Okay, here's chapter two! Thanks for the reviews, favourites, and follows will be at the bottom. Also, I updated my profile, you should take a look. Thanks, Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Avengers and Norse Mythology do not belong to me.
Warnings: Talk of bullying and mild child neglect.
Words: 3, 714
Anthony Edward Stark was an average boy. He was of average height for his age, common black hair, and soft brown eyes. He was also, however, a genius. He excelled in all his classes, and was above his average grade level, already being at least 4 years ahead of what most kids his age were.
Or so his tutors told him. He hadn't been to a public school in years. He had only been in public school a few years before the bullying got nearly unbearable. Howard had just brushed it off and told him to man up, but his mother, Maria Stark, saw that the kids were bullying Tony because he was smart. Much smarter than his grade in fact, and it was also making it hard for him to focus in class as he felt no challenge so would instead draw ideas of things for his dad to invent.
The teachers had begun to get fed up also that he wouldn't pay attention in class, so Maria made the decision to just let Tony be homeschooled by tutors instead. Tony got along well with all of his tutors, and quickly became more confident. Maria was very happy to see her son making such progress, though grew more agitated with Howard each time he turned away one of Tony's designs. He may be a child, but the way Howard so blatantly turned down his ideas bothered Maria, but what bothered her more was that it was more often than not because Howard was drunk. Although she did what she could to keep it from Tony, there were times when she was not around or that Tony would simply not be happy until he was able to show his newest idea to his father.
She knew Howard loved their son, but she sometimes felt like he loved his work more. She loved the man though, and would never take Tony from his father, no matter how she did not approve of his behaviour. She also knew that Tony knew his father loved him, but that he was also starting to draw away from his father, and was slowly showing him less and less of his ideas, but thankfully he did not stop writing or drawing his ideas out as they came.
Due to Howard's behaviour Tony had also begun to withdraw more in other aspects. He had started to hide how sad he would be when Howard turned him away, or how frustrated he would be when an idea didn't seem to work the way he wanted it to. This worried Maria, but she simply did what she could to be there for Tony. It was with this in mind that caused her to be quite startled when suddenly one day Tony suddenly came running into the library, where she spent a lot of her free time, bawling and threw himself at her.
"Shh, shh, it's okay baby. Hush darling... Whatever's the matter il mio Principe?" She hugged him close on the couch she sat on, smoothing his hair and using her little nickname for him.
Tony's sobs slowed down and once he was breathing almost properly again he began speaking, but without letting go of his mother, if anything he clung tighter.
"I'm sorry... Please don't replace me... I'm not broken, I'll work harder, I promise!" With his last exclamation tears started leaking from the corner of his eyes again, though he appeared to be trying to stop them. Instead he just buried his face into her shoulder and tried to keep quiet as he shoulders shook with silent tears.
Maria was shocked and didn't know how to properly respond, as she had no idea what he was talking about, so she just pulled him close with one arm and smoothed his hair with her other hand. After a moment of gathering her thoughts she cautiously spoke again.
"Shh Principe, shh... I'm sorry love, but I'm not sure what you mean."
Maria would have given anything in that moment to never see the look of fear and sadness cross her baby boys face again. She smoothed some strands of hair off his face as he began speaking again, more slowly this time, and started to wipe of some of his tears.
"Daddy... Dad... Always says, 'If something is broken, replace it or build something that works better'. I'm not broken, really! I ..promise to work ha..hard...hardeerrr..." Tony trailed off, hanging his head as he started sniffling all over again.
"Oh baby, of course you're not! You are a very hard worker too, you are so brilliante! Why would you think you are broken?"
Still sniffling and keeping his head down Tony muttered something that Maria couldn't hear.
"What was that, Hun?"
Tony glanced up at her before burying his face in her shoulder again and clinging tightly to her shirt.
"'Cause daddy found a replacement for me..."
Maria literally froze in place for a minute, trying to process what Tony was saying. In the minute it took her to understand what Tony had said he has started shaking even more violently and she could feel water soaking threw her shirt. She quickly hugged him tightly to her, and asked in the softest voice she could manage "What do mean, a replacement for you? Where is he?" Maria had no doubt that her husband was likely drunk again and had said something, hopefully, by mistake to Anthony.
