Stella Rogers loves to read the newspaper. She doesn’t always understand it, but mama always sits at the table with her paper on the weekend, and that seems terribly adult. So when mama and her walk past the newspaper shop on the way to school, Stella lingers over the newsprint.
The pictures aren’t as colorful as the ones in the comic books, but sometimes they show something exciting like a car crash or an airplane. She’s drawn, naturally, to a printed photo of a man in a leather jacket with a wide smile standing next to a plane. Stella holds the paper close to her face to read, careful not to smudge it with her fingers.
“Mama, what does transaltanic mean?” Stella asks. Her mother turns away from the newspaper man, even Stella knows they don’t have much money, but mama still likes to buy a stick of gum for the sick kids at the hospital.
“What is it, dear?” Mama asks, and Stella holds the paper towards her.
“You say that word Trans-Atlantic, dear.” She says. “It means that woman, Amelia Earhart, flew across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to England.”
Stella stares at the photo with a newfound reverence. Stella loved planes, everyone did, she and Bucky used to run down to the river to watch them take off from Queens.
“She flew?” Stella repeats.
“You have to put it back now, honey.” Mama says, and Stella runs her fingers over the plane’s propeller once before she places it back on the pile.
“Wait, go ahead and take it, kid.” The newspaper man says. “If that’s alright with you, ma’am.”
Mama nods and says “Thank you.” Stella grabs it off the pile, quick, before mama can change her mind.
“Don’t worry about it.” The newspaper man says. “A girl needs a role model, you know.”
Mama takes Stella’s hand, even though Stella’s too old for that, really, and they walk the rest of the way to school. Stella clutches the photograph of Amelia, short haired and smiling, to her chest.
The first time Stella gets in the cockpit of a plane, it’s Schmidt’s rocket. The irony would make her laugh, she’d tell Peggy but the radio just shorted out. She hopes no one else was listening, it won’t matter for her, really, but it might make life more difficult for Peggy. Stella hopes no one would be that heartless, but the army doesn’t look kindly on queers.
Stella hasn’t thought about Amelia Earhart in years, really, but in the seconds that feel like hours, when the white expanse of ice fills her vision, Stella wonders if this is what she felt as the glass blew inwards and icy water poured in around her and there was nothing but drowning and dark.
Stella doesn’t expect to wake up, but she does. And she finds out that the world keeps on turning.
“So, you know, I’m from Brooklyn too.” Coulson says to Stella. They’re standing on the deck of what Fury calls the Helicarrier, and Stella finds the constant, ordered flurry of military activity deeply (and existentially) comforting.
“Really? Where?” Stella asks. She hopes some questions will put him at ease. Interacting with admirers was never really her strong suit.
“Midwood, just on Avenue J. The area’s changed a lot. Hipsters everywhere.”
“Hipsters? Like, jazz fans?”
“No, not like that.” Coulson says. “Kids in skinny jeans, with ironic t-shirts.”
“Ah.” Stella says. She’s found it a convenient answer, when she has no idea what is going on. She’s been using it a lot, lately. There’s a pause, for a moment, one that Coulson rushes to fill.
“I just wanted to say.” He starts, then checks himself. “This is completely unprofessional, and please don’t hold it against the Agency. I just wanted to express how much of an honor it is, to work with you.” He pauses. “You were a hero of mine, when I was a kid.”
“I was?” It’s boggling to think that this 40-year-old would’ve grown up knowing about Stella, but it’s even stranger to think that she would mean something to him.
“I was never the most normal kid. It was nice, to have a hero to look up to that was also, kind of, different.” He continues, hurried. “Not to say that you were weird, or anything, just… I’ll stop talking now. But I’m a big fan. My cellist, too, really.”
“Cellist?” Stella wonders if this is some new future slang.
“My boyfriend. He’s a cellist.” Coulson clarifies. “He would never admit it, but he’s got a replica shield in the back of the closet.”
“Ah.” Stella says.
“I had him on the ropes!”
