"Good morning mister Stark."
"Hngh," he says. He doesn't remember falling asleep with anyone, hence momentary confusion.
"I'm very happy to see you alive," she says but sounds anything but.
"Good morning Pepper. Happy to be alive." He chooses not to look up just yet. Pepper can be a little hard on a person in the morning, death-defying escapades or no. "Just got here?"
"Yes, sir. It took most of the night and morning to retract and explain the emergency protocols."
He peeks at her through one eye. "Don't be mad. I got shot at with a new type of energy ray."
She completely ignores him using her tablet as a shield. "You have eleven calls from Nick Fury, seventeen calls from Steve Rogers, a get well card from Thor which appeared on my desk before I left, and a message from Wayne Enterprises."
Tony rolls out of bed literally. It never hurts to look needy with Pepper, it's been known to make her go just a touch easier on him. He keeps the sheet so he's relatively decent and sits with his back against the bed and his legs stretched out in front of him. "Can I see my card?" he says pathetically, looking up at her. Pepper's stern face cracks and she kneels down to his level. She looks worried, which is regrettable. He's sorry there's nothing he can do, but he won't stop being Iron Man, not even for her.
"It's a very nice card," she tells him, and it is. It's glowy and blue and there's pretty pictures of ladies in metal underwear. Yeah, there are definite reasons he loves Thor best. Even if the man doesn't use phones and has a fondness for smashing up crockery.
He smiles at her and she cracks completely. He's engulfed in a hug which hurts a little but he doesn't mind.
"Hey. Hey, it's okay. I'm fine."
"No," she snaps. "It is not okay. Nothing is okay. I had to watch you tell me you are sorry you're dead and that you love me and don't you understand that nothing is okay?"
He spends a little while holding her while she convinces herself he is real. He knows it's hard on her and he knows this is the prime reason there will never be a Pepper Stark. He has come to terms in the best ways he knows how—self-indulgence and public indecency.
She finally lets go and in a show of un-Pepper like behaviour, folds her legs under her and sits with him on the floor. "You have no idea how much of a pain it is to un-kill you."
"Trust me, it wasn't a picnic on my end either," he says. "Hey, guess what. I met Batman," he tells her and she looks properly intrigued.
"Gotham's Dark Knight?"
He grins. "That's the one. The fetish bat saved my ass yesterday and then he flew—glided away."
Pepper snorts and covers her mouth with her hand. Tony wiggles his eyebrows. That pushes her right over the edge and she laughs. He wants to pat himself on the back but refrains. She might slap him if he did.
"So, is he a meta-human with bat-like characteristics, or plain man?" she asks with a smile. "I have a bet going."
"Nah, he's a man all right. I have scans to prove it. I can see how it could be confusing for people though. He's very growly."
She giggles again. "Growly fetish bat. Did you say thank you?"
Now he pouts. "I was going to, properly and everything. He's not a playful sort. A shame, really. You know how I like pectoral girth."
She rolls her eyes and smacks him with her tablet. "Don't remind me. Who was the one who had to explain to Rogers that no, you weren't crazy because we had you tested and yes, homosexuality is perfectly normal."
"Bisexuality," he cuts in. "I'm an equal opportunity kind of guy. Breasts are very nice too."
Pepper lifts her tablet again so he catches her arm. She has quite the swing when she's peeved. They stare at each other for a few seconds while she frowns at him. He doesn't release her arm until her face smooths out.
"Pansexual," she says.
He's momentarily thrown. "I beg pardon?"
"You remember, there was that time with those twins but only one of them was a real girl?"
He thinks back and, oh, right. "Michaela, who used to be Michael. Good times."
Pepper gets back up and dusts her skirt off while he ogles her legs. Then he remembers. "Wait, did you say Wayne Enterprises called?"
She pauses to give him a look. "You look like an excited puppy."
"Yeah, well, Wayne doesn't live up to his reputation." Her eyes widen with adorable confusion. "The media has monstrously underestimated that man's bedroom prowess."
"I have no words," she stammers.
He nods in agreement. "I know. It's tragic."
"You are unbelievable."
"Pepper, we have talked about this. What did I say about being mean to your boss? Now give," he says, starting out stern but even he can tell that last bit was a little childish.
She smirks at him with every inch of smug she can muster.
"Which building do you think you crashed? I'll give you a guess—it's a spectacular view."
He's getting really tired of listening to people talking money at him. For one, it's his money and they are far too eager for it. For another, there is a distinct stink of unfair.
"What about the Batman?" he'd said. They'd looked at him like he'd just pissed on the messiah. Yeah, he'd not tried it again.
"Just give me an estimate of the damages I won't want to have reassessed." He's hungry and bored. Hell, he doesn't even go to his own company meetings, what makes these clowns think he wants to be at theirs. He's just about to tell them to go piss against the wind when in walks Lucius Fox followed by Bruce. Armani suit. Wayne. Suddenly, he's not so bored.
