This one actually takes place a short time before that. Ian, in keeping to his reputation, crashes a party—but not just anyone’s party. It may be he’s there for more than living it up … but either way, he’s about to meet his match in Tony Stark.
Title: Party Crasher
Summary: Tony Stark's parties often attract characters. Sometimes they're not invited ... and sometimes they don't even know why they came.
Length: 1,900 words
“Sir, someone is climbing the cliff below the house.”
Over the years – especially the last few – Tony Stark had seen so much that he often thought he'd seen it all. Just as often, he was proven wrong. “Climbing—the cliff? This cliff?” He gestured toward the overhang railing, which almost made his martini spill. He stilled his hand just in time, preventing that tragedy.
The voice of Jarvis, which should have sounded unemotional considering Jarvis was a computer, held an edge of surprise. “Yes, sir. A small boat dropped off a male subject, who is now working his way up the cliff face.”
“Huh.” There was a time when Stark would have found that amusing. Well, he still did … but these days he had to consider the possibility of a bad guy, in the city-destroying sense of the word. “Any idea who it is? It's not Agent Coulson, is it? He might wrinkle that suit.”
“Running facial recognition software. He does happen to be wearing a dark suit.”
“Oh, great—it is Coulson.”
Stark glanced back into his home. Various starlets and captains of industry jockeyed for the best place to be seen, or lined up for drinks, while the DJ set up his equipment. He glimpsed Pepper Potts edging through the crowd, a foul look on her face. He did tell her there'd be a party tonight. Didn't he?
“Sir, the intruder is one Ian Grant. IMDB lists him as an actor and author ...”
“Never heard of him.”
“He also had one hit record, a novelty song called 'An Apple Byte Causes Mac Attack'.”
“Oh, yeah. I hated that song.” With a few quick strides Stark stood at the railing, but he couldn't look over far enough to see the cliff. “How's he doing?”
“Fair, with the help of climbing gear. I've accessed police records: Mr. Grant is a somewhat notorious party animal, with a history of complaints involving such misdemeanors as drunk and disorderly, reckless driving, the occasional trespass and, ahem, somewhat inappropriate public displays of affection. A few actual arrests, one conviction for public intoxication. Your kind of fellow.”
“Shall I take the standard actions?”
Standard actions? No one had ever climbed the cliff before. Why would this guy …?
Stark looked back toward the house. Wet bar, loud music, women. Beyond that, guards at the entrance to his driveway. Could it be? Would anyone be that crazy? He turned toward the horizon, and saw the July sun had another couple of hours before setting. “No. Let him come on up … I'm curious.”
“How fortunate you're not a cat.”
Stark took a remote earplug from his pocket and put it on, so he’d hear Jarvis’ updates over the sound of the party. When he turned to go back inside, he found himself face to face with a blond haired beauty whose looks were marred by a deep frown. “Pepper! Hey, beautiful.”
“So. You're having a party tonight?”
It took less time than Stark thought before Jarvis called him back outside, just as Ian Grant climbed over the railing. Ian picked an area by the side of the house, where he wouldn't be faced with the underside of the home's overhang. It was probably no coincidence that from there his entrance would be invisible to anyone inside.
Ian took a moment to smooth the wrinkles from his dark suit, dust off the suit and his black sneakers, and smooth out his shaggy mane of dark brown hair.
Then he turned, took one step, and found himself face to face with Tony Stark.
Tony held out one of the two martinis he carried. “You must be thirsty.”
To his credit, it took Ian only a moment to adjust. Then he took the martini with a nod, and sipped. “Finest kind, as Hawkeye would say.”
Stark tilted his head. “I don't think Hawkeye drinks.”
“Oh, sorry. I meant Hawkeye Pierce, from 'M*A*S*H'.” Ian glanced past Stark toward the increasingly noisy party.
“Yeah, that Hawkeye drinks. So … hi. I'm Tony Stark.”
“Ian Grant. I had an invitation.”
“Was there something wrong with the road?”
“I usually dress casual ... It must have gotten lost in my other pants.”
“The ones you left behind when you had to flee the Playboy mansion in a rush, or the ones you flung into the crowd at that One Direction concert?” Jarvis was a font of information.
“They invited me onto the stage ...”
“I'm a little curious as to why you felt my party was important enough to risk your neck climbing a cliff.”
“Well, you throw the best parties. Or so they say.” Ian sipped the martini again. He had a steady hand, and clear eyes. “Also, since I don't drink and drive I had to get a ride here, and the only one available was my friend's boat.”
“Good call.” Clearly, Ian Grant got by on charm, looks, and luck. “And good climb. I'll have someone pick up that climbing gear you left below the house.”
“Oh, thanks.” Ian didn't appear the least bit perturbed about being caught, and Stark had a feeling the young actor knew full well his story was a cobbled together mess.