“Sure you did,” Bucky says, and steers Stella out of the alleyway. “One of these days, Stel, you’re gonna pull this on a fella who will actually hit a lady.”
Stella doesn’t tell Bucky that she has, a few times, because she doesn’t think he’d like it, and its trouble enough already covering up her bruises. “If he’s such a gentlemen that he won’t hit me, how come he’s beating up colored kids half his size? How come he’s scared to get into an argument with a girl?”
Bucky sighs, and pulls Stella into an alcove. “I didn’t say what he did was right.”
Stella shivers, it’s getting late and her stockings are worn through. But she can’t begrudge the rationing, not when it’s helping the boys overseas. Besides, it’s a good excuse to wear trousers, when she can get away with it. Bucky shrugs off his jacket and holds it out, waiting for her to take it.
“It’s not fair.” She reaches out and grabs the jacket, and swings it over her shoulders.
“No, it’s not fair.” Bucky says, and Stella notices the jacket sitting on her shoulders for the first time. It’s heavy, and green, with a flattering longer cut. Her heart drops, enough that Stella’s surprised she can’t see it mixed in with the litter on the cement.
“Bucky…” For the first time since he barged into the alleyway, Stella actually looks him over. He’s wearing a pressed button-down shirt and tie, creased pants, and a brimmed cap. An army uniform. “Bucky, you finally…”
Bucky grins, and spreads his arms to show off his finery. Stella is impressed, there’s not a single hole in the shirt. “I’m glad you finally noticed.”
Stella laughs, and when she smiles, it’s mostly genuine. “You got your orders. When do you ship out?”
“Next week.” Bucky lowers his arms, and has the good graces to look sheepish.
“Next week?” Stella says, horrified. She should be happy for him, she knows, he’s wanted this for so long. But it hurts, to think that he’ll be so far away, fighting for his country and his city, risking everything, while Stella waits at home. She volunteers, of course, running scrap drives and growing victory gardens. But anything in the world could happen to Bucky. “So soon? Where are they sending you?”
“I’ll be going through training first, then over to Europe, probably. That’s where we’re needed most.” He shrugs, and sees the eight-year-old boy she chased around the legs of the El. She can’t imagine him like one of the wounded soldiers she sees when she volunteers at the hospital, broken or empty or in agony. She’s able to imagine it, but she can’t.
“It isn’t right.” Stella says.
“I didn’t get drafted, Stella.” Bucky says. “I chose this, I want to go, really, I do.”
“No, it’s not…” Stella trails off. “I should be going.”
Bucky smiles, and he doesn’t laugh, and Stella kind of loves him for it, she always has. “To be honest, Stella, you’d make one hell of a soldier.” His expression darkens. “But I can’t say I’m broken up that you can’t come with me.”
“Bucky…” Stella starts, it’s an old argument.
“I know you’re tough, Stella, you’ve got more spirit than anyone else I know. But it’s not right, to put a woman in danger like that. There are things…physical things, that women just can’t do. And if we get to the point that women are laying down their lives…”
“There are men laying down their lives already, Bucky!” Stella pulls away from him. “I got no right to do any less than them.”
Bucky sighs, and Stella feels awful. She should be celebrating with him, and supporting him, now that he’s about to leave. That would be the proper thing to do, to send him letters and cookies from home, and knit him a sweater - to sit and wait and watch bullies like Hitler take over the world and screw it up even worse than it already was. But Stella isn’t like other girls, she isn’t weak, and feminine, and useless. It makes her want to scream, until someone will listen to her, will believe her. But, as she already learned, screaming rarely convinces anyone of anything. Action does. “I sent another application to the WASPs, today.”
Bucky cocks his head. “I thought you already tried them.”
“I did.” Stella shrugs. “I though I’d try again. My eyesight isn’t so bad, really, and what does asthma hurt, when you’re sitting in a plane?”
Bucky shakes his head and smiles. “You won’t ever give up, will you?” He still doesn’t laugh at her, and it’s not that much, really, but it means the world.
“I could do this all day.” Stella says, and returns Bucky’s coat. Stella doesn’t mind the cold.
