Loki poked at the suspicious looking glop on his tray, disgust evident on his face as he discreetly gazed at the other guys sitting on the same table, shoving the vile gunk in their mouths. He told himself for the nth time that he should have said yes when his mother offered to make him lunch but no, he just had to be stubborn and all grown up. He turned to his brother and couldn't suppress a wince as Thor ate the paste with as much gusto as the rest of the football team. God, he wanted to hurl.
"Aw, sweetie, you okay?" He tried not to cringe as he turned to his girlfriend, Amora Lushton (1), who crooned at him as she sat down between him and Thor. He tried to smile at her in greeting but it came out all crooked. "You want some of my lunch?"
She pushed her tray at him where there was a lonely plate of limp vegetables, a glass of questionable liquid and an apple. He took the apple and bit into it savagely.
"Thanks," he muttered at her.
"Anything for you, baby," she replied with a sultry, little smile, her gaze flitting over to Thor who remained oblivious to her presence.
To most of the male population in Avengers High, Amora was a great catch. She was beautiful; long, blonde hair, big, blue eyes, full mouth and even fuller body. She was the queen bee of the school, the cheerleading captain, the "perfect" girl, the one all the other girls dreamt of becoming.
God, how he hated her.
At the beginning of the semester, she and Loki had a deal. In the eyes of the public, they would be the dream couple. He had agreed because it would stop the other simpering girls in the cheering squad from coming near him and she had agreed because she actually liked Thor and wanted to get his attention by making him jealous.
It was too bad the blonde bimbo didn't know Thor liked a very, different girl, someone petite with "hair like golden honey and clear, doe eyes" and who was also at the very end of the school's popularity spectrum (Thor had gotten it into his head to try to impress her by being as popular as he could be and Loki couldn't change his mind – but he tried, he really did).
He rolled his eyes up and wished the bitch would just break up with him and confess to Thor already because he was sick and tired of her. Now normally, he played pretend well, otherwise, the whole school would have known that their relationship had been a fib from the start but all the superficial shit around him was killing his remaining brain cells that it was getting harder and harder to keep the façade. If it weren't for Thor and his puppy eyes begging him to stay close, he'd have run the opposite way and probably made friends of his own instead of tagging along with this bunch.
Then a crash shook him from his internal misery and saw the rest of the football team and the cheering squad (and the whole school judging from the sudden silence) looking at the other end of the cafeteria, more commonly known as the Loser's Corner.
'How creative,' he thought derisively as he looked at the commotion where Steve Rogers, captain and quarterback of the football team, stood in front of his rumored boyfriend, Bruce Banner, facing off with Carl and Earl Smith, the generic tall, huge and blonde members of the football team that he had happily dubbed Twiddle Dumb and Twiddle Dumber respectively.
There was quite a mess at their feet where a tray, presumably Banner's, had landed, spilling all its contents on the floor.
"Watch where you're going, fag!" Twiddle Dumb spat at Banner, taking a threatening step forward and leaning down at the resident science wiz.
"You're the one who bumped into me, lummox," Banner retorted, brows furrowed in anger as his glasses glinted dangerously in the light.
"Hey, who are you calling a lummox?" grunted Twiddle Dumber as he also took a step forward, fists raised.
"If you really needed to ask that, I don't know how you managed to get to senior year," Banner quipped, unimpressed. "Do you even know what lummox means?"
"Why, you little – "
"Come on, guys, stop it," Rogers interjected, his hand laid on Banner's arm as he blocked him from view. It was easy to do, too, Loki noticed, as Banner barely reached Rogers' shoulder and he was half of Rogers' mass.
He made to put a placating hand on Carl but the idiot recoiled and pulled back.
"Don't touch me, Captain Cocksucker!" he shouted, the words echoing throughout the silent cafeteria. "You're gonna get all your homo germs on me!"
"Just because Coach made you captain of the team doesn't mean we like you, homo. Get that through your thick skull," added Earl.
"Atta boy, Earl," Loki heard someone on his right whisper. "Gotta tell that faggot what he really is."
"Serves him right, acting all cool and shit," said another and Loki just couldn't believe the audacity of these idiots when the reason their team won again and again was mostly through Rogers' (and Thor's) efforts.
Despite the fact that he was gay, Rogers was respected in the school as a captain and as an all-around good guy. It helped that he was attractive (who could resist the shiny, blonde hair or the expressive, blue-as-the-sky eyes?) since most girls were crazy for him. There was going to be bloodshed because nobody spoke that way to Rogers.
And then it came to this. Seriously, what is it with high school and all this drama, Loki wondered as he watched the scene unfold.
Everybody was looking at Rogers, whose blue eyes widened in shock and pain, and no one seemed to notice how Banner straightened, looking positively murderous, his eyes blazing as he moved to shove Rogers away.
Before he did, another hand pulled him back and there was Tony Stark, grinning like a Cheshire cat as he looked from one pair to the other.
"Seriously, the only thing you'll catch from Cap here is his smarts," he chirped happily, seemingly oblivious to the tension in the cafeteria as he jerked his thumb over at the silent Rogers who looked at him with relief. No one commanded attention like Tony Stark. "And you wouldn't wanna get a grade higher than an F on our test later, would you? Your shit-for-brains friends would be so ashamed."
