Dawn came in that Monday dragging. Pepper stared at her and she shrugged. "Tired. I was trying to uncramp my leg all day yesterday."
"Why didn't you take a muscle relaxer?"
"It didn't work."
"I've had a few of those." She patted Dawn on the back. "Congrats on the marathon."
"Thank you." She smiled. "I did okay." She settled in to get to work, flexing her leg back and forth to ward off a new cramp. Maybe it was the shoes. Who knew anymore with her body.
Tony walked past her reading an application. "Nice run, Dawn."
"Want someone to work on it?"
"Clint tried. It hurt a lot." He nodded at that, going in to bug Pepper over the applications. Dawn got to work and it was nice. Linda was about five minutes late but she always made it up and she took a city bus so things like that happened at times. Dawn was in the middle of answering a call when the cramp came back. Pepper came out to get the phone for her while she worked on it. Linda called the infirmary for her, which was sweet of her. Pigalli came up to look at her. "Cramp," she moaned.
"Okay." She helped her up. Dawn wasn't going to be able to put weight on that leg. They took her to look at it. Nothing damaged. Nothing too stressed. She had eaten bananas and orange juice that morning for breakfast. Pigalli worked on it, pushing hard on one spot, making Dawn wince. It helped though and she was finally uncramped. Dawn panted, calming herself down. "Any idea?"
"Not unless it's the shoes."
"No, I don't think so." She checked. The muscle was still tight. "We'll figure it out."
"Her thyroid's okay," Shivs said from the desk. "I checked that." Dawn grinned at him. "She's concerned she's jiggly."
"I've increased my water and decreased my caffeine," Dawn said. "I've started taking the multivitamin we had in the house, which was the leftover pregnancy one."
Pigalli took another blood sample to run for toxicology. That came up with something. She held it up. "What would that do?"
Dawn looked and nodded. "Cause muscle cramps that would eventually lead to death." She got up with a moan. "Let me get the antidote out of my vest." She limped off to do that. She had a heating pad in her bottom desk drawer with the emergency kit for after battle care. She could use it today. Tony caught her taking the serum and shrugged. "Anti venom." He glared. "Not my doing."
"I knew that, Dawn. You're too good to poison yourself." She smiled slightly and went back to her desk. Tony looked at Natasha, who went to have herself checked. She showed it too. Clint didn't when he had himself checked at SHIELD's medical bay. So that was nice of someone who wanted Clint for themselves.
"We'll figure it out yet again," Bruce said.
"Like always," Tony agreed. "That's why we're geniuses."
Clint leaned into the office. "Sorry, ma'am. Joyce, someone poisoned Nat and Dawn lightly enough to cause all those leg cramps. I'm not showing it."
"Why are you limping?" she demanded.
"I tripped over Miss Whine's toys that Nat thought were okay to leave out. Lexi was puking her guts up and I tripped over her walker." Joyce smiled at him. "Just twisted my knee. So I'm pushing back my fitness review test for two weeks?"
"That's fine, Clint. Tripping over the baby's things is sometimes unavoidable. I tripped over Buffy plenty of times because she liked to follow me everywhere."
Clint smiled. "The girls love their walkers but Mira considers it an affront to her that we expect her to crawl sometimes." Joyce snickered, shaking her head. "Yeah, she's spoiled." He walked off. "Hill, I need two weeks on my fitness."
"I noticed the limp and they gave you dispensation," she said absently. "Mira will almost always crawl after Tsarina to pester her."
"We've noticed. That's why Tsarina's been hiding on her human." He shook his head, going down to the trainee areas. He smirked at the trainer. "I'm limping for two weeks."
"That's fine, Barton. You can encourage if you need to."
Clint looked over. "While there's idiots in advisory places that think we're too hard on you, we think you're slackers," he announced. "And if you expect to pass the next stage, you'd better be better than we expect. Xander doesn't put up with slacking and his course is difficult for full blown agents to do it in regulation time. Hell, Captain America can barely do it in regulation time." They all moaned and got back to work harder.
"I like that about Xander," the head trainer quipped with a grin. "Plus he gives us a rating of people who can probably pass it with a few extra weeks of work. Gives us a few more candidates now and then." She checked her watch. "Cool down. We have lessons in an hour." They moved to cool down and shower. Most of them wisely got something to drink and a small snack too. They were exhausted. "Their running is almost in line with our goals."
Clint nodded. "Great. Joyce and Steve are contemplating putting back in the mandatory 10K a year run."
"Oooh," she said with a wince and a hiss. "That's stamina instead of speed." He grinned and nodded. "How did Dawn do?"
"Decent time. Just twenty minutes over the olympic women." She smiled at that. "The actress got there ten minutes later but she had pushed herself all the way to dehydration and exhaustion. She ended up in the ER and Dawn ended up with leg cramps, partially from a poisoning."
"You guys lead wacky lives," she said. She followed the last trainee out. She needed to talk to them about why they were always tired and behind. They weren't going to make levels. She admitted she had some flu-like symptoms and got sent to the infirmary instead of the showers and a snack. She could snack on her way back. Which came with news. The head trainer looked at him. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "We can see if you can continue training."
"Nothing high impact," Clint said from where he was checking the machines over for times and distances for their records. He looked at her. "What did they say?"
"They weren't sure if I wouldn't have to try again."
"Okay, so let's get you with the OB SHIELD likes, or the one Dawn likes if he's not open. We'll see." He called them both. SHIELD's favorite one was closing his practice. The other one had an open space and could take her in tomorrow. Clint let her have the phone so she could make the appointment and told the trainer that. She nodded she could be excused. Clint looked at her afterward. "If you can pass the next four months of training," he said. "You'll be about in time to go on maternity leave.
"I can tell you from experience that you have nine weeks after the birth to do minimal standards, which are yours right now, and then within six months have to meet agent standards again," he told the pregnant trainee. She nodded at that. "You need to check with him about training at all. If not, we can bring you back after that. The nine weeks thing would be doable for a lot of people but not everyone. You can apply again within a year without having to go back through the application process if you left due to medical conditions. I can also tell you Xander's probably not going to be happy because you'd be sparring there daily."
She nodded. "I'll talk about it with him, Agent Barton."
"Okay. If you need help and you stay, there's been a few pregnant agents. Agent Hill is a bit prickly but Agent Romanoff was pregnant. There's been a few others. We have a parent's support group," he said with a grin. "After the battle in Sunnydale, there were ninety-three kids born from the staff of the hell carrier." She shuddered. "HR has their schedule if you need it." She nodded. "So, for now, go to class. Eat lunch. It's very important that you eat. We've all noticed you're not eating." She nodded at that. "Good. Go." She left. He made notes in her file and that he had told her she could come back due to medical conditions interfering with training routines. The head trainer would agree. He spotted the paper pusher. "I temp in down here between missions."
"She's just pregnant."
"Ma'am, in here she's got physical training, which is not good for her pregnancy," Clint said bluntly. "She's got to make it to the level of standards to pass on to the next stage, which is physical fight training, which can make her miscarry, stamina training, which can make her fall or miscarry, and lessons in things like emergency sword work, field camping, and other practical skills. It's possibly not going to be healthy for her pregnancy so we do have a rule in place that allows her to come back within a year to restart her training without going through all the board allowing her.
"We've had agents who have had to drop out due to injury who have done the same thing. They usually take the opportunity to do some extra training before they come back to make sure they make it to at least the second stage. And we've had one that had to drop there due to another injury from a fall and then came back to that stage. He's looking like a pretty good field guy at the moment." He stared at her. "We're all practical people around here. The job's hard on you but that's why we train really hard every day." He walked off. "Speaking of, I'm taking my weightlifting review so I don't have to do as much when my knee's better."
