Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie, after “Blue Glow” fic.
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, J.A.R.V.I.S., Darcy Lewis, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Thor, Tony Stark (Iron Man)
Pairings: Bruce/Tony, Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor (, Clint/Natasha, implied past Pepper/Tony)
Summary: It starts with a dream and ends with something that resembles strutting more than tiptoeing; in other words, Bruce has a new-found obsession with Tony, Tony finds that endearing and wants to take it further while everyone else – including Bruce – seems to think it might actually be a very bad idea.
Work in progress. Part of the “Turquoise” –series.
Warnings: Slash (m/m relationship) and some sexual content, past and current het (f/m), superheroes vs. villains violence, language.
Written for: The chapter (directly and indirectly) responds to anonymous’ prompt at avengerkink, LiveJournal (Tony Stark/Steve Rogers + Bruce Banner [Science bro to the rescue!] – The movie has proved that Tony and Bruce become science bffs. So, the Avengers start to live together and there is another “take that away, what are you?” fiasco that cuts Tony to the core. Bruce tells Steve off in his own version of the “Hurt him and I’ll break your legs. Then the Hulk will sit on them” speech.)
Bruce wasn’t blind, nor was he stupid.
He was well aware Tony wasn’t getting riled up about nothing. While he could think objectively and see that everyone meant well – or didn’t, but were advocating the best interests of the Avengers or the world – a line had to be drawn somewhere, eventually. Bruce had, perhaps in vain, hoped that he wouldn’t have to get involved and that things would calm down on their own once people accepted his and Tony’s relationship wasn’t going to be swept under the rug.
Life wasn’t that simple – especially not when Tony and Steve were in the same building, avoiding each other but on a collision course nonetheless.
“Just say it, Rogers! Spit it out! Don’t be shy, soldier!”
Tony and Steve were currently half a Mansion away from Bruce and he could still hear them.
“Fine, Stark! I’m done with your self-centered bullshit.”
Bruce cringed. It took a lot of effort to make Steve swear and apparently this was one of those days when Tony was pushing all the buttons.
“Be careful, old man –”
“You’re one to talk. Without the suit, you wouldn’t even be here!”
“Says the guy whom even I could have snapped in two before a dose of super-soldier serum!”
“ENOUGH!” Natasha barked from Bruce’s side of the building. “God,” she muttered then and continued in a litany of various languages as she marched out of the living room and towards the stairs to go to her own room. “I would tell them to just go fuck each other but I think you might take it the wrong way,” she threw in Bruce’s direction when she passed him, a rueful smile on her face. A little while later a door slammed upstairs and Bruce sighed.
Steve stormed down the hall a few seconds later, embarrassment all over his features. He pointedly kept from looking at Bruce; he would go outside for a run then beat up a punching bag at the gym until he no longer saw red.
Tony made an appearance a good ten minutes after Steve had exited the building, a look of deep hurt on his guarded face. Bruce knew the look, knew how deep Steve hit every time the subject was brought up. Sure, it went both ways, but Bruce was infinitely more protective of Tony than he was of their serum-enhanced teammate; far as they knew, Steve’s condition couldn’t be changed, whereas Tony wasn’t at his strongest outside the suit. He had the smarts, a brain Bruce could admire from every angle if he wanted to, but that didn’t match the brute strength that was often needed in their line of work.
A moment passed before Tony moved over to the shelf where he kept his favorite liquor bottles and Bruce hung back, deciding this couldn’t go on forever.
Something had to give, and he was one to believe in controlled venting.
Tony had passed out two hours ago. J.A.R.V.I.S. had been making calls even before that, but when Bruce dragged his lover’s unconscious body to Tony’s bedroom, it had finalized his decision.
Bruce sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. Tony didn’t look peaceful as he lay there, the smell of alcohol hanging like a cloud around him.
He had hoped his presence in Tony’s life might encourage him to seek answers in places that didn’t exist at the bottom of a bottle – and for the most part Bruce could see Tony was trying to cut back on his drinking. At times like these, however, Bruce saw the weak, wounded person who did all the wrong things to deal with the damage, flushing them out only to have them slamming right back with the next wave.
