It's not until they're back at the Avenger's home base that Bruce finally walks up to Thor. He's sitting on an overhang above one of the vast common rooms, without fear of falling twenty feet to the floor.
"So. I see you got a new… a new eye," he says, waving a hand vaguely near his own.
Thor smiles, but it seems forced. "Yep."
"A new, uh, hammer too."
"An axe, but yes."
Bruce nods and awkwardly sits down. He figures if he starts to fall, Thor will catch him. "I take it Loki didn't make it."
"No. No, he did not." Thor gives off a laugh that sounds just shy of a sob.
"Mm." It's an uncomfortable silence, and Bruce is terribly aware of the fact that he's yet again completely out of the loop. He fidgets with his hands and stares through the huge windows at the grassy expanse of field outside. The compound doesn't feel like much of a home anymore. Especially without Tony waltzing around, showing off new features and customized tech. So many good people are gone now, but Bruce never knew most of them anyway. It just doesn't seem real. Not like the loss of Asgard had. "What a joke, huh?" Bruce scoffs self-deprecatingly. "My home planet gets trashed by Thanos, but I'm mourning the loss of yours instead." He jolts. "Not that you aren't mourning them more. That it didn't hurt you more. I didn't mean to imply that—"
Thor thankfully cuts him off with a hand on his shoulder. He gives Bruce a light shake and a gentle, but real, smile. "Thank you, Banner. You have no idea how happy I was to see you."
"Happy to see me? God, Thor, do you know how happy I was to see you ? Coming down out of nowhere all boom and tzzzzzzz and rahhhhh !"
"What about you! In that huge, ugly armor tearing those things up and proving that, yeah, Banner can be useful too!"
"Thor, you were a complete badass! You saved the day, man. You really did." Bruce realizes they're both smiling again, but— Whoa. When had he put his own hands on Thor's shoulders? And when had Thor moved his to hold Bruce's face? And wow, was his head really that tiny next to Thor's hands? He could crush him like a grape—
"What's going on in there, Banner?" Thor asks. It's a fairly quiet whisper, considering who is talking. "Everything okay?"
"No, I mean, everything is obviously not okay. Thanos is… But with me? Uh, yeah. Things are fine I guess." Bruce swallows. "You're really close, so that's a thing that's happening."
Thor's face closes off, and he immediately scoots back, letting go of Bruce's face. "I'm so sorry. I misread the moment."
"Misread? What?" Bruce stares dumbly at Thor's hands, wondering what he's said wrong this time.
Thor takes a deep breath. It's surprisingly shaky, and that's even more confusing. "I thought there was something…" He trails off and gestures vaguely between them.
Bruce looks at Thor, then down at himself. Then up at Thor and then back. "Something with us?"
"Oh no. Oh no. Oh, man." Bruce can feel his heart start to pound, and that sick, anxious feeling squeezes in his stomach. "Oh, this is bad, Thor."
For his part, Thor looks completely baffled and also like he has no idea what to do. "Banner? Uh. The sun is going down. It's getting real low. It's going down. We should get you outside. Shh… The sun is setting…" He keeps nearly grabbing Bruce's shoulders to steady him before remembering himself and retreating. They end up crouched a few feet back from the drop, Thor's hands hovering but never making direct contact.
"No, Thor, no," Bruce wheezes. "It's not the Hulk, it's… You can't like me back, man, that's not how things work."
He gets a "what the fuck are you on about" face in return.
"Like you back ? So I didn't misread anything?"
"You can't… What? What?" Absolutely nothing makes sense, and Bruce is a single poorly structured sentence away from complete collapse. He's been enjoying Thor's company, and all the hugs and grasps and open praise have been great, and he knew he would blow it someday and Thor would figure it out, and yeah, sure, things would be awkward, but they'd deal with it and maybe even still stay friends, but this? This brings him to an absolute standstill, because never in all his theories and calculations of probabilities did Bruce ever account for the idea that Thor might like him back.
Thor seems to realize this at the same time, and he leans toward him with the caution one might use approaching a particularly skittish animal. "Banner. What were you going to do after I admitted I was fond of you?"
