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A Man Out of Time

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[Fandom: MCU -- Ghost Story AU
Characters: Tony Stark, Loki, Thor, Odin, Frigga
Author’s note: This is a fan-work, meant for enjoyment only, and not for any material profit. ]

Los Angeles, 1981

School used to be fine.  It was a private school, kind of a genius thing.  Lot of kids like me there, Reed Richards, and Victor Doom, and some others.  My best friend Bruce Banner went there, and we hung out together, and it was cool.  College though? College sucks. If one more frat-rat asshole tries to give me a swirlie, I swear, I’m killing his ass.

Yeah, so I wasn’t used to being a loner, if you know what I mean?  I was always part of the cool crowd, and you know, I was a kid, I was dumb.  I was one of the cool kids at the private school for geniuses, and I stupidly thought that was always going to mean something, and so when I got here and discovered I was now a nerd, it came as this big shock.  Not going to say I was suicidal or any of that shit. Tony Stark doesn’t do suicidal. But it was a shock, let’s just say that.

Here’s what life’s like when you’re a nerd, okay?  Number one, you’d better have a dorm room to yourself.  Jarvis made them give me one. I wasn’t going to go to Dad about the shit that was happening, but there was a while back last Fall where I sort of had to say something to somebody, and Jarvis is easy to talk to.  I told him, and he did some shit, I’m not sure of the exact details. You know those dinky little boxes they give you? Two beds, two desks etcetera, and all that happy horseshit? I now have one of those to myself.  They moved one of the beds out, and that’s where I put my video equipment. Which brings me to the second thing about being a nerd:

Focus on your hobbies.  I’m going to say that one more time for the kids in the back:  Focus on your fucking hobbies.  One day they might be all that’s keeping you alive.  Another day, you might learn something. I did, but I’ll get to that part later.

Number three:  Why even bother to fit in?  Look, I’m fucking sixteen, okay?  Nobody’s going to take me for 21, they’re not even going to take me for 18, so why pretend?  Everybody always says, “Oh, you’ll hit your growth spurt Tony,” and blah blah blah. Maybe I will, who the fuck even knows?  If you let it bother you, you will go nuts. Just be yourself, that’s all you can do.

Number four is keep up your grades, but you already know that.  Number five is if you can afford to, skip the fucking dining hall.  That shit they serve there will probably kill you. Number six is… I can’t think of a six.  Let me tell what happened with the video equipment instead.

It was Bruce’s idea.  We were AV Club in High School, which believe it or not meant we were the coolest of the cool at our high school.  And we also knew all this stuff, from setting up all the equipment for the teachers. And we both had video cameras in high school, and so naturally we took them with us when we went to college.  So he says to me, “We need to use that shit, we can make video messages and send them to each other and all that happy horseshit.” So we’ve both been doing that.

So this is something that happened with one that I was making:  Picture my room, okay? Tony Stark’s bed on one side (don’t cream yourselves, girls), all my equipment set up on the other side.  Video camera always running, kind of a surveillance thing? Kind of half that, and half so I can make tapes for Bruce whenever I feel like it.  Thing runs all night long, because I have had assholes break in sometimes, some of those frat-rat dickwads who shouldn’t even be in the dorms anymore.  And it was at night: That was when something happened.

Let’s get this out of the way:  I’m not a virgin. And when I did it, I did a chick, and I liked it, I liked it a lot.  On the video though, this was a dude… Was it a dude? Not fucking sure what it was, or who, or whatever.  Anyway, let me continue:

Here’s my tape, alright?  This is what I saw the next morning when I ran the footage.  It’s grainy of course, you know how tapes get when you record on them over and over.  Grainy footage, black-and-white of course, and… I swear the door never opened. One minute he wasn’t there, the next minute he was.  There were no gaps in the film, although it was kind of old, maybe it wore out a little? It looked like he just appeared. And it was weird, he was wearing a suit, but not a modern suit.

Bruce is really into all this New Wave, alright?  Which isn’t the same as punk, in case you didn’t know that.  If you’ve seen any of them, Punkers are the ones with Mohawks and safety pins through their noses,  New Wavers are the ones with skinny ties and black-framed glasses, like it’s always the 1950’s for them.  Bruce has this jacket that his dad used to wear when he was a kid. Big shoulders, narrow lapels, kind of a black-and-white tweed kind of a thing.  Bruce loves that jacket. Says it’s part of his New Wave aesthetic, which is how he puts it. So, I know what the 1950’s look like. The guy on the tape didn’t look 50’s, he looked like he was from longer ago than that.

He also looked like he was about my age, which was weird.  Guys my age don’t go around in suits, you know? But this guy was.  He was this tall guy, kind of skinny, dark hair slicked back with what Jarvis calls greasy kid-stuff.  He was kind of pale, and he had dark eyes and sort of a greyish-colored suit on. And, what he did? He kissed me.  

Yeah, you heard that right.  Weird mystery-guy turns up in my room in the middle of the night and he kisses me.  Why? And who was he? What was he doing there? I kind of feel like I might never find out any of that stuff, and you know what?  I hate that. Not that I like having random strangers kiss me when I’m asleep… Random male strangers, I’m not gay, I told you that already.  Random any kind of strangers, you just don’t want total strangers doing shit to you when you’re asleep and you can’t say anything...

