clint steps closer, so close that their bodies are almost touching, and looks into Bruce’s eyes.

“Bruce,” he whispers, “how long has it been since you tried to let yourself be with someone?”

“What? That’s none of your business, Barton, and I’ll thank you to stay out of it.”

“I’m not going to do that,” whispers the younger man. “How long?”

“Seven years,” says Bruce hoarsely.

“Jesus,” swears Clint fervently.

“Seven years,” repeats Bruce, “nine months, twelve days, and four hours.” He closes his eyes and swallows the lump in his throat.

“You’re standing there stuck in a headlock, which ought to be pissing you off, but you’re so starved for touch that you’re letting him do it, Bruce.”

“I…,” says Bruce, “He….I thought you needed my help with this…” He subsides and glares at Clint, because he hates being at a loss for words.

“Bruce,” whispers Clint, “we want to help you. It’s time to stop punishing yourself. You have so much more control over the Hulk now than you did when you came here.”

“Barton,” says Bruce, starting to feel a little frantic and not liking that at all. He doesn’t feel angry, and that’s a blessing, but he’s freaked out, and he’s scared. “Thor…let go of me!”

“No,” snaps Clint just as Bruce feels Thor’s hold on him start to ease a little. “Let go of me isn’t a safeword, Thor.”

“So it isn’t,” agrees Thor, and tightens his hold once again. Bruce opens his mouth to protest, to put a stop to this insanity, but then Clint is right there, crowding him, and Bruce is unable to focus on feeling trapped and that it should be freaking him out, but the younger man’s hands are on his chest and fuck, fuck….that’s….he’s….Bruce chokes back a moan because Clint’s hips brush against him gently, not pressing hard, not forcing the contact on him too hard, but still touching him. The hands on his chest gently and deliberately unbutton his top button.

“Clint,” gasps Bruce, “I’m not gay!”

“Nobody’s saying you are,” murmurs Clint, thumbing open another button and brushing his fingertips down Bruce’s throat.

“Stop,” he whispers hoarsely. “You don’t….I don’t want to hurt you!”

Clint’s mouth curls in a smile and another button opens.

“You forget whose arm that is?” he inquires, glancing down at the tanned expanse of Thor’s forearm across Bruce’s chest. “You think we didn’t think about this beforehand?”

“Friend Bruce,” says Thor softly, “You deprive yourself of the comfort, the peace you could find in a lover’s arms. We understand you would never willingly risk the safety of such a one, but Bruce…I have you. None here shall come to harm, no matter what occurs. “

“Why are you doing this to me?” he cries, despairing, because he wants, oh he WANTS so badly for someone to touch him that he’s dangerously close to giving in, to letting Clint….do whatever it is he wants to do, and he feels horribly ashamed. “I don’t need your pity fu…”

“Stop,” snaps Clint abruptly, pressing fingertips to Bruce’s mouth. Jesus, he’s doomed. He wants to moan, it feels so fucking good. “This isn’t for us, dumbass. I haven’t developed some kind of weird hardon for you while you weren’t noticing. I’ve seen the way you look at her, you asshole. We’re gonna prove to you that you can touch her, that you don’t have to live in this….this isolation anymore. Bruce, I want to be your friend. Ohh Bruce,” he breathes, letting his breath play over the skin of Bruce’s neck, “You deserve to feel good as much as any of us do, maybe more, because you haven’t for so long. Let us show you that you can. You’re not the monster’s bitch anymore, Doc. Let go, let us prove it to you. Bruce…please….I won’t do anything you don’t want. I’m not going to fuck you. You wouldn’t want me to and that’s not why I’m here.”

“Then what…?” pants Bruce, because Barton’s clever mouth is so close to his throat he can feel the words vibrate against his skin and if he just moves one tiny fraction, his lips will touch Bruce’s skin and he thinks he might die.

“Let me go down on you,” begs Clint into his ear, and Bruce does moan now, helplessly. “Let me,” he pants gently, the tip of his tongue flickering so faintly against Bruce’s skin that it’s barely there. “Let me suck your cock, Bruce. Let me make you feel good. I can, Doc, I can make you feel so good, suck your cock down my throat and gag on it for you, I wouldn’t stop, Bruce. I’d use my mouth and my tongue and my teeth until you couldn’t remember your own name. Let us prove you can do this, Bruce. You’ve more than done your time. You only gotta look at her to know she’s gonna be worth the risk.”

“Who?” asks Bruce dazedly, because Clint Barton has his shirt more than half unbuttoned now and the palm of his hand is splayed across Bruce’s chest and pressed warm over his left nipple, which pebbles at the touch and makes him bite his lip.

“Darcy,” whispers Clint. “We’re not doing this for us, Bruce. I know you’re working hard on a way to control it, or to keep your own mind in the game when it’s running your show, but sometimes things are worth taking a chance. She’s worth the risk, don’t you think? Any girl who’d taser a god and smack the Hulk around (by now they have all heard about what happened in Chinatown. Well, not ALL of what happened, but the salient and not personal parts) is worth a taking a chance on.”

Bruce, who has never thought of Darcy Lewis in exactly those terms, is startled. She has been a thorn in his side, a frustration, a help, a friend, comic relief from Fury’s intensity, and a torment in ways both good and bad, but Clint’s words give him a moment of clarity. One thing he’s never considered when he thinks of the girl who confounds and tantalizes him is her enormous courage. It is not that she is too foolish to know the risks of her actions. Darcy may be reckless and silly and baffling, but she is NOT stupid. She had bullied him into letting the Other Guy out and she had not once quailed under the monster’s regard. He’s pretty sure he remembers her HITTING the creature in an ‘attaboy’ sort of gesture. He has been putting every ounce of hope and faith he has in science to give him back some portion of himself so that he can feel like a human being again, so that he might dare allow himself to get close to someone again, so that he might stop feeling like a monster, and he still believes the answers are there to be found. Science is his refuge, his hope for a future, he believes it will be his savior. Has it become his hideout too, a thing he uses as a shield to keep everyone and everything else at bay? Does he hide in his experiments? Little bit, yeah.

Clint slides his fingertips inside Bruce’s waistband and Bruce shudders. The archer tugs, and their hips bump together. Bruce’s ears redden. He’s hard as a rock, sporting a boner of epic proportions. For his teammate. Another man, and Bruce doesn’t go for other guys. It’s only because he’s so fucking pitiful, so lonely and starving to just be touched, and it makes him feel humiliated and lame. Clint growls softly and Bruce looks up at his face in surprise.

“Jesus, Bruce,” whispers Clint, “people DIE without contact with other people. You’re so fucking strong, going this long, getting through all this shit without just losing your mind or giving up. Think this is pity? Think again, and stop being an asshole. How d’you think my ego’s gonna feel, giving you the first good hard come you’ve had in….how long? Years. Fuckin’ heady stuff there, Doc. I’m gonna make you come so hard you can’t see straight, and I’m gonna fuckin’ get off on it so hard, so check yourself, and don’t be an idiot.”

Bruce closes his eyes and groans softly. His head falls back to rest against Thor’s chest, and the Asgardian supports him gently, but does not release his hold.

“Don’t let go,” he whispers to Thor.

“I will not,” Thor assures him. Bruce opens his eyes a little and looks into Clint’s earnest face.

“Come on,” mouths Clint silently.

“Okay,” gasps Bruce breathlessly. “But if I say stop, you gotta stop, Clint. I won’t….I won’t chicken out, but if I say stop, it means I can’t keep it back, and I don’t want to dislocate your jaw if it….gets loose, you know?”

“I don’t want you to dislocate my jaw either,” says Clint with a smirk. “You got my word. Now Bruce?”

“Yeah?”

“Shut up.”

With that, Clint sinks gracefully to his knees and unbuckles Bruce’s belt. He leans forward as he does it and his warm tongue circles  the scientist’s belly button. Bruce sucks in his breath and slams his eyes back shut. He feels Clint’s mouth curve in a smile against his skin, then it’s gone, and the archers hands span his waist, his callused fingers smoothing over Bruce’s skin. The fine hairs on his abdomen rise up as his flesh ripples with goosebumps. There’s a tug at his waistband and Bruce risks as glance, moaning when he sees that Barton is opening is fly. With his teeth. Oh God, he thinks wildly. Maybe I am gay. Maybe I’m going to spill in my goddamn pants like a kid before he gets them halfway off. Then he stops thinking very much at all because Clint’s white teeth show in a feral smile around the waistband of his boxers, tugging them out and down over the engorged head of his aching cock. Bruce thinks the archer may even have sucked on the rapidly growing wet spot on his shorts with a sly little grin before he got to this point.

