"Marvel Vs Capcom? Eh, it'll never catch on. Now... how about those chimichangas?" Wade Wilson, mercenary for hire regarding a potential partnership with Shadaloo. November 21, 1995 AD.
(Autumn home of Tony Stark - Long Island, New York State, United States of America - September 25th, 2008 AD)
Anthony Edward Stark, though he preferred Tony, had never been an early riser. Or at least, never a particularly willing one.
Because the paparazzi just loved to dissect every little thing about him, there was a fair bit of speculation about the reasons for that fact. Most of time it was harmlessly dumb fluff, like he was secretly a Life Model Decoy and the real Tony was retired in the Caribbean. While those could be entertaining, hell he occasionally encouraged them when he was feeling particularly amused with himself, the real reasons were fairly mundane. Tony had been born into the "long and storied Stark tradition of having a busy mind and busier hands", which was his mother's cute way of saying Stark men were typically brilliant and terrible at sitting still.
Unlike his father or grandfather however, Tony had grown up with near total access to his father's state-of-the-art personal laboratory and workshop. When the old man had been available, they'd bonded over wrenches, soldering guns, transistors, and more than a little math. Not everyone could say that they'd found their calling at age seven, but Tony knew he had the instant his first engine had rumbled to life. As he'd gotten older, and his father had drifted further into his work, Tony began venturing into the workshop on his own time. Of course, losing whole nights to his passion for tinkering had left him with a disdainful attitude toward mornings of any kind and early ones in particular.
Years later, as the new CEO of Stark Industries, he'd gone to Iraq during the first Gulf War to showcase some of his new tech. A group called the Ten Rings had promptly tried to blow him up, and when that didn't take, they took him hostage. They gave Tony an ultimatum: build them weapons, or allow the new shrapnel that'd taken up residence near his heart to slowly kill him. Unfortunately for them, bravado had only been half of what built Stark Industries and Tony had graciously demonstrated exactly what a Stark could do with the right motivation and a box of scraps. The armor he'd built had been crude, barely a prototype, but it had saved his life. Tony had returned to the States filled with new purpose, and enough ideas to make even his head spin.
Adding Super Hero to his resume certainly kept things interesting, but it hadn't done his unique sleep schedule any favors. So Tony Stark, otherwise known as the Invincible Iron Man, was understandably more than a little miffed when a certain artificial intelligence decided to bother him.
"Sir?" The accent was English, gentlemanly with a vague digital twang.
Tony made a bleary, sleep choked sound and rolled away from the noise.
"Sir? Are you awake?" The voice was louder now, and while before it had sounded like a single person in the bedroom, it now seemed to come from every direction.
"Nuh...sleepin...uhg," was the billionaire's reply.
A brief moment of tranquility passed, and then every light in the room simultaneously snapped on. Tony let out a curse so blue it would have made Wolverine blush, and quickly yanked the comforter over his head. From that place of relative ocular safety, the billionaire split a moment between trying to rub the spots from his eyes, imaging ways to murder an artificial intelligence, and cursing some more.
"Ah, good morning sir."
The A.I. sounded entirely too chipper for Tony's liking. "That was probably the single most sadistic thing you've ever done. What the hell JARVIS? It's..." An arm snaked out from under the navy blue covers, grabbed the small alarm clock off the nightstand, and pulled it inside. "Four AM? Are you kidding?"
"My apologizes for being abrupt, but I believe there is an issue at hand which requires your attention," JARVIS replied.
"What, did Thor get into a bar fight with that six-armed guy who punched Galactus in the family jewels? It's four AM." The billionaire tossed the clock away from him with a groan, and tried to rally himself. "Ok, ok. It's probably important if you pulled something like that, total dick move by the way. So what's going on?"
"Your phone is ringing, sir."
A long, heavy silence passed through the room, and Tony gradually became aware of a few things. First, he had the slightly troubling urge to strangle JARVIS, which was unfortunate because there wasn't anything in particular to strangle when it came to the artificial intelligence. Second, the comforter was starting to make him feel a little stuffy. Third, he probably wasn't going to get back to that dream, a shame since he doubted any amount of money would convince Jessica Drew and Cammy White to have an actual Champaign fight. And finally, a muffled repeating Beep-beep-Beep ringtone, as generic as they came, was coming from somewhere in the bedroom.
