Hot Pursuit

Bruce has left Tony with quite a few unanswered questions. Time to fix that. And nobody breaks up with Tony Stark. Nobody.

Location: Probably more than one.

Time: Immediately following 'Topnotch Guide'


Tony has very thoroughly burned out his power core. Luckily, backups are something that he's rarely without. His heart is already skipping and stuttering as he replaces the palladium slip that's nestled in the center of his arc reactor.

Relief isn't instantaneous, but he's quickly able to catch his breath, collect himself, and start tearing off what few pieces of the Mark V that are still intact.

Meanwhile, back at his home laboratory, a glass display cylinder lights up and reveals an as-yet unseen suit. It's more than a foot taller than the Mark V and masses several times as much. The sleek streamlined appearance of the previous armor suits is very much absent. If his current suit were a sports car, this one, the Mark VIII, would be a semi truck or a tractor. One glance is enough to reveal that it's built to last, and with a significant increase in physical strength.

"I'm ready," Tony mutters as he dusts himself off. "Launch it. Whatever sensors we still have functioning on the Mark V, keep them all trained on Banner. We'll deal with SHIELD later."

Back at the laboratory, a complex tracking program triangulates Tony's current location, then the new suit is blasted up through a chute via repulsor rings set into the walls. It immediately banks toward Tony's position, but it's a slow, sweeping turn. The Dauntless has raw power, but its speed and maneuverability leave something to be desired.

While he waits, the eccentric billionaire picks up a mostly-intact gauntlet and attempts to dial in the gamma sensor. "Don't lose him, JARVIS. If I had to guess, I'd say he doesn't want to hurt anyone, but we can't risk it."

Your instincts appear to be correct. The signal is moving away from the populated areas at an advanced rate. It will be out of range in approximately five minutes.

Wind roared by the Hulk as loudly as its own raging heartbeat. Anger was the throbbing of muscles effortlessly propelling the creature through the air— past buildings, wires, roads; the last signs of so-called civilization until all the green giant could possibly scare was a flock of passing birds. Anger at being hit. At not being allowed to HIT BACK.

On the next barely controlled descent, the Hulk pulled back its elbow and smashed into the approaching landmark. Rocks exploded in every direction. A swathe of cliff-face completely came away, creating an entirely new formation as the Hulk landed with an earth-shattering force just to leap again.

It had no concept where it was or where it was going. There was no why except to get far, far away.


When Tony's newest suit hits the ground, the impact is so intense that both heavy boots dig down into the pavement and nearby bystanders are sent staggering.

"Sorry!" Mr. Billionaire calls out, waving a hand sheepishly as he approaches the prototype. He spares a few seconds to check it over. The gauntlets sport two wide fingers and an enormous thumb, each with its own repulsor emitter. No fine motor skills here.

Instead of running solely off of Tony's personal arc reactor, Dauntless has its own dedicated unit that's powered by six palladium cores. The entire assembly is covered by a secondary armor plate, giving the suit a stocky, wide-shouldered appearance. A series of four large tubes and six smaller ones just peek over the pauldrons on either shoulder. It's not sleek or elegant, but the full package certainly looks dangerous.

"Okay." Satisfied with his brief inspection, Tony waves to the ten foot titan. "PATTON, you're on weapons and internal ops. JARVIS, sensors and comms. Let's saddle up."

The armor plates covering the suit's midsection slide aside to reveal a fairly spacious pilot's compartment. Rather than waiting for Tony to mount up, Dauntless simply picks him up, inserts him into the cabin, and closes up the hatch. The Pacification and Termination Tactical Onboard Nanoprocessor kicks on and almost immediately the voice of R. Lee Ermey floods the small space. "ALL SYSTEMS ARE GREEN, YOU DISGUSTING FATBODY. NOW LET'S MOVE IT!"

There's a soft noise from JARVIS, minute, undefined, and British.

One jet-and-repulsor-assisted leap. Another. On the third try, Tony gets Dauntless airborne and zeroes in on Banner's rapidly fading trail.

Scenery blurs by, just a mash of colors and formations that mean less than nothing to the Hulk until he crests his latest jump to a view of pure, hilly yellow-ish greens. Powered by instinct — and now, less and less — the creature lands with a tumultuous swinging of arms amongst the leafy acreage it's unaware is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee; two states over from his point of origin.

