A couple of months ago, I was nattering on about various amazing Tony/Steve stories, as you do, and Noah asked me to write about it a bit, as he does. I demurred, being busy with something-or-other, but, in the fullness of time, he asked me again, and this time, I caved.
So. What’s so interesting about a couple of characters from a movie over two years old?
Especially since it includes a guy who wears tights and another guy who wears iron pants? (OK, before anyone says, yes, they’re actually titanium-gold alloy pants, thank you, yes I know. Ahem.)
As of today, there’s over nine thousand fanworks with the pairing Steve Rogers and Tony Stark on the A03 (the most popular fic archive). Not nine thousand stories that include Steve (twenty-nine thousand stories) and Tony (thirty thousand stories) as characters, but nine thousand stories that pair them together.
So what’s the appeal?
For me, the appeal is mostly Tony Stark.
In Iron Man 1, Tony’s kind of a womanizing, warmongering drunk. (What? He totally is.)
It’s also clear that Tony was raised by wolves (if wolves were bitter, distant alcoholics who felt threatened by their kid’s achievements). And no, being raised by lousy parents isn’t an excuse for growing up to be an asshole.
But here’s the interesting thing about Tony.
In Iron Man 1, you see Tony make his obnoxious and loud weapons presentation to a bunch of generals and war secretaries. When he rides back to the camp, he rides with the soldiers. Tony’s far more friendly to the soldiers. He jokes with them, tries to get them to laugh, and while he’s brash and obnoxious, he’s actually paying more attention to them than he did to the bigwigs.
And then Tony watches his own weapons kill them.
What I find interesting about the character of Tony is that he makes mistakes. Often. Loudly. Fatally.
Tony generally spends his movies fixing mistakes (his own or other people’s).
When he’s dying, he doesn’t run around trying to arrange for the betterment of mankind (well, actually, he does, yes, but he doesn’t just focus on making the world better). He gets shitfaced drunk. That’s, well, kind of human, isn’t it?
Then, when he wakes up, he drags his sorry, sick, hungover ass to get donuts.
It’s good to have stories about people who do right, but it’s also good to have to stories about what happens when we fuck up and have to find a way out through the ashes of our accidentally destroyed life. Life is complicated, life is messy, and I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching someone who has the guts to look at their life’s work and say, ‘Oh shit, all of this was a huge fucking mistake.’
There is more to Tony’s character than that, of course.
I’ll let you in on a secret.
The real reason I like him is that Tony Stark reminds me of the girls I hung out with in middle school. There’s the unkempt hair, the ratty band tee shirts mixed with high fashion, the too-loud music, the driving like a bat out of hell.
It’s that Tony Stark’s still talking to his imaginary friends.
DUM-E might as well be a woodland animal instead of an arm on wheels.
The trappings are science-y, but the core story is about a poorly socialized introverted weirdo who wears a flashy, sexy, extroverted mask. More than anything else, Tony is a maker. A creative person who literally builds life, who talks to his imaginary friends, who refuses to be the person everyone else wants him to be, who throws himself into building and fixing and creating.
OK, so that’s a pretty good reason to like the character, sure.
But why fanfic, and why pair Tony with Steve?
Because I want Tony to have a happy ending, and in the movies, his human friends spend time with him because they’re paid. Someone should want to be with Tony because they like him as a person, not just for what he can do for them (whether it’s money or inventing).
The general appeal of Steve is that he’s a genuinely good guy. He became a superhero by being good. His power is the power of loyalty and gentle friendship, of affection and teamwork and hope.
So, here’s the fun part. I’ve created a list of some of my favorite stories, with links. This is an enormous fandom, and there’s a little something for everyone. I’ve included a helpful glossary at the bottom of words that may be unfamiliar.
The Act of Creation Will Be Your Salvation byscifigrl47 “When Tony Stark was seventeen years old, he built his first AI. On that day, he ceased to be his father’s creation, and became a creating force in his own right.” My favorite version of this story is the podfic read by reena-jenkins.
