Disclaimer: See chapter one.
A/N: Sorry for such a long delay everyone. I was in an accident late last summer that pretty much put me down for a while. I've got use of both my arms again (more or less) so hopefully I can keep updates to at least once a month.
Just cut me a little slack if its not as good as previous chapters. I'm a bit rusty and wrote a lot of this after PT while on medications that make me a tiny bit loopy.
July 9, 2010 Afghanistan
He reached over to the tea pot, gripping the rag they had wrapped wound the old handle. “You still haven't told me where you're from.”
“I'm from a small town called Gulmira. It's actually a nice place.” he glanced over at the older man. Yinsen was a good man, an educated man. Somewhere, someone had to be missing him. He'd been missing for about two months as well as he could tell, not enough time yet for Jarvis to have let anyone know about his daughter.
Unless Joyce had heard about it and told their daughter herself. “Got a family?” it wasn't likely though. He knew exactly how she felt about his company and exposing a child to his world.
“Yes, and I will see them when I leave here. And you, Stark?” he met the other man's eyes, mind never slowing. Did he have a family? No, he had Pepper and Rhodie and a daughter that he'd held once. That had no clue he was her father and would probably end up walking out of his life like her mother had.
His lips twitched. “No.” it would probably be for the best anyway. He never would have made a good father.
“No? So you're a man who has everything and nothing.” he found himself unable to meet Yinsen's gaze.
Everything and nothing, maybe. But he'd be damned if he didn't do everything he could to make sure that when she did find out, when the responsibility became hers, that people like the ones holding him didn't become a threat to her.
July 11, 2010 Malibu California 4:45AM
“Miss. Potts, there is an issue that needs your attention.” Jarvis' voice pulled her out of sleep and she blinked as the lights of the bedroom slowly came on. It was still dark outside, though that was no surprise, she was up before dawn more often than not.
A rub to her face as she sat up in bed. “Has James found Tony? Is Buffy alright?” her brain went on instant alert.
“Neither I'm afraid. Though it seems the media has become aware of Miss. Stark's existence.” she felt her stomach drop and her mind began to work furiously.
“How did they find out?” she started pulling herself out of bed, damage control now officially her main concern.
“The source of the leak is unclear. However, analysis of the pictures in the media show that they were taken from several hundred yards away with a telephoto lens.” pictures began to appear on the glass of the bedroom wall and she blinked at them as her mind kept working. There were a couple of shots of she and Buffy at the flea market which suggested that someone had known about Buffy and Tony's connection and had been planning on exploiting it since she'd first managed to drag the blonde out of the house. She frowned at the other pictures, there were about forty of them in total and six of them were of Buffy on the beach or out surfing which meant someone had managed to gain access to the private beach.
She frowned, mind going a mile a minute, they weren't ready, Buffy wasn't ready for the kind of media storm that was about to come down. She checked the time, it was barely past two in the morning, if she could get a handle on things fast, implemented every action that was still viable that she'd intended to take in a couple of months when she'd hoped things would be easier for the teenager, then she might be able to keep things under control.
She headed for the bathroom full speed, she'd give orders to Jarvis while she got ready and with any luck she could have the ball rolling by the time most of country woke up. “Jarvis, I need you to contact everyone on the 'Introduction' list.”
“I've already contacted the editors of Rolling Stone, Newsweek, People, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue. Three have already responded and are awaiting your call. The personal stylist and his crew will be arriving at seven. I have already forwarded them all of Miss Buffy's relevant information. A security team will be arriving in an hour to secure the property.”
A nod as she began to strip down so she could get a quick shower. “Is Buffy still awake?” most likely the teenager was, she didn't sleep much. In response loud rock music flooded the room for a moment before cutting off again. She shook her head, wondering not for the first time how Buffy could listen to music so loudly while having Jarvis tutor her through an ear piece and work on motorcycles at the same time. It was another thing that reminded her of the odd similarities between Tony and Buffy, you could never be totally sure about what was going on in either's mind or how they managed to work on so many levels at once.
She turned on the shower, mind switching gears and back on to what was important, she literally had just a few hours to get a handle on things before it could turn ugly.
