Del Rion (del_rion) wrote,
Del Rion

Handling Pointy Things; Chapter 25: Imprints

Title: Handling Pointy Things
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie, after “Blue Glow” fic.
Genre: Drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), J.A.R.V.I.S., Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Thor, Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Quest stars: Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, Darcy Lewis, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Betty Ross, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, Erik Selvig.
Pairings: Bruce/Tony, Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor (also: Clint/Natasha, implied past Pepper/Tony, past Bruce Banner/Betty Ross, implied/off-screen Betty/Leonard Samson)
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.

~ ~ ~

Author’s note: This chapter was inspired by an avengerkink prompt (avengerkink) by anonymous (Tony/Bruce, 5+1, marking / 5 places Bruce has marked Tony and people saw it and the 1 place where Tony marked Bruce and it’s hidden).

Chapter 25: Imprints

Morning had come and gone, and still the Mansion was relatively silent. Drinking had gone on late into the night, and while some of the people in attendance – mainly Steve and Thor – would probably not be affected by the intake of alcohol, everyone else was sleeping in.

Bruce had been in a light sleep for the past few hours, opening his eyes every now and then to check on Tony. So far, the genius had barely rolled over, and Bruce let him sleep, knowing he needed the rest.

“J.A.R.V.I.S.,” he whispered after a bit. “Is Dr. Ross still in the building?” Betty had stayed the night, but that didn’t mean Bruce hadn’t entertained the fear that she would leave while everyone else still slept, feeling like an outsider. Not that she had acted like an outsider last night, finding her way into various discussions with Jane, Selvig and even some of the Avengers. She’d looked like she had a good time, but Bruce felt like he was responsible for her happiness as long as she was under the same roof as him.

“Dr. Ross is still in her room. I have provided her with a limited access to the data concerning your files,” the AI replied, voice low as not to disturb Tony.

Bruce couldn’t say he was surprised. “Give her access to whatever she needs, as long as it’s my files.” He owed it to her, at the very least, for keeping his distance after the Avengers first came together.

“Of course, Dr. Banner.”

Bruce settled down again, then looked over at Tony. Sometimes he forgot that peaceful nights were a rarity, in between the nightmares they both suffered from. However, they had grown accustomed to sharing a bed, whether they were in it at the same time or not, and turning over after a troublesome dream was so much more pleasant when there was a warm, solid body next to yours.

As if sensing that, Tony shifted towards him, swallowed, then blinked his eyes open. He took in the scene for a moment, as if going through a mental check-list. Bruce wondered if any of it differed from his own, because in the end they aimed for the same thing: reassurance that they knew where they were, that they were safe and possibly in the presence of someone they could trust.

“Hey,” Tony finally greeted him. His voice cracked adorably.

Bruce leaned forward to kiss him instead of replying. He knew Tony didn’t mind, and it allowed them to skip the few awkward seconds where they needed to decide what to talk about if they didn’t get out of bed. Tony’s mouth was just as sleepy as the rest of him, and Bruce was in no hurry to coax him to wake up; after a while he moved right to the corner of Tony’s mouth, upper lip brushing against the line of facial hair, and then he moved on, tracing the trademark goatee until his lips countered a faintly stubble-covered skin. Feeling strangely playful, Bruce pressed his teeth against the curve of the left side of Tony’s jawbone, flesh yielding beneath the pressure. Muscles twitched as Tony reacted to the sensation, and Bruce relented a little, easing his grip and instead proceeding to suck the patch of skin where he could, almost, feel his own teeth-marks.

Tony chuckled faintly. “Hickeys belong a few inches lower, Doctor.”

Bruce gave him a dismissive, distracted sound, continuing to worry the spot he had selected, and by the time Tony grew tired of it and pushed Bruce back, there was a red mark at his gonial angle. It would turn into a faint bruise once the small, superficial vessels released enough blood to the surrounding tissue.

“Satisfied?” Tony asked.

Never, Bruce wanted to tell him, but it was a dangerous road to take and instead he got to his feet, deciding it was time to get up. “Come shower with me,” he urged.

