The blare of Ac/DC was usually welcomed in the Stark household. Even in the middle of the night, if Tony was going to be woken up by a phone call, he would be woken up to a ballad he could sing the crap of the morning after.
As it stood, Tony didn't usually have his mobile in the bedroom. He had Pepper for that. Still, she wasn't there, so he caught the dying tone as it started to fade out, and smashed the device on his face.
"This'd better be-"
"Dad! Daddy, I figured it out! Are you sleeping?"
Just nearly choked on his tongue. Both eyes flew open, and something stuttered in his chest. He really hoped it wasn't his arc reactor, or some stray shrapnel slipping loose, but it sure as hell felt like it.
"Dad? Wake up! Don't be so lazy there are things I have figured out! Are you there?"
"Yeah... I'm here..." he took the phone away from his face to confirm the number was Darcy's. As it stood, she had never called him by the familial title, and he was fairly certain he was either on some pretty impressive drugs, or dreaming.
But Darcy charged on, kept talking, so he decided to play along.
"Okay, so listen. Are you listening? Jesus, dad, this is important! Wake up!"
"I can fix everything, I can fix the whole - you know, you know how I wanna be like you, but nothing like you, like, I wanna be me, but be me...Like you? And you want me to be like better than you were, right? Well I figured it out, dad! I put it all together, finally."
Tony's brain usually didn't switch off. But her calling him "dad" had effectively done it, thrown the proverbial spanner in the metaphorical works of his mind. He sat, squinting into the darkness.
JARVIS was kind enough to turn on a dim, glowing alarm clock that read somewhere between Ass-Crack-Of-Day and Why-The-Fuck-Am-I-Awake.
Slowly, it came back to him. Darcy had college friends that wanted to catch up with her for drinks; they had gotten engaged or something. Tony had suggested she take Captain Spangles, but he was too soft core, and Darcy had mentioned imbibing large quantities of alcohol with no shame.
He was the last person to give advice about drinking in moderation, and Pepper was in London on vastly important CEO business so she couldn't do it for him, so he shrugged a shoulder and told her to have fun. At one stage he panicked and offered her his credit card in case of emergencies, but she insisted she would be with a lot of people and she would be fine.
It was a mistake to indulge a Stark at the best of times, let alone one with full intentions of getting piss drunk stupid in the city without at least one Avenger present.
"How much have you had to drink kid?"
"Irrelevant." the cut down was so painfully casual in its delivery he couldn't help feeling mildly amused. "Listen here's the idea- I will just be myself. You know I'm like - you? My mother always said like, I reminded her of you... So, I'll just be me, right? That makes sense, right dad?"
In the background sound scape he heard cars honking. She yelled some pretty colourful things and tires squealed. Tony found himself clutching at his arc reactor, hoping it wouldn't spontaneously give out.
"Darcy, where are you?"
"I'm in New York, derp." and then she cackled, loudly, her volume control out the window. "Hey, no but seriously, are you listening?"
"Yeah, kid, I hear you. Be yourself, got it. Congratulations, you found self confidence at the bottom of a bottle. Is Jane there? Can I speak to Jane?"
"Well, she was." he got the distinct impression she was looking around for the tiny scientist. "I have no idea where she is now."
Alarm bells. He could hear them ringing. And usually the little voice in his head that said: 'This is not good,' was over powered by his ego and ability to turn out fine, but this time that little voice had a megaphone handy, and he was not impressed.
"Who's with you?"
Silence. He knew she was still there because he could hear New York traffic in the background, and what sounded like the momentum of heels clicking on the pavement. She didn't speak, and that was when he became quite concerned.
Darcy didn't so much as stop talking in her sleep, let alone conscious.
"Darcy? Darcy, kid, talk to me. I do a lotta things, mind reading isn't one of them, even though I'm working on that, too. Who's with you?"
There was a pause, and a huge dramatic exhale.
"No one." she said, almost timid. "I'm alone."
And then she started to quietly sob.
"What is it? What's happened? Darcy?" he had a fistful of sheets, twisting the covers for stress relief. He fell out of bed, cracking his knee on the bedside table. "I'm coming to pick you up."
"Dad," the breath that she took in then was shaky, desperately pulled in. "I don't know where I am."
"It's alright, honey, I'll find you." he was speaking in a low tone, hopefully to calm her down. "Just stay with your phone, sweetheart. Stay with me."
He punched in the tracking app he'd designed on his tablet and JARVIS took over, pinning a lock first on his phone, then hers. He tapped in instructions to send the whereabouts to his suit, and yanked on a pair of pants one handedly.
"Would you have taken me in if you knew I existed?" she sniffed loudly, voice thick and sad. "Would you have taught me how to ride a bike, or I don't know, take me to buy my prom dress? I had to loan my dress, you know that? She wouldn't help me pay for it... She said proms were stupid..."
"I would've had someone design your prom dress for you, Darcy." he told her, but she either selectively didn't hear him or his suggestion was muted behind the wail of a taxi behind her.