Tony whispered into her shoulder and she had to strain to hear him. What she did catch was "...on his way in with him..."
She sat there just soothing Tony while her mind worked. Deciding to confront Stark Sr. about this, she rose from the couch, slightly awkward as she balanced Tony's 55 lbs, and purposefully striding towards the entrance hall of Stark Manor. Tony simply wrapped his arms around her neck and clung to her, though thankfully his shaking slowly stopped and he simply rested his head on her shoulder.
When she strode into the foyer she wasn't sure what she had been expecting, but it certainly hadn't been to see her husband walking towards her with a young boy who appeared to be about Tony's age holding his hand and chattering about one thing or another. She was even more surprised to see the beginning of the excited smile on his face that he got when he was figuring out a new puzzle. She stopped so that she would be right in his line of sight and stood there waiting for him to notice her.
It was the young boy that noticed her first, then he noticed Tony, then he noticed the look on her first. She could tell he didn't think it to be directed at him, but it clearly caused him to stop abruptly none the less, nearly making him fall over as Howard tried to keep walking before feeling the tug on his hand. Pulled out of his tale he looked at the boy confused, before following his line of sight.
Howard's face lit up at the sight of his wife and a bigger smile began to form, but slowly turned into a look of confusion at the stony look on her face, and then quickly morphed into an expression of concern when he noticed Tony, now balanced on her hip, head still hidden in her shoulder. For all he did that would sometimes show otherwise, Howard did truly care for his son.
With a gentle tug on Loki's hand he hurried over to his family, casting a wary look at Maria's still tight expression and Tony's now slightly shaking form.
"What happened, is everything alright?"
Maria stood her ground as Howard brought the boy over and only took a small step back when he reached out to Tony.
"Howard. Would you possibly be able to explain to me why Anthony seems to think you replacing him?"
Howard had frowned slightly at the clipped tone his wife usually only used when he was extremely drunk and doing something dangerous, and noting the way she had moved Tony away from him, before the words properly registered and his eyes widened and filled with confusion.
"I have no idea." He did not let go of Loki's hand, having momentarily forgotten he was even holding it, and took a slow step forward and reached for Tony again. He watched Maria's face instead of focusing directly on Tony, and she didn't move back this time. She just watched him, her own eyes becoming a bit softer and showing the confusion that was going on in her own mind.
Howard rested his hand on Tony's hair and started running his fingers through his hair. "Tony? ... Tones? ...? My man?"
Howard felt a pang in his heart as Tony slowly turned his head to face him, and he saw the drying tear streaks on his cheeks.
"Buddy, what's wrong? Why would you think I'm replacing you, was it something I said?"
Tony himself began to look confused and he glanced down as though to gather his thoughts, then suddenly his head flew up and he was giving a little glare to Howard, tears clearly starting to form in the corner of his eyes again. He didn't say anything, he simply took one of his arm's from his mom's neck, and slowly, but deliberately pointed down at the boy by his father's side.
Howard's eyes widened slightly at the glare, and he followed the direction of his son's arm. He almost started as he suddenly remember the young boy he had brought home, still clinging to his hand, and looking uncomfortable and even beginning to look scared at the hostility that seemed to be coming from Maria and Tony.
Howard, without letting go of Loki, quickly looked back at his family, shaking his head slowly as he gathered his thoughts to properly explain this as quickly as possible. He reached a hand out to Tony, simply waiting until his son carefully laid his own hand into his, before starting to talk. He looked Tony right in the eyes for the most part, occasionally looking to Maria.
"I am not replacing you Tony. I never could, I promise. I did not bring Loki here to replace you; he simply has nowhere else to go. He does not know how to get home, and I did not think it safe to leave a boy out on the streets to fend for himself. I figured we have plenty of space here that he could stay with us and while I try to find his family, he could keep you company."
Tony stayed silent just looking between his dad and the other boy before finally settling his gaze on the other boy. Loki and Tony stared at each other for long moments, neither backing down. Loki then inclined his head just slightly in a nod and Tony's face split into a wide grin. He turned back to his mom and reached up to kiss her on the cheek really quick before asking to be put down.
