Handling Pointy Things • Chapter 28
Chapter 28: For Future Reference
The morning was quiet at the Tower. Bruce and Tony slept in, enjoying the calm and the silence. Not that the Mansion was particularly loud, but the other Avengers, from time to time, got up at strange hours, and even thick walls didn’t block the sounds of certain activities.
Bruce could tell when Tony finally woke up: the man didn’t even open his eyes when he started kissing Bruce’s neck, traveling down it to his chest – then disappeared under the covers. When he got to Bruce’s stomach, though, it was time to intervene before Tony continued his path south.
As gently as possible, Bruce slid his hands into Tony’s hair and tugged, preventing him from moving. Tony pulled back, resisting, and Bruce sighed. “Tony.” The reprimand wasn’t harsh, and Bruce felt a hot huff against his skin before Tony poked his head back up from beneath the sheets and lay down beside Bruce.
Tony’s hand brushed across Bruce’s chest and stomach while Bruce kept his fingers in Tony’s hair, tugging and combing alternatively. “I wish I could suck your naked cock,” Tony debated after a moment.
“Tony…” Bruce warned again, his voice still soft.
“I know, I know,” Tony breathed. “I respect your boundaries.”
“They’re precautions, not boundaries.”
Tony looked up at him, his hand stopping and then moving lower, into Bruce’s underwear, fingers seeking out his cock and squeezing it just right to make it perk up in interest. “I believe we already tested your ejaculate, and there weren’t dangerous amounts of radiation there,” Tony started.
“Not from short-term exposure, but over time…”
For some reason, Tony’s expression brightened. “I love it when you talk about the future of our sexual relationship,” he declared, then moved up to find a condom and finished what he had been about to start.
Bruce had no real objections against it once things were progressing safely, and he sighed under Tony’s mouth and hands, relaxing into the mattress.
- - -
Pepper and Happy appeared in the kitchen some time after Bruce and Tony had gotten there. Both of them were clearly suffering from last night’s drinking, Pepper more than her boyfriend, so the breakfast was relatively subdued.
“I’m glad we could do this,” Pepper announced when the three of them stood by the elevator as Bruce and Tony were preparing to leave. “We should try this again,” she added.
“Not too soon, or you’ll get fed up with me again,” Tony warned.
Pepper laughed, then pulled her ex closer and softly kissed Tony on the lips. Tony returned the kiss, hand resting at the small of Pepper’s back, and Bruce suppressed any feelings the sight of them together might have spurred inside him; Pepper and Tony drew back soon enough, looking equally bashful, and just because they had split and found new people in their lives didn’t mean there weren’t feelings between them.
Happy joined them just then, giving the two a cursory glance, but he, too, chose to say nothing. He checked Bruce’s face, though, but didn’t linger.
“Fly safe,” Tony stated, pulling back from Pepper’s loose hold; Pepper and Happy were planning to fly back to the west coast later today.
“You should stop by,” Happy told his old boss. “Get some work done, check on your house.”
Tony gave Bruce a quick glance. “I’ve been kind of thinking of doing that, now that things have calmed down here.”
“Things never calm down in New York,” Happy snorted.
“Let us know when you’re coming,” Pepper said. “I’ll make sure things are in order.”
“Thanks. I will,” Tony promised, then pressed the elevator button to signal that they were leaving.
Pepper smiled at Bruce and it felt like some of the ice between them had finally been broken. She didn’t trust him, but Bruce wouldn’t trust himself either, so there was nothing wrong with that, and at least she was giving his relationship with Tony the benefit of the doubt.
As the elevator doors closed between them and the ride down to garage level began, Bruce leaned against the wall and glanced at Tony. “You want to go to Malibu?” he asked.
“Kind of,” Tony admitted, looking back at him. “I would love for you to come with me. We could… do a lot of things there,” he finished, not elaborating on anything too precise, should Bruce refuse.
“I think I would like that,” Bruce confessed. He knew he had only seen glimpses of Tony’s life – important glimpses, for sure, but it would take him years to even begin to consider that he actually knew Tony and what his life was about.
Tony’s answering smile was radiant, as if the small promise made him happy, and Bruce supposed going with Tony to Malibu was the least he could do, if it meant so much to the other man. Well, it was Tony’s home – the place he had chosen for himself. He was in New York mostly because of the Avengers and the little things that had occurred since the Battle of New York. How Bruce hadn’t realized that before now was weird.