“Is everyone coming?” Bruce asked the silent room.
Tony let out a half-groan, half-gurgle, shifting but nowhere near waking up.
“I have reached everyone on your list and stressed the importance of their presence. They are going to arrive on time.”
“Good,” Bruce sighed again and closed his eyes for a moment. “Please let me know if it looks like Tony’s going to drown in his own vomit or something.”
“Of course, Dr. Banner.”
Bruce chuckled at the ease with which J.A.R.V.I.S. replied. “You’ve been told to do that before, haven’t you?”
“Frequently, yet not so much since you entered his life,” the AI revealed. “Like I told you before, I am most pleased with the development of your relationship with Mr. Stark.”
“I hope I can keep it that way.”
“I have no doubts about that, Dr. Banner. Would you like to freshen up before your meeting?”
“I suppose I should,” Bruce mused. Tony had sort of thrown up on him while he maneuvered him up to his room. Not the worst thing that had happened to him over the years, but he knew better than to step in front of the people he had invited in his current condition. With that in mind, he got up, stripped and went to shower, knowing that he could make all the noise he wanted and Tony would remain asleep on the bed.
By the time he finished, put on a fresh set of clothes and placed the dirty ones in a hamper, it was nearly time and he checked on Tony one more time, making sure he was positioned as safely as possible. Despite the smell that had haunted him since his childhood, Bruce pressed a kiss to his cheek, lingering for a moment, breathing in until he could smell Tony beneath alcohol, cologne and gastric acid. When he found it, a small smile spread on his lips and he pulled back and walked downstairs.
Everyone had gathered in one of the studies, as per his instructions; J.A.R.V.I.S. was good at herding people for someone who was only a voice. He noted Thor was present as well, although he had been the least likely person to come on such short notice. He looked more serious than the rest and Bruce wondered if Thor had misinterpreted the message somehow.
“Thank you all for coming,” Bruce spoke up, closing the door behind him. He didn’t think Tony would wake up and much less wander all the way down here, but one could never be too careful. Not that this was a secret, but he didn’t need Tony’s commentary right now.
He looked at the room in general. Pepper Potts sat in one of the armchairs, back straight and still in her work attire. Natasha, Clint and Thor were on one couch, Steve standing behind it with Nick Fury. James Rhodes sat in another armchair, looking a bit tense although he was trying to hide it.
“Your message sounded urgent,” Fury started.
“There’s something that needs to be taken care of,” Bruce nodded. He didn’t want to do this, to stand here in front of all these people, but he had committed… Well, it wasn’t that simple. He hadn’t signed a contract or made a verbal deal with someone, yet he and Tony had agreed on several things, verbally, physically and emotionally. Bruce was committed and none of these people were going tell him otherwise – or the man who had wormed his way into his life.
Pepper shifted uneasily, not glancing at her watch as she did so which meant she was uncertain of the situation. Rhodes simply looked at him, waiting – much like Natasha and Clint, not revealing anything.
“Where’s Tony?” Pepper finally asked.
“Passed out, upstairs,” Bruce answered casually. “Too much to drink,” he clarified, in case someone – Thor – thought something had happened. He saw the Asgardian relax slightly and nod in understanding, although Bruce doubted he had ever passed out from excessive drinking in his long life.
“He does that a lot,” Rhodes commented off-handedly, as if the crisis had been averted. He leaned forward, as if preparing to get up.
“That’s not why I arranged for you all to come here,” Bruce said quickly, before anyone else got the idea to leave. Rhodes leaned back in his chair, looking even tenser, if possible. “As you’re all aware, I’m sure,” he went on, hesitating slightly before plunging forward, “Tony and myself are in a relationship.” He didn’t elaborate or second-guess it in front of these people. He might not be sure how far up the relationship-scale they were right now but it didn’t matter. He would have to get his point across and that wouldn’t happen if he didn’t believe in what he was saying.
