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Hardest of Hearts

Ember, Darlin', I Can Explain

"So, now that you've seen my boobs and literally played with my heart, can I call you Tony?"

I am alive, and I feel freakin' fantastic. I should feel like complete shit, considering I just had open heart surgery, but I feel like running a marathon or something. Tony Stark is standing over me, and now he's....He's laughing! I didn't realize I was so amusing. I struggled to lift my upper body and groaned at the slight stiffness. My ribs were sore, so I looked down to see the damage. The bruises were a green color, but that can't be right. That robot was squeezing hard enough to nearly crack a rib, so shouldn't the bruises be darker? I looked up at the still laughing billionaire. Just what did he do to me?

"You can call me Tony under one condition," he finally laughed out.

"What's that?"

"In the park, when the robot was holding you, you smiled. Why?"

"Because the evil robot dude was talking about two of you, which made me think about cloning. So I thought about you having a sidekick named the Tin Man." Great, now he's laughing again. I was being very serious at the time! Can't you see Iron Man running around with the Tin Man? Because I sure can.

"You can't be real," he wheezed out. Dear Lord, I think doing open heart surgery on a stranger has fried some brain cells.

"I am real. And shirtless," I said and looked down at my bare chest. Have my boobs gotten bigger again? If I move up to a Double D, I'll owe Ember fifty bucks.

"Oh, sorry. Let me get the IV out," Tony said and stepped forward. He was standing on my left side, and the IV was in my right arm.

"It isn't putting important stuff into me, is it?" I asked as his fingers made quick work of the needle in my arm.

"Not anymore," he said and pressed a wad of cotton against the small bleeding hole. He pulled it away a second later, and the blood had stopped.

"Huh, I'm usually such a bleeder," I mumbled. I donate blood pretty regularly. I'm O Negative, and I enjoy knowing that I can help someone out. The only sucky part is the fact that I usually bleed for about an hour after the donation. Not a lot, but enough to keep a band-aid on.

"Yeah, about that..." What did he do to me? I can't ignore the hunk of metal sitting pretty in my chest, and I should not feel as amazing as I do.

"Before you get to speaking, can I make a phone call?" Tony's eyes snapped up to mine, and he had one eyebrow raised.

"You're not in jail."

"My friend, Ember, is probably flipping out right now. Plus, you gotta tell me everything that happened, and I want her here. I'm going to tell her everything anyway, so at least this way I won't have to try and remember everything." Tony nodded his head, closed his eyes for a moment, and then looked at the ceiling.

"Jarvis, contact Happy and have him go to...?"

"Tenth Avenue, the Chelsea District. She'll be at an art gallery, called December Nite. Tell her that Kit said everything's aces."

"Get all of that, Jarvis?"

"Yes, sir. I will inform Happy right away." The voice was smooth, hint of a British accent, and absolutely amazing.

"Can I get one of those?"

"One of what?"

"A Jarvis," I said with a wide smile.

"I am afraid I am not for sale, Miss Kit." Damn, I really love that voice.

"Don't you want the shirt? Not that I mind the view," Tony said with a slow smile. Ah, his brain must be rebooting.

"I'm not exactly your type. When was the last time you saw a naked woman over a hundred pounds?" Not that I have anything against thin women. They're probably healthier than I am, but I'm not stupid. I'm a little on the heavy side, with more meat than some women. Guys that go for the model types don't go for me.

"All women are beautiful creatures," he said, almost seriously. He had this little twinkle in his eye that said he was messing with me. At least, I'm assuming that's what it means.

"I don't know about all of that, but I do like being shirtless. I'd be naked all the time, but Ember said she'll never bail me out again for indecent exposure," I said with a small shrug. I pulled my legs up so I could sit Indian-style, and my fingers pulled lightly at the gray material covering my legs.

"Wait, wait, wait," Tony said as he jumped onto the table next to me. "You've actually been in jail for indecent exposure?"

"It's a long story," I said and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. Ugh, I really need a shower. Tony shifted so that he was facing me, with one leg resting on the table and the other dangling off the side.

"We have time." This time his smile was gentle, not teasing. I rolled my eyes and shook my arms a bit.

"Well, me and Ember decided for our senior year that we would actually attend the high school parties. Our high school was always throwing a party, nearly every weekend. Yeah, me and alcohol is a dangerous mix. Ember was off with her boyfriend, and I was left alone. With alcohol...vodka, actually. I'm more of a whiskey drinker. Vodka always makes me crazy."

