When have locks ever stopped Tony Stark?

They worked just as well as they ever did, judging by the way Tony sauntered casually into Bruce Banner's lab at 3 AM.

"Don't you ever sleep?" he asked Banner.

"Says the man who's also awake, asking me why I'm not asleep." Banner didn't take his eyes off his work.

"Whatcha got there?" Tony strolled over and peered over Bruce's shoulder at the computer screen.

"Just some... things." There was hint of annoyance in Banner's voice, but not quite anger. Tony wasn't even sure it was directed at him as much as directed toward the interruption he'd caused.

"Things that aren't working right." He didn't wait for Bruce's answer. He already had it in his knitted brow and the intensity in his eyes. He knows the look because he's worn a similar one all too often. "Aaaand here's why. That equation. It's feeding the next one the wrong variable."

"Oh," Bruce said, still without looking up, around, or at anything but his screen. "Thanks. I suppose I've just been looking at it too long." He moved the cursor up, highlighting the offending numeral.

"No, not that one." Tony pointed at the screen. "Here. The one above it." As he lowered his arm, he accidentally brushed Bruce's shoulder and felt him stiffen and startle. "Jesus, Banner. Get wound any tighter and you're going to snap."

"Was that supposed to be funny?" Banner shot back.

"No. Not at all. I'm just saying maybe you should call it a night." Tony looked at him, blank and innocent. Then it occured to him. "I didn't mean..."

Banner's look softened, and for the first time he made eye contact with Tony. "Oh. I'm sorry. Yeah. I guess you're right." He sighed heavily. "Just let me finish compiling this and I'll..."

"No you won't. You won't because I wouldn't."

Tony has spent a considerable amount of time, well... considering Bruce Banner. He had never met someone so like him, but yet so different. The differences, though? They were shallow. Tony had brought most of his wardrobe; Bruce had packed a toothbrush. Tony's suits were always professionally tailored and fitted, Banner's were, to be perfectly blunt, not. Nor were they anything close. Tony was confident, articulate and charming, and the other man was nervous, edgy, a little awkward; but not entirely un-charming, in his own right. Tony was the barely the controlled force of chaos, rage, and recklessness, and Bruce? He was that as well. The one thing that mattered. Like two sides of the same coin. Tony, of course, had no way of knowing that Bruce had also considered him and arrived at exactly the same conclusion.

"Oh, you think you know me, Stark?" The wink in his voice was obvious. Maybe they didn't have to verbalize it at all.

Tony may or may not have heard him. He was standing with his hand on his chin, one arm cradled at a right angle to the other, analyzing what was on the screen in front of them.

"It's not going to compile as long as you have -"

Banner ran a hand through his hair in exasperation.

"Here. This line is going to..." Tony's voice trailed off as he reached over Bruce's shoulder for the mouse. The other hand rested on Banner's shoulder, though Tony wasn't consciously aware of it. His intellect was fully engaged and his hands were now instruments. It was just somewhere to set his tools.

Bruce, on the other hand, Tony's congruent opposite, was acutely aware of where Tony's hand was resting. It was hot and heavy through his thin Madras shirt, and not entirely unwelcome, though Bruce didn't understand exactly how he felt about it or why he should be feeling anything about it at all. Maybe he was tired, tense, and hypervigilent, or maybe he'd been starved for human contact for so long that his brain and body couldn't help but take notice of it when it did happen, even incidentally. In any event, he felt his temperature rise slightly and hoped Tony didn't notice.

Luckily, Tony was so engrossed in overhauling Banner's code that a fighter could have flown through the lab and he wouldn't have noticed until he was sucked out the hole it left.

"There, try it now," Stark suggested, with a smug smirk on his face. He took a half step back to survey his work [success]. His hand remained on Banner's shoulder, almost as though he was hiding behind the scientist if his work wasn't as flawless as he believed it to be.

They watched the compiler run for a couple minutes, and when no problems became apparent, it was as though Banner had been a cocked and loaded gun this entire time, and the marksman had just decided to stand down. He took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. "Finally," he breathed out on the exhale, but the breath stalled in his throat when Tony's arm slid around his chest from behind.

Both men froze. Neither moved, neither breathed, neither swallowed, neither spoke. Banner was trying to process what this was and what it meant, and if he liked it or not, and Stark was anticipating the obvious worst case scenario. They could have stayed like that a minute or an hour, in a state of tenuous suspended animation, neither knowing what the other expected.

