smash_stuff: (contemplative)
[personal profile] smash_stuff

Bruce wasn't exactly good with kids. He wasn't even sure if this was for real, the summons from Shield saying they had an agent missing...and that Coulson wasn't exactly himself anymore.

But they were searching every level of the large facility, trying to find him again. Bruce walked down the hallway and picked a door at random, finding himself in a huge warehouse of stuff confiscated by Shield. Boxes on boxes, it was like a maze in here.

"...uhm...hello? Anyone here?"

Phil had no idea where he was. The room was bigger than almost any one he'd ever been in, and he was pretty sure that he wasn't supposed to be there. Plus he was wearing what he thought was one of his daddy's suits. It was just a bit terrifying, and he just knew that if anyone found him, he'd be in trouble.

He just wanted his parents. It was enough to bring him to tears. However, once he heard an unfamiliar voice call out, he cut himself off with a sniffle and climbed behind a box.

Bruce walked between rows and stacks of boxes, sighing as he kept talking. "Anyone here but me? No....guess I'm talking to myself. Not that that's anything new..."

A few more steps and he stops at an intersection, wondering if even HE will be able to find the way out of here. "Coulson? If you're in here, please say something."

There was a rather lengthy pause before a quiet, somewhat wavery, and entirely too high-pitched voice could be heard.

"... Am I in trouble?"

Bruce quickly looks around, he wasn't expecting an answer.

"Coulson? Is that you?" He didn't sound good. "Hey, look, we're all worried about you out here. The whole place is looking for you." Bruce tries to pinpoint where that voice might have come from, climbing a box or two in (hopefully) the right direction.

Well, whoever it was, they didn't sound mad. Phil sniffed again and crawled out from behind the box back into the aisle, looking around for the source of the voice.

Bruce finally spots him from his perch on top of a box and quickly tries to get down without falling. He probably wouldn't have believed it if he wasn't looking at him with his own eyes right now.

"...hey...Phil." Bruce really didn't know what else to say as he walked over. "You alright?" He looked like he was swimming in a suit too big for him.

He looked up at Bruce and nodded solemnly before he added aloud, "But I think I'm lost."

He smiles worriedly back at him, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah...I know the feeling." Bruce kept a pace or two back, not wanting to scare the kid. "You're not hurt or anything though?" He didn't look like he recognized Bruce at all. "Do you...remember me?"

"No, I'm okay," he replied to the first question, before straightening up at the second. "I don't remember you, though. I'm sorry. Are you a friend of my dad's?"

Oh boy. This was going to be harder than he thought. Bruce tries to think of how to answer that as he crouches down to Phil's level. "Not exactly, I'm....a friend. You helped me awhile back..." Not that he's going to remember that either. Bruce gives up on explaining and just introduces himself instead. "I'm Bruce. How about we try to find a way out of here?" He offers a hand.

He took Bruce's hand and nodded solemnly. "I don't like this place. It's kinda scary."

"Yeah, I'm not fond of it either." Bruce stands up and walks towards the exit...or hopefully where the exit is.

Testing a theory, Bruce asks him, "How old are you, Phil...ip?" He really couldn't keep calling a kid Phil.

He walks alongside Bruce as best he can in far-too-big clothes, holding onto his hand like a lifeline.

"I'm seven."

"" At least that gave them a baseline to work with when they try to reverse...whatever happened. "Think I was playing with a chemistry set when I was seven...FINALLY." There was the exit. Bruce leads him out and along a hallway back towards the center of the Shield base.

Though the route takes them past a certain door marked with letters and numbers under the word 'Captain America'. Where his suit and shield were kept locked up. Unless of course, you had the right eye retina scan.

And once they get near that door, Phil promptly stops dead, staring up at the label on the door in rapt fascination.

Bruce finds his tag along is no longer moving when his arm is jerked back. "What's...?" He trails off seeing what he's looking at. Bruce isn't exactly aware of Coulson's fascination of Cap.

"What's wrong?"

He points at the door with his free hand.

"That says Captain America!" He tugs on Bruce's hand emphatically. "Can we go inside? I wanna see what's inside!"

"Oh uh..." Bruce is baffled by his excitement and doesn't quite know what to say. "I...don't know if I'm allowed in there."

