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Born this Way

Chapter Text

I was just 4 year old, when I realized it the first time.

When I recognized the first time, that I was a mutant.

I was sitting in my room, working on my first circuit board, when my father came in. Drunken.

Quickly, I put my project in its place and asked shyly, "What do you want, father?"

He didn't answer, but he reached out with the hand he was still holding a glass bottle with.

I covered my face with my hands and mentally prepared me for the pain I was so used to.

But it didn't come.

I slowly opened my eyes, but I couldn't believe them.

My hands were covered by a golden, metallic looking coat.

Father didn't move.

I knew, that he disliked mutants, and was very afraid.

Would he outcast me?

No, Mommy and Jarvis won't allow that.

Would he hit me again, but this time more painful?

I could feel, that this...this..."metal" coat was spreading til my face.

That made my fear even bigger.

Would I ever be allowed to go out again?

After all, Howard Stark's son could not be seen as a mutant.

"Father?" I questioned nervously.

"You are not my son anymore," he answered. "You freak."

Then he went out of my room.

I started to cry, not believing my luck not to be in pain for once.

When he was around the corner Mommy and Jarvis came to my room.

They looked shocked seeing my face covered in a golden metal, but not mad. (On a second thought, why would they?)

"Everything is alright, honey, Mommy is here for you. What did Daddy do?" She obviously thought this...this...thing was from my father.

Understandable. It would not have been the first time he experimented on me.

"Nothing, this time," I sniffed. "He wanted to, but then this," I showed them my arms, which I had been hiding, "happened. And he called me freak."

Now Jarvis said something, "You are not a freak, Tony".

But I disagreed. "I am. I'm a mutant and f-Howard said to Obi mutants are freaks."

"Your father isn't always right, honey. You're special, yeah, but not a freak," Mommy convinced me.

But after this day Howard only called me 'freak' (unless we were in front of the press of course).

Chapter Text

When I was alone, I trained myself.

It was not easy. Quite the opposite, to be honest.

When I was 6, I mangaed that the Bleeding Armour (it's a cool name!), only came, when I wanted.

I continued working on my other projects. Mainly, to keep Howard at least a bit happy.

About this time, I built an engine (not my first, just the first someone saw).

Howard called all the newspapers saying such things like how proud he was of me (Yeah, right. As if).

I pretended that we were just a happy family (In someone's dreams, perhaps).

I am still surprised nobody noticed that only Mum, Jarvis and Aunt Peggy (who somehow did not know I was a mutant, despite usually knowing everything going on and more) really were my family.

I should totally get an Oscar. 

Well, a few weeks after this, something else happened.

Fortunately, this time, I was alone.

Seeing, that we were one of the richest families in the 80s (and still are, kinda) and a big company, we had several computers.

You want to know, why I tell you this?

Because suddenly I saw some of the data in my head.

It were just a whole lot of ones and zeroes, but somehow it made sense.

I was not as terrified as I was when I had my first mutant experience, seeing I was older, alone and at least a bit prepared.

It was still unbelivable.

Where did this come this from?

I didn't fully comprehend from the beginning, what happened.

Which seven-year-old would?

Slowly, I started to understand it.

My brain could translate binary!

Just by being close to something, I knew what it was programmed for and how.

And I could change it.

I was happy, because I was even more special, but only a bit.

I was full of fear, because I thought of Howard's most likely reaction.

I would tell nobody.

Nobody knows today, I'm a mutant. Howard, Mom and Jarvis died.

Okay, that is not the full truth.

JARVIS knows. How could he not?

However, there are two people who know the truth.

It is nobody of the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., nor is it Pepper, Rhodey or Happy.

Who it is?

Well...

Chapter Text

When I was 8, I also had my technopathy quite good under control.

I could find data in every computer (and later tablets, smart phones and such stuff too), by simply being in a 10 meter radius of them (that was before the internet was commonly used, now I'm able to get data from just about everywhere on the planet).

I had perfected both of my powers by the age of ten.

According to the statistics in the Personal Computer at our home, mutants usually don't even know they are mutants at that age.

I was already finished with high school, but I did not want to go to the MIT yet. I wanted a break of one, two years.

But I had to do something to get in distance of Howard. I couldn't stand to be in the same room as him for longer than a few minutes. Understandably.

That was where the data came handy (again).

Howard, Obadiah and the rest of them had figured out, that there is a training place, a school, somewhere in the US for them (the mutants).

And I figured out where. I got a list of all schools in the US and searched the more possible ones.

Not nearly as hard as it sounds.

Turned out I was right, it was Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

I applied there.

They accepted.

I told Howard, it was a step between High school and MIT, that would help me later. For some reason he believed me.

Mom and Jarvis, I told the truth. They still only knew of the Bleeding Armour, but they still understood me.

I used a fake name, but of course, the two telepaths found it out rather quickly.

We were a family, still are.

A big, crazy family. It doesn't matter there, what origin, sexuality or anything you have. Everybody is accepted.

I love this school.

Chapter Text

Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

In the school, I built my first-ever AI, Dummy.

I could speak with him, without actually speaking.

(Weeeeeeeeeee!

Dummy, either stop spinning or yelling, I'm trying to work here!

Yes, Dad.

Not your Dad.

Yes, Dad.)

It felt great.

When the Internet was invented (okay, it was actually invented in '69, but I mean when you could use it, without being CEO of whatever), I actually had to train again.

Jean, Ororo, Scott and the others truly enjoyed this.

It was worth every single second of it.

You want to know how warm it is in, say, Egypt for some reason or another (although you already know warm)?

Give me ten seconds, I'll tell you the data from five years ago to one month in the future. Forewards and backwards. In Fahrenheit or Celsius. Or Kelvin, if that's your cup of tea.

You need the directions to the next Starbucks, because you're a caffeine junkie?

