Tony Stark hated everything.
Okay, maybe not everything. He hated everything that led to him teaching Physics to a bunch of snot-nosed brats, which for the most part included Pepper, the Cap Squad, and of course, fucking Obadiah Stane.
Everything Tony loathed tended to lead back to Stane these days.
Stane was the reason Tony was no longer a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, but a moderately well-off, reclusive, boring ex-playboy trying to reconstruct his life. Well, that was how he looked to the public, anyway.
He also happened to be the supervillain Iron Man in his downtime, so.
There was that.
Which, of course, was also Stane's fault. While being kidnapped and tortured in Afghanistan, Tony had learned of Stane's betrayal. Furious and desperate for revenge, Tony had escaped by redesigning a miniature arc reactor to power a metal suit, the Iron Man Mark I, and flown himself to safety. The only people who knew were a group of dead terrorists and one good but equally dead man named Yinsen, and it was going to stay that way. He'd found clothing thick enough to cover the reactor before Rhodey arrived with rescue troops, and he never let a doctor anywhere near his chest.
Because Stane was a double-dealing, murderous bastard, and Tony had plans for him the law would not look upon fondly.
Stane himself was unaware of this; after learning of Stane's betrayal in Afghanistan, Tony knew he had to be smart about things. He wasn't as opposed to the idea of murder as he probably should've been, but he didn't want to just kill Stane. He wanted to destroy him. He wanted to ruin Stane, make him vulnerable and pathetic and desperate, wanted to lay waste to everything Stane had ever hoped for and send him crawling back on his knees for Tony's help.
Then Tony would kill him.
Like any good plan, however, this would all take time. If he wanted to destroy Stane, he had to first get the target off his head, which meant eliminating himself as a threat to Stane. He played up his PTSD, told Stane he wanted nothing to do with StarkIndustries, the company, the money, the weapons, any of it. He let Stane think he'd talked Tony into letting himself be bought out, then Tony dropped off the map.
Well, except for secretly being a supervillain.
To be fair, he hadn't meant to become a supervillain. As it turned out though, being a supervillain was surprisingly good cover. Heroes couldn't just go about their business. They had to explain themselves, had to make sure everything was always seen in the right light. Not to mention they had to cooperate with government agencies like SHIELD and Homeland Security, and lord knows communication with Nick Fury was at the top of Tony's To-Avoid list.
Tony needed the darkness. He needed to shadow his destruction of rotten SI operations with other things so Stane never suspected that Iron Man was targeting him specifically. So Tony took out double-dealing SI operations, but he mixed it up with seemingly "random" destruction as well, mostly a lot of industrial espionage, made sure nobody drew too many connections.
It wasn't hard; with his hacking skills, it was easy enough to find other companies with dirty business, double-dealing under the table or mistreating their employees, something. He just didn't have to wait around for the authorities to go through the right channels before dealing with things. And, since more than half the time it never got out that the companies were rotten, the general public seemed to have taken the view that Iron Man was just some fired employee or something with a vendetta against big business.
Crazier things happened these days in New York.
He never actually hurt anyone, though he did a damn good job of making it look like he did. He always took his target's businesses out during down times, when there were the least amount of people around. He incapacitated them in various different ways, often knocking them out with a harmless gas filtered through the ventilation system, moving the bodies to a safe distance before bombing the building.
Bombs weren't really his thing, but they were easy to make and great for a supervillain rep.
Another good way to boost his rep was through causing excessive destruction when fending off other supervillains. After a fight with Doctor Doom that nearly totaled three city blocks in the process, Tony learned that even though he stopped Doom from mind-controlling half of New York, the press still chalked it up to a pissing match over who was the "biggest, baddest supervillain of all".
At least he'd won.
For maybe six months, everything was going according to plan. He was steadily making his way through the list of rotten SI operations, taking out some other bad business in the meantime, and had even stopped a couple supervillains, pretending to just not be keen on sharing his territory. The authorities and SHIELD were always on his tail, Hawkeye and Black Widow in particular, but he'd always been able to outmatch them without too many problems.
