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Feathers of Iron, Heart of Gold

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Tony remembers the first molt he ever had; he was sitting in the living room, minding his own business while his parents were God-knows-where doing God-knows-what, and his white wings that marked his youth suddenly felt itchy. So, naturally, Tony shook and puffed out his feathers, but when he did, he felt a few lift away and fall from his wings, and he froze. It was his first molting, the moment when his true colors would be revealed and he would find out his designation. He slowly put down his mechanics book and walked as fast as he could to his bedroom, where he sat on his bed and pulled the loose feathers from his wings so he could quicken the process of seeing his first molting colors. But when he looked in the mirror, all he could see was his down; no colors yet. As he tried not to sigh in disappointment, Tony laid down in bed and closed his eyes, imagining how beautiful his wings would be after his third or fourth molting.

When he went to school the next day, he tried very hard to not tell his other teenage friends about how he was molting, but it wasn’t a rare occurrence at their age, so no one pried. He, however, noticed that his friend Rae was starting her second molt, with the very light pink feathers falling away and beginning to take a deeper, darker reddish-pink instead of the light, girlish pink that she had had for about six months. He smiled to himself. If she kept up the darkening, she would turn out Alpha for sure. Not like it would be a big surprise. Rae’s brash and brave personality was very Alpha-esque. All too often, Tony would smile to himself, thinking, hoping, praying that he would join the Alpha rank and never be looked down upon. Besides, that rank suited him better than any other.

Later down the line, Tony went through his second molt. By that time, he was a senior in high-school, and the idea of being an Alpha had firmly seated itself in his and his parents’ brains and him presenting as anything less than a Beta was deemed unacceptable. Tony’s feathers had adopted a bluish tint to them, which soon darkened into sky blue, and Tony was very much excited by the development. In his dreams, his wings were navy blue with black and white speckles on the tips, much like a kestrel’s, and they would be enormous. They would be so enormous that he would be feared and respected and listened to, as well as seen as a powerful and a strong mate, because why not? He would be able to fly faster than all the others and he would be the Alpha of the Year. He had big plans, for him and his wings. He would take the world by storm.

Little did he know, fate had a little surprise in store for the infamous Anthony Stark.

 

* * *

Tony stared into the plus-sized mirror he had hung on his plus-sized closet door in this plus-sized room, and he could not help the anxiety that was sitting on his little black heart. He had just gone through his third molt, and all he was seeing was bright, iridescent-blue feathers peaking between his the second-molt-sky-blue ones, not the darker, navy blue, matte feathers that he should be seeing, at least if he was going be an Alpha like he was supposed to. The feathers were almost the colors of peacock plumage, a mixture of blue and green and purple that was mesmerizing, even to Tony. If Tony had seen them on any other person, he would have thought they were incredibly beautiful. But, because they were attached to Tony’s shoulder blades, they terrified him. They were the mark of something much scarier that could happen to him if the biology resting deep within his body betrayed him and turned him into the one thing that would ruin his dreams, his reputation, his life. Tony tore his eyes away from the mirror, done looking at a betraying reflection.

In class, Rae and Josh, the two who had managed to get into MIT with him (what could they say? Geniuses flocked together.), couldn’t help but smirk at him when he entered the lecture hall, eyes glued on the shimmery feathers growing from Tony’s appendages, to which Tony groaned inwardly and rolled his eyes. Rae, whose feathers had finished their third and final plumage, were now dark, deep crimson with purple on the outer edges, and, as everybody’s hunch predicted, Rae presented as a full fledged, red-blooded Alpha female. She was a bit of an early presenter (most Alphas were) and she had reached full maturity at the age of 19 years old. Tony was almost 18, so he had a little time before he could truly freak out about his presentation, but the fact that he still hadn’t popped a knot (and he had had many opportunities to do so) or hadn’t had a swell in protective tendencies or uncontrollable acts of aggression had him fairly concerned. But there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it. All he could do was sit and wait, which for him was incredibly endearing.

Seeing Tony’s furrowed brow and “I’m thinking about deep shit” expression, Rae gently pulled a fistful of feathers to get Tony’s attention. “Hey, Tony, you alive up there?”