She could hear Jarvis droning on in her ear, something about market shares and points on the gross, when the room and her ear piece suddenly went silent. She frowned, looking up from where she was working on a three dimensional model of her latest motorcycle restoration and checking where she was currently at compared to the design she and Jarvis had come up with to better handle her reflexes, and found Pepper standing near the glass doors. “Is it morning already?” it didn't feel like she'd been working all night but when she really managed to get a flow going with her attempts to avoid private school and working on one of the motorcycles she had a tendency to lose track of time.
“No, it's not even three in the morning yet.” Pepper advanced into the shop, tablet in hand.
Her brain switched from one gear to another, setting aside what she'd been working on and putting a few pieces together as she read Pepper's expression. “He's dead.”
The redhead's eyes widened. “No! Tony's not – there still isn't any word on him.”
She frowned, then what was giving Pepper the worried face? She hadn't done anything that would upset her since she'd gone out on the Indian without a license or even knowing how to actually ride it. “What's wrong, Pepper?”
“The press know.”
It was all her brain could muster for a moment as the implications set in. It only took a moment for them all to filter through and then she found herself closing her eyes and bowing her head. She'd already made the choice that she was going to step into the shoes of Elizabeth Reynolds Stark but she'd seriously been hoping and looking for ways to put it off as long as she could.
Or find a way to be on some remote island surfing for a couple months while the insanity died down.
And it looked like that wasn't going to happen. So she made a choice, took a breath, and looked over at Pepper. “What do you need me to do?”
July 11, 2010 Malibu California
“Owww.” she shot the brunette that was working on her nails a dirty look that was completely ignored as over a dozen people were either running around the room doing gods knew what or were trying to 'create' her image for the photoshoots and interviews she was going to have to be do over the next two days.
“Is your French lesson interrupting your manicure?” she fought not to growl at Jarvis as the hair stylist and his assistant started moving her head in yet another direction as they worked on her 'abused' hair. Apparently just washing it after going out and surfing every day wasn't enough.
Like she really cared any more if she looked perfect.
“Bite me, Jarvis.”
“Charming, Miss. Shall we continue?” she rolled her eyes, not that anyone could probably tell with the stinky mask from hell all over her face and she wondered yet again how she'd let Pepper talk her into something as insane as going through with all this crap. Sure, every girl liked to look good but if this was what famous people had to go through she'd have rather had her skin slowly peeled off.
A freakin semi truck worth of people and who knew what else had arrived at the house by eight in the morning and they'd been torturing her almost from the moment of arrival. The personal stylist wasn't so bad, he'd actually picked out some really great clothes for her and then started raiding her closet to create her 'look' but the rest of them were possibly evil.
“Let's take a break.” before she broke one of the insane beauty obsessed robots that probably spent more time in a plastic surgeon's office than eating by the looks of them. She'd already been forced into a full body scrub, waxing, another scrub, spray tanning, facial, and now there were four people working on her nails while two more were working on her hair.
She hadn't gone to sleep yet and there wasn't enough coffee in the world to make her day seem any better. But Pepper had a plan and she was going to do what she had to in order to keep the redhead happy. Even if that meant dealing with a bunch of nut jobs treating her like some mutant life sized barbie doll. Besides, if she could make it through the next couple of days then Pepper had said she was going to be house bound for the next couple of weeks until the articles came out and the media gave her some space.
Which meant she was going to be able to devote a lot more time to her school project with Jarvis and hopefully get another motorcycle finished. And the sooner she could get high school finished and avoid any chance of some private school from hell the better.
And the fact that it meant postponing her first martial arts lesson by a couple of weeks didn't hurt either. She still had no clue what she was going to do about keeping her slayer abilities hidden but the extra time was going to actually give her a chance to figure something out. But it also meant she was going to have to pass on riding and flying lessons but the trade off long term would be worth it. Especially if it meant she could figure out a way to avoid pleated skirts.
“Music please.” it didn't even take a heartbeat before Jarvis had the music blasting in one ear, cutting off some of the chaos going on in the background. It wasn't nearly as good as coffee for keeping her awake and from wanting to drop kick someone but since she had manicurists on every appendage she was just going to have to deal.
