Fandom: Batman/Iron Man (movieverse crossover with comicverse touches)
Pairings: Tony Stark/Bruce Wayne
Word Count: 6588
Warnings: Sap. Well, sap and antagonism. And smut. But mostly sap, especially at the end.
Author's Note: I meant to write Tony/Steve, but this is what happened. I know, it's an odd one, but I see I'm not the first one to go there.
Summary: All systems go, meltdown averted, Bruce took off the cowl for the first time. He glared as Tony grinned. That became something of a running theme.
Bruce Wayne was everything Tony hated about the ultra-rich, self-righteous and domineering beyond all logic.
Tony Stark was everything Bruce hated about the ultra-rich, more famous for his philandering than for any of his work.
The accompanying mutual glare across the green holographic glow of Tony's workstation, the bright blue glare from Tony's suit gleaming in the lenses of Batman's cowl, wasn't exactly an auspicious beginning.
When the Avengers and ultimately SHIELD as a whole ran up against a technological something they couldn't quite deal with alone, they didn't exactly publicise the fact. They didn't call in the Pentagon or deputise half of NASA or the staff and students of MIT, they just collectively stewed over it for a good 24 hours, waited for Tony to finally admit that he couldn't handle the problem all by himself, then called the JLA.
They weren't quite rivals and weren't quite allies, just enough of neither and both that the Avengers did a high-tech version of drawing straws (that made everyone not named Anthony Stark a little suspicious to say the least) to decide who got to put in the call. It wound up being an uncharacteristically peeved Captain America that did the honours; of course, the JLA lacking anything as useful as a clearly-defined inner hierarchy they weren't sure who to call exactly, and when they got through to the Watchtower the scene they were met with was a hyper-bored Flash who was then a little preoccupied speed-reading trashy NASCAR romance novels while listening to classic rock. Tony may have been smirking behind the mask, regardless of the situation at hand and his personal frustrations related thereto. Cap was not.
"Please hold," the Flash said, in the single most irritating stereotypical 50's secretarial voice any of them had ever heard in their lives, and the screen flashed up some terrible kind of retina-searing JLA logo - Cap looked very much like he was about to burst a blood vessel somewhere in his temple or his throat, a look which was not alleviated by an over-chipper Flash reappearing on the screen.
"I'll put you right through," he said, in that same annoying voice, then disappeared again.
The screen went dark, which they didn't take as a good sign. Then the darkness had eyes, which was a moderately disturbing phenomenon even considering the daily ins and outs of their chosen profession. A light flickered on somewhere in the background and Batman's masked face filled the screen; they supposed this was better than the Flash chair-dancing to AC/DC, but Tony honestly wasn't convinced either way.
"Captain America," Batman said, his voice somehow almost as dark and vaguely menacing as the room he was sitting in. Tony supposed that was the Batcave, not that he'd ever seen it or that they could see much of it in the close-cropped camera shot, all eyes and jaw. "What can the Justice League do for you?"
It was a short conversation - the Bat was never exactly garrulous, Tony found that out soon enough - that culminated in a quick data transfer between Tony's proprietary tech and the Batcomputer. Batman needed to get his hands on the systems themselves after that; reluctantly, Tony let him in. In person. In costume, large as life and twice as menacing, swishy cape included. It was three hours before Tony was sufficiently pissed off at his inability to perform any task defter than holding Batman's cute little magnifying glass before he cracked and took off the suit. Batman didn't seem surprised by who he'd turned out to be. He didn't return the favour.
The quick fix that brought the Avengers back online took them a little over fifteen hours, all told, a little under the deadline that would've resulted in a rather catastrophic self-destruction of all of Tony's tech, probably both in California and New York. System faults after that were extensive - so extensive that not even the great Tony Stark could handle them alone, though he admitted that particular little fact only grudgingly. Despite the fact they almost-argued just as much as they worked, they conferenced on the problem nightly; Batman started letting himself into the New York lab or Tony's place in Malibu once or twice a week - they worked well when Batman wasn't glaring and Tony wasn't intent on seeing what it'd take to make the man just take off a glove, not the cowl, just one measly glove, and failing miserably. The man even brought his own food, for God's sake. He was completely infuriating.
