“Good morning, students, and welcome to another bright and sunny day of secondary education! If you happen to feel like puking, please be considerate to janitorial services and aim for the bowl.”
Tony was on school grounds approximately ten seconds before some jackass in a red Corvette nearly knocked him over in his race for an empty spot. The asshole, wearing a letterman jacket because he was a jock, of course he was a jock, swerved in next to Tony’s Chevy and didn’t bother apologizing when his door almost slammed into Tony’s taped-together side mirror. Not that the piece of crap would have worked any better without it.
Tony glanced up at the school and seriously considered ditching. He could walk into town to the Stop Gap and have a smoke, or maybe just spend the day on the school roof, raining pebbles on students. Anything was better than the inane, monotonous, dreary torture of teenage education. But he’d already missed about two weeks in this semester alone and he didn’t want to have to spend another afternoon in his father’s wood-paneled study of terror and guilt. And then, of course, Gin showed up.
“Ready to kick some Westchester ass?” She fake enthused, rubbing a pom-pom in Tony’s face until he sneezed.
“Where did you get that horrible thing?” He asked.
“Oh,” Gin said innocently, hugging her prize tightly against the books she was carrying. “Around.”
Tony knew better than to question Gin’s methods, especially when they got him VIP tickets or free booze.
“Did you decide to go full irony today?” Tony asked, looking her over while opening his locker.
Gin had always had the flair for the artistic, but for the first game of the season there was no stunt too gruesome to show her distaste. She was in a short red skirt, shorter than anything he’d ever seen on her, and a too-tight gray tank. School colors.There were three rips revealing a white tank top underneath, and fake blood dripping down, like claw marks. She looked like half the girls in school today, except wickedly twisted. Tony guessed about half an hour before the administration intervened, if it bothered to get off its ass.
“You should have kept your original hair color,” Tony laughed. “The mascot is just your shade of red.”
Gin rolled her eyes. “Ugh, puh-lease, Anthony. And go back to being ‘Pepper’ Potts?” She made a face.
“That hasn’t been your name since elementary school,” Tony pointed out, “I’m sure no one even remembers. These people have the brain capacity of fruit flies.”
“Hey, Pepper, catch!” A ball narrowly missed Gin’s face as it bounced off the locker and back to Johnny Storm, skating by on his board. He hyena-laughed his way into first period along with his gang of jerkfaces.
Tony gave an apologetic look. “Point taken.”
They started walking towards first period together, until Tony remembered his class was in the other direction and did a quick turnabout. Unfortunately, that meant almost hitting Gin in the face with his backpack. “I still like your natural hair color better,” he said, as a parting gift.
“You’re gonna have to get used to the wheel of color sometime,” she called over her shoulder.
But today was not that day, Tony told himself. At least the neon colors didn't cover her entire head, the base was a dark brown. It had been seven years but for some reason the change bothered him a little. He had liked that red.
There wasn’t much time to contemplate on this pressing life issue, though. The bell had rung approximately forever ago and he still had to dodge and weave his way around the people who had decided to skip and were heading in the opposite direction. And obviously, in the confusion, he had to go ahead and run head first into the assistant principal.
“This is not the sort of conduct we expect from our top students, Mr. Stark,” Coulson said, wiping the Tony-germs off him.
“And you’re late again.”
“Planning to blow up any government property today?”
“Not in the immediate future, sir.”
“Let’s make that not ever, Mr. Stark.”
“I believe you’re late for class.”
Tony pretty much wanted to punch the guy in the face the entire time. Once upon a time (read: twelve hours ago) he probably would have. Coulson definitely let him off with more disbelief than normal, and maybe a little bit of disappointment.
Honestly, why didn’t he just skip today?
Tony sat in his seat at the back of the class and slept through his first three periods. Then during his fourth period study and Gin’s lunch, they walked out to the courtyard and swapped brown bags.
“I thought your dad was rich,” Gin said, between mouthfuls of turkey and cheese, “can’t he afford to give his son a decent meal?”
“He can afford it, doesn’t mean he’ll do it.” Tony jammed a fake breadstick into his artificially-made cheese sauce-thingy. He didn’t really like talking about his shitty father, but Gin seemed to enjoy bringing it up more than was reasonable.
