Actions

Work Header

(It's Not Always) Flowers and Butterflies

Chapter Text

There’s a new guy in the Academy.

Normally, Brock wouldn’t care, but this guy has piqued his interest. The word has it that when Pepper Potts asked him her standard questions, he didn’t say a single word. That isn’t so fascinating. But during lunch, Brock overheard Black Widow complaining the guy turned her down when she asked him out on a “date”.

Now, that is peculiar at least, because even when guys know it isn’t a real date and just her way to gather intel, they still go, anyway. Basically, there isn’t anyone in the Academy who’d turn Widow down, maybe except for Brock himself—because he isn’t interested in dating, certainly not because she has never tried to ask him.

Brock sighs, taking a seat at the bar in Club A. Despite the late hour, the dance floor is empty, and the only other student inside is Union Jack. He’s drinking an alcohol-free beer, which is the only thing a thirsty student can get here, and this is one of—very few—reasons Brock misses Hydra. He orders a can from a robot. Something flashes in his eyes and he looks up. Jessica Jones is sitting on the roof with a camera in hand.

“I can fuckin’ see you, Jones.”

Jones takes another picture of him in response. Brock shakes his head and takes a sip of beer. It’s not bad in taste, but what’s the purpose of drinking it if it’s alcohol-free?

He notices Taskmaster approaching and he elbows Union Jack. “Taskmaster’s here.”

Taskmaster stops at Union Jack’s other side. “Fuck off, Falsworth.”

Falsworth’s mask reveals only his eyes, so Brock and Taskmaster can admire his rather impressive glare as he leaves his half empty can on the bar and walks away. Taskmaster takes his place and orders a new beer for himself.

“Can you believe a guy who parades around wrapped in a flag?” he comments.

“Are we still mocking Cap, or was that about Mr. Flag Man there?” Brock frowns and adds quickly, “And before you say anything, I am not wrapped in a pirate flag.”

Taskmaster offers something between a scoff and a snort.

“So, the new guy,” Brock says when the silence between them prolongs.

“What about him?”

“I heard he turned the Widow down.”

“Hardly an achievement.”

Brock can’t disagree. He doesn’t know how else to ask if his friend knows anything without seeming too interested, so he sips on his beer.

Jones leaps off the roof, landing right beside him. Brock does not jump in his seat.

“You wanna know about the new guy?” she asks. “It so happens I know a thing or two.”

“Yeah, like what?”

She raises an eyebrow. “That info isn’t free though.”

Brock rolls his eyes. “What do you want? I ain’t paying any actual money for it, just so we’re clear.”

Jones shrugs. “Actual alcohol would be nice. Bourbon or whatever. I’m not picky.”

Huh. They could become friends if Brock was into that kind of thing.

“Fine. I’ll bring it to you when I get some. But you gotta share something first.”

“Fine.” She crosses her arms over her chest. “I know how that whole thing with Natasha went down. It’s even more peculiar.”

Brock gestures for her to continue.

“So she asks him, right? Acting smitten and innocent, like she does. And he just… stares at her. Glares, even. Doesn’t say a single word.”

“He acted the same way towards Potts.”

“Exactly.” She shrugs. “You know, Union Jack probably knows everything about him by now. I bet he’d tell you if you were nice to him.”

“Well, I’m paying you to find out.” Brock downs his beer. “And I’m not nice to guys wearing flags. It’s a rule.”

“That’s funny,” she says. “Because you’re wrapped in a pirate flag.”

She walks away before he manages to get off the bar stool.

“Waste of money and time,” Taskmaster comments. “And alcohol.”

“I’ll pay her in methanol,” Brock snarls.

“You could just talk to the guy if you’re interested so much.”

“I ain't interested,” Brock mumbles and orders another beer.

“And yet, you just hired her.”

He shrugs, hunched over his beer. He’s a little interested, so sue him. It’s unadvised though, Loki is his lawyer. You’ll lose.

Taskmaster sighs dramatically and finishes his beer. “I like you, so I’ll give you an advice: you wanna know something about somebody and not pay a dime for it? Go to Wasp.”

Brock doesn’t have to fake a cringe. “I know what I’m doin’, okay?”

No information is worth talking to Wasp. Squeaky, bouncing, loud, over-excited Wasp. No. No way.

Chapter Text

Brock finds Wasp taking selfies on the Quad. He crowds in on her, and she looks up at him warily.

“Hey, Wasp,” he greets her in case she has any doubts about why he’s here. They’re not exactly talking after all. “You happen to know anything about the new guy?”

“No.” She sounds disappointed. “Natasha already asked, but he doesn’t have any social media! Not even PicShare! Where does he post selfies?”

Feeling his IQ level dropping, Brock takes a step back.

“Uh… I know, right? It’s been great talkin’ to ya…”

Just when he’s about to abort, Wasp throws her arm around his shoulders.

“Let’s take a selfie!”

“Uh—”

Before he knows it, she grins for the camera and takes a picture of them.

“Yay!”

Fuck Taskmaster. Seriously, fuck that guy.

“Anyway,” she says, typing on her phone to post their pic online. “That’s him.” She jerks her head at the Blasting Range.

The guy looks pretty normal, Brock thinks, as he watches him shoot a sniper rifle at the robot target. No metal arms, green skin or costume. He’s dressed in black, has dark, slicked back hair and a scar on his chin. He shoots pretty well, too. Has a good aim and confidence in handling the rifle.

“Who’s he?” Brock asks.

“His name’s Jack Rollins,” Wasp says. “But that’s about all I know.”

Rollins tenses and halts, then turns and looks right at them. He frowns and puts the gun down.

“Oh, he’s coming here!” Wasp whispers theatrically.

Brock crosses his arms over his chest, staring Rollins down as he calmly approaches them. When he stops before them, Brock doesn’t expect much more than a glaring contest, but Rollins opens his mouth and actually speaks.

“You look ridiculous.”

Brock blinks, taken aback.

“You look… ridiculous…” he mumbles, but of course, Rollins has already passed him.

“Hey… hey, wait!” Wasp calls after him and follows, probably to ask about his social media accounts or whatever, Brock doesn’t really care.

Fuck that guy. Seriously.

He meets up with Jones at the Avengers Dorm later where they exchange goods. Jones hands him a handful of printed photos, and despite his earlier threats, Brock has a bottle of bourbon for her. They talk in low voices, trying to ignore Elsa Bloodstone taking inventory right next to them.

“You’re the only person he’s spoken to so far.” Jones points at the photo with Brock’s pissed off face, taken after the ‘you look ridiculous’ comment. “Wasp followed him to invite him to his welcoming party, but he treated her like he did Natasha earlier.” She points at a picture of Rollins frowning at Wasp.

A dead smelly shark falls on the pictures discarded on the table.

“Could you do that somewhere else?” Jones asks Bloodstone with a grimace.

“It’s as much my table as it’s yours.”

“That’s what I gave you an entire bottle of good bourbon for?” Brock snaps.

It’s really unimpressive. He stands up. Maybe he can find Union Jack and bully him for some info. He must find Taskmaster first, though. Union Jack is hard to intimidate.

“It’s not my fault the guy turned out to be boring.” Jones shrugs. “One more thing though. He’s ex-Hydra.”

Brock, who was about to leave, stops in his tracks. Now, that. That’s interesting.

“A fair warning: Natasha’s onto him,” she continues. “You’re the only person he has contacted so far. Therefore, she’s onto you.”

Brock scoffs. “‘Contacted’ is an overstatement.”

“Agreed. But for what she knows, it was an encoded message.”

“Yeah,” Brock snarls. “Its hidden meaning is, ‘I wanna be punched in the face.’” He rolls his eyes. “Thanks, Jones.”

She smirks. “You’re welcome.”

It’s not a bad turn of events, Brock thinks on his way to the Quad, hoping to see Taskmaster there. Maybe now Widow will ask him out. Not that he wants her to. He doesn’t.

When he gets to the Quad, Taskmaster is nowhere to be found among the crowd of students that are slacking off instead of doing something productive. Brock stops and looks around for a friendly face which, considering he doesn’t really have friends, is no easy task. Then he hears the guitar and spots Winter Soldier in the corner.

He feels eyes on him as he crosses the Quad to reach Winter, and he tenses. It’s unusual; normally, students here pretend not to notice him (with only few exceptions). Now they’re gaping quite openly. Does he have something on his face? Is his face paint smudged or anything? Is that what that Rollins guy meant?

“Whatcha staring at?!” he snaps at Tigra who only smiles at him in return which is even more disconcerting. People don’t smile at him.

Winter notices him and smiles at him, too, though that’s not that unusual.

“Hey,” he greets.

“Hey, you know where can I find Taskmaster?”

“He was at the Archives last time I saw him.” He adjusts his grip on the guitar fretboard. “You wanna hear my new song? I called it—”

“Uh, thanks. I’m in a hurry, so maybe later.” Brock punches his shoulder playfully. His knuckles crack and he bites back a yelp.

He forgot about the metal arm. Again.

Chapter Text

Brock’s still cradling his aching hand and mumbling curses when he reaches the Timeless Archives. Sure enough, Taskmaster’s there, reading a book.

“There you are,” he says. “Guess what I just found out.”

Taskmaster sighs, giving him an exasperated look. “Are you talkin’ to me?”

“No, to them.” Brock gestures at Cap who’s studying a hologram of Earth, and Spider-Gwen who’s trying to unstick books from her hands, with little success. He rolls his eyes. Losers. “Of course I’m talking to you. I have news!”

“Bones, I’m trying to read.”

“Again? There’s only one book with ‘war’ in the title here. I know, I checked.”

“You also know I forget things. So.”

“So what’s the point of reading it if you’ll forget it, anyway?” Brock yanks the book out of Taskmaster’s grasp and throws it at Spider-Gwen. “Catch!”

Spider reflexes allow Gwen to catch the book before it hits her face, but it sticks to her hand.

“Fuck you, Crossbones!”

“Language,” Cap scolds.

“Wow, Cap. You’re standing up for me? What’s up with you, you’re secretly Hydra or something?” Brock asks.

Cap gives him a stern look. “That would make no sense, considering people at Hydra School aren’t very fond of you.”

“People at Hydra School love me!” Brock snaps.

“And that’s why you left,” Cap says with that little confident smile that’s absolutely infuriating.

Taskmaster gets up. “Come on, Bones, don’t listen to him. We can talk outside.”

Once outside, Brock’s still fuming over Cap’s words, so Taskmaster takes it upon himself to distract him.

“What’s that you wanted to tell me?”

“Huh?” Brock is so upset he only now remembers he was looking for Taskmaster for a reason. “Ah, yeah. I found out about the new guy, Rollins.”

“Yeah, I saw the selfie. It’s trending.”

“What sel—ah.” The picture Wasp took of them. It’s trending on PicShare.

That explains why people are staring at him. Even now, as he walks with Taskmaster to Club A, a group of students stare and smile at him. Tigra winks at him.

“You saw that?” he whispers theatrically, craning his neck to look after her. “I think she wants me to ask her out.”

“I think she wants to ruin you financially,” Taskmaster says in a bored voice. “She’s a supermodel.”

“I knew that,” Brock mumbles. “I’m not interested, anyway.”

He’s a tough guy. He doesn’t date.

They enter Club A that’s busy tonight; the dance floor is packed, but thankfully, the barstools are empty. They sit down and order the usual, not that they have much of a choice.

Brock takes a huge gulp of his beer. “So, get this: the new guy is ex-Hydra.”

“Yeah.”

Brock snaps his head up at that and stares at Taskmaster pointedly, but he doesn’t take a hint and keeps sipping on his beer like a deserving citizen.

“Dude. You knew and said nothing?!”

Taskmaster gives him an unimpressed look. “One, why should you care? Two, you didn’t ask.”

“I don’t care! But guess what, Widow does, and now that he spoke to me, she might ask me out—”

“Wait, he spoke to you?”

Brock gives him an exasperated look because that is not the point here. And also because he doesn’t want to repeat what Rollins said, because he does not look ridiculous, okay. He looks badass.

Wasp saves him from having to answer by sticking her head between them and squealing really loudly. So loudly Brock’s ears are ringing.

“I’m so glad you guys came to Jack’s welcoming party!” She sets a tray with coconut drinks on the bar, almost shoving their cans off.

Brock groans. “It’s his welcoming party?”

“Uh-huh! I made a banner!” She points at the roof of the bar.

There in fact is a yellow banner hanging, saying, 'Welcome Jack Rollins' in bright red letters.

“Where’s he then?”

“Who cares? PARTY!” She squeals again and runs inside, probably to make more drinks.

“Okay, I can get why you like her,” Brock says.

Taskmaster is more interested in the drinks. He peeks inside one of the coconuts.

“What’s that?” Brock asks.

“Looks like Piňa Colada.”

“What, with real rum?” He’s certainly too excited than he has any right to be, and if that doesn’t indicate how much this place sucks, then he doesn’t know what does.

Taskmaster grabs the drink and takes a careful sip. He winces. “No. Alcohol-free.”

Brock groans and rests his forehead on the counter. Fuck his life.

Chapter Text

“You’re blocking the access to the bar,” says a familiar voice near Brock’s right ear.

Brock looks up and sure enough, there’s Jack Rollins, looking at him impatiently.

“Oh, yeah? Sounds like not my problem.” He takes a slow sip of beer for a better effect.

Rollins narrows his eyes at him and… supporting himself on his shoulder, reaches over his lap for the last Piňa Colada. He takes a sip, blatantly looking into Brock’s eyes, his big paw still resting on Brock’s shoulder.

“Hands off me.” Brock shrugs it off after a second of stunned silence. “Okay, you got your drink, now get lost,” he says, because Rollins is still just standing there and it’s becoming annoying.

Rollins isn’t in a hurry to join the people on the dance floor or to play a game of pool. Instead, he leans his back against the bar. Brock rolls his eyes. He doesn’t know why this guy decided to bother him, but if he doesn’t stop, Brock will make himself a necklace out of his teeth.

Rollins is halfway through his drink when he looks at it suspiciously and asks, “Are those alcohol-free?”

“Like everything here,” Brock grumbles because he can’t help himself.

Rollins puts the coconut down. “I regret leaving Hydra School already.”

Brock notices a glance Rollins sneaks at him as if to check if that information has any effect. It doesn’t, because that’s old news by now. If Brock felt like being nice, he’d hum in acknowledgement, but he doesn’t, so Rollins has to deal with being ignored.

For, like, five seconds.

Not because Brock wants to make friends, he’s just naturally talkative, okay?

“I don’t remember you,” he says.

