A/N: I dipped a teensy tiny bit into comic book knowledge for the students at Tony's high school. Most of them won't play much of a big role, since I don't have solid enough comic knowledge write them particularly well. This is just an fyi that if you don't recognize a name, it's likely a comic character.
"Tony! It's time for school, stop fiddling with your toys and get going!"
"C'mon Rhodey," Tony Carter sighed, abandoning his latest project and picking the fat cat up off his chair with a sigh, "Time for hell."
He gave himself one last glance over in the mirror-rumpled school uniform, unkempt hair all over the place, stupid blocky glasses…welp, this was as good as it got-then reluctantly came down the stairs of his loft. He placed Rhodey on his cat castle, then slid down the fire pole to the first floor of their apartment.
"Feeling confident?" his mother, Peggy, smiled up at him from the kitchen.
"Not really," Tony rolled his eyes.
"Oh, buck up, Tony! When you make your speech, just don't look at the people," Peggy advised, stowing away her art brushes, "Pick a spot on the back wall and don't take your eyes off it."
"Yeah, thanks," Tony sighed. Knowing that rationally wasn't going to do him any good. In the end, he was still going to fail it, just like always. Mechanical, electronic things he could deal with; people, not so much, "Bye."
"Good luck," Peggy nodded, waving a hand in goodbye.
Tony grabbed his electric scooter on the way out, and revved the engine. Unfortunately, he might have added just a little too much extra juice when he'd fiddled with it the other night; he shot forward, careening into his neighbor's trash cans. His neighbor peered over at him with a long-suffering sigh.
"MorningBruciebearIloveyoudon 'tkillme?" Tony exhaled in a rush, shooting his neighbor, Bruce, a weak grin. The guy supposedly had killer anger management issues, but Tony's idiotic behavior thankfully never quite seemed to warrant it.
"You're going to kill yourself one of these days," Bruce just shook his head, pulling the pen out from behind his ear and jotting something down on a notepad. He was always writing down something or another, not that he'd ever show Tony.
"Sorry," Tony apologized, hauling himself up and speeding off down the block, calling over his shoulder, "I'll fix something for you later to make up for it!"
"I'd rather you didn't!" Bruce called back.
Three blocks down the hill, Clint Barton, Tony's best friend since possibly forever zoomed up next to him on his own scooter.
"Thanks for the kick, Tones," he acknowledged, "This thing goes like ten times faster now."
"Told you I could do it," Tony grinned.
"I'm just glad you didn't set anything on fire this time."
"That was once-"
"It was like ten times, do not even try and lie to me right now. I have spent way too many weeks waiting for your eyebrows to grow back so I can stop looking like I hang out with a pedophile."
"I do not look like a pedophile."
"You do without your eyebrows."
It was their first day back from winter break and as usual, Shield High was a riot area. At the top of the steps the cheerleaders and football players for their champion team, the Avengers, sat preening about their latest victory. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, king and queen of the school, were busy making out, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff were talking with Victor Shade and the new foreign exchange player T'Challa, while Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew kicked back with Bobbi Morse.
Tony and Clint shared an eyeroll of mutual disgust; Avengers. Who needed them? Ty Stone, flirtacious asshole extraordinaire and Tony's ex-friend, hopped up on the brick wall, walking the edge all the way up to the cheerleaders, slamming closed the laptop lids of two geeks as he went by. Jane Foster rolled her eyes and opened it again, while Darcy chucked a book at Ty's head.
Ty just ducked to pick a flower from one of the planters, presenting it to Janet with a flirty grin.
"Such a show-off," she rolled her eyes, but there was no denying the proud, queen bee smirk on her face, even as Hank pouted.
"Off the wall, Tiberius," principal Maria Hill strode by, heels clicking as she snapped her fingers, "I said off the wall."
Then the ten-minute bell rang, and it was off to class.
"Someone sat on me again," Tony complained to Clint between third and fourth period while they got their books from their lockers, "In the middle of class, this time."
"So it's true that you've actually perfected the ability to turn invisible?"
"Thanks, asshole. You're super helpful," Tony rolled his eyes.
"You want helpful? Check out tall blonde and gorgeous over there," Clint jerked his head to gesture over Tony's shoulder, "I think he's checking you out-oh wait, never mind, he just shoved his face in his locker, I can't tell anymore."
