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too many fish in the sea

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Natasha and Clint are on a secret mission for SHIELD, Thor has taken Jane and Darcy to Asgard to meet his parents, Bruce is on an art museum weekend with Betty.

And Tony’s just about to leave on a Japanese business trip.

Usually, Steve would be bummed out about being left alone in Avengers tower. But the thing is, the more time he gets away from Tony, the better he’ll get at pushing down any awkward feelings he may or may not have. So there's that, at least.

“Okay, please talk to JARVIS as much as possible, otherwise he’ll get sulky and rude and I’m going to be the one fixing his program.” Tony instructs Steve, who is leaning against the fridge. Pepper has already rung Tony three times to tell him she and Happy are not waiting for him past three o'clock, past which point he’ll have to find his own mode of transport which is not the Iron Man suit because if he turns up with one more wrinkled suit and helmet hair to a meeting, she may just chop off his balls. (It’s now ten past three.)

“I’ll be fine, Tony,” Steve says, smiling at one corner.

“You say that,” Tony replies. “But what will you do when Dummy decides to have a play date with the toaster again?”

“Then I’ll separate them and remind Dummy that he’s supposed to stay in the workshop.” Steve folds his arms.

“And if the TV actually listened to Clint’s orders and tapes the latest episode of Man vs. Food?”

“Everyone likes Man vs. Food except you Tony, so I won’t do anything.”

Tony scowls. “Wrong answer.”

“Go, Tony,” Steve ushers at him.

“Don’t flap your hands at me, I’m going.” Tony sticks his tongue out, and picks up his Iron Man briefcase. “You’re sure you’re going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine. Now go.”

Tony looks at him with one last unreadable expression, and then sighs. “Right. Yeah, I’m going. Kiss goodbye?”

Steve rolls his eyes. “Get on with you.”

Because he’s too busy looking at the fridge magnets to hide his own expression, Steve completely misses the disappointed flash that runs across Tony’s features.

“Right.” Tony says again, this time with determination. “See you in a week. Don’t break the house, one rebuilding is enough, thanks.”

And with that, he steps into the elevator and the doors ping shut.

-

Steve spends most the first day wondering what to do with himself. When you live with five people with very, very... outlandish personalities, there’s not much time spent alone.

At first, he decides to paint. He has all the supplies; Tony practically bought him an art store when he found out that Steve went to art college. But then he can’t think of anything to draw, so he decides to go for a run. But he takes one step outside and almost falls on his ass, after forgetting about the ice that covers most of Manhattan, and so he goes inside to run on the machine.

But then he gets bored after an hour, and he makes some food. He eats it in front of the television (it’s a guilty pleasure of his to watch cop dramas). Then he just watches television because he doesn’t have anything else to do.

It’s about half past six when he hears a strange sound from the kitchen. He frowns, reaches for the nearest weapon (it’s a lamp that he hopes Tony won’t mind being used in self defence) and creeps towards the sound.

He stops in the doorway, and frowns at the sight.

“Tony?”

It’s kind of embarrassing that he can recognise Tony just by his ass.

Tony straightens, from where he had been rummaging, back bent and holding on to the door, in the fridge. He turns around, and grins. “Steve!”

Steve can only stare, because in the eight hours since Tony has left, and apparently returned, he seems to have grown dreadlocks.

“Tony?” Steve tries again.

“It’s me, man,” Tony spreads his arms wide, which means he hits one against the fridge. “Ow.”

“Are you drunk?”

Tony shakes his head, still grinning. “Nope.” He pops the ‘p’.

Steve narrows his eyes. “You sure sound drunk.”

He’s decidedly not commentating on the dreadlocks. Or the fringed trousers, or the hawaiian shirt, or the fully grown out beard. Because he kind of doesn’t want to know. Drunk Tony is easier to deal with than whatever this Tony is.

“I’m not drunk.” Tony accentuates. “I’m... I’m just very happy.” He beams.

Steve takes a step closer, and takes a cautious sniff. He recoils. “Have you been taking marijuana?”