SHIELD’s given her an overview, of the important social and political changes since 1945, but there’s a difference between reading something and seeing it firsthand. The technology of the helicarrier was amazing in itself, but it was almost more so to stand on the bridge and see so many women working together with the men, equally and openly. And even taking command. Nick Fury had certainly earned his ten dollars.
“Captain, you’re up.” Fury says.
“We’ll be doing an airdrop into Stuttgart.” Maria Hill adds, finger placed on a communication device in her ear. “We’ll be Romanov in with you for our strike team.”
Stella takes an instant to revel in the strangeness in it, taking orders from a female CO (well, she’s not positive that Hill is technically her CO, but she’s certainly giving orders), orders to take an all-female strike team in to engage with a threat. There isn’t long to revel, however, Stella and Natasha are hurrying off to get suited up. Stella hasn’t seen the new Captain uniform yet, and Coulson’s insistence that he helped design it isn’t easing her concerns.
“So, your uniform…” Stella starts to say. She hasn’t spoken to Romanov, much, but she seems the quiet, fiercely competent type. Stella likes that. “Is it standard? For all SHIELD agents?”
“To an extent.” Romanov says. “We’re allowed some customization, to personal preference.”
“I mean, are they the same, for men and women?” Stella says.
Romanov pauses, and Stella thinks that she understands. “SHIELD tries to make their uniforms gender-neutral, as much as possible. Female agents in high heels and miniskirts aren’t as effective in combat situations.” She smiles. “At least, not most combat situations. Your suit was made with an emphasis on mobility and protection, not sex appeal.”
Stella starts at her abruptness. She knows that Romanov is a spy, and she’s not naïve. Many of the female operatives she had worked with during the war used their skills, whatever they were, to get information from the enemy. Stella admires that, but it’s never been her path. “I appreciate that. You should’ve seen some of the outfits that they proposed for me, during the war. Wouldn’t have stopped a well-placed breeze, let alone a knife.”
“Oh trust me, I have seen them.” Romanov says, with a smirk. “Coulson has your trading cards, remember?” She draws to a stop in front of a door. “Your gear is in here.”
Stella walks into the room and opens the glass case. The suit’s light but strong, made of some tough fabric Stella doesn’t recognize, with additional thick padding in vulnerable areas. The boots fit perfectly, and the star lies flat and even on her chest. Most importantly, her shield is there. The familiar weight on her arm feels so right, she can’t help her smile.
“Stage fright, kid?”
Stella nods, terse. She’s spent three hours in hair and makeup, three hours dreading the moment that she would step onto that stage. She’s not feeling particularly chatty.
“Don’t worry about it.” The stagehand continues, and he gives Stella a sweep with his eyes, taking in her padded bustier, short, spangled skirt, and long expanse of stockinged leg. “You’ve got plenty of… talent.” Stella wants to hit him with her prop shield, but instead she reviews the notes tapes to it one last time.
“I may not be able to storm a beach, or drive a tank, but there’s still a way all
of us can fight.” She mouths, and thinks of Bucky. “And my best guys all buy Series E Defense Bonds, so that they can get men home to their sweethearts.” The words feel bitter on her tongue.
“How ‘bout, after the show, we go get a drink?” The stagehand asks, with a leer. “You could spangle my stars, if you like.”
“If you harass me, or any of the other chorus girls, again, I will make sure you can’t work in this state.” The curtain rises, and Stella strides onto the stage. Her heels are high, but she doesn’t wobble. She’s been trained for this.
It feels good to get back into combat as well, to know that a punch is still a punch, even 70 years in the future. Even if the punches don’t seem to be doing much to Loki. Stella deflects a hit from him, mindful of the crowd of civilians still in the area. Loki lands blow and knocks Stella to her knees.
“Kneel.” Loki hisses, and boy, has Stella heard too many iterations of that joke over the years.
“Not today.” Stella rises with a kick that knocks Loki off-balance.