Three months. Three months and then along came Crisis #2 - the same damn virus with a strange new twist hit the JLA. Tony went with Batman to the Cave - twelve hours of hard snark-laced work later, Batman hadn't so much given away his identity as Tony had guessed it, something to do with all the high-tech gadgets and the fact that something in himself zeroed in on something extremely familiar in the Bat, the way he carried himself or the air of unerring self-assertion Tony knew that he had too, even at the worst of times, maybe especially then. All systems go, meltdown averted, Bruce took off the cowl for the first time. He glared as Tony grinned. That became something of a running theme.
Three days later, Tony called him. That wouldn't have been wholly unusual except Tony called him; Bruce, mid-workout, picked up his cell to an unknown number and only barely contained a groan at the sound of Tony Stark's voice, then again at what it was he was saying. He was in Gotham, as it happened - business meeting or something like that - they should grab lunch if Bruce could come out to play. It'd be good for the image, he said, the two of them getting together. Bruce's first mistake was agreeing with him, if only in principle; he'd been letting the playboy persona slide a little lately, Alfred kept telling him so in his subtle, brow-quirking way, and Tony Stark certainly did have a reputation. His second mistake was actually agreeing to meet.
His third was not checking that Tony's faithful paparazzi hadn't staked out the restaurant. Fifteen minutes after they sat down to lunch, they were best friends in the press or their companies were merging. The night out drinking that followed, all the barely-dressed women while Robin and Batgirl took care of business out and about in Gotham, was actually damage control in its purest yet coincidentally oddest form. As far as business went, it was better best friends than a merger. It was just a shame that Bruce's headache the following morning said he would've preferred to take the business hit.
In the months that followed, there were so many things Tony talked him into in the name of keeping up his image; benefit dinners and charity auctions, those abominable celebrity dinner-dances out in LA where they were always seated with Tom Cruise because apparently someone somewhere thought they were friends and Tony found that hilarious, even if all Bruce wanted to do was make a swift getaway, go thwart some muggers or put Two-Face back in Arkham for the umpteenth time. There were bars and clubs when Bruce had the time, strange little trysts Tony convinced him weren't really all that intrinsically creepy when they really should've realised there was more going on than just the antagonism because honestly, each of them paid closer attention to what the other was doing than to any of the girls. It was genuinely bizarre, being in the same room as Tony the Playboy and the conquests of the night, glancing over as he rolled on a condom and they smirked in unison, Bruce's maybe more from habit than feeling but Tony, as much as he was an open book for the majority of the time, sometimes Bruce just couldn't figure him out.
But if nothing else it upped his reputation - both of their reputations. Suddenly Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark were the talk of the town, both towns, all towns, drinking and womanising and was that Batman with Iron Man foiling that bank robbery? Who cared, some new hot young Brazilian model had decided to kiss and tell about her long night of passion with Messrs. Wayne and Stark. Somehow Tony got his hands on an advance copy, then emailed it to Bruce. Bruce was back in LA a few hours later.
That's who they were after that - the wonderful Wayne and Stark, permanent fixtures at all of the best parties, surgically attached at the hip or at least the same bottle of overpriced scotch. Where there was one there was bound to be the other. They both had other friends, of course, at least in the daytime they did, and after dark maybe Bruce didn't exactly but he did have the Bats and Tony, well. Tony had Rhodey and Happy and Steve, and Carol and all of the others if he really pushed the boat out, maybe in a twisted way there was Pepper and Jarvis. But it was always Bruce he wound up calling when he felt the need for a night out on the town, even if privately the two of them were at each other's throats. Batman was a pompous ass, Tony thought. Bruce couldn't abide even the idea of Iron Man, or the responsibility Tony didn't really take for all of his collateral damage. But in public, they were the best of friends.
