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Origin Story

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It was an exceptionally bright morning when Howard Stark walked into his dining room to see his wife drinking coffee and reading the paper. She looked as put together and beautiful as she always did, he mused, and he loved her more every second than the last.

“Well, it’s about time you showed your face down here.” Maria teased without looking up from her paper.

Sitting in his seat and waiting for Jarvis to put his coffee in front of him, he frowned. “This is the same time I come down every day, dear.”

“Yes, but today you have an event at work.” She reminded, folding the paper and staring him down.

He paused for a moment, trying to remember what event could be happening that he could have forgotten. Then it hit him. “That school tour? Obie is handling that.”

She shook her head and sighed. “I told my friend on the school board that you would lead the tour. These children are there to learn from you, not Obidiah.”

Howard grunted but did not reply. He did not have time in his day to walk around his company with a bunch of whiny high school students who did not want to be there anyway, other than the fact that it got them out of school for a day. He could tell Maria that he would do it, but she knew him well enough to know that would be a lie. Either way, Obidiah would end up with the tour, and Howard would immerse himself into his latest project.
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“…and this is the new section of our company.” Obidiah’s voice rang out among the dozen teenagers in front of him. “This is where we put into action our newest ideas and theories and see if they will actually work.”

He looked around the group and noticed two girls in the back. One was looking around in awe; the other had a notebook out and was scribbling something on the paper while biting her lip.

“You know, we don’t take too kindly to people stealing our ideas…even if it is by a teenager.”

The whole group fell silent, but the girl continued to write. The teacher turned to walk over, but Obidiah waved her off. Instead, he walked over and stood in front of the girl. “May I?”

Suddenly realizing they caught her, the girl looked up at him and tightened her lips together. Without waiting for an answer, he took the notebook from her hands and stared at it. He was silent for a moment before looking up at the board behind them and then back down at the paper.

“Is the world ending? If Obidiah has stopped talking, something must be wrong.”

The class turned and watched in shock as Howard Stark himself walked over to join the group. He hadn’t planned on interacting with the group, but when he saw Obie in front of one of the girls, he had to investigate.

Without changing his facial expression, Obie passed the notebook to his partner and shook his head. “It seems this girl is nearly as smart as our scientists, Stark.”
Whispers broke out among the students, and the girl looked down, backing away slightly. “I don’t think-”

Howard studied the notebook, and everyone watched as he took her pen and scribbled on the page as well. After many silent minutes, he looked up and grinned. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Kara.”

Howard smirked. “Kara what?”

“Ashman.”

“Well, Kara Ashman, you just saved all of us! That equation could have gotten us killed! What were we thinking? Someone should be fired for this…” He mumbled and walked away, notebook still in hand. “Hey kid, mind if I keep this? Obie, get her a new one on the way out.”

With that, he was on the other side of the room again, frantically copying the notes he had in front of him. Kara, in her embarrassment, was now looking down and trying to blend in with the crowd.

“She just told off Howard Stark!”

“The charity case is at it again, …looking for attention.”

“He’s probably going to sue her for stealing his work.”

“Maybe she’ll go to prison. It’s not like she has anywhere to live now anyway.”

Feeling another hand in her own, Kara looked up to see her best friend smiling at her. “Come on, Kara. Let’s see the computer sciences division. You know that is your favorite.”


Kara smiled and nodded. “Thanks, Kit.”

As the group walked away for the second half of their tour, no one saw Howard look up and follow the girl with his eyes. It took a lot to steal Howard Stark’s attention, but this girl had it…and now he just had to figure out what to do with it.

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It was dark out when Obidiah finally stepped into Howard’s office and helped himself to a glass of scotch. “I finally got the press to calm down regarding that minor explosion at the mining project. You’re welcome, by the way.”

Howard shook his head. “Thanks. They can handle a small fire. We’ve had worse.”

“Do I really have to dig it out of you?” Obie asked. “What was that with the girl today?”

Looking up, Howard threw his papers on his desk. “I have run that equation a million times, and not once did I look at it in the way she did. Once I saw it in front of me, I realized that we could have had a real problem on our hands. That girl…I don’t know how she figured it out.”

“So she can figure out some equations…so what? Tony was doing that at five years old.” Obidiah defended.

Howard shook his head. “This was different. She didn’t just figure out the answer. She rewrote the equation and broke it down. Breaking it down showed the chemical compounds in ways I never thought of, Obie. She didn’t just copy the problem; she fixed it.”

“Well, that’s not something you hear every day.” Obie agreed.

“Exactly. That’s why I want her.”

Obie stopped, his glass almost to his mouth, and stared at his friend. “What do you mean you want her? She’s a teenager. She can’t exactly come to work for you.”

Howard nodded and sat behind his desk. “I know that. But I found a loophole.”

After a minute of silence, Obidiah sighed. “Are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?”

“I did some digging and found out that she’s a ward of the state.”

It took less than a minute for the answer to make its way into Obie’s brain. “Howard…”

“We’re going to adopt her. I haven’t spoken to Maria yet, but she has always talked about wanting another child, especially a girl. This way, she’ll be around all the time, so I can have her check the equations, and this won’t ever happen again! This is a huge asset for us, Obie!” Howard ranted.

Obidiah watched him carefully. He had known Howard for many years now and could see that there was something he wasn’t telling him. He also knew that there would be no use in trying to talk him out of his idea. Instead, he raised his glass and took out a cigar. “Well, then, congratulations Stark. It’s a girl.”

Chapter Text

Kara tugged nervously at the strap on her backpack as she stood on the porch of her current foster home. She had only been staying there for a few weeks and knew that moving was a possibility, but she never imagined she would get adopted. Getting adopted by Howard and Maria Stark was something she hadn’t even fathomed in a million years.

Standing next to her, a social worker whose name she didn’t bother to remember waited impatiently for her new family to arrive. She never had the same person working her case, and she wasn’t quite sure why, but she had learned long ago to accept it.

She watched as a sleek black car pulled up, and a tall, thin man stepped out of the driver’s seat. Walking around to the passenger side, he opened the back door and out stepped Mrs. Stark herself. She hadn’t been expecting that. From what she had heard, the Starks relied on their staff to do their everyday tasks for them.

The woman smiled as she walked up to her. “Kara?”

The teen nodded and took a shaky breath. “Hello, Mrs. Stark.”

Shaking her head, the older woman chuckled. “I understand that you may not be comfortable calling me Mom, but until then, please call me Maria. The same goes for my husband, though he won’t state it. You are our daughter now. We have no need for such formalities.”

“Except for me, Madam.” The driver of the vehicle spoke for the first time and extended a hand toward her. “Edwin Jarvis. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Stark.”

The name threw her for a second before she smiled. “Same to you, Mr. Jarvis.”

“Is this all you have?” He asked her, looking around for more luggage.

Kara looked at the simple suitcase and backpack that she held and nodded. “It’s everything I own.”

Sensing that she was uncomfortable, Maria sighed. “Well, that is perfectly fine. All that means is that we can have a shopping spree one of these days.”

Without warning, Jarvis grabbed the luggage from her and started toward the car. Kara let Maria lead her in the same direction and did not speak again until they were seated within the leather interior.

“So, Kara…that is a very beautiful name. It isn’t very common, either. Is it a family name?” Maria asked, attempting to ease the girl into her new atmosphere.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I think my parents just liked it.” She gave a small smile.

At the mention of her parents, Maria touched her hand. “I am very sorry to hear what happened to them.”

Kara stared at her for a moment before nodding. “It was devastating…the fire, I mean. It destroyed everything.”

“Well, rest assured that you can feel completely at home here. I hope it suits you as well as your childhood home did.” She smiled at her new daughter. “Can you tell me a little about yourself? Do you have any friends or hobbies that you like?”

For the first time since meeting them, Kara’s smile was genuine. “I have one friend, Kit. I have known her since I was ten. She’s my best friend…practically my sister.”

“Well, then I can’t wait to meet her. She is welcome in our home any time.” Maria assured her.

“As for hobbies…I mean, not really. When I was younger, I was a little into sports, but I tend to gravitate toward the academic. Computers…I really like computers.” Kara blushed. “I’m sure you already figured that out, though.”

There was silence for a moment, and then Kara spoke again. “Can I ask you a question?”

Maria nodded. “Anything.”

“Why me?”

There was silence again as Maria shared a glance with Jarvis through the rear-view mirror. Then she took a breath and faced the girl. “I won’t lie to you. Howard was very impressed by your visit to the company. But believe me when I say, you are wanted here. I have wanted a daughter for some time, and I know that my son will do well having a sibling.”

Kara nodded. “I thought so. Do I…” She trailed off, but Maria prompted her to continue. “I feel like I am going to constantly have to be right about everything now.”

Waving her hand in the air, Maria rolled her eyes. “If Howard ever gets mad at you for not knowing something, he will have to deal with me. Don’t you worry, you just continue being a teenager, and everything else will work itself out.”

Kara smiled at her again before she caught sight of the house at the end of the driveway they were entering. The view rendered her speechless, causing her jaw to drop. She knew that the house would be large, she’d been warned about that (not that it was needed), but this was no house. This was a mansion. And she felt severely out of place.

“Holy…”

“It will take some getting used to, I’m sure,” Jarvis said as he opened her door.

She was so stunned, she hadn’t realized they had stopped moving. Looking up at him, she slowly climbed out of the backseat and stood in front of the massive building. Looking around, she saw a few different cars parked in the driveway and a fountain going in the center of the roundabout.

She followed both adults inside and instantly melted at the antiques and vintage décor that the foyer boasted. She was so taken by the front hall that she almost missed the sound of footsteps on the stairs until they were right next to her.

When she looked up, her eyes met those of a boy older than her. They stared at each other for a minute before he slid his glasses down his nose.

“Who’s the girl?” He asked, entitlement clear in his tone.

Maria cleared her voice and rested her hand on Kara’s shoulder. “This is Kara. We talked about this, remember? She’s your new sister.” Then she paused. “Kara, this is my son Tony.”

Kara waved. “Hi.”

He looked at her again before addressing his mother. “I’m going out. Rhodey’s in town, and we’re going to a party. Don’t wait up.”

Then he was gone, and Kara felt like she’d imagined the whole encounter.

“Jarvis can show you to your room if you’d like Kara. I need to go have a word with my son.” She gestured in the direction of the stairs and followed Tony out the front door.

The walk to her room was silent until Jarvis cleared his throat. “I hope you will find everything to your liking, Miss Stark.”

“Where is Howard?” Kara asked quietly, looking around. “I didn’t see him when we came in.”

Jarvis nodded. “He is at the office. You will find that Mr. Stark spends much of his time devoted to his work and his company.”

The blonde nodded but did not speak again. When Jarvis let her into her room, she was amazed by the size of it. She remembered her childhood room as being quite large, but since then, she had not had such a luxury.

“Well, then…” Jarvis stood in the doorway for a moment, looking as though he wanted to say something before sighing. “If you need anything, please let me know.”

Then he turned and was gone, leaving Kara alone.

During dinner, Kara felt very out of place. Maria did her best to keep up a conversation, but sitting at such a large table with only two of them felt odd to the young girl. It wasn’t until the front door opened that she heard additional voices.

“All I’m saying is that he needs to be more responsible.” Howard’s voice traveled into the room moments before he did.

By his side, Obidiah shook his head. “He will one day, Tony. But he’s young. Let him live a little.”

Kara watched their interaction before Howard looked up and noticed her. “So, I see you’ve settled in.”

She nodded, shocked at his words. “Um…yes. Thank you.”

He walked over to her and set a few papers in front of her. “What do you see here?”

Taken off guard, she looked at the papers and blinked a few times. “Um…it’s a formula for a new type of weapon, right? It’s like a gun, but…” She paused. “If you move that exponent over there, you’ll have better luck.”

His eyes lit up and turned to Obidiah. “I told you!”

The other man held his hands in the air in surrender. “You’ve got me beat. Good job, Kara.”

She nodded, and they were gone as fast as they had appeared. In their absence, Kara saw Tony standing against the wall staring at her. She couldn’t get a read on his expression, but she had a feeling it was a mixture of jealousy and sadness.

Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, she looked at Maria. “I am actually very tired. Is it okay if I go to bed early?”

Frowning only slightly, Maria nodded. “Of course, honey. If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Without replying, Kara stood and walked quickly from the room. In fear of meeting their eyes, she kept her gaze on the floor in front of her feet until she was out of the room completely.

It was late when Tony woke, confused. Looking at the clock, he realized that he was usually still awake at this hour, but with the day party he’d been to, he’d fallen asleep earlier than normal. He wasn’t quite sure what woke him until he heard hushed voices coming from the hallway.

Venturing out to see what was going on, he saw a light coming from the partially opened door of the room that now belonged to Kara. He stood outside the room and watched as she cried, his mother’s arms around her.

“It’s okay, Kara, you’re safe.”

“Don’t touch me! I’m sorry! Please, don’t touch me!”

It took about ten minutes to calm the girl, and as she laid her head back on her pillow Tony caught her gaze. Neither spoke or made any movement to show that they acknowledged one another, but both held the gaze for longer than polite. Then she shut her eyes, and he walked away, afraid of getting into a conversation with his mother that he wouldn’t like.

Sitting on his bed again, he thought about what he had just witnessed. He had assumed it was a nightmare, but the look in her eye looked more haunted than he’d ever seen. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know or even cared about what it was, but he knew it was more than fear.

Lying back down, the only thing he pictured until he fell asleep was the pale blue eyes that had stared him down.

Chapter Text

It seemed like a lifetime passed for Tony as he laid awake that night, but suddenly morning had arrived, and he figured that since he was awake for once, he would join in on a meal. When he got down there, he saw that Kara and his mother were already seated, sitting in silence. As usual, his father was nowhere to be seen.

“Tony! I didn’t expect to see you this early.” Maria teased.

Seeing that Kara’s eyes were watching him carefully again, he plastered on a charming smile and pulled out his best sarcasm. “Well, I thought I would surprise you and partake in this wonderful meal, Mother. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you know.”

Sitting across from her, Tony noticed a small smile on Kara’s face and decided that his plan had worked. He waited as Jarvis put a plate in front of him before looking at her. “So. Kara.”

There was silence for a moment before she looked up with confusion on her face. “Uh…yeah?”

“What’s up with you?” He asked, popping a blueberry into his mouth and leaning back in his chair.

Kara froze in her movement to continue eating, her fork hovering an inch above her plate. “Excuse me?”

Tony gestured wildly in her direction and shrugged. “You. You’re thing. Clearly, you’re just as fucked up as the rest of us.”

“Anthony Edward Stark!” Maria looked horrified.

Instantly, Kara’s eyes grew dark, and she slowly set her fork down. “I will only say this once. Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on. You don’t know anything about me.”

Tony held Kara’s gaze for a moment before smiling. “Yes, ma’am.”

“I can’t believe you would speak to Kara that way.” Maria scolded him. “I was just telling her that your father and I are going out of town tomorrow for a last-minute meeting, but if you can’t seem to behave yourself…”

“We will be fine.” It was Kara who spoke. “I can handle myself, and it is very obvious that Tony doesn’t need anybody to take care of him.”

Sighing, Maria turned to her son. “I want you to behave.”

He nodded. “Yes, Mom.”

He had been right. She had a fire inside of her somewhere, and he was determined to bring it out. It was the only way to survive being a Stark.

Two nights before Howard and Maria were due back from their trip, Kara sat in her room reading a book. The glasses she wore were bothering her head a little, but the sound of the music and laughter from downstairs was more likely the culprit of her ailing.

It hadn’t been much past dinner when Tony barged through the front door with Rhodey, carrying a keg and leading a pack of already way-too-drunk idiots. After assuring Jarvis that she would be fine holed up in her bedroom for the rest of the night, she followed through with her plan and settled in to enjoy the book Kit had pushed on her.

She had briefly considered calling Kit to see if she could spend the night at her house but thought against it when she realized that she would need to drag Jarvis away from his wife at such a late hour.

