Before meeting Clint, Steve hadn't known that someone could sleep with their eyes open.
After discovering that they could – coincidentally spilling burning hot coffee all down his favorite shirt – he figured it was probably really boring for the sleeper; after all, wouldn't they just end up dreaming about whatever they were looking at?
Maybe for Clint, but when it happened to Steve himself... apparently not.
He dreamed about drowning in a sea of blue gingham, and being snatched out of the blue and carried off by a giant – that was far too clothed to be the Hulk – down a massive alleyway. Then suddenly, the giant was toting him through an equally giant, painted metal door. There were words written on the door, but Steve only saw them briefly, and this dream seemed to be the sort that came with sleep paralysis, so he couldn't turn around to double check.
After that, they passed through a curtain of rainbows – or a rainbow of curtains, Steve was having a harder time thinking clearly the further along this dream went – into a cavernous, dark space. Something popped ahead of them, and a spotlight turned on over a large wooden stage, scattered with strange props and partially covered by a lake of blue plaid, similar in hue to the gingham from the start of his dream.
As if summoned by his thoughts, the plaid rushed up to meet him – wait, no, the giant dropped him – and Steve ended up tumbling face first into the plaid to drown.
For a fraction of a second, panic gripped him, and he had to bite down hard on a cry for help so he wouldn't let out all his air; worst of all, he still couldn't move.
He kept tumbling, though – or maybe it was the tide – and eventually he came to a stop on the shore of the plaid.
Nothing happened for a long time after that – though time was always relative in a dream – until he noticed a quiet scraping sound coming from the darkness beyond the spotlight's glow.
He tried to turn toward the familiar voice – though why the owner of any voice he knew would be in a giant's lair, he had no idea – but the sleep paralysis still had a hold of him, at least partially; with a lot more effort than the usually-minor adjustments he tried to make needed, he eventually shifted his body toward the sound of the voice and the scraping.
Just in time to see a dismembered hand come flying out of the darkness at him, barely short of smacking him right in the face.
“I don't think I like this dream anymore,” Steve slurred, mouth struggling to form the right shapes, in the right order, to make words. The scraping sound paused for a moment after he spoke, then resumed double-time, until it finally found its way into the light.
It was a... creature, composed of two flailing, flat, bright purple tentacles striped with thin lines of black – and numbers? – with the occasional human limb poking out from the mess. Centered in Steve's line of sight of the creature was a somewhat crazy mass of dark hair lit from behind by a blue – eye? mouth? – something; he automatically tried to shift into a more defensible posture, but as is common in dreams, the creature shambled forward much faster than he could force his body to move.
His thoughts turned to the disembodied hand by his face, and he tried to ready his uncooperative body for a fight when the thing... stopped.
Then it sort of flailed, and shifted around, until Steve could see –
Tony smiled, but didn't actually look that happy to see him. “Hey, Cap.”
“You're not a tentacle monster,” Steve tried to explain clearly, but the words still came out as if spoken through a yawn.
“Wow, you are really out of it, aren't you?” Tony observed quietly, but continued before Steve had gotten even close to answering. “You're exactly right, Steve. I'm not a tentacle monster.”
“This is a good dream, then,” Steve replied, automatically relaxing; Tony tended to have that effect on on him. “Missed you.”
Tony looked away and shifted some, which seemed to remind him of the purple something – it almost looked like a giant measuring tape – wrapped around him. “Uh huh, right back at you. Listen, Steve, you need to get over here and untie me before Mad Madam Mim figures out her mojo was a no-go and makes a reappearance.”
It took Steve a moment to properly connect Tony's reference. “... 'Purple dragons'?”
Tony nodded, and tried to scoot a little closer; it wasn't as effective when he was sitting up as it was before. “Yeah, that's right, now come on.”
“I can't,” Steve replied sadly but almost clearly; something about talking with Tony – either in having to think to understand what he meant, or in thinking up his own replies, possibly – was making the words, and the shapes to make them, come more easily to him. “Can't move in this dream.”
“This isn't a dream, Steve,” Tony huffed impatiently, and leaned as close to Steve as he could. There was something wrong in the angle of the lean, though; the part of Steve's brain that visualized the path of his shield throws was screaming at him to do something, but he couldn't move in the dream. He tried to warn him, instead. “Tony – ”
Too late; Tony had twisted his right leg around awkwardly, in order to balance himself since his hands were restrained, but it gave way with a snappy 'pop'. Steve winced, then cautiously looked down at the leg, expecting dislocation and a lot of swearing at least, but no.
