“Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark, please, I’m Christine Everhart from Vanity Fair. I just need five minutes.”
Tony paused, his back to the voice, ready to duck inside the limo to escape the crowd outside the conference hall. But still, it was a pretty sexy voice.
“What do we got?” Tony asked quietly.
“A good seven, sir,” Happy said, expressionless.
Tony turned around and smiled at the leggy blonde. “Sure, I got five. Fire away.”
“Do you like your name, ‘Toymaker?’”
Tony smiled back at the chirpy Christine’s question. To answer questions like that, from a woman who was bold enough to approach him coming out of an adult entertainment conference, was always worth a smile. Even for reporters fishing for a scoop when he was just about to leave.
“I’m always fond of nicknames. That one’s pretty cute, actually.”
“And what about your other nickname, the ‘King of Corruption?’” Christine said, dropping her megawatt smile for a more serious reporter’s tone.
Happy almost smiled when he saw Tony’s back tense. The poor woman had no idea of the button she’d just pushed.
“Corruption? Lady, my father spent his life making guns and bombs so people could kill each other more efficiently. He worked on the Manhattan project helping make one of the most devastating weapons on the face of the Earth. And that’s not what I want to leave behind, that’s not what I want for my legacy. If I’d followed in my father’s footsteps, I wouldn’t just have some conservative groups picketing my building, I’d have blood on my hands, hundreds or thousands of widows and orphans left behind by what I’d made, groups who’d put a price on my head, and people probably calling me the ‘Merchant of Death.’ I don’t want that. I never wanted that. I’d rather give people orgasms than bullet wounds.” Tony turned and flashed his trademark smile at the crowd a little distance behind her. “Make love, not war!”
The crowd went berserk at Tony’s slogan, and Christine Everhart rolled her eyes.
“You don’t feel you’re squandering your genius? The programs used for your… Long Distance Lover machines could have countless applications for communications systems or targeting programs, not to mention the energy potential in your patented power source.”
“Always annoying when you’re right on the cusp of something amazing and the batteries give out, eh? Oh no, I’m sure anyone in the armed forces would be too embarrassed to power so much as a coffee maker with the same thing that runs the Lothario 5000-series pistoning dildos.”
“I think you underestimate the capacity for folks in the military to use whatever they have to do get their jobs done.”
“Oh no, I never underestimate them in that capacity,” Tony said blandly, letting a little more steel creep into his voice. Ms. Everhart abruptly changed her tactics, trying to shock him.
“Is there any truth to the rumors you model some of your products on your own genitals?” she asked.
“The Naked Lust line, yup, they’re direct made from direct casts of my cock, sized up or down according to people’s preferences,” he said without shame. That rocked her for a second, and he leaned forward to press his advantage. “Want to come by the house and see which one measures up to the real deal?”
She gaped at him, momentarily lost for words, and Tony turned away.
“Actually, I’m busy tonight, but I’ll give you the next best thing. Happy, give Ms. Everhart here one of me, would you?”
Tony ducked into the comfort of his limo as Happy pressed a cheerfully lewd box into her hands that proudly proclaimed it was the Star model of the Naked Lust dildo family. The expression on her face as Happy drove away was more than worth that whole confrontation.
“Welcome home, sir.”
“I’ve had a rough night, buddy.” Tony rolled his neck a little to loosen the tightness in his shoulders and began to strip.
“Would you care for it rough then, sir?” JARVIS asked diffidently. “Ms. Everhart was rather insistent.”
“Made YouTube, did we?”
JARVIS flicked open a file on a nearby screen, showing someone’s slightly-shaky recording of Tony’s speech from their phone.
“Brilliant,” Tony said flatly. “And no, not rough. I just need to clear my head.”
“As you will, sir.”
Tony tossed the last of his clothes in the corner and bent over the workbench, nipples peaking from the cool surface. He reached behind himself and slowly worked the bright red butt plug out of his ass (the self-lubricating Iron Rod, one of his best sellers), and tossed it into the sterilizer before bracing himself.
“Care for a view, sir?”