Eventually, and he would never know exactly why, Bruce relaxed on his stool and leaned back against Tony, who tightened his grip on the other man, grazing his nipple as he reached across his chest. Tony saw Bruce's reflection in the monitor squint its eyes and bite its lip.

"God, you're sensitive." Tony's voice was just above a whisper and had a strange, almost crackling enunciation to it. Almost electric. He heard Banner swallow with an audible click.

"What are you doing, Stark?" He didn't recognize his own voice, tight and constricted in his throat.

"I don't know," Tony said in the same ethereal tone, his fingertips returning to the small collection of nerves on the other man's chest, rubbing softly, almost absently. Except he did know. He was trying to tell Banner he got it, got him, he wasn't alone, that he wanted to give him this one small, fleeting thing that he needed. A moment's peace. A moment of feeling entirely human again. "Want me to stop?" This he leaned in and whispered in the other man's ear, as if one false move, one word spoken too loudly would attract some sort of unwanted attention, would break the spell.

He turned his head to see Banner's eyes flicker closed again in his peripheral vision and his head shifted almost imperceptibly to the negative. "N-". His voice cracked and failed. He wet his lips and swallowed hard once again. "No". The word was barely audible, hanging in the air between them, waiting as a virginal teenager waits for their would-be lover to make the first move, waiting for acceptance or rejection.

"All right." Tony said it as if considering a business proposition, the utterance loaded and thoughtful. "All right." A little more confidently that time, but only just. "What do you want?"

Banner didn't hesitate to answer that query. "Go slow." He looked up at Stark for a split second, only long enough for Tony to realize their eyes were the same color, with something between reverence and pleading in Banner's. "Please." He made no specific request, he set no limits. He made no move toward or away from Tony. What he was really saying was "Make this last."

With his free hand, Tony traced a line up the other man's neck, barely touching him with the tip of one finger and felt him shiver, his head tilting to the side, laying himself open and vulnerable. How long has it been since someone touched you this way, Tony thought but did not say, out of respect for the other man's dignity. He turned his hand over and traced the shell of Bruce's ear with his fingernail and saw his lips part, felt his breathing slow down. "I will," was all he could say. "Don't worry. I will." He was overwhelmed with a feeling then that there was no word for. It wasn't lust, or love, or pity, or desire, or maybe it was all of those. Maybe it was none of them. But that feeling, whatever it was, brought with it the knowledge of what Stark held in his hands and how easily it could be broken. And how long has it been since I have touched someone this way, he asked himself.

Tony's fingers followed the same path on the return, this time slipping under the collar of Bruce's shirt to trace along his clavicle, and then over to the first button, slipping it through the hole with one hand, down, through, down, through, down and through until he had unrestricted access to the other man's torso. He took half a step forward to allow himself a better reach, and with the lowest, softest moan, Banner let his head fall back and rest against Stark's chest. He ran his hand flat up Bruce's chest, dragging his nails softly and Banner's teeth scraped his lower lip again and god was that sexy, desperate, raw and Tony wanted to kiss him but knew it wouldn't be right; that his friend, his colleague and most recently his lover (of a sort), deserved this time and this pleasure without any interruptions or expectations or being forced out of his own head or his own (unnecessary) shame. He let his hand break contact with the other man for just a split second, to let it travel up and rifle through Bruce's wavy dark hair and he got the response he had planned on and hoped for. When Banner sighed and arched his neck Tony's mouth sought out the side of his throat, barely making contact at first, wanting to tell Bruce without the words what he planned to do; no shocks, no surprises. The scientist didn't move, barely breathed, simply waited for the touch or for Tony to change his mind, wanting to drink in what he could of sensation before that happened, if it was to happen.

"Easy," Tony breathed against the faint stubble of his partners throat. "I'm right here. It's OK," and he parted his lips and kissed him, almost chastely, platonic at first, like a brother would kiss a brother on the cheek and then parting his lips and letting Bruce feel the heat, the life of his mouth. He continued this way as far as his own neck would let him reach and then went slowly, maybe even slower, back up, this time scraping his teeth. Banner's breath hitched in his chest, halfway between in and out before leaving him in one fast rush. He liked it. He really liked it. He just wanted to feel. Stark dropped all pretense then and bit him, not hard enough to quite hurt, but to hurt just enough, hurt in that delicious way that would send shocks and aftershocks all up and down the side of his body, that would make him arch and crane his neck and squint his eyes and if he was going to say anything, anything at all, it would be to beg for more.