The Smith twins became an identical shade of red at the insult, and to Loki's eyes, so did the other brain-deficient members of the team. Thor, he noticed, didn't care in the least as he looked on. If anything, he was curious about how this would turn out as well. After all, he might not look it but he had straight A's in all his subjects (their father was very strict with their studies).
"Oh, look what we have here," Stark continued with false cheer as he lifted his hand and revealed a tape recorder. "Got this from Pete earlier and, I have to say, it was very convenient that I borrowed it. What with Principal Fury on his way here."
There was something quite threatening about how Stark's eyebrow rose and how his grin looked predatory that one would think twice about crossing him, Loki thought, fascinated and, to his horror, thrilled. Despite his small build (he was shorter than Loki by about four maybe five inches) and his slight stature, there was a sharp intelligence to those brown eyes.
Some ventured that he was the Tony Stark when he had transferred three weeks ago, the son of Howard Stark, billionaire genius. But most didn't buy it because this Stark did not fit the mold of a billionaire's son, with his faded jeans and rock t-shirts. And who in their right, billionaire mind would send their son to a public high school? Maybe for punishment like in Thor and Loki's case? He would probably never know but, Loki had to admit, Stark was a genius in his own right.
As if on cue, Principal Fury came in the cafeteria, eyeing the room before it settled on Banner, Rogers, Stark and the Smiths.
"What the fuck is this commotion about? And what's with the mess? Don't just stand there – clean it up!" he commanded as he stomped over.
The staff practically shat themselves trying to comply and if the atmosphere wasn't so tense and charged, Loki would have laughed.
Fury, dressed all in black, with an eyepatch most of the students found creepy (there had been some speculation that Fury had worked with a top secret government agency before he was retired for grave injuries), looked around again, his good eye narrowed into a slit. "There's ten minutes before lunch is over. I suggest you make the most of it," he said, satisfied when the students went back to their meals, albeit nervously. He turned to the five still standing and snapped, "the five of you, in my office. Now."
With a shit-eating grin, Stark led the way and practically swaggered out of the cafeteria with the rest in tow. Rogers was right behind him, sighing as he shook his head, and Banner was glaring over his shoulder at the two idiots.
He looked back at Stark and was startled to find him staring right back before he winked at him playfully. Loki could only blink in his surprise.
What the hell was that about?
Long after they had gone, the cafeteria began returning to normal until the sound of skidding sneakers squeaked across the room and everyone turned to see Peter Parker, a reporter for the school paper, breathing heavily.
"Have any of you guys seen Tony? He took my tape recorder again!" he said, flustered to the point of panicking.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Well, I didn't notice that I had the story set up as a oneshot. Hm. XD Sorry about that. I'll upload the next chapters in a bit.
Billy's Diner was a small restaurant in the corner across Avengers High, an unpopular place to hang out for most of the school population since the people who usually ate there were losers and old people – by losers, they meant Tony Stark's group.
The diner was old fashioned, with a long, service counter in front of the partially visible kitchen and floor-mounted stools for customers to sit on right in front. There were several tables spread about and booths lined up along the large windows. It had black and white checkered floors and the white walls were decorated with old posters and shiny car parts. There was even an old jukebox near the back right before where the restrooms were.
It was altogether a cool place but most of the students preferred the mall as their hang out spot, primarily because the "cool kids" spent their time there – which was better, because Bruce hated crowds and Tony hated most people in general.
Classes had ended for the day and Bruce, Tony and Steve were in their usual booth at the farthest end of the diner waiting for the others. Bruce and Tony didn't have anything to do afterschool for the day since their project was already finished for the next science fair and Steve had been excused from practice by Coach Coulson after the whole fiasco at the cafeteria. Bruce and Steve sat together facing Tony who was doodling on a spare napkin.
"Here you go, boys," Milly, Billy's daughter and one of the waitresses, announced as she placed the tray with their orders on the table. She was pretty and slender, with brown hair tied in a bun and brown eyes. She was older than them and had taken to spoiling them whenever they come by. "One double cheeseburger with extra cheese, a side of onion rings, one large milkshake with double whip cream and rainbow sprinkles."
Tony raised his hand, doodle already forgotten. "That one's mine!"
Milly rolled her eyes fondly as she shook her head. "And don't we know it." She placed his order in front of him and giggled as Tony playfully slapped Bruce's wandering fingers away from his onion rings. "Alright, one order of extra spicy buffalo chicken wings with cream cheese dip, a basket of fries and a root beer float for Bruce and for Stevie, one triple-patty cheeseburger, a side of potato wedges and dill onion mayo dip, one jumbo chilidog, two slices of apple pie and bottomless lemon iced tea." She set their orders on the table and ruffled Steve's hair, a blush staining the blonde's cheeks as he let her do as she pleased. "Enjoy, boys, and holler if you need anything."
"We will," answered Steve – ever the polite one. Milly winked at him and disappeared behind the counter and the three were left alone to enjoy their meal. When Steve turned his attention back to Bruce and Tony, he found them staring at him with completely different "raised eyebrow" looks.
