Disclaimer: See Chapter One
A/N: Ok, wow. The amount of feedback was downright staggering. Thanks everyone so much for the reviews, rec's and support.
I've had some questions about the fic so I'm gonna cover the big ones.
1. This is set after the BTVS season 2 ep Go Fish. Which is at the END of Season 2.
2. Buffy is 17.
3. The issue of Buffy actually being legally named Elizabeth will come up later.
4. Tony will be coming back like in cannon. From there though...it's gonna veer off a lot. Tony's not going to suddenly become superdad by any means.
5. The rest of the Marvel verse and a few choice characters can and will come over the course of the half dozen or so stories planned. Which does not mean that we're leaving Sunnydale and its inhabitants behind but cannon is gonna veer off a lot.
Now thanks again for all the feedback and remember that I love it.
For the first time in over twenty years he wanted to get as fall down drunk as he'd once done during his Ripper days. And yet, he'd been staring at the glass of ten year old Scotch for over an hour.
His Slayer was gone.
Not dead. Not yet. Again, at least.
No, she was gone. She'd just walked away. Out of her Mr. William's office and she'd never even looked back. She'd said she was done with dead eyes and simply walked away. Right into a waiting Rolls Royce and away from her duties.
“She's gone, Giles. She's gone and I'm done, gone. Call Kendra.” she hadn't even looked back.
Dead eyes, his Slayer was dead inside. Broken.
Angelus had won. No more Slayer to guard the Hellmouth. At least, until he called Kendra's Watcher. And what then?
There was a chance the other Slayer might not come. But while that was a concern, and a significant one too, it wasn't his main concern. The moment, the instant, that Quintin Travers learned that Buffy had abandoned her Calling she would become a target.
Slayers simply did not walk away. There was only one way out once a Potential had been Called. And Travers, he would never stand to lose a Slayer. Not when Buffy had defied thousands of years of tradition and managed to survive not only a prophecy that had guaranteed her death but had had another Called after her.
Travers had two Slayers for the first time in history. He had two weapons at his disposal instead of one. He'd never give Buffy up. And if he couldn't get her back Travers would declare Buffy rogue and have her killed in hopes of Calling another.
The urge to drain the glass in his hand was rampant, an urge he resisted.
He didn't have a choice, Kendra would have to be called in to Sunnydale. Travers would find out. One way or another. The entire Scourge of Europe was dead. Joyce's death had made it into the papers. It was only a matter of time.
A smile. But.
Anthony Stark, son of Howard Stark. Both men were legends. Men who had changed the world. Men with power and wealth and connections who lived their lives exposed to the world.
And Buffy, she was the only heir of the Stark empire. And with Tony Stark missing and possibly dead the entire empire built by her father and grandfather would fall into her hands. And it was an empire. The Starks had more wealth and land and power than most monarchs or governments. And that, it would be the only thing that could protect Buffy.
And she would need protection. Slayers were built for battle but Buffy, while she was more adept and adaptable than most Slayers certainly, wasn't immune to bullets. And Travers would be willing to go that far to get what he wanted.
Except, Travers was also a political animal in every way, it was how the man had reached his position because it certainly hadn't been due to him having any other valuable gifts as a Watcher. And as a politician Travers would see what was as plain as the nose on a face.
One does not kidnap, kill or threaten the only child of the third richest and one of the most powerful men on earth. Especially a man who builds high tech weapons of mass destruction for profit.
He smiled, then put the glass down, he wasn't fond of Quentin and never had been, and the prospect of telling the arrogant arse the events of the last few days in person would provide years of self satisfaction. He looked over at the copies of the papers Mr. William's had given him to 'pass on' to Snyder.
Yes, he'd be letting Travers know that they were back to one active Slayer. And then, he'd watch Quentin's face as the man realized that Buffy was now well and truly out of his reach.
He might hate Tony Stark for allowing his daughter to be lied to her entire life but he was practical enough to appreciate the protection Buffy didn't even realize she was getting.
Four hours in the car. Four hours and not a single word. Four hours and not once did Buffy so much as make a sound or move. Eyes closed, the blonde just sat there, the letter from her mother in one hand.
It was unnerving. That stillness, that sheer presence that came from the teenager. It wasn't something Tony had. You knew when he walked into a room, he had a force of personality that was a product of pure ego. But Buffy, it was different. It wasn't personality, though she had a feeling Buffy had had that too before her mother's death, it was a presence of power and control, like a wall around her.
