“Steve, Steve, you don’t need to—I know where everything is, I practically lived here last summer, remember?”
Tony fixed Steve with one of his best what-are-you-doing-man stares as Steve scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, grinning despite it, standing there in his kitchen with no socks, no shoes, sweats and a plain shirt, looking unassuming and embarrassed as hell with Tony Stark glaring him down, trust Steve Rogers to grin anyway.
“Sorry, Tony, I know. It’s just sort of cool to have you around permanently, I guess.”
Tony rolled his eyes. Well, shit, he couldn’t be pissed off at him now. “Uh. Yeah, it—Just like old times, right?” He said, in an almost distracted tone as he looked around the apartment. Everything was so very Steve, and it was… oddly comforting to him, at the moment.
“I’ll leave you to get settled in, then, yeah? I gotta shower and get to class…” Steve straightened up, still grinning, walking around Tony toward the door into the hallway, pausing on the threshold. “Don’t forget you have to go in later, registration’s today for you.” He said, index finger raised and pointed right at Tony, before disappearing.
Tony stayed where he was for a few moments, staring around Steve’s kitchen, mostly neat with a few plates stacked up at the sink, a glass of water still sitting out, photographs of people Tony didn’t recognise covering the fridge. There was more photos around the TV stand, some textbooks and newspapers littering the couches. Tony gave a small smile. Steve still bought newspapers. He heaved a heavy sigh and stuffed his hans into his pocket, following Steve’s footsteps into the hallway toward the spare-room-turned-Tony’s-room.
Transferring had gone a lot easier than Tony’d expected it to, but then again everything like this tended to go smoothly when people heard his name, and followed up with the inevitable, “Is your father Howard Stark?” He’d been living away from home for two years now but that still got to him. Back home, with an apartment of his own, and a job of his own even though his mother insisted he needn’t bother, he was still known as Howard’s son. Made sense that it followed him a four hour drive away, right? Right.
After an hour of waiting in three different queues, signing his name at three different desks, waiting for fifteen minutes to have his photograph taken for his student ID, he was now sat in a bench outside the college, donut in one hand, timetable/map in the other. It wasn’t like the place was that big, but he supposed it made them feel impressive to hand out a map anyway. The fact that it was small enough to fit on the same page as his timetable sort of cancelled that out, though. He narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses at the page, taking note of his breaks, and the fact that he had no classes on a Monday. Not all bad, then.
Hating the involuntary jump he gave at someone shouting his name suddenly, he rearranged his grip on the donut he’d almost dropped and looked up, frowning, to see Steve coming wandering over the green, massive grin in place as usual, but followed by a small group of people all fixing Tony with a stare he couldn’t decide was supposed to be curious or condescending. Either way he hated them right away. He waved a donut-filled hand once, looking back down his paper, waiting for Steve to approach.
“Hey,” he said, slightly out of breath as he dumped himself into the empty space on the bench beside him, and Tony could actually hear the smile in his voice. It was infectious, and though he wouldn’t admit as much out loud, it was kinda nice to have one friend who was that excited to see him. “Why aren’t you at orientation?”
Tony gave a one shouldered shrug, deciding to look up. “Seemed boring. Gonna meet everybody eventually, right, why waste an afternoon watching people stood awkwardly in a gym hall shuffling around with cups of tea and stupid—“
“Okay, okay, I get it,” Steve said, giving a laugh and patting Tony on the shoulder. “We have a three hour break, you should hang out with us for a while, we’ll show you around.”
Tony held up his map pointedly, but shot Steve’s company a quick glance, knowing Steve would catch it.
“Oh, god, sorry, I forgot, I—“ Steve sat forward, reddening at his cheekbones, and Tony gave a small smile. “Guys, this is Tony, the friend I told you all about.”
The first one to approach Tony was… well, he was huge. Inches taller than Tony, massive arms, exposed by the vest the guy must totally know was flattering for that reason. He held out a big hand, and Tony set his paper down, rising to his feet as he shook it, giving a bemused, lop-sided smile at the grin as big as the rest of him, and the impossible blonde hair.
“Steve’s new roommate!” He boomed happily, giving Tony’s had a hard shake.
“This is Thor,” Steve said, with the inflection of an explanation.