A wheeze rasps out of Bruce's throat. "I mean, I don't know, man. I didn't plan this far ahead. I never usually get this far."
Thor actually laughs at that, and even though he's sweaty and dirty and there's blood and smears of what looks like charcoal in his hairline, he lights up in a way his lightning never did. "Well, you've made it, Banner. I'm all yours. It's up to you what happens next." Thor moves his legs so he's sitting crosslegged. He's beaming and his arms are wide open like he's waiting for Bruce to crawl pitifully over and really hug him.
And because Bruce is weak for affection, and he really can't believe that this is something he just might be allowed to have, he does.
Thor's massive arms curl around him and together they kinda smell like a barbecue with body odor, but Bruce has his actual face tucked in someone's actual neck and there are two warm hands rubbing the tension out of his spine. Eventually he gets a crick in his back from leaning across Thor's lap, and there's definitely armor pushing into his chest in uncomfortable ways, but wow this is Thor , the god of thunder, and he's letting Bruce hug the shit out of him.
"You still okay?" Thor asks, looking carefully up at him through his eyelashes, face the picture of concern.
"Yeah. Better even. Better than okay. It was just that, your armor kinda. It's not the comfiest thing to lean on."
A new look slides across Thor's face, and Bruce pushes one hand against his own heart to make sure it's still working properly in there.
"Why, Dr. Banner. Would it be better if I took the armor off?"
It's definitely not working right. It's pounding unevenly and way too quickly for baseline. "Take it… Take it off?"
"An easy and obvious solution, don't you think?" Thor's eyes crinkle at the edges. He casually moves his fingers to the fastenings, not actually undoing them yet.
He's teasing him. Bruce is being teased. That's just. That's weird, right? Has this happened, since… Since the… Reality comes crashing down on him. He reaches out to stop Thor's hands from continuing. "Thor. Thor, no. This is a bad idea. We can't… I know we're having a rough patch right now, but the Hulk could come out at anytime, and if we're being honest, he could definitely be triggered by things of this… nature. And I know that's one hell of a mood breaker."
It takes Bruce a second to look Thor in the eyes. There's two reasons for this. One, he's a bit embarrassed and more than disappointed in himself, and two, Thor definitely went tense there, and that makes all the cords of muscles on his arms really pop, and who could blame Bruce for having a bit of a wandering eye at a time like this. By the time he finally does look up, he's nearly knocked flat by what he sees. Because instead of the safe, correct response to being told your bed partner might potentially transform into a giant green monster with anger issues, Thor looks at least sixty percent more into Bruce than before.
"Uh, Thor?" he tries weakly.
"You've said it yourself. You and the Hulk are one. Two hands on a wheel. So why would I ever consider starting anything with you, if I wasn't just as willing to be with the big guy too?" Thor pauses. "Also, I've already seen his dick."
" What? "
"On Sakaar. He was in the hot tub, and I asked him to come show me the quin— Look, it doesn't matter. What I'm trying to say is, I know, Banner. The Hulk isn't a surprise. He isn't some secret you have to hide from me."
"But for your safety—"
"I beat the Hulk in battle before. Easily."
"Now see, I still have my doubts about that—"
"And I'm perfectly fine now after the fact." Thor grabs Bruce's face again, lightly, with a slow approach that gives him plenty of time to move away. "You can't hurt me, Banner." He shushes his next attempt to speak. "You can't. Hurt. Me."
With a sigh, Bruce realizes… It's true. It actually is. This is the god of thunder, and even the Hulk really can't compare. Add in the fact that the Hulk actually seems to like Thor, and… "Okay," he says.
"Okay?" Thor smiles.
"Yeah. Okay. You're right. I, I trust you."
"I'm going to kiss you now."
Bruce squeezes his eyes tightly and feels his mouth stretch flat in fear. When nothing happens for several seconds, he cracks one eye to see Thor's amused expression.
"I can't kiss you if you're making that face. And I also don't want to scare you when you look like you've just seen a thratsmorger."
"A what now?"
"A thrats— It's an Asgard thing. Was."