"Who?" Tony turned, scanning the hallway, "Was it Steve?"
"It wasn't Steve, my god, you are so obsessed with h…wait," Clint paused in his teasing to lean past Tony for a double-take, "Holy fuck, that was Steve. Christ, Tony, you've got to get a load of this guy, he grew like six feet and muscles."
"Yeah?" Tony chanced a look, and just about had a heart attack.
Holy mother of god.
Six feet may have been an exaggeration, but Steve had gained at least a solid six inches. Where before Tony had a nice height advantage, Steve would now most likely all but loom over him. It wasn't just that, either; Steve had been thin, all bony fists and gumption to keep him going, and now he had linebacker shoulders and biceps Tony's whole hand wouldn't fit around.
Someone upstairs seriously loved torturing him.
"Well, fuck me."
"Not at school, Tones," Clint elbowed him with a grin.
"No, seriously, fuck, this sucks," Tony complained, "I mean it's awesome cause, hello most attractive person I have ever seen in my life, but fuck me because he finally started talking to me just before break-well, okay, I talked to him since I was the one who dropped my car off at the shop he works at, but what the fuck ever, he talked back, semantics-and now he's so out of my league it's ridiculous."
"I don't know, he kinda looked like he was staring at you-"
"Clint," Tony deadpanned, "Look at him. Look at me. That is so not happening in my lifetime. But in the meantime, look at him some more because mother of fuck is that a gorgeous view."
"Tony, dude, this is a sign."
"Shut up, I'm busy," Tony leaned against his locker, shamelessly staring at Steve's ass.
"No, listen! You've been obsessed with this guy for fucking ever, right? Maybe this is like, a sign that whoever's up there approves and is like 'here Tony, just for you, I'll make him super bangable'."
"You're a fucking idiot," Tony shoved him, "Besides, what would he want with a nobody like me?"
"Dude," Clint rolled his eyes, "You've been pining over him since freshman year. You were head over heels for the guy when he was 50lbs of skin, bones and blonde hair, and that was fine cause no one saw 'the real Steve Rogers', or whatever you called it, like you did. But now, people aren't gonna bother to look for 'the real Steve Rogers', if know what I'm saying."
"That my life fucking sucks?"
"No, I'm saying, go get a piece of that ridiculously sculpted ass before someone else does. After debate though, cause I'm pretty sure we've got like thirty seconds to get to class."
"Fuck meee," Tony whined, grabbing the last of his books and taking off down the hallway.
Two rows down, Steve Rogers leaned against his locker with a sigh.
"Oh God, it's the Tony Sigh," Bucky Barnes, Steve's best friend and the guitarist in his band, groaned.
"You have a serious problem, dude," Sam Wilson, his other friend and lead drummer, agreed, patting Steve on the shoulder sympathetically.
"I do not," Steve protested, biting his lip. It wasn't his fault Tony's hair was particularly ruffled today. What he wouldn't give to run his hands through that hair…
"Listen man, if you ever wanna be more than 'that guy who fixed his car', you've gotta actually say something to him," Sam pointed out.
"But I haven't even fixed his car yet," Steve protested.
Tony had brought 'his baby' into the shop where Steve worked before break, and Steve had all but tripped over his too-big feet to be the first to help him. He and Tony had talked for almost two hours-admittedly, it had started out mostly about Tony's baby and the various things she'd need to get running, but they got to talking about other stuff too!-and Steve hadn't been able to think about anything else since.
He'd met Tony his freshman year, when he was still a pint-sized hothead who never knew when to back down. Tony had run into some of the more popular kids kicking Steve's ass behind the football field, and told them to go pick on someone their own size.
It wasn't as romantic as it sounded; it ended with the bullies beating both him and Tony up, landing them all in the principal's office. They'd had detention together for two weeks afterwards, and though Steve never got the courage to say anything other than a quick, stammered thank you, he'd had a desperate crush on Tony ever since.
"Right," Bucky snorted, "Because the guy who went out of his way to save your tiny ass frosh year would only ever talk to you if you fixed his car."
"Not to mention there isn't anyone on this campus that doesn't want to talk to you now," Sam elbowed Steve, "Mr. Growth-spurt-of-the-century."
