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The Carter-Stark Secret

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: So when I was writing my last story, bind us together, I realised that I wanted to explore Tony having a positive relationship with his parents more and that I loved writing a friendship between Tony and Natasha so I wanted to explore that more and I always love writing story involving May and then Maria being involved just feel into place.

Also I absolutely love the Howard Stark that was in the first Captain America movie and is in Agent Carter so I wanted to focus on him and how things would be if that version of Howard was the one who raised Tony.

November 21 ST 1973

To most of the people who know, or even know of them Peggy Carter and Howard Stark are just two close friends who run S.H.I.E.L.D together, though not a lot of people know the second part; but, that's not the truth. The truth is that Peggy and Howard have been together since 1949, after Howard grew up a bit, and in 1955 they married with only Edwin and Ana Jarvis as witnesses.

In 1969, long after they gave up hope of becoming parents, Peggy became pregnant with a son, at the age of forty-eight, something which was only possible, according to Howard's best guess, because of substances that Peggy has been exposed to during her time being an agent. On May the 29th 1970 Peggy gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Anthony Steve Carter-Stark, though to most of the world he is Anthony Edward Stark, the son of Howard Stark and the woman that is believed to be his wife, Maria. In reality Maria is a friend who pretends to be Howard's wife when needed to protect Howard, Peggy and Tony as they have a lot of enemies and there are people who would have a lot to say if they knew that S.H.I.E.L.D'S directors were married.

It is about nine o'clock at night and like she does most nights, once Tony is asleep, Peggy is outside hitting the punching bag.

As she hits the bag Peggy suddenly hears, "PEG!" Being called by Howard.

As soon as she hears that Peggy stops what she is doing and runs inside, where she finds Howard running down the stairs.

"What is it? Is Tony okay?" Peggy asks worried once she meets Howard at the foot of the stairs.

"He's fine, actually great, I was just reading him one of my old engineering books…" Howard starts to say but Peggy cuts him off.

"Why were you reading our three-year-old son one of your engineering books?" Peggy asks, looking slightly disapproving.

"Because I thought it would make a good bedtime story." Howard explains, sounding like it's no big deal, "But that's not the point." Howard says and Peggy just gives him a look, but because it is one that he is familiar with it doesn't even faze him, "He finished the explanation of how the engine works without me even being half way through my explanation." Howard explains, looking amazed.

"Really?" Peggy asks, also looking amazed as she realises what that means.

"Really." Howard confirms, "I couldn't believe it, but he got it completely right!"

"That's so incredible." Peggy says, walking over to the couch as she needs to sit down to digest that, "He's three."

"Yeah, it is." Howard confirms as he walks over to the couch, "I think he just proved what we've been suspecting. Our son's a genius, Peg."

"Yeah, he is." Peggy realises, smiling at that as for a long time both she and Howard have seen that Tony is advanced for his age, but until now she didn't realise just how advance he is.

As Peggy smiles Howard smiles back and reaches out and takes her hand, and the two of them drift into silence. As they do Howard rests his head on Peggy's shoulder.

For a few minutes both Peggy and Howard sit in silence until they hear footsteps and Jarvis walks into the room.

"I was about to turn in for the night, do you need anything else, Ms Carter, Mr Stark?" Jarvis asks as even though Peggy and Howard are married Peggy is still Ms Carter to him, that's who she will always be to him.

"Nahh." Howard answers.

"No, thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy answers.

"Jarvis, Tony's a genius." Howard says proudly.

"I am very glad to hear that, Sir." Jarvis says, looking glad about that, "I will see you both in the morning. Goodnight Ms Carter, Mr Stark."

"Goodnight Jarvis."

"Goodnight Mr Jarvis."

After Jarvis leaves both Peggy and Howard drift into silence once more.

"There is something I want to talk to you about." Peggy tells Howard, breaking the silence after a couple of minutes.

"Something good or something bad? Because if it's something bad maybe I should get a drink first." Howard comments.

"It's not bad, it's about Natasha." Peggy explains as six months ago Peggy rescued, though not before she already had kills under her belt and undertaken missions, a thirteen-year-old girl called Natalia Alianovna Romanoff, that had started to go by Natasha, who had been given a serum to slow her ageing, from the same kind of training program as the one that Dottie Underwood went through. For the past six months Peggy has been working with Natasha, doing everything she can to help her, trying to get her to see that she doesn't have to be the killer and spy she was moulded into anymore.

"How's she doing? I came up to your office to do lunch and you were down with her, your assistant said you had been down their most of the day." Howard explains.

"You actually left the lab?" Peggy asks shocked as most of the time Howard has to be reminded to leave the lab, and eat, though since Tony was born he has been trying to spend more time outside of the lab.

