Characters: Tony Stark, Howard Stark, brief Edwin Jarvis
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, blood, sutures, impaled objects
Pairings: References to Howard/Maria and Jarvis/Anna
Word Count 3,021
Summary: Tony makes a stupid mistake on a project that results in an ER trip and proves that Stark genetics really do run deep.
Author's notes: Part two. Part one can be found here.
Howard was hoping his heart rate was going to drop back down soon because, at the moment, it was going so fast he felt like that day he'd drunk six cups of coffee over a two hour period and didn't sleep for twenty-four hours and Peggy threatened to kill him if he didn't stop talking. He knew that having your son nearly cut his own arm off was a perfectly legitimate reason to feel utter terror, but it wasn't really doing much to help the situation. The adrenaline had got him through the First Aid and trip to the hospital, now he needed it to relax so he could be calm and supportive. But he just kept going over what would have happened if Tony had been alone in the house, or he hadn't stopped the saw when he did, or if Howard had continued to ignore him when he'd asked for help.
Yeah, that last one was a bit sickening to think about and made him plenty guilty.
He should probably call Jarvis on the car phone and have him tell Maria what was happening. But it wasn't like she could do anything, and Howard would rather give the message of 'Tony hurt himself and is fine' than 'Tony hurt himself and has a saw blade stuck in his arm, but go ahead and sit through Act Two of the opera, I'm sure it'll all work out'. He flopped back and forth on it until he decided to call and put the onus on Jarvis to see what he thought was best to do. Jarvis was much better at making responsible parenting decisions than Howard was.
“Tony, I'm going to go away for a minute, but I'll be back,” Howard said.
Tony's head lolled toward him and he blinked, doped as hell on the pain medicine. “Can you get me a donut?”
“Uh, not sure that's a great idea, kid,” Howard said, suddenly reminded of Maria when Tony was born. She'd been hepped up on gas-and-air and really wanted a donut, too. “How about we wait until a little later?”
“You always say that, but we don't go,” Tony said, grumpily.
Sure, kid, add to the guilt. That was kind.
“Yeah, well, I'm not sure you deserve a treat today,” Howard said. “But we'll see.”
Howard had made it as far as going out to look for a payphone when he saw a doctor go into Tony's room and hurried back before he was able to call Jarvis. He didn't want anyone touching or looking at his kid without him there.
“Did you get me a donut?” Tony asked.
“Hello, I'm his father,” Howard said, to the doctor.
“Did you get me a donut?” Tony asked, louder.
“Julian Santiago,” the doctor said, offering a hand.
“Dad!” Tony said. “Did you get me a donut?”
“No, I do not have any donuts,” Howard said. “Shhh for a second.”
Tony pouted. Howard gave the doctor's hand a shake.
“Howard Stark. Nice to meet you,” Howard said. He saw a familiar look flicker over the doctor's face; the look people got when they'd met him before and he didn't remember. “--again, Dr. Santiago. Nice to meet you again.”
Santiago gave a laugh. “It's fine,” he said. “You meet a lot of people, I'm sure. We met at a Red Cross function, several years ago.”
Howard still had no clue. “Of course.”
“I'm not surprised if you don't remember,” Santiago said. “You were pretty enamored with the lady on your arm. No one was getting much attention if I recall. I believe she was this young man's mother.” He turned and smiled at Tony.
Howard decided not to say that, depending on how long ago it was, it was quite possible the girl on his arm was not Tony's mother. Howard being too lovestruck to pay attention sounded more like a date with Maria, though. He'd gotten a little gooey about her at the start. He was still pretty gooey about her.
“This is my son, Tony,” Howard said. “He's, uh, a little adventurous.”
“I can see that,” Santiago said. He pulled over a rolling stool and sat down next to the bed. “How are you feeling, Tony?”
“Great!” Tony said.
Santiago chuckled. “Good, can't ask for more than that.”
He gently took Tony's arm and started to unwrap the gauze. Howard's heart decided to take on a seventh-cup-of-coffee rhythm in response. Santiago spoke to a nurse he'd brought with him and held up the x-rays to the light.
“Hi, Dad,” Tony said, when Howard sat down on the opposite side of the bed.
“Hey, kid,” Howard said.
Tony reached out and poked at Howard's face. God, he was just like Maria when she was giving birth to him. She'd kept fondling Howard's mustache and purring. Howard flinched away as Tony went too close to his eyes and tried to encourage his hand to get back down to the bed.
“Stay put, kid,” he said.
“You stay put,” Tony replied, with a smug nod as though it were the height of wit.
“Deal,” Howard said.
Santiago put the x-rays aside and got close to the saw blade, checking it from all angles.
“Dad, there's a guy touching me,” Tony said.
“I know, it's fine,” Howard said. “He's gonna make you feel better.”
“I feel great,” Tony said. “Everything is great. We should build something. Let's do that, okay?”
“We'll have to wait a bit, but sure,” Howard said. “What do you want to build?”
Tony began to wax on about something that sounded like a dirigible out of a fantasy movie with no basis in reality whatsoever, but Howard played along and offered suggestions until they'd basically created a mystical floating pirate ship with laser cannons on it. The laser cannons weren't a bad idea, actually. He wondered if he could actually make some...
