"Ready Darcy?" asked Pepper gently, appraising her daughter's appearance once more.
Darcy shifted uncomfortably in her button-up shirt, pulling a little at the collar. "Can I please undo a few of these buttons? This thing is really uncomfortable."
Pepper smiled at her daughter and gave her a nod. "Alright, go ahead. You can't do anything worse than what your father does."
"So you say," teased Darcy as she unbuttoned the first three buttons on her shirt.
The warning look her mother sent her made Darcy want to cringe. "Be on your best behavior."
"Yes, Mother," sighed Darcy. "Promise, I'll try not to do anything stupid."
"That's all I can ask," sighed Pepper. "I'm relatively sure Stark's are incapable of handling the media well."
Darcy smirked slightly. "That's why we have you, Mom. Well, that and you're probably the most kick-ass and frightening woman in the business world. Plus, you keep us in line."
"That I do," agreed Pepper with a smile.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Stark?" cut in one of the stage hands, drawing both Pepper and Darcy's attention. "You're on in five." The stage hand walked away before Darcy could say anything in response, hurrying off to do whatever else was needed.
"Mrs. Stark?" muttered Darcy, glancing up at Pepper with a raised eyebrow. "I thought you'd corrected that."
Pepper just hummed a little, smiling slightly. "I may have decided to let you handle that."
Darcy grinned up at her mother, hugging her. "I love you, Mom. You're the best."
"I know, replied Pepper gently, stroking Darcy's hair. "Now, go have some fun with the press. Teach them to actually make sure their sources are right."
Nodding, Darcy let her mother go and headed towards the edge of the stage area. Pepper had walked her through where she needed to go and what was going to happen, so Darcy was relatively prepared. At least, she felt that way.
"And now, please welcome Mrs. Darcy Stark everyone," called the reporter on stage.
Darcy took a deep breath and let it out, before stepping onto the stage. Clapping and shouts echoed out of the audience as she strolled towards where the woman who was interviewing her, Kathy, was standing. She hadn't met the woman before, but she vaguely recalled her interviewing Tony on more than one occasion. The reporter was a stereotypical blond with too much make-up, perfect hair, and a well pressed suit.
It made Darcy grateful that her mother had let her dress casually for the interview: unstained jeans and a button-up shirt. Her hair wasn't perfect, hanging down around her shoulders in it's usual waves, and her make-up was minimal. The contrast made her feel more confident and stronger, knowing her appearance was more natural than that of the woman in front of her.
"Mrs. Stark, it's wonderful to meet you," greeted Kathy with a smile that made Darcy uneasy. It was shark-like, reminding her of a predator out for blood. Kathy shook Darcy's hand quickly, then gestured at the chair on the left while taking a seat in the right-hand one. "We were all very surprised and excited to hear that Tony had married."
Darcy smirked a little. Show time. She'd gotten permission from Pepper to make the announcement about Pepper and Tony's marriage, the two having been married in a courthouse months before on a whim. Well, more like with the intention of not turning the entire event into a media circus. The only people present had been Darcy and Rhodey, who were acting as witnesses.
"It's Miss Stark-Potts, actually," corrected Darcy easily and moving forward before Kathy could say a word. "And you weren't the only people who were excited. I was so happy when Dad and Mom finally got married. Twenty-two years is way too long to dance around the subject. Especially when they've already raised a child together and everything."
Kathy looked a little like a startled fish, which made Darcy want to cackle like a mad woman. She opted to keep going, wondering how much she could say to make the woman uncomfortable. "And they were already married according to Common Law, so it's not like they were really doing anything different. Just, you know, making everything official."
"Miss Stark-Potts?" asked Kathy, finally managing to get something out. "So, I'm sorry, you aren't married to Tony?"
Darcy laughed. "God no, I'm his daughter."
"And the hyphenated name?" continued Kathy, still looking shell-shocked. "I hadn't heard about that."
"Yeah, most of the papers managed to miss it somehow," explained Darcy with a shrug. "But it's hyphenated because Pepper adopted me after I was born." She paused for a half a second to allow the words to sink in before adding more. "Well, more like Dad submitted adoption papers for her. He wasn't in any place to try raising a kid alone at 26. Potts was my last name until last week when we submitted the paper work to have my name legally changed back to my birth one; it just made sense to hyphenate."
"Miss Potts is your mother?" Kathy looked ready to fall over at this point. Darcy wondered if the woman would flinch if a midget ran across stage and slapped her with a fish. She almost wished there was a way to do it and find out.
"Yeah, Pepper is my mother," confirmed Darcy. "Like I said, she adopted me after I was born."
Kathy shifted a little, apparently getting her footing back. Well, that couldn't be good. "And your birth mother?"
Darcy's face fell flat, expression shifting to neutral. "She died when I was born. Hence Dad raising me."
The expression that crossed Kathy's face resembled embarrassment. Which served her right for asking a question that could clearly be loaded. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"I don't remember her except for what her cousin and aunt have told me," stated Darcy with a shrug. "I turned out fine regardless."
