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P.E.

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Tony sighed as he watched everyone playing baseball. He had finished his homework for the previous classes as well as the work for the next class that he had. He sat and tapped his pencil against his leg as he trailed the ball with his eyes.

The person pitching was Steve Rogers. The kid was friends with Tony all through Middle School and the first year of High School. But then Steve had grown out of his asthma with his growth spurt. Tony was happy for him for a while until he realized that his friend was being sought out from other groups. The jocks in particular.

And of course they wouldn’t think Steve was cool if he hanged out with the people from his past. Especially the kid with a major case of asthma and a heart problem.

And so Tony sat alone at P.E. and lunch. He kept to himself most of the time but had a facade of the annoying know-it-all during classes. He insulted everyone that he got paired with on projects so no one would get close and effectively turned himself into a loner. Being the only son of the sole sponsor of the school helped keep people away as well.

It was okay. It meant that no one would get close enough to hurt him. His father did say that friends hold people back from their greatness either from wanting charity or having him pay for everything.

One time Clint Barton had to sit out of the class for a sprained ankle. Something about falling out of a tree at his home. He managed Tony to crack a smile at the commentary he did for the class in the midst of a game. Clint saw it and that only spurred him on.

“And the rookie is stealing 2nd base and Asshat doesn’t even see it!”

The thing that got Tony to just about die laughing was Clint referring to Justin Hammer as Asshat as if it was his real name. Along with other insulting names that he thought up of on the fly, Tony really hated that kid. Clint milked the laughter for all that he could and it earned him a spot on the short list of people that Tony acknowledged in the hallways.

Tony had a feeling that Clint knew about the holier than thou charade but he kept it up anyways. Tony believed that eventually Clint would give up trying to friend him or whatever he was doing.

Tony slowly started to ignore the other and eventually they were back to what they were. Clint backed off as if he never tried to talk to Tony in the first place and Tony stopped making eye contact. It hurt a little but Tony knew it was for the best.

Friends make one weak and they always seek to exploit.

One day Tony noticed that there was a substitute for P.E. so he went up to talk to them about his note to not be overstrained.

The sub just sneered at it, “No one is getting out of this. It is mandatory for everyone to run the mile.” He looked back to his list of students and continued, “Besides, there isn’t any note next to your name about a ‘severe condition’ so you must be fine.” The teacher walked away from the shocked child.

Tony knew he couldn’t just let it slide. This man was treating him as if he were a dumb kid. He followed and continued to talk, “I can't run it, I have asthma and a heart condition.”

The teacher didn’t even look up from his list, “Then I’m going to have to mark you as absent and send a note home about your refusal to participate.” He said in an airy tone.

Tony was a bit impulsive when faced with different situations and when he was angry it just helped that aspect of his personality, “Fine.” He said under his breath. Tony turned from the teacher and went to change into his physical education clothes.

He joined everyone at the start area which earned him a few looks from Steve and Clint. No one else recognized him in the clothing. Steve managed to make his way over and next to his former friend, “Hey Tony, what are you doing here? You still have that condition don’t you?”

Tony glared angrily ahead and took a few seconds before responding, “The sub wont let me sit out.” He said quietly as he seethed. There was a tightening in his chest from what he figured was anger and ignored it. 

Steve’s reply was lost as the teacher blew the whistle to start running. He was a bit taken aback when Tony just took off sprinting.

Clint glanced to his friend Natasha and noticed that her eyes were narrowed in thought as they ran. He swerved to the side so they were running next to each other, “Penny for your thoughts?”

Nat just shook her head and quickened her pace as they reached the halfway point, “Hopefully it’s nothing.” Her eyes were on the fourth person from the front.

Tony was still so angry and he fed that energy into pounding the track with his feet. He was breathing deeply now and he felt a small itch at the back of his throat. He coughed once into his arm and dismissed it again. He could do this. He would prove it to the substitute.