Wait … Grant? Stark studied the other man more closely. Yes, there was a resemblance: The same square jaw, the same flinty, fearless gaze. “You're Charles Grant's son.”
For the first time since arriving, uncertainty flashed across Ian's face. “Well, I'm one of his sons …”
“You wrote that tell-all book about your old man.” Stark felt his face redden, and wasn't sure why. He hadn't gotten along with his own father, after all. On the other hand, he never sold their dirty laundry for $16.95 at Barnes and Noble.
“Yeah.” Ian cast his gaze down into his half-empty drink. “My other two books were better. And more … balanced.”
“That was … were you drunk?”
“No.” Now Ian looked back up at Tony. “Well, not most of the time—it took me six months to churn that thing out. Usually I was just mad.”
Howard Stark would have been a little older than Charles Grant, if he'd survived. Stark shook his head. “Look, I've got daddy issues too, but you did a real hatchet job on him. He must have been an awful father.”
“Heh.” Ian drained the Martini, then carefully set the glass on the railing. “No. Well, not always. Mostly he wasn't anything, but that's how it goes in show biz.” He rested his arms on the rail, and gazed out toward the ocean.
“And you've been drunk ever since.” As if Tony Stark could lecture anyone on drinking. Tony also leaned against the railing, in time to see Ian's challenging expression.
“And you haven't been?”
“I didn't climb up come here for the party. Not just the party.”
I should have seen that coming. Nobody scales hundreds of feet up a cliff wall just for a free wet bar. “If you think we’ll bond over how awful our fathers were—“
“No, not that. I've considered changing my name a thousand times. To make it on my own, to avoid being connected … and lately, to keep from embarrassing them, which I didn't used to care about. But it's too late for that, now.”
“Call me Tony. All the trespassers do.”
“Tony, you're a drunk.”
“Call me Mr. Stark.”
“But you've got all this.” Ian waved his arm, to take in the house, the workshop beneath, the helicopter pad, swimming pool, crowds of admirers swilling Stark's booze. “This didn't all come from Howard Stark's millions. He sure didn't fund that costume you fly around in. Is it just because you're a genius that you run around with generals and senators and Pepper Potts—really hot, by the way—or is it luck, or are you a member of the Illuminati?”
Stark looked down. His martini glass was still half full. He set it on the rail too, then stepped back and crossed his arms. “What do you live in?”
“A hotel room, at the moment. I got kicked out of my apartment after the cow incident.”
Stark felt his eyebrows go up.
“Well, I couldn't let it stay outside. A cow alone at night, in L.A.? Wouldn't last an hour.”
“Right. Let me ask you something: Do you enjoy what you're doing?”
“Enjoy?” Ian looked confused, but Stark suspected it was an act.
“Yeah. B-movies, cheap books, picking up women at clubs?”
“That last part's not so bad.” Ian held a hand up as Stark started to protest. “I like the work, and even the celebrity stuff. But I don't like this feeling that I'm not going anywhere with it, or accomplishing anything. I'm not a bad entertainer; I'm not a great entertainer; I'm average.” He leaned against the railing, his eyes clouded as if he'd just come to a realization.
It would have been so much more fun to trade zingers all night, but that could get exhausting even for Stark. “Grant, if I accomplish anything, it's because I love what I do. Invent stuff, tinker—even be super heroic-ish. Usually I don't drink until the work is done … and then it's to celebrate, not to dull the pain.” Well, not anymore. But why undermine the lesson by muddying his point?
“You think I'm dulling the pain.” Ian didn't look as if he was arguing.
“I can't answer that. I'm just an inventor who got talent and luck.”
“Yeah, well ...” After a moment Ian blew out a long breath. “You know, I'm not in the party mood, after all. I think I'm off my game tonight.” He glanced toward the end of the railing, where he'd climbed onto the deck.
Yeah, you already said you didn't come for the party. “I don't think you need to go down that way. Unless it's some kind of college initiation.”
“Oh, I got kicked out of college.”
“Couldn't let those poor strippers wander around in the cold all night, could I?”
“Talk about wildlife.” Stark jerked his thumb toward the house. “I'll arrange a ride home for you. Just wait here.”
“Sure. Thanks.” Ian turned back toward the railing. He looked, oddly, less happy and more relaxed than when he first came up. As if he’d made a decision.
As he worked his way through the party, Stark heard Jarvis on the earbud. “Sir, your somewhat manic grin tells me you might be planning something that will require a later cleanup.”
“Maybe.” He headed downstairs. “Tell Pepper I'm taking a quick ride in the suit, and I'll get everyone cleared out when I get back.”
“A ride in the suit, sir?”
“Yep.” Stark's smile got even wider. “Ian Grant seems to want to spread his wings and try new things. Well, I'm going to give him a ride home he'll never forget.”