"Tony!" Bruce says far too amiably. "What are you doing here?"
He will not call him on it. He will not. He has manners, for fuck's sake. If Bruce Wayne wants to be billionaire idiot today, then that is his right.
"Property damages, Bruce. These gentlemen were just telling me all about it."
Bruce gets a little puzzled frown and leans over him to look at the papers. "Wayne Tower? Really?" he laughs. "What did you do?"
"I crashed through a window or six. Oh, and probably scuffed the floor. The armour is a little unwieldy when it's damaged," he says nonchalantly. "It's been in the news."
And has it ever. 'Iron Man destroys Wayne Tower: is Gotham's newest resident a hero or a menace?'. He and Pepper had a nice laugh about that one. She obviously sided with option number two.
Bruce scoops up the papers and hands them to Fox. They have a moment where some sort of information is exchanged via eye contact and Tony stores it away. Bruce then claps him on the shoulder and smiles blindingly at the assorted personnel.
"I'll take care of it. My friend has clearly had a rough few days."
The peons look worried. Tony knows this is because the assessment they gave him is utter bullshit and Bruce just handed it to one of the most honest businessmen Tony has ever known. He feels a shark-like grin coming on and doesn't bother to hide it.
Bruce helps nail their coffins nice and shut with a single naively spoken sentence. "You'll take care of it, won't you Lucius? I'm taking Tony out for lunch."
Tony doesn't argue. Bruce has a grip on his trapezius which is one shade away from uncomfortable and when he gets up the grip is transferred to his back. Bruce doesn't say anything and Tony tries very hard to hold everything in until they get to the elevators. Once they're inside it's game over though.
He decides to lead with "Why on Earth do you pretend to be stupid?" He gets a blank look of sheer stupid from Bruce. "Yes. That. You can't honestly expect everyone to fall for it. For crying out loud, it's not that hard to get to your academic record."
"Not everyone cares to find out every detail of my life," Bruce says with a definite undertone of accusation.
Tony shrugs. "I'm curious, sue me."
"You're not going to let this go, are you?" Bruce sighs. Tony shakes his head vigorously. "Fine. I do it because it's easy."
The quiet is uncomfortable. "Sorry I crashed your tower," Tony says for lack of anything intelligent.
Bruce smiles at him. "You could have called. I'm pretty sure the great Tony Stark can find my number."
"Um, yeah," he says, nodding and trying very hard to exude vibes that say 'harmless boyscout, no sir, I didn't hack your personal records at all'. He's not very good at it, he knows, but he's an eternal optimist. "You see, I was on my way to do just that when I got shot out of the sky. To be honest, the fetish bat helped with the wreckage. You could say it was his idea to begin with."
Well, well. Bruce Wayne is choking on air.
"Fetish bat?" he manages to say eventually and Tony indulges him with joy.
"The Batman. You know, caped crusader, Gotham's defender in the dark," Tony elaborates. "Admittedly I owe him my life, but it was his idea to use your tower. Say are we really going out to lunch? Because I totally give head on the first date." The elevator dings and Tony can't help himself. "This place is so adorably old school—I love it. Say, do you think I need a manor house? I can't help but wonder if I'm missing out on some awesome traditionalist in-crowd stuff."
Bruce walks away from him muttering under his breath. All Tony manages to catch is 'idiot', 'fetish bat', and 'narcissistic twit'. They walk straight into a wall of cameras and microphones. But of course. 'Tony Stark makes amends to Bruce Wayne – all is good with the world again'.
Bruce smiles like he was born to be on the cover of GQ and throws an arm around Tony's shoulders. Not to be outdone Tony throws them his best playboy philanthropist grin and wraps his arm around the taller man's waist. He is pretty sure he just saw several lady journalists swoon from their animal magnetism.
"Mr Wayne! Mr Wayne! Is it true you're suing Stark Industries for twelve million in damages to Wayne Tower?"
"Mr Stark! Why did you feel you needed to vandalise the offices of your future business partner?"
Tony can tell Bruce is struggling, which is a little odd. He's used to these clowns by now, Bruce should be too. Still, out of the goodness of his enormous heart, he decides to give the younger man a break. He holds his arms up, demanding silence. There isn't a doubt in his mind he'll get it.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please. There is no need for all this hostility. If you'll give me a sec, I'll explain the misunderstanding you're operating under." The shit-eating grin works overtime to mask his irritation but it's worth it to see Bruce relax slightly. Fuck a duck, when did he learn to be considerate? He shakes it off
"Thank you. Now, there seems to be a rumour going that I deliberately destroyed part of Wayne Tower." They go absolutely wild at that and he tries to shush them again. "Please, if you don't let me finish I won't get home in time for lunch and that makes me very cranky."
They laugh. They have no idea he's perfectly serious.