“Well at least he tries making lunch for you,” she mused.
“He makes what you like, which means you have to make your lunch for me. Or, you know, buy it or something. Which I prefer, by the way, don’t make that egg salad again.”
“Don’t push your luck.”
“But what does that say about how well he knows me?”
“What does that say about how much you talk to him?” She was pointing a plastic fork at him, as if to emphasize ‘I’m taking Intro to Psych’. Tony suddenly lost any and all interest. And possibly most of his higher brain functioning.
“Will you shut up about my father issues for a second? I’ve just seen a god.”
Tony was not used to finding movie star leading men attractive. Everyone else could gush over Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford all they wanted, he was firmly in the camp of Sid Vicious and Billy Idol. But the guy, no, the man, who just walked by him was definitely broad-shouldered. He had wavy blonde hair that glinted in the sunlight and an easygoing smile filled with perfect teeth and a confident walk that all added up to the dreamiest hunk Tony had ever laid eyes on. And Tony was definitely buying it. He bought it so hard they’d have to take it back to the cash register and reexamine the bar code because damn no one could believe how hard he bought it.
“You’re drooling,” Gin pointed out.
“Well, that’s what one does in the presence of a sex god, Ginny.” Tony turned away to protect his eyes from the blinding light of his awesomeness.
Gin stabbed her jello a little too forcefully, and it splattered all over her arm.
“You okay there?” Tony offered a napkin. “Need me to cut it up for you into little cubes?”
Gin made an ugly face to show how much she appreciated the offer and turned her attention to other affairs, “So are you going to talk to the sex god?”
“He must be new,” Tony enthused, more than happy with her deflection, “I definitely would have noticed if I’d seen him before.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“No, I will not talk to him. Yet. His power is mighty and I am but a poor little humble man.”
“Not even one part of that sentence was accurate,” Gin said with a faint smile. “Except, you know, the part about him being mighty or whatever.”
During Gin’s free and Tony’s lunch period (and isn’t it so obvious that St. Nicolas High cared about student education?) they sat on the grass and worked on the band. Tony didn’t dare bring his guitar near school grounds after the Pep Rally Incident of ’86, but Gin needed to learn the chord progressions somehow, so he was trying to write them down. It wasn’t going very well, considering that he didn’t know the first thing about writing or reading music. Gin herself was occupied with designing a band patch that they could stitch to their outfits. Every once in a while she’d ask Tony for his opinion, and then completely ignore his advice and go on doing whatever she wanted. That was okay because the patch was going to be epically cool anyway. Tony was debating whether to put it on the shoulder of his jean jacket or superglue it to his electric somehow. Maybe he could get a decal on the back.
“You’re not failing school yet, right?”
“Nope, still have straight-As. Why?”
“Only in some classes,” she pointed out. “And we can't enter school contests if you're not in school.”
“You will find that Physics and Calc are the only classes that matter in life.”
“I just begrudge the fact that you sleep all day. I have no one to talk to in English except your snores.”
Gin shook her head knowingly and started gathering her stuff. “You make a good case for idiot savant of the year, Spicolli.”
“Are you still on for the bleachers this afternoon?” Tony asked, admiring the new grass and dirt stains on his jeans. He might be able to add a new safety pin soon.
“Where the hell else would I go?”
Tony wished he could say the rest of the day passed without incident. Usually, when he wasn’t causing hell, he was left alone, and he was on his very best behavior today. But he should have known that meatheads smell weakness. On one of the rare trips to his locker he suddenly found his face getting very up close and personal with the school architecture. Actually it was his entire body, the asshole behind him decided to use his full arm to pin Tony against the lockers.
“Didn’t you know that punk is dead, Stark?” The guy’s voice didn’t even sound familiar, who the hell was this douchebag?
“Punk may be, but I’m not,” was all Tony could think to mutter into the metal smushed against his mouth.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”The douchebag pressed harder, obviously not used to retaliation of any kind.
“I said that for all I care your team could rot.”
Tony was flipped around so he could finally see his attacker's face. Not that he particularly wanted to because it was sweaty and entirely too close to his own. The guy punched in the poor locker next to Tony, and where the fuck was the administration on this holy hannah. “Geez, dude, did you forget to take your steroids today?”
