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The Invention of Home

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2013

“Mr. Stark?” Tony couldn’t quite believe his eyes. It was a person in an Iron Man-like suit, much like the many iterations he’d designed and built over the past 5 years. The person, in the suit very much like his own, landed at the balcony of Avengers Tower, the repulsors turning off as the metal of the suit clinked against the floor of the balcony. The voice was feminine, and the suit, which mimicked his, seemed to function much the same way an Iron Man suit would. Jarvis had alerted Tony to the presence of the unidentified object that was headed towards Avengers Tower, so Tony suited up and was ready for whatever battle he was about to face. But the voice caught him off guard. Okay, Tony knew that women could be just as formidable as men, and this person being female did not automatically mean she wasn’t a threat. It’s just that the voice wasn’t what he was expecting. The red, metal suit had no other indications of her gender (which meant whoever built the thing was smart. Boob cups on armor were always pretty useless.)


Tony stood across from the young woman, his visor down, suit on, and he had Jarvis analyse the interloper’s suit. It appeared to be a titanium alloy, very similar to the one he used in all of his own suits. Impressive, if not a little concerning. Maybe, like Pepper said, he had been a little too forthcoming about this whole Iron Man business.


“Nice suit. I’d be a little impressed, if I hadn’t come up with it first,” Tony said to the young lady in the metal suit in front of him.


“Are you really Tony Stark?” she asked, as if she couldn’t quite believe it. Tony wasn’t sure what to make of the question.


“Where’d you get the suit? Black market? I’d be careful, if I were you. Most copycat attempts don’t end well for the test pilot,” Tony replied, avoiding her question. It wasn’t that he was afraid to answer. Maybe he just thought that if he did, he might have to face why she was really there. What he didn’t expect was for the girl to open the visor. And she really was a girl. Young, African-American… young. The girl looked no older than 16 or 17, her eyes earnest and full of wonder.


“I thought you… You quit being Iron Man, right? I heard you quit,” the girl said, her eyes, a hazel brown, staring at Tony in genuine confusion. He had quit. Quite ceremoniously, in fact; exploding nearly every suit he owned.


“I didn’t quit. I retired,” he retorted, his visor still down.


“You blew up all the Iron Man suits. It was all over the news,” the girl said, taking a step towards him.


“And yet, you still managed to get your hands on one. Well, an inferior replica,” he said, quietly running a facial recognition on the young lady. The girl, however, scoffed, her metal clad hands clinking against her metal clad waist.


“Inferior? I designed and built this thing from scratch and it works just as well as any of yours,” she challenged him.


“Sir, her name is Lena Owens. She’s a robotics student at NYU Tandon,” Jarvis informed Tony, pulling up her school ID. Tony nodded a little.


“Thank you, Jarvis. Look. Lena? Is it? Your little science experiment or whatever is cool. You got it to fly, good for you. But you’re sorta trespassing, here, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Tony replied.


“How did you know my name?” she asked, taken aback.


“Facial recognition software. Found your school records. NYU? 3.9 GPA,” Tony rattled off.


“What? It’s 4.0,” she argued.


“Not what it says, here,”


“Since when?” she challenged him, her brows lifting.

 

“Look, kid, you can either leave the easy way, or I can escort you out,” Tony said plainly.

 

“No, wait! I-”


“Escort it is,” Tony said, and before the girl could even react, he’d picked her up and flown her beyond the balcony. Quickly, the girl closed her visor, struggling against Tony’s grasp.


“No, wait! Let go! I need to talk to you,” she argued.


“You haven’t been talking?” Tony retorted, pulling up directions to the NYU Tandon building.


“Let me go!” she fussed.


“I let you go, now, you drop,” he challenged her.


“My suit flies, dude,” she scoffed, but he stayed the course. The girl stopped struggling, crossing her metal arms. “Where are you taking me? Just put me on the ground.”


“Tandon,” he replied.

 

“I don’t live there, genius,” she argued.


“You don’t? I lived in the lab when I was at M.I.T.,”


“Maybe I don’t need to, to be as good as you,” she argued.


“It’s cute that you think you’re as good as me,” he said.


“I grew up middle class and taught myself how to build functioning robots before high school. You grew up the super rich son of Howard Stark,” Lena retorted. “I’m probably better than you, if we’re honest.”


