Steve was starting off on one of his stories again, with a ghostly smile on his lips. It had been a pretty tough mission, but then again, every mission they typically embarked on ended up being a close to death experience, so this one could almost be considered easy if they thought about it.
They conquered with just the usual cuts and bruises, and not a single broken bone. A new record.
Tony was pouring himself some whiskey, while the others found comfort in just sitting around the living room, listening to Steve as he recalled World War II, and his struggle to even get in.
Instead of his war stories, he was telling his pre-war stories, about him and Bucky courting two lovely young ladies who both couldn't give a damn about him, but he hadn't even said where to.
"Where did you take the two girls?" Natasha asked suddenly.
Steve paused, and his mouth turned into a smile at Tony, "That's the night I met your father, Howard, for the first time."
The story had fell from the brief conversation he'd been having with Banner on a much more serious level and all that SHIELD was preparing. Top-secret of course, though Tony was always one to break a few rules or at least bend them. No doubt they'd be trying to get Banner to jump on the band-wagon full of scientists sooner or later, and Tony wanted to be the first to fill him in on what he was missing for now.
They were to re-animate a dead man, and more specifically, they'd brought it up to Tony a couple of times that they'd like to see if they could possibly re-animate his father. Which had sent Tony into a sort of clammed up rage, resulting to passive agressiveness at Fury and his band of quirky-ass nerds, but he didn't exactly shut the entire idea down.
Dad would've been great to have back, if they could keep him out of the light, away from media, and basically stop him from ever seeing the light of day outside the Stark tower. But how could he convince his dad of doing all that? Never.
Besides, when had his father ever listen to him?
He told Banner all about the re-animation project, and then begun to open up a little about his concerns for the re-animation of his father and their suggestions for doing so. Tony refused to dish out any war project ideas, his dad would never side with Tony on the peace projects he was gallivanting around about and would be more than happy to create some heavy fire-powered guns or triple-explosive diameter-ing bombs.
At the point where he said the name, Howard, Steve had just so happened to hear the name, and suddenly went off on one of his pre-war story tangents.
Tony stiffened when Steve finally the words, 'your father, Howard..' and turned around from his stock of exclusive liquors and he begun to limp around to the bar stools on the other side of it. It would hurt too much to sit, so he leaned.
"It was the exposition of 1943, surely your father told you about-"
"Oh yeah…yeah…don't worry, Pops only talked about it every chance he could. The only detail he left out was everything about the night." He smiled a little, and this time though, it was genuine. Steve didn't mean harm by bringing up his drunken dead father, "..What I mean is…see, he didn't ever even talk about what he expo'd that night or anything, he explained to me the importance of that one night to his career and the industry and blah blah blah. It's great and all. Heartwarming story, I doubt you'd enjoy it though."
Steve's eyes shone with a new light, "Actually, I'll trade you. Give me your story, I'll give you mine. I'll hear what Howard said about it, and I'll tell you what he expo's. Win, win, right?"
Tony couldn't have shut Steve down, he wouldn't deny him. I mean honestly, he talked about how great of a guy he was and he kind honored him, how could he really deny him the story he easily knew by heart? Even though it left a bitter taste in his mouth, he would tell it. And besides, he really had always wondered what it was his Dad first ever expo'd. He could've looked it up at any time, honestly, but then the mystery would've been gone.
Now, he felt, maybe was the right time to know.
"Okay, deal. Dad always told the same story to me." He cleared his throat to bring on a slightly less enthusiastic and serious voice that was all about business, "Now, Tony, not only is it important to understand the present facts about Stark Industries and my future ideals for the industry, but also it's past.
In 1943, I presented the first Stark expo, but not the Stark expo, exactly. My expo was just one among hundreds. But we had to start somewhere, didn't we?
That changed our industry forever. That night was a success, and soon, I was inventing hundreds of new ideas in my head, writing them down, creating technology for my future and your future, and America's future. We were suddenly being begged to start creating new weaponry and defense mechanisms for the war, World War II that is. Without us, we may of never won the war, you know. Our company is often thanked for that. But there's something else."
