Author's Notes: My brother-in-law and his fiancé do this "evening" ritual of tea and candles that helps them get to sleep. It inspired me to write up a little Tony/Bruce fic. Nothing major. May be read as just friendship with innuendo humour, or pre-slash beginnings. May continue as series of one-shots, or may continue as a complete story depending on what everyone wants.
Disclaimer: Avengers belong to Marvel.
Tony Stark never had problems sleeping. Or rather, he never suffered from sleep apnea or nightmares. It wasn't to say he wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours on end. It just wasn't due to what "normal" people suffered from.
In fact it generally was just due to his overactive genius mind that kept nagging him to finish the next prototype for the Iron Man suit. Or trying to break into more of S.H.I.E.L.D's security systems involving more assignments for the Avenger team, that kept him up.
Though he never woke from the middle of some night terror, or jolted to his senses from some past gruesome event that played through his head, his constant late nighters wore down on his nerves. What little energy he had left seemed to deplete almost instantaneous as the days continued on.
So when Bruce Banner had finally moved into the now almost fully occupied and new and improved Avenger's Tower, it didn't take long for the near run down Iron Man to notice certain aspects of his science nerd companion that triggered his curiosity.
On one of his many nights from waking up, thoughts teeming with ideas for new hand blasters, Tony haphazardly tossed on some sweats and a Black Sabbath t-shirt and made his way down to the kitchen. He already knew he wouldn't be getting to bed anytime soon, so figured a late night coffee would do him some good for the hours to come.
As he made his way into the large spanse of the kitchen, he noticed he too wasn't the only one out of bed at such late hours of the night.
"I see I'm not the only one on a late night adventure." Tony said as he rounded the corner of the island.
Bruce was sitting at one of the stools dunking something into a cup placed in front of him. "You have many late night adventures." Banner stated rather than asked.
"Eh, I like to think it's because I'm too awesome for something as trivial as sleep."
Bruce chuckled and blew on the contents of his cup. Upon closer inspection Tony noticed it was tea.
"Never took you for the tea drinking type." He commented as he grabbed a mug for himself from one of the cupboards.
"I get that a lot, surprisingly." Bruce watched Tony through some of his hair that had fallen in front of his eyes. "But you know, Stark, this isn't exactly a late night out."
Tony turned and raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Banner only smirked as he pointed to the clock behind Stark.
"Oh...is it really only 10? I thought it was more around 4." He scratched the back of his neck and shrugged.
"That generally when you wake up? Or is it always sporadic?" Bruce pulled the tea bag out of his cup and took a tentative sip.
"Sporadic. Again, have you always drunk tea?" Tony leaned back against the counter and tapped his fingers against the surface.
"Don't think I don't know you're trying to change the subject. And yes, I've always had a cup of tea at night."
"Me change the subject? Absurd. Has it always been just at night?" Tony hurried along mid sentence.
"Tony." Bruce warned. Though it wasn't too convincing with his smile and quiet chuckle.
"Bruce. This is a serious conversation. Why tea?" Tony pretended to be interested in some imaginary spot on his hand.
"Do you have something against tea?" Banner tried not to smile again as he took another sip.
Stark held up his hands. "Nope, not a thing. Just curious. I just figured with the whole doctor-science-nerd aspect, you'd be having coffee to help keep you up et cetera."
"Actually it's because of all those things that I drink tea. And yes, only at night. It's kind of a part of an evening ritual." He set his cup down on the counter and looked Tony in the eye.
Tony raised an eyebrow, already more intrigued. "An evening ritual? Does that include some mantra to some Tibetan lord or something? Please tell me you're not into that freakish head to the floor praying kind of ritual.."
This time Bruce didn't even try to contain his laughter. "Seriously? Do I peg you as the praying type?" He shook his head, "No I'm not into anything like that."
"Then what is it?" It was obvious that Tony wouldn't stop until he knew the full story.
"How about instead of telling you, I show you?" Bruce held out his tea for Tony, "But first you need to drink this. I poured too much for myself anyway."
Stark looked at the cup questioningly, not quite sure if he should follow through with Banner's offer. Though, deep down, he knew he'd agree. His curious mind wouldn't let him rest until he solved another puzzle for the night. He took the tea and swirled it around in the cup, seeing a few specks floating around the bottom. Most likely tiny tea leaves that had escaped the confinements of the tea bag earlier.
