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A Tsumy Situation

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The weather was sunny and the sky absent of clouds. It was quiet up here with very little activity (there was a minor bird incident a few miles back). This was all good for Tony Stark and his elderly passenger. Anything different would have delayed them even more.

“How’s the breeze, Cap?”

Through his suit, Tony’s voice sounded rather robotic. If he hadn’t witnessed the sudden transformation, Steve would have thought it was a robot. An empty, metallic shell void of human life. Even now, he still held his doubts. Steve Rogers wouldn’t put it past Tony to have had tricked him with some form of hologram or other technological creation he would never even attempt to understand. The man was basically a magician. Only, instead of trickery, he used science.

“It feels like the beginning of a hurricane rather than a breeze. You think you could slow down a little?” Steve had to yell in order for Tony to hear him through the strong winds. He had ridden ontop the Iron Man suit before, and he’d come to the conclusion that he’d never get used to it.

“No can do. Any slower and we might not make it on time. Try not to freeze up there. Wouldn’t want another Capsicle on my hands.”

“Hilarious,” Steve said with a stone face.

It was chilly up here, but the view was great. Still, he’d prefer being able to enjoy this scenery through a window of a SHIELD jet. At least then his knuckles wouldn’t be turning white from grasping onto the cold, iron suit flying at who-knows-how-many miles per hour.

They didn’t have time for that, though. Dr. Stephen Strange had arrived way too suddenly for them to even process what he told them. Even now, Steve was formulating how exactly they would face up against Vincent von Doom. Dr. Doom. Yep. That’s who they were up against.

“That’s the place.” Tony slowed down until they were hovering above a cement building, half of it was caved in.

Steve looked down. The place looked deserted. “You sure?”

“Unless my tech is failing me, this is the place.” Slowly, Tony approached the side of the roof that didn’t look like it’d collapse if a feather fell on top of it. “Off.”

Steve hopped off his back and landed with a soft thud on the crumbling concrete. He looked around for any signs of life, but it was completely empty. He heard a small grating sound and turned to see Tony already standing next to him.

“Shall we?” Tony said as he motioned with an arm for Steve to lead the way.

“Well, as long as we’re here . . .” Steve approached the ledge leading into the building. As soon as he found the proper footing, he made his way down. It was darker than he anticipated considering the sun was still in its strongest stages.

A beam illuminated from behind him. He turned to see the Iron Man suit emitting a ray of light from its chest.

“Thanks,” Steve said.

“Anything for you, sweetheart.”

“Let’s just go.”

Steve turned away quickly, but Tony managed to catch the formation of a small smile. He was too easy.

The ground crumbled beneath them causing the walls to echo with the sounds their feet made as they smashed the debris left from whatever caused this building to fall.

A scurrying sound surrounded them, and Steve instinctively made a grab for his shield. Tony turned his body toward the noise. The light fell on a group of large rats, their eyes gleaming. They ran away in separate directions hurrying to find safety.

Steve let his hand fall away from his shield. He let out a quiet sigh.

“You know . . . if you get too scared you can always hold my hand,” Tony teased.

“Shut up.”

They continued walking through the decaying building, careful not to give away their presence to whatever lurked in the shadows. But, that was easier said than done when one of them was shining brighter than a Christmas tree and the other was crushing the ground beneath him with every step he took.

“Cap . . . are you--are you seeing what I’m seeing.”

“Yeah, actually, I am.”

The path (or lack of) had led them to an even darker corridor. Compared to the rest of the building this part was undamaged. In fact, it looked as if it was recently reconstructed. The two men had stopped in their tracks, and now they stood next to each other exchanging glances.

“Captain’s orders?”

Steve, determined to stop Doom, looked down into the abyss before him. “We go.” He led the way.

The floor was different here, too. The crumbling beneath their feet stopped, and there was no debris or dust. This was definitely built recently.

“Tony, there’s--”

“I know.”

Even through the iron mask, Steve could make out the decisiveness and conviction in Tony’s voice. There was no going back for either of them. Either they find out what exactly is going on down here or they die trying. Steve was thinking that, and he knew Tony was as well. They had just made a nonverbal vow.

Their few minutes of walking finally paid off. A dim orange light greeted them from a few spaces north. The two men placed their backs against the cold wall and slowly made their way toward it. Tony switched off his suit’s flashlight mode. Now, relying on the dim light before them, they examined the open space.

