The papers called it the wedding of the century. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner stood before one another, said, "I do," and kissed before a chapel filled with all of their friends and family. But they'd all been together for so long that the friends had pretty much become family.
After they ran out of the chapel hand in hand, Tony and Bruce went to City Hall and signed the marriage license, now a couple religiously and legally. Once the nuptials were complete, everyone made off for the next part of the ceremony: The after-party.
Tony, Bruce, and their friends climbed aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, a lavish cruise ship that was docked in New York Harbor. The ship sailed off as sunset began to coat New York City in dark shades of orange and pink. Fireworks signaled them from the docks, sending the couple best wishes from a grateful city.
The party entered the ship's ballroom to find the room glowing with candlelight. Waiters stood on one side of a long table to light them, standing in a line against the wall. Once the ambiance was set, the night began.
Everyone danced in the center of the room, Tony being the most passionate. He would often spin and dip Bruce on the dance floor, making his husband laugh and smile as wide as he could.
Once dinner was ready, the couple took their seats and waited for what was to come. A waiter came by and offered them the finest wine they had on board, freshly made from the finest winery in California. After the drink was poured and the grooms toasted to their love, a photographer went over to their table and stood before them.
"How about a souvenir picture?" she asked.
Tony and Bruce looked at each other and shrugged. They needed some way to immortalize the event.
The photographer bent down and readied her camera, focusing it on the two men gazing into each other's eyes at the table. The bulb flashed, and the picture printed for the couple to hold onto.
Tony and Bruce often marveled at the picture afterwards, wondering how two men such as themselves could be any happier than they were with each other. They had no idea what would be in store for them thirteen years and nine months later.
Since canon ends at Ragnorak, picture Thor as he did at the end of that movie with short hair and one eye.
The sun shone over the lake that resided by the Maine forest. The scene was tranquil with no sound, save for the chirping of local birds. Then, the buses arrived.
Hordes of teenage girls poured out of them at the entrance to Camp Walden for Girls, a summer camp where they could make new friends and lasting memories. Duffel bags were thrown out of the bus by camp employees, placing them in large piles for the campers to rifle through. While some girls clung to their best friends the moment they stepped off the bus, others wandered around the site and waited to be assigned to their cabins.
An older woman with white hair stood on an elevated stage, shouting through a megaphone at the hundreds of girls around her. "Good morning, ladies, and welcome to Camp Walden. I'm Annie, your camp director, and this is my daughter and right hand man, Amy."
Annie gestured to a younger woman with black hair tied back in a bun by her side. Amy made a polite wave at the girls but said nothing, letting her mother speak instead.
"Girls, please find your duffels as quickly as you can. I'm going to turn the megaphone off and hand it over to Amy, who will give you your bunk assignments. Amy, if you please!"
Amy made her way to center stage and took the megaphone into her grip. She blew a whistle to get everyone's attention then called, "Alright, ladies! Here we go! Listen up!"
While most of the girls were focused on hearing their names, one had her attention elsewhere. Carolyn Stark walked around a pile of duffel bags, keeping a trained eye on each one. She soon saw a large blue bag be tossed into the middle, causing her to grin from ear to ear.
"Okay, found my duffel," she said to herself. Carolyn placed her hand on its strap but was met with a bombardment of other bags being tossed on top of it.
Wrenching her hand free, she rubbed it and sighed at the growing pile that smothered her duffel underneath it. "Now the question is, how do I get it out?"
Carolyn wandered to the other side of the pile and saw a hint of her bag's strap poking out from below. She grabbed it and tugged with all her might, but nothing would make it budge.
"Okay. I can do it...Okay, no, I can't."
Carolyn let go and leaned against the pile, heaving a large sigh. Glancing down at her arms, she said, "Stupid muscles. I thought you were better than this."
"You must be new," a voice greeted.
Carolyn looked up and saw a girl around her age standing before her. She had long black hair that trailed down her back, sunglasses tinted with purple lenses, and wore a tight-fitting black ensemble of a t-shirt, jacket, and pants.
Carolyn made a nervous chuckle. "How can you tell?"
"You didn't know how to grab your duffel before the apes tossed it into the heap. I would say you need some serious help."
"Thanks. It's the big blue one."
Carolyn and the girl grabbed the bag's strap and pulled at the same time. While they continued to struggle, a blonde in a rainbow tie-dyed shirt walked to the other side of the pile, grabbed her bag with ease, then walked off towards her cabin.
"Whoa," the girl mused upon seeing the sight.
Carolyn gaped at the blonde walking away, her braid bouncing against her back and silver bracelet clanging on her wrist with each step. "How the hell do you pull that off?" she asked.
The girl cupped her hands around her mouth and called, "Yo, tie-dye girl!"
The blonde turned around and followed the gaze of who was calling her.
"Could you give me a hand with my duffel? It's the blue one buried way in there," Carolyn explained.
"Sure." The blonde joined their side and gripped her hand on the strap. In one swift move, she pulled the bag out and handed it over to Carolyn. She took a glance at the travel tag attached to it and let a smile cross onto her face.
"Hey, you're from New York?"
"Do you, like, live in Manhattan?" the girl asked.
The blonde added, "Do you know any superheroes?"
"What are you two? Lucy and Ethel?" Carolyn asked. "I've never even been to Manhattan. I live upstate. But I do know some of the Avengers. When your dad's Tony Stark, you have no choice."
At once, the girls' mouths fell open. The blonde asked, "Your dad's Tony Stark?"
"The one and only." Carolyn held her head high and smiled with pride.
Just then, Amy's voice echoed over the crowd, "Stark, Carolyn!"
"Right here!" Carolyn turned around and waved her hand at the counselor.
"Same!" the girl cried.
The blonde said, "That's what I am!"
"Sweet!" Carolyn high fived her new friends then slung her bag over her shoulder. As they walked over to the cabins, she asked, "So do any of you know how to play poker?"
"Nah. Never played it before," they chorused.
"No? Ah, what a shame. So, uh...how much cash did you guys bring with you this summer?"
Unlike the other girls she would be surrounded by all summer, Marcie Banner arrived at Camp Walden in a rental car from the airport. The car parked under a tree at the entrance, making no effort to stay hidden no matter how hard it tried.
Thor Odinson stepped out of the driver's side and stood under the tree, gazing out at the campers around him. "I don't know why your father wouldn't let me bring you here with my powers, Marcie," he said to his passenger. "We would have arrived here much faster."
"Oh, you know Dad. He just wants to make sure I'm safe. Besides, I don't know if I would have liked traveling by lightning anyway," a small voice replied from inside.
"Ah, yes. My powers aren't for everyone."
A young girl stepped out of the car and made a silent inhale at the sight of the camp. She made her way over to Thor's side and pushed up her black-rimmed glasses with one finger.
Thor declared, "Well, here we are, Marcie. Camp Walden for Girls. I wonder if it will be like the camps in Asgard. We used to chase each other with spears and compete in tests of endurance to see who would live until the end of the season."
"I don't think that's how camp works here, Uncle Thor," Marcie chuckled. "But it'll still be fun. Everything looks so...picturesque."
"I'd have to agree. That's a fine way to describe it. Now we should probably go over your father's list."
Thor reached into his pants pocket while Marcie crossed her arms and made a playful eye roll. Thor unfolded a piece of paper and cleared his throat.
"Let's see. Vit-a-mins."
"Vitamins, Uncle Thor. And check."
"List of daily fruits and vegetables."
"Check, check. Check for fruits, check for vegetables."
"Sunblock. Lip balm. Insect repellent. Stationary. Stamps. Photographs of your father, Natasha, and of course, your best friend in all of Midgard, me."
"I have it all."
"Oh, I almost forgot. Natasha wanted me to give you these." Thor reached back into his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards with the packaging still sealed around it. "She said it was 'a spanking new deck of cards for you to take down any girl who's up for a challenge.' Or something like that."
"Well, I doubt I can find someone who can beat me at poker, but tell her I appreciate the thought. Thanks for bringing me here, Uncle Thor."
Thor felt tears well up in his eye, causing him to turn away to wipe at it. "Oh, it's nothing, Marcie. A bug flew into my eye. That's all."
Marcie let down her arms and held them out, waving her fingers at her uncle. "Come here, you."
Thor charged into them and gave her a tight hug, making her let out a small choke. "Uncle Thor...Too tight."
"Oh, sorry." Thor released Marcie and placed her back on her feet, giving her a chance to breathe. "Now remember, if you change your mind and want me to pick you up at the end of camp, shout for me and I'll be here in an instant."
"Thanks, but I'll be fine. Really. See you in eight weeks, Uncle Thor."
"I miss you already, Young Banner."
Thor held out his hand for the girl, causing her to smirk for what was to come. The two then engaged in their special handshake, which consisted of a regular shake, placing their hands on top of one another's, slapping them and raising them at the same time then bringing them down, two hip bumps, their elbows touching, stepping around to the other side, then another regular shake.
Once they finished, Thor bent down and placed a kiss on Marcie's forehead. "Have fun, Marcie."
With her duffel bag by her side, Marcie watched with a smile as Thor hopped back into the car and drove off, leaving his young niece to begin her new life as a Camp Walden camper.
Carolyn and Marcie adjusted to Camp Walden immediately upon arrival. Carolyn freed herself from the burden of her duffel bag and became friends with the girls who helped her rescue it. Kate and Karolina couldn't get over how they had the actual daughter of Iron Man as their bunkmate, but they made sure to treat her like any other girl when they weren't asking her a million questions about the Avengers.
Marcie settled into her own cabin where she became friends with two girls named Laura and Valeria. The girls and their respective friends did everything together at the camp, whether it was taking part in the outdoor activities or eating in the mess hall.
One afternoon, the girls walked with their friend groups along the buffet line in the mess hall, picking at the various foods they wanted to have for dinner. Kate and Laura were the first ones to finish their trays, so they left to find tables for their friends.
Carolyn and Marcie stood side by side, gazing down at the array of fruit that was ready for them to pick at. They were just about to reach for the same dinner roll when Annie weaseled her way in between them to make her own tray.
"Excuse me, girls. I just have to have a scoop of these gorgeous strawberries," she greeted.
Annie began scooping several strawberries into her bowl while the girls waited to get their own food. The counselor held her bowl out to Carolyn and asked, "Would you like some, dear?"
"Oh, no thanks. I can't. I'm allergic."
"Oh, that's too bad." Annie then turned to Marcie and asked, "How about you, dear? Care for a strawberry?"
"Sorry. I wish I could, but I'm allergic."
Annie took a second glance at Marcie and was surprised to find that she wasn't the same girl she had been talking to. While they had the same face, she found that this girl's black hair fell past her shoulders in waves rather than held back in a ponytail. Unlike the other girl, black glasses adorned her face, and she wore a purple shirt and black pants instead of a red and blue plaid flannel and jeans.
Annie found herself blinking at this new girl, dumbstruck by her sudden change. "You just told me that."
She turned around but shook her head upon finding that the first girl had disappeared, leaving the second one in her place. "How did you get over there? Oh, it's still the first week. You'll have to excuse the old girl. At least I'm not putting salt in the sugar shakers. Oh, well, I mean sugar in the salt sha-"
Annie looked up again to find that the second girl had now disappeared, leaving her to talk to herself. "Now where did she go?"
Carolyn couldn't believe how quickly she had taken up fencing. Sports had always been her forté, but out of all the ones she played, fencing had never crossed her mind. But camp was an opportunity to try new things, and Carolyn wasn't one to turn down a challenge.