He and Pepper tried the relationship thing and it hadn't worked, but she remained his best friend. She'd quit StarkIndustries as soon as Stane took over, taking a job as a secretary at Midtown High- after taking care of Tony for ten years, she'd decided it was a natural step. Teenagers, as she explained it, had similar behavior, but after dealing with Tony there wasn't a brat in the world that could faze her.
It suited her, oddly enough.
Less than a month after she took the job, she managed to loop Tony into it. The Physics teacher had left unexpectedly, and she claimed he needed a job so he didn't just sit around all day moping. To be fair, to someone who didn't know Tony spent his days playing supervillain, it did look like he did nothing but sit around at home. While it complicated his double life a bit, at least the hours were set and he could work around it. The teenagers were a bunch of twats, but most days he could deal.
The other teachers were pretty decent too, and it was unexpectedly nice to have friends that weren't just interested in his money. Really—he hadfriends. He ate lunch with them and Pepper every afternoon, and Tony had never felt such a strange sense of complacency. Natalie Rushman was the hot Russian language teacher he'd hit on and immediately been shot down by, and Clark Barden was the boyfriend who had later attacked him with a pencil for it. Tony had responded by using a stapler as a gun, Clark had said he liked the way Tony thought, introduced himself as the gym teacher, and they'd been prank warring ever since.
For a few months after that, Tony's life almost settled into something akin to normalcy; verbally abuse his morning students, lunch with Pepper, Natalie and Clark, use his afternoon students as test subjects and or co-conspirators for pranks with Clark, grade papers at home, commit crime in the dark of the night, hit the sack, rinse and repeat.
Then they found themselves a Capsicle.
Tony hadn't believed it, at first. He'd been certain that SHIELD was messing with him; the news story was that they'd super-juiced one of their agents, and Tony had believed it. Because really, there was no possible way that the guy running around in skin-tight spangles was the war hero he'd worshipped since childhood. But…he did a little research, looked into the science behind it, and to his surprise, found that it was actually a possibility. So Tony decided to find out for himself.
By kidnapping Captain America.
Looking back, there were probably about ten different, less illegal ways he could have ascertained the man's true status without involving kidnapping, but frankly, it was a weekend, he was bored, and if he was going to be labeled a supervillain, he might as well enjoy some of the perks. Besides, it was always good to reinforce the idea that he was "evil", and how better to do that than kidnap the poster boy of America?
Tony did have a secret lair, a plane about the size of a small house, outfitted with mirror-imaging and signal blockers that rendered it invisible, both to the naked eye and even the most advanced aerial sensors, but it was too dangerous to ever bring a captive there. It was Captain America, for god's sake, it wasn't like he wasn't going to escape.
So he developed a paralytic that would work on even the real Captain America's advanced metabolic system, and whisked him off to a HammerIndustries warehouse he'd been meaning to deal with anyway. When the Captain awoke, Tony gloated and ranted and played his role as a supervillain, pretending the whole thing was just about blowing up a HammerIndustries warehouse without Cap's interference, while meanwhile attempting to figure out if the guy was the real deal or not.
"So, care to tell me what it was like being a Capsicle?"
"You won't get away with this, Iron Man!" Captain America continued to struggle in vain, just shooting him a dirty glare.
"Please, darling, let's stow the clichés for a minute." Tony waved him off.
"Don't call me that."
"Why? Does it make your 1940's sense of propriety go all red and bashful?" Tony teased.
"For God's sake," the Captain snapped, looking frustrated, "Why is everyone so convinced that no one was having sex back then? We made you, didn't we?"
Tony was a little thrown, but in a good way. A, that was basically a confession that he was real, so, hello totally inappropriately-timed surge of hero worship. B, Captain America had basically just complained that people thought he didn't have sex. God, this was so awesome.
"I'm a 70's baby, actually, but that's beside the point. The point is, darling," Tony stressed the nickname just to see the little bulge of Cap's very attractive jaw, "That you really are the genuine article, aren't you?"
