Howard Stark had grown weary. He didn’t belong here, of that there was no doubt. He was sick of it all. Everything he ever did just felt wrong. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get anywhere near his so-called son, the one real friend he’d had in this place, he’d pretty much fucked over, without even meaning too. Steve and Bucky, his only ties to the old days weren’t even the same, they were both settling down. All-in-all, Howard Stark felt nothing but out of place in the twenty-first century.
And the final straw? Being stuck in the body of this…Asgardian. He never really believed in Norse gods, and now this thing was walking around in his body. And to top it all off? The most recent person he’d trusted, had been about to open up to? She’d known that it wasn’t Loki in this body, she’d recognised him and she had betrayed him. He had nothing worth being here for. Nothing at all. He wanted to get back to his world, his time. Live his life like he was supposed to, regardless of whether or not he would become an abusive drunk later in life, at least he would have a place to belong.
He was asleep in his cell when everything with Darcy kicked off, after all there wasn’t a hell of a lot else to be done when you were locked in a cell, and in his sleep, he must have somehow tapped into Loki’s powers, because the next thing he knew he was standing over his sleeping body. He blinked at the figure as he slowly remembered that this wasn’t an out of body experience, at least not in the typical way, since his body wasn’t exactly his own right now. So how and why was he here?
Then it dawned on him. The gem that Bruce had been so interested in, that had likely gotten him into this situation, probably had even brought him here to the future. Surely it could be used to bring him back. There was only one person he knew who could help him, someone who had been studying the gems and their powers. But first he needed the gem itself, which should be around his neck. Well, the neck of the body the Asgardian was wearing, that should belong to Howard. It was as he was contemplating a way of retrieving it without waking the sleeping man before him when he noticed something glinting on the table beside the bed. The Reality Gem, the very thing he needed to end all of this and go home.
Snatching the gem off the table, he slipped out of the room as quietly as possible, relieved to see that Loki was holed up in Howard’s room in the Avengers Tower. Of course. Wolf in sheep’s clothing, might as well lie down among the lambs. Sighing, Howard told himself everything would be over soon as he went straight to Bruce’s lab, almost certain he would still be awake at this time.
He walked in with his hands up, palms forward, hoping to show he meant no harm, the gem dangling from one hand, string twined around his fingers. “Brucey, it’s me, Howard. I…I need your help. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
Bruce glanced up from his work. His eyes first met the glint of the gem, and then Howard’s eyes. At least, the eyes of the man who claimed to be Howard. He cautiously stood up, and stepped towards Howard. He knew if he were to be harmed, he would probably be just fine. The last bit of self-preservation he had was washed away by the temptation of the gem, and the proposition to help a friend. The fact that Howard had used more diminutive, familiar version of his own name had tipped him towards the side of taking what he said for truth.
“You want to go back?” His voice was a small whisper. Bruce reached towards the gem, and grasped it, silently letting the chain fall away from Howard’s hand. He squeezed his hand, feeling the solidity of the object. Bruce rested his other hand on Howard’s shoulder. It had begun to take on a transparency, as if the opacity was simply draining away from the time-displaced man’s being.
He was disappearing.