They were in the lab, each working on their own project, when Bruce’s voice carried softly across the room.
“Does anyone else know I’m back?”
Tony put down his work and turned towards Bruce’s workstation. “Not unless JARVIS disobeyed direct orders and spilled the beans.”
“You haven’t said anything?”
“No,” Tony replied. “I didn’t know if you wanted them to know, so I haven’t said anything. Besides, you should tell them.”
Bruce gave a gentle, slightly teasing smile. “I figured as much. Well, I want to tell them. I’ve missed them to death—and don’t even try telling me you haven’t.”
Tony crossed his arms. “Only Nat, and only a little.”
“So, how do you wanna tell them?” Tony asked.
“If you’re comfortable with it, I figured we would just go to the Tower,” said Bruce. “Get someone to assemble them and go.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I wouldn’t be comfortable?”
Bruce matched his gaze, in that way that only Bruce knew how. “When was the last time you were there?”
Tony couldn’t help but laugh. “Fair enough. I’ll text Nat.”
I need everyone at the Tower in 2 hours
I have an announcement. Ish
“Ready?” Tony asked as they walked up to the front door.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” said Bruce.
They walked into the Tower and went immediately to the elevator. Tony pressed his hand against a silver sensor. “Avengers conference room, Jarv. If you don’t mind.”
“Certainly not, sir,” said JARVIS.
The doors slid open to reveal the conference room. True to her word, Natasha had gotten the entire team at the table, even Rhodey and Thor. Tony’s usual seat at the table remained open, as did the one next to him—but when Tony did a quick head-count, nobody was missing.
“They missed us,” Bruce whispered. “They kept our seats open.”
Rogers sat at the head of the table as usual, back turned. Everyone but Natasha was playing on their phones.
“I fucking knew it,” said Natasha, in lieu of a hello. “Look alive, people.”
“Language,” Cap said absentmindedly as he turned around—and he promptly dropped the glass he’d been holding.
“Banner!” Thor said cheerfully. “You’re alive!”
“It would seem so,” said Bruce.
The others all stood up from their chairs and went to hug Bruce. A few even hugged Tony, whispering that they had missed him.
“What happened to you?” Natasha asked.
“I… don’t want to talk about it,” said Bruce. “Thor can tell you, if you really need to know.”
Immediately, Tony locked eyes with Thor, and gave him a look clearly stating One word and I’ll destroy you. Thor mumbled something halfheartedly about not wanting to share if Bruce wasn’t comfortable.
Bruce, meanwhile, was looking at each person around the room, trying to gauge their faces. Sure, they had hugged him, and just moments ago he had pointed out the empty chairs, but those empty chairs could’ve been empty gestures.
“So, did you really have an announcement?” Steve asked.
“Yeah,” said Tony. He looked over at Bruce, and even though they had never discussed the matter, Bruce gave him a knowing smile nevertheless. “I’m coming back. Not to live in the Tower, but I’m going to rejoin the team.”
“That’s great,” said Clint. “It’ll be good to have you back, Stark.”
“Bruce, are you coming back too?” Natasha asked.
Bruce bit his lip. “I’ll help Tony out with things, but I’m not sure…”
“I get it,” said Natasha. “Listen, whatever you want to do.”
“You sound like Tony,” said Bruce. “I’ve spent the last two months living with him, and it’s all whatever you want to do, it’s your choice, I won’t force you —that’s his favorite one; I won’t force you is basically his catchphrase—”
“Wait, hold on,” said Rhodey. “You and Tony have been living together for two months? How have you survived?”
“He’s not that insufferable,” said Bruce. “We’ve figured it out, mostly. We’ve been learning how to cook together; that’s our newest thing.”
Tony felt his heart beat a little faster in his chest at Bruce’s openness and candor about their living situation. “And we’ve gotten into a few shows,” he added. “John Oliver is a treasure to this earth.”
“Don’t forget Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” said Bruce.
“You sound like you’re really happy together,” said Natasha. “Good for you.”
“I’m glad I’m home,” said Bruce. “Being away from everyone sucked.”
“Well, we missed you guys,” said Natasha. “The team hasn’t been the same without you.”
“And besides,” said Steve. “Like it or not, we’re a family.”
“Yeah, whatever, Rogers,” said Tony, but he was smiling.
“So, are we holding a welcome-home party?” Sam asked. “Because if we’re not having a party, I’m bailing now. I have shit to do.”
“If you qualify playing video games as ‘shit to do,’ I guess that’s true,” Steve teased.
“We can have a party,” said Bruce. He turned to Tony and gently poked his arm. “So long as you promise not to get drunk, because I’m not taking care of you.”
“You’re no fun,” Tony whined. “Okay, fine. But while we’re here, there’s someone I want to see.”
“That kid you were mentioning?” Bruce asked.
Tony nodded. “Wanna tag along? I’m sure he’d love to meet you.”
“I was hoping you’d ask.”
I’m in town and there’s someone I want you to meet
Pizza on me? You pick the place
Hi Mr. Stark!!! Is it Dr. Banner??!
Okay yeah it is
I’d love to meet him, and pizza sounds great!!! When?
Send me an address and I’ll tell you
“Happy?” Bruce asked as they walked out of the building towards Tony’s car.
“Very,” said Tony. “It’s good to be home.”
Bruce sighed. “So you’re gonna move back into the Tower?”
Tony shook his head. “Only if you want to come with me. I hate to admit it, but I need you.”
“Funny, that,” said Bruce. “Because I’m pretty sure I need you, too.”
“Yeah?” Tony asked.
“Yeah.” He thought for a few moments. “D’you think they want me to join the team again? Y’know, me and the Other Guy?”
“That’s a question for them,” said Tony.
“Well, what about you?” Bruce asked. “Do you want me to come back? And don’t say that it’s my choice or any of that. I appreciate it and all—really, I do—but I want to know.”
“Yes,” said Tony. “I said I need you, and I do. But I know you have your reservations, and that’s fair.”
“I was thinking about something,” said Bruce. “What if we practiced?”
“Y’know. You and me. Well. You and the Other Guy. I… if we go back, I don’t want to have to rely on giant suits. I don’t want to fight my friends. I bet if we put our minds to it, we could come up with something.”
“You’re probably right,” said Tony. “I don’t want to fight you, either. Let’s try it.”
“But first, I want to meet your friend,” said Bruce.
“Oh, you’ll love him,” said Tony. “He has this amazing webbing…”