See, Bruce doesn't even notice the whole 'buying him stuff' thing at first, because Tony does it with everybody. No, seriously, everybody. Bruce has seen him gift outrageous things to total strangers, and even random SHIELD agents. Admittedly, the latter part might be compensation for terrorising them so much, but still.
That’s why he thinks nothing of it when Tony presents him with a whole floor full of bio-tech equipment for his personal use, apparently tailor-made for him. After all, everyone on the team got one, courtesy of Tony Stark. Steve has a gym full of equipment he can use - and systematically destroy - at his leisure, Clint gets a high-tech firing range he geeked-out at, Thor has a floor re-designed to imitate Asgardian architecture, and Bruce doesn't even want to know what Natasha's floor is stocked with.
So you can see how, at first, he doesn’t find anything strange with it. But Bruce is a pretty bright guy, if he can say so himself, so he catches up fast, especially when things he knows he isn’t his start turning up in his rooms.
Thanks to his mostly-transient lifestyle, Bruce doesn’t own a lot of things. Everything he has to his name can fit into a duffle-bag, and he makes a point of not getting too attached to anything that even hints at permanence. He likes it that way, because it makes things a lot easier when he has to up and leave at a moment’s notice.
The only things he tends to carry around are his toothbrush (because oral hygiene is important no matter where you are), whatever thrift-store clothes he has on him at the moment, and a few old, battered books that he was reluctant to leave behind; practical, basic necessities, really.
The few trinkets that he has, those are the things he treasures the most. A wood carving of an elephant, a small pendant made of silver, an African prayer bead - random things, really. They are things he’s collected throughout his travels, mostly a symbol of thanks from the people he had helped. They may seem trifling and unimportant, but to him they are the most valuable things he has, because they remind him of the places he’s been and the people he’s met. They also help him remember that however small, he has done some good in the world.
Amused, Bruce thinks of the horrified look on Tony’s face when he realised that yes, the only possessions he owned were the ones in the duffle bag. The very next day, a whole new wardrobe appeared in Bruce’s rooms, consisting of clothes that range from slightly expensive to very, very expensive.
It unsettles Bruce to think that even one of those clothes can feed a whole starving village for a week, so at first he sticks to his own faded garments. But Tony gets this ‘why-don’t-you-like-the-things-I-give-you’ kicked-puppy look, so Bruce gives in. The clothes he wears never lasts very long, because the other guy goes through them like wet tissue, and apparently, his services are often needed these days. So he limits himself to the plainest, cheapest ones he could find; which, just so you know, isn’t that cheap at all. Because why waste a good thing, after all?
Apparently, Tony takes Bruce wearing the clothes as an encouragement, and proceeds to gift him with even more things, ranging from small things – books and shoes – to some pretty outrageous things, like the motorcycle that just appeared in the basement one day and proclaimed his by Tony.
Bruce tried to protest, he really did. But Tony just waved him off, saying that he has mansions that he’s never even stepped foot in, and what’s a bike compared to that? There’s nothing Bruce can say to argue with that, so he doesn’t.
And if after a few days he gives in to temptation and takes it for a spin, well, who can blame him, really? Tony finds him just after the ride, windswept hair and all, grinning wildly; because damn, he’s forgotten how good it feels to be on a bike, just him on the road, and no impending disasters on the way. He nods at Bruce approvingly and states in no uncertain terms that Bruce is keeping it, especially if it makes him smile like that every time.
And the thing is, Bruce can’t even say that the stuff Tony gets him are random or meaningless. It would be easier for Bruce to turn them down if they were, but Tony has clearly given them some thought. The books he receives are made up the ones he’d left behind before and some that Tony thinks he would like to read. And he’d only ever mentioned the fact that he used to have a motorcycle in passing, but obviously Tony has picked up on that too.
One day, when it is just him and Tony in the lab, Bruce decides to bring it up.
“You know you don’t have to keep buying me stuff, right?” Bruce says, not looking up from his notes.
“What, you don’t like them?” Tony says, glancing at him. “I know for a fact that you loved the bike, so don’t even try that.”
“Yeah, I mean, not that I don’t appreciate it, just…you don’t have to, you know,” Bruce says, shrugging slightly. “I have more than enough.” More than I deserve, is what he doesn’t say.
But maybe Tony hears it all the same, because he looks up sharply and walks towards Bruce. “Hey, you’re my friend, Bruce,” is all Tony says, as if that explains everything.
Bruce huffs out a laugh, because maybe for Tony, it actually does. “I’d still be your friend even if you don’t buy me anything, Tony.”
Tony goes still for a second, just long enough for Bruce to notice, before he visibly relaxes into a stance that doesn’t quite look natural. “I know. I just…I actually like you, y’know. I want you to have nice things. And just to let you know, I’d like you to stick around.”
The last statement is so unexpected that Bruce just stares at Tony for a few seconds, trying to process it in his head. Thinking about it, that actually makes sense. Tony’s solution to most of his problems is to throw money at it until it goes away, so he probably thought it would work this time, too. Maybe this is just his way of showing that he cared. The gesture is loud, and way grander than is appropriate, but it is so quintessentially Tony that it makes Bruce want to laugh with the sheer absurdity of it all.
So Bruce just nods, smiling indulgently at Tony. “Yeah, okay. Just…nothing outrageous, all right?”
“No private jets, then?” Tony grins. He looks genuinely pleased, and even if Bruce can’t fully understand why, he’s just glad to see that particular expression on Tony. Tony is all flash and bang a lot of the time, but rare moments of actual happiness he shows are something magnificent to see.
“A little bit over-the top, don’t you think?” Bruce answers dryly.
“Just a bit, yeah,” Tony deadpans. “Although, I could just make you your own suit. Paint it green and purple, what do you think?”
Bruce snorts with laughter, because the image of the Hulk-themed Iron Man suit is just too absurd. “I don’t think the other guy would like that, Tony. He has enough issues with regular clothes as it is.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Tony says, smirking. But then he’s looking at Bruce with an unfamiliar expression, a mixture of gratitude and relief, and that can’t be right, can it? If anyone here has cause to be grateful, it’s Bruce.
“Hey, Tony,” he says, softer than before. “Thanks, yeah? For everything. Just…thank you.”
And Bruce? He means it, so very much. Thank you, and not just for the physical things, either. But for the trust, and the friendship, and the laughter. For everything.
Tony…Tony gets it, Bruce thinks. Because he steps close, and puts a warm hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “Any time, Bruce,” he says, just as quiet. “Any time.”