Tony was leering at him with a little, knowing smirk and an eyebrow raised, his chin perched on his hand, while Bruce was looking at him with mock seriousness, eyebrow raised as well.
"What?" he asked warily, turning from one to the other.
"I think she likes you," Tony chirped at him, smirk growing into a full grin. "Stevie."
"Should I be jealous?" Bruce added, trying to keep himself from smiling.
Steve's eyes went as wide as saucers. "What? No! Milly is – It's not like – Tony!"
Tony burst out laughing and Bruce hid his own chuckle with a cough. "Geez, I'm just kidding… Stevie."
Then they burst out laughing again while Steve blushed to the roots of his hair.
"Easy on the teasing or Steve's gonna burst on fire," Clint Barton quipped as he approached their booth, his girlfriend, Natasha Romanov, waving at them with a little smirk.
He was tall with ash blonde hair and blue eyes and wearing a simple t-shirt and faded jeans. He carried a duffel bag over his shoulder and held Natasha's sports bag in one hand while the other laced with hers. Natasha was easily more beautiful than Amora Lushton, with deep, dark red hair and sultry green eyes but she was infamously called the Black Widow after a rumor that she had kicked some guy in the nuts and the guy was now impotent. Clint was probably the only one brave enough to be her boyfriend.
Clint let go of her hand and placed a hand on her lower back, gently nudging her and she slid into the seat beside Tony before Clint slipped in right beside her.
"Hey Clint, Tasha, how's it going?" Tony asked, eyeing Clint's hand as it inched close to his onion rings. "If you know what's good for you, you wouldn't do that."
"Oh, come on, it's just one onion ring, Tony," Clint sighed in exasperation.
"You know the rules: you can't get food from anyone else without food of your own to share," Tony announced though he countered himself when he let Natasha pick one.
"Well, why did you let her get some and not me?" Clint whined, pouting.
"Because she's a girl," Tony answered, his tone definitely saying duh!
Clint opened his mouth to reply but Steve beat him to it. "Just order something, Clint. It'll make your life easier."
Defeated, Clint glared at Tony and stuck his tongue out while the brunette grinned at him smugly.
"So anyway, what was this I heard about some trouble in the cafeteria today?" asked Natasha as she began flipping through the menu she took from the booth in front of theirs. "I heard you guys got called in to Fury's office. Again."
Conversation paused as Milly came by and took their orders, ruffling Steve's hair again as Bruce and Tony snickered. They continued after she was out of earshot because Milly was very protective of "her Stevie".
Tony snorted. "Well, to be fair, it wasn't our fault this time."
Bruce nodded in agreement. "Yeah, we didn't cause any fire hazard, explosion or property damage." His face tightened in anger as he was reminded of those two idiots. "The Smith twins did all the damage – called Steve some very nasty things."
His voice ended in a growl and he visibly calmed as Steve placed a hand on his arm, rubbing gently. He turned to the blonde and smiled a little in reassurance as the football player watched him in concern. "I'm okay, really. I just wished I could have hit them at least once."
Clint and Natasha were far from calm though. "What the fuck did they say to you, Steve?" Clint asked.
Steve smiled at them. "Guys, it's okay. It's done and those two will have three weeks detention plus pushups at every football practice for the next two weeks. I think they'll learn their lesson. I'm just happy that we didn't get any punishment."
Tony preened. "All thanks to me and Pete's tape recorder, which I didn't steal but just happened to carry with me at the time."
"I don't think this is the end of it, Steve," said Natasha as she shook her head. "If anything, I think they'll be keeping a grudge against you three – especially you. I don't like it. You'd better not be going anywhere around school without at least one of us with you."
"Don't worry. I'll be with him," Bruce said. He grinned toothily at Steve, brown eyes wide and innocent behind his glasses. "If they try anything, well, I can't guarantee I'll keep them in one piece."
"Bruce, no." The blonde rolled his eyes. "Guys, it's not like I can't take care of myself."
Tony slurped on his milkshake and said, "it's not that you can't take care of yourself, Capsicle. More like you're just a very nice guy who will, most likely, let them do what they want."
Clint snorted. "Nah, he'll be like slapping them on a wrist or something."
"Like a grandma," Tony chirped in, chuckling.
"Well, he is right here and he finds this conversation insulting," Steve added, frowning. "Can we please talk about something else? I know," he said, turning to Tony who was happily gobbling his cheeseburger. "Why don't you tell them about your 'moment' with Odinson?"
"Odinson? Which Odinson?" a female voice chirped in and they all turned to Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis.
"Hey, Janie-wanie, how's your day?" Tony asked with a beaming smile as the two girls squeezed into the booth.
Jane Foster was a small girl with a very big brain for science. She had light brown hair and big brown eyes and an ever-present smile on her lips. Darcy Lewis was her best friend, just as small with long auburn curls and brown eyes. Unlike Jane, she was more interested in literature and art.
"It was great! I got an A+ on my physics paper," Jane gushed proudly, holding the thick pile of paper with a large A+ smack in the middle. "Personally, I think Mr. Selvig was being too generous but he said that the paper was very well done."
