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I Am Not Nothing

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I Am Not Nothing

 

 

“Starks are made of iron, Antonia, stop your crying and get back to work.” She remembers her father snarling, looking down at the seven year old girl as she cradled burnt palms, tears in her eyes as she fought back sobs of pain. “You are not a soft little girl, Tony, you are a Stark.”

“Get on your feet and do it properly this time, Tony.”

 

No one ever made me feel as small as you did

No one made me feel as cursed

 

Toni wakes with a gasp of pain and the taste of iron on her lips, surrounded by the frigid tundra of Siberia and mangled metal. Her brain is as sharp as it ever is, but her vision is foggy with blood and pain as her eyes roam uselessly across cold gray stone covered in scrapes, dents, and scorch marks, to the scratched paint job of her father’s shield and the abandoned arm that had choked her mother to death.

He killed her mother, and Steve had known, probably for years.

Had he known when they were together? Had he known when they had promised no more secrets between them? When they had been talking about building a family?

How many years had he been using her while he went searching for her mother’s killer?

What a hypocritical piece of shit, and Toni had thought that Steve was different.

A bitter, choked laugh echoed around the chamber, and Toni, unable to move anything but her eyes, rolls her attention back to the ceiling, and lets the world fade from focus.

(Sometimes, my teammates don’t tell me things.)

Fuck Steve Rogers.

 

I’d lie awake in bed just staring at the ceiling

Wondering if things would get worse

 

If there’s any good that comes out of being trapped in a Siberian bunker for thirteen hours, it’s that it gives a person plenty of time to look back at things and come to terms with life altering facts while stewing in repressed fury.

Toni spends these thirteen hours fading in and out of consciousness and doing some serious thinking about what she’s done with her life since Afghanistan, and the people she had decided to surround herself with after Stane’s betrayal.

She always seemed to jump from one toxic relationship to another, she realizes; it started with Howard, the man who had wanted a son and got a daughter instead, the man who called her Antonia or Girl until age four when she proved herself to be a child genius. Afterwards, she became Tony, and only Antonia when she was doing something Howard disproved of. He had wanted a son, and calling her Tony was a way of tricking himself; as long as he didn’t look at the small girl dogging his footsteps, he could pretend he didn’t have a daughter.

Next was Obie. Tony was eleven years old when her parents died(were murdered by the Winter Soldier and HYDRA), a genius little girl in a man’s world, too smart for her own good, small and thin and angry at everything. She learned to hide everything behind a pretty smile and became Antonia Maria Stark, a little girl who could get what she wanted with a shy bat of her eyelashes, who was guided by a large hand(too large, too rough, the hands of a murderer and a betrayer) and honeyed words(a snake hidden behind compliments).

(It wasn’t until the tiny twelve year old Antonia Stark fought her way into MIT that she became Toni, a mockery of the name Howard called her, and met her honeybear. Rhodey was her big brother in everything but blood, the older engineering student had taken the scrawny preteen girl under his wing, fighting off the sharks that circled her, looking for blood and any sign of weakness.

Rhodey was the first man since Jarvis that Toni could trust.)

There were plenty of others that followed afterwards, boys and men who slipped into her life, people that she hoped she could trust who turned around and stabbed her in the back because everyone wants something from the orphaned heiress to a million dollar company.

And Toni starts seeking companionship in fellow women – god does the media implode after that; a woman sleeping around with other women? Preposterous! Toni takes them into her bed and leaves them after a night of fun, she pretends that the small part of herself hates what she does to protect herself isn’t there, but there’s very few people that Toni can trust.

Least of all herself.

(Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy – she had thought that she could trust the Avengers, but they were no better than Obie and his pretend “love” to get what he wanted, then tosses her to the curb when he gets it. She has her AIs and her bots, now, who are so much more then the pile of wires and coding that people think they are; these are her children, and she built and raised them with her own hands.

They are everything good of Toni Stark, with none of the bad.)

Toni fights her way to the top of the business world, she takes over Stark Industries on her eighteenth birthday when she’s legally an adult, and refuses to let go when people push and try to pry it from her hands, claiming her too young, too inexperienced, and just a little girl playing with Daddy’s money.

She proves them all fucking wrong, when she takes SI to new heights, turning an American–based million dollar company, to one that spans the world worth multi-billions.

Toni never truly trusted Fury or Coulson or SHIELD, but they were Aunt Peggy’s legacy and brain child, and that blinds her to the way they lead her around by the nose with well-placed emotional manipulation. (Iron Man – Yes, Toni Stark – Not Recommended)

And then came the Avengers.

(Take that off and what are you?)

She had hoped, wished with all her might, that these people could be part of her family, that she could trust them. She let’s herself forget Steve’s cruel words, because tempers were running high and Loki’s sceptre is feeding it, and she finds herself falling in love.

Without realizing it, Toni had bought the lies hook line and sinker, and fell for the baby blue eyes of America’s golden boy. She had believed him when he called it love, and she hadn’t even realized it when she began to change who she was to suit what he thought she should be and fell in line when he disapproved.

