S.H.I.E.L.D. High School was nothing like the other high schools in the country. It was the most sought-after education in New York, possibly in the country. The dean, Nick Fury, was notorious for rejecting the most qualified students and accepting the most bizarre applicants. Parents across the country had protested the dean's decisions to no avail. S.H.I.E.L.D. High School was more difficult to get into than ivy league colleges.
That was what Nick Fury allowed people to think, anyway. The truth was: S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn't difficult to get into at all, so long as the applicants had the required skill set. The high school was for exceptionally gifted students. Students that were able to bend forces of nature to their will, students that were able to spar with a man twice their size without breaking a sweat; students that would graduate and ultimately save the world from descending into chaos.
The school placed these special students on certain career paths based off of their individual skill sets. Their schedules reflected these specific career paths. Instead of worrying about taking ridiculous extracurriculars to fill their schedules, only the most crucial courses were supplied. In order to keep their funding, all students were required to complete the basic courses: math, science, English, and history, but these courses often lasted a semester at the longest. The courses were also offered over the summer for particularly motivated students. However, the emphasis was placed on relevant subjects, such as sparring, leadership and technology courses.
In addition to offering the mandatory courses that other high schools required, S.H.I.E.L.D. pushed their students towards extracurriculars. The S.H.I.E.L.D. football team was internationally ranked, the robotics club created blueprints that were often purchased by NASA, and the members of the student government were asked to attend urgent UN meetings. It was not difficult to see why parents were so desperate to enroll their students in the school.
"Move it, Barton! If you slow down now, your mile time will be bad enough to justify kicking you off the team!" Steve Rogers hollered, folding his arms across his chest as he watched the rest of the football team run around the football field.
Steve was the captain of the team. It hadn't been very difficult to secure the position; Steve had always been exceptionally athletic and Mr. Fury had always pushed him towards leadership positions. He had been drawn to the military coursework almost immediately after being enrolled in the school. By the end of his first semester at S.H.I.E.L.D., it had been determined that he would continue on the military path. Mr. Fury had confidence that this particular field of work would take Steve very far.
The desultory teammate in question - Clint Barton - offered Steve his middle finger as a response.
Both Steve and Clint knew that Steve would never dream of kicking him off of the football team. While Clint did not take the game quite as seriously as some of his teammates did, he was a damn good football player.
Like Steve, Clint had been blessed with athletic prowess. He was not nearly as strong as Steve - no one was, really - but he was brilliant at determining pressure points and weaknesses in opponents, easily taking down any players that crossed his path.
Clint had opted for a slightly different academic route than Steve. He was training to become an international spy. His summery demeanor was a genius aspect of this career path, as the most secretive of strangers felt compelled to open up to the friendly boy. Despite his best efforts, even Steve couldn't help liking Clint just a little bit more than the rest of the diligent members of the team.
"That's strike two. If you're not careful, I'll have to show you what leadership style they're teaching in my leadership history course. We're learning about Stalin right now. Want to take that risk?" Steve commented, biting back a smirk as Clint picked up the pace just a little bit.
"Hey, Rogers. I have fresh meat for you to torment whenever you're done with Barton." A familiar voice drawled from behind the captain.
"Nat, hey. Uh, is this him?" Steve questioned, turning around to face Natasha Romanoff and the tall, muscular boy she had brought along with her.
Natasha was one of the most powerful students at S.H.I.E.L.D. High. There was no way around it. Mr. Fury favored her to an almost improper degree while the rest of the student body cowered in her presence.
Like Clint, she was studying to become an international spy. She lacked the same bright demeanor that Clint possessed. In its place was a terrifyingly empty expression paired with nerves of steel. Steve had watched her spar with some of the bulkiest, strongest students in the school; she always won. She had even kicked Clint around the ring a few times.
Despite the widespread fear of the redhead, Steve had taken an immediate liking Natasha. She had saved him from walking into the girls' locker room on the first day of their freshman year. Ever since, they had looked out for each other amidst the chaos that was high school. Now in their senior year, they no longer needed each other's protection, but instead sought out each other's company as a way of surviving the tedious group activities that are often forced in high school.
