- Character Bashing
- Canon Divergent
Maria Carbonell-Stark was born just at the end of World War Two, her family had fled from Europe just before the first World War and had managed to bring a great deal of their wealth with them to the United States. She was a second generation citizen and had easily fit in with the wealthy elite that of the times. She had many interests, but her love had been for equestrian sports. She became a champion dressage and show jumper in her youth making a name for herself with her poise and control of her horses. She met Howard at the Equestrian World Championship in 1960.
She had been star struck and he had swept her off her feet. She was already a famous socialite, she was expected to marry up and she had quite a few suiters vying for her attention. Their time together had made headlines. Their age difference was the talk of the town for quite some time. There were whispers about gold-digging and cradle robbing in the gossip magazines. The idea of her with the known womanizer was scandalous in certain circles, but she didn’t care. Howard’s drive and new ideas pulled her toward him like a moth to a flame.
Sure there were times when it seemed he wasn’t nearly as focused on their marriage as she might have liked. The trips he took every year to the Arctic in search of the infamous Hydra jet, the Valkyrie, often left her feeling as though she were an afterthought.
Of course Howard Stark came from an entirely different world that what she was used to. Her family was from old money, inheriting land and money that dated back to Emperor Charlemagne, she had wanted for nothing. Having to watch as her husband would stay up for hours working on some project for his company was a new experience.
Sometimes he would go off on what he called Business trips, only to find him bruised and with stitches when he came home. He never explained, other than he was working with people he knew from The War or ‘putting out fires’. More often than not it was Edwin Jarvis who was tending his wounds instead of an actual doctor. While she could appreciate the discretion, she was uncomfortable with the many secrets that seemed to weigh on her husband’s shoulders.
She had expected to have children early in their marriage, but when she failed to get pregnant after their first year together she went to the doctor. He said they just needed to keep trying. Not that she minded, Howard was as passionate and inventive about sex as he was about his work. She never doubted his love for her.
Margret ‘Peggy’ Carter had seemed like a threat to her relationship with Howard at first, but it soon became very clear that the woman, while a good friend, was not interested in her husband that way. Of course, Peggy had already been married and had her own children by the time Maria and Howard had met. If fact, her children were already heading to University by the time Maria finally became pregnant.
In her desperation to have a child, she agreed to fertility treatments. They weren’t pleasant, but she feared that Howard’s eyes might wander to someone younger if she failed to produce an heir. Maria was thirty years old when they finally conceived, which was terrifying. A late pregnancy could be dangerous for both mother and baby. She was kept on strict bed rest for her third trimester, which annoyed her but Howard was adamant that she follow the doctor’s advice.
Anthony Edward Stark was born in late May during a Spring thunderstorm. One week before Howard’s planned trip to the Arctic for that year. He was a bit small, but he had strong lungs, as his immediate crying attested to. Maria could not have been happier to find her little boy was healthy, especially after all the precautions they put in place.
That he would be smart was nearly a given, as Howard was a genius and Maria was in no ways lacking in intelligence. She had a Masters degree in accounting and an MBA from Wharton. However she had not expected her son to surpass her husband.
It had seemed like a wonderful thing when little Anthony came to her with the circuit board, wanting to show off what he had made. But it was in that moment, looking at the lights that blinked in three/four time, the time for the waltz, which she had recently taught him how to play on the piano, she felt very much afraid of what the future would hold for him.
She soon realized that she didn’t understand half of what came out of her little boy’s mouth. From the look she saw on her husband at times, it seemed he had the same problem. She tried to keep up, she really did. Engaging with Anthony in things that she thought might interest him, but he kept making these intuitive leaps that would leave her gaping in shock and floundering for something normal.
She found herself stepping back into her role as a socialite, holding parties and creating events for charities. It was something she understood better than the child she had birthed. It wasn’t like she meant to draw away from him, but what else could she do?
She had never thought that being a Stark would be dangerous, but then Anthony was kidnapped. He had been rescued within forty-eight hours, but it had been very much a stroke of luck that her little boy had been found at all. But then it happened again, and this time he got hurt, badly. A crushed pelvis, fractured spine, shattered left leg. They talked about amputation and a life confined to a wheel chair. Howard vanished from the house for nearly a day after the doctors had explained her son’s injuries. When he came back, he had kicked the doctors out and had wheeled Anthony’s hospital bed into his private lab and locked the door, not letting anyone in.