While there were hesitant nods from the others, Thor grinned. “Congratulations!” he sprang up from his seat, looking like he was going to declare it was time to celebrate. Bruce gave him a quick smile before motioning him to sit back down; Natasha pulled Thor back down to the couch, seeing as the God of Thunder didn’t get the hint without it.
“I think those reactions sum up the dilemma we’re facing,” Bruce went on. “I’m aware some of you have taken it upon yourselves to bring your opinions to Tony’s attention, and while I appreciate the concern and well-meaning thoughts… it has to end.” There was no eloquent way to put it that he could think of, so he just said it. He even refrained from naming names or giving people looks, knowing everyone knew exactly whom he was talking about.
“Tony hasn’t been very forward about the content of your concerns but I think I’ve got the gist of them.” He looked at Pepper and Rhodey in turn. “I’m aware and keenly familiar with the danger I pose to Tony. Our relationship puts him into a uniquely threatened position and I’m doing my very best to keep anything from happening to him. If that promise is not enough for you… well, there’s nothing more I can do,” he admitted. Short of leaving Tony… but no, that wasn’t on the table today.
His gaze moved on, towards the back of the couch where Fury and Steve still stood. “To anyone who’s approaching this from an alternative angle, I would like to point out that we’re doing fine – more precisely, I’m fine.” He gave it a bit of a dramatic pause. “I’m not an idiot and Tony couldn’t hide any detail of his gruesome past – dating, weapon designing, or otherwise – from me even if he tried. I wasn’t born yesterday, I know what people like Tony are like. But I also respectfully consider the possibility that he’s able to do better, if that’s how you want to put it.”
Thor nodded along while the others didn’t reveal much of their thoughts on the matter. Bruce wouldn’t have cared about that if it wasn’t affecting his own life through Tony. They were here so that he could put a stop to it, and they wouldn’t leave before he felt like he had driven his point home.
“In conclusion, I want you to stop harassing Tony about the misgivings you have about our involvement. No more nagging, no more helpful advice. I’m sick of dealing with the aftermath of these encounters and they’re not helping me keep my calm in any way.”
His gaze fell onto Pepper. “Yes, he’s broken up about you. No, that’s not the only reason he’s with me – I believe I’m partially to blame for that.”
It was only natural to continue with Rhodes: “I know what I am, and Tony certainly knows as well. That’s not why he’s with me, no matter how interested he is in the other guy. Don’t think I haven’t made that distinction very clear to him.”
He moved his eyes onto Fury next. “If he fucks up, it isn’t on you. I don’t need him feeling threatened by yet another person who should be on his side, not against him.”
Next he looked at Steve, hesitating briefly because this was his friend, his teammate, and someone he would have to be around in the future. However, certain things needed to be established. “I know the wellbeing of the team is important to you, as it should be to all of us since we’re in this together. However, if you can’t be civil with him, I would prefer you say nothing at all. Tony might not be able to stop his mouth from running but I expect something better from you, Captain.” He took a deep breath, accepting Steve’s firm nod. “And if you ignore that, I won’t be held responsible for what happens afterwards – or what the other guy might do, seeing as he’s rather protective of Tony. Broken body parts may be the least of your concerns if you hit Tony beneath the belt again.”
“Burn,” Clint whispered to Natasha – who didn’t respond in any way. She seemed to be taking this seriously, perhaps thankful she hadn’t felt the need to go and have a chat with Tony.
Bruce looked at Clint, meeting his eyes, pinning him down. “I like you guys, I really do. I would like to think we’re friends and that we’re on the same team, but if I have to choose… Let’s just say I might not be the only one to choose Tony, and I’m not really the one you should be concerned about.”
Not that the other guy had yet to make an appearance simply because Tony was upset, but it was only a matter of time. Bruce was unwilling to just let it happen and would rather choose to put it out there for everyone to observe and sample so that no one could say they hadn’t been warned.
