"So.... you want to force Peter to quit his school and start to homeschool him here, correct?"
That earned Natasha startled looks from all the previously gleefull planners.
"No! We just want to embarrass him a bit, that's all. " Tony interjected.
"And how exactly will you see to it, that this embarrassment won't make Peter accidentally reveals his secret identity? After all, this here is his home, he feels safe here, he is used to letting his guard down here."
Natasha looks at the scattered plans on the table and points at one in particular "For example, how will you see to it that he won't jump onto the ceiling when Clint startles him from behind? Especially since this is what usually happens whenever Clint actually manages this feat."
She points to another "How will you make sure, that he won't blush up a storm and mumble something that might reveal him when you show him and his class the plaque with the embarrassing facts you added to the Spiderman exhibit, especially with the tidbit about him being afraid of spiders?
For that matter, how will you make sure, that Ned doesn't accidentally out him at that point by saying something like 'Dude, I never knew, you were afraid of spiders'?"
Comprehension starts to dawn on most faces.
"Since most of those 'embarrass the shit out of Peter' plans have his identity reveal as a medium to high potential consequence, the only possible conclusion will be for Peter to quit his high school and be homeschooled from then on. Keeping him in midtown would be way too risky for the other kids."
"Damn it... We just want to embarrass him some, we don't want to ruin his secret identity..." Clint sounded dismayed.
"One more thing. How will you all react to Flash's harassment of Peter, especially when it happens right in front of you? And please don't tell me, that you think he wouldn't do that here. After all, it's Flash who had been spreading the rumours that Peter's internship is fake, who verbally abuses Peter on a near-daily basis and who is currently tormenting him about 'his secret being revealed'.
Sure, the little bastard means to reveal that Peter isn't an intern, but Peter is most likely already in the 'they will find out I am spiderman, my world is going to end' headspace."
"Wait, who? And what is that about abusing and harassing Peter? What is going on here?!" Cap apparently didn't know about Flash.
Natasha gives him an unimpressed look.
"Eugene Thompson also called Flash.
The boy is just smart enough to have made it into the school, while the money of his parents sees to it, that he can stay whenever his grades don't measure up, which - truth be told - happens rarely.
According to my analysis, the boy expects for people who are better than others, to lord it over said others.
Peter is better than pretty much everyone else in most of his classes, better than Flash in all classes they share. So Peter should play all high and mighty. And yet Peter is self-effacing and would be the last person to lord it over anyone.
Hence Flash feels that our kid is a threat to him and his social standing.
Consequently, Flash does anything he can to put Peter down. To put him in his place.
Yet Peter still keeps excelling.
The internship at SI must have been a major gut punch for Flash, so of course, the little bastard would latch onto that and milk it for all he can.
The fact that SI's public relations department says that high schoolers can't apply for internships just puts fuel into that particular fire."
Tony grimaces "Peter doesn't want any help with that shithead.
Says 'better he picks on me, then anyone who can't take it', even though I doubt that Peter truly CAN take it...
Fuck. You are right Nat, simply thinking about this bit of human waste makes me want to punch the snot out of him."
"How about we change targets then? Embarras the shit out of Flash?" Thor wants to know.
"No" Bruce sounds adamant.
"Come on people, you all know about social hierarchy.
Flash expects to be proven correct, to be lauded and for Peter to be ridiculed and disgraced.
When it goes the other way around, Flash will need a target to vent his frustrations on.
That target will naturally be Peter, especially since he never fights back.
And even if we see to it that Flash is afraid of targeting Peter, that will just see to it that the little bastard will switch to another kid that he perceives as weak.
You all know Peter's creed 'With great power, comes great responsibility'.
So when he finds out, that Flash shifted targets he will feel like he has failed said responsibility. Anything we do, that leaves Flash free to choose a new target will backfire."
"Fuck... doomed if we do and doomed if we don't..." Tony started pacing the room in thought, clearly unhappy.
"Not necessarily," Pepper interjects thoughtfully.
All eyes swivel to her. "How about this..."
Peter was incredibly anxious when he and his class enter the lobby of Avengers Tower.
Sure, when he left this morning, Pepper had reassured him that everything will turn out all right, that it would only be like the times he himself had given this tour.
But Peter was sure that the Avengers had planed something embarrassing.
And that was bound to spiral into either
- everyone goes so overboard trying to top each other, that they reveal his identity or
- the Avengers will be outraged by Flash and try to kill him, so Peter has to save the other kid and hence reveal his identity or
- Parker luck will strike again and force him to reveal his identity or
- ... or something else that will also result in him having to reveal his identity.
Frankly, however you look at the problem, he could kiss his old life goodbye and...
Ned's elbow got him out of his spiralling thoughts.
The tour guide, Martin from the firewall team, had just arrived and was handing out badges and started the usual spiel about everyone needing to make sure the badge can be seen at all times and so on.
Suddenly his phone started to ring. He looked at it, alarm clear on his face.
"Damn! Sorry guys, this will take just a few minutes!"
he spots Peter and shoves the case with the badges into his arms.
"Peter, can you continue this for a few minutes?
They are cleared for a level three tour, I will either catch you at the elevators or in the museum." Martin turns back to the by now very bewildered teens and their teacher
"Really sorry about that.
As I said, this will just take a few minutes, Peter is one of our interns, he can give the tour until then.
I will be back as quickly as possible!"
With that, he hurries off to one of the employee elevators and vanishes.
Peter and his class were all staring after Martin, clearly stunned.
All but MJ that is.
After a few seconds of silence, she poked Peter.
Continue this farce so we can get the tour through this capitalist hell pit over with."
Apparently, she was still sour about the fact that Mr Harris hadn't allowed her to bow out of the tour like he had at the monument in DC.
"Oh, right... Uhm..."
Peter takes a deep breath to steady his nerves.
He HAD given this tour countless times after all but then he had had some time to prepare himself...
He just needed to ignore the fact that he was giving the tour to his classmates... 'Just ignore'... right...
MJ started to glare at him.
Damn! MJ looked really scary when she was glaring at someone!
"Ok, as Martin mentioned, you all get a visitors badge that you have to wear at all times.
The Badge must also be visible the whole time you are in the tower.
If you violate those guidelines, you will be escorted off the premises."
Peter's voice had immediately fallen into the standard 'tour guide sing-song' tone as he continued to hand out the personalised guest badges to the appropriate student.
He was so engrossed in the routine, that he managed to totally ignore the murderous glower, Flash threw at him. (Lucky for all involved, Flash was smart enough to not start anything while Mr Harris was close by)
"You will have to hand those badges back at the end of the tour, but if you wish they can be exchanged with fakes that you can keep as souvenirs.