Somewhere throughout the ever-lasting years of high school, Steve had developed some sort of feelings for Natasha. She was gorgeous, there was no denying that. Most students at S.H.I.E.L.D. had thought about asking her on a date once or twice throughout their high school careers. Steve was the only one who had thought about her beyond that. Despite this, he knew better than to expect anything but friendship from his redheaded friend. She was a loner. She disliked depending on anyone else. Their dynamic personalities would not mesh well within the confines of a relationship.
"Yep," Natasha answered, sparing the imposing blond figure another glance, "This is Thor. He just moved here from Asgard. According to Fury, it's an entirely different realm. Go easy on him. He might be strong, but when it comes to football, he probably knows less about it than Clint does."
Steve looked the boy over quickly. He did look strong. His muscles were bulging out of the T-shirt he was wearing. There was undoubtedly a spot on the defensive line for someone with Thor's stature.
"All right, great. Thor, you can start running with the other guys. Tell them to hurry it up if they start to move too slow." Steve allowed, jerking his head in the direction of the rest of the team, indicating that Thor should join the assemblage of running boys.
Thor stared back at the captain incredulously for a moment before murmuring something under his breath and jogging over to the rest of the team. After watching Thor's departure, Steve turned to face Natasha with an amused stare.
"Have you sparred with him, yet? If he's from another realm, he might be able to take you down." He chuckled, glancing at Thor - who had already taken lead of the pack - before returning his eyes to Natasha.
Natasha rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Fury says that he and his brother got sent here after they threw a temper tantrum over ascending the throne in Asgard. He might be strong, but he's not smart about his strength. I could have him on the ground in ten minutes, tops." She replied, a smile playing on her lips.
Steve returned the smile easily. "Are you sure that you don't want to join the football team? I doubt Mr. Fury would have any strong objections. You're better than most of the guys out there. You could always take Barton's spot." He offered teasingly.
Natasha laughed, shaking her head. Her eyes focused on Steve's for a moment before she turned to observe the gaggle of boys running. Some of them had slowed down considerably in the hopes that Steve was distracted. Clint was jogging at an abnormally slow pace.
"Move your ass, Barton! I'm going to tell Fury to kick you out of the program for being so lazy on the field!" She called.
Natasha grinned as Clint scowled in her direction, shaking his head before picking up the pace. It was easy for everyone to see that there was some sort of strange relationship between Clint and Natasha. Everyone was used to Clint's flirting, that was commonplace. Natasha's flirting, though - that was a rarity.
Steve had noticed it, of course, but could not bring himself to ask either Natasha or Clint about it. It was their business, he reminded himself. Besides that, he could not think of a single positive thing to say to either of them if they confirmed that they were interested in dating one another. Prior to his mother's death, which had promptly followed his his father's death, she had reminded him that if he didn't have anything nice to say, he might as well keep his mouth shut.
"Yeah, yeah, that's big talk coming from you, Nat! Why don't you get back to the gym? I think I can see your muscles turning to fat as we speak!" Clint shouted in a breathless voice, waggling his eyebrows at the glowering redhead.
Natasha rolled her eyes as she returned her focus to Steve.
"As much as I hate to admit it it, he's probably right. I was supposed to get back to the gym right after dropping Thor and his brother off at the clubs Fury chose for them. Do you want to go to dinner after you're done practice? I think the dining hall is serving apple pie tonight. I know how you feel about apple pie." She remarked, smiling as she started walking backwards in the direction of the school.
Steve nodded, unable to suppress a grin.
"Yeah, I'll see you there."
Natasha smiled once more before returning to the school, quietly laughing at the distant sounds of Steve yelling at the lazy football players.
"How could you not understand the concept of the speed of light? It's not difficult!" Tony Stark demanded in exasperation, gesturing towards the whiteboard containing scribbles and pictures that did not appear to make a whole lot of sense.
Tony was the genius of S.H.I.E.L.D. High. There was no point in denying it. His classmates resented him in classes, as he would always have an answer ready before the professors had finished the question. He usually added a snarky comment along with his answer, provoking the professor to yell and assign even more homework.
