Title:- Dinner Date
Author:- carriesagun @ LJ
Fandom:- Avengers (MCU)
Characters/Pairing:-Clint Barton/Bruce Banner, cameos by rest of the team.
Word Count:- 2,381
Summary:- Bruce and Clint throw a dinner party, with mixed success. Tony winds up paying for being late.
Disclaimer:- I don't own them. Or they'd have had far more on-screen time together.
Notes:- Written for the wonderful viper_fox's spiffy birthday! Because I as usual read the wrong date and thus her actual present will be late, and this bunny has been stuck in my head for weeks.
A little context: Clint has an apartment in New York, which he and Bruce have claimed as home away from helicarrier. That's where this little ficlet is set.
Everything had to be perfect. There was a timetable taped up on the fridge, a clock stuck next to it with a magnet that had been set according to the UK speaking clock and adjusted accordingly. Clint had winced at the cost of the call, but Bruce was too busy setting the clock down to the last minute to notice. Clint didn't worry about money, but he did object to Bruce calling a machine to check the time when he was wearing a perfectly good Seiko.
"Clint, it's six forty-five. You were meant to be dressed by six thirty." Clint looked up from his seat, perched up on a stool at the breakfast bar in nothing but a towel, watching Bruce carefully pluck needle-fine bones from a salmon and hoping to distract the scientist with his lack of clothing.
Clint made a light whining sound in his throat. "No, you can't attend our inaugural dinner party in your birthday suit. Yes, you can wear that striped blue shirt that's in my wardrobe. No you can't drink Thor's Asgardian mead again," Bruce said in response, not looking up from his fish as he said it.
"Fine," Clint replied dramatically, getting up from the stool and strolling away, pausing only to toss his towel in the hamper and finish the journey naked. Even from that distance he could feel Bruce's eyes raking down his back, so just as he turned into the bedroom doorway he waved at Bruce, pleased to see a touch of pink rising up his partner's face.
By the time he was dressed (thirty minutes behind schedule, Bruce noticed with a shake of his head), Bruce had filleted the fish and was adding olive oil to the vegetables he was about to put in the oven on a low heat. "Anything I can do?" Clint asked, rolling his sleeves up and striding close, stealing a slice of pepper before Bruce could chase him off.
As Clint stood there, munching on the piece of stolen food and looking as innocent as he possibly could, Bruce couldn't stay annoyed for long. "You're incorrigible," he said fondly, shaking his head.
"You can add the glasses to the table if you want. Water on the left, wine on the front, and put the metal tankard at the head of the table. I'm not mopping up mead if Thor gets drunk and breaks another glass."
Clint saluted. "Yes sir," he said, marching off to complete his task and leave Bruce to stress over the arrangement of prawns on the dish for his starter.
Bruce's menu had started out simple; order in Chinese from the Bo Wah. That had quickly changed to mixed seafood platter (prawns, lobster, mussels, crab claws and poached salmon), fillet mignon steaks for main with Mediterranean vegetables, and chocolate brownie sundaes for dessert. All accompanied by freshly home baked bread and locally produced butter (well, as locally as could be managed). Clint wasn't entirely sure his partner had slept in the last 24 hours.
When the Avengers had been given downtime to rest and recuperate, Clint had envisaged a long weekend wherein neither he nor Bruce left the bedroom and went back to work basically unable to walk. Instead it was Saturday night and they were getting ready for a dinner party and Bruce had scarcely been in the bedroom to sleep, let alone anything else. Of course there'd been the shower. And the couch. But Clint still felt a little pouty as he placed the glasses down gingerly, making sure they lined up square.
Just as he'd finished, the doorbell rang. Two rings, polite, Steve. Sure enough, when Clint opened the door having buzzed him in, Steve was standing there. Neatly turned out as ever, with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a bunch of flowers in the other. "Captain," Clint said, nodding respectfully, a coy smile on his face.
"Come on now, Clint. Not at work any more, it's Steve. I uh, didn't know which to bring, so I brought both," Steve explained, indicating the gifts.
Clint smiled easily. "If you can't drag Bruce away from the kitchen long enough, I'll thank you from us both," he said, pushing the door open wider so Steve could come in.
