Disclaimer: I do not own anything you may recognize, for they (unfortunately) belong to Marvel/Paramount.
Author's Note: Thanks to the reviewers! On to chapter three! (Longer A/N at bottom.)
"This is unreal," said Paulie a few days later when I showed him the letter. I had smuggled it out along with the picture, the rest of my inventions, and a bottle of my mother's lavender perfume, which was currently stashed away in one of my socks.
Paulie laughed and shook his head in disbelief. "You are Tony Stark's daughter? No way." He shook his head again. "That explains your freaky genius tech skills."
I tucked my legs underneath me and read the letter again. I still couldn't believe it, but what Paulie said had a grain of truth in it. Where else could I have gotten my love for fixing technological things and designing engines and robots? Not only that, but where could I have gotten the intelligence to do so? My mother was a kindergarten teacher and I'm pretty sure she didn't secretly design racing engines in the basement.
"You sure your mom wasn't, you know, drunk that night?" asked Paulie thoughtfully, "I mean, she could've been so shattered that she thought she was sleeping with Tony Stark."
"It's a possibility," I replied with a shrug, "she was a crazy college girl back then." I leaned against the headboard of Jonas's bed and gazed at the ceiling. "But there's also the possibility that she did sleep with Tony Stark."
We sat in silence for a few moments before Paulie said, "But what are the possibilities that the dude she slept with had the same intelligence that Tony has? I mean, there is only one Tony Stark in the entire world, and what're the odds that another super genius was in the bar with your mom that night?"
"You're right," I said quietly, "there's the option that I'm just a tech nerd by chance. Bill Gates' parents were normal, weren't they?"
Paulie sat up, and his sudden movement rocked the bed and startled me. "Think of it this way, though," he said, "you know who your father is! Don't tell me you haven't been wondering where the other half of your DNA comes from, because you have. And especially now, after the Incident."
"We were just talking about how there's a possibility that he's not my father," I said flatly, "and now you're all like, 'Now you know where the other 24 chromosomes came from!'"
"Don't speak bio at me," he snapped, "science is your strong point."
I rolled my eyes and my lips twitched up into a smile. "But anyway, I think that he is." I dropped my voice and gazed down at the letter again, taking in my mother's neat, sprawling cursive. "It makes sense… a little."
"Hang on," said Paulie suddenly, getting up from the bed, "I want to see something." He hurried out of the room, and after a few minutes, returned with a piece of paper clutched in his hand. He settled himself back onto the bed and stared at the piece of paper before looking back at me.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Looking for similarities in your appearance," he replied simply. "Yeah, I can see it a little. You have the same nose and eye-shape. And the same lips." He studied the photograph of Tony Stark for a few moments and then glanced up at me. "Smile!" he commanded.
"I- okay." I shot him my brightest, cheesiest grin.
"Eh." He kept looking back and forth between the photograph and me before continuing, "Nah, your smile is your mother's. And I can't see if he has a cleft chin because of his beard, and you don't have one, so…"
I let him ramble on for a few more minutes before I interrupted him. "You know this really doesn't prove anything?" I said, "Only a DNA test could truly tell me if he was my dad."
Paulie put the photograph down. "Well, you're not going to get that."
"I'm aware," I sighed.
"I wonder what he's like in person," said Paulie softly. "Do you think he's a jerk when there are no cameras around?"
I shrugged. "Maybe. He never came across to me as a guy who changes his personality for the public."
We sat in silence, left to our own thoughts. I wondered how this could even be possible; Tony Stark could never be my father. It was like telling some mediocre actress that some kind of phenomenal actor is her father. I couldn't be Tony Stark's daughter simply because the man was a demigod - he was untouchable, unreachable, and so freaking intimidating that if I did get the chance to tell him, I would probably run away and hide before I even uttered a word.
I picked up the letter again. I didn't read the words - I just looked at Mom's cursive. She had nice handwriting. It was hardly elegant, hardly calligraphy, but it was pretty. A cross between print and cursive, like she couldn't make a decision. I imagined her warm hand moving across the paper, probably by lamplight in her room when I was asleep or secretly working on my engine design by moonlight. I wondered what she was thinking while she wrote it. Did she remember what that night was like? Did she remember the sound of Tony's voice? Did she think about what an impact this news would have me? On Tony himself, if he believed it?
But he never got the letter, because she never had the chance to send it out.
I was torn from my thoughts by Paulie saying, "I wonder why your mom didn't just email him. Why a tedious letter? That takes time and money."
With an eye roll, I set the letter back down on the bed sheets and gazed at him. "She wrote it in a letter because it's more personal," I said, "an email is cold. You don't tell someone they have a daughter through an email. The black type is just so… impersonal."
"How deep of you," replied Paulie with one eyebrow raised.
"But what would've happened if he did get this letter?" I said, thinking aloud, "Would he just ignore it or come out to see my mom, maybe even remember her? What if he met me? Would he know I was his daughter on sight, or would he need to get to know me first?"
"Teresa!" said Paulie, "You're rambling."
"Uh-huh," I said distractedly. "It can't be that hard to guess that I'm his daughter, after all, you said it yourself - we have the same freaky genius skills and a desire to design things and invent them. I was - am - accepted into M.I.T. and I'm only fifteen years old… if he graduated from M.I.T. at seventeen, he was probably around my age, too, and with his intelligence he probably flew through the curriculum and that's why he graduated summa cum laude so young-"
"Teresa!" shouted Paulie, effectively interrupting me. I stopped and stared at him, but my thoughts were still whirling around in my head like a tornado.