“Is everyone clear on where we stand regarding my relationship with Tony?” he asked, not faking pleasantness although he was tempted to, just to see a room full of people squirm.
“Crystal,” Clint replied.
“Is this where we’re supposed to apologize?” Rhodes asked.
“No,” Bruce shook his head. “Apologize to Tony if you feel the need, but I’m good.”
Rhodes nodded, looking thoughtful, just like so many of the others.
Thor was the first to get up, clasping Bruce’s shoulder before heading to the kitchen to search for something to eat. Natasha and Clint left next, disappearing without a sound. Fury took his leave after them, not saying anything but the look he gave Bruce suggested that he was going to watch them twice as hard in the future. As long as he didn’t say anything to Tony, Bruce was fine with it. Pepper and Rhodey left next, in unison, perhaps feeling a bit out of place in the crowd.
That left Steve, still standing behind the couch, looking thoughtful. Bruce briefly wondered if he had been too harsh on the man, but then Steve looked up and he looked almost thankful. “It’s good to know you have each other’s backs,” he noted. “And I think I… needed to hear that.”
“You’re welcome, I suppose,” Bruce replied carefully, feeling restless again, not knowing where they stood, exactly.
Steve moved around the couch and over to him, looking Bruce in the eye. “I can’t make promises, but I’ll… try and curb my willingness to get into fights with him.”
“Just find other ways to get it out of your system,” Bruce agreed. “Otherwise I might have to break your legs. And have the other guy sit on them.”
Steve chuckled although his eyes remained serious. “You really care about him.”
“It’s becoming painfully apparent that I do,” Bruce nodded, looking at the room which still felt like someone else’s home. He doubted it would ever feel like a place where he belonged – but with the right people in it, who knew?
“Dr. Banner,” J.A.R.V.I.S. cut in before Steve could reply – if he had something left to say. “Mr. Stark has awakened and is currently attempting to make his way to the bathroom. If you are no longer needed here, perhaps I could ask you to go and check on him.” Which was a polite way of saying that Tony was still a mess and probably crawling on all fours around the room.
“I’m on it,” Bruce promised and gave Steve a meaningful look. “If you care about someone enough… you’re willing to look past alcohol-induced sickness.”
Steve laughed and gestured for Bruce to get on with it, which he did.
As expected, Tony hadn’t quite made it to the bathroom by the time Bruce got into the bedroom. It looked – and smelled – like Tony had managed to hold onto the contents of his stomach, although he was clearly hitting the limit. As soon as Bruce had moved him over to the toilet, he was head-deep in it and throwing up.
Bruce patted his back and decided it had to be love of some sort.
He helped Tony up once he was done, rinsed the toilet and helped him wash his face and get out of his dirty shirt. Tony slumped down on the tiled floor, accepting the glass of water when Bruce handed it to him and smiled tiredly up at him. “You don’t have to play nursemaid, you know that, right?” Tony said after a moment, sounding criminally sober compared to his level of inebriation just hours ago. “You’re not even a real doctor…”
“Real enough to take care of this. Now drink up before I force it down your throat,” Bruce threatened softly and Tony did as he was told. After two more glasses he threw up again but looked a bit better and crawled back to the bed after another glass of water. He didn’t ask for Bruce’s help – another sign that he was used to dealing with this alone.
Bruce noticed the bedroom smelled a bit more aired-out, no doubt thanks to J.A.R.V.I.S. and some prompt air conditioning while they were in the adjoining bathroom. He pulled the sheets up, covering Tony’s body, then decided to join him since he had no actual desire to see anyone else right now.
Tony rolled towards him as soon as he settled down, draping a heavy, limp arm across his chest. “What’ve you been up to?” he murmured, clearly meaning the time he’d spent unconscious in bed.
“Had a nice chat with some people,” Bruce told him, kissing the top of Tony’s head then noticed he had fallen back to sleep, looking a bit better this time around. Bruce looked at him, openly and for a long time, wondering if he’d done the right thing today – and whether he was ready for all the things that came by implication.
to be continued…