"Now, as I was saying, there is a big misunderstanding. What happened was a simple accident, a technical malfunction on my end and unfortunate location on the end of Wayne Tower. To put it bluntly, ladies and gentlemen, I crashed. Wayne Tower was so kind as to let me live through it."
"Mr Wayne, any comments?" an excited looking brunet asks, her eyes gleefully awaiting anything to the contrary of Tony's statement.
Bruce smiles at her and turns to Tony. "Only that I am glad that I could help in whatever way to preserve the life of a distinguished hero and my friend. The damages are minor, really, and I will fund the repairs personally. I don't believe in fining a man for nearly dying through no fault of his own." The press goes wild and Bruce laughs a little. "Now, now. I better keep my word and take Tony to lunch as I promised, so if you'll excuse us?"
He doesn't wait for them to let him through, he walks on with the confidence of someone who is used to the red sea parting for him when the mood struck. Tony catches sight of Jeeves the butler and gives the cameras a little wave before following Bruce.
There's a car waiting along with the butler. Predictably, it's a Rolls-Royce. Tony claps in glee. Bruce drops his face in his palm.
"Don't make me regret this," he says sternly.
Tony grins like a child on Christmas morning. "Somehow, I think you already do." Bruce's hands twitch. It's a definite sign he's getting to the end of his rope, Tony knows. He's seen that twitch before and usually it means the person performing it is mere minutes away from trying to strangle him. "Shall we? I'm honestly starving."He gets shoved into the car which is fine by him as Bruce follows right behind him. "Home, Alfred, before he eats me," Bruce tells the butler whose name sadly still isn't Jeeves.
"Very good sir."
"So, there will be pictures of you manhandling me," Tony points out.
Bruce nods. "I know."
"I thought you didn't like the press?" Tony prods further.
"And I don't. However, this is on my terms," Bruce says firmly. He exhales slowly. "You live part time in Gotham. It's practically inevitable we are seen together."
Tony smirks at him and leans in close. "Just not in the middle of the night?"
"Oh, I don't know," Bruce muses, "stranger things have happened."
He breathes in and out with satisfaction, resting against Bruce. The billionaire boys club is a go.
The curtains are snapped open and Tony burrows into his pillow with an angry snarl. "Fuck off J.A.R.V.I.S.. I have nowhere to be today."
"Good morning Mr Stark," says a voice which is emphatically not J.A.R.V.I.S..
Tony rises up awkwardly and is faced with a lot of old money. Oh, right, he remembers now, Bruce took him to see the family mansion—suitably impressive despite the lack of techy edge he's used to.
"Where's Bruce," he says groggily. The butler smiles and sets down a tray on the bedside table.
"Master Bruce was called away most suddenly. I am to convey his regrets. I have taken the liberty of procuring some fresh clothes, sir, I hope they will be to your satisfaction," Alfred—not Jeeves—tells him. "Master Bruce also wishes me to tell you that the mansion is not for sale."
Tony blinks. Wow, he's never been on the other end of these things before.
"Is that a butler-slash-assistant thing or did Bruce and I both just get lucky?" he wonders.
"That air of smug condescension," Tony says. "You're almost as good at it as Pepper. I was wondering if it was a mandatory skill when dealing with us pampered rich kids."
The butler actually quirks a grin. "Not mandatory, no, sir. But it helps."
Tony falls back into the mountain of pillows and sighs. "Can you call a car for me, Alfred? I feel a premonition I'm going to be called away suddenly coming on."
His phone chirps, proving him right. Alfred brings it to him and he rubs his temples before answering. "I'm on my way, Pep, stop shouting. Yes. Yes. Hey, listen, can you look into getting me a mansion? An old one, preferably bigger than Wayne's, somewhere sunny."
She cackles like a witch and tells him most cheerfully that he is hopeless and to stop chasing cars. He has no idea what she's talking about.
Tony shields his eyes despite already wearing a pair of sunglasses. The California sun is blinding him, which may or may not be a side effect of holing himself up in his workshop for the last week. He's been back for several weeks now and he's feeling restless.
He'd resolved to leave Gotham the minute he'd left Wayne's manor. Pepper says that means he was feeling neglected which he is absolutely not for reasons of not being a girl. So, here he is, back home where all the good things happen, feeling restless.
Thankfully he can keep busy enough for it to be negligible. Unfortunately he's not busy enough to make himself not call Wayne. So far, he's done it three times. Each time he spoke to Alfred the butler, and each time he left a message. He's yet to hear anything from Bruce.
Christ, he's not had sex since Gotham. What is wrong with him?
"Are you over your tantrum yet?" Pepper asks him. "Because if you aren't there's no point in celebrating the new division's long term contract with Wayne Enterprises."
Pepper is rubbing it in. He's stopped checking his messages with her in the room because he's tired of the knowing look like you wouldn't believe. She, of course, finds the entire thing infinitely funny and he, of course, does not.
