It was a perfectly normal day when Tony was turned into a cat. Steve had made a mountain of pancakes for breakfast, using a whole carton of eggs and a jug of milk to feed the bottomless pits that were his teammates. When Tony shuffled into the kitchen a little after 8:30am, Steve added fresh blueberries to the mix and coaxed the blurry eyed engineer over to the table to eat. While Tony usually turned his nose up at most solid food in the morning, growling over his cup of coffee, there were a few foods he could be tempted to eat without too much fuss. Afterward, they all drifted out of the kitchen.
Tony made it as far as the sofa in the living room before crashing. Clint shoved a pillow under his torso so all his weight wasn’t resting on his chest and Natasha pulled the coffee table over so that when Tony inevitably flailed awake in a few hours he wouldn’t smack into it when he fell off the sofa. Then they went about their day. Natasha took Thor out to raid the bookstores. The Asgardian had developed the habit of reading almost anything he could get his hands on and Natasha just enjoyed the fact that she had a place to keep books at now. Bruce went down to his lab and Clint hoped into his Jeep and disappeared off to places unknown. Steve went out for a jog around Central Park. Around noon, Tony snorted awake and rolled off the sofa, like his teammates knew he would. He got himself another cup of coffee and went back down to his workshop.
At 4:28pm, the alarm went off. The Avengers suited up and went to battle the huge purple slugs that were currently sliming their way up Broadway. Clint lost two arrows in their jelly like bodies. Steve almost lost his shield and Natasha used half her stings in getting the slugs away from the Beacon Theatre. Thor had fried a couple with his lightening and Hulk was just making a mess. Tony, was busy mouthing off to Loki. Then he was too slow dodging the blast of green energy that a furious Loki threw at him. And then the Iron Man armor was falling out of the sky.
“Shit! Iron Man’s been hit!” Clint informed everyone from his perch.
“Iron Man, report!” snapped Steve, his shield slicing off the head of a slug.
“Sir has lost consciousness,” replied Jarvis just as the repulsors engaged on the suit. The suit jerked to a stop in the air and then began to slowly drop but it was angled oddly. The suit struggled to keep its torso parallel with the ground.
“Jarvis, what are you doing?” Steve asked, jumping a slime trail and rolling away as Thor fried the slug behind him.
“Sir’s vital signs are odd. I do not understand the information I am receiving. I believe something is wrong,” Jarvis answered tersely.
“Wrong? Like what?” demanded Steve as everyone made concerned noises over the comm line.
“I do not know,” Jarvis snapped as the suit reached the ground and settled on its back.
“Brother!” cried Thor just as Loki disappeared with another burst of green light. The purple slugs began to melt, as if salt had been poured on them.
“Yuck,” growled Natasha, yanking her foot free of a purple puddle with a sneer of disgust. Clint clamored down a fire escape and hurried to calm the Hulk down before he could get too disgruntled about his suddenly melting targets.
Steve made his way over to the Iron Man armor and knelt beside it. “Tony? Can you hear me?” he called. “Jarvis, how is he?”
“It is most perplexing, Captain. It appears that Sir’s mass has greatly decreased. As far as I can tell, his heartbeat and respiration rate are correct for the size I am detecting. I do not think Sir is overly harmed.”
“Loki shrunk him?” Steve asked in confusion.
“I can only speculate, Captain. But I believe so.”
Thor landed next to them, worry on his face. “The Man of Iron is not injured, is he?”
“Jarvis, open the suit. Override code: Captain-9-2-4-2-Spangles.”
“Override code: Captain Spangles accepted,” intoned Jarvis.
The suit bloomed open and for a moment Steve’s breath caught in his throat in fear as all he could see was the empty flight suit that Tony usually wore under the armor. Then he noticed a lump in the middle and gently peeled the flight suit back. “Oh my god,” he gasped. The little furry body was limp, lying still in the chest cavity of the armor. Steve gently put his palm on the cat’s side, feeling it breathe shallowly.
