Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not
Rating: T; gen
Prompt/Prompter: jilltanith, who asked for: "B:tVS/Iron Man (MCU). There's a reason Dawn Summers is so smart; she gets it from the guy who turns out to be her real genetic father, Tony Stark."
Spoilers: B:tVS post-"Chosen"; pre-"Iron Man" in the MCU timeline
Notes: I started looking up timelines to find out when to set this, and boggled when I realized Joyce Summers was born in 1958... and MCU Tony Stark in 1970. *ahem* There may at some point be more to this?
Summary: The discovery that Dawn Summers was maybe not actually a Summers began like so many other dramatic changes in her life: with a disappointment. 3000w.
The discovery that Dawn Summers was maybe not actually a Summers began like so many other dramatic changes in her life: with a disappointment. This particular one came in the form of a letter, delivered casually in a batch to the Hyperion in Los Angeles one sunny Saturday.
Buffy had decided to park the last bus out of Sunnydale at Angel's place after the collapse of the town; her ex's hotel had plenty of empty rooms, and it had given them time to let the wounded heal, start sending out teams to recruit or inform the new Slayers popping up everywhere, and make plans for a new headquarters in Cleveland. With the Watchers' Council nearly extinct, and the Hellmouth there growing more active, the Scoobies all figured they'd end up there eventually... but it was summertime, the slow season for vampires and most other demons, and all of them needed a little break from the life-and-death struggle of Slayage.
Dawn had taken the opportunity to send a letter to her father, in a last-ditch attempt at reclaiming at least one thing she and her sister had lost. She hadn't really expected anything to come of it, not after so many years of silence. But she'd thought someone at least ought to tell him that his daughters weren't dead.
Three weeks later, her morning flip through the mail turned up an envelope addressed "To: Dawn", a little larger than a standard number ten but smaller than a catalog; the postage was international, and it was postmarked from the Canary Islands. Her breath caught as she snatched the envelope from the pile, and she ran up to her room before anyone else could see it and ask her what it was.
Then she took a cross-legged seat on her bed, cracked the flap with a fingernail, and slid out the sheets of paper inside.
Two hours later, Dawn walked slowly back down the main staircase, face reddened more with fury than tears as she hunted down her sister.
"Buffy, did you know about this?" she demanded, striding into the meeting room Buffy had appropriated as an office on the floor above the lobby.
"Know about what?" Buffy asked absently. She didn't even look up; she was all absorbed in something she was going over with Willow, papers and laptop spread all over the room's big oval table.
"This," Dawn hissed, casting the pages still clutched in her hand down onto the table in front of Buffy.
Buffy frowned at the slightly crumpled sheets of paper, reaching out to smooth a hand over the worst of the creases. "Dawn, you're going to have to give me a little more to go on. Is this...." Her voice trailed off as she traced over the logo on the top sheet, then the name immediately under the date marked on the letter. "Where did you get this? I thought all Mom's correspondence went down with the Hellmouth."
"It wasn't Mom's copy," Dawn replied, ignoring the pained note in her sister's voice as she scowled at the letter. "It was Dad's. At least, the guy I assumed was my dad. I don't know why, I mean, it's dumb, right? We always figured the monks made me sometime that summer before Glory showed up, and Mom had been divorced for years by then."
Buffy looked back down at the letter, then back up at Dawn, eyes widening. Then she hastily shuffled the child support reminder aside to look at the pages underneath. The next two were the ones Dawn had spent most of those two hours staring at, alternately wiping her eyes and cursing the entire Order of Dagon. They contained three columns of numbers each, under the headings: MOTHER, CHILD, ALLEGED FATHER.
One of the reports showed paternity at 99.9996%. The other... did not.
Willow took the pages from Buffy's frozen fingers. "He did a DNA test on you?"
"Both of us," Buffy replied, stunned, reaching for the fourth sheet of paper-- the one actually signed Hank Summers.
Dawn averted her eyes; it had hurt enough when she'd read it, she didn't need to see Buffy's reaction to what their-- her-- father had had to say for himself.
"I mean-- I'd wondered, given everything they said about you being made from Buffy," Willow continued. "But I figured if that was the case, you'd still be Joyce's, just one step removed. So why even ask?" She threw a side-eyed glance at Buffy. "It wouldn't help anybody to know, and it might make things worse."
Dawn had wondered the same thing once or twice, and come to the same conclusion: that it was better not to know. It wouldn't have made Mom any less her Mom, or Buffy any less her sister, whatever her genes said. And if somebody told the wrong person about it, then what? It wasn't like they could explain it with the truth; no one wanted to risk some new bad guy figuring out a different use for Glorificus' Key.
Maybe she should have asked, though. Maybe this would have come as a little less of a surprise.
"Well, it has," she said, grimly.
"He thought it was some kind of scam," Buffy said thickly, dropping the letter as she tuned back into the conversation. "Apparently for years, since the first time Mom contacted him for child support. That she must've had a kid with some other guy after the divorce and tried to pin it on him, and there was just some confusion going on about your age."
