I know jack-all about this universe as the only Marvel series I ever followed was X-Men, so bear with me.
He's aching in a thousand places that he won't admit (or might play up to the point of absurdity, depending on the situation) but privately Tony Stark is thinking that he could get used to this. Apart from Pepper, gloriously open-minded woman that she is, he has grown accustomed to flying solo. Literally, flying. Solo. While the media calms down and they lick their victory wounds, however, he's starting to enjoy his half-joking offer to put his teammate up for a few nights.
Well. Sure. Maybe Bruce is moreso than the others, anyway, because he at least appreciates what exactly a billionaire playboy philanthropist's budget can afford in terms of scientific gadgetry. The list is almost inexhaustible. It's nice to have someone else who appreciates a good particle accelerator, and then will stay up until absurd hours of the morning discussing everything from arc reactors to bad westerns.
With that in mind, he's not exactly surprised when his temporary housemate doesn't make his way upstairs before ten o'clock. At least it was only the top few levels of the tower that got trashed, leaving most of the guest rooms intact.
"Morning, sleeping beauty. Still on Kolkata time? Also, pancakes or waffles."
Bruce blinks slowly, ruffling a hand back through his hair. "I...what?"
"Breakfast. I cook. You eat. Pancakes or waffles?"
Bruce is still a bit slow to respond, and despite the fact that Tony has read the man's papers and theories with something approaching fanaticism, he's resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Sometimes he wonders if that bumbling math professor routine Bruce puts up isn't all just show, as he'd expec--
Stark pauses his mental tirade to blink at his unofficial new lab partner in surprise, thrown by the unprompted sneeze.
"Scuse me, sorry," Bruce sniffs before he can comment, plopping himself down at the table where he resumes the process of waking up. "Waffles."
The reroute is enough to temporarily distract Tony. "Alright. Why waffles?" He challenges in amusement, even as he starts to rattle the appropriate cookware from cupboards.
"They hold more syrup."
"A man after my own heart," Tony approves as he sprays down the iron.
After pestering him for any way to help, Bruce finally backs down from Tony's squawking and occupies himself with sifting through the paper instead. The little bit of domesticity is good even for himself, Tony thinks, considering what the last few days have wrought. He's just finished the batter when he hears Bruce sniff sharply again behind him. He's been sniffling this whole time, his subconscious realizes belatedly, but this time he turns to glance at the doctor over one shoulder.
He's more curious than concerned, though an eyebrow does shoot up as the other man abruptly wrinkles his nose and brings cupped hands to his face.
"Uht--CHSSHHU! Heh--- CHU!"
A perfectly ordinary sound for a perfectly ordinary looking man, strong and appropriately masculine, but Tony is curious nonetheless and this time, he offers a response.
Bruce seems more surprised by this than the act itself, and pauses guiltily with his nose still crinkled and the webbing between a thumb and forefinger working against it. "Um. Thanks." His chair scoots back and the doctor moves to the sink to wash his hands, which Tony finds a little amusing, but goes back to waffle-making. Until Bruce repeats the act twice more into a shoulder.
He shakes his head briefly as if clearing a spell of dizziness, and now that's too much and Tony can't resist commentary. Not that he ever really resists the urge to comment on anything.
"If you survived that whole... saving the world thing and only managed to catch a cold from it," he begins, catching Bruce's slight grin as the other man waves him off.
"Ah, no. I'm fine. Really." He sniffs, maybe for emphasis but it's a bit damning in its wetness. "I don't know what's..."
As if on cue, a plaintive miaow sounds from off to their right. Tony glances back to where a tuxedo cat is rubbing her face lazily against a table-leg, and he smiles, but Bruce looks less pleased.
"You have a cat."
"Astounding observation, Dr. Banner, what will you amaze me with next?" Tony grins. He doesn't really mean it to be snarky, but fortunately Bruce is one of the few people, Avenger or otherwise, that doesn't seem offended or to even notice Tony's cattiness. "Technically, Pepper has a cat... and quite a few of them, in fact, but the rest like to hide. That's Maggie," he introduces and gestures to the black-and-white with the spatula. "You can pat her, she's friendly."
"Ah, that's... okay," Bruce dismisses and Tony, sensing a slight discomfort and an opportunity to toy with it, sets down the spatula and crosses to pick up the feline.
"Not a fan, huh? That's too bad, I bet she'd like you," he chuckles, making the complacent cat wave a little paw as Tony steps closer to the doctor. Bruce, to his amusement, takes a mirroring step backwards and scrubs a hand quickly beneath his nose.
"I like them, I'm just... slightly allergic."
This is about what Tony was expecting, but he still feigns surprise, knowing the Bruce won't really believe that for a hot minute either. "Oh, really? That's too bad. So naturally all cats gravitate to you." To test the hypothesis, he sets Maggie back down, and chuckles when she beelines appropriately for Bruce's legs to rub against them.
