ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story fills the "meet the parents / family" square in my 1-4-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest.

This story belongs to the series Love Is For Children which includes "Love Is for Children," "Hairpins," "Blended," "Am I Not," "Eggshells," "Dolls and Guys,""Saudades," "Querencia," "Turnabout Is Fair Play," "Touching Moments," "Splash," "Coming Around," "Birthday Girl," "No Winter Lasts Forever," "Hide and Seek," "Kernel Error," "Happy Hour," "Green Eggs and Hulk,""kintsukuroi," "Little and Broken, but Still Good," "Up the Water Spout," "The Life of the Dead," "If They Could Just Stay Little," "Anahata," "When the Wheels Come Off," "Against His Own Shield," "Coming in from the Cold: Saturday: Building Towers," and "Coming in from the Cold: Sunday: Shaking Foundations," and "Coming in from the Cold: Monday: Memorial Day."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Tony Stark, Howard Stark, Master Tom, Obadiah Stane, Master Ewan.
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Howard Stark's A+ Parenting. Child abuse and neglect. Rebellion. Tony Stark's misspent youth. Brief references to underage drinking, sex,and other unwise activities.  Obie. Because Obie Is Always a Warning.
Summary: According to canon, Tony Stark is a blacksmith. This is how that happened.
Notes: Craftsmanship. Competence. Gentleness. Trust. Creativity. Friendship.

A note on feedback: While it's not necessary to comment on every post I make, remember that I don't know who reads/likes things if nobody says anything. Particularly on long stories, I've discovered that I get antsy if there's nothing but crickets chirping for several posts. So it helps to give me feedback at least once, even if it's just "I like this" or "This one doesn't grab me." First and last episodes are ideal if you rarely feel inspired to comment in the middle.

I also have a list of favorite photogenic scenes from the whole series for fanartists to consider, partly compiled from audience requests.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

"What Little Boys Are Made Of" Part 1

[September 15, 1973]

Tony knows that Daddy is important. Daddy is always busy. He meets with other important people all the time. Tony knows that children should be seen and not heard. He knows that he should mind his nanny. But all he really cares about is sneaking in to see Daddy.

It never works. Daddy catches him and makes the mad face. Then Tony just gets handed back to the nanny.
Tony clenches his little jaw. He'll find a way to make Daddy pay attention.

* * *

[May 10, 1975]

When Tony is four, he builds his first circuit board. It's not a very good circuit board. The lines wibble and wobble in places. Tony can see it all in his head, just right. But his hands are still too small to hold the heavy tools. So he gets tired and his arms shake. Then things come out not quite perfect, not the way they look in his head.

Tony's circuit board works anyway.

Grinning, he clutches it in his hands and runs to find Daddy. There is a meeting. There is always a meeting. Tony knows by now that nobody will open the door for him. Instead he hides around a corner and waits. When a secretary comes with more coffee, he darts into the room behind her. Then Tony shows off how his circuit board lights up.

Daddy files it in the circular file. Then he yells for the nanny.

"What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of," says the nanny. She tries to cheer Tony up.

Tony will cheer up when Daddy is proud of him.

* * *

[May 10, 1977]

The workshop smells of grease and hot metal and other things. Tony doesn't care. He loves the workshop anyway. Technically, it is Daddy's workshop. Tony still feels like it is a little bit his. Daddy lets him use it too, as long as Tony doesn't make a nuisance of himself.

There is an engine inside Tony's head. Not a great big ship engine or a roaring car engine. It's a tiny little thing, no bigger than Tony's hand. He's learned not to try making things that are too big or using tools that are too heavy. So instead he dreams of ways to make things very small.

It's hard to cut the pieces just right. It's harder to solder them all together. Sometimes Tony's grip slips and he burns himself on the hot soldering iron. He doesn't cry. He already knows better than that. Stark men are made of iron.

In the end, though, Tony gets the engine out of his head and into his hand. He turns it on. It whirrs, a faint tinny sound like the red-and-gold pinwheel that Mr. Jarvis had given him for memorizing the times tables. Tony carries the engine over to where Daddy is working on one for a jet.

"What's that? Is that thing actually running?" Daddy asks, bending down to look at Tony's engine. "Well, what do you know. That's actually not a total waste of materials this time." He ruffles Tony's hair, then goes back to work.

Tony's heart glows like the sun.

It lasts for a good ten minutes. Then Daddy hits a glitch in his own project, and punches the part he's been welding, and yells a bunch of bad words. He stomps over to the cabinet with all the booze in it and takes out a bottle. "You're done for the day," he tells Tony. "Get lost."

