Box of Memories
By Elizabeth Bathory
It was always said that Tony Stark was not nostalgic. He supposedly only had to have the newest and greatest and anything old was almost diseased to him. Tony Stark was not nostalgic but Pepper Potts knew differently. If he wasn't nostalgic, why would he never finish that he and his father built together? If he wasn't nostalgic, why did he keep the Mark I chest piece that Pepper had remounted into the frame 'Proof that Tony Stark has a Heart' even after it has been exhausted after the battle with Obadiah? If he wasn't nostalgic, why would the photo albums on his computer be filled with thousands of pictures that were not publicity shots? The truth was that Tony was nostalgic about certain things but would never admit it to anyone and took great lengths to hide it.
While Tony was away playing superhero again, Pepper had gone to his office for her semi-regular organization day of his desk. If she didn't do this on occasion, his desk at work would look like the one in the garage – the victim of Hurricane Anthony. The desk actually wasn't that bad this time for the most part since Tony had not spent a great deal of time in his office lately. Being Iron Man can keep you busy. Since the desk didn't take as long as she suspected, Pepper eyed the closet door. She hadn't organized that in a while and was almost fearful of what she would find. Feeling a bit daring and a bit brave, she opened the door. Most things were not too disheveled but one thing stuck out and it was something she had not noticed before. A rather old and tattered Xerox box was shoved on to the shelf. It was unmarked and held together with duct tape. Curiosity got the better of Pepper and she pulled it down and set it on the couch in Tony's office.
Pepper peeled off the tape that held the lid on and pushed the broken piece of cardboard off to the side, revealing a veritable treasure trove inside. The box was filled with various sorts of memorabilia – baby pictures, cards, and toys, newspaper clippings – all of which had something to deal with either Tony or his parents. "So this is where he hid a bit of his past?" Pepper thought to herself as she started to go through the box. There was so much that she was curious to know the back story to but there were not many who could or who would be willing to tell her. There was at least one though – Tony's secretary that had worked for his father.
"Mary? Could you come in here for a moment please?" Pepper asked as she held the door open for her.
"Of course, Pepper. Is there something you need?" Mary started before stopping when she saw the open box. "I haven't seen most of these things in years. Where did you get them?"
"Tony had them in his closet. I was wondering if you could tell me about some of the things in here since you have known Tony the longest."
"His old butler knew more than me but I can see what I can do," Mary admitted as she started sifting through the box, smiling at all the pictures and fond memories of days gone by. "He was such a cute baby. I remember when Maria brought Tony in for the first time. He was six weeks old and all the girls in the secretarial pool couldn't stop playing with him. Needless to say we didn't get much done that day," Mary explained as she took out a large scrapbook that was Tony's baby book and set it aside.
"Is that Tony's baby book?" Pepper asked as she noticed the scrap book all decked out in red and blue cars with Anthony Edward Stark – April 4, 1973 written across the top in a distinctly feminine handwriting.
"It most definitely is. I helped Maria make it myself." Mary said happily but then her tone shifted to one that was a little sadder. "Tony was supposed to be the first of many children but given that Howard was already over fifty when Tony was born, he became an only child. Maria, who was twenty years younger than Howard, wanted at least three but it wasn't meant to be."
"I'll have to look through this at some point in time," Pepper mused as she grabbed a toy robot. It was about a foot tall and gray with brightly colored lights and buttons. It also appeared to have been rebuilt a few times. "This seems to scream Tony." Pepper said as she held out the robot for Mary to see.
"And I remember the day when he brought it here. I think this little robot was the cause of a few firings that day. It was back when Tony was four years old…"
It was a warm spring day in Southern California and the sun was sparkling off the buildings of Stark Industries as the limousine drove up with Maria Stark and Tony. Her husband, the CEO and founder of Stark Industries, Howard Stark had gone west to check on the factories instead of dealing with the investors in New York. California meant only that Maria had to spend the massive amount of time that she could not spend with her beloved husband in Beverly Hills instead of Fifth Avenue. She made excuses nearly every day to go visit him at work, even though she didn't need to.
The limo pulled to a stop right in front of the door to the main building and a young brunette in a lavender princess line dress that fell just above her knees stepped out with a little boy in a baseball shirt and blue jeans carrying a small toy robot following right behind her.
"Good morning, Mrs. Stark." The receptionist said with a friendly smile as Maria walked in.
"Good morning Angie. Could you please buzz Mary and tell her we are on our way up."
"I will do that right away, Mrs. Stark," Angie stated before she looked down. "Good morning Anthony."
"Tony," Tony immediately corrected her, which got him a warning look from his mother.
"My apologies, Tony." Angie said as she reached into the small candy bowl on her counter. "Do you want one Tony?"
Tony eagerly held out his hand. "Thank you," he said quickly when Angie placed the candy in his small hands.
"You're welcome." Angie stated. "Mrs. Stark, Mary will be waiting for you upstairs. Have a good day."
"You as well, Angie. Let's go Anthony. Time to go visit Daddy." Maria said with a smile as he took Tony's hand and let him up to Howard's office.
The elevator stopped on the top floor and Tony ran out of the doors into his father's office.