"If you make me do any chanting, I'm leaving." Tony gulped down the drink, eager to move on.
The stool squeaked on the floor as Bruce stood to leave. He motioned for Tony to follow him and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He heard shuffling and the clink of the cup being set down a bit too fast as Tony scrambled to catch up with him.
"So where you taking me chief?" Tony asked as the rounded the corner down one of the many hallways.
The response he got wasn't quite a response at all. Just a shrug and a few incoherent murmurs from the man in front of him. As they turned down another hall, Tony vaguely remembered helping Bruce move the few belongings he had into one of the rooms on that floor.
"If anyone asks, I'm helping you with something science related and not going to your room to do some chanting thing."
"I told you there isn't any chanting." Banner shook his head and opened the door to his room. He gestured for Stark to enter before him.
When he stepped inside, he was surprised that he was surprised. He figured that Bruce's room would be dull and simple, but he hadn't expected just to see a bed in the middle of the room and nothing else. No indication that anyone actually lived there. Had it not been for the sheets, comforter, and pillows, Tony would have guessed it was just another vacant room in the tower.
He whistled, "Wow Banner, what happened to all that stuff we helped move in for you?"
"You're looking at it. You only helped with the mattress. It wasn't even mine actually, if you remember. Steve got it for me after he found out I was sleeping on just a roll out mattress. You helped pitch in for the extras." Bruce shrugged and looked away. "Come over here." He walked further into the room and slid two yoga mats out from under the bed. "Sit." He commanded.
Tony did as he said, not sure if he should cross his legs or just stick them out in front of him. He went with the latter. "Ok, what next guru?"
"Close your eyes and be quiet." Bruce said in a hushed voice and dimmed the lights.
"Oh Banner, you're such a romantic." Tony rolled his eyes and snorted. "You better not try anything funny.." He warned as he hesitantly closed his eyes.
There were a few scuffling noises, the sound of a match striking, and then the scent of something sweet. Tony peeked an eye open and saw Bruce setting a candle in front of him as he sat down. There were a few other candles that had been placed around the room as well, creating a small circle around them.
"Hey, no cheating! I said close your eyes." Banner caught Tony's eye and raised both eyebrows as he smirked.
At that Tony opened both eyes completely and looked around at the candles. "Seriously? You can't expect me to keep them closed with all this." He motioned with both hands around the room.
Banner ignored him and leaned forward as he forced Tony's eyes closed. Stark pulled back instinctively, but eventually allowed the other man to close his eyes for him.
"I also said to be quiet. Now do you want to see the rest or not?"
"Well I can't exactly see the rest with my eyes closed now can I."
"Touché. Now shut up." Amusement laced his voice as Bruce crossed his legs. He picked up the candle, holding it up between the two of them. "These are from a shrine I went to in Thailand. Supposedly they're supposed to keep evil spirits at bay." He heard Tony snicker silently to himself but chose to ignore it. "It's also said, that if you inhale enough of the scent, that you'll forever be at peace, physically, mentally, and spiritually."
"Uh huh..." Tony sounded skeptical.
"At the time, when I was there, it sounded potentially useful with my..condition." Bruce admitted.
"Did it work?" Tony asked, eyebrows knitting together as though trying to figure out a large equation.
"Not really." Bruce laughed and set the candle back down.
Tony opened his eyes back up and shook his head as he tried not to laugh. "Alright, I guess I'll leave you to your chanting."
"Right, anyway, I've got lots to do tonight." Tony went to stand but found his vision was getting warped. Almost as though he were drunk. "Woah. Ok Banner, what's in these things?" Tony blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision.
"You alright, how's your head?" Bruce ignored the question. "It's a little strong the first time. Don't stand up too fast."
"What do you mean? Is this like some LSD thing? What was in that tea?" Tony tried to move his legs, but found they were locked in place. As though his body was being put in shutdown and he had no control over it. The thought made him more anxious. "Bruce?" When he looked up at the other man he could see black spots beginning to cloud the rest of his vision. He tried to push himself up with his arms, but felt himself wobble in place.
"Easy there, big guy!" Bruce leapt forward to catch the near falling Tony. He moved the candle out of the way and helped the other man to his feet. Both his legs were like jelly. Tony blinked again, tried to push back, but found that if he did he would drop like a brick to the floor. His entire body was beginning to get more heavy.