"I didn't have much choice." Howard explains and Peggy gives him a look, "It's a long story."

"Howard, what did you do?" Peggy asks in a stern voice.

"Tomorrow, we don't talk about work at home remember, that's your rule." Howard reminds Peggy and it is clear that he is avoiding talking about what happened, "Now, what about Natasha did you want to talk about?" Howard asks, purposely avoiding the subject of what he did at the lab, and Peggy gives him a look, she knows that Howard is avoiding the subject but she figures that she will deal with it tomorrow.

"She doing well, really well." Peggy reveals, "Honesty she's doing better than I expected."

"I sense a but coming." Howard realises.

"But, I honestly don't think she can continue to do well while being at a S.H.I.E.L.D base." Peggy explains.

"I'm assuming that you have another idea?" Howard asks, "Because we both know that even though she looks like a thirteen-year-old girl she is so much more, so she can't go into foster care, especially considering the fact that it will take her two years and four months to age a year."

"I know all that. Which is why I think she should come live here with us." Peggy reveals.

"Peg, are you serious?" Howard asks shocked.

"We understand her Howard, and being with us she can have as much of a normal childhood as possible." Peggy explains, "We can help her, Howard, we could give her what she's never had." Peggy explains, it being clear that that's what she desperately wants to do.

"I'm sure we could, and I love that you want to help her, but have you thought about what this would mean?" Howard asks, "Have you thought about Tony?"

"Of course I have." Peggy says, raising her voice, "I wouldn't even consider suggesting Natasha come live with us if I thought there was a chance that Natasha would hurt Tony. He's always my first priority." Peggy says, letting go of Howard's hand.

"I'm sorry, Peg, I know that. I know that you would never risk Tony being hurt." Howard says, cursing himself for doubting that, "Is this something that you really think is a good idea?"

"I do." Peggy says, nodding, "She's been through so much, she suffered so much. She deserves a second chance, a chance at a normal, or as close to normal as she can have, life, and I think we're the best people to give her that."

Even though he is still hesitant Howard completely trusts Peggy and trusts her instincts so he nods, "I'll get Jarvis to make up a room for her in the morning."

"Thank you." Peggy says, smiling in response, being glad about that as she knows that Howard has his doubts, but he agreed because he knows that it is important to her and she thinks it's a good idea which is good enough for him, and he once more reaches over and takes the hand that she let go off.

Once more Howard and Peggy drift into silence and they sit like that for a while before they head upstairs to bed.

November 22 nd 1973

After being woken up by Tony like they always are Howard and Peggy head downstairs to have breakfast as no matter what, even if Howard spent most of the night in the lab, or Peggy just got home from a mission, they always have breakfast together.

"Mommy, can we play Captain America today?" Tony asks his mother curious as that is his favourite game to play with his mother.

"I think we can do that when I get home from work." Peggy tells her son.

"It's thanksgiving, why are you going to work?" Tony asks his mother curious.

"Because there is something we need to do." Peggy explains, "We'll be back soon, but while your Dad and I are gone you need to be good for Mr Jarvis, do you think you can do that?" she asks her son curious.

Hearing the question Tony gets a look on his face like he is truly considering that, "Yes!"

"Good boy." Peggy tells her son, "Eat up." She says and Tony continues to eat his breakfast.

"Hey, Tony." Howard says, putting a circuit on the table, "Do you know what this is?"

"Not at the table Howard." Peggy tells her husband.

"I'll be quick." Howard assures his wife, giving Peggy the most charming grin, a grin that has never really been affective on her, "So Tony, do you know what this is?" he asks his son.

Hearing his father's question Tony looks down at the object and then quickly says, "A circuit."

"Good, that's really good Tony." Howard says, smiling at his son.

"Do you know what a circuit does Tony?" Peggy asks her son curious, wanting to see if he knows the answer.

"A circuit is pathway made of wires that elections can flow through. A power source gives voltage that makes the electrons move. That gives things powers to make them work." Tony explains, surprising and impressing both his parents.

"That's good Tony, really good." Peggy says, smiling proudly as she places a kiss to Tony's head.

"I did good?" Tony asks, looking between his parents.

"Yeah, Tony, you did really good." Howard says smiling at his son and ruffling his hair.

As they watch their son eat both Peggy and Howard exchange a look having a silent conversation, deciding to talk later about their son's intelligence.

A little over an hour later Peggy and Howard arrive at work, though they arrive separately as they always do to make sure that no one realises that they came together.

Once they arrive both Peggy and Howard head to Peggy's office though they make sure that there is some time delay between the two of them arriving.

"I think we should talk to Natasha together." Howard tells Peggy once they are in Peggy's office and it is secured.

