Captain Fucking Magic (errantcomment) wrote in avengers_xchng,
Captain Fucking Magic

Fic: Last Christmas

 <b>This gift is for:</b> estelendur
<b>From:</b> errantcomment
<b>Title:</b> Last Christmas
<b>Rating:</b> PG
<b>Warnings:</b> None
<b>Characters/pairings:</b> Bruce, Tony.
<b>Summary:</b> Tony's a bit of a collector, and likes to have the full set.  It just might be easier if some of the pieces knew they were being collected.
<b>Link or post fic:</b>

When Bruce started living at Stark Tower, he had mainly been left to his own devices, putting in long hours at the lab. And then Tony started hanging around, generally taking an interest in whatever it was Bruce was doing. After a while, he’d started insisting Bruce take a night off every now and again, eating take-out and watching an old movie. Bruce was even dragged to a couple of parties before he threatened Tony with a Bunsen burner. The A-list were pretty enough but by all that was holy they were dull. The weird thing about Tony was his calming effect on the Other Guy. They never talked about it, but it seemed that the obnoxious and irritating spoilt child/superhero had a natural talent for breaking the tension, either with a comment or a slap on the shoulder (or on the ass).

And then there were the nightmares. Bruce had always had nightmares, of course, waking up at three am wherever he was, groping for a light. After he calmed his heartbeat, he would unclench his hands from the sheets and take a shower, to wash away the last vestiges of the nightmare. And sleep too, usually. So there didn’t seem much point in going back to bed. He would go swimming or work in the lab. It was lonely in Stark Tower at four am. Even the night-shift operatives seemed like pale ghosts clutching SHIELD mugs and manila files. Bruce told himself he preferred it. Sometimes, he almost believed it.

On that particular day, he sat at the kitchen bar in what was colloquially known as the Avengers Suite. He was tired. He’d been tired for so long he couldn’t remember being awake. He had dragged himself out of bed and stepped into the shower, and it even woke him up some, but only enough to highlight how exhausted he was. So now he sat at the kitchen bar eating a Pop-Tart.

“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” Tony’s hair stuck up every which way. He was wearing oily jeans and an old black tank top.

“Mm,” Bruce grunted. There was a moment of silence where Tony fiddled with the tablet he was holding, frowning slightly, and Bruce wondered if he could be bothered to search out something more savoury. Maybe there were Hot Pockets?

“You bored?” Tony asked, finally looking up.

Bruce shrugged in a non-committal way.

"I got just the cure for that.  Come on."  Tony all but pulled Bruce out of the room and dragged him to the labs to show him the schematics for the new Iron Man suit.  Bruce honestly couldn't tell the differences from the old one, but Tony seemed excited.

The next night, Bruce sank effortlessly into nightmare, suffocating under thick liquid. When he opened his mouth to scream shadowy figures swam in and out of view. They jumped and stamped, hollow thumping through the dream…

Bruce woke up. Someone was thumping on the door.

“Doctor Banner, Mr Stark wishes to see you,” JARVIS explained politely.

“Better let him in then.” Bruce fumbled for his glasses.

Tony exploded into the room, and for a moment Bruce thought he might actually bounce on the bed.

“You have to see this. You really have to—What are you doing?” Tony frowned down at Bruce, apparently genuinely confused.

“Well, I was sleeping.”

“Well, stop it. Come on.” Five minutes later, Bruce was up holding test-tubes and a wrench, too busy trying to catch up with Tony’s mile-a-minute thought processes to even consider suffocating billows of anything.


New York was doing its best to look pretty under a layer of frost and ice. Bruce woke up, but Tony wasn’t there. Usually he’d be tooling around in his garage/lab/playroom. Bruce tried to not feel disappointed, despite the feeling he was somehow being brushed off. After all, even Tony Stark had to sleep sometimes. He didn’t owe Bruce anything, really. Coulson came and found him in the labs about midday.

“Have you seen Stark?”

“No,” Bruce said shortly. “We were supposed to go through some results together, but I suppose he was busy.” He grimaced. Could he sound any more like a teenage girl?

“Right.” Coulson didn’t move and Bruce eyed him suspiciously. Coulson actually looked a little awkward.

“Do you have plans for Christmas, Doctor Banner?

“Uh… Nothing concrete…” Bruce said, confused. Coulson was a good man, and frankly, Bruce would have left SHIELD if anyone else had been left in charge of the Avengers Initiative, but he took about the same level of interest in their personal lives as Tony did in the Pope’s.

“Right.” This time the agent did leave. Bruce shrugged and turned back to his report.