"Expected nothing less from my protégé," Tony announced with a flourish. "Here, grab an onion ring as a reward! You, too, Darcy."
He smirked at Clint while Jane and Darcy picked some off his plate, earning another glare.
"So what were you guys talking about?" asked Darcy as she reached for the menu Natasha was handing out to her.
"Trouble at school, onion rings, Steve being a granny and now, Odinson gushing," Clint listed out loud, grimacing at the last.
Milly came back with Clint and Natasha's orders then took Jane and Darcy's before bustling about in the kitchens again.
Jane sighed dreamily. "What's not to like? I mean, Thor's a really great guy."
Clint playfully gagged at her, earning a thrown French fry from Bruce's meal, while Darcy snorted. "Jane, the guy talked to you once – just once. Then he forgot that you ever existed."
"We talk in the library," Jane protested. "He's really nice and he helps me reach for my books and he talks to me. He's very smart for a football player."
"Hey!" Steve exclaimed with a laugh.
"Oh, Cap, don't worry, you'll always be our science bro first, and school meathead second," Tony appeased, patting Steve's hand.
"Gee, thanks, Tony."
"Well, yeah, but he's not talking to you in public, Jane," Darcy insisted. "Doesn't that tell you anything?"
Jane visibly deflated. "I'll take what I can get. If I could be his friend, that'd be fine with me."
"You're just saying that right now, Protégé," Tony stated as he stole a potato wedge from Clint's plate and ate it ("Hey!"). "But it'll never be enough. You have to be in it to win it."
"That sounds kinda dirty coming from you," Natasha deadpanned as she inched away from Tony who just beamed at her.
"Well, what's your strategy, Mr. Stark?" asked Bruce as he leaned back onto his seat, arms crossed over his chest. "I'm kinda curious."
"My strategy is simple but it won't work with Thor, Jane. I mean, my guy is like your Thor's polar opposite," he said, smiling wider when Jane blushed – which was what he had been intending. "I mean, Loki is like ice. He doesn't talk much and he isn't very sociable with Thor's crowd. He's smart, too, but in a mischievous way, the kind that you want on your team if you're going to prank someone. That kind of guy, you have to keep him guessing so he'll be interested." He paused for effect then said, "and he's damned gorgeous."
Clint groaned. "Can we please talk about something else?"
"Okay, how about Theory of Quantum States and Measurements and the concept of entropy?" Bruce suggested.
Jane and Tony both perked up with the idea while the others protested. Loudly.
meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru
Meanwhile, back at the school, in the football field where the team was on break, the two Odinsons were sitting on the bleachers, talking when Thor suddenly sneezed.
"What's wrong?" Loki asked in concern, placing his hand on Thor's forehead, which Thor laughingly brushed away.
"I'm fine. Must be these allergies," he said before turning away for another sneeze.
"Thor? Are you –" Loki turned away, putting his hands over his face as a sneeze jerked him forward.
The blonde laughed out loud, clapping a large hand on his brother's shoulder. "Someone must be talking about us."
Loki smirked. "Well, as long as they're saying nice things."
They became silent as they thought to themselves.
Thor wondered if Jane was thinking of him.
Loki thought that Stark (he didn't know why but he just knew that it was him) had better not be saying odd things behind his back.
Sorry, fell asleep before I can put the chapter up. >.
It was ten minutes past lunch period and the halls were thankfully empty and quiet as Loki walked to the library. He'd promised Thor that he would be there while he summoned his courage to make small talk with Jane Foster, the girl he'd been stalking since last year. Of course, it helped that he had research to do for their History class and he really wasn't trying to avoid a certain brunette who had been drilling holes through his head since that fateful day two weeks ago when their eyes met in the cafeteria.
Oh, it was pretty innocent at first. Little glimpses here and there, dreamy little gazes - he was used to that same look from all the girls in the school. He didn't even think it was strange that a guy was ogling him (he and Thor had been in an all-boys private school and he had always known he had an eye for men). He even thought it was adorable in a puppy kind of way when he'd catch the guy staring and then he'd be looking away just before their eyes met and Loki would be smiling at him when their gazes held more than three seconds. Then it became a little irritating when he gained a little confidence. Loki thought he might've given the wrong signal somewhere and blamed himself for encouraging this kind of behavior because Stark wouldn't turn away but grin at him like they were best buddies when their gazes met, sometimes waving in his general direction in front of the whole school.
He usually didn't mind the attention. After all, Stark was pretty nice to look at himself, small and slender, hardly fragile with his sharp wit and even sharper tongue. He was wearing the usual: an old, faded shirt that was way too big for him and a pair of old jeans and sneakers. He was interesting and amusing which was a rarity in this dull place and they might even become friends if he weren't being a cocky dork but he'd rather not ruin Thor's reputation at school. He didn't want to be the cause of any embarrassment for his brother, even if it was as shallow as his association with the "wrong" crowd.
