It was a lovely morning. Sunlight was streaming in through the blinds in the kitchen of the Avengers’ Compound, and the busy twittering of birds could be heard just outside the window.
Bruce was sitting in a comfy armchair reading the paper, waiting for the coffee pot to finish brewing. He had forgotten how nice it felt to be back home—hell, he’d almost forgotten what the Compound had looked like.
He was just about to go check on the coffee when Loki burst in from a hole in the ceiling, grabbed him by the shoulders, and shook him so violently that his glasses almost fell off his face. “It’s Wednesday!” he screeched. “You forgot to feed the ostrich!”
“Wh-what?” spluttered poor Bruce, too dazed to even comprehend what just happened, never mind what this lunatic had just said.
“I said wake up, you pathetic little wretch, I need your help.”
Ah yes. That makes more sense, thought Bruce, as the compound kitchen and cozy atmosphere suddenly began to crumble around them, only to be hastily replaced with the dim lighting of an alien spaceship. Loki was standing over him menacingly, his bony little fingers still clutching Bruce’s shoulders. Bruce sleepily batted them away and dug his fists into his eyes. “Hey. I’m not pathetic,” he said, yawning. “A wretch, maybe, but not—”
“I don’t care, Bruce,” said Loki, giving him a dismissive wave. “I need your help. It’s urgent.”
Bruce sat up in his bed and blinked at him owlishly. “Urgent?”
“Yes. It’s about my brother. It’s about Thor.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of him,” dead-panned Bruce.
“Shut up. Look, he’s fond of you, yes? No, don’t bother answering, that was a rhetorical question. He’s fond of you. Which means he’ll listen to you. Which means you can get him off my case for me.”
Bruce stared at him blankly. “What?”
“Thor likes you. Which means he’ll listen to you. Which means—“
“Yeah, yeah, I got that,” said Bruce, waving him off. “Can you maybe like, slow down a little? I don’t—I’m not even—what are you even asking, here?”
Loki gave an irritated huff. “Thor’s… bothering me,” he said anticlimactically. “And I need you to fix that.”
At this, Bruce almost choked with laughter. “I’m—I’m sorry. He’s bothering you? What are you, eight years old?”
Loki ignored him. “Thor… is intensely worried about his people,” he said flatly, his mouth a thin line. “He’s taken to sleeping in his office, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. He frets constantly that he’s not doing enough when Heimdall and I have assured him over and over again that he is, and it’s getting rather annoying, and—”
“Hang on a sec,” said Bruce, raising a hand to pause him. “You’re worried about Thor? Why didn’t you just say that?”
“I’m not worried about him,” corrected Loki. “I told you, he’s bothering me.”
“Sounds to me like you’re worried about him,” said Bruce, smirking. “It’s okay, that’s what decent people do.”
Loki rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Will you help him? I mean, will you help me? Get him off my conscience, I mean.”
“How considerate.” Bruce sighed. “Yeah, I can do that. I’ve been meaning to talk to him anyways.”
“Excellent. He’s probably waffling about in his office, so I’d check there first if I were you.”
The office of the Statesman was just as Bruce remembered—quirky yet extravagant architecture under dim-lighting, equipped with an ornate desk, wine rack, and a dizzying view of the Milky Way. Thor was there, just as Loki had said, as was Heimdall—he and Thor were standing inside what appeared to be some sort of holographic display of the universe, a kind of three-dimensional star-map, Bruce supposed. Heimdall was gesturing at various points of the map, presumably their current course. He paused and pointed at one flickering light in particular. “The nearest habitable planet in our vicinity,” he said, his deep voice making Bruce shudder. “It’s small, and serves mostly as a trading post for Ravagers. But we’ll at least be able to stop there for supplies, if we stick to our course.”
“Ravagers,” grunted Thor. “I never did like Ravagers.”
“Hardly anyone does. But you in particular, Thor, are far too trusting for your own good.”
“Maybe so. But perhaps—oh, hello there, Banner!” cried Thor, changing the subject and startling Bruce out of his hiding place. “Good to see you again—how long have you been standing there?”
Bruce tugged at the lapels of his jacket. “Uh, not long,” he said, shuffling awkwardly through the doorway. He glanced at the two men in front of him: first at Thor, who was beaming at him as if he were the sun incarnate, and then at Heimdall, who… well, he couldn’t really get a read on Heimdall. There was some air of mystery about him, an aura of coolness and wisdom that Bruce didn’t quite understand. That was fine by him, though—he seemed friendly enough, and it wasn’t like these two regularly crossed paths anyways.
“I can… I can come back later,” stammered Bruce after a pregnant pause, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I’ll just leave you two at it.”