In a suit, Bruce was a kind of charming Tony could approve of, the same kind of cheerfully seductive bastard that Tony was himself. In the Batsuit, Bruce was a freaking god, swooping between buildings like some dark terror of the night. Tony was starting to realise the real Bruce was a kind of abstract at a point somewhere between the two extremes, spied only in glimpses. Bruce had stopped trying to quantify exactly what part of Tony was responsible for which act of stupidity, and which other was the genius. He had a feeling he argued with both.
It was easier to call Batman the next time, and not just because they had a direct number to bypass the Watchtower watchman du jour. Of course, by the time Tony remembered he had Batman's number they'd already raised a somewhat cranky Wonder Woman who somehow annoyed them all even more than an over-perky Flash. She put them through to Batman after managing to take them through bureaucracy that would've made the FBI proud; when Batman rode to the rescue, however, he brought the whole freaking JLA with him. Crisis averted once more. The JLA retired to their respective cities, and Batman stayed on for a couple of days. It surprised no one, he'd already been working closely with the Avengers - with Iron Man - for several months. It made even more sense soon after that.
When Bruce told them who he was, it was something of a pre-emptive strike, mostly because he expected that sooner or later Tony would tell them and if he did it on his own terms, he at least got the bonus of a little borrowed trust. He had no way of knowing Tony had never had any intention of giving him away; the way they acted toward each other when they weren't working and even when they were had done nothing to dispel his concerns. They argued, the fact that their intellects were so damn compatible just making the social deficit even more glaring. It was far from a great love affair right from the start - neither of them suspected it would be.
The first time was a fight, but not much of one. Tony had been tinkering with Bruce's toys, which Steve swore later was not what he'd meant when he'd told Tony he should make nice for the sake of both teams, and Bruce, strangely, didn't take kindly to finding the lenses in his mask had been swapped out for an unfamiliar upgrade and the weighting of his Batarangs was off just enough that it was almost like relearning the mechanics of the things from scratch. He didn't so much storm into Tony's lab as slip in quietly with a look on his face like stoic bloody murder, one wrist taped up to high heaven and an angry-looking scrape across one side of his jaw. Tony looked up; Bruce glowered.
"What the hell happened to you?" he asked, glancing back down, still fiddling with his latest creation.
"You happened to me."
Apparently Tony couldn't help but look amused for some utterly perverse reason. Bruce, on the other hand, was not.
"Hang there a second, Bruce. I'll have Pepper come down with some scotch and an Ace bandage."
Bruce put his hands on his hips. As prissy as it looked, his size made it at least a little threatening. "Leave her out of this," he said.
"Pepper? She's seen worse than your wrist, Bruce."
From the look on Bruce's face when he glanced up, significantly more Batman than his drinking buddy though Bruce was rarely that man outside of bars and hotel rooms anyway, Tony guessed he'd said precisely the wrong thing. He had to admit he was getting used to that.
"You subject her to enough here without adding nursing to her responsibilities."
Tony frowned. "She chose to stay."
"She didn't have a choice." Bruce gestured around the room, pieces of armour and associated gadgets littering the worktops where the robots hadn't gotten around to cleaning just yet. His eyes narrowed. "She's a good woman, Stark. How dare you subject her to this?"
Tony's brows raised. He looked up, met Bruce's gaze. "She chose to stay," he repeated, tenser now, fingers gripping the edge of the desk just a little too tightly. "And while we're visiting that subject, Bruce, how dare you subject a teenager to this?" He could practically hear the grinding of Bruce's teeth, but just didn't care. This was ridiculous. Hell, they were ridiculous.
"That teenager is a better man than you'll ever be, Stark. In or out of the armour."
