The New Avengers, as the public insisted on calling them, although they’d much rather just be called the Avengers, were having a movie night. They made a concerted effort to have a movie night every other Friday in order to boost team morale and have a chance to relax with friends. It was Carol’s turn to pick the movie that night, according to their rotating schedule. She chose “Top Gun”, despite Peter’s protests that it was an “old people movie” and besides, wasn’t Tom Cruise a Scientologist or something? Carol and Rhodey determinedly ignored him.
The whole team, save T’Challa, who was busy running his country and Dr. Strange, who was in Kamar-Taj, were there that night, lounging on assorted loveseats, sofas, and beanbags, and other chairs. Carol, Rhodey, and Valkyrie were on one sofa, Peter plopped onto an overstuffed beanbag chair, Wanda and Vision were in one of the loveseats, Sam and Bucky were in the other, purportedly just so that they could throw popcorn at each other more easily (there was a pretty hefty bet on how long it would take for them to finally get together), and Scott, Hope, and Cassie Lang— who was not a superhero, at least not yet, but was definitely criminally adorable—on the other sofa. The opening credits for the movie had barely started, there was still a bag of popcorn in the microwave, when a jagged-edged portal with swirling shades of black, violet, and tesseract blue—not like the sparking orange portals Dr. Strange made—opened up in the common room.
“Oh, come on,” Scott complained, “we can’t even watch a movie without having to fight something. Cassie, honey, go upstairs, this is Avengers business; you could get hurt.”
Cassie pouted but did as he said.
The Avengers got ready for a fight. Vision reverted back to his android form, scarlet swirls formed around Wanda’s fingers, the War Machine armor flew to Rhodey, Carol’s hands started to glow, Scott and Hope put on their suits, Sam grabbed the shield, and Bucky grabbed whatever weapons were at hand—there a lot; it was one of the perks of living with the Avengers. The portal pulled all of them in, still in their fighting stances, and they tumbled unceremoniously to the ground of a New York City street. “Gross,” Peter said, wiping the dirt and grime off his suit. All of them were so disoriented by their fall through the portal that they almost didn’t notice the man marching towards them, clad in blue scale-mail and a matching helmet with the letter “A” and tiny wings adorning it, carrying Captain America’s shield.
“Hello,” he said kindly. “My name is Steve Rogers, but most people know me as Captain America. My wife informed me that there were some quantum irregularities in this area that we needed to check out. Her readings indicate that you’re from a different Earth than ours; is that correct?”
“Steve, man, it’s good to see you,” Sam exclaimed, pulling the other man into a hug.
“You have my shield,” alternate-Steve commented as Sam reluctantly released him from a crushing hug. “Are you Captain America on your Earth?”
Sam sputtered, “Well, I am, but you used to be—it’s actually a long story, man.”
“Well, I really need to get back to my kid,” Scott said, breaking through what would have undoubtedly been an incredibly uncomfortable explanation of Steve’s death. “Do you happen to have a genius here that could help us get back to our universe?”
At this, alternate-Steve’s face lit up in a smile, and his eyes went glassy, like he was distracted by thoughts of something—or someone—else.
“Hellooo,” Carol waved a hand in his face. “Earth to Steve Rogers.”
Snapping out of his trance, he blinked and said, “Sorry, yes, of course we have a genius. You all can come back with me to Avengers Tower and we’ll see what we can do to help you get back home.”
Huh, the Avengers thought, they still live in the Tower in this universe? Weird.
Nevertheless, they obediently followed alternate-Steve onto an elevator in Avengers Tower as he led them to a workshop, from which the muffled sounds of AC/DC and metal clanging against metal could be heard. “Tony?” Peter whispered, hopeful against all odds, even though he knew this Tony would not be the same as his.
Steve knocked on the door of the workshop before entering, saying “Hey, Shellhead, brought you some guests.”
“Awww, Winghead,” a woman with short dark hair, a black tank, and Tony’s whiskey-colored eyes purred, “you always bring me the best presents.” Steve strode across the room to kiss her, seemingly forgetting about the others in the room until Rhodey coughed pointedly in their direction and they split apart.
“My apologies,” Steve said, embarrassed, “I haven’t even introduced you yet. This is my wife, Natasha Stark; Tasha, these are Avengers from another Earth, like we suspected.”
“Hey guys,” she waved, uncaring about the motor oil staining her face, blue holographs reflected in her eyes as she studied several screens all at once. “I’ve been working on a way to travel between universes for a while, ever since the readings indicated this might happen. Don’t worry; this should be a one-off, a quantum fluke, if you will.” She pressed small, button-shaped devices into their hands and instructed them, “Just push the button, think about your universe and you’ll be back before you know it.”
The Avengers gathered in a circle to use the devices, and just as quickly as they’d left, were sucked back into the common room, Steve and Tasha cheerily waving goodbye to them as they disappeared.
“I guess it makes sense,” Carol mused, once they were reseated and the movie was paused. “I didn’t know them that well, but from the interaction I saw, Tony calling Steve a liar and putting his arc reactor—basically his heart—in Steve’s hands, I definitely got a big bitter exes vibe.”
“Yeah, I totally get it,” Scott agreed. “I mean, I looked at Cap’s ass, who didn’t, he was Captain America, but I’m just saying, if checking out Steve’s ass was a job, Tony would still be the richest man in America.”
Valkyrie snorted, “No shit, I only met them for like a minute and I could tell they were clearly into each other.”
Vision and Wanda looked contemplative, recontextualizing their interactions with Tony and Steve in the face of this new information
Sam hummed, thoughtful, “But what about Pepper?”
“Tony loved Pepper,” Rhodey stated, with the certainty of a fact, “but he was capable of loving more than one person at a time. He may not have done anything about his feelings for Steve but I always knew they existed.”
Bucky agreed softly, “I’d never seen the punk more upset than when he fought Tony; it really tore him apart.”
Peter didn’t say anything; he didn’t really know what to say, not having known Captain America, but he hoped that wherever Mr. Stark and the Captain were—Heaven, Elysium, Valhalla, take your pick—they were happy and they were together.