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In Time

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Tony woke up early in the morning with his heart pounding out of his chest due to another nightmare. Nightmares weren’t uncommon for him, but this one was about the Battle of New York. It was the first time in a few months that he had a nightmare about it, but Tony was sick of it. Tony felt like he had been reliving the events for five years. He was sick of worrying about the Chitauri and what he saw in space. Tony didn’t know why it was on his mind. He thought maybe it was because of the recent arrival of the Asgardians, including Loki. Or maybe he will never escape the recurring nightmares. Maybe he was destined to continuously prepare for the arrival of an alien army that might not even happen. 

Sometimes, Tony thought about how his life wasn’t always like this. He remembered his days at MIT, when all he had to worry about was creating his AIs and making sure he completed his coursework for his degrees. He remembered all of the good times he spent with Rhodey. Tony still spent a lot of time with Rhodey, but he missed the good old days when they didn’t have any responsibilities, or threats of alien armies returning to try to take over the planet. 

Later that morning, Tony found himself walking towards Bleeker Street to talk to Dr. Stephen Strange. Dr. Strange was a newer member of the Avengers. The Avengers consisted of mostly newer members since the falling out he had with Steve and the rest of them. Tony was hesitant to even call themselves the Avengers, but the name stuck. Tony was thankful that Bruce and Thor signed the Accords once they arrived in Norway. At least there were some familiar faces that stuck around. 

Tony decided to talk to Stephen to see if he knew anything about the Chitauri or any other threats outside of Earth. He knew that Stephen had tracked other threats to the planet’s safety in the past. Tony felt like he has been worrying about this for too long and was reluctant to bring it up. Most people have told him to stop worrying about it, but they didn’t see what Tony saw. What Tony saw was haunting him for five years. 

“You remember the Chitauri, right?” Tony asked Stephen. 

Stephen raised an eyebrow. “They are hard to forget.” 

“What if they aren’t all dead?” 

“I doubt any of them survived the nuke that you threw at them,” Stephen responded. 

“There could have been more. They were sent by someone more powerful than they were,” Tony stated after taking a deep breath. 

“I suppose, but it is very unlikely” Stephen replied. 

“Have you seen anything?” 

“I have not. There’s no need to dwell on it, Tony. It’s been five years,” Stephen told him. 

Tony heard that many times before from many people in his life. He heard it from Pepper and Rhodey. He even heard it from old friends such as Steve and Clint. No one understood because they didn’t see the Chitauri ships. They weren’t smart enough to see the flaws in Loki’s plan, to know that it was someone else who orchestrated the attack. Tony couldn’t take it anymore. 

Perhaps Tony wasn’t thinking straight, but for some reason he thought it was a good idea to demand Stephen to help him. Tony had noticed the green object, encased in a covering that resembled an eye that always hung around the doctor’s neck. Stephen always protected it, which meant that it was a powerful object. 

Tony grabbed the necklace before Stephen could realize what he was doing and exclaimed, “I bet this magical thing that you act like is so important can help me figure this out since you’re too stubborn to help me!” 

The object glowed a bright green in Tony’s hand. He was so entranced that he couldn’t take his eyes off of it. After a few seconds, Tony noticed a silhouette of the same color appear in front of him, and it disappeared to reveal a young man. He couldn’t have been older than 17, and he looked too familiar to Tony. 

It was a 17-year-old version of himself, wearing an MIT sweatshirt, and holding a bottle of Bud Light in his right hand. 

The younger version of himself didn’t look panicked, which Tony didn’t quite expect at first. He must have been too drunk to realize what was happening. Tony wasn’t too surprised that he was trashed, as that was a common thing for him during his senior year of college. 

Tony turned to Stephen and asked, “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do this,” Stephen stated. 

“Who are you people?” the teenager asked. 

“Who are you?” Stephen responded. 

Tony took a seat in one of the chairs in the room. He was starting to feel a little dizzy. 

“Are you me? ” The teenager asked, looking directly at Tony. 

“I believe so,” Tony responded. 

Tony put his head in his hands to try to re-group himself. He couldn’t believe he was speaking to himself from 30 years ago. 

