Smultronställe
(n.) lit. "place of wild strawberries"; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness


December 12, 1898

The pond was frozen. An acre across and ten feet deep, it was difficult to tell where the land ended and the water began. It also didn't help that it had snowed another two feet the night before, layering the back garden in a serene white powder.

Had he not grown up here, Loki was sure he would have never known they even had a lake.

As it was, they did, and it stared dauntingly up at him. The other children had cleared the snow away to reveal the hard ice beneath, proof that there was no danger if Loki decided to stand in the middle of it.

A chill had set in early that autumn, frosting his mother's flowers and forcing him into itchy, hand knitted sweaters his Grandmama Bestla had gifted him for his birthday. And the children were over enthused that they could play in the snow earlier than the year before.

Loki was certain that, despite their assurances, the lake would easily break beneath his weight. But in spite of his rational arguments, Sif, Hogun, Fandral, Volstagg, and even Thor continued taunting him, calling him a baby and a coward.

He turned to look at back at his house some hundred yards away. Loki knew it was warm and safe there. The only reason he was outdoors now was because his father and brother had insisted. Father saying that Loki spent too much time indoors with his books and his drawings, while Thor wanted to spend time with his brother. Unfortunately, Thor also wanted brother time to coincide with Sif and the Warrior's Three time.

The children's taunting grew louder and more emphatic as Loki withdrew more and more. He stumbled back, hoping that their inner bickering would last long enough for him to escape. But it was not to be as Thor grabbed him and pulled him back towards them.

He pushed off his brother's hands. "Fine!" he yelled, stamping his foot and scowling deeply. The kids hushed in eager anticipation. Loki took a deep breath. What had he gotten himself into?

Loki checked and rechecked the buttons on his coat, making sure they were properly secured. He fixed his hat so it properly covered his ears and pulled at his scarf, tightening it round his throat. With a deep breath and closed eyes he took his first step over the lake.

The snow crunched softly underneath his new winter boots. Step after step, it felt like an eternity. He would pause every now and then, certain that he heard the ice cracking below his feet. Loki looked back only once, greeted by the eager faces of his peers.

There would be no comfort from them.

It was when he heard the cheering that he knew he had made it to the center of the lake. Loki stood there, surprise evident on his face. He did it. Loki waved at Thor and his friends. Now who was a coward?

The sun was in his eyes as he squinted at the children some good feet away. Their attention was off of him and on each other. Loki resisted the urge to scream.

Fandral and Sif were fighting, Thor, Volstagg, and Hogun cheering them on. He was a cheap spectacle, a sideshow to their main attraction. Loki cursed himself for being so stupid, thinking that Thor and his friends would actually care.

He grumbled as he marched back to land, his steps a little harder than usual. It was as he neared his destination that the heard the ice crack.

Loki stopped his trek, staring down at the ice, eyes wide in fright. He shifted his weight slightly and the ice cracked further. "Thor," he called, hoping to grab his brother's attention, but the five were too loud; too invested in their scuffle. "Thor!" Loki tried again, his fear turning him near hysterical.

He stood frozen, feeling the ice shift beneath him. In a mad scramble he tried jumping away from the breaking ice, but in his panic he slipped and the impact of his landing broke the ice.

Loki slipped into the water.


June 5, 2013.

"The Borrson's left the house in January of 1899, a few weeks after the passing of their youngest son, Loki Odinson," the housekeeper informed the new owner of Borrson Manor as he opened the doors that led to the garden. "The young boy – eight at the time – drowned in that lake." He led his tour towards the aforementioned body of water. "His parents were distraught and abandoned Asgard the moment they were able to secure a new home, this one in the city."

He paused for a breath, and the new owner took the opportunity to interrupt the clearly practiced manor history. "He drowned in the lake? A kid drowned in the lake. Pep, why did you make me buy this house?"

Pepper Potts smiled politely at Heimdall, the housekeeper, before turning her smile on Tony Stark. She had plenty of replies to that question, but she bit back her ire to respond, "You wanted to get away."

Tony nodded his head in vague agreement. With his hands stuffed into a pair of worn jeans and his faded band t-shirt, Tony Stark looked less like a multi-billionaire and more like he should be the one giving the tour. He was a significant contrast to the well dressed Heimdall, not to mention the pristine interior of Asgard, the Borrson Manor.

"I figured you'd let me get a timeshare in Cancun or something," Tony smirked, kicking a rock and watching it fly some five yards before plopping into the lake.

Pepper ignored him, turning her attention back to Heimdall. "You were saying?"

Heimdall nodded, continuing as if he had never been interrupted. "The Borrson family – "

"Hold on," Tony interrupted again, raising his hand churlishly. "I thought you said the kid's name was Odinson."

"The family immigrated from Iceland," Heimdall answered, as if that explained everything. Tony felt like telling him it really didn't. "The Borrson family left the house as is, expecting to return one day; they never did." Heimdall walked on, leading Pepper further onto the grounds, leaving Tony behind to stare at the infamous lake.

It was obvious to Tony that Heimdall didn't like him very much. It might have been because Tony had decided to nitpick every single detail of the house history, interrupting the man every chance he got. Also, Tony was a hundred percent certain Heimdall was blind and had made obscene gestures and faces in front of his face.

Needless to say, the housekeeper was not pleased.

And since when were men housekeepers? Weren't women only housekeepers? Tony was pretty sure of it. In all of the homes his father owned, the housekeeper was always a woman. Mrs. Walters, Mrs. Polk, Mrs. Collier – there were more but Tony wasn't up to a walk through memory lane, considering he caught his father sleeping with all of them. And his nannies; and the maids; and really everyone that breathed. He shook his head, trying to will away the visuals. Now was not the time.

Tony stared at the still lake, water lilies floating peacefully on the surface while a frog sat perched on a rock, watching a mayfly intently. He crouched down just as a salamander slithered over his sneaker.

With small children, Tony wondered why the Borrson's were so surprised their son drowned. He had been a child once. What kind of kid didn't find themselves in ridiculous situations?

He suddenly recalled how he had thrown himself into the deep end of the swimming pool in Malibu when he was five, despite the fact that he didn't even know how to swim. It was quick thinking on Jarvis' part that saved him. His mother wouldn't let him near water for two years.

It was with a soft smile that he dipped his fingers into the pond, hoping to stir the sleeping fish below into action. The moment his fingers touched the surface, Tony gasped.

Water engulfed him entirely. Freezing water. It filled his lungs and burned his skin. He fought and fought, trying to reach for the surface but he couldn't. Water was everywhere, pulling at his coat, his boots, his hat.

He was sinking.

Looking up, he saw the sun and shadows of faces, but they didn't do a thing. They simply watched as he drowned. Why didn't they do anything?

He tried crying out but air bubbles were the only offer to those above. He didn't want to die like this. Not now.

Please.

A hand on his shoulder brought Tony back to the present. He scrambled backwards, coughing and dry heaving onto the perfectly green grass, trying to expel the water that had made its way into his lungs.

"Holy shit," Tony repeated to himself as he tried his best not to throw up the cheeseburger he had scarfed down not an hour earlier. "Holy fucking shit." He sat up and stared at the pond, but it was perfectly fine. The frog hopped away.

"Are you well?"

Tony stared up at Heimdall who was watching him with curious eyes. "What the fuck was that?" Tony asked, stumbling to his feet, swatting away the hand that Heimdall offered him. He patted his clothes, only to find himself perfectly dry.

Heimdall simply tilted his head as if he didn't understand what Tony was talking about. "I believe you were having a panic attack," Heimdall answered.

"That was not a panic attack," Tony insisted. "Have you ever witnessed a panic attack because I've had them, and they're nothing like that." Pepper appeared from behind Heimdall and cast her worried gaze on Tony. He turned to her and yelled, "I was drowning!"

"I'm sorry about this," Pepper told Heimdall as she grabbed Tony's arm and led him towards the house. "He's been a little… over worked, lately."

"I am not over worked," Tony hissed, trying to tear himself away from Pepper and back towards the lake. "I was drowning, Pep."

Pepper patted him on the arm, humoring his insistent pleas. Heimdall followed some feet behind, not even turning when he heard loud splashing behind him and a small voice call for help.


January 3, 1899.

Nobody came by anymore.

Loki lay in his bed, blankets wrapped tightly around his shivering body. It had been a few weeks since he had fallen into the lake but Loki had yet to gain back his strength. His parents, as was their style, had ensured that he had naught for nothing.

His bed was tucked tidily away from the drafty windows, which were covered with long drapes, to guarantee his warmth. On one side of his bed was a small dresser where the servants would place his tea, or meals, and on which stood his lamp. On the other side, Thor had moved his bookcase – out of guilt, no doubt – so Loki did not have to strain himself getting out of bed. His mother had made him a new quilt, this one softer than any other in the house. She had also knitted him a warm sweater that Loki refused to take off except for when it needed washing. Much better than Grandmama Bestla's.

But still, nobody came.

He had not seen hide nor hair of anyone aside from his family and the butler's son in days, and his family only when he came down to supper. The guilt ridden Sif and the Warrior's Three no longer wandered up to Loki's room to see how their victim fared. Most likely their families had returned to their homes in the city now that the appeal of a white holiday had faded.

Tossing his book aside, Loki huffed out in annoyance. He crawled out of bed, wrapping his quilt around his body and sat on the window seat, pulling the curtain aside to watch the snow storm outside.

The night before, Thor had sat here with him and watched the snow fall past his window. But today, Loki had not even heard his booming voice echo through the halls outside his bedroom door.

Had they forgotten about him? Had his family left just as the others did – left behind so as not to be a burden. Loki wrapped the blanket tighter around his body. It was probably better this way, he thought as a tears fell down his face.

There was a brief knock on the door and Loki looked up at the sound, wiping his tears away. "Come in," he called, scrambling off the window seat to answer the door if he had to. The door opened and Loki's excitement disappeared as quickly as it had come.

