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Science Is Not The Opposite

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Steve tried his hardest not to shift around on his chair. Sure, he was nervous about this new job – or rather, his first real job as a teacher – but that didn’t mean everyone needed to know. Especially not assistant principal Hill who was more than a little intimidating. It was bad enough that Steve had barely gotten any sleep and called Tony on the way to school for a pep talk which in fact had been more reassuring than he’d expected. His friend was right, he had the job, his references were great and he was excited to be working with children and making a difference. It also helped that Ms Hill had told him she had been very impressed by his portfolio when he’d first met her at his job interview. The school was nice enough, had undergone renovation only a few years back and the range of art classes and projects being offered was bigger than at any school he’d worked at during his teacher training. It could barely get any better, right?

The office that hadn’t changed since last time he’d been here a few months ago was a good representation of the rest of the four storey building. It was modern, all soft, light colours and sharp edges, but a little empty for Steve’s taste; practical and somewhat impersonal. And the chair he tried not to shift on too much was uncomfortable enough for Steve to hope this meeting would be over soon, he was positive sitting here much longer would leave him with back pains for the rest of the day.

Therefor he was relieved when Ms Hill plucked a sheet of paper from the printer and handed it to Steve with a smile. “Now Mr Rogers, the art room is on the second floor, room 311, but your students won’t get there before lunchtime. Most of your art classes start tomorrow and on Wednesday, then you’ll be busy. Same goes for history, you’re going to have another room for those classes; it’s right down the hall from the art room. Your first class for today is at one so you have enough time to set everything up and take a look around if you wish. During lunch break I’ll introduce you to the other teachers and if you have any questions just stop by my office and ask away.”

After a brief look at the class schedule Steve thanked her with a shy smile, gathered his things and left the office, quietly closing the door behind him to let her get back to whatever business she had to attend to. The bell rang as he passed the main entrance and Steve took a quick step backwards as a small group of students dashed past him to make it to their first class of the year. Steve looked after them and smiled again. He couldn’t wait to start teaching.

With his portfolio tucked under one arm and a tote bag with some of his art supplies slung over his other shoulder he made his way up the stairs to the second floor. There he turned right and slowly walked down the hall, glad nobody could hear his wheezing breath and hoping that taking those two flights of stairs would get a little easier with time. As he was reading the room numbers and looking at the posters and paintings by students that adorned the space between each door he could hear soft voices from most classrooms and here and there a burst of laughter or muffled groans of protest at the announcement of certain teachers the students would have this year.

Engrossed in a poster about last year’s science fair, Steve barely noticed a door a few yards down the hallway opening. He took a step back and turned to head to the end of the hallway when –

“Umpf!”

Steve’s bag slipped off his shoulder at the impact and several brushes, markers, a pair of scissors and three tape rolls scattered over the floor as Steve stumbled back. In the last moment a warm hand closed around his wrist and prevented him from falling flat on his ass as Steve flailed helplessly with his other arm, losing his portfolio in the process, before finally regaining his balance.

“Shi- I mean, I’m so sorry!“ Steve apologised and hectically kneeled down to pick up the mess. Luckily his portfolio seemed to have survived the fall undamaged, as did his supplies. “I was just looking for the art room, didn’t pay much attention and really didn’t hear you.” Damn his left ear for being that bad. Maybe he should consider getting hearing aids after all.

“It’s fine, I wasn’t looking where I was going, either,” a male voice assured him. “Are you okay?” The man crouched down next to Steve and handed him his glasses that thankfully weren’t broken. He helped him gather the brushes that were strewn all over the floor and reached underneath the heaters on the wall to grab a marker that had gone astray.

“Yeah, I’m good. Thank you so much,” Steve added when the stranger handed him the utensils. Having made sure he hadn’t missed anything, Steve readjusted his glasses and finally looked up at the man – and immediately wished he hadn’t.

The stranger was gorgeous, long, dark hair falling into his grey-blue eyes, stubble that practically begged Steve’s fingertips to ghost over it and Steve instantly felt his face flush a dark red at the thought. He really wasn’t used to talking to people who were this attractive (or rather, attractive people talking to him), especially not at his work place, and he wished himself far, far away. His mind had literally just started fantasising about the guy mere moments after running into him. Not the best first impression to make, mind you. And he might very well be a new co-worker.

“You’re new, I take it?”

Steve nodded, sure his voice would fail him if he so much as attempted to speak and suddenly feeling like a deer caught in headlights.

“Well, you’re headed in the right direction,” the brunet smiled and it took Steve a moment to realise he was talking about the art room. “Just turn left at the end of the hallway, then it’s the second door on the right. You should hurry, class has already started. Didn’t Ms Hill come along to show you the way and introduce you to your new classmates?” Handsome Stranger looked somewhat puzzled at that thought.

His new…? Steve wasn’t quite following and shook his head in confusion. “No, um, she has another appointment and just told me where I have to go.” At least his voice didn’t betray how embarrassed he felt – unfortunately the same thing couldn’t be said for his still bright red face.

“Well then, better hurry up. Although I’m sure if you’d carry fewer supplies for only that one class around you might get there faster next time,” Handsome Stranger smiled. “I doubt you’ll need all of those today – or in any art class, really, not even the advanced one. I think your art teacher will hand out a list of what you’re going to need this year.”