Do you want the safest or the fastest way? Car or do you walk? Or do you have wings and can just fly there?

You get the idea.

Dummy had fun here, I could tell.

As did I, if someone came to visit us and I'd just continue to speak with Dummy while entertaining our guest(s).

(Why are you blue? No one else is blue! Dad, why is he blue?

I don't know. Still not your Dad, I'm fourteen!)

I like Dummy. He is my first bot. One of my oldest friends.

Even when he got on my nerves, I could never get rid of him. Even if I threatened to do so quite often.

I made a few friends here.

Hank, or Beast I guess, was my science bro. We caused quite a few explosions.

That was fun.

Jean and Scott...I actually don't really know how to describe our relationship. I guess Scott was sort of my older brother and Jean my 'sister-in-law' (Not that they're married, but that is how I'd describe our relationship. And theirs).

Ororo, or Storm for those who can't pronounce her first name, was like a aunt. She was one of the first who cared for me like family.

Before her, I only had Jarvis, Peggy and my Mom.

I wrote them letters, or emails, on weekly terms.

Sometimes more, sometimes less. Depended on how interesting the week was.

I told them (parts of) what I learned and how living there was (The answer to that is great, by the way).

While I was deep in my thoughts, Scott came in.

"What's up, Johnny?"

'Johnny' was the nickname they gave me, after they decided, that my alias Jonathan sounded to boring.

My alias was... is Jonathan Eduardo Stafford.

It sounded good when I was ten.

(Sounds stupid, Dad.

I know that now. And I'm still not your Dad!)

Now, not really.

"Not much."

He looked around and asked, "Are you still planning on moving out next month?"

I did not want to, but I had to.

I mentally shuddered thinking about what Howard would do to me, if I dared to start MIT older than 14.

"I found a good school willing to accept the fact I am a mutant." Lie. "Not that this is a bad school, but the school I found is more into the things I'm interested in," I answered him, continuing to work on the circuit board (oh, the irony).

I had not faked my interests or anything, because I wanted to be accepted as who I am (Yes, I know that the alias kind of prevents that).

Can you blame me?

Cyclops nodded. "You know we will all miss you?"

"Same for me. I'll miss you guys."

Four years living together do that to each other.

Well, more like three years, eight months, two weeks and five days, but who's counting?

Chapter Text

With 17 I graduated summa cum laude  from MIT (and still Howard was not proud of me).

Xavier's School was way better.

(I agree, Dad.

Still not your Dad.

Technically, you are.

Quiet, YOU.)

Less bullying, more fun, all that stuff.

I was happy I was out of there and could go back to my favorite place on earth, as home (if you could all it that) was connected with Howard's abuse.

I was visiting the Professor, because he and Jean wanted to congratulate me personally. Also we worked on what we would tell Howard when I was back here for one more year.

Also, if I am honest, I missed Scott, Ororo and all the others.

We were in the office of the Professor, when Ororo came in, looking stressed, happy, guilty and sad. Weird combination of emotions.

"Professor, Jean – hello Johnny – I think you should watch the news."

"Why?"

"Just turn it on."

The TV got turned on and all came to see it. The Professor took what seemed like ages on his wheelchair.

Note to self: Build Xavier a better wheelchair. This one belonged to the trash.

Note to self #2: Also, the house needs to be renovated. Nothing past the seventies anywhere.

Note to self #3: And honestly the X-Men need a cool transportation-thingy. A superhero team without a cool method of transportation?

We all stared at the TV.

"Howard and Maria Stark died in a car crash on the way to surprise their son, Anthony who had just – "

I stopped listening.

On the outside I was cool and a bit happy, because Howard was one of the main Anti-Mutant 'politicians' (even though, yes, I was aware it was horrible of me).

Inside I was cheering and crying at the same time. I was happy about Howard's Death – he never was a father, now I was free – but Jarvis and my Mom also were in the car! I didn't know what to do.

What if there was an empath here?

I turned around. "I'm sorry, I have to go. I'll be back soon."

After that I made my way to my room (which was as isolated as it was possible at my request and due to the currently low student count that was pretty secluded) as quick as possible without being suspicious.

When I arrived, I fell on my bed and started to cry.

I cried for what felt like forever, but realistically had to be about half an hour (it was, 29 minutes and 43.5 seconds, my technopathy told me).

During this time I remembered every fond memory I had of them (faster than an average human or mutant could have), which were a surprisingly high number.

I felt empty. Like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest.

Yet at the same time I was happy. If that even makes sense.

My bots came to my side and attempted to comfort me in their own way. Dummy and YOU gave their best to hug me while Butterfingers tried to talk to me.

(It'll get better. It will still hurt but the pain will become easier to manage.

When?)

She knew no answer to my question, but she tried. She tried to find an answer. She tried to help me.

They all did, even Jean and the Professor (by giving me excuses not to leave my room).

That's what counts.

When I was able to think clearly(ish) again, I thought about the future.

I'd honor Jarvis by naming my next AI after him.

 J.A.R.V.I.S., I could fool people by saying that it stood for 'Just A Rather Very Intelligent System'.

I was weird enough to pull something like this off.

I already had Dummy, YOU, Butterfingers and technically Xave (no one knew about him, except for the Professor. The AI was helping Xavier with the school and Cerebro. It was a gift for him).

All of the bots had a different... mental age.

Dummy behaved like a five-year-old (on a sugar high), YOU like he was eight and Butterfingers like she (I did not intent this one, but if she feels female, she is) was fifteen.

They all had to trust a person before I did and this way I had several points of view.

Dummy's was more based on emotions, as was YOU, while Butterfingers was a tad more logical. JARVIS would behave like an adult and have a completely logical point of view.

I would also have to find a way to honor my mother... maybe the Maria Stark Foundation?

That sounded good.