"I'm just glad the working out finally took," Steve shook his head, "But I don't want him to just like me cause I grew, y'know?"
"Oh, I forgot, Stevie wants to be loved for his mind," Bucky sighed, not really mocking, just teasing, "Look, I'm sure he'd like your mind just fine if you said two words to him. He's in my chem class, and you'd think he was Einstein or some shit."
"I know, he's a genius," Steve just sighed the Tony Sigh, letting his head fall back against the locker with a clang, "And he doesn't even know I exist."
"You are so completely hopeless," Bucky rolled his eyes.
"-this is not a debate; this is a control issue!" Ty insisted, "Shield controls our minds with what they teach us, but you know what? They're not satisfied with that. I think Shield should dump the uniforms and have casual dress all year round!"
Naturally, every student in the debate class cheered. Tony sank lower in his seat.
"Alright, alright, settle down. Now remember, you're only allowed casual dress this period, you'll need to be back in your uniform the rest of the day, Ty," the debate teacher, Mr. Phillips, reminded the teen.
"Anything you say," Ty shrugged with a grin, stripping off his thin t-shirt.
Tony tried and failed at not staring; Ty may have been a user jackass, but he was a hot jackass. What sexy-pills were everyone around him taking, and where could he get his hands on some?
"Down, boy," Mr. Phillips reprimanded, "You made your point. Change your clothes after class. Now that we've heard from Tiberius for the affirmative, let's hear the rebuttal from Tony, shall we?"
"What's my point again?" Tony whispered.
"You like our uniforms," Clint reminded, "They're equalizers."
Tony stood, making the impossibly long trek up to the front of the room. God, what asshole had decided debate class was a good idea for high school students? He hated public speaking. He swallowed nervously; was he really only halfway to the podium? Why was this walk so long? Was everyone staring at him? They totally were, he could feel it.
Finally, he gripped the podium and looked out and-oh god this was so much worse. They were all staring at him. Well, of course they were, he was supposed to be talking. Why wasn't he talking yet? Shit-
"Uh. Um. So, I. Uh. You see, um-"
"Come on, Carter, you got this," Clint muttered.
"We're waiting," someone called.
"Is he gonna talk or what?"
"Right, I, uh. Casual, c-casual dress, it…"
"He's gonna hurl!"someone exclaimed.
Tony raced down the aisle, out the door before anyone could stop him.
Screw his other classes.
Tony skipped the rest of the day, taking his scooter and going straight to the rock gym where he worked. He loved his job; he was a rock-climbing instructor, and he was damn good at it. He was usually better with machines, but somehow working with his hands for so long had transferred over to rock-climbing. Freshman year of high school he'd had a couple issues to work out, and he'd gotten it out of his system by climbing there a couple times a week. When he turned fifteen, it only seemed natural that they'd offered him a job.
"I knew I'd find you here."
A hand landed on Tony's shoulder, and he startled.
"Mom! Shit, I-"
"I know," Peggy just sighed, "I heard. You threw up, huh?"
"Possibly," Tony winced.
"And then you ran away."
"And now I'm trying to forget about it, not that this is helping," Tony turned to the guy behind the counter, "Can I get shoes and some chalk, please?"
"You're not in trouble, Tony," Peggy leaned over, putting an arm around him, "These things happen. I'll talk to your debate teacher and straighten things out…no more skipping school though, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. Look, I'm never going to be a good public speaker, alright? Just…tell him I'm gonna be a mime or something," Tony muttered.
"You'd make a very charming mime, dear," Peggy chuckled, patting him on the shoulder as he ducked down to lace up his climbing shoes. She paused briefly, then cleared her throat, "So…your father's personal assistant called."
Tony popped back up.
"You remember, Phillip Coulson?"
"Uh, no, I don't remember. I haven't seen him or dad since I was like, two, mom. What does he want?"
"He's in town," Peggy fidgeted ever so slightly, in a way that only Tony could pick up on, "He wants to have tea."
"Tea?" Tony raised an eyebrow, "Howard dies and his personal assistant I've never said two words to before came all the way from Europe to have tea with me?"
"No need for the sass," Peggy smacked his arm, "And he's your father, don't call him Howard."
"Oookay," Tony snorted, making his way to the rock wall, "And why, exactly, should I go see the snobby jerk who ignores us?"