Finally, it clicked. His classmates. His art teacher. Steve clenched his hands around his supplies and tried to keep his composure. It wasn’t the stranger’s fault he’d just mistaken him for a student. Steve was small and thin and looked several years younger than he actually was, even with the edges of his tattoos peeking out from under his collar and his rolled up sleeves. It happened fairly often but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing and degrading. Especially when he was being mistaken by someone only a few years older than him (and this gorgeous, oh god, how much his fingers itched to draw this jawline, those soft, full lips and beautiful eyes). He mustered up a polite smile. “Actually, I’m the art teacher. This is my first day and I haven’t quite figured everything out yet. So thanks for your help, I’m sure I’ll fine the room.”

To his satisfaction, it was the stranger’s turn to blush and stammer, “Oh, I, um… I’m sorry, it’s just… I’ve never seen you here before and I thought…”

“Don’t worry about it. And thanks again.” Steve gave a curt nod and stepped around the guy to head to his classroom, passing an open door with curious students looking at him from inside the room and a few giggles following him. Great, now he was even more anxious than he’d been five minutes ago. Would his students even take him seriously? What if they didn’t? What if they decided he wasn’t enough of an authority figure and made his life hell?

No, that was not going to happen. Not again. Steve had wanted to become a teacher because he liked imparting art and history in a manner that made others look at those subjects differently and to be there for the students that couldn’t defend themselves. He didn’t want what had happened to him during his time in school happen to another kid, with teachers standing by and doing nothing as innocent students had been bullied, and he’d been delighted to find out that this school even had a LGBTQ+ club.

So he was not going to even consider the possibility that the students might be just as cruel to him as the ones in his classes had been in high school, and he was not going to think about that stranger. Steve prayed he was some student’s father, or maybe the janitor or something, but considering that the guy had just come out of a classroom he probably was one of his new colleagues which might just make his lunch break even more awkward than it would undoubtedly be anyway. It was probably best to push any thought about him to the back of his mind.

So far Steve had only met Ms Hill and the scary headmaster, Mr Fury, but none of the other teachers. Ms Hill had assured him the others would welcome him with open arms and spoke highly of the faculty but on the other hand that was part of her job, wasn’t it? She couldn’t exactly go ahead and tell him his new co-workers might be horrible. He just hoped he would be able to get along with the other teachers. Sure, this was his job now and he didn’t have to become best friends with everyone but not making enemies in his first few weeks here would be nice. Sometimes Steve had a hard time keeping his opinions to himself and he really didn’t need to come into conflict with anyone. Tony had told him more than once he was a hundred and fifteen pounds of concentrated sass and righteousness and if Steve was being honest with himself he had to admit that Tony wasn’t exactly wrong.

When he finally found room number 311 he heaved a sigh of relief and unlocked it with the key Ms Hill had handed him at the beginning of their meeting. Stepping inside, Steve took in every detail of the large room with its white desks and huge windows. There was a set of cabinets behind the teacher’s desk, undoubtedly full of supplies, and the back wall was occupied by several shelves for storing projects his students were working on. Setting his supplies on the nearest table, Steve let the excitement bubbling in his stomach take over and chuckled softly. Great lighting, enough space for bigger projects and a small park he and his students could use in summer directly bordering the school grounds. It was perfect. And he could deal with colleagues and students thinking he was far younger than his actual age, it wasn’t like he hadn’t experienced that hundreds of times before. Steve decided he would make his time here count and not to let anything get him down, and with that in mind he started unpacking his things and going through the cabinets to see which supplies the school offered.

Afterwards he would walk around the building to get familiar with everything. He also wanted go look for the other classroom, the one he’d teach history in, and maybe swing by the small darkroom in the basement he intended to use for the photography group he’d suggested to offer – if anyone decided to sign up, that was. At this point, he had almost forgotten about his run-in with the handsome guy whom he would most certainly not draw when he got home and curled up on his sofa with a cup of tea and his sketchbook. Because that would be utterly ridiculous and also just a tiny bit creepy.

***

“Hey, what’s that kid doing in here?”

“What kid?” Bucky turned and looked into the direction Sam was staring. Standing right next to the door, looking a little lost and far too young to be here, was the boy – no, man, Bucky corrected himself mentally – that had bumped into him this morning. He groaned softly and shook his head, still embarrassed about that particular encounter. “Apparently that’s the new art teacher.”

Raising a brow, Sam turned his attention to Bucky, momentarily forgetting his half-eaten sandwich. “You’re joking, right?” he asked with a quick glance back at the new guy.

Bucky shook his head. Unfortunately not, he thought and prayed that the skinny blond would not see him, or at least not come over to sit anywhere near them. He was sure the guy wasn’t that bad, really, but Bucky honest to god was embarrassed.

“Are you sure? How do you even know?” Sam pressed. “Since when do you know more about new teachers and students than I do?”

Of course Sam wouldn’t let that go; Bucky suspected it had something to do with injured pride. In Sam’s opinion he was the first one to get notified of anything remotely interesting regarding new staff or students, claiming it was his duty to know about anything and everything going on in this school since he was not only the PE teacher but also the school counsellor. Bucky was sure it had more to do with Sam being nosy as hell. “Guy bumped into me this morning,” he muttered and picked at his salad. Why the hell had he thought a salad was enough for lunch? “I thought he was a student and told him to go meet his new classmates.”

Sam almost choked on his sandwich. “You didn’t.”

“Yeah, I did.” Bucky buried his face in his hands and rested his elbows on the desk in front of him. It might well have been one of the most awkward encounters of his life – usually he was known for his charm and nonchalance but back there, in the hallway right in front of his classroom, he’d mistaken a new colleague for one of the students and his own class had witnessed the whole thing through the open classroom door. Bucky couldn’t recall ever blushing in front of a class but the colour just hadn’t left his cheeks even when the new art teacher had stomped off, looking more than a little piqued.

