“Steve?” Bruce said, rubbing at his eyes - he wasn’t used to stale air conditioning air, even after three weeks. “Is everything...OK?” He checked again, to make sure his initial assessment was accurate - Steve was sitting, on a kitchen chair, staring at the coffee maker.
Steve waved his hand at the coffee maker and gave Bruce the large, puppy-dog eyes that Bruce would think were practiced if he wasn’t certain that Steve was the most genuine person on the planet.
“Do you want some coffee?” Bruce asked.
“I just...there’s so many buttons,” Steve said, finally.
“Yeah,” Bruce said. “What do you want? Black?” He stopped before rattling off the other options.
“That sounds good,” Steve said. He gave Bruce a slight smile as Bruce pressed several buttons on the machine and put a large mug beneath it. “Thanks.”
Bruce nodded. It was going to take a minute or two for the coffee to come out, and he wasn’t entirely sure what to say to Steve - he had just moved in a few days ago, but Bruce hadn’t really come across him until now. Bruce had been spending most of his time in his lab, or in Tony’s lab. Their only real interactions had been on the Helicarrier, and in the aftermath of the battle, and Bruce couldn’t help but remember how wary Rogers had been of him - the whole I’m only concerned with you finding the Tesseract speech had been counteracted by how he jumped on Tony after he poked Bruce with the pointy whatever it was.
“So...everything been going alright?” Bruce asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Steve said. “The gym is...well. And Pepper’s been really helpful, you know, getting things, so...” he shrugged his shoulders, and for a moment, Bruce could see how...lonely he was. And he completely understood that.
Not only that - but he was just a kid, Bruce realized. It was easy to forget it, to just think of him as a walking anachronism, as Captain America, the guy who had led them in battle. But now, defeated by the coffee maker, it was pretty clear that Steve Rogers was young, and lonely, and completely out of his element. Add that smile, and those eyes, and it was hard to resist-
“Look,” Bruce said, and he glanced at his watch. It was eight in the morning - normally, Tony wouldn’t emerge for another couple of hours, and if Bruce remembered whatever Tony had mumbled at him last night, he actually had corporate duties to attend to today. “You want to...I don’t know, watch a movie or something?”
The coffee was finally done, and he handed it to Steve. “Oh, I don’t want to - I mean, I’m sure you have plenty to do-”
“I’m not really...employed by Tony,” Bruce said. “I could use a break from the lab, anyway. And I think Pepper’s got Tony for most of the day.”
Steve inhaled the coffee and smiled. Bruce pressed a button to get himself a cup - proper coffee, how he had missed it. “OK,” Steve said. “Is there anything in particular you’d like to watch?”
“You can pick,” Bruce said.
Steve interrogated JARVIS for a few minutes before settling on Raiders of the Lost Ark, having asserted his desire to be brought up to speed on pop culture references. “People take it a lot more seriously, now,” he said, settling down on the opposite side of the couch from Bruce.
“Well...there’s more of it, I guess,” Bruce said. “But, I mean, didn’t people say we’re not in Kansas anymore?” He wasn’t sure - it was a legitimate question.
“Yes,” Steve said. “Maybe it’s access - you know, just being able to wave your hand and find all of these things.”
Bruce hoped that Steve had yet to discover Youtube. Or Tumblr - even he was scared of Tumblr.
Tony never materialized, and it was all too easy to spend the rest of the day going through the Indiana Jones trilogy - it seemed a good place to start, what with the Nazis and World War II setting. Lunch happened, at some point, Steve dutifully making Bruce an all cheese sandwich while stuffing his own high with turkey.
“This has been good,” Steve said, when Last Crusade came to an end - when Steve had gone to the bathroom, Bruce had told JARVIS not to mention the fourth film. Don’t worry, Dr. Banner, the computer replied. Master Stark has informed me it is not to be considered part of canon. “Thanks. It’s nice to just...” he waved his hand around the remnants of soda cans, potato chips, and M&Ms.
“I hope you know you won’t be paid for any of this,” Tony said - Bruce was convinced that he had timed his entry.
“I’m on salary,” Bruce replied, turning and smiling.
