Author's note: I've fallen, I'm well and truly a shipper of science boyfriends and I'm not even sorry. Except that I am sorry to anyone who's waiting for the next chapter of Red. I have so many plans for that story and I am still so excited about it, but it just wasn't working out in my head. I think I'm going to redo it altogether because it just wasn't feeling right the first time round. In the meantime, this story has just spilled out of me like word vomit (well-crafted pretty word vomit I hope), I'm already so far into it so I can guarantee that there will definitely be a good number of updates to come. I hope you kiddies enjoy the beauty that is Bruce and Tony and their science love.
When Bruce had said that all he'd brought with him was a toothbrush, Tony hadn't actually expected it to be the literal truth. But apparently Bruce was quite literal when it came to these things. Once he realised this, Tony had promptly kitted Bruce out in an entirely new wardrobe, since he kept inadvertently shredding his old one. The donated shirts and slacks did look pretty sharp on Bruce, Tony had to admit (however not as good as they looked on him, but Bruce was definitely doing justice to hot science guys everywhere with that tailoring).
A few days after they had defeated Loki and the Chitauri, before they had all said their farewells to each other, Tony caught Bruce trying to sneak away in a yellow cab.
"For the love of all that is big and green, you're coming with me." Tony snatched Bruce's pathetically small case from the backseat and waved the cabby away. "Where were you even going? And do you know how expensive those things are? Not to mention filthy."
Bruce shrugged, standing awkwardly on the sidewalk and wringing his hands together. Tony frowned at him with effusively lowered brows looking every bit the stern adult to Bruce's chastised child.
"You weren't even going to say bye?" Tony asked. Bruce's squirming increased as his discomfort grew and Tony decided to up the performance just a little. He clutched at his chest, right over the glowing arc reactor and brought his other clenched hand to his mouth like he was holding back a sob. "After everything we shared together, Bruce? I bet you weren't planning on calling back either, were you?"
Bruce's hands gestured to the air, he attempted a sheepish smile, a gesture he had never quite managed to master and so he just looked a little desperate. "I'm sorry… I just need to get away for a while."
"You need downtime." Tony nodded. "Of course you do, we all do. It's been a hellish few days for all of us but, I mean, you especially because you almost died right? Oh wait… that was me." It was a low blow, but Tony wasn't afraid to play dirty.
"Jesus, Tony." Brue rubbed at the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. "I'm just not so great at good byes… I left everyone a letter."
Tony procured said letter from his inner jacket pocket and read aloud, "Tony, it was great working with you. One day you'll have to show me that lab of yours. I hope one day we'll meet again. Bruce."
Bruce looked at the letter. In the lingering silence, he blinked at Tony.
"That's… not ok?" he asked tentatively.
"Well if you're signing someone's yearbook it's perfect. After saving the world from an alien invasion? Not so much."
Bruce winced and shrugged again. "I'm not so great with words in general," he admitted, "Spoken or written."
"Then stop speaking and come with me. At least say goodbye to everyone in person, and then if you really want to run off and try to find some run down motel that will accept your Rupees or whatever money you have on you that's fine. Or you could just… you know, crash on my couch, or even maybe stay in one of the hundred or so rooms I've got spare?"
Bruce exhaled, he hadn't stopped rubbing feverishly at his brow and now there were two red marks on either side of his nose. "I won't be in the way?"
"I promise." Tony flashed a smile adding a few good watts of the Stark charm.
Bruce groaned. "Okay," he said eventually. He smiled weakly. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." Tony slung an arm over Bruce's shoulder and escorted him back down the street to S.H.I.E.L.D's temporary base. "Seriously though, don't mention it. I'm generous but not a saint, I don't want everyone getting wind of this and turning Stark Towers into some kind of hotel or something. This favour only extends to science buddies."
They arrived at Stark Towers a little after seven that night. Tony had insisted they stop off a few places first. Those few places being just about every clothing store that remained standing following the fight, followed by Sushi takeout. It amazed Bruce that any shops were actually open following the events of the past few days, never mind a Sushi restaurant.