“I’m not unhappy here,” Tony pointed out as they got in the car, “in case you were wondering.” He started the engine and checked the special navigation screen where J.A.R.V.I.S. was already highlighting the best routes back to the Mansion through the lazy traffic.
“I like to think I would know if you were unhappy,” Bruce replied. “You’ve been promising to take me to Malibu, on and off, for a while now, so I suppose we could go, sooner rather than later…”
Tony gave him a fond look, then drove out of the garage and into the painfully bright morning sunlight. Bruce located a pair of Tony’s sunglasses in the glove compartment, slid them on and then sighed and leaned back against the seat. Every now and then Tony’s free hand drifted over to rest on his knee, and not once did Bruce tense at the sensation.
It was obvious that Bruce was happy, too – and Tony had to know that.
- - -
At the Avengers Mansion, the day progressed in a laid-back manner. Clint had discovered a table hockey game somewhere, and he and Natasha kept fighting for victory, meticulously keeping score of the goals. Steve drifted in late afternoon, fresh from a work-out session, and wanted to try it as well. He proceeded to beat both Clint and Natasha – neither of them was bad at the game – and even defeated them as a team when they played against Steve together.
“How does he do that?” Clint complained.
“Reflexes, quick calculations about force and rebound angles, the ability to place all his players on the field and maximize their maneuverability,” Bruce listed from the couch where he and Tony had been watching the table hockey game with one eye and the TV with another. Well, Tony was more focused on work on his tablet, leaning against Bruce’s side, his head resting under Bruce’s chin.
Every time Tony shifted – which was whenever he took a minimal break from calculations and designs – his hair or forehead would brush against Bruce’s skin, who soon noted his stubble was growing a bit longer than he usually preferred.
“I think I’ll go shower and shave,” Bruce mused in a low voice meant only for Tony, and bowed his head to kiss his temple.
“Okay,” Tony murmured distractedly and re-positioned himself as Bruce stood up. “I’ll be right there,” he added, but Bruce knew the look on his face and it would be a while before Tony snapped out of it; he was in the zone, and it was better to let him finish or he would be cranky all night claiming that he wasn’t.
Bruce went to their room, stripped, and had a luxuriously long shower that left the mirrors covered in mist. After wrapping a towel around his hips, Bruce proceeded to spread shaving cream on his cheeks and upper neck, then opened a new razorblade. One thing he had learned early on when living in the same quarters as Tony was to make sure they didn’t use the same blades. It was a stupidly obvious risk to take when one of them had radioactive poison in their blood.
Against expectations, Tony showed up before Bruce was done – mostly because Bruce took his time shaving, when he could.
“Who won?” he asked the other man as Tony entered the bathroom, quickly moving to close the door to keep the warm, damp air inside.
“Cap,” Tony replied, starting to strip his clothes. He had already taken off his worn jeans in the bedroom, and as his shirt was removed, Bruce found himself staring at his backside through the mirror: a few bruises at his shoulder blades whose origin Bruce could not place, and the narrowing waistline and the light roundness of hips that Bruce could never stop staring at. As Tony moved to the side, just a little, to put the clothes on a chair on his left, Bruce got an exceptionally good look at his buttocks, still covered by Tony’s underwear.
Bruce remembered, too late, that he was still holding the razor blade to his skin, and felt the sharp, brief burn just as his mind began to circle a familiar, sexual pattern that seeing Tony like this often created.
“Fuck,” Bruce muttered, lowering the blade and dropping it in the sink, checking his neck. It was bleeding, more than from an accidental little nick. It wasn’t dangerous by any means, but he froze for a moment – then jumped as Tony appeared at his side. “Don’t –”
“I know,” Tony shushed him and reached over with a piece of toilet paper, folded so thick that the blood could not seep through to his fingers. “What were you doing?” he teased, meeting Bruce’s eyes in the mirror. “Checking me out?” A knowing smile was on his lips.
“Maybe,” Bruce confessed. “I like those boxers.”
Tony chuckled, removed the paper towel and checked on his neck. He grimaced, but Bruce knew it wasn’t that bad. “Remember that if you bleed to death, you won’t get to enjoy what’s beneath the boxers,” he reminded Bruce – as if he needed reminding – and then moved back, placing the bloodied wad of toilet paper in a hazardous materials bin in the corner. Someone other than the two of them might have wondered why there was one in their bathroom, but Tony had not asked when Bruce put it there, and that was just one reason why Bruce loved him.