Idea stories. You know, old-fashioned ‘what if?’ stories:
The Twice-Told Tale by arysteia (very clever story)
The Last Love Song of Anthony E. Stark by jibrailis (Tony begins to lose his memory)
Ironsides by copperbadge (always-female Tony)
Living In The Future by Closer (18 year old boy-genius Tony defrosts Steve)
When I Think (Oh, it Terrifies Me) by celli (Look, some mornings you wake up and little green men are invading New York City; some mornings you wake up and you can hear Captain America’s voice in your head. Tony has been an Avenger long enough that he saves his freakout for important things.)
Kapitan Amerika and the Iron Man by Amberdreams, Jay Tryfanstone (tryfanstone) (The Red Son reboot, in which Steve Rogers’ childhood heroes were aviators and polar explorers, and Tony Stark grew up reading Captain America comics in Siberia.)
DUM-E and Jarvis centric stories Often from the ‘bots own perspective
The Butterfingers G. D. I. Stark Guide to Problem Solving by Epiphanyx7 (not a Steve/Tony fic per se, but I don’t care–it’s still damn great)
Stories about gender or sex
You’re Not Stubborn (Just Impossible) by Wordsplat (I always start with the second chapter, omega-verse highschool AU)
Given the size of this fandom, there’s a little something for everyone, as well as some truly inventive crazy-wild stories.
There’s also certain sub-categories that are particularly popular. Stories about the Avengers all moving into Tony’s tower, Tony getting turned into a cat, and Steve taking a stand against modern homophobia ( the reason you ruminate the shadowy past by Mizzy).
I’d rec some fan-art, too, but most of that is on tumblr, and I’m too old to play well with tumblr.
I’m happy to custom-rec stories, discuss themes or favorites, answer questions, etc. I also have a bunch of favorite podfics, should anyone have a burning desire to listen to Tony/Steve stories on audio.
Some useful terms, if you decide to go looking for some fic:
AU: Fan shorthand for alternate universe. This is not used in the X-Men or Marvel parallel universe sense, but in the story sense. You take the same characters but pop them in a different situation. There are certain classic AU tropes: high school, coffeeshop, race track, in space, are werewolves, etc.
BDSM verse: a fandom AU where the world publicly incorporates certain BDSM tropes, such as Dominants and Submissives. Sometimes these stories are wank fodder, and sometimes these stories are complex explorations of sexuality, gender, power, and societal norms.
Omegaverse or A/B/O: a world where humans have alternate sexes. Alphas (dominants; males can often knot), betas (moderate, usually like our standard males and females), and omegas (usually submissive, males can get pregnant, often go into heat). This particular trope has been around at least a decade, but has become more popular recently.
Stony: a fandom nickname name for the ‘ship (relationship)
MCU: Marvel Cinematic Universe
Superhusbands: another fandom nickname of the ‘ship, usually focusing on the happily ever after marriage part of the story, often involving kids.
Canon: the story as told by the official version.
Fanon/fannon: a kind of generally agreed upon version of the story. Back in the day, it was fannon that Draco Malfoy wore leather trousers. In MCU fannon, it is generally agreed upon that the Avengers all move into Stark Tower, where they congregate for movie night to catch Steve up on popular culture.
Podfic: a combination of fanfic and podcast. Podfics are audio recordings of fanfiction. There are also some genuine weekly podcasts in various fandoms.
Vids/Fanvids: These are fanworks made from video clips, combined, re-edited, and so on to create a new story.
A03: Archive of Our Own. A fan-run fanworks archive. A03 is my favorite archive, and the main host for good Steve/Tony fics. Years ago, Fanfic.net randomly and with no warning deleted a whole bunch of m/m fanfic, resulting in much ire. A03, while sometimes slow to load and with a bit of a clunky interface, was created for the sole purpose of being a true long-lasting archive. As with any organization, it’s not perfect, but it does well enough.