“Christ,” he whispers fervently. All of the air in his lungs is suddenly PUNCHED out of him when Clint’s mouth closes over the head of his cock and sucks gently. He arches his back helplessly and makes a choked sound in his throat. His empty hands clench and unclench spasmodically. What the hell is he supposed to DO with his hands? Hold onto Clint’s shoulders? His hair? The thought of that mortifies him. If he keeps his eyes closed he can….JUST….manage to not think too hard about the fact that there’s a dude on his knees in front of Bruce with his dick in his mouth. If he has to put his hands on Clint, he’s not going to be able to do that. And yet….and yet his palms itch with the desire to touch skin, anyone’s. He lifts both hands as best he can in the inescapable headlock Thor has him in. “Please,” he whispers, mind racing to find words to vocalize what he wants Thor to do.

“Do you feel secure enough for me to release this hold?” Thor growls in his ear softly. Bruce nods once, shortly, and Thor lets go. Only for a second. Okay, so it’s a second during which Bruce’s throat begins to close in panic and the sensation of being freed and thus required to be his own safety net instead of letting go and trusting Thor with the job almost cripples him, but that’s because Bruce has a very agile mind and it’s capable of doing a lot of thinking in a second or two. Then Thor takes his hands. Bruce lets his head fall forward in relief. Thor slowly pulls Bruce’s hands behind his back, elbows bent, and then tugs him back against Thor’s body again. His hands slide free and move to hold Bruce firmly by his wrists, twisting just a little so that Bruce can feel restrained and so that the physicist’s palms are turned towards him.

“Ungh,” whimpers Bruce as his hands are pressed between their bodies, the taut, hard muscle of Thor’s abs grinding against his open palms. He doesn’t know if the sweat he feels is his own or Thor’s and doesn’t care. Just then, Clint sucks Bruce’s cock ALL THE WAY into his mouth and down his throat until his nose is pressed against Bruce’s pelvis and he SWALLOWS and Bruce’s fingernails dig into Thor’s belly and he shouts out loud at the sheer enormity of the sensation, of being completely engulfed in tight, wet heat. Thor growls again, wordlessly this time, at the sting of Bruce’s nails in his skin.

“The sight of you swamped with pleasure is magnificent,” he breathes, tickling Bruce’s ear and making him shiver. “I wish you could see yourself like this, Doctor Banner. Pulled tight as the bow string our friend here plays so well, the way your body shakes with your need. You are beautiful.”

Clint pulls back and Bruce does his best to stifle a whimper of loss. Clint rolls his eyes up to look at them, gasping and little.

“Jesus fuck, Thor,” he pants, his voice rough with the strain of deep-throating Bruce’s cock, “if you keep saying shit like that, I’m gonna fuckin’ come in my pants! Who the hell taught you to say that shit?”

Thor chuckles softly. His blue eyes are vibrant as he looks down Bruce’s body at his trembling cock and at Clint on his knees looking up at them, his mouth wet with saliva and swollen with being forced down Banner’s dick to the root.

“You’re beautiful too, my friend,” he rumbles. “So compelling there, on your knees, your mouth redder than a wanton tavern wench, your thighs spread wide and your arousal at the evidence of Bruce’s pleasure hard between them. Look at him, Bruce,” he urges gently. “There is no shame here. You are precious to us, and we cherish you. Look at how you affect him. Is it not a joyous thing, that by the mere sounds of need he wrings from your body, our Clint is so aroused that his body trembles against the need to come untouched. Because of you. Bruce…you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“He’s right,” murmurs Clint, his hand reaching between Bruce’s thighs to tug gently at his balls, rolling them gently between his fingers. “This is amazing. Take what you need, Bruce.” Then he leans in and takes the scientist’s quivering erection in his mouth again, his tongue circling the head and darting at the slit, then rubbing the underside as he slides down the length, coating Bruce’s cock with saliva. Bruce groans and his hips rock unconsciously. Clint makes a sound that can ONLY be interpreted as deep approval, so Bruce succumbs to the pounding need in his brain and thrusts himself into Barton’s mouth. Clint groans, and the vibration on his cock is almost too much. Bruce’s hips buck at the sensation, driving his cock down Clint’s throat. The younger man chokes a little, but his hands grasp Bruce’s hips tightly, his fingers pressing hard, and refuses to let him pull back in chagrin. He pulls back on his own a second later, and Bruce’s brain reels drunkenly at the sight of the shining strand of spit stretched between Clint’s panting mouth and his own swollen dick.

“Don’t hold back,” he snaps furiously. “I said take what you need and I meant it. Make me choke on your fucking cock, Bruce. C’mon, give it to me. Jesus, this is hot. Damn, Doc, you’re making me crazy here. Just…fuck…just take what you want.” Then he bends back to his task, and Bruce shivers with indecision. Clint’s teeth close gently just past the head of his cock and he rolls his eyes up again, glaring pointedly, his hands tugging sharply at Bruce’s hips. Bruce doesn’t think the archer can get any clearer than that without taking his mouth off Bruce’s cock again and he really doesn’t want that to happen. He forces his body to relax a little, and he gives himself the brain-melting luxury of fucking himself into Clint’s eager mouth like he’s a two dollar whore. It’s fucking amazing. Clint lets go with one hand and reaches down between his own legs. Bruce watches in fascination as Clint palms himself roughly through his shorts, groaning around the cock in his mouth some more, which makes Bruce thrust a little harder. Clint whimpers. A tear wells up and then spills down his cheek. It’s from the strain of taking Bruce’s cock into his throat and choking him, but it transfixes the physicist.

“Fuck,” he gasps, “Fuck…Clint…God…!” His voice is nearly panicked, because he can feel his balls drawing tight and his heart pounding harder as orgasm begins to wind its way sinuously around the base of his spine, and he feels the monster buried deep in his mind raise its head at the rush of hormones through his blood. There’s little difference in the adrenalines of lust and those of danger, and the creature cannot tell the difference. No, he thinks furiously, there is no danger! Go back to sleep! I don’t need you. We’re safe. These are our friends! Thor’s hands close tightly around his wrists, grinding the bones together and making him cry out.

“No,” he snarls into Bruce’s ear. “You are safe.”

Strangely, the pain calms him rather than provoking him. The bruising grip reminds him that Thor is the only person he’s ever met who can fight the Other Guy to a draw, and Thor is RIGHT HERE and when Thor says he’s safe, Bruce can believe him, because Thor can make it true.

Clint, feeling the tightness in Bruce’s balls, slides his clever fingers behind them and presses firmly against his perineum, at the same time he hollows his cheeks and sucks for all he’s worth. Bruce stabs his cock into Clint’s throat helplessly, dimly aware that he’s making a keening, pleading sound in his chest.

“Let go,” hisses Thor. “Bruce. Let go. Come for us. We love you, Bruce, come for us, come NOW.” And his teeth graze the tendon in Bruce’s neck and then close carefully, pressing firmly, and Bruce howls as the combined sensations force all thoughts of the Other Guy from his mind and staggering pleasure tears through his body like a live wire. He shouts and arches helplessly against Thor’s hold and into Clint’s mouth, his breath sobbing in his chest and his whole body feeling as though he will simply catch on fire and burn away into ash in the next second.

He doesn’t, though. He shakes and shudders and his knees buckle as the orgasm leaves him wrecked, and Thor lowers them both carefully to the mats, letting go of Bruce’s wrists and reaching up to massage his shoulders where the strain of being held the way he was is the worst. Clint crawls up beside them, his steel-blue eyes with their compelling flecks and striations of green and amber are blown black with passion. Neither man says a word about their own obvious arousal, and instead focus on making sure that Bruce is all right. He so very, very much is, thank you. He tries to remember his last orgasm before this one, but he can’t. Partly because it was a long-ass time ago, but partly also because his brain has, literally, been blown to smithereens. He chuckles a little. Clint and Thor grin at him and as he laughs a little harder, they join him, and soon they’re all laughing and what should probably be horribly awkward turns into something simple and joyous instead.

“Thank you,” he gasps, wiping at his eyes and though this is not a particularly amusing thing to say, they all look at each other and perhaps it is the absolute inadequacy of the words to express the crazed exultation he’s feeling, but they all howl with renewed laughter.  Bruce becomes aware that he’s crying at the same time he is laughing like a moron, but that seems to be okay too, because neither of them stop to ask if he’s okay. He’s not okay, exactly, likely won’t ever be entirely okay as long as a monster he can only pretend to control lives inside him, but he is relieved beyond measure, and he is grateful to them, and he is picturing Darcy Lewis’ mouth after she’d kissed him the first time and thinking that next time, he’s going to bite that pouty little bottom lip of hers and then….

