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Step Four

Chapter Text

It was cold

The taxi was cold. Penny could feel the frozen air from the window hitting her skin. Maybe, she should have asked the driver to close her window because the buttons of her door didn’t work, but she couldn’t. She was too exhausted. Slowly, she opened her eyes to face a jungle, miles and miles of pure tropical vegetation. There was a time in which Penny would have been mesmerized by this tropical wonder, but at that moment, she felt nothing.

Penny felt nothing, but she should have.

In the last five days, she witnessed a car accident, an electroshock machine being used, a white wood coffin shared in a hundred pieces, and an old man give a broken girl a slap. Penny should have been angry. She supposed to be crying of sadness and anger until her eyes burned and her whole body felt numb. Penny supposed to be at least screaming of anger and frustration until her lungs were out of oxygen and her vocal cords were broken. But she didn’t any of these things. Penny only feeling was emptiness, as if her body was in autopilot. Maybe she was still in shock, but shock means to being affected by an event. Penny wasn’t affected.

Besides her, there was a small suitcase, old, pale, and about to break down. The suitcase wasn’t her property, neither the worn down clothes inside of it. The only things that she possessed were the black dress that she was wearing, which had seen better days, the briefcase with documents that belonged to her, and the one way ticket to New York.

The teenager keep looking to the tropical jungles. Soon she would face a new jungle made of skyline buildings, rather than colossal trees, and with mechanic beasts instead of real animals. Any other teenagers would be nervous, anxious, between other emotions. However, Penny felt none of them.

Her plan was carefully planned during months with the help of Mother, but now, she had to implement it alone. Step one was to move to New York. She was working on it. Strap two: settle in her new apartment in Queens. Most of her the furniture was already on the flat, according to her new landlady. Step three, finish the paperwork to own the actions that her mother gave her. She would arrange a meeting with the CEO once she finished strap two. Step four… she had not plans after step three. Her mother and she never planned anything after secure Penny’s financial stability. School was out of the table. She already finished her superior education in December, and she didn’t need to keep studying, so step four was unknown.

She will figure it out later.

Surely, the freezing air stopped hitting her face, and only then Penny got out of her trance. The jungle was changed for an airport.

“Señorita, ya llegamos.” The driver announced they arrive.

Penny pull out some money to pay him.

“Muchas gracias, Señor.” She thanked him as she got out of the taxi.

Penny hugged her stuff close to her as she walked inside the port. In around five hours, her life would re-start, and the worst part is that she would feel nothing about it.

Nothing.



Chapter Text

 

“Yesterday, around 10:47 p.m., a bank was robbed in the neighborhood of Queens. The security cameras captured the perpetrators, who were wearing masks of The Avengers. The tapes show how criminals use what it seem like gravitational weapons and…” The reporter was suddenly cut out by the taxi driver, who turned off the radio.

“You know, in my times, criminals didn’t use those fancy special weapons. They used the old school materials like knives, guns, baseball bats! But then again, before there wasn’t as bad as it used to be. The worst thing that I saw in days was a robbery. Now, we have aliens every two days and people in spandex.” The taxi driver said.

Penny gave him a shy smile.

“I thought New York was famous for people in spandex even before the Avengers appeared,” she told him, making the old man laugh.

“You are right on that. Even today, people that are not precisely vigilantes use spandex a lot!” The driver smiled again.

It was three months since Penny moved to her New apartment in Queens, and it wasn’t as bad as her new gossip neighbors had expected. The first three days, she assembled all the furniture that wasn’t ready to be used. She didn’t mind the extra work, in fact, it was good for her to keep her mind occupied instead of thinking about nothing. So by day four, Penny had completed step two.

Step three was a little more complicated. There was a bunch of paperwork and documents that she had to work on. The papers were tedious and too much work, but Penny wanted to make sure that every single detail was perfect because, at the end, it was Penny financial stability what was on the line.

Finally, after three months, Penny was ready to take the last step to own her part of the Stark Industries. She just needed to meet with the CEO of the company, and today she had that meeting. Virginia “Pepper” Potts was an important woman, and therefore very occupied, but fortunately, Penny had emailed her too many times in the long process to make sure that both parts of the transaction were satisfied. Miss Potts always replied to her quickly and honest. In fact, her last email was yesterday morning, confirming their meeting in Stark Industries today at 12:00 p.m. Today, step three would be over.

Penny wasn’t nervous about it… She was just cautious.

If the family of her mother had taught her anything was that first impressions were the only impression that mattered, so Penny wanted to do this right without a margin of error. That’s why, after she replied to the email, Penny got out of her apartment to buy a pretty dress from the thrift store that her landlady had recommended her to go. But as the taxi approached the headquarters of Stark Industries, she got more and more concerned about the dress.

It was the right dress?

Was it too short?

The color was too dark for a day like this?

 Did she look like a lady from the forties?

 Did she make the right decision?

Oh, God!

And with that last question, for the first time in three months, Penny felt something more than nothing: anxiety.

Penny’s breath was getting faster, and her heart began to beat at the point that she thought that it may get out of her chest at any moment.

The feeling nothing to feeling that she was about to die, Penny realized that it was a horrible change.

“Everything okay back there, Honn?” The driver asked her.  

“Sir, Do… do you think this dress is good for a meeting?” Penny asked him while her eyes started to water up.

  “All depends, what kind of meeting is?” 

Oh God, That didn’t help her.  

“With… with the CEO of Stark… Industries…” She was pretty sure that she was crying.

She thought that this was unbelievable. The fact that she was crying in a taxi of New York three months after a funeral for a dress, and she didn’t spare a single tear in the last three months for the death of Mother. What kind of daughter was she? The worst apparently, because she was so heartless.

“Then, you look stunning.” He said as he gave her a smile from the retrovisor. “The dress reminds me one my wife used the first time that I met her. You dress looks what this young people call, what was it? Oh, that’s it! Retro.”

 

That last comment made Penny smile, but still, she was crying, she couldn’t stop. She started to gasp a little bit.

“You know, my wife used to be a nervous woman, especially after her sister died when she was fifteen.” Penny didn’t notice, but the driver pulled over to park the taxi. “She used to get real anxy. My ol’ lady told me that she felt like if the world was being crushed into marble, and she was right in the middle, but she always knew how to get out the marble.

“How... did she get over it?” Penny felt the salty tears in her lips.

“Not ‘get over’, but accept it.” The driver explained to her. “ The first thing that she did was to learn how to breathe.”

“Learn how to… breathe?” Penny said.

 “Yes, breathin’ is harder than it looks like.” He said as he turned to face her.

“Look, it was something like this.” He took a deep breath and hold it, then let it go. “Don’t let an ol’ man do this alone, sweetheart.”

And she breathed at the same time as him, and again and again until the hearth of Penny didn’t feel like it wanted to kill her. Without knowing, she was breathing by herself.

“I think I know why she learned to breathe,” Penny said as she cleaned her cheeks, good luck she didn’t decide to use makeup because it would be ruined by now.

“She was really smart. Now, I don’t wanna get my nose where no one calls me, but I don’t think a dress is worth it of having a panic attack. Believe me, my wife used makeup as her cry call.”

Well, what else she could she lose.

“Have you ever feel bad because you don’t feel bad, even though you just realized that you should feel bad, but you just… can’t. It does not born out of you, and that makes you feel like the worst person ever?”

“Tell me something, Darling. You think that is good to force a person to feel something that he does not want to. Like for example, do you think it is good that the parents of a boy force him to be happy about the death of his dog?”

“N-no?”

“Exactly, so why forcing yourself to feel bad about something would be good for you?”

Penny said nothing, look at the window and then at the driver, “My mother died, and I feel bad because I don’t feel bad about her no longer being with me, and I moved to never face my mother's family.” A tear fell from her eye. “How doesn’t that makes me a bad daughter?”

Silence.

“I-I’m a bad daughter…”

Penny felt like a coward…

“No, you are not. Tell me, how was her?”

How was her mother?

“Elegant, beautiful, skillful at everything. There was nothing that she couldn’t do.” Her mother really was the image of the ideal woman.

“Those are really good trails, but how was she as a mother? How did you call her? What was her pet name for you? What did she do to show her love for you?”

Penny wished she could answer those questions so easily, but she couldn’t. Mother was never a sweet woman.

“I usually call her Mother or Madam. In my mother's family, every son or daughter had to respect their elders, that included the parents.” Penny said.

“How did she called you?”

“Usually Penelope, she didn’t have a pet name for me.”

“She was there for you one way or another when you need her?”

Mother was usually… not there.

Penny could be a hundred percent sure that she had expended more time with the help than with her mother, and when she was with her, Mother was always training her.

“She was always busy… I think she was only home four days at month. She never picked up the phone when I called her.”

Oh good hearth, she saw his point.

“She wasn’t a good mother,” Penny said still thinking at her epiphany.

“What about the family of your mother? Were they a good family?”

Shit

“They were worse than her.” 

“Look, I’m not sayin’ that you should forget her, just don’t force yourself to feel something that hurts you. I don’t know you enough to tell you if you did the best choice at moving here, but what it counts is that you made that decision. From now on you take your own decisions in base of what you think, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. So when you go to your meeting today with that CEO, you go and enjoy wearing that 40’s dress. Be yourself, and if people don’t like you for who you are, let them go. Don’t force yourself to like like them. Enjoy your life without “haters” as people now call ‘em.”

That was the nicest advice that anyone would ever give it to her. Penny wanted to cry for how overwhelmed she was, but she would not, because she was strong, and she had a meeting.

Thanks, Mister Lee.” Penny thanked him.  

“Call me Stan, Hon. Everybody does,” he said as he handed her a business card. “and if ever need a Taxi driver to help drive you for this crazy city or show you the best ice cream shop in the city, give me a call. I would be more than happy. Oh, by the way, this is your stop.”

Penny didn’t notice that when Stan parked in front of the headquarters of Stark Industries.

“Thank you, Stan.” She got out some money to pay him. “For helping me”

“Wherever you want.” he smiled, “And be careful, there are a lot of  people in spandex in this city”

Penny just laugh. “I will, Stan” And with that, she got out of the cab.

And there she was, in front of the tallest building in New York, about to do something idiotic, smart, and well calculated. There was no going back once she went through those doors, but this is something that she had to do.

The interior was nice, maybe too much for Penny’s taste. She walked all the way to the reception, and with each step that she took, her heart accelerated a little bit more. The receptionist was young around 25. She had an ID card with the name Carla Smith. Carla looks at Penny and her smile disappeared.

“I’m sorry, kid. We don’t buy cookies for the girl scouts or magazines for any religious cult.” Carla said in a pitch tone.

“You are confused, ma’am. I’m not here to sell anything.” Penny reached her purse to put out an ID Card identical to Smith, except that Penny’s said platinum access and was under the name of Penelope Antonia Terresa-Margaret Parker. “I am here to see Ms. Virginia Potts. She is expecting me today. I believe that if you tell her that I am here, she would receive me.”

The face of the receptionist was priceless. She was pale as she as a ghost when she saw the ID. “I... I’ll call her office, what is your name miss?”

“Penelope, Penelope A. T. M. Parker.”

“Very well.”

Not wasting any time, the receptionist called the office of Ms. Potts and gave a fake smile to Penny, and she wondered what face would Ms. Smith make if she told her the relationship between Stark Industries and Penny.

“Hi, Beth, it's me, Carla… Yes, I am fine. Beth here is a young lady that says that her name is Penelope A. T. M. Parker, and she says that she needs to see Ms. Potts... Yes, I understand that her planner does not say anything about a meeting… yes, I know that she has plans to go out and eat with Mr. Stark… Beth, just tell her that she has a platinum ID under that name… okay, I’ll wait.”

Carla look at Penny and said to her ‘Just a minute.’

“Yes, she is still here… Okay, I’ll send her… Bye.” She hangs out. “Okay, Miss Parker, Ms. Potts is waiting for you in the P10 floor M12 room. You will show your ID to the scanner that the elevator has to give you access. If you have any questions, just come back and ask me. Have a good day and welcome to Stark Industries.”

“Goodbye, Mrs. Carla,” Penny said as she walked away to the elevator.

It was now or never.

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It was a pretty elevator. Luckily, it did not have one of those horrible elevator songs.

Penny was calmer than before, she would dare to say that she was ready to meet Miss Potts in person. It was supposed to be a short meeting. They would sign the documents and discuss any inconvenience. Maybe, they would even make small talk.

Suddenly, the elevator stopped, and somebody got in.

He was taller than her. She was pretty sure that the guy was at least six feet tall. He had dirty blond curly hair, blue eyes, and a sun-kissed tan. The guy has had a blue backpack and an ID card with the word “Intern” on it. 

Penny first impression of the boy was cute. 

Penny wasn’t used to the small talk, in fact, she tried to avoid them the most she could. That was why she focused on the panel that showed the number of floors, avoiding all eye contact with the boy, but the cute boy had other plans.

“Do you come here often?” The boy asked her.

Was he being nice?

“To this elevator or the building itself?” she asked back.

The boy laughed. “Let say this building, because if you say no to the building, that means no to the elevator.”

The guy was smart.

“Well, I don’t come often to Stark Industries, but I see that you do according to your ID, Mister?” Penny asked him.

He offered her his hand. “Harley Keener.”

She was hesitant at first to shake his hand, but in the end, she accepted it. “Penelope Antonia Terresa-Margaret Parker.”

“Wow, that’s quite a name you have there.” He said with a smile on his face.

“I know. My best theory is that my parents could not decide what name to give me, so they chose the top four to put in my birth certificate.”

 Not true. Her mother gave all those new names with a purpose. 

The guy laughed, “Please tell me that you go by Tony, I have a friend that goes by Tony, and I am already planning how to piss him off.”

“Well, I do go by Tony sometimes, but I also go by Tere, Maggy, Garet, Peggy, Pen, and my personal best: Penny.”

“You got a lot of names… wait you go by Garrett?” he said incredulously.

“Mar -Garrett” she smiled. “It is my curse to have too many names, but call me Penny if you ever see me again.”

“If I ever see you again? What do you mean?” He asked.

Think!

The elevator stopped on his floor.

“That’s is your floor, Harley.” She held the door for him as he got out of the elevator.

“Well, I could see you sooner if you give me your number, Doll.” 

Doll, the boy called her doll. She hated that name.

Penny pressed the button to close the doors.

“It’s Penny, Keener.”

And Penny left the boy alone.

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Outside the office M12 floor P10 was a secretary in her own desk. Penny assumed she was the so-called Beth that Carla was taking with.  

“Miss Parker?”

“Yes”

“Virginia Potts is waiting for you. You can come in.”

Penny did not wait for any further and went inside the office.

If Penny was nervous before, now she was at the border of the anxiety.

“Good morning, Ms. Virginia Potts.”

And there she was Virginia “Pepper” Potts, CEO of Stark Industries and soon to be the wife of one of the most powerful and intelligent men in the world. Penny had never talked to her in person, by email only, and Penny could help but think that the photos of her on the internet does not make justice to her beauty. Ms. Potts was seated on her desk with elegance and grace. She offered Penny a polite smile.

“Good morning, Ms. Parker. Please take a seat. And she did, but not without share a handshake with Ms. Potts.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me in such a short notice, Ms. Potts. I really appreciate your time.” Penny smiled trying to be the most respectful as she could be.

The older woman gave her a sympathetic look, full of compression, not pity. Penny hatted pity looks since she was a little girl, especially coming from her family. Luckily, Penny didn’t need to worry about pity looks from her family anymore. Ms. Potts knew about her situation, well more or less, and still, she didn’t offer her fake sympathy. That is one of the reasons why she liked her.

“It’s no problem. Please call me Pepper. Ms. Potts makes me feel old.” Penny giggled.

“I’m Penny, Ms. Parker was my Nonna.” Penny took out a folder from her purse and handed her to Pepper. “Here are the documents that you told me to bring in our last email.

Pepper look the papers passing page by page and paying attention to every detail. “It seems that you have all the documents complete. It just needs your and my signature in this last document, and the transition will be over.”

With a quick movement, Pepper signed the document and passed it over to Penny. She had read the document many times before, and she knew the benefits of signing it. However, by signing it, she was accepting change. She was leaving her old life behind, she was leaving her mom behind, but if she didn’t, she would have more problems than she had now. Penny didn’t have any other choice but to sign the document.

“Here it is, Pepper.” She passed the document. “I guess that makes it official.”

“Yes, it does.” Pepper look a the young lass. “Welcome to the Family of Stark Industries, Penny. What are your plans now that you are an official investor and action owner?”

What are her plans? In general, this was just all of it: move to Queens, settle in her new apartment, inherit the stocks of her mother, and she just completed all the steps.

Penny smiled “I guess to take care of them as my mother taught me. She really taught me how to manage my financial stability. Maybe I will look up for future projects in Stark Industry. Who knows? Maybe I could even be part of a project directly. I am a little of a science girl myself, but that would be in the future, and with your permission of course.” the young girl started to play with her hands unconsciously. “But I think, for now, I will enjoy New York. I heard that it is a beautiful city full of wonders.”

“Oh it is, but I have to warn you, there is a lot of peculiar people in this City.” Pepper laughs a little, “Just the other day, I find a person dressed up in a dress made off lettuce.”

Penny let a laugh go. “That’s funny, the taxi driver told me to be careful of the people in spandex.”

“Oh, Honey, people in Spandex is the last thing that you will have to worry about in this city. Let tell you about the donut incident…”

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Tony Stark was hungry.

He hadn’t anything since this morning. Sure, he could always ask Happy to buy him a cheeseburger, but he wanted to spend some time with his wonderful fiancee. What better way than going out to eat in a fancy restaurant. True, Tony would have preferred fast food and more quality time, but Pepper is not quite fond of fast food because according to her that was not “real food”.

Tony got out of the elevator dressed up in his signature style, ready to go out with his beautiful fiancee.

“Hello, Beth. Is Pepper ready to go out?”

The face of Beth did gave any good news to Tony. “Sorry, Mr. Stark. Ms. Potts has a meeting with a new investor in her office. So, she told me that if you could wait a little bit for her.”

A meeting? Pepper never postpone a meeting with him for something like that. Maybe it was the hunger or something else, but a crazy idea passed through his head.

“Well, if it is a new investor, it would be good if meet them in person”

“But Mister Stark…” without any further warning, he got into the office.

“Honey, I’m home…”

Tony was expecting a middle-aged man with an expensive suit and a briefcase of crocodile skin and a few white hairs just beside his bald spot. He already had the old comments “charm” the man and take Pepper with him, but he was not expecting to see her fiancée with a teenager laughing.

They stopped and looked at the billionaire. While the girl offered him a little smile, Pepper just looks at him in displeasure and disapproval to enter her office without any previous announcement.

“And speaking of the Devil…” Pepper let go as she quickly went to CEO mode again. “Penny, I want you to meet Tony Stark, owner of Stark Industries. Tony this is Penelope Parker, our newest investor”

Penny quickly stood up to shake his hand, which he accepted. “My name is Penny,” she said in a soft voice.

She was young, maybe sixteen to seventeen and almost as tall as him. She had wavy almost curly reddish hair and big brown eyes. Tony could see in her face some European factions maybe even Italian.

“Tony Stark, but you know that already.”

“Of course.” Awkward. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Stark.”

Tony noticed that there was something strange about this girl. She looks like any other teenager, but she didn’t act like one. The way she spoke, dress, her manners, gestures, even her posture reassembled an old woman.  

“You were expecting someone else, Sir?” She asked taking him by surprise.

Persuasive.

“Well, you will agree with me that a teenager as an investor is just a little incredible.” He could feel the burning look of Pepper, the same look that she gave him every time he says something wrong.

“So does graduate from MIT at 18, but here we are. Don’t you think?”

Smart or maybe smartass.

He smiled, “We can agree on that. Your parents must be proud of you.”

One look at the floor, then her purse, finally at him, and a smile. “At least my mom is. She always wanted me in the private sector. My dad wished that I could follow his steps, but I don’t like politics. Too complex for me.” She grabbed her purse. “Sorry, but I have to leave. My Landlady is coming to my apartment to fix the AC, and I want to help her.”

She shakes hands with Pepper. “It was a pleasure to finally meet you, Pepper. You are even more beautiful in person, and I hope we can work together soon.”

“Of course, I will give you a call to get everything on the line. If you need anything, call me. You have my number.”

One, two, three steps and another firm handshake. “it's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Stark.” And without letting him say a word, she was gone.

Subtle

But the snap in her back head wasn’t.

“Owch! What was that for?!” Tony asked at Pepper, who was clearly mad at him.

“You don’t get a hint, do you?” She asked him as she got her case. “I’ve been talking about her since months ago, and the first thing that you ask her about her…” She stopped. “Did you even listened to me?”

“I may not, but maybe a summary could help.”

“Okay, a summary.” She pulls out some papers of her briefcase. “She is the daughter of Mary Tereza Fitzpatrick, one of the most loyal investors of the company even after you cut the weapon division. Five months ago, she died of Cancer, leaving her part of the company to Penelope.” One of the papers had a picture of a woman with red hair, that clearly was the mother of the girl. They both shared the same smile, the same freckles, nose, and eyes. “Since three months ago, I have been in contact with her to resolve the paperwork and her new position.”

“What about her father?” She gave him a newspaper.

“Gone, Richard Parker. He died in a car accident when she was three.”

The headline of the newspaper was in Spanish. “MUERE SENATOR PARKER-LONGAN EN ACCIDENTE DE AUTO”

“Does she has anyone else? Aunts, uncles?”

“Yes, but she was emancipated before her mother died.” She looks at him with a sad look. “She had a rough time.”

“Alone against the world,” he said as he reads the papers. “Graduated from university at seventeen, good grades. She has worked in many research teams. This is a pretty good resume. Too much potential in someone so young.”

“Yes, and that’s why I wanted to have lunch with you after meeting her.” She holds his hand. “To talk about her. She is so young and with a bright future, but she has not guided.”

Tony smiled. “Is Pepper Potts having a soft spot?”

Pepper gave him a face, “I’m serious, Tony. She is so young and with a bright future, but she has not guided, and that could be so dangerous to her.”

A genius teenager, alone in the city of New York, smart, but most likely naive. In this city, people took advantage of people like her. Million of scenarios passed through his mind, millions of mistakes that she could make, mistakes like he made at her age…

“Okay, you convinced me. I’ll look her up, and make an offer to her.” Tony grabbed her purse to go out of her office. “Something tells me this will be entertaining.

This would be entertaining, indeed.

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“So where now? Penny?” Stan Lee asked her.

Where now? She had nothing to do, nowhere to go. For the first time in her life, she was free to do whatever she wants.

Penny smiled, “Do you know Queens? I want to get to know the neighborhood better.”

“ I’ll take you to the best places in Queens.

Penny didn't know it yet, but Step four would be the best thing that she would ever do in her life.

Chapter Text

Penny liked the sea.

It was just so beautiful, so immense, so free.

The breeze was so nice, a bit chilling, but relaxing not the less, and the waves were carefully burying her feet under the wet sand. Penny could stare to the sea for hours and hours just to admire the waves crashing into each other to later create bigger waves. All these factors combined made Penny feel something that rarely she would allow herself to experience, the feeling of being safe.

The young girl was so relaxed.

God, she could cry for this. It was like she had been carrying heavy weights over her shoulders for decades, but now she was free of them, free of wake up in the morning without facing the stress of all that weight, free see herself in the mirror without the scars and bruises that the weights leave her. She was finally free.

Penny started to walk slowly into the sea, and with each step that she made, she could feel more and more relaxed. She stopped when the water reached below her collar bone. She was deep enough in the ocean for the waves to push her so easily. Then an idea came up: would she be able to float from here?

It resulted that she could, and it was the best idea that she had all day.

Floating in the sea was different from floating in a pool. In the pool the wasn’t waves that could move her. The sensation of the waves carefully moving her was like if she was being lulled. The sound of the water in her ears was nice because it made the other sounds disappear. As she closed her eyes, she thought that nothing could ever threat this paradise.

But she was wrong…

As she was lulled by the waves, Penny was abruptly dragged down the water until her back hit the bottom of the sea. She tried to fight whatever was drowning her, but no matter how much she kicked, and punched, and fought, that thing was stronger and determined to keep her underwater.

And then it happened.

Penny could see that thing above her. Whatever was that thing, it was horrible like a monster coming out from a story of the Grimm Brothers. It was slender, almost like a skeleton with an ashy color. It had at least eight limbs. All of them grabbing her to push her down. The face of the creature was grotesque. It had no eyes, no hair, and no ears, only a dreadful mouth that opened from the middle of it face to the sides and ended with two gigantic fangs.

The creature grabbed Penny by her neck with one of her skeletal hand. The grab was so strong that made her let go all the air from her lungs, making them being surrounded by bubbles.

She could not fight any longer.

Penny was out of the air, no strength, and no more hope.

But then the creature got close to her ear, and in the most hideous and wicked voice that Penny has ever hear in her life, the creature whispered to her.

“You can’t... hide forever… We... will...find you...”

No, they didn’t know where she was.

They didn't suppose to know where she was.

But why if they find her?

“No!” Penny screamed.

The creature was gone, and so was the sea. It was all a dream, a nightmare, a horrible nightmare. Penny was gasping for air while tears fell from her eyes. Both of her hands were on her neck grabbing it tightly.

She took a breath, and another, and another as she shakily she removed her hands off her neck.

It took her a while to finally calm herself, and one she could breath normal again, she realized that she was in her apartment in New York, not on a paradise beach being drowned by the worst nightmare ever.

“Shit.” She looks at her phone to look at the time: 5:47 a.m. Just thirteen minutes until her alarm.

This was the fourth nightmare since her meeting with Mrs. Pepper three weeks ago. All nightmares were always the same: Penny being in a nice place, calm, and then that creature always appeared to take her away. She may need to change some things in her life.

Penny got out of her bed directly to her bathroom. She was cover in cold sweat, so need a shower immediately. Once in the bathroom, Penny took off her nightgown. She caught her reflection in the mirror, and what she saw was just bad. There were nasty bruises from her collar bone to her lower neck in the shape of her hands. It was not a big deal because they would be gone by the end of the day, but she could not wear seventy percent of her wardrobe. Just clarifying, her full closet consisted in two long plaid skirts, one v-neck black dress, the dress that she used on her meeting with Mrs. Pepper, one white long sleeve shirt, her work out clothes, and the nightgown that she just took off… Maybe it was time for her to buy new clothes. Anyway, she stripped down to take that shower but not without revealing two tattoos: one along her sternum bone and the other was along her spinal cord.

After the shower, Penny began her morning routine: training for two hours, shower express, then breakfast, usually oatmeal and toasts, finally cleaning her apartment even if it didn’t need it. She finished by 11:00 a.m., and she had nothing else to do… like the last two weeks. It resulted that get having free time was more complicated than she expected. The last two weeks she had been reading books in her laptop about aerodynamics and monitoring her stocks in Stark Industries, but today was different.

After that nightmare, Penny decided that she needed to get out of her afternoon routine, and now she had an excuse to do it. She needed new clothes. Penny would never make it with her small amount of clothes that she stole from her “cousin” back in Mexico, so in her green plaid skirt and white sleeve shirt and some black shoes. She looked like she was a student from a nun school, another reason to get new clothes, and walk out of her straight out that thrift store where she bought her dress.

Queens was a nice neighborhood, crowded with people and building. It had its charm. There were so many stores and food trucks that Penny wanted to try, but she had a mission: get new clothes.

The store was called Funny Elegant Things, and it had really new things for Penny.

All her life Penny dressed as her mother’s family told her to do, which usually was like if she was in a boarding school. However, this time it was different because she had the freedom of dress as she, please. The problem is that she had not idea what to wear. Penny wondered for a little bit until her attention was finally on something. There were some t-shirts that were science related like “Never trust an atom, they made up everything” or “I made science pun but just periodically.” With a smile on her face, Penny grabbed around seventh to eleventh science pun shirt and put them on her basket.

Two hours later Penny had her basket full of clothes, all so different from each other. She even bought a pair of shoes. Penny was ready to pay her new clothes, her eyes cached something pretty. The good thing about this thrift store is that sold more than just clothes, there were so many things from fabric cloth, old electronic thing, till little useless ceramic figures to decorate a house, but none of those things caught Penny’s attention. In Fact, what really captivated her was a black ukulele that was with a bunch of guitars.