Yes, the fakes will also have your name as well as the date of the tour printed on them."
Once everyone has a badge, he escorts his class and the still rather bewildered Mr Harris to the security checkpoint for visitors.
"This is our first security check for the day. Please step through the gate while swiping your badge. I will demonstrate."
He fishes his own badge out of his backpack and walks through
"Peter Parker - high-level intern - Access Level 10" comes from the nearby speakers, surprising most of his class.
"Don't worry, that was FRIDAY, the buildings AI.
She manages all equipment around here, from audio pickup to cameras.
Speaking of cameras, please make sure not to take any pictures unless you are explicitly been given permission to.
Violation of that will also end in your removal from the tour as well as the removal of any and all pictures and videos from your phone and/or camera."
He waves to his classmates to get them to follow him through the checkpoint.
To no one's surprise, Flash elbowed his way to the front and is the first to follow Peter through "Eugene Thompson - Guest - Access Level 1"
Flash sidles over to Peter and hisses "How the FUCK did you do this, Penis!"
Peter tries his best to ignore him and asks loud enough so everyone can hear
"While we wait for everyone to get through, do you have any questions?"
Some of his classmates raise their hands while they all slowly shuffle through the gate.
"So, you really work here then?"
"Yeah, I mostly work in the engineering and biochemistry labs, any more questions?"
He hears Flash behind him ask in a very low tone "Who did you have to bribe, to..." but he continued to ignore him and selects Jason for the next question.
"How did you get the internship? I thought, only college students and older could apply?"
"On the one hand you are correct, only college students and up can apply.
However, if you catch the eye of some of the senior employees THEY might offer you an internship.
So yeah, I never applied and if I had applied I would have been rejected out of hand.
I got the internship by invitation"
Mr Harris has now managed to also get through the security and stands next to Peter, causing Flash to mumble "A likely story" so low, that no one else but Peter can hear it.
"Does the AI announce everyone's name and clearance every time? Doesn't that get really tedious and loud?"
"Nope! Thank the gods!
No, only at this checkpoint here, everyone is announced.
Then again, this is the only checkpoint that allows guests to enter the tower.
Regular employees can use it of course, but unless they are part of a tour group or leading a tour, this is discouraged, since you are right, this would get way too tedious and loud really quickly."
"You had been listed as level 10, while we all have 1, how high do the level go and what do they all mean?" Seymour wanted to know.
Uh... a tricky one.
10 was the highest and Peter had that...
Normally, when he gave a tour, he made sure that his level was announced as 4 or 5, depending on where he leads the group, but thanks to his near panic about the trip he had completely forgotten to adjust the level...
His rescue came in the form of Martin
"Sorry young man, but neither I nor Peter can answer how high the levels go, for security reasons, you understand.
I can tell you only this:
The higher the level, the more access do you have."
To Peter, he continues
I had deployed a change to production shortly before the tour and of course, that change had corrupted one of the access files..." he shrugs his shoulders.
Peter frowns at him in disapproval
"Come on man, you know that you have to be present for at least two hours after any deploy to prod."
Martin just grins back
"Sure do, and I had been present after all, hadn't I?
Besides, Mr Pushing-Code-to-prod-that-crashes-the-manufacturing-plant-and-then-leave-for-school, YOU have no basis to talk here."
"That was ONE TIME, man!" Peter whines back, completely forgetting that his classmates are still all around him.
"Peter crashed a manufacturing plant!?" Flash exclaims gleefully.
"Oh, don't worry" Martin replies, either not picking up on the tone or ignoring it.
"Mr Stark caught the problem early on and fixed it right away.
No harm, no foul and all that, just something I will never let the boy wonder over there live down." he pokes his tongue out at the - by now heavily blushing - teenager.
"Yeah, he is damn good with engineering and chemistry AND biology, it really isn't fair at all.
He is even good enough, that some of the senior scientists call him in when they are stumped and need a fresh perspective.
But let's continue with the tour."
This matter of fact statement did throw some of Peter's classmates for a loop.
Apparently, Peter had been telling the truth after all and was actually considered to be really competent, who knew?
Martin waves the group towards a very large elevator that is big enough to hold them all while he continues the usual tour guide spiel, talking about the founding and subsequent history of SI as well as the numerous changes the tower went through over the last few years.
Peter tunes him out in favour of worrying about what will await them in the museum.
After all, this would be the perfect ambush spot for some of the Avengers to make a great entrance and start to bring his world down around him.
Shortly after, they arrive at the museum floor that houses SI memorabilia on one side and cases for each Avenger on the other.
"Ok, everyone. You can look around to your heart's content for the next hour.
I will wait here, so if you have any questions just come to me and ask.
With that, most of the class disperses towards the Avenger side.
Peter had wanted to stick close to Martin, hoping that that would keep him safe from any Avenger related embarrassment as well as Flash, but Ned was having none of that as he all but dragged his friend to the Spiderman exhibit.
There were a few pictures of his alter ego in heroic poses as well as a mannequin wearing the first suite that Mr Stark had made for him.
In the back hung his very very first suite (or onesie, as Mr Stark kept insisting to call it...).
Neither he nor his mentor had ever repaired or washed that very, very first suit, so if you looked really closely you could still see his blood as well as some of the beach sand on it.
"What is that?" Ned asked, pointing at what something rectangular right at the front and a bit to the side of the exhibit, that was currently covered by a sheet.
"No clue. That hadn't been here the last time I gave a tour."
"Web shooters in a separate case maybe?"
"Can't be, those are on the mannequin and an even older version is next to the very, very first suit, see?" Peter points towards said shooters.
"Who cares about that, Penis?" Flash said from behind the two, venom clear in his voice
"So tell me, how did you do it? You don't have any money, so you can't have bribed anyone.
Or did you bend over for that Martin guy to stage everything?
That was it, wasn't it? You let him fuck yo..."
Ned and Peter both grimaced at the implication but it was MJ, who suddenly materialised beside them and cut Flash off.
"First off, dickhead, Peter doesn't need to pay his way into a place like you, because he simply is that much better than you.
Second, if you had listened to Martin on the way up, you would have known that he substituted for his ill colleague today, so unless you accuse Peter of infecting this other guy with the cold, which would be ludicrous even for you, he would have bribed the wrong guy in the first place.
Which brings me to three, just accept that Peter was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth the whole time and that even your parent's money won't be able to buy you a place in here."
Flash all but growled at MJ for that verbal roasting but before he could do anything Mr Harris came to the group "Is there a problem here?"
