The Topmodel AU I hadn’t realised I need
Kicking this AU Weekend (more infos here) off early because I’ll go on a trip later today and won’t be back until Saturday evening, so most of my posts will have to wait until Sunday&Monday (yes, I’m counting Easter Monday as part of the weekend, sue me). So let’s just talk about my Topmodel!AU headcanon for a sec, shall we?
Not gonna lie, I came up with this ten minutes ago, so expect lots of incoherent rambling.
Alright, so. Tony is nineteen, just finished his master degree and determined to piss his father off as much as possible–a dangerous combination that ends with him signing up for the next topmodel casting instead of starting to work for SI like Howard wants. He didn’t really expect to make it through, he’s too short to be a model, damn it, and he really doesn’t appreciate Rhodey howling with laughter. But his father’s expression when he learns of it is so worth it.
And well, Tony is good with cameras, alright? He’s confident, knows how to put on a show, and suddenly those abilities aren’t just a necessity, they’re actually really helpful. He moves into a house with the other models (though having to give up his phone and being cut off from the internet is hell, seriously, how do regular people survive this?).
He makes friends with some of the other models, a pretty redhead named Pepper who walks in heels like she was born to be on the catwalk, the sharp-tongued Maria who doesn’t appear to be interested by anything–she doesn’t even blink when they get to shoot a short clip with famous actor Steve Rogers, Tony is convinced she’s secretly a cyborg–and Clint who, by virtue of being the only boy, immediately becomes Tony’s new best friend.
The judges can be harsh in their critic, but their trainer Bruce is an absolute sweetheart. Also the first time Natasha Romanov compliments Tony on the expressiveness in his photo shot is a world-altering experience.
Sometimes being locked into a house with so many people can be a bit much though. That’s when Tony sneaks into the kitchen at two AM, just to get some time for himself. Which is how he meets Bucky. Well, he doesn’t meet him that way, Bucky is a camera man on the crew after all, and he’s always around. But sharing a sandwich in the middle of the night is a different kind of knowing, okay?
There’s also the fact that Tony may or may not have a tiny little crush on the guy–Bucky is attractive and witty and has this super secret ability of stalking them all day with a camera and not making it weird, and also his abs, really, Tony’s never had a chance. So. There may be a bit of flirting involved in their midnight meets.
Which is not a problem, Tony flirts with everyone, it’s his thing. His bisexuality isn’t a secret either, in fact the fans are shipping ‘Clony’ very insistently. And though that’s just a terrible ship name–Tony tells the interviewer as much–he and Clint do like to play it up a little, just for fun. The problem is, Bucky isn’t shy about flirting back, and as it turns out, that’s something Tony’s brilliant brain can’t handle.
What also turns into a bit of a problem is that Tony isn’t exactly subtle, no matter how hard he tries to hide his crush. There’s a lot of blushing and stuttering involved for one, and that’s just plain awkward. Tony doesn’t blush, alright, especially not when someone calls him cute. He’s not cute. He’s hot. He’s handsome. But not cute. And the way Bucky smiles and nods at him indulgently isn’t fair at all.
Then, there’s the week eight incident. The sexy shoot. Yeah. Let’s just not talk about that. [Everyone is talking about it. Clint and Pepper refuse to shut up about it. And Tony knows he did well, that his photo was the best of that week, but it’s still embarrassing because he knows he was throwing that smoldering look straight at Bucky–and who had placed him behind their photographer, damn it–and it’s just weird.]
Maria leaves them at the end of week nine and Tony resolutely refuses to cry. It’s part of the show, he’s known that from the start, and it’s not like he’ll never see her again. Which is what he very insistently tells Bucky who just as insistently convinces Tony to drink the hot comfort chocolate he’s smuggled in from Starbucks.
“I can’t do this,” Tony tells him, stares sadly into his half-empty cup. “I’m not supposed to be a model, I can’t be a model, what am I even doing here?”
“Tony,“ Bucky interrupts the beginnings of his panic attack, voice serious. “I’ve seen you out there, you love being a model. You love being on that stage, you own it. Look, take it from someone who’s been filming at this show for three seasons, you’ve got talent. You’re improving every week. And it’s true that that’s not the only thing it takes, model business is tough. Not everyone can handle that, but I don’t have any doubts that you could.”