She was so counting this as one of Pepper's 'I don't want to do's' and she was going to come up with something truly epic in return.
July 13, 2010 Malibu California
“Are you finished, Miss Stark?” she frowned as she looked down at the wash cloth in her hand. She'd washed her face before she'd gotten into the shower, again in the shower and now that she'd spent over an hour in there trying to get the twenty five pounds of product out of her hair she'd washed her face yet again only to have more makeup come off. What the hell had they put on her face, plaster? She tossed the no longer white wash cloth into the hamper with it's mate from earlier use and headed for the bathroom door. Her comfortable black yoga set wasn't exactly stylish but all the reporters and photographers had left a couple hours before along with the mass amount of people that were supposed to make her look 'stylish' and all that was left was Ryder, a brunette assistant to the personal stylist Pepper had hired to create her 'look'.
And she so didn't roll her eyes once again at that thought.
“I'm done.” she opened the bathroom door to find the woman in question hauling a box into her closet and frowned.
“We have enough here to get you started and I'll be back again over the next couple of weeks as we fill out the rest of your wardrobe.” she followed the brunette into her obscenely huge closet and did her best not to let her mouth fall open. She hadn't actually walked into it since Pepper had come into the shop and told her she'd been outed to the press but in two days the closet had gone from her filling up about a fourth of it even with Jarvis ordering her stuff to almost completely full.
Well to be fair she'd filled up quite a few of the shelves for shoes but now they were packed.
“How much more do you think I need?” she could go at least three months without wearing the same outfit twice from the looks of things.
Ryder deposited the box onto the center of the island, joining three more boxes that she noticed were all labeled. “The pieces from Harry Winston and Cartier will take at least two weeks and you don't have anything fit for the red carpet or fund raisers.”
She blinked, brain stalling. Cartier? Harry Winston? That was uber expensive jewelry. And then the brunette reached into the box labeled bracelets and watches and pulled out a box with Bulgari written across the side. A watch that cost more than her mom's Jeep.
And then she frowned. “Your boss does realize I'm not a big fan of spending money on pointless stuff, right?”
Ryder kept pulling out stuff, some of it in zip locked plastic bags, and putting it out on the island. “He does, that's why you're only going to have a few pieces that don't come from local or emerging designers.” she held up an intricately made cuff of metal with swirls. “This was made by a local college student who sells her work online.”
And that earned another blink. Someone had actually listened to her? “Did Pepper have something to do with this?”
The brunette looked a bit surprised but recovered. “We were given very specific instructions in regards to maintaining your own personal style and adhering to your beliefs.”
She frowned. “You just sounded like a lawyer.”
That earned her a twitch of lips. “I was pre law before I decided to go with my passion.”
“Fair enough.” she shrugged. “Need any help?”
“You don't have to.”
She eyed the boxes. “It's not like I've got anything better to do at the moment.” technically she could have been working on one of her motorcycles or let Jarvis tutor her but she was kinda afraid to go downstairs in case there were still people down there besides Pepper.
Ryder gave a nod. “There's more boxes outside your bedroom door.”
“Of what?” if they tried to fit too much more in her closet it might just explode.
The brunette smirked. “Beauty products.”
July 16, 2010 L.A.
He found himself smiling as he looked at the advance copies of Newsweek, Rolling Stone, People, Vogue, and Cosmo that Lilah had managed to get her hands on and that he'd managed to get copies of as well. From classic elegance to rock star glamor every end of the spectrum had been strategically covered. Every magazine had been given time for an interview and photo shoot and every one of them had covered a different angle, different prospective of Elizabeth Reynolds Stark. Newsweek had covered her wide array of interests and how her middle class upbringing could effect the future of Stark Industries. People had covered her emerging engineering skills and her personal future plans. Rolling Stone had focused on her 'quirky' aspects, from surfing to restoring old motorcycles and learning to fly to her taste in music and coffee addiction. The author, known for his rather unusual writing and interview style, had pegged her as the most down to earth and utterly unusual billionaire he'd ever met and told readers to keep an eye out for what she did next. Vogue and Cosmo had gone with the least surprising route, focusing on her style and what it would mean for women everywhere to see a young woman with no experience in the public eye coping with its stresses as she found her way in the world and at the head of of one of the world's most prolific and profitable companies.
