In Tony’s defense it isn’t uncommon for late-nighters at the lab to break for supply runs, and he’s been buried in code for hours, unheeding of the others as they leave for home. Finishing off a complicated section, he answers the offer of “Coffee?” without a second thought, mind stuck somewhere after midnight.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind, there’s a great all-night place over on forty-third.”
“I mean, uh. I have coffee here.”
“Oh, hey. You.” Tony forces himself physically away from the screen and finds Bruce standing before him, half in and half out of the room, sliding door nudging persistently at his side as it tries to close. He has a coffee in each hand, a bag slung over his shoulder, off balance, a sheaf of papers stuffed beneath one arm, and he’s shooting darting glances back towards the elevator like he’s plotting an escape. Tony catches his eye, holds him there. “You’re here. You brought coffee.”
“Yes,” Bruce agrees, sounding relieved, and lets the door shut behind him. “I was just passing by, and I saw the light was on, so.”
“So you brought coffee.”
“You planning on sleeping any time soon?” Dropping his bag with a groan, he slides one of the cups down the bench to Tony. “Upgrading again, huh? You can’t hardly keep away from that thing.”
“Right. And you were just strolling down Park at four in the morning.”
“A guy can’t take a walk and clear his head?” He laughs, expression caught somewhere between a smile and a grimace. “Ok, you got me. I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to take another crack at the tesseract matrices modeling, I’m so close to replication I can taste it.”
Tony gestures with his coffee. “And you were going to drink all this yourself? High blood pressure will be the death of you, Bruce.”
“That’s a good joke, I never heard that one before.” Again his features wrinkle, half-wincing. “Really. People tend not to joke. Anyway, I, uh, figured you’d be here.”
“For your information, I had -” Then something settles unexpectedly in place, substituting for an unknown variable in an algorithm Tony has been formulating subconsciously for weeks. Bruce is here, not pushing vaccinations in some equatorial backwater but here, in Stark Tower, eighty stories up at half-past four in the morning, and he brought coffee.
Bruce’s smile is cautious. “What - a date, which you canceled? A party, but you got bored?”
“A revelation. Just now. And a different one earlier, it’s been kind of a night for that.” He shrugs off his questioning glance and pulls up the scale model in the space between them, giving the suit a spin. “Working on a new mark. Noticed some lags during my little escape from New York.”
“Pretty easy fix. You just have to, you know, pioneer personalized space travel.”
“Why not?” Just banter, not even particularly intelligent, but the half-second of surprise Bruce shoots him before scoffing - a reflexive could you really - fills Tony’s mind with blueprints, hand halfway to his phone to see if there’s anyone in his contacts from NASA. “Made me think though, about modeling extreme conditions, running some stress tests - hey, once I get it in shape maybe I could go a couple rounds against the green guy.”
“Right. Jeez. Why not just build the thing out of solid gold.”
“That wouldn’t be viable,” Tony says, frowning. Then, “Oh, cute idea, it’d probably be cheaper.”
“This is impressive.” With a flick of his wrist he sends the prototype to the center of the room, life-sized and glowing. They circle it slowly in opposing orbits, watching the diagrams bloom and fade around them. “Stabilized radiation of energy spikes, predictive response calibrated to muscular fluctuation, is this - ?”
“Self-repairing mechanism designed to recycle damaged material. It’ll heal itself, thing practically has its own nervous system.” They end up beside each other, shoulders almost touching, Bruce slouching back comfortably with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Watching him is gratifying, the way his smile widens as he forgets to be self-aware, working over how it was done, thinking undoubtedly how he could do better himself. Beat that, Tony thinks, and nudges him in the ribs. “Code’s not functional yet, and I’ll probably have to rebuild the damn thing ground up, but that’s the plan.”
“That kind of programming, I don’t know, it’s a little above my pay grade.” He shrugs it off, grinning easily, “but - I’ve been thinking. I’m so close to completion with this energy model, and if we could combine its sustainability functions with what you’ve already got here from the arc reactor - here, let me -”
He breaks off, ducking around him, hand lingering at his elbow like an anchor. From a port across the room he pulls up the model, tosses it to Tony, and launches into an explanation.