"Good evening, Jarvis," Loki mumbled, taking a seat on his bed and pouting fiercely.

Jarvis withheld a smile as he placed a tray with warm chicken broth on one of the tables. "Good evening, sir," Jarvis replied. He poured a cup of hot tea and handed it to the young master, straightening up the little mess Loki had made since Jarvis had come in last.

"Were you expecting someone else, Master Loki?" Jarvis asked, watching Loki expectantly.

"No," Loki answered, scowling fiercely. He took a sip of his tea, grimacing at the bitter taste. "How much longer must I drink this horrid stuff?"

Jarvis tilted his head in thought. "I'd assume until you are in better health, sir. Though it is not my place to assume as such." Jarvis looked at the empty chair beside Loki and turned back to the boy. "May I?"

Loki nodded and Jarvis sat. Loki liked Jarvis. The two got along swimmingly well. Jarvis was not that much older than Thor or Loki themselves, being the butler's son. He was still a teenager, attending the public high school some miles from Asgard. He would drive the two Odinson children to the private school some blocks away every morning and picked them up in the afternoon.

Odin had complained to the elder Jarvis about the young man's education. The boy did not need a high school diploma; he was better suited taking care of the household and learning to take over his father's post. But Mr. Jarvis fought Odin tooth and nail, and he was forced to give in.

"I've brought you a surprise," Jarvis whispered, his usually serious face morphed into a mischievous grin. Loki perked up at that. "You mustn't tell a soul."

"A secret?" Loki asked, all eager energy.

Jarvis nodded. "Yes. Just you and me, alright?"

"What about Thor?" Loki asked, worry seeping in. He couldn't keep secrets from Thor.

"Thor most of all," Jarvis told the younger boy.

Loki sat back and thought about it. Thor was partly the reason he was stuck in bed, and unlike Jarvis, he rarely came to visit. Jarvis read him books and brought him toys and played with him, and not because he had to. Thor usually apologized profusely before quickly becoming bored and leaving Loki alone all over again.

"Alright," Loki said.

Jarvis smiled. "Good." He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a rectangular, transparent object, handing it over to Loki to observe.

Loki grabbed it with eager hands, turning it this way and that, trying to discover its purpose. "What is it?" he asked finally, staring up at Jarvis, hoping he had the answers.

Jarvis simply laughed, running a hand through his hair. "I really don't know," Jarvis admitted. "But I thought you'd like it."

Holding it up to the light, Loki broke out into a smile when he saw a small logo in the corner. "Stark Industries," Loki murmured, his fingers lightly running over the imprint.


September 25, 2013.

" '…and spoke like a weary man. Afterwards he got more animated. In writing it down I feel with only too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink – and, above all, my own inadequacy – to express its quality. You read, I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot – ' "

"Do you think Father will let me take the car?"

A long suffering sigh. "I'm nearly done. Can you not wait?"

"The rest of the chapter is unimportant."

"Unimportant?" The book is slammed shut, placed carefully on a table. Wood? The speaker stands, his seat squeaking and his shoes tapping against the floor as he storms to the other. "And you think the car is more important?"

Immediate, as if the other is stupid. "Yes."

A huff and more walking – pacing. He's pacing.

"Why do you not join us brother?"

He stops. Long silence. Then – "No." Seat squeaks, book lifted, pages turn. " 'You read, I will suppose, attentively enough; but you cannot see the speaker's white, sincere face in the bright circle of the little lamp, nor hear the intonation of his voice. You cannot know his expression followed the – ' "

The other tries speaker over, but is plainly being ignored.

"I'm sure Fandral's sister will come if you do. She's quite pretty."

He reads on.

"Stop your reading, brother. You must come with me. It is not normal, this locking yourself up, refusing to go out."

The other cracks his knuckles, crossing to and opening the door.

"I'm going to ask Father. Are you sure you do not wish to come?"

" ' – followed the turns of his story! Most of us hearers were in shadow, for the – ' "

The door is closed. The reading stops.

Tony opened his eyes. It was happening again.

He sat up in bed, staring at the darkness that surrounded him, the light of the arc reactor muffled by his t-shirt. If he stared hard enough, he was sure he would finally see the ghosts that haunted him, for Tony was sure they were ghosts.

The ghost of the drowned child and his grieving parents.

But it couldn't be. Not really. For at times, he heard many voices all at once. A deep rumble, a sweet, dulcet melody, a loud boom, and a velvet hum. Rarely did he hear the high pitch squeals and eager jabbering that a small child would make.

Then there were the other things. Things that Tony couldn't explain.

The sound of clipped shoes on hardwood floors, clinking glasses, scraping chairs, a rustle of newspaper. A cloud of cigarette smoke in the parlor, the luscious scent of perfume in the bedroom. Something moving in the corner of his eye. A pair of glasses that were left on the hall table years and years ago were suddenly resting over the fireplace, a crack in the lens. A picture of a young boy was suddenly joined by another, aging at every glance until the two were men.

Seeing nothing, Tony lay back in his bed. He was going insane. Worst of all, Heimdall, the unhelpful jerk, seemed to think the same. The man claimed that he never touched anything and when asked, gave Tony the most unassuming face in all of the universe.

He closed his eyes, in an attempt to cut off the other senses. It wasn't like he could see with them open anyway, but without trying to make out shapes, he was concentrating solely on catching the voices again.

Tony knew it was hopeless. He tried every time; every night that he heard them. But they would never return.

He inhaled deeply, releasing it after a few seconds in an attempt to clear his head. "You're going crazy," Tony muttered to himself, turning around in his bed and punching his pillow to fluff it up a bit. "Pepper left you here to go insane so she can take over Stark Industries. Hope she's glad it's working."

Flopping down, Tony yawned loudly. He smashed his face into the pillow and slowly drifted to sleep.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Tony's eyes snapped open.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

He raised himself slowly, keeping his eyes on the door. Someone was knocking. How the hell…?

The door opened and Tony gaped at the man who stood there. It couldn't be. It couldn't –

"Sir?" asked Jarvis, a glass of milk in hand.

Tony would have liked to think he was just as he remembered him as a child, but that would be a lie. He was younger, much younger. When Tony was a little kid, Jarvis was old, so very old that he didn't know how it was possible for the guy to be living.

And yet here he was, no more than twenty five, a spring in his step and so very plainly Jarvis that Tony felt that he was going to have a heart attack. Jarvis died when he was eight. Tony remembered it well.

One day Jarvis was chasing Tony through the house, playing a game of hide and seek. And the next, he was sleeping peacefully in his bed, refusing to wake, no matter how hard Tony shook him, tears running down his face. That's how Mrs. Gleason found them, dropping the tea tray in shock.

He promised to be good. That he'd never do a single bad thing again. That he'd never upset Daddy or bother Mommy. He begged and pleaded, but Jarvis didn't stir. It took the strong arms of Mr. Thatch to pull Tony off of Jarvis' body, holding tightly as Tony screamed, and bit, and kicked, his desperation giving him an unnatural strength.

"Jarvis," Tony quavered. This was a dream. It had to be.

Closing the door, Jarvis stepped forward, a look of concern on his face. Tony felt like laughing. He was definitely going insane, but he didn't care at the moment. Tony remembered that face. It was turned on him more often than not as a child. The pursed lips and furrowed brow, and a deep affection in the eyes. No wonder to Tony he was more than a servant.

"Did you wish for me to leave you here to brood, or may I enter?" Jarvis sassed.

"What?"

Jarvis heaved a sigh, placing the milk on the nightstand and opening the bedroom curtains. Tony blinked in surprise to see the sun shining brightly through his window. That couldn't be right. It was still night.

He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Impossible.

It was light outside, but his clock read two in the morning. Tony was pretty sure the house hadn't blown a fuse. It wasn't like he had anything running, aside from the air conditioning, but he fixed the electricity almost immediately after moving in.

Turning around to ask Jarvis just what was going on, he gaped at the sight before him.


September 25, 1907

Loki was not brooding. Scowling, perhaps, but not brooding.

Jarvis perked up an eyebrow, his lack of professionalism irking Loki to no end. His father had spoken with Jarvis on multiple occasions about his candor and familiarity but Jarvis saw no need to listen. After all, Odin was the only one who was bothered by it.

"I don't want milk," Loki replied, instead of yelling at Jarvis to leave.

"I can drink it," Jarvis said, "if you wish." He picked up the glass and took a large gulp. Loki glared.

Jarvis broke out into a smile. "Thor left." Loki didn't reply. Ah. Of course. Jarvis rocked on his heels, pulling his ear, feigning nervousness. "If you'd like, we can have our own adventure."

"I am not a child, Jarvis," Loki hissed, sinking further into his bed, his book long forgotten. At seventeen he was torn between wanting to be treated like an adult and acting like a child. Thor, being four years older, was free to do whatever he wished with whomever he pleased. Loki allowed to tag along as if it was a favor – a privilege.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the clear, plastic rectangle Jarvis had given him years ago. Loki still didn't know what it was, but when his mind was clouded and he wished to clear it, the item was always at hand, assisting in clearing his head.

An angry "Hey!" pulled Loki from his thoughts. He looked at Jarvis but the servant stood patiently before him, an amused grin on his face as he stared out the window.

Curious, Loki turned his direction to what had caught Jarvis' attention, but there was nothing there. Nothing but the bright sun, piercing Loki's retinas.

"Will that be all?" Jarvis asked, his attention still at the window.

Loki huffed, flopping backwards onto his bed. "Yes. And take your milk with you."

Jarvis laughed, downing the rest of the milk. "As you wish, my lord and master."

Loki rolled his eyes, a smile breaking out on his face.


December 11, 2013.

Pepper rolled her neck, trying to get out the crick that had snuck its way in some three hours ago. She was tired, she was hungry, and right now, all she wanted was to lie down and watch bad television.

She deserved it.

Happy watched from the corner sofa as she continued her rant.

