Title: Please Don't Let Me Disappoint You (I Couldn't Take It If I Did)
Series: Darcy Stark
Category: Thor/The Avengers
Character(s): Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Darcy Lewis, Phil Coulson
Timeline: Pre- Red Ribbon (Apple of My Eye), Post- You Don't Know Me (But I Know You)
Word Count: 2,575
Summary: It's time for Tony to meet his daughter for the first time since he let her go.
Please Don't Let Me Disappoint You (I Couldn't Take It If I Did)
Tony had changed his outfit no less than six times, holding up ties and shirts for JARVIS to judge. He'd waffled between dressing up and dressing down, between looking the like the media version of himself or the grease monkey that spent hours in his shop. He wasn't sure which would be better, to put her off from him from the get-go, so if she ever found out who he was she would appreciate that he wasn't in her life. Or if he should make a good impression and convince her that he could make up for lost time.
The latter posed a bigger question though; could he make up for lost time? Could he be anything to her? Was fatherhood even in the Stark genes? What if he was a bigger disappointment in her life than he could ever be out of it?
Eventually, all of his confusion, his worry, ended with him in his shop, wearing pressed dress pants and a grease-stained t-shirt; he'd given up somewhere in the middle and it showed.
Pepper found him, she walked into his shop in a sleek dress that did magnificent things to her already long, lean, and understandably admired legs. Her brows furrowed at the song selection, obviously used to the metal music that usually made lesser beings cringe away with impending migraine.
Lullaby by Billy Joel was probably the tamest thing he'd ever worked to, but it fit his current mood and situation. And Tony had never worried about his rep before so he wasn't about to let it start now.
"You don't look ready…" she said, crossing her arms over her chest and giving him that gentle, slightly amused but understanding look of hers. It was a Pepper Potts classic.
He went the dismissive route, despite knowing it wouldn't work.
"I'm really busy today," he said, shrugging. "Maybe tomorrow my schedule will clear up. You can't argue with progress, Pep. The world needs me; who am I to argue?"
"Tony you had me clear your schedule… And then you rented out a Chuck E. Cheese even after I told you she was too old for that…" Her lips twitched, eyebrows hiked. "If I remember right, you said—" She mimicked his voice, "'Nobody is too old for the ball pit, Pep.'"
"That is absolutely not how I sound; I was definitely more feminine and I'd appreciate it if you did my image more justice next time." He gave her a haughty look. "And if I remember correctly, you had no valid argument against my logic."
She chuckled under her breath, but he vowed not to be undone by the soft, feminine noise, even as he felt his stomach twist and his chest lurch.
"Tony…" She crossed the space between them. "You have spent twenty-one years imagining this moment… Cowardly is not a word I would use when talking about you, don't make me revise that statement." She rested a hand on his cheek and stroked her thumb back and forth; he didn't even try not to lean into it. "From what I've read about her, from what you've told me, I don't think she's going to care what you're wearing…"
He stared at the floor, his brow knotted. "I don't want to disappoint her…" he admitted, before cringing. "Or think I didn't want her." His eyes darted to hers and then away. "Because I did… I never wanted anything more in my life than when she was put in my arms…" He ground his teeth, his jaw ticking. His eyes widened in self-recrimination. "And I gave her up…"
"Because you wanted her to have a better life…" She took a seat on the edge of his desk, her legs crossed at the ankle, and cocked her head, hair sifting over her shoulder as she stared at him gently. "Tony, do you remember what you told me, when I asked you why you signed those papers?"
Tony's eyes turned up as he thought back to the night Pepper had sat down on his couch with a bottle of Scotch after he'd dropped the bombshell that there was a daughter he'd given up rights to twenty-one years earlier.
"Explain," she ordered.
So he started with Kelly, a beautiful sophomore in college, that he spent a few months getting acquainted with before the lure of work drew him back in and he ditched her for the blueprints in his mind. Until she showed up on his doorstep, eleven months later, with a baby in her arms. "She just kept telling me that I couldn't be a dad; I wasn't equipped…" He gave a sardonic smile. "That a baby needed a stable life and I couldn't offer that…" He licked his lips, shrugging. "She was right."
"But you got to meet her," Pepper said, staring at him, her brow furrowed.
His eyes fell, face softening. "She let me hold her."
She smiled slowly. "And?"