A philanthropic organization, intended to help everyone who needed it. Be it teens kicked out by their parents (for being a mutant, queer or for whatever reason) or abused children. Or abused adults (male, female or neither – for both abuser and victim/survivor).

Yes, I would donate... a lot to them.

And while I was at it I'd donate money to Xavier on regular terms (then they could renovate).

Assuming, that the funerals were on different days so I could attend both, I could manage.

Naturally, the next few days (Weeks? Months?) would be difficult, but I was Anthony Edward Stark after all.

If I could hide that I was a mutant from nearly the whole world for thirteen years (or that I was Tony Stark from the rest), I could pretend to be sad about Howard's Death.

After all, I just had to speak about Edwin Jarvis with their names swapped.

At least I would see Peggy again. She moved to England after Howard's obsession with Captain America (and he was her almost boyfriend) and the way Howard treated me became too much for her. She still didn't know I was a mutant.

She left when I was three. Though she occasionally came until I was fourteen, if I was home of course.

We still exchanged Christmas and Birthday presents though.

Chapter Text

On New Year's Eve that year, I went to a Technical Conference in Bern.

I met a lot of people I never met  again there, but - unknown to me at this point - three of them would be important later on. 


The first one being Ho Yinsen, a doctor from a small town called Gulmira (no idea where the place is, at least not back then).

I met him only briefly, but both of us remembered this short meeting even years later (for me it may or may not have been my (selective, yet) photographic memory). 

Yinsen thought I was drunk.

Of course he did.  Everyone  did.

But I wasn't.

Never have been.

Never will be.

I had sworn to myself (and promised Dummy and YOU), that I would never ever touch alcohol voluntary. Not after Howard.

Though I certainly pretended to drink a lot.

Why?

It is always better, when people think less of you (if only for the look on their faces, but most of the time you get more out of it than just that).


The second was Aldrich Killain (quite honestly, the man kinda looked like a homeless hippie to me):

He approached me, talking about some sort of idea, a plan to change human DNA.

Hmpf. That's basically the X-gene, just not natural.

I would bet a lot that that would get accepted (if it worked. The guy did not really look promising in that aspect).

Admittedly, I was very rude, just letting him wait on the roof the whole night.

(You really were, Dad.

Yeah, you were a meanie.

I know. Still: Not. Your. Dad.

Of course not. Dad.)

I just let my anger out at him.

Should not have done that.


Third was Maya Hansen.

She too received Killain's invitation.

(She accepted, not that I knew that before it was way too late.)

The two of us (and Happy) went to her room, where she thought we'd have sex.

Which we didn't.

It was another one of my dozen acts.

(Sometimes you are really confusing, you know?)

I paid these women to say we did it (everyone had a price), but the truth was, I was still a virgin and planned on continuing like this for a while (until I found someone who liked me. Whole me, not just Johnny, but not just Tony either).

Instead we talked about science (and stuff).

Around 2AM, I passed out. I hadn't slept in like a week.

Next morning, clock said 8:27 AM, I got up, still totally dizzy from the lack of sleep, wrote some numbers and calculations at a little paper (her pay) and left.


 Looking back, I should have handled meeting all of these three people differently.

Chapter Text

The next year, Senator Robert Kelly tried to pass the MRA, the 'Mutant Registration Act,' in Congress. That was bad, very bad, for me, as I (and every other mutant for that matter) would be forced to reveal my identity and powers. And that was just the start. Charles and Erik, though he's better known as Magneto, were both present and against it.

I was also aware that some guy called Wolverine or Logan (I'm pretty sure, like 99.998%, I saw the guy's picture under another name once before while hacking into the government, CIA, FBI, SHIELD or somewhere...) and some girl who called herself Rouge were found by Ororo and Scott roughly at the same time in Alberta and were brought to Xavier's school. Rouge became a student here and Logan, who had some case of amnesia, was staying here too.

While the others were out saving the world, I was staying here, because I was 'too young'. I was 18, not 12! I did some hacking to pass the time (what did you expect?). I went to the public library for that, not wanting to give us (the mutants) more trouble.

(Smart thinking, Dad.

Tori, what have I told you about calling me Dad?)

I poked around some of the intelligence agencies, like the CIA, the FBI and SHIELD, yet again. I even discovered one that I did not know about before: M.i.B., the Men in Black. They apparently were responsible for trouble with aliens who were already living on the planet. Also, they seemed to be an intelligence agency whose agents are actually intelligent, judging by the two people pointing futuristic guns at my head.

"Hello," I said awkwardly.

"Hello. Are you aware that hacking government agencies is illegal?" the white man answered.

"N! Does he look like he cares?" the black man replied.

"Not exactly, J."

"Erm, excuse me?" I turned their attention back to me, "I'm well aware that you are most likely here to kill me or erase my memory or something, but is there any possibility that I could join? Or sponsor? Or design weapons? No, you have good weapons, looking at these... probably from out of space." I wanted to remember this and I was ready to do something for it.

"...That might actually be a good idea. And I like you. What do you think, N?"

They discussed it for like one or two minutes and eventually decided to bring me to their headquarters (with my eyes covered of course) and let their boss decide to either let me join or 'flashy-thing' me.

Whatever that meant.


"N, J, who is that?" someone asked.

My eyes (actually my head) were still covered, so I had no idea who it was.

"That, Z, is the hacker, the Stark kid. He wants to sponsor. And join the weapon department," responded J.

I could hear someone sigh, probably 'Z'.

"Let's interview him. Can't hurt to try."

They went to a room above the main room from where you could overlook just about everything (that I had a clue existed).

"So, you want to join the MiB, Stark? Why, exactly?" Z asked me.

"Well, several reasons. I like to know things not commonly known. I can keep secrets, I've kept a secret for 14 years now and the only people alive who know are telepaths. Also for sponsoring, I have way too much money anyway, so why not spend it for something useful?"

