Chapter 63 – Communication
A/n – It is such a relief to have managed to finish up the second movie on my list. Third one comes up next chapter but for now here's your break chapter.
ReadPaxJoy – As they're going to get together at the same point it's not much of a factor in this story as they're not together for very much of IM2. Avengers was really where I tried to show the change in dynamic.
LianaDare8 – I'm not going to include anything that happened after the Avengers cause obviously it's not canon for this story. I do love the TV show so far though
Post U Later – I know poor Phil but don't worry Fury will get told off just as much in the sequel when he comes in. And they won't resign until then officially just because it's easier to have it as a major plot point other than an aside in this story.
Gruffard – Hopefully I can make everything make sense for you. Fingers crossed. And yes of them all Iron Man 2 is the one I'm probably messing with the most.
Mystic 777 – Those implications struck me about the second time watching through the movie and I was like whoa Fury that's really dodgy.
CanvasOfOrange – You never need to apologise for that especially when it takes me a while to update anyway. They're very nice to eat though however boring they are.
ro781727 – It is an excellent idea but it'll probably be left to the sequel because that's when Sif comes into it and I really want her involved. Because I'm looking forward to writing Sif/Natasha/Toni scenes.
arideve – Of course I'm not going to criticise you, your English is very good :) I'm glad you were so excited for an update to this. I'm so glad that you like Toni as she's a character I'm very fond of.
Effugere – I'm always really happy when someone who isn't fond of fem!Tony likes my story. It's very flattering. You can picture Toni as whoever you want of course. It's your vision of her that matters as a reader.
– Well you get to see Iron Man 2 soon because it's up next. I'm doing it in vague chronological order excluding the Avengers which I obviously put first. Also I commend you for seeing what I intended you to see about Piper's behaviour and yeah I could see the supervillain thing happening.
The Almighty Pickle Lord XD – Firstly great username, secondly yeah this fic is going to be so long when it's finished. I know some people are probably intimidated by how long it is now well it only gets worse from here.
Aubreyfairy: It's not my intention to do anything set after the Avengers although again it was an amazing movie. Also I'm glad you like the way I write the direct movie references. It's a pet peeve of mine how people only put the dialogue in their watching the movies stories.
And to the Guest who keeps asking me when I'm going to update almost every day. It's hella annoying also makes me not want to update. This isn't an obligation, I write this for me and if it becomes too stressful I will stop. I've asked people before not to do this. It is sweet that like my story that much though.
Toni was relieved that the movie about her life was over of course but she had a sinking feeling that this wasn't the end of it. After all everything about the palladium poisoning had been left out as well as Natasha and Rhodey's betrayals. She had a feeling that Amora wouldn't have let the opportunity to show all that pass her by especially as she'd shown everything about the Obadiah incident including the parts that painted her in a positive light. This seemed kind of odd really considering her motives. After all if she was trying to turn them all against each other why wouldn't she at least leave those parts out even if fabrication was impossible due to the person in question being there to defend themselves. It made her think that there were limitations to Amora's magic after all despite how formidable the feat of making their lives into movies was in the first place.
The silence in the room was palpable until JARVIS spoke up, "would you like me to play the next file ma'am?"
"I don't think so," Toni said, "I'm sure we all need another break after all that."
The others nodded their agreement obviously still slightly in shock from all of the things they had just found out about Toni that she had been attempting to keep hidden. She hadn't wanted the pity that she sometimes got from Piper and Rhodey about Obadiah. Of course it had affected her and was a large factor in her trust issues although those had been with her all of her life. The downsides of being a millionaire from the moment she was born due to her trust fund and then inheriting more and building on that. There were always two faced people around you even those who you thought would never betray you.
"Same as last time then," Natasha said, "we all split up into different groups and switch up who is talking to who."
"Sounds good to me," Steve said, "although maybe we should take a longer break than we did last time and actually get some sleep. We did go into this straight after a battle and this has been extremely emotionally draining. We can start up again tomorrow."
The group nodded again before dispersing once more. Natasha, Clint and Phil went off into a corner to work on their resignation letters to Fury. With JARVIS' help they were trying to close off any possible loopholes that might be able to help Fury get them back to working for SHIELD. Steve and Thor made their way out of the room talking about going down to the gym to get some aggression out again. Toni was intending on heading down to her private lab to patch up a few things but Bruce followed her into the lift and quickly gave the command for his own lab before she could speak.
"We need to talk about this suicidal tendency of yours and we're going to do it now," Bruce told her, "because otherwise you'll manage to dodge it forever. I'm not letting you get away without talking about these things anymore because emotional build up is dangerous and you know it."
Toni grumbled lightly under her breath but she knew she wouldn't be able to get away from him this time. He knew too much about her past exploits now to be fooled by the 'it doesn't happen very often' speech and JARVIS often advised her to talk about it so it was unlikely he'd accept her override and help her get away from Bruce. Although she wasn't planning on telling him anything about the palladium poisoning of course on the off chance that Amora had neglected to include that incident (she knew it was wishful thinking but she just couldn't help it.)
