"In layman's terms, this is an aggressive disease that kills through insomnia," she said. "You have 7 months to 6 years. We recommend Hospice services."
Tony stared at the doctor. He could hear the words, but all he could think of was his child.
"She-she's 22," he said. "You're telling me that she's just going to die?"
"There is no known cure," the doctor said. "I am going to provide you with an informative packet, but there is nothing we can do for her. I am sorry, Mr. Stark."
"Dad," Helena said.
Her arm left the hospital mattress to grab her father's hand.
"Let's just go home, see Pepper and Rhodey."
Tony continued looking at the doctor, nodding at his daughter's words.
"Happy?" Helena asked.
The guard's eyes moved to Helena, entering the private room.
"We are ready to leave," she said.
The woman sat up from the bed. She had been dressed to be discharged since the previous night. She grabbed Happy's extended hand with a smile and stood.
"Come on Dad," she said.
A few days had passed since Helena received a diagnosis. Tony had become both obsessed with her well-being and distant. He was unable to handle the reality. Tony continued working on the building. Instead, Pepper stepped in, watching over the Stark child with respectful boundaries.
Today, Tony had finished rerouting power to his building. Helena was proud that he had created such a legacy for himself. Now Pepper and Helena waited for the lights to turn on.
"You're good on this end. The rest is up to you," Tony said.
"You disconnected the transition lines? Are we off the grid?" Pepper asked.
"Stark Tower is about to become a beacon of self-sustaining clean energy," Tony said.
"Wow. So maybe our reactor takes over, and it works?" Pepper said.
"I assume. Light her up," Tony said.
Helena lets out a giggle as the lights around them begin to glow. Pepper smiles back at the young woman who sat on the couch behind her.
"How does it look?" Pepper asked.
"Like Christmas, but with more... me," Tony said.
"Gotta go wider on the public awareness campaign. You need to do some press. I'm in DC tomorrow. I'm working on the zoning for the next three buildings," Pepper said.
"Pepper, you're killing me. Remember the moment? Enjoy the moment," Tony said.
"Then get in here and I will," Pepper said.
Helena watched as her father arrived at the penthouse and removed the ironman suit.
"Sir, Agent Coulson of SHIELD is on the line," JARVIS said.
"I'm not in. I'm out," Tony said.
"Sir, I'm afraid he's insisting," JARVIS said.
"Grow a spine, Jarvis. I got a date," Tony said.
Pepper Potts stared up at the monitors of the reactor device.
"Levels are holding steady... I think," Pepper said.
"Of course, they are, I was directly involved. Which brings me to my next question: how does it feel to be a genius?" Tony asked.
"Well, ha, I really wouldn't know now, would I?"
"What do you mean? All this came from you," Tony said.
"Dad is right," Helena said. "You started all of this."
"No. All this came from that," Pepper said.
Pepper pointed to the glowing energy in Tony's chest plate.
"Give yourself some credit, please. Stark Tower is your baby. Give yourself... twelve percent of the credit," Tony said.
"Oh, god," Helena said.
"Twelve percent?" Pepper asked.
"An argument can be made for fifteen," Tony said.
"Twelve percent? For my baby?" Pepper asked.
"Well, I did do all the heavy lifting. I lifted the heavy things. And sorry, but the security snafu? That was on you," Tony said.
"My private elevator..."
"You mean our elevator?"
"Was steaming with sweaty workmen. I'm going to pay for that comment about percentages in some subtle way later, aren't I?"
Pepper poured herself and Tony a glass of champagne.
"Not gonna be that subtle," Pepper said.
"I'll tell you what. Next building's gonna say 'Potts' on the tower."
"On the lease."
"Call your mom, can you bunk over?"
"Sir, the telephone. I'm afraid my protocols are being overwritten,"
"Stark, we need to talk," Phil said.
Tony picked up his phone and looked at Phil.
"You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message," Tony said.
"This is urgent," Phil said.
"Then leave it urgently," Tony said.
At that moment the elevator door opened and Phil appeared.
"Security breach," Tony said.
He pointed to Pepper.
"That's on you."
"Mr. Stark," Phil said.
Helena remained tucked into the fluffy blankets. She watched the familiar agent enter with a smug look. She was impressed.
"Phil! Come in," Pepper said.
"Phil? Uh, his first name is Agent," Tony said.
"Come on in, we're celebrating," Pepper said. "You remember Helena?"
Phil spared a slight glance at the Stark woman. A flicker of sadness fell over his eyes before he focused back on his target.
"I can't stay," Phil said.
"Which is why he can't stay," Tony said.
"We need you to look this over,"
Phil held out a file to Tony.
"Soon as possible."
"I don't like being handed things," Tony said.
"That's alright, 'cause I love to be handed things. So, let's trade," Pepper said.