With a small smile Maria set him down and kissed his forehead. He smiled at her and whispered "Thanks Mamma", gave her a quick hug, then turned around and stretched his hand out to Loki.
"Hi. My name is Anthony Stark. I really don't like Anthony though, so please don't call me that. Tony is good. Welcome to our home."
Loki glanced up at Howard, and receiving a smile and nod, let go of the man's hand to shyly take Tony's.
"I am Loki Odinson. I thank you for welcoming me into your home." He stood there quite formally, trying to stand as tall as he could.
The boys just looked each other over quickly, Loki standing slightly taller at 52" to Tony's 49". His black hair fell just to his neck and then curled slightly, while Tony's dark brown hair stood in every direction, while still managing to look controlled. Strong green, the colour of a fresh Christmas tree's needles, met soft brown, the colour of a fresh Christmas tree's trunk and Tony grinned again, causing Loki to give him a small smile in return. At that Tony just beamed more and took Loki by their still clasped hands and began to drag them away. He paused and turned back.
Howard knelt down to be on eye level with his son.
Tony didn't say anything for a minute, then let go of Loki for a second to run back and hug his dad tightly.
"Thanks for not replacing me..." was whispered into Howard's shoulder, and the man really did not know how to feel about the fact that his own son thought he would replace him. He hugged Tony for a second then gently grasped his shoulder to hold him at arm's length and look him in the eye. Tony wouldn't look up though, instead keeping his eyes on Howard's shoulder.
"Tony, please look at me." Once he did Howard continued. "Why would you think I could replace? Or even would for that matter?"
Tony's eyes darted around the room and he glanced at Maria, then away, and finally his eyes landed on Loki. Slowly more tears came to the corner of his eyes, but not enough to make them fall, just to cause his eyes to shimmer a bit.
Howard waited patiently; something he did not do often, but acknowledged was needed in this situation. When the silence continued to stretch and his son would still not look back at him he called his name gently. Tony actually shook his head a little bit, but turned to look back at Howard's shoulder once more.
Once again Tony shook his head a bit, this time more tears filled his eyes and a few did fall. Howard breathed a sigh of frustration saying "Tony, look at me." He said it slightly sharper than he'd meant to though, and the resulting twitch in caused in Tony made him regret it. Before he could start to apologize though, or Tony could even look up at him, he suddenly found himself no longer holding onto Tony and a mass of black curls were suddenly where Tony's face had been moments before.
Loki had never felt particularly protective of anything before. He had never had a reason too. Everyone back home was very able to take care of themselves, and he had always felt a bit like he didn't fit in anyway. He suddenly felt very protective of his new friend though, and wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because of the way this Anthony had turned to him to confirm his father's tale, he hadn't just taken his father's word for it, he had actually silently asked Loki for the truth. Or the way he had so politely introduced himself and not followed it with 'and who are you'. Was it the way he has looked Loki straight in the eyes and it had caused him to smile. Per chance the way he had even accepted Loki's attempt at a sincere smile, and had been ready to just take him along in whatever he had planned. The way he now had not only turned away from his father, but was looking at Loki once again.
Loki noticed the tears forming in the other boy's eyes and suddenly felt the strong urge to just grab Tony and hold him tight until all the sadness in his eyes went away; just like his own mother did any time his father ignored him in favour of Thor. So, when the elder Stark suddenly snapped and Loki saw Tony twitch, he hadn't even thought about it fully and suddenly he had teleported himself the couple of feet to Tony and pulled him into his arms. He hugged Tony to him, keeping his own back to the other Stark. He felt no anger towards the only Stark for making Tony cry; he only wanted to make sure Tony felt safe.
Tony was startled by his father's sharp tone and internally shook his head at himself for being such a coward. He felt the tears start to run down his face again and was about to look up at his father, when he suddenly felt himself wrapped in strong but small arms, and pulled onto a soft flat chest.
If Tony was surprised by Loki suddenly being in front of him, he quickly brushed it off, instead being grateful to his new friend. He carefully wrapped his arms around Loki's back, feeling as safe in his embrace as he usually did in only his mother's gentle hugs. He felt a few more tears run out of his eyes and onto Loki's shirt and simply clung to the other boy.