Well then, he’s probably going to let himself find out what happens next.

 

Chapter Text

He absolutely, completely and positively can not figure out what to do with himself today. He knows for damn sure a few things he’s NOT going to do with himself. He’s not going to go to that gym. Possibly never again, which isn’t that big a deal because there are like nine of them in this house. He’s not going to go to Clint or Thor’s rooms, or Natasha’s either. He’s not going to show his face in the kitchen or dining room. He’s not going to do anything that could bring him into direct contact with Clint Barton or Thor Odinsson today. Not on his life. He expects that maybe sometime in the next hundred years he’ll be able to look them in the eye again, but that day is not today. Today he is vacillating between euphoria and humiliation faster than an adolescent boy jumps from one sexual thought to the next. But he is dead certain he would melt into the floor in horror if either of his two….what does he even call them now? Assailants? Molesters? Saviors? Best Bros Ever? Anyway, if either of them showed up in the lab. It tips the scales in favor of Best Bros Ever that he’s absolutely certain the only thing that could bring either of them here is a major disaster.

He’s forgotten that he works with Thor’s woman. Jane, bless her, is a professional, and manages to only shoot him about a dozen considering, gleeful, or lascivious looks. This is actually a remarkable show of self-restraint. Probably. He’s still really embarrassed.

He’s also forgotten that he works with Tony Stark, who is possibly the nosiest AND most observant person Bruce knows. He buries his face in his computer and feverishly works on the same formula twenty-seven times in a row before he realizes he’s gotten twenty seven different answers. And it’s a formula he solved last week.

“What’s wrong with you, Banner?” asks Tony, bright dark eyes curious. “You seem…”

“What, Tony? I seem what?” asks Bruce testily, not looking at his friend.

“Edgy. Nervous. Jumpy. Discomfited. Ill-at-ease. Dare I even say…Oh. Oh. My. God.”

“What? No, there’s no your god, Tony. I need you to run the Benninger algorithm on…” Bruce fumbles desperately for something complicated to get Tony into. It’s too late.

“You. Bruce! You. Got. Laid.”

Bruce despises his transparent face at that moment, knowing he is turning scarlet and unable to stop it.

“No I didn’t,” he mutters angrily at his keyboard, thanking every god there’s ever been that Darcy isn’t here right now.

“You did, I’d recognize the signs anywhere. Spring in your step, nervous energy, and you’re such a damn old fashioned shit that you’re all embarrassed about it. C’mon, Bruce. Spill! Who was she?”

Bruce’s face flames even hotter.

“Tony,” says Jane sharply. She sounds righteously pissed, which is an unusual enough occurrence that it actually distracts Tony for a minute.

“Are you trying to tell me that YOU know, Lady Jane, and that I, his best friend and fellow science bro, am being kept in the dark? How is that right?”

“Jane…” whispers Bruce miserably. “Will you just….tell him, please?”

Jane looks at Bruce with her lips pressed together for a long time, then she nods shortly and seizes Tony by the arm, dragging him to the other side of the lab, where they hold a conversation in hissing whispers except for the moment when Tony staggers back a single step and yelps, “WHAT???” at the top of his lungs. Bruce hunches his shoulders and wishes he could sink through the floor. Tony is right, he probably is Bruce’s best friend, and it’s not that he minds him knowing. It’s just that there’s no way in hell he can bring himself to actually tell him.

After about ten minutes, Tony marches up to him and punches him really hard in the arm.

“OW!,” he yelps, affronted. “What the hell Tony?”

“That’s because I can’t punch Jane,” says Tony petulantly, glaring at Jane resentfully. Jane refuses to be perturbed and goes back to work. “I can’t believe they didn’t include me, the best friend and smartest person in the house in the planning of this….thing!” He waves his arms and sits down in a chair next to Bruce.

“I’m glad they didn’t,” mutters Bruce. “That would have been too weird, and it was weird enough, believe me.”

Tony looks at him keenly for several long moments. He shifts a little in the chair he’s borrowing, trying to sit on one edge of it and looking a little pained. Bruce eyes him and his mouth quirks up at the corner.

“Piss Pepper off again last night?” he asks blandly.

“Butt plug,” says Tony placidly, staring at the ceiling. “So…I’m sorry Banner, but I gotta ask this question, don’t hate me, okay?”

“Yes,” says Bruce helpfully.

“Yes what?”

“Please. Have I met you? You want to know if Barton gives good head.”

“You do not have permission to know me that well yet, Banner. I refuse to be predictable. Just so you know, that was NOT what I was going to ask. I was going to….Okay. Yeah. That was totally what I was going to ask. So yes huh?”

“Jesus Christ,” says Bruce fervently.

“I am feeling strangely and awkwardly aroused right now, I just want you to know that,” says Tony softly.

“Well I don’t want to know it. Geez, Tony. Go away. Be aroused somewhere else. Go interrupt Pepper. Or you can go looking for Barton and see whether Phil or Natasha kill you first…”

“Fine. You’re forgiven for having an orgasm without consulting me. I’m going on break. It is going to be a very long break. In fact, do not expect to see me again until tomorrow, possibly later.” He spins the chair and leaps up, trotting towards the door to the lab. As he hits the door he looks back over his shoulder at Bruce. “Dude, if you don’t do something about that boner you’ve been sporting for our Darcy for like the last EVER, I will personally kick your ass, whether it is green or not.”

Bruce looks at Jane, who is trying not to smile.

“Does anybody in this house every keep anything a secret from ANYone?”

“I doubt it. Oh, crap, I forgot. I have to go over to Stark Tower and meet Erik to look over a schematic. Darcy, you’re just in time. I’m off, will you make sure Bruce eats something today?”

She smiles sweetly at both of them and sails out the door as well. Darcy, who has just walked in with a brown paper sack containing Starbucks and scones for everyone, looks down at the bag and over at Bruce.

“Scone?” she asks resignedly, because it’s not like her offerings don’t get put off for meetings and discoveries and feverish bursts of activity all the time anyway. She shoves one at him and while he’s eating it, his mug full of hot tea appears by his elbow. He nods his thanks, mouth full of pastry, and she lifts her coffee to him in a little toast, then wanders off to do whatever the hell it is she does around here. He’s not entirely sure. He’s pretty sure the job description is kind of fluid, because he’s seen her doing everything from answering phones and making appointments to cleaning up failed experiments to allowing herself to be used as a model for various inventions of the (theoretically) non-lethal variety.

He watches her more closely today, acutely aware of every move she makes. The way her jeans hug her hips and ass. Has her ass always been that hot? The way a line of skin is revealed by her sweater when she stands on tiptoes to put some office supplies on a tall shelf. It’s a tight sweater too, and has he not been paying attention to how sweetly rounded and soft her breasts are? Her skin is fair and clear, and he can see the blue of her veins under the surface at her delicate wrists and throat. Her mouth makes him muffle a groan into his tea mug when she nibbles at it while trying to translate some of Jane’s notes. Her eyes slide over to him, curious, but he ignores her and focuses on his work. This fails him utterly, because he can fucking smell her perfume, and then she curses softly and he looks up and sees that she’s trying to reach some files Tony has thoughtlessly left on a top shelf (apparently while working IN the suit because it’s too tall for him to have reached if he wasn’t using his repulsors).

Before he has time to think about what he’s doing, Bruce is seized by a wild impulse. The kind he has throttled into submission for many years now. He looks at her, and he remembers trembling and shouting and losing his mind with pleasure last night except he HADN’T LOST HIS MIND with pleasure and he is suddenly just there behind her, his hands on her waist, lifting her up so she can reach the files. She yelps a little in shock, apparently not having heard him coming, but as he starts to set her down, she contorts in his arms like some very athletic eel so that she’s facing him by the time her toes hit the floor.

“Thanks,” she says breathlessly. His hands are still on her waist, and his left thumb has slipped under the edge of her sweater to touch her warm skin. Sweet Jesus, it is soft. He swallows.

“Darcy?” he asks a little hoarsely.

“Yes, Bruce?” she asks back.

“Do you remember that you told me the next time you kissed me, I was going to have to ask, and it was going to have to be really nice?”

“Yeah,” she says, and her eyes start to take on the sassy sparkle he finds both exasperating and thrilling.