Tony's leg from the knee down had just... separated from his body.
“Um,” Steve stared at the detached appendage, and it finally began to click in his brain that there was something different about the leg – and the hand near his face – and Tony himself.
“I was hoping to avoid that,” Tony sighed after balancing himself again, then seemed to notice Steve's rising shock. “Hey, no. No. What's that face for? It's fine; I'm fine. It didn't even hurt, just untie me already.”
“'Didn't hurt'? Your leg just snapped off!” Steve protested, hotly. “This is a terrible dream, and I'm going to wake up now so I can actually find you, preferably in one piece.” Having clearly announced this, Steve shut his eyes and tried to will himself awake. He shouldn't have fallen asleep while working, anyway; it was unprofessional.
Though, it had been a long time since his behavior about Tony was purely professional.
… That would probably explain why Tony was tied up and naked in his dream.
Steve tried to listen beyond Tony's quiet grumbling and shuffling for any distinct sound from the waking world he could focus on to wake up, and was therefore caught completely off-guard when Tony kicked him in the chest.
His eyes flew open as the force half rocked him onto his back, “Hey!”
“This Is Not A Dream, Steve!” Tony shouted, all patience gone. “You were hit by a spell designed to change you from the living equivalent of a Ken doll, into an actual Ken doll. Or have you not looked at yourself, yet?” Steve opened his mouth to try and reply, but Tony was on a roll, and just kept going. “I don't think the crazy lady who abducted us expected you to wake up so quickly, so thanks to that oversight, your hands are still free. Now, you need to get up and use those free hands to free me so we can get out of here. Okay?” He waited until Steve nodded a little, then pitched himself forward to fall closer to Steve's hands. “Okay. Get to it.”
Steve hurried to comply, and nearly kidney-punched Tony when his body moved much easier than he'd anticipated; between that, and the fact that he felt when Tony kicked him, he accepted that he wasn't dreaming.
And if he wasn't dreaming, they were imprisoned in the – home? lair? ambiguously labeled personal space? – of a hostile entity that wasn't just much, much larger than them, but had a demonstrated ability to use magic, and a willingness to use it on them; not good.
Steve pinched his arm – resin or some sort of plastic, he wasn't sure, but it verified Tony's story – and went back to work on the knotted up measuring tape with a sigh.
As soon as the knot was loose enough, Tony shrugged the whole mess up over his head awkwardly; he still hadn't gotten used to missing his right hand.
Not that he wanted to get used to it, or anything.
With that out of his way, he pushed himself back up onto hand, knee, and stumps, then carefully reached forward to drag his errant leg closer; Steve still seemed a bit out of it, staring wide-eyed at the different things on the worktable with them while his hands went through the motions of untying, and then coiling the measuring tape. It seemed to be helping him focus past whatever fog was still in his head, though, so Tony wasn't going to argue with him about it.
“What happened?” Steve asked after a long stretch of silence; Tony looked at him curiously, and saw that he was staring at Tony's chest, specifically the arc reactor, and the... fractures in the resin around it.
“I don't remember very well,” Tony admitted, “but I think it happened when I turned pint-sized. Unless you felt like your chest was going to explode when it happened to you?” He waited while Steve struggled to remember, then continued when he shook his head. “Yeah, I didn't think so.”
Steve pulled the end of the measuring tape coil around and through the whole mass in a complicated move to keep the thing in a manageable shape, then wobbled upright like a newborn giraffe. He carefully picked up Tony's unattached hand, then offered it to him when he'd crawled closer.
“Thanks,” he said, distractedly eying the scrap of plaid fabric; maybe he could make a, well, a body part sling from it...
Steve nodded, then wobbled over to start pulling pins from the pin cushion; most of them were dagger-sized, relative to their new resin bodies, but one was significantly longer, like a ball-hilted rapier. “I'm sorry.”
Tony glanced over, then resumed bundling and rolling his limbs in the plaid fabric. “What on earth do you have to be sorry about?”
“For not looking for you sooner,” he replied. Tony snorted, and Steve paced over with his armload of pins and measuring tape; he looked steadier on his feet, that was good. “You'd been talking about some important meetings in your California offices, then you were gone. It didn't even occur to us that something had happened until Pepper called after you missed the first meeting.”
