After college, Tony falls off the radar. He likes to pretend it's because of being rich and interesting and busy seducing beautiful women, but--Okay, no, it is that. It's just also that Tony's dad is dead and Tony can finally stop worrying about being a horrific disappointment.
Tony knows a lot of people figure their shit out in college, but he's only seventeen when he graduates, so he's a little behind. He gets the basic concept of "something is horribly wrong with me," but for a while he thinks it's about being a genius. Then he thinks it's about being a lesbian, but maybe that's not entirely accurate? Because all the girls he's attracted to are straight.
So, yeah, he never gets a chance to tell his father. It's for the best.
But he has to tell other people, hand around the whole um, not actually a girl memo. Naturally, the first person who needs to know is Obadiah.
Tony is basically the queen of bad timing, so he chooses to tell Obadiah after the funeral. In Tony's defense, he's figured this shit out to the point of getting on hormones, and Obadiah would definitely notice the incoming beardage. While that would be hilarious, showing up to your dad's funeral and being hilarious is socially unacceptable.
So is showing up to your dad's funeral drunk. Oops.
After the—What the fuck do you call that awkward milling around after a funeral? Tony's whiskey-soaked mind is disinclined to turn up anything but "after-party," for some reason.
Tony stumbles into Obadiah, whose suit probably cost more than Tony's (weird thing to feel competitive about, but yeah. At least Tony's not wearing a dress). He catches Tony's arm.
"Whoa, think you've had enough?" he asks. He sounds sympathetic, but not in a hey-your-dad-died-and-it's-awkward way.
"Yes," Tony says. Then, "No. I need at least one more beer. Also, listen, I know this is terrific timing, but I have to tell you something."
Obadiah's hand falls on Tony's shoulder, and it's like the hand of a fucking giant. Tony feels both deeply freaked out and calmed down. "Right now?"
"Right now," Tony insists, pressing against Obadiah's side. The other funeral guests are talking in small clumps, most of them in insanely expensive suits. Nearly all of them look like they're actually sad, which makes Tony feel like he's going to pass out. Or maybe that's the alcohol. The point is, everyone's distracted, and he and Obadiah are over in one corner of the large room, away from anyone's prying eyes or sensitive ears.
"Shoot," Obadiah says, glancing back at Tony from his own sweep of the room. What would Tony do without him?
"I need," Tony says, which isn't where he meant to start. His tongue feels numb and his scalp tingles. He feels like this whole thing would be going better if Obadiah were touching him in more places. "I need to be a man. Wait, no, that's misleading."
Obadiah rubs his shoulder soothingly and waits.
"I need to be a guy," Tony tries again. It's very hot in here. "I am a guy, or I've been trying to be, and—" His voice cracks, making his point for him. It's been doing that lately.
Obadiah is a lot of things, probably most of them nasty, but he's not even close to stupid. And he's known Tony his whole damn life, probably better than Tony's dad ever did. "Uh huh," he says. "Are you sure about this, Tasha? Because you get a lot of stupid ideas into your head."
"Oh, I'm sure," Tony says. "Hormone sure. Legal name-change sure. Suits sure." His words slur and slide into each other, but he thinks Obadiah gets the point.
He does. He takes a deep breath and rubs Tony's shoulder. "Okay. I want you to know we're going to make this happen. But you need to understand the trouble it's going to cause. We might not get taken as seriously."
"You're seven feet tall," Tony grouses, fighting the urge not to squirm closer to Obadiah. "I'm pretty sure you can make everyone take us seriously."
Obadiah laughs a little too heartily. "Okay. We'll take care of it."
In Obadiah's defense, it's not like he becomes any more or less of a creep when Tony comes out. Points for that one.
Tony disappears for a while, traveling around the world while the hormones work their magic and Obadiah runs the company. There's something in the back of his head that tells him it's a stupid idea, but what are instincts for if not ignoring?
Eventually, though, he has to come home.
He's older now, and although he isn't taller, he's got an acceptable beard and thickly-veined hands and a deep enough voice. He's just finished recovering from surgery that ensures he'll never wear a fucking binder again.
Daughter of late, great Howard Stark: sex change bombshell! reads one tabloid when he's been back home for a week.
"Okay," Obadiah says, wrapping his hand around Tony's forearm and tugging him into a unoccupied conference room. "How are we going to play this?"
