Howard Stark always wanted a son. She figures it out when she’s five years old. (To be honest she kind of always knew, because come on, she’s Toni Fucking Stark, she’s basically the definition of not stupid, but it took her until five to work out what it actually meant, her not being a boy.) She’s watching her mother in the mirror as Maria braids Toni’s hair, and in the background her father is pacing and huffing and wondering why girls took so long to get their shit together. Maria snaps at him, but in Toni’s head, it just clicks. Oh. That’s why her father’s always so angry with her, so much more short-tempered than he ever is with anyone else. That’s why. She’s a girl.
When they get back from the gala, Toni sneaks her mother’s sewing scissors out of her kit and hacks all her hair off. She doesn’t do a very good job of it, just lifts the braids and cuts, and she’s sad when all her hair falls to the floor because she likes the weight of it, likes the look on her mother’s face when Maria’s combing her hair at night—it’s the only time she gets to see her mother, really—but the look on her father’s face when she comes down to breakfast the next morning confirms it. She sees it, a flickering confusion, like he’s seeing something laid over her that isn’t actually there.
Toni glares at him with all the power of her five-year-old eyes and leaves the dining room without a word.
Maybe it’s spite, but she never lets her hair get longer than a pixie cut again.
She’s eight when she rebuilds her first car engine and nine when he buys her a garage. Sometimes he comes down to watch her work. Toni always fumbles her wrenches when it happens, because as smart as she is, the stupid part of her perks up and whispers maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe he’ll be proud for once. But all he does is watch, and when she inevitably fucks up—she can never quite get the same sort of jazzy confidence when her dad’s watching her like she’s going to set off a nuclear weapon—he’ll leave. He won’t even say anything. He just gets up and goes. And then the next day, or the next week, or the next month, he’s back, and it starts all over again.
She doesn’t realize until she’s fourteen that that’s the only time she sees her father. And then when she’s seventeen, they’re dead, both of them, and she can’t go down into the garage for a week because all she can think is that they were in a car.
DUM-E is the first robot she builds out of college, and she fucks him up so many times she thinks something’s always going to be wrong with him. She keeps him anyway. He’s better than a dog that pisses on the carpet or chews on her phones, and she likes having someone who just shuts up and listens.
The others come later. DUM-E is first.
Something else that her father hates her for—Toni Stark loves girls.
She loves boys, too—nothing quite like a dick, even with the best vibrators money can buy—but there’s something about girls that just gets her off. When she’s in her first year of college, Toni comes back for winter break and her parents insist on taking her to a fundraiser snorefest. The girl they try to get her to be friends with flushes pretty pink behind her ears when Toni nudges her foot under the table, and she licks her lips when Toni meets her eyes.
Her father walks in on them with Toni’s face between the girl’s legs, and Toni never sees the girl again.
It’s not the first time her father walks in on something. Then he’s dead. Sometimes when she has her tongue in some girl’s crotch, she thinks the door’s going to open. And then she remembers.
She’d never say it, but Toni’s not all that into the weapons mogul thing. Obie keeps track of things most days—she has grad school and parties and robots and parties and cars to be thinking about, after all—but sometimes after she’s turned eighteen, she’ll give him a second look when he slides a contract over for her to sign. She’s always liked cars better than guns.
It’s easier, though, letting Obie run the company. So she signs. She signs the smutty tabloid rag someone shoves at her, too, and when Obie gets that look, the huffy one, she flips him off behind her back.
Rhodey’s the one that changes her mind. The first time she comes on to him, he just lifts an eyebrow and shows her how fast a shotgun can blow a mannequin to pieces. Obie worries that she’ll ruin the contract, but somehow she never quite gets around to fucking Rhodey. She means to, but she never quite does it, and in the process he teaches her more about guns than even Obie knows.
She likes sniper rifles the most—distant, effective, personal—but shotguns will always have a special place in her heart, because honestly, Toni likes blowing shit up as much as she likes putting it back together again.
Someone else who hates her for being a girl—the world.
Well, not really. Lots of people like her for having tits. It helps that she flashes cameras at horseraces and parties and anywhere she wants to, really. (Toni loves her tits. The world seems to love them too. She pierces one when she gets her Ph.D. and posts a picture online.) It’s that she’s a girl who drinks and smokes and fucks her way through whoever she wants to, and most of the time that involves way more pussy than cock, and that the world doesn’t like. She can’t count the number of times the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed Stark Industries events. Honestly, she can’t even remember coming out. There’s just the flashing cameras. Maybe they always knew.
The one time Obie begs her to do anything, it’s to stop fucking girls so openly. Toni flips him off to his face this time, and the next morning there’s a girl releasing a tell-all of My Wild Night with Antonia Esther Stark. When he comes in to lecture her about it, Toni scoffs, flicking her tongue piercing against her teeth, and offers to film it next time.