"What the hell is going on?" He mumbled out as he balled his fists into Bruce's shirt, trying to steady himself.
"Just come over this way."
Tony could feel himself being half led, half dragged, someplace else in the room. The strong presence of the other man suddenly vanished and he felt himself falling backwards. Instinctively he reached out in front of him and grabbed hold of the first thing he got ahold of.
He felt the hard smack of another body on top, and the plush softness of the mattress and comforter below him.
"Tony? You ok?" Bruce's voice was directly in his ear. Tony blinked tiredly, feeling the rest of his energy being sucked out of him as he tried to focus on the man on top of him.
He tried to say something, in fact he was certain he did, but he couldn't hear anything else after that.
Tony's vision swirled and turned black all at once, leaving him with a fuzzy picture of Bruce looking down at him as the last thing he remembered as he lost consciousness.
He wasn't sure what time it was, or even what day. It felt as though he'd been sleeping forever. The only thing he could focus on was the fuzzy feeling in his head and heaviness in his body. Tony tried to move, but found his muscles felt like they were being weighed down by invisible chains. As he sat up, images of candles, tea, and Bruce swam through his mind.
"Nice hair." He heard Banner's voice from the foot of the bed. Tony blinked away the sleep in his eyes and was able to make out the other man sitting cross legged in some meditation position.
"What the hell did you do to me?" Stark rubbed his eyes and slumped forward a bit. He didn't care that his statement could be taken as an innuendo.
"I did nothing. You took part in everything." Bruce closed his eyes and went back to his meditating. "Though if it bothers you that much, it was just a bit of chamomile tea and some lavender candles."
Tony snorted. "Yeah, then how come I couldn't move or focus on anything? And didn't you say they were from some shrine?"
He looked up again when he didn't get an immediate response. Bruce was giving him a look that said I can read you like an open book, Stark.
"What?" He averted his gaze and twiddled his thumbs.
"When was the last time you got a full night's rest?" Bruce stood up and walked over to the side of the bed.
Tony thought about the question, realizing it'd been months since he last got more than just 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Of course his ego wouldn't admit that it was because of his lack of sleep that he'd practically fallen unconscious in the arms of the man now sitting beside him. "So? What's your point?" He wouldn't meet his eyes.
"What's my point?" Bruce snorted. "Tony, your body is running on empty. Those late nights staying up at all hours are using up what little energy you have left. And I'm not the only one who notices. Your arguments with Steve are getting less witty and your jabs at Fury are half assed at best." He chuckled as he thought back to when Tony had called him a space pirate.
"It's not a problem. It's not like I suffer from nightmares or anything." Tony countered.
"Yeah, trust me I know. It's because of this." Bruce tapped his finger against Tony's head. "You may be a genius, but you're really stupid when it comes to taking care of yourself. I was just helping speed up the process of getting you to bed." He stood up and allowed room for the other man to get out of bed as well.
"Let me guess, Pepper told you to help out?" Tony swung his legs over the side of the bed and stretched his arms, earning a few more pops throughout his body.
Bruce bobbed his head slightly from side to side, as though nodding and shaking it at the same time. "Sort of. I was the one that brought it up, she just asked if I knew anything that could help."
"You 'observe' me that much do you?" Tony winked.
Bruce shook his head and smirked. "Be careful of that ego of your's Stark. It may just come back and bite you in the ass some day."
"Is that a promise?" Tony waggled his eyebrows as he stood and went to exit the room.
"Maybe. Don't forget to fix that sex hair of yours." Bruce laughed as he shut the door behind Tony. Stark went to walk away when he heard the door open up again, "I expect to see you back here tonight for the second part of the lesson."
Tony gave him a mock salute and tried not to laugh when he saw Steve walk down the hall towards him, looking at his hair and then back to Banner's door, before shaking his head and turning on his heel to go back the way he started.
"Is there gonna be weird chanting?"
"No. Unless if you start saying my name over and over again like you did last night."
Tony blinked twice, this time not able to laugh when Natasha and Clint walked by, eyeing the two scientists oddly. He felt his cheeks heat up and murmured something along the lines of stupid ego, and walked in the opposite direction from which everyone else was headed.
He could still hear Bruce's laughter as he entered one of the elevators and was several floors below him.