It was approximately two months after the weekend they successfully added the hands-free calling to JARVIS when Tony got into his first fight of the year. It wasn’t all that uncommon for Tony to piss people off - actually it was more uncommon that he didn’t - but physical fights were rare for him. Everyone was usually too scared that he’d sue them if they threw a punch, not exactly knowing what being sued would involve, but it didn’t sound like fun.
So, it really wasn’t a surprise that Tony was the one to throw the first punch. Not that the other kid didn’t deserve it. He probably deserved it more than anyone else in the school. His name was Mitchell and he was a complete douche. To be fair, Tony had been boasting a bit excessively about his offer from MIT in class, even though he was thinking of turning it down. But this was uncalled for.
“Hey Stark, I heard about your college offer. You’d have to be pretty stupid to turn that down. But you wouldn’t do that, would you? You’re too much of a little daddy’s boy.” Tony had been on his way from his last period class to go meet up with Bruce, having planned on meeting at the library and then going back to Bruce’s dorm to do some work. He hadn’t planned on turning on his heel and punching Mitchell in the jaw immediately after he opened his big mouth.
Bruce was standing in front of the library, wondering why he'd already waited ten minutes for Tony when they'd agreed to come directly after class let out. They were planning to finish their homework together and then get some work done on one of their experiments, but none of that was going to happen if Tony didn't show.
After waiting a few minutes more, Bruce sighed and decided to go find Tony himself. Tony wasn't exactly the most prudent, but Bruce wasn't going to give up on him just because of that. His new friend was, after all, his only friend.
As Bruce headed down the hallway towards Tony's last period class, he encountered a group of students standing just outside the door in a circle. His pulse sped up slightly at the sight, but it wasn't until his ears picked up a chant of "Fight! Fight! Fight!" that his heart began to pound in fear. Was Tony in that fight? It would account for his lateness...
Bruce left his backpack and books on the ground and pushed his way through the crowd, hoping that Tony had just stopped to go to the bathroom, or was talking to a teacher, or maybe even forgot about their plan to meet. Anything would be better than what he was about to see.
Tony was in the middle of the crowd, Mitchell looming over him after he had thrown the young billionaire to the ground. He had him pinned, one hand holding his shirt and tie tight in his grasp while he used the other hand to brutally punch Tony in the face.
He had been putting up a good fight until Mitchell knocked his legs out from under him and he got the air knocked out of him. The other kid had a swollen cheek already and a cut or two around his darkening eye, but Tony was bleeding, his lip split and his eye black already. The teachers were nowhere to be found, a few students on the outer edge of the circle talking about how a few of them went to find the dean when they couldn’t pry the two boys apart themselves.
As soon as he caught sight of Tony's bloody face, every coherent thought in Bruce's mind seemed to fade away, leaving nothing but raw, seething anger. All he could see was his mother being slapped, bruised, beaten into the ground by his father, and Bruce was not about to let that happen to Tony, too. He couldn't save his mother, but he could save his new best friend.
Every one of his senses was heightened with adrenaline as he rushed forward, curling his hand into a fist and smashing it straight into Mitchell's jaw. The impact threw the larger boy off balance and caused him to lose his grip on Tony's shirt, allowing Tony to scramble backwards and away from his attacker. Mitchell rounded on Bruce immediately, rubbing the bruise that was forming on the side of his face and growling low, about to make some stupid comment no doubt, but the words were unable to leave his mouth before Bruce knocked the wind out of him with a swift kick to the stomach. Mitchell doubled over and gasped for air, but Bruce wasn't done with him - not by a long shot. Another punch from Bruce whipped his chin back and then Bruce just threw all of his weight into him, knocking him prone on his back, and sat on top of him as he pummeled his face over and over. He couldn't hear anything but his blood pounding in his ears and his voice yelling, somehow sounding very far away despite it coming from his own mouth, " Don't touch him!"