“Looks like you two kids have had lazy rainy day,” Tony said, pulling his tie loose and looking just a little envious.
“We watched Indiana Jones,” Steve said. “Bruce pointed out all of the important references.”
“Why does it always have to be snakes?” Tony supplied, and Steve nodded, smiling wide.
Bruce had to inhale - Steve had a very good smile. It was one of the first things he had noticed about Steve, after he got over the shiny whole of him. “Well, that’s great. That’s productive. There’s only, like, 1,000 more things to catch up on, instead of 1,003.” Tony glanced at Bruce. “Don’t you dare watch Star Wars without me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Bruce said.
Tony began to walk out of the room and towards the kitchen. He turned his head, just before he left. “Oh, and Clint and Natasha are moving in. They were a little hurt they weren’t invited to our little fraternity.”
“I thought they had their own apartments,” Bruce said. He found it hard to believe that the two of them would be interested in giving up their autonomy for a living arrangement like this.
“Yeah, well, apparently they’re just as shit as the ones they gave Steve and I told Katniss he could have his own archery range, so...” Tony said. Ah, thought Bruce. That was more like it - and, of course Tony wasn’t going to admit his active commitment to starting Tony Stark’s Home for Unwanted and Lonely Super Heroes.
“Katniss?” Steve asked.
“Archer character,” Bruce said. “The Hunger Games? They’re young adult books-”
“There’s also a movie,” Tony said, before disappearing into the kitchen.
“I should read more,” Steve said. “I guess I can go to a book store, tomorrow-”
“I’ve already put them on order for you, Captain Rogers,” JARVIS said.
Steve’s eyes widened, and he leaned in a little closer to Bruce - enough that Bruce could smell him, and it was all snips and snails and puppy dogs tails, to be sure. “Does that...computer ever concern you?”
“Tony programmed it,” Bruce said, hoping that this communicated more than you know. He thought it best to be prepared for the fact that JARVIS might go Skynet on them.
Steve nodded, and seemed to feel vindicated - and it also seemed he got where Bruce was going. “I’m going to go and work out now, I guess,” he said. “You want-?”
“Not really my thing,” Bruce said - he had never really liked it, before, he preferred hikes and bike riding and kayaking and actual activities. And now, any of the reasons that people had for it didn’t apply to him, so. “I should probably get to the lab, though. If Tony had to spend a whole day in board meetings he’s probably tempted to blow something up - intentionally or not.”
Steve smiled at him, and began gathering up the garbage on the table. Bruce helped him, and for a moment, their fingers hands touched. Bruce felt himself blush, but he did his best to bury it and not look at Steve when it happened. Steve, for his part, just moved his hand and swept up the can that they had both moved for, then looked up and said, “Thanks, again,” to Bruce, again, before taking the garbage in his hands over to the can near the door to the kitchen.
* * * *
“OK, so, since none of you thought to supply me with your preferences, I just ordered,” Tony said, waving his hands over the pizzas sitting in the communal kitchen. “So, pepperoni, meat lovers, Hawaiin-”
“Yes,” said Clint.
“How did I know?” Tony said, “Pineapple? On pizza? Fuck, man. Oh, and vegetable feast, for Gandhi over there.”
Steve raised his eyebrows, and Bruce waved at him. “Uhm, he was a famous vegetarian - non-violent leader on the Indian movement for colonial independence,” Bruce said.
Steve nodded, and it really looked like he was taking it in. “SHIELD gave me a laptop,” he said, “loaded with some program, to look all of that stuff up, but...” He shrugged.
“We can just watch the movie,” Tony said, opening the meat lovers pizza box and removing a slice. Steve got a look on his face, as though he was forming some indictment of this attitude in modern society, but then he just shook his head and his normal expression returned.
“Thank you, Tony,” Natasha said, voice slightly formal as she reached for a slice of pizza. It occurred to Bruce that this was probably meant to cover everything, and not just the food that had appeared for dinner.
“Mmmhmm,” said Clint, loading his own plate with Hawaiian pizza. “Seriously, though, are you telepathic? Or..?” He glanced around the room, implying JARVIS might have had a role in it.
