The first morning with Tony is… interesting.
After Tony nearly burns the house down trying to make 'Sorry I Got Drunk and Used You As a Crutch' pancakes-on the grill—Bruce makes the mistake of mentioning that he can actually produce semi-edible food in the kitchen.
After proving his skills to a wary Tony by making crepes with Nutella and suspect jelly (no fresh fruit is available), he is officially designated as chef, despite his protests that surely somewhere in this behemoth of a home Tony must already have one. As Tony puts it, he hasn't been able to perfect synthetic taste buds for his bots, so he's instead been engaging with a torrid love affair with takeout services, but if Bruce would rather live on lo mein and cold pizza…
Bruce decides his long-repressed life dream has been to cook.
After finishing breakfast, Tony drags Bruce to his lab in order to show off. Bruce is suitably impressed by the machines that Tony has built, including his suit, despite his best efforts—God knows Tony's ego doesn't need any more stroking.
They spend the rest of the morning in Tony's workshop, Bruce learning the ropes and being shown schematics of every pet project Tony has ever dreamed up. He offers compliments copiously and questions/suggested where he can, given his limited expertize in engineering. Strangely enough his critiques seem to make Tony smile wider than his compliments do. He wonders if the man has a hidden masochistic streak. It would explain his compulsion to antagonize armed people at every opportunity.
They break only for Bruce them make them grilled cheese sandwiches, requiring him to pry Tony from his tools with mingled threats and cajoling. Bruce wonders how the man has survived this long.
Tony promises to have some of the materials moved from Stark Tower to his house in one of the spare labs. 'Spare labs'—Bruce is unsure whether to praise Lady Luck for his good fortune or cry at the unfairness of the world, that someone can have spare labs in the first place. He already wants to weep at the sheer magnitude and quality of the facilities being thrown at him. Until his 'physics thingies' arrive, he is invited to continue helping Tony with his work.
It's actually very fun.
Bruce had been worried that Tony would grow annoyed at his quiet demeanor, such a contrast to the hero's own boisterous manner, but the two seem to balance nicely and meet at the half-way point of snark. They fill the time with witty banter about science, politics, and of course the other Avengers.
"And don't think I didn't see you pocketing not only Agent Coulson's number, but also the esteemed Captain's. Not so pious after all, is he?" Bruce shrugs.
"He also gave his number to Phil and Director Fury. Do you think he's playing the field?"
"Um, ew." Tony says, looking delighted at Bruce's inappropriateness. "I do not need that image in my head, thank you. Although Cap 'n' Coulson…" He looks thoughtful and Bruce bites his lip.
"I hope not." He says without thinking, Tony's eyes are suddenly laser-focused on him, circuit board lying forgotten on the table.
"Reeeeeally." He drawls. "So which one you got your eye on then? It didn't seem like the Captain sunk your battleship, but the agent, really? 'Phil'?" He mocks in a falsetto that Bruce is 95% sure that he does not, in fact, employ. He flushes.
"I-it's not like that! I can safely say that neither of them are really my type, actually." He makes an 'icky' face because the idea of certain explicit activities with either of his friends makes him feel queasy. He's not lying either; his type is apparently tall, dark and dickish playboy prodigies with a tech kink. Strangely enough, this is not a common find. Tony actually looks upset.
"Jesus Banner, really? I never thought that you'd be a homophobe." He sounds more than just disappointed, and Bruce has to go 'Wait, what?'.
"I set up two presumably male gods—although who the hell knows with Loki. What about that strikes you as homophobic?"
"Necessity trumps scruples." Tony says primly, and Bruce gapes at him.
"But, I—that's insane! I really don't mind at all about any sexuality; I don't really see the point in fretting over what others want to do on their own time, as long as it's consensual. Besides, it's a fluid concept; concrete ideals don't really hold any water." Bruce says. Tony watches him narrowly.
"Oh? Really. So then why the investment?" Tony obviously doesn't believe him.
"I, uh, there's, I have a friend who has an investment, okay? I'm an investment by proxy." Now Tony looks interested rather than skeptical. Bruce doesn't know which he prefers. At least he's not angry anymore.
"Uh huh. And this friend is interested in which party?"
Bruce purses his lips. "You know I can't tell you that. It's his private affair." And Clint would murder him and never be caught.