JARVIS didn't take the hint. "The call could be important, sir."
Tony felt his mood sour even further. Only one phone ever rang in his house with a generic ringtone. "A call, on the landline, that I never use? No, I don't think so JARVIS. The Avengers have their comm-cards in case something big is happening, and that's not what those sound like. If it was Fury trying to bother me, he'd already have SHIELD agents knocking on the front door. Hell, he'd probably have them use a battering ram; for a super-spy he's really not that subtle. And if it was Pepper, she'd be using her work cell and I'd get to wake up to Ozzy."
"All perfectly true. And in the event that it escaped your notice, Miss Potts was less than amused with your selection."
"Should probably be Mrs. Hogan now, and it's her loss. "Evil Woman" is a Sab classic." Tony waved that line of thought away. "And that's not the point. Important people don't call my home phone, JARVIS. And just in case it's those guys from Shank's again, no, I don't need a knife that can cut through a shoe. That's fun the first three times, but then it just gets expensive and weird. Especially after Clint found the Armanis."
"When I last spoke with her, Miss Potts was uncertain if she would keep her maiden name or not. I will request her preferences once she returns. And regarding the knives, I'd like to inform you that the remaining two have been removed from the premises. Miss Potts was very concerned when she found the sandal in the microwave. Why it was in there of all places, is utterly beyond me."
"Yeah, you and me both."
That specific weirdness had occurred a few months ago. Tony'd been in a mood to entertain, and had hosted a small party for the founding eight members of the Avengers. It hadn't been anything particularly fancy, by Tony Stark standards at least, just a chance to relax among friends and hopefully clear the air a little. While the attack from Galactus had done a lot to bring them back together, the god-awful debacle that had been the superhuman Civil War was still too fresh to just ignore. Simply put, Tony had wanted to try and mend some bridges.
The party, and bridge mending, had been a tentative success which was about all he could have honestly hoped for. Steve and Bruce had been polite but still a little distant. Natasha had sipped on the same glass of wine the whole night and planted a few bugs that JARVIS dutifully disabled. Thor had nearly cleaned out Tony's whole kitchen. Hank and Janet hadn't made it, but that hadn't been very surprising. Though dealing with time travelers wasn't new to the team's itinerary, and didn't that say something, the brief future-history lesson SHIELD had gotten from the 'Reploid' calling himself Zero hadn't been pretty. Hank hadn't taken it very well, and Janet was adamant on keeping an eye on her husband.
Hawkeye though had turned out to be the star of the evening. Evidently Clint had been celebrating with far more abandon than anybody had realized, and he'd eventually stumbled upon the shoe cutting knife. From there, nature had hung its head and quietly let Clint Barton run amok.
Tony spent the next few days finding pieces of shoes scattered around his house. The red-and-white sneaker, cut in half and hanging by its laces from Tony's waterfall shower, had been kind of funny. The dress shoe, missing its sole and carefully hidden under a box of ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, was strange. The mangled beach sandal in the microwave had crossed the line into downright unsettling. He never had found the knife, and neither had JARVIS for that matter, which worried him more than he cared to admit.
"However, I feel it prudent to inform you that it isn't the house phone or your work phone," JARVIS continued. "It appears to be your personal phone, sir. Shall I take an appropriately irritable message given the hour?"
Tony's yawn blurred into a chuckle. He'd seen JARVIS' idea of 'appropriately irritable' before. It had been shocking how aggressively courteous a Cease-and-Desist order could be, and even more shocking exactly how many times JARVIS could have it sent to the offender per hour.
"Sounds like a plan to...wait." A particularly sleepy gear clicked into motion, and suddenly Tony was wide awake. "Personal phone?"
