Again! Why did this happen again? They should know better by now. Steve groaned, inwardly, of course, because vinyl action figures could not talk. And he’d been turned into a vinyl action figure, a very popular kind of action figure, as best he could tell. Spider-man would probably know the exact kind. Not that it mattered, but he knew Tony would want specific details when he wrote up the report later. Tony might even run some data on how they rated in terms of value and rarity.
Steve didn’t doubt for a minute that Tony would find a way to get them out of this jam. He always put his money on Tony when it came to figuring out this kind of transformation, alternate dimension or time travel problem.
Admittedly, Steve was totally over dealing with supervillains this week. He wasn’t certain what would happen once they did get their hands on the Puppet Master. Once they were back to their normal selves and the Puppet Master was dealt with, he was going to write a concise, thorough email to Reed Richards about the proper incarceration of supervillains so that they could not escape to bother innocent, heroic bystander like the Avengers. Two of whom had special plans that night that were now interrupted. Well, Sue at least would understand.
Unable to talk or move, Steve was getting plenty angry. He’d made dinner reservations at a very pricey and exclusive restaurant for tonight. It had taken a month to get the reservation, and the maitre d’ had not been one whit impressed when Steve stated he was calling on behalf of Captain America. The maitre d’ had simply sniffed and said, “Next month, no exceptions,” and asked for Steve’s credit card to secure the table. Steve had laid out his best suit with that blue tie with stars that Tony gave him for his birthday. He had plans this night that did not involve whatever trap he had fallen into.
Steve suppressed a sigh since he had no way to exhale it. By his estimation, the time for his reservations had come and gone. All he had wanted was to impress Tony. And now, well, if they were lucky and figured out how to get out of this mess, they might get back to the Tower in time to scavenge from the team’s takeout leftovers. Falling asleep with Tony on the couch as the team argued over which movie to watch was not the romantic atmosphere he’d hoped for.
Steve was startled out of his thoughts as Tony tapped his hand.
“Coast’s clear. Come on!”
“What?” He was now able to talk, clench and unclench his hand, and heft his shield. Which was likely just a vinyl-ly as he was. “How?”
“Toy Story Rules,” Tony said. “We come to life once people leave the room. Let’s vamoose.”
Steve craned his head to pick out a path down to the floor from the high shelf they were standing on. They would need to aim for a lower shelf, swing over to the counter, and jump to freedom. Or else Tony could fly them down. He looked over at Tony, who shook his head.
“No go on the plastic jet boots and repulsors.”
“Well, we are made out of vinyl.” So it was the shelf-counter-floor escape route.
“Does it matter? I’ve got bigger problems.” Tony helped Steve descend and they made it to the floor. “For one thing, I’m not crazy about this shade of red and gold.”
Steve ignored Tony’s complaint for the moment as they stopped behind a large counter. “What next?” Steve asked.
Tony scanned the room. “I have no idea where we are.”
“Let me look around.” Steve ventured out onto the floor. It looked like they were in a shop, where everything had a price tag but the tags were very specific. “We seem to be in a pawn shop.”
“A pawn shop? The Puppet Master pawned us?!” Tony asked. “Oh, come on. What a rotten con. He pawns us, collects the money, then we escape so he doesn’t have to repay the pawn. I bet he’s just waiting for us out back.”
“But don’t we need to get whatever clay-stuff he made us out of to get back to normal?” Steve tried to remember exactly what they had to do to reverse the effect.
“Yeah, get the thing for the thing to do the thing and we’re back to our happy selves,” Tony mumbled. “I hope he got a lot of money for us. I’ll be offended if it was only $5 or something.”
Steve pushed Tony into the shadow of the counter. “Look, it would be easier to let Puppet Master take us to his hideout -”
“Remember Toy Story Rules? He looks at us, we freeze, and we’re stuck again. I’d bet good money he knows that too and won’t let us out of his sight.”
