20 year old Dakota has made up her mind: she's joining the Avengers. She has always known she was different, because of her father (L.). SHIELD has big plans with her and she accepts their intention to make her a soldier, not realizing how quickly things can escalate.


15. Last preparations

Tension built up. My training with Natasha and Clint was increased. A whole week of sore muscles and pale skin passed by.
The nights went by quickly. Bucky had found his sleeping zone in the bed without having to touch me. That would’ve been inappropriate. I think Steve knew about it, but I wasn’t sure.
What I did know was the exposure of my identity to Wanda, Vision and Clint. I was nervous, not only for the mission itself, but also for what would follow. How would Stark react? It was my father who destroyed his beloved tower and half the city.
Even though I had only been a full-time member of the Avengers for two, calm weeks, I didn’t want to leave. I belonged here, not in a boring life or in an army. For the first time in my life I had never been so close to a group of people.
Remember? I’m that popular kid who everyone liked, but had no close friendships. This was different. They needed me. I had become the glue, the safe-zone in a complicated relation between billionaires, soldiers, spies and mutants.
The day before mission Schooltime –yeah, that’s how we called it– Stark invited me into his lab. My training had just finished. I left the gym when Sam entered.
“Girl, you look exhausted.”
“I am.”
“You better take a rest.”
“Can’t…” I wiped the sweat from my forehead “Stark expects me in the lab.”
“Really? I’ll come with you, then. He’s working on a little gadget of mine. You’ll be my excuse to check him out.”
As he turned around to follow me in the corridor, he placed his heavy arm on my waste. Did I look that tired? He was afraid I was going to pass out.
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
“I always am, even when I’ll not be flying. Combat is very…”
“Yes, exactly.”
We left the living quarters and walked side by side on the paved path.
“Are you nervous, T.?”
“Of course.”
He laughed.
“Don’t be. You have no crucial role in the coming mission. It will be a piece of cake.”
“But if I mess up, it will be a disappointment anyway. Creating illusions only works on human beings from a short distance. The cameras will still register something else.”
“Yeah, it would have been easier if that telepathic device would have worked on you too.”
We entered the working quarters.
“It doesn’t,” a voice said over the intercom, “now, hurry up. I have good news too.”
Sam and I exchanged a look and went for the stairs. He asked no questions when I skipped the elevator.
We entered the lab. It was in a state of utter chaos. Stark was still wearing the same shirt he wore four days ago. I should have brought him a new one.
“Welcome! Welcome in my cave! Don’t mind the mess, I’m only working on something, making calculations, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter.”
He rambled, he was nervous. He didn’t even look up from the telepathic device on his lab table. All kinds of tools were spread on the floor. A robot was cleaning them up.
“Bring the good news,” Sam said while he looked around with a specific goal. His little gadget was here somewhere.
“Dakota,” Stark looked up from his project, “I fixed your energy deficit and it will look stylish as well.”
He stood up and came towards me. He showed me a black bracelet made of three metal rings. He hadn’t showered in four days either. He was exhausted.
I lifted my arm. He put them on and tightened them around my wrist. Then he pointed out the three little buttons on the bracelet.
“These will give you an energy shot enough to wake up a dinosaur if you push them all at once.”
He turned around again and started looking for something.
“So don’t. It could kill you. I hope your weight is still 130 pounds? Good.”
I investigated the bracelet.
Stark found a pair of glasses under some papers and tossed it to Sam.
“Are you looking for these?”
“They’re ready?”
“They have been for two days, yes.”
Sam gave me an indignant look. He couldn’t believe his ears.
“Tony,” I addressed Stark to draw his attention, “take a shower and get a good night of rest.”
Stark stopped in his tracks and looked at me in surprise.
“But the aiefzebkzebisvterminator isn’t ready yet.”
“It’s not a joke.”
“You sound like Pepper, stop it.”
“Don’t start hallucinating, Tony.”
He blinked a few times and turned around again.
“You are right, you always are. I’ll see you tomorrow Pe… ugh, Dakota… Alright then.”
He disappeared. The lab was quite now he was gone.”
“He wasn’t hallucinating, was he?” Sam asked.
I smiled.