“Okay, impressive,” he admitted. “I dunno about better…”


“Look, I need your help, okay? The Avengers,” she said. “Can we just… can we land somewhere?” Tony considered it for a moment. He let out a sigh, deciding to at least hear the kid out.


“Jarvis, find us a place to land. Private,” he said.


“Scanning rooftops, sir,” Jarvis replied. Jarvis showed Tony a comprehensive list of all the rooftops in the area, picking a nice unfinished one for them to land on. So, Tony took them down. When they landed, he set the girl down gently.


“Okay, what do you need my help with?” he said, his visor coming up for the first time. The girl followed suit, opening hers, her eyes filled with awe. Tony sighed, rolling his eyes a little. “Alright, yes, I’m Tony Stark. Wow, amazing.”


“Sorry. It’s just, you’re my... idol. Seeing you in person,” she said softly.


“What’s the problem?” Tony pushed, though mostly because he was just curious as to why this girl decided to bring her charade all the way to Avengers Tower.


“Oh. Right… So, for the past few months, after completing my suit, I’ve been going around the city, stopping crime,” she admitted. “Nothing big. Small stuff, mostly.”


“You’re the reason for those ‘Iron Man stopped my mugger’ rumors,” Tony interrupted.


“I guess. Sorry,” she winced.


“No, it’s cool. I like that people feel safe,”


“Yeah… but they won’t be safe if the Avengers don’t…. I stumbled across something. Something kinda bad,” she said.


“Bad like how?”


“I’m not sure. There’s this organization… as far as I can tell, they call themselves ‘The Hand,’” she said, her eyes suddenly fearful. She bit her pinkish lips, her eyes dropping away from Tony. “There was this kidnapping case. I thought I’d have to, just, like… fly in, rescue this kid, and leave. But… it was awful. They called him the Black Sky. They have these… people. Who aren’t just your regular bad guys. Like, they’re… almost superhuman. If it wasn’t for the suit, I’d probably be dead.”


“Kidnapping? So, why didn’t you call the police?” Tony asked. As bad as that sounded, it didn’t seem like a job for the Avengers.


“The police don’t stand a chance. The guy I faced could kill a regular person in seconds,” she replied.


“I’m sorry. You went to rescue a kidnapped kid-”


“Yes,”


“And you ran into a superhuman who can kill a regular person in seconds,” Tony continued. Lena nodded. “And, this is why we leave the superheroing to the superheroes, Ms. Owens.”


“A superhero is just someone who has the opportunity to help people who can’t help themselves, Mr. Stark. I have that opportunity to help the community. It wouldn’t be right for me not to. How was I supposed to know that I’d run into something like that? I just wanted to stop rapists and thieves and murderers… and give people hope that Iron Man didn’t abandon them,” Lena said, impassioned and convinced by her own mission. It was noble, but naive.


“When you put on a suit and go out there trying to be a hero on this scale, stuff like that finds you. That’s why people like me and the other Avengers train, that’s why we sacrifice. You can’t just put on a suit and call yourself Iron Man-”


“You did,” she challenged him.


“I did because I had to. And as soon as I became Iron Man, trouble followed. Do you understand that?” he scolded the girl.


“I’m not going to stop,” she said, her eyes glaring at him. “And if you won’t help me, I’ll just take down The Hand, myself.”


“Do what you gotta do, kid,” he said.


“Oh, just so you know? I think they’re planning to destroy Manhattan. They said something about finding the Black Sky so that they can begin the reckoning,” she said, closing her visor.


“Wait. Destroy Manhattan? I thought you said it was a kidnapping case,” Tony said.


“Do you listen?”


“... Tell me more about this ‘Hand’,”

After Adventure w/ the Avengers & Daredevil foiling this Hand plot

Tony felt bad seeing the girl’s injuries. It looked like it really hurt. But she fought like a champion, and Tony even felt that she might be Avengers material. If she wanted to be. With her permission, they stood side by side as they worked to repair the damage to her suit. It really had been well built, with very similar structure to one of Tony’s earlier models. She’d reverse engineered a lot of it from pictures and videos of suit function, as well as analyses on fan boards. She really was an impressive girl.


“How old are you, anyway?” Tony asked as he quietly upgraded the girl’s suit with a functioning arc reactor.


“Nineteen,” she said.


“I gotta say, Lena. I’m impressed, I really am,” he commented.


