When they finally rolled out of bed, it was noon and the other Avengers were spread around the Mansion. That meant Bruce and Tony had the kitchen to themselves. In between breakfast preparations – although they probably could have jumped straight to lunch – they would drift past each other, and more often than not it would lead to a lingering brush of bodies or a soft kiss.
Bruce noted at some point that at this rate they might starve, but if Tony wanted to press against him, fingers caressing the hem of Bruce’s shirt and slipping beneath to the sensitive skin, who was Bruce to tell him no? Especially when it felt almost therapeutic to run his hands along Tony’s body in return, the curve of his spine, the dip of his lower back and his ass…
“I’m hungry,” Tony finally announced out loud, the movement of his teeth releasing Bruce’s lower lip where he had been holding it almost thoughtfully. He completed his statement with a kiss, tongue swiping over said lip before he pulled back.
Bruce smiled and turned Tony around, towards the table, and proceeded to get his cup of tea and Tony’s coffee. They sat down next to each other, digging in at the same lazy pace they had used for everything this morning.
Inside, Bruce felt a bit giddy. He had been happy to clear the air with Tony last night, getting rid of the oppressive tension that his demands had created, throwing their relationship into a tailspin. To actually hear Tony open up and confess his shortcomings in a relationship explained things that Bruce should have probably sensed, but at least they were on the same wavelength now.
With that taken care of, Bruce wondered if it had been necessary to repeat his confession of love like that. He knew Tony had caught the word the first time, but when the relief had flooded him, that they were okay… it had blindsided him completely. He didn’t regret it, not really. Tony seemed happier, certainly, and Bruce could only agree.
“Ah, you are up!” Thor called out loudly as he entered the kitchen.
Bruce lifted his eyes to acknowledge him, while Tony just shrugged while munching on his toast.
“You seem to have found equilibrium,” the Asgardian hummed as he raided the fridge for his favorite juice. He opened a fresh carton and drank straight from it – no one bothered to complain since he would end up drinking the whole thing anyway, usually in one sitting.
“Yup,” Tony replied shortly, but he didn’t sound annoyed. Bruce wondered if Tony’s conclusion had anything to do with Thor, of all people.
Thor nodded with approval.
Clint walked in next, taking a glass and pouring himself some orange juice. “Are we feeling less grumpy today?” he asked.
Tony rolled his eyes.
“I think I’m allowed to ask,” Clint pointed a finger at Tony. “We live in the same house, which, while being rather spacious, can still be considered shared premises, and I would rather not have your PMSing –”
“That’s enough,” Bruce cut him off.
Clint just shrugged and left the kitchen.
“The Hawk is merely concerned since Tony was quite upset the last time they saw each other,” Thor noted.
Bruce glanced at his lover and raised an eyebrow. Tony actually looked a bit guilty. “I may have made a few unsavory remarks… mostly at Cap, however.”
“None of us took it to heart,” Thor reassured, then clasped both their shoulders in a hold that could easily bruise if prolonged. “Now, I must meet my Lady Jane for a… chat,” he stated, tasting the word. “I believe your disembodied servant is helping me do that.” He took his juice carton and left the room as well.
“My what?” Tony frowned.
“Sounds romantic,” Tony teased with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
Tony pointed an accusing finger at him. “Don’t encourage him!”
“He’s your AI,” Bruce shot back.
“Yeah, but he had no calling to become some horrible mix of Oprah and Dr. Phil before you all came along,” Tony muttered.
“If your response isn’t likely to please me, J.A.R.V.I.S., don’t say it,” Tony warned.
“Now you’re just being rude to him,” Bruce accused softly.
Bruce made no verbal comment but he offered Tony the last slice of apple; the other man took it without hesitation and popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully, mind already two steps ahead of breakfast. From experience, Bruce knew their quiet, gentle, intimate moment was over now that Tony’s brain was really up and running. It wasn’t an actual loss, though, and Bruce decided he might join Tony in his lab and just watch him work.
It was another type of therapy, after all, at least for him. And if Tony thought he was keeping watch to make sure he removed that dangerous arc reactor function from his suit, Bruce could prove him wrong by initiating phase two of kissing – which had a way of turning into more than just kissing, but he didn’t currently see that as a downside.
Tony was listening to some obscene song when Steve entered his Mansion workshop. After all, it was less like the lab spaces he and Bruce often shared, more concentrated in actual engineering that Tony appeared to love and thrive in.
“You wanted to see me?” Steve called out over the noise.
Tony was… well, he was gyrating to the music, not outright dancing – especially not with a blowtorch in his hand – looking rather relaxed. The brunette’s head whipped around, as if he actually heard him, and he made a motion for the music to cease and even turned off the tool. “Indeed I did,” Tony replied, brushing a dirty arm over his sweaty forehead. Judging by the trails of smudges on both body parts, he had been doing that a lot recently.