"He knew your father very well, Tony. Just go see him tomorrow, hear what he has to say."
"Fine, whatever. I'll go see him," Tony grumbled, "Can we just climb now?"
Okay, so he had it bad.
The good news was, Steve knew he had it bad. Which meant theoretically, he could control himself when Tony walked into the room, hair disheveled like he'd just woken up, uniform rumpled like he didn't care. He could stop his heart from beating four thousand miles an hour when Tony slid onto the piano bench next to him to mess with the piano while they and the rest of the class waited for their music teacher to arrive.
"Hey, Steve," Tony greeted, bumping his elbow amicably with a smile, "Winter break sure did you a favor."
He remembered my name?
Of course Tony remembered his name, idiot, he talked to him just a few weeks back. Right. Breathe. Just…say hi back. Or hey. Definitely hey. Who even said hi? That'd be weird, right? C'mon, just…say it. Right now.
Shit, great, now it's been ages and he hasn't said anything and now Tony probably thought he was a mentally challenged mute, or something, but maybe not mute, because Tony obviously knew he could talk, they'd talked before, but-
"Alright everyone, settle down," the teacher entered, clapping her hands together, "Line up, come on, this isn't new."
Then Tony was gone, sliding off the bench with a sigh to take his place with the other singers.
"Hey, are you sure you can't help me with my petition to get archery in schools today?" Clint whispered to Tony as Tony slid into place next to him.
"Sorry dude," Tony sighed, "I have to meet my father's old personal assistant right after school. Something about tea, I guess?"
"Weird," Clint raised an eyebrow.
"You're telling me."
Okay, what the fuck.
Tony already knew his father's ex-assistant was probably pretty rich, working for his businessman of a father for god knows how long, but the sprawling place Tony was standing in front of now seemed pretty damn expensive for a couple days visit. He wasn't even sure what it was; a condo maybe? Whatever it was, it had protective gates and security cameras and everything; frankly, Tony was starting to get a little weirded out about the whole thing.
He approached the gates, glancing around cautiously for the way in. He spotted the intercom, but before he could even press the button, a voice came over the speaker.
"The school tours are on Saturday, kid."
"Uh, not here for school," Tony waved a hand, then realizing they probably couldn't hear him, he pressing the intercom button, "I'm here to meet with Phillip Coulson? It's Tony, Tony Carter."
"Oh! Anthony, yes, come right up to the gate."
The gates rolled back and Tony sighed, hiking up his backpack and heading across the grass to the front door. Within a split second of his feet touching the grass, the speakers blared again.
"Get off the grass!" Tony leapt a foot in the air, while the voice continued, "Scendere l'erba! Descendre l'herbe! Runter vom Gras!"
"Okay, okay, I'm off the grass!" Tony shouted back, high-tailing it off the stupid grass.
He barely had time to finish glaring at the speakers before a man in a tailored suit and dark shades opened the door for him. Tony took notice of the mic subtly attached to his ear; the man was clearly a bodyguard of sorts.
"Welcome, Monsieur Anthony, we've been expecting you."
Tony just blinked, too taken aback by the high-class, somewhat French-inspired interior. It was all fancy and probably highly expensive, and Tony knew with perfect certainty in that moment that he was bound to break something before he left. He startled when another suited bodyguard began to feel through his backpack.
"This will be but a moment, sir. Safety precaution."
"Don't worry, I left all my explosives at home," Tony rolled his eyes sarcastically.
The bodyguards exchanged a glance, and the one currently feeling Tony up became a bit more thorough. When Tony was cleared, a butler appeared through the archway.
"Right through here, if you would? Make yourself comfortable."
Tony flopped down on the nearest couch, tossing his backpack at his feet. The butler looked somewhat surprised, apparently not expecting Tony to get quite that comfortable. Whatever. If his dad's weirdo assistant was going to haul him all the way out in the middle of nowhere to drink tea-which, by the way, ew much? He was so much more of a coffee guy-Tony was going to damn well get comfortable while he waited.
"-es, yes, for their daughter Marissa. She's allergic to strawberries, don't you dare forget. And we need new pillows for the prime minister's wife, she doesn't care for goose feathers. Ah, hello Anthony," a prim, rushed-looking strawberry blonde bustled in, a planner in one hand, the other outstretched to him, "My name is Ms. Virginia Potts, you can call me Pepper. I'm the Genovian attaché."