Landing with all the subtlety of a freight train, the Hulk bounds two steps to the side and wraps monstrous arms around the first pine tree it can. The trunk comes loose with a ripping of old, state-protected roots and the flurried flight of several warblers. Hulk swings the newly minted bat into its closest fellows. The foliage quakes while, below, trees fall in rows, creating a spiderweb of damaged limbs until the one in the Hulk's grasp finally cracks inside the green grasp. With a rumble of displeasure, the Hulk tears the tree apart the rest of the way and flings the wayward pieces.

A stomp. Another.

Nothing helps. Everything breaks.

But his rage is muddled and directionless. He looks with dissatisfaction left and right and finds no bearings. No purpose.

Swinging his head back, the Hulk lets loose a ROAR that trembles the hapless woods of eastern Tennessee. Anything living left in the area gets scarce under the unfamiliar force of unnatural.

Alternating between a monster truck's roar and the sputter like it might, at any point, drop out of the sky like an anvil, the Dauntless defies nature's wisdom. Under JARVIS' guidance, the suit housing Tony Stark flies a path straight towards the anomaly, crossing state lines and alarming several Southern airports unused to the red-and-gold celebrity.

The signal's stopped ahead, chimes in the world's most advanced GPS voice, Centered here. Coordinates appear in Tony's periphery inside the heads-up display of the blocky suit for a smaller mountain range still approximately 500 kilometers off. Within this previously non-existent landmark of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Zoom and enhance: a distant bald-spot on the mountain's near side not naturally occurring— and not precisely "man"-made.

The Dauntless armor will remain airborne, but only briefly and with great reluctance. Tony soon finds himself traveling in a similar fashion. By figuratively and literally leaping tall buildings in a single bound. He's not as fast as his target, but he's slightly more graceful and has JARVIS on his side.


A final leap brings him close enough that he can see and hear the destruction in the distance. "Okay, boys," he says, speaking to both AIs. "We'll try talking to him, I guess. And if that doesn't work… Well, spin up the Plan B Launcher. Just in case."


"Thanks," Tony mutters as he approaches, now moving exclusively on foot. "This is what I get for letting Rhodey set up your persona. JARVIS, send Pepper a message for me. Let her know I'll be late. And say something boyfriendly. Whatever you think will distract her the most."

Very good, sir, remarks JARVIS in a tone politely suggesting how very not good that sounds.

The particulars of the message are not divulged on Tony's readout; only the tiny notification that the matter's been discreetly handled.

Less can be said for the animalistic roar that shudders the earth and foliage all around the Dauntless. If Tony hadn't been on site when it happened, it might seem pure science-fiction to say that such a noise could come from the same— general body as the socially diminutive scientist he'd hunted down that morning.

A crack ahead and the earth shakes as if it, itself, is afraid. In a smaller suit, Tony might've been knocked off his feet, but the Dauntless withstands— from this distance. A deceptive lull. Then part of the mountain-side, still with a few traumatized tree roots attached, flies aimlessly over the Dauntless' head like the world's most aggressive spitball.

He can practically hear the negativity in JARVIS' quiet background functions.


Meanwhile, Tony is experimenting with suddenly uneven footing. He rides out the tremors, then shakes his head in mute disbelief. "Uhhh. Okay," he clears his throat. "Boys, give me the mic."

Once the suit is set to broadcast his voice externally, he continues. "Take it easy, Banner. No bad guys here. Deep breath. Relax. And for the love of God can you stop being so big and green? I don't want any trouble, and I guarantee you don't either."

Meanwhile, he's activated some of the many weapon systems integrated into the Dauntless. A row of cannons snap into place over each shoulder, followed by a set of launchers to match. Three-fingered gauntlets flex in anticipation, and a glow starts to build in the repulsor emitters.

Silence. Silence. The sound of air being pushed rapidly— as if someone had fired a giant goddamn missile— then CRASH, the big green Hulk lands, flattening everything in front of the Dauntless where he hits in an almost ape-like movement: legs first, then one huge-knuckle followed by the other. BOOM, boom boom.

Neck vividly tense with every muscle showing, the creature flares its giant nostrils and stares down this new, bigger insect that dared intrude upon its tantrum. It doesn't seem to recognize the weapon-ready status of the suit, but something Tony's done or said has offended it anyway; the gleam in the narrowed eyes, overshadowed by hulking brows looks as personal as the sneer displaying oversized teeth.

From here, there's no sign on that speckled green skin of the massive unibeam it took a direct hit from back in the city.

There's something about the set of those big, green shoulders. A narrowing of the giant's eyes. Tony doesn't wait to take the first hit, he's already seen what this thing can do. He patches his audio feed back into the cabin. "PATTON, I want a comprehensive target lock. Keep your eyes on this guy."