But lately, Stark was becoming bolder, so much so that even Amora, whose head was so far up her bloated ass, noticed. Everyone on the football team and the cheerleading squad noticed and had been giving him strange looks except Thor who was, as always, oblivious. The staring did not occur only during lunch period now and he had become painfully aware that he and Stark shared almost all their classes where he could feel those sharp brown eyes picking him apart a few seats behind him and the little wretch would always pick a seat anywhere behind him.
It had been happening so consistently that Loki was sure he had developed some kind of sixth sense because he would just know and when he looked around, he'd find Tony Stark looking back at him with a smirk and a slow, deliberate (and cute, but he would never admit it) wink. He didn't find it as annoying now and was rather looking forward to it like some kind of game. He had decided not to confront him because he had the feeling that it would be over (whatever it was) and he realized that he didn't like that.
He was pulled from his thoughts just as he was rounding a corner, hearing familiar voices that made him stop abruptly and hide behind the wall, eyebrows rising in surprise.
"I'm just wondering where you and Loki disappear to during lunch every Wednesday," said a sickeningly sweet voice.
"I do research with Loki for our studies in the library. Nothing more than that," answered a deeper voice quietly. "Shouldn't you be trying to find Loki instead of me?"
And Thor. Intriguing...
Was this finally the day Loki would be free? God, he hoped so. Agreeing to her deal was the worst decision he'd made in a while, if only because she grated on his nerves.
"Well, you two are kinda joined at the hip so I figured if I find one, I'll find the other," Amora purred.
There was something gross about knowing that someone was seducing your brother and Loki couldn't keep the grimace off his face. He debated with himself about going because this was meant to be a private conversation but he wanted to know. Curiosity getting the better of him, he moved along the edge of the wall and tilted his head slowly until his brother and his fake girlfriend were visible. Thankfully, Amora's back was turned to him and Thor was looking everywhere but her so he was unseen by both.
Then there was that particular shiver up the back of his spine and by instinct, he looked across the hall and there was Stark, looking straight at him with a finger pressed to his lips, eyes darting to Thor and Amora then back to him. He glared and waved his hand to shoo him away but the brunette raised his eyebrow, smirking as if saying "make me". He couldn't exactly go over there without being seen so he stayed where he was and glared at the cocky teen who stared right back with a smug grin. They stared at each other, neither one looking away in some kind of bizarre competition.
"Amora, this is not appropriate," Thor gritted out, taking both their attentions from each other.
Damn, what happened? He glared at Stark from across the hall and the other shrugged, blinking innocently.
"Why don't you like me? Aren't I pretty than any of the girls here at school?" she asked. "I'm practically throwing myself at you and it still isn't enough?"
Thor was holding Amora on both shoulders and at arm's length away from him, his face grim with disapproval. "You're Loki's girlfriend and I will not do this to him."
"If I break up with him, will you go out with me?" Amora said desperately, grasping Thor's thick wrists with her smaller hands.
Thor let go as if burned, face grim with disapproval. "I will not."
"What if I tell you that it's not real? What if I tell you that I did it to make you jealous? That he agreed from the start?" she nearly screamed at him.
It was a good thing that everyone else was in the cafeteria so no one but the three of them (and Stark) would know about this. He was sure he and his brother would have words later when they got home and he hoped that Thor wouldn't feel guilty about this. If anything, he should be the one feeling guilty. On the other hand, Loki thought this was just like the soap operas his mother watched on TV and was pretty sure he knew what would happen later on, judging from Amora's personality. She had always been overdramatic.
"I'm sorry, Amora, but even if that were true," Thor began, his voice low, almost soothing, "I do not feel the same way. I am sorry."
And then the tears came. Loki felt a little sorry for Amora but he had known all along that Thor would never look at her the way she wanted.
"You'll regret this," she hissed, her once-perfect makeup smudged by her tears. "When I'm done, you'll be begging for me!"
Loki seriously doubted that and watched as she pushed against Thor's shoulder and ran out of sight, her heels clacking on the floor (he wondered idly how anyone could run in those stilts) as she went left at an intersection in one of the building's many halls.
Thor looked sadly at the direction she disappeared to and sighed, shaking his head. He started to walk in the same direction then turned right at the same intersection to go to the library, leaving Loki and Stark alone.
"Huh. Guess Clint owes me ten bucks," said a male voice over his shoulder.
His body tensed in surprise and he glared down at the little demon who looked much too satisfied with himself. "Excuse me?"
Stark merely shrugged, brown eyes twinkling like he knew something no one else did. "Well, I always knew that there's nothing going on between you and Amora. It was pretty obvious. Of course, Clint said otherwise and we had a little bet going." He crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his head, looking up at the ceiling thoughtfully. Loki couldn't help but think how cute he was but managed to throw the thought out of the window as he waited for him to continue. "You know, for a guy with extraordinary vision, he can be really blind. It's either that or he's just mad at me for stealing his potato wedges and just wants to disagree with me and rip me off – some friend you are, Barton. Well, I'm ten dollars richer now."
Loki sighed. Stark might be smart and adorable but trying to understand him was proving too much of a chore and he really needed to go before Thor decided to look for him. "This is all very fascinating, Stark –"
"I'm sorry?" He blinked at the other teen who watched him determinedly.