She had barely started the next chapter of her book when her door suddenly opened, and the noise grew louder. “I thought I told you to leave me alone?”

When she looked up, she realized that it was not Tony who had barged in, but one of his friends. She recognized him from a few of the times Tony had been picked up for parties, but she couldn’t place his name at that moment.

“Well, excuse me.” He grinned, and she winced.

“I’m sorry. I thought it was Tony.” She shrugged.

He laughed and shook his head. “I’m pretty sure he’s well into the second keg by now.”

“Sounds about right…” Kara murmured and sighed. Then she realized that he shouldn’t be in her room. “Can I help you with something?”

“I was looking for the bathroom, but apparently, I counted the doors wrong.” He joked and swayed a bit on his feet.

“Down the hall, on the left.” She replied and closed her book. “You should probably be getting back to your party before Tony wonders where you’ve gone.”

Instead of taking her advice, he came over and sat on the edge of her bed. “Why are you up here all alone? Come join the fun!”

She shook her head. “Honestly, I’m okay here with my book. I just want to be alone anyway.”

“Well, that is no fun.” He said, setting his hand on her leg. “You’d have much more fun with us.”

Shifting her body so that he wasn’t touching her anymore, Kara stared at him. “No. I just want to stay in here. Now, I would like to read a few more chapters before I go to bed so if you don’t mind…”

She stood and walked to the door, but as soon as she reached it, her body slammed against it, and it shut with a solid thud. Kara stood in shock and fright as Tony’s “friend” looked down at her. She could see him staring at her chest, and a spike of anxiety jumped through her as she tried to find a way out.

‘God, I wish I had called Kit.’ She thought as her throat closed dangerously.

“Get off of me.” She managed to say, but he only put his hands on either side of her, holding the door closed.

He smiled, and it suddenly made her want to throw up. “I don’t think so, sweetheart.”

Kara could feel her chest constrict painfully and unconsciously tried to back up, but the realization that she was trapped had her breath catching. “Seriously, leave. Now.”

“I think, first, we are going to have some fun.”

She started to yell, but he smashed his mouth to hers and silenced her, biting her lip in the process. As if her mind had come back to her, Kara threw her knee into his crotch and headbutted him, shoving him across the room. The distraction was exactly the chance she needed, as she threw open the door and ran.

She didn’t get very far before she was slamming into another body, and she started to hit them. It took a second for her to recognize Rhodey’s voice and for her vision to come back to her.

“Kara? What the hell is going on?” Rhodey asked, confused, a slight tone of concern in his voice. “Why are you holding your lip?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but she as she was breathing too hard to make words, she looked back toward her bedroom. Just as Rhodey’s gaze followed, the drunken man stumbled out, muttering in pain and holding a hand over his junk. That was all Rhodey needed to know before he hurried to the man and punched him.

“What the hell, Rhodes?” He shouted, but before he could say anything else, he was shoved into the bathroom.

Kara watched as Rhodey reached above the door and grabbed a small key, locking the door. On the other side, they could hear the guy screaming and banging his hands on the wood, but Rhodey did not seem to be listening.

Kara was brought back into her thoughts as she felt fabric draped around her shoulders and realized that Rhodey had given her his jacket. It wasn’t until that moment that she noticed her body trembling, and she smiled at him a bit.

Putting his arm around her, he started to lead her to the stairs. “Come with me; we’re going to find Tony.”

As they reached the heart of the party, Kara felt like she had entered a whole new world. There were people everywhere, and the music was loud enough to make her head beat in time with the bass track. Rhodey kept a gentle yet firm grip on her shoulder as he pushed through the crowd until they finally found Tony sitting on the couch with a girl on each arm.

“There you are Rhodey! I thought you got lost!” He slurred with a smug grin.

“Tones, we have a problem.” Rhodey jumped right to business as Kara watched them carefully.

Confused, Tony sat up. “What are you talking about…”

His voice trailed off as he saw the small figure slightly hidden behind his best friend. Standing, Tony pushed him out of the way and looked down at Kara. His hand went up and lifted her chin, getting a look at the hand, still rubbing her lip, and the glossy look in her eyes.

“What happened?” He demanded to Rhodey, but his eyes never left Kara.

“Kevin tried to…you know.” He supplied, and Tony could feel Kara start to tremble again.

Now that she had a name to go with the face, it all felt too real.

“Where is he now?” Tony demanded again.

“I locked him in the bathroom.” The other man said, and Tony didn’t hesitate.

“Party’s over! Everyone, get the hell out of my house!” He shouted, and Kara involuntarily flinched.

As everyone started to file out, Tony searched Kara for any physical injuries but found none. He grabbed her hand, which she hesitantly took, and led her back toward the stairs. As they reached the top, she resisted a bit, but he turned to her and nodded.

Going over to the bathroom, he unlocked the door and pulled Kevin out, throwing him to the ground. “You piece of shit.”

“What? Stark, what the hell are you talking about?” He complained.

“I know what you did…or tried to do.” Tony yelled at him. “Kara is off limits!”

Kara watched as Kevin’s face turned to her, and his jaw dropped. “Dude, I don’t know what she told you, but I came up here looking for the bathroom. She lured me into her room and did all of this herself. She’s crazy, man!”

Tony threw a fast punch to his face and another to his gut before shoving him towards Rhodey. Kara instinctively backed up against the wall as he passed but didn’t speak. “Get out of my house and stay the hell away from my sister!”

As Rhodey pulled the abuser away from them, Kara stared at Tony. He had never called her his sister before or even hinted that he thought of her in that way. Her heart warmed a little at the idea of it, but her head was too clouded to think too much about it.

“Are you okay?”

She was shaken from her thoughts as he spoke, and she realized he was in front of her now. “No.”

He nodded. “I didn’t think so.” He paused. “Listen…I’m sorry.” He winced. “I don’t usually apologize, but this…”

“It’s not your fault.” She said quietly and gripped Rhodey’s jacket tightly. “Bad night all around.”

Tony shook his head, looking more serious and sincerer than she thought he had in him. “No, Kara. That should never have happened. I should never have put you in the position for that to even become an idea in someone’s mind.”

Kara stared at him for a moment and felt tears pool into her eyes. Blinking to try and keep them away, she sighed. “Um…can I ask you a question?”

He nodded. “Shoot.”

“Your party…you ended it early. Why?” she was genuinely curious as to why he threw everyone out rather than just her abuser and figured it was as good of a time as any to find out.

He blinked twice and then raised his hand to her shoulder. “I wanted everyone out. Someone tried to hurt you, and that draws a line with me.”

“But-”

Tony made sure she was looking at him before he spoke again. “Listen, I don’t know what happened to you before you came here. And yeah, I’m pissed that Dad asks your opinion more often than mine now. But I want you to hear me, Kara, and understand it.”

“Understand what?” She asked, unsure of where he was headed.

“No matter what came before, or what happens from here on out, we are siblings. I am your big brother. I’m sorry I wasn’t better at it until now.” He said seriously.

Kara smiled a bit. “I’ve never had a brother. Or any siblings for that matter.”

He chuckled. “Well, I’ll try not to suck at it.”

She laughed, then laid her head on his chest and sobbed. Knowing the shock was wearing off, he pulled her in and kept a tight grip on her for as long as her tears fell.

Chapter Text

The two days following the party were unusual, as Tony chose to stay home instead of going out to any parties. During that time, Kara felt as though she was out of her element. It was true what she had told Tony after the party; she had never had siblings, biological or foster, so this was new territory for her. She figured it was the same for him.

And yet he had stood up for her and protected her. He held her while she cried and made sure she was asleep before he left her alone again. He had ended his party early for her and made a public declaration of their relationship.

This was why, during the first dinner with Howard and Maria since their trip, Kara found herself taking responsibility for something that she had not done.

ONE HOUR EARLIER

The small family had just sat down for dinner; it was rare for everyone to be present, but no one mentioned it.

“So, how was your trip?” Tony asked, his question directed more towards his mother than anything.

“It was lovely. We had meetings, but we did manage to make time for a few excursions of our own.” Maria responded with a fond smile. “How was your time together? I can see very clearly that you did not kill each other while we were away.”

“Kill each other? Why the hell would they do that?” Howard questioned as he gestured for Jarvis.

“You haven’t really noticed, but our children haven’t gotten off to a great start, Howard.” Maria pointed out.

Kara looked at Tony across the table and gave him a small smile. They still had a long way to go, but they knew they were closer than they had been. Of course, neither of them would say why.

Ignoring his wife’s comment, Howard turned to his longtime friend and household keeper. “Jarvis, why don’t you bring out the good champagne glasses, and we’ll have a toast. We have landed the biggest deal in a long time and we should celebrate.”

Jarvis paused. “Uh, sir…those glasses seemed to have been damaged recently. I can fetch some different ones if you would like.”

The room went silent and still so fast that Kara couldn’t seem to tell if everything was in slow motion or if she was losing it.

“What the hell did you do this time?” Howard roared and stood, grabbing Tony by the shirt collar. “Every single time we leave you alone, you pull this shit. This is why we sent you to boarding school! Do you ever learn?”

“I did it!”

All four heads turned to look at Kara, who was now standing in her spot, eyes wild. The silence returned for only a moment, but Howard’s hand never left his son’s shirt. Kara waited to see if anyone would say anything but the only thing she noticed was Tony’s eyes boring into hers.

“Kara…what do you mean you broke them?” Maria was the first to speak.

Biting her lip, Kara sighed. “I had Kit over while you were gone, and we were messing around. It was an accident but…the glasses ended up broken, and I was too afraid to say anything. I’m sorry.”

When the faces of both parental Starks looked unsure, she turned and looked at Jarvis. While the look on her face hadn’t changed from the innocent and scared girl she was a moment ago, he could see the fierce look in her eyes that told him to play along and save Tony’s ass.

Nodding, Jarvis agreed. “Miss Stark is telling the truth. She did not want to confess to what happened, but I did manage to get the story from her.”

It was only now that Howard’s hand left Tony’s shirt. He didn’t speak but sat down and continued eating. Tony followed his father’s actions, but his gaze stayed curiously planted on her face.

Maria, however, chose this moment to speak. “Honey, if it was an accident, then you are fine. But you shouldn’t hide these things from us. We are your parents now and we will understand if you just come and speak to us about it.”

“I promise I will from now on. I’m sorry.” The teenager hesitated before sitting down and continued eating.

It was late when Kara heard her bedroom door quietly open. Confused, as her clock read 3:30 in bright red, she turned over and came face to face with Tony. Seeing the bottle of scotch in his hand, she figured he was drunk.

But when he spoke, his voice was clear and quiet. “Come with me.”

She waited a moment before sitting up. “Where are we going?”

“It’s a secret.” He told her. “Come on…don't you trust me?”

She stared at him for only a second before nodding and following him out of the room. He led her down the hallway, where they tiptoed past the master bedroom before coming to a small closet that Kara had never seen before.

“I found this during one of my random parties a few years back,” Tony whispered as he removed a panel, revealing a staircase on the other side.

When they got to the top of the stairs, Kara was stunned. She could see the entire property from where they were, and as it was a clear night, they could see every star that shined brightly above them. She was pulled from her shock when Tony tapped her leg.

She sat next to him and took the glass of scotch he held out to her. “Tony, this is…incredible.”

“I like to use this as my hiding spot when I need some time away from dear old Dad. Feel free to do the same.” He said casually.

The pair sat in silence for many minutes, before Kara realized Tony was staring at her. “What?”

“This is the most relaxed I have seen you look since you got here.” He told her, a sad look in his eye. “Like you couldn’t breathe before, but now you’ve taken your first real breath.”

“I don’t like feeling closed in.” She said while looking at the stars. “I have spent the last few years feeling bottled up and closed off. I much prefer space over all things.”

“What happened to you?” This time when he said it, his words were soft and sincere.

Kara looked out at the grounds of their house and took a sip of her scotch. She’d never had it before and was pretty sure drinking it at such a young age wasn’t something she should try, but it helped to calm the emotions running inside of her.

“I grew up…far away from here. I had both of my parents, and they were great. Then the fire happened.” She sighed. “I was ten and my parents managed to get me out of there just in time. But when I looked back…my home was destroyed, and my parents were gone with it.”

“Kara…”

She shrugged. “I was ten, so it’s been a little while. I’ve been able to come to terms with some of it. I was taken in by a couple after that, but I didn’t last long there.”

“What happened there?” Tony wondered before he could stop himself.

She gave a dry laugh and looked at him. “They were…scientists and very devoted to their work. They finally had a test subject that they didn’t need permission to work on. I became friends with Kit at school, and she noticed something was up. I was taken away from them after that and have been in various foster homes ever since.”

Tony whistled softly. “And I thought my life was shit.”

Kara shrugged. “Just because mine was bad doesn’t mean yours wasn’t. They were just bad in different ways.”

“Well, I can’t deny that I am one grade-a asshole, but I promise…if there is one thing in my life that I will always keep protected, it’s you. If nothing else, my sister will always be my number one.” He said as the alcohol started to hit his system.

Smiling, Kara laid her head on his shoulder. “I appreciate it.” She paused. “Tony, you’re not as bad as you make yourself out to be…or how Howard makes you seem. My mom once told me that I was destined for great things. I think she’d also say that about you.”

He glanced down at her. “Do you really believe that?”

She nodded. “Yes…I do.”

Chapter Text

“So…your first Christmas with an actual family.”

Kara looked up from the homework she was doing and smiled at Kit. It was now early December, and though she tried not to let it show, Kit was right. This would be her first official Christmas where she was actually part of a family. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but she knew that whatever happened would be better than her past experiences.

“Yeah, Tony assures me that it will be amazing.” Kara smiled and rolled her eyes. “So basically, I’m ready for anything.”

Laying on Kara’s bed and throwing a ball into the air, Kit shook her head. “And how is Mr. Pretty Boy these days?”

“He’s good. He’s supposed to be coming home in a few days to visit from school.” Kara replied. “So, I’m sure everything around here will just be marvelous.”

Smirking at her friend’s obvious sarcasm, Kit caught the ball and rolled over to look at her. “I’m glad you guys are getting along so well.”

“Honestly? I didn’t want to believe it, Kit.” Kara confessed. “After everything I’ve been through, I didn’t want to admit that I was starting to get attached.”

“But?” Knowing her well, Kit waited for her to continue her thought.

“But it seriously feels like we’ve been siblings for our entire lives.” She admitted and shrugged. “I got really lucky, Kit.”

“Yes, you did.” Her friend responded at the same time the door opened, revealing Howard.

“Kara! Perfect, you’re here.” He paused. “Hello, Kit.”

“Hi, Mr. Stark.”

“Kara, I need you to look over some of these equations for me.” He told her, dropping a pile of papers on her desk. “They’re very important, so make sure you read them carefully.”

Then he was gone, almost as fast as he came.

“Well, that was pleasant.” Kit said, her tone suggesting otherwise.

Kara shrugged. “I’m used to it.”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t be. That isn’t what you are supposed to be doing as part of a family.” Kit argued.

“I know. But…that’s just who he is. It used to bother me, but after talking to Tony, I get it now. And at least I have a stable home now.” Kara reminded her.

“I guess. I just hope it gets better for you.”

Kara nodded. “I honestly don’t think I have anything to worry about, but I appreciate the concern.”

About a week later, Kara was again in her room, this time staring at the sheets of endless equations that Howard had left for her. She was lost in her thoughts so much that she jumped when a hand landed on her shoulder.

“Shit!” She shouted and then winced. “I’m sorry…”

Maria laughed and shook her head. “You had the same reaction I would have gotten from my husband and son. Obviously, you fit right in.”

Kara smiled. “Good to know. Are you guys leaving?”

The older woman nodded and sat on the bed next to the teenager. “Yes, we are just waiting to load a few things into the car.”

Kara hesitated, which Maria noticed. “Kara…what’s wrong?”

Biting her lip, Kara looked up at her. “I heard you guys talking about Tony.”