Bruce peeled the oven gloves off his hands, piling them up neatly, and crossed the room to shake Steve's hand after Steve had offloaded the gifts to Clint. "Good to see you, Steve," Bruce said, pleased he didn't sound as flustered and harried as he felt. "Clint's on drink duty, so just ask him if you- Clint that's a flagon, not a vase - Want anything."
"Thanks doctor," Steve replied, selecting a comfortable arm chair to settle into where he could watch the two men in the kitchen and still see the door. "This is nice."
"Thanks," Clint and Bruce replied in unison, smiling warmly at each other before returning to their tasks. Clint arranged the flowers into the vase (having informed Bruce that a flagon was just a vase with a handle) and put the champagne in the fridge. Bruce was fussing at his salad again, so Clint poured them both a glass of white then offered Steve a drink.
Clint was halfway through fetching Steve's beer when the door opened and Natasha stalked in. "It's customary to knock, Nat," Clint said, handing Steve the bottle and a glass.
"Mhm," Natasha replied, glancing around the room, scoping it out. The action was more habit than anything, checking exits, windows, corners. Then she turned her attention to her hosts, a small smile gracing her lips. "It's nice. Keeping secrets again, Clint?" she asked, giving him a friendly hug and nodding at Bruce. "And he cooks," she added, leaning over the dressed seafood platter interestedly.
"All fresh this morning."
"He was up at 5 to get to the docks."
"Actually it was four."
Natasha had watched their little interplay with a knowing look on her face, one Steve noticed and smiled in response to. She shook her head, grabbed the nearest wineglass that was full (Bruce's) and curled herself up, catlike, in the stool Clint had previously occupied. She sipped the wine, leaving scarlet lipstick stains on the rim, and licked her lips at the medium flavour.
Small talk was made and pointedly steered away from work. Natasha and Clint caught Steve up on sports like Formula One racing and NASCAR, while Bruce fretted about every detail and didn't hear a single word that was said, checking his watch occasionally, anxious that both Thor and Tony were late.
Fussing at a piece of lettuce for the thousandth time, Clint got up and left Natasha arguing with Steve about motorbikes, standing close to Bruce, hand on his forearm. "They'll be here."
Bruce looked at Clint, a little wild eyed. "I can't hold the salmon poaching forever. Otherwise it becomes soup." Sighing, hating the nagging tone he'd somehow adopted, Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose. "Can you call Tony? Threaten him with Natasha or something."
Clint nodded, leaning over to press a kiss to Bruce's cheek, then pulling his worn phone out of his pocket, stepping into the bedroom and closing the door to make the call.
Tony answered on the fourth ring. "Birdbrain?"
"Tony, if you don't get your ass into this apartment in the next five minutes, I will tell Fury exactly who is responsible for Bruce unleashing hell on downtown New York."
"I'm only five minutes-"
"Twenty five." Clint sighed, not hiding the annoyance in the tone. "Is Thor with you? Please, at least tell me he's with you."
There was an unintelligible reply, a burst of static, then Tony's voice. "Yeah, Point Break's here. I think he's been on the mead already, if you-"
"One thing, Tony. One thing. Your science boyfriend asked you to play nice and turn up for one thing and you've managed to be pretty much thirty minutes late and gotten Thor drunk. Congratulations. New low." He slammed his thumb down on the little red phone, leaning back hard against the door.
Clint didn't argue much with Tony anymore; they'd all settled into a pattern, and in fact the two enjoyed pranking each other and pretty much everyone else in the helicarrier. But, when Tony's devil may care attitude affected Bruce, this 'Birdbrain' was not going to let it go.
"Agent Barton sounded upset," Thor practically yelled in Tony's ear. When Tony had finally picked Thor up from a field outside the city, it was clear the demi-god had already started on the large container of mead he had tucked under his arm.
And the son of a bitch wouldn't even feel it in the morning. "Yeah, he's. Ah, he's fine. Hey, how much of that mead's left?"
"There is plenty for any human party."
"I think I might need some."
Clint was grinding his teeth as the assembled group plus the two late comers sat around the table, bought specifically for the occasion. Thor was being particularly loud and theatrical, explaining an awesome battle with a creature called a Bilgesnipe, which sounded as vile as its name.