Though at that moment, Coulson's close enough for the computer to scan his eyes and the door opens right on cue.

And absolutely nothing else exists for young Phillip Coulson in that moment. If you thought he was staring at the door before, it doesn't even compare with the wide-eyed astonishment he's overtaken by at the view of that display case.

He's absolutely speechless.

"...guess you are allowed in there." Bruce looks back and forth in the hallway and it seems they're the only ones there. If they're going to get into trouble over this, it's a long time coming. And Bruce is pretty sure Cap wouldn't mind.

"How come you know who Steve is?" That was the curious part.

Phil carefully walks just a few steps toward the display, almost as if he's nervous to get too close.

Still, though, he's more than happy to answer the question. "Captain America's a hero. He was just little and then he got really big and strong and beat up bad guys and saved people and he was really brave and helped win a whole war. Oh, oh, and the Howling Commandos helped him and I have tons of comic books and trading cards and my room has his shield painted on the wall because I begged my dad to do it and he said yes and he did it for my birthday and it's great."

The kid didn't even breathe inbetween. Bruce has a smile creeping up on him at the sheer devotion Phil has for his hero. "Really? I didn't know all of that. I mean, I only just met him...I guess I didn't read comics growing up."

And now he's staring just as wide-eyed at Bruce.

".... You know Captain America?"

...maybe he shouldn't have said that. More awkward neck rubbing. "Er, well, yeah. We kind together I guess you could say. Though I'm no hero." He's quick to add that last bit. "Not like he is."

"So they found him?! He was missing for a really long time and they thought he was dead but I knew he wasn't dead because I just knew and you know him so that means they found him."

He promptly jumps up and down in giddy excitement, almost tripping over his clothes a few times.

Now he had an overexcited mini agent on his hands. "Whoa, whoa, careful. Calm down." Bruce has his hands out, not sure what to do. "Yeah, he's fine. They found him in the ice and thawed him out." They really needed to get him some clothes that fit.

He settles some but the grin on his face indicates that more delighted jumping is probably simmering below the surface somewhere. "I'm glad they found him. He's a hero and more heroes are awesome for everyone." He pauses, and then in the interest of full accuracy, adds, "Except for the bad guys."

Bruce smirks wryly. "Yeah, too bad for the bad guys."

His eyes travel to the shield hanging on the wall. He might regret asking this but... "You want to see the shield? I don't think he'd mind and it's made of this rare metal..." Bruce would like seeing the scientific aspects of the shield instead of the fact a hero wields it.

He turns to look at the shield, expression wavering between wary and excited. When he speaks, it's almost a whisper. "Do you really think it's okay?"

"Not like we could break it if we tried." Bruce walks over and carefully picks up the surprisingly light shield off the wall to bring it down. It makes a slight vibrating sound as the end bumps the wall.

Bruce hadn't actually held the thing himself, though he's told the Hulk has on occasion. "Sure a lot lighter than I thought," he comments, sitting down so Phil could hold it too.

He reaches out carefully and just puts his hand on the shield, staring. "... Wow."

"Pretty cool, huh? I was told it's made from vibrainium, which is almost impossible to find. It absorbs the impact of nearly anything thrown at it..." Bruce goes into science mode, turning it on its side and flicking a finger against the metal to let it ring slightly.

"I made one out of a trash can lid." He doesn't take his eyes off the shield. "It's not as cool, though."

"That's pretty resourceful." Not like he should think anything otherwise from Coulson. " remember Cap and your dad...and how old you are. Anything else?"

"My mom and my sisters and my brother. And I'm in second grade and my teacher's name is Miss Tuttle. And I have a dog named Alfie and one of his ears sticks up funny and when I grow up, I want to be a hero."

Ok, Bruce cannot keep the smile off his face listening to Phil. "A hero like Cap?" Now it made sense. "I don't doubt you will be."

He picks up the shield, putting it back on the wall. "We should probably get back to the base. Fury's probably beside himself..."

"Who's that? Am I in trouble? I didn't come here on purpose, really!"

"I know, it's ok. You're not in trouble." Bruce reassures him. "We think something happened to you to make you...younger." It's probably classified but really, Coulson has a higher level than he does. Not like he doesn't deserve to know, even when he's seven. "That's why your clothes are so big."

