Thing is, he remembers exactly how he died.
In exacting detail.
He remembers all of his life, actually. Just something new. Ish.
Full HD, rewind, play, pause, rewind, play, pause, Fast-forward, pause, rewind.
And that means…
He knows exactly how he died.
Past tense, yes.
May 29th, 1937, Anthony Stark was born. Two years later, the War did.
He thinks it's rather appropriate, that just as he's reaching that important point in every infants life where cognitive function starts kicking it up into high gear, suddenly there's violence everywhere. It continues.
Becomes the norm.
He's five, the oops his father had learned to deal with through occasional visits and paying for not-his-biological-mother-but-might-as-well-be best female friend to look after him on wages he gets making… anything. Everything. Knick knacks, cars, things with flashing lights… things that exploded with even more flashing lights.
When she needs a break, Tony is sat with his father as he pours over blueprints, and he learns his alphabet from the periodic table, learns his numbers from coding and labels on parts.
He's five when he meets Steve Rogers, and is entirely unimpressed.
Steve is earnest, and straightforward, and Tony can tell that he doesn't understand when his father goes into the Details. He remembers, at that age, dismissing anyone who couldn't understand the Details. Steve gets credit for not getting that dopey glazed look on his face, but all that means to Tony-at-5 is that he can hang around his dad without much scorn from Tony.
One day, Steve crouches to Tony's level, his uniform rumpling slightly, and asks why he doesn't show the same respect—or lack of open hostility—to Colonel Phillips as he does to Steve. As he does to Peggy.
Tony scrunches his nose at him. "Because you didn't get a stupid face when my dad talked to you."
And, when Steve kept looking concerned and confused, Tony sighed.
"Because when dad started talking about the Details to you, you looked confused, but you didn't get that stupid glazed look on your face that just about everyone else does."
"I didn't understand half of what your dad said though. Still don't, not really."
Tony shook his head and turned back to the old car blueprints he'd borrowed from a desk. "Less than that, yeah, but at least you listened." He paused, and then snorted. "Colonel Chester listened to somethin' like 40 seconds of my dad, and then said something stupid like 'as long as it works', and stopped listening. People who find themselves in a position to think they have power tend to do that." He looked Steve in the eyes, and said "You see, he doesn't get it. The people who get all stupid faced don't get it. It doesn't matter if something works. It doesn't even matter if it doesn't work. What matters, is why. Why does or doesn't it work? You need to know the details, so you can use it, make it better, move forward with it. Move forward, past it." His tone turns abruptly fond, "Dad's always doing that."
He was interrupted from saying anything else by an exclamation from the other side of the work station, and he hurried to roll up the car plans in front of him, because not all of the scientists and engineers (read: none) appreciated Tony borrowing from their desks.
His last bit of wisdom for Steve was a grin and a wink—
"Be the spark Cap! If you're not moving forward, you're getting in the way!"
—before running off as fast as his little legs could take him, arms full of military vehicle plans.
Getting scolded by his dad was bad, later, but better when Tony pointed out a flaw in the dummy's calculations, especially since he could smirk without getting pinched for his cheek.
The small smile he saw on Steve's face only made his own smirk grow larger.
Even so, he hoped Steve didn't think this made them friends or anything.
Steve is missing, Captain America gone, and his dad has gone into a full blown obsessive compulsive jerk around.
Tony doesn't get it.
His dad is fantastic, and makes a better and more accurate sonar, better submarines, better ships, better equipment, makes lights that shine on the ocean floor for miles…
And then just stops.
Tony knows he's got projects on the backburner, ones he could be working on immediately, but he's off insisting he be part of this or that search party when he could be working on them.
But, as Tony gets older, graduates before any other kid his age is even thinking beyond their next pop quiz, beyond the on-again-never-really-off-again war, he does not understand this.
He sees his dad's projects, and sees that if they were taken one step further, they could help find Steve goddamn Rogers. Why was his dad looking for this guy now, on his time, when he could be making better, more efficient ways to find the guy!?
Oh don't get him wrong he understands the friendship. He gets it. He doesn't remember much about the guy (at that point)beyond that he didn't get blank faced when his dad talked science. That he was a friendly guy. That he made Auntie Peg happy when he was around.
That he'd been there when his dad hadn't been turning more and more to alcohol.
Again, don't get him wrong, reverse-engineering his dad's drunk inventing was a hoot, very insightful, very engaging. But his dad was going around in circles. Going in pinwheels, really. Forward, tilt-tilt-tilt back tilt-tilt-tilt forwards. Rinse. Repeat.
And the crossing points were always names Steve Rogers.
And God forbid Tony be allowed to help out at all in the search.