Coulson walked past him with a folder. "That good?"
"It happens to the best of us. Thankfully not to me," Phil said blandly. He walked into the classroom. "We are going to sidestep the usual lessons," he announced. "There appears to be an upcoming possible refugee moment around the holidays in Cleveland." They groaned. "We were told it was refugees incoming, not an invasion. So therefore we're going to go over emergency protocols for each situation." He smiled slightly at the trainer. "With your leave?"
"We were just going over the code of conduct because we had some ass swatting, Agent Coulson."
He nodded, looking at them. "Grow up. You're adults and they have the right to punch you if you swat them." The few people who had done it ducked down, including one female. "Good. Let's start with the upcoming problem. By then you should be in field training situations if you pass. And if you don't, it can only help you wherever you end up." He went over what you did when you landed in the middle of a mass of people that needed help. Including how and what to call in to which group. Because you told 911 that there was a refugee situation that needed ambulances and maybe ICE. You told the ambulances why they were running, about anything like radiation, and how many there were roughly that were seriously injured then let them sort it out. After a decent lunch, though a few did pig out on snack food, which got them glared at by the head trainer, he went over what you did when it wasn't refugees running and the people or demons were going to kill you and others. That was not a happy talk but necessary.
Dawn looked at her bikini choices and sighed in displeasure. She and Pepper were going on their pre-expo vacation. "Maybe a one piece," she muttered, looking at them. She hadn't been able to get rid of the jiggly thigh problem she had. Though she was more toned from all the working out. Her thighs were still large and trying to take charge of her life. The sales woman was giving her an odd look. "I have to go on vacation with my boss."
"Is she going to let you wear something that skimpy?"
Dawn nodded. "We're going to the Bahamas. I usually do. I don't think I'll look as good this year."
Pepper breezed in with a bag and Callia and Liz following her. "Why can't you make a decision?" she asked Dawn.
"Try them on, Dawn," she said impatiently. Dawn gave her a look but did that. "It's clear that Clint's been helping you shop again." She looked at Dawn when she came out. "What happened?"
"Auntie, didn't you used to have curves?" Callia asked.
"I do have curves." She looked at herself. "This suit makes me look bad." She went to try on something else. That showed her curves. And her thighs.
Callia stared. "Okay, now I see why Daddy likes girls. So I did inherit the bi-ness." Dawn gave her a dirty look. "Damn."
"I know, my thighs," Dawn complained, patting them. She tightened them.
"Huh," Pepper said. "You're worrying over jack shit, Dawn." Dawn gave her another look. "Really. Hell, we need an independent opinion." She paged through her phone book. "There you are," she said, hitting send. She put it against her ear. "Brian, Pepper Potts. Where are you?" She smiled. "I know that but Dawn needs an independent male opinion and you're close enough to the one she's used to." She smiled at Dawn. "Sure, I can do that. Give me ten minutes to get Stark." She called him. "Tony, me. Pick up Brian please. Send him to me. No, not a huge problem." She hung up and looked at Dawn. "I agree, you used to have a better waist but that one looks nice."
Dawn shook her head, going in to try on something else. She came out to find Brian Gamble grumbling but Liz was smiling at him. "Sorry, they think I'm being a bit picky."
He stared at her. He wasn't used to Dawn being anything but ball-busting and mouthy. "You used to look more curvy." Dawn sighed, going to change back into that one suit. He stared, making sure he wasn't drooling. "What would Clint say? I know he's a bit possessive."
"That my thighs are huge," Dawn said.
"No he wouldn't," Pepper sighed. "You lost ten when you only needed to lose five pounds, Dawn." She picked out her a few things with Callia's help.
"Wrong size," Dawn complained. "Went up a cup size."
"Ooh," Pepper winced. "That's bad." She got her a different style of bikini top. A few halters, a few with underwire. One that had undewire but it was one of the little triangle tops. Then a few new string bikini bottoms to go with them. Dawn looked best in that style instead of the bikini, full sided style she was trying on. "You're trying on mom bikinis."
"I am a mom." She went to try those on. She blushed when she noticed her nieces staring. "That bad?" She looked in the mirror. Still with the thighs. "I have this pad of fat right there," she said with a poke at it.
"That's called muscle," Brian said. "Damn, my half-brother's a lucky bastard." Dawn blushed brighter and went to change. Callia stole that bikini to put onto the buy pile for her. Liz drooled at the next one. Brian had to look away. "Some day you'll have those," he told Liz. "Your sister's getting there."
"Eww," Callia complained, covering her breasts. "I hate boobs."
"Yay," Pepper said with a smile. "All women have something there. And some guys." She looked at Dawn. "You're getting that one." She huffed but tried on the other styles and most got approval. Brian was sweating at a few of them so at least it was an honest opinion. Dawn still fussed about her thighs but yay. The press might try something about it but it was all muscle. She let Dawn check out and buy a few new bras too. She needed them. Pepper took her to her bra people, who made special ones for those who had tiny things. They might be able to handle an epic set that Dawn carried around.
They had ideas and it was good. Pepper even gave Brian a good beer fund for the night for helping Dawn and them shop. Though Callia asked his opinion on something and got a funny look but told it'd make her look way too old and ready to date. So that went onto the rack again. Pepper got it for her anyway. Then they went home to pack. Liz was coming with them this year. So was Callia. She got Brian sent home for a cold shower and a lot of beers. Pepper smiled at Tony when she walked past him. "Dawn overworked her thighs and they're almost bulging. Thank you."
"Uh-huh," he said, watching her and the girls. "Liz, what sort of bathing suits did you get?"
"I stuck with one-pieces for her and Callia's got something mostly tasteful," Pepper said with a grin as she came out to model one of her new ones for Tony. Who tipped his head to the side and let his mouth come open. She smiled. "You like?"
"Yup, a bit too much with the kids awake." Pepper smirked and went to change back into regular after hours clothes. She helped the girls pack for their trip and finished up the arrangements for the plane. They were taking a private one. Airlines were picky about Callia's wheelchair. She didn't want to deal with the stress.
Clint looked up from sharpening his thigh knife, smiling when Dawn came off the elevator with bags. "We do okay?"
"She called out Brian." She kissed him. "I still say I have chunky thighs."
He pulled her into his lap, moving her skirt to look at her thigh. "Dawn, this is muscle," he reminded her, pushing on it. "Not fat. You have Hulk thighs because it's all muscle." He kissed her with a smile. "And you lost too much weight. I'm about to pout at you for it."
She took another kiss. "I'll put back on the five pounds." He smiled at her for that. She took a good kiss then got up to pick out which ones she was bringing. Plus her other outfits. Her beach shorts were too small. Which sucked. She got some more of those ordered in the right size. And a few t-shirts. She came out to look at him. "Are you following us?"
"Yup, we both are." He smiled. "Just in case with the kids."
"Who's watching our kids?"
"Oooh, didn't consider that. Maybe Stark...."
"He'd be driven nuts."
"Good point. We'll talk about it later. We have sparring tonight." Dawn went to change into one of her bodysuits and shorts. Clint followed to hand her one of her usual unitards and a long t-shirt. She put it on for him and he stared. "You lost some of the ass. I'm mad about that." She swatted him but went to have a snack. He smiled. Dawn was picky about some things, especially how she looked. She'd put back on those few pounds by the time they went in two days. She usually did after a huge magic binge that made her lose weight. "Maybe we'll get Benji to babysit."
