The sun was glaring hot, and Artemis Black could already feel it starting to burn her skin as she walked though central park in New York. It was the 4th of May 2012 and the spring breeze was whipping her fringe into her eyes as she walked through the park towards the subway entrance.
As she walked the straps on her old leather satchel dug into her shoulder, she had packed her few belongings that morning along with all the money she had secretly saved from her small allowance at the orphanage. She reached the entrance and began to descend in the crowd of people to the cool of the underground. She pulled the collar of he worn leather jacket up and let her fringe cover more of her face, now almost fully concealed behind a battered pair of aviators, as she boarded a train that would take her further into the city.
Artemis was determined, this time she would not be found, she would get away from the orphanage and her hopelessly meaningless life there and live on the streets. She was smart and she new how to survive on the streets of New York.
The train was packed and she was glad to get off, and walked swiftly out of the station keeping her head down so as not to be recognised by anyone. They were sure to search for her, but this time she would not be shipped off to yet another orphanage. This time was different, she had learned from her failed attempts of escape, get away but stay hidden, after three weeks they would give up the search and she would be free.
Artemis was walking along the streets close to Stark Tower when she first heard the shouts. She looked around immediately on edge, surely they couldn't be looking for her already, she had only been gone a few hours and had created a good cover story for being away all afternoon.
As her eyes searched the streets dreading the approach of authorities she saw people staring into the sky and others pointing towards Stark tower.
Following their gaze Artemis saw the cause of the commotion. From the top of stark tower a beam of icy blue energy shot into the sky, the sky began to darken around it and a circle was opening slowly revealing what looked like deep space.
That's when it all went wrong. Spaceships began to fly out of the portal and shoot at everything in sight. Cars were exploding in the street and crowds of people began running for cover.
So much for having the perfect plan, the city was under attack and it had to have happened on the very day that Artemis had tried to run away.
One of the ships charged down the street where Artemis stood, it looked a bit like a flying jet-ski. Without a seconds thought Artemis picked up a piece of rubble, aimed and threw it at the alien driver hitting it square in the face. She ducked behind an overturned café table with a grin as the flying jet-ski swerved off course, crashed into a nearby building and exploded in a ball of fire.
Survival instincts kicked in and she ran hunched over along the street, there were people everywhere running and screaming in panic. Heart racing Artemis headed towards a shop front that had a smashed window, the staff had clearly abandoned it. Bingo.
Artemis Stepped inside and took a quick glance around, pulling her satchel from her back. She found some bottles of water and as much food as she could and crammed it into her bag. Grabbing a few energy bars she left the shop and ventured back out onto the streets.
The portal hole in the sky was now covering a huge expanse of sky above Stark Tower. The sky was filled with those jet-ski things and now there were also gigantic battleships exiting the portal like huge whales swimming through the sky. Aliens were in the streets now and were mowing down the people as they tried to run.
Artemis ran towards a deserted side ally, ducking as a shot flew over her head. A woman fell to the ground in front of her with a wound to her chest. As blood pooled around her body she looked up at Artemis with fear in her eyes. Artemis rolled to the side as an explosion sent rocks flying and finally she reached the side alley. It was dark and she ran down it as fast as she could.
She crouched in the alley catching her breath and trying to think of what to do. When she looked up at the sky she could see the portal growing, ships streaming out of it with increasing speed. The noise of fighting was deafening as they flew farther out into the city.
Artemis paused and looked up at the sky again. Of course that was the answer. As the aliens spread out to take over the city they would ignore the centre that they had already covered. The safest place to run to was the eye of the storm.
With this thought Artemis gathered her wits and sneaked slowly back along the alleyway towards Stark tower. She kept to the shadows as she moved towards the open street, glancing out into the chaos when she reached it in order to determine the best route to take in order to stay hidden.
The street was a mess of wrecked cars and smashed buildings, there were also corpses everywhere, police and civilians alike. The fighting was moving away down to the next block and Artemis took the opportunity to dart out and hide behind a smoking car body, she continued weaving her way through the wreckage until she reached the other side of the street. There was still a block between her and the tower and she ran towards another alleyway to take cover in the shadows once again.
She was almost there when shots came out of nowhere whizzing over her head. She looked to the side and saw an alien firing at her, her distraction caused her to trip over a body lying on the ground and she fell, her jeans tore and blood began to ooze from the nasty cut on her knee. Cursing she scrambled behind another wrecked car and pulled the gravel out of the cut. She could hear the alien advancing across the street and she pulled herself up and ducked down as she ran for the cover of the alley.
She heard the blasts of energy from the aliens weapon hitting the wall nearby as she skidded around the corner and into the shadows. She had just made it around the corner when she collided with another body and fell to the ground again adding to the many cuts and bruises she had already sustained from her previous fall. The alley was dark and she squinted trying to get the hair out of her face in order to see who she had run into. A strong hand grabbed her arm and pulled her further into the alley, raising her to her feet.
“What the hell are you still doing here? They told us the place was cleared of civilians.” The man who spoke was taller than her, he had short light brown hair and piecing blue eyes and was wearing what appeared to be some kind of armour suit, with a quiver of arrows strapped to his back and a bow in his hand.
“Well in case it wasn't obvious I'm trying not to get killed.” Artemis said dryly as she moved to continue down the alleyway but he grabbed her arm.
“Hey wait, you can't just run off like that, you'll end up dead within seconds” he said. “Stay here, keep out of sight.”
He drew an arrow from his quiver, peered quickly out into the street and fired. The energy blasts ceased, he had clearly killed the alien that had been following Artemis.
“What are you gonna do anyway? Take on these bastards yourself and hope you survive?” he asked as he returned from the corner.
“Well that's worked just fine so far.” She replied. Glaring at him.
He looked confused by her response, clearly he had not expected such resistance from a girl of fifteen. However his attention was drawn away from her by a voice in his earpiece.
“Hawkeye where the hell are you? we've got a whole army of these things coming down Broadway.”
Hawkeye pressed his earpiece “I'll be there as soon as I can, I've been sidetracked by a couple of strays.”
He looked at Artemis “Where were you going before you ran into me?” he asked.
“Stark Tower.” She said.
“Why?” He looked confused again.
“Well whatever is keeping that portal thing open is coming from the tower, so they're not gonna knock it down. And they have already killed everyone within two blocks of it so they are hardly gonna look for me there.” Artemis stated.
Hawkeye looked at her for a second and then grinned, “Well come on then, you're clearly smarter than you look, let's get you there then I can get back to killing these bastards.”
“Well you're doing a marvellous job with that.” She said sardonically, and gestured to the sky filled with flying alien battleships.
He rolled his eyes at her and they began to run down the alleyway. When they reached the next street it was deserted and the sounds of fighting were not as closes as before. Artemis could see the tower at the end of the block as they ran down the pavement towards it. They were halfway there when out of nowhere another alien ship came charging down the street firing at them. Artemis dive rolled out of the line of fire and picked up a rock the size of a tennis ball. She aimed for the driver, she couldn't see Hawkeye but hoped he got out of the way in time. The rock hit the side of the aliens helmet and the ship swerved off course however this time it is not enough to make it crash and she had to duck for cover.
Hawkeye had swerved to the side as he pulled out an arrow and notched it, he turned to see the young girl hit the alien in the head with a rock and how the flying chariot almost lost control. As she ducked he let his arrow fly into the skull of the driver. The tip exploded upon contact and brought the craft crashing down. He finally understood what she had meant by her earlier comment. She was a bloody good shot.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her up. Together they continued to run towards the tower. Then there was a flash and lightning stuck the top of the tower. They skidded to a halt and stared up.
A few moments later one of the windows at the top of the tower shattered and a figure fell towards the ground. It must have been Tony Stark because as they fell they were followed by other falling pieces that seemed to attach themselves to the figure until he was wearing a suit of red and gold armour. He was barely fifty feet from the ground when he stopped falling and flew back into the sky hovering at the broken window and sending a blast of energy into the building before speeding away into the distance.
“Hawkeye we need you to keep the area around the tower clear. We are trying to shut down the portal.” The voice in his earpiece said.
“OK, I'm outside the tower can someone give me a lift up high?” he said as he pressed his earpiece.
Within a few seconds the lightning had stopped and a tall blond figure wearing a red cape landed before them, he grabbed Hawkeye by the back of his collar and flew up into the air.
Once she was alone again Artemis took cover behind a pile of rubble. She found a piece of rock and grabbed it in case another flying chariot came past any time soon. She crouched outside the tower and pulled a chocolate bar from her satchel, it had been a few hours since she had left the orphanage and she had barely eaten. The sounds of fighting became louder and she stuffed the rest of the bar into her mouth, quickly slinging her satchel back onto her shoulders getting ready to run at any second.
The next thing she knew there was chaos as a huge green monster that must have been the Hulk came tearing around the corner. It leaped into the air and jumped from building to building until it was on top of an apartment block. The aliens seemed to be distracted by it, there were about fifty of the chariots surrounding the Hulk and firing at it with their energy guns. This seemed only to enrage the Hulk even more, he began smashing the ships out of the sky with his bare hands. One of the mangled chariots came flying towards to ground where Artemis was standing. She ran for cover and dived out of the way just in time as the chariot exploded, but the shock waves sent her flying and she landed just beside a burnt out bus.
Artemis looked down at herself and winced. Well this day just kept getting better and better. She rolled into a sitting position and leaned against the bus panting. There was a large shard of metal embedded several inched into her thigh. She gasped, it was in too deep to be easily removed, besides she knew it would bleed like hell once the shard was taken out so it would just have to stay there until she could get help.
She looked up at the portal cloud and noticed that it was beginning to shrink. The energy from the tower seemed to be slowly ebbing away. A few seconds later she saw Iron Man flying towards the portal, he was carrying something. After a moment Artemis realised that it was a missile. Holy shit. That could blow up the entire island of Manhattan.
She watched as Iron Man flew higher and disappeared into the portal which was now closing rapidly, there was movement close by and she saw Hawkeye and the red cape man approaching, they were soon followed by a man that could only be Captain America, and a red headed woman in a black catsuit. They hadn't seen her as they were all focused of the closing portal.
“Come on Stark.” Said the woman.
When Artemis looked up, the portal was almost completely gone from the sky, it disappeared completely and the team of people nearby looked dismayed. Then far above them they could see a figure falling from the sky.
“Son of a gun.” The Captain smiled.
Hawkeye looked concerned, “He's not slowing down.” He said suddenly.
There was a blur of green as the Hulk jumped towards the falling figure and caught him before smashing to the ground and laying him out in front of the others. The Hulk ripped the mask off of Iron Man's helmet. There was silence. Then the Hulk roared.
The man in the suit came around with a start. “What happened? Please tell me nobody kissed me.”
They were all so distracted by the scene that none of the team noticed the small group of aliens approaching silently from the end of the street.
Artemis saw them coming closer and pulled herself up, she ran limping between the team and the aliens and hurled a stone at the leader of the group. As usual she managed to hit it in the face, she yelled and picked up another rock hurling it at the next alien and successfully alerting the team to their presence.
Her strength began to fade fast, as she threw her third rock an arrow whistled past her and buried itself in the head of one of the aliens, she had felled two of them already before the gunfire blazed meeting the energy blasts, Artemis tried to dodge the blasts but her injury made her too slow and she felt a blast graze her shoulder. As the last alien fell she felt the pain return as her adrenaline disappeared and she collapsed.
“Kid?” the yell came from Hawkeye as he rushed to her.
“Who is she?” Black Widow was there a moment later.
“I don't know, but she just saved all our lives.” The Captain leaned over to look at the young girl lying in the rubble.
“She's still breathing, quick we have to get her help.” Hawkeye carefully scooped Artemis up and began to carry her towards the tower. The others followed, Thor helped Tony to his feet and supported him as they followed everyone into Stark tower.
They reached the medical floor of Stark tower, of course Pepper had insisted on including it in the design, Tony was constantly injuring himself.
The girl was still unconscious and Hawkeye had not yet explained why he seemed to know her. Tony wondered why the girl had been there at all, the blocks around the tower were supposed to have been cleared of civilians. He also wondered why, when she was clearly badly injured, she had run at the Chitauri and somehow managed to knock two of them down.
Tony left the others to get out of his suit and was then forced to undergo a medical examination before he was allowed to return. He turned a corner and saw Barton and Romanov standing at the door of one of the rooms. They turned as he walked up.
“Hey what's happening?” he asked.
Barton still looked slightly worried. “They pulled a lot of shrapnel out of her.” He said, holding up a shard several inches long about the size of Tony's palm. “But the doctors said she should be OK once they get all the cuts cleaned up.
“Who is she?” Tony asked looking into the room and seeing the young teenage girl lying in a hospital bed with several machines hooked up monitoring her.
Barton shook his head slowly “I don't know, I found her this afternoon in an alleyway about a block away. She is smart... was running towards the tower, said that it was the safest place to be because the portal was coming from the tower so the Chitauri wouldn't destroy it, and they had already taken over these blocks so they wouldn't be searching them any time soon.”
Tony nodded. Of course it made sense, but the idea that a teenager would be able to think of that in the chaos while everybody around them panicked was impressive.
“And she is a bloody good shot.” Barton finished smiling wryly.
The girl was lying in a hospital bed on the fiftieth floor of Stark tower, apart from the heart monitor and oxygen tube attached to her nose she looked peaceful, her auburn hair was spread out on the pillow. A silver amulet hung on a leather cord around her neck, a wolf howling in a crescent moon. Her skin was pale, making her freckles clearly visible.
The old leather satchel she had been wearing was sitting on the bedside table still unopened. Tony had felt that going through her bag without permission was unnecessary, after all the doctor had assured him that she would be awake within a few hours.
He stood next to the bed looking at the young face before him, seeing her unconscious brought the reality of the attack flooding back into his mind. Anger boiled up inside him and he wondered how many more kids were lying in hospital, or worse. He couldn't bare to think about it, once again he had failed to protect people. Tony turned away trying to ward off his feeling of guilt.
“JARVIS, run a search on her face see if you can find out who she is.” Tony told the AI.
“Very good Sir.”
The heart monitor continued to beep in the silence. Tony glanced back at her before he left shaking his head. He would know who the girl was soon enough.
“Let me know when she wakes, won't you.” He said to JARVIS as he left the room.
The Avengers were gathered around on the common area a few floors above. They turned when Tony walked in, Barton rose from a sofa that he had been perched on and looked at Tony questioningly.
“She's still out cold.” He stated in answer to the unvoiced question on everyone's mind.
“I still don't get it.” The Captain said suddenly “I mean, what is a teenage kid doing in the middle of New York city on their own? And why didn't she follow the crowds when the cops were evacuating the streets?”
“Well you can ask her yourself when she wakes up Cap.” Hawkeye looked tired. The others had obviously been interrogating him for information about the mystery girl while Tony was away.
Tony walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink. He pulled out his phone and called Pepper.
“Tony, are you OK? Are you hurt? What the hell has been happening?” Pepper was worried sick and he couldn't really blame her for it.
“I'm fine Pep, we stopped the invasion, come home as soon as you can we will need all the help we can get cleaning up the city.”
“I am on my way back now, I should be there in a few hours at the most, don't go getting into any trouble before I get back.” She warned.
“Promise, see you soon Pep, I'll get JARVIS to send you everything we've got so you can have a look over it all on your way.”
“OK I'll see you soon Tony.”
The call ended and he slid the phone into the pocket of his jeans, picking up his drink he walked over to the others sitting on the couches.
“So what are we going to do with Reindeer Games then?” He asked the room at large.
There was silence as everyone exchanged glances, finally Thor spoke up.
“I shall return my brother to Asgard where he will serve just punishment for his crimes against the people of Midgard.”
“I still want to beat the shit out of him for fucking around with my mind like that.” Hawkeye was clenching his fist as he spoke and everyone could tell that he was more than a little bit disturbed by what had happened.
“Even so Loki will face trial, the Allfather will decide on his sentence, Loki's crimes against your people are only some of the charges brought against him.”
The others decided to leave it at that. Thor was stronger than all of them after all and there was sense in what he said, even if Barton didn't like the idea.
Pepper sat on one of the couches of the private jet, a table was pulled close to her and the surface lit up with holographic images as she sifted through the piles of information JARVIS had brought up for her. The media were already running wild jumping to conclusions about who was to blame for the alien invasion. Several of them were convinced that the Avengers were to blame and the fact that Loki had used Stark Tower to set up his portal didn't help the matter.
Pepper began flicking through the media and security footage from the attack, finding useful bits of recording that would help with any public awareness campaign for the Avengers. After all it was important to clear up any doubt in the public mind as to the role the Avengers had in stopping the invasion.
JARVIS had briefly shown her a picture of the young girl who was apparently currently lying unconscious on the hospital floor of Stark Tower. Pepper however had more pressing matters to deal with than the identity of the unknown girl who would most likely be awake and able to tell them herself within a few hours.
She was filtering through the footage of the first few minutes of the invasion, the streets were a mess, shop windows shattered. Pepper was relieved that there was no sound as some of the images were horrific. The current camera was showing a street about two blocks away from the Tower that was one of the first in the firing line.
Pepper could barely watch as the Chitauri's flying chariot flew along the street shooting at everything in sight. Not wanting to watch as the people in the street were shot down while running for cover, Pepper was about to move on to the next piece of footage when the chariot suddenly swerved out of control and crashed, exploding spectacularly from the high speed collision.
“Oh,” Pepper murmured to herself “JARVIS pull up all the other security footage from that crash.”
More images of the street popped up immediately and Pepper expanded one that had a closer view of the chariot, she watched the footage as the chariot flew along, then there was a blur of movement and the driver staggered before the chariot lost control. She slowed the footage down and played it again this time making out what appeared to be a rock flying through the air, hitting the driver right between the eyes.
Pepper played it a few more times, before she continued sifting through the different images trying to find one from the side of the street where the rock had come from. She soon found the security camera from one of the shops, the image was relatively clear and showed people running and screaming, panicking. One girl however, stopped, picked up a piece of rubble and took a second to aim before throwing it with all her might at the driver. Well that was a surprise, Pepper had been expecting it to be one of the Avengers, probably Hawkeye knowing his proficiency with flying objects, but then when she thought about it, he would have just used an arrow, as he was unlikely to be out of arrows this early in the battle.
Pepper played the footage again in slow motion trying to get a good shot of the girls face. Before the girl got up again after sheltering from the explosion behind a café table, she turned still crouched and for the first time Pepper could make out her face, she froze the image and zoomed in to get a closer look.
“Oh. My. God.”
Clint sat sprawled back with his feet resting on the back of Nat's chair slowly picking at his food. No one was bothering to talk, they all just sat around either eating or, in Tony’s case, starting at nothing.
The small Shawarma joint was empty apart from the Avengers crowded around one table and a few staff half heartedly sweeping up the rubble left in the wake of the invasion.
Clint let his gaze drift around the table, Nat was leaning on the edge of the table slowly chewing while lost in thought. Steve looked as though he was about to dose off with the his elbow resting on the table, head in his hand. Thor was next to him and was making short work of his fifth wrap, while Tony was idly staring at Bruce like it had just hit him that he had died and been scared back to life by the man sitting next to him. Bruce meanwhile looked absolutely exhausted as he slowly munched on his food.
They continued eating in silence for some time when Tony’s phone suddenly beeped. He pulled it out and tapped the screen.
“JARVIS, buddy what have you got for me?” he asked perking up a bit.
“Sir, Miss Potts has asked me to send you this, she stated that you all aught to watch it right away.” The AI stated calmly. Tony pressed something on the phone and a hologram popped up above it.
“OK Thanks bud, play it when you're ready.”
What appeared to be security footage began to play and everyone watched with interest. It was a street a few blocks from the tower, from the beginning of the invasion. As they watched one of the Chitauri's flying chariots flew down the street leaving destruction in its path. As the people in the street began to flee, being shot down as they ran, the chariot suddenly swerved out of control and crashed in a ball of fire.
There was a general murmur of interest from the avengers as the video changed to another angle, this time closer up on the chariot before it crashed, the clip was slowed down so that they could see what caused the crash. From somewhere off camera a rock the size of a tennis ball, probably a piece of rubble from the street, came flying and smashed into the face of the driver right between the eyes, causing it to loose control of the chariot and crash.
