”What kind of pillow do you prefer?” Pepper asked. ”These are down pillows, but if you don't like that, we have those foam ones too.”
”He can't have mine,” Tony shouted from the bathroom, the water running. “I just got the pillow shaped right. His big head will ruin it.”
“Please, pick any you like,” Pepper said, piling the pillows on the bed, ignoring Tony. She pointed at one in the maroon pillowcase and smiled. “That's Tony's. Pick that one, let's see if he even notices.”
Bruce smiled hesitantly and pushed his glasses up his nose, trying to think how to ask a question on his mind without sounding rude.
“So I'm sleeping here? With you?”
“It's a big bed,” Pepper said. “How do you like the duvet? Light or warm? I'll get extra blankets, just in case.”
“It's fine, you don't have to...” Bruce started to answer, but Pepper had already vanished in the walk-in closet. Tony came from the bathroom, smelling like toothpaste and soap, his pajama bottoms drooping on his hips. He held his t-shirt in his hand and Bruce couldn't help but stare at the arch reactor in his chest. He hadn't seen it clearly like this. Tony pulled the t-shirt over his head and tugged the hem straight.
“You didn't take my pillow, did you? I like that one, doesn't cause that annoying crick in your neck, you know? Now, let's get you something to wear. You can't sleep in your clothes, Pepper is fussy about the linen. Strange. Right? I don't know what's up with that,” he said, walking past him and patting his arm. He went to the walk-in after Pepper and Bruce heard them talk and laugh quietly, the drawers banging open and closed as they searched things they thought he needed.
Bruce shifted on his feet, considering if he should leave after all. He had slept on the street before, it wasn't that bad. Then again, the weather reports had promised rain. He looked at the pillows in their crisp pillowcases, all different patterns but color coordinated, matching the covers and sheets. Everything else in this place was expensive, full of design items, so it wasn't surprising that their bed was the same.
Real down pillows. He didn't remember when he had last slept on down pillows. Before he could make up his mind, they returned to the room. Tony handed a stack of clothes to him.
“Here. Trash metal, should make you sleep like a baby.”
“Megadeth. The t-shirt. The band is...”
“I'll get you something else,” Pepper said and dropped the folded blankets on the bed. “He has dozens and dozens of plain t-shirts, but he still insisted giving you the one with a weird skull on it.”
“It's a neat shirt!”
“I don't mind,” Bruce said. “Thank you. Can I use your...” he nodded toward the bathroom.
“Yes, of course! I'll show you where everything is,” Pepper said. “And you, go to bed. No backtalk.”
Bruce turned to follow her, but he still caught the face Tony made to her back. He bit his lip to hide his laughter.
“Here we go,” Pepper said, holding the door open for him. “There are the showers, and around the corner are the bathtubs. Fresh towels in there, and here is a whole range of bath products, use what you want. Toothbrushes and paste here. Whole bunch of different kinds because Tony is so fussy about them. I have no idea what's up with that.”
Bruce looked around, trying to take in everything. The bathroom was spacious, with gleaming tiles and soft light, designer faucets and sinks. He was ready to bet that Pepper had planned every detail in here, and Tony hadn't had any say.
“Come tell us if you need something,” Pepper said and turned to leave.
“Ms. Potts, are you sure you don't want me to sleep somewhere else? The sofa in the den is fine for me, or the floor, or...”
“Sofa? No no. It's beautiful, but terribly uncomfortable. You can leave your clothes there, the maid will see them washed,” Pepper said, and opened the door. “Oh, and please call me Pepper.”
“Thank you Pepper,” he said. She smiled at him, before closing the door behind her.
Bruce took a quick shower and even though he tried to choose the plainest soap possible, he still ended up smelling like some exotic fruit. Papaya, or mango. The towels were thick and soft, and he used two for the luxury of it. He picked a toothpaste in random. It tasted like lemon, which he didn't expect, but it was nice. He left his clothes where Pepper had said to leave them, and took the clothing Tony had handed to him.
The t-shirt did have a skull on it, the band name faded but still readable. The shirt had been washed so many times that the cotton was soft, comfortable. Bruce pulled the shirt over his head. It was odd that Tony had kept a faded t-shirt, instead getting a new one. Unless it meant something. Bruce looked at the mirror. The shirt looked ridiculous on him, but he still liked it.