Steve’s attention was grabbed by the cough. He slowed down and matched pace with Tony. Steve looked at him in concern. Just because he grew out of his asthma didn’t mean that he forgot the warning signs, “Maybe you should slow down?” An angry shake of a head and a small burst of speed caught him off-guard. Steve saw the smaller frame tense with another cough and sped up to pace right behind Tony just in case anything happened.

Tony however wasn’t paying attention to the finish line anymore. He was focused on trying to breath. He could feel his chest starting to rebel against the harsh and sudden exercise. Tony could feel his gasping breaths turning into wheezing and finally he stopped running. He coughed again and held one of his hands against his chest from the pain that his heart was causing.

Steve skidded to a halt right next to Tony and placed a hand on his back, “Hey, hey Tony are you okay?” He was still breathing heavily from the exertion on his own body. Tony had more or less booked it right from the start and they were near the end of the last turn.

Tony didn’t register the hand or voice, all he could concentrate on was the fact that he couldn't breathe. His chest ached as his heart hammered against his ribs. He felt hot and cold at the same time and dimly realized that his hands were shaking. Tony could hear himself wheezing as his lungs just wouldn’t cooperate.

Clint stopped on Tony’s other side with a grim look. Steve saw Nat dash past them and then focused back to Tony, “Tony, it’s going to be okay, just breathe okay?” He gently pushed the other into a sitting position and squatted in front of him.

Tony had already been feeling weak so he sat down without much pushing. His eyes were closed tightly and he could feel his lungs trying to get more air but it just wasn’t working. He felt his wheezing starting to fade but with it a new sense of panic erupted. Tony’s eyes flew open and he stared at Steve in terror.

Steve’s own eyes widened when Tony stopped making noise, “Shit.”

Clint had become confused and slightly shocked at Steve’s use of language, “Isn’t that a good thing?” He asked referring to the lack of wheezing.

“S-St-” Tony tried to talk but it quickly turned into weak coughing. Tears had started to leak out of his eyes. He grabbed onto the other’s shirt and held on tight as if it would help anchor him.

Steve heard Clint and quickly explained, “It means he’s not getting enough air to wheeze. We need to call an ambulance.” He glanced at Tony’s hands and then back to his face. His lips and fingernails were turning blue. Steve startled slightly when there was a sudden and gentle push to his shoulder.

Natasha was back. She placed the red inhaler that she had found to Tony’s mouth and pressed the button on the top. When hiss of the medicine stopped she quickly started to shake it again.

Tony reached for the inhaler and managed to hold in the medication for a longer period of time. He took two full doses before coughing again.

Clint gently took the inhaler from his hands and held onto it knowing that Tony shouldn’t overdose on the medication. He looked to Natasha when she started to talk.

“I already called for the emergency. Fire response should be here soon.” No sooner than her finishing they heard sirens.

Tony didn’t hear a lot of the conversation, he just closed his eyes and tried to breathe. It was still hard and his chest was hurting too much but at least he could feel some oxygen flowing correctly. He didn’t realize that he was still holding onto Steve’s shirt until gentle hands started to pry them away. He let go and relaxed into the darkness.

_____

The next day Tony’s asthma attack was all the students could talk about. Steve sat with Clint and Natasha since he was tired of the other jocks referring to it as a weakness and teasing Tony. He also might have punched one of the guys when they took it too far. Steve and Tony might not have talked to each other in a while but that didn’t mean that they weren’t friends. At least in Steve’s eyes they were still friends, “Is Tony here today?” He didn’t think that they would have an answer but tried anyways.

Natasha shook her head, “I wouldn’t expect him back for a little while. That attack was a major one.”

Steve noticed Clint nod and sipped his drink, “Thanks Nat, for getting the inhaler and calling, that was terrifying.” Steve looked back down to his own food, he sighed and picked at the plate, “I don’t know why he ran with the rest of us. He could’ve just walked the mile and explained to coach Coulson the next day.” He looked back to the two other kids.

