Author's Note: Hello, fellow readers and writers! Welcome to Silver Flames, the second book in the Silver trilogy, and the fourth Silver book I've posted (Silver Ashes was a prequel)! I must warn you, if you haven't read Silver Ashes, Silver Smoke or even Melting Silver - STOP NOW. Do not read ahead. I'm warning you, this won't make any sense. But thanks for checking it out anyway :D lots of exciting stuff will happen in this book, from a new villain who is allied with Loki to a lot of Sam's-brother-Luke action.

Welcome to the new readers, and a huge welcome back to the old ones :D thank you all so, so much for continuing to follow Sam and Steve's story. I promise you, this book will have a lot mre SamxSteve action in it :D thanks again for hopping on over! Just a reminder (as if you didn't already know), I don't own the Avengers or any Marvel characters.

This chapter's short; it's just exposition/set-up. But I hope you enjoy anyway, and please leave me a review to either tell me you're reading this next SamxSteve story, or let me know what you thought of this chapter! I'd love to hear how many people are actually reading this :P

Thanks again, everyone, and as always - READERS ASSEMBLE!


Tony Stark's POV

A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend.

-Author Unknown

Welcome to the story of my life.

Well, technically, it's my life and a lot of other people's lives too, thrown into the mix. But let's not get technical - we all know I'm the interesting one.

Name's Tony Stark. You probably know me if you don't live under a rock. Or, if you've read those last two journals I've written in. This one - this is the third. "The start of something new." You know what the journals are for - recording our experiences with the Avengers. Saving the word. Kicking bad guy ass (and other body parts). Together facing threats no hero could stand alone.

This story starts in December - a while after the end of the last one. Surprisingly enough, life was good. Things were going smoothly. Everything was okay-

"Tony, I've got cramps. I think I got my period, do you have any Advil?"

. . . Oh, God.

"Do you know what it's like to get your period? It freaking sucks. It's like, you get all moody and just want to stab everything with a fork, and then your acne starts acting up, which makes it even worse. And then, oh my god, not only are you in a bad mood, but you get mood swings. Like, you go from pissed-off to angry to upset and crying in like, two hours. Plus, there are these damn cramps that you have to deal with-"

I covered my ears with my hands, blocking out Sam's moaning as I tried to erase that newly-acquired information from my mind.

Samantha Silverman has many titles: founding Avenger, superheroine Masquerade, Captain America's girlfriend, Roman history expert . . . She's a lot of things. The primary is annoying.

But in all honestly, I love Sam. She's like me, except 19 years old and blonde and not as attractive. I've known her since the Avengers first formed to fight Loki, and she showed up to help out as Masquerade - Sam's got control over the four elements: earth, wind, fire and air.

And yes, she was now Captain America's girlfriend. There had been a lot of drama the past year - Sam moved to Rome, shit went down, she moved back to New York City, and Cap's forgiven her for abandoning him. They're back together now, trying to work things out.

"Will you stop talking for once in your life?" I snapped, taking my hands away from my ears.

She made a face. "Whoa, it's someone's time of the month."

"Yours, as you just told me," I rolled my eyes. "I really didn't need to know that, Sammy-"

"I was enlightening you. Maybe the information will come in handy one day."

"Come in handy, my ass."

There was a pause, before she added, "But seriously, you got any Advil?"

I banged the heel of my palm against my forehead.

"Mr. Stark," a voice said, and we turned to see an impeccably-dressed man walking toward us. His suit was almost as expensive and gentlemanly as mine, which was saying something.

"I was not aware you were bringing an . . . escort," he looked Sam up and down in disgust from her red Chuck Taylor's to her ripped jeans and from her messy blonde hair to the oversized white t-shirt she was wearing - it was Captain America's, as a matter of fact; Sam had stolen it from him before she left.

"This is Samantha Stark, my daughter," I said smoothly. She shot me a sharp look, but said nothing; just played along.

"I apologize," the man said hastily, and suddenly his entire attitude changed. "But - I did not know you had a beautiful young daughter!" he said, still looking at the poor girl, whose expression turned to one of annoyance. "I have a son, you know - very handsome, very wealthy, looks to be about your age-"

"She was with her mother in - uh, Sweden - for the past few years," I interrupted the man's attempt at matchmaking. "That why you've never, uh, heard about her." I scratched my nose.

The man frowned, but didn't comment. "I see. Well, my name is Volodymyr Stankovich, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Likewise," Sam grumbled, obviously uncomfortable with the way he was staring at her.

I began, "Mr. Stankovich, we're here-"

"I know why you're here, Mr. Stark," the man shook his head. "We have been business partners for some time now, no? But . . ."