Suddenly a hand was ruffling his hair and someone right behind him mocked, “Wow, I knew you were a mess, Barnes, but that’s a first even for you.”

“Shut up, Natasha, he looks like he’s seventeen,” Bucky grumbled and caught her hand before she could make even more of a mess of his hair. It was no surprise that a new staff member was everything the faculty gossiped about, at least for today. In a week or two, give or take, nobody would care that blondie over there was new.

Sam watched as the new teacher looked relieved when Ms Hill walked towards him to show him to an empty seat where he could leave his things and have lunch. “Yeah, man. Since when do we employ teenagers?”

Natasha sank into the chair next to Sam’s and leaned forward to get a good look at the new teacher. “He’s not a teenager, he’s twenty-six. And teaches history as well, not just art.”

“How do you know that?”

Giving him a Cheshire cat grin, Nat winked at Sam and whispered, “I know everything, Wilson.” Bucky didn’t doubt it for a second; she was a remarkable and sometimes scary woman who could dig up information (and dirt…) about anyone.

“Are you talking about the new guy?” Peggy chimed in from Bucky’s other side, making him jump since he had been so focused on glaring at his salad that he hadn’t noticed her at all. “He’s adorable, isn’t he? And I hear he’s absolutely talented.”

“I think he just heard you,” Sam noted with an amused grin and really, when Bucky peeked over to the new guy he was staring right at their little group, hands buried in his pockets and jaw set. “And I don’t think he likes being called adorable.”

Luckily, Maria chose that moment to get everyone’s attention and introduced the new guy. “Everyone, I want you to meet our new history and art teacher, Steve Rogers. He’ll also run a photography project after classes. I expect everyone to help him out if he has any questions.”

There were a few nods, some welcoming comments and smiles sent into Rogers direction. When Rogers’ glance swept over him Bucky automatically hunched down in his chair and immediately felt ridiculous because of it. Bucky watched as Rogers’ cheeks turned a soft shade of pink and he tried to muster up a shy smile for his new colleagues. Bucky certainly hoped the guy was more confident in a classroom, otherwise things might get hard for him. They would just have to wait and see how this turned out.

Chapter Text

Except for being called adorable Steve’s first break and meeting the other teachers had been better than expected. Ms Hill had showed him to a free space next to a teacher with dark hair and glasses who had introduced himself as Bruce Banner. He taught science and health classes and was a quiet but friendly man and Steve had gladly spent the lunch break talking to him and getting to know more about his new colleagues. Banner wasn’t one to gossip but he had been nice enough to tell Steve which of the other members of faculty taught which subjects – apparently Handsome Stranger was the science and computer science teacher, James Barnes. Great, of course Steve had to have at least one embarrassing encounter with another teacher on his very first day. When he had asked how the projects and clubs after classes worked and who ran which Banner had given him an overview and pointed out even more teachers. The lady who had called Steve adorable was the one running the LGBTQ+ club, making Steve almost forgive her. Almost.

At some point a good-looking guy (not that he was keeping track of how attractive the other teachers were, Steve just couldn’t help but notice such things and he kept telling himself that it only had to do with him being an artist and appreciating the human form) with short black hair and a tooth gap had joined them, introduced himself as school counsellor Sam Wilson, and told Steve to ask him if he had any questions regarding his students or let him know if there were any problems. Steve had thanked him quietly, mustered up a smile and tried not squirm under the scrutinising gaze.

To his chagrin he also noticed the group around Barnes staring over at them and obviously chatting about him again – or rather, the two women and another man that had just joined them with a cup of coffee; Barnes was glaring at his lunch. At least he seemed to be about as embarrassed about their first meeting as Steve was. Good. Nonetheless Steve didn’t exactly like being the centre of attention and he was feeling more and more uncomfortable and anxious. With a few polite words he quickly excused himself, gathered his things and headed to the door. Glad he made it without running into anybody yet again he hurried back to the art room, heart pounding way too fast in his chest. He really hoped these stairs wouldn’t kill him one day. Once back in the classroom he took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down.

Steve kind of wanted to cuddle into his bed, barefoot with some tea and his sketchbook to sketch his first day’s impressions. That would have to wait, though, since his very first class was about to start in less than ten minutes and he was also low key buzzing with excitement. In this state he’d barely manage to draw anything, he was sure.

After all it wasn’t his first time teaching, not really. There had been plenty of internships and tutoring students and none of that had been a disaster. Sure, some students were more exhausting and complicated than others, but he managed getting along with everyone as long as they were respectful. And his first class was a freshman one so it was rather unlikely to be mistaken for a student. Again. Things might get a bit harder when he’d get to teach the juniors and seniors but surely he’d be fine. Teaching was his calling, Steve knew that, and he would not let his run-in with another teacher or anything else affect his excitement.

For the last few minutes before class he laid out a few materials, went over his list again and did everything to distract himself from the tiny bit of doubt nagging in the back of his mind. Everything would be fine. Shortly before the bell rang he leaned against his desk and he watched as students arrived in dribs and drabs, most of them eyeing him curiously, some of them returning his smile or saying hi. It took a bit before everyone was seated and the chatter died down but then, with the ringing of the bell, Steve started the class and introduced himself.

The lesson was mostly uneventful if Steve was being honest but that didn’t tone down his joy to be there. After discussing the list of utensils they would need, talking about the things he had planned for the school year and subtly promoting his photography club, Steve handed out some newspapers, magazines and coloured cards, announcing they would make their own nameplates. He had even found some glitter glue and told the children to be as creative as they wanted.