"Nice to meet you," Tony shook the offered hand, then, "Why does my dad's old PA get an attaché? Aren't those just for visiting dignitaries and stuff? And where am I, anyway? This doesn't really look like a hotel."
"You're at the Genovian consulate," Pepper answered only one of his questions, before gesturing at him to take a seat, "He'll be with you in a moment, and he can answer any other questions himself."
"I don't need a moment, I'm right here."
Tony didn't remember much of Phillip Coulson. He had a fuzzy image in his head, something about sunglasses indoors and a full head of a hair, but both those had been apparently abandoned. The man descending the stairs had the same crisp, clean-cut suit though, the same air of cool confidence and effortless composure Tony could now vaguely remember looking up to as a kid.
Everyone in the room stood, from the bodyguards to the front desk dude, so Tony hastily stood to join them.
"Anthony, it's good to see you."
"You too," Tony nodded, mostly because it seemed appropriate, then opened his mouth to correct the Anthony. Before he could, the man stopped, resting his hands formally behind his back.
"You look so…" he paused, drawing out the word, as if searching for something better, "Well, young."
"Really?" Tony frowned, "Since you last saw me at age two?"
"Well, I expected you'd be older when we met again," Phillp nodded once, more to himself than to Tony, "But no matter. Pepper, is everything set in the garden?"
Pepper nodded once, and Phillip gestured for them to follow after her. They walked out into the garden in silence, with Phillip still shooting Tony these weird, measuring sort of looks, like he was trying to find more of Tony than there actually was. He didn't like it; it reminded him too much of what little he remembered of his father.
"So!" Tony declared as they sat down, "My mom said you wanted to talk to me about something? Shoot."
"Well," Phillip seemed somewhat taken aback, "Before I…'shoot'…have you ever heard of Howard Christoph Anthony Walter Stark?"
"Can't say I have," Tony shrugged. Though, the name sure sounded like a pain in the ass.
"He was the crown Prince of Genovia."
"That's…cool?" Tony tried, unsure what he was supposed to be getting here.
It's not like Genovia was a particularly well-known country, and Tony was failing History anyway. The only reason he'd even heard of the place was because that's where his absentee father had taken off to forever and a half ago.
"Howard Christoph Anthony Walter Stark," Phillip paused, then, "Was your father."
Tony snorted crudely, spitting some of his tea back into the cup. Phillip looked disgusted by this, but Tony just laughed.
"Right. My dead-beat dad was the crown Prince of Genovia. Sure. I'll give you one thing, you've got a hell of a poker face. You should take up gambling, seriously. With your poker face and my talents at card-counting, we could bankrupt Las Vegas."
Phillip just looked mildly confused, and Tony suddenly became in need of air.
Phillip raised an eyebrow.
"No, no, no. That's totally not possible. This is the part where someone jumps out the bushes with a camera and yells 'gotcha', right? Cause seriously, my life is not a Disney movie, you don't just…wake up one day, Tony Carter, this random fucking nobody, and the next you're Prince of a fucking country!"
"Watch your language," Phillip chastised, and oh my god this was so fucking weird, "You're not just 'Tony Carter'. Your full, legal name is Anthony Edward Carter Stark, Prince of Genovia."
"I beg your pardon?" the look Phillip shot him was nothing short of deadly, and Tony found himself immediately regretting his every decision in life.
One of the wait staff thankfully beat him to an explanation,
"Your highness, in America 'shut up' does not always necessarily mean 'be quiet', it often means wow, gee whiz, et cetera."
"Ah," Phillip's brow furrowed, "I see."
"I'm sorry, did he just say your highness?" Tony gaped at Phillip.
"Yes. That's why I'm staying here at the embassy," so that's what this weird-ass place was, "In the wake of your father's death, and with you as a minor, I was the one he wanted to take his place. I am royalty by chance; you are royalty by blood. You can rule."
"Rule?" Tony abruptly dropped the tea spoon still dangling from his hand, "Oh no, ohhh no, no no no, now you really have the wrong guy here, I never lead anything, okay? Not cub scouts, not sports teams, hell, I don't even play sports! Look, Phil, Phillip, King Phillip, whatever, my expectation in life? Is to be invisible. And I'm good at it."