Tony grinned and released himself from the sheets to follow him to the bathroom. As he entered, Tony took a look at himself in the mirror, touching the red mark. He made no comment and Bruce pulled him into the shower, protecting Tony’s face as he turned on the water. Tony’s mischievous grin turned into an affectionate smile at the gesture and he leaned in to kiss Bruce as water ran down their bodies.

In a less-than-perfect world, that was a memory worth saving.

- - -

They had survived the shower without a need for physical, sexual intimacy. Tony wouldn’t have cared either way, but Bruce’s calm attention made him feel centered after yesterday’s tension with Ross and Fury.

As they walked towards the kitchen in companionable silence, Bruce wearing a simple white t-shirt and Tony in a tank top – both of them opting for sweatpants and no socks for some bizarre reason – sounds of life could be heard around the large building.

Rogers, unsurprisingly, was already up, probably planning his second breakfast by the time they entered the large kitchen.

Barton and Romanoff walked in together a moment later; Tony had long since stopped suspecting what went on between the two of them, fairly certain friends-with-benefits was on the table, if not more.

“Nice hickey, Stark,” Barton commented. “Your aim’s a little off,” he added to Bruce.

“An artistic choice,” Bruce deflected the burn, not at all bothered by the comment. Tony decided to let it go.

A while later Selvig appeared, almost running into the doorframe as he kept reading a magazine in his hands, and then Darcy breezed in past him, choosing a chair for herself while everyone else was still kind of figuring out what was going on.

Thor and Jane joined the gang almost immediately, and the Norse god grinned at them all. “Excellent! Shall we break our fast together?”

“Whatever you say, big guy,” Tony retorted.

Elizabeth Ross followed the two of them, giving everyone a polite ‘good morning’, then glanced at Bruce and Tony. No doubt she saw something the others did not, and Bruce gave her a smile. “Join us for breakfast,” he urged.

“If it’s not a problem,” she stated, eyes moving onto Tony instead.

“I’m always up for raising the IQ of any room I’m in,” he offered, and she laughed, the thin cord of tension broken.

Tony seated himself in one of the chairs, fully expecting for Bruce to fetch him coffee and someone else to make breakfast. He propped his legs up on another seat, ignoring any looks directed at him.

Darcy, always up to something, swiveled around on her seat and dug into her pocket. “I found something really cool yesterday while you guys were gone,” she started.

“Can’t wait to hear the end of this,” Tony muttered. Bruce silenced him by thrusting a large mug of coffee into his hands. ‘My savior’, Tony mouthed to him.

Darcy presented a small item from her pocket. “Avengers gum!” she declared. “Comes with a fake tattoo of your favorite superhero; I already got Cap’s shield,” she grinned, then lifted the hem of her top to reveal a small shield-shaped tattoo at her hip, just above the waistline of her shorts.

Rogers looked at it and then away. He didn’t blush, but he made himself busy with breakfast preparations.

“That’s nice,” Tony scoffed.

“You’re just mad that you didn’t think of it,” Barton shot at him.

“I already have Iron Man merchandising under Stark Industries,” Tony pointed out. “Our stuff is way more quality-controlled than what everyone else’s offering.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Jane joked.

“Do you want one?” Darcy asked Thor.

The Asgardian was always willing to accept gifts, so he took the small, unopened packet of gum, opened its wrapper carefully and unrolled the paper inside. “Ha! I got the Hulk,” he proclaimed, showing it to Bruce. “Its likeness is uncanny.”

Bruce narrowed his eyes at the small image, to see it better without his glasses. “Cool,” he finally observed. “Can I have it?” he asked next, surprisingly.

“Verily,” Thor agreed, and offered him the tattoo while popping the gum square into his mouth.

Tony looked at his boyfriend with amusement as Bruce took a better look at the Hulk-tattoo, then followed him with his eyes as Bruce moved behind the kitchen counter. He fully expected for Bruce to throw it away, but the man returned with a wet paper towel, settled himself next to the chair Tony was occupying with his feet and then unwrapped the fake tattoo and planted it on Tony’s ankle, pressing the wet paper towel on top of it once he had positioned it to his preference.

