Wormholes usually don’t appear out of the blue, but the chances increase if you are a) a superhero, b) in New York and c) an acquaintance of Reed Richards.
When you happen to be all of the above, then you have a high probability of being screwed.
“What the-” Cap stopped before he could curse out loud. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” His gloved fingers would be digging into Tony’s shoulder if not or the metal of his Iron Man suit.
“Yes, I know!” Tony’s shout came out filtered, like a robot shouting. The effect was grating and a little disturbing in its unnaturalness. “The suit isn’t- Shii-”
And like that they were sucked into the swirling blue portal that had materialized in their path as they flew over New York.
With an ungraceful ‘ooof’ and a clang of metal they found themselves sprawled on an as of yet unidentified floor. Cap grimaced as the left side of his face came in painful contact with the metal breastplate of Iron Man’s suit. This close, the glow from the arc reactor was almost blinding.
He sat up and made space for Tony.
“Um,” a voice said from behind them. “That was unexpected.”
Steve knew that voice. “Reed,” he said, without turning. “Would you kindly send us back? There’s a giant, purple dinosaur stampeding through Central Park.”
“Um.” Reed repeated. Then, “A purple dinosaur?”
Tony stood up and offered his hand to Steve. When they turned towards Reed, he was looking at them with a perplexed expression that was an unusual sight on his face.
“Yes, I realize it sounds unlikely,” Tony said. His hands went to the back of his neck and he took off the helmet; his hair was sticky with sweat and it stood in every direction . He tried to smooth it down. “But we had those evil bunnies bent on world domination what, six months ago? So, Barney is a nice improvement.”
“I see,” Reed said, nodding. "You must be Captain America and... Iron Man?"
“Huh,” said Steve.
“I’m going to be late for my four o’clock meeting, aren’t I?” said Tony.
Twenty minutes later found Steve and Tony sitting in the Fantastic Four's living room, scrubbing their skin to get rid of the gel and the electrode adhesive remaining from the tests Reed had sprung on them. After the initial befuddlement, Reed's eyes had shone with a peculiar light and Steve had yet to decide if he should file it under 'Reed likes challenges' or ‘Reed gets sadistic enjoyment out of poking and prodding at scientific conundrums.’
He knew that, next to him, Tony was as lost as he was, but he was Tony Stark and therefore he managed to look completely at ease. He would be fooling the whole room if not for the fact that the only other occupant of the room was Steve, who knew him too well.
"You think the others managed to stop Barney?" Tony asked. He was wearing one of Johnny's spare suits, while his armor had been left in Reed’s lab for some tests. Tony hadn’t been too happy about it at first, but it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. They probably would have done the same back home.
"I have complete faith in our teammates," Steve replied after a long moment.
"Oh, don't get me wrong, me too," Tony said. "But it was Logan's turn at team-leader; I don't want children everywhere traumatized because Adamantium Boy shredded Barney on national TV."
Steve grimaced. “...Right.”
They were interrupted when Sue walked in, bringing with her the a large pot of coffee and several cups. "I'm afraid my husband still hasn't grasped the finer points of social interaction," she said. "Coffee, gentlemen?"
Steve frowned at the way she stressed the word, but he nodded eagerly. As a soldier and Tony's friend, coffee was a constant presence in Steve's life. Tony had enviously remarked on his ability to drink as much coffee as he wanted without suffering the consequences.
"Ah, yes, please," Tony said, sitting up and accepting the cup of coffee Sue handed him.
Steve accepted a cup and took a sip, then he sat back and curled his fingers around the cup, waiting for it to cool down a bit. Needless to say, Tony had already downed half of it.
Sue smiled slightly, but it looked a bit strained. "Well, that much hasn't changed, I guess."
Steve frowned. "What do you mean?" he asked. Next to him, he felt Tony tense.
Sue blinked and looked between the two of them. "Ah," she said. "I'm guessing Reed didn't tell you anything?"
Tony shrugged. "You know Reed."
This time Sue gave a little laugh. "So you have a Reed, too?"
"Alternate dimension?" Steve guessed.
Sue nodded and spread her arms as if she worked in real estate and was showing them the pièce de résistance of the house. "Welcome to the Formidable Four’s humble abode," she said.
Steve frowned and mouthed ‘formidable’ a few times, trying to get used to the sound.
"Right," Tony said. "At least there’s coffee, not like the planet the Fant- your counterparts from our dimension dragged us to a couple of months ago."
Sue arched an eyebrow. “Oh, the horror.”
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Tony grinned.
“Where is Reed?” Steve asked, trying to change the topic. While it was harmless, this Sue being married to Reed too, lately Steve was finding Tony’s flirting annoying. So surprisingly annoying, in fact, that it was getting almost uncomfortable.
“He went to get our version of Tony Stark,” Sue said.
“So there is one,” Steve said, and at Sue’s nod, he elaborated, “Reed acted so surprised when he saw us.”
Tony’s attention was instantly focused on Steve. “I noticed that too,” he said. “He only seemed surprised to see Captain America and Iron Man, though” he pointed out. “Maybe we aren’t superheroes here?” he said.
