The trip to the airport was without either delay or complication, and Tony remained eternally surprised that he had managed to not only smuggle himself but also an eight year old boy out of the country. He couldn't blame the English border controls, though — he had a few handy contacts that owed Tony's dad and therefore Tony and Stark Industries some favours, and given that it was an International company, the string pulling was nowhere near as troublesome as it probably should have been.
America seemed to fascinate Harry. Apparently, an entirely new country was enough to distract him from the life changing, monumental occurrences that were happening around him. While Harry scrolled through endless pages of research on a tablet Tony had given him with the warning of "break it and wait a month for the next one", Tony searched and emailed child psychologists under pseudonyms and laughably easily faked identities.
One had emailed back with the only decent reply. Thank God they weren't of the Freud variety, was all Tony could think as he read the email.
Dear Mr. Polinski,
You appear to have caught me in a rather generous mood. I must make it clear, before I continue, that I do not make a habit of replying to random emails about 'hypothetical' situations to which I am certain are much less hypothetical than you would have me believe.
Children are far more astute than the media and society as a whole would have you believe. On the other side of things, they also have many hidden depths that we, as apparently more intelligent in our age, don't like to think they have. We like to keep our children as innocent as possible, for as long as possible.
The child that you mentioned, hypothetically of course, sounds like he may be going through a kind of 'Honeymoon Phase'. This happens regularly, especially immediately after life-changing events happen in a child's life.
Often, children will react brazenly after incidents such as this. However, more intelligent children tend to do the reverse; reacting much later than their less intelligent counter parts. Much like the build up of stress leading to illness, (see Rahe) the child may appear to be at complete ease and demonstrate an amazing amount of flexibility towards these or the aftermath of these events. After everything has settled, however, or maybe even not then, the child acts out in some way — a large span of tantrums for the smallest disagreements, in extreme cases even running away from home.
This is common. This is nothing to be worried about. Please do not charge me for anything, my lawyer is already sick of overtime and he would not like to take time off from his holiday with his family.
We might as well be married, considering how much time we spend arguing. Alas, it is not legal.
Kind regards and best wishes,
Daniel Huckman, child psychologist, USA
Tony would watch Harry, then, and clue Rhodey in about it. They would make sure that he wouldn't do anything harmful to himself or others, and they would be good with him. They would support him.
He knew Harry was one of the more intelligent kids that the psychologist mentioned. How could he not be, sharing the same gene pool as Tony? The assessment fit Harry perfectly, and apparently, it was only a matter of time before he cracked in someway or another.
Well. Tony would just have to take advantage of the current state of relaxation and compliancy. He was either too stupid or too clever to think about the future. Or too young.
'What're you looking at?' Tony asked, setting down his own tablet a Harry somehow managed to drag his gaze away from his own.
'America,' Harry replied with relish, looking alive with new information. Tony was sure that was what the faces of the first settlers in America looked like, before they realised the little problem of people already living there.
'I can take you to see Plymouth Rock sometime,' Tony offered, watching the smile break across his brother's face, not having the heart to tell him that it probably wouldn't be for a while yet because Tony was internationally recognised and having an eight year old with him while visiting a popular historical landmark wasn't the best way to go about keeping everyone else in the dark about Harry's existence.
'Are we there yet?' Harry asked eagerly, fidgeting already even though they were only two hours into their journey.
'Um, no,' Tony replied, unknowing of the emotional turmoil that phrase would cause him in the coming hours.
Smuggling Harry out of the airport was the hardest aspect of the journey. Somehow, word had gotten out about the imminent arrival of Tony Stark's plane, and long story short, Harry had a brief adventure impersonating a suitcase because Tony was too exhausted from keeping an eight year old entertained when he had a hard time entertaining himself to think of anything better.
Glad that Happy was reliable and able to drive Tony and Harry home with an amazing show of traffic manoeuvrability, Tony hustled the suitcase-boy into the boot before rescuing him five minutes later from possible suffocation and imminent boredom.
'That was stuffy,' was all Harry said about the matter, before his attention was diverted to the screen divider and the way it worked.
Inevitably, the screen divider between the driver and the being-driven was no longer in operation by the time the car rolled into the driveway of the childhood home that Tony was desperate to move out of but couldn't be bothered to look for other houses. It was tall and imposing, a 1920s style mansion with stained glass windows and heavy wooden doors that were incredibly impractical. Gates of iron, too, thankfully lacking in some kind of Hollywood-esque initials on them, a rare show of the little taste that Tony's mother had had. But, that could just be his opinion.
Tony had never been fond of "feature houses". They had too much character and too many memories; he considered himself a futurist and in that respect, memories were meant to be trodden over and bricked away. Nostalgia just wasn't in his vocabulary.
Harry's face, meanwhile, was gobsmacked. He stared up at the building in something like shock, and it struck Tony that it was pretty likely that he had never seen something like it. Despite the fact that the building was more likely to bring Tony revulsion than love, he could see why it was almost breath-taking at a first look. That had been lost in the years of growing up there, something that Harry had bitterly missed out on.
Maybe, it struck Tony, Harry was better off not growing up with him. He would have almost certainly been treated the same as Tony, though perhaps even more so. Howard Stark had the medieval view that the first son was the only important one — a fact proved by Harry's adoption. Maybe Harry was better off with the Dursleys? Tony didn't know enough about those people, but they were decidedly more normal than the Starks. The treatment he had seen Harry receive certainly wasn't too different to his own at that age, anyway. Not that he thought it was.