* * *

[September, 1985]

Not even Howard Stark's money can bribe boarding schools to put up with Tony forever. As a teenager he is too smart, too fast, too unruly ... too Tony. Desperate to keep the boy productively engaged, and out of his own hair, Howard cashes in a favor with a former classmate of his who now works as an admissions officer.

Tony enters the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at fourteen. He is, insofar as he can tell, the shortest freshman on campus. Also the youngest. Also the richest. Also the smartest. In fact, Tony is the smartest person on campus, including all of the professors, which point endears him to precisely zero of them.

Tony Stark in four words: short, young, rich, smart. He's not really satisfied with that description, so he goes to work changing it. Quick to capitalize on his assets, he uses his cash and his wits to compensate for his size and his age. It does not take him very long to cut a swath through the beer parties and bedrooms of MIT.

It doesn't take him much longer to get bored of doing nothing but that. So he goes back to paying some attention in his classes, despite having read all the textbooks in the first week and having finished all the homework that the professors would let him do so soon. They won't let him build anything real. Tony, who has been building things since he was four, gets bored again.

He practices his computer skills by hacking the MIT computers. Then he uses that access to let himself into the labs and the workshops. It's not like he needs supervisors or assistants. Well, okay, one assistant would be nice if anyone could keep up with Tony, but they can't, so oh well. He'll do it himself, just like always.

That keeps Tony occupied for all of two weeks before he gets tired of it. He's done all of his homework, again. He's popped his cherry, front and back, with girls and boys. He's tried thirteen new flavors of alcohol. His current favorite is Blue Curaçao for its eerie, beautiful color. None of this holds his interest for very long. He's bored, again.

So Tony returns to one of his oldest hobbies, trying to get his father's attention. He rewires the elevators in the Green Building and makes them play turbolift sound effects from Star Trek. He goes stage-diving at metal shows at the Channel. He picks fights across a chess board at Harvard Square. He puts a missile on top of the Great Dome which, when people try to remove it, explodes in a shower of red confetti.

Ironically, none of these do the trick. Instead Tony's metallurgy professor wanders into the lab at 2:46 A.M. and catches him red-handed. At precisely 8 A.M. this leads to a furious call from the professor to Howard, and at 8:49, a furious call from Howard to Tony. Accordingly to Tony's stopwatch and journal, the following 33 minutes, 27 seconds of paternal ire constitute the most attention Howard has paid to him this calendar year. Tony makes a note.

Mission accomplished.

Tony goes back to dallying with classmates, booze, and homework. It's too easy, but it's something to do.

* * *

[June 10, 1987]

Earning his undergraduate degree leaves Tony at loose ends. He'll go back, of course, for graduate work; but that doesn't help right now. His father won't give him a job at Stark Industries, because Tony is still only seventeen, no matter what Tony says in hopes of convincing Howard to let him try. That argument blows up into a spectacular fight.

Well fine then. If Howard won't hire him, then Tony will just go find work somewhere else. Somewhere maximally embarrassing else, if at all possible. Maybe he'll go to Nevada and work in a whorehouse. No, there's the age issue again; his fake ID is the best money can buy but it might not stand up to sustained examination. Something menial, then, where Tony can waste his potential and preferably get filthy in the process.

He means to start asking around the janitors and garbagemen, but doesn't get to it immediately. Then he sees a flyer for Museum Village in Monroe, New York. Tony hasn't been there since a field trip in grade school, but he fondly remembers the wagon shop with its whirring lathe turning out wheel spokes, and the lecture about how a lathe is one of the few tools that can make a copy of itself. He'd even made one, after he got home.

So Tony hops into one of his sportscars and drives to Monroe. He wanders around the site, doggedly trying to follow his memory instead of resorting to a map. There is the broom maker, and the livery, and the school house. Tony loses half an hour in the candle shop, poring over the exhibit on lighting devices from oil lamps to light bulbs. He nearly gets kicked out for correcting an error on one of the cards. A little fast talking convinces the chandler that leaving the shop, and not the whole village, will suffice.

And there's the wagon shop, right next door. The "out to lunch" sign on the window makes Tony grumble. He scuffs his polished shoe in the dust. He hates waiting.

Tony twiddles with the Brass Rat on his finger. The class ring is new enough that it doesn't feel familiar yet, doesn't feel comfortable. He's proud of it, really he is, but he can't stop fidgeting. He'll get used to it eventually. He hopes. Tony looks around for something to distract himself.

A bright chime reaches his ears, like a bell, or an alarm, only not as urgent. High and sweet, its rhythm sings out from the next building. Curious, Tony drifts closer.

