Steve did not expect to find the mansion a disaster zone when he returned from his run. He automatically tensed, fingers itching for his shield as he looked around the mess that used to be the living room.
Then he saw Jan and Tony in the eye of the storm and relaxed. If there was an emergency, Tony would be in the armor instead of laying on his stomach and cutting fabric. And Jan would be small and fierce, not humming as she sewed a button onto whatever costume she was making. It didn't look like her normal colors, so Steve was a little confused. Were they getting someone new on the team?
Tony laughed at something Jan said and smiled at her, happy and carefree. Steve started when he realized he was staring, grateful he hadn't been caught in the act. He didn't need to give Jan any more ideas about setting him up.
He ducked out to grab a towel, then approached the mini-fabric war zone. "What's going on here?" he asked, trying not to step on anything that looked important. Or any pins. Even with shoes, he frowned at the number of pins lying around. It wasn't safe.
"I'm making my super-villainess outfit for when I turn to crime!" Jan said cheerfully. "Tony's helping."
Steve blinked. He was missing something here. He could have sworn Jan said she was making a super-villain outfit. "Why are you turning to crime?" It couldn't be for money, because both she and Tony helped fund the Avengers and had their own well-earned and large fortunes.
Steve was distracted slightly by the way Tony's tongue was sticking out slightly as he tried to cut smoothly along the lines. When Jan started speaking, he forced his eyes away from Tony's mouth and politely on her eyes. She smiled slyly, and he knew he'd been caught. "Because they're making an Ant-Man movie without me in it!" she said.
He was definitely missing something here. "I thought they couldn't make movies based off us without Tony's permission?"
"Technically no," Tony said around the pin in his mouth. He pulled it out and stuck it in the fabric, which Steve politely tried his hardest to ignore. "But change enough things or call it a parody, and they have a lot of wiggle room. The lawyers said we could kick up a fuss if we wanted, but we probably wouldn't win anything."
"They've already made an Avengers movie without me, and movies about "Stephan", "Antonio", Thor, who they can actually use the name since they claim it's truer to the mythological roots, and the "Rage". Not one single female hero movie," Jan said, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm not even in the new cartoon!"
"What about the Red Widow? She's in three of the movies," Tony said.
"And Natalie also deserves her own movie too, even if Natasha hates them. She was pretty kickass," Jan said. "But obviously, they're not making a movie about her either. And since Natasha doesn't want movies, I will step up as the obvious choice for a Hollywood blockbuster."
"That still doesn't explain why you're becoming a super-villain," Steve said. "Can't we just make our own? Or ask Hollywood to make one?"
"Making our own or having Hollywood make it would be a whole new can of worms," Tony said. "One we're not opening because my lawyers would kill me. If we let anyone use our names, we'd have to be on them like a hawk to make sure they don't put out another Elektra movie and claim they tried their best, and none of us have the time for that while we're supposed to be saving the world. Same goes for making our own."
Steve closed his eyes and counted to ten. "That still doesn't explain why Jan is becoming a super-villain," he repeated, clamping down on the frustration. His teammates were just being a little enthusiastic and forgetting the question, he reminded himself.
"Because of the exposure," Jan said, as if it was the most natural thing. "Everyone we've talked to says I'm not 'popular enough' and getting the media to give me more exposure is like pulling nails. Every time we save the day it's only you, Thor, and Tony in the pictures."
Steve frowned. He didn't often read news articles about the Avengers activities, as he had been there himself and read the team's reports enough that reading it again in the paper was overkill, but if that were the case he needed to pay more attention to them.
"But if Jan becomes a villain, then they'll have to cover it. Plus, if we spin the story right, she'll be sympathetic and in the spotlight," Tony said, then let out a small distressed noise as he pricked himself with a needle. He stared at the small drop of blood on his finger before putting it in his mouth.
"Besides," Jan said as Tony sucked on his finger, "If they won't make a female superhero movie, I might as well just turn to crime. I can steal from the Hollywood execs even!"