There was also the fact that Tony had been avoiding him before everything literally fell to pieces. He grabbed one of the smaller pins from Steve's hands, and started piercing it carefully through the fabric to hold the sling together. “It's not like you could have known it was different than any other time; I'm not exactly in the habit of checking off my itinerary with you.”
“Yeah,” Steve agreed, and something in the way he said it prompted Tony to look up. Just for a moment, Steve's mouth was twisted into an unhappy frown, then it smoothed out into something closer to mission focus, and Tony was left to wonder.
Thoughts like that had to wait, though. Grabbing another pin, Tony fixed the limb bundle in place around his body like a sort of satchel-toga, then held out his hand to Steve. It took Steve a moment to shift what he held to his right arm, then he pulled Tony upright with his left. There was some wobbling and adjusting, but eventually they settled, with Steve's arm around his waist to keep him steady, sort of like an actually-three legged race.
“All right then, let's get out of here,” he declared.
Steve's attention seemed to be elsewhere again, and Tony was about to give him another verbal prodding, but he looked again and stopped. Steve's expression was less 'distracted' and more 'assessing', aimed a short distance down the table from them, specifically, at the spread out mess of newspaper articles and surveillance photos. Creepy. “Do you think we should take one, for evidence, or proof, or something?”
Steve thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No; their size would slow us down, and I doubt we'll discover anything we don't already know, or can't guess.” That said, he turned them so they could hobble toward the table's edge.
That... was a long drop.
“I have an idea,” Steve said, then lowered Tony until he was sitting, and handed over the pins. Tony absently fed them through the cloth along his back while watching Steve, who had unraveled a portion of the measuring tape and was busy tying a loop into the end. “Are we lassoing something?”
Steve shook his head. “It's a seat; this way, I can lower you down, without an additional loss of limb.”
There was a flaw in this plan. “How will you get down?”
Steve shrugged, then carefully tightened and tested the knot. “I'll jump.”
“And what if the fall breaks you?” he countered, gesturing down at the ground in emphasis. “How are we supposed to get out of here if neither of us can walk? At least if I break more, you can still carry me out.”
“But you're already breaking,” Steve insisted. “And there's nothing big or heavy enough to anchor the measuring tape to.”
Steve was stubborn – it was practically written into his DNA – but Tony couldn't stand the thought of Steve getting hurt. He cast about for an idea, then he saw it.
“That chair over there,” he said, pointing into the gloom where a wheeled chair was just visible. “If I let you down, then you can push it over here. From the table to the chair seat is a lot closer, barely even a drop, and once I'm on the seat, you can help me down the rest of the way.” It'd be tricky with only one working hand, but their odds would be a lot better this way.
He could tell Steve didn't like it, but eventually he gave in with a nod, and slipped his leg through the loop.
It took some doing, to get Steve situated and then get himself arranged so that he could hold the tape securely, but still let it out slowly. He ended with it looped around his right arm one and a half times and held with his left hand, with the remaining coil lying loose by his hip so it could unwind as needed.
“You're sure about this?” Steve asked as he settled himself at the edge, looking at the tape coiled around Tony worriedly.
“I'm sure,” Tony assured him, scooting a further back on the table in case the force of the descent pulled him forward.
“Okay, here goes,” he warned, then grabbed onto the side and slowly let himself over; Tony could feel as the tape went taut and slowly gained weight as Steve settled into the loop. There were two things about their situation that Tony was suddenly grateful for: that, being a doll, Steve didn't actually weigh all that much considering, and that dolls couldn't feel pain or get rope burn when using their arms as a spindle-slash-pulley.
It was a slow process, lowering Steve inch by inch – literally, he could see the measuring marks on the tape go by – toward the floor. At one point, he had a moment of irrational panic that the tape would run out too soon, and Steve would still end up falling to the floor; the table was tall, but not that tall. Hopefully. They'd be fine.
As long as he didn't lose his grip and drop him.
Just as he was starting to think Steve should be getting close to the floor – and trying to remember what number the measuring tape had said when they started, so he could do the math – Steve shouted up at him. “Stop!”
He froze, and braced against a sudden thrashing on the line. Then he fell backward, as there was suddenly no weight to brace against.
There was silence for a moment, then Tony scrambled for the edge, trailing measuring tape from his right arm. “Steve?!”
“I'm all right,” Steve replied, walking out from under the table. It was a bit lower since Tony had moved closer, but it looked like the loop seat had gotten close enough to the floor that Steve got out and dropped the rest of the way.