In desperation, she called Peggy Carter, begging her to help. The woman stormed into the house with Dr. Hank Pym and a young, tall black man in a plain business suit named Nickolaus Fury on her heals. They managed to get the door to the lab open, but it had taken hours.
She didn’t know what Howard did or how he did it, but the next time she saw her son, he was sleeping naturally, with no sign that he had even been injured. All she could do was sit next to his bed and cry in relief.
She didn’t pay any attention to what was said or who was yelling at whom, because Anthony was alright and that was all that mattered. When he opened his eyes and asked what was wrong, she swore she wouldn’t waste the second chance that she had been given. That she would be a better mother to her son.
The reality of it was that no matter how much she believed she could change her ways, she started to backslide in her behavior toward her son almost immediately. Her only major effort was to make sure that he had a proper group of self defense teachers rather than that brutish boxing coach that Howard had found. Peggy had been instrumental in those efforts. Otherwise it was still the same, he was too smart for her. She didn’t understand what he was doing or writing in his journals or even what he was saying half the time. She would just nod and smile, give him a hug or a kiss on his cheek to encourage him.
She had hoped that sending young Anthony to a private school would make it easier on him, but it seemed that there was no getting past the fact that he was at once very young but also very much the product of his upbringing. He clashed with the first school almost immediately and it was only through tough and frank discussions with the staff that things seemed to calm down. Until the science paper debacle, where Anthony retaliated and vandalized the school. Maria didn’t know that something that small not made of actual explosives could do that much damage.
Due to the circumstances of his expulsion,which Anthony insisted on calling ‘a mutually agreed upon parting of the ways’. This time she made the effort to go with Anthony to meet with the administration.
The second private school was far enough away from home that she decided that it would be better if she went with him. They bought a modest six thousand foot mansion ten miles from the school with a privacy fence and a private stable where Maria brought her favorite horses.
Unlike the first school, this was not a boarding school. Maria was up to see her boy off to school every morning and was waiting for him to return every afternoon. It appeared that things were going well, so far, three months into his new school and nothing major had happened.
Tony liked the new school, living in the smaller house in Maryland. It was nice to be able to sleep in his own bed and be driven to school every day. The school was a good one, though he still had a tendency to brake the grade curve and piss people off. He was beginning to learn that a bright, disarming smile and a dash of dramatic flare could smooth ruffled feathers faster than being headstrong and visibly stubborn.
Unfortunately, no matter if he were stubborn or disarming, he still proved that he was the smartest person at the school and that got him attention no matter if he wanted it or not. Tiberius Stone was four years older than him and twice his body mass. He was smart, considered himself to be cleaver, but lacked the drive to do things himself. He liked to bully the younger kids, but Tony refused to be cowed.
Tony had done his best to stay off the older boy’s radar, but it was a losing battle. When the kid would actively troll the halls looking for kids to intimidate. The day after mid-term grades were posted, with Tony at the head of his classes honor roll. That was apparently one step too far when it came to status.
He was heading for the stairs that would take him down to his history class. Something he still found terribly boring, but he understood the need. Civics was more interesting, because it explained how the government worked and why participation in the system, even if it was just voting every year, was important.
Tony sensed the approach of someone from behind him. Strong hands pushed him toward the stairs, forcing him to drop his books in order to catch himself on the railing. He turned to confront his attacker and his stomach dropped when he saw Ty and his little posse of miscreants.
“What is your problem, Ty?”
“My problem is you, Stark,” Ty replied. “You think you’re better than us. Making us all look bad.”
“I’m not doing anything to you,” he said. “I’m just doing my school work. It’s not my fault your work ethic sucks.” He set himself into a defensive stance and waited to see what the boy and his three friends would do.
“What’s this?” Stone laughed. “You think you know how to fight?” His hangers on laughed along with him. Tony had never bothered to learn their names. They were Pimple-face, Buzz cut, and Cromagnon to him.
“I don’t want to fight you,” Tony said, breathing hard from the realization that he could have been killed if he had fallen. “But I will.”