Clint's mind was racing as he began to piece things together. Of course, it all made sense now.
“Oh,” He muttered. Nat shot him a glance before she quickly focused back on the footage as the camera changed again.
This time it was a security camera from outside of a café, people were running screaming. Clint recognised Artemis right away as she stopped, grabbed a piece of rubble off the ground, and aimed before sending it flying right into the face of the alien driver, bringing the whole chariot crashing down. They all watched with bated breath as she ducked behind an overturned table sheltering from the explosion. Then she turned away and the footage paused as the camera got a good view of her face for the first time.
The image zoomed in on her face and there was a collective rumble of surprise from the rest of the avengers.
Nat was looking at Clint questioningly but before he could say anything Tony spoke up.
“Wow, OK, I was not expecting that.” Tony looked to the others as if to validate this sentiment. Nat spoke up next before anyone else could say anything.
“How did you know it was her?” She questioned Clint.
All the eyes at the table swivelled his way in interest. The captain was suddenly wide awake again, his full attention focused on Clint. Tony on the other hand looked at the archer in surprise.
“Wait you KNEW? Why didn't you say anything?” Tony said jumping to conclusions.
“Tony shut up.” Nat turned back to Clint “Before the video showed us the last piece of the footage you already knew it was her, how?”
Clint sighed “Let's just say I recognised her handy work.” He was seriously getting sick of everyone assuming that he knew everything.
Nat frowned and then seemed to realise what he meant. The rest of the group still looked mystified though so he decided to elaborate.
“She seems to be in the habit of hitting aliens in the face with bits of rock.” He explained, “Almost took down another one of the chariots right outside the tower.”
“Almost?” Nat asked.
“Well she hit it right in the head, but it wasn't enough to make it loose control.” he explained,“Besides she told me.”
“WHAT! She told you that she knocked a flying chariot out of the air and you didn't think it was important enough to tell us?” This time it was the Captain that looked incredulous.
Clint rolled his eyes in frustration, this was getting annoying it wasn't like he knew everything.
“Of course I would have told you that. That's not the point. It was just something she said that confused the hell out of me at the time, but it makes sense now. I guessed it was her the moment I saw a rock hit him in the face. Besides it makes sense, that street is just around the corner from where she ran into me.”
Everyone was silent for a moment after Clint's explanation. Nat looked curious and broke the silence.
“What did she say?”
“I asked if she was just going to run off and take on the aliens by herself and hope she survived, she looked right at me and said 'Well that's worked just fine so far'.”
“Well I don't see how any of this really helps us at all, we still don't know who she is.” Bruce, who had remained thoughtful throughout the whole exchange, finally spoke up.
The focus that had been trained on Clint the whole time finally dissipated. Clint huffed as Nat squeezed his hand under the table. Thor was contentedly munching on his eighth wrap as if nothing had happened. Steve was leaning his head on his hand with his elbow on the table looking as though he was about to dose off again.
The ceiling was white and the room was well lit. As she looked around Artemis realise she must be in hospital. Oh great. There were several machines beeping beside the bed where she lay. She had barely registered all this when a voice broke the silence making her jump.
“Hello Miss, it is good to see you are awake, how are you feeling” The voice sounded kind and concerned, but there was no visible source.
“Um I'm fine...Who... Where are you?” Artemis asked, her voice was slightly hoarse.
“I am JARVIS, I am an artificial intelligence system created by Mr Stark, I do not have a physical body as such but I run the tower for Sir.” The voice stated calmly, reminding Artemis of her mother in the way it spoke. “May I enquire as to your name?”
“Uh, I'm Artemis.” She replied. “Am I in Stark Tower?”
“Yes, Miss Artemis, you have been unconscious for about two hours. Agent Barton insisted that the doctors tend to your injuries immediately.” JARVIS stated.
“Who?” This was so weird, she sat up rubbing her eyes.
“Agent Clint Barton otherwise known as Hawkeye, he carried you in after the battle and seemed rather concerned for your well being. I should inform you that Sir has been informed that you are awake and says that he is on his way here as we speak.” The AI supplied helpfully, “A doctor is on their way to see you as well.”
By the time everyone arrived the doctor had finished and was leaving. Tony, Clint and Natasha entered while the rest of the team headed up to the common lounge to wait. Artemis was sitting up in the hospital bed.
“How are you feelin' kid?” The archer enquired.
“Just brilliant.” Came her reply laced with sarcasm.
“Aww, kid don't be like that I was really worried.” Clint joked clutching his heart in mock hurt as he walked over to the side of the bed.
“Well you'd be the first, Katniss.” Tony snickered and she looked at him “Hey tin man, pass be my bag would you?”
“Hey how come I get tin man?” he said in a whiny kid voice as he passed it over.
Artemis shrugged “Hey I'm not the one going around calling myself 'Iron Man'” she said while she dug around and pulled out a chocolate bar. “Besides it would be Iron Maiden in my case and that would never work, everyone would expect me to fly around blasting 'Run to the Hills' over loud speaker.” She stated taking a large bite of her chocolate bar.
Tony and Clint were both laughing.
“Well it's nice to see someone can match Tony in the nicknaming department.” Natasha smiled.
“Well Weasley, I must say you all introduce yourselves very well.” Artemis said in a mock congratulatory tone.
That brought on another round of giggles from Tony, Clint tried very hard not to laugh at Nat's nickname but failed miserably.
Natasha smirked “Well we don't exactly know who you are either. Care to enlighten us?” She replied extending her hand “I'm Agent Natasha Romanov with S.H.I.E.L.D”
Artemis took her hand and shook it. “Artemis Black.”
Tony and Clint had both sobered up by now and introduced themselves more formally.
“So what did the doctor say? Any idea how long you'll take to heal?” Tony asked.
“He said I’m not allowed to put weight on my leg for two days... Why? Trying to get rid of me already?” Artemis stated dryly.
Tony shook his head and looked as though he was about to protest but Natasha spoke up again.
“So Artemis anything else you can tell us?”
Artemis was careful to keep her face as blank as possible. She wasn't sure she could trust them all yet. After all she had just broken the law by running away.
“What do you wanna know?” she asked carefully keeping her voice casual.
“Well we should probably contact your parents to let them know where you are and everything...” Tony began but trailed off when she shook her head..
“You don't need to worry about that.” Artemis said making her meaning clear in her tone.
“Oh kid I'm sorry I...” Clint hesitated, “Is there anyone we should contact?”
“No.” The stated firmly. “It's OK it's not because of the...” She waved her hand around indicating the current situation, “It's nothing new...” She finished.
“Well then… no reason to mope around here all day let's all go up to the lounge I wanna watch a movie.” Tony changed the subject suddenly. “You coming Kid? Wanna meet the rest of the gang?”
Artemis just started at him frowning “You were listening when I said I’m not allowed to walk right?”
“Sure you can, you just can't put weight on your leg but that's not a problem.” Tony grinned. “So do you want a wheel chair, or do you wanna fly everywhere in one of my suits? What's it gonna be Iron Maiden?”
The wind was cold, Artemis remembered the day she tried to run away, to get away from the orphanage for good. She was caught, and dragged away kicking and screaming. The people in the street ignored the struggling twelve year old girl, walking by stony faced as she was shoved into the back of a van by the local authorities. There was the feel of the cold metal floor of the van and the sound as the door slammed shut, locked from the outside. Then she was at another orphanage, the kids looked just the same as everywhere she went, sad, lonely and abandoned. She slumped down on her bed and the lights went out. She looked up into the darkness and then there were ships flying out of it, small ships and fucking huge whale ships, shooting at everything in sight. The woman in front of her fell to the ground, blood pooling around her, her eyes looking up at Artemis in terror. The Chitauri kept shooting at Artemis and her limbs felt like lead, she couldn't move, couldn't run, couldn't dodge the shots that came flying at her. She felt herself falling...
Artemis woke with a start, heart pounding, thrashing around but barely able to move she was so tangled up in the sheets. She fell off the side of the bed and the lights came on automatically just enough for her to see properly. JARVIS spoke up as Artemis took a deep shaky breath.
“Are you all right Artemis? You seem rather distressed.” The AI inquired with a tone of concern.
“Just a Nightmare.” Artemis took another deep breath before untangling herself from the sheets. “What time is it?”
“It is currently 3:05am, is there anything you would like? Everyone else is asleep at the moment however I can wake someone if you wish.”
“No that's OK, don't wake anyone.” Artemis said as she stood up, she stretched and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes before reaching out and grabbing a soft blanket off the bed and throwing it over her shoulders.
Artemis left the spare bedroom Pepper had arranged for her and padded quietly down the hallway on bare feet and out into the common area, ignoring the slight tinge of protest from her injuries. She walked over to the open kitchen on the far side and put the kettle on. Rummaging around in the cupboards until she found what she wanted, she pulled out a large mug and a tea bag. The kettle boiled and she made her tea, reaching over to the fridge for milk and adding just enough to make it perfect, the way her mother used to make it.
Pulling the blanket closer as it slid off her shoulder, she walked slowly across the room and curled up on the couch in front of the huge TV. She picked up the remote and turned it on.
“Hey JARVIS can you put a movie on for me.” The dropped the remote back on the coffee table and leaned back sipping her tea.
“Of course.” JARVIS replied as the screen lit up and Tangled began to play.
Tony woke with a start, the images of his nightmare, still hauntingly vivid, running through his mind. The blackness of space and the Chitauri army above the portal, the inky darkness surrounding him as his suit failed and shut down no longer protecting him as he fell.
He slid out of bed slowly, careful not to wake Pepper, and left the room with the idea of heading down to his workshop to work on some new tech. He shook his head trying to shake off the bad dream as he made his way down to the common area to get a drink on his way to the workshop. The area was already lit dimly and the kid was curled up in a blanket on the couch watching a Disney film.
He walked over to the fridge and pulled out orange juice and poured himself a glass and trying to work out what he should do. Eventually he walked over and plonked himself down next to the bundle of fluffy purple blanket covered teenager.
“Couldn't sleep, mind if I join you?” He glanced at Artemis who shrugged.
Tony hummed in response. “Yesterday was a pretty trying day.”
“So was the last ten years.” Artemis sighed softly and snuggled further into the blanket.
Tony thought about that for a while, the kid had told them the day before that she was in the system, or rather had run away after being in the system. He remembered what it was like as a kid growing up being shipped off to boarding school. Of course he knew now that his father had only been trying to give him the best, that he wanted Tony to grow up without having to fight his way to the top, but as a result he had grown up feeling like he didn't really have a family.
“Growing up on your own isn't easy.” He paused not really sure what he was supposed to say, “But then again it's been easier for me than most, at least I had people looking after me.”
“I guess we're kinda fucked up aren't we.” Artemis glanced over at Tony.
“Yeah well we're all a bit fucked up in some way or another.” Tony replied “You'll fit right in.”
There was silence for a while, in the background the movie kept playing, and with every passing hour I'm so glad I left my tower, cos way down deep inside I’ve got a dream.
Tony would never admit it but he actually enjoyed Disney movies so he sat and watched the rest of the film. At one point he found himself being utilised as a head rest and squeaked indignantly.
“What, am I a pillow now?”
“Yep, your finest achievement, genius, billionaire, and human pillow.” Came a slightly amused response.
Despite his protest Tony didn't mind in the slightest. When the credits began to play he got up and walked over to the kitchen, stomach grumbling as he realised how hungry he was. As he began to pull things out of the different cupboards to make pancakes Artemis padded over still wrapped in her blanket and settled down on a stool.
“Come to admire my culinary expertise?” He joked.
“Well look at that a pillow that can cook, now I have seen everything.”
“Are you questioning my cooking skills?” He pouted.
“Well I've never met a four year old who could cook before.” she snarked back.
Tony just laughed, it was nice to be around someone who was a match for his special level of sarcasm and who didn't expect him to grow up and be serious the whole time.
Before long the two of them were elbowing each other and laughing as they poured batter into a hot pan. They took turns flipping the pancakes, showing off as they caught them again in flick of the wrist. Artemis piled pancakes on her plate and topped it with ice cream and raspberries before pouring maple syrup over the lot.
The two of them sat down at the counter and dug in, nightmares forgotten.
“So where does a billionaire learn to cook pancakes?” Artemis asked.
“Well I can't actually cook anything else, but I wanted to surprise Pepper on her birthday so I got one of the top local chefs to teach me.” Tony admitted sheepishly.
Artemis snorted as she shovelled another spoonful of pancake and raspberries into her mouth.
“So anyway, I was thinking of heading down to the lab, wanna come see?” Tony asked, quickly changing the subject.
Artemis nodded as she shoved the last of her pancakes into her mouth, and shoved the dishes into the little hatch that quickly swallowed them on a conveyor belt, presumably sending them off somewhere to be cleaned.
“Sure, lead the way Doc.”
They reached the labs and Tony instructed JARVIS to open up one of the workshops that contained his damaged suits from the battle. As they walked in Artemis took in the sight of the work benches strewn with different papers and random tools, with great interest. She had always loved the brief classes in school where she got to make things with her hands, it was one of the few times that school had seemed like it had a purpose, that they were putting what they had learned to a practical use.
On a table in the middle of the room was the rather damaged Mark VIII armour. Tony had the place decked out for repair and testing with a large open space in the middle of the room.
Tony clicked his fingers and the room lit up with blue holograms. He may have been showing off just a bit but Artemis didn't care, this definitely beat her old state schools shitty science labs.
DUMMY came over clicking in interest and circled Artemis like a watch dog.
“That's DUMMY, the first AI I created. Sorry he's gotten a little protective of me since Afghanistan.” Tony paused. Shit. He hadn't meant to bring that up just yet.
Artemis had barely listened to the second part of what he said however. She was busy grinning playfully at DUMMY who seemed to have taken to her very quickly and was whirring happily.
“So what are you working on at the moment?” Artemis asked finally looking away from DUMMY to glance around the workshop again.
“Well, I'm starting to work on the plans for the Mark IX suit.” He said, waving his hands in a spinning motion making a hologram appear in front of him with the blueprints for the Mark VIII.
Artemis came over as he started to disassemble the blueprint and spin things around examining them.
“So what went wrong?”
Tony looked up puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Well I'm assuming that little joy ride where you fell out of the portal wasn't on purpose.” She stated. “So something must need fixing.”
Tony stared for a second before realising and shook himself back to reality. “Yeah, I dunno what went wrong with that, JARVIS how did you go with the diagnostics?”
“I am as yet unsure as to the exact cause of the failure, Sir. However I believe it may be due to the changes in external pressure and gravitational forces caused by travelling through the wormhole.” The smooth British voice spoke up.
“Well there we go that's a start.” Tony began pulling up the suits life support systems on the blueprint and experimenting to see if he could make them suitable for outer space environmental conditions.
“So you need to make the suit so it will still work without an atmosphere or any gravity.” Artemis surmised walking closer to get a better look at the designs.
Tony glanced up, “Uh huh. Sometimes I forget how smart you are.” He grinned.
Artemis shrugged, “Being underestimated can have its own uses. Kinda sucks if you want recognition though.”
“I bet. Where did you get up to in school? You should be at least a few years ahead of anyone else your own age.” Tony asked curiosity taking over.
“I dunno, no one ever took any notice. After all what would a stupid little orphan know about Quadratic equations.”
“Ouch that sounds like a quote.”
Artemis grimaced, “The principle didn't take to kindly to a seven year old correcting the maths teacher when he completely fucked up the problem for the tenth grade class I had detention in.”
Tony grinned, “People are always so indignantly protective of their stupidity.”
“I ended up just skipping class and doing everything myself.” She smiled sheepishly. No one else knew about her escapades into learning beyond the stupidly basic classes she was supposed to attend. Eventually Artemis had become sick of being ignored every time the teaches asked a question that she knew the answer to, or punished for pointing out the teachers mistakes and had taken it upon herself to learn as mush as possible.
Tony was once again impressed however for some reason he was not particularly surprised. He swivelled the blueprints in his hands before balling them up and tossing them over his shoulder. He clapped his hands together and smiled.
“OK Rapunzel, time to see what how quickly you can pick up the basics, what do you wanna make?”
Pepper walked out of the elevator towards the door of Tony's workshop. JARVIS opened the door for her and she walked in expecting to find Tony absorbed in working on his suits or one of his other inventions. It was getting towards late afternoon and he needed to eat and join the other avengers to discuss the repairs of the city and the many other issues on hand. Instead what she found as she entered the room was much more interesting.
ACDC was blaring loudly over the speaker system while Tony and the girl Artemis were playing a very competitive game of something that looked like a cross between hologram volley ball and ping pong. At the same time Tony seemed to be teaching her rather advanced science of some kind. Pepper watched them for about a minute before either of them noticed she was there. When they did Artemis took advantage of Tony’s distraction to nail him in the face with a small ball that dissolved upon contact.
Tony looked up at Pepper and grinned, “Hey guess what Pep?” He was in one of those fits of childish excitement that meant he had just made a breakthrough with something.
“With that face, Tony it could be anything” Pepper sighed, meanwhile Artemis tossed the last ping pong ball at a target on the other side of the room getting a bullseye.
“We just designed a new iPod, no wait, we can't call it that, they are shit in comparison.” Tony turned to Artemis, “What are we gonna call it?”
“How about the Opal.” She replied after thinking, “We could make the casing so that it shines different colours like an opal, that would look way cooler that the stupid black that Apple use.”
Tony nodded enthusiastically and pulled up a hologram to design the casing for the device.
“Besides, there is no way in hell that we are calling it a StarkPod.” Artemis teased as she played with a picture of cut opal before rendering it into the shape of the device so that it looked as though the it was made of the stone, reflecting the different colours beautifully.
Pepper laughed before remembering why she came down to the workshop in the first place.
“OK kids, as wonderful as this all is, you are needed on the common floor, everyone needs to work out a few issues from the invasion.” She waved them towards the door insistently. “Besides you both need to eat.”
The common area was slowly filling with the various members of the team as Artemis followed Pepper out of the elevator and down the corridor. Tony followed behind talking non-stop to JARVIS about constructing an Opal immediately. Pepper in her infinite wisdom had made sure that both of them got dressed as they had still been in their pyjamas when she hustled them from the workshop.
The counter was piled high with food and everyone was helping themselves. Artemis recognised Hawkeye and Black Widow sitting together on a large armchair, as well as the Captain, and the big burly blond dude who for some reason was still wearing his red cape. The rest however were unfamiliar, there was a man with curly brown hair in a purple shirt, talking to a woman with shoulder length light brown hair who was standing next to blondie. Standing across the room was a tall scary looking man with dark skin and eye patch who was talking to a woman with dark chocolate hair pulled back in a bun. The scary dude had a huge leather coat and the woman had a S.H.I.E.L.D logo on the shoulder of her jacket.
Artemis continued to glance around as Pepper led her and Tony over to the food and ordered them both to eat. Tony pouted but grabbed a few pieces of pizza, Artemis took a cheese burger and a can of soda. She was then bombarded by a friendly girl with dark brown curls, red lipstick and glasses.
“Hey, can you pass the chopsticks?” She beamed, Artemis reached over and grabbed a pair passing them to her.
“I'm Darcy, by the way, Jane's intern.”
“I'm Artemis. Who's Jane?”
Darcy pointed to the woman who Artemis had noticed with blond cape dude, “So what brings you here?” Darcy asked around a mouthful of her Chinese.
“Food.” She stated taking a bite out of her burger, "Also Pepper practically frogmarched us from the lab." Darcy laughed.
The two of them wandered over and slumped down on the couch next to the chair where Clint and Natasha were slouched comfortably over one another.
“Hey girl on fire” Artemis then nodded to Nat in greeting, “Weasley.” Darcy stifled a chuckle at the nicknames.
Artemis finished her burger and drink quickly. She got bored and pulled a few rubber bands and a small piece of soft leather, that she had snagged from Tony’s lab, out of her pocket, pulling a bobby pin out of her hair and bending it into a Y shape. She then attached the rubber bands to the leather and looped them onto the ends to the bobby pin to create a miniature slingshot. Clint was watching her with interest as she pulled a few pieces of rubber slightly smaller than a marble from her pocket and fitted one into the slingshot.
“Pick an Avenger.” She said to Darcy who was oblivious to what she had been doing while still intent upon savouring her box of Chinese.
“Um, Captain America, Why?”