As soon as Bruce surged forward and Tony fell back, his bruised jaw fell open in shock, not in a million years expecting Bruce , of all people, to come to his rescue. He was so...shy. So meek. And yet, here he was, pummelling Mitchell into the floor. He stood shakily, trying not to fall over due to his dizzyness from being punched in the face and he watched in awe for a moment. He realized soon, that even with the crowd of students still cheering their mantra of ‘Fight! Fight!’, this needed to stop before Bruce - Bruce fucking Banner - got out of control.
“Bruce?” Tony called to him, no fear on his face at this unexpected rage, only awe and worry that his friend was upset.
At the sound of Tony’s voice calling his name, Bruce felt himself flood back into his own mind, and he stopped his attack immediately, seeing with suddenly clear eyes. He was aware of himself and his actions again - back in control. His heart was pounding in his throat and he was panting, and he stared down at the blood on his hands in shock as he slid off of Mitchell and onto his knees beside his classmate’s semi-conscious body. He glanced over at the boy he’d beaten - taking in swollen face, nasty bruises, dark blood - before looking up at Tony with nothing but fear in his wide brown eyes.
He’d done it. He’d lost control, and he knew that this would ruin everything. Tony wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who could explode like he could. No one would. He was a monster.
Tony saw the fear in Bruce’s eyes when he looked up to him and he immediately stepped forward, smiling at him and showing nothing but gratefulness and care for his friend as he reached forward and touched his shoulder.
“C’mon, Bruce, you gave him enough, let’s get out of here before a teacher comes back with the dean,” Tony said, just loud enough to be heard over the chattering of the students around them. They were a mix between scared and awed, all of them talking and whispering about the boys in the middle of the circle.
At first Bruce shied away from Tony’s touch, but then he realized that Tony was trying to reassure him. He wasn’t scared, he wasn’t angry - he was trying to help . Bruce stared up at him with an expression of pure shock and disbelief for a moment before nodding shakily and slowly getting to his feet. If the dean showed up, he didn’t know how he would handle it. He knew he would get in trouble for the fight later, but right now he was too freaked out to even speak to Tony, let alone an adult. So Tony was right - it was best to run away now while he still could.
Tony led him away from the crowd of students quickly, looking behind them to see Mitchell’s friends finally getting in the middle to see if he was okay. His hand slid down to hold onto Bruce’s upper arm, walking to Bruce’s dorm room as fast as he could. He knew they needed to talk about this, whatever had set Bruce off, but right then they needed to get away as fast as possible.
As soon as they got to the door, he let go of Bruce to let him unlock the door and they both slipped inside, shutting and locking the door behind them. Tony stood in the middle of his dorm, trying to think of what might have made Bruce go off like that. It had been amazing , yeah, but man, that fear in Bruce’s eyes had thrown him off.
As soon as Bruce entered his dorm he headed straight for his bed. He legs were wobbly and his arms ached from punching and he just really needed to sit down for a bit. Once he had settled on the edge he looked at Tony to see that he was staring at him, not with fear but with confusion and a sort of awe. Bruce just put his head in his hands and closed his eyes, breathing deep and slow, trying to clear his mind.
Tony took a few short steps over to Bruce’s bed, sitting down near him and staying quiet for a moment longer before he shifted and licked his lip to find it bloody. “So, that was awesome.”
Bruce’s head shot up and he looked over at Tony in horror. “A- Awesome ?” his voice cracked as he repeated it.
“Did you see what I did to him?”
There was no trace of the rage he had succumbed to during the fight in his eyes or voice, just the same fear he’d expressed in the aftermath.
“Yeah, I kinda did and that’s what makes it awesome,” Tony said with a small smile. “Well, I mean, it was kinda overkill, but you rushed in there to stop him from wailing on me and you got him really good. That’s...really awesome.” He explained, giving a sideways shrug.
Bruce was speechless as he stared at Tony, his mouth open and trembling. He put his head in his hands again and tried to process what his friend was saying. Although Tony acknowledged the damage Bruce had done, he didn't seem to be freaked out at all - not that Bruce wanted him to be freaked out. It was just that he thought he would, that he would spook and leave Bruce on his own to deal with this internal struggle of his. But here was Tony, calm and close and reassuring and not in the least bit scared. He was just... grateful . Tony was grateful that Bruce had stopped Mitchell from hurting him. And beneath the fear of himself that was currently swimming in his brain, Bruce was proud that he had been able to do that, to save his friend. He just wished he hadn't had to lose control to do it.