"She hated me going out, my mother... She said I was so much like you, because this one time I may or may not have hot wired this really nice car- it was a Maserati... And like, I gave it back like I found it, but she was so pissed off because it was such a you thing to do....Oh, God, don't be mad, Tony, I even filled up the tank after-!"
And she dissolved into yet more tears.
"Darcy, it's okay. Listen to me. If you feel bad about the Maserati I'll buy the owner a new one-"
"No, dad! You're missing the point. I worked nearly four months just for the money for my prom dress, did you know that? I had to pay in tips, I worked my ass off, I literally lost like, a dress size and a half. I had to pay my own phone bill and rent - in my mother's house - because she didn't want me to be entitled..." she hiccupped. "Like you..."
Now his kid was howling, hysterical into the phone, and whatever she was trying to communicate was in cry-speak and he couldn't understand it. He was shoving his feet into shoes without socks, while JARVIS steadily illuminated his surroundings, lighting the way down the halls to his lab.
'Shh, hey, hey. Take a deep breath kiddo. I'm still here." he nearly crashed into Steve and sort of baulked for a second. It was beneath him to stare in the face of Captain America and be embarrassed when he said: "I'm coming to pick you up now, alright? Don't panic. I'm on my way."
"What's wrong?" Steve rubbed one sleep blurry eye with his knuckles.
"Darcy." and he started to stride.
Something in the Captain became aware that Tony was two shades shy of panic.
"Where is she?" he asked, rather annoyingly keeping his pace.
"Jarvis has a lock on her phone-" he had his own crammed between his head and his shoulder as he buttoned his jeans, still zipping his fly. "-he's put it up on the GPS in the suit."
"You're taking the suit?" both eyebrows cocked.
"I need to get there now." Don't judge me, bitch. "She needs me now."
Steve nodded, warmth filling his sleepy gaze. The eyebrows came down, and he nodded, almost solemn.
"I'll get my shoes and take a car." He offered.
"Not the Maserati." was his replied advice.
His suit assembled around him, and Jarvis patched through the call in time for Tony to hear Darcy curbing her tears, hiccuping her agony rather than moaning it.
"Did you know I play guitar?" she wanted to know.
"I didn't know that, no. Any good?"
"I was in a band in h-high school." she sniffed up something grossly solid. "And I am the backup vocals, too. Do you play music? Do you sing?"
"I've been known to hold a tune." he flexed his hands in the suit - he felt his heart rate slowing down already, as he was greeted by his old friend who enveloped him in the best damn hug he'd ever felt in his life. "And I'll have you know, young lady, that I play a mean bass."
And as an after thought, he added: "And the piano. I do that, too."
'Are you a metal guy or can you dig Frank Sinatra? I love Frank Sinatra. And Michael Boobs." she giggled. It made the suit light up. "And pasta. I'm really fucking hungry... But I don't know where my purse is. Ugh, I want a giant pretzel so bad."
"I'll get you one on the way home."
There wa a small pause.
"Dad, where am I?"
"New York, baby. I'm half way there. I'm coming, just sit tight."
"Dad, do you like Frank Sinatra?"
"Not really, he was an asshole to my dad."
"Ughhhhh dad. Dad, no! Don't ruin him for meeee!"
"Whatever you want, hon." he was chuckling, because she'd started to hum a song that she maybe thought was in homage to Sinatra, but she just ended up butchering. Then she faded out, stopped making noise. He listened hard but all was quiet. "JARVIS, did we lose her?"
"No, sir, Miss Lewis is still on the phone."
"Darcy? Don't be quiet. I don't like silence, it makes me nervous. Keep talking to me."
"What else do you like, hm? Frank Sinatra. Probably good. What else, baby? What else do you like?"
"Humm..." She sounded sleepy. Sleepy drunk in the city alone with a face and figure like hers was never good. It made for some pretty clichéd damsel in distress bullshit. Those alarm bells in his head, that little voice with the megaphone, they all got real loud, real quick. He ramped up the suit just a little bit.
"Darcy, c'mon kid, work with me here."
"I like... roller coasters, and like... Bumper cars."
"What else, Darcy? What else do you like?"
"I love ... movies."
"What sort of movies?"
"All of them. I love all the genres!" he heard what he thought was a 'whumph!' and then: "Ow! Fuck!"
"What? What did you do?"
"I snapped my heel...Ow..." then the crying started again, this time rather broken. "I loved these shoes..."
"Oh, Darce. I-... I'll get you new ones. Don't cry, baby girl, I'll get you new shoes."
"I don't want new ones. I want these ones."
"Then I will fix those ones. It's alright Darcy. I'll fix it."
"Ow, ow, ow. I really hurt my ankle."
"Is there blood?"
"Don't panic. I'm thirty seconds away."
"Hi! How are you? I'm okay. My wallet? I don't know where my wallet is, why do you want my-?"
She sounded so cheerful. He thought he was gonna die.
"Sir, I detect three male voices."
"I want you to put thirty percent into the thrusters." There was only a minor pause. "I wasn't asking!"
"As you wish."
His knees buckled as he hit the floor- the trio of men flinched (one put rightly fell onto his ass). The gun was shoved in someone else's hand, then down the front of his jeans.
