Sammy here's a fic for you! I hope you love it :)
Tony is born with dull feathers on his back.
When he is young, he does not understand why his father always turns away from the sight of his wings, why his mother tells him to keep them folded when Howard Stark is around. It is only later, when he has grown smarter than everyone – even his father –that he finds out.
Tradition says bright wings signify a person's ability and strength, their potential to succeed in the world. Tony, with his wings of dullest brown, has been destined to fail ever since he entered the world.
But Tony has never been one to take prophecy lying down.
"You'll never succeed," a rather memorable professor once tells him. "Why did you even try out for MIT? Your place would have been better filled with someone who has a chance."
Tony simply sneers. The next time the man writes an academic paper, an unknown person sends in another paper to the same journal. It has everything the first paper did, only this one is polished and completed.
The professor never writes another paper again.
Tony may have dull brown wings, but he's also Anthony Stark, heir to the Stark fortune. So no matter how many people look down on him for his wings, they still flock to him in hopes of making themselves better. And of every person he's met, the ones at MIT are the worst at acting.
His first meeting with Rhodey is a bit of an accident. He doesn't look where he's flying, and barrels into a burly man with pale grey and light blue feathers.
"You're Tony Stark," is the first thing he says after he pulls himself up, gawping at Tony hovering in front of him. Just as he braces himself for another speech on the brilliance of Stark Industries – "I read your thesis. That was some brilliant work – do you really think the creation of a missile like that is possible?"
Tony laughs. He just might have found the one bearable person in the university.
The fact that the company is willed to him is surprise to the world.
Tony loses track of just how many papers express their dismay over the idea that a boy with brown wings is in charge of one the leading multinational corporations in the world. Shares fall by more than fifty percent, and the Board of Directors urges him to turn over control to Obadiah.
Tony laughs. He has never lived by fate and stories, and he refuses to give up control of the only legacy he has just because the world cannot see past its prejudices. Not when he knows he can do a better job of running the company than anyone else ever could.
He leaves the Board to their machinations, and hands control of the financial side of things to Obie. It calms the old men down a little, and it's not like Tony ever needed it. Not when he has a controlling share in the company, his workroom and his tools.
They're all he's ever needed to change the world.
The first thing Tony learns is that Obie likes to have control, and it chafes at him that there's nothing he can hold over Tony. So he tries to get him to follow his direction, and throws out phrases like 'good for the company' and 'think of your parents.'
But Tony's been hearing them since he was a young boy, and even though they aren't about his wings this, they have no more power over him than they ever did.
And then Tony does the one thing that cements his freedom – he hires his own secretary.
The candidates that the company sends him are all bright winged men and women, who are clearly reluctant to work under the direction of someone like him. It's the Board's way of making their displeasure at his refusal to bow to their wishes known, he knows this. So he keeps away from him, and throws every file he's sent in the dustbin.
And then he bumps into a redhead with the palest grey wings he's ever seen on the road. And instead of backing away when she realises who he is, she gives him a scolding that would make his father proud.
He hires her on the spot.
It might not have been something she tried out for, but he just knows that she'll be good at it. He's never been wrong before.
Tony surrounds himself with outcasts.
He and Pepper – they're wings will always cause others to look down on them, and even though Rhodey's wings have some colour in them, they will never be the hues of bright red, yellow and green that are the world's standards of beauty. No matter how good they look, their wings will always let them down.
And then he hires Happy as his bodyguard, with brown wings that are just a shade brighter than his are, and he cements the public opinion of eccentric genius.
The Board and Obie aren't happy – they never are – but his inventions are what keep the company running, and they've learnt long ago not to argue.
Tony doesn't care. He thinks he's just managed to build himself a family that isn't constantly disappointed in him, and that's all he really wanted anyway.
Tony loses his wings in Afghanistan.
His feathers aren't completely plucked out, but it's a near thing. Instead, he looks like a broken bird, with feather-shards poking through his back. When he returns, the first thing the press talks about is his miraculous survival, and then the state of his wings.
Not even his decision to close down weapons manufacturing takes precedence over them.
Obie and Board urge him to invest in fake wings, maybe ones that are bright, like the ones he should have always had. At least, that's what they say. Tony, on the other hand – Tony might have been beaten, but he's not broken. He's still the Tony Stark he always was.
