Let’s talk about the sheer, simply brilliance in the way Tony Stark pierced Bruce Banner’s shield.
Bruce is, or once was, a truly depressed and damaged man. He sees himself as a monster, perhaps a failure at life and science for becoming one, and had gone as low as attempting suicide and even failed at that. He had sunk into obscurity, seeking peace in solitude and had long accepted that humanity in general will fear him, loath him, tiptoe around him, and forever see him as a monster.
He was not prepared for Tony Stark, who in his own simple, arrogant, self-absorbed way, ignored literally everyone’s perception of Bruce and formed his own opinion of the man before even meeting him. He walked in and commented on the hulk in the room as casually as if he was complimenting Bruce’s shirt. One could almost see his mental process upon seeing Bruce - “my age - cool; seems nice - cool; almost as smart as me - double cool; big green months thing - bitchin’”.
Tony Stark had likely decided before even meeting Bruce Banner in person that they were going to be friends. No matter how anyone else tiptoed around Bruce, Tony treated him like he did anyone else, by being a friendly, charming, outgoing, and generally irritating prick. His casual manner around Bruce allowed Bruce to relax around him. Just by being himself, he told Bruce wordlessly that it’s OK, there’s much more to him than the monster inside, and someone sees that.
It wasn’t so much that Tony wanted to show Bruce he didn’t care about the monster - he truly, genuinely did not care. He’s Tony “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” Stark. He couldn’t be bothered with some little medical problem his new BFF has on the side. It just wasn’t a big deal. Not when there’s so much science to be done and so many toys they could play with together.
And all Bruce ever needed was for his big problem not to be someone else’s big deal.
Oh. My. God. My. Feels.
You guys… I ship these two so hard. I know OTB and TDKR has taken over my blog, my ficcing attempts, and my brain… but there will always be a special part of my fandom heart that is totally and irrevocably devoted to Science Bros.
It’s not a one-sided relationship, either. Tony and Bruce are like two sides of the same coin… they both have demons, demons they themselves have created, and they both have armor… However, one wears his armor on the outside, puts something ON to be stronger, while the other’s armor resides inside of him, coming out to protect him.
Tony is the hulk of himself, the out of control, the problematic, the damaged… the man himself is the wound, the nerve exposed, though to less extreme measures. Iron Man is his chance to be the hero, to put on a suit and be someone else, someone better, to out-maneuver his demons for a little while.
Bruce is the Iron Man of himself, trying to keep a lid on the wounds, trying to do good things, trying to balance out what the uncontrollable force inside him has wrought. Hulk is the manifestation of his damage, the “big green rage monster” is his demon.
They are inside out version of each other in this way, even though it’s not a perfect metaphor. They can understand each other, because they can see each other for who they really are… damaged, haunted, and wounded, but strong, capable, willing to do whatever it takes to balance the scale.
THAT is why Tony knew Bruce would come back in New York when everyone else had discounted him as off the map.
THAT is why Hulk caught Tony when he fell from the portal, why even the most PRIMITIVE part of Bruce Banner recognized this man as a friend, as someone to risk himself for, something to be rescued. His scream at fallen Tony is not just angry that he’s not waking up, it’s not just to startle him… I see it also as anguished, the exposed-nerve unwilling to accept that this person who touched him deeply, who understands and still accepts, this person who gets him, could possibly be gone already.
THAT is why, when Tony is splintered and recovering, Bruce is there, not the ‘right kind of doctor,’ perhaps, but the exact right kind of friend.
I’m sorry… I just… UGH.