As much as the student body loathed him, though, everyone had a begrudging sense of respect for the brilliant young man. He was the captain of the robotics team, as well as the co-chair of the science club. Mr. Fury had placed him in the most rigorous science classes the school had to offer, often times importing foreign scientists to further challenge the boy. Evidently, Mr. Fury had high hopes for Tony's scientific career.
"Lighten up, Stark. She's not even studying science. She's here for public relations. I think she just followed Jane into the meeting." Bruce Banner sighed, rubbing his temples in an effort to remain calm despite Tony's persistent nagging.
Like Tony, Bruce was immersed in the school's science program. Mr. Fury had originally objected to this decision, as Bruce contained a far more powerful weapon than his intellect, but Bruce had insisted that he would either study science at S.H.I.E.L.D. High or he would transfer elsewhere.
The more powerful weapon in Bruce's possession was his ability to turn into a hulking green monster whenever something set him off. These issues went far beyond anything that had ever been seen on the face of the Earth before. Instead of yelling and maybe picking a fight or two, Bruce would destroy entire towns. The monster was uncontrollable, despite Bruce's best efforts. His rage was hardly easier to control. Mr. Fury saw this 'power' as a possibility. Bruce saw it as a condemnation.
So, instead of embracing the idea of becoming a military weapon or a last-resort in the next world war, Bruce decided that he would study gamma radiation for the rest of his life. He reasoned that if he studied it long enough, he might be able to reverse whatever it was that had gone wrong inside of him.
Tony glowered at the girl in question: Darcy Lewis.
Bruce was right; Darcy was studying public relations. If she was being honest with herself, she would have to say that she hardly belonged at S.H.I.E.L.D. High. She suspected that everyone at the school - including Mr. Fury - felt similarly. She had applied along with her best friend, Jane Foster, in the hopes that she would be one of those inexplicable acceptance letters. After her interview, Mr. Fury had determined that while Darcy did not have any special qualities, but she was charismatic enough to be somewhat useful, should the council ever decide to make a political movement.
"Why would you follow someone into a club based on something you don't know anything about? Why don't you run off and play with the student government association or something?" Tony muttered, sparing Darcy one last disgusted look before refocusing on Bruce, who had been making a statement about a documentary on light he had seen the night before.
Darcy raised an eyebrow at Tony.
"Why don't you jump off of a cliff?" She countered.
Tony turned to smirk at Darcy. "I think that Fury would send a helicopter to catch me before I hit the ground. I'm the most valuable asset he's got at this school."
Darcy rolled her eyes.
"I don't have time for your stupid little club, anyway. I have to show one of the new kids around. I'm surprised you didn't want to get your hands on him, Jane. He's from a totally different realm. He probably knows a lot about the stars or whatever it is that you study." She said, sliding off of the lab bench she was sitting on and snatching her backpack off of the ground.
"Really? You think so?" Jane Foster inquired eagerly.
Like Tony and Bruce, Jane was studying science. Her focus was primarily astrophysics. In addition to being a member of the science club, she was also forced to subject herself to the robotics club, where she had to endure an even more insufferable version of Tony. Unlike Darcy, Jane did not argue with Tony very much. She didn't argue with anyone, for that matter. She was too busy to worry about social conflicts or creating drama. Instead, she focused her eager, wide-eyed attitude on science.
She and Darcy were inseparable. They had been for years. They often crashed each others' club meetings, they always sat together at every meal in the dining hall, and they had opted to become roommates despite both of the guidance counselors' objections.
"I guess. I don't really know. It's worth a try, isn't it? C'mon, what do you have to lose? A room full of guys talking about things moving a fraction of a second faster than each other?" Darcy replied, standing in the doorway, staring at her best friend hopefully.
Darcy really didn't want to be alone with the new guy. Mr. Fury had asked her to introduce him to all of the student council members, as he would likely join the student government himself. Apparently his name was Loki. The name was strange and off putting enough as it was.
Jane chewed her thumb, looking between Tony and Bruce, the co-chairmen of the science club before turning and smiling at Darcy.
"I'll see you guys in class. Text me if you see any more documentaries, Bruce. I really wish I could have seen the one last night." Jane said, sparing the two boys a small smile before grabbing her bag and skipping over to Darcy's side.
Tony rolled his eyes as he turned his focus back to the whiteboard.