Steve looked around. He had expected Bruce to be hanging around, but clearly the man wasn’t in the workshop after all.
“I had to send Bruce away,” Tony mused, as if guessing what he was looking for. “He was becoming a distraction.” Tony’s mouth twisted, as if he couldn’t believe he was saying that.
Steve just nodded, accepting it. He had heard the two were back on good terms, and he was glad. Tony’s outburst two days ago had been a clear sign that their relationship had dived into deeper waters – which meant the stakes were higher, too.
Tony turned back to his work – his suit, most likely, although it had been laid bare and save for the pieces of red casing lying close by, it was impossible to tell which part of the armor it was and what Tony was doing to it. Silence grew between them, not heavy and stifling but making Steve wonder if Tony had forgotten he was there.
“I wanted to apologize,” Tony finally spoke up, looking up at a screen, tapping at it, then making a dragging motion to bring the screen outside the monitor and enlarging it in the air in front of him. It was all so casual and looked like magic, making it hard for Steve to focus on Tony’s words.
“What?” he finally asked.
Tony looked at him, a slight frown on his face, as if he was trying to figure out whether he was being tricked, attacked or if Steve was just slow. “I said certain things I shouldn’t have, in a moment of anger not directed at you,” Tony went on, glancing back at the holographic screen, then returned his attention to Steve. “It was not… professionally acceptable.” It sounded like something Pepper Potts had beaten into his head, repeatedly.
“Apology accepted,” Steve finally forced himself to react. “Although it’s not necessary –”
“Of course it is!” Tony snapped. “Don’t… don’t belittle it and think I can’t tell.” He looked at the screen again, probably to give himself something to do other than stare at Steve. “I recall the pleasant little chat we had on the Helicarrier, close to our first meeting. While most people like to blame Loki’s gizmo for certain verbal accusations that were presented that day… We’ve fought since day one, and most of those things I should probably apologize for. So, take this one and try not to rub it in my face,” he finally decided.
Steve nodded and fought the smile that tried to make its way to his lips. “I’ll take what I can get, then,” he accepted, trying to sound disappointed, because that was probably what Tony was going for. Frankly, he was surprised Tony even had it in him to apologize, for this of all things. If Tony had found the will to do it, however, and thought it important enough to bring up on his own, Steve was going to accept it gracefully – or ungracefully, if that’s what Tony preferred.
Tony shrugged and stared intently at the screen. It seemed his mind was focusing on it again, for real, and Steve begun to turn, guessing they were done here.
“You know,” Tony started suddenly, before he could get to the door, “if I was totally against you, Cap, I wouldn’t hang around, being an Avenger. Just sayin’.”
That little confession meant more to Steve than most things Tony ever said. He nodded stiffly and left before either of them was compelled or forced to say anything else.
When he ascended the stairs, he ran into Bruce coming out of one of his own lab spaces – the one he had sort of blown up some time ago. The scientist gave him one of his easy, small smiles – another testament to the fact that his and Tony’s reconciliation was working miracles on them both. “Captain, what are you doing down here?”
That prompted Steve to entertain the small voice of doubt that had entered his mind when Tony first started talking. “I was visiting Tony, actually,” he informed his teammate.
“Really?” Bruce seemed surprised.
“I take it, then, that you didn’t encourage him to talk to me,” Steve pressed.
Bruce’s face went unreadable for a second, perhaps as a result of trying to steel himself against whatever came next. “No, I did not,” he answered.
This time, Steve gave up the fight against the smile. “Okay. That’s… what I sort of hoped for,” he decided. It had been a possibility that Bruce had encouraged Tony to apologize, but the fact that he hadn’t… It meant so much more to him.
“What did you talk about?” Bruce asked quickly, following Steve up the stairs.
“You’ll have to ask Tony,” Steve replied, knowing how uncomfortable such a small gesture had made Tony and not wanting to go behind his back, telling people that Tony Stark actually took into account, on occasion, the feelings of others.
“It hasn’t been three hours yet,” Tony called out the moment the door opened and J.A.R.V.I.S.’s security log, open in one corner of the screen, told him it was Bruce. “I’m not done yet and I can’t have you… staring… What?” he turned around and looked at the other man, feeling the weight of his eyes on him, that impressive mind working at full capacity to figure something out – to figure Tony out.
“You talked to Steve,” Bruce started.
Tony steeled himself. “I might have,” he answered evasively. Why had he thought Steve could be discreet about it?
“He didn’t say anything,” Bruce added, as if seeing it on Tony’s face. Well, he probably did. The man read him way too easily these days, but the only consolation was that it worked both ways.
