From the line of limos and celebrities getting out on the red carpet in front of the Disney concert hall, one would have thought the Academy Awards were having a repeat performance instead of what it actually was – a 60th birthday party for a billionaire.
The family actually took separate cars to the event to play up the press coverage. Jamie and Marina went first and had already run the gauntlet so to speak before Emma's car was pulling up several minutes later. As the flashes from the thousands of cameras that lined the street went off in anticipation of the next arrival, Emma looked down at Antonia with a smile.
"Remember what I told you about dealing with the press?" Emma asked her daughter as she straightened the red bow in her dark curls.
Antonia nodded eagerly. "Look cute, smile and don't say nothing."
"That's my girl," Emma praised her and she looked over to her date for the evening, Eric Banner, PhD in Bioengineering, and reflexively pushed a stray piece of his brown hair away from his blue eyes and away from his glasses as a flash of green flickered in them. "Why did it take for my brother to put us together at his wedding a month ago for you to finally ask me out when we have known each other since we were infants?" she asked bluntly but with a smile.
Eric pushed his glasses up and pulled at the tight collar of his shirt under the bow tie and laughed. "To be honest, I'm afraid of your Dad."
Emma laughed. "Your dad turns into an eight foot green monster who can throw Sherman tanks like they were softballs and you're afraid of my dad?"
"Your dad likes to blow shit up for fun." Eric countered. "And when he and your brother gang up it's a battle of epic proportions from what I have heard."
"You are Jamie's best friend and my dad has always liked you…especially because you are one of the few who could probably go throw for throw with his genius." Emma responded as the car pulled up. "Ready for this?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," Eric sighed as the door opened and Emma gathered Antonia and stepped out to the bright lights.
Cameras went into full force as Emma stepped out of the car and set Antonia down beside her and took her hand. Reporters were screaming out her name to try to get even the briefest of quotes but Entertainment Tonight got the first and possibly only luck.
"I am standing her with Emma Stark and her beautiful daughter Antonia at the entrance to Tony Stark's fantastic birthday celebration. I am sure you must be excited."
"Of course I am. It's my father's birthday and a great deal of work went into planning this celebration." Emma replied in the polished cultured tone that usually came out when dealing with the press.
The cameraman panned back to get a shot of Emma's dress, a black floor length satin gown with a small train with lace on the bodice of it, within the lace was interwoven strands of gold and small rubies. "Your dress is fabulous. Who designed it?"
"It's an original by Darius Cordell." Emma responded as she pulled Eric a little closer.
The reporter then took notice of the tall, slender but not skinny, dark haired man with wire-rimmed glasses standing next to Emma that looked way too good in that tuxedo and decided to pounce on what could be a hot bit of gossip. "And the world has not yet met your escort for the evening. Please introduce us."
Emma was waiting for this moment but she was experienced at this. "This is Dr. Eric Banner, head of the bioengineering department for Stark Industries where he is doing brilliant research on engineering organs for transplant that can't be rejected but this is not a night for discussing business…it's a party and a Stark party at that. Have some fun and a good evening." Emma skillfully stated before excusing herself to make her exit to get into the party.
"I'm very impressed, Emma." Eric whispered to her as he offered her his arm as they walked along the red carpet. "I don't think I could ever acquire such skill with reporters like that."
Emma shrugged it off. "I've had lots of practice since they have been following me since the day I was born practically.' She admitted. "But you want to see skill with reporter dismissal; you should see my mother in action. No one messes with her."
Once all the guests were inside and seated at their tables, the lights dimmed except for two spotlights on a podium on the stage in front of a giant screen and the applause started.
"Introducing your hosts for the evening's festivities, James and Emma Stark."
From either side of the stage, Jamie, in a slick black tuxedo, appeared on one side and Emma came across from the other and met in the middle at the podium under the spotlights.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to what we are sure is to be an evening to remember," Emma started off.
"We have been working for nearly a year to properly plan this 60th birthday for our father, Tony Stark." Jamie continued as he gestured to his parents' table and Tony acknowledged everyone's applause.
"Now, when you are planning a celebration of this magnitude for a man who has everything, it becomes quite a difficult task," Emma stated.
"You need to have the right amount of tribute and speeches mixed with fun or else the guest of honor would have bailed out for a craps table in Vegas," Jamie added followed by a bout of laughter from the crowd and a nod from Tony.
"So that is what we tried to do and believe me it wasn't easy," Emma picked up. "We went through hundreds of ideas for this from a pool party in Dubai to renting out all of Yankee Stadium but none of them truly captured the man, the myth and the legend that is Tony Stark."
Pepper rolled her eyes when she saw the smirk grace Tony's face. "You don't need to encourage him," she called out to the twins.
"Mom, believe us, we know we don't need to encourage him. To be honest, we've tried to discourage it but in putting together this video montage of his life, there was no way to deny it." Jamie responded. "Tony Stark is a legend among mere mortals."
"Since a picture is worth a thousand words," Emma said as she gestured to the screen. "We give you the Chairman of the Board…"
"Emma…" Tony said with a little bit of warning only to receive a smile from his daughter.
"Frank Sinatra, Dad…" Emma laughed as the screen came to life. To the background music of My Way, a slide show of Tony's childhood started to play up through just before his fateful trip to Afghanistan.
Without bringing up the lights, Jamie's voice cut through the darkness as the video and music took a drastic switch. As Black Sabbath's Iron Man started to fill the room, "And no one will ever forget those four words which changed his life forever – I am Iron Man," he stated as a video of Iron Man's greatest hits started to play.