" – of person wouldn't be concerned? I thought the atmosphere would be good for him, and he's going crazy. The other day, I told Tony to come back, that he wasn't obligated to stay at Asgard, and he told me that he was on to something. That he could figure it all out. I have no clue what he's talking about. I know he said there were voices and ghosts, or whatever he thinks it is. But this obsession with the house is getting freaky."

Happy nodded. This was not the first rant he'd been subjected to. From both parties.

"I can go check up on him," Happy said. "If you'd like."

Pepper smiled brightly at him and Happy melted inside. "Could you?"

He nodded and Pepper hugged him. "Thank you."

Happy gulped. Tony was right. He had it bad.


December 12, 2013.

There were some things that Tony couldn't explain, and though he had tried and tried to put a logical reasoning to his late night delusions, he couldn't.

It happened nearly every day for six days before Tony gave up on sleep and began investigating.

He made himself a home at the library, looking up local history and all the information he could on the Borrson family. He learned all he could possibly learn about Odin Borrson and his steel mill; from his dirt poor beginnings in Iceland to his quick rise as a young man in the steel industry. Odin's story was the American story.

If Tony wanted to know that, he'd read his old man's bio.

And Thor Odinson. The golden child. The boy who could do no wrong. Honestly, it made Tony sick.

But still, Tony found himself with more questions than answers.

They never mentioned the second son. The one who drowned. And of course there was nothing on the mother. She was simply the wife. The sweet face behind her men.

He avoided Heimdall like the plague during this time. The man may have been the expert on the family and home, but Tony found him creepy on a good day. He was far from helpful, and so Tony refused to let the man know what he was up to.

It didn't mean that Tony didn't feel like he already knew.

Two weeks after his initial search, Tony gave Heimdall the day off. He watched the older man leave and immediately Tony began searching the house like he never had before.

He knocked on doors and windows; pulled at books; opened closets and rummaged through boxes. The stern photos and bland paintings on the walls watched his every move, goose bumps rising on Tony's arms.

It was ridiculous for him to be paranoid, but he'd turn around every now and then, sure that someone was watching. But of course, no one was there. He'd stare at the photograph of Thor and Loki, the two sons, for minutes at a time, hoping – praying – that they'd give him the answers.

And if he thought that after a quick glance the boys aged to men, or there was only one of them, Tony brushed it off as his mind playing tricks on him.

By nightfall, Tony was frustrated beyond belief. His search had found nothing. If anything, he was more confused than ever before.

He threw himself on his bed, angry with himself for being so stupid.

And then.

Then.

That's when he saw it.

The thing that had made him begin his search to begin with.

Old and battered, cracked in the center, worn with age, and scratched almost beyond comprehension, was his phone.

Tony blinked, confused. He knew that he had lost his phone months ago, back when he moved in. He had quickly replaced it, after all, what was one phone from another.

And yet here it was, looking as if it had not seen life for decades.

That's when it had begun.

He had examined the phone, even brought it back to Malibu to have JARVIS analyze it, only to discover that the cell phone, the recent Stark phone, was a hundred and fifteen years old. Tony didn't know how. He made JARVIS recheck the data, but the time frame remained the same.

He drank to excess that night.

The next morning, battling a killer hangover, Tony went back to his Victorian house, his manor – Asgard – and got to work.

After more investigating, he set up shop in the gardener's shed. He needed a place to work, someplace away from the prying eyes of Heimdall.

And that was exactly where Happy didn't find him that crisp, December morning.


December 12, 1898

Tony whooped loudly. He did it.

He did it!

He took a good long look at interior of the shed. No longer was it hissing and scorched, it didn't hold his tool box or blueprints of his latest, most brilliant invention. It was, instead, being used for its original purpose.

There were pruning shears and lawnmowers and shovels and wheelbarrows and Tony felt like picking up each and every one of the items and kissing them.

"JARVIS, data analysis," Tony said into his phone.

He kneeled down in front of his time machine – not a time machine, thank you very much; more like a time pocket manipulator – and took note of the numbers JARVIS punched out. At each log, Tony's smile grew wider.

He had done it. He was the world's first time traveler. Time pocket traveler, a little voice reminded him.

Tony knew that his hard work wasn't for naught. Perhaps he had had one too many arguments with Pepper about his obsession, but he had figured out the problem, hadn't he? He was Tony Stark, of course he was going to solve the problem.

He was a genius, for Christ's sake.

His thoughts had revolved around ghosts for the longest amount of time. But ghosts didn't exist. Not to mention it was more than seeing someone there when there wasn't anyone. It was sounds and smells and things changing when they oughtn't.

That's when Tony realized that it wasn't ghosts, but time itself. He may or may not have had a conniption.

This – this was the stuff scientists dreamed about. Holes in time. A rip. A tiny leak in the time stream. Past, present - it was happening now, at the same time. Was it possible that his future was playing out in the past? Was the past the present and the present the future?

Oh, the thought sent shivers down Tony's spine.

A time leak and it was all his. A time pocket, stuck in limbo at Asgard. How fantastic was that? Could he be blamed if it took him over completely? Could he be blamed that it consumed him and made him all the more restless?

This was something no one had ever discovered. This was his, and his alone. Not his father's, not Pepper's – his.

"J, darling, give me the date," Tony grinned.

There was a brief crackle before JARVIS answered, "The year is 1898, the twelfth of December."

"115 years," Tony murmured, doing the math in his head. He whistled softly. That was a hell of a time ago. Is this when the pocket was created? It was plausible. Or it could just be a random date.

After all, it was exactly a hundred and fifteen years.

Well random date or not, Tony wasn't just going to stand around in a shed all day. He was a scientist after all. Time to… science!

He cautiously opened the shed door and was immediately greeted by a harsh chill and two feet worth of snow. Tony seriously regretted taking off his coat before trying out his machine. Plus, a hundred years in the future, there was such a thing as portable heaters.

The adrenaline of success no longer held the illusion of warmth.

Tony grumbled silently. He'll just have to keep the weather in mind for his next attempt.

He slipped out of the shed, taking one hesitant step in the snow.

"Forgot your coat, did ya?"

Tony spun around, staring at the old man coming towards him, a shovel in hand. He's going to murder me.

The old man laughed loudly, his laugh turning into a worrisome cough. The old man waved his hand at Tony, as if to say he was alright. Once his fit ended, the old man smiled and handed the shovel over the Tony.

"Well I envy your youth, Frank." Frank? Who the hell was Frank? But the old man was unaware of Tony's plight, continuing his monologue, "You might wanna start in front, Mrs. Borrson's itching to get to town and she can't do that 'til you've cleared the way. The horses'll need feeding 'fore she goes too, so be sure to do that. And I suppose once that's finished you can clear some o' the snow in the garden, for the kids to play. They're out there now, but it's always best to be safe."

"Kids?" Tony repeated. Was it possible the Odinson boys were alive?

The old man nodded. "Yeap. The lil' masters and their friends. Gonna get themselves a cold, if you ask me, but I suppose ol' Cyclops would rather have them out of his way than listening to their screaming inside, eh?" The man laughed, his cough acting up again.

Tony patted the man on the back, who swatted him away. Seeing he was no longer needed, Tony heaved the shovel over his shoulder and tried to trek through the snow to the front yard.

How did the old man know him? And Tony was using know very loosely. He called him Frank. Tony didn't even look like a Frank.

"Don't be such a baby."

"You know he won't do it. He's a coward."

"Chicken!"

Tony ground his teeth together. He didn't like the other kids when he was little. They were awful creatures. It seems they were just as horrid before he was even born.

"It's frozen, look."

"Come on, Loki."

Tony turned around.

"Fine!"

Loki. Loki? He was alive. December 12.

December 12, why was that day so important? Why was he brought here? It didn't -

"Look at him."

A snort and a giggle. "He's actually doing it!"

"You have to go all the way," came a girl's voice. "Right in the middle. Dead center."

"Oh," Tony breathed, dropping his shovel and running towards the backyard. He cursed his fighting lungs, the sting of the cold air, the deep snow.

This was the day Loki Odinson died. Drowning. The lake would crack beneath his feet as his friends and brother watched.

Tony paused a moment to take in the scene.

Loki stood in the middle of the frozen lake, fear crossing his eyes, his desperate cries for Thor incomprehensible as the other children cheered on two of the others who were fighting.

And then the ice broke.

The children stopped their fighting to look up at the spot where Loki had just stood. They were frozen, glued to their spots, not even noticing the man that had run past them and to the broken lake.

Tony slid across the ice, reaching down into the water, trying his best to find any part of the boy. The water continued to splash and air bubbles floated to the surface. Tony knew the kid was still alive.

He reached down further, the ice cold water freezing his arm, but he couldn't let the boy die. The air bubbles stopped and Tony panicked. He dove into the water after the boy.

Tony felt like his lungs were going to burst. The water was freezing and it stung his open eyes. He tried blinking but he couldn't get used to the temperature. He searched frantically.

Where was he? Where the hell was –

There.

A small, dark haired boy in a heavy coat, sinking slowly, ever so slowly, to the bottom of the lake. Tony swam to him, grabbing him by the shoulders and turning him to face him. He quickly undid the buttons on his coat and shoved it off the boy's body.

Then he wrapped his arms around Loki's waist and swam up.

Tony gasped for breath the moment he reached the surface. He was surrounded on all sides, and suddenly, Tony felt claustrophobic. The old man was there, his face only inches from Tony's own. A man with one eye, a lady with a shawl pulled tightly around her body, and five pairs of little eyes, staring at him with wonder and fear.

The one eyed man hauled the two of them to the surface, where Tony flopped like a fish. The woman ran to the little boy, Loki, and held him to her chest.

He wasn't breathing.

Shit.

Tony heaved himself up and crawled to the boy. "Let me," Tony rasped, gently prying Loki from his mother's chest.

He set him back down on the ground and tilted his head back, lifting his chin. He bent down towards Loki's chest, trying to hear a heartbeat. Nothing.

