Who: Banter What: First Official Date When: Wednesday, Sept 8, 6pm Where: Starting in the Lobby Rating/Warning: Low/none Status: Completed via Gdoc
Sharon was actually running a couple of minutes late this time. She’d been caught on a call to Madripoor, and the time difference threw everyone off. At least this’d been about the Art Gallery, something on the up-and-up, rather than one of her under-the-table interests in Madripoor. But when she glanced at the time she saw it was 6 on the dot--so it took her a couple of minutes to rush downstairs for their date.
A date. The first official date for the pair of them. Sharon was very excited and a little nervous about it--for a number of reasons. It’d been a long time since Sharon had had an official date. She felt rusty. And stressed because she ran late!
When she reached the lobby, she was a little flustered, her hip was a bit sore, and she wished she’d worn something a little more flattering. San Francisco was chilly, so she was in jean capris, ankle-boots, and a cream colored sweater. Her hair was in a sloppy bun. It wasn’t exactly date attire.
Unlike their last outing, Bruce looked slightly more put together and less rumpled, wearing a pair of pressed khakis and a polo shirt. He had a light jacket over his arm, just in case he needed it later. Or in case Sharon got cold, he supposed.
It had been a long time since he was on a date, though at least he had more recent experience with Bobbi. Prior to that, well… he’d been quite out of practice. He wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about this date. Sharon liked to tease him and that was fine, he was used to that from friends, but it made it difficult for him to gauge if she was really interested or not. That’s what dates were for, right? Figuring out if there was compatibility.
Bruce smiled when Sharon entered the lobby. They hadn’t really discussed where they were going, so he was glad that he wasn’t underdressed compared to her and that they were both suitably dressed for the two options he had in mind. “I’ve narrowed down our options to two - Italian or sushi.”
When Sharon reached the lobby, she caught sight of him right away. Bruce Banner sure cleaned up nicely, didn't he? She lifted a hand to wave at him, breaking into a bright, warm smile, then started in his direction. It was likely to be a beautiful evening in San Francisco--meaning it might get cold. It was likely to get cold. She was in a sweater, but she was likely to feel the chill later.
"Hello to you, too, Bruce," she teased, leaning up and in to tap a greeting kiss against his cheek. Then she looped her hand through his arm and motioned for him to lead the way out.
"Ooh, Italian or Sushi? You're not giving me easy choices here, are you?" Sharon asked, beaming over at him. "How about sushi?"
Bruce wasn’t expecting the kiss on his cheek, though he realized he didn’t mind it at all, even as he smiled sheepishly realizing he hadn’t actually greeted her. “You look nice this evening,” he said. Hopefully the compliment would make up for the oversight.
“And sushi it is,” he said, leading her outside where there was a car waiting. He had definitely gotten used to the Stark way of doing some things. Holding open the door, he waited for her to get in and slide over before getting in next to her and pulling the door shut. “Domo, please,” he said to the driver before focusing his attention back on his date.
It was definitely a date and he was trying not to be too nervous about that. “How’ve you been? You healing okay?” he asked. It was a combination of professional curiosity and personal concern for her well being.
A little flush crossed Sharon’s cheeks at the compliment. She shook her head. “I lost track of the time. So, you got casual!Sharon tonight. Unfortunately, Cute!Sharon and Sexy!Sharon will have to take their turns some other time.” She felt a little bad that she hadn’t dressed in something more attractive for their first official dinner together… jeans and a sweater? Not exactly first date material.
Sharon definitely had cars that took her around in Madripoor. And assistants who were hired and trained to help her, to keep her secrets. She was used to that lifestyle, for sure. This was just a further continuation of that.
She slid into the car and settled back against the seat, turning to give him her full attention as he climbed in after her. “Healing well, thank you. I have my full range of motion back. So you don’t need to worry about ethics anymore.”
“I like casual Sharon just fine,” he said. Honestly, if she’d been dressed to the nines, he would have felt both underdressed and unprepared. Fancy dates were not his thing at all, so if they got to that point, he’d be needing advice from Tony.
His cheeks did tinge pink when she said he didn’t have to worry about ethics, but it was nothing like the blushes she had previously pulled out of him with her teasing. “Yes, well, I suppose when it comes to Avenger business, ethics are more of a guideline than an actual rule.”
Now it was Sharon’s turn to blush just a little. She smiled warmly, unable to meet his eyes for a moment. It was one thing to be told she was hot, or even beautiful... but the way he said it actually meant something. Made her feel special. Wanted. Liked. “All right, then. I’ll keep up the casual look around you.” She leaned back and her shoulder pressed very gently against his.
