“I’ve made everyone sad the past couple posts. I’mma do something funny!” And then I fucking THREW IN FEELS. Honestly I am sorry but I did want to explore Howard and Maria’s relationship a bit.
Maria walked into her husband’s office and was only slightly surprised that he was sprawled out on his fainting couch. Howard had always had a flair for the dramatic. She wasn’t quite sure why he was moaning about how terrible his life was though. It wasn’t like something bad had happened to him in the last three days.
“Dear,” she said.
“Maria, everything is terrible!” Howard moaned, rolling from side to side.
It took everything Maria had not to laugh in his face. “Why is everything terrible, dear?”
Howard jerked into a sitting position, appalled that she apparently hadn’t noticed. “Tony hasn’t called me ‘daddy’ in a month!”
Maria raised her eyebrow and clasped her hands behind her back so he couldn’t see her digging claws into her skin, to keep from giggling about how earnestly upset he was. “Oh.”
“He always called me ‘daddy!’” Howard continued, covering his face and moaning in frustration. “He’s only called me ‘dad’ for the last month! Do you know how many times that was?”
“Honey, I don’t kn–” Maria began.
“Eighty-three times!” Howard burst out, thrashing so hard that he fell off the couch with a yelp.
Maria did not snort, because she knew she would start laughing and never stop if she did, and then Howard would be extra upset.
Howard blinked up at the ceiling, then clambered to his feet, dusting himself off. “Eighty-three times he’s called me ‘dad’ instead of ‘daddy,’ Maria.”
“You kept count,” Maria said after a moment, surprised.
Howard frowned at her. “Well, yes, Maria, it’s a numbers thing, I’m a numbers man.”
“No, you’re right, honestly,” she said. “That’s on me.”
“Eighty-three times, Maria!” Howard continued, throwing his hands up. “You don’t seem nearly as upset about this as you should be!”
Maria didn’t say ‘well yeah, he still calls me “mommy,”’ but only because it was quite possible that Howard might burst into tears.
“…Did I do something wrong?” Howard asked softly. “Did I make him stop loving me?”
“Honey, no,” Maria answered immediately. “There is nobody who loves their father more than Tony loves you. Sometimes boys just… stop calling their fathers ‘daddy’ as they get older. That’s not a reflection on you.”
Howard frowned. “But… I’m his daddy.”
“Howard,” Maria sighed, reaching out to cup his cheeks and draw him into a kiss. “You’re always going to be his daddy. Just because Tony’s calling you something different doesn’t mean his feelings have changed. He still loves you the same as he did a month ago.”
“Why do things have to change?” Howard asked sadly. “Why can’t he be my sweet little boy forever?”
Maria pressed her face into his neck and hummed. “That’s just life, honey.”
“I know,” he sighed, then yelped. “Ooh! Did you just bite me?!”
Maria blinked, teeth digging into the skin of his throat. “…No.”
“Maria, you know you can’t bite me unless we have time for me to do something about it,” Howard scolded, giving her a fond pat on the butt before gently nudging her away. “I have to make some phone calls before supper.”
Maria groaned loudly, annoyed. “Why did you have to be a CEO? Why couldn’t I marry a regular guy?”
Howard pressed a quick kiss to her lips before moving back toward his desk. “A regular guy couldn’t buy Janet Van Dyne expensive fabric just to make his son a beautiful ballgown for the next Meeting.”
The werewolf couldn’t help a fond smile. “Tony’s going to love the dress, Howard.”
He scoffed. “It’s a gift from Janet, Maria, not from me.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “Of course, Howard.”
“I think,” Maria said, then paused. “…I think you should call your father ‘daddy’ more often, bambino.”
Tony blinked up at her, gangly now, but still with bright, innocent eyes. “The boys at school make fun of me when I call him that.”
“Why in the hell,” Maria whispered to herself, another thing to wonder about why humans were the way they were. “Well, perhaps still refer to him as ‘dad’ while at school, but call him ‘daddy’ when you’re home? He misses it.”
“Okay,” Tony replied with that familiar guilelessness that she loved. “I can try.”
She wrapped him up in a hug that brought his feet off the ground, spinning him in a circle that had him giggling. “That’s my boy! Your father is a little odd, but we love him anyway, right?”
Tony laughed as she dug her fingers into his sides, kicking wildly with laughter. “Mom!”
“He’s a human and he’s strange even by their standards but he’s the most loving father and husband in the world!” Maria continued, swinging him around again.
