A/N: It's been a while since I've been inspired to write fanfiction. xD Please read and review (Suggestions are also very welcome)! That keeps my muses happy. Hope you enjoy!
They actually went along with it. That was what surprised Tony the most. He guessed, though, that everyone was just too tired and worn to argue with someone who was willing to take the lead for the next step forward.
So they all met at the shawarma place he'd mentioned and had a feast that could beat Thanksgiving in nearly dead silence—which, ironically, was warmer and happier than any Thanksgiving Tony had ever had. Slumped in hard plastic chairs around a table that tilted every time Thor knocked his large knee against it, they ate out of plates of meshed plastic and wax wrap. Maybe there was more to say than what had been said, but it wasn't said.
His syrup dark eyes moved from one Avenger to the next, seeing a dead fatigue in all of them. Soot, the smell of fire clung to their clothes, their armor, and their uniforms. Dried blood painted Roger's temple, and it had to ache, it had to be thrumming like the old, whining motor of the ceiling fan that was keeping a decent airflow in the cramped little venue.
Tony himself looked relaxed, but only because he knew if he moved too quickly, his body would scream in pain. Sometimes it was hard for him to remember he was only human—even before Iron Man ever came to be.
There was only one person among them who had any light left in his eyes, and that was Bruce. Leaning over his food, holding his lamb wrap in both hands in a meticulous way as to not spill a bit of it, he sort of looked like an animal that was waiting to be disturbed at any moment. The thin, unassuming man in secondhand clothes didn't have a mark on him. The Other Guy's regenerative abilities were unspoken of; able to wipe clean any injuries made on him before or after his big appearances. And what an appearance he'd made today. God, what an appearance he'd made today. His chest warmed knowing that he'd known it all along; he knew Banner would show up to strut. But now it also made Bruce look odd, out of place, different from everyone else.
Though one could say that was already the case in Tony's perspective.
Their eyes met, because Banner could feel the low heat of his stare against the side of his unshaven face. He knew when he was being stared at because it happened all the time once people knew who he was.
Tony's throat clenched shut slowly, but Bruce didn't look away. His eyes were only shades lighter than Stark's, but revealed more than he ever allowed his face to. Tony knew suddenly that was why he never made eye contact. But now he was caught dead on in the rays, and he had no idea what he was seeing, but it was killing him. Whatever light was shining there was making it hard for Tony to breathe. It wasn't even light; it was just…not dark. Half hidden, half exposed, half waiting, half hoping.
He broke the stare first—for just a second, he just needed a second to collect himself, but when he returned it was only in time to see Bruce's gaze drift forward to the table and then down, shielded by thick, gentle brows, spiked lashes and a firm pressed mouth that spread, not smiling, but accepting everything the way it was.
His mouth slipped open, but nothing came out but a slow, shaky breath and he just reached for his Coke and took a long draw from it, not saying anything.
He would regret that decision for a long time.
When it came time to leave, it was already dark and the city around them was dotted with lights and sirens from emergency vehicles speeding back and forth, weaving through streamers of yellow tape and flares that mocked the stars. They all went their separate ways, but Tony turned to Bruce instead of getting into the company car that was sitting on the curb waiting open for him.
"Hey. Um…Kolkata. That's a long walk, big guy, you know? So I was thinking, you should come back to the Tower for the night." (Or every night; Tony wanted that to be implied so dearly, but he knew it wasn't.) "Beats a bunk in a cell at S.H.I.E.L.D, at least. Right?" Wrong thing to say, wrong thing to say, he could feel Bruce tensing up from here. "No really, though. We'll pop in Wizard of Oz and have a few laughs on Cap; or I dunno, just sleep for maybe six days. Then I can show you the R&D like I promised. It'll be great."
"Yeah?" Bruce asked the crusty sidewalk, though it wasn't really a question. But it wasn't 'no'. Tony grinned, putting his hands together as the curly haired man looked up at him. "No surprises?"
"Yeah. No surprises. Just like I promised."
"Okay." It was a ghost of a word, but it drove the billionaire's sense of victory over the ledge. Bruce made a move towards him and then stopped, running a hand through his mess of hair. Some brick dust wiped off on his palm and he seemed to come to a realization. "Ah, forgot my hat inside. Be back in a second."
Stark didn't even question it as he got in the car and relaxed in the back seat, told the driver to turn up the song that was playing currently, drumming his fingers to the tune upon the car door. By the time the third song started up, though, his face was slack and his eyes were darker than ever, glistening silently. By the end of it, he hated himself for not knowing Rhodey's birthday and the fact that Pepper was allergic to strawberries.
Because it took him that long to realize Bruce hadn't been wearing a hat.