“Fuck that,” he replies politely, and covers her startled gasp with his mouth. Being kissed by Darcy Lewis the first time had taken him by surprise and had been a hell of a shock at the time, since he hadn’t allowed himself to put the smartassed, cute little grad student into the “female” box in his mind yet. It had still been awfully hot. KISSING Darcy Lewis on purpose and with malice aforethought makes his toes curl in his sensible brown topsiders. She makes a startled sound into his mouth that he swallows like it’s candy and they both moan a little and then her arms are around his neck and her fingers are tugging at the shaggy curls of his hair and she climbs him and wraps her legs around his waist. His left hand slides down under her ass to cup the tight curve of one cheek while the other hand slides under her sweater and up her back, the softness of her skin making his eyes roll back in his skull. He takes a step so he can shove her against the wall (it would be rude to drop her at this point, right?) and she pants approving yes noises at him. He fists one hand in her unruly mass of curls and yanks her head back, separating their lips, which is a shame, but her whine of protest morphs into a whimper of encouragement as he bites her softly on the collarbone and sucks red marks on her throat that may or may not fade by tomorrow.

Then, because there is a gleeful voice inside his head and it’s yelling much louder than the other guy and is gloating that he DOESN’T HAVE TO STOP, he stops. Parts of his anatomy call him very rude names and a big part of his own mind is borrowing phrases from Darcy like WTF? Yeah, she actually says that sometimes. Just now he can’t remember why he ever found it irritating. He informs all the protesting parts of him that he doesn’t want to have sex with this girl in the lab up against a wall. Even if okay, that sounds kind of hot, and even if she doesn’t look like she’d mind it very much.

“So,” he gasps, setting her at arms’ length from him by keeping both hands on her hips, “I wonder if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight?”

She raises her eyebrows at him.

“You’re asking me out on a date? AFTER a kiss like that?” she demands incredulously.

“Yes,” he says firmly. “Yes, I am. Do you like Ethiopian food?”

“I have no idea,” she says, looking baffled. “You do know you don’t have to buy me dinner to get me to sleep with you, right?”

“Darcy Lewis,” he says, offended and scandalized and also a little sad for her if that’s actually what she thinks, “If you ever suggest to me again that I’m entitled to feel like you or any other woman owe me sexual favors because I buy you dinner, I’ll…I’ll…”

“Turn me over your knee and spank me?” she suggests hopefully, biting her bottom lip and looking up at him with a naughty shine in her eye. Sweet Jesus, he thinks wildly, she’s going to kill me. Is it something in the water around here? Is kink contagious? Is there a secret requirement for being a member of a superhero team or its associate that states you have to be some kind of S&M freak? His brain, which seems to take great delight in coming up with bizarre tangents at inappropriate times, wonders what Reed or Charles or Logan would say if he asked them about it. Actually, now that he thinks about it, finding out that Logan’s a deviant would surprise him exactly not at all. And is so not the point right now. He’s prided himself on being open-minded and non-judgmental about the lifestyle choices of his fellow team members, and it honestly is true that he isn’t the least bit bothered that Tony regularly informs him in detail of the latest way Pepper’s come up with to torment him, and that Jane talks to him about Thor and gets his advice on how to handle the urges and unrelenting dominance of an immortal demigod, and that Phil, Clint and Natasha are apparently having a weird power exchanging pornographic triad thing going on and it’s actually working for them. He’s heard more details than he’d ever wanted to hear and taken them in stride. But he’s never once considered whether he was actually INTERESTED in any of the shit they get up to. Not until Darcy Lewis utters that sexy, short sentence with a pretty little pout and it sizzles through his body like sticking your tongue to a nine-volt battery. And even though he’s NEVER done so before, now he is VIVIDLY imagining tugging her off-balance and tumbling her over his lap, pulling down her jeans and panties, exposing her bare ass. He can see and hear and feel the palm of his hand stroking satiny skin and then slapping it, easy at first but getting harder and harder until her sexy, pert little backside is warm and red and she’s squirming and making adorable little whimpering noises and his fingers “accidentally” slip between her legs after one sharp spank and find her soaking wet and….Jesus. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. This has to be Clint’s fault. The sick fuck has infected Bruce with his illness via fluid exchange. He has, however, apparently spent too much time poleaxed and thinking these things, because Darcy blushes and looks down, stepping back another step so that his hands fall from her hips.

“Sorry,” she says uncomfortably. “Just forget I said that. I was only kidding anyway.”

Oh wait just a goddamn minute there. He looks at her severely and frowns.

“No, I don’t think so,” he says softly. “And as to what you said…if you act like you think I feel that you owe me anything if I take you out on a date, no, I won’t s…spank you.” He’s relieved he only stammers a little bit. “Because that’s just bullshit. But,” he steps closer to her, crowding her a little, “If you’re a good girl, and it’s what you want, it would be my very great pleasure to take you over my knee, Darcy Lewis. So…have dinner with me?”

“Okay,” she breathes faintly, looking a little dazed.

 

One look at his own closet sends Bruce sprinting up the stairs to Tony’s suite, hoping he’s actually here and not at the tower or zooming off to Malibu. He knocks (okay, pounds) on the door and impatiently shifts from one foot to the other, muttering “come on come on come on,” under his breath. Tony finally answers the door, and Bruce chooses to ignore the fact that his face is red and his hair is tousled and his boxers are on backwards and he’s wearing some sort of leather cuffs with heavy steel rings in them around his wrists and ankles.

“You are quite possibly the only human being on the face of the planet for whom I would be opening the door right now, Bruce,” says Tony. His voice is a little hoarse. “But Jarvis said it looked urgent. What’s wrong?”

“Everything in my closet looks like THIS,” cries Bruce desperately, indicating his current outfit. It consists of a plaid button-down dress shirt, baggy khaki pants, scuffed topsiders, and a corduroy blazer.

“Sweet merciful Lord, this is an emergency,” murmurs Tony. “PEPPER!”  He grabs Bruce by the wrist and tows him into the suite and towards the bedroom, where Pepper is presumably waiting. Bruce has enough time to really hope she’s wearing actual clothes.

She’s not, exactly, but his sanity is saved by the fact that whatever she is or is not wearing is covered from neck to ankle by one of Tony’s long cashmere bath robes. That she is hastily shoving a riding crop and a fraternity paddle into a drawer makes him hesitate for a second, but she’s smiling graciously and walking over to take his hands away from Tony. She leans up and kisses him on the cheek.

“You have a date, don’t you?” she murmurs with a smile.  He nods wordlessly and makes helpless noises while pointing at his clothing. What he puts on is not something he has ever even thought about. If he thinks about clothes at all, it is to wish some of it was stretchier, and to shop at a lot of thrift stores since he tends to be fatally hard on his wardrobe. Also, unprepossessing is the most descriptive term he’s ever thought to apply to his clothing. And Darcy is quirky and colorful and bright and sparkling and he doesn’t want to look like a shadow next to her, or embarrass her, or have people mistake him for her father.

“Where are you taking her?” asks Pepper, opening Tony’s closet.

“Ah…there’s this little Ethiopian place down on 77th that I like?”

“That’s…actually a pretty great choice,” says Pepper, looking a little surprised. “It’s unusual and the setting is intimate and exotic, and eating with your hands is sexy. Good for you.”

“Well, they know me there,” says Bruce, hunching his shoulders up around his ears and blushing a little because it’s not like he’s actually considered any of those things Pepper’s talking about. The food is interesting and quirky, and so is Darcy, so he thought of it.

“And it’s also very casual, so you don’t have to worry about dressing up or anything. Let’s see….”

Twenty minutes later, Bruce rushes back to his own suite and changes into the things Pepper has shoved into his arms. When he looks at himself in the mirror he rolls his eyes heavenward with a little thank-you to whoever made Pepper Potts the person she is today. He’d begun second-guessing his request for wardrobe help on the way back to his rooms, because isn’t he just going to look like exactly the same dork he is, only playing dress-up? Isn’t it patently absurd for Pepper to shove him into Tony Stark’s designer clothes and just make it glaringly obvious to Darcy that he’s an idiot? But Pepper hasn’t done that. She’s put him in a pair of dark olive-colored cargo pants that fit him instead of bagging at the crotch, ass and knees, and he’s touched that she’s taken into consideration his need to have all manner of odds and ends in his pockets all the time by making sure he’s wearing pants with extra pockets. He spends a grateful minute shoving spare change, bits of wiring and nuts and bolts and fuses, stubs of pencils and tiny notebooks, rubber bands, paper clips, safety pins, bits of string, needle and thread, tiny screwdrivers, multi-tools and extra buttons into the pockets of the neat green cargo pants. The weight of his detritus doesn’t even threaten to pull them off his hips. Huh. Pants that fit. Who knew? There’s a soft black mock turtleneck t-shirt that he thinks is made of something nicer than plain cotton but he can’t be bothered to read the label, and over it, a button-down shirt the color of eggplant that Pepper insisted would look nice both with the green of the pants and with Bruce’s brown eyes. Damned if she wasn’t right, too.  He and Tony don’t wear the same size shoes, so there’s nothing to be done about his battered topsiders, but he hopes Darcy’s not going to be doing a lot of looking at his shoes anyway. Plus Pepper promises him that women have been forgiving men for their shoes for countless years anyway, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. He has a feeling Natasha would find it an equally baffling statement.  Thinking about Natasha makes him think about Clint and that makes him think about the mind-blowing orgasm he’d fired down Clint’s throat like a troller at a gay bar or at Central Park in the late night hours and that’s NOT where he wants his brain tending right now. He looks at himself once more in the mirror, runs his fingers through his hair and huffs out a breath, then walks down the hall and up the stairs to Darcy’s room, wondering what the hell he thinks he’s doing, second guessing himself all to hell, mostly convincing himself this is a horrible idea and wishing he could back out. But when he reaches her door, he brings his hand up and knocks, and it’s too late.

