I wrote this as part of an A-Z prompt story, and thought this one warranted being posted on its own. The prompt word was Number, there are allusions to underage sex, alcoholism, drug dependency, neglect, and pretty much everything else you would expect when you're dealing with a story involving Tony's childhood. I've mashed the MCU verse with 3490 here, and this is really not a shipper fic and more of a character study. Also, I would like to point out that even though I'm not very nice to Pepper here, it's not because I dislike her. I love Pepper, she just gets a bit of a raw deal in this fic.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable character, settings etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial gain is resulting from this work.


There are some self hate triggers here, mentions of alcoholism and depression, as well as drug dependency and neglect (as there generally is when you're dealing with Tony's childhood). Really not a shipper fic, more of a character study. Mentions of Tony screwing anything pretty.


Natasha is nine months old when she speaks her first word in the relative silence of a nursery. It's almost midnight, and the noise from the party downstairs has lowered to a muted hum. The nanny is in the next room, Howard's face buried between her legs, and she doesn't hear the quiet and questioning request for Jarvis.

When no one comes, Natasha sits back down in her crib and goes back to figuring out a way to climb the high slats that surround her.

The next morning, the nanny finds her sitting next to bench made from wooden blocks, cloth diaper tied around her waist. A crude attempt at imitating the family's butler.

The nanny picks Natasha up and puts her back in the crib.


Natasha is four when she first speaks to another person. It's Howard, and she tells him to fuck off. Maria laughs, and says 'yes, Howard, please do fuck off', before telling Jarvis to cancel the appointment with the psychologist.

Natasha watches Howard leave the room, scotch in his hand. Maria turns to her daughter and pops a pill, swallowing it down with a gulp of pinot. She raises one too thin eyebrow and tells Natasha that she can fuck off too, and the nanny takes the little girl's hand and leads her back to her bedroom.

The next day at a playgroup, Natasha tells one of the other girls to fuck off, and gets hits her over the head with a Baby Alive doll.


When she's ten, she decides she decides Natasha is too girly a name, and she prefers her middle name, Antonia. She begins introducing herself as Tony. She cuts her hair short in the bathroom one afternoon after the driver has dropped her off from school.

She asks Jarvis to take her shopping in the boys section. She doesn't say anything to the sales assistant when he asks if the items are for her brother.

As they're walking out of Macy's, Tony turns to Jarvis and tells him she's going to be the first female Secretary of defense. Jarvis looks down smiling and asks why not the president, and Tony grins and tells him she knows who really calls the shots in the White House.


Tony doesn't like high school from the moment she sets foot on the campus. She sticks to the corners and the edges of the corridors, not bothering to make friends, and not noticeable enough to make enemies. For the first month, she watches and waits.

She's let her hair grow back now, but still refuses to wear girls clothing. Jarvis says she looks like Annie Hall. Tony likes Diane Keaton, so she keeps wearing the vests and slacks, even though everyone around her is in jumpsuits and leg warmers.

One day, the teacher calls for Natasha and nobody answers. It takes her a few moments to realize he means her and responds with a sharp 'What?'. The teacher sends her to the principal's office.


Tony has money and wit and a cutting tongue. She has a group of boys who follow her around like stray dogs waiting for scraps. She uses them to get what she wants, she insidiously plants ideas into their heads, she wins at anything she does and takes everything else.

She's thirteen and she's a genius. She's thirteen and she has already won in the eat or be eaten world of high school.

She's thirteen and she already hates who she is becoming.


She's drunk when she meets James Rhodes, and she tries to fuck him. He's eighteen and a fellow freshman, she thinks he's an easy target but he gets her home safe. She's obnoxious and loud, she wears bright red lipstick and tight jeans and flannel shirts. She's fifteen and full of bravado that can only come from a deep seated dislike of herself.

She tells him to fuck off, or fuck her as they're walking back to her dorm. He puts an arm around her waist and stops her from pitching into the agapanthus bushes next to one of the frat houses.

He sits her down on her desk chair and carefully picks up the half finished robot that's sitting on her bed, putting It in a far corner where she won't be likely to smash it on her way to the bathroom. She smiles at him and asks him to be her friend.

He says yes, and she's happy.