Unable to think of anything to say, Tony just ogled at him, until Bruce finally drew away the papers and left a shiny tattoo on his skin. Tony pulled his leg closer, peering at the image. It wasn’t the best art, but he could make out the Hulk, one of his arms stretched forward as if punching an enemy. It was a good pose for him. “Okay,” he finally uttered and looked up at Bruce – who smiled at him like the devil’s advocate and brushed his thumb briefly over the image.

“Is anyone else disturbed by that?” Barton asked.

“It’s cute,” Darcy decided.

“Anything they do is cute to you,” Barton poked a fork in her direction.

“You just don’t appreciate it because you’re around it all the time,” Darcy argued.

“Subjected to it is more like it…”

“Clint,” Romanoff warned, simple and short.

Tony looked up at them both, meeting Barton’s eyes. “You got something to say?”

“No,” the archer grunted.

“Let’s eat,” Rogers decided before the situation could heat up any further.

“I still think it’s cute,” Darcy stage-whispered to them.

As most of them focused on getting breakfast made – resulting easily in ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ – Betty settled down next to Tony and Bruce. “Is it always like this?” she asked, keeping her voice low.

“They’re cautious about our relationship,” Bruce replied. “For good reason, too.”

“Don’t start with that,” Tony warned him. “This is my goddamn house and if we want to –”

“It’s not that,” Bruce cut him off, voice harder. “You know what I mean. Well, you should know, at least, and I think you do; you just don’t like to admit you’re just as aware of the risks as everyone else.”

“I don’t let them rule my life,” Tony huffed, averting his eyes, focusing on his coffee for a change.

“I’m sensing this is not the first time the subject’s been brought up?” Betty noted.

“The other guy is a risk, wherever he is,” Bruce told her. “You know that, better than most. I don’t… I’m aware that I can cause a lot of damage, the longer I stay, but every time I think of leaving… I just can’t. Not with him here,” he finished, clearly meaning Tony.

Not looking at either of them, focusing on a random spot – which happened to be the Hulk tattoo on his ankle – Tony blindly reached out with his hand and took hold of Bruce’s, his grip tight.

“I’m glad,” Betty breathed. There were so many emotions in her voice – much like there were in Pepper’s, whenever Tony talked to her about something that wasn’t business, these days. “You shouldn’t have to run. And even if you have to, you should always know there’s a home you can come back to – where people are waiting for you,” Betty continued.

“Damn right,” Tony muttered and sipped his coffee to pretend the burn in his throat was from the semi-hot liquid.

Bruce’s fingers tightened around his. “Even when that puts the people I care about at risk?” he asked.

“Even then,” Betty said forcefully. “We’re aware of the risks, and we accept them.”

“You shouldn’t have to…”

“But that’s not your choice to make.”

Tony looked at Betty and debated whether he should have welcomed her over sooner. Her eyes glanced at him, briefly, and it was clear both of them had tried to beat that message into Bruce’s skull in the past.

Bruce let out a defeated little laugh. “I see I’m on the losing side, here.”

“Better give up while you still can,” Tony agreed.

Bruce looked at him, then down past his eyes, and Tony had a pretty good idea that he was staring at the mark on his jaw he had created this morning. A moment later his eyes dropped, but as if unable to resist, they fell onto the Hulk tattoo on his ankle.

“Okay, who wants pancakes?” Selvig asked. It seemed he had taken over the master chef’s position, Thor and Jane helping him while Rogers had been left to cut up and peel fruit into a large bowl.

“That’s a joke, right?” Barton replied. “Everyone wants pancakes.”

“The other option is waffles,” Selvig pointed out.

“Both!” Darcy yelled.

“I concur,” Thor nodded along.

“Go crazy, Doc,” Tony ordered. “Between those two,” he pointed at Rogers and Thor, “there won’t be any leftovers.”

“Let’s get cooking,” Jane grinned and pulled another bag of flour from the cupboard.

