Tony had the remote in his right hand, as he indicated with the laser a clever illustration of his 'sexuality pyramid.' It was, in a word, a very elaborate explanation of how he, Iron Man, had come to the conclusion that he wasn't an incredibly repressed homosexual. "No, you see, my feelings for Pepper are genuine," he said, circling where this indicated on the white board, "but so are my whatever you call 'ems for Steve..."
He turned to see Bruce who had one of those looks, those annoying, smiling looks on his face. It was as though everything he thought transmitted directly into his friend's brain, which he knew wasn't possible. The Hulk's superpowers didn't include telepathy. "They're not feelings," he said. "I'm not in love with Captain America. God, do you know how stupid that sounds?"
And there was that look, seemingly widening across his best friend's face.
"I wish you wouldn't do that."
"What?" said Bruce, straightening in his chair. He had returned to his placid, serious scientist look. The one that he often gave Tony during talks about - well, pretty much anything they usually talked about, which was pretty much everything.
"You know, that all-knowing self-satisfied stare..."
"Are you projecting again?"
"No." And then, because he definitely wasn't projecting, "As I was saying, it's complicated..." He clicked to the next slide, which was a long list of dates attached to names. "You know, I had that thing with David..."
"Michael," Bruce corrected.
"Yea, Michael. Have we discussed this before? It doesn't matter. It's not uncommon to have these sorts of fluid attractions... I've created this chart to show... You're doing it again."
"I'm sorry..." He didn't think Bruce looked the least bit apologetic, as the other polished his glasses and put them back in place. "But have you thought about just telling Steve?"
"Telling Steve - telling him what?" Tony's hand wavered on the remote button, unsettled. He knew exactly what Bruce meant, but that didn't mean he was going to make this easy.
"That you're in love with him?"
"I'm not -"
"Tony, for fuck's sake, you don't need a PowerPoint on your budding sexual attractions, or whatever the hell this is... And might I remind you I'm not your therapist? I thought Pepper had reiterated this... But if I were..."
"I know you're not my therapist. You're my best friend. This -" He waved to the PowerPoint. "- is clearly within best friend protocol."
"Yea," said Bruce. "Yea, okay. But if I were your therapist, I'd say you should talk to Steve."
"Not this again." Tony tossed the remote onto his desk and paced the front of the room. "I can't - not after - He's busy looking for Bucky, and all that shit."
Tony collapsed into the chair nearest his desk. He let himself sink into its depths, not watching Bruce, not really looking at anything. He felt suddenly overwhelmed. All of this had been a mere distraction, a good distraction but distraction all the same. His usual energy research wasn't going well. The Avengers were too spread out for any really meaningful impact. And here he was, having a semi-breakdown about his ongoing feelings for Captain America. Not that, again, he had feelings. It just a thing that he couldn't really explain that occurred to him in the presence of Cap. He felt his skin prickle at the thought. And yea, those were definitely feelings.
"I don't know how to do this," he said. "I don't -"
"Look, I'm not asking you to propose to him. We don't need that again. But maybe if, as friends, you sat down and talked... Like this... Except..." Bruce glanced at the white board. "No PowerPoints, okay? And no explanations of queer theory, or evolution of queer characters, or why the way you feel means what it means..."
"Okay, okay. I get it."
He let the silence stretch on for what seemed an interminable amount of time. He was thinking about the next time Steve had said he'd be in New York. Friday, wasn't it? Of course, it was. He'd had Pepper pencil it into his schedule. It was the sound of clicking that interrupted his half-formed plans to have Pepper set up some sort of dinner, or maybe he'd do it himself.
"What are you doing?" he asked, watching as Bruce clicked letters into his horribly outdated phone. If they were going to be best friends, he needed to upgrade that tech.
"Texting Natasha that I've won our bet."
"You placed a bet - on -"
Bruce grinned, and for the first time that day, Tony didn't hate him for it. "Yea, well, it's sort of obvious... You have a Cap poster in the lab."
"Right. I forgot. Morale. Look, are we going to talk about the reactor, or do I need to sit through another lecture on your relationship history? Because I have work to do..."