cog_nomen: (how many scientists does it take to scre)
[personal profile] cog_nomen
Title: How Many Scientists Does it Take to Screw in the Stark Tower?
Fandom: Avengers
Pairing: Tony Stark/Bruce Banner
Rating: PG, this part
Word Count: 1,925
Status: Chapter 3 of ?
Summary: Honestly, Bruce hadn't gone into this looking to form any lasting attachments - if he was honest with himself, he knew better.

Tony Stark's 'patio' is the only one in the city with a view like this. The weather is warm enough that Bruce doesn't regret not wearing a shirt, as he and Tony lounge in suspended weight chairs. Stark hands him a hefty cigar that's approximately half the size of a patriot missile.

"No smoking jacket?" Bruce asks, inspecting the cigar - he's never actually had one. It seems heavy, until he realizes the maker's band around it is actually metal. The date stamped in it is ten years past.

"Please," Tony says, tossing the metal band, and the secondary paper wrapper into the ash tray balanced on the table between them. He's poured drinks for both of them, too. "Smoke your hundred dollar cigar and deal with the smell in your clothes. This isn't the sixties."

"It's not-" Bruce starts, looking at the cigar again. That much, really?

"Cuban? No. Dominican - those are legal. The whole 'Cuban cigars are better' thing is a myth. People just want what they can't have." Tony applies a circular punch to the capped end of his cigar and then runs the other end over the steady, invisible flame of his fancy lighter.

Bruce shakes his head and hands his over for preparation. Tony arches his eyebrows mid-puff, and then just hands his cigar over. Bruce could hardly be squeamish about it at this point.

"Don't inhale it," Tony warns him, and Bruce laughs. It seems surreal.

"Don't you worry about, you know - cancer?" Bruce half-jokes, covering his own inexperience, as tony repeats the process a second time, then sits back. The picture of relaxation.

"With our line of work, you think I'm concerned about cancer? Bruce, if the alien invasions, a propulsor malfunction, or the shrapnel in my chest doesn't kill me first, then I'll quit and fund more research," Tony explains, around a mouthful of smoke. "And I've already heard some promising things from R&D. So - enjoy your cigar."

Bruce really has no argument for that. He has no basis for comparison except the occasional guilty cigarette when he was a student, and there really is no comparison. The cigar is surprisingly good - not harsh, like he expected, and so long as he doesn't try to breathe the smoke, it doesn't make him cough.

"I'd be more worried about Pepper, if she caught us smoking inside," Tony continues, as if he'd never stopped to light up. "A girl says she likes the smell, then kicks you out, right?"

Bruce startles. The casual reference caught him off-guard to something he's been trying to decide if it's rude to ask or not. He hasn't seen Pepper at all since his arrival and - well, what just happened makes that question seem a little more important.

"Speaking of," Bruce starts, after taking a bracing puff of cigar and almost having to cough it out. "Pepper...?"

Tony takes his meaning instantly, shining eyes telling Bruce that Tony's surprised he waited this long.

"Pepper? She took her share and decided to vacation the stress away in the Bahamas. 'Girls only' - which is why she took Happy, I guess," Tony pulls out his smart phone and slides his fingers over the screen, setting his cigar aside to trail smoke in the ash tray. "But, it's not exactly like I'm hiding all this from her. Hi, Pepper. Say 'hi' to Pepper, Bruce?"

"What?" Bruce asks, left behind. Mentally, he tries to calculate the current time in the Bahamas.

"Hi, Bruce," Pepper answers, warmly and sincerely. Without missing her stride. Bruce envies her seemingly effortless ability to keep up with Tony Stark. "Tony's taking care of you okay? Sorry I'm not there."

"I'm," Bruce starts -but it seems like he's not really expected to take any real part in the conversation.

"You are so not sorry - and we're doing great, Pepper, by the way. How's your vacation?"

"My twenty percent of a vacation?" Pepper answers, just as quickly as she was asked. Tony smiles, impressed by the sting.

"She talked me up from twelve," he tells Bruce, who feels bereft of any solid ground to stand on and collect his thoughts. "We miss you. Here. Bruce and I. What do you think about that?"

"Miss me all you want, Tony. I've got a week left - I'll see you and Bruce then."

"Are you sure it's not like, twenty percent of a week? Because that would be like one point four two days. Thirty four hours and eight minutes is not a lot of time to make sure there's enough good champagne for when you get back."

"Seven days, Tony," Pepper answers, probably about the only person who could get away with Tony's not so subtle hints and still stay in his good graces - in fact he almost seems to like her more for it. "See what you can do with a hundred and sixty eight hours. See you soon, too, Bruce."

"Have a good vacation, Miss Potts," is all Bruce can manage to add to the conversation, feeling like someone's spun him around at a birthday and told him to go hit the pinata.

Tony slides several controls on the touch screen of his phone to terminate the call. Jarvis had relayed the whole call over the invisible speakers that apparently extended even to the outside areas of the Stark tower, and assisted the responses with directional microphones, but the call had still originated on Stark's smartphone.

