Tony Stark stared at his drink, only barely resisting the urge to smash it against the wall. It wouldn't solve anything. Tony was pretty sure it wouldn't even give him momentary satisfaction. But the urge to destroy, especially destroying something that he owned, was nearly overwhelming.
He didn't throw the scotch, nor did he retch up the empty remains of his stomach. He'd already gotten one tongue-lashing from Captain America today, and he didn't need to call Steve's attention to his faults again. Besides, throwing the glass against the wall would be wasting perfectly good alcohol, and Tony wasn't too sure he'd hit it properly with the remains of the concussion still battering at his skull.
Getting rip-roaring drunk despite his concussion would be a decent alternative to not throwing the glass. It would also net him another Cap lecture, but he would be too drunk to care about what Steve thought of him. It's not like Steve could really think less of him right now. If he was going to be a fuck up and a failure, might as well go all the way.
Tony threw back the scotch like a shot, relishing the burn as it scorched his throat. Not his good scotch, but the cheap stuff. The kind that wouldn't go down easy, because he didn't deserve easy right now. He could feel how quickly it was hitting his blood stream on an empty stomach, and he poured another drink. With luck, he'd soon be too drunk to care.
He wasn't nearly drunk enough yet to be hallucinating bright flashes of light, however. That put a kink in his plans. "JARVIS!" he called out, shielding his eyes as he ducked down. "Launch the-"
"I come in peace," an extremely familiar sarcastic voice said. Tony knew that voice intimately - he'd seen enough videos of himself to barely even notice the distortion from hearing it outside his own mouth.
He peeked out from under the table and blinked at what he saw with his now cleared vision. This was the sort of thing that happened after half a bottle, not one glass. Seriously, he was no where near drunk enough to be hallucinating himself in a suit of unfamiliar - yet also unmistakable - Iron Man armor. The other him had the face plate up and was staring mournfully down at an empty martini glass clutched daintily between the armor's jointed fingers. "They said the alcohol wouldn't survive the trip," the other him said sorrowfully. "But I really did hope. You wouldn't happen to be willing to share some high quality vodka, would you?"
"JARVIS!" Tony shouted.
"Suit incoming, Sir," JARVIS replied.
"Ah, you have an AI JARVIS too," the other him said with a fond smile appearing on his face. "Nothing beats the original though. Hello, JARVIS."
JARVIS didn't respond, instead wrapping the suit around Tony after it appeared down the hall. "Alert the other Avengers," Tony said as the face plate snapped down. He brought up his arm, the repulsor whining to life. "Who are you?"
"I should think that was obvious. JARVIS helps control the suit?" his reflection asked, eying Tony's armor curiously. Now that Tony was looking, he was able to spot the differences. Whoever the hell this was, he wasn't a perfect clone. His hair was floppier, face more gaunt. His skin had a light pallor Tony associated with some of the kids he occasionally visited in the hospital, of someone who had been sick for a long time. The armor was definitely different, with more sharp angles than Tony preferred in his designs.
"I did say I come in peace," his doppelganger said, seemingly unconcerned.
"Tony, what-" Steve said as he rushed in, in uniform (probably just back from training, Tony thought, mentally reviewing Steve's schedule in his head) and shield raised. He looked at the real Tony, who had the face plate down, then at the doppelganger who was without helmet, automatically moving to the doppelganger's side. "Is something wrong with the armor?" he asked doppelganger, eying the empty martini glass with disapproval.
Tony felt a little betrayed, especially since Steve was obviously noting the differences. He supposed that was what he got for keeping the face plate down when there were two of them. Honestly, the armor goes on a blitz one time, and everyone assumes the armor is empty now. He'd fixed that glitch! "Cap, get away from him!" Tony said, flipping his face plate up so Steve could see he was actually inside.
Steve jumped back, his shield coming up to the right intruder now. He looked between the two of them, then narrowed his eyes at the doppelganger. The other Tony waved. "Who are you?"
"Such hostility," the doppelganger said with a sigh. "All I did was ask for a drink. You're not one of me that's gone sober, are you?"