Tony slowly turned his head. “Yeah, yeah, quit pulling.” His sensitive feathers were also something that loomed in the back of his head. Alphas didn’t really have hypersensitive wings. Rae sure as hell didn’t. You could drive a tack in there and she wouldn’t feel it. But Tony’s wings had always been a little more receptive to touch.

Rae smirked. “Why? They’re really soft and pretty. I wish I had wings this beautiful.”

Did Tony really just hear a bit of envy in her tone? No way. “Well, yeah, I just hope they don’t stay this way. They’re a tad too shimmery for my tastes.”

Josh chuckled. “At least yours are interesting,” he said, shaking his own auburn, Beta wings and sighing. “Mine are boring as fuck.” Just as Tony was about to laugh, Josh spoke again. “How am I supposed to get bitches with boring-as-fuck wings? Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

“I really don’t think you know how to use any of those words,” Rae said, rubbing her forehead with a hand. “For a mathematical genius, you’re pretty slow on the uptake.”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Josh replied. Tony groaned.

“Thank God I’m the only thing everybody’s looking at,” Rae whispered under her breath. Tony laughed with her while Josh just gave them annoyed glares.

“Fuck you guys.” Josh’s lips began to pout. Rae immediately stopped laughing and turned to face Josh, who was clearly upset. She wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and held it there, a well-known way to calm an emotional Beta or Omega, and Josh relaxed. Rae pulled away and stroked her hand through his primaries. When he smiled a little at her, she smiled back.

“I’m sorry, Josh. We just got a little carried away. I should know that I shouldn’t tease you this early in the morning,” she cooed at him. Josh purred back as a sign of acceptation, to which Rae replied with a lower purr of her own. Not that Tony was paying attention to them or anything. Nope, he was paying complete and utter attention to whatever Mr. Collins was saying about the history of robotics.

* *

Well, it finally fucking happened. His fourth molt, his final show, his last breath on the face of this earth. As Tony brushed away the last of the small sky blue feathers and the peacock colored feathers, he was terrified of what he might find in the mirror. Not that that wasn’t a new feeling anymore. He hadn’t spoken to his mother or father in weeks, but he knew that they would want to know what colors their Alpha son was flaunting to all the young Betas and Omegas. Sadly, that Alpha son didn’t exist. As Tony lifted his wings up into the view of the full length mirror, all he could see was the reflection of greens, blues, and purples that shimmered in the morning sun. The appendages were sleek, slim, made for speed instead of stamina, for soaring instead of flapping, for gliding around instead of long flights. They were for running away. They were the wings of an Omega.

Tony had no idea about what he would tell his parents, the media, the world. He wasn’t an Alpha, he wasn’t a Beta, he was an Omega. A childbearing, house-cleaning, made-only-for-breeding Omega. Feeling the tears sting his eyes, Tony punched into the wall. Soon, he would be dealing with his first heat, and then having to go through the torture of telling his parents, then finding a “suitable” mate that would breed him for the rest of his life. He would have to go to the Omega Graduate College, where Omegas learn to cook, clean, sew, and care for children. He would have to give up his life as an engineer. He would have to find a mate to take care of him. Tony Stark would have a master, a controller, a person who kept him as a pet. He would lose his freedom.

Yet, as Tony looked at himself in the mirror, at the sleek feathers, his shorter stature, his slightly wider hips, a little idea came into his head, and Tony made a very important decision: he would not be put in a box. He would not be taken away from everything he worked so hard for his entire life. He would not be defined because of his gender. He refused to have a collar put on him. He would not ever be told what he could not do. He, Anthony Edward Stark, would be an Alpha, no matter what it took.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

* *

After taking a few moments to watch the sunrise from his workshop, Tony took a moment to appreciate the little things in life, like sunrises, coffee, robotics, the existence of wing dye and suppressants. Like he said, the little things. However, the little things ran out far too quickly. The sunrise ends, the coffee’s drunk, the robots malfunction, the physician must again be bothered for the dye and suppressants that keep Tony Stark being Tony Stark. All in a day’s work. And bonus points if you’re a multi-billionaire, because you can get/do whatever the fuck you want and no one will have the balls to question you. It’s just getting out of the things you don’t want that’s the difficult part.