“Tony, what did you do?” Stephen asked while trying to remain calm. 

“Nothing!” Both present-day Tony and younger Tony exclaimed at the same time. Tony groaned in frustration while he noticed the younger version of himself laughing. 

“It appears that you used the time stone to bring your past self into the present,” Stephen said.

“All I did was touch it!” Tony said. 

Tony knew that didn’t intentionally do anything. He was desperate for help, and probably overtired. But he didn’t purposely summon his teenage self from the past. Tony had no idea that it was even possible to do that. He didn’t even know that the thing around Stephen’s neck was the time stone because he was always so secretive about it. Tony was familiar with the infinity stones and knew that Stephen had the time stone, but he didn’t know that it was in the necklace. So really, it was Stephen’s fault. He shouldn’t keep an infinity stone out in the open like that. 

“Well, can you guys get me back within the next 10 minutes? My mac and cheese is supposed to be done by then,” his younger self said nonchalantly. 

“You’re lying, you don’t even know how to make mac and cheese,” Tony responded to the teenager. He could see Stephen roll his eyes. 

“You got me!” the teenager laughed. “Rhodey is cooking it. Are you still friends with Rhodey? Please please please tell me he’s still our best friend.”

“Of course he is!” Tony grinned. Tony couldn’t imagine a life without Rhodey as his best friend. 

Stephen told them that he would have to visit the other sanctums to try to find a way to send Tony’s past self back to the correct time without messing up any timelines. This meant that Tony had to bring the teenager back to the tower to look after him while Stephen tried to figure out a solution. 

“I’m not going to be able to eat my mac and cheese, I’m guessing,” the teenager stated. 

“I’ll order you some mac and cheese,” Tony told him. He knew how hungry he got when he was drunk. 

Tony got the notification that Happy was waiting outside, so he led his teenage self outside to head into the car. They both got into the back seat. Happy looked at them both in shock. 

“He looks just like you,” Happy said. 

“He is me,” present-day Tony responded. 

“You still like having people drive you around, huh?” the younger version of himself asked. It was true, back then Tony always preferred to have someone else drive him. Now, he also liked driving, but having Happy drive him around was always appreciated. 

“Sometimes,” Tony told him. “Don’t worry, you’ll hire Happy in a few years. It will be one of the best decisions of your life.” 

Happy didn’t comment and began to drive, probably because he was too speechless to say anything. Tony couldn’t help but stare at the teenager sitting beside him. There was clearly a resemblance between them, but he obviously looked younger. He didn’t have the same signs of aging on his face, his hair was a little longer, and he was clean shaven. He also wore glasses that were a little too big for his face. He also was still drinking from his bottle of beer as if nothing was going on. Tony missed not having a care in the world.

“You have more beer at home right?” the teenager asked. 

“I’m not giving you alcohol,” Tony told him. He couldn’t let him get drunker, right?

“I’ll find it myself then!” he exclaimed in response. 

“I know you’re in college and alcohol is great and all, but there is more to life than drinking,” Happy said. Tony remembered Happy giving him the same exact speech years ago. 

The younger Tony rolled his eyes and groaned, “Don’t lecture me, old man.” 

Tony couldn’t help but laugh at the teenager sitting next to him. He was cute. 

“I’m so glad I didn’t know you when you were in college,” Happy stated. 

Tony wasn’t sure how others were going to react to himself from college. He wasn’t exactly an easy person to get along with back then, even though that never changed. But he was more immature, and he was currently drunk, so Tony thought that it should be interesting. He decided to text Rhodey and tell him to come over to the tower. Rhodey was the only person who had experience dealing with him being drunk at that age. He always handled it well.

When Happy pulled up to the tower, Tony couldn’t help but notice his younger self look at it in awe. 

“You live here?” he asked. 

Tony knew that his teenage self wasn’t unfamiliar with a wealthy lifestyle, but he never had much of his own at that point. Tony remembered dreaming of building a mansion to live in that was filled with many different kinds of tech. He knew that his younger self will be impressed with what he will see in the tower. 