Sighing, Maria grabbed her hand. “Sweetheart, you have to understand that the relationship between Howard and Tony is a difficult one. There is love there, but they are both too proud to let go of their stubborn attitudes and admit it.”

“Do you think he isn’t responsible?” Kara asked quietly. “I heard Howard say that he didn’t trust him to stay here alone.”

“I trust my son, Kara, just as I trust you. I know that there is good inside of both of you and I know that you are both going to be okay no matter what situation we put you in.” Maria smiled. “Howard gets upset sometimes when Tony acts out, but he forgets that he was the same way when he was younger.”

Chuckling at the thought of Howard Stark being reckless, Kara felt her heart lighten a little. “I’m sorry for asking, I just…I had to know.”

“I am so glad that you and Tony have become so close. I could not have asked for anything more than the joy I see you bring to each other’s lives. I would never want you to hear
something and change your opinion of him just based on someone else’s perspective.”

“I don’t think anything could change my mind at this point,” Kara admitted. “I just didn’t want to seem like I was in the dark and naïve or something.”

“Never, my darling daughter. You are too smart for that.” Maria kissed her head and then stood. “Unfortunately, it is about time for us to leave.”

Kara stood and hugged her tightly. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I am going to miss you too.” Maria smiled. “But we will only be gone for a few days. Now, remember that you have Jarvis and Ana here who will be taking care of you. Also, Tony arrived not too long ago and is waiting for you downstairs.”

Seeing the teen's eyes light up, she laughed. “I thought that might get you excited.”

Leaving the room together, Maria kept her arm around Kara’s shoulder and squeezed. She knew it wasn’t easy to see them leave, but she hoped that one day she would overcome that fear of loss and abandonment.

It was late when Kara’s eyes fluttered open. Her room was still dark, so she couldn’t figure out what it was that had woken her up. Groaning, she sat up and glanced at the clock. It wasn’t as late as she thought, only a few hours after Howard and Maria had left, so she was confused as to why she would have woken up again so quickly.

Hearing hushed voices from the bottom of the stairs, she quietly ventured out into the hallway and heard Jarvis’ voice as he answered the telephone. It was then that she realized the ringing must have woken her and was turning to go back to bed when she heard him stop.

After he hung up, she watched from her hidden spot on the stairs as the older man stared at the phone for a moment before turning to his wife, Ana, who stood beside him. He whispered something, and instantly she was in his arms.

The moment was broken as the front door opened as Tony came walking in. “Oh shit, sorry. Did I interrupt something?”

Kara rolled her eyes at his dirty joke. ‘Idiot.’

She watched as Jarvis turned to him, and Tony’s face instantly fell. “What’s wrong?”

“Mister Stark…we just received a phone call. I think you should wake your sister before I explain.” He started, but Tony shook his head.

“What the hell is going on?” He demanded, and Kara could hear the fear in his voice.

Jarvis hesitated and then grabbed Ana’s hand. “That was the police. Your parents…were involved in a car accident on their way to the airport this evening.”

Kara felt the air leave her lungs as she gripped the banister so tightly it seemed to break under her hand. Tony stood still and silent for only a moment before asking the question in both of their minds.

“Are they okay?”

“I am sorry to say that they did not survive the accident, Mister Stark.” Jarvis’ voice shook as he said it.

Kara didn’t register anything as her body lost its ability to stand and crumbled to the ground. She sat on the top step and knew that they were staring at her, having been alerted to her presence, but she could not see them. She knew tears were running down her cheeks, as she could taste the saltiness when they hit her mouth, but she could not move.

She had finally started to find hope, and now the only other people she had ever considered parents were gone. It may not have been in the same circumstances as her birth parents, but it hurt just as badly in her heart.

Finally, her eyes met Tony’s broken gaze, and they stared at each other. Neither one knew what to say or do, so they did nothing but stare. Kara knew that Tony had been close to his mother, and her heart broke even more at the thought of it.

She watched as Tony walked up the stairs to her and sat on the top step next to where she had fallen. Now that he was so close to her, she saw the tears starting to form in his eyes and she finally gave in to the pain she felt. Lowering her head to his shoulder, she let herself sob for the loss of her family…again.

Chapter Text

Kara stared at herself in the mirror as she flattened the black material of her dress. It had been a long and stressful day, and she had used her dress as a stress ball for most of the time. But she didn’t care about that. She hadn’t found herself caring about much since the passing of Howard and Maria.

The funeral had been a long, drawn-out process, and she had been silent for most of it. For most of the guests that had attended, she was something they had not heard about yet. It made it easier for her to hide in the shadows and let Obie, Peggy, and Jarvis handle the people. Tony popped in and out, no doubt drinking to forget his grief.

As she sat in her room, she sighed and wondered where Tony had wandered off. She knew that logically that he was off on a major bender, but she couldn’t blame him. All she wanted was to let the grief swallow her up and take her pain away.

“You need to eat, honey.”

Kara turned and smiled at her best friend. Her saving grace through the entire process had been Kit. She had called her shortly after they were informed of the accident and the girl had barely left her side the entire time. She’d come running to the mansion as soon as Kara called and for that, she could never repay her.

“I’m good, Kit.” She responded, her hands twisting in her dress again.

Giving her a look that was so very Kit, she shook her head. “I wasn’t asking, Kara.”

Letting out an audible sigh, Kara nodded, knowing she would not win against her. Kit had always known how to take care of her in times of grief or melancholy, and she knew how Kara thought.

Walking over to the bed, she sat and took a small bite of the turkey sandwich that sat on the plate in between them. It was almost painful to eat it, but once it settled in her stomach a bit, she was glad she had.

Though her energy had come back slightly, she felt exhausted, and Kit seemed to notice. “Why don’t you change? You’ll probably feel better in some more comfortable clothes and then you can relax.”

It didn’t take very long, and Kara found that she did feel a small bit better as she curled up under her blankets with her best friend. They didn’t speak for a while, and for that, Kara was grateful. She didn’t have much energy for talking about anything, as her brain had been on overdrive for the last few days.

A knock on the door broke her thoughts, and Kit called for whoever it was to come in. When the door opened, they found Peggy on the other side, giving them a sad smile.

“Hi, Aunt Peggy,” Kara said quietly.

“May I come in?” The older woman asked, and after receiving confirmation, she sat on the edge of the bed beside the girls. “How are you doing?”

Kara shrugged, and Kit rubbed her shoulder. “I’ve been better.”

“I know it’s a stupid question, but I know how your brother is, so I needed to find out from you as well,” Peggy told her.

“Where is Tony?” Kit asked her, knowing that Kara wanted to now but would never ask.

Peggy sighed. “Mr. Rhodes is taking care of him, as he seems to have gone off on one of his more crazy drunken adventures.”

Kara looked at her, biting her lip. “You didn’t come here to talk about Tony, did you?”

Peggy hesitated, something Kara had never known her to do, before nodding. “You’d be correct. I just spoke at length with Child Protective Services. Howard and Maria put Tony as your guardian in case anything happened to them, but while he is of legal age, it has been decided that he is not, at present, in the right frame of mind to take over as your legal guardian.”

Kara’s heart sunk, and she felt her body go numb. “I’m going back into the system, aren’t I?”

“I promise you that I am working as hard as I can on this,” Peggy told her. “Until I can figure out how to get you back here, you will be staying with your old foster family.”

“Which one?” Kara asked, not caring.

“The first one. The couple you stayed with after your parents’ death.” Peggy told her.

Kara’s stomach made an involuntary jolt, and she felt Kit grabbed her hand under the covers. “What?”

“We’ve looked into them, and they have completely cleaned up their act. They are looking forward to seeing you.” Peggy told her. “I am so sorry about all of this. But I promise I will figure this out. It is just going to take a little bit of time.”

“When do I have to leave?” She asked quietly.

“Tomorrow morning.” Her aunt told her, though her tone was apologetic. “I tried getting you some extra time, but they wouldn’t go for it.”

Kara nodded. “Okay. Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“Kara…”

“Seriously, Aunt Peggy. I know you’re trying. I mean it, thank you.” Kara looked her in the eyes. “It sucks, but it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. I’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t long before Peggy left, and Kit was on her friend instantly with worry. “You cannot go back there.”

Kara shrugged. “I have no choice, Kit.”

“You could have died last time.”

“Maybe they have changed. Either way, it sounds temporary so I doubt they can do any real damage or anything.” She wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince Kit or herself.

It was late when Kara found herself sitting on the roof. She had sent Kit home after dinner, promising to call her as soon as she woke up the next morning. As she sat there, she couldn’t help but go back to her memory and picture everything that she went through with those terrible people.

They’d tortured her in every way possible, and she barely made it out alive. She wasn’t sure she could do it again and prayed to the stars that they had changed as Peggy had told her. Otherwise, well…she wasn’t sure what she would do.

She was pulled from her thoughts as the door opened, and Tony stumbled out to sit with her. “Kara! What a nice surprise.”

She gave him a small smile, smelling the heavy liquor that rolled off of his body. “Hey, Tony. I wasn’t sure I’d get to see you before tomorrow.”

He plopped down on the ground beside her, and she could see the pain and sorrow in his eyes. “Please don’t leave me here.”

Swallowing back her emotions, Kara sighed. “If it were up to me, I wouldn’t. You know that.”

“This is bullshit.” He muttered.

She nodded. “I know. But Aunt Peggy promises that she’s working on it, so hopefully, she can figure it out and get me back here.” She shrugged. “Until then…can I come to see you sometimes?”

He chuckled. “Only if you want to.”

She chuckled and tried her best to hold her tears inside. She knew that Tony had fallen apart, and the last thing she wanted to do was to cause him more pain. “I do.”

He swung his arm around her shoulder, and she leaned into him. She didn’t care if he smelled like booze or that he was drunk out of his mind. He was the closest thing she had left to family and she tried to remember every touch and sound of him before they were forcibly separated.

Closing her eyes, she laid her head on his shoulder and enjoyed his presence. She knew that when the sun came up, she would be going back to the hell she had once experienced, but for now, she had her brother, and that was all she cared about in the long-run.

As long as he was in her corner, she would be okay.

Chapter Text

Kara sat in silence as she thought over the last few weeks. She had gone back to her old “home” the morning after the funeral, and the look on Tony’s face as he watched her go would haunt her for a very long time.

It had all gone downhill from there. The second Kara stepped into the house her nightmare started all over again. This time, however, her foster parents knew exactly what they were looking for and how to retrieve their data from her.

FLASHBACK

Kara’s eyes fluttered open, and she found herself in a room she didn’t recognize. She didn’t remember falling asleep, so she must have been knocked out or drugged. She figured it might have been a bit of both, as she found herself chained to a medical table surrounded by many carts and lights.

She tested the restraints and hissed in pain. Looking down, she found a needle in her arm, taking blood samples for testing.

“You’re awake.” A female voice said from behind her head.

“Go to hell.” Kara hissed and tried to keep her composure, though she was scared out of her mind.

Laughing, the woman patted her head. “Don’t you worry, sweetheart. With the data we’re collecting, you’re going to help us create something incredible.”

Kara didn’t know what she meant by that, but it did not sound good. Closing her eyes, she pictured herself sitting on the roof with Tony and tried to block out everything around her.

A groan escaped her lips as Kara’s stomach spasmed painfully. She carefully pulled her knees to her chest and laid her head on her knees. Her living quarters had been downgraded from the last time she stayed there, and she found herself residing in a small closet. As if that wasn’t enough, she was also chained to the wall by large metal handcuffs that had a weird green substance in them. The lightbulb that hung above her consisted of the same substance, so she left it off most of the time.

She didn’t know what that stuff was, but it hurt like a bitch.

Looking to the opposite wall, she knew that she should see only darkness. Instead, she found Tony looking back at her, his eyes full of concern and pain.

“Well, this certainly sucks.” He mentioned.

She let out a dry chuckle, which sent the pain in her stomach into another spasm. “You’ve said that almost every day for two weeks. It doesn’t change anything.”

He shrugged. “Still.”

Closing her eyes, she tried to hold in a sob. “I know you’re not real.”

“So? I’m real in your mind, and that is the important thing.” He said. “Do you really want me to go away and leave you all alone?”

“I just want my brother.” Closing her eyes, she sighed. “But for now, I’ll settle for you.”

She listened to his response as she drifted into a fitful and painful sleep.

“Tony, you need to calm down.”

Tony whirled around and glared at his aunt. “Don’t you dare tell me to calm down. I haven’t heard from Kara since she left, and I know that something is wrong. She should be back here already.”

Folding her hands together, Peggy glanced at Jarvis before speaking. “I told you, I’ve been working on it. But I’ve been running into a lot of red tape.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, but I’m working on it.” She promised him.

“You’ve been saying that for weeks, and she still isn’t here,” Tony said as he dropped into a chair, defeated in his fight. “I just want my sister back.”

Leaning forward, Peggy held his hand in her own. “I know you do. You aren’t the only one, honey. But until we can figure this out, she is staying with an old foster family. She’s in good hands.”

Hearing her say that, Tony’s eyes narrowed, and his heart sped up. “Which family?”

“The first family she stayed with after her birth parents died,” Peggy told him.

The blood drained so fast from Tony’s face that he thought he might collapse. “She can’t be there.”

“Mr. Stark…are you alright?” Jarvis came forward to put his hand on Tony’s shoulder, but the young man jumped out of his seat.

“No!” He shouted. “And if Kara is with those people, neither is she.”

“What are you talking about, Tony? They were checked again and they came back clean. They were looking forward to seeing her.” Peggy informed him.

“Aunt Peggy…they tortured her.” He said quickly. “They did crazy experiments on her and nearly killed her. She told me when she first moved in. She still has nightmares about it.”

Tony had known his aunt for his entire life, and Jarvis had known her even longer. The look that settled on her face as she stood was one that neither had ever seen before or imagined she was capable of creating. “Are you positive about this?”

Tony nodded quickly. “She didn’t want anyone else to know, but she’s terrified of them. She can’t stay there, Aunt Peggy, please.”

Glancing between them, Peggy’s look darkened. “Come with me. We have work to do.”

“Miss Carter?” Jarvis asked quietly.

She nodded at him. “We’re bringing her home. Today.”

A loud bang woke Kara from her restless sleep, but she couldn’t place where it had originated. Her head hurt too much to try and focus on finding the source so she groaned and curled up on the ground, trying to get comfortable. She could vaguely hear Tony’s voice calling her, among other rushed words, and she let a tear fall.

“Just shut up! You’re not real! Just go away!” She cried out, and he did not respond.

A few moments later, she heard hurried footsteps outside the door. She knew that it was probably time for another experiment, but she hoped they would leave her alone for a little longer to get more rest. Her hopes were crushed when the door opened and on instinct, she fought the hands that grabbed her arms.

“Miss Stark.” It was a voice she recognized. “Kara, open your eyes.”

Following the order, she opened her eyes and almost cried as she saw Jarvis kneeling in front of her. “You’re not real.”

“Miss Stark, I can assure you that I am most definitely real.” The man told her. “Now, let’s get you out of these shackles, shall we?”

Kara shut her eyes and shook her head, not believing that he was actually there. The light suddenly turned on and she screamed, pain filling her entire body. Instantly, the light went off and the sound of metal scraping against the wall shocked her so much so that she opened her eyes just in time to see him force all of his strength into kicking the lock of her chains. In an instant, he had the cuffs off of her and was helping her to stand.

“Jarvis?” She said with a sob and realized that he was really there, rescuing her.

“How are you feeling?” He asked her urgently as he held most of her weight.

“Tony.” She said, ignoring his question. “I want Tony.”

“Oh my God…”

Her head slowly came up, and she saw him standing in front of her, Peggy right behind him with a gun in her hands. As her eyes locked onto his, her breathing picked up and she instantly found herself engulfed in his arms. She had never felt anyone hug her tighter than he was at that moment, but she didn’t care.

Tony’s arms wrapped around her protectively, and his hand cradled her head against his chest. He could feel her body trembling with painful sobs and the heat radiating off of her was enough to make him worried. He noticed that his arms could almost wrap around her twice, and he was sick at the thought of these people starving her for so long. Her bones were visible under her translucent skin, and his heart broke seeing her in such a state.