She looked at him. "You think he's up to following Philip around?"
"Maybe not," he admitted. "Philip is having an active time." He shrugged. "We'll figure it out." He kissed her again, taking her to the tower so they could go back to working out.
Tony looked at Dawn's outfit, shaking his head. "How many people saw you like that?"
"Most of the people in the tower when we came up, but we said it was sparring time," Clint said with a grin.
"Huh." Dawn pulled off the t-shirt and he stared. "Dawn, shaving?"
"Oops, forgot." She put back on the t-shirt.
"It happens to all women. Most of the world's women don't shave their armpits," Bruce said.
"I'm going to have a full wax and sugaring treatment tomorrow after work," Dawn said. They all sighed but nodded, glancing at Clint.
"What? I'll enjoy rubbing lotion into her smooth, soft skin," he quipped. Their new members came up with Steve. Tony handed them the cards for this level and explained where they worked. It didn't get them into the Stark part of the towers but would get them up here.
"And you can put a few bucks on it for after workout teas," Dawn quipped. "I do." She finished her stretching and stood up. "What's up tonight?"
Steve looked at her. "Are we going to have to see more tabloid pictures of you and Pepper in bikinis?"
She smiled at him. "The last I knew you weren't my spouse, Cap." He glared. She stared at him. "My attire is none of your business as long as Pepper and Tony don't care."
"Pepper and Tony both think you dress nicely," Tony said, backing her up. "And they always wear bikinis, Steve. Get over it. The girls have nice swimsuits that Pepper picked out. Dawn and Pepper picked out hers."
"Clint's going to do his usual hanging out in a hotel room to watch over them," Clint said. "We have no idea who's going to watch the kids."
"Beya," Tony said. "With mine." He smiled. "I'll help. That way Romanoff can get some beach time too." Clint grinned at him for that present. "She'll bring them over the night before. We've already talked about it."
"We are?" Steve asked. "I haven't heard a thing...."
Tony stared at him. "Yes, I am." Steve slumped. He looked at Dawn. "Sugaring?"
"Hurts a lot less than waxing."
"Good point." He nodded and they got down to sparring practice. They were including the new ones more and the two agents that were their backup who had shown up after a long mission overseas. That worked a lot better and Clint sparred with the agents. They were doing good tonight.
Dawn heard something and looked up. "What the fuck?" She heard a whine as alarms started to go off. "JARVIS, maximum shielding around the entire building complex," she snapped, heading up there at a teleport. Stark and the others were racing for weapons and their uniforms. She knocked the ship off center with a blast of magic then called a weapon to handle it. By then Tony was in the suit. Bucky had weapons. Steve had weapons. Clint had a few explosive arrows. Hulk had leaped from the building over to the ship to smash it. That poor plane. It crashed down and Tony flew down to check for pilots and who had created it. She looked over at Clint and Bucky. "Want us to stay up here?"
Clint nodded. "We can watch for more," he said, calling that in. He scanned around them, each taking a different viewpoint to watch. Dawn spotted a plane but it was a helicopter when Clint checked. Though it had weapons and was flying around the Gold Exchange building. He called that in to 911, who said they were trying to handle it. Tony took off flying to get them down and out while the others handled the ship there.
"Jesus," Bucky complained.
"Barnes!" Captain America snapped. "Language!"
"What? You don't yell at Dawn for calling out for her Goddess."
"Yes I do."
"And I ignore it," Dawn quipped. "This is a good time to pray for mercy for them." She spotted something and turned Clint. "There," she said with a point. He used his binoculars, frowning. "Another one?"
"Over the water. Captain, new incoming ship. West, thirty degrees." They watched and waited. It came their way and then zoomed off when it saw its mate was down. Tony fired on it and it came down in the water. That helped and the Coast Guard was waiting for that contingency since Stark had said he'd take it down over the water. Clint, Dawn, and Bucky checked for more. Nothing more. Once it was all cleaned up they met in the gym to go over what had happened and why.
Tony threw down ID's. "Air Force. Both sets." He took a drink from his water bottle. "Dawn, nice."
"Thank you." She crossed her legs, looking at the ID's. "Not SGC by the tags on them."
"No, they're from one of the DoD contractors," Tony said. "I ran them on the way back. We'll have a general here soon."
Dawn nodded. "Let me get presentable, boss." She went to change. She came out in her favorite business suit she kept in there, going down to release the protections on the building. The people were looking scared. "People," she announced and they stared at her. "There was an Air Force experimental craft that was having an engine malfunction above us. It crashed about a block behind us," she announced. "That is why we put the shields up, because we did not know what it was doing when it appeared." They calmed down. "The emergency is done with and I'm going to release the shields over the building. Please be orderly and not stampede outside." She walked over to tap in the release code, letting them out. She had to release the stores and movie theater separately. That made everyone relax and Dawn getting a cup of coffee did too. She waited, spotting the general that was huffing her way. "General, Mr. Stark would like to talk to you upstairs in the Avengers gym."
"You fired on our craft," he sneered.
"Your craft had weapons pointed on a building that had over a thousand people in it, including my nieces." She stared at him. "Of course I did and next time I'll blow it up first. That way no one else has to clean up the mess when it crashed." She pointed. "Shall we?" He sneered. "I can carry you up there," she offered, sipping her coffee. "Mr. Stark said you were incredibly rude and he wants to know why." She waved a hand.
She walked off. He huffed but had to follow because there was no way Stark was going to come down to him and Pepper would probably deck him. He had been punched by her before over something stupid. He didn't want it again. She got them up there and let into the gym. "Mr. Stark, General Hayworth." She walked over to help with the injury Cap had. "Here." She let him hold her coffee while she checked the wound and put butterflies on it. Then a bandage. "With the way you heal it should be fine later tonight." He looked at her. She stared back. "What?" She took her coffee back, looking over her niece and husband. Then her wife. They were fine.
Tony looked at the general. "What were you planning on doing? Beyond proving that the Air Force can kill a building full of people?"
"We don't like your sort working for us, Stark."
"Then it's a great thing that I don't. I don't do weapons manufacturing for the Air Force or any other part of the military any longer, General Hayworth. I probably never will." He stared at him. The general didn't want to back down. "I don't know what you were trying to prove since we haven't made weapons for eight years now. Beyond the fact that you had a lot of disdain for this city's inhabitants. Did you even consider the loss of life you'd cause?"
"They're civilians and they could've gotten out of the way if you hadn't dropped those shields."
"The shields would've kept even your supposedly advanced weapons from hurting this building or them. Your ship might've hit a few other buildings however. Which were probably also full of people." He finished his water and threw it out.
"Boss, goo clone him," Dawn said. The general glared at her.
"Tell me a lie, General," Tony demanded.
"You're good at what you do." He went to goo after a pause.
"Huh. Nice catch, Dawn."
"He had that almost garlic smell," she said. "JARVIS, did you tape that?"
"I did, Dawn."
"Please call the Joint Chiefs, JARVIS," Steve ordered. "I'd like to talk to them."
"On the screen, sirs," the AI said.
"JARVIS, please run that footage and from the ships," Tony said. He did for them to see. The head Marine let out a swear. Tony pointed at the pile of goo. "So, now that we know we have a new goo clone, we have two ships that I've had to down here in New York, and four pilots," he said, holding up their ID's to the cameras. "What are we going to do about this attempted loss of life in this city?"
The head of the Army looked at the others then at him. "Any idea where he is, Stark?"
"Haven't really looked," he admitted.
