Disclaimer: You know the drill. I don't own.
A/N: Many thanks to all for the awesome reviews and rec's. They are worth more than gold to me.
As for questions. I'm going to make an attempt to answer a few for people tonight. Don't know how far I'll get (I've got limited time for internet access because I'm not at home until after the New Year.)
As for updates, I'm going to try and do at least one more before Christmas but it all depends on the response I get to a question at the end of this chapter. We'll see. One option means I have to do a big chunk of rewriting, one doesn't. Now, I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one and its time to get on with the show.
And yes, the introspection will be dying off a bit in the next few chapters.
Twelve twenty six at night and she was doing her best to not panic. Buffy had been gone for over ten hours and the teenager had left the cell phone Pepper had gotten her in the workshop. How did she know? Because she'd had Jarvis trace the location of it after she'd found out that Buffy had gone off on the now finished motorcycle. Gone off with no helmet, no experience at riding the thing, and without a license for it.
Basically, Buffy had done something that Tony would have done. Who cares about laws or common sense, just jump right in. And the only reasons she hadn't started calling the police was because Jarvis had tracked a gas purchase on Buffy's credit card two and a half hours before which meant she wasn't dead or in jail and because she'd managed to keep Buffy's existence a secret so far and was planning on keeping it as long as she could.
And dragging the police into finding a joyriding heiress to a multi billion dollar company was not the best way of outing Buffy to the world. Actually, it'd be a public relations nightmare. She looked at the clock for what had to be the millionth time in four hours. Where could she be?
“Miss Stark has just reached the gates and is requesting permission to enter.” she felt her lungs release a mass of air she hadn't even realized she'd been holding in. Dear god, Buffy was just like Tony. There was no question in her mind that the blonde was his daughter. She was up and at the front door in record speed since she'd kicked off her high heels hours before. She could hear the rumble of the motorcycle even before she had the door open over the sounds of construction going on in the distance and it cut off right after she stepped outside.
“Buffy!” she wasn't going to yell, though god knew she wanted to. Buffy wasn't her daughter and the girl's mental state was, well, debatable at best even if the teenager had apparently inherited Tony's ability to hide behind masks like it was second nature.
“Hey Pepper.” she blinked. And then blinked again as Buffy got off the old Indian that had been parked next to the lit up fountain in front of the house. Buffy was....smiling. More than that, Buffy was animate. For six and a half weeks she'd been trying to get through to Buffy in a dozen different ways, to elicit some sort of reaction to anything, anything at all, besides complete and utter apathy to the world around her or the show of pretending the teenager had started two weeks before and now Buffy was...
She didn't look like some broken doll or broken old soldier or a blank slate.
She'd woken up. Come alive. It was...
A real smile. Real and natural and not a mask and she felt her throat close up around the nine hundred and one things she wanted to say. Felt her mind go blank against the force of it. Buffy was smiling.
Over a month of nothing, not a single emotion or show of interest in anything besides that former heap of rust that wasn't as fake as the day was long and now she was smiling. “Could you yell at me tomorrow? Or maybe next week? It's gonna take me that long to get all the tangles and dead bugs out of my hair.” Buffy just breezed up to the door, almost bouncing. And there was another blink.
What in the world?
Buffy kept going, heading straight for the stairs, the smile and bounce almost mind boggling. “You forgot your cell phone.” it was all she could manage.
“Oops. Sorry. Next time I'll try not to forget it and check in. ” and then Buffy was out of sight and she spotted Happy standing just inside the doorway.
“That was a change.” an understatement of epic proportions to say the least. Her gaze went back of it's own accord to the Indian parked by the fountain in the center of the circular driveway. “You really let her have it.” which she'd been threatening to do only an hour before. Though, to be fair, it wasn't like she could actually ground Buffy. Still, her mind went to work, her gaze still on the motorcycle bathed in the changing light of the fountain.
“Happy, I need you to take Buffy for the motorcycle driving test as soon after the Fourth of July as possible and pick her up a helmet.” she'd have Jarvis get Buffy through all the written requirements tomorrow. Given Buffy's intelligence, and her total lack of acknowledging it, she doubted that Buffy would even realize what she was learning before she knew it.
She wasn't kidding either. Buffy had done nothing, not even surf, but work on the Indian and have Jarvis tutor her for the last week and a half and it had shown some pretty drastic results even with the additions that she'd had the AI add on to Buffy's basic tutoring to catch up on schoolwork.
July 2, 2010 Malibu California
Jarvis was droning on in the background of her head, reading some book that was supposed to be considered great historic literature or something, not that she was paying attention. Not that she ever really paid all that much attention but it hadn't stopped him and she'd gotten used to the sound of his voice after over a month. What she wasn't used to though was trying to figure out just what kind of protective gear she needed to ride the Indian. Sure, she knew she needed a helmet and a jacket but there were about a thousand different kinds of both of those.
High tech, low tech, butt ugly, way too many options. And the jackets, well, she might know fashionable but mixing that with her size and safety was requiring a lot of trolling of internet sites. Which was just freaky. She so wasn't used to using Wikipedia for anything but homework. Tvtropes and Youtube and Facebook, yeah. She was a teenager after all. Trying to figure out what was going to work best for her doing something she'd never even dreamed she'd do was something else.