“Pleased to meet you,” Thor nodded, still grinning, still gripping Tony’s hand.
“Give him a little space, Thor, shit,” A shorter guy interrupted, shoving Thor a little with his elbow, before smirking at Tony. “Clint. And this is Tasha,” he added, looking to the—well, there was no other way to put it in Tony’s mind, but to the banging red-head with Clint’s arm curled around her waist. She gave a silent nod, the corner of her lip curling in a tiny smirk, and Tony made a mental note to stop staring, and nodded to both of them.
“Bruce, come over, will you?” Steve leaned over to look behind Thor, beckoning to someone there. Another guy about Tony’s height stepped forward, hands in his pockets, inclining his head politely. Every group has a quiet one. “This is Bruce.” Steve said, and Tony resisted the urge to point out that he heard him the first time.
“Uhm, hey.” Tony said after a moment, looking at each of them again.
“You have to join us,” Thor gave Tony’s hand another hard squeeze before releasing him and stepping back, still beaming at him. “You’ll be spending enough time here, come with us into town, let us show you round there.”
“I—uhh, I’ve been here a lot, actually, visiting Steve, so I know the place, but sure,” he added quickly, watching Thor’s expression fall a little, and Clint gave a chuckle. “Why not?”
Showing him around town apparently meant wandering aimlessly, stopping at every café they passed so that Thor could buy another—Tony wasn’t really sure what he was eating, but he was sure most of it wasn’t healthy. Tony didn’t follow most of what they talked about, people he didn’t know, nightclubs he only vaguely recognised the name of, classes he didn’t take and a weekend camping he hadn’t been to, so he stayed quiet most of the time, smiling if Steve looked his way, and nodding where appropriate. They stopped for a while under the city clock, sheltered from the still warm September sun by the trees planted around the fountain there while Thor finished a pop-tart, Tasha texted someone and Clint threw pebbles at pigeons, laughing every now and again while Bruce warned him if someone was watching, and Tony sat at the edge of the fountain, looking around at the stores and people passing by.
“You’re quiet.” Steve said from beside him suddenly, sitting down next to him and giving him a small smile that was either understanding or pitying, but Tony wasn’t sure which was worse.
“Yeah.” Was all he said, looking up.
“Fine.” Tony winced at how irritated he sounded, and flashed Steve a slightly apologetic smile. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m good, just taking it all in, you know.”
“Don’t worry,” Tony jumped and looked up to find that Thor had wandered over to stand in front of them, catching the tail end of the short conversation apparently, and deciding to interject with his opinion. “Some fun is all you need. Break-ups are rough, but distractions and fun are all you need. We should all meet up and take him out this weekend, right Steve?” Thor grinned ignorantly down at Steve, while Tony outright glared at his friend, who was looking from Tony to Thor, to Tony, to Thor, reddening more with every second.
“Uh, we—yeah, sounds good….” He replied quietly, looking away while Tony continued to glare, and Thor quieted, looking at each of them, catching up to the fact that something was off.
“Did I say somethi---“
“Nope.” Tony cut him off, standing up suddenly, pulling his sunglasses out of his pocket and shaking his head as he put them on. “Not a thing. Thanks for today but I think I’m done for now.” He was aware that Clint, Bruce and Tasha were all watching now, but he ignored them and Thor and leaned over to hiss quietly at Steve. “I’ll speak to you later,” before walking off, back in the direction he came, shadows of the trees flashing over him while he took a deep, steadying breath.
Half an hour later and he was back at Steve’s—well, their apartment now, technically, now that Tony had fully moved in and they’d started halving the rent, in his room, not the spare room, lying flat on his back on his bed and staring at the ceiling.
He shouldn’t be as annoyed at Steve as he was. He’d helped him out more than anyone over the last two months, and was actually the only person who continued to try after the first two weeks. Even Tony knew he was hard to deal with on a daily basis, but he’d turned into an outright asshole to everyone when the break-up happened, and where most of his then-friends took the other side or had the sense to tell him to fuck off, Steve had interrupted his summer break with his wonderful college friends to come home and keep an eye on him.