When Penny was little, she learned how to play several instruments, mostly classical instruments like piano and Spanish guitar, trying to please her grandfather, but she had never learned how to play the ukulele because, according to her grandfather, it was not a real instrument. Penny always was tented to learn how to play the string instrument, but if she did back then, it would be considered taboo because it went against Grandfather’s wishes. However, her grandfather wasn’t there.

“Good afternoon,” Penny said to the woman behind the register as she put the basket and the ukulele on the counter. The woman wasn’t old, maybe in her mid-forties, but she could pass as younger if she wanted.

“Afternoon, Sweetie.” the woman started to check the clothes one by one. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“Yes, and I even found something that I wasn’t looking,” Penny said making reference to her new ukulele.

The woman laughed a little, “That’s the beauty of thrift stores. People always find something that they weren't looking, but they needed.” Then she gave Penny a nice smile.

“Tell me something, Sweetie. I don’t wanna sound rude or to gossip, but what school do you go? I have never seen that uniform before.”

Penny looks at her clothes and then laughed. Move to New York was an abrupt yet well-planned step (well planned because she had a place where to go, and abrupt because she had to steal some clothes from her “cousin” due to the reason that her room and her clothes were no longer her properties.

The clothes that she was wearing was stolen from cousin Teresa, her least favorite “cousin”, and Penny was pretty sure that this was an old uniform from Teresa’s old college.

“Oh, I don’t go to school here. I just graduated from my old school in Texas, and I didn’t have time to pack, so a grabbed the first thing that I found.” Penny told her. “So, I was stuck with my uniform for so long until now. Penny smiled at her.

“Good thing that you rock that uniform just fine.” The woman said nicely.

If years and years of training taught Penny something, it was that she could read people actions. She could see if a person was being sincere or acting just for compromise, and that woman was being sincere. There was something about this woman that made Penny feel relaxed or at least a little off guard, but that feeling banished when a man with a big black hoodie and grey baseball cap entered to the store. Penny tried to ignore the guy, but there was something unusual about him.

“Good afternoon.” The lady told the man, but he didn’t answer back.

“What a mood,” Penny said to the lady.

“Don’t worry about it. I have seen people with worse character.” Then she handed her bags with her clothes and ukulele, and she gave her the money. “So, if you just move, you need to know better the neighborhood.”

“Yeah, I actually need to see places where I can find food. I cannot do my groceries only any longer.”

The woman hummed “Well, two streets from here there is Delmar's Deli-Grocery. It has the best sandwiches of whole New York, or at least that’s what Mr. Delmar says.”

Penny was about to respond to her but a big hand was dropped on her shoulder. She turned around to see the man with the black hoodie. By the look of her face, then why wasn’t happy.

“Move, girl. I need to pay for this.” He said as he pushed her away from the counter.

For a moment, Penny hesitated to call up this guy, but she decided he wasn’t worth the effort, so she grabbed her bags and walked to the door but not without telling the woman. “Be careful, ma’am. New York is a dangerous city.”

The woman smiled, and Penny got out of the store.

One

Two

Three

Five

Six steps. It took Penny to be six steps away from the store to finally feel goosebumps on her arms. She knew that that guy was no good news. Without wasting any time, Penny came back to the store to find the guy holding up what looks like a gun from a science fiction movie to the woman.

“Drop your bags! Or I will shoot her! And, don’t try to ask for her because I will shoot you too!” The man demanded her, and she did as the man said.

Penny looked at the woman. She was afraid of crying silent tears.

“And you!” The man said to the woman. “Gimme all the cash of the register and the anything of gold in the counter! BUT NOW WOMAN!
The woman shakily put out the money of the register then saw Penny. The young girl mouthed the word “duck”, and suddenly the woman said, “I-I have to kneel to get the jewelry.”

“Do it quickly.” The man said.

Once the woman kneeled, Penny wasted no time and ran in direction of the man to knock him down, and for the impact, the man let a shot of the gun. However, the gun did not shoot any bullet but a blue electric blast that shattered the window beside the counter. Penny pushed the gun far away from the guy to reach it. The man tried to fight back, but Penny was stronger than him. She was on top of him, and with two punches, Penny let the man unconscious on the floor.

“Now, you move, boy,” Penny said as she stood up the floor.

“Ma’am. You okay?” Penny said as she looked for the woman.

She found her besides the counter in shock with her phone in her hand. Penny helped her to stand up. The woman look at the body dropped on the floor.

“I-is he… death?” The woman looked in fear at Penny.

“I just knocked him down. She would be up in a few hours.” The woman relaxed a little bit. “You should call the cobs, ma’am.”

But before the woman could respond, the sirens of the police cars appeared.

“I called ‘em when you told me to duck.” She smiled with tears in her eyes. “Thank you for… you are bleeding.”

Penny didn’t notice before, but somewhere between the gun was shot and the window being crashed, the blast had hit her left arm, staining her white t-shirt with red.

“It’s just a scratch. I should get going and let the police do their work.” Penny tried to hold her bags to go to her apartment, but the woman grabbed her good arm.

“That looks serious. If you don’t attend it correctly, it can get infected, and the cops probability will ask questions about what happened today. They would suspect if you go.”

God, the last thing that she wanted was to get the attention of any force of the United States that could discover her “special skills”. If she went to the police station they would ask questions of how did she knocked down a two hundred and ninety pounds armed man, and ending up with only a scratch. For the other side, if she went now, they would suspect that she was part of this, and besides the cameras of the store already captured her face.

So only had one option…

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“So, let me get this straight,” said Detective Santiago. “You, a little girl, stopped a fully grown-up man, three times your side, while he was armed with a weapon that literally blows away all the windows of the street with a single shot. Did I got it correct?”

Penny saw the incredibility in his face. “Yes, Sir.”

“How? I mean, no offense kid, but you don’t look like you could even give a punch, less left him unconscious with two punches.”

Penny was so tired of this. It was eight hours without eating anything. She wanted to go home so badly and make something to eat, but she was stuck in a police station listening to stupid questions.

“I am a ballet dancer. I’m stronger than I look.” Penny said. “Sir, without due of respect, I already gave you my declaration. The lady of the store also told you her declaration, and the man is awake and is being interrogated right now. Please, can I go? I want to get home and make something to eat.”

Detective Santiago passed her a granola bar that was in his desk. “Sorry, kid, but you can’t go until we compare the declaration with the videotapes. Also, we have to call your parents, they may be sick worried about you, so give me their phone number so I can call them, and after that, I’ll take you to the medic center that we have here to check that arm.”

“They would not respond, they are in Mexico having margaritas.” Penny looks at, the detective, which was not pleased with all with that answer. “I was emancipated months ago. I moved here alone for around three months. Don’t worry about the arm. I’m fine.”

The policeman looked her in disbelief. “Do you have anyone that you may call? Somebody older than twenty-one to pick you up.”

“No, sir. I have no one.” Penny said shyly.

Detective Santiago looked at her and wondered how somebody so young like he was alone against the world.

The policeman signed. “Okay, official Garcia and Smith will take you to the medic center to look you up.” Two offices approached to her. Penny remained seated.

“No, thank you, sir. I’m fine. I’ll just wait here until you let me go.” The Detective gave her a bad face.

“It wasn’t a suggestion. You will go with the officers to check up that arm.”

“I will not go, sir. My arm is fine.” Penny said grabbing the chair tightly.

Detective Santiago looked at the officers “Garcia, Smith, handcuff her and take her to the medic center, it’s an order.”

“Wait no!” between the cop handcuff her and started to drag her away. “Let me go! I have done nothing wrong! My arm is okay!”

Once the cops took her away, Detective Santiago noticed that Penny left her phone on his desk, which was receiving a call.

Their phone was old, made up only to make a call and send text, not to have apps. The detective couldn’t resist the temptation to answer the call. Maybe the girl lied and her parents were worried sick looking for her.

“Hello, this is detective Santiago of the NYPD district seven in Queen. Who am I talking?”
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Tony Stark was in denial.

After the lunch with Pepper, He did what he promised. Tony lookup that strange girl, first reading Pepper’s research. In the beginning, the name of Mary Terresa Fitzpatrick passed out his attention, but once he decided to search her up, he remembered her.

Tony met her at the beginning of her playboy years in one of the parties that the company offered to attract new investors in Madrid, Spain. Mary was a beautiful young woman, with beautiful blue eyes, long thin lips, and red hair… Maybe he had a type… Anyway, even though he used his Stark charm on her, she was not impressed by him. It took some meetings to finally something happened between them. He actually enjoyed her company that included long talks about mechanics and applied science and dinner in places that he has never visited in Spain.

Tony Stark wasn’t in love, but it was the closest thing that he got before he met Pepper. He liked to have someone like Mary with her, but their relationship didn’t long too much. By the second month, they were always fighting for everything, from work until little things like who ate the last pepperoni pizza, but the straw that broke the camel's back was when he had to come back to Malibu, and she didn’t want to move with him because her father wanted her to stay in Spain. She chooses Spain rather than Malibu. The last thing that he knew about her was that two months after he moved back to California is that she was engaged to a Senator of Spain. Five months after that, he casually saw in the news that she was four months pregnant with their first child.

He never heard about her after that… until now.

Penelope Antonia Terresa-Margaret Parker, such a long name, was the live image of Mary. Mother and daughter had the same nose, same freckles, thin long lips and the same shape of eyes, but Penny was also different from her. The girl had reddish brown hair and brown eyes. Penelope wasn’t tall as her mother, but her looks were not what was bothering him. It was the doubt if Penelope had the same character as her mother because if she did, that would be uncomfortable for him and her.

Nonetheless, she graduated at seventeen and has participated in many research projects, and according to the head of investigations that Tony called, she was an exceptional team member, brilliant, and good mentee. Penelope would be a good asset for Stark Industries, and he didn’t need to be twenty-four seven being her mentor. He wouldn’t even be her mentor, he would give her a good mentor.

That’s it! She would be working for him, not with him. That for sure would a good both of them.

“Have you call her?” Tony didn’t notice when Pepper ented to his lab.

“Not yet, I just wanted to make sure that she is ideal for the job that we are going to offer her,” Tony told her as he passed for the holographic file. “Yeah, she’s good.”

“Good! Why don’t we invite her tomorrow to have some dinner?” Pepper told him with a smile while Tony showed a displeasure face.

“Yeah, I don’t think having dinner with two grown-ups is the best plant for a teenager to spend her Friday night,” Tony said to her.

“Well, if she is busy tomorrow, we could grab lunch the next day or tomorrow, to get to know her better.” Pepper grabbed his hands.

“Or maybe we could send her a pizza with a note saying “Congratulations! We want you for Stark Industries!’ and inside the pizza, the pepperonis form the word Congratulations,” Tony said playfully.

“Tony…” Pepper in her “this is serious, Tony” tone.

“Yeah, you are right, we should send her also flowers, maybe roses, and a chocolate cupcake, but not a mini cupcake. One of those big gigantic cupcakes…”

“Tony, stop! Why don’t you want us to be with her? Do you have a problem with her?”

Oh, he did have a problem.

Tony signed, “Okay, here is the thing. There is something that I should tell you two week ago…” but he didn’t finish because Pepper interrupted him.

“You had a relationship with her mother. Then you two broke up and ended up in bad terms. You are afraid that she would be like her mother.”

Speechless, Tony Stark was speechless.

“You need to stop spending time with Romanoff because she is being a bad influence on you,” Tony said as Pepper smiled.

“But am I wrong?” Pepper carefully touched his face. Tony loved when she did that.

“No, you aren’t. That’s why I am offering her a position on one of the research project on how to improve the new secret projects that we have. She would be working in a top confidential project, in a park of the Stark building where we would never see each other. We both win, she can develop her super genius intelligence, and we would avoid awkward situations.”

Oh no, there was the “Tony this is serious” again.

“Okay, I know that this is difficult for you, and I’ll accept any decision that you consider better, but first I need you to hear me out.”

If Tony has ever learned something, it is that he should always, always, listen to Pepper. He learned the hard way. “Sure, go on.”

“When I read her first email, I was skeptical because a teenager was emailing me about her owning part of the company, so I did a lot of research about her, and besides that I discovered that she is the youngest investor in SI, I also discovered that she is a lot like you.”

“Because we are both part Italian-Latino?” Tony asked her, which made Pepper smiled.

“Because she, similar to you, is a young genius with a Ph.D. at seventeen and with nobody to tell her how to use it. She is smart, young, emancipated, and has a lot of money. Those are the three dangerous factors altogether. You better than anyone knows that.”

Tony flinched a little when she ended that sentence. “I wasn’t completely alone. I had Jarvis, aunt Ana, Rhodes, and my godmother Peggy. If it wasn’t for them, I would have never accepted the death of my mother, and still, I got in trouble. The first time that I was arrested I was her age because I got drunk at a party.”

She gave him a kiss on his forehead.

“I know, Tony, and that’s why I am concerned about Penelope. She just lost her mother, and the rest of her family it is not present with her. The day that I met her, she told me that she moved alone, and I know that you already have a lot in your plate being a consultant of the Avengers and mentoring Harley, but I thought that it would it be good for her and you if you mentor her at least once in a while.”

He had agreed two weeks ago to help her to get a job in the company and avoid his teenage mistakes, but mentor her? That was a whole new level. Yes, he was mentoring Harley, but that was different because they were “connected” as Harley insist to call it. Would it weird to mentor the daughter of his first “serious” relationship? But would it be incorrect to let the daughter of the woman that was at some point a good friend throw away her life?...

“How old is she?” He asked her.

“Seventeen, eighteen in a month.”

Silence…

“Okay, this is what we gonna do. I will offer her a job in the research department, and if, and only if she wants, I will mentor her at the same time that I am mentoring Harley once a week.”

Pepper gave him a small kiss on the lips. “You are a good man, Tony.”

“And you are the best boss ever.” another kiss. “You know what, we should call her to have lunch with us and Harley, maybe having someone around her age would make her more comfortable. Do you have her number?”

Pepper put out her phone and called Penny in speaker, but what happens next, took them by surprise.

“Hello, this is detective Santiago of the NYPD district seven in Queen. Who am I talking?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“I insist, sir. It is nothing.” Penny said for the hundredth time to the nurse.

“And I insist to look it up before it gets infected.” said the nurse.

After the officers took off the handcuffs, they left her in the medical center with a nurse, who insisted to look up her arm.

Her arm really hurt. It wasn’t the worst pain in the world, in fact, she had experienced worse at her training with her cousins, but because she was weak due to the lack of food, the scratch was really bothersome. Penny didn’t want to be check up because she didn’t like hospitals, nurses, doctors, or anything related to the medical field. She had her reasons to be afraid of them.

“Okay, let's do this. I am gonna touch your arm, and if you don’t feel any pain, I will give you some alcohol pad to clean it up, but if it hurts, you will take off your blouse and let me take a better took of your arm. Either way, you will get a tank top with the initials of the NYPD because your blouse is all cover in blood.” the nurse said as he put his latex gloves on.

Okay, she could do this. A simple touch would not break her down, but she was wrong because the moment the nurse squashed her arm she scream in total pain.

”SON OF A BITCH!” She screamed as a tear fell from her left eye.

”Okay, that's it. I will get you a tank top. You are size s right?”

”Yes,” Penny said in a tiny broken voice. “Sorry, that I called you son of a bitch. You are actually a really nice person.”

Once she had the tank top on, the nurse checked her arm.

“Okay, girl. Your wound is not too bad. No nerve seems to be touched, and the humerus is intact.” The nurse grabbed the alcohol pad and started to clean her arm. “However, you need stitches, so while I do it, don’t look at your arm, and why don’t you tell me how you stop that man.”

Penny knew what he was doing. He was trying to distract her because sewing her was going to be an agony.

“I was buying new clothes because all my clothes are uniforms from my old school,” Penny growled as the needle passed through her skin.

“All your clothes are like the think that you were wearing when you came here?” The nurse asked.

Dear Lord her arm started to pouncing. “Yes.”

“Then I get the need for new clothes. You just look like you got out of a Catholic boarding school.” Penny could almost laugh, but having her arm being sew and her stomach empty wasn’t making her happy.

“After I leave the store, I remember that I forgot to buy the tuner for my new ukulele, and when I come back, I saw the man pointed the gun to the cashier, which is a nice woman by the way, and I just acted I gue… Sweet honey iced tea! That hurts!” The Penny screamed in pain as the nurse finished to sew her.

“We are all done. You are either really brave or a real idiot for jumping to an armed man with nothing to defend yourself, but you are a good person,” He handed Penny her bloody blouse, “but don’t do that again. Next time leave it to the cops. You are good to go, and make sure to change those bandages at least every two days and go to a doctor to take those stitches.”

“Thanks, sir.” Penny stood up to shake her hand with the nurse, but surely for her, the floor moved, making her fall on her knees.

“You okay?” The nurse asked as he helped her to sit down in the bed again. “Tell me how do you feel?”

“I’m dizzy… I haven’t eaten since morning… I ate oatmeal.” She said as the nurse lied her down.

“Are you diabetic? or have a history in your family?”

“No.” Penny was closing her eyes. Her head felt too heavy and her stomach hurt. The nurse put her fingers on her neck.

“Your heart rate is low. I am almost sure that you have low sugar. Lola, Smith!” The nurse called two cops. “Lola, bring me some food from the break room. Make sure that is high in sugar, and Smith, tells Detective Santiago that the girl wound is fine but she has really low sugar. He needs to call her parents immediately because she cannot go home alone at this stage.” The two cops went away. “And make sure that the food has chocolate on it!

“Don’t worry, girl. You…” But Penny couldn’t hear the rest. She could not hear anything. She was tired, the only thing that she wanted to do was sleep.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s been a long time since Pepper and Tony were in a police station, more likely because Tony was arrested, but this time, they weren’t there to get Tony out jail. They were in that police station to pick up Penelope. After Detective Santiago picked up the phone, the detective explained that the teenager was in the police station because she witnessed and “stopped” an assault. Pepper and Tony changed clothes to don’t get the attention of the media, and with Happy went to Queens.

“Are you Detective Santiago?” Pepper asked the man.

“Yes, and you are?” Pepper shook his hand.

“I am Virginia. He is Tony.”

“We are the guardians of Penelope Parker.” he Tony ended.

“Ah, Miss Parker. You should be proud of the girl. She is brave.” Detective Santiago said.

Tony coughed, “Yes we are proud of our girl, but why are you proud of her?”

“We just finished interrogating the guy that tried to steal the store, and the videotapes. Your daughter just stopped an armed man from rob a thrift store not too far from here.”

“An armed man?!” Both Pepper and Tony could feel how their heart dropped.

“Yes, but ma’am, sir, she is fine. She only got a scratch, and she is being treated right now in the medical center” The detective look beside them. “In fact that this is officer Smith. He has been with Penelope the whole time in the Medical center. Smith tells me, is Miss Parker ready to go home?”

The officer stopped and look at the couple. They weren’t happy at all. Tony was making an effort to look less mad, but Pepper, oh mama, Pepper had a look that could kill a person.

“Sir, Miss Penelope’s blood sugar drop. Apparently, she hasn’t eaten anything since this morning, and the shot that she received didn’t help.” said the officer.

“She got shot?!” The couple screamed again.

“That’s it. I’ll call Happy to take her to a real hospital.” Pepper said as she took off her phone.

“And you sir, pray that the girl had nothing serious because I’ll be complaining to your superior because you brought a hurt minor to declare rather take her to a real hospital.” Tony could see how the face of the detective flinched.

“And you.” Tony pointed at officer Smith. “Take me to the girl right now if you don’t want to work as a security guard in McDonald's.”

“Yes, sir.” said the officer as he took him to the medic center.
It was on. If Tony had any doubts of being Penny’s mentor. Now he had none. That girl need help, and he would provide it to her.

Chapter Text

Her hair was blonde, and she hated it

 

Penny wished that she could make her hair reddish brown hair, a perfect combination of her parents’ hair color, but the mirror in front of her showed another story. In the mirror, there was a girl with long straight blonde hair. Penny looked at herself and she could help but think that she looked like her nonna. She never met her grandmother. She died many years before she was born, but Grandfather showed her pictures of his wife when he was in a specialty good mood.

 

The stories about Nonna Teresa that her family and the help have told her along her life helped Penny to create an image of her, the image of a kind woman. In the stories, she was the kindest most humble woman that spends her time in orphanages before she had her children. Then she was the best mother until she died. Nonna Teresa was beautiful, which was called a classic true beauty. She was the kind of woman that would love her children and grandchildren. Penny wanted to believe that she could grow to be like her: a kind woman, loveable mother, and smart.

 

Yes, she wanted to be like her, but she didn’t want to be her.

 

The family of her mother was, in a simple term, a hierarchy. The very top of the pyramid was occupied by Grandfather William, a strong honorable man that do whatever to protect his family. Oh well, at least the members that are worthy. Then there was his sons and daughter, her mother, who was born strong and have achieved uncountable quests that gave them the right to be in that position. After her uncles and her mother, there were her cousins, twelve to be exact, all of them were born strong and full of potential. And at the very bottom of this pyramid was her.

 

Penny wasn’t born strong like anyone of her family, in fact, her mother went into labor months before her due date. her mother went to labor months before her due date. The doctors that received her were horrified when they saw her. She was different from any other member of the Fitzpatrick family. When her father told Grandfather William that Penny was born without the “Fitzpatrick” trails, Grandfather William ordered him to get rip of her, but after her father begged him to see her daughter, he took pity on him and went to see Penny. He was ready to see the abomination, and then get rip of her himself, but that didn’t happen.

 

When William Fitzpatrick met the newborn, he didn’t see Penny. William saw his late wife, Teresa.

 

Penny wasn’t a Fitzpatrick. She was Rossi.

 

Penny was more like her grandmother than her mother. Her face, her freckles, her skin, everything about her reminded him of Teresa. It was like her wife was back with him, a small almost identical copy her. However, her hair was red as his. Oh well, minor details. He would make the help bleach her hair with chamomile and gold like Teresa used to do.

 

He was going to keep her.

 

The girl in the mirror was her in her old room in Fitzpatrick manor. So the facts were these: she was still living under the roof of her grandfather, she was still locked down, her family had control over her, her uncle would get married soon, and New York was a dream.

 

All her hopes for a life of freedom were gone. She would never leave this house. She would never escape from the abuse.

 

Knock! Knock!

 

“Penelope Teresa, your grandfather and your soon to be are waiting for you in the master dinner.” Said the voice of a woman behind her door.

 

“Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

“And don’t wear any red or blue. Mister William hate those colors.” One, two, three… seven… thirty. At step thirty-one, Penny couldn’t hear the woman anymore.

 

A diner with William Fitzpatrick was a perk in her family, so a private dinner was a blessing. People said that Penny was blessed with her grandfather’s “love” even though she was nowhere at the standards of the Fitzpatrick.

 

Dinner with grandfather William at least once a week was not as bad the other aspect of her life. They always ate in silence until dessert. Then Grandfather would ask her about her week, her chores, and her work in the science field. The last one was a really delicate topic to talk about. She had to be careful to tell him something that could upset him like her web shooters. On one occasion, she brought up her personal invention of the machine that could shoot synthetic spider webs. She was trying to impress Grandfather with a machine that could make up one of her flaws. Penny thought that she could really make him proud.

 

He was far from that.

 

“Penelope Teresa, that machine is useless. There is no use for something as trivial as that. All the members of our family can shoot webs, real webs, no that thing that you call ‘web’.”

 

“I was thinking that I could use them to try to be more like a Fitzpatrick by trying to compensate for my flaws, so I could make you proud,” Penny said shyly looking at her plate.

He took her plate to put more cake on it.

 

“You are are not a Fitzpatrick. You have the name but are not one of us. You are a Rossi like your Grandmother Teresa. Don’t dishonor her memory by trying to be someone that you are not. Respect your heritage, Teresita .” He passes her a fork. “You should focus your researches on something productive and altruist like your grandmother did, not something selfish like those shooters.”

 

“I-I actually started working on a machine that… that can purify salt water, and make it drinkable for the human consume. It would help people all around the world that are in need of potable water.”

 

The face of her Grandfather changed completely.

 

“See? That is something that benefits humanity and brings up the family name. I am expecting more projects like this Penelope Teresa.”

 

She had another dinner with him, which means that she had to impress him today with her research, but there was a problem. She couldn’t remember anything about her research. In fact, Penny couldn’t remember anything before this moment.

 

Knock… Knock… Knock…

 

They were knocking again.

 

“I’m coming. I just need to...”

 

Knock… Knock… Knock…

 

The knocking wasn’t coming from the door behind her. The origin of the sound came from the mirror.

 

The mirror was not reflecting her image. The girl in front of her was knowing the glass of their mirror. Her expression was lifeless, without glow in her eyes, like if all the life and joy was taken away from her life.

 

Penny could relate to her pain and feel it like it was her own.

 

“H-hello?”

 

Knock… Knock… Knock…

 

“W-who are you?”

 

The girl looks at Penny with tears falling from her eyes.

 

“Run… run … run…”

 

Penny could hear a thing. The girl was talking too low.

 

“So--sorry, I can’t hear you.”

 

The girl literally jumped through the window, grabbing her by the neck, and then with her mouth demoniac wide open, she screamed in a distorted voice.

 

“GET OUT OF HERE!”

 

Penny gasped in the intent of grab air.

 

She could feel how her neck was being crushed by the hands of the girl, but the girl wasn’t in front of her anymore. She was alone and crushing her neck like the day before. Penny took one breath after another until she could remove both her shaking hands from her neck.

 

“Not again,” Penny whisper to herself as she hugged her arms.  “Awch!”

 

As soon as she touched her left arm, a stinging pain make her jump. The was bandages wrapped on it with tiny red stains. Then like a bucket of cold water, she remembered everything. The thrift store, the nice lady, the robber, the shot, the police station, the sassy nurse, and then nothing. Penny had fainted in the police precinct because she was starving, and those cops didn’t let her go home anywhere to get food.

 

But she was no longer in that precinct.

 

She was in a bedroom, bigger than the one that she got in Queens. The room looks like a five stars hotel room. It had a king size bed with soft mattresses and pillows. There also was a desk, a wardrobe, hairdresser, and a plasma Tv that was bigger than her kitchen table but caught Penny’s attention the most was the bag being held by a triple. The clear bag had a tube connected to Penny’s arm.

 

Brusquely, Penny pulls away the mattress to search for chains on her feet. She found none, but she realized that her skirt was gone, and instead she was wearing the black short that had under her skirt. Penny signed on relief. Every time that she woke up with one of those hospital things besides her bed in the Fitzpatrick manor, she was always chained to the bed.

 

So this is what she knew so far: one, she wasn’t with any member of the Fitzpatrick. Two, she was shot the day before. Three, It was clear that she wasn’t in a hospital. The place was far too nice and smelled like pine instead of alcohol. Four, she didn’t know where she was, but she needs to go as soon as possible. The more she stayed, the more she was exposing her “abilities.”

 

“I need to go.” And with a simple pull. she took out the needle from her arm.

 

Barefoot and trying to keep her equilibrium, Penny walked to the door looking for a way to get out.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The place was immense.

 

There were too many halls, doors, and many A’s painted in the place, the same A with an arrow printed in her t-shirt. Penny was waking fast and quiet to avoid any unwanted attention. As look for the exit, her mind was plagued with a million questions. Where was she? Was she still in New York? Who kidnapped her? How did they kidnap her? I mean she was surrounded by cops in a police precinct.

 

She wanted to leave this place so badly, go home, eat something real, and get into her bed to sleep to forget everything, forget that she was kidnaped by any other than her family, forget that she lived in fear with every minute that it passed. She just wanted to get away from the people that wanted to hurt her.

 

But she couldn’t forget.

 

It was difficult, almost impossible for her to feel safe.

 

“Please good Lord, let it be an exit please.” She whispered.

 

And if like any supernatural force, behind the door was a heliport and a few buildings surrounded by a forest. The place looks like a military percent in the middle of nowhere, and it was cold probably because it rained. However, destiny wasn’t so kind to her. In front of Penny the was what it looks like a jet from a Syfy movie, and coming out of it, there were six people with strange clothes, all of them looking at her with a serious look, like if they were predators and she was the sweet pray. They definitely look like people that her Grandfather would hire to bring her back to Mexico.