“All right,” Santiago said, pulling Howard out of his thoughts. “Tony, I've given your wound a good look here and I'm pretty confident you haven't hit anything vital, which is very lucky. I'm going to take the blade out of your arm, but I want to know if you think you can sit still for that or if you want me to put you to sleep?”
Tony blinked at him. “Like a dog?” he asked, worried.
“No, no,” Santiago said. “No, I'm sorry, I should have used different words. I mean give you some medicine to make you go to sleep. We'd take you up to the operating room and let you go to sleep for the surgery.”
Tony was now alarmed. “I don't want to have surgery,” he said. He looked to Howard, pleading. “Don't let them surge me. I'm okay.”
Howard wasn't too hot on the idea of surgery himself, but he wasn't going to let that override common sense if it was necessary. “If you don't put him under, can you take the blade out here?” he asked.
“Yes, I can,” Santiago said. “The OR would be so an anesthetist could monitor him. I'd rather have him awake, to be honest. It'll save us an OR and be much faster, and we don't like to do general anesthetic without reason. But if he's going to fidget, we can't risk taking it out while he's awake.”
Howard wished he'd called Maria because this was one of those parent decisions that he wasn't good at. These sorts of decisions made him have a knee-jerk reaction of 'no one touches my kid', instead of a more logical 'what would be the best for my kid?'.
“Do you think you can sit real still for a while, Tony?” Howard asked him.
“I just want a donut,” Tony said, with frustration.
“Okay,” Howard said. “If you can sit still while Dr. Santiago works, I'll get you a donut. Two, even.”
“Okay,” Tony said.
They agreed upon this as a course of action, and Howard assured Santiago that he was perfectly fine to sit there with Tony and wouldn't get squeamish about it. He was okay with blood.
“We're going to give you some twilight sedation, Tony,” Santiago said. “You won't go to sleep, but you might feel a little silly and you won't remember it later on. Is that okay?”
Tony looked to Howard, who gave him a nod, and agreed to have the sedation. Santiago and the nurse got themselves kitted up and administered the sedation into an IV.
“Whoa,” Tony said, his eyes going huge. “Whoa...”
“Okay, I'm going to say that's working,” Santiago said. He numbed up Tony's arm.
Tony's head lolled over to Howard, and he looked at him like he wasn't sure who he was. Then he gave him a smile and poked at his face again, pushing a finger into his cheek.
“Smile,” Tony ordered.
Howard smiled. Tony patted his nose and turned away from him to look over at the nurse handing Santiago what he needed, his hand slowly skimming down Howard's face and then dropping off to the bed with a thump.
“Hey, you're pretty,” Tony said to the nurse.
The nurse chuckled. “Thank you,” she said.
“Are you married?” Tony asked.
“Nope,” the nurse said.
“We should totally get married,” Tony said.
“I don't know, you seem a little young,” the nurse said.
“I'm almost fourteen,” Tony said.
“How about you call me when you're a little older and we'll see?” the nurse said.
“I'll need your phone number,” Tony said, with a waggle of his eyebrows.
That made everyone, including Howard, laugh. He always had a strange mix of pride and horror whenever Tony acted like a chip off the old block. On the one hand, passing genes and traits onto a child was a really fascinating experience. He liked picking out little bits of himself or Maria in Tony because they'd worked together to make a human and he was a strange kind of miracle of DNA and biology. When you thought about what it took to make a baby--sex aside--and the fact that there never had been or would be again another combination of genes that would make an Anthony Edward Stark, it was just almost overwhelmingly incredible. On the other hand, Howard had so many things he did not want Tony to get from him and felt responsible for passing on. He'd always found fatherhood a mixed bag.
“What did I tell you about distracting people with tools in their hands?” Howard said.
“Only if she's pretty,” Tony replied.
That might actually have been what he'd said. “Well, that backfired on me,” Howard said. “New addendum: no distracting anyone who is trying to pull a sharp object out of you.”
Tony made a face. “That's a stupid rule,” he said. “Your rules are stupid. You're stupid. Everyone is stupid.” He looked back at the nurse. “But not you, you're pretty. Like a pretty angel, with pretty hair. And I like your puffy blue hat.”
The nurse chuckled again. “Thanks,” she said. “But you're still not getting my number.”
Tony was distracted as Santiago started to work the blade out. “Look, Dad, you can see inside my arm,” he said. “That's totally cool.”
Howard didn't want to look inside Tony's arm. He was not a squeamish guy--he'd seen some things that no person should ever see and managed to keep from tossing his cookies over most of them--but it was different because it was Tony. He felt just a little bit sick about it. Maybe more than a little.
The blade made the most disgusting, wet, 'schick' noise and came loose, letting the wound bleed like crazy. Howard found himself on his feet like he was going to be able to stop it himself.
“It's okay, Mr Stark, we've got it under control,” Santiago said.
“Sorry,” Howard said, and sat down again.
“We're going to put a clotting polymer in there,” Santiago said, grabbing a clear mesh section with his tweezers. “I think you might have invented it, actually.”