“No?” Tony arched an eyebrow. “Then why the surprise visit?”
Tony really tried to fight the grin. “Maybe I told him I was quitting the Avengers?”
“Bullshit,” Bruce called his bluff, moving closer. “What did you tell him?” he pressed, circling slightly to block his exit when Tony shifted to the side.
“It was a private conversation,” Tony dodged.
Bruce’s eyes narrowed, but his expression was still bright, as if he rather liked this problem since it didn’t include any… dangerous features, for once. After a moment he let out a frustrated sigh and crossed his arms over his chest, then restlessly straightened them again. “I’ve got nothing,” he confessed.
“Keep at it,” Tony encouraged. “Maybe you’ll figure it out – eventually.”
“Or I’ll just hack J.A.R.V.I.S. to see the feed from the lab,” Bruce countered.
“Oh, please! You can hack into many things, Dr. Banner, but my AI isn’t one of them,” Tony teased, moving over to him. Bruce’s restlessness partially left him as his hands moved to rest on Tony’s sides, warm and firm. Tony pressed close to him, meeting his eyes. “I don’t kiss and tell…”
“Maybe I’ll just have to torture it out of you, then,” Bruce mused, pretending to go dark, yet his eyes didn’t adopt the dangerous edge and his voice didn’t manage to hold onto the edge for long. “Let’s trade,” he offered then.
“I’m listening,” Tony grinned.
“I will… let you suck me off again,” Bruce murmured, “and you tell me what you and Steve talked about.”
Tony considered it. “Is that your best offer, Dr. Banner?”
“I can reduce it to a hand job,” Bruce warned.
“I’ll have better luck trying to force it out of you,” his lover corrected. It was probably true: Steve guarded his secrets with something that wasn’t old-fashioned but rather a personal trait. As if gossiping would somehow make him unworthy of being Captain America.
“Okay,” Tony let out a deep sigh. “Blow job it is, but I refuse to look you in the eye while I do it and am not going to moan whorishly while I’m at it,” he said seriously – or as seriously as he could, given their ridiculous negotiations. “I’m definitely going below the price here.”
“So,” Bruce pressed, pushing Tony slightly backwards; clearly he had a destination in mind. “What did you talk about?”
“I may have apologized to him, about my most recent bout of tactless commentary.”
“That’s it?” Bruce frowned.
“I also may or may not have insinuated that I don’t hate him, as a leader, on the field,” Tony gave up the rest of it.
The other man considered this piece of news quietly for a moment, then nodded. “I would say I’m incredibly proud of you, and happy since I was afraid you were lying to yourself about it as much as you were to everyone else, but I know that would be inappropriate.”
“Very inappropriate,” Tony agreed. “I might have to reconsider our recent deal.”
“A deal’s a deal,” Bruce insisted, and finally he nailed the edge, too; if Tony didn’t know what was going on and whom he was dealing with, he would have thought things were about to turn very ugly very soon. The non-consensual kind of ugly. As it was, when Bruce’s next words came, Tony was more than ready for his end of the deal: “On your knees.”
Tony had enough patience to not bruise his kneecaps as he lowered himself. Bruce shifted, opening his pants, shifting them low enough to maneuver. One of his hands landed on Tony’s head, curling around to frame his face and pulling Tony closer, against his leg so that one side of his face was pressed against Bruce’s upper thigh – with an unrestricted view at the other man pulling on his flesh, leisurely, at a comfortable pace Tony knew so well.
Bruce’s hand caressed Tony’s face and held it with enough pressure that Tony couldn’t entertain any ideas of trying to help Bruce along. There were still rules, too, that both of them followed without failure, and as long as there was no condom, Tony wasn’t going to touch any part of Bruce’s genitalia with his mouth – and preferably not with his hands, either. While he may have been willing to slip up on that rule, just a little, he knew it was there for a reason and he wasn’t going to agitate Bruce by breaking it.
So, he watched, seeing the slight change of texture as blood rushed forth, the faint increase of strength in the squeeze of Bruce’s fingers, the first sign of wetness quickly spread across the tip…
Tony was aware of his own breaths speeding up although his body was still relatively relaxed. It was still rare that they both found satisfaction at the same time; too much of their focus was often diverted from where it was needed, rather than where it was wanted, and that was another line he knew not to cross if Bruce wasn’t initiating it. There were harder ways to make Bruce withdraw back to where he’d been when it first became clear he was attracted to Tony. As impatient as he occasionally felt, Tony tried to find satisfaction in the small details, from which there were many to choose.
