A/N: This is a rewrite. See Chapter 28 for a little more explanation, but really, isn't it self-explanatory? I'm still doing that whole thing with random short chapters and then ridiculously long ones, though, because I like variety. This one's short, but I like it better.


Chapter 1 - Yinsen

When she came to, it was because of the pain. Gasping, her hand came up and yanked at the thing over her face, a long thin tube up her nasal cavity. Shaking, she wondered what she'd done this time, because it was worse than any hangover she'd ever had.

And let's make it clear: Toni Stark had an abundance of experience with hangovers. There were the light ones she shook off with a thermos of strong coffee. Then there were the moderately-debilitating ones, where she had to rely on JARVIS and her bots to get her looking presentable and sober-ish enough for the day. And then, there were the truly awful hangovers, where she woke up without a clue as to the identity of her bedfellow; where she stumbled to the toilet or a trash bin to regret whatever she ate last; where her headache was so bad she thought she was dying.

Hangovers, Toni was familiar with. This, however, was different. This felt as if she'd already died, horrifically in some accident she caused in the workshop (it was the mostly likely way for her to go), and now someone had brought her back to life so she could suffer some more in her still-dying body.

Her eyes found a ceiling, a dimly-lit, rocky surface. And then eyes—a man, with smudged glasses and sad, sad eyes. Toni couldn't focus for long, there was an awful, awful ache she couldn't ignore. Her hands moved, instinctively, finding the source. Gauze. Metal. Wires.

It all came back to her at once, flooding her mind. Humvees. Soldiers. Her name on a missile.

"What did—what did you do to me?" Toni rasped. "Am I dead?" She asked, though she knew this was too much pain for death.

"No, you're not dead, Antonia Stark."

"Was I dead? 'Cause I feel—feel like I should be." Toni groaned, tugging on the strange gauze and metal between her breasts. Her chest burned and screamed and throbbed in time with her unsteady heart.

The man's hands came down on her wrists, stilling her. She caught his eyes again. "Perhaps," he answered her softly, considering, "But you are not, now."

A few hours later, she had gotten the full story. That attack on her Humvee, the missile from her company, had nearly killed her. It would've, if not for the doctor, Yinsen.

It was funny, how close she was to the mark. She should be dead right now. Perhaps she would be, soon enough.

.

.

.

Yinsen stirred mush in a tin over a tiny fire, humming. Their captors had already negotiated their terms with Toni; her hair was still damp, her throat and nose were still raw, from their brand of persuasion. She was the great Antonia Stark, of course she could build a missile from spare parts.

But why build them a missile, when she could build herself a way out of this mess?

.

.

.

A week later, and Toni was lying in a heap in the desert, encased in scrap metal. Burning, gasping, screaming in her head because her lungs couldn't handle doing it out loud. Her chest was on fire. Everything ached. Yinsen was dead.

She could see him so clearly, her face reflected in his scratched-up glasses. "Is this you legacy, Stark?"

Her throat was too dry for a real answer, but the scream bubbled up in her chest, and Toni hissed out her anger in between clenched and bloodied teeth. "Get up," he murmured, as urgently as he had when their captors had approached her for the first time.

Get up, get up, get up!

It was a chant, a mantra, her own words and Yinsen's blurred into one scream of necessity. Toni lifted herself out of the sand—burning, scratching, grainy sand—and stood on her own two feet.


A/N: Told you it was short! It's also as bitter as Toni.