 

The man in the blue suit with a start on the chest and holding a big cap plate took a step on.

 

“What are you doing here?” The man asked her. There was something on his tone that frightened her even though it sounds like if he didn’t mean any harm.  

 

Maybe it was the fact that she was kidnaped or the fact that every single one of the people in front of her was so intimidating, especially the guy with long hair and silver arm, but Penny did the most stupid decision that she has ever made in her life again … run to the forest.

 

“Hey! Wait!” Panny heard someone shut to her, but she keeps running for her life.

 

They were following her. Their steps were fast and strong on the floor, but she wanted to believe that she was faster than them. The forest was just crossing a street, and one passing it, she would be in her field. It would be difficult for her to catch her.

 

Penny was about to cross the street when a strange force pushes her back, making hit the wet pavement and giving her some scratches. Once on the floor, Penny could see what pushed her down was a red glowing light. Penny felt a dejavu when she started to kick and punch the air without any result.

 

“Let me go!’ Penny screamed.

 

God, she felt so helpless as when she was on that beach.

 

The man goggles and the blue suit grabbed her by her shoulders in a tightly. “Wanda, stop, we got her.” Then the man in blue told the woman with the same things that were holding her down floating around her hands. The so-called Wanda nodded and then make disappear the red light.

 

Both of the men were strong, stronger than the average men at least. There was a woman with red hair and the men with the metal arm pointing a gun at her, besides him, there was a man with red and blue skin. All of them ready to take her down. She could fight no longer. They had her; they blocked all ways to escape. She didn’t want to go back to Mexico. She just escaped from that prison of family, and if her grandfather had any mercy on her before, not even her Rossi genes would save her from the wrath of William Fitzpatrick.

 

“P-please, don’t take me to my grandfather. Whatever he pays you, I-I‘ll doubles it, but please don’t take me to him, please!” Penny begged as tears fell from her eyes.

 

The six grown-up looks at each other with confusion, but she guessed seeing a teenager crying and begging not to be taken to her family was enough for them to lower their guards.

 

“Listen, kid, we don’t know who your grandfather is, but you wouldn't be here. This is a restricted area.” said the man with the goggles still holding her down.

 

“You, you don’t work for my grandfather?” That was a relief for the sobbing girl.

 

“We are the Avengers. We don’t work for anyone,” said Wanda in a sharp tone.

 

“The who?” Penny asked.

 

“The Avengers... Defenders of the Earth, the battle of New York, the battle of Sokovia, the good guys. None of those things ring a bell to you?” Asked the man in the goggles again.

 

“N-no, but if you really are the good guys, could you tell me why did you kidnapping me?”

 

The man in the blue suit makes a signal to the guy with the goggles to help her to sit down, still surrounded by the grown-ups.

 

“We didn’t kidnap you, girl. In fact, this is the first time that we meet.” said the man in blue while he kneeled down to offer her a hand. “My name is Steve Rogers. Who are you?”

 

A sob, “My name is…”

 

“Penny!” That voice, Penny knew that voice.

 

Running in high heels, Pepper Pots came to where Penny and the strangers were. In her face, there was a mixture of preoccupation and anxiety.

 

“Pepper!” The tears falling from her face changed her meaning. Now they were tears of relief.

 

“What the fuck did you all do to her.” Pepper said as all of the other Avengers put away their weapons.

 

Pepper kneeled to check her.

 

“We thought that she was an intruder. You know her, Pepper?” asked the man with green skin.

 

“Of course I know her. Oh God! You are bleeding, Penny.” Pepper said referring to her bleeding knees, elbows, and the stain on her badges. “ You wound is open! You need to go to Dr. Choo. Right now.”

 

No, no more doctors.

 

“No, I-I am fine. I don’t need any doctor.” Penny said shaking her head.

 

“Sweety, you need to get checked. You got shot yesterday and fainted of hunger. That’s why Tony and I brought you here. You are safe, we are not going to hurt you.” Penny look at the Avenger. “... anymore. You are safe here .”

 

“I’m fine, Ms. Pepper. I really am. I just really want to go home.” Penny insisted.

 

“You are not okay.” Pepper pointed to Steve and Bucky. “Help me to take her to the medic center, carefully.”

 

The two men pick her up from her arms gently without hesitation. They were too afraid to say something that could upset the redhead. Penny tried to protests by kicking, but she was still weak and dizzy, so She just gave in.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The room was definitely like a hospital room. It had beds, electrocardiogram machines, other hospital types of equipment, and a horrible smell of alcohol that made Penny dizzier. After the two men laid her down in one of the beds, they leave the room. Pepper was seated beside her holding her hand. There was something in her that made Penny feel comfortable.   

 

“I know that it’s scary waking up in a strange place after the what you lived yesterday,” Pepper put away a piece of hair away from her face. “But I promise you that you are safe here.”

 

“How did I get here?”

 

Pepper smiled. “Yesterday, Tony and I were calling you to invite you to take dinner, but a detective, I think it was Santiago, answered your cell phone. He told us that you were in the precinct because you witnessed and stopped a robber. So Tony and I came to Queens to pick you up, but when we arrived they told us that you fainted after sewing where you got shot. Tony and I bring you to the Avengers compound.”

 

“Avengers compound?” Penny asked.

 

“The headquarters of the Avengers after the towel of the Avengers was destroyed a year ago?”

 

Penny heard of the Avengers before, but just the names. She never had time to actually learn more about the superheroes.It wasn’t Penny’s fault that she didn't know who the Avengers were. She barely knew the Tony Stark AKA Iron Man because her mother talked about him. In her defense, all information from the outside world was filtered by her grandfather. she guessed grandfather her grandfather didn’t consider important the Avengers.

 

“Well, the important here is that you are in a good place. Dr. Helen Cho is a good doctor. She will not hurt you and will check your bandages and those scratches.” Pepper stood up. “You know what, maybe I should start by giving you some dry clothes and cleaning up those scratches. You can catch a cold with those clothes.” She pulls out a blue t-shirt with the A logo and some shorts. “Can you put them by yourself?”

 

Penny nodded, and Pepper turned around to give her some privacy.

 

Penny pulls out her short, careful not to touch her scratched kneels, and put the other shorts. That was easy, but the t-shirt was more complicated. Her arms were too tired and hurt as if they were just crushed by an elephant.

 

“Ms. P-Pepper, could you help me to put the t-shirt?” Penny felt how her face become red.

 

“Of course, Penny.”

 

Carefully, Pepper helped her to pull off the wet t-shirt. She tried to not look at her to avoid make Penny uncomfortable, but something caught her eyes, something that didn’t suppose to be there. Penny had awful bruises around her neck and collar bone. Pepper wanted to ask who those bruises came, but then she thought that those bruises were the result of the robber of yesterday, and maybe if she brought that up, it could make her more inconsolable than already is. Pepper would talk with Dr. Cho to pay extra attention to those bruises.

 

“Why are you doing this?” Penny asked as they finished with the T-shirt.

 

“I told you. Wet clothes can get you a cold, and that's the last thing that you want right now.”

 

“I don’t mean clothes. I mean all of this. You and Mister Stark didn’t have to take care of me.”

 

“Penny.”

 

“Not that I am complaining! It is a really nice gesture, and I really appreciate it, but you two have no obligation to do it.”

 

“Penny.”

 

“ I don’t wanna be a trouble to you two.”

 

“Penny!”

 

Penny stopped as soon as she heard her name.

 

“I started rambling. Didn’t I?”

 

Pepper let go a soft giggle. “Yes, you did.”

 

“Sorry, when I get nervous, I ramble. My grandfather used to say that Nonna Teresa did the same. It’s in my genes apparently.”

No, bad Penny. She couldn’t bring up her family. The Fitzpatricks were in the past, and need to live in the present.

 

“Sorry.” Penny apologized again.

 

Pepper look at the girl. She was nervous about little things that couldn’t hurt her, rather than the things that actually could kill her. The older woman took her hand again.

 

“You don’t have to apologize for anything, and if Tony and I decided to bring you here, it was because we wanted to, not because we have to. And in a way, we owe you an apology.”

 

“Why? You and Mister Stark did anything in good intention, I guess.”

 

“We brought you here without your consent, unconscious, and Tony and my kind of lie about being your legal guardians, even though you are emancipated.”

 

“But if you left me there, it is most likely that I would have sent to a hospital where it would take years to attend me, and I know no one. At least here I know you, and I met Mister Stark for like five minutes, so he also counts.”

 

Pepper laugh at her last comment.

 

Knock, knock, knock.

 

A woman knocked on the door as she came in.

 

“I see the two of you are getting along.’ said the woman in the white lab coat. “Hello Pepper, Hello young lady, my name is Dr. Helen Cho.”

 

At the moment that she hear the word doctor, Penny tensed her shoulder and hold tighter Pepper’s hand.

 

“Penny, Doctor Cho is a close friend of Tony and me. She works with Dr. Bruce Banner in a project of radiation that different densities emit. She also is your doctor. When we came here yesterday, She checked up to give you some medicines.”

 

“Oh, thank you for that, ma’am,” Penny said sincerely.

 

“It is a pleasure, but I should check you up again. Yesterday, you arrived here with very low blood sugar and nutrient deficiency. We might need to give you more serum and some proper food.” She made a signal to the girl if she could come closer. Penny noted.“ Also, those bandages don't look any well, and Nat told me about your meeting this morning. So I think we need to take a look at those scratches. They don’t look too deep they are still bleeding.”

 

With gloves on her hands, Dr. Cho touched Penny’s arm. Then Penny growled.

 

“We need to change those badges.” She said as she looks for the alcohol and tissues.”

 

Penny’s first impressions of Dr. Cho were that she was an accomplished woman, smart, and direct to the point.

 

“Hello Ms. Pepper, Dr. Cho, Miss Penelope Antonia Teresa Margaret Parker.” a voice with an Irish accent spoke of nowhere.

 

“God?” Penny asked as she looks to the ceiling. Only a few people in New York knew her complete name: Tony, Pepper, and that cute boy from the elevator.

 

Pepper giggled, “Not quite. Penny this is FRIDAY, the AI assistant of Tony.

 

“Oh,” Penny look at the ceiling again. “Hi, on Friday, I’m Penny. It is a please to meet you. Sorry that I can’t shake your hand, umm.” Penny padded the wall. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

 

Both women smiled at the sweet girl.

 

“It is a pleasure to meet you, miss Penny, and don’t worry about the handshake. I don't have a physical body.

 

Penny smiled. “That’s good to know.”

 

“Miss Pepper, Mister Stark has arrived at the compound and is having a conversation with Mr. Rogers that you would classify as ‘reckless and in need of a mediator ”.”

 

Pepper signed. “Yes, I saw it coming.” Pepper stood up an gently let go Penny’s hand. “I need to go before they kill each other and start a civil war. Are you going to be okay with Dr. Cho?”

 

Penny looked at the doctor, and Helen smiled at her.

 

“Yes, I’ll be okay, but go before it is too late,” Penny said as Pepper ran in the direction where the avenger and her soon to be husband were about to start a war but not without saying. “Oh, and by the way, if someone asks, you are my niece, the daughter of a friend.”

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tony didn’t want to leave Penny alone.

 

Well, technically, she wouldn’t be alone. Pepper would stay at the compound and Helen would be at the lab monitoring her. Still, he didn’t want to leave the women alone.

After he demanded the cop to take him to the teenager, Tony found an unconscious Penny, pale as a ghost. Tony stated to reclaim the nurse and ask what happened to the child as he checked her for any damages. The nurse was for having Tony Stark in front of him. He was one of the few people that actually recognize him. too nervous to answer properly.  The only thing that he could put together was “shot, arm, low sugar, and chocolate cupcake”, which was sufficient for Tony freak out even more. Without any hesitation, Tony picked her up effortless. Once Happy arrived, they called drove Penny to the Avengers compound where Dr. Cho was waiting for them.

 

After an hour, Helen came out of the room. The smile of her face relieved the couple. Dr. Cho told them that the didn’t have to worry for the shot as long she didn’t force it. Apparently, the nurse back in the precinct made a good job at sewing Penny.However, what really worried Helen was Penny's low blood pressure and blood sugar, so she gave her a serum pouch (?) to attempt to stabilize her metabolism

 

“So, will she be okay?’ Pepper asked as she holds Tony’s hands.

 

“If she receives enough serum and eats properly, she will be fine by tomorrow noon. But if I am being honest, I am a bit worry.”

 

“Why?” Tony asked.

 

“When I measured her blood sugar with the meter, the results were like if she hasn’t eaten in a week.”

 

Tony insisted to stay, so Pepper could go to the apartment and get some sleep. She had two meetings the next day, but she refused. She wanted to stay to see how the girl reacted. Pepper and Tony didn’t sleep much that night. They both took turns to watch over Penny. He called Harley to tell him that there was an emergency at the compound, so Happy would stay with him tonight, and then he would take Harley to SI for his Summer paid internship.

 

In a night, Penny took five bags of serum, let completely dry. According to Helen, that was a normal reaction for a person with an extreme case of thyroidism. Dr. Cho wanted to make deep blood analysis focusing on her thyroid gland, but Tony convincer her that she should do them once Penny woke up, so the girl could give the consent of those analyses. It was bad enough that they passed as their official guardians and took her away unconscious, so the least that they could do is to let her decide if she wants blood analysis or declines them.

 

Then the morning came, so it did an old friend.

 

“Bruce called me. He said he is coming back and need me to pick him up. He also mentioned something about Asgard being destroyed and founding something similar to New York but in Asgard style in Swedish.” Tony said in a low tone, careful to not wake up Penny.

Pepper blinked. “That’s a lot of information.”

 

“Yeah, it is. I’ll call Happy to pick him up.”

 

“He can’t. Remember, he is going to take Harley to his internship.”

 

“Then Taxi.”

 

“Tony, you can just let him take a taxi after all of what he lived.”

 

“You are right, I’ll send him an Uber.”

 

“Tony” She reclaimed in a small voice.

 

“I don’t want to leave you and Penelope in the compound alone. What if the team comes back before time, and I am not there? You remember that the team is not especially happy with me.” He said making reference to Socovia.

 

“We won’t be alone. Helen is with us, and I am pretty sure that I can deal with them.”

 

“Yes I don’t doubt that you can, but what are we going to tell them. What are you going to tell them? That we brought an unconscious teenager that we barely know after being shot to one of the most restricted institutions in the country.”

 

“No, if they dare to ask I tell them that she is my niece, daughter of a friend. She just moved to the city and got shot to stop a robbery. We panicked, so we decided to bring her here with Helen.” She fixed his hair. “Now go.”

 

It wasn’t that Tony didn’t want to spend time with Bruce. In fact, Tony loved Bruce with all the bromance in the world, but he was really worried about leaving the gals alone without him. however, he had to admit that it was good to have his science bro back.

 

“So we all got inside the battleship while Rachna-something was destroying Asgard,” Bruce said as he walked inside the new Avengers Compound.

 

“That a hell of things that happened to you.” Tony smiled. “And I have to say, my style really suits you.”

 

“Well when you… Oh !” Bruce stopped as they faced the six superheroes in front of them. “Hello…”

 

“Hi,” said Steve.

 

No one said anything. It was a really uncomfortable and awkward situation. Tony cursed in his mind when he saw them and begged that they didn't meet Penny. Natasha was tensed at saw her former special one, while the Vision took initiative and greeted the scientist.

 

“It is a pleasure to see again.”

 

“Vision, It’s good to see you too.”

 

And then, they all greeted the scientist.

 

They shared the usual “how have you been? What have you been up to? Wait, you went to Asgard! As in the place where thor live?” You know the common.

 

While the Avengers were bombing with a question the scientist, Tony went his way to the room where he saw the last time his fiancee and Penny. Steve followed him discreetly.

 

“Tony.” He stopped when he heard his name.

 

“Long time without seeing you, Captain,” Tony said as he turned to face the blond.

 

“I really long time. I wanted to talk to you about something important.”

 

Please not let it be about the girl, please not about the girl.

 

“I told you let grow your beard. You will look better, and ladies don’t resist a man with a good. Trust me I know it by experience.”

 

“It’s not about the beard. It’s about Penny.”

 

Shit.

 

“So, you found her.”

 

“More like she found us when we were landing the Quijet.” Steve signed and look at Tony. “Tony, I have to be sincere you.”

 

Oh, no shit. He knew that look, the “sad golden puppy retriever that just destroyed half of the house by himself” look.

 

“Just tell me, Rogers.”

 

“We when the team and I landed in the heliport, she was in front of us, and she refused to identify herself…” but Tony interrupted him.

 

“I’m gonna stop you right there.” Tony pinched the arch of his nose. “Just tell me did you all hurt her?”

 

A pause is a bad signal.

 

“Wanda may have given her some scratches.”

 

“A few scrat… God. Tell me, Steve, what could be so threatening about a teenager!”

 

“I know that there is no excuse,  we tried to talk with her before she tried to leave the compound, and then when we had the opportunity to talk with her again, she keeps telling us to let her go, which is strange considering that you and Pepper know her.”

 

SHE tried to leave the compound because she didn’t know where she was. We brought her here because was shot in a robber and fainted in the police station. It is normal that thought that she was being kidnapped by the Avengers.”

 

He felt how he grow more white hairs.

 

“That’s the other thing, Tony. Who is she ?”

 

“She is Pepper’s ‘niece’,” Tony said making quotes in niece. “Penny is the daughter of a friend of Pepper. She just moved to the city, and Pepper promised to keep an eye on her, but yesterday she stopped a robbery and got shot. So we decided to…”

 

“Wait, wait, wait, she stopped a robbery?”

 

That part is also confusing.

 

“Yes, she did. I am still trying to figure it out how she did that, but I really worry that now she may be traumatized for life after being shot and think that she was kidnaped being kidnaped by the Avengers.”

 

“She doesn’t know who the Avengers are.”

 

“Of course she knows who the Avengers are; don’t try to change the topic.”

 

“No, Tony, for real. She thought that we worked by her grandfather to take her back.”

 

Take her back? Tony knew that the father of Mary was an asshole, but never at the point of kidnap a child. He would check the videotapes of the securities cameras from the thrift store, precinct, and the compound. He needed to figure it out what the heck happened the last 24 hours.

 

“Tony?” Pepper step to the room. “We need you on the Med Bay. Penny is awake.”

 

Thank goodness for Pepper.

 

“Yes, I’ll go.” He looks at Steven. “We talk later, Rogers.” and without another word, the couple left the room.

 

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The garden was beautiful.

 

It was full of color, with flowers that adorned every single part of it. There was all kind of flowers, from miniature daisies til gigantic dahlias, but without a doubt, the most beautiful flowers in the warden were the roses. The garden had a swing held by a tree covered in roses and sit on that swing, there was an old man. He was a handsome grown-up man, with reddish hair blue eyes, and Irish factions. His name was William Fitzpatrick, and he was one of the most powerful men in the world.

 

William was a legend, a dangerous legend. The people that knew his stories, had immense respect and a colossal terror for him. He had controlled organizations behind the common eye and helped controlled the destiny of the underworld in more than one time. In his day of youth, he was the best fighter that his race has ever seen, a merciless role model for every Aranea, but today, he didn't feel like that man. Something was taken away from him again. It was like if her wife was gone again.

 

“Father.” William keeps his face serious, without any emotion showing.

 

There was a young man in front of him. He was in his middle tweenies and had red hair and blue eyes like William, but other than that, he looks nothing like him.

 

“Son, James, I trust that you have good news about Penelope-Teresa.” It’s been more than three months without her granddaughter, and he never thought that he would miss her so much.

 

“Teresa the second look anywhere that Penelope-Teresa could have gone, including the places that Sister Mary could let her after she died.”

 

Nothing, they had no clue where her granddaughter could go.

 

Why did she go? Was she happy here?

Penelope-Teresa had everything that she needs here with him and her family. They offered her an education, financial stability, a future good husband. What else could she ever want?

 

“Triplicate the search, look for any allies that Mary could ever have, from college friends til financial partners,” William said to the young man.

 

“Father, I want to find her as much as you want to for the future of our family, but I think I have an idea to find her that can work but it would take a little more time.”

 

More time? He had already waited enough.

 

“What’s your plan?

 

“Penelope-Teresa is a genius, careful woman. She plans ahead to avoid any mistake, but she is also compassionate and curious about breaking rules, like when she painted her hair with red roses to look like you when she was five.”

 

“Get to the point, James.

 

“Right, yes, my point is that sooner or later she is going to make a mistake by breaking one of your rules, in specific the rules about her “skills”. So sooner or later, we are going to hear in the news about a spider figure saving people, and what that happens…”

 

“We are going to get her.”

 

“Like a flight in the spider web.”

 

This plan was risky, but it could work. If he knew her granddaughter well, she will be seduced to break the rules, and when that happens they will have her at last.

 

“Do both plans, and keep me inform constantly.”

 

“I will, father. I will not disappoint you.”

 

The old man stood to face him.

 

“I know, because if you don’t…” An extra six pair of black eyes appeared on his face, and his mouth of William opened side to side and ended with two fangs as he screamed in a horrible tone.

 

“I-I understand, farther.”

 

His mouth went to normal again. “Good, now go.”

William Fitzpatrick would do anything to bring her back, even if it means that he needed to kill anyone that gets in his way.



Chapter Text

Tony Stark wasn't a bad man. 

 

Penny heard stories about the man before moving to New York. Those stories were about the Merchant of Death, the man that killed millions with his weapons, and tried to clean his image with the Iron-Man persona. Penny never had a positive opinion about the man when she lived in the Fitzpatrick manor, but then again, her judgment was based on the information that her grandfather decided that was best for her.

 

The first time that Penny met Tony Stark, she was in one of his expos. Mother forced her to go with her to the Stark Expo of 2009. It wasn’t that Penny didn’t want to go to the expo; in fact, she liked the idea of being surrounded by the most vanguardist technology of the year. What made Penny uncomfortable was the idea of being alone with Mother. The woman was like a stranger to her. Luckily for Penny, Mary Teresa Fitzpatrick had other plans in mind. 

 

“Penelope, I have some business to attend. You can see around as long as you don’t leave without your bodyguard. Did you understand?”

 

The little girl nodded. 

 

“Good.”

 

The Stark Expo of 2009 was a paradise for Penny, and being with her favorite bodyguard, Gusman, made it even better. Gusman always had a soft spot for the youngest of the Fitzpatrick. He couldn't deny anything that the girl asked, so when she asked for an Iron Man mask and gloves because every other kid was using one, he happily bought her the complete set. Gusman knew why she wanted those toys. It wasn’t that she wanted to be Iron Man. Hell, he knew that she disliked the man. The girl just wanted to fit in with all the kids because she didn’t look like one of them. At her young age, Penny was wearing dresses and using hairstyles that only his grandmother could use. Then again, the girl just wanted to fit in, and she did… until the explosions. 

 

In a moment of confusion, Penny got lost between the crow as she screamed for Gusman, but who heard her was not Gusman. 

 

The robot in front of her was three times her height with a helmet that looked like hers. The robot was big, scary, and determined to kill her. The Fitzpatricks taught her what to do when she had a gun pointing at her. 

 

Don’t move until you feel the hair of your arms stand up. Then, move and run. Never fight back.

 

Penny raised her arm to block the robot and stay calm.

 

She just had to wait for that feeling, just wait… wait… but that moment never came.

 

A blast passed right beside her destroying the robot.

 

Penny looked at the origin of that blast, maybe Gusman found her on time, but it wasn’t him. It was a knight in iron armor.

 

“Good work, kid.” and he flew away.

 

That was the moment that Penny was saved by Iron Man, and that made her think “What kind of merchant of death saves a child?”

 

From that moment on, Penny decided that maybe the opinion of her family wasn’t always right.

 

Penny tried to wipe away all the prejudice that the Fitzpatrick taught her when she met Tony Stark again in Mrs. Pepper’s office. She really tried to give him the best sincere smile that she could show. She let it pass the comment about her parents. It was obvious he didn’t know that both of her parents died. They weren’t exactly close according to her late mother. So, for the greater good, Penny decided that she had to leave before she got sentimental like in the morning. At the end of the day, Penny decided that she needed more information to have her own opinion of Mr. Stark, but because she thought that was the last time she was going to see Tony Stark in a long time, her opinion would have to wait. Maybe they would meet again in SI meeting.

 

Never in her life, Penny imagined that her opinion of Mr. Stark would be drastically changed from nothing to “he is not a bad man” two weeks after she met him. 

 

After Ms. Pepper left her with Dr. Cho, the doctor convinced her to let her check the scratches on her arms and legs but only if Penny could drink protein serum instead of injecting it to her. The taste wasn’t any pleasant, but it was better than having a needle in her arm. 

 

“Dr. Cho,” Penny said as the woman keep her eyes in the papers.

 

“Helen.”

 

“Right, Helen. Can I go home?” Penny said as she took another sip from the disgusting serum.

 

“As your doctor, I can’t let you go until I know that you are not going to faint as soon as you get home.”

 

“But I will not .”

 

“I am not so sure about it, but I would be if you allow me to make a simple blood test. I can numb your arm with a pomade so you don’t feel the needle. You will feel nothing.”

 

No, a blood test would reveal more than just bad nutrition.

 

“It’s fine. Thank you, but I don’t need a blood test. I have a family trait that makes me weak if I don’t eat constantly, and no, it’s not diabetes or a problem with thyroids” Penny didn’t want to be rude to Helen, but she couldn’t let slip information that could compromise her. 

 

Helen smiled. “You can go when I make sure that you eat something,” Helen took her hand to check her pulse. “and you have your sugar back at normal levels.”

 

“I can eat in my department. I have in my refrigerator a plate of chicken and vegetables, and I will call you every hour to make sure that I didn’t die.”

 

Helen didn’t like her joke. “I am serious, I will not let you leave this complex until you eat something and stop shaking like jello on a dry machine.”

 

“In that case, what do you want to eat Penelope.” said the one and only Tony Stark as he entered the room with Ms. Pepper which made Penny feel a little bit calmer. “Because you can’t tell me that thing that you have on your hand taste good..”

 

Penny said nothing. She tried to keep an open mind about the man. Penny kept thinking “Don’t judge a book by his cover, be nice, joke a little, don’t be jugful.”

 

Tony stood in front of her.

 

“It’s nice to see you again, Penelope.” He offered his hand. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

 

Penny hesitated at first, at the end she took his hand. “I hope all good things.”

 

Tony smirked. “Of course, between them, I heard that you practice ballet, which is strange for this generation to like something so classical like ballet.” He took the serum from her hands and look at it like it was something toxic. “ Ghosh! I don’t know how you can drink this. Helen, what’s this?”

 

Helen looked at him. “It’s a serum with all the proteins that she needs after the shot, malnutrition, and the scratches.”

 

“It tastes, smell, and looks awful. She needs real food.” Tony said as he made a face and put the glass over a night table.

 

“How do you know that it tastes horrible if you haven’t taken a sip of it?” Peper asked him.

 

“No need, I saw when Penelope was drinking that think, and a picture is worth a thousand words,” Tony said.

 

“Yeah, but the memory is priceless ,” Penny smirked at him. “Isn’t it?”

 

When Penny finish that sentence, she instantly regretted it. If she would ever say something like that to any member of her family, it was clear that she would be punished. So she waited for some kind of punishment from part of the man, but that never happened.

 

Penny could feel how both women smiled and a big hand rest in her shoulder. 

 

“You are smartass, do you know that?” Penny was so relieved.

 

“My mother told me that I got it from my father, so it’s a family thing.” It was one of the few things that her mother has ever told her about her father. “But I prefer the term of audacious rather than smartass.” 

 

She was betrayed. Penny was betrayed by her own stomach that made a strong sound. 

God , she was hungry, so maybe the serum make her feel better but her stomach was totally empty.

 

“And that’s our clue. Pepper can you order four cheese cheeseburgers and whatever ever drinks that you want...” he pointed to Penny. “Do you like milkshakes, of course, you do. Everybody likes milkshakes, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate?

 

“I-It’s not necessary, Mr. Stark. I can eat in my apartment.” Penny tried to decline the food.