Bruce took his time, building it up, then finally moved his hand, searching for something. The fact that he dug a condom from his back pocket made Tony smile and nuzzle against his leg, then he lifted his hands in time to accept the small packet, opening it carefully and then shifting to roll it on. Bruce’s hands remained much as they were – one still pressing Tony’s face to his thigh and the other holding himself still as Tony overcame the awkward angle and finished rolling on the thicker-than-average latex.
Tony was aware of the rise and fall of Bruce’s chest and the slight change of pace and depth in each movement. The hand on his face was steady, however, still kind of cupping his cheek as he finally allowed Tony to move and pleasure him instead of his own hand.
They had done this before, but usually with more preparation. This either meant Bruce felt relaxed enough to engage in such activities in the middle of Tony’s shop, out of the blue – or he was determined to knock down some of his personal reservations. Either way, Tony still took it easy with each drag of his tongue and tug of his lips. As he had promised, he didn’t look at Bruce’s face, trusting the other man to signal him if he needed a break.
Bruce’s hand hadn’t moved from his head, resting there at first then beginning a certain caressing motion, thumb dragging against Tony’s facial hair in perfect synch with the relaxing of his jaw while the other fingers were caught behind his ear, nails not scratching but teasing the line of hair. It gave them both something else to think about, a minute distraction from the act itself. The hand Bruce had used to stroke himself was still there, at the base, past the layer of latex, not interfering but still hovering close by to participate in the action in a roundabout way – like a voyeur.
Then those fingers moved down, beneath and beyond Tony’s line of sight when he opened his eyes, sensing the motion. Bruce groaned, pushing slightly then using the hand on Tony’s face to push him off and to the side as his body released the tension it had slowly been building.
Tony watched and waited, the fingers on the side of his head never tightening, yet they stayed still there it was over. “Good?” Tony finally asked, licking his lips carefully.
“Yeah,” Bruce replied and removed his hand, disappearing to the small adjoining bathroom.
Tony remained on the floor, sagging slightly, swaying to a tune only he could hear in his head. There had been a time when he would have scoffed at this simple act that brought him no direct satisfaction. But, as he knelt there, he felt more relaxed than he had perhaps the entire day, as if they had both just come.
When Bruce re-entered the workshop, his clothes suggested nothing at all had happened and his hands smelled of the heavy-duty soap Tony had sitting in the bathroom. The warm, clean fingers framed his face and Tony lifted his body somewhat, meeting Bruce’s lips in a kiss. It was slow, most of the time involving Bruce’s tongue either on his lips or mouth – depicting an act, at least in Tony’s mind, that both of them were looking for.
Today, of all days, Tony was more certain than ever that it was coming. He just had to stay alive long enough to be around, and make sure nothing compromised this awfully fragile yet tightly intertwined relationship of theirs.
Chapter 22: Super-dating
“There you are, my friends!” Thor bellowed when Tony and Bruce surfaced from the lab. Tony had half a mind to urge Bruce to come to bed with him, to nap or sleep, he didn’t particularly care, but clearly that was not happening.
“Is something wrong?” Tony asked, because sometimes it was hard to tell with Thor; he embraced battles almost as fiercely as team bonding moments, so whether they were facing another disaster or someone had announced tonight’s take out, it wasn’t instantly clear.
“Nay,” Thor shook his head at once. “I have good news indeed – a proposition.”
Bruce raised an eyebrow, cautiously. “Go on. I mean, I assume it involves both of us?”
“Indeed,” Thor nodded enthusiastically. “My lady Jane came up with the most exciting idea. At least I suspect it to be such, for she seemed quite pleased with it. J.A.R.V.I.S., what is the term Jane used?” he asked, glancing at the ceiling.
“Dr. Foster suggested you have a double date, Mr. Odinson,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied through the nearby speakers. “With Mr. Stark and Dr. Banner.”
“Ah, yes,” the Asgardian grinned. “She explained to me this is customary between two couples who are also friends.”
Tony knew that in his eagerness, it would be very hard to turn Thor away from the idea, seeing as this was yet another thing he had still to learn about Midgardians, as he so often called them. It was probably better than most alternatives though, like ‘earthlings’.
Instead of arguing, Tony glanced at Bruce, who seemed slightly taken aback by this new turn of events. “Well, I suppose,” the scientist started. “Jane is in New Mexico, though, isn’t she? Do we have the time to go down there?”
“She said she has business here, so she is coming to New York City,” Thor smiled. “I will inform her that you are willing to participate in this double date.”
“We didn’t –” Tony started, but then felt Bruce’s hand on his arm and stopped mid-sentence, looking at the other man. “Did we agree to this?”
Bruce shrugged. “How bad can it be? After all, we haven’t even had a real date yet.”
