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Ars Gratia Amoris

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The first thing Bruce noticed was the rose petals. He didn't tend to see much outside of his immediate field of vision after a long day working in Tony's lab, but the curving path of crimson on creamy carpet was hard to miss.

The second was helpfully showcased by a spotlight someone had positioned to illuminate his bedside table in a warm pinkish light - the object itself appeared to be some sort of manuscript.

"JARVIS?" Though it would be a strange burglar indeed who dealt in spotlights and roses, Bruce was taking no chances.

"How may I be of assistance, Mr. Banner?" JARVIS inquired, polite as ever.

"Have there been any...disturbances to the security this evening?" He couldn't bring himself to request the security footage. "Perhaps in the area of of my room?"

"If you are alluding to the changed state of your chambers, might I suggest that you investigate a bit further?" Only Tony Stark could have created an A.I. capable of such amusement. "I am authorized to personally guarantee your safety in this matter."

Bruce supposed he couldn't really argue with that. "Thanks, JARVIS. I, uh, appreciate the help." He began gingerly making his way across the rose petals toward his bed. Even with JARVIS' assurances - in which he would ordinarily have put absolute faith - Bruce still hesitated before laying a hand on the mysterious packet of papers.

When he finally braved it...nothing happened. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting - the rolling boulder from Raiders, perhaps - but a complete lack of anything at all was a welcome anticlimax.

His fingers brushed over the script on what was clearly a title page: "A Chemistry Lesson"? Trepidation now replaced by curiosity, he flipped the page and began to read aloud:

"Bruce Banner entered his bedroom with no idea that the most romantic and important night of his life was about to unfold." He whipped his head around, but the bedroom appeared as unoccupied as before.

Against his better judgement, he continued, "The roses were but the overture of his secret admirer's symphony of love...the same secret admirer who was watching him read the love confession-" This time he pivoted his whole body, but was once again disappointed.

"This secret admirer, whom some had called the handsomest and richest man in the wor-" He heaved a heavy sign; in his heart, he'd known from the beginning. Who else would pull a stunt like this? "Damn it, Tony, would you get out here already?"

The door to his closet swung open with a flourish; from its depths stepped Tony Stark, clad only in a pair of heart-print boxers and an unapologetic grin. "What do you think of my magnum opus?"

"What do I -" Bruce took a deep breath; he felt dangerously close to sputtering. "Did you really write this whole monstrosity yourself?"

"Well..." Tony hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his boxers and began to saunter toward Bruce. "I did have to outsource some of the plot ideas to the girls on the message boards. Pornography's all mine, though."

"All this..." He gestured to the room's elaborate set-up. "Just to...seduce me?"

"I was going to go bigger," Tony explained, "but JARVIS intimated that a subtler approach might be 'rather better received'."

Bruce did not want to think about what 'bigger' might have entailed, if this constituted 'subtler'. "Thank you, JARVIS," he called out to the air. "I think that will be all for tonight."

"You are quite welcome, Mr. Banner." If JARVIS sounded amused before, it was nothing compared to the laughter in his voice now. "Do not hesitate to call if you need anything...anything at all."

"So..." Tony began to run a hand up his bare arm - whether from self-consciousness or cold, Bruce couldn't tell - "does that mean you're ready for the 'most romantic and important of your life'? Or did you just want to punch me in private?"

Bruce looked from the trail of roses to the neatly bound pages of yet unread smut to the man in front of him, dressed like a cheesy Valentine's card. There was only one thing to be done.

"Bruce Banner strode manfully toward his secret admirer, surely the handsomest and richest man in the world, if not the most humble." Bruce took advantage of Tony's laughter to lunge forward and haul him into a full dip. "If only there was some way to repay him for his kindness."

"His secret admirer can think of a few ways," Tony observed, though some of the braggadocio had fled from his voice. The warmth of the hand he wound around Bruce's neck to steady himself had Bruce struggling to think about anything else.

Though he knew the rules of the game demanded a clever quip, Bruce made the executive decision that there'd been rather enough talking for one evening and opted to skip to the kissing. Judging by Tony's enthusiastic response, it had been the right call.

Still, it was Tony who came up for air first. Standing up straight, hand resting on Bruce's chest, he said quietly, "There's no pressure, you know. Nothing has to change, if you don't want it to."

Bruce wrapped his fingers around the hand Tony had placed on his chest and squeezed. ""Bruce wished there some way to convince Tony of how grateful he was, to have someone care enough to go to that trouble just for him."

Tony brushed a stray strand of hair back from Bruce's forehead. "Tony only wishes he could do more."

Now it was Bruce's turn to grin unrepentantly, as he turned to pick up the manuscript. "As much as I love a good book, I think this is one time I'd rather see the movie. What do you say?"

Tony's eyes lit up, and he tugged Bruce toward the bed. "I say, lets aim for no fewer than five Oscars." He slipped a hand under Bruce's lab coat and murmured, "Thought I could stand to lose the one for costume design..."

Bruce leaned in close and whispered, "I'll guess we'll have to make up for it in sound effects." The surprise on Tony's face was something he would treasure for a long time.