He’d stayed over at Tony’s most nights, followed him around bars when Tony took the notion to lose himself, and carried him home and fed him painkillers and carbs the next day. He’d sat through every stupid movie imaginable to give Tony a distraction that wasn’t destructive, taken him on day-long road trips even though Tony didn’t speak a word for the entire drive, forced him to eat when he was being a danger to himself by forgetting, and when it was so bad that Tony couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get his mind to slow down or to stop, Steve had even stayed with him entire nights, lying in the bed beside him and talking about everything and nothing to soothe him, while Tony lay with his back to him, focussing on breathing.
And when time was approaching for Steve to go back, when the first semester of the new year was starting, he’d talked to Tony’s parents and the three of them had arranged this whole move, the whole transfer; Tony was a year younger than Steve, but he’d go to Steve’s college, take Engineering there, and move into Steve’s apartment, where Steve could keep a constant eye. Fresh start, and all that shit.
So if Steve had decided to explain the situation to his friends, why he was suddenly disappearing on them for several weeks and bringing a roommate back with him, Tony really shouldn’t be so annoyed. But he couldn’t help it. Hearing someone he’d just met, mention it so casually—He took a deep, shaky breath to calm himself, staring at the ceiling and willing himself to stop being an idiot. He felt the weight of his phone in his pocket too much, too tempted to take it out and scroll to her name in his contacts, stare at it as he battled the temptation to phone. What would he even say if he did? There was nothing to say.
When he heard Steve’s key in the door, he closed his eyes and waited.
“…Tony?” He heard the tentative call, and opened his eyes again, breathing. He listened to Steve check the main room, heard him knock on the bathroom door, and then heard his slow, quiet footsteps approach Tony’s door. Tony counted to ten before he knocked. “Tony?”
The door creaked a little as Steve pushed it open enough to look in, then a little more as he walked slowly to the end of Tony’s bed, sitting down with his back almost to Tony, but turned a little, looking over his shoulder at him. “Tony, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything to…”
“Nah. Don’t worry about it Steve.” Tony answered, surprised by how calm his voice was, and looked over at Steve, giving him a small smile. “Just me being—being me, you know. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Steve watched Tony silently for a few moments. “I should’ve asked you first, though. So I’m sorry.”
“Steve,” Tony shook his head, smiling a tiny bit wider. “Stop trying to make it your fault. It’s no big deal. Really. I overreacted, I won’t do it again, end of story.”
Steve nodded, conceding, and neither of them moved or spoke for another few moments. “You should come out with us, though.” Steve suggested quietly. “We’re going to Thor’s for a few hours this tonight, I’m gonna change and leave then. Better than sitting here on your own, huh?”
Tony shook his head and took another heavy breath. “I’m good, I’m just gonna lie here. For a while. I’ll watch some TV, shower, sleep.”
When Tony suggested sleep of his own accord, it was normally a danger sign, but Steve had seen Tony do it a couple of times over the last month at least, in his slow recovery. Even so, Tony could almost feel the worry rolling from him like waves.
“I’ll make it back a little early anyway, ten or something. Promise to phone if you change your mind about staying here?”
Tony sighed as he recognised the hidden meaning in Steve’s words. Not, ‘if you change your mind about coming to Thor’s’, more like, ‘if you change you’re mind about staying in and start getting tempted to head off alone and find a bar,’. He nodded anyway. “Promise.”
Steve relaxed a little, gave a quiet sigh, and nodded as he stood up. “Good.”
Tony woke up the next day to a missed call and a text from his mother from the night before. Clearly he’d gone to sleep way too early to have missed that—he left his phone on silent when he was sleeping—and the back of his head felt heavy with sleep as he shuffled into the kitchen and went straight for the coffee. He opened the text when it was boiling.
[If you’re sleeping, don’t mind the missed call, we’ll talk in the morning. Was just looking for all the news from the first day xx]
He locked the keypad, making a mental note to call her once he’d had coffee and a shower to wake him up. He wasn’t in the mood for answering all her questions and pretending to believe her when she tried to give the impression his father was interested, too, he just clearly didn’t have the time to call, so she did it for both of them. All the time. Coincidence, Tony thought not.
Steve got up at some point while Tony was in the shower, and was eating a slice of toast with another newspaper in front of him when Tony poured himself more coffee, dressed with a towel over his shoulders.