Tony rubs at his bloodshot eyes. “Maybe? Hey, do we have any crisps? Or, like, bananas? I really fancy some bananas right now.” He titters. “Bananas. Heh.”

Steve lets the lamp fall from the defensive way he was holding it. “Um. Why do you have dreadlocks? And why have you been smoking marijuana?”

Tony pulls a face. “Man, what happened to you? You used to be cool, man.” He goes back to rummaging in the fridge.

Steve is still stunned about the dreadlocks that are actually attached to Tony’s scalp, so it takes a second for him to say, “Uh. Would you like to sit down?”

“Sure.” Then Tony simply sits down on the floor.

Steve blinks hard. Then he almost grins with relief as a thought occurs to him: “Is this a practical joke?”

Tony stares at him. “Is what a practical joke?” And then he yawns. And then he frowns. “Hey, do we have any bananas? I want a banana.”

Steve wonders if this is a sign of going crazy.

He decides to check. He turns around, walks out of the kitchen, and shuts his eyes tight. He hears a kind of ‘pop’ sound, and his eyes open instinctively.

He yelps.

Because there’s someone standing barely an inch from him, nose to nose. They’re wearing a lot of makeup, but Steve can see stubble where a man’s sideburns would be, and when Steve takes a step back, he sees the person is also wearing a feather boa and a very small dress that doesn’t hide much of their very manly legs.

Steve is very confused.

“Um.” He says. “Who are you?”

“Oh, honey, don’t play coy.” The person runs a familiar finger down Steve’s chest, and he gulps. And then he freezes, because that voice is very, very familiar.

“Tony?”

“Steve!” Tony mocks. He titters. He’s wearing lipstick and mascara. Oh god, Tony Stark has suddenly started cross dressing and taking marijuana and-

“What happened to your dreadlocks?” He asks faintly.

“What dreadlocks?” Tony cocks his (her?) head. “Steve, honey, what’s going on?”

Steve gulps again. “I have no idea.”

There’s another pop, and then Tony’s voice comes from the kitchen: “Hey! Look! It’s me!”

Steve whips around and races back to the kitchen. Dreadlock Tony is still on the floor, giggling to himself and holding a banana in his right hand. But there’s another Tony in there with him.

And this one seems to be a cowboy.

Cowboy Tony turns around, and tips his hat (his actually, honest-to-god cowboy hat) at Drag Queen Tony. “Ma’am.”

Drag Queen Tony titters, and slaps Steve on the arm. “Steve, how come you never treat me like a lady like that?”

Cowboy Tony seems to suddenly become aware of his surroundings. At that exact moment, JARVIS decides to interject, “Mr. Stark?” Cowboy Tony whips out his pistol from his hip holster, and shoots at the ceiling three times.

A section of dust rains down on him, and he splutters in indignation. “What in the bejeezus is happenin’ here?” He exclaims, with the most Southern accent Steve has ever heard.

Steve is beginning to think this isn’t a practical joke.

-

He sits all three of them in the living room, and goes back into the kitchen under the pretense of getting another banana for Hippie Tony.

But then he hears a: ‘Oh my god, is that a bra?” from Natasha’s room, and he can almost feel the blood rush from his face.

He runs to the room and flings open the doorway. The sight that greets him is possibly the strangest Tony yet.

He’s wearing a stained t-shirt, black with a yellow bat-like symbol across the chest, and boxers, and nothing else. His hair is gelled and neatly parted, and he’s clean shaven.

He also seems to be smelling one of Natasha’s bras.

“Take that off!” Steve snaps, storming over and snatching it off his face. “Where did you find this?”

“Hey!” Tony grabs for it. “Finders keepers! Go find your own bra!”

“I have a spare one in my purse, darling!” Drag Queen Tony calls from the lounge. Steve bites back and groan, and holds the bra out of Tony’s grip.

He decides he’ll have to explain it to Natasha in a way that doesn’t end up with Tony castrated, and he flings the bra down. Before Tony can leap after it, he grabs him by the collar and marches him to the living room.

“Sit down.” He orders.