“Yeah, let’s go inside,” Tony responded. 

When they got out of the elevator, Pepper was waiting for them. Happy or Rhodey must have told her. Tony silently cursed to himself. He didn’t want to drag Pepper into this mess. He thought that she has had to deal with enough of Tony’s screw ups and he didn’t want to add this to her plate. 

The teenager standing beside him looked at Pepper with wide eyes. 

“Hello there, I’m Tony Stark. I was going to say more but I got lost in your eyes,” his younger introduced himself and winked at Pepper. He held out his right hand for Pepper to shake, but she ignored him. 

“Whenever I think you can’t surprise me anymore, you do something insane like this,” Pepper turned to present-day Tony and said. 

“In my defense, it was Dr. Stephen Strange’s magical necklace that brought him here,” Tony told her. 

Tony noticed the teenager opening the refrigerator, probably trying to find some alcohol to drink. Tony quickly ran over to him and swatted the can of beer out of his hand before he could open it. 

“I’m not serving alcohol to a minor,” Tony told him. 

“I’m technically not a minor during this year. What year is this anyway?” His younger self responded. 

“Tony, you need to fix this,” Pepper warned. 

Tony knew that she was right. He needed to send the younger Tony back to his time before he messed up his timeline too much. He also couldn’t let many people see his teenage self. He finally got things settled with the Accords and he didn’t want to add anymore drama. Tony texted Bruce to come to his floor to help him figure out how to send the teenager back to the 1980’s. 

“Who is she?” the teenager turned to Tony’s present self and asked. “Is she your assistant? Nice choice, she’s really hot.” 

“She’s much better than an assistant, buddy,” Tony replied while gently patting his younger self on the shoulder. He didn’t want to give too much information away and mess up his future. 

“More than an assistant?” the teenager winked back. 

Tony quickly shook his head. “Nope, just a really cool friend that I appreciate very much,” Tony told him. They did date for a while, but he didn’t want to explain their history and confuse the kid. 

“I’m going to leave so you two can fix this mess,” Pepper announced and walked into the elevator. 

Tony didn’t exactly know what to talk to the teenager about. He didn’t want to reveal anything that would screw up the future. Luckily, he wasn’t alone with him for more than a few minutes before Rhodey and Bruce arrived. 

“Honey bear!” Tony’s younger self exclaimed and jumped into Rhodey’s arms. 

Tony remembered greeting his roommate like that almost every time he was drunk. Rhodey was a great friend and continuously put up with Tony’s antics. He didn’t think he deserved him. 

“I don’t even want to know how this happened,” Rhodey turned to the Tony that wasn’t in his arms and said. 

“I know I was gone for two years, but I’m glad to see that things haven’t gotten less chaotic around here,” Bruce said. 

Bruce returned to New York a few weeks ago after a two year absence. He visited Tony right away and told him about how he ended up on the alien planet after Ultron, how he spent two years as the Hulk, how Thor found him, and how the Aesir arrived on Earth to create New Asgard. Tony wished he tried harder to find Bruce after he went missing. He just figured that he needed some time away from the Avengers. He never thought that he was on another planet. Tony still felt guilty about it, even though Bruce told him multiple times that it was okay. Bruce split his time between living in New York and New Asgard. He spent many weeks with Thor and the Asgardians on their journey to Earth and wanted to help them build New Asgard.

“Would you expect anything less from me?” present-day Tony responded, which earned a chuckle from his younger self as he squirmed out of Rhodey’s arms. 

“I’m so happy I didn’t change much,” the teenager grinned. 

“Is he drunk?” Rhodey questioned with a tone of disappointment. 

“He was drunk before he got here!” Tony exclaimed. 

Tony watched his younger self’s facial expression change quickly when he looked down to see Rhodey’s leg braces. He looked horrified that something happened to his best friend. He couldn’t help but agree with the kid, it still haunted Tony that he let it happen. 

“What happened, honey bear?” the teenager asked. Tony could see the tears that were forming in his eyes. The kid was drunk so he didn’t have the best control of his emotions, but Tony knew how much he cared about Rhodey and understood his reaction. 

