“Joint mission with SHIELD, and I’ll be back before you know it,” Tony says, poking his head into Bruce’s lab. “Piece of cake.”
Bruce’s eyes narrow. “Don’t jinx yourself.”
Tony mimes being stabbed. “Oh, ye of little faith!”
“I don’t want to see you get hurt,” Bruce replies. “Do you need me?”
Tony shakes his head. “No, there’s no danger of a Code Green, Big Guy, and I know how much you hate being put in that position.”
“You’ll be careful?” Bruce asks.
Tony gives him a quick, bruising kiss. “I have you to come home to, don’t I?”
“See that you do,” Bruce orders. “What’s the operation?”
“Potential terrorist cell, with some concern they’ve got a bomb,” Tony replies. “SHIELD wants to make a statement.”
Bruce frowns. “And you’re sure you don’t need me?”
“Absolutely,” Tony says. “I’ll see you soon.”
Bruce always worries when Tony goes out in his suit. He knows Tony can take care of himself, and SHIELD wouldn’t want anything to happen to Iron Man, but Bruce is indestructible; Tony isn’t.
Every time Tony puts on the Iron Man armor, he risks his life, and Bruce is acutely aware of that fact. After all, it hadn’t been so long ago that he’d believed Tony dead.
He tries to focus on his current project—nanotech that can perform difficult surgeries with no incision and very little pain.
If he makes it work right, even complex procedures could be done with no anesthesia, just a simple pill taken before bedtime. Then the person wakes up the next morning with the surgery complete.
Of course, Bruce knows that his tech has to be absolutely perfect, because the consequences for getting it wrong would be dire.
He manages to lose himself in his work, but then Jarvis says, “You have a call from Captain Rogers, Dr. Banner.”
Bruce frowns. “Put it through, Jarvis.”
“Bruce, Tony is going to be fine,” Steve says immediately.
Bruce frowns. “But he’s not fine right now.”
“There was an explosion, and Tony was too close to the blast,” Steve explains. “His suit took the brunt of it, but he’s bruised up, and he has a broken leg.”
“They set it, and he’s not going to need surgery,” Steve says. “He has a cast, but he’ll be fine. The doctor said they can release him to your care.”
Bruce lets out a sigh of relief. “Okay. Where is he?”
“Natasha’s on her way to pick you up,” Steve replies. “Tony’s at the SHIELD medical facility in New York.” He pauses. “Bruce, he’s going to be fine.”
“Thank you,” Bruce says quietly. “I appreciate that you called me yourself.”
Steve nods. “Tony’s family. Like that really annoying cousin we all have and would prefer wasn’t family.”
Bruce laughs. “Yeah. Okay. Thanks.”
He’s still not really used to having people invested in looking out for him or for Tony, but he’s appreciative of Natasha’s presence when she pulls up in front of Stark Tower.
His hands are shaking, and even with Steve’s reassurances, he’s pretty sure he shouldn’t be driving.
“Bruce, he’s going to be fine,” Natasha says immediately.
Bruce takes a deep breath. “That obvious, huh?”
“You’re married to the man,” Natasha replies. “That seems to indicate a high level of interest in his well-being.”
Bruce laughs. “I guess it does.”
“He has some bruises, but I suspect that the worst part of this whole thing is going to be Tony’s whining while he recovers,” Natasha says wryly. “He hasn’t realized it yet, but wearing the suit while he’s in a cast is going to be impossible.”
Bruce grimaces. He hadn’t even thought about that. “Oh, god, you’re totally right.”
Tony can’t stand being lectured by Captain America on any given day, but when Steve is completely in the right, and it’s Tony who screwed up? That just makes it ten times worse.
“I told you to wait!” Steve says, exasperated.
The pain has been reduced to a dull ache, at least in his leg, but Tony’s headache is reaching massive proportions.
“I thought I could handle it,” Tony replies sullenly. “I was handling it.”
“Clearly not!” Steve actually puts his hands on his hips. “Have you thought about what you’re going to tell Bruce?”
Tony groans, because that’s going to be even worse. Bruce (probably) won’t lecture, he’ll just look exceedingly disappointed, with a wounded expression that kills Tony every time.
And when he finds out that Tony got hurt trying to defuse a bomb, when the area had been evacuated and the only person who might be hurt was him? And that Steve had ordered him to stand down rather than trying to beat the timer?
Tony has a feeling that he’ll be sleeping on the couch for a while.
“Is somebody getting him?” Tony asks. “You know he probably shouldn’t drive.”
“Natasha’s handling it,” Steve says and sighs. “I’m just glad you’re mostly okay.”
And he is mostly okay, although he’s one big bruise from his head down. The suit had taken most of the blast no problem, and he probably wouldn’t have had any broken bones had the building not collapsed on top of him.
The armor had structural damage, which meant it couldn’t take the weight of the concrete beam that fell on his right leg. The doctors told him that had he not been wearing his armor, his leg would have been crushed, and he would have lost it. Instead, he walks—well, limps—away with a relatively minor fracture and a cast.
That doesn’t mean Tony’s happy about it, though. He still has a broken leg.
And then Bruce enters the room, his expression carefully blank, and Tony winces. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Bruce replies, giving him a careful kiss on the lips. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” Tony says, because he feels the need to lie right now. He’s sore, and hurting, and he’s cranky because he knows this means at least eight weeks without the suit, but that’s not what Bruce needs to hear. Bruce needs to hear that Tony is fine.
Bruce gives his cast a sardonic look. “That might indicate otherwise.”
“It could have been worse,” Tony replies, and he means it to be reassuring, but Bruce appears to be equal parts pained and angry. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” Bruce says. “It’s okay.”