She turned to Clint and winked before taking aim and firing the small projectile across the room.
“FUCK!” Steve jumped a foot in the air and grabbed his backside.
Artemis smirked and whispered “Bullseye.”
Meanwhile Clint was trying to stifle his laughter. Nat elbowed him trying to shut him up. Darcy glanced at Artemis over the top of her box of Chinese giggling. Half of the room had turned at the commotion and were either laughing or staring at Steve, or in Steve’s case looking around trying to work out who had hit him. His gaze landed on Clint who was laughing openly and he glared at him.
Artemis's poker face was so good even Natasha was impressed. The slingshot had vanished back into her pocket and Artemis looked as though she was giggling at something Clint had done, not the other way around. Clint however only laughed harder when Steve glared at him.
Once everyone had settled down after the incident, the rest of the crowd gathered around. Director Fury stood up and addressed the group at large.
“I know some of you may be pissed off that I didn't tell you this earlier, but Agent Phil Coulson is alive and currently recovering with the aid of some of S.H.I.E.L.D's top medical experts.”
There was an instant commotion, Tony looked really fucking pissed indeed and he wasn't the only one. Steve was pretty sure that the only people who seemed unaffected by this news either didn't know who they were all talking about or had already known about it.
It took longer to get everyone back under control the second time and Pepper had to get up on the coffee table and shout at everyone to “Shut the hell up!” Darcy was still muttering something about an iPod thief.
“Look, as wonderful as this news is and as annoying as it is that it didn't come a bit sooner, we can all go visit Phil later.” Pepper said once everyone stopped talking. “For now we have a lot of important issues to discuss, and frankly we can't waste any more time shouting at Director Fury right now.”
There was silence for a moment before Steve spoke up, “Miss Potts is right, we need to focus on the issues at hand. The reconstruction of New York is a priority at the moment, as well as setting up support for those who have lost loved ones and homes.”
There was a general rumble of approval from the group.
“Is anyone going to mention the problem that the majority of New York is currently blaming us for the attack?”
Artemis suddenly had the attention of the entire room focused on her but to her credit she didn't seem in the least bit phased by it.
“Seriously come on, have none of you watched the news on the last 24 hours. Opinions are like arseholes at the moment, everyone's got one and barely any of them are anything bordering on intelligent.” She said to the room at large.
There where a few snickers and Clint looked amused “Have you ever met an intelligent arsehole before?” he asked.
Artemis turned to look at him and quirked an eyebrow.
“I thought you'd met Tony.” She stated with a hint of dry amusement.
There was an outburst of laughter and Tony looked affronted but then chuckled. “Fair point.”
Pepper cleared her throat gaining everyone's attention again.
“Artemis is right, we need to get the public opinion back on our side so that we can be the most effective in aiding the clean up of New York. Stark Industries can contribute to the rebuilding of the city as well as through other areas. But for now we need the team to get out in the public eye and be seen helping the city. I've organised a press conference far all of you though you don't necessarily have to answer too many questions, we'll organise official statements for anyone who isn't comfortable battling the press. As well as this I have got the marketing team working with footage of the battle showing that you guys were there minimising the damage and fighting against the invasion, hopefully once it airs it should help get rid of any doubts as to everyone's involvement.”
There was a little more discussion after Pepper finished her speech before the room was dismissed to carry on with their day as they pleased.
Artemis asked JARVIS if an Opal prototype was ready yet as people began to leave the common area, receiving a confused glance from Darcy.
“I'm not an expert, but I thought an opal was like a stone or gem or something.” She said.
“It is,” Artemis said turning to Darcy, “But it is also the latest invention to come from Tony’s lab.”
“There is a prototype for the Opal on its way up to you right now Artemis, the device was completed less than five minutes ago.” Came the cool British voice in response.
Artemis grinned at Darcy when an intern arrived carrying a small white box and she leapt up to go get it. In her haste she forgot about her injuries and winced as pain shot trough her thigh at the sudden violent movement. She tried to ignore it and took the box from the intern with a smile, thanking him.
As she turned to head back to the couch she found Captain America watching her with a furrowed brow. She realise too late that she was limping as she was intercepted by six feet and two inches of towering muscles and concerned expression.
“I thought you weren't allowed to walk for two days.” He said with a pointed frown.
Artemis winced guiltily, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Kinda got a bit distracted...”
He helped Artemis walk to the couch despite her protests that she was fine, giving her big blue puppy dog eyes when she tried to resist his help. When they sat down Artemis returned her attention to the box in her hands. The thin white card was pristine and new, Artemis opened it carefully and found a smaller plastic rectangular case, she pulled it out and opened it.
The Opal was on top and Artemis removed it from the case carefully, underneath the small tray it sat on she found a pair of high tech Stark Industries earphones and a charger cable.
As she turned the device over in her hands Darcy gaped. “That is so cool.”
Steve looked curious, “What does it do?”
“Well pretty much anything I want.” Artemis said as she pushed the button on the bottom to turn the device on. “JARVIS have you been uploaded.”
“Indeed Artemis, Sir thought it would be expedient for you to have me available. The prototype is yours to keep and Sir has also instructed for a separate division to be created in case of sales of the product that will be in both of your names, Sir has further instructed for all and any sales profits to be put in a trust fund in your name.” JARVIS stated matter of factly from the clear speakers of the new Opal.
It took Artemis a good ten seconds and Darcy laughed at the look on her face for her to realise that her mouth was hanging open. The screen had lit up and she couldn't wipe the grin off her face. Pepper who was nearby heard JARVIS explaining these details to Artemis and walked over smiling.
“Did you know about this?” Artemis asked looking up.
“No but I was hoping he would do something like that.” Pepper smile warmly.
Artemis spent the next hour entertaining Darcy and Steve with her invention. The casing shone like cut opal just as Artemis had envisioned and looked awesome. With JARVIS practically having part of his mind in the Opal Artemis had access to him all the time, it also provided unlimited access to whatever films, TV shows or music she wanted by accessing the unlimited virtual library of Stark Tower.
Darcy was almost drooling and Steve looked mildly mystified but still rather impressed as Artemis set the Opal down on the flat surface of the coffee table and hit play, the inbuilt speaker was suddenly filling the entire room with Highway To Hell. Artemis grinned and picked it up again.
Eventually she stopped showing off and put it in her pocket, she got up and walked over to get more food, this time she grabbed a platter of sushi and headed back to the couch.
“Help yourselves.” She told the others as she sat again noticing Steve's frown again “What?”
“You're still limping, you really shouldn't be walking.” He replied with a tone of concerned disapproval.
“Fine I’ll go invent a pair of flying shoes next.” she muttered stuffing her mouth full of teriyaki chicken sushi.
Steve huffed while Darcy giggled, “You should totally try to make some, that would be beyond awesome.” She grinned, “Think about it you'd never have to walk up stairs again.”
“Honey stairs are the least of my problems. It could be handy for fights though.” Artemis stated thoughtfully. “When you get surrounded you could just fly up and kick their arses from above.”
“Or you could just run away.” Darcy stated matter of factly.
“Nah, what's the point in that, the bastards wanted a fight, may as well teach them a lesson in respect.”
“You're crazy, what do you like getting punched or something?” Darcy asked incredulous.
Steve had been quiet for a few moments during this exchange and now looked a mixture of nostalgic and morose.
“Bucky.” He muttered under his breath with a soft sigh.
Artemis turned to him. “Huh?” She managed through a mouthful of sushi.
A sad smile played across Steve’s face as he looked up, “Bucky used to say that to me, before Project Rebirth happened. He was always pulling me out of some back alley whenever I got into fights."
Steve shook himself out of his reverie after a moment and the conversation veered back to the flying shoes.
“It wouldn't really work if there was any kind of roof though.” Artemis stated. “Like the one time I got into a fight on the subway platform.”
“That's why I carry a taser.” Darcy stated matter of factly.
“Now there's an idea!" Artemis pointed at Darcy before continuing. "But I did get about fifty bucks out of it so it was kinda worth a few bruises.”
“How exactly did you get fifty bucks from a fight?” Steve inquired curiosity taking over from the mild concern that had previously been evident in his expression.
Artemis grinned, “Well there were these three thugs, they were really incredibly stupid because they tried to jump me when it was kind of obvious I didn't have anything. Anyway one of them shoved me up against the wall. They must not have expected any fight from some kid though... So I pick-pocketed him without him noticing then I kneed him in the balls and pushed him onto the tracks. The other two freaked out and were so busy trying to get him off the tracks that by the time they did I had disappeared.”
“OK remind me never to get on your bad side.” Darcy grinned.
“Wait. You pushed a person onto the tracks? He could have been hit by a train.” Steve's look of concern was back in full force.
“He also would have busted my ribs if I hadn't." Artemis pointed out. "Besides, it was late, there was at least twenty minutes until the next train, they were just too thick to realise that.”
"Ok fair point." Steve nodded before reaching across for the platter of Sushi. “So what is this?”
Artemis stared at him, “You're kidding right?”
“You should try the green stuff.” Tony had appeared next to them, grinning when Steve popped the Wasabi in his mouth without hesitation.
Nothing happened. Artemis laughed when Steve raised an eyebrow at Tony.
“Something wrong Stark?” Steve smiled innocent as a kitten.
Tony cursed, “Fucking super soldier serum.” Then his eyes landed on the open box sitting on the coffee table and he perked up with excitement.
“Ah so you got the prototype?” He asked eagerly.
Artemis nodded as she pulled the Opal out of her pocket to show Tony. At the same time she accidentally pulled out the mini sling shot and had to suppress her laughter when Steve saw it.
“You'll have to be a bit more subtle than that to prank the Captain, Tony.” She said as she handed Tony the Opal.
Tony glanced from the slingshot in her hand to the look on Steve’s face and bust out laughing shortly followed by Darcy.
Steve’s eyes narrowed as the realisation dawned on him. “You.”
“Mm hmm.” Artemis shoved the slingshot back into her pocket trying to keep a straight face.
“You little shit.” He muttered with an air that suggested he was already plotting his revenge.
"You can talk." Artemis giggled, “You didn't seriously think it was Hawkeye did you?”
“Smart-arse.” Tony said ruffling her hair.
“Looked in the mirror lately?” She replied without a beat.
Artemis woke with a start from another nightmare, the room was dim and light was slowly filtering through the floor to ceiling windows on the left of her room. She reached out to the bedside table feeling the ache in her shoulder from where the energy blast had hit her as she stretched to pick up her Opal. Wincing she hit a button lighting up the screen revealing that it was around 6am.
She flopped back onto the mattress with a groan still exhausted from her injuries and lack of sleep. Pulling the Opal close to her face she opened the music app and instructed it to play through the inbuilt speaker system in her room. She then sifted through the extensive music library and began compiling a playlist. Music filled the room just loud enough to chase away the nightmares but she still couldn't sleep.
Instead she began playing with the other features of the device, sifting through the photos she had managed to snap the day before without anyone noticing.
She couldn't help but giggle when she found the one that she had covertly snapped of Steve’s reaction to finding out she had pranked him. That one was definitely a keeper. There were others as well, Tony and Pepper, Darcy, Jane and the big blond dude who was apparently called Thor. Looking back at the photos fondly she realised that she had started to regard the team with a mixture of respect and friendship that bordered on the closest thing she had had to a family in a decade and shook herself at the thought.
She had to stop thinking like that; she had no idea how long they would let her stay, why should they waste their time on some orphan kid off the streets when there were aliens and wars to deal with. She couldn't get attached.
Artemis spent the next few minutes searching through trying to find a game to play. There were plenty of course, lots that sounded interesting becoming characters and going off on adventures. However Artemis was living her own real life adventure that had turned out quite different than she had expected. Instead she went for something more just to distract her from her own thoughts than anything else and went with Subway Surfers. Eventually her eyes began to droop and she drifted off to sleep to the sound of Back in Black.
When she woke again Artemis was relieved that it was not as a result of another bad dream. The room was still dim but she soon realised that was as a result of JARVIS tinting the windows rather than from any lack of daylight.
The Opal was still in her hand and after a moment she checked the time finding that it was now around 11am. Feeling much better for the uninterrupted sleep Artemis eventually dragged herself out of bed and into the en suite bathroom.
By the time she was showered and dressed she was fully awake. She brushed the tangles out of her wet hair and dried it off some more before pulling it to the side in a simple plait, the auburn locks reaching down past her shoulders. Leaving the solitude of her room she set out in search of breakfast.
The common area was relatively vacant except for Pepper, while the guy with curly hair whose name Artemis had forgotten, was making waffles. He promptly offered her some with a smile and she accepted with a nod, unsure of whether she was intruding.
Pepper smiled, “Help yourself to whatever you like, tea and coffee are over there.” She gestured towards a cupboard.
Artemis began to make herself a cup of tea. As she finished the man, who Pepper had referred to as Bruce, set a plate of waffles in front of her with a smile.
“You’re looking better this morning, how are you feeling?” he asked.
“Um, better I guess.” she replied, as she piled raspberries and maple syrup onto her waffles.
The room was quiet with only the clinking of cutlery for a moment before Pepper spoke up. “I managed to find a few documents that you may want.”
Artemis sent her a curious glance and raised an eyebrow inviting Pepper to continue.
“I managed to find the orphanage that you mentioned yesterday when we spoke, they still had your birth certificate on file. I have it here.” She passed over a file for Artemis to take.
Artemis's brain was taking a moment to catch up, she had just about given up any hope of finding anything regarding to herself that she still wanted to see. With all the transitions most of her original information had been lost in the system.
A grin spread across her face as she took the file from Pepper and opened it murmuring her thanks. A large part of her had been wondering if the documents contained any information about her relatives, however she also knew that if she had had any known relatives, there was at least some probability that she wouldn't have ended up in care. Either way she would be happy just to have proof that she existed as it would have been exceedingly difficult to do much without it.
Despite this she still felt a sinking feeling in her chest when she finally read the document in front of her. Her name and date of birth were clearly printed as were her mother’s details however the space for her father was completely blank.
Pepper's chuckle pulled her attention back to the present and she looked up curiously to see Pepper smiling.
“Your birthday is the day before Tony’s.”
Bruce was looking at the certificate with interest. “Do you know who your father is?” he asked.
Artemis shook her head “It was only ever me and Mum, I have no idea who he is.”
“Do you want to know?”
“Well yeah I guess, I don't really have anywhere to go, but he's probably dead already. Besides I have no way of finding out so it doesn't matter.” Artemis shrugged and took another bite of waffle.
“That's not entirely true. Tony has some of the most advanced technology in existence, not to mention almost unlimited resources and connections, he may be able to find a way. Don’t you think Bruce?”
The man removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose thoughtfully.
“Well it's definitely possible, we could have a go, but it's up to you.” He said to Artemis.
Artemis made her way down to the labs lost in thought, when she reached Tony’s workshop she shook herself mentally and made her way inside trying to distract herself from her thoughts. Pepper’s presentation of her birth certificate had been quite a surprise and she was still trying to come to terms with the fact that it was not lost forever after all. The main question that was weighing on her mind however was why her father was not listed on the document.
It didn’t make sense to her; she had been sure that her mother knew who it was but why not say? Artemis had strained her memories trying to find a name or something to explain it but had come up short.
As she entered the workshop Tony looked up and grinned when he saw her. “Hey Rapunzel, you’re up early.” Artemis laughed at the nickname.
“Of the two of us, which one is the princess who lives in a tower?” She quipped.
“Point.” Tony laughed, “So, any more ideas for stuff we can make.” He asked enthusiastically clapping his hands together.
“Darcy wants me to make flying shoes.”
Tony grinned, “Something tells me you’ve already started.”
“I was thinking something like this.” She tapped the Opal a few times and flicked her hand up bringing up a basic design for the boots she had done the night before.
They were black leather and came a few inches above the ankle and buckling up on the sides. Into the soles she had indicated a place for miniature propulsion system similar to the ones in Tony’s suit.
Tony's grin widened as he spun the hologram around examining the basic design. “You got the placement pretty much spot on, calculating the weight and balance requirements. We can easily miniaturise the system I have in the suit to fit. We’ll also have to design flight stabilisers of some sort to go with it.” He gibbered happily.
Artemis pulled up another design she had begun the night before for the stabilisers and continued to work on them with Tony’s help. The stabilisers were small and worn like jewellery, the main section collapsed down into a wide cuff bracelet on each wrist, which flipped out onto the palm when activated and connected with rings on the middle finger, pinkie and thumb, centring a circular stabiliser on the palm of each hand. The cuffs were made partially of leather matching the boots with embossed decorative designs and small silver buckles.
When the structural design was finished on both the boots and the cuffs, Artemis became lost in the decorative designs she was completing and her mind began to wander back onto the topic she had been trying to forget. She was so lost in her own thoughts that she didn’t even realise Tony was talking to her until he snapped his fingers in front of her face.
“Hello! Anybody home?” He laughed as she blinked and looked up in confusion.
Artemis shook her head rapidly, “Huh? Sorry what?”
“I said, if you’re almost done JARVIS can have them made up and we can test them out.” He said with an amused smile.
Artemis looked at the design in front of her and nodded, “Um yeah I’m done.”
“Great, Hey Buddy can you have these made up for us, send them up when they're done.” Tony instructed his AI. “Come on let's go get some lunch before Pepper shows up and has us banned from the workshop.”
"Can she do that?"
"She can, and she will if we don't show up at least once in a twelve hour period."
Artemis zoned out again while they were eating and Tony was curious what had the teen so preoccupied. He cleared his throat loudly after she sat staring at her sandwich for a solid two minutes making her glance up looking unfocussed and confused for a second.
“Something on your mind?”
“Why do you ask?” she furrowed her eyebrows.
Tony shrugged “You seem a little out of it today. You were starting at that design for a good five minutes doing absolutely nothing,” He giggled slightly “and you were just looking at the sandwich as if it was on trial for some heinous crime.”
“Sorry just got distracted.” She grinned sheepishly.
“Anything I can help you with?”
After a moment Artemis sighed and rubbed her eyes before focusing on Tony again.
“I don’t know I’m just confused I guess” she paused for a moment as if debating whether to go on or not. “Pepper found my birth certificate…”
“Oh... That’s good right?”
“Well yeah, I thought it was lost in the system, that's not really the issue though.”
Tony nodded for her to continue.
“I guess I just always assumed my dad would be on there you know?”
“He's still alive?" Artemis shrugged.
“I don’t know. I always thought Mum knew who it was, but then why wouldn’t she put it down.”
Tony considered that for a moment "Maybe she didn't want people to know."
Artemis took a bite out of her sandwich chewing slowly. "Maybe, but why not?"
"Do you know anything about him?" Artemis shook her head. "Well what was your mum like? Maybe that could give us some clues."
"I don't really know that much, just that she was a professor at MIT before she died and that she'd only been working a couple of years. I think she finished her first doctorate just before she had me at when she was twenty-five, and then a second one when I was four."
"MIT huh, I wonder if I ever met her there. Not that I remember much to be honest I think was a bit out of it back then." Tony paused for a moment trying to remember his train of thought. "Is that where you wanna go? MIT, they have a great science program, I should know I fund like half or it, or all of fit, I'm not sure, I haven’t looked at their budget recently. Let's just say a significant chunk."
"I don't know, I haven't really thought that far ahead."
They ate in silence for a while.
“Okay so I have an idea, that could maybe, possibly help locate a certain long lost parent.” Tony said.
Artemis stared at him for a moment, “What are you saying exactly?”
“Well completely ignoring the fact that I’m one of the smartest and richest people in the world, and could therefore probably trace him down by myself...”
Artemis rolled her eyes but Tony continued unfazed.
“...I think I know a quicker and easier way that would also give me an excuse to visit an old friend of mine.”
Despite Artemis pestering him Tony refused to say anything else about it, just that he would look into it and get back to her.
Dr Helen Cho was one of the foremost doctors in the entire world. Tony had hired her with the hope that with the resources he could provide, she would make huge advancements in medical knowledge. He had not been disappointed. Pepper on the other hand had hired her because of the unbelievable amount of injuries Tony managed to bring upon himself.
Now with the avengers making their home in Stark Tower and the constant flow of injuries that the attack had caused, Helen found herself in high demand. Her current patient however was not an Avenger but a young teenager. Helen had not been present in the first days of the attack and had therefore missed the multiple injuries that the invasion had resulted in.
