Know Your Value
Characters: Edwin Jarvis, Ana Jarvis, Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, Maria Stark, Tony Stark, Daniel Sousa, Steve Rogers
Mentioned: Whitney Frost, Jason Wilkes, Rose Roberts, Aloysius Samberly, Joseph Rogers, Michael Carter, Bruce Banner, Loki Odinson, Natasha Romanoff, Nick Fury, Pepper Potts, Jack Thompson
When Edwin Jarvis first learned that his wife would never be able to have children, he had been devastated. He couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve this. What Ana had done to deserve this. She was never supposed to be injured at the hands of Whitney Frost. She was never supposed to be injured at all.
He only realized it was his own fault as he followed Peggy through the desert. The woman’s words hit him like a truck. He had almost lost the woman he loved because of his actions. Then, he thought it would make it better if he got revenge. Even if he died in the process. For years, he thought he would never forgive himself, but that forgiveness came when he learned that Howard’s wife, Maria, was pregnant.
As much as Edwin loved his friend, he knew that Howard wasn’t the fatherly type. He was rambunctious, inappropriate, and a bit crude at times. And he was a busy man. Especially now, with Stark Industries having reached its peak. He knew that this poor child would never have the father figure that he deserved. So he promised himself that he would do whatever he could to help this child once he was born.
Edwin and Ana didn’t meet Tony until the day that Howard and Maria brought him home, but they immediately fell in love with him. Ana had took him carefully and held him close to her chest, rocking him back and forth and humming a Hungarian lullaby. If it were possible, Edwin believed he fell in love with her all over again in that moment.
As he had expected, Edwin and Ana helped a lot with raising the boy. They could see early on that he didn’t have a good relationship with his father. While he and his mother were closer, Maria Stark was a busy woman and often had to leave him in their care. They never minded, of course, but it seemed to take a toll on Tony. Especially as he got older and was able to understand exactly what his life was.
But there was something special about the boy. They all knew he was smart. To be the son of Howard Stark, one would have to be a genius, but this was more than that. This child was on a whole other level.
“What are you working on?” Edwin asked as he walked into the common area. Tony, ten years old at this point, was sitting on the carpet with parts spread out around him. He didn’t look up as Edwin spoke, but did acknowledge his presence with a nod.
“Hey, Jarvis,” he started, focusing on his project. “I’m trying to… Get this… Woah!”
The boy pulled his head back as a bolt went flying through the air, landing a few inches away. He grinned and looked up at Edwin. “I found this old radio set in the garage and was trying to fix it, but it’s pretty rusty. I’m not sure I can get it to work.”
“Right, I—” Edwin was interrupted by the sound of a doorbell. Confused, he looked up. “I wonder who that might be.”
Edwin started towards the door, hearing footsteps behind him as Tony followed. He was surprised when he opened the door and saw a familiar face. “Hello, Mr. Jarvis. Sorry to arrive unannounced.”
“Why, Mrs. Carter,” Edwin replied, stepping to the side. “Come in, come in. It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?”
“Indeed,” Peggy replied, dropping her bags at her feet. “I would have called, but I feared you might be busy. Daniel and I need a place to stay for a couple of weeks. You don’t suppose Howard would mind us crashing here?”
“Oh, not at all,” Edwin told her. “He will be glad to see you.”
Peggy smiled before her gaze lowered to look at Tony, who was watching her with a confused expression. “You must be Anthony,” she started, crouching down and holding out a hand to shake his. “You’ve grown since I saw you last.”
Tony hesitantly took the woman’s hand and gave it a small shake. “Don’t call me Anthony,” he told her.
“My apologies,” Peggy said quickly. “What would you like me to call you then?”
“Tony,” he said simply, taking his hand away. Edwin was a bit surprised by the stiff movements the boy was making. It was as if he didn’t want to see Peggy. He supposed that he would not remember the woman, it having been several years since they relocated to Malibu, but it was unlike him to be so detached.
“Well hello, Tony,” Peggy replied. “My name is Margaret, but you can call me Peggy. I’m a friend of your father’s.”
“I know,” he said harshly before turning to Edwin. “I’m going to work on my radio now.”
Before Edwin could stop him, Tony was already returning to his spot on the carpet. The man was going to apologize before he saw Daniel struggling to carry a bag in. “Oh, let me get that for you, Mr. Sousa.” He took the bag from the crutched man and nestled it in the corner to move later. “Come, we have a lot to catch up on.”