"This is New York we're in, not Jakarta," Tony told him, "Of course everywhere is going to be open. They'll stay open past the apocalypse."
"Uh… I was in Kolkata actually."
"Whatever," Tony rolled his eyes. He reached over and flicked a switch on the dashboard. It beeped to life and JARVIS' prim British voice sounded over the radio.
"Welcome home, sir."
"JARVIS, how're the repairs coming along?"
"The rubble has been cleared, sir. There are just a few cosmetic issues to be seen to."
"Get on that, I want this Christmas tree up and sparkling by the end of the week if we can." As he spoke, Tony maneuvered the car into the garage and into a free spot next to a line of equally expensive and flashy sports cars and motor bikes. The garage was painted entirely white and looked like a showroom.
"As you wish," JARVIS said, "Is Doctor Banner joining us for dinner tonight?"
Bruce jumped at the sound of his name. He frowned at the dashboard and whipped his head around, searching for any hidden cameras. "How'd he know I was here?" he whispered to Tony. Tony ignored him.
"Bruce willll be staying with us for the foreseeable future, JARVIS. Do me a favour and make sure the guest room's ready for him."
"Very good, sir. Doctor Banner, welcome."
After a moment of bated silence, Tony dug his elbow into Bruce's side, it was an awkward move to make in his expansive car and he had to strain against his seatbelt to make it. "Don't be rude," Tony smirked. "Say hi."
"Uh… thanks… JARVIS. Hey."
"Good evening, Doctor Banner. I hope your stay will be pleasant."
"I'm just staying until I find somewhere else I can go."
"That could be some time," Tony said with an impish smile, "I mean have you looked outside? We made a bit of a mess of Manhattan."
"On that note," JARVIS chimed in, "Ms. Potts has asked me to inform you of a press release she has arranged for you as part of Operation Clean Living."
"What?" Tony groaned, "Don't I get a holiday? She does know I almost died a couple days ago, right?"
"Yes, sir. And she is very glad you are safe and well. Ms. Potts was aware you would like some time off, which is why she has arranged it for a week tomorrow."
"One week's holiday." Tony looked sardonically at Bruce. "Better than nothing, I guess."
"Is Pepper here?" Bruce asked, feeling suddenly uncomfortable and like he was intruding. He hated feeling like he was imposing on anyone. But Tony was shaking his head.
"She at a conference tour right now. She won't be back for about a month. And she won't care at all about you being here even if she was here. Pepper likes people. She's weird like that."
Even if Bruce found it a little strange that despite Tony's near dice with death and everything that had happened the past few days Pepper didn't make a special effort to return home, he didn't say anything.
"Anyway." Tony unsnapped his seatbelt. "Let's go up before the sushi gets warm." He gracefully hoisted himself out of the car without opening the door. The beauty of convertibles meant for very stylish exits. Bruce followed him in a much more diminutive manner by actually using the door. He grabbed the sushi boxes and bags of clothing from the back seat and followed Tony into the elevator. The elevator, like the garage, was pristine and painted white with a grandiose mirror running the length of the back wall.
"Don't you sometimes feel like you're just living in a really posh hotel?" Bruce asked.
"Every damn day." Tony grinned. "I love it!"
They were greeted by a Johnny-Five style robot when the elevator doors opened. The robot took the bags from Bruce in its pincer hands and wheeled off towards the kitchen.
Bruce watched it go, fascinated by its mechanics. "You do like your robots," he muttered in quiet awe.
Tony watched the robot's exit then shrugged with apathy. "DUM-E isn't exactly the best example but yeah. They're like people only better, they don't answer back." He winked at Bruce and then took him by the elbow, guiding him. "Let DUM-E deal with the food, I want to show you the good shit."
Tony lead Bruce into the crowning glory of his abode. The walls were reinforced and so had escaped any kind of damage whatsoever. The lab, as he put it, was where the magic happened. He didn't allow many people into this sacred spot largely because he just didn't feel they were worthy or would truly get the beauty. But Bruce was suitably impressed. He walked around the lab in reverent silence, trailing a finger over desk tops and drinking everything in with hungry eyes. He seemed to want to have physical contact with as much as he could, like he was confirming to himself it was all real.