“No, it’s just a matter of knowing people, Barton - you just struck me as the sort of person who would enjoy that sort of perverse excuse for pizza, is all.”
“Most people generally find it’s not to their advantage to heckle trained super-assassins,” Natasha said, arching an eyebrow at Tony.
“You know,” Bruce said, to Steve, who had chosen the plain pepperoni, “I could help you with your laptop - figure out how to make it a little more user friendly?”
“That would be really great,” Steve said. “One of the agents mentioned there was this website where I could just look up everything I needed to know, but...” He shrugged his shoulders, embarrassed.
“So, tonight, as part of the continuing education of Steve Rogers and to celebrate our two latest additions,” Tony said, “I thought some James Bond films might be in order.”
“Ugh,” said Clint.
“What?” Tony asked.
“It’s just...not what it’s like, at all,” Natasha said.
“If I recall, you do crush people’s heads between your thighs, don’t you?” Tony asked.
“The gadgets,” said Clint. "And the...names."
"There was that guy with the cat, in Taiwan-" Natasha began.
"I think that was ironically referential, though," Clint replied. The two stared at each other for a moment, and then Natasha shrugged.
“I’m only participating if we stick to the Sean Connery ones,” Natasha said, crossing her arms. “And possibly Daniel Craig. He is also acceptable.”
“Huh,” said Tony, glancing between her, Clint, and Steve. “So you’ve got a thing for blondes?” He grinned. “And, you know, it’s probably really poor form to murder the generous billionaire who its letting you stay in his awesome tower, rent free-”
“Who said anything about murder?” Natasha said. She opened the freezer and removed a bottle of expensive vodka. “We might as well do this right.”
Steve smiled - and Bruce did, reflexively, because it was good to see him in a group situation and enjoying the company, taking things in, making an effort...he had looked around the SHIELD files Tony had downloaded to JARVIS, and had felt a little protective of the Captain after reading about how they had handled him - trying to trick him, then putting on the child’s gloves, and, even with the Avenger’s Initiative, acting as though he wasn’t capable of knowing and understanding certain things. He felt bad, poking into it, but their interactions had made him...curious, and besides, it wasn’t like they all hadn’t read each others files. Well, Steve probably respected their privacy, but Bruce knew he at least had the paper copies - the ones that featured several very flattering pictures of him when he broke Harlem.
“Bruce?” Steve asked, and Bruce found himself pulled back into reality. “Were you going to watch the movie?”
“Yeah,” Bruce said. He grabbed the vegetable lover’s pizza and carried it into the living room.
“And maybe after - I mean, if you’re not tired...” Steve said, glancing at his watch - it was five in the evening, but none of them had got anything done that day besides help Clint and Natasha move in - “...you could look at my laptop?”
“Yeah, sure,” Bruce said. “Not a problem.”
It turned out to be an exercise in patience, and deep breathing - but Steve was still at an age, sort of, where his brain was porous and he was able to take in a good deal of what Bruce was telling him. Certainly not like the time Bruce had tried to teach Betty’s grandmother how to e-mail - what do you mean, click? Why is it click? What am I doing, clicking?
It wasn’t too difficult, either, once he realized what Steve’s hang-ups were with the interface. Bruce took most of the links off of his desktop and replaced them with only the ones the Captain was most likely to use, and then organized his bookmarks so he would always be able to go there to look for anything on the Internet. He made a link straight to Wikipedia from the desktop, which Steve really appreciated.
“I should warn you, though,” Bruce said, when he pulled up Google. “There is a dark and terrible side to the Internet-”
“You mean the porn,” Steve said, very matter-of-fact, and Bruce had to laugh. Steve gave him a shy smile. “They told me about that, in the computer class SHIELD had me take-”
“Not just porn,” said Bruce. “You can find anything on the Internet - if someone has an interest in something, it’s on the Internet, from furries to tentacles to...I mean, I wouldn’t type Tony Stark into Google,” Bruce said. He hadn’t been paying attention, as he spoke, and his mouth opened slightly when he saw that Steve had typed furries into the search and was reading the article that came up.