She took up a sword and had taken down her first opponent in one swift move. Competitors continued to challenge her throughout the day, but no one could beat the swordsman behind the netted mask that covered every inch of her face.
A group of girls had gathered on the sidelines to watch Carolyn take down yet another opponent on the field. During the match, Marcie and her friends came over from playing tennis and watched the girl fight across the field.
As she pushed her opponent down with the sword, Amy came over to congratulate her on the winning move. "Alright, excellent, kids," she said over a crowd of cheering girls. "The winner and still undefeated champ from Upstate New York, Miss Carolyn Stark! Do we have any challengers?"
"Why don't you try?" Laura said as she bumped Marcie's shoulders.
"Me? But I don't even know how to fence."
"The least you could do is try," Valeria added.
Marcie looked ahead and remembered how her father had encouraged her to try new things at camp before she left. She had never expected to throw fencing into the mix, but she could imagine the shock and the hint of pride that would be on his face once she told him that she had held a real sword at camp.
Marcie shrugged. "Why not? It wouldn't hurt." She made her way over to Amy and declared, "I'll take a whack at it."
"Okay! We got ourselves a challenger. Suit up."
Marcie found some fencing gear lying on a bench and began to put it on. She threw the white padded clothes over her own and placed the netted mask over her face, her hair sticking out of the back. Once she took up a sword, she marched over to her opponent, and the two stood face to face.
Standing off to the side, Amy held up a watch and asked, "Fencers ready?"
"Ready," the girls replied as they twirled their swords before them.
The two swords were held over their heads, the blades pressed against one another.
Marcie began the match with a charge, bringing her sword forward and aiming it at Carolyn. She continued to clang against her opponent's sword with every step forward while Carolyn moved backwards in time to the moves. When she was free, she pushed herself against a tree and tried to swipe at Marcie. Marcie saw the blade hover towards her head, causing her to duck and let out a yelp as it sliced the air above her.
They continued to move through the field, making their way towards the woods. Carolyn thrust forward, but Marcie dashed to the side before the blow, leading her sword to instead hit a nearby totem pole.
Marcie jumped over a hay bale while Carolyn followed suit, finding her opponent leaning against a pile of hay. They continued to clash swords, but Marcie, growing confident in her new ability, let out a stage yawn as she moved her sword to and fro.
Carolyn noted her weakness and was able to thrust the sword from her grasp, crying, "Touché!"
Marcie watched her sword fly above her, and she climbed on top of the hay to grab it. It landed firm in her grasp, causing Carolyn to remark, "Nice catch."
The girls moved their fight onto a cabin porch, with Marcie leading Carolyn over to the edge. A water trough lay at the foot of the cabin, and Carolyn stood above it once cornered by her opponent.
With a thrust of her sword, Marcie made contact with the girl and cried, "Touché!" She pushed too hard and sent Carolyn flying over the porch railing and into the water trough below.
A small gasp escaped Marcie's mouth as she watched the girl sit up in the water. She reached out her hand and offered, "Sorry. Let me help you."
"No, let me help you." Carolyn grabbed onto her hand and pulled it forward, sending Marcie into the trough as well.
Picking herself up, Marcie asked, "What did you do that for?"
"Me? You pushed me in!"
"I did not!"
"Okay, that was quite a show!" Amy greeted as she and the audience of girls joined the scene. "I think we got ourselves a new camp champ from New York City, Miss Marcie Banner!"
The crowd cheered while the girls stepped out of the trough with their backs turned.
As they took off their masks, Amy said, "Alright, girls. Shake hands."
Neither girl budged from her spot, hard glares beginning to form on their faces.
"Come on, girls."
They soon rolled their eyes and turned around to be polite to their opponent. What they didn't expect was their hearts stopping upon finding a girl with the same face standing before them. They stared at each other for a moment then reached out their hands to shake, still awed by their doppelgänger. The crowd noticed the resemblance as well, as several gasps and murmurs could be heard among them after the reveal.
The girls' friends joined their side as Carolyn shook her head to focus. Back in the moment, she asked, "Why's everyone staring?"
"Don't you see it?" Marcie replied.
"The resemblance between us."
Carolyn scoffed. "Resemblance? Between you and me? Let me see. Turn sideways."
Marcie made a reluctant sigh then turned to the left to show off her profile.
"Now the other way." Carolyn studied the girl with a smirk then waited for her to face forward to begin explaining her results.
"Now granted you have glasses and I don't, but that's besides the point. Your eyes are much closer together than mine, your ears, well, don't worry. You'll grow into them. Your teeth are a little crooked, and ugh, that nose. Well, don't worry, dear. Those things can be fixed."
Marcie made a gasp at each remark, causing her to look away and clutch the side of her face.
Laura stepped before her and made two fists at Carolyn, asking, "Want me to deck her for you?"
"Hold on. I'm not quite finished yet. You want to know the real difference between us?"
Marcie turned back to face the girl and arched her shoulders, feeling a new confidence begin to surge through her. "Let me see. I know how to fence and you don't or I have class and you don't? Take your pick."
"Why, I oughta-" Carolyn took a step closer to Marcie, a sneer settling on her face, when Amy stepped in between both girls and held them back.
"Ladies, ladies," she said, "It's time to break up this little love fest. Marcie, Carolyn-" Amy realized that she had addressed the wrong girls, causing her to take a step back. "I-I mean, Carolyn, Marcie. I-I mean...whoa."
The barrier between them didn't stop the girls from glaring at one another, never taking their eyes off the opponent who dared to look just like her.
Almost half of the Camp Walden girls were packed into the Navajo cabin that night, forming themselves into a squished circle. They stood around a small table to watch Marcie win poker game after poker game under the dim lamplight beside her.
As the end of another game neared, she threw down her cards and declared, "Sorry, ladies. Read 'em and weep."
The girls in the game groaned as Marcie took their chips as well as their money and wrung them through her hands. She looked around at the disgruntled faces and asked, "So that's it? No more takers?"
As the girls mumbled their refusal, the cabin door squeaked open then slammed shut against the wooden doorframe. "I'll take a whack at it," a voice greeted.
The girls stepped aside to form a path for the newcomer in their party. Approaching the table was Carolyn, dark sunglasses covering her face as she swung a sock filled with quarters from side to side. She dumped the coins onto the table while Marcie took to shuffling the cards before her.
The girl smirked at the new arrival. "Take a seat, Stark."
Carolyn took the seat across from her and pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head. Leaning back in the chair, she declared, "Deal me in."
Marcie then dealt the first card, and the game began. The two girls went back and forth, throwing cards down and adding onto the pot of their winnings. It began as quarters then increased to dollar bills with the final addition of scrunchies and bottles of nail polish into the mixture. Not a word was uttered between the two, their only goal being to throw down the best hand.
When they each had a solid amount of cards in their hands, Carolyn stared at her opponent and explained, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'll make you a little deal. Loser jumps into the lake after the game."
"Even more excellent. Start unzipping, Stark."
Marcie placed her five cards onto the table, revealing an ace, a 2, a 3, a 4, and a 5, all in diamonds. "Straight. In diamonds."
Carolyn nodded at the move and kept her poker face alive for her opponent. "You're good, Banner. But you're just not good enough."
Marcie's smirk fell from her face, and she felt herself twitch at the cold words. Taking on the smirk herself, Carolyn turned her hand around to reveal a king, a queen, a jack, a 10, and an ace, all in clubs.
"A royal flush."
Marcie took one step at a time along the dock to the lake, feeling the cool night air nipping at her bare skin. She could hear the catcalls from the other campers in the distance as she wore nothing but her glasses to the water. She bit her lip once she reached the end then turned around to see the others on the shore.
Marcie saluted at Carolyn and watched the girl do the same with a smirk. She then turned around and jumped in feet first, her head sinking under the water in seconds.
"Grab her clothes," Carolyn whispered to the others.
The girls grabbed Marcie's clothes from a log and ran off to their cabins, leaving nothing but a pair of black flats behind.
It wasn't long before Marcie poked her head out of the water and saw that the crowd had dispersed, leaving her alone at the lake. She came out and returned to the log and grunted upon seeing that her clothes were missing. She stared out into the dark with a glare.
"Right. Fine. If that's the way you want it, then let the games begin."
Carolyn, Kate, and Karolina walked back to their cabin after a vicious game of basketball between a group from another cabin. Walking side by side, they listened as Kate said, "I swear I heard your evil clone sneezing all the way across the mess hall this morning."
Carolyn chuckled then let out a sigh, slumping her shoulders in her stride. "I am so tired. I'm crawling back into bed and sleeping 'till lunch."
Karolina then stopped walking and stared ahead, her eyes growing wide at what lay before her. "That does not seem like a possibility."
"That's why not."
Karolina pointed ahead, leading the other two to follow her gaze. Their faces turned into the same shocked face as their friend's once they saw what was before them.
The three girls' beds were placed on the roof of their cabin as well as their duffel bags, chairs, and tables. A large green flag hung off the side of the roof with the letters MB written on it in purple letters.
The only thing Carolyn could say was, "No way."
It didn't take long for the girls to come up with their own revenge for the trick. That night, they snuck into the Navajo cabin with several supplies at hand for the ultimate prank. The girls tied several yards of string around the cabin, adorned several of the girls with honey and whipped cream, poured vegetable oil on the floor, and poured a large vat of chocolate syrup into a bucket. They couldn't help but giggle at each layer of the prank, ready for what awaited their rivals the next morning.
Marcie woke up with the sun streaming on her face from the window and the sound of a bugle coming from outside. She stretched in bed and opened her eyes to find the faint haze of something hanging over her bed. She reached for her glasses and sat up upon clearly seeing the string scattered around her cabin.
Marcie pulled herself out of bed and let out a groan when she felt something sticky touch her feet. She looked down and continued to groan once she found her feet covered in caramel, sticking her to the floor.
Her yells soon awoke the other girls in her cabin, who quickly discovered the tricks the girls had pulled on them as well. One girl had whipped cream covering her head and chest, one girl's hair had become spiked and green, and another was covered head to toe in honey. As each girl screamed at the top of their lungs, Carolyn and her friends poked their heads into the window and watched their dismay at the scene they found themselves in.
Marcie tried to walk across the floor but knocked into a string, causing several water balloons to rain down from the ceiling. She jumped with each one that landed at her feet, avoiding their splash before they could hit her. When the melee stopped, she huffed.
"She didn't get me."
When Marcie heard a groan from above, she looked up and gasped as a water balloon the size of her head tumbled down from the rafters and landed on her head. Her hair and face now dripping wet, she yelled, "That girl is without a doubt the lowest, most awful creature that ever walked the planet!"
"Thank you. Thank you very much," Carolyn remarked in an Elvis impression to her friends.
Just then, Annie and Amy walked past the girls with bright smiles on their faces. "Morning, girls," the former greeted.
"Morning, Ameses." It took the girls a moment to register their counselors' appearance, causing them to turn to the side and watch them walk towards the cabin. "Ameses?!"
Bringing a megaphone to her mouth, Annie declared, "Surprise inspection! Attention! Navajos!"
The counselors made their way to the Navajo cabin but were stopped by Carolyn running over to block the door. "No, no, Annie. Do not go in there. One of the girls got sick last night, and it is a big, big mess. Save yourself the aggravation. It's really disgusting."
"Oh, well, if someone's sick, dear, then I must go in." Annie began to open the door but was pushed back by Carolyn, whose eyes were focused on the bucket that teetered over the door.
"Move aside, dear," Annie said.
"No, no, really. I insist. I can't let you go in there. She's highly contagious. Honest."