Not one of them had compared her to any one of the dozen or more incredibly wealthy young women around her age that were utterly useless and brain dead.
Tony Stark himself had never been mentioned by name by the teenaged blonde. Her mother was mentioned, how she was coping with the loss but never Stark. He was more than a little certain Pepper Potts had made sure that Tony Stark hadn't been mentioned by any of the interviewers. All the articles were clean, straight forward and exactly the kind of damage control he'd expected on a bigger scale than he'd thought he would see so quickly. The legendary Potts had clearly already had a plan ready for when the Stark Industries heir came out to the public.
He glanced at the second pile on his desk, the tabloids hadn't wasted a moment digging into the life of the teenager and hadn't managed to find much to work with. He didn't know how she'd managed it but Potts had cut off any viable sources of dirt on the teenager at the knees. If he hadn't known for a fact that Potts would never leave her current employment he might have considered her as a very valuable asset to recruit.
If for no greater reason than to rub Lilah's face in the fact that she'd been beaten.
He knew what Lilah's orders were, neutralize the threat a Slayer with access to unlimited resources and weapons might create, but he honestly didn't see that happening now that all the skeletons in Summers' closet had effectively been turned to dust. Lilah had planned on discrediting the girl, giving the world and the board members of SI an excuse to lock her out, but Potts had preformed a coup without so much as batting an eyelash. The interviews in the magazines on his desk made Buffy Summers aka Elizabeth Reynolds Stark look like a beautiful, intelligent, humble and grieving teenager with the potential to do an amazing amount of good in the world as the future head of a multi billion dollar company.
They'd made her into a real person that the world could and would sympathize with and that was potentially more dangerous than anything to the firm.
Lilah had taken her first shot and missed, badly. Leaning back in his chair he smiled, the way things were going he wouldn't even need to sabotage Lilah, merely wait.
July 19, 2010 Malibu California
She was staring at the three dimensional image, coffee mug in one had as she frowned. Something wasn't right, the outer design was good, she'd had Jarvis use her exact measurements and factored in clothing of various types and thicknesses but the level of protection the jacket would provide was still lacking if she had an accident. Leather was all well and good but she'd looked at an extensive array of motorcycle accidents and the injuries received by the riders and simple leather just wasn't enough. And neither was the protective gear she'd looked at that varied from being for the casual rider to professional stunt rider level.
Especially with her tendency to ignore speed limits.
She kept frowning, motioning with her hand to make the jacket slowly spin in three dimensions while she tried to come up with an idea while Jarvis went over advanced calculus in one ear. She needed something that would protect her better and yet would still provide freedom of movement. And then an idea hit her. “Jarvis, I need everything you can get me on high density ballistics weave fabrics and Kevlar.”
“A life of crime is hardly necessary in your situation.”
She let out a snort as the information started popping up on the screens at the desk to her right. “Yeah Jarvis, I'm planning on becoming an evil overlord.” she started reading over the information on the screens until she came across one that looked promising. It was actually a Kevlar weave fabric that looked very promising in ballistic trials and was surprisingly light weight but was way too expensive for use by most police forces. The fabric was made by a private company which meant it could be bought by anyone. She tapped on the screen. “This one.”
It took a beat before she got a response. “Fifty yards has been ordered and should arrive within the next three to five days.”
She hummed her assent as she kept looking over options, she needed to think about more than just jackets but pants and possibly a helmet once she managed to get over the hurdles in front of her. In the six days since she'd escaped the onslaught of photographers, stylists, reporters and what felt like several hundred pounds of makeup she'd been holed up in the shop working. Pepper had her on lock down still, keeping her out of sight until the first of the magazines came out in another couple of weeks.
Oddly enough, aside from the occasional urge to go surf to burn off excess energy, she was fine with the situation. Pepper had introduced her to some old man that had been Howard Stark's business partner and then Tony's the day after the photo shoots and if he was any indication of the kind of people she'd have to deal with once she stepped up and had to handle Stark Industries she was more than fine with staying inside. Obidiah Stain had reminded her of a grizzly bear, nice to look at from a distance but not someone she wanted to be up close to. His reactions didn't match his eyes and she'd been more than happy to retreat back into the shop after about ten minutes of polite and utterly fake conversation.