Tony placed two of his fingers just underneath his jaw, searching for a pulse. There.

He grinned as he pulled back and pinched Loki's nose closed. He took a deep breath and sealed his mouth over the boy's, blowing two breaths into him.

He pulled away and watched in delight as Loki's chest began to rise and fall. Tony grinned, taking another deep breath and placing his mouth over Loki's once more. Just before he was about to let out some air, Loki sat up, coughing and spitting up water.

"Oh thank god," Tony huffed, falling backwards onto the snow and tried to regulate his own breathing.

"Loki," his mother cried, pulling her son to him, wrapping him up in her shawl. He was freezing, shivering, his teeth chattering.

"Mom," Loki replied, holding tightly to his mother.

Tony closed his eyes, a great big smile on his face. Look at him. He was a hero. "Hooray," he babbled. "Alright! He's alive."

He could hear people speaking, but he couldn't make out the words. Whoever they were, it probably wasn't important any way. All Tony knew was that he wanted to sleep.


He woke with a start, sitting up and staring at the familiar wallpaper. Tony groaned slightly, rubbing at his face. How the hell had he wound up in the parlor?

In front of a fire.

Well that was new. Tony tried untangling himself from the blankets wrapped tightly around him, not questioning his nudity.

"Thank god, you're awake."

Tony spun wildly and stared at the blonde woman who stood in the doorway. She wore a brown dress with a gold, checkered design that went from the collar down to her torso, and the puffiest sleeves Tony had ever seen. That wasn't normal.

An older man that resembled Jarvis stood behind her, a bundle of clothes in his hands. He cleared his throat and Tony turned his attention to him. The man held up his hands in explanation and Tony quirked an eyebrow before realization hit him.

He tried picking up the blankets off the floor and covering himself. Normally he didn't care, but he knew all about the prudish ways of the past. It's why he knew he couldn't live anywhere but the present. "Sorry," he said only a bit sheepishly. "But I seem to have lost my clothes."

The woman smiled. "Perfectly understandable, Mr. Franklin." She flicked her hand casually and the man stepped forward, handing the bundle to Tony. "Jarvis has seen to your clothes."

"Thanks," Tony replied. Jarvis. He stared at Jarvis, just to make sure. He looked familiar, to be sure, but nothing like his Jarvis. Father, perhaps?

Suddenly he was being embraced and Tony froze. He was naked, in a room full of strangers, and he was being hugged. Tony stood there and took it, wondering if he should hug the woman back or simply accept her advances.

She pulled away quickly, wiping at her eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have. But thank you, for saving my son. I don't know what I would have done if Loki had – died." She held a hand to her chest, just over her heart. "I couldn't bear it," she finished.

Loki was her son. So she must be – "Mrs. Borrson," Jarvis stated, "Mr. Borrson is waiting in his study. I shall bring Mr. Franklin when he is changed."

Mrs. Borrson nodded her head. "Be sure to give him something warm to eat. No use in making our heroes starve." And with a brief smile in Tony's direction she was gone.

Jarvis shuffled Tony out of the room in the opposite direction, towards the kitchen. "It's much warmer here," Jarvis answered Tony's unasked question. "You change while I see that Miss Miller gets you some soup."

Tony was suddenly left alone in his kitchen, but it wasn't his, was it.

Mrs. Borrson, the woman he had read about but was nothing more than a wife in newspaper articles and history books. She was real. She was real and alive and – hot. Tony shook his head. Now was not the time to hit on MILFs.

He changed quickly, surprised at how well the clothes fit him. He sat down on one of the stools, wrapping one of the blankets around him. There was still a chill that seeped down to his bones and no amount of clothing or bundling could keep it away.

The kitchen door opened and a young lady stepped in, smiling shyly at Tony. She pulled a bowl from the cupboard and poured Tony a bowlful of some herb enriched soup. "It's your favorite," she told him upon setting it down in front of him.

Tony looked up, confused. His favorite? What did she know about his favorite. He took a sip and nearly melted on the spot. It was the creamiest potato soup he had ever eaten and god was it delicious.

He ate like a man starved, not caring that the lady was watching him, stars in her eyes. Finishing up he thanked her and she blushed prettily.

The door opened once more and Jarvis – his Jarvis, not the older one, the unfamiliar one with a familiar face – stepped through. He winked at the girl and placed his hands on his hips. "Ready, Frank?"

"For what?" Tony asked. He was looking forward to another bowlful, if the girl didn't mind all that much.

Jarvis smiled, placing a conspiratorial arm around him. "You've saved young Master Loki," Jarvis informed him, grabbing Tony's leftover bread and running it through Tony's near empty bowl, picking the bowl clean, "It's only natural the family wants to thank you."

"I couldn't let the kid die," Tony muttered.

"Edwin!" the girl exclaimed, pulling the bowl away from Jarvis. "Out, the both of you."

Tony frowned. So much for more soup. Jarvis – no, Edwin – blew a kiss at her before hauling Tony out of his seat and out the door.


March 16, 2014.

Tony stood in the shed, wearing the coat he found in his "room" the day before. Or rather the room he was given a hundred and fifteen years ago.

After being thanked profusely thanked by both Mr. and Mrs. Borrson, Tony fled. He was led to his room to rest, having been given the week off, and once alone, he packed up all the things of Mr. Franklin and hightailed it out of there.

Tony understood time. He understood paradoxes. He understood that saving a life in the past could possibly change the future. But when he returned nothing had changed.

Nothing at all.

The house was still his, the Borrson family still left, there was still nothing on Loki Odinson. It was like he had never gone back at all, which was a lie. He had gone back in time. He had saved Loki's life. But things still moved, there were still voices, he was haunted by the same old things.

Was it truly a pocket universe like Tony thought, or a parallel universe. It could have been a drunken delusion. It even could have been a terrible dream.

The only way he could find out was to go back.


April 1, 1898.

Loki watched Mr. Franklin tinker with the automobile his father had bought last fall. He sat atop the workbench in the garage, a curious gaze set on the older man.

He had come out of nowhere some weeks ago and asked for a job. Mr. Jarvis, of course, turned him away, but Mrs. Lewis, the housekeeper, took pity on the poor man, and offered him a job as a handyman. Mr. Jarvis was none too pleased, but Mrs. Lewis trusted Mr. Franklin and that he ought to trust her judgment.

Mr. Franklin had been given odd jobs around the house. Sometimes he would cut wood in the backyard, or when it snowed three days after his arrival he shoveled the snow in record time; he hauled in the water for washing and he didn't mind shoveling away Sleipnir's poop when Mr. Smith's back was hurting.

Loki found Mr. Franklin to be rather unusual. He spoke oddly and made reference to things that he didn't understand. Sometimes he wouldn't know basic facts such as the battleship Maine and tension between the US and Spain or who the president was, but he could talk intellectually with you about popular novels or tell you anything you ever wanted to know about automobiles and trains and airplanes even.

They were in the garage now because Father had told Mr. Franklin that the motor car, that Mr. Franklin called Vera when no one else was around, was acting odd.

"Vera, you're gorgeous, you know that?" Mr. Franklin muttered under his breath as the car came to life, the motor running beautifully. "The loveliest lady."

Loki chuckled, trying to quiet it with his hands, but he knew Mr. Franklin heard by the way he quirked an eyebrow. "I'd make love to you, if I could," Mr. Franklin continued.

"That's sacrilegious," Loki commented.

Mr. Franklin stopped his cooing to shoot Loki a look. "You're seven," Mr. Franklin pointed out. "What do you know about sacrilege?"

"I go to Sunday school," Loki countered, haughty and self assured.

Mr. Franklin turned off the car and sat down next to Loki, ruffling his hair. That was another thing about Mr. Franklin. He didn't seem to understand the boundaries between servant and master, but Jarvis (the younger) was the same way, though he would never touch Loki. Not without permission. But Loki found he didn't mind.

"In that case, Snow White, you probably know more about it than I do."

Loki scowled. "I am not Snow White," he grumbled, pushing Mr. Franklin's hand away.

Mr. Franklin simply laughed. "Whatever you say, princess."


April 3, 1898

Loki wasn't surprised when Jarvis woke him up and placed a card on his bedside table. He always gave Loki a card on his birthday.

He also wasn't surprised when they had French toast for breakfast, with oranges and bananas and eggs sunny side up and sausages and bacon and all his other favorites. That was quite normal.

And he was more than pleased when his parents and brother sat in the parlor and handed him his birthday gifts of books and toys and clothes. That was all usual.

What wasn't normal was Mr. Franklin.

Loki quietly padded down to the man's room. It wasn't unusual for him to do this. He and Mr. Franklin got on swimmingly well. In fact, next to Jarvis, Mr. Franklin was one of Loki's favorite servants. He treated him like a boy, not a master, and he almost never cared about Thor and what he was up to.

"J, you're killing me here," Mr. Franklin muttered, barely audible through the crack in the door. Loki stood frozen in the hall, quietly shuffling towards the door so as to hear better. "It's been three weeks and you're telling me you still don't know why I can't leave this damn place?"

"Perhaps if you returned – "

"Well it's clearly surrounding the house, yeah?" Mr. Franklin continued, ignoring the man with the smooth English accent who sounded awfully familiar to Loki. "I can't cross the boundaries… So the pocket must only be affecting Asgard." He chuckled gleefully, and Loki could hear the springs on his bed as the man sat down. "But where do they go when they… go?"

"Eloquent as usual, sir," said the other man.

"I will take you apart and feed you to Sleipnir, don't think I won't," Mr. Franklin threatened. "I've done it before."

Loki gasped.

The door opened and Loki stared guiltily up at Mr. Franklin. He was going to die. Mr. Franklin was going to murder him for eavesdropping. He scrambled backwards and smiled pleasantly up at the man, despite fear coursing through his veins.

"What're you doing there, Lokadoodle?" Mr. Franklin asked.