Look at her, all biker chick. And not some space age crotch rocket either but a motorcycle with history and personality. Jarvis had even shown her a picture of Tony as a kid sitting on it with Howard Stark standing behind. Which was kinda freaksome but still kinda cool in a strange way.
Maybe there was some piece of the man in her. Not that she could see it, she didn't even look like Tony Stark's kid. Or maybe the thing was cursed or something. After all, three generations had worked on the thing. One was dead, the other, well it'd been over a month so it was looking kinda likely that she was the last so called Stark. Not that she cared beyond the fact that she'd have rather faced an apocalypse than deal with the aftermath of Tony Stark's death and what that would mean she'd have to deal with.
She so didn't want to think about it. So she wasn't.
She was keeping up her end of the bargain with Pepper but she really really didn't want to deal with reporters.
Actually, there was a thought. “Hey Jarvis, what school am I going to be going to this fall?”
“Jarvis.” ok, that was kinda making her twitchy. “What school?”
Not a word or a sound but the screens in front of her changed. She read the scrolling titles. Phillips Andover Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Andover Exter Academy, and Northfield Mount Hermon along with Malibu High School.
A blink, those schools sounded---snotty. And hard, like Willow level hard. She started reading the Wikipedia info on one of them, she had no clue which and didn't make it far before her brain wanted to explode.
Not just rich snotty private school, super hard rich snotty private schools on the east coast.
Oh no. Actually not just no but hell no. Public school she could handle, if she had to, but some private academy? She'd have rather have opened up the Hellmouth herself and then jumped in naked wearing a sign that said 'I'm the Slayer ask me how.'. Ok, so she needed an alternative, now.
A smile. “Jarvis, could you get me though the requirements to graduate high school?” he'd already tutored her for her finals and she'd done mind blowingly better than she'd expected and he was still tutoring her so that she could theoretically survive college. And look at that, a big Giles worthy word, maybe the tutoring was working.
“Considering ways to avoid private education are we miss?”
The smile got even bigger. “Actually, no. You teaching me is private, super duper private. Its here, in the house where I don't have to deal with a bunch of trust fund brats or Nazi troll principals.” she turned in the rolling chair. “And it means that I won't get outed to the press or the board members of Stark Industries.” oh she was on a roll. Kill two evil birds with one stone. She could keep from having to deal with all the fun press stuff until Man Whore Tony got found and she could avoid some miserable Richie Rich school where girls probably had to wear pleated skirts and ties.
“And avoiding the notice of the press or the Board of Directors of Stark Industries is in no way a factor I take it.” she could practically taste the sarcasm coming off the AI.
“It's a perk.” she smiled. “Like finding the pair of Alexander McQueen shoes you were already going to buy are on sale.” and she loved shoes, really loved shoes. And sales were even better. “So how long?”
“Based on your current progress and factoring in a minimum of six hours of study per day you could not only meet but exceed the requirements by the end September.” ohhhhkayyy. September, that was- holy Johnny Depp on a pogo stick- that would mean she'd be done with high school almost a full year early.
Oh, she liked that, a lot.
Avoid a stuffy private school, reporters and get to graduate a year early? Oh hell yeah. “Set it up.” another thought, she was on a roll. “But don't tell Pepper.” when the time came up she was just going to tell Pepper it was done. Sure, Jarvis had said end of September and she was going to be doing stuff for her deal with Pepper, but she was pretty sure she could manage an extra hour or two a day at least over what Jarvis was basing his calculations on. And there was another big word. A head shake, she was starting to sound all smart and stuff.
And then came the frown. Crap. She'd only gotten away with spending most of her days in the shop because she was working on the Indian. But now it was done and Pepper knew it.
Crap! Crap! Crap!
Ok, so she needed a solution. Something that would keep Pepper from realizing she was going out of her way to avoid getting outed as Mr. Billionaire Playboy Bunny Humper's secret kid. Ok, so she needed something in the shop to work on.
The Indian was done. She looked around, cars, cars and more cars.
Not gonna work.
What were her options? Destroy the Indian so she could work on it? Not for all the money in the world, and she was pretty sure Tony had about half of it. She'd spent the last month trying to fix the thing, blood and sweat and she'd destroyed her nails too. There was no way she was going to let something happen to the Indian.
A smile. She just needed another motorcycle to work on.
She'd already fixed the only one available.
Unless she bought another one. If she could afford another one. “Jarvis, how much money do I have in my bank account?” maybe she'd get lucky and find a broken down motorcycle cheap. People probably wouldn't want a lot for a broken down old heap that was going to take a lot of time and effort to fix, right?
“Including the Stark Descendants Trust Fund from which you many draw on your eighteenth birthday, you have fifty one billion two hundred and seventy two thousand thirty eight dollars between your savings, trust, and personal bank accounts. This does not include your personal expense account or your credit cards.”
She wasn't sure how long she sat there but it couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes before her lungs got angry at her for not breathing and she sucked in a mouth full of air. “Fifty one....” her throat was dry and her chest hurt. Was she having a heart attack? Could a slayer even have a heart attack?