He looks down at himself. "Oh. So I'm actually bigger?" He catches sight of his name badge and twists it around to get a better look.

He wrinkles his nose. "Is that a picture of me?"

"Yeah, kind of." Bruce looks puzzled, "What's wrong with the picture?"

"I look old. And bald. I look like my principal!"

Bruce has the hardest time keeping a straight face. "It's not that bad. Really. Just wait till you see Fury. Believe me, that is not bald." He's probably going to pay for that later if anyone happens to be listening in.

"Come on, this way," Bruce reaches for his hand to try and lead him out of the Cap cave.

Phil admittedly sounds dubious about this. "Okay."

He obediently takes Bruce's hand to head out, but he looks back over his shoulder the entire time.

Bruce finally runs into someone else, another agent, and lets them know he found Phil. They escort the two of them towards the main room where Fury is waiting. "He seems alright...y'know other than being....he's alright." Bruce stumbles over his explanation.

Between the eyepatch and the big black coat and the boots, Nick Fury is infinitely more intimidating than Bruce is, so Phil is promptly half hiding behind Bruce (who, after all, knows Captain America) as Nick sizes him up.

The Director's beleaguered, "You have got to be kidding me," garners no response from the kid.

Bruce can sense the Director was scaring Phil. Not that he blamed him, Fury was pretty scary, even to Bruce. But he feels the need to speak up. "Hey...he's a little freaked out so...y'know, be nice."

...that sounded so much more intimidating in his head. But he doesn't move from between Fury and Coulson, sticking to his guns. "Maybe we could get him some clothes that fit?"

Fury promptly directs a junior agent to do just that. He keeps his tone remarkably modulated and it at least induces Phil to poke his head out curiously.

Bruce breathes an internal sigh of relief. Despite his own 'condition', Fury is not one of the people he wants to cross, even in a small way. He leads Coulson over to a table and sits him in one of the chairs. "Ok...I think Cap sits in this one actually." Trying anything to distract him from the big scary room full of people he doesn't remember.

"Really? This chair?" He promptly sits up straight and crosses his legs at the ankle. He does not want to slouch in Captain America's chair, after all.

"Yup, this chair." At least, at the last meeting, he did. They hadn't really been assigned chairs...and Thor liked to stand anyway.

They finally bring in some smaller clothes, a t-shirt and pants, nothing fancy. Bruce fleetingly smiles, thinking what younger Coulson might look like in a suit that actually fit at this age. "Ok, here. There's a bathroom over there," Bruce hands the clothes to him, hoping at seven he can dress himself.

Fury, on the other hand, is thinking ahead, and comes over to pull a gun out of it's oversized holster, handing it to the junior agent. He kneels down and pulls up the pant leg and takes a knife out of another holder on Coulson's leg. "Oh..." Bruce says aloud. He probably should have thought about that earlier.

He looks a bit shocked at the weapons that he'd apparently had on him the entire time. He just figured grown-up clothes were heavy.

Nevertheless, he takes the clothes that are more his size. "Thank you." He climbs out of the chair and heads to the bathroom to change. It doesn't take too long before he emerges again in much better fitting clothes.

Bruce waits behind, Fury talking with him about what happened. "Honestly, we're not entirely sure. He was out on assignment..."

"Doing what?" Bruce gets a silent look in return. "Right...classified, I get it."

He gives Phil a half smile, glad that he looks a little more comfortable in those clothes. "Better?"

"I'm going to put him in your custody for now," Fury is still talking to Bruce.

"What??" Bruce wasn't sure he was the best babysitter in the world. "No, wait, this is me we're talking about. I don't even trust me."

Phil nods emphatically when asked if the clothes fit better.

And Fury looks far too amused as he gives his own answer. "Looks like he's gotten attached."

Bruce makes a frustrated noise, turning his back so that Phil can't see him talk to Fury. "I'm not the safest to be around, especially for a kid..."

"You intend on transforming in the near future?"

"Well, no but..."

"Then it's settled." And Fury walks away, hands behind his back as if he wasn't going to take no for an answer. Leaving Bruce just standing.

Phil peeks around and looks up at Bruce. "What's wrong?"

Great, he didn't want to worry Phil...the kid. He puts on a smile, trying to look sincere. "Nothing, it's fine. I guess we get to hang out together." Though he doesn't know what they should do exactly.

