Pepper makes him complicated things in early mornings—things with eggs and small mushrooms.
Some days she asks him, ‘Going anywhere today?’
And Bruce knows.
Whether it’s her serene smile or the fact that she doesn’t hold the world of expectations in her eyes, he can’t decide. But he answers her most days. When the winds inside are right for talking, for hearing his voice out loud in a pattern meant to reassure someone.
Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes he says no.
Tony makes him play assistant and it’s late into the night before he realizes.
Most days he tosses out questions, demands answers. ‘Mets game. Tuesday?’
‘Did I tell you about that conference? I thought I did. JARVIS was kind enough to RSVP for us.’
‘Don’t forget. Chinese with Steve. Someone promised. I’m blaming you.’
Bruce can’t hide from the answers he knows are always waiting. There’s only one way to say no, really and fully, and he can’t quite bring himself to do that.
Sometimes he puts it into words in his head—the departure—sees their faces. And sometimes he imagines, there isn’t any other place that will fold around him.
Bruce makes decisions for someone that is not him and someone that he could be.
Rare days he questions his actions and his choices, but he knows. He knows exactly who he is, all of him, every time, and there are moments when he wants to turn away from Pepper and the look in her eye, the one that is reserved for the quiet moments Bruce creates for her. And moments when he wants to turn away from Tony and run and run because he’s bigger than any of them, taking up a space inside Bruce before he knew how to share.
Sometimes his mind fills in the gaps, and he can see them melded together in a way he’s never been wholly connected to anyone, and sometimes he erases everything but the color of the measure inside him and weighs no options.