Bruce looked back up at Tony, exhaling long and slow as he thought of how to reply.
"I... It's not awesome," Bruce mumbled, "But... thanks."
“Well, I think it is,” Tony returned, scooting back to sit cross-legged on Bruce’s bed. “And don’t thank me, I’m the one who should thank you. I mean, I kinda deserved it since I guess I’m the one that started the fight, but he’s an asshole anyways.”
“Yeah, he’s an asshole,” Bruce agreed, but it didn’t really make him feel better. No one actually deserved to be beaten like that - or, no, wait. Bruce could think of someone who did. But he pushed that thought away. It saddened Bruce that the only way he knew how to stop someone from hurting was to hurt. Then he took a closer look at Tony and gave a small gasp. He looked awful . Bruce suddenly felt guilty for not doing anything about it sooner, but he’d been so conflicted he could barely see straight.
“Tony, your - your face - ” he stuttered, not intending it to be rude, but wow - Mitchell had got him good.
“Huh?” Tony asked, licking his lip again and, yep, tasting more blood. His muscles and even his bones ached from the fight already, but he tried to ignore it. “Oh, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” He gave him a sideways smile but his lip split even more at the stretch and he winced.
Bruce flinched at the sight of more blood seeping out of Tony’s split lip. “No, Tony, it’s not fine. I don’t think you’ve seen yourself in the mirror, but you’ve got a black eye and what looks like another bruise forming on your face right now that needs to be iced. I have a first-aid kit around here somewhere, let me find it and I’ll clean you up...” He began to look around the room, trying to remember where he’d put the kit.
Tony sighed and picked at the broken skin on his fists, getting blood under his nails and he hissed from how it stung. “Really, Bruce, it’s fine. It can’t be that bad, I’ll just deal with it tomorrow or something,” he tried to fend off his want to help, not wanting to make him have to go out of his way for him. He had already jumped in to save his ass in the first place, it’s not like he needed to do more.
Bruce ignored Tony and slid off his bed to check under it, where he had a storage box for things he wasn’t using. He tugged the box out from under the bed, lifted the lid, and procured the first aid kit from within it shortly. As he stood and set the kit on the bed, he said, “This will have bandages and stuff in it, but I’ll have to go get you ice from out in the hall.”
“Bruce, really, c’mon, I’ll be okay. I don’t need bandages and ice and crap, I’m fine,” Tony resisted. He wiped off his bloody knuckles on his pants to try and get the blood to stop flowing, but it oozed back up to the surface again. His whole mouth tasted like iron and he knew that it’d take a while for everything to stop tasting like blood.
Bruce watched Tony stubbornly wipe his bloody knuckles and suddenly anger - not explosive like before, but still potent - welled up inside him. Why was he resisting? He clearly needed to be taken care of. Bruce tried his best to remain calm on the surface, breathing deeply before saying in a tense voice, "You're bleeding everywhere , Tony. Are you just going to keep rubbing your wounds and hoping they'll disappear?"
“I’m not bleeding everywhere , christ, Bruce I’ll be fine, really,” Tony told him, instinctively rubbing his knuckles on his pants again, trying to get it to stop. He wasn’t used to getting help and more importantly, he wasn’t used to someone wanting to help him after he was being stupid. He had always been expected to clean up his own messes, no matter how beat up he was in the aftermath.
Tony was driving Bruce insane rubbing his knuckles like that and Bruce had to reach out and grab Tony’s hand in his own to stop him. Bruce could feel fresh blood welling out of Tony’s broken skin to mix with the dried blood already on his hand and it just made him angrier, because Tony shouldn’t be fighting with him on this, he obviously needs the help and seeing him all bruised and bloodied like this is making Bruce sick to his stomach -
“ Tony! ” he burst out, instantly feeling even sicker for yelling, but he needed to get his point across. He breathed hard and fast for a moment before he continued in a shaking, restrained voice, “Let me help you. Please . ”
Tony froze the moment Bruce yelled, previously having tried to pull his hand away from Bruce’s and he looked up to meet his eyes. He swallowed, finally realizing how serious he was and he sunk down into the bed beneath him, letting the other boy hold onto his hand and he nodded. “Yeah...Yeah, okay.”