“That means a lot. Especially coming from you,” she smiled, looking up at him as if he were truly a god. It made Tony think of a few Thor jokes, but he wasn’t sure if they’d make sense if he said them out loud. “Cool, an arc reactor? Yeah, I couldn’t figure that part out.”


“I made my own element-”


“Made your own element. I know,” she chuckled, saying it at the same time as him. “My power source was pretty clean and well functioning. I designed a tiny Tesla coil that would react to the sun, and store solar energy in a battery. The problem was that I could never get my repulsors to function as powerfully as yours do.”


“They will, now,” Tony said. “By the way, the amethyst crystals were a good way to concentrate the beam, but they’re not useful for converting electrons into muons, which is also why your repulsors weren’t as strong. I updated them for you.”


“Can I have my crystals back, though? I grew them,” she replied.


“I don’t care. Do whatever you want with them,” Tony muttered, examining her helmet. “This could also use some shock absorbtion. I’m surprised you’re not always concussed.”


“Mr. Stark?”


“Don’t get me wrong. This suit is very well made. How’d you fund it?”


“Grants, mostly. Ordered the material through school. Mr. Stark-”


“Imagine what you could do with unlimited resources,” he smiled at her, but the look in her eyes gave him pause. “What?”


“... There’s something I should tell you. I guess,” she started.


“Uh oh. Am I in trouble?” he asked jokingly.


“I mean, I don’t even know if it’s true. I mean, I have no way of knowing other than what I’ve been told, but-” the girl rambled, her hazel eyes faltering.


“Lena, what is it?” he had to admit, his heart was starting to race. The girl’s curly dark hair was a mess of a floppy afro, falling into her face as she held her eyes downcast, afraid to look at him. Tony wasn’t always the best judge of people’s demeanor, but this seemed like maybe bad news.


“I mean, all I know is what I’ve been told. I guess, I do have a way of knowing, but… that is to say, I guess I have to tell you what I’ve been told, first. Right?” she said, refusing to look up at him. Okay. What she said next, Tony admitted, had crossed his mind maybe for a split second, the first time he saw the girl. It crossed his mind, but just as soon as it did, he put it out of his mind, because it didn’t seem realistic. Then again, nothing in Tony’s life had ever been something one could honestly call “realistic.” So, when she said it, it almost didn’t register, for a moment. It felt like he was making it up in his mind. “Part of the reason… I came here is… becauseIthinkyoumightbemyfather.


He stared at her for a moment, after she said it. Maybe a moment too long. He stared, and she froze, her light brown face pinkish as her hazel eyes crept to look at him. He was staring too hard and too long, and he knew it, but he couldn’t really think of any good way to respond. Which is probably why he just said-


“I’m sorry, what?” he said, his face stoic and unchanged. She glanced up at him, then looked away quickly, anxiety all over her face.


“I know… I’m sorry. It’s… it’s probably not true,” she said. “I just, I don’t know why she would tell me that. You know?”


“Your… your mom told you I’m your father?” he asked.


“I mean. She didn’t tell me. I don’t think she was going to ever tell me,” Lena started, cautiously looking up at him. “But… then, she was sick, and… I think she wanted me to know, before she… I mean, I asked her so many times, and she-”


“She told you I’m your father?”


“Yes,”


“‘Tony Stark’? She said ‘Tony Stark is your father’?” he asked again, the thought feeling more absurd than not.


“It’s probably not true. I’ve been trying to figure out why she would say that for the past two years. All I can come up with is, maybe, because she knows how much I admire you, and she… wanted me to think my dad was this great man,” Lena explained, her eyes apologetic. “It’s… it’s probably not true, so…”


“She- she’s… did she pass away?” Tony asked, staring at the girl as if she was some sort of ghost. Lena nodded. “... I’m… I’m sorry. I-”


“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have, um…”


“Who… what was her name? Your Mom,” Tony asked. Lena glanced at him, smiling a little.


“Adele. She, um… she used to be a model. She said she used to get invited to your parties all the time, and that’s how she met you,” Lena shook her head. “But, I dunno. She used to tell me all kinds of stories… about celebrities she met and hung out with. I don’t know what’s true and what’s legend. She was always telling stories.”