"No! No, we're going through with that as planned. I'm not a child," he whines.
"There's no guarantee he'll show," she says, her voice dripping pity.
"Hence the date I have."
"You could just tell him," she snaps.
He gives her a look. "Tell him what?"
Pepper makes a noise of frustration and click-clacks out of there like an angry cat on stilts. He's still trying to figure out what the hell he's supposed to tell Wayne.
The party is in full swing when Tony arrives with his arm candy nestled neatly against him. His date is taller by an inch but when one takes the heeled shoes into account it's more like five. Tony doesn't mind a single bit, Andrej is a whole basket of exceptionally gorgeous and understands the concept of arm candy better than many a girl Tony has dated in the past.
Pepper, coming to investigate the uproar at the door, took one look at them and flushed redder than her hair. She is seething and Tony wants to stick his tongue out at her but it would ruin his entrance. The blond poster boy for androgyny snuggles his arm and poses with Tony for the multitude of flashing cameras. It really is easier to bring models to these things—there's a level of understanding, and of course the pictures turn out great every time.
Pepper ushers them inside before he can answer the screamed questions about his sexuality. He brought a publicly gay model to a corporate party, of course they want to know if that means he prefers the cock. Apparently Pepper would rather he didn't tell them. She stands near him vibrating with nervous energy while he meets and greets with the required people and is on him like a fat kid on cake the minute he excuses himself and his date to get a drink.
"What are you thinking?" she hisses at him. "No offence," she adds on quickly, and Andrej laughs.
"None taken. He surprised you, right? God, Tony, you are such a bitch."
"Hey, hey, none of the abuse. I get enough of that from Pepper." He signals a server and they rush off to fulfil his every desire. Damn, it's good to be home. "You look a little warm. Do you need some air?" he asks her.
Pepper takes several deep breaths before speaking.
"I hate you. Do you have any idea what an upheaval you've just caused? Not only will there be media fallout but the board! You have just ruined any free time I might have had for the next year."
"Oh come on, it can't be that much of a surprise, what, with my Catholic schoolgirl record of chastity." He hands a drink to Andrej and downs his own. The boy rolls his eyes and tosses his drink back like a pro.
Pepper closes her mouth with a snap and her hands start shaking. "Tony, he's under-age," she hisses through her teeth.
Andrej shrugs and Tony smirks at him. "Pumpkin, you are divine. Let's dance. I'll lead."
"As if there were ever any doubt," Andrej laughs and lets Tony drag him to the dance floor.
They are the subject of every conversation, just as Tony likes it. Andrej is a surprisingly good dancer and a cheerful yet sarcastic conversationalist which makes the entire thing very entertaining. He finds the kid's running commentary on everything from the fashion faux-pas of assorted guests to the uncoordinated shuffling of some dancers does a great deal to brighten his evening.
After a few spins on the dance floor they find Pepper, who is conversing with Lucius Fox and, hah, Bruce Wayne. She sees them coming and takes a fortifying drink. It's sad to see he's such a bad influence on her.
"Mr Fox, Mr Wayne, what a pleasure to see you again." He smiles at his date and puts a hand on his back. "Let me introduce you to my glamazon for the evening, Andrej Pejic—am I pronouncing that right?"
"No," Andrej tells him without hesitating, "but don't worry about it, I'm not with you for your brain."
That makes Tony laugh for real, especially with the way both Wayne and Fox kind of twitch like someone said a bad word in front of their parent. "I share the sentiment."
"A good thing I like them big, beautiful, and dumb, and you like them long-legged and blond."
"Win-win!" Tony says making finger guns.
"J like 'yogurt', not like 'jeans', the I like 'in', and the first sound in 'child'," Bruce says knowingly.
"Yes!" Andrej says and claps his hands. Tony pulls him closer. "No schmoozing with my competition. Wayne, stop showing off your brain. I think he lied to me about his preferences."
Bruce inclines his head to hide a smile. Hah, try harder, Wayne.
"I'm flattered you consider me competition, but I cheated—my tailor is a Jovanovic."
"That explains it," Andrej nods.
Tony watches them discuss West Germanic versus Balto-Slavic languages and doesn't know what to feel about it at all. Yeah, okay, he knows one thing and that is that Bruce Wayne is a dirty little liar. There is no way you learn that much about languages just because your tailor has an interesting last name.
Fucking hell, intellectual conversations make him hard.
"Shall I say I told you so now, or would you like me to save it for later?" Pepper murmurs at him.
"Told me what? I'm learning fascinating things about Indo-European languages and imagining what filthy things sound like whispered in certain dialects."
Pepper snorts delicately, like a proper lady and raises an eyebrow at him. "Who's doing the whispering, jailbait or Wayne?"
They hear a muffled cough and Pepper turns, startled. Tony simply winks at Lucius Fox and holds his hand up in a drink-less toast. That needs to be rectified, but there are lots of busy bees in penguin suits weaving through the crowd with full trays so it's easily taken care of.