“Hey, James, let him go,” said a voice from behind his attacker. Then Tony saw a strand of blonde hair and of course the sex god was a fucking jock of course that was just his fucking luck today.
“No, Steve, I don’t think I will.” Steeeeeeve. Tony hoped the huge hearts in his eyes weren’t visible to anyone else.
“It’s just an initiation, James, they didn’t tell you to pummel the guy.” So that’s what this was about. Tony was the unlucky target of the massive underground hazing association. He was honestly a little upset that he hadn’t been assigned to Steve.
“That’s before he talked sass to me.”
Tony then conveniently remembered that he was being held up against a locker by the collar of his shirt.
“Talked sass? Honestly, what, did you just step out of ‘Superfly’?”
“And you clearly just stepped out of your mind if you think you’re in a position to talk to me that way.” Tony was pretty sure he feet were off the floor by now. He wasn’t sure, he couldn’t really feel them anymore.
“Rhodes, come on,” dreamy Steve said. He was giving a look to Tony that clearly stated ‘you’re not making this easy’. Tony smiled back with a ‘what can I do? I’m that kind of guy’ charming shrug.
“Yeah, Rhodey,” Tony goaded, “ease up.”
“You are so dead after school,” Rhodey said, removing his arm and finally allowing Tony to breathe.
“If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I’d be a millionaire. Oh wait, I am!” Rhodey was not smiling, darling Steve was no longer paying attention.
Tony slept through the remainder of his classes, despite Gin making a game of poking him with her pencil.
There was something creepy about their school.
There was no logical reason why so many people would care so much about an inconsequential game that consisted of meatheads barreling into each other over a tiny oddly-shaped ‘ball’. It’s not even like their team was good, that Tony might have been able to understand a little bit. But no, they were one of the lowest ranked in the state. Or at least, Tony thought so, he didn’t really pay attention.
What he did pay attention to was the fact that everyone in school was in the bleachers, which gave a perfect excuse to make fun of them at every available opportunity from below. There were other dredges of society, but they had long ago staked out their own territories. Gin and Tony had prime real estate between the metalheads and the too-late-for-the-sixties hippies. They had another regular who accompanied them, someone they never saw on school grounds named Happy Hogan, called so because it was rare to see him on any substance that wasn’t illegal and, thus, happily zonked out of his mind.
“What’s on the menu today, Haps?” Tony casually ambled over to watch the field.
“I’m trying a new strain today, it’s pretty wicked. I’ve also got some mushrooms but I’m gonna wait until the game is over.”
“Don’t you need supervision for those?” Gin asked. Happy was sitting in a lawn chair and, as usual, Gin was hovering over to make sure he didn’t die of overdose at any possible second.
“I’ve got it, sweetie pie, I’ll be in detention under the fine eye of the school county.”
“Happy, I’d like you a lot more if you stopped it with those ridiculous pet names.”
“But you’re saying that you already like me?”
“Tony, what are you doing?!”
Tony jumped in surprise, he almost hit his head on the bottom of the bleachers and wouldn’t that just be his luck because he was totally going to have bruises from his meathead confrontation.
“Oh shut up, I know exactly what you’re doing,” Gin said, stomping over, “and you can forget it.”
“But come on, Ginny!” Tony whined, “He’s so pretty!”
“Tony, no.” Gin warned. “No, Tony.”
“Uh, what?” Happy asked, still seated behind them and most likely barely able to form thoughts. “What’s going on?”
“Tony’s playing stalker,” Gin explained.
“I’m not stalking, I’m observing.” Tony had to pause his defense for the noise to subside. The hippies next to them were having a Boston vs. Yes debate and things had gotten pretty heated before someone had the brilliant solution of rolling another joint. “If what I’m doing is stalking, so is everyone else up there.” Tony pointed upwards to the crowds of mindless sheep yelling cheers.
“Everyone else up there is an idiot,” Gin pointed out, “you’re not.”
“Can’t I be? Just a little bit?”