"Actually," Marcie spoke up from the screen window, "We're all okay in here. Unless Carolyn Stark knows something that we don't. Really, I insist. Open the door and see for yourself, Annie."
"Step aside, Carolyn."
Annie took a hold of the door from Carolyn, the girl stumbling over to the side. The door swung open, and the two counselors suddenly found themselves showered in chocolate syrup.
Annie tried to take a step inside the cabin and instantly slipped on the vegetable oil that coated the floor. She skid to the back of the cabin and smacked into the shelves that lined the walls.
Amy was quick to follow behind her, falling to her face the moment she hit the wall. She tried to grab something to pick herself up and found herself clutching a doll tied to one of the strings. The string activated the fan that hung on the ceiling, turning it on to spin in place. A flurry of white feathers began to rain down from the fan, coating both the cabin and the counselors.
Carolyn winced as she stood in the doorway. "I told you it was a mess in here."
"She should know. She did it!" Marcie cried.
Her hunched figure pressed to the wall, Annie pointed at both girls and tried her best to speak while spitting out feathers. "You! And you! Pack your bags!"
Every camper walked together in a massive group through the woods, forming a line that stretched for miles. Annie and Amy led the group and were followed by Carolyn, Marcie, and their duffel bags not far behind. After crossing a bridge placed over a creek, the group reached a clearing that was tucked away on the outskirts of the campgrounds.
Annie turned to the campers and pulled up her megaphone, addressing, "Okay, girls. The rest of you, back to your activities."
The campers cheered at the news and dashed back to the campgrounds, leaving only Carolyn and Marcie in their counselors' care. They were met with a stern glare from Amy and Annie adding, "You two, the Isolation Cabin."
Amy pointed to her right to reveal a cabin hidden on a hill in the trees with a tall flight of stairs leading to the front door. Carolyn and Marcie turned to each other to glare then marched up to their new home for the next two months.
The two found their living conditions difficult at first, as they often argued over how to maintain control of the space. Their main disagreements came at night, when Marcie took to writing letters to home while Carolyn tried to sleep. They both had two light switches at their bedside, causing them to often have silent tiffs of "lights on vs. lights off." It wasn't until one rainy day that the residents of the Isolation Cabin finally found something to agree on.
The rain had come suddenly over Camp Walden, as water showered over the campgrounds in heavy gusts of wind. While most of the girls ran screaming from the lake in nothing but bathing suits and towels, Carolyn and Marcie remained indoors.
Carolyn had taken the time to put up several pictures and posters on the wall while Marcie played solitaire on her bed. The two were brought out of their activities when a window burst open, sending a strong gust of wind into the room.
Marcie ran over to it and tried to push it shut, grunting with every move she made. Her effort proved to be not enough, as the window remained open.
Carolyn soon came over and grabbed the other side of the frame, tugging on it with all her might. "Oh god, it's stuck," she muttered.
The two girls pushed together and were soon able to slide the window shut. Carolyn let out a deep exhale, rubbing her palms and shaking out her arms.
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Marcie said, "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Carolyn turned to return to her pictures and sighed when she found that several of them had fallen to the floor. "Oh man."
She bent down to pick them up and found Marcie joining her side to help. Marcie took up several pictures in her hand then noticed something laying on the floor beside her. She grabbed it and found it to be a plush rabbit with a white face and body and purple ears and back.
Marcie handed it over to Carolyn and said, "Oh, here's your..."
"Rescue. Rescue Rabbit." Carolyn took Rescue back then returned to cleaning.
"Did any of your pictures get ruined?" Marcie asked.
"Only ELO." Carolyn held up a wrinkled poster depicting ELO's Out of the Blue album cover.
Marcie cocked her head at it. "What?"
"ELO? Electric Light Orchestra."
Marcie scrunched her lip and shook her head.
"You've never heard of Electric Light Orchestra? They're only the greatest band of all time. I would think a Manhattanite like you would have good music taste, at least."
"Oh, I'm not big on the whole pop culture scene. There's too much to take in, so I never know where to start."
Carolyn chuckled. "That's funny. You'd think that would be me since I live in the middle of nowhere."
A small smile creeped onto Marcie's face as she laid on her stomach and propped her head in her hands. "Do you really live at the New Avengers Facility?" she asked in a wistful tone.
"Yup. I've lived there my whole life. It's one of the many perks of being Tony Stark's daughter. Actually, I have a picture of the Facility right here."
Carolyn sifted through the scattered pictures until she pulled up a large photograph for Marcie. The two huddled together to stare at the image of a large warehouse covered wall-to-wall in glass windows and the Avengers logo printed on one side. It was surrounded by trees in the background and a pink sunset in the sky, and a black-haired man in a suit stood in the front with his back turned to the camera.
"Wow. It's beautiful," Marcie said.
"Yeah. It has a gazillion rooms filled with different kinds of tech and armor. I like to hang out on the roof, though. That's where I do a lot of my training."
"For sports. I do a lot of them at my school. Football, hockey, martial arts, roller derby. They keep the blood pumping."
Marcie nodded to herself then returned to the picture. Pointing at the man in it, she asked, "Who's that?"
"Oh, that's my dad. I didn't want him to see me taking the picture because he would have started getting all self-conscious about what angle I should take it from. He's kind of like my best friend. We do everything together."
Carolyn looked to the side and didn't notice the smile appearing on her face as her mind drifted to thoughts of home. Marcie felt her arms begin to tense in her position on the floor, causing her to get up and walk over to her bed.
Carolyn looked up and asked, "What's the matter?"
"Oh, it's chilly in here. That's all."
Carolyn shrugged then made her way over to a trunk at the end of her bed. She opened it and pulled out a package of Oreos, showing them off to her roommate. "Do you want one?"
"Oh, sure. I love Oreos. At home, I eat them with peanut butter."
Carolyn's eyes widened, her mouth forming a small O as she revealed a jar of peanut butter in her hand. "You do? That is so weird. So do I!"
"You're kidding. Most people find that disgusting."
"I know! I don't get it."
The two chuckled while Carolyn sat beside Marcie with the food. As she opened the peanut butter, she asked, "What's your dad like? I mean, is he the kind of father that you can talk to, or is he one of those workaholic types that says, 'I'll talk to you later, honey,' but you know, never really does? I hate that."
"Oh, my dad's great. He's a nuclear physics professor at Empire State. He'll bring me to the lab sometimes and let me work with him on experiments. He helps me with my homework sometimes and he can always tell when I'm upset about something. He's a really great listener."
Marcie's smile began to waver as she pulled her legs to her chest. Pushing her hair behind her ear, she said in a quiet voice, "I, uh...I couldn't tell you about my other dad, though."
Carolyn cocked her head to the side. "You have two dads?"
"Yeah. Well, I-I did. They got divorced years ago. My dad never even mentions him. It's like he...evaporated into thin air or something."
"It's scary the way no one stays together anymore. Although, I'm in the same boat as you. My two dads split up when I was a baby. I've never even met my second old man. I've thought about it, but I don't think Dad wants me to."
A hush fell over the cabin as the two munched on their Oreos at the same time. After a moment, Carolyn asked, "How old are you?"
"I turned thirteen on January 24th."
Carolyn choked on her Oreo but was quick to regain her breath. "So did I!"
"Your birthday's on January 24th?"
"How weird is that?"
"Extremely." Carolyn turned to look out the window behind her and saw the sun shining over the wet trees that surrounded them outside. "Oh hey, it stopped raining. Do you want to go get a popsicle or something?"
She had begun making her out of the cabin and reached the last step outside when she noticed that Marcie wasn't with her. She turned around and found the girl in question standing at the top of the steps, her hand clutching her chest.
"What's the matter?" Carolyn asked.
"Do you really not know anything about your other dad?"
Carolyn stuffed her hands in her jeans pockets and began rocking back and forth on her feet. "Well...I do know that he was really handsome."
"How do you know that?"
"My dad had this really old picture of him hidden in his sock drawer. He caught me looking at it, like, all the time, so he gave it to me to keep. Look, I'm really thirsty. Are you sure you don't want to go to the mess hall and get a lemonade or something?"
"Will you stop thinking about your stomach at a time like this?"
"At a time like what?"
"Don't you realize what's happening?" Marcie grabbed Carolyn's hand and pulled her back inside, where she began pacing about the floor.
"I mean, think about it. We both used to have two dads but now have one, you've never seen your other dad and neither have I, you have an old picture of your other dad and I have one too. But at least yours is probably a whole picture. Mine's a pathetic, thin, crinkled one that's ripped right down the middle and-"
Marcie looked over to find Carolyn rummaging through her trunk. "What are you doing?"
Carolyn soon closed the trunk and stood up, facing the girl with the back of her picture pressed to her chest. "This. It's a picture of my dad, and it's ripped too."
"Right down the middle?"
"Right down the middle."
Marcie then went over to her nightstand and picked up a tin box. She sifted through the various keepsakes inside until she pulled out her own ripped picture, holding it to her chest.
"This is so freaky," she said to Carolyn. "On the count of three, we'll show them to each other, okay?"
"Okay." Carolyn's throat had tightened from within, making her voice come out in a whisper. "One..."
The two revealed their pictures and connected them down their halves. The picture appeared to be complete once more, as it depicted Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on their wedding night, staring at each other with love in their eyes. Carolyn and Marcie couldn't take their eyes off the image as they saw the other girl holding her father in her hand.
Carolyn was the first to state the obvious as she declared, "That's my dad."
"That's my dad." A shrill bell ringing from outside reached Marcie's ears, and she added, "That's the lunch bell."
Carolyn turned to Marcie and wiped at her eyes, trying to stop the tears in them from falling out. "I'm not so hungry anymore," she choked out. "So if...if your dad is my other dad and my dad is your other dad and we're both born on January 24th, then you and I are like...like sisters."
"Sisters? Carolyn, we're like twins!"
Both girls were unable to keep their smiles from stretching across their faces as they pulled each other into a tight hug. Once they let go, Carolyn began fiddling with a necklace around her neck.
"I just don't know what to say."
"What's that you're holding?"
"My locket. I got it when I was born. It has a C on it."
Marcie couldn't help but chuckle as she revealed an identical locket around her neck as well. "I got mine when I was born too except mine has an M on it."
"Ugh, I've got goosebumps now. My god, so I'm not an only child. I'm a twin! There's two of me! I mean, two of us! This is, like..."
"Oh my god!"
"Oh my god!"
The two sisters couldn't restrain themselves any longer. They pulled themselves into a hug once more and didn't plan on letting go for the rest of camp.
Even though the lights were off and Camp Walden was shrouded in night, Carolyn and Marcie couldn't go to sleep. The two had moved their beds so they would be pressed together, and they laid on their sides to stare at each other. They spent the evening telling each other every detail they could think of about their fathers.
"So you said Dad's a science professor?" Carolyn asked at one point.
"Yup. At Empire State. He's really popular with all of his students, and it's not just for the, you know, Hulk situation."
"You know what's interesting? Neither one of our dads ever got married again. Has yours ever been close to getting married?"
"Never. He says that I'm the only girl in his life and they don't make today's boys like they used to."
Marcie chuckled at the comment. "Yeah, mine has never come close either."
The two then turned over and closed their eyes to sleep. It wasn't long before Carolyn shot up in bed, letting out a loud gasp with wide eyes.
"I have a brilliant-beyond-brilliant idea. I'm serious. I'm a total genius."
Marcie reached over for her glasses and put them on to see her sister better. "What is it?"
"You want to know what our Iron Dad is like, right?"
"Right," Marcie replied as she sat up.