"I was thinking the same thing." Peggy admits, "I was just going to head down there. Do you want to talk to her now?"

"Yeah, I think so." Howard confirms and both he and Peggy leave the office.

A few minutes later Peggy and Howard arrive down at the speciality bunks that Natasha has been living in for the past couple of months, ever since it was decided that she didn't need to stay in a cell anymore.

When they walk into the room where Natasha is they find her just sitting on the ground, clearly doing some kind of meditation.

"Доброе утро , Наташа." Peggy greats.

"Доброе утро , Пегги." Natasha responds, looking up, as she does she sees that it's not just Peggy in her room but Howard too, which is surprising as he visits a lot less than Peggy, although considering it is thanksgiving it is surprising that either of them have came to see her, "Howard." She says, "Both S.H.I.E.L.D'S directors coming to see me. This must be bad news." Natasha realises, making it seem like she is more confident than she is.

"It's not." Peggy tells Natasha as she walks over and sits down in front of her, "There is something we want to talk to you about." She reveals.


"Howard and I have talked and we think that staying on base all the time isn't good for you." Peggy explains.

"I thought I was too much of a threat to let go. That's what I heard Sousa and Thompson say when they were talking after they left here the other day." Natasha comments, reminding Peggy and Howard that not only is Natasha a thirteen-year-old girl, but a master spy.

"There is truth to that." Peggy admits, as within a few days of working with Natasha she learnt that lies just backfire, "But you do deserve to have as close to an early life as you can. Which is why Howard and I would like you to come stay with us." She explains.

"Really?" Natasha asks disbelieving, "Why would you do that? Why would you trust me in your home? Around your son?"

"Because I believe that are a good person, even with everything that has happened to you, and I truly believe that you deserve a second chance." Peggy tells Natasha.

"And we'd like to give you one." Howard says walking over, "It won't be the most conventional, it can't be with everything, but we would like to give you a childhood, and as close to as normal life as you can have." He explains as he sits down on the bed, which is next to where Natasha and Peggy are sitting on the floor.

"We would like to give you what you always should have had." Peggy explains.

Hearing that Natasha honestly has no idea what to think as she has never known anyone to be so kind to her,

"I don't know." Natasha says, "I might not be the best house guest."

"You wouldn't be a guest." Peggy tells Natasha, "In time I, we, hope that you would see our house as your home too."

"But we'd understand if that took a while so how about we just take things one step at a time for now." Howard explains.

"The first step, if you're willing, would be coming home with us today and we'd take it from there." Peggy tells Natasha and for a little while the three of them are in silence.

As they are silent Natasha just thinks about everything, she knows exactly what Peggy and Howard are offering and what exactly it will mean for her, and she honestly isn't sure if she deserves it, though she wants what they are offering.

"Okay." Natasha says in a quiet voice, "Let's give this a try."

"Great." Peggy says with a smile, "I just have to handle a couple of things but then we can head home."

"Okay." Natasha says with a nod.

"I'll just check in on how the repairs in the lab are going then I'll be back." Howard explains.

"What repairs?" Peggy asks confused as she wasn't aware that the lab needed any repairs.

"Ones that are needed after yesterday. I'll be back soon." Howard says before hurrying out of the room so that he doesn't have to explain to Peggy what he did.

As Howard hurries out Peggy rolls her eyes, suspecting that she is going to get a report on whatever Howard did before too long.

"I shouldn't be more than an hour then we can go." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Great." Natasha says and Peggy stands up and heads to the door, "Peggy." Natasha says once Peggy is almost at the door and she turns around, "спасибо."

"You're welcome, but you don't have to thank me." Peggy says before leaving,

"Yeah I do." Natasha mutters to herself as she watches Peggy go, feeling amazed that even with Peggy knowing exactly what she has done she still invited her into her home.

An hour later both Howard and Peggy have handled what they need and they have both headed down to where Natasha is.

"Are you ready for this?" Peggy asks Howard curious.

"To take in a teenage, trained assassin who ages slower than everyone else, so that she can have a normal childhood?" Howard asks, "Of course I'm ready." Howard says, grinning at Peggy.

"Then let's get her." Peggy says smiling back and she and Howard head to Natasha's room.

When They get there Peggy nods on the door before ready to go, "Natasha, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, I guess." Natasha answers.

"Good, you'll leave with me. Howard will go five minutes after us." Peggy explains.

"Okay." Natasha says and she, Peggy and Howard leave the room, Natasha picking up the single bag as they go and making a promise to herself that she will not screw this up.

Even though they arrive back at the house first Peggy and Natasha wait in the car until Howard pulls in too.

Once Howard pulls in Peggy and Natasha get out of the car too and the three of them head inside, Natasha doing so nervously as she is worried about how this is going to go.