Peggy was perplexed by the way Howard’s child reacted to seeing her. The boy seemed to want nothing to do with her, trying to avoid her in any way he could. It confused her, honestly, and worried her a bit.
“Are you sure about this, Peggy?” Ana asked. “I can stay with him. I don’t mind.”
“It’s not a problem, Ana,” Peggy assured her, holding her friend close in a hug. “You and Mr. Jarvis deserve a break.”
“Oh, thanks, Peg,” Ana said, smiling a bit before pulling away.
The moment Edwin and Ana left, Peggy turned to look around the building. It had been years since she had been here, but it still felt like home to her. She was beyond grateful when Howard and Maria agreed that it was completely fine for her and Daniel to stay as long as they needed.
It felt like old times again. Especially when Howard had proposed that they invite Jason and Rose and Aloysius over for dinner one evening in the near future. It just felt right.
But a lot had changed over the years. Her and Daniel were married now. They had two children together; a twenty-four year old daughter and a twenty-one year old son. Rose and Aloysius were married, but they didn’t have any kids. They did have a cat, however. Jason never got married, but he was one of the top scientists at Stark Industries now.
Then there was Howard. Peggy never imagined Howard settling down. The whole time she knew him, he had bounced from woman to woman. There were only a select few he saw as more than a toy. But he had changed when he met Maria. They ended up married a few years later, and then they had Tony.
“Right. Where is that rascal?” Peggy asked herself, starting her search. She found the boy in the garage, searching through a box. “Hello.”
“Hi,” he said dryly, not looking up.
“I was wondering if you might like to watch a film with me,” she started, trying to not let the boy’s tone phase her.
“I’m busy,” Tony said, continuing to search through his box.
Peggy contemplated for a moment, trying to figure out how to hand him. She started forward and crouched down, reaching to hold the flap of the box. “Maybe I could help.”
Tony glared up at her with a mixture of emotions in his eyes. “Can’t you get the hint and leave me alone?!” he snapped, pulling the box away from her. “I don’t want your help.”
Part of Peggy thought it might be wise to leave Tony be. She could always try to talk to him later, but she knew that it would be harder to get him to open up when there were others around. She had interrogated enough people in her life to know that. So, she instead put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He flinched noticeably, but didn’t swing at her like she expected him to. “Is there a reason that you are acting this way?”
“Acting what way?” he muttered, refusing to look at her. “I just want you to leave me alone.”
“How come?” she asked. “I only want to help. I would like to get to know you, and I know this is not how you normally act. I asked Mr. Jarvis and he said that you’re usually an extreme good kid.”
Tony was quiet, looking down into the book. He looked like he wanted to say something, but no words came. Carefully, Peggy continued.
“You won’t hurt my feelings if you tell me what’s wrong, Tony,” she told him. “I can see you don’t like me, and that’s okay. But I would like to know why so I might be able to fix that.”
Finally, Tony looked up at her. “My father cares about you more than he cares about me,” the boy told her, his voice wavering slightly. “He talks about you all the time. You and Captain America. Every. Single. Day.”
Peggy felt her heart break for the child. She could easily see how upset he was by the fact. That’s something a child his age should never have to worry about; his parents loving someone else more than they loved them. It wasn’t fair. “I had no idea,” she told him. “I greatly apologize.”
Tony held her gaze for a moment before he sighed, his shoulders drooping. “I guess it’s not really your fault,” he admitted. He opened his mouth to speak again but quickly shut it, looking back down at the box.
“I suppose you want me to leave you alone now,” Peggy started after a few beats of silence. “I apologize for upsetting you.”
Peggy stood and started to turn away. She knew that she would need to talk to Daniel about finding someplace else to stay. She didn’t want to make this child miserable, and she didn’t see any way that she could turn things around. He had a good reason for disliking her, and frankly, she wanted to punch Howard for it. Because he had made his own child feel like there was someone more important than him.
Peggy stopped and looked over her shoulder. Tony had stopped looking through the box and was standing up. He looked hesitant, but finally met her gaze. “Yes, Tony?”
Tony shuffled his feet as he replied. “A movie… A movie sounds nice,” he told her. “If… If you still want to watch one.”
Peggy smiled and nodded. “That sounds splendid,” she replied, feeling her heart melt at the way his eyes brightened. A smile formed on his lips and he hurried after her. Maybe she could turn this around.
Howard held his cheek, rubbing it gently. He had been punched by Peggy Carter before, more than once, but this time he had no idea what he had done to deserve it. “What was that for?”