Turns out their thoughts have been running parallel on the subject, so even with Bruce speaking at a rate of seven or eight brilliant ideas a minute, he’s able to divert his attention. He nods and watches the way Bruce talks with his hands, sending clouds of graphics spinning around them like constellations, how he whips off his glasses to emphasize a point and touches Tony lightly on the arm as though grounding a current. Striking how much of a difference one week can make, how relaxed Bruce seems, no longer hunched or skirting the walls or cutting every motion short as though to apologize for taking up space. Even the lab has changed, become a compromise, Tony’s favorite hoodie hanging beside one of Bruce’s patched jackets near the door, their belongings and equipment diffused across the stations in entropic disarray, and this despite Tony’s private lab upstairs and Bruce’s being effective head of R&D. Tony inputs this information into the equation he’s constructing and the range of possible outcomes narrows to something finite and familiar.
Not only does Bruce keep up, he pushes Tony to do better, go farther, stay one step ahead. He wouldn’t have asked him here if he hadn’t been impressed, and Bruce wouldn’t have come without respecting him in turn. Dr. Banner is foremost in his field, and Stark Industries an international pioneer in experimental research, and yet somehow Bruce’s enthusiasm is worth more than the fact that he has something worth saying; somehow it’s more important that he knew Tony would be there, and that he brought coffee.
Bruce concludes, or seems abruptly to run out of breath, and Tony says, “Sounds perfect.”
“Well. Perfect is, um. It would be an improvement, but you’re probably going to be improving this thing until the mark number’s in triple digits, so.”
“Probably.” Through a chink in the floating armor he catches Bruce watching him, bearings and arterial wiring reflected in his glasses. Tony pushes the plates away, packing in the model, moving forward.
In a swift compulsive motion Bruce reaches out and grabs a passing gauntlet, spreading his hands and blowing it open, composite parts rotating sedately between them. With a tug the thruster unfolds, accordion-like, and he studies it closely. “Thing gave you so much trouble last time, maybe you should just install a parachute.”
“Already got a failsafe procedure in place for loss of thruster control.” Expanding the structure, he looks at him through the twirl of spinning gears, trying and failing to catch his eye. They’re very close. “Give you a hint, it’s big and green and wears really tight pants.”
Just like that, he’s crossed a line. Bruce’s smile is automatic and pained, and he hunches into himself, hands knotting. His eyes flick to Tony’s and then away. “I’d have hoped Stark Industries would have higher standards for reliability.”
Tony shrugs. “I trust you.”
“I didn’t jump four hundred feet in the air to catch you. Don’t get me mixed up with that other guy, Tony, we both suffer from that comparison.” With a last apologetic look he retreats to the other end of the lab, back turned, head bowed, hands still working together. Tracking him, Tony’s gaze falls on the two coffees on the bench, and his thoughts travel upstairs to the bar.
“Alright,” he says, both to Bruce and to himself, and thinks enough. A careless wave returns the suit to his station, hovering above the bench in miniature; he follows it, turning away. “I’m sending you the reactor schema, see what you can work up in, say, two weeks. And hey - I owe you.” Before Bruce can protest he gestures with his cup and adds, “For the coffee.” Nothing is certain, and there’s more to be said, but for Tony Stark it doesn’t get much more innocent than coffee, so he adds, “We’ll go out sometime, on me.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he turns in time to see Bruce’s smile returning weakly. “Big gesture from the multi-billionaire.”
“Ok, so I’ll buy you a coffee shop,” and Bruce looks so concerned that he can’t help but laugh.
Of course it isn’t that easy, but for a while he manages to put it out of his mind, throwing himself into the project, clocking hours in double digits and thinking in the binary of work and sleep. Most of the additions are still in an infant stage, overwritten and redundant, but they’re functional in just under two weeks. He rewards himself with fourteen solid hours in bed.
When he wakes it’s four in the afternoon and he’s warm with a dull pleasant hunger. He wants to get out in the world again, to invite a large group of near-strangers somewhere dimly lit and buy rounds until last call, he wants a cold beer and something deep-fried and sizzling and he wants, in the next twenty-four hours, to get laid. Kicking off the sheets, he heads downstairs with a renewed sense of purpose.
“Returned to the waking world at last, I see. Welcome back, Mr. Stark.”
“And a good afternoon to you, Jarvis. How are things holding up?”
“All appears to be functioning smoothly. SHIELD hasn’t called concerning threats of world destruction since last saturday, there’s been no embarrassing coverage of your personal life in the tabloids for weeks, and the test lab has even managed not to incur any significant property damage to Stark Tower during the span of your unconsciousness.”