Later on, Bruce would swear it was all Tony's fault. He'd gone down there to confront him, yes, but three minutes later Tony had said something entirely regrettable about the average lifespan of Robins and Bruce had marched straight over there and punched him hard enough to make his own knuckles ache and Tony stagger back into his desk, where a precarious tower of small robot parts proceeded to fall on him and scatter all over the floor. Then Tony hit back and really, though his wrist was sprained rather painfully, Bruce was ultimately the better equipped of the two of them for something like a fistfight. It lasted all of about ninety seconds, all told, before Bruce had Tony pinned up against the nearest wall, one arm barred rather strenuously across his throat. Tony pushed at him ineffectually - he'd figure out later that he'd bruised Bruce pretty impressively but Bruce was about fifty times better at dismissing his own pain.
Bruce looked at him, all blue eyes and that same damnably cold, impenetrable expression that Tony just wanted to wipe off of his face so badly, even while he was choking and red in the face. Bruce let him go, turned his back, walked away across the room to collect himself; he wasn't ready when Tony launched himself at him and suddenly they were on the floor, a stunned second followed by possibly the single most pathetic fight of Bruce's whole career, slapping at each other like they'd completely forgotten how to make a fist. Bruce won, though he wasn't sure it was anything to be proud of; he hopped astride Tony's thighs and pushed him down hard against the floor.
"Get off of me, Wayne." Tony was glaring. Bruce was of the opinion that his game face could use a little work, even if Tony did usually have a suit of armour to hide behind.
"And if I don't?"
"Then you'll regret it."
Bruce didn't look terribly convinced by that and that just pissed Tony off even more, maybe because the reality was he had absolutely nothing; he was pinned to the floor, Bruce was about ten times bigger than him with years more experience at that kind of thing, the armour wasn't even in his line of sight let alone about his person - what could he possibly do? And Bruce, even almost devoid of expression as he was at that moment, somehow looked smug to him. That was unacceptable. He fought one hand free, not even sure how he managed that small victory considering the vice-like grip Bruce had on his wrists, and… well. He grabbed a handful of short black hair and yanked Bruce down into a kiss. The oddest part was that Bruce didn't pull back, didn't even really put up a fight against it, superseded quickly by the oddness that Bruce didn't subsequently knee him in the groin and finally by the oddity to end all oddities: Bruce cracked, and kissed him back.
Tony groaned and Bruce shifted, spread himself out on top of him like a particularly muscular blanket until Tony had the space to hitch up one knee, the other, and trap Bruce between his thighs. The reactor in Tony's chest pressed into Bruce's sternum hard enough to mark but he didn't seem to mind considering the way he was devouring Tony's mouth, hard enough to mark there too. They pulled back, breathless, flushed, maybe skirting the edges of confusion because honestly, neither had them had expected this, hadn't even suspected it though they supposed later that the signs had been there behind the glaring and the put-downs. Tony's hands moved down Bruce's back, hesitated one unsettling second before resting there at the curve of Bruce's ass. He tilted up his hips against him, just a fraction. One look and both of them knew exactly what would happen next: they fucked right there on the hard lab floor.
Tony yanked down Bruce's sweats, surprised somehow that he was bare underneath; Bruce wasn't sure about the slick, odd-smelling stuff Tony slathered all over the length of him but guessed if Tony didn't mind getting it in a particularly sensitive place then neither did he. He pushed into him, Tony on his hands and knees then on the concrete floor, jeans pushed down around his thighs; he moaned so loud and completely obscene, the sound bouncing off the bare walls but apparently he was completely shameless in that respect, that Bruce had to stop to check he wasn't a) in the throes of a massive coronary, or b) already disappointingly spent. Tony pushed back against him and Bruce guessed that was the answer he was looking for. His hands found Tony's hips and in one long stroke he sheathed himself in him right down to the hilt. It took his breath away, and that didn't happen often.
