cog_nomen: (black sabbath)
[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: G, this part.
Word Count: 1,461
Status: Chapter 6 of ?
Summary: Honestly, Bruce hadn't gone into this looking to form any lasting attachments - if he was honest with himself, he knew better.
Author's Note: This chapter is shorter, but otherwise between this and the next it was just going to be huge, so I split it here. Also I am writing a separate but related fic for the Golf parts, so that's why I'm slowing down.



They meet Pepper's helicopter on the roof while Bruce pretends that his hips, thighs, and the muscles at the small of his back - conversely, everything but his shoulders - aren't embarrassingly sore. Tony's magnetic necklace worked, it seemed. Even if it did shift in an extremely suggestive way every time he and Tony got close, making Bruce even more aware of his presence.

"Welcome back to 'aa' tower Pepper," Tony greets her expansively, openly warm. "Now that the majority shareholder has returned, I hope we can start a few more repairs."

"Leave the Loki dent," Pepper says, looking at Bruce with a pointed and welcoming smile over Tony's shoulder as they embrace, quickly. "It's a nice touch."

"Sure. We can put a rug over it."

Bruce shoves his hands in his pockets, not sure what wheel he should really feel like. He's about to stammer some kind of apology for still being here when Pepper lets go of tony and moves straight for him next. The hug she greets Bruce with falls on him unexpected - but hardly unwelcome, and he manages an embarrassed chuckle.

"Thank you," she tells him, as he jerks his hands out of his pockets awkwardly and tries to find someplace polite to put them - Pepper's dress is open in the back, so her bare shoulders seem like they should be off limits, but putting his hands around her middle seems too intimate. He curls his hands around her upper arms instead.

"For - what? Redecorating?" he asks, perplexed.

She laughs and gives him a squeeze. Pepper is stronger than she looks, in both simple physicality and personality. When she draws back and doesn't entirely let go, Bruce looks helplessly at Tony.

"For saving the planet," she elaborates. "And Tony. Mostly the planet, though."

Tony play-acts his injury at her false priority behind her back, in the corner of Bruce's field of view. Just like that, Bruce is one of the family.

"I had a little help with the planet," Bruce admits. Pepper smiles and starts to pick up her bag, but Tony beats her to it.

"Victoria Potts-" Tony starts to introduce them, belatedly.

"Pepper," she insists, curling one hand through Tony's crooked arm, and the other under Bruce's elbow as they walk.

"Doctor Bruce Banner," Tony finishes.

"A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Potts," Bruce tells her, sincerely. He isn't sure yet if this is going to work, but right now, mostly due to Pepper's total openness and lack of reserve - two reasons she obviously complimented Tony Stark - he felt okay to try. He's - well, Bruce knows he'll have to be careful. It hurts, in a dangerous way, to think he might have to break this off already, especially after Tony's gone so far out of his way. It's a warning sign, but not the point of no return, yet. He's going to need to talk about it, which might break what seemed to be the Tony standard of letting things go on implied understanding without putting terms to anything.

Bruce's barrier walls are slowly coming down and while he may have been stricter with himself than was absolutely necessary, at first it was what he'd needed. When Tony's hand slides companionably around Bruce's shoulders, he feels - exposed. Unstable. But the truth was, most people eventually learned to ride without training wheels. The difference, Bruce allows, is that most people didn't level a city block when they fell off the bike.

"How was your vacation?" Bruce asks, when they're inside and finally disengaged. Tony drops Pepper's luggage in a corner and goes for the bar.

"Not as isolated as I'd hoped." Pepper's answer is cryptic, but her glance at Tony is implicit, along with her smile. "But a nice change of pace. Sunny, you know. Worried about aliens."

"I only called you like - twice. A day." Tony answers her implied accusation without looking up from opening the bottle. "Except Tuesday. Tuesday was a bad day."

"We had the windows put back in," Pepper explains, possibly for Bruce's benefit. Bruce remembers, anyway.