“Your Mom called,” Steve said when he was finished chewing. “She wants you to phone.”
“She called you too? Shit, I was just in the shower, I hope you reminded her that a, like, fifteen minute delay doesn’t mean I’m dead.”
One of the best things about Steve was that he knew when Tony meant things to sound harsh and when he didn’t. Steve was like a second son to Maria Stark, which was always weird for Tony in that the two people who knew him better than anyone in the word knew each other just as well, but at least it meant neither Steve nor his mother took offence when Tony fake-snapped at either of them, and when he actually did snap, they gave as good as they got.
“I told her you have a break at noon and you’d call her then.” Steve replied, laughing. Tony didn’t even bother asking why Steve knew when his breaks were. “You also have a team module this morning; all first years have it for the first semester, to get to know each other.”
“Isn’t it optional?” Tony grumbled, landing in one of the chairs with a huff, coffee in hand.
“Yep, but I’m making you go.” Steve said cheerily, and Tony rolled his eyes.
Tony hated feeling awkward. Back home, pretty much everyone knew him on sight, and when he was himself, he had no problems whatsoever striking up a conversation with confidence. But here, while everyone knew his name or his father’s name, nobody knew him to look at. Which was refreshing, in some ways. He could easily tell the difference between someone being genuine and someone sucking up, but he’d rarely, if ever, faced the problem of feeling awkward in a room of people he didn’t know before.
He looked around the lecture hall, still standing in the doorway. Not that many people here, yet, so plenty of free spaces. He didn’t have the mood or the energy to explode into the room like he normally did, so for once, he went for a seat in the left isle because it was surrounded by mostly empty chairs.
He hated this. He hated not feeling himself, and not having the enthusiasm to muster up some of his usual charisma. He hated feeling like he was retreating to a corner, or like he was being pushed into the corner. Tony had split himself into before Pepper and after Pepper, and he hated Tony after Pepper. He had never been unsure of himself in this sense before Pepper. She’d told him he was either too much, or not enough, for people, and Tony after Pepper suddenly remembered all his personality flaws every ten or fifteen seconds when confronted with a room full of people.
The room filled up quickly over the next ten minutes, and it got worse. The seats in front and behind him were occupied slowly, and a few people had thrown a smile or a nod his direction, and Tony had thrown a half-assed attempt back at them, which apparently wasn’t good, since he was mostly ignored after that. He rolled his eyes to himself, and held back a sigh of relief when the year head finally stepped up to the front.
“Alright, everybody, quiet down and pay attention,” she called into the small mic, leaning over a little. It had obviously been last adjusted for a person shorter than her. “For the purpose of this module, you’ll all be calling me by my first name so we can all get real familiar, so hello, year one, I’m Hope.”
She paused there, and Tony wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but she received a tired, mumbled response, and sighed into her mic. “Yes, I know, everyone hates the cheesy team-building module, but my job is to make it less cheesy and more enjoyable, so hopefully only this first class will take place in this lecture hall. Today, we’re going to find out about each other, what we all like, and suffer it, because you only have me once a week. Depending on the progress we make today, other weeks will be split on stuff like movies, bowling…” she grinned as almost everyone in the room straightened at that. “Yeah, you’re all interested now, huh? Okay, we’re going to sta—“ Hope paused, looking up, and the students looked over their shoulders at the loud noise as the door opened suddenly. Latecomer, probably, Tony thought, looking away again. “Year one? Yes, take a seat, quickly, please, we’re about to begin.”
Hope continued speaking, and Tony sat his chin in his hand, looking down at the notebook in front of him, picking up his pen and scribbling on the front. He caught bits of what she was saying; she was going to hand out a short profile sheet, everybody fills it out, she shuffles them around, everyone gets each other’s, reads out what they ended up with… bla bla bla….
The profile sheet was even worse than he thought it would be, but he filled it out anyway, attempting to make his handwriting a little illegible in some places without letting it look like he’d done it on purpose, figuring he’d get a laugh at whoever ended up reading it out.
He honestly didn’t think he’d ever been so bored in his life, when they shuffled the pages and the reading started. It was comical, how each person stood to read with the same slow awkwardness, tugging at their sleeves in some cases, until about twenty minutes in, when people started calling out stuff like ‘Really? Me too!’ for hobbies or ‘I’ve been there on holiday,’ in response to names of hometowns. Tony had begun drawing a diagram of the inside of a handgun in his boredom, when they room fell silent and he looked up, wondering what he’d missed.