There was nothing tender about it, and neither of them seemed to care. The sound of skin on skin, Bruce's controlled breath and Tony's colourful cursing filled the air - Tony half expected Dummy to give them both a thorough dousing with the fire extinguisher and Bruce was more concerned with the idea of Pepper Potts deciding Tony might require a mid-afternoon espresso. Neither thing happened. Bruce came with a shout he muffled biting down at his sleeve; he wrapped one big hand around Tony's cock after that and felt Tony's hand close over it, showing him just exactly how he wanted it. He didn't object to being shown. It wasn't long until they were both done and all that was left was to catch their breath.
A couple of minutes later, Bruce yanked up his sweats and left the lab. Tony never did apologise for his tinkering.
Afterwards, things carried on as if nothing had happened at all. Maybe Bruce didn't stop by for a couple of days but there had never been anything set in stone about his visits - after all, they were both aware when Tony was out in LA it was a gross misappropriation of JLA resources to keep using their transporter to deliver him to the west coast and too many red-eyes were murder even on a body and mind as ridiculously overdeveloped as Bruce's. But three nights later he turned up, turtleneck and slacks despite the heat maybe because somehow he knew exactly how to sweet-talk Jarvis into turning up the air conditioning. Tony didn't quite know which of them to blame for that.
He was only there for a couple of hours, using all of Tony's best tools to make modifications to a communications device Tony hadn't seen before; he raided Tony's kitchen - apparently the Batlunchbox had been retired once Bruce had been convinced nothing in Tony's house was going to poison him unless Pepper hadn't cleared last week's Chinese from the refrigerator - then left without a word, as he often did. Things really weren't any worse than usual. Of course, they hadn't improved either.
Four nights later, Tony was in Gotham. Stark Industries board meetings were always a fantastic excuse to get out to the east coast and to buy a new suit or a new something, and afterwards he took a quick trip over to Wayne Manor. The security measures really weren't easy to bypass but Tony being Tony he knew he could do it - he'd done it before, after all, and continued for months after that until he realised Bruce had added him to estate's security log and he could get in without all of the frequent breaking and entering. Of course, considering his complete lack of capacity for remembering anything with the tiniest kernel of practical value, Tony actually stood a better chance of setting off all the alarms with his shiny new security code than without.
He ran into Tim in the gym, practicing some sort of insanely elaborate tumbling routine that made Tony slightly dizzy and wonder simultaneously whether the kid actually had a life outside of Robin and what he'd been doing with his own life that he couldn't backflip across a room like that. Not that he actually needed to, but the thought was there. Tim was still wary of him, but Tony was happy enough to gloss over that fact like he did with everyone else, up the swagger and attempt to strike up and keep up a conversation with him. Tim apparently couldn't help but look at him like he was totally out of his mind before he summoned up the convenient ever-present teenage excuse of, "sorry, Mr. Stark. I've really gotta go do some homework." Tony wasn't sure if he was just trying to get away or if Bruce was really that strict when it came to his education, but neither would've surprised him. He went down to potter about in the Cave instead, after that. Bruce hated when he did that, but he'd decided the more he did it, the easier it'd be for him to get used to.
Bruce walked in a half hour later, looking sincerely unimpressed by his presence but that was nothing terribly new. Tony said they should go out; Bruce agreed, albeit grudgingly, and after an awkward dinner with Tim, they did just that. By 10:45 they were holed up in the VIP section of some club so new Bruce had barely even heard of it; by 11:30 they were up in Tony's hotel room with two European models in tow, both of whom were taller than Tony even out of their heels and not far off Bruce, even if he was confident he could've broken them in half with a minimum of effort. Probably both of them at once. There was alcohol, high-end champagne that Bruce didn't drink - he had plans for the night after their little party, after all - but the girls seemed to enjoy it. The two of them were down to their rather scanty underwear within ten minutes of getting through the door, naked ten minutes after that. Bruce was on a schedule but stayed perfectly in character - Tony was enjoying himself, maybe a little too much because Bruce hadn't said no when he suggested they do this. He hated that somehow sex had made him realise he actually cared about this self-righteous prick's opinion of him. And the girl was pretty enough, legs up to her neck, probably wanted to be an actress one day and obviously screwing Tony Stark wouldn't be a bad move. As the girls kissed, which should've been the hottest thing he'd seen all week, he tried not to notice that the scrape across Bruce's jaw still hadn't quite healed.
