Robbie doesn't stop talking about it for days.
At home, at school, at the grocery store, before bed, during breakfast, on the way to school, during dinner. By the end of the week, Bruce is ready to rip out his hair if it means he doesn't have to hear about the merits of whichever avenger is Robbie's favorite today.
He's glad the night went well, of course. He's happy that Robbie liked the team and even happier that the team liked Robbie, and if he's being honest with himself Bruce enjoyed himself too.
He'd had more fun than he had in over five years.
Bruce might even put himself in the category of happy at the current moment.
Which is what scares him most of all.
He's gotten so good at avoiding attachments, at pulling himself away when he starts to care too much. Bruce knows that eventually, when he's least expecting it, all semblances of his happiness will blow up in his face, as they always do, and the less collateral damage he has to deal with, the better.
It's too late to save Robbie, he knows that, now that Brianna is gone and Bruce is the only thing the kid has left in the world. But there's still a chance, however slight, that he could avoid dragging down the world's treasured team of beloved superheroes with him in his constant downward spiral.
He'd thought he'd hit rock bottom with a gun in his mouth on top of some godforsaken cliff in the middle of nowhere, but if he managed to take down the Avengers and destroy his son's life, he might have to rethink his definition of those words.
He finds himself standing in the doorway of Robbie's room after he's gone to bed, watching Robbie sleep peacefully, curled around a Hulk plushie that he has a sneaking suspicion came from Tony, but Robbie seems to like it so Bruce can't bring himself to take it away.
It's been almost a week and a half since their visit to Avengers Mansion. Bruce sighs when he finally closes Robbie's door softly, then heads to the kitchen, grabs his phone, and calls Tony.
Something about Natasha's expression the third time Bruce brings Robbie over for what he's begun to think of as "Avengers playdates" makes Bruce worried, but when he asks her about it, she just smiles and shakes her head, pulling Robbie into her arms. "Tell me everything you did this week, solnyshko."
The fourth playdate marks a month since Brianna's death. As Bruce watches Robbie school Tony and Clint in a decidedly old school version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, he thinks that Brianna would be happy to see her son here, smiling and laughing. With his father.
It makes his heart hurt to think about it.
"Deep thoughts, doctor?"
Bruce only startles a little when Natasha slides into the seat between him and Clint. She presses a bottle of water into his hand, eyes on the game. Bruce presses his palms against the cool plastic. "Just thinking."
"About Brianna?" Natasha guesses, edging just a little closer so her leg brushes against his. When Bruce just swallows in response, she murmurs softly, "I miss her too."
They sit in silence, watching the game, and slowly Bruce forces his muscles to relax. And if, in the process, he leans a little more into Natasha, she doesn't seem to mind.
Playdate number six marks the day when the other shoe finally drops.
In retrospect, Bruce knows he should have seen it coming. Should've started to be suspicious when everything started to seem so perfect, when he started to feel happy for the first time since the accident.
Robbie is regaling Steve and Tony with his personal retelling of the Lego Movie, complete with Tony's indignant interruptions over the fact that Batman is represented in the movie but Iron Man isn't, while Bruce and Natasha are making lunch and talking quietly in the kitchen. Lunch is almost done, so Bruce slides the casserole into the oven to brown and walks out into the living room to tell Robbie to go wash his hands, when he stops short at the sight of a figure standing in the doorway, watching the proceedings silently.
"If I'd known we'd be having dinner, I would have brought a side dish."
Bruce swallows hard, blinking a couple of times before venturing a polite, if hesitant, "Good afternoon, Director."
By this time, the room has gone silent, and Tony and Steve have both gotten to their feet, looking between Fury and Bruce with similarly blank expressions. Bruce senses Natasha slide into the room from the kitchen, and when he turns to look, Clint slips in beside her.
"How did you get into our home?" Tony asks, voice dripping with poorly concealed hostility. "Jarvis, I thought I programmed you to announce all visitors prior to granting entrance to the mansion."
"I do not have a recollection of Director Fury requesting entry to the mansion, sir," Jarvis responds after a moment's pause, sounding surprisingly chagrined. The Avengers all look at one another confusedly, but no one moves to stop Fury as he sits down at the kitchen table.