Steve fidgeted, knowing that he had to put a stop to this immediately or else he was going to start getting uncomfortable. He swallowed, trying not to think about things in Tony's mouth. "Don't suck on it," he said, pulling Tony's finger out. He glanced around for the first aid kid and was happy that Tony and Jan at least had it near by when they were working with pointy objects. He grabbed the antiseptic.
With his mouth freed, Tony rolled his eyes. "It's fine Steve. I've had worse than pricking my finger. It's not even the first time I've done it today."
"Doesn't mean you can't take care of it," Steve said, ignoring Tony's hiss at the antiseptic's sting and opening a Band-aid.
Knowing he wasn't going to win that one, Tony picked up the conversation and reminded Steve of the other thing he had to put a stop to immediately. "We'll return everything she steals, don't worry, Cap. I've already made the mind control device that we'll plant on her when she turns good again."
"Mind control device," Steve sputtered, dropping the Band-aid.
"Yup. Even Reed won't find fault in it. Don't worry, I've taken out the parts that will make it work, but Sue's promised to release a statement on Reed's behalf saying the control was absolute and none of it was Jan's fault," Tony said casually, as if he hadn't just admitted to creating a fully functional mind control device. "They'll be begging for movie rights."
"Tony, you have to dismantle it now!" Steve said, not letting himself be moved when Tony's face fell.
"Oh, come on, Steve," Jan said before Tony could buckle under Steve's disappointed face. "It's harmless. Besides, look at my costume designs! I'm going to look fabulous."
She thrust the drawing at Steve, who looked down at it automatically.
It was certainly a nice outfit, but the neckline was low. Very low. "You shouldn't need this kind of exposure." Then he winced, because Tony was already snickering at his unintentional innuendo.
Jan did a little shimmy that showed off her assets, causing Steve to blush. "What if I just want to be sexy for me?"
"Then that's okay as long as... Wait, Jan, you can't be a super-villain!" Steve said, ignoring Jan's pout.
"Oooh, is that your super-villainess outfit?"
Steve pressed his hand over his face in what Clint always called a 'facepalm' as Carol stole the drawing from him. "This looks amazing, Jan," she said. "I want one too!"
"Seriously, Carol, all you have to do is ask," Jan said. "Your costume has needed an update for a while now."
"Hey, I just got it, so don't knock it. Though I wouldn't mind some pants," Carol said with a chuckle. "But I was thinking. What if you made my outfit the sexy one and you went with a classy, elegant style for your lady thief? That way we don't fall into the Madonna-Whore complex."
"What?" Steve asked, feeling like this went even more over his head than it had been before. He understood the terminology, of course, because even Captain America couldn't escape the hell that is TV tropes (he blames Clint entirely), but how did Carol factor into this now?
"Carol is going to save me from the mind control through the power of female friendship," Jan said, raising her hand. Carol high-fived her. "But ooooh, my muse is speaking to me now. Tony, stop production! I need to redesign."
"Whatever you say, boss," Tony said, holding up his hands. "I'm just the love interest."
Steve's eyes went wide at that. "What about Hank?" he said, letting his anger channel through his voice. It wasn't jealousy, no. It was purely him looking out for Tony so that he wouldn't be a homewrecker.
"Oh, relax, Cap," Jan said, patting his hand knowingly. "Hank's cool with it if it keeps him in his lab with his bugs instead of needing to make an appearance. As long as we're not 'making out like we're having sex' - his words - he's fine with it. He's not even going to see the movie. And Scott even promised to give me some lessons in lock picking!"
This was getting out of hand. "Jan-"
"Besides, I'm good for it" Tony said, throwing himself on his back as he placed his hand, palm facing outward, over his forehead in a classic swooning position. It didn't quite hide his smile. "My love for the villainous Jan is too pure. My heart will burst and I will waste away until she is returned to her normal heroic self. Save me, Carol."
There was a number of things wrong with that statement. Tony shouldn't be in love with Jan. And he shouldn't be calling for Carol to save him when Steve was right there. Not that Carol wouldn't do a fine, upstanding job of saving Tony, but if Tony was going to be a swooning romantic love interest, he should be Steve's. This wasn't jealousy. It was Steve being legitimately upset that one of this teammates wanted to be a super-villain.
