Disclaimer: It's not mine. Unfortunately.
It starts the first time he sees Howard Stark. He's five years old, and a lot of those five years were spent imagining this day, but nothing could have prepared him for the man that walked into his room and took over. Howard examines him, looks at computer screens, talks to doctors, and signs papers before taking him brusquely by the hand and leading him out (!) of the room.
It starts the first time he sees sunlight, the first time he leaves the building where he grew up. It starts when he comes to Miami, and is led into the Stark Mansion.
It's the first day of the rest of his life, and he will never forget it.
The moment that will never leave the back of his mind, though, is the moment he meets Maria. Howard takes him into the mansion, and he looks around with a numb sense of shock, and then she walks into the room and sees him.
"…Howard?" she asks, uncertainty battling fear in her expression. "Howard, who is that?"
And Howard leaves his side, drawing Maria into a sweeping kiss. When he pulls away, he smiles at her. "It's Tony, dear. This can be our son now."
And she stared at him for a few seconds, uncomprehending, before her eyes widened and she looked back and forth between Howard and him—Tony?—in growing horror.
"No," she says, her voice breaking. "No, you didn't." And she pushes Howard away, takes another dismayed look at 'Tony', and runs.
He'll never forget that moment. He'll never forget it, because Tony Stark—the real Tony Stark—had died the week before.
Howard takes him aside, that first day, and explains his purpose. The real Tony had looked almost exactly like he did, so he wouldn't have to get plastic surgery; his main job would be to act as Tony did, feign the same interests and personality. Howard gives him a list of what foods to like, what shows to watch, and points out which toys should be his favorite.
He teaches him what he'll have to do in the future, as well: he'll present himself as a genius, a worthy heir to the Stark line, and eventually take over Stark Industries. He is a genius, of course, he won't have to pretend, but Howard emphasizes the need to show potential early on.
He learns how to be Tony Stark, that day, and when the lesson is over he asks a question. Just one.
"What's my name, sir?"
Howard looks at him consideringly. "For legality, I'll have it changed to Antony Edward Stark. It's close enough to Anthony that I doubt anyone will notice, and it'll keep you from getting accused of impersonation. Never let anyone call you anything but Tony, and you'll be good."
"But what is it really?" he pushes, and Howard frowns in irritation.
"Really, it's Howard. According to genetics, that's the only name you're going to get. But like I said, you'll go by Tony if you know what's good for you."
Then he smiles, and the boy backs away slightly. "After all, cloning is illegal.
Antony grew up defining himself by his father. He was always sure to judge his actions: Would Howard do this? Would this be suspicious? Every party he crashed, every model he dated, was calculated for maximum contrast between him and his creator. Howard had been a joker, but he'd always put work ahead of play, so Tony made sure to do the opposite… at least in appearance.
Of course, he gave Stark Industries all of his attention when he was outside the public eye. Antony had replaced Anthony, the original, for a reason; Howard wanted an heir, one that would carry on the Stark name and the Stark profit margins. So Tony was Howard's opposite in social life, but his match in business and intellect. He drove himself to invent like it was his purpose in life, and made even more advances than Howard had in the scientific community.
He'd grown up just like he was expected to. Tony was left to his own devices—'homeschooled'—until he want to MIT. After he entered into the public eye, he played his role to perfection. Many people commented on how much he looked like his father—but they would always chuckle and say that his personality must have come from his mother, because Howard would never have acted like that.
All in all, he was a good little clone. He did what he was told, he cooperated with his 'father', and he carried on the Stark legacy.
Howard broke expectations, though. He died, him and Maria and Jarvis, and all of a sudden everyone who knew the truth about Tony was gone. They left Tony without a guiding hand, without someone to tell him what to do, and for the first time he had to be independent.
He didn't react well. Later, he told himself that the drinking binge, the drugs and the chemicals and the recklessness, were all to contribute to his public image. He knew the truth, though. It didn't emphasize the contrast between him and his now-deceased creator at all—it did the opposite.
Howard had always been a drinker.
After a few months, a year or two, Tony pulled himself back together. Life was like it always was, he returned to the act he'd known for so long, and he resumed playing the playboy in public while slaving away over patents at home.
He did allow himself one bit of rebellion, though. Tony had always kept himself clean-shaven because Howard had always had a mustache. A bit after his 21st birthday, he changed that. The mustache was an act of defiance to a man who couldn't appreciate it. The beard, such as it was, served to distract from the mustache. An act of self-preservation, because without it he would be identical to his 'father'.
Funny, how his facial hair was a metaphor for his life.
A/N: Just so you know, Tony and Antony both refer to Howard's clone. When I'm talking about the Tony Stark that died when he was five, I'll specify or call him Anthony.
And no, that's not a spelling mistake.
Any input is appreciated!