It was three am in the morning and the circuits still didn’t make any sense. From the outside it looked like a fairly standard metal glider but the inside was a mix of inorganic and organic circuitry. It had come alone so Shield suspected that it was a scout but no one knew where it came from.
Jane was looking into deep space with backup from Asgard and Reed Richards which had left the glider to Tony and Bruce.
“Let’s try this one”, Bruce said and poked a promising looking lump with an electrode.
“Nothing”, Tony let out a frustrated sigh. “This mix shouldn’t work in the first place.”
“I’ll make some coffee”, Bruce said, standing up.
“You’re the best”, Tony replied with a shade of his usual enthusiasm.
Privately Tony had decided that he hated alien tech. Nothing made sense and even less good ever came from it including the anti-destroyer gun which was, while looking impressive, highly ineffective. Maybe they should put this thing in orbit and use it to broadcast a video about the defeat of the Chitauri. That should dissuade any wannabe conqueror.
A crash from the kitchen interrupted his musings.
“Bruce?” Tony asked, getting up as well, “are you okay?”
When he opened the door to the kitchen he saw that Bruce had dropped two mugs and was trying to pick up the shards with his hands even though they were already bleeding. When he saw Tony he froze and looked at him with wide, fearful eyes.
Tony took a step forwards to help him but Bruce flinched.
“Please don’t hit me.”
Tony stopped dead in his tracks. For a moment he couldn’t do anything but stare at Bruce who still looked at him like a deer caught in the headlights, shoulders hunched protectively.
“I’m not”, He said finally as reassuring as he could. “I’m not going to hurt you, okay? I just want to help.” He moved slowly, making every of his movements clear not to startle him again.
“I’m sorry”, Bruce said after Tony had thrown the shards of the mugs into the rubbish and held Bruce’s hands under water to wash the blood away.
“It’s okay”, Tony repeated. “It’s okay, really.”
Tony wasn’t a stranger to treating cuts which was the reason he had a first aid kit in the lab but usually he did it to himself and not to someone else. He was very careful as he put the antiseptic cream on the cuts and bandaged Bruce’s hands.
“Better?” Tony asked when he was finished.
Bruce nodded and got up again. “I’ll do better this time. And we need to work out those circuits”, he gave him a wavering smile.
“I have a better idea: let’s go to bed. I’m so tired I’m not sure if I could make sense of Dummy’s circuits.”
Bruce gave him a doubtful look.
“Okay”, Tony laughed even if he didn’t feel like laughing, “you’d have to drug me to make it that bad. But I’m tired. And that glider isn’t going anywhere. And our little boy band plus Natasha already proved that we can deal with alien invasions. Come on, a couple hours of sleep never killed anyone.”
“Most people die in their beds”, Bruce pointed out.
“Is that a promise?” Tony asked flirtatiously which was promptly ruined by a yawn. A quick, shy smile flitted over Bruce’s face that made Tony lean in and kiss him.
Bruce was asleep within seconds of lying down but Tony sat and watched him sleep. He felt tears running down his face before he even realised he was crying. His father had hit him, too, occasionally, over small things but never that small.
“You could have used the big guy a couple years earlier”, Tony whispered. He wrapped his arms around Bruce and held him close. “I’ll never hurt you. I’ll never, never hurt you”, Tony promised him. “I wish I could turn back time and give you all the laughter and happiness you deserve. I wish I could have protected you. I wish that we’ll live happily ever after. I will never hurt you.”