When the Avengers priority alarm rang, Tony threw his wrench across his lab, groaning in frustration. All he wanted was a day off, a quiet day in his lab and a video chat with Rhodey, which was scheduled to take place in the late afternoon.
It was barely past 10am.
“What is it, Friday?” Tony sighed, wiping his grease coated hands on his grey sweatpants, staining it. His olive-green tank top was sweat coated, from the long hours of hard work he was doing in his lab.
“Agent Coulson is here with a mission, boss,” the AI replied promptly. “The team is gathering at the situation room now.”
Tony called his suit to him and got in, knowing he didn’t want to change his clothes.
The team, was having a little bonding session at the basketball court. It was located right beside the gym, in the Tower itself. Tony was well aware of this, but he couldn’t be bothered to join them. Captain Grumpy would ruin his mood, and Tony had foreseen a good day ahead of him.
Had had. So much for being a futurist.
He flew up to where the situation room was, past the wall of fame. That was Tony’s idea, to hang photos of the team taken years earlier. All of them at least have a light smile on their faces. Oh, those good times...
Tony entered the room, immediately being assaulted by eye contacts from his teammates.
“Okay, everyone’s accounted for,” Coulson started. “We just got a tip-off about a bank robbery that’s about to happen, just a few blocks away.”
“Few blocks? Does he even know we exist?” Tony scoffed.
“It’s a she. Nightshade is responsible for this,” Coulson pointed out. “She created a bunch of cybernauts, which are essentially humanoids, and they are helping her out with the robbery.”
“Is the tip-off legit?” Steve asked.
“Who is Nightshade?” Bruce asked at the same as Steve.
“It’s legit, Cap,” Coulson nodded his head.
“She’s a genius, has a natural aptitude for science. By 16, she had self-taught herself genetics, physics and cybernetics. But, she also started to turn to crime,” Natasha explained.
“So much potential, but all wasted in crime,” Thor shook his head. “I mean… if I had found her, I would have recommended her to the Avengers!”
“No you wouldn’t have,” Clint pursed his lips and gave Thor a sarcastic look.
“Alright, here’s the plan,” Coulson raised his voice slightly to get all their attention. “Cap, you lead the team. Tony, Thor and the Hulk will be our reinforcements. The rest of you-”
“Sorry to interrupt, but why are our heavy hitters backup?” Tony asked, frowning. “I can do air reconnaissance.”
“The Falcon will see to that,” Coulson said, still sounding patient. “As I was saying, the plan is to sneak up on Nightshade. So, you don’t have to suit up but bring your weapons. Reinforcements need to be suited up.”
“And if she finds us?” Wanda piped up.
“Then… reinforcements and the team comes in,” Coulson smiled. “For now, go down as civilians, and be on comms. Cap?”
“Okay,” Steve stood up. “Hawkeye, I need you and Natasha to pair up. Wanda and I will be another pair. Your pair and mine, we’ll take to the streets. Falcon, air reconnaissance, report from upstairs as to what you see, don’t get caught. Heavy hitters, wait until we get caught. Tony, if you can scan for locations of the cybernauts, give us a heads up. Avengers Assemble!!”
Everyone agreed on the plan and ran off to change up. Tony wanted to argue but Steve’s plan sounded pretty fine. Plus, Tony would love to have a day where he didn’t debate with Steve about anything. Hopefully, today could be that day.
Within 10 minutes, some of the Avengers found themselves walking down the street, wearing casual clothes.
Steve had his shield perched on his back, hidden by his cardigan, while Hawkeye’s quiver was with Sam. Clint had his arm swung around Natasha’s shoulder, walking as if they were a couple. Steve however, was only walking close to Wanda and wasn’t holding her hand. He was thinking about the mission more than acting casually. In fact, acting casually was the least of his concerns.
“Focus up, people,” Steve spoke. “Try to locate Nightshade, and her cybernauts.”
“I feel like this is a terrible idea,” Clint suddenly said. “I mean… Nightshade’s smart. How long do you think it’ll take for her to figure our plan out and find us?”
“I wish you hadn’t asked that, Clint. I just located Nightshade,” Sam spoke up. “She’s at the roof of the apartment you’re passing by. Her cybernauts are all headed towards the bank. They’re all dressed up like humans, they look like normal civilians.”