That made Tony feel a bit guilty, but they couldn’t just go out and enjoy themselves – Tony being a public figure, and Bruce probably not appreciating the gesture if Tony booked the two of them an entire restaurant for the night to avoid distractions from the adoring public. While Tony would call some of their nights together at least half-dates, Bruce was probably right: it was about time they had a date.
Thor was still standing there, as if making sure the verdict was still the same. Tony looked at the big blond and shrugged. “Sure, we’ll do this. Let us know when Jane’s in town, okay?”
“Excellent,” Thor grinned and slapped them both on the shoulder before turning and leaving them standing in the middle of the hallway.
“This has the potential to be very awkward,” Tony warned Bruce.
“She’s a scientist, isn’t she? The worst that can happen is that we end up talking shop all night with Thor drinking himself under the table in boredom,” Bruce shrugged.
“I never knew you were into this kind of thing,” Tony pressed.
“I’m… not. At least I don’t think I am. But I didn’t want to hurt Thor’s feelings.”
Tony tried to hide his smile. “You’re such a softie.”
Bruce elbowed him and marched off down the hallway, pretending to be offended, but the way he settled his arm around Tony when the other man caught up with him suggested there were no hurt feelings.
- - -
It was a week later when Thor informed them that Jane would be arriving in New York City.
There had been nothing earth-shattering taking place during that week, although Tony had gone out on a few solo missions and half of the team did the same on their own. The world didn’t end every other weekend, after all, so they used this down-time to train, recuperate and do whatever they wanted – or in Tony’s case, work, manage his company and try to keep up with everything that needed keeping up with, which was a lot.
They had opted to have the date at the Stark Tower, to give them a little privacy. Tony had made arrangements for food, and had a car pick Jane up from the airport, to make sure she arrived safely and without hassle.
Thor was ecstatic, regardless of the fact that he had been in and out of New Mexico to see her. Between Asgard and Earth, though, he saw her too little and this was a big deal to Thor, clearly. He had even asked Bruce about what was considered appropriate attire on the double date, and Tony kept quiet, but only because he wanted to hear Bruce’s reply:
“Something casual,” Bruce had shrugged. “But, you know, not too casual. We’re staying in, but it’s still a date.” He had thrown Tony a look at that point, as if to ask for his input, but Tony pretended to be more engrossed in his tablet than he actually was. It wasn’t a black-tie kind of situation, for sure, but the more time Bruce spent trying to figure out what to tell Thor, the more uneasy he seemed, no doubt second-guessing whatever he had planned on wearing. It was kind of adorable, in the same way that watching animal babies overcome an obstacle was.
“Just wear clean jeans, maybe a button-down shirt,” Tony finally took pity on them both. “And a jacket. Definitely a jacket.”
Thor frowned, as did Bruce. “What kind of jacket? And aren’t we going to be indoors?” the scientist finally asked.
“It’s a thing. You don’t have to wear it as much as, you know, keep it on a while and then take it off.”
“And you are certain these articles of clothing are appropriate for this situation?” Thor pressed.
Tony glanced up from his tablet. “Okay, let’s ask Jane when she arrives. If she wants to go the whole nine yards with champagne, black tie, candles and a pianist in the background, we’ll do that. Although I’m pretty sure neither of you has the wardrobe for that,” he added. Both men were looking increasingly worried, Thor even more so, clearly debating whether his Asgardian dress would suffice on such short notice.
“Relax,” Tony finally huffed. “From what I know of Jane Foster, she probably doesn’t even own a dress, so… jeans will be good.”
It didn’t remove the frown from Thor’s face, but at least they stopped debating what to wear and headed out to their respective rooms to raid their closets. And Bruce’s was decently full after all the clothes Tony had been slipping in there lately.
- - -
Jane’s flight was on time, and she decided to meet them at the Mansion, after which the two couples could drive over to the Tower. Thor had taken Tony’s advice, dressed in a button-down shirt that was probably one of the few Tony had gotten for him, as well as the rest of the team – well, not Romanoff, but she had a few pairs of nice shoes courtesy of Tony’s checking account.
Bruce had been busy for most of the afternoon, which made Tony slightly concerned that he may have forgotten about their plans, but when Bruce emerged, he was looking very sharp; he had shaved and washed his hair, and his clothes actually fit him for a change, instead of those horribly over-sized ones he kept buying if allowed to choose.
Tony considered it his right to choose for Bruce, seeing as they were together and he shared some closet-space with the man.
The other Avengers were somewhere in the building, knowing that Jane was about to arrive but not stressing about it since she wasn’t here to see them, per se. Of course Rogers had made sure to tell everyone to look and behave their best when Thor’s lady-friend was present, for which he had received several eye-rolls. However, Tony suspected everyone had cleaned up at least a little bit.