The Iron Man suit covers his wings, protects them – and it files on his own, so that he doesn't have to walk around on the ground when in a fight. But that's the only concession he gives.
When he's out and about, he shows his tattered wings proudly. The world can flinch away from the sight of him – it has never bothered him, and he doubts it ever will.
(Besides, the broken wings somehow seem to make him all the more attractive to women, and he's not about to say no to that.)
Being Iron Man, it feels like a dream. In the suit, he's everything he's always known he could be – strong and capable, bright and perfect. Fighting a man he's known since he was a child isn't as difficult as it could have been, not now that Tony's realised his true potential.
The papers talk about the heroic man in a metal suit, and all Tony can think about is how different it is when they talk about Anthony Stark.
Revealing himself isn't a truly conscious choice – no matter how much he's weathered it, the way people look down on him for his wings has taken its toll. They've taken a part of his soul from him, and he delights in taking all they have ever known and shattering it into miniscule pieces during that press conference.
He is Anthony Stark, and he will change the world. Even in ways he had never thought he could.
His little war against Vanko and Hammer should have destroyed him. The arc reactor should have killed him – but then, he's never exactly been one for taking things lying down.
It takes inventing a new element, but he survives. He's Iron Man and Tony Stark – there's nothing that can bring him down.
(And he delights in shocking the world once again, because he's got dull brown wings, but he's a superhero and a genius, and possibly the only person alive who can actually make the world better.
He's everything that he shouldn't be, and he loves it.)
Pepper and he, the thing that they fall into is comfortable. He can be himself around her, and he's happy.
She's Pepper and he's Tony, and they're perfect.
(He doesn't think about the fact that in this, he's going along with the world. He's chosen someone as dull as him.
It's not like the world knows anything. Pepper shines brighter than they can ever imagine, and he's not going to let them make him break up with her. Both ways, they get what they want – at least, the way, he gets what he wants too.)
The Avengers are – different. He's not sure how he feels about working in a team, but this one might just be odd and dysfunctional enough for it to work.
There's him, with his dull brown wings, the most unexpected superhero ever. And there's Natalie-Natasha, and they tell him Clint Barton, the brainwashed agent too, who dye their wings for every mission, and tell no one what their true colours are.
Then there's Bruce, who Tony feels the closest too. His wings are as green as the Hulk, as completely altered as his genetic make-up. He knows that his wings were black and white and bright red before – he's the pictures. But Tony likes these green wings better.
The world loves them, because they're bright and beautiful. Bruce hates them for the same reason, and the way they remind him of the Other Guy, the one who chases him across the world. And Tony – Tony thinks they're perfect for the brother of his heart, because they're all of Bruce and the Hulk, perfect and flawed, striking and understated.
Thor's wings are electricity and storm clouds, perfect for the god of lightning. They're gorgeous wings, and Tony has no doubt that once the general population sees them, they will spend millions of words gushing.
But they're not the ones that strike him. No, that honour belongs to Steve Rogers, Captain America. He knows what they look like before he meets the man, of course – everyone does, they're the reason he has always been the perfect American icon. Wings in shades of red, blue and white that perfectly match the flag – the only thing that the Super Soldier Serum left untouched.
They're gorgeous, and privately, Tony thinks that it's a pity that they're attached to someone who is so infuriating.
And then he challenges him, and Tony sees red. He knows it has nothing to do with his wings – Steve just doesn't know him enough to trust him – but those words are just too reminiscent of the ones he's had to face all his life.
"Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?" Rogers asks, and Tony's mind immediately flashes to the tatters of his wings.
"Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." The words flow easily off his tongue, and that's when he realises with a shock that he's telling the truth – he is all of those things. He never realised, but a part of him has always questioned himself the way Rogers is doing. But he's everything he wanted to be and more – there's no reason he should doubt himself anymore.
Rogers continues trying to attack him, but Tony attacks back easily. The other man might be the great and mighty Captain America, but Tony's never cared about stories, not since they told him he was worthless. He's Iron Man, the superhero by necessity.
Steve Rogers may have wanted this life, but Tony was forced into it. And just Pepper, who shone in a job she had never asked for, Tony knows that that's what makes him better.
They fly. They beat Loki.
Thor disappears back to Asgard, and Natasha and Clint run off for another mission. He's left behind with Pepper, Bruce, Steve and a city that needs to be repaired.