“No, actually, I think we’re done here,” cut in Heimdall before Thor could speak. He gave Thor a cool nod, then brushed past Bruce on his way out. “Make sure he gets some sleep,” he murmured, though it was so soft that Bruce wasn’t even sure he’d heard it correctly. Shrugging, he stepped into the office.
Wow. Thor really looked worse for the wear. His hair was scruffy and unkempt, and deep bags had formed under his one visible eye. Nevertheless, he smiled at Bruce, and it was like being smiled at by the sun.
“I’m glad to see you again, Banner,” he said warmly. “It’s been awhile. What can I do for you?”
He sounds so formal, Bruce thought. It just went to show that it really had been a while, though—what with Thor being busy keeping his people placated, and Bruce trying not to get in his way, they’d practically forgotten how to talk to each other. He began to wring his hands. “Oh, it’s uh, it’s nothing,” he said. “Actually, I… was wondering if there was something I could do for you .”
Thor smiled at him in surprise. “Oh? Like what?”
Shit. He hadn’t gotten this far. What could he do for Thor?
Well, improvising had never really been Bruce’s strong suit, but he decided to go with it anyways. “Like… maybe come to bed with me?” he ventured.
Thor blinked at him. “O-oh,” was all he said, his lips twitching into an awkward smile.
Bruce could have kicked himself just then. “I—I mean, I don’t mean like, you know,” he fumbled, gesturing vaguely. “I just mean like, you look like you could use some sleep and…” And I thought that maybe when you kissed my neck in the audience chamber, we might have had something, he stopped himself from adding. His cheeks burned with embarrassment. Oh, boy. This was really awkward. He stopped himself, and dragged a palm across his face. “I’m, I’m sorry. That came out wrong. Just ignore me.”
“No, wait.” Thor stared down at his desk, and began to fidget with the nearest object available: an ornate Sakaaran quill. “That—that actually sounds really nice,” he murmured.
Bruce’s cheeks flushed. If his heart hadn’t been threatening to burst out of his chest in this particular moment, he would have dwelt a bit longer on how hilarious it was that Thor, God of Thunder, 1500 years old, was acting sheepish around him. But of course, he was a bit too occupied with being equally as sheepish to give it much thought.
“Uh, great,” said Bruce, his heart fluttering inside his chest. “Do—do you have a room, or, would you prefer mine, or…”
Thor laughed. “Depends. Do you like sleeping under a desk?”
Bruce stared at him blankly, realization hitting him like a pile of bricks. “Are—are you kidding me?”
“Okay, before you say anything, I just want to make it clear that—“
“No, no ,” groaned Bruce, rubbing his temples in frustration. “Honestly Thor, you’ve been sleeping under your desk this whole time? No wonder Loki was worried about you!”
“Loki’s been worrying about me?” cut in Thor, his shoulders perking up.
“Well—he didn’t say that explicitly, because he’s Loki,” admitted Bruce. “But that’s not the point. The point is that everyone who’s been in your general vicinity has been worrying about you, and now I am too. Honestly, why give me a luxury bedroom when you’ve been sleeping in here this whole time?”
Thor squirmed under his gaze uncomfortably. “Well, it’s funny you should mention that,” he said, unwittingly crushing the poor quill in his hands. “When I had—er, when I had given you that room, it was… well, it was with the intention that we would be using it together. Uh. Sleeping in it together.”
“Oh. Oh. ”
They both stood there for several seconds, Bruce wringing his hands raw and Thor having utterly destroyed the late quill by now. Finally Bruce cleared his throat, and looked Thor straight in the eye. “Okay, then that settles that. You’re coming to bed with me.”
Thor looked at the crumpled pen in his hands. “Ahhh, but, I mean… I still have some work to do, you know? It’ll be a few days before we can make our next landing, and I want to make sure we’re fully stocked in the meantime, you know?”
Bruce raised an eyebrow. “Okay, fine. Can I help you? Maybe we can work on rationing the supplies together.”
Thor flushed. “No, actually, I already took care of that,” he said, laughing anxiously. “And besides, you should probably go get some rest.”
Okay, this was getting ridiculous. He had to do something. “Thor,” he said, slowly approaching the other man and resting a hand on his shoulder. “Do you see what you’re doing? Not only are you making extra work for yourself, you’re being a massive hypocrite. What makes you think I should get some rest, but you shouldn’t?”
“Because, uh…” Thor narrowed his eyes, considering this for a moment. He crossed his arms and sighed. “Well. I guess you got me there.”
Bruce flushed, his brain suddenly catching up with what he was saying. “I mean. Unless you don’t want to, of course,” he said quickly. “I just don’t want you sleeping in here.”