“Fifty one billion dollars?” maybe she was having a stroke, she could be, she had no idea what one felt like. “Billion with a b?”
“Feeling slightly overwhelmed, are we?” oh hello snark.
“I think I need to sit down.” heart attack, stroke, her brain about to dribble out her ears- maybe all of the above. An apocalypse she could handle, that much money was...terrifying.
“You are sitting down.”
She looked down. “Huh.” ok, breathe, just breathe dammit! Ok, so more money than she could wrap her brain around. More money than she'd ever heard of one person having, say ever.
That wasn't one person money that was national deficit kinda money. Buy your own island and give it a funny name kinda money.
Who in their right mind gives a teenager access to that kinda money? Hell, who gives an adult that kinda money? That was more than she could spend in fifty lifetimes. And the scariest part was she was pretty sure that Tony and Stark Industries was worth a whole lot more than that.
And then what Pepper said hit her upside the head like one of those bomb designs that had been in the shop the first time she'd come in.
All that money, the company, all those people she'd eventually be responsible for.
She wasn't sure how long she just sat as about fifty one billion things ran through her mind and she was pretty sure she'd have sat there until she was old and gray if Jarvis hadn't drug her out of it.
It took about twenty mental head shakes before she could even start to focus. But once she had.
She'd asked what she thought was a simple question and she'd expected a simple answer. She'd got it. But what it revealed, not so simple.
It changed everything.
She'd started pretending to keep Pepper off her back. She'd agreed to the deal because she couldn't, wouldn't stomp all over her mom's memory by wasting her life. Her mom had wanted her to do well in school, go to college, have a good life.
She'd make her mother proud.
But this, that kind of money, that kind of responsibility, it was huge. And Pepper been sheltering her from it. Sure the redhead had said that she had over two million people whose income depended on the company but...
Ok, so maybe Elizabeth Reynolds Stark wouldn't have had a spoiled no worries life. Cause she was about to start walking around in those designer shoes and she'd just left the mildly worried about twenty exits back on the expressway to panic.
Ok, breathe. Enhance her calm. Channel her inner Buddha or whatever. So it was more money than she could wrap her brain around, it was a lot more responsibility than she'd thought, she was not going to panic. She'd walked into a cave knowing she was going to die and she could handle the situation she'd very stupidly just realized she walked right into.
All she needed to do was think, plan.
“Jarvis, I need every file related to me you've got. Including the tutoring schedule you've got for me.” she focused on the screens in front of her. “And I need you to find me at least four old motorcycles to rebuild.”
“Any type of motorcycle in particular or more Indians?”
She looked at the screens as files started popping up “Surprise me.” she didn't care about what kind of motorcycles, she hadn't known a thing about them before she'd started on the one sitting in the middle of the shop painted bright red and gold, and she still didn't know a lot.
But she was learning. And she intended to learn a whole lot more.
She started going through the files, shifting the calendar Pepper had of when she was supposed to do certain things to its own screen. Some of them were being put off until the building Pepper was having built for her to use was done but that left her with the flying, cooking and horseback riding lessons for two weeks before anything else was added.
Which wasn't so bad according to the calendar. She did the math. If Pepper didn't find anything else to add on she would have at least eight hours a day she could spend avoiding going to an actual high school in the fall with Jarvis' help. That meant she could shave about three weeks off that time if she pulled eight hour tutoring sessions instead of six hour ones.
And seriously, where in Jimmy Choo's name had she managed to do that kind math in her head from?
A blink. Oh, she knew where. She hadn't been using pen and paper or a calculator or even a textbook while Jarvis had been tutoring her, she'd been doing it all in her head. Half the time she'd been in over her head trying to fix the Indian and hadn't even really been paying attention.
Hello freaky, come right on in.
A mental head shake. So apparently she wasn't a moron, who knew? Well, apparently Pepper did and she was finally pulling her head out of the sand too. So, if she added on the extra hours to finish off high school early that still meant she was going to have about four months before she turned eighteen and could go to college.
Which would reveal her to the world as Bomb Boy's daughter but by then, if she kept on having Jarvis tutor her, she might be able to pull off not looking like an idiot. Highly doubtful considering Tony was pretty much one of the smartest guys on the planet but it was worth a shot. Her mom had said that she believed she could do this, maybe she was right, maybe she wasn't, but she was going to try.
She finished off the file Pepper had made for her and all it's documents and blinked at second one sitting behind it.
She opened it and her brain stopped, just stopped.
Everything just stopped as she looked at pictures, read the article about the gym burning down, saw a copy of her birth certificate. Where the hell had this come from? Had Pepper made it? She checked the dates of when the pictures were saved.
All of them were over two years old.
What. The. Hell?
***Ok. so I've got four new characters showing up soon. Two are based on BTVS cannon but are technically OC's. The other two are strictly OC's. Are people gonna get their panties in a bunch about this or not. Because I possibly use characters from the Marvel universe but I'd prefer not to in keeping with the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's development. Which is technically a different universe than say, Marvel Universe 616. So tell me.
what do you want?