Laynie always looked forward to Saturday as the one day of the week her mother allowed her to sleep in. It was a pattern that was almost never broken. But on her first Saturday in Stark Tower, she gave up all hope of sleeping in at around eight in the morning.
First, at around six, Thor bellowed a good morning to Pepper. Laynie would have been surprised to hear that anyone slept through that. Then Tony tested upgrades to JARVIS at seven, causing him to shout "how may I be of service" in seven different languages at varying volumes in every room. Then once Laynie was finally nearing sleep again, Steve burned a pancake and set the smoke alarms off.
For a while she laid in bed, listening to all the noises outside her room. She wanted to go and be a part of it, but she wasn't sure if she would be completely welcomed. She certainly didn't want to be in the way.
Eventually, she decided it couldn't hurt anything and jumped out of bed. She reasoned that if she couldn't sleep in, she would at least lounge around in her pajamas. There wasn't a force on the earth that was going to stop her.
When she walked into the living room, she found Tony playing a session of early morning video games on the computer while Thor and Clint played with the Nintendo Wii, narrowly missing every breakable object in the room.
She moved on to the kitchen in pursuit of breakfast, and found the pancakes that Steve hadn't burnt in a tall stack on the counter. Laynie made herself a plate of them and sat down at the dining room table with Pepper, who seemed to be working on her laptop.
"Good morning," Pepper greeted with a smile.
"Hi." Laynie smiled back.
Pepper closed her laptop and gave the teenager her full attention. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, until around six a.m., I slept great."
She laughed. "Sorry, it gets pretty loud around here sometimes."
"I can tell. Have you seen Carter this morning?"
Pepper shook her head. "I'm afraid I have not. I've only seen her come out of her room once or twice since you two came."
Laynie released a sigh.
"Is she alright?"
"I don't even know," she answered. "We had a little bit of an argument the first night we were here, and I haven't talked to her since."
"Oh no, I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
"No, it's alright. I guess Carter just wants to be alone. She isn't handling the situation very well at all."
Pepper smiled gently and placed a hand on top of Laynie's, which lay outstretched on the table, and said, "I'm sure she'll come around. She won't be able to stay quiet forever, no one can."
Laynie laughed. "You obviously don't know Carter. She probably has a world record in quiet or something."
"I'm sure even she has her limit. And if we don't see her come out in a few days, we could always take Clint's suggestion and break down the door," Pepper joked.
They laughed and then were silent while Laynie finished her pancakes.
"May I ask how you are dealing with this whole situation?"
She shrugged, looking down at her lap. "Okay, I guess. I still just have a hard time believing it's real. My mom was really all I ever had. I guess in the back of my head I always knew there was a risk of losing my mom, I just never really expected it to happen."
"I'm sorry." Pepper said, "I'm sure your mother was a good woman, especially to raise such a wonderful daughter."
Laynie gave her a smile. "Thanks. I think you kinda remind me of her somehow. Like... you're really nice, but you take no crap."
"Well I'm honored," she said, thoroughly honest. "And as far as Carter goes, she's just going through the same thing as you. Everybody deals with things like this differently."
"I know... does that make me wrong to be mad at her anyway?"
"No. Even if she's in pain, she has no right to be mean to people."
"Hmph, somebody needs to tell her that."
Then from the living room came a shout that startled them both. "I win again! HA! Three game-streak!"
"That would be Clint," Pepper said with a roll of her eyes. "He thinks he's king of the world for being able to beat Thor in Wii bowling."
Laynie grinned. "I don't suppose Thor would like a little help showing him up?"
Pepper stood excitedly. "It's about time Clint took a beating."
Laynie and Pepper ran into the living room and challenged the boys to a match of virtual bowling.