"Where'd the nakedness come in at?"

"I love being naked. My dream is to retire to a nudist colony. Anywho, me and half the football team," Tony snorted there and I gave a quick glare before continuing, "were playing a very intense game of darts. They were all shirtless, I was burning up, so I got topless too. It was only fair. The only bad thing is that I was wearing a tank top with a built-in bra. So, getting shirtless meant being completely naked from the waist up. I was also wearing a pair of super tiny shorts. I'm from Mississippi, it was August, so it was hot and humid."

"You played darts shirtless?" He sounded surprised.

"Yeah, more mobility. So, I'm about two turns from kickin' everyone's ass, when the damned cops showed up. Everyone scattered, but I kinda forgot to grab my shirt. Officer Mick picked me up. He's known me my entire life, we come from a small town, but the asshole locked me up anyway. He's never forgiven me for running over his mailbox. Ma was visiting Aunt Kendra, who hates me, so she was a state away. I called my Nana, but she told me a night in jail never killed anyone and Springer was on. Ember was the only person I could call."

"Your grandmother wouldn't come get you?"

"Nope. Nana believes that if you're stupid enough to get caught, you deserve at least one night in jail. Ha! She made me paint the front porch at six in the morning since I didn't stick it out," I said with a laugh. Damn, but I love my Nana. She's a bit crazy, but she's taught me a lot over the years. She also took care of Ma, when she got pregnant with me at sixteen. Then again, I guess Nana understood. She was fourteen when she had Ma.

"You must really love her," Tony said in a quiet voice. Oh yeah, his family's gone. I remember reading that in an article somewhere. I couldn't imagine a life without Ma and Nana. Ma's only thirty-five, and Nana just celebrated her fiftieth birthday. As for me, I'll be the first Torlin to make it out of the teen years without being pregnant. (Nana's maiden name is Torlin...most of the women in our family wind up with their maiden name. It's like a family curse.)

"I do. She lives in Mississippi, the same house she was born in. I'm going to visit her next month," I said with a wide smile. A week with Nana and then it was off to California to see Ma.

"I'm not so sure-"

"Kit Lee Torlin! Do you have any idea just how fucking worried I was?! Why is your chest glowing, and why the fuck are you shirtless?!" Tony and I both turned towards the scream, and I quickly raised my hands.

"Ember, darlin', I can explain."

"Explain?!" Her green eyes moved from me to Tony and back again. "Damn it, Kit. When I said you needed to get out more and mingle, I did not mean have kinky science sex with Tony Stark!"

"What?! I have not had kinky science sex with anyone! Tony saved my life!" I yelled. Tony nodded his head so much that he looked like a demented bobble-head doll. Ember's full lips pinched into a thin line, and she twisted her hair into a ball without taking her eyes off me.

"Put a shirt on and tell me what happened." Tony passed over a thin tee shirt, Metallica, and I slipped it on. Ember snatched up a chair and rolled it over to where I was.

"I went to a park, and..." It didn't take long to tell the first part of the story. Tony filled in my gaps. The robot was an invention of Dr. Doom, some evil dude. He was actually an enemy of Reed Richards, but he targeted Tony this time. I picked it up from there and told Ember what little I remembered of the operation. Tony told the rest.

"I was able to remove six of the shards, but the others were too close to your heart. If I had attempted to remove them, I ran the risk of killing you. This," his fingertips lightly touched the blue glow under my thin shirt, "acts as a magnetic force that keeps the shards from reaching your heart. As long as it's working, you're safe."

"There's something you're not telling, Tony, and we both know it," I said and looked up at him.

"What are you talking about, Kit?" Ember asked. I looked down at her and put a hand to my ribs.

"That robotic asshole was squeezing for all he's worth. I had open heart surgery. I should be laying flat on this table, but I kinda feel like running a marathon and dancing a jig."

"I might have done something else," Tony mumbled and looked away from my eyes.


"I've never done any kind of surgery before, but I knew it was going to be a little too close. I gave you something to speed up the healing process." I was speechless, so Ember took over for the moment.

"What was it?"

