Steel Meets Iron
Raven had a wide world in her own small galaxy. In her world she had her daddy-but-not-her-real-daddy, her godmother Irene, her uncle Shane and her bearded lizard Yoda, along with the many other inhabitants she rather not name. In her world she was happy, cozy in her country house, in her room with a window facing the horizon, playing her violin for daddy, catching crickets for Yoda. Raven was very happy despite the bad weather that came constantly. Bad weather like today. Today was a bad day, her daddy had whispered into her ear after she had whispered her tea to go grab Yoda and hide in the closet.
"Why don't you listen to your iPod?" He had suggested offering her a jammy dodger. Her reached over and cupped the back of her head, with a pat he sent her off.
Raven had hidden in a closet many times before, mostly when her daddy brought business home, he preferred it that she saw nothing. Just in case. So when she was given the strange instruction she thought nothing of it, she grabbed the plastic carrier for Yoda, her iPod and went into her closet. It was nothing to her, she knew that his business was serious and his business were equally serious, Raven never got him cross about his work. He was mean when he worked, he was mean to a lot of people but he was always nice to her. And he was always there. Her godmother Auntie Irene didn't like her to call him daddy, she's not yours, she often snapped when she was angry at him, and he would retort with the same comment, so? Auntie Irene lived with them but sometimes she left for days or weeks at a moments notice which made her presence similar to a recurring guest.
She was stroking Yoda's back when the closet door opened, it was not her daddy nor Uncle Shane above her, it was a lady and Auntie Irene. Her daddy always came for her.
"Where's my daddy?" She asked them.
With the ear-buds out her ears she could hear strange voices echoing through the house, unfamiliar and cold. "Where is he?"
Auntie Irene knelt down to her level.
"Honey," she said in her sultry American accent, "sometime 's happened. You see, Marshall has gotten into big trouble with the police because of his business."
"So? He'll be back by tomorrow, won't he?"
The woman whom had knelt down also gave a sympathetic look, a part of her wanted to run but those strange voices kept her still, outside was not safe.
"Sweetie," Auntie Irene continued, carefully choosing her words, "he may be going to prison and I'm afraid that..."
"What?" She pressed feeling her throat tighten. "Do I have to go and stay at someone's house?"
Auntie Irene shook her head pulling her golden hair back in contained frustration. "No. Do you remember what I told you about Marshall?"
"That he's not my daddy?"
"Yes. Well, since he's not your daddy and because of his business, you have to go to a new home."
The statement hung in the air thick as smog and as stubborn tears brimmed her eyes the woman still stared sympathetic, yet not a condolence fell from her lips.
"No," she protested, "I don't want to go anywhere."
"Rae, please, listen to me. You're smart, you don't need to be afraid. This lady here is going to take care of you." Raven broke out in tears.
"Why can't I go with you then?"
"Because, you're better off somewhere else, far away from this."
She shook her head,"I want my daddy."
"She's going to take you somewhere far," she explained, "where you don't have to hide in closets anymore. Somewhere safe."
"I want my daddy!" She cried. "I want my daddy!"
Irene sighed heavily grabbing Raven's wrists pulling her to her feet.
"No! No! No!" She shouted. "Let me go! I hate you! I hate you! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!"
Pepper Potts, CEO of Stark Industries, was wrapping up another multimillion negotiation on her phone while her PA handed her a contact to overview and sign when something caught her eye. In the midst of the chaos that was work she had the wherewithal of a corporate lion sensing everything and everyone that circled around her. She knew all her employees and could feel the world shift the moment entered the room but someone was being escorted to her office. As the woman stood politely at her door Pepper had desperately scanned her head for any mishaps that Tony may or may not have causing over the past few months. His friendship with Bruce Banner had left him quite busy in his lab but Tony being Tony would have taken him out for a night on the town and caused some sort of media mayhem. She thought back, racking her brain as she beckoned the woman to sit and for her PA to close the door behind her. Life was calming down, as calm as it could, since the New York invasion, the woman's appearance was a black cloud swollen with rain and thunder.
"Sorry about that, business, can I help you?"
The blonde haired woman at her door gave a humble nod and entered taking a seat.
The woman gave a soft smile that tugged slightly at her face. A side effect from the tight bun on her head. "I must apologize," her voice had a light Irish coo to it. "I was looking for Mr. Stark but your receptionist told me it was wiser to speak with you first. I'm Ms. O'Shaughnessy."
They shook hands.
Pepper took a deep breath, "Why didn't you arrange a meeting with him through his other affiliations?" She wondered. "If you don't mind me asking."
"I need this affair to be handled as discreetly as possible. No media. No ostentatious symphony and it seems that Mr. Stark is not one for discretion."
Pepper gave an understanding nod. "I see. So what shall I run by him?"
The woman inhaled sharply, "I'm afraid that I could not bring any formal papers for the sake of... other parties, nor is this a business proposition. Ms. Potts I'm from the Irish-American consult, there has been an incident in Ireland involving a child. She had to be removed from her current home and is about to be placed into the Irish foster care. Her current guardian has stated that Tony Stark is the child's father and thus we are obligated to ask Mr Stark if he wishes to take in the child or to go ahead and place her into the system."
The air had been sucked out the room. Pepper's hands were shaking as her mind went back to the years of Tony with a different girl every month. All the girls that came and left. Those articles of the aftermath of a Tony Stark party. The days of the old Tony. It was a dark thought she had often mused over as the women came and went, him slipping up and getting one of them pregnant. It was so easy to mess up, and somehow those days hadn't scathed him until he had been kidnapped in Afghanistan. That seemed to be karma catching up to him but apparently the universe was not finished with Tony Stark.