Stella’s back on her feet, but another hit sends her flying. She’s planning her best route to retrieve her shield when noise bursts from the helicopter, something Stella’s not sure is music or some sort of defense mechanism. She turns skyward, and sees a figure streak across the sky. There’s a blast, Loki goes flying, and the figure hits the ground with a crash.
Stella was told that Iron Woman used a suit of armor, but hardly seems right. It doesn’t look like it’s built for war - it’s showy; gaudy and red, with exaggerated hips and a slender waist that somehow convey sex appeal through layers of metal. She looked more like the machine-woman from Metropolis than a warrior. Stella feels a bite of disappointment, she thinks back to every Army official who tried to get her to wear a skirt into combat, or a breastplate with an emphasis on the breast. She hoped they were past this.
“Make a move, reindeer games.” Iron Woman says, weapons level at Loki, and Stella moves to her side. Loki raises his hands in surrender.
“Good move.” She says, and briefly nods at Stella. “Captain.”
“Miss Stark.” Stella says, as the helicopter lands behind them. Romanov runs out with a pair of heavy-duty handcuffs, and the three of them hustle the man into the copter.
“Well, that was easy.” Iron Woman says. “I don’t know why you guys even bothered to ask me in.”
“Miss Stark…” Stella turns towards the woman and hesitates. She’s removed her helmet, and she’s older than Stella expected, older than Howard was when she saw him last, nearly 40. She looks like him, with the same cheekbones and smirking smile, but her hair is long, elaborately curled, and she’s wearing immaculately applied makeup. “Miss Stark,” Stella continues, cold. “It’s a good thing we didn’t need your help, since you barely managed to show up at all.”
“It’s a long trip from New York, Cap.” Stark smirks. “And the in-flight movie was terrible.”
Stella knows how labor-intensive Stark’s hairstyle is, and how long it takes to put on makeup. Howard might’ve been vain and self-centered, but he’d never put his personal appearance before a mission. “If we’re going to be working together,” Stella says, “I want you to take things other than your appearance seriously.”
Stark’s smile is even more brittle, this time around. “Thanks for the tip, Mom. It’s good news that we won’t really be working together much, then, isn’t it?”
It’s a bit like elementary school, waiting outside of the classroom for the teacher to finish up and yell at you. Only this time, Stella’s not worried that they’ll call her mom at the hospital, but that they’ll throw her out of the army and put in her jail. And take her friends with her. Bucky’s likely to be safe, at least, they’re not likely to take their wrath out on a man sitting in the infirmary.
“Don’t look so glum.” Howard says, and he fishes a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket. “You’re a hero.”
Peggy snorts. “Yes, but she’s not the type of hero they’re interested in. There’s going to be trouble.”
Stella runs her hands through her hair. They’d made her grow it out, long and blond and carefully curled and primped before each USO show. She trimmed it short before she left. If she was going to die, she was going to die with hair she liked.
The door swings open, and Colonel Phillips, Senator Brandt and Brigadier General Howes sweep into the room. Stella and Peggy rise to their feet, Howard joins them an instant later, taking the time to finish lighting his cigarette.
“We’ve reached a decision.” Howes says. “Due to the…good nature of your infraction, there will be no need to court martial any of you.”
No one responds as they wait for the other shoe to drop.
“However, since Miss Rogers clearly lacks the emotional maturity necessary to be in proximity to the battlefield, she will conclude the rest of her USO tour in the states, and will not return to Europe for the duration of the war.”
“This will be great for your image, in the long term.” Brandt says. He seems as happy with the arraignment as a child on Christmas morning “Though we’ll have to put you in a wig, at least until your hair grows back.”
“Sir, permission to speak…” Peggy begins.
“As for you, Agent Carter.” Howes says, sharp. “If it were up to me, you’d be shipped back to England so fast it would make your head spin. But you are under the command of Colonel Phillips, and he would rather keep you in the field. Mr. Stark, you will return to your current position, though the cost of repairs to the plane will be deducted from your pay.” Howes seems satisfied that the issue has been resolved, but behind him, Colonel Phillips’ mouth is drawn in a thin line. “That will be all. Dismissed.”