“Yeah!” Tony agreed happily, then kicked again. “Mommy, put me down!”
Maria sighed, just a touch wistfully, as she set him on his feet. He still called her ‘mommy’ but it was definitely falling in frequency. She carefully brushed his hair out of his eyes, humming quietly and murmuring about a haircut, and ended up with her hand on top of his head, surprising herself with the thought ‘if we just had a little more time.’ Usually it was Howard being the sentimental one.
“My precious pup,” she murmured, cupping his cheek. “Do you know how much we love you?”
Tony tilted his head as he looked up at her. “Of course, Mom. You guys hug and kiss me and tell me you love me all the time. Did you know there are boys at school who don’t get hugs and kisses from their parents?”
Maria smiled sadly. “Oh, honey.”
“So I know how much you guys loves me,” the boy continued. “Do you guys know how much I love you?”
Maria squatted in front of him, cupping his cheeks again. “Honey, it’s never going to be as much as your daddy and I love you.”
Tony stuck his chin out stubbornly. “Well, I’m going to try!”
“Tesorino, that would be delightful,” Maria assured him, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“Mom!” Tony complained. “You always get lipstick on me when you do that!”
“Boys are making fun of him for calling me ‘daddy?!’” Howard burst out angrily. “I knew sending him to boarding school was a mistake!”
“Honey,” Maria said, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice.
“They’re ruining my precious boy!”
Maria covered her mouth to hide her smile. “I think boys would have made fun of him at a public school, too, dear.”
“Maria, I’ve been telling you this!” Howard threw his hands up. “We could home school him until he’s ready for college! And then we get a little apartment off campus to stay in while he’s there so we’d always be nearby–”
“Howard, I thought you wanted to stop people from bullying him. A boy that never leaves his parents’ home, Howard? Really?”
Howard sagged, sitting down on the edge of their bed and hanging his head. “My boy,” he said sadly. “I’m supposed to protect him.”
“You’re also supposed to let him grow up to become his own man,” Maria told him gently. “And with you as his father, he’s going to grow up to be a good man, too, Howard.”
Howard choked quietly and clutched his chest. “Maria,” he said, tears filling his eyes. “Why would you say something like that when you know I’m so weak?”
“You’re not weak,” she answered immediately. “I wouldn’t choose a weak mate. If anything, you’re too strong, and too damn responsible.” She ran her fingers through his hair as his shoulders began to shake. “Why does it surprise you so that I love my mate so dearly?”
“Sometimes,” Howard began, leaning his head on her shoulder. “Sometimes I worry. That I’m tricking you somehow. And I’m just screwing everything up.”
“You’re not,” Maria assured him. “You’re not tricking me and you’re not screwing everything up. You love Tony. And sometimes you forget about Tony long enough to remember you love me, too.”
“Maria,” Howard gasped, lifting his head to stare up at her. “I always love you. If I’ve done something–”
She snorted, pressing a finger to his lips. “Howard, nothing could give me greater pleasure than my mate loving our pup. I was just teasing.”
“I wish I could give you another one,” he admitted softly, eyes going sad. “Maria, if I’d had any idea what that radiation would do to me–”
Maria held her hand up to stop him. “I’m happy that we even got one pup, Howard. Tony is enough. You are enough. You were upfront with me about your possible fertility issues before you even proposed.” She smirked, leering at him. “And I can’t say the endeavor for a pup was unpleasant either.”
Howard choked on a slightly hysterical laugh. “Maria.”
“We’re getting older, dear,” she added after he’d calmed down. “You, especially. Tony… Tony is always going to be enough for me.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead. “And you will, too. Besides, we have Ana and Jarvis, and Peggy and her family. I come from a big pack where there were aunts and uncles and cousins. This… this is just like home.”
Howard frowned, reaching up to cup her cheeks and using his thumb to wipe away a tear she hadn’t noticed had fallen. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find more of your family, honey.”
“You found my Uncle Giuseppe and his family,” Maria answered quietly. “That was… honestly more than I ever hoped for.”
Howard nodded, dissatisfied. He was still looking, technically, had detectives searching Europe for Carbonells, but at this point he was pretty sure that they would only find graves, if they’d even been given that decency. He wished he’d taken better care, better safety precautions when he was younger, so he could have given Maria the big family she wanted and the siblings Tony would have adored.
But if Maria could be happy, after all that had happened to her, he’d stop wondering ‘what if’ and be happy, too.