In the evening, Wanda came up with a brilliant idea. I needed a uniform.
“Jeans are more discreet, you know…”
“But you can’t fight in them,’ Natasha shouted from the other side of the room, where she was laying some suits on my bed.
After a two-hour long search, I wrung my body into a catsuit with cyan linings. Wanda said they matched my temperament, which wasn’t blue or green, but something in between. I liked the colour indeed. The black wasn’t pitch-black, but greyish.
“The boots are okay, but no cape,” I demanded.
“A collar then?” Wanda asked, “just a little one. A plain catsuit isn’t dope.”
“Sure…” I sighed.
My whole room was a mess. Clothes and fabrics lay everywhere. I was standing in the middle of it, staring at myself in the mirror.
Natasha entered. She whistled.
“God choice of fabric, it will protect your skin from burns and abrasions.”
The result was a suit with loose pants that narrowed at the ankle. There, a pair of black boots with cyan-coloured laces finished the look. They matched the vertical linings on the side of the pipes and sleeves. The belt on my waste and over my shoulders on my chest were black and matched with the other details of the dark grey suit. I had a collar with a vee-neck that didn’t reach further than my collarbones. The zipper was hidden.
I put my hair in a ponytail and turned around so Natasha and Wanda could judge the look. They finally approved.
“Stylish and ready to fight; I like it that you choose the boyfriend-pants look.”
We started cleaning up. I helped them.
“But I can’t enter the school like this. They will know something is going on.”
Wanda threw me my jeans jacket. I put it on and suddenly the superhero disappeared and I was an ordinary teenager again.

Only five minutes after I put on my pyjamas and lay in bed someone knocked on the door and entered. I pulled aside my sheets.
Bucky put out his shoes and shirt and joined me on the soft matrass. He let out a deep breath and relaxed.
“You too.”

“Morning everyone.”
It was quite at breakfast. Natasha was cutting fruit for smoothies. All the others were sipping coffee or tea and no one said a word. Vision had fold his hands together and had his neutral expression. He didn’t drink. Wanda didn’t eat.
Steve, Bucky, Sam, Clint, they were hogging the gingerbreads that were put on the table. Stark was the only one missing.
I sat down, just when Natasha started mixing the fruit. I stood up again and everyone looked at me.
“I’m going to check where Stark is. He must have overslept or something.”
“There’s still time.”
“Of course, plenty of time.”
I already had left. I ran upstairs to Starks room, but he wasn’t there. I didn’t feel his presence. Today was a mission day, he couldn’t be missing.
He has to be here somewhere. The bathroom.
I knocked.
I heard someone breath, upset.
“I’m coming in.”
“Better don’t.”
Too late. I broke open the lock and entered. He was in the bath, with all his clothes on.
“Jeezes, you slept in the bathtube?!”
“I was more tired than I thought.”
He tried to get up, but had no strength left in his arms. He was freezing. Quickly I took a towel and helped him up. He sat down on the toilet seat and I wrapped him in the dry towels I could find.
“Everybody is downstairs. The briefing is in one hour. You should be ready by then.”
He nodded and looked at me, but didn’t see me.
“Is it Pepper?”
“You know… sometimes I can almost feel that she completes me, but then everything I have, is destroying me and I can’t stand it anymore.”
“She didn’t answer your calls yesterday? So what? Maybe she was just busy? You have been busy for the last past days and had no time to call her up and talk to her and give her the attention she needs, yeah, so what.”
“Everything is a game to me,” he mumbled.
“Kicking ass in a robot suit isn’t a game anymore, it’s reality.”
Now he looked at me and he saw me and he smiled.
“I hired you and I don’t regret it. You are wonderful.”
“Thank you, and you are Tony Stark. Get ready, dress up.”
I massaged his shoulders and combed his hair in a hush. He finally found the courage to get up.
“Here, to warm your muscles up.”
I touched the middle of his chest and gave him an energy shot. Goosebumps raised on his arms and his eyes were clear now. He smiled and gave me a shoulder pat.
“Don’t tell anyone.”
“I’ll keep your secret.”
I went downstairs and drank smoothie. The gingerbread was delicious.
“Did you find Stark?”
“Overslept, just like I thought. He didn’t even hear his alarm clock.”
Steve laughed. Wanda gave me a look.
“No more laughing! Time for or little debriefing!” Stark made his entrance. He drank a smoothie ad fundum and then started telling all the details of the mission that were imported for us.
An hour later, an official mission briefing was held. I recognised some people in the room where we were sitting. Some of the men I had trained with on the bootcamp, they were SHIELD recruits now and followed orders. They gave me glimpses. Luis, Brick, Mush, they were all here. Probably the suit that drew their attention. I was secretly proud of that suit.
Clint was giving me glimpses too. He wanted me to remember what he said. At the end of this day he would disclose my identity. But I had to focus. His eyes told me that; this mission was more important than me.

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