The lift doors opened and Bruce dragged Toni out through the doors and into the lab. Again Toni could have freed herself if she really wanted to as his grip wasn't all that firm but she knew it was pointless.
"Go on then say your piece so we can get this over with," Toni said crossing her arms and eyeing Bruce expectantly. It wasn't like anything was going to change the way she fought. Sacrifice plays were just as natural to her as breathing because she was willing to preserve as much life as she could even at the risk of her own. It made sense to risk the least important life in the situation if it would save everyone else.
"I don't quite know how to say this," Bruce started hesitantly, "but you need to start thinking through these suicidal moves before you put them into practice. For all your powers of original fault when you're fighting you seem to default to moves that put you at risk and that's not okay. You do realise the effects that you actually managing to die one of these days would have on the team right?"
"You'd get on just fine without me," Toni said with a shrug, "why are we even having this conversation?"
"Because you thought that was about how we would cope in battle if you died not about how we would cope in general," Bruce said frustratedly, "that's why. You do realise that even though the team are much better around me now you're still the only person who doesn't even flinch when the Hulk comes out. And from what I've seen Natasha sees you as a sister and I don't think she wants to lose that for no good reason. Clint, Steve, Thor, Phil, our lives would all be drastically different if we'd never met you and our futures would end up messed up if you weren't around to be a part of them. Who else is going to laugh at Clint's jokes and failed attempts at navigating via the vents? Who else is going to call Steve out when he says something that's offensive? The others are all too intimidated by him to do that consistently even if they'd never admit it. And…"
"Okay," Toni shouted interrupting, "that's enough of that thanks."
The truth was that she rarely gave any thought to what she would be leaving behind if she died. Originally it would just have been Piper and Rhodey and with their professional and military backgrounds as well as increasingly distant friendships with Toni they probably would have gotten over it quite quickly. After all they had thought she was dead for three months when she was in Afghanistan. Of course Rhodey had technically been searching for her the entire time but that was probably more about tracking down her dead body for a proper burial rather than anything else. He had no reason to suspect she hadn't been killed by the bombing or by whoever had taken her captive and had clearly been shocked to find her alive and wandering through the desert.
Then through the palladium incident they were still all that she had (Natasha didn't really count as the fact that she was only around because of SHIELD made a difference) and clearly they didn't care enough to notice that she was dying. Piper had actively dismissed her attempts at telling him about what was troubling her choosing to spout all of the reasons that she was irresponsible and reckless instead. And Rhodey ended up betraying her fragile trust when he made off with her suit instead of attempting to find out exactly what was causing her to act the way she was. Neither of them had questioned the events that happened at her birthday party despite the fact that behaviour like that had become very out of character and therefore logically must have had a reason behind it.
She'd figured out that the way to cure the palladium poisoning was creating a new element long before SHIELD had forced her to follow through with it but had seen through their behaviour that it didn't really matter if she stuck around. Besides some part of her hadn't wanted to do all the work of figuring out the composition of the element and then manufacturing it when it might not work anyway and she probably wouldn't have enough time to finish it off. The only reason she had survived was the fact that Howard had already done the first step for her in figuring out how Starkanium could be created and leaving her the plans. After that she had kind of done it to prove to herself and to SHIELD that she could do anything even when at points during its production she had wondered how on earth she was managing to move around such heavy machinery in her weakened state.
So both those moves had an inherent logic behind them as did carrying the bomb through the portal during the Battle of New York. After all not only did she have air support but unlike Thor the suit protected her enough that she didn't freeze to death before she managed to hurl the missile into the mother ship. Sure she passed out shortly afterwards and was apparently not breathing when she was returned to the ground but it wasn't like she didn't wake up in the end. And it wasn't like she could let a nuclear bomb explode in New York killing everyone in the city and then killing everyone for miles around due to the radiation just like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs had. Which was also why she couldn't take it anywhere else on the planet of course as people would still die (and it wasn't like she had the time to get that far away from New York anyway because the suit's speed was impeded by the weight of the warhead.) And if she had just hurled it through the portal without going through herself – which she supposed she could have done – she couldn't have been sure that it would have hit its mark. By that point she had come up with the hypothesis that destroying the mother ship would take out of the Chitauri and thankfully that hypothesis had been correct. If she had done it any other way she might have missed and they'd all have probably died anyway as the Chitauri and Leviathans still on Earth would have been more than enough to destroy everything even with Natasha closing the portal to stop any more of them coming through.
Therefore she didn't really see what everyone was complaining about when it came to her tactics. It wasn't like she'd really had any other choice most of the time. And she didn't exactly dive straight in with the sacrifice play. She left it as a last resort most of the time as it should be. It was just that she calculated the odds of winning a battle without using it faster and therefore figured out that it was the only move she had left. To the others it might look like she was jumping the gun but it was simple math telling her what to do.