He's in his element.
Tony has never liked being still. He lives on action, and the idea of being able to repair New York City – well, that's rather thrilling. He has a fortune, and he's perfectly capable of spending some of it on a city he loves.
But then Pepper comes to him, tears streaming down her face.
He wraps her in a tight hug. "What's wrong?" he asks, stroking her hair gently. "Pep, you can tell me. What's wrong?"
"I can't," is the only thing she says, sobbing and shaking violently, moving her head in denial. "Tony, I can't."
And even though it can mean a million things, Tony knows Pepper. He knows her just as well as she knows herself, and he knows what she means.
"It's okay," he murmurs into her hair, "It's okay. We'll still be the misfits, no matter what." Because he needs her to know – just because they aren't dating anymore doesn't mean that they aren't still friends. The two of them, they've survived Stark Industries despite their wings, because of their wings – they're so much more than just a couple.
And maybe the break-up makes him throw himself into the rebuilding of the city even more than he did before, but he refuses to think about that. He's just found some extra time on his hands, after all – and helping out more helps to fill it.
He and Steve live by an awkward truce. Neither of them wants to start something so soon after everything, but it doesn't change the fact that the two of them just don't seem to work together well.
They're not like him and Bruce. The two of them make a perfect team, the only ones who can truly understand what the other is saying. Tony would be truly surprised if there's anyone else in the world who has the smarts to match them – after all, if they were, they would already be working for SI, and Tony knows that that's definitely not the case.
But then he stumbles into the small kitchen he has set up just for the four of them to see Steve standing over a pot of coffee. And when the other man sees Tony, something a lot like shame flashes over his face.
"I'm sorry," he says after a long moment of silence.
All Tony can do is blink and wonder if he really is awake. "What for?" he finally asks.
"The things I said about you up there. You've definitely proven your worth, and I was wrong."
Tony laughs; a long, deep laugh. "I appreciate the thought, Cap," he says once he's done. "And for what it's worth, I don't hold anything against you. But I've never needed to prove myself. I know who I am, and that's all I've ever needed."
He grabs a cup of coffee and walks out, but not before he notices something that almost makes his heart stop.
Steve's got his wings flared out to their full wing-length, and the way they're moving can only mean one thing.
Steve's presenting. For him.
It's the one thing that's common throughout the world – presentation.
A person can have a million significant others, fall in love over and over again – but presenting is done only once in a person's life. It's a complex series of wing movements that are impossible to ignore, a signal to whomever it's meant for that the instigator is willing to be faithful to them for the rest of their lives.
It's the ultimate signal of love, and Tony knows so many couples, even those who are perfectly happy, who have never presented for each other. He knows he and Pepper never have.
As much as Tony fights the world, he knows that his wings make him unimportant in many eyes, most of those people who have bright plumage. He never expected to have someone present to him, and even in his most secret hopes and dreams, he never imagined it would someone with wings as beautiful as Steve.
(Tony's not an idiot. He might not know how to act around Steve Rogers, but he can see just fine. He's well aware that Steve's wings are the epitome of beauty.)
It's a shock, and it's flattering – but Tony doesn't know how he feels about the other man, and he doubts that he knows that Tony saw him present. Had he simply asked him out, Tony wouldn't have had an issue. But presenting – that's a different thing altogether.
He's not cruel. Despite his feelings about Steve, he refuses to give him hope and then crush him altogether. So he decides to wait, and maybe get to know the other man better, and then make a final decision.
"Explain it to me again."
"The arc reactor was killing me, you got that, right?"
"Of course. But where does this new thing – starkonium, you called it? Where does that fit in?"
"Really Cap, we need to get you a tutor or something. Someone who can teach you whatever they're teaching kids in school these days."
"Fine, fine. It's a new element. My father began work on it, but of course, he died before he finished creating it. Typical of him, leaving all the hard work to me. It's what the new arc reactor is made of – it doesn't poison me like the old one did. Also, please don't call it starkonium in front of Fury. As he loves to remind me, it doesn't exactly have an official name yet, but since badassium was rejected, I went ahead and dubbed it that."
"Oh, and you guys at S.H.I.E.L.D can stop listening in! Ol'Fury knows all of this just as well as I do."
Steve just laughs.
It's surprising what person can learn, just spending time with someone else. Tony knows this, but he's still surprised.
