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Antonia Elizabeth Stark

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       Anthony Edward Stark grew up with her Mama telling her how excited Howard was when it turned out that she was wrong and she was born a boy, not a girl. But Tony could never understand that. She didn’t feel much like a boy. When Tony really thought about it, she felt like a girl. But her Mama and Howard said that she’s a boy and call him he and buy him pants instead of the pretty dresses like Mama wears. She just...doesn’t feel like a boy.

       But Mama and Howard are smart (even if Howard is mean sometimes) so she pushes the thoughts away and does what Mama says all good little boys need to do. She learns her manners and opens doors and lets Mama’s friends have her seat when they come over. Howard doesn’t care, but Mama says she’s a perfect, sweet little boy. Then she gets her hands on tools and stuff in Howard’s lab, and they start testing her and teaching her and having her build things. They call her a genius and a prodigy in the news and Howard is nicer to her, but Mama still teaches her manners and piano and how she was so sure she was going to be a girl, but she’s just thankful the Lord gave her such a smart, sweet child.

       She continues to get smarter and smarter, but after a while, Howard isn’t nice anymore. He’s angry and mean and drunk. But Mama is sweet and pretty and doesn’t yell and hurt like Howard does when she catches Tony playing with her beautiful dresses. She gets Tony some in secret that fit her, and they have tea parties with the fancy cups when Howard isn’t home. Sometimes, Tony even convinces Jarvis to play with them if he’s not too busy. Jarvis is her best friend and her favourite person right after Mama. She loves Jarvis, but Jarvis and Mama told Tony not to say that because Howard wouldn’t like it. Tony doesn’t think she cares too much what Howard wants because Howard is a meanie anyways.

       When Tony is nine years old, Mama starts to tell her about puberty and how she might start changing soon. She smiles and tells Tony she’ll still be her little boy, but that just makes her cry. She doesn’t want to be her little boy. She’s never wanted to be her little boy. And now her body is going to get gross and masculine like Howard’s instead of soft and pretty like Mama’s, and it just sounds so awful. Tony doesn’t want to be Mama’s little boy she wants to be Mama’s little girl. So, she finally tells her while she cries, “Mama, I’m not your little boy! I don’t want puberty! I’m supposed to be your little girl!”

       Mama looked at Tony shocked and sad and just whispered, “Oh mio povero bambina. Mama will fix this. Don’t worry.” That night Tony hears Mama and Howard yelling at each other really really loud. Jarvis tries to distract her from it, but she’s too scared to sleep. She tells Jarvis that if she had just stayed a boy instead of telling Mama she’s a girl, Howard wouldn’t yell at Mama like that. What if Howard hurts Mama? Mama is sweet and pretty and kind, and Tony wishes she could help her. Eventually, Howard leaves, and Mama comes to Tony’s room and sleeps there with her. The next day Mama and Jarvis and everyone are calling her Antonia and her instead of he and Mama got out one of the pretty dresses she had in secret and lets her wear it all day. Even when Mama takes her to the new doctor that asks her about how she feels and why she says she’s a she, not a he.

       When Mama tells her a month later that she doesn’t have to start puberty if she doesn’t want to, she gets so happy that she cries. Mama says the doctor said she can use puberty blockers until she’s old enough to stop them or start taking estrogen. Toni doesn’t really know what some of it means, but she knows that she doesn’t have to get gross like Howard, she can be soft like Mama is. They have a party the day she starts the blockers. Her and Mama and Jarvis and Ana, Jarvis’ wife. Howard comes for a few minutes, but he just scowls at her until he leaves. Toni doesn’t care though. Mama said she gets to get all new clothes if she wants and she can let her hair grow long if she likes and she’ll teach her how to use makeup in a few years. Mama even has her name changed legally. Now, she’s Antonia Elizabeth Stark instead of Anthony Edward Stark. Toni loves her new name. Its what Mama wanted to name her when she was still a feta-fetus.

       Whenever she does interviews and stuff because of her projects the people don’t ask her about her future plans anymore or what she’s working on. All they ask her about is what it’s like to want to be a girl, not a boy. She doesn’t like that, they don’t understand. She is a girl. She doesn’t want to be a girl because she is a girl. Her doctor says that’s okay, Mama said she should have trusted her gut, she knew Antonia would be a girl. That’s why her name was Anthony. Because Mama had picked Antonia, but then the hospital said she’s a boy, so Howard named her Anthony.

       Toni hears Howard tell Mama that he has a son, not a daughter. Mama gets really mad at him and yells at him about how beautiful and smart and kind his daughter is. She says he should just be happy he has a healthy child. But he doesn’t care. He gets mad and goes away. After that Mama and Howard are always fighting. Mama hires tutors and teaches her manners and piano and takes her to the spa, but Howard is still away on business trips. Sometimes, Toni wants to ask about why Howard is always away, but she doesn’t anymore, not after the first time. She asked Mama why Howard yelled at her so much, and Mama just cried for a long time.

