When Batman found himself in another universe—in an office building he'd never seen in a city that looked close to yet nothing like his world's New York—he immediately crouched under a desk to get his bearings. Magic. It had to be magic. Any time something ridiculous happened, it was 99% likely to be the fault of magic.
Had Clark and Diana been transported with him? The last thing he remembered, he was standing in the Watchtower discussing the Justice League roster. He was of the opinion that some purges needed to be made, while Clark was defending the usefulness of Green Arrow. There was a flash of light (there was always a flash of light) and then he was here. In an office. There were no supervillains in sight, just an office with an exceptionally large bar. He looked to be dealing with an alcoholic.
There was a very slim chance his communicator would work in another dimension, but before he got the chance to even try, someone entered the room. Then another set of footsteps followed. Two men. One's voice was calm and direct; it reminded him of Clark's. The other was boisterous and possibly drunk.
"Blah, blah," the questionably drunk man mocked. "You're talking and all I hear is 'I'm Captain America and I'm better than you.'"
"You know I don't think that."
Bruce had one thought: Who the hell would call themselves Captain America? Then again, he hung around a guy called Superman. At first, he inferred that he was in the presence of some of this world's superheroes, but their conversation made him question the “super” part of that judgment.
"I'm just saying, Steve. Get off your high horse for a second." So the one who definitely wasn't drunk—the one who was Captain America—was Steve.
"Tony, you built a clone of Thor. A clone of Thor! I tried not to say anything, but now you want to bring that thing back?" The debatably drunk one was named Tony, and he seemed to be a dick.
"Not as an Avenger!” Tony reasoned. “He could be useful doing heavy lifting for R&D."
"No,” Steve chided.
"It's really not your call," Tony said.
"You think you get to make any calls after the last few years?"
"Oh, for— I don't remember any of it! I don't remember the civil war, I don't remember you dying, I don't remember Norman Osborn taking over... All I know are the facts of what happened, and that you're still pissed off."
"I'm not. I'm really not. I just think you need better judgment."
Tony scoffed. "Yeah, I do. I need better judgment in who I consider a friend."
"Do you even hear yourself when you talk?" Steve was clearly becoming irritated at this point. "I am your friend. So if I say you shouldn't do something, you should consider not doing it instead of getting angry with me."
"Sorry. It's just... I'm trying to rebuild this company, you know? For one, there aren't a lot of people willing to work here, and I can't exactly afford to hire too many who are."
"You'll make it work, Tony." There was a brief silence and Bruce peeked around the corner of the desk to see the two men embracing. The blond one continued, "And you can do it without a Thor clone."
Bruce collected his facts. This building was owned by the one with a goatee named Tony. Since the stationary on the desk read "Stark Resilient," he assumed his name was Tony Stark. The company must have gone bankrupt or been destroyed or something, because he was trying to rebuild it. He was also prone to shady decisions like cloning gods.
The blond man was named Steve, and his code name was Captain America. He had a strong sense of character and an annoyingly holier-than-thou tone. Like Clark. They were both on a team called the Avengers, and they were most likely dating. Sure, people hug their friends, but they don't stroke their shoulders when they do.
Tony was now approaching the desk where Bruce hid. Before he could decide on his next move, there was a crash of glass and a familiar voice.
"Get away from there," Superman said. If he was here, Bruce figured that Diana was probably also in this dimension.
Immediately, Tony's armor emerged from his skin and he stepped in front of Steve. From around the corner of the desk, Bruce took this information in. They bickered, but were protective of each other. It was quite possible they were married.
"Get away from what? This is my building," Tony complained, "and you just destroyed a few grand worth of glass, you dick."
Bruce emerged from under the desk and spoke in a gravelly tone. "It's fine. These guys aren't the ones who brought us here."
"Who the hell are you and why were you under my desk?" Tony asked, removing his helmet. Then he turned to Steve. "You didn't ask one of your second rate friends to spy on me, did you?"
"What?" Steve was somewhat offended. "No. I have no idea who this is."
"I'm Batman," Bruce growled.
"What's wrong with your voice?" Steve asked.
"He just talks like that," Superman said, landing in the building. "I don't think we need secret identities here." He eyed up the two unfamiliar men. "I'm Superman. Born Kal-El of the planet Krypton. Friends call me Clark Kent."
