Laynie's prediction had been beyond correct. Her father was a very sick man the next day, and he smelled like vomit and rotten alcohol as he sat at the table with her.
He drank some orange juice in total silence, and Laynie ate eggs and toast in hostile silence.
"I'm sorry, kid," Walter finally said.
Laynie was silent.
"I don't know if I said something yesterday..." He rubbed a hand over his face. "God, I don't even remember much of yesterday morning. If I said something, please tell me."
She didnt. And she wasn't going to. If she could just forget it had ever happened, she'd be happy. After a few minutes, she did ask one question.
"Why did mom leave you?"
Walter looked up, stunned. "Can I answer that another time?"
He sighed. "I was a drunk. Okay? I was a drunk. Rebecca wouldn't have it. But I'm better since then, Laynie, I swear-"
"You weren't better yesterday."
He gave her a stony look, and she regretted the words. "We all have our days, don't we kid?"
Laynie nodded silently, and didn't say anything else until he left the table to shower.
She let out a long sigh, looking down at her phone. She wished Carter would just text her already. She hadn't heard from her friend in forever.
"She's busy with school," she told herself. Carter had always been focused on keeping her grades in order, and the end of the school year was rapidly approaching.
Like he'd promised, Shawn made sure they met up at school that day.
"Hey!" he called, jogging down the hallway.
Laynie stopped and let him catch up, walking again once he was beside her.
"Hey," she said back.
"How are things with your dad?"
"...He apologized this morning.
"Well that's a solid start. On a scale from sober to alcohol poisoning, how drunk was he?"
"Tony Stark at 2009's annual Christmas charity ball."
Shawn gave a low whistle, trying not to chuckle at her choice of example. "You have to admit it's impressive."
Laynie laughed. "Yeah, I guess. I have history now, I'll catch up with you at lunch okay?"
He nodded and they parted ways for the time being.
At lunch, Laynie didn't bring up her father and neither did Shawn. They talked about the Avengers, which made Laynie happy and sad at the same time.
"So, can I ask about the hair?"
Laynie laughed, touching her hair. "Yeah, it's fine. I cut it because... Well, I wanted to, having it long bothered me, and I dyed it red in a bet with my mom late last year. It kinda just stuck."
Shawn nodded slowly. "My mom couldn't stop talking about it last night, she really liked it. I do too," he rushed.
Laynie smiled, feeling a little bit of a blush touch her cheeks. "Thanks." Her smile fell suddenly. "I got in trouble for it though. The school apparently doesn't permit it."
Shawn laughed. "My mom's close friends with the principal's wife, I can tell you for sure, you don't have anything to worry about."
Laynie threw her hands up and cheered. "That's great!"
Shawn grinned. "Yeah it is. You really stood up to him from what I hear. You deserved to win that battle."
The rest of the day, Laynie was feeling pretty good. When she got home from school, walked there again by her new friend, her dad was at work.
She let Shawn inside and showed him around, then bid him goodbye.
She put her pajamas on, grabbed her weekend homework, and plopped down on the couch. An hour went by, her homework was halfway done, and Walter wasn't home.
"Where could he be?" she asked the empty house. "He should be home from work."
Laynie went around and locked all the doors and windows, something her mom always had her do when she was going to be getting home late from a mission.
At nine pm, he still wasn't home. She had her phone in her hand, wondering whether or not she should text him. She was also tempted to call Sarah, her caseworker.
"I'll just go to bed then," she said reluctantly. Talking to herself didn't really sound sane, but it made her feel a little more comfortable in the empty place.
She turned out the lights in her room, leaving on the one in the hallway. As she laid down, she laughed to herself and realized she hadn't been alone since before going to stay with the Avengers.
She played on her phone until eleven, when she fell asleep with it still in her hand.
At one in the morning, the front door slammed open and shut, scaring Laynie awake.
She threw the covers off, running to the top of the stairs. It was only Walter, now standing beside the door taking his shoes off.
"Walter, where have you been?"
He looked up. In the dark, all Laynie could see were his movements. She didn't see his bloodshot eyes. "Been out," he grumbled.
Laynie could instantly hear the drunkenness in his voice. It was at that moment that he tripped over thin air and fell, swearing the whole way.
Without even thinking, she rushed down the stairs to help him up, flipping on the lights as she went.
The second she laid a hand on him he pushed her away, causing his sleepy daughter to stumble backward.
"Walter, don't go up the stairs, just- just lay on the couch, I'll-"
"Shut up girl! I don't need you, or your help!" Walter bellowed. He stood up, swaying dangerously. His face screwed up like he was thinking very hard, then he glared right at Laynie. "If you leave she'll come back."
"Is she more important to you?" Laynie asked, tears welling up in her eyes.
He nodded harshly. "Yeah! Yer good for nothin' mom said there's 'lotta more important things than her, so why not you!"
Laynie felt cornered, her father standing between her and the stairs. "Can I go to bed?" she asked quietly, holding in the sobs.
He squinted at her, then stumbled off to the kitchen.
She dashed up the stairs and into her room, shutting and locking the door. Swiping her phone and her mother's blanket from the bed, she sought refuge in the dark closet.
Laynie stared at the phone screen, finger hovering over the call button. Tony Stark, the contact read. He'd said to call him if anything went wrong...
No. She could still fix it. He was obviously okay sober, so she just needed to get him to lay off.
She closed the contact and scrolled through the Cs for another name.
"Hello?" said a sleepy voice.
"Hey Carter, um, it's Laynie..." She looked at her phone's clock. It read one thirty AM. "It's late."
"Laynie!" Carter shouted, "Is everything okay? We haven't talked in forever."
Laynie laughed, choking down tears. "Yeah, it's been a while. How's the boyfriend?"
Carter scoffed, "Not my boyfriend. Seriously though, how have you been? Everything going okay with Walter?"
She took a shaky breath, steeling herself to lie to her best friend. "We went bowling the other day, I almost died. Then we went to the theaters though so it was okay. I made a friend at school though!"
"Well, I'm glad you didn't die. That would be kind of sad." Carter chuckled, "Tell me about this new friend though."
"He's great. He actually walked up to me and told me my name, which was weird, but it turns out he's just a big superhero nerd." Laynie laughed, then let out a strangled gasp and fell silent as her father stomped down the hallway. Looks like he made it up the stairs after all.
"Laynie, what's wrong?" Carter asked.
"Nothing. I'm okay."
"If you say so..."
"Just... Yeah. Nothing." She sighed. "Anything interesting happening over there?"
"Actually, yes. Um, I just learned today that, well, that Bruce is going to try and adopt me. Technically all the Avengers are, but he would be my legal guardian." Carter laughed a little, "I was kinda angry about it at first, but I have to admit I'm sorta relieved."
Laynie laughed, careful to keep it quiet. "Carter, that's great! That must be exciting... Tell them I said hi."
"Yeah, I will. But... I really wish you were going to be there too. It's not gonna be the same without you." Carter sighed, "I miss you."
"I miss you too. I'm glad you aren't angry at me or something, I was getting afraid to text you."
Carter snorted, "Why would I be angry with you?"
"I don't know! I'm a paranoid person okay?" Laynie laughed.
"I'll say." Carter laughed with her. "Well, it's getting late. I need sleep. I'll talk to you tomorrow okay?"