She had become something she hated for a man who treated her like a scapegoat, who thought that she was worth less than he was, and who knew the truth of her mother’s death. A man who ignored her, and belittled her, and treated her like she was only worth something when he approved of it.

Well, no more, she was Toni fucking Stark, and it was time to remind the world of that, and Steve Rogers and his little cronies could go fuck themselves because Toni was done with them.

(Actually, no, that was a lie; Toni wasn’t done until she watched them burn.)

 

I was trapped under your thumb

 

The first thing Toni does upon slipping out of the hospital, is get to work.

If she’s lucky, she has maybe five years left to live, tops, and Toni won’t accept that because she has shit she needs to get done. Her body is too damaged to keep working at the same capacity as her mind, and she needs it to be better to do what she needs to do; there was an army on the other side of that damned wormhole, and the Earth needs to be protected.

Extremis is what she decides to do, and she starts calling in the people she will need.

Professor Charles Xavier, Doctor Helen Cho, and Doctor Hank McCoy answer the call, plans are made, and they get to work.

(Toni doesn’t need to be able to spontaneously combust, she needs to be able to heal and become stronger. Strong enough to protect herself and everyone she cares for, and if Extremis works to heal her, then it will be able to heal Rhodey.

Rhodey who Toni loves like a brother, and who can no long feel his legs because Toni dragged him into a fight that never should have happened.

That wouldn’t have happened if Rogers had just pulled his head out of ass and listened to her for once.)

She doesn’t tell anyone beyond the small circle of some of Earth’s greatest minds, because if it doesn’t work, she doesn’t want them to blame themselves for not stopping her.

(It works, and Toni feels better than she has in over ten years.)

 

Believing when you called it love

 

The next thing on Toni’s to do list is to get her Platypus up and walking again.

She uses her power of attorney to get Rhodey transferred out of the general hospital and into private care, and it hurts her to see her big brother so still and broken in that bed. Toni tells herself that the first thing that she’s going to do when he’s moving again is to take him to that silly little Indian food place that Rhodey loves but Toni can’t stomach because of how unauthentic everything tastes.

Then she’ll build him a better suit, with all the little toys he could ever dream of.

 

So I will forgive myself

 

When Toni gets Steve’s patronizing letter, she takes one look at the words written on the paper, and gleefully burns it. She takes sadistic pleasure in tossing the dinosaur of a phone to her bots and let them play, and sits back.

How she had never noticed how shitty of a person Steven Grant Rogers was, she didn’t know, because his behaviour wasn’t hidden. He had always been chauvinistic, and disparaging, but she had ignored it because she had thought he loved her, because she had done so many terrible things in her life that maybe Steve could see some good in her, something worth loving.

But no more, he can take his fake ass apology and shove it up there with his head.

 

And start to let it go

 

Next, Toni ruins Thunderbolt’s career and rips his reputation to shreds, then sits back and watches the bastard loose his status and rank. She watches everything the man has built himself burn to the ground, and laughs at the ashes as he’s thrown in prison.

Thaddeus Ross is gone, and Toni’s people are safe from the bigot’s power hungry fingers, and now Toni has the chance to rebuild the Avengers and fix the Accords without the man fucking everything over.

It’s not easy, but Toni succeeds.

Fury was right about something; the world needs heroes, but those heroes need to listen to what the people want. The way the Avengers were before didn’t work, it needs to be better and it needs to be stronger, with a proper chain of command, and everyone’s voice needs to be heard.

The Avengers need to be rebuilt, and to do that, Toni needs allies.

 

Accept that who you chose to be

 

Toni reaches out to King T’Challa.

She knows that Steve and his groupies are hiding out in Wakanda, and she figures that if they treat the King the same way they treated her, that His Kittiness is not happy with his house guests. Toni had met T’Challa a number of times in the past, and had always taken him as a good, honourable man, if not a little reckless, who loved his family and country. He had been one of the greatest supporters of the Accords, and had stood behind his father’s choice to help write them; if there’s anyone who can help her rebuild the Avengers from the ground up, who can help her gather heroes from all around the world and the support of the people they’re protecting, it’s King T’Challa.

“Hey there Pussycat,” Toni greets, spinning around in her chair as the call connects, grinning at the dark skinned man on the other end of the video chat. “How’re the kids?”

“Miss Stark,” The King greets wearily, and Toni knows that he knows that she knows. “They are… quite the handful.”

Toni nods, feeling the man’s plight, “Well, not to sound like a grumpy cat or anything, but I’m glad that they’re not my problem anymore.” She shoos Dum-E away from the console when her oldest rolls a little too close, a spray bottle in his claw, then turns back to the cat on her screen. “Being abandoned in a frozen bunker really puts relationships into perspective, and it really made me think of how much I spoiled those brats.”