“Always,” Tony said, and smiled a bit as JARVIS activated the camera on his own, personal Long Distance Lover. It was the crown jewel of StarkNaked Industries’ products, a mobile fucking machine with a camera and remote controls, so loving spouses and significant others could give their loved ones some fun even when out of town. Though the statistical analysis was still not certain, Tony anecdotally heard that divorce rates had dropped once the LDL had hit the market. Expensive? Very. But worth every penny to the right buyers.
On the screen, Tony could see his own ass, his hole gaping prettily, slick and ready to be penetrated. Targeting lines appeared, gauging his position and angle, relating that to programmed information about Tony’s body. He’d put a hell of a lot of safety features into these machines to make sure that they couldn’t hurt anyone, and the results, if he said so himself, had been pretty spectacular. Calculations done, his LDL scooted closer and held its attachment in front of the camera for his approval.
The Adonis 7, not too long, a nice curve right were Tony liked it, with decent girth and a smooth texture. Just right for how he wanted it tonight.
“That’s good. Fuck me, baby,” Tony said, wiggling slightly, not letting himself get outside the target zone. He licked his lips as the LDL moved into position and extended its arm carefully, sliding the Adonis just inside him. Tony felt himself stretch around the toy easily, and heat began to curl in his belly. “Come on, do me!” he said more sharply. The LDL thrust harder, and Tony sighed in relief as the dildo slid along his prostate just right. Sighing and moaning as the thrusts picked up smoothly, Tony gripped the edge of the table and went along for the ride, now hard and aching for release.
“More, sir?” JARVIS asked diffidently.
“Just get me off!” Tony snapped, and nearly bit his own tongue when the LDL slowed, changed its angle enough to make Tony gasp, and speeded up for the last few thrusts he needed to come. “Oh fuck…” Tony said, blinking lazily as his post-orgasm haze washed over him, leaving him energized and relaxed in its wake. It hadn’t exactly been a mind-blowing orgasm, but he didn’t need that every time. Sometimes he just needed this – a quick, happy moment of physical release and pleasure after a long day without having to coordinate with someone else. Just because the LDL could have a remote operator didn’t mean Tony hadn’t had voice controls (and JARVIS) in his since forever. There were many satisfied customers that proved what worked for Tony Stark also worked for them. And worked them over.
Tony grinned at the thought and went to find his pants.
There were plenty of people who’d lambast him for being even more of a degenerate pervert than they already accused him of being if they found out he was using an AI-driven LDL on himself on a regular basis. Tony didn’t particularly give a flying flip. What kind of inventor would he be if he didn’t like what he was building? And how was he to know if he liked it unless he tried it? Besides, JARVIS could get him off fast and easy, didn’t try to get favors or money afterward, and didn’t leave any mess for Pepper to have to clear out in the morning. Maybe there was someone out there that could see past the Toymaker, but Tony hadn’t met him or her yet. Until then…
“JARVIS, excellent, as always.”
“I live to please, sir.”
“Dummy, you know the drill by now, I shouldn’t have to tell you. And don’t put the Adonis back in the rack next to the Hungwell models – that’s too big of a surprise when I’m in a hurry,” Tony said as he buckled his belt. Dummy extended his arm with a rag to wipe up Tony’s spending, and would, unless he managed to glitch again, get the LDL attachments clean.
Tony turned his attention to the tall, locked metal cases on the far wall.
“JARVIS, how’s the new Ed Karst article being received?” he asked as he put his palm on the biometric lock.
“Very well, sir. There is considerable attention being paid to your arc reactor theory. Most are of the opinion that the current type cannot be made smaller, but there is a small but vocal group that insists your theory is purest genius and will be an invaluable contribution to the global energy crisis.”
“Good thing it’s not actually a theory, then,” Tony said, swinging the door to the case open. Inside was what most would assume was the latest and greatest development in StarkNaked Industries’ personal pleasure toys. A more human variation on the Long Distance Lover, perhaps, or even an aid for those with physical disabilities to gain some flexibility in the bedroom. Certainly anyone who’d read Ed Karst’s articles on mechanized prostheses might recognize some of the tech. The cool white light of a miniature arc reactor illuminated the bright red paint and yellow gold-titanium alloy of the human-shaped armor, and the stern, plain faceplate looked oddly uncompromising for something made by the King of Sex Toys.