 

“Not an option. Helen here is a very strict (? I wasn't sure what you were meaning) doctor, and she won't let you go until she you eating. The sooner you eat the sooner you can go back to your apartment. So, milkshake?”

 

Some fights are better not fight. “Chocolate.”

 

Tony smiled. “Good, so two chocolate milkshakes.”

 

“Tony, I don’t think that burgers are the best for Penny in her condition,” said Pepper.

 

“Well, why don’t you and Helen order burgers, milkshakes, and anything that is ‘healthier’ while I stay here with Penelope.” Both women quickly understood his plan.

 

“Sure, Helen can you help me to choose something good for Penny?” Pepper asked.

 

“Yes, Pepper. Excuse me.” Both women left the room.

 

Silence, Penny didn’t know what to say to the man. Tony Stark didn’t look mad or malicious; instead on his face was a mixture of curiosity and subtle worry. 

 

“So, are you okay?” Tony caught off guard Penny.

 

"Umm, yes, it's just scratches and a bruise or two. It's not a big deal,”  Penny said as she fixed her blanket to cover her legs. 

 

It was a forced habit.  Every time someone asked her about being hurt, she covered so they couldn’t see that she was injured. If they saw that she was hurt, they would believe that she was weak. No, they will know that she was weak, and weakness was a death sentence for the Fitzpatricks.

 

“Well, that’s good, but how do you feel? What you lived in the last twenty-four hours was pretty intense for a sixteen-year-old.”

 

Penny was astonished. It felt strange that people asked her how she felt emotionally. Usually, the people around her expected her to be always happy with a smile on her face, so there was no need to ask her that question. In the case that someone asked how did she feel, she always answered that she was perfect. It was what she had to say.

 

“I am about to be eighteen in a month.” 

 

Tony smirked, “Sure, but right now seventeen years old.” He was waiting for an answer, and we won’t let her go until she answered.

 

Penny signed, “I guess it’s been a little wild, being shot, fainting, and waking up in the Avengers Compound, according to Mrs. Pepper,” she gave him a smile, “but at the same time it could have been worse.”

 

Tony looked at her in curiosity, “How come?”

 

Shit, she didn’t mean that. 

 

“Well, this is New York. Anything can happen here. Like for example, somebody could have kidnapped me after I fainted and sell my organs by pound to a stranger…” Penny paused to look at him. “You are not going to sell my organs… right?” Penny said in a joking tone, but deep inside her, she actually meant it.

 

Tony smiled, “No, we will not do any of that. You are safe here.”

 

“Thank goodness. Just checking, but any jokes aside, I feel fine, Mr. Stark,” Penny tried to smile. “and thanks to you for bringing me here. I already had this talk with Mrs. Pepper, but I wanted to thank you for taking care of me even though it is not your responsibility. I really appreciate Mrs. Pepper’s and your kindness.” 

 

There was something odd with this girl. Tony could clearly see that she was being sincere, but the way she expressed it was odd as if she was taking him for saving the world again. 

 

“You don’t have to thank us. It’s just what any person would do.” He paused. “And on behalf of the Avengers, I apologize for all the bullshit that happened earlier. Sometimes, the team act…”

 

“By instinct?”

 

“Like a bunch of reckless assholes, but yeah they all act by instinct too.” Tony could swear that he saw a smile on her face. “By the way, if by any remote chance you see any of them, you are Pepper’s niece. Remember, Pepper’s niece.”

 

“Why?”

 

“For backup. They will be less tempted to search you if they think you are related to Pepper. Well, rather the daughter of Pepper’s friend, but a niece nonetheless.”

 

“That’s clever. Giving them a fake alibi to ensure that they don’t look me up, and therefore they will respect my privacy.” There it was again. Not in a bad way, Tony thought that she sounds like an old woman.

 

“Yes, it was Pepper’s idea, and before I forget it, here. From Pepper and me.” Tony grabbed something from his pocket. It was a Stark phone, and judging by its shiny look and lack of scratches, it was clear that it was brand new. It had a pretty red and gold case. Tony handed the phone to Penny who in confusion accepted it. “It’s yours. Your old phone had a little accident back there at the precinct.”

 

That was not an accident. Tony simply hated her phone. It was so antique.

 

“I-I can’t accept it.” Penny tried to protest.

 

“Why not?  Is it the case? I can get you a new case, but I think those colors are pretty good.”

 

“I-it’s not the color.”

 

“If it's for money don’t worry about it. I have like thousands of phones. Keep it.” 

 

So, Tony Stark, philanthropist, billionaire, ex-playboy, superhero, --- formerly known as the merchant of Death --- brought her, a complete stranger, to the headquarters of apparently the most important heroes in the world to take her to one of the most recognized scientists of the world (if Penny wasn’t so weak, she would have fangirled so badly) just to take care of her. Then, he apologized for the behavior of the Avengers, bought her food, a brand new cell phone, wanting nothing in exchange. This was too good to be true.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Stark.” Penny unblocks the phone. 

 

“I couldn’t save the chip, so you may want to check your contacts,” said Tony as she looked through her contacts. It was the first time Penny owned something so pretty and expensive.

 

Yes, the Fitzpatricks were super wealthy family. Their fortune could compete with Tony’s, so yes, the Fitzpatricks were used to luxuries that most people could only dream of. All of them except Penny. William Fitzpatrick wanted that the youngest of his grandchildren grow up humble, so she could appreciate the value of work and mercy. That meant that if she wanted something, she had to work had to obtain it. If she wanted a pretty dress that she saw in one of the help magazines, she would have to learn how to sew it. If she wanted a chocolate cake, she had to learn how to bake. If she wanted a phone, she had to pay it with her own money and it had to be basic and without connection to the internet, where she could get strange ideas. 

 

When Tony Stark gave her a new phone just for her, Penny felt like she didn’t deserve it like she didn’t deserve all this attention, but it was too late to say something. 

 

“Thank you. I will not worry about the contacts. I remember all three contacts.”

 

“Three contacts?” Tony asked incredulously. 

 

Penny nodded. “Yes, my landlady, Mr. Lee, and Mrs. Pepper. I haven’t had time to meet new people.”

 

Tony took her phone and tapped something to later give her back the phone. 

 

“Well now, you have five contacts. If you ever need something, don’t hesitate to call me, Pepper, or Happy, and don’t thank me. You have thanked me enough for a hundred years.”

 

He gave her his number. Tony Stark just gave her his personal number when she was in need of anything… this was surreal. 

 

“Thank… I mean, who is Happy?” Penny tried to not thank him.

 

“He is my head of security and sidekick from time to time. You would like him, he loves kids.” 

 

“No, I don’t. I tolerate kids. There is a difference, and she is not a kid, she is clearly a young adult Tony” A man in a black suit entered the room holding two paper bags with the name of Burger King written on it. Behind him, Pepper was holding five milkshakes on a paper plate, and Helen was holding a plate of spaghetti with meatballs and mashed potato. Ghosh!  Everything smelled so good that made Penny’s mouth water. “Pepper called me. She told me that you need five cheeseburgers and five milkshakes.”

 

Happy handled Tony the bag and offered a hand to Penny. “I’m Harold Joseph Hogan…”

 

“Happy, his name is Happy.” Tony interrupted him gaining a bad look from Happy.

 

“I’m Penny, I pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hogan.” She shook his hand.

 

Growl

 

Her stomach growled so loud that it hurt so bad. Penny hugged her stomach tightly trying to appease the pain, but it was in vain.

 

“Okay, that's enough. Penny, you need food. Here, begin with the pasta, and then you can eat your cheeseburger.” Helen gave her the plate, and without hesitation, she grabbed the fork to start eating. 

 

She tried to eat slow and relaxed, but it was difficult with everyone looking at her like she was a freak show.

 

“Aren’t you all going to eat?” Penny asked the grown-ups who quickly realized that they were staring at her. 

 

If it wasn’t because she was surrounded by other people, Penny would finish the spaghetti in a minute. It took all her self control not eat the plate like an animal. She made sure to take a few pauses between bite and bite. Within a few minutes she finished the plate, but she still was hungry, so Penny asked if she could eat the cheeseburger.

 

“Sure, it’s yours. You have quite an appetite.” Tony said as he gave her the burger.

 

“I have a really fast metabolism,” Penny said as she took a bite. It was the first time that Penny ate a cheeseburger from Burger King, and it was delicious.

 

“Not judging here. By the way, Pepper, Helen, how did you got a plate of spaghetti so fast?”

 

Pepper responded after a sip of her milkshake. “Steve and Sam were cooking today. "I guilted them into give me a plate.”

 

“Their face was priceless when I told them that if they didn’t give me a plate of meatball I personally made sure that they went to jail,” Helen said as she gave Penny a malicious smirk. 

 

“God, that is why I love you, Pepper.” Tony gave her a small kiss on her cheek.

 

As Penny ate her burger, she couldn't help but feel really comfortable. Maybe, it was the fact that her metabolism was finally working thanks for the food, but Penny felt better, stronger, or perhaps it was that they adults didn’t make her feel like she was surrounded by strangers, but rather with people that she could trust.

 

Once she finished the milkshake, the cheeseburger and Helen made a quick sugar test, she was finally ready to go home. 

 

“Are you sure that you want to go to your apartment? Tony and I have more than ten guess room in our apartment. You don’t have to stay alone tonight.” Pepper said as she, Tony, was walking out of the room.

 

Penny was wearing a big black hoodie that looked like a dress on her. The hoodie covered her knees, and the hood covered perfectly almost all her face in case she had to face the Avengers. 

 

“Thank again for taking care of me, but I don’t want to be a problem anymore. I’ll be fine.” 

 

“You are not a problem, Penny…” 

 

It was a good thing that Penny decided to wear that hood because the Avengers were in the living room. Feeling the weight of the glare of the Avengers, Penny unconsciously hid behind Pepper looking at the floor and making sure that the hood was covering her face the most that she could.

 

There was an awkward silence in the room. Penny tried to not make any eye contact with the heroes. She wasn’t afraid of them because Mrs. Pepper and Mr. Stark were with her, and the whole incident was a misunderstanding. However, Penny didn’t feel totally comfortable with them in the same room.

 

Steve Rogers took the initiative and broke the silence. “Hello.”

 

“Hello again, Capsicle.” Tony said as he stepped forward. “The dinner was decent, but you and Sam should use less salt. The spaghetti was a little bit salty.”

 

The blond man smiled. “I see. I will keep it in mind next time. Pepper, It’s good to see you.”

 

“Hello, Steve.” Penny was thankful that Pepper wasn’t using that cold tone with her because she would be crying for so much coldness.

 

“We wanted to apologize to your niece, Pepper.” Vision stepped forward. “Our behavior was deplorable. We shouldn’t have attacked your niece before we talked to her.”

 

Penny didn’t dare to look up. She just wanted to go back to her apartment. 

 

“You didn’t have to be so violent.” Pepper was serious like she was about to murder someone. 

 

“That was my fault. She started running, and I panicked. I am sorry, girl.” The voice was young. Penny thought that probability it was from the woman in the red suit. What was her name? Willow... Wendy... Wanda... Wanda! That was her name, Wanda.

 

“Yeah, well…” Tony was about to comment about how reckless they were, but Penny interrupted him.

 

“I-it fine. I accept your apology.” Penny said as she still looking at the floor. “It was all a misunderstanding. We… we were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

 

Penny felt how everybody staring at her including Mr. Stark and Mrs. Pepper.

 

“Penny…”

 

“It’s fine, Aunt Pepper. It was all an accident. I am sure they didn’t do it with bad intentions. Can we go home? Please?” And without looking up, Penny took Pepper’s hand and walked away from the room. Tony followed both women leaving the heroes perplexed. 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The ride back home was quiet. 

 

Mr. Stark insisted on driving them in his luxury car instead of letting Happy drive them back to her apartment. Tony and Pepper were in the front seats while Penny was in the back adding contacts to her new phone. None of them said a word since they left the compound. 

 

Were they mad at her?

 

Did she go too easy on the Avengers?

 

Did she…

 

“I’m not mad at the Avengers, but I don’t completely trust them,” Penny said looking at the window. “I told them that I forgive them because it was a mistake. I really think it was a mistake, but I didn’t want to spend more time with them. They look like good people, but I just...”

 

“Hey,” Penny look to Mrs. Pepper. Her tone was soft and nice. “We get it. If I was you, I would’ve done the same.”

 

“I’m actually happy that you cut me off. I was about to throw hands with them.” Mr. Stark joked, but something in his tone made her think that he wasn’t joking.

 

Penny was happy that they weren’t mad at her… or at least that they seem mad. 

 

She giggled a little and in a calm tone said, “For more fun that would’ve been, I think it was for the best that we leave the place before we started the second civil war. Also, I really need to go to my apartment. I haven’t water my plants.”

 

Lies. Penny didn't have any plants, only plans to maybe get some indoor plants and put them on a macrame hanger. 

 

“Oh, and speaking about your apartment. Happy left your bags to your landlady. You don’t have to worry about your clothes. That includes the ones that you were wearing yesterday.” Pepper said.

 

“Thank you. I was really worried that I had to go shopping again, and now, I have another reason to go to my apartment: laundry”

 

The rest of the trip was pretty chill. They chatted about the random things like her new ukulele, the last meeting that Mr. Pepper had, the new car that Mr. Stark and his intern were working on, common things like that.

 

“And then, instead of connecting the positive with positive, Harley connected it to the negative wire.” Tony said as Penny laugh. Pepper just smiled. 

 

“Did he caused an override in the electrical system? Did he burn out the internal panel?” Penny asked.

 

“Worse, he burned all the electrical system on the whole floor. It was hilarious.”

 

Pepper look at him. “Maybe for you, but I had to call a whole group of technicians to re-install the kitchen. Remind me again why we could have a normal kitchen.” 

 

“Because it makes life easier.”

 

“How? You don’t even use the kitchen.”

 

“Excuse me, I do use the kitchen.” 

 

“The coffee machine doesn’t count.”

 

Awkward

 

They were fighting. Well, not fighting, fighting, but arguing. They weren’t screaming at each other, but rather speaking in a really strong and loud voice. They didn’t seem like they were mad, but still, it made Penny really uncomfortable. Back when her mother argued in front of her, she just reminded silent and look for a way to get away from the dispute. This case was not an exception.

 

What to do get away?

 

What to do?

 

And then it hit her.

 

“Here is my building!”

 

The car stopped abruptly. if it wasn’t for her seat bell, Penny would flight out of the car.

 

That didn’t feel good for Penny. 

 

The feeling of the seat bell crushing her thorax and pressing her lungs to the point her air escaped from her body brought up memories, bad memories.

 

“Are you okay Penny?” Penny looked at Pepper and Tony, who were clearly worried.

 

Penny wasn’t okay. If the couple weren’t there, she would cry and panic at the point that the lost conscience, but they were with her. She couldn’t let them see weakness.

 

“Yes, I am.” She let a little gasp go. “It just took me by surprise.”

 

Penny tried to keep her breathing at a steady rate, so she would look normal.

 

They weren’t convinced at all.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Thank you for escorting me to my apartment. You didn’t have to worry.” Penny said as the three of them got out of the elevator. 

 

After the little car incident, Mr. Stark and Mrs. Pepper didn’t want to just drop her to the door of the building. They insisted on getting her safely to her apartment. So after picking up her keys at her landlady, they were on their way to her apartment. 

 

“It’s not a problem.” Mr. Stark sound sincere. 

 

Tony was worried for Penny. The way that she reacted when he hit the breaks was alarming. This girl has lived through a lot of bad shit the last twenty-nine hours, and she gave off a lot of worrying signals.

 

As Penny opened the door of her apartment, she thought that it would be rude if she didn’t invite them to come in. They took care of her, fed her, and help to cure her wounds. They have done so much for her, so the last thing that she could offer them was a nice cup of tea. 

 

“Do you want to come in? I just bought a new pack of berry tea, and it’s delicious. Do you want a cup?”

 

Tempting, but no.

 

“Sorry, darling, but we have to go. I have to prepare for some meetings tomorrow, and also Harley must be at home by now.” Pepper said.

 

Somehow, Penny felt disappointed? No, she shouldn’t feel like that. The sentimental attachment would only complicate her life. For Penny, having feelings for people was a risk, for them and her.

 

Penny was a master of hiding her emotions, so she gave them her best smile.

 

“It’s fine.”

 

But Tony Stark wasn’t so convinced about it.

 

“But, what if you come to our place for dinner.”

 

That took Penny by surprise, and then she remembered that Mrs. Pepper mentioned that they wanted to have dinner with her before the whole robber incident.

 

“Dinner?”

 

“Of course, it doesn’t have to be today. You are clearly tired.” Pepper smiled. 

 

“What about at seven Sunday, our penthouse.”

 

Her instincts told her to say no thank you. It was too risky, but her beliefs controlled her.

 

“It would be my pleasure.”

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Her bed was too soft like a big fluffy marshmallow.

 

After Mr. Stark and Mrs. Pepper left, Penny took a shower and went straight to her bed. Penny decided that the last thirty two hour were the most stressful moments since she escaped Mexico. 

 

Her body was too sore and tired as if she just went under a high-intensity training. Maybe she would skip her morning training and sleep until ten. 

 

As she slowly fell in Morpheus arm, Penny reflected about what she just lived and how lucky she was. Somebody could kidnap her back when she was unconscious and sell her. She was lucky that apparently good people like Mrs. Pepper and Mr. Stark found her. 

 

Mrs. Pepper looked like a good woman. Even though Mrs. Potts looked similar to her late mother --- Penny wasn’t a fool. She could see the resemblance---, she appeared to be nothing like her. Mrs. Pepper acted so nice and kinda motherly to Penny, nothing like Mother.

 

After meeting Tony Stark again, Penny decided that he wasn’t a bad man, or at least he didn’t appear to be a bad man. He didn’t act as his reputation deceived him. He acted friendly, patient, generous, and protective with Penny. She wasn’t used to people acting genuinely good to her. 

 

“We… are… going… to… find… you!” Penny jumped from the bed falling on the floor.

 

The words of the monster of her nightmares were implanted deep in her mind. They were a reminder that Penny cannot be vulnerable. It would cost her lively.

 

Penny literally jumped to the wall to turn on the lights. 

 

It took her several moments to realize that she was alone in her room. Slowly she got off the wall, took her new phone from the night table, and went to the kitchen. The teenager took out a mug and the instant coffee from the cabinet. Penny didn’t like coffee, but she needed it.

 

The voices and nightmares appeared when she was about to fall in Morpheus's arms, so the best that she could do to avoid them was not to sleep. 

 

When people pass for traumatic events they tend to adopt behaviors or habits to try to assimilate the trauma. This is called copy mechanism. Healthy coping mechanisms included running, taking baths with salts, baking, and reading. The unhealthy coping mechanisms ware drinking alcohol, deficient of sleep, self-harm, and drinking an excessive amount of coffee. Penny was about to engage in two unhealthy coping mechanisms.

 

Just like her father.




Chapter Text

Penny didn’t sleep a lot that night.

 

Her coffee was too black and bitter that kept Penny awake until four thirty-one a.m. In that period, Penny washed her new clothes. She always washed thoroughly all the clothes that she didn’t sew. By one, she was done putting her clothes in the drawers. Something didn’t feel totally right about having all her clothes carefully placed in her closet. What if for any reason she had to leave her apartment? She would have to leave unprepared without any extra clothes or money. She put a change of clothes her old suit and a couple of hundred dollars. Maybe she should think on a back of plan if New York didn’t work out, but that would be tomorrow. 

 

Penny ate oatmeal, cleaned her apartment again, took off the bandages of her now fully healed arms and knees. Then finally at four thirty-one, she finally fell asleep. 

 

She woke up at six a.m. Penny felt tired. Her eyes were so heavy, and her body felt like it was going to break apart.

 

 But hey! the lack of sleep had a perk: no nightmares. 

 

There are several stages in the process of sleeping. The fifth stage is called Rapid Eye Movement or REM and is when people start dreaming. For a person to be in the REM stage, they must be at least ninety minutes asleep. Penny slept less than ninety minutes, which means that she didn’t have a single dream, no a single nightmare.

 

Penny barely followed her morning routine: training, shower (she wore a pair of jeans and a grey shirt under a big black hoodie), breakfast (she went for a change drinking a yogurt smoothie), and cleaning her apartment. Penny took her keys and some money and she was ready for today.

 

Today, she had a mission: get flowers and a sewing machine.

 

 The flowers were for the nice lady of the thrift store. Penny just wanted to know if she was okay after the robber, so what better excuse to see her again thank bring her flowers. Of course, was the big chance that the nice lady decided not to open her thrift store for a few days, but Penny was optimistic.

 

The sewing machine was for her. It's something that she was on Penny’s mind since months ago. Sewing her own clothes was something special to her. It made her feel special, proud. Penny missed that sentiment. Maybe she could get one with the nice lady even if is just a small one, and if she succeeds on it, perhaps she could sew a dress for tomorrow's dinner. 

 

The flowers were easy to get. She walked all the way to Delmar's Deli-Grocery, which was near her apartment. The man that attended her, Mr. Delmar was a nice man. According to their small talk, he was a family man. He had a son, a daughter, and a chubby cute cat. After saying goodbye, Penny went straight to the thrift store with a bouquet of sunflowers 

 

As she walked down the street, Penny couldn’t help but notice that the windows of all the buildings on the street were broken. The shot was really strong. Those weapons shouldn’t be out there. 

 

Penny finally reached her destination: the thrift store.

 

All of the store’s windows were replaced with cardboard, but surprisingly, there was a sign that said “Open”. Penny didn’t hesitate and got inside the store, ringing the door’s bell.

 

“Hello, welcome to… It’s you ...” the nice lady looked at her as if she was a ghost.

 

Penny smiled at her. “Hi, I, um, I was passing by the street, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I pay a visit to the nice lady of the best thrift store of Queens?’” Penny stepped forward and gave her the flowers. “These are for you.”

 

The woman took the flowers in disbelief. She was looking at her like she was a porcelain doll about to fall from a table.

 

The nice lady put the flowers aside and took Penny’s hands. 

 

The name of the nice lady was Doris, and she was worried sick since she heard that the girl that saved her fainted and was taken away by her tutors. Doris passed two days without any information about the girl in the old fashion uniform. She couldn’ help to be worried for the girl because Doris was a mother. She thought that her daughter could have been the one who got shot and fainted, so seeing the girl standing in front of her safe and alive was a relief for Doris.

 

“Hi,” Doris said holding her tears back. “You are back.”

 

Penny held Doris hand back even though she wasn’t use to this physical contact. She didn’t want to be rude. “I wanted to make sure that you were okay. It was pretty wild two days ago.”

 

“Yes, it was pretty wild, but are you okay? I heard you fainted back at the precinct and your tutors got you outta there.” 

 

Her tutors, right.

 

“I am fine. I forgot to eat that morning. That’s why I fainted, but I am fine. I really am. My friends got me home an I ate something”

 

Penny and Doris talked for several minutes about what happened after the incident. After Doris gave her declaration and the videotapes to come out, she waited for her husband to pick her up, and according to Detective Santiago, the guy who shot Penny was taken straight up to another precinct to be interrogated for the gun that he possessed. Penny was relieved to hear that the man wouldn’t be in the streets for a long time.

 

The women quickly changed from topic to topic. They talked about the thrift store and how Doris’s husband would replace the windows in the afternoon. Penny thought that it was nice to talk with people about trivial things. It made her feel normal. After they talk about almost everything, Penny asked her if she had any sewing machine, fabric, and any other sewing material related. Luckily for Penny, Doris had a few sewing machines and an immense amount of fabric in the back shop. People didn’t usually lookup for sewing materials.

 

In the end, Penny chose a pretty good sewing machine, some dresses patterns, a manikin, thread, and a few fabrics. Maybe if Penny started working and not stopped, she could wear a pretty dress for tomorrow's dinner. Once in the counter,  Penny put out her money to pay for her new fashion studio, but Doris refused to take a dime from the girl.

 

“You don’t have to give me a dime.”

 

“Yes, I have because I want to buy these things.”

 

“And I want to give ‘em to you.”

 

Penny didn’t like to receive things as payment. She was instructed to never expect something as a reward for doing the right thing. On one occasion, the help mistook the chamomile roses that they used to bleach her hair from common roses. She ended up with red hair like her grandfather. Consequently, William Fitzpatrick was furious with his “favorite” granddaughter's look. Penny immediately confessed that she made the mistake of confusing the flowers. Even though Penny was his “favorite”, her punishment was terrible, isolation. 

 

There was an old well in the garden of roses, and Penny had to stay all night inside of it from sunset till dawn. At midnight, William felt pity for Penny, so he threw a golden ring in the well. If Penny could find the ring in the cold darkness of the well, her punishment would be lifted. An hour before dawn, Penny found the ring. The girl was cold with blue lips and red eyes, but she knew that it was nothing compared to what her grandfather would have done to the Help. If William knew that was the help and no Penny who made that mistake… Well, let's just say that the Fitzpatrick Manor would need new staff to clean the blood out of the walls and floors. From that moment on, the help was especially nice to her. They left little presents for her: chocolate cakes, dresses, flowers, books, etc. She didn’t like those gifts, it makes her feel like if they had a debt with her, and they were slowly trying to pay her. Penny talked to the Help and explained that she didn’t feel comfortable receiving those gifts. The help decided not to give her more gift but spend more time with the lonely girl. That’s how Penny learned how to sew, bake, clean, fortune-telling, and cook.

 

“It’s just… it doesn’t feel right to accept it.” There was something in her throne that made Doris understand. The girl was way too noble.

 

“Well, what if I told you that I have a promotion.” Doris took out a box from the counter. “Because I wanted to get rid of that old sewing machine and other things. You get, as part of the deal, a ring and a necklace from this box.”

 

“But I can’t…”

 

“Girl, it’s part of the deal. In fact, I think you would lose because what you are offering me it more than all these things are worth together.” It wasn’t a lie. Penny offered to pay more than the sewing machine was worth. “So choose, something nice.”

 

It was clear that Penny would not get out of the store without picking something from that box. 

 

There were many kinds of rings and necklaces. Some of them look cheap like if they were from a coin machine, but others were clearly expensive like from a jewelry store. Penny’s eyes were caught by a necklace with a white opaline stone and a black ring in the shape of a spider. The spider’s legs were designed to hold her finger, and its body there were two rubies. Maybe it was dangerous to choose that specific ring, but her guts told her to choose the ring. 

 

Penny paid her new belonging as she called Stan to pick her up. She clearly needed a taxi to bring all her things to her apartment.

 

“Those are interesting choices. Do you know how to use the pendulum?”

 

Penny was surprised that someone besides her understood the meaning of a pendulum.

 

“Yes, I do. My mother taught me how to use it and how to read tarot cards. It more like a family thing, well from the Italian-Latino part at least.” 

 

Shut up.

 

“That’s nice. If you ever want to have a reading section, call me. I know a thing or two about it.”

 

Penny smiled. “It would be my pleasure, Mrs?”

 

“It’s just Doris, Doris Toomes, and you are?”

 

“Penny Parker.” She didn’t want to tell her all her names.

The taxi outside the store called Penny with its clapsone.

 

“That’s my clue. Thank you again, Mrs. Toomes.” Penny grabbed things, oh well, she tried.

 

“It’s just Doris, and let me help you.”

 

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Her dress was finished. She just needed to put it on to look up for minor details.

 

In the end, Penny decided to sew a maroon long sleeve dress with no cleavage. The dress reached her ankles and had a pretty gold ribbon on her waist, but her favorite part of the dress was the hidden pockets on the sides. Penny was proud of that dress because it was long enough to cover her up. Her bruises and scratches were gone, and her arm was almost healed at the point she didn’t need the stitches anymore. After her bath, she would take them off.

 

Penny looked herself in the mirror and thought that it was impressive how much a person can change in three months.

 

 Her hair for starters.  

 

It was wavy and reddish-brown instead of straight and blonde. Her roots were beginning to show her how her real hair was since she was a baby: red and curly. Maybe she would cut it to let it grow. Under her eyes were black circles for last night coffee. She needed makeup to cover then. Thank God, for the foundation. Her lips were dry. She needed to drink more water. And last but not least, her figure. She was thinner than three months ago. Penny could see it in her face, hands, everywhere. Maybe she needed to eat more than just oatmeal in the morning.