Bruce closed his eyes and nodded as he swallowed down his anger and frustration. When he opened them again he was clear-headed and ready to do the job he’d set out to do. He didn’t release Tony’s hand as he reached over to the kit, snapped it open, and fished out an antiseptic wipe. He turned back to Tony and pressed it into his hand, instructing him in softly, "Clean the blood off your cuts with this. I'll go get the ice."
Tony didn’t speak, only nodding again as Bruce handed him the wipe and he ripped open the package as soon as he was let go of. He pulled out the little wet-wipe and he unfolded it, cleaning off the cuts on his hands and hissing slightly at the sting. He looked up to see Bruce leave the room to get the ice, knowing that he didn’t need to piss him off any further. He was definitely not in a good mood and this was the first time he had ever seen him like this. It was...weird. And definitely a little scary, being the one he snapped at, but he was still the same Bruce.
When Bruce returned with the ice his anger had dissipated again, leaving only guilt and gloominess to churn in his stomach. He was still mad at himself for getting carried away in the fight and now that he had yelled at Tony he felt even worse. He was only trying to help - but it seemed that everything he did only caused more hurt.
He sat back down on the bed and handed Tony the ice, which he’d closed up in a plastic bag for him. He wanted to say something but when he opened his mouth he felt a lump in his throat, which he tried his best to swallow down. His eyes stung as he looked down at his bloody hands and finally uttered, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Tony immediately replied. He pressed the ice to his face and winced from the mixture of pain from the touch and the shock of the cold, but he didn’t move it away. “You saved my ass out there. Still don’t know where that came from since you’re...” he trailed off, gesturing to Bruce a little to indicate that he didn’t really look the fighter-type. “...you. You know? But I’m really glad you did.”
Bruce removed his glasses for a moment and rubbed his eyes on the back of his hand before Tony could see his wet eyelashes. After listening to what Tony said, Bruce gave him a feeble ghost of a smile. “I don’t really know, either,” he said quietly, and he thought but did not say, ‘But I have an idea.’
Tony didn’t need to know about his father, about the anger and self-worth issues Bruce struggled with every day because of him. All he had to know was that Bruce would be there for him whenever Tony needed him. Bruce took Tony’s now clean hand in his own again and wrapped a bandage around his torn knuckles. After neatly tying it off he looked down at his handiwork with a sense of pride because only by healing others could Bruce imagine that he was able to do more than just harm.
Tony stayed quiet as Bruce took his hand and wrapped it up, letting him work in silence. He’d never really had someone look after him like this. No one except his mother every once in awhile, but mostly he was on his own. This was...nice. In a way that he had never expected it would be. The ice shifted in the bag and he pulled it away from his face, blinking hard and stretching his jaw, his lip still bleeding slowly.
Bruce looked up from Tony’s hand to his lip and frowned slightly. “We should clean up your lip, too. And then put some of the ice on it to stop the swelling.”
Bruce found another wipe, as the other one was already covered in blood, and brought it up to Tony’s face. He paused, inches from Tony’s mouth, and asked, “May I?”
“Oh, uh,” Tony paused and shifted before he nodded. “Yeah, sure.” He knew he probably could have done it himself, but Bruce was offering and he didn’t want to make him think that he didn’t appreciate the help.
“Just keep icing your eye,” Bruce told him as he touched the wipe gently to Tony’s lip, cleaning the blood away from the split. “This may sting a little bit, I’m sorry.”
“S’okay,” Tony said, wincing at the sting but he kept himself still, reaching up to push the ice against his bruising face again. He watched his face as he cleaned off the blood, breathing through his nose and found that he was just glad that it wasn’t broken.