       After a few years, Toni notices that all the other girls her age are developing breasts, but she’s not. When Howard hears her ask Mama about it, he throws a cup at a wall and leaves the house. Jarvis cleans up the mess while Toni tries to cheer Mama up. She always cries when Howard goes. Never when he can see her though. One of the first things she told Toni after her transition started was that she can never let the world see her cry. Women can’t be weak, they have to be strong. Otherwise, no one will listen to them or respect them.

       A month later Mama and Howard are divorced, and Toni goes to live with Mama in a lovely apartment. Mama puts her in an excellent school and signs her up for ballet. Toni doesn’t see Howard except for holidays and benefits she has to go to. She wishes she didn’t have to see him at all. He glares at her and won’t speak to her. She’s not stupid. She’s never been stupid. She knows, she’s always known, that he is supposed to be her father. She should love him. He should love her. But he doesn’t, and she doesn’t. He hates her, and she’s indifferent to him usually. She has Mama and Jarvis and Ana. She doesn’t need a father. The press asks her if she’s sad her parents are separated. They ask her if she misses living in a mansion. They ask her if she’s started hormones. They ask her if she’s going to have surgeries. They never ask her what she’s learning or working on. Not anymore.

       When Toni turns sixteen, she starts taking estrogen. She records her transition progress on Instagram. Within days she has thousands of followers. The number quickly grows. She gets death threats. Messages about God’s plan. Messages about how inspiring she is. Cries for help. A year later Howard dies in a car crash. Toni and her Mama assume he was drunk. They just thank God no one else was in the car with him. Jarvis and Ana join them at the funeral and Mama takes Toni to the reading of the will after. Howard left a lot of money to Mama and Toni but then she finds out that he left her his company. Stark Industries will be Toni’s when she’s twenty-one. Mama smiles and says he must have remembered who he used to be in his heart. Mama insists that he was a kind man in the beginning. Toni doesn’t feel anything. He was only kind to her when she first started showing intelligence as a boy. This company was everything to him, but it’s nothing to her. She’ll make it something though. She’ll turn it into a company that she can be proud of. But first, she has to learn how to run it.

       She adds business courses onto her science and engineering classes at MIT. Soon after that, she meets James Rhodes. A transgender man. He quickly becomes her best friend. She calls him sugar and honey bunch, and he calls her baby girl. The press thinks they’re dating. He doesn’t care. She offers to lend him her penis for his vagina. He laughs. He teaches her how to have friends. She’s never had any before. She makes sure no one can mistreat him because of his gender or race. Her Mama says they are soulmates. Toni insists they’re just friends. A year after they meet he asks her on a date. When Mama helps her get ready, she smiles and kisses her cheek. When he picks her up at the door, she tells her she told her so. Toni smiles and nods and thanks God for the people in her life who have allowed her to know the feeling of kindness and love.

       Two months after she starts dating Rhodey, Jarvis’ wife Ana dies of cancer. Jarvis dies weeks later. Mama says it was of a broken heart. They grieve for their friends and Toni creates JARVIS. Her baby. Her youngest son after Dum-E, U, and Butterfingers. His brothers adore him. He grows quickly. Soon it becomes clear that she hasn’t created robots. She’s created life. JARVIS translates what the bots have been trying to tell her for years. She adds programming that allows them to express themselves more. Rhodey and Mama watch proudly as she nurtures them.

       On Toni’s nineteenth birthday, Howard’s old business partner, Obadiah Stane, tries to corner her and push her into signing away her rights to the company. She leaves him gaping while security is on the way to escort him out of the party. The next day she finds a lawyer, and they start going through the paperwork and her role and power within the company. She will not leave any room for them to push her around or make her doubt herself. This is her company. It was Howard’s legacy, and she will turn it into her legacy while he rots in his grave. While figuring out how to run Stark Industries, she schedules her first surgery. She does everything she can to keep it out of the papers, but they catch wind anyways. It’s all anyone is talking about. Her Mama prays for her and Rhodey encourages her when she gets nervous.

       Her vaginoplasty goes well. Recovery is long and difficult, but it’s worth it. She feels better about herself than she ever has before. Rhodey and Mama are there for her the entire time. Her honey bunch rarely leaves her side during the recovery. As soon as she’s well enough to function in life, she’s up and in the public eye. She smiles and answers every single invasive question the press asks her in detail. She refuses to allow them to ruin this for her. This is what she’s been fighting for since the day she cried on her Mama about puberty. This is what she was fighting for through every insult and glare and scowl from Howard. This is hers, and it will not be tarnished. She goes to dinners and benefits and galas with Rhodey on her arm, and she accepts nearly every interview request she receives.