She finally pulled herself out of her thoughts to find Bruce in the middle of giving her another lecture although she hadn't heard a single word of it. "I thought I said stop," she sighed.
"Not until I get a promise out of you that you're going to stop the sacrifice play being the signature move in your repertoire," Bruce insisted, "it's not worth it Toni."
"Saving hundreds possibly thousands of lives isn't worth it?" Toni said incredulously, "What's one life willingly given when measured up against the lives of all those innocent people who can't do anything to help themselves? Besides I can't make any promises regarding that because I have no idea what I'll have to do to help save the world in the future. I'm not restricting my options because you're worried about me."
Bruce sighed seeing that he was making no headway with Toni at all. It was like talking to a brick wall because she just didn't seem to get the point he was making. Which was the fact that it didn't always need to be her who made the sacrifice to save everybody else. The Hulk, Thor and Steve were all more likely to survive the damage they'd take from going for the sacrifice play but Toni didn't give them the chance to point that out. And the thing that really worried him was that Toni seemed to be able to justify all this in her head somehow which meant that she was obviously dismissing her importance to other people.
He understood her doing so in the past when she didn't have many people and they clearly didn't have all that much faith in her from what they'd seen. And he was worried that there might be more to come because after all they hadn't seen how Natasha and Toni had met and with the whole business of the report to SHIELD and them managing to become good friends he had a feeling it was a lengthy affair. He just didn't want to think about Toni having gone through enough that there would be more to show that wouldn't go in the first movie they had watched about Toni.
In the time it had taken him to mull through that Toni had made her way back to the lift and hit the button to take her down to her private lab. He sighed knowing that he hadn't managed to successfully convince her that she was important. He was secretly starting to think that it wasn't actually possible to convince her of how much she was worth. Everyone influential around her had drilled the idea that she wasn't worthy into her head since she was young and it had stuck far too well. Well there would always be other chances to get through to her. He just hoped one of them came along before they had to fight another major battle and Toni ended up resorting to her old tricks once more.
Clint, Natasha and Phil were working very hard on filling out their resignations although Clint was getting fed up with how long it was taking. "Can't you just fill out the rest of mine Nat? It's not like there is much about me that you don't know and SHIELD certainly doesn't know everything you don't," he pleaded.
"I'm not doing your work for you Clint," Natasha told her, "I'm busy with mine and you don't see me complaining. You could just choose not to leave and get stuck with Fury while we live it up here."
"Okay shutting up," Clint sighed going back to the paperwork. He really hated the paperwork part of this job. Although knowing how much Toni hated paperwork this would probably be the last bit he'd have to do before he'd be done for good. This was good because he really was more of an action kind of a guy. He'd prefer to be shooting the pens across the room with his bow rather than writing with them.
He had just managed to get back into the writing process when the elevator came back up to the floor and Bruce emerged sighing, "It's no good, she's managed to get down to her private labs and we can't get anyone down there to talk to her."
"Yes we can," Clint said perking up immediately, "I could get down there via the vents. I've never tried of course because JARVIS keeps covering me in foam…" Here he threw a dirty look at the ceiling.
"I am simply following orders," JARVIS relayed calmly; "it is not my fault that your actions contradict them."
"I'm sure JARVIS could be persuaded not to stop you from getting to Toni's lab when it's for her own good that somebody talk to her," Phil said, "looks like you've just gotten yourself out of your paperwork after all Clint."
Clint smiled and headed up to his room in the elevator. It was the easiest access point for him to get into the vents seeing as he'd just removed the cover to the entrance weeks ago. He climbed up and quickly headed towards the general direction of the labs. He didn't know which vent lead to Toni's labs exactly as he'd never gotten this far before but he was sure there would be an access shaft leading down the way that he could use.
He was fairly certain that giving him directions was a step too far for JARVIS because he was disobeying his programming letting Clint get this far. Besides he wasn't all that fond of the AI. He'd seen enough movies with evil AI's and enough of JARVIS' vindictive side that he'd just rather pretend he wasn't there at all. Eventually he figured he was in the general vicinity of the correct lab and made to exit the vents.
That was when JARVIS finally spoke up again, "Mr Barton you are in a restricted area of the house where no occupant other than Miss Stark has permission to be. Kindly refrain from returning. I leave you with a warning."
"Not again," Clint sighed. And sure enough the fire extinguisher foam started flowing out from the walls again and he tumbled out of the nearest vent hitting the floor coughing.
It looked like he was in the right place though because this wasn't a lab he knew the layout of and Toni jumped back about three feet from where she'd been running some kind of experiment. "You're lucky I didn't blow something up Clint," Toni shouted, "and don't think you're not in trouble JARVIS you could have done that much earlier than you did. He shouldn't have gotten anywhere near here. I'm banning you from accessing your favourite TV channels for a month."