Steve hung up. "Agent Hill says she thinks he went missing on his trip to Malaysia," he told them. He stood up. "She thinks it has something to with a group over there that has dabbled in world threats in the past. She's sending me their dossiers now."
"We'll come pick up the wreckage."
"I told the civilians it was a tester and it was having an engine malfunction," Dawn said quietly. "That way they wouldn't panic about the Air Force trying to kill them."
"That's a good excuse. We can go with that," the head of the Marines, and the head Joint Chief, agreed. "Thank you, Dawn." She nodded. "We'll test the rest of our staffs and find him ourselves, Captain. It's our job since he's one of ours." He nodded at that. "Let us know what you hear please."
"I can do that. I have to be in DC tomorrow because of the suggestion board being disgusted that we're not the FBI."
"Have fun with them. They make stupid suggestions all the time," the head of the Marines said dryly. "Wanted us to have sensitivity training about handicapped soldiers. I pointed out if they were soldiers, they're still soldiers, and if they're now disabled they'd find a way to make it back to the best they could be once they had gotten over the trauma. That's the Marine way. She got offended and tried to have me brought up on charges." Dawn snickered. "You?"
"Not yet. Thankfully. So far it's been the standards are too high and older agents should be pulled from the field."
"Lord help us all," he muttered, crossing himself. "We all need it from their sort." He looked at Stark. "I did not know and if I had I would've beaten someone to death."
"That's why I'm calling."
"Who?" the head of the Army asked.
"The local Coast Guard got the sank one. The NYPD is cleaning up the other one."
"I've got people up there. I'll have them pick it up," the head of the Army said, tapping out an order to his staff. "Thank you, Mr. Stark."
"Welcome, Generals." He hung up and looked at Clint. "Are you under that?"
"Yup, and I fully expect to use Dawn's puppy eyes to beg a job as either her assistant or to train your security teams so they're not slackers."
"Done," Tony said with a snort. "No need to make your wife beg me prettily, Barton. She'd get Pepper into it and I'd never get sex again until I gave in. So I'm saving myself the trouble." Clint grinned at him. "Dawn, how bikini are you going?"
"Pepper had someone bring Brian Gamble out to help tell me I didn't look fat, even though I think my thighs look huge." Clint stared at her, then shook his head. "I do!"
"It's muscle, Dawn. Let's get you a cinnamon roll to cover some of that muscle with the cuddly stuff again." He walked her off. "Later, guys." He took her home to feed her and then prove to her that she was just as skinny as before, but she had more muscle mass.
Tony shook his head. "Why Gamble?"
"He's like Clint light," Natasha said dryly. "Or so I'd guess." She followed her spouses. She liked Dawn being a bit heavier than she presently was. It made her better to nap on top of.
"I'll talk with them tomorrow to see if they need any help tracking him down in Malaysia," Steve said, going back to the office.
Bucky shook his head. "Dames are dames, even in this day and age," he muttered. "Always worried about how they look."
"Because Dawn looking bad would look bad on Pepper," Tony told him. "Which Dawn hates to do. It'd probably also look bad on her spouses. When you have a sexy goddess like Natasha on your arm and you don't meet up to the expectations she sets then you look dumpy and not worthy."
Bucky shook his head. "I don't understand all that. Give me a woman with curves and a real body any day." He walked off to go get a drink. Tony got the others settled and went over how they could help in those sort of situations. Pepper had the kids for now. He'd have plenty of time with the kids in a few days.
Tony looked at the reporter in the other tower's coffee shop early the next day. He was making a special trip. "Need a slight favor," he said, sitting down with his coffee.
She looked up. "What sort of favor? You don't usually like us."
"Callia's going with the ladies and Liz on vacation." The reporter smiled and nodded she knew that. "Callia's just starting into puberty and she's very self conscious. There for a while she had an illusion on so we wouldn't know she needed a bra," he said quietly.
"I remember those years unfondly."
"Due to her being injured, she can't put on a ...substantial suit. It's hard for her to get one on. So she's having to wear something skimpier than she wants to and we really don't want her in a bikini yet either. But the string bottoms are easier for her to get into."
"I can understand that. Sure, we can go easy on her. I'll pass that around and remind them of when they were twelve and thirteen." She smiled. "Is she going to be able to handle the beach?"
"Yeah. She's good at all that. She's in our pool all the time to work out in it."
"That's wonderful. Any good news on her progress?"
"She's had one leg that's moved itself a few times and she's regaining the strength. They said it'd be about a year and it's only been a few months so she's on track with it. She's not sure if her PT is pushing her hard enough but she comes home and does more exercises here."
"That's probably pretty usual. She was an active kid before."
"She still is. She was looking up the paraolympics." He sipped his coffee with a smile. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Most of us were teenage girls too." He smiled and left her to pass that along. She called all the numbers in her book. "Tony Stark asked for a small favor," she said in greeting once they were on the same conference call. That got a few snorts. "Callia's hitting that puberty stuff. She's *very* self conscious." She waited while they talked. "Exactly and with the injury she can't get into anything he said was substantial. So she's in a bikini even though they'd like her in more.
"So he wanted us to please go easy on her because of that combination. Can we agree not to embarrass the poor girl over her new breasts?" She smiled. "Thanks, ladies, and Craig." She hung up and emailed the others that she hadn't reached. They'd do the same thing. Callia was an adorably mouthy, smartassed child they had seen grow up. They were all sure she was the equal of her father's brilliance. They could leave the new breasts alone for a year or so.
Callia rolled out to the beach setup their first morning in the Bahamas. The resort had a private beach. She stretched up then parked her wheelchair next to where her aunt was already laying out. "Thanks for letting me sleep in."
"Welcome," Dawn quipped with a smile. "Need help?"
"Nope, I practiced." She carefully slid down and out of her chair onto her towel, arranging herself. "There." She sighed in pleasure. Her aunt handed her the bottle of sunscreen. "I've already got some on."
"Okay." She handed her a book, getting a grin and they settled in to bake and read.
Pepper and Liz came down together, Liz bouncing along happily with her mom. "Hey, Mom, hey, Liz."
"Wow," Liz said, staring at her. "You look hot."
Callia blushed. "Thanks. Is that a Stark opinion or just yours?" she quipped back.
"Stark," she said happily. She laid out her towel and promptly flopped down to get a tan. "This is nice. I can see why you go each year, Mom."
Pepper smiled at her. "It is nice." She heard a comment and looked over the edge of her sunglasses at the wench.
Dawn looked back at her. "Excuse you, Miss Noisy? I'm worth more than you. Can you shut up about my niece now please?" She blushed and stomped off. "Thanks." She smiled and waved. She went back to her book. "Sometimes people need a clue."
Callia giggled. "Sometimes, yes." She got comfortable. One of the beach guards came over to move her chair. "Don't you dare. I need it there in case I need to get up," she said quietly.
"It's blocking the beach, Miss. We can bring it back down to you."
Dawn looked over at him. "Touch it again, watch me complain." He backed off and went to get the manager. "That's it, I need to buy another house," Dawn complained.
"No, you don't," Pepper sighed. "This resort was supposed to be so good. And handicapped friendly."
Callia looked at the man huffing their way. "Do you know who I am?"
"No," he said, apparently he got that line a lot.
"Callia Stark." The man winced. "My wheelchair stays with me. I need it here."
"We have a fully accessible pool area, Miss Stark. It even has a lift so you can get in and out of the pool easier."