"Oh." He looks thoughtful. "Where are we, anyway?"

"Uhm...this is sort of a...secret agent place." Bruce really felt like he was going to be the worst babysitter ever. "Which we probably should go somewhere else. Are you hungry?" At least he could feed him.

Phil nods emphatically. "Yeah. Eating sounds great!" He pauses. "Am I a secret agent when I grow up?"

Bruce half smiles and nods. "Yeah, one of the best secret agents." He puts a hand on Phil's back to direct him towards the cafeteria...but then changes his mind and asks if it's alright if they can eat while up top on deck. The helicarrier is in the water right now so it wouldn't be dangerous.

Soon, they're carrying trays of food out to the railing on the top deck, below them the jet planes and helicopters are being cleaned and readied in case of an emergency.

And Phil is immediately distracted from the food by the jet planes and helicopters below him, which he watches with a growing degree of fascination.

Bruce sits next to the railing, digging into his large plate of food. Mostly carbs because his metabolism goes faster than the average human. He watches Phil's expression, glad that he's enjoying himself. He's not too fond of the machines himself, but that's just because they usually ended up shooting at him earlier in his life. "Your hotdog is going to get cold," he says, indicating his tray.

"Oh, sorry." He settles down and starts eating his hotdog.

Bruce continues eating, watching as another helicopter comes in for landing. His fork stops midway to his mouth, remembering the helicopters coming at him guns flashing at him while large green hands...

Bruce fumbles with the fork, giving his head a shake. No. Not going to happen, he tells his inner monster. Not today.

Phil looks a bit quizzically at Bruce. "You okay?"

Bruce puts the fork back on his plate to rub the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, yeah I'm fine. Don't worry." Please don't worry, little Coulson.

He nods agreeably. "Okay!" His attention is then diverted back to his hot dog.

Bruce is glad he gets distracted so easily. Flashbacks he can deal with, so long as nobody else notices. "So...we need to work out what happened so we can change you back."

Phil pauses. "If we don't figure it out, does that mean I'm stuck here?"

"I...don't know? I mean, worst case scenario, I'm sure you could stay..." Bruce trails off, not sure what Shield's protocols were for kids.

"...I'll make sure you're alright." If he had to take matters into his own hands, call up Betty Ross and explain the situation, he would. Coulson had been there for him, he could do no less than the same.

"All right." He nods slowly, finishing his hot dog and setting the tray aside.

"But do you think you'll fix it?"

"....I don't know. But I'll do my best." Bruce hoped that whatever happened to Coulson wasn't changing his DNA now permanently.

"I guess if I can't, you'll get a chance to grow up all over again."

"Yeah, I guess so." He sounds a bit skeptical of the idea.

He then realizes nobody's really asked Phil what he wants to do, they've just been telling him what to do.

"What would you like to do?" Either in the meantime while they're sorting out the problem or about the problem itself, Bruce doesn't mind either answer.

"I wanna--" He cuts himself off and pauses, shrugging after a bit. "I dunno."

Bruce clarifies, trying to make it a little easier. "What do you want to do after we eat?"

"Um. Something fun! Liiiiiiiike.... um.... Coloring? Or riding bikes? Or..." He frowns. "I guess there aren't any big dirt piles here, huh?"

These were not suggestions he thought he would be presented with. The riding bikes option was kind of out being that they were on the helicarrier in the middle of the ocean. Coloring...he'd feel silly but Bruce could ask one of the agents for crayons maybe.

"No, I'm afraid not. Just a lot of equipment and computers...and vehicles. And science labs, I have one of those. You probably wouldn't be interested in that though..."

He looks curious, at least. "What kind of science?"

"Radiation and free particles...physics...." He smirks wryly. "Probably not as much fun as Tony's lab with all the robots he's got back home."

As if Tony would let him into his lab, even as a kid. Possibly especially as a kid.

"... Maybe free particles are fun too?"

"Well, I think they're fun. I'm just not the popular opinion."

Think Bruce, come were a kid once, what was fun? Surely he should be able to find something that's not science or involving the Hulk. Or stress. Or danger.

He can't believe he's asking himself this question but what would Tony do? " like computer games?"

