Ignoring the sound of his name and taking his opportunity where he could get it, Bruce Banner grabbed the large bowl of popcorn the second Thor’s attention was taken by Tony Stark bursting into the room like a whirlwind. Thor might be a cape-wearing, hammer-wielding demigod, but Bruce was sneaky. Thor blinked and turned to give Bruce a narrowed-eyed glare when he realized Bruce had stolen the popcorn. Bruce smiled and hugged the bowl closer to his chest, shoving a few kernels into his mouth in celebration. When dealing with Thor and Steve and food, Bruce had quickly learnt it was survival of the quickest.
“Bruce, no time for food. We have an investigation to start!” Tony insisted, not one to be ignored.
“Uh… why?” Bruce asked.
Tony flopped down onto the couch between Bruce and Thor. Tony just rolled his eyes at Bruce’s expression, before he managed to grab a handful of popcorn for himself when Bruce felt his other hand sliding up his thigh and gave a slight yelp. “There’s totally something going on between Super Agent and Legolas and I want to know what it is,” Tony said. “I’m beginning to think there’s enough UST between them that we should lock them in a closet until they sleep together.”
Out of all the things Bruce had half expected Tony Stark to say, he could safely say that this had never been one of them. Never ever in a million years. Bruce coughed on his mouthful of popcorn. “What?” he choked out.
Thor frowned. “What is UST and why do Hawkeye and the Son of Coul have it?”
“Unresolved sexual tension,” Tony explained. “I think. I bumped into them for lunch last week and I felt some vibes. I just don’t know why anyone would want to sleep with Agent.”
“Tony, that’s not nice,” Bruce said, because he could see Agent Coulson being attractive in a competent, efficient way.
“Indeed,” Thor agreed. “The Son of Coul is very attractive. Hawkeye has chosen well.”
Bruce watched Tony blink at Thor for a long minute. “Really? Okay, ignoring that. Bruce, we have to investigate!” he reiterated, like it was a normal thing to say.
Bruce felt his eyebrows rise. “Tony, don’t you think Agent Coulson has kept his private life private for a reason?” he asked.
Tony rolled his eyes in Bruce’s direction. “Have you met me?” he said. “Besides, it should be our duty to make Agent as happy as possible.”
“You just want him to not chase you around demanding paperwork,” Bruce said dryly.
“And if he’s too busy sleeping with Barton, he won’t be, will he?” Tony smirked.
“Tony!” Bruce said, knowing his next statement was not going to go down well, but finding himself unable to be anything other than the voice of logic in this insanity. “I don’t think there is anything between Agent Coulson and Clint. They worked together for a long time before the Avengers. Are you sure you’re not reading too much into this?”
Tony waved a hand dismissively through the air. “That’s why we need to investigate.”
“Okay,” Bruce said, holding a hand up and ignoring the way Thor was watching them both curiously. “Assuming you’re right…”
“I’m always right,” Tony interrupted.
“Assuming you’re right,” Bruce continued. “Don’t you think that this is something you should let them work out for themselves?”
Tony arched an eyebrow, his expression both imperious and devious. “And why would I go and do a stupid thing like that?” he asked.
“Because this is something they need to work out for themselves?” Bruce repeated, not that repetition would necessarily get his point across, but he could try. Then, catching sight of Tony’s expression, Bruce decided to pull out the big guns. “And because if you do something, Pepper will skin you alive?”
Mutinously, Tony folded his arms over his chest. “Fine,” he muttered. “I’ll let them handle it – for now. But if they haven’t worked it out in a week, all bets are off, Pepper or no Pepper.”
Thor frowned, his expression thoughtful. “I’m not sure a week will be sufficient time for Hawkeye and the Son of Coul to realize their feelings for each other,” he said. “Perhaps leaving them alone is not the best course of action, despite their flirtatious interactions.”
Tony blinked. “Flirtatious interactions?”
“Yes,” Thor nodded. “As I believe you would say, they flirt all the time.”
Bruce mentally winced at the expression on Tony’s face; the genius-billionaire was now going over every conversation he’d witnessed between Agent Coulson and Clint in his head and if Bruce was right, in about five seconds Tony was going to pull him into some kind of widespread surveillance operation.
“Shit,” Tony said finally. “Coulson tries to hide it with that deadpan expression, but they totally flirt all the time!”
He turned a rather maniacal grin on Bruce. “Bruce…” he said.