“Clearly someone down there isn’t working hard enough. But good news overall.”
“Indeed. Shall we review your itinerary?”
“Give me a printout. And, hey, Jarvis, do me a solid?”
“Certainly, sir, provided all elements of the request are legal.”
“Run through employee coffee orders, determine Dr. Banner’s drink of choice, and make sure he always has one in his hand today, ok? No, better, make two and I’ll bring them down.”
“From anyone else an invasion of privacy, but from you, sir, a charming display of consideration and tact. Though, if I may inquire, is this intended as a romantic gesture?”
“Romantic isn’t the right word, it’s more of a... ‘I think we’re intellectually and emotionally compatible and I’m willing to explore the possibility of getting in your pants’ sort of thing.”
“In that case, may I recommend a button-down?”
“Sharp thinking, J, that’s why I keep you around.” Spinning, he trips back upstairs towards his bedroom, in high spirits until Jarvis begins again to speak.
“Sir - if I may - I see you’ve scheduled a dinner tonight with Miss Potts. Shall I cancel your reservation?”
“Ah. No. I’m going to want to keep that.”
“Very good, sir.”
“See, it’s -”
“My programming requires me to remind you that I wasn’t designed to function as your externalized conscience, sir. You needn’t explain yourself to me,” Jarvis informs him archly. “I’m an artificial intelligence unit, not an arbiter of judgement.”
“You’re a terror,” Tony says under his breath, “I’ve created a monster.” But it isn’t funny and he retreats to his bedroom.
He finds Bruce on the first floor of R&D, observing. He’s wearing safety goggles and a rumpled suit, flanked by chemical engineers in white lab coats, holding a clipboard and chewing absently on the cap of his pen. They’re all focused on the reaction, leaning in towards the hood, where an assistant is doing something toxic-looking with a robotic arm and an array of corrosive acids. It makes a charming scene, industrious and professional, and Tony entertains a moment of fondness before stepping forward to ruin it.
“Hey, team, what’s shaking? Wow, that looks exciting, can I -?”
As he steps forward the assistants give him muted greetings and melt seamlessly into the background. By the time he’s situated before the arm they’ve disappeared. A moment later Bruce looks up, frowning; Tony would bet his company he’d never have noticed if the reaction hadn’t stopped. He pushes up his goggles and looks around in bewilderment.
“Where did - oh, hi, no wonder. How did they do that?”
“They’ve been here longer than you. Hey - quick question, just out of curiosity - if the whole Jeckyll and Hyde trick is connected to your heart rate, how do you have sex without, you know, destroying a whole city block?”
Bruce stares at him for a baffled second before laughing, surprised into genuine amusement, rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses. “You came all the way down here and scared off my lab assistants to ask me this? How does anyone get any work done around here?”
“I pay myself an exorbitant salary to stay home and mess around with robots, it’s gotten less effective since home because upstairs, and you - are avoiding the question.”
“Why are you asking?”
“It’s relevant to my interests. So?”
“So.” Bruce elbows him away from the controls, still grinning and shaking his head, and begins packing in the experiment. “Um. Not, meditation is the wrong word. It’s more that I’ve spent a lot of time developing strategies for mental and physical control, during, uh. Stimulatory. Experiences.”
“Stimulatory experiences, right. So these strategies, would you say you’ve collected empirical evidence to support them?”
“Are you really - I don’t know if this is appropriate workplace conversation.”
Tony shrugs, blinking innocently. “I put it in science terms.”
“Remind me, do I remember reading in your profile about any sexual harassment lawsuits, cause this is feeling oddly familiar.”
“That wasn’t sexual harassment. This, though -”
But before he can complete the motion Bruce has caught his hand and twisted it up against the hood, smooth and reflexive, mostly automatic; he looks as surprised as Tony feels. Then he gives him a private half-smile and says, “Control, see.”
“Stimulation, got it. I guess you’re not just an internationally renowned scientist, a part-time superhuman and a pretty face.” Tony glances over to where Bruce’s hand has slid down, fastening loosely around his wrist, and raises an eyebrow. “Careful, Banner, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were trying to impress me.”
Bruce draws back his hand and stuffs it deep in the pocket of his suit, sending an odd look over Tony’s shoulder. “Good thing you know better.”