"Call me Tony. Stark's like my father or something."
"Thank you, but I'd rather not."
"Aw, what's the harm in that?" he whined, pouting and brown eyes impossibly big like his brother when he wanted something.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), it didn't work as well with him as it did other people and he only became more stern and unyielding. "It'll imply familiarity that we do not share."
"Well, we can begin now, so call me Tony. Come on, it's not that hard. You can do it," he encouraged in that bright, cheery and somewhat mocking tone.
"If it will shut you up, then fine, I'll call you Tony," he relented, gritting his teeth a little when the brunette just grinned at him.
He began to walk, following Thor's direction, half expecting to be alone in his thoughts and slightly irritated that he had a small shadow following half a step behind him. He decided to ignore it until Stark, no, Tony, began to hum "Three Blind Mice" under his breath, followed by "Pop Goes the Weasel". He snapped though when he'd started "Ring around the Rosie" and only because it was truly annoying – not because Thor had it in his head to scare him with the song when they were children and he had never gotten over it.
"Why are you following me?" he hissed cattily.
Tony remained grinning but the humming stopped and he was looking all innocent again. As innocent as convicts in death row. "Aren't you going to ask me how I know?"
Loki sighed in irritation, looking up at the ceiling. "Know what?"
"Know that you and Amora weren't really together."
He could feel a terrible headache coming on. "If that will get you to stop annoying me then by all means, go ahead," he said with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
Tony looked vaguely hurt for a moment and he almost felt sorry and was about to say so but the brunette turned away and began to talk.
"Well, I always thought that you weren't right for each other. You're too different and I don't mean that in an opposite's attract way. Let's face it, you're smart, she's not. She's as shallow as a puddle after summer rain and you… well, you're not."
The silence after those sincere words was awkward and Loki couldn't say anything in response to it, couldn't even meet those eyes who looked everywhere except at him. What made him even more uncomfortable were the things Tony didn't say.
He cleared his throat and got his attention. He grinned slyly and said, "so you're saying she wasn't good girlfriend material."
Tony snorted. "She'd be good for anyone with a two-digit IQ and a future job at the gas station in the corner. Sorry, but she isn't exactly in your league."
Ah, just the opening he needed. "Do you know anyone who is in my league?"
Tony looked at him with shrewd eyes as he stared back openly. Then he smiled that same secretive smile. "I know one guy who'd be up to it."
He waggled his eyebrows suggestively and Loki couldn't help but smother a laugh, walking in companionable silence and Loki didn't ask why he was still there and just let him do as he pleased. He was somewhat disappointed when they stopped in front of the library's door.
"Aren't you going in?" asked Tony.
"Yes. You should be going back to the cafeteria," Loki suggested. "Lunch will be over soon."
Tony shook his head. "Nah, I'm not really hungry and I'm here as official cheerleader."
"Yep. Won't tell you for what and why, though. It's a secret."
Loki opened the door and held it, nodding his head at Tony who smiled as he went in. They were both walking through the large shelves, looking around a bit. Loki's attention was taken by a book he'd wanted to read before but was startled out of actually picking it up when Tony grabbed him.
A scoff. "Heh. Looks like Clint and Darcy owe me twenty each."
Loki followed his gaze and his eyes widened, smiling as he saw Thor reaching up at the higher shelves and plucking a thick, hardbound book and handing it to a petite girl who smiled dreamily as she thanked him. Thor rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly and said something which she giggled at.
She reached up, standing on tiptoe, and patted him on the head then they both laughed, loud enough to earn a reprimand from the librarian.
"I bet you I can make your brother ask Janie out," Tony whispered to him as the pair remained oblivious to their presence.
"What are your terms?"
"I lose; I'll do whatever you want as long as it's legal and discreet. I win; you hang out with me and my friends."
Loki learned by now that it was dangerous to bet with Tony but he couldn't help but be intrigued. Seeing Thor finally ask the girl out was a bonus after a year of pining after her.
Never make a bet with Tony Stark. Ever.
That was the lesson Loki learned as soon as he exited the library with Thor, leaving Foster to her own research to grab a light snack before lunch ended. Satisfaction radiated from his brother as he managed to ask the girl of his dreams out (with a subtle, little push but no one really needed to know that – except him and Tony) this weekend.
At first, he'd thought Tony was crazy to bait his brother like he had because Thor looked very close to knocking his teeth out (and wouldn't that be a shame? Tony had an admittedly cute smile that reminded him of a very mischievous raccoon) but Tony managed to divert his attention. It was amazing, really. Loki thought he was the only one who could manipulate Thor like that and wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
Tony winked at him and sauntered over to where the pair was standing. He winked at Thor and lifted a finger to his lips, pointing at Foster who was happily looking through a list of books while she held the book Thor handed her close to her chest. He sneaked quietly behind her and covered her eyes with his hands, keeping his touch light and his body far away so she couldn't grab him.
"What? Hey, who is this?" she whispered with a giggle as she closed her tiny hands over Tony's wrists. "Tony?"
"You got me," he said to her, laughing a bit though Loki noticed his eyes were kept on Thor and his reaction. He let go of her and she turned with the sweetest smile on her face.
