Of Rocky Beaches and Painted Dreams
“And Hulk, . . . Smash!”
Those three words - plus a raised finger for emphasis - start it all.
Hulk does not take it as an order. To him, it’s more of a - ‘go ahead big guy; they’re all yours’ - kind of encouragement. And Hulk is glad to comply. Happy to go on a rampage like some wild animal let out of his cage, set free to go rampant into the wild.
Looks a lot like it, too.
So when all is said and done and the puny god’s been put in his place, Hulk follows the guy in red, white and blue around. He watches as Cap picks up some debris to clear some roads and walkways. Before he can say “Hulk, Lift!”, Hulk’s already there lifting the giant slab of concrete and throwing it aside. Saying, “Done!” with a smug snort.
Steve is surprised when Hulk stays around for the rest of cleanup duty. He looks around him, not sure what to make of it. Judging from the looks on the rest of the Avengers’ faces, not to mention the skittish behavior of some of the SHIELD agents, they don’t know what to make of it either.
For once, the big guy isn’t on a rampage. Except, towards the end of clean up, when he starts getting antsy.
So Steve finds a deserted alleyway and lets Hulk stomp around the dumpster in there while Steve stays out of the way but close enough to keep an eye on the restless creature.
He’s separating alien body parts from other wreckage, piling them methodically because SHIELD has clear instructions about collecting anything the alien species has left behind. It’s half an hour into his segregating when he notices the lack of rampaging background noises. For a moment he panics, afraid that the Hulk might be off somewhere wreaking havoc, but when he looks back Hulk’s still there. Though he’s no longer stomping around in the garbage. Instead he’s slumped on the ground, leaning against one of the dumpsters, intently watching Steve pile the alien wreckage neatly.
Cap looks at his wreckage pile; segregated into Chitauri body parts, alien centipede parts and man-made (mostly car) parts. All neatly in place.
People (SHIELD head doctors) in this era call it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The way Steve sees it, it’s just being deliberately careful. That, or Steve has accidentally found an outlet to express part of his artistic side, as he is alarmed to find one of the piles looks like a replica of the Statue of Liberty. He’s about to knock it over when he hears the Hulk growl in warning, as if he knows what Steve is planning to do.
Steve carefully steps away from that pile and concentrates on a different one. The Hulk’s relatively calm, and Steve has a feeling that they’ll get Doctor Banner back soon if he can just keep the big guy calm enough. So he goes back to work stacking wreckage again, finding it more taxing this time because he’s trying to make sure one of the piles don’t end up looking like the Chrysler Building.
It’s another half hour of making sure that the segregated wreckage remains looking like….well wreckage, when he feels slight movement from behind. He turns slowly to find Doctor Banner shuffling out of the alleyway and into the open. Steve gives him a fleeting smile and tosses him a pair of pants a SHIELD agent gave him not so long ago for when Bruce came back to being Bruce.
The Doctor gives a silent nod of thanks as he puts them on. Steve turns around to allow him some privacy and wonders to himself why he’s been missing the other guy’s presence more. It’s not that he’s not glad the Doctor is back. But the feeling of having the Hulk behind him and knowing he’s watching Steve raptly while he works has been comforting for the past hour or so.
“So how did the other guy fare?” Bruce cuts into his thoughts and Steve turns, watching as the Doctor looks around to survey the damage.
“He did good.” Steve says with a sincere smile. “In fact, I miss him already.” He adds, only half-jokingly.
Bruce laughs. “Really?” He asks, feigning disbelief.
“Yeah.” Steve answers and adds a playful, long-suffering huff. “He was supposed to carry these to the trucks for me.” He says, indicating his piles of segregated wreckage.
Bruce laughs again. “I do know how to operate a crane.” The Doctor replies with a snigger as he points to a crane parked in one of the construction sites.
“Well, if that’s the case.” Steve says, sniggering back. “Glad to have you back, Doctor Banner. Now, chop-chop.”
So, Steve ends up being called the Hulk Whisperer. It’s Tony that gives him the moniker, Steve’s around ninety-percent sure of that. But when he sees a SHIELD file in Fury’s office with the same name, he just doesn’t know what to think anymore.