Moments like these, Tony can feel their years of separation pressing in on them. If he and Bruce had been together all this time, Bruce would have read him the riot act; he would have demanded to know what happened, and threatened grievous bodily harm if Tony took that kind of risk again.
But Bruce had disappeared for six years, and so he doesn’t feel like he has the right to lecture Tony on carelessness. Plus, Bruce is invincible, so that complicates the situation. What Bruce can get away with and what Tony can, without risking permanent injury or death, are two different things. And Tony’s naturally competitive nature means he doesn’t always take that into consideration.
So, Bruce can’t really bring that up either, because the big, green elephant in the room too often remains unaddressed—at least by Bruce. Tony has no problem stating the obvious.
The doctor bustles in. “Ah, Dr. Banner. Agent Romanoff said you were here. We’re prepared to release Mr. Stark to your care if you’d like.”
“I would,” Bruce says gravely.
The doctor nods. “The break was clean and easily set. We expect Mr. Stark to heal without complications. He’ll have to wear the cast for eight weeks, but we’ll check him again in a month, just to see how things are going.”
Dr. Morrow fixes Tony with a stern glare. “Please stay off that leg as much as possible for the next few weeks. You’ll have crutches to use, but the leg will heal better if you move around less. And in case it hasn’t crossed your mind, absolutely no use of the Iron Man suit until the cast is off and you’ve been cleared.”
Tony opens his mouth to protest, or at least to ask about exceptions and then he catches a glimpse of Bruce’s expression. “I understand.”
“You got off lightly,” Dr. Morrow continues. “Had you not been wearing the armor, you might have lost the leg. At the very least, you’d be looking at a much longer recovery period. Dr. Banner, if you like, I can go over the home-care instructions.”
Steve peels away from the corner of the room. “Tony, I’m glad you’re okay. Give me a call if you need anything. I need to go debrief.”
That’s a chore Tony’s not looking forward to, especially since he knows it’s going to come out that he tried to disarm a bomb even though it had been a very bad idea.
“I’ll give you both a ride home,” Natasha offers.
Tony glances at Bruce, who is still talking to the doctor near the door, reading off Tony’s chart, and grimaces. “Shit. I’m not going to be driving with this thing on.”
“Be glad you’re mostly walking away from it,” Natasha says severely.
Bruce rejoins them. “I have to fill Tony’s prescriptions, and pick up his crutches. I’ll be back.”
Natasha gives Tony a pitying look. “Looks like you’re going to be in the doghouse for the foreseeable future.”
Tony flops back down on the bed and doesn’t bother to reply.
“I’m not going to bed,” Tony says mulishly as soon as they reach the Penthouse. “It’s early.”
“The couch, then,” Bruce agrees, keeping his tone pleasant. He’d gotten the bare bones of the story out of Tony on their way home, and he knows that Tony is waiting for a lecture or some other display of displeasure.
Tony limps over to the couch, moving slowly, and Bruce tries not to hover too obviously. Tony hates that.
“Are you hungry?” Bruce asks. “I can make something or order in.”
Tony winces. “Are you mad at me? Because if you are, can we just get that portion of the evening over with? You lecture, I apologize, and we can move on with our lives.”
Bruce sits down on the coffee table across from Tony, knowing from experience that it will hold his weight—even with strenuous activity. “Just answer one question for me.”
“Did you think you could defuse the bomb?” He tries to keep all traces of censure out of his voice, because this is Tony, and there are some ways in which he is so easily wounded.
Tony blinks, and then says, “Yeah, I thought I could. I just—we destroy so much. Why just let a bomb go off when we could help it?”
“That’s why I’m not mad,” Bruce replies simply. “If I thought you were being stupidly reckless, or that you had a death wish, I’d be pissed off, and disappointed that you didn’t want to come home to me—but I know you.”
Bruce knows all about calculated risks. The people who had rented the building to terrorists had no idea what their tenants were up to, plus there were other businesses on site or nearby.
The Avengers try to prevent people from coming to harm, but property damage also can cause a lot of grief.
Saving things should never come at the cost of their lives, but Bruce understands Tony’s impulse, and knows that Tony really had believed he could defuse the bomb. He wouldn’t have stayed otherwise.
Bruce knows that Tony somehow manages to balance his self-interest with self-sacrifice, and he hasn’t been careless with his own life for some time now.
Maybe it had been the wrong call this time, but it was made for the right reasons, and Bruce had known what he was getting himself into when he married Tony Stark.
He’s known the man for more than half their lives now.
Tony glances away. “Steve was pissed.”
“Steve isn’t married to you,” Bruce teases. “Besides, I’m pretty sure he would have been pissed even if you had succeeded because you didn’t follow orders.”
Tony rolls his eyes and then winces. “Why did we make him team captain again?”
“Because everybody, even the Hulk, will follow him, and he’s usually better at tactical decisions than you are,” Bruce reminds him. “And most days, we like Steve.”
“You can like Steve,” Tony says grumpily. “I’ll be over here seething with frustration.”
Bruce can feel his lips twitch. “Because he was right?”
“Yeah,” Tony admits grudgingly. “I’m glad you’re not mad.”
Bruce squeezes Tony’s good leg gently. “Well, I’m pretty sure eight weeks of no suit and no driving is a better punishment than I could come up with, even if I were inclined to be angry.”
Tony raises an eyebrow. “I thought you were always angry.”
“About this thing specifically,” Bruce replies, and then leans in for a kiss, wanting the reassurance that Tony is okay, or at least will be. “Dinner?”
“Maybe in a bit,” Tony says vaguely. “The pain meds made me a little nauseous.”
Bruce perches on the edge of the couch. “Is this okay?”
“Are you kidding?” Tony asks. “I think I’m due some cuddles.”
And Bruce stretches out next to him carefully, feeling how they slot together, grateful for the moment that Tony is here next to him.