Any lingering annoyance evaporated as Tony sat up and blinked his brown eyes into focus. There, a mere fifteen feet away, sat an old leather lounge chair. A small screen glowed from the cushion, just barely visible under a work stained black AC/DC shirt. His personalsmartphone was for calls and emergencies not immediately related to business or superheroics. It was the phone for his actual outside-of-the-armor friends, people like Pep and Rhodey. Tony had been extremely thorough in making sure that each and every one of them had their own fitting jingle, and that nobody had the number unless he wanted them too.
"Well, that's just a bit of a red flag." A frown began to tug at the billionaire's mouth, and he glanced at the nearby windows. Quadruple-layered bulletproof glass or no, that great view of pre-dawn Manhattan Island was starting to feel a little suspect. "JARVIS, do a perimeter scan for the house, out to maximum range. Motion, audio, and thermal tracking. If Dr. Doom is outside, I want to know about before I grab the phone and he zaps me with whatever new death ray he has."
The phone went silent for a moment. And then started ringing again.
"And they're feeling pushy, fantastic. Prep the Mk. VII armor too, this might be one of those mornings." Tony considered things for a moment, then added, "And put on a pot of coffee."
"At once sir," the A.I. replied. "A roast hazelnut blend is grinding as we speak."
Tony nodded and, still focusing on the windows, built a quick mental list of people who might be trying to kill him that particular week. First, they'd obviously have to possess his personal number. So it was either someone he knew extremely well, or the information had been acquired by some third party. Nobody he knew well enough to put in that phone struck him as the type to try and assassinate him, or sell his info to people who would for that matter, so those options were out. On the other hand, some random yahoo with a gun and the time to find out his personal details was real possibility. People with the right incentive and too much time on their hands accomplishing the impossible was practically humanity's motto.
However, there really had to be more important things for people to be doing than trying to shoot some rich jerk with a vigilante complex. Especially when said rich jerk had recently fought to keep the planet from being...well, eaten. Galactus' last attack had been a scant seven months ago and even with massive international and metahuman support, clean-up operations were still ongoing. The normally solitary world eater had arrived with some sort of army, and it had taken considerably more effort than the normal threat of the Ultimate Nullifier to resolve things.
"Scan complete, sir. There are no visible human contacts within one-hundred meters and no detectable weapons for another thirty, none of which classify as a known long range weapon. I took the liberty of scanning for any traces of known magic and chi, and they came back negative as well," JARVIS reported dutifully. "If there is someone watching you right now, they either have excellent stealth technology, or are doing so from an extreme distance."
Tony breathed out a small sigh of relief as he got out of bed. "Well, always nice to know I'm probably not going to get shot this morning."
"I heartily agree with you sir. In either event, might I recommend you put on some pants? If you are to die, perhaps it should be done with a modicum of dignity."
"It's my house JARVIS. I'll die naked if I feel like it." That said, he didn't especially feel like it and he slipped on a pair of nearby gray sweatpants. "Happy?"
"Thrilled sir. I doubt I could have taken much more."
The billionaire didn't try to hide his grin. "You'd be amazed how many people tell me that." He scooped up the now silent phone, and checked the call history.
Call Missed: 3:30AM
Call Missed: 3:33AM
"...Huh." Tony blinked at the glowing screen. "She actually figured out the phone."
Morrigan Aensland, the queen of all succubi, and he had some history. He'd first heard of her following the Onslaught Event back in 2000, and a lot of it was how damn distracting she was. Tony hadn't been on-hand for that fight so he'd only had Rhodey's word to go on, but he'd never seen Rhodey blush that hard before. His first actual encounter with the succubus had been four years later during the battle against the monster Abyss. Tony hadn't been sure what side she was on, she was more than content to taunt him, and things had gotten a little heated. Apparently blasting her with his Unibeam left an impression, because Morrigan had popped into his house after Abyss had been beaten.
They'd ended up in bed together inside of a half hour.
Of course, once he'd done a little research and discovered what a succubus actually was, Tony became a little concerned. Not that he especially had a problem with the idea of dying "in the act", there were certainly worse ways to go, but he also wasn't in the market for a good death any time soon either. Morrigan had quickly put his fears to rest, explaining that actually draining someone to the point of death was only done by particularly desperate or malnourished succubus. As Morrigan herself was not desperate, he didn't need to worry about it.