"You make a good romantic heroine," Jan said, giggling at his antics. "His love is one-sided, of course, because even evil, my heart is only for Hank, but I can feel sorry enough for him to use his romantic feelings for me for Evil."
"Woe is me," Tony said with a dramatic sigh. "I need to be ravished here and now, Jan."
Okay, Steve was putting a stop to this. He pulled Tony closer to him, ignoring Jan's knowing gleam and Tony's confusion as he shifted until he was between them and put his hands on his hips. He prepared a stern lecture that would stir their patriotic guilt. "You can't-"
"I too have noticed a disturbing lack of diversity in the toys for these movies," T'Challa said, startling them all. Steve breathed a sigh of relief, turning to look as the Black Panther walked forward in full uniform. T'Challa was a voice of reason. "Perhaps I should join you in your endeavors as well."
Steve stared at the Black Panther in shock and betrayal. "Not you too, T'Challa."
"It is a noble mission," T'Challa replied.
"Alright!" Jan said. "We can work you in. We don't want to make you into a villain though, because that's a stereotype we don't need to play into. How about you and Carol save me through the power of Friendship? You can catch me when I swoon when the chip is broken. Oh! Or you could save Tony! I can kidnap him and have him in my villainous clutches!" The latter she said looking at Steve specifically, and he hated the mischief in her voice.
"This is a sound plan," T'Challa said, a hint of a smile showing under his cowl.
"But what if I like being in your villainous clutches?" Tony said with a mock pout.
"No one is becoming a super-villain," Steve said, making sure his voice carried as his hand went to Tony's shoulder. While he had the greatest respect for T'Challa and his capabilities, he was also not saving Tony and Tony was not going to be in anyone else's clutches. "That's not the kind of exposure we want."
"Oh, come on, Cap," Carol said. "They do it all the time to sell comics. Just last week they gave 'Antonio' a silver armor and turned him evil in the Steel Man comics."
"Not even the first time," Tony said, waving it off. "Actually, I kind of liked the color."
Steve did not yell at them all, but it was a near thing. "We can donate to some kickstarters of female-led comics," he said. "And for films too."
"Wow, I didn't realize Cap knew what a kickstarter was," Jan whispered to Carol.
"He 'enjoys supporting the endeavors of independent artists trying to make a living outside the constraints of traditional business models'," Carol whispered back in what sounded like an imitation of Steve's own voice.
Steve ignored them both. "We can also talk to the merchandising arm of the Avengers. I know we have some. We can put out more stuff for female heroes. Tony can even do a press conference."
"Hm, it'd be good press," Tony admitted. "I can put together a new line and that might shame some of those Hollywood execs. Jan, you could help design some of it."
"That does sound like a start," Jan said, sketching absently as she spoke.
"And we can ask Mr. Parker if he could get some better pictures for news articles. He seemed like a good kid who might want to help out," Steve continued. "We can get people started talking. Maybe it's too late for this movie, but if enough people speak out about it, then we can start a change. It's a long road, but we won't give up on it."
"Wow," Carol said.
"Bravo, Cap!" Tony gave him a round of applause.
"But come on, I'd look amazing in this!" Jan said, holding up the design she'd been working on throughout Steve's stirring speech.
Steve gaped as Carol and Tony cooed over the design and went right back into plotting their story.
He felt T'Challa's hand on his shoulder squeezing it reassuringly. "Let them have their fun, Captain," he said, humor lacing his words. "Carol suggested this as a way to raise Jan's spirits and I will make sure no harm comes of it."
So T'Challa was acting as a voice of reason. That made Steve feel a little better. "This is all just to cheer Jan up?" he asked.
"Yes, but your ideas also have great merit," T'Challa said. "Come, let us put together the press conference you spoke of while they play a little longer."
Steve glanced back at the others. Jan had been a little down recently, even though she tried to put on a cheerful act. As long as Tony was just playing at being her love interest...
* * *
The next day after his run, Steve grabbed the paper. He only had to glance at the first headline before he was up and yelling, "JAN!"
"Jan Van Crime: The Wasp Turns To Super-Villainy!"