I'm putting this in the beginning because I want to get the massive apology out of the way before y'all (whoever is still here) read possibly the fluffiest, cheesiest chapter of Bruce and Stella's story to date. I am so very sorry for being away. I am so very sorry for not updating for a million years. I mean it when I say that I've thought about this story every day, and I've written so many chapters, honestly. I just...couldn't find the drive to post them, or the motivation, I suppose. I don't know what happened. Life happened, I guess. It was hard, these past few months (years, if we're going by how rarely I've updated), but your continued support and the reviews and messages I STILL get even to this day have really made me smile. Really and truly I appreciate everyone who reads anything I write (and I have SO many stories that I haven't even published). You're all so lovely and fantastic and your kind words make me happier than you'll ever know. So, again, I'm very, truly, incredibly sorry for being away for so long. I hope there are still some people following along - there is so much of Bruce and Stella's story left to tell!

As I said earlier, this chapter is so fluffy, so dang sweet. Like...cavity warning sweet. This is only part one of their Thanksgiving shenanigans (and just in time for real Thanksgiving too!), so stay tuned for more! We'll be getting to more plot mysteries soon, but, I think (especially after the past two weeks that we in America have had) that a little togetherness and family and bonding time is in order :)

I hope you all are doing well and are continuing to be the lovely, wonderful human beings that you are! Regardless of your home country, who you love, how you identify, what you look like...I appreciate you all and think you're incredible, inspiring, one of a kind individuals deserving of every ounce of love this world has to offer you.

Much love from me to you! As always, enjoy and stay tuned.

Nikki xx

Stella was up early, watching the stars twinkle from the roof of Avengers Mansion. Knees pulled up to her chest, she sat with her back against the railing, head tilting back and peering up into the heavens.

So calm, she mused quietly to herself. It was a startling difference to how the roof felt just the previous afternoon. She gently lifted a hand to her throat, remembering the feel of Melinna's hands wrapped around her neck. The memory caused her to squeeze her eyes shut. Who was that woman? What did she want? Why did she hate her so much?

"Fury," she whispered to the sky, "where are you?"

Silence greeted her for a few painfully long moments.

"Stella? Are you alright? What brings you up here at such an hour?"

She nearly jumped out of her skin at his voice. Her legs kicked out from their snuggled place against her chest and she sat up straighter, alarmed.

"Thor," she breathed, a hand flying to her chest. "I did not hear you come up."

"Apologies," the god approached her with a small smile playing on his lips, "though you were quite deep in thought. Tell me," he made a little sighing noise as he sat down next to her, bracing himself on his left arm, "have the stars anything helpful to say?"

Stella drew her knees back up to her chest, relaxing again, and gave Thor a puzzled look, "Do they speak? I did not know they could…?"

A deep chuckle rumbled in Thor's throat as he regarded the little star woman next to him, "Some say they do. I, myself, have only found peaceful silence in them. Heimdall, however, well, he says they speak to him. I do not doubt his word."

She nodded absently, her eyes back on the constellations above her, "I was asking them where Fury was."

"Ah, now that is a good question to ask."

"Do you think," she turned to look at Thor, "do you think your friend could see him?"

Thor looked pensive, "Heimdall sees all. I would have to ask him myself, but I do not doubt that he could locate Director Fury."

Stella's face broke out into an excited smile, "Could you ask him now?"

The blond prince gave her a sad look, "I cannot go back to Asgard yet."

"You cannot go home?" At the expression on her friend's face, Stella leaned in closer so that she could gently bump her elbow against his.

Thor turned his eyes upward and they grew faraway, thoughts of things less than pleasant swimming around in his mind. He sighed and patted Stella's hand.

"I've heard the saying that sometimes good people make bad decisions, Stella. But," he drew in a breath and shook his head sadly, "it is harder to stomach the thought that someone I once thought was good might actually have been bad all along."

Stella found herself nodding thoughtfully before asking, "And this stops you from going home?"

He thought of Loki's trial on Asgard, of his imprisonment, his rage. Thor thought of how he stood by and watched his little brother go through so much, so much, and not once did he try to make anyone in that room understand, make them see that Loki wasn't a monster, he wasn't a demon.

He never once made anyone remember that Loki was his brother.

"It stopped me from doing a lot of things."

Sensing that this conversation was taking too serious and too sad a turn for such an early hour, Stella pulled her body up and offered out her hand to Thor.

"Well, perhaps one day it will not. The stars may speak to you one day and tell you exactly what you've always wanted to know."

Thor took her offered hand, not at all surprised that she was able to aid in helping him stand. He gave her a gentle look and placed his large palm over her shoulder, squeezing it just barely.