The girl stretched out on the table in front of her had a deep cut healing on her thigh. The injury under normal conditions would have taken several weeks to heal. That however was without taking into account the latest developments Helen had made in her time at Stark Industries.
The regeneration cradle could regrow tissue. The brilliance of this new technology allowed for the healing of serious injuries in far less time than it would normally require. Though the cradle itself was not at Stark Tower, Pepper in her infinite wisdom had installed on a smaller version of the same technology that could be used in more practical application for the Avengers.
Artemis seemed to be equal parts pleased at the prospect of being back to normal, and curious as to how the machine worked. The teen had a streak of brilliance and curiosity that Helen admired. Helen also suspected that Tony had recognised the potential of the girl; If she new Tony even a little bit she was prepared to bet he would do something incredibly generous, if he hadn't already of course.
Tony was the sort of person that could and would change someone's life for the better in a matter of second, Helen new this from personal experience.
“So am I partly made of plastic now?” Artemis asked with a cheeky grin.
“Technically no, but the tissue in your thigh was synthetically generated so you could say you're partly synthetic.”
“Will I still have a scar?”
“Normally with this technology there would be no scar tissue, however because the cut was allowed to heal partially before we used the machine to print the new tissue, there will be this time.” Helen replied
The machine beeped and Helen examined the area where there had previously been a deep cut. It seemed to have healed nicely, the only evidence there had ever been an injury was a dark pink line about four inches long.
“Well there you are, you're free to go. Try not to get into any more scrapes if you can.” Helen said kindly. The teen got up and thanked her as she left.
Artemis was lying across Clint while they watched Mulan with Natasha when an intern entered the common floor and JARVIS announced the arrival of a package for Artemis and Tony. She looked up from the TV and noticed the boy standing awkwardly at the end of the hallway with a big box. A grin to rival the Cheshire cat spread across her face as she leapt up to go get it only to be stopped when Clint jumped up and lifted her off her feet.
“Hey aren’t you still supposed to take it easy on that leg” he said as he lifted the giggling teen onto his shoulders.
She let out a disgruntled “hey” before wriggling around trying to get free, “that was fixed this morning.”
Clint walked over to the intern while she batted at his head softly in protest. She reached down to try and get the box but Clint grabbed it and somehow managed to hold it out of her reach while still not dropping the struggling teen onto the carpet.
The intern looked slightly amused by the antics and smiled when Artemis, while still trying to grab the package off Clint, leaned back to thank him before he left.
Nat laughed as Clint finally let the teen fall to the carpet only to be pulled down himself and poked in the ribs. The two of them continued to roll around on the floor giggling as they poked and ticked each other. In the midst of it all Tony entered the common area to see the archer being sat on by the teen and burst out laughing.
“JARVIS please tell me you got a photo of that.” He said between chuckles as the two of them sat up off the floor still grinning like idiots.
Artemis grabbed the package that had been abandoned on the floor and pulled it to her as the others gathered around to see. The boots they had designed the day before were packed neatly into half of the box while a smaller one took up the other half. The others watched as the teen pulled the boots out and immediately kicked off her shoes and pulled them onto her feet. Then she opened the smaller box to find the cuff bracelets and rings that made up the flight stabilisers.
“Ready to go test these out?” Tony asked.
“Hell yes.” Artemis was grinning ear to ear as she buckled the cuffs carefully around her wrists. They fit perfectly, as did the rings and she couldn’t wait to try flying about with them.
“Well come on then, we can’t do it here or Pepper will kill us.” Tony said putting out a hand and pulling the beaming kid to her feet.
The four of them exited the elevator onto the floor of the tower that Tony had designed for training and workouts. There was a huge variety of equipment that catered to just about all of the Avengers. Artemis was eyeing the mats and gymnastic equipment with a look of delight and Tony noticed her smile widen when she glanced up at the ceiling and saw the network of bars ropes and rings hanging there in open invitation to the adventurous climber.
“OK then let's see if these work.” Tony’s enthusiasm was bubbling over.
The others pulled back towards the side as Artemis walked out into the middle of the mat covered floor. She looked down at the cuffs and flicked the activation on each one carefully keeping her fingers out straight as the stabilisers flipped out onto her palm and attached themselves to her rings.
Artemis moved her fingers in a sequence activating the boots with the inbuilt sensor controls on the cuffs.
The teen whooped as she lifted off the mat and rose slowly up before hovering in the air. Tony could see her fingers moving as she became accustomed to the sensor controls on the stabilisers. After moving around the space hovering upright for a few minutes she began to speed up as she leaned forwards and swooped around the room keeping herself balanced with her palms out.
After a few rounds Artemis managed to swoop back down and land in front of them. She had started out a little wobbly, Tony knew from his first few times flying that it took several test flights to be able to master the controls, but Artemis was a fast learner and had gained pretty good control already.
The teen was sporting a playful smirk as she suddenly reached out and tagged Natasha and said “You’re it Weasley.” Before taking off at a run and leaping up onto some of the spring boards and jumping from platform to platform. As she ran Artemis couldn't help the grin that spread across her face a finally being able to move without worrying about her injuries.
Clint was close behind her and ran for it jumping up and dashing across the room as Nat took off after him. Tony quickly got his own boots and gauntlets from one of his suits and flew up around the room trying to evade Nat as she chased everyone around.
Nat was close on Artemis’ heels when the teen jumped from the tallest block, activating the boots mid air and soaring out of reach up to ceiling where she managed to grab onto a bar that was bolted to the roof. She swung herself up expertly as she deactivated her flying equipment and dangled from the rafters upside down with her legs hooked into the bar cackling with laughter.
Clint was not so lucky and soon fell prey to Natasha’s manoeuvres. He took off after Tony, who immediately flew out into the middle of the room hovering away from everyone and smirked at Clint.
“Too bad bird boy.” Tony teased.
Clint cursed and changed directions launching himself off a trampoline and swinging off one of the rings hanging from the roof, climbing swiftly up towards Artemis. She took the hint and began monkeying her way away from him across the roof. She managed to activate her boots again without turning up the power enough to fly before dropping from the ceiling with a whoop just as Clint got within reach. She dropped down to the floor slowing her fall with the boots before landing with a dive roll and springing to her feet again with a gleeful giggle.
“Too slow Katniss.” Artemis stuck her tongue out at him.
Clint cursed again but this time he managed to tag Tony as he swung off of one of the ropes and down to the ground. At the same time the elevator opened and Steve walked in closely followed by Thor.
Tony took advantage of the fresh blood and swooped down swiftly tapping Steve on the shoulder and shouting “you’re it” as he soared away.
Steve narrowed his eyes, “Oh that’s how it is huh.” He said before taking off after the Black Widow with all the speed of a super soldier.
His speed however was quickly evaded by the assassin who bounced around the equipment with the agility of a cat and quickly swung up to the roof.
Once Nat evaded his attempts to tag her Steve turned towards Artemis and charged. She just giggled and jogged out further onto the mat as he approached. Just before he reached her she jumped using the extra boost from her boots to spring over him; landing nimbly on all fours on the other side of him she took off at a sprint jumping up and soaring into the air grabbing onto a ring dangling a few metres from the ceiling. She swung upside down hooking her legs around the rope and waving down at Steve laughing.
The look on his face was priceless as he stared up at her mouth hanging open in surprise. She smirked at him before dropping from the ring and falling a few meters then flying around in a loop and coming to a stop just in front of him hovering a few feet above his head sending him a challenging grin.
“What’s the matter old man, am I too quick for you?” she smirked down at him.
“So you made them.” He grinned back at her.
“Yup.” She said popping the P.
“Well this should be fun.” He replied before taking off after Thor who zigzags across the mats trying to avoid the Captain.
Steve managed to tag him and Thor in turn managed to catch Clint off guard. The game continued with Clint getting Artemis who then tagged Tony. There was a ridiculous amount laughing and cursing going on as Artemis managed to evade everyone for ten minutes without getting tagged again. The game finally ended when Steve charged, tackling the laughing teen into one of the huge soft mats that was made of several feet of soft foam with a triumphant “Gottcha”.
The rest of the team collapsed onto the mats around them as the pair rolled over a few times giggling and breathless before flopping back into the foam.
“You should have seen his face”
Artemis stole another one of Steve’s chips when he wasn’t paying attention. Darcy was grinning as she examined the flying boots Artemis and Tony had made.
“Oh man this is so awesome, like you can actually fly now with these things?”
“Old Spangles here got quite the surprise when our little protégée here jumped over his head.” Tony said as he flopped down across from them with a shit eating grin plastered across his face.
Steve rolled his eyes at the nickname that Tony was yet to grow tired of. Darcy and Artemis giggled at the expression before they were interrupted by Pepper getting the attention of the room.
“Right now that I have your attention, there are a couple of announcements that need to be made.” you could hear a pin drop as Pepper continued to hold the room to attention with a single look. “Now I think I am right in stating that everyone has recovered physically from the attack. With that in mind it is time we started to organise a more efficient system to help deal with the various recovery areas of the city. On another note there is also the matter of public support. I have organised a press charity event that will take place in a few days. I expect everyone to attend unless you have a very good reason.”
Pepper's tone made it clear that nothing short of being in a coma would excuse the team from this event. The room returned to normal after that.
“So kid,” Tony said after a moment. “tomorrow we're going to visit that friend of mine to try and find a certain long lost parent.”
“Uh, OK.” Artemis replied, slightly stunned by the sudden statement. “Where exactly are we going?”
Tony smirked deviously “You'll see.”
Artemis tried to send him a stink eye but he just made a face at her in return and she ruined the effect by cracking up. “OK fine.” she surrendered throwing her hands up in exasperation. “I guess we're going parent hunting tomorrow.”
“Well I mean we don't have to” Tony stated cheekily. “I mean I thought it was a generous offer and all but if...”
He was cut off by one of Steve’s chips hitting him in the face.
“Hey I was gonna eat that.” Steve was putting on a look of joking annoyance.
“Well did you want to listen to him any longer.” Artemis shot back raising an eyebrow.
“No, fair point,” Steve grinned “by all means help yourself to ammunition if he starts up again.”
“Besides,” Artemis continued, pointing across at Tony as he popped the chip into his mouth, “no waste.”
“Hey, I'm right here you know.” Tony called indignantly as the two of them cracked up.
“How did you know he would eat it?” Steve asked.
Artemis just shrugged “I would have.”
Artemis barely slept. She was torn between excitement and terror at the prospect of finding any of her relatives. Though she knew there was nothing she could do about the result, it didn't stop her brain from running at a million miles an hour with all the different possible outcomes.
It must have been about three in the morning when the particularly unpleasant thoughts began burrowing to the forefront of her mind. She slipped out of bed looking for a distraction.
The floor was cold against her bare feet. She padded quietly down to the common area and set about making herself tea.
“JARVIS is anyone else up?”
“You happen the only one mad enough to be up at this time.”
Artemis laughed and took a sip of her tea as she headed towards the elevator.
Then the doors closed she looked up at the ceiling with grin. “Gym level please J.”
“As you wish Miss Black.” JARVIS stated, Artemis rolled her eyes as the lift began to descend.
When she exited the lift Artemis mentally kicked herself for leaving her new boots in her room. She would have liked to get some more practice at flying. She soon forgot however when presented with the room in front of her.
She spent a few minutes trying to remember the different tricks she had learnt in gym class at one of her many schools. After successfully managing a few dive rolls into one of the large soft mats she turned her attention to the roof.
It was harder to climb to the ceiling without flying but Artemis managed it just fine. She jumped from one of the tallest blocks and grabbed onto a rope that hung from the roof. Artemis focused all of her energy on the climb so as to push the thoughts she was trying to escape out of her mind.
The teen pulled herself up to the last bar with a huff. She hooked her legs over the bar and hung from the ceiling as she caught her breath. She could see the room below her upside down.
The elevator doors opened again and Steve walked into the gym. He was tense and didn't glance up or notice the teen perched in the rafters. Steve walked over to the corner of the room where there was a punching bag waiting.
Artemis watched for a few minutes as the super soldier took out his frustration on the heavy bag. The sound of punches landing one after another in a low rhythm of thump, thump, thump was soothing.
Eventually she slowly swung her way back down to the ground and sat on the bench just off to the side of Steve. He still hadn't noticed her and she watched him for a few more moments before speaking.
“Well I guess I'm not the only one who can't sleep.”
Steve frowned “how long have you been sitting there?”
“I was in here the whole time.” Artemis said pointing to the place she had been sitting in the rafters.
Steve glanced up to where she pointed and nodded. “Oh.” he paused taking in her words for a moment “Why couldn't you sleep?”
Artemis let out a hollow laugh “Sometimes having a highly active mind isn't a gift.”
Steve nodded as he sat down next to Artemis on the bench. They sat in silence for awhile.
Eventually Artemis broke the silence, “How long is it since you woke up?”
“About three weeks.” Steve said looking down at his hands. There was silence between them for a moment before Artemis spoke softly.
“So three weeks ago you were in the middle of World War Two. Then you woke up in a different century to an alien invasion.” Artemis paused, “No wonder you can't sleep.”
“You know you're the first person to actually understand that.” Steve sighed “Everything has changed so fast and sometimes I just want to go home...”
“But home doesn't exist any more.” Artemis finished.
“I miss everyone from back home so much.” Steve’s voice was thick “I still can't get over the fact that a few weeks ago they were all right there and now pretty much everyone I knew is dead or about to die and has lived the last seventy years thinking I was dead.”
They sat in silence again until Artemis' mind started to fall back onto unpleasant thoughts. She rose from the bench and strode over to one of the punching bags. The first hit sent the bag swinging on its chain, the second landed with another satisfying thump.
Steve watched for a few minutes as the teen sent heavy blows towards the bag at a slightly alarming rate. Eventually he rose as well and made his way around to the other side of the bag, holding it still to stop it from swinging as she continued to rain down blows upon it.
“You know,” he eventually stated, “If you keep going like that you will probably break something.”
Artemis landed a few more punches before she finally stopped and leaned against the bag, sweat trickling down her forehead. Her knuckles were battered and slightly bloody but she paid no heed to them in favour of looking up. Dark blue eyes met light ones.
“Come on, if Pepper found us now she would have my head for letting you stay up.” Steve motioned them towards the elevator.
Artemis sighed and rubbed her eyes. Despite the fact that she was incredibly tired, she knew as soon as she tried to sleep her mind would go straight back to where it was before the workout.
“Shut up.” Artemis muttered, as Steve slung an arm across her shoulder, “You're barely older than I am you can't tell me what to do.”
Steve huffed indignantly as the pair walked towards the elevator, “I'm ninety three.”
“Only when it suits you.” Artemis shot back with a grin.
In the end Artemis did sleep. She had introduced Steve to Aladdin and drifted off while the two of them were curled on the couch watching Genie introduce Prince Ali to the court.
Now however Artemis was awake and getting ready to go. Tony had promised to take her to see a mysterious friend who he said could possibly find some of her family.
Artemis entered to common area to see Tony and Pepper sitting at the counter eating breakfast. Tony waved her over with a grin.
“Hey kid, ready to go?” He asked as she sat down opposite them and grabbed some food.
Artemis nodded as she took a bite. “Where are we going?”
Tony just smiled mischievously as he got up, “You'll see.”
The plane ride was short because of Tony's advanced tech, however to Artemis it seemed like a lifetime. Finally they began to descend and Artemis looked out of the windows. As the clouds parted Artemis was greeted with the view of green gardens surrounding an old fashioned mansion.
The plane landed on the enormous basketball courts and Tony grinned as he stood and headed towards the exit of the plane.
“Coming?” Artemis nodded as she followed him out of the small plane.
The two of them walked across the courts towards the mansion where they were met by a lady with short grey hair and tanned skin.
“Tony. Nice to see you again.” The woman said as she shook his hand.
“Storm, this is Artemis. Artemis, Storm.” Tony introduced the two.
The woman, Storm, offered Artemis her hand with a kind smile. “Lovely to meet you Artemis.”
Artemis grinned as she shook storms hand and offered her a nervous “Hi.”
“Professor Xavier is waiting for you both inside if you'll follow me.”
The three of them walked around the side of the mansion through the lush well tended gardens to the front doors. Artemis was jittery with nerves. This was not what she was expecting when Tony had said they might be able to find some of her family. Artemis had expected some sort of scientist with DNA tests and the like but instead they where in what appeared to be a boarding school of some kind.
Storm led them up a flight of stairs to a study and knocked on the large wooden door. The door swung open and she ushered them inside with a smile before turning to leave. “See you later Tony, it was nice to meet you Artemis.”
Inside the room there was leather armchairs and polished wooden furniture. An elderly bald man sat behind the large polished desk, as they entered the study he wheeled himself out from behind the desk and greeted them.
“Tony, how nice to see you again, and you must be Artemis. Don't worry, technically I am a Professor of Genetics, I see you are wondering just how this is going to work.” The man smiled extending his hand. “Charles Xavier.”
Artemis stared at the man, Charles realising that the second half of what he had just said had been in her head. She must have looking vaguely alarmed because Tony chuckled next to her.
"Charles is a Telepath." Tony explained, that much Artemis had gathered already.
Charles smile warmly at her, “Don't worry, I won't pry, I promise.”
Artemis nodded, “I appreciate it.”
“Well in that case I think we might as well just get straight down to it...Yes Tony, you can come and see Cerebro as well.” Charles rolled his eyes fondly at Tony as he wheeled his way out the door, leading the way to what Artemis hoped might finally be the answers she had been both seeking and dreading.
Now Tony knew he was not that great at the whole people thing, but today he was worried. He could almost sense that something was off, the kid seemed more tense than usual, more emotionally closed off. His concern grew when he noticed her tense slightly as they entered the basement of the school, following Charles down the corridors.
Normally he would have kept his mental walls up around anyone with a tenth of Charles powers but today he was more concerned about Artemis’ welfare so he allowed himself to ask Charles a silent question.
“She's just nervous, she's been through a lot, no doubt this could be a very important discovery for her.”
Tony pondered Charles’ words as they rounded a corner in the metal tunnels, stopping at a round door with an X across it. Light scanned Charles' eyes, then the door unlocked.
Tony gently took Artemis’ arm and pulled her to the side before she could follow Charles through the door.
“Hey, I want you to know… whatever happens, if we don’t find anyone, and even if we do, you’re always welcome to stay. With us, well me, all of us. I just don’t want you to feel like we’re just trying to find your family to kick you out because we’d actually like you to stay… if you want. I mean it’s really up to you” The words tumbled out of his mouth too quickly to form a coherent sentence but Tony wanted to make sure he got everything out before they went any further.
Artemis nodded and Tony gave her a reassuring smile.
“Okay then kid, let’s do this!”
As they entered Tony was so caught up in fascination that he almost missed the look on Artemis’ face as she took in their surroundings. He did however notice her slightly recoil when her eyes landed on the metal helmet with wires that clearly attached to the wearers head. Artemis turned to face him, the look in her eyes was… well, uncertain was putting it mildly, mild terror might be more appropriate. Her voice was barely a whisper. While Charles went about adjusting a bunch of different settings on the controls board.
“I’m not about to become some sort of weird experiment am I?”
Tony did his best at reassurance, placing his hand gently on the girls arm.
“Do you trust me?”
“Good, you’re not about to become some crazy experiment” Tony paused, trying to remember everything he knew about Cerebro.
“Charles uses Cerebro to trace and find Mutants, then Storm and the other teachers will go and find any young mutants who are in need of help. They bring them back to the school and help them learn how to control and use their powers.”
“But if it traces Mutants, how will it help us?”
"Cerebro scans your genetic code, when I’m looking for mutants I trace the mutant gene. But it is also possible to scan all of your DNA and look for matches that would indicate a paternal connection.”
“So you’re going to scan my DNA and see if you can find a match for any relatives, and this can help you locate them?”
“Precisely! Cerebro will scan your genetics and trace the globe for any matches. If everything works as I hope it will we'll be able to see your closest living relatives and locate them.”
Tony exchanged a look with Artemis silently asking if she was ready. She nodded firmly, despite the bubble of anxiety in her chest making her feel slightly ill. This was it, she thought, though it was nothing like how she had imagined it would happen, here she was about to discover the extent of her remaining family. It was all like some weird futuristic episode of Who Do You Think You Are.