       One day, after an interview, Toni walks into the bathroom and sees a woman being harassed by the sinks. She’s a beautiful woman, and she’s holding her own. Frankly, she looks terrifying. Someone would have to be stupid to harass her and think they would get away with it. But, then again, this is America, and that looks like the man who owns the building this bathroom is in, so. Toni intervenes of course. She puts on her best public voice, the very cheeriest one, and walks over, “Oh there you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere! Mama wants you to come over for dinner again soon. She simply adores you after last time.” The woman looks confused for much shorter than Toni expected honestly. She catches on very quick and smiles at her, “Oh, I would love to. She was wonderful, and the food was amazing, Ms. Stark,” she turns to the man and smiles, “Excuse me, I have to go.”

       Toni links arms with her, and they walk out together while the man stands with his jaw dropped. Once they’re down the hall, she pulls the woman to the side and turns to her, “Are you alright?” She grins at her and nods, “It’s lovely to meet you, Ms. Stark, my name is Virginia Potts.” Toni holds her hand out, “Please, call me Toni, Pepper.” She looks confused but still shakes Toni’s hand, “Pepper?” “Well, from what I saw, if someone tries to take a bite out of you, you bite back.” Pepper smiles at her but frowns a moment later. Toni looks at her questioningly, and Pepper says, “I have to find a new job now is all. I’m sure it won’t take too long, but I had just gotten used to my desk.”

       Toni reaches into her pocket and pulls out a card. When she hands it to her, she says, “I’ll pull some strings and get you an interview. Call this number later if you’re interested. I don’t have much pull right now, but I can remind people I’ll be their boss in about a year. Nothing gets someone to cooperate more than reminding them you have a legal right to your company. Oh! Here,” she pulls out another card, this one with her personal number, “Here’s my number. Let’s actually do dinner soon.” Pepper smiles and thinks her and then they part ways. Toni doesn’t hear from Pepper for nearly a week.

       When Pepper finally calls she announces herself by yelling, “I got the job! Thank you for setting up an interview. I want to take you to lunch one day as a thank you.” Toni is shocked into silence for a few moments. “Hello?” She shakes herself off and says, “You know I have like...a lot of money right? I can get lunch.” She hears a quiet sigh before, “Yes, but this is me thanking you, not you thanking me. So, when are you free? I’m buying you lunch.” Toni can’t help but smile when she responds, “I’m open Wednesday and Thursday from eleven to three.” “Perfect, Wednesday at twelve? I’ll text you the details?” “That’s perfect. See you then.”

       Their lunch is fantastic, and they make plans for it to be a weekly outing. After a few weeks, Toni invites Pepper to dinner at her place with her Mama and Rhodey. It takes minutes for them to adopt her into their little family. It takes three more meals for her Mama to indefinitely invite Pepper to join her at the spa. Pepper and Toni quickly become best friends. Rhodey asks her to Christmas at his parent’s house when he finds out she doesn’t have any family to spend it with. Rhodey’s large bunch and Toni’s small, knit together group enjoy a loud, delicious Christmas with each other. Pepper rises through the ranks in the company throughout it all. Toni can tell that Pepper is smart enough that she could probably take over the world without anyone even realizing.

       After they’ve been close for months, and know nearly everything there is to know about each other, Toni brings Pepper to the lab to meet the bots. They love her. JARVIS teams up with her to get Toni to take better care of herself. Dum-E, Butterfingers, and U show her all of the parts and tools and odds and ends they’ve claimed as their own in their corner of the room. Individually. Slowly. Pepper acts awed by every single item. She treats them with respect and kindness. Toni decides right then that she would do anything for this woman. JARVIS tells her later, privately, that he feels the same. The bots make sure that all of the sharp or otherwise dangerous objects are put away very carefully whenever Pepper is planning on stopping by.

       Soon enough, it’s Toni’s twenty-first birthday. She has a small celebration with her loved ones during the day and a large party that night. Everyone wants to know what she’ll be doing with Stark Industries now. Many assume she’ll sign away her rights or marry Rhodey and put him in charge. Others think she’ll allow business as usual. They are all wrong. Every single person. She schedules a meeting with the board that next Monday and brings her lawyer along. Toni means business and they will all know by the end of the day. After she clears up with the board that her company will stay hers for a very long time she goes down to HR and has Pepper transferred from some random employees assistant to her personal assistant. She’s going to need her intelligence and organizational skills to succeed in turning this company into something she can be proud of.