The other man left the bathroom briefly, then returned with some supplies to patch Bruce up. Tony was even wearing protective gloves – probably more for Bruce’s peace of mind than his own safety. Soon enough the area had been cleaned and the wound covered with a bandage. Bruce carefully went back to shaving while Tony disposed of the supplies and jumped in the shower.
Bruce had just wrapped up when Tony finished showering, getting out all wet, naked and gorgeous. He didn’t even bother to try hiding the way he stared at the other man as Tony dried himself off. After all, they were together, which meant it was okay to ogle Tony, naked or clothed, as much as he wanted to.
And Bruce wanted to, so very much.
“Hey,” Tony winked teasingly after a bit, throwing his towel at Bruce’s face. By the time Bruce managed to pull the damp fabric away, Tony had stepped into his space and claimed Bruce’s lips for a passionate kiss.
“We just showered,” Bruce pointed out.
“So?” Tony asked, nibbling his jaw.
“It would be counter-productive to get…dirtied… so soon,” Bruce mused, then quickly grabbed onto Tony’s face when his lips began to wander to his neck.
“Easy,” Tony murmured against his skin, hands sliding onto Bruce’s waist. “I wasn’t going to touch the bandage.”
Bruce tried to relax, but he was feeling cautious and his lover could tell: Tony pulled back, giving him one of those ‘why do you have to be so difficult?’ looks, then walked out of the bathroom. Bruce followed more slowly, finding Tony standing at the wardrobe, trying to decide on what to wear.
Guessing that he should make up for his over-cautious nature, Bruce went over to him, wrapped Tony in an embrace from behind, then pulled them both over to the bed. They rolled down onto it and Tony’s minimal resistance melted away as he turned around to kiss Bruce again.
It was almost cruel that Tony didn’t try anything: they touched each other, caressing tender, ticklish spots and kissing away the lingering itch, but other than that, Tony’s advances had ceased. Bruce knew for a fact that he might have folded had Tony tried to initiate something sexual, but perhaps it was better this way, and Bruce enjoyed just lying there with the other man, staring at length at the arc reactor, tracing the scars around it and finding Tony at ease with the situation, not once flinching away.
“Maybe someday in a not-too-distant future, you’ll learn to trust me the way I would trust you inside my chest cavity,” Tony mused while Bruce was one again tracing the seam of metal and skin.
“I trust you,” Bruce replied.
“No, you don’t,” Tony argued softly but bull-headedly. “Well, for the record, I think you don’t trust yourself, either, but…” Pointedly, like he was approaching a scared animal, he moved his hand to the bandage on Bruce’s neck. “I know the facts, the science, the rules and the implications. I’m a genius and familiar with your physiology and the dangers it poses. I’m capable of taking precautions,” he added, which sounded like something he had told someone else before, more than once.
For some reason, Bruce thought of Pepper and Rhodey.
“I’m aware of those things,” Bruce admitted, drawing his hand away from Tony’s chest. “Accidents can happen, though, and there are already so many things I can’t forgive myself for doing…”
“Hurting me isn’t on that list,” Tony informed him. “Nor will it be.”
Bruce felt like correcting him, because he had already hurt Tony – almost killed him. This wasn’t the time to linger on the past, though, so he just pulled Tony into another kiss and didn’t react as Tony’s fingers stroked down his neck, around the bandaged spot, as if trying to get him to ease into it. Bruce tried, to the best of his ability, to ignore it, and eventually it started to feel like Tony’s efforts were paying off.
Still, the day Bruce forgot the danger he posed to those around him… that was the day when bad things would happen.
- - -
Bruce stirred at night, enough to realize he was awake and that it was way too early to get up. He proceeded to roll over a little, right hand rising to scratch a faint itch on his neck – and then he jolted wide awake, realizing the bandage was missing from his skin.
He shot into a half-sitting position, turning on the bedside lamp. In the low light, he couldn’t immediately find the bandage, but he knew he had gone to sleep with it still protecting the small wound. His fingers traced the hurt he couldn’t see without a mirror; the skin was raised, a fresh scab forming on top of the wound.
His eyes searched the bed and he finally discovered the bandage half-beneath the pillow, small amounts of dried blood on it.
Bruce sighed with relief, not sure why locating the bandage made such a difference. He folded it and knew he needed to get out of bed to cover the wound again, just in case. His eyes fell on Tony momentarily, the other man still asleep despite his shuffling and the lights – and that was when Bruce spied a dark copper stain on the pillow, right beneath Tony’s lips, and his heart jumped.