The other Tony shuddered, a motion that oddly transferred through the armor. Then he looked down at the bottle on the table that Tony had been drinking from. "Ah, good. Apparently not. Scotch? Unless things are very different here, not the high end kind either. I only drink cheaply when I want it to burn."
His eyes - blue eyes, Tony realized with a start, looked surprisingly full of sympathy. "I suppose it's an understatement to say you've had a bad day?"
Tony felt his own eyes widen as he stared back, anger boiling up. "How do you... Who the hell are you?" Tony snapped.
"Sorry, I'm not used to actually having to introduce myself. It's quite a novel experience," the other Tony said with another little wave. Then he switched his martini glass over and offered his right hand out as if to shake. "I've always wanted to meet myself. Hello! I'm you."
Tony didn't lower his arm, repulsor still glowing threateningly. The doppelganger lowered his hand, looking imploringly at Steve.
"Time travel?" Steve asked, looking a little lost.
"I suppose that's technically possible," the doppelganger said, looking around. "But if this is the past, I've never been here before, and if this were the future, you'd remember me doing it, so probably not. And... Well. Fuck me. Brown eyes. I wasn't expecting that." The doppelganger was now peering at Tony thoughtfully, coming in closer despite the weapons trained on him.
"What were you expecting then?" Tony asked, a little taken aback.
"Alcohol of some sort. A vodka martini, specifically, though I'll make do with scotch if need be. Being sober isn't something I make a habit of, old boy," the other Tony said. Then he sighed, setting down the empty martini glass, holding his hands up with the repulsors powered down. "I surrender. Take me to your leader."
"What's the emergency?" Clint panted, out of breath as he ran into the room. In retrospect, Tony should have been more specific when he said to sound the alarm, but this was epic levels of weird so he couldn't be blamed for not being on top of things. "I heard that... What the fuck? No, what the actual fuck? Why are there two Tony Starks?"
The doppelganger smiled and waved again. "Hello, Clint. Glad you could join us."
"Fuck my life," Clint said. "No. I can't handle two of them. You deal with this, Cap."
"Hawkeye," Steve said warningly.
"Can I mention again I come in peace?" the other Tony said. "I'm Tony Stark from another dimension. I'm on the Ultimates, just like all of you are, but with a few differences."
"What are the Ultimates?" Clint asked.
For the first time, the doppelganger looked nonplussed. He waved at all of them. "You're not called the Ultimates?"
"Avengers," Tony said, resisting the urge to repulsor his other self into submission and let the spies take him in for questioning.
"Fury's special ops?" the other Tony said bafflingly. When none of them responded, he looked thoughtful. "No, I can't imagine Fury having any version of me on his special ops unit. How peculiar. Either way, just because I'm from another dimension doesn't mean I'm here to take over the world."
"Wouldn't be the strangest thing that's happened to us," Natasha said.
The other Tony spun at the sound of her voice, his eyes widening, and Tony knew that look. That was the look Tony had upon seeing nightmares, gasping in the middle of the night as he looked in the mirror and fought off the sensation of drowning. The look was gone seconds later and replaced by a cold stare Tony was completely unfamiliar with. Tony had seen himself angry before, but this was something different, something more frightening. For the first time, the doppelganger raised his hands in defense, a repulsor whining to life. "Natasha," the other Tony said, his voice cold. "Fancy seeing you here alive."
Tony could see his team moving, planning to take the blue-eyed doppelganger down. He was all too familiar with what would happen to them if they attacked while the other Tony was in this state though. Only Cap was armed, and the other Tony wasn't in a frame of mind to hold back. He calculated the possibilities, searching for a way to end this quickly. Sadly, the only one that was plausible was the one that meant taking this doppelganger at his word. Either that or throwing them both out the windows, and Tony wasn't keen to break the Tower again. He thought back to the hastily covered look the doppelganger had had, and made his decision.
"JARVIS, open the suit," Tony said quietly.
"Sir, that's an unwise course of action at this-"
"Open it," Tony ordered, watching as the suit gave way. He stepped out of it, walking towards his double with his hands in the air.