Tony himself was looking dapper, of course. He had showered and trimmed his goatee to perfection, dressed in clean clothes which were designer, of course, but still looked casual. Just… expensive casual. There was a difference.
When the car finally arrived and Thor went outside to meet Jane, she wasn’t the only one who exited the vehicle, but Dr. Erik Selvig and another woman alighted as well.
“Erik, Darcy, this is a surprise,” Thor greeted them after hugging Jane fiercely. He shook hands with Selvig, then got an armful of the young woman whom Tony suspected was Darcy Lewis.
“Hey, big guy! Ready to show us around the infamous Avengers lair?” Darcy grinned brightly.
“It is not a lair, but I shall, of course, give you a tour,” Thor agreed.
Selvig looked around, then noticed Bruce and Tony standing just outside the doorway. “Ah, it’s been a while, gentlemen,” he said and stepped forward, shaking hands with both of them.
“Better circumstances this time, I hope,” Tony replied. The last time they saw either other, it was in the aftermath of the Loki incident and Selvig had still been a bit out of sorts from being held in the grips of the Tesseract.
“Certainly,” the astrophysicist agreed.
By that time Thor had guided the women closer and smiled broadly. “Meet Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, my fellow Avengers.”
Jane Foster smiled shyly and her manner was just about as awkward as Tony had anticipated, yet it went well with Bruce’s equally reserved smile and handshake. “I’ve heard a lot about you. I mean, as Avengers. It’s an honor, and a pleasure.” Her eyes briefly met Tony’s. It was clear she knew exactly who he was – not that you needed to be a genius, or even a scientist, to know Tony’s name.
“This trip is going to be epic,” Darcy Lewis announced from the side. “Any chance I can try on the armor?”
“Darcy!” Jane hissed, “I told you, that’s… not going to happen.” She then offered Tony an apologetic look.
“The armor has a bio-signature so that not just anyone can put it on,” Tony said easily. “Your test drive would be rather short-lived.”
Darcy pursed her lips, then grinned immediately afterward. “I can still touch it, though? And take pictures?”
“Perhaps later,” Thor hedged. “Shall we step inside?”
“Let’s,” Selvig agreed and they moved through the wide doors.
Darcy looked around for a bit, then turned to look at them as Tony shut the door firmly behind the group. Her eyes landed on Bruce. “So, you’re the guy whom Tony Stark has gone gay for? Have you come up with a portmanteau name like Brangelina or TomKat yet?” she asked.
“Uh,” was Bruce’s only reply.
Tony rolled his eyes.
Jane looked increasingly troubled.
“How about that tour?” Thor suggested, clearly in an attempt to disarm the situation.
“Where are you staying during your trip?” Bruce asked Jane, obviously to take the discussion elsewhere when no one jumped at Thor’s words.
“Well, Thor kind of offered for us to stay here,” Jane started. “I’m sure we’ll find a hotel, though –”
“No way! I’ve been psyched about this trip for days,” Darcy complained.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., make sure there are rooms available,” Tony noted.
“Very well, sir. Will Dr. Foster be sharing Mr. Odinson’s room, or shall I set one aside for her as well?”
Jane blushed in the midst of her alarmed look. “Er…”
“Prep three rooms; she can choose for herself,” Tony answered.
“Who’s that?” Darcy asked, looking around the hallway.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., my AI,” Tony replied.
“Ah, yes,” Selvig nodded along. “Remarkable. He’s very… human-like.”
“It is very disconcerting until you get used to it,” Thor agreed, “yet he is very helpful, for a machine.”
Tony cleared his throat but Thor didn’t catch it. Bruce gave him a look and shook his head a little, as if fearing Tony might want to lecture Thor on how J.A.R.V.I.S. was so much more than a machine.
Thor led his entourage down the hall and Tony tapped a finger against his side where he had crossed his arms. “J, make sure the armors are safely locked away.” He didn’t want people pawing at them on a good day…
“Of course, sir.”
“Actually, lock down the entire armory,” Tony decided.
“At least she’s a fan,” Bruce said. “She certainly didn’t want to see the other guy, or rub up against Cap’s shield.”
Tony guessed that was true. “That’s because my armor is so much cooler than all you guys combined,” he grinned.
“That’s the spirit,” Bruce mused with an eye-roll.
They walked into the living room, sitting down to wait for Thor’s tour to end. Tony poured himself a drink but knew better than to over-indulge, so he sat down with Bruce, guessing that since this was their first real date night, he might play the part of an indulgent boyfriend.
Bruce reached out for a newspaper folded on the table, found a puzzle and began to methodically fill it in. Tony continued to drink slowly, one arm draped on the back of the couch behind Bruce’s shoulders, his eyes following the scratches of pen on the paper, watching the genius mind work its magic.