Tony’s breath tickled Bruce’s fingers as he finished cleaning up the busted lip. He pulled away slowly but stayed close to Tony’s face, looking at his lip closely. Now that it was clean, he could see the damage more clearly. As he adjusted his glasses he told Tony in his most authoritative doctor voice, “It’s not that bad. You’re lucky; it won’t need stitches or anything. The lips are one of the fastest-healing parts of the human body, so with a bit of ice it’ll be back to normal in no time.”
“Heh, that’s good,” Tony said with a smile. He moved the ice away from his face again with a wince. “How’s the rest of me look? Will I live?” he asked him teasingly, feeling better now that Bruce seemed calmer and he was talking like himself again.
“The bruises will heal,” Bruce told him reassuringly, “Just keep the ice on it. You may need another bag if you’re gonna get everything at once...”
Bruce looked around and found another plastic bag to split the ice into. He took the first bag out of Tony’s hands and separated half of the cubes into the second bag so that Tony could ice his lip at the same time as his bruises. He handed both bags back to Tony and then started to clean up, taking the bloody wipes and their packets and dumping them in the trash.
Tony took them gratefully and shifted them around so that he could hold them against his face and get all the spots that were bruised and bloodied. He moved his legs around to get more comfortable on Bruce’s bed, figuring he probably wouldn’t be leaving for awhile so that Bruce could make sure he was keeping ice on his face.
“So, I guess the library’s kind of out of the question now, huh?” he asked softly, trying to lighten the mood a bit more.
“Yeah...” Bruce sighed as he returned to the bed and sat down next to Tony. He pulled the first aid kit into his lap and began to organize the things that he had moved around in his hurry to find supplies for Tony, mostly to keep his hands busy. In a mumbling voice, he added, “I’d rather not go wandering around campus after what.... happened . ..”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Tony defended softly. “It was really amazing, actually. No one else would have done that for me. And Mitchell will be fine, he’s gotten worse before. He got taller over the summer, but he used to be shorter than me and I used to be able to pin him like you did.” He explained. He and Mitchell had never liked each other and it seemed like he’d always be the bane of his existence in his school years.
He moved towards Bruce and grabbed some bandages and a wipe from the medical kit again, grabbing Bruce’s bloodied hand and ripping open the wipe for him. He started cleaning the blood away carefully, doing as Bruce had done for him.
Bruce was surprised when Tony reached over him to grab the supplies, and he looked down at his hands to see that he actually had torn his knuckles as well in the heat of the fight. His own blood was mixed in with Mitchell’s on the hand that Tony was now cleaning diligently. He wanted to say that he could do it himself - that Tony should just keep tending to his bruised face instead of awkwardly balancing the ice between shoulder and cheek - but when he remembered how he’d felt when Tony had resisted him before, he swallowed his protest.
“I hope he’ll be fine,” Bruce said quietly, guiltily. “But I hope he remembers not to mess with you again.”
Because despite the fear and confusion and guilt he’d felt in the aftermath of the fight, Bruce knew he would do it all over again in a heartbeat to save Tony.
Tony chuckled softly and nodded as he pulled the bloodied wipe away to look over his broken skin. “Yeah, I heard that he’s actually starting some sort of martial arts classes or something like that. But I don’t doubt he’ll try it again. He always does. He’s not the most balanced equation on the board, if you know what I mean.”
He shifted his shoulder a little to press the ice against his face more securely and he reached down to grab the bandages, holding Bruce’s hand in his own carefully to wrap his hand gently. He tied it off once he was done and he grabbed the other hand, checking it over and taking another wipe from the kit to fix up his other hand.
“How did the fight even start?” Bruce asked as Tony moved to his other hand, tilting his head slightly at the realization that he had no idea why Tony had started the fight in the first place.
“He uh,” Tony started, feeling a bit sheepish at the question. “Well, I kinda threw the first punch. But only because he called me...something I didn’t like.” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go into detail at that moment. He knew he’d end up telling Bruce about all of his issues with his father at some point, but that exact moment was probably not a good time.