Bruce wasn't even looking at him. Apparently he didn't need to. The four of them were on the bed, nothing like a respectful distance; the mere surreptitious suggestion of Bruce's fingers against Tony's ass and Tony sent the girls packing in a hurry - Bruce felt a vague twinge of sympathy for them but drowned it out with the thought that they'd no doubt be seducing the Hugh Grant-Jensen Ackles-Matthew McConaughey celebrity of the week within the hour. The door closed behind them and the next thing he knew he had a lapful of dark-eyed amorous Stark, tongue in his mouth like the French kiss was going out of style. It was a strange sort of development. Stranger still was that until he was officially breathless - which for him was quite the considerable length of time - Bruce didn't even try to push him away.
"So we're having sex now?" he asked once he had, one brow quirked.
Tony reached between them; the squeeze he gave Bruce's cock was enough to produce a half-hearted kind of glare that for any ordinary man would've probably been enough to induce a month of nightmares. Tony just smiled. "Unless you really want to go beat off in the bathroom, Mr. Wayne."
Bruce studied him for a moment. "You're a child," he said.
"Then I don't want to know what that says about you."
There was a moment, albeit brief, wherein Bruce gave serious consideration to wrapping his hands around Tony's throat and squeezing oh so carefully until he passed out right there, on the bed that was about the size of a small country. As it was, he reached for Tony's lube instead - apparently that was just as effective in shutting him the hell up.
They did it face to face that time, Tony proving he was more flexible than he looked but not by much - he bitched about his back through most of it, though it barely seemed like a complaint at all, until Bruce got sick of it and told him they'd just have to schedule some regular workouts. Tony probably had something in mind a little more sordid than the bi-weekly sessions of Bruce, or more embarrassingly his teenage sidekick, handing him his ass. Later Bruce told him never to call Tim that - he'd just kick his ass harder. Tony asked what that was supposed to mean, c'mon, the kid was holding back? The look Bruce gave him was more than enough of an answer for that to the point the wished he hadn't asked; fortunately the showers after more than made up for it, Bruce's fingers and the spray smoothing out his sore muscles - neither of them ever questioned why that should happen.
It took him two months of their 'workouts' to realise Bruce wasn't even giving him half of his capability - he'd suspected, of course, having seen him out in the batsuit a couple of times, but then one day he stepped into Bruce's gym unannounced and that was then he knew. Bruce sparring with Dick Grayson was a hell of a sight to see, Bruce in a pair of gauntlets and Dick with a set of Escrima sticks Tony was fairly sure would've had him knocked out cold on the mats in thirty seconds or less. There was a reason Tony needed the armour and Bruce just tugged on his cowl.
They did it face to face, Bruce's eyes on his like that made a difference somehow as he pushed inside him. Bruce had hacked Tony's medical records the day after that unscheduled first time, just to check what kind of trouble they were in for; luckily, of all the things he unsurprisingly had had, considering the sheer quantity of his sexual encounters, he was currently sporting none of them. Tony hacked into Bruce's to check the exact same thing; Bruce knew it, he was apparently the more paranoid of the two of them though that was hardly a surprise either. Tony thought it was kind of nerdily romantic, in a way, not that he was sure he believed in romance. Bruce liked to think he was just relieved.
A couple more nights like that, winding up together after aborted attempts at threeways or whatever the number for the night, in various ever more thoroughly bizarre positions Bruce could somehow hold them in with effort Tony enjoyed watching him expend, and afterwards the girls really were just for their collective image. Apparently it didn't matter so much that they couldn't stand each other; Bruce understood Tony's distraction when he was working and Tony pretended not to understand Bruce's, but that proved nothing. Apparently they were more than compatible in other ways.