“You think so?” Tony asks and hates how hopeful he sounds. Because this was supposed to be joke, a way to annoy his father, he wasn’t supposed to care about this.
“I do,” Bucky nods, then smirks. “You’ve got the ‘bitch please’ attitude down already too.” To which Tony sniffs derisively. Somehow the night ends with both of them laughing, and when Tony returns to his room, Clint sends him a knowing look.
“You know what.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you really do.”
“Love you too.”
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” Rhodey asks two minutes after his arrival. Tony is too overwhelmed by his surprise visit to even bother denying it.
“Oh, Tony,” Rhodey sighs, pulls him into a hug, and Tony melts. He’s missed this, missed it so much. Clint is a great guy, but he refuses to cuddle Tony the way Rhodey does. To be fair, nobody cuddles Tony like Rhodey does but that shouldn’t stop his friends from trying. “Now, tell me about that almost-porno-photo shooting I keep hearing so much about.”
Tony squeaks in mortification.
Clint leaves them at the end of that week, and this time Tony does cry. He’d deny it but the bastard took pictures. Actually, who are we kidding, he still denies it.
Paradoxically, with the house becoming more and more empty, Tony ends up spending more and more time with Bucky. It felt crowded and overwhelming in the beginning, but now the silence is bothering him. He’s already dreading going back to his tiny little flat or worse, his parents’ mansion.
By now Tony’s crush on Bucky is common knowledge, basically. Pepper keeps making not at all subtle comments, the rest of the filming crew constantly hang around in hopes of catching the first kiss, there are jokes and knowing smirks–and Tony is getting sick of it all.
He gets it, alright? Bucky has shown no interest in him–isn’t even allowed to have interest in him–and really the man can’t be that obvious. Clearly is kindly sparing Tony the embarrassment of being rejected in front of an audience. Tony appreciates that. And he’s trying hard not to make things awkward, but he can’t help his feelings, so if everyone else could just cut it out, he’d really appreciate it.
In the end, Tony makes it into the top five. He’s got talent, Natasha and Fury of all people assure him off that, but he’s also had a bad week and his picture just wasn’t as good as those of the other participants. So, Tony packs his bags, says goodbye to everyone, resists the urge to kiss Bucky just for the fuck of it, and flies back home. He doesn’t cry. He’s too numb.
Not until he’s in the privacy of his own home at least, where the stress, the excitement, the weight of those last few incredible weeks finally catches up with him. It seems like such a waste suddenly, such an embarrassment, and god, he’s a failure, he’s never going to leave his apartment ever again.
He does. Rhodey makes sure of it. Makes sure to remind him that this is not in fact the end of the world because Rhodey is sadly a very rational person who’s far too used to Tony’s dramatics.
“You’re not gonna give up on something you want, Tony,” Rhodey tells him one night. “It’s not your style.”
He turns out to be right.
Tony doesn’t want to work for SI, not right now at least. Because he genuinely liked modelling, and he doesn’t- he wants to give this a shot. He’s young, he’s got lots of time to argue with boring, old board members later. He starts looking for shootings instead, takes a job here and there. Looks up a couple of offers he gets because of his surprising popularity on the show too. (He honestly didn’t expect so many people to follow him on Instagram, what the hell?)
By the time the live finals roll around, Tony is excited again. Excited to see the other models one last time, excited to walk on that stage one last time, just excited. There are a lot of hugs and tears at their reunion, lots of things to catch up on.
When Tony walks down the catwalk on the night of the finals, with all the other models who’ve been part of the show, he wears a beautiful, glittering, evening gown, murderously high heels and the worlds most brilliant smile–because Tony Stark never does things half-way. (Tony Stark never passes up an opportunity to give Howard an aneurysm.)
He asks Bucky out that night. Bucky gapes at him, blurts out, “Don’t you already have a boyfriend? That Rhodey guy?”, causes everyone in their vincity to groan in annoyance and disbelief.
“Seriously?” Pepper glares–and wow, that’s a terrifying sight. “I’ve watched the two of you pining after each other for three months, if you don’t kiss and make up right now I’m gonna stab you with my heels!”
And that is the story of how Clint got to twitter a picture of Tony’s and Bucky’s first kiss, hashtagged #IdbeheartbrokenifIdidntshipit #Sorryclonyfans.