“It’s okay, Kara. We’re going home.” He told her. “I’m never leaving you again.”

She finally started crying and gave in to her exhaustion. As her body dropped against his, he lifted her in his arms and looked at Peggy. She nodded and led them out of the room, heading right for medical assistance for their young family member.

Chapter Text

The first thing that Kara’s fuzzy mind registered was a soft beeping noise coming from beside her. Blinking her eyes open carefully, she realized that she was in a hospital of some sort, though it didn’t look anything like the ones she had imagined.

The next thing she registered was that her body didn’t hurt as much as it had the last time she was awake. For that, she was eternally grateful. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could have lived with that horrible ache in her bones.

The third thing she recognized was the tight voice talking on the phone across the room. It was quiet, but she could still make out every word. It sounded important, so she tried to concentrate on it before making her presence known.

“No, Obie, she’s fine,” Tony assured the older man. “No, they’re watching her here for a little while and then she’s coming home with me.”

The sound of such confidence in his voice helped to settle her heartrate exponentially.

“Yeah, Aunt Peggy got the court to approve my guardianship over her, finally. I have full custody of her and everything.” He paused before his voice turned angry. “How can you even say that? Of course, it’s a good idea; she’s my sister! She’s family, not some pet that we took in. She isn’t going anywhere, Obie.”

As much as she wanted to see where this conversation went, she could feel a headache making its way back into her head, and she let out an involuntary groan. Tony’s head instantly lifted and caught her gaze on him.

“I have to go. She’s awake.” Tony hung up without waiting for an answer and hurried over to the bed.

“What happened?” She asked him instantly. “I mean, …after you saved me.”

His gaze turned to stone, and he sat on the edge of the bed. “You passed out. You were extremely malnourished and dehydrated. I thought…”

She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “But I didn’t. You saved me.”

She gave him a small smile, and he sighed. “I’m sorry I didn’t save you sooner.”

“Tony, it isn’t your fault! You couldn’t have changed anything.” She told him. “And now, a little birdie told me I get to go home with you—permanently.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me as your guardian now. I hope that’s okay.”

“I think I can handle it.” She teased him. “How did you find me, anyway?”

He used his right hand to gesture to the room. “Well, I’ve learned a lot of interesting information over the last 48 hours.”

“48 hours? How long was I out for?” Kara asked quickly.

He sighed. “About 36 hours. You needed it. And clearly, this place has a good medical wing with how fast you’re healing.”

She nodded. “Yeah…where are we?”

“Right, I was getting to that.” He shook his head. “So when Aunt Peggy mentioned that you had gone back to those assholes, I went off on her and told her everything you and Kit had told me. It turns out Aunt Peggy is the director of a government agency called the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division.”

Kara blinked. “That’s a lot of words.” She paused. “Also, what the hell?”

Tony nodded. “I know I was as shocked as you are. Apparently, after Captain America went into the ice, Aunt Peggy started this place to work on specialized projects similar to that. Anyway, we are at their headquarters right now, in their medical department. She gathered a bunch of agents and after a lot of arguing, she let Jarvis and I tag along. I guess those people worked here as scientists.”

“What happened to them?” Kara asked carefully.

“She got them, and I wouldn’t want to be them with the interrogation and consequences she has planned for them.” He smirked and rubbed his thumb over her hand. “You look tired, Kara.”

She rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks, bro.”

“You know what I mean.” He sighed. “Listen, I’m going to find Jarvis and see if he can run home and grab some clothes for us, and maybe some real food. You should rest a little longer.”

“Tony…”

He smiled and squeezed her hand again. “Hey, you’re safe. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

She nodded, and he helped her get settled again before he left the room in search of Jarvis. As soon as she knew he was gone, she looked around the room and saw that he had left behind a Styrofoam cup of coffee. Grabbing it, she noted that it was cold and carefully watched the door.

The heat vision that came from her eyes had her almost crying in relief.

As she was setting the cup down again, the door opened, and Peggy walked in. She didn’t say anything until she was sitting next to the young girl. “There’s nothing I can say that could ever make this right.”

“It isn’t your fault, Aunt Peggy.” She assured her. “You didn’t know.”

“But I should have. It’s my job.” Peggy told her. “Now. I assume you have some questions.”

Kara sat up a little to face her aunt. “How long have you guys known about me?”

“Since the day your pod landed on Earth.”

Kara’s eyes watched her carefully. “How?”

“It is our job to figure out the unexplainable. When you crashed, it didn’t take long for us to locate you. We’ve been keeping tabs on you ever since.” Peggy said gently. “The scientists that fostered you worked here. We thought it would be better and safer for you to stay with people who knew what was going on. Obviously, that didn’t turn out how we wanted.”

“What was that stuff they were using on me?” Kara asked. “I’ve never seen it before.”

“It’s called Kryptonite,” Peggy informed her. “Or at least, that is what we named it, based on the information from your pod’s log. It showed up in the same crater you created and we were storing it to run tests and then some went missing. Now we know who did it.”

Kara listened to her talk, and then a thought popped into her mind. “Wait…did Howard work here too?”

Peggy nodded slowly. “He helped me found it. And the second you walked into his lab on that field trip, he knew it was you. He also knew that you needed to be somewhere safe. When he called me, he insisted that he and Maria could provide that safety for you. Especially since we didn’t know who to trust. Jarvis also knows, but that’s only because he knows about us. He’s been around since before we started this agency.”

“Wow,” Kara replied, not having anything else to say.

As silence filled the room, Peggy reached into her pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses. She handed them to Kara and smiled.

“Your old ones were damaged.” She said apologetically. “Howard made these for you. He hoped it would help you block out some of the extra input that we assumed you were getting.”

Grabbing them, Kara didn’t know what to say. She thought that Howard had only wanted her for her brain, and now she realized that he wasn’t who she thought he was at all.

“Thank you.”

Peggy nodded and stood. “We can talk more once you are reacclimated at home.”

As she reached the door, Kara stopped her. “Wait!”

Peggy turned, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

Biting her lip, Kara’s eyes were wide. “Does…did you tell Tony?”

Peggy shook her head. “He doesn’t know, and if you don’t want him to, your secret is safe with us. You have my word.”

“Thank you.” She whispered and watched as the woman left the room.

Turning over, she pulled the sheets up to her chin and took a deep breath. This was a lot of information to take in at one time, yet it all almost made sense. The sudden adoption, the random people that found her…it was all because they knew who she was and where she was from originally.

Howard, Maria, Jarvis, Peggy…they knew she was an alien. And they didn’t care. She couldn’t have imagined just how crazy her life would turn out after being sent from Krypton, but here she was. She was finally home.

Chapter Text

18 YEARS LATER

“So, you really aren’t going to see him receive his award?”

Kara laughed out loud and held her cell phone between her shoulder and her ear as she picked up the toys littering the ground. “Kit…it’s Tony. First of all, he brought Obie. Second, I’m willing to bet my entire trust fund that he doesn’t even show.”

“But isn’t Rhodey presenting it to him?” Her friend asked.

“That’s the plan.” Kara smiled. “But come on…it’s Tony.”

There was a silent pause before she heard a snort. “Yeah, you’re right. He’s not showing.”

“Exactly. Besides, I have precious cargo here that needs to be fed and watered. I wasn’t about to miss that and go to something that Tony doesn’t even care about in the first place.” Dropping the last of the toys into their designated bin, Kara sighed. “Speaking of which…I should probably go and get ready for bedtime.”

Agreeing, Kit said her goodbyes and they hung up. Instantly, the young woman smiled as she heard the sound of small footsteps running down the stairs. A moment later, a mess of dark hair bounced into her arms and caused them both to fall to the ground.

“Got you, Mama!”
Kara laughed. “Oh no! I’ve been captured! Whatever will I do?”

Kissing her mother on the nose, the small girl smiled and sat on Kara’s stomach. “Okay, you’re free now, Mama.”

“Oh, I am?” Kara asked. “I’m free? Now I can get you!”

Sitting up, Kara grabbed her daughter and started tickling her. The high-pitched sound of five-year-old laughter filled the room. “Okay! Enough Mama, enough!”

“I suppose you’re right, my little one.” Kara smiled. “It is time for bed, after all.”

“Race you!” The girl said excitedly, and Kara laughed as she took off up the stairs.

Her daughter had energy, alright, but she wouldn’t change her for the world. She had been a wonderful surprise added to her life but now she couldn’t imagine what her life would be like without her.

As she reached the top of the stairs, she could see her daughter jumping into bed and grabbing her stuffed animal of the night. Tonight it was a bunny — the night before it had been a duck.

“Are you all ready for bed, my wonderful Layna?” Kara asked her and tucked the blankets up close to her chin.

“Yes, Mama.” The girl yawned. “Is Uncle Tony home yet?”

Sighing, she shook her head. “Not yet, sweetheart. He’s getting an award tonight, remember?”

Layna nodded. “I remember.”

Kara was about to speak again when her phone rang. Glancing at it, she saw Rhodey’s picture pop up and couldn’t help but chuckle. “Before you say anything, how about saying goodnight to Layna so I can go downstairs and listen to you complain without waking my baby up.”

“Uncle Rhodey!” Layna squealed, and the delight in her voice was completely genuine.

“Hey there, lovebug.” His voice rang through the speaker. “You all ready for bed?”

“Yep! Mama tucked me in.” She said and yawned again.

“Well, you have a good night okay? I’ll see you soon.” He said, the love in his voice clear as day.

“Night Uncle Rhodey. Love you.” She whispered.

“I love you too.” He responded.

Kara leaned down and kissed her daughter’s nose. “I love you, baby girl. Get some good sleep.”

She shut the lights off and snuck out of the room. Then she started laughing. “Let me guess…he never showed?”

“How the hell could he do this to me?” He roared. “I put my neck on the line for this guy, and how does he repay me?”

“It’s Tony, Rhodey. What did you expect?” She said with a smile on her face. “Why do you think I didn’t go?”

“Because of Layna.” He responded, the attitude retreating from his voice.

“True, but I could have gotten Kit to watch her, you know that.” Kara sighed as she plopped herself onto the couch. “Listen, you know how he is, and you knew that when you agreed to do this. Just chalk it up to another one of his crazy antics and get some sleep.”

He grumbled for a minute before sighing. “Can you at least do me one favor?”

“For you? Anything.” She said.

“Please try and make sure he gets to the airstrip on time tomorrow?” He begged.

She laughed again. “I will do my best. I promise. Besides, if Pepper and I team-up on him, it could do some damage.”

“Thank you.” He said, and she could hear his car door slam on his end of the phone. “Okay, enjoy a little time to yourself now that she’s asleep. Knowing your brother, he won’t give you long before he’s traipsing through ridiculously drunk and probably with a guest.”

“Thank God for sound-proof rooms.” She said seriously. “And thanks, man. You made her night.”

“Anytime.” He said, and then he was gone.

Leaning her head against the back of the couch, Kara took a deep breath. She felt bad for the man having been asked to do something that her brother cared nothing about. She also felt guilty. Maybe she should have gone for Rhodey’s sake. At least then he’d have someone to help him tag team Tony.

The thought filtered through her mind as a voice filled the room. “Miss Stark, you should know that Mr. Stark and a guest are pulling up now. They seem very intoxicated.”

Rolling her eyes, Kara nodded. “Thanks, JARVIS. Can you soundproof Layna’s room for me? I’ll be up there in a few, but just in case…”

“Sure thing, Miss.”

A few minutes later, she was switching off the lights as she heard laughter coming close. Standing next to the couch, she watched as the couple made their way through the room and up the stairs. Neither one noticed her, and she found that she didn’t mind that much. Tony wouldn’t remember her name in the morning anyway.

It was around 6:45 when Kara found herself standing in front of the coffee machine, willing it to go faster. Though she was fully awake, the caffeine always seemed to warm her body and wake her up a bit more.

Taking the cup she finally had filled, she walked through the hall and smirked as she heard loud music coming from downstairs. Carefully walking down the steps, Kara shook her head and punched in her access code to Tony’s lab.

“What the hell are you still doing here?”

Looking up, Tony grinned. “Oh, good, you brought coffee.”

“Oh no, this is mine. Back off.” Kara smiled but did not protest as he grabbed the mug and took a sip from it. “So, how was the reporter?”

“Amazing. She could move in ways that…well…I’ll spare you the details.” He grinned.

“Thank God.” She shook her head and sat down near him. “I definitely don’t need to hear that.”

“Hey, at least I’m getting some.” He countered. “When was the last time you had a romp in the sheets?”

Glaring at him, she stuck her tongue out. “Shut up.”

He looked up at her, and his smile grew. “I knew it.”

“You know what, screw you. Pepper is on her way down the stairs right now, and I’m not about to stand up for you anymore.” She retaliated.

“How can you possibly also know when she’s coming? This room is soundproof.” He wondered, confusion on his face.

The door opened again, and Pepper stepped in. “You are supposed to be halfway around the world right now.”

“How’d she take it?” He asked.

Pepper sighed. “Like a champ.”

“Why are you trying to hustle me out of here?” Tony questioned, his concentration still on the hotrod he was fixing up.

“Your flight was scheduled to leave an hour and a half ago.” She reminded him.

“That’s funny, I thought with it being my plane and all, that it would just wait for me to get there.” He replied, causing Kara to roll her eyes.

Pepper looked at her, a look of absolute annoyance of her face, but Kara held up her hands in surrender. “Hey, I already tried.”

“Tony, I need to speak to you about a couple of things before I get you out of the door.” Pepper said quickly.

Standing, Kara walked to her brother. “I will take that as my cue to leave. Hey.” She tugged him up and hugged him. “Be careful, okay? You have a very important little girl to come home to and I don’t want to have to explain to her why her favorite person in the world isn’t back yet.”

“I know. I got it.” He said and hugged her tightly. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

Nodding, Kara smiled. “Be good.” Then she turned and just as she got to the door she turned. “By the way, Pepper, happy birthday.”

“Thank you, Kara.” The redhead replied, and with that, Kara was gone.

Kara was sitting at her computer at work when her annoyance level spiked. “Hi, Obie. What’s up?”

“Well, don’t you sound excited this morning.” The older man said sarcastically.

The young Stark shrugged. “I have a lot of work to do. How can I help you?”

“You know I’m surprised you didn’t convince Tony to be at the ceremony. Poor Rhodes was so let down.” He said, his voice full of fake disappointment. “Isn’t that your job? Keeping tabs on your brother?”

Eyes flashing with anger, Kara stood. “Actually no, it isn’t. I have exactly two jobs. One is making sure this IT department doesn’t malfunction and send the whole company up in flames. The other is raising my daughter.” She sighed. “Besides, Tony is an adult. He doesn’t need me to take care of him. Plus, it’s not like he had that great of a role model…”

Grabbing her arm, Obie’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you dare talk about Howard that way. He rescued you.”

“I will talk about my father any way I damn well please.” Her voice lowered to a dangerous level. “Now, get your hands off of me.”

The door slid open, and they both looked up to see one of the IT employees looking at them cautiously. “Um…sorry to interrupt. But I think you both should see this.”

Rushing behind her, they found themselves in front of a television screen showing news footage of an attack on a military convoy in Afghanistan. At that same moment, Kara’s phone went off, and Rhodey’s picture flashed across her screen.

Lifting it to her ear, she shook her head. “Don’t you dare say it.”

“Kara, I’m so sorry.” Rhodey’s voice broke. “I wasn’t with him in his Humvee and when I got there…he was gone. I can’t find him anywhere.”

“No.” She said quickly. “No.”

Rhodey continued to speak to her, but she couldn’t hear him. Stumbling away from everyone, her body acted on autopilot as she walked out of the building. It wasn’t until she arrived home that she realized what she’d done.

Her car door suddenly opened, and gentle hands were coaxing her from her vehicle. Once they got through the front door, Kara let herself collapse and let the sobs escape.