"Geez. Maybe it's good that it's gone—" Bruce almost winces, afraid Thor will take offense, but he gets another laugh instead.
This time, when Thor moves in, Bruce doesn't wrinkle his face. He lets his eyes drop closed and desperately thinks, I can't hurt him. He wouldn't hurt me. I can have this. I can have this.
Thor's lips are dry and rough, and his beard is scratchy against Bruce's own stubble. His hands are calloused against Bruce's neck and face, and they thrum slightly with just a hint of an electrical current. Bruce turns his head further, brushing their noses and deepening the kiss. He lets his mouth drop open a little, and Thor leaps at the opportunity wholeheartedly. Bruce would admit that he's out of practice, but that implies he's gotten any sort of action since that one time with Nat that he thinks they both try to not think about, and who really cares anyway, because Thor is so definitely into the Hulk too, and the Hulk has had absolutely no kissing experience at all so it's not like it matters in the long run.
And so they sit there and kiss, and the buzz of Thor's roaming hands raises goosebumps along Bruce's skin, and he's so glad they kept the armor on, because it's a perfect handhold for him to grab and reel Thor in closer. It's exhilarating and it feels like Bruce is getting away with something he's not allowed to do. It feels like the teenage delinquency Tony has always prattled about, and no— Don't think about Tony, think about the fact he can feel Thor's smile pressed bristly against his jaw, and now his neck. And are they really necking like they're still adolescents in the wide, open floor-plan of the Avenger's compound?
Bruce is suddenly hyperaware of the huge windows, and he pulls away. Thor looks briefly disappointed until Bruce rasps out, "Think we got any personal rooms around here?"
"I'd make do with a conference room that locks," Thor replies.
"Yeah, no. I'm gonna put a veto on that one, but if we can find some sort of map or something…"
Thor grins. "Let's go look." Then he loosens one arm from where it's wrapped around Bruce and scoops up his legs instead. He lifts Bruce like he weighs absolutely nothing, starting casually toward the nearest elevator.
"Oh god. Thor. We're going to run into someone."
"And? You think I'm embarrassed?"
"No, no I don't," Bruce mumbles. He's a little preoccupied trying to figure out where to put his hands. It seems silly to fold them in his lap, but Thor has an awful lot of bare skin exposed here too, and Bruce finds they just keep fluttering nervously and never settle.
"You can touch my arms, you know," Thor says. He sounds very amused by Bruce's internal freakout. "They're nice, I know. You can appreciate them."
"Thor, you're carrying me. I can't just, feel you up."
"Of course you can! And by the way, I fully expect you to return this favor someday."
Bruce blinks. "What favor?"
"Thor, I can't pick you up."
Thor's amber and blue eyes both twinkle with the mischief his brother used to have. "Maybe not like this, you can't."
"You want the Hulk? To pick you up?"
"If you want to talk muscles, the Hulk has some incredible ones."
"Oh my god."
"Huge and green. Veiny. Thick and solid."
Bruce gives him a side eye. "Thor, are you really describing his muscles ?"
In reply, Thor just whistles innocently and tucks Bruce closer so he can hold him with one arm and still push the button on the elevator.
"He won't carry you like this, you know. He'll just throw you over one shoulder like a sack of meat."
"And?" Thor shifts him back into both arms. "How is that bad?"
Bruce has no reply, completely stumped for once.
"If you're trying to discourage me, you might as well give up, Banner. I've lived long enough to know what I'm into."
"And somehow what you're into is me?"
Thor tilts his head back and forth in thought as they walk into the elevator. "I was hoping for it the other way around."
Bruce actually chokes at that, whipping his head toward Thor so quickly that he nearly brains himself on Thor's chin. "Really? Me? To you?"
He gets a sly little smile. "Unless you have objections." Thor gently sets him back down. "If you really don't want anyone to know what we're up to, I think you should straighten yourself up a bit. I'm guessing there'll be a couple people on the main floor here."
Bruce squints into the chrome of the elevator doors to see his hair, sticking up and floating slightly, as if he's just stuck a fork in an electrical socket. "Pick me back up again, Thor. I think they're going to know."