“Well, that was cryptic. Jesus, Pepper, hello.”
“Is this man bothering you?” Pepper appears at his side, her hand sliding up his back, tugging comically at his collar as though to throw him out onto the street. She’s turned the warmth of her attention on Bruce, fixing him with one of her gentle complex smiles, playfulness masking an apparently genuine offer of sympathy overlaid with a light air of flirtation intended for Tony. As always, she’s ten steps ahead and he’s dazed and scrambling, caught up in analysis, being left behind. “I could call security, he’s a notorious repeat offender.”
“Uh, joke’s on you, security is Jarvis.”
“Mm, but Jarvis likes me better. Right, Jarvis?”
“Certainly, Miss Potts.” And she turns finally to Tony, biting her lip in a smaller smile, and he thinks with perfect clarity, I’m an idiot.
Tony leans towards her, into her, still recovering. He checks his watch with an exaggerated motion which impresses no one. “Dinnertime already? Working hard, time does fly, traffic will be a nightmare, lucky for us I got reservations at -”
“I came by early,” Pepper says, scratching nails up into his hairline, “to check on your progress. You haven’t even looked at your itinerary, have you.”
“I was just getting around to - don’t give me that look, I’m a busy man.”
“Clearly we have a lot to go over.” She rubs his neck, dipping her hand beneath his shirt, then pulls away. “Upstairs, Mr. Stark.”
He trails after her instinctively, half-turning, following her touch as it disappears. After a few steps he remembers himself and looks back. Bruce has returned to the experiment and doesn’t watch him leave.
In the interest of full disclosure, he turns to Pepper once the elevator doors slide shut and says, “That man is dangerous to the sanctity of our relationship.”
“Bruce is a sweetheart, you’re the dangerous one.”
He can’t argue with that, so he says nothing.
“But really,” Pepper says, nudging his shoulder with hers. “You’re working until dinner.”
That evening they share Mediterranean and don’t argue once over their food, and later there’s good sex and cabernet sauvignon and Tony tries very hard to fall asleep next to her, since it’s been so long. Two o’clock passes silently in the relentless forward march of numbers on his digital alarm and he surrenders finally to insomnia, reaching for his phone. The most recent message in his inbox, sent only forty minutes prior, is from firstname.lastname@example.org.
schema for tesseract-model reactor (tessereactor?) attached. mental control as w/spear unreproducible but nrg storage/channeling methods duplicated (w/in reason - similar fxns, wont open interdimensional portal in chest). also, done in 12 days - beat that, stark.
And because Tony has poor impulse control he writes back immediately, programming functional in eleven, your move.
He’s still poring over the blueprints as the sun rises and Pepper wakes and dresses for work and leaves him.
Tony decides to feel sorry for himself for awhile.
He spends a day hacking his own security system, then shuts himself in a workroom on the seventy-first floor with the new repulsor designs and enough redbull to give a lesser man congestive heart failure. Jarvis blocks all his calls and no one is admitted except Happy, whom he trusts to bring takeout and say nothing. Within a week he’s knocked out the new gauntlets, all shiny naked chrome and veinous wiring, and when he finally tests them it’s with a sense of disappointment - nothing he does, not sex or coding or chemistry, not even suiting up and flying into battle, can match robotics when he wants to clear his head. For six blissful days he hasn’t thought of anything else, and with his arms encased in metal to the elbows, he takes aim with a tinge of regret.
They work beautifully, of course; he made them. “Jarvis,” he says, because he’s unkempt and sleep-crazed and enjoys chatting with his AI, “tell me I’m awesome.”
“You’re destroying your workplace, sir.”
“I’m aware.” Tony squints at an arc welder, fifty paces at least, and grins at the whine of growing power. The blast has a kick, not enough to throw off his aim but satisfyingly firm, the way he likes it, and there’s white light and the sharp taste of electricity and the machine bursts into flaming shrapnel. “Uh, hello, fire control?”
Dummy rattles over amiably with an extinguisher and coats the twisted metal in foam.
“Good boy. Ok, next move.” He’s clinging almost desperately to the high of destruction, not ready to come back down to reality. “Weaponry, yeah, I could tech it out a bit - Jarvis, take this down and then send the list to manufacturing, I want -”
“Sir, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of the forty-one personal calls and countless business-related memoranda awaiting your urgent attention.”
