Hulk and Puppy
Title: Hulk and Puppy
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Tony Stark (Iron Man). Also: Clint Barton (Hawkeye), J.A.R.V.I.S., Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Thor, Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U).
Pairings: Bruce/Tony (implied/past Tony/OFC)
Summary: In the past year and a half, Tony had been infected by an alien werewolf, got lost in space, returned home and was reunited with his friends and teammates. His life should have gone back to normal but the world seemed obsessed with his new hairier, feral side instead, and it didn’t help that the Hulk kept calling him ‘Puppy’ and wanting to pet him. If only that were the least of his problems.
Complete. Sequel to “Broken Howl”.
Warnings: Sexual content (M/M, very mild/borderline/not-really-bestiality), canonical violence, language, vaguely implied death (including death of a child).
Disclaimer: Iron Man, Avengers and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Universal Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras-fire)
Feedback: Warmly welcomed.
About Hulk and Puppy: A representation of my Hulk & Puppy related feels that I got from the original story – and to address some of the half-answered questions said story may have raised…
I present to you, a sequel to “Broken Howl”.
Have more werewolf!Tony, Bruce and Tony feels, a painful transformation, and Tony finding his new place in life and in the midst of his team.
Chapters and statuses: Below you see the writing process of the story’s chapters. If there is no text after the chapter’s title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Chapter 1: The Virus
Chapter 2: The Intimacy
Chapter 3: The Transformation
Chapter 4: The Pack
Chapter 1: The Virus
A minute pause before the video shifted back to the beginning was enough for Tony to shift in his seat; he tightened his half-curled position in the chair and started to idly bite his fingers, eyes trained on the screen.
He didn’t recall having attacked the chemist’s lab in as much detail as the video showed. They were supposed to have come unnoticed and unexpectedly, but something must have gone wrong because the moment Iron Man took down the bolted door, a tank full of some very strong acid broke right above him.
On screen, it was hard to tell how badly he had started inside the suit.
The communications track attached to the video did, however, capture the first exclamation of pain as the acid burned through a section of the suit at the armpit, and that was when everything went to hell.
Tony remembered the pain, burning and lingering no matter how he moved – no matter how he brushed at it once he got free of the armor.
In less than five seconds he was losing it, his body changing, grunts of pain transforming into snarls. He barely remembered that…
The armor was still standing; it would have withstood the acid save for the joints that needed to be reinforced in future models. However, Tony’s exit from it had left it vulnerable, allowing the acid to trickle inside, frying all the surfaces it came in contact with.
Off-screen, there could be heard a commotion rising. The camera view expanded, showing Cap’s shield flying across the room, embedding itself into a console, sparks flying in all directions. A well-placed arrow flashed across the room, embedding itself into the controls, switching off the main power and leaving the room awash in the sickening, greenish lights of the emergency power back-up generator.
“Tony?” Cap’s voice called out.
“I think he’s gone,” Hawkeye retorted, a hint of nervousness in his tone.
“Go after the chemist,” their leader ordered.
“Widow’s on it,” the archer replied. “We need to make Stark chill or he might cross the magical line from half-beast to full wolf mode –”
“Puppy’s in pain!” a roar cut them both off as the Hulk tore his way through a wall.
Tony’s half-changed form wheeled around to face the green monster, a snarl escaping his throat. It made him feel uncomfortable as he watched, like he wasn’t viewing himself at all, but he was forced to accept that that was the case. It wasn’t the first time Tony had felt dissociative, for one reason or another, but this was definitely the worst; he didn’t even look like himself. If not for the arc reactor, it would have been so easy to pretend…
“Good Puppy,” the Hulk rumbled, slowing down to a walk after his violent entrance into the room. “Hulk help Puppy.”
Instead of accepting the unnatural kindness in the Hulk’s voice, the half-wolf attacked. Tony supposed he could remember, distantly, how much the lingering burn of the acid had still hurt, not to mention the fumes in the air that must have burned all the way from his nose to his lungs when he inhaled.
The Hulk grunted as Tony lunged for him, claws digging into the arm the rage monster lifted instinctively to protect himself. Instead of swatting him aside or tearing him off, the Hulk merely scowled as if trying to ignore the pain – then grunted again as Tony’s unnaturally sharp teeth dug into his flesh.