"Mr Fox, I'm so sorry that was completely inappropriate," Pepper says, mortified. Tony doesn't really agree so he doesn't say anything.
"Miss Potts, I have not the slightest idea what you mean," Lucius Fox says with an enigmatic little grin Tony takes an instant liking to. Now there's a man he can do business with.
Andrej slides up to him and takes his arm as well as his drink. "Mr Wayne tells me you bought a place in Gotham. I've never been."
"Please, call me Bruce," the little liar interjects.
Tony looks into laughing blue-grey eyes. The kid is playing at something, but it's obviously benign so he plays along. "I have indeed. I figure if there's one place that can use some Stark charm, it's Gotham. Believe me, it's all doom and gloom and no colour whatsoever."
"Oh, I don't know. I find it homey," Wayne says. "Living in Gotham builds character, isn't that right Lucius?"
Lucius laughs. "That it does, Mr Wayne, that it does."
"It builds insanity if the media is to be believed," Pepper says, "but I guess out of everyone you should know best that you can't believe everything you read."
The blond model tosses his hair over his shoulder and flutters his eyelashes at Tony. "And now they have Iron Man, yes?" He then smiles widely at Wayne. "Doesn't that make you sleep better at night?"
Oh. Oh that look on Wayne's face is priceless. Tony never wished for a camera so hard in his life.
"Of course, there's the Batman," Andrej says pensively. "But no one knows who he is, or anything really. I think it makes people feel more secure if they can put a name and face to their heroes."
"Ah, but not everyone wants to be known, Mr Pejic," Lucius Fox says. "To the citizens of Gotham, Batman is more than a hero. He's more than a man, he is a symbol and an icon. Put him into the spotlight, and he becomes just a man yet again."
Tony frowns a little. "That may be true, but it has its advantages to be 'just a man' as you put it. In my case, for instance, I find it makes me a better man when I am held accountable for my actions."
"Some people," Bruce says, "are capable of holding themselves accountable."
"People like you?"
Bruce smiles a little a looks away. "Ah, no, I wouldn't say that. But then, that's why I'm not a hero. I'm just a man."
He wants to scowl at Wayne—he has never been so irritated at someone's perfectly sensible public persona before—but Pepper tugs on his sleeve and it looks urgent so he gives her his ear. She subtly gestures at the crowd and whispers, "Steve Rogers at three o'clock."
Oh hell no. Not happening, not now and certainly not in front of Wayne. Tony takes Andrej's hand and smiles winningly. "You know I promised his mother I'd have him in bed by a decent hour so we should make the most of the time we have. If you're still in town in the next few days, feel free to come say hello—we'll go sightseeing or something. Dance, darling?" Without waiting for the response he waves at Bruce Wayne and drags Andrej off to the dance floor, narrowly escaping whatever it is S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to ruin his night with. He'll have to check in later of course—if they sent Steve, it's probably big—but there's no need to let Wayne see how whipped he is.
They move in between the rest of the dancing crowd and Andrej lets him take the lead again. At least that he still has in hand.
"What was that?"
"I bet your intelligence gets underestimated a lot, goldilocks," Tony grumbles.
The model makes that face, you know, the 'who, me?' innocent one that never really works. They dance quietly for a while before Andrej stabs him in the back again.
"So. Bruce Wayne, huh? You aim high."
Tony almost falters but he's awesome so no one notices. Probably.
"Next time I'm picking a stupid one. I might just find someone who's your type—definitely not Bruce Wayne."
Andrej laughs and rests his head on Tony's shoulder. It's a little awkward but he appreciates the gesture. "You have to admit, he is big and beautiful."
"I admit nothing. It's not smart to compliment your competition."
Andrej leans in until his lips are almost touching Tony's ear. "Oh honey, he's not competition. He's prey."
"And that is where you're wrong." It's not just Andrej—nearly the entire world is wrong about Bruce Wayne. Tony hates to admit it but he's not gotten to where he is by being blind. Bruce Wayne is a liar and a cheat. He's clever, strong, and most importantly, hiding something. "Now stop molesting me, your mother will kill me if she gets the wrong idea."
Andrej giggles into his neck. "You're a bad man, Mr Stark, but I like it. Call me again if you need a date sometime. It gets boring to talk mascara and heels all the time." He hums thoughtfully. "That is, if mother lets you live through this one."
Tong sighs. "That's is. Next time I'm taking Johnny Storm and damn the consequences."
"Ooh," Andrej says excitedly, "can you introduce me?"
It's an absolute madhouse everywhere he goes. He's refused to comment on the gay issue one way or the other which only makes it worse. It's hilarious, the media's chosen to hound all his male acquaintances and friends in the hope that one of them is Stark's Secret Boyfriend. So far Rhodey's punched two reporters, Johnny Storm said something along the lines of 'I wish', and Thor's girlfriend kicked a photographer in the balls.