I was questioned a bit more (without revealing my status as mutant) and at the end of it, I was an unofficial member (mainly sponsor) of an officially non-existent intelligence agency.

(Your life is so weird, Dad.

Believe me Tate, I know. I know.)

They returned me to the library and I went back to Mutant High (that's what students usually call it). The team that was sent to save the world had already returned.

"Hey, Johnny, did anything interesting happen to you?" Cyclops wanted to know.

 "Nope. Just plain old boring stuff," I lied.

(I thought lying was wrong?

Yeah, Dad.

It is. In some situations, you just, like, cannot avoid it.)

Chapter Text

Shortly after my encounter with the MiB I decided to leave the school (not permanently though) and travel around the world.

I still had a year before I was allowed (or forced) to take over Stark Industries and I planned to enjoy it. Which I did.

I traveled to Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Moscow, Mexico City, Rome and Hawaii. And these are just some of the places I visited and not necessarily in this order (that would cause way too much jet lag and that is not something I need).

I even crashed in Wakanda at some point. After I convinced them not to kill me (hard task that was) I managed to befriend the crown prince, T'Challa. Happy and I are now the only ones allowed to travel there.

I was by no means lazy during this time. Not only I learned the basics of the language of every place I traveled (what? Languages are honestly not that difficult and I had a head start in some of them because of my nannies), I built a lot of stuff including but not limited to a fourth version of Xavier's wheelchair, an awesome plane for the X-Men (called Blackbird) and more friends/siblings for Dummy/DUM-E, Butterfingers and You/U. They were called Tate and Tori (both of whom behaved like they were eleven. They were twins). I had intended for them to be friends, but they insisted that they were brothers and sisters, Butterfingers and Tori being the sisters.

I also made plans for the MiB to install a giant flashy-thing (why bother to learn the actual name?) in places like the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument which were built within a matter of days or weeks. Z nearly promoted me after that, because all agents were sick of going through cities or even states every time a major fight happened, which was about once a month. Instead of doing this, I convinced him to allow me to get my own 'flashy-thing'.

Near the end of 2002, my travel year, I landed in London.

One night, Happy, my driver (who only drove me half of the time at most) and bodyguard since I started traveling and also the only person traveling with me, stayed in the hotel, but I decided to go out after he fell asleep (same way I got the plans to Z).

I went into some night club (I honestly forgot its name) and danced for a while until I noticed this dark skinned man enter the club.

That itself wasn't actually strange, his posture which basically screamed I'm-here-to-kill, however was.

I made my way through the crowd to the odd man who himself scanned the room briefly before he found the guy he was here for (some white guy who looked to be in his late thirties).

I was not able to hear what they talked about, but when I arrived the white one was dead.

"The hell? Why did you murder him?" I panicked.

He stared at me.

"No one ever noticed before..." he muttered.

"You're telling me this is not the first time? That's it. I'm calling the police."

He started to fight me before I finished speaking.

Honestly, the one time I go in a strip club...


Our fight ended in one of the only allies in London outside of the view of the cameras. Naturally.

I'm still not sure when or how we got there, but we did.

"Why- oof" I started questioning him again, but he punched me.

"Time out," I muttered stumbling backwards a few steps. "Honestly, what's wrong with you? You just killed another human being"

"He wasn't human. Neither am I for that matter," he grunted.

"Wait, what?"

And this is how I got into Vampire-101, folks.


I returned to the hotel the same night.

After me being put in danger, my bots (no, they were not my children. No. Nada. Nope. Negative...or maybe they kind of were) requested a way to help me.

Dummy and YOU only got 13 different ways to call help. Be it the police, Happy or a random agent of a random intelligence agency who happened to be nearby. I could not put children (that was the way you would classify their mental age after all) through the pain of hurting someone, or even worse, the aftermath of it.

Tori and Tate got the same treatment, just that they also got a taser additionally. They would be able to knock a person out, but they were not able to cause permanent harm.

Butterfingers was originally going to get the same additional codes and stuff, but she wanted to be able to do more to people who were a danger to my life (I am not going to sit on the side while someone tries to kill you, Dad). That's why she got a knife.

JARVIS, well JARVIS would have to wait until I designed a house (or twelve). But then, he would be the most kick-ass of us all. And yes, that statement included me.

Chapter Text

I took over the company not long after my return to the states.

First things I had to do were:

First: Hire a PA (who would most likely quit pretty soon anyways).

(Whats that, Dad?

A personal assistant.

Which is?

This would be someone to help Sir with the paperwork he does not want to do, YOU.

JARVIS, why don't you call Dad Dad?)

Second: Go to what had to be one of the most boring meetings in the history of board meetings (why had Howard only hired such assholes? Well, I suppose people of the same kind tend to stick together).

Third: Meet the guy responsible for the relationship between SI and the oh-so-great American Military.

Fortunately, this guy positively surprised me.

(I like him!

Me too!

Tate, Tori, how do you know him... did you sneak into the surveillance system again?

Maaaaaybe...

If I could sigh while conversing mentally, I would do it, trust me.)

The man had also been (forced to be) at the meeting, but he too seemed rather bored (not that anyone but me paid him enough attention to notice. Oh, how I look forward to working with racist douchebags. Because his position was not what made them ignored the man).

When these – let's go with people, shall we? – when these people hurried out of the room, he stayed behind with me.

"Hello, Mr. Stark. I am Major James Rhodes and I am assigned as liaison between Stark Industries and the United States Army." He held out his hand.

I took it.

"First of all, please, call me Tony. Or Anthony, if you refuse to use nicknames. Please."

You could almost touch the desperation in my voice, I'm sure of it, but this Mr. Stark nonsense reminded me of Howard and heaven knows I do not need that.

"Okay... Anthony."

Rhodes may have stumbled over the name, but he did say it without arguing (and I could tell it was more curiosity than disagreement which caused him to hesitate), so he seemed like a type of person I might be able to like.