"Oh, that's nice. JARVIS, you look alive, too." Once the lock has been established, Tony fires a shot across the bow in the form of a repulsor blast from all of the suit's stubby fingers. Combined, they still don't match the power of the unibeam, but each of the six emitters are comparable to the ones found in the palms of all the other suits. "Boys, give me more mic. Ahem. Banner! Down, boy! That's the tip of the iceberg. Just the tip. Just to see how it feels."

The first blast glances straight across the side of the Hulk's shoulder. Just like an animal, it startles, looking over; snarls a little, but without comprehension. It hardly has time to wonder: the other fingers follow suit in an arc of combined blasts, causing further struggles of irritation. The Hulk tosses his head each time he veers into one of the beams' full blast while trying to escape the others, feet sliding backward in the dirt with the casual power of small bulldozers. A hand comes up to bat at the offensive shot, but only by the time the 'warning' shot's over.

There's almost a sense of distraction in the beast until— Banner— the Hulk abruptly leaps, with an unexpected speed for its size, all the distance it had just slid back. BOOM the earthquake's much closer now, as is the ripple when the Hulk lets loose another frustrated ROAR. With a swing of the arm, the creature attempts the same backhand that worked on this red-gold nuisance before.

One slap is enough to floor the Dauntless. It digs out a huge furrow in the earth as it lands and grinds its way back a few feet. The initial blow knocks one set of Tony's repulser cannons off of the suit's pauldron and sends it flying far, far away. "Son of a… Oh, now you're gonna get it. Screw you and your little shorts."


Tony fires the gauntlet emitters again, but this time he aims them at the ground. He's launched into the air and directly back at the Hulk as a result. A huge, red fist is cocked for a punch of his own well before his feet hit the ground. Just before impact, he fires the suit's primary thrusters. Just for fun.

Seeing the Dauntless come at it launches the Hulk in the air to match. FWUMP. It takes the punch straight-on without even attempting to move. The big, green body veers violently off-course, flying a short stretch before landing on a shoulder. Rolling off, in a single fluid motion, it grabs a passing tree and, with a deceptively small snap, sends it careening towards Dauntless.

Instantly, the Hulk is up, leaping after its own projectile. One impatient fist pounds into the bark; it snaps effortlessly in two, both pieces rocket-launched in opposite directions. Before one can spiral completely out of reach, the Hulk snatches it by one end and swings it around— only to let go at the end of that destructive arc, letting the half a tree fly and crash like so much garbage.

Half of a tree makes for a hell of an improvised missile. Especially moving at this speed. Tony tries to catch it, but even Dauntless isn't quite up to the task. The suit crashes to the ground again, this time with a log clutched to its chest.

"This is starting to irritate me. To annoy. To vex, even." Tony climbs back to his feet. A single squeeze reduces the half-tree to many, many toothpick-sized shards. "That's it," he continues. "Vexed. I'm terribly vexed."


"What would I do without your completely useless and unsolicited color commentary?" Tony muses idly. At the same time, he uses the established target lock to send a volley of four rockets in the Hulk's direction. Rather than explosives or incendiaries, each contains an extremely sticky, viscous substance that's designed for crowd control situations. While nowhere near strong enough to stop his target, the goop is extremely difficult to remove without a special solvent.

You'd have me, sir.

While the Dauntless rises again, the Hulk has kept its distance, pacing with giant footsteps in agitation; the sight of Tony getting to his feet causing it to look at him with a snort and shake of the head. He snarls but does not charge and— a metallic impact precedes the first rocket imploding above its target, coating the side of the warning sneer it'd been giving the Ironman. Flinching irritably, the Hulk has the presence to swipe the second rocket out of the sky. The second impacts the chest, and the third on the outside of the Hulk's left arm when it raises the impossibly large limb in self-defense.

Gunk expands from lower arm towards wrist and a big pinkie finger. The Hulk roars unhappily, shaking at the arm, sliding backwards, but the substance has already partially solidified. Distracted— perhaps vexed— the creature grapples at its own shoulder, tearing but with far too little dexterity in those giant fingers to make progress— slams its arm against the scratchy bark of a tree. The arm sticks for all of a millisecond before, with an idler grunt, the Hulk pulls minutely harder and the whole thing comes out of the ground.

"Thank you, J. You're a sweetheart." Tony spins away from a Hulk-sized Louisville Slugger and narrowly avoids taking a second hit. On the backswing, he snaps off a repulser blast at the improvised weapon.


