For once I was glad I had opted out of a trip with my dad. Usually I was eager to spend any time with him that I could, but this time he had gone to Vegas to accept some award, which he probably wasn't even present to receive. I had opted out of going due in part to my disinterest in sitting through another award ceremony and also because Vegas was bright, flashy and nauseating. It was probably the people.
Don't get me wrong, growing up in the public eye had made me insensitive to being surrounded by flashing lights and hoards of people all yelling for your attention. But there was something about Vegas...maybe because it was hot and most everyone was rich and drunk. At least, those were true with my few experiences with Vegas.
Plus Uncle Rhodey was going. I didn't have to worry as much when Uncle Rhodey was there to help corral my dad. Granted, my dad always seemed to find a way out of said corral, but I felt better with Uncle Rhodey there. No, he's not my real Uncle. Or my dad, as some people still seemed to think. Despite it being well known that I'm Tony Stark's daughter, they still manage to confuse me with being Rhodey's daughter. For some reason it always made more sense to put Rhodey in as my dad than to try and picture how Tony could possibly be my dad. Some people could see it, but others you had to stand my dad and I side by side before they'd see the resemblance. They couldn't see past the skin color.
Sometimes I wished Rhodey was my dad. It would have saved a lot of embarrassment from when I was younger. Drunk people at parties and one night stands asking how "that" could possibly be his daughter. Thankfully, even while drunk my dad was smart enough to boot those people to the curb. My dad didn't put up with racist assholes. He'd been under fire when he was with my mom, but he hadn't cared. There was nothing anyone could have said that would have changed his mind about my mom. And there was nothing anyone could say to make him change his mind about me.
Anyways, I was glad I had declined the invitation to go this time, because my dad was rather loud about the one night stand he brought home. Well, at least they were loud going to my dad's room. He had been smart enough to soundproof his room since I once asked my nanny what the strange noises were coming from his room when I was little. She had promptly quit and left that explanation to my dad, something I was sure he was just thrilled about. That was around the same time my dad's new assistant stepped up to be part-time nanny to my dad and I. And amazingly, Pepper was still here, all these years later. I secretly thought my dad had feelings for Pepper, but I'd never say that out loud. They'd both deny it anyways.
I didn't bother getting up when my dad came home. He'd be up early in the morning anyways. He was supposed to be flying to Afghanistan for some weapons demonstration. I was supposed to go with him for what he called daddy-daughter bonding time, but I still hadn't packed my suitcase or given him a definite answer on whether or not I was going. I knew he wouldn't leave on time, which would give me extra time to decide. I wanted to go. It was supposed to be a short trip, but something felt wrong. Something was telling me not to go. Those feelings were making it hard to sleep, hence why I was awake to hear my father's arrival from his trip. I knew if I went, something bad was going to happen. But what if I didn't go? I still felt sick to my stomach thinking about that. Too bad I couldn't see the future.
I finally drifted off a couple hours later, but it wasn't pleasant. That nagging feeling was still tugging at my gut, even when I woke up the next morning. I felt like I was on the verge of panicking, but I couldn't discern why.
I try to steady my nerves as I head down to the kitchen for breakfast, dressed in light clothes in case I make up my mind on whether or not I'm going with my dad. Maybe that's what was causing my anxiety: trying to figure out if I should go or not.
I catch the tail end of the conversation between Pepper and my dad's one night stand. It was going well as usual, Pepper making a joke that didn't go over this one's head this time. Rare. A smart one. She passes me on the way back to my dad's room to get her things. I don't pay her any attention. Most of the one night stands ignore me. It's easier to pretend that Playboy Tony Stark doesn't have a kid than to face the facts. Sometimes my dad employs that frame of mind as well. It's easier now that I'm older, able to know the difference between when I'm wanted in a situation or not. When I was little I just tended to barge into anything and everything looking for attention. But now I knew better. I'm sure I ruined a lot of one night stands for my dad. The bratty little heiress wanting her daddy to read her a bedtime story. The unintentional cockblock. Of course he'd never say that to my face.
After grabbing breakfast I head down to the garage, knowing my dad is more than likely tinkering away at something. He hadn't woken me up, so he was still here. Figures.