“Oh, I joined after you left,” Rollins explains. “But I learned a lot about you.”

“Did you?” Brock can’t help a little smile at that. He’s oddly flattered. It feels good.

Maybe Rollins isn’t such a bad guy after all. They just started off poorly.

“You’re still a laughing stock of Hydra,” Rollins says. “People call you Makeup Master. It’s like you never left.”

Let’s recap the last few hours: Brock’s been trying to get drunk on the beer, which of course hasn't worked, so he has switched to Piňa Coladas instead. This is how he has discovered that he despises pineapple juice. Halfway through his fifth Piňa Colada he has started to feel sick, and that’s when a billiard-ball hit him in the head, because apparently Medusa’s hair can get drunk on pineapple juice. Has he mentioned he absolutely hates pineapple juice?

Now both his stomach and head are aching, he’s the most sober person on Earth, his selfie is trending on PicShare, Widow still hasn’t asked him out, and this is the second time this guy insults him. So it’s really understandable that Brock’s reaction is to grab Rollins by the collar and take a swing. He thinks he will enjoy turning Rollins’ stupid face into a pulp, but because this day absolutely sucks, somebody stops him.

“Hey!” Winter Soldier shouts, forcing himself between them. He keeps Brock’s fist still with his ridiculously strong metal arm. “This is not how we solve problems at Avengers Academy!”

Brock’s seething. Rollins looks infuriatingly calm.

“How do we solve problems here?” he asks, his eyes not leaving Brock’s face. As if Winter could very well not exist.

Brock jerks his arm out of Winter’s grasp with a wince, because damn, it hurts.

“Dance-off,” Winter explains with a little smile.

“I don’t dance,” Brock snarls through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, me neither.”

“It’s a tradition!” Wasp says, and that’s how Brock realizes the whole Club’s attention is now on them. She pushes them both towards the dance floor.

Winter whips out his guitar seemingly out of nowhere. “I’ll play a song! I called it ‘A Crush on Bones’.”

His fingers hit the strings. The opening riff isn’t so bad.

Brock and Rollins exchange looks. They’re standing in the middle of the dance floor, people gathering around them in a circle.

“Crush him, Bones!” Taskmaster shouts. He’s standing between Jones and Wasp. All three of them have their phones out. That won't end well.

Brock narrows his eyes. Rollins frowns, the muscles of his shoulders tense. Shit’s about to get real.

Chapter Text

They are both so terrible they get booed and kicked out of the Club.

Brock doesn’t even try to sneak back in; it’s not like the party was fun. There’s a bump growing on his head where the billiard-ball hit him, all the dancing upset his stomach again, and he’s absolutely done with this shitty day, so he walks back to the Dorm.

Apparently the day isn’t done with him because Rollins decides to follow him.

“Stalker with a crush much?” he snaps. “Will you stop fucking following me?”

Rollins raises an eyebrow. “I’m not following you. Not my fault we happen to share a dorm.”

Brock purses his lips. Fuck his life.

It’s a long walk from Club A to the Dorm. They are both quiet for a moment. Brock can feel Rollins’ eyes on him and it’s hard to keep his mouth shut, but it’s Rollins who breaks the silence.

“I can’t believe I just got kicked out of my own welcoming party.”

Brock rolls his eyes. Who cares? Not him.

“Why are you talking to me?” he asks. “Why not bother somebody else?”

Because seriously, Rollins is weirdly fixated on him. What the fuck is his game? First he insults him, then tries to make small talk? Is he fucking insane?

Well, none of Hydra’s students is exactly well, if you catch Brock’s drift, so it’s possible.

“Everyone else is boring,” Rollins replies.

Brock stifles any warm feelings threatening to wake in his chest. He knows now Rollins has an ability to make an insult sound like a compliment. He’s not falling for that again.

“And I’m not?”

“You’re not.”

Rollins doesn’t elaborate. Brock glances at him. He’s smiling. He looks so much nicer with a smile on his face instead of that frown that Brock has been almost convinced was permanent.

“You find me interesting?” he asks and curses himself internally because he didn’t intend on sounding fucking hopeful.

“I find you ridiculous. I thought we already established that.”

Brock enters the Dorm and slams the door in Rollins’ face.

It’s when he lies in his bed that he hears footsteps and the door next to his opening. The door to the room that was previously vacant. Because of course Rollins’ bedroom is right next to his.

Typical Parker luck? Try typical Rumlow luck. Is this Karma catching up with him? Is Rollins his personal vengeance angel, making him pay for all the bad he’s done?

He wakes up in the morning with the taste of pineapple juice still lingering in his mouth. He swiftly gets dressed and applies his face paint—which is not ridiculous, thank you very much. He leaves his room, buys himself coffee and breakfast in Club A, and goes to the Avengers Park where most of the students go to eat in peace.

It’s still relatively early, and the Park is empty. Other students must be sleeping off the party. Brock sits down on a bench, takes a sip of his coffee, and, with a heavy heart, checks his social media.

There is a video up from that awful fiasco that was the dance-off, but it’s not popular. Which is hardly weird, considering how hard to look at it is. He’s also gotten ten new followers on PicShare overnight. It can’t be because of the video, so he checks out the only possible reason of this happening—the selfie of him and Wasp.

It’s right on the top of her profile, and he must admit that it doesn’t look as bad as he feared. What’s bad, is the caption.

Queenbee: With @bonecrusher! Tough outside, warm and fuzzy inside! #wasprocks

Fuck her. Seriously, he thinks, as he scrolls down to read the comments.

Mastermercenary: You two look cute.

And fuck Taskmaster, too.

“Do you like cheese?”

He almost jumps out of his skin. He looks up and meets Tigra’s green eyes. He’s been so distracted with his phone he didn’t notice her approaching.

“Uh…” he utters.

“Because I can raid Stark’s cheese fridge,” she purrs.

“Uh. Sure. You do that.”

Tigra smiles smugly and walks away, swinging her hips.

What. The fuck. Was that?

Somebody drops on the bench beside him and he almost jumps out of his skin. Again. He’s been so distracted with Tigra’s hips, he didn’t notice Taskmaster approach.

“How are you after that epic loss?” Taskmaster asks, unpacking his food.

“It was a tie,” Brock corrects.

“Exactly.” Taskmaster bites into his sandwich, which should be impossible with that skull mask on, but apparently he’s also an Eatingmaster. “Solved fucking nothing.”

“Well, what do you suggest, smartass? I ain't arm wrestling.” The last time Brock did that didn’t end so well.

“I think it’s time to solve this conflict the only right way.” He can’t see it because of the mask, but he can hear an evil smirk in Taskmaster's voice. “The Hydra way.”

Brock smirks back.

Chapter Text

Brock’s on his way to his first class when he notices Jack Rollins sitting on a bench. Talking.

His gait slows down and his fists clench as he tries not to look. Or at least not to outright stare. He can’t help but keep them in his peripheral vision—Rollins and Maria Hill. He says something, and she looks at him brightly, fixes her hair, and leans in.

Maria Hill. Hill. The S.H.I.E.L.D.-obsessed chick. What could be interesting about her?!

“Brock!” Wasp falls in step beside him. “Wanna stop for a selfie?”

He wants to tell her off, but then an idea strikes him.

“Sure.”

They stop and pose, facing the bench. Wasp takes a shot.

“Wanna play a game?” Brock asks, lowering his voice.

“Yay, I love games!”

He shushes her. “We’re gonna play spies,” he mutters to her ear. “So nobody else can know, okay?” He reaches out to switch the front camera on her phone to the back one and adjusts her hand so now they have a perfect view on Rollins and Hill. “Keep posing,” he mutters and presses record.

“Oh!” she exclaims in understanding. “That’s so cool!”

Brock smiles at being called cool, but it’s a short-lived satisfaction. Watching Rollins and Hill talk—and it must be quite a nice conversation, what with her looking so delighted—makes him feel… well, it certainly isn’t satisfaction.

As he focuses on what is visible on the screen, Wasp moves beside him, faking different poses. She even goes as far as to kiss him on the cheek. Brock doesn’t have time to think too much about it because that’s when Rollins covers Hill’s hand resting innocently on the bench with his and—

Okay, what the hell is he witnessing here? Is Rollins on a date or what? And why is it making Brock wanna punch something so bad? What does he care? If anything, he should be glad Rollins has finally fucked off and is now bothering someone else.

“Look, I’m late for class,” he tells Wasp. “Can you keep this up and mail the result to me? Thanks.”

He walks away hurriedly, barely noticing her waving goodbye to him.

His first class is at the Blasting Range, so he can blow off some steam at least. During lunch time, he goes to the Avengers Stadium. He knows for sure that’s where he’ll find Taskmaster; besides, the Park is too busy at this hour. Brock isn’t fond of crowds.

He sits on the bleachers and smiles at Taskmaster playing soccer. Taskmaster notices him, kicks the ball away and takes a seat beside him.

“You brought me food?”

“No.”

“Then what good are you?”

Brock rolls his eyes. “I thought you had something with you. I’m hungry, too.”

Taskmaster sighs, but doesn’t move from his seat. They stare at the empty stadium, neither feeling like getting them lunch.

“So, what’s wrong?” Taskmaster asks after a while.

“Why?”

“There are only two reasons for you to be this quiet: you’re too cold, which you ain’t.” Taskmaster looks at his bare arms pointedly. “Or something’s wrong.”

Brock shrugs. It’s true that Rollins is still on his mind, but he doesn’t know why. It’s not like he has expected to be the only person Rollins would ever talk to.

“I’m fine,” he lies.

“If you say so.” Taskmaster stands up. “Ready to hit the H.Q.?”

Brock nods and they leave the Stadium unhurriedly. They make a stop for food and continue on their way. As they walk through the Quad, Brock glances at the bench, but it’s empty. He can’t help but to look around for Rollins. He’s expected him to be a bother, meanwhile it’s past noon, and Rollins hasn’t as much as glanced at him.

He spots him, advancing straight on Wasp. Being too preoccupied with her phone, she doesn’t notice him. Brock stops in his tracks, curious to see what will happen. Judging by Rollins’ malicious frown, nothing good.

Rollins shoulder-checks Wasp so hard she drops her phone. Brock winces when it hits the ground, then gasps when Rollins stomps on it. If it wasn't already broken, it certainly is now.

Wasp looks shocked and lost as to what she did to deserve this kind of treatment. The students surrounding them are either confused or outraged. There’s a smug smirk playing on Rollins’ lips.

Wasp glares at Rollins and gets ready to yell at him, but this is when Brock sees his chance.

“That was uncalled for!” he shouts, hurrying their way.

Wasp shoots him a surprised glance. Rollins stops smirking and narrows his eyes at him.

“And what you gonna do about it? Ask me to another dance?”

“I’m never gonna dance again,” Brock says and immediately feels himself cringe, because he didn’t mean for his answer to be a reference, but here he is.  “Nah, fuck dance-off. Time to solve it like adults.”

Rollins smirks again, because he knows very well what Brock’s talking about. “Deal.”

“I’ll mail you the time and the place. We don’t need an audience for this.”

Rollins nods and walks away. Brock looks down at the phone on the ground. He picks it up. Just as he's thought, he screen is broken. He tries to light it up, but it seems the phone’s completely dead. He hands it to Wasp.

“It’s broken,” he says.

“Thanks, Brock. You didn’t need to do that.”

Brock shrugs. “Somebody needs to show this guy his place.”

“It’s good to see chivalry isn’t dead yet,” Black Knight says. “Crossbones, you've gained my respect.”

Right, because that’s what he was aiming for. Brock barely stops himself from rolling his eyes.

“You done?” Taskmaster asks. He motions for Brock to follow him, which Brock does. “Drama queen,” he mutters under his breath.

Chapter Text

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

Subject: once and for all

tmrw 9 pm Maverick Dorm

 

From: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Re: once and for all

Understood. Should I bring anything?

 

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

Subject: Re: Re: once and for all

just currency. Taskmaster organizes everything.

 

From: “Janet Van Dyne” <queenbee@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Playing spies!

https://videoshare.com/queenbee/145156244

 

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jessica Jones” <j.jones@avac.com>

Subject: what R they talkin about???????!!!!!!!!

https://videoshare.com/queenbee/145156244

 

From: “Jessica Jones” <j.jones@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Re: what R they talkin about???????!!!!!!!!

Sadly, no idea. I’m on it. My guess – S.H.I.E.L.D.

You know what that means, right?

 

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jessica Jones” <j.jones@avac.com>

Subject: Re: Re: what R they talkin about???????!!!!!!!!

he’s gathering intel. on SHIELD. think he’s Hydra’s mole?

 

From: “Jessica Jones” <j.jones@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Re: Re: Re: what R they talkin about???????!!!!!!!!

That’s certainly what Natasha thinks.

 

From: “PicShare” <picshare@office.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: User felineagent tagged you in their post!

 

From: “PicShare” <picshare@office.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: User queenbee tagged you in their post!

 

From: “PicShare” <picshare@office.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: You have new followers!

Users misshardy, elektran, asgardiangoddess, teenhulk, ironmaiden and thedemiurge are now following you!

 

“Did you see the selfie Tigra tagged you in?” Taskmaster asks as they stop at the door to the Maverick Dorm. Rollins is nowhere to be seen yet.

“The cleavage shot captioned ‘Meow’? Yes, I did.”

“She also tagged Union Jack and Wiccan for some reason. Doesn’t she know they’re gay?”

They hear a scoff and turn around to see Loki lounging on the bench. “Tigra’s always barking up the wrong tree.”

Taskmaster elbows Brock and jerks his head at the dark figure approaching them. “He’s coming.”

Brock looks Rollins up and down, noting a black jacket, a black shirt underneath, a pair of cargo pants and combat boots. He smirks. “That’s not enough currency. I so won this one.”

“Unless he’s rich.”

“Please.” He rolls his eyes. “How much money a student here can have?”

Rollins reaches them and hands Brock a cheese plate.

“I heard you like cheese,” he says, looking away.

Brock stares at neatly cut pieces of cheese, bemused. What is it with people here being obsessed with cheese?

They turn around again upon hearing a cackle. Loki watches them with a glint of delight in his eyes.

“What got you so amused?” Brock snarls.

Loki blinks slowly, still looking like a cat that got the cream. “Oh, no reason.”

Taskmaster sighs. “Well, shall we?”

They pick one of the rooms and settle on the floor. Brock sets the cheese plate beside him and pops a piece into his mouth. It’s not bad. Taskmaster takes out cards and three bottles of genuine bourbon. Rollins visibly brightens up at the sight.

“Where did you get that?” he asks.