“Hi,” says Darcy breathlessly when she flings the door open. He’s struck by the impression that somehow, impossibly, she is as nervous as he is, which is ridiculous.

“You look great,” he says awkwardly, but he means it sincerely. She does look great. The practically normal little black shirt and snug black sweater are offset by a pair of tights printed to look like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and a hand-woven scarf of varied textures and patterns of textiles in blue and black and yellow and green.  Black boots that lace up to her knees finish off the look. It’s a good look for her. Bruce isn’t ashamed to say he’s pathetically grateful that both the skirt and sweater are tight. “Nice boots,” he manages to say, instead of something monumentally stupid like “Oh god, your breasts look amazing in that sweater.”

“Thanks,” she grins. “Plus twelve boots of ass-kickery. Epic, of course.”

“Of course,” he grins, because gaming references he totally gets, glad she hasn’t told him who designed them or where she bought them or whatever. Darcy’s kind of a funny blend of really girly and really…not.

Ethiopian food turns out to be a really good choice, because she’s never had it before and thinks it’s wicked cool that you eat with your hands, and by the time he’s explained to her what everything is and shown her how to use little scraps of the flatbread to scoop out bites of the meat and vegetable stews in their clay bowls and pots, they are well past the awkward “what the hell are we going to talk about” early stages of most first dates.

She asks him a lot of really personal questions about his accident and the things that have happened to him because of it and what he’s done to get his rage under control. As opposed to being offended by this, Bruce finds it to be an enormous relief. She already knows WHAT he is, and that she’s able to face it so baldly, to not act like he has some dirty secret, but that this is part of him and she wants to know about it because she wants to know him. It’s surprisingly easy to tell her about his research, his hopes for the formula he’d been developing, because she doesn’t recoil in disgust or horror. She’s already seen the Other Guy up close an personal.

“Wow,” she says thoughtfully, nibbling on a bit of spicy lamb wrapped in soft flatbread, “it’s gotta be a little tough, working with Steve every day. He knows you were trying to recreate the super soldier serum?”

“Yes, he knows. It was pretty awful at first, at least for me. Steve makes it pretty hard not to like him though.”

“I almost managed not to,” she confesses. “He wouldn’t stop calling me ma’am! So what made it not awful anymore?”

“He came to the lab with a whole tray of test tubes and slapped it down on the table I was working at. When I asked him what it was, he said, ‘My blood. You can have as much of it as you need, just ask. Maybe it will…I don’t know, help?’”

“Oh shit,” sighs Darcy, “now I’m not even going to be able to yell at him when he forgets to call me Darcy again.”

Then out of the blue, she asks him what made him change his mind about kissing her. It blindsides him a little, because OF COURSE she’s going to wonder, and he feels like an idiot for not having considered that. His mind goes blank. What’s he supposed to do? He decides to go for vague, but tell her the damn truth if she presses. He’s done trying to protect people from the truth because HE decides they can’t handle seeing or hearing it.

“I…ah…conducted an experiment in self-control,” he says, knowing his ears are turning red and wishing not for the first time that he could be half so smooth as Tony or maybe even just a tenth as cheerfully lecherous as Clint. Darcy hides her grin behind the heavy cup of Ethiopian coffee she’s drinking.

“That’s pretty cute, Doc,” she says, mirth evident in her voice. “But isn’t it…um…sort of not exactly the same thing when you’re whacking off as it is when you’re with a real live partner? Not that your hand’s not a swell partner,” she hastens to assure him, speaking solemnly TO his right hand, which is so hilarious to him that he just…tells her.

“I’m sure Mr. Hand there is relieved to have your affirmation, but that’s not what the experiment entailed. No. Thor and Hawkeye roped me into helping them with some bogus experiment in one of the gyms and…um…”

“You had sex with Clint and Thor and didn’t let me watch?” she shrieks in outrage, slapping him on the arm. It’s the same arm Tony’d punched earlier. He’s going to have a damn bruise.

“I didn’t have sex with Clint OR Thor,” he protests weakly, head still spinning a  little that the part she’s offended about is not getting to watch, NOT that it happened in the first place. “Thor held on to me in case the Other Guy decided to make an appearance, and Clint….talked me into letting him….um…”

“OMG,” she squeals (see there, she really does say the actual letters, he thinks to himself), “Clint got you to let him BLOW you? Jesus, Doc, that’s fucking hot as hell! I didn’t know you were bi.”

“I’m not,” he says a little defensively, not because the idea offends him, but because he just ISN’T and he really doesn’t want to have to keep convincing people of that. “It’s just…they both said I should test myself again because it’s been a really long time and I’m in better control of….Him…than I was last time, and they managed to convince me to just…let him, because with Thor holding me and Clint being as quick as he is, the risk was really minimal”

“Okay,” she says musingly. “That actually makes sense. I’m still a little surprised though. I mean, I believe you when you say you’re not bi. I’m having trouble seeing you being able to take them up on it. Athough believe me, SEEING you take them up on it has just officially gone to like the top ten percent of my bucket list!”

“It’s just…” he says, looking down at the ragged edge of the table-sized pancake that is both plate and utensil, “I haven’t had intimate contact with another person…well, aside from you kissing me a few weeks ago…in so damn long.”

“How long?” she asks curiously. “I mean, I get why you chose not to. If it’s like you said and raising your pulse rate wakes up the Big Guy, yeah I totally get it. But that’s damn depressing!”

“Over seven years,” he says quietly. He has no interest in making her pity him, but he’s also determined to be truthful with her. He hopes terribly badly that they’re moving towards doing a lot more than kissing, and he just can’t stand the thought of not being honest with her about what she’s getting into.

“Seven?” she gasps. “YEARS?”

“Yes. So that why, after Clint railroaded me into hearing him out instead of leaving, and when he…touched me…just his hands on my skin…I couldn’t….I just COULDN’T say no. It didn’t matter that it was Clint, and a guy, and my friend, and in a relationship with people I like and respect, because oh God, it felt so damned good to be touched, like I’d been walking around in the dark for years and just wham, they turned on the light. I don’t think I’m explaining it right, because it’s so hard to tell you what it’s like.”

“I don’t think anybody who hasn’t been there, forced into celibacy against their will for whatever reason, can really understand what it’s like, but I can try to imagine. Did it…um…work?”

“Yes,” he whispers, staring intently at her face. She stares back, and those full lips part and she sighs and her eyes are deep and hot and very, very blue.

“Check, please,” they call out at the same time.

Chapter Text

They rush out the door of the restaurant, leaving the rather surprised server staring at them bemusedly while clutching the little black tray containing the check and a rather large wad of cash to his chest. Bruce has no idea how much money he’s given the man as a tip and doesn’t give a fuck. It’s not like he has much he spends anything on, and SHIELD actually pays a pretty generous stipend. He had wondered at first where the logic lay in paying a team of superheroes a salary. By the very nature of superherodom, weren’t they supposed to be doing this out of mere altruism, wanting to make the world a better place? Fury had snorted at this and pointed a finger at Bruce and Steve, who had piped up to agree.

“Listen here,” he had said as calmly as Fury ever says anything (to Bruce he always sounds like he’s on the verge of bursting into a rage at somebody), “SHIELD will pay for your room and board, your utilities and the development of the equipment you need. You’ll have food, medical care, transportation, access to all our facilities. You will, however, still have expenses of your own. We provide uniforms but not clothing. Meals but not whatever extra junk you may want to consume. Vehicles but only a certain amount of fuel. You don’t have jobs. Take the money and shut up. If it makes you feel any better, we’re not paying Stark anything. He has a job.”

