Ava stares up at Stark Tower. She had made it but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be here. The weather matched her mood, the sky dark and foreboding, soaking her through almost instantly. So much for good impressions with her father, Tony Stark. Upon stepping into the lobby the receptionist asked her politely yet with an upturned nose whether she had business with anyone that worked there.
“Yes, I do. Could you tell Tony Stark that Ava is here to see him?”
The receptionist gave her another once over before tapping her earpiece and delivering the message. Apparently the response was immediate because her eyes widened and she stood up at once, leading Ava to the nearest elevator and pressing the button.
“My apologies, Jarvis will lead you up to Mr. Stark’s floor. Welcome to Stark Tower Ms. Ava.”
Ava stepped in hesitantly and the doors shut immediately behind her. What she assumed to be Jarvis spoke up immediately, “Hello Ava!” The A.I. sounded suspiciously jovial but Ava decided not to question it. The elevator was efficient and she barely felt the speed at which the elevator was traveling. All too soon the ‘ding’ indicated the doors were about to open and Ava took a deep breath, readying herself for the eventual slew of questions. She was not disappointed. It was her first time in the tower but it was everything she expected from Tony: sleek and modern. What she didn’t expect was the entire avengers team plus a few others to be assembled there. A brief moment of silence occurred as Ava stood silently dripping on the polished floor of the elevator. Then Stark brushed by Captain America and strolled up to her, pulling her into a brief and awkward hug.
“Did Jarvis announce my presence to the entire tower?” Ava asked, bewildered by the group of super heroes still standing there. Steve and Sam were in front, looking intimidating with their crossed arms while Natasha and Clint whispered, peering around a wall to get a better look at her, and much farther back in the room she glimpsed Bucky, the winter soldier.
Tony rubbed the back of his neck, “I think he’s excited because you’ve never been in the tower before and he’s always wanted to see you in person.”
Their conversation seemed to unfreeze everyone in the room and they were almost on the point of converging upon Ava when she shook her head and jabbed at the lobby button in the elevator, “This was a bad idea, never mind,” she muttered.
“Hey, hey, hey what’s going on? You obviously came here because you need something,” Tony jumped forward but Steve was quicker and his hand came down on the door, stopping it from closing.
Ava twitched, flinching back from him and his sudden proximity to her. “No…no I need to go. This was definitely a mistake.” She backed into the corner and burrowed deeper into her oversized hoodie.
“Hey, its okay, we’re not going to hurt you, we just need to talk to you,” Steve said consoling, opening his arms as a gesture of peace but Ava knew it was really just to prevent her slipping past him.
“That’s exactly what they said to me,” Ava whispered back. She could sense Steve was about to act so she caught him by surprise, moving quicker than he expected and ducking passed him. She knew she wouldn’t get far and so wasn’t caught off guard when a strong hand grabbed the back of her hoodie and pulled hard. She was yanked off her feet and fell to the ground hard, her already throbbing ribs searing in her chest.
The winter soldier was above her, his metal arm flexing slightly, “Sorry,” he muttered, “My arm calibration is a little off…didn’t mean to throw you.”
Ava gave a tiny nod, breathing in sharp little gasps to alleviate the pain in her chest.
“Ava, what the hell is going on here!” Tony looked a little frightened by her behavior and crouched down next to her. He reached out and gently cupped her cheek. “You said you didn’t want to have a relationship with me, that you didn’t want to be connected with my name, so I backed off,” he whispered, even though the room was silent enough for everyone to hear.
Ava grimaced and tried to laugh even though it came out strangled. “Oh please, I was a teenager going through a rebellious faze, of course I said that.”
Tony smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. He was sad, and she could feel it. “If my math is correct, and its me so of course it is, you are still a teenager. That angst shouldn’t really leave until early twenties if my youth was anything to judge by.”
Ava’s shoulders slumped. She knew the consequences of coming here and she had come anyway, now it was time to face the music. Sighing, she laid down, since it was more comfortable on the floor anyway and helped the discomfort of her ribs. “I’m in deep shit dad,” she said softly, addressing the ceiling. She could hear the avengers coming closer now that she wasn’t actively trying to run away. She felt numb, their emotions passing through her without her caring what they meant.