“The other articles about the repulsors and flight stabilization potential of same are still being hotly debated, but generally their merit is more easily being accepted. The power cycle is, of course, being heralded as impossible, and hence the entire idea considered mostly of academic interest. Only one scientist has admitted to seeing a connection between the arc reactor articles and the repulsor ones. He has, of course, been laughed out of the community.”
“And who is that brilliant mind?” Tony asked.
“Dr. Bruce Banner.”
“Who hasn’t been seen in three years since that lab accident, so someone is probably trolling under his name. Awesome. No one believes me, even if they believe the tech is solid.” Tony stepped back and looked the armor up and down. And suddenly grinned. “Excellent.”
Ed Karst was his serious scientific pseudonym, and not a particularly creative one at that. But there was no one, no one willing to believe that Anthony Edward Stark could possibly have anything on his mind other than the newest way to titillate someone. And Tony kind of liked it that way. It went against the grain to be ignored, but in this case flying under the radar was for the best. He didn’t want anyone to know about this.
“This” being a suit of mechanized armor with some of that genius technology Ms. Everhart had accused him of squandering on the sex toy industry built into it. “This” was what Tony had spent the last six months making, pouring all of his blood, sweat, and tears into. “This” was going to do the thing he’d wanted to do since his old man had dropped dead of a heart attack when he was twenty-one. He was going to clean up his family name. Mom, bless her, probably would have been the peacemaker between father and son if she hadn’t died in a car accident when Tony started at MIT at fourteen. But there hadn’t been anyone willing to listen to a kid, not even a genius kid, when he said he wanted to do something other than make things that killed people.
It had taken Tony bringing the first Adonis models to market with his trust fund that had at least gotten his dad’s attention, if not in a positive way, and get his point across. Tony hadn’t looked back since.
Until now. There were too many old stockpiles of Stark weapons out there, a lot of them stolen or sold to people who wouldn’t just use them, they’d revel in their destructive power. They’d be making a whole lot of war.
And Tony just didn’t do war.
He slammed the case shut and turned as Pepper walked through the doorway to his workshop. Dummy wandered by just then, clutching the newly-cleaned Adonis 7 on his way to the dildo rack. She didn’t even blink.
“Potts, you lucky lady, I have a new thing that I just know you’d love-.”
“Of course you do,” she said smoothly, and held out some paperwork and a pen. “Here, here, and bottom of the page. So-Real entertainment wants to use your entire Tantric set in their latest movie, so give that a thought, ok?”
“Are you sure they have actors flexible enough to use them safely?” Tony asked.
“He’s hired some people with acrobat backgrounds, so I’d say yes.”
“You’ve got to try my products someday, Pepper. Really. You’re the only opinion I trust,” Tony said, lazily signing where she’d asked while trying to look wounded.
“I’ll try them when I need them, Mr. Stark,” she said with fondness. It was the same response she’d given the other five hundred times he’d asked her a similar question, but Tony kept asking. It was a game between them now.
“You are a rare woman,” Tony said. “Truly.”
“And you have an appointment tomorrow at nine with an Agent Coulson from the…” Pepper looked down at her dayplanner, ignoring Dummy as he rolled by with a semen-soaked rag. “Strategic Homeland Intervention and Enforcement Logistics Division. Something about one of your father’s old projects.”
“So, I think I’m going to be busy at nine-,” Tony began, rapidly backpedaling, but Pepper was relentless.
“I will handcuff you to the workbench and let JARVIS have his wicked way with you before you duck out on this, Tony. Agent Coulson’s been trying to get an appointment for weeks, and went through the full gauntlet of shame you force on all your uninvited guests. He passed, so he earned his meeting. Tomorrow. 9 a.m. JARVIS, don’t let him forget.”
“I won’t,” JARVIS said. “As much as I would enjoy having my wicked way with Master Stark-.”
“You have your ‘wicked way’ with me, you big softy, every damn night!” Tony protested.
“-I will be certain he is present for the meeting.”
“And handcuffs? That’s your thing, Potts? If you’d said that, I’d have put some more research into our bondage R&D,” Tony said, raising an eyebrow.
Pepper just smiled enigmatically and strolled out again.
“Mr. Stark, a pleasure to meet you.”