One puzzle, two sudokus and half a quiz later, Thor finally led his friends to the living room. “Ready to go?” Tony asked, looking up, fingers tracing a random pattern on Bruce’s shoulder where he still had his arm flung on the back of the couch.
“Yes,” Jane replied briskly. “Can I freshen up at the Tower? That’s where we’re going, right?”
“Yes, and yes,” Tony nodded, getting up to put the empty glass away.
“I’ll just grab my bag,” Darcy announced.
“You cannot come,” Thor said quickly but as kindly as possible. “This is between the four of us.”
The young woman pouted. “Seriously? What am I going to do, sit here? Erik’s already in his room, looking at some boring scientific journals he found lying around.” Tony guessed those were subscriptions that came to the Mansion, both for his and Bruce’s enjoyment, should they want to browse through them.
“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” Jane smiled almost too sweetly, then looked at Thor eagerly, although there was still a somewhat shy undertone on her beautiful face. Thor really had no idea what kind of catch she was, with brains and looks. “Shall we?” Jane prompted.
“My lady Jane,” Thor bowed slightly, looking like some medieval knight even without his usual armor, extending his arm and allowing Jane to take it.
Tony simply glanced at Bruce and got to his feet as the scientist folded the paper and got up to follow the other couple. “I’ll drive,” Bruce offered. It probably had something to do with a desire to not sit idly rather than implying that Tony wasn’t fit to drive after one drink.
Thor and Jane were standing outside when they walked out the main doors. “I’m sorry about Darcy,” Jane started as they began walking towards the garage on the side. “She’s very excited and more than just a little star-struck.”
“I don’t want to imagine what she would be like if she didn’t know Thor,” Tony mused, then tossed the car keys to Bruce, who caught them effortlessly and opened the doors. Since there were four of them, they couldn’t take any of Tony’s favorites. Well, he had managed to cram a respectable amount of young women in a convertible sports car in the past, but he imagined he had matured since then. Instead he slid into the passenger side front seat and gave Bruce a look as the man sat down and started the engine after Thor and Jane settled in the back.
“How’s the traffic look?” Tony asked.
“Not overwhelming, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S.’s voice replied and a screen lit up on the dashboard, a map highlighting various routes to the Tower that were either blocked or more likely to get them there before the food got cold. Not that the food would get cold, but Tony didn’t fancy spending the next couple hours sitting in a car, no matter how pleasant the company.
Bruce glanced at the screen then backed out to the road and took them through the gates. Tony was the one to drive, usually, and he could confess he often forgot Bruce was more than capable. Maybe Bruce had slightly stronger bouts of road rage if he got frustrated, but that went around in the normal population also, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary…
“I hear you’ve been together for some time now,” Jane started from the back, leaning forward a little, perhaps feeling like someone needed to keep the discussion going.
“This is our first official date, though,” Bruce mused, glancing at the rear-view mirror and giving her a small smile.
“With another couple?”
“Any kind of date, really,” Bruce confessed.
“Superheroing gets in the way of things,” Tony summed up.
“I imagine it does,” Jane nodded swiftly. Thor just smiled indulgently and leaned forward as well.
“They spend much time together, in their laboratories,” the god of thunder mused. “It seems to fill their romantic needs on most days.”
Bruce let out a very faint suffocating sound, no doubt depicting Thor’s words in a different manner than the Asgardian meant them.
“It should definitely count as foreplay,” Tony gave his boyfriend a shark smile and noted that he and Jane reacted much the same way.
“I’ve never thought of science that way,” Jane mused.
“It’s not like that,” Bruce swiftly explained, shooting Tony a look then focused on the road again, taking a turn to the right to escape some heavy traffic ahead. “Tony likes to give incorrect impressions.”
“I recall a few occasions,” Tony began to defend himself.
“I’m sure they don’t need to know about those,” Bruce muttered.
Tony dropped the smirk, giving Bruce a reassuring look instead: he wasn’t going to dissect their relationship in front of two people they didn’t know that well. Certainly they both fought beside Thor, but that didn’t mean he should be let into the deepest folds of their relationship. “I’m just yanking your chain,” he said softly. “Relax, green bean.”
“That’s not helping,” Bruce told him.
“Do you want me to take the wheel?” Tony inquired, in case Bruce needed a breather.
“No,” Bruce huffed. “I’m fine. I think me crashing the car – or Hulking out and crashing the car – would be counter productive to the success of our first date.”
“I agree,” Jane piped up from the back.