"Nothing," Loki replied a little too innocently.

Mr. Franklin ruffled Loki's hair and opened the door wider. "Might as well come in."

Loki slunk in, sure that now was when the killing began. He looked around, but he didn't see the other man Mr. Franklin was talking to. Did he run away? Perhaps he was hiding…

"Happy birthday," Mr. Franklin said, startling Loki. He sat down in the only chair in the room, offering the bed to Loki. "Get anything good?"

Loki sat, clutching his legs to his chest, shrugging. "Grandma sent me a sweater," Loki answered. He made a face and Mr. Franklin replied in kind. "Thor got me marbles and mother and father got me a train set."

"A train set?" Mr. Franklin nodded, tapping absently onto his chest. "I had one of those when I was a kid. Set it up all over the house. Mrs. Fielding nearly had a fit when she saw what I did to it." He broke off, smothering an amused laugh with his hand. "Well what I've got you isn't particularly fancy, but it'll have to do."

He got up and rifled through his drawers. Most of them were empty aside from a few pairs of socks and a shirt or two. Not finding what he was looking for, Mr. Franklin stared thoughtfully at Loki, before realization hit him. He dove towards Loki and Loki scrambled back, trying to make his reaction look as natural as possible. This would be worst place to die.

But he wasn't attacking Loki, simply digging under his mattress. What he pulled out was a poorly wrapped package. With a smile, Mr. Franklin tossed it at Loki.

Loki wasn't accustomed to getting gifts from the help. A 'happy birthday' was customary and Jarvis never got him anything. But Mr. Franklin looked very pleased with himself and Loki couldn't refuse the gift.

He ripped off the paper and stared at the book that was revealed. "The Time Machine," Loki read. He looked up at Mr. Franklin and smiled. "Thank you."

Later that night, when he was snuggled in his blankets he would open up the book and stare at the words Mr. Franklin had scribbled on the cover page, letting his fingers run over the sloppy letters, and wonder why Mr. Franklin was the most fascinating person he had ever met.


December 12, 1898

Mr. Franklin watched as young Jarvis scooped up his – Tony's – passed out body, old man Donald grabbing onto the legs.

It was surreal. He wanted to tell the children not to play outside. Not to make fun of Loki. He wanted a lot of things. Things that he shouldn't even know about.

He knew that when Tony awoke he'd be freaked out and confused. He knew that when he went to see Frigga and Odin, he would be offered a week off of work. And when Loki awoke, he wouldn't find his savior, not a trace.

Tony would be just a vague memory of a few months of work.

He sighed, creeping away just as Tony exited the house, running towards the shed, a shoddily packed suitcase in hand.


August 21, 1913.

Loki sweltered in the nighttime heat, a bare reprieve from that morning's blinding and ripening sun. He pulled at his bowtie, and shifted uncomfortably in his sweaty dinner jacket. He would take it off, but it was highly likely that someone would come looking for him, and he wouldn't want to upset his parents by being discovered in his shirt sleeves.

Pulling a cigarette case from his pocket, Loki took one out and tapped it a few times on the glass table before him and sat.

He hated dinner parties. He hated parties in general.

He hated dressing up for people who cared for him only so they could talk to his father, or his golden brother. He hated how the ladies spoke to him, only to have their eyes on Thor. He hated how he was forced to play nice, as if he actually cared about anyone in that room.

So he snuck away. Loki knew that within the next few minutes his mother, or Thor, or even Jarvis, would wander out to the porch, looking for him. Then he'd have to put on a smile and pretend he was more than pleased to play second fiddle all evening.

"Loki!"

Loki stood, dropping his cigarette and extinguishing it under his shoe. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and then turned around. "Fandral," he replied, nodded his head in acknowledgment.

It'd been fifteen years since his almost drowning. And to say those years had made him closer with his brother's friends, then that would be the biggest lie in the whole of creation. He hated them all the more. His near-death experience was constantly a joke to them, a fond memory from which they would laugh and squeal and act as if it was all great fun.

Fandral, was worst of all.

"Your mother's looking for you," he told Loki, leaning forward, trapping Loki between his arms, his hands placed either side of him on the table.

Loki stiffened. Fandral was… impossible. That would be the simplest term. He was a flirt, teasing all the young girls. He was handsome, though Loki hated to admit it, and Fandral knew it. He knew that girls fluttered as he passed by. And for some strange reason, he expected Loki to as well.

It was insulting. His come-ons and flirty behavior was ignored by everyone else, but Loki knew exactly what Fandral wanted. And even if there weren't laws against engaging in sexual acts with another male, Loki would never stoop so low as to give himself to Fandral.

"Please desist from touching me."

"What are you doing out here, all alone?" Fandral asked, his breath smelling strongly of alcohol.

Loki wrinkled his nose, lightly pushing Fandral away. He was easily moved. "Avoiding people," Loki answered. "Obviously."
Fandral chuckled. "I'm glad for it." And there was that look in his eye. That devilish, lustful gaze. A starving man who's only appetite could only be fed by Loki.

For a brief second quiet fell upon them. Fandral in eager anticipation and Loki in shocked horror. But that quiet was thankfully interrupted by, "Holy fucking shit face, No! No no nonononono. Fuck!" Hysterical laughter quickly followed as Fandral stepped a good five feet away from Loki and turned his attention to the garden.

"Who's there?" Fandral called, retreating towards the house.

My hero, Loki thought, rolling his eyes and jumping over the porch, despite Fandral's protests. There was most likely a drunk guest roaming the gardens. And quite frankly, a drunk guest was much more exciting, and less traumatic, than Fandral attempting to seduce him.

Loki stopped his hasty retreat (it wasn't a retreat, he was trying to figure out who the wandering drunk was; huge difference) to stare at the strange man who was kneeling beside a large, metal object in the middle of the lawn. How no one had noticed him before, Loki wasn't sure. But that was what he came here to investigate, wasn't it?

"Where did he go?" the man asked into a small device in his palm. There must have been a response, but Loki didn't hear it, because the man suddenly exclaimed, "What do you mean you don't know?"

He stood and kicked the object – machine? "You're supposed to be taking readings on all of this, JARVIS, and you just let Jar – Edwin – go who knows where, blindly?"

"Excuse me," Loki called, and the man stared up at Loki. And he looked… familiar. So very familiar. "What are you doing here?"

The man just stared at Loki, unblinking and mouth open, gaping like a fish. He glanced shortly at his device before carefully stepping in front of it, in a hopeless attempt to hide it. "I work here," the man stated confidently.

Loki was positive the man was lying. "I'm sure I don't recognize you," Loki told him. "And therefore, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"I understand," the man said, "but I really can't."

Well that wasn't something Loki was going to put up with. He threw the man a challenging look but he didn't budge. Without warning Loki grabbed the man's arm and hauled him off the property. Or at least tried to.

"Ow!" cried the man. "Let go. Would you – look princess, I don't – hey! Watch your hands!" Loki rolled his eyes as the man squirmed in his grasp.


As far as plans went, accidently sending Jarvis to some unknown time and then being hauled off by a very sexy – and grown up – Loki, this wasn't as bad as Tony thought it would be.

Alright, that was a lie. This was as far off track and not to plan than anything else Tony had ever experienced. Except maybe Afghanistan, but he wasn't going to think about that right now. He was genuinely surprised to see Loki alive. As well as strong enough to hoist him over his shoulder and that wasn't attractive at all. Nope. Not at all.

If only Tony could convince other parts of his body. But he wasn't going to think about that. Except it was really hard.

"So where are we going?" Tony asked, a limp noodle dangling over Loki's body. He watched as the lights of the house slowly grew smaller the further he bounced along. Loki ignored him and Tony breathed a sigh. "Lokadoodle, I appreciate the ride, honest I do, but I really need to head back to – oomph!"

Tony suddenly found himself on the ground, Loki glaring down at him. "I beg your pardon?" Loki cautioned.

Right. "Mr. Odinson," Tony humored him, rolling his eyes as he sat up. "Where are we?" Tony had never seen this road before.

Loki pursed his lips, closing his eyes for a moment, muttering under his breath. "This," he explained, pointing to the road, "will take you to town. Please don't trespass again, thank you." With that Loki turned around and headed back to his home.

The road…? Tony had never actually been able to get this far in all his exploring. He wasn't allowed to leave the property. He had tried for weeks and months. Yet somehow…

Then there it was: the tug. He tried to take a step forward but he couldn't. Instead, Tony found himself following after Loki.


Loki was fuming. Lokadoodle? Who did that man think he was, calling him by some strange, absurd – He froze in place. No. It couldn't be.

It was impossible. Mr. Franklin disappeared the day Loki fell in the lake. But it had to be him. The strangely groomed mustache and goatee, the messy brown hair, the strange way of talking and his lack of decorum, but it couldn't be. Mr. Franklin hadn't aged a single day in all those years. No grey in his hair, no more wrinkles around his eyes. He was still the same, while Loki had grown and aged.

There was a soft rustling of leaves before Mr. Franklin popped out behind him and blurted out, "It's not the house."

Loki turned to face him. Just the same as ever. His clothes were strange, but the rest of him was so familiar. A face, a voice that sometimes came to him while he dreamed.

"I thought I couldn't leave the house, but I was wrong," Mr. Franklin stated, staring at Loki in confusion. "Every time I tried, I couldn't. But just now, I made it to the road. You took me to the road."

Then a light seemed to spark in Mr. Franklin's eyes as realization hit him. He bounced on his toes, excitement oozing off him in waves. "It's you," he breathed. Mr. Franklin laughed loudly as he grabbed Loki's shoulders. "It's you!" he repeated, spinning Loki in a circle before letting him go and pausing a moment to let the whole situation sink in.

Though Loki had no idea what the situation was. He had always admired Mr. Franklin as a child, but it was possible that that admiration blinded him to Mr. Franklin's strange behavior. Fifteen years was a long enough time to grow out of hero worship and lend a new light onto one's heroes.