Because seriously, Tony must have not gotten the memo that there were two new guys in school who were going to immediately be put on the starting line, but he was glad that they were fast-tracked and Steve was apparently ready to get all sweaty and muscle-ripply in front of the entire school where it would be mildly socially acceptable for Tony to ogle him. The stupid helmet and shoulder pads though…
“You don’t even know anything about him! He could be an undercover cop or something!”
“That’s because he’s new. How does anyone know anything about him?”
“Wait a sec.” Gin propped herself up and her head disappeared into the bleachers.
Fuck yes, it had all gone exactly as planned.
Gin lowered herself down. “His name is Steve, he-“
“Yeah, I know that part already, next,” Tony said, waving it away.
Gin glared. He should keep a tally of those or something, might yield some interesting correlational data.
“Okay, sorry, continue.”
“His name is Steve Rogers, he just moved here from Brooklyn, he-“
“Woah, woah, woah, hold up. No WAY is that guy from Brooklyn, they don’t grow them like that in Brooklyn,” Tony looked through the bleachers again just in time to see Steve get tackled to the ground in a blaze of glory. “He needs to be from, like, Ohio or Kansas or something.”
“They don’t grow them like that in Brooklyn, you’re right,” Gin said, demanding his attention again. “He’s part of a special government football project, or something. They’re giving him some kind of antibiotic that’ll boost his system and make him an ideal player, or something like that. It’s got to be legal, I’m just not really sure how. He was an orphan in Brooklyn so they transferred him here to live with a family and to get a typical suburban high school experience.”
“And what about Rhodey?”
“That guy I made us avoid while we were walking here.”
“Yeah, my arm still hurts from that, thanks. But I didn’t get as much information about him. He’s part of the program too but I don’t think he’s getting the antibiotic.”
“You work wonders, Gin.” Tony beamed. “Especially considering we’re your only friends!”
“Don’t sell me short, Stark.” Gin was obviously pleased. “You might be the genius, but I’ve got a million tricks up my sleeve.”
“But you’re not wearing sleeves…” Happy’s face furrowed in confusion.
A torrent of sound rained down from above as people stood up and chanted in the bleachers. Apparently there was a touch-down or something. Tony just barely caught something out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh. My. God.” He jumped up and down in excitement and Gin started jumping with him.
“What is it? What is it?”
“They misspelled it.”
“They what?!” Gin was just as ecstatic as he was now. She raced to a spot of her own.
“Somewhere, in the grand marvelous scheme of life, a U got lost, so now our competent and beautiful cheerleaders are spelling out F-U-R-I-O-S.”
“Oh my god,” Ginny said, from her corner, finally able to see.
“Furi-o’s?” Happy asked. “Didn’t I have those for breakfast?”
“Long live the Furious Furies!” Tony yelled in glee.
“They deserve it,” Gin said smartly, “To have come up with such a lame-ass name for our team.”
“Hey, it might be better than the X-Men or whatever that other team is calling themselves. They’re not even trying to be unsexist.”
“This conversation is confusing me,” Happy said.
“Broccoli confuses you,” Gin said.
“This is the happiest day of a my life, and I didn’t even cause this!” Tony quickly reviewed the events of his day. “Okay, not the best day of my life, but this was totally worth not skipping!”
“You could have skipped and just shown up to the game,” Gin pointed out.
“Don’t ruin this for me.”
“Well,” Tony said, totally satisfied. “I don’t think that can be topped, want to head home?”
“You don’t want to watch your man-hunk play the game?”
“Would you let me? Plus, he’s like under fifty pounds of sport equipment, it’s kind of useless.”
“Guess we’re going home then.” Tony and Gin started heading out.
“Enjoy detention, buddy,” Tony said, clapping Happy on the shoulder.
“It’s gonna be sick,” Happy agreed.
Going home for Gin meant Tony driving her a couple of blocks and dropping her off in front of her nice, quiet suburban house. Going home for Tony meant driving up yards and yards of gravel, parking the car in the garage with ten other cars, trekking up to big, white wooden wraparound porch (complete with swing set!), and pulling a muscle trying to get one of the oak doors to open. Technically he was supposed to call the butler to play doorman, but fuck that guy. It was his house, he should be able to open his own freakin’ door. There were many things in life that Tony hated, most of them were neatly wrapped up in this house.
