Seven months. Just seven months is how long it took for Bryce to finally show up at Tony’s doorstep, soaking wet and the skin on the back of her neck burnt bright red from the hot Arabian sun that she had made her home this time. Her long brown curls were loose, hanging straighter around her face than they should of, held down by the rain. Her clothes were much too big and they were muddy in places and torn in others. She looked thinner, like she had been running too much and eating too little. Like a fugitive all over again. But her eyes. Oh, her eyes. Deep, toffee brown were still just as beautiful as they had been before. Shining, shy, and shimmering at the corners where the droplets of water that clung to her eyelashes sparkled when faced with the bright lights of Tony’s Malibu home.
It took seven seconds from the moment Tony opened the door for her to grab her by her soaking wet shoulders, and pull her in for the tightest hug she could manage. She didn’t let go. She didn’t think she even could let go at that point. Because there she was. Bryce Banner. Standing on her doorstep in the pouring rain, just like every cliche and trope she could ever hope to gag on.
“What took you so long, you asshole? You’re a selfish, mother fucking, bastard, you know that? Completely and utterly, just a terrible human being,” Tony mumbled into her ear, feeling the other woman smile against her shoulder and she relaxed into the embrace, feeling Bryce’s arms circle her waist.
“I missed you too, Ms. Stark,” she murmured in return, barely even audible over the pouring rain. But it was there, and it was more than enough.
Tony pulled back and yanked her inside. No more words were exchanged, just long glances and lingering touches as the women moved through the house, not minding in the slightest that they were now both leaving muddy footprints on the floor. The bedroom door closed behind them and Bryce let her bag fall from her shoulders, making a soft thump on the floor when it hit. Her eyes didn’t leave Tony’s.
Stark stepped forward, her hands sliding along Bryce’s shoulders, rubbing there for a moment before she slid down to grasp the first button on her shirt and pull it free from it’s clasp. Then the next, and the next, and soon, she moved her hands back up to slide warm fingertips against cool, tanned skin.
Her wet shirt slid free and down her arms to fall to the floor. This was a familiar dance. Ever since their little team had first been formed, Bryce could never stay in one place for very long. She would leave, only to return again after a few months, a few weeks, once it only took her a few days. But no matter what, she always came back to Tony. Tony, who was her real home. Tony, who had accepted her with open arms and a shining, toothy grin. A mouth full of dirty words to whisper in her ear, or a soft promise when they were alone and exhausted, lying on the bed, tangled up in each other and their hair sticking to their foreheads. Tony, whose heart beat in both a hum and a drum in her rib cage, and she had promised both to Bryce.
Of course, Pepper was there sometimes. Not as often as he would have liked, but business was business, and business was tough these days. But sometimes, they would all fall in together, all hot mouths, searching hands, desperate moans. And it was more than Bryce could even ever hope to have, and yet there they were.
But tonight, it was just her, Tony, and the rain that clung to her skin.
She blinked away the last raindrops that had made their home in her eyelashes, looking up to meet Tony’s eyes, seeing her smile and she felt her heart skip because she had missed this. It had been much too long. Too long since the last time she saw those eyes, that hair, those perfect teeth, felt her warm skin beneath her fingertips, watched the way she could make her writhe under her lips, her touch, her presence.
“I really need a shower,” she whispered to the other woman, not breaking their gaze as Tony slid her hands along the cooled skin of her stomach.
“I think I really need to join you,” Tony murmured back, invading her space further, their lips just barely brushing as Bryce smiled softly, the other woman grinning in return.
“Alright,” she agreed, slipping her fingers into Tony’s palm, tangling their fingers together and leading her to the bathroom. They finished stripping out of their wet clothes when the door closed behind them. Bryce slipped into the shower before Tony could get her hands on her bare skin, giving her that wry smirk that she knew Tony loved as she joined her.
The water was almost scalding, but Bryce couldn’t bring herself to care as she pulled her hair over her shoulder, her back to the other woman as she stood under the spray, and she felt her soft lips on the edge of her sunburn. It prickled and stung in all the ways that so defined Tony in her mind that it was almost too perfect.
She felt the cool slide of soap against her back, and she sighed in relief, knowing that Tony would help her wash away the residue of dirt and sweat and humid rain that stuck to her every time she left, returned to this place that was her sanctuary.
Tony’s long fingers wound around to push against her stomach, finding the soft dips and curves in her skin as she pressed her chest to her now clean back, her nose burrowing into her wet hair at the back of her skull. She could feel her breathing her in, could imagine the way her eyes were closed, her brow furrowed in an attempt to memorize the scent of her to make sure she could never truly lose her.
She knew that for the next few days, weeks, months, she would only be wearing things that belonged to Tony. She would say it’s to make sure she always has something to wear, but Bryce knows why she really does it. It’s to make sure everything in her home smells of her. To make sure that when she’s gone again, Tony can curl up with a shirt, a pillow, a labcoat, even a book, and just press it into her face and imagine that she’s still here with her. Pepper told her about it once, to let her know just how much she was missed by her. By both of them. By the whole team. The others would stop by sometimes when they heard that Bryce was back, all smiles and laughs for the first day, no matter what hardships they might have faced before.
And Bryce appreciates every moment of it. But it’s still not safe. It will never truly be safe enough for her to stay.
She’s pulled from her thoughts when Tony turns off the water and pulls her from the tub, wrapping them each in a fluffy towel, smiling at her the entire time she pats her dry. It’s soft, sweet, and all of it is exactly what Bryce needs, what Tony knows she needs.
It’s a silent conversation from there to the bed. They’re constantly in contact with each other’s skin, hair still damp as they curl together under the sheets, Tony’s arms wrapping around Bryce’s neck and the other woman finds her own place around Tony’s waist. Their warm skin presses together, all soft curves and tinted in the blue light of the reactor in the engineer’s chest. It lights up their soft smiles, their brown eyes, their desperate kiss when they finally meet in the middle once more.
It’s soft and slow and perfect, and just what Bryce has missed, what she has constantly thought about for the last seven months when she has a moment to herself. Her lips, her body, her touch, her eyes, everything about Antonia Stark that she is addicted to.
They don’t have sex. Not this night. But they will in the morning, and probably the evening after that. And then, when Pepper comes back, he’ll join in too. But right then, it’s just them, their soft press of skin on skin, lips sealed together as they trade sloppy kisses and touch each other with fingertips and palms and the searing drag of nails on skin. Fingers tangled in hair and eyelids fluttering and a whispered word or two thrown in the middle of it all.
They don’t have to speak to know what will happen soon enough. Bryce will leave again, and Tony will be left alone, with Pepper, with the other Avengers, but without Bryce. And she will wait for her. Because she will always wait for the woman who blinded her with science.