A wall she had no idea how to breech. Buffy was clearly traumatized and had no idea how to cope. It was something she'd already made of note of to look into as soon as she could get Buffy settled into her new home. Which had led her to a whole new set of things she'd spent the entire car ride back to Malibu dealing with rather than face Buffy's sheer stillness and silence.
Buffy had nothing. No clothes, no basic necessities, no personal items left. Nothing. She'd contacted several boutiques via email and phone on the ride about an immediate delivery of assorted clothing for Buffy so at least the blonde would have something to wear until she could go out shopping the next day.
Shopping was therapy in its own way. One that would hopefully draw Buffy out of the frozen state the girl was in.
In the meantime though, it was after dark and she was grateful to see the gates that surrounded Tony's seaside home. Well estate actually but the house and grounds were a far different brand of extravagance than most of the other eight figure costing homes in Malibu. She glanced up and met Happy's eyes in the rear view mirror as they waited for Jarvis to open the gates for them and saw concern there. He'd been as shocked as she was about learning that Tony had a daughter and he seemed to be as worried about Buffy's behavior or lack of it as she was. Hopefully though, between the two of them and with the help of a good therapist, they could get Buffy on the road to dealing with the shocks and trauma of the last few days before Tony came storming back into the thick of things with his usual disregard for anyone and everything but himself.
She let out a sigh of relief as they pulled up the long driveway to the house. Jarvis had it lit up in it's full over the top modern splendor and she glanced at Buffy. No reaction.
She felt her brow furrow as Happy stopped the car and got out. She'd expected at least a tiny reaction from Buffy when they'd reached the house but there wasn't even the slightest hint that Buffy noticed or cared about the shift between worlds she was living in.
They got out, Happy holding the doors for both of them before heading to the trunk to get her bags. She'd only spent one night in Sunnydale and had been expecting to spend several more but in any case it worked for the best. She wasn't going to just drop Buffy off in an unfamiliar and empty house and leave.
“Welcome back Miss Potts.” the sound of Jarvis' voice was oddly relaxing. Something that was familiar and constant in all the chaos of the last week.
“And welcome to your new home Miss. Stark.” she glanced at Buffy, waited on a reaction. It wasn't much, just a movement of eyes clearly trying to find the source of the voice, but it was something.
“That's Jarvis. He runs the house. Everything here is state of the art.” she fought a cringe at Jarvis calling Buffy Miss. Stark. She doubted the blonde would want such a slap in the face reminder of things when the house itself was enough.
She didn't think Buffy would reply or react, hadn't to anything so far, but was surprised. A slight twitch of eyebrow, subtle, but something at least. “Your room is upstairs.” she headed for the upper level of the house. There were actually seven bedrooms total but she'd decided on the biggest bedroom save for Tony's for Buffy.
The teenager followed, still disturbingly silent, until they reached the bedroom in question with Happy bringing up the rear of their little caravan. She opened the door and found two dozen or so bags sitting neatly on top of and in front of the dresser, tissue paper sticking out of the tops of all of them in a myriad of colors and patterns. “I had some clothes delivered for you to pick from until Happy can take you shopping tomorrow.”
Still, not a single reaction. It was becoming frightening actually. The vacant look was gone but what was in its place, it was like Buffy had simply shut down all emotion, all of everything.
As if she wasn't vacant but hollow. A difference that meant everything. One was empty, a void. Never there. The other, like something had been ripped out, or willed out. It was sad, really. She felt terrible for Buffy. No one should have to deal with the loss of a parent and the loss of identity Buffy clearly was going through. “We'll let you get some rest and we'll figure out the rest tomorrow.” she made her way to the door and was almost out it when Buffy's voice stopped her.
“Is he dead?” she could hear what was underneath that. The question. Was Tony really missing or was he dead with them hiding it and was she planning on using Buffy to keep Stark Industries from falling into complete chaos? It was heartbreaking, and startling, that a seventeen year old girl could be so jaded.
“I hope not.” it was all she could say and it was the truth. She hoped and prayed Tony was alright, that he'd come back and be the father Buffy needed.
One might be possible but both, that would be a miracle.
Tony was many things but a good father wasn't something she could ever see him being.