“Nothing for you to worry about, Tones,” Rhodey responded to him, but also looked up at present Tony to let him know as well. 

Tony had been doing everything he could to make life easier for Rhodey and to make him feel comfortable. Rhodey always told him to stop wasting his time on him, but Tony never listened. Tony partially felt like the accident was his fault even though Rhodey didn’t agree. He loved his best friend and wished that Rhodey didn’t have to get involved in the fight. Tony knew in the back of his mind that Rhodey didn’t blame him, but Tony couldn’t help but feel a pit in his stomach whenever he was reminded of it. 

“Are you sure?” the teenager asked. Rhodey nodded in response. 

They decided that Tony and Bruce should go to Tony’s workshop to try to figure out a way to send Tony’s younger self back to his appropriate time period while Rhodey watched the teenager in the penthouse. Tony still hadn’t heard from Stephen about a solution and he knew he couldn’t just sit around and wait. Time travel wasn’t something that he had ever put much research into before, but he figured if anyone was going to figure it out, it would be him. 

Except he couldn’t figure it out. 

After a few hours of working with Bruce, they still did not have a good idea of how to send him back. Tony did figure out aspects of time travel, such as how to go back in time in his reality, but that did not guarantee that he would be traveling to the reality that his past self came from. Because this was not an event that occurred for Tony himself, going back to the 1980’s to return his younger self may not be the right way to do it. Bringing the teenager to the present created a branch of reality that Tony was unsure of how to fix. It was a complicated situation and it was starting to make Tony’s brain hurt. 

“I have an idea, but I don’t think you are going to like it,” Bruce said quietly from his seat beside Tony. 

“How bad could it be?” Tony asked. 

“You transported a younger version of yourself through time using an infinity stone or magic,” Bruce began, but paused before getting to the part that he knew Tony would probably not approve of. Tony nodded, encouraging Bruce to continue. “We know someone else who is able to use magic and has used infinity stones in the past.” 

“No,” Tony was quick to reply. Bruce was describing Loki. 

“Tony, I promise I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think he could help us,” Bruce told him. 

“But would he help us? That’s the real question here,” Tony responded. 

It’s not that Tony was avoiding Loki, but he wasn’t going out of his way to see him. If he didn’t see Loki ever again, that was fine by him. He didn’t want to be reminded of the battle of New York, even though Tony figured out long ago that it wasn’t Loki’s plan. He still didn’t trust the god of mischief and had no reason to. 

“He’s not as bad once you get to know him. It depends on his mood, but he found shelter for the Aesir after Asgard was destroyed. He has a big heart under his supervillain exterior,” Bruce explained. Tony had a hard time believing it, but he also couldn’t think of any other options and he knew that his younger self was going to sober up soon. If Tony wanted to send the teenager back to his own time without too much damage, he had to act quick.

“Okay fine, contact him somehow,” Tony said.

Tony didn’t expect to spend the day with his 17 year-old self and the god of mischief that tried to take over the world, but crazy things happen to him frequently. 

Bruce stepped out of the workshop to call Thor and Tony made his way back up to the penthouse to check up on the teenager. He was surprised to see Peter sitting on the couch with him. 

“Mr. Stark!” Peter exclaimed when Tony stepped out of the elevator. 

“Hey kid, what are you doing here?” Tony asked. He didn’t want the kid to be caught up in this mess. 

“I just got here about a minute ago. Last week you told me to come over today to tell me about some of the new tech the company is developing,” Peter replied. 

Tony vaguely remembered planning that with Peter, but it must have escaped his mind during the stressful events of the day. He enjoyed seeing the kid’s face light up when learning about technology. Peter even had some great ideas that Tony had used before. Tony had also been working on some upgrades for Peter’s suit that he had been wanting to share with him, but that will have to wait. 

“I see that you’re kinda busy. Who is this anyway? He looks a lot like you, Mr. Stark,” Peter said. 

“I am Mr. Stark,” the teenager responded to him. 

Peter gasped. “Wha- How? That’s insane. How did you get here? Mr. Stark, did you invent a time machine? I know you’re a genius, but wow! That really is something,” he rambled. 