Tony had fought beside the Hulk for years, and never before had he seen anyone get away with so much without getting smashed in some way. A trickle of green-tinted blood was starting to make its way down the Hulk’s arm and still the rage monster was unmoving, not trying to shake loose or growling and punching Tony away.
What he did, eventually, was place his free hand on Tony’s neck in what was unmistakably a caress.
“Stop biting Hulk,” Hulk requested. “Hulk hurts.”
Tony snarled, then stilled as the Hulk caressed down his rigid back, all the way down to the waistband of his pants where the tail had pushed its way insistently to freedom. The big green hand drew back up – only to start another gentle journey from Tony’s neck to his tailbone.
The inhumanly bulging muscles of Tony’s upper body were perfectly visible through the form-fitting shirt he had worn beneath the armor – which was already burned, melted and torn from acid and clawed hands that then tried to scratch away the hurt. All that made it easy to spot that at the fourth stroke of the Hulk’s hand, the tension began to drain from Tony’s body; he slowly relinquished his hold on the arm he was clinging to, muscles shrinking, the excess body hair disappearing.
Once Tony was no longer trying to mangle his arm, the Hulk adjusted his hold, pulling Tony up against his chest like he might with a pet, continuing to rub his back until the wolf had completely withdrawn, leaving a disoriented looking Tony Stark in his arms.
“Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. notified him, “Dr. Banner is on his way downstairs.”
Tony nodded distractedly. He didn’t remember this moment clearly; too many chemicals must have been pumping through his body to make sense of the soft crooning noises the Hulk was letting out.
“How many times have you watched that?” Bruce’s voice asked from behind him. He had come in quietly, and if not for his AI’s notification, Tony might have been startled.
“Second time,” Tony stated.
“I’ve been busy,” Tony deflected the obvious distrust in Bruce’s voice, inching around on the chair to look at him. “I have an armor that needs repairing – or at least needs to be analyzed; I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble to rebuild it,” he mused, placing his thumb at his lips again, thoughtfully nibbling at it.
“Don’t bite your fingers,” Bruce told him like he might a child. “I have results from the acid test if you want to see them,” he added.
“Thanks,” Tony nodded and watched Bruce place a small external hard drive on one of the desks.
In a corner, Dummy and You activated, rolling over to come see if they could be of assistance. It was sad how out of sorts the bots were even now, but Tony supposed that abruptly abandoning them for a year hadn’t actually been in their best interest. They were a little too eager to help him now that he was back, as if being gone had been their fault.
“I should take some blood samples,” Bruce went on, and immediately the bots shot in two directions to get supplies – but not before first bumping into each other in their hurry. “I’m worried that you may have come into contact with the other guy’s blood,” Bruce added.
“You don’t say,” Tony rolled his eyes and re-adjusted his position in the chair. It was a big, cushy chair, and he rather liked it. He had brought it down from the living room after he discovered he had a new-found affection for it and its cup-like shape that allowed him to curl up in it…
Dummy came rolling back with test tubes while You brought a box of gauze. Bruce accepted them gracefully, thanking the bots, having been a witness to their overly attentive behavior since Tony got back home. At least in the beginning Tony had liked the distraction the bots provided; now he wasn’t sure who needed the distraction and from what.
“I don’t feel sick,” Tony ventured to say as Bruce fetched the rest of the tools and then brought a saddle chair over to Tony’s new favorite chair and sat down to organize the supplies on a side table.
“That’s a good sign,” Bruce agreed. “I’m not sure if you remember but I took a sample from you as soon as we got back… You were pretty out of it.” He gave Tony a tiny look of concern.
“I got burnt with acid that ate its way through my armor,” Tony replied. “It hurt, I freaked out – and then I bit the Hulk.”
“He didn’t mind,” Bruce replied, and Tony wondered how often Bruce had watched the video from their latest mission.
“We need to talk about that,” Tony stated, extending his arm a second before Bruce could ask for it, receiving one of those small, thankful smiles Bruce reserved for people who cooperated with his over-cautious nature.
“The other guy likes you,” Bruce shrugged one shoulder as he searched for the vein, then deftly pushed the needle through the skin.
Tony kept back the hiss of pain, watching his blood being drained into a tube. If he looked at it, he would feel calmer. Things that hurt and he couldn’t see… not such a good combination when he could ‘wolf out’ in response to them.