“Okay. What’s the plan?” He was surprised to see how vinyl Tony walked and moved just like flesh-and-blood Tony. So much genius and attitude in a small package. It was no wonder he was head over heels for the guy.
Tony checked out the nearby shelves and began to pull off random objects. “I’ll rig up something so we can get out of here. Then we’re going to make Richards fix this mess.”
Steve stood watch as Tony worked on a skateboard. He could hear Tony mutter over his supplies, “Had to be date night, huh? Looking forward to this all week and now this crap. I bet Steve was going to wear a nice suit tonight, too, with that aftershave of his. Looove the aftershave. Okay, you go here and you go there and … we have power! Hmm, why are you being difficult? Ah, there we go–” Tony jumped to his feet. “All set!”
Tony had attached some sort of rocket engine to a skateboard with binder clips and wire from headphones. Steve whistled. “That’s amazing, Tony.”
“Let’s blow this popsicle stand. I’ll steer if you keep an eye out for trouble.”
Tony had even snagged a GPS unit so that they could find their way to the Baxter Building. Steve firmly decided he never wanted to ride a rocket-fuel-powered skateboard while 4 inches tall on New York City streets ever again. He clung to Tony for his life during the wild ride to the Fantastic Four.
As they dismounted, Steve asked, “Are you sure about this? We could ask the team. Thor might have an idea how to solve this.”
Tony grimaced as best he could with his vinyl face. “Yeah, this is killing me. But honestly, it’s the fastest way out of this mess.” He stopped. “Hey, I’m sorry about our date.”
“Things happen. It’s not your fault.”
“Yeah, but I know you were counting on it. A fancy restaurant, our first real night out in a couple of months –”
“We’ll try again.”
“I love you, you know.” Steve felt a silly smile cross his vinyl face, Tony could always turn him into goo with the right words. Tony walked up and started banging on the door. “Richards! Need help here.”
“Tony? Where are you? Oh, there you are. What happened?” Reed asked through a video screen in the door.
“No – don’t look at us! Toy Story Rules! It was Puppet Master,” Tony shouted.
“Oh, come on up – I can fix that.”
Sue fussed over Tony and Steve while Reed set up the machinery to fix them. “Happens all the time, you know. It’ll all be over in a hour.” Steve couldn’t reply as he was fixed in place on the edge of the table. He could tell Tony was dying inside because he couldn’t tell Reed what he was doing wrong.
Later, Steve listened as Tony and Reed discussed the machine and how Reed fixed their problem in great technical detail. Sue offered him cookies. “I bet you’re hungry from all that.”
“Could always use a cookie, ma’am,” Steve replied gratefully.
Studying Steve, Sue asked. “Cap, did you have a date tonight with Tony?”
Steve nodded. “We’ll reschedule, we’ve had to do it before,” he said, trying to hide his disappointment.
“Nonsense. It’s not even 7:30 yet. I can make some calls.” She patted his arm. “Reed, stop it. Tony has to be somewhere. Right now.”
Sue waded into the lab and dragged Tony out. “Go take a shower. Both of you. I’ll figure out the clothes.”
It was shocking how quickly Sue organized a new date for Steve and Tony, complete with reservations at a great restaurant and movie tickets. As she walked them to the door, Steve thanked her.
She smiled. “I have a lot of practice – otherwise, I’d never get a night out with Reed. I’ll email you some tips. Plus, we owe you since it was Puppet Master. Have a great time.”
On the way down, Steve wrapped his arm around Tony’s waist. “You seem happy despite today’s creepy supervillain.”
Tony laughed. “It could be because I’m going to bring home the best of all the action figures,” he said. “Or maybe because I’m worth $75 as a Vinyl-Pop Action Figure. Your pick.”
“I’m glad this appealed to your vanity,” Steve teased.
“Well, Steve,” Tony replied. “I am very collectible, you know.”
“Yes, you are,” Steve said and gave him a kiss.
Badge art by Inoshi.