       The first order of business? Get Stane out of the picture. He’s a sexist creep, which is just bad for business. It takes months of fine details and schmoozing and bargains but they get it done. It doesn’t hurt that they find out he’s been dealing under the table illegally. No one wants that to hit the press, so Stane goes relatively quietly. Toni is no idiot though. He’ll rear his ugly head again. After all, that’s what people who are taught the world owes them something do.

       With him gone, Toni and Pepper are able to turn the business around. They slowly pull away from weapons manufacturing to focus on technological advancements in medicine and everyday tech. Toni sets up more charities and scholarships and grants. Stark Industries does nothing but grow, and there is rarely any negative focus because people are so busy noticing that they’re getting better medical care and more affordable, quality technology that they barely realize SI is signing fewer and fewer military contracts for weapons. Of course, they are willing to sign contracts for protective gear and other defensive tech.

       Toni and Rhodey are everyone’s favourite power couple by the time he proposes at dinner one night. His family and Pepper and her Mama come out after she says yes, cheering and clapping. She’s crying tears of joy and doesn’t even care that the paparazzi are getting photographs of her ugly crying at a nice restaurant. She’s marrying her soulmate. She’s finally comfortable in her body. She has her Mama and a best friend. She’s turning SI into a business she enjoys and can be proud of. Her life is going perfectly. Which only makes it all the worse when Afghanistan happens.

Chapter Text

     It’s supposed to be her last trip. Pepper tried to tell her she didn’t have to go. But she wanted to be the one to end the final weapons contract. It was supposed to be symbolic. Instead, it turns into a nightmare. She’s stuck in a cave with a man she’s only met once. Her body, the body she was finally comfortable in, now has a hole in the chest. Full of metal. She’s attached to a car battery fucking hell. Mama is never going to let her out of her sight again. Pepper and her Sugar are probably worried sick. And she and Yinsen are sitting in this dark cave, trapped.

     Eventually, their captors show up. They want weapons. The Jericho. They want the Jericho. She will not give it to them. She refuses. But then the torture starts. The beatings. The waterboarding. At all hours, over and over and over again. She’s nearly positive that the only thing keeping them from stripping her and violating her is that she’s transgender. She disgusts them. They call her a man. Spit on her. Call her derogatory names. Some of which she has to have Yinsen translate because she only speaks passably in most languages she knows. She gives in. They think she gives in. She has Yinsen help her build a miniature arc reactor to replace the car battery. She starts planning. She’s going to create a suit. A suit she can use to escape. But first, she has to find a way to protect Yinsen. They don’t have enough time for two suits. She fashions a shield first. It’s rough around the edges. Uneven. Shaped oddly. But it should keep him safe from bullets.

     They come in. Try to hurt Yinsen. Give her a limited time to finish. They rush the suit. The guards come in. It’s chaos. It’s a horrible mess. Yinsen barely makes it out alive. Toni barely makes it out alive. But they do. They make it. And they walk. And walk. And walk. And they talk. Toni finds out Yinsen’s family is dead. He has no home. Nowhere to go. She tells him to come with her. The helicopter comes. Rhodey comes. They send her to the hospital. Mama and Pepper come. Everyone cries on her. She’s just so happy to be home. Yinsen stays in her guest room. She tells him it’s his. It’s the least she can do for him. He saved her life. 

     After a few days, she convinces them to let her leave. She manages to resist any scans of her body during that time. No one can know about the reactor. The arc reactor. In her body. Oh god. Why is her body never her own? It’s in her chest. Poisoning her. Hurting her. Restricting her breathing. Shining through clothes. She finally shows Rhodey the night he takes her home. He holds her while she cries. The next day he helps her go through her closet and put away any clothes that would show the reactor. She has to stop regularly to stave off panic attacks. All she can think about is the dark of the cave and the pain and the drowning over and over and over again. Rhodey has Pepper find a therapist Toni can fit in her schedule. That is, the schedule she’ll have when Mama allows her to go back to work.

     Months go by, and Toni is finally able to sleep through some nights and get through days at work. And she finishes another suit. One she can take out and use to destroy all of the weapons sold through her company illegally. They call her Iron Man. SHIELD shows up with a cover story. She throws it in the trash. She announces herself to the world as Iron Phoenix. She will always rise from the ashes, she doesn't care who tries to burn her down. 

     Her Mama lectures her for hours. Rhodey is pissed she’s putting herself in danger. Pepper complains about the effect on SI. Yinsen smiles in the background and nods at her. He knows. He knows she’s dying slowly. He knows she’s trying to clean up Howard’s mess before it’s too late. She does everything she can trying to fix it. Trying to replace the palladium. But it’s not possible. So she builds Rhodey a suit. She makes Pepper CEO of Stark Industries. She makes sure that Mama and Yinsen will be taken care of for the rest of their lives. She puts JARVIS and the bots in her will so that no one will get their hands on them that she doesn’t trust. She hates it. They’re her boys. Not her objects. But she puts them in her will going to Rhodey and Pepper. She thinks of it as transferring guardianship of children.