He hated Clint for implanting that term into his brain because Tony was so not cool with it.
“The big guy liked me well enough before all this,” Tony agreed. “But he never would have let me hurt him like that without trying to stop it.”
Bruce didn’t nod or reply, simply frowning a bit as he held his hands steady then switched the tube out for another.
“What if I had actually hurt him?” Tony pressed.
“I don’t think you can – or, rather, the wolf,” Bruce argued, meeting his gaze briefly before lowering it back to the task at hand. He changed the tube for a third before continuing: “So far we’ve figured out that the werewolf virus is potent enough to infect an Asgardian and survive the levels of gamma radiation in my blood.”
It had been such a downer to learn that gamma radiation could not be used to rid Tony of the virus in his system. However, they were exploring the possibility of a gamma treatment for someone who had been recently infected but not yet carrying a fully matured virus in their system, and those tests were showing promising results – albeit with undesired side effects because they had not yet found a healthy dose of gamma radiation that would still be potent enough to battle the virus.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t hurt the big guy,” Tony defended his opinion.
Bruce removed the third tube, pulled out the needle and pressed gauze to the wound to stem the flow of blood. He even taped the gauze in place although Tony healed a lot faster these days. “The other guy’s tough,” the scientist said as he secured the samples, labeled them, then stored them for the time being before getting rid of the other tools. Dummy helpfully dragged over a hazardous waste bin, although it had resided only ten feet away from them.
“Don’t underestimate the damage the wolf can do,” Tony warned his lover.
“Tony,” Bruce said, his voice holding a hint of warning. “Enough. You and I both know we’re not talking about physical damage here. Right?” he demanded.
“Right…” Tony muttered and lowered his gaze. His ears lay flat in submission – which was his first hint that he was losing control again.
“Oh, Tony…” Bruce murmured and reached over with both hands, caressing his newly-transformed wolf ears. “Don’t do that. Look at me,” he urged.
“I would rather not,” Tony replied softly.
“Okay. As long as you don’t roll onto your back on the floor.”
Tony dared a small glance at the other man. “I did that once.”
“It was embarrassing.”
“I know,” Bruce cut him off, softly, lovingly, and kept caressing his ears, urging Tony to lean towards him in his seat. “I cannot say this for certain, but what I’ve seen and heard… The other guy likes you – likes Puppy.”
“We are not calling it that!” Tony exclaimed.
“I am,” Bruce admitted, blushing a little. “In my head, anyway.”
Tony glared at him suspiciously, wondering if Bruce was trolling him, or if he really was serious. It might be one of the few things he and the Hulk willingly had in common, and while that was a great thing, Tony would have rather started with something else.
“Anyway,” Bruce went on, still scratching Tony behind the ears, which made delicious shivers run down his back. “I think the other guy knows what’s happening to you. I think he comprehends that even when you get scared and angry, you don’t really mean it – even when you bite him,” he added. “Like you said: had it been anyone else, he would have reacted very differently.”
Tony couldn’t help but notice that Bruce appeared content with this fact. Perhaps for him, after all the years of fearing that the beast within him would hurt the people he loved, he was now in a place where he was actually confident that the Hulk was not going to tear Tony to pieces.
It truly begged the question of how many times he had watched the video from the chemist’s lab.
“Get to work,” Tony finally stated. “Those samples are not going to test themselves.”
“No, but I can help with that, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. volunteered.
Tony tried glaring at his AI, positive that J.A.R.V.I.S. caught the expression.
Bruce chuckled. “What will you do?” he asked as he rolled his chair over to where he had put the blood samples and stuck one tube inside the analyzer.
“I think I’ll just curl up here and take a nap,” Tony decided and yawned. He may have napped a little on the flight over, but transformations were hard on his body, especially ones that weren’t completely voluntary; they played on the limits of what his body could take, and a nap before a long night’s sleep was just what he needed.
So, while Bruce worked and murmured results to J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony got into a perfectly natural, totally non-canine position on his chair, amazed that he could curl up like that and not feel like his arc reactor was going to stop his inner organs from functioning. He was drifting off when he heard one of the bots moving closer – then felt a blanket being placed on top of his body.
