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I Don't Care If It Hurts

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The battle is over, the combined might of the New York superhero community is more than enough to quash the legion of Doombots that had darkened the skies a few hours before. It is, Steve thinks, a minor miracle that everyone was in town that day instead of who-knows-where across hell’s half-acre.

On reflection, Steve thinks, it is a bit too miraculous. So he watches.

Another attack, this time more than half of his comrades are embroiled in their own lives and crises and the subsequent Doombot force is halved. To Steve, it is clear that the good Doctor is playing at something, even as the Avengers around him congratulate themselves on their hard-fought victory.

Then there is the time that Reed Richards makes his announcement and invites a sizable portion of his peers to the Baxter Building to see… some strange machine that Reed swears will slice, dice, and make julienne fries. Well no, not really, but the actual explanation became incomprehensible to anyone without five PhDs and an IQ nearing 250 after Reed’s second use of ‘the’.

It is at that moment that, mercifully, Doctor Doom and his legion of Doombots break through the skylight. Steve punches the nearest robot with the satisfied smile of a man who is assuredly not going to feel his brain leaking out his ears due to overuse of the word ‘quantum’. In the chaos of battle, it is almost easy to miss Doom’s confrontation with Reed. Almost, that is, if the viewer weren’t a supersoldier.

Though Steve cannot hear any words, it is very clear that Victor von Doom is taking an explosive exception to whatever Reed’s doodad does. He points to it in the same way a lesser being might point someone out of a police lineup. Reed’s gesticulation doesn’t placate Doom in the least, it is clear, because he unleashes a blast of energy at it.

The next few minutes get very strange, which is probably something to do with all those quantums Reed was talking about. First it is so cold that Steve feels like he’s back in the ice again, then so hot that he feels like he’s burning up from the inside. Everything feels like it is being stretched, flattened, rolled up and strained painfully.

Then with a sound like someone placing a ruler on the edge of a desk and giving it a twang, everything is back to normal. Reed’s machine is smoking, the Doombots are defeated, and Tony, Carol, and Peter have Doom wrapped up. Even in his defeat, the armored man exudes an air of satisfaction. Reed is staring at the smoking ruin of his device and scratching his head. Nothing he says makes any sense, but it has the definite air of ‘that wasn’t supposed to happen’.

When they bundle up Doom into a quinjet and fly him back to Latveria, Steve asks to be alone with their prisoner for a few minutes. He strange looks, but the others bundle themselves into the cockpit while he sits down across from Victor von Doom.

“I know what you’re doing,” he says, looking into his eyes.

After a considering pause, Doom responds. “I very much doubt that.” Not unexpected, he has always believed that because he is the smartest man in the room that he’s the smartest man in the room.

“It’s not about hurting people, or domination, or even your rivalry with Reed. It’s about his blindness to the flaws in whatever plan he comes up with.”

Doom doesn’t answer, and that’s all the answer Steve needs.

“What did that thing you blew up do?” He asks.

The other man snorts. “The answer is far beyond someone so dull as you. You couldn’t even begin to understand.”

“So help me out,” Steve implores. “When that thing went off, everything just… went wrong. Like we were a rubber band that someone stretched out.”

“If that is how you wish to describe it,” Doom says with clear disdain. “For a moment, the focal point of our universe was wrenched from its resting place to somewhere approximately five thousand lightyears outside of it and then returned. Anything more would require more time than I will spare on someone who cannot hope to comprehend.”

“That makes no sense, how can something go outside of the universe?” Steve said.

Doom huffs condescendingly. Steve decides to try again.

“Alright, what was it supposed to do?”

“Apparently that fool Reed Richards thought he could make a window into the vastness of time and space using gravitation abstraction.”

“And how did you know about it?” Steve asks.

“Because Susan told me,” Doom says shortly.

Steve frowns. “I wouldn’t think she’d talk to you willingly.”

Doom regards Steve coldly. “I have lost one friend to the blind stupidity of Reed Richards, I am not willing to lose another.”

Steve is still frowning so Doom elaborates.

“She writes me long letters, filled with ideas and news and loneliness. It is the only method that her husband doesn’t think to check. Mores the pity, then he might see how much he neglects her.”

Steve sighs heavily. “I don’t think he’d see even then. And she won’t budge on the subject.”

Doom huffs again.

They are coming up on Latveria now, Steve probably has time for one more question before they drop him off.

“How did you know that thing would go wrong?”

Doom looks at him, and even through the mask Steve can see the weary acceptance that long anger leaves.
“Because Reed is always wrong. From the moment I met him he made basic mistakes in his calculations that threw off his every theory but everyone else was blinded by his supposed brilliance.” Doom looks away. “Even his entrance into the ranks of power was a mistake of his own making. A mistake that almost cost me the woman I love.”

Steve doesn’t get to follow that thread because the quinjet is landing and everyone else is exiting the cockpit and ushering Doom out into the snowy slopes outside Castle Doom. Doom does not watch them until they fade from sight, but Steve watches him.

Steve decides that it is high time that someone had a talk with Reed.