"Sounds fun," the billionaire replies. "But hold off. I've got one more card tucked in my vest."

A cylindrical emitter banded with strips of copper and titanium pops out from the inside of one forearm. When activated, it produces a combination of low-frequency noise and an earsplitting whine that could put several jet turbines to shame. Tony waves his gauntlet back and forth as if he were wielding a garden hose, sending out a stream of sound so potent that it shakes the trees as it passes.

The sound slams into the distracted Hulk, who fails to get proper bearing before Tony's back-and-forth arc knocks it straight off its feet. Coming to the forest floor with a crash — and further natural destruction to the governmentally protected area — the creature struggles to yank up a shoulder sticking to the ground while in the uncoordinated throes of obvious discomfort over a noise that would drive any dog insane.

Managing to free the shoulder with a boulder-dislodging jerk, mindless to any possible— or impossible, as it seems to be— self-injury, the Hulk gets partially up and is blasted back down. Up, down. Even against the force, being battered down onto the ground and roots again, it thoughtlessly pushes back again and again, physically incapable of thinking of quitting.

Becoming somewhat downtrodden, like the dogs might've been, as its punished each time— then the snarl flashes by— again— stays. Staggered becomes irritated— pissed— the more enraged the corner of the pained mouth, the less the Hulk falls back each time. Until, abruptly, its nearly righted, throwing down a palm to send a vibrating crack through the earth towards Dauntless as it puts its head straight into the turbine and roars a thunderous challenge back. Gets up. Charges.

"Plan B! PATTON, give me Plan B!" Tony deactivates the sonic emitter and sets his feet. The plate that covers Dauntless' power cores slides upward, exposing a massive launcher mounted in the suit's belly. Close inspection would reveal the words 'Jericho Mk II' stenciled along the side of the primary tube.

Rather than a single vehicle, the Mk II fires six warheads, each of which separates into six smaller ballistic missiles. PATTON goes silent as he tracks them and fires on-board rockets to guide them toward their target.

Tony doesn't wait to see his new prototype in action. He's crouched low to the ground and has his gauntlets held up to protect his helmet. "Sorry, Banner," he mutters, his voice lost in the roar and burn of jet fuel.

Seeing the chest plate slide open brought the Hulk reaching for it, ready to tear its stupid pesky face apart; it snatches the initial mini-missile straight out of the air. The next hit, scantly changing the creature's trajectory towards the Dauntless. But then the rocket-boosted explosions rain down, too heavy, concentrated, too many for the less limber creature to confront. The Hulk never tries to dodge, hitting one aside with the back of a hand. But then one it catches an instant later in that palm explodes there and the Hulk roars with fury and pain.

Smoke multiples as fast as the missiles go off simultaneously. The initial impact is not the only one. That's just what flattens the target to the ground. Implanted on the target with the suicide of the rockets, the missiles like so many mosquitos go off a second time, releasing huge plumes of black exhaust. Feet from Tony, the Hulk careens off-course, staggered, and giving in to the need to throw protective hands over its eyes and nose.

**Boom, boom boomboomboom* like popcorn— but at once. The explosion itself tears a massive hole in the ground, inside which it buries the Hulk, but the resulting shockwave is no breeze. Any unfortunate tree in a radius around the fight scene left standing before is left with a permanent bend while the Dauntless DOES WHAT THE DAUNTLESS DOES, TAKE US HOME, JOSH.

Even curled into a protective ball, Dauntless was never designed to handle a point-blank backblast from something as potent as the Jericho. Tony and his armor are sent pinwheeling away in a tight, flat spin that keeps him low to the ground. Like an enormous buzzsaw, the suit's arms and legs cut through a small forest before it starts to slow down.

He lets out a quiet groan as he rebounds off of a particularly stubborn trunk that's nearly a football field away from the point of impact. Dauntless' exterior weaponry is completely gone. One gauntlet has been compacted and fuzed together from the heat and force of the blast. On the same side, the pauldron has been caved in and the eye-slit has been shattered. Two of the palladium cores have gone dark, leaving barely enough energy to power what remains of the once-mighty juggernaut. On top of all that, the HUD has been hopelessly scrambled, leaving Tony to operate off of good ol' fashioned visual cues gleaned through the broken eyepiece.

The man himself has been thoroughly battered and mildly concussed, but he's still dragging himself to his feet. "S'that all you got, Jolly Green?" he quips, his voice thick and ragged. "I'm just getting warmed up." A quick flick of a switch silences the loudspeaker. "Jarvis. Jarvis! You still with me? It looks like I'm going to need a change of clothes."