“Adele… Owens?” Tony asked, his mind vaguely recalling a beautiful brown girl with long hair that he met back in the early 90s. He was young, then, and used a lot of the partying and drinking to cope with the death of his parents. And the girls. Oh, the girls. There were quite a few of them, at that time. It embarrassed Tony that he couldn’t tell the girl that Adele was more special to him than she was, but he did like her. He remembered her being funny, which stood out from some of the other girls he’d spend time with. He remembered seeing her when he wanted to laugh.


“Duh. Lena Owens… no father… my last name would probably be hers,” Lena chuckled, smiling softly. “You don’t have to remember her. It’s okay. She said there were a lot of girls, and she wasn’t your girlfriend.”


“No, I do remember her. She wanted to be the next Naomi Campbell, and always made bad puns featuring my name,” Tony smiled at the memory, until the realization came crashing down on him that he was standing next to Adele Owens’ daughter, who was maybe his.


“Yeah, she loved puns. Got my fair share of dad jokes,” Lena chuckled.


“Adele’s dead…” Tony looked at the girl. He didn’t know what he was expecting to see, but he looked at her, looked for some kind of recognizable trait in her face. Which… felt kind of silly. He didn’t know what he was expecting to see. Some kind of sign hung on her forehead that read ‘Hi, I’m a Stark’ or something.


“I’m sorry…” Lena frowned. “I really didn’t think you’d remember her.”


“Time out. If I’m your father, why didn’t Adele just tell me?” he questioned.


“She said you didn’t know each other like that, and she was scared,” Lena replied, wincing a little. “I dunno. She was young, man.”


“Yeah, but I probably would’ve just… I mean, I wouldn’t have left her hanging. I’m not a bad guy.”


“You kinda were. Sorry…” Lena said calmly. “I mean, now, you’re a gem, but I’m, like, a Tony Stark encyclopedia. You were known for being the bad boy of science. You built weapons of mass destruction, slept with multiple women and almost never called them again or returned their calls, you made … obnoxious statements to the media, drank too much, made a spectacle of yourself, and you definitely did not make yourself easily accessible to the girls you… invited to parties… other than when you wanted to see them for a good time. She had every reason to be scared of you.”


“Not if she was carrying my child!” Tony yelled, stopping himself as soon as he did. Everything the girl said about him was true; he knew it was; but it was still painful to hear. And the worst part about it all was that he wasn’t really sure how to cope with an Iron Baby literally being dropped on his doorstep nineteen years later. He wasn’t sure how he was allowed to react. He needed a moment to process this. Taking a step away from the workstation he and Lena had been standing at, Tony took a deep breath, his hands running through his dark hair.


“Well. Maybe she wasn’t. She probably just told me that to make me feel better,” Lena said softly. “... And I really shouldn’t have told you without some sort of confirmation.”


“Do you really think your mother would use her dying breath to lie to you about who your father is?” Tony looked at her, his eyes stern. Lena shrunk back a little.


“I mean, it wasn’t her dying breath,” she said. Tony just stared at her. He stared at her face as she glanced shyly at him, as she gave him an uncertain smile. She looked like his mother. Brown, sure. Maybe he could even see some of Adele’s features in her. But she did; she looked like Maria Stark. He rubbed a hand over his goatee, shaking the thought out of his head. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe he was just letting the power of suggestion take over. Or maybe the thought of having a nearly twenty year old kid terrified him.

“Just… forget I said anything. It’s probably not true.”


“DNA test,” Tony said, snapping his fingers. “Jarvis?”


“I need Ms. Owens’s consent before I can collect a DNA sample,” Jarvis said. Lena, disgust on her face, looked around for the disembodied voice.


“What the fuck? What happened to a cotton swab of the cheek?” she scoffed. Tony shook his head. “How the hell is your AI gonna collect a DNA sample?”


“Lena. Hair. Cheek swab. Fingernails, I dunno. A vial of blood. Volunteer something,” Tony snapped; he didn’t really mean to snap. Lena stared at him for a moment, apprehension in her eyes.


“Uh… Jarvis, what would you prefer?” Lena asked the AI.


“If you’re comfortable with a cheek swab, that would work quite well, Ms. Owens,” Jarvis replied.


“Uh… yeah, let’s do that,” Lena nodded, glancing at Tony.

 

****

 

“It’s kinda like an episode of Maury,” Pepper said, standing in the doorway as Tony stared obsessively at the holoscreen results of Jarvis’ DNA profiles of both him and Lena. He didn’t respond to Pepper’s ribbing. He was still trying to find a margin of error in the results. “So… what’s the reveal?”