"Tony Stark. Iron Man."
"Steve Rogers. Captain America."
Tony raised an eyebrow. “Just Batman?”
"You've got issues."
Bruce simultaneously laughed and growled. "You're one to talk. Cloning Norse gods?"
"That was a private conversation," Tony snapped.
"Can we focus?" Steve asked. "You said something about being brought here. If you're from another dimension, we need to figure out who brought you here and how to get you home."
"Agreed," Clark said.
"I'll assemble the Avengers."
One by one, Avengers filed dutifully into the mansion. What they were "avenging" wasn't clear, but there were at least a hundred of them, and Batman assumed that most of them were reserve members. Like the Justice League, he didn't imagine they had much use for the guy with the bow and arrows. Little did he know that in this world, the archer was a premier member of the team. Batman lurked in the corner of the room, eyeing everyone up.
Steve, Tony, and Clark stood at the front of the room. Steve, now dressed in what Bruce could only assume was his Captain America uniform (tacky), commanded the attention of the room.
"We have at least two people here from another universe, and we need to get them back. Does anyone know anything that might help?"
A man with white temples and an absurd cape spoke. "I felt a mystical disturbance earlier today, but I couldn't track it."
"That's Doctor Strange," a young voice said. "He's magic guy."
Bruce turned and was greeted by a slender man in a red costume decked with a web pattern. "Let me guess: Spider-Man?"
"Is it that obvious?" Peter tugged at the front of his costume, glancing at the large black spider on his chest. "Yeah. I guess it is. Are you Bat Man?"
"Hyphen or no?" Peter asked.
"Do you use a hyphen in your name? I do."
"No, it's all one word."
"So... Batman?" Peter asked, intentionally slurring and pronouncing the name as if it were a normal last name.
Bruce corrected him. "Bat. Man."
"You need a space, then. Or a hyphen."
"Tell me about your friends," Bruce hissed.
"You don't have to use that voice, you know. And which ones?"
"Iron Man and Captain America."
At the front of the room, Doctor Strange droned on about methods of tracking mystical energy. It was all old to Bruce, who had heard Doctor Fate go on and on about the same subject on several occasions. Clearly it was also old to Iron Man and Captain America, as they spent the entirety of the diatribe smiling and whispering to each other. Bruce figured that listening to the annoying Spider-Man could prove to be more useful.
"Well, uh, Steve's a super soldier. He was frozen during World War II and unfrozen here. Tony's pretty much a genius. He built that armor himself." Peter paused as he thought of a way to accurately describe the pair. "They're basically the mom and dad of the Avengers."
"Just dating, then," Batman said, certain.
Peter gave a blank stare. "Uh, no."
Bruce's detective skills were not rusty. They just weren't. There was a spark between the soldier and the businessman. Mission be damned, he was going to confirm his initial suspicion that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers either were dating, had dated, or were going to date.
While Strange headed for the Sanctum Sanctorum, Reed Richards took a piece of Superman's cape to analyze and trace its universe of origin. He tried to take a piece of Batman's cape, but that ended with Batman threatening to determine the effect of batarangs on rubberized flesh. Tony had tried to work with Reed, but the man in blue muttered something about science and refused any help.
So Bruce, Clark, Tony, and Steve waited for information in the Baxter Building's cafeteria. They sat awkwardly around a small table, everyone's faces exposed but Batman's. Still wearing his cowl, he sipped at a cherry Icee. Clark munched on some french fries. Tony and Steve, meanwhile, weren't eating. Instead they were sitting closer than friends ever should, bickering once again.
"You don't need that shit," Tony said.
"I don't appreciate you describing Sharon like that."
Tony sighed. "I mean marriage. You're only dating her now and that was already enough to make her a target. What do you think's going to happen if Captain America gets married?"
"You think I shouldn't be with anyone, then."
"I didn't say that," Tony said, smirking.
Bruce set his Icee down and glanced from Tony to Steve, then back at Tony. He was the world's greatest detective, damn it, and these two were as gay as he was brooding. He looked at Clark and the two shared an amused glance.
"You did," Steve said. "You said I can't date anyone without putting them at risk."
"Not a regular person, no. If you ask me, you should give Wanda another shot. Sure, she might invent children for you then make them disappear, but you wouldn't have to worry about her getting hurt."