"Women." He muttered under his breath, shaking his head.
"Hey, you're the new guy, aren't you?" Darcy questioned, approaching a tall, lean figure standing against the lockers in a deserted hallway.
The boy stared down at Jane and Darcy with an unimpressed glare. His green eyes searched their faces, as though he were reading them like an open book. When he didn't find anything of interest, he nodded his head and glanced around the empty hallway.
"I am Loki of Asgard. Am I to assume that you are Darcy Lewis?" He asked in a disinterested tone.
"Oh, no, that's me. Hi, I'm Darcy. Mr. Fury is making me introduce you to everyone in the student government. Don't mind Jane, she's just studying science. I guess you're going to study public relations? That's what I'm doing. Apparently I'm going to be a political leader. Who knew?" Darcy rambled, immediately beginning to walk down the hallway, not bothering to check if Loki was following her or not.
The tall boy sauntered behind her, observing every scene that presented itself with a great deal of curiosity. He didn't seem to miss a thing. Neither Darcy nor Jane took a particular interest in Loki's behavior. They were too well-adjusted to being surrounded by geniuses and mental cases. Loki was hardly the strangest creature they had encountered throughout their years at S.H.I.E.L.D. High.
"Who will you rule?" Loki asked evenly, glancing down at Darcy inquisitively.
"Oh, no, I'm not going to be like a queen or anything. Just someone who pretends that they're doing the right thing for the majority of the population while actually serving their own private agenda. I'm pretty excited about it." She replied, nodding her head and smiling satirically.
Loki's eyebrows furrowed. "Is that not the proper definition of a ruler?"
Darcy laughed, shaking her head. "You're funny, new guy. You know what? I'm going to do you a favor. Technically Mr. Fury said to introduce you to the entire student government, but I'm going to skip that mess. You don't want to meet twenty different people in one afternoon, do you?"
Loki arched an eyebrow at her. "How dull are these people?"
"Every time they open their mouth to say something, I die a little bit inside." Darcy replied.
"Ah," Loki drawled, nodding, "Then I would appreciate avoiding them at all costs."
Darcy smiled. "That's what I thought. I'll just introduce you to Pepper. She's really the only one that you need to know. She's the president of the student body. You'll love her. Everybody does."
"She is the primary ruler of the school?" Loki clarified, his eyes searching the hallway for any signs of the subject of their conversation.
Darcy shrugged. "For all intents and purposes, I guess so. She's probably sitting in her office planning the next decade or so. Here we are. Jane, did you want to come with us? I don't know if this is going to turn into a meeting or not, but if it does, it's going to be pretty boring."
"I don't mind. I sat through the budgeting meeting last week. I don't think it could get worse than that." The smaller girl replied, sparing Loki a small smile before following Darcy into Pepper Potts' office.
Pepper, like Darcy, knew that she had gotten into S.H.I.E.L.D. High on technicalities. She was organized and she was a few notches above average in the IQ department. That was about it. She wasn't even as charismatic as Darcy; she was much too self-contained to blurt out her opinion in a room full of strangers. The only reason that she had gotten into the school was Tony Stark.
Tony was royalty at the school. Mr. Fury scolded and reprimanded him half-heartedly from time to time, but for the most part, the faculty at S.H.I.E.L.D. bent to Tony's will. The intelligence and charisma that the boy possessed were far too valuable to lose to a competing school. So when Tony had insisted that Pepper would be a beneficial addition to the school, Mr. Fury had reluctantly sent out the necessary paperwork.
The dean - as well as the majority of the student body - had been curious about Tony's intentions when he demanded Pepper's acceptance. They quickly received their explanation when they saw Pepper following Tony around the school, essentially serving as the boy's secretary. She would schedule his extracurricular activities, she would ensure that Tony did not miss important meetings with established members of the scientific community, and perhaps most importantly, she came up with elaborate schemes to keep Tony's handful of girlfriends from finding out about one another.
