Happy birthday, BewareTheFandom. You, my therapist and creative soundboard, deserve this epic story and SA Day because this story wouldn't exist without you. I hope you screamed in class when you got this alert. You'll understand why I lied to you all this time but it was worth it.
As for everyone else, if this is your first story in my Project: New Generation series, you can start reading and I'll answer any questions you may have. Mind you, this story might have some details you might not understand without reading the other stories, but you should be fine. If you come from any of the birth stories, Emily's, Sigyn's, Daniel's or Iqadi's stories, this happens after so go ahead and start reading.
If you come from Project: New Generation, this story is a prelude. It's the seven years between the ending events of the stories above to the beginning of PNG. Yet, they're mostly told from the narratives of Merida, Daniel, James, Angela, and Xavier. Emily and Iqadi will be in the story as well, but not as often as those five. And Apollo and Sigyn will only be mentioned or in flashbacks.
I hope you enjoy this while PNG is on hiatus :)
Year One: Move-In Day Part One
Entrance of Atlantic Residence - 8:41 AM
She taps her foot impatiently as she waits in line. In front and behind her stand other incoming students who seem to be in a better mood than her. Maybe because they weren't sitting in a car for two hours listening to their dad's favourite songs on loop. She crosses her arms and breathes deeply. On the exhale, she looks up to the overcast sky, wishing that this day ended before it even started. She peeks to the side to check the line and is beyond annoyed when she sees the same person still standing at the front.
They should have more lines going on a day as crowded as a move-in day at a goddamn university. SHIELD Academy should be better than this.
Finally, after ten minutes of standing, she reaches the table. On the other side is a young adolescent in a SHIELD trainee uniform. She couldn't be that much older than her, making her an upper-year student and possibly a resident assistant. That's her in a few years if the Academy doesn't kill her, minus the RA. She would never want that responsibility.
"Name?" She asks.
As the upper-year trainee shuffles through a box of folders, Merida checks her phone to locate her friends. She knows that Angela, Xavier, and possibly James should be nearby but her phone screen is blank. They must be busy like her.
Merida looks back at the table and sees a welcome folder placed in front of her with her student ID card and room key. But before she could take it, the trainee pulls it back.
"I need to see some identification."
"Are you kidding me?" Merida asks with a small laugh. "You didn't ask anyone else. My student card has my picture on it, just look at my face."
The trainee gives her a face. Merida rolls her eyes before reaching into her jacket pocket for her driver's license. It may have felt like a long day for her, but it's way longer for the girl behind the table. Hence why she would never want to be an RA.
After a few seconds of verifying her license, Merida finally takes her welcome folder. She huffs out of relief as she walks towards her parents. Even after the early morning car ride, they're smiling like the proudest parents possible. It's the success of raising a daughter seeking post-secondary education far from home. Their neighbours would be proud.
"They ID'd me," Merida tells them, still feeling petty about the whole interaction even if it was only a minute long.
"Because you're my ребенок," Natasha responds, pinching Merida's cheek.
"And mine," Clint adds, ruffling her curls.
Ah, yes, the blessed security issues. Gotta verify that the SHIELD child is actually the SHIELD child.
Merida doesn't have the energy to shrug off her parents but her irritated poker face remains. She won't say it with words, but as much as their doting annoys her, she will miss it. They know how she feels.
"Come on," Clint encourages, dragging two of her luggage by his sides. "Lead us to your dorm room."
Edison Residence - 9:19 AM
Daniel Banner opens the door to his dorm room and peeks his head inside before walking in with his whole body. He knew what he was expecting but the emptiness still feels daunting.
It's a big room with a bunk bed in the corner, two desks nearby, a window in the middle, two vanity dressers on the other side with closets. It's plain and simple but that's the point. It's supposed to be a room that he and his roommate should personalize. That'll inevitably happen and not by choice. His roommate wouldn't stand for this cookie-cutter living space.
