Tony Stark is a lot of men when he’s at home; this Bruce learns quickly, watching him flit from flirtation to frigidity in the bat of an eyelash. He’s a genius until he steps into the spotlight, and in the shadows he’s something else entirely, something smaller and weaker and less armored by a long shot. Bruce has grown (and grown, and grown) out of the idea that you can change someone simply by wanting to. He has been schooled in the futility of mind over matter. He doesn’t watch the levels of the bottles behind Tony’s bar, because it would be pointless, fruitless. Because it wouldn’t mean anything if they changed. Because it would mean too much if they didn’t.
Bruce knows from unstable compounds, after all. He does his work. He bides his time. He waits for the explosion.
So here is a thing I’ve been wanting to talk about since I saw The Avengers and haven’t been able to because I was too busy writing we were emergencies: Natasha Romanov? Is terrified of the Hulk. Let me stop right here and address the comment I least want to receive in response to this statement, and, unfortunately, the comment I believe I am most likely to get:
No she’s not, because that fear would make her less of a badass/Yes she is, and that fear makes her less of a badass/any permutation of the idea that being afraid of things somehow negates badassery:
What? No. Human beings are afraid of stuff, the end. It’s part of the human condition. People eat, sleep, breathe, shit, and fear things. Like, universally. Even Chuck Norris, wherever he may roam, has at least one thing that is his mental equivalent of something going bump in the night. Having fear is not a determinate of strength of character; how you handle that fear is. DONE.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s first establish how we know Natasha is afraid of the Hulk. There’s the scene in the helicarrier, yeah, definitely, where she tries to keep Bruce from Hulking and then has to deal with him while Hulked; then there’s the scene afterwards, where she is visibly freaking the fuck out until she stands up and goes to beat the brainwashing out of a close friend, and yep, that’s fear, no question. But, you know what, I’m pretty sure any reasonable human not-immortal-like-Thor person would be a little bit like HOLY SHIT THAT WAS TERRIFYING AS FUCK JESUS GOD in the wake of being the target of an indestructible giant green rage monster. So, really, I think the more telling scene in her reaction when Bruce screws with her at the beginning of the movie—the degree to which her reaction is visibly, palpably one of fear is something we’ve never seen from Black Widow. And it’s not because the Hulk has showed up; it’s because there’s been the suggestion that he might. Or, to be more accurate, it’s because she’s just watched what she thought was Bruce losing control.
Because that’s what this is about, guys; that’s what it’s always about, with Natasha. Go grab yourselves some artist formerly and currently known as Prince, because this is a story about control.
OKAY, I BELIEVE I HAVE LOCATED SOME WORDS. Spoilers for The Avengers below the cut!