Agent Coulson was a Man in Black, from his government-regulated haircut to his neatly polished shoes. That did not bode well for his chances of leaving Tony’s workshop without some level of lethal embarrassment.
“The pleasure is all mine. Literally. I patent pleasure, like three hundred different types of it at the last count. So, why are you here?” Tony asked. He had his arms up to the elbows in his LDL, adding a new lube line and upgrading the warmer. He deliberately had a fine selection of his products on the workbench for attachment purposes, just to see what the agent would do. To the man’s credit, he didn’t even bat an eyelash.
“I’m here with two purposes. One, I have an invitation from my director for Ed Karst. He’s a big fan of your articles. The work in there is unparalleled. We’d like you to work for us.”
Tony clutched the lube line a little hard and squirted himself in the face. Cursing softly he pulled his hands out and wiped himself off. A government agency wanted Ed Karst. Not good. He should have pseudonymed better.
“I also have someone who wants to meet you. He was a friend of your father in World War II.”
“Any friend of my father would be embarrassed to be in the same room with me,” Tony said dismissively.
“He doesn’t know your profession, he’s just wants to meet Howard’s son. He… went missing in action in 1944, and was only found very recently. He’s very eager to see you.”
Tony froze and ran that statement through his head.
“No way,” he said flatly. “There’s no damn way. He went down in the ocean.”
“He thawed,” Agent Coulson said blandly. “Captain Rogers doesn’t have much left in this time from his past. If you’d be willing to help, we’d be grateful. The job offer stands either way, though.”
“I doubt it. Government agencies aren’t really my thing,” Tony said.
“Think about it,” Agent Coulson said, and put his business card down on the table next to him. “When you come-.”
“If I come,” Tony corrected.
“Wear your best suit.”
Tony swore a blue streak until Agent Coulson actually left the house. They knew. S.H.I.E.L.D. knew what he’d been building. What the hell? How the fuck had they known?
Captain America was waiting for him when he showed up at S.H.I.E.L.D. The genuine, certified, original copy. No wonder Dad had spent all of Tony’s life looking for the man. Tony would have too, if he’d had a hand in making that. Except he hadn’t. Dad had had a part in making Tony too, but his son hadn’t been nearly as interesting as the supposedly dead man under the ice. All of Tony’s life, he’d heard how great Captain America was, how brave, how loyal, how strong and heroic. He’d been a standard Tony could never live up to.
And fuck if he wasn’t as wholesome as goddamn apple pie. Standing there in the corridor, he looked like he’d just walked off the set of one of the war propaganda films that had been required viewing during the Stark household weekly movie nights. Tony wanted to hate the man on sight.
He couldn’t though. Not when Captain Rogers had flashed a genuine smile at him, extended his hand and shook it without the slightest hesitation. Even some other adult entertainment execs hesitated in their handshakes, as if sure they were going to pull back with their palms covered in spunk. Not that Tony had ever pulled such a thing before. More than once.
“Mr. Stark?” Captain Rogers said, shaking his hand firmly.
“Got something for you, Capsicle,” Tony said abruptly, and shoved a couple wrapped packages in his hands, making him drop the handshake.
“Well, thank you, I never-.” Steve’s eyes widened and his smile died as the “Star Spangled Cock” dildo and the “Captain American Up Your Ass” butt plug were revealed. Both were striped in garish red, white, and blue, with strategically placed stars.
“I figured you’d never, so there’s a good starting point. They come with full instructions if you need them. And a little bottle of lube in each box, ‘cause I’m nice like that.”
Tony wanted to add something even more petty, something along the lines of - And thank you for being the reason my father never told me he loved me because he was obsessing over you. For that reason, I abandoned my family legacy to become a pacifist orgasm-peddler and the biggest joke of the western world. Thank you, Captain America. Thank you right in your toned, muscular ass.
It wasn’t fair to the guy, but Tony wasn’t exactly a big believe in fair. If Rogers could get past those welcoming gifts, Tony might consider giving him a second chance.
“Your director wants to see me. Have fun guys!” Tony said, and breezed into the conference room. As he shut the door, he could see Agent Coulson giving him the stink-eye, probably because he likely got himself off with a Star Spangled Cock every night and didn’t want to have to explain to his hero why he knew so much about their capabilities.