"Anthony, I had other expectations for my life too, you know," Phillip sighed, tapping his spoon lightly against his teacup, "King was never a position I expected or desired to fill. But for you, this is in your blood. You are the legal heir, the only heir."
"I am so not Prince material."
"We have accepted the…" Phillip gave him that same look again, the one that was waiting for Tony to magically become some regal dancing monkey, "…challenge you present. We can help you get there. I have books you can read, you'll study languages, history, art, political science!"
His face had gone light, enthralled at the prospect of all the subjects that made Tony want to curl up into a ball and die.
"I can teach you to walk, talk, sit, stand, eat, dress, all like the Prince that you truly are. And given time, I think you'll find the palace in Genovia a very pleasant place to live."
For all the Prince that he may have been, all Tony really wanted to do was go home and blow something up.
"Live in Genovia?" Tony gaped, "No, rewind and freeze, I'm not a Prince, okay,I'm still waiting for normal body parts to arrive! I refuse to move to, and fucking rule, a country!"
With that, Tony took off.
Phil stood, moving to go after him, but quickly realized the child was faster than expected. He sighed; so much for that. With timing as impeccable as always, Natasha appeared out of seemingly thin air.
"Should I stop him?"
"No, I suppose not. If he's that upset, there isn't any point," Phil sighed.
"It went that well?" as per always, Natasha's face gave away nothing, but Phil could see the smile in her eyes.
"You think this is amusing?"
"He just needs time," she assured.
"Yes," Phil mused, "But until then, I'm going to need your help."
She of course caught on to his intentions immediately.
"I'm head of your security and personal bodyguard, the best in all of Genovia-and you're assigning me babysitting duty," Natasha's voice was dry and unamused.
"For the time being, yes," Phil sighed, "The child needs protection."
"In fifteen years you couldn't find a spare moment to tell me that Howard was fucking royalty?"
"First off, young man," Peggy corrected him, waving a dish towel warningly in his direction over the kitchen counter, "Watch your language."
"Fuck my language!"
"Second," she pressed forward, "Stop calling him Howard, it's disrespectful. As for not telling you, I thought I was doing the right thing."
"Oh, sure, I'll just call him King Howard then, that's respectful," Tony sneered, "And please. The right thing for who, mom?"
"For everyone. If your father and I went our separate ways, he was free to find a woman who could stay by his side in Genovia and produce heirs or what have you," she made a face that expressed just what she thought of that life, then softened to look at Tony, "And we would be able to live our own lives, free from that."
Tony just glared.
"Think about me for a minute here, Tony," she insisted, tossing the rag down to go wash her hands, "We met in college! I was young and in love, sure, but I wasn't ready to give up my whole life to be some lady tucked away in the royal bedchamber. I wanted to paint! I mean, can you really see me walking two steps behind someone for the rest of my life? With the rules and the regulations and the waving and the bowing?"
Peggy crossed back across the room to look at Tony, clearly upset.
"I was scared, Tony. I was scared that I'd settled down too fast into something too serious and all of a sudden I had a child and a husband and I was staring down the barrel of a life I didn't want."
"Well, living with a mother who lied to me for fifteen years scares me, okay?" Tony snapped, turning aggressively to head up to his room.
His mother, of course, wouldn't leave it at that. She climbed the stairs after him, continuing her explanation while Tony got ready for bed. Right now, all he wanted to do was sleep for the next ten years. And maybe blow something up in the basement when he woke up.
"After the divorce, we all discussed it. Your father, and Phil by proxy, both agreed to keep that distance so you would have a chance at a normal childhood, free of emotional complications. We were going to tell you when you were eighteen years old. We just...we wanted to protect you."
At this point, Tony exited the bathroom pajama-clad to shout at her angrily.
"Well you know what? I don't feel protected, I feel lied to! You try living your whole life thinking you're one thing, then in five fucking minutes finding out that you're a Prince, okay? Cause just in case I'm not enough of a freak already, let's thrown in a fucking crown!"
"We'll talk more in the morning," Peggy just sighed, seeing that Tony was clearly not in the mood, "Sleep well, sweetheart."
Tony just glared at her sullenly until she closed the door, then collapsed on the bed next to Rhodey.
"Oh Rhodey," Tony sighed, "You're so lucky you don't know who your parents are."