"Because he doesn't remember me," Dawn said tightly, gritting her teeth again. "Did you know?"
Buffy shook her head and met Dawn's gaze, stricken. "No. God, no. How could you think that?"
"Like you haven't been known to keep secrets from me supposedly for my own good before?"
"Hey, hey," Willow interjected. "This isn't Buffy's fault, Dawn. Or yours. It's the stupid spell the monks used; wholesale reality alteration is really expensive, magically speaking, and they didn't have much time. They must not have had enough juice to catch him in Spain."
"Whatever. Forget the spell," Dawn waved that off. It wasn't like she had all that many great memories of Hank anyway; she barely remembered a time in her childhood when her parents weren't fighting. It was the secret factor that was pissing her off; she'd had so much of her identity ripped away from her already one way or another, one more piece was just beyond enough. "What I want to know is, if he isn't my father, and I'm not some magical mix of Buffy and Riley or something... then who the hell is my father?"
Buffy wrinkled her nose, then thought a little more about the question. "That's... a good question, actually. Mom wasn't the one who screwed around; there isn't anyone else she could have slept with in 1985."
"That you know of," Willow said, then hastily continued at Buffy's disgruntled look. "But you're probably right. I mean, we figured the monks made Dawn in the summer of 2000, right? By the time Dracula showed up, at the latest. So if they picked from your mom's current life when they decided to give you a sister...."
She trailed off there, her expression turning speculative, and Dawn gaped at her, horrified by the implication. "You can't be serious. I mean, Dracula? Why would they even, why would you think...?"
"Mom did invite him in for coffee...." Buffy added with a shudder, looking equally dismayed.
"God, Spike would die," Dawn cringed, then turned back to Willow. "Please tell me it can't be true."
"If you'd been born the normal way? No; not without major prophetic intervention. But we're talking mystical creation, here; that might trump the whole dead sperm thing." Willow bit her lip, then stepped away to open the doors of a cabinet flanked by heavy bookshelves filling with Giles' salvaged books. She checked the labels on several of the small containers on the shelves inside, tracing her fingers over spidery script and raised block letters, and nodded to herself. "I can do a spell to search for your bio-dad, though. A cross between a location spell and a parentage verification should work; the latter's usually done in person, but I should be able to link them together with a little creative Latin. Assuming, you know, that he's still alive."
"I'll get a map," Dawn said, and hurried to one of the other cabinets.
Maybe finding out the truth wouldn't change things any more than it would have if Buffy had turned out to be her bio-mom. But either way, now that she knew there was something to know-- Dawn had to know it.
Two days later, Dawn parked in front of a glass and white stone layer cake of a house, all swooping lines and reflective windows at the end of a winding, tree-lined drive.
Willow's first attempt at the spell, cast over a Mercator projection map, had lit up with only one glowing dot: a softly pulsing blip over the Los Angeles area. She'd thought it had failed at first; that it was only showing Dawn, or maybe Buffy, not her father.
Just to be sure, though, she'd tried again with a California state map-- and that one had lit up just a little too far west to be showing any Summers. A close-up area map had clarified it even further, resolving the glowing dot a little over thirty miles west of the Hyperion: out at Point Dume.
10880 Malibu Point, to be precise. The address of record for exactly one, unbelievable human being.
"How the hell did Mom ever meet him?" she murmured under her breath, wiping sweaty palms against her jeans. Then she shook her head at herself and walked up to the intercom button she could see by the door, pressing it with her thumb.
She'd thought about calling first, but she'd have had to call one of the public Stark Industries numbers, and she hadn't been able to see that going anywhere fast. If she'd been lucky enough to get a live person, she'd probably have ended up getting the cold shoulder from his PA or his lawyers... and if any of them had decided to take her seriously, they'd have thought she was just after his money.
If only it was that simple. Heck, even Dawn didn't know why she was there, without backup or proof or anything; she had a stomach full of bees, a complete inability to sit still, and a worried certainty that he wasn't going to believe it, either. Or worse yet, that she shouldn't believe it; that the spell had done nothing but get her hopes up.
"Dawn Summers, to see Mr. Stark," she said, with only a little shakiness in her voice.
"Mr. Stark is not available," a cool British voice replied, almost immediately. "If you have legitimate business with Mr. Stark, please contact the Stark Industries offices during regular hours."
"How do you know I don't have an appointment?" she frowned, taken off guard. That had been a little abrupt.
"There is no Dawn Summers on Mr. Stark's schedule, today or any other day," the Brit continued.
"How about Joyce Summers?" she tried, pressing the button again. If this guy kept his schedule, he should be able to find that one, if there even was anything to the whole idea. Mom would have had to be associated with Tony Stark somehow for the monks to pick him, right? "About three years ago? She owned an art gallery in Sunnydale."
There was another pause, then someone else replied. "Owned? Past tense?"
"Mr. Stark?" Dawn blinked at the change of voice.