With a dozen scenarios running through his head, Bruce reached out and grabbed Tony by the chin, pulling his face away from the dried bloodstain. Tony jerked violently in his hold, wide awake in less than a second, but Bruce was busy scanning the other man’s skin, to see whether there was any blood there.
“What the fuck, Bruce?” Tony exclaimed, words half-formed beneath Bruce’s tight grip. His hands came up, to force Bruce to let go, and after a few seconds he did. “Did you have a nightmare?” Tony asked, flexing his jaw.
“There’s blood on the pillow,” Bruce exclaimed. “J.A.R.V.I.S., lights!” he ordered, and the room became painfully bright.
Tony closed his eyes against it, groaning, then squinted at him. “Why is there blood on the pillow, and why is that a reason to give me a heart attack at –” he checked the time, “4:36 in the morning?”
“The bandage came off,” Bruce explained hurriedly and got off the bed, pulling on the first pair of pants he found. Most likely they were not his. “I need to get you to the lab, right now.”
“Why?” Tony asked and yawned.
“Now!” Bruce snapped at him and took Tony by the arm, yanking him almost completely off the bed. “I couldn’t see any blood on you, but I can’t be sure…”
“Dr. Banner,” J.A.R.V.I.S. spoke up.
“Prepare the scanning equipment,” Bruce ordered, and the AI didn’t argue with him. “Put some clothes on,” he told Tony, who was still glowering at him from his hunched position on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t think –”
“I don’t need you to think! Just get dressed,” Bruce ordered.
“I feel fine.”
“You could be dying!”
“I’m pretty sure I would feel that,” Tony snapped, but got into a pair of sweats anyway.
Bruce was shaking as he led them down to his lab. Tony kept yawning, stretching, and walking entirely too slowly, complaining about the rude awakening. Bruce didn’t care for his lost hours of beauty sleep, afraid of what even a small amount of his blood in Tony’s body could do. After what happened at the bottling plant in Brazil…
With the lights on and machines online, Bruce ushered Tony over to sit on one of the tables while he prepared to draw blood from him.
“Is this really necessary?” Tony asked as Bruce pulled on gloves and tightened a tourniquet on his upper arm. “I’m still feeling fine, and if I had, accidentally, gotten your blood into me, we would both know it by now.”
Bruce refused to rely on such an unscientific prognosis. He found a vein, slid a needle in it and filled a tube. Tony was a scientist, which meant he should be more interested in making sure and not just assuming he was okay.
After bandaging the venipuncture site, Bruce found an appropriate thermometer and some lube. “I need to take your temperature,” he told Tony.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. can –”
“I need it to be as accurate as possible,” Bruce went on.
Tony’s eyes fell on the thermometer, and the lube. “You’re not being serious,” he argued and looked at Bruce’s face – realizing just how serious Bruce was. With a sigh, a roll of his eyes and muttered words in a language carefully chosen among the few Bruce didn’t have the basic vocabulary for, Tony slid off the table, turned around and pulled down his pants. “I can’t believe that you’re doing this to me. Can you believe it? You better believe it, because otherwise this is a totally wasted effort on both our parts.”
Bruce moved closer, pulled one ass-cheek to the side and slowly slid the slim tip of the thermometer in. Because he was rather intimate with this part of Tony’s anatomy, he knew he wasn’t hurting the other man in any way, but Tony still kept huffing angry breaths and muttering things to himself until Bruce was confident the results were reliable.
He removed the thermometer, cleaned it and moved to analyze Tony’s blood while the other man pulled up his pants.
“It wasn’t that horrible,” Bruce told Tony when he grew weary of his muttered complaints.
“There was a very nice opening for some kinky doctor games, right there,” Tony shot back at him, sitting on the table again. “You missed that opening.”
Bruce felt like pointing out he didn’t think it was appropriate, but Tony was in a foul mood and Bruce couldn’t blame him. It wasn’t as if his morning was much better.
Tony’s body temperature was normal, even when compared to J.A.R.V.I.S.’s database and readings. The first look at the blood work showed no changes or abnormalities, but Bruce wasn’t willing to relax just yet.
“We’ll do another battery of tests in half an hour,” he told Tony.
Bruce only got a sigh in return, then heard Tony moving. When he turned to look, Tony had reached over for two lab coats, bunching one up and placing it at one end of the table, then spread the other over his body as he lay down on his makeshift bed. “I’m going back to sleep,” Tony declared. “Wake me up if something happens. Not like you woke me up earlier, though.” And just like that he closed his eyes and left Bruce to sit there by himself, helpless against the fear that Tony may have gotten hurt tonight although he wasn’t showing any signs of it yet.