“I don’t know dude, I was waiting for my mac and cheese and all of the sudden I was here,” Tony’s younger self told Peter. 

Tony thought it was funny how Peter was around the same age as the younger version of himself in his penthouse. Tony wondered if him and Peter would have been friends if they were the same age at the same time. He loved Peter, but to Tony he was more of a son to him even though they weren’t related at all. 

“Who is this nerd, anyway?” Tony’s younger self turned to Tony from the present and asked. Peter winced in response, clearly not liking that he was called a nerd by his idol, even if it was a younger version of him. 

“Peter is one of our best interns,” Tony explained to the teenager. 

Tony knew that Peter got bullied enough at school and he didn’t want him to be exposed to his younger self as well, because Tony knew more than anyone how much of a dick he could be. He would admit that he didn’t have much of a filter, especially when he was drunk. That wasn’t something that changed much since college, but at least he was now able to control it a little more. Peter decided to go home until Tony sorted out this situation, but was not hurt by the teenager’s insult.

As soon as Peter left, they noticed a portal open up in the middle of Tony’s penthouse with Thor and Loki entering from it. Tony met up with Thor a few weeks ago, so this wasn’t the first time he saw him since he returned to Earth. However, this was the first time Tony saw Loki in about six years. He looked similar, but also different at the same time. His hair was longer, reaching a little past his shoulders. He didn’t have any cuts or bruises on his face and Tony wasn’t sure why he was surprised since it made sense that they have healed since 2012. Tony noticed that Loki looked much healthier than he did the last time he was in the tower. Loki wasn’t as pale and thin as he used to be. He also wasn’t wearing his signature helmet with the horns, he was dressed in a more casual outfit even though it was still made of leather. 

“Greetings, Tony. I hear you have a visitor from the past,” Thor said. 

Tony stood up and greeted Thor with a friendly handshake. When he got to Loki, Tony couldn’t help but hesitate. It felt weird to see him in a familiar context. He could tell that Loki noticed this, so he stuck out his right hand for Tony to shake and gave him a soft smile. Loki’s hand was cool compared to Tony’s own clammy hand. 

“Stark,” Loki nodded as he shook his hand. 

“Loki,” Tony responded. Tony was surprised how strange it felt to say his name. He hadn’t spoken it in years. 

“Who are these two? Why are they dressed as Shakespeare characters?” Tony’s younger self asked. Thor frowned while Loki chuckled in response. 

“I am Thor, King of Asgard. This is my younger brother Loki. It is a pleasure to meet you, young Stark,” Thor replied. 

The teenager scoffed. “You’re a king? You’re not what I imagined a king would look like.” 

“What do you think a king should look like?” Loki turned to the 17 year-old and asked. Tony was surprised that Loki was entertaining him. Not many people did that. 

“I dunno,” the younger Tony shrugged. “I would have at least expected a king to have a crown. You don’t even look official.” 

His response caused both of the gods to laugh, and Tony buried his face in his hands. He didn’t remember himself being that embarrassing back in the day. Tony knew that he was impulsive and spoke his mind, but he didn’t think he would have made fun of a king. He would feel comfortable picking on Thor now, but not a king that he had never met before. 

“I do not have a crown, but is it necessary?” Thor asked. 

“Obviously!” The teenager exclaimed. “You’re not a real king then.” 

“I suppose he isn’t then,” Loki agreed. Thor playfully shoved Loki in response. 

“I do not need a crown to prove my kingship,” Thor stated. 

“The kid’s got a point,” Tony said about his younger self. 

The conversation eventually moved on, and Tony offered drinks to everyone except his younger self because it was the polite thing to do. He didn’t know how he felt giving a drink to Loki, but he supposed that he still owed him a drink from all of those years ago. They eventually decided that the younger Tony will stay with Rhodey and Bruce while Tony and Loki try to figure out a way to send the teenager back. Thor was not as knowledgeable of the time stone as Loki was, so he did not know how to use it to bring him back. 