'You lived here?' Harry said in a quiet voice, still looking as if he couldn't bear to tear his eyes away from the stony building. Tony grabbed his shoulder and steered him towards the front doors, making an agreeing noise.
'Still do, until I can find somewhere better for us,' Tony replied, while Harry glanced up at him and smiled.
'This is so cool. So cool.'
Tony ginned at the look on his brother's face as he unlocked the doors to the mansion and let them both inside, Happy trailing uncertainly behind them.
There was one thing that Tony had not factored into his plans. Smuggling a child through airport security? Done. Gaining guardianship of a child without it hitting the tabloids? Fine.
Remembering to tell the guy who was his own legal guardian up until a couple of months ago? Apparently, that was something that Tony's brain just couldn't handle.
Obie was at the door, and after shouting through the bathroom door to Harry who was currently in the shower — he hoped eight year olds could cope by themselves, he didn't think he could deal with Harry drowning after everything — to stay in there until he said otherwise, Tony hurried down the stairs, muffled shouts following him all the way down.
'Obie,' Tony exclaimed joyously, hoping the man wouldn't yet know about his recent excursion. 'Nice of you to drop by!'
Obie stared at Tony, making him want to dissolve right into the ground. It felt like the man could see into his very heart and was finding out every little secret he had ever kept. It was unfailingly uncomfortable and unnerving.
'I know you've just flown back from England,' Obie frowned, standing up as he spoke, glittering glass of whiskey that Tony hadn't noticed before in one hand. 'What I don't know is why. Another one of those parties, Tony? Definitely not a business trip.'
Stumbling over his words like a fourteen year old asking a girl out on a date, Tony couldn't decide on the best way to explain to Obie that he had a brother and he was now just in the other room. God forbid Harry actually wandered into this conversation. The thought alone made Tony want to crumble.
'It's, um, hard to explain. I might have found some of mum and dad's… stuff,'
'Papers. Will stuff. I was sorting through it and there was baby things. You know. Birth certificates. Things like that. Baby stuff.'
In the back of Tony's mind, he had wandered whether Obie knew about Harry. The man had always been around, so it wasn't completely irrational and implausible as it might seem on the face of it. Or, maybe it was that Tony hoped Obie knew about Harry already. It would certainly make for a much less awkward and stumbling conversation if he did already have an inkling about Tony's parents and birth certificates having a significant connection.
As if all of Tony's prayers were answered, the glimmering twinkle of sudden realisation bloomed in Obie's eyes. He seemed to search Tony's face, looking for something that Tony was unknowing of.
'You found the certificate.' Obie stated, no question in it, simply a laying out of facts. He knew about the pregnancy and the adoption then, and though it appeased much of Tony's short-term worrying, it enhanced the long-term. Why had he not told Tony? Why had he not seemed Harry out before?
'Yeah,' Tony replied, voice sounding feeble. 'And I found him, too.'
'That's why you went to England?' Obie was taking increasingly large amounts of whiskey into his large mouth, looking harried and worn all of a sudden. Tony felt bad for inflicting that upon the man.
Tony made a non-committed sound in agreement. He scratched his left forearm. 'He's here.' Obie didn't react.
'Would you like to meet him?' Tony tried again, but he did not garner any reaction from hid former caregiver.
Obie stared distantly towards a doorway that was surrounded by old books and chipped wood. His whiskey was gone, most of the small anyway glass being consumed in the last few minutes.
'No. I have a meeting.'
Even striding out of the room, the look on Obie's face was unmissable. He looked worried and apprehensive, shocking to see on the face of a cultured and assured businessman that he usually was. Obie was solid and strong, he did not waver from his judgment easily and the apprehension struck severe concern into Tony. He could not even fathom a possible cause for the worry; shock and maybe even joy, perhaps, but not the face that Obie was wearing at that moment.
Tony followed Obie out of the living room and into the hallway, hoping to stop his from leaving. But his large hand was already on the door handle. Pausing before he crossed the threshold that would take him out of the house, Obie looked back, a sorrowful look on his face, as if he had just been to a funeral.
'Tony, this might be one mistake you can't undo.' Tony started to protest, but Obie shot him down with a simple, sharp look. 'I told your parents not to do it. But they insisted, and over the years, I've come to believe they're right.' Obie stared through the frosted glass of the front door. 'Ignorance is bliss, isn't that the saying? I would have been interested to see what you would have been like without the spotlight.'
The door closed and Tony was dumbstruck. Upstairs, the bathroom door opened and closed, Harry shouting down something that Tony simply didn't, or couldn't, process. Vaguely, he was glad Harry didn't drown.
Why did what Obie say sound like a threat?
Tony would find out in ten years.
-Ah! I'm sorry this took so long. A Level's don't, apparently, leave you with much spare time. Nor do existential crises of which I've been having around an average of seven a day. Also, if anyone wants to write me personal statement for me that would be amazing.
But seriously, I hope you like this chapter. Seems a bit short to me, but I couldn't drag it out any longer. At least you can't call me slow on the plot, huh? Just updating. *sigh*
- Spell x