Atypical of most gaudy mansions, there was no huge foyer or whatever the word for that was. There were two huge staircases lining either side of the door, sure, but there was no grand hallway or diamond chandelier. Instead, directly ahead of him was an unused, very nice looking living room completely with stuffy couches and marble coffee tables, while in a nook to the left there was a little mock kitchen, where the actual food stuff tended to happen, as opposed to the huge dining room that took up half of the left wing. It was a very oddly arranged house, even Tony could tell that, but his dad didn’t really leave his right wing study and the guests were usually hosted in the back, so this was kind of Tony’s place. Or at least, his entrance. Everyone else used side doors.
Tony dumped his backpack next to a sofa chair and started dismantling the kitchen for a snack. He knew that somewhere he had hidden HoHos or a box of Fruit Roll-Ups, but he forgot where, exactly. He decided on popcorn instead. He turned on the half-broken television that he had insisted on purchasing with his own money with a full bowl of puffy buttery goodness resting on his belly. Then he remembered that he fucking hated MTV because it was full of crap. Mostly. All the pop songs and what passed for rock was awful, and they overplayed Michael Jackson to ad nauseum, but occasionally there was Duran Duran or The Clash. But mostly, full of shit. He watched for about four hours anyway.
He was busy chugging down a pint of pulpy orange juice to get the kernels out of his teeth when he felt his father’s eyes on his back. He turned around to look the smug asshole in the face. “I’m surprised you deigned to come out here and mingle with us common folk.”
His dad swallowed a remark and instead went with, “And how are you today, Tony?”
“Oh, just peachy keen, Dad. Love feeling like my life is on a leash.” Tony got up from nesting spot and trailed his father back to the kitchen.
“If you didn’t get in so much trouble, you wouldn’t be grounded,” his dad said, a little too harshly for Tony’s tastes.
“If you weren’t such a ruthless dictator, maybe I wouldn’t get into so much trouble.”
“A little bit of punishment isn’t so bad once in a while. Maybe you’ll actually learn something for once.”
“Oh sure,” Tony said. They were on opposite sides of the wooden kitchen table, neither willing to move. Tony thought that if he actually paid attention in English class, he’d be able to name some kind of subtextual literary device for that. “Locking someone up against their will always breeds obedience. Tell me, how’d that work out for Spartacus again?”
“You were caught smoking on school campus. All things considered, you were let off easy.”
“Smoking isn’t even illegal!”
“It is if you’re seventeen and on school grounds.”
“Being seventeen means I’m a grown up allowed to make my own decisions!”
“And getting caught and fined was your grown up decision? You have to think, Tony, how is this going to affect the business? I can’t have a son who has a permanent record.”
“It’s your business,” Tony reminded him, for the millionth time, “not mine. It has nothing to do with me.”
“But it will be.”
“But it won’t. That’s what I keep trying to tell you.”
“And what are you going to do instead, Tony? With your grades? We’ll be lucky if you can get into an Ivy League without massive bribery.” He crossed his arms expectantly. The bastard thought he was winning this fight.
“I don’t need Ivy League! There are more important things than school.”
“Like WHAT, Tony?” He bellowed. “Like girls? Like drugs? Like music?”
And for Christ’s sake, his dad only got a third of that right because he didn’t do anything illegal, except for pot, and hadn’t he told his dad ages ago that he was bi? He could have sworn he did, but maybe he forgot to.
“Yes, like music,” Tony said, relishing the word in defiance of his dad spitting it out. “Just because I don’t want to spend my day being a tailor for sweaty jocks with body odor doesn’t mean I’m useless.”
His dad rolled his eyes, “Now you’re just being completely juvenile.”
“Well tough shit, maybe if you stopped treating me like one I’d stop acting like one,” Tony said, scooping up his bag and pounding up the right side stairs and shit fuck that was not the point he had wanted to make at all. Plus, he had nothing to fucking be sorry for, he intentionally flew under the radar today and if that wasn’t sacrifice, he didn’t know what was. And it’s not like his father even knew about that because he hadn’t even bothered to ask. Ugh.
Obviously, Tony needed a break.
