I’m trying to remember how I got to this point in my life. How everything that I have ever done have lead me to this one point; the point that would define me for the rest of my life and create the path that I will set forth on from her on out. How did I get here? How did I become this person? Could I have done better—should I have done better with my life? Did I waste and squander all the good opportunities that have come my way? This moment, as I stared in to the eyes of the flames…there would be no turning back from it. Once those flames take their last breaths and die, it’s over. It’s all over. Everything will change and nothing will be the way it once was. Was I ready for that?
I closed my eyes and waited. For what, I don’t know. Maybe, I waited because something deep inside of me, however small it may be, wished that I could turn back the clock. I always knew that this point would come. I always knew that someday I would be right here staring into the eyes of the swaying flames as it taunted me, but I thought I would be prepared. Nothing could ever fully prepare me for how I would feel when this day came. Nothing.
A part of me, a very, very small part of me was happy, slightly anxious, but happy that this day has finally come. I was yearned at one point in time for all of this to end, but I never knew that I would ling for the yesterdays and the yesteryears. For the first time in forever, I was afraid of what might come—tomorrow.
I sucked in a deep breath. My eyes were clenched tightly and I could hear the fast-paced drumming of my heart. I knew that I couldn’t hold my breath for very long. I’ve never been able to before, and this day does not change anything on that front. I leaned forward, feeling the brush of the heat coming from the flames dance across my skin before I released the breath I held and catapulted head first into the unknown.
“Congratulations! How does it feel to be 21?”
Everything came back into focus and the loud music and murmuring in the background invaded my senses. I could smell the expensive perfume, the liquor, and the stench of adulation brought me back to the present.
How does one ever answer that question appropriately? How does it feel the minute you turn another year older? It feels the same as I did when I was year younger—yesterday! I highly doubt the way I feel physically or mentally will catastrophically change the very next day.
I looked into the blue eyes of the ecstatic red head and gave her a forced smile. But she knew. She always knew. She has always been there, but I have never seen Pepper as more than a very good female friend, almost a sister in some ways. But Virginia Potts knew when she looked to me that something was off. Her eyes lit up with recognition and she grabbed my hand to pull me out of the room inconspicuously.
“I know that you are worried—” she started just as the JARVIS locked the door behind us but I interrupted her.
“He said he’d be here.” I replied curtly. I folded my arms across my chest and looked away. I didn’t want her to know how much everything was affecting me right now. My father not being present and now my 21st birthday party, everything was hitting me too fast.
I heard her sight and lightly touch my arm. The stiffness that my back head loosened up slightly—very slightly—and I looked back towards her to see a pair of very concerned blue eyes on a heart shaped face.
“This is your father that we are talking about. Tony Stark is always late. He just has a million and one things to do and another two million on his mind about things he probably shouldn’t be doing in the future. He’ll be here soon,” I know she tried her best to make light of the situation, but she couldn’t fool me. I could see the deep worrying her eyes tried to conceal with a hopeful smile. I knew Pepper more than she knew herself, almost as much as my father knew her.
“No. He said he’d be here before I blew out my candles. He promised. He never breaks his promises.”
And that is one thing that I cannot deny that about my father. No matter what deadline he was supposed to have made, or what interview or international conference he had scheduled, he always kept his promises to me. He dropped whatever he was working on in the drop of a wrench for me, no matter what. And he has always kept his promises. Even if it is the most ridiculous of things, if he promised he would be present or that he would participate, he would be there, right beside me like he said he would be.
That is why the lack of his presence right now was not doing anything to calm my already jittery nerves.
“Alright, you know what how about I try and reach him for you, huh?” she turned to JARVIS, “JARVIS call Tony and ask him when he will be here.”
“Yes, Miss Potts. I will contact him right away,” the computerized voice answered back. A few seconds passed in silence between the two of us before JARVIS responded. “Ma’am, Mr. Stark seems to be out of range. I have tried to reach him by both of his cellular devices, neither can be reached.”