"I'm looking into nuclear energy now," I nodded, tapping my foot on the ground. "And you have access to-"

"Chernobyl," the Ukrainian man said grimly. "Yes, I know. You want to see Chernobyl."


We clomped through the streets towards the power plant, our hazmat suits making it difficult to walk. Sam shot me a sarcastic thumbs up as we trudged on, following after Stankovich, a few scientists and a bodyguard or two.

"Chernobyl was a nuclear power plant that exploded back in 1986," he narrarated for us. "Back then it was part of the USSR, but it is actually Ukrainian. When the plant exploded, radiation was leaked all across Europe and it become the worst nuclear disaster in the history of the world," he said ominously, and I rolled my eyes. "The surrounding areas were evacuated and will not be liveable for another 200,000 years, so high are the radiation levels."

"But you're letting us in anyway," I pointed out.

Stankovich sighed. "We have hazmat suits and technology to tell us if the radiation levels are too high," he held up a small beeping handheld device. "Still, we cannot spend long here."

"I don't need long," I mumbled under my breath.

"I was only able to get you in," Stankovich continued on, "because of my high standing in the government and my work in researching this place. You are welcome, Mr. Stark. But . . . I do not see why you had to bring your daughter in on a dangerous business matter," he frowned, looking over at Sam, who was waddling like a duck in her hazmat suit.

"Father-daughter bonding time. Extreme tourism. Trying to get her interested in the family business. All those goodies," I brushed it off. "Now, as I've told you in our meetings, Stark Industries is looking to invest in nuclear energy and weaponry. Stankovich Enterprises - your company - is already a partner of mine, and I'd like your assistance with it."

"So where does Chernobyl come in?" Sam asked, as we reached the foot of the abandoned power plant and were ushered inside.

"Two reasons. One, to learn from their mistakes, and two, to research the radiation levels."

"Radiation? Why'd you bring me, then? Why not Doctor Banner?"

"He's a gamma radiation expert. This is nuclear radiation."

"Whatever."

As we headed closer to the heart of the building, I could've sworn I saw a flash of blonde hair, disappearing around the corner. But the only blonde here was Sam, who was wrapped up in a hazmat suit - I couldn't see any of her hair. Someone else was here with us.

Just as I thought.

When we turned down the hall, there was a greenish sort of light to the air, like a trail of smoke had been left. I seemed to be the only one who noticed, and once we were inside the main room, I saw more greenish light emitting from a lot of the machines.

"When was the last time someone's been here?" I asked.

"Oh, a long time. This area is strictly off-limits," Stankovich murmured. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason." Because the machines showed signs of tampering with. Recent tampering with. And the dust had been wiped away from the screens.

Another flash of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye; prints and bottles missing here and there. We weren't alone.

I tried to do some investigation - like Sherlock Holmes - to figure out who the intruder was. But I couldn't do that, and my Stark Industries business stuff, in time; we had to return out of the Zone soon enough, and I bid Stankovich farewell as Sam and I got in a waiting limousine ourside of Chernobyl.

"Mr. Stark. Miss Stark," Stankovich tipped his hat to us. "My chauffeur Raoma will return you to your hotel. Lovely girl, she is," he glanced at Raoma, the woman in the front; she smiled at us, revealing perfectly white teeth and a head of curly blonde hair.

We had barely pulled away from Chernobyl when Sam spoke up. "Annnnnd why did you have to drag me here again?"

"Do you ever listen during our Avengers meetings?"

"No."

I sighed, shaking my head.

"Well, I know the whole Stark-Industries-nuclear-energy thing was just a cover-up for some fancy Avengers crap. That's why you brought me along," she admitted.

"Precisely," I nodded. "Although I actually did need to do some business with Stankovich. That was, admittedly, the primary reason for this trip."

"And the secondary?"

"Someone's been tampering with the old technology at Chernobyl. Experimenting with the leftover nuclear radiation. Nick Fury wanted me to come check it out - said reliable sources told us it was something not quite human."

". . . A mutant? Left over from the explosion in 1986?"

"No, Sammy. Just . . . something. And nuclear power is nothing to joke about, so Fury sent me right away."

"Since when have you worked for Fury?"

I ground my teeth together. "I don't. This was just an addition to my visit with Stankovich."

"Riiiight. You lost me."

I rolled my eyes. "There was definitely something there. Didn't you see the recently-used equipment? The green whisps everywhere?"

"Yeah, I saw it," Sam ran a hand through her hair. "You think that's our mystery villain?"