"No, Mr Harris" the group chorused as one.
"I see." he was clearly not convinced
"Well, why don't you all also take a look at the SI side of the floor then?
I know that the Avengers are very exciting, but we are here to learn about the business as well."
He showed the four teens to the other side where Flash promptly left towards the weapons exhibition at the back while Peter, Ned and MJ remained at the 'History of Stark Tower' part at the front.
Peter stood next to MJ and whispered to her while looking at the exhibit without actually reading anything on it "Thanks for the safe, MJ. You are the best."
MJ also kept looking at the exhibit instead of him and replied "Anytime, looser. You should stand up to him a bit more, you know?"
"Nah, I can take it. If I stand up to him, he will just pick on someone even weaker and that would be on me."
Peter could practically feel MJ's eye roll. "Him picking on anyone is wrong. You..."
They were interrupted by Ned "WOW! Guys! Did you know, that Miss Potts was the main architect for the tower? So cool!"
That did get MJs attention, much to Peter's relieve.
He and MJ had that kind of conversation at least once a week and it always ended in a verbal stalemate (or rather. It ended, when the bell called them to the next class...)
Together they continued to wander around the museum floor, only making sure to avoid Flash until Martin calls everyone back to the elevator.
Once inside the tour guide tells them, that they are now headed to one of the business floors, which does get excited murmurs from about a third of the teens and bored groans from the rest.
"Hey, this place IS an office building among other things, so for those of you who aren't interested, try not to rain on the parade of those that are, ok?
We will visit the labs after lunch and I am sure that those that aren't interested in said labs will keep their disdain to themselves then as well, right?"
This earned him some indistinct murmurs that could be construed as agreement.
Much to Peter's amazement, his classmates really did keep any and all further disdain to themselves while they toured one of the office floors and talked to two of the interns there who told them about the cool work they did at SI.
Peter tuned most of it out and kept his eyes on his surroundings.
The simple fact that NONE of the Avengers had shown up so far started to put him on edge again and he pretty much jumped at every shadow.
After about an hour of touring the floor (which felt more like a week to Peter. A very tense and horror filed week full of accidents and mishaps), Martin brought them to one of the training floors.
"To answer the inevitable question.
Sorry, but it is highly unlikely that we will see any of the Avengers there.
They normally train on their private training floor and only come down here on very rare occasions."
A disappointed murmur goes through the students, that is immediately replaced with excited squeals when the elevator doors open on a three-way sparring match between the Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Winter Soldier.
Peter goes absolutely rigid.
NOW his world as he knows it will end.
There is no other way!
They will call him up and make him fight and he will forget that this isn't a normal training fight and will use his spider given agility and...
Mr Harris drags Peter out of the elevator and towards the back of the other students, apparently interpreting Peter's white face and wide-open eyes as him being afraid of the three assassins since he murmurs reassurances to the boy.
Meanwhile, the three had stopped their sparring match and Natasha had started to explain to the fascinated kids, that they and all the other Avengers have a very rigid training regimen, since they all got called out without much notice and thus have to be in peak physical condition at all times.
"Ok, anyone here who wants to go a few rounds with me?" she finishes her explanation and Flash's hand shoots up along with about half of the other students.
Peter tries his best to hide behind Ned.
Natasha calls Flash forward, who struts towards her as if he had already won their match.
In a condescending voice he tells her "Don't worry, since you are a woman, I will go easy on you."
Natasha and Bucky each only raise an eyebrow, while Clint clearly tries to hold back his laughter.
The 'fight' between Natasha and Flash only lasts about three seconds and ends with the boy face-down on the mat and the black widow on his back, holding him completely (and painfully) immobile.
Bucky addresses the class.
"Lesson one for today: NEVER underestimate an opponent.
There is always someone stronger, quicker or more agile than you.
Learn your enemies movements and react accordingly."
As Natasha let's Flash up, Bucky waves Peter forwards "Peter, come here, I need someone for a demonstration."
This is EXACTLY what he had tried to avoid!
Once they start fighting he will forget to...
"Don't worry buddy, I won't wipe the floor with you again." Bucky grins.
Peter can hear his classmates whisper among themselves
"Wait? Did he just say 'again'?"
"Why do the Avengers know Peter?"
Suddenly there is a strong arm around his shoulders.
Clint is dragging him trough his class towards Bucky and whispers
"Don't worry. No fighting just holds and breaks from holds."
"What are you even doing here?" Peter whispers back.
"Tony flooded our own training floor and after the shit that Flash idiot said to you in the museum it was all I could do to drag Natasha here and promise her to drive the kid into the mat if she just refrained from outright killing him."
"Fuck, you heard that!?"
"We all did, now just play along here and you will be fine"
Peter, still mostly terrified, manages to nod jerkily when he ends up in front of Bucky who currently holds a small steel rod in his hands.
"On to lesson 2: You can use physics to break out of holds."
He bends the steel bar into a neat pretzel much to the delight of most of the onlookers.
"As you can see, I am quite strong, so if I grab you and you just try to pull your hand out of my grip, that won't work."
He hands the steel pretzel to Clint, grabs Peter's wrist and indicates for him to pull.
Sure, normally Peter is stronger then Bucky but the man's matter of fact voice and the very light way the other is holding him all see to it, that Peter's fighting instincts remain dormant and he manages to mime trying to pull his arm out of Bucky's hold.
"See? No give.
However, if you rotate your arm towards my thumb..." he nods at Peter who rotates as indicated and hence breaks Bucky's hold. "... even Peter here can break free of my grip. Any questions?"
Nearly every one of his classmates raises their hand and Bucky selects Sally.
"How do you know Peter?"
Peter's head is suddenly filled with ringing alarm bells but before he can even open his mouth to try and deflect the question Natasha answers.
"Oh, he is a high-level intern around here and sometimes is tasked with doing preliminary work on our gear for Tony.
That puts him at higher risk for kidnapping and the like, so we train him in self-defence and breaking out of holds like the one Bucky and Peter just demonstrated."
Peter is astonished.
That is actually a rather good cover.
And it fits with the info his classmates have about him working with Tony Stark from time to time!
Why had he never thought of that!?
Thanks to his advanced hearing, the boy can hear his classmates whisper among themselves again
"Why didn't he ever tell us that he trains with the Avengers!?"
"Come on, with all the shit Flash is always giving him about his totally legit internship, what do you think would have happened if he told us that he actually trains with the Avengers?"
"Well fuck! We missed out on so much Avenger tea!"
"Yeah, all because Flash is an ass who has it out for Parker."