New Tony frowns. “Have you kidnapped me? Mom!” Then he looks around at the other Tony’s, and visibly balks. “Oh my god, am I in a parallel universe? Cool! This is like one of my novels.”

“You write novels?” Steve can’t help but ask.

Tony pushes back his glasses, and nods enthusiastically. “Uh huh. At the moment, I’m writing one about this blue-skinned girl with four breasts, and she explores the universe naked.”

Steve knows enough about modern culture to label him Geek Tony.

There’s another pop, this time from the hallway, and Steve rushes to it.

He squints at the sight. “Tony?”

The dark-haired woman squints back at him. “Steph?” She pauses. “Why are you a man?”

-

There aren’t any more pops for about ten minutes. This is plenty of time for Geek Tony (who Steve secretly suspects is also Virgin Tony) to ask Female Tony all about her lesbian adventures, under the pretense of research for his next book.

Female Tony - ironically, the most like Steve’s Tony - eventually runs out of patience and cuts over Geek Tony’s questions about nipple stimulation (something that Drag Queen Tony is also very interested in) to ask Steve, “So what’s your theory?”

“My theory?”

“Yeah.” She huffs. “As to why we’re all here?”

“Uh,” Steve thinks back to Geek Tony’s earlier comment. “Parallel universes?”

She looks at him contemplatively, and then nods. “Hm. That could work. But why?”

Steve is saved from having to answer by another pop, and he stands up. “You guys stay here.” He turns around, and then adds, “Geek Tony. No more lesbian questions.”

He frowns indignantly. “‘Geek Tony?’”

Steve goes to investigate. But there’s a lot of rooms, and he can’t remember where the pop sound came from. He sighs. “JARVIS?” He asks.

“There seems to be another Mister Stark in the library, sir.”

“Thanks, JARVIS.”

Steve goes to the library, and opens the door. He says tentatively, “Tony?”

Tony whirls around, and Steve’s breath hitches. Because this Tony looks exactly like his Tony, and Steve almost believes that maybe it is his Tony.

But this Tony looks at Steve like he’s looking at a ghost. “Steve?”

“Yeah,” Steve smiles. He’s about to say something about not panicking, but then Tony launches at Steve and wraps him in a huge hug.

“Steve,” Tony says into Steve’s shoulder, broken and fragile, and Steve automatically holds him.

“Tony? What’s the matter?”

“You’re dead,” Tony chokes out.

“Oh, Tony,” Steve sighs, because this is awful. “I’m really sorry, Tony. But this...I don’t think this is your universe.”

Tony recoils out of Steve’s embrace like he’s been punched. His eyes are red. “What?”

“Come on,” Steve offers gently. “I’ll introduce you to...well, you.”

“But-” Tony grabs at Steve and holds on to his sleeve. “In this universe, you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Steve assures him. “I’m great.”

Tony seems to steel himself, and he lets go of Steve. “Okay then. That'll do.”

And then he marches in front of Steve and to the living room, like he owns the place (in all fairness, he technically does, just in another universe).

Steve would really like to take a moment to collect himself, but then he hears a pop, and then there’s a strange sound immediately afterwards, and some yelps.

He runs back to the living room, and blinks.

Standing on the coffee table in the middle of the room, and therefore the middle of all of the Tony’s, is a very dazed looking, shirtless and tattooed Tony, poised like he was halfway through a dramatic guitar stroke.

“Huh?” He says. “What-”

“It’s a long story,” Female Tony takes sympathy on him.

“Dude,” Hippie Tony says. “Why do you have ‘Avengers’ tattooed across your hip?”

“It’s the name of my band,” Rockstar Tony rolls his eyes. “What stone have you been living under?”

Suddenly, there’s yet another pop (Steve sort of wonders whether this will ever end) but before they can react, they all hear a “Holy fuck! Where am I? Steve!”

It’s a female voice.

Steve runs towards the voice, and gapes at the very pregnant woman in the kitchen. “Oh my god.”

“Steve!” It’s Tony. She’s clutching her belly, and then she frowns. “Why is your hair really long?”

