“You’re Howard Stark’s son, aren’t you?” -- is the first thing Steve says to Tony when he first moves to Avengers High School.
“Yeah, he is. Got anything to say about that?” Tony shoots back, crossing his arms. “If you’re one of those bible-thumpers howling about the sinfulness of weapons of mass destruction, come at me, bro. I have plenty of Old Testament lines to counter you, brat.”
“Hey, hey, hey -- lay off him, Tony,” Pepper Potts cuts in, scowling in disapproval. “This is Steve Rogers. The new kid. He was just curious.”
Steve gives Pepper a quiet look of thanks; she’d been acting as his escort around the school, and had elected herself as a bodyguard, too. “Nice to meet you,” he says to Tony.
Tony snatches off his sunglasses off with a flourish, tucking it into his jeans pocket. Jesus, could this kid be any more dramatic? He says, “Rogers, is it? It’s been a pleasure, etc., etc. Glad you don’t hate my dad, thanks for dropping by, and I’m too busy for autographs. Maybe next time.”
Pepper snorts. “Rude much.”
“You’re one to talk, Pep. If Stevie here knew what you called me at the party yesterday, he’d probably scrub your mouth clean with a bar of soap.”
“If Stevie here saw how you were acting at the party yesterday, he’d stab you with your own Ray Ban, Tony.”
Tony holds his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture. “Hey, hands off the glasses, all right? They’re brand new.”
Steve watches the two teenagers exchange insults. He has a weird feeling that this must be sort of a routine between them. It probably is. “Um, guys?” he says. “The bell rang.”
Tony halts. “Looks like we’re back in business. See you later, Pep.” He strides off, a swagger in his step, and Pepper seethes at his retreating back. She storms off to her next class period, and Steve follows her in exasperation, wondering if he’ll have to deal with this every day now.
Steve sees the poster during lunch time. He’s seated in a tight circle with Pepper and her friends, picking at a half-microwaved Cup of Noodles. Tony’s not part of the little group today, which is kind of a relief, but he bets that he drops by occasionally.
“There’s a play?” he asks, jabbing a finger at the paper on the wall.
“Yeah,” says a guy named Clint Barton. “It’s Peter Pan.”
His girlfriend, Natasha Romanov, says, “It’s not like the Disney movie, though. Pepper rewrote the script with, like, a combo between the movie and the book or whatever.”
“You did?” Steve says, surprised. He didn’t take Pepper as the drama sort of gal. More of a science-and-math kind, not really into the arts.
“The cast is anyone in the Theatre Department, including me,” Pepper says with a shrug. “I honestly can’t act or do any special effects, so I was stuck in the production role.”
Thor Odinson -- a rowdy, upbeat guy with no indoor voice-- lights up. “It’s a very well-written script, Steve! My brother is to play the part of Wendy.”
In reply to Steve’s confused expression, Pepper adds, “The best actors in the department were automatically assigned the main roles. Which are Peter and Wendy. They just happened to be two guys, so I made Wendy into Windy.”
“It’s a nickname for Winifred,” Pepper explains. “Stupid, I know, but I had no idea what else to call him.”
“Huh,” Steve muses; he’s never been to a play before. “That sounds interesting. I guess I wouldn’t mind going to see it.”
Pepper beams. “Will you? There’s a dress rehearsal today; I can bring you there after school, if you like.” She smiles at him excitedly, dabbing at her mouth with a napkin.
“S-sure,” Steve stutters, slightly taken aback. “That’s real nice of you, Pepper. Thanks.”
(Clint mimes thumbs-up at Steve from behind his Coke can; Steve chooses to ignore him.)
“Good,” she says, and well, it’s a date.
One reason, Steve thinks, that Pepper brought him along, is due to the main lead. He’s an outlet for Pepper to vent at because of the fool that is Tony Stark, who right now traipses across the stage dressed in emerald green. He’s shouting at the backstage workers about prop placements or the like. Frankly, they look rather irritated.
Steve drags his eyesight away from the quarreling. Hmm, there’s a man frowning below the stage, tapping his foot impatiently -- that must be the teacher in charge of play, a Mr. Fury. The name looks like it suits him well. Then--
“That’s Thor’s brother, over there,” Pepper says, noticing Steve’s gaze. She points to a guy in the corner of the stage. “Loki. He’s a bit of a loner, really, but he’s a decent actor.”
Steve examines the guy carefully -- his black hair is slicked back carefully, and he’s thin and lean. He doesn’t look much like Thor, not blond or muscular at all, and there’s a hard set in his jaw that makes Steve think that he doesn’t smile as much, either.
“Is he in our year, too?” Steve asks.
“No, he’s a tenth grader,” Pepper says. “Very bookish -- he always seems to be in the library, when he’s not in class. It was a shock to everybody when we found out he can actually act.”
Finally, finally, the play rehearsal begins. The curtains draw to the close, and a sophomore named Sif takes the microphone and starts to narrate. Steve relaxes in his seat, focusing on the events that play out in front of him.
“Everyone says Tony’s a brilliant actor,” Pepper says in an undertone, as the boy himself grins charmingly on the stage, smiling and laughing and speaking. A full display of emotions pan across his face, changing as the lines flash by. “‘Course, he’s an idiot in real life, but he can actually act.”
Steve blinks. “You’re talking about Tony, right? The same Tony Stark we both know.”
“Yeah, that’s him. He’s starting to star in some television shows, as minor roles, but he’s working his way up. It doesn’t help that Howard Stark is his dad.” Pepper makes a face. “Which he uses as an excuse to be absolutely awful.”
On stage, Tony says, “Don’t you see how clever I am?”, accompanied by a stupidly proud grin and a swagger. Then: “Come with me, Windy! Let’s go to Neverland. Second to the right, and straight til morning.”
Loki responds with a scowl. “That’s a strange address.”
The eager look on Tony’s face falls, but he presses on. “Let’s go,” he says, extending his hand. “My name’s Peter Pan.”
“Is that all? I am Winifred Angelus Darling.”
A frown. But Tony reaches into a bag and sprinkles gold dust into the air. “Windy, Windy, don’t just stay there sleeping in your stupid bed. You can fly with me and we can say funny things to the stars.”
He reaches forward, completely and utterly out of the script, and graces a glittering thumb across Loki’s cheeks. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Pepper can see the moment: Loki catches his breath, surprised. His eyes are very green, a sharp contrast to the red stripes of his pajama costume, and he accepts the offered hand.
“He’s doing it again,” she says, sighing.
“Flirting,” Pepper says. “Tony does that on screen a lot. The actors or actresses playing opposite of him always goddamn fall for it. There’s never a time where they walk away without some sort of ridiculous crush on him. He’s just that good of an actor.”
“But isn’t that good?” Steve says. “That he’s being realistic?”
“He’s being an asshole,” Pepper says decisively. Loki seems to have recovered himself, but casts a long, searching glare towards Tony’s direction. “He doesn’t exactly stop, offstage or offscreen, either. So...Tony Stark, he’ll break your heart, everybody says in the industry.” She rolls her eyes.
“So he’s like some sixteen year old playboy?” Steve says disbelievingly. “I don’t really think--”
“Oh yes he is,” Pepper says, as Tony and Loki maneuver above the stage on wires; Tony leans forward to grasp Loki’s arms, giving more support. “What an asshole. ”