As entertaining as all that is, the best part has got to be Bruce 'I'm sorry, what?' Wayne. The theory is that they're both lonely billionaire playboys who found their soul-mate in each other. There are pictures of them leaving together, and what has been termed 'obvious affectionate touching'. Tony laughed like a madman when he saw the article headlined 'Stark-Wayne merger more literal than previously thought?' with a picture of them standing close together, Bruce's hand on his shoulder and his on Bruce's back. He has to admit, it's a good picture.
Fury had quarantined him in his Malibu house and given him some toys to make to keep him busy. It's all important S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff to be sure, but he knows when he's being sent to bed without dinner.
"Are you pleased with yourself?" he hears and for a split second he wonders if he left the television on, but no, J.A.R.V.I.S. wouldn't let that happen so as impossible as it sounds, Bruce Wayne is in his house. Tony sets his tools down and yanks the goggles off.
"How the hell did you get in here? J.A.R.V.I.S.! What the hell are you doing? Wake up!"
Wayne strips his jacket off and throws it on a chair. He loosens his tie and unbuttons his shirtsleeves, then rolls them up. Tony blinks.
"Are we having a fistfight?"
"Do you want one?" Bruce asks him levelly.
He shrugs. "Not particularly. I'd rather you tell me how you broke into my house."
"I spoke to Miss Potts. She understood the urgency of the situation, even if you don't seem to."
"Ooh, straight for the heart!" Tony exclaims. "First you shanghai my assistant, then you insult my intelligence. Two for two, now I'm disgruntled."
"You're a child," Bruce snaps. "You have no respect for people's boundaries or opinions and your selfishness and greed are both astronomically outside of tolerable limits." He rubs the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed. They look at each other and Tony swallows his angry retort. It's clear he's really gotten to the man.
"That's a little harsh," he says finally. Bruce laughs ruefully.
"I'm being followed everywhere I go. Every man I know is under scrutiny because what if Bruce Wayne was always homosexual but they didn't know it? My butler is being suspected of doing more for me than cooking my meals and driving me around. The man practically raised me! And as if that weren't enough!" He glares at Tony. "Wayne Enterprises is the family business Stark, and you put it in jeopardy."
"Oh come on, a little scandal never hurt anyone," he says and immediately knows it's the wrong thing.
"You really are as shallow as everyone thinks you are, aren't you," Bruce says. "I'd wondered, it seemed so unbelievable that the same man who as Iron Man saved thousands could have so little regard for the people he surrounds himself with." He shakes his head, smiling bitterly. "This was a waste of my time." He grabs his jacket and turns to leave and Tony knows that if he doesn't deal with this now, he will regret it forever.
"Wait!" Bruce Wayne pauses for a breath but then continues his exit. "Bruce, come on, wait a minute. Please," he adds. That, thankfully, works. He doesn't think asking J.A.R.V.I.S. to lock the place down would go over half so well.
The young man watches him with betrayal and anger in his eyes. Tony doesn't like it. He far prefers the half-lidded worship combined with 'yes, yes, harder, Tony!' but that doesn't seem to be in his future at the moment.
"Look. We should talk. Upstairs? Okay?"
Bruce looks like he wants to argue and Tony doesn't want to let him.
"Please?" he says again—jackpot. Bruce rolls his eyes and gestures for Tony to lead the way and follows behind him.
Tony takes him up to the living room and gestures for him to sit, be comfortable and all that jazz. He takes his tank top off and uses it to wipe some of the grease off his hands. It's a lost cause until he showers for real but at least he won't be dropping everything he picks up now. And while he's on the subject of holding things. "Do you want a drink?" he asks Bruce, who shakes his head. Damn it, that means he can't have one either.
"Okay, fine. Just talking then," he rambles, not looking at Bruce. He glances at him to gauge the mood and wishes he hadn't. "That bad?" he asks before he can stop himself.
Bruce scowls. It's all the answer he needs.
"I ask because I haven't been out for a while now. Work," he says. He runs a hand through his hair—ew, greasy—and hopes he doesn't fuck this up. "I guess I should start by saying I'm sorry. I didn't mean for things to go this far." Bruce snorts a snort of disbelief. He's being serious! Damn his reputation. "I really didn't," he says.
"You can see where that would be difficult to believe."
He looks away again. "Yeah, okay, fair point. I guess Jeeves was right to give me the stink-eye when we met."
Bruce chuckles. "Calling him Jeeves didn't help your cause."
"Ah, shit, did I really? I tried not to," Tony says, a bit taken aback that his mouth ran away without him again without him even noticing. "Anyway, I am sorry. I didn't think ahead. I never meant to cause you this much trouble."
"But some trouble, yes?" Bruce says sardonically. "You're not very good at apologising."
"Ah, it seems so."