"Hey, did you notice, that Peter rarely even talks about the internship itself? It's always Flash who goes on and on and on about it."
"Yeah! I did notice that!"
"Pah! You are all tools, if you think, Penis truly knows those guys. I bet those aren't even the real Avengers!"
"Oh shut up, Flash!"
Natasha interrupts their mutterings "Ok, everyone who wants to practise breaking free of this hold, come forward.
Bucky, Clint, Peter and I will show you how it's done."
All students crowded forward and a few minutes later try holding each other and breaking free again with Natasha, Clint, Bucky and Peter walking among the rows and giving tips.
After that, Bucky uses Ned to demonstrate a new hold and counter and the lessons continue.
About 40 minutes later, Martin calls a halt to the proceedings and to the dismay of most of the students, ushers everyone back into the elevator to go down to the cafeteria.
"Ok people, now that you all have worked up an appetite, let's make sure to feed you properly. In the cafeteria, you will find a wide variety of food that you can sample.
We here at SI try to avoid food waste, so if you eat everything on your plate, the food is free."
A wild cheer interrupts him, but Martin quickly gets the teens to quiet down again.
"IF you leave only a small amount of food on the plate, you still won't get charged, since we also try to get people to try out new things. There has to be some balance between those two opposing goals after all.
But if you leave a significant amount of food on your plate, you will be charged that leftover food once you leave.
And before you ask: FRIDAY keeps track of your food, so even trying to foist food onto someone else won't free you of being charged for it, unless they eat it, of course.
You can go as often as you like though, so simply take many small samples and have fun.
I can personally recommend the masala, any further questions?"
Silence and greedy stares answer him, so with a laugh he waves the kids towards the food.
Peter, Ned and MJ coordinate their selections so that they can each taste many different things (and also handily mask, that Peter eats about double of what the other two take.
Sometimes his increased metabolism was a true pain in the ass).
The three proceed to talk amongst themselves.
Ok, Ned mostly gushes about the fact, that THE WINTER SOLDIER used HIM for the second demonstration!!!!, while the other two mostly smile (Peter) and nod (MJ - who also started to read a book).
Or occasionally point out to the exited teen, that he already KNOWS Bucky and had just played Mario Kart against him last weekend.
That bit of logic did not diminish Ned's happy fanboying at all.
It takes only a few minutes though until Abe sidles over to their table
Peter looks at him questioningly.
"Look, man. I just wanted to apologize.
I mean, an internship at SI just sounded too fantastic to be true, but you were right and I should have known better than to believe Flash anyway... So yeah, sorry for that, man."
Peter blushes and hastily swallows the bite of Curry he had just taken.
"It's ok Abe.
Some days I can't believe that I work here either."
Both boys laugh a bit awkwardly at that and Abe moves back over to his friends.
Betty comes to their table next.
"Peter! Can you tell me more about the Avengers and what you are doing for them?
I really want to make a big news piece about you and..."
Peter nearly chokes on the piece of carrot he had been eating.
MJ comes to his rescue.
"Betty, didn't you listen to what the black widow said?
Peter works on Avengers gear, any news piece about him would just make him even more of a target for bad guys."
That did shut the girl up, but she clearly didn't want to lose such a great story, so MJ changed her tactic.
"Why don't you do multiple pieces about the different Avengers?
That would give you more screentime, our peers are more interested in the Avengers as compared to a fellow student anyway and you could ask Peter to fact check your stuff before you air it."
THAT made Betty's eye light up, the girl hugged MJ fiercely (much to the later girl's dismay, especially since she nearly made MJ drop her book)
"You are a lifesaver MJ! I will do that! Bye!" and with that Betty scuttled off.
"Now she will pester me with every little thing she can think of about the Avengers." Peter whisper shouted at his friend, clearly not very happy about the outcome.
"Better than making something about you, looser.
Then again, I am sure I could change her mind back to that if you prefer." MJ hissed back.
Peter raised his hands as if to ward her off.
"No, no, no, no!
Being asked about the Avengers is fine!".
MJ nods smugly and turns back to reading her book.
It only takes another minute for Flash to arrive at their table, clearly enraged.
"Come clean, Penis!
How the fuck did you do it?
How did you make everyone pretend to know you?!
Why would the freaking Avengers give a fuck about a dirt poor loser like you?!
Are you sucking them all off or..."
Someone grabs Flash by the shoulder and hauls him back from the table.
It's Abe and his friends.
As the other students see what is going on, they too start to come to their table, effectively shielding the trio as well as Flash and Abe from the view of Mr Harris and Martin.
"Look, man. Enough is enough" Abe starts
"This obsession with Parker has gone way too far."
"Yeah" another classmate pipes up
"It turns out that you were the one lying to everyone else and now that you are confronted with the truth, you are too chickenshit to handle it."
Murmured agreement from the rest of the students.
"You can't believe this idiot!" Flash all but shrieks back.
"He has a ton of evidence on his side, man.
He has a level 10 pass for the building..."
"Fake!" Flash interrupts but Abe just continues.
"... He is known by our tour guide and knows enough himself to continue the tour without a guide..."
"Everyone could have simply repeated what that underling said!" Flash interrupts again but Abe just carries on, while some of the others start to shake their head upon witnessing the boy's obsession first hand, especially since he just ignored the fact that Martin knew Peter.
"... Three Avengers know him..."
"He must have paid them somehow!
Or maybe those were actors and not the real Avengers!
You heard the flunky!
The real Avengers rarely come to that floor!"
Even more students shake their head now.
Betty continues, clearly angry "We never should have listened to you, Flash.
And I will make sure the rest of the school knows that, too!"
That made Flash turn pale while most of the other students nodded grim ascent to that plan.
"No" Peter had stood up and stepped between an astonished Betty and a still very pale Flash.
"No, that would just be another form of bullying, Betty.
With your news program, you have a lot of reach and a lot of power.
Please, don't misuse it, especially not on my account."
Betty, as well as the rest of his classmates, looked at Peter in pure astonishment until MJ asks drily.
"Why are you lot surprised?
Peter doesn't like bullies. Of course he wouldn't want you all to turn into one."
"Yeah, remember when Peter actually stood up to Flash?" Ned asked the gathered crowd.
"But... he never..." Abe started and Ned interrupted him with a shake of the head.
"It was in our second week of school.
Flash had targeted me at that point and Peter was all in his face over that.
So Flash changed his target.
Ever since Peter just took the punishment and abuse, so no one else had to."
"Well, fuck." That was Abe again.
"So, what DO you want us to do about Flash then?" Betty wanted to know from Peter.
