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what I go to school for

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Tony had given up trying to convince Loki to open the door to their dorm room after the second time he’d been locked out. He’d also given up trying to bribe Loki into letting him in. Or trying to override the lock, because every time he got close, Loki’s freaky green magic would slip out under the door. After the first time he’d felt it curl around his ankle he’d decided it wasn’t something he wanted to experience ever again. There was a reason he hated magic. It was creepy and gross and made no sense. He didn’t care what Loki said about how he only failed to comprehend it because he was a stupid Midgardian. He was a genius, thank you very much! 

But really, if he had to sit on his butt out in the corridor for hours on end until Loki decided to stop being a dick just for shits and giggles, well, it didn’t matter, because Tony was here, at the Avengers Academy, becoming a super hero! And that was the important part. He was becoming a hero and that was awesome! 

And Rhodey was totally jealous that he hadn’t been invited yet. 

Tony was going to have to talk to Fury about that. Because, seriously, every hero needed their sidekick. 

And it was a good thing that Rhodey wasn’t around to hear him call him a sidekick. Not that he had called him a sidekick, as such. He’d thought it. It wasn’t the same. Not really. It wasn’t like Rhodey could read his mind. 

Though he was pretty sure that it was only a matter of time before they had someone here that could. Maybe he’d have to start wearing a tinfoil hat. 

Maybe he could line the helmet with tin foil. 

Once he got the helmet repaired. 

There was an idea. Maybe instead of sitting in the hallway with his butt going numb, he could head over to the Stark Tower and work on fixing his helmet. He didn’t care if Fury kept telling him he wasn’t allowed to do repairs there. He could build a workshop if they’d let him. 

But then the alarm on his wrist buzzed, signalling that it was five minutes past eleven, and that was why he was still sitting on his butt in the hallway. 

Tony picked up the bit of tech he’d dropped before in favour of playing with his phone, grabbing a four inch shifter and pretending like he was engrossed with whatever he was working on. 

Pretending almost too well, it seemed, because before he knew it there were a pair of jean clad legs in front of him and a half empty sports drink being dangled in front of his face. He didn’t jump, but he was pretty sure he’d started humming something and that was a little embarrassing.

“Hey, Iron Man.” 

Ah, yes, the reason Tony sat on the floor until he couldn’t feel his legs. He put on his best charming smile and tilted his head up towards the person who owned that voice. Steve Rogers—Captain freaking America—stood in front of him, waggling the bottle of drink from side to side—grape flavoured tonight—giving Tony a lopsided smile, while he rubbed his other hand across the back of his neck. 

“Hey Cap.” Tony turned up the charm a notch, dropping the shifter onto his thigh in order to free a hand to take the offered drink. He popped the top and squirted some into his mouth. Sure, he might have entertained the idea of swapping spit with Steve a couple times (okay, a lot) but he wasn’t that desperate that he’d settle for drinking from the same bottle as him. “Worked out a favourite flavour yet?” 

Steve, it seemed, had been steadily working his way through the wide range of soda and sport drink flavours since he’d gotten to the Academy and discovered the delight of the drink vending machine by the Robo Dojo. Which is where Steve had just come from. Which Tony only knew because Steve had mentioned it the last several nights when he’d passed by on the way back to his room. Tony didn’t know it because he was some kind of stalker fanboy. Despite what Natasha said. Like she could talk, the sneaky spy assassin that she was. 

“Dunno,” Steve shrugged taking the bottle back and stepping back to lean against the opposite wall. “I don’t mind the lime. And the raspberry is pretty good.” 

“I like the blue.” Tony offered, because that was how conversation worked. 

Steve quirked an eyebrow, caught halfway through taking another drink and not able to reply (and Tony definitely wasn’t staring). “Blue’s a colour, not a flavour.” Steve rebutted after he’d finished off the drink, lobbing the empty bottle with perfect accuracy into the bin all the way down the other end of the hallway. 

Okay, Tony definitely stared at that. “Sure it is. It’s the flavour of the blue sports drinks, the blue lolly snakes, and the blue Vodka Cruisers.” 

“The flavour has a name, Iron Man.” Steve countered, sliding down the wall until he was sitting opposite of Tony, legs spread out across the floor. 

“What’s it called then?” Tony challenged, kicking at one of Steve’s feet, and then promptly wishing he hadn’t, because it made pins and needles spark through his toes. 

Steve looked contemplative for probably too long, before shrugging, ducking his head and rubbing the back of his neck again. “I dunno. Blue.” He mumbled rather sulkily. 

“See, scientifically proven that blue is a flavour.” Tony smirked, trying not to crow in triumph, flicking the shifter over and over in his hand. 

“Thought it was only scientifically proven if you and Hulk and Professor Pym all agreed on it.” Steve countered, nudging his foot against Tony’s in a belated response to the earlier kick. 

“And since only one out of three geniuses is present, I’m voting on their behalf by proxy.” Tony scrunched up his face and spread his hands out, just to show how much a big deal that wasn’t.

Silence dropped back over them when it seemed that Steve didn’t have a smart reply for that last comment. Tony went back to tinkering with his tech, half expecting Steve to get up and move on to his dorm like he did every other night. They usually had these little conversations in passing, but Steve never stayed longer than maybe five to ten minutes. 