The stuffy living room was nice and all, but upstairs was where all the real action was. The staircases led into hallways that housed mostly empty rooms and one very busy bedroom. Tony had chosen one of the smallest bedrooms in the house, but filled it to the brim was posters, guitars, old electronic projects and magazine cut-outs. It was pretty much the bitchinest place he knew. He booted up his Sega Master System, silently stewing at the idea that kids in Japan already had the Genesis, but comforted himself that there were literally no games available for it yet. He could probably build a better platform than Sega and Sony put together, anyway. Maybe. Still, it would be nice to have an arcade within twenty miles of his house.
He would have to settle for Double Dragon on his inferior system.
Didn’t he have a hack for this? He thought maybe there was a notebook somewhere with spec notes and design mods but it was probably buried under his volcano of laundry. Plus, he was way too lazy to go searching for it, kicking the box with his feet seemed like a much easier solution.
After a while killing people lost its appeal, so he considered picking up his guitar. But his amp was all the way in the garage and he did not have the energy for that right now. Tonight was going to be a loooooong night and his dad should be thanking heaven that he wasn’t even thinking about sneaking out.
There was a knock at his window.
Scratch that last thought.
He opened the latch so that Gin could stick her head in. She was wearing a wicked sort of grin.
“Up for a little nightcap?”
“Gin doesn’t go in a nightcap,” Tony pointed out, following her out the window and onto the ladder.
“Whatever,” she said, “You’re the alcoholic, not me.”
They spent the forty minute drive into the city listening to the radio and complaining about the respective shittiness of their vehicles. Gin pointed out that Tony could afford to buy a better car, but he was too stubborn. Tony pointed out that Gin could shut the fuck up.
“That bad?” She asked, risking life and limb to glance over at Tony while she careened down the highway.
“On the list of things I want to talk about while sneaking out, discussing my feelings is somewhere between the Holocaust and never.”
They were losing signal at this point, and although Tony kind of liked the static, Gin flipped the channel to a city station. A really obnoxious announcer came on saying that they were selling free tickets to Madison Square Garden or whatever and Tony was about to comment that his ears were going to start bleeding except that for some reason Gin was now bouncing up and down in her seat.
“They’re gonna play it! They’re gonna play it! Fuck, Tony, get the tape.” She excitedly slapped Tony on arm a couple of times.
“I don’t know where it is,” Tony said, searching around the mess of the armrest, digging through a pit of cassettes.
“Oh my god, find it! Tony, the tape!”
“I’m trying!” It seemed like Tony had searched endlessly in a span of ten seconds, but it was hopeless. He didn’t even know what song it was, or why Gin was so excited.
“Oh fucking hell, it’s already in the player.”
“Okay,” She was still looking at the road, but had a big grin on her face, as if she hadn’t just put Tony through a whirlwind of panic and torture for no reason. “Make sure it’s from the beginning. I think it’s next.”
Tony cued up the player and waited patiently. The announcer talked for another five minutes. Tony wanted to blow his brains out. Gin just kept smiling.
During the pause when they switched from host to music, Tony moved at supersonic speed to start recording. He listened to see what the fuss was about. He barely recognized it.
“Oh, Gin. Really?” This was so disappointing.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s just, like. These bands are pretending to be punk, but they’re really rock or pop or whatever. I mean, they’re on movie soundtracks and stuff.”
Gin scoffed. “You are such a snob.”
“I’m a purist,” he defended.
“You’re a purist who wants to dismantle everything and rebuild it.”
“Yeah.” Tony thought for a second. “So?”
“Are you saying you didn’t like that song from ‘The Breakfast Club’?”
“I’m saying that I’m sick of hearing about ‘The Breakfast Club’ and that song is a big part of it. And too many people think they’re cool or whatever for listening to it.”
“You are such a snob,” she said.
“What’s this for, anyway?” Tony asked, hoping the answer would be something like ‘I’m trying to be a better musician so we can kick ass tomorrow’.
“Fun,” she answered. “I’m trying to put together the best mixtape in the existence of the universe.”
“But you purposely put this song on it?”
“This song was playing at the arcade last year when we beat the high score on Galaga.”
“Oh,” Tony said. “It’s not so bad.”