     And then SHIELD shows up again. They planted spies in her company. They watched her. They interfered in her private life. They drug her against her will. They gave her hope. They gave her a possible cure. She takes it. She uses it. She creates an element. The only good thing she ever got from Howard. JARVIS will finally speak to her now that she’s going to survive. He stopped when she stopped looking for a solution. She has a lot of apologies to make. To him and to his brothers. To Mama and Pepper and Rhodey. She also has a lot of research to do. SHIELD will never get the better of her like that again. They think they’ve made her indebted to them. They have not. She had a right to that research. She could probably sic her lawyer on SHIELD and bury them in lawsuits solely for the mental strain of having been attacked by one of their people. Whether helpful or not, they went too far. She will remember that. And oh, poor Pepper. She might think that Toni has forgotten her showing up to the last charity dinner with Natalie Rushman on her arm, but she hasn’t. Pepper was absolutely besotted with the spy. If there is anything Toni will never be able to forgive, it won’t be what they did to her. It will be what they did to her family.

Chapter Text

    SHIELD comes to her about the Avengers. Not for her, of course. Her money. Her influence. Her tech. Iron Phoenix. But not Antonia Stark, no, she isn’t suitable for the position. But that’s alright. She’ll play the game. She’s been doing it since she could walk and talk after all. Nick Fury thinks he knows her because of his little seedling spying on her, but he doesn’t know a thing about her. If the first thing her mother taught her was never let them see you cry, then the second was never let them into your heart. They hear her jokes and think egotistical. They think egotistical, and they assume easy to manipulate. They are no different from everyone else in the world who has tried to control her. They’ll grow complacent as they believe they’ve ensnared her. And then they’ll find out how wrong they were.

 

     Loki comes. New York is attacked and...and decimated, and Toni can’t help but think of how...wrong it all is. Loki is an ancient Norse God referred to as Silvertongue, and yet he butchers this invasion so severely? And while attempting to discern Loki’s motivations with failure, she finally meets Captain fucking America, the man her father wished he could have had as a son. Predictably it goes horribly. Natashalie and SHIELD got to him first. So be it. They may have manipulated Rogers, but all they did to poor Bruce Banner was push him into a corner and piss him off. She won him over by offering him what usually throws people off, herself. In all of her impulsive, sarcastic glory. He distrusts SHIELD, so he trusts in their mutual distrust. He feels trapped, so he appreciates the outs she offers for when this mess is over. He craves human connection, so she makes clear just how little she fears him and how much she admires his brilliance. The best part is, she isn’t even acting. She adores the shy genius. He will always have a home with her. All he has to do is reach out and take it.

 

     Sure, Fury and Coulson are dicks, and they managed to use Natashalie to convert Rogers, but she won over Bruce Banner and, consequently, the Hulk. And then Thor, who very much perked up at her pointing out how out of character this whole invasion/world domination thing is for Loki. If Loki truly wanted to take over the world, he would surely go about it more intelligently, right? If he’s as similar to Toni as Thor seems to believe then yes. Because she knows how she would conquer the world. She’s toyed with the idea before. It never looked anything like this. Rogers and SHIELD and Co. may have had a minor freakout when she pointed that out but, who cares? JARVIS is in their systems so they will be left with less than no proof of her saying that. Ha. Oh, that’s a call from Rhodey. Have to answer that one.

 

     “Rhodey-bear! Light of my life! Sugar! How are you today?”

 

     “Well, Tones, I was fine. Normal day. Until the whole, crazy guy attempting to take over the planet. And then you all but disappeared. So. Not so great, actually.”

 

     Toni winces. Bruce is laughing at her. Rude. But nothing is too horrible. Until Rhodey continues, that is.

 

     “Pepper and your mother are panicking and drinking wine while poor Yinsen tries to reassure them.”

 

     Oh no. “Oh, no.”

 

     “Oh, yes.”

 

     “Sugar-”

 

     “Stark! I don’t know if anyone told you, but we’re in the middle of a hostile takeover! We don’t have time for extracurricular phone calls! Or did Howard not instil a sense of priorities in you?”

 

     Wonderful Rogers. So wonderful. Thank you for that. That lovely trip down memory lane.

 

     “Who the hell is that Tones? I swear to god I will-”

 

     “Honey-bear I have to go, love you, please keep Mama, Pepper, and Yinsen safe? See you at home.”

 

     Toni could not believe the nerve of this man.

 

     “Well, Captain Rogers, I guess he just had to make a decision, instil trauma and bruises or a sense of priorities? Must have made the decision for him when I turned out to be a tranny freak. Can we get back to work and not worry about who I talk to on my private phone?”