"Second, just to warn you: No matter how hard you try, neither my company nor I will make any weapons against specific groups of people, like, let's say... mutants," this sounded like I was not doing this simply for them, I'm sure. "Some group is actively killing people? Sure, will do. But not if the majority of a group is just minding their own business, I refuse. Am I understood?"

Rhodes nodded.

"Finally, I will slowly over the next decade move the company away from the whole weapons business. There is no stopping me."

I had thought over this decision a lot over the years and, in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons by far.

"So you will just leave the US Army behind?" Rhodes questioned accusingly.

"No. I'll just do other stuff, like improved body armor, holographic displays – which includes better training areas – and properly sterilized shields for medics, as well as more stuff I haven't made enough progress on to name them yet."

Rhodes blinked a few times. "I have to admit, that actually sounds great. The odds of being killed by ourselves or roadside bombs would certainly go down, if nothing else."

"I promise you, there will be way more than that. In fact the things I mentioned are between 63 and 87% done already."

Rhodes nodded. "I will inform my superiors of this development," he replied, leaving the room, and me alone.

(I sense trouble.

I did not know you could sing, Tori.

That's because she can't!

Dad, Tate and YOU are making fun of me!

Stop it!

HA!

All of you!

HA!

HA!)

In conclusion, everything was going well, until, literally from one second to another I got the worst headache ever.

It got worse every second.

I lost my balance.

Fell to the ground.

Hurts.

(Did I scream?)

Pain.

(I do not know – or care.)

Make it stop!

Makeitstop!

Ma-

ke

it

st-

stop!

Mkisto!

St-

op!

St-

o-

psto-

p st-

op-

ST-

OP!

H-

u-

rts!

P-

A-

IN!

H-

ow!?

W-

HY?!

St-

Op!

mA-

kE!

It!

St-

o-

P!

Then it stopped, just as sudden as it started.

JARVIS voice came from my watch (he was liked into the building already, but there were no speakers for him to use yet).

"Sir? Are you-? Have you-?"

For the first time in his short life, JARVIS had neither a idea what to say nor what to do.

Neither did the bots, I could feel their helplessness.

I was shaking and hyperventilating. At the verge of crying too.

"I... I have no clue what the actual hell that was. It felt like I'd imagine torture would. I couldn't think clearly. No, I couldn't think at all. Not more than 'Make it stop' at least. It was... weird. And this was most likely the understatement of the freaking century!"

"Sir, it seems you were not the only one with these symptoms, albeit yours were by far the strongest."

Really? Could it be that...?

"Was everyone affected or-?"

A second passed.

"While you were... showing symptoms, only those selected few who visited the Professor's school did. Now, the majority seems to be complaining about headaches of varying degrees."

This basically screamed 'X-Men involved'.

(Unless someone asks we will pretend this never happened

Understood, Sir.

You mean Dad.)

Chapter Text

Shortly thereafter I started to slowly shift the priorities of the company away from weapons to literally-anything-but-weapons, be it Green Energy, Medical and cars, despite Obadiah's protests (which did not really help my opinion of him, especially the very, very discriminating slurs he used to refer to the heads of the three mentioned branches who happened to be a female mutant, an African American woman and homosexual man respectively and this was not the reason they held those offices).

(He's an ass!

You're so right, sis.)

While some of the people both in the company and in the press noticed did not like this development at all (J. Jonah Jameson being a great example), there were other people who did. Sunset Bain, heir of Baintroncis a new-ish weapons company, surprisingly being one of them.

(I don't like her!

Well, I do!

Would you please discuss that at a time other than three am so that Sir might sleep?

Sorry JARVIS!

Still say you should call him Dad!)

One would think that with her father being one of the rising stars in the weapons manufacturing business, she would be against my decision. She explained that she too was not exactly comfortable with numerous increasingly dangerous weapons going into war zones. After all who knew who might pick them up?

She was a fun person and we got closer and closer until we started going out (though Dummy never got over his dislike for her).

(Well, I was -

Just be quiet. Please.)

One day about three months after we got together I was sitting in my office doing paperwork when I was interrupted by JARVIS.

“Sir, Miss Virginia Potts from accounting is making her way to this room, using - in Dummy's words  - an incredible amount of Pepper spray.”

“Huh, sounds interesting… Let her in when she arrives. I need to know more about this.”

( This is why you get into trouble!

I know, I know. I should stop.

But you most likely won't.

You know me well. )

About two minutes later (2 minutes and 12.3 seconds) there was a knock on my door.

“Come in.”

A woman with strawberry blonde hair entered the room. There were huge shadows under her eyes and she had a file in her hand (presumably, she had tugged the Pepper spray in her pocket).

“Look, Mr. Stark. I know I am going to get fired anyway, so please listen even if it sounds ridiculous. I think I found a mistake in your math. A mistake that would cost the company millions.”

“That's,” I stopped, pretending to think for a moment, “that might actually be possible. Let me look at that.”

She handed me the paperwork

Of course it wasn't possible. It was simply that Obadiah had been demanding that I keep a PA for longer than a week, but the ones he send me were not very smart and simply did not know how to keep up with me. In a desperate attempt to find someone reliable, someone who would speak up, I deliberately made a huge mistake in a document that I knew would be triple checked.

(There had to be other ways to achieve this.

But you have to admit that this has the added benefit of Dad finding out who will just do as he says without thinking for themselves.

You won this round, Tate.)

“I will be going then.” Miss Potts motioned towards the door. “My boss - well, of course you're the boss, sir, but you get what I mean - informed me that I would be leaving should I really try to inform you of your mistake and I would prefer if I get to pack my stuff myself.”

I shook my head. “No, you're not being fired.”

She took a second to process what I said. “Excuse me, sir? Did you just say what I think you did?”