Warm and comfortable, with Bruce’s smell mixing with the familiar, safe odors of his workshop, he fell into an easy sleep.
to be continued…
Chapter 2: The Intimacy
Before, whenever Tony relaxed, his smiles and laughs changed slightly and he became pliant in all the best ways. Bruce had liked making that happen, enjoying the fact that Tony trusted him that much and that it was easier for him to wind down, too.
After Tony came back, carrying the horrible virus that occasionally manifested in a rather beast-like fashion and with so much baggage Bruce wasn’t certain they would ever be comfortable around each other again, his attention had ultimately been on understanding Tony’s condition and helping him re-adjust to his life.
Now that Tony was back out there as Iron Man – and occasionally as Puppy, as the other guy called him – some normalcy had been achieved. For one, Tony was calmer, capable of dealing with then and now: things that happened on that far-away moon and planet and what his life had become now that he was back where he belonged.
Of course things were not the same: Tony’s life had been completely altered by experiences that had been all-too real. He had gained and lost a mate; he had become a father and later watched as his child died right in front of him, in the most horrible way possible. With that in mind, Bruce was amazed Tony even got back into the superhero game; he had failed to protect his new family so utterly that most people could never climb back up from out of that chasm.
Tony was resilient, though, and he threw himself back into his and Bruce’s relationship with gusto, as if that were the only thing that could save him now. Bruce didn’t mind as long as it stayed relatively healthy, and besides, for over a year he’d thought he had lost Tony, and to have him back now was a blessing beyond belief.
The greatest change, besides the obvious manifestation of the werewolf virus, was that Tony craved closeness. He wanted his pack, needing the security of numbers greater than one, and once he grew accustomed to some form of a normal life, he hung around Bruce more than he used to – and definitely closer in proximity.
There were times when Bruce got frustrated by that and told Tony to give him some space, and depending on how harsh his tone was, Tony slunk away like a dog kicked in the gut. After a few incidents like that, Bruce began to realize that he had unknowingly adopted the position of Tony’s ‘alpha’, and that led him to view their every encounter in a new light. Bruce began controlling his tone when he wanted Tony to do something – especially if he wanted to be alone when Tony would have rather been with him – and learned to dance around the new dynamic in their relationship.
The others had a harder time finding their footing with Tony, especially because Tony wouldn’t talk to them about it the way he would with Bruce. Also, none of them was his ‘alpha’, although he still took orders from Steve and respected him in general. However, he didn’t have that same look of willing acceptance bordering on submission when their leader gave him an order, when compared to his reaction to Bruce’s requests.
There were also, of course, perks to the new changes that Bruce appreciated.
Getting Tony to calm down and just take a moment in between projects was easier – not because he would obey if Bruce told him to abandon whatever he was working on, but because Tony seemed compelled to join Bruce when he went to lie down on the couch or something like that.
Also, there was the whole half-way point thing that had Bruce totally enamored.
The velvety ears were just begging to be caressed – something that only Pepper was allowed to do besides him. That led Bruce to assume that Tony knew just how much power they had over him: the ears were the most responsive part of Tony’s physiology, turning as he listened, telltale signs of his moods that he didn’t seem to be able to control, and Bruce knew they were wired to that good place in Tony’s central nervous system that just sent him to a relaxed, contented place, draped beside Bruce or Pepper with a silly look on his face.
The tail, of course, was another thing Bruce appreciated, although Tony was a lot more self-conscious about it – mostly because certain people had cracked jokes about it and other than snarling in obvious threat, Tony really had no clever comeback to any of the remarks. He didn’t seem able to turn half-way without both ears and tail appearing, no matter how much he tried, and Bruce kept telling him it didn’t matter.
What mattered a bit more were the nails: sharp and curved, often doing more damage than Tony realized, were cause for much misery. Tony tore so many shoes and socks that he opted to wander around bare-foot whenever he could; pillows, couch cushions and blankets had to be replaced because of unintentional stretching and gripping.
That list almost came to include James Rhodes’ face when the man, still skittish when around Tony, made the mistake of asking if Tony would like to fetch a ball or something. He didn’t ask again.