“Ah, see, you don’t have to worry about me twice over, then. I’m not an Avenger.” Sure, she’d kinda had … well, something with Steve once… though that felt like a billion years ago. “But I like a man with a moral code.” Obviously. Bruce knew about her past with Captain America, right?
There was more than enough space in the back seat that they didn’t need to be pressed against each other, but Bruce found himself smiling when he felt her leaning against him. It was nice to have that sort of connection. He hadn’t realized how long he had been missing it.
“Ah, you’re not an Avenger yet,” Bruce said with a smirk. “Don’t be surprised if you get roped in though. Either in the field or behind the scenes. Pretty much everyone who ends up in our odd little universe ends up working with the team in some capacity.”
“Is that a promise, or a threat?” Sharon teased, turning to look at him with a little smirk on her lips. “I’ve signed up with SHIELD but I don’t think I can hold my own against the big guns of the Avengers. You, Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow?” Sharon was just a girl. Fully human, not enhanced in any way. And she wasn’t anywhere near the marksman that Barton was.
Though, she did have some skills that might come in handy. When she wasn’t busy running her criminal empire in Madripoor. ...that might make being an Avenger a little tricky.
“Can’t I just date one instead?” Again, a tease. Of course she would be there in whatever capacity they needed. She remembered very vividly going up against the Winter Soldier, and while she kinda held her own, she was no match.
Bruce chuckled at her question. “You can’t really put me up against any of those folks,” he said. “Not without the Hulkbuster armor. The Other Guy is the indestructible one.” Even though they co-existed peacefully now, Bruce knew he couldn’t best anyone in a serious fight without assistance.
“And I understand dating an Avenger isn’t necessarily always fun,” he added, his smile fading a bit as he thought about Pepper and Tony. At least his friend seemed to be bouncing back finally. Bruce wished they would have been able to work things out though.
That wasn’t anything he wanted to talk about on a first date. Or at all, really. “You were with SHIELD previously, right?”
Sharon would argue that he and The Other Guy were connected--but there was a lot about how he and Hulk worked that she didn’t know. She wanted to learn, though. His shoulder felt warm against hers.
“I wouldn’t know.” It wasn’t like anything really happened with Steve. As much as she wanted it to at the time, he seemed to have other ideas. She’d been bitter for a long time, and now she was just a little cold about it.
And then he asked about SHIELD. That was a much easier topic. “Yes, I worked undercover for SHIELD. I was actually assigned by Nick Fury to keep an eye on Steve Rogers.” Wow, saying his name out loud for the first time in a long time felt… odd. “When SHIELD went under, I transferred to the CIA.”
“You’re not with them now though?” Bruce asked. He was pretty sure that she wasn’t working for any government agency at the moment. Well, except maybe the SHIELD they had restarted. “What happened with the CIA?”
Being on another planet for several years meant that he missed a lot of the finer details of what his friends went through. By the time they had a chance to actually sit down and talk, they were dealing with all the losses from the snap and trying to hold things together.
“No,” Sharon shook her head. “After SHIELD was infiltrated by HYDRA, I cut ties.”
Ah, there was the question. What happened with the CIA--the thing that sent her down a very different path than she’d originally imagined for herself.
“Steve and Sam got themselves taken in after they wouldn’t sign the accords. They were going after Bucky Barnes--the Winter Soldier. There’s a story there, too, about Bucky being used by Zemo… anyway, I stole Cap’s shield and Falcon’s wings and returned them to Steve and Sam. Steve and I… we had a little thing. And then we were all on the run.” Sharon winced, her cheeks a little pink. “Apparently the United States Government doesn’t like it when one of its CIA Operatives steals government property and puts it in the hands of fugitives.”
Since Bruce hadn’t been on Earth during the Accords fiasco, he only knew bits and pieces of what happened during that time. He remembered hearing that some of the Avengers ended up being arrested and some of them were on the run for a while. He hadn’t realized that Sharon was involved in all of that.
“So you did the wrong thing for the right reason and got punished for it,” he said. “Sounds like you’re well on your way to being an Avenger.”
He decided not to think too much about the ‘little thing’ she had with Steve. It was better for his sanity that way.
It wasn't like Sharon was going to compare Bruce and Steve. She was far more fond of Bruce right now, anyway. He didn't ghost her after she saved his ass during the accords fiasco.
"Maybe I am," she mused, blushing softly. Imagine: the Powerbroker on the Avengers team. Stranger things had happened.