There was pajama pants too, and pair of underwear in a box. He opened it and pulled the underwear out. They were red, which made perfect sense to him. He didn't know what to think of it, but he put them on anyway. The fabric was amazing, he had never had underwear like this. He snatched the pajama pants and pulled them on, tightening the string at the waist. The pants were too big, and Bruce was acutely aware that he wore bright red underwear that peaked over the waistline. He was sure Tony would have tons of comments about this. He straightened the hem of the t-shirt and hoped for the best.
He poked around the control pad at the door, until he managed to shut most of the lights, and he opened the door to return back to the bedroom. Pepper sat on the bed, legs crossed, listening Tony explain something. He laid on his back, hands waving as he talked. Pepper looked up and smiled at him, then she patted Tony's arm to make him pay attention. He sat up, leaning against his elbows.
“That shirt is perfect. Do you like the underwear? It's like having a cloud wrapped around your butt. I have the best taste in sleep time gear. I hope you didn't use my toothbrush, did you? That I don't want to share. And the cinnamon toothpaste, that's a good one. That, however, I will share.”
“I tried the lemon. It was strange,” he said, shifting his glasses from hand to hand, unsure what to do now.
“Hop in,” Pepper offered, scooting over to make him room between them. “You can put your glasses on the nightstand.”
“Are you sure you want me to sleep there? It's your bed,” Bruce said, feeling obliged to offer a polite way out one more time. He didn't want them to say no, but at the same time, he was afraid they would say yes.
“Don't argue with Pepper. Pointless, waste of time,” Tony said and helped Pepper pull the covers aside. “She's the smartest person in this room, so when she says you should sleep with us, I agree. You should do the same. Try it once, you know, see how you feel about it in the morning.”
Pepper smacked his arm and he feigned an injury, sprawling dramatically over his side of the bed. Bruce walked closer, still hesitant.
“Bed time is so exciting for Tony, he doesn't know how to behave,” Pepper said, patting the open spot next to her. “Don't mind him. I picked a fluffy pillow for you. Would you like to come here and try it out?”
“This sleepover, it was your idea?” Bruce asked, leaving the glasses on the table before climbing to the bed. He moved between them and laid down on his back, hands folded to take as little space as he could. It felt like the polite thing to do. The pillow was fluffy, just like she had said, the sheets crisp and cool, the mattress perfect balance of soft and firm. Bruce couldn't hold back a sigh of wonder. He was sure he had never slept on a mattress like this. He relaxed, feeling weightless.
“If I knew something about SHIELD headquarters, which I don't, I might think it is not a proper place for a good night sleep. And we have this lovely bed with plenty of room,” Pepper said, pulling the blankets over him. “Tony thought you would like sleeping here, and I agreed.”
“Thank you for inviting me,” he said. “This is a great bed.”
Tony laughed at his comment, squirming under the covers as well. Pepper tucked the blankets around everyone, then leaned over Bruce to Tony and kissed him. She took her time, leaning her hand at Bruce's shoulder. He stared shocked for a second before closing his eyes to give them some privacy. He felt Pepper shift against his side and he peeked to see if they had finished.
They both stared at him expectantly.
“Would you like a kiss goodnight?” Pepper asked.
“No, no, I'm good. Thank you,” Bruce said, blushing. Tony smirked and patted his arm to catch his attention.
“Do you want one from me? It's part of our turn-down service. The whole mint on a pillow thing, so done to death.”
It took him a moment to understand what he said. He blinked, trying to guess if he joked or not. He waited him to reply, so he must've meant it.
“No, still good, thank you,” he said. They smiled and laid down beside him, shifting around to find a good position. Neither seemed to have any problem snuggling against his side. He let out a slow, controlled breath. They were warm, the touch of their skin oddly assuring. He couldn't get out of the bed without them knowing. And no one could get to him over them either.
“Lights Jarvis,” Tony said and the room fell dark for a moment, then dim dots sparked up near the floor, small blue stars. Nightlights.
Bruce listened the silence, the whirrs and clicks of the electronics, the hum of air conditioning, their steady breathing. He felt good, not scared at all. He considered an another moment.
“I would like to have that kiss now,” he whispered. Both leaned to kiss him at the same time, their mouths touching each other and him in odd balance. He laid still, covered and held at the same time. They pulled away and settled back down, leaning against him, arms flung over his chest.