"You've heard of the super-soldier serum?" When we both nodded, he continued, "What I used is a formula called Extremis, a modified form of the super-soldier serum. I've modified it further. I removed the "super" properties and isolated the healing ones. If it works right, you should always heal quickly and efficiently."

"If?" I whispered. Tony had turned to look at me while he was talking earlier, but now he looked away again.

"Extremis, in its pure form, is very selective. It only works on people with a certain genetic sequence, only about 2.5% of the entire population. The serum I used on you is a much weaker form, but there's still no guarantee. Your body hasn't rejected it yet, but it could just be delayed. I-"

"You used her as an experiment?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!"

"Hey! I saved her life!"

"If you'd taken care of the bot in the first place, she wouldn't have even been hurt! And now you've gone off and turned her into some kind of lab rat!"

"Ember, darlin', deep breaths. Come on," I said and grabbed her wrist. I pushed her palm flat against my sternum, above my hardware, and took a deep breath. I grabbed her other hand and pressed it against her own sternum, and she slowed her breathing to match mine.

"Sorry, Stark."

"I did what I had to. It was either that or let her die on the table."

"And I feel great!" I threw in. I smiled over at Tony, to let him know that I wasn't mad at him for basically experimenting on me without my consent. Then again, I was unconscious.

"So, do I just need to bring her in for check-ups?" Ember asked. Her pale cheeks had lost their fevered blush, and she looked more like herself now. Ember has a few, uh, anger issues, but she's working through it.

"I'm assuming you two live together?" I nodded at the same time Ember said, "Of course."

"Move in here for a little while. That way, if something goes wrong, Kit will already be here."

"Move in? With Tony Stark?" Ember asked and looked up at me. I shrugged and turned to Tony.

"Do we have to pay rent? I mean, I have another book to work on and Em has her paintings, but I don't think we can afford a swanky place like this."

"Free of charge. You'll be guests," Tony said with a smile.

"Is it necessary? Is Kit in that much danger?" Tony looked over at me, and I widened my smile to show that I really did feel great.

"If her body rejects the Extremis, it will shut down starting with the major organs. There's also the possibility of something going wrong with the arc reactor. I'll need to keep a check on it as well, to make sure it's keeping the shards away from her heart and not damaging her body in any way."

Honestly, I'm terrified. There's so many things that can go wrong, and I'm not ready to die. Well, no one's ready to die, I suppose. I don't want to die. I want to live into old age, fall in love, have some kids...just live the American dream, I guess. I don't want some kind of healing serum to rip my insides up or for my hardware to short circuit and fry my ass. I looked down at Ember, and her bright green eyes met my own. I know she loves the independence of living alone, but we were pretty independent before moving out. Our mothers trust us, and they've always been pretty laidback.

"I guess we're moving in with Tony Stark then," Ember said and smiled up at me.

"I guess so." Tony jumped down from the table and clapped his hands.

"Perfect! I'm going to make some calls. You can stay here tonight or Happy can you take home. I'll arrange for a moving truck in the morning. If you need anything, Jarvis will give you my number," Tony said as he left the room. I twisted on the table and let my legs dangle over the edge. Ember placed her hands on my knees and looked up at me.

"So, wanna go sleep in our first independent home one last night?" I asked.

"Might as well," Ember sighed as she helped me from the table. Ember led the way out of the room I was in, and I took in my new home.

"This place looks pretty awesome," I said with a smile.

"How'd you get us into this mess, Kit?" Ember asked with a teasing smile.

"Well, I was at this boring art show..." Ember's laugh echoed through the halls, and I knew then that everything was going to be okay. As long as my body didn't self-destruct.
I watched the sun rise for the first time since my last book. I've only published two books, but I'm hugely proud of both of them. The first one, Ultimate Underdog, was published because Ember and I decided to do something huge the summer before our senior year in high school. I'd always wanted to publish a book, to have something with my name printed on it. Ember had always dreamed of having a piece of her art hanging in a gallery somewhere. So, we took our savings and did just that. I published my book, and Ember rented a space to show off her work.

To our surprise, we were both successful. More people read my book than I had originally thought, and they were soon demanding a sequel. I'd actually toyed with the idea, so I went with it. Ember managed to sell every painting and sculpture the night of her first ever art show, with demands for more. We took it easy during our senior year, because school does come first. Not that we didn't keep doing the things we love. Ember did sell a few pieces, and she kept some for herself. The August after graduation, I published the sequel.Forgotten Few did even better than my first book, and I've decided to make one last book for the series. Having a trilogy just sounds cooler, ya know? I'm about halfway through withHumble Hero, which will wrap up the series so I can move onto something different.