“If you think I said that you're still going to work for me, provided you want to of course, then yes. Yes, I did. In fact I'm offering you a raise and a promotion. Separately of course."

“A promotion?” Miss Potts questioned as if waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Why not? You're quite obviously a competent woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. And you're not exactly hard on the eyes either.”

Her smile became rather fixed at the last comment, but she recovered quickly. “And what is the position you are offering?”

“Why the job of my Personal Assistant of course." I grinned.

She seemed to think about it for a minute. “Okay. I'll do it. Provided,” she empathized when my smile widened, “That should I fail, I can return to my old job.”

“Naturally. You can start next week.”

“Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”

“That will be all, Miss Potts.”

Allowing herself a tiny smile, she left the room.

(I like her !

She's really nice!

I agree!

Bizarrely, I do too.)

Roughly half an hour later (31 minutes and 6.4 seconds) someone knocked again, but they entered the room before I could reply.

“Major Rhodes! What can I do for you?” I smiled.

“You are not usually this cheerful. Did Sunset visit?”

“Nah, but I got a competent PA for once. Also you're here to get me out of paperwork.”

Rhodes grinned. “Well, I'm afraid the latter isn't true. In fact I'm even bringing you more.”

“Well, I guess not even I can have everything. Are there any reasons besides playing messenger you're still here?”

“Indeed, Anthony. Have you not looked at the date?”

I shook my head and pretended to look at the calendar while my technopathy supplied me with today's date. It was July 16, 2004.

In our words it was time for our monthly Mario Kart battle (the tradition had started five months before Sunset and I got together, around the time Mario Kart Double Dash had been released). I grinned.

“So much for not helping me get out of paperwork.”

We played until ten thirty and I won.

(Most of the time.

Let Sir sleep.

It's Dad. I don't get what's so complicated about that.

Oh Dummy.)

Chapter Text

The odd thing was, that Stane actually let me keep Pepper.

Going by his previous suggestions, he seemed to think that competent people should not be in close proximity to me, as if I were insane and it was contagious.

(Are we completely sure that is not the case?

Butterfingers!

Look at what he does! Does any of that look like something a sane person would do?)

Stane seemed to try to distract me from working, using anything he could think of. Booze. Women. Gambling. Things the average billionaire in their twenties would enjoy.

Unfortunately for him, I am not average in any way, shape or form.

(Truer words never were spoken!

Yeah, not even his height is average!

Tate, stop that or you will not get any of that oil you like for the next three months.

And you tried to claim you’re not our Dad.)

I guess Stane just saw Pepper’s long legs and her pretty face and thought that I had not hired her for her intelligence and competence, but for her looks.

That was a big mistake on his part.

(Dad, that was, like, the biggest understatement ever.

And that was the biggest exaggeration ever.

No, it wasn’t. A big one? Sure. But have you met Pepper? Stane might as well give up on whatever he is planning.)

Then, nine months later, one year after Sunset and I had gotten together, it turned out that nothing on her part was true.

I had started to think about buying a ring and she had dumped me the very same day.

Needless to say it hurt.

(I was right about her!

That may be the case Dummy, but you need to remember Sir’s feelings.

Say it. Then I’ll say sorry.

Perhaps JARVIS could call Dad father when no other humans are around? That is more formal than Dad but still acknowledges the emotional aspect.

Sounds great to me!

That would be agreeable.

Finally this is settled. It was starting to get annoying.

Sorry Dad!)

“Mr. Stark?” Pepper spoke from the door of my workshop in my home in Miami. I had been spending an increasing amount of time down here ever since Sunset.

I shook my head in an attempt to erase her from my thoughts (or memory). “Yes?” I answered without turning to look at my assistant.

“With all due respect, Mr. Stark, I know that the present situation is horrible for you. I understand that you are not feeling well, but you can not play the hermit forever. Not only is that bad for the company, but it is bad for you too. So here is what we are going to do. I will call Major Rhodes for emotional support and in the meantime I will be keeping you company along with some ice cream and movies of your choice. We will not sit directly next to each other,” she warned.

This is how Pepper and I - a genius, twenty two years of age - ended up on my couch (on opposite sides of it) for a seven hour movie marathon featuring Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Batman Begins and Robots.

(She is really really awesome!

That she is, YOU, that she is.)

The next day Rhodey came over and he too distracted me. His method mainly consisted of Mario Kart Double Dash, dumb stories and bad jokes.

Somehow (neither of us had a clue how that happened and JARVIS refuses to tell) we ended up watching the news.

Apparently, that fool Reed Richards had managed to expose himself, his best friend (and let’s be honest here, probably his only one), his ex-girlfriend, and her brother (who looked suspiciously like Howard’s old photos of Captain America) so some sort of cosmic energy that Richard’s was researching as he believed it to be the cause of evolution.

(Didn’t he ask Dad’s company for funds?

And the NASA too?

Tate, Tori, I told you to stop messing with the surveillance systems.

I for one wonder what the MiB is thinking of this.)

Quite honestly Richards was always an idiot, I’m not really surprised his calculations were wrong.

Rhodey was amazed by the superpowers the newly named Fantastic Four displayed.

“But, isn’t it kind of weird that they get praised as heroes in the span of weeks while mutants are still called freaks of nature and evil when the literally only differences I am able to see are the number of people involved and whether or not they were born with it? So basically if you get the superpowers somewhat intentionally - through volunteering or making mistakes - it is fine, but if you had zero control over it you’re the bad guy? Because that makes sense,” I ranted.

Rhodey might not know I was a mutant, but he most certainly know that I was a mutant supporter.

“I see your point, but you can’t deny that what they did was great,” he argued.

“Sure, but only were they the cause of the pile up in the first place! And it’s not like mutants haven’t saved the world more than once! The thing is that there are young mutants, statistically speaking they just entered puberty, who discover their powers and then they have to live with hate from friends and family members - perhaps even their own parents - and, depending on their mutation, the fear of accidentally hurting or even killing the people they care about! You can’t tell me that that is right.”