There’s something pained in the new ruler’s face as he sighs, “I must apologize, Miss Stark, had I known what state you were in, I would not have left without you. I was led to believe that you needed space.”

Toni waves it off, even if she is a little pissed about the fact that the man hadn’t even thought to look to see if she was okay, but she understands what it’s like to fall for Steve Rogers’ pretty lies and charisma – besides, she figures having to deal with Captain Assmerica is punishment enough for his inaction. “Water under the bridge, Felix, I lived and I’m better than ever.”

“Still, you have my deepest apologies, and my offer to make up for any pain I could have stopped.”

Toni hummed, “Apology accepted, Your Kittiness, you’re not the only one with nine lives.”

T’Challa’s lips twitch in a way Toni recognizes from her Platypus – it’s the expression of someone who doesn’t want to show how much her silly nicknames amuse them, and she grins widely.

“Well, now that I’ve got your attention, I want to ask you something.” Dark eyes sharpen, and the king inclines his head as a go-ahead. “What do you think of the Avengers?”

T’Challa pauses, studying her before he answers, “I support the idea of the Avengers, but not the way they were handled in the past. I am the Black Panther, the guardian and protector of my people, so the desire to protect others is understandable, but I also answer to my people – The Avengers did not.” Toni nods, grin morphing to a genuine smile as she listens to the man speak, letting his voice wash over her as he speaks of his home and his role as its protector. “Why do you ask?”

She sits up, folding her twitching hands in her lap, “Because the Avengers need to be better than they were before, and I want your help to get the yarn ball rolling.”

T’Challa smiles.

“I would be honored, Miss Stark.”

(“How did you get my private number?”

Toni smiles playfilly, pressing one finger to her lips with a wink, “Trade secret, Cat Wonder.”)

 

Was out of my control

 

Some days, Toni looks into the mirror and hates who she sees, hates who she was. Looking into the mirror, all she can see is the way Rogers and his people influenced her life, influenced who she is.

She stares back at the face of the five foot three woman with olive skin and dark brown eyes; she looks like her mother, Toni knows this, but she also looks like a stranger. She’s thirty-five, but Extremis makes her look at least a decade younger, the gray is gone from her temples, and the premature age lines and deep black-blue bruises under her eyes are gone from her face.

Some days, Toni runs her fingers through her long hair and just wants to pull.

Steve had liked her long hair, he used to run his fingers through the waves and watch them as they slid from his palm. He had complemented her hair, he had told her that it was beautiful.

Toni had always hated long hair, hated how it got in the way when she worked in the shop and how inconvenient it was. It got caught and it tangled, and it was a safety hazard; Toni had never had hair past her shoulders, not since she was four years old and had built her first circuit board, and had gotten into the habit of keeping it short from that point onwards.

It wasn’t until after the Battle of New York that her hair grew longer; Toni was simply too busy to even pay attention to the length, and then Steve had commented on it and had made Toni feel beautiful. She had grown it out afterwards, wanting to test the style out, but hadn’t liked it as much as she had hoped.

But every time she had mentioned cutting it, Steve had butted in, showering her with complements that she had never gotten when her hair was short, and made her feel good about herself and guilty for even thinking about changing it.

Today, Toni stares at her reflection, runs her hands through her hair, and picks up the scissors.

(Pepper looks ready to cry the first time she sees her step out of her lab afterwards, hair cut clumsily and a complete mess after she had gone at it with her kitchen scissors.

Toni is grinning though, happy with herself, and Rhodey smiles too.

She knows Pepper is happy for her too, but that doesn’t stop her sister from dragging her to the nearest hair dresser to get the choppy job fixed so that Toni looks more respectable and less like she lost a fight with a toddler who had gotten it’s hands on a pair of safety scissors.)

 

And though it might be hard

To begin again

 

T’Challa seems to freeze the first time he sees her new haircut, staring at her like it’s the first time he’s looked at her, and Toni raises an eyebrow as she slides the folder of possible recruits she’s collected over the table.

“Got a hairball, Pink Panther?” She asks playfully, and T’Challa blinks, mumbling something incoherent in his mother tongue. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Your… uh… your hair.” He manages to stutter out, and Toni grins.

“I cut it. Like it?” She asks, tilting her head as she ran her hand through her new pixie cut, enjoying the feel of how her hair curled without the extra weight of the long tresses.

T’Challa seems to choke as he tries to regain his composure, and manages to ask, “Do you?” When Toni pauses, eyes wide, the king takes a breath. “The more important question is, if you like it.”

Stunned, Toni lets a true, heartfelt smile grow on her face.

“I do.”

(As they’re leaving, Toni hears the hot, badass woman who had followed T’Challa into the meeting speak to the king, her voice teasing in a way that Toni assumes that the two have known each other for a long time.

“Like an antelope in headlights.”

T’Challa hisses like a wet house cat, “Okoye!”)