“Shh, it’s okay, honey.” Kit comforted. “It’s going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Kara walked into Tony’s office at Stark Industries. Her eyes were still rimmed red, but she walked with a purpose. It wasn’t long before the door opened again, and Obidiah walked through.

“Kara! I wasn’t expecting you to be here.” He said in surprise.

She nodded and sat in her brother’s chair. “With Tony gone, the company needs someone to run it.”

“Well, that’s why I figured I would come here and take care of it.” He told her slowly as if talking to a child.

“As per my parents’ will, I am next in line to run the company if Tony were to…” She stopped her train of thought. “So until Tony returns, I will do just that. This company needs a Stark, and that is what I am giving them.”

“If you’re not up to this, honey, I can-”

“I said that I was doing it. Tony is going to want everything running smoothly when he gets back, so I am going to keep it running. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get some work done.” She told him, her expression daring him to question her.

“Okay, if you’re sure.” He said, and she could tell that he was not happy with their exchange. “Let me know if you need anything.”

Nodding, she sighed. “Thank you.”

She waited until he was out of the room before picking up her phone and dialing Rhodey’s number. “Please tell me you have something. I’m dying here.”

About a month later, Kara sat in her office, staring out the window. It had been many weeks since the news of her brother’s disappearance had come to light, and though she wanted to believe that he was out there, her heart broke every second that he wasn’t there with her.

Telling Layna was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, and she prayed every single day that she wouldn’t have to sit her down and tell her that he was never coming home again. Kara didn’t think she could handle the news herself, let alone try to explain it to her daughter.

Since he’d been gone, Kara had taken over all of his duties as best she could for the company. She and Obidiah had butted heads for than once, but she was not about to let him take her family’s company from her when she could very well handle it on her own.

She was torn from her thoughts as her door opened, and the man himself walked in. “Afternoon, Kara.”

“Obi.” She nodded her greeting. “To what do I owe the pleasure. We didn’t have another meeting scheduled until two.”

He sighed and lit the cigar that was in his hands. “I didn’t want to have to do this, but I have some bad news.”

Her heart stopped. “Please don’t tell me…”

He held up a hand and shook his head. “We still have no news about Tony. Unfortunately, I have news directly from the board.”

“What did the board say that they couldn’t tell me?” She questioned.

Walking forward, he dropped a piece of paper on her desk. “The board feels that with you dealing with Tony’s absence and having to take care of Layna that you are too ‘emotionally charged’ to take care of this company right now. They have filed an injunction against you.”

“Excuse me?”

“They feel that it is in the company’s best interests to have you step down as CEO for a while.” He told her. “I will be taking over. However, your job in IT is still there for you if you want to try doing that.”

She stood slowly and faced him. “Are you kidding me?”

“I’m sorry, Kara. I tried talking to them, but they weren’t going to give in.” He said as he blew a puff of smoke near her face.

“Sure, you did.” She told him and grabbed her purse. “Do not expect this to go away quietly, Obidiah.”

As she left the room, she ignored his attempts at an apology and continued to the elevator. It was halfway down its descent when she turned and threw a punch at the wall. Her breath heaving, she walked out as it hit the bottom floor and didn’t stick around to hear the other employees discussing the massive dent her fist left in the metal.

The room Tony was in was dark, but the light in his chest lit up the gameboard that set in front of him. “You still haven’t told me where you’re from.”

The man sitting opposite him threw his dice and looked up at him. “I’m from a small town called Gulmira. It’s actually a nice place.”

“Got a family?” Tony asked as he contemplated his next move.

“Yes, and I will see them when I leave here,” Yinsen replied. “And you, Stark?”

Sighing, Tony nodded. “My sister and my niece.”

“You are close to them?” Yinsen asked.

Tony nodded and groaned. “Yeah, actually. My sister…she’s been through a lot. This must be killing her.” He paused. “And Layna…that’s my goddaughter; she’s only five. She’s probably still waiting for me to walk through the door. The thought of not being able to watch her grow up…”

“So this really is an important week for you, isn’t it?” The older man asked.

“You have no idea.” He closed his eyes. “I’m the closest thing my niece has to a father. That deadbeat left a long time ago. And Kara…she’s lost almost every family member she’s ever had to tragedy. I promised her that I’d never go anywhere.”

“Your family sounds like a strong one,” Yinsen told him. “Fight for them. We will make your suit and you will see them again.”

Tony looked at his companion carefully. “Thank you. I promise to get you to your family too.”

Both men continued to work diligently on their plans for days. Tony couldn’t help but picture his family back at home and could only hope that he would get to see them again. He couldn’t leave Kara alone again. It would break her.

He was lost in thought when the doors to their chamber opened, and a group of their captors walked in. Instantly, he set the blow torch down and raised his hands in the air. He hoped this encounter went quickly.

A man he recognized from only the outskirts of his capture walked in and faced him. “Relax.”

There was silence for a second before he started talking again. “The bow and arrow once was the pinnacle of weapons technology. It allowed the great Genghis Khan to rule from the Pacific to the Ukraine. An empire twice the size of Alexander the Great and four times the size of the Roman Empire. But today, whoever holds the latest Stark weapons rules these lands. And soon, it will be my turn.”

He turned and faced the pair again, setting down the plans that he thankfully didn’t look too carefully at. He started speaking to Yinsen in Urdu, so Tony was lost on the conversation, but he did figure out what was happening when they lowered the man’s head down to a level surface and held a lump of glowing coal over him.

“I need him,” Tony stated quickly. “Good assistant.”

The man dropped the coal next to Yinsen’s face and turned to face Tony. “You have until tomorrow to assemble my missile. Otherwise, we kill you, and your sister pays the price…or maybe your little niece.”

Tony’s heart rate sped up and though he wanted to kill the man for even mentioning his family, he stood still and tried to figure out a faster plan. Now it wasn’t just his life on the line, but his family’s as well.

Chapter Text

Kara jolted awake at the sound of her phone ringing loudly. Groaning, she didn’t bother to look at the caller ID and instead ignored the call. Crushing her head back into the pillow, she sighed in frustration as it rang again.

This time, she answered angrily. “What the hell could anybody possibly want at this time of night?”

“And here I thought you might have missed me.”

Her body froze as she registered the voice on the other end. “Tony?”

“Yeah, who else would it be?” He said, and she could hear his smirk from where she sat in bed.

“You…but…what?” She couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence, but he understood her anyway.

“I’m with Rhodey now. They’re patching me up, and I’ll be back in the states shortly.” He told her. “I’m okay, Kara. I’m coming home.”

Letting her head fall to her knees, she cleared her throat. “Well, it’s about time, damn it.”

As much as she didn’t want to hang up, she knew he needed to rest. But the second the line clicked off, she lowered her head into her hands and sobbed.

“Where to, sir?”

Pepper leaned up in her seat. “Take us to the hospital, please, Happy.”

“No.”

Pepper was stunned. “No? Tony, you have to go to the hospital.”

“No is a complete answer.” He told her. “I don’t have to do anything. I’ve been in captivity for three months. There are three things I want to do. I want to see my sister, I want a cheeseburger, and the other…is not what you think. I want you to call for a press conference now.”

“Call for a press conference? What on Earth for?” Pepper asked in confusion.

“Hogan, drive. I assume my sister will meet us there so cheeseburger first.” Tony demanded, and they drove off immediately.

As they drove up to the building, the first person Tony saw was Obidiah. He glanced around, anxiously hoping to see the face of his sister, but finding that she wasn’t there.

“Look at this!” Obie yelled as he opened the door for Tony. “Tony.”

The older man pulled him in for a hug. “We were going to meet at the hospital.”

“No, I’m fine.” He said quickly, grabbing a burger from Happy.

“You had to have a burger, yeah?” Obie shook his head. “Well, come on.”

He was about to lead Tony inside when a body moved his aside, and arms were wrapped around Tony’s neck. Looking up annoyed, he saw Kara holding her brother tightly, crying.

“I can’t believe you’re home.” She said quickly. “I’ve been dreaming of this day for three months.”

“I missed you too, sis.” Tony smiled. Now that she was there with him, he felt a lot better. “Come with me.”

Grabbing her hand, he let Obie lead them inside toward the room full of reporters. As they made their way through the crowd, Kara started to let go, but Tony gripped her hand harder and looked back at her. “Come with me?”

She nodded. “Of course, I will.”

She held his hand and followed him to the podium, only letting go of his hand when he slid to the floor. “Hey, would it be alright if everyone sat down? Why don’t you just sit down? That way you can see me, and I can…” He trailed off and Kara instantly plopped next to him. “A little less formal and…”

He trailed off again before looking at her. “Good to see you.” He paused. “We never got to say goodbye to Dad.”

Kara nodded. “I know.”

“I never got to say goodbye to my father.” He projected his voice for the crowd. “There are questions that I would have asked him. I would have asked him how he felt about what this company did. If he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts. Or maybe he was every inch the man we all remember from the newsreels.”

Kara adjusted her glasses and thought of her late father, but kept her mouth shut. She watched her brother as he collected his thoughts and then continued his speech, reaching out to her again.

“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them.” Kara saw Obie look up, confused, and worried. “And I saw that I,” he looked at Kara. “we had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.”

Reporters started whispering, and Tony called on one right in front of them. “What happened over there?”

This time, Tony stood, and Kara stayed where she was on the stage. “Uh…I had my eyes opened. I came to realize that we have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up.”

Kara’s gaze instantly shot to Obie, who was looking at her with anger and questioning. She shrugged but glared back at him.

“And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark International until such a time as my sister, and I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take…one that I am comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country, as well.”

Kara’s jaw dropped as the room went crazy. She saw Obidiah leap to his feet beside her, but all she could do was look up at them. She watched as Tony leapt from the stage, and reached his hand for her’s again. Taking it, he led her through the crowd and out a door, giving them some privacy.

“Tony…” She was speechless.

“Listen, I know that probably seemed impulsive and I should have spoken to you first but…please tell me you’ll back me on this.” He said and she could see that his eyes were pleading with her.

“Tony, you know I will.” She grabbed his other hand so that they were facing each other. “You know that I am behind you 100%, no matter what the issue is.”

“Good.” He said quietly at the same time the door opened and Pepper, Happy, and Obidiah joined them.

As Pepper and Happy moved to help him back outside, Obie grabbed Kara’s arm. “We’ll join you in a second.”

Once he exited the room, Kara yanked her arm away. “What did I say about grabbing my arm?”

“Are you seriously going along with this? How can you follow his outlandish idea?” He yelled at her. “He is going to destroy this company!”

“No, he’s going to change it!” She paused. “We both are. And if you don’t like it…well, honestly I don’t give a shit.”

Giving him one last look, she stormed away from him and made her way to the car. As soon as she was inside, she looked at Tony. “There is a very important little girl at home and will be so excited to see you.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t come with you.” He quipped.

Kara shrugged. “I haven’t told her yet. I wanted to see you with my own eyes before I said anything.”

“Well then, let’s not keep her waiting.”

Chapter Text

Tony sighed as he entered his house. Being back seemed so foreign to him and yet so wonderful at the same time. He’d planned on being home sooner, but Obie had insisted on a meeting, and he was left to try and explain himself until later in the evening.

“Welcome home, sir.”

Looking up as JARVIS’s words ran through the entryway, he dropped the sling he was wearing and nodded. “It’s good to be back, J.” Then he paused. “Where are the girls?”

“Miss Stark and Miss Layna are in her bedroom. Miss Stark said to have you come to Miss Layna’s bedroom when you arrived.” The AI replied. “I believe your return has been kept a secret for this moment.”

Smirking, Tony made his way through the house and to the stairs. As he ascended the twisting staircase, he heard soft laughter coming from his niece’s bedroom. It instantly made him feel at home again, and he knew more than ever that his decision was the right one. He had to make a better world for Layna, or he’d regret it until he died.

”Mama, will we ever see Uncle Tony again?” Layna’s small voice asked.

“Honey…” Kara started but cut her sentence off as she heard a creak in the hallway.

“Well, at least someone missed me.” Tony joked as he walked in.

The look on the little girl’s face warmed the hearts of both adults. Quickly jumping out of her bed, she ran and leaped into his arms, hugging him tightly. “Uncle Tony! You’re back!”

“Be careful, Layna. Don’t hurt him.” Kara warned, but Tony waved her off.

“Are you kidding? This is the best hug I’ve ever gotten.” He kissed the girl’s cheek and held on just as tight. “Of course, I came home to you. I will always come home to you.”

Smiling, Kara watched the exchange. She had dreamt of this moment since he had disappeared and now that it was here she felt a large weight fall from her chest. Instantly, her exhaustion came full force, and she knew that the sleepless nights were getting to her.

“Uncle Tony, will you tell me a bedtime story?” Layna asked, shining her big blue eyes at him.

Kara smiled, knowing that even if he hadn’t just gotten back, he would fall for it. He always did.

“Why, of course, I will. You’ve had to listen to mommy’s stale stories for three months. It’s time we got back to Uncle Tony’s awesome adventures.” He glanced at Kara and winked.

Chuckling, Kara stood. “Oh, I’m going to get you for that.” Then she walked over and kissed Layna’s hair. “Sleep tight my little one. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Tony sat the girl on the bed and tucked her back in as Kara left the room. Walking to her room, Kara let out a sigh of exhaustion. It was no secret that she hadn’t slept very much since Tony had gone missing and now that her adrenaline and shock were wearing off, it seemed to be attacking at complete capacity.

She made quick work of changing into some more comfortable clothing, and then slowly made her way back towards the staircase. As she passed, she heard part of the story Tony was telling Layna.

“And then the evil villain told the hero to make him a dangerous weapon, but the hero said no. They argued, and the hero realized that he had to do something so that he could get back to his family.”

“What did he do?” Layna asked, completely intrigued by his story.

Smiling, Kara snuck away before they saw her. As she reached the living room, she walked to the bar and grabbed herself a glass of wine. Letting the liquid soothe her racing mind, she sat on the couch and waited for Tony to join her again. Laying her head against the back cushion, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“How long has it been?”

She jumped at the sound of the voice and sighed when she saw Tony sitting next to her, a scotch in his hand. “How long have you been sitting there?”

“A few minutes. You were out when I got down here.” He told her. “So I’ll ask again, how long?”

“How long, what?” She asked defensively and crossed her legs, facing him.

He gave her his ‘don’t give me that bullshit, I’m a genius’ look. “Since you slept. How long has it been?”

“Not that long. So…that story you told Layna.” She said, again deflecting his question.

“JARVIS?” His eyes never left hers.

“Miss Stark has had a total of three hours of sleep each night…at best.” The AI informed him.

Groaning, Kara glared at the ceiling. “Traitor.”

“You look like shit,” Tony told her.

“Well, thanks.” She responded while giving him the finger. “And you’re one to talk. Sorry that I had a child to raise all alone and a company to worry about and then there was the little thing of not knowing if I’d ever see you again.”

He watched his sister carefully as she ranted. “I’m sorry, Kara.”

She nodded. “It isn’t your fault. But I did hear part of the story you told Layna. I want the real version.”

He didn’t speak for a moment and then sighed. “After the Jericho demonstration, my Humvee was attacked. Everyone was firing their weapons, and they were even breaking through the windows of the truck. I tried to run, stupid I know, and hide but a missile landed next to me.” He paused. “It was one of our missiles, Kara.”

Her jaw dropped as she took in his words. “What? How?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but when I woke up, I was in a lot of pain. It turns out, some of the shrapnel entered my bloodstream and went right for the heart. There was someone else imprisoned with me who saved my life by operating. He gave me this device that will stop the barbs that are still in there from reaching my heart.

“Shortly after that, the crazy people realized I was awake. They told me that they wanted me to build them the Jericho, but I said no, and they used…not so great methods to try and get me to change my mind. Then they showed me their stash.”

“Wait…they have more of our weapons?” She whispered, her hand balling into a fist.

He nodded. “I don’t know where they got them all but they had a huge arsenal of our stuff. I had no choice but to agree, but I knew I’d never get out of there.”