Behind and towering over her, Thor was watching them carefully, his face stony and just a bit curious.
"What are you doing here? Did you steal something from Peter again?" she asked, an eyebrow raised at him.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Why does everybody always assume I stole something from Peter?"
"That's because you do and you hide here in the library whenever you do it," she answered with a giggle and a shake of her head. "Funny how Peter never figures it out."
Tony snorted. "Oh, I'm sure Pete knows. He just needs a reason to tell Momma Steve on me," he said offhandedly, waving his hand. "If anything, he should be thanking me, really. I'm giving him reasons to talk to his crush – never mind that Cappie already has a boyfriend."
"Peter's pretty harmless," Jane said. "And Bruce likes him."
"Bruce doesn't like him enough to share," said Tony with a shrug, his sharp eyes darting between Jane and Thor subtly.
Thor cleared his throat and Jane looked at him, first startled then sheepish as a blush stained her cheeks. "Oh, Thor, I'm so sorry! I am such ascatterbrain!" She stepped back so Thor and Tony could be in front of each other and turned her gaze from one to the other, beaming. "Not really sure if you've met but, Thor, this is Tony and Tony, this is Thor."
Thor might not have known Tony personally but he'd been the focus of most of the blonde's rants at home, most of them focused on how the brunette was too close to Foster or how he kept on touching her like that – as if Loki had any idea what that meant.
"Hey," Tony greeted, offering his hand. "Great to finally talk to you."
"Same here," Thor replied, taking the hand and shaking it firmly. He turned to Jane and smiled at her apologetically. "I think I should be going now, Jane. I will have to look for Loki since he isn't here yet."
Loki ducked deeper beneath some of the shelves and peeked through the gaps in the books, making sure Thor couldn't see him. From his position, he could see how Foster's face fell in disappointment and how she tried to smile at him anyway.
He blinked in realization. So Foster liked Thor back? And his brother didn't see it? He shook his head, resisting the urge to knock his head on the shelf right in front of him. He really shouldn't be surprised. This was Thor, after all.
"Hey, what's the rush?" Tony asked coolly. "I'm sure your brother can handle himself. And I'm gonna be leaving anyway so you can stay here with Janie-wanie."
Jane blushed, glaring at the male brunette. "I told you not to call me that!"
"Why not? It's cute!"
"No, it isn't," Tony disagreed with a smirk. "You don't usually mind when it's just us." There was no denying the flirty, little smile he gave her as he waggled his eyebrows, earning a playful whack on his arm. He turned to Thor, blinking big, brown eyes at him innocently. "Don't you think calling her Janie is cute?"
"It is quite charming," Thor managed to grit out, a painful smile on his face as he tried his hardest to ignore the arm that went around Foster's waist as the brunette perched his chin on her shoulder.
Loki bit his lip and glared in disapproval at their contact. He had to agree with Thor on this one, they were far too close to each other. And why he actually cared about it, he didn't know nor did he want to think about it.
"Well, anyway," Tony began as he stood upright. "I'm just here to tell you that I can't come with you to the bookstore this weekend."
"Oh," she began. "Well, that's too bad. I guess I'll have to go alone then."
Very nicely put, Loki thought, impressed. Now, if Thor didn't take that little opening, Loki would personally bash him on the head. He shouldn't have worried though, because his brother's attention was immediately drawn to the girl's face.
"I can go with you," he blurted out.
Foster turned to him surprised, a blush blooming across her cheeks. "What?"
Thor shuffled his feet awkwardly, looking at an interesting spot somewhere between the books. "I mean, I am free this Saturday and I can accompany you."
She smiled. "You sure? I'll probably be stuck in a mountain of books and you might get bored."
Thor scratched his head uncertainly. "I may not like books as much as Loki but I do enjoy them once in a while. Do you not want me to come?"
Loki spotted the notorious puppy eyes and Foster caved in with a grin. He also noticed that Tony had been sufficiently forgotten, not that he seemed to mind as he leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, watching the two make faces at each other.
"Of course, I do," she said excitedly.
"Well, I guess this settles it then," Tony interjected with a toothy grin. "I won't have to worry about Janie going alone with you tagging along, big guy. You can even call this a date. Have fun, you two!"
He began to walk away, giving them a saucy, little wink over his shoulder amidst their protests and denials that earned them another warning from the Head Librarian. The brunette's gaze swept across the shelves and caught Loki's, giving him a subtle thumbs-up and strode past him and out the library's doors.
And just like that, Loki knew he had lost. As competitive as he could get, he surprisingly didn't mind this loss when it felt oddly like he had won.
End of Flashback
The noise was loud in the cafeteria but it went eerily silent as soon as Loki and Thor got inside. Loki swept his gaze subtly around the room, finding all eyes (except for that one table in the corner) on him. On the usual table for the cheerleaders and the jocks, Amora was at the head of the table, her make up already fixed and there was a smug smirk on her face. The cheerleaders were looking at her nervously while the jocks were clueless (as usual) and just settled on eating their lunches and throwing them at each other.