“I said I can’t read it.” A voice came from the other side of the room, in a bored and slightly irritated tone.
“Is it inappropriate?” Hope called from her mic, frowning curiously.
“No,” the voice repeated, as if speaking to a child. “I can’t read it. The handwriting is terrible. Admittedly, it’s legible in some areas but I’m not going to stand and read fragments while I try to distinguish English out of the rest of it.”
“…..Okaaaay…” Hope replied, frowning a little deeper, and Tony sat up straight, grinning. “Can you read the name?”
Tony looked over at a movement as the person she was addressing looked down to the piece of paper before them, then up again, rolling his eyes. “Tony.”
Tony hadn’t spotted him at registration yesterday, or if he did, he just didn’t remember. He sat back in his seat, in a black shirt, green on the inside, with the cuffs rolled up and turned over a little, revealing the little bit of color, opened a little at the collar, and he watched Hope through heavy lidded eyes, an eyebrow quirked almost condescendingly. He looked confident in the room, self-assured of his greater intelligence or something, and Tony grinned a little wider. He actually looked a little interesting.
“Tony what?” Hope asked, and the eyebrow went up a little higher, with no reply. “Right, right, okay. Do we have more than one Tony?”
Tony waited for a moment to see if anyone responded before him, and when nothing happened, he raised an arm halfway, leaning back and resting his elbow on the back of his seat, a little charisma returning to him at the challenge of entertaining or surprising the man behind the voice.
“Just me.” He spoke up, looking across the room rather than at Hope as the bored eyes fixed on him.
“Okay Tony,” Hope said, picking up a little. “How about you help him out? What’s your full name?”
Tony didn’t look away, and neither did the other man, and he watched his eyes closely for any hint of a reaction when he responded. “Tony Stark.”
A couple of people in the room made an interested noise, and a good few of them turned to get a look at him, but the person he was watching gave a sigh and looked away. Tony frowned.
“Tony Stark?” Hope repeated, smiling widely. “Tony, is your father--?”
“Yep.” Cut her off, frowning a little deeper as the man picked up the two books he’d brought with him and stood slowly, pretty tall, and stepped out onto the steps, pausing and leaving Tony’s profile on the desk almost as an afterthought, before making his way quietly toward the door while eyes were on Tony.
“Oh, well! Pity most of us know your age and about your hometown, then…” Hope said, looking down at what must’ve been a stencil of the profiles they’d filled out. “…and your family… You wanna tell everybody about your hobbies?”
“I think I’m done for the day, actually.” Tony said, standing and picking up his notebook before she could respond. “Good talk!” He added with a smirk as he took the steps two at a time, heading straight for the door.
He waited until he was out of the building entirely and on the green outside the college before he stopped and pulled out his phone, throwing his notebook on the grass and sitting cross-legged next to it.
“Steve, jesus,” Tony said, lying flat on his back. “You’re on a break, right? What’re you doing, I gotta get out of here.”
“Wh-- Yeah, I am, we’re at the cafeteria, but what’s wrong?”
“Eugh. Nothing. Well, people. It was so fucking boring, and it’s Friday, I don’t wanna spend my Friday--”
He heard Steve laugh on the other end. “Okay, well, where are you? We’re just waiting for Thor to finish then we’re leaving, we’ll come meet you.”
“Just on the green outside.”
“Okay, be there in five.”
Tony pulled himself into a sitting position again, not really wanting to be caught on his back in front of all Steve’s friends after storming off on them the day before. He flipped his notebook over, face down to hide the diagram of the gun, and pulled on his sunglasses while he waited, enjoying the gentle heat of the sun.
Tony heard them coming before he saw them, because shit, Thor’s voice could really travel. They rounded the corner of the building all at once, Thor with one arm around Clint’s shoulders and the other around Bruce’s, while Tasha walked behind them, smirking, and Steve walked in front, waving and grinning at Tony.
“Tony Stark!” Thor called, and Tony was really fucking grateful there weren’t many people around to hear him.