She doesn't even know her parents are dead until they're at the funeral home. She receives the doctorate in physics with nobody but Jarvis and Rhodey looking on, and three days later Obadiah is sitting across a conference table telling her about the accident.

She doesn't care.


Tony is twenty-one when she takes back control of Stark Industries. It's silly and idealistic and ridiculous, and it's 1991. It's unheard of for a woman to be CEO of a government weapons contractor.

She hires the best human rights lawyers in the country and sues the board for discrimination. She wins, and buys them all out of their shareholdings.

Jarvis dies, and she cries for the first time since...

She's on the cover of TIME. She's on every news broadcast in the US, and most in about a hundred other countries too.

She watches Saturday Night Live and gets drunk on a thousand dollar bottle of twenty year old Macallan. Dana Carvey is wearing a black wig and bright red lipstick, and she'll admit that the feminist jokes are actually quite funny.

She falls asleep on her couch and wakes up the next morning feeling dirty and used.


Pepper is beautiful and smart, and Tony's not allowed to sleep with her.

Rhodey is beautiful and smart, and Tony's not allowed to sleep with him.

Tony goes to a benefit with some latin singer with great pecs. Pepper spends the evening trying to stop Tony dragging him to the bathroom for a quickie. Pepper tells her to wait until the limo ride home.


On her twenty-ninth birthday, Tony gets spectacularly drunk and sends out a memo. The next morning, in the chaotic aftermath of the party, the cleaning staff circle around the chair she has woken up in, and Pepper shouts at her from the other side of the room.

"What the hell is this?"


Pepper is holding up a sheet of A4 paper, waving it in the air as she strides across one of the many living rooms of the mansion. Tony glances up blearily as it's shoved in her face.

"I don't remember sending that out."

"Well, it's happening. R&D is packing up as we speak."

Tony smiles and closes her eyes again. "Good, I like the sun out west better anyway."


It takes her three years, but she eventually creates an artificial intelligence system to run the house. Pepper thinks it's creepy, and Obadiah narrows his eyes whenever he visits.

JARVIS reminds her when she has appointments and meetings, and Tony quickly instructs him not to do that. She says it's because she doesn't want Pepper to feel useless.

JARVIS tells people to fuck off in the most polite way possible.


She's standing on top of a building in Queens, and Pepper is in front of her ranting about dog years and resignations and other crap Tony doesn't really care about because fuck does this woman not care that she almost died.

And then Rhodey is taking Pepper by the arm and telling her to think things through overnight, and they're off into the night, flying low and slow back to god knows where.

She sits on the edge of the building until the sun rises, and she feels empty. The next day she visits Justin Hammer in his cell, turns the cameras off with a device she hasn't told the DoD about, and smashes Hammer's face into the edge of the small stainless steel basin.


Captain America is standing in front of her, and she's acting just like she did when she was four, and telling Howard to fuck off.

His sneering face is inches from hers, and she's stepped up, shoving her nose as near his as she dares, telling him she crushes men like him without even breaking a sweat. He laughs mirthlessly and tells her she's nothing but a little girl in a fancy suit. She shoves him hard in the chest and he stumbles back in surprise, a hard glint in his eye. She tells him to call her when his IQ improves by about ninety points.

Then there's an explosion and everything is a blur until she's flying a nuke through an interdimenional wormhole.



The void of space calls, and she pauses for a moment before releasing the bomb and firing one last reserve repulsor blast.


Red. White. Blue.

"Please tell me somebody kissed me."

Rogers grimaces, and shes rambling about middle eastern food. She licks her lips and pushes herself up into a sitting position.

"So what exactly happened to all the aliens?"


Tony knows Pepper disapproves. For as long as they have known each other, Tony has been a paragon of hedonism. She thought Pepper would agree with even the most bizarre form of monogomy.

But then Rhodey points out that regular hate sex with the same person isn't exactly a healthy relationship, and why does she dislike Cap so much anyway, and to be honest, Tony's always put more stock in his opinion when it comes to relationships.

So the next time she's pressed up against the concrete walls of her lab, hand squeezing roughly at a large bicep, she pauses for a moment and pulls her lips away from Rogers', breath a little ragged and thin.

"I wanna be a better person."

For the first time since...

She wants to...

Steve's just so...