Bruce wanted to know what Mitchell could possibly have said that was so hurtful that Tony had to punch him, but he knew it wasn’t his place to ask. Tony clearly didn’t want to talk about it any more than Bruce wanted to tell Tony about the cause of his own anger problem. He also wanted to tell Tony that he should have controlled himself to prevent starting the fight in the first place, but that would make him a complete hypocrite, so he stayed silent on the matter. What had happened, happened. All they had to do now was clean up the aftermath.
“Mm. Maybe next time he thinks of insulting you he’ll remember that he’s not just pissing off you. He’s pissing off both of us.”
As Tony finished tying off the second bandage, Bruce held onto his hand for a moment and looked directly into his eyes, serious as ever. “You’re not alone anymore, Tony. We’re a team.”
Tony was surprised at first when Bruce grabbed his hand, but as soon as he spoke, a huge grin broke out on his face. It pulled at the cut on his lip, making it bleed again, but he didn’t even care. “Yeah, a team. Definitely.” He squeezed Bruce’s hand with his own, keeping his grip loose but still definitely serious.
At Tony’s grin Bruce smiled back, but when he saw blood seeping down Tony’s lip again his brow furrowed and transformed his smile into a sympathetic pout.
“Keep the ice on your lip,” he admonished gently as he released Tony’s hand and stretched his fingers to get used to the bandages, “And try not to smile for a bit.”
“Right, got it,” Tony said, reaching back up to grab the ice and he nodded, forcing himself to not smile. Which, unfortunately, was harder than it looked. He pressed the melting ice to his bruised face and lip, trying to make sure that it wouldn’t swell.
“How’re your hands?” he asked when he looked down to see him stretching out his fingers.
“They feel great,” Bruce replied, nodding down at them before giving Tony a small smile, “You did a good job.”
“Good. Great. Okay,” Tony said with a nod in return. He turned to look at Bruce’s clock, seeing that it was already almost five o’clock and his stomach growled. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? I could totally go for some pancakes right now.”
“Pancakes?” Bruce repeated, glancing over at the clock as well. He was hungry, but he remembered that he hadn’t done any of his homework yet and it was all due tomorrow. Besides, he felt guilty for letting Tony treat him to off-campus food so often. It would be better if they just stayed in the dorm and ate snacks or something. “I dunno, Tony. We should really do our homework...”
“What? No, screw homework, I want pancakes, Bruce!” Tony whined, really wanting to put off doing his homework for as long as he possibly could. Besides, he hadn’t had pancakes in forever and he had a crazy bad craving for them. Especially the blueberry ones from the place down the street from their school.
“But... it’s due... to...” Bruce began to protest as he scanned his room, his speech fading out as his eyes narrowed in confusion. His backpack and books were nowhere to be seen. Upon realizing what had happened, he shot up from the bed and smacked himself lightly on the forehead with a bandaged hand in frustration.
“I left them!” he exclaimed, “I left everything over by the fight.”
Tony accidentally let a burst of laughter out before he could keep it in, instantly reaching up with his free hand to cover his mouth and keep himself from laughing at Bruce any further. He cleared his throat and tried to school his features into a more serious expression as he nodded solemnly.
“No, don’t -” Bruce warned, gritting his teeth and gripping his hair, but it was too late to stop Tony’s laughter.
“That’s a shame. A damn shame, if you ask me,” Tony paused for a moment, letting out a deep dramatic sigh. “Well, I guess we can’t do homework. We’ll have to just go have pancakes instead!”
“Your lip,” Bruce sighed weakly, dropping his hand in defeat. Knowing that there was no use arguing with Tony now, as neither of them were planning on returning to the scene of the crime to retrieve the books, he relented, “Fine, we’ll get pancakes.”
“Yes!” Tony grinned again, wincing at the tearing of his lip again and he immediately stopped, trying to keep his lip from bleeding any more than it already was now. He touched at it with a pout, knowing it would take longer to heal if he kept smiling, but that was really asking a lot of him.