 

Oh, by the way, the dress was perfect.

 

Penny look her phone. Eleven twenty-six p.m.

 

She should be getting ready for bed, but she didn’t want to. Penny didn’t want to sleep just yet because of the two full cups of black coffee in her sink. There was way too much adrenaline in her body just to ignore it. She needed to get it out of her system. 

 

Penny tried to practice ballet for around an hour, but the space was too small for her. She could barely practice the basics of bar. She needed more space for turns and other movements. 

 

It seemed like Penny would have to go to bed at the end, but then she had a crazy idea. What if she went to the roof just for a little bit?

 

No, it was too risky. People could see her, but see her doing what? Dancing? As far as she knew, dancing wasn’t a crime, and this was New York. People dance in everywhere at any time, even in the public restroom. Maybe if she wore her black tights and didn’t take off her hoodie, no one would even see her. 

 

What about heard her?

 

The walls and roofs were far too thin in this building. Anyone in the upper apartments could hear her… but what if she didn’t use this roof.

 

There was an empty building three streets from her apartment. She could sneak out in the building and get on the roof without anyone seeing. If her training could give her anything, it was the still of being invisible.

 

In her mind, the plan was simple: sneak out of the building, get into the empty roof, dance a little, and go back to her apartment. 

 

The plan was simple, but it was a dumb-ass plan.  

 

“No, it’s too stupid.”

 

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The air was cold. It made her feel alive.

 

Penny was on the roof of an empty building dancing like if the world was going to end tomorrow. Her plan was crazy but not dumb-ass stupid after all. Penny really missed dance a place big enough. She missed the pirouettes, assemble, jetes, even the past of chat, her least favorite ballet move. With each movement, she felt freer and freer like if the chains that were keeping her on the ground were finally destroyed by her dance. 

 

 Jete, jete, down, up, down, jete, grand jete, down, pirouette, repeat.

 

Penny really loved to used her pointe shoes at its full potential. She knew that her feet would hurt the next day, but that was a problem for tomorrow. Right now, there was nothing that could stop her from dancing.

 

Well, there was one thing.

 

The young woman stopped abruptly when she heard the cry. It was soft and inaudible for normal people, but Penny wasn’t a normal person.

 

Penelope Antonia Teresa Margaret Parker-Rossi had a very unique set of skills that very few people in the world share with her. One of those skills included an amazing hearing range. 

 

“Help me… please…” There was again, the cry.

 

“Don’t bother to ask for help and give me the money.”

 

Penny looked down at the border of the roof. The voices came from an old man that had his hands up in the air while a man pointed a gun at him.

 

“Please, not again.” This was none of her business. She needed to go home and try to sleep.

 

“Fuck you, old man. Give me the money! Now!” and then she felt it, the goosebumps. The time suddenly stopped and she was the only one that could move. It wasn’t part of the plan her jumping from the roof of a five-floor building and land on point just on time to pull away from the gun that ended up shooting the air.

 

“What the fu...ugh!” The man was cut off by a kick on his face with Penny’s pointe shoes. The man fell on the floor. “UGH! You broke my nose!”

 

Penny punched him in the face again leaving him unconscious. “ You have bigger problems than a broken nose, buddy,” Penny said in the deepest voice that she could make. 

 

“W-who are you?” 

 

The old man was staring at her, not with fear, but in amaze. Penny was lucky that the hoodie covered her face well enough.

 

Penny took the wallet of the man with her hoodie. No fingerprints, that was a rookie mistake. The gun old the man, which was beside the wallet when on the floor, was similar to the one in the thrift store, but anyway, Penny gave the wallet back to the old man.

 

“I am no one. A guy in a pink sweater and grey shorts knock the guy when he heard you screaming, and then he ran away to get help. Did you understand?” Penny didn’t want to be hard on him, but it was necessary. 

 

“Y-yes.” The man took the wallet.

 

Sirens. 

 

There were police coming to the alley. Some neighbor must have called them.

 

“Be careful. It’s dangerous at night.” but before the man could say anything, Penny was gone.

 

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There are a few things that make Penny special.

 

  1. She could hear things that not even elephants could hear. 

 

  1. She was stronger than a hundred men together. Captain America wasn’t a match for her, but maybe Hulk would give her a good fight.

 

  1. Her fight or flight system was so sharp that made her senses sensitive at her surroundings. This was usually useful when she or other people were in danger.

 

  1. Her body could stick to different kind of surfaces. This skill was so strong that allowed Penny to climb the walls of one of the buildings on that alley even though she had her pointe shoes on.

 

  1. This was her favorite skill: jumping. Penny could jump long distances fast, high, and delicate. 

 

Jumping was Penny’s favorite skill because it was the closest thing that she would ever be to swinging. She loved the feeling of being up in the air with nothing holding her like if she hard butterflies inside her whole body. She also adored when gravity pushed her down, so she would jump back to the air. However, Penny wasn’t enjoying any of this.

 

She was running and jumping through the roofs of Queens trying to get away as far as possible from that alley. Her body was on autopilot with her apartment as the final destination while her mind saw rushing away.

 

Penny couldn’t stop thinking that she screwed up so badly. She exposed herself again. First it was the thrift store and now the alley. 

 

Why the fuck she couldn’t just keep a low profile?

 

Why couldn’t she follow the rules? 

 

Why couldn’t she be normal?

 

 Why?

 

Why?!

 

“I’m an idiot!” Penny landed on the fire stairs of her building. She took out her hoodie and tossed it inside the window of her bedroom as she sat on the stairs. 

“Why did I have to jump? Why couldn’t just mind my own business? Why couldn't I just follow the rules?!” Penny said as she buried her lad and hugged her knees.

 

There were many rules that her family had to follow in order to be a Fitzpatrick. Sometimes, those rules were specially created for a member. Some of Penny’s rules were strongly related to her ”abilities”.

 

Rule #648: Penelope Teresa shall never be out of her room at night unless she had special permission.

 

Rule # 37: Penelope Teresa shall never go outside the Fitzpatrick manor unless she is with the company of a member of the Fitzpatrick family or a security staff approved by William Fitzpatrick of his second in command.

 

Rule # 987: Penelope Tereza as a fixed bedtime according to William Fitzpatrick.

 

Rule #54: Penelope Teresa must and shall have at least one personal bodyguard when she is outside the Fitzprarick’s in other countries.

 

Rule # 5: Penelope Teresa is allowed to use her Aranea trails if, and only if, she is in imminent danger.

 

Rule #2: It's forbidden for Penelope Teresa to use her Aranea trails outside her training room or in any public space if she doesn’t have William Fitzpatrick’s blessing.

 

Penny didn't have a lot of company back at the Fitzpatrick’s. She usually spends her days on labs, dance studios, libraries, or her room alone. This isolation made Penny develop a coping mechanism. Every time that she was alone and had a dilemma, she would talk to herself.

 

“I am so stupid. I broke the rules. Grandfather is going to kill me when he finds me. He will know that I broke his rules. I don’t deserve to be a Fitzpatrick!”

 

And then it hit her.

 

You are not a Fitzpatrick. You never were, and you never will.

 

Those were the exact words of William Fitzpatrick.

 

She didn’t deserve to be a Fitzpatrick because she wasn’t a Fitzpatrick. She never was, and she never will. 

 

Therefore, if Penny wasn’t one of them, she didn’t have to follow those rules.

 

”No,” Penny let go of her knees. ”I-I didn't break the rules because those are for the Fitzpatrick’s.”

 

Penny looked up to the starless sky. “I-I didn’t break any rules. I have no rules. I don’t live with William Fitzpatrick anymore. And even if he is hunting me or not, I don’t have to live under his rules.” Maybe it was the adrenaline or the fact that she just jumped from the five-floor building, but it took a lot of guts to say that out loud. “And If I had not jumped from that building and with Mrs. Doris, they could be dead by now. I will never apologize for doing the right thing.” 

 

Penny stood up and in a delicate yet strong tone, she said. “Never again , William.” 

 

For a moment, it seen like Penny had made a big step by finally admitting that she was no longer under the dictatorship of the Fitzpatricks, but then she thought “Why if I exposed myself too much?”

 

Two robbers in Queens, both of them involved the same kind of weapons and were stopped just on time one by her and the other also by her but with a black hoodie. Penny hoped that she the old man of the alley didn’t see her face.  After the dinner, Penny would keep a low profile for a few weeks until she knew that it was safe to go out again.

 

“Just a low profile. That’s it, and why people would ever suspect about me? This is New York. There are a million of vigilantes and superheroes. I would be the last one for the police or anyone to be a suspect.” She slowly got into her room. “New York doesn’t need me. They have enough superheroes.”

 

What Penny didn’t know New York would need a new superhero. New York would need her.

 

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Around eight months ago.

 

Penny didn’t always follow the rules when she lived with the Fitzpatricks.

 

Even though she tried to follow them so religiously, Penny couldn’t always resist the temptation of breaking them. It was the idea of the excitement that could come after breaking them what incited Penny to break the rules even just a little like getting out of her room at night for five seconds just to run back to her bedroom or use her skills to climb trees in parks. However, there were times that it wasn’t that excitement what made her break the rules, but rather somebody .

 

James Fitzpatrick is Penny’s uncle. Well more like a political uncle. Williams Fitzpatrick adopted him when James was only two years old. William and the Addingtons, James’s parents, were close friends, so it was not surprising that William adopted him when his parents died in a car accident. For years, he was trained to rule the Addington clan once he was older, never treated as a member of the Fitzpatrick. James was an outsider… until he was six years old.

 

“Have you finished your homework, Doll?” James asked Penny who was reading a book lied down in her bed. The blonde’s bedtime was two hours ago, but James would let it pass this time.

 

It was counted the times that her grandfather let her leave the country, but this was an especial occasion. She had to finish her thesis to get her Ph.D. and finally graduate, but to do that, Penny needed books of aerodynamics from a library in London. The only problem was that the books were only hardcover copies and could not leave the city. So with the blessing of her grandfather, Penny went to London to finish her thesis while she stayed at James’s place.

 

“I did, Uncle James. I’m just re-reading to see if I can catch any mistakes.” Penny said without looking up.

 

Uncle James wasn’t as bad as the rest of her family. In fact, Penny would dare to say that he was her favorite relative, even though he wasn’t even her relative. They would see each other about three weeks per year, and yet he was her favorite. James was nice to her. He didn’t insult her, teased her about her weakness, or discriminated against her for being different. Uncle James was playful with her. They had a strong connection. Always telling her jokes. He also tried to be constantly in her life. Every time that she had a dance or music recital, there he was on the front row waiting for her and only for her. James was the best uncle ever even though he was only six years older than her.

 

James took away her book from her hands and hold it as high as he could because he knew that Penny would try to reach for it. 

 

“Give it back! I need it!” Penny tried to reach the book while she stood up on her tiptoes. She cursed in her mind for being so short compared to... well everybody, and it didn’t help that he was over 6 feet tall like all of his people and that she was barely 5’4 feet.

 

James smiled at the small bean. 

 

“You, my dear, need to take a break. You’ve been studying for two weeks without a single break besides sleeping and eating. You need to live more.” James said with a thick British accent.

 

“You know that I can't. Grandfather let me come her along as focus on my thesis, and you know how strict he is.” Penny still tried to get her book without any progress.

 

“Yes, I know that, but I also promised him to keep you safe and healthy, and that includes your mental health. If you don't take a break now and then, you will burn out your mind, or do you prefer to tell Father that you got sick for over studying?”

 

Penny stopped for a moment. If her Grandfather discovered that she got sick for overstudying, he would never let her visit Uncle James again.

 

“Okay, I guess I will go to bed. I’ll continue tomorrow.” Penny tried to go back to her bed, but James took her by her shoulders.

 

“Not yet, dearly. You need to take a real break besides sleeping, Let’s get fresh air.” 

 

Rule #987 was broken that night.

 

“Okay, I’ll just change my nightgown for something more casual.” She went to the closet but was stopped by James.

 

“No need. You are perfect just the way you are.”

 

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 Rule #648 and #54 were broken that night

 

The building of his flat was extremely high, which made the view priceless. Penny could see all London at night, every building, every monument, every light. There were no words to describe the view, but if Penny had to, she would say something like she was surrounded by a fairy tale forest with stars on the ground and trees made of concrete. 

 

It was paradise on Earth.

 

“Do you like it, doll?”

 

Penny let a chuckle go. “It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen in my life.”

 

James smiled. It has rare the times that he could see Penny like this: happy. The Fitzpatricks were not a good family for her, and James knew it perfectly. They locked, punished, tortured, humiliated, and terrorized her just like they did to him when he was younger. However, James could partially escape once he was old enough to be in charge of his parents’ clan. James wanted to free Penny, give her the opportunity to have a life, and made her realize that she was more than her grandmothers look alike. He wanted to help her to realise that she was perfect being herself.

 

“See that big tower with the clock in its middle?” Penny nodded. “Well, that’s the big Great Bell or more commonly known, The Big Ben.”

 

“It’s beautiful.”

 

“It is.” He smiled. “Would you like to take a closer look?”

 

“How? Do you have a telescope or binoculars?” Penny asked naively.

 

James smiled deviously. 

 

Oh no, Penny knew that smile. It was the we-are-about-to-do-something-bloody-stupid smile.

 

“No, you are nuts.”

 

“Come on! It’s just going to be a quick ride. Nothing to fear.”

 

“I can’t. It would be against the rules!”

 

The rules, those fucking rules.

 

“It wouldn’t. You will not use your skills. I will do the job.” Japes stood up at the border of the building. “Do you trust me ?”

 

Did she trust him? Yes, he was one of the few people that Penny could actually true.

 

“Of course, I do! With all life.”

 

That all that James needed to hear. He tied his jacket around his waist, tossed his shoes away, and took off his t-shirt to tied it on his jacket. If Penny wasn’t used to what was about to happen, she would be terrorized. James’ body twisted and convulsed as two extra pair of arms grown in his torso. When he stopped moving, James body changed completely. He was taller, almost eight feet tall. Under his eyes, there were six small black eyes. His six hands had long sharp claws.

 

If Penny felt small before, now she felt like she was an ant in front of a giraffe.

 

“You kept your mouth normal.”

 

Usually, when people like him transformed, they changed their mouths in a spider-like way.

 

“I don’t quite like it. It’s difficult to talk when I have my mouth split in two.” James offered her one of his six hands. “Are you ready?”

 

Penny looked unsure. “Am I going to regret this?”

 

James smiled. “As long as Father doesn’t know it, we will be fine.”

 

Heck, why not?

 

Penny took his hand just to be pulled up in the air and end up being carried in bridal style by two of his arms. James was careful not to use too much force or accidentally scratched her with his claws.

 

“You ready?”

 

“Yes.”

 

And without any hesitation, James jumped from the building.

 

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They were swinging.

 

Well, James was swinging while Penny was held tightly against his chest, but that didn’t make this less spectacular. James shot webs from his free upper wrists making them jump and fall in the air. He occasionally landed on the top of buildings just to jump higher in the air. In fact, this was the second time that he took her for a ‘ride’ like this. The first time that they swing was in Mexico City when, during a party, the Fitzpatricks were under attack. James took the teenager just before one of the bombs exploded in front of Penny. They jumped from the skyscraper and began to swing to the safe house of the Fitzpratricks.

 

This time was different. There was no one chasing them, no one who wanted to hurt them. Penny felt free as if her body was made of air because there was no fear inside of her. This feeling was unique and rare in her life: the feeling of being cared. James made her feel safe as if she was with her true family.

 

James landed on the balcony of the Big Ben and carefully helped her to stand up.

 

Penny giggled as she tried to fix her hair. “That was fantastic! It was like, It was like…” She couldn’t find the right words.

 

“Like if you were flying .” James interrupted her as he retrieved his four extra arms and eyes. He finally put his t-shirt back on.

 

“Yes! But better!” 

 

Penny felt how the adrenaline was running through her body. It was exciting, unique, and special, but that feeling went away when she saw the lights.

 

“Wow.” Penny let go softly.

 

 If London was beautiful from James’ apartment, the view from Big Ben was stunning. Her sight range was amplified, which made every light even more bright and charming, but the ninety-six meters made her surroundings more freezing. The cold wind made her shiver even though she tried so hard not to. James noticed this and took untied his jacket to put it over her nightgown. 

 

Penny smiled at the kind act. “Thank you.”

 

They stayed in silence for a while admiring London’s light. It was nice as if she was on a fairy tale book from the private library of her grandfather.

 

“Uncle James, can I ask you something?” Penny asked. 

 

“You just did.” He mocked her, and she jogged him.

 

“I’m serious.” She said smiling. 

 

“I know.” he patted her head at what she back away. “You know that you can ask me whatever you want.”

 

Penny signed. “Why are you so nice to me? I am not complaining, but Why do you treat me better than my own family does?”

 

She finally answered the question that frightened James so much.

 

Why did he care about her so much?

 

He told himself since he was six that it was because she was like him: an outsider in the Fitzpatrick family, but maybe there was a reason beyond that simply explanation.

 

James looked at her. “I guess when I see how the Fitzpatricks treats you , I see myself but worse.”

 

Penny let a chuck go. “Wow, that is so nice.”

 

“Okay, I admit that could have gone better, but what I’m trying to say is that  you and I are not so different.”

 

Penny gave him an incredulous look. “How come? You can literally transform in an eight-foot spider, and I barely can put out blades from my wrists.”

 

“First of all, the fact that your skills are different from mine doesn’t make you less of a spider than I am. Second, What I mean is that your life is hard like mine in a different-similar way.”

 

Penny looked blank. 

 

“I am not gonna lie to you. I don’t understand you.”

 

James signed. “It’s like this. We are both treated like poxies by those arses as if we were inferior to them, but the difference between you and me is that I could somehow escape that family of bloody buggers. You, for the other side, don’t have too many options. You have no freedom, Doll. It’s not fair for you.” James held her hand. “That’s why I treat you like I do, not with pity but as an equal.”

 

Penny felt how her eyes water as she leaned her face on his arm and loosely hug him. James without hesitation returned the hug. Even though they were close, James didn't use this kind of affection coming from Penny. Soon he realized that she was weeping.

 

“Hey, it’s okay.”

 

“No, it’s not!” Penny hid her face of his belly. She was too short to reach his chest or shoulder.

 

“Yes, it is. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I came up with an idea to help you. You could move here with me and work in the scientific division that Father and I opened a year ago once you get your Ph.D. We could live together , and I promise you that will treat you better than those bloody idiots.”

 

Penny hugged him tighter. “That-that is not gonna work. Grandfather will never approve it.”

 

“I will talk to him. I’ll tell him the benefits of having you in England. You are a brilliant genius. The science divisions would be strongly beneficial by you, and besides, here in London, there are houses of ballet. You would easily be accepted by all of them and put Father’s in such glory.” Penny put out her face from his belly, and he cleaned some of her tears.

 

“We will never accept. He already has other plans for me.”

 

Other plans?

 

“What do you mean?”

 

It hurt James to see Penny broken and so lost in sadness. 

 

“I heard rumors about Grandfather looking a husband for me.” More tears fell from her eyes. “So, in my -- in my goodbye dinner with Grandfather, I asked him if those rumors… if those rumors were true.” her voice faded with each word, “and he… and he said yes. He said that he was, in fact, looking for a husband for me, so when I turn out nineteen, I… I will be marry like, like Nonna Tereza.”

 

Speechless, James was speechless. He knew that William would marry Penny away when she was on age, but he always thought that it would be when Penny was older like twenty-six years not when she was barely becoming a woman. 

 

“It just so unfair! Why? Why the rest of the family gets to, gets to choose when and with who they get mary.” She was hurt, and angry, and so sad. “Why everybody else gets to choose while I get nothing but a marriage with a stranger !” Penny shootout to London.

 

Her legs began to tremble as she cried even harder. She didn’t when she fell on her knees and began to sob, or when James kneeled to hug her. It was just too much for her.

 

She slowly hid her face on his chest as he tightly hugged her. 

 

James wouldn’t let Penny suffer anymore. He would help her to be finally free, even if it meant that he had to lose her.

 

That night the only rule that all the Fitzpatricks shares were broken, Rule #1.

 

Rule#1: no member of the Fitzpatricks will defy William Fitzpatrick or his wife, Tereza Fitzpatrick Rossi.










Chapter Text

“My turkey is raw just how I like it. How is your chicken? Teresita.” William asked her as he took another bite of the raw meat on his plate.

 

Something curious about the Aranea people is that they can eat raw meats without any negative consequences. All Aranea people except Penny, who was eating a plate of well-cooked pechuga rellena.

 

“It’s well cooked. There is not a slice of single raw meat in the chicken.” Penny took another bite.

 

“Good.”

 

It was the day before Penny went to London to work on her thesis, and William prepared a private dinner before she parted away (and by prepared he meant to order the Help to cook the favorite dinner of her late wife). Even though Penny was used to dining with her grandfather and have a little bit of control over her nerves, Penny was about to have a mental breakdown.

 

She had been hearing rumors about a wedding, her future wedding. Apparently, somebody told somebody that somebody had told them that they heard William Fitzpatrick talk with her only daughter, Penny’s mother, about possible candidates that could be the future husband of Penny. 

 

The idea of marriage didn’t thrill Penny. 

 

In her family, marriage was an arranged contract between families to ensure future generations. There was nothing romantic or magic about marriage in her family. All the marriages of her uncles, cousins, and even her own mother and father were loveless compromises. The positive side of arranged marriage is that not a single divorced had happened in the history of her family. The only romance she knew was the one between Nonna Tereza and Grandfather. They didn’t have an arranged marriage to the benefit of their family. In fact, Nonna Tereza was an orphan who didn’t come from a wealthy family when they met. Gosh! She couldn’t even transform into a spider-like he could. Their marriage wasn’t beneficial to the Fitzpatrick, but it was beneficial for her grandparents. William Fitzpatrick was deeply in love with that beautiful Italian-Latina nurse that hit him so hard with a rock the first time they met, and Tereza Rossi, a nobody, loved that hopeless romantic that charmed her with his words and promises. 

 

Oh, yes, they were they had what many could only dream of.

 

Penny knew that someday her grandfather would find her husband not to give her the opportunity of a romance like he and her nonna had, but to secure that she survived when he was gone. However, she never thought that it would be so soon. She just wasn’t ready to start thinking about marriage, so Penny needed to know if those rumors were real. This diner was her last chance to ask him before her trip to London. 

 

They ate their dinner in silence as always. Once the dessert, which she baked, arrived, Penny was ready to talk to him, or at least, she was less nervous. 

 

“Grandfather.” She spoke first, she never spoke first. “Thank you for allowing my trip to London. I will not disappoint you, and I’ll follow your rules and Uncle James’.”

 

Her grandfather took a bit of the delicious chocolate cake. Penny knew it was his favorite. “I know will, Teresita, but I want to remind you that this is a business trip, not a pleasure vacation. You will only leave James’ apartment to go to school and nowhere else. You are not allowed to go out alone or talk with strangers. Even though you will be staying at James’ apartment, you will follow my rules, and remember, I will only allow you to stay a month, so don’t waste your time because I will not let you stay more than a month.”

 

“Yes, Grandfather. I will follow every single one of your rules.” 

 

They stayed in silence for a while. One part of Penny wanted to stay like this, say nothing, end their dinner, and be excused like any other dinner, but this was the moment. If she didn’t act now, she would never ask.”

 

“Grandfather.”

 

“Teresita.” 

 

Penny tensed. It wasn’t respectful to talk at the same time that her grandfather, but surprisingly, her grandfather didn’t look mad.

 

“Talk. I will allow you to go first.” He never let her speak first.

 

Okay, this is it. She can do this. 

 

“Grandfather, I know that I am not supposed to believe everything that people saw around, but there is something disturbed me, not in a bad way but also not in a good way either. That’s why I wanted to ask you first before drawing any conclusion, and maybe it just a gossip spreading around because it is important to make sure something before…” but Penny was interrupted by the serious look of William.

 

“Teresa, go to the point.”

 

“Yes, sure, sorry for babbling… What I am trying to say is that I have been hearing rumors about marriage, my future marriage.”

 

William took a sip of his wine and amused he said. “You need to be more specific, Teresita. What are they saying you.”

 

Penny didn’t know if it was a good signal that he didn’t seem surprised by her comment.

 

“They… Well, they are not only talking about me. They talk about you and Mother too.” She had to take a huge sip of wine to continue. “Apparently, you and mother began looking for a husband for me, which is odd because I am so young, naive, and I haven’t finished my career. I am not ready to be a good wife and put up your name… Grandfather?”

 

He wasn’t mad, but he wasn’t happy either. His face showed something that Penny never had seen in his face: sadness and resignation.

 

“Grandfather?...”Penny asked again confirming her worst fear.

 

William poured more wine in Penny’s glass. He had never allowed her to drink this much wine in her life.

 

“Drink and listen.” Penny did what she said. The wine burned her tongue and throat as it made her head dizzy.

 

“I wanted to do this after you got back from London, but I guess the sooner you know about it, the sooner you will assimilate it.”

 

Penny took another sip of her glass.

 

“The rumors are in fact true. I had a talk with Mary, and we both think that you are becoming a beautiful woman like Nonna Tereza. You remind me so much of her, and because you are delicate like her, your mother and I decided that you are in an age to have a fiance.”

 

Penny almost choked with the wine. 

 

William put a hand on her shoulder. “You okay?”

 

“I… no…. You… Mother-- Fiance?!” Penny let go, and William couldn't help but think about how alike Penny was to Tereza. They both babbled a lot.

 

“I know it’s abrupt news, but you have to understand that I will not always be there to protect you. I am not getting any younger, and I want died knowing that you are married to a good man that will protect you, take care of you, and love you as I did to your Nonna”

 

Take care of you...

 

Protect you…

 

Love you…

 

Penny knew that this moment was coming, but it was too soon. God, she was crying silent tears in front of her grandfather. How pathetic.

 

“Don’t worry. You will not marry a stranger. Once you finish your Ph.D., I will give you a year to get to know your fiance before you marry him.”

 

A year?! That was not enough. It wasn’t. She wanted to throughout.

 

Her head was ringing like she if there was million of bells hitting each again each other. The whole room began shaking as if there was an earthquake in the dining room. She looked at her grandfather. His face was blank and keep saying the word “year”. Strong hits joined to the bells. It was insufferable ringing. 

 

“Stop… stop... “ she murmured until she felt how her blood burned.

 

“Stop” Penny murmured as her body fell from her bed falling on her floor.

 

Her whole body was heavy as a mountain. Penny couldn’t move a single muscle of her body. She felt so impotent and vulnerable . Usually, it took her just a few moments to calm her down after a nightmare but this time it was different. This memory of the beginning of her real-life nightmare terrorized her at the point of being paralyzed for several minutes. Slowly, Penny tried to focus on the source of the sound. The bells came from the alarm of her new phone. After basically drag her body on the floor, Penny could finally turn off the alarm. 

 

10:34 A.M.

 

Shit, she overslept. 

 

The fucking snooze button was an invention of the devil.

 

Penny stood up and put on her housecoat and went to the kitchen. Her feet were hurt and sensitive like if she was walking over needles. Maybe landing on pointe from a five-floor building wasn’t her best idea. However there was nothing that food and a hot bath wouldn't fix, but water first, her mouth felt like a sanding sheet, and her lips were straight-up dry.

 

Even though it wasn’t her worst nightmare so far, Penny felt more nervous than normal. Penny felt so anxious that it took many tries before she could pour water in her glass. The voice of her grandfather was still imprinted in her mind like an open wound, but she needed to calm down. 

 

Penny couldn’t let him control her. 

 

Not anymore.

 

After Penny drank five glasses of water, she began to cook eggs and bacon. It was time for her to eat something other than oatmeal. She made about four eggs and half of the packet of bacon. Her diet needed to increase in carbohydrates immediately if she didn’t want to end like a toothpick. Once, Penny put her food on the table and washed her dishes, she finally was ready to eat, but when she was about to take a bite, somebody knocked on her front door.

 

Knock

 

Knock 

 

“This is the NYPD. Miss Parker, we want to ask you some questions.”