“Actually,” Tony had drawled from the end of the table where he was resting his feet on top of the folder containing the dossiers they’d been discussing a few minutes ago and twisting his chair around while spitting sunflower seed shells at the ceiling, “I have several jobs. Today I added a new one to my resume. It now reads Tony Stark: Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist, Inventor, and Pain in Nick Fury’s Ass.”

“Well,” Fury had said with only a minor twitch in his left eye, “at least we know you’ll be good at one of those,” and left the room.

Bruce takes the stipend. He thinks he’s possibly tipped their server a couple hundred bucks. Totally worth it. Darcy grabs him by the arm as they run up the street to where the car is parked, holding hands and laughing. She plants her cute little plus twelve boots of ass-kickery on the pavement and he swings around when she yanks on his arm, not wanting to pull her over face first onto the concrete. Then he is face to face with her, and they’re looking at each other, and he’d love to know if they expression of wonder on his face matches hers at all, but then she’s kissing him. Her little tongue slides along the seam between his lips and he opens his mouth and groans, and they are just standing there on the sidewalk with people passing around them like water around river stones, kissing and kissing like they don’t need to breathe, and he feels for a little while like the city seems far away and unreal, and that only his connection to this girl’s body is real. His hands skim her waist and up her back, and he sinks one into all that crazy hair and she moans when he makes a fist and pulls gently. They separate at last and stand there, panting, staring at each other, smiling and breathless and absurd and he does not care.

“So yeah,” she says, her voice a little bit ragged and a lot adorable, “I just, you know, wanted to say that.”

“Nice talk,” he says sincerely.

The cuda is, mercifully, pretty damned fast. He’s very grateful not to be pulled over, and thanks whoever is listening for the mercy, promising to obey all traffic laws for the rest of his life. He parks it, badly, in the big garage under the mansion and the stagger to the elevator, snickering and stopping to kiss again a couple or several dozen times. He stares at the panel inside the elevator, his mind blanking out when he realizes that his room is Spartan and depressing and his bed is unmade and he only has sheets and a blanket on it anyway. It had come with a bedspread, but he’d spilled coffee on it a couple of weeks ago while working through another sleepless night, and he thinks it’s possibly still wadded into the big hamper in his closet. Not a particularly sensual environment. Darcy leans over him and pushes the button for her own floor.

“Okay?” she asks softly.

“Yes,” he says, smiling, and grateful that he doesn’t have to defend his choice of wall art this early in a…are they going to be having a relationship? This early in an assignation anyway. He can just hear her making fun of his posters of Schrödinger’s Cat and the Enterprise and his picture of himself and Stephen Hawking at a conference. He is brought up short in his musings as they step into Darcy’s suite and he becomes aware that there’s a big poster of the Tardis on her living room wall. She sees him looking at it and narrows her eyes at him.

“Do NOT make fun of my posters,” she says, suspicion and defensiveness in her voice. He looks around. A panoramic view of Hogwarts covers the wall behind the sofa. What he *thinks* is a replica but might possibly an original Star Wars movie poster adorns the eating nook. A poster of a big black Impala with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles in tight jeans and nothing else draped over the hood can be seen near the front of the hall. He turns to her with a solemn look on his face.

“Which Doctor?” he asks with a shy smile. Her answering grin lights up her face and he feels something tighten in his throat.

“Ten,” she says immediately.

“Yeah? I’m a fan of Nine myself. I really liked Eckleston in the role. I mean, Tenant did an amazing job, but I kept seeing him as Barty Crouch Jr. and it kind of got in the way a little.”

“You’re not a Smith fan?” she asks, taking off her coat and tossing it over a chair.

“I like him,” says Bruce, “but not as much. I do have to admit Amy Pond was just about my favorite companion. Every time I think that though, I feel like I’m cheating on Rose.”

“I know, right?” she says, turning like she’s going to head into the kitchen. “I’m the same way. I like them both. Would you like a drink?”

“I’d like,” he says softly, wrapping his fingers gently around her elbow to stop her from walking away, “to kiss you again. May I?”

“Well,” she says, turning back to him and placing her hands on his chest. God, they’re warm. Hot almost, through the fabric of his clothing. She doesn’t hesitate at all. She lifts her face and smirks. “Since you asked so nicely.”

After about five blissful minutes during which he becomes staggeringly grateful to the gods of strawberry lip gloss, which she wears and is suddenly his favorite thing in the entire world, he becomes aware that her fingers are unbuttoning his (Tony’s) shirt. He takes her wrists gently and pushes her away from him, realization suddenly cooling his ardor. She looks confused and a little hurt.

“Darcy,” he says seriously, “Before anything…else…happens, we need to talk a little bit. Okay?”

“Okay,” she sighs, then glares severely at him. “But if you try to back out on me, Doc, I am putting salt in your tea at random intervals for the rest of your life!”

He laughs a little, and tows her over to the couch, where he pulls her down to sit beside him.

“You’d do it, too, I bet,” he says, grinning at her. “And I’m not…planning to back out. But Darcy…I haven’t done…I haven’t been intimate with a woman in a very long time. What happened last night was great, and it makes me willing to try, but the fact is that I’m just not…,” he snorts through his nose with laughter at what he’s about to say, “I’m just not as attracted to C-clint ….as I am to you.”

She snorts too, and he finds this really cute, and they laugh and he’s really glad it’s not awkward.

“What I mean is,” he continues at last, “I don’t actually find the man sexually attractive at all, and the reason I let it happen was because I wanted…” he looks at his hands, and then back up at her rapt face, dark hunger gleaming in his eyes, and decides to stop beating around the bush with his unprepossessing speech and mannerisms and just say what the fuck he means. “I wanted to come so bad I didn’t care who he was very much. His mouth was hot and wet and it felt so damned good after so many years that it didn’t really matter too much who he was, except so far as to say that I knew he was my friend and I could trust him.”

“God,” she whispers, “you are so not making it any less hot right now. Jesus, Bruce. I’d have given anything to see it.”

“To see me coming?” he asks, shocking himself with the brazenness of the question. “Because I really hope you’re going to, pretty soon.” Shit, he thinks. Fuck, I should stop, I’m making myself so hard I want to just throw her down and have at her like some kind of animal. She doesn’t help the feeling much, staring at him with her lush mouth parted, blue eyes going dark, moaning softly.

“Please,” she agrees eagerly.

“But before anything like that can happen, I really need you to listen to me. Okay?”

She nods.

“If I tell you to stop, then whatever’s happening, Darcy, you have to stop. Right then. No arguments. Okay?”

“Okay,” she says immediately and honestly. “Don’t worry, Bruce. I don’t want to get hurt any more than you want to hurt me. I know being with you brings new meaning to the word high risk sex, and I may be kind of a dingbat and a little hard-headed, but I’m not stupid.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I thought you were stupid,” he says solemnly, and means it. “And not only because I need you to be able to take the threat seriously. I just do not find stupid women attractive. I’m not the intellectual snob Tony is…”

“I don’t think Sheldon Cooper is the intellectual snob Tony is,” says Darcy, endearing herself to him more every Goddamn second he’s with her.

“Hm. Interesting debate right there. But probably for another time. I’m not as bad as Tony, but I’ll admit I’ve got kind of a low tolerance for stupidity. You’re far from stupid, Darcy, even if you’re not a scientist...”

“There are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” she murmurs, grinning a little. It startles a small laugh out of him, because even though he knows Darcy is bright, she does, as she puts it, act like a dingbat.

“I rest my case. Science isn’t everything, and stupid girls rarely quote Shakespeare, let alone correctly,” he says, and her grin gets bigger at the compliment. He gets back to the point, because having a calm conversation isn’t the most fun in the world with an erection making your pants feel like they’re cutting off your circulation. Interestingly, however, he doesn’t feel the Other Guy anywhere near the surface of his thoughts. He lets himself hope just a little bit that this means it actually has learned the difference in the adrenaline spike between arousal and danger. “And if I tell you to run, I do not care what is going on or what you are…or aren’t…wearing. You get up and you RUN out of here as fast as you can and you scream for Thor at the top of your lungs. You have to promise you will, Darcy, or I need to leave before I can’t anymore. And I really don’t want to leave, I can assure you!”