- - -

After the late breakfast hassle was over and the kitchen was, more or less, in order – while awaiting dinner preparations – the science team settled down in one corner of the living room. There was no shortage of topics or heated debates between the two astrophysicists, a biologist, a scientist and an engineer. Thor joined them briefly, only to be grilled about the Bifrost and Asgardian science, but he was later rescued by Romanoff under the pretense of training.

‘Pretense’, because Tony and Bruce weren’t asked to join them.

Darcy poked her head in just to declare there were too many nerd-hormones in the air, and hijacked most of the other Avengers to go shopping for dinner ingredients.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible,” Betty was stating. “It just sounds like science fiction.”

“You’re talking to a man who opened an alien portal to the other side of space,” Jane noted, defending some wild theory of Selvig’s which she probably believed in.

Tony stopped listening at ‘alien portal’, bad memories dragging down his spine like freezing claws. Bruce, who was snuggled up against him on a loveseat, must have noticed because he immediately vied for Tony’s attention. His fingers traced along Tony’s arm and ended up a few inches above his wrist. After some searching he settled on a spot between the two tendons and pressed his thumb in until it hurt a little. Tony clenched his fist against it, but Bruce shook his head a bit.

“Unclench,” he ordered softly, and Tony did, leaving Bruce to continue in small, rubbing motions while digging into his arm. After a while it almost felt like the anxiousness in his chest eased a little; whether it was Bruce’s chosen spot or just the steady touch of his hand, Tony didn’t know. For someone as scientifically oriented as Bruce, he sure liked his alternative medicine – probably because he had attempted to harness its benefits as a means to control the Hulk.

Bruce kept maintaining the pressure until Tony was completely distracted from ill reminders concerning alien invasions and dark space. He glanced down at his arm where Bruce’s thumb sank a little into his skin. “Going to bruise me again?” he asked.

Selvig chuckled on the couch opposite from them. He seemed amused by what he saw, and Tony pursed his lips at him, in case he felt like commenting. The older man seemed to know better, though. “If you’re doing massages, I’ll be next in line,” he stated.

“Nah,” Bruce declined and slowly removed the pressure, sliding his thumb back and forth over the spot. “I’m not that kind of doctor.”

“You should be,” Tony joked and reached for a ballpoint pen on the table.

“What are you doing?” Bruce asked.

“Marking the spot,” Tony replied, because it was obvious. Sure, he could have J.A.R.V.I.S. map it for him, or he could just check the acupressure maps, but it felt important to do it now.

Bruce plucked the pen from his grip before he could, then drew a shaky heart over the spot with his left hand. Next he moved his attention downwards, towards Tony’s wrist, and drew another heart there, to point out another spot. “There,” he stated and tossed the pen back to the table. Tony stared at the hearts and huffed, guessing they were good enough.

“Cute,” Betty and Jane said in the same breath, sharing a look.

“Take that back, or I’ll weaponize the pen and make you apologize,” Tony threatened.

“Is he always such a bully?” Betty asked, amused.

“He doesn’t know how to behave in social situations,” Bruce replied, ruffling Tony’s hair.

Tony pouted, exaggerating the expression to the max. “You’re mean.”

Jane dared to laugh. “Bruce will kiss it better.”

Tony threw his boyfriend a look. He would cash in on that promise later, even though it had been made on Bruce’s behalf and not by the man himself.

“How do the two of you ever get any work done?” Betty dared to ask.

Bruce gave her an incredulous look. “Have you seen the lab?”

And that was their cue to relocate downstairs.

- - -

They almost missed dinner in the midst of exploring the lab and its possibilities. Thor had to come fetch them in person, forcing his bulk between them and some of Tony’s more impressive tech.

Tony, who had managed to make himself dirty up to the elbows while taking apart half of a scanner because he felt like there was something wrong with it, despite J.A.R.V.I.S.’s diagnostic run that stated otherwise, was ushered into a bathroom by Bruce. “You’re such a mom,” Tony complained, although softly, and began to lather up his arms with soap.

Bruce washed his own hands in the second sink, then stood there, drying his hands, watching Tony methodically clean himself up. It was clear Tony was used to being up to his elbows in grease, his motions brisk and natural.