Clint skewered a prawn on his fork, glancing to his right where Bruce was breaking up a crab claw with a nut cracker. Bruce had told Tony his tardiness was fine, had clearly tucked that disappointment away, and Clint tried to forget it. But he'd seen the look on Bruce's face, and that stuck in his memory. And, Birdbrain or not, Clint would have revenge. He had a good idea of precisely how he'd do it.
He had a date with Tony's precious suit.
"More prawns?" Clint visibly jumped, glancing down at the proffered plate, Tony's smile a little like the Tincan that caught the magnet.
"Sure, thanks Tony," Clint replied, taking a couple of prawns and adding them to his plate. With the concept and plan in mind, it was a lot easier to enjoy listening to Thor's epic war experience and tales of Loki's tricks since returning to Asgard.
"Of course, I told his jailer to not trust a word, but he did. Now he wanders the land as a... Well, a pig is what you Midgardians would call it. A fine joke to Loki, though I fear the jailer's wife may think otherwise." They all laughed, the atmosphere visibly lighter, easy, genuine smiles on all their faces.
Bruce cooked each steak individually, each carefully timed for the perfect level of cooked; from Steve's well done right through to Natasha's nearly bloody. Adding the vegetables, Clint did waiter duty, handing everything out to the right person.
They got onto the subject of work, inevitably. Bruce stayed quiet, just listening; sometimes he felt wholly disconnected from the Avengers. Clint and Natasha might not have 'superpowers', but at least they were themselves during all those missions, saving the world. No one knew Bruce Banner; he was the Hulk first and the man second.
But he was happy enough to listen. Clint's hand on his thigh reminded him that for every cloud there was a shiny, beautiful silver lining. He smiled, that knowing smile as though he knew a big secret and wouldn't tell, mopping up some oil with a slice of bread.
By the time dessert came out, all of them except Bruce and Steve were showing 'signs of merriment', and Thor so aptly named them, and Clint promptly stopped drinking. He wanted to stay sober enough to make sure Bruce got tucked up into bed. Or something like that, anyway. His partner burnt through alcohol like Steve did with his advanced metabolism, so within an hour Bruce'd be sober as a judge.
No one stayed, aside from Thor who sat on the couch and promptly fell into a deep sleep, head tipped back against the back of the couch and cup in hand. Everyone was too keen to get back to their own bed, thankful for the time together but eager for the downtime, too.
Once Clint had packed Natasha safely into a cab (more concerned for the driver's safety than Natasha's), he made his way back up the stairs, pushing their apartment door open quietly to avoid awakening Thor.
Bruce was stacking plates and cutlery into the dishwasher, trying to be quiet. At some point he'd tucked a throw over the sleeping Norse demi-god, then put a bottle of water beside him and left him to sleep.
"Aw, look at our god, all tuckered out." Bruce twirled on his heel, a spoon in his out-stretched hand, and visibly relaxed when he saw it was Clint.
"All that mead. Wonder what percentage that stuff is?" Clint closed and dead bolted the door, drawing the chain across just for good measure. He was starting to adjust to civilian life, but he didn't like leaving anything to chance.
"Maybe we should test it."
"Clint, last time that happened you wound up in the medical ward with alcohol poisoning."
"I meant for you to try it."
"Oh, so I can end up in the medical ward, huh?" Bruce laughed, shutting the dishwasher and leaving whatever was left for the morning. "I'm tired."
"I'm not surprised." Clint was in the little kitchen now, and looped his arms around Bruce's waist, tugging him closer. "So, first dinner party. Okay?"
Bruce smiled, pressing his face against Clint's neck. "Yeah, it was... Nice." He paused, considering his words closely, then said, "And thanks for keeping your tongue with Tony. I'm sure he'll pay for being late, but I don't need to know."
"Oh, he will. Now, can we make it back to the bedroom or-" Bruce indicated Thor. "Bedroom's good. Race ya."
A memo came around the Friday after their dinner party.
"All S.H.I.E.L.D members,
Whoever thought it would be funny to repaint Mr Stark's Iron Man suit purple and write 'Fondue' on it; it wasn't. May I also request that the standard codpiece and chest piece be returned. It is highly unprofessional for Mr Stark to be seen in public with Madonna's bra and hot pants on, particularly when members of the Council are visiting.
"Just... Tell me there's at least one photograph."
"I've got a whole album."
"Good. Just... Checking in."