Bruce sighs and leans his elbows on his knees. Tony barely restrains himself from scooting closer.
"Why, Tony? Why was all this necessary?"
"Ah... Well." Tony smiles charmingly. "I'm a greedy, selfish child." Bruce merely stares him down. "... and you didn't return my calls."
Bruce throws his head back and laughs like a cartoon villain. Tony has by now realised there is nothing that man can do he will find unattractive.
"You caused the biggest upheaval since you admitted to being Iron Man because I didn't return your calls?"
Tony thinks about it for a sec. "That sounds about right, yeah."
"I don't know if I should be flattered or terrified."
Oh, poor Bruce. That sounds like fond resignation and Tony knows all about that. It means he's been forgiven. Score!
"Just tell me one thing."
"Anything," he says eagerly.
Bruce isn't laughing any more. "Why me, Stark? When you can have anyone at all, why go after me?"
"Probably because I can have anyone at all. But not you," Tony admits. Bruce seems disappointed. "You're beautiful, darling. Beautiful, intelligent, and one of the few people who might come close to understanding me." He doesn't say anything about his fascination for the lies, doesn't admit to being baffled by Bruce's personal history—especially that bit where he disappeared and was declared dead only to show up like he'd never left.
Bruce looks at him through half-lidded eyes. "You could have just told me."
Told him? Told him what? What is this thing everyone seems to believe he needs to tell Bruce? It's not like—oh. Ooh.
Well, damn. That sneaked up on him rather suddenly.
He drops the shirt he's been tearing apart in his hands and stands up.
"I like you, probably more than I should. You're pretty and interesting, and I think you should sleep with me right now before I say something very embarrassing."
Bruce slowly reaches for his tie and tugs it looser. He's smiling gently as he stands up, pulls the tie over his head and drops it to the floor. He cracks his knuckles and raises his head to look at Tony.
Tony doesn't need more of an invitation.
They're lounging in Tony's over-sized bed, Tony propped up against the headboard with his hands behind his head, Bruce snuggled up against him, drawing circles around the arc reactor. He seems strangely fascinated by it but hey, who's he to judge anyone's fetishes?
"You can ask, you know," he tells him, and believes he might even answer.
"Wouldn't want you to accuse me of pretending to be stupid again."
Tony chuckles. "Smartass. Did I apologise for that? Because I don't think I should."
"Is there a reason you implanted an arc reactor into your chest other than seeing if you could?" Bruce asks, and Tony is almost speechless. Almost.
"You!" he exclaims, pinching Bruce's delectable behind. "Why are you hiding that brain?"
Bruce laughs and swats his stomach. "Answer the question."
He wants to, badly, but he knows it's a weakness, and those can be exploited.
"Tony?" Bruce is looking at him now and Tony caves.
"Promise not to kill me."
Bruce frowns, puzzled. He probably thinks Tony is trying to be funny when actually, he's never been more serious in his life.
"I don't know. You might irritate me beyond my ability to cope."
"Bruce. Promise me."
The tone of his voice must have worked because Bruce is pulling himself up and looking very earnest.
"I won't kill you, Tony. Why would you even—" Tony puts a hand over Bruce's mouth to shut him up.
"I know. I know. It's not personal." He removes his hand and takes Bruce's, placing it over his heart. "Do you feel that?"
Tony inclines his head. "Yes. When I got caught up in a missile blast, I ended up with tiny bits of shrapnel lodged in a very inconvenient place. The electromagnet makes sure they don't pierce my heart and kill me. The arc reactor powers it." He feels Bruce's hand start to shake and stops him from pulling it away. "It's fine to touch it. It's not dangerous."
Bruce's eyes are all fire and brimstone.
"Who all knows?"
Tony is a little taken aback at the anger behind those words. It makes no sense.
"Well, Pepper, my good friend Rhodey, some people over at S.H.I.E.L.D., and now you. Oh, and it also powers the suit, but not all of them know that."
"Idiot," Bruce growls. "Do you just make people promise not to kill you and then tell them exactly how to do it?"
"Hey, now. I know what I'm doing. I have been at this for a while, you know."
Bruce rolls his eyes at him and scoots back down to snuggle. He's playing with the reactor again.
"Duh, it has to match the rest of me," Tony says. Best of it all is, he's not even really joking.
Bruce laughs. "Idiot," he says fondly.
Somewhere, in the distance, a quarter drops.
"Oh my god," Tony blurts, sitting up properly. Bruce rolls to his stomach and gives him a questioning look. "Oh my god," Tony says again. "The lies, the scars, the musculature." He scowls at Bruce and points an accusing finger. "You're Batman!"
"What?" Bruce splutters, "what the hell, Stark?"
"No, no, no, don't you dare! I would know those lips anywhere and no one says idiot quite like you," Tony babbles. "You're the fetish bat. Don't deny it, I can tell when you lie."