Honestly the whole thing was just so wrong. Just like with Killian's project!

Rhodey shook his head. “No, it is not right, but it is not their fault.”

“It’s not,” I agreed. “That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean that no one should speak of the issue. That doesn’t mean that they should be made aware of it, provided they don’t already know.”

He shrugged. “So write them. Either they are assholes who don’t care or they will at least try to do something against it.”

“You know what? That is exactly what I am going to do.”

Chapter Text

A few after the fight with Doom Sue Storm decided to clean up a bit. She would not let this become a common occurrence, but some of this mess was starting to get disgusting (also, Alicia had invited her family for dinner on Friday, so their home needed to look clean).

Once the most disgusting things like leftover food were in the trash, Sue picked up the mail Reed had discarded over the past weeks. She would not open it it without permission (or at least not for now), but she could sort through it to makes sure that all deadlines were met and they wouldn't end up without electricity just because Reed had been too distracted (especially since she was pretty sure some of her fiance's experiments would blow up if it came to that. And if not it was better to be safe than sorry).

Making separate piles for bills, requests, letters for the other people living here and fan mail (and if the pile for the latter just happened to be located in the bin, well, it was probably for the best not to make Reed's ego even larger than it already was), she sorted the mail.

Then, she discovered a letter addressed to "The Oh-So Fantastic Four" by Tony Stark of all people.

Sue briefly considered to wait until Ben and Johnny returned but eventually decided against it. They most likely would be out for a couple of hours more (at least) and whatever Stark had written about might be time sensitive (and the letter had already been ignored for God knows how long).

She opened the letter quickly (but not quick enough to tear it) and read over the letter. It was simply a page-long ramble of Stark about the fact that their group was immediately accepted by the public while mutants - whose existence had been revealed in the sixties - still faced prejudice to the point that they were murdered on the street.

It was something that had not occurred to Susan before, but Stark was right. Oh it was horrible! They needed to do something!

Sue sank into a nearby chair and tried to calm herself. It would do no good if she made spur-of-the-moment decisions. She needed to think this through instead of making fast, emotional choices.

Grabbing a pen and some paper, Susan moved to the kitchen table with the intention of making a list of things they could do to help.

This was how her brother, Ben, and Alicia found her two hours later - elbows on the table, head in her hands and staring over a blank piece of paper.

"You okay, sis?" Johnny questioned. He actually sounded concerned.

Sue shook her head. "No. No it's not. It never was. I just didn't realize."

"What are you talking about Sue?" Ben inquired.

Sue just wordlessly grabbed Stark's letter and held it in their direction.

After Ben made a few attempts to take it, Johnny sighed and almost ripped it out of his sister's hand.

Then he read the letter out loud. The further he got, the more he paled.

An expression of horror could be seen on Ben's face once the letter moved past insulting Reed.

Alicia's face showed acknowledgement and hope. Almost as if she had known this before.

Sue of course immediately asked whether or not that was the case.

Alicia nodded. "I did know. Given my family I could not not know. But I know you did not do this on purpose. You are good people." The Afro-American smiled.

"What you mean 'given your family'?" Johnny asked, putting the letter down and moving to the fridge to grab a cold beer.

"Johnny!" Sue admonished. Ben wasn't sure whether it was for Johnny's comment of his drinking but decided not to question it,

"It's fine, Sue," Alicia dismissed her protest, clearly assuming Sue had meant her brother's statement. "You know I'm from a larger family, right?" She waited from them to nod. "Well, almost all of us are mutants. Only my mother and Lisa aren't."

"Including you?" Ben questioned. "You never told me." He sounded slightly insulted.

"There was no need to."

"What?! Of course there is a need to tell Brickface that you can move things with your mind or something!" Johnny protested.

Sue slapped him. "Sorry for my idiot brother, Alicia. If you do not mind me asking, what is your mutation?"

"My senses, other than my sight of course, are slightly heightened and I am a very low level Empath. Dad and my siblings all have more impressive powers."

After setting the bottle down, Johnny asked what their powers were.

Alicia just smiled mysteriously. "Why don't you wait and find out yourself?"

Johnny looked confused, so Ben explained. "Did you forget that she invited them to dinner on Friday, Charmander?"

Johnny grinned sheepishly. Apparently he did.


Two days later, the Masters family arrived for dinner (and, amazingly enough, everything was tidy, apart from the lab). As the children were all grown up and had moved out, the family didn't arrive at the same time.

The first to show up was Daniel, Alicia's twin brother (he was seven minutes older, making him the second-youngest of the family). He was a comic artist for the Daily Bugle, but he did not like his boss, J. Jonah Jameson at all. In fact Daniel probably hated the man, if Sue were to guess based on the things she had heard him say.

Then Jessica, the oldest of the siblings arrived, wearing a lab coat. She was a Microbiologist at Pym Technology and married to a fellow Microbiologist with the name of Dean Jackson who was looking after their two-year old.

About three minutes later Lisa, the middle sibling entered the apartment through a window. Apparently, she was an agent of SHIELD, an agency no one else had ever heard of (as it was supposed to be according to Lisa). Sue wondered whether or not Lisa was technically allowed to tell them where she worked, but kept her question to herself. If she had judged Lisa's character correctly, the answer would most likely be something along the lines of 'I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you'. A few years later they found out Lisa was allowed to share her job with close family and superheroes (since they would, statistically, find out sooner or later).

She was followed by her parents, Gabriel and Lauren, and her brother, Michael, who worked as radio moderator. As Michael had to drive by his parents' home on his way from work to the Baxter Building anyways, he had decided to pick them up on the way. Michael's mutation was (at least partly) obvious. His skin looked rough and had a lot of bumps of various shapes and sizes.