The time being locked down at the house was working to her advantage though. Pepper had mentioned schools in the fall again and she was determined not to attend any of the ones she'd seen on the list she'd gotten from Jarvis. So she'd had the computer up the pace of her lessons and she hadn't done much more than leave the shop to shower and change in days. Now that she'd gotten a feel for things after all her mishaps trying to restore the Indian she was working at a much faster pace with the other five motorcycles Jarvis had found her but she had a feeling that she was going to need other things to do before Pepper gave her the all clear to go back to her lessons and getting out of the house.
Which was a reminder of something else she needed to worry about besides being ready to cope with people like Stain. The learning space as Pepper called it was finished and as soon as the articles came out she was going to be starting her lessons with a martial arts instructor. She still had no clue how to handle the situation aside from holding back as much as she could and playing dumb on an epic level but she was kinda up a creek. She'd been very athletic even before she'd been Called so, as far as she could figure, all she would have to do is hold back to about half the level she'd used when training with Giles to keep from breaking him. And as far as skills went she just had to pretend that she had no clue what the instructor was talking about.
Which probably wouldn't be too hard. She'd never actually had someone trained in combat for a teacher because Giles really didn't count.
She shrugged as she kept looking at her designs for motorcycle gear. If she could manage to clear off ninety five percent of what she needed to finish high school, and it looked like she could if she kept her current pace for another two weeks, then she'd have one less thing to worry about and would have the time to throw herself into another project like getting her pilot's license. Maybe Pepper wouldn't be so upset with her for skipping out on martial arts lessons if she was learning something else useful.
And she could tell the redhead she'd finished high school early. “Hey Jarvis, can I do the ACT's from here or do I need to go to one of those official testing things?” she frowned and shifted her gaze over to where she had various parts of all five motorcycles strewn across the shop. She'd finished all the final three dimensional models on them a couple of hours before and now all she was doing was waiting on the last of the parts she needed to finish them to be machined so she could put them all together. Barring any huge incidents she'd have all five done in under forty eight hours and then she'd just have to get them painted.
“You will need to attend one of the official testing sessions. Shall I schedule one for you?” she shook her head and shrugged. Why not?
“Yeah, see if there's one available about two weeks from now.” basically, after she finished all the tutoring all she'd need to do was take the test so she could have it to apply for college. And then she could just tell Pepper and be done with the whole high school thing.
Of course she had no clue what she was going to do after that. It was too late to try and get into classes at a college and she honestly didn't know what college she wanted to go to anyway. Which meant she'd have till about Thanksgiving to figure things out. “You are scheduled to attend the nine o'clock testing on August second at UCLA. The details and reminders have been sent to your phone.”
“Thanks, Jarvis.” she shifted her gaze back to the three dimensional model of the jacket before her. Sure, coming up with some more Buffy friendly riding gear was taking up a little of her time but it wasn't going to be enough to keep her busy the entire time she was house bound. “Looking for another distraction, are we Miss?”
She smirked, “That obvious, huh?”
“Clearly.” she rolled her eyes at the AI. She was playing the role Pepper wanted her to but she still felt the daily urge to just shut down. Projects and goals were the only things keeping her even remotely near alright at the moment and she had no illusions about it. Still, Jarvis was right. In about two days she'd have nothing to really work on or do since she couldn't even go down and surf. Which meant she needed something else to work on. “Shall I acquire you another round of distractions?”
A nod, she needed her distractions, her goals.
*****And yes I'm planning on going all the way through to the Winter Soldier and beyond in this series (I've currently got 10 stories planned which will include Xavier's group and some Angel characters popping up.) What I need to know is who you think Buffy's romantic entanglements should be. I'm really fond of Steve (and Tony's potential reaction) but I thought I'd get everyone's opinions.
Remember reviews are love and what keeps me going when all I want to do is just sleep till my shoulder is completely healed.
And thanks so much for sticking with me through this whole mess.