They were near the ocean, she could hear it. See it too. The house was on a cliff overlooking the ocean. She could see the light reflected off the water. Empty and dark and still moving.
Like she was.
There was nothing left.
It was all a lie and now, now she was still moving, still breathing and blinking.
She wanted to be angry, to cry or scream or anything at all but it wouldn't come. It was all gone. Who she was, what she was and the ability to do anything but just keep moving.
She turned away from the entire wall of windows and looked at the room that she assumed was now hers. It was huge, bigger than four of her old bedrooms put together. And it was modern and sparse and looked so expensive it would have made the girl she'd once been drool. The bags sitting on and around the dresser against one wall would have given her the same reaction once upon a time too. She recognized a few of the names on the bags. The contents inside one of those bags probably cost more than she'd ever spent on clothes in her entire life.
Tony Stark, she knew the name. She doubted there were many people in world who didn't know the name. Even she knew it.
But knowing a man's name, one she'd never really paid much attention to besides to know he had more money than god and that he spent more time with his name in the tabloids than Paris Hilton, and learning that man was her biological father were very different things.
Her dad wasn't her dad. And her father, a man she'd never even seen in person, was now all that was left.
Blood and ashes and fire and dust and now lies.
Why? Why had her mother lied to her? Why did it all have to go so wrong? And why had she left?
She knew the answers and didn't. Because she couldn’t tell the truth from the lies any more. Because she was the lie and hadn't known it.
So she'd left. Her life was a lie, always had been. She just hadn't known it. And walking away, staying wasn't something she could do. Buffy Summers was dead. She'd died in fire and blood and ashes and dust. She'd died with her mother.
She stared at her reflection from the wall of windows. A black dress and flat shoes that didn't fit. Appropriate actually, clothing for the dead. Only she was still breathing and blinking and hadn't stopped yet. Hadn't crawled into the ground with her mother even though it would have made things so much easier. Made the empty as true and whole as it felt.
Buffy Summers was dead. In fire and blood and dust and ashes. In lies and secrets and demons and monsters and nightmares.
She turned, walked over to the bags and picked one up.
It was late and she hadn't managed to fall asleep. It wasn't her surroundings, she'd slept in Tony's house before. She actually spent more time there than in her own apartment. It was Buffy. She couldn't stop worrying about the teenager. Couldn't help the sense of unease that kept coming up every time she thought about Buffy walking into that conference room with eyes like an old soldier, broken and dead inside. Couldn't stop thinking about why Tony had never told her the truth and where he was and if he was even alive.
Couldn't help the sense of dread that filled her if he wasn't. Buffy had already lost one parent. Losing the other, even one she'd never met, might break Buffy even more. And she wasn't even going to consider the implications of what it might mean if Tony was dead. Of what would happen to Buffy after. Stark Industries would go to Buffy, she'd seen Tony's will. Had forced Jarvis to let her see it. A multi billion dollar company left to a traumatized girl who wasn't even an adult yet. Buffy would be swallowed whole by it.
Or maybe not. The girl who had walked into that conference room had commanded, had a presence that rolled from her like a wave. It wasn't something Buffy had gotten from Tony but it did remind her vaguely of the newsreels she'd seen of Howard Stark.
Maybe it had just skipped a generation.
A sigh and she put the laptop she'd turned off over an hour before on the bedside table. “Jarvis, how is Buffy?”
“She's sleeping Miss Potts.” well that was something at least. God knew that Buffy looked like she needed it. She went over the list of things that she had to take care of the next day in her head. Unfortunately most of them would require her to be out of the house for a large part of the day. And a fair portion of those had to do with Buffy. “Let her sleep in tomorrow, Jarvis. And place an order from La Madeline to be delivered at seven.”
“The usual order ma'am?” she considered that. She had no idea what Buffy liked to eat. Actually, besides what she'd read in the file Tony kept on his daughter she didn't know anything about Buffy. “Order one of everything from their breakfast selection.” hopefully Buffy would find something she liked and be willing to eat. “Let her know that Happy will be able to take her shopping as soon as she's ready.”
“Of course Miss Potts. Is there anything else?” she thought about it. Only one other thing came to mind. She didn't like leaving Buffy alone in the house but Jarvis could keep an eye on her and she'd be going out shopping with Happy for a large part of the day.
