“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.” ― Kat Von D
Jarivs knows, when it was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Stark were expecting a child, that the majority of the child care would fall to him, though he was expecting a bevy to nannies and nurses to parade through the house. What he never expected was for Mr. Stark to storm into the house, and tell Jarvis that Maria would be coming home tomorrow, but that he could pick up the boy from the hospital within the week. When he inquired about a nursery maid, Howard had snarled that Jarvis, and Jarvis alone was to care for the boy.
He goes to the hospital, and realises that he does not know the name, refers to "the young master Stark" and is lead to a small bundle, wrapped in a yellow blanket. He picks him up and looks at a little face, and feels something twinge in his chest. It is later that night, after feeding young master Anthony (Jarvis had looked at the birth certificate hanging off the crib at the hospital) that Jarvis looks at the warmth that had appeared under his cress flower. A splash of crimson decorated under his heart. He snorted gently. Devotion, of course. He doubted it would be long before there were other marks that decorated his skin due to the young master.
(Jarvis is a riot of colours when he dies on a cold December night. Tony cries when he sees the green locust blossoms that were on the back of Jarvis's hand at the funeral. It had not been there when Tony had seen him last.)
(Howard and Maria)
(Howard and Maria never get any marks regarding Tony. Maria pretends, has sorrel tattooed so the very tip peeks out from beneath her shoulder blade. She could not care less about the boy, but the whispers. Those would never do. A reputation was an important thing, after all, and beauty only goes so far. Howard sees a boy with war on his heart, and feels the ground slip under his feet, his empire fall from his grasp when a four year old presents a circuit board to him. Neither of them realise what they lose. How a war can be fought for you, or against you.)
Sometimes Peggy wakes up and looks at the colours that cover her skin, and she does not remember them being there. She does not know why there are withered hands with bramble ringing the wrists, why would she have regrets? Big brown eyes float through her mind, and a young boy is before her, hesitant and quiet. She understands why Jarvis called her. He gently traces the Queen Ann's Lace that trail along her collarbones like diamonds, and the mistletoe that nestles behind her ear. Because it means something, it means-
(She remembers, she remembers-but she doesn't. She looks at her hands, and they are young and beautiful.)
Rhodey isn't surprised to see war on Tony's wrist. He's accidentally seen enough of Tony's other marks to know that his friend has been fighting a battle for a long time. He laughs when he sees the monkshood that appears overnight on the inside of his right bicep. He had already planned on being a solider.
(There isn't anything more to it for Rhodey. Tony is Tony. Everyone sometimes needs someone to fight their battles with them.)
When he was born, Yinsen's parents rejoiced over their small son with clover blooming over his heart. Dignity, they said. An excellent virtue for a hardworking son. Dignity follows Yinsen from birth. He is told to walk, not run; sit quietly, not fidget. Dignity, his parents say, is an excellent virtue, my son. Make sure you are bring honour to our family. Yinsen watched his classmates play and can't help but wish that his heartflower was something else.
He grows into in eventually, the rest of his skin staying clear, dignity the one thing that defines him for years, through degrees and academia. Dignity, his classmates and professors say, of course. He performs admirably. (He marries a girl that carries a waterwillow on her heart and wrist, and wonders at the spray of true-blue forget-me-nots and myrtle that cascade down his shoulders. His skin finally contains something other than dignity. He feels free.)
They live happy, normal lives. Sorrel blooms on his skin twice, and then-
Yew flowers and weeping willow twine around the alstromeria that had previously been solitary on his right side.
He stays in a state of shock in the caves, kept captive by the Ten Rings. Treating whoever they dump on his table. I'm a physicist, he tries to tell them, in any language he thinks they might recognise. I'm not that kind of doctor. He doesn't think of those that died under his knife and rudimentary skills. He can almost make out the fennel that blooms between his shoulder blades in the dim light with the cracked mirror that they allow him. He knows that it can't be that. Strength is not something that he can cling to here.
And then Tony Stark is dumped on his table, and Yinsen holds a heart in his hands. He works frantically, seeing flashes of other colours, but mostly just the red that coats his hands. He yells at the men that are surrounding the table where he is trying to save a man from the weapons he created. It's only later when he has the great Tony Stark connected to a battery that he sees that vibrancy and the flowers that coat the skin of the man in front of him. He sees the red yarrow that he had mistaken for blood. He wonders if it should have been a shock. But it isn't.
Tony is unlike anything Yinsen had ever expected. He had met him once previously, and would never have expected the riot of colour that painted his sides and back. He watches this broken man build wonders in a cave, and understands. He takes the chest piece one night when Tony is asleep and uses his scalpel to scratch a gladiolus on the inside left. He thinks it's fitting.
(He dies without regrets.)
He sees the small marking on the original Iron Man suit when Sir brings it to the workshop, after the incident with Mr. Stane. He scans it, and runs it through his database. Gladiolus: the sword flower. Honour, strength of character. He knows this is not the flower that Sir has on his chest. He wonders why it is there. Sir has not told Jarvis about the time he was away. He knows the flowers that are scattered across Sir's skin, and knows their meaning. He knows the symbolism of the marks that Sir had so carefully put on the bots, and had woven into his code line by line.
When Sir asks him to fabricate the next suit, Jarvis examines his protocols, and makes a few non-structural modifications etched into the inside. A gladiolus always in the chest piece. Baby's breath and hazel twine down the arms, peace and purity of heart. He adds every flower he can find that means protection to the suit, because Sir must come home. He places them as carefully as Sir had put their marks on them. He hides it as a subroutine in the production line. Every suit will have these marks, even in Jarvis were to disappear.
(Jarvis wonders at this legacy that Sir gave them. To be able to choose, and give, and be more than lines of code with personality. They have identity, and agency. Both of which are used for Sir. Because he is their Creator.)
(One day, Vision will wake up for the first time and look at his wrist, and wonder at the aching in his chest. He knows it was not his, not fully, but the loss of a small ragged robin is hard to bear.)