This didn’t calm my racing heart at all. I watched as Pepper’s face finally showed every bit of anxiety and worry she was truly feeling in this moment. I knew she was just as worried now. Even as scatterbrained as my father is, he can always be reached. He may not answer, but he can be reached. Something was wrong.
All the background noise drowned out and Pepper’s frantic movements slowed down. My vision blurred together making everything turn fuzzy and out of shape. A hazy red film settled over my eyes and an a burning sensation swept across my shoulder blades, the kind you get when you get after you’ve scraped your knee and you can feel your skin had stretched and peeled off, only intensified. The dull aching in my head increased until it felt as though someone had run over my head with a tank, repeatedly. I felt myself sway and registered a familiar voice calling my name but everything when blindingly bright before darkness encompassed me.
Images flashed behind my eyelids in a rapid succession that it was hard for me to make sense of any of it. The pounding in my head only increased as the images and scenes flashed and played over and over. They didn’t make any sense.
They were all me, only not me, I mean they looked like me but they weren’t me. They couldn’t be me. I looked different. I was younger in all of them, some more so than others. But each scene, each picture, glowed differently. The one that shined the brightest stuck out to me and I felt myself being pulled towards it.
The tugging sensation stopped and I looked around. I couldn’t tell the time period exactly, but it was definitely early 1900’s and somewhere in Canada. But I’ve never been to Canada.
“Slow down Janey! You’re running too fast!” A weak but powerful voice called from behind me. I felt my body turn around on its own accord, almost as though it had already known that it was going to.
A little slip of a boy ran as fast as his long and lanky legs could carry him. He reached after a short while as I waited patiently. When he finally caught up I noticed that he and I were the same height, possibly even the same age, and he couldn’t be any older than eight, maybe nine. He wheezed and panted trying to catch his breath, but I heard myself sigh.
“Sorry Jamie, but we have to hurry if we’re going to meet up with Rose and Dog. They’re waiting for us already,” my voice was definitely younger, but it held gentleness that I don’t remember myself ever possessing.
With his breath caught he kept his head down and fiddled with his bony hands. I noticed a bruise forming under his eye and a couple old bruises on his wrist and the small peak of his collar bone that I could make out because of the oversized shirt that hung off of him.
I watched as my small hand reached towards his face and lift his chin up. His dark, whiskey-shaded eyes struck something in me. I noticed a small tear forming in the corner of his eye and I used my dirty sleeve to wipe it away as gently as possible.
“Is it him again?” Although I already knew the answer. I knew who was beating Jamie and I knew who Jamie was. I knew everything about Jamie because I was his best friend. I had memories of us playing together as children. I can recall clearly every time we’ve played together with Rose and Dog. I didn’t like Dog that much and Rose was a crybaby to me. But Jamie was my best friend, and his grandfather, John’s father, nice to him. He believed that James Howlett needed a firm hand and more discipline. He never hesitated in laying his hands on Jamie.
Jamie simply shrugged and smiled up at me. Butterflies flittered in my stomach before I shrugged them away and gave Jamie a smile that I reserved just for him. I grabbed his hand tightly and ran, not as fast as before because I was conscious of Jamie’s breathing condition.
The scenes switched and flickered between Jamie and his timeline to others. I wore elaborate dress robes in some, some I even adorned very expensive looking jewelry, while others I only wore barely-there filthy scraps. The dullest of memories were of me when I were my youngest, barely a child.
He took me a while to realize that every image and scene that played before my eyes weren’t just pictures, but memories. I legitimately could recall facts about people and places and times that I couldn’t before. And these memories showed me all of the lives I lived, some shorter than others. I remembered every life I’ve lived, and every death I’ve suffered. The most excruciating of deaths to watch was when I was condemned as a witch. I was burned alive at the stake.