Steve sighed, knowing that Clint had a point. They kept walking, down the street, towards the bank but were also aware of Nightshade’s activity.
In front of Steve, there were two children running past him with balloons on their hands. A pregnant woman was on the phone, laughing. Two men walked past Steve and Wanda, holding hands. A few school students were brisk-walking to the nearest bus stop. Everything seemed so normal; almost peaceful actually.
“Cap! On your left!” Sam’s voice suddenly came through.
By instinct, Steve pushed Wanda away, before taking the full brunt of one of the cybernaut’s hit.
“Steve!” Wanda shouted in shock.
He landed in an alley, pushing down several trash cans and scaring a couple of cats and rats away. The people walking past them started to panic, running away in different directions. Wanda helped a young girl up, who had fallen down due to the chaos. She brushed off the little girl’s dress and made sure her knees were okay. Wanda also made sure the little girl was completely out of harm’s way.
To make things worse, the bank’s alarms had been set off at that very moment.
“Shit goes down,” Clint muttered. “Sam?”
“I got you!” Sam swooped down and dropped Clint’s quiver on his hands. Natasha readied her stingers. Sam flew back up to see where Nightshade was. “I’m gonna track Nightshade, she’s on the move! Redwing, is in action mode!”
“Rest of you except Sam, to the bank, now!” Steve managed to say. He let out a groan and got up.
“Cap, you need backup,” Wanda stepped forward.
“Thanks Wanda, but this is just one cybernaut. I need you to join the others.” Steve ordered.
Wanda gave Steve a long look before running down the street to the bank.
“Heavy-hitters to the bank,” Steve said before getting back up. He took his shield out. “Alright, what’s your deal?”
The cybernaut lunged forward, attacking Steve in a deadly manner. But Steve being a super soldier, managed to avoid all the hits. He ducked a blow and used his shield to hit the cybernaut at its waist area. To his surprise, the cybernaut got stunned and stopped all its attacks.
“Avengers, I found a point of weakness in the cybernaut,” Steve was saying and launched himself onto it. Both of them flew onto the main road, landing on a car that was driving past. The driver slammed onto the breaks, sending Steve and the cybernaut flying across the road.
Steve quickly got up and motioned for the driver to back away to safety.
He then ran to another parked car, used the side door for leverage and jumped up, aiming his shield at the cybernaut’s waist area.
Nightshade’s creation simply shattered into half.
“Attack it at its waist area!” Steve said and examined the street. People were still running in utter panic, some crashing onto one another. Steve decided to help them up before dashing down the street to the bank.
Inside the bank, Wanda was using her powers to disable the cybernauts, that were very close to exiting with the cash. Natasha was using hand-to-hand combat on the cybernauts while Clint was firing electro arrows at its waist area.
“Where are the heavy hitters?” Clint asked while running down the hallway, looking for any other civilians.
“Right here,” Thor said in an assuring tone. Beside him, the Hulk roared, ready to attack.
The heavy hitters were standing outside the bank, with Tony looking for more cybernauts that could be hidden amidst the civilian population gathered outside. Right, civilians.
“Everybody, it’s best to get out of here because things can and will get explosive,” Tony said as he flew in. “Avengers, all cybernauts are entering the bank.”
The Hulk roared as he blasted into the bank, ripping the cybernauts apart.
“Our side is clear,” Natasha said while checking on Wanda and Clint.
“Outside is getting clear,” Thor confirmed while hitting the cybernauts using Mjolnir, and sent them flying to the Hulk.
“I’m chasing Nightshade! I- ouch!” Sam cried out. “She shot at me! I uh, backup, anyone?”
“Thor, get to Sam!” Steve ordered. “The rest of you, with me to the bank!”
Steve was running down the road. He looked up and saw a figure running on the roof, jumping onto the next building. Steve saw Thor starting to get airborne and knew it wouldn’t be long till they captured Nightshade.
Tony was about to fly in, following Steve’s order, when Friday relayed a dangerous news.
“Boss, there is a private jet with cybernauts in it,” she spoke up quickly. “It’s heading towards Brooklyn and rigged to crash in the heart of it.”
