Bruce opened the door to his bedroom and found a millionaire lounging on his bed, looking irresistibly rumpled and inexplicably sleepy. "You're lucky David isn't here, he's kind of a snitch," he said with a weary smile, dropping his backpack on the desk before flopping bonelessly down beside him. Tony instantly curled over to drape an arm over him and they breathed in the warm quiet of the afternoon sunshine.

"Not really," replied Tony, mouth already against Bruce's neck. "I told him if he didn't scram, Mrs. Linwood would find out he spends all of his homework time playing Galaga and copies everything from his lab partner."

A soft, fucking adorable smile spread across Bruce's face, and he shut his eyes with his forehead pressed against Tony's. As Tony watched, though, his smile became a thoughtful, melancholy frown making deep lines that shouldn't have existed on a seventeen-year-old's face. Tony raised the hand laying across him to card through those stupid adorable curls and nuzzle his nose against Bruce's, making him smile shakily again.

"What are you thinking about?"

Swallowing hard, Bruce's eyes shut tighter and he shook his head, clutching the nape of Tony's neck like an anchor, and yeah, Tony wanted to rip whoever made Bruce feel like this sometimes - a lot more often than sometimes, really, because the more time Tony spent at Mrs. Linwood's the more he realized that Bruce was sad and angry and so, so broken all the fucking time- into tiny little fucking pieces and make sure those tiny little fucking pieces never saw the light of day again.

"Hey, look at me, talk to me. Don't make me start singing Lady GaGa to cheer you up again."

That, at least, got the real smile back as Bruce obviously recalled another low day, where Tony resorted to stripping down to his underwear and dancing in Mrs. Linwood's front yard to Bad Romance until he was in a better mood. The hand at Tony's nape shifted to hold his jaw, his eyes still firmly closed. "I just don't...people I've tried to date before, everyone really, they're all alike, they never treat me the same after I tell them everything. They say they want to know, that it doesn't matter, but once it's all out there...they change their minds really fast, because it scares them or they just aren't prepared for that kind of baggage, and I don't want you to change your mind yet." His voice broke so Tony kissed him until he stopped shaking, both of their hearts thrumming at about a million miles an hour.

Pushing the hair back from Bruce's face, Tony smirked. "Then it's a good thing there's no one like me," he said, forcing himself to be cocksure and arrogant and everything Bruce needed.

And Bruce smiled, pressing the side of his nose against Tony's, not quite kissing but close enough to breathe the same air, and for a long time the were quiet. Bruce had to psych himself up and Tony had to be patient. It was kind of like feeding wild animals, which yeah, okay, you weren't actually supposed to do because that would domesticate them and blah, blah, blah, but since when did Tony Stark follow the rules? Finally Bruce took a deep breath that hinted the coming words, and Tony had to bite his lip to keep from saying "about time!" because that wasn't exactly supportive-boyfriend-talk.

"My dad...hit me. Sometimes. A - a lot of times. I don't know all of the details, but, he, um, he worked with a lot of dangerous things, and was convinced that I. That I was somehow mutated because of all the shit he'd been exposed to. And Mom, she. She hated it. Hated that she couldn't do anything, except when she could, when she would hide me in the closet or under the bed or just step in between him and me. Dad loved her, loved her a lot, didn't want to hurt her, but she had to learn, so he'd smack her around but. Less. Than he did me. Until he started drinking, then he just attacked whatever and whomever was nearest.

"And I-I was only a kid, you know? I couldn't fight back, I didn't know that it wasn't normal, I didn't know that the other kids at school weren't hiding...b-bruises under their tshirts or-or scars on their backs, I didn't know it could be good, except on days when Dad wasn't around and Mom and I were together and it was good, it was so good and I miss her so fucking much every day because she was my mom and-and...when it got to be too much she tried to get us out, we had the c-car packed and ready to go but Daddy woke up and he was so mad, and he grabbed her and they fell again and again and again and then Mom was d-dead, andIcouldn'tsaveher-"

He broke off his own voice, white as a sheet with his eyes wide and wet, mouth still gaping open like there were more words that wanted to be said but were held back. Tony's hands were loose around Bruce's wrists, fingers tracing lightly over the scars he'd first seen the day he met Bruce, like if he maybe touched them enough they would be rubbed away like erasers. Bruce was watching him like he might run at any second but that only made Tony hold on even tighter, because fuck, Bruce didn't deserve the shitty hand he'd been dealt. Bruce was a genius, and he was so much nicer than any of the smart assholes Tony had ever met, and he didn't let his fear overwhelm him or keep him from being happy in the face of it. But Tony still wanted to protect him, to be his armor for a change, to give him the chance to feel things without covering his blind side.