Peggy turns to leave, but Stella feels rooted in place. She should be happy, to get out of trouble so easily. But not like this.
“Excuse me, sir.” Stella says. “But this isn’t the right thing to do.” The men halt in their tracks, and Peggy freezes beside her.
“Oh?” Howes says, voice tight. “Would you rather that we dishonorably discharged the lot of you?”
“No, sir.” Stella says “But there is no reason for you to remove me from combat duty, sir.”
“No reason? Are you blind, Miss Rogers?” Brandt says.
“No, sir, I’m a super soldier.” Stella replies, fighting to keep her voice level. “This is what I was meant to do. I am the result of Erskine’s life’s work, and, to be frank, you are wasting it.”
“To be frank, Miss Rogers, we wouldn’t be wasting it if Erskine hadn’t been a damned fool and picked a woman as a test subject.” Brandt hissed.
Stella burns with rage, she wants to hit him, wants to throw his through the window, but she can’t, and that burns too. “If you don’t want me as a soldier, I’m done. You can find yourself another can-can girl.”
Howes opens his mouth to intervene and Stella braces herself for the order, but to her surprise, it’s Howard that speaks next.
“Why don’t you make her a soldier?”
It’s silent, as everyone in the room focuses their attention on Howard. He pulls on his cigarette, building the tension. Stella almost laughs.
“She’s already proven that she’s able to pull off incredibly dangerous missions, and that’s without formal training. Get her some real combat gear, and she can take down Schmitt for sure.” He pauses for another draw. “Because that’s what’s really important, isn’t it. Beating the Nazis.”
Phillips’ mouth twitches into something like a smile, and Howard matches it with a smirk.
In the end, it takes half an hour more of arguing, and Howard has to threaten to quit, but Howes agrees to give Stella a unit of her own (“Composed of volunteers,” he specifies. “I won’t force any man to work with a woman.”) Peggy is nearly bouncing with glee, but Howard seems, for once, introspective.
“Thank you, Howard.” Stella says.
“Don’t.” Howard pulls out another cigarette, and offers one to Stella. “I only said the same things you were saying. It’s just that they listened to me, rather than you.” She takes the cigarette, and he bends over, lights it with the tip of his own.
“Still, thank you for saying it.” Stella says. “A lot of people wouldn’t have.”
He snorts. “A lot of assholes, maybe.”
She’s nothing like Howard, Stella thinks, as she argues with Stark in the lab. She’s never subscribed to the outdated chivalry of not hitting a woman, but she still tries not to pick on people smaller than her. And Stark, for all her bravado, is small and fragile without her suit.
“You’re not the person to make the sacrifice play. To lay down on the wire, and let the other man crawl over you. Especially not if there’s a chance it would mess up your hair.”
Stark freezes, and Stella wonders if she’s finally taking something seriously. “I think I would just cut the wire.” The bulk of what Stark doesn’t know, about sacrifice, about heroism, is astounding. She’s a child, playing dress-up in a million-dollar suit. She’s nothing like Howard, or Peggy, or Bucky, and she’s the direct result of Stella’s hard work to get women to be taken seriously as superheroes. Stella has to laugh, but it’s bitter.
“You may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.” Stella says.
Stella watches Stark race towards the portal, missile in hand. Stark and the nuke disappear into the whole in the sky, and Stella knows Stark saved her life, her city, even, but she can’t celebrate, it’s deja vu. She stands with Thor, eyes pinned to the sky, but there’s nothing.
“Close it.” She orders Natasha. She knows the two women are friends, to an extent, and no one deserves the guilt of a friend’s death, so she makes the order. The portal starts to close, and Stella doesn’t pray. God doesn’t dress like Thor and Loki, and He certainly isn’t going to listen to her. When she catches a glimpse of red and gold flying, falling, through the portal, she doesn’t hope.