"Uhm... ignore him when he is talking out of his ass?
Fact-check his rumours before you spread them, however juicy they might sound?
Actually, fact-check all rumours before you spread them, just as a general rule?"
Peter shrugs, clearly uncomfortable by the sudden intense scrutiny.
"Just, you know. Don't be dicks yourself?"
"Hey, what is going on here?" Mr Harris suddenly asked from behind the wall of students.
Marty, who was closest to him said "Uhm... Nothing Mr Harris... We were just... Uhm..."
Jane, next to Marty continued "We were asking Peter about the Avengers, Mr Harris, isn't that right?"
She looks around at the other students who all nod, even Flash.
"Well, I hope you have all finished your lunch then.
We will continue the tour in 10 and remember, if you haven't finished your food by then, you will be charged for it."
That made the kids disperse quickly to their respective tables to gobble down their food as quickly as possible, even Flash slunk away and out of sight of the trio.
Peter sat down, still clearly bewildered and asks his two friends "Did this really just happen?"
MJ, who had continued to read her book replies first
"Yup, Flash got his ass kicked by everyone and you played the sacrificial hero... again."
"And you might have managed to get more of our classmates to think before they spread stories" Ned adds.
Precisely 10 minutes later, Martin gathered the kids again and headed with them to the lower biochemistry labs.
Just in case, Peter stuck close to Mr Harris and Martin, not wanting for anyone to target him again or to continue the talk he had just had with his classmates.
He needn't have worried though.
The shiny machines, bubbling test tubes and multiple scientists bustling about the labs they were allowed to see into (through the special, extra-thick security windows), were enough to distract even MJ and so the group 'uuuuhhhhd' and 'aaaaaahd' their way around the floor.
Just as they were about to leave for the engineering lab though, a young, harried-looking man jogged around a corner and spotted the group.
"PETER! Thank god you are still here!
The fucking coffee machine is on the fritz again, please can you take a look?
Barney and Sintawa are on this really tight deadline and they really, really need the caffeine and the rest of the folks are all really snappy and..."
It is at this point, that the young, clearly sleep-deprived man realizes the other kids around the (heavily blushing) Peter, who all look at the boy as if he has grown a second head.
Peter himself looks at the - by now puppy-dog-eye-pleading - young man, then at his teacher who just shrugs then at Martin who nods and shrugs.
Oh well, Peter knew this particular coffee machine, it was most likely just this damn wire again.
So the boy also shrugged and said: "Ok Jev, I will take a short look, but if it is that damn wire again, you guys go to Dr Heinrichs and get him to approve a new machine, ok?"
"Thanks, man! You are a lifesaver!"
Jev leads Peter to a small kitchenette with his class trailing behind.
The kitchenette would have been at home in a frathouse:
Half-eaten pizza and nasty smelling noodle cartoons on nearly every flat surface with a generous sprinkling of energy drink cans mixed in at random.
The room practically screamed 'Watch out, I am sticky!' and 'You really want to consume food here? Are you MAD?' in equal measure.
Peter got a small toolkit out of a cabinet in the hall and started to look over the medium-sized and rather old coffee machine (then again, this thing could have been bought only last week and the general feel of the room would have aged it by a hundred years, at least).
You could still press the button for coffee, but nothing happened.
No gurgling of water, no grinding of coffee beans, nothing.
So Peter unplugged the power cord and started to open the machine.
The squeaking of the four screws sounded unnaturally loud but at least they got off relatively smoothly.
Just when Peter took off the backplate of the machine though, a small shadow ran at him from out of the machine, hopped onto his shoulder, then on the table behind him and vanished into the general litter of the room.
Some of his classmates screamed on the sudden appearance and all of them backed away from the table as one.
"MARY!" Jev exclaimed
"We thought you were dead!" he tried to find the little animal but to no avail.
Meanwhile, Peter had looked inside the machine some more.
"Sorry Jev, but it seems like Mary killed your coffee machine." he points to a couple of cables that look as if a small rodent has gnawed them through.
"Damn... can you fix it, Peter?"
"Let me take her down to engineering and I will see what I can do. But Jev, you know it's the 29th of the month, right?"
"Huh?" Jev looked at Peter, not understanding the apparent non-sequitur.
"As in, tomorrow is the last day of the month."
Peter looked around, meaningfully.
Jev looks around the messy room as if he is seeing it for the very first time.
He rushes out of the small kitchenette and starts to run through most of the labs that the kids had just finished looking at through the windows.
"Guys! Guys! Tomorrow is the last of the month! Miss Potts comes down for inspection tomorrow!"
That got everyone into instant motion.
Before, the labs looked like a hive of activity, but that was more akin to tranquillity compared to the amount of movement that the simple shouts had started.
EVERYONE was running around like headless chickens now, neatening up workspaces, starting to clean beakers, putting away chemicals.
Peter grins, while he puts the backplate back on the coffee machine, grabs the whole thing with both arms (it wasn't really heavy, just unwieldy) and turns to his classmates.
They all clearly want to know, what the hell just happened, but no one wants to be the one to ask.
"Uhm..." Peter is looking at them all a bit sheepish as if he would scratch his neck in embarrassment if he wasn't holding a coffee machine in both arms at that point.
"Duuuuude? What the frick?" Ned more or less saved them all from asking.
"Well... Mary, that's the biochem teams pet lab rat.
The thing is, Mary is a real escape artist and she is more outside of her cage than in it. Apparently, she managed to get into the coffee machine though and bit through one too many cables and hence killed the machine."
"That explains the Machine, but what about... them?" MJ asked, pointing about the still rather headless scientists.
"Oh that... well... about three or four months ago, there was a lady on a tour group who apparently had trouble looking at blood and some of the liquids the others were working with looked kinda like blood?
Anyway, she nearly fainted then and there and... well... all the lab floors have more or less the same layout you see, so the guide knows that there is a small kitchenette right here so he brings her and the rest of the group to... Uhm, right here.
And you might not believe it right now, but this room is actually tidy and clean compared to how it looked back then."
Some of his classmates turn a bit green at that point.
"Anyway, the woman really faints, the rest of the tour group throw a big fit and in the end, Miss Potts is called in.
Then SHE throws the mother of all fits and now she comes down here on the last day of every month to examine the cleanliness of the place.
If it is up to snuff, everything is fine.
If she finds some things off, they might still be more or less ok... but if she finds too many things wrong, like the state of this kitchen right now?
Well... let's just say, that these guys REALLY like their caffeine and she has the power to take that away.
No energy drinks, no coffee, no black tea, nothing.