When all of the students had finished cutting out letters, gluing them onto the paper, drawing and writing with glitter glue and coloured pencils and two dozen colourful and sparkling name plates adorned the desks Steve leaned against the desk again. With barely fifteen minutes left he asked his students which kind of art was their favourite. For a moment or two, everyone looked at him or around the class, then a few hands went up and Steve smiled encouragingly at a girl with a black and white nameplate reading Jane.

The rest of the school day went by faster than expected. Steve’s first history lesson with a sophomore class mostly revolved around the topics they would talk about during the year and the time periods they had learned about so far. Then Steve used the last twenty minutes to play a history version of two truths and a lie with the teenagers, giving them interesting, funny and weird history facts and letting them try and figure out which ones were true.

Afterwards he wanted to stop by the teacher’s lounge again to grab a few pens he’d forgotten in his haste to get away during lunch break. As he rounded the corner and spotted Barnes searching for his keys in front of the door of the lounge he stopped dead in his tracks. He thought feverishly for a few seconds, but there still were students lolling about and walking through the hall, some of them watching him with mild interest, so he eventually decided he had no other option but to walk up to his colleague still searching all of his pockets for his keys.

“Uh… should I?” Steve asked as he joined Barnes at the door, his own key in hand, noticing the slight flinch Barnes didn’t manage to suppress.

Barnes looked up – or, more precisely, lifted his head enough to meet Steve’s eyes since technically he was still looking down – and instantly took a step back to make space. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled and Steve tried to figure out if Barnes was blushing or if he was just imagining things. “Can’t find my key for sh- Well, y’know.”

Unlocking the door, Steve nodded awkwardly, then he held the door open for Barnes to step in first. His Ma had raised him right, thank you very much, and he would always hold doors for everybody, no matter how weird Barnes might look at him. Steve followed him inside but before he could slip away Barnes’ right hand landed on his shoulder, far more gently than he’d expected and a tiny part of him which he tried to ignore thought that was just because he looked so frail, especially in comparison to his new colleague.

“I’m sorry, by the way. Seriously. Um, about this morning. I really didn’t mean to offend you or anything, I was somewhere else with my mind and then that happened.” Looking honestly sheepish, Barnes gave a small shrug and a lopsided smile. “Hope you’ll forgive me.”

“It’s okay, you’re not the first one to make that mistake,” Steve said and bit his lip. He really just wanted to get his things and leave but Barnes looked like he wanted to say something else. Apparently, he changed his mind, though, and just nodded. Steve gestured at his place at the table, mumbled something about having to grab his stuff and said goodbye before things could get any more awkward. He’d almost reached the table when he heard a “Guess I’ll be seeing you around, Rogers.”

“Sure,” he managed and turned to nod at Barnes again but the science teacher had already disappeared out the door again. Steve couldn’t help but wonder if he’d even done whatever it was he’d come in to do.

***

No ten minutes after he had gotten home and shucked his jacket Steve’s phone had rung and Tony had asked all about his first day. Steve had been in the middle of heating up some leftover soup from the day before and had had to tuck the phone between his shoulder and chin as he’d stirred the pot. He had told Tony about the classroom and the building as he carried the pot to his breakfast bar and sat down. Then he’d talked about meeting Banner and Wilson, his students and the first lessons in between spoons full of soup but has purposely left out his encounters with Barnes. Tony had interrupted him now and again to ask questions and finally said the words Steve had expected to hear since the beginning of this call.

“See? Told you it would be fine.”

“I know,” Steve had replied as he’d rolled his eyes. “Listen, I gotta go.” It wasn’t that he had something against talking to Tony but he honestly was exhausted and not in the mood for teasing so he had quickly ended the call and switched his phone to mute.

Now he was finally curled up in his favourite armchair, wrapped up in a soft blanket with his feet tucked under himself in hopes of keeping them warm, and nursing a cup of tea. He had decided to go for more detailed drawings so he’d chosen the armchair over his bed for the sake of favouring his back if he spent more time than anticipated on drawing (which happened a lot more than one might think) and because the lighting was just better. He could have sat down at his desk in the master bedroom turned studio but for now he just wanted to be warm and comfortable so the armchair it was.

He had put on one of his favourite albums and after setting his tea aside he chose a soft pencil to sketch out his new classroom looking out on the trees of the small park. Soon the sketch wasn’t enough to hold his attention, though, and Steve found himself drawing the group of teachers on the other side of the teacher’s lounge – Sam Wilson, Margaret Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, and James Barnes, according to Banner. They had glanced his way a few more times but other than that mostly joked around and talked amongst themselves and Steve had instantly admired the way they acted around each other. Sure, he wasn’t there to make friends, but if they could do it, maybe so could he. For now he was just the new guy, though, so he’d have to be satisfied with capturing the energy and cheerfulness surrounding the small group.

And who could blame him if what started as a hurried sketch turned into elaborate portraits with light and shadows playing over distinct features; stubbled jaws, full lips, long, red curls, tooth-gapped smiles, sharp jawlines and piercing eyes? It wasn’t like anybody was going to see them anyway – well, except for Tony, maybe, if that bastard started snooping around in Steve’s sketchbook again. And it definitely wasn’t his fault that so many of his new colleagues were so aesthetically pleasing. Plus art was a great way to process experiences so there was nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all.

Yeah, right.