It is the blacksmith's shop. The building is made of brown and gray stones, its windows framed in red wood to match the roof. The big red doors stand wide open. The broad path leading up to them seems to pull at his feet.

Inside, the smithy is dim, lit only by the sunlight falling through the narrow windows and the wide doors, and the fierce volcanic glow of the forge. It is that which draws Tony further inward, like a moth captivated by the flame. A bed of coals shimmers red in the stone forge, whose mouth bristles with iron rods.

The blacksmith himself is a vast bear of a man, tall and broad, with black hair dense over his swarthy skin. He wears a heavy leather apron over brown trousers, and his unbleached shirt sports a pin with a horseshoe points-down over the word Master. His arms are thicker than Tony's thighs, and the muscles stand out in hard curves. Sweat rains from him as he swings a hammer bigger than Tony's two fists together, ringing against a curved plate of metal held over the anvil.

"What are you making?" Tony asks, his eyes wide.

"A stove," says the blacksmith.

"By hand?" Tony says. "Why not just buy one?"

The blacksmith laughs. "Because I love making things, and when I do, I get exactly what I want -- not what somebody else felt like making."

Oh. The thought of it lands on Tony's skin like a spark, burning and beautiful. Oh, I want that. He's done welding and metallurgy and all that stuff for school, but this is different. Older. Purer.

It's then his gaze snags on the small card taped inside the nearest window: Help Wanted.

"What kind of help are you hiring?" Tony asks. Maybe it will be somewhere that he could stand and watch the man work.

"An apprentice," says the blacksmith. "I usually take on one or two each summer to get me through the tourist season. It's backbreaking work, but a diligent boy can learn a lot in a few months."

Tony can learn a whole field in a few months, to the utter consternation of his professors. For once in his life, he does not blurt this out. He wants the blacksmith to like him. "I would ... uh, like to apply for the job."

"Would you, now." The blacksmith dunks the metal plate into a deep trough, bringing up a cloud of steam. Then he sets it aside.

Tony is completely unprepared for the rough, proprietary grasp of his shoulder as the powerful fingers dig in. "Hey!" he yelps.

"Not much meat on your bones," the blacksmith says. He hauls Tony toward the forge and shows him a device made of leather and metal. "Start on the bellows to build up some muscle." The man demonstrates the correct motion a few times. Then he kicks Tony's feet into position, shows him how to plant himself properly, puts Tony's hands on the handles, and coaches him through the process. "There you go. Now watch the fire, you want to keep it good and red for me."

"Yeah, okay," Tony says, struggling with the stiff bellows. This is much harder than it looks.

"Tch. None of that! I'm Master Tom to you now. What's your name?" says the blacksmith.

"I'm Tony," he replies, and then adds, "... Master Tom." It's not quite the first time anyone has ever earned his respect, but not far from it either.

So Tony pumps the bellows until he feels like his arms are going to fall off. Then Master Tom puts him to hauling water in two buckets that hang from a wooden yoke over Tony's shoulders, until he feels like his legs are going to fall off. After that it's coal in a wagon, and later still, iron barstock.

At the end of the day, Tony wilts onto the floor. Master Tom applies the steel toe of his boot to Tony's shoulder, barely hard enough to shift him at all, but with every muscle screaming complaints it's plenty to make Tony whimper. "Get up. It's time to go home," says Master Tom.

"Go away and let me die in peace," Tony whimpers. It hurts to move. It hurts to breathe. Idly he wonders if he might've cracked a rib or something.

"Last bus leaves in ten minutes," Master Tom warns.

"Didn't take a bus, drove myself," Tony says.

Master Tom picks up Tony's right hand and looks at how it shakes, how some of the blisters are still oozing. "Well, you're sure not driving home like that," he says. He scoops Tony under one arm and deposits him on a bench. Then Master Tom cleans the blisters, coats them with something sticky that smells of honey, and wraps them in gauze. "Ready to quit?"

Tony is filthy, hot, sweaty, exhausted, and in serious pain. Howard will go apeshit when he finds out. He will, of course, find out; he always does. Tony can hardly wait. He bites back the instinctive Fuck no! and replaces it with, "No, Master Tom. What time do I start tomorrow?"

"Be here at 8 A.M. The village opens to the public at 11 A.M. and it takes time to get everything set up before then. Here's your pin, 'Prentice," says Master Tom as he hands Tony a bit of metal and ceramic with a crossed hammer and tongs over the word Apprentice. "Come on, I'll find someone to drive you home."

"Too far," Tony mumbles. "Need to get a room."

"No trouble at all, then, we have an arrangement with a motel just down the road. I'll call them to pick you up," says Master Tom.