“Give Buffy complete access to the house.” This was Buffy's home now and considering the situation, and the jaded look she'd seen in those green eyes, she wasn't going to add fuel to the fire. Trust had to be given in order to be received and she had to start somewhere. Keeping Buffy locked out of parts of the house would only make things harder in the long run.
Besides, the shop showed more of Tony's personality than any other room in the house. And since he wasn't there to get to know Buffy yet then the place he spent more time than anywhere else would have to do.
Of course that was assuming Buffy even went down there. She doubted the former cheerleader was going to want to spend much time in Tony's Candyland.
May 25, 2010 Malibu California
She didn't want to wake up. Or sleep either. Sleep meant dreams and nightmares. And when she woke up, a heartbeat of nothing and then it was there. The room smelled wrong, the bed felt wrong. Everything was wrong and the nightmare was different but still a nightmare.
“Good morning Miss Stark. It's 8:41 in the morning. The weather in Malibu is 79 degrees and sunny. There is a 70 percent chance of rain in the afternoon.” the darkness on the other side of her eyelids began to turn into light and she opened them, blinked. What the hell?
And then she remembered. Jarvis, that's what the redhead, Miss Potts, had called the voice. She'd talked to it and it had responded the night before. An interactive computer butler, Willow would love it. Only Willow was in Sunnydale and she hadn't even said goodbye.
She waited on the guilt to come for that but it didn't. Nothing came. Not guilt, not regret not the urge to call and talk to her best friend. Nothing. Part of knew that was a bad thing, feeling nothing. But the knowing of it didn't even bring any emotion.
Maybe they'd hate her for leaving. Maybe they'd understand why she had. Either way it didn't matter. Nothing did any more.
Ashes and fire and dust and blood. That was all that was left.
And Maybe, just maybe curiosity. “Your name is Jarvis, right?”
That cool British voice came back. Different from Giles' but still very British. “Yes, Miss Stark. I believe we were introduced last night.”
The memory of another computer system with a personality came to her. A memory that was colored by demons and magic and a life that had been a lie. She pushed it aside. It didn't matter. None of it mattered. None of it had been real.
Ok, so the computer had a personality. How....freaky and kinda cool. “How did you know I was awake?”
“A biometric scan showed your heart rate and breathing had increased, Miss.” well that was creepy. “And you yawned.” the tone was dry, almost amused. Ok, so the computer really had a personality, And the ability to be snarky.
“Oh kay, could you not do that? Run scans on me, I mean.” she didn't know what becoming the Slayer had done to her on a scale that something like a scan of her biology might be able to show but she was sure of one thing. She wasn't the Slayer any more. That was finished for her. And she really really didn't want to have to answer that set of questions, say ever again.
Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer was gone. A lie.
What she was now...she hadn't stopped breathing or blinking and she didn't know. Didn't care.
But one thing she was sure of. She didn't want a computer with a personality scanning her.
“Certainly, Miss Stark.” he, it, she was going to go with he because her brain didn't have enough capacity at the moment to wonder what Miss Manners would call a computer with a personality, sounded vaguely offended.
“And it's Buffy. Just Buffy.” she didn't want to be called Miss Stark or Miss Summers, both left her mouth feeling full of ashes. Full of lies.
“Buffy it is, miss. Miss Potts wanted me to inform you that there is a selection of breakfast food waiting on you downstairs and that Mr. Hogan will be waiting to take you shopping as soon as you're ready.” the mention of food made her stomach rumble. A blink. Food, when had she eaten last?
She didn't remember.
Food hadn't mattered. Sleep hadn't mattered. Still didn't.
Except her body refused to stop breathing and blinking and it wanted those things.
So she got out of bed.
The pj's that had been in one of the bags were too big, too long and drug under her bare feet as she headed downstairs. She managed to find her way, taking in what she'd missed the night before. Smooth, cool wooden floors under her feet. Sleek, cold lines of the hall and stairs. The bright light and open space of the house.
It was stark, empty. Just like she was.
It wasn't even in her to find the irony or maybe humor in the thought. Stark. A name and a description. A lie and secret. It was what she was. A lie. It was what she'd always been and never known it.