"I can do that pretty well," she admitted. "I wanted the beach. I'm sorry some cow who thinks she's important didn't like me being in the chair but I don't really care. I have a huge coming out at the expo in less than ten days. I'm starting school not three days after that in a regular one instead of being home schooled. This is my aunt and my mother's only corporate vacation this year. We thought your resort was a bit nicer than some of them." She stared at him. "I don't want to be snotty but the first thing I heard this morning was a hissing hippo."
"Callia," Dawn warned.
"Fine." She looked at him. "Is there some sort of regulation that my wheelchair can't be with me on the beach?"
"No, there's not. If you want, we can bring out chairs. That would help you get in and out a bit easier."
She smiled. "I can flop around a bit. I'm working my way out of it. I don't mean to be snotty but we don't need this stress."
"I can understand that. We'll do what we can to ease that, Miss Stark. And Miss Potts and Miss Summers." Dawn grinned at him. "I'm sorry our other residents were bothering you."
"We pretty well made her embarrassed for making snotty remarks about her being in the chair," Dawn admitted. "Such prejudice is really out of this time zone."
"It is," he agreed, relaxing. "I'll have chairs brought out?"
Pepper smiled. "We don't need them really. It's okay."
"Is her wheelchair rated for the water?"
"My brother and I went over it to make sure it wouldn't short out or leak with the few systems we built into it," Callia said with a smile. "We're very environmentally conscious." He grinned and patted her on the hand then left them to bask in private. The other lady had complained that the chair was blocking her view and he pointed out she could see the great view from the other side of the beach if she wanted, and even closer, plus there was more shade for her delicate skin. They got her set up and it was nicely solved. The beach was first come, first served and most of the group was reasonable. That one was reacting due to the stress and the stupidity of the comments the other woman had made.
"Auntie, let's go play in the water," Liz said finally. Dawn stood up and made sure her bikini was adjusted well enough then took Liz out to splash around.
Pepper looked at Callia. "I'll go out after lunch." Pepper patted her and handed her the sunscreen bottle, helping where she couldn't reach.
That night at dinner, they weren't pleasantly surprised. The handicapped accessible table was about kid height. They picked a regular table with chairs instead. The waiter moved the extra chair and that worked. Callia's chair was adaptive and the lift worked nicely. Even if dinner didn't meet up to their last visit. It was food and that was good enough. The girls went back to the room to be put down. Pepper and Dawn sat out on the porch to enjoy the night air. Clint wasn't here to watch over her but that was about normal with assignments. He'd be there in two days. Natasha was stuck watching the kids. Dawn called to read them a bedtime story and they were all happy with that. Even if the person on the next balcony huffed.
Dawn looked at Pepper. "Next year, we'll try a new location."
"Hmm. I liked the one in Barbados."
"It was nice and even if Callia's on a walker, it didn't have stairs."
"True. What's our schedule when we get back?"
"We get back Friday, Sunday we're teleconferencing Brazil. The next week is the Expo and school starts for Callia. She'll be out that Friday for the show off portions." Pepper nodded. "The headmistress said she hoped it was a huge success. We have that dinner Thursday. She can wear the navy with silver dress to that." Pepper smiled and nodded. "Clint wanted me to pull out the dress of pure evil moving up me, the one from that one city event where we danced? He wanted me to pull that out. I told him it probably wasn't done but he shrugged and said who'd really care at that sort of event. It wasn't like it was a high society one. I'm considering."
"Do it," Pepper said with a smile. "You looked great in it."
"Thank you, Pep." She grinned at her. "Clint really liked me in it too. And hey, this time no broken ribs."
"You hope," Pepper teased with a grin.
"I'll kick whoever ruins my vacation. It's been a long year." She settled herself on the chair, sipping her coke and rum. She heard a noise and nodded Callia out. "Excited?"
"Spider." Pepper went in to kill it for her. She hugged her aunt. "Thank you."
"Sticking up for me. People like that suck."
"They do and they should know better. Especially around kids." She smiled. "People like that suck because they don't realize that there's others who are just as important as they are." Callia smiled. "Go back to bed, kiddo. Tomorrow's the snorkeling trip and you can do most of it." She nodded, rolling back to bed. Pepper came back. "Huge spider?"
"Yes. I had to get the hotel guy to come get it. It was on the ceiling and *huge*."
"Huh." Dawn sipped her drink and got comfy. "Tomorrow's snorkeling."
"Liz and I are going to do the beach shops for a bit while you two snorkel." They shared a grin and got comfy. It was a pretty night out.
Steve may be in Malaysia but they got gossip news from the US too. He saw the small report on the kids and Pepper. He nearly choked to death. Bucky, who was helping him, patted him on the back. "She's wearing what?" he demanded. "Hell no!"
"They didn't cover her too much, Stevie. Calm down," Bucky said impatiently. They were in a bar, it was drawing attention. He smiled at the girl he was flirting with. "His stepdaughter's on a beach. She's wearing a bikini."
"Most girls do." She teased his arm. "He'll get over it. Most parents do."
"He's a bit old fashioned." He winked and smiled. She led him off to get a drink at her table with her friends, who were also involved in the people they were here to stop. Steve was seething at the bar. He could do that. Bucky had an in with the ladies of his destruction.
Tony stared at the news that was coming in. Dawn looked great. She had put back on a few pounds but her legs looked like they were all muscle. A few mistook it for fat but the rest knew it was muscle when she moved. Callia was being covered peripherally but not totally. They didn't remark on her bathing suit choices beyond it made her burgeoning body look nice. Which it did. One reporter asked why she was in that sort of mixed message suit but Tony's response to her story told her that it was easier for her to get into and out of due to her present infirmity. She let it go after that. Even the sleazy journalists knew not to taunt a father over his little girl.
Dawn got a lot of coverage because she looked hot. Pepper looked really good too but looked a bit skinny next to Dawn. Liz was hanging on her aunt in a few of the shots, and she was helping Callia with some snorkeling lessons in another one. They caught one of all of them in the water frolicking and Tony saved that one down. He was ignoring Steve's complaining text messages about Callia's bathing suits. He'd almost wonder if he was getting anything done but this was Steve Rogers and not even his eldest daughter going out in something skimpy would keep him from his duty. He loved Steve, but now and then he could not stand the guy and some of his attitudes he pulled about the kids.
Clint finally got in. He went to the resort to crash for a few hours. It was late at night so he could get up to greet the sun and Dawn's bathing suit of torment of the day. He needed a nap. He called the kids to make sure they knew he was okay and he was 'protecting mommy'. That made them happier and Philip told him to be good and to kiss Mommy a whole lot, she needed it. She looked lonely according to the press people on tv. He fell into the sinfully soft bed with the soft smelling sheets. Lavender he noticed but he could put up with a few more days of lavender to watch Dawn frolic.
When he got up the next morning, he got room service and settled out on his porch to watch the ladies. He had a crap view but he could see enough. He sent a thought at Dawn about his view and they moved to that side of the beach today. That was nice. He had a great view of Dawn's butt since she was laying on her stomach. Callia came out to flop down next to her. She did it gracefully but it was still a flop. Pepper and Liz came out looking nice. Liz was bouncy and giggly in her bathing suit and ran right for the water, which Dawn called her back from. She pouted but stayed in the shallow surf. Pepper spread out on Callia's other side with Liz. That let Liz rest in a mostly shaded area.