"And I'm dying to know our Green Dad. So what I'm thinking is—Don't freak out, okay?—I think we should switch places. When camp's over, I'll go back to Manhattan as you and you'll go back upstate as me."
"Marcie, we can pull it off. We're twins, aren't we?"
"Carolyn, we're totally and completely 100% different."
"So? What's the problem? I'll teach you to be me and you teach me to be you. Look, I can do you already." Carolyn pulled down her ponytail, letting her hair fall at her side. She made her voice quieter than usual and imitated, "'You want to know the difference between us? I have class and you don't.'"
Marcie couldn't help but crack a smile as she looked away from her sister.
"Come on, Marcie." Carolyn clasped her hands together as she stared at Marcie, making her eyes into that of a puppy's. "I got to meet my dad."
"You know, the truth is if we switch, sooner or later, they'll have to unswitch us."
"And when they do, they'll have to meet again face to face."
A sparkle appeared in Marcie's eyes as she grinned from ear to ear. "After all these years.”
The two then fell back into bed, unable to hold back the grins on their faces. Carolyn added, "I told you I'm brilliant."
The twins devoted the rest of their time together at camp to preparing for the switch. They discussed it at meals in the mess hall and drew up plans for display in their cabin. Marcie told her sister about the other Avengers that lived with her in her cushy Manhattan apartment while Carolyn created blueprints of the New Avengers Facility and gave Marcie a grand tour of her home. Marcie even taught her the handshake she had with Thor, practicing on the docks until Carolyn could do it perfectly.
As their time together grew shorter, they decided to engage in the hardest part of the switch: Marcie's glasses. The girl stood in a tense position before their mirror, waiting without her glasses for Carolyn to ready the contact lenses she'd borrowed from Kate.
After taking a deep breath, Marcie said, "Okay. I'm ready." When she heard her sister walk over with the contact solution and box of lenses, she added, "Wait. These are your friend's. I can't just take her contacts home with me. A-And no one at your house needs them. Wh-Where the hell am I supposed to get contacts without anyone getting suspicious?"
"I don't know. The airport, maybe. Or you can sneak some along with you if you go with Pepper to run errands one day. Whichever's easier for you."
Marcie winced at the answer, never taking her eyes off the blurry mirror.
Carolyn stood in front of her and handed her the supplies, explaining, "Okay, you have to put the solution in first. Then, you drop a lens in each eye. Remember, don't wear them when you're asleep because they'll get stuck. Kate told me it hurts like hell when that happens."
"You're not making me feel better about this."
"Do you want to meet Dad or not?"
Marcie let out a whimper as she took the supplies from her sister. She put the lenses on her dresser and gripped the solution bottle tight. Tilting her head back, she squirted a drop in each eye and blinked so the solution would settle. When she was ready, she clasped one lens in between her fingers and held it over her eye. She took a deep breath then dropped it in, feeling a piercing sting once it made contact.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!" she cried as she covered her hand over it.
Carolyn rushed to her side and asked, "Are you okay?"
Marcie took her hand off and stared at herself in the mirror. She was starting to have clear vision again, but she wasn't fully there yet. She sighed. "So this is what Uncle Thor feels like."
"Okay, just one more and you're done."
Marcie didn't hesitate as she dropped the other lens in, blinking until it fit. As she pulled her head back, she let out a small gasp as she stared at her reflection. Her vision was clear for the first time in her life, and she no longer had to worry about glasses.
Carolyn, wearing her hair down like her sister, stood beside her and marveled at the resemblance between them. Marcie did the same and said, "This is so scary."
"I know...Wait. I need glasses. I can't take yours 'cause you need them. Where the hell am I supposed to get glasses?"
"I don't know. The airport, maybe."
Carolyn chuckled at the cocky tone Marcie had taken on. "Hey, you sounded just like me."
"Well, I'm supposed to, aren't I?"
Carolyn pushed her hair behind her ear then let out a gasp. "Oh my god."
"I have pierced ears."
Marcie took a step back and pointed an accusatory finger at her sister. "No. No, no, and no. Not happening. Sorry, wrong number. I won't. I refuse."
"Then making you wear contacts was a total waste 'cause there's no way I can go to camp with pierced ears and come home without them. I mean, come on. Get real."
Marcie then put down her finger and grabbed her earlobes, treasuring them for as long as she could.
Marcie laid on her bed that night with an ice cube pressed to her earlobe and watched as Carolyn lit a match above her. She placed a needle in the flame then blew out the match, seeing a slight tinge on the metal.
"Needle sterilized," she said.
Marcie stammered, "A-Are y-you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Relax. I do science stuff all the time."
Marcie began to loosen up. "You do?"
"Oh, yeah! Well, I'm more of a biochem kind of girl, so building things isn't my strong point-"
Marcie made another whimper as she turned her eyes onto the ceiling.
Carolyn explained, "It's nothing. Just close your eyes and it'll be over before you know it. Is the earring ready?"
Marcie used her other hand to reveal a small earring in it. "Yes."
"Good. Hand me the apple."
Marcie gave Carolyn an apple slice with a wince.
"Just relax. I'm telling you. This is not a big deal. On the count of three, remove the ice. One...two...three!"
Marcie pulled the ice cube away from her ear and let Carolyn place the apple underneath it. Carolyn brought the needle down to her earlobe and stabbed it through so it pierced into the apple.
Marcie rattled the cabin with her screaming, which was followed not far behind by Carolyn screaming as well. Their screams traveled through the surrounding woods, and one could only imagine what was going on inside the Isolation Cabin that night.
The August day had arrived where buses were parked outside of Camp Walden once more, this time to bring each camper home. The girls flooded the entrance in a large crowd, touting their duffel bags and loading them onto a bus. Some girls stayed behind to see their new friends one last time and make promises to write or text one another. Standing at the back of the group was Annie, her bullhorn pressed to her face that had a large frown on it.
"Girls, it's time to say your last goodbyes. The buses are loading," she said with a hint of a disappointment.
Carolyn and Marcie hugged each other at the front of the camp, giving each other a tight squeeze. The two were dressed in each other's clothes and were ready to begin their switch once they left for good.
As she let go, Carolyn said, "Okay, this is it."
"So remember, you're going to find out where our dads went on their first date."
"And you're going to find out why they broke up."
Amy's voice broke through them as she called through her own bullhorn, "Marcie Banner, your car is here!"
"That's you," Marcie told her sister. "Here's your plane ticket. Uncle Thor will pick you up this afternoon."
"What time do you leave?"
"Not for a couple of hours. Give Green Dad a kiss for me."
"And give Iron Dad one for me." Carolyn threw herself onto Marcie to give her another hug.
"Marcie Banner! Front and center!" Amy interrupted.
Carolyn let go and picked up the suitcase at her side. "Goodbye," she told her sister as she ran off. When she reached the car, she gave Amy a quick hug then hopped into the back of the rental car.
Marcie remained in place as she watched the car drive off for the airport. She kept her eyes on it and crossed her arms and fingers over her chest. Biting her lip, she whispered, "Good luck."
Carolyn pressed her face to the airplane window once she saw the Manhattan skyline down below. She felt her heart thump against her chest, leading her to place her hand over it.
"Okay, this is it," she said to herself. "God, I hope he likes me." Carolyn leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes, letting out a silent sigh. "Please like me. Please."
The plane touched down at J.F.K. Airport, where Carolyn dashed off to reach the exit. She went to the bag terminal and fetched her suitcase then made her way to the front of the airport.
She stood on her toes and peered through the bustling crowd of people before her. She struggled to make out not only Thor's face but the face of anyone who walked past her. Setting herself down on her feet, she sighed.
"Why couldn't I have super sight or something? Anything would be better than this." Carolyn spotted an empty chair to her side and shrugged. "That'll work."
She stood on the seat and continued her surveillance for her ride home. It wasn't long before a gruff voice called through the area, "Marcie!"
Carolyn followed the sound to see a man with clean-cut blond hair, a hint of a beard on his face, and an eyepatch over his right eye walking towards her. He wore a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants that desperately needed to be washed but held a small bouquet of colorful flowers at his chest and had a bright smile on his face. Carolyn's training at camp had served her well.
Thor rushed over to her and gave her a tight hug. Carolyn felt the wind knock out of her from it, causing her to let out a small groan.
"Your hugs really are tight," she choked out.
Thor let go and asked, "What was that?"
Carolyn did her best to hide the shock on her face. "I, uh, just missed your hugs, Uncle Thor. That's all."
"Oh, of course you did. But that goes for the both of us. I missed you too, Young Banner." Thor handed the bouquet over to Carolyn and stared at the girl for a moment. "There's something different about you."
"Different? Nope, no difference here. I'm just the same old Marcie from when you dropped me off at camp. Nothing new here." Carolyn tried to force the awkward laugh rising in her throat back down, but it escaped anyway.
"No, there's definitely something different. It can't be your hair..." Thor then snapped his fingers and pointed. "I got it. You got your ears pierced."
Carolyn let out a quiet exhale. "Yeah, I did. A girl I met at camp did it. Do you like it?"
"I love it. It's the new you. If that's what you're going for, of course."
Thor picked up Carolyn and set her down on the ground before him. He held out his hand and said, "Give me five, Marcie."
Carolyn stared at his hand for a moment, gulping at her first real test as Marcie. She shook his hand and let the handshake begin. There was no need for either of them to worry, as everything went as smoothly as expected. Carolyn performed every move of the handshake with ease, and Thor was none the wiser. The girl grinned from ear to ear once they finished, and she knew that she was ready for her new life as Marcie.
When they were ready, the two left the airport and hailed a cab to take them home. Carolyn stuck her head out the window for most of the drive, enamored by the sights around her. She felt breathless as she stared at the giant billboards that towered over her and the flashing lights on every block. The cab drove past Times Square, where a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty waved to her from outside.
Thor chuckled when he saw Carolyn give an enthusiastic wave back to the woman. "Do you like what you see?" he asked with a smirk.
Carolyn propped her head down on her folded arms that rested on the window. She said in a quiet voice, "I can't believe I've missed all of this."
"No surprise there. Being in the woods can do that to you."
It wasn't long before the cab turned down a street filled with brick apartment buildings pressed against one another on the block. Carolyn felt them growing close, so she pulled her head back inside and rolled up the window. She bit her lip and gripped her hand on the door handle as hard as she could, holding her breath the further they drove.
The cab soon stopped in front of a tan-colored building with a set of black iron stairs leading to the red front door and a flower bush planted beside it.
"Here we are. Home again," Thor said as he stepped out. He reached into his pocket to pay the driver while Carolyn stepped out of the cab and stared at the building.
She took a deep breath when she saw a set of white curtains on the second floor billow from inside. When she was ready, she nodded then made her way up the stairs to the door. Carolyn turned the knob and pushed the door open, stepping inside her new home.
She looked around at the burgundy-colored walls covered in artwork and entryways to other rooms. A winding staircase stood before her, but Carolyn decided to explore the first floor first.
"Hello?" she called as she stepped into the empty living room. She moved through the two couches that stood in the center of the room but turned her head up to see what hung on the ceiling. A large banner stretched across the room with the words "Welcome home, Marcie" written on it in different colored markers and silver glitter.
Carolyn continued to marvel at the room but was jolted out of her thoughts when she heard the sound of furious punching coming from the other room. She made her way to the doorway and poked her head in to find a small gym, filled with punching bags, weights, and targets with bullet holes in them hanging on the wall.