“In town,” Taskmaster replies.

“To be more specific, we got that from Spider-Woman,” Brock says. “If you’re in Academy long enough, Fury lets you fly the quinjet. We don’t have the permission yet, so it’s important we maintain contacts. Taskmaster’s is Spider-Woman, mine’s Winter Soldier. From what I know, Hill doesn’t have a permission, so you might wanna make more friends.”

“Oddly enough,” Taskmaster mutters, dealing cards. “Now the rules: we’re playing five-card draw. The beef is between you two, I’m in it for company.”

“And money,” Brock says.

Taskmaster nods in agreement. When he’s done dealing, he reaches for cheese, but Brock slaps his hand away.

“Rollins brought it for me.”

He knows Taskmaster is rolling his eyes under the mask.

“Whatever, I don’t even want it.” Taskmaster opens a bottle, swigs and passes it to Rollins.

They start playing. Taskmaster’s winning, with Brock coming close second. Rollins loses more and more money. Brock wonders if it’s due to bad luck or his terrible poker face.

The latter. Definitely the latter.

“That’s not fair!” Rollins snaps. “He’s wearing a mask! Shouldn’t these be banned?”

“Not my fault you didn’t think of getting one,” Taskmaster says, collecting another stash of money. “And you should, you’re terrible at this.”

“Yeah, how did you survive Hydra School?” Brock asks. “That’s the main way of solving conflict there.”

“Maybe that’s why he left.”

Brock snorts. Rollins’ face reddens.

“I was good in Hydra. One of the best. No one would ever pick a fight with me.”

“Well, it’s a shame that when your classmates mocked my skill in makeup, they failed to mention I’m also skilled at poker, ain’t it.” Brock smirks and finishes their first bottle of bourbon.

Chapter Text

They’re down to one bottle when Rollins loses his last two coins, and Brock feels pretty drunk. Rollins’ face is reddened, his eyes glassy, and he doesn’t look like he makes much sense of his cards. Brock doesn’t know about Taskmaster, but he drank as much as they did, so he must be wasted, too.

“Hey, hey, man.” Rollins says when Taskmaster starts dealing again. “I’m outta money.”

“But not outta currency.” Brock looks him up and down pointedly.

“Yeah, you know the rules.” Taskmaster motions for him to pick up his cards. “You outta money, you bet what you got on you.”

Rollins sighs. “I give up. Okay? You won. Bad enough I lost all my money and will probably starve tomorrow.”

“All the more reason not to give up now,” Taskmaster says. “You can still win some money back.”

Rollins picks up his cards with shaking hands. He looks at them and lowers. Brock smirks. He’s looking forward to this, oh, he is. It’s gonna be hilarious.

“That’s the spirit.” He fakes an encouraging smile.

Rollins first loses his boots, then his socks, then his belt. Brock helpfully offers him more bourbon when he looks like he wants to quit. After another game, Rollins is pulling off his shirt.

Rollins is actually pretty fucking hot, Brock thinks, staring at his chiseled abs. Not that Brock likes men. He isn’t some kind of faggot. He’s drunk, he’d find a goddamn bottle hot.

He’s been winning up until this point, but now he looks at Rollins more often than into his cards, and he loses interest in what’s in there. In his alcoholic haze, Rollins’ face appears the most beautiful, and he’s consumed by a desire to caress it. Unfortunately, both his hands are busy with the cards and the bottle.

Hm. Bottle. He takes a swig and finds the bottle is empty.

“Bones, you with us?” Taskmaster asks, and Brock looks up at him in silent question. “Showdown.”

Brock looks at his cards; it’s definitely a losing hand, but he doesn’t care. He already won, there’s no way Rollins’ luck can turn back.

Taskmaster wins this round, and Rollins takes off his pants to bet in the next game, muttering he only needs to win once.

He doesn’t win.

“I’m out,” he slurs as Taskmaster collects his winnings.

“You still have something left,” Brock says, ogling him rather unashamedly.

“One last chance,” Taskmaster adds.

“We’ll go easy on you this round,” Brock promises. “Hell, I’ll bet my own clothes if it makes you feel better.”

He might. It’s hot in here.

It gets even hotter when Rollins’ eyes travel down his body. Rollins sets his jaw and stands up to pull his underwear down. Brock holds his breath, the time seems to stop.

The door flies open, and inside walks Falcon, with his hands resting on his hips. He takes in the cards, the money and empty bottles, and frowns.

“Alcohol and poker are banned at the Academy!” he says. “Crossbones, Taskmaster, you two know it! It’s your third strike!”

Taskmaster facepalms. “He’s worse than Hill.”

Brock’s blood boils, and he stands up to kill Falcon. Or, he tries to. He trips over his own legs and falls face-first onto the floor.

Falcon walks up to their little circle on the floor and takes the deck. “I’m confiscating this. You’ll serve your time here until morning.”

He walks out and they hear the lock turn.

Brock pulls himself up. “I hate him worse than Cap.”

“That was our last deck.” Taskmaster sighs. “How the hell he knew we were here?”

Brock groans. “Loki.”

Taskmaster says nothing to that. If it was anyone else, he’d make sure they’d pay for it, but even he doesn’t want to mess with the Trickster.

“I’m taking the bed,” he says after a moment, stands up and parks himself on one of the two beds in the room.

Brock and Rollins look at each other and sprint to the only remaining bed. Brock jumps and lands in the middle of it, just when Rollins reaches the footboard.

“Out,” Brock says, pushing his hands off. “I was first.”

“But I’m cold!” Rollins complains.

Brock spreads his arms. “Look at all the fucks I give.”

“At least give me back my clothes.”

“No. I won them. They’re mine.” Brock makes himself comfortable on the bed, too drunk to care he’s dirtying the sheets with his boots.

“Brock, please.”

“It’s Crossbones to you.” He tucks his hands under his head and closes his eyes. His head is swimming.

“So you don’t go by Makeup Master?”

Brock cracks one eye open to look at Rollins. His shoulders are hunched, and he’s holding his arms like he’s in fact cold.

“You just lost all the chances of me being nice to you.” He closes his eyes again, ready to drift off.

Rollins sighs. “I’m sorry. This is why I don’t talk to people. Nobody would like me.”

“Nobody likes you, anyway. Now, shush. I’m tired. And don’t try to steal my clothes. I’ll know if you do.”

If Rollins says anything else, or tries to steal from Brock’s winnings, he doesn’t know, because he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

Brock wakes up with a Sahara in his mouth and a warm, hard lump by his side. He opens his eyes. The lump turns out to be Rollins, still in just his underwear, who cuddled up to him for warmth at night. Brock can’t really blame him – he can feel heat radiating off his skin like he’s a living furnace. His first thought is to push Rollins off the bed. He doesn’t really feel like it though. The weight of Rollins’ arm thrown across his waist is comforting – no one has ever held him like that before – and he can easily go back to sleep. Or could, if not for one thing – Rollins is lying on his arm, and he completely lost feeling in it, and if Rollins doesn’t fucking move this instant, it might fall off.

Instead of pushing him off the bed, Brock grabs Rollins’ shoulder and shakes it. Rollins’ skin is cold where he isn’t pressed against Brock.

“Hey,” Brock croaks out, and man, he needs something to drink. And to brush his teeth. “Hey, I ain’t yer teddy bear, quit groping me.”

Rollins doesn’t seem fully awake, but he moves away and Brock gets up, rubbing his numb arm. His head protests, he stumbles and realizes he’s still drunk. He swears under his breath.

All the noise rouses Rollins completely, and he sits up on the bed. He watches Brock with bloodshot eyes.

“I can’t walk out like that,” he says in a rough voice. “Need my clothes.”

“Keep whining, see if I care,” Brock grumbles.

He looks down at the pile of his winnings lying on the floor by the bed. He sighs.

“Fine, you can have those stinky socks and boots, I don’t want them,” he offers, because it’s not a bad morning, and he’s feeling nice. “Not the jacket and the belt though. I like ‘em.”

He throws the black jacket on. The sleeves are a bit long, but otherwise it fits him quite nicely. He grins at the resigned look on Rollins’ face.

“Bargain with Tasky for the rest.” He gestures at Taskmaster still snoring on the other bed with his face buried in a pillow. “Maybe he’ll switch the pants for the boots, though I doubt it.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Rollins grumbles.

“Don’t mention it,” Brock says lightly.

He tries the door; it’s open. He surely hopes Falcon just unlocked it without taking a peek inside to check on them, because if he did, he saw him and Rollins cuddling in bed. Brock’s skin breaks in sweat. What if Falcon took a picture of them and posted it online? You’d think good guys like Falcon wouldn’t stoop to this level. You’d be wrong. Brock wouldn’t put it past him.

Nausea hits him when he’s back at his dorm and he barely makes it to the bathroom before all the cheese he ate comes back to say hello.

Fuck cheese. Seriously.

He drinks three glasses of water and lies down in his bed for a while, just to rest. He checks his social media. Life is nice to him for once because there aren’t any compromising pictures of him.

He still doesn’t feel so well when he finally makes his way to Club A, but he decides coffee will be good for his headache that grows with every minute as he sobers up. He doesn’t go to the Park this time, just sits at the bar, his chin resting on his hands, raising only to take a sip from his big mug. People come and go, getting their breakfast, and Brock can’t help but wonder about Rollins. The guy’s broke, he’s seriously gonna be starving today, unless somebody takes pity on him.

He’s joined by Taskmaster, and they’re silent for a while. After he finishes his coffee, Brock has enough energy to raise his head and ask,

“Did you give Rollins his clothes back?”

“No.”

Brock snorts. “So he was forced to walk all the way from Maverick to the Dorm in just his boots and underwear? Man, I wish I was there to see that.”

“You gave him the boots back? For free?”

He shrugs. “I was feeling nice, and I didn’t want ‘em, anyway.”

“You low-key like the guy, don’t you?” There’s a smirk audible in Taskmaster’s voice.

“We fought, I won. I have no reason to hate him until he scorns me again.”

Taskmaster elbows him and Brock looks up to see Tigra walking their way. She’s holding…

“There you are,” she almost purrs, and sets down a cheese plate right under Brock’s nose. “Look what I got for you.”

Brock almost doesn’t make it to the bathroom. Again.

Chapter Text

Brock doesn’t know what his class is about because he can’t stop thinking about Rollins. He must admit, he feels a little sorry for the guy. He hasn’t made any friends in the Academy, so it’s unlikely anybody will lend him money for lunch. Brock decides he can be a nice guy for once and buy him something. That’ll show him. He’ll feel stupid for being a dick to Brock and missing out on a chance of making such an awesome friend. Because Brock can be an extremely awesome friend when he wants to. The thing is, he usually doesn’t.

He freaks out a little when buying a sandwich because he has no idea what Rollins likes, but quickly pulls himself together. It doesn’t matter what Rollins likes, Rollins should damn well appreciate getting anything at all. So he buys the same thing he took for himself – namely, “something with no cheese in it” – and goes to look for that loser.

He finds him in the Park. Eating. With Maria Hill. He can’t hear what they’re talking about, but it must be something nice because Rollins is smiling at her.

Brock turns on his heel and leaves in haste, squeezing the sandwich in his hands so hard ketchup and mayo drip on the ground.

That was stupid. When does being nice ever pay off, anyway. He throws what’s left of the sandwich away and looks for a quiet place to eat his own.

He ends up at the Monster Arena. It’s empty except for a giant venomous spider, and reflects his current mood quite nicely. There are no benches, as it’s not a place commonly used for having lunch (unless it’s monsters having it), so he sits down on the stairs. The spider watches him eat and Brock ignores it, low-key hoping it’ll bite him, ending his suffering for good.

That doesn’t happen.

What does happen, is Jessica Jones approaching him.

“Crossbones,” she greets, nodding at him.

“Jones,” he responds in a similar manner. “That’s a cute outfit.”

He looks pointedly at the white bodysuit with purple diamonds she’s wearing. She doesn’t take the bait, what only makes Brock respect her more.

They’d really be good friends.

“I could say the same about you.” She stops in front of him, tucking her hands in her pockets. “Isn’t that Jack Rollins’ jacket?”

Brock nods.

“What, he’s your boyfriend now?”

Brock chokes on his sandwich. “What on Earth gave you that idea?”

“I thought you were like those schoolgirls that wear their boyfriends’ letterman jackets.”

“I won it. At poker.” He throws the rest of his sandwich to the spider who snatches it and hides in a cave.

“Uh-huh.” Jones doesn’t look impressed.

Brock rolls his eyes. What was he expecting? At Hydra it’s normal to show off one’s winnings. It’s an equivalent of mounting a deer’s head on your wall. But it’s not something Academy students will understand.

“I wanna show you something,” she says after a moment of silence. “Come on.”

Brock stands up with a sigh. “I knew you didn’t come here just to hang out.”

“Only Taskmaster is loony enough to hang out with you.”

They go to the Archives, empty during lunchtime. Jones makes him take a seat in front of the computer and opens the video of Rollins and Hill Wasp recorded for him.

“Yes, I saw this,” he says, not hiding his annoyance. “I sent it to you, remember?”

Well, if he’s being specific, he never actually saw the video. But he knows what’s in there, so it feels pointless. 

“Just watch.”

She zooms in so they can see better. Brock’s hands fold into fists again as he watches Rollins and Hill laugh and talk without a care in the world.

“See anything weird?”

“Yes, Rollins is talking,” he snarls. “And Hill is laughing. That’s hella weird.”

“Keep watching.”

He’s about to ask what he’s looking for, when he notices it. The day they shot that video, Brock thought Rollins was ignoring him, that he didn’t even as much as glance at him. He couldn’t be more wrong. Now that he’s paying close attention, he sees Rollins sneak glances at the camera about every thirty seconds.

“He suspected he was being recorded.”

And that’s why he broke Wasp’s phone. It makes sense.

“That’s what I thought at first,” Jones says. “But I’m not so sure anymore.”

She skips a few minutes of the video.

“What’s that sound?” she asks when a characteristic smack can be heard.

“Uh, Wasp kissed me on the cheek. We were posing.”

She nods like she expected this kind of answer. “Well, watch this.”

She rewinds. There’s the sound again. Rollins covers Hill’s hand with his, like Brock remembers. Jones pauses the video.

“You saw this?” She sounds excited, something unusual for her. “That was his immediate reaction.”

“Reaction to what?”

“Wasp kissing you, dumbass. Look at his eyes. He’s not looking at Hill, he’s looking at you.”

“Okay.” Brock certainly wasn’t expecting this turn of events. “What does that mean?”

