Antonia Stark did not like surprises.
Usually surprises meant something nasty, like a giant bug eating Times Square. Or a bus full of children screaming as the big bad of the week threw them down the street. A virus that makes it through her basic firewalls. Some sort of pollen making its way into her lungs despite the suit’s filtration systems and didn’t that just fucking take the cake. She was sick for a week after that one.
Very rarely were surprises nice, and Toni knew not to expect anything good anymore. Life of a superhero: no such thing as a vacation. As soon as you relax, there’s something new out there trying to kill you. The last time someone had sent a gift, a bouquet of roses, she’d gotten a rash from accidentally brushing against the petals. Never trust anonymous gifts.
“I am not going to that stupid fucking Valentine Gala,” she snarled. “I am sick of spending each and every year pretending to appreciate those pretentious douchebags who think they can buy me over with chocolates and champagne and all their stupid fucking talking.”
A bit of a lie, really; she enjoyed the champagne, and sometimes the chocolates, just not with those idiots. Pepper just sighed.
”You got an invitation,” she tried, and somehow Toni heard the ‘you’re also a pretentious douchebag’ she implied with her tone.
“I get a damn invitation every year. Several invitations.” Toni grabbed a stool, turned away from Pepper, and looked over the blueprints for her next armor upgrade. “I’m still not going.”
“Don’t you even want to know who it’s from?”
“I don’t care.” Toni was slowly zoning out of the conversation. She could hear Pepper still talking, but it didn’t matter anymore because she absolutely did not want to discuss it. There was a rustling sound as the envelope was placed by her hand, but if she could just adjust the tracking algorithms—
The door to Toni’s lab slammed shut. As soon as she was alone, the speakers started blasting music throughout the room.
But Pepper was right. She did want to know who invited her this year. Not that it was important or anything. She told Pepper she wasn’t going. It didn’t matter if she opened the envelope or not, because she wasn’t going. And besides, Pepper always said it’d be best to RSVP ahead of time. It was more polite. She should open the invitation, for the sake of propriety.
On the other hand, Toni wasn’t sure if she’d be able to handle the smug look on Pepper’s face when she found the opened invitation. Her fingers traced the sharp edge of the envelope thoughtfully. It couldn’t hurt… Right?
“Stark.” She jumped, throwing the envelope across the worktop. She hadn’t even noticed the music being turned down. The silence was achingly obvious, especially as the envelope hit the table with a quiet smack, which then echoed around the empty lab.
“Natasha!” Toni grinned. No point in dwelling on Natasha obviously scaring the crap out of her. It was a pretty normal thing, anyway. “What can I do for you, spider lady?”
She only frowned. “It’s Thor.”
She groaned. “Oh god, what did he break now? Am I gonna have to replace the TV again? Did we have that discussion about how expensive those TVs are? I can’t just keep buying new ones all the time.”
“It’s not the TV. He did break the toaster this morning, though.”
“Then what is it?” Toni pleaded, already mentally adding ‘toaster’ to the list of things she’d put in her presentation on ‘How Not To Break Expensive Things’ for Thor and Steve and possibly Clint. The gym equipment was one thing, but the kitchen and rec areas were refurnished every other week. JARVIS probably already added it to the shopping list. “Come on, Hitchcock, the suspense is killin’ me.”
“Just come look.” That was never a good sign. Leaving the envelope on the counter, Toni pulled her hair down from her messy bun, running her fingers through it as she followed Natasha up the stairs. It was getting long, but she hadn’t had time to cut it just yet.
She heard the shouting once she got about halfway up the staircase. Thor was a loud fellow. There was just no way around it. He sounded excited, though, while Steve and Pepper were obviously trying to calm him down.
Toni burst through the entryway at the top of the stairs and nearly tripped over herself as she realized what she was seeing. Clint, Bruce and Thor were all getting fitted. Bruce and Clint had matching bemused expressions, but Thor was now angrily swatting at the man taking in his tux. Steve was talking in a low, calming voice, and Pepper was apologizing to the man who’d apparently accidentally stabbed Thor in the leg. Several times.
Toni quickly covered her mouth with both hands, trying to stifle the laughter. Bruce turned a brilliant shade of red, while Clint and Thor shot her disdainful looks. She dashed over to Bruce to kiss his cheek, and he mumbled about how embarrassing life was or something.