"It's been a while, Dr. Banner. How have you been since we last spoke?" he asks in the same tone someone would use to discuss something as trivial as the weather. Bruce wipes his hands on his apron.
"I've been about as well you'd expect, given the circumstances," he replies. He hopes for his son his voice does not betray the nervousness he feels. Robbie stands by Thor's side eyes wide, gazing up at the strange man. For the first time since he arrived, Fury looks at the boy.
"Hello young man. That's quite a nice toy you've got there," he says, gesturing towards the Hulk action figure in Robbie's hand. Robbie gives the slightest of nods.
Bruce's heart nearly stops when Fury reaches into his pocket, but all the man pulls out is a wrapped candy. He offers the treat to the boy. Robbie doesn't move.
"I've never met a kid who turned down one of these," Fury jokes, though no one even laughs. Robbies squeezes his toy closer, but doesn't look away.
"I'm not supposed to take candy from strangers," he says softly, and suddenly Bruce is so proud of the boy, proud of his son, that he needs to take a moment to look away. When he looks back Robbie is staring at him. He thinks for a moment, then nods.
"It's alright, you can take it," he says. Robbies nods too, then quickly grabs the treat and stuffs it in his pocket where Bruce knows it will melt and probably stain the pants he just bought him. Seemingly satisfied, Fury turns from the boy back to his father.
"So, Dr. Banner, are you ready to discuss the elephant in the room or are we going to play Happy Family some more?"
"The only elephant in the room here is why we haven't eaten yet. I'm starving," complains Clint. The five simultaneous death glares he receives shuts up any further mention of dinner. Bruce crosses his arms, willing that part of him to keep it together.
"Why did you come here?" he asks. Fury's eyes flick from the boy back to Bruce.
"Are you sure you want to do this with him in the room?"
"There's nothing you can say to me you can't say in front of him."
At least, he's pretty sure there's not. The kid is frighteningly perceptive for a preschooler.
There's a tense moment and Bruce is starting to formulate what would be the quickest exit out of the mansion when Fury cracks a smile.
"Fatherhood has done you a world of wonders, Bruce."
Bruce blinks. "Thank you," he says, because he doesn't know what else to say. Fury folds his hands in his lap.
"But, that's no excuse to hide this from us," Fury says, keeping his gaze on Bruce.
"This?" Steve repeats, expression hardening. "What exactly are you referring to, Director?"
Fury glances at Steve briefly before settling his gaze on Robbie, who is looking around the room, brow furrowed. "I'm referring to the largest potential threat to world security since Loki, which you all decided to keep a secret from us."
Robbie walks over to Bruce, looking over at Fury for a second before asking, "What's he talking about, Dad? What's going on?"
Bruce picks Robbie up, holding him against his hip. "Nothing, buddy," Bruce says firmly. "Director Fury was just leaving."
Fury barks out a short laugh. "If you think S.H.I.E.L.D. is letting this go that easily, the gamma radiation has damaged your brain cells more than I thought, Doctor. We will deal with how you managed to keep a child with your gamma infused genes a secret for so long later. Right now, you will give the child into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, so that we can neutralize the security threat as quickly as possible."
Bruce has to fight back the wave of indignation and anger that swell inside him. "I think it's time for you to leave, Director," he grits out, holding Robbie more securely against his body. "My son and I are having lunch with friends."
"Don't make this difficult, Doctor Banner," Fury replies, voice sounding forcibly calm. "We're not inhumane; no harm will come to him. Just hand him over, please."
"No harm will come to him?" Bruce repeats, voice just shy of a growl. "I've seen your ideas of neutralization up close and personally, and I know better than to trust the bullshit that comes out of your mouth, Fury. Now. Please. Leave."
"Dad, what's he talking about?" Robbie asks in a panicked voice.
"Not now, Robbie," Bruce mutters.
Fury eyes him for a moment, before turning his gaze on the rest of the room. "I'm sorry it's come down to this, Bruce," he says. "Agent Barton, take custody of the child."