Just as I had thought, he's knee deep in working on the engine of his Roadster. I input my code in the door, music blaring once I open the door. He doesn't turn around, oblivious to my entrance as usual.
"Don't you know you're supposed to be on a plane right now?" I ask, coming over to kneel beside him.
"Yup. But it is my plane. It generally won't leave without me. Will you hand me the lug wrench?"
I grab it from beside me, passing it to him, watching him work. "You're really sure you're going?"
He glances at me finally. "Why? Change your mind?"
I shake my head. "Just a feeling."
He gives me a sideways glance before going back to working. I sit back, pulling my knees against my chest as he pulls parts off the engine.
"Did she leave yet?"
"Yup. Pepper sent her on her way. She looked offended. I'm surprised you managed to bring home a smart one."
"I didn't plan to bring her home, it just happened."
"You know you can skip that sugar coating. I'm not a little girl anymore."
He looks at me again, a sad smile tugging at his lips. "I know. Sometimes I forget that."
I smile at him. "It's okay. I may be an adult now, but I'll always be your little girl."
He gives me "the look" before going back to working on the car. I had long ago learned what "the look" was. He had told me a few times that I reminded him of my mother. The way I talked, or the way I looked or even just how I acted. I had never met her. She died not long after I was born. My dad always got quiet and almost melancholy whenever someone mentioned her, or I made the mistake of asking about her. Sometimes he would slip and tell me I reminded him of my mother. But he always got quiet afterwards and dropped the subject. I had stopped asking about her a while ago. It always made him sad, that melancholy, almost bittersweet look in his eyes. I knew he must have cared for her a lot. A part of me blamed her death for his playboy ways. Trying to drown himself in other women to move on from my mom. But another part of me knew that was ridiculous. My dad had been a man whore since before he met my mom.
My thoughts are disturbed as the music turns down significantly, Pepper's high heels clacking against the concrete floor.
"Please don't turn down my music." My dad says, still working on the car.
"You are supposed to be halfway around the world right now." Pepper says, stopping a couple feet away.
"How'd she take it?" My dad asks, talking about the one night stand.
"Like a champ."
"Why are you trying to hustle me out of here?"
"Your flight was scheduled to leave an hour and a half ago."
"That's funny, I thought with it being my plane and all, that it would just wait for me to get there."
"Tony, I need to speak to you about a couple things before I get you out the door."
"Doesn't it kind of defeat the whole purpose of having your own plane if it departs before you arrive?" My dad moves, sitting on the front tire of the Roadster.
"Larry called." Pepper said, interrupting him. "He's got another buyer for the Jackson Pollock in the wings. Do you want it? Yes or no."
"Is it a good representation of his spring period?"
"No. The Springs was actually the neighborhood in East Hampton where he lived and worked, not 'spring' like the season."
"I think it's a fair example. Uh, I think it's incredibly overpriced."
"I need it." My dad said, standing up. "Buy it. Store it." He walked over to the mini bar, Pepper following him.
I listen to them banter about my dad's schedule, Pepper trying to keep him serious while my dad was doing what he does best. Pushing everything aside until the last minute so he could decide if it was worth "forgetting" about or not. Something he was very good at. Including forgetting Pepper's birthday which just so happened to be today. I had already given her, her present from me yesterday, not knowing if I was going to see her today or not to give it to her. I had gotten her a necklace to go with the dress she bought for herself from my dad. My dad barely remembered my birthday, much less anyone else's. Sometimes I wonder if he even remembers his own.
My dad finally decides he's going to leave, handing Pepper his espresso cup before pausing by the door. I already know what's coming, trying to make the decision in my head on the spot. Go or not go? My stomach was still in knots, the anxious feeling ever present in the back of my mind.
"You coming, Zinny?"
The words I had been dreading. My heart is starting to pound as I wrestle with my answer for a moment. Would anything change if I didn't go? Would the feeling go away or would it just get worse? I had never felt this way, even though my dad had gone halfway around the world without me many times. And many other times I'd gone with him. No trip we had ever planned had left me feeling this anxious. I always got nervous flying, going new places, but I had always been able to shake it off. But this….this was different. This was a lingering dreadfulness, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach like something was about to go horribly wrong. Something terrible and lifechanging was about to take place. So I did the only logical thing.
"Of course I'm coming."