The motel room is without a doubt the shabbiest place Tony has ever set foot in. He does not care in the slightest as he wolfs down half a pizza and then passes out on the bed, fully dressed.

* * *


Canonical references to Tony Stark show the usual range of variation for comic book characters, so I take what I need and fake the rest.

This entry cites Tony's entry into Stark Industries at 21.

Here is a reference to him making his first circuit board at 4 and his first engine at 6.

An admissions officer at MIT describes the tradition of the Brass Rat ring and Tony wearing it on film. Tony also talks about a Spring Break trip with Rhodey in 1987, placing both of them at college together. There is some disagreement about Tony's year of graduation and nature of degrees, although Iron Man 1 mentions a Ph.D. in Physics. Some of Tony's college shenanigans came from this piece. Lots of people have memories of him.

This War Machine reference
mentions Howard Stark's line "Stark men are made of iron."

This is the MIT schedule.

LIFC Chronology
In 1985, Tony enters MIT at age 14. In 1987, Tony goes on a spring break trip with Rhodey. Tony gets his undergraduate degree in engineering from MIT in early June of 1987, when he is 16. He gets two master's degrees in engineering from MIT in early June of 1990, when he is 19. (Since MIT only offers one degree in engineering -- the practical Master of Engineering -- logically the other must be the Master of Science which focuses on theory and research.) Tony goes on to earn doctorates in engineering physics and artificial intelligence.

Blue Curaçao is an alcoholic beverage.

Museum Village in Monroe, NY has a blacksmith shop among other attractions.

This is one example of a ceramic badge. They used to be pretty common, and in fact you can still find these things at a historic faire, but very little of that has made it into photos or other references online.

Blacksmithing is a traditional craft that uses a forge to work iron and other metals. Among the most famous tools are hammer and tongs.

[To be continued in Part 2 ...]


Date: 2016-04-01 11:30 pm (UTC)
ext_1575623: (Default)
From: [identity profile] draggon_flye.livejournal.com
Though I have since gotten into reading several others, this is still my favorite series of yours. I was very happy to see a new snippet, and unsurprisingly, I love it. Poor Tony. He's practically a poster child for the notion of any attention being good attention. He's trying so hard. I'm hoping Master Tom will end up becoming a positive influence.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-01 11:36 pm (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
So far so good. Well begun is half done!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 12:21 am (UTC)
siberian_skys: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siberian_skys
I am so glad to see this series back. I didn't know that Tony was a blacksmith in canon. This is a very cool way to have him learn that skill. I'm looking forward to the next part.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 12:55 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Grinning so hard here... I seriously needed this, been having a rough few days, and I needed a reminder of why I'm trying to build my own forge.

Because like Tony, I am sick of crap going wrong, and making do with someone else's idea of 'good enough'.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 01:16 am (UTC)
dru_evilista: A purple swirl (Purple Swirl)
From: [personal profile] dru_evilista
Aww poor baby Tony. Howard is a terrible father. Some people should really not be parents if they can't do the job well.

Yay, there is more!

Date: 2016-04-02 01:33 am (UTC)
heartsinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heartsinger
I was beginning to worry that we were never going to see your Avengers again. So glad to be wrong!

Howard Stark is the worst. Violence is wrong and he is fictional, violence is wrong and he is fictional (also dead)... This isn't actually helping. Whatever, if I ignore the thought it will go away. And Tony's blacksmithing skills never get enough attention.

(Discusson of mental illness, vaguest possible Cap 3 related info. Spoiler warning for the very cautious) I really hope we'll be seeing some happy stuff from you when CW comes out, because I know I'll need it. I may not even be able to watch the film. It's been described as an "emotional horror movie" and I don't do horror to begin with. OCD already causes a sense of impending doom if I'm not careful, why would I want to do that on purpose? I had to stop watching Supernatural because it was setting off my OCD/anxiety. Anyway, great story, thanks for all your great writing.

Re: Yay, there is more!

Date: 2016-04-02 07:15 am (UTC)
heartsinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heartsinger
>>Sorry that I don't have as much time for fanfic as I did for a while. I write to put beans on the table.<<

Don't be sorry for doing what you have to do. There's a reason I don't whine about there not being more to you. And I do like Polychrome Heroics, Schrodinger's Heroes, and Frankenstein's Family.

>>I am never going to stop squeeing over the monkey's paw trap in the post-movie snippet after Ant Man.<<

I didn't see it because they put some random dude in a suit instead of a woman who would make more emotional sense? IDK. I don't actually read the comics, but I was feeling weird about going to the movies so much that month. (Meaning, like, 3-4 films in a year, and I was feeling weird that month) and people I admire were kerfuffling about it. And Ant-Man. Come on. Of course, that's what I said about The Avengers. My best friend dragged me to see it the first time. And he was so, so right.