“Oh boy,” Tony whispered as he flew upwards and instead of towards the bank. “Cap, I can’t come in. You gotta trust me on this one.”
When Steve heard this, he knew Tony was going to do something stupid. “Tony… we are going to come up with a new plan to get Nightshade-”
Tony switched off his comms and flew straight up. “Where’s the jet, Friday?”
As if on cue, a private jet roared past Iron Man. Tony launched his thrusters to full speed, and chased the jet.
“Boss, I’d recommend keeping your comms open. Your teammates are trying to get to you,” Friday spoke up and if an AI could sigh, she would have sighed in this moment.
Tony opened up his comms, only to hear Clint yapping on.
“-goes on and does his own thing! What’s he up to anyway? Tony, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Cybernauts want to crash the jet in Brooklyn,” Tony spoke up.
“We have to do this as a team,” Steve spoke through gritted teeth.
“Yes, just wait for me to stop them,” Tony said and flew straight into the jet, which was quite near the Brooklyn Bridge. Tony made sure all external audio was switched off because that explosion was deafening. He was engulfed in an orange glow as he tried to find a way out of this mess he had gotten himself into. Tony groaned in pain, and realized Friday had gone offline.
“That was his stupid plan?!” Clint asked, staring at the explosion from the bank, looking horrified.
Tony’s HUD lights were flashing warning signs and multiple alarms were ringing crazily inside.
“Friday come on!” Tony shouted as he felt himself being tossed around the wreckage. The orange glow around him became black all of a sudden, and he had zero visibility.
When he could finally see the blue skies, he realized he was thrown across the skies and was plunging towards the bridge, towards the road on the bridge to be more exact.
“Cap, we got Nightshade,” Sam spoke up.
“Thor,” Steve said while pinching the bridge of his nose. “You literally have a genius to catch. Near Brooklyn Bridge, red and gold armor. Hard to miss.”
“You sound terrifying when you’re sarcastic,” Natasha commented. Steve shrugged at her, still pissed off by what Tony did.
“Great, Friday, time to wake up and get the armor going! There are civilians!!” Tony said.
“I can get the armor going,” Thor grinned as he chased after Tony.
“Oh Thor,” Tony sighed melodramatically. “You’re my hero!”
At the very last minute, Thor managed to grab Tony’s leg. His head hit the road slightly, scaring some of the drivers and passengers who were having a normal day.
A normal day in New York City was so underrated.
“It’s okay, Tony, I got you,” Thor said as he hurled Iron Man towards him. He held him by the waist and both of them flew off to the Tower, with the rest of the Avengers watching them fly by.
“Boss, the time now is 12pm, and the skies are looking relatively clear. It’s a great weather for a walk at Central Park,” Friday spoke up in her calm tone once she sensed Tony waking up.
“Where…” Tony groaned as he pushed himself up on his couch.
“You’re in your lab, Boss. Thor deposited you here roughly five minutes ago before going for a de-brief session with Captain Rogers,” Friday informed him. “Might I also inform you that Captain Rogers is royally pissed at you for doing your job.”
Tony smiled as he saw Dum-E stretching out a smoothie at him. Tony took it.
“When you put it that way, Friday, it does sound funny.”
“Everyone are at the de-brief room talking about battle strategies,” Friday said.
“Time to make an entrance.”
“In your sweaty tank top and grease coated pants?” Friday sassed him.
“They’re in my house. Let them deal with it,” Tony scoffed while taking a sip from his smoothie.
He took the elevator outside his lab and went up several levels. Once he got out at level 78, he walked past the Wall of Fame, again. The main doors opened with a swish sound after a few seconds. Every single person sitting inside turned to look at him. Wanda and Sam were looking at him, with a hint of a look of pity. Tony could only wonder why but he already came to a conclusion.
“Come in, we were expecting you,” Clint smiled as he patted the chair next to him. Case in point. A Clint that sounded this friendly meant Steve had some words to scold Tony with right before he had gotten here.
Royally pissed Capsicle, huh.
Steve clearing his throat and shifting around while watching Tony move around in that tank top covered in grease had not gone unnoticed by Tony.
“Tony, you’re... just in time. We were going through each other’s battle strategies,” Steve sighed. Tony knew Steve was trying so hard not to explode right there and then.