Tony feels, as usual, like maybe his opinion is just a formality. "I was thinking throw money at the problem until it goes away."
Obadiah smiles indulgently. "Actually, probably a good idea. A little bit of money, a little bit of ignoring the problem, and people will forget in no time."
Tony isn't so sure.
"Hey," Tony says. "Hey, so, Rhodey, I need your advice. You've got good taste, right? What kind of dick should I get?"
Rhodey, to his credit, doesn't stare at Tony wide-eyed for more than a second. "What? Come on, Tony."
Tony swivels in his chair, swinging the computer around to face Rhodey. They're just chilling out in Tony's disgustingly expensive house, Rhodey going over flight plans, Tony doing . . . well, this. "I've been looking," Tony says. "Surgery options! Not exactly state-of-the-art, but what do you think? I've got a couple of options here, some of which involve vast quantities of skin coming off other parts of my body, and I—Well, what do you think?"
Rhodey sighs. "I think you're the weirdest person I've ever got stuck with as a friend, Tony. Do you know, I thought the transgender thing was a rumor till just now?"
"Yes," Tony says, "huh, well. No. Nope. Ask any of the lovely ladies I've introduced to my strap-on. Also, I should get naked around you more."
"Whatever," Rhodey sighs. "Not like I could stop you from taking your clothes off."
Rhodey's a pretty straight-laced guy, and then there's the whole military thing, but the thing is, he's also incurably nice to Tony even when Tony doesn't deserve it. Accidentally confirming that he's trans probably doesn't even make a dent compared to blowing up Rhodey's stuff and getting him blackout drunk.
"But you know," Tony says, taking another swig from his . . . beer. Let's call it beer. "I kind of think I don't need it. Or want it. No, that's the thing, I don't even want it?"
"Yeah?" Rhodey settles back and tosses his flight plans aside, like he always does when Tony gets serious.
"And I don't talk about it!" Tony leans forward over the back of his chair, waving his bottle. He's not that drunk. "I mean I've got gorgeous women to take out and dates with Obie to keep and about thirty business meetings every day and honestly, who has time for gender bullshit?"
"Here's the thing: I like getting fucked. It's cool that we're talking about this, right?"
Rhodey looks like he's five second away from yelling, It's never cool that we're talking about your sex life!, but he just nods.
"Right," Tony says, "So, I'm kind of using what I've got. Mangina should be a word. But yeah, I like it. I enjoy having sexual escapes with it. And trust me, no dick is going to be an improvement on that vibrating silicon one I made. Got me and her off in two minutes."
"And that's supposed to be a good thing now?" Rhodey asks.
Tony throws his head back and laughs, being careful not to slosh anything out of his bottle. "Well, we were in kind of a hurry. I had a meeting to get to. I just . . . You know." Oh, whoops, actually he is pretty drunk. "It's just sometimes I want to go out there and get a dick, you know?" He tries again. "I personally think it's the whole . . . you know, not the man daddy wanted me to be, etc. etc. All that. That thing."
Rhodey shorts. "No kidding." He sounds sympathetic, though.
"When I grow up," Tony says, and he laughs. "When I grow up, I'm only going to hang out with machines."
"And me," Rhodey says, a little unhappily, but Tony knows he doesn't mean it. "That is, if you ever grow up."
The lights on the front of the computer glow orange and blue, lighting up Tony's hands. He likes his hands.
"Yup," Tony says, not really knowing what he's responding to. "Okay."
After Pepper has been elbow-deep in Tony's chest cavity, she asks him about the scars. It's a day later, and he's shirtless again, this time not operating on himself. The A/C is fritzing, probably because of something he did, so no t-shirt today.
He can feel Pepper watching him when she comes in, which is rare. Usually he's too absorbed in his machines to notice, so she must be watching him pretty intently.
"Oh," he says turning around, "hi. Don't tell me, Obie's here."
"No," Pepper says. She takes a step toward him. "I was just wondering. Yesterday, when I was—"
"Saving my life," Tony helps. He wheels his chair over to her.
She reaches out as if he's going to touch him, something so surprising he doesn't react. He thinks for a second she's going to touch the reactor plate in his chest, but no.
"Those scars," she says gently. "Where did you get them?"