But none of it made sense and all of it did at the same time, but I didn’t understand how I could remember living all of these lives and still be the same person. The only things that changed about me regarding my past lives were my name and social standings. I generally tended to be a part of a well off family, living comfortably, but sometimes I was starving in alleyways and scavenging for food. One I can particularly remember was during the great depression. My ‘father’ was a drunk and my mother prostituted herself out to bring in more money, so neither were ever home. All of the money my mother brought in was squandered away by my father on alcohol and cheap drugs. I had to quit school and do odd jobs to get whatever little bread that I could find, but as a fifteen year old girl, I could only do so much.
But despite all the lives I’ve lived—and some were really fucking awesome like finding out that I was actually Cleopatra, (btw, Marc Antony was a ‘pinky man’ and a crier after the lovin’)—the memories surrounding a Mr. James Howlett in Alberta, Canada always stood out amongst the rest.
I moved away when I was twelve with my father. He wanted to move to the states because he heard about the great gold rush happening in California. We desperately needed the money and moved away without much notice. I was crushed when I had to leave James, especially since Dog was banished from playing with us because he started making Rose uncomfortable with his innuendos, and Mr. Logan had taken an unusual interest in Jamie. Jamie needed me more than ever and it was hard to watch his figure disappear as my father and I rode away.
But later on I enlisted in WWI disgusting myself as a boy. I wasn’t very curvy seeing as I was only 17 and I cut all of my hair off, keeping it very short and close to my head. Sneaking past the examination requirements I enlisted and was placed in the same brigade as Jamie, only now he wasn’t the Jamie I remembered. He recognized me almost immediately, but James Howlett sure grew up, but he was no longer James Howlett, technically he was James Logan. He told me all about the night he ran away and about discovering his true parentage.
He grunted the way he normally did nowadays. It was deep and masculine and strong, just like the rest of him. Everything Jamie did nowadays remind me that he was no longer that little scrawny kid I remembered. He’s definitely changed. But underneath the bulging muscles—and there were a lot of them—and the rough exterior, I could tell a piece of Jamie remained.
“I wish I could’ve been there for you,” I sighed fiddling with my guns. I could take them apart and rearrange them with my eyes closed.
“Don’t blame yer’self for that darling. You could’nuv done nothin’ bout it. You were a kid yer’self back then too.” He sighed and for the first time in a very long time I felt as though I was looking back into the eyes of little Jamie Howlett. “I missed ya’ Janey. You were the only person I really had back then…and now…I don’t know…it’s just really good to see yer and all, yer know?”
I watched as he scratched his side burns and ran a hand through that mess he called hair. I smiled teasingly at him and nudged him, not moving him an inch.
“Aw, I didn’t know James Logan could be so sweet,” I teased him. If it weren’t so dark I could’ve sworn I saw a pink tinge in his cheeks, but I would never know for sure.
The time in WWI was harsh despite having Logan—because it no longer felt right to call him Jamie anymore—beside me and I didn’t like to remember it. It seemed to be etched into my mind and I tried to repress all of my memories about the war. I tried to focus on all of the time I could spend with Logan.
I died a few months before the war ended though, in Logan’s arms. He tried to reach me before the enemies’ grenade went off near my station, but he was too late. I remember him being so angry for me for running out there stupidly, but I was trying to protect a child that was stranded.
“How could you be so stupid Darling?”
I laughed shortly before a bit of blood splattered on Logan’s cheek when I couched, “You call it stupid I call it brave.”
“Not hearing a difference, Love,” he grunted. His grip tightened on me as he just held me in his arms, not paying attention to the battle going on around him. I reached a bloody hand up to his face and smoothed down his worry lines.
“Smile Logan, even though you can make a frown attractive, I prefer it when you smile. It makes you look more approachable.”
He laughed shortly. “Approachable? Darling, yer never had a problem approaching before, especially as kids. If I remember correctly, it was yer who rescued me from the bullies and then punch me in the arm for not standing up to them.”
“It made you tougher didn’t it? Your welcome.” I coughed. I could feel the remaining life in me draining fast but I couldn’t find it in me to be scared or worried about it. I spent my last few moments staring into seas of whiskey and a dark, wild mane.