Bruce wasn’t sure how the other guy heard about that particular incident, but he got a report that the Hulk had smacked War Machine upside the head when they met during a mission the next time, scoffing mightily at ‘Metal Can’s stupidity’. Rhodey was impressed neither by the cuff or the new nickname, knowing that the Hulk usually stuck to his preferred terms – like Puppy, which infuriated Tony, but not nearly as much as he liked to state to anyone who would listen; there was a certain fondness whenever Tony related his and the Hulk’s latest meeting, once Bruce was back, with none of the venom he reserved for Clint’s attempts at nicknaming him.
Once Bruce accepted that the other guy was not mistaking the wolf for someone who wasn’t Tony, he was more relaxed about the entire thing – even when Tony wasn’t, on some days. In fact, it felt like the Hulk was the mellowest of them all when it came to Tony’s transformation, and Bruce wondered if he should have been at all surprised by that, considering how the Hulk came to be in the first place.
He wondered if the other guy would have handled the other intimate aspects of his and Tony’s relationship better than he did. After all, aside from the ears, the tail and the nails, there was still the sex.
Before Tony went missing, Bruce would have been lying if he’d said he and Tony were in the home stretch when it came to sexual intimacy. They had been experimenting and getting better at it, but after Tony returned, fell back into his old routines and generally started handling his life again, sex seemed almost inevitable. Also, with the added knowledge that the werewolf virus showed significant resiliency against Bruce’s gamma irradiated blood, they were for the first time in a place where Bruce felt comfortable exploring things they hadn’t dared to touch before.
Part of him wished they could have done it before Tony’s transformation, just for comparison.
Another part of him was adamant that it was better this way, for it would have made the new, abnormal aspects of their lovemaking stand out even more.
Whether Tony had had this preference before he got infected, he refused to say. Now, though, he wanted Bruce to be the ‘dominant’ party – and he liked them doing it doggy style. Bruce tried not to say anything about it, and besides, it wasn’t as if they always did it that way. Tony’s favorite position got him the most into it, though – and that was where the transformation began to happen, more often than not.
The first time the tail sprouted, in the middle of sex, Bruce withdrew and refused to continue. Tony was simultaneously embarrassed and disappointed, but it seemed he hadn’t been able to help it, and watching him pull into a corner of the room, ears in a shameful droop and the tail pulled between his legs, Bruce supposed his lover hadn’t meant for it to happen.
After several repeats and carefully continued coituses later, Bruce was forced to accept that the wolf was part of Tony now – even in bed. When Tony got really passionate, he expressed it by embracing himself, and that meant torn sheets and a tail brushing against Bruce’s chest.
It wasn’t so bad once they both got used to it.
Still, there was no way on Earth either of them was going to tell anyone else about it. Ever.
to be continued…
Chapter 3: The Transformation
They had tried to anticipate it, to the best of their ability. Tony had known, deep in his gut, that none of that mental preparation was going to be enough when it happened – and he was right.
When it started, he knew what it was instantly. It wasn’t the full moon, which they had confirmed a long time ago, nor was it a change in the environment, his daily routines, or diet. It just happened because of some planetary alignment Tony had never gotten to understand, and the wolf reared back its head in a soundless howl to greet it.
Since Tony’s return and the first meeting with Fury, special sections had been prepared in two S.H.I.E.L.D. bases on the western and eastern coasts, awaiting Tony’s eventual loss of control. At least, as far as Tony was concerned, that’s how it felt like everyone was treating it, save perhaps for Bruce, but the only man who had any idea what it was like being to be torn to pieces from the inside was in too much emotional distress to be of any real help.
Of course, it would have helped if Tony hadn’t woken Bruce up at sunrise, screaming as if someone were twisting a fire-hot knife in his chest, but the pain was almost as bad as the first time and Tony wasn’t at all prepared for it – even when he knew it would eventually happen.
“It’s going to be okay,” Bruce was chanting as they rushed out of the Quinjet that had flown them from the Tower to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. “You’re going to be fine, Tony.”
If Tony hadn’t been in so much agony, he might have joked that he wasn’t going into labor. As it was, he tried to ground himself in Thor’s firm hold as the Asgardian carried him off the aircraft, and keep the storm contained within his body until someone came up with a way to stop it.
The special section was deep underground, its location most likely selected so that it could be totally isolated from the world. Tony wouldn’t have put it past Fury to rig the place to blow, in case they could not contain the transformation, but he felt like pointing out that if he were to lose control, he was going to die no matter where they put him.