“Ugh, that’s a pretty hinky thought there Doc, screaming the house down while I’m running naked through the halls. But okay. I promise. Embarrassed is better than broken into tiny pieces. “

“I can’t promise you that I can do this, Darcy,” he says softly. “And if I can’t, I’m going to do my best to leave while I am still myself. If that happens, I won’t kiss you again. It’s too painful, to try…and…no. I won’t do that to both of us. I’ve tried sticking around even when I knew I shouldn’t, that it wasn’t going to work. It didn’t work, and it was so much more painful when it ended because every day I had allowed myself to care more and more. That’s not fair to you, and it isn’t fair to me either. I’ve sort of started to try not to keep acting like a martyr.”

“That’s…well, I can’t say I like it, but that’s fair, Bruce. You….um, you are still gonna try though?” she says, looking earnestly at him with her big shiny eyes that have recently become his favorite color. “Like soon? Tonight? Now?”

He doesn’t answer. He’s too busy scooting closer to her to slide his hands into her hair again, marveling at how soft it is despite the fact that it often looks a little like a dark colored mop that lost a fight with a curling iron, the likelihood of such an occurrence a lot more likely if somebody like Wanda Maximoff happened to be in the area (he’s pretty sure she isn’t, and hopes not), and leaning over to place his mouth on hers, kissing her again with a gentleness that changes pretty damn fast into hunger. She whimpers softly against his mouth when one of his hands disengages from her hair and slides softly down her throat, tugging the scarf free and dropping it on the floor.  His fingertips glide over her collarbone and down the expanse of skin not covered by her low-cut black sweater. The sweater is as soft as fur, and feels warm and feels fantastic against the palm of his hand. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that the palm of his hand is cupping her breast while his thumb brushes the place where her nipple rises up tightly peaked and standing out against the dark, woven fabric. She arches into his hand, scooting forward herself and climbing into his lap to straddle him. This hikes her short little skirt up almost to her hips. They both moan when the heat of their individual kinds of arousal come into contact, even through a pair of tights and his pants.

“Bruce,” she whines softly, sucking his bottom lip into her mouth and nipping at it. His fingers, which are now shaking a little, tug the neckline of the sweater down so that it is tucked under her really impressive breasts. She is wearing a black lacy bra that makes him wonder with fervent hope whether her panties match.  Her fingers tangle in his hair when he leans forward and laves the flat of his tongue over the dark pink point, closing his mouth over the nipple through the lace of the bra and sucking softly at first, then with increasing pressure as she tugs insistently at his hair. He never wants to take his mouth off her, and yet he’s desperate for the feel of just skin against his lips and tongue, so he reaches up blindly to drag the straps of her bra off her shoulders, then reaches behind her, searching for the clasp. Finding it, he fumbles with it for a minute, getting more and more frustrated. Can they have invented some new and even more fiendish method for fastening women’s bras since the last time he took one off of somebody? He growls a little in frustration and embarrassment. She tries not to, but it makes her giggle a little as she reaches back with one hand and does something with her fingers after she bats his away and he feels the annoying undergarment loosen under his tongue. He pulls back to draw it slowly off of her, looking away from the incredible sight of her naked breasts coming into view to attempt to glare severely at her. He thinks this might be a little more believable if he wasn’t grinning like a madman at her.

“People who talk about wanting to be spanked shouldn’t make fun of the person they’re hoping will do it for them,” he says recklessly, amazed at the words coming out of his own mouth, then dips his head again before she can reply and sucks her left nipple deeply into his mouth, his tongue pressing against its puckered hardness.

“Ohgod,” she moans, grasping him to her chest tightly, the moan turning even needier when he strokes the other nipple with his thumb and then closes thumb and index finger around it, pinching slowly and with increasing pressure until it’s enough to make her whine. “Ha…have I been good enough?” she gasps after he eases back off the pressure.

Bruce’s mind is spinning. He has no idea why he’s just said what he did. She certainly hasn’t mentioned it again tonight, and hasn’t actually even given him any reason to think it was anything but a joke earlier today when it had come up in the lab. He chalks it up to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any blood flow whatsoever to his brain. It is all throbbing insistently in his cock. He’s never spanked anybody before, what the hell is he thinking? This girl…this confounding, charming, sexy, sassy, incredible girl, makes him willing to do and say things he’d have bet his life he would never do or say. It really must be contagious, because he finds himself sitting up straight again to look sternly into her eyes.

“You’ve been more than good enough,” he says, his voice gruff with passion. “Are you sure it’s what you want?”

She squirms a little, which does nothing whatsoever to help his state of arousal, and looks down at their laps, her fair cheeks reddening with adorable embarrassment.

“I’ve been hearing about stuff like this from Jane for so long now,” she whispers. “And it turns me on like crazy. I’ve never…I mean, not since I was little and my dad or mom used to smack me with a wooden spoon when I was awful. I didn’t like THAT. Ugh, I’m not trying to be creepy. I just mean, I may not even like it, but it’s so HOT when Jane talks about doing it with Thor or  Tony talks about him and Pepper and when I get back here after days where one of them tell stories about it, I….” she looks back up, still bushing, but her eyes are defiant and demanding. “I touch myself, and I think about it. What it’d be like. With you. So yeah. I’m sure. That I want to try, anyway. Okay?”

“Okay,” he says gently, thinking she’s possibly the cutest girl who has ever existed in the entire history of the world. Well, at least if she’s never tried it before, she’s not as likely to be able to tell he doesn’t have the first clue what he’s doing. He scoots back so that he’s all the way against the back of the couch, then rearranges her (with her enthusiastic help) so that she’s lying over his thighs, her ass upraised. She’s trembling a little.

“If you’re scared,” he says softly, “we don’t have to do this. Not tonight, or ever if you don’t think you want to.”

“I’m nervous, not scared,” she says, her voice muffled by her arms as she hides her face. “I’m afraid I won’t like it, and I really want to!”

This is so completely the sort of thing Darcy would say that he has to bite his lip hard to keep from laughing. She seems a little bit prickly about this, so he’s dead certain laughing right now would be a bad idea, if he ever wants to get to do this again.

“Doctor Banner,” she quips, “is that a gun in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”

Of course his erection is now poking her in the belly, where OF COURSE she’s going to notice it. He brings the palm of his hand down sharply onto the seat of her little black skirt.

“I am very,” slap, “very,” slap, “VERY glad to see you,” he says gruffly. She squirms, which makes his happiness even happier to see her. Because he’s not putting much force behind the smacks, he’s pretty sure she can barely feel them through at least two and likely three layers of fabric. Holding his breath, he slowly tugs her skit up over the curve of her bottom, which is so round and pert and perfect that it makes his mouth water. He spanks her again, still gently, over the seat of her interesting Van Gogh tights. She gasps. He stops.

“Okay?” he asks softly, rubbing slow circles on her bottom and concentrating really hard on HER and not what’s going on in his pants.

“Ohhh my God,” she whispers. “Very okay. A little harder?”

As he snaps the palm of his hand down with a little more force, Bruce is seized by a powerful sense of unreality. He has gone, inside the space of twenty four hours, from being as celibate as a monk to holding a wriggling, hot little girl over his lap while he gives her a spanking that nobody in their right mind could look at as anything but foreplay. Sometimes his life since joining the Avengers gets very surreal. He slaps her ass about a dozen times, being careful not to put much force behind it, snapping his wrist a little at the end so that (he hopes) the slaps only sting a little and don’t feel like he’s bludgeoning her. He recalls that in a really shockingly inappropriate conversation for the setting, Clint and Tony had discussed various implements and their pros and cons plus what they each felt like over dinner while everybody else listened with expressions ranging from indulgence (Phil and Pepper) to mild interest (himself) to fascination (Darcy and Jane) to amusement (Natasha and Thor) to incredulous embarrassment (poor Steve). They  had both agreed that a hand spanking could be awesome if it was done right, but that if the person had any upper body strength at all, a hand was actually a lot heavier than a paddle. There had been something about the difference between thud and sting in reference to ways of being spanked, and he doesn’t remember if it was Clint or Tony who had demonstrated how to snap your wrist on the down stroke by slapping themselves on the forearm. Darcy doesn’t seem to be objecting too strenuously to what he’s doing, so maybe he’s not fucking it up too much.

“Bruce,” she gasps, “Bruce, Bruce. Bruce…hngh…”

“What’s wrong?” he asks, concerned, because her voice is strained.

“Ungh,” she groans in frustration. “Nothing. No…not nothing. Bruce…please!”

“Please what?” he asks, confused. Is she begging him to stop? She doesn’t need to do that, she can just say stop and he’s going to.

“I need more,” she pants, grinding her hips against his cock hard enough to make him grind his teeth to keep from losing control. He huffs out a soft laugh.

“Don’t fucking laugh at me,” she hisses. He raises his eyebrows. He’s pretty sure he can get into this. It’s kind of working for him.