Mr. Franklin began muttering excitingly to himself, ignoring Loki completely, pulling out a small device from his pocket and putting it to his mouth. "J, baby, I've found the anomaly."

"Glad to hear it, sir," the device responded dryly, causing Loki to startle. "Does this mean you will be able to retrieve Mr. Edwin?"

"What's that?" Loki demanded, stepping forward and into Mr. Franklin's space. Normally, Loki would never be so bold, but the device looked very familiar. A bit like – "Mr. Edwin?" Loki parroted, racking his brain for any person in his father's employ named Edwin. "Do you mean, Jarvis?" Loki accused.

Mr. Franklin turned off the device and shoved it back into his pocket, smiling sheepishly at Loki. "New guy. Completely different guy," Mr. Franklin reassured Loki, taking a step back towards the house. Upon not being stopped, he quickened his pace, clearly eager to head back to where Loki had found him. "Shouldn't you be over there. Living it up, Gatsby style?"

Loki followed slowly behind Mr. Franklin, his mind whirring, knowing that there was something going on here, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. "I don't understand," Loki replied, shaking his head, letting himself slip back into the young boy he had always been around Mr. Franklin.

"It's a book. The Grea -," Mr. Franklin explained, cutting himself off. "Forget it. Hasn't been written yet." He stopped in front of his machine, a big metal object that was far from sleek and only went up to the man's knee.

Despite its rough exterior, it was still clearly an advanced piece of machinery. Mr. Franklin knelt down before it and a small, blue screen appeared, lighting up his face. Loki watched him avidly. This was how Loki remembered the man. A piece of machinery before him and a smug grin on his face.

"That wasn't what I meant," Loki drawled, kneeling down beside Mr. Franklin. "Though now, I must admit, I am very interested."

The screen disappeared suddenly and Mr. Frankling cursed under his breath. He ran a hand through his hair, mussing it horrifically. He stopped suddenly and stared at Loki.

"Who are you?" Mr. Franklin asked, and Loki simply blinked back.


That wasn't what Tony wanted to ask. He wanted to know why Loki was here with him, an old man that he may or may not remember. He wanted to know why he didn't question anything Tony told him or the information he had let slip.

Wasn't he curious about what had happened to Jarvis? Hell, Tony was freaking the fuck out about that, and yet Loki was as cool as a cucumber.

"To be perfectly frank, I think it ought to be asking the questions. Don't you, Mr. Franklin?" Loki teased, giving as good as Tony gave. His stare cut into Tony, penetrating his mind and unsettling Tony.

Loki wasn't real.

"Stark," Tony responded. "Tony Stark." He stood up and pulled out his Stark phone. "Now, JARVIS." And before Loki could respond, Tony was gone.


September 6, 2014.

He had screwed things up. And he wasn't going to go back. Jarvis was who knew where, and Loki… well he knew more than he should. Tony wasn't going to go back and mess things up more than they already were.

No, sir.

Most definitely not.

But there was still that niggling feeling in the back of Tony's mind. It was nagging him at every moment and Tony couldn't not go back.

He had run tests, and very few things came to light. He had concluded that he was tied to Loki, not the estate, but Loki had left the manor on various occasions while Tony was Asgard's handyman, and he wasn't forced to follow like his last visit.

Was it possible that Tony was tied to both? The house was the center and Loki was his guide? Were those even the correct terms?

Tony had to admit he had no idea what he was doing.


September 10, 2014

Thrud's knees creaked as slowly rose from her favorite armchair. Her children insisted that she needed someone in the house with her, to take care of her, but she was far too stubborn and comfortable living in the house where all her memories were kept.

The doorbell rang again and Thrud muttered, "I'm coming," under her breath as she grabbed her cane and hobbled to the door. She cast an unimpressed look at Mjolnir, her old mutt of a dog who merely slept on, not even bothering to bark at the interruption of his nap.

She opened the door a crack and quickly asked an impatient "Yes?" at the young man who stood on her porch.

"Thrud Warner?" he asked. Thrud nodded and the man smiled. "I'm Tony Stark. I live in the old Borrson Manor, and I was hoping I could ask you some questions."

Tony Stark? The Tony Stark? Thrud took a good long look at him, before shutting the door. Tony's surprised face was a pretty picture and Thrud chuckled as she shoved Mjolnir out of the way so she could open the door.


"I don't know much about the place," Thrud told him, taking a sip of her tea, Mjolnir at her feet and Tony sitting on her floral couch across from her. Despite his billions, he seemed to fit into her small, cluttered home.

"Have you ever been?" Tony asked her, munching on a stale cookie, not even blanching at the taste. Thrud was impressed. At 83, she had to get her kicks where she could.

She thought back to her early childhood. Her father lifting him up on her shoulders and going for a walk in this same neighborhood, pointing out secret spots where he used to play with his friends. With his brother. "Once," Thrud answered. "I was still a little girl. But we didn't go in. He just said that's where he was born."

"Why did you decide to sell the house?" Tony asked. "It's been in your family for years."

"I don't need it," Thrud answered, throwing a cookie at Mjolir who gobbled it up in one bite. "We sort of always had the house around but no one ever went to it. Hired a housekeeper to keep it up, but… well Dad always told us not go. Me and my brothers. Said it was for the best."

"You were never curious?"

"Is this about the ghost?" Thrud asked. Tony merely raised an eyebrow. Maybe she was wrong. "Some people would try to go in, but they said it was like someone was watching them. Or even keeping them out."

"Hasn't happened to me."

"Heimdall was the only one not bothered by it," Thrud continued. "Dad's brother died there, you know. Drowned. Dad never got over it." She grew quiet. Thrud remembered the nightmares he would get. How solemn he would be every year around the same time in December. Her eldest brother was named Loki, after her uncle.

Tony stood up and patted her on the hand. "Thank you," he said, before saying goodbye and walking out of the house, leaving Thrud alone with her dog and the grief for a man she had never met.


September 10, 1913

The police car drove away as Loki watched from his bedroom window. They still had no news on Jarvis. It was nearly three weeks and there was no sign of him. He had disappeared one evening and never returned.

The staff was sick with worry and Loki knew the only reason his father was searching so frantically was because they insisted on it. He had no personal attachment to Jarvis.

Loki had a strange desire to tell them all that they wouldn't find Jarvis. He was gone, for good. Loki didn't know that for sure, but that was what Mr. Franklin – Tony Stark – had all but told him.

And yet, Loki wasn't worried at all. He should be. After all, Tony Stark disappeared before his very eyes, his strange device gone with him. Was that how Jarvis had disappeared? It was very possible.

Jarvis could be dead. Tony Stark could be a madman. But still, Loki couldn't help but feel excitement bubble within him. He clutched tightly to the strange, plastic device – the one that Jarvis had found for him years ago – Stark Industries written in plain letters in the corner.

The police gone, Loki closed the curtain and made his way downstairs and out the door towards the garden where he had last seen Tony Stark. He made a point of coming down there every night, hoping beyond hope that Tony Stark would return.

It was silly, Loki knew. It could be just the work of his imagination. Too many drinks and a delusion made up so as to rid himself of Fandral. That was reasonable. But Loki didn't want to be reasonable.

He had been reasonable his entire life, following the rules and doing his best to make his parents happy. Jarvis had always tried to convince him to go out into the world and go wild. He was young and he had money to spend. Sow some wild oats before it was too late. Now Jarvis was gone.

Perhaps Jarvis was sowing some oats now. He was probably painting the town red and chasing skirts from here to China. Loki could only imagine the adventures the man was having. He smiled at the thought. Jarvis was never one to let anything get him down.

"Brother!" Thor yelled into the garden. "Dinner!"

Loki sighed softly, pocketing his funny little prize and heading back to the house. Thor grinned upon seeing Loki heading towards him and quickly disappeared within the house, no doubt to tell his mother that he was on his way.

"Good evening, Mother," Loki greeted, kissing his mother on the cheek where she sat in the parlor. He offered her his hand and the two walked arm in arm towards the dining room. His father, Odin, was already sitting at the head of the table, Thor to his right.

Loki pulled out her chair and then quickly sat down beside Thor.

"You've been spending quite a bit of time in the gardens lately," Odin observed as they served the soup. "Taking an interest in the outdoors, I see."

Thor smiled. "Perhaps you would like to join myself and my friends next week on our hunting trip," he offered. "It has been years since you've gone with."

"That, dear brother," Loki explained, "is because Volstagg is a loud and disgusting boar, Hogun cannot hold a conversation to save his life and Fandral – " Loki cut himself off, grabbing his napkin and dabbing at the soup he had spilt onto the table cloth. "Fandral is just crude," he finished.

Odin gave Loki a look that the younger man was quite familiar with. Loki sipped at his soup, hoping beyond hope that his father wouldn't go into a lecture.

"Loki," Odin began and Loki knew he should have known better. "You should try harder to get along with the friends of your brother. Having no friends of your own – "

Loki sat back and tuned his father out, knowing by repetition when to nod his head and look properly chastised. This was a weekly lecture, after all.

"Yes, forgive me, Father," Loki apologized. "But I would much rather not. The days are getting chillier and I do not think my constitution could bear the cold air."

Thor nodded sullenly. "I understand. But you will see us off, won't you?"

Thor was so eager and filled with hope that he couldn't bear the thought of disappointing his brother. Loki nodded and Thor beamed as bright as the sun.

It was when the servants were taking away their soup bowls that Loki saw a blur of movement out the window. He ignored it at first, but it happened twice more and Loki found himself ignoring the conversation and his meal to stare out the window.

"Loki, are you alright?" Frigga asked and Loki nodded his head vacantly. "Are you sure?"

Could it be? "May I be excused?" Loki asked, before rushing out of the dining room, not even waiting for an answer from his parents.

He rushed outside and was immediately greeted by a grinning Tony Stark.

"What on earth are you doing here?"