Director Fury wasn’t exactly who Tony had pictured when he’d thought about a leader for some super-secret government agency. He’d been expecting a hyped-up version of Coulson, a bureaucrat in a conservative suit so stiff he could be used as a sail. He hadn’t been expecting a tough, fit veteran of actual conflict with the scars to prove it peaking out around the edge of his eyepatch. He hadn’t been expecting the guy to wear leather and boots and look like he could kick Tony’s ass halfway across the room without breaking a sweat.
Ok, score a few points for S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Mr. Stark. Or is it Karst?”
“Whatever makes you happy,” Tony said, and flopped down in a chair. He wasn’t planning to spend very long here, just as long as it took to figure out exactly what they knew about his armor and the precise words to tell them exactly where they could stick their job offer. Preferably with the help of some of his products.
“Mr. Stark, I think you can imagine the surprise of our technical department when they back-traced the scientific articles you’ve been publishing to discover your real name. Here’s some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the twenty-first century being made by this virtual unknown, and in reality, it’s you. The King of Sex Toys. A little further extrapolation and investigation into some of your purchasing records-.”
“Illegally, by the way.”
Fury kept talking like Tony hadn’t even interrupted. “-And it turns out you have everything you need to create a weapon like this world has never seen. You never would have let anyone know about it, would you?”
“No. I’m not required to publish bupkis. The only reason I put those articles out there was because some of that tech could do some real good in the world.”
“But no one believes it can work.”
“It will. It works. Someone will figure it out eventually. Banner did.”
“Banner’s in the wind and not likely to step up to lecture circuit.”
“Gee, I wonder why. Wasn’t his last project before the accident a military one?”
“So it was. But we’re not talking about him. We’re talking about you.”
“My favorite topic,” Tony said cheerfully. Fury glared impressively with his one eye.
“The suit. You made a weaponized flying suit. Why?”
“I’m actually more interested how you extrapolated that little tidbit out of my shopping habits,” Tony said, and leaned far back in his chair, trying to project complete nonchalance.
“You’ve made mechanical prostheses for amputees before, also under Ed Karst. You have an extraordinary understanding of the human body, for obvious reasons.”
Tony grinned at that.
“The repulsors, those could move a certain amount of weight with enough of them. Also they’d make a pretty big dent if focused and pointed at the wrong thing. Your targeting and communications systems for your remote-operated toys. And the arc reactor; the riddle to your repulsor power problem. Add all of that together, and we saw a very interesting picture.”
Tony dropped his smile. “It’s not a weapon,” he said.
“And why not? You have your father’s entire estate, all of his blueprints, not to mention doctorates in engineering, physics, mathematics, and robotics.”
“And biochemistry, don’t forget that.”
Fury looked pained. “I figured eventually even you would get tired of being the world’s biggest cocktail-party joke genius.”
“You thought one day I would just wake up and want to be like Dad?”
“I thought, after seeing another side of you, ‘Ed,’ that there was more to you than just entertainment.”
Tony dropped his casual posture and got out of his chair, shoulders stiff and set, the anger he’d been suppressing bubbling to the surface.
“You know when I decided not to be a good little clone of dear old dad? Veteran’s Day when I was fourteen. We went to Walter Reed to talk to some of Dad’s buddies in the service. And while Dad was there schmoozing with anyone with a pulse, I went and listened to the guys in the physical therapy room. Those guys learning how to live without legs or arms, who had burn wounds and gashes and blows to the head so hard their skulls had cracked, who wanted to get back to their wives and kids and still make something out of their lives. I’ve always been pretty smart, so it didn’t take me much to realize that for every guy there that my dad’s weapons had saved, there were ten or twenty or a few hundred blown to bits somewhere overseas, and every one of them probably talked about their wives and kids too. And I realized it could have been me in that room, with my leg blown off or shrapnel in my chest.
“That’s when I thought I’d rather do something else with my life than help kill people. So I thought the only other thing that any fourteen-year-old boy thinks about. Sex. Lots of money in sex. Lots of fun too. I got to watch a lot of naughty videos for research purposes, and I can’t tell you how many sorority girls were happy to test my prototypes.”