“I think,” he says mildly, hooking his thumbs under the elastic waistband of her tights, “that a girl in your position should probably watch her mouth.” He pulls her tights and panties down to her thighs with one firm tug (yep, black lace like the bra…maybe he’ll get a chance to see what they actually look like ON her some other time). It’s hard to mourn the loss of the panties when he’s now looking down at her naked bottom, which is firm and curvy and amazing and just the littlest bit pink from the careful spanking he’s already given her. This time she gasps for real when his hand comes down, and the slap of skin on skin is sharper than over clothing.

“Ohh,” she whispers, lifting her ass just a little, I will, I promise. Please, Bruce. It’s…God…just don’t stop yet!”

“I won’t,” he promises, and spanks her again. And again. And again and again, over and over, peppering every inch of creamy skin with carefully controlled, stinging slaps. In concentrating hard on not hurting her more than she wants him to and not hitting her too high while still spacing out the pattern of his blows and on how she is reacting, he manages to put his own arousal on the back burner while at the same time finding this to be probably the hottest thing he’s ever done. He knows he’s going to be thinking about it every time he closes his eyes for something like the next fifty years, but doing this for her, giving her what she wants, turns his desire into a slow simmer. He’s absurdly pleased to be giving her something she obviously has wanted for quite some time now. And it’s surprisingly FUN too.

Darcy whimpers and squirms and lifts her backside to meet his palm, and he notices that her thighs are grinding together rhythmically and constantly after about the first two minutes.

“I think it looks like somebody’s enjoying this,” he says softly. Darcy moans again.

“Jesus fuck, Bruce,” she pants.

“If I put my hand between your legs, how wet would you be?” he wonders out loud. Darcy’s legs stop rubbing together and she opens them as far as she can with her tights and underwear constricting her movement. He leans over and pushes them down a little farther, to her knees, which is all he can reach with her draped over his lap. The hand that does so then skims softly up the back of her right leg, inching slowly closer to her cleft, while she makes anxious, eager sounds in her throat and rocks against his leg. His mouth’s dry and his palms are sweating at the enormity of what he’s doing, holding a half-naked woman this close, this vulnerable to him, and that he’s about to touch her between her legs, the first time he’s felt the warm wetness of a woman’s body in forever. His heart feels like it will pound its way out of his chest. No, he’s not going to think about that, not now when he can already feel the heat from her pussy even though he’s still inches away from it. His fingertips brush coarse, fuzzy curls and he sighs. She sucks in her breath and then cries out when he slides a finger between the plump lips of her pussy, finding her as hot and wet as a New Orleans summer. She’s so wet she almost squishes when he drags his fingertip up her sweet little pussy and over the swollen nub of her clit. He moans softly, rubbing his finger back and forth slowly over the small hard button. It feels so damn good. She sobs out his name and grinds herself against his hand. The strain and need in her voice are perfectly clear. He slowly pushes two fingers inside her and his eyes roll back in his head a little as they are enveloped in tight, hot, velvety wetness. She is snug and quivering and so warm wrapped around his fingers. He crooks them a little and presses in harder. Her gasps and cries grow louder. With his other hand, though it is an awkward angle, he spanks her a few more times.

“BRUCE,” she cries, shuddering, a noticeable tremble in her soft thighs as she struggles to open them further, to invite more of his attentions to places she obviously really likes him touching her. He’s breathing harder now, finger fucking her sweet pussy harder.

Harder,” she sobs, not in pain, but in frantic need. “Oh God, oh fuck…Bruce, I need…hahh…I need…oh please, please harder!”

So he does, roughly powering his fingers inside her, giving a twist and a quick crook of his fingertips over a spot he finds that makes her cries take on an even more frantic tone. His pulse, the beat of the blood of it, seems to ring in his ears. He senses the stir of it in his mind, like the drowsy attention of something carnivorous which is probably not hungry and was definitely enjoying a long nap but which will still certainly eat you if you keep making that kind of racket.

NO, he thinks furiously. This isn’t for you! This is mine, you bastard. No danger. No bad guys. Nothing. Stay the fuck back, I don’t need you. Don’t want you. Don’t…You can’t ruin this. Don’t take this from me. Please!

He feels tears of panic and frustration prick at his eyes even as he turns his hand a little so that he can use his thumb to rub over her clit every time he sinks his fingers inside her, and when he feels the inner walls of her pussy grip him tighter, he stops moving his fingers in and out, put presses them deep and hard, stroking and quirking and beckoning with them inside her while his thumb brushes back and forth across her small clit and her voice raises in pitch and volume. The big guy is behind his eyes, it seems, staring out at what is going on, and seeing who is screaming as though in pain, and wondering why Bruce’s heart is beating like a trip hammer. It seems to scent the air curiously, like a big cat will do, seeking prey or rival. Or mate.

We can’t hurt her, he thinks viciously. Go. Back. To sleep! We can’t hurt her! If you ever harm a hair on her head I will find a way to kill you if it takes the rest of my life! Go. AWAY!

Darcy suddenly stiffens in his lap and he feels a small ripple of the muscles inside her body, and she screams his name. Her pussy clenches his fingers. He catches his breath in wonder and gets a sense of the Other Guy’s confusion. It doesn’t know what to make of this, and then, with a sort of a feeling like a mental shrug, he feels it subside. Weak with relief, he gentles the strokes of his thumb as Darcy shakes and gasps and whimpers her way through an orgasm that seems to go on forever and not nearly long enough because it feels incredible. He could sit here all night and feel her coming in his hand. Giving her this pleasure is one of the nicest things he has ever done, and is definitely near the top of the list over the last seven years. He’s shaken by the closeness of the monster inside him, but the fact that he was able to reach a level of semi-communication with it also fascinated him.

Thinking hard, he helps Darcy of his lap. She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him deeply. His lips curve into a smile as he returns the kiss.

“Oh my god,” she whispers, “that was AMAZING.”

“I’m glad,” he whispers back, smiling at her.

She kicks her tights and panties the rest of the way off. Her skirt has fallen back down to cover her for the most part, when she sat up. She leans in to kiss him again, grinning wickedly.

“Your turn,” she purrs, hands reaching for his belt buckle. Gently, he grabs them and holds her back, smiling softly at her.

“Not this time,” he says, still smiling, and places her hands in her lap.

“What are you talking about?” she asks in confusion.

“I’m in no rush,” he replies, and realizes that for now anyway, this is true. He has some things to think about, and feels that there are further precautions he’s going to need to figure out how to take, before he is willing to risk having sex with this little spitfire of a girl. Darcy excites and tantalizes him like no one ever has, and he has no desire to spoil it. It’s not easy to make her understand this, but when he reveals that the monster had taken some notice of the goings-on, she quits arguing with him and walks him to the door.

“I had a very good time tonight,” he says sincerely.

“Not as good as you should have,” she sighs.

“I’m not worried about that,” he replies, a little surprised due to the fact that he’s still hard as a rock, to realize that he means it. “Do you want to go out with me again? Because I’d like that very much.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I had a really good time too, and not just the coming so hard I nearly passed out. I liked all of it. Dinner was really cool. And I…” she ducks her head and blushes.

“And you liked me spanking you,” he supplies. She nods, peeking up at him a little shyly.

“Yeah, I liked it a lot. I want you to do it again. And I want you to come too, Bruce.”

“Maybe next time,” he says with a smile, and pulls her gently closer to kiss her goodnight.

She’s pouting a little, but her kiss is honest and generous and eager, and he’s pretty sure there’s going to be a next time.

Safely back in his own rooms, Bruce sheds Tony’s clothes and lies down on his bed, one arm behind his head, the other sliding down his belly to slip under the waistband of his boxers. His eyes close as his hand pulls his cock slowly out of the confines of his underwear. His fist glides slowly from root to tip of his erection, thumb sliding over the tip. He bites his lip and uses the slippery mess of precome coating the head of his cock as lubrication so that his hand can slide easily over the aching hardness. God, he hasn’t done this in ages. It makes him feel almost like a kid again. He groans, his lips silently mouthing her name, thinking about what it felt like to warm her tasty little backside with his hand, and about what it had felt like inside her soaking wet, sweet pussy when she had come apart for him how her voice had sounded screaming his name, and it takes him less than a minute to come, shooting ropy strands of sticky come over his fingers and his belly, laughing a little helplessly that one silly girl can reduce him to this, jerking himself off like a clumsy adolescent with a crush. At least, he thinks with satisfaction, with this crush he’s pretty sure the feeling’s mutual. He can hardly wait to see her again.

Chapter Text

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