"At the end of the day, they're still aliens."
Bruce sighs, crumpling a digital projection of various parts and tossing them into an equally digital recycle bin.
"I mean, how cool is that?" Tony continues, flinging the prototype of an arc-reactor generator like the one powering the Tower towards the gamma specialist. "Granted, we don't know much about Asgard outside of what Thing One and Thing Two tell us, and honestly, there are myths I would believe before some of the shit that comes out of their mouths. But it's a completely alien culture and society, potentially with rules and stuff we humans have never even come up with." Bruce catches the miniaturized model and spreads his hands, pulling it apart to inspect its inner workings. The billionaire tinkers with calculations and diagrams on one of the many glass screens hung around the lab, eyes meeting the scientist's as they both work. "Doesn't that make you even the littlest bit curious?"
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm not sure Thor and Loki would take kindly to becoming your next science experiment," Dr. Banner says amusedly, rubbing his glasses on his shirt and swiping a hand through his hair. Tony makes a disappointed noise in his throat (petulant child not getting his way, variation three, Bruce files away for future reference). The brunet lazily flings a digital clump of wires at the gamma scientist's head with a huff.
"But there's so much about them we don't know, and don't you wanna know?" Stark questions fervently, hands waving and moving in excitement, gently hitting digital generator parts in the space around his head. "How do the two of them devour thousands of dollars worth of groceries in a single week? How does magick interact with Thor's body and allow him to do his lightning thing without getting killed? And don't even get me started on Loki and all the shape-shifting and duplication shit. These are real-live aliens, Bruce; who knows what kind of weird biological shit goes on in there?"
"You're a human being," the bespectacled brunet replies, "and I'm starting to question what kind of weird biological shit is going on in your brain right now."
"You're a genius," Tony retorts, fine-tuning a portion of the arc-generator model on the other side of room, "I'm sure you can figure it out."
"You're like a kid in a candy store, except this candy is highly reactive and potentially very dangerous."
"Seriously Bruce, you are no fun whatsoever. The best kind of entertainment is the kind you aren't supposed to have."
"I prefer my entertainment a little more safe and a lot more relaxed," Dr. Banner says, tossing his portion of the expanded projection back to Tony. "Aren't you supposed to be a genius? I thought you knew this stuff."
"Fuck you," the billionaire retorts without any bite, back turned towards the gamma specialist as he works. Bruce laughs, returning the digital clump of wires to the back of Tony's head.
"Not for free."
"You're actually serious about this, aren't you."
Dr. Banner finds Tony in the spacious lounge complex of Avengers Tower, tablet in hand and eyes trained on the golden-haired Aesir currently devouring half the expansive refrigerator's contents. Jane sits next to him at the kitchen island, her single sandwich meager next to Thor's three dirty dishes and counting. Clint and Natasha are playing Wii on the other end of the room, quietly-threatening whispers emanating from their direction. Loki's helmet from his failed attempt at world domination (re: temper tantrum) hangs ominously over the fireplace.
"When am I ever not serious about science?" Stark questions, voice low so that no one but Bruce can hear him.
"Point," Bruce concedes, sitting down next to him with a tablet of his own, originally planning on reading some newly-published scientific papers and discussing them with Dr. Foster, not keeping Tony Stark out of potential trouble.
"Let's start with Point Break," the billionaire begins, flicking his fingers across the tablet's clear surface, bringing up diagrams and charts and lists of information Bruce vaguely recalls from the Avengers Initiative info packets Fury had given them. "He's six-five and clocks in at over 450 pounds; he doesn't look a day over 25 and has about as much body fat as a half-starved dog. Reindeer Games is the same way," and Tony slides Loki's box of data next to Thor's, holding the tablet between himself and Bruce. "Weighs slightly more, is a fully-starved dog in terms of body fat, and is only an inch or so shorter. What does all of this tell you?"
"That their entire skeletal and muscular construction is extremely dense and warrants a very large caloric intake in order to sustain properly," Dr. Banner replies. "These guys also grew up in a warrior society; it sounds like fighting is the thing to do on Asgard, though I much prefer that the food supply is the thing on the receiving end rather than myself."
"Not arguing there," Stark agrees, tapping out various notations on the tablet's on-screen keyboard.
At that moment, Loki walks through the lounge entrance, the warrior Sif stepping in time with the Trickster. Their voices are quiet, foreign words garbled in Tony and Bruce's ears, neither looking up from their conversation as they head for the kitchen.
"My poor refrigerator," Tony laments, and Bruce snickers into his glass of water.
"You know, that's another thing that gets me," the brunet continues. "The Aliens-Three have their own language that they use with each other, but then they speak perfectly intelligible English to the rest of us with no problems whatsoever, pop culture references aside. Do they come out of the womb speaking everything under the sun? Wait, don't answer that, these guys are weird enough without us knowing how they reproduce."
"I don't know Tony," Bruce laughs quietly, "listening to alien-space-god-viking is a lot more interesting than some of the stuff you play in the lab."
"You're lucky my ego is so huge or else I might have been hurt."
"There is nothing lucky about your ego."
"Wait, there they go, in the 'fridge!" Stark hisses, spinning the tablet around, fingers prepared to tap out a novel of notes if the need arises.
Sif pulls out a bowl of fruit (Tony has taken to setting aside entire rations for the Aesir, attempting to separate normal, human-sized portions from alien-space-god-viking ones), peering cautiously at some of the foods. Loki instructs her in not-English, showing her how to peel away the skin of a banana. The warrior has only been to earth a few times before, apparently working on the ultimate long-distance relationship with the slowly-healing Trickster (Tony also suspects Loki's amazingly-stoic-but-always-slightly-nervous attitude has something to so with the woman's visits and the not-so-subtle soundproofing recently installed in the Aesir section of the Tower).