“But that wasn’t enough, wasn’t it, Mr. Stark? You went from making simple vibrators to fucking machines more sophisticated than some supercomputers. You publish world-changing discoveries under a pseudonym. You simply don’t get that kind of dedication from a man just looking to stick it to his dad’s legacy. Petty revenge only gets you so far. But something for you? Not just against your dad but for you? That will get you from titillater to terminator.” Fury waved at the screen on the wall and it flashed a picture of Tony’s workshop, one from a couple nights ago when Tony had the case open to work on the armor. It flashed to some of Tony’s test flights in the desert, then to his target practice deep in the mountains.
Tony was already angry enough that he didn’t even quite care about this new level of invasion of privacy.
“It’s not a weapon!” Tony yelled. “Jesus Christ, did you even listen to me right now? I don’t kill people, I don’t hurt people, and I sure as hell didn’t design my suit so you could outfit your Men In Black goon squad in my tech and go oppress a few downtrodden countries!”
“Then what did you design it for, Mr. Stark?”
“I am going to hunt down and blow up every damn one of my dad’s weapon caches. Every under the table deal, every smuggled load, all of it. I know Stane was double-dealing, and I’m going to hit him right where it hurts.” Tony caught himself when Fury nodded in satisfaction, and nearly went to beat his head against the wall. Fucking spies. Fucking spies and their fucking manipulative bullshit.
“So, you stand for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?” Fury said evenly.
“Damn straight,” Tony said, without the slightest bit of irony. “Even more so than Captain Boy Scout out there. I can get the job done without having to shoot everyone.”
“Why did you remind me that you have a Ph.D. in biochemistry?” Fury asked, in seeming non sequitur.
Tony smiled nastily. “What a little teargas won’t do to your typical meathead guards, some aerosoled Viagra will. Really hard for people to run after you if they’re tripping over their erections.”
Fury managed to look both disgusted and impressed at the same time. That, at least, was an expression Tony was very familiar with. He called the expression “imgusted.”
“Mr. Stark, there’s something going on here that’s bigger than you. We’ve been gathering together a team of some extraordinary individuals to tackle problems beyond the reach of conventional thinking. People that can fight the battles we never could. It’s called the Avengers Initiative.”
“Despite all rumors to the contrary, I don’t play well with others. And I have a sneaking suspicion that one of your ‘extraordinary individuals’ is sitting right outside this room, and I’m pretty sure I just categorically alienated him, so I doubt any order to ‘play nice’ is going to have much effect,” Tony said.
“You’d be surprised, Mr. Stark. I have two agents with exceptional skills and ability to adapt, Captain America right outside the door, a Norse god visiting from his home plane who’s taken an exceptional shine to our world, and a certain scientist who has been the only person who’s always believed in Ed Karst.”
Tony blinked in surprise. “You have Banner?”
“The Black Widow is bringing him in. I have five good people, and I need you too. There’s a war coming, something we’ve never seen before, and the Avengers might be the only people who can stop it.”
“You think that your agents and the Star Spangled Man with a Plan- I’m not even touching your Norse god comment –are just going to accept me into your little secret underground band?”
“Does that mean you accept?” Fury asked.
“Why the hell do you want me? Who in their right mind wants the kind of heat and flak you’re going to take for having Tony ‘Toymaker’ Stark on your payroll? I don’t care if you are the best black-ops in the world, someone is going to find out and laugh you right out of funding,” Tony said, trying not to laugh himself. This was a dream; had to be. Some crazy, mixed-up dream from too much coffee and too little sleep.
“Because I believe you’re something more than your father, Stark. More than your toys. I believe you can be better.”
Tony turned away and crossed his arms over his chest. Fuck. Fuck.
“I’m not one of your soldiers, Fury.”
“I already have plenty of those.”
Tony turned back around. “You said you wanted to stop this war. First time you ask me to kill someone, I’m gone.”
“Heard,” Fury said. “So, what do you call the armor? What’s your pseudonym for that?”
Tony looked up at the wall screen, where it was still showing him hovering over the desert, gleaming and strong in the sunlight.
“Ok, Iron Man. Let’s introduce you to the rest of the team.”
As Fury opened the door, Tony smiled behind his back. This was going to be a complete disaster.
His favorite kind of fun.