Everyone had suspicions that Pepper had developed a sort of crush on Tony. It was the only explanation for her ability to continuously deal with his sempiternal narcissism. Pepper objected to these accusations, insisting to her closest friends that she was desperately in love with Steve Rogers as opposed to her tall, dark, and snarky sort-of employer. The large majority of the student body followed the muscular football player around with hopeful eyes. It was a widely accepted crush for students to have. Ironically, Tony was the only one who believed that Pepper was really seeking out a relationship with the star athlete.
"Hey Pepper," Darcy greeted her friend warmly as the group entered her office, "Mr. Fury told me to introduce you to one of the new kids. This is Loki. He's going to be studying public relations." She gestured to the lanky figure by her side.
Pepper looked up from the papers scattered about her desk, allowing Loki a friendly, slightly flustered, smile.
"Loki? That's an unusual name. I'm Pepper. I'm the student body president for the time being. Have you gotten your class schedule, yet?" She inquired politely, standing up and outstretching a small hand in Loki's direction.
He stared at it pointedly before shaking it. "I have not. The dean has scheduled aptitude testing tomorrow morning for my brother and I. He will undoubtedly enroll in courses strictly based off of fighting and other physical exertions."
"Oh, I haven't met your brother yet. Do you know if he's thinking about joining the football team? He should; we always win the National Championships. I'm sure Steve would be more than happy to have another member on the team. Steve is the captain of the football team, you know." Pepper chirped, casting a glance in Darcy and Jane's direction to gauge whether or not they had noticed her "subtle" mention of Steve.
Darcy rolled her eyes, but didn't say a word.
Loki studied Pepper for a moment then shook his head.
"No," he answered slowly, "I can not say that I have any idea as to my brother's intentions. I am sure they are absurdly noble. As much as I dislike shifting the subject matter from my glorious brother, I feel obliged to inquire as to the clubs that I might be welcomed into."
Pepper raised an eyebrow at the boy before her eyes widened.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude! Um, well, we're actually having elections for the vice president of the student body soon. Our last vice president was, um, just a little too friendly with one of their teachers. Anyway, it would be a great way to meet people while you're campaigning. Even if you don't win the elections, you could always be a senator. I'm sure you would be a great addition to the team." She explained pleasantly, digging through her desk in order to find Loki the required paperwork.
The boy accepted the stack of papers with an unimpressed gaze.
"Great, thanks Pepper. Um, Loki, I should probably get you back to Mr. Fury, now. He wanted to talk to you and your brother about the parameters of the test tomorrow. Pepper, try not to stay here until the janitor's threaten to lock you in the school. Again. Tony's schedule really isn't that important." Darcy commented, sparing her friend a knowing look before leading Loki and Jane out of the small office.
"Who is Tony?" Loki questioned as they walked down the hallway, his green eyes finally displaying a small measure of interest.
Jane and Darcy exchanged eye rolls.
"Tony practically runs the school. He's a total dick, but none of the teachers are allowed to punish him. Mr. Fury thinks that he's going to throw a temper tantrum and transfer if they do. If you have any classes with him, you'll hear him talk about it." Darcy explained.
"Problem, Foster? Take it up with Fury," Jane imitated Tony's low, patronizing tone, "He'll tell you to come back with an apology. You might be smart, but I'm the biggest asset S.H.I.E.L.D.'s got."
Both girls giggled, shaking their heads.
"More like the biggest ass, if you ask me." Darcy added, casting a grin in Loki's direction.
The lanky boy watched both of the girls with an intent stare. He didn't even crack a smile.
"What makes him so valuable?" He asked, his sharp green eyes flicking from Darcy to Jane and back repeatedly, silently demanding that his question be answered immediately.
Darcy glanced at Jane for an answer. She knew that Tony was smart, and she had heard from teachers that he was supposedly charismatic, but she couldn't explain to anyone just what made Tony so smart. He built robots. He answered all of the questions in every class (when he bothered to show up). That was the extent of her knowledge.
Jane sighed. "He's a genius. Not just your run-of-the-mill, create-a-few-formulas genius, either. He's the real thing. He's already made a bunch of advances in calculus - whether all of his ideas are credited to him on paper or not - he understands thermonuclear astrophysics as well as the most prominent experts in the field, he's probably on the brink of discovering a new element, and on top of all of that, he's surprisingly good at sweet-talking people. When he wants something out of them, that is. You should see how many girlfriends he has. It's unbelievable."