“How did you?”

He swallowed. “I realized that the missiles they had had some of the palladium in them. I created a device that helped the thing in my chest and would also power a suit for about fifteen minutes.”

“You built a suit? I’m confused.” Kara shook her head. “How did you get out?”

“Yinsen and I built an armored suit that allowed me to ricochet bullets and let out streams of fire. I fought my way out. Yinsen,” Tony paused as he thought of the man. “he died protecting me. But when I got out, I burned everything. All of it. And then I flew away.”

Kara blinked. “You flew.”

“Yeah.”

“In the air?”

“Yes.”

“In an armored suit.”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

Kara was silent for a moment, thinking about what he told her. She wanted to say he was crazy but thought about the fact that she was an alien from another planet that crashed here in a spaceship.

“I know it sounds crazy…” He started, but she cut him off.

“I’ve heard crazier.” She sipped her wine. “I can’t believe that all happened to you.”

He nodded. “I didn’t think I was getting out of there, but then he…”

“He what?”

Tony hesitated before letting out a sigh. “He threatened you…and Layna. He knew about you and said that if I didn’t build it, he’d kill me and then come after you.”

Her eyes darkened. “He wouldn’t have found me to be as easily manipulated.” Then she paused. “Can I see it?”

He slowly set down his scotch and then started to unbutton his shirt. Kara’s mouth opened when she saw the glowing miniature arc reactor. Reaching forward, she gently touched the device with her fingers and felt tears in her eyes.

“Tony…”

Grabbing her hand in his own, he shook his head. “Hey, look at me.” He waited until her eyes locked onto his. “I’m here, I’m alive, and I’m okay. That’s what matters.”

She nodded. “So…at least now I understand why we’re shutting down the weapons division.”

Tony winced and nodded. “Yeah, Obie’s not too happy about that.”

“I know.” She shrugged. “He cornered me after your speech. I told him to shove it.”

Her smirk made him feel better, and he released her hand. “Yeah, he said some things at SI tonight too.”

“Why do I get the feeling you have something up your sleeve?” Kara narrowed her eyes at him

“I had this…idea.” He started. “Obie doesn’t think it’s worth it, but I do.”

“The arc reactor.” Kara supplied for him. “That’s what’s in your chest. You want to explore that.”

Tony smiled. “Man, you really do know how to read me.”

Kara shrugged and finished off her wine. “Well, I did grow up with you.”

He grinned and then leaned forward to kiss her cheek. “Now, we both need some sleep. I promise to be here when you wake up tomorrow.”

“You better be.” She told him. “Otherwise, I’m kicking your ass into the next decade.”

He laughed, and it was the first real laugh he had let out since coming home. He was never more grateful to see his sister than at that moment. “I love you, short stuff.”

“I love you, too, crazy.”

Chapter Text

Kara hummed a song to herself as she sat at her computer. The IT department seemed to be slower than usual that day, and though she wasn’t exactly sure why, she wasn’t going to complain. It gave her the time she needed to look into her father’s old records of his arc reactor research.

She clicked the file and stopped when it flashed a message of ‘THIS FILE CANNOT BE ACCESSED’ across her screen. This confused her, as she had access to every single file in the SI database, seeing as she was one of the owners of the company. She tried again, but the same message popped up.

Now, she was suspicious. Clicking back to the search screen, she looked up Tony’s file and clicked on it. Then she looked at Howard’s file, Maria’s file, and her own. Every one of them was locked from her viewing.

Using her skills as a hacker, she tried to activate as many firewall damages as she could to try and find any information. She managed to obtain access to one file, but the contents had her nearly sick.

The documents in front of her made horrible childhood memories come rushing back. One document was her adoption papers, but not to Howard and Maria. Her foster parents signed these papers and it included a deal signed by Obidiah to get rid of her from the Stark family.

Another document detailed the wire transfer of the money he gave them and the deal to keep sending money as long as they kept Tony, Peggy, and everyone else off of his scent.

She wanted to press more, but suddenly she heard voices coming down with the elevator thanks to her super hearing. Quickly exiting the folder, Kara deleted her history and pulled up the work she had been doing before she ventured off. A moment later, Obidiah and another man walked into the department.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” His voice echoed across the department. “It has come to my attention that someone in this department has been trying to access restricted files.”

There was a slight murmuring of her colleagues, but Kara stared at Obie. “Well, that’s unfortunate. How did you find out?”

He looked at her and came to lean on her desk. “A concerned employee bought it to our attention. Do you know anything about this?”

Kara shrugged and played innocent. “I have no idea. But I have already have access to those files, don’t I? So why would I be the one to access restricted files? Or is there something you aren’t telling me?”

They stared at each other for a moment before he stood and put his cigar back into his mouth. “Just know that any employee found to be hacking into our system will be terminated immediately.”

She nodded, as did her team, and watched the men file back into the elevator. When she was sure they were gone, she looked around to make sure no one was watching her. When everyone went back to their projects, Kara lowered her glasses slightly and took a look inside her monitor and hard drive using her x-ray vision for anything suspicious.

It didn’t take her long to find the bug planted inside. Fuming from her rights having been stolen and the information she found out, she slid the glasses back up her nose and took a few deep breaths.

Obidiah was up to something, she realized. She wasn’t quite sure what he was trying to accomplish, but it couldn’t have been good. She only hoped that she could figure it out before he destroyed her whole family.

It was late when Kara arrived home and saw Obie’s car in the driveway. Not wanting a confrontation with him again, she chose to utilize the back staircase as she made her way upstairs to see her daughter. As she peeked into Layna’s room, however, her heart stopped. Her daughter wasn’t there.

Trying not to panic, she raced in the direction of her room but did not find her there either. In one final attempt to keep herself from panicking, she threw the door to Tony’s room open. There was no one there.

“JARVIS. Where the hell is my daughter?” She asked frantically.

“Miss Layna is currently downstairs with Mr. Stark, Miss Potts, and Mr. Stane.” He replied.

Hearing that Layna was with Obidiah made her stomach flip, and she hurried down the stairs. When she reached the living room, she saw Layna standing in front of Tony.

“All I’m saying is that it would have gone better if you were there.” Obidiah was telling Tony.

“Uncle Tony, look at my wiggly tooth!” Layna said excitedly as she bounced in front of him. “I think it’s coming out soon!”

“Layna, your uncle and I have some important things to discuss. You can tell him whatever it is you need to later.” Obie said as he stood from the piano.

The look on Layna’s face had Kara charging into the room. “Obidiah, if you could do me a favor and never tell my daughter what to do again, that would be great. Because if I ever find out that you scolded her again, without my permission, you and I are going to have an even bigger problem than we do now.”

She walked over to her daughter and lifted her into her arms. Layna instantly laid her head on her mother’s shoulder and buried her face. “Hi, Mama.”

“Also, can I ask why she is awake right now instead of in bed like she’s supposed to be? Where is Kit?” Kara demanded.

“I sent her home,” Obidiah said. “I needed to discuss business with your brother and didn’t need her getting in the way.”

“From now on, the only people that can send my child’s caregiver away is me, Tony, Rhodey, and maybe Pepper. You are not on that list. Also, if you are discussing business about the company, I feel that I should be included as I am also a shareholder.” Kara fired back. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go comfort my daughter and put her to bed.”

Storming out of the room, she paid no attention to the shocked looks on Tony and Pepper’s faces. She didn’t even have to look at Obidiah to know that he was fuming at her outburst.

“What the hell is that about?” Tony asked, looking at his mentor.

“Your sister seems to have developed some stress from your lengthy absence. She has been very upset with everyone, and I guess I am her new target.” He lied and sat next to Tony. “Listen Tony, the board is claiming you have posttraumatic stress. They’re filing an injunction.”

“A what?”

“They want to lock you out,” Obie told him.

Tony was shocked. “Why because the stocks dipped forty points? We knew that was going to happen.”

“Fifty-six and a half,” Pepper added.

“It doesn’t matter.” He said aggressively. “We own the controlling interest in the company.”

“Tony, the board has rights, too.” Obie reminded. “They’re making the case that you and your new direction isn’t in the company’s best interest.”

“I’m being responsible! That’s a new direction for me…for the company.” He stumbled over his words as Kara walked back down the stairs. “I mean me on the company’s behalf being responsible for the way that…”

Kara watched as he stood up and started to leave the room. She had heard the entire conversation and was eagerly awaiting Obie’s explanation.

“This is great,” Tony mumbled. “I’ll be in the shop.”

“Oh, come on. Tony. Tony!” The older man sipped his drink and then stood as well. “Listen, I’m trying to turn this thing around, but you gotta give me something. Something to pitch them.” Then he pointed to the arc reactor in Tony’s chest. “Let me have the engineers analyze that. You know, draw up some specs.”

“No. No, absolutely not. This one stays with me.” Tony replied defensively. “That’s it, Obie. Forget it.”

Kara stayed silent as she watched her brother exit the room, annoyed with Obie. ‘Good,” she thought. “He is better than him anyway.”

“You mind if I come down there and see what you’re doing?” Obie asked, hanging to one last straw.

Without turning around, Tony spoke. “Goodnight, Obie.”

“Tony, wait I-”

Instantly, Kara was in front of him. “Don’t even think about it.”

They stared at each other for a moment before he put both hands on her arms and chuckled. “Kara, Kara, Kara. I’m just trying to help! It would be wise not to get in the middle of this.”

Without taking her eyes off of him, she gripped his hand in her own and yanked it off of her. This time, the grip she had was rough, and she knew that if she kept crushing it, she would do some damage. “Obie, I think it would be wise for you not to get in my way, especially when it comes to my family and my life.”

She saw the look in his eye change. “That’s quite a grip you have here…”

“I know what you did.” She told him, and her eyes were dark. “Do not ever meddle in my life again. Tony may trust you…but stay the hell away from my daughter and I. Got it?”

She dropped his hand, and he shook it out. She thought he was going to say something else, but he chose to be wise and leave the house without further problems. Pepper followed quickly behind him and Kara watched them go.

“JARVIS, do me a favor and let me know if he tries to come back here tonight, will you?”

“Will do, Miss.” He responded.

Glancing at the steps, Kara entertained the idea of joining her brother and telling him about what she had learned that day but then decided against it. They were both upset and neither one would have a clear head while talking if she tried tonight. Instead, she told JARVIS to keep a small light on for Tony and then went back up the stairs, falling into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

The following day, Kara gripped her purse as she walked into Layna’s school. Preschool had gotten out early that day, but a last-minute meeting had delayed her from picking her daughter up on time. As she entered the office, he smiled at the secretary.

“I’m so sorry, I’m late.” She puffed out. “I’m here to pick up Layna Stark.”

The woman smiled back at her. “Oh, actually, her uncle picked her up about twenty minutes ago.”

Confused, Kara tilted her head. “Wait…are you telling me that Tony Stark came to preschool?”

Laughing, the secretary shook her head. “No, it wasn’t your brother. It was your uncle.”

Kara paused. “My uncle? I don’t have an-” Her heart stopped. “Bald? Acts like he knows everything?”

The woman nodded. “That would be him. Mr. Stane came and got her just as you said he would.”

“I didn’t say anything like that,” Kara said instantly.

Now the woman looked concerned. “You called this morning and said that he would be picking her up today. I answered the call myself.”

Kara’s heart started racing as she shook her head. “I never made that call.”

Instantly, she grabbed her phone and took off out of the office. Quickly dialing Tony’s number, she ran out the front door and to her car. It was ringing as she slid in and shut the door. She swallowed as she took in her surroundings.

The launch bay was dark, but the light that came from her pod lit up the room. Looking to her right, she saw her parents watching her. “You will do extraordinary things, Kara.”

“I am not afraid.” She said quickly.

“I love you.” Her mother, Alura, told her, and Kara nodded. “I love you too.”

Sitting back, the shield on her pod went up, and she felt herself lift into the air. As the pod flew out of the launch bay, Kara could see the destruction that surrounded her. Fire and rock exploded from the ground and high into the air. Even in her pod, Kara could feel the heat radiating from the explosions and tears fell down her face.

Turning to look back, she saw her parents again. Howard waved to her as he held Maria tightly in his arms. Kara’s heart broke to see their faces disappear from view, and suddenly she was thrown forward as she felt the massive explosion of the planet behind her.

“No!”

Kara shot up in bed, panting and gasping for air. She looked around the room to try and reorient herself, but it didn’t seem to be working. Bringing a hand to rub roughly at her chest, she leaped out of bed.

“Miss Stark, your heart rate seems to be elevated at an alarming rate. Shall I contact Mr. Stark?” JARVIS’s voice rang throughout the room.

“Layna.” Though it hurt and seemed to use all of her energy, Kara had to know about her daughter.

“Miss Layna is asleep in her bedroom, as she was when you put her there an hour ago,” JARVIS replied. “I really must insist that I contact Mr. Stark. If your breathing stays this way, it could cause you to become unconscious.”

Shaking her head, though she knew the AI couldn’t see her, she tried her hardest to get down the hallway. Using the wall as a guide, she blinked her tears away and felt her way down the stairs. It took her a few minutes to reach Tony’s lab, and when she did, she saw that his back was to her. She was now at the point of wheezing and punched her code quickly. When the door opened, she fell through the threshold and onto the floor.

“Kara!”

She was trembling on the ground, crying, when she saw Tony’s face appear above hers. It was blurry, and she could tell that he was saying something to her, but she couldn’t hear him.

“Kara, breathe. You have to breathe.” Tony was telling her.

He was scared to death. Seeing her collapse through the doorway hadn’t been what he was expecting to see when she made her way down there. Gripping her hand tightly, he laid it on his chest and took exaggerated breaths of his own.

A moment later, her vision focused on him and her breathing started to stabilize. Neither of them spoke for a bit, choosing to let her heart rate subside and the tears dry out.

Finally, when she felt like she was on even ground again, she gave one last shudder.

“I’m sorry.”

Tony shook his head. “What happened?”

She blinked rapidly and looked around. “Nightmare. A bad one.”

He nodded and watched her. “Think you can stand?”

She grabbed his hand, and he slowly helped her up. She was steady, he noted, but still had a haunted look in her eyes. “Thanks.”

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“No.” She replied and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He wondered.

She shook her head. “No.” Then she looked around. “What the hell happened in here?”

“Yeah, I was wondering why you didn’t come down when you heard it. Now I know why.” He said as he moved away from her.

“That doesn’t answer my question.” She said, lifting an eyebrow.

He shrugged. “Let’s just say that I had a little unforeseen accident with a project.”

“You mean the suit you’re making?”

Tony froze and turned to her. “What are you talking about?”

Kara smirked. “I’m not an idiot, Tony. I knew you were doing something, so I hacked your personal file.”

“You bitch.” He said, but his tone was playful. “I guess I should have expected that.”

“I mean, come on. It’s me. You can’t hide much from me for long.” She reminded him. “So…you want to show me everything, or do I have to keep hacking?”

Shaking his head, she grinned. “Well, I guess I could use an ear.”

She followed him to his desk and stood behind his chair as he pulled up the specs for his suit. “Wow. This is incredible, Tony.”

“I mean, it’s just one markup, but it will be more than incredible when it’s complete.” He told her.

Starting a new file, he cleared his throat. “Notes. Main transducer feels sluggish at plus forty altitude. Hull pressurization is problematic. I’m thinking icing is the probable factor.”

“A very astute observation, sir.” JARVIS chimed in immediately. “Perhaps if you intend to visit other planets, we should improve the exosystems.”

“You flew that high?” Kara asked incredulously. “What the hell were you thinking? You could have died.”

“It’s me. When have I ever not taken those risks?” He asked her.

“Still.” She paused. “Idiot.”

“Connect to the sys. co. Have it reconfigure the shell metals.” He told JARVIS as he picked up his smoothie. “Use the gold titanium alloy from the seraphim tactical satellite.”

“Well, at least that should ensure the fuselage integrity while maintaining power-to-weight ratio.” Kara added. “Smart.”

“Shall I render using the proposed specifications?” JARVIS wondered.