"Even so, it must have been hard to watch you father drink and sleep around like he did," pressed Kathy, her groove coming back. "Especially without your birth mother there."
Ah, digging into the pained childhood move. Too bad for Kathy her childhood was anything but pained. "Actually, I never saw any of that. Mom kept any reports on Dad's antics away from me and he didn't drink at home in great excess. In fact, I don't remember him drinking more than a beer or two at home on any given night. And most of the time, he didn't even do that unless I was already supposed to be asleep."
Leaning forward, Darcy offered Kathy a smile. The one she'd learned from Pepper that clearly said 'you're not going to like what I say next and I'm going to enjoy watching you squirm'. "In fact, the only bad part of my childhood was having to keep who my father was a secret in order to stay out of the media. If the media hadn't followed him like a rabid dog, I could have actually spent more time with my father and I wouldn't have had to hide. That was really the only thing that could have made my childhood better."
Kathy shifted in her seat, looking a little uneasy. "Well, your father always draws a lot of attention to himself. It's hard to ignore him."
"I'd argue that," dismissed Darcy easily. "Yeah, Dad enjoys a good party, so to most people. There's nothing wrong with that. What disgusts me is the way the media has become obsessed with observing anyone in the public eye acting human. It's really sad, especially when it means they have to work extra hard to keep innocent people from being treated like a side show at a carnival."
"The people have a right to know about those they look up to," argued Kathy. "You can't say you don't pay attention to celebrities in the media."
"Actually I can, because I don't," replied Darcy. "I've seen how the media hounds my father and I refuse to be part of a group of people that encourages that kind of blatant disregard for the privacy of individuals. The only time I watch the news is if there's a fight my father's involved in, and that's just to make sure he doesn't get killed or do something stupid."
Kathy nodded. "That's very noble of you. Most people don't show that kind of disassociation with their culture."
"Culture is more than the media, for the record," corrected Darcy easily. "It's everything we do as humans and I'd rather spend my time contributing to our culture by inventing and improving new technology to enhance our lives than watching people be harassed."
"You seem very informed," applauded Kathy uneasily. Darcy had to suppress her smirk, knowing her words had hit a nerve. The media never wanted what they did to appear to be invasive and having the child of a celebrity like Tony admit that her interactions with her father had been restricted because of the media wasn't good for them. "Very smart. So what are you doing with your life right now."
Darcy shrugged, settling back into her comfort zone a little. She knew Kathy would try to catch her off-guard at some point. "I'm studying to get a few more bachelors degrees and a couple of masters right now while working for Stark Industries. It's pretty easy stuff."
"A few more bachelors degrees," repeated Kathy in surprise. "I'll assume you have one already?"
"Two, actually," corrected Darcy. "Mechanical engineering and Political Science. I'm going for additional bachelors degrees in architecture, math, and physics and a masters in electrical engineering."
"That's a pretty ambitious work load," pointed out Kathy. "Aren't you worried about burning out?"
Darcy shrugged a little. "I've got an IQ of 180 and have tested out of three quarters of the required classes already. It'll maybe take three years to complete. Maybe."
Kathy nodded slowly, a little off balance again. "And you're, how old?"
"Almost twenty-two," replied Darcy with a smile. "I'm a little behind the curve because I decided to go back to school at 18 and get the actual college experience. It's a little hard to get that when you go to college at 16 the first time around and graduate in two years. The whole 'underage' thing keeps you from doing a lot of stuff."
"You went to college at 16?" stated Kathy with a startled smile. "Well, that's certainly interesting. What made you decide to do that?"
Darcy shrugged. "A friend was going and it sounded fun. Figured I'd give it a shot."
"So you just went to college at 16 because you thought it would be fun?" repeated Kathy. Oh yeah, the woman was definitely a little startled.
"Yep, pretty much," confirmed Darcy. "And I was right. It was a lot more fun than high school and I actually learned something."
"Well, I could see how that could be the case," stated Kathy with a smile. "So, can you tell us anything about what you're working on right now?"
"Sorry, I can't," apologized Darcy. "Confidentiality contracts and copyright patents. You know how it is."
Kathy nodded a little uneasily. "Yes, so you're father has said multiple times." Clearing her throat a little, she managed to paste a full smile back on her face. "So, you mentioned earlier that Tony Stark is apparently off the market now."
Darcy snorted slightly. "He's been off the market for a while. Started officially dating Mom almost three years go after the whole 'kidnapped by terrorists' fiasco. Not that they didn't act married prior to that. Didn't even occur to me that they weren't until I was eight."
Watching Kathy shift uneasily caught Darcy's attention. The woman almost looked embarrassed, if her micro expressions were anything to go by. Oh god, she slept with Dad, probably after I was born. That's why Mom was so inclined to let me dig into her. Revenge. Oh, this is beautiful. "But Tony is officially married now?"
"Officially married," confirmed Darcy with a smile. "I was there for the ceremony."
"It must have been lovely," commented Kathy, smile becoming strained.