"Besides," she'd chuckled,"why would I ruin my favorite playmate? You're far more lively than other mortals. Without you, I might start to get bored again. And we can't have that, can we?"
However, a self-admitted demoness just teleporting into one's house was something that required some adjusting too. She'd tried to surprise him the third time she'd shown up, not minding at all that he'd been asleep and still in his armor. That little embarrassment had resulted in a repulsor exploded couch and the loss of his fifth piano, because it was always the damn piano. Morrigan had found the whole sad episode hysterical. By her eighth visit the shock of it had faded into an amused sort of acceptance. They'd ordered some pizza, and Tony watched as the succubus began a love affair with American junk food. He'd never seen someone eating an Oreo look quite that dirty, and Tony'd been around the block a few times. From there, they'd moved to the bedroom. His next clear memory was of waking up the next evening, feeling like he'd been run over by a truck, and having Morrigan congratulate him on beating the previous mortal record of seven by another seven times.
Tony took what he felt was a perfectly legitimate sense of pride in that achievement.
"Sir? Are you alright?"
"Hm? Oh, yeah. Sorry, just spaced out for a second." Tony held up the phone, as though showing it to somebody right next to him. "Looks like she figured out the phone. Guess I'll have to give her a ringtone. Does Tainted Love sound too clingy?"
"Perhaps a little, sir." JARVIS' voice lowered into something more contemplative. "Though does seem somewhat unusual. To my recollection, she has never called before."
"Tell me about it. I haven't seen her in...how many months?"
"It has been precisely five months, two weeks, and three days since Ms. Aensland was last a guest. From what details she made mention of regarding the Demon World, I had suspected that she had become indisposed there."
Tony nodded in quiet agreement. Morrigan hadn't talked much about the world she called Makai, and he hadn't seen a reason to press. Demonology and magic weren't his strong suits, and the politics of any world made for awful pillow talk. From what he did remember, apparently there had been some high profile deaths recently which had badly messed up the balance of power. Given that Morrigan was the head of a powerful house herself, her getting caught in the web of politics had made a certain amount of sense. And it wasn't as though their "relationship", for lack of a more polite word, had been exclusive in the four years they'd known each other. From the get go it'd been very much an 'on-and-off' type of thing, and not hearing from the succubus for months at a time wasn't exactly new territory.
But the phone call was new territory. Having any sort of warning that she was around other than the sound of her teleporting spell, or a soft body suddenly pressing up against his back, was odd. Tony did his best to shove the uneasy feeling in his gut away and focus on something more positive. "So, the real bottom line here is that the phone I gave her gets reception in the Demon World?" Tony's trademark smirk had returned and he chuckled. "I really should hire whoever built it. Oh wait, that'd be me."
"I don't mean to rain on your parade sir, but the call signals originated from New Jersey." JARVIS reported helpfully.
On the outside, Tony Stark snorted in casual irritation. "Nope, parade rained on. No floats for anybody." On the inside however, his mind was racing.
Her calling him at all was already unusual, but doing so from Earth was downright abnormal. Since she wasn't crossing worlds, it would have been even easier than usual for her to teleport to him. That she was hanging back, trying to contact him first, implied more caution that Tony had ever attributed to the succubus. It meant that something was well and truly wrong.
Tony took a deep breath and hit the re-dial button.
Morrigan hadn't sounded like herself on the phone. She'd certainly tried to, but that was just it: she'd tried to.
Tony had known her for years now, so he felt pretty confident he knew what kind of woman Morrigan was. She wasn't evil, certainly not the type to try and conquer a country for example, but she wasn't exactly altruistic either. At her heart, Morrigan was a thrill junkie, always looking for the next good time and she didn't particularly care where or how she found it. They'd discussed their "love lives" outside of each other a few times, and had even joked about sharing once or twice. But above everything, she was absolutely honest about who she was and what she wanted. After spending so much of his life around paparazzi, spinsters, spies, people with secret identities, and other clandestine types, that kind of total honesty had been refreshing.
Hearing her try and force herself to act normal was totally alien and deeply disconcerting. And hearing her try to was downright disconcerting.