It was almost midnight, the vinyl long since stopped, the speakers only swooshing quietly and the last bit of tea gone cold, when Steve finally set the sketchbook on his coffee table and carefully stretched his back. A few more sketches of trees, the school building and logo and other teachers filled the pages but his eyes stayed on Barnes’ face a little longer. With a shake of his head he got up. Obsessing over the awkwardness between them wouldn’t do him any good and he didn’t need anything complicating the relationship to any of his colleagues. It was best to forget about everything; Barnes had apologised, after all. And Steve definitely should forget how nice those grey-blue eyes were and what a perfect model the science teacher made. All he needed to concentrate on was teaching young minds to think for themselves and be creative.

Chapter Text

Tuesday and Wednesday went by rather uneventfully with Steve teaching students, planning lessons and trying to make himself invisible in the teacher’s lounge – partly to avoid drawing Barnes’s anyone’s attention to himself, partly because he felt incredibly self-conscious. On Thursday morning, however, Steve had just set foot into the teacher’s lounge half an hour before his first lesson when a panicked voice caused him to look across the room to the small coffee station cramped into a corner between the windows and some shelves.  

“Please, for the love of god, tell me the coffee machine isn’t broken,” Barton whined and turned to Romanoff with wide, desperate eyes. “How am I going to survive an entire school day without coffee?! How is anybody gonna survive that?!”

Romanoff merely shrugged one shoulder. “Hill said she’d take care of it but it might take a day or two. There’s a Starbucks a couple blocks away, y’know. If you hurry you’ll get back just in time.”

“I need real coffee, not that sugary wannabe stuff that won’t keep me awake for more than an hour,” the maths teacher complained and Steve wondered where he’d gotten a black eye and the need for a band aid across the bridge of his nose.

“If you’d get more sleep…” Romanoff trailed off as she leaned against the closest desk.

With a curse and a growled, “I don’t need any stupid advice, I need coffee,” Barton flopped down on a chair and buried his face in his hands. His next words were muffled. “I can’t do this. I can’t live without coffee.”

Having watched the whole tragedy and noticing that nobody else seemed to care about their co-worker’s outburst, Steve hesitantly stepped closer. “There’s a small coffee shop that opened up a block from here recently,” he said timidly. “I was in there last week, they have, um, normal coffee.” Not that Steve had tried it, he definitely was more of a tea person and caffeine wasn’t exactly good for him with all of his health issues, but it had smelled delicious.

Barton’s head turned to Steve so fast Steve thought he might dislocate something. “Where exactly?”

“Uh, you gotta turn left when you leave the main entrance and then just down the str-”

He didn’t even get to finish since Barton had forcefully pushed his chair back and made the few steps towards Steve, grabbed his shoulders, looked straight into his eyes and interrupted him with a, “You’re a life saver. You’re my hero. I love you.” Then he hurried past Steve and out the door, almost colliding with an older teacher Steve had not seen before. The man grumbled something to himself and shook his head at his younger colleague.

As Steve gaped after Barton he noticed something purple behind Barton’s ears and he had to blink twice to realise they were indeed hearing aids. Huh. If Barton could wear them for work and nobody gave him shit about it maybe Steve could consider it, too. Maybe Tony was right and he was far too self-conscious about his being hard of hearing. Despite his weird coffee obsession Barton seemed like an interesting guy.

“He’s always that way when it comes to coffee, just ignore him.” The words, uttered right next to Steve’s good ear, made him flinch and turn to look at the redhead that had sneaked up to him. “Hi, I’m Natasha Romanoff. You can call me Natasha.”

Wow. She was even more gorgeous up close – and a little intimidating – but her smile seemed sincere. “S-Steve Rogers.” Hesitantly, he shook the proffered hand that was even smaller than his own one but warm and soft.

“Nice tattoos. Did you design them yourself? I mean, since you’re an artist and all that.”

Steve blushed and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, a nervous habit he had desperately tried and failed to break. “Uh, yeah, I did.”

“They’re beautiful. I’d love to see more, not just the bits that peek out under your collar. If you don’t mind, of course.” Natasha smirked.

“Hands off the new guy, Romanoff,” Carter chirped as she strode past Steve and Natasha and winked at them.

Feeling his face heat up even more, Steve wondered if Natasha had actually just flirted with him. But that was ridiculous, really. She was gorgeous and tough (at least from what he could tell so far, and he prided himself in reading people right; he had an artist’s eye, after all) and he was, well, just him. Just Steve.

To his surprise, Natasha shot right back with a grin and a, “Why, you interested in him? I’m sure Angie wouldn’t be so fond of sharing.”

A few teachers looked over to watch the exchange and Steve wanted the ground to open up for him – now he had become the center of attention against his will and there were few things he hated more than that. His face grew even hotter and he stared his shoes. Sure, getting a little attention couldn’t be avoided when being the new guy but being watched as two of his colleagues were talking about him as if he wasn’t standing right next to them was an absolutely nightmare. And he couldn’t even disappear without it being noticed.

Carter soon turned her attention to Steve – and wasn’t it funny how he was actually relieved about being talked to instead of talked about as the other teachers lost interest – and introduced herself, then went on to chattering about how much she loved his idea to offer a photography club. When she took a breath Steve dared to ask her about the LGBTQ+ club and she beamed and promptly invited him to this year’s first meeting.

It felt like no time had passed when suddenly Barton sank down onto a chair near them and sighed dramatically. “I won’t have to die. Rogers, you saved my day. My week, even! I owe you, seriously.” He raised his cup of coffee to Steve, then downed half of it in one go just when Steve noticed a second one in his other hand.

“Is he alright?” Carter asked with a stage whisper.

“Coffee machine broke,” Natasha explained and rolled her eyes at their colleague. “But he’s acting like the world just ended.”

“I need this to live.”