Oh, this must be so awkward. Darcy loved it. "As lovely as a courthouse can be."
"A courthouse," repeated Kathy. "I was expecting something in Vegas."
Darcy shook her head. "Nah, Mom's got more taste than that, and so does Dad when it comes to Mom. Or, you know, anyone he actually cares about."
And cue the uncomfortable micro-wince by the host. Perfect. "Well, it sounds lovely and I wish them well. Hopefully their marriage will last for a while."
Darcy just kept from informing the woman that clearly her father's marriage had already out-lasted their brief fling (read: one night stand). "I hope so, too. Dealing with divorced parents would suck but, seeing as how Dad is pretty dependent on Mom, I don't see things ending any time soon."
Shifting, Kathy cleared her throat a little. "So, has Tony's marriage sparked thoughts of wedding bells in your own head?"
And back to poking at her life. Of course, Darcy knew this question was coming in some form or another and had already decided how to answer. "Sorry, that's personal."
"Oh, keeping secrets are we?" teased Kathy with a smile, apparently smelling blood. Too bad Darcy was better versed in how to handle the media than that. "A beautiful young girl like you in a house filled with mostly single superheros? I find it hard to believe you're single."
"I never said I was," pointed out Darcy with a shrug. "I just said I don't kiss and tell. Discretion is the better part of valor and all that."
Kathy nodded. "Wise woman. Though, I can't imagine your boyfriend or girlfriend will be happy you're too embarrassed to at least admit your with them."
And there came the baiting. She'd rewatched some of her father's old interviews, assuming hers wouldn't be too different. Thank god Pepper was fastidious about recording everything. "No, actually, I think my partner would prefer I not discuss our relationship. Privacy is kind of a big thing. Whoever I'm with always knows how I feel, and that's all that matters."
"So you are in a relationship, hm?" coaxed Kathy with a shark-like grin. "Come on, is it that cutie Captain America? He seems like he'd be any girls type."
Darcy just offered Kathy a tight smile. "Actually, by my calculation, I'm in a twisted way related to the good Captain, what with my Grandfather having helped create him and all, so no, that's a little too strange for me. Besides, I prefer my men to have flaws. Makes them more real."
Standing, she offered Kathy a smile that held just a touch of mocking contempt. "Now, since you've clearly stooped to digging for second-hand information about the people I live with, I'm going to assume you have nothing more to ask me. I also believe I've straightened out all matters relating to the media's inability to read and properly research information in the public sphere, so this interview is over. Thank you for having me Kathy and for allowing me to straighten everything out. And a quick thank you to The Daily Bugle for being so fastidious in their research: they were the only news source that actually printed the right story and the sole reason my father didn't completely loose our bet. The rest of you can expect demands for retractions shortly. Have a nice day." With that, Darcy waved to the cameras and walked off the stage with the grace and power her mother had taught her to exude in public.
As soon as she was behind the stage, Darcy allowed her shoulders to slump and her body to lean against a near by table. Pepper appeared seconds later, offering Darcy an encouraging smile. She returned her mother's smile, albeit weakly. "So how bad was it?"
Pepper just shrugged, wrapping an arm around Darcy's shoulders and guiding her daughter towards the back rooms. "No bad, all in all. I'm going to assume that you picked up on the fact Kathy slept with Tony before, though."
"It was kind of obvious," pointed out Darcy. "She kept wincing when I mentioned that he was my dad or when I mentioned he was married." Sighing, she dropped her head against her mother's shoulder. "So how much backlash will this generate?"
"Honestly?" replied Pepper. Darcy nodded wearily. "Probably none. You more or less referred to the media as a bunch of blood-sucking monsters who damaged your childhood by haunting your father's life. They aren't going to want to appear retaliatory, mostly because no one has ever really stood up to them like that. And because you stood up to them, they're going to be weary that you might do the same again. So they'll most likely leave you alone." A smile tugged at the corner of Pepper's lips. "And the end note about demanding the false stories be retracted was a nice touch."
"We can actually do that, right?" asked Darcy. "Because I'd like to teach them not to publish untrue bullshit."
"I sent out the order to PR while you were still on stage," confirmed Pepper with a smile. "Though I doubt it'll keep the newspaper for printing poorly researched stories."
"The information was right in front of them, they just ignored it in favor of what they saw as a more scandalous story," argued Darcy.
Pepper nodded, stopping in front of a door with a sign about it that read 'exit'. "I'm not denying that in any way, shape, or form. Now, we're going to get you out of here while I sooth things over with the show's producers. Happy is outside with the limo. Go home, have a drink, and spend some time with Clint. I'll be home soon and then we can go to the spa for a few days like I promised."
"Thanks Mom," thanked Darcy with a sigh as she pushed open the door. "See you at home."
"See you at home, Darcy," confirmed Pepper with a smile. Just before the door shut though, Darcy watched as her mother slipped the wedding ring which normally hung on a chain around her neck onto her finger. It made her smile; whatever conversation her mother was about to get into, it was going to be nasty. And it wouldn't be her mother covered in proverbial blood when they were done.