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we are figurines

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When Toni was a little girl, her father had the tendency to alternate between wishing that he had a son and trying to turn her into the little princess that she never would be. He bought her little toy dolls—delicate porcelain china dolls with inky dark hair and glass brown eyes. He bought her dresses and tea cups decorated with elaborate floral patterns from Germany, Russia, and Italy. There were sewing lessons and ballet classes when she would rather be at science clubs.

When she turns four, she makes her first circuit board out of materials she's filched from her father's laboratory. She doesn't show anyone except for her maid, and when Mrs. Smith smiles at her and tells her to show her father, Toni shakes her head and tucks it out of sight. When she's six, she builds her first engine. The press finds out about this one, and instead of praising her for it, her father chides her and tells her to be more careful. That nobody would be willing to marry a woman like her.

And then her father and mother die, and Toni stops caring.

She goes to MIT, graduating at seventeen. For a few years she leaps back and forth between things—small projects that she works on in the lab while hiding from Obadiah. She builds Dummy and starts the prototype for her own private AI. She calls him JARVIS, after the butler who snuck her cookies and picked her up from ballet classes because her parents were too busy to parent her themselves.

Later that year, her face is on the cover of TIME magazine. Just after that she takes over her father's business with Obadiah, tinkering with elite weapons with a cigarette clenched between her lips and her fuck-me pumps and evening dress three feet away, switched for jeans and a tanktop the second she'd gotten through the doors.

She sleeps around—boys, girls, sometimes both at the same time. She's careful, but her partners aren't always the most discreet, and word starts to get around before she's even out of her teens.

They call her many things—harlot and train wreck. They say she'll crash and burn, so she holds her head high and makes other names for herself. The Da Vinci of the 21st Century, the Angel of Death. They call her War, and she preens, cuts her dark hair short enough that it won't get singed in the labs anymore. She wears the evening gowns to parties and press conferences like a good little girl for a while before she starts wearing suits, sharp and dark—dangerous.

When Afghanistan happens, she thinks about falling to pieces. She doesn't. She indulges in two days of drinking and sex before she rights herself and starts working on something better. A suit even more dangerous. She lets Obadiah and Pepper think she's falling apart—lets the rest of the world think that she has crashed and burned just the way they thought she would. She lets them think that because she's making something better. Something more important than the vitriol they spew.

She is Ironman. Or Ironwoman, as it were.

Obadiah happens. Vanko happens. Shield and Natasha happen.

She has an entirely too close brush with death and falls to pieces. She runs Pepper out of her life even as she hands Pepper her company. She gets drunk and prances around her birthday party like an idiot, kisses women and men alike while she's still in the suit, metal fingers curling gently against the curve of some redhead's jaw who looks entirely too much like Pepper. She shoots watermelons and champagne bottles out of the sky like it's entertainment, and gets tackled into the wall for her efforts. She snarls and snaps and levels her house, but the result is the same. Rhodey steals one of her suits, and she's left in the crater that used to be her home with a poison in her veins and a timer ticking away the rest of her life.

So she creates a new element in her basement—saves her life and saves the city from Vanko.

Things work out.

The Avengers happen.

Loki happens.

And that's when everything changes, because it isn't just Toni and Pepper anymore. Toni doesn't play well with others, she knows that. She's always been the kid who doesn't want others playing with her toys. And she tells Thor as much, taunting him even as she's cataloging that six plus feet of pure muscle and filing the image away for later perusal. Thor's a better fighter than anyone she's ever met, and that doesn't change when he finds out that she's a woman. He just grins ferally at her and punts her clear across the forest.

All the while, she can feel Loki's eyes on her—his mouth quirked up into a smirk that has her wanting to stab him and screw him until he can't see straight.

She meets the rest of the team. Captain Spandex is ridiculous, and the first time he blushes and calls her ma'am, she antagonizes him until he's scowling at her and lecturing about how he would have thought Howard would have raised a better child. And yeah, that one smarted. Toni was reintroduced to Little Miss Muffet's childhood friend, the Black Widow. She wasn't too surprised when she didn't get a warm welcome from her. The best thing about the whole thing was Banner, Mr. Mean Green Fighting Machine himself. Despite herself, she liked him.

Unsurprisingly, Loki has something planned.

They nearly tumble out of the sky, Toni herself nearly becomes shrapnel, they hook back up with Legolas, and fight an army.

She's bruised and battered, her suit a wreck by the time she meets Loki on Stark Tower.

She offers him a drink, threatens him, and dons a pair of very special bracelets. In fact, the conversation goes swimmingly until Loki smirks at her, shimmers a bit, and sidles over to Toni with a brand new pair of breasts to distract her.

"I thought you might prefer this form a bit more," Loki purrs, letting her nails skitter up the side of Toni's neck to thread into her hair. Toni takes a deep breath and when she lets it out shakily, the stone at the top of Loki's staff fogs with condensation.

"That is true," she tells hi—her. Loki grins at her and slides closer, tucking her body against Toni's in a way that has her breath stuttering in her throat. When Loki dips her head and mouths along the side of her neck, Toni moans, her hands shaking.

"You sure you don't want that drink?" Toni asks. "'Cause the thing is, I'd really rather this end with scotch and sex rather than you trying to take over the planet."

Loki looks up at her coyly, lashes fluttering, and shakes her head.

Toni takes a deep breath. "No. Okay, yeah, we can work with no."

She shoves Loki away, and when Loki rights herself, she's glowering. "What do you know, Toni Stark? What do you know about any of this?"

Toni grins, because this—this she can work with. "I know you feel trapped," she whispers. "I know that you have daddy issues that make mine look small time. I know that you hate yourself and your family and everyone around you. I know that you want the entire universe to burn. I know that you're kidding yourself. That you don't want the Earth. You want daddy's love, and if you can't have that, you'll settle for his hate."

She shrugs. "But hey, what do I know."

Loki glares at her and strides forward, intent, and presses the tip of her scepter to Toni's chest. The clang echoes in the room, and Toni presses close enough that the point scratches against the arc-reactor. She grins. "Performance issues?" she asks.

Loki throws her out the window.

They'll defeat them all, of course. Toni will carry a nuke through a portal and barely come back through. They'll bind Loki in chains, and Thor will take his brother back to Asgard before he sheds his female skin. In those last moments that Loki is on Earth, Toni will go to Loki, bound in chains. She'll whisper something in her ear and Loki will snarl.

This won't be the last Toni will see of Loki. Two years down the road they'll have a whole other mess to worry about—Thanos and saving the Earth again, and Toni will have Loki in her bed, curled up by her side when Thanos opens a portal into their world. Toni will shake herself out of sleep and Loki will look at her, dark hair sliding down bare shoulders and tell her that she'll help this time. That this time she isn't trapped.

Loki will look at her, moonlight on her skin, and she'll smile.

Two years is a long time though, and for now, Toni whispers something into her ear.