Bruce was glad he had put the moderate safe search on. “Huh,” Steve said, looking at Bruce. “I see what you mean - and it gets weirder?”
“Yes,” said Bruce. “Yes, it does.”
Steve shook his head. “Man, and I thought Tijuana bibles-”
“What?” Bruce asked.
Steve beamed, and typed - he wasn’t a bad typist, but then again, why would be be? They had type writers when he came from - the phrase into the search engine, and then clicked the link for Bruce. “A lot of boys had them, during the war - that and pinups, but these were a lot more...” he shrugged his shoulders, and then reddened slightly when Bruce enlarged one of the pictures.
“Huh,” Bruce said.
“Yeah,” Steve said. “Turns out porn wasn’t invented in the 1970s.” Bruce laughed, and almost wanted to pat his head, or something - aw, you made a joke! - but he held it in. “This is good, though - I really appreciate it, Bruce.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Bruce said. He glanced at the clock on his computer and understood what Steve’s thank you meant to serve as. “I should probably get going - since it’s late, but...”
“Sleep well!” Steve said, and he gave him a little wave as Bruce left the Captains’ room.
* * * *
“Bruce, Tony mentioned...you like art?” Steve asked, as Bruce squinted at the other man’s phone and tried to figure out exactly how he had got it to switch to French - which, thankfully, Bruce was fluent enough with to sort the problem out.
“Uhm...yes?” Bruce said, glancing up. “I mean, I can’t do it, to save - but I appreciate it, I guess.” This was what happened when you dated an art history major in college, he almost added, but didn’t.
Steve gave him a slight smile. “So, I was looking around on Wikipedia, yesterday, and found out there’s a whole museum of modern art in New York?”
Bruce furrowed his brow - how was it that no one had mentioned the MoMA to Steve? Pepper, especially? And, that was an interesting question - why had Tony sent Steve Bruce’s way? Bruce shrugged it off, likely Pepper was busy. And, as with many things, no one had mentioned the existence of the museum to Steve because everyone accepted it as fact. “Oh, there we go,” he said, and grinned. He wasn’t that much better with modern phone technology than Steve was, to be fair. Cellphones had changed a lot since he had gone on the run. “And, yes, there is - do you...want to go?”
Steve nodded, slightly embarrassed. “I guess they’re just reopening, uhm, after, so I thought it might be...” he shrugged, pulling his shoulders up towards his chin and giving Bruce a look, that, if he were a cartoon character, would have his mouth rendered as a squiggle.
“Sure,” Bruce said. “We can go tomorrow, I’m not on anything really important. And I think the workmen are coming, anyway-”
“Tony’s having them install some kind of glass over the Loki-hole,” Steve said. He would, Bruce thought, but he just shook his head.
* * * *
They walked down to the museum, and Bruce was relieved to see that, as the damage progressively lessened, Manhattan seemed to come alive again. Steve had a baseball cap low on his head and was doing his best to keep his vision to the sidewalk - there had, he explained as they walked, been a period during the battle when one of the Chitauri had ripped his mask off and a few people had taken cellphone pictures.
“Wait,” Bruce said. “So people are huddled together, about to get...whatevered, by an alien army, and your mask gets taken off, and some people’s first instinct was to take pictures of it?”
“Exactly!” Steve said, and smiled at him. “Tony, Clint, and Natasha didn’t think it was strange at all. Clint was the one who showed me - it was on some website, with the title Good to Know Captain America Doesn’t Need the Mask!”
True, Bruce thought, but he just gave an awkward smile and nodded his head. “I mean, it’s not as though it’s the first-”
“Right, there’s the film reels - I never saw those, actually,” Steve said. “Should I?”
“I think it would depend on how you feel about watching yourself on film,” Bruce replied - he had seen one of them in elementary school, but didn’t remember much of it besides the awkward giggles from some of the girls.
Steve shook his head. “But, anyway, I guess most people don’t look at those, so...it’s just. Tony can have all of it, he really can. And you’re lucky-” He stopped walking, when he said that, and put a hand on Bruce’s forearm. “I mean, I don’t mean-”
“It’s fine, Steve,” Bruce said. “It’s not like they can send the Other Guy out to do press conferences, right?” Steve smiled at him.