"You say wise things, my lady. You know that, right? Very wise."

"Well," Stella shrugged and offered him a small smile, "I was a star once."

"Aye," the god slung an arm around her shoulders and led her towards the door to the roof. "And you still are. Come. Let us begin preparations for this so-called 'Thanksgiving' everyone has been talking about. I hear it is a reason for feasting! Volstagg would enjoy this very much, if it is how Barton described it."

"Thor?" Stella asked suddenly as the reached the stairs. He turned to her and she wondered out loud, "Why were you awake so early?"

He turned to her and gave her what he hoped was his best reassuring smile.

"You are not the only one who wishes the stars had all the answers."




"'m sleepin'…"

"Bruce, wake up, Bruce."

"Whassamatter?" Bruce blindly and sleepily reached out towards the lovely voice trying to rouse him from his, admittedly amazing, slumber. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept so well (it probably also had something to do with Stella because, come on, what good part of his life didn't?) and he was very reluctant to end it early. Even if the woman responsible for his pleasant rest was half on top of him and leaning over him in such a way that all he could smell was rain and all he could feel was her soft hair tickling his cheeks.

"I have a bun in the oven."

Bruce's eyes flew open in an instant and his body shot up so fast that he knocked foreheads with Stella and caused her to yipe, fall backwards, and land on the floor next to his bed.

"You what?"

The tell-tale sound of a cellphone camera shutter sound went off. Bruce turned his head away from his girlfriend (girlfriend, right? Stella was totally his girlfriend?) on the floor, rubbing her forehead and completely confused, to lock eyes with a certain genius billionaire standing in his doorway, doubled over with rancorous laughter at seven thirty in the morning and still half holding up his StarkTech cellphone. Tony was laughing so hard that he had to hold out an arm to brace his entire body on the doorjamb to Bruce's room.

"Oh my god," he wheezed. "The Macy's Day Parade will never top that spectacle. Never."

Slowly, Bruce's breathing calmed down and he felt his heart rate go back to normal. He managed to untangle his legs from his sheets, now that he was sure he wasn't going to have a coronary or Hulk out spontaneously or ruin a cherished holiday by strangling one of Stella's favorite people (the jury was, actually, still out on that last one). Stella had picked herself up off the ground already and was climbing back up onto his bed. Later, he would blush at the fact that she had been in his room, on his bed, in her pajamas. Now, she stared at him expectantly, eyes shifting over to Tony every few seconds as if to ask 'did I do something wrong?'.

"Did he tell you to say that, Stell?" Bruce finally managed to ask, though his voice was still thick with sleep and the stress from the potential heart attack he'd almost had.

She shrugged, "Yes. But I really do have a bun in the oven." Her eyes shifted over to her mentor, "Tony, you told me that is what people tell their significant others when they had a bun in the oven! That they have a bun in the oven! I am very confused. What have a I done wrong?"

Tony wiped at his eyes, "I honestly cannot love this situation any more than I already do. I gotta go check on your bun, Supernova. I'll let the Incredible Prude explain this one to you."

Stark practically waltzed out of the room, still laughing as he went, while Bruce mumbled out "I'm not prude?" before turning back to his…they were totally dating at this point, weren't they? Bruce already had way too many questions for seven thirty in the morning and he could feel his head starting to spin.

Stella leaned in towards him, one leg folded in front of her and the other dangling off the edge of his bed. Whispering, as if it was one of the best kept secrets in Manhattan, she informed him, "Thor and I made cinnamon buns for breakfast."

Bruce's eyes went wide for probably the eighth time in the seven minutes he'd been awake so far. He felt a laugh bubble up on its own accord and tumble out. Still chuckling, a little wildly too, he flopped backwards onto his bed and spread his arms out wide on either side of him. Then, he brought his left hand up to cover his face.

His voice was muffled as he spoke from behind his hand, "You made cinnamon buns."

The bed shook up and down vigorously and he guessed she was nodding very animatedly. He peeked out at her between his fingers and saw that his suspicions were confirmed, a mega-watt smile lighting up her face as she stared at him. He groaned a little and covered his eyes once again when he realized Stella was wearing a very bright, very thin, neon orange camisole. Her enthusiastic nodding was doing nothing to still her body in her small, very thin camisole, so Bruce decided to simply cover his face up again before his own body decided to betray him and add more embarassing moments to his morning.

Stella spoke again without noticing the inner turmoil Bruce was currently experiencing.

"I made the biggest bun for you." She pushed her body towards his again, leaning on her wrists and locking her elbow so she could come even closer and tell him, "because I love you."