“Well, good. Hash it out, oh Captain my Captain,” Tony smiled. He turned to Natasha, who shook her head at him.
“Tony, you were with the heavy hitters and gave us information on where the cybernauts were going. Good work there. But that stunt you pulled at us by crashing right into the plane filled with cybernauts… that was bad and please don’t do it again,” Steve put it nicely.
“I saved Brooklyn,” Tony said while narrowing his eyes and looking at Steve like he should know better. “You’re so welcome for that by the way. I was pretty much the only one who could have reached there on time and stopped the crash.”
“Yes, but at least inform us earlier!!” Steve raised his voice.
“I didn’t have time, Cap!” Tony stood up, ready to argue. Well, in Tony’s defence, what he said wasn’t exactly untrue.
“Tony, what if you had died?!” Steve asked exasperated.
“Then you guys would have thrown a great party and a funeral, I wrote it down somewhere anyway,” Tony shrugged, about to walk out of the room.
“Is this how lightly you’re gonna take it?” Steve nearly growled.
“I saved Brooklyn, Cap. And I don’t give a rat’s ass about my safety when millions of others are considered. Oh, and thank you for this fucking de-brief by the way, so useful. Appreciate it,” Tony snapped and walked out of the room.
The other Avengers gathered there shook their heads, but weren’t exactly surprised. Steve and Tony argued all the time like having hot sex anyway.
Tony walked past the photos and pressed for the elevator and waited for it, still processing what had happened in the de-brief room. Why did he always ended up hurting Steve when he actually kinda liked that man?
Tony nearly hurled the smoothie across the hallway, but stopped because he got reminded of Dum-E’s innocent whirring noises. He absent-mindedly rubbed the side of the cup, with love.
Once he entered the elevator, he sighed and slumped down against the smooth brown wall. “Friday, I’m the worst, aren’t I?”
“Not bad, sir,” Friday tried to make him feel better. “There have been worse tantrums thrown in the de-brief room.”
“Thanks, my girl,” Tony smiled. And then he realized what Friday had said. “Wait, did you say tantrums? How the… fuck it you’re right. I get angry like a hormonal teenager.”
“That you do, boss,” Friday sassed him again.
After exiting the elevator, Tony jogged to his lab. If there were no other stupid supervillains or villains or just idiots attacks, then Tony had the rest of the day to himself.
“Friday, what’s on my to-do list?” he asked as he entered his lab.
Tony saw Butterfingers preparing another smoothie carefully. He grinned as the bots have finally mastered preparing a smoothie without creating a mess. Who was he kidding? The last time something spilled was only last night. But Tony was too fond of his bots to care about their mistakes.
“Boss, you have to look into Widow’s Bites as she bites, Hawkass’ arrows and a Bible project with Reed Richards,” Friday said, sounding amused at how 3am, caffeine driven Tony had named his projects.
“Bible project? Connect me to Reed,” Tony said as he sat on his chair. He took Butterfingers’ smoothie and tasted it. He grimaced. “What did you add in this?”
Butterfingers, who was arranging the tools neatly on Tony’s workspace turned to face him, pushing down all the tools at once. He gave a whirring noise that sounded like exasperation.
“Never mind,” Tony said. Just then, Reed’s face popped up on his computer screen.
“Hey Tony,” Reed grinned. For a mad scientist, he looked neat. “I’m glad you decided to return the call.”
“Yeah, I remember. We were having this really intricate conversation about Bible verses at 3am… what was that about?”
“Multiverse, Tony. Nothing to do with religion,” Reed pointed out with his lips pursed.
“Oh, talk me through,” Tony smiled.
“So, I was looking through some theories and equations and one day found out that we have alternate universes. And I might have accidentally created a machine that can transport us there,” Reed explained. “I just sent Friday the schematics.”
Tony looked at the machine Reed had accidentally created. It was a cube, that can allow anyone to travel to alternate universes. Pretty smart. Everything seemed complex, but Tony could understand all these were formed upon a theory that alternate universes did exist.
“Accidentally you say?” Tony had a sly smile. Reed chuckled at that. “So, what would you like me to do?”