"Tony, what are you doing?" Steve demanded. "Get back in the suit!"
Tony ignored him, staring into a pair of steely blue eyes. "It's okay," Tony said, walking forward calmly. "Natasha's on our side."
"The bitch makes you think that," the other Tony spat. He didn't lower his arm. "Tell me, comrade, are you after Stark bank accounts here as well, or haven't you found any children to murder?"
"I don't have an interest in harming children or Tony's money," Natasha said with a shrug, but she followed Tony's lead, putting away the small dagger she'd reached for. She held her hands up in surrender to show she was harmless. Not that the Black Widow was ever harmless, but it was the thought that counted. "I'm not here to hurt anyone, much less the team."
"Tell that to Barton's wife and kids," the other Tony said.
"For the record, I don't have a wife or kids," Clint offered, but the doppelganger's repulsor's didn't power down.
By this time, Tony was close enough to put his bare hand on the doppelganger's gauntlet, pressing down lightly. Without his own armor, he had no hope of pushing it down if the other Tony didn't want to let it, but he kept the steady pressure up. "If you're from another dimension," Tony said soothingly, "there's going to be differences. She's not a bad guy here."
"Would you know it if she was?" the other Tony asked.
In the silence, Natasha smirked. Because no, they really wouldn't.
But that wasn't the point. "She's not this time," Tony said, hoping that he was telling the truth. He didn't want to think about the Black Widow going rogue. That was a terrifying thought, though death by Natasha's thighs was probably one of the better deaths Tony could think of.
"Is that so?" the other Tony asked suspiciously. "Has she slept with you?"
"No," Tony said, his right eyebrow twitching, which he tried to disguise as a sarcastic eyebrow raise. "Definitely not."
The other Tony narrowed his eyes. "You know, you look remarkably like I do when I'm lying. It seems we have the same tells."
"Wait, seriously?" Clint asked, peering at Tony, then at Natasha. "What the fuck? You are lying. How did I not know this?"
Now Tony panicked. He turned to face Natasha fully. "This doesn't count as me telling!"
Natasha sighed, but she didn't look like she was about to kill him. Steve, on the other hand, was furious. Tony fought back a wince. "It was one night," Natasha clarified before Steve could say anything, which Tony appreciated immensely. She couldn't be that mad at him for letting the cat out of the bag if she was bailing him out. "We had a bet about his... reputation. The best way to settle it was to find out personally."
"It was a hell of a night," Tony added.
"So?" Clint said in the silence that followed. "Inquiring minds want to know. Does he measure up?"
"To say he measured 'up' is an understatement," Natasha replied with a smirk. "His reputation is very solid and well earned."
Tony allowed himself to be smug about that. Extremely smug.
"Stark, Widow, not the time," Steve bit out, his face flushed. Tony was sad to say he couldn't tell if it was embarrassment or anger, but he was leaning towards the latter with the fact that the hand not holding the shield was in a fist.
The other Tony watched the exchange silently, and Tony could feel him wavering even through the armor as his hand shook. "Come on," Tony said, returning his full attention to his other world counterpart. "Let's get you out of the suit. Then you can tell us why you're here."
"I don't..." the other Tony said, the hard look in his eyes turning lost and broken.
Tony knew what would help. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted the others to know, since it was his weakness too. Still, there wasn't much choice. He reached up, feeling short outside of the suit. He ruffled his other self's hair gently, ending the motion on his cheek. The motion was both intimate and soothing; Tony thrived off touch, and it was the best he could do when so much of his other self was hidden away in the armor.
His doppelganger flinched at first, but didn't pull away. Instead he leaned into the hand like a cat, closing his eyes and taking a shuddery breath. He lowered his arm, and the repulsor powered down. "As long as you promise alcohol," the other Tony said, his voice shaky.
"The best vodka I have," Tony promised. He ignored the disapproval that was in Steve's eyes. He kept his own eyes on the Tony Stark from another world. The other him looked exhausted after the exchange.