Oh, Bruce, nice try, but think about exactly when it was Coulson would have been seven. Yeah.

"What are computer games?"

"They' a computer." Bruce just facepalms now. Yeah, he was new to this having fun business. "Y'know never mind. We'll just go to my lab and see if the free particles are doing anything."

He puts their trays together to carry them back to the cafeteria.

Phil promptly climbs to his feet. "Okay. So what are free particles, anyway?"

Science was something he felt a little more on solid ground with. As they walk back, he tries to explain the basics. "See, everything's made up of atoms. You, me, the floor, everything. Each atom is made up of even smaller parts, some of them carrying positive or negative charges. Free particles are....small bits of stuff that don't have an atom to call home. They can actually pass through everything else...."

He pauses, not sure if this was getting boring for the kid.

He tilts his head quizzically. "How can they go through things?"

Bruce almost smiles at the question. "That's the big question. Nobody knows...yet. We're still studying them. They have mass, they effect things they go through." He uses an example. "Like xrays, they go right through skin and tissue but slow down enough when they go through bone so we can take a picture of someone's insides."

"X-rays are pretty neat! I got an x-ray when I broke my arm and I got to see my bones! It was cool." He grins briefly and then gets curious again. "So they know how come x-rays can move through things but not free particles?"

"'s a big mystery." Even Bruce, who is legitimately one of the smartest people on the planet couldn't explain it. Not without a huge thesis and maybe a few years of his life to do it. Which he had better things to do than explain the why, he'd rather find the application for it.

"Scientists, I guess are kind of like detectives like that." Oh look, they're at his lab. Which has the standard equipment, microscope, etc. but there's a few large computer screens too that are processing old gamma radiation data from Loki's staff on them.

He looks around the lab, fascinated. "It looks like the inside of a spaceship!"

Bruce can't help a chuckle at that, looking around through Coulson's eyes. "Yeah...guess it does."

He brings down one of the computer screens, touching a few windows to see how the data was computing. High level physics and math but Bruce flicks through it like it was plain english.

Phil peers up at the screen. It really makes just about as much sense to him as sci-fi technobabble. "What's that all mean?"

"What this?" Bruce moves the screen down so Phil can see it. "It's just giving me the ratio of parts per's telling me how many particles there are at any given time." Yeah, hopefully that was simple enough.

Bruce quickly puts away the windows, getting an idea as he pulls another chair over. "Here, I think...yes, there's a drawing program on this. If I can find have to draw with your finger though."

"You're sure I can touch it? I don't wanna break anything."

"Yeah, go for it." He picks up Phil and puts him in the slightly high chair so he can reach the screen on his own. "Believe me, I've broken a whole lot worse."

"That's okay, I bet it was an accident," he says matter-of-factly, before reaching for the screen and starting to draw.

Bruce smiles sadly to himself, standing behind Phil so he couldn't see. "Sometimes." He really wished he could get Coulson's memory back. Though in a way, this smaller version was endearing.

He busies himself typing up a few notes on another screen, letting Coulson draw at his leisure.

"Everyone breaks things sometimes," he replies, getting to work on drawing.

Inspired, apparently, by his current surroundings, the young Coulson is drawing some childish renditions of spaceships, although colored in red, white, and blue. Speckled all over the drawing, though, are dots which are probably not actually supposed to be stars.

"...I tend to break big things," Bruce comments without looking up from his typing. After a few moments of silence though, his curiosity has him looking over to see the drawing. "Wow...that's pretty good." He has a hunch what the dots are but asks anyway. "What are those?"

"They're free particles," he replies. "Even if they're not supposed to be that big, because you can't really see them."

Yup, that's what he thought they were. Bruce comes over, inspecting the drawing. "Not bad. Here..." He brings over his own screen, tapping a few things before bringing up a particle simulation. "I can't draw to save my life but the computer can simulate what particles would look like if we could see them."

It's a multicolored spray of dots, clustered over the staff and emanating off of it in waves.

"Wow. How come they're coming out of that spear?"

"The spear is..or was emitting gamma radiation. And see..." he's pointing out the waves. "See how there's a rhythm? Usually radiation is random and sporadic. Like your picture there. This actually was more like it was sending out the radiation purposefully. I still don't know how it did it."