Steve nodded. “Could be.”
Tony’s mouth became a thin line and he looked away, frowning off in the distance. “Maybe you haven’t been found yet?”
Sue shook her head. “Oh no, you are superheroes here too, I can assure you,” she said. “Both of you. It’s just that in our world Iron Man is-” she was interrupted by the sound of quick steps coming from the hallway.
“Do I smell coffee?” a female voice said. “Please, tell me I’m smelling coffee.”
A woman in her thirties came around the corner. Her round belly made it obvious even to the most unobservant man that she was pregnant, although not heavily so. She almost skidded to a stop in front of the table and Steve watched in amazement as she proceeded to pour herself a cup of coffee and then down it in under ten seconds.
She made a sound that resembled those best left confined to the bedroom and poured herself another cup. “This is great.” she said. Then she went on, finally acknowledging Steve and Tony. “Sorry, my husband doesn’t want me to-” When her eyes met Steve they went wide. “Steve!” She choked and spewed coffee through her nose.
“Meet Natasha Antonia Stark, Toni for short,” Sue said. “She likes coffee.”
Tony spewed out his coffee through his nose.
“I’m a man!”
“Tony is a woman?”
After five minutes of total chaos, during which both this universe’s Johnny and Ben popped in to see what all the fuss was about, everyone had more or less calmed down and regrouped on opposite sofas. Steve’s counterpart had joined the scene. He was a man and so like himself that to Steve it felt like staring at a mirror with a few seconds of delay.
Tony nudged him with his elbow. “Stop that, it’s creepy,” he whispered. “You’re like a cat growling at his own reflection.”
“I’m not growling,” Steve said.
Johnny snickered and passed the popcorn to Ben. He had actually brought popcorn. Steve glared at him.
Toni slowly extended her hand towards the pot of coffee, but she froze when her Steve gave her a disapproving look. Steve couldn’t help but agree; coffee surely wasn’t good for her right now. When he raised his eyes he met his counterpart’s, but quickly looked away.
Steve turned to his Tony and studied the eyebrows, the high cheekbones that sometimes became sharp when he was stressed, his goatee and the long nose that was quick to become red and flushed in winter, despite the woollen scarves Tony sank into.
The two Tonys were different, obviously, but they had some common points, like the sharp blue eyes, and the curve of the chin, and the faint blue glow on their chests that could be seen even through their clothes.
Toni was maybe a little shorter - it was difficult to judge when she was sitting down - but her hair was the same length as Tony’s, and her hands, while smaller, were the hands of someone who was used to manual work, her nails short and blunt and her fingers peppered with small cuts and burns.
Steve breathed sharply when he caught sight of the gold ring on her left hand.
This world’s Steve was married to Toni Stark, armored superhero.
Who was a woman.
He looked away and met Tony’s eyes. He was frowning, but Steve couldn’t say if he was worried or confused or angry.
The only sound in the room was the crunching of popcorn getting munched. Reed was still nowhere to be found.
Steve and Tony were left alone while the others went to check on Reed’s progress. Apparently, Reed’s lab security system got confused when it came to distinguish between two almost identical (genetically speaking) Steve Rogers and a gender-bended Toni Stark.
At least, Tony’s armor had been returned to him.
“What is it?” he gave up at last.
“You were looking at her!”
Steve blinked. “It’s just- It’s so weird,” he said. “She’s you, but she isn’t.”
“Cap, you dog!” Tony laughed, but it sounded tight and forced. And he kept not meeting his eyes. ”She’s married!”
“Well, technically she’s married to me.”
Tony sprang up. “It’s not you! She’s not-”
Steve looked up at him, taking in the flushed cheeks and the thin line of his mouth. “Are you jealous of... yourself?”
“She is not me,” Tony exclaimed, flailing his hands. “She’s a woman! And pregnant!”
“Oh,” Steve said.
He held his eyes for a long moment, until Tony looked away and started fidgeting. Steve smiled slowly. “It doesn’t really matter, you know,” he said, softly. “That you aren’t a woman, I mean.”
Tony frowned. “What-” he started, then his face cleared. “Ah.”
Steve looked up at him shyly, but his smile widened as soon as he saw Tony’s own genuine smile. He stood up.
“-am going to kill him!” Sue said, storming into the room.
Both he and Tony turned, startled, to watch as she came back inside, followed by the other Steve and Toni, Johnny and Ben with an even bigger bowl of popcorn and-
Another Steve and Tony.
Tony leaned towards him. “Isn’t it weird how all of you look exactly the same?” he whispered.
The new Tony laughed out loud. “I’d wonder if I had too much to drink, as I’m seeing double,” he said, then he shot a sideways glance at Toni. “But well...”
Toni glared at him and kicked him in the shin.
The new Tony earned himself a glare from all the Steves.
Tony clapped his hands together. “So, coffee?” he said.
Three different mouths lit up in the same smile. Three identical Steves glared disapprovingly at Toni.
“I think you better put on the big pot,” said Johnny.
“I’m going to kill Reed,” Sue said. “Be right back.”