Would I have told him no?  Honestly, I can’t decide. There was this one moment when the tape caught him full-face, and you could really see him.  There was something about his face, I don’t know what it was. It was a good-looking face, but that wasn’t it. There was something about it that made it seem like there was a guy who felt like I feel.  Like, he was all alone, like maybe there was a million people all around him, but he felt like he was all alone, like that. Like he was unhappy, he was really lonely, and really, really unhappy, which… Everybody feels that way sometimes, right?  If I’d been awake, I would have talked to him. Would I have let him kiss me? Would I have maybe kissed him? Honest to god, I don’t know.

What I’m trying to say:  It’s the not knowing that really bugs the fuck out of me.  I just want to find out who it was. And I put another tape in the machine, a brand new one, this time.  If he comes back, I’ll get a good picture of him, but that’s a big if. What if he never does? What if I go to my grave, and I never find out who did that?  It’s the most annoying feeling in the world, I almost want to tell Bruce about it, you know, get some ideas from him that might help me find out? Only if I do, I’ll have to tell him about the kiss.  I’m not telling him about the kiss.  I don’t want my best friend to think I’m gay.

__________________________

 

Hollywood, 1926

Noises offstage:

The Father: “Thor, this is the third time… [unintelligible] ...You knew you had costume tests in the morning.”

The Son: “Pop, I’m 18.”

The Father: “Yes.  You’re underage…”

Loki’s the only person who uses the library.  Other people go in there sure, but only Loki uses it.  Right now he’s sitting in this giant-enormous leather chair, next to one of the absurd medieval-looking stained-glass windows that somebody thought it would be a good idea to put in here.  One of Pop’s ideas, probably. Pop’s the one who has all the ideas about how a star should live. Thor’s money pays for it, Pop picks it out, everybody else just has to live with it. Loki’s got his legs swung over one of the chair’s arms, his head’s resting against the back, he’s got one of the leatherbound books Pop probably picked out along with the decorator, open on his lap.  It’s one of the Collected Works of Shakespeare. He’s reading a play. Richard III, if you’re curious.

The yelling’s loud enough that you can hear it all over the house, probably.  Pop’s after Thor again. He’s been after Thor quite a lot lately. Thor’s ego has always been bigger than his giant muscles, which is saying something, but since he turned 18?  Brother, you don’t want to know!

Thor also can’t seem to hold back from pushing Pop.  Every day it’s something new. One day he’s bought a new roadster without consulting him.  “ My money, Pop,” he goes, and Pop says, “YOU CRASHED THE LAST ONE, THAT’S WHY I SAID NO MORE CARS.”  The next day he’s disappeared off to Carmel by the Sea without telling anyone, with some college girl he’s met, and Pop has to send private detectives out looking for him.  Maybe Loki’s taken to telling Pop anymore, when he hears something about his brother’s plans? Don’t make a federal case out of it, it’s necessary. If it’s up to him, Thor’s probably going to get himself killed.

Loki’s nose is buried deep in the book.  “Now is the winter of our discontent,” King Richard says, “made glorious summer by this sun of York;/ And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house/ In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”  King Richard is something else, alright! He’s a villain, but what a villain! What a part to play, if a fellow were old enough… Sometimes it feels like Loki’s never going to be old enough, or at least nobody’s ever going to recognize that he’s old enough, not just to play Richard, but for any real parts, or any real life, or anything.  Sometimes it feels like he’s going to be a kid forever.

Back into the book:  “I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,” Richard says…  Richard was a kid brother too. Shakespeare makes out like he was so misshapen, but was he really?  Because the way he talks, he just sounds like any normal kid brother. Say you had a growth spurt almost a year ago, which finally made people realize you’re too old for kids’ parts anymore, but are they giving you any adult parts?  Are they even thinking about you for them? Say you’ve got this brother, who is definitely made to court an amorous looking-glass, and he gets all the love's majesty anybody could want, and every girl who sees him immediately falls madly in love with him before he even opens his big mouth.  You don’t need to be misshapen to get mad about that kind of stuff. Anybody would get at least a little mad.

Now there’s another voice coming in, in the middle of Thor and Pop’s argument.  Mama’s voice. She’s saying something to Pop, “Calm down,” probably, or something like that.  “Remember your blood pressure Odin,” then she’ll say something to Thor, probably to stop trying Pop’s patience.  Same thing every time there’s an argument, Mama’s always the one to settle it. Now they’re both going to go their separate ways.  Pop’ll go over to Asgard Studios probably, talk to somebody about something to do with Thor’s next picture. Thor’ll… He won’t come in here, will he?  Thor hate’s libraries.

Scene in the library:

The Older Brother: (scowling) “You told Pop, didn’t you?”

The Younger Brother: (with a serious look on his face) “About the speakeasy?   Thor, what was I supposed to do?”

The Older Brother: “Not a speakeasy. -- A club.”

The Younger Brother: “It was a speakeasy.  Have you read about the kind of stuff they serve in those places?  You might have been poisoned.”

The Older Brother: (sighing) “You worry too much, Loki.”

The Younger Brother: (with a shrug) “So sue me, I care about you.”