“Do you care to explain why your child believes you care more about me than you care about him?” Peggy asked. Howard could see fire in her eyes as she spoke. She was furious with him.
“Peg, I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Howard huffed. “The kid is probably just looking for attention. You should just ignore him when he acts like that.”
“Ignore him?” Peggy questioned, following him as he moved to put his suitcase on the table. “Is that what you believe parenting is? Ignoring your child when he’s upset?”
“You know that’s not what I meant,” Howard said sharply, turning to face her once again. “I don’t ignore Tony. I’m busy. You understand that, right?”
“You’re supposed to make time for your children, Howard!” Peggy snapped, throwing her arms out. “They’re impressionable. Especially one as smart as yours. He’s going to remember this when he’s older and it’s not going to be good.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Howard asked. He was a bit offended by her criticism. It was unusually harsh for Peggy. “That I’m a bad parent?”
“If you can’t see that you’re hurting your son, then yes! Yes, it means that you’re a bad parent!” Peggy hissed at him. “Do you not realize how lucky you are to be able to be there for your son?”
“Peggy, you’re talking out of your head. Have you been drinking?” Howard asked lightly, trying to lighten her mood.
Peggy took his shirt in her fist. “Do you forget that Steve’s father died before he was born?” she asked. “Do you forget that my nephew grew up without his father because my brother died when he was f*cking five years old?”
“Do you forget that Ana cannot have her own children?” She pressed. “That her and Edwin would give so much to have a child, yet you act like yours doesn’t even exist!”
“Come on, Peg,” Howard started. “The kid doesn’t need me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she said, letting go of him. “To be a genius, you’re a bloody idiot. F*ck you, Howard!”
Howard watched as Peggy turned to leave. Before she slammed the door behind her, her gaze burned into him. “Steve would be so disappointed if he found that you idolize him. That you use the fact that you knew him to make your child feel inferior.”
Without another word, she was gone; leaving Howard to run his hands through his graying hair and try to comprehend what just happened.
“You’re leaving already?”
Peggy frowned as she heard the small voice behind her. When she turned, she found that Tony was standing there, giving her a sad look. She sighed and crouched down in front of him. “Is it because of me?” he asked. “I-I’m sorry, Mrs. Carter. I changed my mind.”
“Hey,” she said softly, putting a hand on his cheek. “This is not your fault, Tony.”
The boy was quiet, looking down at the ground. Peggy turned to Daniel and the man understood, limping away into the other room to give them some space. She took a breath and turned back to the child, giving him a small smile.
“You are so incredibly smart,” she told him. “I can see that just from being here a couple of weeks. You have a wonderful mind.”
Tony gave her a small smile but didn’t say anything. “I know that things aren’t perfect here,” she continued. “But I want you to promise me something. Can you do that for me?”
The boy nodded quickly without hesitation. “Y-yeah.”
“Good,” she replied. “I want you to promise me that you will do your best to do what’s right, no matter what the cost. With a brain as big as yours, you could change the world some day. I have no doubt that you will, but I want you to promise me that you won’t let that opportunity pass by when it comes to you.”
“Okay,” he breathed. “Okay, I promise.”
“Thank you,” she replied, pulling the boy close and kissing him on top of the head. “One more thing; know your value, Tony. Know what you’re worth and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. No matter who they are or what they’ve done. No one knows you better than yourself.”
“Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away and what are you?”
Tony wasn’t sure about Steve Rogers even before those words. He had spent his whole life hating this man. The man that his father had always cared about more than him. And then to hear him say that. To hear that he after all Tony had done, this man refused to call him a hero.
Yet here he was, standing in the elevator next to this same man. The man who was holding an opened watch, looking at the picture of the woman they were going to see. Why he had agreed to this, he had no idea. Why he had been the one, when Steve asked him if he knew Peggy; “her and your dad were really close;” he had been the one to say “sure, I still do.” He had actually laughed at the man’s reaction to finding out that she was still alive.
Now that they were here, in the same building as Peggy Carter, he felt like he was betraying her. That he was going against the promise that he had made to her decades ago. That he wouldn’t let anyone talk to him the way Steve had talked to him on the helicarrier.
It was only because of what Bruce had told him after the Battle of New York that he didn’t back out or even humiliate Steve in front of Peggy, telling her what the man had said to him. Because they were all being controlled that day. The stone in Loki’s Staff, the Mind Stone, had been influencing them. All of them. That’s why he and Steve were butting heads. That’s why Natasha tried to convince Fury to lock Bruce up. That’s why Bruce had picked up the staff without realizing it.