“That’s the first time I think you’ve made a joke-”
Bruce shrugged. “I guess Tony’s rubbing off on me.” Steve looked confused, for a second, and then seemed to understand what Bruce was getting at. He nodded.
“Well, in this instance - not a bad thing,” Steve said.
The museum was relatively quiet, and they got tickets without waiting in too long of a line. Steve paged through the museum guide eagerly. “Tony gave me this...told me not to be too much of a grandpa, looking at all of the modern art,” Steve said. “Sure, a dot on canvas is a dot on canvas, but it wasn’t like Mondrian wasn’t painting in the 1930s-” He raised his eyebrows and smiled at Bruce.
“What?” Bruce said.
“Nothing, you just knew what I was saying,” Steve said.
“Yeah,” Bruce said, “I dated an art history major in college.” This took a little bit of the smile off of Steve’s face - no doubt the history portion of things. “Mondrian - the squares, right?”
“Yes,” Steve said, and began to talk more than Bruce had ever really heard him talk about anything - he was approaching Tony Stark levels of verbosity - as they moved through the portions of the museums collection that he was familiar with. Bruce interjected, when he had the opportunity, or asked a question. He was more interested in watching some of the docents as Steve moved from room to room, puppy-like in his enthusiasm. He caught the eye of one younger woman, who gave him a smile and very discreet thumbs up. Bruce reached back and scratched his head. Yeah, he thought. If only.
The night before, as he brushed his teeth, he had looked at himself in the mirror and thought, just admit it, Banner, it will make it real, and you can move on. Because there was no way... So, he thought, as he looked at himself, I, Bruce Banner, have a crush on Steve Rogers. It had felt a little better.
“They have a great collection,” Steve said, as they made their way back down on the escalator.
“Yeah, I visited here a few times with Jeff-” Bruce began, and then stopped, pressing his lips together as he glanced at Steve.
Steve blinked, and then nodded. “The art history major,” he said.
“Yeah,” Bruce said.
“Where did you go to school?” Steve asked.
“For undergraduate? Harvard,” Bruce said. “But he was from New York, so...” He waved his hand, slightly.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” Steve asked, pulling his map out of his back pocket. “It looks like there’s a sort of cafe on the second level.”
“Sure,” Bruce said - and he felt bad, for being a little surprised, but then, who knew? It wasn’t as though you could just go up to the guy and say, so, Captain America - gays? Bi? Yay or nay? Well, you could. If you were Tony Stark.
Over lunch, conversation turned to Clint and Natasha’s move, and the fact that Tony was actually putting an archery range in, and how Steve liked to spar with Natasha because her style was so different from his own. “Have we heard anything from Thor?”
“No,” Bruce said. “I mean, now that they’ve got the Tesseract it sort of gets rid of the problem of not having the Bifrost - the portal, for travel, they had, before Loki broke it-” Steve scowled at the mention of Loki - “I imagine he’ll just turn up one day, though, you know? We are under his protection.”
“Oh, right,” Steve said, and something about this made him smile. “Let me take your tray,” he said, and cleared up after them before Bruce could even protest.
It was raining when they left, so they took a cab back to the Tower. “You two work there?” the cab driver asked.
“Yes,” Bruce said, at the same time Steve said, “You could say that.”
Steve turned a slight color of grey when he noticed the cab fare, but Bruce pulled a twenty out of his pocket and gave it to the driver. He told him to keep the change in response to the inconvenience of having to drive them through some of the still devastated parts of the city.
“Well, thanks, again, Bruce,” Steve said, putting his hands in his pocket as they got off at the elevator. “I had a really great day.” Bruce nodded and watched as Steve walked off towards his room. He sighed - and wondered if there was a support group.
* * * *
“Let’s recap,” Tony said, handing the blow torch he had been using to Bruce.
“Recap what?” Bruce asked - they had just been talking about particle physics, and it certainly wasn’t something either of them needed a summary of.
“You’ve gone to the museum, you’ve gone for Indian food, you went to see a movie, and what was it yesterday?”