Tony changed his voice back to normal, "This is where he'd start to whisper." He changed his voice again, back to his father's stoic tone, but now in a loud whisper, "We created hope for America. Captain America. Captain America was our best invention of all time, he was a success among failures. And to think, that if we'd never had that first expo, we wouldn't have Captain America because of lack of funding. The government was losing hope in our genius, son. So thank that first expo, and thank Captain America for the success of Stark Industries, and the success of America."
Tony changed his voice to normal again, "And this is where he started tearing up, but note, I never saw the bastard cry." Tony changed his voice, one last time, "Go get me a drink, son. Tell your Mother you need the cabinet key, she'll give it to you.."
That last part just slipped out, and Tony cleared his throat, giving a gruff laugh to cover it up and looked back to Steve who now seemed placid but blushing all the same and he smiled, "The night of the expo, I went with Bucky, originally."
Tony interrupted, "I didn't realize you were on that side of the fence."
Steve looked confused and then his eyes widened, "I'm not! I mean, I don't have a problem with men who are…uh…gay, but I'm not-"
"Calm down, I'm kidding."
"I didn't interrupt you, Stark. So, anyway, Bucky and I went as friends…" he glared at Tony, "…and he happened to have two girls with him. Of course, one of them pitied me enough to try and flatter me a couple times, but I knew it was nothing much more than a show when she was up Bucky's ass all night."
He smiled faintly at the memory.
"Well, anyway, we tooled around a little. It was all so amazing. From trains with sleek circular builds moving on tracks a thousand feet in the air, to phones without wires, we were all pretty amazed to see what the future could look like. But your dad's expo was the last one I saw that night. His expo just about gave the world a heart attack, it was in all the newspapers, and on all the radio stations after that night."
Steve watched Tony's eyes light up a little, was it pride? Or suspicion?
"He invented floating cars, you'd of never believed it if you saw it in our day. Hovercraft, he was calling it and it worked! For a minute. Then it kind of…fell, but he did say a few years in the future they would be available to us. But it was the start of something great. Oh, and I met your mother that night too."
"Mom, you met Mom?" Tony asked quietly, his voice hitched in his throat a little and Steve could see he hit a soft spot that time.
"Yeah, Maria, right? She was a real pretty gal. Your dad was real proud of her too, such a beauty."
Tony smiled a little, looking back down into his glass.
"Tony, whatever happened to your parents?"
It was silent, a clock ticked in the background, and Tony stood. Slightly baffled by the question, and then again, wondering how to answer it. There were many ways to answer it, but the best way to explain his parent's death was that it was under much speculation.
He smiled a little, "Nu uh uh, you little cheater. That wasn't in the deal."
Steve laughed, before faltering into sympathy, "I'm sorry if it's a sore spot for you Tony, it's just, as weird as it might be, Howard was…well, he was the reason I was able to become everything I dreamed of as a kid. He's the reason, I could prove to the world, I wasn't just some little kid on the streets. Your Dad is…well, he's my hero. I've been putting off asking you for sometime, but…I'm getting the idea that he…passed then? I mean, you talk about him in the past tense, after all."
"Oh yeah, Dad's dead. Been dead." Tony said bluntly, turning around to grab another bottle, reaching across the gap from the counter to the cabinet of liquor. He poured another glass and begun to down it. Steve looked on quietly, the others waiting patiently to hear what the rock-solid lab rat had to say.
The mood went from light-heartedness to years of pent-up sorrow in seconds.
"How about Maria?"
"Oh yeah, Mom, too."
"How did they…?"
Tony's phone rang and he was automatically thanking his lucky stars, though not for long, the phone call was a little too ominous for his likings.
It was Fury, "Hello? Stark her-"
"Stark? We need to talk. Now."
"What's going on?"
"I think it'd be best if you just came to the door. Right now, on the double, Stark."
The phone clicked and Tony looked up, his eyebrows down in concern as he fled from the living room at a light jog, and opened the door leading to a hallway and an elevator. There was Fury, and a pine box was positioned on a dolly, and Tony's heart sunk in his chest, his eyes widening, and he looked up to Fury.
"He'll be waking up any minute, Sta-"
"No! No, you-…You did it? N-No, you didn't do it to him."