"And she was perfect, Pep…" He swallowed tightly. "She was so small and so beautiful..." His eyes darted in remembrance. "She had my hair and my chin and she… She looked at me and it was like…" He shook his head. "She was mine. She was everything…"
"Oh, Tony…" she murmured, sadly, reaching out to squeeze his hand, her other balancing the Scotch bottle on her knee. "Tony, why did you sign those papers? Why didn't you fight?"
He stared at her hand covering his. "She was so innocent… Nothing bad had ever happened in her life yet and I… I didn't want to be the one who changed that." He frowned. "I'm toxic, Pepper. I'm— I couldn't give her what she needed. I couldn't parent her; I could barely keep myself above water." He snorted. "The only reason I am now is because of you."
"You would've learned… Adapted!"
"No. I couldn't take that risk," he said stubbornly. "She needed the world and I was just…" He waved a hand around with derisive grandeur. "Captain of Stark Island; home of alcoholism, narcissism, and daddy issues…" His face fell and he wished he hadn't given his best Scotch to her so he could knock it back himself. "I couldn't drag her down with that legacy."
"But you loved her… She was yours…"
Determinedly, he told her, "Which is why I saved her." He turned to look at her, his expression stark. "I couldn't be that person for her then… But I want to try now." He shook his head. "She might hate me or never talk to me, but if I have to announce it on national television, I will…" He nodded seriously. "I want my daughter, Pepper. I'm not letting go of her this time."
His determination was gone now, though, replaced with the wary uncertainty he'd never given much mind to in the past.
"I was overconfident," he argued, sulking. "I just found out she wasn't made into a pancake by the alien Robo-Cop; I was hopped up on adrenaline. If you don't have it in writing, I can't be held accountable."
Pepper shook her head. "Darcy is on her way to this building right now…" She stood up, staring down at him meaningfully. "You are going to be in the lobby to greet her or you will never forgive yourself." She walked away, pausing as she neared the door, and said over her shoulder, "You've spent twenty-one years hiding, Tony… I think it's time you stopped."
The click of her heels as she left was only drowned out by the music growing louder, as if JARVIS was adding in his own incentive.
I promised I would never leave you
Then you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away
Tony didn't change. He didn't wash up. He didn't even put shoes on.
But when JARVIS announced that Darcy had arrived, he gathered up his courage and he went down to meet her.
She was just walking into the Stark building, a duffel bag over her shoulder and a rolling suitcase dragging behind her. She looked around at the opulent foyer with wide eyes, her eyebrows arched high over her square glasses. She gave a long whistle. "Look at us now, hey Jane? Talk about a classy step up from that crap trailer in Puente Antiguo… New Mexico can suck it."
Dr. Jane Foster hummed, taking a pencil from behind her ear to scribble on a napkin in her hand, obviously not noticing or caring about her surroundings.
Tony paused as he approached, his heart pounded, and he took a moment just to watch her.
Darcy had her mother's lighter coloring, her nose, her figure, though she'd taken after him height wise. She still had his hair, his chin, but she was light-years more beautiful than she'd been when she was a baby. All the pictures and footage collected over the years hadn't done justice to what he was seeing now.
He swallowed tightly, took a deep breath, and started across the room, his eyes set solely on her.
She spotted him before the others; well, probably not Coulson considering the agent was disturbingly aware of his surroundings at all times.
Darcy took one look at him, smirked, and said, "Awesome. I'm loving the loose dress code." She looked over at Coulson. "Question: Do I have to mix super casual with super dressy and is engine grease a must?"
Tony grinned slowly, his heart thumping with a weird sort of pride. He held a hand out, smudged with black. "Tony Stark," he introduced himself, his eyes lingering over every plain of her face, and noticing with a light-headed appreciation that her eyes were the same.
She gave his hand a quick pump. "Darcy Lewis, big time fan of the genius brain, snark, and generally explosive personal life." As she let go, she shot a finger-gun at him. "Oh, and honorable mention, the iron heroics! Pretty snazzy suit ya got there; any chance I could convince you to let me have a test drive in the not-so-distant future?" She held up two fingers. "Scout's honor I won't blow up anything too vital…"
Coulson cleared his throat as if to say, "Absolutely not. Never. Do not put this girl in a suit."
