He had been around four when Maria Stark had found him in her private garden. He had been clad in strange clothes – that looked as if they had come straight out of one the old Norse Books Maria had once stumbled upon in a library – which had been to big for him and seemed to be better fitted for an adult instead of a child.
Maria Stark, always a gentle soul, approached the child that shouldn’t be here – in a garden that was located on a private property far away from the next bigger city – and kneeled before the confused looking boy.
“I am Maria and who are you?” Maria asked gently keeping her distance when she saw him recoil slightly from her close proximity. The boy frowned and after some time when Maria thought that she wouldn’t get an answer, he surprised her: “My name? …Tony… I am called Tony… I think” At first Maria had smiled at his hesitance but as soon as the words ‘I think’ had left his mouth she frowned herself. “You should know your own name, don’t you think?” Tony’s frown deepened and he grabbed his head as if in pain, which alarmed Maria and she closed the distance between them, gently grabbing his hands in her own. “What is it Tony? Are you hurt?” He shook his head and then suddenly closed the distance between Maria and him to grab her blouse – brown terrified eyes with green rims stared at her. Before she could ask what was wrong, tears spilled from the boy’s eyes. “I do not remember… I do not remember anything except for what I think is my name!”
Maria then hugged the boy gently, comforting him. “Shh, everything will be fine. We will get you checked by Jarvis. Then we will try to find out how you came here as well as who your parents are and if we can’t find them then I will do everything in my power to allow you to stay with us.”
Tony stopped crying and – to Maria’s surprise… no shock would be the better word – slipped on a perfect mask of calmness as if he hadn’t been crying a few seconds earlier and let go of her but still stayed close. “Thank you Lady Maria. That is really generous of you.”
The speech pattern baffled her slightly but didn’t comment it and instead stood up and held out her hand towards Tony. The boy stood up too, trying to hold the too big clothes so that they would cover him and almost stumbled, as he wanted to take a step. The sight made Maria chuckle and she picked him up, carefully.
Together, they made their way through the garden back to the Stark Mansion where Jarvis – who had been searching for Maria to tell her that dinner was ready – met them halfway. “Mrs Stark? Who is that you have with you?” Maria smiled at the butler as he stepped closer and took of his jacket to give it the boy to cover him better than the other clothes did and he received a small smile as a thank you from him. “Jarvis that is Tony, Tony that is Jarvis. Tony will be staying with us for an undetermined time.” “Ah, then I will prepare a room right after dinner.”
During dinner, which was served in the kitchen since Howard wouldn’t be joining them (he was working on a new project) and it was more homely there than in the grand dinning room, Maria told Jarvis how she had found Tony and planned with him the next steps. The maids swooned over Tony, taking measurements for new clothes, introducing him to simple technologies and Tony surprised everyone by being able to understand the constructions without much help. Somewhere between that Howard stepped into the kitchen to grab something edible, engrossed in the papers he had in his hands, he didn’t realise the gathering of most of the staff and Maria around Tony until he looked up. Howard raised an unimpressed eyebrow at the sight and asked disinterestedly: “Maria, what is that child doing here?”
“Howard, this is Tony.” Howard, being not really interested in her answer just made a beeline for the fridge, took something out and left again. Maria sighed – it could have gone worse. “Jarvis, would you be so kind to show Tony his new room?” “Of course. Come along Tony.”
Thanks to Maria who used her connections and her intelligence – which Howard’s own shadowed most of the time – she was able to let it look like Tony was truly her’s and Howard’s son. She had even contacted the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division – or in short SHIELD – that she had founded alongside her husband and with their help she could forge the papers of Tony’s birth. The media accepted Tony’s sudden appearance since Maria herself hadn’t been that much in the limelight for years and the boy’s brilliant grasp at technology only helped in catching the heart of the world.
Howard himself didn’t care for the presence of the boy and ignored him mostly.