Belatedly he thought he would have rather been home for this, surrounded by familiar smells and sounds.
“Get out of the way!” Natasha snapped somewhere ahead of them. For a brief moment, Tony saw a few S.H.I.E.L.D. employees flatten themselves against the walls as they came through.
“We’re almost there,” Bruce stated.
Tony curled his hands into fists, palms instantly bleeding because the transformation was starting to push through, however minimal at this point. He heard blood pounding in his ears, momentarily drowning out everything else, and his vision was starting to fail.
“In here,” someone said – possibly Steve, who had already been on the premises after a solo mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony snarled at the idea of his proximity, but then he whimpered, seeing as this was his new pack and they were here with him… not that he would ever call them that; only Bruce knew about it and that was bad enough.
“Lay him down, carefully,” Bruce snapped, clearly struggling to control himself.
“Tell us what you need,” Steve spoke up next, voice tight.
“I don’t know!” Bruce burst out, unexpectedly and angrily. “We’ve had no time to study this side of the transformation.”
“Can’t he just hold it back?” Clint asked hopefully.
“Pray that he can,” Bruce stated and Tony smelled him, close by but moving. His hand shot out, to reach for him, to ground himself on something now that Thor’s arms were gone.
“Please,” he ground out through the pain that was clawing at his chest, followed by the pinprick-sensations washing all over his body. “I’m scared,” he admitted. It was getting harder to focus on anything but the horrible sensations of his body trying to do something it could not. He could smell his own blood and sweat; he wished there were something else to replace it with, but every time he inhaled, it was that and the mixed odors of sterile walls and medical equipment.
“Tony, I need you to breathe,” Bruce told him, moving closer. “You’re starting to hyperventilate.”
Tony tried but could not, and something screeched when his fingers clenched against the surface he was lying on.
“I’m going to try sedatives,” Bruce told him, tethering him to something resembling control. Bruce was with him… Bruce would take care of him.
He doesn’t know how, a part of his mind wailed. None of them know how!
If only Tony had thought to possess that knowledge when he had the chance to learn, but he had been taking in so much information in those months, it had been impossible to learn it all – or to apply it to this life and the normalcy he had rediscovered on Earth. This place had no room for a werewolf and was not equipped to handle one…
He felt a small prick in his arm, a warmth washing through him. The pain in his chest turned into pressure, followed soon by a sensation of something heavy sitting on top of him, making it increasingly harder to draw in air. Soon after the pain started again, coming back with a vengeance. Tony thrashed to the side, blindly, because moving would distract him.
The surface he had lain on ended abruptly, landing him hard on the floor.
“Tony!” Bruce called out, moving over, cool hands touching his burning skin. “Do you want to get back on the table?”
Tony shook his head vehemently. His nails scraped the floor, leaving deep gashes in it. He heard something tear, like clothing. The wolf swam to the surface of his consciousness – but only for a second before retreating with a snarl.
“I take it the sedatives didn’t work?” Natasha mused, forcing her voice to be conversational. Tony smelled the collective tension in the air, though – and fear, from himself and Bruce.
“His metabolism is faster, especially when he’s in transformation,” Bruce replied tightly. “Tony, honey, I need you to tell me what to do.” It was as if he had forgotten, after all these months, that Tony had no idea how to fight this or prevent this. If he did, he wouldn’t have been here, cowering on the floor of some S.H.I.E.L.D. containment room, wanting to bash his head into the nearest wall until he lost consciousness.
“Raise the dosage,” Steve suggested from the other side of the room. “I think they have files on how much my body can take before it starts slowing down; maybe the same will work for him.”
Bruce moved away from him, probably to do just that.
Tony jerked to follow him, so as not to be left alone, bumping hard against one of the table legs. His vision was on the verge of blacking out, shapes dissolving into an unintelligible mess.
“Be at ease,” Thor’s voice reached his ears – alongside a hand on his shoulder, too firm – and not Bruce’s. He wanted Bruce, needed him, and while the rest of his pack was welcome to hang around, they didn’t have the right to touch him.
Tony tried leaping at the body attached to the hand, nostrils momentarily filled with the smell of the Asgardian. He could hear the rush of his blood.
The hand withdrew instantly, as did its owner, and Tony curled up on the floor, as defensive as possible, waiting in agitation for Bruce to come back.