Stone came after him trying to use his superior height to his advantage, not knowing that Tony had been training against taller opponents ever since he started self defense. Stone’s buddies joined in, when it became apparent that their leader wasn’t able to get past Tony’s defense. Things started to blur for Tony as he focused on blocking, punching, and kicking. He was aware and in the moment, but hyper-focused on his immediate surroundings.
In less than a five minutes, barely time enough for the other students to realize what was happening. He had Pimp-face on the ground, with Cromagnon favoring his side. A crowd started to gather, some cheering others shouting for the teachers to come help.
Ty charged at him throwing wild punches that Tony blocked and countered with sharp jabs with pointed fingers into the soft tissue of the boy’s side. Buzz cut tried to tackle him and he switched his stance rolling with the boy’s momentum and breaking his hold with a solid kick to his knee as he came back to his feet.
Ty grabbed him from behind and Tony flipped him over his back, not letting go of his arm, he kicked with intent. There was a sharp crack that was heard over the crowd followed by a stunned silence. Tony had Stone’s entire gang on the ground, the older boy writhing in pain. Tony’s foot firmly planted on his left biceps.
“My arm,” Stone cried. “Little freak broke my arm!” Teachers arrive, kids scramble, disappearing, or claiming not to have seen anything.
“What happened?” the school security guard demanded.
“They attacked me,” Tony replied, finally letting Ty’s arm go. “They tried to push me down the stairs and then they attacked me.”
“Did not,” Ty moaned. “Little freak attacked us.”
“Don’t compound the problem with lies, Tiberius,” the guard said. “I know you too well.” He got on his radio and called for the school nurse. The teachers with him helped assess everyone’s injuries. The students watched with wary eyes as Tony gave his statement.
“I was under the impression that bullying would not be tolerated in this school,” Tony said as the assistant principle appeared on the scene. “I have yet to see these this administration do anything to stop Ty from treating the student body as his own personal hunting ground.”
“Mr. Stark, I think we should take this to my office,” he said.
“Fine,” Tony replied. “But I want my mother called as soon as we get there and I am not speaking to you without her there.”
The administrators were stymied by two facts. One; Tiberius Stone was a known bully but his parents are on the School Board, three generations of Stones have passed through their halls. The Stone family contributed a lot of money to the school and had for years. Two; Anthony Stark is an unknown quantity, transfered into the school after an ‘incident’ involving a member of his previous school’s staff. The Stark family has a hell of a lot more money and political influence than any family that was currently enrolled in their school. Howard Stark gave a generous donation as a way to speed up his son’s enrollment.
In the end, they choose to do nothing, hoping things would die down, instead things escalated. Ty Stone’s groupies retaliated a few days later, locking Tony in the athletic departments equipment closet overnight. He had fought back of course, none of them escaping unscathed. They tried to say it was his fault, that he had started the fight.
Tony in turn set a virus loose in the computer lab, it was designed to search and destroy the work of the people bullying him and only them. Crucial mid-term projects were reduced to scrambled ones and zeros overnight.
After that, Tony demanded that he be allowed to test out of high school. Reluctantly his parents agreed to let him try. At the age of thirteen, Tony Stark was the youngest person to enroll in and be accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Through all of this Tony just wanted to make his father proud. He wrote to him weekly. Desperately homesick for the big mansion and wanting to at least know that the people most important in his life were missing him as well. His mother would always explain that his father was a busy man that he didn’t have time to sit and write back or call the way he should. Disappointment became anger, but the anger slowly faded into disinterest. Why should he give a damn what his father thought of him, if his father clearly didn’t give a damn about him?
The problem was that he always stood in the shadow of his father, everything he did or said in school was seen through the filter of his father’s accomplishments. Great things were expected of him, but he was never allowed to just be Tony.
Anthony Edward Stark attending a prestigious college like MIT seemed a forgone conclusion, the fact that he was beginning his first year of study at the age of fourteen, that made headlines.
“Well, well, well, what have w- agh!” an unknown voice came up from behind Tony as he was coming out of the gym. He barely registered the words and the heavy hand that clamped painfully down on his shoulder. Tony’s reflexes and training kicked in automatically. He turned to face the attack, and pushed the hand away while, in the same motion punched the much taller man in the solar plexus and kicked the man’s left knee forcing him to fall.