“Huh,” Howard said. “Good for me.” He got a better look as Santiago tucked into the wound. “Oh, yeah. I remember. We made that to help the astronauts when we went to the moon, Tony.”
“You've never been to the moon,” Tony scoffed.
Howard chuckled. “You're not wrong,” he said. “I haven't. They wouldn't let me go.” He'd always been disappointed about that.
“Hey, Daddy,” Tony said, reaching out to tug his sleeve. “Tell me a story. But, like, a good one. Not a Steve Story. A good story.”
Howard couldn't remember the last time Tony had called him 'Daddy'. Not since he was about six.
“I don't know any stories, Tony,” he said.
“Yes, you do,” Tony insisted. “You know lots. You make everyone laugh at parties. Tell me one. I want to hear one. But not a Steve Story. Those are boring.”
Howard had been informed by Maria that he might have overused some of his 'Steve Stories' over the years. He'd never really noticed it. Maria said he defaulted to them like a reflex. He didn't notice that, either. He just wanted Tony to know about Steve, because he'd been a good guy and someone Tony could have looked up to, if he'd lived. A sort of uncle, maybe. Howard didn't have any siblings, and Steve had felt like a kind of brother. Maria had lost her brother in Korea and sometimes she'd get sad that he'd never meet Tony. That's how Howard felt about Steve. He would have liked Steve to meet Tony.
“Not a Steve Story, huh?” Howard said. “Okay...”
He cast his mind for a story that was appropriate, and not classified, and appropriate, and didn't have Steve in it, and appropriate. He settled on when Jarvis had got Ana out of Budapest and Howard had got him off the hanging charge. Tony had heard that plenty of times, it had been a Passover favorite, where Howard, Jarvis, and Ana had done a relay version of it, but Tony didn't get sick of it.
Tony settled in like when he was a kid and Howard had read him bedtime stories. It hadn't happened often. Howard didn't have the patience for books, not even children's ones. He didn't see the point to wasting time in fictional characters' lives when he had so much he could be doing in his own, real one. Maria could read forever; Howard got about two pages in and called it quits.
Tony's eyelids started to get heavy and he drifted off just after Howard had made to hiding Ana in his hotel room to keep the authorities from trying to detain or deport her while Jarvis was on trial. Once she was in the system, it would have been hard to get her out. Howard told a lot of lies to a lot of people who could have well put him up on charges of spying if he'd been caught. Damn, that had been fun.
“Is that a true story?” Santiago asked.
“Yeah,” Howard said.
“Wow,” Santiago said. “That's amazing.”
Howard shrugged. It was the sort of thing he did back then. He knew now it was stupid, but he'd been 40-odd-years younger then and didn't know better. Fuck, he'd probably still do it now, older and wiser be damned. You didn't let a decent, perfectly nice man like Edwin Jarvis get hanged for being a good guy or Ana Jarvis get sent back to her death because she had the gall to be born a Jew. Fuck the General. Howard still hated him, and he was pretty sure he'd been dead for at least twenty years.
Santiago got Tony sewn up nice and tidy. Eight stitches, but Tony hadn't lost too much blood. They were going to give him half a bag of fluid to be on the safe side, but the worst part was over. Tony was asleep with his mouth open, snoring on and off. Howard pushed back Tony's hair from his forehead. He looked young without any of the angry teenager he normally carried in his face when he was awake.
Howard went to call Jarvis.
“Oh, dear,” was Jarvis' polite response.
“Do you think we need to tell--”
“Okay, well, if you could do that then,” Howard said. “But make sure to emphasize the part where he's fine now and not dead or anything. The part where I didn't let him die.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis said. “I'm sure we'll be there shortly.”
Howard went back to Tony's room to prepare for battle with Maria. He undid his shirt cuffs and pushed up his sleeves, trying to relax now that it was all okay. He didn't have his jacket with him. Or shoes, actually. He looked down at his sock feet, which were sore from walking across the gravel on the drive. And his back was going to be killing him tomorrow after hauling Tony up the stairs. He was surprised he'd been able to do that. Adrenaline was a wonderful thing. No wonder you heard stories of mother's lifting cars off their children. Howard thought he could have done that without breaking a sweat. Not now, though. Now he just felt old again.
Tony stirred awake and blinked down at his arm. “Are my fingers gone?”
“No, they're right there,” Howard said, pointing.
Tony gave them a wiggle. “Good,” he said. “That would suck.” He flopped his head over to look at Howard. “Hey, we match.”
He pointed to a scar Howard had on his forearm, a little bit higher than where Tony had been hurt. Howard's ran vertical, instead of horizontal. He'd got it when he was...well, about fourteen actually. He done it with a box cutter, trying to build a motor. His mother had stitched him up on the board they put over the bathtub in the kitchen to use as a table. Tony really was a chip off the old block. Poor kid.
“High five,” Tony added, holding up his arm.
“No, we're not celebrating,” Howard said. “It's not an accomplishment.”
Tony held out his hand more insistently.
“Don't tell your mother,” Howard said and gave Tony's hand a gentle slap. “And for God's sake, don't try to match any of my other scars. One is more than enough.”