Banner snatches Stark from the air, and Stella runs to meet them, she kneels by the suit. Stark's not moving and there’s no way to get a pulse. Thor rips her faceplate off like the lid of the can and Stella leans close to her face to check her breathing. There’s no sign of it, but her lips are still red with lipstick, slightly smeared on the right side.
Stella doesn’t think of their conversation, doesn’t think of Bucky, just tries not to think of anything as she lays her hand on Stark’s armor. Banner roars, and Stark jerks awake, scans the sky frantically. Her eyes land on Stella, and she relaxes visibly, leaning back into the suit. “Please tell me nobody kissed me.” She says, and Stella laughs.
Stella admires Peggy from the first time they meet. She’s tough, and competent, and inspires respect in a way that Stella never thought possible. Not to mention, Stella may have 6 inches and 70 pounds on her since the serum, but she’s still on sure she could take Peggy in a fight. Peggy’s the type of person Stella’s always wanted to be. But some days, Stella wonders if what she’s feeling isn’t something different.
They’ve finished a run on a Hydra base, and Stella is aching for a shower and a fresh shirt. The locker room is nearly empty, a few WAC girls at the end of their shift remain, slipping out of their work clothes and reapplying makeup.
“Peggy!” The tallest one smiles, looking up from adjusting her hose. “There’s a USO dance tonight, all us girls are going. You should come.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.” Peggy demurs. “I’ve got work to do before our next drop.”
“You’ve got to come out with us eventually.” The tall girl says, and throws a wink. She leaves the locker room, and the rest of the WAC girls trail behind, touching up lipstick and sticking bobby pins as they go. Stella settles down on a bench next to Peggy and starts unlacing her boots in silence. Peggy’s at the mirror, wiping makeup from her face.
“Um, Peggy…” Stella starts and stops, awkward. “Why didn’t you go to the dance, with those girls?” Stella’s not the most comfortable person at dances; even before the serum made her taller and heavier than most of the men, she was the type to stick to the punch table; but Peggy seems like the type to enjoy a night out.
Peggy doesn’t say anything, so Stella continues. “I mean, if you don’t like dancing, that’s alright, I never really learned either…”
“I love to dance, Stella.” Peggy says, eventually. “But there are some things we can’t do.”
“What do you mean?” Stella stands, and joins her at the mirror.
Peggy sighs, not exasperated but weary, and pulls pins from her hair. “We spend the day trying to get our men to take us seriously, to treat us as something other than a novelty. To base our worth on our actions rather than their imaginations. And that work can be undone in an instant, if they see us in a dress, laughing over a drink. That’s all it takes to undo everything we’ve done.”
“But the other girls…”
“Exactly.” Peggy says. She turns to Stella and takes her by the hand. “We must do as much as we can to make them forget that we aren’t men. We can never be girls.”
Peggy turns back to the mirror but she leaves her hand in Stella’s. It hits her, like a flash, like a floodgate in her head, that she doesn’t want to be Peggy, she wants to hold Peggy, to press her up against her body and run her hands along her waist.
“I wish I could take you dancing.” It slips out before Stella has time to think.
“Maybe some day. I’d like that very much.” Peggy smiles, soft and sad, and kisses Stella on the lips.
After the shwarma, Stella leads the team back to the helicarrier. Fury is still trying to get the council not to court marshal him, Thor leaves to guard his brother (and, Stella hopes, give him a serious talking-to), Bruce and the agents head back to their quarters. Stella would do the same, but she can never sleep after a fight. Instead, she heads to the deck of the craft, somewhere she can get a good look at the mostly-intact skyline. She doesn’t have a right to feel proud, really, but the team, her team, did so well today.
“It’s changed a lot, I suppose.”
Stella turns, and sees Stark standing behind her. She’s back to her usual, immaculately groomed self, though her arm is in a sling and her eyes are dark and tired.
“I thought they had you trapped in medical.” Stella replies.
“What, are you kidding me?” Stark snorts. “Half the software their machines run on is mine. I’m getting the armor back, flying back to my awesome, if partially demolished, tower, and pouring myself a very large drink.”
