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Manual Labor

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So Tony had decided T’Challa’s list was useless because it wasn’t going to do much to convince Jakarra to not be a spoiled brat. That doesn’t mean he’s lacking in his own plan though, even if it’s obviously not clicking for T’Challa.

“A job? Why would you get him a job?” he asks.

“Because he’s never really had to work for anything his whole life- even school and sports come easy to him. So I got him a job. Plus I’ve been reliably informed that any job in food service and retail is absolute shit and I figured if you wanted to teach him humility that’d be a good place to learn it. And its totally working,” he says, grinning.

T’Challa frowns, “what is his job, exactly?” he asks skeptically.

Tony doesn’t blame him for that. Jakarra prefers to only do things he wants to do so the idea of him working some job he hates isn’t one that blended well with reality. “A job at a theater. I figured he’d think it was cool until he actually had to do the job, which is exactly what happened but I already made a bet with him that he wouldn’t last a year so he hasn’t quit because he wants to prove me wrong. So far the stories I’ve gotten are hilarious,” he says. Of all the jobs Tony would have guessed Natasha would take after her spy days were done running a theater wasn’t even in his top four hundred jobs. But it suits him well now because it made getting Jakarra a job easy, and her reports back to him were vividly detailed and absolutely hilarious.

T’Challa squints at him, “you manipulated our child into keeping a job?” he asks and Tony nods.

“Basically. Don’t look at me like that, it’s working. Plus it’ll work better than your list, he’s already learned people are assholes.” Apparently people got really defensive of their popcorn and it irritates Jakarra to no end. That had been the reason Tony picked that job anyways- if he’s learned nothing else from having friends that were mostly poor its that service jobs are horrible and people are apparently a bunch of entitled twats. Rhodey’s words, not his.

“I don’t think he needed a job to learn that,” T’Challa says, giving Tony a look.

Oh but he does. “Honey, he’s a widely respected prince, yes he does. Besides, you want him to not take his position of privilege for granted, what better way to do that than to force him to live life as your average teen with a shitty job?” he asks.

“And you think this will teach him humility?” T’Challa asks.

“I damn well know it will. Rhodey used to joke that applying to any kind of retail job essentially required you to admit that being verbally abused is a favored past time just to get hired. People treat workers in jobs they deem less economically useful like shit just because they assume they contribute nothing to society. Jakarra won’t learn what its like to be treated like that in any other position. Plus being black with an accent isn’t exactly going to earn him better treatment,” he says. His general attitude towards doing things he decided were beneath him for arbitrary reasons also wouldn’t help, but it does mean Natasha has fun stories to tell him later.

“You should have made him take a sanitation job,” T’Challa says and Tony snorts.

“You said you wanted humility, not a fucking miracle. There is no way I could ever convince Jakarra to play with garbage. He already whines for hours about having to clean bathrooms, I don’t want to listen to more of it,” Tony says.

T’Challa sighs, “well, if you think this will teach him things…” he murmurs.

“Given how often he complains about minimum wage being so low I’d say its teaching him something useful. I told him to complain to the government,” he says. He wonders exactly what kind of results that’ll get- Jakarra is the type to go track down someone important to complain at them- but he’s just as likely to stop being annoyed with it. So he guesses he’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks.

*

Mandla laughs and Jakarra resents that, really. “I am not meant for manual labor,” he complains- Mandla would call it whining but he would not debase himself in that way.

“You make popcorn, Jakarra, how much labor could possibly be involved?” Mandla asks, shaking his head. Jakarra decides that calling him is a terrible idea even if he misses his friend desperately. Americans are weird and their cultural customs are even stranger.

“Okay you know what, trying to appease some screaming white woman who is throwing a literal fit over popcorn is actually a lot of work. Not to stereotype but middle-aged white women are the literal worst. Actually middle aged anyone is the worst. Yesterday some random old man yelled at me for a good ten minutes about how headphones were ruining the hearing of the youth because I couldn’t hear his order. Old man, you were mumbling, that is not the fault of my headphones!” And that didn’t even touch on how stupid people were. Of course some would be less intelligent than others and there was nothing inherently bad about that, but when a person asked if a small was larger than a large while holding the damn cups they were referring to he simply did not know what to do with that.