“Thrill me,” Tony replied and turned to his sister. “Want some?”

She looked down at the smoothie he was offering her and nearly gagged. “Ah…no. I’m good, thanks.”

He was about to speak again when a reporter on the television started speaking. “Tonight’s red-hot red carpet is right here at the Disney Concert Hall, where Tony and Kara Stark’s third annual benefit for the Firefighter’s Family Fund has become the place to be for L.A.’s high society.”

“Did we get an invite for that?” Tony asked Kara.

“Not that I’m aware of.” She said. “JARVIS?”

“I have no record of an invitation, miss.”

On the screen, the reporter was still talking. “Some claim he’s suffering from posttraumatic stress and has been bedridden for weeks, his sister by his side the entire time. Whatever the case may be, no one expects an appearance from them tonight.”

“Kit? I need you to come over.”

Tony turned and saw Kara on her phone, smirking at him. When she hung up, he laughed. “She coming?”

“She saw the story and was already on her way.” Kara smiled.

“Perfect.”

“The render is complete.” JARVIS interrupted them.

“Wow,” Kara said, amazed.

“A little ostentatious, don’t you think?” Tony looked at her.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot that you’re all about the low profile.” She grinned and smacked his arm.

“Yes, miss. He’s usually so discreet.” JARVIS added, causing Kara to let out a snort.

Tony turned and then stopped. “Tell you what. Throw a little hot-rod red in there.”

As Kara rolled her eyes, JARVIS replied to his boss. “Yes, that should help you keep a low profile.” Then he paused. “The render is complete.”

Looking at it, Tony nodded. “Hey, I like it. Fabricate it. Paint it.”

“Commencing automated assembly. Estimated completion time is five hours.”

“Don’t wait up for us, honey.” He told the AI and looked at Kara. “We have a gala to prepare for.”

Smiling, Kara grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the lab.

Chapter Text

Kara smiled as Tony helped her out of his car. She could hear people screaming on the red carpet, but neither cared very much. Tony held his arm out to her, and she slipped her own around his. Together, they made their way through the crowd to the entrance of the concert hall.

As soon as they spotted Obie, they walked over. “What’s the world coming to when a guy’s got to crash his own party?”

Obie laughed nervously. “Look at you. Hey, what a surprise.” Then he turned to Kara. “Kara, you look lovely.”

Choosing not to reply, she gripped Tony’s arm tighter.

“We’ll see you inside,” Tony said, getting the message.

Obie stopped them before they got far. “Hey. Listen, take it slow, all right? I think I got the board right where we want them.”

Kara glared at him, but Tony didn’t notice. “You got it. Just cabin fever. I’ll just be a minute.”

Once they were inside, Kara sighed. “I need a drink. How about you?”

He nodded quickly. “Took the thought right from my mind.”

They approached the bar, and Kara eased herself against it. The red fabric of her gown flowed in the breeze as people walked past, and she smiled to the people around her. She’d left her hair down, knowing that it completed the “fuck you” look she was wanting.

When the bartender came over, Tony took the lead. “Give me a scotch, I’m starving, and a martini for my sister. Thanks.”

Next to him, Kara saw a man turn. “Mr. Stark?”

“Yeah?” Tony looked at him, but Kara knew he was ignoring him already.

The man didn’t seem to notice. Or care. “Agent Coulson.”

“The guy from the…agency with a really long name,” Kara remembered.

“God, you need a new name for that,” Tony said as he handed her the martini.

“Yeah, I hear that a lot,” Coulson said. “Listen, I know this must be a trying time for you, but we need to debrief you. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and time can be a factor with these things.”

Kara saw her brother’s gaze lift, and then Pepper’s blue dress caught her eye. Chuckling into her drink, she knew that the other man’s words were going in one ear and out the other as Tony seemed captivated by his assistant.

‘God, they should just kiss and get it over with, I swear.’ She thought to herself but wisely held her tongue.

“Let’s just put something on the books.” Coulson kept speaking. “How about the 24th at seven p.m. at Stark Industries?”

Tony held out his hand. “Tell you what. You got it. You’re absolutely right. Well, uh, I’m going to go to my assistant, and we’ll make a date.”

As he walked away, Kara sipped her drink. “You do realize he didn’t hear any of that, right?”

The agent nodded and sighed. “Yeah, I figured.”

“Sorry, that’s just how he is.” She shrugged. “Especially when he’s distracted.”

“I picked up on that, too.” He told her. “Would you like to dance, Miss Stark?”

Taken aback, Kara tilted her head. “Excuse me?”

He gestured to the dance floor. “It would be a shame for you to stand on the sidelines all night. The least I can do is offer you a dance.”

Smiling, she downed the rest of her martini and took his hand. “Well, in that case, thank you very much.”

He led her into the crowd, and they started to dance. “I know you know who I am.”

Coulson smirked. “I know you do.”

“Yet, you haven’t said anything.” It wasn’t a question.

He shook his head. “It is not my secret to tell. Besides, our former director made us keep an oath to protect your secret until such time as you want us to release it.”

Kara nodded. “Typical Aunt Peggy.” She smiled. “Thank you.”

As their dance came to a close, Kara looked around and groaned. “Well, it looks like my brother has made another sneaky getaway. Sorry.”

The agent shrugged. “I have a feeling we will be meeting again soon.”

“I will make sure that meeting on the 24th gets put on his calendar…and that he shows up for it.” Kara laughed. “I hope you have a wonderful evening Agent Coulson.”

“Same to you, Miss Stark.” He said, and they parted ways.

Not long after her dance, Kara was talking to a few business partners when she felt a presence looming behind her. Taking a deep breath, she excused herself from the conversation and turned to face Obie. Shaking her head, she sighed.

“Is there something I can help you with?” She smiled if only to keep up appearances.

“I was wondering if I could speak to you for a minute.” He said, looking around.

Nodding, Kara gestured with her hand. “Lead the way. I’m all ears.”

She followed him to a mostly quiet corner of the room and then frowned at him. “What do you want now?”

“This stunt? It’s insane!” He told her.

“It’s not a stunt. Tony and I created this fundraiser, so why shouldn’t we be here?” She countered, repressing the urge to cross her arms.

“You and your brother are so far off the rails, I have no idea what to do with you anymore!” Obie continued, ignoring her question. “I know you are the one who hacked the files.”

“So we’re going to do this now? Okay.” Kara shook her hands out and faced him. “First of all, those files were already within my jurisdiction. By the way, that chip you put in there? Gone.”

“You found that?” He asked, almost impressed.

“I can do a lot of things that you know nothing about.” She told him. “Like how I found out about your payments to my foster parents.”

He paused for a moment at her statement. “How did you even find out about that? I locked you out pretty well.”

Kara smirked. “I’m good at what I do, remember?”

“Well, in any case, I didn’t want to do this here. Unfortunately, you give me no option.” He pulled a small envelope out of his suit jacket. “These are papers detailing your termination from Stark Industries, due to your hacking and recent activities.”

Kara’s jaw dropped. “You can’t do that. The company is partly in my name.”

“I can, actually. I had the board approve it.” He told her and put the envelope in her hand. “You can come to collect your things on Monday.”

Staring at him wide-eyed, Kara shook her head. “You won’t get away with this.”

“I honestly don’t know what you are talking about.” He chuckled. “Now, let’s go get a picture for the tabloids, hm?”

Grabbing her arm, he led her outside, where the cameras started snapping immediately. Kara didn’t feel like smiling. She thought she was starting to figure out what the man was up to but he had completely taken her by surprise with this one.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard Tony calling them. Turning around, she saw a vaguely familiar blonde reporter with him, and they were walking quickly. “Obie! We need to talk.”

Watching them, Kara stood to the side. “What’s going on?”

“Did you send a shipment of weapons out yesterday?” Toy asked Obie, ignoring Kara’s question.

“Give us some room!” Obie told the reporters and pulled Tony aside.

“Have you seen these pictures?” Tony asked him. “What’s going on in Gulmira?”

Kara grabbed the pictures from her brother, and her jaw dropped. What she saw made her stomach hurt. Looking up, she saw them arguing.

“Tony, Tony. You can’t afford to be this naïve.” Obie told him.

“You know what? I was naïve before when they said, ‘Here’s the line, we don’t cross it; this is how we do business.’” Tony fumed. “If we’re double-dealing under the table…are we?”

Kara watched Obie carefully, ready to step in and help her brother if necessary. “Are we?”

Obie sighed and turned to face the cameras again. “Let’s take a picture. Come on. Picture time!” He grabbed Tony with one arm and Kara with the other. “Tony. Who do you think locked you out? I was the one who filed the injunction against you. It was the only way I could protect you.”

Kara moved away from the man as he walked away. She looked at Tony, who was standing there. The look on his face broke her heart. The pain mixed with betrayal would stay in her mind for a very long time.

“Tony…”

He stood in silence for a moment before turning to her. “Let’s get out of here.”

He walked away quickly, and she followed him, careful not to trip in her heels. As they got in the car, she slid the envelope under her leg so that he didn’t see it. He had already had enough trouble for one night. She would tell him about her unemployment status later.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Tony and Kara sat in his lab drinking coffee and discussing the night before. Neither had fully wrapped their heads around the information yet, but they knew they had to do something.

“He’s insane,” Kara muttered. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Tony grunted. “Yeah, well, it is.” Then he looked at her. “You guys looked pretty chummy when I walked out last night. I thought you were having problems with him?”

“I was not chummy. In fact, I was two seconds away from beating his skull into the ground.” She growled. “Tony, he’s been forcing me out of company business since you went missing.”

Tony looked up at her in shock. “What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You came back! All I needed was my job in IT, and it didn’t matter then.” She said honestly. “Then he snapped at Layna and…”

She trailed off, and he glared at her. “Care to share with the group?”

“I just…” Rolling her eyes, she set her mug down on his desk. “Tony, I haven’t trusted Obie for months. He’s been acting shady, shutting me out, and trying to keep the whole business to himself.”

“I hardly think he’s trying to go that far, Kara.” Tony tried to reason with her, but she’d had enough.

“He fired me last night.”

Tony’s eyes burned red, and he had to steady himself before speaking. “Excuse me?”

She nodded. “That’s what we were talking about before you came outside. He fired me because I had to hack into our personnel files. Files that until recently, apparently, I had full access. Mine, yours, Mom and Dad’s…” She bit her lip. “He’s been pushing me out for months. Tracking me, putting bugs in my computer to see what I’m doing.”

“God, I can’t believe this.” He shook his head. “This all feels like a bad dream.”

Kara nodded. “If only Dad could see it now…I wonder how he’d feel about everything. He’d be so upset.”

Tony knew that she was right, but didn’t want to think about it. Obie was one of his father’s oldest friends, and if someone like that could betray him…no, he didn’t want to think about it at all.

“Find out anything useful?” Tony asked as he leaned back in his chair.

Kara hesitated. “I was only able to access one file before he came down to catch me.”

Staring at her, Tony shrugged. “Are you going to tell me what you found?”

“I don’t want to.” She said honestly. “You’re already upset enough, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the company. I sort of just want to forget about it.”

“Kara.” Tony’s tone left no room for discussion.

“It’s his fault, Tony.” She said quietly. “The reason Aunt Peggy couldn’t get me out right away? It was Obie.”

Tony shook his head. “Wait, I don’t follow.”

She sighed. “After Mom and Dad died. My foster family.” She saw the light go on in his head. “Obie paid people off to keep me there. He didn’t want me coming back and getting part of the company.”

“He did that to you?” Tony asked quietly. “He was the one that sent you to get tortured?”

She nodded. “Apparently.”

“Oh my god.” He said horrified.

“I don’t think he knew they were torturing me. Maybe he did.” She shrugged. “I think it just mattered that he kept me away so that I wouldn’t be a problem this far down the road.”

Tony put his face in his hands and let out a frustrated groan. Then he stopped and looked at her carefully. “Kara…”

“I’m good.” She stood and sighed. “I have to get Layna ready for school. I’ll be back after I drop her off.”

“Kara, wait.” Tony started, but she stopped him.

“Tony. I don’t want to talk about it.” She said with a tone of finality in her voice. “Now please let me go and wake up my daughter for school.”

Then she turned and walked out of the lab.

Tony was fuming as he only half-watched the news. All he could picture was his little sister beaten, bruised, and broken by those horrible people. He had promised her that she’d never have to deal with them again, and now it turned out one of their most trusted confidants was the mastermind behind it all.

The look in her eye when she’d told him gave him all the information he needed to know. She was hurting, somewhere deep inside, and he wanted that to go away. Messing with his gauntlet, his ears picked up the name ‘Gulmira,’ and he tuned in to what the reporter was saying.

“The 15-mile hike to the outskirts of Gulmira can only be described as a descent into hell, into a modern-day Heart of Darkness.” She said, and a parade of people wrapped in blankets could be seen behind her.

After watching the segment, Tony sighed. “I could use some good punching right about now.”

Then he stood and hurried to get the rest of his suit on.

When Kara walked into the house, it felt oddly empty. Slipping her shoes off, she wandered further into the house. “Tony?” When no one replied, she tried again. “JARVIS?”

When she didn’t get a reply from the AI, she made her way down to Tony’s lab and found that he was nowhere to be seen. In his place, there was glass shattered everywhere, and papers littered the floor. On his television, news reports of the attacks in Gulmira were playing on a loop, and she realized where he must have gone.

She wasn’t exactly happy that he was risking his life, but she knew that Obie’s weapons needed to be destroyed. If anyone could do it, Tony could.

Grabbing the laptop from his desk, she made her way to the couch. She shut off the television and propped herself up on a pillow. Then she opened the laptop and started doing her own research.

“If JARVIS can’t help me, and I can’t go to work, I guess I’ll have to do all the dirty work myself.” She said aloud to no one in particular. “Now…show me your dirty little secrets, Stane.”

When Tony finally got the suit off, he knew he needed to fix the way it came off. It took too long at the moment, and he needed an easier way out in case of an emergency. Walking over to his desk, he stopped short as he saw Kara on the couch.

She had fallen asleep, he noted and had his laptop perched on her legs. Walking over to her, he noted that she had no shoes on and quickly checked to see how badly her feet were injured from the glass. He was surprised to see that there were no marks on them, but he couldn’t figure out why.

Shaking the thought from his head, he took the blanket from the back of the couch and laid it over her. He grabbed the laptop from her and made his way back to his desk. Glancing at the screen, he saw that she had been busy running multiple hacks on the private servers of their company and couldn’t help but feel slightly proud.

Taking a seat, he let the computer continue its scan. Turning to his own computer, he glanced at the time and sighed. It was almost the end of the school day, and Layna needed to be picked up.

“JARVIS?”

“Yes, sir?”

“If Kara wakes up while I’m gone, tell her not to worry about Layna. I’m going to go grab her from school and pick up some food.” He looked back at his sister. “If she has a nightmare, wake her up and call me. But for now, let her sleep. She needs it.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Chapter Text

“So, you weren’t able to find anything?”

It was nearing dinnertime when Kara and Tony sat in his lab, discussing everything they had learned about Obie and their company. They had been going over it for most of the day, but as it was nearing the time that Layna would need food, they wanted to recap their findings.

“I didn’t say that. I said that I wasn’t able to hack any other files.” Kara told her brother as she sat cross-legged on the ground. “The only one I could find was the same one I found before…you know, about the foster parents.”

Tony nodded, shaking his head. “Which is still extremely fucked up, if I haven’t said it before now.”

Snorting out a laugh, Kara nodded. “Stating the obvious, I think, but thank you.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?” He asked again.

“Tony…I’m okay. It hurts, knowing everything now, but at least it makes sense.” She told him. “I just haven’t thought about that in a long time, so to have it brought back now isn’t pleasant. But I’ll be okay. I have you.”

“So, is there anything else?”

Kara nodded, adjusting the white blouse falling off of her shoulder, and appreciating the fact that he knew to change the subject. “I was able to get ahold of someone in IT. I called in some favors, and a little birdie told me that there was a company jet that left yesterday for Afghanistan. Everything regarding the trip and personnel was redacted but it’s something.” She paused. “It has to be him, Tony. Who else would it be?”