Obie doesn’t speak to her for a week.
She makes a game out of seeing which of her employees will fuck her faster. It’s the guys, usually. Obie’s all for hiring male PAs for her; maybe he thinks it’ll straighten her out or something. Sometimes her drivers will do it too. (Happy never does. It’s one reason why she keeps him for more than a week.) Once, she gets Obie’s (female) secretary and her (male) personal assistant in bed with her at once. They’re both fired the next morning.
Stark Industries has a high turnover rate for PAs.
Once, Pepper asks her why she does it. Toni slides her sunglasses down her nose and asks what she means. “All of it,” Pepper says, gesturing at the coffee table, which is layered with the tabloids that Toni has taken to buying. She likes the photos where she’s making out with reporters the most. “It’s not like you don’t have better things to do.”
“There are loads of good things I could be doing right now,” says Toni, and puts her boots on the table. Pepper shoves them off. Pepper’s the only one that gives Toni shit without giving Toni shit, so she lets her. “Specifically loads of hot coeds. Can we find some? We are in Vegas right now. The tables are crawling with them.” She lifts her eyebrows. “Oo, we can go to a stripclub. You ever been to a stripclub, Potts? You look like a stripclub virgin. Auntie Toni will take care of you. Get you a lapdance.” She raises her voice. “Happy, get the car ready, Pepper needs a lapdance!”
“You’re such a skeeze,” says Pepper, and gives her work to do. She wonders if Pepper knows that Toni’s been watching her ass as she walks away. She probably does. She hasn’t mentioned it. She hasn’t even acknowledged it. And for once in her life, Toni’s found a girl who she just keeps forgetting to fuck, somehow, even if she kind of really wants to. Because that hair.
Pepper and Rhodey get along famously.
Toni’s been kidnapped twice in her life. The first time, she was ten, and the cops had her out of the guy’s custody within six hours. The second, she’s nearly thirty, and trapped in a cave for months with only Yinsen for company, and it ended in blood. She tries to save him, and her hands are slick with it. In her chest, the reactor is spinning, faster and faster.
Her nightmares go from falling off a cliff to falling into the reactor, and Yinsen’s blood is all over her hands.
For some stupid damn reason, when she goes back to take her vengeance, she thinks of her father watching her as she builds and disassembles genius. The feeling comes back again when the F-22s nearly take her out, and she calls Rhodey panting, and Rhodey calls her every name he can think of.
“You kiss your mama with that mouth?” she gasps, clinging to the side of a plane, and he swears again and says, “If you get yourself killed I’m going to murder you dead.”
She’s grateful she never fucked Rhodey, if only because it means she knows that he cares about her outside of what she can do with her mouth.
Something she will never forget—Pepper’s hand inside her chest.
It’s not just that she had to take off her bra to get the damn arc reactor all fixed. (Getting it laid in is something she doesn’t think about all that much, because she’s shown her body to hundreds of people, hundreds of thousands of people, but somehow thinking of Yinsen carving the skin between her breasts apart to put the reactor inside gives her goosebumps). It’s that Pepper notices. For the first time in all of her topless adventures, Pepper Potts seems to notice that Toni Stark has tits, and color flushes high up on her cheekbones.
It might be nerves. After all, her hand is kind of inside Toni’s chest right now. But it might be something else.
She doesn’t want to talk about Obie.
Someone she is never, ever going to come on to, unless it’d be funny—Agent Coulson.
He just doesn’t react. It’s not fun when no one reacts. And she’s not that hard-up for dick, anyway.
The newspapers call her Iron Man. Which is kind of her own fault. She would have put tit plating on the suit, but one good smack to the sternum and all her ribs would collapse. Since the first time she’d made it she’d been very concerned about gunfire, letting the world know she was a grown fucking woman with tits to match hadn’t actually been on her mind.
Then she has to kill Obie, and the whole thing turns into a shitstorm, and it kind of pisses her off that nothing sounds as good as Iron Man even though she’s quite obviously the Iron Woman.
Pepper vetoes her idea for Iron Tits, but hey, you can’t have everything. (Yet.)
But then the New York Times starts muttering about the Man of Iron (later when she remembers it, she thinks, way to Asgard it up, douchenuts) and she wonders if she ought to change it. For once, common sense (or JARVIS) rules out over ego, so she leaves it the way it is. When she announces it to the world, though, the NYT correspondent looks about ready to shit himself.
She pushes her sunglasses up into her hair, cocks her hip, and winks at him.
“I’m the Iron Lady,” she says, and blows him a kiss. “So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.”