Tony grew up with Maria’s and Jarvis’ love and care as well as Howard’s constant distance but the later didn’t mean that much to the child – yes, he had tried to gain the man’s attention in the first two years that he had been adopted into the Stark family but since the man was almost never there or ignored him, Tony had given up and concentrated on building new things and absorbing the love others were ready to give him.
But despite the overwhelming love from two of three people that he was living with, he always felt as if something extremely important was missing…
Every night the young genius couldn’t sleep, he would slip into the room where Maria had stored the clothes that he had been found within a chest and would stare at them and every time he did that, a niggling feeling as if the clothes were a big piece of a grand puzzle would make itself known. One time Maria caught him while staring at the strange garb. “Tony? Tony, what are you doing here at this time?”
He snapped out of his trance-like state and whirled around to face Maria – for a moment she thought to have seen his eyes flash green but dismissed the ridicules thought when she looked into his brown eyes with their green rims.
“I am sorry Mother, I couldn’t sleep… I will go back to my room immediately. Good night.” Tony wanted to step around Maria and flee to his room – confused about the strange thoughts that had appeared in his mind while looking at the garb – but Maria stopped him. “Tony wait! If you can’t sleep how about I make you some hot chocolate? Maybe that will help you sleep and while I make it you can tell me what’s on your mind. How does that sound?”
The six year old nodded slowly and followed his ‘mother’ to the kitchen where Maria tried to prepare the promised Hot Chocolate. Tony stayed silent during the process, just watching Maria looking through the cupboards searching for what she needed – she didn’t know where everything since she obviously had a staff for that but she wanted to do this for her son herself and not wake Jarvis or someone else.
After a few minutes she still hadn’t found everything and Tony jumped from his chair he had been sitting on and waved his hand. Suddenly cupboards that Tony wouldn’t have been able to reach opened and mugs and everything else they needed flew out of them. Maria gave a startled yelp and stared fascinated as her son directed the things like an orchestra with one hand – she realised that his eyes again seemed to shin green and thought ‘Maybe I didn’t see wrong when I caught him with the chest…’
When everything was finished, Tony waved his hand once again and the two mugs full of Hot Chocolate levitated to the kitchen table. Tony sat back down and slowly blew at the mug so that it would cool down a bit faster, meanwhile Maria still stared awed at her adopted son and sat down opposite from him. Tony looked up from his mug and gave her a puzzled look. “What?”
“Tony… what you just did… what was that?” Tony gave her a look that she had seen often directed at others, the isn’t-that-obvious?-look and finally said in a matter of fact tone that still surprised Maria that a six year old was able of such a tone: “Magic.”
“What!?!” “I said Magic. I… isn’t that common?” Now Tony looked worried as if he had done something wrong or worse repulsed the one who had welcomed him with open arms despite knowing nothing about him – not that he knew much more. Maria seeing this quickly tried to reassure her son that she wasn’t repulsed and would love him no matter what. “Tony, it’s not common but that doesn’t mean I would be disgusted or hate you because of this gift you have.”
The tension in Tony’s small shoulders slowly went away and he nodded, hesitatingly he asked: “In this case could we maybe keep this a secret only maybe tell Jarvis but no one else please?”
Maria’s face softened, “Of course Tony. But can I asked you, can you do more that what you just showed me?”
“I… I don’t have much magic, I can only levitate things and such but strangely I can’t do much more.”
“What do you mean ‘strangely’?”
“Well… I… I have a feeling like I should be able to do so much more with my magic but at the same time I can’t. It’s just like with the feeling that something, no someone, important is missing at my side and I just don’t know why!” The more he had said the faster Tony had spoken and at the end he was grabbing his head, tears streaming down his face. Maria quickly walked around the table and hugged him while gently rubbing his back to calm him. “Shh Tony. Everything will be alright. I’m sure you will someday find what you are missing and then everything you don’t remember will come back.”
“You promise?” The small and broken voice that was such a contrast to Tony’s normally confident and happy one broke Maria’s heart and she hugged him tighter. “I promise.”