All eyes turn to Clint, whose expression is still impressively blank, even as he snaps, "Like hell I will, Fury, he's just a kid!"
"That's a direct order from your superior, Barton," Fury snarls, eyes flashing. When Clint just crosses his arms across his chest firmly, Fury turns to Natasha. "Agent Romanoff?"
"I believe Bruce asked you to leave, Director," she answers.
Fury stares at her for a long moment. "Don't think it's slipped my notice that keeping this under wraps had to have been an inside job, Agent Romanoff." When Natasha doesn't respond, he adds, "I'm not leaving until this situation has been resolved."
"That's a human being you're talking about, and he has a name, you know," Tony says. "And I'm getting pretty tired of S.H.I.E.L.D. dropping in unannounced into our home."
"World security takes precedence over your psychosis, Stark," Fury replies icily. "And Robbie is a serious threat to that security."
"No," Bruce snaps, surprised by his own vehemence, "He's not. But if you even think about taking him away from me, I promise you that I will be a threat to your precious security. I will tear S.H.I.E.L.D. to the ground if you try to take my son away from me."
The room is deadly silent for a long minute before Fury speaks. "You had better watch what you say, Doctor, because that sounded like a direct threat to a top government organization."
Bruce opens his mouth to retort but stops when he sees Fury visibly tense and pull his gun. The room has gone surprisingly quiet, besides the sound of someone crying, and Bruce looks down and realizes dimly that Robbie is the source.
But he forgets about his son's tears when he notices that Robbie's skin has turned decidedly green as he sobs into Bruce's shirt.
Bruce shifts so that his back is to Fury, and he's blocking Robbie from Fury's line of sight. "Shh, Robbie," Bruce murmurs quietly, walking towards the couch. "It's okay. Deep breaths." He sits down, keeping Robbie in his lap, and takes one of his son's hands and presses it to his own chest. "Breathe with me."
Bruce keeps his eyes on his son until Robbie's skin returns to normal, and his crying subsides to small whimper. When he looks up again, he notices that the Avengers have all moved to stand between him and Fury, and are talking quietly.
"He needs to be under constant surveillance," Fury is saying.
"He needs his father," Steve replies. "Bruce is clearly the only one who knows what he's going through and how to control it."
"And the one time Bruce isn't there? Or doesn't manage to calm him down in time? Who knows how this will manifest when the kid gets older?"
Steve crosses his arms tightly. "I thought we still operated under 'innocent until proven guilty', Director. Or is that no longer the case?"
"We can't afford to let potential threats go running around unchecked. People's lives are at stake, Captain."
"So Bruce and Robbie move in here."
All eyes turn to Natasha, who shrugs. "Who better to keep an eye on Robbie than your precious team of superheroes? All of us are capable of helping Bruce make sure Robbie learns to control his abilities, and in the off chance something does happen, we'll be right here to make sure the situation stays in house and doesn't spiral out of control."
Fury looks skeptical, but he looks around at the group. "You would all agree to this?"
At the nods and murmurs of agreement Fury sighs. "Fine. But if anything goes wrong, I'm holding each and every one of you personally responsible."
Tony turns his gaze to Bruce, who is still sitting on the couch, listening to the conversation numbly. "How about it, Bruce? You up for being roomies?"
Bruce looks down at Robbie, who is curled up against his side, clutching the collar of his shirt loosely. "Yes," Bruce agrees slowly. "I can agree to that compromise. But S.H.I.E.L.D. will stay out of our lives except for actual serious emergencies. No constant surveillance, the trackers stay out of my belongings, and no unexpected house calls."
"I'm sure Director Fury can agree to that," Clint says before Fury has the chance to open his mouth. "If that's settled, then, I think we have a lunch to get back to. I'm starving."
Fury leaves without much more resistance, shaking his head to himself as he does so. Once he's gone and they've sat down to a slightly overdone casserole, Bruce turns to Robbie. "So how would you feel about moving in here with Tony, Steve, Natasha, Clint, and Thor?"
Robbie stares up at him, eyes wide. "Are you kidding?" he squeaks, looking around at everyone. "THIS IS AWESOME!"
Bruce grins despite himself.