“No, I want to.”
They stared at each other for what felt like hours, each one blushing like mad and not knowing which move to make next. Eventually Bruce folded. “Right, I’ll just… I’ll head on over, then,” he said, slapping his pockets.
“I’m coming with you,” laughed Thor. “If I don’t leave now, I’ll never leave.”
Bruce smiled. “Fair enough,” he said, then gestured down the corridor. “Right this way, sir.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Once more Bruce found himself thanking the heavens that he wasn’t back on Earth.
It had been a spell since he had brought someone over to his place, and any sense of tidiness and general characteristics of a functional person had since been thrown down the garbage disposal and regurgitated into the being that was the Hulk. On this crowded alien ship however, he had next to no possessions—no pencils to nibble on, no emptied coffee mugs, no half-touched pizza boxes littering the floor—it was the picture of cleanliness, save for the haphazardly-made bed from when Loki had jostled him awake. He sighed and gestured inside. “Home sweet home.”
Thor ducked his way in, eyes travelling in awe over the surprisingly tasteful Sakaarian décor. “This is… nice,” he said, combing his fingers through the tassels of a gold-woven tapestry. “I gave you these quarters?”
Bruce raised an eyebrow. “You gave us these quarters,” he corrected.
“Huh. I have good taste.” He abandoned the tapestry and wandered over to the bed, collapsing onto the downy surface and groaning in delight. “Oh yes. Good taste indeed.”
Bruce’s lips twitched into a smile, and he found himself being drawn to the bed, drawn to Thor. “Yeah, you do,” he said in a soft voice, settling down next to Thor, the mattress giving beneath his weight. He ventured a hand to the god’s cropped hair, and it was soft, so delightfully soft to touch. He felt Thor shudder beneath him, as if the simple touch alone had breathed life into him.
I did that. He’s reacting to me .
A shiver crawled down Bruce’s spine. Never in a million years had he imagined that Thor would feel this way about him. It was as surreal as the space they drifted through—surreal, yet undeniably there . He could have no more imagined Thor’s growing affection for him, the fondness in his eye when he spoke to him, than the stars that flickered outside his window.
Bruce grinned and threw himself down next to Thor, so that their faces almost touched. “So. Should we get under, or what?”
Thor’s eyes widened, and the image of a puppy being asked to be taken on a walk entered Bruce’s mind. “Y-yes,” he breathed, eyelids fluttering in disbelief that mirrored Bruce’s own. “Here. Let me just—”
He made to adjust the bedspread, but Bruce caught him before he could get underneath. “Take your armor off,” he said softly, the words falling out before he could stop them. At this, Thor’s cheeks flushed quite red, and Bruce could have kicked himself. “Er, I mean… not because like… I don’t want to do that, ” he clarified, the words coming about as easily to him as walking does to a fish. “it’s just—well your armor is extremely tough, so….”
Thor blinked at him confusedly for a few seconds, then laughed so loud Bruce swore the room shook. “It’s okay,” he said, his one eye sparkling. “Don’t worry. I trust you.”
Bruce’s shoulders sank in relief. “Sorry. Should’ve led with that.”
“Hm. You apologize too much,” grunted Thor, hefting off his armor. He paused for a moment, clutching his armor so that it still shielded his body, then exhaled and let it drop to the floor. His one eye fluttered downward, apparently insistent on looking anywhere except at Bruce.
If Bruce hadn’t any self-restraint, the first words out of his mouth would have been “Are you kidding me.”
Thor, God of Thunder. 1500 years old. On the cover of at least 500 different magazines, some of which were even of Earth.
And here he was, standing before him like some sheepish maiden in a Game of Thrones episode.
Thor noticed him gaping, and grinned. “I think you—uh, how did Stark say it—I think you’ve got some egg on your face,” he joked.
Bruce blinked stupidly at him and then scrubbed his eyes. “Sorry,” he muttered, the urge to kick himself returning once more. “Um. If you’re more comfortable with that on, it’s okay—”
“No!” cut in Thor quickly, raising his hands. “It’s just… it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten… intimate with someone,” he said. He paused, then laughed a bit to himself. “By which I mean, never. It’s never happened. You would be the first.”
“What?” blurted Bruce. “What?! But… you? Jane? What about Jane?”
Thor gave him a crooked smile, his eyelids fluttering downwards. “Er, well. I suppose there was her, yes. But she knew I didn’t like sex, and she discovered she preferred women anyways, so. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to get close, as you can probably imagine.”
Bruce gave him a grim smile. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, the only reason I’m used to being naked in front of other people is because Hulk tends to destroy all my clothes. So you’re in good company.”