She asked what he was up to, and if the situation had been less strange, he'd have probably laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of that. Who could honestly say that a demoness had called to ask them about their day? Instead he told her he was at home, and asked what the call was about.
"Oh, it'll be much easier to just show you," she'd replied, sounding just a little too nonchalant. "I just wanted to be sure you were home."
He hadn't even finished saying 'okay' before the line went dead. Tony frowned at the phone. "Well. That explained nothing. Guess she wants to surprise me."
However, 'surprise' could mean any number of things and that went double when demons were involved. So, he decided it was prudent to be surprised in the already prepped Mk. VII Iron Man armor. It was admittedly an older model, but it was still a good all-purpose unit that could function in most baseline combat scenarios. And, if he was completely honest with himself, Tony had a bit of a soft spot for it too: the Mk. VII was the first armor he'd worn as an Avengers. That said, as a precaution he'd also had the Mk. XXXII armor put on-standby, just in case things got a little more surprising than he could handle.
About fifteen minutes later, Morrigan appeared in a burst of magic energy that looked like pink fire. She was alone, with no sign of any rampaging demonic mob chasing her.
Tony appreciated that.
"Beautiful" didn't do the queen of all succubi justice. She was tall, long-legged, and alluringly curvy in all the right places. Her outfit clung to her like a second skin, the black tights and purple leggings making her look like a Halloween-themed ballerina who'd lost her tutu. Despite her demonic heritage, the only features that hinted at her ancestry were the two pairs of wings. Each was bat-like in appearance, with coloration that mirrored her clothing. The larger set sprouted from the small of her back, and the smaller second pair sat on her head, peeking out from her long green hair.
Morrigan took in his attire for a moment, the red and gold armor was unmistakable, then she arched a thin green brow at him.
Tony shrugged in response. "Sorry, I just wanted to be sure." The gold faceplate of the Iron Man armor lifted, letting him squint at her. "You're not an LMD are you? Evil clone, maybe? Loki?" That idea hadn't even occurred to him until he said it, and his frown became a bit more stricken than before. "Please don't be Loki."
That got a smile, and Morrigan closed the distance until she was flush against his armored chest. With her heels on, the top of her head brushed against his nose. "Oh come now, Tony. Surely we know each other enough to pick out a fake, hm?"
Tony had to take a deep breath because, even in his armor, Morrigan pressed against him was pretty damn distracting. He couldn't feel her, but oh boy could he smell her, and the memories that brought up were beyond distracting. Still, he was a little relieved; this was much more like the Morrigan he knew. "Sure. It just seemed better to be prepared. I didn't want anybody else popping in and catching me with my pants down."
"Oh? I seem to recall a few times I popped in and..."
"No, with you it's fine," He interrupted. "You don't try to kill me."
"Mm-hm, I suppose not." Her expression wasn't innocent.
Tony rolled his eyes and tried to give a properly snarky retort but, to his muted horror, a somewhat bemused "You never call," fell out instead. Oh boy, that was a winner, wasn't it Tony? He mentally chided himself. Yeah, sound like a lovey-dovey idiot in front of the sex demon, bet that can't end badly.
"Aw, you poor boy," The succubus giggled and she tapped his nose. "You must have missed me."
Tony cleared his throat and casually focused his attention on anything wasn't the succubus. "Maybe a little. You know, some parts more than others." He glanced back once he felt like he'd gotten his head, the one that he should be thinking with, back in the game. "Glad you figured out the phone by the way. How long did that take?"
That shut her up, and the faint twitch in her left eye brought back Tony's smirk. Morrigan was, politely speaking, not 'technically inclined'. So much so that Tony had once caught her trying to sweet talk his microwave into making her breakfast. As it turned out, she'd actually been talking to JARVIS, whom she'd assumed was the microwave. Until that moment, Tony would have thought the A.I. incapable of dicking with somebody, but it seemed Morrigan had brought it out. Tony had come to her gallant rescue, because he was a gentlemen, and no frozen waffles had been lost in the confusion. The same couldn't be said for his blender and the less said about that, the better.
She huffed. "I am getting better."
"Ha! See JARVIS? I'm a good influence on somebody."