“Oh, I’d like you to take a look at this tomorrow morning at 10.” Reed spoke while flipping through his notes. “Sue will receive you. Ben and Johnny will be with me upstairs.”
“Sounds like you’re gonna make a helluva pitch,” Tony grinned. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“See you, Tony,” Reed smiled as he cut off the feed.
Alternate universes huh. Tony couldn’t wait to see the machine.
For now, he simply wanted to do up Natasha’s and Clint’s stuff.
At 1pm, Tony decided to get himself lunch because he hadn’t eaten for over a day, and Friday had strongly advised him to at least get a snack. No, threatened would be the right word. Threatened to inform Bruce and unleash the Hulk at him in his lab. His girl Friday can be mean at times.
At the communal level, Clint was sitting down with a bowl of Bruce’s special baked rice. He was eating while watching another round of Parks and Recs.
Clint and his runs. This was the fifth fucking round!
“Hey Tones,” Clint grinned at him. “Come ‘ere.”
Tony walked to him.
“Let me be blunt. You need to talk to Steve,” Clint said.
Tony sighed. Bruce and Thor had already told him pretty much the same thing earlier, when he was on the way up to the communal level. Talk about awkward elevator conversations.
Thor: “Tony, the good Captain is down on this bright sunny day! Talk to him!”
Bruce: “The sexual tension between the both of you is tearing the roof off. Go talk to him before the Hulk convinces you.”
Now it was Clint.
“I will, okay?” Tony shrugged. “Give me time.”
“No,” Clint shook his head. “He’s at the kitchen with Nat. Go and get it over with now.”
Tony breathed in and out deeply, trying to contain the anger that was bubbling up. He knew Clint had meant and was his good friend but talking to Steve was not something he wanted to do. In fact, he actively avoided it.
He went to the kitchen where Natasha was laughing about something with Steve.
Tony sighed in disappointment. He could never get Steve to laugh at anything with him. Tony did want to go closer to Steve, he wanted to talk to him and be there for him. But that asshole is a tough nut to crack. Also, his father had valued Steve more than Tony himself. Of course, the resentment was still there.
It took Tony a total of 2 seconds to realize that he was staring right into Steve’s soul in the kitchen. Natasha had left a long time ago.
Steve looked at his feet before walking away.
“Wait,” Tony said before grabbing Steve’s arm. Steve stopped walking and looked at Tony’s hand on his arm, without saying anything. Tony knew that Steve could easily yank out of his grip. But he didn’t. Tony released his grip. “Hey uh Steve… I just wanted to um… I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
Steve sighed a long sigh that made even Tony felt bad for him. “It’s okay. This is something that always happens and you’ve apologized multiple times so it’s fine.”
Tony’s soft features turned into a grimace within a matter of seconds. He moved away from Steve as if he had scalded him.
“Look Steve, I know I’m imperfect and deeply flawed and I’m trying each day to be a better person. You don’t have to point it out for me,” Tony simply snapped.
Steve looked at him with a confused look. But then he turned cold. “You’re damn right.”
With that, he walked off with his bowl of baked rice to join Clint and Natasha who were sitting at the couch, shaking their heads.
Tony got even more incensed. He took a plate and slammed it onto the counter hard, making sure the sound was heard by everyone who were there. He took a bit of rice and went to the refrigerator and took out a can of iced tea. He slammed the door shut and walked out of there without giving anyone a look.
He had missed Steve looking guiltily at him go.
Once he reached his elevator, he sighed.
“Friday, you’re right. I do throw tantrums,” Tony said, looking at the elevator buttons.
“And Captain Rogers is always the victim of them,” Friday added cheekily.
Later at night, Tony decided to go to the gym to check on how his new punching bags were doing. They were just shipped in from his Stark Industries lab and Friday had informed him of it.
He was wearing sweatpants with a blue tank top, fresh out of shower.
The rest of the Avengers were up to their own stuff in their rooms. Only Steve, Wanda and Sam were in the gym, and even they were wrapping up their session.
“You need to talk to him, Steve,” Sam sighed after removing his hand wrap.
“He tried and maybe he misinterpreted your words… Or you might have phrased it wrongly,” Wanda suggested.