"Yes, I'm the real Captain America, so would you stop calling me darling?"
"What, is it because of the handcuffs? I'm rather proud of those, actually—"
"It's because you're a supervillain!"
"Really? Because I'm getting the feeling it's personal, Spangles. And after I went to all the trouble of designing special handcuffs just for us to play with."
"I feel the need to stress that when you say 'just for us to play with', you really mean 'just for when you kidnapped me', and those are two very distinctly different scenarios."
"Did Captain America just make a dirty joke?" Tony cracked a grin, not that the Captain could see him behind his visor. "Oh, I like you. Can I keep you? I'm totally keeping you."
"Isn't this the part where you ask if I have any last words, not for my autograph and telephone number?" the Captain said dryly.
"If you autograph the Iron Man suit big enough for Fury to read from the sky, I swear to god I'll hand deliver you back to SHIELD myself, right now. I'll even put a nice little bow on your forehead and everything."
"As it just so happens, I have a policy against signing supervillains." The Captain's voice betrayed no traces of amusement, but Tony caught the slight quirk of his lips.
"Ah, villains get all the shit luck. Not giving out your phone number either then, I take it?"
"I'm pretty sure if I gave you my phone you'd somehow turn it into a bomb."
"Of course not, Cappy, you wound me. Besides, you're so much more fun in one piece."
"It's strange, but I'm not enjoying myself quite as much as you seem to be. Might have something to do with being handcuffed and held prisoner against my will, but maybe that's just me."
"Oh, you know how it is, it's just so hard to meet people these days. And frankly, my dear, spandex quite suits you."
"Sorry, 'darling'." It was sarcastic and accompanied by an eyeroll, but Tony still found it unquestionably awesome that Captain America had just called him darling. "But I'm afraid I don't feel quite the same about you in your tin man suit."
"A 'tin man suit', he says," Tony huffed, "This 'tin man suit' is a modern marvel, the likes of which will shape technology for centuries and the details of which would blow your little mind, but considering you're probably one of those little old men that calls a cell phone 'one of those new-fangled whozits', I'll deign to forgive you."
The Captain flushed, just a hint of pink visible only to Tony's observant eye.
"Oh my god, you totally did."
"Once!" the Captain protested, then, after a beat of silence, "And I called it a whatzit, not whozit."
Tony couldn't help his hysterical laughter, nearly doubling over in his efforts to hold it back. When he managed to catch his breath, he wagged a finger at the Captain.
"Oh yes, you and I are going to have loads of fun, Cap."
"Tell you what." The Captain flashed him a grin. "Renounce evil forever and I'll come visit you in jail."
"Sorry darling, but I've got plans." Tony chuckled. "And they kind of depend on me not being behind bars for the foreseeable future."
"More's the pity," the Captain just inclined his head in some sort of signal, "Guess you'll have to cancel."
It was at this point that Hawkeye and Black Widow, two of SHIELD's most annoyingly talented agents, had succeeded in breaking into the building, breaking the Captain out "just in time" as Tony had planned, and they had a quick skirmish that ended in the warehouse's explosion and Iron Man's escape. It was all very dramatic and supervillain-y and la di dah, and Tony had been quite proud of himself.
And if he started kidnapping Captain America more often, so what?
When Phil Coulson showed up on the front step of Steve Rogers' apartment, he just barely resisted the urge to wince.
Steve liked Phil, he did. Really. He could just be a touch…overbearing, at times. As Clint had phrased it, the man had a bit of a "fanboy crush" on him. Steve had already signed every last one of his trading cards and a handful of other paraphernalia. It was all a bit silly, really, especially when around everyone else the man was nothing if not a stone-faced professional.
"We have a new assignment for you."
