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Title: How Many Scientists Does it Take to Screw in the Stark Tower?
Fandom: Avengers
Pairing: Tony Stark/Bruce Banner
Rating: M, this part.
Word Count: 1,906
Status: Chapter 9 of 9
Summary: Honestly, Bruce hadn't gone into this looking to form any lasting attachments - if he was honest with himself, he knew better.

Bruce recovers fast. Pepper wakes him with a handful of protein bars and a big cup of chicken soup. It'll be enough to get him on his feet again, so he accepts it gratefully and tries not to eat like a ravenous animal.

"I didn't know if you had to sleep it off, or if I should wake you sooner," Pepper apologizes. "Tony's okay. Bruised ribs and he broke two fingers on his right hand, but other than that and some scrapes - and you know, half killing us with worry - he's okay. He wouldn't go to the hospital."

"They're sure the ribs aren't broken?" Bruce asks, around a mouthful of Luna bar. He wants to check on Tony himself but he needs to eat and rehydrate first. Passing out on top of Tony wouldn't make things any better. Or maybe it would- Bruce gets the feeling bed rest is something that Tony's not capable of.

"They're sure enough for Tony," Pepper laughs, looking Bruce over to be sure she'ssatisfied with his recovery. "But I trust them. And I trust him. Kind of. We'll keep him off his feet between the two of us, right?"

Bruce laughs. "I feel overestimated."

"Yeah. Well," Tony's voice interrupts Pepper's answer, and she turns around in obvious disapproval to glare in his direction. "You should, seeing as I'm already putting you to shame, old man. Are you going to come upstairs any time soon or have you decided you like the Feng Shui down here better?"

Obviously nothing's wrong with Tony's voice, but he is looking pretty intensely at Bruce. Tony seems satisfied with his health. Bruce feels better - a lot better - just to see Tony undamaged except for a thickly bandaged hand and wrapped ribs.

"So what were you doing down here?" Bruce asks, getting carefully to his feet. He glances at Pepper, trying to keep himself as modest as possible. She doesn't seem the least bit scandalized. Bruce guesses she's probably used to worse, living with Tony Stark.

"Nothing that should have caused this." Tony answers, and he sounds ilke he's telling the truth. "Actually it turns out that when Thor comes and hammers all over your building - not a metaphor - it's going to weaken the structure a little bit. Lucky for me I designed this place to channel that sort of force, you know down into a more stable floor."

Bruce arches his eyebrows, uncertain how the result here could be called 'lucky'.

"Anyway, I created a concussive blast to test a new set of shock absorbers, and the whole thing just kind of - had too much. Like Mel Gibson on a Sunday morning. Thanks for pulling Dummy out, by the way. That was you, right?"

"Yeah, I - somehow," Bruce answers, not sure how that happened or how to explain it.

"So everyone's fine. I'll fix Dummy when the fun drugs have worn off. Or - we'll see." Tony glances at his injured hand. "Let's go upstairs. I have a bed that's bigger than some studio apartments."

Bruce has slept in it, and it's not an inaccurate assessment. He gets what Tony means, though. There's enough room for three, and maybe enough need, too.

The next week is a bit of a blur. Bruce hardly has time to wonder how he's going to fit more permanently into this picture - and if he is, if that's what Tony really intends, he's too busy already living it. Between Tony making Happy drag a recliner onto the roof so he could supervise Bruce's golf practice without rousing any protests that he should be resting and Pepper patiently but insistently teaching him the ins and outs of Stark Tower as 'home' instead of 'visiting', Bruce can barely protest.

Pepper was right about one thing - convalescent Tony was a lot more permissable. She and Bruce both have taken advantage of his malleability - mostly just to take care of him. It's only toward the end of the week that Bruce decides he's going to take better advantage of Tony's un-protested invalidity.

He pulls the project out of Tony's hands - yes the arc reactor's replacement was important, but Bruce was helping him and it'd get done before the palladium levels in Tony's bloodstream were too dangerous, even with this interruption. Tony's expression says he allows the interruption to his work only out of extreme fondness.

"So," Bruce says, and Tony smiles nervously, like he knows what's coming. "Let's talk."

Bruce knows he's being sort of heavy handed, asking Tony to settle into something more defined, or at least to play with a few more cards on the table.

"We're talking," Tony agrees, paying real attention. "About-?"

"This. Uh, how this is going to work."

Tony waits. He has am amazing amount of patience, rather than going off on a tangent or making a guess as to which of the many things Bruce realizes he could be talking about.

"Between you and me and Pepper," Bruce elaborates, crawling up onto the bed and settling over Tony's lap. It's awkward, since Tony's reclined halfway up the headboard, and Bruce has to push the magnifying lamp Tony had pulled out on it's extendable arm back out of the way. He's careful of Tony's ribs, but he still has to resettle his weight further down when he feels Tony pull in a pained breath.