“Skipping class on your first day.” Clint shook his head, frowning sternly, but grinned after a moment, and some slight nervousness Tony didn’t realise was there loosened in his chest when he saw they weren’t pissed about the other day. Steve must have explained that, too, and this time Tony was pretty okay with it.
“What can I say,” Tony shrugged as everyone else settled on the grass, Steve sitting closest, deciding he’d make an effort in the conversation at least, this time. “You’ve been to that thing last year, right? Did you stay?”
“He didn’t even go.” Tasha answered for him, leaning against Clint a little. “Only Steve and Bruce went.”
“I went for an hour, on the very first class.” Thor said proudly, as if he’d achieved something difficult and should be rewarded, and having just spend about forty-five-minutes, Tony was ready to give him a trophy. “I hope my brother gets some use out of it, though.”
The entire group gave a nod and a non-committal “Mmm,” at that, and Tony frowned, looking at Steve for an explanation. “Thor’s brother is in your year,” he said. “He’s a little….”
“He’s difficult.” Thor said with a shrug. “He needs friends, he needs to get out more.”
“On the subject of getting out,” Clint said suddenly. “Since we’re already being a little delinquent, and we’ve only got philosophy later….”
“Cliiiint…” Bruce rolled his eyes, and Thor grinned.
“We didn’t finish yesterday’s game.”
Catching on, Tony narrowed his eyes as he considered his timetable. Marketing. Totally skippable. He looked over at Steve, a slow grin spreading across his face, and Steve sighed, shaking his head.
“I don’t know if they’re going to be a bad influence on you, or if you’re going to be a bad influence on them, but I can already tell this is the start of something I’m gonna severely regret.” He grinned when he said it, though, so Tony clapped him on the shoulder, grinning back, and Steve added, “Don’t forget to call your Mom!”
The others laughed while Tony groaned, and one by one, pausing every now and again in conversation, they gathered up their things and left the campus at a leisurely pace, and Tony forced himelf to forget his uneasiness for a few hours at least. Give it a chance, while you’re in the mood, Tony, could be good for you.
When did the responsible voice in his head become Steve’s?
It took them about forty minutes to get to Thor’s, and Tony hadn’t really been keeping track, but Steve decided to announce that fact when they arrived, and point out how it normally only look them twenty or twenty-five minutes.
“Shh, Steve, you’re used to me, give your friends some time to get used to my totally distracting personality.” Tony winked at him, feeling a little more like himself, and Clint whistled while Bruce chuckled. Thor was already marching through his kitchen for more food, and he had no idea where Tasha’d gone.
“Are you going to offer us any this time, Thor?” Bruce asked, wandering toward an armchair as Thor pulled out a multi-pack of popcorn. Thor’s response was to throw a bag in Bruce’s face as he entered and stretched out on the couch, pulling a PS3 controller out of nowhere.
“It was me last,” Clint called, dropping himself cross-legged on the floor near Thor and lifting a second controller, and Tony sat on the arm of Bruce’s chair, wondering if a bunch of twenty-one and twenty-two year olds skipping out to play video-games was something Tony before Pepper would’ve enjoyed. He didn’t think so, but this wasn’t bad. All it really needed was some beers.
“Thor,” a sharp voice suddenly snapped, and they all turned to look toward the stairs and Tony’s mouth fell open a little. He wasn’t wearing the shirt anymore, he’d changed into a black t-shirt that looked a little big for him, but that was definitely the dude from this morning. Everyone else looked away, but Thor sat up a little, looking over the top of the couch with some weird puppy-dog expression, and said, “…..Popcorn?”
Thor received a cold glare in response that lasted about five seconds, before apparently being dismissed as he turned and made his way back up the stairs. Thor sighed and lay back on the sofa, and mumbled, “He’s not even supposed to be home yet.”
“That’s your brother?” Tony asked quickly as it clicked.
“That was Loki, yeah,” Steve said, walking in from the kitchen and handing Tony a coffee, frowning. “Do you know him?”
“I—nah, I don’t I just—thanks,” he said, taking the coffee, and sipping to save himself from answering. Steve watched him for a few seconds, before getting distracted as Clint and Thor picked up on whatever Tony had missed the other day.