"Sure?" The woman finished. "That's not my place to decide. No one here is twisting his arm to take her in."
"Her?" Pepper echoed hollowed. "She's a girl?" Against her will she imagine a little Tony, as a girl. A little girl with big brown eyes.
Ms. O'Shaghnessy nodded, "Her guardian will understand if Mr. Stark declines with his dual status, but she insisted to exhaust all her options." She dug into her purse, "She mentioned you Ms. Potts and to give you these in case you had any doubts of paternity."
In the envelope she handed Pepper were a handful of pictures. Pictures of Tony and a group women, one of them was the child's mother but she was still reeling to add memories to the frozen half drunk faces. Then there was a picture of one woman, she was gorgeous with cascading auburn hair and bright green eyes like a cat, a model to curvaceous for high fashion she guessed. Pepper remembered her now, once she saw those eyes, the girl that lasted two months, a record for the old Tony.
"Her name was Vivian Rocher."
Ms. O'Shaughnessy shifted in her seat, "Yes. She's dead."
"What happened?" Pepper asked trying to see her before her.
"She was murdered."
Pepper's head was spinning she wanted to break something and flip her table. Tony may have a daughter in Ireland who's mother was murdered and was going to be thrown into foster care.
"Does she know about this?"
"No. She only knows that she has a daddy who doesn't know she exists."
The statement made her lurch, she had to call Tony.
"Perhaps you should come by tomorrow after I've discussed this with Mr. Stark." She needed to think, they needed to think.
"I'm afraid I cannot wait a day Ms. Potts, we need to decide where to send the child before someone intersects us."
"Excuse me? Is there something else I should know about this child?"
Ms. O'Shaughnessy squared her shoulders, "Perhaps you should summon Mr. Stark."
Needless to say, when she relayed a summarized version of the conversation Tony did all but crash through the floors in stupefied shock yet he strolled him stone-faced with the subtle smell of whiskey on his breath in the same Black Sabbath and jeans she left him in that very morning. He said nothing but flipped through the pictures Pepper wordlessly handed her and flickers of recognition appeared on his face. They exchange the automatic pleasantries before Tony went straight to the point.
"So what happened to Vivian?" He demanded calmly.
The moment she had seen the head-shot picture he remembered Vivian Rocher, mainly her accent and those shocking eyes that dragged him in. She wasn't clingly and in silence spoke volumes, she was the first memorable woman to have walked out on him with her held high. She knew that he was nothing but a good time and she would be just another notch in his bedpost but God was she graceful about it. She had been stunning when he last saw her, smiling as she got into a car.
"She was murdered three years ago," Ms. O'Shaughnessy said evenly in her subtle brogue.
The horrible surprise was evident on his face, he leaned on the wall rubbing his head eyes uncomfortable and dark with fuzzy memories. "And you're now contacting me because..."
"The child's godmother stated that Vivian never intended for you to be in the child's life, since she was capable of caring for her but now... she cannot."
Tony slapped the envelope on the table, "Could you be more specific?" He had just got here and already he was losing his patience. If they were so pressed for time then why the hell were they dancing around this like a waltz for sloths? His voice was tight and warning, Pepper had never heard him use that tone while sober.
Ms. O'Shaughnessy's face became sombre as she pulled out a case file from her briefcase.
"As you wish," She muttered. She gathered herself taking a deep breath before summarizing all the papers she had brought with her. "Your name was not placed on the birth certificate," she handed him the copy of it, "and by the time of birth Ms. Rocher had moved back to Ireland with her boyfriend. Who later murdered her in a drunken rage. In the police report it says that he had found out he was not the child's father and attempted to drown the child in the bathtub." Pepper gasped silently and held her head as Ms. O'Shaughnessy continued, "When Vivian intervened he killed her. I'll spare you the details." She handed him a copy of the police report. "He was later shot in the courtroom. The child then went to live with her godmother Irene Moore and her boyfriend Marshall Helms," she continued. "Two weeks ago Helms was arrested under suspicion of various counts extortion, battery and assault with a deadly weapon." She set another document on the desk. "So Mr. Stark the bottom line is that Ms. Moore wants the child far away from Helms for her own safety. She wants the child to be in a stable and healthy environment, she is giving you the option to adopt the child or wave your rights."
"Okay, I get that but you know who I am right? Not trying to be an egoistical ass but yeah. You see where I'm going with this right?"
"Clearly you have never met any children from a foster care system."
Tony face was unreadable but Pepper could sense the storm of emotion with each bite of background, the silent reels and implosions. He was lost and torn.
"Do you have a picture of her?" Pepper wondered.
She was silently given a school photo and Pepper couldn't help but smile back at the girl smiling at her. The girl was smiling at the camera her school uniform neat and pressed, her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail, a wave of freckles ran across her face, cheek to cheek, and those dark Stark eyes twinkled with mischief and confidence. She looked like Tony, an elfin Stark. She didn't say nothing but looked up when he asked.
"How are they so sure she's mine?"
Without missing a beat she replied, "The dates for one; Ms. Rocher had begged the doctor to lie about the conception date since it added up to the weekend you took her to your house in Malibu. Secondly the child's intelligence, she's liable to skip a grade and apparently has shown signs of being a genius."
Tony tensed recalling the weekend and his jaw clenched, when Pepper showed him the picture of her she knew he could see it, the genetic cocktail before him. The possibility and probability crashing onto his lap like puke after riding a massive roller-coaster with a hangover. With a long choked pause he asked,
"What's her name?"
"Raven. She's seven years old."
The moment she had breathed her age he announced,
"I need a blood sample."