Tony didn’t come back the next day, and neither did Agent Coulson. That annoyed Bruce, because it meant one of two things. 1) Tony had an assignment he hadn’t told Bruce about, and considering he’d tell Bruce about the dream he had with the woman with the man-eating... Well, it seemed unlikely he’d hold back, and 2) Bruce could not sound more like a whiny teenager if he tried. So he buried himself in work, and tried not to think about it.

“JARVIS, do you know where Tony is?” Bruce had finally snapped, at the end of a long day where nothing was going right.

“No sir.” JARVIS replied, almost regretfully. .

“Is that a lie?” Bruce was feeling off. He hadn’t realised how used he was to Tony’s constant chatter and boundless energy. It was a bit like sharing the lab with Roadrunner, but it had become the closest thing to home that Bruce knew. Even if he was Wile E Coyote.

“I am incapable of telling a deliberate untruth,” JARVIS explained, mildly.

“Of course.” Bruce rolled his eyes and decided to go for a swim. It was probably unhealthy to stay cooped up all of the time. He thrashed up and down the pool till the Other Guy was reduced to a dull purr at the back of his skull.

It took two more days of padding through the almost-empty spades of the skyscraper before Bruce finally got it. Tony had finally found a new project. It had been inevitable, really. He had seen it with other little interests Tony had found and then just as easily lost. And now Bruce was just another little interest. He’d almost convinced himself it wasn’t going to happen. What really hurt was that Tony hadn’t even bothered to mention it to him. He’d just upped and left. He didn’t pack anything, and he left his Starkphone on the dresser. Bruce was aware he had many faults, but at that moment he was coldly aware that common thief was not one of them. He had some money socked away in a DVD of a Charlie Chaplin biopic. Then he made a break for it, slipping out of the building. No one stopped him.


Tony pulled up in the gravel car-park of the motel.

“Oh my god, JARVIS, are you seeing this? All it’s missing is the dead guy in the pool.”

“Sir.” JARVIS’ voice came out of the speakers of the car.  "Am I to believe that we'll be branching out into private investigation, then?"

“It’s even got a neon sign. Do you think it charges by the hour?” asked Tony, on his own tangent.

"Would you like me to double-check this establishments rates, sir?" asked JARVIS, smooth as ever.

"That won't be necessary.” Tony huffed and stepped out of the car, locking it behind him. It was a token gesture. JARVIS was better than any guard-dog, really, since unlike many guard-dogs he had a couple thousand volts of electricity at his disposal.

The guy behind the counter in the motel’s foyer was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘It’s my monkey and I spank it whenever it’s naughty’.

“Classy shirt.” Tony smiled down at him. The guy put down the nudie mag he was reading and gave Tony an unfriendly look. Tony’s smile never slipped. He’d been given the stink-eye before and by better-dressed, better-paid schmucks.

“I’m looking for a friend of mine. About yey high, black curly hair? Looks like he’d growl if you squeezed him.”

This earned him a blank stare that dropped slowly to the nudie mag again.

“Tough guy, huh?” Tony pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket. “Okay, here. My friend Ben also wants to know where he is.”

The guy eyed the money and then Tony. “You gonna kill him?”

“What? No.”

The guy snatched the note and turned back to his mag. “Room 101.”


The guy looked up and gave him a slow ‘I can’t believe this moron’ stare. “Uh. Yeah.” His brow creased. “Hey, aren’t you...?”

“Nope.” Tony ducked out of the room.

Room 101 was a peeling chipboard door and some suspicious carpet stains in a dank corridor that smelt of cigarettes and bleach. Tony knocked.

“I didn’t order any room service.” Bruce sounded like he might have been napping.

“Did you ask for Room 101 or was that desk guy not as dumb as he looked?”

There was silence.

“If you’re trying to get out the window, I bet I can run faster than you.”

The door opened. Bruce was wearing sweats and a ratty old t-shirt. “What are you doing here? Come to drag me back to my cage?”

“What?” Tony stepped into the room and looked around. “Man, I would not want a blacklight in here. At least you don’t actually have to fight the cockroach collective for bed supremacy though.”

“Tony...” Bruce folded his arms.

“Is the bathtub already full of ice, or do management aim to save money on ice-chips by making sure you’ve brought your own donor?”

“Tony.” Bruce said it a little louder but Tony still affected not to hear, flipping through the TV menu.

“Hey, I’ve actually heard of that one. It’s got this chick who--”


Tony glanced upwards.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“What do you think I’m doing here?” Tony dropped the TV menu and actually looked irritated for a moment. “I’m looking for what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.”