“Warn a guy next time!” he grumbled, shaking the tape free to fall down with Steve.
“Sorry,” he called back, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment, then bending to scoop up the tape and start recoiling it. Once he had it started, he started walking for the chair, trailing a line of purple behind him. “I'll be right back with the chair.”
Tony flopped down on the table sideways to wait with a little groan.
Steve was very grateful that the chair had casters, because whether or not he still had super-strength as a doll, the chair was heavy.
It took a while to start it moving, but eventually it started to roll; he would have been in the clear at that point, if he could have applied even pressure. As it was, it turned in place almost as much as it went forward, and he spent more time than he'd like shifting his hold and playing jump rope.
Eventually, he felt the soft 'thunk' that meant he'd reached the table.
“Yeah, I see it; Just a sec.”
All he could do was stand back and watch as first Tony dropped down his bundle of limbs to the chair seat, then swung the lower half of his body out into open air. The chair had hit backrest-first, so it wasn't long before Tony unevenly dug his limbs into the fabric back.
A rather important thought occurred to Steve, and he glanced toward the door to double-check.
“Hold on, Tony; can you keep hold of the chair where you are if I move it?”
Tony paused, both arms hooked over the top of the chair. “Probably. Why?”
Steve pointed, even though Tony couldn't see him from his current angle. “The door.”
Tony turned his head to face the door, and hissed out a breath. “Yeah. Good catch; I probably couldn't have climbed back up after I went down.”
Habitually shoving down his worry, Steve hopped over the chair base, and put his shoulder to the wheel, so to speak.
There was a little lurch as the chair went into motion, and Steve let up a moment, in case Tony needed a moment to steady himself. Tony didn't say anything, though, so he bent back to his task quickly.
They'd actually picked up an almost-respectable amount of speed, when Tony called out. “We need to turn left now, Cap.”
Steve couldn't quite get enough breath to answer properly, so he just huffed out a vague noise, and turned with the casters the next time they spun, instead of fighting them. He slipped to a knee for a moment while trying to redirect the chair's momentum.
Tony called out a handful of slight adjustments to keep them on course, until finally he shouted down to Steve. “Okay, start easing off; we're almost there, and I might get knocked off if we impact too hard.”
Steve let go immediately, finally able to look up from his work to their destination. They were close, close enough that he hopped over the chair legs to push against it for the last few inches. His feet slid against the tile floor, until the chair stopped with a soft impact, rolling back about two inches.
“Tony? You okay?”
“Yeah. Give me a second for the door.”
Steve stepped out from under the chair seat again, and watched as Tony shuffled sideways on the chair back toward the door handle.
“Remind me later that I love the ADA.”
“The Americans with Disabilities Act?” Steve stared at Tony in confusion for a while. “Why?”
“Door lever.” Tony nodded at the lever-style door handle. “I can't imagine managing this with a doorknob; I couldn't even grip it, much less turn it.”
Steve looked at the door lever, then to Tony, and just tried to imagine it.
“You make a good point.”
Tony chuckled a little, finally in position to grab the door. “You might want to be in a position to help pull the door open. I'm probably going to fall off pretty quick once the handle turns.”
Steve nodded, then lay down on his side by the door. He first slid one hand under the door – he could just curl his fingers around the other side without getting his arm stuck – then braced his feet against the wall. With his other arm ready to pull on the newly opened gap when it arrived, Steve looked up at Tony. “I'm ready.”
The next few moments happened rapidly. Tony scrambled to get a good hold on the door lever, while it turned under his weight. As soon as the latch gave enough to let the door start moving, Steve pulled with all his might. Then Tony lost his grip, and fell from the handle down onto the chair cushion, and the handle snapped back into place. The sudden return of the door latch actually helped to push the door open, though, until Steve could get his free arm into the gap, and pull it open until it hit the chair.
His whole side was covered in scuff marks, but he wasn't in too bad of bad shape, so he picked himself up off the floor, and tried to move so he could see Tony on the cushion. “You okay, Tony?”
There was a soft groan, then. “I'm fine, Cap. You worry too much. Seriously.”
Steve let out a little sigh of relief, then shrugged. “I can't help it.” That... sounded a little too close to the truth, so Steve forcibly adopted a teasing tone. “After all, we haven't even left the room yet, and already you're a double amputee. What would Pepper think if I brought you home in pieces?”