“What kind of shit.” Tony’s voice was serious.
Her eyes glazed over slightly but she didn’t cry. “Mom went completely crazy and—”
“Stark,” Bucky’s soft voice interrupted her. “She doesn’t look so good. Maybe she should be checked out by Banner before we learn what’s been goin on.”
Ava stared accusingly at Bucky. “Excuse me, I look completely fine and—” She was cut short again when Bucky gently nudged at her ribs with his boot. Fire burned its way up her rib cage and she sucked in a breath.
“See.” Bucky deadpanned.
“Well, she definitely has your self preservation skills Tony,” Banner remarked as he gently bound Ava’s ribs. “I would give you a lecture about how to care for your two broken and four bruised ribs but I think I will find that you will listen just about as well as Tony.”
Tony shrugged, “I guess it runs in the family.”
Ava looked over at Steve who was hovering by Tony’s elbow. She could sense an overwhelming amount of love and protectiveness coming from him and she was sure it wasn’t for her or Banner.
“So, Ava, will you please tell me what is going on. Seriously.” Tony had turned serious again, his hand on the blanket covering her legs.
Ava took a deep breath. “Uh…how do I start…” she addressed the ceiling because it was easier to explain how she came to be in this state while not talking to anyone directly. “I’m at MIT getting my masters in engineering and coding right now.”
“Wait, you’re at MIT, isn’t that where you went Tony?” Steve asked.
Tony smiled proudly, “Like I said, it runs in the family.”
“But you look pretty young to be getting two masters right now…how old are you?”
Ava rolled her eyes, used to this line of questioning. “I’m nineteen.”
Steve’s eyebrows shot up but Tony shot him a glance. “Well what did you expect from my daughter? Now shut the fuck up I’m listening.”
Ava half snorted, “Alright…well I hadn’t seen mom in a while. We didn’t really part very well when I first got accepted to college. I swear I had only seen her a couple times in over six years. But the last time I saw her I felt…that something was different. She was secretive and angry and lying to me about seemingly inconsequential things. I left shortly after that and six months later she calls me out of the blue and apologizes about how she acted and begged me to come over for spring break.” Ava paused for a moment and clicked her tongue nervously. Tony put a comforting hand over hers but she pulled it away a moment later and clenched it in her lap. “I went back over spring break like she asked, “she continued, her voice notably subdued. “The first day was fine, she wanted to go shopping and grab dinner. But the whole time it seemed like she was keeping herself in check. That night I-I was getting ready to go to bed when I sensed-heard something that didn’t sound like mom. I snuck up to the door to hear what was going on when it burst open and these fucking people dressed in black like fucking ninjas came in and tried to shoot me with a tranquilizer. I was able to evade them for a moment, enough to get out of the bedroom, and I almost made it to the door when…mom came flying out of no where looking completely batshit crazy and grabbed my hair and threw me into the door and kept me still enough for them to pump me full of tranqs.”
Ava glanced up and Tony’s mouth was slightly agape. Whatever trouble he had expected her to be in, this definitely hadn’t occurred to him.
“So anyway, I woke up disoriented, confused, you know the drill. And I know you really don’t want to know this but…it was HYDRA. They did their little experiments on me, they really just wanted me to program some hellish weapon but I didn’t.”
“Wait they experimented on you? How did you get away? Are you hurt more than just your ribs? Brucey-bear check her out, I can’t believe this, we need to get Bucky in here and—“
Steve placed his arm around Tony’s waist and squeezed it slightly. “Tony she’s here, she’s safe, she’s alive. Bruce can check her out, but it will be alright. We’ll deal with this the same way we’ve dealt with everything else.”
This seemed to calm Tony down enough for him to nod to Banner and say, “We’ll be outside so you can…” he gestured to Ava, giving her a swift one-armed hug before leaving the room with Steve.