He scrunches up his face thoughtfully. "Where does the radiation normally come from?"

Bruce leans back in his chair. "There's different elements and heavy metals that emit radiation when they change into lighter elements. Like plutonium, radium, things like that. Its rare that radiation would come from any natural source but it happens sometimes."

He nods, still looking at the screen, fascinated. "What's the spear made of?"

Bruce actually brings out the glasses for this as he switches to pictures of the spear. "I haven't been able to identify it. Thor was saying it's probably from another planet."

"Wow, that's cool!"

He chuckles, "Yeah it is. Be even more cool if I could have figured it out before they had to give it up. Though," he figures Coulson would like to hear this bit, "Cap's shield could still reflect any of the energy bolts fired from it. So that's something."

He seems utterly unsurprised by this. "His shield can stop anything."

Bruce nods. It sure had held up to anything thrown at it, alien or otherwise. "Did you get interested in Cap through the comics?"

Phil nods. "Yeah. And the movies, too!"

"Movies?" Bruce must have missed those.

"Yeah, there's a bunch of old Captain America movies. And my dad has some filmstrips, too!"

"I didn't know that." Bruce wonders if Shield has copies of those movies. Probably, they had everything else on the Avengers. He types in a search on his screen, bringing up different video clips of all of them, including Captain America. And a few of the Hulk, but he's pointedly ignoring them.

His attention is, of course, largely focused on Cap, but he's also paying attention to the others. "Who are all the other ones?"

"Oh um...well, this is Iron Man....this is Thor..." He brings up one video clip at a time. And too embarrassed to show clips of Hulk, he slides that window off to the side and away with his free hand, hoping he won't notice. "And that's Cap, if course. They're all working together as a team."

"What about the other one? The one that looked like the Jolly Green Giant?"


"He um...he's not exactly on the team..." Bruce fumbles for a good explanation.

He blinks. "Looked like he was."

"Ok, he helped once...but it's not...he gets mad a lot." Maybe the simpler answers were better. "He's not a safe person to be around." Bruce is still refusing to show any Hulk clips.

He curls his legs up underneath himself in the chair. "Getting mad is normal, though. Mister Rogers says so. Everybody does. It doesn't mean you can't have friends or be on a team."

Of all the people he could have taken advice from...Bruce is hardly going to go against Mr. Rogers. Even in miniature, Coulson was still wise beyond his years.

"It's complicated. I think getting mad enough that you hurt your friends doesn't count."

He looks back up at the screen. "People do that, too. It's not nice, and you can get in trouble, like when my brother got mad and shoved me when I was little and then I bit him. We both got in trouble. Is he sorry about it?"

Bruce tries not to smile at that. He'd only had a sister growing up so fights like that didn't happen. "You bit him?"

At his question though, Bruce shifts in his chair. "...I don't know if he's sorry or not." It's not something he tends to think about, what the Hulk feels is mostly anger and rage.

Phil nods. "Yep! But I was little. I don't bite him anymore. Or my sisters."

"I bet he's sorry. Everyone else was still letting him fight with them, right? And Captain America isn't going to let a bad guy help him."

"That's good. I would have gotten into serious trouble if I ever bit my sister."

Bruce thinks back to the few memories of the fight he still had. Hulk actually liked Captain America. "Even if he was the only one who could help?"

"Well a bad guy isn't going to help anyway." And he says this with the absolute certainty that comes along with being seven years old.

He gives up. "Guess I can't argue with that." And in a way, Coulson was right. Bruce just wasn't ready to admit that to himself.

His hand finally uncovers the window with the Hulk videos on it.

And Phil watches them, fascinated. "He's strong."

Bruce can't watch for very long, looking away. "Yeah, he is." A knot in his stomach whenever he looks at how angry the Hulk is. It's no fun seeing your inner monster in real life.

He looks up at Bruce and blinks. "You can stop the movies if you want."

Bruce feels sheepish for taking it so badly and in front of Coulson too. He tries to deny it. "Er no it's, okay, I'm not....." Sigh. He flicks the movies off. "Thanks."

"Maybe we can find something else to do." He reaches to hit save on Phil's picture.

"Okay!" he chirps, seemingly unfazed by having to end the movies. "Like what?"

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Bruce Banner - The Hulk

October 2016


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