He watches the other man, biting down on his own cheek. If Tony does his level best not to think about it, he can look at the man before him as a friend and colleague. All without remembering the harsh hands on his shoulders and the acidic voice in his ear.
You’re not even human.
Tony shakes away the thought and focuses back just in time to realize what Banner is saying. That he recognizes the M.O. “How? Where? Are there other bodies for comparison?”
Bruce is oblivious to Tony’s turmoil, he’s too caught in his head trying to remember where he’s seen this before. When it comes to things in the past he sorts events, places, all of it separate and neat in the back of his mind. There’s something there, something he can’t quite remember as if it’s blocked and just out of reach.
“It was a while ago,” he says, sliding off his chair and approaching Tony’s computer to begin typing. “It would’ve been two years ago, a John Doe showed up out of the blue.” Back when he was partnered with Robert, back before the accident. Bruce had spent long hours re-familiarizing himself with every case. If he couldn’t remember his previous partner, the least he could do was remember the work they managed to do. Still typing finally he finds it, the one case that stuck out in his mind and he pulls it up on the screen.
“Here. See, same ligature tears and same irregular stiffening of the facial muscles.” Bruce examines the screen carefully, gesturing to the cuts. “At the time it was thought to be an isolated case but reports of more bodies being found surfaced from Michigan up to Rhode Island. They called the guy the Killer Clown.”
His arms hung loosely at his sides, fingers curling into fists. It was so good to see the guy. Steve had missed him, missed seeing him, missed talking with him. And now he was back, and he was all smiles and that hesitant shyness that he loved because… well… he was like that as well. “Great,” he echoed, wanting to punch himself for not having something better to say.
Biting his lip, he looked back at his desk, and then again at Bruce. “Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.” Steve was trying this new thing where he actually quit working when it was quitting time. And besides, he wouldn’t go back to his desk and pick up that pen if his life depended on it. Not now that Bruce was back.
Steve’s gaze flicked down to the doctor’s hand on his tie, suddenly finding the thing constraining. He wanted to take it off… or better yet he wanted Bruce to take it off. “All mine?” He asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “I like the sound of that.”
What a pair they made. Both unsure what to say yet wanting to say more, do more. Bruce can’t help but think fondly on it though. It was somewhat sweet really. Rogers was polite, even shy at times, but when they were alone it’d been passionate, genuine. He could count on one hand how many times he’d actually let himself fall into something close to a healthy relationship. If he were really honest, this would be the first time he’d really— Bruce stops that train of thought. Too dangerous.
That smile quirks at his lips when the Detective glances back towards his desk. It was quitting time sure but it was nice to see the man take his work one day at a time. Bruce remembers the late nights when he’d wander through Homicide and see Steve still working away at his desk.
Fingers linger on that tie, curled there briefly as he looks up at the taller man. Bruce doesn’t need words to describe just what that husky all too low voice does to him and he gives another small little nod before asking another question, something important, his own voice pitched lower—
“So Detective…your place or mine?”
Steve reached forward to steady Bruce’s shoulders when a cop whizzed by, knocking into the good doctor. He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face at the contact. It had been way too long since he’d be able to even be near Bruce. Let alone have his way with his mouth in a darkened alcove of the precinct.
“We should ride… uh… together, in the car… catch up,” The detective said almost breathlessly, reluctantly dropping his hands from Bruce’s shoulders. “I want to hear all about your trip…” And Bruce would hear nothing about his narrowly averted break down from exhaustion.
“Great.” A quick nod is given and Bruce tries to hide the pleased little smile behind his hand. He also tries not to be too disappointed when those fingers finally slide away, they’re at work after all. Still, it doesn’t halt a little shiver that makes itself known at the feel of those fingers lingering. Seems it wasn’t just him who didn’t want to let go.
“So I guess you just need to finish up here unless you think you need an extra pair of hands…” Bruce really isn’t good at masking his words as anything other than what they meant and the flush travels further across his face. Time to be bold, he reasons and blames his time in California. “I don’t mind doing what I can for you, Detective.”
In truth, he missed Rogers. A lot. Bruce just isn’t sure it’d be a good thing to say as much, even act on impulses, when they were standing square in the middle of Homicide of their precinct. The most he does do is reach up carefully adjust the man’s tie. “Wherever you need me,” he says quietly, “I’m all yours tonight.”
Tony has never been the type of man to waste words. If he has something to say, then he’ll say it. But only just. He continues shoveling ramen into his mouth, leaning over the pages to run his thumb along the edge of a laceration in a photo.
“I’m trying to trace the weapon. The ragged edges imply some sort of ripping or tearing, like a claw. But only a single one. Possibly a crude weapon of some sort. No DNA found thus far.”
“A single claw…”
Why did that seem so familiar? Bruce listens attentively to the few words Tony offers him. Once more he finds himself scratching at the scruff at his jaw, an old habit when thinking. Flipping carefully through the photos he can’t help but shake the weird feeling he’s seen this before. Bruce chalks it up to all the victims unsettling smiles.
It was like someone had shuffled all their body parts up, piecing them neatly together, and just forgot to solve the puzzle.
Bruce closes the file, setting it back onto the desk and thinks, eating his ramen once more. No DNA, no fibers, no insects (a fact that does not escape him and is a bit unsettling), and no material witnesses at all. It was as if the three victims were just toys, a joke— It clicks.
“I’ve seen this before.”
Tony hands over the papers without question. Banner had all the clearance necessary to see any case files he was privy to. If the man wanted to see the crime scene photos from the triple homicide, well then he was absolutely welcome to look at them over dinner.
“Any breakthroughs yet?”
He sets aside the ramen in favor of taking the files offered to him. Opening the thick manila folder, he skims over the paperwork carefully. It was odd really, see things like this reminded him why he was so perfect for this line of work. Bordering on sociopathic tendencies if you asked his last therapist.
He could still stomach food while examining the case file, the autopsy reports—
Bruce’s brows knit together and he flips through to the pictures themselves. How did one person dismember three bodies and then perfect rearrange them in poses like this…? “Was there anything odd on the bodies? Fibers? Insects? I know Pym is the expert in that area…”
Steve’s hands were linked behind his back, and his blue gaze watched the doctor’s carefully as he shuffled forward. He had missed the man. He had missed him a lot. There was no way that he’d look anywhere else but at the guy before him.
“Hmm… sounds like a good place. I like quiet. And private.” He said, corners of his mouth twitching upward into a smile. Steve’s breath hitched slightly when Bruce brushed his foot against his.
“I really like the sound of that.”
“Good,” Bruce says quietly, pushing the brim of his glasses up on his nose with a wider smile. A flush graces his cheeks only when he’s brought back to the present when a co-worker accidentally bumps into them. His hand falls to the Detective’s chest to brace himself and he says a quick apology. It doesn’t even faze him really being this close. Steve has had him far closer, pinned up against a wall, mouth ravaging—
“I—,” he swallows thickly and puts careful distance between them with a nervous smile. Bruce isn’t shy about his sexuality, no, it’s more the internal affairs aspect of it all. Looking up into those stupidly gorgeous blue eyes has his train of thought derailing for a second. “I’ll pick you up around eight then…for dinner? Or we could just…ride together. Catch up in the car…?”