“No,” Bruce interrupted. “Just no, okay? No.”
In response, Bruce was subjected to two sets of puppy-dog eyes, because naturally Thor had decided to go along with all this madness. “I said no!” he protested.
When Thor threw in a little pout and Tony snuggled closer to Bruce, he closed his eyes and wondered if he could plead temporary insanity when Agent Coulson inevitably caught them at this. “Fine,” he said fatalistically, not opening his eyes and knowing this was going to end with him in pain.
Three hours later, Bruce had to admit that as plans went, this was probably the least painful Stark plan he’d ever been part of. So far, all he’d had to do was leave his comfortable spot on the couch and lie in wait for Agent Coulson and Clint. It could have been a hell of a lot worse, so Bruce was grateful. Privately, Bruce thought this was a bit short-sighted, since there was no doubt two SHIELD-trained agents would be able to spot Thor, Tony and Bruce watching them, but so far nothing disastrous had happened, despite both Thor and Tony having all the subtlety of large explosions.
It probably helped that Tony had made it look like he, Bruce and Thor were going over plans for renovations to Stark Tower and in particular the floors inhabited by the Avengers. Bruce tried to play along, tossing out an idea every now and then, but he wasn’t convinced he had even wanted to be part of this plan in the first place. But either way, he, Tony and Thor now had an unimpeded view of both Agent Coulson and Clint as they sat on the couch, Coulson doing paperwork and Clint watching TV. Bruce had actually been surprised to realize that for once, Tony Stark had not been exaggerating. The banter between Coulson and Clint really could be mistaken for flirting.
“Barton, what are you doing?” Coulson asked, not even taking his eyes off his paperwork.
“If I told you that, sir, I’d have to shoot you,” Clint replied with a smirk.
“Very funny,” Coulson said dryly, glancing up at Clint, but Bruce could have sworn he was amused anyway.
“I know I am, sir,” Clint quipped, his smirk never leaving his face, but Bruce did notice it took him a long time before he glanced back at the TV.
There didn’t seem to be much personal space between the two SHIELD agents, despite Coulson’s paperwork being strewn all over the coffee table and part of the couch and Clint looked like he was slowly moving until he was almost pressed against Coulson’s side. By the time Clint had finished, the two men were almost close enough to kiss, but neither of them seemed to think there was anything strange about the situation.
“You know, Coulson, you look like you could do with a nap,” Clint said and Bruce was not really surprised at the accompanying innuendo.
“Thank you, Barton, but I’m fine,” Coulson said.
“Are you sure, sir?” Clint continued. “Because you’re looking a bit like you did before that mission to Antigua last year.”
Coulson’s pen paused and he looked up to glance at Clint with both eyebrows raised. “Barton, are you referring to the mission where you sedated me, kidnapped me and then removed all my clothes?”
Clint grinned roguishly. “You looked uncomfortable, sir. I still maintain I was just trying to help.”
“By taking off all my clothes,” Coulson said a little disbelievingly and Bruce couldn’t blame him for the skepticism.
“Okay,” Clint said, still grinning. “I admit to being a little curious to see if you were wearing boxers or briefs under that suit.”
“Of course you were,” Coulson said.
“I can’t deny it’s good to have an answer to that particular question, sir,” Clint said.
Bruce almost felt like he was intruding and his conscious warned him again that Tony’s plan was not a good one. Then Bruce caught the soft flash of gold on Coulson’s finger. He blinked, because he could have sworn Coulson had never worn a wedding ring before. Suddenly, things began slotting into place and he realized neither Coulson nor Clint needed any help at all. Bruce smiled inwardly. Good for them.
Quietly, Bruce turned to Tony. “I think we should leave them alone,” he said.
Tony opened his mouth to say something, but Bruce shook his head. “No,” he said firmly. “I think they’ll be just fine.”
“They do seem to care about each other greatly,” Thor agreed quietly.
Tony rolled his eyes. “They still need help,” he said. “I’ll have JARVIS start playing soft music whenever they’re alone together…”
Groaning, Bruce wondered if he could find some duct tape and if that would be enough to stop Tony. “No,” he said. “No music or candles or any attempt at seduction, Tony. We’re just going to silently back out of the room and leave them alone.”
“But…” Tony said.
“No,” Bruce said firmly, taking both Tony and Thor by the arms and yanking them into the kitchen. “Don’t make me tell Pepper.”