A woman with short red hair stood in the center, wearing a black tank top and leggings. Her fists moved in a rapid circle as she punched a speed bag in front of her, never moving from her stance. Carolyn felt herself grin from ear to ear at the woman she found herself in the presence of.
Natasha Romanoff stopped her workout and turned around at the familiar voice. A smile formed on her face as well as she greeted, "Hey, you're back! I've missed you, kid!"
Natasha walked over and threw Carolyn into a hug, letting the girl squeeze her as tight as she wanted. With their arms still wrapped around each other, Natasha looked down and asked, "You definitely got taller while you were gone, right? I'm not making that up?"
Carolyn chucked with a shrug. "I might have."
"Ah, welcome back, Marcie. Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah, I had a great time."
Carolyn found herself pressing her head into Natasha's chest and sniffing it with a smile. Natasha pulled her head and raised her eyebrow at her niece.
"Uh, what are you doing there, kid?"
Carolyn widened her eyes and froze for a moment. "Just smelling."
"I'm making a memory. So that years from now, I'll always remember my Aunt Natasha and how she always smelled like..." Carolyn leaned in and took another sniff, "Gunpowder and sweat with a hint of roses."
"Oh, is that what we're calling it now?"
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all, Marcie. I'm just glad to have you back."
The two girls hugged once more and gave each other a squeeze. A new voice then filled the scene, calling out, "Marcie?"
Carolyn picked her head up and stared out through the doorway. She pulled away from Natasha and followed the sound to the main hall.
"Marcie?" it called again as she stood before the stairs. Carolyn looked up and froze when she saw who awaited her.
Bruce Banner stood at the top of the stairs, his beaming face framed by the curly black hair that sat on the top of his head. The yellow collared shirt he wore radiated the happiness he felt from within at the sight of his daughter, and Carolyn could almost say the same for herself.
"Dad," she breathed.
The two charged after each other and threw themselves into each other's arms. Father and daughter were reunited once more, and neither one of them wanted it to end. Bruce kissed Carolyn on the cheek and sat down on the stairs, seeing the tears forming in his daughter's eyes.
"I can't believe it's you," she choked out.
"And I can't believe it's you. And with..." Bruce pushed Carolyn's hair back and cupped one of her ears in his hand, "Pierced ears? Who did this for you?"
"A girl I met at camp. Do you hate it?"
"No, I love it! Are there any other surprises I should know about? Belly button rings? Tattoos?"
Carolyn chuckled and wiped her tears away.
Bruce noticed the gesture and asked, "Hey, sweetie, what is it?"
"I'm sorry. It's just...I've missed you so much."
Bruce let a small smile creep onto his face and pulled his daughter to his chest. "I know, Marcie. It seems like it's been forever, huh?"
"You have no idea."
Carolyn didn't stop her tears from falling as she squeezed her father tighter than before, treasuring every second that passed between them.
After their reunion, Carolyn and Bruce went to the latter's bedroom and sat on his bed. Bruce wrapped his arm around his daughter, tucking her into his side. He pressed her close to him and squeezed her tight, trying to fill her with the same amount of love he had for her.
As he smiled down at Carolyn, he said, "So come on. Tell me. Did you like everyone? Was it fun?"
Carolyn was about to reply when there was a sharp knock echoing from the doorway. The two looked over to find Thor standing before them, holding his shoulders back and his head high.
"Oh hey, Thor. What's up?" Bruce asked.
"I was bringing Marcie's bags up to her room when I saw a stowaway poking his head out of one of them. I thought I would alert you of his presence. What do you want to do with it?"
Thor pulled up one of his arms and revealed Rescue in his hand, the bunny dangling by one of her ears.
Carolyn took in a sharp gasp. "Oh my god, Rescue."
"Rescue?" Bruce asked.
Carolyn whipped her head between her father and Thor then raced off the bed. Wringing her hands together, she made her way over to Thor and explained, "Sh-She belongs to my friend, the one I was telling you about. I can't imagine how she got into my suitcase."
"Oh, she's a female." Thor brought Rescue to his eye level and said, "My apologies." He turned back to his tense niece and asked, "Well, since she's not our Rescue, should we dispose of the little creature?"
"No!" Carolyn held her hands out before her with wide eyes. Seeing her new family's alarm, she composed herself and shook her head. "I mean, no. I'll mail her to my friend."
Carolyn took the rabbit from Thor and squeezed her in her arms, letting her purple ears drape over her arm. "She loves this thing a lot. Like, a lot. And she's slept with this thing her entire life and she could never, say, stay in a new city without her. No, I'll take care of it. Thanks, Uncle Thor."
Thor shrugged at the girl then turned around and made his way out. Carolyn took a step towards the bed but stopped when she heard Bruce's cellphone ring.
"Sorry, sweetie. It'll just be a second," her father told her as he pressed the phone to his ear. "Hello?...Oh, hi! How's the experiment going?"
Carolyn found her eyes wandering around the tiny bedroom as the phone call continued. She made her way over to the far side of the room, her head craned up at the various degrees framed along the wall. Carolyn scaled every inch of the display, taking in the various subjects her father was gifted in. His name was printed in curlicue letters in the middle of each degree, the black font standing out from the smaller words printed around it.
Carolyn felt herself reach up to the nearest frame and trace her finger on his name. She was breathless while her thoughts shouted at her about how she was standing in the bedroom of one of the world's greatest scientists and an original Avenger. Not only that, but the name she was tracing over and over again was her father. She had 33% of his genes flowing through her veins. It was all so unreal. But it was real. And she loved every second of it.
When she was finished with the degrees, Carolyn turned her attention over to the dresser resting on the adjacent wall. She stood before the mirror on top of it and noticed a picture frame resting on the side. Carolyn picked it up and found a picture inside of Bruce and Marcie on the steps of the New York City Library. While Bruce rested his arm at the foot of one of the lions, Marcie sat on the statue's back, her arms folded over the lion's mane. Carolyn smiled at the picture and found herself gripping the frame tighter the longer she stared at it.
"Hold on a minute. Marcie?" Bruce's voice cut in.
Carolyn jumped and set the picture down, whipping her head around to her father.
"Would you hate it if we went down to the campus for a little bit?"
Carolyn had to hold back the laugh that tried to escape from her throat. "Not at all. I'd love to go!"
"Awesome. It shouldn't be for too long. One of my students just needs help with an experiment he's working on."
Within a moment's notice, Bruce and Carolyn set off into the Manhattan streets. Carolyn still found herself soaking in every inch of the city, enraptured by the amount of apartments and businesses that littered the streets, each more unique than the last.
They soon reached the areas filled with cars pressed bumper to bumper and horns blaring through the air. The two ran through the streets and weaved past the cars around them, laughing with all of their might. Carolyn led the way in the chase, pulling Bruce's arm to the other side in a hurry. Bruce admired the burst of energy his daughter had acquired at camp and didn't question it, instead treasuring it for as long as he could.
Once they reached the sidewalk, the two found themselves stopping before a Men’s Warehouse, where a mannequin standing before the window was dressed in a shiny black suit.
"Wow," Carolyn mused. "It's incredible how people can just make those by hand."
"Yeah, fashion's a pretty admirable field to be in when you think about it."
"You know who would look really stunning in that suit? Like, really handsome?"
Bruce looked down at his daughter and raised his eyebrow with a small smirk. "Me?"
"You know what? I think all that time away did something to you. Pretty soon, I'll start thinking that you might not even be my daughter. Come on."
Bruce led Carolyn down the street but didn't hear her mumble, "You have no idea."
The two turned the corner to find the campus of Empire State University waiting for them, where students in the summer program bustled to and fro to each building. They entered one of the main facilities and weaved through the vast halls decorated with trophies and pictures of various alumni and their achievements. They soon came across a laboratory in the middle of hall, leading Bruce to push the door open.
"Alright, I'm here," he greeted.
Two men in white lab coats, one around Bruce's age and one in his early twenties, stood at the front of the room with several flasks of bubbling chemicals before them.
"Oh, we're saved!" the older man said.
Bruce turned to the student and said, "Hi, Nate. What seems to be the problem?"
"Well, I'm trying to create the iron-silicon compound you showed us in class, but it never creates the right reaction."
"He's been going at it for an hour, but each time, there's no result. We've tried every form of silicon we could find in here, but there's nothing," the other professor said.
Carolyn watched from the doorway as Bruce joined the two men's side. He asked the student, "How much silicon are you adding to the mix?"
"Ah, there's your issue. A quarter isn't going to give the electrons enough power to transfer in the heat. You need a half in order for the reaction to work." Bruce looked over at his daughter and asked, "Marcie, can you look in the cabinet over there for some more silicon?"
Carolyn went to the cabinet at the adjacent wall and opened its metal doors, finding several rows of elements in vials before her. When she located silicon, she grabbed the vial and brought it over to the group.
Bruce was about to grab it from her but brought his hand down. "Do you want to pour it in?"
Carolyn's eyes began to sparkle at the request. "Yeah!"
Bruce made the same surprised look from the shop at his daughter. "Yeah? You want to join in?"
"Alright, get over here."
Carolyn wedged herself in between the group and poured in the correct amount of silicon to the iron. Once the combined elements began to bubble to the top, everyone began to applaud at the feat.
"What did I tell you?" the other professor remarked.
Once the experiment was complete, the group decided to perform other experiments, making every type of reaction they could think. When she wasn't helping them, Carolyn watched Bruce explain the process of performing it to the others. She could hear his passion for the subject through the rapid pace he spoke about it in, his eyes taking on the same sparkle she had when she was excited about something as well. She knew then that the degrees in his room weren't just there for show. Science was his entire life.
There was only one thought entering Carolyn's mind when she watched Bruce lead the way. "My dad is too cool."
Once their help was no longer needed, Carolyn and Bruce left the campus and walked back to their apartment. As he held her hand, Bruce said, "You know, I was surprised that you wanted to join in back there."
"Well, yeah. Weren't you the one that told me, 'Your science isn't my type?'"
Carolyn bit her lip as she tried to come up with an excuse. When she had one, she shrugged her shoulders and turned to Bruce.
"Okay, yeah, I did. But I decided to try it at camp, and it was a lot of fun. I can see why you like it so much."
"Hey, look at that! I knew you would try new things at camp. Good for you, Marcie."
Carolyn didn't like the silence that had been created between them. She had a moment alone with her father, and she needed to use it wisely.
"Hey, Dad. Can I ask you a question?"
"Have you ever thought about getting married again? Does the f-word ever cross your mind?"
Bruce stopped in his tracks. "'The f-word?'"
"My father. Well, my other father."
Bruce closed his eyes and sighed. "Oh, that f-word." As they continued walking, he explained, "Well, no, actually. I tried marriage once. I don't really need to try it again. Why the sudden curiosity about your father?"
"Well, maybe because he's never mentioned. And you can't blame a kid for wondering. Dad, you can't avoid the subject forever. At least tell me what he was like."
Bruce let his mouth creep into a smile as a small sigh escaped from it. "Alright. He was pretty great, to tell you the truth. When we met, he was...actually entirely great. Is that enough for you?"
"Sure...So where did you go on your first date?"
Bruce shook his head with a smile. He'd walked right into that one. "We went on the Q.E. II."
"Queen Elizabeth II. It's an ocean liner that sails from New York to London. Your dad couldn't believe it when I said that I had never been to London, so he insisted that we go. But he wanted to try something different than flying. So we found the ship, hopped aboard, and sailed off to get to know each other on the Atlantic."
"That's beautiful, Dad. So was it love at first sight?"
Bruce threw his head back and let out a playful sigh. "I knew you were going to ask me all these questions one day."
