The Invitation

It only took a couple days of knowing Tony for Bruce to realize that Tony was obsessed. Tony had programs running constantly, seeking out any and all involvement of Stark Industries weapons, anywhere in the world, used by anyone that he hadn't sanctioned. After getting even the slightest ping, he would go tearing off without any plan or forewarning. Sometimes the only notice Bruce or Pepper had was when Tony finally returned and was being patched up by Dummy with Jarvis making noises of disapproval in the background. Pepper tried her best to throw distractions in his way, and Bruce himself had been a distraction until Tony had gotten used to having a green monster cum gamma ray specialist around. Pepper could only do so much, and Bruce wasn't comfortable enough with his place at the Tower to start helping her out.

A month after the Battle of New York, it became imminently clear that Tony wasn't sleeping. He still had scrapes all over from the battle and a splint on one of his toes where it had broken in a landing. Three times, Bruce had gone upstairs to Research and Development in his own nightly travels- being on the run had made him something of a light sleeper, more of a catnapper, really- and Tony had been awake every time.

"Can't sleep?" he asked, hesitantly.

Tony's hands were wrapped around a white and black Stark Industries mug. He reached up only to manipulate a computer display idly, adjusting designs on what looked like one of the repulsors in the gloves.

"You're one to talk, Brucie Boy," Tony said, closing out of the display in what seemed like instinct more than conscious decision.

Bruce shrugged. There was a reason he tried not to question Tony too much on these things. He had his own secrets to hide. Sometimes, after all, Bruce still dreamed about swallowing a bullet. It wasn't like Fury's little mission changed anything- the world was the same as ever, business as usual, status quo still quo.

"I have trouble sleeping when I still half-expect the army to come bursting through the windows," he said dryly.

Tony twitched a finger at Dummy, who wheeled a pot of coffee over with more enthusiasm than care.

"As if anyone would dare crash my Tower. Well besides Agent-" Tony cut himself off, and what Bruce would almost call self-hatred, or perhaps as being slightly too self-aware.

Bruce let it pass and took the coffee Dummy poured him. He stared down at it dubiously as the robot whirred and clicked at him. Tony made a tutting noise. "Don't think: drink."

"Your motto, sir," Jarvis interjected. Bruce stifled a laugh and took a sip of the coffee. He hated black coffee, and of course, Tony assumed that since he drank it black, everyone did. Regardless of whether he liked the coffee, caffeine in general was a bad idea for Bruce, as it elevated his heart rate and could easily cause an incident. He held the cup, but didn't take another sip.

"I was thinking that I should head out soon," Bruce said, tone quiet as he stared into the depths of his mug. "Maybe somewhere tropical this time, though an island might be a bad idea. Don't wanna trap the Other Guy up with other people that can't get away."

He could feel the weight of Tony's gaze on him, steady and thoughtful as he took the loudest possible sip of coffee. The noise drew Bruce's own eyes back up to meet his. "Or you could stay here," he suggested. "Might not have been in your long-term plans, 'cause you are obviously not used to thinking that far ahead, being on the run and all, but either Stark Industries or SHIELD would have plenty of work for you. Probably more than enough. I recommend signing on as a consultant. That way you wouldn't be tied to SHIELD if you need to leave again before we can get it sorted out. I don't trust SHIELD as far as I can throw 'em."

"I don't think any of us trust SHIELD as far as we can throw them." Fury had earned some of their grudging respect, for not rounding them all up and putting them under lock and key after the Battle. Only some respect; the man would do whatever he believed was right, even if anyone else, including the people who were supposed to oversee him, thought it was wrong.

Bruce thought about it, imagined stepping back into a semi-normal life. A life with labs and research and probably working on the Super Soldier Serum again. A life with ID cards, limited access, and people using his research for God knew what. He didn't want to work for SHIELD, really. He didn't want to step back into that.

"What would you want me to research?" Bruce asked.

Tony blinked at him, like he hadn't ever thought of that before. "I dunno. Whatever you want, really. I trust you."

Bruce paused. "All right."

Footnote- Being a radical and a renegade, I decided to stick my notes at the end of this chapter rather than at the the beginning. This is going to be a Verse. Capital V. That means that it will meander a bit, encompass many things, and overall fulfill all of my nasty Avengers-writing desires. I am hoping to do short updates often, but make no promises regarding the words "short" or "often." I've listed the main pairing as Tony Stark/Bruce Banner, but for the total list, I am including Phil Coulson/Clint Barton, Steve Rogers/Natasha Romanoff, and Happy Hogan/Pepper Potts. I am still pondering Thor, since I despise Jane, and if you take movie-verse alone, the relationship isn't exactly healthy. So, I will get back to you later, but I am considering Thor/Darcy Lewis. I am using the movie-verse as a frame and will fill in that frame with the comics as I see fit. I will be taking liberties. I do not apologize. I also can't promise I won't throw Loki in somewhere. There may even be an orgy. (There probably won't be an orgy.)