"Am I being pulled off the Iron Man case?" Steve quickly interjected, "Is it because he kidnapped me again? You know if you took me off his case he'd just kidnap me from home and we'd be back to square one-"
Of all the new things he'd discovered after waking up in the future, Iron Man was by far the most intriguing. No, not intriguing, Steve mentally adjusted hastily, intriguing made it sound as if they were friends. Iron Man was just…strange. A pain in the rear, really. He should steadfastly hate the man behind the mask, want nothing more than to bring him in—and he did, really. He'd love nothing more, and at first he'd been all but obsessed with Iron Man's capture and imprisonment. But, well.
Somewhere along the line, things had gotten…complicated.
He still wanted Iron Man to face justice. Of course he did, but it was getting harder and harder to remind himself that the man behind the mask was well and true a villain, not something more akin to a sparring partner playing a role. Sure, Iron Man kidnapped him damn near constantly, but it didn't feel…evil. Iron Man never did him any real harm, never emotionally or physically tortured him, just bantered and joked and, and…flirted.
God, had that been weird at first. It still was, if he gave it too much thought, so he tried to just not think about it at all if he could help it. He hadn't told Nick, and he damn sure never intended to. Iron Man had been SHIELD's top priority since before Steve had even stepped foot out of the ice; Steve didn't think Nick would take well to the idea that Iron Man kidnapped him so often to flirt.
He probably also wouldn't like the fact that, for God only knows what reason, Steve couldn't help flirting back.
That was another thing Steve tried not to think about, at all, ever.
Iron Man was unquestionably beyond frustrating. What's worse, Steve found himself wondering lately if there was perhaps a way to perhaps redeem the man somehow. There had to be reasons he was the way he was, didn't there? If Steve could figure out and potentially debunk his reasons for being evil, well…maybe he could be convinced to join the forces of good.
Even Schmidt, the craziest man Steve had ever met, had had his reasons for being the way he was. They were inadequate and unquestionably crazy, but they were reasons. Iron Man had never once even hinted at his reasoning, and that was the question that nagged at Steve more than anything else.
If he knew why Iron Man was doing all this, it would be so much easier to just do his damn job. If Iron Man was just some lunatic with a manifesto, it would be so much easier to ignore his flirtations, to fight him in earnest, to get him off his mind. Steve had always been a man who'd wanted all the information before making a decision, and though Iron Man was clearly at ease with his label of supervillain, Steve still wanted to further examine how and why that had come to be and how it might, might, be changed.
"Yes, he does seem quite fascinated with you." Phil's lips went thin, interrupting Steve's thoughts. "No, we're not taking you off the Iron Man assignment. We're assigning you cover."
"Of course, Steve Robinson." Phil gave a quirked smirk, handing Steve the folder of paper in his hands. "You've been in this century six months, it's time you start adjusting to the more normal aspects of the 21st century."
"I'm supposed to be…an art teacher?" Steve flicked through the pages provided. Steve Robinson. Homeschooled by the Amish. Enlisted in the army. Finished his service, accepted a job offer to teach art in high school. "Won't the principal know he didn't offer me a job?"
"He'll think his vice principal offered it to you." Phil gestured to the folder. "And I just did."
"You're…what?" Steve looked up from the paperwork to frown curiously.
"You think we'd just throw Captain America in some high school without so much as an investigation?" Phil gave a soft snort, "Clint, Natasha and I have been doing recon since the beginning of the year, and we'll be staying on for the rest of the year to help you adjust and provide backup, if necessary."
"You allowed Clint in the same room as children?" Steve blurted. He could feel the tips of his ears go red with embarrassment; he hadn't meant to say that out loud.
Thankfully, Phil didn't take offense, just chuckled a bit.
"I felt the same about it, at first," he admitted, "But strangely enough, they adore him. He doesn't do detention, just makes them run laps, and he always does them with them. I'm not sure why that makes it better, but they appreciate the justice of it, it seems."
"Leave it to Clint to form a justice pact with a group of teenagers," Steve chuckled.
"It's certainly something," Phil nodded, "Something you can see for yourself bright and early Monday morning, Mr. Robinson."
Clint Barton loved his job.
He got to shoot bad guys and save lives. He worked with his childhood hero and his best friend. Plus, he'd gotten to the point in his career where he could tease his handler without being shot at. Well, shot at much.