Natasha sat back in her seat, “Stark is impulsive and when he wants to prove something he does it.” The small smile that appeared on her face was almost missed by the two boys, “Although because of it the substitute was fired on the spot and given a black mark so no one will ever hire him again.”

Clint made an impressed face and nodded at his sandwich, “I would hope so, that guy was a total dick.”

Steve nodded as well and looked around at the faces of the other students, he knew Tony wasn’t there but he couldn’t help looking for him anyway, “I hope he’s going to be alright.”

Natasha spoke up again, “I heard that Howard Stark is going to be pressing charges.”

Clint shook his head, “I really want to know where you get your information Nat. Sometimes you’re just downright creepy.” He smiled at her answering proud smile and went back to eating, “Besides, I would be worried if that guy didn’t sue, it would seem like he didn’t care about what happens to Tony.”

The conversation ended there, it was a slightly uneasy silence and Steve felt an inkling of pity at something Tony had said in the past but kept it to himself. He had vowed not to intrude on Tony’s life as long as it wasn’t in danger. At the time he thought about going to the counselor’s office but decided not to since Tony had made him promise.

Natasha crossed her arms on the table and stared at Steve, “Will you be joining us at this table from now on?” Her eyes had a small twinkle of mischief as if she knew he punched one of the other jocks. She probably did.

Steve shrugged, “If you two will let me. I’m done with those meat-heads.” he said gesturing behind him, “They’re bullies and I don’t like bullies.”

Clint made a sound around his bite of food, “Says the guy who punched one of them.” he was smiling which let the other know that he was joking.

Steve rolled his eyes and shook his head, It was slightly worrisome that news traveled that quickly but Steve figured it was just a part of High School. Maybe these new friends will be better for him.

_____

Tony returned after a few days and ignored all of the looks that were being sent his way. He just had to find where all of the people who had helped him were at, thank them, and then everything will go back to normal. He didn’t let his surprise show when he didn’t find Steve in his normal spot but chose to look for Clint and Natasha instead.

He did end up blinking when he saw all three of them sitting together. Quickly covering up his shock he briskly walked over to the table and sat down.

The table went quiet and Tony could feel them all looking at him, “Thanks for everything.” He glanced up and nodded, “If you guys need anything I can pay for just let me kn-”

“That’s not why we did it.” Steve interrupted impatiently. He wanted to get that out of the genius’s head immediately. Steve knew from the past that Tony would dwell on those facts if not proven wrong.

Clint spoke up as well, “Yeah Stark, don’t worry about it.” He was still eating and gave the brunet a small shrug, as if he helped save people everyday.

Tony closed his mouth and nodded still unsure about it. He made to get up but stopped when there was a hand on his arm. Tony glanced at the hand and then to it’s owner, Natasha. He slowly sat down again and gave her his attention.

“Why not sit with us?” She let her face remain completely impassive aside from the small quirk of her eye brows. She knew that Tony always sat alone somewhere and figured that this was a good time as any for an olive branch toward the other teen.

Tony heard his father’s voice echoing through his mind about friends and weaknesses. He also remembered that these three saved him on that field and gave a deep sigh, “Well alright, it’s not like I have anything better to do.”

They could all see the relief and happiness in Tony’s expression and just chuckled along with him.

Clint scoffed to quickly cover up his laugh, “Yeah right, we’re the most sought after table. Everyone wants to be us,” He pointed at Tony, “Even you.” He took another bite of his sandwich in fake pride and chewed it obnoxiously.

Tony rolled his eyes and relaxed more, “Don’t tell me, on Wednesdays you wear pink.”

Steve’s eyebrows scrunched together, “Why would we wear pink on a specific day?” He was happy that Tony was willing to sit with them and maybe they could rekindle their friendship. He would definitely try to work on it.

The table (meaning Tony and Clint) erupted with laughter. Natasha just smiled and slid her face into her hands while shaking her head, “First things first, we need a movie night.”