"Good morning Anthony," Mary said with a smile as she caught the speeding four year old.
"Tony," Tony corrected again as he started to pick through Mary's desk.
"I'm sorry. Good morning Mrs. Stark," Mary stated with a smile. "I see he is trying to assert his independence."
"Yes, my husband started calling him Tony and it stuck so now he wants everyone to do it." Maria explained. "Is my husband available?"
"Yes Mrs. Stark. He is in his office."
"Thank you, Mary. Anthony, go tell Daddy we're here." Maria told Tony.
This Tony knew what to do. Stand on tiptoe to open the door and then run in as fast as he could, hoping to land on his father's lap.
When the door burst open and his son came running in at full speed, Howard Stark seemed to lose ten years off of his face and braced himself for impact. He opened his arms and caught the flying Tony just in time.
"Now, you are a good surprise for today," Howard said as he hugged Tony before setting him back on the floor as Maria walked in. "And the light of my life. How are you?" he said as he gave Maria a kiss.
"He did it again, Howard." Maria sighed as she returned her husband's kiss and then took a seat on the couch and called Tony over.
"What did he do again?" Howard asked, eyeing Tony who was playing with his robot.
"He took that robot apart again." Maria stated as she pointed to the robot that Tony was playing with.
"It looks like it's in one piece to me." Howard said quizzically.
"Anthony put it back together as well but it doesn't work the same now." Maria stated.
"I'll fix it later on."
"It doesn't need fixing. I fixed it." Tony said proudly as he showed his father the robot.
"How did you fix it Tony?" Howard asked as he took the toy from his son's hands.
"I gave it upgrades," Tony said proudly as he reached to grab his robot and show off what he did. "Watch. It goes faster. It does flips and spins and brings things." He explained as he let the robot run over his father's desk and then fall off the edge. The robot would have hit the floor and possibly shattered if it had not been for Howard's quick catch.
"Tony, do you want to go see the big robots and give Mom a break for a bit?" Howard asked as he hoisted Tony up from the floor into his arms.
Tony was practically bouncing with excitement as Maria sighed with relief. She could chat with Mary for a bit while the boys played.
Howard took Tony back down the elevator to the factory floor and set him down to explore as soon as they stopped.
"Stay where I can see you, Tony." Howard warned as Tony gazed awestruck at all the machines working.
Howard was trying to follow his curious four year old but several employees stopped him to talk to him and he soon lost track of Tony. He excused himself from the foreman he was talking with and start looking when he heard a loud crash, a siren going off, someone screaming and Tony crying. Howard ran over to the direction of the chaos and found Tony on the floor, scared and tears rolling down his cheeks, a mechanical arm on the floor and a section chief screaming at Tony.
"What the hell is going on here?" Howard roared as he picked up his crying son.
"Your son threw his toy under the machine and then tried to get it, knocking the arm over as he did." The worker spat.
"I didn't throw it. My robot fell. I didn't make the arm fall down. He knocked into it when he grabbed my arm." Tony said through sobs.
"Sir, that is a lie. Who are you going to believe – me or your son?"
"I am going to believe my four year old son," Howard stated as Tony buried his head in his father's neck, hiccupping as he tried to stop crying. "And you're fired. Get out of my sight." He said coldly before picking up Tony's robot and heading back upstairs.
Upon getting back to his office, Maria met Howard at the door, having heard what happened through someone calling Mary, and took Tony into her arms to comfort her baby boy. Tony was still sniffling as Maria took a seat on the couch and wrapped his blanket around him, rocking him gently to soothe him.
"What happened Howard?"
"An idiot happened and then tried to blame Tony for his stupidity." Howard stated as he reclined back in his chair and set Tony's robot on his desk. He then really looked at the robot and the 'upgrades' Tony made to it. He had replaced the straight wheels with ones on spinning rigs and added springs to the back of the feet. He also made the hands open and close. "Maybe Tony should make the repairs to the machine that the idiot broke. Did you actually look at what he did? This is good. I mean really good." Howard stated, clearly impressed.
"You know I get nervous when he takes things apart. Don't you remember the toaster incident?" Maria stated as she noted Tony was falling asleep.
"Yes, I remember the toaster incident," Howard deadpanned. "He just took that apart because he wanted to see how it worked. This, he made better."
"Howard, Anthony almost set fire to the kitchen when he took apart the toaster."
"I stopped him before that happened. Tony wasn't even hurt with it."
"That is not the point. I don't want him hurt when one of his little science projects goes awry."
"He's a tough little kid. He can deal with quite a bit."
"Then why was he crying when you came up?"
"Because the idiot I just fired grabbed his arm and yelled at him."
"Sometimes I think this place is more dangerous than New York." Maria sighed.
"And yet, Tony becomes a sand demon whenever we're here," Howard mused and then the idea struck him. "I'll take the weekend off and we'll all head to the beach. I promise."
"I am holding you to that, Howard. You say ocean in front of Anthony and he won't stop bugging me until you take him."
"I promised, didn't I?"
"He did keep his promise," Mary stated to Pepper as she put the robot aside. "The man built weapons for a living but Maria could put Howard Stark in his place real quick."
"Did this little robot cause any more problems?" Pepper asked.
"Not that day…"