"Come on, you have to come. It's tradition!"
"How is me accompanying you while you get drunk and leer at women a tradition?" Bruce asks Tony, leaning against the pristine granite countertop.
"Going out and having fun for no reason at all is tradition" Tony shoots back, gesturing dramatically. "And what is fun without a bit of alcohol and a few women?"
"Tony, I'm not really - "
"Come on, Bruce," Tony continues seriously. "It'll be fun. You're allowed to have fun, you know."
Bruce turns away, without an answer, shrinking in on himself.
"Don't do this, Banner," Tony tells him in a low voice, stepping up behind him. "Don't keep wallowing in self-loathing. It doesn't help anyone."
Clint walks in then, edging around them to get at the refrigerator. "Oh, sorry," he mumbles, mouth full of something or the other. "Didn't mean to interrupt your little lovefest in the kitchen."
"Barton, we're going out drinking tonight," Tony tells him. "Wear something other than that awful SHIELD uniform."
Clint rolls his eyes. "You coming too, doc?"
"No, I - " Bruce begins, but Tony cuts him off smoothly.
"Of course he is."
Raising his eyebrows briefly, Clint shrugs. "Sounds fun." And then he laughs. "Never thought I'd be going out drinking with Iron Man and the Hulk. If only the guys at the circus could see this." He headed out of the room, still chuckling.
"Well, that's settled then," Tony says with a grin. "Get ready for a hell of a night, doc!"
"None of those snooty-ass overpriced bars, Stark," Clint calls from down the hall.
"Yeah, yeah," Tony mutters. "We'll go somewhere dingy and cheap enough for your lowborn sensibilities."
"I heard that!"
Bruce sighs resignedly.
"Come on, just one more," Tony urges, signaling the bartender to refill his glass again.
Bruce shakes his head stubbornly. "I don't do well when I'm not in control," he reminds Tony.
Tony claps him on the shoulder. "A couple drinks won't cause you to lose control," Tony tells him. Bruce has to give it to the man; he's consumed about four times the alcohol Bruce has and he's not even slurring yet.
"Well you'd be the expert on that," Bruce replies with another wry smile.
Tony laughs, a little too loudly, but that's to be expected at this point. "Of course I am. And really, you must try something better than that, doc," he says, gesturing to Bruce's drink. "Really? Hard lemonade? That's no way to impress the ladies!" He winks over at some blonde bimbo across the bar, who giggles loudly with her friends in response.
"That's not really what I'm going for."
"That's what you should be going for," Tony replies immediately, swallowing back his scotch with a grimace. "This is the last time I listen to Barton about bars," he mutters.
Bruce just smiles, looking down into his drink. He taps his fingers on the wooden bar top. It's clean enough, though he can't say the same for the floor, and the dim lights above their heads cast slight shadows across peeling brown paint on the walls.
"Oh, come on. At least try something else," Tony presses, wrinkling his nose at Bruce's drink.
"Alright, fine," Bruce agrees, tired of the argument. "You order for me, since you're the expert." Over on the other side of the room, Clint had attracted an audience to his little darts game. Watching the marksman play darts wasn't an overly interesting sight, but Bruce couldn't look away. Clint would cheer whenever he hit his target and groan when he missed his mark completely, though Bruce had the feeling he was missing on purpose now and again.. Bruce couldn't remember the last time he'd played a game, let alone darts. After a few minutes of watching, Bruce turned away and stared back into his glass.
"Alright, here we go, big guy," he hears Tony say. "I got just the thing for you."
His glass has transformed into a shot glass of bright green liquid.
Damn Tony fucking Stark.
"That is so not funny, Tony," he mutters.
Tony has the gall to put on an innocent face. "What? Oh, you mean the resemblance, color-wise, to your charming alter ego? It's just absinthe. Plenty of people drink it."
Bruce shakes his head ruefully. "I am not drinking that."
"Aw, come on, Bruce. You know you're gonna give in, why don't we skip the argument and go straight to the part where you give in?"
"You need another drink, honey?" Tony asks the blonde one on his left. Christy, he thinks she said her name was. Or maybe Cathy. Or Kirsten. Or was it Amy?
Oh, what does it matter anyway? He's about five drinks too far to worry about names. She's pretty, and that's all that really counts at this point.
Oh, what a night. Clint had gone off early with a cute girl on each arm, and he'd finally managed to get enough alcohol into Bruce that he'd wandered off with some young, dark-skinned woman. He hadn't stopped them when they'd stumbled towards the door; if there was one thing Bruce Banner needed, it was to get laid.
And so he stumbles out the door with just Mary or Lauren or Jenny, congratulating himself on such a successful night for everyone.
The first thing Bruce is aware of is the pounding pain in his head. He hasn't had pain this bad in years, he thinks dully, rolling over with a groan. Clearly he had stayed up too late last night, and -
His thoughts freeze midsentence as his arm meets something else in his bed.
It's a very long moment before he moves again, gingerly moving to see that, first of all, the tiny bedroom is clearly not his room, especially judging by the purple wallpaper and jewelry case open on the dresser. The light blue patterned comforter he's half under is warm but unfamiliar, but more importantly, there's a woman sleeping next to him. Naked.
Bruce fights back the urge to throw up, though he's not sure how much of that is his hangover.
His hangover. Yes, he'd been out drinking. He remembers Tony, plunking down a green drink in front of him with a cheeky grin, and then...
Not much. He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes, trying to will his mind to remember what he'd done last night. This is worse than when he has an incident, because then he at least has an excuse, but he should remember this.
Oh God. What if he had hulked out? His mind races along side his heart. He couldn't have sex with Betty then, what if this time he had...
His fears are partially assuaged when the woman - God, he doesn't even remember her name - rolls over in her sleep. He lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. The room looks orderly enough, save from the articles of clothing strewn haphazardly on the floor, and she doesn't have any visible bruises...
So maybe he's safe. Maybe the alcohol had subdued the Hulk. Maybe he'd just gotten lucky.
And his head really fucking hurts.
Still, he scribbles his cell phone number on a sheet of paper and drops it on the pillow.
He gathers his clothes (not at all ripped or shredded) as quietly as he can and drags himself out the door.
And all he can think is what the hell did Tony give me?