It was a laboratory. The sheer size of it took Tony by surprise. He wasn’t expecting something this big hidden in a place such as this. From the outside, the building had looked like a small prison incapable of holding even a room the size of a small gymnasium, so to see this . . . Then again, that’s what made this the perfect hiding spot. Even Tony, who had all the technological power and capabilities the world had to offer, would have had trouble finding the location of such a lab on his own. It was a good thing, then, that Stephen Strange had paid a visit to the Avengers Tower. Still, Tony wished they had brought some backup. Too bad the only ones present at the time were Peter (who was still new to this whole superhero ordeal) and Scott (who was even worse than Peter at the whole superhero ordeal). The others were off on another assignment, and Vision was left to care for the Avengers Tower (Tony did not trust Scott).

So, now it was just him and Steve. This pairing was becoming more frequent. For some reason, he and Steve were the ones that always ended up in messes like this. Life just loved messing with Tony.

They stepped into the room. Machinery and equipment Steve had no knowledge of decorated the walls and corners.

“There’s nobody here,” Steve said.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” With a push of a button, the mask disappeared from Tony’s face and retreated into the recesses of the suit. “Great. Just great.”

“We should look around. See what this stuff is for. You think you can figure them out.”

“They look like some sort of chamber. The kind you keep living specimens in.”

“People?” After everything he had been through, nothing surprised Steve anymore.

“Perhaps. Or also animals, plants, or . . .” Tony walked around the room letting his no-longer gloved fingers brush on the metallic and glass surfaces of the containers. He made his way to a small desk-like table and examined the papers strewn about the surface. He stared at them in silence before finishing his sentence. “ . . . brains . . .” He let his voice trail off.

Steve turned toward him. “Wha--”

A loud crashing sound interrupted Steve mid-question. Water gushed from one of the containers after a large portion of the ceiling broke through its glass surface. Around him, shards of glass and segments of cement flew from every direction. Steve already had his shield in hand. He protected himself against the falling rubble.

“Rogers!”

He turned toward the voice and sprinted across the room, evading more of the wreckage in the process. He didn’t stop until he felt the familiar strong grasp. Tony was in full suit mode once again.

“You alright?” Tony asked him.

A piece of glass had grazed him causing a drip of blood to flow down his cheek, but he was still at one hundred percent. “What happened?” Steve realized he didn’t have to waste time answering Tony’s question. This was one thing he enjoyed about working with Tony Stark: they both knew the other well, so verbal communication was sometimes not needed. It made things easier.

“It’s him.” Tony was focused on something across from them, near to where Steve had just been nearly crushed a few seconds ago.

Steve looked up.

Doom.

“Yeah.”

Steve hadn’t realized he had said Dr. Doom’s name aloud, perhaps he hadn’t, but Tony’s response revitalized him. He gripped the shield in his hand and prepared to fight.

“What is all this, Victor? What’s going on?”

“My name is Dr. Doom, and this is your downfall, Captain.”

“Cap! His head.”

Steve spotted the wires coming from under Doom’s silver mask. They dangled down his neck and connected to something attached to his back.

“Nice eyes you have there, Stark. Yes, this is my newest creation.”

“Ooh, bad guy monologue time. My favorite. Let’s hear it, Doomsy.” Tony observed his suit’s stats. The falling rubble had caused a minor mishap but no true damage had been done. He was good to go. He prepared his repulsors in case of a sudden attack.

“I have strengthened my mind’s capabilities. These wires, you see, are connected to my armor. To operate it, I just have to adjust my focus to the object of desire,” his outstretched right hand pointed to one of the giant slabs of cement that had nearly squashed Steve a couple of minutes ago, “and using only my thoughts, I can turn it into anything I wish.” A ray shot out from his ironclad arm. The slab of cement disappeared.

No. It wasn’t gone. It had turned into a lump of coal.

“With my mind, there are no limits to my power.” He aimed his arm at one of the glass chambers, and, with another beam, it erupted into flames. He turned his attention to the two Avengers. “There is nothing I can’t achieve!” He raised his arm up and pointed it at Steve.

Steve's feet moved on their own and the wall behind him disappeared. If Doom was dangerous before, this new power made him more menacing.