Carolyn stayed mum on the topic of her other father for the rest of the walk home. She didn't stop thinking about him, however.
Dear old Dad, she mused. I wonder what he’s doing at this very second.
Marcie stepped off the airplane outside of the small airport upstate with Carolyn's duffel bag slung over her shoulder. She tried not to rub at her eyes as she made her way down the steps, but the itchiness was too much for her to bear.
Once her vision adjusted, Marcie stood on the solid ground and looked through a sea of people waiting before the plane. Her heart began to flutter once she saw a familiar face standing at the front of the crowd. Tony Stark had a large smile on his face when he spotted his daughter, one hand on his hip and the other running through his messy black hair.
Marcie clutched her sister's locket and breathed, "Oh god. It's him."
"Hey, Carolyn! Welcome home, sweetheart!" her father called.
Clutching the strap of the duffel bag, Marcie took a running start towards the man she'd heard so much about. Once they were face to face, Tony bent to her level and waved his hands at her.
"Get into these arms, you little punk."
Marcie dropped everything and threw herself onto Tony, squeezing him with all her might. Tony spun his daughter in his arms and planted a kiss on her cheek, making Marcie grin from ear to ear.
Once he set her down, he said, "You know, I hope you had a lousy time at that camp because you are not going back. I missed you too much."
Marcie didn't stop him from giving her another kiss on the cheek. Instead, she stayed put and scrunched her shoulders so she could make a smile that failed to hide how excited she was about the moment.
"What happened to you, Carolyn?" Tony asked. "Something's changed. Are you getting taller?"
Marcie didn't answer him as he took up the duffel bag and wrapped his arm around her. She decided to give him a question as they made their way to the car.
"So what's up, Dad? I mean, how's Pepper and everybody?"
"Oh, everybody's great. They can't wait to see you but none of them as much as me. Eight weeks is too long, Carolyn. A lot's been happening around here."
"A lot's been happening to me too, Dad. I mean, I feel like I'm practically a new woman."
Tony could see his daughter's eyes growing wider by the second, causing him to stop walking. "What is it? Did I cut myself shaving?"
"No, it's just...seeing you for the first time. I mean, you know, in so long." Marcie found herself chuckling at the legend she got to call her father. "You look taller to me too, Dad."
Tony smiled at Marcie and led her forward in a tight squeeze. "Come on, squirt. Let's get home," he said.
The two made their way to Tony's sleek black car then set off on the road. Marcie marveled at the woodlands and small towns they drove through, her eyes watching the lush green trees zoom past her as they rode along the dirt roads.
After a long silence in their ride, Tony said, "Oh, by the way, thanks for all those detailed letters. I'm so glad I bought you that personalized stationary you just had to have."
Marcie tried to feign a guilty look on her face when she saw her father cast a smirk in her direction. "Well, we meant to write, Dad, but we just got so-"
"Oh! Me and my friend. I met this girl at camp, and we got really close."
"Oh, that's great."
"We were practically like sisters. She was a lovely girl."
"'Lovely girl?' You're so proper all of a sudden."
Marcie chuckled and went to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear before remembering that it was all pulled back in a ponytail. She instead placed her hand on the side of her head, turning herself towards the window.
Tony grabbed her free hand and looked at her with a raised brow. "You're still biting those nails, I see."
"Dad, you noticed!" Marcie cried as she whipped her head around.
"What do you mean, 'noticed?' You've been biting them since you could chew."
"But I've decided to stop, Dad. It's a horrible habit."
"'Lovely girl.' 'Horrible habit.' Did I send you to summer camp or finishing school? Come on. Who are you and what have you done with Carolyn?"
Marcie made a nervous smile at her father, but Tony didn't seem to notice.
"And why do you keep saying Dad at the end of every sentence?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was doing it, Dad." Marcie heard her flub and laughed, causing Tony to do the same. "Sorry, Dad. Do you want to know why I keep saying Dad? The truth?"
"It's because you missed your old man so much, right?"
"Exactly. It's because in my whole life—I mean, you know, for the past eight weeks—I was never able to say the word Dad. Never, not once. And if you ask me, I mean, a dad is an irreplaceable person in a girl's life. Think about it. There's an entire day devoted to celebrating fathers. Just imagine someone's life without a father. Never buying a Father's Day card, never sitting on their father's lap, never being able to say, 'Hi, Dad!' or 'What's up, Dad?' or 'Catch you later, Dad!' I mean, a baby's first words are always 'Dada,' aren't they?"
"Let me get this straight," Tony said, who had been smiling throughout the speech. "You missed being able to call me Dad?"
"Yeah. I really have, Dad."
Tony felt his eyes grow misty as he stared at his daughter. He curled back his lips and stared ahead at the road, bringing the side of his fist to his mouth. "Okay," he choked out.
Marcie then looked ahead as well and found herself gasping at what lay ahead. "Oh my god. Oh my god!"
Tony wiped at his eyes and let out a chuckle. "Now, you're starting to sound like your old self."
Marcie gazed at the magnificent glass facility that awaited them in the distance. A large air carrier rested on the roof while the rest of the building was adorned with the Avengers symbol on several panes. The pointed roof made the facility stand out among its quiet surroundings yet there was no one else in sight. It was the perfect sanctuary away from the rest of the world.
The car pulled up to the front of the New Avengers Facility, where Marcie was able to step out and get a closer look at her new home. Her eyes drifted over to a young brunet in his twenties who stood on the roof and froze upon seeing her.
"They're back," he breathed. He rushed over to the edge of the roof and let a wide smile form on his face. He shouted, "They're back! Pepper! Pepper, they're back!"
On cue, a red-haired woman ran out of the facility with open arms. She squealed at the sight of Marcie then cried, "Hello, gorgeous!" Pepper Potts took the girl into her arms and squeezed her as she spun her around. "Oh, look at you! You grew!"
She set Marcie back down but was quick to hug her again. "Oh, we missed you so much. Don't you dare let your father talk you out of going back to camp, okay? You're a growing girl, and you need adventure."
"I was not talking her out of it," Tony spoke up. "Would I do that to you, Carolyn?"
Pepper placed her hand on her hips and rolled her eyes at Marcie with a smirk. She soon asked, "Are you hungry? I made cornbread and chili."
Marcie could only respond with a small smile and a shrug.
"Why so quiet, Carolyn? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just...I'm so happy to be home."
"I, however, would love to have some of that cornbread and chili," Tony said as he poked his head between them.
Pepper gestured her head towards the door and said, "It's on the stove."
Tony then took up his daughter's duffel bag and made his way inside.
Pepper wrapped her arm around Marcie and began leading her to the door as well. "Something's changed about you, Carolyn. I can't put my finger on it, but something about you has definitely changed," she explained.
"Really? Well, it's just the same old me, honest." Marcie was quick to hold her hand behind her back and cross her fingers as they continued walking.
Just then, the boy from the roof swung down on a rope of webbing and landed on his feet before them. The girls jumped at the sight of him, but they were quick to calm down. With a cheeky grin, the boy greeted, "Hey, little sis."
"Peter!" Marcie rushed over to hug Peter Parker but stopped when she saw him pull back. "What is it?"
"My spider sense."
The girls froze at his words and began looking around for any sign of danger. When none appeared, they turned to Peter and saw him shrug.
"Huh. That was weird," he said. "It doesn't usually go off like that."
"Huh. Yeah," Marcie replied, suddenly growing nervous. "Maybe you sensed something from camp."
Taking a quick breath, Marcie rushed towards the door and made her way inside. Her brisk walking made her unable to hear Pepper and Peter's conversation from outside.
"What was that, Peter? Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I think so. I don't know. I think it had something to do with Carolyn."
"Carolyn? Are you sure?"
"Yeah. It's weird. It's...It's almost like I didn't recognize her."
I know that Peter would technically be somewhere in his 30s and not his early 20s, but I wanted to have him be slightly young in this and I’m already messing around with the canon timeline as it is, so that’s the reason for that.
I also know that that’s technically not how his Spidey Sense works, but we’re taking some creative liberties for the sake of the story.
Apologies to all the Steve/Stony fans reading this from here on out
Marcie took in every inch of the New Avengers Facility. Her feet were slow as they dragged along the shiny gray floor, causing her to barely make a stride as she entered her new home. Her head swiveled around the towering glass walls surrounding her that were covered with Tony's various armors and other costumes and weapons from the Avengers. Marcie found herself catching her breath when she found what appeared to be a glass elevator at the back of the first floor.
"Wow. It's even better than the pictures," she mused.
Marcie continued to wander around the main hall when she was pulled back to reality by Pepper's voice greeting her from behind.
"Okay, sweetheart. What do you want to do first? Do you want to eat then unpack? Or we could unpack then eat. Or we could eat while we unpack."
Marcie's eyes almost bulged out of her head. "You mean I can eat in my room?"
Pepper raised an eyebrow at the girl and cracked a smirk. "Yeah, I'd say it's a definite possibility."
"Hey, Carolyn," Tony's voice called.
Marcie looked over to see her father standing in the kitchen doorway, digging his spoon into a bowl of chili. With a mouthful of the dish, he said, "When you're done, come outside. There's someone I want you to meet."
Tony shrugged then made his way out the front door.
Through a small opening in the doorframe, Marcie could see her father sit down on a lawn furniture set outside the facility. He sat beside a blond man in a white polo shirt and brown pants, but she couldn't get a look at his face.
"Look at you, always eating," the man told him. "Did you tell her?"
"Tell me what?" Marcie asked Pepper, her eyes never leaving the conversation.
Pepper sighed to herself, her arms crossed over her chest. "Come on. I'll tell you while we unpack."
The two made their way to Carolyn's bedroom, a large room with blue walls adorned with band posters, the faces of celebrity heartthrobs, and a view to the acres of land that surrounded the facility. Pepper set the duffel bag onto the bed and began taking out Marcie's clothes while the girl watched her from afar. During the unpacking, Pepper answered all of her questions about the new man in their home.
"Carolyn, how your father makes a fool out of himself is none of my business. He's a big boy, and he hardly takes my advice anyhow. He can do what he wants."
"Okay, okay. So who is he?"
Pepper stopped unpacking and turned to Marcie with a sigh. "His name is Steve Rogers."
Marcie choked on her spit. "As in Captain America?"
"That's the one. Steve and your father lost contact several years ago after a big fight they had. But once you were gone, your dad found himself getting pretty lonely. He contacted the other Avengers to hang out, but they were all busy. Steve was the only person left. So they went out to lunch together, made up from their fight, and now Steve stops by to hang out frequently. Almost too frequently, in my opinion."
"What do you mean?"
Pepper opened her mouth to answer but was stopped by the sound of Steve's hearty laughter from outside. She rolled her eyes with a groan then returned to unpacking.
"Look, you and I both know that your father's a bit of a suave, debonair, Bachelor of the Month type."
"Well, he did hold that title in People Magazine six months in a row a few years back."
"So he keeps reminding me. And I don't need you doing it either."
Pepper turned back to give Marcie a playful glare, causing the girl to shrug with a smirk. She didn't know where this newfound cockiness was coming from, but she liked it. Maybe she was playing Carolyn's part a little too well.
Pepper continued, "Well, Steve always had this weird attachment to your dad when they were Avengers together. He was always trying to push his buttons, but he also wanted your dad to know that he would always be there for him if he ever needed him. He'd tell him that constantly. And while it's good to have that kind of support system in your life, Steve's way of going about it seems...different. It's almost possessive in a way."