“I’m worried she won’t be happy to see me.” Steve’s voice pulled Tony from his thoughts.
“Right. About that,” Tony started. “She might not actually remember you. Not at first, at least. Never fails, she calls me Howard every time I step through that door. I have to remind her who I am. Never remind her he’s dead, but I think she figures it out.”
“She has Alzheimer’s?” Steve asked, a sad look crossing his face.
“Afraid so, Cap,” he replied, sticking his hands in his pockets before making his way out of the elevator. “But she’s a strong woman. It doesn’t bother her.” He paused outside Peggy’s door. “Let me go in first. Try to explain it to her so she doesn’t completely freak out, okay?”
“Okay,” Steve agreed, standing against the wall so he wouldn’t be seen when Tony opened the door.
Tony took a shaky breath and knocked before pushing the door open. He gave a small smile as Peggy turned to look at him. “Hey, Aunt Peg,” he started gently.
The woman’s eyes lit up. “Oh, Howard,” she started. “It’s good to see you.”
Tony tried to hide his annoyance as he moved closer. “No,” he reminded her softly. “It’s Tony. Remember?”
“Oh, yes,” she said with a small smile. “I apologize. You look so much like him.” She shifted in her bed and Tony moved to help her sit up. “You were on the news.”
“Yeah?” he asked, acting surprised. He glanced towards the door, wondering if she had seen Steve too or if had been an interview clip. Either way, she might not fully remember.
“Yes,” she said, lifting a hand up and placing it on his chest where a faint blue light was visible through his shirt. “It was you.”
Tony smiled and put his hand on hers, gently lowering it to her bed. “I brought someone with me that wants to see you,” he told her, speaking a little louder to make sure Steve heard him outside the door. “Is that alright, Aunt Peg?”
Peggy’s eyes flashed with confusion, but she nodded in reply. He closed his eyes and stepped back. “Capsicle?”
Steve stepped in, his hands clasped in front of him as he smiled at Peggy. He looked uncertain at first as Peggy searched his face, trying to recognize him. “Hey, Peggy,” he said quietly. “How’s my best girl?”
Tony could see the moment that Peggy recognizes Steve, and that’s when he decided to step out, leaning back against the wall and trying to collect himself. Part of him said that he should leave. That Steve would be done with him now that he had gotten what he wanted. He would be disappointed if he waited behind. But he stayed anyway, trying his best to not eavesdrop on the conversation that was happening inside. His phone dinged with a message from Pepper asking how everything was going, and at the same moment he went to respond, Steve stepped out of the room, slowly closing the door behind him.
The man stood there for a moment with his forehead pressed against the door. His eyes were closed, Tony noticed, and he was frowning. “I don’t like seeing her like this,” he breathed.
“Yeah, me either,” Tony admitted, standing up straight and pocketing his phone for now. Hesitant, he brought a hand up and patted Steve’s shoulder. “But she’s happy.”
Steve nodded. “Who is he?” He asked after a moment. At first Tony was confused, but then he realized the other man must have saw the pictures in her room.
“His name was Agent Daniel Sousa,” he told him. “A P.O.W. One you saved. He was injured in the war and went on to work for the SSR. She always said he was the first one to treat her as an equal. I met him a few times. Good guy, really.”
Steve nodded slowly, straightening up before facing Tony. “Thank you,” he started. “For bringing me here.”
“Yeah, don’t mention it,” Tony replied, putting his hands in his pockets again. “I should get back to the tower. Ms. Potts has some evening plans, I believe.”
“Right, right,” Steve nodded again. “I should… Um, Ms. Romanoff and I were going to train later.” He put a hand over his forehead. “I completely forgot.”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” he snorted, remembering his own experience sparring with the woman. “I guess I will see you the next time Fury gets in over his head.”
Tony turned and started towards the elevator before he heard Steve sigh. “Wait, Tony,” he started, causing him to look back. “What I said…”
“Is forgiven,” he finished for him, shrugging like it wasn’t a big deal. Like it hadn’t caused his thoughts to spiral every night since. “You’re not too bad, Old Man. You have a lot to learn, but you’re not too bad.”
He saw Steve roll his eyes, but he held a smile. He turned and continued towards the elevator. “Natasha’s single, by the way,” he called over his shoulder as he pushed the button.
“And there it is,” he heard Steve mutter. He smirked as the elevator dinged in front of him.
“I don’t need a congressional honor, I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval, or the President’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”