"Alright. But I'll need help getting out of it. Mine doesn't release as your does," the other him said, not quite going limp against Tony. There was no way Tony could have supported the armor's weight, not to mention this other him looked more muscled than him. But the other him leaned against Tony, enough to feel the pressure of someone else's weight through the armor. Tony knew that trick, to convince his mind that he could actually feel them, and he didn't lean away. After one last look at Natasha that was a mix of longing and betrayal, the other Tony let himself be turned away.
He led his other self (fuck his life, that this was a phrase he had to use) down to the workshop, followed by a very unhappy looking Captain America. Tony was just about through with Cap's posturing today. "You don't have to follow us," Tony muttered, glaring Steve's way.
"He's in the armor. You're not," Steve said, returning the glare. Tony looked away from Steve's eyes, unwilling to face the anger there just yet. Not when he deserved it.
He felt a metal hand pat him on the shoulder. "Let him growl manfully and pretend you need protection, old boy. He likes that, and it makes him easier to deal with. Much less grumpier. And heaven forbid Captain America be grumpy."
"Prozac wouldn't work on him, for one," Tony replied.
The other Tony still looked shaken, but he smiled back weakly as Steve snorted. "Neither does alcohol," the other him lamented. "Sometimes I miss the days he was having regular sex, because all that liberty and disapproval were focused elsewhere."
"I what?" Steve said, faltering in his steps.
"You mean he loosens up when he gets laid regularly?" Tony asked, because this was pertinent information.
"He hasn't done that here yet?" the other Tony asked, some of his normal humor returning. "I wouldn't say he loosens up, but he's more focused on disapproving how little women wear nowadays that he lets up on disapproving of our alcohol habits. That does put his relationship with a married woman into perspective."
"Married?" Steve asked, looking completely aghast. "I wouldn't..."
Now the other Tony looked positively cheerful. "Oh, wait till I get back to tell Cap his other self was appalled by his affair with..." His blue eyes clouded over for a moment, and he paused, shaking his head. "Then again, perhaps best not to mention her now."
There was history there, and Tony could see the death those eyes had seen. Under normal circumstances, this would be Tony's cue to change the subject and tease Steve mercilessly for cuckolding another man. Things were still too tense between them, however, so Tony just led them down to the workshop without another comment.
Getting the armor off was a tedious affair, since the locks and clamps were different from Tony's suit, and they couldn't use the rig he set up on the balcony without extra programming. Tony would work on that tonight (and take a look at his other self's armor, because Tony was curious about the green fluid. Plus the circuits he had seen were downright sexy), but for now they worked in silence. With Steve there, it was hard to talk, and Tony wasn't exactly in the mood to ask questions.
The silence lasted until Tony took the chest plate off, and there was no blue light underneath. He looked up at his other self in surprise. His own arc reactor was covered by the suit he wore, its light hidden, but this Tony was wearing an undershirt and boxers, no where near enough to cover up the arc. What Tony could see of his chest was unscathed. If there was no arc reactor and no visible scars, then why...
"You don't have-" Steve started to say. He cut off at Tony's sharp signal. If the doppelganger didn't have a reactor, he didn't need to know Tony did. His other self looked at them curiously, but didn't comment. It gave Tony a lot to think about, an alternate version of him with no hole in his chest.
Tony was not pleased to see that his blue-eyed other self was a little taller than him outside of the suit. Still, Tony's three-piece suits still fit even if they were a little tight around his doppelganger's frame, so once the other man was properly attired, they went back up to the communal floor to meet with the others.
The other Tony did not look in Natasha's direction as he entered the room, resolutely ignoring the fact she existed. He did give Thor a smile, even if Bruce warranted a surprised look.
Tony, for his part, went straight over to the bar. He fixed a martini with three olives and a glass of his good scotch (no point in letting the team know now that the other him had announced that habit) for himself. "Anyone else drinking?" he asked.
There was a stern look of disapproval from Steve that quelled Thor and Clint. "Black Russian, if you can make it," Natasha said in a show of solidarity. Tony knew he liked her.
"For you, hot cakes, anything," Tony replied dryly. He mixed the vodka and Kahlúa, carefully bringing over all three drinks. The other Tony toasted him, half turning to Natasha before he stopped himself.. "So, what's the story? I'm assuming the jump was intentional, not accidental," Tony said, sitting in the arm chair rather than his usual place next to Steve and Bruce.