“They can wait a little longer, listen, you’re going to love this, I was thinking -”
“I’d like to offer the suggestion that no, they cannot wait, and that quite frankly you’ve been avoiding your responsibilities long enough.”
“I’m wounded, Jarvis, I thought I raised you better than that.”
“Miss Potts has attempted to contact you -”
“Ok, ok, I don’t need to hear this.”
“ - twenty-seven times. Agent Coulson, nine; Doctor Banner, three -”
“Shit, the beryllium, I keep telling him to just take some from the tech guys down on sixty-four, but does he -”
“ - and there are a number of attempts by Captain Rogers, though only two appear to be intentional. First recorded message -”
“Oh, come on, don’t -”
“Tony?” Pepper’s voice, faint and vaguely mechanical, rattles out from the speakers overhead. Her voice is light, teasing - for now. “Missed you at the meeting today. Can’t say I blame you, talk about stuffed shirts. Listen, I’ve got a half hour window this afternoon - come up for coffee?”
“Ok, Jarvis, ok.”
“The DoS called. I can put it off on someone at the office if you want, I know how much you hate these state things. Missed you this afternoon, call me.”
“Tony, where are you hiding? You can’t run from paperwork forever, believe me, I’ve tried. Call me and we’ll do dinner.”
Her voice cuts abruptly and Tony is left alone in the ringing silence of the lab. For a moment he grins unconsciously down at the gauntlets; then, raising them, he puts a hole through the nearest bench, shatters a pane of glass, leaves a blackened gash along the wall weeping sparks from a shorted wire. The temporary power source he’s jury-rigged to the devices goes dead, and everywhere around him is the wailing of alarms.
“Jarvis,” he says quietly, and the alarms fall silent. “Dummy?” Obediently, Dummy wanders across the room, spilling chemical foam over the destruction more or less at random. “Thanks, buddy.”
“What should I do, J?”
“Speaking as a computer program, I’m not sure that I’m qualified -"
“But - hypothetically - if I had designed you to act as some sort of misguided software-based agony aunt, what would you say about, you know - everything.”
Jarvis pauses longer than Tony’s ever heard, long enough for him to feel uncomfortable, to realize the question is ridiculous and remember that even for a learning AI this sort of request is incalculable. When Jarvis finally speaks, he jumps slightly, surprised. “I’d say...” Tony has to be projecting, but Jarvis sounds somehow cautious, as though choosing his words carefully. “I’d say that you’re playing a dangerous game.”
“Ah. Well.” He clears his throat, runs a hand over his jaw - he needs to shave - and sighs. “Well, yeah.”
Except if that bothers him more than it should, it’s not because he’s taking advice from a program - he’s long since accepted that somehow Jarvis has managed to evolve more wisdom in less than a decade than Tony himself could amass in over forty years. It bothers him, he decides, traveling upstairs with the gauntlets and leaving to the cleaning crews the wreckage of the seventy-first floor, because it means that finally, after so long, he’s used up his benefit of the doubt. This is just a footnote in the encyclopedic account of things he’s done wrong - there’s no sin in being attracted to someone outside a relationship, and he hasn’t even acted on it, guilty only of some low-grade flirting and perhaps of leading Bruce on. And yet even internally that sounds like justification, and Pepper fights with him constantly, and his own AI seems to think he’s being unfaithful, and worse still, he feels inexplicably guilty - him, Tony Stark, who once wouldn’t apologize for anything if it killed him.
Still, here he is, shooting upwards in an undershirt and boxers and an absurdly overpowered pair of gloves, on his way to pick a fight with his closest friend in the world, feeling worse and worse by the second and not knowing why.
“You called?” he says, strolling out of the elevator.
Pepper is seated at her desk, dressed in white linen, absorbed in some paperwork with all of Manhattan stretched out pastel and summery behind her. When she looks up, brushing strawberry bangs from her forehead and already frowning, he falls for her hard for the hundredth time and never wants to argue again.
“I don’t know what to say to you.” She places her hands on the desk between them, tightly folded. Something within him deflates as though punctured.
“Hey, I get that you’re mad, but I really don’t want to fight with you right now, I just -”
“Oh, you don’t want to fight.”
“No, I don’t, and I think maybe you don’t either, deep down, so maybe we could, I don’t know, it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m sure you’ve been working hard and I thought maybe we could just take a rain check on the argument and go to the park and get Indian or something.”