“You’re probably right.” He muttered. “Is there any way to run another hack?”

Kara shrugged. “Not without risking being caught. If Obie demands that IT look into the hack and they find my signature…our computers and internet footprint…”

“What if you used a neutral, unidentified server?” He asked quickly.

Tilting her head, she thought about it for a moment. “That’s true. It could work. I could use the library’s computers and run one from there. It wouldn’t be impossible for them to figure out it was me, but it would definitely be harder.”

“How soon do you think you can get on that?” Tony asked, his tone curious but hopeful.

Kara looked at him. “JARVIS, tell Layna that she’s going to Kit’s for the night.”

“If Obie finds out that it’s you while you’re there, you may need a quick escape. How fast can you get me on the phone?” Tony asked, suddenly worried.

Kara smiled as she stood. “Don’t worry about that; I’ve got it covered.”

He eyed her carefully and then sighed. “Be careful, please.”

“You too.” She kissed his cheek and then started to leave.

She smiled at Pepper as she walked past, and then she was gone. Pepper walked over to Tony’s desk and sighed. Tony looked up instantly.

“Hey. You busy? You mind if I send you on an errand?” He asked and picked up a flash drive from his desk. “I need you to go to my office. You’re going to hack into the mainframe, and you’re going to retrieve all the recent shipping manifests. I have Kara trying too, but since she was fired, she’s been having trouble getting in.”

He showed her the device. “This is a lock chip. This’ll get you in.” He watched as she stared at it. “It’s probably under Executive Files. If not, they put it on a ghost drive, in which case you need to look for the lowest numeric heading.”

“And what do you plan to do with this information if I bring it back here?” Pepper asked, her eyes watching his movements.

Tony didn’t notice. “Same drill. They’ve been dealing under the table, and I’m going to stop them.” He told her honestly. “I’m going to find our weapons and destroy them.”

“Tony,” Pepper sighed and looked around. “You know that I would help you with anything, but I cannot help you if you’re going to start all of this again.”

Now Tony was getting upset. “There is nothing except this. There’s no art opening. There is no benefit. There is nothing to sign.” He paused and faced her. “There is the next mission and nothing else.”

“Is that so?” Pepper asked, her tone sad. “Well, then, I quit.”

Throwing the chip back on his desk, she turned and started to walk out when his voice stopped her. “You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction…and now that I’m trying to protect the people that I put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?”

“You’re going to kill yourself, Tony.” She argued. “I’m not going to be a part of it.”

“I shouldn’t be alive.” He said quickly as he sat. “Unless it was for a reason…” He paused. “I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.”

Pepper stared at him for a moment. She knew that she didn’t fully agree, but she hadn’t thought that he was acting with an actual plan rather than on impulse. Walking forward, she picked up the lock chip from his desk again.

Just before she turned to leave, she shook her head. “You’re all I have, too, you know.”

Tony gave her a small smile and watched her leave.

“Auntie Kit!”

Layna smiled as she ran into the house. Kara followed behind her with a backpack and a bag of food. “Layna, take your food into the kitchen.”

Doing as her mother said, the little girl grabbed the bags and ran away, leaving the two adults alone at the front door.

“Thank you, Kit,” Kara said to her best friend. “I owe you so much.”

“What are you doing, Kara?” Kit asked, worry in her tone. “This whole thing…I don’t have a good feeling about it.”

Nodding, Kara shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. Tony and I are working on it. But I need to know that Layna is somewhere safe with someone who won’t let anything happen to her or anyone get to her. Anyone, Kit.”

Kit nodded. “Tony?”

“Tony is good. No one else.” Kara told her. “Not Happy, not Pepper, and definitely not Obie.”

“You got it.” Kit told her. “Please be careful.”

Kara nodded, rolling up the sleeves of her blue jean jacket. “I’ll do my best.”

“So, what are we going to do about this?”

Pepper was startled and jumped slightly in Tony’s desk chair. Looking up, her gaze met Obie’s, and they stared at each other. He walked into the office and made his way to Tony’s alcohol collection. Watching him nervously, Pepper’s heart started beating wildly.

“I know what you’re going through, Pepper.” He told her quietly as he poured himself a drink. “I was so happy when he came home. It was like we got him back from the dead. Now I realize, well, Tony never really did come home, did he? He left part of himself in that cave.” He paused. “Breaks my heart.”

Thinking back to her earlier conversation with Tony, Pepper looked down. “Well, he’s a complicated person. He’s been through a lot. I think he’ll be alright.”

“You are a very rare woman,” Obie told her suddenly. “Tony doesn’t know how lucky he is.”

Pepper smiled and nodded. “Thank you.” Then she stood. “I’d better get back there.”

He gave her a moment before speaking again. “Is that today’s paper?”

She froze and then nodded. “Yes”

“Do you mind?” He asked as he walked towards her. “Puzzle.”

“Of course.” She replied and left the office.

She walked quickly through the building and held her breath. She’d been caught in the act, and now she didn’t know what to do. As she walked down the stairs, her breath came back to her. Sitting in front of her was the government agent, Phil Coulson. At least now she knew she could get out of the building safely.

Kara was muttering expletives under her breath as she searched through the company’s retired databases. The library was quieter than normal, as it was closing down for the night, but she kept working. Around her, people looked at books and scribbled in their notebooks at the tables.

Clicking on various links, she was finding herself more and more annoyed with their system. “If I ever get back there, I’m fixing this. This is shit.” She said out loud to no one in particular. “Shit.”

A man on the other side of her cleared his throat. “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m trying to research my thesis…”

Wincing, Kara nodded and drummed her fingers nervously on her red jeans. “I’m sorry I got a little carried away.”

“It’s okay; I just had to ask.” He nodded to her and then returned to his research.

Just as she was about to call it a night, she saw an email from an anonymous source. Confused, she clicked it and saw that it was a news article. When she opened it, her heart stopped.

“What the hell?” She whispered. “What were you doing overseas, Obidiah?”

As she studied the picture, it all started to make sense. She had seen the news coverage, and Tony had shown her the man that had taken him hostage. Now that she saw him in a picture with Obidiah, she knew the truth.

He tried to have her brother killed. It made sense, she reasoned with herself. Once he got both Tony and herself out of the way, the company and all of its profits went to him.

“Sneaky bastard.” She said quickly and clicked out of everything.

Standing, she grabbed her cell phone and hurried from the building while dialing her brother’s number. She was walking down the alley next to the library to find her car when she slowed and then stopped. Looking up, the alley was clear, but she knew she wasn’t alone.

“That must be some thesis you’re writing.” She said and then turned.

The man shrugged. “So, you figured it out.”

“I recognized you, you idiot. I’m a Stark.” She told him. “Genius, remember? I fixed your monitor like…three weeks ago?”

As she spoke, a few more men came out and surrounded her. “I see. Let me guess…approach a single, young female in a dark alley. Scare her, rough her up a little, and she’ll go away.”

The men started to move closer to her. “Something like that.”

Kara smirked. “Too bad you picked the wrong woman.”

A hand landed on her shoulder. Grabbing it hard, she flipped the man over her without even taking a step. He landed with a loud thud on the ground, and she stepped on his chest. “Anybody else?”

They all ran in at the same time, and Kara knew she couldn’t hide it anymore. Throwing her purse down, she kicked the legs out from under one man before head butting another. Then she walked forward and threw a punch at the original thug that sent him flying through the air and landing on a nearby dumpster.

“What the hell are you?” He asked, trying to catch his breath.

“Pissed off.” She replied.

She started to speak again when the news from a nearby car caught her super hearing.

Breaking news, there are reports of a fight that has broken out at Stark Industries and has ventured into the surrounding areas. These reports include seeing a large metal robot smashing cars and causing accidents while fighting a smaller version in red. Police warn everyone to stay away from the area and to not engage with the perpetrators. They seem to be armed.

Kara’s heart stopped as a loud explosion filled the air, and she looked up to see two bright streaks flying up into the sky. Making a quick decision, she threw her glasses on the ground, took off at a run, and shot off into the air, following their trail.

Chapter Text

EARLIER THAT EVENING

Tony walked up the stairs from his lab as he heard the phone ringing. He knew Kara was probably trying to get ahold of him, but JARVIS hadn’t alerted him to any emergencies, so he figured everything was okay. Walking over to the couch, he grabbed the phone and saw that it was Pepper. Clicking answer, he put the phone to his ear.

He couldn’t move. The high-pitched ringing in his ears seemed familiar to him, but he couldn’t figure out why. He could hear Pepper’s voice through the phone, but he couldn’t respond to her. He was in trouble, and he knew it.

“Breathe,” Obie told him as he laid his head down on the couch. “Easy, easy. You remember this one, right? It’s a shame the government didn’t approve it. There are so many applications for causing short-term paralysis.”

Obie walked around to face him and grabbed his face in his hand. “Ah, Tony. When I ordered the hit on you, I was worried that I was killing the golden goose.”

Obie had tried to kill him. His mind was racing, but he instantly changed his thoughts to that of his sister and niece. If he’d tried to kill him, he surely would be out for them next…if he hadn’t already gotten to them.

“But, you see,” Obie continued as he plucked the reactor from Tony’s chest. “It was just fate that you survived. You had one last golden egg to give.”

Leaning forward, the evil man sighed. “Do you really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you? Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now, what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you?”

He yanked the reactor from Tony’s chest, and the younger man gasped in pain. Obidiah didn’t seem to care.

“It’s beautiful. Oh, Tony, this is your Ninth Symphony. What a masterpiece. Look at that.” He put the reactor in his face. “This is your legacy, a new generation of weapons with this at its heart. Weapons that will help steer the world back on course; put the balance of power in our hands. The right hands.”

Leaning forward, he grabbed a small case and put the reactor inside it. “I wish you could see my prototype. It’s not as…conservative as yours. Too bad you had to involve Pepper in this. I would have preferred that she lived.”

‘No.’ Tony thought. ‘Dear God, no.’

“And honestly, Kara is of no use to me other than extreme curiosity.” Standing, Obie shrugged. “But I guess I’ll have to live without the answers there.”

Tony felt his whole world falling apart at that moment but still couldn’t move to do anything about it. All he could do was watch as Obie left his home, leaving behind panic and fear in his wake.

“Tony!”

Rhodey rushed into the house, hoping to see his best friend unharmed. However, the further he walked into the house, the more anxious he became. “Tony!”

Seeing the stairs for the lab, he hurried down them and hoped to find him working on a stupid project inside. He was very wrong. He walked in and saw him on the ground, barely breathing.

“Tony!” Rushing over, he grabbed his arm and helped him up. “You okay?”

“Where’s Pepper?” He asked quickly. “Kara? Layna?”

“Layna’s with Kit, she’s fine. I just talked to Pepper; she’s with five agents. They’re going to arrest Obidiah.” Rhodey told him.

“That’s not going to be enough,” Tony told him and hurried to get into his suit.

He was halfway there when he slowed and turned to face the other man. “You mentioned Layna and Pepper, but not Kara.” He paused and saw how anxious Rhodey looked. “Rhodey, where’s my sister?”

“No one can reach her. Pepper tried, Kit tried, even I tried. She’s not answering.” He told Tony.

The look on Tony’s face grew darker than it had ever been, and he sped up his path to the suit. As he assembled it around his body, Rhodey looked on in shock.

“That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” He said in awe.

“Not bad, huh? Let’s do it.” Tony said and blasted his car out of the way.

“You need me to do anything else?” Rhodey asked, and Tony turned to him.

“Keep the skies clear.” He said, and his faceplate came down quickly. “And find my sister.”

Tony was becoming frantic as the Iron Monger suit lifted into the air. He hadn’t expected that.

“Sir, it appears that his suit can fly,” JARVIS said, stating the obvious.

“Duly noted. Take me to maximum altitude.” Tony said in response.

“With only 15% power, the odds of reaching that…” JARVIS started, but Tony interrupted the AI.

“I know the math! Do it!” He shouted and led the bigger suit into the sky.

At the Air Force base, everyone was going insane. “Sir, you’re not going to believe this. That thing is back.”

“Get me Major Allen. Scramble the jets!” The superior shouted, but he was interrupted.

“Not necessary people, just a training exercise,” Rhodey said as he hung up the phone.

“Yes, sir.” The soldier nodded. “But if I might ask…what the hell is that?”

He looked at the screen as another heat signature came into view, heading right toward the others and fast.

“I have no idea.”

Tony knew his power was running out, but he hoped that he had enough juice left to complete his plan. If he could just get Obie high enough…

“13% power, sir.”

“Climb!” He shouted as JARVIS and pushed his suit to keep going.

For every update on percentage, his heart beat faster. Just as he was reaching the height he needed, Obie grabbed onto his leg and started ripping at the suit.

“You had a great idea, Tony, but my suit is more advanced in every way!” The suit amplified the man’s voice.

Smirking behind his faceplate, Tony shook his head. “How’d you solve the icing problem?”

Hitting the man on the head, he watched as the massive suit fell from the sky. He was enjoying it until suddenly he was falling as well. As he fell, he tried his thrusters using the emergency backup power, but they kept shorting out. Just as he thought he was going to crash into the ground, he felt something slam into his side and before being thrown onto the roof of his building.

Looking around, he didn’t see anything other than the dark sky. “Potts.”

“Tony! Oh, my God, are you okay?” Pepper asked from the ground.

“I’m almost out of power. I’ve got to get out of this thing. I’ll be right there.” He said quickly. “Did you happen to see what slammed into me?”

“No…” She whispered as she waited for him.

“Nice try.”

Tony spun around and shut his faceplate when he saw that Obie had survived the fall. Lifting his hand to blast him, he realized that he had already taken it off and was now screwed. But just as Obie raised his fist to send a punch, the Iron Monger suit was thrown aside violently by something else in flight.

“What did I tell you about messing with my family?”

Both Obie and Tony turned in time to see Kara land on the roof with such force that the structure dented.

Tony just stared at her. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I knew there was something different about you!” Obie roared, laughing.

Nodding, Kara glared at him. “I guess you’re not the only one with some pretty big secrets, Obidiah.”

“Too bad it won’t save either of you.” He taunted. “Flight is impressive, but you cannot beat technology.”

“Oh, I think I’ve got a pretty good shot.” Smirking, she balled her hands into fists. “You know, it’s funny how sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for, are the ones behind the trigger.”

She flew at the suit again, and they went flying backward. As she punched at the armor, she heard Tony sneak away and start to talk to Pepper over his comms. Quickly flipping over so that she was on his shoulders, she used her x-ray vision to look inside his suit.

“Hm…that looks important.” She said as she ripped out a handful of wires.

“How?” Obie roared again. “It’s not possible!”

“Think again, asshat.” She shouted and flew above him.

Using her heat vision, he seared a hole in his suit right where a large artillery of his weapons was stored. She went flying at him again when he let off a bomb that sent her flying off of the roof.

“Kara!” Tony shouted as he made himself visible again.

“That was pretty impressive, Tony. Maybe I’ll have to keep her around. I’m sure I could pick up on some science experiments to help figure her out.” Obie taunted.

“No chance in hell,” Tony told him and dodged the missiles coming at him. “You are never going to touch my sister ever again.”

“And just how do you plan on stopping me?”

“Pepper, now!”

“But you’ll die!” She shouted back at him.

“Do it!”

Just as Tony was accepting his fate, he felt arms grabbing him, and he was airborne. As the blast of the arc reactor went up into the sky, he flew from the arms that held him and rolled on the ground, hard. Groaning, he looked up and saw the red of Kara’s jeans not far from him.

“Kara!” He struggled to reach her. “Say something.”

“I told you he was an asshole.” She said in pain.

Chuckling from shock, he blinked at her. “Hold on…were you flying, or did I imagine that?”

Still lying on the ground, Kara started laughing with him. “You have no idea.”

“God, we have so much to talk about when we get home.”