Three years later, and not a lot changed. They were both oddly bi-coastal but that just made good sense to an extent, what with their businesses and all. Much to Bruce's chagrin, Alfred had long since taken to calling Tony 'Master Anthony', probably something to do with the times he'd come in to serve impromptu breakfast in bed after the two of them had spent a night out on the town in their various guises. Jarvis didn't object to Bruce poking around in Tony's lab, which he liked to say he did mostly because Tony always had all the right tools for the job no matter how damn obscure they might've been. That and he knew it drove Tony insane when he didn't put any of them back where he'd found them.
"Marry me," Tony said, one night in California, breaking an hour's not completely companionable silence. Their silences were never quite easy. They'd never figured out how, but had apparently ceased to care in the long run - somehow it made things more interesting, the expectation of what was as yet unsaid, even if it turned out to be another argument.
Bruce looked up from his book; Tony was still fiddling with some design or other on that 3D computer modeller Bruce had helped him redesign the year before, but glanced up from it with a half-smile just for a second before moving over to the worktop. He picked up a circuit board and a soldering iron and went to work.
"What are you talking about?"
"You and me. They just made it legal in Nevada, Bruce. Let's go to Vegas, get hitched by Elvis."
Bruce levelled a look in his direction to which unfortunately he'd discovered Tony was now immune - he could pinpoint the moment to the time they'd beaten that virus for the third and final time, sourced the damn thing to some kind truly bizarre and short-lived collaboration between Dr. Doom and Lex Luthor that didn't make any more sense once they'd pieced together the full story, though apparently the virus had outlived the partnership. But apparently Tony's immunity had never stopped Bruce from trying it anyway. "And what on earth makes you think I'd do a thing like that?" he asked.
"For a start, you adore me."
"Really. Go ahead and deny it."
He shook his head, slowly. "You're out of your mind, Stark."
"That's not a denial." Bruce did something that closely resembled an eye roll, not that he'd ever lower himself to such a gesture. Tony smirked, still eyeing the circuit, which was fine because Bruce went back to his book, something about a theory of advanced biometric identification that he was toying with developing for possible integration into his computer systems. He'd probably ask Tony about it later, since their joint projects had been having a much higher incidence of success lately than anything they tried individually, even if they often led to hours upon hours of arguing not even vaguely disguised as discussion that neither of them would admit they enjoyed on some inherently bizarre level. Tim and Alfred had taken to making themselves scarce whenever there was a project ongoing. The Avengers had started to pretend not to notice the raised voices coming from the mansion's labs or Tony's basement, probably due to an unfortunate incident with Carol and Peter wandering on in when Tony and Bruce were in the midst of some of their more… aggressive resolution.
"C'mon, what's so terrible about admitting you're in love with me?"
Bruce seemed to consider this carefully, though you could never really tell with Bruce. "If I admit that, can we forget this?" He paused, winced almost imperceptibly, a memory of one of Tony's Christmas parties flashing through his head. "Including the Elvis impersonators."
Tony snapped his fingers, smiling blithely. "Just like that."
Bruce heaved a hefty, long-suffering sigh and peered at him over the top of his book. "I love you," he said, his mouth not even visible. "Apparently against my better judgement."
"So say it like you mean it."
He knew he'd walked into that. Bruce marked his page quite purposely with something of Tony's that looked quite important and put down the book. He paused, looked at him over the table, at the way he worked, precise and meticulous in a way that seemed to apply to so little else in his life, grumbled under his breath and then picked himself up from his stool and took the four long strides it took to round the desk. Somehow he insinuated himself between the edge of the worktop and Tony, wedging himself there between his thighs. He rested his hands on them, then lifted one, rubbed a smudge of dirt from Tony's cheekbone with his thumb then slipped his hand to the back of his neck. Tony looked up at him. He had ridiculous eyes, Bruce thought, the kind the girls fell for every time, earnest even when the lies he spun were glaring in their sheer transparency, never hard like his own could be.