Charles placed the helmet looking thing on his head and made some final adjustments to the control board. The metal sphere around them blurred and disappeared into a smoky endless expanse and the three of them were left standing on the small platform as the forms of other humans sped past around them. The images became more clear and slowed down until they were surrounded by an open expanse of space. Artemis startled slightly as she saw herself clearly in the smoky image in front of them.
The image became more solid and the shapes of more people began to form around them, none outlined clearly enough to make out features. A wispy golden mist began to trail from the Artemis’ smokey form and wove through the other figures like tendrils connecting her to other members of her family. The misty tendrils began to thicken, connecting more strongly to a figure to the right of where they stood.
The figure started to become clearer slowly taking a very familiar form. As the image spun around to face them Artemis froze in shock.
The last wisps of smoke curled away from the image and standing before them was Tony, wearing the exact clothes he had on, brown eyes and trademark facial hair, identical down to the exact shocked expression that Artemis could see across the face of her own doppelganger image.
After a moment Charles broke the silence.
“Well this is… unexpected”.
Tony stood for a good moment mind whirling as his own face stared back at him with the same expression of surprise painted clearly across his features. It felt like a dream as he turned to look from the image to Artemis at his side. His… Daughter. It was almost as if his brain had shut down and refused to boot back up again. Artemis stood beside him the same expression on her face as he had just seen mirrored on his own.
Then all at once his brain started to overload putting everything together too fast for him to keep track. The numerous times over the last few days that Tony had noticed little similarities between them. The unique streak of brilliance and dry sense of humour. The frankly impressive ability to come up with nicknames, and Tony now realised, a shared tendency to immerse themselves in inventing to distract themselves from confronting their inner demons. Tony could have kicked himself for not realising sooner how strikingly similar they actually were.
At the same time as Tony was having this epiphany Artemis was having her own realisations. Of course she had noticed that she seemed to share a lot with Tony, but the biggest realisation that this discovery had uncovered was the answer to the question that had been bugging her for the last two days. Why had her Mother left parts of her birth certificate blank. You cant just put Tony fucking Stark down as the father of your child without gaining all sorts of attention.
Artemis couldn't help but wonder which of the reasons she could think of were what influenced her mother's decision. Had it been to protect them both from being used as leverage, from being plagued by media, or being caught up in legal battles. Or maybe she just wanted to raise Artemis as a single parent. However another question also came into her mind.
“Did you know?”
Tony shook his head. “The only time anyone came forward we had a DNA test done, it wasn’t my child.” Tony paused. “You’re sure she never told you? Did she even know?”
“I don’t remember.”
“We could find that out.” Charles had unplugged himself from Cerebro
Artemis felt him brush against her mind asking gently. She nodded. Charles reached into the depths of here memories and Artemis saw her Mother just as she remembered.
Artemis was young, only a toddler, her mother's dark auburn hair fell in wavy curls and her laugh was like sunshine as she chased the child around the room. She saw her mum scoop her up and cradle her in her arms, felt her warm chuckle. “You've got his mischievous streak that's for sure, I bet you'll grow up to be a handful just like him.” Artemis saw herself giggling and reaching up with tiny hands to pull on her mother’s hair. “I hope one day you'll get to meet him Artemis...one day everything will be perfect, I Promise.”
Artemis felt her mother lean down and kiss her forehead. The memory faded away and Artemis was left standing in the metal dome.
The journey home was silent. Artemis chose to sit at the back of the jet watching the land beneath them speed by though a glass panel
She had imagined many different scenarios of how this would play out. This was not one of them. She wondered what the others had been up to in their absence.
She wanted to be happy, happy that she now not only knew who her father was but had known and liked him before she even knew who he was. But all she felt was numb.
It had started earlier, when Tony said she could stay. But as soon as she saw him staring back at her in the smoke the feeling had grown until she felt like she was disconnected from everything.
It just felt too good to be true. And if experience had taught Artemis anything it was that if something sounded too good to be true, it was probably about to fall to pieces around her.
The sea was below them now and the waves were occasionally visible gleaming through the clouds. Artemis wished she could just step out and walk on their soft downy surface, glide away from everything and just float in serenity for ever.
The afternoon sun was beginning to make its curve back towards the earth as they landed back on the roof at Stark Tower.
Tony flipped some switches powering down the jet on the landing pad then unbuckled himself and swung around to the back as the door lifted and the ramp lowered to the ground.
Artemis stood as he walked towards her and the exit.
“You okay kid?”
Artemis nodded in response but didn’t talk as they both walked down the ramp and across the roof heading down to the levels where their living areas were located.
“If you wanna talk, just yeah… when you’re ready.”
The teen nodded again before turning taking her own route down to her room. Tony sighed as he watched her go. Space, he told himself, just give her some space to process, it’ll be fine.
Artemis flopped face down on the large bed in her room and allowed the pillows to suffocate her for a moment before rolling over onto her back and staring blankly up at the ceiling.
What a day, and it was barley even 5pm. Artemis let out a long breath trying to push off some of the numbness. Distractions, I need distractions, and something else to focus on for a while. But she also need certainty.
“How can I be of assistance Miss Black?”
“Did you scan my DNA when they first brought me into the hospital floor?”
“I might be a super powered artificial intelligence but I’m not entirely without morals, there was no need at that time to collect such data without your consent”
“What about now?”
“Would you like me to?” JARVIS seemed almost quizzical at the idea.
Artemis thought for a moment then nodded. “Can you do a paternity scan against Tony’s? Just so I know I’m not going crazy and that actually did just happen”.
“Of course. I’ll need you to head down to the hospital level and take some samples for me, but it shouldn’t take long for me to run the appropriate tests.”
“Yes Miss Black.”
“Could you not tell Tony about this just yet?”
“Of course Miss Black.”
Artemis let out a breath of relief. “Thanks J.”
Artemis ran the cotton bud around the inside of her cheek to collect the saliva sample placing it into a glass dish in front of her.
All samples completed, she secured the lids of the test dishes and placed them into the opening in the machine as JARVIS had instructed her.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I have the results” JARVIS said kindly.
“Awesome. If by any chance I’m not alone, can you buzz them to me on the Opal?
“Of course, or perhaps I could simply address you as Miss Stark?” The smooth voice echoed with amusement.
“Subtle J! Really what we’re going for here.” Artemis said dryly, “Maybe just say “Winterfell is yours Your Grace.”
JARVIS actually chuckled at that, “As you wish Your Grace.”
Artemis smiled softly, and tried to think of something to do while she waited for the results.
“Hey J, you know those design mats Tony has in his lab? You wouldn’t happen to have a spare smaller version of something like that I could use in my room?”
“There are some small holo mats in storage that Sir and Miss Potts occasionally use for meetings, I’ll have one sent up to you, I’m sure Sir won’t mind.”
“You’re the best JARVIS.”
“Thank you Your Grace.” There was tinge of dry humour in his voice every time JARVIS said the words Your Grace that made Artemis giggle silently to herself.
The design mat was waiting for her when Artemis arrived back at her room. Eager to explore the possibilities of a new invention she had been thinking about Artemis rolled it out on top of her bed and sat on top of the covers, swiping a hand across the surface to activate the holographic surface.
Settling down she picked up the stylus from its cradle in the edge of the mat and began to design a circuit board. Bouncing ideas off JARVIS she began to work.
“What would you like to call this project Your Grace?”
“Hmm not sure, ‘my precious’? No that’s no good, how about ‘The Shire Project’. That works better for now.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“You’ll see J, you’ll see.”
Half an hour later she was looking at the holographic blueprint of a small metal ring. Built into the metal was a complex sensor system connected to a communication device which would transmit to JARVIS. Pushing the hologram to the side of the mat and swiping across the section in front of her to create a keyboard Artemis began to code the command sequences leaving space to add a sensor signal for each.
“How are we looking J.”
“Everything seems to be very well designed, we’ll have to test with a prototype to be sure, but this could indeed be a very useful device.”
“And the camouflage setting, will that work in tech this small?”
“By my calculations it should work very effectively Your Grace.”
“How long will it take to render a prototype?”
“Given the size I should be able to render this in about fifteen minutes, despite the complexity of the device. Would you like me to begin on one now while you complete the programming?”
“Yes please J.”
“As you wish Your Grace.”
Artemis smiled at the nickname as she focused back on programming the code for the communicator ring.
Once the code was finished she brought the hologram of the device back towards her and picked up the 3D hologram, shrinking it down to actual size and fitting it onto her finger. With the hologram recording the movements Artemis created a different signal for each of the coded commands, making them more or less complex depending on the frequency with which she imagined they would be necessary to perform.
Just as she was finishing there was a knock at the door. Artemis waved singling JARVIS and the door opened revealing the same intern that had delivered the Opal standing in the doorway holding a small box.
“Uh, hi JARVIS said to bring this up to you.” He said entering the room uncertainly and handing Artemis the box.
“Oh thanks, sorry I don’t think I got your name the other day?
“Oh uh, I’m Peter but that’s okay most people don’t ask at all.” The Intern stated awkwardly.
“Well, it’s nice to officially meet you Peter, no doubt I’ll be seeing you again soon” Artemis smiled.
Peter glanced at the holo mat in front of her and nodded with a smile.
“Well, until next time then.” He said awkwardly as he turned and left her to open her new invention.
Artemis lifted the lid off the box and retrieved the shiny silver ring. The flat surface inside it housed the sensors while the outside was a flat smooth silver.
“J activate The Shire Project please and install software beta edition.”
Glowing blue lines zigzagged around the outer surface of the ring before they disappeared leaving the inside glowing faintly.
“The Shire Project is activated, software has been installed and is currently in calibration mode.” JARVIS stated, his smooth voice held a hint of excitement.
“Awesome work J, initiate calibration for command one.
“Initiating calibration, begin when you are ready”
Artemis performed the signal for the first command, one that would alert JARVIS to respond to any spoken request.
The second activated a Listen command which listened in to what was happening the surrounding environment. The third Listen and Report was a surveillance version where JARVIS would listen to something happening in another room and report back to Artemis. Though she hoped she wouldn’t need to use it any time soon Artemis could think of several situations she had been in previously where this feature would have been very useful.
The next setting Record sent a command to JARVIS record any surveillance and audio of the area. Although the morals of these actions may be somewhat questionable, the device was more for security than anything else and Artemis knew for a fact that Tony had made JARVIS hack far more important things than the odd security camera. Like S.H.I.E.L.D for instance.
The rest of the commands followed in a similar route, Block would block out any signals in local area, cameras, sound recording, phones, ect. Wipe would erase data if necessary. The final command Ping sent the location of the ring straight to Tony with a message attached from JARVIS depending on the situation.
All in all the ring provided mobile security that could communicate with JARVIS through a series of subtle taps and send a signal for help without being detected. The camouflage mode also allowed for the device itself to be undetectable and blend into the skin seamlessly.
Artemis finished the last of the calibrations after a few minutes of repeatedly tapping the each command over and over so the sensors could establish human variation of the patterns into the code. Calibrations now completed it was time to test the prototype properly.
“Okay J let’s test this thing out. Time to disconnect so we can see if the signal will get through.”
“Calibrations mode has been deactivated, device is active, I am disconnecting now”
“Awesome, don’t execute the actions just tell me the name as you get them”
“Whenever you’re ready Your Grace”
Artemis grinned and tapped out a series of commands which JARVIS repeated back to her perfectly. Once each had been tested multiple times in different sequences Artemis was satisfied with the results. No bugs so far.
“Way to go J, it's working perfectly.”
“Congratulations Your Grace, at this rate you’ll be taking over the technical developments stream of Stark Industries by next week.”
Artemis could hear the smile in JARVIS’ voice which was amusing when you considered the fact that he didn’t actually have a face to smile with.
“Thank you JARVIS.” Artemis took a mock bow before closing The Shire Project on the holo mat and rolling it up, placing it on top of the dresser and then flopping backwards onto the bed ready to give her brain a rest.
“J what’s the progress report on Winterfell?”
Artemis was munching on some cold pizza in the common area. Having realised when her stomach started rumbling that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast she had ventured tentatively back into populated areas of the tower in search of food. She didn’t really want to talk to anyone just yet but luckily most of the Avengers were off doing various different tasks or training in the gym. Clint was napping on the couch in front of the TV but Artemis just quietly took a seat at the bench and hoped that he would stay that way for a while.
“Progress on Winterfell is at ninety-eight per cent completion, I should have the results for you in approximately two minutes and thirty-four seconds.”
Artemis sat in silence after that quietly munching on her pizza and wondering what the result would be. Deep down she knew the chances where it would be a positive match but she needed the final confirmation to be absolutely certain.
Artemis was just swallowing the last bit of pizza when JARVIS spoke again.
“Progress report one hundred percent completed.” JARVIS paused “Winterfell is yours Your Grace.”
“Thank you JARVIS.”
Artemis stood and headed towards her room mind buzzing. Too much information overloading her ability to think properly. She felt lightheaded and sightly numb again. It was true, it had always been true, and now she didn’t really know how to feel.
She needed to clear her head. She needed to get out of this crazy superhero world for a while and just think.
“J I’m going out for a walk” Artemis said as she grabbed her leather jacket and buckled her boots. The cuffs slid around her wrists easily and she buckled them deftly and grabbed her earphones from the top of the dresser.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Is everything okay Miss Black?” JARVIS held a note of concern which made Artemis smile fondly.
“Yeah I’m okay J, I just need to think for a bit.” She said, heading towards the elevator.
The doors dinged and opened for her and she hit the button for the ground floor, pulling out her earphones and plugging them in as the doors closed and the metal box around her began to descend the eighty or so floors to the ground.
Flicking through her Opal Artemis selected a random punk playlist and let the sound of Green Day drown out everything else as she leaned against the mirrored wall.
The streets of New York were still in disarray. Artemis pulled her jacket tighter around her, the smell of the leather was comforting and homely. She breathed deeply as she began picking her way across the streets away from the tower. Finding a street that seemed to have had a lot of clean up done in the last few days and was relatively clear Artemis turned down it letting the cool early evening air clear her head.
The last few hours had been a whirlwind and she needed to get away from the insanity of it all for a while. So Tony was her father. She didn’t really know how to feel about that. On the one hand she liked him and had hoped that he would let her stay for a while with the rest of the ragtag team. On the other the richest man in probably the whole world could have found her if he’d wanted to. Artemis wanted to be mad about it but deep down she couldn’t bring herself to blame him for assuming that most people would just come forward and tell him if they’d had his child. No doubt it had happened before and been disproven, the fact that it might actually be the one person you didn’t expect had to be a shock for him too.
So no she couldn't blame Tony for not finding her when he didn’t know she existed. Really she should thank him for actually caring enough to try to help her find her father in the first place. If he’d been any less helpful they might never have found out that they were so closely connected.
It was frustrating to be able to see everyone’s point of view. Particularly when she half wanted to blame someone for the last decade of hell. But Artemis knew that blame wouldn’t help anymore. She didn’t really know where it would go from here, Tony had already asker her to stay before they found out. That was another level of complexity. She wondered if they’d stop her if she left. Legally he could become her guardian but at only a few weeks off sixteen she was in a murky legal area between adulthood and still being a minor. If she had been caught running away for instance she wouldn’t just be sent back to another orphanage, she would have been sent to a juvenile prison or whatever name they gave it to make it seem more palatable to the people who funded it. So old enough to be arrested but not quite old enough to legally be independent without a lot of paperwork. Sometimes Artemis hated the world for its hypocrisy.
The music blasting in her ears drowned out the sounds of the city as she wound her way through quiet streets. The evening sky was beginning to dim, somewhere on the other side of a wall of buildings the sun was probably setting. Stark Tower had disappeared behind a line of skyscrapers that she had woven her way through over the last hour or so.
Thinking it was probably time to start heading back towards the tower Artemis turned to get her bearings. She had been zigzagging in roughly the same direction heading away from the tower so all she had to do to get back was head back the direction she had come.
“God Pepper what do I do? I don’t know how to be a good father, the only example I ever got was terrible!”
“Tony, Artemis is almost sixteen, you don’t have to change diapers or stop her from eating anything she picks up, you just have to be there for her when she needs you. Be the person you needed when you were fifteen. From what I’ve seen you’re already doing that.”
Pepper’s advice was, as always, exactly what he needed to hear.
When they arrived back Tony had wandered off to find her and filled her in on the events of the day so far. Pepper had been surprised at first but once JARVIS confirmed the DNA results she had accepted it without question. Tony made a mental note to ask JARVIS how he’d gotten the results later but for now he let it slide and headed down to his workshop to think.
After several hours of tinkering with his suit, half hoping that Artemis would wander in eventually, Tony’s mind was just playing the same thoughts on repeat. He was trying to give her space to process the events of the day but that didn’t make it easier on him. He hoped they could ease back into their easy banter and the playful friendship they had developed over the last few days.
Artemis didn’t appear however and after a few hours of unsuccessful tinkering with the suits and mulling over his own thoughts Tony decided to call it quits.
The common area was full when he entered and he realised it must be around diner time because there was a variety of takeaway containers covering the bench top.
Casting a glance around the room Tony noticed a certain teenager was missing from the chaos of Avengers and friends dinnertime. Frowning slightly Tony made his way over to the bench and slid into a stool next to Clint, pulling a container of Chinese towards him.
“Have you seen Artemis around?”
The archer shook his head, “Not since about an hour and a half ago. She came in while I was napping and got some food, didn’t seem to want to interact with anyone, then she left after JARVIS said something about Winterfell?”
"Why were you and Artemis talking about Game of Thrones?” Tony questioned his AI.
“It was a matter of discretion Sir” JARVIS said, “Miss Black requested I use a certain phrase to indicate the results of a test I was running for her.”
Tony instantly knew which test JARVIS was referring to. It made sense, he had suspected earlier when JARVIS had the results that Artemis may have asked the AI to do it, but he hadn’t bothered to follow it up yet.
“Which phrase?” Tony asked curiously.
“Winterfell is yours Your Grace.”
Tony couldn’t help the laugh that erupted from him when JARVIS said the line from the first episode of Game of Thrones, it was both hilarious and subtle, though not the exact context it was used in the show, in this instance it was an effectively way of saying ‘You’re a Stark.’
“JARVIS where is she at the moment?”
“Miss Black is currently out on a walk, although I believe she is on her way back at the moment.”
Tony nodded, it must be a lot to take in, no wonder the kid wanted to get away from all the insanity of the tower for a bit. Tony sat back and dug into his Chinese watching as the other Avengers began to filter out to the different sections of the tower leaving the room empty except for Steve and Nat deep in conversation on one of the couches.
She kept an eye on the street signs as she walked, making sure she knew where she was. The city was still in partial ruin after the attack, many of the streets looked different after being shot up by aliens. Despite the changes, Artemis managed to keep her bearings thanks to the odd familiar landmark that remained intact.
Artemis was about a quarter of the way back to the tower when she turned down a small alleyway that led back to a main street. She had gotten about halfway down the alleyway before promptly regretting her decision to take the shortcut. In the fading post sunset light three figures stepped out from the shadows of an overflowing skip.
Flicking off the music with a deft hand in her pocket Artemis pulled her earphones out and tried to subtly stuff them back into her pocket hoping they wouldn’t notice. Artemis assessed her options, there might not be enough time to properly activate the boots to escape. Instead she quickly tapped a two signals for JARVIS, Listen, Record. They were quickly surrounding her, one flanking on each side and another in front walking backwards.
“Where ya goin’ in such a hurry babe?” The guise of friendliness sounded sinister in the dark environment.
“Not really any of your concern is it.” Artemis shot back. She subtly activated the cuff on her left hand hoping they wouldn’t notice.
“Well that’s a bit rude isn’t it boys?” The leader of their gang said to the others who snickered in agreement. “You know I don’t think I like rude people, but I’d be prepared to forgive you if you give me a kiss. How bout it babe? At least give us a smile.”
Artemis tensed pulling her right hand back out of her pocket, activating the second cuff. She felt it click reassuringly into her palm.
“It’s also rude to accost strangers on the street, babe, but you know what, who am I to judge.” Artemis could feel the fight coming at any moment.
“Come on just gimme a kiss.” The leader leered forward towards her.