“Don’t touch me,” Tony said calmly, in full fighting stance. He recognized the man on the floor as someone from SI.
“Tony! What the hell?!” Tony snapped out of his stance when he heard his father.
“He attacked me!” Tony replied, pointing at the unknown man.
“And exactly why would he do that?” Howard demanded.
“I don’t know. He grabbed my shoulder from behind,” Tony said, not backing down. “It hurt, I defended myself.”
“I spent a lot of money on those lessons,” Howard said. “But you can kiss them goodbye if you’re going to attack people for just touching you. Ready, fire, aim is not how you’re supposed to do things.”
“No one has the right to touch me without my permission,” Tony stated. “Especially some asshole I’ve never met. It’s called body autonomy, something I wouldn’t expect you to understand at all.”
“Where did you hear a line of bullshit like that?” Howard demanded.
“Aunt Peggy,” Tony replied, eyes narrowing with anger.
“Your aunt is a bra burning feminist with an ax to grind,” Howard retorted. “Of course she would say something like that.”
“It’s my fault, Howard,” said the man on the floor. He was chuckling like he thought the whole thing was a big joke. “I startled your boy here.” He picked himself up off the floor and dusted himself off. The man was tall, over six feet, with a floppy mop of dirty blond hair and the beginnings of a full beard. He smelled of cigars and Scotch.
“I’m sorry Obadiah,” Howard said. “He’s grounded for the next week.”
“For what?!” Tony demanded. “I defended myself. You have no right!”
“You attacked my business associate and you’re being belligerent, Tony,” Howard replied tightly. “Now go to your room. I’ll deal with you later.”
“That isn’t necessary, Howard,” the man, Obadiah, said. He turned and offered his hand to Tony. “Obadiah Stane, I’m the new COO of your father’s company.”
“Chief Operations Officer?” Tony narrowed his eyes at the man before shaking his hand. “He was head of R&D last year wasn’t he?”
“You remember me?” Obadiah asked, seemingly pleased.
“Yes, you’ve been at the holiday party the last five years,” Tony replied. “But that doesn’t give you the right to touch me.”
“Right,” Obadiah smiled indulgently. “Smart kid.”
“Obadiah has proven himself to be invaluable,” Howard explained. “So you’ll be seeing him a here more often.”
“Good luck with the new position,” Tony said sincerely. “The last one was fired for incompetence and embezzlement, so a lot of people are going to be watching you.”
“Tony,” Howard said with a warning growl.
“I’m going,” Tony grabbed his towel from where he had dropped it. wrapped it around his neck and headed to his room. He turned the corner and stopped in order to eaves drop on the old men’s conversation.
“Again, sorry,” Howard said. “I hope this doesn’t give you second thoughts.”
“Seriously, Howard,” Obadiah said. “It was my fault. I grabbed his shoulder, wanting to introduce myself. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“You say that now,” Howard said. “Talk to me later when the bruises come out.”
“Caught you too?” Obadiah asked.
“It’s my own fault for getting him trained in self defense,” Howard replied. “There have been a few instances where his safety was put at risk.”
“Kidnapping attempts,” Howard admitted. “Assaults at school, things like that.”
“I’m surprised you aren’t home schooling him,” the other man commented.
“He’s tested out already,” Howard said. “He’s going to MIT in the fall.”
“You’re kidding,” Obadiah gasped. “How old is he?”
“He’ll be fourteen in a month or so,” Howard replied. “I’m making arrangements at the college for him to have separate housing.”
“Damn. He’ll be running the company by the time he’s eighteen.”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Howard replied. “I plan to keep control until I’m old and gray.”
“A little late to say something like that, Q-Tip,” Obadiah joked. Their voices faded as they walked down the hallway.
“I’ll have you know that each one of these gray hairs was caused by that brat you just met,” Howard replied. “Don’t ever have kids Obie, they’re more trouble than they’re worth.”
Tony stopped listening then, there was only so many times he could hear about what a burden he was. He often wondered why his father had even bother to have a child if this was his how he felt about them.
End Part 4