The ladies were watching Liz and reading when a huge wave came in. Clint yelled and Dawn hopped up to go get her. Liz was choking and coughing. She had hit the undertow for a minute. They got her calmed down and the beach guard came over to make sure she was okay. Dawn shot back at his 'she should've had an adult' as Liz was playing in water that only came up to her ankle and she was a good swimmer. They settled in again and Liz pouted at the water. Callia looked over at her and said something quietly, which got Pepper begged. They went out into the water together. This time hip deep and she was holding Liz. The waves were still brutal and nearly washed Pepper off her feet if it wasn't for Dawn. So they went to the pool, which Clint didn't have a view of. Though he did leer because Dawn's butt was mostly uncovered. She fixed her suit on the walk. Clint finished his breakfast and went down to join them.
Pepper smiled at him. "Thanks, Clint."
"You know I like to stalk my wife so I can watch her be hot but not have to brush off guys." He settled in the chair next to Callia. "So, how's it going?"
"Snorkeling was great. I liked it a lot." She smiled. "The water in the ocean smells funny."
"It can, yeah." He handed her the sunscreen bottle, helping her do her back. She smiled and they relaxed for a bit. Liz was swimming in the shallow end while Pepper read from the side of the pool. The lifeguard was watching her since she was the only kid in the pool.
Dawn smiled. "I'm so glad you kids all got advanced swimming lessons," she said.
"Me too," Callia said. "Though, diving I didn't like."
"Some people do and some don't," Dawn said.
"Can I try that?" Liz asked.
"When we get home," Pepper said with a smile. "That's the next level of swimming classes, Liz."
"Okay. Thanks, Mommy." She kept swimming. She was really good at it. She was tops in her class and there were no nasty waves here to knock her down. She finally got tired and they came back to sit on the lounge chairs and relax.
The lifeguard came down, smiling at Pepper. "She's really good."
"Thank you. All our kids started swimming classes at four." She smiled at him. "She's finished the advanced classes and is thinking about trying diving."
"That's great. I haven't seen too many kids that put their face in the water."
Dawn smiled. "Maybe she'll do that for her sport."
Liz looked over. "Like on the 'lympics?" Dawn smiled and nodded. "Huh. I might. I'm not that fast."
"You work up to fast." She smiled at the lifeguard. "Callia's had advanced swimming and is in the pool all the time as well."
"I'll keep an eye on them," he assured them with a smile for Callia, who grinned back a flirty grin. He left them to sunbathe. He wouldn't worry about them as much. Even when the parents weren't paying attention one of them was. And the young, busty one's daughter in the wheelchair was adorable.
Tony finally answered Steve back and said that was his final word, she was his daughter, and he had said it was okay. That stopped the complaining going on. He looked at the day's news coverage of the vacation with Philip and Chris. Maeve and the girls were napping in the playpen on the other side of the couch. The boys had decided to forgo the whole huge sectional couch and lounge on his lap. Which he guessed was fine. The entertainment 'reporter' was covering Dawn's bathing suit of the day, which made Tony blink. "Damn," he said finally.
"Ditto," Chris said, eyes wide. "Wow, Auntie Dawn.... Was I breastfed, Daddy?"
"You sure were, son. You and Philip both."
Philip grinned at him. "Used to be my boobs." Tony patted him on the back with a grin. Chris hugged him for that accomplishment. He took Tony's phone from the table to send a message to his father. Tony helped him with it but that was about usual. Then the boys crawled off Tony to play with the billion legos on the couch.
Tony sent his own text about Philip's bragging. That was so cute of his godson.
Clint looked at his phone and sent it to Dawn's. Sometimes his son was so weird. It was raining hard so they were upstairs. Clint was watching the weather because it felt wrong. He decided to go up there. The guy who ran the elevator gave him a dirty look. "My wife's up there."
"If you're sure, sir. We're not supposed to let people onto that floor that aren't staying there."
"I can call the wife if you want." He pointed since she was in the other elevator. "There she went." They went down and he met up with Dawn and Callia. "The weather's looking weird."
"That's what we came down to check." She walked them over to the desk and talked to the manager on duty, who had the weather reports pulled up according to the check-in girl. He agreed that they were looking at a rather large storm system. So they decided to check out and Dawn called the plane. Before the weather got too bad. Clint headed up to pack his room. Dawn and Pepper got the kids. They went to the house in Guatemala. It was barely raining there and they were too far inland for that storm to really hit them even if it turned into a hurricane. And hey, no waves. One gator or crocodile, Dawn wasn't sure which because she spotted it and shot it, but otherwise the pond was clean, the houses had guards on staff to protect it, and they treated the kids nicely. Dawn and Clint got some alone time. Pepper finally remembered to tell Tony where they were when he panicked about the storm. It'd be okay.
Dawn walked into the Expo's formal meet, greet, and bragging event on Clint's arm. He was in a suit. She was in that same dress that was red embroidery at the bottom and slowly tapered up to gold up top over cream silk. The corset dress made her look very sexy and a few people moaned when they saw them. Callia zipped over to them, smiling in her strapless silver and blue gown. She was happy and it showed. She had found a geek for her think tank. They were in college right now and Tony liked them too. So that was great. They went to talk to him. He was sucking up to Tony for an internship. Dawn gave him the web address where they were and he smiled shyly at her. They went to talk to others.
Rhodey walked in and paused. He stared at Dawn and Callia. "Damn," he muttered. He walked down there. "Short Stuff, Super Short Stuff." Callia swatted him so he grinned. "Yet again you proved you are the glamorous offspring of a Summers woman and a Stark."
"Thank you, Uncle Rhodey." She was trying not to blush. "I'm hoping I'm not too showy."
"You're not. Whoever says you are is an idiot." He stared at her. "Did someone nag you?"
"Stepmom thinks I show too much."
"Clearly, he needs to look at fashion magazines." He walked off with her talking about what they were putting out tomorrow at the formal Stark event. Which was great and splendid thanks to Tony. They had a whole pavilion for their stuff this year. Tony had shields up around the event because it was raining out there. In here, it was pretty darn nice. The few places where they had artistically let in rain were over fountains to make them prettier and over some of the trimmed bushes on display.
Dawn talked to a few businesses she invested in. They were very happy with her investment money and would love more. Dawn teased one that she had met during the last expo. He had a lot of happy things to show off and she helped him prepare for it. Dawn also made sure the expo food carts had real scientist food instead of just tourist food. They had learned from the last time. They had a lot of decent coffee.
Tony let the expo tape play for their tinkering board's introduction.
"We have to make a tape to introduce our tinkering board," Tony on the tape announced. Everyone was looking at the stuff highlighted on the table. The crowd couldn't see what it was.
"Why don't we just show up and be ourselves?" Chris asked.
"Because they expect Starks to have some sort of show," Tony and Callia said.
"Oh, that reason. Sometimes Starks can be subtle and sneaky."
"True, I snuck up on your mom for years," Tony said with a smile for his son. Callia snorted, shaking her head. "I did."
"You did. I don't think the tinkering board needs something flashy like your usual one, Dad. It's not like Justin Hammer's going to be there to try to prove he has a bigger dick than you, which he doesn't."
"Callia!" Bruce complained. The crowd was laughing a bit.
"How do you know that?" Rodney asked her.
"When he showed up to tell me that no scientist in a wheelchair was listened to he had on tight designer pants. Clearly, not worthy of a Stark by what I've seen when Dad's in swim trunks out in the pool." Tony swatted her. "Hey, I've got the Stark gene and I've just discovered boys. Of course I look! It's normal!"
"It is," Tony agreed. "Stare at someone else."
"I creeped myself out by making a mental comparison anyway," she complained. The crowd giggled at that too. "Beyond that, not like the tinkering board needs to prove we're bigger than someone like Hammer. We have some of the greatest brains in the US in it. And Chris."