Thor sighed gravely. “Aye. This is one of my brother’s favorite tricks. He once turned my friend Fandral into a feline for an entire turning of the sun.”
“A day?” asked Steve in a daze.
“I think he means a year,” Natasha said, leaning down to peer at the cat. Steve resisted the urge to scoop the animal up and cradle it against his chest to get it away from her.
“So, Stark is a cat now? How does that work exactly? You know, with the fur and whiskers and all that,” asked Clint. Bruce was standing nearby in his ruined pants, looking with disgust as the purple slime on his bare arm.
“Call SHIELD. I think we’re going to need their help,” ordered Steve with a sigh.
They left the black feline with the doctor and nurses in medical, who were complaining they were not veterinarians. Fury had given them a steely glare and ordered them to examine the cat to the best of their abilities. Now, the rest of the Avengers were debriefing in the conference room.
“Let me get this straight,” said Fury. “Stark was running his mouth and Loki turned him into a cat. Is that what you are telling me?”
The Avengers exchanged looks. Bruce sank down deep into his chair while Natasha chipped dried goo out from under her nails with a small stiletto dagger. Clint was smiling down at his lap, trying not to laugh, and Thor looked apologetic, like he usually did when Loki got up to some sort of mischief. Steve sighed. “Yes, sir. That’s what we’re saying.”
“I am one square away from filling out my bingo sheet,” announced Maria, tapping on the screen of her tablet computer. She gave the seated Avengers a nasty little smile. “All I need is one of you to be turned into the opposite sex and I win the free trip to Fiji.” Steve reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I still think it’s not fair we don’t get to play the Avengers bingo game too,” whined Clint.
“We’d have an unfair advantage, Clint,” Bruce replied.
“It’s not like we try to find weird shit. Weird shit just finds us! We can take odds on what type of weird shit finds us just like everybody else!”
“Gentlemen!” snapped Fury. Natasha cleared her throat. “And lady.” Natasha cleared her throat again. “Deadly female assassin to my right. How’s that?” Natasha gave a little nod. “Thank you. The point of the matter is that one of your team has been turned into an animal and you are effectively a man down.”
“I don’t think Stark ever thought he’d be getting this type of pussy,” mused Clint.
“Clint! That was uncalled for!” exclaimed Steve, glaring at the archer. Clint put his head down on the table and giggled.
The wall intercom crackled on. “Director Fury? Stark is awake and, well, we could use the help of the other Avengers, sir.” There was a yelp in the background followed by a loud crash.
“Are you saying you can’t handle one 10 pound cat?” demanded Fury.
An unholy howling came over the intercom. “Yes sir, I am! Send help! He’s tearing everything apart!”
The Avengers all stood and trooped out of the conference room, hurrying down to the medical bay. Inside, they found chaos. Several gurneys had been overturned and medical supplies littered the floor. A huge cabinet had fall over on its side and several nurses were hiding behind it. A sink was gushing water onto the floor. A white coated doctor was standing on a table, like a 50’s housewife that had seen a mouse. He pointed toward a long, low counter on the other side of the room. “Stark is a menace, no matter what shape he’s in!”
“What happened?” demanded Steve in his best Captain America “don’t mess with me” voice.
“The little beast woke up and went nuts!” cried a nurse. There was a deep scratch on her chin.
“He’s insane! He should be locked up in a cage!” sobbed another nurse.
“Oh, will you all shut up! He’s just scared!” shouted a third nurse. The front of her scrubs were soaking wet and she was kneeling down in front of the long counter. Her brown hair was coming out of her ponytail and she looked very unimpressed. “Tammy, be useful and shut off the water before it floods the whole floor.” One of the nurses hiding behind the knocked over cabinet got up with a sniffle and went to shut off the sink.
“Whoever thinks Stark is not the most dangerous out of all of us needs their head examined,” announced Clint, looking around at the mess with an impressed air.