She passed her glass of champagne to Phil, took the file from him, then took Tony's glass of champagne while passing the file over to Tony.
"Thank you," Pepper said.
"Official consulting hours are between eight and five every other Thursday," Tony said.
"This isn't a consultation."
"Is this about The Avengers? Which I...I know nothing about," Pepper asked.
"The Avengers Initiative was scrapped, I thought. And I didn't even qualify," Tony said.
"I didn't know that either," Pepper said.
"Yeah, apparently I'm volatile, self-obsessed, don't play well with others," Tony said.
"That I did know," Pepper said.
"This isn't about personality profiles anymore," Phil said.
"Whatever. Miss Potts, got a minute?"
Pepper walked over to Tony who placed the files into his databases.
"You know, I thought we were having a moment," Tony said.
"I was having twelve percent of a moment. This seems serious, Phil's pretty shaken," Pepper said.
"How did you notice? Why is he, Phil?" Tony asked.
"What is all of this?" Pepper asked.
Helena watched with narrowed eyes.
"The Avengers," Helena said.
Her voice went unnoticed by her family. Phil rolled his eyes. Tony could never keep a secret.
"This is, uh...," Tony said.
Tony expanded his arms and different profiles appear in holographic form floating in the air in front of Tony and Pepper.
Screens appeared of Captain America in action, the Hulk roaring as he attacks the army at Culver University, and Thor fighting the Destroyer in New Mexico. Another is of Loki and the Tesseract to which Tony and Pepper looked at in awe.
"I'm going to take the jet to DC tonight," Pepper said.
"Tomorrow," Tony said.
"You've got homework. You've got a lot of homework," Pepper said.
"Well, what if I didn't?"
"If you didn't?"
"You mean if you finished?"
[Tony nods his head]
She whispered something in his ear. Tony gasped and Phil looked away in embarrassment.
"Square deal. It's the last date," Tony said.
Pepper kissed him.
"Work hard," Pepper said. "I'll see you later Helen."
"Bye," Helena said.
Helena took the opportunity and rose from the couch. Fighting the dizziness, she moved to Phil's side.
"Um, hi," Helena said. "If you are getting the team together, can I come along?"
Phil looked between Helena and Tony who poured over the files. He knew the woman didn't have many chances to leave the penthouse and Fury loved Helena. Fury stated his affection for the woman often.
"Please," she asked. "He won't even notice."
Phil's heart ached for her. Phil gave a slight nod. They watched Pepper leave before following behind in a separate elevator.
Helena sat inside the Quinjet. They had picked up Steve who now sat with a tablet, watching the footage of the Hulk's attack on the Army at Culver University. The soldier had marched aboard without taking in Helena's presence. She didn't mind, he had a job to do.
"We're about forty minutes out from the base, sir," a pilot said.
Agent Coulson stood up from his seat and walked over to Steve.
"So, this Doctor Banner was trying to replicate the serum that was used on me?"
"A lot of people were. You were the world's first superhero. Banner thought gamma radiation might hold the key to unlocking Erskine's original formula," Phil said.
"Didn't go his way, did it?" Steve asked.
"Not so much. When he's not that thing though, the guy's like Stephen Hawking," Phil said.
Steve looked confused at Phil's statement.
"He's like a smart person. I gotta say, it's an honor to meet you, officially."
Steve smiled at Coulson.
"I sort of met you, I mean, I watched you while you were sleeping."
Steve looked down and stood up.
"I mean, I was... I was present while you were unconscious from the ice. You know, it's really, it's just a... just a huge honor to have you onboard."
"Well, I hope I'm the man for the job," Steve said.
The super soldier glanced around the corner of the ship. He squinted at the sandals on Helena's feet.
"Oh, you are. Absolutely. Uh... we've made some modifications to the uniform. I had a little design input."
"The uniform? Aren't the stars and stripes a little... old fashioned?" Steve asked.
"With everything that's happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old fashioned," Phil said.
"Who's in the corner over there?" Steve asked.
Helena blushed, she peeked out from behind the wall. She couldn't stand in the ship due to her dizziness, so she remained strapped in.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Helena Stark."
"My dad is Ironman," she said.
Steve leaned back in recognition. He had read about Tony. The soldier scanned the young woman. She could tell what he was thinking. How was she Tony's child?
"My mom's black," she said.
Steve's face flushed while Phil seemed to choke on air. The soldier nodded, looking to the corner of the ship.
"What brings you onboard?" Steve asked.
Helena looked to Phil, biting her lip with a furrowed brow.
"She is helping with the mission," Phil said. "She's our resident genius."
Helena bit back a chuckle. She was far from a genius, but she basked in the comparison. Often, Helena found herself feeling like a failure beside her Dad. Her talents consisted of painting and sculpture making.
"I'm glad to meet you," Steve said.
"You too," Helena said.