He began to undress himself, his lips twitching in amusement at the feeling of Thor’s saucer-wide eye on him, knowing full well by now that the god’s face had become the color of radishes. When he looked up again, his suspicions had been confirmed, and Thor immediately dived into the bed in embarrassment. “Er, just so you know, I wasn’t ogling you,” he said in a muffled voice beneath the large duvet. “No. Nope. Definitely not. No ogling happening here—”
He was promptly cut off by Bruce sliding into bed next to him, and promptly stiffened as Bruce’s body brushed against his own, the mattress dipping underneath their combined weights. “Hush,” murmured Bruce, his face just inches from Thor’s, the space between them crackling with heat. “Alright. Give me some room, you big dork.”
Thor laughed, and together they burrowed under the bedspread, underneath layers of plump, fluffy blankets. Immediately Bruce began to feel himself sink into the soft cushion of the mattress, allowing himself to be cocooned by the warm weight of the blankets and the feeling of Thor pressed against him. A delighted shudder ran down his spine, and he snuggled close to Thor, curling into his warmth. A laugh like the warm rumble of summer thunder shook Thor’s chest, and he tightened his arms around Bruce, securing him into the embrace.
They lay like this for several minutes, drinking in each other’s presence and relishing in the tender feeling of skin against skin. There was a rigidness about Thor, though—a stiffness that was both weary yet vigilant. Thor was a warm spirit, always had been. But there was something barring Bruce from him, a sort of hesitation as to how to proceed. A fear of a million nonoptimal possibilities, as if allowing himself to go any further would end in someone getting hurt.
A prickle of guilt ignited somewhere within Bruce’s chest. He of all people knew the struggles of intimacy, of affection—let your guard down once, and you become vulnerable, exposed. An open wound susceptible to the worst kinds of hurts imaginable. Within Thor’s hesitance he saw a reflection of himself, of the man afraid to love and be loved. But with Thor he felt different. Thor was his sanctuary, his healing salve, the one person with whom being vulnerable actually felt… refreshing. Rewarding. Safe. Perhaps… perhaps he could offer that same feeling to Thor.
He drew a hand out from beneath the blankets, and began to stroke Thor’s cheek with his forefinger. “It’s okay,” he whispered, heart fluttering as the other man gasped beneath his touch. “You’re safe here. Promise.”
Thor smiled, his one eye sparkling. “I know,” he said softly, his own hand meeting Bruce’s. “I—I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been so worried about my people that I… I can’t let myself relax,” he said, his voice cracking. “I can’t let go. And yet…” He sighed. “I’m just so tired. ”
“I know,” said Bruce, stroking his hand. “But you don’t have to do it alone. And,” He paused, wrapping his hand around Thor’s waist and rendering a delighted shiver out of him, “you can rest here now. You can rest here, with me.”
Thor clenched his jaw, then let out a shuttered sigh. “I’d like that,” he said, meeting Bruce’s gaze, eye as a gray as a curtain of rain. But he exhaled, and the rain clouds parted to reveal a smile as bright as the sun. “God, I’ve wanted this for so long.”
Bruce grinned, then curled himself against Thor so that their hips were flush against each other. “Good,” he murmured, sliding his hand along Thor’s waist and massaging the soft folds of skin that lay between his rib cage and his hips. Thor squeaked in delight at this, then cuddled closer to him and mirrored the gesture, tracing his fingers along Bruce’s much softer tummy and causing Bruce to giggle.
A younger version of him would have scoffed at how childish this must have seemed, would have reprimanded himself for allowing such a soft meekness to surface. But he was tired, so tired of depriving himself of this—depriving himself of affection, of the thrilling warmth that exploded in his chest at the touch of bare skin-on-skin, of being known and being loved. He knew what he wanted now, and he wanted Thor.
He burrowed his head into Thor’s shoulder, pulling himself closer so that his belly was pressed firmly against Thor’s own. The juxtaposition of dense muscular tissue against soft cellulite was almost laughable to Bruce—yet Thor seemed comfy enough, and had snuggled into him as if he were a human-sized pillow. That suited Bruce just fine—he couldn’t think of a time he’d felt quite as cozy as this, nestled beneath countless fluffy blankets and comfortably squished against a particularly cuddly god of thunder.
“Thank you for this,” he murmured sleepily, pressing a gentle kiss to Thor’s cheek. A deep purring noise rumbled from within Thor’s chest, and he wiggled happily against Bruce before delivering a few kisses of his own.
Bruce had gotten some of the best sleep he’d had in years that night—broken only by the twining of hands round his waist and sleepy lips against his cheeks.