Shaking her head, Natasha muttered, “You’re a drama queen, Barton.” Steve suddenly had the urge to draw a study of her hair flying around her face. Stop being a creep, he quickly told himself.

“You love it,” Barton declared. “One day I’ll get you to go out with me.”

The following snort was accompanied by a “Keep on dreaming.”

Completely unfazed, Barton leaned over to Natasha and gave her a confident smile. “You know everyone ships it.”

“Who ships what?” Wilson who had just entered together with Barnes asked curiously and Steve couldn’t help but notice Wilson’s hand on the small of Barnes’s back.

“The kids ship Romanoff and me.”

Wilson snorted. “They really don’t.”

“Yeah, they say she’ll kick your ass if you keep on flirting with her,” Barnes added.

“That is so not true,” Barton protested just as Natasha said, “I just want to let you know that I could kick everyone’s ass, including yours, Barnes.”

Steve bit his lip to keep himself from grinning. He wasn’t part of that circle of teachers and Romanoff certainly looked like she could kick his ass if he didn’t keep to himself, no matter how nice she’d just been to him. And it was about time he headed to his classroom anyway, he realised when he glanced at the clock above the door. He gathered his notes and bag and made his way to the history classroom which lay on the ground floor. No stairs, thank goodness.

Perhaps one day he would become part of that group. The thought passed quickly and Steve chided himself for even getting his hopes up. They seemed nice, yeah, but Steve Rogers wasn’t one to make friends easily.

***

 “So what’re they like?” Tony asked and picked up his glass of wine to take a sip. He had asked Steve over for interrogation disguised as dinner. And as much as he dreaded the interrogation,  Steve wasn’t one to turn down a free dinner – not until he got his first pay check, at least (and even then probably not because hello, free food?!). As it turned out, Tony had decided to pull out all the stops and hadn’t cooked himself. Instead he’d invited Steve to a fancy restaurant and told him to order whatever he wanted. And Steve was taking advantage of that.

“What is who like?” he asked innocently between forks of salad and bites of freshly baked bread.

“Your new colleagues, Rogers, who else? Anyone interesting? Hot? Or are all of them just old and boring?”

“They’re fine. I talked to a few and they were helpful and nice. Some a little weird, maybe,” he added when he remembered Barton’s near-breakdown over the broken coffee machine.

“Wow, your description is so detailed and vivid, it’s almost like I was there with you.”

Steve rolled his eyes and washed down the last bit of his appetizer with a sip of wine. “I don’t know what you expect me to say.”

“I wanna know all the hot gossip.”

Tony smiled at the waitress and thanked her when she set the plates with their entrée in front of them. Steve pretended not to have heard Tony’s previous statement. Only when Tony kicked him under the table did he look up at him. If only the paparazzi waiting outside to get a glimpse of the famous Tony Stark knew what kind of person he was, Steve thought and rubbed his shin. “There is no gossip.”

“Oh come on Steve, I know teachers are blabbermouths. You can’t fool me. I know you notice everything, even if you might not hear everything ‘cause you’re still too proud to wear hearing aids.”

Glaring at his friend, Steve huffed, “I’m not too proud.”

“Yeah, right. So, how many crushes do you already have?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Tony snorted. “Of course.”

“I hate you.” This had been a big mistake, Steve thought as Tony continued teasing him. Eventually he would get so annoyed by all those questions that he’d cave in, and Tony knew that just as much as Steve did, so for now he just tried to concentrate on the delicious steak right in front of him and ignore Tony at least for a few more minutes.

Because he most certainly didn’t have even the teeniest tiniest bit of a crush on three of his new colleagues. Absolutely not.

Chapter Text

Naturally, Tony hadn’t stopped bothering Steve. He’d even gone so far as making him take a ride home in Tony’s far too expensive car so he could continue nagging him. Steve hadn’t cracked but Tony still was convinced that Steve had a thing for at least one or two of his colleagues – not that Steve could actually blame him, mind you, he just got crushes way too easily. And he liked people (in the appreciating pretty and nice people way, not in general, people mostly sucked in his opinion but that wasn’t the point as Tony had pointed out oh so helpfully), so what? It still wasn’t any of Tony’s damn business, no matter how much he’d complained about Steve refusing to tell him about his schedule so Tony could come pick him up after work and “check out all the hot teachers”.

Unfortunately, Tony simply didn’t give a fuck and when Steve stepped out of the building the next week, chatting with Peggy about both of their after school activities, his friend’s voice carried over to him from the other side of the street where Tony was leaning against his car and grinning at him, looking a little worse for wear in simple jeans and a greasy T-shirt. Steve managed to suppress a groan and merely rolled his eyes when Tony crossed the street, pretending not to notice the students gaping at him and his car respectively.

“Stevie! I thought I’d drop by and pick you up,” he announced as he made his way through the kids leaving the building. “And who is this lovely lady by your side? Hi, I’m Tony.”

Steve wanted to murder him. Slowly and painfully. But as always, Tony ignored Steve’s glares and held out his hand for Peggy to shake. With a sideways glance at Steve, Peggy gave Tony a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes and took the proffered hand. At least she wasn’t as easily charmed by Tony’s image as most of the students were.

“Peggy Carter.”

“Oh, British. How wonderful, don’t you think, Steve?”

“Yeah, and so does her wife,” Steve shot back and grabbed Tony’s arm. “Come on, Tony, let’s go. Bye, Peg, I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that he started dragging Tony to his car, but not without throwing another glance back at Peggy to mouth “I’m so sorry” at her.