* * *

When Tony offered his home to the Avengers Initiative, he admittedly did not think about how much of an impact on his life it would have. It was almost like having a family full of babies. Albeit babies that were trained assassins, gods, mutants, and super-soldiers, but babies nonetheless.

To this day, Tony still cringes at the amount of coffeemakers that it took to teach Clint how to make a proper cup of joe, how many doors that have been taken from their hinges in Thor’s rages, how many glasses Bucky has accidentally broken and the few walls he punched with his metal arm, the amount of pots and pans that Bruce has dropped in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep, (which, thankfully, is not that often) and wakes up Tony, who’s barely asleep anyway. All of this not to mention the amount of knives and guns Natasha goes through in one mission, and, of course, the sheer amount of punching bags that Steve can go through when something is bothering him. Currently, the record is thirty-six after he found out Bucky was still alive.

And it’s not like any of those things matter to Tony, he just doesn’t like how it brings out the maternal instinct in him to be comforting and helpful or reprimanding and a mother hen. And Alpha Tony shouldn’t be behaving like a mother hen… Even if the mother-hening was still pretty Alpha-like.

He fussed over making Clint use the coffeemaker correctly because “a grown-ass man should now how to make his own coffee.”

He would give Thor a strict “talking to” about how he should “learn to control that damn temper that is destroying my house. Do you want a therapist?”

He would constantly remind Bucky “not to leave glasses on the floor so you or anyone else could step on them and get glass in their feet and get infections and diseases that no one wants to have,” and then proceed to give the same lecture he gives to Thor. “Learn to control that fucking temper! Do I actually need to call a therapist so that I don’t come home to a pile of rubble next time you two get pissed off at each other?”

Bruce could go two ways: Either Tony tip-toeing down the stairs to help Bruce with the homemade chocolate chip cookies, or quietly stomping down the stairs and staring Bruce down from the hallway, telling him to “Shut the hell up. I’m attempting to fall asleep!”

After Natasha used all twenty-eight of the special-made knives and bullets Tony had given to her, he couldn’t really be mad at her, but he could still be mad at the situation. “Goddamnit, I don’t think I have anymore titanium to recreate those knives, neither anymore coating to recreate those bullets or any of the cobalt needed for the molding and… Jarvis! We NEED to restock. This is getting fucking ridiculous.”

And, of course, the times he would walk in on Steve down in the gym after a tough briefing, a pile of six or so punching bags next to the blue-eyed super-soldier, Tony would sigh and walk out muttering to himself “This is insane. Okay, that’s it, I’m officially living in an insane asylum. I am going upstairs right now and calling a therapist and an anger management expert… and possibly a new manager for energy core of SI, ‘cause the new guys rubs me the wrong way.”

And no one ever questioned him, but only because he was the owner of the building and his kestrel-colored wings spoke the language of “no bullshit.” Tony held them high and mighty, even if they were a little small to be an Alpha’s, the team had noticed, but Tony was slightly smaller anyway, so maybe it was just proportions.

But for Tony, he was in a very weird place. He was the lowest rank pretending to be the highest, and it felt even weirder because almost all of his teammates were Alphas. Alphas with beautiful, colorful, striking wings that made Tony a little bit tingly whenever they were being flashed and the Alphas would playfully, or even not playfully once in a while, like when Thor accidentally ate all of Bruce’s cookies without asking anyone else first, challenge each other. The wings would flare up and feathers would puff out, sending whirls of Alpha pheromones in every direction, and, inevitably, towards Tony’s nose, to which he would tense up and inevitably excuse himself from the room. That was the one place where Alpha Tony fell outside the norm, but the hidden Omega Tony was the most stereotypical.

Alphas took a weird sort of pride in challenging each other, whether or not the challenge was accepted, and Omegas just kind of skirted around the edges, their biological minds prepared to care for Alphas who would end up pushing themselves too far. This characteristic fit Tony to a “t.” He would always end up leaving the room, his mood determining how long he would stay and watch, and when the “fights” were over, he would conveniently come strolling back into the room, eyes either glued to a Starkpad or a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, and find a chair and sit, sometimes legs crossed, and tinker with ideas until there was something else to do. To be honest, there always was, but the owner of Stark Industries was allowed a break from fighting extraordinary villains and running a multi-trillion dollar company. Being Tony Stark had its perks.