There was a long, awkward hesitation on Tony's end. “Right... Pepper.”
Steve knew the value of a good tactical retreat, and didn't hesitate to use it. “Are you ready to come down?”
“Yeah. Here, let me –” Tony broke off in favor of shuffling noises, then the limb bundle was dangling over the side. “Can you catch this?”
“Let me get in position,” Steve replied, then moved until the bundle was above him, and raised his arms. “Okay. Drop it.”
The plaid bundle dropped from Tony's hand, into Steve's waiting arms, and he set it down several steps away, before returning to the same position, arms up and waiting. “Your turn, now.”
“Yeah, yeah...” Tony mumbled, then turned to lower his body over the edge.
If Steve reached up as high as he could he could almost reach –
Tony lost his grip with his single hand just as Steve went to grab him around the knees, so that he had him by the waist instead, and staggered a little under the sudden addition of weight so far from his own center of gravity. “Whoa!”
Tony flailed backward to steady himself on Steve's shoulder, then squirmed to face Steve. “Thanks for the save there, Steve.”
Steve's throat tightened up a little at the sight now at eye level, then quickly lowered Tony until his remaining leg touched the ground. “No problem.”
Tony held on to Steve to brace himself as he lowered himself down, to sit on one leg of the chair. Once settled, he waved at the limb bundle. “You mind handing me...?”
“Oh, right.” Steve hurriedly handed it over, then ran off to retrieve the measuring tape he'd set aside for chair pushing while Tony slipped back into the backpack-toga. He jogged over with the tape looped over his shoulder just in time to see Tony putting the last pin in place. “Ready?”
“Ready,” Tony nodded, then reached out with his incomplete arm. Steve settled his arm underneath, around Tony's waist, then hoisted him upright. “Let's go.”
Steve nodded, and they carefully hobbled through the narrow gap in the door.
A short but rather unassuming hallway ran to either side of them, and Tony was a bit stumped.
“I've heard the old lady walking from both directions before, but I'm not sure which one leads to the exit.”
Steve hesitated, then gave each direction a long, searching look. Had he been conscious even out here? “Steve?”
“There was a curtain of rainbows. Or a rainbow of curtains; I was pretty out of it, but if it wasn't a dream, that's what I remember passing by.”
With this new information, he assessed what he could see past the hallway again. On the left was a bulletin board covered in a bright array of fliers, but on the right... “You said a rainbow of curtains?”
Steve looked at him quizzically, then looked the direction he was facing. “... Yeah, I did.”
They hobbled to the right down the hallway, into a room full of different bolts of fabric. Some were absolutely massive, wrapped around long, round spindles, while others were – comparatively – smaller, folded double and wrapped around flat slats of cardboard. They were arranged on shelves, in slots, and along the aisles by color, with a huge table running down the middle.
Standing at the table was their elderly magician lady-friend.
The two of them exchanged significant looks, then – carefully, and as quietly as they could – they hobbled behind a row of the flat bolts leaning against the other shelved fabric selections. They shuffled along somewhat awkwardly in the available space, then stopped when they came to a break in their cover.
Steve peeked his head around the bolt of – blue croc-skin? Who in their right mind would make anything from that? – to see if the way was clear, and let out a strangled squawk as the Witchy Woman turned to grab a bolt of shiny red fabric lying on the table.
Tony frantically clapped his hand over his mouth to muffle him, even as Steve tried to swallow down the sound, and duck back out of sight.
They froze as Baba Yaga paused in her work, head cocked to the side as she listened. What felt like hours but was maybe a minute later, she turned back to her work, and Tony let out a little sigh of relief, before promptly smacking Steve on the arm.
Steve ducked his head a little in embarrassment, but tugged Tony along toward the next piece of cover before interrogatory eyebrows made it into the equation. They were passing a roll of brown paisley when Steve began tapping out a rhythm against Tony's side, easily identifiable as Morse code, though he let Steve run through the note twice to make sure he understood.
I know her.
Tony gave him an incredulous look, then settled his hand over Steve's to tap out a reply.
Steve nodded, then paused at another larger break in cover. There was a metal door at the far side of the room, just visible from their current location over a rack of felt squares. There was something written on the door, but Tony couldn't quite make it out from their angle, so he leaned out a bit farther.
The pack on his back knocked into the bolt they were hiding under in the process, with – just their luck – enough force to cause the lower half to start sliding out on the tile floor.