In the dining room, Thor stared at the spot Loki had occupied not minutes before. "Is it just me, or has Loki been acting odd, lately?"

Odin harrumphed, taking a large gulp of wine. "When isn't he odd?"

"Dear," Frigga chastised her husband. "Loki is not odd."

"He's sat in the garden for weeks every day before and after dinner," Thor continued. "What do you suppose it is?"

"Perhaps he's in love," Frigga smiled. That would be lovely. Her little boy in love with some charming and elegant woman.

"Who would he be in love with?" Odin asked. "He never leaves the damn house."


Tony was quite surprised to find himself sitting on his bed. Well… Loki's bed, but his bed in the future. It was all quite complicated. He knew this room like no other.

It was where he had his nightmares. Where he had first seen Loki, younger than he was now, but still beautiful – before he had a name and before he could dream of ever meeting him. It was where he would lie at night and wonder what Loki was thinking about. If they were thinking the same things at the same time.

Loki shut the door and locked it. He was positive no one had seen him or his guest. But you could never be sure. Tony Stark. He was back.

He turned around and faced his guest, his back to the door.

"What is this?" Loki asked, throwing the plastic device that he had had for years. Old and worn and a complete mystery to Loki. "You had one just like it when I saw you. Explain."

Tony caught the object and laughed. "My phone."

Loki sat down beside Tony. "You mean a telephone?" He snatched the phone back and twirled it in his hands, looking at in a new light. "Impossible. It's too small and there's no cord."

"Believe me, kid," Tony replied. "Where'd you find it anyway."

"I didn't. Jarvis did. A few days after you pulled me out of the lake." Loki stared at the phone before handing it back to Tony. "Thank you, by the way," he muttered, suddenly feeling like a child all over again.

Tony just nodded, standing and taking a good long look at the room. Loki watched him, curiosity bubbling beneath his calm exterior. Seeing him in the daylight, Loki was struck by how handsome Tony Stark was. He had never noticed as a child, but Tony Stark was undeniably attractive.

He swallowed nervously and tried to bury his attraction. It wasn't appropriate. "Where did you send Jarvis," Loki demanded, more harshly than he intended. "You're from the future aren't you? Like in The Time Machine."

"You liked the book," Tony replied. "Knew you would."


October 2, 1915

"Well that was fun," Tony exclaimed, as Loki led him away from the bar and towards his home. Earlier that evening, Loki had been over enthused to see Tony, but upon discovering that this was Tony's second visit, he had quickly become glum. It seemed that Tony had visited Loki several times over the course of the two years he had skipped over.

He hated how he had no control of when or how far back he could go. He wouldn't even have come again, even though he had promised Loki he would, if it hadn't been for the fact that in his time and world, Loki was still dead.

He had still drowned. The Borrson's had abandoned Asgard. Loki was nonexistent, and that wasn't something Tony could ignore.

"Was it?" Loki growled. Tony shoved Loki with his elbow playfully, and Loki simply grimaced.

"You're angry with me."

Loki didn't answer, but Tony knew when he was being given the cold shoulder.

"You're not…," Loki trailed off, stopping in his tracks to stare at his scuffed shoes.

Loki was as much a wreck as Tony was. Clothes mussed and dirtied, sporting cuts and bruisies, but nothing too serious. Perhaps it wasn't so wise to get into a fight with the bar owner, but Tony couldn't help that his daughter was just waiting for a pull. "Forget it," Loki told him, shaking his head and picking up his feet once more.

Tony grabbed Loki's elbow and pulled him so they were facing each other. "I can't control it," Tony explained. "It's not up to me."

"Yes, I know," Loki snapped. "Let's just go."

Loki pulled himself out of Tony's grasp and continued on the path to his house, Tony following quietly behind.


December 24, 1913

"You're an idiot," Loki told him.

Tony was hurt. Him? An idiot? Never. "How was I supposed to know what they were talking about?" Tony asked, pulling at his collar. How did people dress like this?

"It was in the papers."

"I don't know if you remember, but I'm not exactly from around here."

"You could at least brush up on your history, Future Boy," Loki shot back, as he lit a cigarette and leaned against the porch rail. "You're the one who keeps saying you're a genius."

Loki offered one to Tony, but he refused, choosing instead to stand next to Loki. There was a party that evening and rather than hiding him away, Loki had decided to invite Tony. At least he'd have a friend. And protection from Fandral.

The night was chilly and it was hard to distinguish between the Loki's breath and the smoke he was exhaling. Tony watched him in wonder.

"What's it like?" Loki asked, breaking the silence. "In the future, I mean?"

"I don't think I'm allowed to say. I might create a paradox and then we'd all disappear from time and space," Tony joked.

"Is it at least better than this?" Loki asked.

"Yeah. I think so."

Loki nodded, putting out his cigarette and putting on a fake smile as he headed back indoors and was immediately pulled away by his brother.


March 16, 1915

Tony pulled Loki close, their breath intermingling, their lips teasing each other. Their hands everywhere, pulling at clothes and grabbing hair and touching skin.

Loki sighed as Tony sucked on his earlobe, their hands entwined as Tony's other hand slipped down Loki's trousers and grabbed Loki's pert ass.

"Oh god," Loki gasped, pushing Tony away and onto his bed, taking off his shirt and straddling the other man, pressing their clothed erections together. "We shouldn't be doing this," Loki told him as he bit at Tony's neck.

Tony hummed in agreement as he slid off Loki's trousers and underwear, Loki lifting himself slightly so as to get off the offending piece of clothing but never ceasing his kissing and sucking.

"This is sodomy," Loki breathed as he pulled off Tony's jeans and stared at Tony's eager member. "You're not wearing underwear," he observed.

Tony laughed as he quickly sat up and flipped them over, so Tony was on top. He pressed their bodies together, chest to hip and Loki moaned at the contact of their two cocks rubbing against one another.

"I love sodomy," Tony replied, sucking on Loki's neck, his finger gently prying at Loki's hole, teasing lightly, but not pushing in.

"You've done this before, I take it," Loki teased as Tony took them both in hand and began to pump slowly. "Oh. Oh my." Loki dug his nails into Tony's back and pressed his head against the mattress.

Tony kissed Loki languidly in hopes of reassuring him. "We can stop, if you'd like," Tony told him.

"Don't you dare."


April 19, 1914

Breathy moans and the taste of Loki was fresh in the mind of Tony as Loki read a book aloud in the library. They were alone. Just the two of them, and Tony felt guilty for knowing Loki's future. Knowing that in a year, Loki's time, they two would be lovers.

But for now, they were acquaintances. Barely friends.

"You're staring at me," Loki said. "Stop it."

Tony sunk lower in the couch cushions. "But you're so pretty to look at," Tony pouted. He immediately regretted it as he saw Loki stiffen at the praise. Stupid.

"In your time," Loki asked, "are people as annoyed with you as I am?"

"More so," Tony answered. "There was a whole campaign to get rid of me."

"It didn't come to fruition, I see," Loki remarked, turning back to his book.

Tony rubbed at the arc reactor he hid under his shirt and muttered, "It was a close thing."


July 11, 1914

Water splashed onto Loki's swimming suit as Tony threw himself into the lake. He immediately floated to the surface and spit water at Loki, laughing loudly, knowing that they were once again alone.

"What's wrong?" Tony asked, looking up at Loki who stood at the edge of the lake, staring at the water.

"I can't," Loki croaked before backing away and storming back to the house.

Tony pulled himself out of the water and chased after him. "Hey," Tony called, cutting off Loki's escape and grabbing him by the shoulders. "Hey, it's ok. I get it."

"Do you?" Loki snarled, swatting away Tony's hands.

Tony nodded. "Yeah." He pulled down the front of his suit to reveal a sloppily done bandage on his chest. Tony peeled off the bandage, wincing as the tape pulled at the hairs on his chest, to reveal his arc reactor.

Loki gaped at the device, his hand slowly reaching towards it, to touch. "May I?" Loki asked. Tony shook his head in affirmative and Loki gently placed his fingers on the reactor. "Do all people have this in the future?"

"No. Just me," Tony said. Loki pulled his hand back and Tony let go of his suit. It immediately sprung back in place but there was still a very obvious blue glow that pierced through the fabric.

"Have you always had that?" Loki asked.

"Couple of years now."

"How?"

Tony grabbed Loki's hand and pulled him near the lake, at a reasonable distance. He sat down and patted the ground next to him. Loki did as he was told and listened as Tony told him his story.


October 31, 1915

"Come with me," Tony whispered in Loki's ear as they lay in bed together.

Loki traced the outline of Tony's arc reactor, his chin resting on Tony's shoulder as Tony ran his hand through Loki's dark hair. They would spend their nights like this, entwined in each other's arms.

Sometimes, if no one was home, they'd make love, knowing that no one would find them. But more often than not, they simply lay together and traded kisses and touches. Intimacy unlike any Tony had ever experienced.

"I can't just leave," Loki whispered back. "What about my parents? My family?"

Tony held Loki tighter. "What about me?"

Loki didn't answer and Tony didn't bring it up again.


November 17, 2015

The house was quiet. Practically abandoned.

Tony stared up at it, his heart heavy. He had to leave. He couldn't live like this. Escaping to a time that didn't exist, to a person who wasn't alive.

There were times when Tony wasn't even sure he had rescued Loki from drowning. Not when the evidence pointed to the opposite. Yet he'd go back and there he would be.

The soft crunch of leaves warned Tony of someone's approach and he pulled his jacket tighter around his body.

"Mr. Stark." Heimdall stood behind him, expectantly. Tony didn't answer.

"Are you leaving?" he asked, prompting Tony to look at him.

"Why would I - "

"No one stays," Heimdall answered. "The house. It frightens them."

Tony recalled what Thrud told him. Ghosts. "It's not ghosts, is it?"

"No."

"It's him," Tony stated. "Loki. Isn't it?"