“Pepper,” Tony muttered.


“I’m your daughter?” she teased. Tony glared at her. “Sheesh. Tough room, tonight.”


“What do you want, Ms. Potts?”


“Ms. Potts?” Pepper was sort of taken aback by Tony’s tone. Sure, this was big, but she didn’t think Tony Stark, of all people, would react so emotionally to this Lena situation. Or, maybe, she didn’t think Lena would end up being his. She realized, in that moment, that she must’ve been. “Tony-”


“I guess I should call the kid,” Tony said. “She’ll probably be happy.”


“... Congratulations,” Pepper said, walking to the man and placing her hand on his shoulder.


“Hm.”


“Tony. Are you okay?”


“Yeah. Yeah, she’s a great kid,” he nodded, his eyes staring at the results. 99.9% chance of paternity. He glanced at Pepper, flashed her a smile, then closed out the holoscreen.


“Are you sure?” Pepper asked, her eyes studying Tony’s face.


“... You’re not upset?”


“Why should I be upset at something you did 20 years ago?” Pepper smiled at him. He sighed, his feet carrying him to the window. Pepper watched as he stared out of it distantly, his hand rubbing at his goatee. “Tony… are you sure you’re okay?”


“Yeah. I mean… I totally missed out on every part of my daughter’s life. And I didn’t even know I had any living relatives until earlier today. Other than that.”


“Well… you can be a part of her life, now,” Pepper offered, giving him his space.


“Pepper, she’s an adult,” he said, his voice low.


“I know. But… it’s not too late to have a relationship with her. I mean, you didn’t want to raise a child, anyway,” she teased.


“I would’ve raised her,” he snapped, turning to Pepper. There were tears in his eyes. “Hell, she probably would’ve helped raise me. I wasted so much time being a playboy, not giving a shit about anyone or anything, and I had a little girl out there, growing up without a daddy, who I could’ve been there for. We needed each other, Pepper. And I didn’t even know she existed.”


“I know. I can’t imagine how you must feel, right now,” Pepper offered, empathy in her eyes.


“Is it bad that I’m kinda furious at Adele? I mean, she’s dead, Pepper, and I’m kinda furious at her,” Tony chuckled dryly. “She could’ve told me. Yeah, I was a piece of shit, but she could’ve given me the option to try not to be. And I would’ve, for Lena. I wouldn’t have let her grow up like that. I would’ve given her everything, Pepper! And she’s so fucking smart. Imagine what she could’ve done with my resources.”


“You can still give her everything, Tony. She’s nineteen, she still needs you,” Pepper said, unsure of what to really say. Tony shook his head a little, and then he covered his eyes. He stood, frozen, for just a moment. He was crying. Pepper sighed, and she walked over to him, engulfing him in her arms. “Tony… you can still give her everything.”


“I just feel like it’s my fault,” he cried, his arms sliding around Pepper for support. His face burrowing into her shoulder. “If I wasn’t a piece of shit-”


“Thinking like that isn’t going to help,” she said softly, holding him.


“It’s probably my fault, Pepper. I remember… I tried to call Adele, once. And her number was disconnected, so I just… I called someone else. That was the last time I tried to contact her. She was having my kid, and I just… called someone else,” Tony said, pulling out of Pepper’s arms and wiping his face. He looked a little embarrassed, so Pepper hugged him, anyway. “I need to call Lena.”


“Call in the morning. Take some time to collect your thoughts,” Pepper suggested. Tony looked at her, his eyes reddish from crying, and he kissed her softly.


“You’re right. I can’t call her like this,” he said, shaking his head, a hand running through Pepper’s hair.


“I need you to understand that what happened happened, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. What you can do is decide what your relationship to your daughter is going to be from this moment on. Okay? No guilt, no shame… just what’s best for you, and what’s best for Lena,” she said, looking into his eyes. Tony nodded. “Okay?”


“Yeah,” he muttered. Pepper smiled.


“Big baby. You should be happy,” she chuckled, hitting his chest playfully. Tony smiled a little.


“I am… did you see the suit she built?” he chuckled. “She’s a genius.”


“She’s a Stark,” Pepper offered. Tony smiled a little, nodding.


“Yeah… yeah, she is.”