"Hey!" he complained, swatting his sister.
"Some day you'll prove what sort of brains you have," she said with a mean smirk. "Then you won't have to drain your college trust for Red Bull."
He snorted. "You do." She rolled her eyes on the screen. "Dad, why do we have to put up an introduction tape?"
"Because they expect it of a Stark," he said. "It's our expo and we're always the first there with the flash and the best toys."
"Can we put up toys this year?"
"The whole toy division is in the tent, son."
"Cool!" He grinned at his uncles. "Grandpa, are you putting in your toy?"
"No, not really. It's a sample collection minibot, not a toy, Chris."
"It is so. It likes to go pluck samples from Liz all the time."
"I wondered where it had went to," Bruce said, shooting Chris a tolerant look and a slight smirk. "Quit picking on your sisters."
"They're Starks, they can handle it."
"Uh-huh," Callia said. "Remember, we're Starks so we can build something bigger and better to pick back for us," she said with a sweet smile.
"Good point but that means I get to build even bigger and better to defend me and pick back at you," Chris crowed with a grin.
"No using robots to retaliate at each other," Tony said dryly. "I've already seen those and I was not amused when they spilled the scotch on the rug." The kids huffed but got back to work. "Seriously, guys, how are we going to introduce ourselves?"
"We'll use this tape," Callia said with a shrug and a smile, looking at the camera. "Hi, Expo." Chris smiled and waved too.
Tony walked out as the tape stopped. "My tinkering buddies," he said with a grin. "Slightly like family, slightly insane.... and then there's the kids." The crowd laughed. "We have a lot of things to show you today." He clapped his hands. He was in jeans and a Metallica t-shirt. For the regular Stark one he had been in a crisply pressed designer suit and tie. His hair was all fixed. For this, he was just Tony Stark, genius.
"Let me introduce you to my tinkering friends. This is Dr. Bruce Banner, Dr. Rodney McKay, myself, of course, my daughter Callia, my son Chris, who has just this year started to join in. These are Andrew and Jonathan, who are my original proteges." He smirked at the crowd. "I used them to figure out how to teach my spawn." The crowd laughed. "And the newest member of our tinkering board, Dr. Charles Epps. We needed someone who loved math since we all need it sometimes." They ranged out in their assigned spots. "So, let's get started." He clapped his hands. "Bruce?"
"Let's start with something simple. We all have seen the rover on Mars." He held up his and the cameras zoomed in on it for the screens since it was barely visible. "This is a micro collection unit. Useful in hazardous situations. It's fireproof, bomb proof up to a certain level, has three methods of collection, and six separate containment storage areas. I can send this into a disaster zone, I can send this into a bomb blast area. I can send this into a nuclear waste facility that's leaking or like the generator in Japan that kept leaking until they could shut it down. It can give you live-time updates on radiation, temperature, humidity, and has an air and water cannon if you want to put on the attachment in case you need it." He put it onto the table and let it roll around.
"And the cannon can blow bubbles," Chris said. "That's how we tested it." He grinned. The crowd smiled at him.
"We can even use the enhanced bubble solution to put up durable bubbles around a sample," Callia agreed. Bruce smiled at her. "It's not strong enough for more than a few minutes but it'll give the bot there a bit of time to work on digging for a sample if it has to." The crowd clapped.
Tony went over a few of his then it was Rodney and Charlie's turn. They stepped up and Charles smiled. "Forgive me if I ramble a bit. I'm only used to teaching lectures, not showing off." He pulled up a virtual screen, which was on the cameras. "This... Is a really pretty formula Callia came up with. She came up with the idea to bridge energy sources."
"For our use, the SGC is using it to provide a different type of gateway using the Stargate," Rodney said. That got some talking. Charlie went over the math while Rodney got the physics of it. That was getting a lot of talking.
Tony smiled. "That's why we brought in Dr. Epps. Callia's only learning that level of math. Rodney was busy drooling on it, and I was busy hugging my daughter for thinking it up." The crowd clapped. "Now, for the kids. Chris? Did you have something?"
He stepped forward and bowed. "Hi, I'm Chris Stark." He grinned and waved. "Right now I'm working on the goat powered engine. Way back when Sean was a little kid about Maeve's age or so, his mom had twin sisters so we brought Sean up with us. Sean's Sissy's brother by her mom." They smiled at him for that. "Sean was a bit upset so Dad and Callia taught him about engines one day. Sean, whose Daddy was from Asgard like Uncle Thor, decided it should be goat powered like Uncle Thor's chariot. We love his goats of war." He smirked as the antique car was rolled out. "Way back when, when my dad was less than my age, Grandpa Stark put up a flying car. It didn't work real well," he said dryly. "So I thought that'd be a neat thing to do. I fixed it. It works much better now."
He let the cameras see inside at the odometer. "When I put one of our goat powered engines on it, Dad was testing the engines using a Ford on the race track by Malibu. I snuck a spare out and put it on here. Back then it had about fifty miles. Fifty-three if I read my notes right. Notice that it's got over two hundred now, all from floating." He got in and turned it on, then flipped the switch. The car floated and he got out with a grin. "I'm not going to make the tires turn for aerodynamic purposes. If it had to land suddenly that'd hurt it. I have it set so it'll only float ten inches above the ground. That's a nice safe distance, no need for air traffic controllers to panic like they did the day I got it up to about five hundred feet off the ground." A few laughed at that. He showed the testing video. "Our tester engines in the Ford can go 180 miles an hour for four hours that we've tested. We haven't wanted to push it."
"Our last test was an endurance test and it went 92 hours before it needed a recharge," Tony said, putting that up. That got a lot of applause. He smiled. "I tested the Ford against Dawn's Tesla as a comparison. I like theirs, it's cute." He grinned.
"Dad!" Chris complained, giving him a light shove on the hip. "My turn." He grinned. "On mine, I wanted to see if I could go faster. I got it up to 94 and then I got scared because old cars like this one weren't built for flying speed. I need to put wings on it but I haven't been able to recently. I know that my flying car goes just as long and as hard as Dad's tester does. So we're announcing in a year or so we're putting out the new goat powered engine for use in regular cars and if you want to talk about the flying cars, we can do that too." They clapped and a few whistled. Chris bowed. "Sissy, your turn."
Callia rolled out. "Hey." She smiled and waved. "My first time up here and I'm going to do something stupid." That got a few smiles. "I started the work that got Dr. Epps and Uncle Rodney so happy because of my injury. To be honest there have been a few days when we weren't sure I'd make it out of this chair and I didn't want that. There's too much I can't do it in it. Including work on cars with Dad and Chris." A few smiled at her. "So I was looking at a method of hopefully bridging smaller energy connections. The tinkering group went in both directions. Grandpa Bruce and I looked at micro applications while the others looked at macro ones. And I really do love the baby Rainbow Bridge/Stargate thing that they created."
She smiled. "It's cute and it's bright blue with purple flecks here and there on the pathway. It also tickles you as you walk across it." She rolled back to a table. "While I was working, I took in the family practice of tinkering with stuff." Everyone was staring at her. She held the small box in her hand. "This is a prototype. As in I finally built it last week after staring at the plans for over a month. I've tested it once." She waved and her neurologist came out. She handed it to him. "It goes on the spots on my back. I tested it last night," she said, lifting up the back of her shirt to show she had on a body suit underneath.
"Are you sure?"