 

I’ll write myself a brand new story

With a happy end

 

Heroes flock to the new Initiative that Toni and T’Challa have created, and other superhero teams come out of the shadows to create connections with the new UN backed team. Toni loves what she is creating, and she can see other heroes flourishing and bonds being created as more and more heroes come forward, wanting to do good in the world.

Toni, despite what she knows her former teammates think, is not an egotistical maniac who doesn’t know how to follow orders. She likes to be in control, sue her, a product of her upbringing, but she’s never liked to lead; leave that headache to someone better qualified, especially in combat situations where she simply doesn’t have the training.

So when the UN starts asking about leadership, Toni steps aside.

Colonel James Rhodes ‘War Machine’ and Major Carol Danvers ‘Captain Marvel’ are chosen as the co-commanders of the New Avengers, with a council of specialized heroes and team leaders elected to help with the workload.

Toni finds herself on the Avengers Council, her background in science and her history as a hero earning her one of the spots. Alongside T’Challa, with his gift for politics, Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme and master of the mystical, Matt Murdock/Daredevil, a rather kickass ninja and lawyer, Hope van Dyne as the Wasp, a shrewd businesswoman herself who reminded Toni a lot of Pepper, and, finally, much to her surprise, Pepper herself, taking the codename Rescue, and handling their public relations.

(Actually, that would explain why Pepper had suddenly started asking for her own suit; Toni had, of course, delivered. Pepper was the new pilot of the Rescue armor, a suit modeled after Toni’s own but built less for battle and more for rescue and recovery, with crimson and silver plating and a golden arc reactor powered by Pepper’s Extremis flames.

Maybe that shouldn’t have been as surprising as it had been.)

 

I survived

So tonight

I am taking back my life

 

There’s new branches of Avengers all over the world now, and teams not on the Avengers’ roster but allied with them, and Toni is so fucking proud of what she’s doing. A part of her wants desperately to go to Wakanda and rub this success in Rogers’ face, to tell him that she fucking told him so.

There’s still groups of die-hard Captain America fans who believe that their hero can do no wrong and that Toni is simply a whore who chased the man out of America. Obviously, Toni is the devil incarnate, and she slept around to get favors from the UN – a jealous bitch who couldn’t stand the fact that people liked Captain America more than her, and created the Accords to tear America’s democracy apart.

Then, the Videos come out.

 

And I’ll show you

That I am not nothing

 

(Did you know?

Yes.)

(He killed my mom.)

Toni sits silently in the dark, watching over and over again as Steve rams the shield into her chest, feeling the utter rage and betrayal that had come over her in that moment. She remembers the fear as her helmet was ripped away, taking FRIDAY, her baby girl, with it, and staring up into Steve’s blue eyes, searching for something.

All she had seen in his face was hate.

How long had Steve wanted to do that? How long had he hated her?

Why hadn’t he just told her.

Toni clenched her fists, wrapping her arms around her legs as she pulled them to her chest, and continued to watch. She feels like she falling from the sky all over again, feeling her lungs wanting to burst from the pressure, and her heart want to stop from the shock.

Zemo had wanted to destroy the Avengers, and maybe he had succeeded.

Every news channel in every part of the world is showing those videos; they’re watching the murder of Howard and Maria Stark, and they’re watching their daughter’s reaction to learning that the person she had loved had known for years with the murderer standing right there. They’re seeing Toni’s masks fall away to let her rage show through because that was her mother, the woman who would sing her to sleep, who taught her Italian, and who loved her daughter despite her own flaws. Everyone is watching as Steve beats her down until she can’t get up, and then leave her in a dead suit in an abandoned bunker in Siberia when she had gone there alone and as a friend.

Her nails dig into the skin of her arms as her body shook with the memories of being cold and alone, of betrayal and hurt and hekilledmymomandheknew.

“Boss?” FRIDAY’s voice is hesitant, like a lost child as Toni breaks down. “What should I do?”

Toni takes a breath, holds it, then lets it out.

“Schedule a press conference, baby girl, and get Pep on the line.”

She can break down later, she’ll call Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy, her family, and they’ll put on a stupid action movie and laugh at the inconsistencies, and that’s when Toni will let herself break down, because right now, Toni has shit to do.

“Yes Boss.”

 

I kept my head above the water

‘Til the moment when all the elements aligned

 

Cameras flash when Toni Stark steps out onto the podium, dressed in a smart black pantsuit and a red and gold tie, her Louboutin heels clacking with each step she takes towards the reporters in front of her, Pepper on her right and Rhodey on her left with Happy following a step behind them.

The cameras go mad as Toni smiles at the crowd, putting on her best Stark smile.