What he's always known about Steve Rogers came from his father, who adored and idolised the man. That, of course, meant that Tony twisted all of it – he's hated Steve for taking his father away from him, even though logically he knows it's all Howard's fault.
But Steve Rogers – the Steve Rogers that Tony comes to know – is nothing like the man he imagined him to be. The only thing Tony can think of when talking to him is the old war films, the ones that presented him as some sort of perfect hero.
And all he can think of was that they were right.
It's frightening, being around someone who is perfect. But it's also thrilling, because it challenges Tony to do better, to be better. And he doesn't fail to notice the fact that after the apology in the kitchen, Steve never looks down on him again, not even the first time he truly sees Tony's wings in all their broken glory.
Tony's always had his pet projects. Ideas he keeps working on even when people say they'll never work; people he keeps prodding at because they're just so withdrawn. Steve's become his latest one, and every time he finds out something about him, he realises that there's a million new things he wants to know.
Steve's a constant mystery and surprise, and that's really all someone as restless as Tony can ask for in a – lover, significant other – whatever people want to call it.
Tony thinks that he can easily come to love someone like that. Maybe even present in whatever sad way his wings can manage.
It's stupid, falling for a man like him with his bright, gorgeous wings. He's aiming so far above himself (and that's definitely a change from his old opinion) that it's not even funny. But Tony thinks he's doing it anyways.
"I saw you that day, you know."
"That one. With the coffee and your apology and your –"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not under any delusions, Steve. I know I'm not exactly perfect. Even if my wings were whole and I could still fly – and, just in case you haven't noticed, they aren't, and I can't – they aren't exactly the pinnacle of beauty. Not like you, with those wings – stop grinning, it's just an observation, not a compliment. So. Why me?"
There are a few moments of silence.
"Does there need to be a reason?"
"Of course there does! Someone with wings like your doesn't just present for someone like me without a reason."
"You intrigue me. You're interesting, more than anyone else I've ever met before, in both my lives. You – I don't know, there's just something about you. Maybe it's your wings. You're so different to what anyone in your position would be like. You don't hide away. Like you told me that day, you know who you are. Besides, I don't care about wings. I like to think we make our own destiny. That's why I presented, I'd guess, even though it wasn't exactly a conscious choice that day…Not like the one I'm making today. I don't know what your decision will be, but I choose you."
Tony's grown up on stories and beliefs and fate, all of which have told him, over and over, that he's worth nothing. He has dull brown wings so broken and tattered that he might as well be completely without them.
But he's always lived his life his own way, hurtling towards something even he didn't understand. All he's ever wanted is to be himself, even if society told him that was wrong.
Here, wrapped up in Steve's arms, exchanging soft kisses with a man he's spent most of his life hating – he thinks he knows where he's been headed all this while. He's been the best Tony Stark he knew how to be, but not the best Tony Stark he could be.
But here, in Steve's arms, he's finally Tony Stark, instead of just a part of the man who never knew he needed more.
The papers spend words upon words talking about their relationship. Black and white, they call them. A real life Cinderella story – after all, there's else they can be, considering their plumage.
The team just smile when they're informed, one by one. Pepper hugs and whispers how happy she is that he's finally found someone, and Happy and Rhodey offer to throw him a bachelor party.
Once upon a time, he built his own family without even noticing. And once again, he's managed to build an extended family without realising what was happening.
He's been Anthony Stark, owner of SI and genius and inventor, and Tony Stark, charming playboy. He's been Iron Man, defender of Earth.
But here, in the middle of these people, he's just Tony. And really, that's the best thing he could ever have asked for.
Apart from Steve, of course.
"I think I'm love with you," he blurts out.
And – surprisingly shyly for him – he spreads his tattered wings and lets them move.
A/N: A few notes. I know the Tony here is a bit different to the Tony in the movies, but this Tony is one that has had things less easier than he has in the movies - his wings mean that he hasn't been quite as loved as canon!Tony was. But I also think that canon!Tony is just as strong - for all his trigger-happy, playboy persona, he had to survive his father way before Afghanistan happened, and I think that made him an extremely strong person. So, yeah, I don't think this mature!Tony is too out of character at all.
I hope you guys liked this piece. Please don't forget to drop a review on your way out - I'd love to know what you thought! :)