"I am." He nodded and swabbed the area. "Last night, well, let's go back farther. At this time, I can almost sometimes move a leg. We all know why I'm in the chair, hopefully temporarily, but I can move this far," she said, moving one of her legs. She tried to move the others and it almost twitched, which got a few 'awws' from the crowd. "With this new prototype....." She hissed as it connected. "Switch on the side please," she said quietly. He flipped it on and she yelped and stiffened then breathed through it. She gripped the chair arms and stood up, taking a few shaky steps away from the chair. Her doctor was staring, mouth open, hands limp like they wanted to catch her.
She caught her breath once she was a few feet away from the chair. "I can do this." They burst out in loud applause. Tony moved closer. "I'm okay, Dad. For now." She looked at them. "I won't lie and say it's a perfect prototype. It enhances all nerve signals, including pain. Last night, the first time I tried it, I managed five minutes before my legs gave out. I'm hoping that by the end of the month I'll be up to half an hour in case of emergencies that require me to, say, get out of the car if we're forced off the road by the press again." She looked around. "It's not perfect. I'm also announcing that my doctor." She smiled and waved at him, then squealed as her legs gave out. Her father caught her. "Thanks, Dad."
"Always happy to help." He cuddled her and flipped the thing off. "Let me get the chair."
"I got it," Chris said and whistled. The chair rolled over.
Tony looked at him. "When did you put that on?"
"Sometimes she's not near it and needs it, like when she's on the lab stool working on something. That way she doesn't have to roll back to get it. She can just whistle." He grinned. "I also put in a lift kit because a lot of tables are too high and Sissy put in a stair climber just in case we have to go down them during a fire or something."
"That's really handy," the neurologist said, coming over to help. "That was foolish," he said.
"It was necessary. I have to build up an immunity," she said, cracking some of the audience up. She got settled and used a cloth Rodney handed her to wipe her face off. "Sorry about that. Thought I had a bit longer." She looked at them. "My doctor is going to have the prototype. It is on the way to being patented. I submitted the paperwork with the Stark patent guy this morning. I'm really careful about that after someone hacked me a while back. But, I am allowing him and others to have plans to build from so they can research and one of us, whoever he works with or myself or someone, can build something better.
"Something that doesn't cause the same level of pain. Or that you don't have to build such a tolerance up to. I know I'm not the only one who's going to helped by it and I'm not keeping this one to myself." She looked at Rodney and he shrugged. She summoned out the cube. "Or this." She smiled as she held it up. "I have no idea why my little power cube rotates like I'm in the southern hemisphere but it does. It's a smaller test power cube. Right now it'll power a kitchen for about a year." She smiled at them. "I have a lot of wacky ideas. It's what makes me a Stark."
Someone in the audience hopped up. It wasn't usually allowed but no one stopped him. "You're letting people have the plans for that nerve bridge?"
"Yes, I am. I heartily encourage other researchers to look at it, improve on my design, because I know I still have stuff to learn, especially about human bodies. Hell, I'm still learning about my human body." She smiled. "So yes, I'll let legitimate researchers look it over to see if they can improve on it. I don't want to keep something that can help others in a closet somewhere. We Starks aren't like that from what I was taught." She smiled. "So my neurologist, who is a fantastic guy and great with my injury when it happened, he can hand it to researchers he trusts.
"I don't want anyone to be stuck in a chair. I don't want anyone like that guy who played Superman and one of my new classmates stuck in a chair because they broke their necks. We Starks don't hold stuff back that could help people. That's why when I'm older I'll be starting a think tank to take all my weird ideas and turn them into things to benefit more people. That way things like my little glowing, tornado in a cube here can benefit others. That nerve bridge could bring a ton of benefit to people. I don't need the money from it. I have money. I've already sold a few inventions so I'm independent from Dad. That way I'm a Stark, not the Stark heir like he was when he was our age." She grinned. "They'll take it and do good things. Though I do hope no one takes it to make the Terminator. I hated that movie." She looked at her father, tossing him the cube.
He put it onto the table near Bruce's robot, which tried to take samples from it. It got burned for it too but it kept digging into the cube until Tony moved the cube away. Bruce turned his robot off. "I agree. If we make something that has implications for great benefit to humanity, then we're all for having people look at it, evolve it with us, all that. They can patent any huge changes they create." The crowd gave them a standing ovation. He looked at his daughter. "You deserve ice cream."
"I deserve eclairs, Dad." That got a few laughs. "And maybe a Red Bull?"
"They're still banned and I stole all of Chris's stash to hide."
"Shoot." She looked at her doctor. "Tell me how it goes?"
"Gladly." He hugged her. "You need to clean those spots."
"That was really dumb."
"I know. Sometimes science demands though. That's why we're Starks. Science is our goddess and she's a picky, finicky bitch sometimes who demands total slavery of our lives." The crowd laughed and she rolled off with him. He did clean the spike connecting areas for her with some alcohol pads but she hugged him. "Let me know."
"I will. Thank you, Callia."
"It causes a lot of pain," she warned.
"We can work on that." He left to call together some of his people so they could go over the tape of the demonstration and the device. Inside the box were plans.
Tony smiled. "I'll close this down on that triumph. Let me go get the kids treats." He walked off and the others followed. They let the closing music play and the curtains came down. He hugged Chris. "I want to try the flying car," he said and realized his microphone was still on. He turned it off and handed it to Bruce, hugging Callia. "Damn, you are my spawn." She laughed and hugged him back. "I'm super proud and you're still being spanked for trying that on yourself." She shrugged and cuddled. "C'mon, I saw the Dippin' Dots cart."
"Can we have real ice cream, Dad?" Chris asked. "Please?"
"Sure, sundaes it is. Your mom won't mind. Much." They laughed and the whole group went to have sundaes, which Dawn set out ingredients for in the Stark pavilion. After hearty, gooey, decadent sundaes, they settled in the back area to talk about things and how it had went. Pepper came rushing in and hugged Callia hard enough to pick her up. Tony grinned. Chris climbed Pepper to get his own and she hugged him between them. "They were good, Pepper."
She pulled back to look at Callia. "Don't ever test stuff on yourself again!" Callia just cuddled some more. Chris hopped down and climbed into Rodney's lap to talk to him about flying stuff. He pulled out his phone so he could talk to John Sheppard.
Pepper put Callia back down, wiping off her cheeks then her daughter's. "I'm damn impressed with both of you." Chris grinned and waved. "Chris, no flying the car without adult supervision please. Daughter, no more testing on yourself." She went out to help with the expo details going on.
Dawn slid in to hug Chris and hand him a gift bag. He cooed at what was inside. She winked at Tony and handed Callia hers. "For your first expo experience. Though you've got an extra one for that from Natasha. She said she hated the Terminator movies too so she'd make sure they didn't create one." She strolled off to get their geeks lunch and coffee. Including the head geek and his kids.
Chris looked in his. "Wow, a how to fly book." He hung up on John laughing to flip through it. "Dad, do we have a simulator?"
"Somewhere. Or we'll borrow the SGC's version and make our own."
"Great." He showed him the book but kept the three really excellent candy bars to himself.
Callia looked in hers. One had a giftwrapped tiny box. There were five excellent candy bars in hers and a book of 3D diagrams she liked. She settled in to look at them then got curious and unwrapped the present. "Aww, Auntie Natasha got me a pendant." She held it up. It was a blood ruby and diamond pendant on a platinum chain. "Wow." She carefully put it on and smiled. "Cool." She went back to her book.
Tony grinned at Bruce, who smirked back. The kids had done great things. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they were Starks. True Starks, all Stark, heirs to the great throne of Starks. Hell, even Howard wouldn't be able to doubt that.
Old Ones 62: Playing Old Ones.