"Okay," Tony says, "Well, we have options."

Tony's eyes evade Bruce's and lift toward the ceiling thoughtfully. "There's the bad ending where you head back to India or wherever because, well, the sex is too fantastic or something, and leave me here pining away like Rapunzel and singing numbers from depressing musicals until Pepper finally snaps and murders me with a pair of safety scissors."

Bruce lets him go on talking, even if he admires Tony's ability to keep a running train of thought as Bruce undoes his pants. Tony's hands start to come up to either protest or help, and Bruce firmly pushes them down to Tony's sides, then presses on the backs of his wrists in clear instruction not to move them. He's not sure under what penalty.

"I thought we were talking," Tony says, sounding a little surprised but not protesting.
"We are. This is the part where you talk and I listen," Bruce prompts him.

"So we're multitasking. Okay." Tony groans when Bruce closes his hand around Tony's cock and strokes slowly. His voice goes up a little in pitch as he continues. "Then there's always the option where you stay here with Pepper and I - which is probably still on the table, you know. In a sort of - tantric - sense. We both understand that there's the theory-"

Tony hesitates at the long swipe of Bruce's tongue against the head of his dick, which Bruce enjoys. He likes knowing that it's not his problem that Tony could just keep talking through this. He gives Tony a pause to continue in, and Tony licks his lips and puts his thoughts back together.

"The theory of danger. And we'll be ready for it. But I don't think the solution is in being ready to kill the Hulk - you - or stop him at all costs. Maybe it's just being ready to work with him, now that you're both a bit more mature. Which - by the way, the salt and pepper hair thing? Driving me crazy right now. Seriously about the hottest thing ever."

Bruce is giving Tony about the best view he's going to get of the top of his head, and possibly Tony's perceptions are a little colored by the fact that Bruce has Tony's cock in his mouth. Tony's fingers curl in Bruce's hair appreciatively, and Bruce draws back quickly, giving Tony a pointed look. Tony's eyes open, and he realizes he'd lifted a hand against 'orders', and grins daringly.

"Maybe if you tied them?" He suggests, almost hopefully, as he passes his fingers against Bruce's cheek and then puts his hand back down onto the covers. "But if anyone can make it work, it's us I think. I mean, I have confidence in my own abilities, of course. And you're a genius too so - whenever you have an idea, bam, you're right where you can make it happen."

Bruce appreciates the sentiment, but he's not sure how to tell if Tony actually means it. How long is Tony Stark's attention span? Bruce isn''t sure he'll feel this way in a year, let alone ten. Not after spending all that time with the threat, however minimal Tony seems to think it is, right there next to him. Next to Pepper, too. Because however careless Tony is with his own skin, Bruce knows he doesn't feel that way about Pepper.

"Are those the only options?" Bruce asks, his hand sliding easily over the length of Tony's erection with slick ease. Tony looks pained, like the next one is something he's not fond of considering.

"Or you get your feet back under you and move out into a decent apartment and get on with your life as a moderately well adjusted superhero. You continue to help the Avengers be a huge success - because face it we need the guy who can sneeze off space lasers and play jump-rope with a god. You decide you don't really need my kind of influence in your life, that's okay. I'm still going to keep the Loki dent. Pepper likes it."

Tony concludes, but the way his eyes slide away and his tone drops is heartbreaking. It's as close to pathetic as Tony ever gets, even though the words are delivered with humorous encouragement, like if that's what Bruce wants for his life, Tony will fight with all his strength to make it happen.

"Why?" Bruce asks, not understanding how this had come so far, so seriously. "Why all this for me?"

"Because," Tony says, and then seems frustrated with words. He curls his hands around the back of Bruce's head and pulls him up the length of his body and kisses him, fiercely, as if that was answer enough. Bruce feels the scratch of bandages against his neck from Tony's hand.. "You are fucking worth it, Bruce Banner. And I think with all the shit life handed you, you forget it. So I want to remind you, like, every day. How do you feel about text messages and voice-mail?"

Bruce laughs.

"Morse code? Skywriting? Bronze statues? Singing telegram? I could have Justin Bieber himself on your doorstep tomorrow-"


"Okay, yeah. Sorry. I'm a little giddy. All my blood's like-"

Bruce wraps his hand around where it's gone between them. Tony groans, and shifts - not quite arching out of consideration for his ribs - and tries to keep his focus. His grip on Bruce's shoulders tightens for a moment.

"You're killing me, here. So what's this - a yes? An apology?"

Bruce hesitates, just to keep Tony guessing, but he makes his answer more clear with better application of his mouth, looking up to speak just before he closes it back around Tony's cock.

"I'll think about it."
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