Steve cleared his throat after the silence stretched out for probably far too long, and Tony looked up to see Steve looking up at him through his eyelashes, hand rubbing at the back of his neck again. Tony was sure he was definitely imagining the way Steve’s ears were going a little red. 

“What’s up, Cap?” He asked, because despite the way Steve was looking at him, he didn’t seem too inclined to start talking, just going redder by degrees the longer they kept eye contact. 

Steve blinked, turning his head away sharply to stare down the hallway. “I never thanked you for getting my shield back for me. You know, out of the time fog. So, yeah, thanks for that.” 

Tony blinked in response, not sure what to say. Did Captain America honestly just thank him? He hadn’t even been sure that Steve had noticed he was the one to give the shield to him, or knew that it was him who’d spent hours calibrating the satellite so they could clear the time fog. He hadn’t expected to get thanked for it anyway. Because he was the only one who could do it, and everyone knew that. Except maybe Steve. 

“Um, yeah, no big deal there Cap.” Tony finally heard himself replying, shrugging and staring back down the piece of tech in his hand, not even sure what he was doing with it anymore. 

Steve’s foot nudged his again, and he looked up to find Steve staring back at him, leaning forward away from the wall as though that would help convey just how sincere he was being. “No, I mean it, Iron Man, I really appreciate it. Friends have been a bit few and far between since I got here. So I appreciate your friendship.” 

Tony knew that by ‘here’, Steve was talking about the twenty first century, and not the academy in particular, and hang on, what? “Friends?” He hadn’t meant it to sound like such a question, and he definitely hadn’t meant to squeak. 

Steve’s eyes went a little wide and he started turning red again, starting with the tips of his ears and slowly creeping across his cheeks and down his neck. “Oh, that might have been a bit presumptuous. Sorry, I mean, if you don’t wanna be friends, that’s... cool, I guess.” 

“No, no, nonononono!” Tony waved his hands frantically at Steve’s steadily frowning dejected expression, his words all tumbling together. “No, definitely friends, super friends, absolutely friends, like BFFs, we can get friendship bracelets and everything, I’m sure Jan has them in her shop, or I can make some or something and you should totally call me Tony if we’re going to be friends.” 

He’s chest was burning by the time he’d finished and he was a little worried that the arc reactor wouldn’t deal with the stress of just how happy he felt at that moment. But Steve was smiling at him, still blushing, but smiling and looking happier than Tony had seen him the whole time he’d been there. So, yeah, if he were going to die, he’d die happy. 

“Okay, Tony,” It sounded ridiculously good to hear Steve say his actual name for once, even if it did sound like Steve was trying it out for size. Then Steve frowned, looking puzzled despite his smile. “Are friendship bracelets really a thing?” 

At that moment, the door disappeared from behind Tony’s back and next thing he was blinking up at a very annoyed looking Loki. But whatever, Tony just grinned at him, despite the brand new bump on the back of his head, because Steve was across the other side of the hallway, sounding worried and asking if he was okay. He gave Steve the thumbs up, and stuck his tongue out at Loki, because it didn’t matter if he’d just given himself a concussion. Steve wanted to be friends with him. 

He wondered if he could convince Steve that friendship bracelets were a real thing, just to see if he could get Steve to wear one with Iron Man colours. 

***

Six months later

***

“So, Steve,” Tony started, leaning over the back of the couch in the common room of the dorm, so he could stare at the side of Steve’s head while he was reading one of the text books. “What if I told you I could make your shield even stronger than it already is?” 

Steve raised his eyebrows, turning away from his textbook to look at Tony, looking hopeful. “I’d say, please do that. Word is AIM is planning something big, and if Ms Marvel isn’t ready to fight, we’ll need all the help we can get.” 

Tony nodded, grinning and giving Steve a look that he was sure conveyed ‘don’t doubt that I can do it’. He waited until Steve was looking back at his textbook before leaning a little closer, dropping his voice into what he liked to think was his seductive voice. It didn’t matter that it hadn’t gotten him anywhere with Natasha, she was just immune. “What if I told you were was a bunch of stuff online about how you and me would be the perfect couple?” 

Steve looked like he’d swallowed his tongue, going pale for a split second before the tips of his ears started going red. “I’d say I’m glad I don’t use the internet.” He spoke quickly, staring intently down at his textbook as though he could simply will Tony out of existence just by avoiding looking at him. 

Falcon scoffed as he crossed the common room towards the door leading outside. “Don’t believe him, Iron Man, I’ve seen his browsing history, he’s even bookmarked his favourite fanart of you two.” 

The blush had crept from Steve’s ears to his cheeks and was making a rapid path down his neck as he groaned, burying his face in his textbook and grumbling something about Sam’s ultimate demise after they’d finished dealing with AIM. 

Tony grinned, feeling his heart skip a bit and something warm and happy settle in his chest. It made him feel daring enough to lean over and kiss Steve on the cheek, even though it was nearly his ear by the time he got past the textbook, feeling Steve’s skin grow even hotter at the contact. Steve whined something unintelligible into the pages. 

Yeah, Tony totally had a shot this time.