"Why would the-- what, daughter?-- of a woman I once bought art from show up on my doorstep all this time later? Not because of any of my purchases, I trust? Not that I checked; but I assume my assistant would have told me if any of the authentication paperwork turned out not to be genuine."
So, she'd been right; they had met. Wow. Then why hadn't Mom said anything?
She thought about that for a moment, then swallowed as she realized what the logical answer had to be. Because there had to be more to it than that for it to be him, and not any other male customer Mom had met that year. And there was only one good reason Dawn could think of that Joyce Summers wouldn't have wanted to tell her teenage daughters about.
"Not because of your purchases, no," she finally answered, wincing. God, it was true.
There was a long pause on the other end of the intercom; then a sharp command. "Wait there."
Dawn wrung her fingers together, half-wishing she had asked someone else to come with her. But she hadn't wanted any witnesses, just in case of... whatever; and this was certainly whatever. She would've thought Mr. Stark would start a security check, ask for a way to contact her or set up an appointment or something; but she guessed he was as impatient to know already as she'd been.
Which... well, did kind of make sense, if any of this even did. She laughed nervously, then turned as the door abruptly opened, revealing a dark-haired, dark-eyed man with a neat goatee and much messier clothes than anything she'd seen in the tabloids. He looked... kind of like a normal person, actually, wearing a band tee shirt with grease on his knuckles. But there was something in the intentness of his gaze that made her freeze like a deer in the headlights, similar though not identical to Buffy in focused Slayer mode.
"Jarvis just brought up the obituary," he said, abruptly, studying her. "February, 2001. Survived by two daughters, neither of whom was an infant. And I've had a medical check since then. What possible reason could you have left to contact me other than the art? Which by the way, I'm not even sure I still have. My assistant curates my artwork for me."
Dawn stared at that brick wall of an expression, taken aback. She now knew more about her mother's sex life than she'd ever wanted to; had he seriously just implied this might be about an STD? Why hadn't she thought this through? She so hadn't expected that, and she really should have.
She should have thought more about what to say next, too. How was she supposed to drop it on him? 'Thanks to a group of monks and a ball of magic powerful enough to destroy the universe, you might have retroactively knocked up a recent one night stand, seventeen years ago?'
She kind of doubted the monks had altered Tony Stark's memories any more than they had Hank Summers', beyond the obvious necessary meeting with her mother in 2000. If they'd added in an encounter in 1985, Mom would have been twenty-seven, and according to the articles she'd read, Tony Stark would have been a fifteen year old MIT student. If she'd remembered anything like that, she'd have reacted a lot differently when the subject of Dad's cheating with his secretary got brought up. Just, no.
"Uh, sorry, I didn't mean to bother you," she blurted, courage failing. "I'm, uh. Have a nice day?"
Her hand rose almost without prompting to give a little finger-waggle of a wave, and she cringed at the complete fail of the moment.
At least she knew, right? At least she'd finally met her dad in person. That was more than she'd been able to say about Hank, even before the letter. She took a deep breath, shaking her head at herself, and turned to slink ignominiously away.
Before she could make her escape, though, Stark unexpectedly spoke again. "Wait. Dawn. You're, what, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen?"
"Seventeen in a couple months," she said, pausing in surprise to look at him. "Why?"
"Junior in high school, or accelerated coursework?"
Dawn snorted. "Junior, if I'm lucky and they don't count the loss of all my school records in Sunnydale against me. Maybe Senior if I'm luckier and Buffy lets me take a placement test instead."
"Hm. Bored by school, I'm guessing?"
"Why do you care?" she frowned back. "I just admitted I've been wasting your time."
"I think that's up to me to decide. Are you one of Dad's?" he interrupted, studying her again. "Hair color from your mother, obviously, but something about the eye shape, the chin; even your smirk. It's distracting. He was a little creaky in the knees by the mid-80's, but not too old to screw around, and I've wondered how many stray siblings I never met. If your mother was here to collect a father-and-son set, please don't say so; that's a little kinky even for me. But I'm thinking you came for a DNA test before you thought better of it."
That would make the perfect excuse, if she still wanted one. But if he did run a test, he'd find out the rest pretty quickly... and then she'd be right back at square impossible.
"What difference would it make if I was? It was stupid to come here."
"No Stark ever born backed down," he waved that away, eyes narrowed, "and I'm betting you won't be the first to buck the trend. Unless you really are just yanking my chain, here...?"
"That's a false dichotomy," she protested, desperately. "What if I just don't want to be a Stark?"
"And that's a rhetorical question; you're here, aren't you?" he dismissed that with a raised eyebrow. "And now that you've got me curious, you're not getting away that easily."
She stared at him; he stared back.
Then she sighed. Buffy was gonna kill her. But the Scoobies did the impossible six times before breakfast, right? "You've got me there."
He smiled at that; a white flash of teeth, there and gone as quickly as one of her sister's rare actual smiles.
"Then let's find out."