Danny sighed, he sighed a sigh of weariness. A sigh of ‘oh really this again?’. A sigh that showed just how little he cared about what was about to happen. To his left and right, his two friends sighed the same exact sigh. Although Sam’s still managed to have a hint of exasperation to it. She could never truly stop caring about an injustice. Wasn’t in her nature. Tucker had mastered the deadpan sigh though.
“What do you want Dash?”
The angry blonde bully marched right up to Danny, intent on dealing damage for reasons beyond Danny’s comprehension. His friends took a few steps back, well used to this and knowing that Danny preferred for them to be well out of the danger zone. When they were younger, Sam had always been more than willing to get into Dash’s face about his bullying. But it had only made the guy more aggressive and more likely to take his frustration out on more nerds and dorks. Danny preferred to just let Dash yell at him for a while, it wasn’t like it mattered what he said, and then move on with his life.
Maybe not the most elegant solution.
But then again Danny had never been one for ‘elegance’.
As Dash began his insult diatribe against Danny, making fun of everything from his hair, to his size, to his kooky parents, Danny wondered if he needed to organize an exorcism. Clearly Dash had My-Daddy-Doesn’t-Love-Me Demons he needed to get rid of and no therapist should be subjected to dealing with him long term.
“Dash, I know the Captain America Look-A-Like contest didn’t let you compete because you skip leg day too much but is that any reason to take it out on me?” Danny asked motioning to the footballer’s legs that were still terribly thin compared to the rest of his body.
Dash’s face reddened, he failed to come up with a quip to respond, and then punched Danny right in the spleen.
“I’ll show you Captain America.” He growled, picking Danny up by the back of his white t-shirt.
“I’d really rather you didn’t.” Danny coughed as the footballer carried/dragged Danny away from the football field and towards destinations unknown.
“This’ll teach you to talk back to me, Fentina.”
“Dash we all know that as a high school bully, you’ve already peaked and that your life is only going to go downhill from here, but should you give up on trying to invent new insults for me? You’ve been using Fentina since 5th grade! Spice it up a little! Giving me a girl’s name is so 2008.”
“Shut up! Fen…Fenturd!”
“Oh wow. Stellar comeback there. You sure you’re not a comedian by night? With quips like that, you could be making real laughs.” Dash’s only response was to hit Danny again and shake him a bit.
They’d finally arrived at their destination, the school’s flagpole. Danny sighed, so it was to be this. Hardly the most graceful of things.
But hey. Danny had never been for grace either.
He put up a token protest as Dash attached him, by his jeans, to the clips that normally held the American Flag. Danny could see his friends in the distance, looking like they were trying very hard not to laugh. Which was uncool of them. Dash finished and used his insanely thick arms to start pulling one side of the rope down, thus hoisting Danny up in the air by his belt loops.
“I don’t know if you want to do that, son.”
And Danny could finally see from his position hanging by his ass ten feet in the air why Tucker had pulled out his phone and was now recording the events for posterity. Captain America was standing there, glaring down at Dash, in his full glory. Behind him was every single Avenger, including Bruce Banner. Loki was also standing there with a very amused smirk. Although Danny was about 99.99% sure that Loki’s amusement about Danny being bullied not the bully getting his comeuppance.
Dash yelped and immediately let go of the rope, Danny saw that coming and was able to grab onto the rope from his own position to keep himself from falling to the ground and possibly landing on top of Tony’s head. So, Danny clung to both the rope and the pole with all his might. He saw Loki smirk up at him and he gave him the finger in response. Loki’s smirk only grew in size as Captain America began to lecture, yes lecture!, Dash on bullying.
It was just like those horrible, horrible PSAs they made you watch in gym. Danny wanted to scream. Dash in the face of that much show of force was nodding along but he knew better. That footballer would be back at it again, twisting the story to make Danny look like a weak baby. At least before the Avengers arrival he’d had some dignity.
Not much, but still.
When Steve finished his awful, mind meltingly embarrassing speech he sent Dash away with his tail between his legs. Danny watched him go, still clinging to the flagpole. Tucker burst into the loudest laughter Danny had ever heard, leaning against Sam who was also laughing like a hyena.
“Oh shut up guys!”
“That was brilliant!” Tucker shouted.
“Perfect performance!” Sam added.
“Danny?” Steve asked. “Are you alright?”
“No thanks to you!” Danny hissed like a cat, still wrapped around the pole as if his afterlife depended on it. “What were you thinking?”
“I was trying to stop him from hurting you!”
“I trusted you!” Danny howled, betrayal staining his every vowel. “I thought you were cool man!”
“Are you seriously upset with him for stopping you from being raised up like a flag by your pants?” Clint asked.
“I had it handled!”
“Do you always lie with such vigor?”
“That’s rich coming from you princey!”
“Let us help you get down from there.” Tony said, clearly trying very hard not to laugh.
“No. Don’t you dare touch that rope. I. Have. It. Under. Control.” With that Danny focused his powers to turn the clips attached to him intangible so that he was free. He then readjusted the grip his legs had on the pole and let himself slide down it like a fireman. “See?”
“I’m very confused as to why you’re upset with me.”
“I have been dealing with Dash Baxter for 13 years! 13! I have been shoved into lockers, thrown into dumpsters, pushed off cliffs, and had food poured down my pants.” Danny said wagging his finger dramatically at the American Icon. “You cannot imagine the things I’ve suffered. When I say I have it handled, I have it handled! I do not need you coming in there like I’m some helpless baby to save me through the power of the lamest lecture of all time.”
And that? That made Tony’s composure finally crack. He started howling with laughter too. Clint followed soon after. Danny huffed in annoyance but stopped grandstanding against Steve. When the laughter died down, he continued.
“Besides. Dash bullying me is all part of the grand plan.”
“The grand plan?” Steve asked.
“Yes. I’ll move out of Amity after graduation and never look back. But 20 years from now I’ll come back to take care of my ailing parents and I’ll run into Dash again. He’ll have grown up and realized what an ass he was and he’ll invite me to dinner to apologize.” Danny said, painting an entirely fictitious picture. “And then…over a candlelight dinner for two. We’ll realize, the only reason we fought was because of love.”
“No! What are you stupid?” And that made Tony burst into more peels of laughter. Sam and Tucker finally made their way over and Tucker showed off the video he took much to Danny’s secret amusement.
“You know.” Sam said. “When you told us, you were getting math tutoring from Tony Stark I thought you were joking.”
“I’m hurt you’d think I’d lie about something that serious.”
“Yeah you should have seen it coming.” Tucker said. “Only a superhero could help his grades.”
“We are wasting time.” Loki cut in, far less amused by the banter than everyone else.
“Sorry to burst in on you in your home town.” Tony said. “But Loki has this crazy idea that you’re actually the King of Ghosts and that you can help us save the universe. Which is just the funniest thing I’ve ever…Kid you’re not laughing.”
Danny wasn’t laughing. Neither was Tucker or Sam. The conversation with Clockwork had been…enlightening in that regard. They’d had a few days to discuss what to do if and when the Avengers showed in Amity. It was time. The three teens exchanged a look and then a few curt nods.
“We should talk in private.” Danny said. “All of us.”
“Danny. What’s going on?” Thor asked concerned.
“The universe is in grave danger.” Danny said trying not to smirk at his own pun. “It’s time we…collaborated.”