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The Word For It

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The question has come up. Of course the question has come up, how can it not? But they have so many other concerns as a -- what are they?

Bruce gets bogged down in finding the right words for things. He’s not as good at it as Tony is (even if Tony has an amazing ability to boil everything down to the crudest possible terminology), so it keeps him distracted. What are they? They aren’t a ‘couple,’ obviously, and they’re only part of a ‘team.’ So, in the midst of their ongoing struggle to bring Steve into the twenty-first century, to help him resolve his own torn emotions... In the midst of keeping Tony sober and functional when there isn’t an impending crisis... In the midst of being the only three left, the only three not on another planet or a secret mission, in the midst of being expected to hold it all together and be on call for world-saving when necessary, in the midst of all that, when Tony stops, puts down the screwdriver and says, “Can you even have sex?”, it just doesn’t seem important.

And the answer, very simply, is: he doesn’t know. When the Other Guy comes out, it’s about anger, mostly, but it isn’t the anger that triggers him. The anger is there, churning through his stomach, always, until stress or fear or his own conscious control frees it. Would the bliss of orgasm overwhelm his careful restraint, or would it -- especially with these men, who somehow bring him to center, who make him feel right -- tamp him down?

By all rights he should be out of his mind by now. This relationship is unstable. They are all volatile, and Steve and Tony together, well. They disagree more often than they manage civil conversation. And it should drive Bruce mad. It should push him over the edge he so carefully walks. Instead, he feels steadier than he ever has.

He finds out later it was Steve’s idea. That surprises him more than it should, maybe. Steve is good at people. And Tony --

Tony is good at implementation. Tony is good at bait. Tony is good at pulling focus. And Tony is excellent at pursuing his own pleasure.

Bruce doesn’t think anything of it when Tony appears between him and his experiment. That’s simply how Tony communicates; he can’t get attention like a normal person. He has to demand it. And, honestly, there’s no reason to suspect anything, because Tony’s face, suddenly inches from Bruce’s, his whole body wedged between Bruce and the table -- sure, it could be a come-on. It could be a scientific inquiry, or a second opinion, or it could be chex mix. It’s just Tony.

So Bruce doesn’t let it ruffle him. He waits, his arms crossed, but his hands wrapped around his ribs. Not aggressive, not strong, just waiting for the line, or the question, or the snack food. He’s not expecting the warm thigh pressed between his own, but he can’t say he’s surprised.

They’ve moved slowly, haltingly through the last few months. Worked past Steve’s hangups on touch, on intimacy, learned that Bruce can participate (‘Play,’ Tony would say,) as long as he has someone else’s pleasure to focus on. No one’s quite dared to touch him yet, because they still don’t know what would happen. They don’t really want to find out. Which is -- frustrating, yes, but ultimately better than even the best-case-scenario in which the Other Guy comes out. All the time he’d spent learning to meditate, to clear his mind, well, it turns out those skills have more than one use. He can usually, usually, ignore his own pressing arousal.

So with Tony fitted against him (and, God, the man is only an inch taller, but he’s broad and it’s all muscle from boxing with Happy and just standing this close is enough to make Bruce feel enveloped), it’s not so much a matter of thought as it is reaction. Bruce’s hands go to Tony’s hips, holding him against the stainless steel countertop, which Tony allows, and Bruce appreciates that. Appreciates knowing that Tony isn’t holding still because he’s afraid to protest would rouse the Other Guy. Appreciates seeing the way Tony’s head falls back when Bruce moves his lips to his neck. The way Tony’s adam’s apple bobs beneath his teeth, and Tony is literally baring his throat to Bruce without a second thought --

But the Other Guy takes a little too much interest in that. Power plays are not at all something Bruce is comfortable with, so after a moment he works his way down. The skin of Tony’s shoulder is less fraught with symbolism, but it tastes the same: a sting of salt, followed by a metal tang that clings to Tony, even when he’s not in the suit. When he stands close enough, sometimes Bruce can smell it on him.

Tony’s hands in his hair are a clear enough message. He doesn’t rush, but he doesn’t choose to fight, either, because that could get messy. And it’s not like he minds. This is where he wants to be, with Tony up on the high counter-top, bent almost-double over him while Bruce mouths his cock through his boxers. When they’re like this, it’s just about the smell of Tony’s arousal, the heat against his lips, and Bruce can ignore his own desires. He can forget the Other Guy entirely, as long as he doesn’t look up when his tongue first darts out to touch the head of Tony’s length, because Tony lets out a strangled whine and Bruce knows that if he looks up, if he sees what he’s doing to Time Magazine’s man of the year twice over, he will lose it.