“If you can give me the time stone I can use it to send him back,” Loki suggested once him and Tony were alone. 

“Listen, I know you’re here to help and I really appreciate it. But I highly doubt anyone is going to trust you with an infinity stone,” Tony told him. 

“I am the only one here that has used an infinity stone before,” Loki scoffed. 

“How did that go for you?” Tony asked. 

“I still consider it experience,” Loki retorted.

Tony took a deep breath. “This isn’t going to help us. We should start over,” Tony said. 

“You are right,” Loki nodded. “How did your past self get here?” 

“I touched the time stone and he appeared,” Tony answered. 

“What were you thinking about when you touched the stone?” Loki asked.

The thoughts that were running through his head when the accident occurred were personal and Tony wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell Loki about what he was thinking. He was thinking about the Chitauri, space, and the nightmare he had which were closely tied to the last time that he saw Loki. But Tony also knew that Loki was here to help, and he seemed that he was genuinely interested in helping. Everything about Loki seemed different than he was five years ago.

“I was thinking about you!” Tony blurted out. He didn’t exactly mean to word his response like that, but that’s how it slipped out.

“Me?” Loki questioned. 

“Not exactly,” Tony sighed. He figured he was better off telling the truth. “I was thinking about the Chitauri, and everything I saw when I went inside the wormhole. I saw several Chitauri ships, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how there are more things like that out there. I guess it wasn’t technically about you, but I haven’t been able to stop worrying about it and what I saw for the past five years,” he explained. 

“You are right to worry,” Loki told him. “I do not believe the Chitauri will return, but there are others out there to fear.” 

Tony couldn’t help but stare at the god in front of him in disbelief. Almost everyone in his life told him to get over his fears and move on, and now there was finally one person that believed him and didn’t think that he was overreacting. And that one person was the god of mischief that brought the alien army to Earth in the first place. It didn’t make Tony feel good that he was right to be worried about this, but it was also relieving to know that he wasn’t crazy. 

“Oh,” Tony said softly. He didn’t quite know how to react. It felt weird to feel validated. 

“It is not imminent however it is necessary to look out for,” Loki said. 

“It’s hard to get what I saw in space out of my head,” Tony told him. He wasn’t sure why he was being so open with Loki. Maybe it was because Loki didn’t shut him down, or maybe it was because he understood. 

“The void is not kind to anyone,” Loki responded. Tony had never heard it be called ‘the void’ before, but he thought it was a good fit. It looked like it went on forever with no end in sight. 

“Your subconscious must have been longing for a sort of innocence that you felt prior to your experience with the void, perhaps from when you were a teenager,” Loki explained. 

It honestly made sense. Tony was thinking about MIT earlier in the day. The thoughts must have lingered in the back of his mind when he touched the time stone. 

“So if I use the time stone again while thinking the exact thoughts I was thinking about being back at college, my past self will return to the correct time period?” Tony asked. 

“It should work. I wish you had more experience with the stones before using it again, but I am sure that you would like to fix this as soon as possible,” Loki replied. Tony agreed, they didn’t have too much time to waste if they wanted to bring the teenager back before he sobered up

They made their way back upstairs to collect the teenager and bring him back to Stephen and the time stone to send him back to his time period. The teenager was sitting on the couch with Rhodey. Tony’s younger self was laughing at something, and Rhodey had an amused grin on his face. 

“I forgot how much of a little prick you were,” Rhodey said. 

“Were?” Tony chuckled. 

“You may be a prick sometimes but overall you’re one of the best guys I know,” Rhodey told him. 

“Aw!” The teenager exclaimed. 

The teenager had a smile on his face that overwhelmed Tony. Tony didn’t think that he smiled like that in weeks. His younger self looked genuinely happy and Tony found himself wishing that he felt it too.

“We figured it out,” Tony told Rhodey. Loki was still with Tony, quietly standing at his side. 

“Great! What’s the plan?” Rhodey asked. 

“We will have to go back to the Sanctum and use the time stone,” Tony told him. 

“I’ll leave you guys to it,” Rhodey told them. “Bye Tony, I’ll miss you, bud!” Rhodey turned to the teenager and said. 