Finally, Daniel walks inside with his bags and his parents follow. For the moment, they put bags and boxes down on the empty desks. What stands out most to Daniel is that his roommate, James Pym, isn't here yet. He glances down at his phone for a second and smiles when he sees no messages from him.
"Bottom bunk is mine," Daniel says, throwing his jacket on the empty mattress to claim his territory. He knows that James would want the top bunk.
"This is spacious," Betty comments, sitting on one of the empty desk chairs.
"And quiet," Bruce states, "at least, quieter than you'd expect. Oh, who am I kidding? It's college and freshman week will start when parents leave."
The three of them listen to the sounds from the neighbouring rooms. The hallway right outside the door has confused students searching for their rooms. They roll their suitcases across the linoleum floors. And once they find their rooms, they drop their boxes to the ground to meet their roommate. Do they know them? It doesn't matter because they'll share ice breakers as they unpack. At least Daniel won't have to suffer through that. Later, the halls fill with the farewell crying for the parents. But he'll suffer when he has to do that.
The last one is what gets Daniel looking at his parents. He can see how they're looking at him: that he's no longer a little boy and he won't be going home with them. He's engaged, in a competitive university, and expected to finish a Ph.D. by the end of the year in to continue. In reality, he and everyone else on this floor are on SHIELD Academy's Science and Technology's welcome mat. He needs the Dr. prefix by the end of the year to enter. Luckily, he completed all the research over the summer instead of getting some sun. But his busy schedule didn't matter since all his friends were busy preparing for the Academy in their ways.
He isn't a child anymore. He lives an adult life and he's not even twenty-years-old.
"Can you - ?" Daniel starts before needing to clear his throat because he felt as if his voice cracked. "Can you stay for a bit longer and help me unpack?"
Atlantic Residence - 9:44 AM
"You will love it at the Academy," Peggy tells Angela as they walk down the hallway with her items.
"I hope so," Angela responds, feeling a bit on edge.
Her nerves increase with every step she takes. She smiles and mouths a hello to anyone she passes to look welcoming. At the same time, she mentally notes that those are her neighbours and classmates. She'll see them here and in the lecture halls, training rooms, and communal bathroom. They all look like normal adolescents like her but she knows that deep down, she'll stick out like a sore thumb as the weeks roll by. That's why she and her twin got ID'd when they picked up their welcome folders.
Angela Rogers is now in a place where her professors have likely met her as a child. And, if not, they already know about her and her brother. She can thank her parents for being a part of SHIELD and The Avengers. So much for being called cute. Now she'll have to go by Rogers as if she's in the military. As if she and Xavier weren't already so alike…
"You will," Peggy reassures. Her words snap Angela away from her thoughts. "You'll be learning things you enjoy, at least, until you despise them. But you'll have more freedom with your brother, boyfriend, and best friends."
Angela nods, feeling a bit calmer. "Yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right."
"But don't think that you have to be brave on your first few days." Peggy chuckles a little. "This is your first real time away from home." She lowers her voice to a whisper. "And it can be a little intimidating at the start."
"But you'll get used to it. You'll realize that everyone on this floor is on the same page as you. Trust me when I say that nobody here knows what they're doing."
Angela laughs to try and enlighten herself. It doesn't work. The beauty of winning the pageant queen title and being head cheerleader in the past is that you can fake a smile through anything!
She doesn't remember the last time she felt this anxious. She's been in so many different competitions and life-threatening situations. And yet, they don't come close to now. Angela doesn't get it and she can only hope it stays that way. She doesn't want to be in close contact with her fear because she feels better off acting courageous. Her whole life has been about putting on a brave face although she's crumbled before.
Besides, all eyes are on her now, aren't they? But she's more concerned about the eyes she'll see when she looks in the mirror.
"And this is my room," Angela says, stopping right in front of the numbered door that matches the one on her key card.
"Open it," Peggy tells her.