 

     Rogers is speechless. As are the countless people that were around to overhear that. Whatever. It was a horribly kept secret. The abuse that is. Her gender identity was never kept a secret. She throws herself wholeheartedly into putting a stop to Loki and if she notices Bruce stands a little closer to her and glares a little harder at Rogers and the various SHIELD employees? Well. What can you do? So they work, and they work, and they work.

 

     And they win. Toni nearly died, but they win. And Loki was probably mind controlled if his eyes changing colour after being Hulk smashed is any indication. So yay for Thor. He has a chance at helping his brother. Now they’re just eating silently. Oh no. Why did the silence have to leave? That’s the sound of heels. Of very no-nonsense heels. Well, she survived the wormhole, but one can only cheat death so many times she supposes.

 

 

     “Antonia Elizabeth Stark! How could you? You stop to eat instead of coming to see your family? You leave your Mama worried sick!”

 

     She gets up and hurries over to her Mama and the others. She doesn’t know how they got to her through the mess, but she isn’t surprised. JARVIS probably made it happen for them. And she gives not one single damn how out of character is it she drops all of those masks for her worried Mama. Soon enough she’s being hugged from all sides. There are no tears, though. No. Her Mama and Pepper both know what happens to women who show too much weakness and Rhodey is too busy death glaring the occupants of the table.

 

     “Rhodey. Play nice honey.”

 

     “Is that Natalie Rushman?”

 

     “Natashalie? Yeah, that’s her. Oh! Let me make introductions.”

 

     She hates it, but she brings her family closer to this group of newly dubbed Avengers. None of them has it in them to stand in greeting, but no offence is taken for that. Other grievances, yes, but not that exhaustion.

 

     “Avengers, this is my Rhodey, my Mama, and my Pepper,” she can’t help but make clear that they are hers; therefore, they are off limits. After all, SHIELD needs reminders about their limitations every so often.

 

     There are some nods, a thin smile or two and Toni is off on the next set of introductions.

 

     “Rhodey, Mama, Pepper, these are the Avengers. Playing favourites, I will, of course, begin with Bruce Banner, the brilliant scientist and, occasionally, the Hulk. Next, we have Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It’s crazy but apparently true,” Toni gets visually less enthusiastic, “Now we have Clint Barton or Hawkeye. Natal-oops, sorry, Natasha Romonav, otherwise known as Black Widow. And last, we have Steve Rogers, also Captain America. Look how well he turned out. Howard would just be so proud.”

 

     “Really, Stark? You’re still bitter about that? It was nothing personal, don’t try to make it that way.”

 

     Well, apparently Natashalie doesn’t think it got personal. Jokes on her.

 

     “Oh, dear. That’s so cute. And sad. You don’t think you made it personal? I thought you were smarter than that, darling?”

 

     “Stark, now is not the time.” 

 

     Rogers wants to get involved apparently. Oh, Rhodey-bear is mad. Toni should most probably not be as happy with his anger as she is but. Well. She’s never claimed to be a good person. It feels nice to have people angry on her behalf occasionally rather than angry at her. 

 

     “You,” Rhodey looks right at Captain America and points, “That was you I heard when I was on the phone with my wife. If I ever hear you talk to her like that again I don’t give a flying fuck what you did in the forties I will fly right to you and-”

 

     “Rhodey, Sugar, remember diplomacy?”

 

     “I’ll shove diplomacy right up his-”

 

     So Rogers and the spy twins look suitably offended. And Thor and Bruce are laughing. Okay. Damage control. It is needed. Sadly.

 

     “Sugar-bear, I think I need to get home soon. Can you go ahead and get Mama and Pepper home so I can follow soon?”

 

     “Sure thing, baby girl. Love you.”

 

     Rhodey leaves with two angry mama bears following in his wake. They are going to commit a murder one day. And JARVIS will help them hide it before Toni can even attempt to. Ah, to love your family.

 

     “So. That was fun. When work meets family, right?”

 

     Toni sits back down and starts eating again. If she ignores the problems, maybe they’ll go away.

 

     “Toni... isn’t Loki still at your tower? Is that...is that where you sent your family?”

 

     No. No, they will not. She looks up at Bruce very, very panicked and then gets up and steps into the armour. Gotta jet when you gotta jet after all.

 

     A quick, “Meet me there,” and she’s gone.

 

     When the other Avengers arrive, Toni is in the middle of a very heated discussion with her Mama. JARVIS lets them in, and they stare. In horror, she supposes.

 

     “No, Mama! He isn’t a guest. He’s a terrorist!”

 

     “He is not Antonia! That poor boy couldn’t be a terrorist if he tried! It was that awful stick he had.”

 

     “Mama, you cannot let him roam around the tower without us proving that first!”