Bruce acted just how Tony had hoped he would, like a kid in the mother of all candy stores. Watching his friend take it all in for the first time filled Tony with a warm glow of pride.
Finally, after a long stretch of silence, Bruce craned his head to look back at Tony.
"It's beautiful," he breathed.
"Right?" Tony beamed.
"But really, some of these things I've only ever heard about… some I didn't even know existed."
"Likely the ones I made myself," Tony said, not to sound too boastful. He considered Bruce for a moment with shrewd eyes. "Bruce," he said finally, gravely, "I'm going to say something to you I never thought I would say to another person ever… Not even Pep. So I hope you accept it with the gravity it deserves." He paused dramatically. "I'm giving you free reign of the lab."
Bruce was already shaking his head before Tony could finish. "No, no," he laughed softly, waving a hand, "I couldn't."
"I insist," Tony said, "You're just about the only person I'd trust not to fuck everything up in here. What's mine is yours… well within reason. I mean don't go messing with anything I've left open."
"I wouldn't." Bruce looked appalled at the thought. "But… do you mean it?"
"From one science soul to another. I know S.H.I.E.L.D has got some cute toys, but it's not so fun with Fury's all-seeing eye over your shoulder all the time."
"Thanks," Bruce said, he looked around the lab. "Wow… I, uh. I don't even know what I could do in return." He shook his head and laughed. "I don't have much…"
"Conversation, company, and a shared taste for sushi. That's enough for me. Speaking of which, let's go eat, I'm starving."
Bruce ended his night on a contented high with a full belly and his ears buzzing with science talk. He hadn't managed to have a proper meal since the last time he'd 'changed' and he had been ravenous. He always became ravenous for a few days after any period of 'Hulking out', but luckily Tony had seemingly pre-empted this and ordered enough sushi for the both of them to gorge on and still have a little left over.
The spare room Tony had set up for him was just as luxurious as the rest of the tower. The floors were white marble with a raised platform right in the centre upon which stood an expansive bed. What looked suspiciously like a shag pile carpet bordered the platform. Bruce decided to take his shoes off to test the carpet out. It did indeed feel exactly like a shag pile carpet. Bruce hadn't seen one of those since the eighties.
The rest of the room was decorated with artistically placed lighting and minimalist storage. The walls were made of the same quartz embedded granite that decorated Tony's living room and kitchen. It was all so flash, so blatant, so wonderfully Tony.
Stripping down to his boxers, Bruce fell back onto the bed feeling the covers whumph around him as he sank down into one of the most comfortable mattresses he had ever felt in his life. Normally Bruce had an inordinate amount of trouble getting to sleep, but the second his head hit that pillow, he realised how dog tired he was and he was barely able to manoeuvre the covers over him and wonder how he was going to turn the lights off without getting back out of bed before he dropped off into one of the best sleeps he'd had in months.
When Bruce awakened, he initially wasn't certain what it was that had woken him. Someone at some point in the night had dimmed the lights for him and drawn the blinds, likely one of the robots he realised with some discomfort. Even with the blinds drawn, he could tell that it was still dark out, he wasn't certain of the hour but it had to be around bumblefuck o'clock.
And then the reason for his awakening was revealed. The subtle whir of robotics sounded somewhere in the gloom.
"JARVIS?" Bruce's voice was gravelly with sleep. He rubbed at his eyes and blinked until they focused on the shadows. The robot that had taken his bags, DUM-E, as Tony had called it, was breezing back and forth between cupboards hanging up all the clothes that Tony had bought for Bruce earlier. Bruce wondered if maybe the robot's internal clock was misaligned, now really didn't seem the most logical time to be hanging clothes.
Bruce watched the robot silently for some time, it either hadn't registered him or was ignoring the fact that he was awake and it carried on with its job unimpeded.