She picked up the smell of food before she even finished getting to the bottom of the stairs and followed it, the hem of the pj's pants making whispers of sound. The only sound in the massive, hollow and overblown house. She had paid some attention to where she was on the drive the night before. Malibu was probably one of the most expensive places in America to live, and she could have probably bought her entire neighborhood and another one after that for what the house she was in had probably cost.
The kitchen looked like the rest of the house, big and empty and never truly lived in. She idly wondered if the father she'd never met had ever even cooked a meal in it. She doubted it. But the massive island in the center was covered in disposable trays and platters covered with warmers. With baskets of bread and dozens of small containers with lids. She felt her eyebrows go up despite everything.
Apparently Miss. Potts had decided to keep with the overdone tendency of the house and order enough food for a small army. She reached out, pulled one of the covers off and looked at the food underneath, and felt her stomach growl again.
Or maybe just a very hungry Buffy.
“Jarvis, what's with all the food?” she knew the computer could hear her, Miss. Potts had spoken to him the night before in the living room.
“I believe Miss Potts thinks you haven't eaten in several days.” her eyebrows went up again as she pulled off two more covers and put them to the side. There was a ton of food on just the three platters she'd uncovered and there were seven more plus a ton of fruit and fresh bread and juice and coffee. She attacked the pot of caffeinated goodness and had a cup and a half down in under two minutes. “Shall I assume that the coffee is to be kept as a part of the standing order for your breakfast?”
She felt the bitter black goodness hit her system and blinked at the question. “Standing order?” she looked down at the island covered in food. This was a standing order? She blinked at the high end looking breakfast and all the ornate platters. There was enough food in front of her for a breakfast party, and not a cheap one. An easy four hundred bucks and she was probably hitting a lot lower than the actual cost. Which was just absurd for breakfast for one person.
Sure, Mr. Billionaire Playboy Tony Stark could afford it but....
She didn't want his money.
She didn't want to be in the massive overblown house. She didn't want nightmares and guilt and to feel like she had a hole right through her. She didn't want to be lied to. She didn't want...the list was too long.
She didn't want anything except her mom to walk into the room. Except maybe a croissant and some eggs and sausage and maybe a couple of the tasty looking crepes with fresh berries and crème.
Ok, so she was really hungry.
But that did not justify ordering a mountain of food every day. And she was not going to think about her mother or everything after. Because if she did, if she closed her eyes and blinked it was all going to be there in high definition in her mind. Every blood soaked vengeance filled second of it.
Focus on the little stuff, the here and now. Focus on anything but the things that made her want to just crawl into the ground. “Um, Jarvis? Can I pick what gets ordered and when?”
The reply was instant. “Yes, miss. You have access to your own account for personal expenses, set up by Miss Potts and access to your savings account. However, any food or necessities is to be handled separately. Your trust account will not be released until your eighteenth birthday however”
Another blink. Bank accounts? Trust fund? She shook her head. Another reminder of things she didn't want. Focus on the important pieces of information. She didn't care about money and hadn't for a long time. But she didn't need to be catered to. She wasn't helpless. Didn't want to be treated like some spoiled or broken child. She looked around the massive kitchen and found a high tech coffee maker, one of the single cup ones she'd seen on tv sitting there looking over priced and under used. “Can you order me coffee for that thing?” a point in the coffee maker's direction. For all she knew it could talk too.
A nod, she sorted through things in her head for a minute. “Ok, Coffee, check.” she looked down at all the food. She wasn't generally a big breakfast eater. “How about a dozen croissants three times a week and a big bowl of the fruit stuff.” she frowned. “I'll have to go to the grocery store for stuff like yogurt and eggs and milk and stuff for lunch and dinner.” it was more to herself than anything. Not that she was exactly a good cook either but she could do the basics and there was a microwave. She could just nuke something if she had to.
She'd bet good money Miss Potts would have a heart attack if the redhead knew she was considering nuking herself some ramen noodles.
“No need, miss. Shall I place a standing order to be delivered?
An eyebrow went up, groceries delivered too? Ok. “You know what? Go ahead. Just make sure there's some sandwich stuff and pizzas and double fudge mint ice crème. ” she finished off her croissant and started in earnest on eating her way though a year's allowance worth of overpriced food. Her biological father had let her spend her whole life being lied to so the least he could do was pay to feed her.
After that, she didn't know or care.
Everything was a lie.
Ashes and dust and fire and blood.
But the food, it was good.
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