"Sure."

"Avengers work. So much effort," she sighed, banging her head against the seat in front of her.

"Hey, all you have to do is stand there and look pretty. I only brought you for company and backup in case something went wrong."

"Yeah, since I'm - you know - Samantha Stark and all," she shot me a look. "You do know my last name's Silverman, right? We've always said I'm just like a daughter to you, but since when have I actually been a daughter?"

"Since today," I frowned, pulling my phone out of my pocket. "Look what came up, Sammy."

I pulled up the webpage of The Daily Bugle - a popular newspaper in NYC - on my phone's browser, and flashed the top story at her. TONY STARK FUNDS MYSTERY WOMAN'S EDUCATION, the title read.

"The press got wind that I payed for your university in Rome, and for your housing," I explained as she skimmed through the article. "Now they want answers: who, why, why again . . ."

"So I'm magically your daughter? Somehow that fixes things?"

"They're getting too close to the truth for comfort, Sammy," I took my phone back. "Think about it: Tony Stark pays for some young blonde woman to live in Rome. Meanwhile, his fellow Avenger, Masquerade - a young blonde woman - is missing. No one knows why she's not fighting crime with the other Avengers. They'll put two and two together and realize you're Masquerade."

Sam paled. "Uh, I kind of like my identity being secret."

"I know," I shook my head as the driver neared our hotel.

"So . . . you're giving the press a fake story about me being your daughter to stop them from sniffing for answers," Sam pieced it together. "It's reason enough for you to fund Rome."

"Yeah, and as soon as they've got that story to play with, they'll stop researching the Masquerade aspect. They only hear what we tell them, Sam. So for now on - at least until you're out of the spotlight - you're my daughter. They'll be too busy chasing their tails to figyre out who you really are. Your identity should be safe."

"Technically, I won't be lying on legal documents, either, it I just sigh everything as 'Sam S.' Stark, Silverman - what's the difference?" Sam sighed. "This is a retarded plan," she raised her eyes heavenwards.

"But you got anything better?"

"No."

"Didn't think so," I said smugly.

I did some shopping (and by that I mean buying other companies and businesses), before we visited a few colleagues of mine in the Ukraine - really working the Samantha Stark angle, too. Later that day, I finished up my nuclear planning business and dragged Sam onto an airplane - we were jet-setting to Rome so she could have a visit with her wheelchair-bound ex-roommate.

"You ready for the upcoming ball in a few weeks?" I asked, as the plane took off.

"Ugh, no. I'm going to have to run around, changing between Sam and Masquerade, now that I'm your daughter," she snapped. "It'll be expected that I show up."

"Well, sorry," I said sarcastically, as she blew a strand of hair out of her face.

"No, but seriously, I'm actually super excited," she smiled for real this time. "It's going to be so fun. Janet's going to design both me and Masquerade a dress."

"And a mask?"

"There's a tiny Venetian mask shop in Brooklyn. I'll go there. You?"

"That was my plan, too."

"Great minds think alike," she winked.

It had been planned for months now - the first annual Masquerade masquerade ball. Sam decided she actually wanted to give back to the community, or something retarded like that - so with Pepper Potts and Janet Van Dyne's help, she organized an entire charity ball, hosted by none other than the superheroine "Masquerade". It was, of course, a masquerade ball. Already, it was guaranteed to be huge - A-list celebrities and politicians were all clamoring to get a spot on the guest list, whether it was to be at one of the most pretentious events of the year or just to rub elbows with an Avenger, I didn't know. All proceeds were going to help mental illness: the cover was that Masquerade's belief was that most super-villains only became villains because something was off-kilter in their brains. The real reason that was the case (and I was one of very few people who knew this) was because Sam - and her brother - both had clinical depression a while back. Sam's was spurted from a mentally abusive relationship she was in while in Rome, with Wolverine's son Daken.

I settled in to make some calls to Stankovich's men, regarding business. If things went smoothly, my work in the Ukraine would be done by the end of the week; Sam's visit with her Italian friend Caterina would be brief, and we could return back to New York sometime next week. I knew Sam was anxious to get back to Steve Rogers - Captain America.

Since she "officially" returned from Rome, having completed exams sometime during the summer, they had been almost inseparable. Steve hadn't let her out of his sights, probably afraid she would disappear again - and she had stayed by his side whenever she could, reluctant to let him go once more. It was odd, in a way - just looking at her now, I could almost see the pain that even their brief separation was causing her, etched across her face.

Sam winced. "Tony, you sure you don't have any Advil? My cramps are getting worse-"

Okay, maybe it was a different kind of pain.