“You’re right, Tony, I don’t want to fight, I want to have a discussion with you -” He scoffs involuntarily and begins unclasping the gauntlets; her voice rises as his attentions shifts. “I want to have a discussion with you and every time I want that you put it off or turn it into a fight and then I’m the bad guy for bringing it up.”
“Right, it’s my fault, I forgot that, thanks for reminding me.”
“Yes, actually, it is your fault, I’m not the one who decided to disappear for a week without the slightest notice.”
“I went downstairs. Literally, I was less than a hundred feet from your office.”
“You - are you aware that I had to break in to my own security system -”
“Your security system? I think I’m the one who -”
“I had to call SHIELD and have them locate you for me, do you have any idea how humiliating -”
“SHIELD, jesus, can I go one week without someone from SHIELD breathing down neck, is that so much to ask? It’s not like we had plans.”
“Plans? Not like we had plans? What is wrong with you, I thought we were happy, I thought we were doing ok.”
“We were doing ok until you started yelling at me, I wanted to -”
“Go to the park. Maybe get some lunch. Right.” She shakes her head sharp and fast, bangs whipping. “Always the victim, Tony.”
Almost without thinking he slings the gauntlets down onto a table and heads for the bar.
“Oh, no, don’t you touch that glass, I’m not talking to you like that.”
“Uh, you were practically begging me to come and talk to you, Pepper, I hate to be the one to break this to you but you really ought to know, thirty missed calls starts to sound a little desperate.”
“If you would stop acting like a child and just pick up your goddamn phone -”
“Yeah, must hurt, not having your calls answered.”
“Unbelievable.” She picks up a dossier and slams it down, begins stuffing in papers, throwing documents into her briefcase at random. “Why don’t you just call me whenever you decide to stop punishing me for that, ok, because I can’t do this anymore.”
“I’m not - I’m not that petty. Please.” His voice has taken a begging tone that he longs suddenly to drown. Guilt returns full-force, and his hand shakes where it’s stopped, paralyzed, on the neck of the bottle. “I wasn’t trying to punish you.”
“Well - then call me when you stop thinking this is something you can beat me at, it’s not a trump card, you don’t get points for making me -” She stops, breaking off, and with great grace clips her briefcase closed. Drawing herself up with a deep breath, she faces him, straight-on, face clear. “You needed your space, now I need mine. Please, just."
“Ok,” he mouths, but can’t seem to make himself speak. Her heels click as she crosses the room and closes the door behind her.
Later, in the atrium, he sees her arguing with Natasha, inaudible at this distance but intentions clear as though they were shouting. Pepper is walking ahead of her, almost running in her haste, barely turning her head as she speaks. Though silent and expressionless, Natasha trails farther and farther behind, finally drawing to a full stop as Pepper disappears into an elevator. Looking up, Natasha catches him watching and shakes her head. Tony goes back upstairs.
Bruce is in the lab, work station scattered with equipment and several sleepless nights’ worth of empty coffee cups. He’s hunched over the bench, head in his hands, shirt wrinkled and probably days old; several feet of readouts are folded before him, spilling off the edge of the bench, and he’s going through them methodically with a felt-tipped pen. As Tony watches he draws the pen absently to his mouth, a line of green ink streaking his lower lip.
“Hey, Banner, what’s up?”
Bruce seems already half-asleep, unshaven, drooping. He rubs his eyes beneath his glasses, still holding the pen, and a green line cuts across the bridge of his nose. “Oh - ok. I’m, it’s good.”
Tony feels a sort of helpless fondness, an unfamiliar desire to take him upstairs and clean him up and maybe just sleep together a while, but Bruce is still distracted, already turning back to the sheets of data. “You get the thing, with the beryllium?”
He hums his assent and scribbles a note on the paper. “Mm. Yeah. The, uh, tech guys.”
“Yeah.” Tony rests a hand on his shoulder, slides it up, working at the knot of tension in the back of his neck. Bruce rolls his head into the touch but doesn’t look up. “Lot left to go through?” Bruce just makes a noncommittal noise, and Tony sighs, relenting. “Ok. See you around?”
He hadn’t intended it to sound like a question, and anyway he receives no reply. After a moment he pulls himself away, heading upstairs for a sandwich and a shower and to find, he hopes, another distraction.