They have all kinds of rules against this. ‘Not in the lab,’ that one’s his rule, and he doesn’t care as his lips slide down Tony, taking the length of him into his throat and holding him there. ‘What we do, we do together’, that rule was Steve’s, and it’s all Tony’s fault because Tony never follows the rules, and he’s dragging Bruce down with him --

-- but he sucks, his cheeks hollowing out. Tony twists, and Bruce can’t really bring himself to care because he’s the one wringing those sounds from Tony, and for once, him and the Other Guy, yeah, they’re completely on the same page about this.

Which is why, maybe, he doesn’t hear the footsteps behind him, doesn’t realize Steve is there until the third man’s warmth is curled around him. If Tony makes Bruce feel sheltered, then standing back-to-chest like this with Steve, he just feels small, which is ironic, considering how if he loses it for even a moment he can level the building they’re in --

Which apparently Steve doesn’t care about, since his hands are burning under Bruce’s shirt, and he pauses only to murmur, “Hi,” in Bruce’s ear before he starts sliding his hands lower. This is a bad idea, and Bruce knows he should put an end to it, but Tony’s fingernails are curled against Bruce’s neck, his cock is straining in Bruce’s mouth, and it’s almost enough to pull Bruce back. He can roll the taste of Tony over his tongue, narrow his world to the pressure on his hair, focus -- because Tony is so good at pulling focus -- and it’s almost enough that he can’t feel Steve’s grip, broad and firm and impossibly gentle, close around him. And the slow, slick tugging could almost be happening to someone else, as if he and the Other Guy were still one step removed, still safe, passive observers.

Of course, it can’t last forever, and thank God he’s had weeks to learn what makes Tony squirm and buck, because it’s been years since anyone has touched him. It would be embarrassing how fast he comes, if it weren’t a relief, and he can’t help but sigh as his body empties of tension and the danger fades. His breath heavy, he finishes off Tony and swallows him down, and he feels so different than he usually does after (well, of course he does, his whole body is heavy and sated, not half-hard and frustrated) that he dares to watch Tony’s face when he comes, and the Other Guy stirs, but it’s over so fast that it doesn’t even seem worth it for him to try and push out.

Bruce lets Tony reposition him when he straightens, laughing at the awkward way Tony manhandles him. Which is pretty much the way Tony handles everything except tech, neither finesse nor fragility is anywhere in his vocabulary. Bruce ends up between his legs, his back to Tony’s chest, now, with Tony’s chin digging into his shoulder harder than is really comfortable, but he doesn’t care. “How long have you been planning this?” he asks through the gasps, because he’s not stupid, he realizes that these coincidences only happen in soap operas and romantic comedies.

“Hey, the risk seemed acceptable, especially when the alternative was keeping you in a state of perpetual frustration,” Tony points out, his whole body weight falling on Bruce’s back.

“It didn’t seem fair,” Steve adds almost shyly. It’s a weird look on a man of his height; not the first time Bruce’s thought that. Trust him to be concerned about the fairness of a relationship he was still trying to believe was morally and legally acceptable.

“Speaking of fair,” Tony, whose thoughts never seemed to follow anyone else’s, drawled. Before Bruce entirely realized what was happening, Tony had pulled Steve in against them, sandwiching Bruce between them once more. But Steve is steady, and the extra support is nice since Tony, apparently, has no inclination whatsoever to take his own weight. It’s easy to rest against Steve’s shoulder and let Tony guide his hand down. To close his eyes and listen and feel as Captain America leans into their grip, his hands on either side of them both, braced against the countertop -- and Bruce knows he should feel trapped, but the Other Guy is nowhere to be found, and this is fine.

He has a feeling that with anyone else it wouldn’t be, and the problem is, he’s a scientist. Gut feelings don’t really work for him, he has this urge to pick them apart. But before he can start worrying about it, Steve shudders against them, and Bruce wraps his other arm around Steve’s ribs (as if he could hold him if he fell). Tony says, “Geez, I thought the whole point of doing old men was stamina,” which makes Steve turn red and start to sputter --

-- And Bruce knows that he can soothe it with his cheek on Steve’s shoulder. That actually gets a grin from Tony, a dopey, fond look that he’ll deny later, and this is exactly what he means. How it shouldn’t work, but it does, and he doesn’t have a word --

Tony says, “Come on, Banner,”

Steve says, “I think he’s entitled to a little intimacy, Tony, given everything.”

And maybe he doesn’t have to analyze it right now.