Everyone stood stock still for a few minutes and Tony calmed down once again, and slowly lifted his head from Loki's chest. He didn't know why he felt so safe around this strange boy. Maybe it was the way Loki had looked just as scared as Tony had felt when he was standing by his father. Maybe it was the way he had understood almost immediately what Tony had been silently asking. Maybe it was the shy trust he had felt the boy giving him by not only shaking Tony's hand, but by sharing his own name without being asked and smiling at Tony instead of turning away. Whatever it was, Tony felt safe with his new friend. So when he stepped out of Loki's embrace to face his father, he unconsciously gripped Loki's hand. When he felt a small squeeze he didn't look at Loki but gave a little half smile, moving to Loki's side as he turned. With Loki slightly behind him and holding his hand gently but strongly, he raised his eyes and looked straight at his dad. He proceeded to say things that had been on his mind, but he had never felt anyone would care to hear, because he had to man up about it.
"I was worried because you always say 'If something is broken, replace it or build something that works better'... The other kids... They used to say I was broken, because I didn't look at things like them... I didn't understand why they took so long on little things, but they said I was the broken one, because they were all the same..."
Howard Stark didn't know what to say. He vaguely recalled something about Tony being bullied and that being the reason Maria had insisted on tutors instead of letting Tony continue in public school. He hadn't realized what the kids had been saying though; he simply thought they had maybe ignored Tony at worst, for getting better marks or something silly. He felt bad that he hadn't cared to notice, but then he realized exactly what Tony had said was his reasoning for feeling he was being replaced was. He quickly shook his head and looked Tony straight in the eye.
"No, Tony. First, you are not broken. Not at all! Being smart is not something to be ashamed of, ever." He waited for Tony to nod a bit to make sure he understood, before continuing.
"When I talk about replacing things, I am speaking of machines. I do not mean people. People can not be replaced. People can be lost, and others can come to help take away the pain, but never, ever, can anyone replace someone else. People may irritate us, but even then, they cannot be replaced. Tony..." he held his hand out to Tony and Tony put his smaller hand into his dad's large palm, smiling a bit back at the small grin his father had. Howard's grin turned into a serious expression that meant he needed someone to listen very carefully. Tony tilted his head slightly, something he did when preparing to remember something important.
"Tony, I need you to promise me something. I need you to promise me that you will never try to replace someone. I know it may sound silly, but if anything happens to someone you love, you cannot replace them. I want you to promise me you will do your best to remember them, and keep them in your heart always. Also, if someone annoys you, I want you to promise to talk to them. Not try to replace them."
Tony just stood there watching his dad for a minute before slowly nodding. "Kinda like pop and nanna? We miss them, but we can't just go get a new pop and nanna. Or how the kids at school were really mean, but we couldn't just trade them for nicer kids. Right?"
The smile Howard gave wide and genuine and proud.
"Yes Tony, exactly like that. Please promise me bud."
Tony stepped over to his dad giving him a one armed hug, his other arm still attached to Loki. "I promise Dad."
Howard hugged his son tightly, so proud that his little man understood things well beyond his years. He let go and ruffled Tony's hair.
"Good. Now why don't you go show Loki around or watch a movie. Your mom and I will get a room ready for Loki and come get you when it's dinner time."
Tony smiled really big and kissed his dad's cheek before turning and pulling Loki back the way him and Maria had come originally.
Maria stepped over to Howard as he stood up, and they watched the two boys disappear down the hall way, chuckling when they heard Tony's animated voice, followed by Loki's careful soft voice.
"So how old are you? I'm 8!"
"...I am older than that."
"Cool! I've never had an older friend before!"
The boy's voices trailed off as they got further away from the two adult Starks.
Maria turned to look at her husband. "So where exactly did you find him?"
Howard chuckled and looked back at her, taking her hand is his and moving towards the kitchen for some much needed coffee.
"Would you believe me if I said he fell out of the sky?"
The resulting look on Maria's face was priceless and Howard had never wished more that he could freeze a moment in time.
Well, thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed Little Prince Chapter 2, and hope to see you back for more. Also, if you pop to my profile, there is a link to a preview for a Steve/Tony fic I'm working on.
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