The car came to a stop, and Sharon sat up a little. She was starting to feel a little less nervous and a little more hungry. She climbed out of the car with him and looped her hand around his elbow.
Bruce smiled at her as they headed into the restaurant. He’d actually made reservations at both, unsure of which she’d prefer and wanting to ensure they wouldn’t have to wait long. The driver was under instructions to cancel the other one after dropping them off.
After they entered and were shown to their table, Bruce said, “Enough about work. Tell me what kind of things you do in your spare time.”
Sharon sat down across from Bruce at the table, accepted the menu from the server, and then smiled at him over the top. “...all right. Spare time… what’s that again?” She teased.
“I like to read. I spend a lot of time reading.” She offered. It wasn’t like she could tell him about the other things that kept her occupied back in Madripoor.
Spare time was rare when you did the sort of work they did. “I like to read as well,” Bruce said. “And I like to cook.” Those were basically how he spent his time when he wasn’t in the clinic or the lab. Or trying to keep Tony from self-destructing.
“Have you read anything good lately?” he asked.
“Yes, at some point… I think you promised me a home-cooked meal,” Sharon said, mostly teasing. She’d had a chance to sample some of his food when she first arrived, but it only made her more interested in him.
“Oh, I just read… Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. You haven’t read it, have you?” Sharon brightened considerably when she started talking about the book. “It’s really fantastic. I was enraptured. I read it right before I arrived in this world.”
“I haven’t,” Bruce admitted, though he was fairly certain he remembered seeing it on some best seller lists. “I’ll have to put it on my list.” Work had been preventing him from taking much time to read lately and he needed to fix that.
Their server came by to take their drink orders and then left them alone to peruse the menus. “And, yes, I owe you a home-cooked meal.” Hopefully she wouldn’t turn out to be a spy like the last woman he’d cooked for.
“I’d offer to loan it to you, except I left it in my other world,” she admitted playfully, grinning. “Though I have started a little book collection in my room. You’re welcome to come take a look if you want. I don’t know how many of them are worthwhile… I’ve started collecting anything that looks interesting, though I haven’t had a chance to read many of them yet.” She brought a book with her to Madripoor, but that was a romance novel that she finished on the plane.
Ah yes. He already knew she was a spy, right?
“I’d like that a lot,” she smiled shyly, once the server was gone. “Already planning date number two? The first one’s not even finished yet.” Hopefully he’d be interested in another by the end of the night. Sharon was really rusty at this whole dating thing.
She lifted the hot cup of green tea to sip from it--glad they brought out the tea to sip while they decided what they wanted. “Should we just get a sample platter of rolls?”
Bruce chuckled. “I do like to plan ahead,” he said. “Even though it’s often difficult in my line of work.” The bad guys didn’t exactly attack on a schedule. And science was unpredictable at best.
“A sampler sounds good to me. Maybe one of those sushi boats? They have a little of everything,” he suggested. He was enjoying getting to know Sharon better and was pretty sure that there would be a second date. Unless something went horribly awry on this one.
Sharon nodded. “Smart. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. You’re a pretty smart guy.” She couldn’t help smiling. Just being there with him made her feel happy. It was ridiculous, but there you have it. “Well, if it helps at all? I have a strong suspicion I’m going to be interested in a second date.”
“Sounds good.” She closed the menu, at the same time crossing one leg over the other under the table. Her foot brushed up against his calf. She didn’t shy away from it, though. Let it rest there.
“There are some things I should probably tell you. About me. About… my involvement with the Avengers--with Steve, specifically. Feels like a really long time ago, but … I don’t know if you know.” Sam and Bucky knew. But did any of the others? Sharon suspected Tony knew. Or at least that he suspected something. And it was likely that Natasha knew. She knew everything.
When he first felt her foot against his leg, it was on the tip of Bruce’s tongue to apologize and pull his leg out of the way. After a moment, he realized that she’d done it deliberately and he didn’t say anything or move since it felt kind of nice to have that physical connection.
Bruce raised his eyebrows at her mention of her involvement with the Avengers and Steve. “Your aunt was involved with the initial super serum project, right?” he said, having extensively studied the history of that venture while doing his own research.
“Yes,” Sharon broke into a sad, little smile at the memory. “My Aunt Peggy was a founding member of SHIELD. She was involved with Steve’s procedure and training. She talked so fondly of him. And then when I was recruited into SHIELD, I was assigned to watch over Steve undercover. He found out who I was, and… well, we grew close.” There was attraction there from the start. But she didn’t need to go into the details with the man she was hoping to date.