 

“NYPD? Please, don’t be about yesterday” Penny murmured as she went to open the door and fixed her housecoat to cover her more.

 

They knocked again. 

 

“NYPD, please open the door.”

 

Penny look through the door viewer to find detective Santiago and another cop with a name tag that said Davis from the night of the robbery. Penny put her best smile and opened the door. They may suspect if she didn’t.  

 

“Good morning, Detective Santiago and... Officer. What brings you here?” Penny asked trying to sound normal but ending sounding tired.

 

The officers seemed to relax a little bit when they saw her. 

 

“Good Morning, Miss Penelope. This is my partner Detective Davis from precinct 45 in Brooklin.” Penny offered him her hand to shake, and he accepted it. “We wonder if we could ask you some questions.” 

 

Penny leaned against the frame of the door. “May I ask about what?” 

 

“Today, there was a mugger around three streets from here, and we want to know if you know something about it,” Davis asked.

 

Penny acted surprised. “There was a mugger?

 

Good, act like if she didn’t know about the mugger.

 

“Yes, I know that this may seem strange, but we want to make you some questions.” Santiago insisted. He was so persistent.

 

It was best if she just told them what they wanted to hear. That the best way to get rip of people with power was to make them think they won.

 

“Okay… but I don’t think I will not be so much help. Would you like to come in? My neighbors like to gossip. Gossiping is their favorite hobby.” The two detectives agreed in silence and came into the apartment.

 

As they sit on her kitchen table, the detective examined her house. The place looked clean almost flawless, which was weird considering that a teenager lived there. There weren't too many personal objects like photos or things that brought life and joy to the place, the only thing that gave personality to the apartment was the sewing machine and the mannequin in the living room. 

 

“I was waiting for some friends to have lunch, but they cancel me at the last minute. Would you care for a plate of bacon and eggs? I made so much,  or perhaps, would you like a cup of coffee?” Penny asked as she put out two extra plated. The detectives noticed that the girl was shaking a little bit.

 

“No, thank you. Miss Parker, We could really want to start asking you those questions.” Detective Santiago said in a serious tone.

 

Penny put the plates back at the cabinet and then sat down with so much difficulty.

 

“Okay… So what do you want to ask?” Penny said trying to be polite.

 

Detective Davis put out a pocket notebook. “Where were you today at 1:48 a.m.?”

 

“Here, in my apartment.” Penny pointed to her front door with her good arm. “I haven’t got out that door since I came here around 8:30 p.m. You can ask my land day. She gave me a copy of my apartment after I lost mine.” In theory, she wasn't lying. She hasn't gone out from the front door. She got out from the window of her apartment.

 

The Detectives seemed to like her answer. They had have interrogated her landlady before they talked to Penny. 

 

“What were you doing?” Detective Santiago asked.

 

None of your business. 

 

“I was finished that dress that is in the living room. I have a dinner tonight and I want to use something pretty.” Penny pointed at her dress.

 

“Have you been in contact with Doris Toomes, the owner of the thrift store where you were shot, since the incident?” 

 

“Yes. I saw Miss Doris yesterday. I wanted to make sure that she was okay, so I went to her shop to give her a bouquet of sunflowers. I ended up buying a sewing machine and some fabric. I have the ticket if you wanna see it.”

 

Davis nodded his head. “It’s not necessary.”

 

“Have a talk with someone about the robbery with anyone?”

 

“No, I just talk about it with my aunt and his fiance, the people that picked me up at the precinct.”

 

“Do they live with you?” Davis asked. 

 

“No, they live in their own apartment. I didn’t want to invade their space when I moved to New York, so I rented my own apartment.” Again, not a total lie.

 

“How is your arm?” Detective Santiago pointed at her arm.

 

Her arm was fully healed by now. She took the stitches before she went to sleep, but they don’t know that. The detectives must believe that her arm was still delicate due to the shot. 

 

Penny carefully touched her left arm over her housecoat. “I’m… I’m getting better. I can’t raise my arm, and it hurts from time to time, but at least, it doesn’t bleed out. I’m thankful that I am right-handed. Thank you for asking.” 

 

Apparently, her answer was enough for Davis, but Detective Santiago seemed to have his doubts. 

 

“Would you mind if you show us your wound?” Detective Davis look at his partner with what-the-fuck-man!-She-is-a-teenager! Look after he asked that question.

 

Penny fixed her housecoat to cover her more. She clearly wasn’t comfortable with that question. It wasn’t just the fact that taking her housecoat would expose her healed arm, but it would expose her. Penny never felt comfortable showing too much skin, and even though her nightgown reached her ankles and fully covered her collarbone and shoulders, she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being in her pajamas in front of people, even if they were cops.

 

“Um, I would rather not.” Penny met the glance of the Detectives. “I’m sure you understand.”

 

Detective Santiago seemed to understand. “Of course. Just one final question. What happened to your feet?”

 

Her feet? Oh, God! She forgot to cover her feet!

 

Her feet were covered in purple, black, and green bruises for lading on pointe. 

 

“I had a little accident cleaning my apartment a few days ago. A heavy box fell on my feet. I gotta tell you. It was no fun at all.” Penny said as she tried to joke. The detective didn’t laugh. Instead, stood up from the table and walked to the front door with Penny.

 

“Well, that would be all, Miss Penelope. Thank you for your time.” Detective Santiago said as they shake hands. 

 

“I was my pleasure. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.” Penny said as she opened the front door. The officers got out of her apartment.

 

“You were actually great to help, and…” Detective Davis gave her his card. “If you ever are in need or see anything unusual, feel free to call me.”

 

Penny looked at the card. It was a nice gesture… or at least it seemed.

 

“Thank you, detective.”

 

The detectives said goodbye to Penny and left the apartment as Penny locked her door.

 

“Are you happy now?” Detective Davis said as he pushed the elevator button. “She is clearly not our guy.”

 

Both detectives were following a lead to the provider of new weapons based on alien technology. After hours of nothing, the base called through radio and told them that there was a shot besides an abandoned building a street from where they were. When they arrived at the alley, there was an unconscious man with his nose broken and an old man shaking and holding his wallet close to his chest. 

 

While Davis called for backup and an ambulance, Santiago tried to talk with the old man. After a few moments, the old man was able to speak.

 

“Sir, what happened here?” Santiago asked.

 

The old man still shaking said, “I-I was walking home when that man o-on the floor pushed me to this alley and tried to mug me with that gun.” The old man pointed at a gun with a strange design lying on the floor. Santiago could recognize that type of gun everywhere. It was the weapons that Davis and he were looking for. “If… If it wasn’t for them, I would… I would be dead by now.”

 

Santiago looked at him. “Them?”

 

The old man nodded. “Yes. A person… they landed behind the man that tried to mob me and knocked him out with a single kick… They gave me back my wallet and told me to tell you that they were a young man in pink shorts, but I-I can’t lie, not to an officer at least.”

 

“How did they look?”

 

“I couldn't see their face. It was… it was too dark, but they had a big black hoodie and those strange pick shoes that ballerinas use…”

 

“Pointe shoes?”

 

“Yes! Pointe shoes. Their voice was deep and broke a little.”

 

Pointe shoes were used by ballet dancers. Their guy used ballet shoes where did he hear about ballet before? And then it clicked. The Parker girl from the thrift store. Back at the precinct, Detective Santiago searched up and discovered that she lived three streets from the alley. It was just too much coincidence that both people shared location and skills. When his partner, Detective Davis, heard about his theory, he laughed at the idea that a little girl that was shot could manage to jump from a building and stop another robbery, but he knew Santiago. His partner would not let go of this theory until they talked to the girl. Davis was happy his partner’s theory was wrong. It didn’t make him happy that the girl was hurt and weak, but the fact that she couldn’t be a suspect anymore made his day. 

 

“I have to admit that she doesn't seem like our guy,” The detective entered the elevator, “but…”

 

“Wow, wow, wow. There is not but in this case. The girl it’s too fragile to be a vigilante right now.”

 

Detective Santiago stopped the elevator.

 

“What are you doing?” asked Davis.

 

“She said that she bought a sewing machine and the fabric yesterday to make that dress.”

 

“And?”

 

“My mom did all my sister dresses, which means that she also teched me how to make dresses. I know that that dress had a difficult pattern, meaning that she had to use her two arms to finish that dress in less than twenty-four hours. She told us that she couldn’t lift her left arm. How could she finished the dress with only one arm and no help without help?”

 

Damn , that was a hell of a deduction.

 

“Well, maybe she had already begun that dress, days before.” 

 

“Not possible. Doris Toomes told me that Penelope was in that thrift store because she only had uniforms, no normal clothes, no fabric, no sewing machine.” Santiago’s face was dead serious. “Did you see her feet?”

 

“She told us she had an accident days ago.”

 

Detective Santiago put his phone to show him a video. 

 

“What do you see here.”

 

Davis look at the phone. It was the tapes precinct the day of the robbery. 

 

“Why do you have those tapes?” Davis was certainly intrigued for his unusual partner’s behavior.

 

“Just answer the question.”

 

Davis looked at the phone again. “It’s the girl, walking to your desk.”

 

“Look at how she is walking.”

 

“She is… she is walking normally.” and then it hit him.

 

“Exactly, she told us she dropped a box on her feet a few days ago, so why she isn’t limping in the video like she was in her apartment moments ago?”

 

How? Indeed.

 

“Maybe she lied. Maybe she got hurt after she got out of the precinct.”

 

“Or maybe she got hurt after she jumped from that empty building on her ballet shoes, which she had beside her sewing machine.”

 

Davis said nothing. His partner had a strong theory. He had the reasons and evidence.

 

“What about her arm. She couldn’t even move it. You saw it back at the precinct how bad was it when she was shot. You had to order two officers to take her to the medic center because she didn’t want to go. How do you explain that?”

 

Detective Santiago didn’t have an explanation for that. 

 

“See? Hey, I know that we are not having so much luck with this case, but don’t try to make it any bigger searching for a new vigilante. We already have a new guy in custody, and once he wakes up, we are going to be a step closer to find that weapon dealer.”

 

Maybe Davis was right. Maybe he was too stressed out about this case that he began looking for answers where there weren’t even questions. Santiago pushed a button, and the elevator worked again.

 

“Maybe, you are right, but even if Parker girl has nothing to do with the mugger, she may be in danger.”

 

“Danger?”

 

“If the whole neighborhood knows that she was the person who stopped the robbery, people that now the dealer of the guy may want to hurt her for revenge.”

 

It wasn’t uncommon that people that did good things like stop robberies were targeted for people that wanted that robbery to happen. Penelope could be one of those targets. 

 

“Do you want to come back and suggest her to stay at her aunt’s place for a few weeks?” Davis asked as they got out of the apartment.

 

“No, you heard her. She didn’t want to stay at her aunt’s, and if Penelope wanted to stay at her aunt’s, she would be there by now.” 

 

“So what do we do,” Davis asked as they got into his car.

 

“You are going to be in Queen’s until we finish this case, so it is possible that we meet her from time to time. This neighborhood is not as big as others if you know what I mean.”

 

And Davis knew what he meant. They would keep taps in the girl until all they got the main dealer.

 

“I get what you are saying, Jake.”

 

Santigo smiled. “Good, now get the car going. We have a lot to do, Jefferson.”

 

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Penny was almost ready to go to her diner.

 

Her feet didn’t hurt anymore thanks to the bath with salts that she took after she baked cupcakes of upside-down pineapple. Penny believed that it was rude came to dinner with her hands empty. She had her dress and a cardigan on, and she also had bandages where she supposed to have wounds. It was never bad to be precautious. She put a bit of makeup to hide the bags under her eyes and bring life to her face. Her hair just needed to be fixed. Penny opted for a classic yet simple hairstyle. It was a low bun with her messy bangs separated in two. 

 

Now, it was official. 

 

She was ready for that dinner.

 

Somebody knocked at her front door, and Penny looked at the clock. Seven p.m. It must be Mister Hogan that was going to pick her up.

 

Penny took her purse and the cupcakes to finally open the door, and there he was, Mister Hogan looking sharp as ever with his black suit and his face of few friends.

 

“Hello, Mister Hogan. How are you doing?” Penny said to him as she tried to shake his hand with her ‘bad’. Happy delicately shake her hand. His face seemed tense. His arms were crossed, and his posture was clearly not relaxed.

 

“I'm fine. Let’s go.” Happy grabbed the plate where she kept the cupcakes and her purse and started walking. Penny thought that Mister Hogan was in a bad mood and didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he was hungry and needed some food. She should offer him a cupcake in the car.

 

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“What are you doing?” Happy said as Penny sat in the front seat with him.

 

“Putting the sit bell on? It’s quite illegal to be a car in movement if the passengers don't wear it.” Penny said as she put her seatbelt on. 

 

“I don’t mean that. You should go in the back.” Happy said pointing the back seats.

 

“Why?”

 

That girl has guts. Happy thought. 

 

“Because I am the driver, and you are the passenger.”

 

“And? You are not a taxi nor a uber driver. It would be rude if I left you alone in the front.”

 

This girl was weird, polite weird, but at the same time smartass. She kind of reminded him of Tony and Pepper.

 

“If it helps, I promise not to say a word until we arrive.”

 

It pleased Happy to hear that. He, in fact, was having a rough day, and the last thing he wanted was to hear people non stop babbling. Happy didn’t discuss any further and let the girl stay in the front seat. It was going to be a long trip.

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It resulted that it wasn’t a long trip after all. 

 

As she promised, Penny didn’t say a word during the ride. Happy and she tried to avoid any eye contact. Instead, Penny looked through her window to the beautiful New York. Goodness, she needed to explore the city more offer because it was a true marvel. She contemplated the city in silence. There were an infinite quantity of buildings. They were quite nice. Even the weather was pretty. There were a few grey clouds in the sky, but it was unlikely that it was gonna rain. Once they got inside of the private garage of Mister Stark, Penny started talking again.

 

“So, are you ready for dinner?” Penny said while they were still in the car. 

 

“I’m not going to be at dinner.” Happy said in plain one. Penny was surprised at this revelation. “I have to pick up Pepper and Tony from a meeting, bring them here, run some errands, and then go home with my girlfriend.”

 

Well, at least he won't be alone. Penny thought.

 

“Oh, well, if you’re not going to be here for dinner,” Penny put out a cupcake from her plate. “At least have a cupcake and one for your girlfriend. I baked them. I hope you or your girlfriend are not allergic to pineapple or gluten.”

 

Happy took the cupcake fight back a smile.

 

“Thank you… Tony told me that they would be late. You can go to Penthouse and relax in the meanwhile. The elevator is passing the second garage. If you get lost, just ask FRIDAY.” Happy passed gave her the bag and the plate. Penny smiled and said goodbye to Happy as she got out of the car.

 

Once Penny got out of the garage, Happy look at the cupcakes and let go a chuckle. “That girl, it’s really something .”

 

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Penny wasn’t lost. She was just exploring without knowing where she was. 

 

This place was gigantic, a true maze. She wanted to ask FRIDAY for direction, but she wanted first to see if she could get to the penthouse by her own.

 

She didn’t.

 

“Hello, FRIDAY. It’s me, Penny, the girl that called you god.” Penny said looking at the roof.

 

“Hello, Penny. I do remember you. In what can I assist you?” The voice of FRIDAY appeared from nowhere.

 

“I… um…. I am supposed to go to the penthouse and wait for Mister Stark and Miss Pepper, but I have no idea where I am. Can you give me some directions to go there?” Penny asked.

 

“Of course, Penny! You just need to go through the door at your left and then you will find an elevator. If you want, I want to set the elevator to get you directly to the penthouse.” FRIDAY responded happily.

 

Penny hugged the wall. “Thank you, FRIDAY!” 

 

Penny walked through the door on her left just to face the place of her dreams. It was a workshop, the biggest workshop that she has ever seen in her life. It had at least twenty collection cars, traditional tools, and the latest tools and holographic materials. It was just… Awesome.

 

“Wow.” Penny gasped as she saw the place. She took a close look at the place. Maybe it was the only time that she would be there. The cars were pretty, but what really caught Penny’s attention was the motorcycle in the middle of the workshop. She put the plate and the purse far away from the motorcycle to look at it closer. It was a 1942 Harley-Davison in a perfect stage. This kind of motorcycle was so rare that to find one it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Maybe Mister Star was changing its oil before he went to his meeting. That would explain the bucket with oil beside the motorcycle. 

 

Penny touched delicately the handle with the point of her finger like if the motorcycle would disarm for her touch.

 

“Do ya like it?” a voice of a young man said directly to her ear, making her lose her equilibrium and almost fall to the oily floor; however she didn’t fall because two strong hands hold her tiny waist. 

 

Still holding onto the person that saved her, Penny said, “I’m so sorry! It wasn’t my intention to… it’s you…”

 

In front of her and still holding her up was the cute boy from the elevator in Stark’s Industries. He had a smile of mischief and picardy on her face. 

 

“Hey, good lookin’. I think you just fell for me.” The boy with golden hair said as she helped her to stand up properly.

 

“More like you made me fall,” Penny said as she let go of him.

 

“For me.” The boy added, and Penny rolled her eyes.

 

“I gotta be honest. I didn’t expect you to be here, I’m happy that you’re the girl that Tony and Pepper don’t stop to talk about since they came back from the Avengers Compound and not a goodie two shoes hoity toity.” 

 

Miss Pepper and Mister Stark talked about her? Wait why this guy was there? And then it hit her.

 

The math was simple. Mister Stark and Miss Pepper lived with an inter. The cute elevator boy was an intern. The boy was in front of her and was covered in oil most probably from the motorcycle. Harley lived with Mister Stark and will dine with her.

 

“You are the intern that lives with Mister Stark,” Penny said in a surprised tone.

 

“Wow, The intern? I thought Tony would actually use my name. Because for your information, Tony and I are connected.”

 

“Oh, he did use your name, I just didn’t care to remember it when we meet.”

 

The golden boy made a fake-distressed movement with his head as he was just told that she was good for nothing. “Ugh!… That hurt really bad, Doll, and I naively thought that we could be a good team. Oh, bless my heart!” 

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. What I mean is that I didn’t think it was necessary to learn your name because I would never see you again.”

 

“So, you didn’t want to learn my name because you didn't wanna make yourself the illusion to have a date with me? Aww, Doll, I gotta say that’s kinda sweet of you.” Harley said in a flirty tone as Penny rolled her eyes again.

 

“Don’t call me Doll.” The only person that could call her that was long gone. “You’re being such a drama queen because I couldn’t remember your name, but I am sure that you, golden boy, don’t even remember my name.”

 

Ha! She got him there, or did she?

 

“How can I remember all your names If you have like a hundred of ‘em, but I remember one of them, Antonia, AKA Tony.”

 

Shit, the boy remembered one of her names, and she had no idea what was his name.

 

“We’re gonna have so much fun at the diner when Tony and Pepper come back, Doll.” He said as she just signed. “We can even take a ride in my motorcycle of your want.” He pointed at his motorcycle.

 

Penny look intrigued. “That 1942 Harley-Davison is yours?” Penny asked as she looked at the fine machine.

 

Harley opened his mouth to answer, but before he could even say anything, a familiar voice interrupted her.

 

“No, that’s not his motorcycle, it’s Captain America’s.” Walking into the room was Tony Stark holding two bags of taking away food. “Don’t let him confuse you, Penny. He is a sweet talker, and you,” Tony pointed at Harley, “you suppose to take a shower while Pepper and I were gone, no change the oil of Steve’s bike and cover her in oil.” 

 

“In my defense, I was about to take a shower when she appeared, and second if she is covered in oil is because I caught her before she could fell on the floor. It ain't my fault that I was covered in oil when that happened.” Harley tried to excuse himself.

 

Wait, did he said Penny covered in oil?

 

Penny look her dress. It was covered in oil for when Harley catch her before she fell.

 

“Oh man! I just sew this dress. It’s ruined…” Penny said as she tried to see how bad her dress really was. It was bad, really bad. Penny face changed immediately, it looked like she wanted to cry. Her feet hurt; her dress was a disaster, and she was just so tired, but no, she would not cry for a dress. This wasn’t worthy of her tears. She would be strong and get over this.

 

“Mister Stark would you mind if I can use your restroom to see if I can clean this mess?” Penny asked trying to look strong, but her voice was too fragile and thin.

 

“Sure, Penny. Just go to the elevator, and FRIDAY will take there.” Penny nodded as she took her purse and went directly to the elevator leaving the men looking at the elevator.

 

“I guess you made a good first impression,” Tony said to the golden boy.

 

“More like a second first impression,” Harley said as he cleaned his face with a towel.

 

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Penny had to take off her dress to clean it with the wipes that she had in her bag. It was a good idea that she decided to wear a black short and gray camisole under her dress because if she decided only to use the short, she would have felt so uncomfortable. Even though that Harley guy was responsible for this mess, Penny didn’t blame him because, if it wasn’t for him, she would be covered more deeply in oil. 

 

 Penny tried to clean the dress the most she could, but it was hopeless. The stains were stuck on the fabric, not only that, the smell of oil was imprinted on the dress. Penny couldn't wear this at the dinner. It would be so rude of her to be at dinner only on short and camisole. 

 

“How can I get out of this?” Penny asked her reflection on the pretty mirror of the bathroom, which was three times bigger than her room back to her apartment. 

 

And then as if some superior force had heard her, somebody knocked on the door of the bathroom. 

 

“Penny, are you okay? It’s me, Pepper.” The superior force, herself. 

 

She didn’t care that she was in her sleepwear (Pepper has seen her in worse situations.). She was desperate, so Penny quickly opened the door, and Pepper got inside the bathroom as she closed the door.

 

“Hey, Miss Pepper. It is good to see you.” Penny said as she tried to look like is she wasn’t distressed at all, but she was.

 

Pepper look at the teenager and the ruined dress on the sink. 

 

“It is good to see you too. Tony told me that you had a little incident in the workshop.” Pepper put her hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

 

It felt weird that somebody kept asking if she was okay. She just wasn’t used to it.

 

“I’m fine. It’s just that my dress and my cardigan are covered in oil, and I saw that Mister Stark had already diner made, so I don’t think we could reschedule the diner. I mean, I could eat with these clothes on, but I don’t think it would be proper to be like this in front of them. It’s just not the correct attire, and I… I am babbling, am I?” Pepper just smiled and nodded. “Sorry, I guess. I’m a little upset that my dress got stained. I just end it yesterday.”

 

All that Penny made, her inventions, clothes, even the things that she baked were what made Penny proud of herself. Growing up surrounded by people that always made her feel inferior made Penny search self-steen on her accomplishment, so seeing her dress, the first thing that she made in New York because she wants to make it (not because somebody told her to make it.), made her sad, and Pepper could see that.

 

“You know, I can send your dress to the dry cleaner. They would give it to you tomorrow, and in the meanwhile, I can lend you a dress. I think we are the same size. Would you like that?” Pepper asked her in a way that he didn't often hear often: nursing.

 

“I-I don’t want to be a problem.” 

 

“You are never a problem.” Pepper took her dress. “I’ll be back with a dress, any preferences? Color?”

 

It was nice to have options.

 

“Can it be… can it be traditional?”

 

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Diner at the Stark-Potts apartment was, in one word, awkward .

 

After Pepper came back with a sleeveless black dress that reached her knees, the women went to the dining room to join Tony and Harley, who were starving. The penthouse was stunning, the furniture seemed so expensive and clean, and the structure seemed like it was from a palace. However, what really stunned Penny was the dining room. It had three walls made of glass that allowed her to have the best view of New York at night, but not even the view could safe Penny for the awkwardness of this dinner.

 

They ate in silence. Pepper was besides Tony, and He was besides Harley, who was at Penny’s right. They were eating italian food from what it looks like a very expensive restaurant. No one had said a word since they sat down, expect from the occasional “Can you pass me the pasta?” 

 

The room was just too tense.

 

“Tony, can you pass me the salt?” Harley asked, and both Tony and Penny reached the salt at the same time, both looking confused and Harley smirking deviously.

 

“I guess, you two share a name.” said Pepper, who took the salt and tossed it to the boy. 

 

“Yeah, one of your names is Antonia, right?” Tony asked as he too a sip of wine.

 

“Uh, yes. I am named after a close friend of my mother, Antony. I never met him, but my mother told me that he was very special to her.”

 

The heart of Tony stopped for a second. Could Mary have named her daughter after him? Yes, they were close years ago… but they were never friends . They were just two lonely people with daddy issues that look comfort in each other, but they weren’t ‘friends.’

 

“But, I don’t go by Antonia or Tony as much as I go by Penny or Penelope.” Well, she actually went more by Teresa or Teresita like her grandmother, but she didn’t want to be called that. “Sometimes I go by Peggy in honor to my great aunt Peggy.” 

 

Well, that made Tony relax a little bit.

 

“I like your tattoo,” Harley said as he took a sip of wine. They offered her some wine, but she kindly said no. The last time she drank wine didn’t end well. Let’s just say that was the reason why she moved out of the country.

 

The only bad thing about the dress is that it had a neckline inform of sweetheart, which made her tattoo visible.

 

Penny looked at her tattoo and then to Harley. She gave him a smile. “Thanks, I got it not too long ago.” Lies, Penny had that tattoo since she was three years old.

 

“So… your parents let you have a tattoo?” Penny could hear Tony dropped his fork and knife. Both grown ups seemed concerned.

 

They didn’t tell Harley that her parents were dead. It actually made Penny a little calmer that people didn’t know that she was parentless, avoiding to say the O word, so she wouldn’t get pity looks.

 

“They encouraged me to get it. It’s a family thing.” More like her grand father forced her to get the same tattoo as her grandmother. “A tradition.”

 

“That’s neat.” Harley smilled, “Tony and Pepper told me that you just moved here, so where are you from?”

 

Pepper gave the boy a look. “Harley, I don’t Penny wants to talk about her life too much.”

 

Penny really liked Miss Pepper, but if she didn’t answer questions, it may raise questions.

 

 “Oh, don’t worry, Pepper. I don’t mind.” Penny took a sip of the juice. “I moved from England a few months after a completed my Ph.D. I wanted to test luck coming to New York.”

 

“How do you like it so far?” This time was Tony who asked.

 

“Well, Queens is a pretty neighborhood. It has charm, but besides that, I haven’t explored the other neighborhoods.” 

 

“Wait, wait, wait .” Harley interrupted them. “You have a Ph.D.?”

 

So, he didn’t know.

 

“Yes, it’s in physics, but I also have three majors: applied science, chemistry, and mathematics, and I did a bachelor in English, arts, and music. I wanted to have a rich resume to find a good job.”

 

Hayley jaw dropped while Pepper and Tony smiled. “How did you do it? I am twenty and I am barely finishing my bachelors in engineering”

 

Penny moved her shoulders. “I started my education super early, and my family made me focus on studies rather than Disney princess and cartoons.”

 

“Wait, haven’t seen any Disney princess movie?” Harley asked almost indignated.

 

“No, I haven’t seen any disney movies at all.” Harley dropped his spoon. His face was perplexed as if he just heard that Santa Claus wasn’t real.

 

“So, Penny, what are your plans? Are you planing in looking for a job in the science field? With your resume, you will get a job so easy.” This time it was Mister Stark who asked.

 

A job? She didn’t need to work. Penny had enough money to live well until she died. 

 

“I mean, I would like to go back to the lab and make researches and create new things, but I don’t know if I am ready to come back just yet. I really need to figure it out some things first.” Things like how to live without the fear of being found by William Fitzpatrick.

 

“Can we come back to the fact that you haven’t seen a single Disney movie?” Penny was thankful that Harley was changing subjects because she wasn’t comfortable talking about her future. “Not even a Pixar movie?”

 

“What’s Pixar?” This really hurt Harley.

 

The rest of the dinner Harley splained the major, yet somehow vage, plots of the movies. Occasionally Tony contributed to the Disney talk and Pepper… Pepper just smiled and nodded. This wasn’t her cup of tea. They dine and laughed. It had been a long time since the last time since she had dinner with people that wasn’t expecting her to be quiet and smile. They asked her for her opinion and made her laugh. It wasn’t until they started to eat her cupcakes that Penny realised that she missed social interaction with real people. Penny didn’t wanted this to end, but she couldn’t stay forever. She had to go to her apartment and forget this diner. It would make it easier if she didn’t any attachments.