The nurse kneeling in front of the counter blew her bangs out of her eyes and ducked back down, laying her cheek on the floor. “I’m sorry about that, Mr. Stark,” she said calmly and in a gentle voice. “My co-workers are dunderheads. It must have been very scary to wake up to all of us leaning over you like that, poking and prodding. Very rude. I apologize for that.” She paused. “I don’t suppose you could open your eyes or meow or something? It’s very hard to see you in the dark.” Tony must have opened his eyes because the nurse redirected her gaze up a little. “There you are. Well, Mr. Stark, it appears you are now a cat. It’s our understanding that Loki did this to you but as far as we can tell, you’re a perfectly healthy adult male American Shorthair. A rather handsome kitty, if I do say so myself.” There was a soft meow from under the counter and the nurse smiled. “I’d thought you’d like that, Mr. Stark.” She picked her head up and glared at the Avengers standing by the doorway. “Are you just going to stand there and gawk or are you going to help me fish your teammate out from under the counter?”
Steve jumped a little and then hurried across the room. He didn’t notice Clint tug 10 bucks from his pocket and hand it to Natasha, who plucked it from his fingers with a smile. Steve knelt across from the nurse and bent his head down, looking into the darkness under the counter. “Tony?” He glanced at the nurse. “I don’t see anything.”
The nurse put her head back down and sighed. “Mr. Stark, what did I say about closing your eyes? I’m sure Captain America here would really like it if you opened those pretty peepers for him.”
Steve smiled as two golden eyes appeared in the gloom, gleaming and glowing. “Hey, Tony. You okay?” He glanced at the nurse. “Can he understand me? I mean, as a cat?”
“We think so,” replied the nurse. “Mr. Stark, if you can understand us, give us a big old hiss.” An impressive spitting came from under the counter in answer. The nurse smiled. “There you go. I think you understand us just fine. Won’t you come out from under the counter now?” A rolling growl rumbled out next. “I guess not.” The nurse sat up and yanked the tie out of her hair, quickly pulling it back up neatly. “I don’t suppose he’s ever shown a fondness for tuna?” she asked Steve.
“Um, not that I noticed.”
The nursed ducked back down. “Mr. Stark, would you like some tuna? You must be hungry.” No answer, no sound. “How about some nice chicken?” A very soft meep replied from under the counter. “Chicken it is then.” The nursed pushed herself up and then grabbed Steve’s ear. She yanked Captain America’s head around. “Do not reach under there and try and pry him out. He will surgically remove your fingers if you try, super soldier or not. Understand me?”
“Yes ma’am!” squeaked Steve.
The nurse released him and hurried across the room to the hallway, plowing through the Avengers. “Back in a second. Make a hole! Move it or lose it!” She raced down the crowded hallway, agents attracted by the noise and the rumor that Iron Man was now furry and with a tail.
Natasha narrowed her eyes at the crowd. “Be somewhere else,” she said coldly.
“Now!” growled Clint. The hallway emptied like fog under bright sun.
Steve rubbed his ear and put his head back down. “Tony? Why don’t you come out now? I promise we won’t let the doctor and nurses get you again. Tony? Are you still there? Your eyes are closed again.” A soft meow from under the counter answered him.
“We still need to take more blood samples,” complained the doctor, climbing down off the table.
“I think you’re done here,” said Bruce calmly. “We’ll deal with Tony from now on.”
“Aye, I think you have terrorized our friend enough for today,” rumbled Thor.
“We weren’t terrorizing him!” snapped one of the nurses that had been hiding behind the overturned cabinet, the one with the scratch on her chin. “That monster just attacked us for no reason!”
Natasha took a single step toward the nurse that had spoken. “Leave.” Both nurses paled and fled the medical bay, the grumbling doctor following resentfully behind them.
Bruce knelt in front of the counter and peered under it. “Tony? Are you okay? We’re sorry we left you alone with those medical professionals and I use that term very loosely. Steve, I can’t see him. Where is he?”