With their cover rapidly coming down at their heads, Steve lifted Tony clear off the ground and bolted for the felt display. The bolt fell to the floor with a surprisingly loud 'slap', and the pair of them huddled under the dark green felt squares as Supervillain Granny came over to investigate.
He didn't want to draw any more attention to them by peeking from the sides, so all Tony could see were beige orthopedic slippers approaching the fallen plaid – so that's where his toga came from – then a bony hand reaching down to right it. It slipped against the floor and nearly fell again on her first attempt, but after that she got it propped up again. Tony watched the slippers start to turn back to the table, then pause partway through, facing the felt rack they were hiding under.
He tightened his grip on Steve, tensed for whatever action may become necessary but frozen in place for the moment. His mind was racing, calculating the angle of their cover in relation to old-lady-height, the relative size difference between them and their chances of being able to escape if discovered, and how to improve those chances to name a few topics. Steve's hand on his waist smoothed up and down his side once, almost a caress, before tightening to the point Tony almost worried about further cracking; he was ready to take off running at a moment's notice, and to carry Tony along with him. He would be faster – and therefore increase his chances of survival – if he left Tony behind, and Tony would have tapped out instructions to do just that, if he weren't focused on drawing absolutely no attention to them.
There was one step, then another, and the slippers were so close Tony could see the grain of the leather. Rustling sounds came from overhead, but not enough to expose them, then as suddenly as she'd come she was moving back to the table. Tony took a risk and peeked out for a moment, to see a square of white felt in one of her hands.
There was a particular look that was the perfect nonverbal expression of 'That was too close' and he and Steve took a moment to share it with each other, then they resumed their careful advance on the doorway.
Now that they were on the other side of the felt rack, they could see the words painted onto the face of the door, declaring that they were welcome in 'Medea's Closet', but even better than that was the lighted 'emergency exit' sign above the door that had been hidden by their bolt cover before. Tony pointed to the sign, and Steve nodded again, confirming his suspicion that Steve had been conscious even this far back; it certainly explained the directness of their route.
Eventually, they reached the end of their row of cover, at a small collection of the larger, taller fabric spindles standing on end, waiting to be put back away on their shelves. Their aging kidnapper – presumably Medea – was now gathering up the bolts and cuttings she had gathered up on the table, and Tony fervently hoped she'd save the tall bolts by them for last.
He needed the extra time to figure out how they were going to get the spring-loaded push-bar on the door in enough that the door would open. They could maybe reach the handle if he could stand on Steve's shoulders – which would be hard enough, at this point – but the size of the handle would need even more force than the workroom door. Tony had put his whole weight behind turning that, they needed something more this time.
Looking around the room gave Tony a solution, and a plan.
He gave Steve's hand a squeeze to get his attention, then began relaying his plan through a combination of Morse code and pantomime; Steve nodded along as he laid out his idea, then looked back at if-not-Medea-then-maybe-her-mother thoughtfully. The corner of his mouth pulled up into a little grin Tony liked to call his 'off to blow up HYDRA bases' smile.
They were totally going to do this.
Steve helped Tony get into position, then shifted behind him to pull out all the unnecessary pins from his toga-pack – including the long quilting pin – then he slunk off, back the way they came, then under the cutting table.
It didn't take long.
The last major obstacle between the pair of them and freedom, the one who'd kidnapped them to begin with, let out an ear-splitting shriek as she stepped down onto an 'abandoned' pin, 'coincidentally' caught between two floor tiles so that it stood upright and pierced right through her orthopedic sole into her foot. She braced herself against the table to pull the bloody pin out, then limped out of the room, knocking into a few leaning bolts and a shelving unit on her way to find a first aid kit.
Tony braced himself as best he could and started tugging, even as the old witch was still exiting, pulling as hard as he could against the most likely of the tall bolts. He could hear the rapid patter of small feet on tile, a few soft 'thumps', then silence as Steve raced along the top of table and fabric, then launched himself, a smaller pin in each hand, almost two-thirds of the way up the bolt Tony was already – slowly – trying to pull over.
The sudden force higher up from the pivot point finally tipped the outcome in their favor, literally. Tony threw himself to the side to get clear of the falling fabric while Steve dug in with the pins and rode it down; under other circumstances, Tony would have yelled 'Timber!' The fabric roll fell right into the door, its not-insignificant weight more than enough to push the bar in and swing the door open, and its length plenty enough to catch in the door and keep holding it open after it fell the rest of the way down.