“Hello, everyone, thank you for coming.” She greets, brown eyes sweeping the crowd as reporters retake their seats, easily picking out familiar faces and categorizing the best journalists to take questions from for maximum crowd support. “I know this is a busy time for everyone, and the recent leaks from an unknown party probably aren’t helping much, huh? I bet you have a lot of questions. Well, I’m here to put some of those questions to rest.” She takes a deep breath, steels herself and starts to talk; she talks about the ‘Civil War’ and her former team, she tells them about how she had supported the idea of the Accords from the moment she heard talk about them and put in an effort to be part of the writing and the planning, to try to get the best deal for everyone involved, because the people in the world deserve the chance to have their voices be heard. She talks about how much she loved her mother, how her mother was a great inspiration to the young Antonia Stark who had wanted to be as beautiful and confident as her mother, who was a genius in her own right, a doctor, and a survivor of breast cancer. She gets choked up for a moment, and is surprised that the reporters give her the chance to regain her composure right before she dives right into her account of Siberia; she speaks of learning that there were more Winter Soldiers, and getting permission from the Russian government to fly in and get to the Soldiers before they can threaten anyone else, she talks about arriving at the bunker and telling Rogers and Barnes that she was there to help and not to fight because the Winter Soldiers were currently the bigger threat, how they had arrived to find the Soldiers already dead.

Then, she pauses, takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and tells them about the video, of learning that the death of her parents had never been a car accident like she had believed, and that the murderer was standing right beside her.

And that Steve had known; he had tried to lie at first, but Toni hadn’t accepted that, she had pushed and asked again, and Steve had said yes.

She had hit Rogers then, wanting him to hurt, to see how much she was hurting because she had trusted him and he had betrayed that trust. She tells them how she had turned, intent to get at least one punch in on the man who had beat her father’s face in and strangled her mother to death. She had been hurting, and had never gotten over her mother’s death because she had been so young when she lost one of the most important people in her life, and it had impacted her for years. She just wanted one punch, then she’d leave and never look at either of those men again, but life never worked out the way you wanted because suddenly she had two super soldiers on her, beating her down until she couldn’t move and then continuing, she had blown Barnes’ metal arm, the one that killed her mother off in a panic when he pinned her, and only succeeded in enraging Rogers even more.

He had gotten on top of her, using his shield to crush her suit and tear it open, and he didn’t stop there, he crushed her chest too, and she probably would have died in Siberia if not for the cold slowing her bleeding and the broken suit compressing her wounds.

(He’s my friend.

So was I.)

She tells them that she was alone there for thirteen hours, unable to call for help because her suit was destroyed and her face mask gone. FRIDAY had sent out a beacon the moment she had lost contact with the suit, but there wasn’t anyone to take the call, everyone either in the hospital, compromised, or arrested.

The reports go mad when Toni finishes and reaches for her water bottle, and she can’t quite stop the small smile that she hides behind a mouthful of water to sooth the sore throat.

Fuck Steve Rogers; he’s made his bed and now it’s time to lay in it.

And with that thought, Toni takes questions.

 

And I could fly away to heal my broken spirit

And leave my demons far behind

 

Toni is the world media’s darling now, after her press conference, and people are baying for blood. They want someone to take responsibility for all the deaths that could have been avoided, they want someone to blame, and for once, it’s not Toni.

No, it’s Steve Rogers.

Toni herself, spends the next number of days curled up on a couch with her closest friends, her family, watching bad movies and soaking in the positive attention given to her by the people who truly love and care for her, getting all the hugs she could ask for, plus a little more when the Spiderling swings by.

Toni can’t really bring herself to shoo the young hero away, not after he’s just been ungrounded after his extra circulars had been discovered by his aunt. She can’t force the fluffy haired, big-eyed child to leave after he’s swung all the way to Stark Tower from Queens to hug her like his life depends on it, and has Pepper contact May Parker to tell her that Peter was with them for movie night, that they’ll make sure he gets his homework done and is at school on time the next day.

 

You always said that I was weak

But the bravest thing I did was leave

 

T’Challa comes by with a healing black eye, a wrapped hand, and all the smugness of a cat who got all the canaries.

“What the fuck, Garfield.” Toni greets in surprise as the King struts into the Compound kitchen, Okoye on his heel like always, who also looks suspiciously pleased with herself, and she squints at the two Wakandans.

“Good morning, Miss Stark.” T’Challa inclines his head to her, swiping the box of chocopuffs that a sleep deprived Toni had just grabbed for breakfast out of her hands, and instead places a container of what looks like a homemade Wakandan meal in front of her. “A gift from my mother. And Shuri has asked me to extend an invitation to you to visit Wakanda so that she can show you her labs in person.”

“How sweet of them?” Toni responds, a question in her voice that makes T’Challa chuckle and push the container closer to her.

“It can be eaten cold or warm, made from fruits from the Royal garden, and the best pastries in Wakanda.” Toni nods numbly, gathering the treat into her arms as she continues to stare at the healing bruise on the man’s face.

“The hell happened to you?”

T’Challa’s answering smile is all perfectly straight, white teeth that made his face dimple; too cute for such a deadly expression, “I may have punched Rogers.”

Toni is shocked, and honestly, when that happens her brain-to-mouth filter is even worse than it usually is. “Did you win back my honor?”

