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Who Would Have Guessed?

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          Tony woke up to a monstrous roar. To say he was a bit surprised would be an understatement.

          “Gah! What the hell?! What just happened? Please tell me nobody kissed me.” Turns out the Hulk had saved him from plunging to his death. Huh! The Hulk liked him. Who knew? He could maybe understand Bruce liking him (if he squinted and turned his head just the right way), but Bruce’s smashing Mr. Hyde persona? After all, in retrospect, Tony probably hadn’t made what most people would call a best first-impression.

          Finally,” Tony exclaimed, exasperated with everyone else’s apparent lack of understanding of his scientific talk, “someone who speaks English. It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on antielectron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage-monster.”

          “Thanks,” the doctor replied hesitantly, and with just a touch of sarcasm over the last remark. Most people tended to skirt around the topic of his monstrous alter-ego, so he wasn’t quite sure how to take the billionaire’s playful “compliment.”

          Zapping Banner when they’d been working in the Helicarrier probably hadn’t been the best idea either.

          “You know,” Tony said conversationally, “you should come by Stark Tower sometime. Top ten floors, all R&D. You’d love it. It’s Candy Land.”

          “Thanks,” Bruce replied meekly, “but the last time I was in New York, I- kind of, broke, Harlem.”

          “Well,” Tony pressed on, determined to get the shy scientist to come out of his shell, “I promise a stress-free environment. No tension, no surprises.”

          ZAP!!!

           “OW!”

          As he’d been walking behind Banner, Tony had taken a small electric prod in his hand and given the good doctor a small “zap”, hoping to get a reaction out of the man. He got his wish; it just wasn’t as “explosive” a reaction as he thought it would be.

          “Nothing?  ... You really do have a lid on it, haven’t you? What’s your secret? Mellow jazz, bongo drums, huge bag of weed?

          The Hulk saving him from becoming a bloody smear on the concrete genuinely confused Tony. For all intents and purposes, Banner and the “Other Guy” should hate him or at least be irked at him for his admittedly insensitive jabs about the Hulk. So, after Loki was detained, and they returned to the still functional areas of Stark Tower to get cleaned up (luckily only the main common room had taken any real damage), Tony took Banner aside.

          “Hey, Bruce, not that I’m not thankful and all, I’d probably be dead if the Big Guy hadn’t jumped in, but uh, why?” Tony questioned, “I mean, I thought the Hulk didn’t like anybody, and I certainly didn’t do much to earn myself any brownie-points with some of the stuff I said to you about him. I, uh, wasn’t exactly being that sensitive.”

          “That’s, uh, I think why he likes you,” Bruce replied hesitantly, being careful with his words, “For once, there’s someone who isn’t scared of me, who isn’t tip-toeing around what I can become; who isn’t scared of him. I suppose he likes the idea of there being someone who isn’t scared of him.”

          Tony Stark wasn’t known for making friends. The few friends he did have were simply the people who could tolerate his brash attitude and his constantly running mouth. Most people avoided becoming anything more than acquaintances with Stark because of those things. For once, he had a friend because of it -- because he couldn’t keep a lid on his mouth.

          Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner were possibly the oddest set of friends you could ever meet. A self-centered genius and a scientist with “breath-taking anger management issues,” as Tony had so eloquently put it, just seemed like a recipe for disaster. Yet, oddly enough, the pair got along like two peas in a pod.

          Iron Man and the Hulk. Who would have guessed?