Bruce promptly returns the cage of his hands to his face and sneezes three times in sharp succession.
"Huht'CHHU! ...Heht'CSHU! Heht-- CHSHH'UE!!"
Despite what most people might say about him, Tony isn't a complete dick, and he takes some pity on the other man when he sees the miserably allergic expression on his companion's face. He shoos Maggie away and Bruce back to the table with a square of paper towel for his troubles. He goes, but sneezes intermittently the entire time, and continues to do so even after he's flopped back down.
"Slightly allergic, huh?"
"Really allergic," Bruce amends, bent over his own lap with face slightly flushed and nose extremely so. It wrinkles again with a fresh flare of irritation. "Heh--MHFSSH! Excu--h- heh'WHFFSH!" He gives up on speech and balls the paper towel tight against his nostrils, trying to either dam back the tide of sneezing or block out any cat dander in the air.
Tony tries to go back to cooking, hoping to distract his friend with breakfast or at least use it to make up for the slight teasing, but Bruce is sounding more frustrated by the moment.
"Sit tight," he sighs at last, flicking off the waffle iron and disappearing briefly from the room. When he returns with a box of proper tissues and a blister pack of Zyrtec, Bruce has removed his glasses switched a hand to pinching the bridge of his nose. Holding back another wrenching sneeze, Tony assumes, although as he approaches his teammate, he can see that the labored breathing and shaking shoulders isn't entirely from the fit of sneezing. Bruce is clearly fighting off something very different.
Well, that's not good.
Tony might be a fan of the 'big green rage monster', but he'd be stupid not to be a little afraid or at least cautious around him. Besides, he still has Loki-shaped craters in his floor from the last time the Other Guy paid a visit, and he doesn't care to reenact that with Stark-shaped ones.
Which leaves him in a slight predicament -- what to do? For being a billionaire genius, Tony doesn't have much first-hand experience in this, and decides randomly that a glass of water is in order. Does he distract Bruce, or will breaking his concentration only accelerate the affair? Finally, Tony shrugs to himself, goes with his gut, and hopes Jarvis can break a new speed record with his suit if those instincts turn out to be wrong.
"Hey," he says, nudging out a chair beside Bruce and dropping the tissues onto the table. "Relax, okay?" He sets the water down more gently, then fiddles with the Zyrtech one-handedly while the other lights to Bruce's shoulders, rubbing in what he hopes is reassurance. "Calm down, just breathe for a minute. I'll make sure the cats stay out of the living and lab areas, no worries." Are Bruce's muscles rippling unnaturally beneath his hand, shifting and growing, or is that just his back tensing? Does he look a little green or is it Tony's imagination?
Tony pops the two pills into Bruce's free hand while he's build up to another sneeze, brow knit in exasperation. The doctor catches it against the back of the opposite wrist with a weakening "CSHH!" and then immediately chases it with the pills, sans water. It's far too soon for them to have any effect, but the placebo of simply swallowing medication seems to calm Bruce for a moment, breathing hard with face uptilted.
"Good, you alright? Bless you, wow. That might have to go on the record. I lost count at twenty. Fine now? Yeah. I don't mind you having a sneezing fit in Stark tower, but the Other Guy... nnnot so much. I don't need a wind tunnel too."
It's an endless stream of babble and a dumb joke to punctuate it, but it gets a weak laugh from Bruce anyway, followed by a long sip of water. Tony deems it safe to take his hand away now, and sits back politely as his friend recomposes his typical tight control. A few short noseblows into the tissues seem to abate the sneezing, and he catches his breath fully a few moments later.
"I'm... so sorry about that. Really really. It's not usually, I don't--"
"Hey, it happens. I mean, not to me or anyone else in the known world that I'm aware of," Tony chatters, clapping him cheerfully on the shoulder. "But now we've learned something about each other, right? I know not to get a cat within twenty feet of you, and you know that I buy cheap tissues."
Bruce smiles wearily, but takes the bait rather than beating himself up over the almost-incident. He glances down at the bundle of white clutched in his hands, flush fading. "What's with that?"
"I can be frugal with some things," Tony dismisses airily, and then leans in with a moment of genuine, scientific curiosity. "Really though, on a scale of one to 'oh shit', how close was that?"
"Mm," Bruce mumbles, frowning either in thought or discomfort. Maybe both. "An eight, maybe."
"Good, well. Just to be sure, I'm gonna go turn up the air filters. And then waffles. Okay?"
A nod from Bruce as he wipes his eyes a final time and slips his glasses back on. "Thanks."
"Waffles with blueberries."
Edited by Garnet, 20 May 2012 - 01:05 AM.