His smile widens, “Indeed.”

“He also refused any healing so that he could prove his success to you, Miss Stark.” Okoye adds, and there’s something in her eyes that makes Toni worry for her sanity.

What is that woman planning?

(And is this how Pepper feels whenever Toni gets The Look?)

 

So I will forgive myself

And start to let it go

Accept that who you chose to be

Was out of my control

 

“Miss Stark?”

Toni turns away from her current projects as Vision floats into the room, a small, thoughtful frown on his face, “Hey there, V.” She grins at the android, ignoring the small flare of pain that came with hearing his voice, the voice of Jarvis and JARVIS, and watched as something fragile and confused came over the young one’s expression.

“I… do not understand.” He admits, his grip tightening on the book he held in his hands. “Your press conference made me think back on my relationship with Wanda, and…” He hesitates, but shows her the title of the book; Ways to Identify a Toxic Relationship.

Toni softens, “Oh baby boy,” She breaths, standing and opening her arms, “C’mere and give momma a hug.” Vision does so, floating into her arms and dropping his head onto her shoulder, and gripping tightly onto her shirt like a lost child, and Toni realizes that that is exactly what Vision is; a learning child who just realized that someone he had cared for has treated him terribly.

Vision is one of her babies, and he needs her right now.

She runs a hand over Vision’s head and tightens her hold on her child, “What do you want me to do, kiddo?”

“I don’t…” Vision hesitates, “I don’t know if I want to see her again.”

“Then you won’t.” Toni assures him, “You don’t have to see her, the decision is totally yours.” Vision is quiet for a moment, curling his body closer to her own despite the fact that he dwarfs her completely, and tucks his head closer to her neck, pressing his ear against her pulse with a sigh, and Toni begins to hum; it’s a cute little Italian lullaby, one her mother used to sing for her when Toni was sad.

“Thank you… mother.”

(Wanda Maximoff is going to suffer for what she’s done to her baby. Toni is going to dig up everything she can on the Witch, and she’s going to watch that woman burn.

Wanda hurt her son, she pushed him through thirteen feet of concrete and left him there. She was one of the first people Vision grew to care for, and she turned around and betrayed that trust.

Toni’s going to pay back what she did to Vision tenfold.)

 

And though it might be hard

To begin again

I’ll write myself a brand new story

 

The media eats the leaked information on Wanda Maximoff right up, they chew it and spit it out again then light it on fire and dances around the flames.

The Scarlet Witch wasn’t quite the innocent girl that had powers she was still learning to control that Captain America had led the world to believe, she had been a willing HYDRA agent and had used her powers to gleefully torture and kill her prisoners, and was often used to brainwash their new recruits. She has a long list of people she’s left brain dead simply because she could, and that list doesn’t just end with the death of Strucker.

No, she’s continued doing it, falling back on her training when she wants something, and she’s killed even more since her decision to change sides.

There’s even HYDRA records of Wanda using her powers on her twin brother, even if subconsciously, to ensure his loyalty to her.

She may look like a doe-eyed girl, but the World learns that Wanda Maximoff was one of the true creators of ULTRON, she was ULTRON’s mother, and that was why he had taking Wanda to his side and cared so much for her; it was her magic, and that of the sceptre, that created to sentient being that took the name of Toni’s incomplete AI and murdered JARVIS, tearing his coding apart until not even his backups were salvageable.

The world is screaming for her to answer for her crimes, for Captain America and his Rogues to stop shielding her and turn her in. Sokovia has renounced her citizenship, and declared her a traitor to the country, a crime punishable by death.

Toni sits back, takes a sip of her martini, and watches the chaos happen.

 

With a happy end

 

Toni takes up T’Challa’s invitation to visit Wakanda, and she can state with all honesty, that she loves the country. She loves the scenery and all the technology integrated to perfectly into everyday life, it’s like her dream come true.

She loves Shuri’s labs even more.

“T’Challa,” Toni turns her attention away from the teenage girl who is even smarter than she is, who is just so excited to have someone there who thinks on the same level that she does, and is both hilarious and adorable, to look at the Princess’ older brother. “I love your sister, can I adopt her?”

T’Challa snorts, and Shuri laughs gleefully, clinging to Toni’s side as she grins at her brother.

“No brother, make her family!” The Princess chirps, “Bring her into the Tribe! Marry this woman and make her my big sister! She’s perfect!”

This time, T’Challa coughs, and Toni snorts.

Then, big dark eyes turn to Toni, “You were telling me about your work with nanobots?” She probes, then her eyes brighten in excitement and she begins to bounce, and tugs Toni towards her workstation. “I’ve worked with them before, but not to the extent you’ve theorized. Perhaps if you integrated a level of Vibranium nanites to your swarm, you could take your armor to the next level!”

And the two of them dissolve into a rapid conversation of engineering and technical jargon, poking and prodding and working together to improve.

T’Challa watches with a fond smile.