Then he kissed him, slow, closed-mouthed but far, far away from chaste. "I love you," he said, and meant it in spite of everything. It might have been the first time he'd admitted it, at least without the sarcasm.
There was a pause, quiet, Tony's fingers playing at the cuff of Bruce's sweater. I hate you, Tony had told him one night, maybe a year into things or so, in bed overlooking the ocean. Bruce had given him a look just like this one, shook his head and told him no, he didn't. He hadn't, he never had. Sometimes he'd thought that was as close as a declaration as they would ever come.
"So why aren't we getting married?" Tony asked, with a cheerful grin.
Bruce groaned. "You said…"
"Yeah, Mr. Great Detective. I didn't fall for your BS, why the hell did you fall for mine?"
Bruce shifted his hand, thumb brushing over Tony's trachea and an oddly fond-murderous look on his face not unlike indecision over whether throttling the life out of him would be worth the aggravation of the lawyers it'd ultimately take to get him acquitted. In the end he dropped his hand to Tony's shoulder, fingers splayed over his clavicle, thumb stretched out to trace the edge of the arc reactor. He knew that if he pressed his ear beside it, he'd hear the slight hum of the power beneath the surface; if he rested his hand over it, he'd feel it there like Tony's heartbeat.
"I'm an optimist," he said. Tony couldn't help but snicker.
There were never many people in the world who really got Bruce's sense of humour, but apparently Tony was one of them. He dropped his forehead down against Bruce's shoulder, tugging slightly at the waist of his too-large sweats, then looped his arms around Bruce's waist; it took Bruce a couple of seconds to realise that he was actually reaching for the soldering iron with one hand and the solder with the other, then he peered around Bruce's arm to continue working just like Bruce wasn't there at all. So Bruce just looped his arms around Tony's shoulders and made himself comfortable as best he could.
"So, back to my proposal."
"I'm not marrying you, Tony."
"Give me one reason why not."
He drummed his fingers lightly over Tony's spine. "We'd bankrupt our companies for a start."
Tony sighed and shook his head, still working; they'd found out quickly that they both had that same kind of mindset, the kind where doing three things at once was just as natural as air. "I survived 'I'm closing down the weapons division' and 'I am Iron Man'. I think I can get through 'I'm marrying my gay lover'." He pulled back just far and long enough to quirk an eyebrow up at him. "And I mean one real reason."
Bruce paused at that. And that was how Tony knew he'd won.
They were married in Malibu, on a beach in matching linen suits and the season's best sunglasses that suited Tony more than Bruce, that they had to take them off anyway to seal the whole deal with a kiss. Bruce hated it - there were too many people there, too much fanfare to the whole thing though he guessed that was the way they'd planned it. It was a public affair, for all their feigned attempts at privacy.
The real event was held back in Gotham, where legally it didn't count but in the Manor all their friends could come along without winding up in cheap tabloids. How they would've explained a reporter from the Planet and a photographer from the Bugle, Diana Prince FBI, a pilot, several scientists and a man from Mars was maybe too much of a stretch, even for men of their means. And their means were considerable; perhaps the companies were and would always stay separate but together what they had was obscene in its extent. Of course, neither of them really had a clue how to exist in the real world, but they suspected that as long as they had Pepper and Alfred, they wouldn't be allowed to veer too far from the straight and narrow.
They argued on their wedding night, didn't sleep in the same state, never mind the same bed. Reports said they honeymooned in Bora Bora, St Tropez, the Virgin Islands in a nod to the ironic, but they were actually in Gotham, and together. For all that they argued, that never lasted for long.
Bruce Wayne was everything Tony hated about the ultra-rich, self-righteous and domineering beyond all logic.
Tony Stark was everything Bruce hated about the ultra-rich, more famous for his philandering than for any of his work.
But apparently together they made sense.