Still, it didn't keep Tony from shifting closer and asking, "What happened at your last home, Bruce?"

Even though the memories were more fresh and flashed in Bruce's eyes, he didn't take as long to answer. "Just the same shit, the...abuse. From both parents, this time," he quietly replied, staring intently at Tony's mouth. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. "And I-I...I got low. I didn't see an end, so I...tried to kill myself. The rope snapped before I could suffocate, but I sort of...had a minor stroke. I spent the whole summer and the beginning of the school year in rehab to regain most use of my face and fine motor skills." When Tony's hands tightened around his wrists - is that why his smile is crooked?- Bruce pressed their foreheads harder together.

"I'm okay, Tony. I am, it's okay, I'm not...I'm not gonna do that again," Bruce said quickly, crowding close enough for every line of their bodies to touch and kissing every patch of Tony's skin he could reach between words. Tony strung his arms around Bruce, hugging him tight like a fucking boa constrictor, trying not to imagine how low someone had to get to try something like that. Even if he'd been ready to let himself die for his friends, he knew he was too much of a coward to ever do anything like that to himself.

So instead of saying anything Tony sat up, straddled himself across Bruce's hips, and kissed him until they both forgot what day it was. Then they lay side by side on Bruce's bed, hands tangled, hair a mess, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars plastered to the ceiling. "Really, dude?"

Bruce reached over with his free hand and tweaked Tony's nose. "Hypocrite," he retorted, clearly not forgetting that Tony had the same stars on his ceiling, voice a little hoarse but otherwise sounding slow and almost...deeply relieved. With just a little turn Bruce's head was nuzzling lightly against Tony's, and Tony wanted to purr like a cat. He'd never done this before, this whole cuddling thing. It was pretty nice. "So. You haven't run yet."

Tony tightened his hold around Bruce's hand. "Nope. You're stuck with me," he said, popping the P on the end of 'nope' like a champ. Bruce didn't seem to mind in the least, flipping them over so he was on top.

Just before things could get really interesting, a small rock hit Bruce's bedroom window and they both looked up. in time for a second rock to tap against the glass. "The fu-? No, Bruce, don't get up!" whined Tony while Bruce disentangled their legs. When Bruce started to laugh, embarrassed, at the window, Tony reluctantly got up to follow him, crying on the inside for the imminent handjobs that had been foiled. Still. Seeing Bruce smile was almost as good. Almost, because it was still crooked in the corner and it made Tony wonder. Seeing what was out there in the grass tipped the scale in their favor, though.

On the lawn below were...well, everyone. Steve, Thor, Clint, Natasha, and Coulson, all waiting out in the fading afternoon sunshine. Tony hadn't even realized how dark it was getting in Bruce's room until that moment.

"Friends Stark and Banner, there is a most glorious new amusement down the street yonder!" announced Thor, shielding his eyes from the sharp light. Natasha's braid looked like blood trailing over her shoulder. Steve and Coulson seemed vaguely disapproving, standing toward the back and exchanging long-suffering looks.

With a shove to the bigger guy, Clint added, "He means that the Johnsons have a new cat that's a mean little bastard and we wanna go fuck with it. Also Tasha wants to go to McDonald's. You guys coming or not?"

Tony grinned and turned to his companion. Standing at this angle, Bruce was covered in shadows even while the sunlight reflected off his glasses. He looked sheepish. Probably still a little raw from baring his tortured past or something, so Tony held out his hand while simultaneously opening the window - which was how he'd got in - a little wider. "Are you with me, Banner?" he asked with his slyest grin.

The corner of Bruce's mouth twitched imperceptibly upward. Down in the summery sun their friends, their group, their people, waited patiently, not needing a damn thing but hoping only for their company. Graduation was just around the corner and soon Thor would be playing football for the best college in the country. Hell, the whole wide world was lying in wait at their very fingertips, not always shiny and nice but still theirs for the taking.

Bruce took his hand. "Yeah," he said softly. "I'm with you."

They climbed out from the shadowy bedroom and into the light.