Really, what more could he want?
At least, that's what he reminded himself when a spitball hit the back of his head. It was the first day of the spring semester, which meant these new shitheads didn't know better yet.
"Okay, spitwad, that's fifteen laps."
Silence. No surprises there.
"Oh, that's cute. You think I don't know who did it? Good effort, really, but three mistakes. One, you have little wads of paper hidden between your legs—yeah, I can see it—two, you're the only one shuffling through your backpack, likely trying to hide the straw. Three, your poker face is absolute shit. Renner, is it? Quit snickering and get to the laps."
He also, of course, could calculate the angle the spitball hit him from and triangulate who shot it, but that might have been a bit too much information for the little punks.
He was supposed to be undercover, after all.
"Fifteen laps?" Jeremy Renner gaped indignantly. Clint could already tell the kid had a mouth on him. "That's like…fuck, that's like two miles!"
"Three and three quarters, actually, but nice try."
"That's crazy, no one can do that in ten minutes!"
They did only have ten minutes until class ended, but Clint was sure whoever Renner's next teacher was would be more than happy to let the kid run out some of that troublemaking energy before coming to class.
"Sure you can, don't be such a downer." Clint just flicked the spitball he'd plucked out of his hair back at the kid with perfect aim.
"I bet you couldn't!"
Man, kids these days were such oblivious little fuckers.
"I think I can manage. I told you earlier: anything I make you do, you're welcome to make me do."
"Seriously. Now c'mon, hup hup, those laps aren't going to run themselves."
Clint let the rest of the kids get back to playing tennis while he quickly passed Renner. Personally, he was looking forward to lunch; Steve had joined the faculty today, which meant just one more semester until the end of this torturous undercover gig.
Well, okay, maybe he didn't mind it so much.
Admittedly, the little shitheads had sort of grown on him. Plus, he'd made friends. Yeah, that's right, friends plural, so suck it, Phil. Real ones, too, not undercover ones he pretended to like to keep cover while he mentally gagged himself with a spoon. And sure, there were a couple of those around campus too, but he actually liked Tony and Pepper.
It had admittedly been a little weird to learn he'd be working with Tony Stark, ex-billionaire playboy turned reclusive high school teacher. He'd expected the guy to be introverted and shifty like the media had played him up to be, but in the months Clint had known him, he seemed just as lively as Clint remembered him being before the whole terrorist thing. Tony was great, really, witty and fun to hang out with and fantastic for prank wars.
Pepper was awesome too, the best at smacking sense into Tony when he got all snarky and twitchy and threatened to run away to his Malibu mansion with playboy bunnies if one more of the shitheads sassed him. She was Tony's Phil, so basically she was awesome.
The bell rang, and Clint let the kids go get changed while he jogged backwards next to Renner effortlessly. That one sure wouldn't be spitballing him again anytime soon.
Thirty-plus pairs of eyes stared back at him.
"What? I just asked for a basic definition, you don't need to rattle off an equation or anything."
No one raised a hand.
"Quantum mechanics. Anyone."
"What the fuck are you idiots doing in this class?"
"All due respect…" One of the kids had their hand half-raised in that wincing, cautious sort of way. "Can you really just say, um, that?"
"What? Fuck? You're a seventeen year old male in a public school and you're telling me you've never heard a swear word?"
"I have, I just meant—"
"What, old people don't swear?"
"No, not, I mean, I didn't call you old, I just—"
"Relax, kid, you look like you're going to have a heart attack. Yeah, I can say fuck, and so can you; lesson number one, I don't give a shit about your language, I care about whether anyone in this class can tell me the four basic principles of physics."
Another long, silent moment. Was it just him, or were these kids were stupider than the last batch?
"This is the intro class, right?" One of them asked.
"I'm pretty sure." Tony shrugged easily, leaning against his desk and gulping down half his coffee. God, five minutes and he already wanted to kill himself. "Unless I'm in the wrong room, which is entirely possible. Or you are, which is just as possible, though less likely. Anyone care to explain how something can be equally possible but not equally likely? Anyone? Seriously, extra credit, right now, up for grabs. No one?"