When Tony was done spreading soap, his eyes moved up, glancing at Bruce through the mirror. “What?” he asked, as if expecting an observation of some kind, perhaps criticism.

“Nothing,” Bruce shook his head.

Tony gave him a slightly suspicious look, then shrugged and started rinsing his skin. It was clean by now, but on the inside of his left forearm, Bruce could still make out the two hearts he had drawn there; they had lost some of their color, but he could still see them. On Tony’s left jaw, there was still the mark from this morning, and the Hulk tattoo resided on his ankle.

Bruce hadn’t really been into this kind of thing before, but it had a certain appeal to it: to leave his mark, knowing others would see it on Tony’s body. Briefly, it made him experience some shame as well, seeing as Betty was present and he had no intention of shoving his relationship in her face, but at least she had gotten to see them on a good day.

He moved over to Tony, just as the other man straightened and observed his hands. Tony seemed to decide they were clean enough and moved to dry them on a towel. Bruce sidled up to him, then rested his chin on Tony’s shoulder, right beside his tank top’s strap. Their eyes met in the mirror, and Bruce watched himself kiss the sun-tanned skin, then press his teeth into it, just a little. Tony’s hands stopped moving, still holding the towel in them. There was an obvious question in his eyes, but Bruce dismissed it for now, instead focusing on sucking another mark into Tony’s skin.

Tony chuckled, eventually, resuming the drying of his skin and bumped his shoulder upwards a little, detaching Bruce’s mouth. “What’s gotten into you?” he asked, curious rather than annoyed.

“You,” Bruce offered.

“I triggered some latent teenage hormones?” Tony quirked his eyebrow.

Bruce gave him a smile most people considered bashful. It was a calculated expression, however, and he knew it would melt Tony a little on the inside. “We should go eat.”

“Alright,” Tony responded and shifted his shoulders a little, then gave the left one a proper glance. His lips twitched but he didn’t say a thing, and so they left the bathroom and moved to the dining area, finding assorted dishes prepared and waiting for hungry eaters.

“About time,” Clint groused and immediately grabbed himself a plate. Others followed his example, digging in: there were hot dogs and burgers, salads and pasta, grilled chicken and what looked like some kind of tomato sauce.

“You missed a spot,” Jane noted from beside them and swiped her fingers over the dark mark on Tony’s shoulder – only to realize it wasn’t coming off. She flushed, just a little, and Tony gave her an indulgent smile, then threw Bruce a look.

“Who wants a beer?” Clint asked, as if on cue, and Jane moved over to get one.

If someone else noticed the new mark, they didn’t say anything, but Bruce wasn’t naïve enough to think trained assassins or someone with Steve’s photographic memory would miss it. He didn’t care, though; Tony was in a good mood, a solid warmth beside Bruce whenever they sat next to each other, and as icing on the cake Tony and Betty got along very well. Whether they tried extra hard for his sake, Bruce didn’t know, but he felt a bit warmer on the inside nonetheless.

- - -

After dinner, when everyone had stuffed themselves full, Darcy demanded they play something. Whoever landed on Pictionary was probably out of their mind, but they had a sufficiently good time until the scientific corner of the table started drawing things in chemical structures and technical drawings, which Barton called cheating.

While half the group gushed over Rogers’ obvious art skills and grilled him for information concerning that, Team Science continued their own version of Pictionary. More insane and complex drawings were spread out on papers for others to guess and figure out until Tony tried to fit the Big Bang into an equation and they all decided it was time for a break.

Selvig and Betty went to get drinks from the kitchen while Jane moved over to Thor’s side, to take a look at whatever Rogers was currently drawing. The crowd exploded in laughter, which meant it was probably something funny. Tony didn’t want to get up and go have a look, so he slid his phone from his pocket instead, accessed the Mansion’s security feeds and found a camera with the most promising angle. Someone’s shoulder was in the way, though – Darcy’s – and he glared at her for blocking his view.