"Ooh, 'his'?" Bruce curses at his slip. "Well, I suppose I can concede that you're probably not homophobic."
The rest of the day goes smoothly, and when Tony steps away from the table for a second Bruce swoops in to steal him—or at least his chauffer—to go grocery shopping.
Tony insists on joining him, despite the fact that Bruce is certain the man has never in his life done his own grocery shopping. Or at least he hopes so, after seeing the sad condition of the pantry.
They get milk and eggs and bread and fruits and vegetables of all kinds, the usual suspects. Then they get tooth-rotting cereals and every flavor of Ben & Jerry's and a plethora of baking supplies about five pounds of chocolate (Tony has a sweet tooth and Bruce has 32 of them).
Tony wants to get meat but Bruce informs him primly that if he wants to facilitate murder, he'll be flipping his own burger—an admonishment that sounds rather filthier in speech than in thought, if the shocked glances of the check-out clerk are any indication. Tony pouts the whole ride home.
After a brief glaring contest they reach a compromise: in a reverse Lent maneuver, every Friday will be meat night where Tony can choose the entrée. This plan involves another trip to the store since tonight is Friday, and more judgmental looks from the store workers until Tony says happily "Bruce is totally flipping my burger tonight!" and suddenly no one can look at them at all.
Bruce very seriously considers charring his burger until Tony mentions off-handedly that he likes them crispy. When he bites into the medium rare burger with gusto however, Bruce cannot help but feel that he's been played. He munches viciously on his black bean burger and vows that next week the meat will be charcoal.
Tony seems to catch his chain of thought. Bruce cannot help but notice through the haze of his ire that Tony has a very nice laugh.
They've settled into a bit of a routine. Bruce makes breakfast while Tony makes coffee (You know that saying about burning water? That would be Bruce, although due to his abroad trips in Asia he can make a cup of tea that will knock your socks off), both slouching at the counter and engaging in an unofficial yawning contest.
Then they go to the lab. Despite Tony's earlier boasting about labs taking entire floors, he has instead set up Bruce's directly next to his, separated only by what Bruce hopes is very reinforced glass. They frequently wander over to each others' space to hold together something being soldered or bringing over a tool that's missing or deliver the delicious boon of caffeine in various forms.
Tony leaves Bruce an Iron Man Pez dispenser on his desk one day with an autographed photo reading 'For my biggest fan'. Bruce retaliates with a gummy brain, complete with a note saying 'Since you lost yours'.
Sometimes they break for lunch, and sometimes they subsist on Pez and gummy brains until dinnertime. Tony has taken to doing things to help in the kitchen that can't catch fire, like pouring the drinks and setting their places. Bruce carefully watches how much wine the other man ingests, but he's been stopping at one or two glasses every night. Bruce is infinitely relieved.
Then they watch a movie, taking turns with choosing titles. Tony tends to choose either a ridiculous action film to critique with Bruce or one of the classics (He seems to have a thing for Cary Grant, but then again who doesn't?). Bruce inevitably chooses an animated Disney movie, which Tony teased him about until Bruce pointed out that he was picking from Tony's collection. Now he just gets the odd pointed "Bambi" in the lab. He's started to respond to it as easily as his own name, which is both horrifying and humiliating.
Because Bruce looks at Tony as the man watches Simba tumble through the Elephant Graveyard, the billionaire on the edge of his seat and mindlessly shoveling popcorn in his mouth as he stares unblinkingly at the screen, and he fiercely, desperately does not want to lose this. He can't remember the last time he let himself have anything just for himself, but Tony seems to bring out the selfishness in him. He wants to sit here, watching movies with Tony and arguing over who has to make the popcorn, and he doesn't want to leave.
He wants to teach Tony to make pancakes without a grill, and to find corny Pez dispensers on his desk, and to argue about the best coolant for Tony's new gadget all through the night until JARVIS cordially reminds them that adult males need approximately eight hours a day of sleep to function, genius or no. He wants to have all these things and he never wants to not have them.
"Moothatha!" Tony cheers through a mouthful of popcorn as the lion king appears on screen, and Bruce is breaking, because he's learned that karma is cruel, and he has done nothing to deserve this, and none of this is going to last.
It's the one lesson his drunkard of a father taught him that Bruce took to heart rather than to face:
Never wager something that you can't afford to lose, and never have something that you can't afford to wager.