"You know, the usual. Stolen Stark tech," the doppelganger said. "Looking for someone who stole plans from my brother's personal files."
Tony blinked. "Brother?" Clint asked, all eyes turning to Tony.
"Our twin," the other Tony said, also looking curiously at Tony now. "How is dear Gregory doing in this world?"
God, Tony didn't think their world could support Stark twins. "Only child," Tony said, holding his hand up to reassure the others. "Never met any family members named Gregory."
The other Tony looked down into his martini with a blank expression. "Ah," he said. Tony wondered what had happened to Gregory. "I don't suppose I'd be able to talk to him here then. Pity."
"What happened to your twin that you cannot talk to him in your world?" Thor asked, despite Natasha's warning glance.
"I turned the machines off," the other Tony said darkly, throwing back the martini before continuing on as if the question hadn't been asked. "I'm sure you're all aware that most people consider me a genius. So when I say Gregory was ten times smarter than me, I'm sure you'll realize the full extent of the problem."
Tony didn't like the thought of having someone ten times smarter than him as a brother. He could hear the carefully hidden underling resentment in his other self's voice, so he didn't think he was the only one. "Your twin made weapons," Tony said, a growing feeling of dread settling over his shoulders.
"He had fewer moral qualms than I did," the other Tony replied. "What was the phrase Nick liked to use? Ah, yes. Amoral. Just the way he liked his pet geniuses. Up until they turn on him and frame him for treason, at any rate."
Tony got up to mix another drink, pushing away the unease he felt. Once, long ago, Tony had wondered if he'd be less lonely with a sibling or other family members about. He was now extremely glad he'd never gotten that wish. He set the drink in front of the other Tony, before topping up his own scotch.
"So you had an evil twin who made weapons, and the plans for one of those weapons has been stolen?" Clint asked. "How does that even work? I mean, evil twins are supposed to be dark haired and evil, but Tony already sports the facial hair."
Bruce hm'ed. "Clint, not everything plays out like the movies."
"Gregory was blond," the other Tony said helpfully.
Clint's mouth hung open. Tony just ignored him with the same fervor the other Tony ignored Natasha. "Why come here? Seems a bit far to catch a thief," Tony said.
"Apparently the thief ran through a dimensional portal generator SHIELD has been studying when he was trying to escape. Whether it was Reed's or Mysterio's technology, Monica wouldn't tell me. She doesn't want me snooping around more than I already do, but my bet is on something Reed made before he went crazy," the other Tony said. Tony didn't recognize the name Reed, but he knew that particular brand of casual his other self was putting off. The hatred there was covered well, but Tony knew himself too well. "So the Ultimates are split up through the most likely of the dimensions," the other Tony continued. "If we don't find anything by the end of two weeks, then the portal opens up again to take us home."
"So that means it might not even be in this dimension," Steve said thoughtfully. "Do you have any way to track it?"
"It would be like searching for a needle in a haystack if we didn't," the other Tony said dryly. "Thankfully, the thief stole a few other things of note, one of which gives off some low level but unique radiation. The others have trackers; I have my suit which can do more or less the same thing."
"And do you know what kind of plans they stole?" Tony asked softly.
"Greg isn't exactly around to ask," the other him said, any grief he might feel securely locked away. "I'm afraid my dear twin didn't leave any records with me, and the thief wiped the memory banks after he got the information. Your guess is as good as mine."
"Good old Stark Paranoia," Clint said.
"Better safe than sorry, is that why you're looking for whatever it is?" Natasha said, speaking up for the first time.
The other Tony went still, and Tony wanted to put a hand on his back, but he was too far away. "As the lady says," the other Tony said, staring down at his drink with an expression even Tony couldn't quite name. "I don't think this dimension deserves anything my brother could come up with."
"Then we will aid you in your search," Thor said.
"But I want at least one of the Avengers with you at all times," Steve added quickly.