 

Finally, it was time for her to go home, and even though she made very clear she wanted to go back to her apartment, Mister Stark keep trying to convince her to spend the night in the Penthouse, and even thought she was tempted to stay, she couldn’t. Penny would be putting on risk her identity and secrets with her nightmares and secret skills.

 

“I really think you should stay the night. It’s too late to be alone. We have like thirty empty room that you can use. Pepper can lend you some clothes.” Tony said as he took another bite of his pineapple cupcake.

 

“We could have a marathon of Disney movies. I have all the DVDs.” Harley said. 

 

After expend almost two hours with Harley Penny draw some conclusions about the boy: This boy was obsessed with Disney movies. He was good at science. He really liked pineapple cupcakes -- He ate like five of them, and finally but not least, Harley Keener was a polite, good man, even though he was flirtatious.

 

“Boys don’t push her. If she wants to go to her apartment, she has all the right to go. FRIDAY can you call her a cab?” Pepper asked the assistant.

 

“I'm afraid that wouldn’t be wise, miss Potts. Currently, there is a storm so strong that public services have been advised to suspend their work until further notice, but according to my radar, the storm will stop at four a.m. I suggest Miss Penny stay until the morning.” 

 

Penny looks at one of the windows of the lobby. Outside, there was the biggest storm that she has ever seen. She couldn’t even differ what was a car or a person due to the hard rain and wind. She would be crazy if she went home in the middle of that storm.

 

Penny felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked back to meet Miss Pepper. 

 

“I will prepare you a change of clothes, and Tony will fix your room.” It wasn’t an option.

 

It was official. She would spend a night at the Stark-Potts penthouse.

 






Chapter Text

Mary Teresa Fitzpatrick was an intense woman. Well, at least that was Tony’s opinion.

 

Mary and Tony met around nineteen years ago at the gala that Stark Industries did to find new investors. That year the gala was in Spain, Madrid, and Tony was bored to death. There wasn’t anything exciting for Tony at this party. The place was full of middle-aged men that looked for new projects or naive man that taught that they could steal those investors from Stark Industries. For Tony’s dismay, there weren't many women at the gala, and the ones that attended were either trophy wives or lady escorts of the possible investors. The only good thing about this excuse of a party was the alcohol. Alcohol was his old friend since he was eighteen years old. It was a sad fact about him, sad but true. Another sad fact about him is that he used alcohol as a coping mechanism to compensate for his loneliness

 

At thirty-years-old, Antony Edward Stark was one of the richest men on Earth, and yet he was the second loneliest person at that party. He could ditch this gala and go to a club where were better drinks and several beautiful Spanish ladies waiting for him, but no, he promised Obadiah to stay until midnight. Then he would be free to do as he pleased.

 

It wasn’t until eleven thirty-eight that Tony was finally done with this party. If he heard another person says to him “So are you sure you are not Spanish? You could pass as one.” one more time, he was going to lose it for real this time. He just needed a break from this “party”, so making sure that no one was looking, Tony Stark dragged his half-drunk ass to the nearest balcony. He never expected to find the person who would change his life forever nineteen years later.

 

She was a beautiful young woman, but more importantly, she was drunk and dancing on the balcony--- the two empty bottles of wine on the floor exposed her. The beautiful woman wore a flaming red dress that matched her hair perfectly and embraced her body so well that allowed Tony to see her beautiful figure.

 

The mysterious woman moved so graciously at the rhythm of a silent song that only she could listen. She jumped and turned like if she was made of feathers. Her dancing reminded him of a belly dancer, so careless and yet free. He watched her dance about five minutes when she ripped the fabric of her dress from her knees down, allowing her to jump and stand up on the stone railing.

 

Tony may have been half-drunk, but even in his stage, he knew that drunkenness and a balcony was a bad combination. The woman began dancing on the stone railing as if she wasn’t afraid to fall thirty feet. Maybe she wasn’t. The billionaire ran when he saw the woman turned like a ballerina. He wrapped his arms around her long legs and carried her away from the railing. 

 

“Wait! What are you doing?!” The woman said with a thick Spanish accent. 

 

“Saving you from getting yourself killed.” Even though the woman danced like she was made of feathers, she was heavy like bricks. 

 

Once Tony put the woman on the floor, she slapped him so hard that he recovered from the drinks he had before.

 

“Ah! What was that for?!” Tony asked as he touched his cheek. “I just saved you!”

 

The woman stood up from the floor. She was almost a head taller than Tony, and by the look on her face, she was mad at him.

 

“I didn’t need to be saved! I can do whatever I want when I want to!” She punched his chest with two fingers. “And I don’t need a fucking dwarf of Snow White to carry me!”

 

Did this woman just call him dwarf?

 

“HA! I’m a dwarf?! Well, you are the product of a fucking drunk giant and the ugly sister of Cinderella!”

 

“Step-sister! If you are going to insult me with Disney references, DO. IT. RIGHT!” this last part, the woman said it as she clapped.

 

This woman was insufferable. She was smart-ass and proud to the point of being just… just… just like Tony. 

 

Oh, but he was sure of one thing. He wanted to be as far as possible from this woman.

.

.

.

Well, this is the opposite of being “as far as possible from this woman.”

 

It was the next day, and Tony woke up with a terrible hangover from the last night. She slowly opened his eyes but quickly closed them because the Sun’s rays were hitting his face. He needed a coffee or maybe two coffees. 

 

“Mm…” That… That didn’t come from him. 

 

Tony slowly turned, and he found a familiar face: the beautiful daughter of the giant and the ugly stepsister.

 

And then he remembered what happened after she clapped on him. They fought about Disney references for about an hour until security kicked them out of the party. They kept fighting for about thirty minutes, then they started to makeup, went to her apartment, and… and… well, you know what happened next.

 

That was the beginning of two months… relationship? They weren’t a couple, but they also weren’t with other people. It was a complicated relationship that was over when he had to come back to Malibu. They didn’t exactly end on good terms. She tossed all his clothes from the balcony. 

 

And that’s the story of how Tony met Penny’s Mother.

 

Now, nineteen years later, Mary was dead. He wasn’t sad about it, but he wasn’t happy either. It was just shocking that Mary, the person who gave him a break from parties and alcohol in exchange for a little domestic life, died and left a daughter alone. Well, she wasn’t alone. As far as he knew, Mary had a family somewhere, but they weren’t in New York with Penny. 

 

Penny wasn’t like Mary. Yes, she was a smart ass, but she wasn’t, somehow, brave when spoke like her mother. It was as if she was afraid to say something that could make people mad. For example, after they convinced Penny to stay, they had a movie night --- Harley wanted to show Penny at least one Disney movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs --- before they went to sleep. Tony noticed that Penny didn’t like the idea of movie night, but when Pepper asked if it was okay with it, she just nodded. That was a warning sign.

 

And it wasn’t the first one that he had noticed. He had enough to make a list in chronological order, and these signs made him think that she ran away.

 

1. She acted older than she was. The way she talked, walk, even her mannerism reassembled to an old woman. 

 

 Studies showed that teenagers that acted so mature were because they grow up in a neglected environment.

 

2. She was emancipated. That meant that legally, she was an adult. 

 

Tony couldn’t help but wonder what kind of family would let a seventeen year oversee her own life without support.

 

3. Her mother just died.

 

He didn’t know the kind of relationship that Mary and Penny had, but even if they weren’t close, Penny would be lost in mixed feelings, and she didn’t have someone to talk about those feelings. Then again, where was her family?

 

4. She feared help.

 

At the compound, back at her apartment, even here at his penthouse, she refused to be helped even if she was hurt.

 

5. She was afraid of her grandfather.

 

He saw the tapes of the compound when Penny stayed over there. He saw how she begged the Avengers not to be taken to her grandfather. She even offered them money. She thought that she was being kidnapped and would be brought back to her grandfather. She fought the Avengers, whom she didn’t know, just to be free. After that, he looked up her grandfather. William Fitzpatrick, the father of Mary. Tony found a righteous man, owner of many businesses, and head of the Fitzpatrick family, but there wasn’t a single page that related William to Penny. No article related Penny to William. No article that said that William was looking for Penny.

 

It was just too much to ignore it.

 

He had to do something to help her not because she was Mary’s daughter, but because Penny needed to be helped. However, he couldn’t just tell her “Hey, I think that you ran away and that you may be afraid that your grandfather is looking for you. So, I am going to help you. Want a pizza?” He would have frightened her if she knows that he may know her secret… That was confusing.

 

His plan to help her without letting her know was to offer her a paid internship. He would keep an eye on her and offered her a safe place. Pepper was on board with his plan. She would drop by every once in a while, to talk with the teenager. Penny seemed fond of Pepper, but his plan was ruined after the dinner. Penny implied that she wasn’t interested in work until she figures out something, which made Tony and Pepper even more suspicious. 

 

“So, what do you think?” Harley asked her as the credits of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs rolled. Tony turned off the TV.

 

After they did the dishes, they went to the living to see Snow White. Pepper and Tony were sitting on the biggest sofa… well more like Pepper was sitting on the sofa, and Tony was lying over it with his head on Pepper’s lap. Harley was sitting on the floor, between the grown-ups and Penny, who still was wearing Pepper’s dress. She was sitting on the single sofa like if she was being interviewed for a job: so tense and “correct”. Tony was sure that if he compared her spinal cord with a ruler, she would be straighter than the ruler.

 

“Well,” Penny took off her glasses and put them in her purse. She used them to block the blue light from the TV. “It certainly has assets.” 

 

“What do you mean?” Harley asked as he finished the rest of the popcorn.

 

“Uhm, well, the animation is good for a movie that was made in the middle of the Second World War, and some of the themes are well explained like the value of friendship and how vanity can be dangerous,” Penny explained trying to be as polite and careful as possible. She knew that this was one of Harley’s favorite movies, so she didn’t want to be rude to him. It was a forced habit.

 

“But?” 

 

Penny looked at Tony. “I’m sorry?”

 

Tony didn’t seem mad but rather curious. “What you don’t like about the movie? I didn't like the twisted lesson of trust a stranger. Sure, don’t trust an old lady that offers you an apple, but you can trust seven old men in the middle of the forest. It’s totally fine to stay with them.” It was obvious that last part was sarcasm. 

 

“Talking about hypocrisy.” This time was Harley who talked. “So, what you don’t like about the movie?

 

Well if the golden boy was okay with it.

 

“I have two main issues with the movie. The first one is the Queen…” She was interrupted by Harley.

 

“You mean the Evil Queen.”

 

“No, just Queen. Evil is not part of her name but rather her character, and I think that vanity isn’t her main problem but rather a collateral part of her real problem.”

 

Silence 

 

“Ya lost me at character, doll,” Harley said perplexed.

 

Breath, don’t lose it. It just a nickname.

 

“What I am trying to say is that her worst mistake was to trust the mirror and only the mirror. Yes, the mirror may have had all the answers of concrete things like the location of Snow White or the kind of heart that the huntsman gave her, but what kind of standards did the mirror have for the abstract concepts? like beauty, and morals like good and evil? Did the mirror follow beauty standards of the era? Or did he base the concept of beauty on his own beliefs? If so, where do his beliefs come from? From philosophers? A religion or religions? What makes different the abstract concepts of the mirror from a person? Considering the information that they gave us, I believe that there are none. There is no difference between the opinion of the mirror and a man. So that was her mistake, base her whole actions on one opinion that it wasn’t even her own, and it’s even worse thinking that the Queen may have been unaware where the information of the mirror came from.” That took Penny’s breath. It had been a long time since Penny had a good argument like that.

 

Penny looked at the people around her. Pepper was smiling, not in the same way that she did at the dinner. This smile seemed sincere. Mister Stark, now correctly sitting on the couch, was also smiling but more like in the ‘I like your guts’ way, Harley seemed shocked but not in a bad way.

 

The blond boy let go a laugh and said, “Doll, I gonna present you to ma’ friend Michelle. You two will have so much to talk about.”

 

So, they liked her opinion? That was… that was new to her.

 

“I see what you’re saying. Her mistake was relating on just one source. I never thought of it that way Penny,” Pepper said as she took the bow from the floor and put it on the table.

 

“What is that other thing that you didn’t like?” Tony asked her. He couldn’t help but think that Penny argued just like her mother.

 

Penny cleared her throat to tell them her opinion, but she couldn't. Instead, she got goosebumps.

 

Penny had a “skill” that nobody else in her family had… Well only her late Nonna Tereza. She could sense threats before they even happened, which is useful when she lived with people that wanted to hurt her. This was how her skill worked: First, Penny felt goosebumps, which were different from cold ones. They felt like the types of goosebumps that people get when they are scared. Then everything slowed down. It was as if the whole world just stopped, and she was the only one that could move. Finally, it was the “instinct reaction.” Because every threat was different, the reaction that she would get was also different. For example, in the alley and the thrift store, Penny felt that someone was in danger, so her instinct reaction was to jump to the threat. In both cases, the men with the strange guns we're the threat. However, when Penny felt that she was being the target, her reaction was only for self-preservation just like right now.

 

After Penny felt the goosebumps, she quickly put her feet on the sofa and covered her ears with her hands as she hid her face on her knees. Tony, Pepper, Harley were concerned at the abrupt behavior of the girl. Harley looked at Tony as he was asking the grown-up if he should check on Penny.

 

“Careful.” Tony mouthed.

 

Harley kneeled in front of Penny and the most tender tone that he had ever done in his life he said “Hey baby girl, are you are…” but Harley was cut off by the sound of thunder.

 

It wasn't a common thunder. It was colossal and loud enough to make the penthouse shake with the strength of a mini earthquake. As the lights of the penthouse went away, the grown-ups reached for each other, and Harley jumped to the sofa just to hug Penny, who still was hiding her face on her knees. He hugged her because he was scared not because he wanted to protect her. After the thunder was gone, another with the same intensity came, and another… and another… And another one.

 

It was not until ten minutes later that the storm seemed to calm down. 

 

“FRIDAY?” Tony asked while still hugging his fiancée. “Are you still up?”

 

They didn't wait long for an answer.

 

“ Yes, sir. It seems that the thunderstorm affected the lights of the penthouse, but the electricity system seems to be unaffected.” 

 

“Good to know. FRIDAY activate the protocol Shield House and try to fix the light as soon as possible.” Tony said as he turned on the TV to get some lights. “Thank you, FRIDAY.”

 

The windows of the penthouse were covered with metal, and the doors that connected to the balcony and the penthouse were locked down. This was the Shield House protocol. 

 

Finally, the lights came back thanks to FRIDAY. 

 

“Tony, Pepper.” both grown-ups turned to see Harley still hugging Penny, who was shaking.

 

The concerned grownups come closer to Harley, who didn't know if it was better to let go of the girl or keep hugging her. 

 

Pepper and Tony lower down a bit to talk to Penny.

 

“Penny, are you okay?” There was no response. She just kept shaking.

 

Penny couldn't heart a thing.

 

She could hear a high pitched noise ringing in both of her ears. It was the thunderstorm’s fault that she was shaking and half deaf right now. As previously mentioned, Penny had the skill of hearing things that no one else could. If somebody dropped from a coin in the street, Penny could hear it from her apartment. Yes, her ears were useful, but they were also delicate. Even though she covered her ears, the thunderstorm hurt her ears like if grenades exploded in front of her. Penny felt how a tender hand touched her shoulder. She slowly moved her head to see Pepper and Tony in front of her. Penny was too shocked to notice that she was, somehow, sitting on Harley’s lap.

 

Mister Stark said something, but Penny couldn't hear him. She wished she knew how to read lips.

 

“I-I can't hear you…” Penny murmured as she took off her hands from her ears. They felt strangely wet…. 

 

Oh no…

 

 Please don't let it be what she thought it was…

 

It was blood. Her hands had drops of fresh blood coming from her ears.

 

Not again…

 

“Shit…” Penny murmured as she somehow managed to stand up from Harley’s lap and ran to the bathroom. She was sure that the grown-ups and Harley wanted to stop her to check on her, but she just wanted to clean this mess.

 

Once in the guess bathroom, Penny washed her ears on the sink. It was weird to feel the water splashing on her ears but not heard it. She washed them until the blood stopped coming from them. She hated herself now. She hated it that she worried the people in the living room, who had been nothing but nice to her. She hated it that she was abusing their hospitality by staying the night. She could just have taken a cab, and then, at a certain point, she would have run to her apartment. She wouldn't have cared that the rain may have caught her as long as she just arrived in her apartment. But what Penny hated the most is that she was lowering her guard to nice people.

 

Looking at the sink, Penny could feel how tears fell from her eyes and ran through her cheeks. She was just letting her guard down too much, at this rate, it wouldn't take long for her grandfather to find her.

 

Just how stupid she was! 

 

She kept crying in silence until she felt something puffy clean up one of her ears. Penny back off from whatever was touching her to find a beautiful redhead woman with blue eyes and thin lips standing in front of her with a towel in her hands. 

 

For a second her body was paralyzed by fear, the same fear that she got every time that her mother was about to hit her. But even though Penny knew that the woman in front of her was miss Pepper, she still feared her red hair and blue eyes.

 

Penny looked at the floor, and as her lips trembled, Penny said” I… I’m sorry f-for making a mess and… and bother you.” More tears fell from her eyes. 

 

Pepper came closer to Penny, who was expecting a slap on the face as punishment, but instead, she got a tender caress on her cheek followed for the towel cleaning up her tears. Penny look at Pepper perplexed. 

 

Pepper said something but Penny couldn’t figure out what it was. When she was done, Pepper looked at her as if Penny was going to break down like a porcelain doll. Then the woman took the girl into a tight hug.

 

It felt so strange to be hugged like that… better said, it was strange to be hugged. Penny wasn't used to physical contact. The closest that she got to this hug was her uncle James, but she couldn't trust his lies anymore. Pepper’s hug didn't feel like a lie. It was warm, cozy, and… and it felt real.

 

It was also dangerous.

 

If Penny could have listened to what Pepper told her, she would have been more afraid of that hug. 

 

“I wish you could tell me and Tony what have you lived through, so we could help you to feel better living here. You have all the right to feel afraid and don't trust us, but I just want you to know that you didn't deserve to be treated the way they treated you. You deserve to be happy.”

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

It’s been forty minutes since Pepper told the boys to stay in the living room while she checked on Penny. Tony and Harley were sitting on the big sofa, and they were worried. Well, Harley was concerned, but Tony was the one worried sick. 

 

“Shot, fainted, manhandled, scared to death, and now, apparently deaf. Please Lord, give the girl a break.” Tony thought all the bad things that Penny had passed in the last days. Well, all the bad things that he knew.

 

“Sooo, who’s Penny? And why did ya invite her to dinner?” Harley asked Tony.

 

“I told you. She is a bright girl that Pepper and I met at work. We invited her because I wanted to offer her a job in Stark Industries.” Tony said as he took another sip of his coffee. He needed it.

 

“I know that. I know she’s a genius with her masters and Ph.D., but what makes her so special? ‘Cause if you wanted to offer her a job, you could just have a meeting at work, not inviting her for dinner.” Harley said taking the coffee from Tony and drinking it. “Besides, it’s strange to see Pepper and you with ya guard soo down with a girl that you just met.”

 

This kid was too intelligent for his own good.

 

“Okay.” Tony stood up. His face showed conflicted emotions that Harley couldn't read. “Do you want to know the truth?” Harley just nodded in amusement. He had never seen Tony like this. “Then, you must promise not to tell anyone, and I’m telling you this because I believe you can help us help her.”

 

Harley raised his right arm. “I promise my Grandmama’s apple pie recipe.”

 

“Harley, I’m serious.”

 

“So, am I. Hav’ you ever tried her pie? I would fight the Avengers for her recipe, except Natasha. She is scary as hell.”

 

“Harley.”

 

“Okay! I promise no to tell a living soul.”

 

Tony told him everything… well, almost everything. 

 

“So, You’re tellin’ me that Penny is an investor of SI. You and Pepper were fascinated by her resume, so you decided to call her to offer her a job and maybe join us in my internship. But when she picked up her phone, a detective answered it and told ya’ll that Penny got shot after she stopped a robbery. When you both got there, she was unconscious, so you took her to the Avengers Compound to be checked by Helen. Long story short, the Avenger came and scared the shit out of ‘er and hurtin’ her more than she already was. After Helen said it was okay, you got her back to her apartment, but not without inviting her to have dinner with us.” Harley said as he gasped.

 

“Yeah, pretty much. That’s a good summary.” Tony said as he refilled his mug of coffee. They decided to move this conversation to the kitchen.

 

Harley nodded. “Dude, you just told me your history with ‘er, no the reason why you are doing this. Do you feel guilty that the Avengers manhandled her? Why did you take her to Helen and no to a hospital? I have like a million questions!”

 

Tony signed. He knew that Harley wouldn’t be happy with his explanation. Tony sometimes thought that this kid had a Sherlock complex.

 

“ I’ll answer three questions.” He knew that three questions weren’t enough, but for every question that Harley had, Tony had millions more. “Think carefully.”

 

Harley stopped for a moment then said, “Why did ya took her to Helen and no to a private hospital?”

 

“Too much people. This is a lesson for you: not all private hospitals are private. Many paparazzies are hiding in those places, and besides, Helen was ready in case of any Avengers came back hurt. Before you ask, yes, I kick their asses after they hurt Penny. Next question.”

  

That answer was good enough for Harley to avoid any question about the Avengers.

 

“How did her parents react? Because if it was me in that situation, my mama would flight from Minnesota to New York and bring my ass back to my hometown for takin’ a bullet.” Harley looked a Tony. His face told him the answer. It was a mixture of guilt and regret.

 

“No, you didn’t call her parents,” Harley stood up. “Dude! Do you know how wrong this is?! She’s a minor! She’s seventeen! Her parents must be worried sick because her daughter got MIA for days! Ya gonna be in some deep shit… no… we’re gonna be in so much trouble!” Harley started waking side to side as she panicked.

 

“Harley.” Tony tried to call him, but the boy was too busy panicking.

 

“Do ya know how mad her parents are gonna be when they know that she got shot, and then, technically kidnapped by strangers?”

 

“Harley.”

 

“And now for any reason, she’s bleeding from her ears in the restroom, and I bet ya her parents don’t even know that she’s here!”

 

“Harley, calm down!” Harley looked at him. Tony had never yelled at him before. Tony breathe in and out until he was calm enough. “Sorry, that I yell at you. Look, Pepper and I didn’t call her parents because she doesn’t have parents.”

 

“Oh.” Harley let himself fall on the chair. “Are they gone or…”

 

“They are both dead. Her father died when she was three in a car accident, and her mom died from cancer months ago.” Tony said that last part in a bittersweet tone.

 

Harley couldn’t believe what he heard. He saw this girl laugh at Tony’s jokes, bring homemade cupcakes, and talk with so much passion about how she made her dress. She didn’t look like if she just lost her mother, and then he remembered what her mama, a social worker, told him about grieving.

 

“Not all people react the same way about death, Harley. Some people cry for months until they can’t anymore. Others lost their will, the strength to wake up in the morning and live their life, but some people deal with death by living as if it didn’t happen. They don’t assimilate the events and keep their mind busy to avoid thinking about the theme.”

 

Maybe Penny dealt with death as if it hadn't happened.

 

“Does she have more family?”

 

“No, that we know. When I gave her the phone, she told me she only had three contacts, and none of them were her family.” Tony took another sip of his coffee.

 

“So, she is a minor living without parental supervision. Did she run away?”

 

Tony clicked his tongue. “Something tells me that she did, but I am not a hundred present sure.”

 

“Aren’t we doing wrong by no tellin’ anyone: a social worker or at least the police? I mean, she is still a minor.” Harley knew that is was very illegal to hold information about a minor. 

 

“No, before her mother died, she was emancipated. She is an adult in law’s eyes.” Tony cleaned his throat. “I don’t like the idea of her being emancipated. Think about it. Why would her mother, in her condition, emancipate their child months before they turn eighteen. Why?”

 

Harley didn’t say anything for a while. 

 

“Maybe… maybe her mama preferred to make her an adult rather than leave ‘er in the system or… with her family.” Some parents prefer to leave their children alone rather than leave them in a family of abuse and violence.

 

“It’s a possibility. Look, I may be wrong about this, and it’s just my imagination, but if there is any chance that Penny ran away from her family or whatever she is trying to leave behind, we can’t let her know that we are trying to help her, and I know that I can’t ask you to help…” Tony was interrupted by Harley.

 

“Say no more, old man. I’m in. My mama raised a gentleman, and a gentleman helps when he is needed. So, tell me what’s the plan?” 

 

Tony shouldn't be surprised. Harley had a good heard after all.

 

“I’m afraid that your plans will have to wait, boys,” Pepper said as she came in the room. “It’s late, and tomorrow we have things to do.”

 

Judging by Pepper’s relaxed looks, Tony assumed that Penny was relatively okay. “How is she?”

 

Pepper sat on one of the chairs and signed. This wasn’t how the night was supposed to end. “For one, she is ashamed that she worried us. It took me a while to calm her down.” She took the mug from Tony’s hand. “After she was able to talk, she told me she has a condition that makes her ears sensitive to loud sounds. The thunders were so strong that made her temporarily deaf. Penny said that she just needs to sleep, and in the morning she would be okay. ” She had to take another sip of coffee.

 

“So, she is sleeping right now? Harley asked her.

 

Pepper nodded. “She is. Lisen, tomorrow I call Helen to take a look of her ears. I’ll take the day off to be with her while you two go to your internship. She may feel overwhelmed by too much attention.”

 

People must know that no one should ever mess up Pepper Potts’ plans. Tony knew it by first hand.

 

They finished the coffee pot and went to sleep hoping that tomorrow was going to be better… It wasn’t. 

 

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A thunder woke her.

 

The thunder was so loud that it made her jump out of bed. She was gasping trying to catch some air. For once in her life, Penny wished she could just wake up like a normal person, without nightmares, memories, or thunderstorms tormenting her. 

 

After a while, she realized that she was in the guestroom of Pepper and Mister Stark. 

 

For one side, the thunder was good because she could hear again, but it also meant that she the thunders hurt her ears again. Penny look at her phone, 5:27 a.m. She slept for two hours, and that was enough. Penny took her purse and go out of the room. She didn’t care that she was only wearing her camisole and a short that Pepper lent her. She had to get out of there. It was too dangerous for everybody.

 

Especially for her.

 

Penny went to the elevator, but it didn’t work. According to FRIDAY. The elevator didn’t work until seven, but the stairs were ready to be used. Penny began to walk down thirty floors as fast as she could. She wasn’t sure if FRIDAY would tell Pepper and Mister Stark that she tried to leave the building. At the twentieth floor, Penny was couldn’t take another step. The fact that her feet were a little hurt for the little incident in the alley didn’t help either. 

 

“I-I need to keep going. Don’t give up just yet.” Penny said as she tried to catch up and lend over the handrail. Then a crazy idea appeared in front of her, literally. The stairs were in the form of a spiral, which allowed her to have a free space, big enough for a free fall. 

 

Penny stood on the handrail and jump to free fall.

 

As Penny free fell for twenty floors, she asked herself if it was worth all this just to about the people that were so kind to her. 

 

The answer was yes. 

 

Before Penny could reach the floor, she prepared herself to land by bending her knees just like a ballerina. The landing was gracious, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt her. Her feet would be in so much pain if she didn’t have so much adrenaline flowing in her veins, but that was a problem for later. Now, Penny needed to get out of there before she became Snow White. She was lucky that the exit was just a few steps from her.

 

The second reason why Penny didn’t like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was her relationship with the prince. Penny believed that Snow White had a dependency with the prince because he was the first person that treated her after she grew up in an environment of abuse. Snow White connected the idea of freedom with living with the prince. Penny did the same thing before coming to New York. She thought that maybe if her Uncle James convinced his grandfather that she was too young to be married away and let her live with him, she would be finally free. She would be freed because she would be with James.

 

Spoiler alert: the prince was a liar

 

She was not going to make the same mistake twice. It was obvious that Pepper, Mister Stark, and Harley were nice people that wanted her in their lives for some strange reason, but what if they were like James? Why did they want to hurt her? What if their kindness was just an act?