In the whole building.
For two full weeks.
It was a real nightmare.
I was lucky since I had just been assigned to Mr Stark's lab two days before and hence the caffeine ban did not splash on me, but boy that was close."
Peter shudders at the thought of being cut off from his beloved coffee.
"Frankly, it would be better for us, if we leave right now.
Or otherwise, they will try to entice us to help them clean up and some of the stuff they work with here... let's just say, unless you WANT to have blue hands for two weeks straight, you better not poke around too many beakers while you are here."
That got the whole group moving back to the elevators at top speed.
The short ride down towards the low-level engineering labs was a bit tense for Peter.
On the one hand, it really wasn't the first time that he took this particular coffee machine down, so this should have been a relaxing ride, but on the other hand, having his whole class staring at him as if he was a particularly good act in a circus was... unnerving to say the least.
Once they arrived, Peter scampered out and towards one of the nearest lab doors.
"Look, guys. I will just go and fix this real quick, ok? I actually know this floor rather well, so... Uhm... see you later and enjoy, ok? Yeah? Great!"
With that, he went through the security door and carried the machine to an empty work table at the back, while also greeting some of the people who were currently working in the lab.
"Yo, Parker! Don't tell me that this is the biochems coffee machine, AGAIN!"
"Man, they really need to look better after their stuff!"
"Actually, this time it wasn't really their fault. Mary got loose again and chewed her way through some of the cables."
"Man... better you than me.
These guys up there are waaaaaaaaaay too creepy for my taste!"
That started a round of good-natured banter between the different engineers about which group truly is the most creepy.
Peter mostly tunes out the discussion as he puts the machine down, and starts to replace the damaged cables with new ones from the lab's supply.
While he worked, he caught glimpses of his classmates being escorted around by Martin, most likely being told everything he was allowed to, about the next generation stark-phone and clean energy things and maybe even the new neural connectors that they were prototyping for prosthetics.
When he was done he took the machine and left the lab to wait by the elevator.
Just as his class was rounding the far corner an angry woman in a lab coat stormed towards him.
"MR PARKER! Today is a school day!" The woman was Dr Tyron.
A truly brilliant scientist who Peter loved working with but who tended to jump to conclusions a bit too quickly.
Instead of giving Peter a second to explain, she went right on.
"I really expected better from YOU of all people!
You are a SENIOR intern here at SI!
You should be an EXAMPLE!"
"But Dr..." Peter tried to interject.
"But me no buts, young man!
Maybe YOU don't think that school is important but believe me, it surely is!
The world is more than just the one or two subjects you like!
You need a solid grounding in different things, even those you might think are boring right now, to truly grasp the intricacies of society!
Where would we be now, if..."
Luckily for Peter, it was at this point that someone interrupted Dr Tyron's dressing down.
Unluckily for Peter though, the one who interrupted him was none other than THE Tony Stark.
"Dr Tyron! Why are you keeping my Protegé from his field trip?"
Yup, Mr Stark sure knew how to derail a 'Tyron tirade' (TM), since she could only look at him and stammer "Uh.. fie...Field trip?"
Peter could hear his classmates mutter
"Is this really Tony Stark?"
"Wow, I thought he was taller!"
"Wait, did you really just call Peter his Protegé!?"
"Yes, field trip.
As in school kids invading my labs and poking around."
Mr Stark pointed at the other school children behind the Dr whom she apparently hadn't seen up to that point.
"Oh... Uhm..." Now Dr Tyron looked a bit sheepish.
"Sorry about that, Peter. But you were carrying around that damnable coffee machine again and so I assumed..."
"Not a problem Dr Tyron!" Peter hastily interrupted her.
This whole thing was embarrassing enough as it was.
"We were at the biochemists before we came here and Mary bit through some of the cables so..."
"So you offered to repair the damn thing... again...
You do know, that I have people for that, right kid?"
Mr Stark interrupted him.
"Sure, Mr Stark, but they are busy people and it really wasn't any problem at all and I kinda know this machine already and..."
"Yeah, yeah. You are just too good a soul, don't I know it. So, since I am already here, let's get this shit over with."
Mr Stark turns fully to the rest of the class.
"Yes, I am the one and only Tony Stark, no you are not allowed to touch me. I will answer up to three questions, shoot."
Flash was the first to ask:
"Did you really ask Pen... Peter Parker to work for you and if so, why him, why not someone better?"
"First of all, you just cost your group two questions." that got an angry grumble from the group.
"Hey, you are his peers, so cling together, swing together and all that.
If you can't keep him check who can?
Now to your questions: Yes I invited Peter to become my intern and so far I haven't found anyone better.
But let me guess, you really want to know, why I didn't choose, say.... you, right?"
Flash just nods eagerly at that, the other kids also perk up.
Tony looks at him scornfully and crosses his arms: "
Tell me, what have you done to earn Peter's spot, why SHOULD I choose you over Peter here?"
Flash squared his shoulders and looked smug as he started "Oh! Well Mr Stark, my parents..."
"Wait" Tony stops him with a raised hand. "I asked what YOU have done, not about what your parents have done. What have YOU done, that makes YOU good enough to work for me?"
This makes Flash flounder for a second or two before he catches himself and says "Well, I am good friends with the mayor and..."
"Let me stop you right there! I already know the mayor. Multiple mayors.
The one from New York City, the one from Washington DC and the ones of pretty much every town, where SI either has some offices or other business.
I also already have ties in one way or another to nearly every major government, I really don't need anymore."
Flash just stares at him open-mouthed.
"Look, I don't care who your parents are, I don't care who you or your parents or even your friends know or think they know.
Everyone who applies to work for me is judged by THEIR OWN merits.
You had more opportunities to learn because your parents were rich? Good for you, show me what you learned then.
Your family barely managed to get food on the table half the time, going away on holiday was out of the question and most of your knowledge comes from the street, school and the library? Ok, show me what you learned.
Proof to me, that YOU are worth it for me to invest in."
He then wraps an arm around Peter's shoulders.
"Take Peter here, he repaired defective Stark Phones with spare parts he found while dumpster diving.
Sure he made some money with that and if I had found him stealing phones, resetting them and then selling them at a street corner, my lawyers would have come down on him like a ton of bricks, but he didn't do that.
Do you know what he did?" Tony didn't wait for an answer and completely ignored Peter's muttered "Mr Staaaaaaaark".
"What this here little tech genius did, was improving my phones while he repaired them!
Hell, his new battery placement increased the battery live expectancy by 10%!
THAT was the reason I offered him an internship.
He proved to me, that HE could do something worthwhile.