“Leave,” Bruce ordered. “I think he’s getting violent.”
“You should get out, too,” Steve suggested. “Let him ride this out on his own.”
“We don’t know if he can do that,” Bruce argued.
“We don’t know if we can do anything to help him!”
The pain was starting to get the best of him and Tony whimpered, pressing a hand against the arc reactor. If he pulled it out, it would be over…
‘The wolf cannot repair his heart.’
Clawed fingers dug into his flesh, stinging. Everything else was vanishing: the room, the base, the Avengers. All of it was a haze beyond the pain, his body quivering, so close…
A cool touch on his face, hands on his body, drawing him up and into an embrace.
“I’m sorry,” the words went on, mixing with past and present before Tony recognized Bruce’s familiar voice. “I wish I could do more. I wish we knew… I thought we would have more time.”
Tony whined, cried, dug his fingers into his own flesh to counter the pain from within – and to prevent himself from hurting Bruce.
The tide kept rising, higher and higher, wanting to drown him – wanting to cast him aside and remake him. It might have been better; there may have even been relief…
A different voice, dark like the abyss all around him, yet firm and grounded in reality – a reality he needed to get back to.
“Do not cry, Puppy. Hulk protects.”
The arms were bigger and stronger than the pain, cradling him, protecting him. They were all-encompassing and drove away the horrible fear. He clutched at them instead of himself, pressed his face into the wide chest and felt himself being rocked, carefully, back and forth, back and forth…
“The pain will stop. Always goes away… Hulk waits with Puppy until it doesn’t hurt anymore,” the other said, and Tony could almost breathe now, a calm finally descending over him.
It was over and he was still alive.
How much time passed between that realization and a door opening somewhere nearby, Tony didn’t know. He felt a draft, heard footsteps, but didn’t want to open his eyes and look, feeling safe and protected in the Hulk’s arms. The small amount of pain that still sat in his chest felt manageable when he didn’t have to deal with it alone.
“How fares –”
The words were followed by a quick motion from the Hulk which barely jostled Tony at all.
“Stupid hammer man!” the Hulk growled, shifted and probably turned his back to the door. “Interfere with Puppy’s healing sleep…”
Tony hadn’t been sleeping but seeing as it had been mentioned and sounded like a good idea, he allowed himself to be lulled into it, his tongue briefly wetting his lips and simultaneously licking a small line across the Hulk’s chest. A familiar, affectionate rumble responded to the small touch and a single, large finger gently brushed at his hair.
“Sleep, Puppy,” the Hulk encouraged, and Tony did.
to be continued…
Chapter 4: The Pack
Tony had been drunk when he blurted it out: “You’re my pack, y’all.”
Bruce, of course, had already known this – instinctively and as a somewhat ashamed admission from Tony months before. He had a feeling Tony had only confessed it to him in the first place because he had some animal urge to explain to Bruce how, amongst them all, Bruce was still special, even when part of said pack. Even when the word ‘alpha’ had never been spoken out loud, Bruce was smart enough to see what he represented to Tony, and how important it was to him in order to have a balanced life.
The others seemed surprised by the admission, but Bruce shook his head so no one asked for clarification while Tony was still intoxicated.
That didn’t mean they wouldn’t pursue it once he was sober.
“What does this pack thing entail, exactly?” Rhodey asked.
“Yeah,” Clint chorused. “We don’t need to, you know, start marking our territory by pissing in corners or anything, right?”
Tony glowered at Clint and answered Rhodey: “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Clearly it does or you wouldn’t have said anything in the first place,” Rhodey disagreed.
“I was drunk!” Tony said in his defense.
“That won’t fly with us,” Pepper joined the discussion. “Rhodey and I know, for a fact, that the things you say while drunk often stem from something really important you wouldn’t otherwise say out loud.”
Tony muttered to himself for a bit, then stopped. “It means what it means,” he shrugged.
“Not an explanation,” Rhodey pressed.
“We’re already a team,” Steve cut in, clearly not wanting things to end in a fight. “How is being a pack different from that?”
“Pack means… it’s just different, okay?” Tony huffed.
“It means we’re family,” Bruce clarified because Tony, clearly, wasn’t going to. He got a look from his lover, but with Bruce being what he was, Tony didn’t argue. He actually looked a little relieved.