Psssh. He kept in mind that the guy was a good guy, because if he ever forgot he might start to hate him. Already didn't like him because his absence was turning his dad into an alcoholic in an inventing tailspin.
At the start of his father's tailspin, Tony was already in the family business. Where his father made the big guns (sometimes literally), Tony was programming. Tony was making smaller things. Had, in the works, a way to communicate long distances through smaller devices, ones that weren't hooked up to anything at all, and wasn't a freaking walkie.
Made appliances, made smaller, more efficient batteries, made cars, made planes, made so, so, so many engines.
Where his dad makes contracts with the military, Tony sets him up for a company that means if and when the military stops showing favour, they'll still have the funding to move forward.
Tony has an idea.
A great, great big fucking idea.
It's the first step to working on, and finishing several other ideas, but he hadn't realized how so many of them could be linked up until this one big idea.
It was gonna be huge.
He says as much to his father.
"Weren't you working on a way to make batteries smaller?"
"This one will have to be big, for how much power will be running through it. It could power all of the States for a year. Maybe less in a few years time, considering how much more electricity we're already using, but still."
"A year? All of the US? Ton I don't have time for this nonsense—"
There was a huge rustling of paper as Tony whipped out his tentative plans, a rough outline of what could be, of what would be with the right amount of attention.
His dad went gratifyingly silent.
"Much easier to search the ocean floor when you don't have to worry about the power," he says quietly.
It's not what Tony was looking to use this for, but if it went right, it could be used for anything.
It could be used for everything.
Burning— his nerves were on fire— singing— screaming— the smell of burnt hair— the smell of burnt flesh—he was cooking from the inside out—
Tony's 20th birthday went largely unnoticed, except by Maria Stark (who his father had finally noticed was a woman, and intelligent, and brilliant, and thankfully married when he was 9), and, of course, the rest of the world.
If she hadn't pulled him from the lab, he wouldn't have even noticed that another day had gone past, and they have cake and doughnuts and flapjacks for dinner, in true Stark tradition, just as his dad stays working through it, in true Stark tradition.
The rest of the world waited with baited breath to see if any of the Starks would make it into a huge blowout, if it was going to be Tony or Howard who drunkenly made his way into the tabloids—not knowing that there were other things to focus on.
They almost had the first model finished. One month—less than one month, and they would have it finished.
Tony hoped it worked.
Hoped it didn't work.
He hadn't worked uninterrupted with his father like this since—
Less than one month.
They leave a slice of cake and a doughnut next to his dads workstation, and head to the library.
As much family time as possible..
8 days—"I didn't know the damn thing was going to explode!"
Tony rechecked the distance between the inner and outer layers, carrying the tape all the way around to make sure that there was an even 13.7 inches all the way around, no variations, no chips or divots.
Behind him, to the left, in front of him, around, Howard Stark confirms the calculations, checks the output valves, and smooths his moustache.
Maria Stark stand back, watching with sunglasses in hand.
"It'll be great," he had told her, "the best thing I've ever made," and she had gone out and bought them.
"So I don't get blinded by your brilliance," she said afterwards.
The ring was in place, the customized crane ready to lower it equidistant from the inner and outer layers, and then it was ready.
The switch was turned, and Tony can't stay still. Has to move, eyes fixed to where history was being remade, and he doesn't even have room in his head to think about what else this'll mean to—well, everyone else.
Tony grew up always having eyes on him, from the military to the media and public as the Stark name became a thing, and when the newspapers weren't getting people into a panic over the war they were getting their jollies by dishing out every little thing the Starks were doing.
But he'd never felt like the whole world was holding it's breath for this, and he thinks he understands how his dad felt when turning Steven Rogers into the Super soldier Captain America.
Five feet, three, two, one, 3/5ths, 5/9ths, it gets closer and closer to the space it should be, and Tony sees when it's nearing 5 inches to where it should be that the ring is… slightly off.
On anything else, it wouldn't matter, but this thing here… this would be bad. It'd be horrible.
He has a moment to doubt—what if he's wrong? It should work fine, right? A little jostling shouldn't be an issue, right?—before sense knocks into him, and he's running back to his parents, "FUCKING STOP IT NOW!" because of course he's right.
His mother turns to him, a slightly shocked and quizzical smile on her face, his father just looks bewildered, but he doesn't get his hand to the fucking controls in time.
His parents are on the raised rubber platform, and in the few seconds between his shout and the charged hum of the reactor getting ready for a horrific electrical discharge, Tony thinks.
Be the spark, he'd once told Steve, if you don't move forward, you're in the way. His mom had always told him that he'd been the brightest spark in her life, and he'd taken that and turned it into his life's motto, because you had to move forward. If you stayed still, you'd wallow in unproductive thoughts and questions like why your father doesn't seem to care, or why couldn't he be more like the other kids, because it was a big thing for him to realize as a kid that he shouldn't have to hold back.