Tony watched, following for about fifteen minutes or so, but when it began to get monotonous, he fell back into his own thoughts and, inevitably, started to feel out of place. Steve’s presence was a slight comfort, but given time to sit and think, Tony found himself watching the others, wondering everything about them, wondering what impression they were getting of him, then looking around Thor’s place, everything unfamiliar, taking it in and feeling more and more uneasy as he did.
His thoughts eventually wandered on to Thor’s brother, who very clearly didn’t want all the people in his house, which sort of made Tony want to pick himself up and assert his presence even more after that morning. Loki seemed irritated and short with people on both occasions Tony’d run into him now, but in a way that caught his attention. Nobody was that obviously and outwardly bitter for no reason, especially in front of a room of strangers. He clearly looked down on the company at the module that morning, even the lecturer. Most people’s attention piqued when Tony’s name was mentioned, but Loki had sighed, looked away, dumped his profile on the desk and left. It was new…. And kinda interesting.
Tony blinked and looked over at Steve frowning at him from the couch. Thor must have sat up straight at some point and left a space for Steve to sit.
“Huh?” He asked, realising he was still holding his empty cup of coffee.
“You okay?” Steve raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah, yeah, fine, just—“ Tony waved a hand and shook his head. “Daydreaming, or whatever, sorry.”
Steve leaned over a little and lowered his voice. “We can go, if you want.”
“I’m fine, seriously.” Tony said, listening a little for any noise from upstairs and catching nothing. “Let’s stay put.”
The next week flew by before Tony even realised it was Friday again. He was used to pushing himself through each day, constantly watching the clock, counting down hours until the next day, even though he was just gonna do the same thing tomorrow anyway. He had a quiet weekend, for him, at least. They stayed at Thor’s until late, when Thor finally came down with a case of sore loser syndrome and Clint couldn’t help rubbing it in. Steve, being the responsible one, had decided to call it a night shortly afterward to save a physical fight. And just as Tony was beginning to place bets.
They met up with Thor and Bruce the next day, late afternoon, and Tony was ‘shown around’ again, but in a better mood this time. The conversation came a little easier, especially with Bruce, who Tony found to be quietly intelligent. He was too easy to annoy, and after a few hours Tony started to make that his thing; winding the guy up, then following with a wink to make everything okay again. Bruce seemed to enjoy it, weirdly enough. They ate out for dinner, and decided to head back to Steve and Tony’s afterwards, where they spent the night in with drinks, watching some random talent show and laughing at the contestants for an hour, before watching a few of Thor’s favourite, stupidly bad action movies that were actually a little okay with the pleasant buzz of alcohol. He woke up late on the Sunday, phoned his mother after spending around two hours waking himself up properly, then got some work done for the rest of the day, and Steve decided he wanted to cook a Sunday meal in the evening, which went a little wrong, but was a good cause for a laugh afterwards.
He kept an eye out in class for Loki, although for the first three days he refused to admit to himself that he was. He figured by the time Wednesday ended and he was sure that Loki was either skipping or not in any of his classes, he should probably admit that yeah, he was paying attention, but he couldn’t help it; he’d seen about thirty seconds of Loki, and spent hours with others in his year, yet Loki was still more interesting than any of them.
On Thursday, Clint decided that, even after having spent almost a whole summer here before, and being settled for a week, Tony hadn’t had a proper welcome, and so they all decided to meet up at Steve and Tony’s on Saturday evening for small drinks, before dragging Tony all over town. He skipped the team module that week, and tried to ignore the uneasy feeling of believing he'd missed something.
He barely remembered some of the places he was carried to on Saturday, but that was more because of the fact that he was actually having fun, he was enjoying himself, can you believe that, than it was because of the alcohol. He learned that he and Bruce made pretty good drinking buddies, even if the consequences weren’t always great (if anyone asked the next day, they had no idea how that barstool ended up in the street), and Steve and Thor held their drink so well it was criminal (although Tony was aware of that fact in regard to Steve already given the amount of times the guy’d carried him home). Tasha wasn’t really too different, apart from the fact that she became a little more vocal and showed a hint more expression, and Clint, if possible, actually got louder.