My body's been too jazzed up to sleep, so I've been planning. There's only one small downfall to my writing. Both books, and my own personal unpublished writings, usually only come about when I'm three sheets to the wind. I can write when I'm sober, but it's nothing compared to my drunk ramblings. On the plus side, Ember laughs the entire time I'm drunk, so at least she's in a good mood. Me? I stay drunk for about two weeks and then keep a hangover for a month. It's always fun to go back and read what I can't remember writing though.

The sun peeked over the buildings, and I squinted at the bright light. Everything was about to change. I've already changed. My palm pressed tight against my hardware, as I've taken to calling it. This hunk of metal and pretty blue light was going to keep me alive. I'll probably have to wear it for the rest of my life now. I plucked my pocket knife off of the bedside table and pricked my finger. A small drop of blood welled up, and I used a kleenex to wipe it off. Normally, I'd just keep bleeding. Instead, my skin was clear. Completely healed. What if I broke a bone? How long would it take for that to heal?

"What have you done to me, Tony Stark?"
As Kit watched the sun bathe the city in gold, Tony was stepping into Reed Richards's lab. His head was pounding, and he needed a few nights of sleep. He'd battled a robot, done open heart surgery, and had two awkward talks with Pepper. The talk earlier, which was now yesterday, had hurt. To know that Pepper was moving on, and had waited this long to tell him, really showed just how bad things between them was. The second talk...Well, that hadn't gone over very well either. She'd been freaking out, of course. She'd seen the half naked bleeding girl in his lab, and he had to calm her down before explaining everything that had happened. Needless to say, she wasn't happy. She did, however, agree to arrange the moving truck and settle the girls in.

"Tony! What brings you here so early?" Susan asked as she appeared in front of him. The fact that he didn't even twitch showed just how tired he was.

"I need to talk to Richards."

"Oh?" she asked with one perfectly raised eyebrow.

"I met up with a Doombot last night. Thought I could talk Richards into helping me out." Needing help rattled him a bit, but he was willing to let it go. His own team was spread out, and Dr. Doom was Richards's problem. Tony, and Kit, were just caught in the crossfire.

"Of course we'll help you. I'm sure Johnny and Ben will help too," she said and laid a hand on his arm.

"Susan! Someone here?!" Richards called out. Susan looked over her shoulder, and Tony looked around her.

"Tony Stark's here! He had a run-in with a Doombot!"

"Doombot?" Richards's head poked out around a giant piece of equipment, caught Tony's eyes, and started walking forward. "Well, let's hear it then."

Tony began the story for the third time and, hopefully, the last. No, he still had to get debriefed by SHIELD. Damn it.


Another chapter done! I just love writing on this story. Hmm, I’m trying to think if there’s anything important I wanted to address in this chapter. Oh! Kit’s body type, right. I am not trying to be derogatory in any kind of way when I talk about sizes. I have always had a shapely body. When people call me little, it’s because of my height not body type. Most stories have leading ladies that are thin, or delicate, or lean, or something like that. I don’t have anything against that, not at all, but I wanted a girl just a touch more realistic. Plus, me and a friend of mine argue over body types all the time. No matter what I do, when I lose weight, I’m going to keep the same-sized breasts and hips. There’s no way for me to lose them, and that’s okay with me. My friend has one of those boyish figures, with narrow hips and small curves, even though she eats more than I do. Being my size, I have insecurities from time to time just like everyone else. My friend has the same problem, because we’re human. This will be brought up as the story goes along, but please try to remember that I’m not hating on anyone.

That’s all I’m going to say, so that my Author’s Note doesn’t turn into a story itself. Thank You to everyone who’s read, especially the two that commented! You're awesome and have my gratitude. I hope you enjoyed the chapter and will stick around for the next one.


I'd like to read more. :)
CupKTCakes CupKTCakes
Please update!!!!
Irrelevant86 Irrelevant86
I enjoyed your non filler chapter update! Please do so more frequently!! :)
thatsrealjazzy thatsrealjazzy
I love this. I need more! :D
FallingUp. FallingUp.
Oh this is really cool :)