Artemis ducked to one side out of the way of the sleazy bastard. “Fuck off before I make you eat your own dick.” Artemis spat back at him. “Assuming of course that you have one.”
“Well that definitely wasn’t very nice.” He said, dropping any pretence. “Time to teach this bitch a lesson, boys.”
Each of the lackeys flanking her grabbed one of Artemis’s arms, wrestling her into position as their leader advanced. Artemis could feel the flight stabilisers against her palms, ready to be put to use. She hoped that JARVIS had managed to hack into a nearby camera or two incase things went even further south than they already had.
“What do you want.”
She tested the strength of the lackeys holding her by backing away and twisting in their grip. They were strong, but nothing on Steve or Clint, and Artemis could tell by the strength of their grip that they were underestimating her capacity to put up a fight.
“All I asked for was a kiss, but then you were so rude about it that it’s clear we’ve gotta teach you how to respect your superiors.” The young man advanced with a sinister smile and Artemis knew what he was intending to do.
Artemis’s felt her stomach clench despite feeling more in control of the current situation than she was letting on. The confidence with which the men acted made it clear that this was not the first time they had done this. No doubt they believed they could just do what they wanted and get away with it, using the chaos of the damaged city to go unnoticed. Artemis was not about to let that happen.
“This is your last chance, let go of me.” There was a steel in her voice, the threat was clear.
The thugs just laughed the leader mimicking her with a pathetic high pitched “let go of me”. Before she could act, the man threw a punch that connected with the side of her face.
Artemis’s jaw ached and she could taste the tang of blood in her mouth. She pushed back against the men holding her and thrust her arms out straight, palms facing behind her. Activating the flight stabiliser full force, she sent a short blast that hit them right where it hurt. She used the momentum of the blast to swing her hands up and hit them both in the face with the back of a hand.
It happened so quickly that their leader could barely react before Artemis was free, taking a step forward she drove her knee up hard then smashed her head forward, forehead connecting with his nose and sending him reeling backwards. Artemis didn’t wait for them to recover taking off into the air.
Deep down she knew she should take her opportunity and get out of there but Artemis was seeing red, she wanted to make them regret ever thinking they could get away with what they were doing. A few metres off the ground she turned to assessed the situation.
“J I could really use some backup.” Artemis hoped JARVIS could hear her over the noise from the flight stabilisers as moving the ring closer to her mouth would interfere with her balance and make it hard to remain airborne.
The leader was down but only temporarily, the two thugs had recovered quickly from the shock to their nether regions and were now the main threats to be neutralised. Throwing caution to the wind Artemis flew at one of them, knocking him the concrete and landing a few blows to the abdomen that left him winded. His friend bellowed in rage and charged Artemis as she rose. He managed to get her arms pinned by her sides with a crushing grip around her waist. Artemis stomped down hard ramming the heel of her boot into the toe of his trainers, and slammed her head back, hearing a satisfying crack and yell of pain as the back of her head broke the thugs nose.
His grip loosened and Artemis used the flight stabilisers again to push herself out of his grasp, spinning around and nailing him in the face with a solid right hook before stepping forward and delivering a kick to the stomach that sent him sprawling on the ground.
Behind him the leader was picking himself up off the ground. As he stood Artemis leapt forward taking some flying steps and kicked him in the gut before landing and delivering another blow to the face that sent him back down. It had probably given him a black eye she thought with satisfaction, the bastards deserved worse.
Just as Artemis turned a fist connected with the side of her forehead knocking her off balance. Before she could react another blow landed on her stomach and knocked the wind out of her. She fell backward, head smacking painfully against the ground as she landed.
Her head was spinning and everything felt hazy for a few moments but through the fog of confusion she could hear an angry voice saying “You’re gonna pay for that, you crazy bitch.” The man she had knocked over from the air had gotten back up while she was taking down the others and had managed to get the drop on her.
Winded and seeing stars for a moment Artemis lay gasping for breath as he advanced towering over her. Well, shit! Acting purely on instinct she activated all four repulsers. The force sent her skidding out of control across the ground but successfully put some distance between them.
“Sir, Miss Black has requested assistance.” JARVIS spoke up suddenly as Tony was in the elevator on the way back down to his workshop. “I suggest an immediate response.”
Tony’s brain immediately kicked into high alert. The teen was out for a walk, if she had run into trouble, Tony knew from experience how just quickly things could go down hill.
“JARVIS, where is she, what’s happened?”
Tony sprinted out of the elevator on the workshop level and headed straight for his spare emergency compact suit. JARVIS filled him in as the suit closed around him. Artemis’s location blinked on the HUD as Tony flew out of the Tower down to the streets of New York.
The Alleyway was dark, coated in the shadows of dusk. From high up Tony’s view zoomed in to locate the teen. As she came into view Tony felt as if the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. Artemis was on the ground, half obscured behind a larger man, probably early twenties, two others lay on the ground. As he sped towards them Tony watched helplessly as his daughter tumbled across the ground away from her attacker.
Just as the thug was advancing Tony arrived, cracking the pavement with the force of his landing. The man turned, shocked by the sudden interruption. Tony was blinding him with a bright light spotlighting his face, allowing JARVIS to get a good view of the thug.
“Get away from my daughter!” Tony’s voice left no room for negotiation. He was livid.
Behind the man Artemis was struggling back to her feet unsteadily, leaning against the wall for support. The man raised his hands looking like he might run at any second. However his two buddies were groaning on the ground, and JARVIS now had enough information to identify all of them, so even if he did they would find him again.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t blow you balls off." Tony’s voice coming through the suit was extra intimidating.
The man took a step back. Behind him Artemis stepped away from the wall blocking his only escape route. He turned towards her taking a few hurried steps away from Tony but Artemis moved quicker, swivelling on the spot and kicking up in hard, connecting with the side of the thug’s head and knocking him down with a roundhouse kick.
Tony’s helmet folded back into the suit and he closed the distance between them, pulling the teen into a tight embrace. The hard metal of his suit meant that it definitely wasn’t most comfortable hug in the world but Artemis sagged into the it.
“Thanks for the distraction.” Tony almost missed the words mumbled into his shoulder.
“Anytime.” He replied softly.
The teen was out of breath and possibly sporting several injuries, Tony reminded himself as he pulled back, noticing the trickle of blood that was oozing from a gash on Artemis’s forehead and her busted lip.
“Are you okay, anything broken?”
“Bit bruised but nothing’s broken.” Artemis reached up gingerly finding the cut on her forehead and winced as her fingertips came into contact with the bruise forming around it.
“Let’s get home.” Tony said, turning to assess the men laying in the alleyway. “We can deal with these scumbags later.”
The teen nodded wrapping her arms tightly around Tony’s neck after the helmet had closed back over his head. Tony wrapped his arms around her making sure he had a secure hold of her before taking of towards the tower.
The sun had set, covering the skyline of New York in spectacular orange fire, before plunging the city into a darkness broken only by the neon signs of takeaway restaurants, and light spilling from apartment windows as people retreated into the safety of their homes to escape the void of night. The city seemed quieter since the attack. The honking of traffic, and constant thrum on hundreds of thousands of people going about their lives, which had kept Steve awake for the first few weeks after he woke from the ice, was gone. The city was slowly rebuilding itself, but the trauma would remain and it would be a while before people felt safe again.
He gazed out across the skyline marvelling at the lights of the skyscrapers. This was his city, Brooklyn born and raised, and yet somehow it wasn’t any more. The city had evolved and rebuilt itself over the years into something that Steve could no longer recognise. His old stomping grounds were now covered with high rise appartments, or new basketball courts, and barely any of his childhood haunts remained.
“It’s quite something isn’t it?” Nat murmured beside him.“What is?”
“How much a place can change beyond recognition in just a few short years.
Steve smiled softly, “Yeah, yeah I guess it is.”
There was a loud thud from outside as something landed onto the Gantry where Tony would land in his Suits. Nat was up in a flash moving towards the door that led out to the landing pad.
“Steve! Come quick.” There was an urgency in Nat’s voice that made him get to his feet and follow her out onto the landing.
Tony was in his suit supporting Artemis with her arm over his shoulders. The teen looked shaken and there was blood running down the side of her face from a gash on her forehead.
“Oh my God. Tony what happened?”
Natasha disappeared retrieving a first aid kit from the kitchen while Artemis mumbled something into Tony’s shoulder. Steve only caught the words ‘three assholes,’ ‘jumped,’ and ‘alley’ but that gave him a clear enough picture of what had happened.
“Come on, let’s get her inside.”
Steve took the other side taking Artemis’s weight so Tony could get out of the suit and walked her slowly back inside. By the time they got inside Tony was out of the suit and Nat had returned with the first aid kit.
“Jesus what happened Artemis, you look pretty banged up considering you were just going for a walk.” Clint had appeared in the common area, probably hearing the commotion from wherever he had been.
“You should see the other guys.” Artemis said, there was a note of strength in her voice that reassured Steve a little that she would be okay.
“If you need me to stick an arrow is some assholes butt just say the word.”
They sat her down safely in a chair near the large table Steve watched as Tony unbuckled the flight stabilisers from her wrist and removed them, closely examining the damage to her knuckles. Nat pulled a bottle of antiseptic and a piece of gauze from the first aid kit before unscrewing the cap and soaking the fabric with it
“This is gonna sting I’m sorry.”
Artemis gritted her jaw as Nat used the gauze to clean the cut on her forehead. Once it was clean Nat returned used a couple of Steri-Strips to hold the wound closed, like temporary stitches.
When Nat was finished with the antiseptic Tony picked up the bottle.
Artemis spread them out flat so Tony could clean the grazes on her knuckles. Just as he was about to spray the antiseptic on her knuckles Tony paused frowning slightly. He reached out and gently twisted a ring, which had previously been invisible, off of her finger. It flickered as the camouflage setting, no longer having anything to camouflage into, switched back to sliver with zigzagging blue lines.
“What is this?” He examined the ring, curiosity clear on his features.
“It’s a sensor activated communication device. I calibrated it to send JARVIS different messages when I make certain movements.” The teen seemed quite proud of the invention and Tony looked impressed.
“Does it work?”
“Indeed Sir, in fact Miss Black was able to alert to me to the situation just before the fight broke out. By my calculations, given the speed with which things changed she would not have had time or the safety to do so had she been communicating with me via more traditional methods.”
Tony’s expression darkened, but he didn’t say anything, switching focus back to the ring. It was probably for Artemis’s sake, Steve realised, he was using it as distraction to keep the conversation from heading back to the fight.
“And the camouflage? How did you do that?” Tony looked genuinely impressed.
“There’s a clear coating over the metal that can take on whatever colour, I programmed it to blend in with the skin of whoever wears it, like a chameleon.”
Nat sighed as she took the antiseptic from Tony’s hands, letting him carry on distracting the teen, while she gently took Artemis’s hands and sprayed the antiseptic across the grazes. Artemis winced as the sting of the antiseptic hit once again.
“There’s blood in your hair, are there any more cuts we need to take care of?”
At Nat’s words Artemis reached up and patted the area on the back of her head and frowned before recognition dawned on her face.
“It’s not mine.”
The corner of Nat’s mouth quirked up in the hint of a smile and Steve got the distinct impression she was holding back from saying that’s my girl.
“Remind me never to get on your bad side.” He said, chuckling quietly.
Eventually after considerable fussing on Tony’s part Artemis was cleaned up and back to a semi normal state. She had showered, washing the remnants of the fight away, and was now curled up on the couch in the common area wearing sweatpants and a tank top. The bruising around the cut on her forehead was slowly turning light shades of blue and yellow. Tony’s stomach clenched every time his eyes glanced over her injuries.
Tony had waited until Artemis was out of the room before he asked JARVIS to replay the recording from the alley. What had followed was hard to watch, but Tony couldn’t tear his eyes away from the grainy security footage. Artemis moved quickly in a fluid motion. The roundhouse kick connected with the side of the thugs head and Tony watched as he crumpled. The words of the recording were still ringing in his ears and he could feel his heart thumping faster in his chest.
He didn’t really know how to respond in this situation. He wanted to hunt down the men who had attacked Artemis and kick their asses. But looking after Artemis was more important, and she had pretty much already done it.
All he knew was that the feeling he gotten of his stomach dropping out of him when JARVIS told him that Artemis was in danger, scared the shit out of him. He’d always been fiercely protective of those he cared about, and until recently that had just been Pepper and Rhodey, but recently Tony found he cared more and more about the people around him. Slowly but surely his team had started to become his family. Tony had surprised himself with this revelation, but he couldn’t lie to himself anymore. He cared.
And now he’d found himself with something else to care about. As surprising as it may be to an outsider, he had never really considered that this might happen. He’d never imagined that he would be part of a family again, or that one would just fall into his life, so complete and yet so perfectly dysfunctional that it seemed to fit perfectly.
“Hey” Tony said softly, “Mind if I join you?”
He handed the teen a steaming mug of cocoa and Artemis scooched over to make room. Tony sat and leaned back against the couch letting out a long breath as the tension slowly began to drain out of his body.
“What a day huh?” It wasn’t exactly a question, more of an acknowledgement. A lot had happened and it almost felt like it had been several days crammed into one. Artemis shifted next to him and leaned against his shoulder.
A comfortable silence hung in the air, and for the first time since the battle of New York, Tony felt almost calm.
“So I’m having to restrain myself from tracking them down and blowing their balls off.” Tony said eventually. Artemis chuckled quietly next to him.
“I guess we should refrain from bloodier methods.” She said. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to other forms of retribution.
Tony felt a grin forming on his face, “Oh I’m sure we can come up with a very creative reward for their actions.”
He looked down at the teen and she smiled back at him. Tony watched a question on flicker across her face followed by hesitation.
“Do I call you Dad now?”
“If you want.”
“Dad?” There was an odd tone in her voice, as if she was testing it out to see how it felt.
“Yes, daughter?” Artemis relaxed slightly as if he had erased some of her doubts with his words and Tony’s heart melted a little bit.
“What do we do now?”
The question hung in the air as they both considered it.
“Whatever you want to do.” There was a slight pause, “Winterfell is yours Your Grace.”
Tony did his best to suppress a smile when Artemis rolled her eyes.
“Oh my God J! You told him?” Artemis said with an air of incredulity, though she looked more amused than anything else
“In my defence Your Grace, I only revealed the phrase on request, Sir figured the meaning out himself.”
Artemis huffed, “Damn geniuses.”
Tony smiled fondly, leaning his head on top of Artemis’s where it was nestled on his shoulder. They sat in silence for a while.
“So,” Tony eventually broke the stillness, “I have a bunch of as yet undesigned and undesignated floors in this tower, and I could use some suggestions as to what to do with them. I was in the middle of finishing the finer details when Reindeer Games decided to drop a space army on our doorstep.”
The teen shifted slightly next to him, making herself more comfortable.
“Well, I guess I could help you with that.”
Tony and Artemis stayed up a while longer discussing how to turn the empty levels into apartments for the other Avengers. They had joked about making Steves apartment entirely red, white, and blue, just to see how he would react to garishly patriotic decor, but eventually decided to limit it to a few photos of Steve in his showgirl costume subtly placed around the apartment.
After a while, and once they had come up with a theme and layout for each the Avengers appartments, they decided to call it a night and watch The Road to El Dorado. Halfway through the movie Artemis wondered aloud if Thor and Loki had been the inspiration behind the main characters. Tony couldn’t stop laughing for a full five minutes after imagining how the Asgardians would react to being compared to Miguel and Tulio. By the time the credits rolled they had both drifted off to sleep curled up comfortably under a big fluffy blanket.
If Clint could legally marry coffee he would be down on one knee in a heartbeat. Most days the acquisition of a mug of the steaming black liquid was the only thing that made getting up in the morning worth while
Clint almost tripped over his own feet as he made his way down to the common area in search of his one true love. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, he blearily stumbled into the kitchen and rummaged around, running on autopilot as he deftly refilled the coffeemaker and switched it on to brew.
Once he had successfully managed to get his hands on a steaming mug of happiness, he sat down at the counter, enjoying the warmth as he sipped his coffee. He was slowly beginning to regain the feeling of being human when Clint noticed the fluffy pile on the couch in front of the TV.
Tony was slouched into the corner of the soft couch cushions, fast asleep with Artemis practically nestled against him using him as a pillow. The sleeping genius had one arm draped protectively around the teens shoulders as they both slept. Clint pulled out his phone and silently snapped a picture of the adorable sight in front of him.
Although it had only been a few short days, it already felt like it had been weeks since the invasion. The Avengers, as they had quickly become, were still staying in the guest rooms at Stark Tower while they helped with the clean up of the city. Pepper had called a press conference for them that would take place later in the day but Clint doubted anyone would have much to say. Clint sure as hell didn’t want to have to relive the period of time he spent under the control of the sceptre, the amount of side eye he was getting walking through SHIELD Lately was bad enough without a bunch of pushy journalists asking invasive questions. However it was unlikely any of the public knew about his being compromised, and Tony would probably be the one most under fire, given the whole Stark Tower portal incident.
Guessing that the pair would probably wake up soon, and feeling slightly bad about the hammering Tony would probably receive from the press later, Clint went about making more coffee. Sipping his second mug and humming quietly as he clinked about in the kitchen, refilling the coffeemaker once more. It was about nine-thirty in the morning and Clint figured the rest of the Avengers would be filtering in for breakfast soon.
The coffeemaker had just clicked off, filling the pot with steaming fresh brew when Bruce emerged from the elevator, a rolled up yoga mat under his arm. Clint refilled his mug before filling another for his teammate.
“Coffee?” Clint said, holding out the extra mug while he took a sip from his own.
“Thanks.” Bruce took the mug and settle into a stool at the kitchen bench.
“Should we wake them up? I recon everyone else will be down soon.” Bruce glanced in the direction that Clint had gestured a let out an aww sound.
It turned out Clint needn’t have worried about whether or not to wake Tony and Artemis before the others arrived, because about thirty-seconds later the pair stirred and eventually sat up blearily rubbing their eyes and looking around the common area. He waited for them to get their bearings before gesturing to the half full coffee pot.
“If you want coffee you’d better get it before anyone else comes down, otherwise you’ll have to wait for the next batch.” Clint said as he sat down on a stool.
Tony got up at that, tripping slightly on the blanket in his haste to get the coffee before it was gone. Artemis followed wrapping the fluffy purple throw around her shoulders like a cloak. She settled into a stool next to Bruce, propping her head up with an elbow on the edge of the bench top.
Clint allowed his attention to drift back to his first love as the others went about re-caffeinating themselves, savouring the steaming mug of pure goodness while they debated what they should have for breakfast. By the time he had finished they had settled on pancakes and to his mild surprise Tony actually looked like he was intending to cook them himself.
“Please don’t burn the kitchen down, I’d rather not have to evacuate while I’m still in pyjamas.”
“Don’t worry Legolas, I’m sure the captain will be able to carry you out over his shoulder.”
“Who am I carrying over my shoulder?” Steve had entered from the elevator just as Tony was speaking.
“Our woodland elf is worried I’m going to burn the tower down.” Tony said, “If anything catches fire I said you’d carry him out of harms way so he doesn’t get smoke in his pyjamas.”
Steve nodded smiling devilishly, “Oh of course, we wouldn’t want that.”
Clint rolled his eyes “Just so you know, I won’t hesitate to say ‘I told you so’ if you catch something on fire.” He said before giving up on the conversation and making more coffee.
Clint was on his fourth cup of coffee and the pancakes were starting to pile up on a large plate by the time more people started to filter into the common area. Clint took it upon himself to assemble a variety of different pancake toppings on the counter top. Everyone gathered around on stools and began to eat while Tony continued to show off, flipping pancake after pancake onto the steadily growing pile.
The team were gorging themselves, slowly beginning to make a dent in the supply of pancakes and maple syrup, and everyone was reaching that slightly too full to move phase, when Pepper exited the elevator clearly ready to get down to business.
“Right Tony, Steve, Clint, were leaving in half an hour for the press conference, you’d better be ready.”
Tony groaned and shot Bruce a look of betrayal, “How come you get out of this?”
“Sorry Tony I guess I’m just smarter than you.”
Tony muttered the word traitor as he pulled himself up and followed Pepper to the elevator, heading off to get ready for the cameras.