The smile that broke out over Bruce's face, peeking through his splayed fingers, was worth the confusion that Stella still felt over why it was apparently wrong to tell her…boyfriend? That's what he was to her, right? Maybe she should ask Natasha?… that she had a bun in the oven. Tony had said that it was something very normal to say when he had come down and found her, Thor, and Steve all in the kitchen making what Steve deemed an acceptable breakfast for this 'Thanksgiving' they were apparently having. Stella had already been stressed about the 'giving' part – she hadn't been informed she'd needed to give presents?! – but Tony had told her that her bun in the oven was more than enough of a present for Bruce. So, really, Stella didn't understand what was going on, but she did know that the sight of Bruce all sleepy and groggy and still in his pajamas and smiling lovingly at her was now one of her most favorite things to see.

"I love you too," he told her softly, gazing up at her with adoration for a few moments before clearing his throat. "But, um, the bun in the oven thing?" He trailed off a little.

Stella decided to crawl over to him then, gently sliding her body over his and being blessedly unaware of Bruce's exact anatomical feelings towards her doing so at that very moment, and lay in the empty space framed by his outstretched arm. She propped her head up on her hand, elbow sinking into his bed, and stared at him. His brain immediately became a jumble of words and thoughts and incoherent ramblings as he took in the sight of her – all curves, bright colors and pink curls, silvery-grey eyes and radiating warmth – lying next to him, in his bed, in her pajamas. He couldn't even think properly. This was simultaneously the most stressful but also the best morning he'd had in, well, maybe forever.

A thought occurred to Stella that made her jolt up in alarm. She grabbed at Bruce's outstretched arm and wrapped her tiny fingers around his bicep, gripping gently as she let out a little gasp.

"That is not another way to talk about, you know," her voice dropped to a whisper again, "the sex?"

Bruce was honestly amazed at how quickly his emotions had been changing this morning.

"WHAT, no, no, Stell, it's…no." He cocked his head to the side, "Well? Um, maybe it is. Well, part of it is? And then, the bun part is the…aftermath?"

Stella nodded slowly although Bruce was sure she had no idea what she was nodding about.

"So there are birds and bees and cinnamon buns now?"

Bruce stared up at his ceiling briefly, trying to hold in a chuckle and also trying to figure out how his bed could swallow him whole. "No, not cinnamon buns. Just…regular buns. The bakery kind, not the…" He trailed off here and mumbled some words, one of which Stella thought was 'glutes' – whatever they were – before finally finding it in him to look at her. "I mean, they could be cinnamon buns, I guess?" He paused. "Actually, no, they can't be. They're not really buns. Not actually, I mean. Because they're babies."

"Baby cinnamon buns?!"

His left hand was back over his face, "Oh my god."

This was not how he pictured his first time sharing a bed with Stella, but he found he wasn't as surprised as he probably should be, and he wasn't half as mad at Tony as he knew he should be.

By the time Bruce and Stella emerged from Bruce's room, the entire team had assembled in the kitchen and, as Bruce could have guessed and then bet all of Tony's money on, it was a mess.

Steve and Thor stood side by side at the stove, the captain wielding a spatula in a very no-nonsense manner as Thor tried to sneak another piece of sausage from off the plate next to him. The god was regaling Steve with tales of feasting on Asgard while also trying to eat half the breakfast foods before they even reached the table. His movements were all very regal, though, and carried out with all the experience one would expect Thor to have after centuries of being a prince, although incredibly unsubtle and not at all covert.

Natasha watched, amused, from her perch on the end of the wrap around countertop. Deftly, she moved a potato peeler around in her fingers, having already shredded the skin off of an alarmingly large amount of potatoes. She held one in her hand now, making a perfect ringlet of peeled skin that fell off the potato like a little ribbon and landed in the trash can by her knees. Her eyes barely looked down at her hands, too focused on switching her gaze between the two men at the stove and the one currently throwing obscene gestures at the coffee pot.

"I swear to –" a pause, "– who do I even swear to anymore? Anyway, to someone –" another pause, "– maybe to Odin? Thor!" Clint called out, distracted from his swearing momentarily, as he waved a coffee filter in the air, "Do any of you Asgardians, you know, rule over caffeine?"

Thor, his hand mid sausage-snatch, raised an eyebrow and stopped himself mid-sentence from his conversation with Steve. The captain, now undistracted, quickly slapped his spatula against Thor's hand as it hovered over several links of breakfast meat. The god whirled his hand in the air blindly, searching for the spatula, but only succeeding in slapping Steve several times on his chin.

"Barton, we Asgardians control much weightier spheres of influence than caffeine." He almost sounded offended.

Clint's shoulders slumped as the coffee machine made a depressingly broken noise from behind him.