Bruce drops his head onto the mattress and groans. "This is why I didn't return your calls."
Bruce raises his head and glares at him. "You infiltrate my life, you hack my records, you set the press on me. This is why I knew it would be a bad idea to take up with Tony fucking Stark. Your brain," Bruce says frustratedly, "is a threat to society."
Tony thinks about that, then grins widely. "Baby, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me." He pounces on Bruce, one leg on each side and sits on his thighs. He licks a long strip down his back. "Let me show you my appreciation."
Bruce turns his head to look at him. "That's it? You're Batman, let's fuck?"
Tony tuts at him. "Baby, no. I always want to fuck. Batman is details."
It'll take him a long, long time to get tired of Bruce Wayne, he thinks. Smoking hot body aside, the man is genuinely interesting. Pretty and smart—not as smart as him, but who is—with awesome secrets. Gotham may just be the most depressing place on the planet yet even he can't deny it has its charm. He'll be keeping Stark Tower - the Gotham Edition, he thinks. It might take him a while to find his way into Jeeves' good graces.
Alfred, right. Crap, he really needs to work on that.
So he's just coming out of the shower to find Bruce doing push-ups on his bedroom floor.
He whistles appreciatively. "Is that for me? That's very nice, honeybee. "
Bruce stands up in a smooth move. His muscles ripple and he's wearing Tony's sweatpants again. He's never as happy to be shorter than Bruce as when Bruce wears his clothes. They're always indecently low and all Tony wants is to nibble on the pelvic bone calling to him.
"I'll never understand why all those nicknames are necessary. What's wrong with Bruce?"
He stops his appreciative gawking reluctantly. It's becoming one of his favourite pastimes.
"Abso-fucking-lutely nothing is wrong with Bruce. In fact, I have a list of all the things that are very right."
Bruce shakes his head at him and drops back to the floor. If he plans to be that sexy, Tony won't be held responsible for his actions.
"I need to go back," Bruce says between push-ups.
"Do you have to?" Tony whines. "Take a vacation. You can stay with me. In fact, I insist."
"Can't just disappear, Tony. Besides, do you really want the headlines?"
'Romantic getaway in sunny California – billionaire boys club of two'. Yes, yes he does.
"Gotham needs me."
Tony pouts. "I need you."
Bruce kicks himself up into a handstand. Holy shit.
"No, you want me. There's a difference."
He sighs and sits on the edge of the bed. "Fine, you're right." His eyes follow every movement Bruce makes. The crew at S.H.I.E.L.D. has taught him that there are indeed people who can do one-handed handstand push-ups but he's never found the sight to mesmerising before. Probably because none of them do it half-naked. "Can I come with you?"
Wayne gracefully flips to his feet and cracks his neck. Tony tosses him a towel, which he catches without looking.
Because he doesn't want things to go back to the way they were. Because he doesn't want Bruce to find he can do perfectly well without Tony after all. Because he doesn't want to leave messages with the butler only to never have his calls returned.
"Because I want to see the batmobile."
Bruce throws the towel in his face. "No."
"Okay, just the fetish suit, then."
"No. Don't you have things to do? What about S.H.I.E.L.D.?"
"I'm just a consultant," Tony says dismissively. "Come on. Won't you miss me?" he pleads. "Please?"
He's not facing Bruce Wayne right now. He knows those eyes, and they are not right for a billionaire playboy. "I can't have Iron Man in Gotham when Tony Stark is part of Bruce Wayne."
"I swear I won't interfere," Tony says, "That's not why I want to come with you." In a soft voice he admits it. "I don't want this to end."
He feels arms around him and then he's being kissed. He's still not used to just how good it feels and adds a 'damn you, Pepper' out of habit in his mind.
"All right. Let's try it."
"But I can still see the batmobile, right?"
"No," Bruce laughs. "I don't trust you not to equip it with nuclear missiles." Tony kisses him to shut him up because he would so not. Some tinkering, sure, but nuclear missiles are so passé.
They hear a door slam and frantic footsteps. "Tony!" Pepper shrieks, "you better not have killed Bruce Wayne or I will end you!"
Bruce chuckles into Tony's mouth. "Maybe we should get dressed?"
The click-clacking is too close for that, Tony knows. When he hears her gasp, he is proven right. He looks over Bruce's shoulder at a stunned Pepper.
"I told him. Now close your mouth, this isn't even in the top twenty of worst things you've caught me doing." She does as he says but her eyes are glued on Bruce. Oh, low-riding sweats. He can sympathise with her.
"I have a job for you. I'm taking a little holiday, probably two weeks. Arrange it."
Pepper is a champ, she composes herself in the blink of an eye even when faced with Bruce Wayne's butt crack.
"And where will you be heading, sir?
"Gotham," he says. "I have a vacation home there after all."
Bruce laughs at that and Tony bites his neck. Pepper cleverly makes herself scarce.
Good things are in his future, he can tell.