There were worse things to be doing on a Friday night while the rest of your team was out celebrating. There were definitely worse ways to spend the start of your weekend, like having Tony Stark cart you around to everyone he knows (which is everyone, it really is) and when he's not introducing you to everyone on the planet who happens to be at the party he's poking and proding and examining you to see if you can handle another round of stress. Yes, there were definitely worse ways to be spending a Friday night than being stuck at Avengers Tower in front of a steak you just finished preparing for yourself.
If there were worse ways to spend Friday night... why was he so damned miserable about it?
The steak was good, just right and just the way he liked it, but Bruce was imagining the cocktail weenies he could've been having while wearing an imaginably uncomfortable tuxedo . He was picturing the wine he'd have to turn down, the champagne he'd have to ignore, because the last thing he needed was a slip up in the control department (and he was still a very angry drunk who didn't need to encourage a recovering alcoholic to jump off the wagon). No, a meal alone in Avengers tower was probably the best thing he could be doing. When he realized he'd been holding the steak knife and the fork and staring instead of continuing to eat, he sighed and sat the utensils down. There was nothing preferable about his evening's options except for the simple fact that he'd keep the green rage monster from damaging even more property. Or worse... people.
“You wouldn't believe the amount of stupidity that was choking me at the party.” He wasn't expecting Tony to come waltzing in, straddle the chair across from him, and start stealing his steak. “This is really good.”
Tony had lost his coat somewhere between the tower entrance and his emergence from the elevator onto the main commons floor, his bow tie haphazardly draped around his shoulders as if the man forgot how to tie it and couldn't be bothered. He looked fidgety but didn't smell of alcohol. Fidgety without even a hint of bubbly usually meant it was a bit too much for him and he found a frivolous excuse to leave. “You gonna eat that?”
Bruce was trying his best (and failing) to keep a straight face as he pushed the plate towards him. “You didn't bring me any cocktail weenies,” he pointed out. “I shouldn't give you any.”
“I see that plate still moving towards me.” Tony pulled it the rest of the way and stole the utensils before Bruce could change his mind. “I'm firing the cook. You're hired.”
“Right, I'll get on that in between science stuff.”
“I'll build you a stove inside the lab.”
“Oh yeah, maybe I can accidentally make some gamma steaks.”
Tony chewed and nodded and even stole the glass of water in front of Bruce to wash down the mouthful of food. “You even make a good cup of water.”
Bruce sat back with an unstoppable smile. “My secret is that I pull the lever up gently and slightly to the right.” He grabbed a piece of steak Tony just cut between his fingers. “Not too cold, not too hot.”
Bruce wasn't sure how long they stared at each other before the silence provoked his mouth open. “Too much alcohol?”
Tony shook his head and let his gaze drop back to his hands as they cut another piece of steak. “Not enough you. Want another piece?”
The words sunk. “You can't just say it like that, like it's a byproduct of an afterthought you had between one bite and the next.”
“Sure I can.” They were back to staring again, Tony's matter-of-fact-with-many-blinks gaze meeting Bruce's steeled and unmovable glare. “You weren't there, I got annoyed, when the urge to drink started rising, I told everyone I had a sudden need to science and left. See? I did it again. Bite?”
Bruce stared at the fork that waved in his direction with a piece of meat on it. “I guess you did, but that's not how-”
“That's how I work.”
“I guess it is.” When he reached for it, the fork moved back at Tony's command. He attempted the swap several times before he realized Tony meant for him to take it in a specific way. Awkwardly and slightly hesitant, Bruce finally leaned forward and used his mouth to take the steak.
“How do you work?” Tony was busy cutting steak again, not giving Bruce eye contact until the emotion charged question was 100% asked and there was no going back. “Do you have byproducts of afterthoughts about me or do you just say to yourself damn it, Tony is a pain in the ass and yet I'm insufferably lonely when he's not here?”
Bruce sat back and laughed again, unsure if he was more amused than dumbfounded by half the things that came out of Tony's mouth. “I'm currently wondering why I am so intrigued by you when you are usually the most annoying person I know.”
“When you tell me how much you care, I get butterflies in my stomach. And what do you mean, usually the most annoying?” As if that was a thing to get competitive over, Tony stopped all eating and cutting of meat and looked up as he awaited an answer as to who dared to rival him for Bruce's complete attention.
Bruce shook his head and laughed again. “Sometimes Barton is a pain, but not like you- … are you seriously getting jealous of the five minutes a day Barton does a thing and I get more annoyed than normal? Not the same.”
He stole his water back but didn't move his gaze off Tony. Tony Stark was a very intriguing science experiment. When complemented in a way he didn't have means to use as a faux ego boost or when you caught him being human, he had a two second delay in his brain's wiring. He sort of froze like a deer in headlights. Most people didn't catch it. He'd perfected the art over the course of his life. Bruce, on the other hand, knew it for what it was right away and Tony was once again annoyed that he'd been caught in the act.
“I hate it when you do that.”
“You love it when I do that.”
Another two seconds. “You owe me.”
Bruce gestured to his plate. “You ate my dinner.”
Tony got up from the chair and twirled it around so it sat under the table properly. “Chinese? They deliver. We don't even have to put on pants.”
Bruce got up, against what he told himself was his better judgment even though he was fast to disagree with himself when he saw Tony unbuttoning his shirt as he walked towards the elevators. “But we have on-” And there went Tony's pants as he disappeared through the opened elevator doors. “Ok, so no pants... hold the door, Stark!”