* * *

Today, after he watched the sunrise, Tony pulled himself and his wings out of the chair and stretched, feeling the creaks in his bones after a restless night. As much as he wanted to stay here, in his sacred space, he had to get some from of sustenance into his body if he was to keep on living. Sure, he could eat that weird green stuff that Dum-e was pushing toward him, but Steve’s cooking wasn’t half bad, and Bruce actually made half-decent pancakes, so Tony found it appropriate to drag himself all the way. Up. The. Stairs.

In the kitchen, Tony was greeted by Clint and Natasha, Natasha making oatmeal with Clint making coffee. Tony almost said something when he saw Clint fiddling with the settings, but hey, in the end, he had done what he could. Honestly, he shouldn’t even care. He could always replace it. He cleared his throat to make his presence known, and, in response, two sets of wings flew up in surprise. Natasha’s jean-blue and red-tipped wings snapped up almost immediately, but Clint’s dusty-blue-gray-green wings lifted slowly. Tony could clearly tell who had been awake longer after that display.

He gave a barely-there smile and said a rough good-morning to the duo. Clint raised his mug, momentarily unable to make actual words, but Natasha sent an actual smile his way and actually spoke a clear “good morning.” Tony shoved Clint out of the way of the coffeemaker and made his cup hot and black, just how he liked it. Afterwards, he parked himself on the recliner that faced the balcony and stared out into the city that he called his own, at the people flying past his window, men, women, and children, Alphas, Betas, and Omegas alike. Tony sighed.

Minutes later, he heard other people enter the room, his sense of smell telling him of an Alpha who smelled of mead and the woods after a rain, a second Alpha who smelled of earth and old leather with a hint of citrus, and a third Alpha who smelled of oiled machinery and burning pine wood. So basically the whole team was now occupying the kitchen, minus Bruce. Snickering to himself, Tony listened as people shoved past each other to get their desired food items, making small talk about the weather and workout routines and what kind of jam he or she wanted from the fridge. Tony made a note to purchase some more blueberry jam when he had a chance.

He heard the others fill in the open space after they had found their breakfast, and he made a point to stand up and stretch his wings so everyone knew he was at the scene. He turned his head, seeing and hearing rough greetings from his team members. He saw Thor and his great golden wings sitting on a bar stool at the counter, talking to Natasha and Clint. Steve and Bucky were pre-occupied with each other on the couch, Bucky’s teal-green, blue-speckled wings intertwining with Steve’s gold-tipped, white wings. Tony inwardly swooned, looking at the amount of beautiful, Alpha wings that filled the room, the easy-going and lazy pheromones that filled the space, and the Omega part of Tony’s brain purred in contentment at the fact that he had so many Alphas in his nest, that he was able to keep them here, that they liked it here.

Tony shook his wings and put his coffee cup in the sink, but Clint caught his arm.

“Is that all you’re gonna have?” he asked with a concerned tone. Tony just smiled down at the good-hearted Beta.

“Yes, you worry wart. Don’t you ever underestimate a good cup of black coffee,” Tony said with a smirk.

Clint raised his eyebrows. “Well, okay. Whatever you say, big man.”

“You’re damn right,” Tony said, loud enough for the whole room to hear him. He internally laughed when Steve’s and Bucky’s heads lifted up and widened their, eyes, shocked by the loud noise. What he didn’t laugh at was when Steve began to stretch his enormous, beautiful, attention-stealing wings. They went up, up, up, until they almost hit the ceiling. After Tony stopped himself from gawking, he took a moment to realize that his ceilings were thirteen feet tall, and that Steve Rogers’ fucking wings were two inches shy of touching the thirteen fucking feet tall ceiling. And if that wasn’t weirdly exciting, then nothing was.

And, as nonchalantly as he could, Tony exited the room, discreetly avoiding walking right past Steve and his amazing self. Tony jumped from the landing balcony off the side of the kitchen room and swiftly flew to his private rooms. He needed a moment. A long one.