 

     “Antonia Elizabeth Stark, that boy is traumatized, and I refuse to add to it. You do what you will, but my conscience will not allow it.”

 

     “Mama…” Ah, the ability of a mother to guilt trip.

 

     “Lady Stark? What seems to be at issue here?”

 

     “Oh! Thundercat! And Brucie! And others. Well, Mama may have, possibly, let Loki out of the room he was in. But it’s fine! He’s just eating in the kitchen. She made him lunch.”

 

     “Stark this lack of professionalism and keeping national security in mind is appalling. Loki belongs in prison, not your dining room.”

 

     “Look, Rogers, this is my tower. Don’t like something happening? Then leave.” Toni doesn’t care if she agrees with Mama or not, Rogers doesn’t get to criticize her so rudely. No one gets to criticize her that rudely. Toni’s Mama gave up so much just so Toni could be happy and she will not tolerate that tone towards anything involving her Mama.

 

     “Hey, um, guys? Loki and Romanov might...kill each other?”

 

     Toni looks over to see Natashalie holding Loki at knifepoint and Loki gripping her throat. Thor looks ready to take Natasha’s head off her shoulders, and Barton seems prepared to do the same to Loki. She cannot believe this is what her life has come to. This. Ugh.

 

     “Alright! This is my home! This is my family’s home! I find the violence and weapons incredibly rude. So everyone drops them or JARVIS will be forced to call security!”

 

     “Of course, Lady Stark.”

 

     Thor and Loki immediately lose the aggressive posture. Loki even puts Romanov down.

 

     “That means you too, spy twins. Weapons away or get off my property.”

 

     Toni watches and waits for everyone to calm down. It takes a bit but soon Mama is leading Loki into a guest room, for a nap Toni assumes, and Pepper and Rhodey show up to fret over her. But then, where’s..?

 

     “Um. Rhodey. My love. Where is Yinsen?”

 

     “He followed Mama Stark into Loki’s room.”

 

     Toni cannot believe this. What? Did Rhodey really just say- “Did you just call my guest room Loki’s room?”

 

     She takes a deep breath and turns to walk into the living room. Not dealing with all of this. She sits on the couch and decides she’s asleep.

 

     “Stark.”

 

     “What?”

 

     “We need to deal with Loki. He has to be taken into custody until he’s returned to Asgard.”

 

     “Sorry, can’t help you, Itsy Bitsy. I’m asleep.”

 

     Toni ignores all the voices demanding her attention. Well, she tries to. But when it sounds like your husband is about to beat a national hero to death, you just have to intervene. Visiting someone in prison is not fun.

 

     So she gets up and plays good hostess. And laughs her ass off whenever one of the others tries to get her Mama to let them take Loki into custody. He fell asleep. And in the Stark household, that means he’s not to be disturbed unless he’s dying. For any reason. Her beautiful Mama actually popped Captain America’s hand when he tried to shake Loki awake. It was the highlight of her day.

 

     Now she’s just sitting in her Rhodey’s lap braiding Pepper’s hair as the spy twins and Rogers plot at her dining room table. They don’t seem to realize that JARVIS is hearing them and reporting back to her. It’s so cute that they think she’s that easy.

 

     “Lady Stark?” Huh. Thor nearly managed to sneak up on her. Maybe he isn’t just a fumbling warrior. That would be great, she might actually be able to have conversations with him about Asgardian tech.

 

     “Yeah, Thundercat?”

 

     “I would like to thank you for your hospitality. Both for my brother and I.” She nearly can’t believe how sincere he is about it.

 

     “Well, what can I say? I’ve always been a good hostess.”

 

     Thor nods and sits down in a chair across from her, “Still, I would thank you for your kindness. It is freely given and therefore deserving of recognition for the gift it is.”

 

     Toni blinks at him for a few moments. Did he really just say her letting them sit around her tower until Loki wakes up...is a gift? Really? Most people don’t even say thank you. Now her behaviour is a gift?

 

     “Not like she doesn’t have enough ‘kindness’ to spare.”

 

     Ah, there’s the attitude she’s used to! Barton just made an enemy of Pepper that’s for sure. Toni just doesn’t care what people think anymore. She has money. Yes. And she does what she wants with it. She does not owe it to anyone.

 

     “Hawkeye, it would do you well to hold your tongue.”

 

     “My Antonia has always been very generous. Sometimes too generous. But I am not. And she still listens to her Mama. So have some manners or I will become very upset at your presence.”

 

     Her Mama sweeps away into Loki’s room to check on him as Clint and Rogers gape at her. Toni doesn’t blame them. She never acts like that in public. Thor beams at her and settles back into his seat. Pepper lets her tie off the braid then goes off for a video conference with the board of SI. So Toni turns in Rhodey’s lap and leans against his chest. She needs a nap.