"Not something you want to do." He said flatly. "Run away or be dragged away kicking and screaming, either way, get lost."
"Hey man, no problem."
"No problem? I don't have a problem. You have a problem. It's me. Get outta my sight."
And he proceeded to scowl at them from behind the mask until they were out of his bionic sight. Darcy was giggling, one hand on her ankle, which was straight out. The heel was completely snapped off, imbedded between soft grass and concrete behind her. The other leg was uncomfortably bent underneath her butt, trapping the hemline of her skirt down.
"Hey, kiddo." The face plate flipped up, and he bent to one knee.
"Hi, dad." She beamed at him, but big fat tears were welling in her doe eyes.
"Does it hurt?" He inclined his head to the injured ankle.
"Yes." She studied the suit, swaying slightly, even as she was sitting. "So, are you gonna piggy back me home? Like, logistically speaking, that's gonna be hard. And not to mention, I may just empty my stomach in the air on some unsuspecting patron of the U.S of A."
"Nope, there's time for piggy backs later. Captain Spandex is bringing your ride."
"You told Steve?" Her voice pitched, one hand flying to the swelling of her eyes, the smudges of repetitively wiped eyeliner up into her temples.
"Eh, well... He woke up and ran into me. He offered. I didn't say no."
"I don't want Steve." Her mouth pouted. "I just wanted you."
"I got here as fast as I could." And something was blooming in his chest, warm and soft and fluffy. He reached out a hand encased in gauntlet and pressed a careful fingertip to a tear still tracking on her cheek.
"I know you did." She smiled again and it made those tears in her eyes spill over her cheeks. She hastened to wipe them away, sniffing. "I'm glad you came."
"Did you think I wouldn't?"
"I didn't think you'd answer the phone. I was just going to leave a message. I just wanted to tell you I figured out that I can just be me and be like you at the same time."
"And how exactly did you figure out you'd get home?"
Her smiled wobbled.
"It is home, isn't it?"
"You think it's home, it's yours. As long as you want it, kid, you have it. Me casa es su casa."
"I failed Spanish in ninth grade." she confessed, and wiped her sleeve over her eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Honey, that's why daddy made an instant language translator." he took her sleeve between a careful finger and thumb. "Ain't nobody got time fo' dat."
She laughed, trapping it behind her hands, but it spilled out between her fingers and he was so proud of himself for making her smile he grinned back. His black Lexus rolled up - he nodded to Steve, who was in the dorkiest pajama bottoms he'd ever seen and boots, but jogged over anyway.
"Is my face gross?" she whispered to him.
"Not to me." he told her, and she beamed.
"Hey, Darcy." Steve crouched beside her.
"Hi, Steve." she was still wobbly, leaning more to one side than she was vertical. "I hurt my ankle."
"How'd you do that?"
"Heels?" she looked over her shoulder, and forcibly removed the broken shoe-part from the ground, holding it up like Excalibur. "See what I did?"
"Yeah, I see." he inspected her ankle, ice-white from being bare, and cold. "So, I'm uh, gonna pick you up, okay?"
"Put your arms around me."
"Don't gotta tell me twice." she did so, dramatically, leaning her head to his shoulder. "Yay for living with actual superheros."
Steve lifted her effortlessly - and took a moment, testing how he carried her, when her face contorted in a painful wince.
"My ankle really hurts. But seriously, a giant pretzel." she cocked both brows at Tony. "You said I could have one."
"And you can. I'll meet you at home."
Her hand shot out and grabbed his shoulder.
"You're not coming in the car?" the doe-eyes were back. "I won't even vomit in it!"
"I can't. The suit is too heavy." and it nearly hurt him physically, to walk away, to flip the faceplate down. "I'll see you at home, sweetheart, five minutes tops."
"Dad!" her hand reached for him. "Can we keep talking?
"Yeah, kid, we can talk as much as you like. I'll call the phone in the car."
"Okay." she said, looking worried, like she didn't quite believe he would do so,
But by the time he did, she was passed out cold in the passenger's side.
She stirred after Steve had put her down on her bed. Tony, having being put to bed many times by a woman a quarter his size whilst incredibly inebriated, made the captain step aside so he could remove Darcy's shoes.
"How's the ankle?"
"Does this feel any better?" Steve took her calf and carefully lifted it, squashing a pillow under it for support.
"Mm." one arm flopped lazily over her eyes. "Better."
"It's a little swollen." Steve murmured in Tony's direction. "It might be sprained."
Tony unhooked one of her earrings but couldn't find the other one. He had suspicions it would be lost in the car somewhere. He asked Steve to get some water and scooped the blanket out from under her, pulling it up to her chin, over the dress.
"Thanks." she said, one eye cracked half way open.
"Anytime, sweet child of mine."
"Hey, Tony?" her hand sort of, flopped around until it hit his, her fingers curling around his rather firmly. "I'm glad you're my dad. You're doing a good job."
"Well that's good to know." he mused, squeezing her fingers in return. "Go to sleep, Darcy."
"Okay." she yawned massively, the hinge in her jaw cracking. "Night daddio."
"Sweet dreams, kid."