Steve self consciously touches his hair, and then he remembers priorities, and says, “Tony, hi. Uh, I’m not your Steve.”

Her eyes widen, and then she starts yelling blue murder. “I’ve been abducted!” She screams. “Help, I’ve been kidnapped by a fucking shapeshifter and I’m a pregnant woman, I can’t fucking run away!”

“No, wait-” Steve takes a step towards her, but then she starts waddling away in the opposite direction, still yelling.

“Help! Help me, I’m pregnant and hot and intelligent, I don’t deserve to die!”

“What’s all the yelling about?” Steve whips around to see the other Tony’s have come to stare at the scene.

“Yeah, man,” Hippie Tony looks pained. “Some of us have sensitive hearing.”

Female Tony stares. “Hey, another female Tony! Thank god.”

At that, Pregnant Tony turns around. She goes pale. “Oh fuckballs.” She sighs. “Is this a parallel universe kind of deal?”

They all nod.

“Fan-fucking-tastic.”

-

It’s an hour later, and Steve is starting to think this isn’t going to just go away if he shuts his eyes really tightly and wishes as hard as he can.

There’s a Toddler Tony who’s being held by Pregnant Tony, and there’s a Tony who was never kidnapped and never became Iron Man arguing about politics with a Pensioner Tony. Geek Tony is asking Cowboy Tony questions about saloons and cowboy prostitutes, and Rockstar Tony and Gang Member Tony are comparing tattoos. Female Tony is poking fun at Ginger Tony (who’s maybe one of the most stand-out Tony’s) and Hippie Tony and Surfer Tony seem to be sharing drug-induced experiences.

When a Warlock Tony arrives (who’s apparently an environmentalist warlock, which greatly interests Hippie Tony who has started telling everyone he’s at one with ‘Mother Earth’), Steve decides it’s time to call Tony.

His Tony, that is.

It goes to voicemail - Steve isn’t surprised. There’s about a thousand things Tony could be doing right now that means he’s away from his phone (sleeping in bed, sleeping in a meeting, sleeping with someone else, that kind of thing).

“Hey Tony,” Steve’s voice is unusually high-pitched as he speaks to Tony’s voice mail. “It’s Steve. There seems to be a...situation here. So, um, if you could hurry back, it would be much appreciated.”

In front of him, Hippie Tony high fives Warlock Tony, nearly slapping Drag Queen Tony in the face, and says, “Whoa, man. You’re providing free magic power for your world? Green Energy Boner Alert.”

-

It’s another hour and four more Tony’s (one of whom is an actual mermaid) before Steve’s Tony calls him back.

“Steve?” He sounds tired, and Steve actually feels sort of guilty. “What’s going on? Did you break Dummy?”

“No, Dummy’s fine.” Steve says. (Uh, actually, when Pimp Tony went downstairs to see if he could steal anything, he had brought Dummy up with him, and most of the Tony’s spent a good twenty minutes playing with him. But Dummy loved it and Steve took him back down, so Steve decides not to mention it.) “It’s...ah, it’s a little hard to explain.”

“...Okay.” Tony says slowly. “Is it technical?”

“I don’t think so.”

There’s a pause - Steve can almost hear Tony trying to work out what’s wrong. “Um. Would you like to send me a picture?”

“Yeah,” Steve says. “Yeah, that might work.”

He presses a button, like Tony had taught him, and says, “Hey, guys. Smile!” They all turn to look at him, and Hippie Tony is, strangely, the only one quick enough to smile before the flash goes off.

“‘Guys?’” Tony asks. “Steve, are you having a gay orgy? Without me?”

“I’m not having a gay orgy,” Steve says.

And of course, Drag Queen Tony cries out, “Oh yes he is! More lubrication please, honey!”

Tony pauses. “Steve?” He squeaks. “Steve, please send the picture now.”

“I’m doing it now, Tony.” He sends the picture, and then holds it back to his ear to await Tony’s response.

But before he can, there’s another pop sound, and an Eskimo Tony appears, holding a fishing pole with a hooked fish on the end and blinking in surprise.