Steve pointed to the right a little. “There. I think. He sort of disappears in the dark. Tony?” The golden eyes opened again to glare at the pair and then slid shut again. “He’s not happy.”
The nurse reappeared carrying a paper plate with some cut up chicken on it and a Tupperware bowl filled with water. “Good thing I brought my lunch today,” she said, setting plate and bowl on the floor in front of the counter. She grabbed Bruce and Steve’s arms and hauled them up. “Let’s move to the other side of the room until he feels comfortable coming out. I brought you some num-nums, Mr. Stark. I hope you like it.”
“Num-nums?” echoed Clint with a snort.
“Shut it. Just be glad it’s not kitty kibble.” The nurse sat on a stool that had somehow survived the destruction and faced the opposite wall, keeping the counter in her peripheral vision. “Don’t stare,” she hissed at the Avengers. “He won’t come out then.”
Natasha hopped up on a table and went back to picking her nails clean. Clint scooped up the medical supplies and started building a box city out of them. Bruce righted a chair and snagged a soggy pad of paper and broken pencil off the floor to occupy himself. Thor and Steve sat on the floor and leaned back against the wall, just short of twiddling their thumbs in boredom. They all pointedly ignored the counter.
“There’s the handsome boy,” breathed the nurse some twenty minutes later. The Avengers looked up and saw a sleek black cat nose his way out from under the counter, inching toward the food and water. Golden eyes watched them warily, black whiskers and nose twitching. Steve shifted to stand but the nurse flapped her hand at him. “No. Stay where you are. Let him come to us.”
Tony’s ears swiveled around as they spoke, tiptoeing forward on little cat paws. Finally he was crouched in front of the bowl of water and lowered his head, pink tongue lapping up the liquid and narrow golden eyes focused up at his audience. He drank for some time. “He must be dehydrated,” muttered Bruce.
“Lapping is terribly inefficient,” the nurse said absently. Finally, the cat moved on to the chicken, delicately nipping up each piece until the plate was clean. Tony sat up, licking his whiskers and pawing his face.
“Tony?” called Steve. The cat curled his long tail around his legs and sat primly, a look of distaste on his face. “What should we do?” he asked the nurse.
“Stay still. He’s skittish enough that any movement from us will send him back under the counter,” she replied.
“Are you a cat whisperer or something?” muttered Clint.
“My family has always had cats as pets. I have two cats myself now and often help my mother and aunt foster kittens. I’d say I’m more knowledgeable about cats than you are, Agent Barton,” retorted the nurse, turning her head enough to glare at the archer without losing sight of Tony.
Tony turned, stretching out his spine and spreading his legs, and then began to slink around the edge of the room. He inched along the wall until he came to the overturned cabinet and then sprang lightly up and over it. Steve sat still as the black cat crept around the whole room until Tony was hunched down next to his thigh, the very tip of his tail twitching. “What should I do?” he croaked out.
“Calm down for one thing,” answered the nurse with amusement. “Then take off your gloves and give him a nice pat.”
“That sounded dirty,” said Clint. He looked at Natasha. “Did that sound dirty to you?”
“Not now, Clint,” scolded Bruce while Natasha gave the archer a blank stare. Steve ignored them and pulled off his gloves. He slowly dropped his hand toward Tony’s head, golden eyes watching his every movement. Steve was sure that at any moment fangs and claws would sink into his skin and he braced himself for pain. But his fingers landed on fur and Steve’s scratched between Tony’s triangle-shaped ears.
“I am disappointed by the lack of blood and screaming,” announced Clint drily.
The nurse hopped off her stool. “Permission to approach, your royal furryess?” she asked, grinning. Tony meowed up at her loudly. “Thank you.” She knelt and gently ran her hand over his side. “I know Tammy got ahold of your tail a couple of times and Dr. Zengel grabbed your back leg at least once, the asshole. Can you rollover on to your side for me? Thank you,” said the nurse. Natasha slid off the table she was perched on and disappeared down the hallway. The nurse gently moved Tony’s back leg, prodding the muscle. “Any pain? One meow for no, two meows for yes.” Tony meowed once, leaning up to lick at where the nurse had ruffled his fur.