“Anyway, he and Sam were arrested. They broke out, though, and I stole the shield and Sam’s wings to return to them. It put me in a lot of hot water. I went on the run, and pretty much stayed on the run for five years.” Through the Blip, the return, all of it.
“Sorry, I know that’s a lot of backstory. But isn’t that what first dates are for?”
“That was very brave,” Bruce said. He wasn’t surprised that her actions landed her in trouble. Ross would never stand for anyone going against him and if Avengers were arrested, he had to be involved. “I’m sorry you had to go on the run.” It was something he knew a lot about having done so for years after his accident.
He gave her a reassuring smile. “You don’t need to apologize. I’m sure you’re familiar with my history.” SHIELD had an extensive file on him and he assumed that anyone who was even tangentially connected to the Avengers Initiative had studied it.
Of course, SHIELD had basically disbanded while he was off Earth, so there may be things that she didn’t know that hadn’t made it into his file. “After the Ultron thing, I ended up on another planet for several years.” He paused. “Well, the Other Guy did.”
“Thanks, Bruce. But it’s not your fault,” Sharon said kindly. It was more Steve’s fault than anything, but she wasn’t going to say that. Not to someone who was his friend.
“I… yes, well, I was familiar with it up until the Ultron business, which was when you disappeared. What was… he doing on the other planet for so many years?”
Bruce coughed, grateful that their server interrupted before he had to answer her question. They placed their orders and he picked up his cup of tea to sip, waiting until they were alone again before responding.
“Ah, well… he ended up on a planet that was ruled by someone called The Grandmaster. You know the ancient Roman gladiator stories? It was a little like that,” he explained. Obviously, it was something that appealed to Hulk. Bruce was still grateful that Thor had ended up there and gotten him to switch back.
Sharon looked impressed. It really shouldn’t have impressed her. Hulk was… incredible. Terrifying, but incredible. She shouldn’t have been surprised that he was a Roman Gladiator on another planet. She was sure that he was the winner more often than the loser on the other planet, too.
“So, you were in a Russell Crowe movie for years on another planet,” she said, trying to keep things light and teasing, “and then you came back. How did that happen?” Sharon was curious by nature, but she hoped it didn’t come across as interrogatory. She lifted her tea for a sip, then frowned just slightly.
“I hope I’m not asking too many questions.” She… she liked him. She wanted to hear the whole story.
Talking about himself wasn’t something that Bruce was terribly used to doing, but he found he didn’t mind Sharon’s questions. It was obvious she wanted to get to know him and wasn’t just some kind of superhero fangirl or worse, a reporter looking for a story.
“You’re fine,” he assured her. “Long story short? Thor and Loki ended up on Sakaar by some bizarre twist of fate. Thor managed to trigger me to shift back and, the three of us, along with Valkyrie, escaped the planet and headed to Asgard.” Where they had unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Ragnorok. That was something he wasn’t going to get into details about, so he glossed over why they went to Asgard.
Bruce took another sip of his tea before picking up the story. “We learned of Thanos’s plan. Heimdall sent me back to Earth to warn the Avengers. I found Tony, but… I was too late.” And there’d been the whole thing where the team was no longer together.
Sharon cared more about him than the story. She was listening for how he felt about the events of his experience, and less thinking about how she could use them to her advantage. (Though, the Powerbroker often had that lens on when interacting with people.)
“I think I know the rest,” Sharon admitted. She’d heard about Bruce Banner’s involvement with the Avengers and their fight against Thanos right before the Snap. “It feels like such a long time ago,” she added. “But it really wasn’t that long ago. You know what I mean?”
“I do,” Bruce said. Those five years between the first battle with Thanos and the second had simultaneously felt like they lasted forever and also that they passed in the blink of an eye. It had been a difficult time for everyone and he was about to ask her what she’d been doing during that time when their server returned with their sushi boat and he decided to drop the subject for the moment. Besides, this wasn’t really great first date conversation, was it?
He smiled at her and gestured for her to help herself first. “Let’s talk about more pleasant things,” he suggested. “Have you ever been to San Francisco? Anything you’re looking forward to doing?”
The food was set on the table between them, and Sharon smiled, eyes twinkling. It looked delicious. This had been a lovely first date so far. She lifted her chopsticks to start digging in.
“More pleasant things, yes,” Sharon agreed with a smile. Her toe shifted along his calf just a little. “I’m definitely looking forward to exploring. I hope you’re ready for adventures, because I’m taking you along with me. Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, the whole thing.”
Maybe for date number two.
Bruce smiled back. This was actually going better than he expected and he found himself hoping there would be a date two, adventures or not.