“She’s gorgeous, can’t blame you for having the hots for her,” Tony remarked and turned his head to wink at Peggy, to Steve’s mortification.

“She’s married. And gay. She’s actually the one leading the LGBTQIA+ club. And a very interesting and nice person who I don’t wanna scare off. And I do not have the hots for her, Jesus, Tony, could you not say shit like that when there are still students within earshot?!” Steve hissed.

“Calm down, Stevie,” Tony grinned and slapped Steve’s back – not nearly as hard as he’d slap Rhodey or any other friend of his, not that he’d ever mention about it, but he was careful with Steve since he’d found out about his crooked spine and the pain that accompanied him most of the time.

Steve rounded the car and got into the passenger seat, his eyes still shooting daggers. “I will kill you,” he said as soon as Tony had taken seat behind the wheel and the door was closed.

Tsk’ing, Tony revved the engine and pulled onto the street. “So small and so full of rage.”

“I’ll. Kill. You. Torturously.”

“Yeah, right. You love me too much to do that.”

Grinding his teeth and reminding himself that it was not a good idea to punch Tony in the face while he was driving, Steve tried to calm down. “That’s where you’re wrong. I despise you. And how the hell did you know when my classes ended anyway?”

“I know people everywhere.”

“So you waited in front of my place of work until I showed up.”

When Tony didn’t bother answering and instead just scoffed and pretended to focus on the street Steve shook his head. “How long did you stand there? I don’t wanna get called into Hill’s office tomorrow ‘cause some guy was creeping around in front of a school and freaking out kids.”

“I wasn’t creeping around, I was –”

“…waiting to check out my colleagues even though I told you not to and being a creep,” Steve interrupted and Tony merely shrugged.

“So there were quite a few hot teachers that left before you finally decided to show up,” he eventually gave in before noting, “objectively speaking. You know guys aren’t exactly my thing.”

Steve snorted. Of course Tony had to no-homo his statement. “Keep telling yourself that. You know that I know that’s a lie and you playing straight isn’t gonna throw me off.”

Waving away Steve’s words, Tony changed lanes and took a right turn. “Eh, details, not important. What is important, though, is that there’s at least five teachers who might be your type. Unless you’re also into old grumpy men.”

“You’re annoying and gross and I regret ever telling you where I work,” Steve grumbled and was glad that his apartment building was just a few blocks ahead of them.

Of course getting a ride had cut his way home in half and spared him from having to take the crowded subway and thus getting shoved around but Tony could be a pain in the ass and since Steve had started this job his friend was especially annoying. Not even trying to talk about his newest projects and inventions worked, Tony was dead set on getting to know every little detail about Steve’s work life, going so far as to send him several texts a day which was highly unlike him, especially when he was working on something. Usually, not even Pepper managed to get him to pick up his phone much less leave his workshop and yet here he was, leaving in what had to be the middle of a work session judging by the smears of grease on his face that he hadn’t quite managed to get off and his unkempt hair.

That was when it finally hit Steve.

There was a reason for Tony to be this invested in Steve’s new job – besides Tony generally being a nosy person who barely gave a damn about boundaries, of course.

Steve’s head whipped around so he could glare at Tony who had just started manoeuvring the car into the only free parking space about a hundred yards from Steve’s home. “You wanna set me up! You think I’m lonely and need a partner and I need help ‘cause I’m incapable of finding someone myself!”

His friend’s poker face was good, Steve had to admit, but he still didn’t buy the simple “Nope.”

“I swear to god, if you try to pull any of that shit I actually will murder you.”

After he’d turned off the engine, Tony looked over at Steve calmly. “I’d never,” he claimed, but both of them knew that he absolutely would.

“Tony, stop sticking your fucking nose in stuff that isn’t none of your goddamn business! I don’t need your help to find someone I like and want a relationship with! So stop your damn meddling!”

“Who says ‘s gotta be your next significant other? Might as well be a one night stand,” Tony raised his voice a little over Steve’s tirade, not bothered by it in the slightest.

“I don’t need – or want – you to find me a fucking one night stand either! Why do you have to be involved in my sex life?! And why do you always think you have any goddamn fucking right to be involved in shit that doesn’t concern you at all?!”

“My, what if the children could hear you swearing like this, Stevie? You oughta be a role model. Besides, you haven’t dated in what now, six years? Seven? Eight?”

“So fucking what, I’ve been busy, you know that. And don’t fucking start with your ‘I’m far busier than you and I manage to get laid’ bullshit. Because I don’t care about your sex life.”

All pretense of innocence forgotten, Tony smirked. “At least I got one. And I’m just worried about you.”

Steve didn’t believe a single word and he was done, so done with his stupid friend and the stupid idea that Steve needed help. That he needed a date. He was very happy with how things were. Well, okay, maybe not very happy, but content, so he accused Tony, “You’re not. You love this… this intruding! I hate you. Go away. Leave me alone.” He undid his seatbelt and opened the door.

“Wow, you’re so mature, Steven. Your students can clearly learn a lot from you.”

“Fuck off.”

“I’ll buy you food and we can discuss this calmly,” Tony tried to bribe him, and then he had the audacity to add, “I really feel like there’s some unresolved tension here.”

“Fuck. Off.” With that, Steve slammed the car door shut and stormed off.

He was well aware of the fact that Tony would neither stop bothering him nor stay out of Steve’s (non-existent) love and sex life but Steve was determined to ignore him from now on. Still he couldn’t help think Tony’s words over once he had calmed down. It didn’t make him any less pissed at his friend but somehow Tony had managed to strike a chord with Steve.