"Alright, I definitely heard Loki say 'banana'; although it sounded more like 'bjahiennbjhana', so I'm going to assume they don't have those on Asgard," Tony mutters, typing what Bruce can only think of as a terrible bastardization of some legitimate word in the language of the Aesir. The two scientists watch as Sif turns the fruit around, studying it as if it were something she were about to kill, and Tony squirms as she makes what can only be a terribly inappropriate comment about its shape, eyes glittering with amusement as her finger traces it. Loki appears unfazed, teeth glimmering in his smile as he retorts, stealing a bite from the fruit, and Tony tries to spell out what sounds like 'hyallashameijofyokul' because it's totally rad, despite the situation.
"Please tell me two full-grown, space-god-alien-vikings did not just have an innuendo bedroom-eye exchange in my kitchen because of a banana," the billionaire whimpers quietly as he types.
"I'm more surprised about the fact that one of those words meant 'penis' and I can't for the life of me tell which one it was because they all sounded the same."
"Not helping," Tony seethes, noticing that Thor has added two more plates to his stack of empties and finally appears to be on his last one. Jane is still working on her single sandwich, but she has countless scientific papers spread out in front of her, so the brunet understands.
Both scientists silently observe as Loki reaches into an extensive cupboard, grabbing a clean plate from it and setting it on the counter before himself and Sif. They exchange more words in their native tongue (Tony adds 'lilltleyelljakyid' and 'theeksithyoud' to his terrible list because he thinks they sound exactly twenty percent cooler than all the others) as the Trickster spins the fully-stocked spice rack, plucking out various jars.
"Does Asgard not believe in natural flavors?" Tony whispers, and Bruce cringes because who the hell in their right mind puts horseradish, ginger and peppermint in the same dish? Loki motions for Sif to grab something from the refrigerator, and after a few sentences of gibberish, she emerges with a tightly-wrapped package.
"That's from the meat market, I know that drab paper anywhere," Bruce mentions, thankful the two Aesir are engaged in conversation and have neither heard nor noticed the two watching scientists.
"Does Loki even know how to use the oven or the stove? Thor only just got the grill down a few weeks ago," Stark wonders aloud, reluctantly remembering the ordeal. Apparently in Asgard, the bigger the roasting fire, the better; not so on earth (or Tony's roof, where he had insisted Thor learn). The Trickster tears the paper open to reveal thick cubes of beef, Sif sprinkling the various spices over them on the plate as Loki discards the wrapping (recycling is also a really big deal on Asgard, for which Tony is extremely grateful because that's one less thing he has to explain).
"Oh God, are they going to, oh man did she, and he, oh for fuck's sake-" Tony's sentence splinters into nothingness as they watch the Aesir consume the meat very delicately, and very raw.
"I don't know what's better: watching them do things, or watching your reactions to them doing things," Bruce says, attempting to hide his snickering in his glass of water. Loki and Sif are talking animatedly now, seated next to each other, fingers and lips coated in blood as if it were a perfectly normal, everyday occurence.
"I don't know if I'm watching two grown, civilized...," and the billionaire's hands make futile motions in the air as he searches for sufficient words, "beings, or two bloodthirsty, savage creatures who are actually just posing as grown, civilized beings."
"At the end of the day, they're still aliens," Bruce reiterates Tony's earlier words. "Maybe the rawism thing is popular on Asgard. And you were the one who wanted to observe them in the first place, remember that."
"Alright, I've kept my mouth shut until now," Tony begins, motioning with a hand towards the bloodthirsty Aesir and addressing them directly, "but I can't any longer. What the hell is that?" The others in the room look up at his words, Natasha and Clint pausing their fierce game of virtual table-tennis and Thor and Jane looking up from their own plates.
"You are familiar with the concept of eating, are you not?" Loki inquires, as if Tony has just asked the stupidest question in the Nine Realms. "Or is your mouth generally used for purposes other than such?" Bruce snickers along with the rest of the room's occupants, and the billionaire huffs (are you fucking kidding me, variation two, Bruce thinks).
"I'll have you know Pepper is fully familiar with and fully appreciative of my mouth's other capabilities," and Bruce is truly thankful the CEO is on a plane back to the Tower and not actually in it at the moment. "And second of all, who're the ones consuming raw cow at my kitchen island like wild animals?"
"In the midst of war, cooking is an unnecessary expense of energy, time, and resources," Sif explains, popping another bloody cube into her mouth. "It is only done when it can be afforded; as such, it is just as common to eat food that is raw as it is to eat it cooked."
"Your adverse reaction to our method of consumption tells me this is not common practice for humans," Loki continues, taking a large bite out of his own cube and licking blood from his fingers like a cat at cream.
"A few hundred thousand years ago it was," Tony retorts, "but nowadays we'll just get really sick and, depending on your access to sufficient medical care, potentially die."
"How unfortunate" the Trickster drawls, but Tony can tell by the gleam in his eyes and the glint of his bloody teeth that the alien doesn't mean it one bit, the asshole. Both of them have a clear view of Loki's old helmet mounted above the fireplace, and the billionaire nonchalantly shrugs ever-so in its direction.
"My only adverse reaction to this entire situation is that you find horseradish, ginger, and peppermint an appealing combination," Bruce pipes up. "How can that possibly taste anything other than terrible?"
"It tastes wonderful," the warrior woman replies, taking the last cube of meat for herself with a wink.
Tony groans, and Bruce is about to start reading that scientific paper he had meant to start over an hour ago until a thought pops into his head.
"By the way, we saw the little innuendo thing with the banana," the gamma specialist begins. "Which of those words was the one for 'penis'?
"If it's 'hyallashameijofyokul'," Tony whines, "I'm gonna scream."