“I don’t know if I continue to want to get hurt,” Steve sat down on the bench and tied his shoelaces. “Whatever I say, Stark has a counter and it hurts… I don’t know if I want to try anymore, guys.”
“You can’t give up now,” Sam raised both his eyebrows. Everyone knew how Captain America was supposed to be, but this was definitely not how he was supposed to be; resigned and sad.
“He’s still in your team. And we all know you care for him and he cares for you but it’s an unspoken thing. Also, everyone knows about your little crush on him…” Wanda smiled a little.
“Everyone?” Steve asked, the tips of his ears turning red.
“Yes Steve, everyone except Stark,” Sam chuckled. “Go on, talk to him. Both of you need to talk. Seriously, you both need to be locked in a room or in some place to have a good talk before coming back here.” Sam smiled and gave Steve’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze.
Unknown to them, Tony had heard the tail end of this conversation as he was standing at the entrance of the gym. He agreed with Sam on needing to talk it out with Steve. But there was always some sort of barrier there; right, Bruce loved calling it the palpable sexual tension.
He decided to walk in once Steve’s and the others’ little moment was over in the gym.
“Friday, how many bags came in?” Tony asked as he walked in, making an entrance.
“12, boss,” Friday replied. Tony could see Steve tensing up from his peripheral vision.
“Okay, I’ll check on them,” Tony walked further in, where the 12 new punching bags were neatly placed.
He gave one of the bags a kick. STUPID FUCKING MISTAKE!! It hurt like a bitch and he felt his toes throbbing. Fuck.
But Tony knew he had to keep a straight face in front of the others at the gym. He could hear Sam and Wanda asking Steve to talk to him and leaving.
Tony turned back at Steve looking at him. He smiled at Steve, still wincing in pain. He surely must be looking like he was having a constipation but was forced to smile in the midst of it. Sometimes for a genius, he could be pretty fucking stupid.
“Are you leaving?” Tony asked.
“Yup,” Steve said as he scrambled to get his things.
“Friday, lights down,” Tony ordered.
The gym lights dimmed down further as he and Steve walked out of it. And things were well… fucking awkward.
“How was… gym?” Tony asked. He felt like kicking himself for asking such a stupid question.
“Gym was just fine,” Steve replied, sounding tense. “How’s your leg?”
Tony frowned. What leg was Steve talking about?
Right… the one that just experienced full on pain due to him kicking the punching bag because he was such a big doofus.
“It’s fine. Not so pain,” Tony replied, still feeling the pain shooting up his leg.
They still had the elevator ride to endure. Tony stood behind Steve as his bedroom was a few levels higher than Steve’s. He managed to see Steve’s hunched shoulders and how sad he looked. Loneliness radiated from this man, and suddenly, Tony felt bad arguing with him so much.
In his defence, Steve constantly got onto Tony’s nerves, okay...
“Good night Tony,” Steve said as he walked out of the elevator.
“Good night Steve,” Tony replied. He gave his forehead a massage as he waited to reach his level.
Once he did, he examined his foot. Yikes, his toes were red. He quickly applied a cream and crashed onto his bed.
“Friday, wake me up in 4 hours. I still need to finish up Clint’s shit and then meet Reed later,” Tony ordered before knocking out.
“Sure thing, Boss. Good night,” Friday said softly. She dimmed his room lights and made sure he felt comfortable in the room.
“Friday! 12am was 10 hours ago!!” Tony shouted at the ceiling while putting on his shirt. He grabbed his blazers and pants and ran out of his room.
“I’m sorry, Boss. But you were too tired so I didn’t want to wake you up!” Friday quipped.
“But Clint’s stuff is still undone and I have that Bible project with Reed!” Tony countered back.
Tony quickly wore his blazer and moved on to his pants. He managed to wiggle into them. He hopped into the elevator and was trying to button up his pants. As he was rushing, Tony couldn’t button up properly. He decided to pull his stomach in and breathed in deeply. The button managed to go through the hole and Tony groaned as he adjusted the zip.
He wasn’t aware of the elevator doors sliding open, and Clint and Thor staring at Tony with eyes as wide as saucers.
“Please tell me you weren’t…” Clint made some obscene hand movements.