"Trust is so hard to come by," the doppelganger said with a sigh. He drank his martini slower this time, with a calm expression, though Tony could see how he gripped at the glass. He was like a duck in the water - calm on the surface, but paddling like hell underneath.
"Let's go down to the workshop. I can take the first watch and see if I can't help you trace the radiation," Tony said, hoping to get a better look at his other self's armor.
"Thor, go with them," Steve ordered.
Tony spun around, furious at the command. He'd had enough of Captain America right now. "So now you don't trust me anymore, is that it?" Tony shouted, fingers curling around the glass in his hands as he made an effort not to throw it.
Steve looked like Tony had slapped him for a moment, before anger replaced it. "That's not what I'm saying, Tony. You-"
"Whatever," Tony interrupted, pivoting on his heel. "I'm out of here."
* * *
"Very smooth, Rogers. I'd say that was quite suave," the other Tony said. Steve winced at the anger he could hear in the remaining Tony's voice.
Steve felt his shoulders slump. "I never meant to imply that," he said.
"I'm having trouble discerning what else you could mean, and it's not due to the clouded thinking of an alcoholic," the other Tony said, following after this dimension's Tony without another word.
"I just... They think too much alike. The other Tony could..." Steve looked down, closing his eyes. He'd screwed that up.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Thor. "I will watch over them, Shieldbrother, do not fear. I'll try to convince them you meant well," the alien (Steve refused to acknowledge him as a god) said, smiling kindly.
"I better go along as well to make sure they don't blow up the Tower," Bruce said, looking worried. "Double the Tonys means double the trouble."
Clint chuckled. "Yeah, good luck containing that one, Doc."
As Thor and Bruce left the room after the Tonys (sometimes Steve missed the past, if just because it was less complicated. Hydra was evil, end of story. And he didn't have to deal with alternative versions of a teammate he was sweet on both being angry at him), Steve traced his shield. He took comfort in the one constant in his life, even if it led him to this.
"Tony and I sleeping together was before you and him started dancing around each other," Natasha said after a moment, reopening a conversation Steve had been trying very hard to forget. "It was pretty soon after his break-up with Pepper."
"And you decided sleeping with him was a good way to cheer him up?" Steve said, forcing himself not to snap. He respected Natasha, he did, and she was a consenting adult who didn't need his morals or his jealousy. He'd gotten that lecture before and really, he was glad women had more freedom. That didn't change the fact she slept with Tony, however.
"And I was curious," Natasha said with a smirk. "What I said earlier wasn't just to stroke his ego, by the way. It's all true. You are in for a hell of a ride."
There were things Steve really didn't want to know about his teammates. At least, he told himself he didn't want to know this. As far as Natasha sleeping with Tony went, it was true. He was refusing to think about how good Tony was in bed. "But don't worry, Cap. I don't poach," Natasha continued. "He hasn't bought anyone home since the two of you started either."
"It's not like that between us," Steve protested, despite the relief he felt at her words.
Clint snorted. "Cap, I think we all know there was a green-eyed monster in the room earlier and it sure as hell wasn't Bruce."
"Doesn't change what I said," Steve said mulishly. "And I wasn't jealous."
"Sure you weren't," Clint said, patting him on the shoulder.
"For the record," Natasha said thoughtfully, "watch out for his tongue if you do ever 'become like that.' It's lethal. Especially when he-"
"I really do not need to know that about Stark," Clint complained.
Steve glared, because that was relevant information, but didn't ask Natasha to continue. Instead, he focused on ignoring her smug expression and trying not to let his imagination run away with thoughts of Tony's tongue while there were other people in the room. The latter was very persistent, especially as memories of Tony licking his lips and eating peanut butter on a spoon flashed before his eyes, so Steve resigned himself to a long shower in his near future.
If only he could actually say the right thing to Tony. Then he wouldn't need long, lonely showers.
* * *
His other self had given Tony the frequency they were looking for, which Tony immediately set a scan for. It was easy enough to hack the same sensors they'd used on the Hellicarrier to find the Tesseract and refocus them with the new data. It would take longer since Tony was trying to fly under the radar with it and it wasn't a world wide emergency (yet), but if it was there to be found, they would find it.