 

     “Lady Stark-”

 

     “Can call me Toni, Point Break.”

 

     “Toni. Would it be acceptable for me to rest while we wait?”

 

     “Yeah, sure. Pick a place. JARVIS can get you to a room if you want.”

 

     “Thank you, La-Toni, but I would join my brother.”

 

     “Suit yourself. See you later.”

 

     Thor goes to join Loki and her Mama while Toni settles further into Rhodey. She’s almost asleep by the time Rogers finally gives in to the urge to be a douche.

 

     “Stark!”

 

     She jolts up just as Yinsen begins speaking. When he got here, she doesn’t know. “Captain Rogers. Toni does not get nearly enough sleep. If you wake her again, you will be asked to vacate the premises.”

 

     “It’s alright, I’m up now, anyway.”

 

     “It’s not alright. It’s so not alright that it’s making me angry-”

 

     “Brucie! Brucie, meet Ho Yinsen. Yinsen, Bruce Banner. You’re both geniuses. So. Have fun. Genius it up. Mi lab es su lab.”

 

     “It is an honour, Dr. Banner.”

 

     Ha! Crisis averted.

 

     “Likewise. Toni, why don’t you go get sleep? Your mother-”

 

     “Mama.”

 

     “-says that no one is going anywhere until Loki is awake and she knows they’ll treat him right.”

 

     “Oh my god,” Toni’s heart nearly stops for a second as the realization hits her.  

 

     Everyone looks at her. Some of them are concerned. Some amused. Some blank. Toni just looks up at Rhodey.

 

     “She’s going to fight another monarchy, isn’t she?”

 

     From the SHIELD kids, she hears a mumbled, “Another?” but Rhodey is just laughing at her.

 

     “It’s not funny! I had to give them half of the art collection to calm relations last time! Pepper was mad for weeks! She had just built it back up.”

 

     Everyone is staring at her. She couldn’t care less. She’s up and going to her Mama already. When she gets to the room though she freezes. Loki is curled up in his sleep. Protecting his vital organs and head as much as possible even while unconscious. And Thor is holding onto Loki’s hand with his own as if he would disappear otherwise. They both look different brands of devastated. And her Mama is just sitting in the corner watching them. So she goes and sits next to her Mama.

 

     “They really have been hurt, haven’t they?” She looks them over as she asks and notices how gaunt and unhealthy Loki looks and how Thor’s face still hasn’t relaxed even though he’s asleep.

 

     “Yes, my sweet girl. Loki is traumatized in ways not too different from you and Thor thought he had lost forever a dearly loved sibling.”

 

     “We’re going to watch out for them, aren’t we?”

 

     Her Mama smiles at her as she responds, “We are. I will not let that boy be hurt again. I can’t bring myself to do that.”

 

     Toni stands and kisses her mother on the cheek, “I came to tell you we can’t afford to piss off another monarch, but I think I’ll just fight them right alongside you.”

 

     Her Mama smiles at her, “Thank you, Antonia. You’re a good woman, you know? You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve met. You always make me proud in the end, no matter what happens.”

 

     “I couldn’t have done it without such an amazing Mama.”

 

     “Miss. It appears that Loki is waking.”

 

     “Thanks, J.”

 

     Toni looks over to see Loki sitting up and looking around. He seems like a confused, ruffled kitten.

 

     “Hey, Loki, right? Careful. Thor just fell asleep pretty recently.”

 

     Loki looks down at Thor and at where their hands are connected. He nods, seemingly to himself, and Toni doesn’t see how he does it, but suddenly he’s up, away from the bed.

 

     “I am to be taken prisoner now?”

 

     “Oh, no. Of course not dear. Remember what I told you? This is my daughter, Antonia, and we’re going to make sure they treat you right. You just have to be honest with her and your brother once he wakes up. Like you were with me.”

 

     “I am afraid I do not have a brother Lady Maria.”

 

     “I don’t know about where you come from Rudolph, but around here, adoption means just as much as blood ties. Mama is the only part of my family related to me by blood, but we all love each other just the same.”

 

     Loki looks shocked. And then like he’s been hit. Toni reaches out slowly and gently turns his head, so he’s facing her when he doesn’t move away.

 

     “Loki. Thor loves you like a brother. If you feel the same, well, then you’re brothers. What matters is what’s in your heart. Now. My Mama says you weren’t in full control during this whole home invasion circus. Want to wake Thor so you can tell us what that’s all about? I know he'll be happy to see you awake.”

 

     Loki nods and moves to the bed. So Toni turns and whispers to her Mama, “Go warn the others? And remind Rogers, Barton, and Romanov how we treat guests in this tower?” She almost can’t believe that she’s calling a terrorist from another planet a guest, but her life never does seem to calm down.