Loki nodded as they approached Mr. Fury's office.
"It sounds as though he could singlehandedly rule your realm." The boy mused, speaking more to himself than the girls standing on either side of him.
Darcy glanced at him curiously, a question forming in her mind. The question was immediately erased as they reached the door to Mr. Fury's office. Next to the door, Steve Rogers was speaking to a tall, muscular boy with long blond hair.
"Hot damn." Darcy breathed, raising her eyebrows as she stared at the boy she didn't recognize.
"Who is that?" Jane whispered, her pupils dilating.
Loki observed the awe-struck girls before rolling his eyes.
"Thor. I see you have met a human with equal brawn and perhaps even less brain. How predictable." The lanky boy remarked, sauntering over to his brother's side, ignoring Darcy and Jane, who were still staring at his muscular brother.
"Oh, hey, you must be Thor's brother. Loki, was it?" Steve cast an uncertain gaze at Thor, who nodded. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Steve Rogers. Thor says that you're really good at creating battle strategies. We don't exactly stab the other team or anything, but you're more than welcome to help me out with a few plays if you're interested."
Loki inspected Steve lazily, as though he had never seen anything quite so boring before.
"Brother, it would be a most enjoyable activity. You could designate the strategy which I would perform in order to win. You must meet the rest of the team. They are very welcoming." Thor agreed, placing a heavy hand on Loki's thin shoulder.
The smaller boy's eyes narrowed.
"I will consider it." He allowed.
"Great. I'll catch up with you tomorrow at lunch. You'll probably be done your tests by then. Later, guys." Steve said, nodding towards Jane and Darcy briefly before grinning at the pair of brothers and taking his leave.
In the absence of the excitable Steve Rogers, Thor cast a curious glance in Jane and Darcy's direction before staring down at Loki, waiting for an introduction. Loki immediately recognized his brother's gaze and rolled his eyes once more.
"Very well, brother." He sighed, as though introducing his brother to his new acquaintances was a sign of defeat. "This is Darcy Lewis, a particularly unimpressive girl who speaks of studying public relations in the hopes of becoming some sort of ruler. Conversely, this is Jane Foster, who appears to be much more interested in the sciences; something you yourself hold little regard for."
A deep chuckle rippled from Thor's throat as he clapped Loki on the back a little too roughly.
"Ah, that is just Loki's playful nature! He often makes jests that could be confused with insults. You must pay particular attention to him in order to understand. Darcy Lewis, Jane Foster, it is an honor to meet you both." He boomed, bowing his head slightly before grinning at Loki.
The smaller boy shook his head. "I assure you, brother, you are the very last person in existence to fully understand anything."
Darcy bit back a laugh, Jane stared at Loki with wide eyes, as though she expected Thor to be hurt by his brother's biting comment, but Thor simply laughed harder.
The loud volume of Thor's laughter immediately drew the attention of everyone even remotely in the area. Mr. Fury's office door swung open, producing the imposing figure, who still managed to glare at every single student with the aid of only one functioning eye.
"Boys." He acknowledged gruffly. "Come with me. Miss Lewis, Miss Foster. I believe you girls both have places that you should be."
Both of the girls mustered polite smiles.
"Yes, Mr. Fury." They chimed, quickly excusing themselves to join the masses in the dining hall.
As Loki followed Mr. Fury into his office - already discussing the layout of the test - Thor couldn't resist watching the two girls walk away, falling into a comfortable conversation as they did so.
There had been something pleasant about the way Jane Foster looked at him.
Perhaps he would enjoy S.H.I.E.L.D. High more than he had originally thought possible.
"Wow, Rogers. Did you leave any pie for the rest of the school?" Natasha teased as she slid into the seat next to Steve at their usual table.
The football player smirked as best he could with his mouth full.
After forcefully swallowing the food that had been crowded his mouth, he chuckled.
"Wilson ate all of my food again. I've got to eat enough at dinner to make sure I don't starve tonight." He explained, stabbing at his overcooked chicken with his fork, his crystal eyes twinkling in amusement as Natasha did the same.
The aforementioned roommate joined Steve and Natasha just seconds later. His tray was piled just as high as Steve's.
