Chapter Thirteen is up :). I don't really like this chapter haha, I think it served more as a filler than anything else. The next chapter is gonna be a lot better since I'm gonna have us skip ahead to the expo center! Think of think of this as the last chapter before we start following the second Iron Man movie a little bit (there will still be MANY personal twists to it of course ;) ). As always, I hope you all enjoy the chapter and please Review!

Chapter Thirteen


We had got home later that evening, mostly because I wanted to make sure April was completely clear headed before I dared to let Pepper see her. She had handled the hangover better than most people might and to my great pleasure, she didn't vomit all over my car on the drive home. And that valet had done a great job of getting my baby clean again. She looked practically new and there was absolutely no trace of throw up anywhere. Today was gonna be a good day.

"I never got to ask you," I said as we walked into our home. "Did you find a school you were interested in attending here?"

April shrugged and sighed. I knew that she wanted to go somewhere that would challenge her and make her feel accomplished, but her best bet was to truly be in Europe for that. She was at Oxford for the longest time and that alone stood above any education a seventeen year old could hope to acquire.

"The school's around here...aren't really what I'm looking for," she said. "And I kind of want to change my major a bit..."

"Oh really?" I asked. "To what?"

"Whatever it is you do..."

I was floored for a moment and I truly just stared at April. I loved to think that her sudden career and major change was because she admired me, but I did not want to risk her going into something that she would later hate just because she had wanted to recieve approval from me. April had gone to school to become a lawyer and I was so proud of her for that, but this major change would essentially have her starting over completely. I did not want her to abandon past goals to satisfy me.

"Princess," I said carefully. "You know I think that's...awesome...but you need to think about it first. You would have to start over with your schooling completely."

"Dad, I'm seventeen..." she said. "Most teenagers my age are just starting to apply to colleges."

She did have a point and it wasn't like money was an issue. I just truly didn't want her getting into something she would later regret. For her to get into my line of work she would have to major in engineering, chemistry, biomedical engineering, physics and math. That was a very large case load for someone so young. And even though I knew my kid could do it, it was also a lot of pressure. I would ensure her a job with Stark Industries...but she would also have to show her metal...I didn't even know what my child knew about couldn't be much, I imagined.

"You know that I will support whatever you choose...excluding being a prostitute...or a pole dancer...reporter...mmm, long as you stay out of those career fields everything between us will be great."

I smirked and gently kissed the top of April's head.

"I'm going to go and...relax for a bit..." she said gently pulling away. "You think you'll be okay for an hour or so without me babysitting you?"

With a roll of my eyes I sent her off with a wave of my hand and began making my way to the lab. I had something I needed to check regardless. For a while now, although I hadn't been paying it much mind, I have been dealing with something that is slowly...well...killing me. The palladium in my chest is poisoning me and I knew that I was running out of time to find an alternate element. It was all rather ironic if I truly sat down and thought about it. I was finally gaining a relationship with my daughter, only to find out that I was going to lose my life.

I had taken a lot of time going over what I was going to do with the business when I died and for the longest time I had thought I would be naming Pepper CEO of Stark Industries...but now that April was in my life and I found out that she wanted to take an interest in the family business...I was thinking that I would have to bequeath the business to her. Pepper, of course, would still stay on hand for April...she loved that girl just as much as I did. At least I liked to think she did.

But with April back in my life, now all I wanted to do was work twice as hard to find a solution. Before when I thought I was dying, I was prepared to give up legacy... everything to Pepper. Now that April was here I wanted her to be in my life. I had no desire for it to end so quickly...I already missed so much with April because I was a blithering douche bag that sent her away, I refused to be taken away from her now.

So I turned to Jarvis and braced myself for a night of research and endless work. It would probably be easier if I told someone...I could have them help me, we could band together whatever research we came across. However, that would involve revealing it to Pepper and April...and if April knew I was dying now that we had finally reached some common ground, it would hurt her more than words could probably express. And right now I enjoyed seeing her smile at me, rather than scowl.

Hours passed and I still felt like I had made no progress. Maybe there really wasn't a cure for this poisoning...maybe I had finally met my match. God, it just wasn't fair...I had wasted so much of my time doing stupid shit over spending it with my kid...saving the world...and now I was going to get my ass kicked by some stupid fucking machine I built to save me! God, life was such a fucking bitch! Unable to contain my temper, I pushed all the papers from my desk and through a coffee mug through a glass partition just as Pepper was making her way down the steps.

"Tony! Jesus Christ!"

I felt my blood run cold for a moment and I cleared my throat awkwardly. Pepper always had the best timing imaginable.

"Oh...hey, Peps..." I said somewhat quietly. "You need something?"

"What the Hell are you doing?" she snapped. "Are you trying to kill me?!"

"No...I mean...c'mon, you'd think I had better aim if I was actualling TRYING to...I just lost my temper...I hate that fucking mug."