"First he was the son of the great Howard Stark, then the youngest CEO ever, then Iron Man but to those of us who love him as a husband, father and friend, he was always just Tony," Emma interjected as the music changed to Elton John's The Measure of a Man and the video changed again to clips of the family in normal life…Tony and Rhodey goofing around, Tony and Pepper's wedding and their times together away from the public light, Jamie and Emma playing with their father as small children and how much he was involved with their lives as they grew up and ending with a final glance of Tony through the years from a baby to the man he was today.
As the last picture came up the lights came up slightly as Jamie and Emma stepped forward once more. "Ladies and gentlemen, may we present the guest of honor for this evening, our father…Tony Stark," they said in sync with each other.
The applause erupted in the room as Tony got a standing ovation as he walked up to the stage and hugged each of his children before taking the podium.
"I have to admit that I wasn't expecting all of this when Jamie and Emma told me to prepare something to say. At first I was going to delegate it to Pepper like I always have but then after three smacks upside the head, I did it myself, but we all know I am not well known for sticking to the cards," Tony said with a laugh as he pulled a small stack of blue index cards out of his jacket pocket and then set them face down on the podium. "Which is exactly what I'm going to do…this will probably come out better if I wing it anyway," he added with a laugh but then actually got a little serious. "When I was younger, most people were surprised that I made it to thirty with my lifestyle and none of them would have ever banked on me making it to sixty in mostly one piece. If it wasn't for a few special people, I probably wouldn't have made it this long and those people deserve a medal for putting up with all the crap I dealt out. First off, I want to extend my thanks to James Rhodes, my best friend who has been dealing me since I was a snot nosed little kid in MIT. Next, my right hand and the one who has kept my ass in check for over thirty-seven years, my wife, Virginia and last but certainly not least, my children, James and Emma, who nearly put all of this together single handedly while working for me, getting married in Jamie's case, and raising my grandchild in Emma's case. I appreciate this from the bottom of my heart and words really can't express all that I feel for all of them."
Tony paused for a moment, as if he was warring with himself on an internal debate and then came to a decision. "And given then fact that is my party, I feel it is also an appropriate forum to make this announcement. Emma, come up here for a moment."
Emma got a quick nervous knot in her stomach as she approached her father not knowing what he was going to do.
As Emma got close enough, Tony wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her to his side. "Given the fact that I am turning sixty today and Pepper has been after me for years to slow down, I am finally deciding to listen to her." Tony reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring of keys and handed it over to Emma. "Effective tomorrow with the beginning of my retirement, it is my pride, my privilege and my honor to announce that Emma Stark will be the new CEO of Stark Industries International…if she wants it…"
Emma almost stopped breathing for a moment as Tony pressed "the keys to the kingdom" into her hands. She nodded in acceptance before enveloping him in a huge hug to the sound of roaring applause.
"I had been planning this for a while," Tony whispered in Emma's ear. "But I just couldn't let go of my record of being the youngest CEO ever."
Emma lifted her head and playfully slapped her father's should. "Funny Dad. Very funny. Now finish this off, these people came for a party."
"You're right they did," Tony agreed before turning back to the crowd. "As my daughter has informed me, this is supposed to be a party so enough with the boring stuff and time to see how many tabloids get pictures of this on their front page." Tony said as the music started playing and most people started dancing as he turned to Pepper. "Think anyone would miss us if we sneak off?" he whispered.
Some time later, Emma was in the middle of the dance floor with Eric and Antonia when Jamie and Marina came over as Eric was trying to move in for a kiss.
"You have terrible timing, Stark." Eric groaned.
"You move too slow, Banner." Jamie countered before turning to Emma. "Have you seen Mom or Dad anywhere?" he asked his sister.
Emma made a quick scan of the room and didn't spot either of their parents anywhere. "Knowing Dad…he and Mom probably went to the roof with two martinis and won't want to be disturbed." She said with a laugh.
"Even Dad wouldn't do that…Mom would not let him." Jamie countered.
"He's gotten away with worse." Emma replied as a waiter handed her an envelope. She thanked him and looked it over before opening it and recognized the messy handwriting on the front. "It's from Dad." She stated as she began to read.
Dear Emma and Jamie,
I figured since this is more a celebration of a promotion rather than a retirement, your mom and I wouldn't be missed. We're taking the yacht out for a bit to destinations to be determined. Emma, the kingdom is now in your hands and Jamie, I gave SHIELD your cell phone number since Iron Man will still be needed. Thanks again for the birthday party. I did mean every word I said. But now, time for fun. No worries, Jarvis will be able to find us at any time.
Dad (and Mom)
"Well you can't say the man doesn't have balls." Jamie sighed. "He blew off his own party after we busted our asses for this."
"It's his birthday and Dad does what he wants…we both know that." Emma stated. "Marina, you just got a promotion to my executive assistant and come tomorrow morning, we have work to do. First thing, I need a new name plate for my door."
"And what do we do with your father's?" Marina asked as she tapped Emma's requests into her PDA.
"Keep it…right inside the door…underneath my grandfather's just like he did."
"Will there be anything else, Ms. Stark?" Marina asked.
'That will be all."
Author's Note: I want to thank all my fans of this story which made it my most popular fic ever. I also need to thank Tamasit1 for her undying help through this saga…a saga which we met over. My thanks also go out to all the other talented writers who have allowed me from time to time to bounce stuff off of them or vent, such as ZionAngel and Cincoflex. If demand is great enough, I may try to create a sequel to this epic but until then keep your eyes out for all my other works.