“No birdy, I was putting on my pants. Get in quick, I’m late!” Tony rolled his eyes.
“Does this meeting involve Pepper? Her wrath is one of a kind,” Thor said, sounding bright.
“No it’s not with her,” Tony said while he buttoned up his blazer. “It’s with Reed at the Baxter Building.”
The elevator doors opened to the communal level. Tony dashed out of it to the kitchen, where most of the team members were gathered after a morning session of sparring.
“Did you say Baxter Building and Reed?” Clint frowned.
Tony poured himself a piping hot cup of coffee. He quickly drank it without flinching. “I’m sure I did. See you all later, if any idiot decides to do something stupid.”
Tony scurried out of there after giving his team a wave, missing Clint’s worried look entirely. He was hoping not to come face-to-face with Steve. Another great day he had foreseen.
Once he reached the Tower’s basement, he ran to his Audi. He quickly jumped in and sped out of the Tower.
After 20 minutes of driving, Tony was meeting Sue at the lobby of the Baxter Building.
“Oh Tony, it’s so good to see you!” she gave his cheek a kiss.
“It’s good to see you too, Sue!” Tony kissed her back.
Both of them took the elevator to the last level in a comfortable silence.
“How’s life?” Tony asked. He leaned against the elevator wall.
“It’s fine. I get to be invisible at times,” she joked. Tony chuckled at that. “But… it’s Reed.”
“What about Reed?”
“Reed has been so focused on this multiverse project. He’s been ignoring other duties,” Sue sighed. “He hasn’t slept beside me in a week.”
“It’s the science calling. Some people get it strongly, especially smart men like Reed,” Tony explained. Both of them exited the elevator and Tony swung an arm around her. “I’ll talk to Reed after his little presentation, okay?”
“Thank you, Tony,” Sue smiled. “You’re the best.”
“That I am,” Tony grinned as he walked with Sue.
They entered Reed’s lab, and Tony was awed at the cube. The schematics showed only a small cube and Tony hadn’t thought much of it. Now, it was huge and had an antenna like rod sticking at the top. The cube was translucent but different colors were flashing in it, like pink and orange.
Tony saw Reed’s back first and brisk-walked towards him. But he stopped dead on his tracks when he saw who Reed was talking to.
The person caught Tony’s eye contact and tensed up.
Every person standing there could feel the sudden shift in the atmosphere.
“Tony, are you… okay?” Sue looked at him worriedly. He was just rooted to the ground, like a stone statue.
“I feel sexual tension in here…” Johnny whispered to Ben in a sing-song tone.
“You feel nothing, kid,” Ben pursed his lips.
“Oh, hey Tony,” Reed let out a nervous laugh as he turned to his good friend. “Welcome to the headquarters of the Fantastic Four.”
Tony was so confused and surprised to see Steve Rogers staring back at him like a deer caught in headlights. He was torn between asking Reed, “why didn’t you tell me Steve was invited?” and “Steve himself is here?”
This question came out of him instead, “Reed, why did Steve invite himself here?”
Reed raised both eyebrows at what he had heard. Sue cleared her throat, not knowing what exactly Tony had meant by that. Johnny was trying so hard not to burst out laughing and was quaking, prompting Ben to place a hand on his shoulder to signal him to calm down.
Steve looked sad for a second, but his facial features turned cold.
“I didn’t invite myself here, Tony.” He clarified with a dangerously calm tone.
“Is… Steve being here a problem? I thought he’s your team leader and needed to know about this machine…” Reed was scratching his head.
It wasn’t everyday a smart man like Reed Richards became this confused over an issue. Well, today was one of those days.
“No no,” Tony slapped his forehead with his own palm. “I um… I meant Steve is here and I wasn’t told yesterday…”
“I wasn’t told about you being here either, Stark,” Steve crossed his arms and avoided eye contact with Tony. He was staring at the machine instead. The light color changed to red and shone on Steve’s face. No pun intended but that made Tony look at Steve in a whole new light; because sure, that’s how Steve must be feeling.
“Anyway,” Reed clapped his hands, hoping that would remove all tensions from the room. “Both of you can enter the machine and I’ll explain what it does from the outside.”