"That means she likes you," Tony coaches, helpfully. It gives Bruce a direction to start thinking in, anyway.

"I'm - what." Bruce isn't sure there's a possible response to that, so he rescues the drink Tony had poured for him, balancing his cigar in his other hand as he has a sip. It's a delay but it gives Bruce enough time to get his thoughts together. "How does any of what she said translate to 'it's okay you're having sex with my boyfriend'?"

"She'd have let you know to be gone if she didn't approve," Tony explains, leaning back in his chair again and looking deeply satisfied with his life. "Politely - you know - 'Sorry I'll miss you.' I think she's hoping for a threesome."

Bruce chokes on his drink and Tony enjoys the victory of his perfect timing with a self-satisfied chuckle. It takes time for Bruce to get his thoughts back together - though he does briefly indulge his imagination - and he decides finally that until he hears otherwise from Pepper, he's not going to let Tony Stark speak for her wishes.

"Was there a point to all that?" Bruce asks at last, though he knows he should probably feel foolish for having to ask, holding things over Bruce is at least not one of Tony's bad habits.

"The point, Bruce," Tony says, affectionately, as if he'd been waiting for the question. His voice is warm and content, and he forms his words around mouthfuls of smoke. "Is that you're welcome here. There's nothing about this or us to feel guilty about or ashamed of. Though if you go all National Enquirer on me, we might have an issue."

Bruce laughs, and then after a moment, he remembers that things weren't - couldn't be as normal as all that. He's grateful to Tony for giving him the opportunity to forget, even for a minute or two. They could pretend to be normal, maybe for a week, or for a month, and he was glad for that much but - "I don't think they'd even believe me, Tony."

"Don't," Tony says, just like that. "Everything isn't over forever, no matter how it feels right now - though I hope I haven't been treating you that badly."

"It's not - it's hardly that," Bruce starts, and finds it harder to continue with Stark's full attention on him. "It's just - how is it okay for me to even try to be... okay?"

"You seem to be doing pretty well, all that fatalism aside," Tony answers, realizing he needs to move his gaze. He looks back at the view and the pressure of his attention eases off of Bruce, even though he knows Tony is still listening. "Maybe for the rest of the world - normal people, I mean. I doubt the planet gives a crap. I have seen some weird shit though, so maybe. What they have to see for them to understand it's alright is for you to be alright. You can only pay penance for so long before you have to change it up and pay it forward."

Tony gives Bruce a wry smile, sidelong, and then puts his mouth with deliberate suggestion on his cigar to take a big puff before continuing.

"A legacy is given to you. Your future you get to pick." Tony seems extremely pleased with himself. "I bet that sounds great in Latin. Jarvis?"

"Yes, sir?" The computer wakes - if it was ever really not paying attention, which Bruce doubts.

"Translate that to Latin." Tony orders, and Jarvis acknowledges, probably waking some Latin professor at this unconscionably late hour to confirm what the program automatically generated.

"Tony," Bruce speaks up, "The problem is that my past - my not so much past. The other guy is still here, and he can still wake up at any point, and when he does-"

"He listened to Rodgers," Stark cuts off Bruce's statement, and for a moment, that irritates Bruce. But - Tony lets him speak when he's genuinely revealing something. This was just another warning, another stay of attachment.

"Why?" Tony is asking him, when Bruce lets his irritation go with a sigh - it didn't help to hold on to it.

"Tony, that's not-"

"Don't dismiss it. You don't like it when people dismiss your actions. Maybe the other guy doesn't care for it, either." Tony exhales smoke, examines the ash on the end of his cigar. "Why'd he listen to Rodgers? Was it the spangly suit? His fantastic ass? Was he hypnotized by the useless zippers in every place but where he'd need a zipper?"

"No one's ever asked the other guy to do something important before," Bruce realizes - and well, of course not! Getting the Hulk to stand still and listen wasn't really possible under normal circumstances - yet, when the opportunity had been there... he had.

"I don't know how he relieves himself," Tony continues, apparently still ruminating on Captain America's groin. Bruce wouldn't bet money on Tony having missed what he'd said, however. Bruce plays dumb, tries to monkey-wrench Tony's train of thought.

"The other guy? He just goes where he wants, like those old four hundred pound gorilla jokes."

"Captain America," Tony corrects, unnecessarily.

"I don't know how you go to the bathroom," Bruce realizes.

"Ask me again on my birthday." Tony answers - and there's a story there, Bruce is sure, but he's not sure that he wants it.

"I'd never really thought about it," Bruce starts, hoping Tony might forget the whole thing.

"Rodger's ass? Good." Tony says, stubbing out his cigar and giving Bruce a look that said 'two can play the thought-sabotage game'. "I get jealous."

"Sir?" Jarvis interrupts the conversation, politely. "Tibi legatum est. Tibi ad colligunt futura."
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