“Yer sure did, Darling. Yer the toughest gal I know. Don’t be scared, okay?” but it was his voice that was clogged up. He fruitlessly tried to clear his throat and restrain his tears. But he wasn’t fooling me.
“Never. Just promise me to smile more, okay? Can you do that for me?”
I never knew what he responded because it went bright for me after that. I died in his arms and I never saw Logan again. I don’t know what became of him after the war, if he married and settled down to have a family after that or not. It’s kind of strange to try and imagine Logan with a family.
To be honest it’s strange to even talk about him as though I have known him my whole life. Although a part of me now accepts that I have never been normal and that I have lived many lives, a part of me aches for this to be a really bad dream so that I can wake up and everything will go back to normal. My dad will come walking through the door, albeit late, but with a cheeseburger in hand for an apology and I will be pissed but still take the burger. I’ll try and keep up the pissed off mien but eventually I’ll succumb to his dark ways and his quick witted banter. He always knew the way to make me smile, even when I didn’t want to. The more and more than I thought about my father, the more I craved for his hug, his touch. I longed for the way he would kiss my forehead every time I would fall asleep at the computer or my work station and right before he would go on an extended trip. I admired how despite my age and his publicized conquests, he tried to keep me away from all of the women he’s been with. I missed the smell of his cologne and the grease smell that always lingered in his skin as though it engrained itself into his very person.
Regardless of all the lives I lived and all of the parents that I have been born to, none of them have ever felt as real to me as Anthony Stark did. He was my father. He and I were able to connect on a level that I have never connected with another person before. I missed him. I wanted him back. Whoever it was that gave me this power, that gave me the ability to die and become reborn every time could take it all away if I could just see my father one more time. I tried to open my eyes and move, whatever I could to wake up. I just wanted to wake up from this and see my dad. I wanted my daddy back. I wanted to wake up.
I had been focusing and putting all of my energy into waking up. I don’t know how much time has passed. The pain in my hand in back had gradually gone away as I acknowledge the part of me that was normal and died over and over again. And though I wanted answers, I really just wanted to wake up. And that says a lot in of itself since lounging around in my dad’s old clothes all day in bed while I munch on sweets is perfectly fine for me as well. But now I prayed to wake up again.
Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wa“…ke up. Wake up. Please wake up for me Stells. I need you right now. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you like I promised. I was kind of being held captive by some lunatic warheads and nearly died…and really if you think about it, it wasn’t really my fault…but whatever, I’ll take the blame just this once. Please.”
I heard a familiar voice break through the barrier of my senses. I could smell disinfectant and medicines. The faint beeping sound droned on and on ceaselessly, but I was glad that it meant that I hadn’t died again. I was still here, with my dad.
Dad. I longed to open my eyes but I just couldn’t get them to work. They wouldn’t obey me no matter how hard I tried.
“Has she woken up yet?” Another familiar voice asked restlessly. It was female. The smell of vanilla indicated to me that it was Pepper. A deep sighed that I recognized as my father’s rang throughout the silent room.
“No. Her vitals have improved significantly since the last test. Speaking of which get the big guy for me, I want him to run another test. I could’ve sworn I saw her eyes twitch.”
“I know I know. Coma patients limbs can twitch randomly and may not necessarily be an indication of awareness or the regaining of movement. I know. But…I need something to hope for Pep. Please, get Bruce for me. He should be on his floor in the kitchen. He mentioned something about Capsicle not knowing how to work the coffee maker right. Remind me again why we let him around any technology.”
“I’ll be back Tony,” Pepper replied, ignoring the jibe at this ‘Capsicle’ guy. I didn’t know who this ‘Bruce’ was either. I listened as Pepper’s heels clinked out of the room which I assumed mimicked a hospital lab if I know my father, and I do.
I felt my father grab my limp hand and run his finger over it slowly. I hankered to grip his hand back and squeeze it, but I couldn’t make my limbs work the way I wanted them to.