“Oh my god,” Steve says. He gestures at the others. “Someone else explain the situation to him, please.”

“Steve, I’m really worried.” Tony says over the phone.

“Have you got the picture yet?” Steve asks.

“Not yet.”

“I’d save your panic for then.”

There’s a rush of air, like Tony’s exhaled sharply. Then there’s a small beep, and Tony says, “Got it.”

“Okay.”

There’s a pause, as Tony presumably studies the picture. Finally, Tony says, “Steve, have you learned to use photoshop recently?”

“What’s photoshop?”

“I was afraid of that.” Tony sighs. “Pepper’s going to be so mad at me.”

-

Tony takes the Iron Man suit, and keeps the call on to Steve. Steve uses the time to try and explain the situation. It’s, unsurprisingly, difficult.

“They kind of... pop when they arrive.” Steve says lamely. “Uh, the latest was an eskimo, and - oh, hold on.”

There’s a pop, and Steve leans around the doorway to see a man, with a lawn mower in his hands, wearing a flannel shirt over a small pot belly, and with an ever so slightly receding hairline.

“Huh. Another one just arrived.” He holds the phone to his chest, and beckons the man over. “They’ll explain it all to you,” he directs the bewildered man into the living room, where Toddler Tony happily crawls over to him.

“Who was it?” Tony asks.

“Surburban you.”

“Ew.” Steve imagines Tony shuddering. “Hey, that makes eighteen in total, right?”

“I think so,” Steve counts them all. “Yeah, eighteen. Nineteen, including you.”

Then there’s another pop, and Iron Man appears in the kitchen. Steve frowns at it. It’s...different. More menacing. The eye slits don’t shine white, black instead, and the chin of the faceplate sharpens into a point.

“Was that another one? Steve?”

The Iron Man catches sight of Steve, and through the voice filter says, “Captain America? I killed you.”

Steve pales. “Uh oh.”

“Steve, what’s going on? Steve?”

“Super Villain you just arrived. Gotta go!” Steve says, before chucking the phone away and running down the hallway to his bedroom, where he keeps his shield.

-

It takes twenty five minutes and Warlock Tony casting a disarming spell which destroys most of the suit before Super Villain Tony is subdued and tied up using some handcuffs from Clint’s room (Steve really doesn’t want to know).

Then Iron Man, good guy Iron Man, Steve’s Iron Man, bursts through the window, with all missiles ready to go and repulsors whining to be fired.

“Stop, Tony!” Steve runs out in front of him. “It’s okay, it’s under control.”

There’s a moment where Tony doesn’t respond, and then the missiles fold back into the suit, his arms fall back down, and the face plate slides up. “Steve,” Tony says with an undertone of frustration. “Answer your phone next time, please.”

“I was busy! You know, since I was fighting Super Villain you!” Steve exclaims. But his retort is kind of ruined because he’s beaming, because this is his Tony, and he’s missed the original ever since Hippie Tony turned up and began this whole mess.

Tony stares at him, and then grins back. “JARVIS?”

“I am glad you are back, sir.” The suit starts to fold away, and there’s Tony’s, wearing the remains of his suit.

He’s still grinning when he asks, rubbing his hands together in glee, “So. Where’s me as a drag queen?”

-

Three hours is the time it takes before the final Tony arrives. He isn’t the final Tony because the universes have run out of Tony’s; Steve certainly doubts that. It’s just that’s when the astrophysicist Tony who had set this whole thing off by trying to create a black hole arrives, and manages to fix the problem.

During the three hours, the total number of Tony’s goes up to twenty five.

Original Tony asks Steve into the kitchen at one point, and smirk at him. “So, who’s your favourite?”

“What?”

“Who’s your favourite Tony?” Tony asks again. “Personally, mine’s the pregnant one. She has such a foul mouth, it’s awesome. Hey, do you know who the father is?”

Steve nods, and suddenly his throat is sort of dry. “It’s me. But, uh, obviously her universe’s Steve, not, uh, actually me.”

Tony looks at him with yet another unreadable expression. “Wow. How did I manage to get you?”