That he was able to learn and apply that learning in new and innovative ways.
If you can prove to me that YOU - not your parents, not your contacts, not your friends, not your acquaintances, but YOU! - can do something that would be worth something to me, THEN we can talk again."
That, like nothing else this day, truly managed to shut Flash up.
"Ok, you all have one more question, so use it or lose it, people!"
"Are you grooming Peter to be your successor one day?" Betty asked.
That made Peter look at her in pure shook.
What the HELL would make her think that Mr Stark would name HIM his successor!
That was totally and utterly ludicrous and...
Mr Stark just grinned at the girl.
"Well. It all depends on a few things outside of my control, but just between you and me... "
here he changed into a stage whisper and leaned a bit towards the girl "and don't tell Peter that, since it would REALLY embarrass him and he might not be able to look me in the eyes for weeks!" he leans back again and resumes in a normal tone of voice:
"Yeah. If everything works the way I want, and gods know that hasn't always been the case despite my tons of money, Peter will one day be my successor.
Will he run SI?
Maybe, or maybe not.
Will he run SI R&D and usher the world into the future, I sure as fuck hope so."
Peter was so shocked, that he nearly let the coffee machine fall on the floor right then and there.
Mr Stark was seeing him as a successor?
Puny Peter Parker?
The poor, orphaned looser?
Tony puts a finger under his chin and presses up to close his mouth
"Shut your mouth kid, or Mary might make a nest in there.
We can talk more about all of this later, but now I must hurry to that fucking board meeting and you need to bring that stupid machine back up.
Bye kids, stay in school and all that"
With those words, Tony Stark enters the open elevator and leaves a completely shocked group of students, one shocked teacher and one wildly grinning tour guide in his wake.
The later was busy calling someone on his phone
"Yup! The big boss just confirmed the rumours!
Yeah! We won the POT! Will you let Patricia and Yamal know?
Yeah, I sure as hell don't envy him, have you seen the board members!?
What? No, he looks completely gobsmacked, so you can tell Arjun that they won the add on.
Uh-huh, let me just get the kids back into their school bus and the coffee machine back to the biochems.
Meeting in say 20 minutes in our cafeteria?
Cool, if I run late, can you get me a tall chocolate caramel latte?
Cool, thanks. Bye!"
"You had a betting pool?" Charlie asked Martin incredulously.
"Sure did, kid.
Look, I don't know how Peter is or behaves at your school, but around here?
If you are stuck with something, and Peter is around, he will come by and help.
And he nearly always finds a solution to your problem, even if you AND your team have cracked your heads at that problem for days.
Ask around and nearly everyone will be able to tell you a 'Peter story'.
He is just that good and Mr Stark clearly saw that.
Frankly, most of us believe that the only reason he lets Peter come work with us lowly workers is so that Peter will learn about all aspects of the company from the ground up.
The betting pool wasn't about IF Tony Stark was grooming him as his successor but WHEN he would admit that he was doing so. And there was a side bet on whether or not Peter knew."
Martin shrugs and then manages to get everyone back into the elevator.
They make a short detour to the biochems, where a very happy Jev takes the coffee machine from a still shocked Peter (And Martin uses the opportunity to let Jev know that Stark just confirmed the rumours!).
Before they can leave though, another elevator opens to reveal Miss Potts, accompanied by a group of people who all look like lawyers.
"Hello Mr Harris, I would like to keep Peter and Ned here, if that would be ok with you.
Here are the agreements of their parents."
One of the lawyers hands Mr Harris two slips of paper.
"Oh, and Miss Jones, if her parents agree." she transfers her gaze to the surprised girl "IF you want to do that interview you have been requesting almost weekly for the last six month, that is."
MJ gets a determined look on her face "I would love to, Miss Potts. Just a second."
She fishes her phone out of her pocket and starts to call her parents while Miss Potts continues, this time to the entire group.
"Please do remember that you all singed NDAs that prohibit you from speaking about what you learned here today, especially that last bit."
She looks at Martin and Jev "And that also goes for the two of you and whomever else you have told already.
And yes, there are some of my people on their way to Miss Mueller, Mrs Lancaister, Mr Humbari and Mx Chitai to remind them of that as well."
She looks at the group as a whole.
"There will be a proper press conference IF Peter decides to take the post.
Either of the posts, I should say.
But that won't be AFTER he actually finishes college.
If any of you have questions regarding said NDAs, you can discuss those with the ladies and gentlemen around me."
She looks at Betty.
"Miss Brant, I would very much advise you to avail yourself of their services.
You seem to have a bright career in reporting ahead of you and I would hate for me to have to sue you out of that business.
Learning about NDAs however will certainly come in handy in the future."
Betty goes a bit pale, walks over to one of the lawyers and starts talking with them in hushed tones.
Miss Potts then turns to Peter himself who still looks mostly out of it.
"Peter, dear. You don't HAVE to take the job, or any job with us if you don't want to.
But I agree with Tony here, you truly care about people as people and not just business assets. That would make you a good CEO in my opinion.
You are also incredible within your chosen fields, which would make it a no-brainer for me to hand you R&D whenever Tony is ready to step down."
"Re... rea... really?" Peter stammers. The first syllables out of him, since Tony dropped his verbal bombshell.
Pepper smiles at the boy "Yes, really."
She then looks back at the teacher, who just finished talking to MJs parents.
"I believe we are done here, wouldn't you agree, Mr Harris?"
It is obvious, that everything was going a bit too quickly for the poor teacher as he stammers his reply.
"Uhm... ah... yes... Uhm... yes, mam.
The... Uhm... the permission forms for Mr Parker and Mr Leeds seem to be in order and uh... Miss Jones's parents also agreed for her to remain behind.
Oh! And thank you very much for allowing our school to tour your company!
"Of course Mr Harris, thank you for your hard work" she nods at him, clearly a dismissal and turns her attention back to Peter (still kinda dazed), Ned (smiling hugely) and MJ (currently rummaging in her backpack, most likely looking for her interview notes.)
"Let's leave then"
She starts to turn towards the elevator she had just come out of, when she stops in her tracks and turns back, looking at Jev.
"Oh and, Mr Machany?"
Jev stops trying to sneak away with the repaired coffee machine and looks at the CEO a bit apprehensively.
"Could you please let Miss Singh and Mr Jackson know, that their deadline has just been extended by two weeks and would you also please let all your colleagues on this here floor know, that I won't be able to come down tomorrow, but will make time for my monthly inspection the day after.
I hope you all will use your additional time wisely."