So every time the Hulk is loose. The basic response is usually, “Call the Captain!”
It doesn’t happen often.
The only time it had been serious was that one time when Bruce ‘Hulked’ out at the Avengers Mansion while Steve was out on a SHIELD authorized mission. It got bad enough that Thor had to fly to Norway to pick him up because Tony had been afraid he couldn’t contain the Hulk in the building anymore. Steve arrived just in time to intercept Hulk by the sidewalk when the big guy dropped from the topmost floor of the Mansion, raining broken glass into the street below. It took Steve less than fifteen minutes to calm the brute down. He even had time to go back to Norway to finish his mission.
Today, it’s different though. Hulk’s extra angry. Maybe it’s because they are facing the Abomination this time. And if that wasn’t bad enough to set Bruce and the Hulk off, it was General Ross that had set the villainous creature loose in the city of New York, along with a battalion of army men in his arsenal.
Fury is yelling in Steve’s ear, ordering him to control the Hulk. It is Ross’ intention to provoke the Hulk into destroying the city. To prove to the world how unstable not only Bruce Banner is, but also, the rest of the Avengers as well. It’s a plot to disband them because apparently, the General isn’t done with his never-ending obsession with the Hulk. Plus with Steve alive and kicking, it fuels his obsession with the super soldier serum as well.
Once Banner and Rogers are out of SHIELD’s protection, he’s free to claim them both. Banner as a threat to national security, and Steve as a military officer, gone AWOL for the last seventy years.
It’s seeing Captain America getting pinned down by over a dozen uniformed men that sends the Hulk into a frenzy. Steve watches in horror as the big guy barrels towards the men holding him down. The problem is Steve’s standing in the middle of it all. He braces himself for impact and stares in awe as the wall of uniformed men surrounding him went flying. The impact he’s expecting never comes because Hulk suddenly has him held protectively against his body even as he continues bowling over the poor men.
“Strike!” He hears Tony yell with laughter as he zooms overhead.
Clint’s cackling with glee in his comm, but it’s Fury’s frantic, ‘get the Hulk away from there’ that sets Steve in motion. He gets a fleeting idea, not sure if it’ll work but Steve’s desperate enough to try. He wriggles out of the Hulk’s grip, making the Hulk huff in exasperation. Turns out it’s a bad idea to slink away when the Hulk’s in the middle of trying to protect you.
Hulk tries to grab for him again and Steve dodges the attempts, the frustration and confusion evident on Hulk’s face. So, Steve purposely provokes him further when he turns around and starts running.
It’s the tremors on the ground and the crunching sound of gravel behind him that gives the indication that his plan is working. The Hulk is bounding behind him, trying to catch him. He knows Hulk is more than frustrated by now. In fact he’s fuming mad and all that anger is quite possibly directed at Steve.
Steve doesn’t stop to look around; he knows in which part of New York he is. It’s Brooklyn. Why is it always Brooklyn? And if he can last a few more miles of running south, he’ll be able to steer the Hulk away from the more populated areas of the city and most importantly, away from the clutches of General Ross.
Steve heads for the beach, as it’s deserted this time of year. With it nearing winter, the only ones crazy enough to go swimming in this weather are either suicidal, drunk, or both. Still, he runs across the sands and heads for a more secluded area. The Hulk’s still bounding behind him, heavy footsteps now muffled by the soft sand.
Steve finally slows down as they reach the rocky part of the beach. Turning slowly, he lifts both hands in surrender in the hopes of placating the deadly beast barging towards him.
“Hulk.” He says, panting. And seconds before Steve is sure he’s going to get pummeled by a two-ton wrecking ball of green muscle, the Hulk abruptly stops. Mere feet from where Steve is standing.
It takes awhile for the Hulk to survey his surroundings. Steve flinches as the big guy roars in anger at what Steve has done. Hulk has realized it’s all been a trick. That Steve has lured him away from the people he wanted to put a lot of hurt on.
“Bad Cap!” Hulk roars in anger, driving both fists down into the sand. Steve flinches some more, waiting for the hit to come. But it doesn’t. Instead, he ends up watching the Hulk pummel the sand beneath them with angry fists and bodily slamming the rocks around them with unrivaled strength so that some of them breaks into larger pieces.