Angela hesitates, looking down at the card and the doorknob. She isn't sure whether she has to slide it somewhere or scan it. Wow, she's off to a good start and she hasn't even entered her room yet.
Hudson Residence - 9:50 AM
High school felt like yesterday. Graduation felt like yesterday. His breakup felt like yesterday.
But none of that matters now because he's now a SHIELD Academy student. This is a new start for him and his friends. He can handle this. At least he has some beyond familiar people by his side. The only person he has to get used to the most is his new roommate. He's the only one out of all his friends who will be rooming with a complete stranger.
Or, correction, not a complete stranger. He's texted his roommate a few times and he seems like a cool guy, but the appearances versus reality idea exists. He hopes this one isn't a weirdo.
Xavier snaps back into reality, looking at his dad who called him. His dad looks expectant as if he's waiting for the answer to a question he didn't hear. Xavier hopes his dad will repeat the question if he doesn't hear a response. But nothing comes. His dad knows that he's thinking about something else and he knows what. It's not like he spent his entire summer thinking about that special something.
"Is it about Britney?" Steve asks. Because what else would be on his mind?
Xavier feels his cheeks redden even though he wasn't thinking about her. "Not this time."
Even his dad thinks his mutual breakup was yesterday. That's a new level of sad. But it felt like that to him. One day, he said goodbye to his (ex)-girlfriend and best friend, and now he's moving into his dorm room.
"Look," Steve continues, "she's doing the same thing as you but on a different realm. Same with Apollo. They're going down a different path for their futures but they will come back. It's only been two months and they said to give them a year. Don't let their absence hinder your experience here for the next ten months. I don't want Angela calling me or your mother saying that you're sad the moment we leave."
Xavier rolls his eyes. "Angela will be too busy with James."
Steve shakes his head. "She won't."
"Dad, we've been to college for the same amount of time and I already know more than you. Trust me, she will and thank god I'm not rooming with him."
SHIELD Helicarrier - 10:39 AM
James stands up at the sound of his name and brushes off the wrinkles on his clothes. He looks ahead and sees Director Fury standing more displeased than usual. Yet, James tries to get the solid face to budge by smiling cheerfully but no results. He always considers himself as the joy in the room, even if Fury's face says different.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Fury asks. "Your parents aren't dropping you off? Actually, that would explain a lot since your ass is up here."
"You know my dad has a love-hate, mostly hate relationship with SHIELD," James responds cheekily. "But they're on campus because they drove me and they love me with all their heart and soul. They're down there, looking around. I'm sure they're not going to leave without saying goodbye."
"You mean they're on campus but you're not?"
"I don't know where I'm going."
"I bet your parents are already at your dorm. You should've stayed with them. You know, hold your mom's hand like you did till you were ten."
James rolls his eyes as Fury cracks a smile. "No. I mean I don't know which program I'm in. I know I'm doubling operations and sci-tech, but where do I go?"
Fury groans. "How don't you - never mind. I'm not the head of admissions. There are upper-year students and RAs on patrol to help idiots like you."
"But you're the director."
Fury looks him right in the eyes. "Of SHIELD, not the Academy."
"But it's SHIELD Academy."
Fury sighs, needing this conversation to end. "Look, get back down there and figure it out. If you go to Operations and they don't have your stuff, go to Sci-Tech and vice versa. Or, go to your dorm because Daniel will be there and your things will be delivered if you don't pick them up."
James nods, giving Fury a thumbs up. "So, which way is the Academy again?"
Fury doesn't blink. "Down!"
"Right, right. See ya, Fury!"
As James leaves, walking as if he's on a Sunday stroll, Fury shakes his head in disappointment. The Academy better whip that boy into shape if he'll be an agent in any discipline. If he gets a Ph.D. by the end of the year, as he's supposed to, then miracles are real and he'll owe Hank Pym a couple of hundreds. Fury can't believe that the next generation consists of adolescents like James Pym.
And it's not even close to noon on their move-in day.