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The Proper Care and Feeding of Mad Scientists

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1. Make sure your mad scientist is properly nourished. For this particular breed, sometimes the difference between using one’s science for good and being a menace to society is a full stomach.

 

It started on a Monday, when Clint and Steve crossed paths in the hallway. Clint was carrying a bowl of soup up to Bruce’s lab and happened to glance at what the captain held in his hands.

“I thought you hated whole wheat bread, man.” It had been a point of interest one Sunday afternoon when Steve had explained he’d grown up on Wonder bread and anything else just didn’t taste right.

“It’s for Tony,” Steve said, shifting his stance almost imperceptibly.

“Ah.” Clint demonstrably raised the bowl of soup. “Bruce.”

“Oh. Good. How’s he doing?”

“He hasn’t left his lab in eight hours, so. Gonna go shove this down his throat before he passes out.”

“Tony’s been down in his lab just as long. You think they’re competing?”

“Ha. You’d think. But Bruce isn’t much for competition.” Clint crossed his arms, careful not to spill the soup. “So. Is this something we need to talk about?”

“Their lab time? I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.”

Clint shook his head. “Not exactly what I meant. What I was talking about is, as far as I’m concerned, what we do in our spare time is our own business, right?”

“Sure, I guess.” Steve wrinkled his brow thoughtfully. “Are you referring to something specific?”

“Well, you’re dating Tony, so I guess I just assumed it was all right if I made a move on Bruce, but who the hell knows what SHIELD will have to say about that, right?”

Steve turned bright red and sputtered. “We’re not—Tony and I—how did you know?”

Clint stared at him for a second and then started to laugh. “Oh, you’re kidding me, right? What, did you think that was some kind of secret? Oh god, this is—you’re really something else, let me tell you.”

Steve took a moment to let the flush pass over his face before saying, “Does everyone know?”

“Well, mostly,” Clint answered, composing himself. “But no one cares, so no worries, yeah?”

“Well, if you say so…”

“Okay, okay, listen. Now you’re making me feel bad. Forget I said anything. I’m gonna get this to Bruce before it gets too cold and he has to reheat it over a Bunsen burner.”

“Okay. I’ll just—“

“Don’t worry. Catch you later, Cap.”

 

2. The mad scientist is often a solitary creature. To avoid yours becoming a complete recluse, take them out to socialize with other mad scientists.

 

“I’m not sure a double date is a good idea,” Bruce pointed out as Clint went through his dresser, haphazardly throwing clothes on the bed.

“Don’t you own any t-shirts?” Clint complained, ignoring Bruce’s comment. It was an excellent idea, if he did say so himself. Mostly because it had been his idea, and he’d be damned before he’d concede to being wrong about it.

The thing was, he’d had a talk with Steve (after they’d gotten over the slight hurdle of awkwardness inherent in knowing who was dating who) mainly about how Steve wanted to be able to connect with the rest of the team, and had been having a particularly hard time getting Bruce in the same space as he was, let alone getting to talk to the other man.

“I thought you said we were going to dinner. Shouldn’t I wear something more formal?”

“We’re just getting pizza. Aha!” Clint triumphantly held out a plain purple t-shirt. “Put this on. I knew you had something casual.”

“Pizza? I like pizza,” Bruce said thoughtfully as he pulled off the dress shirt he was wearing and put on the t-shirt. Clint took the opportunity to glance at his chest. It was very nice, and Bruce had the unfortunate habit of wearing clothes that left too much to the imagination, in Clint’s opinion.

The pizza place had been a concession on Tony’s part, because Steve and Clint had argued that they were trying to make Bruce comfortable, and Tony’s standard pull-out-all-the-stops method of dating was hardly going to serve that purpose.

“Are you sure this is all right?” Bruce asked, tugging self-consciously at his collar.

“It’s great. You look great.” Clint grabbed Bruce’s hand, threading their fingers together.

Bruce looked over at him through dark eyelashes and squeezed his hand. “I don’t know what we’ll talk about the whole time,” he said, sighing half-heartedly and letting Clint drag him downstairs.

“What are they talking about?” Clint asked Steve, two hours later as Bruce and Tony ignored their respective partners and continued an animated discussion about theoretical science-y god-knows-what.

Steve smiled, shrugged, and snagged another piece of pizza from the center of the table.

 

3. Your mad scientist may, at times, believe that they are capable of surviving without sleep. Do not believe them.

 

“What are you two doing?” Steve asked, frowning at the scene in front of him. Since their double date, Tony and Bruce had started working together frequently. Clint and Steve were still trying to figure out whether or not this was a good thing.

Currently, Tony was hooked up to a strange-looking machine with a lot of wires while Bruce typed out data.

Clint opened the door to Tony’s lab a moment later, gaping at the both of them. “What the hell…?”

“Hi, Clint,” Bruce murmured distractedly, not taking his eyes from the screen.

“It’s three in the morning, babe. Wanna tell me what you’re doing?” Clint would like to say that Stark was being a bad influence, but he knew it wasn’t true. Bruce was secretly just as single-minded when it came to his experiments. The two of them had started to get along like a house on fire, and they were just as dangerous.

“It’s nothing,” Tony said just as Bruce mumbled something about electrodes.

“Tony,” Steve said in his stern I-mean-business leader voice.

“Steve,” Tony answered, sharing a look with him.

“Listen, this will go a lot faster if you both come over and lend a hand,” Bruce said, still typing away. That was the thing about Bruce. All his anger-management tended to make him the voice of conflict resolution. It also tended to let him get his way, more often than not. Or maybe Clint and Steve were just huge pushovers for their boyfriends.

To be honest, Clint thought, the second thing was likely the case, as they both made their way over to help.

 

4. Despite what this handy guide has advocated thus far, your mad scientist may need some time alone. Let your mad scientist have space in their natural habitat when necessary.

 

“You just got recruited,” Clint said, throwing a Wii remote at Steve, who caught it automatically.

Steve grinned. “Where’s Bruce?” he asked as he sat down on the couch next to Clint.

“Working. I think I was starting to get in his way, actually. And it’s not like he’ll just yell at me to get out of his lab, you know? So I kinda took the hint.”

“Tony’s working on his suit.”

“Ah.” That was self-explanatory.

“I’m not playing Wii archery with you, Clint.”

“Aww, c’mon. You’re no fun.”

 

5. Don’t think your efforts have gone unnoticed by your mad scientist. They may seem guarded with their affections at first glance, but mad scientists are highly capable and passionate individuals.

 

Clint walked into the kitchen just as Tony and Steve broke apart from their kiss. Steve looked a little guilty while Tony merely looked pleased with himself.

“Aw, did I ruin your moment? Sorry guys,” Clint said with a grin. He grabbed an apple off the counter and headed back out of the room. “I’ll just leave you to it.”

He went back to his room, fully intended to flop down on his bed. It was a rare ‘day off’, which meant that, barring emergencies, which were more common than not, he had some time to himself.

He wasn’t expecting to find Bruce there, pacing the floor and looking pensive.

“Hey,” Clint said casually, tossing his apple from one hand to the other. “What’s up?”

Bruce took a deep breath, walked up to him, and kissed him on the lips.

“Oh,” Clint said when Bruce pulled back, apparently to study his reaction. He set the apple down on his dresser and pulled Bruce back into his arms. They’d been taking things slow, but Clint wasn’t about to say no to an impromptu make-out session. He held him close and kissed him back, soft and slow.

 

END