Mandla frowns, “I thought you worked in a theater?” he asks

“I do- but this is the hill the entirety of middle aged America has chosen to die on. The hill where they harass a youth because their pop corn is not fresh enough even though it literally just came from the damn popper,” he says, shaking his head.

“People get upset over that?” Mandla asks, squinting like he doesn’t quite believe Jakarra. That is rude.

“People get upset about my accent, Mandla. They will complain about anything. Last week one person complained it was too hot, and two people later another person complained it was too cold. Both seemed to expect me to shit out a thermostat and change the temperature of the air instantaneously,” he says, rolling his eyes. “This would never happen in Wakanda,” he adds, mumbling it under his breath.

Mandla lets out a loud snort in response to that. “That wouldn’t happen in Wakanda because your father spoils you. Complaining about having a job- T’Challa has raised a spoiled brat, not a king,” he says though not exactly unkindly. The argument is an old one continued from their childhood when they spent most of their time complaining about the other and claiming their superiority over one another. Now its more of a way to tease each other and a call back to the days where they found the other insufferable at best.

“And M’Baku raised a layperson, not a prince so shut up. And also do you have advice on how to deal with yelling middle aged white people?” he asks. Mandla at least knew how to handle work, something he’s never really had to worry about aside from things he’d volunteer to do. He volunteered plenty but that was all still on his own terms, unlike this stupid job he only kept out of spite.

“I’ve literally only met one single white person and he screamed as soon as he saw me because someone told him I was a savage,” Mandla says, giving Jakarra a pointed look.

He sighs and looks away, “I was misinformed,” he mumbles. His childhood opinions of the Jabari were nothing less than insulting and that was being polite about it- its not exactly something he’s proud of now.

“Yes you were. But I am not exactly the expert on middle aged anyone of any race, but especially not white people. Or anyone but black people really,” he says, shrugging.

Right, the Jabari would not have gotten the influx of people of varying races over the last couple decades like the rest of Wakanda had. “I guess. I hate this job though, it’s horrible and the public bathrooms are disgusting,” he says, wrinkling his nose.

Finally he gets the reaction he had been hoping for out of Mandla and he recoils, “you have to clean public bathrooms? Oh, never mind, that’s awful. I did that once and it’s the only time I’ve pulled rank. Hanuman bless sanitation workers because I could not do that,” he says, shaking his head in disgust.

Yeah, he already knew that because he has had to clean the bathrooms the disgusting public have used and wanted to die afterwards. “One person left their shitty underwear on the counter. There are not gloves thick enough, water hot enough, and bleach that is strong enough to make my hands feel clean after that,” he says, shivering. And his boss, that irritating red head, thought his discomfort was hilarious. He’s certain she knows his father and reports back to him but there was no need to cackle like a hyena as he screamed at someone else’s bowl movements in places they had no business being.

Mandla presses his hand to his heart but he laughs even as he looks vaguely disgusted. “If it was me I wouldn’t find it funny, but since its you its hilarious,” he says, shaking his head.

“I was wrong, the Jabari are savages. You would have to be to find that funny,” he says and Mandla only laughs harder.

*

“We should do something this weekend,” Peter says mostly to himself but he obviously intends for Ned and Jakarra to hear it.

“Can’t, I work all weekend,” Jakarra grumbles, irritated with this. When is he supposed to get a day off if he’s stuck at work and school all the time? Stupid.

Ned snorts and laughs, “we should go to the movies and harass Jakarra at work,” he says. Jakarra flips him off because he damn well earned that.

Peter snorts and starts laughing too, “yeah, we can order something stupid and difficult to make just to piss him off.”

“I am going to send both of you glitter bombs in the mail for this,” he tells them, glaring at them as he pulls his text from his locker. Ned and Peter continue on with their ridiculous plans to bother him at work and he grabs his science text too because he doesn’t feel like walking all the way back to his locker to get it between class. When he goes to walk away from his locker though he’s nearly run over by another student.

“Rude,” Peter says just a little too loud because Devon hears him and glares at him over his shoulder but Jakarra rolls his eyes. He’s not exactly fond of most of his classmates but especially not the ones who were friends with Flash.

“Hey Yolanda,” he says, purposefully ignoring Jakarra’s eye roll, “you look hot.”

Yolanda rolls her eyes at him and Jakarra snickers, “shut up, Devon.” She barely even turns to talk to him and that honestly makes the rebuff more amusing to watch.