“A family?” Pepper frowned. “I thought that was a given – for some of us,” she added, seeing as things had been more than just a little awkward between the Avengers after Tony crashed back to Earth in a spaceship. The whole ‘leaving Tony behind on an alien moon’ thing….
“The wolf wants and needs a pack,” Bruce elaborated. “While I would be enough, in a pinch, Tony has an instinctive need to expand the pack to those he trusts. While it doesn’t require anything from you, you should know it’s a sign of trust and loyalty on his part.”
“You’re making it sound like a big deal,” Tony told him. “It’s not.”
“It is to you,” Bruce argued softly. Tony leaned into his body a bit more on the loveseat they were sharing.
“I believe I speak for everyone when I say we are honored to be considered part of your pack,” Thor announced. “We shall cherish that status and see it as a sign that our indifferences are finally behind us.”
“Don’t push it, Goldilocks,” Tony growled. “I’m still mad at you about all this.”
Thor nodded solemnly.
“What about the Hulk?” Clint asked. “Is he part of the pack, too?”
“The big guy’s an honorary member,” Tony grinned. “Plus, I think he knows it, so try to act like you’re totally on board with it – and try not to steal his precious time with my furry self.”
“There’s so many things wrong with that statement,” Rhodey shook his head and smiled.
“You know who else is an honorary member?” Tony went on, like a child talking about his favorite topic. “J.A.R.V.I.S.; I’m pretty sure the wolf digs his groove.”
“I’m honored, sir,” the AI replied through the speakers – managing to sound very unimpressed about being considered as part of Tony’s pack.
“What about the bots?” Pepper asked with a playful smile.
“Well, Dummy’s cool, but I’m pretty sure You’s on probationary status for pulling on my tail last week,” Tony replied.
Clint dared to laugh out loud at that.
Tony instantly glared at him. “Don’t think I don’t remember you almost nailing my tail to a wall with one of your arrows!”
“Oh, please,” Clint snorted. “You barely lost a few hairs. They’ll grow back.”
“I’m sure your arm will grow back when I rip it off,” Tony threatened.
“You won’t, and he didn’t hit you on purpose,” Bruce cut between them. “You weren’t supposed to be out of the armor and transforming.”
“But I needed the exercise!”
“You can go run laps around the house if you want,” Bruce countered, not giving in. “You can’t change tactics mid-battle. It’s not fair to the team and it causes an imbalance that might one day tip the scale in our enemies’ favor.”
“Okay,” Tony murmured, so softly no one else could possibly hear it, and if he’d had his tail out, it would have gone down in submission.
Bruce dropped a kiss on his temple and wrapped an arm around him.
“Okay, next topic,” Steve announced. “If Tony’s… other self keeps fighting with the Avengers, I believe we need a name for him.”
“I want to say it now, in case anyone hasn’t caught on to this somehow: while I adopted the general public’s somewhat inaccurate name ‘Iron Man’, I am not going to be called ‘Wolf Man’ in this lifetime – or the next,” Tony announced. He then looked at Bruce. “And ‘Puppy’ is an inappropriate code name for someone as terrifying as my beastly self, prowling dark allies and making villains piss themselves.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest it,” Bruce told him. “However, good luck trying to tell the other guy not to call you that, whatever the situation.”
Tony groaned, but there was no mistaking the pull on his lips as anything but the smile he was trying to fight back.
“How about when people start to ask why Iron Man and the Dog Boy are never seen at the same time?” Clint asked.
“Also not an acceptable code name,” Tony retorted bitingly, then rolled his eyes. “We’ve already been working on it: J controls the suit while I’m on the ground – or, on the roof or whatever is applicable at the time. Point is, when people start asking too many questions, J.A.R.V.I.S. will pretend to be me and we’ll be fine for another few months.”
“And when someone does figure it out?” Pepper asked. She sounded genuinely concerned – probably because of the company, but also because of Tony and what it would do to his life.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Tony told her, a lot softer. “In the meanwhile, we’ll focus on the real problems – like what my official name will be.”
- - -
After a lot of debate, they just called him ‘the Wolf’.
The Hulk was elated about the obvious connection between their names – although he still called him nothing but Puppy and smashed anyone who dared to make fun of that.