Bruce shifted beside him, fiddling with the marker pen they had been using, then uncapped it and turned towards Tony. A moment later the soft drag of the pen was on his skin and Tony looked sharply towards it, his eyes following as Bruce drew small lines, connecting them into something that looked like a weird honeycomb with random letters instead of bees. He tilted his head, trying to figure it out, and when Betty and Selvig returned with a pitcher of something that looked like iced tea, the astrophysicist immediately looked at it as if figuring out a puzzle. Bruce finished with a few more careful swipes of the pen and then capped it and set it aside.

The entire image trailed down Tony’s bicep in even, precise strokes that were identifiable as Bruce’s handwriting.

“It’s…” Selvig moved closer to take a better look. “I think I know,” he mused, frown on his brow.

“Oxytocin,” Betty said first. “The chemical structure of the neurohypophysial hormone that’s also referred to as the ‘love hormone’.” A small smile appeared on her lips. “Really, Bruce?”

The scientist offered no reply, but he did look rather smug.

Tony took a second look at the pattern and identified the molecular structure now that he knew what it was. “That was a permanent marker,” he noted.

“It will come off eventually,” his lover told him flatly.

“I could get poisoned.”

“Says the man who had palladium in his chest.”

Tony guessed he had a point. He looked back at his arm and figured this was as close to a secret love letter as they could ever get without leaving the ‘cool’ zone.

- - -

The evening had been a loud event: Thor had wanted to play Twister, but that didn’t end well for anyone, and thus they had moved on. Steve had found several unopened decks of cards and he and Clint proceeded to have a race to see who could construct the best house of cards with them – which Darcy then demolished as she threw a pillow at Thor for eating the last of the popcorn and missed the Asgardian by a few feet.

Betty had decided to start driving back to Virginia before it got too late, and she and Bruce had had a sweet farewell alone by her car. Bruce had promised to keep in touch – Tony had also made that promise, so there was a good chance of that happening, for once. Betty had also promised to visit. Both of them had known, though, that it could be a long time before they saw each other again, and Bruce had a strange feeling of loss in his chest as he’d watched her drive away.

Tony had come out to fetch him after a while had passed, pulling him down a smaller hallway and into the privacy of their room, reading his mood correctly: Bruce had no desire to be around people right now. Tony was an exception, though; he was unusually quiet, moving slowly as if Bruce were an easily spooked animal. Bruce lay back on the bed, trying to relax, listening to Tony putter around.

Eventually Tony settled onto the bed beside him, leaning up on his arms, looking at him. “You okay?” Tony asked, voice low and steady, not betraying any doubts he might be having.

“Of course,” Bruce replied, but knew he was just trying to tell himself that. “It was… hard to see her again.”

“Because of me?”

“Because of everything,” Bruce corrected. “We… had our chance. I was afraid, and she’ll be better off with someone else. I know the guy she’s with; he’s not me, but he’ll do.”

Tony let out a sharp, honest laugh. “That’s one way to put it, big guy.”

Bruce allowed himself to smile, trying to feel like he deserved to be happy. He had been unhappy for such a long, long time… “I love you,” he told Tony, looking at him. As always, Tony didn’t reply, but he tried to hide the small, happy smile behind his hand as he crossed his fingers and pressed them to his mouth. Bruce let him hide it, instead sliding his fingers over the marker-covered skin, then moved up to his shoulder, to the small hickey that sat there. Further up, to his neck, and he got to the mark on his jaw.

Tony abruptly moved, reaching over to where Bruce kept one of his many notebooks and grabbed the pen lying on top of it. He pressed the tip out into the open, then shifted back onto the bed, settling beside Bruce once more. This time, though, he slid a hand across his upper body and then proceeded to drag the t-shirt up exposing Bruce’s chest.

Bruce guessed some kind of retaliation was in order and he tried not to show his anticipation. Tony yanked the shirt up to his armpits, then settled down into a better position and carefully brought the tip of the pen down at the center of his chest. Tony could have picked a better spot – less hairy, for one – but he drew slowly, in measured strokes, bit by bit forming something that wasn’t writing, or a symbol – nor was it the shape of a dick, either. Bruce wasn’t sure why he had expected the last, but sometimes Tony’s sense of humor was very immature.