After a while, Bruce grew bored with watching DUM-E and realised he was actually pretty thirsty. He clambered, somewhat reluctantly, out of the nest of covers and fished around for the clothes he had discarded. They were nowhere in sight, they'd likely been hung up by now by DUM-E. Deciding he'd rather not disturb the robot, and that the air was tepid enough to not need clothes, Bruce padded out of his room and into the hall. Normally he wouldn't feel comfortable waltzing around someone else's home in nothing more than his boxers, but considering the time and the size of the place, he felt somewhat safe of discovery.
Now if only he could remember the way to the kitchen. His room rested on one of the middle levels, and Bruce knew the kitchen and living room were in one of the higher levels, but he couldn't for the life of him remember which floor. He stood in the open elevator, staring at the row of buttons for a long while.
"JARVIS? A little help?" he attempted, but there was no response. Bruce supposed even robots had to rest. Eventually, Bruce took a random stab at one of the higher buttons, if worst came to worst he supposed he could find a random bathroom and drink straight from the tap. Though a glass would be preferable.
The elevator doors slid closed. Bruce almost expected elevator music to start; the place really did feel more like a hotel than a home. When the doors slid open again, Bruce knew straight away that he'd chosen wrong.
He'd never been on this floor before. It was actually just one great big room rather than a floor and it ran the entire perimeter of the tower with a grand balcony beyond. Bruce couldn't see much in the shadows but he could tell that this room was less sparse than the others. In fact it actually looked fairly lived in with clothes dotting the floor and objects that played a large role in everyday life on different surfaces. At one end was a large bed, upon which, Bruce realised with a jolt of embarrassment, lay Tony Stark. He'd inadvertently stumbled into Tony's bedroom. Panicking at the sudden realisation Bruce went to punch another button in the row before the light from the elevator awakened Tony, but then he hesitated.
He could hear Tony talking, his voice was deep and largely unintelligible, and Bruce realised Tony was sleep talking. But it wasn't what Tony was saying that had Bruce hesitating, it was the tone. Tony sounded distressed. Whatever he was dreaming about, it didn't sound good.
Bruce wasn't a stranger to bad dreams. He'd had plenty himself, in fact, when he was at his worst some of his dreams would actually trigger the hulk inside him and before he knew it the other guy was up and raging having well and truly woken on the wrong side of bed.
Bruce knew how bad dreams could be. Maybe if back then he'd had someone there to wake him from them before it got too bad…
It was this thought in his mind that had Bruce frozen in place. He looked from the buttons in the brightly lit elevator to Tony's shadow swamped bed. He could tell even from here that the covers were tangled from Tony tossing and turning.
Knowing full well that he was likely going to regret his decision, Bruce stepped out from the elevator and went over to Tony's bed.
Once he was closer, he could make out a little of what Tony was saying. In between the unintelligible grunts and moans, Tony was pleading. Over and over, he was just repeating the words "No, please."
Bruce felt paralysed with embarrassment. Crouched by Tony's bed he felt like the world's biggest ass. He'd been drawn to his friend out of a duty to help, but once he was there, he had no idea what to do. Comfort in any variety had never been his forte. What exactly was he going to say when Tony woke up to find him crouching there over his bed in nothing more than a pair of boxers.
Gently, very, very gently, Bruce laid a hand on Tony's shoulder. Now absolutely petrified of waking his friend but wanting to help the nightmares subside, Bruce kept his hand there, willing the warmth and contact to soak through into Tony's sleep consciousness.
The muttering did quieten, but Bruce could see from the light of the elevator that Tony's brow was still tensed into a frown and his eyes quivered behind his eyelids. Bruce got to thinking of a quip Tony had made in reference to Steve being the real life sleeping beauty and a smile crept over his lips. That had to be some kind of irony right there.
After some time, the tension in Tony's face eased and Bruce could hear only the occasional murmur between deep breaths. Bruce dropped his head down on the covers with his face turned away from Tony and he blinked at the light of the elevator. After a while he'd go back to his room and get some sleep himself content in the knowledge that he'd helped his friend out in the only way he really could at that moment.
I'd love to know what you think. Please r&r, you lovely people.