“I’m sorry, Hulk. I had to.” He yells over the roars and watches in fascination as the Hulk picks a large piece of broken rock and hurls it into the ocean.
The Hulk gives an angry grunt in reply, purposely perching on top of the highest rock on the shore. He proceeds to unnerve Steve to the core when he just sits on his haunches and stares at Steve for the longest time. Steve shudders, the hair on his arms standing on end as the Hulk continues to stare accusingly.
“They were going to try and take us away.” Is all the explanation Steve can offer him.
The Hulk growls in response, glare still in place. Steve fidgets at the attention, unsure of what to do from this point. He slumps down onto the sand. He’s tired. The adrenaline’s easing down and he belatedly realizes he's just run for miles. The fear is subsiding too, and only then does he notice. He’s scared. Lesser now but the feeling is still there.
Not of the Hulk. Never of the Hulk.
The Hulk is his friend. They may not interact outside of battle but nothing says friendship more than a teammate watching your back, or taking missile hits for you, does it?
It’s the thought of that being taken away that has him scared.
Steve sighs and avoids the big guy staring intently at him, afraid to make eye contact. He is squatting on the sand, contemplating on what to say and how to say it. The waves make contact against his uniform and he doesn’t care that he is getting wet. A small twig washes ashore and he grabs it before it’s swept back into the vast ocean. He traces the sand with it, carving out shapes and lines against the makeshift canvas.
If he listens intently there’s a chorus of explosions up north, the fight still goes on without them. It startles Steve how easy it had been to turn away from it. For someone who's never had trouble backing down from fights it had been easy to run away from this one. He knows he should go back, help Tony and the rest bring down Blonsky and Ross but if he does, it means leaving Hulk behind or having him follow Steve back to danger. And with the Hulk, the latter is probably the most likely scenario.
He heaves a big sigh and finally looks up, eyes pleading. “I’m really sorry, Hulk. I had to.” He says again. This time he finds himself staring back at a much calmer green giant. Hulk’s still on his perch, eyes still glued on Steve but he has calmed down considerably.
He gets a snarl in response but it lacks the rage. The big guy is staring at him, has been watching him draw shapes and lines in the sand. Steve realizes they’ve been there for quite some time. The faraway explosions have stopped, the crashing of the waves around them sounding much clearer. Steve finds himself away from the water. At some point, he has moved farther from the waves. He finds himself surrounded by drawings. Drawings he has carved into the sand. They’re mostly shapes and loops and lines - messy but not chaotic. It’s abstract art at its finest. And it seems he has garnered a fan.
Hulk’s rapt attention is on him. Steve tries to stand abruptly to stop what he has apparently been doing for the last hour or so but he hears a low growl when the edge of his shield grazes one of the swirly loops and smears it. The calmness around the Hulk dissipates and Steve has to make a show of tiptoeing over his sand doodles to get him to calm down again. He redraws the marred drawing and continues drawing some more when he notices Hulk settle down again.
It’s another half hour when Steve looks up from his drawings, admitting to himself that he only stopped because he ran out of sand space in their small rocky beach. He turns back to check on the Hulk but finds Doctor Banner in place of him instead, still perched on the rock but slumped, fast asleep atop it. Steve sighs, tired but relieved. He reaches for his comm and contacts Fury.
It’s time to go home.
Hulk goes missing one day and Steve finds him at that rocky beach again. Throwing rocks and pounding sand. He doesn’t know what set Doctor Banner off to bring the other guy out this time.
Steve only joins the search party three hours after Hulk is declared missing. He had just gotten back from a stint in Asia and returned States side to find the helicarrier in chaos. He’s barely out of his uniform when Coulson approaches him in the locker room with the news.
Turns out, Hulk had jumped off the helicarrier. And the world’s greatest clandestine organization can track a Doctor Banner all the way to India but can’t find a Hulk in their own backyard.
There are no reports of Hulk sightings from the feeds, which tells Steve the big guy isn’t on the move.
He picks up his backpack, making sure it has extra clothes for Dr. Banner, and leaves. The hope for rest after a weeklong mission is dashed in favor of finding a missing comrade. Coulson tells him the Hulk landed in the water and Steve’s first thought is the beach.