Fury looked down, maybe guilty at first but then strong again and narrowed his one eye at him, "Sometimes, we have to do things we aren't exactly comfortable with and we just have to live with tha-"
"You brought my dead father back to life!"
He wheeled past him to the living room, and noticing the confused faces, Fury looked to Stark who had both hands on his forehead, "Wha-What'm I gonna say to 'im..?" He was slurring his words now in an anxiety attack.
"Are you drunk, Stark? Must I remind you that you are always on duty? You're an on-call superhero, get used to that."
"He's not drunk, he's nervous." Bruce corrected him, "What exactly is going on?"
Fury looked to him and then to Stark, who was now leaning heavily against the bar, his head in his hands and shaking viciously.
"It was the best plan for our needs, as you know, Hammer's not exactly in the business anymore and Stark resigned from making any war-related weaponry and-…"
"What is going on?" Bruce asked again, everyone now standing to view the pine box that eerily resembled a coffin.
"We…revived Howard Stark…"
There was silence, and Tony was suddenly struggling to catch his voice, and his first few words came out in soft squeaks, "Can't….Can't we just…." He was shaking harder and took a shot glass down quickly, filling it to the brim with vodka before downing it, "Don't open it, please? Okay? I'm asking nicely."
"We can't just leave him in there!" Fury reasoned.
"I don't want to see my dead father!"
"He's not exactly dead anymore. I mean, he won't be in just a few minutes here."
"Jarvis, keep vital scans going continually on…it…"
"Stark, let me open the God damn box."
"Look, haven't you done enough?" Steve defended him.
"I think this might be worse than murdering him." Barton murmured to Natasha.
Natasha forced back a smile, but it actually wasn't that hard, there was sickening feeling in her stomach from all of this.
Thor was looking around, extremely confused, "What is going on exactly?"
"Fury and his misfit gang has brought back to life the one and only, Mr. Stark, and I think I might be puking momentarily, Big Guy."
Fury lifted the lid with his bare hands, "It's not that bad."
"Yup, puking." Tony murmured as he looked at the wane face of his father, miraculously put together. The color drained from his own face and he proceeded to turn around to his mini-bar's sink, lowering his head in and gagging.
Bruce, having no emotional ties to the man, looked at with slight admiration, and slight disgust, and Tony, downing another shot to make up for puking up the last one, slowly came around to view him. "Oh God, I feel like I'm at his funeral all over again, where's the free booze? I have to re-stock my own, this isn't fair."
"He looks peaceful, and now your ruining that.." Steve murmured, putting a hand to his forehead, feeling slightly dizzy himself at seeing the dead Howard.
"He looks almost…alive…I knew the stem-cells would really do the trick.." Tony murmured, now appreciating his own science, as he viewed it just slightly closer, though there was still this hitch in his heart rate he couldn't slow.
And his eyes opened.
Tony screamed, stepping back and hitting the floor with a resounding thud as his father's mouth sucked in a quick breath, gasping for air as he pushed himself out of the box with quick and jerking movements.
"Don't panic, Mr. Stark, we're all just here as friends."
"Who are you people? What is this? Where's Maria?"
Tony stood quickly and looked at his father, who didn't even look much older than he was, maybe he was fifty-eight, and Tony was about to be hitting forty-seven.
His dad made eye contact with him, and his eyebrows lowered as Fury helped him stand, and suddenly he was full of shock and yet, blissful, peaceful, happiness.
"Yeah, Dad, it's me."
"Tony. I…I've been dead, haven't I?"
Tony smiled and nodded a little, putting a hand on his arm, "Yes, sir."
"Oh shit, we don't have time with formalities, right now, you can get back to them later." He ripped himself from Fury's iron grip and made his way across the room, holding him in an cradling sort-of-hug, and it would be the first time that anyone could ever say they saw a Stark cry.
What was more rare, was that everyone from then on could say they'd seen two Stark's cry at the same time.
Howard pulled away, holding his son away from himself, looking him up and down, "You're the spitting image of your mother, but I can see myself in you in there somewhere."
Tony smiled slightly but it didn't last, because suddenly, his father had his hand on his chest, ontop of the arc reactor, "What is this?"
"A miniature arc reactor, sir."
"Why do you have a-…"