Realistically, he doubted Bruce would beg him, at least not in words, but he didn't need the words. He felt his energy change just as distinctly as if the other man, self control and discipline be damned, were giving him a play by play of exactly what was going on in his body and Tony couldn't even imagine what it must feel like for him, like the first sips of water after being saved, on the very brink of death, from the desert. He tried to get his head around it, that if roles were reversed, if he hadn't been so desensitized to every feeling, every substance, and every experience known to man and even some that weren't, if he'd been locked in a box for the last who-knew-how-long with no one to touch him or talk to him as an equal, with no human connection of any kind, let alone an intimate one, he'd be screaming in pleasure, literally screaming, begging, and possibly sobbing for something, anything.

He'd be, quite simply, pathetic.

Later, he would file it under the "ways Banner and I are fundamentally different" column. Because Banner was barely even breathing. His respirations were slow, deep, and controlled, the only feedback Stark had at all were the subtle shifts of Bruce's body against his own, almost as though he hoped Tony wouldn't notice. If he were watching closely, if he were an outside observer, he'd have seen more than that, more than the way Banner's teeth caught his lower lip that Tony was purposely trying not to notice, in favor of those tiny catches in his breathing that he was picking up on... but he wasn't. He was somewhere between engaged and disengaged, observing and active, in almost the same nearly Zen state of total and complete surrender, of being lost in a moment, as was the man he was touching.

And it made Tony feel more powerful than flying or fucking ever had.

He wanted a better position. He wanted to take the scientist back to his room, lay him down on his bed, and give him everything he could, his mouth, his hands anywhere he wanted to feel them, his cock if he wanted that, or he at least wanted him pinned helpless against the wall, but this was so delicate, so fragile, he had to work with what he had or it would fall to pieces around both of them. He didn't move the arm around Banner, something told him that was – important – somehow, that point of contact, but he stood up and shifted his weight despite the protest of his knees, biting the back of Bruce's neck, moving over to the other side and showing it the same attention as he slipped his hand back down the other man's chest, caressing and rubbing and loving the way Banner was coming apart under this simple attention, which was nothing really, nothing more than two teenagers fooling around in the back of a car on prom night, both wanting more but scared to go further.

Even though Tony couldn't hear it or see it, he could feel it happening. The other man's temperature had risen so Tony's hand, though he knew it was warm, felt cool against his skin and his skin felt burning against Tony's lips and his tongue, he felt the involuntary, unaware shivers when he found a particularly sensitive spot, he could feel, and hear everything in the room; the rustle of skin on skin, his own tight breathing, denim on the leather cushion of the stool and the low hum of electric fans inside machines.

When Banner said his name, he wasn't sure at first he'd actually heard it. It crossed his lips like a prayer, or a child saying a swear word they know they shouldn't say but it slips out anyway. "Tony." Just that one word. Laced with desperation and fear, heavy with anticipation, and then again, "Tony, please."

Under ordinary circumstances that would have gone straight to Tony's ego. There was nothing he loved to hear more in this context than "Tony, please" with a set of blood-red nails digging into his shoulders and optionally, 6 inch stilettos digging into the back of his thighs. He'd been with men a few times, a hustler here and there or an adoring groupie who'd gotten him drunk enough not to care about such trifles as gender. Men were generally less vocal and less likely to beg, but when they did they were more vulgar. However, the impact on Tony's self esteem was just the same. Sometimes, just for the power trip, he'd make them really plead for it, completely degrade themselves and make it clear that right there, right then, their whole word revolved around him and they needed what he and only he could give them.

And this was the same. But yet it wasn't. Rather than those two breathless words filling him with pride, they filled him with honor. Fact of the matter was, that Banner was so starved for contact, connection, and release that he'd have begged anyone in the same position sooner or later, but he wasn't with anyone. He was with Tony. It had been Tony's name he'd said said, Tony he was flayed open and laid bare for, after all this time Tony was the one he was asking to bring him release, and there was no way on this earth that Tony was going to take that... honor (there really was no other word for it), corrupt it and fuck it all up.

He found his mouth suddenly parched and his throat on fire, so he cleared it just to get the words out right, traced the outline of Banner's ear with his tongue to feel the jolt go through him and whispered so low that he could barely hear himself, "Just tell me what you need." There was nothing he'd have denied him then.