Marcie pulled out her phone while Pepper was talking and aimed it at Tony and Steve in the backyard. She zoomed in on the two and watched as Tony wrapped his arm around Steve, his fingers curling around his back. They soon let go and continued to walk through the grassy fields hand in hand, squeezing them as lovers do.
Marcie asked, "Do you think Steve's trying to take Dad away from us?"
"What do I know? But I'll tell you one thing. This guy has your father eating out of the palm of his hand. They do everything together. They drive together, they train together, they go out to dinner every night. You know what? Meet him and see for yourself. Don't let me influence you."
Marcie continued watching the couple from her phone as they made their way behind a tree. The two men wrapped their arms around each other and kissed as if they were the last two people on Earth. Marcie's last straw was seeing Tony pop his foot in the air during the make out session. She clicked the round button at the bottom of the screen to keep the moment for her personal records.
Marcie didn't stop Tony from pushing her out to the backyard. As much as she wanted to fight back and come clean about Bruce, she didn't want to spoil her father's happiness when they had only just met.
Tony placed Marcie before their guest and said, "Honey, I want you to meet a friend of mine. Carolyn, this is Steve Rogers."
Marcie took a look at the man sitting before her, taking note of his chiseled features, beefed-up body, and blue eyes that had nothing but kindness in them. She knew that she had the perfect man sitting before her.
Their plan was doomed once Steve's warm voice greeted, "Hi."
"Oh, Steve's fine. Wow, I can't believe I'm finally meeting Tony Stark's daughter. I've been looking forward to this for some time now."
"Really? Well, here I am."
"And your dad and I are grateful for that. She's adorable, Tony. You know, with the way your father talked about you, I expected to meet a little girl. But you're so grown up."
"I turned thirteen a while ago. How old are you?"
Tony and Steve chuckled at the comment, with the former adding through gritted teeth, "Carolyn."
"It's fine, Tony. The combination of the serum and the ice make it look like I'm in my thirties, but let's just say my actual age is somewhere in the hundreds."
"Wow! The hundreds?" Marcie asked. "You must be pretty old, then. How old are you, Dad?"
"Wow, you are suddenly so interested in math." Tony was quick to wrap his arms around Marcie with a nervous laugh. "Look, I'm going to go inside and get some more chili. How about a bottle of champagne to celebrate?"
"What are we celebrating?"
"Your homecoming, of course," Steve said.
Tony gave his daughter one last squeeze. "I'll be right back." He then turned back to the facility, leaving Marcie and Steve to get acquainted with one another.
Marcie made her way over to a lounge chair next to Steve's while the man's cellphone rang. Steve took it out of his pocket and pressed it to his ear, greeting, "Hello?...Hello, Rev. Mosby...Mmhm...Yes, of course I understand it's for a local charity...Oh yes, I'm writing it all down...Okay, I agree that it all sounds very worthwhile, but unfortunately, I see that Mr. Stark is going to be out of the country on those days...Yes, absolutely. I'll be sure to mention it to him...Thank you."
Steve hung up the phone then turned to face Marcie, who was sitting cross-legged on the chair with her hands clutching her ankles. "So how was camp, Carolyn? Was it fun?"
"My dad's going out of the country?"
"Oh, no." Steve's cheeks began to grow red. "I just had to tell a little white lie to get him out of something. You know, I have never heard a man talk about his daughter the way Tony talks about you. You two are obviously really close."
A blush had settled onto Marcie's cheeks as well, unable to deny the praise she didn't deserve. But the lie helped remind her of the task at hand, causing her to straighten her shoulders on the seat.
"Well, you know, we're closer than close. We're all each other has."
Steve's smile appeared to falter for a moment, but he was quick to return to his senses. "Hey, guess what? Your dad and I went for a drive the other day, and he let me take your seat in his Camaro. I hope that's okay with you."
"Oh, sure! That seat gets dented with new asses all the time. I hope you don't mind me calling you new. Actually, compared to the others, you already seem like one of the family."
"Others? What others?"
"Do you want the 411?"
Steve raised an eyebrow. "The 411?"
"Oh, right. You weren't around for the nineties. Well, neither was I, but we younger kids tend to pick up on older stuff faster than adults. It's funny, really. Anyway, the 411 is the information, the lowdown on other people in Dad's life. The women, the men, you name it. I can't say I blame you, though. I'd want to know if I was #28—I mean, 29—in a man's life."
"Yeah. It's always the same routine. Driving around the area in the Camaro, romantic dinners with his special reserved label wine, moonlit campouts."
Just then, Tony returned to the scene with a bottle of wine and two glasses in hand. "Here we go. A bottle of my special reserved label," he greeted. "So did you two find anything to talk about while I was gone?"
Steve noticed the cocky smirk on Marcie's face that she aimed only for him. Without another word, she leaned back into the chair, pulled out a pair of sunglasses, and threw them onto her face.
Tony blinked at the gesture then turned to Steve. "Does that mean yes?"
Steve felt himself balling his hand into a fist at the girl but was quick to unfurl it and slide his head onto Tony's shoulder. "It sure does."
The synthesized opening notes of Electric Light Orchestra's "Telephone Line" blared through the Banner apartment. It was played alongside a loud buzzing that made everything in the main hall vibrate.
Thor followed the sounds to the front door and found them to be coming from Carolyn's cellphone. He picked it up, hit the green "accept" button, then pressed the phone to his ear.
"This is the cellular telephone of Miss Marcie Banner. You are speaking to the handsome and extremely buff Asgardian God of Thunder, Thor Odinson. How may I help you?" The voice on the other line made Thor furrow his brows and frown. "Marcie?"
"Yes, Uncle Thor?"
Thor jumped and looked over to see Carolyn standing beside him, licking cookie dough off her fingers. He pressed the phone to his chest and said, "Oh, it is you. That's odd. There's someone that sounds just like you calling you on your cellular telephone. Are you able to speak to them now?"
"Yeah, they just put the cookies in the oven. Thanks, Uncle Thor."
Thor pressed the phone back to his ear and said, "One moment, please." He handed the phone to Carolyn, explaining, "She says her name is Jennifer. You know, she sounds like she could be your twin."
Carolyn made a quiet chuckle. "My twin. That's funny. Good one, Uncle Thor." She pressed her phone to her ear then made her way over to the hall closet against the stairs.
"Hello?" she greeted. "Hi, Jennifer! How are you?"
"Hey. How's it going over there?" Marcie asked while sitting on the edge of the bathtub.
"Oh, everything's great here, Jennifer. It's supposed to rain tonight. Jennifer, c-can you hold on a second?"
"Okay. But hurry, Carolyn. I have to talk to you."
Carolyn looked left and right and found herself to be the only person in the room. She then opened the closet door and shut the door behind her. She tugged on a light switch hanging above her, illuminating the tight space of old jackets that surrounded her.
"Okay, I can talk now," Carolyn said as she leaned against the wall. "Oh my god, Dad's incredible. I cannot believe I lived my entire life without knowing him. He's handsome and fun and smart and I love watching him work."
"And I got him to talk about where he and Dad went on their first date, and if you ask me, there's like a whole-"
"Carolyn, stop! We have a major problem! You're going to have to bring Dad up here immediately."
"Immediately? Are you nuts? I've only had one day with him! I'm just getting to know him. I can't. I won't."
"But this is an emergency! Dad's in love!"
"No way. Dad doesn't fall in love. I mean, at least not seriously."
"Trust me. He's serious about this one. He's always holding his hand and kissing his neck and waiting on him hand and foot."
Reality brought Carolyn out of her daze, making her slide down the wall with a blank face. "He is?"
"Well, you'll just have to break them up. Sabotage it. Do whatever you have to do."
"I'm trying. But, I mean, I'm at a slight disadvantage. I only met the man twelve hours ago. Carolyn, you have to come back here to help me!"
Carolyn fished through one of the jacket pockets and felt something crinkle in her hand. She pulled it out, and her eyes lit up once she saw a chocolate bar wrapper in her fingers. Returning to the conversation, she shook her head and found her voice becoming more stern.
"Marcie, I can't. I want more time with Dad."
Marcie felt her shoulders stiffen when she heard a crinkling sound on the other line. "What's going on?"
"Marcie, are you there?" Carolyn asked, crunching the wrapper over the screen. "I can barely hear you."
"I'm here. What are you-"
"I think I lost you, Marcie. I'll call you back."
Marcie opened her mouth to respond but was cut off by the call ending. Sneering at the blank screen, she said, "Thanks for the help, Carolyn."
Once Carolyn hung up, she tucked the phone into her pocket. She turned the closet doorknob and creaked the door open. Taking a quick peek through the crack, she found the coast to be clear and stepped out. She began walking towards the kitchen but was stopped in her tracks when she found Bruce, Thor, and Natasha standing over her with curious glances.
"Uh, hi," Carolyn greeted. "I had a call from a friend at camp. Yeah, it's an old camp tradition. You know, talk to your friend from inside a closet. I know, it's kind of stupid. Mmmm, those cookies smell delicious! I'm going to go try one."
Without hearing their arguments, Carolyn rushed past them and wiped the sweat from her forehead with a relieved exhale.
Marcie sat before the kitchen island the next morning, an eager smile on her face as Pepper presented her with her breakfast.
"Okay. Here we go," the woman said. "The most important meal of the day. Eggs sunny side up, bacon, a side of toast, and in case you're really hungry, a stack of humongous chocolate chip pancakes, which smell incredible, if I do say so myself."
"Thanks, Pepper." Marcie shifted in her seat and stared at the food with a lopsided smile on her face.
Pepper saw her unease and felt her shoulders sag. "You're not hungry again?"
Marcie shook her head with a shrug.
"You hardly touched your chili, and now, you don't want breakfast? Are you sick, honey?" Pepper pressed her hand to Marcie's forehead, making the girl laugh.
"No, I'm fine. I promise. Where's Dad?"
"Oh. He and Mr. 'I'll just have half a grapefruit, thank you' left about an hour ago. He overslept and didn't want to wake you. Of course, I'd probably oversleep too if I were making mysterious phone calls at nine at night from my bathroom."
Marcie choked on her orange juice and set the cup down, clearing her throat. "O-Oh. Oh, that. I was calling a friend from camp. Her name's Jennifer. She lives in England."
"Oh, I see," Pepper said as she tidied up the kitchen. "So you wanted to wait and call Jennifer at a time that was convenient for her because of the time difference."
"Exactly. B-Because of the time difference."
"Uh huh. So you waited until it was two in the morning her time. That makes perfect sense."
Marcie moved her eyes back and forth while her brain searched for an answer. "Actually, it was six at night her time. You see, she lives in England, but she's on vacation with her family in California."
Pepper made a skeptical glance at the girl but noted how confident she seemed in her reply. "Very smooth. Okay, look, smarty pants. Your father's going to be home in a few minutes, and he wants you to meet him outside."
"He does? Thanks!" Marcie took a quick bite of toast then jumped off her seat.
It was then that Peter dashed into the kitchen, greeting, "Hey, guys!"
"Hey, Peter! There's breakfast out, if you want it."
"That's exactly what I'm here for."
Pepper crossed her arms and watched as he slid over to the slide and took a piece of bacon. "Don't you have summer school to be at, Peter?" she asked with a stern tone.
Peter let his shoulders fall and tilted his head back. "Ms. Potts, summer school makes it sound like it's a bad thing. They're summer courses. They're good."
"You can change the name, but they mean the same thing."
"Hey, I'm still waiting on my hug," Marcie spoke up.
Peter faced her and said, "Oh yeah, of course!"
The two made their way over but stopped once Peter took a step back.
"Spider sense again?" Marcie asked.