Bruce couldn't hold back any longer. "What about you two?"
"What?" Steve asked.
"We're not—" Tony started. "Why would you think that?"
Batman growled. "I'm the world's greatest detective, and I'm detecting that you two need to fuck. There's so much sexual tension between you that—"
"No there isn't," Steve said unconvincingly.
Clark chimed in. "Your hearts beat faster around each other."
Tony was stunned. "You can sense that?" Then he shook his head. "I mean... They do not! Two men can be close without... What about you two?"
"I'm married," Clark said.
"We're like brothers," Bruce added.
"So are we," Steve said.
Bruce smirked. "Yeah. Brothers who want to fuck."
Clark chimed in again. “I was listening to you while Doctor Strange was speaking. You were whispering about getting together and 'releasing some aggression.'”
“You could hear that?” Tony turned to Bruce. “Is there anything this guy can't do?”
“Pick up a piece of kryptonite,” Bruce stated bluntly.
“What's kryptonite?” Steve asked.
“Nevermind.” Batman took another sip of his Icee. “Releasing aggression, huh?”
“Sometimes we spar,” Steve said. “It's not—”
As it turned out, Bruce was right about one thing: Diana was also stuck in this universe. They found out when she nearly created an international incident by destroying the doombots that surrounded her when she appeared in Latveria. While Clark flew off to bring her back, Bruce and Steve sat in awkward silence. Tony hovered in Reed's laboratory.
“Anything yet?” Tony asked.
“No. Please let me work,” Reed insisted.
“I can help.”
Reed fiddled with one of his gadgets. “Are you an expert on interdimensional travel? No. I am. Please leave me alone.”
“I don't want to go back down there,” Tony insisted.
“Why?” Reed asked, paying him no attention.
“Those guys think Steve and I are a thing. Something about unresolved sexual tension.”
“Hmm?” Reed turned a knob. “I can't imagine why.”
That was sarcasm. Tony had just been the recipient of sarcasm, courtesy of Reed Richards. He threw up his hands in frustration and left the lab. He almost ran right into Steve, who was headed his way.
“Steve, what are you doing here?”
“Getting away from Batman.”
“Well, don't go in there,” Tony sighed. “Apparently Reed agrees with him on the sexual tension front.”
“I don't understand,” Steve opined.
Tony threw up a hand and put it in Steve's shoulder. “People just don't get us. It's guy love is all.”
Steve was confused. “Guy love?”
“Bromance.” Tony spoke emphatically. “You know. If I think extensively about your handsome face and clear azure eyes, it's okay because we're just friends.”
Steve blinked rapidly. “I don't think that's ever okay.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you're joking, right? You'd never have that exact thought. 'Clear azure eyes.' That's ridiculous.”
Tony's face reddened and he brushed a hand through his hair. “Uh, no. Of course not.”
“Tony!” Steve hit his forehead with his palm, then leaned his head back with an eyeroll.
“Nothing.” Steve sighed. “Let's just forget it, and—”
Seemingly out of nowhere, a golden rope tightened around Tony. The lasso of truth. Batman and Wonder Woman approached from the end of the corridor.
Tony eyed Diana up and down. “Not that I mind,” he said blithely, “but what are you doing?”
“No person can lie when bound by this lasso,” she said.
Steve facepalmed again. “Did Batman put you up to this?”
“Yes,” she admitted. Batman really took offense to the notion that he may have been wrong about the nature of Tony and Steve's relationship.
“Where's Clark?” Steve asked.
“Having a chat with your Doctor Doom.” She turned to Tony and tightened the lasso. “How do you feel about Steve?”
Tony bit his lip, futilely trying to keep himself from speaking. Suddenly, he blurted, “I feel clumsy and safe next to his grace and daring.” Then a pause. “Goddamn it.”
“Tony, what the—” Steve was confused. “Are you in love with me?”
“Kind of. Maybe.” Diana tugged at her lasso. “Yes.”
“Called it,” Batman said.
Diana rebuked, “Stop it, or I'll tell them about the time you and Clark spent the night in the Fortress of Solitude crying about tentacle monsters.”
Tony and Steve raised their eyebrows.
Batman growled, “We don't ever talk about that. Ever.”