H— here, sir, the computerized voice stutters slightly under the Dauntless' power drain while he remains connected to systems. None of Tony's bravado translates to the VI. I've been monitoring the signal, and t-t-t-t here's something you should s-s-s —


Beneath the Dauntless' feet, the ground shakes, tossing the damaged suit forward several feet before Tony can clumsily walk himself into stopping. Aftershock— ? But it came from—

CRUNCH. Massive green fingers close around the Dauntless' domed helmet. A dangerous noise suggests how near the material gets to becoming imbedded into Tony's skull. But the Hulk stops short, using this one-handed grip to lift the iron suit off its feet and deliver a hard shake as if it were a scraggy dog being disciplined— or a captured prey being shook in its captor's mouth to induce shock.

His predator isn't done; Tony can barely recover before the Hulk swings up, then crashes him to the forest floor, straight onto the Dauntless' back. The giant hand releases but already the monster's slide-jump-stepping around to Tony's front.

Visible, the smoke-charred but otherwise unmarred face of Jolly Green is anything but; the monster's livid. With a practical rage, it clamps down on the chestplate of the suit, revealed to it when firing, and crunches the protective plating in one go. That hand flies back, sending the metal into the park; the other's already violently ripping at the exposed launcher.

When your brain presses against your skull, it feels like this. It also makes it difficult to hold a conversation with your virtual manservant. Tony squirms beneath the Hulk as his newest creation is torn to shreds. First the chest plate. Next goes the launcher, which leaves a gaping hole in the belly of the suit. Then more of the helmet. Most of a boot. Dauntless is being dismantled piece by piece.

Tony has one final, risky gambit. From the look of him, whatever he's about to do isn't sitting well. Then he's swung around and into the earth with a bone-shuddering FWUMP. He blinks heavy-feeling lids several times, gives himself a shake, and smiles crookedly.. "Wait a second," he says, leaning a few inches closer to the Hulk's enormous face. "Wait. You're going to love this."

Then, still smiling, he fires Dauntless' unibeam.

He feels a peripheral pressure.

The Hulk is holding onto his armor's arm. It must've happened an instant before he fired—

Energy blasts out from the Dauntless' core, engulfing the side of the Hulk's face and chest. It's full blast for spare seconds before the suit automatically recoils; bits of spare fuel sent into other, failing systems. Essentials that light up and beep frantically at the suit's vitals— at Tony's. Part of the beam splinters, backfiring from the damaged chest interior. It ricochets off. Part of it explodes a trunk nearest them, cutting a swathe.

Against the push of the beam, the Hulk digs in. The exposed half of its face snarls with boiling rage carved into intention. It's learned. Big, bare toes dig into the earth. Its right hand pounds into the ground, occasionally losing its touch as fingers begin to lift off, only to slam back down with a low, pervasive growl. Absorbing more energy, glancing off that green skin, than— well, the HUD's down so the true numbers are unclear.

While, it holds the Dauntless captive; should the creature lose its footing, be blasted away: so, too, will Tony.

The unibeam coughs, sputters, and goes silent. Three of the four remaining power cores immediately wink out. The final unit begins to blink like an irregular heartbeat. A heartbeat just like Tony's.

Ribs. There are broken ribs. When he breathes, something sharp presses against one of his lungs. The hand inside the fused gauntlet hurts in a sickening, wrong-feeling way. The concussion is catching up with him, too. For a moment there are two angry Hulkfaces in front of him, then they meld back into a single image.

With barely enough energy to power his life support systems, the fight has officially gone out of Mr. Stark. The worry lines across his brow and around the corners of his mouth fade away as he relaxes for the first time in a very, very long time. He lets out a quiet sigh and makes a final attempt to trigger the comm system. "Jarvis. If you can hear me, tell Pepper I said I'm sorry."

Silence; no: metal whines, that incessant beeping, the heavy, snorted breaths of his unaffected opponent.

With the death of the beam, the Hulk jerks bodily towards Tony— proving that it can. The hand releases his the Dauntless' arm and crashes knuckles down into the ground. Tony's addled brain humorously notices that his unibeam's stripped the sticky substance from the creature's afflicted shoulder and face. Unhindered, it glares, not hesitating to latch onto the Dauntless' ruined chest. Squeeze.