Jones shuts the page with the video and shrugs. “Can mean several things. One’s certain – the moment you showed up, he lost all interest in her. If there was even any to begin with.”

Chapter Text

Brock’s getting ready for bed when somebody knocks on his door. He frowns. He’s already removed his face paint and got changed into sweats – basically, he looks as unintimidating as possible, and he doesn’t like people to see him like this. On the other hand, there’s only one person who could be knocking on his door at this hour – or at all, for that matter – and Taskmaster has seen him in far worse states than this, so he goes to let him in.

It’s not Taskmaster standing on the other side. It’s Rollins, who looks a little taken aback at the sight of Brock, but what was he expecting – that he sleeps with his face painted? (Well, he did last night, but only because he didn’t spend it in his own bed. It’s important to let his skin breathe at night. Zits are not good for his image.)

“Loki locked me out of my room,” Rollins says quietly, looking away. “Can I crash here?”

Brock crosses his arms. “Go to Hill. She’s more inclined to share things with you.”

“You really think she’s gonna let me in her room at night?” Rollins raises an eyebrow. Brock shakes his head; he knows she won’t. “Don’t make me sleep in the hall. Please?”

Brock sighs and steps aside to let him in.

“Thanks,” Rollins mutters as Brock closes the door behind him.

“But not for free.”

Screw this being nice thing. Brock might be popular now, but it doesn’t mean he had a change of heart. There’s also no reason for Rollins to deserve special treatment. As far as Brock is concerned, he only has one friend. The rest has to pay if they want something from him.

Rollins turns to look at him. “What do you want? You know I have no money.”

Brock shrugs. “You’ll owe me.”

“Fine.”

“And you sleep on the floor.”

“Do I get a blanket at least?”

Brock opens the closet, takes out his old Hydra-issued sleeping bag and throws it to Rollins.

“You kept it?” Rollins sounds surprised. He kneels down to unroll the bag beside Brock’s bed.

Brock shrugs. “It’s mine.” He climbs on the bed and makes himself comfortable. “Turn off the lights, will ya?”

Rollins does. “You get attached to things,” he notices on his way back to the sleeping bag.

“Keeps me from getting attached to people.”

“I noticed. We’re not so different, you know?”

Brock scoffs. “We literally couldn’t be more different. You’re a dick who doesn’t know what’s good for him.”

“And you’re not,” Rollins’ voice is sarcastic, but Brock pretends not to pick up on it.

“Exactly, I’m not. Now stop bothering me and go to sleep.” As an afterthought, he adds, “And don’t snore.”

“You’re the one snoring. I hear it through my wall.”

Brock throws his pillow where he thinks Rollins’ face is. “Shut up.”

He immediately regrets it because now he has no pillow.

“Give it back.”

“No,” comes Rollins’ defiant answer.

“Get the hell outta my room.”

“Make me.”

Brock would, really, if he wasn’t sleepy and already in bed. Instead, he hangs his upper half off to wrest his pillow out of Rollins’ grasp. He fails – it turns out Rollins is stronger than him, or maybe simply less tired and in a better position – Brock likes to think it’s the latter – and he lies back in defeat, resting his head on his arms.

He falls asleep like this, and he doesn’t wake up until a few hours later, when he feels movement on the bed. He cracks his eyes open, still not awake enough to know who he is and what is going on. It takes him a moment to figure out what woke him up is Rollins, who climbed on the bed – or on the edge of it, seeing as it’s a narrow queen – and is now trying to get under the covers, which isn’t easy, because Brock wrapped himself in them like a burrito. Rollins is shivering from cold, despite the long-sleeved top he’s wearing. Brock’s sleepy mind doesn’t wonder how that’s possible – fall barely started, it’s not that cold yet – but he takes pity on Rollins. He gathers him in his arms, wrapping the covers around them both, and mutters something along the lines of “stop squirming”, though it can be something entirely else and not making much sense seeing as he’s still half-asleep. Rollins doesn’t fight him, quite the opposite – he puts his arms around Brock, and his bicep makes for a nice pillow, so Brock closes his eyes and goes back to sleep, content.

Chapter Text

Brock wouldn’t even remember what happened at night if he didn’t wake up hot and sweaty, tangled together with Rollins so tight it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. They’re generating so much heat it feels like sauna under the covers. Brock tries to throw them away, but it turns out his movements are limited because of how Rollins is holding him. He resigns himself to lying still in his embrace, which isn’t even that unpleasant, if one ignores the uncomfortable temperature and the way their bodies stick to each other. Didn’t Rollins have a shirt? Brock indistinctly remembers a shirt. When did he lose it? Brock’s hands are trapped against Rollins’ bare chest. It’s wet enough for Brock’s hands to slide down easily onto his abs, raising and falling with every shallow breath, hard muscle flexing ever so slightly.

He remembers the poker night, an unclear memory of staring at Rollins and finding him hot, wanting to touch. His face burns. He was drunk then, people are weird when they’re drunk. But now, now they’re both entirely sober. Brock curses inwardly and decides to take advantage of his current position and do what he’s wanted to since that night.

He pushes Rollins off the bed.

Rollins wakes up during the fall with a yelp. He flails his arms, but it doesn’t do him much good and his ass hits the hard floor. Brock cackles.

“I said you sleep on the floor,” he says when Rollins glares up at him, not that he owes him any explanation.

“That’s not what you said at night,” Rollins mumbles and gets up. He looks around in search of his clothes.

“Oh yeah, what did I say?” Brock asks unbothered. He finally throws the covers off himself and stretches.

“Com’ere, babe.”

He looks up at Rollins with a raised eyebrow. “I so didn’t say that.”

Rollins doesn’t respond right away, distracted with staring at Brock like he’s some exhibit in a museum. Brock is used to stares, people like to inspect his tattoos, only Rollins isn’t exactly looking at his arms. His cheeks are flushed and Brock remembers about his own bare face. He scrambles off the bed hurriedly and takes a seat behind the desk where his makeup supplies are scattered.

“You did,” Rollins says finally.

“Maybe I thought you were Black Widow.” Brock’s voice is harsher than he intended. “I think I dreamt about her.”

It’s a lie, of course, he hardly ever remembers his dreams, and when he does, it’s usually something involving Hydra. He looks in a mirror. There are round red splotches on his cheeks, but he can easily blame it on the warm air. He’s still a little sweaty and he should take a shower first, but he can’t exactly do that with Rollins still in his room. He reaches for the face paint and fidgets with it for a while, undecided. The mirror reflection of half-naked Rollins isn’t helping him focus.

“You’re such a princess,” Rollins scoffs and that’s when Brock’s patience’s wearing thin.

“Get the fuck outta my room.”

“Fine.” Rollins finally finds his top and pulls it on. “Can I borrow ten coins till tomorrow? I hope to earn something today.”

Brock drops the face paint and reaches for Rollins’ jacket hanging off his chair. He pulls his wallet out of a pocket and throws it at Rollins. Rollins counts ten coins and throws the wallet back.

“I’ll win it back one day,” he says, hiding the coins in his back pocket.

“No way, I ain’t ever betting it. I look better in it than you.”

“Too bad people are too distracted by that mess on your face to notice.”

Rollins runs out of the room before a brush Brock throws at him can hit him.

Chapter Text

It’s past curfew when Brock and Taskmaster get back to the Dorm from Club A. Like every Friday, they tried to convince the bartender robot to sell them real beer. Like every Friday, they failed. Might be because there’s no real beer to sell.

They wish each other good night at Taskmaster’s door, and Brock climbs up to his floor. He’s surprised to see Rollins sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up to his chest and his back against his own door, though maybe he shouldn’t be. He concludes his surprise comes from the fact he managed to forget about Rollins’ existence at all, and not because he expected this loser to get his door unlocked by now.

“Got my money?” he asks when he stops to unlock his room.

“I told you I was borrowing till tomorrow.”

Brock nods, walks inside and locks the door. He takes a shower, washes his face and changes into sweatpants. He turns off the light, trips on the sleeping bag still sprawled on the floor and falls on the bed. He turns on his back, slips under the covers, stretches and stares into the darkness above him.

He sighs. “Fuck.”

He gets up, stomps to the door, unlocks it and cracks it open.

Rollins is still sitting on the floor. Upon hearing the door open, he looks up, the expression on his face rather resigned.

“Hurry up,” Brock snarls. “Before I change my mind.”

Rollins scrambles to his feet and slips inside. “Thanks.”

Brock locks the door again. “But you sleep on the floor. And you stay there.”

“What if I’m cold?”

“There are blankets in the closet, you’re welcome to take as many as you like. Just don’t wake me up.”

Brock gets back to bed. He can hear Rollins rummage in his closet in the darkness but he’s too tired to supervise him. He closes his eyes and doesn’t even notice when he drifts off.

He’s not surprised when he’s woken a couple of hours later by Rollins climbing onto his bed. He’s been expecting it. If he’s being honest with himself, he’s been hoping for it.

So maybe he’s a little touch starved. Human beings are social creatures, and between Hydra School being what it is and students at the Academy not being exactly fond of him, he’s never had an opportunity to get close to someone. If the only way to change it is to let Rollins use him as his personal living heater, he’ll take it. Besides, he’s been handling things pretty well until Rollins showed up and began acting all touchy feely, so sue him.

Brock turns on his side, his back to Rollins, and presses against the wall to give him more space. Shameless under cover of darkness and his own mind, he silently wishes for Rollins to wrap his arm around his waist, longing for that comforting embrace they shared a night ago. Rollins does just that and Brock immediately regrets it because his hands are like ice on Brock’s warm skin. He jerks.

“Cold hands,” he mutters.

“Sorry.” Rollins’ breath is warm on his nape, and he feels pleasant chills run down his spine.

He takes Rollins’ hand in his own and hides them both under the pillow by his neck in order to warm it up. If anything else happens after that, he’s too out of it to remember.

When he wakes up again, the bed’s empty and cold. The sun’s high on the sky, and his alarm clock informs him it’s before noon. Rollins’s nowhere to be seen and Brock tells himself it’s a good thing. Nightly cuddling is all fine and dandy until the morning comes and you have to face the possible humiliating consequences, and morning wood is only one of them.

He finds a note on his nightstand. Thanks for having me, in a surprisingly neat handwriting. Brock rolls his eyes and gets up.

 

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

Subject: don’t want ur thanks

want my money

 

From: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Re: don’t want ur thanks

Today. I promise.

 

From: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

To: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

Subject: Re: don’t want ur thanks

How do you open a locked door?

 

From: “Brock Rumlow” <bonecrusher@avac.com>

To: “Jack Rollins” <j.rollins@avac.com>

Subject: Re: Re: don’t want ur thanks

u pick a lock. idiot.

Chapter Text

When Brock gets back to the Dorm from lunch, he finds Rollins trying to force his way into his room. Upon noticing him, Rollins stops only for a second before slamming his shoulder against the door yet again.

Brock casually strolls to his own door and dramatically unlocks it, all the time watching Rollins, who watches him back. He doesn’t look impressed. Brock extends an open hand. Rollins scowls, stops fighting the door and digs a handful of coins out of his pocket. He drops them onto Brock’s hand.

“Can’t pick a lock?” Brock puts the money in his wallet. “What do they teach you at Hydra these days?”

“I tried,” Rollins snarls, glaring at the door like it’s offending him. “Didn’t work.”

Brock rolls his eyes. “Let the professional do it.”

He retrieves a picklock from his room and slides it inside Rollins’ lock. Or at least he tries to – something’s blocking it, not letting even the tip in.

“Told you so.”

He throws a glare behind his back where Rollins is standing with his arms crossed on his chest, contempt apparent on his face.

“You said Loki did it?” Brock doesn’t have to ask; the green sparks that the lock spewed at him when he tried to pick it are enough of an indication. He pulls out his phone.

“Yeah, why?”

Brock taps Loki’s number and waits for him to pick up, but in vain. He must know the exact reason Brock is calling him, that little pain in the ass.

“Gotta find him then.” He puts the phone back into his pocket and turns on his heel.

“What you gonna do?” Rollins calls after him. “Ask him nicely?”

“Pretty much,” Brock replies, not stopping nor looking back at him.

“Why would he listen?”

“He works for me.”

If one wants to find Loki, Club A is the safest bet, given his more than weird obsession with dancing. The Club slowly becomes busy on Saturday afternoon; the dance floor’s packed, with Captain America and Black Widow dancing in the very middle. Something turns in Brock’s stomach and, gritting his teeth, he looks away, scanning the rest of the crowd for Loki, but doesn’t find him.

“Hey, Brock!” Wasp waves at him from the other side of the dance floor.

To get to her, he has to brush past Cap and Widow. They don’t even glance at him when he does. At least they’re not holding hands…

He’s still glaring at them when he approaches Wasp, and it takes him a moment to realize she’s saying something.

“—nothing too fancy, we could start in the Archives and decide from there. What do you think? The Archives, 6 p.m.?”

“Yeah, yeah. Listen, you’ve got any idea where can I find Loki?”

She pulls out her phone – brand new, apparently her previous one couldn’t be saved – and starts typing.

“He just checked in the Park.”

He nods his thanks and leaves to her “see you tomorrow!” squeal. He must admit, he underestimated her before – she turns out to be pretty useful.

Loki is in fact in the Avengers Park. He’s dressed in some weirdass outfit with a fur cape and disguised his face with a monocle and a fake mustache. He’s hiding behind a tree, and doing so quite poorly, considering Brock spotted him right away. He stands right behind him with a raised eyebrow.

“What are you doing?”

“Hunting,” comes Loki’s calm answer.

“What?” Brock frowns and looks around. There’s nothing to hunt.

“Idiots in love.” Loki gestures towards Matt Murdock chatting up Pepper Potts. “You’ve got your bunch of them recently, haven’t you?”

“What?” Brock asks dumbly. “Are you implying Tigra’s in love with me?”

For the first time since Brock approached him, Loki actually tears his eyes away from the couple to look at him.

“Is somebody paying you to be this stupid, Bone Head?”

Brock barely stops himself from punching that smug smirk off Loki’s face. He knows they’re on friendly terms only as long as Loki finds it profitable.

“Whatever, didn’t come here for chit chat.” He hides his fists in the pockets of his jacket, just to stop the itching. “Could you unlock Rollins’ door? That prank got so old by now it grew a beard.”

“Interesting. I thought you would appreciate it.”

Brock blinks. “Uh… Look, it’s… unusually nice of you, I’m flattered, but my beef with Rollins is over, so you can stop tormenting him.”

Loki stares at him for so long he starts wondering if he didn’t say something stupid again.

“Somebody is paying you, right? Or is my client a total moron?”