>>However, I have heard great things about the Steve-and-Bucky action. (I am never going to stop squeeing over the monkey's paw trap in the post-movie snippet after Ant Man.) So I'll see how it turns out. I had very low expectations of The Winter Soldier due to Captain America being declared an outlaw, but it turned out awesome.<<

The Steve & Bucky part will likely be great. But (spoilers for the comics version of Civil War and potentially the movie. Also definitely IM3 and Ultron) in the comics I'm told the basic plot was "everyone loses their ability to talk like adults and also gets a personality change at the whim of the writers and are all really, really, really mean to each other. And I really can't do that for hours on end. And Cap 2 was fucking amazing, but TDW, IM3, and Ultron were mostly okay, terrible, and middling at best, respectively (in my opinion). I find that Tony's character keeps making the same mistakes (not trusting anyone, thinking he can/should do everything, etc. And it's not that it's unrealistic, it's just not something I want to watch. But this, I suppose, is the flaw of the great age of endless sequels. They never want to really change anyone. So it's right back to the emotional status quo, regardless of bold, sweeping changes to setting and all the character development from the last movie. Perhaps the reason Cap 2 went well is because Cap doesn't really get character development in the same way, and they compensate for that well? I feel like the media in general is just afraid they'll lose market share if they let their characters be happy for two seconds. Which is not true for me at all. I'm on the brink of dropping Once Upon a Time due to the fact that the characters can't seem to be happy for more than an episode at a time. Tops. This is why I read primarily fanfiction. I can sort by emotion.

(sometimes I can't read your stuff because I just can't get myself to believe in so many people being that good at communication coming out of default culture. Mostly that's when I'm trying to read it for the third time in a couple months. Hopefully I'll be able to pick it up soon)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 01:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Poor baby Tony. He just wants his daddy's attention.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 02:29 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I will not hop universes in order to pull a Kendra and deck Howard Stark, I will not hop universes in order to deck Howard Stark, I *cannot* hop universes so this point is moot, but oh do I wish I sharding could, just for a ten-second there and back jump... Circular file, my Irish a**. In other words, oh jeez, poor tiny!Tony.

The later idea of elevators programmed with turbolift sound effects is hilarious and excellent! I wish someone had pulled pranks like that on our campus. The harmless confetti missile idea's pretty darn good too, frankly. And I'm liking this blacksmith fellow, and not just because someone rather dear to me is a trained blacksmith herself, though that does admittedly bias me.

Excellently done, as ever, Ysabet. :)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-04-02 05:07 am (UTC)
heartsinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heartsinger
That link is nonfunctional. I was able to recover the actual link within the link and use it, but it's got your URL on top of it and leads to a Dreamwidth error page.

Someday I will create an account....

Date: 2016-04-02 04:25 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ahhh!!!! I am so excited about another story in the Love is for Children universe!! For a second, I was worried that it would be an April Fool's joke, but I didn't think you'd do that to us (in my opinion, April Fool's pranks are only good when everyone's in on the joke in the first place - when it's just playful silliness, not actually trying to trick people). Poor Tony. Also, I hadn't really thought about the fact that Tony probably would've had to learn more than just engineering to build the original suits.

Loving this story

Date: 2016-04-05 05:57 pm (UTC)
ephany: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ephany
I was re reading through the series in Chronological order and just finished coming around when i saw this little Gem. I love how you describe little Tony seeking attention from his father. How he tried positive things first and then moved on to using negative attention grabbing behavior

Overall this is a wonderful series and I am so gad to see a new installment
thank you so much

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-08 02:25 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Oh little Tony, already so practiced at wanting what he can't obtain.

(I know you've given Howard Stark an A+ punch in the face in this canon, but that asshat puts my hackles up so bad.)

Also metalsmithing! Love love love! And Tony learning the hard way that finesse isn't everything!
I like Master Tom already.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-07 11:56 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I really enjoyed this one :) I grew up knowing a few MIT alumni, and some of their traditions are really neat ( I really liked the mention of Tony's prank with the Dome and of the class rings). I'm looking forward to seeing how Tony's summer of blacksmithing changes him. I feel like it's going to be a good experience for him.


So many feels

Date: 2016-11-10 11:46 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is amazing. I'm trying to build all the ePub files on my phone over on Ao3, but this one isn't over there. Could you please (when you get the time), put it over there?


Date: 2017-04-16 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] caera_ash
Out of curiosity, is there a particular reason this story isn't posted on Archive? It's just, all the others are...


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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