Bruce resigned to cleaning up the bed again, taking the trash over to the can by the door. Just as he was turning back to Tony the door creaked open and he spun around again, startled. It was his roommate, John, and he was peering into the room with a look of bewilderment. Bruce gave him a sheepish smile and tried his best to wave casually, but that wasn’t very easy when his hand was covered in bandages and his friend sat behind him nursing his bruised face.
“Bruce?” John began in a puzzled voice as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, “What happened to your - oh my god, what happened to his face .”
He pointed straight at Tony over Bruce’s shoulder, and Bruce stepped back to stand by his bed, wringing his hands as he tried to think of a way to describe what had happened. Then John gasped in shock and asked, “Did you two fight ?”
“What? No. Bruce saved my ass,” Tony immediately defended, still prodding at his bleeding lip to get it to stop, which really was only making it worse.
Bruce blushed and fumbled with the glasses on his nose in embarrassment. “Something like that,” he mumbled, still guilty about losing control.
John’s mouth formed a small circle and a suspicious look crossed his face that made Bruce frown in confusion. “Right... Hey, I found this when I was walking back from the library, and I thought I recognized it, is it yours?”
As he said it Bruce noticed for the first time that he was wearing two backpacks, one on each shoulder. He held one of them out for Bruce to take, and Bruce was relieved to see that it indeed was his own. He took and unzipped it to find, with a smile, that all of his books were inside and unharmed.
“Thanks,” he told John happily before turning to Tony and triumphantly flaunting the Biology book he’d pulled out. “We can still do our homework!”
“No no no no! Damn it! We were so close!” Tony groaned and fell back against Bruce’s bed, pressing the ice to his face and pouting.
It’s was Bruce’s turn to laugh, and it felt good after all that had happened today. He put the book back in his backpack and shouldered it before leaning forward and prodding Tony in the stomach with a finger to get his attention. “We can bring the homework to the pancakes place. Deal?”
“Ugh,” Tony groaned in response, not wanting to do homework at all but he sat up and nodded, still holding the ice to his face. “Yeah, yeah, as long as I get pancakes, fuck all else.”
“Right, right. Let’s go.”
Bruce closed up the kit and put it back under his bed before standing and walking towards the door to leave. Before he left he turned to John and said gratefully, “Thanks again.”
John nodded at him in acknowledgement from where he stood by his own bed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully in that shady way of his. Bruce had no idea why he always acted like that whenever Tony was mentioned, but he was used to the shifty glances by now. He believed that this was the first time John had ever found them in Bruce’s room together though, so maybe he was just put-off by the unexpected guest.
Tony stood and stretched for a moment, one hand adjusting the bag back on his shoulder, the other still keeping the ice pressed to his face. As they left he looked over John as well, returning his suspicious look just for the hell of it.
“Yeah, thanks, Jimmy,” Tony told him sarcastically, genuinely not remembering his name, but he was pretty sure it was close.
“ John ,” Bruce hissed, but the door was already closing behind them and it was too late for Tony to correct himself anyway.
“Whatever,” Tony said with a shrug, shoving his free hand in his pocket as they made their way down the hall. “The place is only a few blocks away. Shouldn’t take too long to get there.”
“Okay,” Bruce responded, and led them out the first door he could find so they could walk outside and avoid any students who might be wandering around the school. They’d already had to explain themselves to John, and he was hoping they wouldn’t have to do that again to a complete stranger.
Tony followed him out, shifting the bags of ice against his cheek again to make it more comfortable on him as he walked. “Should I like, be taking this off at some point? Or is it just going to be permanently stuck to my face until I’m okay again?”
“When we get to the pancake place you can probably ditch the ice,” Bruce reasoned, “It’s been about a half an hour since you started icing it, right? That’s generally the recommended amount of time.”
“Gotcha,” Tony replied, poking at his lip with his tongue for a moment before realizing that it probably wasn’t the best idea to do that with it still raw. He kicked at a stray rock on the sidewalk as they made their way down the street towards the restaurant. Bruce opened the door for Tony when they reached it and walked in after him. He asked for a table while Tony sought out a trash can to dump the ice, which had melted completely into cool water by now anyway.