Artemis didn’t know how she knew Natasha was there. She didn’t make any noise at all, but a distinct feeling of being watched prickled at the back of Artemis’s neck. Artemis didn’t turn around to check, but continued what she was doing. She was alone in the common area laying on her stomach on the couch, scribbling out notes on a Starkpad for an upgrade to the flight stabilisers.
“Not watching the press conference?” Artemis said as she continued to work.
There was a soft noise of air leaving a cushion as Natasha sat down in a big chair next to her.
“Although I suppose there’s nothing to be gained from sitting through it that you can’t find out in less time afterwards.”
Natasha made a noise of agreement, there was silence for a moment as Artemis continued scribbling notes.
“You let people underestimate you a lot.”
Artemis shrugged, finally glancing over her shoulder to look at Natasha, who looked like she was about to head down to the gym levels for a training session.
“It comes in handy.” She said, “But you’d know that better than anyone.”
“Finish up what you’re doing, we’re gonna go train.”
Artemis nodded, turning back to her work, and scribbled down the last few notes before she forgot what she had been thinking about. By the time Artemis arrived on the gym level, having taken a detour to change into more workout appropriate clothes, the assassin was already warming up. She made her way over to the mat where Natasha was standing, apprehensive but determined.
“So. It seems to me, that you tend to get yourself into a fair amount of scrapes.”
“Well, I figured if you’re gonna get into fights all the time you might as well learn how to win them. How’re you healing up?”
“Fine. A couple of bruises isn’t gonna stop me.”
Nat smiled. “Good, then let’s get to it.”
Steve was used to the hamster wheel of public promotion and endorsement, this press conference was slightly different to the press he had experienced in the 1930’s and 40’s but the overall feeling was similar.
What he wasn’t prepared for however was the amount of attention that would be directed at him. After all he had been presumed dead for the last seventy years, and the first the public knew about his return (given his discovery had been hushed up by Director Fury) was when he suddenly reappeared fighting aliens on the streets of New York City.
The cameras were everywhere and Steve couldn’t help but feel like his every move was being dissected and analysed. Tony was beside him and Steve could almost feel the tension. It was as if there was suddenly a mask up and the Tony that he had seen the last few days was completely gone, replaced by the flashy CEO and persona that Steve had seen when he looked up Howard’s son a few weeks before.
Steve almost kicked himself, he should have realised earlier that it was all an act for the public, the cameras, a persona for public life that he himself used as a shield to keep himself protected. If anyone should understand that it was Steve. After being the ‘Captain America Showgirl’ for all those years, he’d had to present the persona of Captain America and who he was underneath had often been squashed down and wasn’t seen by the public.
Tony had a practiced ease as he sat down in the chair next to Steve and turned to flash him a brilliant ‘for the camera’ smile. Steve nodded back. The two of them were by far the main focus. Tony had taken the brunt of the media crucifixion, everyone was asking how the aliens got here and conspiracy theories were flying about Stark Industries being involved. Given the tech that Loki had used, Steve figured he couldn’t blame people for jumping to those conclusions, even if they were the exact opposite of what actually happened.
It also didn’t help that their source of otherworldly knowledge, Thor, was not there answering questions. He had gotten out of the press conference all together by going back to Asgard the day before, taking Loki with him. It was unfortunate as he would have been an asset to the team in this particular instance, but Steve was also glad that Loki was out of their hands and they didn’t have to deal with him anymore. With Thor gone, that left Director Fury, Pepper, Clint, Tony, and himself answering questions from a mob of reporters crammed into the large room.
Natasha and Bruce had taken a pass as well, both not wanting their faces broadcast, Natasha to keep her alias as low profile as possible, and Bruce to avoid any run-ins with General Ross, who Steve had been informed, had attempted on multiple occasions to imprison him in order to experiment on the Hulk. Steve was glad the guy hadn’t been around when he had first taken the serum or he might’ve had some interesting interactions with the military.
That’s not to say of course that his entire career with the military thus far hadn’t been. If there was one word that summarised his career interesting was definitely a strong contender. But as much as he had been a lab rat for the U.S. Army, he knew that the tests Erskine and the others had done on him were always consensual and they didn’t have the same power over his freedom that Ross had had over Banner
Steve was brought out of his reverie by Tony sitting up straighter next to him and starting down a reporter who had asked him a question that was pointedly accusatory. The reporter backed off quickly under the patent Stark glare. Another hesitantly raised their hand and Tony motioned for them to speak.
“What do you say to the increase in reports of violent crimes and assaults in the aftermath of the invasion. How are our police and protective services supposed to handle this in the current situation?”
“That is an excellent question.” Tony said, remaining calm and businesslike, “I am aware the police are currently doing their utmost to ensure everyones safety while assisting with the repairs of the city, however I will say this to those perpetrating these crimes.” Tony turned away from the reporter who has asked the question and stared directly into the nearest camera. “You may think that given the current state of this city, that you can get away with running amok. But be assured that if you even think about using the current strain on protective services resources to try getting away with fucking people over, assaults, robbery, ect. If you even consider making this city unsafe for a single person who lives here, I will personally hunt you down and kick your ass. You have been warned."
Steve could see the threat in Tony’s look, daring anyone to test him. Steve didn’t have to ask what he was thinking about. After the night before it was clear Tony had a bit of a grudge to settle.
“Hey JARVIS put me through to Dr. Banner.” Tony was driving back to the Tower from the press conference.
“Putting you through now Sir.” The phone rang through thecae speakers.
“Hey Brucey!!! Get your science hat on I have an idea.”
Tony heard Bruce sign audibly on he other end, but the scientist humoured him all the same.
“Okay Tony, want me to head down to your lab? Wait are you even back yet? I thought the conference was still going.”
“On my way, be there in 5, and no go to Dr Fosters Lab, I’ll meet you there.”
JARVIS ended the call. Tony sped down a few more streets and then turned onto the street of the Tower. JARVIS had opened the door for him by the time he reached it and he drove down into the garage in the basement of the tower. Parking the car and jumping out, heading straight for the elevator.
A few moments later Tony was exiting the elevator and walking down the corridor that led to the lab where Dr. foster and Dr. Selvig were working.
Bruce was just coming out of another elevator further along the corridor as Tony approached.
“So what’s this new idea you’ve got that had me dropping everything to join your science party?”
“You’ll see in just a minute.” Tony said. “hey JARVIS please let them know we're coming.” Tony said, rather belatedly.
“Already done sir.”
“See that’s why I keep you around buddy. You always remember to do things before I even ask you to.”
“Might I suggest a raise sir?” The AI commented dryly.
Tony chuckled as he opened the door to the laboratory. The space was far more organised than most of Tony’s labs, and mainly comprised of large digital tables covered in notes and equations, with diagrams of an Einstein-Rosen bridge and various Celtic markings that Tony recognised from the Bifrost.
“Mr. Stark, JARVIS said you would be coming down to see us. To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“So I’ve been looking at ways to make my suit more suitable for outer space conditions, but I realised I’d forgotten to look into one important factor as to why the suit failed in the first place, and that had to do with going through that big wormhole thingy. So adding that into the equation throws my figures out and I don’t have enough information to know if I’m looking at the right formulas or not. So I figured who better to ask than our resident experts on everything weird space holey!”
The scientists lost track of time nerding out about combining the Physicists research with Tony’s tech. Tony had been looking into ways of making his suits life support systems suitable for space travel. He was also trying to advance his technology so that it would survive going through a wormhole without crashing.
However given he wasn’t the expert on Einstein-Rosen Bridges and the physics behind wormholes, he had decided to utilise the presence of Dr. Foster and Dr. Selvig, hoping that they could help him with ways to test the plausibility of his designs.
Given that Dr. Selvig had been glow-sticked by Loki into making the tesseract portal above the tower, Tony figured the guy knew a lot about opening wormholes in space. And Tony planned to put that knowledge to good use.
Artemis had never really considered the fact that she might stay with the Avengers more permanently. The subject had been raised obviously, and it had crossed her mind. But the idea of actually staying with no intention to move on somewhere else, was not something she had given any serious thought to until now.
After her training session with Natasha, Artemis had headed back up to her room to shower. Her injuries were still noticeable, but were healing fast. Once she had freshened up, after the workout of learning a combination of defensive manurers from the assassin, she headed to the common area in search of a late lunch and a cup of tea. Her trip had happened to coincide with when Darcy had dragged her scientist out of the lab to refuel, and the two had gotten chatting over lunch.
Artemis didn’t know why but she found herself telling Darcy what had happened the day before. The pair had fallen into a fallen into friendly banter over the past few days and had become fast friends. Darcy’s reaction was rather comical to witness, as Artemis had expected it would be, not that she had really planned on telling anyone that soon. But one thing had led to another and it just seemed like the natural moment to bring it up. Artemis was glad she had, it had been nice to talk to someone openly about how she was feeling after the whole shock of the discovery the day before. But one thing had really stuck in her head.
“So does this mean you’re moving in here permanently now? That would be pretty cool, I mean having Iron Man as a dad would be pretty cool full stop, but getting to live here, that would be awesome!”
Artemis hadn’t really thought too much about any of it to be honest. She had just been going along with the developments as they happened and had been glad of having a roof over her head. Artemis was a survivor, and was good at adapting to new situations but seeing what had happened to the city, and the chaos that had erupted in the last week, made her wonder whether she would have survived at all if she hadn’t happened to run into the Avengers on the day of the attack.
Now that she had the information, had the resolution and answer to the main questions that had been plaguing her for the last few week (years if she was being honest), she now had to consider what the future might hold for her, it was strange to think that she had stumbled into her future blindly, and then things had evolved so quickly that she hadn’t even considered what she would do next. But now that Darcy had brought up the topic she was starting to wonder how it would all pan out.
Truthfully before she found out that Tony was her father, she had had no idea what to do next, she hadn’t wanted to outstay her welcome, but she had also enjoyed being around the ragtag team of misfits that inhabited the tower. And Tony had even invited her to stay more permanently before they found out. Now whoever, with all the new information that she had, she was faced with the decision of what to do.
Artemis stared up at the ceiling of her room and contemplated her options, not that she really had many outside of staying, none that were really viable anyway.
Her original plan when she left the orphanage, had been to get off the grid in order to find her own space and have independence. She didn’t need to go back to school because she knew that she was capable of teaching herself everything she needed know with the aid of the internet and public libraries. She had been more focused on getting away from the institutions that had controlled her life ever since her mum died.
Then aliens flying through a portal had really thrown a proverbial spanner in the works of that plan and now through a complete fluke she had a whole new array of options and possibilities.
Artemis was still laying on her bed musing over how drastically her life had changed in the past week when JARVIS spoke up suddenly and startled her out of her thoughts.
“Your Grace, Miss Potts is asking if you wouldn’t mind coming to see her in her office.”
“Did she say what about?”
“I believe Miss Potts would like your opinion and help with some documents regarding legal guardianship.”
Artemis stared at the ceiling in contemplation before dragging herself off the bed and heading for the elevator.
“JARVIS, take me to your leader!” She liked to imagine that the AI would be rolling his eyes if he had any, or at least chuckling mildly at her ridiculousness.
The doors of the elevator dinged shut and the metal box descended before the doors opened again on a level of the tower that Artemis hadn’t been to before. The walls were made of glass, and a bunch of people were working behind desks. Artemis realised it must be the main hub of Stark Industries. She followed JARVIS’s instructions and found herself outside the biggest, and clearly most important office. The doors opened for her and she felt like she was under observation as she entered. Pepper was sat behind a dest on the far side of the room working at a computer.
“Uh hi, JARVIS said you wanted to see me.” Artemis said as Pepper rose to greet her with a smile
“Artemis, thank you so much for coming down. I’ve been looking into the legal procedures that are required for parental guardianship claims but I wanted to get your thoughts before we do anything.”
Pepper ushered her towards a coffee table and some comfortable looking low couches where a pile of paperwork had been spread out. Artemis sat on one side and began to look over the papers as Pepper sat down opposite her with the coffee table between them.
“Okay, so what exactly were you wanting to talk to me about?” Artemis said examining the documents between them with curiosity.
Pepper handed Artemis a dossier of files and Artemis could see her name on some of the pages.
“This is everything Jarvis and I managed to dig up from the orphanage record and files, a lot of them were scattered all over the place so no one had anything substantial, but put together there’s quite a bit. I figured you would want them.”
Artemis flicked through the files seeing foster records and original forms for when she was first taken into state care. Her birth certificate and a bunch of her mothers documents were in there as well. While she was flicking through the file Pepper picked up another document.
“Tony told me everything that happened with Charles when you got back yesterday.” Pepper began hesitantly, “I know it’s a lot to take in, particularly in such a short amount of time but I wanted to ask what your thoughts would be on Tony going through the process of taking over your legal guardianship from the state? It’s totally up to you of course and it wouldn’t mean that he is suddenly a parent or anything in the ‘were going to start telling you what you have to do’ type of way, but it would mean that instead of you being a legal responsibility of the state, that he would be your legal guardian until you’re legally an adult. It would also mean you could add him to your birth certificate if you wanted to, and it goes without saying, and I know Tony already offered before this all happened but you would be welcome to stay here or in the house at Malibu, or whenever you like.”
Artemis considered this for a moment before responding.
“So I’d be free of all the foster homes and I wouldn’t have to deal with being in the system anymore?”
“It could take a little while to get all of the legal processes completed, but yes, essentially that would be the main result if we go ahead with it.”
“What would it mean for everything else?”
“Well, as far as I can see, you and Tony have already gotten to know each other relatively well, but whatever relationship the two of you want to continue to have would be up to the both of you, it wouldn’t be determined by the legal guardianship at all.”
“Do you have everything you need to be able to get it done, if I decide it’s what I want to do?
“I believe we do, it might take a little while, but our legal team has advised me that a hypothetical case like this should be approved without any issues.”
Artemis nodded, she was glad that Pepper had been judicious enough to keep the specifics confidential. If the state knew where she was they might try to take her into their custody again until Tony was able to get approval.
“Have a think about it, and talk to Tony if you want to, I just wanted to let you know the different options that we have.”
“Thanks, I will.” Artemis gestured to the dossier of her documents, "Can I keep these?”
“Of course! They’re yours.” Pepper made a pile of everything and handed it to her. “Let me know when you’ve had a think about everything and we can go from there, if you need anything from me, just let JARVIS know, he’ll be able to get through the quickest.”
The two of them stood up, Artemis still holding the documents that she intended to take back to her room and read properly. She thanked Pepper for all her help and was about to leave when another thought occurred to her.
“Do you… not worry about all this, like, worry about Tony and people… you know.”
Pepper smiled knowingly “About people taking advantage of Tony? Yes there have been a fair few times is the past, and I’ve protected him from them before. But I’ve known Tony long enough and been around those sorts of people long enough to know when it’s the case and when it isn’t.” She paused as if considering whether to add something else she was thinking. “I’ve also been around long enough to know when something would be good for him, so if you’re worried you’d be intruding on whatever family setup we have here, don’t, judging by the last few days I think it would be good for all of us.”
Artemis didn’t know what say to that so she just mumbled her thanks, trying to keep the lump out of her throat as she said goodbye to Pepper and headed back up to her room. Once she closed the bedroom door behind her she flopped down on the bed and placed the documents out in front of her, still trying to process everything that had taken place in the short meeting.
Reading all the documents was like taking a trip down memory lane, and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Memories that Artemis had tried hard to forget were brought to the surface once more. But despite the pain that the documents reminder her of, Artemis was beginning to feel more hopeful for the future. She had a parent again, and one who was happy to be in her life and take on legal responsibility for her. That alone make her chest ache in a strange way that she hadn’t felt in a long time.
It was late in the afternoon and almost dinner time when Artemis finally finished reading. She came out of the stack of case reports and transfer files with a slight jolt and realised that she had been dozing off while staring at the same sentence at the end of one of the reports for longer than she could remember. Her brain no longer wanted to concentrate enough for her to take in any more information so she decided to leave it and go find Tony instead. There was definitely a lot they needed to talk about.
Artemis wandered down to Tony’s lab and JARVIS let her in. Heavy metal music was blasting over the speakers. Her dad was working on his suit upgrade, soldering iron in hand as he focussed intently on the intricate work he was doing. Artemis watched for a few minutes, not wanting to disrupt his focus. YOU was holding a magnifying glass for Tony, while he worked on a boot, the robot moved it around as needed.
Once Tony had finished the section he was working on JARVIS lowered the music.
“JARVIS why did you… Oh that’s why.” Tony looked up seeing Artemis sitting across from him on an empty workbench for the first time.
“Hey kid, how’re you holding up?”
“Good I guess, how was the conference?”
Tony groaned “It was a drag, but Pepper was happy so I guess that’s a good sign. What did you get up to today? I didn’t see you when I got back.”
“Weasley taught me some new tricks, and then Pepper gave me a pile of documents, so I was reading them for the last few hours.”
“Just a bunch of stuff from the different foster homes and all that shit. There were some of mum’s documents in there as well though so that was nice.”
“Any thoughts about what you wanna do yet?” Artemis got the sense he had been holding back from asking the question straight away.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it.” She paused. “I have a couple of things I dunno about yet, but I think the main one I know now.
Tony signalled for her to go on.
“So I know what I wanted before and I don’t really feel like that’s change just because it’s you, but you know that was a bit of a shock.” Tony made a face that said you got the right. “Anyway. The main paperwork side of it and the legal stuff I wanna do. But I don’t really want it to be public just yet.”
“We can do that, I wouldn’t want to throw you into that, any legal procedures we undertake can be done in complete confidentiality.”
“That would be good, I don’t mind people we know knowing, but it’s just a lot, and I don’t really like scrutiny at the best of times.”
Tony smiled “It’s a lot to take in, particularly if you haven’t grown up with it.”
“Thanks, Tony.” Artemis paused for a second before deciding what the hell, “You know I’m happy it’s you, right?”
Tony looked down at the work in front of him, a number of emotions seemed to pass across his face.
“Yeah me too.” He mumbled softly.
Artemis slid off the bench and walked over, she bumped shoulders with Tony looking down at the work he was doing when she came in, both of them wanting to move past the mushy emotional part of the conversation as quickly as possible.
“So what were you working on?”
Tony bumped back “I’ve been talking to Dr. Foster and Dr. Selvig about wormholes, now I’m trying to incorporate what I know into reenforcing the life support systems on the new suit so that they will withstand more and hopefully won’t shut down if I have to fly through another portal any time soon.”
The two of them continued chatting while Artemis sat and watched as Tony kept working on the suit, every now and then passing him a tool he needed.
“So I’ve been thinking,” Tony said, breaking the comfortable silence they had fallen into, “next week after this whole charity ball thing Pep is organising has happened, I might head back to Malibu for about a week, if you wanna come too that’d be nice.”
“I’ve never been to Malibu.” Artemis said, contemplating the offer, “I guess it could be fun.”
“Cool, you’ll like it. We’ll go next week that’ll give us time to get all the paperwork stuff done before we go.”
Tony and Artemis spent the rest of the evening in his lab working on various different projects. They started off looking at the communication ring Artemis had designed, and then moved on to upgrading the flight stabilisers that went with her boots. JARVIS had intuitively provided a few holographic targets around the room, and whenever they got board or wanted to trash a certain part of a design they could ball it up and throw it at the target. There was a running scoreboard going on one side of the room and unsurprisingly Artemis was winning.
At one point in the evening the two of them had gotten great joy out of sending JARVIS to terrorise the three assholes from the night before, using one of Tony’s suits. One of the thugs had fallen over and almost shat himself after opening his closet to find the suit, eyes glowing and repulsers whirring to life.
The suit had simply stepped over the thug and stated “I’ll be back” using Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice, before disappearing.
Another had opened the fridge to find a bodiless helmet on a plate, when he turned around the armour body had appeared behind him and the helmet ominously stated “there is no escaping me” before the body picked it up and left, walking out the door without putting it back onto its shoulders.
Okay so it was probably morally questionable for a superhero to be scarring the shit out of civilians, but Tony felt that they deserved it and besides the two of them had almost pissed themselves laughing watching the videos. And aside from helping Artemis recover from the trauma of the attack, Tony expected the fear he instilled in the thugs to stop them from attacking anyone else. So Tony argued that he was probably rendering the city a great service, not just exacting his own petty revenge on the thugs who had attacked his daughter.