This was going to be a long semester.
"Let's start with something a little easier for your cramped, vacation-focused brains to understand." Tony sighed. "My name is Tony Stark. Call me Tony, call me Stark, hell, call me Dr. Stark, I've got plenty of doctorates, just steer clear of Mr. Stark. Yes I'm the same Tony Stark that used to own StarkIndustries, no I won't upgrade your cellphone."
That got a small laugh; good. Maybe this group just needed some loosening up.
"This is Intro to Physics. We've got a lot of ground to cover and I don't do 'slow' very well, so if you start to fall behind, you tell me, I tutor you, I get a student to tutor you, we work it out. The class is fast, but if you want to learn this stuff you won't get left behind." Tony shrugged. "On the other hand, if you don't want to be here? Do us all a favor and get out. Seriously. Switch classes, it's not hard. I'm too old to be dealing with delinquent youths."
"Delinquents? What sort of students go here exactly?"
Tony turned, ready to snap at the intruder for surprising him, only to immediately swallow his tongue.
He was new. There was no other explanation; there was no way Tony had passed by this man before and not noticed. He was tall and a very classic sort of handsome, clean-cut and blonde with a chiseled jaw Tony could write sonnets about. If he knew what a sonnet was. Some kind of poetry, right? Whatever, there were reasons he wasn't an English teacher.
The man had a half-smile on his face, clearly amused by Tony's introduction ramble, and Tony wondered how long he'd been standing there.
"I didn't mean to interrupt." The man took another step into Tony's classroom, extending a hand. "Steve Ro-Robinson, the new art teacher."
A stutter should not be that adorable. Tony shook his hand; it was nice, solid and warm.
"Tony Stark. Physics."
"Good to meet you. I've just got one of your students here." Oh, look at that, there was a kid with him. Tony was too busy being blinded by the general aura of Steve-ness to have noticed. "He seemed to have a bit of trouble finding your classroom."
The school was ridiculously simple to navigate. There was a grassy quad in the middle, buildings surrounding it, a gym at one end, a library at the other, and portables lining the back. "Lost", his ass. Tony raised a doubtful eyebrow at the kid, a scrawny little thing with messy brown hair and a disgruntled sort of look.
"I wasn't lost—"
"You meant to go to the wrong classroom?" Tony snorted.
"No, I was skipping class." The kid snorted right back. "Duh."
"Don't be disrespectful." Steve gave the kid a stern look, then turned back to Tony with a bit of a sigh. "This is Robert Downey. I caught him climbing the fence next to my portable, and his schedule says he's supposed to be here."
"Great. Another delinquent youth." Tony rolled his eyes and jerked a thumb towards an empty seat. "All yours, kid."
Lovely attitude, that one.
"Thanks for the delivery, Robinson." Tony gave him a mock salute. "I'll take this one off your hands. Don't tell me you left your class—?"
It was a newbie mistake Tony had learned the hard way; teenagers were not to be trusted alone.
"Oh, uh, no." Steve chuckled. "I was warned. I have first period prep."
"Gotcha. Well, hey, you ever need anything, let me know. I'll just be here, bemoaning the failings of the public education system that kids these days don't even know what quantum physics is."
"That's the mathematical description of particle-like and wave-like behavior, isn't it? I'd say that's a bit beyond high school."
Tony was momentarily struck dumb.
"That's what I was saying," one of the kids muttered.
"Shush, the teachers are talking." Tony waved a hand at the kid without turning around. "What do you teach again?"
"Art. I just—" Steve flushed just a bit, tucking a stray blonde hair back into place somewhat nervously. "I've been doing a bit of reading lately. I'll let you get back to class, I only came to deliver Robert—"
"Right, right, go, uh, prep and whatever. I'll see you around, Robinson."
A smile like that could kill a man.
"Alright. See you around, Steve."