Brock counts to ten in his mind, sighs, forces his fists to unfold. He’ll need a drink after this.

“Can you just open the fucking lock?”

Loki rolls his eyes. “Done. He just fell inside and hit his head.” He loses interest in Brock and focuses on Murdock and Potts again.

“Hate to say it, but… thanks,” Brock mutters, throws a last glance at the chatting couple and leaves the Park.

Chapter Text

It’s when Brock’s lying in bed, recounting the events of the day that he realizes he unknowingly agreed to a meeting with Wasp. Oh well, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday evening—wait a minute.

Is it supposed to be a regular friendly meeting? Or like, a date?

Did he unwittingly agree to go on a date with Wasp?

Fuck his life.

And he can’t even call her to confirm, because then he’d have to admit he wasn’t paying attention, and besides, what would he say if she said she meant it like a date? That he’s not interested? It doesn’t sound that bad in his head, but in reality it’d be hella awkward. He’ll just have to go there and carefully explain he’s not into that sort of thing.

Yeah, that’ll go well.

He spends half a night stressing over it before he finally falls asleep, exhausted. He wakes up with Jack’s weight on top of him, crushing his lungs. He pushes at his shoulders.

“Jack, I can’t breathe,” he wheezes.

Half-asleep, Jack props himself up on his elbows, letting Brock sit up in bed, before lowering himself back on top of him, his head resting on his breastbone. Brock isn’t sure what to do with his hands, so he keeps them by his sides, open palms against the mattress.

“How did you get in here?” he asks when he’s awake enough to realize Jack wasn’t invited to his room last night.

And when did “Rollins” become “Jack”, exactly?

“Picked a lock,” Jack mumbles against his skin with a note of smugness in his voice.

Right, what’s a better way to prove he can do it than break into Brock’s room at night?

While Brock is tense, Jack doesn’t find the position they’re currently in nearly as awkward. Quite the opposite; he has no problem tracing the lines of black ink on Brock’s left arm.

“Do you regret it?” He’s looking at the Hydra logo covering Brock’s arm from his shoulder down to his elbow.

“The tattoo or the school?”

“Both.”

Brock looks up at the ceiling as he mulls it over. “No. I’m not ashamed of my past. It’s a part of who I am today. Do you?”

He feels Jack shake his head against his chest. “Not really. Being in Hydra had its perks. I’m not ashamed of that either.” He snorts. “Good guys, bad guys, it’s all bullshit. We’re all just looking out for ourselves. Hydra was a good way to do it until it wasn’t.”

Brock nods. He’s never really had an opportunity to talk to somebody else about this, not to mention someone with similar experiences. While he and Taskmaster often reminisce about the old Hydra days, his friend never treats those as an important part of his past life. It’s nice to finally meet somebody he can relate to.

“But you seem to had been really devoted.” Jack’s fingers stroke Brock’s wrist in little circles, making his skin tingle. “With the tattoo and all.”

Brock wasn’t, not really. He got the tattoo because it looks badass. That Red Skull appreciated it was a bonus. He shrugs.

“It was fun, that’s all. Definitely more fun that this hellhole.”

Jack smiles against his chest. “Yeah. I miss having to fight for sandwiches.”

“Hey, fighting for sandwiches was awesome. They were free.” Nothing hurts as much as having to pay for his food. “Is it how you got it?” He raises his hand to touch Jack’s scar.

Jack tenses, but only for a moment. He raises his head to look at Brock, and Brock’s finger slips off his face.

“We could do something like that,” he offers. His cheeks are colored pink. Come to think of it, between their bodies and the covers, there’s a lot of heat being generated. “Not the fighting specifically, but you know, something Hydra. I don’t have any plans for tonight.”

Brock gazes into Jack’s green eyes, thinking about all the other ways in which Hydra students used to entertain themselves… and then he shuts his eyes in defeat.

“I can’t, I have that date with Wasp.”

He’s met with silence and he promptly opens his eyes again. Jack looks a little like he’s been slapped.

“Oh,” he finally manages out. He pulls himself off Brock and scrambles out of the bed. He’s only wearing sweatpants. “That’s cool. Have fun. I’ll better get out of your hair.” He offers a tight-lipped smile and practically dives out of the room before Brock has a chance to say anything.

Not that he has any idea of what he could say, not to mention what just happened.

Chapter Text

The closer Brock gets to the Archives, the slower he walks. As he passes crowds of students on his way—all of them smiling and nodding at him, which he’s still unused to—he comes up with a plan to arrive so late, Wasp will have given up waiting for him. When he finally reaches his destination, he triumphantly checks the time.

He’s five minutes late.

Perhaps the plan would’ve worked better if he came up with it before leaving his dorm.

He steps inside and immediately regrets it.

For some reason Wasp have decided that wearing a pirate costume would be a great idea. Brock decides that turning back and never returning will be an even better idea. Unfortunately, Wasp spots him and waves so vigorously she almost knocks the computer screen over.

“Hey, Brock! Look! We match!” she calls out cheerfully.

Fuck his life.

The only other person present is Cap whose eyes are on them, but he doesn’t laugh, so Brock nobly decides to spare his life. Lacking an alternative, he slowly approaches Wasp, feeling like he’s taking a walk off a plank. There’s only one chair that she’s already occupying, so he just stands awkwardly beside her. What’s even more awkward is that, apart from choking out a ‘hi’, he has no idea what to do. Luckily, Wasp knows what she wants to do, and it’s what she always does—taking selfies. At first he rolls his eyes, but soon he eases into it and even has fun making faces at the camera. He’s not counting, but he thinks they end up with fifty selfies before Wasp’s arm gets tired, and they spend another fifteen minutes choosing which one she should post on PicShare. She finally decides on the one that she thinks is the cutest.

Brock’s stomach sinks when she posts the picture with a 1st date tag. He braces himself to somehow explain to her that it certainly isn’t a date, but he gets sidetracked with how fast the picture’s gathering likes and comments.

Mastermercenary: I ship it!

Godofmischief: lmao what a plot twist @felineagent

Felineagent: @godofmischief like she’s any competition…

Coldwarrior: You two are warmth in a cold, uncaring universe.

Kidarachnid: @fearlessfangirl

Fearlessfangirl: OMG! <3

Coldwarrior: If you want to hear a demo of my new song called Pirate Love, I'll be at the blasting range.

Brock decides Winter is gonna die for the last one.

He doesn’t manage to stay angry for long because within the next fifteen minutes the selfie’s already trending.

“You must have a lot of followers,” he says, grudgingly impressed.

“Oh, yeah!” She points at her number of followers with the cursor. It’s too many digits for Brock to read in one breath.

“Do you follow all of them back?”

“Most of them, yeah!”

“You must know a lot—” he starts, but she speaks over him.

“How many do you have?!” And before he can stop her, she clicks at his username tag she added below their picture.

“I ain’t active,” he mutters, wondering why he didn’t delete his account and start a new one.

“Oh,” Wasp says with a mixture of pity and surprise when she sees that Brock’s number of followers is just below two hundred. She scrolls down to look at the pictures.

“The last one is from a year ago,” she notices.

“I started getting rude comments after I transferred from Hydra,” Brock admits. “So I just quit posting.”

He used to pose topless for a lot of his selfies, and the comments were bad for his self-esteem. Self-care matters. His face feels warmer when Wasp scrolls through those.

“Aw, they’re good pictures.” Brock notices that her cheeks turn slightly pink. “Hydra, am I right?”

Brock doesn’t say anything to that. He still feels defensive whenever somebody bashes Hydra.

“Why didn’t you just block them?” she asks.

“I wouldn’t have any comments at all then.” And he wasn’t sure what would be worse. Opting out of the whole thing seemed like the most reasonable idea at the time.

“Why didn’t you get more followers? It’s easy,” she adds when Brock doesn’t answer. “You only need to follow a lot of people first, leave them a lot of likes and be nice to them.”

“I already tried the being nice thing, doesn’t do a lot of good,” Brock snarls.

“Nonsense! It’s very helpful, not only online, but in real life, too!”

“Pain in the ass,” Brock mutters. “You don’t get to say what you think and nobody appreciates it…”

But Wasp doesn’t listen. “I’ll guide you! Here, log in!” She gets up from the chair to give him access to the computer. He has little choice but to log into his account.

“Let’s start with following the important people first.”

“I ain’t following Cap—”

But again, she doesn’t listen, just grabs the mouse. They visit some accounts to follow them and like the pictures, even when Brock doesn’t actually like them, but he has fun scrolling through them. He realizes social accounts are a great source of knowledge of other people. He’s never been particularly interested in finding out who’s friends with whom, and what they’re doing, but he learns some things that are worth knowing—like what Falcon’s doing with all the card decks he ‘confiscated’. Brock clicks on the pictures with him and his friends playing poker. The caption says, ‘Confiscated another deck. Those losers never learn. #hydraamiright

That must be a popular saying in the Academy if it’s become a tag.

Wasp makes him like a couple of recent selfies of Cap—both taken in the gym. He has more fun liking Loki’s pictures. Loki’s account is a good source of gossip, as most of the pictures are of other students and taken out of hiding. The captions vary between ‘idiots ’, ‘morons ’, ‘losers ’, ‘pathetic ’. The most recent are of Pepper Potts and Matt Murdock eating together in the Park.

“You’re already following Black Widow,” Wasp notices when she clicks on her profile.

She encourages him to write a nice comment. Brock learns that ‘I’d tap that’ is not a nice comment.

“What about Rollins?” Brock asks, pretending to be only mildly interested.

Wasp saddens. “He still doesn’t have any social media.” She cheers up again. “That’s good for now, now you should post a new pic!”

Once again, she sifts through their selfies on her phone, but Brock stops paying attention. He decides Widow was right about this fake dating thing—very informative. If he wants to learn something about someone, why not try that himself?

“That was fun,” Wasp says once she sends him the selfie where they look ‘the most fierce’ for him to post later. “We should do that again sometime.”

“Actually—” Brock starts, but she cuts him off.

“You could help me plan the Halloween party! Oh, it would be so cool!”

“Halloween? It’s not for another month!”

“I know, but I have so many costumes to sew! What are you gonna be this year? I think I’ll go as a mobster. Oh, we could totally do each other’s makeup!” She claps her hands in joy.

Brock groans internally. This is exactly why he kept away from Wasp for a whole year before Taskmaster convinced him to talk to her.

“Uh,” he says. “Yeah. Whatever. I’ll see you later, yeah?”

She kisses him on the cheek before he leaves. His face paint leaves white and black traces on her lips.

Brock hides his hands in the pockets of the jacket he won from Jack and decides to see if Winter has any alcohol. He needs a drink.

Chapter Text

"They made up a relationship tag for you, too," Taskmaster says, scrolling through Twitter on his phone.

Brock groans, letting his head fall onto the bar. Winter Soldier silently pours more Russian Standard into his cup.

"Waspbones," Taskmaster continues, unbothered by his friend's distress. Brock is willing to bet he's actually enjoying himself. "You're the Academy's hot topic, everyone has an opinion. Most of the people think it's outrageous, but also a lot of them say you're hot. Tigra tweeted you deserve someone better. I hope she doesn't mean herself, because really... And some people think you're still in Hydra," he adds with a note of surprise in his voice.

"We were on one date for fuck's sake," Brock mumbles against the bar counter. "One! It ain't a relationship and never will be."

Taskmaster shrugs, puts his phone away, and takes the bottle of vodka from Winter to pour himself another. "You're a good match."

Brock raises his head just to look at him with one eyebrow arched. "How?"

"It's the contrast that does it," Taskmaster explains. "A cutie and a beast. You are the cutie, of course."

Brock slumps against the backrest of his bar stool with a sigh. "I'm no good for Wasp. No, you know who I’d be good with? Widow. We'd match."

Taskmaster rubs his chin in thought. "Two brooding types that pretend to hate everything around them? I don't know, man, I don't see it."

Brock glares at him. "What do you mean, pretend?"

"Everyone will forget in a day or two," Winter Soldier says softly, helpfully handing Brock his cup.

"Thank you Winter. You're a good friend. See," Brock addresses Tasky, "you should take your example from him."

"If you call lying to your face being a good friend." Taskmaster knocks back his vodka. "Because this won't calm down in two days." He grabs his phone again to check it for new alerts. "In a week, maybe."

Winter Soldier whips out his guitar out of nowhere. “Do you wanna listen to my new song?” he asks and, without waiting for an answer, he starts playing. “When a pirate and a pirate really love each other—”

Brock stands up so rapidly he sends his stool crashing down to the floor. It’s loud enough for Spider-Man to stop dancing and stare at them.

“I take back every good thing I’ve ever said about you,” Brock hisses at Winter who stops playing in surprise. “You suck big time.”

He stomps out of the Club just to return, snatch the bottle of Russian Standard, and walk out again despite Taskmaster’s protests.

The hour is late, and the quad is mostly empty as Brock ambles around, taking a swig from the bottle every once in a while. No one pays any attention to him, and he's thankful for it because he's in no mood for people to tweet at him in real life. He wanders to The Blasting Range and has fun throwing explosives at the robots until he runs out of vodka and throws the empty bottle at them, too. He misses.

He's definitely drunk when he finally makes his way to the Dorm. He trips on the stairs a couple times, but in his defense, it's dark. There's no one around to witness him, anyway, so he doesn't worry about it.

He pauses at his door and looks sideways at Jack's. He remembers the idea he’d had on the date before the whole waspbones thing blew up and distracted him. He holds his breath and strains his ears, but he can't hear any noises. Jack should be in his room at this hour. Maybe he's asleep? Brock knocks on his door, still holding his breath for half a minute until, finally, he hears footsteps and the door swings open. Jack looks at him curiously with his eyebrows raised in silent question.

"Hey," Brock says and hesitates, unsure of what he wanted to say in the first place. "Uh... How you doin'?"

Jack's expression turns impatient, and he crosses his arms over his chest. "I was about to go to bed, actually."

Brock stares at his miffed face. Jack has been more friendly towards him recently with nightly cuddling and all, and this sudden coldness surprises him. Jack is so hard to read... Maybe it's his intoxicated state's fault, but it convinces Brock his idea is a good one and he should execute it. Immediately.

"Yeah, sorry, I'll get outta yer hair in a sec... Jus’ wanted to ask if that hanging out offer is still on."

Jack goes back to being surprised. His arms drop. "Yeah, sure, Brock. Whatever you want."

Whatever Brock wants? It sounds like Jack is really desperate for a friend. He should have chosen someone better to befriend though, Brock thinks bitterly. Someone actually friendly.