She just rolled her eyes and went back to looking for their exit.
Finding a place to park was difficult until Tony finally convinced Gin that there were no reasonable parking garages in the area and leaving the car on the lawn would be perfectly fine since no one would want to steal her broken-down car anyway.
“I can’t believe you have a Betamax here,” Gin said, clearly impressed with the clean-up work Tony had been doing.
“Here at the Stark Mansion we have all the latest amenities,” Tony said with a smile, presenting the space like a guide, as if she still needed one.
A piece of ceiling fell down. Tony kicked the rotted wood away as they walked past. “That part’s not essential to the structure of the building.”
“Don’t we have VHS too?” Gin asked, pouting as she tried to remember.
Tony kneeled in front of the doorless storage cabinet, the hinges long since past their time.
“We do,” Tony agreed, “but all the tapes are back at my house so there’s no point in bringing it out. Beta tape we’re stuck with.” Tony started going through the collection. He pulled some of them out. “Okay, do we want ‘Rock N’ Roll High School’ or ‘Spinal Tap’?”
“How about ‘Labyrinth’?”
“I’m not listening to you wax poetic about Bowie for two hours.”
“Or we could rent something,” Gin suggested, as if she hadn’t been planning on it.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulders and smushed the toe of her shoe into the ground. “Like… ‘Lethal Weapon’?”
“Fuck ‘Lethal Weapon’.”
“Well, you know, I’m getting kind of tired. And since I am your ride, I guess we should be heading back…”
“Uggggggggh,” Tony collapsed backwards onto the floor in defeat.
The video store lights were way too bright and the guy behind the counter looked like a heroin addict and jesus it was at least 11 already, Tony did NOT want to be here.
“I’m surprised there are no hobos,” Gin mused, taking her time walking through the Action section.
“We’re kind of the hobos, they probably think it’s marked territory,” Tony said. Gin quirked up her lips. “Plus, it’s near summer. There probably are some when it gets colder.”
“My parents would have had that place condemned ages ago,” Gin said. “I probably would have too, actually.”
“That’s because you’re not a Stark,” Tony said, taking her by the shoulders and pushing her further toward the L’s. “Starks don’t condemn, they recycle.”
“Your dad abandoned your grandfather’s house to build a new one in a posh upstate New York neighborhood. Where is the recycling in that?”
“I’m the one that’s recycling it, dummy,” Tony said. He pulled ‘Die Hard’ off the shelves.
“We should install a pool next,” Gin suggested.
“Or clean out the squirrel nest that’s in the current one.”
“It should become its own principality,” she agreed.
They had settled on the couch, Tony closer to the screen so he could criticize more effectively, and Gin propping her feet up on the table so she could put her drawing pad on her lap. The last third of the couch was covered in colored pencils and various inking pens.
“Are you lovingly recreating Mel Gibson’s face?” Tony asked, looking over her shoulder. Everything on the screen was an explosion anyway.
“I’m predicting the future,” she said, moving out of the way so Tony could see.
“Battle of the Bands?” The banner made it pretty obvious, but Tony needed Gin to elaborate anyway.
“It’s us qualifying tomorrow. And if I draw it, it has to happen.”
“Happy looks like he’s about to puke on the cymbal.”
Gin considered for a second. “Hmm, he prob’ly is.” She yawned and put her head on his shoulder. “We’re out of Wheat Thins,” she said.
“We can restock the kitchen tomorrow morning.”
“We’re staying here tonight?”
“Will you be safe enough to drive any time soon?”
“Hmm, good point.”
There was a soft silence after that. Well, apart from all the machine guns and firebombs and jumping out of glass windows that was happening on screen.
“I can’t believe you made me rent this and you’re not even watching it anymore.”
“You love this movie, Tony.”
“So? That doesn’t change anything.”
Gin just smiled, and then she was asleep.
Tony let his mind drift around the room. The entire building was a kind of dusty gray, it had been abandoned for so long. The couch had huge tears in it, all the wood structure was on the brink of collapsing, and there were probably animals in the basement. That, or a floating crap game.
But, Tony thought, drifting off, it felt more like home than anything else in his life. He fell asleep before he was able to chastise himself for having such a stupid idea.