It was wandering past the fountain at around midnight, when Tony and Bruce were creating currents in the water to race two leaves across… well, they weren’t really sure where the starting point or the ending point of the race was, but point was, it was a race, that Thor declared they were all going back to his, since it was closest, his parents were out for the weekend, and he had room. He and Clint had a minor scuffle at this, apparently Clint wasn’t too happy with that idea, but after Steve’s intervention, they set off.
If Steve thought it took them long to get to Thor’s before… Tony gave an embarrassing giggle when they arrived and Tasha announced that they’d taken a full hour to get there, before landing in Thor’s armchair, gripping the sides as he waited for the rest of the world to stop spinning and catch up with the fact that he was stationary now.
“Drinks!” Thor declared, walking in from the kitchen with his arms full of cans, while Tasha and Clint were taking their customary spots on the floor, Steve took his on the end of the couch, and since Tony was in Bruce’s chair, Bruce took it upon himself to use Tony as a chair, sitting sideways on Tony’s lap with his legs draped over the arm rest.
“I’m good,” Steve said, grinning, his cheeks a little red.
“Uh-uh, look at you, you’re almost there, another, c’mon,” Tony definitely didn’t plead, and Thor seemed to agree, shoving a can into Steve’s arm, before turning to Tony and Bruce, raising his eyebrows and grinning for a moment, then winking at them and throwing a can each. Tony caught both while Bruce shushed at something Tony wasn’t hearing.
“I call this spot right here,” Clint drawled, lying flat on his back on the floor while Tasha sat almost hugging her knees beside him, remote in hand and turning the TV up on an Aerosmith song. “I’m not getting up again.”
“Ohhhhh no,” Thor shook his head, laughing and giving Clint a gentle kick as he passed him. “You’re taking my parents’ room, you sleep with your eyes open, and Loki will come down in the morning and---“ Thor stopped in the doorway to the kitchen suddenly, whirling around to face them again and almost falling into the doorframe in the process. “…Loki.”
Tasha pressed mute and, almost comically, everyone but Bruce slowly raised their eyes to the ceiling, listening.
“Maybe he’s not home,” Steve said quietly.
“He’s always home,” Thor grumbled, making his way into the kitchen for more cans.
They didn’t stay up as long as they’d planned to, watching TV and talking in low voices for an hour or so after that, a little tense, even though Tony didn’t see what the big deal was, but that was probably because he was drunk. Wake him up, he thought, get him down here, get drinks in him, get everyone down here. When Clint actually did fall asleep on the floor, Thor gave him a hard kick and declared that he was ready to show everyone to their rooms, then took another five minutes of Steve poking him in the temple to get up and do it.
Getting up the stairs quietly, or trying to, was just too funny for Tony, and Steve winced several times as Tony came down with a fit of giggles. Tasha half-carried Clint up in front of the rest of them while he mumbled something about a hamster he’d given her once upon a time, Thor followed behind them, catching his toes on the stairs every now and again, and Tony and Bruce followed them in a weird blind-helping-the-blind, three-legged-race stance, arms over each other’s shoulders, and Steve behind them making sure they didn’t fall and break each other.
Leaving Tasha to take care of Clint once she and Thor got him as far as the bed, the rest of them were led to Thor’s room, where Tony collapsed in another fit of giggles watching him and Thor trying to pull out his sofa-bed, while Bruce tapped him repeatedly on the shoulder, whispering, “Tony, Tony, Tony, we forgot the stool, we were gonna bring it with us, remember?”
When the bed was out, Bruce made an almost immediate beeline toward it, and Tony barely caught Steve’s laugh and bemused, “Uhm, okay, guess I’ll bunk with Thor,” as Tony tried not to fall over, then followed him, annoyed that his pillar had suddenly made off without him.
Once everyone was settled, and the silence was suddenly ringing in Tony’s ears, he gave another giggle. “G’night Steve…”
He heard a clear laugh from Thor as Steve replied with a slightly slurred, “Goodnight Tony.”
“Night Thor,” Bruce’s reply was muffled by the pillow he had his face in, before he moved his face and frowned. “Wait, no, Tony.”
“S’okay, Thor’s turn was nex—“
“Tony, you’re my best friend, but I swear, I will tape your mouth shut.” Steve whispered, but Tony could hear the smile behind it, and gave another burst of giggles when Thor suddenly said “G’night Tony.”