The next morning and the Avengers were all getting ready for the charity ball that Pepper had organised. Tony definitely couldn’t say he enjoyed such events, not that he had attended many where he remained sober for the entire evening. But that was just a testament to how much he dislikes shmoosing with other rich people.
It wasn’t their being rich that irritated him so much, it was that people tended to irritate him with their entitlement, and the amount of people who had opened the conversation with the words “you know you should really make ‘insert dumb invention idea’ next with Stark Industries” or “oh your father would have done ‘insert recent thing Tony had achieved’ differently, do you ever worry about what he would say if he were alive?”
So yeah, Tony didn’t really like the whole rich mingling social charity event scene, but it came with being the CEO of one of the largest companies on the planet. At least this time he wouldn’t be alone in his dislike. All of the avengers were going to be there, even the ones keeping a low profile would be present, just not in any of the press shots.
Pepper had gone all out inviting the biggest names from across the country to the event. Many of them had offices in New York for their companies, or they attended the city to see theatre shows on broadway with their entourage. Pepper was a total whiz at manipulating people into coming along and donating, using a combination of their personal connections to the city, and mildly suggesting that ‘X big rival’ of the person was going to be attending and they wouldn’t want to look bad by not showing up.
But in the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter whether he liked them or not, the fact remind that charity galas and large events like this were just part of his job as Tony Stark. He couldn’t get out of them all so sometimes he’d just have to grit his teeth and get through it as quickly as possible.
But that afternoon Artemis was in the common area, hanging out with Darcy, Clint, and Natasha. The Charity ball was happening that evening and Tony had been complaining the night before about having to go.
Clint and Natasha also had to go out to the event later, and neither of them looked too enthusiastic about it either. Artemis and Darcy were planning to have a movie night with whoever else was still in the tower.
“Hey what were you and Tony making last night?” Darcy asked changing the subject from the ball to avoid any more of Clint’s I-really-don’t-want-to-go-but-I’m-contractually-obliged-to-because-SHIELD-owns-my-ass face.
“A bunch of different stuff, upgrades mostly, we’re trying to make a gauntlet style flight stabiliser that will be more like a fingerless glove but like Tony’s suit style, just smaller tech.” Artemis replied.
“Did you make a taser yet? Cos you kinda need one.”
Artemis laughed, “No not yet.” Maybe I’ll make that next, try make a tiny one in a ring or something.”
“Oh my God if you do I totally want one. I’ll even test it out for you! Hey that could be a whole niche market to tap into.”
“I feel like the morality of making weapons disguised as jewellery for a mass market would be a court case waiting to happen for Stark Industries, but there’s nothing stopping us from making it.”
“There’s nothing stopping you making it for the high-tech-undercover-spy market either.” Natasha said casually. “I hear that’s also a pretty niche market.”
“Tasha you might as well put in a custom order, you’re not being particularly subtle.” Clint said next to her.
“I mean, it only works because I actually like you Weasley, but didn’t you have some particularly zappy gadgets that SHIELD made for you? I’m sure I could at least tweak them a bit.” Artemis said.
“Oh you wanna look at my widow bites?” Natasha said excitedly.
“Oh God, please don’t say that ever again.” Clint looked like he wished he could un-hear Natasha’s last comment.
Artemis grinned, “Sure I’d love to take a look at your widow bites!” She said deliberately, making Clint groan.
“Nooo! Don’t encourage her, you’re just making it worse!”
The girls laughed and Clint buried his face in a cushion. They were all in a fit of giggles when Pepper arrived in a whirlwind of activity
“You should all be getting ready by now! Go on, no one is to be late.” She shooed Natasha and Clint in the direction of their rooms. “Artemis hun, I’ve got a stylist coming up for you and Miss Lewis with some things for this evening. You both need to get ready as well.”
“Oh, we’re going too?”Artemis asked surprised, they hadn’t discussed it and she had just assumed she wasn’t required to attend, or invited for that matter, not that she had particularly wanted to go at all.
“Yes of course, everyone is. I think it would be good practice as well so you can get used to how these things operate, you never know it may be useful in future.”
Pepper gave her a meaningful nod, clearly making illusions to the fact that Artemis may one day be operation in the same world as Tony but without wanting to disclose information in the presence of Darcy. Artemis realised that Pepper didn’t know that Darcy already knew about it but decided to fill her in later. they would probably have to tell everyone else in the tam soon anyway so it didn't really matter that much.
“Come on this’ll be fun!” Darcy said excitedly, missing the brief nonverbal exchange that had happened between the pair.
“Thanks Pepper.” Artemis said returning the nod as she allowed Darcy to drag her towards their guest rooms.
The stylist was a shorter man when compared to many of the avengers, he was lithe and slim and Artemis appreciated his androgynous style. He fussed over them for several hours until they both looked amazing. Darcy was drooling aver the dress she had chosen.
“Dude when I got that internship I never thought Tony freaking Stark would be paying a stylist to give me an expensive makeover for one of these events!”
She seemed to be enjoying it as if this was a once in lifetime experience and while it could well be, Artemis had the feeling that she may just be more important to the avengers family than she realised, and as such would no doubt be repeating the experience again in future. At least Artemis hoped so, it would be nice to have a friend to go through this crazy world with, especially one who new just how ridiculous it was to be allowed into such events after coming from a relatively normal life. Artemis was happy that she was enjoying it, it made the whole experience a lot more fun, instead of terrifying and intimidating.
Darcy had chosen a slightly darker-than-emerald green dress that reached to the floor in sweeps of gorgeous fabric that moved like a liquid. She looked gorgeous and had been having a lot of fun twirling this way and that to watch the fabric move and flow around her.
Artemis however had opted for something very different. Not really feeling the most comfortable in dresses, she had chosen a slimline suit. The black fabric hugged her in all the right places and the silhouette she saw in the mirror made her feel powerful and in control of her life. Out of sheer luck it fitted almost perfectly and they barely had to do any adjustments, the stylists, Eric, had sent it off and it was returned completed within half an hour. Looking at her reflection Artemis almost felt as if she was looking at a different person, one that she wanted to be but hadn’t become yet. It was a good feeling, and she appreciated Pepper sending Eric up to help them get ready. Her long fringe had been pulled back disguised into the half up half down style that let her long hair cascade over her suit clad shoulders. She looked older somehow, perhaps it was the fact that she was more put together, less tattered converse, jeans and leather jackets tough, and more business world inventors daughter ‘don’t even try to mess with me’ tough. Artemis felt ready to take on the world, and a little charity event felt like easy work.
“You ready to take over the world?” Darcy asked, grinning in excitement.
“Let’s smash this thing!”
The pair headed down to the common area where everyone was meeting before heading to the event. When they rounded the corner the rest of the Avengers save one or two were gathered in black tie formal wear. Artemis didn’t think she’d eve seen Tony in formal dress before, it was a strange sight. She was used to her dad in jeans and Metallica shirts, sometimes with a blazer. This was the Tony she remembered seeing on the news in the past, before they had met, and before she knew they were family.
“How you doing kid? You look ready to kick some ass.” He said as they got closer.
“Pretty great.” She smiled, “And that would be an accurate way to describe it.”
Tony’s smile crinkled the little lines around his eyes in genuine happiness.
“Glad to hear it!” He said. “Time to go face the sharks out there.”
The event was huge. Pepper seemed to have invited all of the richest people in the world, and few had the gall to turn her down. Given that the attack had been on the planet, not just New York, it was easier to unite people in support of the cause. They knew that they would have all been next if New York had fallen.
Artemis and Darcy were managing to stick to the edges of the room, being relatively less conspicuous than the Avengers and Pepper. Tony was flashing his trademark smile, looking more and more worn with every possible donor who cornered him.
He glanced over to them as another person approached him looking desperate to escape and mouthed Save me!
Unbeknownst to Pepper Artemis had smuggled her ring in and whispered a joke into it. JARVIS sending it to the invisible earpiece Tony had in. It had started as a bit of a game, trying to make him crack up during a conversation, but every now and then she timed it exactly right and Tony would laugh just after the person he was speaking to had made some sort of attempt at humour.
The evening meandered on until eventually Pepper was getting up to announce an auction. It was your typical competition of people trying to one up each other over trinkets, but Pepper managed to keep everyone behaving despite the competitive nature of the guests.
After what seemed like an age, the evening came to a close with Pepper thanking everyone for their donations and support, finally everyone began to filter out and Artemis and Darcy regrouped with the rest of the team heading back to the tower.
The relief Tony felt once the event was over felt like cold water on a scorching hot day. After several hours of forced interactions with people he had very little interest in talking to he felt completely drained. The night had been a success, though he didn’t think it was possible for anything organised by Pepper to be anything other than a complete triumph, she just had a way of bending things to her will, in a good way. From what she had said they had raised enough money to repair all of the damage done to the city, and then some. It would definitely come in handy when they needed it. Based purely on his own experiences Tony knew that it would be prudent to set up some facilities to help people recover from the trauma of the attack. It was a lot to process, one day, secure in your view of the world, you step out your front door and get shot at by an alien, or you fly though a portal to another part of the universe and realise your laughable ill equipped to deal with what’s out there. Tony knew better than most that a big adjustment was being forced upon the minds of the citizens of New York in a very short time frame, and it could take a while for them to adjust to such a fast changing world.
On top of that there had been a lot of civilians injured and killed in the attack, and that alone was cause for the survivors to need support. All in all there was a lot left to be done, and Tony was sure they had a lot of work ahead of them in the coming months as the city recovered. But for now, all he wanted to do was collapse into bed. Tomorrow would be a new day with new challenges and if he was going to be there for the people he cared about he needed to sleep before he completely burned out. They were climbing into bed when Tony remembered his promise and realised he had completely forgotten to ask Pepper about it.
“Do you think you can fit me into your schedule in the morning? Artemis and I wanted to do all of the paperwork before we go to Malibu.”
“A bit more notice would have been good,” Pepper said fondly. “But I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze you in.”
“I know it’ll be different, but I’m hoping it’s a good different.”
“Tony, you know I’m completely on board with this whole thing. If it’s going to change anything, let it. Sometimes we need changes to help us grow.”
Tony snuggled into her and smiled “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Tony was nervous, but in a good way. He didn’t want to fuck this up but at the same time he was pretty sure that it wasn’t really possible to fuck it up with all the help he had from legal advisors and the like. They were keeping the whole 'Tony officially becoming a legal parent' thing pretty low key. They didn’t want it to turn into a media circus, but instead to keep it private and wait until it had settled in before they decided if they wanted to make it public knowledge.
Tony also wanted to be able to give Artemis time and help to prepare for that if they got to that point sometime in the future. He had grown up with the press going through his dirty laundry but Artemis hadn’t had the same exposure and experience that he had. And she had asked to not be the centre of attention.
All in all the plan was to get it all done and keep it confidential within their immediate group of friends and acquaintances. If Artemis was going to be hounded by press, he wanted to make sure she knew how to handle them.
He had no doubt his daughter would be able to manage pushy reporters and all of that just fine, but the less people were going to bother her the better. Perhaps when she was a bit older they could do an official press reveal, by which time it would have been old news and wouldn’t risk throwing a spanner in the proverbial works of their still new connection.
There wasn’t a lot of things to sign. Tony had to sign a document to say that he was taking legal responsibility for Artemis until she reached the age of eighteen and provide DNA test results and documentation to prove that Artemis was in fact his child, and that he was capable of providing for her. They were done within about half an hour, Tony signed the last of the forms and handed it to one of the lawyers.
“Congratulations Mr. Stark, Miss Black, I’m very happy for you,” the Lawyer said, “we’ll handle the rest from here.”
Tony shook their hands and said goodbyes as they left leaving him with Pepper and Artemis in Peppers office.
“Well, that’s that I guess.” Pepper said as she stood up and smoothed out her business skirt.
“Welcome to the family kid.” Tony smiled warmly and held out his arms to Artemis.
This was nice, Tony thought, as he hugged his daughter. They were really starting to become a family. While it had been the complete opposite of his intensions, Loki’s attack on New York had somehow brought everyone closer together, he had united them against a common enemy and through their fight to survive the attack they had formed a tight knit, though somewhat dysfunctional group.
“It’s been one hell of a week, huh!”
“You’re telling me! The other day I was a runaway orphan, now I’m the daughter of a billionaire superhero.”
“So Tony is your dad huh!”
“Yep, apparently that is the case.” Artemis didn’t even bother asking how she found out, it was Natasha, of course she knew already. Instead he focused on keeping her form as they sparred.
“Interesting. Are you planning to tell people yet, or is it all hush hush?”
“It’s not out yet but it’s not really a secret, just don’t wanna make a big deal out of it. We’re not going public though. I guess were just waiting for the opportune moment.”
“Noted.” Natasha easily dodged Artemis’s swing. “Too wide, keep it sharp and quick. Don’t lose focus.”
Artemis tried the move again, this time Nat had to block it instead of having time to get out of the way
“Better. Again.” They repeated the same action until Artemis had consistently gotten it right over and over again. “Your body will remember what you’re teaching it so it’s important to practice until you get it perfect before you start combining moves. If you start out sloppy it’ll take longer to pull everything together and get better.
They pair had been training together for the last few days. Natasha was slowly teaching Artemis hand to hand combat. Artemis felt like she was picking up the moves relatively quickly but it took time, and hours of training by herself to perfect the moves Nat was teaching her. It had been a good way to get her energy out and to clear her head. The last few days had been a whirl of Avengers coming and going on multiple expeditions to help clean up the city. Artemis had started to get into her own routine, working around the madness that was the tower, the training sessions with Natasha had definitely helped with that.
"Okay, one more before we finish for today.”
Natasha demonstrated the move and Artemis copied as best she could.
“Good, keep your arms tight to your side before you move, and now faster.” The pair worked for several more minutes until Natasha was satisfied.
“Okay, that’s enough for today. Keep working on it and I’ll see how much you’ve practiced next time.”
“We’re going to Malibu day after tomorrow so I’ll be gone for about a week.
“I know.” Because of course she did, “Don’t worry, you’ve got stuff to practice. Keep working on everything we’ve done so far, and combining everything together. If you have any questions you can call me.”
The pair parted, Nat heading off to do whatever a super spy assassin does in her spare time, and Artemis heading up to her room to shower and get changed before she went to find her dad in the lab.
“So I feel like we should probably tell the others.”
Artemis had been sitting on a workbench using holograms to work on a new design while her dad upgraded his suit on the next bench.
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Spangles will probably be upset if he finds out and we didn’t tell him. I can already imagine the puppy dog eyes.”
Artemis laughed at the mental image that conjured. It had been several days since they found out and they had taken their time settling into the information and how it changed their relationship. Artemis had already spent a significant amount of time with Tony before they found out, but since then she had been down in the lab even more, not spending much time with the rest of the team other than her sessions with Nat, who had already figured it out for herself. And she had already told Darcy so it wasn’t like they were keeping it a complete secret within the tower, they had just been adjusting.
“Should we do a big public stunt? You seem to be good at those.” Artemis half joked and Tony chuckled, “I feel like individual conversations would get annoyingly repetitive really quickly, might as well just rip it off like a bandaid, do the whole group in one go sort of thing.”
“That makes sense. When were you thinking exactly?”
“Dunno, whenever most of the team is around, we’ll just throw it out there when it feels right.”
It happened at dinner the next day evening. Everyone was gathered around the common area having their usual feast. Tony had baggsed a comfy armchair and was refusing to move lest he loose his prized position. Artemis was sitting crosslegged on the couch next to Clint, a box of noodles balanced precariously on one knee.
“Artemis, honey, can you pass me some chopsticks.”
“Really Tony, you’re old enough to be her dad.” Clint teased.
Artemis passed him a pair of chopsticks, suppressing a smile. While Tony coughed awkwardly.
“Well, huh, funny you should say that actually…”
Artemis burst out laughing no longer able to contain her amusement at how this was playing out. Clint looked bewildered when Darcy and Natasha began snickering as well.
“What’s going on what did I say?” Clint asked looking between them “…No, no that would only be funny if…”
“Well you see, funny story actually, Tony kinda is my Dad…Surprise!”
“No way, that’s ridiculous! How is that even be possible?”
“Well, Clint honey, about sixteen or so years ago Tony met my Mum,”Artemis said “and they got on really well, and then they…
“Ugh! Okay okay! But like, that’s crazy! What even are the chances!” Clint shook his head in disbelief
“Well it’s Tony, so quite high actually” Darcy stated matter of factly. Eliciting another round of laughter from the group
“You guys are making this up. You’re not actually…you can’t actually be serious.” Clint turned to Natasha “Tasha tell me they’re not serious.”
“Um Clint, I hate to break it to you but…
“Nope! Not happening. This is like some farfetched movie plot or some shit. What the actual ever-loving fuck!”
Artemis lost it at that and had to grab her noodles to stop them falling because she was laughing so hard. She looked across at Tony who was also hooting at Clint’s reaction.
“You know when I said the opportune moment, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but that was hilarious.”
The next morning Tony was in a whirlwind of productivity. Everything was being put into action and he was excited to be leaving on their trip.
The news that Artemis was his daughter spread through the team relatively quickly given that everyone was in the common area when the whole Clint thing happened. Some were more surprised than others, but all it all it didn’t really matter that much outside of people now knowing that she was staying around more permanently, as were some of the Avengers.
Tony had already invited Bruce to stay at the tower as often as he liked, and the others had been in and out as they pleased since it was the main hub for the Avengers following the battle. Clint and Steve both had apartments in New York, and before the attack Natasha had mainly stayed with SHIELD but Tony suspected she also had a number of safe houses around the city. And Thor, well he had stayed in the tower for a few days before taking Loki back to Asgard, Tony didn’t know when he’d be back but he’d invited the Asgardian to stay any time just the same. Dr. Foster was still staying with them using one of Tony’s labs to continue her research and Tony was happy to have more scientists around to nerd out with and share ideas.
All in all Tony was designing apartments for the Avengers, not because he thought they didn’t have anywhere else to go, but more to give them somewhere that felt like a base of operations and a second home if they ended up teaming up to fight the forces of evil on a more regular basis.
The building of the apartments was scheduled to start that afternoon after they left for Malibu. Tony had finalised the design briefs and sent them to the interior deign team working on the tower. The levels above the common area would be transformed into living quarters for the team while they were away over the next the week. However before it got started, Tony had one last thing that he wanted to do.
“Pick a number between eighty-two and ninety-three” Tony was holding something that looked suspiciously like a holographic design mat rolled tightly under his arm.
“Come on, I wanna show you something”
Tony led Artemis towards the elevator. Once inside he hit the button for floor eighty-five. The doors closed and there was a familiar push of gravity as they rose four floors. The doors opened and Tony grinned as he led her into the empty level. The rooms were wide and open with nothing but empty space waiting to be transformed. They walked towards the other side of the floor until they reached wall to ceiling windows which spread the length of the outer wall.
Tony turned, tossing the rolled up mat to the teen who caught it deftly. Spreading his arms wide he faced her with an excited smile.
“JARVIS has the blueprints for the whole floor. Let your imagination go wild! Whatever you want to do with it, you can, it’s all yours.”
Artemis gaped slightly, “You’re giving me an entire floor?”
Tony nodded “Can’t have you staying in a guest room forever. Besides I’m about sixteen years behind in child support so really I owe you this, and so much more.”
Artemis looked around the floor again taking in all the details. Tony watched, a warm bubble of happiness forming in his chest as he observed his daughter already beginning to mentally map out the space, no doubt , imagining how she would transform it into her own home. Before he knew it he found himself being pulled into a hug.
Tony smiled as he brought a hand up to stroke the back of his daughter’s head. He often doubted his decisions, but this time he knew was on the right track.
On the jet to Malibu that afternoon Artemis looked up from the design she was working on for her new floor to gaze out the window, watching the patchwork of land slide by beneath them.
There was a long way to go and they were all a bit damaged from the past, but they were all learning to move forward and grow. Ten days ago she had been a runaway orphan in the middle of a battlefield, now she had a family, and a future that she had never imagined possible in her wildest dreams. Artemis had a feeling that everything would work out just fine.
Thank you for sticking with this story through to the end. It has taken me a long time to finish this so if you were here from the beginning you are amazing!!
I hope you enjoyed this story! please leave a comment if you did! I'm so glad it is finally finished!!!!