Bruce swallowed, glad that Tony wasn’t facing him and was, instead, using a wrench on the latest version of the suit. “Ugh-”
“Oh, that’s right, you went to a concert,” Tony said, almost casually, and Bruce sighed.
“It was free,” he tried.
“And the Capsicle is as dense about this as he is about-”
“He’s not dense, Tony,” Bruce said.
Tony turned, and lifted the safety goggles off of his face - he appeared, much to Bruce’s dismay, gleeful. “Oh, and you’re defending him? Oh, no, Banner - you’ve got it bad!”
“Wasn’t that where you were going?”
“I figured you just wanted to fuck him - and all of that was just, you know...” Tony waved his hand.
“Noo...” Bruce said.
“But you do want to fuck him, too, right?” Tony said, and Bruce blinked at him. “Look, it’s cool. I want to fuck him.” Bruce narrowed his eyes. “Gotcha.”
“Fuck,” Bruce said.
Tony wrapped an arm around Bruce, and Bruce wrinkled his nose - only slightly - at the smell of motor oil. “It’s OK, Bruce, it really is. I’m not going to mock you.”
“What, exactly, was the point of the past few minutes, then?”
“Tease. Rib. Not mock,” Tony said, and he cocked his head as though he was about to pronounce some sort of universal truth - and he did this a lot, “If it makes you feel any better-”
“I think he might like you too,” Tony said.
“I was right.”
“No, think about it? People went on dates in the forties, right? And some people were...homosexual, I’m sure-”
“Tony. People have been gay since-” Bruce began, but then just rolled his eyes.
“Well, he has to be aware that you’re courting him, or whatever you’ve been doing,” Tony said.
“I wasn’t doing anything - sometimes Steve suggested the-” Bruce said, and then wished he hadn’t.
“Perfect,” said Tony. “So he’s courting you, too!”
“I think we were just doing things together. Like friends do,” Bruce said - Tony, for his part, appeared perplexed by this. “Don’t you and Rhodey go out and...drink and..?”
“Huh,” said Tony. “But you and Steve aren’t going out, getting drunk, and picking up girls,” he said.
“Steve doesn’t drink,” Bruce said, and then wondered why he was even arguing this point.
“Not that you’re going to take my advice, because you’re being obstinate - which you’re good at, Banner, I’ll give you that - but if you want to get to the bottom of this, ask him out for dinner. He can’t misinterpret that, and especially not if it’s a fancy place.”
Bruce did not reply to this, because he did not want to acknowledge the fact that Tony might have just given him very good advice.
* * * *
Steve smiled at him as they walked - Bruce had purposefully picked somewhere not too far from the Tower, so they didn’t have to deal with using one of Tony’s drivers. “It’s a really nice night out,” he said. Bruce nodded, and shoved his hands in his pants. They were one of many pairs that had mysteriously appeared when he first moved in, and which he had ignored until tonight - but he was going to test Tony’s hypothesis, he figured he should go full out, and that included looking the part.
Steve looked like Steve, though Bruce thought the button down might be a new addition. The leather jacket certainly wasn’t, and this did not bother him in the least. “You know,” Steve said, and then he stopped.
“Hmm?” Bruce asked.
“I’ve really liked...spending time with you, these past couple of weeks. It’s really made things easier,” Steve said. His own hands were in his pocket.
“Oh,” Bruce said. “Thanks. I’m...well, I know what it can feel like to be out of your element.” He quirked a slight smile, and Steve nodded.
The rest of the walk was in silence, though they didn’t have far to go. Bruce had chose an American bistro, figuring that the way to Steve’s heart was probably through steak and potatoes, though the hostess had assured him they had several lovely pasta dishes available for him as well.
“Oh,” Steve said, glancing around. “This is...this is really nice.”
“Yeah,” Bruce said, and gave his name to the maitre’d - he almost said something, like, Tony suggested it, but then inhaled and held his tongue - for science.
Bruce had to pull his glasses out to look at the menu, and he winced slightly. “Why?” Steve said.
“You made a face,” Steve said, “when you pulled out your glasses. Why?”
Bruce considered this, and decided to answer honestly. “It makes me feel old,” he said, finally.