"Touch me." Bruce licked his lips and swallowed hard. "Just... please. God Tony. I need you to touch me."

"Anything you want," Stark muttered to no one in particular, just feeling like he had to say it and shifting again so he was still behind Banner but to his right side, where Banner could still rest his head against Tony's arm and relax and let go completely. Where he didn't have to look at him. Where he didn't have to be self conscious.

Quickly, but gently, disturbing as little as he could, he dispatched the button and zipper of Banner's pants and slipped his hand inside. He was secretly thankful for Bruce's ill-fitting pants; there would be no jostling and fumbling necessary. He had all the room he would need. Tony both wanted to tease and drag this out as long as he could for his partner's benefit, and didn't want to tease and deprive him of what he so desperately needed. In the end he compromised, dragging his palm flat against Banner's erection, making him whine in the back of his throat, and then working his fingers under the waistband of the other man's boxers, he gripped him tight, flesh against flesh.

Bruce's eyes closed so tightly it looked like he was in pain. Tony just held him for several long seconds, letting him get used to the sensation. He wanted to please him with every fiber of his being, but he didn't want to force him over the edge too soon. He wanted him to enjoy this as long as he could. It was a precarious balance between going too slowly and not going slowly enough; between torturing him and short changing him.

The first slow, tight stroke was met with a sigh of "Ah...god...yes" that seemed to come from Banner's very soul. Tony could see him fighting himself, struggling to keep his breath even, fighting for control even as he was fighting to lose it, and he wanted to tell him to let go, it's all right, just go with it, feel it, but he didn't think any more words and should and should nots where what this situation needed and wondered for a moment if Bruce had ever... even himself... even once... since... and pushed the thought out of his head as too cruel a twist of Fate to even imagine. Tony wondered if his hand was the first one in... and if it was that was almost more than he could handle.

Then he figured he should probably, could maybe ask since who would know better (if he even remembered) so between strokes, so as not to intrude once again, he insinuated into the other man's ear "How do you want it?"

"Just like that," Banner mumbled on the tail end of an exhale. "Slow and hard. Just like that" and arched into Tony's fist on the next downstroke and that was the most he had outwardly responded all night.

Stark tried to counterbalance his strokes against the rhythm of Banner's hips, which wasn't at all difficult because everything Banner did was controlled and measured, even this. He tried not to watch him too closely, not to stare, tried to trust instinct and let it guide his tongue to the sensitive cords that stood out on Bruce's neck and the soft spot on the top of his shoulder where he loved to feel Tony's teeth the most and probably would have let him draw blood if Tony had wanted to. He clamped his teeth down and squeezed on the next upstroke and finally heard Banner suck his breath in through his teeth and moan and all of Tony that made him Tony wasn't gone, not completely.

"Good?" he mouthed against other man's neck with a slight smirk against his skin.

"Yes," Banner breathed, with a little more emphasis on the "s". "So good. So, so good."

"Good." Except it wasn't a self-satisfied smirk then, it was a genuine smile.

When he came, the only thing Tony felt was Bruce's body go stiff, arch, and then relax against his chest, with a strained gasp of "Tony... yes", speech mostly beyond him except these base words, his eyes screwed tight shut and his breath caught, a look of unadulterated ecstasy on his face, then a long sigh as every muscle in his body gave out at once. Tony wished he could have felt what Banner had felt and doubted he ever would, doubted he ever had. He'd probably gotten off more times than the entire team had collectively, and he couldn't remember even once when there was nothing but complete, absolute release; nothing like the all consuming pleasure he had just given someone else.

He didn't move until he felt Banner move, and even then he didn't completely extricate himself all at once.

"You OK?", he asked, squeezing Bruce's shoulder. It felt awkward, but there was nothing that wouldn't have been either too distant or too affectionate right then.

"Yeah." Banner rubbed his eyes and then opened them, smiling an off kilter smile and chuckling a little "Yeah. I'm fine."

"Good. All right. Now get some sleep."

"Yeah. You too, huh? Goose/gander and all that, right?" He sounded... out of it.

Tony had one foot out of the airlock when Banner called his name again. He turned around and it was only the second time that night their eyes met.

"This doesn't change anything," the scientist said casually.

"Of course not," Tony agreed, shrugging. He didn't know if Banner had meant between them, or at all, and he was too afraid to ask.