"So that's where all of the pie went. Should've known that you would beat the rest of the team here on apple pie day, Steve." He sighed, shaking his head as he slid into a seat across from his grinning roommate.
"Wouldn't have happened if you didn't eat all of the food in our fridge, Sam." Steve countered easily, protecting the insane amount of pie on his tray from his roommate's wandering fork.
"You can't blame him for eating all of the food," Natasha objected, smirking at Sam, "He needs to bulk up a little bit. Barton was tossing him around like he weighed next to nothing during Tech Fighting today. It was pretty embarrassing."
Sam pretended to scowl as Steve laughed.
"Funny, Romanoff. I'm going to remember that when we work together next week."
The redhead grinned. "I hope you do."
"Hope he does what? Drop out of Tech Fighting? Yeah, I sort of do, too." Clint commented as he approached the table, affording his friends a teasing grin before sitting on the other side of Natasha.
"I don't know if you should be trash-talking Sam. He did have a better run time than you at practice today." Steve reminded Clint with a chuckle.
Clint waved off Steve's comment.
"This is between me and Wilson. Why don't you worry about finishing your dinner, Rogers?" The shorter boy responded, eying the ridiculous amount of food on Steve's tray with an amused grin.
"Don't forget that I could kick you off the team for a number of things. I doubt Mr. Fury would say anything if I did." Steve muttered, a good-natured smile playing across his face as he returned his attention to his food.
"Hey Captain, if you're not too busy hoovering your food, you might want to look behind you. Pepper Potts has been staring you down since she got here." Sam commented after a few seconds of silence.
Steve arched an eyebrow at his grinning roommate.
"Pepper? You mean Stark's girlfriend? Why would she be looking at me?" He asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before casting a curious glance over his broad shoulder.
Sure enough, Pepper blushed and immediately looked away, pretending to pay attention to Tony's ramblings.
"You know that Tony isn't actually dating her. He might be dating the rest of the girls in this school, but not Potts. She just follows him around because he got her into this school. I heard she has a major thing for you. Why don't you go talk to her? Take her to a movie tonight; I think some of the guys are going anyway. Maybe you could actually get some action for once. It might make you less of a dick during practice." Clint suggested, waggling his eyebrows.
Steve shook his head. "I'm glad to hear you respect my leadership, Barton. Anyway, I can't take anyone to the movies tonight. I'm hanging out with Bucky."
Natasha rolled her eyes. "Tell me that he isn't coming here."
"No," Steve chuckled, knowing that Natasha disliked the way Bucky was constantly flirting with her, "I'm going over to his place."
"Be careful. We wouldn't want our precious Captain to be taken advantage of by his tall, dark, handsome friend." Clint teased, chuckling as Steve attempted to reach around Natasha to land a punch on his shoulder.
"Are you ever going to quit it with those jokes? I don't have a girlfriend because I don't want one. That has nothing to do with Bucky. Who, by the way, is dating a number of girls." Steve responded irritably.
"Sounds like jealousy to me."
Steve rolled his eyes. "Can it, Barton. I think I'm going to take off early. Nat, do you think you'll be okay with these two?"
Natasha's green eyes flicked from the boys sitting at the table to Steve, who was beginning to stand up.
"Actually, I think I'm done eating, too. Mind if I take the bus with you? I've been meaning to pick up a few things from town, anyway." She replied, setting down her utensils and springing out of her seat.
"Not at all. Gentlemen." Steve nodded his goodbye to Clint and Sam before walking with Natasha towards the exit, trying to contain the grin that was threatening to overtake his entire face.
"What were you staring at Rogers for? Don't tell me that you still think he's something special. C'mon, Potts, he's an idiot! I tried to ask him a question about the mechanics of creating a wormhole and he asked me if they were anything like black holes. What could you possibly see in him?" Tony demanded, watching Pepper critically as she stared down at her plate. She pretended to be embarrassed about being caught staring at Steve twice in one dinner.
"Oh, I don't know; a great body, great hair, those eyes, that voice, the way he looks in football pants...take your pick, Stark." Darcy interjected, locking eyes with the genius.
Tony snorted. "So everything about him aside from his personality and lack of intelligence?"