“Ah.” Stella says, and the silence drags out, but Stark doesn’t leave. “Look, Stark…”
“Don’t bother with the whole feelings jam.” She says, waving her uninjured hand. “We fought off crazy Galaga space aliens together, everything’s square.”
“Still.” Stella continues. “I wanted to apologize. For the things I said. I wasn’t right, and even if I was, that’s no excuse for treating you that way.”
“Cap, please, don’t even.” Tonya says. “It’s water under the bridge. I’ve heard way worse.” Her tone is flippant, but her eyes stay locked on the skyline. “A thick skin’s necessary, if you’re going to do what we do.”
“You mean, an armor?” Stella interjects.
“You said it, not me.” Tonya smirks. “Besides, you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”
That is so, astoundingly false that Stella goggles. “That’s not true, Tonya. You saved the city, saved millions of lives…”
“Almost got mind-controlled by Loki, leveled half of midtown…” Tonya adds with a smile. “I didn’t do anything special.”
“Well, I’m glad you were there.” Stella says. “It would be a shame if New York got destroyed, now, after all the trouble I went through in the 40’s.”
Tonya starts, and her wry expression drops for a second and softens. “The Red Skull’s plane.”
“You know about that?” Stella wasn’t sure what records of her final flight had survived, or been made public. It was possible that Stark had read about it in a history book. Which was a deep strange thought to consider.
“Yeah, my dad.” Tonya said. “Sorry, I know you might not want to, I mean, he told me some stuff.” Tonya pauses, apologetic.
“Don’t apologize, it doesn’t bother me.” Stella lies. “It all seems so surreal, mostly.”
Tonya fiddles with the strap of her sling, and winces in pain as it jostles her arm. “He never stopped looking for you, you know. My dad. He had expeditions going out to the artic for years.”
“Oh.” Stella says. It’s humbling, to know that she was remembered, that people still cared. “That’s…thank you. For telling me.”
Tonya shakes her head. “It’s nothing, he’d be glad, though. That you’re back. And so am I, for what it’s worth.” Stark says, and smiles. It’s so odd, to see Howard’s features, expressions on a woman’s face. Though Stella has to admit, she’s prettier than Howard ever was.
As though she’s afraid of actually having an emotion, Tonya’s smile turns into a smirk. “If I’m gonna break out of SHIELD sometime tonight, I should get going.” Stark says, and hits a button on her wrist. There is pause, followed by a loud clanging noise, and the Iron Woman armor bursts through the floor of the carrier, leaving scraps of metal and wiring in its wake. It settles, gently, to the ground next to Tonya.
“They thought they’d keep it for ‘research and observation.’” Tonya snorts. “Though I’m not sure how the armor’s going to fit around my sling.” She hits a button on her wrist and the armor slides open, giving her leeway to climb inside. Stella watches, and tries not to let her mouth gape open – it’s like something out of a science fiction radio show.
“My eyes are up here, captain.” Tonya grins. As self-assured (self-assured being a nice word for ‘cocky,’ Stella admits) as Tonya is without the suit, she’s doubly so with it.
“I just…It’s amazing.” Stella stutters. “Really, it’s like a work of art.”
“I love it when people complement my baby.” Tonya says, grinning. “I should get going, before Fury comes out here and hits me with a rocket launcher. When you’re free, stop by the tower, Bruce is staying over, we’ll make it a party. Should be easy enough to find, big modern monstrosity, says STARK on the side. Or, it used to, no idea what letters are left, I’ll have to fix that…” Tonya starts to fire up her repulsers, but Stella puts a hand on her shoulder.
“Before you go,” Stella says, “I wanted to thank you. And apologize, again. We make a good team.” Stella holds out her hand. Stark looks at it for a moment, and extends her own, metallic one. Stella takes it and is surprised by the weight, and the slight warmth of the reactor.
“Anytime, Cap.” Tonya says, and takes off into the night. Stella watches her glow into the distance for a minute, before Fury appears with a contingent of SHIELD agents and a very large gun.