Pepper cocked her eyebrow at me and I could see in her blue eyes that she knew I was full of shit, but I didn't really care. I was going to stick with my story mostly because the truth would just make Pepper more upset.

"Tony...are you okay?" she asked, stepping over the broken glass. "You've been down here for hours...maybe you should go to bed."

"What? Bed? No...I'm not tired..."

"You look exhausted."

"Looks can be decieveing."

"Yeah, not your something wrong? Are you sick?"

Damn that woman...she saw right through me in absolutely everything. I didn't want her to find out about the poisoning...I would never be able to look at her again if she found out I was dying. It wasn't that I didn't trust Pepper with the information, it was the fact that I didn't like thinking about my own mortality rate. I knew that everyone died, but I refused to believe that I was going least this early in my life.

"No, I'm just working Pepper," I sighed, closing the screens Jarvis had up. "New suit upgrades and stuff."

"Hmm...and working on new suits reminded you just how much you hated that blasted coffee mug?"

"Yes, exactly." I said with a nod.

Pepper smirked at me, but I could tell that it was only half her usual teasing was seeing through me right now...and when that happened the best thing for me to do was either change the subject or find some excuse to get the Hell away from her.

"Soo..." I said. "I should go check on April...dummy, clean up that shitty mug, please."

Giving Pepper a sly wink, I slid past her and made my way upstairs. April was in the living room watching TV and casually I sat down next to her and slung my arm around her. She turned to face me briefly and I saw her smile out the corner of my eye just as she turned back to face the television. This was was almost like we were a completely normal family.

"So what are we watching dear heart?" I asked with a slight yawn.

"Hmm...I don't know actually...I wasn't really paying attention." she lifted the remote and scrolled through the guide briefly. "A Nightmare Before Christmas apparently."

"Oh! I remember this movie!" I smiled widely. "Do you? It was your absolute favorite when you were little. Maybe..."

I paused in thought for a moment and snatched up April's hand.

"C'mon, I have to show you something."

I didn't wait for her permission before I was pulling her off the sofa and towards my bedroom. I had kept something of April's...something she had actually given to me the day I had sent her away to England. It was a small stuffed animal...a little ghost dog named Zero. When April had first seen the Nightmare Before Christmas she fell in love with the little ghost dog...and so...I bought her own stuffed one. It was to make up for the fact that I wouldn't let her have a real puppy in the house.

When I had driven her to the airport and helped her board...she gave the puppy back to me. I still remember to this day what she had said to me...she said that Zero would protect me until she came home. For a while I had kept the stuffed toy on my dresser, but after having countless women in my room...I eventually pushed it to the side and it wound up in a box in my closet. I know, I'm an asshole, but now that April was home...if she wanted she could have her little toy back.

"Tony, what are we doing?" she asked, as I went to the closet and pulled an old box from the back.

"Just humor me, princess." I said, opening the box.

"Alright, I'm humoring you." April smiled, taking a seat on my bed. "Do you ever sleep in here?"

"I eventually find my way."

"Yeah, at like four in the morning."

"My best work starts at three." I smirked, routing through the box. "You'll see...soon you'll be staying up that late."

"I bet." she sighed. "What are you looking for?"

I was worried for a moment when I couldn't find it, but after a minute or so of pushing junk around, I could feel the soft plush of April's toy dog. I smiled and gently pulled it up from it's cardboard home and turned towards April.

"This..." I said, gently placing the dog in her hands. "Remember this?"

April's eyes widened slightly and I smiled as she gently ran her hands over the white felt. I hoped that she would be happy that I kept it and not angry that it had wound up in a box of junk. I would never blame her for being upset...even if I did think it was a bit trivial. So it was in a box...I kept it safe for her regardless.

"You kept it?" she asked, looking up at me.

"Of course I baby girl gave it to me."

"I missed it so much when I was away," she sighed, her fingers gently pulling at the floppy ears. "So I'm guessing this means you still won't let me get a real puppy."

"Psh," I snorted. "Why would you need a real have a perfectly good plush one right here."

April smirked and rolled her eyes playfully at me.

"Gee...thanks..." she smiled. "I guess some things never change."

"Nope..." I smiled. "Besides, the moment that little mutt would chew on one of my wires and I would have to send him to a freaking sausage factory."

"Tony Stark...the humanitarian," she snorted, pulling herself to stand. "I don't think I can trust you with Zero might send him off to the Good Will."

"Zero?" I said, feigning offense. "He deserves far better than that...I'll send him to a recycling plant."

"I'm gonna send YOU to a recycling plant, tin man." April hissed, sticking her tongue out of me and excusing herself from my room.

Cringing as I felt my chest ache painfully, I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself before standing and going back down to the lab.

"That might be sooner than you think, princess..." I breathed to myself.

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