The group looked around, but no danger appeared. Peter sighed as he rubbed his arm.
"Geez. What's wrong with me lately? Can't I just give my sis a hug?"
"Huh, I don't know. You should probably get that checked out. Well, I better be off. Bye, Peter! Bye, Pepper! Thanks again for breakfast. It was great."
Marcie ran over to the back door and tugged on the handle. When it wouldn't budge, she continued pulling on it until her efforts proved fruitless.
"Push, Carolyn," Pepper called as she watched the scene.
Marcie pushed on the handle, causing the door to open. "Sorry, I...forgot."
Marcie then rushed onto the grounds, leaving a baffled Pepper and Peter in her wake.
Yes, I made that Carolyn’s ringtone on purpose.
Tony and Marcie walked around the perimeter of the Facility, the afternoon sun shining down their backs. They moved in sync across the grass, their feet stepping down at the same time.
Marcie kept her gaze on her father, still enamored by the fact that she was in the presence of the most famous man in the world and was able to call him Dad. A small tug in her heart begged for things to stay that way. If she was smart enough, they would. But for now, all they could do was talk.
"You know, I'm glad you're here, Carolyn," Tony said, "Because there's something important that I want to talk to you about. Actually, it's really important."
"That's funny because there's something really important that I want to talk to you about too.”
"Yeah? You go first."
"The lady insists."
Tony chuckled and ran his hand through his hair. "Alright. I want to talk to you about Steve."
"And I want to talk to you about my dad. Well, my...my other dad."
Tony stopped walking, frozen in place on the grounds. He turned to his daughter and bent down to reach her level.
Marcie asked, "What about Steve?"
"Wh-What about your dad?"
"Dad, I'm thirteen. How long do you expect me to go without finding some kind of DNA kit to figure out where the other 33% of me comes from?"
Tony threw his head back and sighed. He gave Marcie a pat on the back, urging her to keep walking.
As they moved, he said, "Carolyn, we've talked about your father."
"No, we haven't. I mean, not really. A girl needs more in life than half of a crumpled old photograph. Dad, I'm a teenager. Face it. I need to know."
The two began to turn a corner, making their way to the front of the Facility. Tony asked, "You know what? You're right. You're absolutely right. You do need to know. You had another father once in your life, and you deserve to have him again. That was good timing on your part because that brings me to-"
The sound of tires dragging through the dirt cut him short, causing him to hold his arm in front of Marcie. The two watched as a topless convertible pulled up to the building, allowing two men to step out. One was Steve, who had a polite smile on his face, and the other was a man with spiked black-brown hair whose smile almost stretched around to his ears.
"Steve," Tony greeted, the whimsy in his tone putting him into a daze.
"Hey, Tony. Carolyn, good to see you."
Marcie made a quick wave. "Hi."
"Carolyn, I don't think you've ever met Scott Lang. He's a friend of your dad and I."
"Nice to meet you," Scott said as he shook her hand. "Wow, Tony Stark's kid. That's..." Scott tucked his hands into his pockets and rocked back and forth on his feet. He looked down but was unable to hide the red appearing on his face. "That's pretty cool. I never thought I'd get to meet you, wow. Hey, watch this."
Scott held his hand by Marcie's ear and waved it. He pulled back and revealed a playing card in his hand, displaying it to the girl. Sweat began to fall down his forehead when he noticed the blank stare on her face. Scott cleared his throat.
"Yeah, it lost its appeal on my kid too when she was your age."
Steve leaned into Tony's side and asked, "Did you tell her?"
"Hey, if you're free later, why don't we all have lunch out back?"
"Well, actually, I promised Carolyn we would hang out together this afternoon." Tony wrapped his arm around Marcie and gave her a tight squeeze. Marcie pressed herself to him and smirked at Steve, relishing in the moment.
Steve appeared to tense up but showed no sign of cracking. "Oh, no problem. I have plenty to do. It's been a while since Scott was in the area, so I thought I'd show him what's changed."
Steve and Scott made their way back to the car and stepped inside. The former called, "See you for dinner, Tony. Bye, Carolyn!"
The car then pulled away from the Facility and raced off through the surrounding rural area. Gripping the wheel tighter the further they drove, Steve declared, "The first change I'll make is to send that snarky brat off to a boarding school in Wakanda."
"Ouch. Hit 'em where it hurts, Steve."
"You know it."
The Starks took a drive of their own around the countryside, feeling the wind whip against their faces with each new speed they hit. Marcie clutched onto the passenger door handle of her father's Camaro but had a bright smile on her face. The rush of the drive filled her in each bend they turned and every new part of the forest they came across.
"Are you feeling it yet, Carolyn?" Tony asked with a smirk.
"Oh, I've been feeling it!"
Tony let out a laugh. "Well, good. Don't worry. I'm going to pull over in a second."
Tony stopped the car on a small cliffside, allowing them to have a good lookout point to the rest of the area. He turned to his side to face his daughter and asked, "So are you excited for our camping trip?"
"What camping trip?"
"'What camping trip?' The one we go on every summer before you go back to school."
"Oh! Oh, that camping trip! Yeah, sure. I'm...I'm stoked!"
The two nodded to themselves, letting the silence envelope them for a moment. Tony broke it by clearing his throat.
"So, uh, Carolyn...what do you think about Steve?"
"As what, Dad? Your coworker? Your friend?"
"No, just...what do you think about him? As a person, I mean."
"Well, he's cute. He has nice hair, good teeth." Marcie felt her palms grow sweaty against the door handle and her throat begin to tighten up. "Although, to be honest? Steve's a complete stranger to me. Why do you want my opinion, anyway?"
"Well, I'll tell you why. Because believe it or not-"
"I need some air!"
Marcie unlocked the car door and pushed it open, allowing her to jump out. She ignored Tony's desperate shouts as she raced off through the woods. She didn't care about where she was running to. She just wanted to get as far away from what he was trying to say as possible. She would run forever if she had to. She would do anything to avoid the truth of her world falling apart once more.
Marcie hadn't been far from the Facility when she started running, so she reached home within several minutes of hitting the dirt. She threw the door open and ran into the living room, its open space making her ragged breathing echo against the walls. She pressed her hands to her temples as she paced about the floor, feeling her heart pound against her chest the longer she rambled.
"I'm so out of my head here. I-I can't, I can't handle this. Why did we think this could work? Wh-Why won't she help? I can't do this alone! I'm only one kid."
Marcie began to slump against the back of an armchair but jumped up when she saw a face on the other side.
Pepper's head craned around to face her, her eyebrows raised in curiosity. "Is there something you'd like to share with the class, Carolyn?”
"Pepper! I-It's you. Sorry, you...you frightened me."
If Pepper's eyebrows could go any higher, they would have. She stood up from the chair and stood before her niece, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I frightened you?"
"Yeah, you know. You scared me. I-I didn't know you were in here. That's all."
Pepper cast a disbelieving look at the girl. "Are you sure there isn't anything you want to talk to me about? Like why Peter's spider sense goes off every time he comes near you or why your appetite's changed or why you're neat as a pin all of a sudden and saying things like, 'You frightened me.'"
"Pepper, I...I changed a lot over the summer. That's all it is. I promise."
Pepper looked down and shook her head. Unable to win, she shrugged.
"Okay. You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say it's almost like you were..."
Pepper's eyes widened, and she pulled her tongue back. Marcie felt her eyes grow as well but waited for her to finish. Instead, she waved her hand and began to leave the room.
"Forget it. It's impossible," Pepper said.
"Almost as if I were who, Pepper?"
"Nobody. No one. Just forget it."
"Almost as if I were Marcie?"
Pepper froze in the doorway, every muscle stiffening in her body. She turned around and saw Marcie flashing a somewhat guilty look on her petite face.
Her breath caught in her throat, she asked, "You know about Marcie?"
Marcie gulped as she reached into her pants pocket. She pulled out her glasses and placed them onto her face, letting her true self shine. "I am Marcie."
Pepper fully lost her breath as her hand flew to her mouth. Tears welled in her eyes, blurring Marcie from her view.
Their reunion was cut short by a voice calling, "Carolyn!"
Marcie threw her glasses off and shoved them back in her pocket without notice. She turned around to see Tony rushing over to her and throwing his arms around her.
"Thank God, kid. What are you trying to do, give me an early death? Why did you run off like that? I told you that I wanted to talk to you about something."
Tony looked over and saw Pepper's misty-eyed expression and quivering lip aimed at them.
"Pepper, why are you looking at her like that?" he asked with slight concern.
"Like what? I'm not looking at her in a special way. No, I'm looking at her in the same way I have for thirteen years since the day I delivered her in the hospital. Six pounds, eleven ounces, twenty-one inches. This is how I look at her."
Pepper couldn't hold back her tears any longer, causing a small smile to appear on Marcie's face. She asked through her sobs, "Can I hug her?"
Pepper launched herself at Marcie and threw her arms around her, squeezing her as tight as she could. "Oh, she's so beautiful! And so big!"
She let go and began to back out of the room, rambling, "I'm going to make you something special to eat. What would you like? Anything? You know what? It doesn't matter. I'm just going to cook everything we have, okay?" Pepper wiped at her eyes and turned to the side, leaving father and daughter to be alone.
Tony stared at the vacant doorway and blinked several times before coming to his senses. "Okay, that was very un-Pepper like. Is she alright?"
"Yeah. I think she's just...happy that I'm home."
"Well, I don't blame her, then. But we have some talking to do, young lady." Tony wrapped his arm around Marcie and led her over to the couch, sitting them down beside one another.
"What's up, Dad?"
Tony took a deep breath. "Carolyn, I really want to know what you think about making Steve a part of the family."
"Part of our family?"
"I think it's a great idea!"
Tony closed his eyes and sighed. "You do?"
"Yeah! It's...It's an inspired idea. A brilliant idea, even."
"You mean that?"
"Yeah! I mean, it's totally a dream come true. I've always wanted a grandpa."
Tony's smile faded as he narrowed his eyes at his daughter. "Um...sweetheart, I think you're missing the point."
"No, I'm not. You're going to adopt Steve. That is so sweet. Although, can you adopt people older than you? Oh, who am I kidding? We're Starks. We have all the money in the world. We can do whatever we want. And if that's what you want to do, I say go for it."
"Wait, wait, go back. No. I am not going to adopt Steve." Tony repeated the phrase as if it left a bitter taste in his mouth. "I'm...going to marry him."
Marcie's eyes widened as she shot to her feet. "Marry him? That's insane! How can you marry a man that's old enough to be my grandfather?"
She began to pace about the floor, rambling in what sounded like gibberish to Tony. Once he recognized several words, he grabbed her shoulders and brought her back to facing him.
"Carolyn, calm down. Carolyn!"
Marcie stopped talking and pulled her lips back.
"Are you speaking Russian?"
"I...learned it at camp. Sorry, I'm...I'm sorry. Let's discuss this calmly and rationally."
"Yeah, and in English, if you don't mind. Alright?"
Tony grabbed the end of Marcie's ponytail and ran it through his fingers, never taking his eyes off her. "Sweetheart, what was gotten into you?"
"Nothing. It's just...Dad, you can't get married! It'll totally ruin everything!"
Not wanting her father to see her cry, Marcie took off for the backyard and slammed the door behind her.
"Carolyn!" Tony called as he reached the doorframe. He watched her run until she was a speck in the distance. Tony sighed and looked over to find Pepper watching him from afar.
"Don't look at me. I don't know a thing," she said as she ran off as well.
Tony leaned against the doorframe and let out an exhale, rolling his eyes from the impossibility of women.