Or he's really a Hydra plant that wants something from him. Well, that's what Brock intends to find out.

"Next weekend?" he asks. "In the Archives. We—" he trails off, realizing he has no idea how to ask someone out. Way to go, Brock. "Well, we'll have some fun, I guess."

Jack snorts at that, then looks him up at down. "Are you drunk?"

"Most definitely." Brock leans his head against the wall with a tired, goofy smile. "So? Next weekend, yeah?"

"Yeah. Now go the fuck to sleep." Jack's still smiling as he starts to close the door.

"Not sleepin’ with me tonight?" Brock blurts out before he thinks better of it.

Jack stops in his tracks. He doesn't answer immediately. "Depends. How was your date?"

Brock sighs. He actually managed to forget about that for a moment. "I didn't think she meant it as an actual date when I went, and I kinda didn't clear that up, and now everyone thinks we're together." He rolls his eyes. "So don't believe everything you read on Twitter."

"I don't have a Twitter."

Right, that's what they need to fix. Brock sighs again and gestures vaguely at his door. "Well. Good night."

"Sleep well, Brock," Jack says and closes the door.

Brock's still leaning against the wall for a while, fighting back sudden dizziness, before he gathers enough strength to stumble inside his room.

Chapter Text

Unknown: Is it like a date date?

Crossbones: Who dis

Unknown: Jack

Crossbones: How did u get my number

Jack: SHIELD database

Jack: So, is it?

Crossbones: Depends

Crossbones: Do u want it to be

Jack: Hell yeah

Jack: Sorry, that was my friend

Jack: Either way is fine

Crossbones: U don't have any friends

Jack: [a picture of Maria Hill showing thumbs up attached]

Crossbones: I stand corrected

Crossbones: We'll see where it goes

 

Brock can hear Jack through the wall. It's awkward. He listens to him walk around the room and to his bed creaking when he sits down on it. He himself hasn't been moving for a while, just lounging on his own bed. Finally, he hears the door to Jack's room open and close, and his footsteps on the corridor. He waits for another five minutes until he can't hear any more noise and decides it's time to go.

Jack's leaning against the bookshelf with his arms folded on his chest when Brock enters the Archives. He's not wearing a pirate costume, just his regular SHIELD-issued shirt and a leather jacket, and that's enough to make Brock decide he likes him better than Wasp, and it would be a shame if he was Hydra's plant after all. Besides Jack, there's only Ms. Marvel present, sitting at the desk and pretending to read a book while hiding a comic underneath. Brock rolls his eyes; pathetic. The computer is thankfully free—not that Brock would have any qualms against kicking whoever would be occupying it out of the chair—so he beckons Jack over.

"What do you have in mind?" Jack asks without as much as a greeting, and Brock decides he likes that about him, too.

It starts worrying him. Liking Jack was never the plan, but it's happening. He'd better really not be a Hydra plant.

"Not a Hydra type of fun, I'm afraid," Brock says, gesturing for Jack to sit down. "But I figured you should learn the Academy ways."

When Jack sits down, Brock leans over his shoulder to grab a mouse and catches a whiff of his cologne. It smells spicy; much nicer than Brock's citrus body spray. Why does he keep noticing these things about Jack? He hasn't noticed them about Wasp. Does he even know what Black Widow smells like? He doesn't, but it must be because she's never gotten close enough for him to find out.

Jack looks over his shoulder expectantly, most likely because Brock has been doing nothing but having an existential crisis over noticing his smell like an idiot for about a minute. He clears his throat and looks at the screen, grounding himself back in the here and now. He loads PicShare's main page with a few clicks.

"A lot of the Academy's life happens online, so if you wanna fit in and make some friends, you need at least a PicShare account."

"You don't even update yours," Jack grumbles, and before Brock gets over his surprise at the fact Jack has been checking his profile and comes up with an answer to that, he adds, "I mean, that's why we're here? You want me to get a PicShare account?"

"It's fun," Brock says defensively, but quickly comes up with a better argument. "And instead of wasting money on texts, we can just message each other there."

That convinces Jack just fine, and so they get to work. Jack fills in his info, but once the account is set up, Brock runs into another problem—Jack doesn't want to set his profile picture.

"You want me to take a selfie right now? Seriously?" Jack looks at him incredulously. "No."

Brock rolls his eyes. "Then let's use an old one, you surely have something on your phone."

He reaches for Jack's phone lying on the desk beside the keyboard, but Jack clasps his huge hand on it, blocking Brock's access.

"No."

"Fine, then I'll take one of you." Brock pulls out his own phone. "Say—" he cuts himself off; the word 'cheese' still makes him gag. "Actually, don't say anything." He scrutinizes Jack's deep frown. "This is fine. People might not recognize you if you smile."

He takes a quick shot and sends it to Jack.

"I don't like it," Jack says when he opens it.

"Nonsense, you look fine. Load it up." Brock waits for a moment, but Jack keeps staring at the picture, and Brock starts to lose his patience. "Look, you need a profile picture for people to know it's you. How many even know your name? Three? Four?" He raises his eyebrow. "You sure you joined Hydra School after I left, or were you always there, just nobody even fucking knew you existed?"

Jack's ears go red and Brock watches him make a quick work of uploading the picture to the site. "I was very popular in Hydra," he grumbles. "I just don't see why you're doing this. What's it to you if people follow me or not."

"I'm helping you because I feel sorry for you," Brock says sharply as he refreshes the site and goes to Wasp's profile to follow her, and then Jessica and Black Widow for good measure. He doesn't follow Union Jack because fuck that guy.

Jack continues grumbling under his breath. Brock only comprehends some of it: 'I don't need your help' and 'we were supposed to have fun'.

"We are having fun," Brock barks.

God, but he's terrible at this dating thing. How did Wasp make it enjoyable? He grabs his phone again.

"Come on, we'll take some selfies together. Not to brag, but I'm kinda popular, so it'll really help your profile." Jack still looks pouty, so Brock rolls his eyes and adds, "Then we'll laugh at other people's pictures."

That placates Jack, and he agrees to pose for the selfie. Just when Brock's pressing the button to snap a picture, he feels Jack's lips brush against his.

It's not that he hasn't seen it coming; he watched Jack lean into him on the phone camera. Yet, he does nothing about it, just lets it happen. He stands frozen in place, awkwardly leaning into Jack's space, his mind completely blank. Jack's undeterred by his lack of response; he keeps kissing his lips, and then Brock can feel his tongue, and that's what wakes him up from his stupor.

His first instinct is to shove Jack off the chair, but he manages to calm himself down. They're just kissing; it's a dating thing, and Black Widow surely does that too on her fake dates, so he's okay.

Then he remembers they're not alone. Ms. Marvel is definitely watching them; not that he can hear anything, but she might just be an even worse gossip than Wasp. That's when he pushes Jack away. He glances at his phone—of course he caught the moment of Jack kissing him.

"We have to retake this one," he says, his voice strangely hoarse, and clears his throat. Jack smiles in the most infuriating and definitely not attractive way, and Brock glares at him. "Stop looking so smug."

Chapter Text

"Please, tell me," Brock whines from behind his hands that are pressed to his face, "that that fake date wasn't a shitty idea."

"It wasn't," Winter Soldier says softly. "It just had shitty consequences."

Brock drags his hands down his face with a groan.

He keeps telling himself the idea wasn't bad in itself; after all, he did get Jack to update his social media regularly and thanks to that now he knows where he is, what he is doing and with whom at all times. It was just poorly executed.

He knew Ms. Marvel seeing them kiss was bad, but he didn't anticipate just how much it would ruin his life. First of all, she wrote fanfiction about it. Multiple. They weren't as popular as her other works, but they still found a handful of devoted readers including Taskmaster whom Brock isn't currently on speaking terms with. And that isn't even the worst.

To be fair, Brock can't quite decide what is the worst: the ridiculous ship name, Wasp finding out all about it, getting incredibly pissed and posting about what a cheating a-hole Brock is literally everywhere, causing people to hate him--again--or the fact that he doesn't top.

Oh, right, Brock remembers when Jack enters Club A and walks over with a soft smile, the worst must be that Jack is now convinced they're boyfriends or some shit. He greets Brock with a kiss to his cheek and sits on a bar stool on his other side. Brock's face paint left black and white traces on his lips which must mean he now has a kiss print on his cheek.

Fuck his life.

He and Winter Soldier cease their conversation as they watch Jack order a beer. Jack also doesn't find anything to say for several minutes. Brock really tries not to look like the most miserable man on Earth to keep up appearances, but it's hard.

"How were classes?" Jack finally asks.

"Classes were fine," Brock responds mindlessly.

"Wanna do something tomorrow night?"

"Uh..." Brock turns to Winter Soldier for help, but only receives a shrug. "I have... a training session with Ares. Uhm... we'll see."

"I could come watch," Jack offers.

Brock laughs nervously. "And keep distracting me? No, better not."

Winter gives him a thumbs up. Jack doesn't continue the conversation. They watch him gulp half his beer at once, and then he excuses himself to the restroom.

"He's nice," Winter says.

"Sometimes," Brock agrees. "It's not that I don't like him. I just don't want him to think we're dating. And I still don't know what his deal really is."

"Can't you just tell him?"

"Tell him what? That I asked him out to find out if he's a double agent? I still don't know if he is." Brock groans. "Why does everyone and their mother think I'm their boyfriend after just one date?"

"Not everyone. I didn't."

Brock raises his eyebrows at Winter. "We never dated."

Winter frowns. "No? What were all those meetings then?"

"You mean when we were still in Hydra? Those were missions."

"Oh." Winter's face smooths out in surprise. "Yeah. That makes more sense."

"You thought we were dating?" Brock asks incredulously.

Winter nods. "It was kinda awkward since I'm in love with Black Widow. I'm glad we cleared that up."

Brock feels his face heat up. "You're in lo--"

He definitely doesn't squeal like a little girl when Jessica Jones jumps off the roof and lands right beside him.

"If you still don't know if Rollins is a double agent," she says, knocking on the bar, "then you did this whole fake date thing wrong." The Stark Robot slams three cans in front of her.

Brock gives her a dirty look. She only raises her eyebrow at that.

"Did you check his phone?" she asks.

"Uh... no."

"You asked him out on a fake date and you didn't even check his phone? That's espionage 101, Rumlow. What did you do besides kissing him?"

"He kissed me," Brock grumbles under his breath.

She picks up Jack's phone he left on the bar and goes through its contents with Brock and Winter watching her intently.

"There," she says. "That pretty much confirms my theory." She turns the screen towards Brock. It takes him a couple of long seconds to realize that what he's looking at isn't his PicShare account but Jack's gallery. "He's--"

"Spying on me," Brock finishes with a sigh.

She makes the same face Loki does before calling someone a buffoon. "He's in love with you," she finishes.

Chapter Text

Waking up with Jack in his bed is pretty much a given at this point, and as nice as it still is, it makes Brock uncomfortable now that he knows Jack doesn't just use him as his personal living heater. It's not that he's worried about Jack groping him—thankfully, he doesn't have wandering hands—but rather, the knowledge that Jack has a very wrong idea of what they are sits heavily in his stomach, and he has no idea what to do about it.

Jack's hold on him tightens, so he must be waking up. Brock doesn't look his way; he's lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling with a small grim frown. Jack hums softly beside him, his hand moves slightly up to rest on Brock's abs, and his lips press to the side of Brock's neck. Jack likes to kiss him, but he doesn't seem to want to go further than that, and Brock is thankful for that, but on the other hand it would be a good motivation to finally clear up the whole thing. Right now he's just stalling, because—

Because he knows telling Jack the truth will hurt him and he really, really wants to avoid it.

Since when does he even care about other people's feelings? He sighs softly. Fuck his life.

Jack props himself up on his elbows to look him in the face. He smiles. "Good morning."

Brock glances at him, but he can't bring himself to smile back. He gives a small nod in lieu of a greeting. Jack doesn't seem to mind; maybe he blames it on the early hour. He leans in to kiss him, and Brock lets him. It's nice, and if there were no strings attached, Brock would be totally fine with it.

But there are.

The kiss doesn't last long, but even after he breaks it, Jack's still hovering over Brock's face, smiling like the happiest man on Earth.

The weight in Brock's stomach becomes even heavier.

"If I had a face like this, I'd never cover it," Jack murmurs, running his fingers down Brock's unpainted cheek.

Brock rolls his eyes. He's not used to receiving genuine, straight-forward compliments like this.

"You look much more dangerous like this. So handsome." Jack smirks. "Less dangerous when you're blushing."

Brock groans and pushes Jack away so he can turn his back to him and bury his face in a pillow. That's why he started painting it back in Hydra—he blushes too easily. It's not good for his image. He can hear Jack chuckling behind him, and then there's another kiss being pressed to his nape.

"Don't hide from me," Jack murmurs against Brock's ear. "Wanna do something tonight?"

Brock sighs and, with his face still burning, he turns back around. Sure he wants to do something tonight, but preferably not with Jack. Unfortunately, the only person who still wants to hang with him is Winter and he's having some practice for one of his bands, so Brock's on his own.

"Maybe. I don't have any plans," he says truthfully.

"We can go to the club, play some pool," Jack says in that low voice of his that Brock despises because it makes his spine tingle in an absolutely unwanted way. "Or we can stay in, if you prefer."

Brock tenses. He's not sure he wants to know what's on Jack's mind.

"Pool sounds good," he says quickly.

Jack nods and finally moves away. Brock breathes a sigh of relief and sits up.

"What do you have first?" Jack asks, also pulling himself up.

"The Blasting Range." Brock scrambles out of bed and walks over to his chair where he left his clothes last night. "You?"

"Cap’s Obstacle Course." Jack picks his clothes up off the floor. "Do we have anything together?"

Brock shrugs. "I have the obstacle course later today and code cracking before that."

Jack shakes his head, indicating they don't have any classes together today. "I'll see you later then. For lunch, maybe?"

Brock nods, and Jack leaves his room.

The Academy's environment never felt so hostile, even right after he transferred from Hydra. He tries not to look around as he crosses the grounds towards The Blasting Range, but he can still feel unfriendly glares on his back. No one bothers him when he gets there, and he hopes it'll stay that way, but he has an unpleasant feeling it's only because he's handling explosives. He's right—once he gets to his next class that has more to do with taking notes than throwing bombs, he finds out some students really didn't like all those Wasp's posts about him.

"Will you fucking stop?" he snaps after third paper ball hits him in the head. "I didn't do anything."

"I don't judge," Punisher says from a seat behind him and throws another ball his way. "I punish."