“Cap?!”

“Tony! We have to get that off of him.” Easier said than done, but he had no other plans.

Tony zoomed past Steve and was face to face with Doom. “Hey, Doomsy, baby. How about turning that little rock over there into a cheeseburger. I’m kinda hungry.”

With a growl, Doom raised his clenched fist and made contact with Tony’s armor. “You talk too much.”

Tony fell back onto the ground with a loud smash. “You obviously haven’t met the Spider kid.” He checked his stats again. Everything was working properly. If he hadn’t inched away at the last second, his suit would have been badly damaged.

“Tony!”

He looked up to see Steve jogging over to him. “I’m okay. Just . . . keep him busy.”

“You have a plan.”

“When do I ever have a plan?”

Doom’s attention was now on Tony. “I guess I’ll get rid of you first.” He raised his arm, and Tony could see the ray beginning to charge.

Steve threw his shield in a frisbee-like manner. It grazed Doom on the shoulder. It wasn’t enough to cause any damage, but it was enough to distract him. He roared in frustration and made his way toward Steve, his arm already aiming at the first Avenger.

“Hey, Metal-face!”

Doom turned around.

“Looks like you’ve been a bad boy.”

The lump of coal came at him with infuriating speed and hit him in the center of his forehead causing him to lose his balance. He felt something connect with his knees, and he doubled down, kneeling as if praying to some unseen force.

Quickly following up on Tony’s attack, Steve had dived toward Doom in order to bring him down. Without hesitation he reached for Doom’s mask, but his arm was intercepted. The iron fingers closed tightly around him. Any regular person would have had every bone in their arm broken, which made him glad he was not “any regular person.” With his free hand, he made a grab for the mask, but he stopped when he saw the beam in front of him.

“Time to say good-bye, Captain.” The brightness of the beam shined off the silver mask, and Steve was sure that he was smiling behind it.

Using some of his extreme athleticism, Steve kicked the arm away. The beam hit the ceiling causing more debris to fall. He took advantage of the minor distraction to free himself of Doom’s hold. Spotting his shield a few feet away, he made a dash for it but not before Doom grabbed hold of his left foot. Steve landed a right hook on Doom and managed to loosen the grip on him. He sprinted away and dived for his shield.

“‘Looks like you’ve been a bad boy?’ Really, Stark?” He said as he stood next to his partner.

“It was the best I could do at the moment. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

“Anything?”

“Well,” Tony’s tone shifted to a more serious one, “he’s been using the same arm every time he tries to pulverize or change something, which means that his brain is only connected to that part of his armor. He may not have had enough time to expand its reach. Probably was working on that when we dropped in uninvited.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t feel guilty about that. So, what? We aim for his right arm?”

“We aim for the reactor on the palm of his hand. Leave it to me. You, distract him.” With that, Tony sped off.

“Distraction, huh. Shouldn’t be that hard.” Using his right foot to catapult him forward, Steve, shield in front, lunged at the enemy before him. He examined Doom’s actions, and, sure enough, that same right arm was the one being raised. Steve waited until the beam grew brighter and, right before it was released, threw the shield into the palm of Doom’s ironclad hand.

“ACK!” The shield had hit the reactor deadcenter and stopped the beam in its track. And, in a moment of hesitation, Captain America had delivered a wind-knocking punch to his chest. He could feel it even through his armor and was unable to regain his balance. Doom fell through one of the glass chambers with a loud crash and slid down to the floor as remnants of glass accompanied him on the cold ground.

“Well, well, well. What have we here?”

Doom looked up to see Tony hovering above him. He raised his right arm ready to fire, but Iron Man was quicker.

Tony landed on the ground a few feet away from his fallen opponent. Using the reactors on his palms, he propelled a slab of cement toward Doom. The velocity of it reached its peak when it slammed into Doom’s outstretched hand. The room filled with the loud booming collision.

“Looks like you’re done, Doom.” Tony walked over to Victor Doom whose right arm lay limp at his side. He heard a sound emanating from the fallen man. At first, Tony thought it was one of the glass chambers ready to explode, but as he got closer, he realized it was the sound of Dr. Doom laughing. “What’s so funny?” He stopped in his tracks.

The laughter continued.