Thor was immediately on the defensive, blocking Loki almost instinctively behind his broad back as he crossed his arms over his chest. Loki shook his head and rolled his eyes to the ceiling because, honestly, he didn't really have any patience for this. He tapped Thor lightly on the arm, their gazes meeting for a brief second, and tilted his head to the side as he stepped past him just as Amora stood from her chair and met him halfway.
"We're through," she said, loud enough for everyone to hear as she pushed past him. The rest of the cheerleaders stood up and followed her out like a herd of sheep and Loki couldn't care less as the cafeteria burst into excited chatter.
He noticed how Thor stiffened beside him and annoyed by the noise, Loki looked around the room, his venomous gaze making everyone who met his eyes flinch. "What are all of you looking at?"
The room hushed and satisfied, he turned his attention back to his brother who was still tense and quiet. "Hey," he called softly.
Thor looked away from him guiltily as if it was his fault and the blonde probably thought it was – no matter how stupid that sounded. He never thought he'd hate Amora as much as he did at that moment. It was one thing to try and humiliate him in front of the whole school – he never really cared about what people thought of him anymore. But to make Thor feel this way? Now that is something that required retribution. He would have to think of something but he knew he'd have to do it later.
Foolish, older brothers first, he thought, bumping him with his shoulder.
"Come on, we have a few minutes left till lunch is over," he said to him but the blonde wouldn't meet his gaze. "They could still have that disgusting 'pudding' you like so much left over."
"Loki, I'm s –"
"Don't even start, Thor. It is not your fault and to be honest, I knew this was going to happen," he interrupted, raising a hand to stop Thor from saying anything. It would probably revolve around how this was his fault and Loki didn't like him feeling sorry about things he really had no control over. "We'll talk about this at home, alright?"
Thor nodded sadly.
"And stop looking like someone thrashed Mjolnir. Seriously, she broke up with me but you do not see me wallowing about this, do you?" he asked sternly. "So smile. Please."
He sighed and took him by the wrist, pulling him along to the farthest table in the corner whose occupants seemed to be the only ones partially oblivious to the rest of the student body.
As if by instinct, Tony lifted his head, a smile on his face at their approach.
"Oh, hey, fancy meeting you guys again," he said with a jovial, little wave. He turned to the rest of his friends. "Come on, people, make room."
There was a bit of shuffling as they did as asked, too surprised to bother complaining as they made room. Loki sat between Tony and Thor, making himself comfortable and looking at each of them in turn then the mess on the table (which really wasn't a mess at all; just a few open bags of chips and books).
Banner looked a little confused as he moved his chair closer to Rogers, looking at Loki and Thor who suddenly joined their table. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Did... something happen?"
"Science geeks," Barton snorted. "It's a good thing Jane isn't here. The world could've ended and they'll still be going at it." He turned to Banner with a smile. "To answer your question, yeah, something did happen. Didn't hear much of it though but it had something to do with Lushton."
"You mess with Lushton and to the rest of the student body, you're worse than scum," Lewis added as she twirled a brown curl on her finger, shaking her head.
Between Barton and Lewis, Romanov rolled her eyes. "I'm not gonna waste my brain cells on her," she said before she turned her head to her boyfriend. "You do know that you just lost another bet with Tony, right?"
Barton's eyes widened as he swiveled over to Tony who was drinking his soda without a care. "How do you keep doing this to me?"
Tony shrugged. "I'm just that good. You officially owe me forty bucks. ("What?")" He turned to Lewis. "And you owe me twenty."
Lewis opened her mouth to disagree but suddenly shut it with a click, her wide eyes darting from Thor who was still moping a bit between Loki and Banner to Tony who was beaming at her. "Get out. Seriously?"
"Janie will tell you all about it," he said cryptically. He turned to Loki and said, "You know that you'll be considered persona non grata if you hang with us, right?"
"It doesn't bother me in the least," he replied airily. "Besides, I always keep my word."
"Huh, well that's good to know," Tony answered with a grin. He glanced at Thor, concern dimming his eyes (Loki realized suddenly that he had very long eyelashes; the natural kind that would make Amora absolutely jealous). "Is he gonna be okay?"
"He will be once I speak with him at home," Loki replied. "And before you ask, Thor will not mind sitting here. My brother is not easily swayed by peer pressure."
"Hey, guys, I just – uh, Thor? What's wrong?"
Everyone looked up and there was Foster, holding her books and looking down all concerned at the blonde as she dropped her things on the table and grabbed a nearby empty chair and placed it near him.
Thor's eyes brightened somewhat as his eyes fell on Foster and he attempted a smile. "I'm fine, Jane."
"You sure?" she asked. "Can I help?"
"It's alright," he answered with the same tremulous smile. "You asking me how I am is enough."
The pair remained oblivious to everyone else but each other as Barton cleared his throat and coughed what sounded like 'cavities' while Romanov hit him on his side with her elbow. Lewis looked happy as she beamed at them and Barton and Rogers shared a glance and a smile with each other.
Loki and Tony's gazes met and while they were certainly happy the two were getting along just fine, they had one other thought running through their heads.
Good thing Lushton wasn't here anymore.