 

Penny wasn’t willing to answer any of those questions, so she ran away like a coward.

 

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Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to run in the middle of a thunderstorm instead of taking a taxi.

 

It wasn’t raining at all. There was a little bit of cold wind, but that didn’t bother Penny. What was making Penny dizzy was the thunders. They were even louder outside the penthouse and made her ears ring a little. Also, it wasn't good that after she got out of the building, Penny ran with no specific destination. She just wanted to get as far as possible from the building. She would later call Miss Pepper and give her an excuse of why she left. 

 

Penny ran for a few minutes until her feet fail her and fell on the wet sidewalk. By that time, Penny was far, far away from the penthouse. She gasped in search of air as she felt how her feet were swollen and bleed inside her flats. The ringing in her ears was louder than before, and she was pretty sure that she was crying by know. But hey! It was better than being at the penthouse having breakfast and laughing with the people that were “nice” to her and never expected anything from her, right!... Right?

 

Penny wanted to cry. It felt really good to be with Pepper, Mister Stark, and even Harley. It felt good to talk with them, be around them, but the last time she felt this way she had to run away from the Fitzpatricks. She couldn't do that again.

 

 She wasn’t just that strong.

 

But what Penny didn’t know is that if she wanted to live in peace, she would have to make allies, friends, and a new family. 

 

And the man in a blue suit and red cape that was in front of her would be her first official ally against the Fitzpatricks.

 

Chapter Text

Doctor Stephen Vicent Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, swore to protect the Earth from occult forces. He dealt with rogue sorcerers, mythical creatures, negative spirits from the after-life, between other creatures that not even the Grimm Brothers could ever imagine. One of those creatures was the Aranea. 

 

The Aranea was an ancestral humanoid specie with spider trails. No one knew exactly where they come from, but they were too powerful (so much that the Masters of the Mystic Arts seemed them as a threat against the Earth). For thousands of years, the Araneas and Masters of the Mystic Arts were at war against each other until seven hundred years ago. Both sides created The Agreement, which said that the Aranea kind will not threat against humankind as long the Masters didn’t interfere in their human affairs, such as business and marriage. Also, the Aranea would be free to settle wherever they pleased as long as it wasn’t in territory claimed by the Masters. Said territories included California, U.S., Okinawa, Japan, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, half of Canada, two-thirds of Australia, and the Sanctuaries of the Mystic Arts, which included the complete state of New York, U.S.

 

So, when Penny moved to New York, Dr. Strange decided to confront her about The Agreement, but first, he needed to learn everything that he could about her. He didn’t like the idea of getting in a fight without knowing his opponent’s “skills” . With a little bit of searching, he found out that the young Aranea girl was the daughter of the late millionaire/scientific Mary Terresa Fitzpatrick, making her one of the grandchildren of the head of the most powerful Aranea Clan: William Fitzpatrick. Stephen met the man twice, and if he had to describe their meetings in one word, it would be dangerous. William was a man that took care of his family. He would buy, lie, and kill for them… not in that specific order. So, it was weird that his youngest granddaughter moved in one of the few places that his kind was banned. 

 

Stephen needed more information before he could do anything, so the three guardians of the sanctuaries decided to consult the Eye’s Agamoto. What they saw was too fragile to be risked. They decided that Penny need to stay in Queen’s for the sake of New York, and they would make sure that she accomplished the visions of the Eye.

 

Since Penny moved to her new apartment, Stephen and two other sorcerers kept an eye on her, looking for any suspicious activity. For three months, they saw the girl doing the same boring routine so religiously. She tried to keep a low profile as much as she could. She didn’t go out of her apartment if it wasn’t necessary. Alas, the girl didn’t even use her Aranea trails, and if the Aranea race were known for something, it was for being excessively proud of being part spider. It wasn’t until a few days later that she broke her routine for the first time by visiting Stark Industries. Then she finally used her power at a thrift store to save a woman. The girl used them again when she tried to escape from the Avengers, who confused her for an intruder. The next day, she saved an old man in an alley by using her powers again. The most recent implementation of her spider traits was a few moments ago when she jumped twenty floors. At last, Stephen had enough information to make a correct conclusion about Penny. 

 

She didn’t want to be found. 

 

From whom she was hiding was still a mystery, but it was evident that they must be Aranea if Penny tried so hard to hide her skills in one of the few places where the Areaneas couldn’t not settle.

 

Maybe, it was destiny or just luck, but after Penny ran away from Tony’s penthouse, she ended up in front of the Sanctuary, where Stephen was waiting for her.

 

The girl fell in front of the stairs. Stephen didn’t need to use magic to get him to the front door. He just walked. Penelope seemed so fragile as she cried on the wet sidewalk, Stephen had never seen an Aranea be weak. They rather die than show any weakness.

 

“Are you okay?” Stephen asked her by instinct. After all, he was a doctor, 

 

The girl didn’t lookup. She just kept crying as if she didn’t hear him. Stephen knelt to take a closer look of the girl. He noticed that she was shaking and bleeding from her ears, probably for the thunderstorm. Slowly, he approached his hand to her, but just before he could touch her head, Penny fell unconscious on his feet.

 

Stephen wasted no time and carried her inside the sanitarium. He needed to call the other Masters.

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She felt so uncomfortable.

 

Her back hurt so bad. It felt as if she was laying on a bed made or sharp rocks, or maybe her body was just really tired. Penny moved to get more comfortable, but it was difficult. For one side, her feet were killing her. She was pretty sure that she had blisters and bruises all over then… again. Even the simplest movement hurt like hellfire. Her arms didn’t work either… wait why couldn't she move her arms?

 

Penny opened her eyes just to find herself in an odd library. Her body was covered by a red blanket that felt rough against her skin. She tried to move her arms; it was in vain. It was as if a mysterious force was holding her down. She was trying to take deep breaths. If she wanted to get out of this new problem that she into. 

 

First, she needed to figure out how she got there. She remembered running away from the penthouse and running until she collapsed on the wet sidewalk… then nothing. She didn’t know where she was or who kidnapped her.

 

Wait, was she kidnapped? Of course, she was . Penny was unable to move in a place that she didn’t want to be. Somebody must found her while she was unconscious, and restrained her, which was weird considering her super-strength. She tried to move to get out of wherever she was. With each move, Penny felt more and more desperate. She wanted to cry, but it wasn’t the time to be weak.

 

 “I wouldn't do that.” And as Penny turned to see a man walking into the room, the red blanket that once covered her flown to rest in the man's shoulder as a cape. “You are going to hurt yourself.”

 

His clothes, Penny knew those clothes. The man was wearing the uniform of the Masters of Mystics Art, the sword enemies of her kind. 

 

“You… you are a sorcerer…” there was panic in her voice. She wondered what could be worse: be killed by a sorcerer or be with her family again. 

 

The man in a blue suit and red cape seemed unimpressed by her knowledge. “I see that you know what I am. I also know what you are, Penelope Tereza Fitzpatrick.”

 

Penny trembled at her name. She sword out to never be called that again. “Do -do you work for William Fitzpatrick?” Her grandfather would hide mercenaries, killers, mutants, and even sorcerers to find her.

 

“I work for no one.” he seemed offended by her comments. “My name is Doctor Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts.”

 

The Fitzpatrick thought Penny a few things about sorcerers. Between those things were how they look, how were they were useful for her family, and why did they hate her kind so much, But Penny knew only one think about the agreement. It was made to keep the peace between the two races. 

 

“What do you want from me? Where am I? Are you going to kill me?” Penny tried to sit down properly. She was far too vulnerable in that couch. 

 

"You are in the sanctuary of London." Stephen moved his hand, and a mysterious force sat Penny on the couch, but still, she couldn't move. She didn’t like to be this helpless. He kneeled in front of her to grab one of her feet. The girl tried to move them away, but they were far too hurt. She whimpered at the strong wrap of the man. 

 

“I am checking your feet,” he said without looking up. A strange golden light came out of her hands to wrap her bruised feet. The light felt so warm and nice like a hot blanket. “You sprained your left foot when you fell from the stairs. The fact that you ran all the way here with your feet injured didn’t help you either.” 

 

Wait, how did…

 

“How do you know that?” Penny was officially freaked out by this man. 

 

Stephen wasn’t even concerned. He just kept healing her feet. “I defend the Earth from mystical creatures like your kind. You shouldn’t be in New York.” 

 

“That… that doesn’t answer my questions.” Penny tried to be brave. She exposed herself too much.

 

The doctor finished healing her feet. They no longer hurt, and the bruises and blisters were also gone.

 

He stood up in front of her. He was over six feet tall. His posture was confident and serious as if he was about to lecture her, which reminded her to an English professor that she had when she was younger. “It’s part of The Agreement. No spider people can settle in New York, and that includes you. So as soon as you move there, my people kept an eye on you.” 

 

Those last words made Penny feel sick. 

 

She ran away from a family that abused her. The Fitzpatrick wanted to control her life because they believed she was inferior. Penny was watched 24/7 by the Fitzpatrick or her bodyguards. They were waiting for her to make a mistake, so they could “teach her a lesson”. That was one of the reasons why she escaped. Penny just wanted to be free in New York.

 

But she wasn’t.

 

All this time, Penny was being watched by these sorcerers, waiting for her to make them wrong, and now that she made a mistake, they got her. How was this different from her old life? 

 

Penny didn’t notice when the tears began falling from her eyes. There was a warm feeling on her chest that crushed her heart little by little. Her throat felt numb as if it was stung by wasps. Penny closed her hands so strong that her nails sink on her palm so deep to the point that she got blood out of them. She felt something that she wasn’t allowed to express before New York. Something that she procrastinated for years… Anger.

 

Penny looked at the sorcerer to directly to his eyes. Her expression was full of fury and at the same time sadness, and in the most bitter and broken voice that Stephen had ever heard in his life, she said, “And… Did you… did you find something interesting?”

 

Stephen was taken by surprise. In the last three months, Penny never showed to be cold. She was calm, or at least she tried to be calm.

 

“You can stay in New York,” Stephen said as he noticed her tears. Part of the original plan that was she could stay in New York, but she must never know that the Masters of the Mystic Arts was watching her. This clearly wasn’t part of the plan.

 

“You didn’t answer me,” Penny reclaim him. She looked at him as she could see your soul and judge it. “Did you find something interesting? Something that made you think that I am a threat? Or something that shows you that I want to make trouble?”

 

Stephen couldn’t believe what his eyes saw. 

 

Penny stood up from the couch and placed her hand on her tattoo like it was nothing. It was impossible. She was supposed to be under a detention spell so strong that could hold the strongest of the Aranea people, but she just broke it so easily.

 

Stephen waited for her to do any sudden movements so he could put a spell on her again, but Penny didn’t move. She just stood in front of him. 

 

What was it? It was the nightmares? Because the only person that they hurt it’s me , or it was the constant panic attacks that I get every time that I remember why I moved here.” Her tears were more noticeable than before. “Oh, I know! It was the constant fear of being watched by the Fitzpatrick that make me feel like I am being hunted by them, but hey! I don’t think that counts because it wasn’t them who were watching me. It was YOU AND YOUR PEOPLE!” 

 

After she said that, Stephen saw how her face changed from anger to total sadness. The girl broke into tears and gaps. She tried to clean her tears as the best she could and covered her eyes. She had all the right to be mad at the sorcerers. They watched her as if she was an animal in a cage, and then they said that they get to decide if she stays or not? Bullshit.

 

Her whole body was shaking. She was so weak that she let her weight fall on her knees, but she didn’t fall. She by caught by two strange hands.

 

Stephen was in front of her. He sat her on the sofa with him. His face changed. He seemed to be more empathic.

 

“We need to have a real talk.”

 

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Tony enjoyed domestic life with Pepper and Harley.

 

Waking up and seeing his future wife cuddling unto him was the best feeling. Fighting about who will do the dishes or make dinner was hilarious. Passing time with Pepper and Harley like a family was one of his most precious memories. He had to admit that Harley was like the child that he wanted to have. They spend countless hours in the workshop fixing his limited edition cars and updating the new update for the Iron Man suit. Spoiler alert, it’s related to nanotechnology thanks to Shuri, AKA the Harley’s best friend apparently. However, what Tony didn’t enjoy about domestic life was waking up too early by his kid. 

 

Knock! Knock! Knock!

 

“Tony! Pepper!” Harley screamed from the other side of the door while both grown-ups growled by the abrupt sound.

 

“Your son is awake,” Pepper said as she hid her face on Tony’s chest.

 

“Before Sunrise, he’s your son.” Tony placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

 

“Oh ma’ dear Lord! Did you just recreate a’ scene from the Lion King?” The couple laughed at the boy’s comment. “Wait, no time. Tony, Pepper, Penny is gone!”

 

Pepper and Tony literally jumped out of bed when they heard the last part and rushed to the door just to find a concerned Harley in his pajamas holding Penny’s phone. 

 

“What do you mean she is gone?” Tony asked him. 

 

“I woke up to get a glass of water, and I pass by Penny’s room. The door was open, so I saw inside to check on ‘er, but it was empty!” Tony put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to calm him down.

 

“Hey, hey, hey, breathe. You need to calm down.” Tony said as the boy tried to breathe.

 

“Yes, Harley. Maybe Penny is in the workshop, in the gym, or in the indoor pool. God, I never thought that I would get used to saying that.” Pepper said.

 

“No, guys, she is gone! Look, FRIDAY, Where is Penny?” Harley asked.

 

“Miss Parker left the Penthouse approximately five hours ago while you were sleeping.”

 

Tony and Pepper were astounded.

 

“Wait, FRIDAY. If she left five hours ago, why didn't you tell us.” Tony wasn’t angry on FRIDAY, but he was concerned and displeasure.

 

“Miss Parker told me she had a family emergency and was sorry for not saying goodbye. She also told me not to wake you up because she didn’t want you to worry, and no sir, nothing is missing from the workshop or the penthouse.”

 

“She has no family in New York.” Pepper said as Tony thought that Penny would rather suffer in silence than “bothering” them. 

 

“FRIDAY, call Penny.”

 

They wait for a while until the Back in Black, a ringtone that Tony put on her phone, coming from Harley’s hand. 

 

“She left her phone.” Pepper took the phone from Harley’s hand. 

 

“What kind of teenager leaves her phone behind?” Haley asked. He was an expert in teenagers.

 

Tony went back to his room to grab his phone, “The ones that are in a hurry.”

 

“Who are you calling?” Pepper asked him.

 

Tony didn’t say anything. He just waited until the person on the other side of the line picked up. 

 

“Hey, Wong. It’s me… listen to remember the favor that I did to you two months ago?... well I need you to find a person… Her name is Penny…”

 

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The tea was quite sweet, just how she liked it.

 

Penny was sitting on the couch drinking cinnamon tea with milk. She was calmer than before, but she wasn’t entirely content with the people in that library. Sitting on the couch in front of her was the people that… well stalked her since she arrived in New York. 

 

“How’s the tea?” said the woman who introduced herself as Master Tina Minoru, guardian of the Sanctuary of Hong Kong. From the three sorcerers, she was the one that tried to be nicer.

 

Penny didn’t want to accept the tea, but she wasn’t in the position of reclaim or negate anything. Even though Strange didn’t put back the detention spell, Penny was in potential danger. She was surrounded by some of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. They could kill her or worse take her to the Fitzpatricks.

 

“I like it. The milk sweet it up, thank you.” Penny sound so dry.

 

There were three sorcerers in front of her: Dr. Strange, Master Minoru, and Master Sol Rama, guardian of the London Sanctuary. They looked at her as if she was a time bomb. Maybe that's why they didn’t dare to begin this conversation. They were afraid of her. So, if she wanted to get out of this, she had to start it even if she hated every single moment of it.

 

“I believe you have questions about my situation, and I’ll answer them because now I understand that moving to New York was against the agreement, but first I have to say that I understand that your duty as Master of the Mystics Art is to protect the world from menaces like my family, but that doesn’t mean that condone your actions. I believe there were better ways to make sure that I wasn’t a menace rather than stalk me since I got to New York.” Penny said so confidently, not in an angry tone but rather, indifferent. It felt so well to defend herself. 

 

Master Rama wanted to protest to her comment, but Minoru interrupted him. “We understand that you are upset that we watched you, and you are in your right to be angry at us, but we never meant to make you feel unstable. We tried to respect your privacy the most that we could. We respected your intimacy when changed your clothes or took a bath.”

 

This relieved Penny a little, but still, it wasn’t enough.

 

“I appreciate that, but did you also respect my intimacy when I had anxiety attacks? Did you turn off whatever you used to watch me when I had a nightmare and then strangled myself? Or how there were times that I felt so weak that I collapsed on the floor?”

 

None of the sorcerers said anything. 

 

“So, I take that as a no.” Penny took another sip of her tea. “Then, let's begin with the questions, so we can finish this. What do you want to know about me?” 

 

This was soo wrong. These people saw her at her lowest point when she wished she could just disappear into nothing, and the worst part is that she couldn’t even express what she felt. Penny wanted to cry so hysterically that she would get bruises under her eyes, but she resisted her urged with what reminded of her will power. She wouldn’t let them see her vulnerable again. They didn’t deserve to see her defenseless.

 

The older woman began. “Why did you move to New York if you knew that it a free Aranea zone?”

 

Penny signed. This was the first time that she talk with someone in a long time about why she moved to New York. After a minute Penny decided to tell the truth… vaguely.

 

“I move to New York to avoid an arranged marriage. As far as I know, the Fitzpatrick don’t know where I am, and I want to keep it that way.” She could feel her eyes watering up. With a quick movement, she wiped the tears away. “I didn’t know that New York was off-limits for the Aranea people. In fact, I didn’t even plan to move here. My late mother made all the arrangements to move to Queens. I just followed her plan once she passed away.”

 

That question seemed enough to peace Strange and Minoru, but it wasn’t for Rama.

 

“Why did you run away from your arranged marriage? Your kind is distinguished for honor them.” Penny was sure that Rama was her least favorite person in the room.

 

Why did she run away? 

 

It was principally for the arranged marriage. Penny would be forced to get married, but it was the treason what made her runaway.  

 

Penny took a deep breath, “I ran away because my mother died. There is a factor that decides who lives or who dies in the Fitzpatrick Clan: the allies that a person has within the family. My mother was my only allied against that family, so when she died, I had two options: marry the adopted son of my grandfather or run away.” Penny finished her tea and tried to avoid eye contact with the sorcerers. “I chose to run rather than get in a marriage that would take the rest of my freedom away. It’s been hell to live like this, but it’s better than being with that ‘ family ’”

 

It was true.

 

To survive in that family she had to have allies, and she thought Uncle James was her ally, her real family, but when William told her that she arranged a marriage with James, the trust that she had upon him shattered like a diamond in a garbage disposal. This was his plan all along. William adopted James just to marry him with Penny once she was older, so then James would be in charge of the Fitzpatrick and Addington clan, making his family the most powerful Aranea clan. It was only then that Penny realized that James was nice to her because he knew all along that they would get married for power. He used her. 

 

He betrayed her.

 

The next question came from Dr. Strange. “What are your plans? What are you going to do in New York? Become a ‘superhero’ like Stark?” 

 

It was pleasant to change topic… but not this topic.

 

As Penny saw how her cup filled up by itself she answered, “If you are referring to the two incident…”

 

“Where you used your powers.” Rama interrupted her.

 

Yep, he was her least favorite person right now. 

 

“First of all, they’re not powers. They are skills or trails. Second, if I used them, it was because I had no other choice. There were people in danger. If I didn’t help them, they would get hurt or worse. Would you blame me for protecting innocent people when you basically swore to protect people.” They didn’t say anything. “I don’t want to be a vigilante or a superhero like the Avenger. That would be exposing myself too much, and besides, there are too many super vigilantes in New York. They don’t need another one. About Mister Start and Miss Pepper, you saw how we met. They were nice to me, but I don’t want more than that because I am conscious that the more people know me, the more people are in danger .”

 

They seemed to be pleased with her answer. Even Rama was less grumpy. Penny took another sip of her hot tea. It was her or the room just got a little bit colder?

 

“You didn’t answer my first question.” It was Strange’s turn again. “What are your plans in New York?

 

Penny took a deep breath and “I-I came to New York with a three steps plan: move to Queens, settle in my new apartment, and inherited my mother’s stocks of Stark Industries. After that, I-I don’t have any concrete plans. I just want to live under the radar of the Fitzpatricks.” It was up to them to decide her fate, so she had to be sincere about her situation. “My life is simple, or well, I try to make it simple, but the truth is that I don’t know how to live it. I am afraid to make a mistake that could compromise my new life. You are witnesses of it, but I’m trying to be careful and look for a purpose. Everybody has a purpose. Your’s to protect people. Mine, until a few months ago was to marry and have children. Now, I am not sure what is my purpose, but I know that I will find it here, in New York because is one of the few places that the Fizpatricks can’t control me. I guess, if you let me stay in your territory, I will find it eventually, but again it’s up to you.”

 

Uhf, that was hard to say. Penny just let go of the thoughts that had been tormenting her for months. She hoped this was enough for the sorceress to let her stay in New York.

 

The three sorcerers look at each other like if they were communicating telepathically… maybe they were. 

 

After they exchanged looks, the sorcerers finally got to an agreement. The three of them stood up, which made her try to stand up too but her feet still felt weird -- not pain but numbness, so Penny sat down again.

 

“Penelope Teresa Fitzpatrick,” she still didn’t like that name coming from Strange… or any person for that matter. “We, the guardians of the Sanctuaries of the sacred order or Master of the Mystic Arts, have decided that you can stay in New York…”

 

What a relief, it was like if somebody lifted Penny unto the air and let her stay there.

 

“... under certain conditions.”

 

Well, nothing is perfect, but it was better than nothing.

 

Penny nodded and eagerly she said, “Yes, of course, whatever you want.”

 

Maybe not “whatever you want,'' bit Penny didn’t want to argue any longer. She could almost see herself in her apartment sleeping.

 

“If you don’t want to get attention for any Aranea people or mystics creatures, you will have to hide your scent,” Master Tina said as she took her hands.

 

Oh right, her scent. Penny totally forgot about it. 

 

Every Aranea people had a certain scent… well more like a smell that appeared when they were in their human forms. The strongest Araneas, like her grandfather, had a strong fragrance that helped their prey to be aware to never mess up with them, but the weakest spider people like Penny had a soft scent that attracts predators and allies that were not Araneas. Animals and other mythical creatures could smell her scent but not humans.

 

“H-how can I do that?” Penny asked with a little bit of concern.

 

As Master Tina murmured a spell, a red light surrounded her wrists, ankles, and neck. Memories of her being on the compound invaded her mind. The last time that light like this surrounded her, she ended up on the floor hurt and scared to death, but this time it was different. The light coming from the woman didn’t hold her back. In fact, her light felt warm against her skin, which was quite pleasant in that chill library. When Tina ended up the spell, Penny had two black tattoo bands, one ticker that the other, where the light surrounded her. 

 

Penny was used to having her tattoos. She practically grew up with them hidden under her dresses. These tattoos were harder to hide and weren’t exactly pretty for her taste, but if they helped her to hide from the Fitzpatricks, she was willing to deal with them.

 

“These tattoos hold a spell that will help you hide it, but I must warn you, they don’t hide your scent to animals, so be careful.” Master Minoru let her hands go and returned to the sorceress.

 

“The second condition is that you cannot use your superpowers…” Master Rama was interrupted again by Penny.

 

Trails .”

 

“Sure, whatever, you cannot use your trails unless it’s an emergency, and yes saving people counts as an emergency, but you have to report to use every time you use them.” Well, it was reasonable.

 

Penny just nodded in agreement.

 

“Last condition,” Strange said in a tone that Penny didn’t like. It sounded like id she was about to get into a big mess. Spoiler alert, she was. “You will work for us.”

 

Wait, what?!

 

“What do you mean work for you?” Penny was taken off guard. Work for them? They were literary sorcerers. They were more powerful than her. Certainly, they didn’t need her.

 

Master Rama snapped his fingers, and file appeared in front of her. Penny look at Strange like if she was asking permission to open the file. The man with the red cape just nodded, which was enough for Penny to open it.

 

“We thought that you would do this on your own, but now that you know about us, it’s better that you know about this too,” said Strange as Master Tina sat beside Penny to point out two photos.

 

“Do you recognize these weapons?” The older woman asked her.

 

Penny took a closer look at the pictures. “They… I have seen them before in the thrift store and the alley.” She remembered perfectly those weapons, every single part of them.

 

“Exactly,” Master Rama exclaimed, “we want you to find the main dealers of this weapons and bring them to the police.”

 

Now Penny had more questions than before.

 

“Okay, Uhm, don’t get me wrong but why me? I mean you are sorcerers. You three could literally take them down if you just cast a spell.”

 

Three sorcerers against some weapon dealers seemed a little unfair for the dealers.

 

“We can’t interfere in human affairs unless it threatens the realms. Have you ever heard about what happened in New York 2012?” Penny nodded at Rama. After the little incident with the Avengers, she decided to look them up in her free time, so she wouldn’t take by surprise again. Penny had little notes in a notebook, nothing fancy, but enough to pass by.

 

“Well, the sorcerers that protected New York at the time, including me, couldn’t do anything until the portal was open. We could have saved hundreds of lives if we could have interfered sooner.” Rama’s voice was haunted by regret like if New York was his fault. “Strange saw the future, and the story is about to repeat again if you don’t bring these dealers to the police before it’s too late.”

 

But why her?

 

“Why me ? There are like millions of other people that you could take care of this, maybe the FBI? Aren’t they supposed to be the good guys?” The last thing that Penny wanted is to get into more trouble.

 

Rama look at her as if he was about to lecture her. “Because we cannot talk to them. If we get them, we would be interfering, but you,” he stopped for a little bit. “you are a non-human being. We can talk with you and advise you to do certain things, and one of that advice is to get those dealers to the authorities before we can interfere if you know what I meant.”

 

They are basically passive ordering her to catch these guys. “And why if I don’t decide to take your advice?”

 

“Then hundreds of people will die,” Strange said straight forward. “Look I get you don’t want to be a vigilante, but you need to act like one to get those people. You are an Aranea; you were trained for missions. Consider this as a mission. If you complete it, we would give you protection against the Araneas in territories that you as an Aranea can’t visit. Do we have a deal?”

 

Protection under no Spider-people zone? That meant that if New York didn’t work, Penny could move California or Okinawa or any other Master territory. However, there is a small detail, Penny wasn’t raised for missions. Her uncles, aunts, mother, and cousins were trained for missions. Penny was trained to be a mother and a wife. Of course, she knew how to use her spider trails, but she was an expert when a baby was crying. Ever since she got her first period at the tender age of nine, she expended all her Summers in orphanages taking care of babies and kids. She knew how to make a baby smile and how to control an explosive tantrum. She didn’t know how to fight, but she knew so damn well how to handle a bottle to the most imperative baby. However, this deal was too good to not take it. What is a simple job like this compared to protection like this?

 

Penny offered a hand to the sorcerer. “We have a deal under the condition that no one is going to stalk me. Capisce?”

 

Strange took her hand without thinking twice. “As you wish.”

 

“Okay,” master Tina clapped, “now that it’s settled we should talk about how this is gonna work.”

 

After the older woman finished that sentence, a golden portal opened in the middle of the library. From this portal, another sorcerer steps out. He was older than Strange and had an expression so serious that made Master Rama seem happy. Apparently, he hadn't noticed her presence in the room because he walked directly to the sorceress. 

 

“Strange, we have a problem involving the…” Surely, he looked at Penny as if she was the source of all his problems… maybe because she was. “...girl. What is she doing here?”

 

Master Rama was about to respond to him, but the sourced stopped him. “You know what? We don’t have time to explain the whole story.” He faced Penny. “You need to call Tony Stark before he puts your face in every milk box of this country.”

 

“I’m sorry. Who are you?” Penny asked him with a hint of distress.

 

“I’m Master Wong, and you need to call you pseudo-father and tell him that you are in England before he flights all the way here.”

 

Chapter Text

I swear I'm not death, and this fanfic isn't death! I got back to school, and I've been crazy busy with homework. I'll update as soon as I have time. Thank you for following this story. I swear I'll be back from the hiatus soon.