Jev starts to grin in relieve "Yes, mam! And thanks for the heads up!"
"Good" with that she turns once again towards the now open elevator and herds the three kids inside.
The elevator ride up to the Avengers common room floor is done quickly and even MJ is impressed by the magnificent view over Manhatten the floor to ceiling windows provide.
In the common room itself Bruce, Bucky, Clint and Natasha lounge on the sofas while Steve and Thor start to come over to the four new arrivals.
"Lady Pepper, there is still time for Steve and I to pound some more sense into this child!" Thor starts in his booming voice, completely ignoring the three kids (one of whom still looks dazed, while the other two look around in fascination).
"Exactly!" Steve chimes in before he looks startled at Thor "Wait! No! No hitting kids,0 Thor, but we really could still give that youngster a good talking to and..."
"No." Miss Potts's voice did not allow for any further argument.
"We agreed, that the two of you will only get to threaten Mr Thompson IF the peer pressure idea didn't work.
However, it DID work, so the two of you are out."
Bruce pipes up from his couch "Peer pressure also works a lot better and is way more effective than pressure from outside.
Come on guys, we discussed this ad nauseam last night!"
Clint chimed in "But wouldn't you all have loved to see Thor trying to be the good cop with Steve of all people playing the bad cop? That would have been hilarious!"
"Wait a minute! You all orchestrated the whole Flash thing? That was so epic!" Ned sounded exited.
MJ crossed her arms in thought, then said
"Hm, you first made sure that everyone understood that Peter was telling the truth about the internship.
Then you saw to it, that everyone realised he knows the Avengers, or at the very least three of them well enough to be training with them regularly AND that made also sure to point out to everyone that Peter was perfectly capable of fighting off Flash and his friends...
But why the museum?
Or was this just a mandatory part of the tour?
And what would you have done in the labs, if the scene in the cafeteria didn't happen, provided you had anything planned there?
And was Mr Stark planned? I get the feeling that he wasn't but..."
Pepper and Natasha both grinned at the girl, while Ned just gaped at her in sudden comprehension.
"Very good Miss Jones!" Pepper exclaims
"I am impressed.
The museum had been an important part of our planning as it could have gone one of two ways, can you tell which ways that would have been?"
Pepper directed the kids towards the couches and they all sat down, while MJ was deep in thought, suddenly she snaps her fingers and looks at Miss Potts again.
"Of course! You wanted to give him a possibility to either redeem himself after having been proven wrong by Martin OR give him more rope to hang him with later! Right?"
Clint answered the question "Damn girl, you got it in one!
And yeah, the labs would have played out differently as well.
Can you figure out how?
Just tell us, if you want a hint."
That makes MJ sit back and ponder once more.
Peter finally starts to internalize that Tony AND Pepper see him as either the future CEO and/or future head of R&D for Stark Industries and starts to argue that he isn't worthy of the position.
Everyone (except MJ - who is still engrossed in puzzling out the teams' plans for the labs) starts to argue against him though.
"... I tell you! I am just not cut out to..." Peter was in the middle of repeating the same argument for the hundredth time when MJ interrupts him.
"Oh cut it out, looser!
You ARE perfect for either role, as long as you get the proper help.
You sure as hell won't have to shoulder everything on your own!"
To the adults, she says:
"If the cafeteria scene hadn't happened, Dr Banner would have been in the biochem lab OR we would have been diverted to whatever lab Dr Banner happened to work in and he would have tried to get the same stuff across as the gym bit and Martin.
- Peter knows Avengers and works with them on a regular basis
- Peter is smart enough to work in one of the labs with someone who has several doctorates
- Peter is known to the staff, proving again that his internship is real.
Maybe Dr Banner would even have feigned puzzlement about the fact that the rest of our class didn't know until he would 'suddenly' remember that Peter told him about getting flack for saying he interns here and that was probably the reason he kept silent about everything else.
And since all of that would have come from THE Dr Banner, the man whose picture hangs in our physics lab and whose research we had just written a test about... that would have maybe had the added impact, the other bits wouldn't have had.
And if even THAT wouldn't have spurred the rest of us into shunning Flash, THEN Captain Rodgers and Mr Thor would have grabbed him and tried to dissuade him in their way.
The adults as well as Peter and Ned gape at her.
Bruce is the first to find his voice "DAMN! That would have been so much better then what we had actually planned!
Unfortunately, I am not a good enough actor, so that last bit wouldn't have happened, but maybe Pepper could have primed Martin for it!
You are right with the bit about Cap and Thor though."
Pepper explains the adults' real plan
"We HAD had something along those lines planned, yes. Just not with Bruce.
Dr Franklin is part of the biochemist group and I would have dropped an urgent request on him, asking thim to accelerate his work, shortly before you would have left for the labs.
He would have grabbed Peter the moment he stepped off the elevator and would have waxed quite eloquently about Peter's many academic virtues before whisking him off to his lab.
And as Bruce said, if THAT wasn't enough to get you kids to lay the heat on Mr Thompson, THEN we would have set Thor and Steve lose on him."
A whiney voice from the opening elevator can suddenly be heard "Peeeeeeeeepeeeeeer!!! How could you throw me to the wolfs like that!?"
Tony gets out, an unhappy frown on his face, as he saunters to the seated group.
"That board meeting was booooooring!
Headwell can make commenting on the weather into a three-hour-long bloody sermon!
And I couldn't even bail since you weren't there to take it over!"
"Well Tony, if you HADN'T told a bunch of teenagers as well as the worst company gossip about your longterm plans for Peter, maybe THEN I would have been at that meeting instead of doing damage control for you. Again."
Pepper turns to MJ "And yes, you were right.
Tony's little speech had NOT been part of the plan.
Although I do believe the bit about finding self-worth was rather inspired.
He just should have left it at that..." she gives Tony 'a look', that keeps him from complaining any further.
Instead, he lets himself fall on the couch, resting his head in his girlfriend's lab and asks hopefully "Any chance for head scratches as a consolation?"
She bends down to kiss him on the forehead and says "Sorry Tony, but I still need to give an interview."
With that she shoves him off of her, making him tumble to the floor in an undignified heap and raises from the couch herself.
Just reschedule that interview!"
Tony sounds petulant.
No wonder after two hours of bo(ooooo)ard meeting.
She smiles down at him fondly "No can do, dear.
My interview partner is already here after all."
She looks over to MJ who has already gotten up from her seat.
"Let's find a quiet meeting room and get to your questions then."
Pepper starts to lead MJ towards the elevators, the last bit they can hear before the doors close behind them is "By the way, what would you say about getting an internship at SI?"