Rhodey walked into the elevator, leaving Tony with just Loki and his younger self. That wasn’t a group of company that Tony ever thought he would be surrounded by. He softly chuckled under his breath. 

“Are you ready?” Loki asked, looking at both Tony Starks in the room. 

“I’m ready, Rudolph,” Tony replied. He saw Loki cringe a little as he heard the nickname. 

“What if we waited until tomorrow?” the younger Tony asked. He sat still on the couch and looked like he had no intention of standing up. 

Tony’s time travel research was rushed, so he wasn’t sure of the long term effects of this mishap. He figured that it would be in their best interest to return his younger self to the correct time period as soon as possible. 

“No way, kiddo. It’s time to go back,” Tony told him. 

“Please! I don’t want to,” the kid exclaimed. 

Tony sighed and sat on the couch next to the teenager. He was surprised to see that Loki sat down as well. Tony didn’t expect the god to be patient. Loki was doing them a favor and Tony thought he would try to leave as soon as possible. 

“Why do you wish to stay here?” Loki asked. 

“I don’t like being home,” the younger Tony confessed. It was the middle of May, which meant that summer break was approaching. The teenager would be back home in New York for a few months.

Tony couldn’t help but wince when he heard his younger self say that he didn’t like being home. The feeling was distant, but too familiar for Tony as an adult. He remembered spending many days alone in his parents’ house. He spent most of his time in his workshop inventing new things, but his father never cared. Howard was always away from home or he just plainly ignored Tony. He understood why his younger self felt this way, but he also knew that he had to send him home. 

“I’m sorry bud, but you gotta go back,” Tony told him. He hated that he had to make his younger self unhappy, but he had to. 

“I can’t! My dad doesn’t even want me there! I can’t live like that anymore,” the teenager said with tears forming in his eyes. It was almost too difficult for Tony to watch. 

Loki grabbed the teenager’s shoulder and began to rub circles on his upper back. Tony’s younger self leaned into the touch and had an expression of relief. 

“It does not matter what he thinks of you. You are an inventor, am I correct?” Loki asked. 

The kid looked up at Loki with wide eyes and nodded. 

“Your inventions are not to please him, they are only for you. You have seen this tower, it’s magnificent,” Loki said to him. 

Tony had no idea why Loki was helping his younger self. He didn’t know if it was because Loki wanted to be finished with this situation as soon as possible, or if it was because he actually cared. It seemed like it was the latter, and Tony was surprised. Loki was actually being genuine and wanted to help his younger self feel better. 

“It’s amazing. I want to stay here forever,” the teenager responded. 

“And you will, in time. But for now you have to work towards that goal. I cannot imagine that it would be fun for you to stay here with your inventions when you did not get the chance to invent them yourself,” Loki explained. 

The younger man had a puzzled expression on his face as he thought about what Loki said to him. Tony had many fond memories of inventing his creations. He couldn’t imagine never going through the process of inventing JARVIS, which the teenager had not done yet. 

“Okay. I can do that,” Tony’s younger self said, sounding more confident.

Loki was nothing like Tony expected him to be. Loki was kind and gentle with Tony’s younger self. He was probably the most understanding person that both Tonys in the room have talked to in a while. Maybe Bruce was right, Loki really has changed since they met the first time. Tony could still see a mischievous look in his eye, it was definitely in the god’s nature, but he did have a heart. Tony found himself wanting to know more about Loki. He wanted to know him better under different circumstances. Tony wanted to get the chance to find out what makes Loki happy, since he cared so much about making Tony feel better. 

“Shall we go?” Loki asked. 

“Yeah,” Tony responded, speaking up for the first time in a while. 

Happy drove the three of them to the sanctum. Tony felt a little uneasy as he sat in the car. He had grown to like the presence of his younger self. Even though the kid had some of his own issues, it was a nice change to see himself happy. Tony didn’t consider himself an unhappy person, but his constant worry and busy superhero lifestyle had definitely taken a toll on him. Today was unexpected, yet refreshing. 

When they arrived, Stephen was there reading some old books. He still wore the time stone around his neck. 