“Is he okay?” asked Steve, concerned. Tony lounged against his thigh as the nurse checked his front paws.
“He looks to be fine. A little sore and bruised, no thanks to my colleagues, but , like I said, a healthy adult male American Shorthair cat. Just be gentle with him when you pet or play with him for the next day or two.” The nurse rubbed under Tony’s chin, the cat tilting his head up for the attention. “I see no reason why he should need medical observation. He can go home with you.”
There was a sharp pained yowl from out in the hallway. The nurse jerked her head up but all of the Avengers sat calmly. Tony’s ears swiveled around, licking at one paw. “That’s just Natasha,” said Clint when the nurse stood in concern.
“She is showing our displeasure about Dr. Zengel’s treatment of our friend,” said Thor with approval in his voice. He reached over Steve to lightly run a hand down Tony’s back. The cat arched into the strokes, his front low the ground and his backend in the air.
The nurse blinked. “Right. Big damn heroes and generally scary people. I almost forgot,” she said with a small bark of laughter.
“We’re very grateful for your help, Miss…?” said Steve, trailing off.
“Burkhart. Patricia Burkhart. Is it always this crazy around here or can I be expecting some calm moments?”
“This was marginally calm for us,” replied Bruce, rubbing at his nose with an apologetically smile.
“There are normally a lot more explosions,” Clint said, his hands fluttering up in the air to demonstrate.
“I’m in the wrong line of work, aren’t I?” muttered Patricia. Tony meowed at her, bumping her knee with his head. The nurse smiled at him and rubbed behind one of Tony’s ears. “The first time I met you Mr. Stark, you called me sweetheart and then ran away from me when I tried to take a blood sample,” she mused.
“Sounds about right,” said Steve.
Patricia grinned. “Well, he’s fine as far as I can tell. If you think he’s having problems, bring him back and I’ll see what I can do. Otherwise, I’d take a trip to the pet store as soon as you can. If he doesn’t turn back into a human fairly soon, he’ll need a litter box and food at least. Maybe some toys and a scratching post.”
Thor perked up at the mention of shopping. “We are going to buy things at the store of pets for our friend Tony?”
“You should. I’d leave quickly before Dr. Zengel gets back to whine at you,” replied Patricia.
Natasha reappeared with a satisfied look on her face. “Dr. Zengel is no longer in the employment of SHIELD and has been escorted from the building.”
Patricia blinked and then grinned. “Awesome.” Tony meowed loudly in agreement.
Steve and Thor stood up. “Let’s change and then head out. We’ve done all we can here,” said Steve. At his feet, Tony gauged the distance and then sprang up, latching onto Steve’s suit with sharp claws and climbing. “Tony, stop that!” Steve cried, although there was no way he could feel the cat’s claws through his suit. Tony draped himself over Steve’s shoulder, letting out a triumphant meow. Steve put his hand gently on Tony’s back, afraid he’d fall.
“Looks like Tony is a percher, Steve,” said Bruce.
“Great, another one,” muttered Natasha, giving Clint a frosty look. Clint gave his biggest grin in return.
“Ok, um. Let’s go. I could use a shower,” announced Steve, very carefully heading toward the door with his shoulder cocked up to better support Tony. He paused and glanced back. “Thanks so much for your help, Miss Burkhart.”
“Think nothing of it,” replied Patricia, flapping her hand. “I’ll send you a bill.” She watched the Avengers, plus one cat, disappear out of the door and down the hall. She turned around to survey the destruction in the medical bay with a grimace. “A very large bill,” she muttered. The nurse bent down and picked up a box of gauze, weighting it lightly in her hand before dropping it back on the floor. “I’m going on coffee break,” she called to the empty room before hightailing it out the door to anywhere that was not the medical bay. There were some things SHIELD just didn’t pay her enough for.