The rocky beach that turns out to be isolated even after wintertime.
He watches the Hulk rampage for another few minutes then clears his throat. The Hulk stops to look at him, a sneer in place. There’s a tree trunk in one of his huge, meaty hands, uprooted and almost leafless from being dragged along the sandy beach floor.
Hulk gazes at him and moves to snap off one of the smaller branches. He looks at Steve and tries to hand him the branch with an impatient grunt.
“I’m too tired to draw sand pictures with a tree branch, Hulk.” Steve says with a sigh, knowing full well what Hulk wants him to do.
Hulk frowns at him and pushes the branch at him some more. “Draw.” Hulk barks, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Steve sighs again. “Tell you what.” He says as he swings his backpack to his front to open it. “I have my sketchbook here.” He goes on, brandishing said sketchbook out. “I will draw here with a pencil and not on the sand with a tree branch.” He says firmly, as if giving him an ultimatum.
Hulk just shrugs and moves to take his perch up on his rock, dropping the uprooted tree and branch along the way. Steve simply squats on the sand right beneath the huge rock and opens his sketchbook. He has an unfinished landscape of the city that he has been meaning to complete soon as he got back.
“New one.” Says Hulk from his perch above Steve.
Steve just shakes his head and turns to a new page. Guess the unfinished drawing will remain unfinished. He thinks to himself.
“Draw beach.” Hulk demands.
“I’ll draw what I like, thank you very much.” Steve tells him, slightly irritated. Still, he finds himself drawing the scene in front of him. Much to his chagrin.
For the next half hour, everything is silent save for the scratches of a pencil vigorously attacking paper. Steve feels himself relax and judging from the now less angry snuffs from his perch above Steve, Hulk is slowly calming down too. Steve’s used to this by now, any minute an unconscious Doctor Banner will be back.
He startles though when he feels a large hand wrap around his waist. Steve gives an audible gasp of surprise when Hulk picks him up like a rag doll. He finds himself atop Hulk’s rock. Steve looks up at him, confused and irked.
“Can’t see drawing.” Hulk tells him nonchalantly, as if justifying the manhandling. The Hulk’s hand is still wrapped across his stomach and Steve’s hand is gripping it tightly, still afraid that he might fall. Hulk settles down and leans Steve against him, his arm loosening slightly but remaining wrapped around Steve from behind. Steve sighs in defeat and leans back against Hulk’s side. He draws his knees up to rest the now slightly crumpled sketchbook across his lap.
He continues to sketch for another fifteen minutes, aware that the Hulk is watching him do his art from behind him. It’s comforting for no apparent reason, having someone hold him while he draws. It feels a lot more intimate too, if he looks into it deeply. But the Hulk’s big hand splayed across his tummy is a reassuring weight. Safe.
A half hour later, his eyes droop in exhaustion. The weeks of prowling around the Asian jungles are taking its toll. He tries desperately to stay awake, just a few more strokes of the pencil to get the shadows right. But he slowly succumbs to the pull of sleep.
By the time the Hulk settles him across a big, broad chest into a much more comfortable position, Steve’s too out of it to even remember the uncharacteristic display of gentleness from his big guy.
It becomes Steve and Hulk’s rocky beach after that.
It is Steve’s turn to go missing this time after a particularly bad mission. In turn, Hulk finds him there. Steve’s not rampaging like the green giant usually does but he’s sulking all the same.
Hulk hurls a rolled sketchbook at him and it’s only thanks to Steve’s reflexes that he catches it. Though the box of colored pens that follow it, hits him square on the forehead. Before he can even voice a protest, Hulk has him thrown over a shoulder and is bounding them up their huge rock.
“I’m not in the mood to draw, Hulk.” Steve yells petulantly at Hulk’s back. Hulk straightens him up holding him under the arms and glares at him with a snort. He sits them down and settles Steve on his lap, facing each other. Steve stares up at him in bewilderment.
“Draw.” The big guy commands and takes the sketchbook from Steve to unroll it across the broad expanse of his green chest. He reclines slightly to rest his back against the solid rock behind him and pulls Steve forward against his waist.