Steve blinks. “Huh?”

“I mean, how did she get you?” Tony hastily corrects. “Obviously. Uh. Anyway, we should get back. We don’t Super Villain Tony to tell Little Girl Tony that Santa doesn’t exist.” He laughs awkwardly, and then tries to escapes back into the living room.

But before he can, Steve grabs at his arm and stops him. “My favourite Tony is you.” He says quietly. He knows that Tony hears him, because he goes stock still. But when Steve lets go, Tony almost runs away.

Steve follows him in – it turns out that maybe Tony made the wrong decision in which room would be less awkward.

Because the Tony’s are all discussing Steve.

Steve walks in just as original Tony says in a strangled voice, “What?”

“We were wondering if you and Steve in your universe have had sex yet.” Geek Tony says, unabashed.

Pregnant Tony sends him a glare, and says, “Don’t say that in front of the children.”

“You’ve been dropping F-bombs all night!”

“I’m pregnant, I’m allowed.”

“That’s not how it works!”

“You’re getting off topic.” Gang Member Tony reminds them.

Steve is suddenly aware that his cheeks feel very hot.

“Right,” Drag Queen Tony says. “See, we discovered we all have a Steve.”

“I have a Steph,” Female Tony points out.

“Yeah, yeah, same thing,” Guitarist Tony says.

“I mean, in different forms, but still, we all have a Steve,” Drag Queen says. “And, well, most of us of legal age have slept with our Steve.”

“I’ve only kissed my Steve.” Mermaid Tony offers.

“That’s because you have a tail instead of genitals, that doesn’t count.”

“I’ve slept with my Steve,” Super Villain Tony says quietly. They all turn to stare at him.

“I haven’t slept with my Steve.” Little Girl Tony says. “Should I?”

“No, no, dear!” Surburban Tony says quickly. “No rush to do anything.” He glares at them all, like he’s silently scolding. It’s a strange look, to see Tony being the responsible one.

“We haven’t slept together!” Original Tony blurts out, sounded slightly choked. He’s avoiding Steve’s eyes.

They all contemplate that. And then Cowboy Tony says, “Maybe you should.”

Then the Astrophysicist Tony arrives and everyone’s too busy being relieved to go back to their own universes to bother Steve and Tony about their sex life.

-

When they’re all gone, in reverse order of which they came, Tony sits down next to Steve on the sofa, nursing a scotch in his hand.

“Well,” Tony summarises. “That was traumatic.”

Steve smirks. “At least Clint wasn’t here.”

Tony groans. “Oh god, could you imagine?”

Steve chuckles, and then falls silent in thought. “Did you talk to the Tony from the universe where I was dead?” He chances a look over and sees that Tony has gone pale, staring down at his glass.

“Yeah,” he finally says.

“And? What did you think?”

“Well, you can’t exactly blame him for being distraught. I mean, I know if you died, I’d...” He trails off, swallows thickly, and takes a gulp of scotch.

“You’d what?” Steve prompts quietly.

“I’d...I’d be very upset.” Tony admits. He’s deliberately avoiding Steve’s gaze now.

Steve reaches over and plucks the glass out of Tony’s hand, setting it down on the coffee table.

“That needs a coaster,” Tony says half-heartedly.

“Tony?” Steve puts a finger under Tony’s chin, tilting his head to face him and praying he wasn’t misreading the situation. “Shut up.”

He kisses him.

It’s gentle for about half a second before Tony’s brain catches up and Tony pounces on Steve, arms wrapping around his neck and gripping onto his shirt. Steve laughs into Tony’s mouth, and holds Tony just as tightly.

“Oh my god, this actually happening.” Tony mumbles as he moves to straddle Steve on the sofa.

Steve pulls back, and pulls a confused face. “Wait. You’re not Mermaid Tony.”

“Ha ha, shut up.”

“You just don’t appreciate my humour.”

“No I don’t actually, not when I’m trying to appreciate your tongue, mmph-”

-

It’s probably a good job there’s no one else in the Tower that night. Or at least, they went back to their own universes before the moaning started.