"Steve has a wonderful personality!" Jane objected immediately. "He says hi to everyone he knows, I don't think he's ever gotten in trouble before, and he always volunteers at the retirement home on weekends!"
"Oh, please," Tony laughed, his voice hitching in amusement, "He's a glorified golden retriever! You girls would be better off with literally anybody else. Besides, I hear Rogers hasn't had a girlfriend since kindergarden. I doubt he knows the first thing about women."
"Oh, right, and you know everything about women." Darcy muttered, rolling her eyes.
"I think more than a few ladies that would say that I do." Tony responded with a smirk.
"You're disgusting." Pepper informed him.
Tony shrugged in complete insouciance. "At least I'm not Steve Rogers."
The murmurous table was effectively silenced by two new additions to the already crowded dining hall. The new arrivals: a tall blond boy and a lanky green-eyed boy both looked around curiously. It was as though they had never seen a similar setting in their lives.
"Who're the new guys?" Tony inquired, watching the boys with a heightened sense of curiosity.
"The Odinsons. They just transferred here from a different realm, according to Fury. The smaller one, Loki, is super intense. Even Pepper couldn't chat him up. Thor, though...well, Thor is just a complete and total hottie." Darcy answered, watching the boys with a huge grin.
"They're the ones Jane left the meeting to talk to, right? Learn anything interesting in the astrology department?" The genius demanded, his eyes never leaving the boys as they shuffled through the dinner line.
Jane shook her head. "I, um, I didn't really get the chance to really talk about it with them."
"Huh. Maybe I should invite them to eat with us, then. Find out what their deal is." Tony speculated, finally tearing his eyes away from the boys in order to observe the reactions of his friends.
Bruce Banner immediately shook his head. "Come on, Stark. These guys just had a meeting with Mr. Fury. They're probably overwhelmed as it is. The last thing they need is to receive an interrogation when they're just trying to eat their dinner."
"I'm with Bruce on this one, Tony. Thor - the taller guy - was at football practice today. He could kick your ass without breaking a sweat." James "Rhodey" Rhodes added.
Rhodey was one of Tony's best friends. He and Bruce were competing for the title. When the genius tired of debating different scientific properties with his soft-spoken roommate, he would relax and play video games with the considerably more chill Rhodey.
Tony shushed his friends and waved off their objections immediately.
"I wouldn't be interrogating them, I would be making conversation. I know that socialization is difficult for you, big guy, but I doubt these guys would mind it." He stated, returning his focused, calculating gaze to the boys, who were nearing the end of the line.
"I think we should invite them to sit with us, too. They probably don't have any friends yet. It would be nice to give them a place to sit on their first night." Jane remarked, careful to avoid staring at Thor as she spoke.
Darcy nodded in agreement.
"I would like to talk to Loki more about student government. I feel like he didn't really get a sense of community when he was in my office earlier." Pepper admitted guiltily.
Tony beamed. "Then it's settled. The new guys will sit with us tonight. Jane, why don't you go invite them now? It looks like they're searching for a place to sit."
Jane's eyes narrowed at the commanding voice Tony had used, but her eagerness to speak to the handsome new guy surpassed her irritation. She all but leaped out of her seat and briskly approached the two boys with a wide smile.
The rest of the table watched as Thor returned the smile, while Loki simply stared at her apathetically. Jane laughed as she said something to the boys, turning to gesture back to the table before continuing the conversation. As Thor and Loki's eyes roamed to the table, everyone - aside from the perpetually pompous Tony - waved to the pair, hoping to appear inviting.
Loki's eyes immediately locked with Tony's. While Thor accepted Jane's invitation, the two boys stared at each other curiously. The stare was only broken when Thor placed a heavy hand on the smaller boy's shoulder and practically dragged him towards the table.
"Hey there," Tony greeted the boys amiably, continuing to watch Loki with cautious eyes, "You're the Odinsons, right? I've heard you might know a thing or two about astronomy, maybe even astrophysics. We'll get to that, though. I'm…"
"Tony Stark. I have heard a great deal about you, Mr. Stark. I believe we have much to discuss." Loki interrupted, a devilish grin crossing his face as he extended a hand in Tony's direction....