Tony got the feeling that, somehow, the A.I. was rolling its eyes at him. "I shall put it down in your private journal, sir."
"Some people; they never let me enjoy the small victories. So," his expression sobered, "what'd you want to talk about? It sounded like something was wrong." Tony hoped that had sounded as open and understanding as he meant it too.
The words "Are you ok?" almost slipped out, but the billionaire forced them down because it was a silly question. Tony had personally watched her choke-slam one of Galactus' cronies through a highway overpass and stroll out only interested in finding the next fight. Implying that she couldn't take care of herself wasn't going to win him any favors. As honest as she was, Morrigan wasn't the type to parade her more vulnerable side around.
Besides, Tony thought, she looks perfectly fine. That has to count for something.
Morrigan's expression didn't exactly fall, but it visibly dimmed into something more thin, and quiet, and noticeably out-of-place. She took a step back, and rolled one pale shoulder in a quick, careless shrug. "Like I said, it would be much easier if I just showed you." Her green eyes stayed on him for a minute, before Tony realized she was waiting for him to say yes.
"Uh...yeah. Whenever you're ready?" That sinking feeling of wrongness was back, and Tony didn't care for it one bit.
The succubus nodded, then glanced behind her and mumbled something he didn't quite catch. A moment passed, and then in a familiar burst of energy and noise, the ultimate reason for Morrigan's visit arrived.
Tony felt his frown shift from worry to confusion. "A...uh...who's the kid?"
A young girl, probably not a day over ten, had teleported into his living room just behind Morrigan. She had a thin gymnast's build, and only barely matched Morrigan's shoulder in height. Her short bob of hair was a striking shade of light purple, something more at home in an art classroom than on somebody's head. One of her small hands was clutched protectively around something dangling from the thin silver necklace she wore.
The kid stared at Tony, her eyes a bright candy red.
Tony stared at the kid, thoroughly confused.
They both looked at Morrigan. That easy smile was back on the succubus' face, as those the last bit of her and Tony's conversation hadn't taken place. The kid quivered with barely restrained energy, like she was only a word away from tearing into her presents on Christmas morning. Tony just wanted some answers.
"Daddy?" She asked Morrigan.
Tony's laugh was more than a little dubious. "Daddy?" He must have missed the joke somewhere. Because somebody looking at the succubus and calling her "daddy" was so ridiculous it could be patented for use in psychological warfare. Tony would know, he'd done a few designs and some consulting for the non-lethal sector.
Morrigan looked down at the girl, and hummed an affirmative.
The girl turned her attention to Tony, and her smile was enormous. "Daddy!" She flung herself across the distance separating her and Tony.
Even through his armor, he let out a startled grunt as he was slammed in the gut by ninety-or-so pounds of kid. "I...wha..." He stared down at the girl, feeling lost and surprised and a hundred other things. Someone calling him "daddy" was...he wasn't really sure what but whatever it was, it was overwhelming. Tony looked back up at the succubus. "Morrigan, what is..."
"Lilith," the succubus interrupted. She regarded him and the kid, expression as intent as Tony had ever seen on her. "She's our daughter."
"...I'm sorry. Could you run that by me again?"
Morrigan didn't look amused, but did so.
"That's," the billionaire trailed off. He swallowed and turned his attention back to the young girl hugging him. "That's what I thought you said. Oh."
Jesus Red, are you really redoing this again?
Yes. Yes I am.
I'm not stopping the story, so don't worry about that. But in looking back over things while I prepped for the next chapter, I became unhappy with the state I'd left it in. It's no secret that I've been more or less hovering around with the previous two chapters, and that's not the best. I want this story to be something good, so I'm basically revising and, when needed, rewriting it. Expect some chapters to be merged, some new surprises to be snuck in, and a hopefully overall streamlined experience.
Any and all comments or helpful critiques that will help me toward that goal are welcome and encouraged. This is your story too, and I want to make it fun for both of us.
With that said, I'll get my butt in gear and start cranking this out again.
As with all fan fiction, I own nothing but the premise. Everything else is entirely owned by Marvel Comics or Capcom respectively.