- - -
By seven o’clock, Bruce was fairly certain they had dodged the bullet.
Tony’s temperature hadn’t changed, his blood showed no signs of contamination and his vital signs, overall, were normal. Save for grumbled complaints, Tony had submitted to Bruce’s experiments, drifting in and out of sleep in between. Bruce could have allowed him to go back to bed, but if something did happen, bringing him back here for treatment would be wasting precious time.
Not that there was really any definite treatment against gamma-irradiated blood poisoning. Tony might get incredibly sick and die, or suffer from subtle yet permanent changes. It was a toss-up and Bruce was incredibly relieved he didn’t have to wait and see which one took place.
Clint and Natasha appeared at the lab’s door just after seven, Natasha leaning on the doorframe and Clint leaning on her in a little display of domesticity that the others rarely got to see. It wasn’t even a rumor that something was going on between them; it was more like an acknowledgment that no one talked about, mostly because the two agents had never been forthcoming about it.
Their relationship could have been good ammunition for an argument the next time they criticized Bruce and Tony’s affair, but even Tony hadn’t stooped that low. Still, there it was, more in the open than usual, and Bruce wondered if they were doing it on purpose or if they hadn’t expected anyone to be down here and were still getting their walls up.
“What’s going on?” Natasha asked.
“A small blood scare,” Bruce explained. “Tony’s fine, though.”
Clint gave the sleeping man a critical look. “Really? I wouldn’t have thought anyone could sleep like that.”
Bruce glanced at Tony, a sad smile curving his lips. “I woke him up before five, dragged him down here for tests, and he’s… protesting.”
“But you’re sure he’s okay?” Clint confirmed.
“Well, that’s good,” the archer nodded, then moved as if to go on. Natasha, however, didn’t move an inch, and Clint stilled to wait for her.
“You look concerned,” Natasha observed.
“I could have lethally poisoned him in my sleep,” Bruce countered, voice dropping, tension creeping into his muscles again. “I woke up with blood on the pillow, his mouth right next to it…”
Clint cringed visibly, but it was hard to say if he saw the situation the way Bruce did.
“Tony didn’t think it was such a big deal,” Bruce added. “He keeps telling me to trust him, but if he doesn’t see eye to eye with me on something like this…”
“He came to the lab with you, at five in the morning,” Natasha reminded him.
“After I ordered him to, repeatedly.”
“But he came,” she pressed. “We all know Stark doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to. He wouldn’t be lying on that table, feigning protests, if he didn’t share your concern, or didn’t want you to be sure he’s okay.”
Bruce nodded slowly. He guessed she was right. “I wish I didn’t feel so… raw, afterwards. Like I’m going to have to start all over again, with him and with us,” he confessed.
“Getting scared has that affect,” said the assassin who never showed fear to anyone if she could help it. “But at least you’ll have this memory to hold onto – this fear of losing him. It’s more precious that people realize, and they keep thinking it’s a bad thing. It isn’t.” The look Natasha gave Clint made Bruce wonder about her motivations when Clint had been under Loki’s control. It was obvious she was speaking from experience, and Bruce was pretty good at determining when she was lying these days. That look she gave Clint wasn’t deception, and Clint’s answering smile was answer enough.
“I’ll try to remember that,” Bruce said. “Thank you.”
Natasha smiled and pushed away from the door, leading Clint down the hallway to wherever they had been on their way to.
Bruce looked at Tony who was still sleeping on the table. It was clear the man was actually asleep and not just feigning it, which made Bruce’s chest tighten with a whole different emotion. He slid his hand through Tony’s hair, gently. “Let’s get back to bed,” he whispered, and Tony stirred and blinked his eyes open.
“All done?” Tony asked, voice raspy, and Bruce nodded and smiled.
“We’re good. We… we’re going to be okay,” he decided.
Tony smiled and allowed Bruce to pull him off the table and into the hallway, towards their room.
Author’s notes: It’s about time we get here. After twists and turns, extra chapters and several bouts of random inspiration, this story is at an end. Thank you to everyone who stuck around for this long! I hope to see you again in the future.
(The Turquoise-series will go on. There are many ideas already planned for the future – good times and bad. Next-in-line is the Hulk interrupting an intimate moment, a trip to Malibu – and, perhaps, a new Avenger joining the ranks!)