But all too quickly that burning sensation that had long since passed returned back full frontal. The pain no longer remained in my back and it wasn’t the same tearing and stretching sensation in my shoulder and spine, this time it covered my entire body. The feeling of being set on fire, dumped into scalding hot grease, and falling into a pit of lave, all while being on the surface of the sun took over my body.
I knew I was screaming. Screaming louder than I have evr thought possible. So loud that I was shocked that I didn’t lose my voice. I barely registered my father shouting my name and checking me for what may be wrong. The heart monitor beeped furiously fast. Feet thumped and raced against the floors, thumping closer to me. Hands just kept touching me all around but it made it worse.
The fire didn’t like all of these unknown people touching me. It licked at my veins and danced along my skin with a grace that only made it travel slower, prolonging the pain.
“Everyone stop!” a string voice shouted. “Everyone touching her is not helping. In fact her pulse increases with every touch. She’s aware, she’s awake of what is going on but—”
“Stells, can you hear me? Are you awake? Tell me what’s wrong, I’ll fire it,” I heard my father try and joke.
“Listen to the monitor, she recognizes you r voice, so she is aware, she just may not be able to wake right now.”
“Why is she screaming?” Pepper asked this time.
“I don’t know…it’s nothing physical though. Whatever that is effecting her this way have to be mental which implies that she won’t wake until her mind heals. Her physical wounds are nonexistent. There’s no telling what is hurting her if it is a mental illness and there is no way to stop it. We’ll just have to wait and see. She’ll wake up when she is ready.
Today’s my birthday. My 22nd birthday is today and I can’t even celebrate it because I am still in this “coma”. It seems so funny to me that just last year I was fretting over turning 21 years old and how my life was going to completely change. I was freaking out over how my dad was not there and now the tables have reversed. Now it is my birthday again and I am not there, I am spiritually and physically, but not mentally.
Dad makes sure he stops in every day to keep me updated with everything, and by everything I mean everything. So much as happened since my last birthday. It turns out that the day he was supposed to return from the trip in Afghanistan he was captured by these guys who wanted him to create the weapon of all weapons. Apparently Obadiah Stane—never really liked the guy, he gave me the heebie-jeebies—had been doing some foul stuff behind my father’s back for years and had been dealing weapons to the bad guys under the table. Anyway dad escaped, but not without a hole in his chest and an arc reactor for a heart. I was fascinated by the arc reactor and desperately wanted to see how it worked, but have to just settle for my dad’s descriptions—which by the way are only vivid when he’s discussing himself. But that’s a Stark for you.
Eventually dad became Iron Man. I really don’t want to go into details about how all of that happened because as exciting a story it is, it only pisses me off even more that I wasn’t there to help him out and be there for him when he really needed me there. Plus it makes me really wanted to bring Stane back to life so that I can kick his ass all over again. Dad somehow thought that going public was the best direction to go when he became a superhero, but he wouldn’t be my egomaniac dad if he didn’t, so I can’t really say I’m surprised. I do feel bad for Rhodey and Pepper though, they’ve been dragged through the ringer when dad went through his mid-life crisis with the poisoning. A part of me wanted to die and be reborn again when he finally confessed that he was dying because if I somehow woke up after he died, I wouldn’t want to live without him.
But thankfully he re-discovered a new element that grandpa Stark found a while ago and saved his life. He won’t admit it but he’s still kind of scared of Natasha—this curvaceous redhead who was originally sent to spy on my dad and determine his worthiness for the Avengers Initiative for S.H.I.E.L.D—and feels kind of grateful to Fury for hinting about the element. But now dad’s not dying and he’s instead a part of this team of mismatch assassins, a god, a genetically modified super soldier, and a…green big thing…that have come together to form a league of super heroes to protect the world. I honestly wanted to laugh when he told me this, but since I couldn’t I resorted to just laughing in my head. I hold for when I finally open my eyes and see him. Right after I punch the demi-god for trying to take over my New York.