He doesn't get away with it, of course; Brock fights him after class. No stupid dance offs—just good old pummeling, the Hydra way. Unfortunately, Punisher gets in a few good punches as well, and Brock reaches Cap’s Obstacle Course not only fuming but also aching. That class isn't any more pleasant; in fact, it's even worse. It seems that Iron Man made it his personal mission to avenge his best friend, and he has decided the best way to do that would be firing repulsors at Brock's ass. Whenever Brock tries to punch him for that, he either gets blasted away, or Stark simply flies away out of his reach. The whole scene brings the rest of the students a lot of joy, and Brock swears there's more than one person recording them.

"You know, that's pretty villainous of you," he snaps after yet another failed attempt to maim Stark, "to attack your classmates for no reason."

Stark lands on the ground beside him. Brock only glares up at him and doesn't make any attempt to get up. His ass hurts from all the blasting, and he's positive he has a hole burned out in his pants.

"No reason? Man, you cheated on my best friend! I told her you were no good for her, but did she listen? No, she defended you. Talked about how even the guys like you could change and how nice you actually are under all that rough exterior. And you know what?" Stark leans in. "For the first time in my life, I was really disappointed I was right."

He keeps his arms crossed over his chest, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to attack Brock again, so Brock slowly pulls himself up. If his ass happens to be exposed, well, not his fucking problem.

"First of all, no matter what she told you, Wasp and I weren't even together, so no, I didn't cheat," he snarls. "And for the record, Rollins and I? Also not a thing."

"Doesn't seem like it," Stark snarls back.

Brock spreads his arms helplessly; Stark's shoulders twitch, but the moment he realizes it's not an attack, he relaxes again.

"It's not my fault you guys are so big on gossip! I'm not with him, I don't even like him! I'm only trying to determine if he's spying on us for Hydra!"

Stark makes a weird face at that, and at first Brock thinks he doesn't believe him. Then he realizes it's not that. It's oddly quiet; the students around them are still gaping at them, but some are looking at something behind Brock's back, and, feeling his blood run cold, Brock slowly turns around.

Of course Jack's standing behind him.

Fuck everything.

For a very long second, they're just staring at each other, and Jack's eyes have never been so cold. Then he turns on his heel and walks away. Brock doesn't try to go after him; he wouldn't even know what to say.

"Thanks for compromising me," he snarls Stark's way.

Stark shrugs. "Man, don't blame me. You compromised yourself."

If he has anything else to say, Brock doesn't care to stay and listen; he strides out of the course, yanking somebody's phone out of their hand on the way and throwing it on the ground so hard it breaks.

He finds himself on the Monster Arena again. The huge spider crawls out of its hiding spot curiously, but Brock doesn't have anything to feed it with. He's sitting on the stairs, again wishing the spider would just bite him and kill him with its venom, when he hears footsteps approaching him. He doesn't react; he'd recognize those footsteps and that sound of breathing anywhere.

Taskmaster sits beside him on the step. He doesn't say anything and Brock's grateful for that. After a moment, he hands Brock a ham sandwich. Not feeling particularly hungry despite it being lunch time, Brock tears the sandwich in half and throws one towards the spider. It grabs it swiftly and runs away.

Chapter Text

"You think he's gonna be there?" Brock takes a few gulps of rum. It tastes like juice at this point, which means he's either very drunk or Taskmaster switched his rum for juice and he's been too drunk to notice. Either way, he's very drunk.

Taskmaster grunts from his place at the desk where he's carefully applying his zombie makeup.

"Of course he's gonna be there, everyone is," Brock answers himself bitterly. He analyzes the liquid in the bottle; it looks like rum, but it might just as well be an innocuous-looking juice.

"Why won't you go and see for yourself?"

Brock sighs and hangs his head down from Taskmaster's bed so he can look at him. "I'll do you one better: why are you upside down?"

It's Taskmaster's turn to sigh. He turns back to his mirror, shaking his head and muttering, "Safer for you to stay."

Brock heaves his head up and lets it fall onto the pillows; the room starts spinning, and he takes a few calming breaths. "I ain't invited."

"Yes, you are. Everyone is."

"Yeah, but no one wants me there. Not after Wasp convinced everyone and their mother I'm some kinda cheater." He's silent for a moment, picking at the bottle's label with his thumbnail, but then he adds in a lower voice, "Doubt it he wants to see me either."

Jack's been avoiding him for the past few days, not that Brock blames him after that bomb he accidentally dropped on him. The worst part is that not everything he said was true. Sure, he was hanging out with Jack to try and determine if he was planted in Avengers Academy by Hydra, but he does genuinely like him, and now Jack thinks he doesn't... Sometimes he wishes they could just talk it out like adults, but then he doesn't know what he could say to make everything right again.

It's all Stark's fault. He thinks he's entitled to stick his nose in everyone else's business. Fuck him.

And fuck this spinning room, too.

"I think I'm gonna throw up."

Taskmaster groans. "Why did I let you get shitfaced in my room?"

Brock doesn't know. He thinks it's a question only Taskmaster knows the answer to.

There's a hand on his arm, and Taskmaster's pulling him up to a sitting position. "Come on, I'll get you to your room. I need to pick up Moon Knight anyway."

Swaying and tottering, he lets Taskmaster lead him up the stairs to his dorm room. He throws a glance at Jack's door, but it's closed, not that he expected anything else. He strains his ears, but can't hear any noise coming from the inside; perhaps Jack had left already.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Taskmaster asks, and there's a rare note of concern in his voice that Brock's not sure he likes. He digs out a key out of his pocket, unlocks his door—not without difficulty—and stumbles inside.

"Yeah," he rasps and makes a beeline for the bed. He dozes off as soon as he closes his eyes.

When he wakes up a couple hours later, he's still drunk and feeling a little sick, so he decides a walk and some fresh air will benefit him. He somehow manages to stumble down the stairs without falling on his face, and when he finally staggers out of the dorm, the sky is dark and the air cool on his face. He ambles around, focusing most of his energy on keeping his balance, but eventually the loud music coming from the Stark Tower draws his attention. The quad is completely empty while the Tower's entrance alone buzzes with life, and Brock thinks to himself that, in fact, he could go there and join the party. He is invited, there's free alcohol, and that's where Taskmaster is—there's really no reason for him to hang out alone in the dark like some kind of loser he definitely isn't.

The inside is dim and filled with a crowd of colorfully dressed people. Brock has never been here before, and he doesn't know if Stark turned his living room into a nightclub for the party, or if it always looks like this. There's a dance floor filled to brink with sweaty people, and around it there are booths with groups laughing or trying to talk over the dance music. Brock scans it for friendly faces, but pauses when he sees Wasp. She's wearing her mob boss costume and sitting in Thor's lap, who's dressed as a... actually, Brock has no idea what's that supposed to be, but it looks like something Winter would pick. Brock watches the pair only for a moment; they don't notice him, so with his confidence regained, he makes a beeline for the bar.

"Rum," he says to the Starkbot standing nearby.

"I am not your servant!" it snaps at him and hastily walks away.

Before Brock manages to figure out what the hell just happened, there's a weight on his shoulder that almost tips him over.

“You’re here!” Tigra screeches into his ear. To her credit, he probably wouldn’t hear her otherwise over the loud music. “I was getting worried you wouldn’t show!”

He regains his balance and throws a look at her. She’s dressed up as a cheerleader. Of course.

“Yeah, me too,” he mumbles under his breath, his attention already on the bar. He finds a bottle he likes and takes it, not bothering with a glass.

“Wanna dance?” she asks.

“Crossbones don’t dance,” he replies automatically.

She leans in and purrs into his ear, “Then maybe you wanna check out Stark’s hot tub and… get physical?”

“Yeah, why the hell not.” The hot tub sounds like a secluded area; maybe he’ll get away from all this noise.

He turns around with Tigra still hanging off his shoulder and almost bumps into somebody. He looks up to meet an angry frown and his heart skips a beat.

Jack looks really good in his fancy vampire costume, and Brock’s drunk enough to let his eyes linger on his arms and chest, imagining pushing that heavy red coat off and unbuttoning the fitted black shirt. But then something obnoxiously yellow draws his attention and he realizes it’s Maria Hill accompanying Jack. Brock folds his hands into fists; even her ridiculous giant banana costume can’t alleviate his sudden anger.

“Cwothboneth,” Jack lisps, then scowls and spits out fake vampire teeth into his hand. He glares at Brock as if daring him to say something, but all Brock can think about is how Jack never called him by his nickname before. “I see you’re going through them fast.” His eyes flick to Tigra who grins at him dopily.

“So are you,” Brock snarls, glaring daggers at Maria.

Jack snorts. “Are you jealous?”

“What if I am?” Brock shoots back, convinced in his drunken state that it’s a good comeback.

Jack’s still staring at him in surprise when Tigra pulls Brock away. “Excuse me, we were on our way to the hot tub!” she sing-songs, and they lose Jack and Maria in the crowd.

Chapter Text

Stretching and posing as if doing a striptease, Tigra takes off her costume, revealing a purple bikini underneath. Brock frowns; he wishes he thought about this before he came here. As it is, he's forced to go into the hot tub in his underwear. His only alternative is skinny dipping, and he doesn't want to do it with Tigra.

With Jack on the other hand...

He makes a quick work of his clothes and settles in the hot tub. He stretches his legs with a sigh, opens his bottle of rum and takes a hearty sip. This is the life. He could get used to this. Maybe he should befriend Stark just for the daily access to everything his Tower provides. Stark would never go for it after that whole fiasco with Wasp, but a boy can dream.

He straightens up when Tigra enters the hot tub. Instead of taking a seat beside him like he's expecting, she settles right in his lap, grinning like a cat that got a canary.

"What are you doing?" Brock asks.

She isn't given a chance to answer; the next moment water splashes Brock's face as Jack jumps in the hot tub in his full costume and shoves Tigra off his lap. He takes her place, and Brock is quite pleased by this turn of events—until the first punch.

The second one knocks him out.

He comes to in his bed. He groans loudly and presses his hot and sweaty hand to his throbbing cheek. It does absolutely nothing to alleviate the pain, so he opens his eyes in hope to find something cooler. He jolts at the sight of a zombie staring down at him, but after a second he realizes it's just Taskmaster.

"How are you?" he asks.

"My face hurts," Brock complains.

"Yeah, Rollins packs quite a punch."

It's only then that Brock remembers what happened the previous night. Taskmaster hands him a bottle of water, and he sits up to drink it.

"Tigra was acting weird," he says after half of it is gone.

Taskmaster raises his eyebrows. "That's one word for 'trying to have a drunken sex in Stark's hot tub'."

Brock groans at that and rubs his temples. Of course that's what was happening. How could he be so oblivious? Even being drunk doesn't excuse him. He's suddenly overjoyed Jack intervened, despite the pain and all.

He lies back down with his arm covering his eyes and drops the bottle on the floor. He hears Taskmaster sit down beside the bed.

"We need to talk," he says. "You hurt to look at."

Brock lifts his arm to look at him. "What do you mean?"

Taskmaster rolls his eyes. "I mean I'm gonna take on my best friend responsibility to help you stop being a hopeless mess."

Brock's arm drops back over his face. "I don't know what you mean."

Taskmaster sighs. "Do you miss Jack?"

It takes Brock a good minute to force himself to answer honestly. "So what if I do?"

"So you can still fix it. But before you do, you need to realize something. Why do you miss him?"

Brock scowls. "I like him. You know that, I already told you."

"Yes, and?"

"And nothing. What is this, improv acting?"

Taskmaster sighs in exasperation. "So you wanna be friends with him again?"

"Sure I do."

"Just friends?"

Brock sits up again and throws him a suspicious look. "And what the hell does that mean?"

Taskmaster holds his gaze. "Come on, don't be dense. You know what I mean."

Brock doesn't know what the worst part is: that he in fact does know what Taskmaster means, that he's right, or that Brock's been deep down aware of his feelings but in denial for quite some time now. He hides his face in his hands and groans.

"No, not just friends," he finally admits out loud.

Taskmaster squeezes his arm. "Good."

Brock throws him a glare. "How is that good? I fucked up. He hates me now."

"He's angry," Taskmaster agrees, "but as far as I'm concerned, he still likes you the same way you like him. What he did last night was obviously driven by jealousy. You still have a chance to fix this."

Brock stares off into the distance as he thinks it over. Taskmaster must be right; he usually is. Not all is lost then. Slowly, a plan begins to form in his mind.

"I know what to do," he says. "I just need Jessica's and Loki's help, and—"

"No," Taskmaster cuts him off harshly. "No more stupid plans. You just apologize and tell him how you feel. As simple as that."

Brock tenses at that. Just like that? He's just supposed to open up and make himself vulnerable like that? What if Jack laughs in his face? He likes his plan involving Jessica, Loki, and a nail clipper a hundred times better.

But hell, Taskmaster's right—again. His stupid plans are what got him in this mess. He hugs his knees to his chest.

"I'm not ready yet."

"It's fine." Taskmaster stands up. "It's better if you do this sober and not smelling like a hobo, anyway. Just don't wait too long." 

And with that, he exits the room, leaving Brock miserable in bed.

Chapter Text

Brock sits down at the mirror and picks up his face paint brush. Perfecting his looks always soothes his nerves as it gives him something to focus on, and soon he's not thinking about Jack at all. It's not until he adds the finishing touches of gel to his hair and admires the result that Jack surfaces in his mind.

You look ridiculous.

First words he ever said to him. They pissed Brock off rather than making him feel self-conscious then, but now they bring an unfamiliar urge to shove his head under the tap. He doesn't do it though, just washes his hands.

If I had a face like this, I'd never cover it.

Brock shakes his head, trying to get rid of Jack's voice this way. God, he's a mess; he can't talk to Jack like this. He needs coffee, or better yet, another drink, but it's nearing noon and he has no idea where he can get one. Coffee it is.

He's in the Club A ordering his second americano when he realizes he's stalling. The coffee does nothing to help his state of mind; on the contrary, it makes him more jittery and anxious by the minute. He keeps drinking it though, trying to convince himself it's for his own good despite the fact his hands begin to shake.

He doesn't notice when Wasp enters the club and only spots her when she approaches the bar. He tenses; his morning is bad enough without her saying whatever it is she has to tell him, and he considers bailing right there and then, but then she's up in his face, holding his gaze, and he doesn't have much of a choice but to stay if he doesn't want to look like a coward. So instead he glares at her to let her know he really isn't in the mood to be bothered. It makes her hesitate, but she takes a deep breath and says,

"Hi, Crossbones. I... came to apologize."

That makes him raise his eyebrows.