"Yeah," Tony agrees. "And I have an issue with unexpected people in my space." Tony pours three glasses with a grimace. "A memo would have been nice."

"I sent two," Pepper laughs. "I'm not going to send you a reminder of what day of the week it actually is. Maybe listen to Jarvis a little more."

"I never ignore Jarvis," Tony says, defensively, as he puts Pepper's glass down on the table at her elbow. She's kicking off her shoes to go comfortably barefoot. "Sometimes I put him on mute."

Pepper makes an 'exactly' gesture while she drinks her champagne, without making any bigger issue out of it. Tony places Bruce's glass where he can reach it, and then settles in, lord and master of the room (and the entire 'aa' tower, Bruce would admit.) Bruce is positive that his inactivity will last less than five minutes total, and from the corner of his eye he sees Pepper glancing at her watch as if in a similar wager with herself.

"Sir," Jarvis is the first to interrupt, just when Bruce is toying nervously with his glass in the silence that seems comfortable for two of them, anyway. "I'm supposed to remind you-"

"Mute," Tony's absent voice cuts Jarvis short. His attention is drifting to some other idea while he watches the late afternoon settle over the city through the grudgingly replaced windows. He's at least going through the motions of drinking, but Bruce recognizes his wandering mind. Whenever Tony's truly content, he seems to become inspired as well.

"Tony, did you remember to pick your suit up from the dry-cleaner for Saturday?" Pepper asks, looking down at the miniaturized display Jarvis has mapped onto the table by her hand. Bruce admires the intelligence programmed into the machine - it seemed to know how to work around Tony by using his surroundings - and friends.

"Um," Tony says, dragging his eyes and attention back from the scaffoldings covering the surrounding blocks. "No. I have a lot of suits. Is this an important suit?"

Bruce tries to remember what Saturday is. He's actually in the process of fishing his cell phone out of his pocket to see if he's kept a note, when he realizes it could easily be something related to Stark Industries. Or maybe not - Pepper's expression is actually disappointed.

"Saturday," she prompts again, helpfully. Tony actually checks his watch and appears to do a little mental math.

"The funeral," he remembers, at length.

"The funeral, yes." Pepper agrees.

"The-?" Bruce is about to ask, but he realizes, belatedly. S.H.I.E.L.D. is one man down, which with all the other casualties could have been a lot worse. He has a brief memory of snatching a pilot's ejector seat out of midair on a plummeting jet - and letting it go again after a supreme effort of will. The body count could have easily been a lot higher, given how easily Loki had turned them all against each other.

"I'll get the suit tomorrow," Tony promises, his tone soft to the point of apology.

"I'll get the suit," Pepper answers tiredly. "Bruce, do you need anything pressed while I'm there? The Chaus are used to Mr. Stark's ridiculous rush orders by now."

"Uh," Bruce says, doing a mental inventory of clothes he's in possession of - mostly borrowed. "I'll have to pick something up."

He's not sure that what's in his bank account will support anything more pricey or fashionable than what he can get from Wal-Mart, and even that might be a stretch, but he wants to at least do his best. For this, it was worth it. He's gotten used to second hand and hand-me-downs, but that seemed disrespectful.

"I have a tailor," Tony informs him cheerfully, like he's been waiting for the opportunity.

"Tomorrow's Friday," Bruce protests, embarrassed to have to rely so heavily on Tony's generosity.

"She's a very good tailor," Tony promises. Bruce believes it, with the way Tony always looks in his suits. It still seems like more than he should ask, and troublesome that he should have to ask at all, even if Tony goes out of his way to make it seem like no trouble at all. Bruce is totally out of his world here, and Tony is trying not to remind him, but sometimes it slips. In the end, something about the appraising way Tony's looking at him, and Pepper's tolerant eye roll, makes Bruce relent. He does finish the rest of his champagne - it makes his pride a little easier to swallow, when he washes it down with Clos d'Ambronnay.
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