The eleven of them (they had managed to drag Reed from his lab) had a great evening. Johnny tried to find out the mutations of Mr. Masters, Jessica and Daniel all evening, but he did not succeed.

Once Sue asked politely whether or not it was okay for the family if the Fantastic Four knew, apologizing and informing them of her plan to stop (or more likely reduce) the discrimination to the best of her ability as she did, they agreed to demonstrate.

Mr. Masters - though he had told them to call him Gabriel - stretched out his arm and a small ball of water rose out of Reed's glass. Reed nearly fell from his chair.

Daniel projected an image of his raging boss into the minds of Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny, causing the last one to laugh uncontrollably.

Once Johnny had calmed down, Michael moved in front of a wall and seemed to turn invisible. Then he returned to his seat and it became obvious that he did not. Instead he just blended into his surroundings. He looked and felt like the wall did and, amazingly enough, he didn't have a shadow. Sue wasn't sure how that worked.

Jessica simply removed her lab coat to reveal a pair of wings.

Chapter Text

After my letter, the Fantastic Four were surprisingly willing to help.

(I knew that some with fire powers can’t be that bad.

Dummy, I am afraid that is not how that works.

Do I look like I care?)

Johnny raised money for Xavier’s—just the fuel costs for the X-wing were enormous, not  to forget about the food, clothing and equipment for the students—Ben went to demonstrations in favor of mutants with his girlfriend, and Susan held galas, helped out at the mansion whenever there was time, and wrote many articles about the most pressing issues. Things that required a lot of research, like teens being thrown out of their own homes or people being fired from their jobs. There were a lot of issues in this world and she started thinking and speaking about most of them.

(I like her. She’s trying her best.)

As far as I could tell, Reed never really did anything in that direction. Must’ve been too busy inventing wormholes or something.

He wasn’t the only one who had been busy, though.

Stane had started trying to increase the number of military contracts the company had, even if it went against my explicit wishes. But Pepper prevented this. She was the best worker one could wish for, honestly. She was competent and networked like nobody’s business, punctual and could get almost everyone to do what she wanted.

Me being the living example.

(If she can get you to do what she wants, then there is no one that will not work for.)

Another thing that came up during that time was the so called ‘cure’ for mutants. And boy, that sure caused a lot of trouble.

Suddenly the lines between the fronts began to blur; the X-Men actually agreed with the Brotherhood.

(I seriously thought that this would break the laws of the known universe.)

It was a great disaster on so many different levels.

One of them was quite personal. There was a part of me that wanted nothing more than get the cure and be free of all of his secrets.

On the other hand, my abilities had connected me to a lot of wonderful people. If not for them, I might never have gotten to know my family at Xavier’s. I might have never noticed the MiB and met J or I might not have been in that club and spotted Blade.

I might still have met Happy, Pepper, and Rhodey—who apparently got promoted for dealing with me—but so many things would have been different. Who knows how that might have ended, really?

My abilities had influenced so much of my life, were those few positive aspects really worth it?

(Most certainly not.

I agree!

You wouldn’t be able to talk to us anymore.)

I was not really considering it anymore, but two calls made my decision a lot easier.

One was from Scott. My older, more often than not annoying, brother in all but blood.

JARVIS picked up the cal for me and Scott spoke before I could say anything“I know your secret, Johnny. Or should I say Tony?”

I had been planning to tell them ages ago, but I kept putting it off. I was afraid of their reaction. Afraid that they would be angry that I lied to them. “Scott, I-”

“Stop it, kiddo. I understand why you didn’t tell us.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re still mad at you, but we get it.”

(That could have gone so much worse.

I know, Butterfingers. I can barely believe it myself.

I can. They’ve always been really nice.)

Our conversation didn’t stop there. We continued talking about a lot of things, like the fact that if I were to be seen getting the so-called cure, it would be disastrous for all parties involved.

Apart from prejudiced gits, of course, but they were the one party that should not get any more advantages.

“Don’t worry, Scott. I won’t be getting it.”

“That’s great to hear, buddy.”

(I strongly agree.

Same, Dad!)

The other call I got was from Aunt Peggy.

“Listen here, son,” she started as soon as I had accepted the call. “I get that this might seem tempting for you, but don’t you dare actually go and get that thing they’re calling a cure. Not only is that thing essentially forcing you to be someone you’re not, it can’t possibly have been tested extensively enough. There are just too many mutations out there for that. There’s no knowing what might happen. Promise me you won’t be getting it, Tony, or I’ll come over there and make sure of it myself.”

“Aunt Peggy?” I questioned. “How do you even know about that?”

“I run a secret agency, sweetheart. I’ve know for years. I was just waiting for you to tell me on your own. Just like I am waiting for your promise right now.”

(Aunt Peggy is awesome!

She sure is, brother.)

“Don’t worry, Aunt Peggy, “I answered, a smile of relief on my face. I hadn’t even known—at least not consciously—that I was worried about her reaction, but she had never disappointed me so far. “I didn’t intend to do so. Not really. I’ve thought about it, but it really doesn’t seem worth it.”

“Precisely. I was afraid that your father-”

I flinched. “Can you please not call him that?”

“Howard, then. I was worried that he had caused a near suicidal level of self-hate, but that does not seem to be the case.”

The sad thing was, that I wasn’t certain she was right.

“Hey, Tony,” Rhodey dropped into my room, holding the newest Mario Kart game. “Stop moping. It’s that time of the month again. And don’t you dare make that joke.”

“I didn’t say anything;” I replied, raising my arms in front of me.

Rhodey shook his head. “You were thinking it. That’s already enough.”

I smiled. “You know me too well.”

“That’s right. I do.” He, too, started grinning as he said that.

(Rhodey will always be my favorite uncle.

Wait, when did we decide that? That’s news to me.

I prefer Uncle Scott, personally.)