Tony sat back and refrained from further commentary, knowing when to stop pushing for the next witty thing to say, in an attempt to scandalize another person. He didn’t need to shock anyone tonight. Instead, he could focus on charming the pants off Bruce – both figuratively and literally.
several hours later
Once they had gotten to the Tower and Tony had given Jane Foster the customary tour, she had changed into a dress and stopped looking quite so nervous. Thor was chivalrous, beaming at the chance to fill her every need and hang on her every word; it was clear he was enjoying this chance of spending time together in a romantic environment.
The food had been excellent, meaning Tony was going to generously tip the restaurant that had delivered it. The drinks, of course, being from Tony’s own selection, were superb, and everything was going nicely. The music J.A.R.V.I.S. had picked wasn’t too sweet or painful to listen to, including the crooning voice of Lana Del Rey, and the lights reflected the mood with a few candles sitting on the tables.
Bruce was in a good mood: when the discussion had begun to roll, he relaxed and became more animated, and while they spent a lot of time talking about science and Jane’s work, they also tossed around normal topics. Thor didn’t seem to mind any of it, and eventually they even talked about Asgard, as a smooth transition from yet another discussion about Jane’s research.
Tony felt mellow, his defenses slipping lower. He didn’t need to pretend tonight, or act to match the impression people had of him. He was among friends, with the man he felt keenly about, and every time Bruce would brush his fingers against Tony’s or lean closer, Tony felt a giddy sensation in his gut, but it wasn’t bad or distracting.
“We should have done something like this earlier,” Bruce decided when they were contemplating a second round of dessert and Tony had just opened another bottle of wine.
“It’s not like we’ve ever had a double-date with anyone either,” Jane pointed out. “But this went nicely. I mean, most people I might imagine going out with don’t know anything about my work, have no interest in it, and introducing Thor... They just wouldn’t get it.”
Tony guessed Thor wasn’t an easy pill to swallow, if you had to sit down with him for longer than two minutes. For one, the whole not-from-this-planet thing went a little over most people’s heads, and then there was the whole Avengers gig, which gave them some sort of super-celebrity status. Thor had never been discrete with journalists and fans, enjoying the attention, giving the S.H.I.E.L.D. PR office plenty to work with.
“To well-suited company,” Tony toasted, and the others joined him with laughter.
“And for much-deserved time off,” Jane agreed. “You guys must love slow days.”
“What are those?” Tony asked with a half-snort, swirling the wine in his glass. “I mean, when you don’t have to debate casualty numbers, damage detail and the possible danger to your own person, I suppose I would choose this over that any day.”
Thor nodded gravely. “Peace time is often hard on warriors, but they shall cherish the quiet once the peace ends.”
“To peace,” Jane toasted again, and the rest of them joined her. After she had sipped her drink, she glanced at Thor, and just like that they leaned close to each other and kissed. Sure, that had happened a lot during the evening, but far less than you could assume from a couple on a date.
Tony spied Bruce smiling softly, averting his eyes half-way into the kiss that was fairly innocent on all levels, and after a moment the scientist’s eyes met Tony’s. “What are you thinking?” Bruce asked quietly.
“That I might like some of that,” Tony confessed.
Instead of rejection or a quick look away, Bruce set down his glass and stared at it for a moment – then turned around, towards Tony, and settled a hand on the side of his throat, thumb sweeping along his chin. And just like that he leaned in, and Tony truly hadn’t expected that. Jane and Thor broke apart just as Bruce’s lips reached their destination, and for the next thirty seconds Tony didn’t give a fuck about who else was in the room, or what they were doing.
When they drew apart, Thor was grinning and Jane had leaned against his side, one strong arm around her body. She looked like she had just watched two cute otters kiss.
“More dessert?” Bruce offered.
“Sure,” she smiled.
Tony got up to get them some of the assorted pastries and other delicacies from the fridge. As he glanced back towards the table, he saw Bruce had leaned in, talking to the others, but every now and then his eyes would move over to Tony, and if he hadn’t already said those words, Tony would have known how he felt from that single expression on his face.
- - -
They returned to the Mansion late that night. In the living room, the TV was on but no one was there.
“How are our guests doing?” Tony asked as they stepped in and took off their coats.
“Dr. Selvig has already turned in, sir,” the AI replied.
“And where’s Darcy Lewis?” he went on.
There was no immediate reply, and that had Tony giving the other three a quick, slightly worried look. Jane opened her mouth, but didn’t get a word out before J.A.R.V.I.S. went on:
“Ms. Lewis is in the war room with the other Avengers.”
“Why?” Tony asked, frowning. “Wait, don’t answer: we’ll go and find out for ourselves.”
It had been a fabulous night, and Tony was convinced he and Bruce were going to continue on the same note in their own room, later. There was no way anyone could ruin their good mood at this point.
to be continued…