“Oh,” Steve said, and looked down at the menu. “I think they’re...intellectual.” He winced, himself, though it was largely hidden behind the menu.
Huh, Bruce thought, and before he could think any further, the waiter arrived with an amuse bouche. Steve regarded it with suspicion, even after Bruce took the small thing into his mouth.
“It’s in a tiny spoon,” Steve said, finally.
“They tend to come that way, I think, these days,” Bruce replied.
“I just sounded like Thor, didn’t I?” Steve asked, and he sort of giggled, but then stopped as another waiter brought Bruce the glass of wine he had ordered and some sparkling water for Steve.
It was dinner, largely, Bruce decided as he tucked his brand new Stark Industries Triple Excelsior Platinum Credit Card into the leather holder, deciding it best Steve not see how much the steak and potatoes he had enjoyed so much had cost. The conversation was as easy as it always seemed to be, between them, and Steve had even opened up a bit about his war experience and told Bruce some amusing anecdotes about his time with the Howling Commandos.
“Thanks,” Steve said, as Bruce signed the check.
“It’s...” Bruce began, almost stating that it was Tony’s card, but then he stopped - he had almost forgot the point he was trying to prove. Or not prove. “It’s not a problem,” he said.
“The food was really good,” Steve said, and Bruce nodded.
It was a little cooler when they left the restaurant, and Bruce was glad for the blazer he had worn, even though he felt a little ridiculous in it. “I’m glad you liked it,” Bruce said. “It had really good reviews, so I figured it would probably be worth trying and-”
“Oh, fuck it,” Steve said, interrupting him.
The next things that happened, at the time, happened very fast and in a jolting style Bruce always equated with flip books. Steve took his arm, his touch firm but gentle, and turned Bruce as he still babbled about the website reviews of the restaurant. Steve pulled Bruce close to him, and leaned down slightly to look at him - and fuck, he was tall, Bruce thought, and felt stupid for it, because he knew this. And then Steve’s lips were on his, hard, insistent, while his hand intertwined with Bruce’s.
“Huh,” Bruce managed, when Steve broke the kiss.
“I’m sorry, did I - oh, no, I totally read that-”
“No, no, that was good,” Bruce said, voice soft. “I just didn’t think-”
“But you asked me to dinner,” Steve said.
“Yes, but it was just to prove-” Bruce stopped, then. “I didn’t know if we were on the same wavelength.”
“The same what?”
“Thinking...the same thing, about...” he waved the hand that was not currently intwined with Steve’s around.
“Oh,” said Steve. “I mean, I wasn’t, either, but then I saw the restaurant, and...”
“Well, this is good,” Bruce said, and decided it would probably be a good time to kiss Steve again. This time, he opened his mouth and was pleased when the other man followed his lead. Their tongues intertwined, and separated, and the kiss quickly became hungry and forceful.
“Bruce, I-” Steve said, voice soft. “I’ve never-”
“Really?” Bruce asked, surprised. “Because you’re quite good at it.” Then he blushed, realizing Steve didn’t mean kissed someone - because, of course not.
Steve laughed, and then worried his bottom lip with his tongue. “No, I mean, I want to be honest, I think that’s important - I’ve never been with a man.”
“OK,” Bruce said, and sort of glanced down at his feet. Steve put a hand under his chin and lifted his head back up.
“I want to be with you - it’s just...”
“No, that’s...” Bruce trailed off. “That’s fine. I don’t just - I mean, I like being-”
“Great,” Steve said, relieved. He kissed Bruce lightly, and then began to walk, maintaining the contact with their hands.
“Huh,” Bruce said, after a few moments of silence. Steve cocked his head. “I was sort of waiting for the question, about-”
“Oh,” Steve said. “I guess, I figured, if you were going to take me out, that it was...OK?”
“It is,” Bruce said, smiling at him, and he felt light. The term they probably used, in Steve’s time, was twitterpated. Shit, he thought, and did his best not to let it cross his face. This means Tony’s right. He was going to be insufferable when he found out. Bruce glanced over at Steve, who met his gaze with a smile. Worth it.