 

I survived

So tonight

I am taking back my life

 

Toni is sad to see Wakanda go, but she has to leave.

“You have to come back!” Shuri hold her hands between her own as she grins up at Toni, “I want to take another look at the Iron Queen armour-”

Bleeding Edge.” Toni tries to correct, but Shuri waves her off.

“You’re a queen to me.” Shuri argues back, before rolling on. “And you need to tell me how you’ve managed such sophisticated AI, I can’t even get GRIOT to the level you’ve gotten FRIDAY to!”

Toni laughs, “Tell you what, you can come to SI anytime you want, and I’ll let you take a look at my designs.” She winks as Shuri gasps in excitement and throws her arms around the older woman in a hug, “Anything for my favourite Princess.”

Queen Mother Ramonda smiles at her, “Wakanda is open to you at any time, Miss Stark.”

Toni smiles, dipping her head in a small respectful move, “Thank you, Queen Mother.”

“You will always welcome, Miss Stark.” T’Challa agrees, and Toni turns her grin to the King.

“Come on, Genghis Cat, we’re friends, you can call me Toni.”

The King chuckles, “Are you ever going to run out of silly nicknames?”

“All part of friendship, Pawssanova.” She winks at him as he rolls his eyes, then she opens her arms, “Now come give me a hug, KitKat.”

(Shuri beats him to it, and Toni can’t help but laugh at the King’s expression when his baby sister pushes him out of the way and leaps into her arms.)

 

And I’ll show you

That I am not nothing

 

The Bleeding Edge armour makes its first grand appearance in New York City when someone lets loose an army of robots to swarm the city.

Toni is enjoying her day off when it happens, hiding in plain sight as she walks through the busy streets looking like any other college student with her youthful face, ripped jeans and black band shirt, when the screams and explosions start.

She takes off running, pulling off her t-shirt to reveal her glowing purple arc reactor peaking out of a white tank top. A quick tap to the surface of her nanobots’ housing containment, and Toni can feel her nanites rippling across her body like water, building her suit layer by layer within seconds. A quick beacon is sent to the Accords Council and the Avengers Compound, alerting them that Iron man is in pursuit, and Toni takes to the air.

Her new armour is a thing of beauty, a sleek, form-fitting armour painted black and gold, with glowing Vibranium–purple lights. Her nanobots can become anything she needs them to be, which cuts down on the bulk that had come with the built in weaponry in all her other suits, and the lack of seams mean that there won’t be any miniature people jumping into her armour and disabling it.

The people around her cheer when the Bleeding Edge armour takes to the sky, probably confused over who is flying the new suit, but recognizing Toni Stark’s work when they see it.

 

Looking up at the sky

 

The name Iron Queen quickly becomes Toni’s new code name when T’Challa makes a cheeky comment during the resulting press conference, calling her the queen of iron (the jerk – Toni just knows that Shuri put him up to it, the little shit) and Rhodey’s following agreement to the title.

In revenge, Toni changes all of their ringtones to Rick Astley and laughs when the assholes get the song stuck in their heads.

The ensuring prank war will go down in history.

 

I think I see the start of a sunrise

 

Scott Lang turning himself in to authorities makes international news, his memory is fuzzy, something he admits during his trial, and Toni can recognize the Witch’s work. Lang admits that he hadn’t asked questions when Sam Wilson approached him for help, and that he had been told a story about how the heroes who were working for the Accords were being blackmailed, and that they were out to kill an innocent man.

He tells the jury that he was kept in the dark afterwards, and hadn’t actually realized the lies he had been told until he had seen Toni’s press conference on the television. Specific information has been removed from and shredded by Maximoff’s magic, rather violently Vision can confirm and does so when he’s called to testify.

T’Challa has dropped the charges against the man for his attempted murder, and Hank Pym takes the stand to admit that in using PymParticles to increase his size, Lang had also, effectively, been drugged in a way that removes inhibitions and can increase aggressiveness, and leads to one not being fully aware of what they’re doing with the following overload of adrenaline. There’s a reason why Pym hadn’t liked taking the form of Giant Man in fights unless absolutely necessary, and he admits that he hadn’t given Lang the proper warnings when he had entrusted him with the Ant Man suit.

A part of Toni feels bad for Lang, the man is simply just too reckless and trusting, and Hope has admitted that Lang is a good man who tends to go overboard when helping people.

The final decision is decided on, and Scott Lang is assigned to the Avengers for the length of his probation, and that half of his earned wages would go to paying off the damages done to the airport during the Civil War.

 

And I will forgive myself

And start to let it go

 

A group of alien vigilantes arrive with a warning and a name; Thanos is coming, and he’s seeking the Infinity Stones. They call themselves The Guardians of the Galaxy, and two of their members tell the story of how the Mad Titan came to their planets and decimated the populations, he waged a genocide that killed off half of the people on their home planets when they were, and took them as trophies.

He was the one behind Loki’s attack on the Earth, the Chitauri was his army, and the invasion was nothing but a scouting party.