The other hand rears back, huge fingers curling into a giant fist with a crack of knuckles that vibrates across the new clearing they've made. It'll happen in a second—-

…. nothing. But time's not frozen; when Tony can stop fixating on the giant fist poised to turn him into so much Stark-mulch, he can see the expression on the Hulk's face as it twitches, falters then abruptly strengthens in a tighter snarl. He stares down at Tony, but the eyes both see him and seem elsewhere. A different struggle is happening, one that the purely physical Hulk rebels against more viciously. The big head tosses. It shifts uncomfortably, then suddenly tensing, arm regaining its lost inch— only to balk back again.

Tony's whole face, pacified and beaten, fills those angry eyes and they begin to, bit by tiny bit, soften. As he saw before.

Weight and shadow vanish off the Dauntless so fast it's almost as violent as the punch. The Hulk has thrown itself to the side, then backwards with brutal force, barely catching on a leg, an arm— pounding the dirt accidentally and then purposefully, only to lose balance and stagger further towards the ragged, blasted land it rampaged across.

A low, thick growl escapes those clenched teeth, sounding more pained than anything from the monstrous clash.

Throwing itself with as much savagery as the fight, the Hulk makes it several feet, at first charging blindly and then, slowly but not gently, grabbing at the ground for support. Muscles jerk and distend, collapsing in, too much mass boiling down into too little. Green blanches into less, into skin, and then pales with effort; knuckles whitened, knees shrinking and then buckling. In front of Tony, the towering threat disintegrates into dirty skin, flyaway hair— that aggressive shoulder-line shrinks and shrivels until it's no longer a horizon, can hardly be seen amongst the debris.

The roar becomes— human… vulnerable. A shout, and then just staggered, labored breathing amongst the flattened limbs and crushed plants. Foliage crunches, this time with no force, no intrusion except the soft collapse of a figure that in no way mirrors the titan that's fallen.

Determined to meet his fate with his eyes open and his head held high, the thoroughly befuddled Tony sees what happens, but can't quite believe it at first.

"Well…" he muses aloud as he picks himself up off the ground. Even on autopilot, his fingers know every strap, buckle, and rivet on the Dauntless. It only takes him a few seconds to pry himself out of his metal casket. He also removes the final, faulty power core from the suit's breastplate and attaches it atop his own arc reactor. Once he's finished, he runs a set of leads from it to the gauntlet that's still stuck to his left hand..

The remaining scraps and components are pushed into an untidy pile. Then Tony enters in a lengthy code on the touchscreen of his watch, initiating a self-destruct sequence. "Didn't even make it all the way through your maiden voyage," he laments as the discarded parts melt themselves down into an unrecognizable, rapidly solidifying puddle.

Once his business is concluded, he's left in the approximate middle of nowhere with no transportation and no means of contacting the rest of the world. With few options available, he dusts himself off and follows Banner past the treeline.

Within the swathe of carnage cut by the fighting, Banner's another casualty. Pushed up to sitting in the smooth crater made by a removed boulder larger than him, the transformed scientist appears resigned to remain there. Neither do his legs, naked and already striped with dirt as they lay out, slightly bent, in front of him, seem inclined to hold his weight. He was never a small man, but he looks two sizes crushed now; shoulders hunched, everything hangs as though he were not the victor in this fight.

A wry tip of the head makes him appear aware of Tony's approach, but he doesn't look that way. Lifting a half-hearted hand, Banner threads a twig with three waving leaves out of his mussed hair. It twirls to the ground on a breeze, unaware of its impending death upon arriving there.

Bruce watches it with little commitment. When a strange silence of muddled potential sits between them, and it's clear Tony isn't going away so soon, the weary scientist looks off towards the less bruised trees further ahead of him with a droll, heavily skeptical, "Is that… all you got?" Heavy, ponderous enunciation tests each word, clearly questioning Tony's choice of phrase with just a lick of exhausted and dried humor.

Tony keeps Banner covered with his remaining gauntlet as he approaches, but he lowers it as soon as he sees the condition his fellow genius is in. "What did you expect me to say? 'Wow, you're a lot bigger and stronger and greener than I thought. Go ahead and kill me.'"

Modesty isn't an affliction that he experiences personally, but he's familiar with the concept. After a moment of consideration, he does the only thing he can think of. He shrugs out of his shirt and yanks it off over the fused gauntlet. "Better to have me shirtless than you all a-dangle." Tony hands it over. "I'm going to call us a ride."

Next he speaks into his watch, which lights up obligingly. "Boys, I need my helicopter. Send it out, will you?"

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