Steve ends up straddling Hulk’s waist, adjusting impossibly long legs to fit around the huge trunk of a torso. Heaving a sigh of defeat, he opens the sketchbook in front of him and starts drawing. Steve doesn’t know where Hulk found a sketchbook and colored pens but considering that it was a high school that almost got blown up awhile ago, Hulk probably plucked them from there.
Hulk has to tilt his chin down to watch him draw, but no matter what position they find themselves in, Steve feels rather than senses them both calming down as they let the strokes of the colored pens bring them peace.
Hulk’s hand is laid across his back and Steve finds himself resting back against a huge palm a few times while drawing. There’s another hand on his thigh that’s almost lazily rubbing circles around it.
“This is weird.” Steve says as much, squirming a bit as the palm on his back slips under his uniform and touches the skin underneath it.
“Hulk want this.” Steve gasps at the response and whimpers as the hand on his back tries to slip under the waistband of his pants. His breathing turns ragged and he’s not ashamed to admit that he may want this too. “Can Hulk have this?” Steve is surprised at the question.
Is Hulk asking for permission?
“And if I say no?” Steve asks, defiant for defiance’s sake. He doesn’t know if he can say no but part of him wants confirmation that Hulk won’t push him into this.
“Hulk won’t force.” The big guy replies with an almost offended growl. Steve feels rather than sees the rage and feels guilty. Hasn’t the Hulk proven himself enough to Steve? Of the many times Hulk has rampaged and wrecked, he has never laid a hard hand on Steve. Hulk has even protected him on more than one occasion. No, Hulk won’t force him.
Before Steve can apologize, Hulk says again “Hulk won’t force. Hulk love Steve.” The admission floors Steve. Hulk never holds back his punches and has always been brutal on the battleground, but who would have thought he could be just as brutally honest?
Steve smiles wide, endeared. “You don’t say that to people willy-nilly, Hulk.” He says, moving closer so that they’re pressed almost chest to chest. Hulk hitches him up even closer and kisses Steve on the cheek. Then the neck.
Steve curses at the sensation; he never knew how good it could feel. Hulk’s huge lips are sucking on the hollow point between his ear and jaw; he never knew that part of his anatomy was that sensitive either. He’s making breathless noises he’ll never admit to making and his arms reach up to wrap around Hulk’s neck, fingers grasping silky hair for purchase.
There’s a crackle of static in his ear as the comm still embedded in there comes to life. Fury’s very unwelcomed voice sounds off, calling them for coordinates. There are still debriefings and post mission duties to attend to.
Steve groans in frustration, hesitantly pulling back from the sweet kisses Hulk is planting along his throat. He gives Fury their coordinates and pulls back fully.
“I don’t think we can do this here, Hulk.” Steve rasps. He’s incredibly turned on but he knows very well that secluded as it seems, their rocky beach isn’t entirely remote. Knowing SHIELD, there is no such thing as remote. “I’ll find us some place more private, I promise.” He says when Hulk holds him tighter against him, unwilling to relinquish his hold on the super soldier.
Steve gives him a determined look. He wants this, too. Come hell or high water, he’ll find a way to make this work. He plants a soft kiss against Hulk’s lips and disentangles himself slowly from the other guy. They hear the distinct sound of propellers as their ride arrives. Hulk lets him go then, giving him a final squeeze that feels a lot like anticipation.
The problem with having the Hulk for a “boyfriend” though, is that Steve can’t actually schedule dates. Or see him on a regular basis. It’s been two weeks since that day on the beach. Two weeks since he’s last seen the Hulk. Their relationship is getting complicated and it’s barely even started. Still, Steve is determined to make it work. Even if there’s about a hundred complications that come with this budding romance.
One of his biggest problems is the fact that no one knows about him and the Hulk. Not even Dr. Banner himself. The man never remembers his time as a jolly green giant. So how is Steve going to get Hulk alone when his other half has no idea about him and the other guy? It’s not as if Steve can go provoking Dr. Banner just so he’ll unleash the Hulk. That would be highly unethical.
So that is Steve’s dilemma.
To top it all off, he gets sent on another mission in the Alps. Another two weeks of nothing but snow and ice and the occasional gunfire directed at him adds up to a month of not seeing the Hulk. Steve imagines their rocky beach on the nights the Alpine cold seeps into him. He longs to be there.