As soon as the fabric settled, Tony rolled over and began crawling for the door, as fast as he could. By the time Steve was staggering to his feet, Tony was almost level with him, so it was a simple thing for Steve to pull the two pins out of the fabric, stick them back into Tony's bundle, then help him up.
After that, they ran.
Once they were no longer in danger of immediate magical retaliation, it was a relatively simple thing for Steve and Tony to hobble to a phone booth, scale the interior (that time, there was a bit of lassoing involved), and call the Tower collect. Steve helped hold the phone receiver in place while Tony talked with JARVIS and ordered them in an Iron Man taxi service.
Being inside a glass box made Steve more aware of his nudity than he'd been for the first half of their escape, so Steve spent their wait time selecting a few likely portions of phone book pages, then tearing them out and fashioning a crude paper loincloth out of them and the remaining extra pins. He had the sneaking suspicion that Tony was internally laughing at the sudden return of his modesty, but he at least had the decency to turn away and pretend to be interested in keeping a lookout for the suit.
Soon enough, the familiar red and gold streak of an Iron Man suit landed outside the phone booth. Steve helped Tony upright as JARVIS directed the suit to kneel in the doorway. It was a little eerie when the chest plate opened up and there was nothing inside – which made sense intellectually, since Tony was next to him, but it was still strange – then the gauntlets gingerly picked the pair of them up and set them inside.
The flight back was slow – to avoid the two of them rattling around inside and breaking apart, Steve suspected – and lit only by the glow of the small reactor in Tony's chest.
Tony looked to be content to spend the entirety of the flight back in silence, but now that they were no longer in immediate danger, there were things Steve needed to say.
“I really am sorry, you know.”
“What?” Steve could just make out Tony's confused face in the dark, before he recalled their earlier conversation. “I told you, Steve; don't worry about it.”
Steve shook his head, even though Tony probably couldn't see it. “I just hate seeing you injured. I should have known something was wrong.”
Tony's voice was surprisingly small and hesitant when he replied. “Not exactly a fan of seeing you hurt, either.”
Steve looked away, but the only thing he could really see was Tony and his arc reactor. Looking at the reactor meant looking at the cracks around it, though, and that made Steve worry about putting Tony back together, and if that was even possible.
Eventually, Tony shifted closer, and wrapped his arm around Steve in a loose hug. “Come on, we might as well get some sleep while Iron Putt-putt takes us home. It's been a long day.”
Steve hesitated for only a moment, then wrapped his arms around Tony, and tried to follow his example and sleep. He doubted that he would be able to, but the stress of their escape, and the stress of searching for Tony, then getting himself abducted conspired against him, and the next thing he knew, he woke with a jolt as the armor touched down – he guessed – outside the penthouse.
He nudged Tony gently, who had nuzzled his face in against the seam of Steve's shoulder joint, to try and wake him. The rocking 'thumps' of the armor walking inside further jostled Tony, who woke with a soft groan. Steve tried to guess where the armor was walking to in the room – assuming they were in the penthouse – but it was difficult to orient them without a view outside or other point of reference.
A point of reference happened when he heard, muffled through the armor, Clint yelling something that sounded an awful like a combination of 'where have you been', 'idiot', and 'we've been looking all over for you', in different configurations.
Eventually other voices joined the mix: Natasha, Bruce, and JARVIS particularly, but with occasional interjections by the others.
Things started to sound heated, and Steve was debating the usefulness of trying to yell at them all to calm down, when the chest plate opened slowly, and the gauntlets reached in to extract them again.
He and Tony were suspended over the top of Tony's bar for a moment, roughly level with their teammates faces on a lower level, then JARVIS lightly set them down; Steve managed to keep his feet, but instead of listing or falling over, Tony just sat down.
There was silence for a long moment, then the snickering started.
Steve and Tony shared a look of understanding, and Steve folded his arms across his chest. “Go on, let it all out.”
A chorus of laughter followed the permission, but thankfully not enough that it ran the risk of really hurting his feelings. Now that all the tension was gone, Tony almost looked like he might start laughing himself.
Natasha was the first one to get a hold of herself, though she was still smiling. “Tell us what happened.”
No one was smiling by the end of the story.
Natasha left the room to get in contact with a man that might be able to help un-magic them while Clint discussed logistics and possible tactics with Steve for how they could arrest their magically-inclined geriatric kidnapper, and Tony sweet-talked Bruce into taking readings of his doll-sized arc reactor.