“What are you doing here?” Stephan looked at Loki and asked. 

“Stark needed help from a mage to send his younger self back to the correct time,” Loki told him, as if it was obvious. 

“Yeah, I know. I have been working on it,” Stephen replied, sounding annoyed. 

Tony didn’t know that the two sorcerers had met before, but it clearly looks like they have. And they didn’t like each other very much. 

“Alright, alright. Settle down kids. I can bring him back if I use the time stone again,” Tony said. 

“You don’t know how to use the stone. If you did, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” Stephen reminded him. Tony did not feel confident about using it again, but he knew he had to. 

“He’s not a mess!” Tony exclaimed and took a step closer to the teenager standing beside him. Tony said it because he knew the kid needed to hear it. Maybe he needed to hear it as well. 

“What do you plan to do with the stone?” Stephen asked him. 

“I’m the one that brought him here. If I use the stone while thinking about what was going through my head when I used it the first time, he should return to the correct time period,” Tony explained. 

“I have done extensive research on all of the infinity stones. This should work,” Loki said to back him up. 

Stephen took a moment to think about it. Tony could see the confliction on his face. He could understand why Stephen was apprehensive. The time stone had been protected by the sanctum for centuries. 

“Fine. But if it doesn’t work, I will take over,” Stephen told them. 

Tony turned to his right to take another look at his younger self. He looked exhausted. He was probably sobering up by now and needed to go to sleep. He looked a little nervous, which was expected. The kid was about to time travel 30 years into the past. 

What Tony didn’t expect was for the teenager to run up to Loki and give him a massive hug. Loki clearly didn’t expect it either, he had a look of surprise on his face as the teenager buried his face into his chest. He returned the hug and wrapped his arms around the teenager. 

“Thank you, Loki,” he mumbled into Loki’s chest. 

“You are welcome. Do not lose sight of your dreams,” Loki responded. Tony couldn’t suppress his smile. He also wanted to know what it was like to be hugged by Loki. He looked like he gave nice hugs. 

The teenager pulled away from Loki and made his way towards Tony. 

“I’m so glad to see that I’m still awesome. But stop worrying so much, man. You’re doing good,” his younger self told him. Tony knew that it was advice that he desperately needed to take. It was necessary for him to worry, but he also had to live. 

“Will do, kiddo,” Tony replied. “Keep inventing. You’ll love the ideas that we come up with.” The teenager grinned in response.

Stephen handed Tony the stone. Tony began to think about his time as a teenager at MIT. He thought about how carefree he felt, the excitement that he felt when he invented his AIs and other technology, and how happy he felt when spending time with Rhodey. The time stone in his hand glowed a bright green, and his younger self disappeared. It worked. 

Tony already missed his younger self. He brought a joyful energy that Tony missed. However, he realized that the teenager was him. He could take aspects that he missed from being a teenager and live them. He would feel better, in time. 

He also didn’t want Loki to leave yet. Tony felt relaxed from Loki’s presence and he wasn’t ready to let him go just yet. He texted Happy saying that they will walk back to the tower so Tony could spend more time with him. 

“Thank you for your help today,” Tony said to Loki as they left the sanctum. 

“It was my pleasure,” Loki responded. 

“Not just for helping me bring him back. Thank you for everything,” Tony elaborated. He did not have the energy to thank him specifically for validating him in his workshop and for the heart to heart that he had with his younger self. Tony often struggled to talk about his feelings. 

“It was what I would have wanted if our roles were switched,” Loki stated. Tony figured that made sense.

“You’re actually nice ,” Tony laughed. 

“I am the god of mischief, not the god of evil.” 

“I know, I just didn’t expect it,” Tony shrugged. 

“Many do not know what to expect from me,”’ Loki replied. 

“I’d like to know more about you,” Tony said without thinking. “Want to grab dinner?”

“Dinner would be nice. You interest me, Tony Stark.” 

Tony found Loki interesting too. Loki had a big heart, and it was something that Tony wanted to be around. He felt comfortable with Loki and hoped that they could spend a lot of time together.