"God, I hate it when you do that," he muttered after a while, "you just go on and on and you don't stop."
I barely heard him. My thoughts were wrapped around me so tight I couldn't hear a thing. What if I sent the letter? What if I finished my mom's job and found out if Tony Stark was actually my father?
And then, the craziest idea in the history of crazy ideas hit me like a brick wall. What if I went to California and met him?
I told Paulie this idea and he stared at me, dumbfounded. When he recovered from his shock, he said, "You do you realize you're talking about meeting this billionaire weapons manufacturer as if you're going to bump into him on the street, right?"
"No, no, that's not what I'm talking about." I shifted my position, too excited about this idea to sit still. "What would happen if I went to California and spent some time with him?"
Paulie just stared at me. "Are you feeling alright?" he asked. He reached up and felt my forehead with the back of his hand. "You can't just waltz into Stark Industries and be like, 'Hey, guess what? Tony Stark's my dad!' Nobody will believe you."
"I know that!" I said indignantly. "That's why I won't just waltz into SI and announce that I'm Tony Stark's daughter. I want to know what he's like first. I'll do it on the sneak."
While Paulie continued to gape at me with that dumbfounded expression on his face, my mind whirled with ideas and plans. What would be the easiest way to get into Stark Industries without raising any strange questions or suspicions? How could I get on the inside without calling attention to myself?
I leapt up and started pacing. "It's got to be something to do with M.I.T.," I mumbled, "because that's what we have in common. If he sees that I'm from M.I.T., it might make things easier. It won't look so suspicious."
"I can't believe I'm going to help you with this," said Paulie, "but what if you said you had to visit Tony Stark because of a program that M.I.T. wants you to do? Like if you went to his house and learned the tricks of the trade?"
"An apprenticeship, almost?" I asked him, turning around. I liked this idea. If I was from a program from M.I.T. that required him to teach me some tricks of the trade, that was definitely a way to get inside without being asked stupid questions.
Paulie was shaking his head in disbelief. "But how are you going to do it?"
I thought for a few moments. "We need to send a letter first," I decided, "one that tells him about the program and that I'm the one he has to teach. It has to ask him if he wants to do it." I started pacing again, thoroughly excited. "We'll make up a department."
"You're going to make up an entire department?" asked Paulie, flabbergasted. "Teresa, come on, you can't just make up a whole department. What if they look into it and find that it doesn't exist?"
"Then I'll just tell them the truth," I said, shrugging. "Or maybe I'll just make up a part of the department, like the people you send letters to and the curator, stuff like that. Easy to remember stuff."
I went to the desk that was pushed against the wall and started looking for some paper. When I found some, I grabbed a pencil from the cup near the mirror and started scribbling down names and occupations - the fake names and occupations of the new Student Apprenticeships for Enrichment Department.
Then, I began to write the letter that Tony Stark (or probably Pepper Potts,) would read. Peter was still on the bed, reading the list of names that I handed him.
"Flora Wintergarden?" he said, reading the curator's name as if it was some strange, poisonous plant. "That doesn't sound convincing."
"If J.K. Rowling could make 'Severus Snape' sound convincing, 'Flora Wintergarden' will be too," I replied absentmindedly as I scratched out a few weak sentences. I drummed my fingers impatiently on the desk, trying to think up some more words.
Bring it down a notch, advised a voice in the back of my head (I'm not crazy.) You're jumping into this too quickly. Think it out before you get yourself into a lot of trouble.
My conscience - or whatever you call it - was right. If I carried on like this, rushing into sending this letter and creating this department, I would miss things and holes would be created, allowing room for errors and possible disastrous outcomes. The mathematical side of my brain began to overrule the emotional side, and suddenly I was sitting in the desk chair, staring off into space as I worked this whole thing out.
After about an hour and a half of intense planning and outlining, the entire plan sat in front of me on crinkled lined paper and in a pile of eraser shavings.
"Wow," I said, setting down my pencil and taking a deep breath. "I need a cigarette."
I laughed at my own joke, but Paulie didn't. I looked 'round and saw him stretched out on Jonas's bed with one arm over his eyes, asleep. I rolled my eyes. Paulie was famous for his ability to fall asleep anywhere he wanted to. He once fell asleep during gym class, tucked away behind the bleachers. He didn't even notice the bell had rung until I had to find him and tell him to get the hell up.
I stood up and walked over to the bed, smiling to myself. Instead of shaking him awake, like any normal person would do, I bent down towards his exposed ear and screamed, "Paulie!"
"WHAT?" He jumped violently, nearly knocking himself off the bed. He rubbed his eyes for a few seconds and then glared at me blearily. "Teresa! You're crazy," he said, pretending to be angry. "Why'd you wake me up?"
"We've got business to take care of," I replied simply. I went back to over to the desk and handed him the letter. "Read that, and tell if me it's alright."
Paulie's eyes flicked back and forth as he read the letter, a scowl of concentration deepening with each line. He read it twice, then placed it down on the bed. "Well," he said slowly, "it looks official enough. I think you've got a shot with this."
I smiled triumphantly. I may have lost a parent - but I may gain one back in the near future.
Longer A/N: Wow, this took me a really long time to write, which I apologize for. I sort of lost the inspiration to continue with this, but luckily it has returned. This chapter feels like a crappy filler to me, but that's probably just because of my insecurities haha. Sorry again for the space between updates - hopefully things will pick up. Thanks so much for the wonderful reviews! I am in debt to you, wonderful readers.