"It was brought to my attention that I might have overreacted," she continues, not quite meeting his gaze. "We were just on one date after all; you didn't promise me anything."

Brock nods slowly. He briefly considers telling her he didn't even know it was supposed to be a date, but he really doesn't feel like going over this, so he keeps quiet. Wasp shifts her weight from one foot to another.

"So, are we cool?" she asks tentatively.

"Only if Stark stops shooting me in the ass."

She snorts and nods, and Brock suddenly feels lighter. It's like his luck has turned again. Maybe his talk with Jack won't go so bad. With his confidence renewed, he bids goodbye to Wasp, leaves his half-finished coffee on the bar, and walks back to the dorm.

Jack's door is locked, and when Brock knocks, no one answers. He deflates; it's pretty anticlimactic. He looks around, as if expecting Jack to walk out from around the corner, but nothing of the sort happens. He's alone on the corridor, standing at the door to an empty room like an idiot.

He returns to his own dorm with a sigh. He sits down at his desk and strains his ears, but no sounds of footsteps reach him.

This is pointless.

He looks around for a distraction, and his gaze lands on the drawer where he keeps his picklock. Now, sitting idly in his own room couldn't possibly be any less exciting, but breaking into Jack's and waiting for him there, maybe taking a peek inside his closet... He quickly retrieves the picklock and strides back to Jack's door, wondering why the idea didn’t come to him earlier.

(Maybe because he never actually wanted to find out if Jack was a spy. If it turned out he was, he'd be kicked out of the Academy, and Brock would never see him again.)

The room is so neat it looks unoccupied. But it has to be Jack's room—Brock has heard him through the wall too many times to be mistaken. And yet, there's nothing on his desk nor his nightstand, his bed is made, there isn't even a jacket or any other part of clothing hanging off his chair. With his heart in his throat, Brock crosses the room and reaches the closet. Inside, he finds an open suitcase containing all of Jack's things.

A wave of sadness washes over Brock as he stands there, looking at it. He knows what it means—his own closet looked the same way for about a couple months after transferring from Hydra School when he was still acclimating. But then his dorm started feeling more and more like his , and his things spread, creating the disorder his room is now in.

But Jack transferred more than two months ago. And he still doesn't feel like he belongs. He's practically ready to leave at any second.

Brock closes the closet with a sigh and settles on the bed. He's aware he's one of the reasons Jack feels that way, but he finds it hard to entirely blame himself; Jack didn't make befriending him easy.

You look ridiculous.

But now, Brock's here so they can both fix it.

The door opens, and Jack walks in hurriedly, taking Brock by surprise so much he doesn’t move nor speak. Jack has his head down and he’s almost at the closet door when he looks up, spots Brock, and freezes. His eyes widen, and he steps back, assuming a defensive stance. Only then Brock remembers that the last time they saw each other, Jack knocked him out with a punch, and must be now expecting retribution. He should say something, but nothing comes to mind, so they just awkwardly stare at each other, nervous for entirely different reasons.

After what feels like minutes, Jack must realize Brock isn’t here to attack him and he relaxes, letting his arms drop loosely. That’s when Brock’s tongue finally unties itself.

“I lied,” he blurts.

There’s a slight raise of Jack’s eyebrow and nothing more. Brock takes a deep breath.

“I do like you.”

Nothing. This is harder than he imagined. He takes another breath.

“I like you a lot,” he continues with an unpleasant feeling that he sounds really, really stupid. He’s certainly blushing under his face paint. “And I liked what we had, and I’d like to go back to that—if you do, too, that is—and I realize it can’t be that easy, but…” He trails off, not knowing how to finish that sentence. He frowns up at Jack, because he’s just standing there, staring and being generally unhelpful. “Would you say something?!” 

It’s Jack’s turn to sigh. He walks over to the bed and sits down, just far enough that Brock doesn’t feel crowded in. He’s not looking at him when he asks, “Why did you say you didn’t then?”

Brock’s knee-jerk reaction is to storm out the door, hurling insults, but he forces himself to stay in place. For once, he needs to act like a big boy and face the truth. Jack deserves it. He fixes his gaze on the opposite wall and answers in a tight voice, “I haven’t had much luck in the… dating area. So I denied myself. Smothered any feelings I mighta had. I also didn’t expect I would fall for a guy. I used to imagine myself with a badass woman back when I still wanted that.” He swallows thickly and corrects himself, “Openly wanted that.”

He can’t force himself to look at Jack, so he doesn’t see his reaction, but a painfully long moment later, he feels his hand on his shoulder.

“So you’re not worried I’m collecting data on you for Hydra in order to re-recruit you slash eliminate you?”

Brock tenses. “I wasn’t a couple seconds ago, but that’s oddly specific.”

Finally, he turns to face him and is met with a warm smile, one he’s only ever seen on Jack when they woke up in bed together. A second later those lips are pressing against his, coaxing them open and making his heart feel like it’s about to jump out of his chest.

“You know,” Jack mutters against his lips, “This face paint taste is growing on me.”

Brock rolls his eyes and pushes him away, but he’s smiling. “So we’re cool?”

“I’m not sure about me.” Jack reaches out to trace his finger down Brock’s neck, sending shivers down his spine. “But you are very, very hot.”

What came next made Brock forgive him that absolutely terrible joke.

Chapter Text

Brock hasn’t been this happy since Red Skull complimented his pants. Though maybe even that didn’t make him as happy as he is right now. He has a loving boyfriend, amazing best friends, everyone likes him again after Wasp cleared his name, and his grades do not suck. He regularly goes on double dates with Taskmaster and his new boyfriend Moon Knight, which is something they never thought they’d be doing when in Hydra School, but turns out to be a nice way to spend time, even if Moon Knight is weird sometimes.

Alright, a lot of times.

Other than that, he finally saved up enough money for a pretty sweet mask with a skull on it, so he doesn’t waste time to apply his makeup every morning. He thought Jack would be delighted, but it makes him complain even more because he can’t see Brock’s pretty face at all now. Taskmaster also doesn’t like it; he claims Brock’s copying his style. At least Winter is supportive. Brock himself thinks he looks super badass in it.

Not everything is perfect though; he still has early morning classes. He groans when his phone wakes him up and sits up, making Jack protest when he’s knocked down from his chest.

“Told you I have early classes,” Brock grouses, feeling only a little bad. “But you insisted on sleeping with me. On me, even.”

“I can’t sleep alone, it makes me feel lonely,” is Jack’s sleepy answer. He doesn’t even open his eyes, just makes himself comfortable on the pillow beside Brock, and Brock suppresses the sudden urge to slobber over how delightful he is.

Wondering what the fuck has happened to him to even think about acting like that, he forcefully turns away from the adorable sight that is Jack Rollins drooling on his pillow and takes his phone to turn off the alarm. As soon as he looks at the screen, he realizes it wasn’t an alarm that woke him, but a message from Taskmaster.

Mastermercenary: Dude you need to read Ms. Marvel’s latest fic about you two it’s so cute and hot.

Brock frowns; Taskmaster’s enthusiasm over his relationship is a bit much sometimes.

Bonecrusher: NO thanks. How come she never writes about u & moon knight? Unfair.

Mastermercenary: I KNOW. I’m outraged.

Brock snorts. Jack makes a soft sound of protest behind his back, and that makes Brock check the time; it’s only five in the morning.

Bonecrusher: Also I was sleeping.

Mastermercenary: Come for coffee. My treat if you come without the mask.

Bonecrusher: Youll never get between me and my mask.

Mastermercenary: I find it OFFENSIVE.

Unable to stop a smile, but trying to be silent, Brock puts down the phone and turns back to Jack. He cracks open one eye when he senses Brock watching him.

“Wha?”

“I’m going for coffee, then class. You gonna be alright here?”

Groaning, Jack buries his face further into the pillow. “Why wouldn’t I be?” comes his muffled reply.

“Thought you’d be lonely,” Brock says with a smirk.

“Stay then.”

“Can’t.”

Jack doesn’t say anything to that, so Brock gets ready to leave. He thinks Jack has fallen asleep, but then he catches him staring as he puts on clothes.

“I see you,” he lets him know.

“You know what I see?” Jack counters. “The saddest fucking thing ever. Clothes should be banned.”

Brock barks a laugh at that and pulls his mask on. It’s a little tight and hot, but when he looks in the mirror, he concedes the effect is worth a little discomfort.

Jack sighs. “Bye, bye, Brock’s pretty face.”

“Are you with me exclusively for my pretty face?” Brock asks, feigning offence.

“Yes,” Jack answers easily and buries his face back in the pillow.

It’s still dark outside, and Club A is basically empty. Taskmaster is sitting at the bar, sipping coffee, and Brock joins him. It’s quiet, and they barely talk, enjoying the silence, though Taskmaster does insist on reading the best—in his opinion—excerpts from Ms. Marvel’s new fic aloud.

“Why am I a bottom again?” Brock groans. “Give me this.”

He yanks Taskmaster’s phone out of his hand and types a comment underneath the fic to let the author know that he certainly isn’t one.

(He is, but no one else but him and Jack needs to know that.)

Time passes slowly, people come and go, and eventually Brock and Taskmaster pay for their coffee and stand up to leave. As Brock turns around, he comes face to face with Black Widow who sends him a seductive smile.

“Crossbones! I’m so glad I caught you,” she says. Brock’s in too much of a shock to answer. “I couldn’t help but notice—” She leans in conspiratorially, and Brock mirrors her— “the way you look at me. Say, wouldn’t you like to spend some time together?”

Her words make him feel like someone dropped a bucket of ice water on him, and he tries to physically shake it off. She lets out a huff of breath in surprise when he pushes her out of his way and stalks out of the club.

Black Widow has been paying him exactly zero attention since he joined the academy, and now suddenly she wants to go out? Something stinks. Something stinks really bad. And he has an uneasy feeling it has something to do with Jack.

Jones will know what’s going on.

Chapter Text

Brock stares at the photograph he’s holding in silent bemusement.

“When did you take this?” He finally looks up at Jones.

“Last night.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

Jones crosses her arms over her chest. “I wasn’t aware I was still working for you.”

Brock stares at her in disbelief. “I paid you to find out what his game is! This is a new clue!” He waves the photograph in front of her face. She sighs.

“Look, two supposedly ex Hydra guys dating for real? Not exactly trustworthy.”

Brock wants to punch her, but he restrains himself. “I gave you this case!”

“I was already working on it.” Jones grabs one of the beer cans standing on her desk and opens it. “We have a group here that checks every former Hydra person. Taskmaster, Spider-Woman, Winter Soldier, and yes, you too. You weren’t in our radar until you started dating Rollins, and he did this.” She points at the photograph.

Brock deflates and drops his arms. “Well, I know nothing about it.”

Jones nods. “Now I know.”

Brock looks at the photograph again. In it, a Hydra agent is handing a brown paper bag to Jack. Brock had no idea he was still in touch with anyone in Hydra. Quite the opposite—Jack made it sound like he wasn’t, not since joining the academy. But now Brock is holding a proof that he lied.

And just when everything was going so well for him for once. Fuck his life.

“You didn’t find out what was in the bag?” he asks, resigned.

She shakes her head and takes a huge gulp of beer. “Might be a gun, might be explosives. A taser maybe. Spy equipment. Hydra’s secret weapon. Really, it could be anything.” She shrugs. “You’re his boyfriend, Crossbones, why won’t you confront him about it?”

Brock takes a long breath, trying to calm himself down. It doesn’t work. “I will have to.”

He leaves Jones' dorm room, clenching the photo so hard his knuckles go white. He can't believe this is happening, but at the same time, he's not surprised. Not really. His relationship with Jack was too good to be true; he's a fool for believing it was real.

He glances at the photo. It happened last night. Jack took the bag with god knows what in it, then did god knows what with it, then went straight to Brock... Seduced him, spent a night with him…

Brock’s room turns out to be empty when he storms inside. Only an hour and a half has passed since he left, and he expected to find Jack still sleeping in his bed. Seeing it empty only further convinces him something is very wrong. He stands still, holding his breath and straining his ears. He can hear Jack walking around his room, shutting cabinets and opening the closet, so he goes there, his gait suddenly unsure. Whatever Jack is plotting, he doesn’t want what they have to end. Even if it’s not real.

This time he knocks on the door rather than storming in, and Jack looks surprised when he opens it.

“Why aren’t you in class?” he asks as Brock pushes past him.

“Something came up.”

Jack closes the door, and Brock raises the photograph.

“I hope you can explain this.”

Jack frowns at the sight of it. “You’re spying on me?”

Brock shakes his head. “Jones took the picture. She shared.”

Jack’s face smooths out in resignation. He opens his desk cabinet and pulls out the familiar paper bag. He hands it to Brock.

“Go on, open it,” he encourages when Brock just stares at him, unmoving.

Fearing of what he’ll find, Brock slowly opens the bag and look inside to see… a bottle?

He pulls out a bottle of scotch, and a good one, too. He looks up at Jack in confusion.

“Your birthday is coming up,” Jack explains. “I don’t have the quinjet access, so I asked my remaining friend at Hydra School to help me out…”

Brock feels his chest heat up as he stares at Jack blankly. A birthday gift for him. Of course. It’s so simple; why didn’t he think of this? Why was he so quick to think Jack was a traitor? As the heat from his chest spreads up to his neck and face, making his mask even more uncomfortable, he comes closer and wraps one arm around Jack’s waist, pulling him into a half-embrace. Jack sighs and tangles his fingers into his hair.

“You trust me now?” he murmurs, and Brock nods his head against Jack’s chest.

After a moment, he pulls away. “Thank you,” he says, raising the bottle, then sets it down on Jack’s desk.

“And?” Jack prompts with a lopsided smirk, and Brock sighs heavily.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

Brock glares at his so-called boyfriend, but he supposes it can’t be seen from behind the mask. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. He should get a helmet with glowing red eyes, now that’d be sweet.

“I’m sorry,” he says louder, “for thinking you were conspiring with Hydra against me and the whole academy. I promise to trust you in the future.”

“It’s fine,” Jack murmurs, reaching up to raise Brock’s mask from his mouth and hook it over his nose. “I’d get suspicious, too.” 

When they kiss, Brock pours all his relief and happiness into it, to the point he’s smiling against Jack’s lips, and soon, Jack is smiling, too.

“I always wanted to do this,” he admits after pulling away. “You think you could hang upside down like Spider-Man?”

Brock slaps his arm. “Go kiss Spider-Man if you want it so much.”

Jack shakes his head with a soft laugh, hooks his fingers in Brock’s belt loops, and pulls him closer to kiss him again.

Then again.

And again.