"As you wish ma'am," JARVIS responded although if Clint wasn't imagining it he sounded upset about the ban. He really had to get used to this AI thing soon because it was getting ridiculous.
"Now can we skip the lecture that they sent you down to give me and instead we can work on a way to prank the others," Toni said with a smirk.
"Damn it you know my weak spot," Clint sighed, "you've got a deal but if anyone asks I totally tried to talk to you about your issues. That or I never made it down here at all which is plausible considering the fact that I'm covered in foam. I don't want Natasha to attack me… not again."
"I take it that means we're not including her in the prank," Toni said, "because I am blaming everything on you if she gets into one of her homicidal rages."
"Harsh," Clint said and once he came under the receiving end of her glare once more he tacked on, "but totally fair. You've got a deal. Besides I don't think I was ever planning on helping you get Nat. I'm not suicidal."
"Let's start planning then," Toni said moving back over to one of the lab desks and retrieving a few chemicals, "this should be good."
Natasha finished up her own paperwork and Clint's before piling all three finished reports on the coffee table. They didn't want to send them off just yet because dealing with the movies about their lives was enough for now. They might end up with Fury on their backs anyway asking for another report on the battle and wondering why Natasha and Clint hadn't checked in at the helicarrier yet. It was better not to give him a reason to be really mad at them right now.
The problem was that now that she'd finished everything up, Bruce working on equations in the corner and Coulson was fielding calls about his disappearance with various contacts she had nothing to do. And nothing to distract her from thinking up what might happen next. The movies hadn't gone in chronological order so far so she didn't know what might come up. God forbid it included her time in the Red Room although she figured that might get her more pity than hate which seemed to be what Amora had been aiming for. She'd failed miserably of course but it was what she had been aiming for. Mind you she didn't seem to be able to leave anything out so unless she'd set a certain starting point anything was fair game. Although to be honest while them seeing how her work in Russia had gone until Clint turned her from bloodthirsty assassin to one working within SHIELD parameters she'd probably get more hatred for her involvement with Toni.
She had mixed feelings about the time she had spent as Toni's secretary (a role which she would soon be reassuming). On one hand being with Toni had begun to feel normal after a while. They'd joked around and flirted a bit mostly to baffle other people. Eventually they had even confided in each other about things Natasha was sure neither of them had let slip before. And while Toni had faithfully kept her confidence to this day despite what she had done of course Natasha had stayed faithful to the mission and betrayed Toni's confidence. She couldn't bring herself to regret making Toni save her own life really but she could have done it privately instead of dragging Fury into it. She'd known that it was a bad idea the one time she'd gotten a look at the security footage of the lab at that time and seen how sad Toni looked at being confined.
Sure it would have gotten her fired from SHIELD and at the time that had been a scary thought since she was without a real back up plan. She had thought she'd end up back in Russia without protection from the many people she'd angered. Of course she hadn't really considered the possibility that she could have just stayed in America with Toni. She was sure Toni would have let her stay on as her secretary especially since apparently Toni had known it had all been an act from the start.
And on top of all that drama she wasn't looking forward to the others finding out about Toni dying slowly for a year. For Toni's sake. Because she was sure to get more worried commentary about her fate which would annoy her as once again she'd be sitting in the room in perfect health. Or so she said. Natasha needed to remember to check on the medical scans that JARVIS had surely taken to find out how many times Toni had lied about the extent of her injuries. If JARVIS had allowed Clint down to the labs he could probably manage another small act of disobedience for her.
Somehow she had no doubt that the poison debacle would come up at some point or other. Ivan Vanko was an important villain in Toni's history and there was plenty of moments that Amora might have thought would turn them all against Toni. She just hoped it wasn't up next. She'd done enough worrying about Toni for a year at this stage.
Steve and Thor came back up to the viewing room after finishing their respective workouts knowing it was the best place to find the others. Sure enough they found Natasha, Phil and Bruce sitting there in silence. Steve briefly wondered where Clint was but figured he was probably either in the kitchens or with Toni who he had expected to be absent.
"Greetings shield brothers," Thor boomed as he took a seat, "I have worked off my excess aggression and I am prepared to eat a banquet."
"We don't do banquets daily here Thor remember," Bruce reminded him, "and I don't think Toni has enough food in the house to prepare one of the banquets you're used to. We can just order in Chinese again you liked that last time."
"But we have just won a great battle," Thor protested although he did look like he was happy with the idea of getting Chinese. Last time they had gotten it in he had devoured container after container of prawn toast and prawn crackers. The others had barely gotten any for themselves so they knew now that even factoring in the extra amount for the god they had underestimated.
"Then we'll break out the coffee that the woman in New Mexico sent over with Jane for the occasion," Natasha mollified.