By the time Natasha was back, readings had been taken and the rest of the team was ready to go. “My contact is on his way over to help you, but suggests that the spell will work out better – and less painfully – if Tony's back together as much as possible, first.”
Steve and the rest of the team wandered closer to Tony to investigate his incomplete limbs. The sudden rush of scrutiny seemed to make Tony uncomfortable for a moment, then he straightened up and defiantly held the limbs out to them.
Gently, Steve held Tony's arm, and looked inside the hole where his hand should be. “I think I see a –”
“Elastic,” Bruce confirmed, then ducked his head a little when the others looked at him with varying degrees of surprise and curiosity. “I, uh, worked in a lot of factories while lying low...”
Steve nodded at the explanation, trying to gauge the fragility of the elastic versus what tools would be available in the Tower to fix this. “I think my hands are small enough right now, that I can reach it.”
His still-full-sized teammates shared a look, then Natasha nodded at him. “Then we'll go arrest Evil Grandma while you guys get yourselves ready for real clothes again.”
Steve could feel his whole body blushing as he ducked his head and tried to smooth out a fold in his loincloth; he'd been hoping to avoid comments like that until he was big enough to flee the room on his own.
He caught sight of Tony looking at him, far more intently than he'd have expected, and only blushed harder for it.
After a few more parting shots, their teammates left, and Steve sat down next to Tony to watch a YouTube video JARVIS had queued up at the mention of elastic, on how to re-string a doll.
Lying still while someone reached inside your body, grabbed hold of your insides, then gently pulled them out to attach them to something else was... surprisingly intimate.
It didn't hurt, not really, and Steve was very conscientious about how he treated Tony's body, but it still struck him, how very vulnerable he was, and how much worse this would be if he didn't trust the person doing it.
After Obi... Tony was almost surprised at how cool he was with Steve doing this for him.
Tony watched as Steve picked up his missing hand with his free one, the other carefully pulling against the elastic to hold it outside his arm. There was no sensation in the hand as Steve got everything into position, but as he released it and the elastic pulled back in again, taut against the hook connection in his hand, suddenly Tony could feel it again, could move it. As if it had never been gone.
“Thing is a lie; child-me is crushed,” he remarked absently, twisting his wrist and flexing his fingers.
“What?” Steve asked, hesitantly shuffling toward his still-unattached leg.
“The Addams Family; it's a reference. Remind me and we'll watch it after all this. You'll get a kick out of Morticia and Gomez.”
Tony looked at Steve, who hadn't started on his leg yet, for some reason. “... Morticia?”
“Yeah, she's practically the origin of the 'Goth Mom' archetype. What's the hold up?” He used his newly-returned-pair of hands to prop himself up to look at Steve better, curious.
Most of what he said seemed to go over Steve's head, which he just shook, then looked down. “Oh, uh. I wasn't sure if you still wanted me to do it, now that you have both your own hands back.”
He opened his mouth to explain about the sort of angles he couldn't reach at on himself, thereby explaining away the closeness of the moment with practicalities, but something stopped him. Instead, he just smiled at Steve for a moment, still in his phone book loincloth and as beautiful as ever, and decided to stop avoiding all the possibilities.
He lowered himself back down, and shrugged against the counter top. “I trust you.”
Steve looked back up at his face with something that looked an awful lot like hope. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Tony nodded. “There isn't anyone in the world I trust more to do this.”
There was silence as that statement sunk in and Steve set about gently pulling the elastic out from his leg. “Morticia and Gomez, huh?”
Steve tugged gently on the elastic to get enough slack to hook his leg together, and Tony shuddered. “Why will I get a kick out of them?”
There was no doubt, no questioning on if Steve would 'actually' like them; he trusted Tony's judgment. It was a little thing, but in the context of their conversation so far, felt huge.
The elastic slipped over the hook, and Steve sat back while Tony tested out his leg again. He smiled at Steve. “Because it's apparent in every thing they do, how much they care about each other.”
Steve smiled at Tony, and they spent the rest of their wait sitting close together while watching cat videos, until their team – minus one Hawkeye, plus a man in a red cape carrying a rather keen-eyed frog – returned to break the spell over them.
Tony was looking forward to exploring how much he and Steve cared about each other, not to mention the differences between resin and skin, especially if Steve kept blushing all over.