Because Tony was, well, Tony, he nodded. "We'll work out the details; nothing a little 'it's not SHIELD's fault that Stark blew me up' paperwork couldn't smooth out." He looked at Coulson, his brow raised. "I'm sure you have a few of those still lying around somewhere."
The agent merely blinked at him before saying drolly, "In spades."
With a laugh, Darcy exclaimed, "Awesome. Gimme a pen and I'm set." She shrugged her bag a little higher on her shoulder. "Just so we're clear, what kind of odds do I have of survival if I'm just this side of clumsy? I mean, the suit's gotta be pretty tough, right?"
"When you say clumsy…?" He was asking because it was polite, but he could actually recite her entire medical history to her; chronologically. From colic to last year's sprained ankle.
She laughed shortly. "Let's just say I've never really shied away from an adrenaline rush and my childhood doctor pretty much retired early on my visits alone."
Considering the subject matter, Tony shouldn't have looked quite as pleased as he did. But given that it was just one more check mark to add to the 'things she has in common with him' list, he couldn't help himself.
"I'm sure that's something Stark can relate to," Coulson said, as if reading his mind.
And if Tony didn't know that his own mind-reading device wasn't yet complete, at least not without a few possibly fatal kinks to work out, he might've thought Coulson had one.
"Somehow I think riding my bike off the roof of my house because I decided I wanted to be a professional daredevil is a little different from jumping out of his privately owned jet," Darcy mused. "But hey…" She held a fist up for Tony to bound. "Us junkies need to stick together…"
"Or we'd have no one to rush us to the hospital," he added, meeting her fist with his own.
She winked at him. "We'll work out a secret handshake later."
"All right, but secrets aren't something I do on the regular; I'm more of the blurt it out while it's still fresh in my mind type." He waved a hand and shrugged. "Proven, as recklessly as possible, by my constant flirtation with the media."
She chuckled deeply as she stepped past him toward a frantic Jane, who was pacing and eager to get to work. Darcy paused briefly to chuck Tony on the chin and said, "I like the cut of your jib, Stark." As she walked away, she turned, waving her greasy hand back at them. "Check it out, I'm two-thirds of the way to following dress code!" She fist-pumped. "First time for everything!" She pivoted back around and hooked an arm with Jane's. "C'mon, I'll steal you a lab to put all your genius to work before I go Pop-tart hunting."
Tony watched her go, feeling light and excited, his heart thumping in his chest, a smile so wide it hurt. "We're keeping her," he told Coulson.
"I'm fairly sure she just accepted you into her inner-circle, Stark." Coulson nodded at him. "Congratulations. Now all you have to do is tell her you're her father."
Tony frowned. "Nobody asked for your logic. I was enjoying my denial period."
The agent snorted. "I mentioned she was smart, didn't I?" He clasped his hand over his opposite wrist in front of him and took on as close to an 'at ease' position as he was capable. "And you said it yourself, you're not good at keeping secrets." He stared at him, an eyebrow ticked. "One way or another, it's going to come out. Don't you owe it to her to tell her yourself?"
"Shouldn't you be agenting something?" He glared at him. "We discussed how I didn't need a psychologist didn't we?"
"It wasn't that you didn't need one, it was that you didn't hire one." Coulson's lips twitched. "Important distinction, I think."
Tony's eyebrows hiked, his eyes wide. "I'm going to go stalk my daughter, who doesn't know who I really am, while I continue to pretend that's not an issue." He started walking away, tossing over his shoulder, "And by the way, I kept that secret twenty-one years… It was a personal achievement; so don't underestimate my powers of denial."
Coulson merely sighed in exasperation, leaving to continue his own work.
Tony climbed onto the elevator.
"Would you like to know where you can find Miss Darcy, sir?" JARVIS wondered as the door closed, giving them privacy.
He hummed negatively. "I'm betting it all on red. She dropped Foster off in a lab, their bags off in their new apartment, and she's now testing the limits of her SHIELD ID card…" He turned his eyes up. "How'd I do?"
"With little luck, she's currently trying to access every high security door she finds. Quite obviously, she's her father's daughter..."
Tony let out a bark of a laugh. "JARVIS...?"
"Overriding to let her inside wherever she pleases, sir." He gave what could be considered as close to a sigh as an AI could achieve. "Director Fury won't be happy."
He smirked. "Even better."