Thor seemed happy with this and they returned to a more normal conversation of explaining some tech to Steve and Thor. Steve was a fast learner but there were still things he didn't quite understand yet and he was always finding new things to learn about. And Thor still seemed convinced that some human devices ran on magic as he couldn't understand the Physics behind them. Like the any of the AI's especially poor Addy who was still terrified of the god. Toni had gotten around to making him his own toaster AI who was more robust and not afraid to shout at him if he was about to do something wrong. So far Luka seemed to be dealing with Thor's occasional mishaps – due to making the pop tarts to satisfy the god's addiction – with ease.
They were talking about some of the advanced gaming systems that Toni had in the house when it happened. Pink smoke began billowing out of the vents and every weapon that the occupants of the room had on them came flying out. But apparently it wasn't harmful because it didn't even make them cough. Soon enough they couldn't even see each other because of how thick the smoke was. When JARVIS finally got around to activating the fans to clear the room Natasha burst out laughing. Because excluding her every person in the room had bright pink skin. And Thor and Steve's blonde hair had gone a pale blue while the others with the dark hair had a dark shade of green instead. They were a bit of an eyesore but Natasha was too busy laughing the hardest she had in a while. Especially when they all realised that they had been turned as well as everyone else in the room. The looks on their faces. She'd have to thank Toni later. She was sure she had something to do with this somehow although no doubt she'd blame it on Clint. Well that would just be an extra bonus because she could pretend to be mad at Clint another one of her favourite activities.
The lift chimed indicating that it had reached this level and the doors slid open revealing a perfectly normal looking Toni and a fuchsia skinned, green haired Clint who was frowning obviously not having realised the prank would affect him too. Toni poorly hid her laughter at seeing the others obviously having only just having recovered from seeing Clint.
"Sorry about this," Toni laughed, "Clint spilled one of the chemicals I was working with in the lab and it got into the vents and this is the result. It's too fast moving for JARVIS to lock it down to a specific area and stop it reaching the entire tower."
"So if that's the case why didn't Natasha or you change colours," Phil asked suspiciously.
"The chemical only reacts with a Y chromosome and obviously neither Natasha nor I have one of those," Toni explained. Which was clearly the truth because there wasn't really another sensible explanation as to how they'd both been unaffected by the smoke that had clearly surrounded both of them at some point.
"So when will this wear off?" Bruce asked with a sigh, "Because I vote that Clint is put in charge of any paperwork that passes through the tower that he's intelligent enough to do until that point."
"Hey!" Clint shouted, "I got dyed too."
"That doesn't stop it being your fault," Natasha pointed out her lip quirking. She knew both of them were behind it of course. There was no way that Toni hadn't been involved and she supposed it was unfair that Clint was taking the fall when he had already been punished with the other boys. But it was just so much fun.
"I think we're all agreed," Steve said, "aside from Clint of course that he should definitely be doing that paperwork."
"And to answer your question Bruce I'll work on an antidote while I'm not sleeping tonight," Toni told them, "and before I get lectured about that too you know I can't sleep until I literally drop and I'm sure you'd prefer it wasn't sooner because that would mean I'd been drinking."
Bruce apparently didn't want to get into that conversation because he simply said, "we were just about to order Chinese, and you know what everyone usually orders plus extra for Thor. Do you want to make the call?"
"Sure," Toni said pulling out her phone and telling it to dial the Chinese place before exiting the room talking to the person on the other end. The conversation seemed to start the way it always did with her calming down the worker on the other end who had realised she was Toni Stark.
Despite Toni's argument that she would be better suited eating her portion of the food down in the lab while working they were all sitting together in the dining room. It had been Steve who had insisted on having a 'family' meal as he thought they all needed to talk about things. Of course as of yet nothing they had talked about had had anything to do with the movies. Anytime they tried Toni looked like she would slap whoever brought it up and Natasha would change the subject.
Instead they started talking about everything from Toni and Bruce's latest science mishaps to Clint's on-going feud with JARVIS. And once they had finished Steve somehow managed to get them all back to the living room.
"I thought we agreed that we weren't watching the next movie until tomorrow," Phil said confused.
"We aren't," Toni told him firmly, "we have watched enough of that shit for one day. No more."
"Okay fair enough we won't watch anymore but I do think we need to talk about what we've seen already," Steve insisted.
"Not happening," Toni said throwing her legendary glare at Steve.
He was clearly shaken for a moment but then simply kept going less deterred than some of the others would have been by Toni's anger, "come on Toni, you have to talk about it sometime."
"No I don't," Toni told him, "just watch me."
And with that she laid back on the sofa putting her head in Phil's lap and laying her legs across Bruce and Clint. Then she closed her eyes and ignored any attempt at conversation that was directed at her afterwards. Even Steve gave up after a while although admittedly it was after he realised she had fallen asleep where she lay.
She remained asleep for the rest of the night and while Natasha, Steve and Thor eventually retired to their own beds the others managed to fall asleep where they sat. They didn't want to wake Toni from what was surely the only good sleep she had gotten in a while now. Even if that meant they had to spend an extra day coloured fuchsia and green.