Tony has done a lot to make sure he's known not as the billionaire who got a sex-change, not as Howard Stark's fuck-up kid, but as a ruthless and eccentric businessman. Still, it's a surprise that Pepper hasn't heard rumors. He finds himself not really loving the idea of telling her. But it's better than her looking at him all concerned and distracted like he had open heart surgery or something.
"Oh yeah," he says, swiveling his chair back to his workbench, "Double mastectomy."
He doesn't see her frown, but he doesn't need to. He knows she has access to way more of his resources than she should, and now that she knows what to look for, she'll turn something up.
"Are you kidding?" she asks after a second. "Because, you know, sometimes you say these things, and I just don't know—"
"One hundred percent true, cupcake."
There's a slight pause, then she says, "I'm really glad it isn't some stupid injury you got by not taking care of yourself. Mr. Stark."
She's already walking away when he turns around, but he knows she's smiling.
"So, weird question," Tony says. "Extremely weird question. But I trust you to field weird questions, because you do that on a daily basis. Your operation is military-affiliated, right? Which I assume means various disqualifying conditions apply. One of which is transsexuality."
"You're right," Nick Fury says, "that is a weird question."
"So," Tony says, "I probably shouldn't tell you I'm trans, right?"
Nick Fury glances down at the very large file in front of him. It has Tony's name on it and it's about as tall as he is. "I wouldn't, yeah."
"Great. Just checking."
Tony's suit is on the ground in as few pieces as it took to get it off him quickly, and Steve's is around his ankles in an undignified way. He kicks it off and pulls Tony against him, kissing him again.
"That was irresponsible," he says furiously. "You could have been killed. Tony, you're not listening--"
"True," Tony says breathlessly, stripping off his t-shirt. Then he remembers one little thing he has to take care of before he finally gets Steve where he wants him. "Oh, hey, forgot to mention: I'm transgender. That okay with you? Okay, great."
But Steve, damn him, has stopped. "What?" he asks.
"But it's no big deal," Tony continues, pushing against Steve. He's slightly terrified, actually. "No boobs! Besides, you like lady parts anyway, right? Or at least—I don’t know if you actually got it on, because, hey, the 40's, but—"
"No, Tony, what? I don't understand."
"Okay," Tony says, "let's try this again. I. Am. Transgender."
Steve continues looking flustered and put off, and Tony remembers, oh, the 40's.
Tony is bitter about a lot of things in his life, but the trans thing isn't one of them. Or it wasn't until five seconds ago. "Do I have to give you the 101 right now?" he asks.
Steve crosses his arms and glares at Tony. "You're being unfair. Just because I'm not up-to-date—But tell me."
Tony takes a deep breath, feeling a little vulnerable in just his boxers in the empty tower. "Okay," he says, "I was born Natasha Stark. That didn't work out for me so well, so when I finished college, I got my name changed and took hormones and got surgery, and now, well, I'm Tony Stark, slightly short superhero with a not as much of a penis as you might be looking for."
Steve raises his eyebrows.
"Also, just a sidenote," Tony babbles, "please don't freak out, because this thing, this us thing? Means a shocking amount to me."
"Tony," Steve says. He reaches out and takes Tony's hands in his. "Are you all right?"
"Um," Tony says.
Steve flushes. "I just mean it can't have been easy. And I know you're terrible at taking care of yourself."
"But you're not going to start treating me like a delicate flower of a woman?" Tony says hopefully.
Steve snorts. "I already knew you were a delicate flower. Why didn't you tell me before?"
Tony had assumed Steve would find out eventually, because the rest of the team either read the papers or heard it from someone who did. All it meant was he couldn't make "you're not a man" jokes at Bruce without getting some back. Everyone else has been pretty cool. ("Ah yes, my sibling is neither man nor woman," Thor had told him.)
"Sorry?" Tony says. "Is this a thing that's going to involve more talking, or can we cut to the so-glad-you're-alive-after-that-fight sex?"
Steve frowns, probably reminded of why he's mad at Tony. "Just because I'm from the past doesn't mean I'm stupid. There are plenty of new technologies I'm not familiar with. You're still—unfortunately—you."
"I'm going to get a personality change operation next time," Tony says happily, stepping out of his boxers.
Steve gets to his knees, looking as though he very much approves of this plan.