That he didn't have to hold back.
He could move forward as fast as he wanted.
He was the spark that ignited the fire, he was the spark that started the car, he was—he could be the spark to a whole new freaking world.
But even with this healthily and reasonably inflated sense of self worth, Tony also knew that you didn't mow down people in your way to move forward. And this was his idea, and he wasn't going to let it mow down his parents. His father was an insensitive dick, and his mother could be incredibly vapid sometimes, but they were his, they were important to him, and this was his idea. His responsibility.
They were on the rubber platform, but Tony wasn't. They'd still likely get hit, even with no metal on them, of only because they were in the way… unless the electricity had a more appealing target.
Well, one of Tony's greatest qualities was how attractive he could be.
He grabbed a metal wrench from where it was nearby, and he can feel the cackle of electricity as he picks up the first metal rod that comes to hand, and hurls himself front and center.
His heart pounded, and he had a moment of regret, but—
Pause. Fast forward.
And that was how he died.
That was a couple of days ago, and apparently his body is still too electrically charged for anyone to move it, or touch it, or even go into the freaking room, because he wakes up alone with only his body for company.
He knows he died, and that's distracting, but so is this.
Electrocution is not a pleasant way to go.
When he wakes up from dying to find that technology sings around him, electricity dancing through him, and his head is just as full of ideas as it was before his death—even more so, now that he can apparently review his life and death in exacting detail—he marvels.
Electrocution is not a pleasant way to go, but this—whatever it is; well it's certainly a nice way to come back.
In seconds he's travelled through each and every piece of equipment around him, and around the house, and outside, all in blinks and microseconds, and he's outside hanging—he's fucking flying using the electromagnetic differences in the fucking earth!—and the moon is peeking through the clouds, huge and ordinary except that Tony can feel that there's tech there. Far away, far, far away, but there's tech on the moon, and it's old, and there's so much to be learned from it he just wants to reverse engineer the whole thing—
His thoughts are interrupted by a thought.
It's not his, and somehow he knows it's the moons—infers that he actually means it's whoever is on the moon—but it's in his head anyway.
Tony Spark, it says.
Tony doesn't know what that means, and so puts it aside for the moment. Heads back down to ground, and goes through the electronic lock on the door to find his parents.
Dad is drinking, and beside him his mother is crying, and it abruptly hits him that oh, right, he died, and it hits him again when instead of making contact his hand just fazes through his mother's shaking shoulder.
Tony Spark, the moon whispers in his mind, again, and he bristles.
"Fuck that," he says in response, because he fucking gets what's trying to happen, and he's not fucking dealing with it, and the monitors and coding boards that dominated his fathers room come to life.
Maria, his mother, shrieks, and Howard, his father, looks up with eyes only slightly muzzy with alcohol.
NOT DEAD he writes, has displayed in words, in coding, in fucking Morse code, on every screen.
His mother whimpers, a dying sound deep in her throat, and new tears well up.
His father says nothing.
Tony thinks of the one thing that would get his mother to believe, and looks to the ceiling, through it to the great looming glow of the moon.
He was sure there were rules to this, and he was probably breaking all of them, but Tony grew up knowing that rules were for people who couldn't think of a way around them.
People couldn't see him, hear him, feel his touch, so he was going to stop being Tony Fucking Stark?
He glared, and the lights flickered. Electricity fills his eyes, and his grin is sharp enough to cut diamonds.
"Fuck. That. Shit."
The words on the monitors shift.
THIS SPARK HAS NOT GONE OUT.
Ok, so Captain America (movie) happened in 1942 from what I've found, Howard's 29 and Tony's 5 when he meets Steve (in this 'verse). Or just has a talk with him. Whatever. So when Tony dies, he's 20 and it's 1957. With me?
Apparently canon Tony Stark was born May 29th, 1970, and that works, but c'mon. Robert Downey Jr. at 20 is freaking adorable. So no deep reason for the age difference, and I just like the idea of a toddler Tony giving sass to all the military people for not understanding his dad, and just like making everyone frustrated by stealing plans and correcting calculations and whatnot. I'm not saying he's like a supergenius child or anything, but he graduated MIT at 15 in most canon, guys. C'mon guys. You know he'd have been a clever little shit when he was a kid.
And yeah, this is the beginning to my little idea for a Rise Of The Guardians/Avengers/Iron Man cross.
Can you se where I'm going? Yes? No? Maybe?
Bah, I've been working on this on and off trying to get past a block with It's Green (Harry Potter) and in Too Tired To Wink (Torchwood, sequel to And I Wake Up), and am going to go work on them now.
Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions that I don't feel will spoil anything, I'll answer them.