Heimdall didn't answer but he knew it to be true. But how? He was alive and well, living a hundred years in the past. A slice of time that didn't seem to tick forward.

The house still had sounds of laughter and the smell of cigarettes, and things would move and the people in pictures would age, but Tony didn't pay attention to it any longer. That's just how things were. Two times coexisting.

"Who are you?" Tony asked, reminiscent of when he had asked Loki the same so many months ago.

"I'm the housekeeper," Heimdall said, before walking back towards the house.


December 12, 1915

Loki closed his eyes as he stood on the frozen lake. A chill had set in early this year, same as it had when he was eight. It had not snowed, as of yet, but the clouds looked thunderous and there would be, no doubt, a blizzard by the end of the week.

The wind blew fiercely against Loki's face, but he paid it no mind. He focused entirely on the sound of his breathing, the constant drum of the beating of his heart.

He did this every year, just before the sun rose, on the day he fell in. It was ritualistic and unnecessary, but Loki felt compelled to do it. As if someone or something was calling him, begging him to come home.

Quiet whispers, pulling him to the center of the ice. Each unsteady step, the crackling of ice, a sweet melody drawing him nearer. Maybe this year the ice would break and he'd fall in. Or perhaps fate would be kind once more and let him free.


December 12, 2015

Tony shot up in bed, sweat plastering his hair to his forehead and his sheets uncomfortably damp. Something wasn't right.

He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the feeling, but it only grew stronger. Like someone had reached into his chest and was squeezing his heart. Tony put a hand to the reactor, but it was perfectly fine, humming softly, blue light casting shadows around the room.

His bedroom window rattled and Tony slipped out of bed to peak through the curtains. It was snowing fiercely, the wind blowing wildly, the snow swirling in the air.

Tony shivered, pulling on the first sweater he could find. He yawned loudly, but didn't go back to bed, certain that he wouldn't be able to fall back to sleep.

He made his way down to the kitchen where he turned on the coffee maker. He leaned his head against the counter, listening to the gurgling and churning of the machine coming to life. The faint smell of coffee began to fill the kitchen.

The door slammed suddenly and Tony reared back, stumbling as he closed the back door, shoving the winter storm back outside. He furrowed his brow as he locked the door. There was no reason for the door to open so.

He pulled a mug out of the cupboard and stared at the coffee machine, willing it to speed up the coffee making process, when the door slammed open once more.

Tony strode to the door, but rather than closing it, he stared out into the storm, barely able to make out a lithe, dark clothed figure in the garden.


December 12.

The snow started slowly. Just a flake or two, melting on Loki's face. And then there was more until Loki's hair and lashes were heavily dusted white, the snow clinging to him, trying to claim his warmth.

But still he didn't move, going through his ritual without falter. He would stand there, until the sun rose past the horizon in the sky, and then carefully make his way back to land.

He heard the soft crunch of snow grow louder and louder until it stopped, somewhere near the edge of the lake. Loki turned his head in the sound's direction.

"Loki?"

Loki opened his eyes at the sound of Tony's voice. When did he get here?

"How did you get here?" he yelled over the howling wind. When did it start storming? Loki looked up at the sky, brows bunched together in confusion. "Loki."

"I walked," Loki answered, giving the most obvious answer.

Tony shook his head, rubbing his hands together to keep them warm. He had, apparently, grabbed his coat, but not any gloves. Loki stared quizzically at his pajama bottoms, trying to figure out why Tony had wrenches plastered over his pants.

"What are those?" Loki asked, enthralled by the PJs.

Tony looked annoyed as he glanced at his pants. "Pajamas. I meant, how did you get here?"

"I live here," Loki replied. The 'obviously' was unvoiced.

Tony rubbed his face impatiently in response. "Can you come over here, please?"

"Can't."

Tony's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

"It's still dawn."

Tony cursed under his breath, hitching his coat close to his body as he took a tentative step towards Loki. "Alright, princess. You win," Tony grumbled.

A resounding crack filled the air and Tony and Loki looked at each other, fear coursing both their veins.

"Tony," Loki said, taking a step towards the man, but he could feel the ice cracking beneath his feet. He stood there, frozen, his attention on his feet.

"Shit," Tony cursed, taking another step onto the lake but the cracking grew louder. Tony cursed again. He could barely see, the snow making the garden into a white canvas, devoid of color. "Give me a second," Tony called.

Flashes of cold and water, water everywhere played in Loki's mind. The terror, the pain, the complete numbing sensation of falling and no one there to save him. His lungs closing up, fighting for air, but receiving more water instead.

Loki shook where he stood, tears falling down his face, freezing to his skin. He sobbed loudly.

Tony heard his fear and tried to move faster. He focused on each step, ignoring the pins and needles that pricked at his body, making his every movement painful. He needed to reach Loki. He had to.

Breathing got harder. Each breath was a struggle, and Loki wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball, away from everyone. Away from this.

A strong gust of wind blew and Loki lost his footing, slipping on the ice and falling backwards.

Tony could feel the lake breaking apart and he threw all caution to the wind and began to run as best as his sneakers would allow. Loki was scrambling onto his feet, but the surrounding ice was already in pieces.

"Hold on," Tony yelled. He was so close. He reached out his arm and Loki extended his own, his gloved fingers slipping past Tony's.

No. Not slipping. Going through.

Tony tried grabbing Loki's hand. His arm, his sleeve, his damn hair for all he cared, but Loki wasn't there. He couldn't touch him.

Loki's ice broke apart and he fell into the water. Tony could do nothing but watch.


He had always drowned, Tony realized. Whether it was eight or twenty five, Loki never lived. His fate was to die in ice cold water, reaching for help but no one there to rescue him.

Tony scrambled up onto his feet, unaware that he had sunk to his knees, and ran towards the shed. He threw the doors open and ran inside, crouching down beside his machine.

He had saved him once, he could do it again. There was still time. There was still –

"Leave him."

Tony whirled around, finding Heimdall standing in the entranceway. "I can't do that," Tony told him, turning on his machine, praying that the damned thing would take him where he needed to go.

"He will die," Heimdall declared. "He was always to die."

Tony growled, ignoring Heimdall as best as he could. He only had so much time. And wasn't that funny.

"Not on my watch," Tony told him.


December 12, 1915

Loki struggled as the water pulled him down, down, down onto the barren and lifeless floor. His coat soaking up the water and acting as a weight. He tried undoing his buttons, but his fingers fumbled, too numb and unfeeling to do as they were told.

Tony wasn't real. He had never been real. He was just some person he had made up and if air wasn't so precious, Loki was sure he would laugh and never stop laughing.

Was he so sad and alone that he had created a friend for himself? Like he was a small child with his imaginary friend? As good as an imaginary friend could be, he couldn't save him and Loki was sure that that thought alone was enough to stop his fighting.

There was no point in living if there was no Tony. No one to take away the pain and the loneliness. No one to hold him close and feel loved and special when his family so obviously ignored him.

He let go. He stopped struggling and let the water take him.


Tony threw off his coat and dived into the water, his whole body screaming at the freezing water that enveloped him.

He searched frantically until he found Loki, sinking slowly to the bottom. He swum further and as quickly as he could until his fingers touched Loki's and Tony could die laughing.

He pulled Loki up, hands under his arms, hauling him upwards, his legs kicking furiously.

Tony gasped for air as he broke the surface, holding Loki's head above water and pulling him towards the lakeshore.


Loki woke with a cough, water spilling out of his mouth as he heaved and wheezed, his forehead pressed against the snow covered ground.

He heard weak chuckles and he knew without looking who was lying beside him. "You're a bastard," Loki managed between his gasps and coughs. "And I hate you."

Tony sat up, grabbing his coat from where he had thrown it, and draped it over Loki's shoulders.

"No you don't," Tony said, before pulling Loki into a kiss.


Epilogue

It was months after Tony had rescued Loki for the second time in his life. Once the adrenaline dissipated they had argued. Of course they had argued.

When didn't they argue?

Loki had won in the end. He stayed behind, with his family, with his house; with everything that made him unhappy. Tony wouldn't fight him on it. How could he?

He had said his goodbyes and went back to his home. Or rather his house.

It wasn't home anymore. It was different when he returned. Dead and empty. There was no more sounds, no more sights, no more changing portraits or moved objects. Asgard was completely normal.

Tony had destroyed his machine upon his return. It didn't work anymore anyway. He tried locating Jarvis, again, but stopped almost as soon as he had started. Jarvis was where he was supposed to be.

If Tony hadn't meddled, Jarvis would never have been around to raise him. He wouldn't have been the inspiration for JARVIS, and it made Tony happy to know that he got to learn quite a bit about his old butler. It seemed Edwin wasn't as clean cut as he had led young Tony to believe.

He sold the house as soon as he could. He called Pepper up and she quickly made the arrangements, and when Tony mentioned he should probably tell Heimdall, she had no idea who he was talking about.

That, really, was what broke Tony.

He had gone to the library and redid his research, and there in the pictures and the articles and the history books was Loki. Tony took pictures of them all and saved them on his phone.

Tony packed the last of his stuff, ignoring the furnishings and knick knacks that he had come very well acquainted with. They weren't his. They meant nothing now.

He took one last look around his bedroom, his eyes landing on Loki's much loved and abused copy of The Time Machine. He flipped to the cover page where he had written all those years ago: Magic is science that hasn't been willed yet. This is proof of that will.

And just below, in the elegant and familiar scrawl of Loki Odinson, was written: Can't you will any faster, Future Boy?

Tony grinned, letting his fingers run over the worn and aged writing. He let out an exasperated laugh as he ran out the door. He was sure Pepper was going to give him some serious lip, but he was Tony Stark.

Genius was allowed to change his mind every now and then.


Author's Note: BAM! Awesome sauce. Artwork was done by lostinthebabylon on tumblr. It is fantastic and brilliant and it will blow your mind. So go look for it, damn it! Hope you enjoyed the fic. Had lots of fun writing it.