At last he arrives back at the Avengers Mansion, exhausted and a bit sore, but still happy to be home. He heads straight for his room, wanting nothing more than to curl up in his bed and sleep.
He’s fresh out of the shower and in his sleepwear when he feels the ground shake. Before he knows it, his door bursts open and the Hulk bounds in. The reinforced door bounces against the wall and slams shut. Steve’s thankful for Tony’s ingenuity in building the mansion sturdy enough to handle an excited Hulk. Because that’s what the Hulk is right now. Excited. Steve can detect a smile just beneath that snarl.
There are no words. Hulk approaches - slow and deliberate. Steve holds his ground, watching the Hulk stalk towards him with a small smile of his own. He missed his big guy. Huge, steady arms carefully lift him. His body is only off the ground long enough for the Hulk to lay him gently on the carpeted floor.
That night, Steve allows the Hulk to take him.
Right then and there.
So it turns out Steve had been fretting over nothing. Hulk had found a way to be with him in the privacy of the Avengers Mansion. It helps that he and Bruce are housed on the same side of the Mansion and have the whole wing to themselves. Whatever reason Tony had to arrange it that way, Steve is glad about it. Also, since the Norway incident, no one really cares if Banner ‘Hulks out’ as long as Steve’s around. Everyone has left it to Steve to keep the Hulk company when he emerges. Even Jarvis doesn’t sound an alarm anymore.
And keep Hulk company, Steve does.
Sex with the Hulk isn’t like anything Steve has ever known. It has been thrilling and alluring all at the same time. For all intents and purposes, Hulk seems to know what he’s doing. Knows when he gets too rough. Knows where to find all the right spots that make Steve’s body sing and soar.
Steve doesn’t know how the Hulk does it, but it seems as if he has an internal radar set on Steve that tells him when Steve will arrive from a mission before anyone else in the mansion does.
It surprised Tony one day while he was working with Bruce on a project in his lab. One moment he was helping Bruce analyze data and the next, Bruce had turned into the jolly green giant and was dashing out of the lab post-haste without preamble. Tony was so shocked at the sudden transformation he barely had time to react. Hulk didn’t even leave behind a path of destruction. Even used the stairs to go up to the rooms instead of scaling the side of the building or smashing through the walls to get to his destination.
In the end, Tony caught up with the Hulk in time to see him give a fresh off a mission Captain America a huge hug. Steve was covered in mud, looking tired and ragged but was laughing nonetheless when the Hulk bodily carried him in the tight hug. Tony welcomed him back and Steve only had enough time to give a ‘thanks’ and a wave in reply before he was being dragged up to his room.
Tony just shook his head and chuckled at the display. There was no reason for alarm. Steve had it all under control.
If only Tony knew.
For the next several weeks, Steve tries not to look a gift horse in the mouth. This thing with the Hulk has been going really well. The long list of issues has lessened considerably. Of course, there’s still the issue of no one else knowing about the fact that he lets the Hulk bang his brains out at least every other night when he’s home.
Not even Doctor Banner himself.
As always, the Hulk transforms back into an unconscious Bruce Banner. They usually end up having sex in Doctor Banner’s room so Steve doesn’t have to worry about Bruce waking up in a different bed. Though he can’t help feeling guilty about having sex with the Hulk in there. But as the Hulk claims it to be his room too, Steve doesn’t really have the heart to defy the logic of it. He just makes sure he cleans up and leaves way before Bruce awakens.
On the various occasions they don’t make it to Doctor Banner’s room, Steve makes sure to wait until Hulk reverts to an unconscious Bruce and carry him back to his room.
Those are the times he feels guilty the most.
Still, he goes on not looking a gift horse in the mouth, while inadvertently waiting for the proverbial shit to hit the fan.
It’s ten weeks into his relationship with the Hulk when he arrives back from another weeklong mission. The ground doesn’t shake but there’s someone bounding up the stairs. The door to his room slams open once again and he turns to see a red-faced Doctor Bruce Banner this time, narrowed hazel eyes staring him in the eye and a finger pointing up and down the length of Steve’s body, as he states.
“I want in on this.”
And there it is.