***

Over the following weeks, Steve thought it best to avoid (literally) running into his colleagues during recess and after school when there would be time to talk. He kept to his place in the teacher’s lounge and mostly talked to Bruce – and Peggy, who would occasionally stop by Steve’s chair and chatter away about students they shared, about books, movies and artists they realised both of them enjoyed and about Peggy’s club. There had been a short-lived feeling of jealousy and sadness when he’d first found out she was married but he had quickly chided himself. Sure, Peggy was lovely and he really had started to like her and they had lots of common interest, but he wasn’t here to get into a relationship. Not that he’d ever have a chance with someone like her anyway. And she deserved someone better than him. That someone definitely was Angie. When he agreed to come to one of the LGBTQ+ club’s meetings about a month into the school year Angie was there. She was a whirlwind, a prospective actress and the way she and Peggy looked at each other made the younger kids in the club giggle and whisper to each other. It was obvious they were head over heels in love.

On the bright side this meant that Steve managed to get over this crush rather quickly over the course of the first weeks and eventually he started to consider her a friend. Peggy would try and get him to come over to her and her friends’ corner of the room and to involve him in their conversations but Steve always politely declined, stating he had things to take care of.

It wasn’t that he wanted to be the weirdo that talked to nobody but he couldn’t help but feel awkward amongst a whole bunch of people – especially as he was still the new guy and was positive that Barnes hadn’t forgotten about the embarrassing incident on his first day as well which made being anywhere near him even worse. Steve still doubted he would get over it anytime this year. Tony had told him he was way too oversensitive and proud and just because his colleague had deemed him a student didn’t mean he didn’t have a chance with him – which a) ew, no, you definitely can’t phrase it like that and b) of fucking course had Tony managed to get the whole story at some point and immediately picked up on why exactly it was bothering him so much.

But he was still mad at Tony and doing his best not to think about him or any of his innuendos and blatant questions. Nobody could say Steve wasn’t one to hold a grudge.

The weather had slowly started to get colder and the leaves were turning all shades of yellow, orange and red and Steve was looking forward to spending some quality time with his watercolours to capture the beauty of autumn. He was still keeping to himself, watching from the corner of his eye and listening to his colleagues. At least by now he could actually hear what they said – Clint wearing his hearing aids with such nonchalance had encouraged Steve to wear his own ones at school, too, even if Clint had no idea. Steve wasn’t even sure if anyone had actually noticed but that just helped him feeling far less self-conscious about it than he would have at his previous jobs.

One late afternoon when classes had finally ended for most of the teachers, Steve pretended not to notice how most of his younger colleagues gathered together, laughing and making plans as he tried to figure out where the hell he’d left his notes for the pop quiz he’d prepared for the next art class. He knew his seniors would protest but he was fairly confident everything would work out okay. Luckily there were several very talented or at least creative kids. Sure, they preferred drawing, painting and sculpting over the theoretical details of different epochs but Steve liked to believe he had a knack for getting people, even bored or stressed students, interested in art history as well. Which did not solve the problem at hand, mind you. Steve really didn’t feel like walking all the way back to his classroom in hopes to find this stupid slip of paper, especially since he was positive that he’d left it on his desk several days ago.

“You looking for this?”

When Steve looked up, his hands still buried underneath a pile of notes and files that were dangerously close to the edge of his desk, he found Thor, the soccer and football coach, smiling down at him. The piece of paper looked tiny in his hand and usually Steve would have at least been somewhat intimidated by a guy this massive hovering above him but Thor hat something calming about him. How he managed to keep the sports teams on track was a mystery to Steve, considering the usual yelling-and-threatening-is-the-only-way type of coaches were the only ones he’d had the displeasure of working with so far.

“Banner opened the window earlier, the wind must’ve blown this off your desk,” Thor continued when Steve just looked at him. They’d barely gotten the chance to exchange more than a word or two since Thor usually stayed near the gym and football field in his own tiny office, according to Peggy.

Finally snapping out of his surprise, Steve managed, “Oh, yes, thank you. So much. You’re saving my quiz.”

“In that case, I’m sure your students would have preferred I hadn’t found it,” Thor remarked with a grin.

“Yeah, probably. I won’t tell them you’re the one who rediscovered it and ruined their day, though,” Steve tried to joke and immediately felt stupid.

To his surprise, Thor actually laughed before he nodded a goodbye at Steve and headed towards the door where Natasha and Clint apparently had watched the whole kind-of-awkward encounter. Steve quickly busied himself with tidying up his desk again – he hated leaving a mess at work – and then stuffed the note into his messenger bag. He’d just grabbed his jacket when he heard someone calling his name.

“Hey, Rogers,” and Steve turned to Clint, expecting something along the lines of ‘see you tomorrow’ but instead his colleague nodded his head towards the hallway and asked, “you wanna come along, grab some early dinner with us?”

“Uh, what?” So intelligent, really. He was such a moron.

“Yeah, c’mon, it’ll be fun,” Sam encouraged him with a smile.

Steve wasn’t quite so sure about that, already feeling awkward and slightly anxious because of the sudden attention, but for once he couldn’t think of an excuse. Feeling like a deer in headlights, his mind raced, but there was nothing. Finally he realised it was pointless and he might as well endure an evening away from his armchair so he forced himself to smile and hoisted his bag onto his shoulder. Getting along well with his colleagues would be nice, considering the fact Steve planned to stay at this school for quite a while. And it was always good to try and make new friends, right?

Right?

He prayed he wouldn’t regret this and inconspicuously made sure his inhaler really was in his bag. Steve Rogers liked to think he was prepared for everything.