Oh yeah, and a couple weeks ago, dad and Pepper was attacked and super long story short, this crazy guy who dad blew off a long time ago had a vendetta to destroy Tony Stark—who doesn’t nowadays, I wish these wannabe villains would get a new sob story—but nearly accomplished it. Pepper sort of died, well she was dropped into fire, but because of the experimentation of Killian she survived it and now dad’s girlfriend is a super girlfriend. He won’t say out loud but turns him on and freaks him out that his girlfriend is now indestructible. But he says he likes the ‘New Pep’ as he calls her. But Pepper is still Pepper. Busy.
Geez, you faint and entire a year-long coma and you miss the world nearly coming to an end, multiple times.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention Peter Parker. We’re both editors down for the newspaper and quickly became best buds. We bumped into each other one night at a bar. Peter was a year older than me and the owner knew my father so he allowed a 20 year old to come in, I just wasn’t allowed to drinking. I recognized him from work and went over to chat with him when I noticed he was down. And I mean really down. His girlfriend of three years, who he had plans of proposing to her that night, dumped him for some douchebag named Flash Thompson. He drunk so much that night he didn’t remember telling me his whole life story and inevitably his webby secret. I walked him to his aunt house and snuck him in through his window. Of course he made it easier when he just swung the both of us up—I have no idea how he did it when he could barely walk—and I stayed with him that night. Dad freaked out, but only because I forgot to call him but he was cool when I came in the next morning.
I told gave Peter a few hints about holding his alcohol but he just swore to stay away from it altogether. Personally I think it’s a bit of shame, I’m no alcohol, wine, and beer connoisseur like my father, but I can appreciate a good beer now and then. After I reassured him that I wouldn’t tell his secret we became fast friends, mostly because I wouldn’t stop bothering him about it but he eventually succumbed to the Stark charms, just like everyone else and accepted the fact that we would be best friends for life. And fulfilling his best friend duties, Peter made a habit to drop in at least once a week just to say ‘Hey!’ sometimes. Dad still hasn’t completely warmed up to him. If you ask me, it’s because I think it reminds my dad of how he may have turned out. Both dad and Peter are geniuses, but Peter always had a loving family and a support system, Tony Starks never did, so Peter reminds him of what could have been.
But then again, I didn’t get a degree I psychology so who really knows why Tony Stark doesn’t like Peter Parker. The world may never know.
I think your analysis of your father is pretty inept and amusing.
I jumped, startled from the sudden voice in my head. It wasn’t mine, and no one else that I know can do telepathy. I don’t appreciate it though, not one bit.
I apologize. I understand that most do not like the fact that their privacy is being invaded when I insert my thoughts into their minds after I read them. I apologize sincerely for that, but I had no other means of finding and communicating with you. You are a very hard person to reach, Ms. Stark.
So…you can hear me then? I mean, you can hear, or read, my thoughts?
Okay then…well can you tell me why you have been looking for me? And who the hell you are?!
My apologies again, Ms. Stark for not introducing myself to you. I am Professor Charles Xavier and I founded of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I originally created it to protect those who are shunned from society for being special.
What do you mean by special?
Mutants. Miss Stark. I created the school as a safe haven for mutants to come and live amongst others who are similar without having to worry about the repercussions of being abnormal. It has expanded and now host mutants from all over the world and I built a team, called the X-Men, and some elite students choose to join it after their learning and training is over.
That’s…well I really don’t know how to respond to that exactly. I’m still trying to get over the fact that I am hearing voices in my head that are not mind and I am actually responding back to it. I have officially hit rock bottom.
I can assure you that you have not hit ‘rock bottom’ Ms. Stark. I am an actual person, I just thought it’d be best if I spoke to you first regarding your acceptance into the school before I showed up at your front door.
Acceptance? I’m not a mutant. I’m…something, but I’m not a mutant.
No, you are not a mutant. But my school isn’t called Xavier’s School for Mutants, it is called Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. And my child, you are definitely gifted.