Bruce was the first to wake up the next day. Well, technically no he wasn't. Toni had already vanished and due to the fact that the feeling had returned to his legs he gathered that it had been quite a while ago. Evidently she hadn't slept quite as long as they had hoped she would. He sat up from where he'd slumped and brushed off the blanket that evidently Toni had covered them in when she left. It certainly hadn't been there when he'd finally drifted off to sleep anyway.
Clint and Phil weren't far behind him their spy training causing them to wake up when they sensed the shift in movement. He was surprised they hadn't woken when Toni left actually although maybe they had. He had slept right through it after all.
Before any of them got the chance to speak though the lift doors opened and Toni emerged in a fresh change of clothes carrying a tray of syringes. "Oh good you're up," Toni said, "I got the serum sorted while you slept the early morning away."
"That's what you're supposed to do with the early morning Toni," Phil groaned still half asleep his body obviously having registered that he hadn't been woken by a threat.
"Well I don't see why," Toni said with a shrug, "now sit up so I can give you this and we can all move on with our lives without colourful hair and skin except for you Bruce. Minus the fuchsia of course. Although that would be an interesting sight to see."
Without further warning she gave Phil his shot and while he winced it clearly wasn't all that bad. Bruce thought it was more due to the shock than anything else. She gave Clint his when he relaxed a little and looked away so that he wasn't expecting it either and then handed Bruce his. "I figured the big guy would prefer it if you did the injecting," she reasoned.
"Good idea," Bruce said sticking the syringe in his arm pushing the antidote into his bloodstream before handing it back. The Hulk was still wary of injections after all of the ones Bruce had come up with to try and get rid of or suppress him before he'd met the other Avengers.
"I'm going to go give Steve and Thor theirs," Toni said, "look it's working already."
And indeed their skin was slowly beginning to fade back to a more normal shade of pink and the pigment in their hair was becoming lighter. Before any of them could thank her she was out of the room back in the lift and on her way up to see the others. She really needed to learn that sticking around to be thanked wasn't going to kill her and actually might make her feel good about herself.
This was something she apparently needed some help with at times as they now knew definitively. The movies were doing some good despite how hard they were to watch.
But apparently not enough because they had barely finished eating breakfast when Steve and Toni managed to get into yet another argument. Toni had been joking around with Natasha about how they knew about her skills outside the suit she could be on the ground on some covert missions instead of being left outside on lookout which she often got extremely bored doing.
Then Steve had chimed in saying they had no evidence that she was that good since they just had a snippet of her fighting Loki and that could be a fluke. And there had been no stopping the resulting argument. Especially since Natasha wouldn't reason with Toni because she was rather offended that Steve didn't think she'd have managed to train Toni well enough that she could do everything she claimed.
"The fact remains that we don't know anything about your fighting outside of your suit so we're not going into a battle without some proof. And that's final," Steve finally shouted.
"Not good to ignore an asset really," Clint muttered keeping his voice low enough that it wouldn't be heard by Steve.
"Then I'll prove it," Toni said with a smirk, "let's head down to the training room which I've been improving while you guys slept away. I'll take all of you out without once putting on my suit. Trust me I am capable of that."
Natasha, Clint and Phil had no problems with that apart from some apprehension that they might end up a bit bruised by the time the simulated fight was over. Thor seemed quite eager too. He enjoyed a good fight even if it was against one of his comrades especially since there was no malice behind it.
Steve of course seemed hesitant probably aware that if Toni had that much confidence in herself she might be right after all. And that would make him look like an idiot. But so would refusing to allow the fight to happen because it would either make him look unreasonable or like he was scared of Toni. Which he was but not in that particular way. He knew that if he proved an unfit leader several of the others had the skills to replace him on that front Toni included and he'd deserve it. "Alright," he sighed finally.
"Bruce?" Toni asked raising an eyebrow. She knew he didn't like bringing the Hulk out too often outside of battle and he'd probably be worried about accidentally hurting Toni as the Hulk wasn't used to the version of her that didn't wear a suit of armour that protected her from his strength.
"Okay," he said as he knew better than to underestimate Toni – either her fighting skills or her ability to convince him to do it anyway eventually, "but the condition is that if something happens and you get injured you have to tell us straight away. You don't have the suit as back up this time."
"Deal," Toni said quickly, "training room come on."
Clint was impressed by the amount of improvements she'd managed to make to the training room in just a few hours. Especially since she'd actually had to work on an antidote to the colour changes during that time too. He was still slightly mad at her for not telling him he'd be affected too and then pinning all of the blame on him landing him with the punishment. To be honest he was quite keen on getting into this fight so he could be the one to take her out as revenge.