“Well, obviously.” Bruce started to toss clothes into a ruck-sack. “When you find him, ask him to tell Coulson I’m done.”

“Now hold on. You can’t leave. Do you know how long it took me to find you?”

Bruce gave him a look. Tony relented. “Well, okay, it would have taken much longer without SHIELD following you very discretely, but still.”

“Fine. What do you want?” Bruce paused in his packing.

“I want to know why you just upped and left. Not even a note. A little harsh, don’t you think?”

“I know where I’m not wanted, thanks. You could stand to take a lesson.”

“What?” Tony looked honestly confused now.

“Well, I figured I’d outstayed my welcome, especially when you took off...”

“Oh man, no, Bruce, buddy, you got it all wrong.”

“Oh really? Well perhaps you’d care to explain!” Bruce snapped, before taking a few deep breaths. The Other Guy lurked behind his eyes, all ready to leap out and smash...

“I meant to get JARVIS to tell you. It’s all a mistake. Come back, come on.” He smiled, all Stark-brand charm.

“Yeah, right.” Bruce stayed where he was. “How long is SHIELD gonna ground you for losing their big, green nuclear deterrent, Tony?”

Tony actually flinched. “It’s not like that...”

“Then what is it like, Tony? ‘cause I’m awfully confused.” The Other Guy was whispering in his ear, a primal growl. How easy it would be to just reach out... But this was Tony. The fact that Tony had that sort of power over him was endlessly irritating. Tony was watching him curiously, head cocked.He appeared to reach a conclusion.

“Fine. I’ll tell you where I was. Sheesh...”

“Well?” Bruce tried to imagine himself as a stone. Smooth, unflappable. Yeah.

“I was in Bulgaria, getting Hawkeye and Tasha out.”

“What?” Bruce blinked. He’d been expecting a sudden getaway with Pepper or something.

“Hey, don’t give me that look. I didn’t start an international crisis or anything. Well. Maybe a minor incident. A blip.”

“A... Blip.” Bruce raised his eyebrows.

“You look like Coulson when you do that.” Tony commented, opening the bedside drawer and grimacing at the dearth of any Bibles hidden away inside it.

“And that took the whole week?” Bruce asked.

“Nope, I also went to New Mexico, and caught up with Thor.”


“And Steve was at college, so I had to go all the way to Yale after that...”


“You should see the art he’s produced. It’s like nothing else--”

“Did he draw a picture of you?” Even irritated and tired, Bruce realised that in many ways, Tony was very easy to please.

“I’m holding up a whole bus,” Tony said, proudly. Bruce laughed, just a bit. “But yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“But I don’t get it.” Bruce sat on the edge of the bed. “Why?”

“What’s the date?”

“The... Twenty-fourth of December?”

“Right, and I’ve got four of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes doing something terrible with tinsel in my house. I’m just missing the full set. And you know how I am with collections.” Tony clapped Bruce on the shoulder.

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know. Apparently tasteful is not something the Vikings and their descendants do. Clint’s trying to get Coulson to dress as Santa’s Little Helper.”

Bruce opened his mouth. Bruce closed his mouth.

“Don’t forget the jingle-bells on his shoes.” Tony supplied helpfully. “Look, Bruce, I’ll level with you. I did a little digging. Clint spent last Christmas in a tree in India. Tasha was being tortured in Koln, and you were being kicked halfway across Calcutta by a mob-boss. I don’t even remember what I was doing, except I ended up naked on the floor of my lab with a tattoo in a very personal area. Now, I’m not saying all this isn’t awesome, but this is Thor’s first Christmas away from home...” Tony stuck his head in the mini-bar. Bruce stared at him for a moment. Then it clicked. Tony wasn’t the only one to have done some digging. Celebrity rags of the day regularly featured Howard Stark and his beautiful wife at a glamorous Christmas party but more often than not Tony was nowhere to be seen. If nothing else, Thor probably would have been perfectly content to spend Christmas with Jane Foster. It occurred to him that Thor probably wasn’t as big and dumb as he seemed.

“You’re an idiot,” he told Tony.

“You’re worse,” Tony retorted, indicating the damp room around them.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t want to be SHIELD’s lackey.”

“You’re such a drama queen. And that’s coming from the guy flying around in a big red tin-can.” Tony dropped the empty bottles of Jim Beam in the trash-can and quirked an eyebrow Bruce’s way. “Well?”

“Fine.” Bruce followed Tony out of the room. He didn’t look back.
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