It took Tony almost half an hour to finish whatever he was doing. The entire image was over five inches wide, and once Tony retracted the pen’s tip, Bruce had to get up and look at himself in the mirror. It was definitely a blueprint of something; that much he saw at a glance. However, it took him a while longer to put it together, to take Tony’s brilliance apart and form it into something he could comprehend. There were no notes, no symbols – nothing to ease his way through the assembling of whatever decorated his chest. Then, suddenly, it opened up to him like someone had switched on the lights, and he was amazed how he hadn’t seen it at once, given its position in the middle of his chest.

Bruce turned his head to look at Tony, who lay on his side on the bed, playing with the pen, trying to not look apprehensive. “It’s the arc reactor,” Bruce said needlessly, but feeling like he needed to show he had figured it out.

Tony gave a small nod and looked up at him. “My heart, on top of yours.”

Bruce had seen the schematics before, but those were usually for the slightly altered version that was put into the Iron Man suits or which powered his Tower or other applications – not the device that sat in Tony’s chest. This was the secret to Tony’s life, his continued survival, and putting the information out there, onto Bruce’s skin, however simplified, showed trust on Tony’s part.

Before Bruce could articulate his emotions at that very small revelation, J.A.R.V.I.S. interrupted them:

“Sir, Dr. Banner: the others are inquiring whether the two of you would be interested in cookies, apple pie and milkshakes in the living room?”

Tony chuckled. “Sure.” In the next heartbeat, he had rolled off the bed and onto his feet, throwing the pen back to its original spot on top of Bruce’s notebook. “Come on,” he urged and dragged Bruce’s shirt back to its proper place, covering the image on his chest. “Time to overwhelm your sweet-tooth.”

“Oh, it will take more than that to overwhelm it,” Bruce assured him, and Tony grinned at him as if the challenge had been accepted.

When they got downstairs, a table on the far side of the living room had been loaded down with the promised cookies, apple pie and extra large milkshake glasses for all. The delicious smell of freshly baked treats hung in the air, which meant someone had been busy in the kitchen while Bruce had been outside and he and Tony had been up in their room.

“Come on,” Darcy enthused. “Pick a glass, take a plate, sit down! Don’t make me tell you twice, because Thor and Cap will clean up the table in no time if left unguarded.”

Steve looked taken aback at such an accusation but Bruce knew he could eat the table clean and then some, with his fast metabolism. Thor simply grinned and sucked on the straw sticking out of his own milkshake.

Bruce and Tony got themselves milkshakes and plates full of the other good stuff, then settled down in the love seat, seeing as it had been left empty, perhaps on purpose. While everyone else gathered around and Darcy cued up some games on the big screen, Bruce idly stroked over the middle of his chest. Bruce’s marks on Tony were displayed for all to see, especially when he propped up his legs and showed off the fake Hulk tattoo that still stood out against the skin of his ankle. Tony’s mark on Bruce, however, was private and only for him – and he rather liked it that way.

He leaned over to brush a kiss against Tony’s neck, and got a quick, warm look cast his way in return before Darcy ordered them all to focus and play some version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. As could have been expected, Tony wiped the floor with the rest of them with his vast knowledge from pop-culture to everything else worth knowing. That was why J.A.R.V.I.S. eventually ran a cracked version of the game, Someone Who’s Already a Billionaire, beside the normal mode, its questions giving even Tony pause. Natasha ruled supreme after that, but no one dared to complain about it, and all in all, Bruce supposed this was as good as things would ever get in a company of superheroes and their various allies and friends: a step away from courting disaster, but still somehow managing to mimic normalcy.

to be continued…

Tags: character: betty ross, character: bruce banner / hulk, character: clint barton / hawkeye, character: darcy lewis, character: erik selvig, character: j.a.r.v.i.s., character: jane foster, character: natasha romanoff/black widow, character: steve rogers/captain america, character: thor, character: tony stark / iron man, fandom: avengers (mcu), series: turquoise

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