Toni pushed a few buttons on a console and holograms sprang into life around the room creating a virtual city environment with lots of places to take cover and plenty of high vantage points. Normally that would be to his advantage but most of his easy access to those vantage points these days was by plane or by Toni lifting him up to them in her suit. And neither of those things would be happening today. He'd have to try and find a ladder or something to make it up to one of them.
As he was thinking Toni had created some holographic weapons for them to use because it was far safer than unleashing their actual arsenal on each other. They still had to be fighting fit in case Amora escaped or there was another emergency that they were needed for. He picked up the bow and arrows which had obviously been designed to be identical to his own including the different range of arrows. He almost gulped at that, Toni had to be extremely confident in her abilities if she was willing to let them have their full range of weapons. Thor even had a replica of Mjolnir which she told him had been programmed with the ability to produce simulated lightning.
"Alright then," Toni said as she finished strapping on a few gadgets to her person, "there will be a klaxon and we all run into the city and separate as much as we wish to. Then there will be another one five minutes later and you can all start trying to kill me. Any questions? No. Good!"
Without leaving any more time for discussion the klaxon she'd spoken of sounded and Toni darted off down a street to the left. Clint headed off in the opposite direction trying to find a climbable building that would give him a good view of those streets. Natasha and Phil stuck together disappearing into one of the tunnels that lead under the road obviously intending on forming a team. He didn't see where Thor and Steve had gone as they hadn't moved until after he'd left but he could hear the Hulk roaring somewhere to the west.
Toni had managed to find a good hiding place to wait for the klaxon to go off. She knew everyone had seen which direction she'd gone in so someone was bound to get impatient and come to find her if she didn't move. That way she could take at least one person by surprise and make her job much easier.
She didn't have long to wait because barely five minutes after the klaxon she heard footsteps approaching. She'd made sure to hide on one of the main streets as it was the first place anybody would check. Barely restraining her glee she noticed that it was Steve coming. It would be nice to take out the person that had doubted her first and caused this whole exercise. That ought to give him pause and something to think about while she took out the others.
The minute he came level with her hiding place she swept out her legs underneath his causing him to go flying forwards and while it didn't look like he would actually hit the ground it gave her plenty of time to roll out and toss one of the force field generators she'd used on Loki at him and trap him.
"Sorry Cap," she quipped, "I have things to do. See you later."
As she ran away from the clearly irritated Steve she had to duck out of the way of an arrow that struck the pavement just behind her. If she hadn't gotten away in time it would have passed through her head and been considered a mission kill. That had been too close. Clearly Clint had managed to find one of the buildings that she'd included ladders to the roof on. This left her with a slight problem. She had to take Clint out before she was safe to move around and take out the others or she'd be constantly at risk of taking an arrow to the back while involved in another fight. But with his high vantage point it would be practically impossible to sneak up on him.
Still she had a plan which just might work. She'd included interconnecting tunnels weaving under the city and if she was in luck Clint's building or one nearby would have a connection to them in the basement. The best case scenario would be that it was Clint's building so there'd be no chance he'd see her coming but even a nearby one would be sufficient as she could always cause a distraction with some of the tech she had on her.
She pulled the arrow from the pavement knowing it could come in handy for causing that distraction. Then she quickly darted out into the open plaza to draw Clint's attention. Sure enough a deluge of arrows rained down on her as she neatly dodged them before retrieving each one. She also made sure to deactivate the retrieval feature on each one before Clint summoned them back although he seemed to have forgotten about that feature as he easily could have retrieved a few of them. She should probably mention that after she'd finished up as it would matter in a real fight.
The good thing about this strategy was that she had managed to calculate from the direction of the arrows combined with the wind speed exactly which building Clint was firing from. Once eliminating the few that it could have been that didn't have a way to the roof without flying. And it was right next door to one of the ones that had a connection to the tunnels in the basement.
She made her way through shadows towards the entrance to the nearest tunnel doing her best not to be seen on her way in. It was just easier not to be attacked on all sides when attempting to achieve a specific objective. Eventually while progress was slow she made it into a tunnel and was able to move at a more normal pace.
She was about halfway through her journey when she heard footsteps that were out of time with hers and continued once she had stopped. That meant that some of the others – two judging by how loud the footsteps were – had decided to search the tunnels for her. She was annoyed at being taken by surprise but knew there was an advantage to proving she could think on her feet.
She ducked into one of the subsidiary tunnels that she wasn't planning on following and lay in wait for whoever it was to come along. One thing was for sure it wasn't the Hulk. It couldn't be Clint or Steve as she knew where they both were and as Phil and Natasha were more likely to pair up than either of those people were to pair up with Thor it was likely that was who she was about to run into.
Unfortunately they were two of the worst people to come upon by chance because that was exactly what they were trained for. Taking people out the minute they got the opportunity while their opponent was unprepared and they had the upper hand. So she had to come up with a plan fairly quickly and one thing was for sure. Natasha had to go down first because she taught Toni almost everything she knew and that meant their fight would be mostly one sided if it had the chance to get started.