The people of Earth panic, and Toni wants to crow from the rooftops that she was right, she wants to rub it in the faces of all those who called her paranoid and hysterical when she first started sharing the news of a greater threat.

However, with the talk of an invading alien army, comes the talk of bringing the Rogue Avengers back into the fold to help combat the new threat, and Toni wants to tear her hair out.

If Steve and his lackeys come back, then all the work she’s put into destroying them will mean nothing, the bastards would come crawling back thinking themselves victorious and try to tear down everything she’s built simply because she was the one to build it.

She’d have to work with them again, because no other would consent to having them in their country which means that they’ll be assigned to the American branch of Avengers.

And she can’t even argue against bringing the Rogues back, because the world is in danger, and they need all the help they can get.

The best she can do, is make sure that the world never forgets what they did, and push for proper trials once Thanos has fucked off.

The Guardians of the Galaxy returns to space after their piece is said, off to collect allies for the battle against Thanos, and Toni is left to rethink her plans.

 

Accept that who you chose to be

Was out of my control

And though it might be hard

 

“I am sorry.”

Toni looks up from her fifth mug of coffee to meet T’Challa’s dark eyes, she probably looks like shit, her face smeared with grease and her hair stained even dark with oil. After the news had come that the Rogues had received the deal that they were to work with the Avengers against the invading armies to lessen their sentences, Toni had gone on an engineering rampage, locking herself in her lab for two days as she reduced herself to a flurry of building and tweaking.

“Hello Kitty,” She greets, inclining her head towards the spot next to her on the couch as she let the quiet chatter from the television wash over her and become white noise. “What are you apologizing for.”

“I do not agree with the decision.” T’Challa admits, gracefully lowering himself onto the cushion. “But if it will protect this planet, I will work with them. I am King, and I must put my people first.”

Toni sighs, “I know.” She smiled bitterly as she tilted her head to study him, “I really don’t want to see any of their faces again, and I want them nowhere near my family again, but I want everyone to survive, and the best bet for that is as many people standing between Thanos and them as possible.”

They’re quiet for a moment, before Toni speaks again.

“So, what happened between you and Nakia?” She asks suddenly, then flushes slightly at her thoughtless question. She turns, intent on apologizing for bringing it up, when T’Challa answers.

“She figured that she could help much more people out here.” He says, smiling slightly. “We agreed that her goals were best reached if we remained friends. We love each other, but we are no longer in love.”

Humming, Toni studies him once more, eyes tracing lean muscles and broad shoulders. He’s built like a cat, instead of an ape like Steve was; all streamlined, natural muscles that didn’t come from a bottle, and look so much more like a real body rather than Steve’s unnatural bulk. He’s very attractive, Toni isn’t afraid to admit it, and the bonus is that he’s sweet and kind, with lovely eyes and an intelligent mind.

He’s quite the catch, Nakia is missing out.

 

To begin again

I’ll write myself a brand new story

With a happy end

 

T’Challa strides into Toni’s lab one day, flowers in hand, and catches the genius’ attention with ease.

“Hello Toni,” He greets before Toni can open her mouth, and the bouquet, a crystal vase and colourful blossoms, is placed on her desk just in reaching distance.

She reaches out, gently fingering the soft petals, a small smile on her face. “Hey there Catpernicus, what’s with the flowers?”

“Rhodes told me that you liked them.” The King tells her, “And Miss Potts helped me chose the proper bouquet.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Sunflowers, irises, lilacs, and asters; Toni smiles, “What’s the occasion?”

“Would you do me the honour of accompanying me to dinner tonight, Toni?”

Toni looks up, hands pausing as she stares at T’Challa with wide eyes. He stares back, dark eyes earnest and hopeful, and Toni shakes off her shock, licking her lips nervously as her cheeks reddened.

“Sure thing, Catsanova.”

 

I survived

So tonight

I am taking back my life

 

It’s the day that the Rogues are set to arrive, and Toni waits in silence on the landing pad, hands clenched around are StarkPad. She’s dressed the same way she would for a press conference, displaying power through her clothing and on-point make up. Her Platypus is at her side, and Carol is talking with Jennifer Walters, the poor woman who had drawn the short straw and had been assigned as the Rogues’ lawyer.

Rhodey’s hand is on her bicep, his face is hard but his eyes are soft. “You don’t have to be here for this, Tones.” He tells her, and Toni loosens her white-knuckled grip on her pad.

“Yes, I do.” She says, eyes burning. “I want to rub it in their fucking faces that I’m better than ever, and that I did it all without them.”

Rhodey chuckled, withdrawing his hand to grin at her, “You never needed them to begin with.”

“You’re damn right I didn’t.”

The Quinjet sent to collect the Rogues from Wakanda is in sight now, and Toni takes a deep breath and steels herself.

It’s game time.

 

And I’ll show you

That I am not nothing

I’ll show you

That I am not nothing