Once they were seated Bruce looked at the menu, wondering what to order. He’d never been here before so he wasn’t sure what was good, but he was really up for anything.
“You said the blueberry pancakes were good, right? I’ll get whatever you get,” Bruce told Tony.
“Yep, blueberry pancakes, side of bacon and hashbrowns because screw eggs, that’s what I say,” Tony told him, not even bothering to look at the menu. His face was mostly numb still from having to ice it all that time, but it wasn’t as painful anymore, which was definitely a plus.
"Sounds good," Bruce chuckled. "Just be sure you eat all these hot foods carefully. A burn is the last thing you need..."
He fiddled with his glasses, debating if he should take them off until it was time to do homework or not.
"Yeah, but knowing me, that'll be exactly what happens," Tony replied with a small smirk. He looked up to the waitress with a small smile, minding his lip, and he.ordered their.food and drinks.
She walked off and Tony watched her go, his eyes darting away from her back only when she went to turn the corner. He looked back to see Bruce messing with his classes and he reached forward to pluck them from his face.
Bruce looked startled at the sudden disappearance of his glasses and unconsciously reached after them, blushing slightly. "Hey!"
Tony just shushed him as he cried out and he waved his hands away, turning his glasses in his hands to put them on his own face, careful of the bruising on his eye. He blinked as he looked through them, trying to get used to the prescription but it stayed blurry.
"What d'ya think? Do I pull them off or what?" Tony asked, giving him a sideways smirk.
Bruce frowned in returned, not at all amused by his friend's antics.
"Th-They look fine... But I doubt you can see a thing through them. Give them back," he replied, in more of a pleading tone than a demanding one. He'd had his glasses stolen off his face by many a bully in middle school, and though he knew Tony was not trying to tease him at all, he felt safer when his glasses were in his own hands.
Tony rolled his eyes at him and reached up to take them off, pausing when he felt how loose the glasses were. He frowned and pulled them off his face, inspecting the screws on the sides that held them together.
"How do you even wear these with them being so loose like this? That can't be good for your eyes," he said as he leaned to the side and reached down to his pocket, pulling out his mini tool kit he kept with him at all times. He flipped it open and grabbed the tiny screwdriver, setting Bruce's glasses down gently on the table and he leaned over them as he tightened the screws.
"I... I guess I've never noticed," Bruce said, watching in wonder as Tony got to work on his glasses. Of course Tony would carry a tool kit around with him - that didn't surprise Bruce at all. But that Tony was concerned about Bruce's health enough to care that the glasses were loose was such a kind gesture that Bruce couldn't help but be dumbfounded by it. It was such a stark contrast to the bullies who only removed Bruce's glasses to torture him.
"That'd drive me up a wall," Tony replied as he twisted the screws tight and checked them over. He nodded to himself when they no longer felt like they were going to fall apart and he double checked over the rest of them before he breathed on the lenses and wiped off the fingerprints with his shirt before he handed them back to Bruce.
"There, how's that?"
Bruce put his glasses back on, adjusting them slightly and then nodding. "Feels great. Thanks."
He wouldn't have to mess with them as much at all anymore, now that they'd been tightened. After a moment's consideration he took them off again and folded them on the table between himself and Tony. He didn’t have to wear his glasses all the time - he was only farsighted - but he chose to keep them on his face all day long in school because he liked the extra barrier it put between him and his classmates, who, up until he met Tony, he’d actively tried to avoid. Sitting across from his first and only best friend, he didn’t feel like he needed that barrier, so the glasses came off.
The more Bruce thought about it, the more truth he saw in his earlier statement about he and Tony being a team. Even if Tony couldn't fight off his own bullies or fix his busted lip, he'd take Bruce out for pancakes afterwards and fix his glasses and Bruce would make sure that Tony finished his homework no matter how much he complained or how many times he tried to hide Bruce's backpack under his chair while he wasn't looking. And when they were all done with everything Tony would talk to him about JARVIS and make him laugh and eventually they'd get kicked out of the pancake place at closing and they'd walk back to their dorms, separate yet somehow still together because that's how teams are.