As they walk in Peggy, Howard and Natasha hear the sound of Tony talking with Jarvis and Ana so they head to the lounge room and as they do Natasha looks around, taking notice of every little thing.

"Tony." Peggy says as they walk into the room.

"Mommy." Tony says, getting up and hurrying over to his mother, who picks him up as Jarvis and Ana stand up.

"Have you been having a good day?" Peggy asks her son.

"Yes, Mr Jarvis and Ana were reading with me." Tony explains, then spots Natasha, "Hi, who are you?"

"Tony this is Natasha; she's going to be staying with us." Peggy explains.

"Why?" Tony asks curious.

"Because she's been through a lot and your mother and I are trying to help her." Howard explains to his son.

"Oh, okay." Tony says, completely accepting that explanation, "Hi Natasha It's nice to meet you." He tells her.

"It's good to meet you too." Natasha responds.

"Natasha this is Edwin and Ana Jarvis." Peggy introduces, "Mr Jarvis, Ana this is Natasha Romanoff."

"It's nice to meet you Miss Romanoff. There is a room upstairs all ready for you." Jarvis informs her.

"Thanks." Natasha says, smiling back, not really sure what to make of it.

"Natasha, want to read with me?" Tony asks curious.

Hearing that Natasha looks around, not really sure what to say but then she sees Peggy giving her an encouraging nod.

"Sure." Natasha says, forcing a smile and as Tony climbs down onto the ground he walks over to her and sticks up his hand for her to take.

"Come on." Tony tells her and Natasha takes Tony's hand and the two of them walk over to the couches where they sit down on the ground together and begin to read.

For a little while Natasha and Tony sit down together Peggy, Howard, Jarvis and Ana watch until Peggy and Howard are sure that Natasha and Tony are okay together. Once they are sure about that Peggy and Howard signal to Ana and Jarvis to leave the room and the three of them head into the other room.

"Is this the same Natasha you have been talking about for the past few months?" Jarvis asks Peggy and Howard.

"Yes." Howard and Peggy confirm.

"Then why would you bring her here? I still remember Ms Underwood." Jarvis comments.

"Natasha is a good girl and she deserves a chance to make something of herself, even with everything that has been done to her, and this is the best place for her to do that." Peggy explains, "She's a good person at heart, I've seen it." Peggy explains, it being clear that she isn't going to be talked out of this.

Hearing that both Jarvis and Ana exchange looks,

"We'll do anything we can to help." Jarvis promises.

"Thank you." Peggy and Howard both say and they head back into the room where Natasha and Tony are reading together. Once they are in the room Peggy and Howard walk over to the teenager and toddler and sit down either side, Peggy next to Natasha and Howard next to Tony.

"It looks to me that Peggy and Howard now have two children." Ana tells Jarvis as they stand and watch the four.

"It does, doesn't it." Jarvis responds, hoping that things go well for all of their sakes, though Peggy and Howard's especially as he is sure that they will both be hurt as they both seem rather attached to the young girl and clearly want the best for her, as they continue to watch the four with smiles on his face Jarvis suddenly gets a look of horror on his face, "The potatoes." He suddenly says before running off, leaving Ana amused.

A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard, Tony, Natasha, Jarvis, and Ana are sitting around the table Peggy is at the head with an empty seat to her right then Natasha, then Tony with Howard at the other end while Jarvis and Ana are on the left and food is covering the table.

"This looks so incredible; I think you went out of your way dear." Ana informs Jarvis.

"It does look amazing." Peggy confirms.

"Thank you, both of you." Jarvis responds.

"Well I say we dig in." Howard comments.

"Isn't someone else joining us?" Natasha asks, looking at Peggy.

"No." Peggy answers.

"But there's an empty chair." Natasha comments.

"It's for Steve." Tony says, knowingly.

"Steve?" Natasha asks, only thinking that she is asking too much once she already asks.

"Steve Rogers." Howard answers.

"He's a dear friend of ours that we lost a long time ago." Peggy explains, a sadness to her voice.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Natasha says, meaning that.

"Thank you." Peggy answers.

"We leave the empty chair hoping one day Steve will be here with us." Howard explains a sadness to his voice too.

"That's nice." Natasha says, not really sure what else to say.

"Before we eat I would like to propose a tost." Howard says, standing up, "To our family, the thing I'm most thankful for."

"To family." Everyone repeats.

"Bon appetite." Peggy says and everyone starts to share their food.

"Do you need some help Tony?" Howard asks his son.

"No, I'm alright." Tony answer as he grabs his food.

As they eat and pass food Natasha realises that for the first time ever she wants something, she wants to be a part of this family and that thought terrifies her.