It was soon after Tony finished setting the hacking program up that Thor and Bruce entered the workshop. Tony crossed his arms over his chest defensively. Thor he expected, but Bruce coming down as well felt like a betrayal. "I don't need babysitters," he said crossly.
"Besides," the other Tony said. "No offense, Dr. Banner, but the Hulk is more likely to take out half the city along with me if I tried something. Or is that different here as well?"
Bruce went pale. "Half the city?"
"That might be exaggerating, I suppose," the other Tony said. "His mass killing spree only lasted about 800 people before we managed to subdue him in our world. And I prefer not to think about all the things he said he was going to do to his poor girlfriend had we not stopped him."
"Oh, God..." Bruce said, taking a step back.
It didn't matter that Tony was still pissed at Bruce for coming down to babysit and that it was another version of himself talking. No one says that sort of thing to Bruce on his watch. "He's safe to be around and he would never hurt Betty," Tony snapped. "And he's saved my life and the other's plenty of times before, so I don't want to hear more. Things are different here."
"Fascinating," the other him said, not put out in the slightest by Tony's anger. "The differences between the worlds are astounding, especially when so many things remain the same. Thor, are you with any hippies, by any chance?"
"I'm afraid I do not understand the term, my friend," Thor said looking confused.
Tony snorted. "Hippies? Thor? Yeah, no. Don't see that one happening."
The other him shrugged. "He's very concerned about the environment and third world countries in my world. And brownies, apparently. I've had some of those brownies his lot passes around, and they are definitely mind altering."
Bruce laughed weakly, and okay, the mental image of Thor as a hippie God was pretty damn entertaining, but he was still angry at the two of them for following Steve's BS orders. "I still don't need babysitters," he said. "Or doesn't any one trust me on this team any more?"
"I trust you to take care of yourself," Bruce said with his hands up. "I don't trust two Tony Starks in a workshop where things can go boom."
"He does have a point," his other self said with a smirk.
"Touché," Tony said, conceding the point with some of his anger cooling. That he could forgive Bruce for. Tony wouldn't even trust two versions of himself down in a workshop. Then he turned to Thor. "And you, big guy?"
"The Captain made a convincing argument," Thor said. "It is not that he does not trust you, but who better to fool you than someone who is your mirror image? We have already seen he knows your weaknesses, and this could be a trick. You are also still wounded from the battle earlier."
"I would know his weaknesses too," Tony said, but it was another good point. Things didn't match up quite as well as Tony would have thought. If they'd been watching this dimension long enough (which if they had the tech to cross dimensions, he wouldn't put it past them), then they would know what to fake to get Tony to lower his guard. Natasha's entrance earlier proved that, and how quickly he'd taken off the suit. His head was still pounding from the concussion too, despite the alcohol taking some of the edge off. He wasn't willing to admit Steve might have a point though, not right now. Not when there was an unspoken concern in both Bruce and Thor's eyes about what had happened earlier.
"Whatever," Tony said, turning to the armor his other self had appeared in. "Mind if I..?"
"Go right ahead," the other Tony said, coming closer. "I'd very much like to know how you got the armor to release automatically."
"Coding and JARVIS, mostly. The robotics of it was easy enough. The green goo?"
"Gives the nanites easier access to the suit and buffer control," the other Tony said, looking appraisingly at one of JARVIS's panels.
"Nanites?" Nanites. He'd been assuming that the doppelganger had been less advanced than him, but he'd never been able to get nanites to work well enough to do any good. Maybe they'd just focused on other areas. The things he could do with nanites...
The other Tony smirked. "Maybe Dr. Banner was right to be worried."
"Anthony Edward Stark, if you blow up this Tower..." Bruce started jokingly.
"Anthony?" the other Tony said, suddenly pale again.
They all looked at him uncertainly. "That's not your name?" Bruce asked.
"Antonio," the doppelganger said, scrambling to hide the grief that Tony caught in his eyes. "But I had a best friend named Anthony."