Steve and Tony stepped in and kept a safe distance between one another. On the left side of the machine, Steve was looking at the controls and buttons, all sort of alien language for him. On the right side, Tony was also looking at the controls and buttons and could understand what each button would do if activated.
“You both are looking at the controls of the machine. At Steve’s side, the numbers allocated for the alternate universe can be selected. There are four alternate universes identified. At Tony’s side, the speed of transporting the person can be set to maximum speed. You can press around, nothing will happen because the launch controls are outside. And there is a remote control there, able to let us locate you and beam you back, or you can send us your location. The signal can be read. It’s not working now as I’ve not completed some wiring inside.” Reed was explaining. Tony took the remote control with him and tried to look inside to see how the wiring was done.
Steve was curiously flipping switches and saw the numberings change from 1610-U, 9810-U, 3490-U and 616-U. He left the switch and looked at the other controls. Tony was playing with the speed button. He placed the option at maximum launch speed.
“If you stand at the platform, you can look up and see a little dome curved towards you. That’s what helps transport a person to the selected universe,” Reed said. “I’m going to switch on the power, don’t worry. Just see and hear the machine come to life, and then you can step out.”
Johnny stepped aside to let Reed start the machine by turning a knob to the right. He then pushed the controls forward. Inside the machine, Tony felt excited as heard the machine whir to life. Various buttons and panels were lighting up. Steve went closer to Tony as he took in the stuff that was happening.
“Uh Reed, I think you should pull back the controls,” Sue told him. “Reed?”
“Sue, I can’t seem to pull it back,” Reed whispered to her looking puzzled.
“If the controls stay there the machine could break!” Ben looked horrified.
“Uh, Tony and Steve, step out of the machine now!” Sue instructed them, sounding panicked. Tony, without thinking, grabbed Steve’s arm and started to brisk-walk out. Steve looked at Tony’s hand on his and also at the events that was happening outside; Reed and Johnny having trouble at the controls.
“Push it forward and then back,” Johnny suggested and pushed the controls forward.
“No, no Johnny!!” Reed shouted.
Before Steve and Tony could step out, the machine buzzed wildly and both of them vanished. There was smoke coming out of the cube and after a few seconds, the ceiling of the cube crashed.
“Well shit,” Ben’s eyes widened. “We transported two key members of the Avengers to another universe and we can’t bring them back because our machine broke down...?”
“When you put it that way…” Reed sighed. “I’ll contact the Avengers and tell them about their team members, and leader.”
As Reed got to work…
A rift enabled Tony and Steve to slide down and land right in front of Avengers Tower. Steve landed back-first, with a thud. Tony landed chest-first on Steve.
“Sorry,” Tony coughed and rolled away from Steve.
“S’not your fault,” Steve was about to get up when the remote-control device Tony was holding onto in the cube fell onto his head. Steve groaned and laid back down again.
“Okay, maybe Reed’s machine is still a work in progress because we’ve landed right in front of the Tower,” Tony sighed. “Open up.”
“Access denied,” Jarvis replied smoothly. Tony was completely taken aback, hearing Jarvis’ voice. “Voice recognition failed. Proceed to thumbprint access.”
Tony felt like he was on autopilot as he placed his thumb on the pad to let it scan. But then he remembered the time Clint decided to prank on Tony by letting Vision speak to Tony, as if he was an AI. Tony relaxed when he realized it might be the same prank again. If Vision was back… that meant Rhodey’s back too!! Tony was happy about this prospect. And Vision acting as Jarvis and locking him outside was the twist to it; damn Clint, you gotta get more creative.
Right now, he wanted to see his best friend and this prank was only making him frustrated.
“User unidentified. Please wait here,” Jarvis said.
“What do you mean unidentified? I live here, Vision. Open up!” Tony raised his voice. “I swear to God, Vision, I’m gonna use Clint’s explosive arrow on his face if you don’t open up.”
Jarvis or Vision, did not have a comeback for that and didn’t open the entrance; which was kinda unusual.
“Tony…” Steve started and looked up at him with a worried look. “I don’t think we’re on our earth anymore.”
Tony, who was still frowning at the thumbprint access pad, turned to look at Steve with his eyes wide open. If all these weren’t a prank, if Jarvis was still existing then Steve’s words made sense but... where were they then?