“Seriously? You need to learn how to take a compliment,” Devon says and Jakarra rolls his eyes again.

“Or maybe you should compliment her on something other than her desirability to you,” he says.

Yolanda raises an eyebrow at him, “oh you think you can do better? Try it,” she says. Her tone of voice indicates that she expects him to fail but compliments have always come easy to him.

“I like your hair- you’re always doing something different with it and it always looks nice. The red braids were nice, but I think the purple you’ve done this time compliments your skin tone better and those space bun things you do look really cute too,” he says.

“Oh,” Yolanda says, surprised. “Thanks!”

“You literally just did the same thing I did!” Devon says and Yolanda’s face is priceless.

“He did not- you said I was hot, he complimented something I spend a lot of time and effort on and to show he actually pays attention he listed three things I’ve done with my hair instead of assuming I’m stupid enough to think a simple compliment will get him in my pants. Idiot,” she mumbles, shaking her head.

“And,” Jakarra adds, “your compliment boils down to ‘you make me feel things’, which really has nothing to do with her at all- its selfish to think that your feelings about her body should result in her feeling something for you. I referenced something that indicates her personality and how she chooses to show it to the world. You need lessons on how to talk to people, your attempts are sad and pathetic to watch.”

Yolanda snorts, “imagine being the one he’s trying to communicate with,” she says. “And if your taking lessons talk to him, obviously Wakanda taught him not to be a fuck boy.” With that she walks off and Devon, who clearly hasn’t learned anything from the conversation, flips Jakarra off and stomps away to lick his wounds.

“Dude, you don’t even have to try,” Ned says, looking awed.

He frowns, “try at what, I was literally just talking.” A favored past time and yes he likes the sound of his own voice- why people make the assumption that liking his voice is some kind of insult he has no clue.

“He’s right, complimenting women really isn’t hard men are just stupid. Take it from someone who used to be a woman,” Peter says and Jakarra squints in sync with Ned.

“Peter you were never a woman, you just sort of walked around in a woman skin suit for awhile,” he says.

“I mean yeah,” Peter starts but Jakarra cuts him off.

“Whoa, whoa, I feel like I’ve missed a vital piece of information,” he says.

Peter frowns at him, “wait, you don’t know? I’ve literally said I was trans in front of you like seventeen times, what kind of cis goggles are you wearing?” he asks.

That’s about when it clicks for Jakarra, “ohh, transgender! I had no idea what that term was short for, I thought it was a Star Wars thing or- wow now I feel stupid,” he says, shaking his head.

“Star- have you ever actually seen Star Wars?” Ned asks and Jakarra shakes his head.

“Didn’t seem like my thing,” he says and Ned’s eyes just about pop out of his head in shock.

“That’s what we’re doing this weekend and every weekend until Jakarra is caught up on the awesomeness that is Star Wars. Oh my god, he doesn’t know about the- okay Ned, get your shit together,” he tells himself and shakes his head. “Okay, I’m going to go plan the next three months to ensure we cover all things Star Wars sufficiently, see you at lunch,” he says and he all but runs off to plan.

Jakarra and Peter watch after him for a moment before Peter turns to him, “don’t ever tell Ned I said this but Star Trek is better than Star Wars. I just let him think Star Wars is better because he’s so enthusiastic and I don’t want to squash his feelings,” he says.

Something else clicks for Jakarra then too and he grins, “you like Ned! Well the good news is that you’re compatible and we know it, no awkward dating period,” he says.

Peter blushes a little and looks away, “yeah, pretty sure Ned doesn’t swing this way,” he says, shrugging.

“I’m fairly certain Ned doesn’t swing any way but that’s fine, doesn’t mean he can’t still like you back,” he says. “We should plan one of those ridiculous match making montages from American romcoms! Wait, you’re half the couple- I guess I will plan it then.” The good news was that Ned already stuck them all in the same vicinity for at least the next three weekends so that took half the work off him.

“I don’t think real life works like the movies…” Peter says slowly.

“Of course not, real life is far less interesting than the movies. That doesn’t mean we can’t spice it up a little,” he says. “Now come on, you need to give me every single piece of information on Ned that I could possibly use to plan this thing.” He prods Peter towards math and Peter sighs, accepting his fate.