However she did get a lucky break when Natasha was the person walking on the side of the subsidiary she was concealed in. In an outright fight she was sure to lose but she really didn't have to. All she did was activate one of the force fields and trap Natasha in it.
Of course now Phil was well aware that she was there and having the element of surprise did make everything so much easier. It was the first real fight she'd gotten into since this started and it wasn't a good person to get into it with. Especially since Natasha could still mouth things to Phil to help him out. She'd have to work on putting a stasis field into the force fields. And then be careful never to test them on Steve. She didn't want to trigger any unpleasant memories for him. Not unless it was absolutely necessary.
Phil's first move was to draw a gun which was what she had seen coming. If they knew they were going into a hostile situation all SHIELD agents were told to draw their weapon immediately. She was surprised that he hadn't had it out already actually. Maybe he was reluctant to pull a gun on a teammate which is something they'd have to talk about if it was true. Because what happened if one of them got taken over again like Clint had? Although she did have doubts about that being the reason as surely Phil had faced people he'd worked closely with in combat before. That was one of the downsides to being a spy.
Toni kicked it out of his hand as quickly as she could and then dove over to retrieve it before Phil could. Although it was a close thing. He was practically on top of her when she managed to get a solid grip on it. But that gave her the advantage once she got her finger on the trigger. He was too close to dodge the shot she fired and the bullet deactivated all of his weapons and activated a force field to contain him as he'd been recorded as a mission kill.
"Bye," Toni said with a smirk and a wave before running back along the tunnel they'd come from towards the building next to Clint's.
When she got to the basement she went up the stairs to the ground floor and walked over to the front door. Careful to make sure that she wasn't visible from the roof of the next building she pulled out a couple of the arrows and reprogrammed them to explode on impact. Then she unloaded some of the electric bolts from her wrist launcher and loaded the arrows in. It wasn't the best system in the world for firing arrows but it would work for a distraction because she didn't really have to aim.
She fired them off in quick succession into the building opposite and watched as Clint walked over to the edge and tried to get a good look at what was happening. That's when she made her break staying close to the wall until she got inside the building. She didn't think Clint would have seen her but she couldn't completely rule it out. So she replaced the electric bolts she'd removed and headed up the stairs to the roof trying not to make any loud noises or knock anything over. She didn't want to do anything that could possibly alert Clint to her presence too early.
When she reached the top she listened at the door for a few seconds before throwing it open and immediately firing the first of the electric bolts in Clint's general direction. It went a little bit to the left but she was able to adjust quickly for the second one and hit Clint before he had the chance to fire the arrow that he'd already had notched in his bow.
This activated the force field to contain Clint as well as deactivating his weapons aside from the few arrows that Toni had picked up obviously she had had them for long enough that the system had updated to add them to her weapon arsenal.
"I'll give you some credit Clint this is an excellent spot," Toni told him, "I think I'm going to stay up here. Much easier than going down to face Bruce or Thor head on."
She set about tweaking the remaining arrows so instead of activating an explosive where they struck they'd activate one of the force fields. She only had two left which meant she'd have to get an accurate shot both times. She was lucky that the two who were left were also the biggest targets so it would be harder for her to miss.
The Hulk was tearing through buildings a fair way off but wasn't exactly hiding. Not that the Hulk was really capable of hiding away. He was a bit too bulky for that really. It wasn't really surprising when she got a direct hit and the force field sprang up. It had the added effect of being small enough that it compressed the Hulk more than he was comfortable with and he shrank back into being Bruce.
Now she just had to deal with Thor. If she could find him. Only it turned out that she didn't have to. Because Thor had obviously figured out where she was and dropped from the sky onto the roof. He didn't even hesitate before firing a bolt of lightning at her which she had to drop into the splits to avoid. After the initial strike he just kept firing clearly trying to keep her busy enough that she couldn't activate the force field. And she had to admit it was working so far and was by far the best strategy any of them had used against her. He'd apparently been paying attention to what his brother had done to eventually corner Toni back during the Battle of New York.
Unfortunately for Thor Toni hadn't really been armed when fighting Loki and she definitely hadn't had another force field generator which had been experimental at the time. And the minute she spotted a crack in his defence she physically hurled the arrow at him and the force field activated.
And while Clint stared on stunned the illusion disappeared and all the Avengers were back standing in a circle with everyone staring at Toni in shock and awe. And in Steve's case with more than a little embarrassment.
"So that settles that then," Toni said cheerfully, "now we can go watch more of those damn movies. It better not be about me again."
A/n – This is so late and I'm so upset with myself but hey I got it out here eventually. And it's the longest chapter I've ever written for anything so there you go. Hope you all enjoy and don't kill me if the next one takes just as long. It's my birthday on Thursday so I'm going to be pretty busy and then I'm going to Paris and I can't take my laptop with me.