The word 'had' said it all. Tony leaned over to reach the helmet of his other self's armor, intentionally brushing their shoulders together. He wondered who 'Anthony' had been in that universe. But what would have caused the name change in this alternate world? Sure there were plenty of differences, but this felt different.
"Mom," Tony and his doppelganger said at the same time.
"Okay, that was slightly creepy," Bruce said, taking his glasses off and rubbing at the lenses with his shirt.
"Dad must have made her change my name," Tony said thoughtfully. "Something less Italian and more American. He wouldn't have wanted anything too telling."
"Where as I had a twin brother, older by five minutes and thirty-two seconds, that he could name Gregory. Mother could name the younger twin what she wanted," the other Tony finished.
Tony felt irrationally jealous of that, that this other version of him got to be named by their mother. It probably stung like hell that Dad hadn't cared about naming the second twin, but Mom... It would have been nice to have the name Mom had chosen.
"You do realize finishing each other's thoughts also classifies as creepy," Bruce said.
Thor laughed heartily. "Aye, they are brothers of mind, and worlds will flourish with your combined might."
The other Tony blinked. "Now, I know All Speak can translate without the epic poetry. It's only a matter of finding the right price tag."
"Nah," Tony said waving it off. "It's kind of hilarious."
The other Tony shrugged, drinking his martini. "Your world."
They sat together going over the other Tony's nanites first. Tony had no doubt the clever little things had traps all over the place (he knew what he would do with that kind of tech to protect it from falling into the wrong hands) but he'd have it cracked in a couple of weeks. He shared JARVIS's code and some of his theories on AI and robotics (also encrypted with traps), and with luck it would take longer than the two weeks this Tony was here to figure it out. They were both safe guarded until the other left, and if this Tony did turn out to be evil, it was a simple matter of having JARVIS's master code delete the data. He rather figured this Tony had a similar command for the nanites.
Tony resolutely did not think of a little blue sun dress that was spotted in red. He couldn't, not when the next disaster was on the horizon. At least his other self seemed even less adjusted than Tony was. Tony had yet to see his doppelganger put down his drink, though he slowed down after the first few. Tony wondered if he was perpetually drunk, and he didn't like to think about what demons chased his other self to that.
When Thor was distracting the other Tony (they got along like a house on fire, despite the other Tony's complaints about his speech), Tony manipulated JARVIS's code to watch for suspicious behavior from his double and alert Steve. He also updated the software to the point that JARVIS would be able to tell the two of them apart within a millisecond when pinged, even if the other him attempted contacts and a new hair cut. He texted Steve with the details and a curt 'Happy now that you don't have to trust either of us?'
He knew Steve wouldn't text back (he refused to have conversations longer than a few sentences over text when he could simply call, and emotionally charged conversations were always done face to face), so maybe that was a low blow, but Tony couldn't deal with Steve right now.
He was wrong about it keeping Steve from replying, however. 'It's not a matter of trust, Tony. You know that. Can we talk?'
This time it was Tony who ignored the text. Because no, he didn't know that nor did he know what else it could possibly be. Not to mention the last thing he wanted was to talk to Steve and get another lecture. He stubbornly went back to the nanites, pouring over their code and admiring their creator's work.
Eventually Thor and even Bruce begged off for sleep, leaving Tony with his doppelganger. They worked quietly now, with only the music Tony put on to keep him focused.
"Do you know what I keep wondering?" his other self - Antonio, and damn, that was still weird - said. "Why were you drinking the cheap scotch?"
Tony stiffened, but didn't look up from the nanites' code. The concussion was still aching, but he could ignore it. "Why else?" he asked casually, wondering if Antonio knew how to read into that.
He did, apparently. "Ah," he said. Tony looked over to see him contemplating his drink. He raised it in a toast when he caught Tony's eyes, smiling in a way that held no mirth, but plenty of self-loathing. "To the worst monster we have to protect the world from."
Tony hunched over, closing his eyes with a shuddery breath. He felt a hand rubbing between his shoulder blades, and for the first time he didn't flinch it off. The other Tony's hands were just as dirty as his were, so he wasn't sullying them by accepting the comfort.
After all, they both knew who the real monster was.