"Then what good are you?" He grumbled out a few additional choice words and turned back around, placing the coffee filter in the basket anyway and dumping an outrageously generous amount of grinds into it. He pushed several of the touch-screen buttons, sometimes all at the same time with several of his fingers arranged into awkward positions, until a glorious blue light appeared on the machine's interface. Clint made a noise of pure happiness as the telltale sounds of the percolator popping started gurgling out.

"Yes," he whispered to himself before slowly raising his index finger to the sky. "Thank you, whoever you are."

"His name is JARVIS, Barton," Tony's voice entered the kitchen as he swaggered in. "You knew that. And he's not a god," the millionaire's eyes cut over to Thor who by now was back to talking loudly about his escapades in Asgard, "but he does control as helluva lot more 'spheres of influence' in this mansion than WWF over there."

Clint rolled his eyes but sent an appreciative glance upwards again, this time aimed at the intangible AI, "Thanks, JARVIS."

"You're very welcome, Agent Barton. Do enjoy the coffee."

"Oh, I will." The archer looked back the machine and tried to tune out the din from the Avengers surrounding him, "I will."

Tony clapped him on the back and noticed his favorite couple entering the room. Stella beamed at him and raised her arms high in the air as if in some sort of triumph. Bruce hastily tugged her camisole down as it rode up over her abdomen. Tony rolled his eyes. As if she hadn't landed on his car naked…

"Good news!" She exclaimed excitedly, claiming the attention of the Avengers in the room.

"I do not actually have a bun in the oven!"

The kitchen was in pin-drop silence for exactly three seconds before Clint broke out into rancorous laughter and Natasha covered her face with the potato peeler, a wayward shred of skin flying off and landing on Steve's shoulder who was, unfortunately for his blushing face, very aware of that reference. Meanwhile, Thor rushed over to the oven in a panic, shoving a holiday themed oven mitt onto his huge hand, and all but ripped the door off its hinges in his haste to check on the actual buns in the oven.

Stella gasped loudly at the sight of the golden cinnamon buns. She slapped a hand out, hitting Bruce's chest in excitement before she started bouncing in place a little. Bruce's eyes quickly switched from her chest to the hem of her shirt, back to her chest, then to her beaming face before he reached down and gently tugged the bottom of her bright pink sleep shorts down to cover her exposed…Tony blinked as he watched the entire thing. Did Bruce just actually mumble the word glutes?

"Bruce," Stella never took her eyes off the cinnamon buns as she asked him with glee in her voice, "See that one?" She pointed at the tray held in Thor's hand, protected by an oven mitt with reindeer antlers sewn to the top. "I told you the biggest one was for you."

She skipped over to Thor to help him plate the buns and thanked Natasha who had hopped off her perch on the counter to hand Stella the bowl of icing she and Steve had made while Stella was off waking up Bruce. Clint came over and reached a hand out to touch one of the pastries. When Steve slapped his spatula out to stop him, the archer merely said he was claiming which one he wanted, causing the super soldier to eye his hand suspiciously. Back in the day he and Bucky used to spit on things to claim them…

Tony watched from the other side of the kitchen, sipping his freshly brewed coffee, curtesy of Clint and JARVIS, and leaning against a counter. He hid his smile behind his mug but, honestly, at that moment he could have cared less who saw. Sure, his friends were all huddled around a god wearing a reindeer oven mitt while an actual human star wearing obnoxiously bright colored pajamas tried to evenly spread icing on cinnamon buns that were not actually babies, but they were his friends and they were together on a holiday when people should be together. They had problems – all friends have problems, of course – and they definitely didn't always have it easy (saving the world multiple times was not as glamorous as it might seem), but…Tony actually rolled his eyes as the thought crossed his mind. What a sap he was turning into…

But they had each other.

Tony took another sip of his coffee before setting it down on the counter.

"Uh, show of hands, whose credit card paid for all of this? Oh, wait, is my hand the only hand up? Well, would you look at that?" He weaseled his way into the group and made a big show of licking his index finger, delighting in the sight of Steve's face cringing, and wiped it all over one of the bigger soon to be frosted buns. "Dibs."

And although groans and complaints rose up at his antics, there was laughter too. And warmth, and friendship, and family.

Stella and Thor shared a smile as their friends fought over the cinnamon buns they had made.

Maybe the answers weren't in the stars.

Maybe they were right there – with their family.

As always, your reviews are appreciated, and messages always make me smile :)

Also, Can You Save Me has been completely edited and revised by me, so if you have a hankering to ever reread the first installment of Bruce and Stella's story, those chapter edits should be going in soon. The plot is exactly the same, but I've made edits to my writing (because it was, like, hella years ago y'all) and done little fixes here and there.

It's good to be back. Missed you all!