“Honestly, I was expecting a more difficult battle,” Tony continued. “I had a harder time beating Stage 6 in that tsum tsum game.”

“Tsum tsum?” They were fighting against the most powerful enemy the Avengers had, and Tony still managed to include some witty banter. “Tony . . .”

“What, Steve?! That game is hard. Sometimes you have so many tsum tsums and no matches, and it just gets to you.”

“I don’t think it’s that hard.” Steve had tried to say this quietly, but the look Tony gave him told him it had come out louder than expected.

“Tony Stark.” The sound of his name being said by Doom caused the hair on the edge of his neck to stand. “I’m not surprised you figured it out. In fact, I would’ve been quite disappointed if you didn’t.”

“So, you’re happy I kicked your butt.”

More laughter erupted from behind Doom’s mask. Goosebumps formed on Tony’s skin. “It’s not over, yet.” Before he finished his sentence, Doom raised his left arm. The beam was already charged.

“TONY!” Steve rushed toward his ally, his superhero instincts kicking in.

Instinctively, Tony raised his own arms ready to fire a beam of his own, but Doom had already fired.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tony quietly passed through the sliding doors of the Avengers Tower. Looking around, he carefully made his way to the elevator. Nobody seemed to be in the lobby, which was good news for him.

The elevator lights lit up, and he waited for the metal doors to slide open. When they did, he made sure nobody else was occupying it and stepped inside. He pressed the button for the top floor, where his livingspace was located, and impatiently waited for the trip to end.

The way up had never seem longer to Tony, so, when he finally got there, he dashed through the doors nearly bumping into his A.I. turned Avenger, Vision.

“Good evening, sir. How was your mission?”

Tony stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Oh, you know. Same as always.”

“You appear to have sustained some injuries,” Vision said upon noticing the fresh cuts on Tony’s cheeks.

“It’s fine, Vision. I’m just gonna go freshen up.”

“But, sir . . .”

Tony was already heading down the corridor that led to his personal home. He would tell Vision about the situation later . . . maybe. Right now he had other matters to attend to.

He shut the door behind him and rested against it. He let out a deep sigh of relief as a teenager does when they sneak back home after their curfew.

Using the back of his left hand to wipe away some of the blood and sweat dripping down his face, Tony reached into his pocket with his other one. Softly and slowly, he took out what remained of Steve Rogers.

He replayed the end of the confrontation in his mind. It had happened so suddenly that he could only recall bits and pieces of it. He remembered Doom raising his left arm. He remembered Steve pushing him out of the way. Steve . . . taking the shot that was meant for him. And, then . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The resulting explosion had caused the rest of the ceiling to cave in on them. Dust and concrete filled the air around them. He couldn’t see. Like a blind man, Tony used the sense of touch to get around this unfamiliar environment. “Captain!” He called out but nobody answered. There’s no way Steve would succumb to something as simple as a beam of light. Then again, Dr. Doom was an incredible being. “Steve!”

“Tony?”

Tony stopped in his tracks. Was he hearing things?

“Tony!”

No, that was definitely him. “Cap, where are you?”

“I’m right here.”

The voice sounded far away, so how could it be “here”?

At last, the debris began to clear and the dust to settle. He could make out the situation now. Doom was gone, that’s for certain. He probably escaped during the commotion. The sun was lower, but there was enough light coming through now that the ceiling was nonexistent. None of the glass chambers had survived the ensuing destruction, and the laboratory had been reduced to nothing more than ruins.

However, the thing he could not see was Steve. Tony kept walking around, removing large slabs of concrete in his search for the Captain.

“TONYTONYTONYTONY!!!”

Tony froze midstep. “Cap?” Steve had sounded far away and, yet . . . close.

“For Pete’s sake, Tony! You almost stepped on me.”

“Huh?” Tony took a step back and looked down. The sight that greeted him was not what he had expected. He studied it carefully not believing what he was witnessing before him. And, then, he bursted out laughing.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“Stop laughing!”

“I can’t help it.” He examined the little, palm-sized plush in his hand. “You’re just so cute.”

“Shut up! It’s not funny.”

The booming voice coming from such a small creature caused Tony to laugh even harder. “Stop it. My sides . . . oh! I’m going to die.” He struggled to breathe through his terrible fit of laughter.

Steve let out a defeated sigh. “Just put me down.”

Gently, Tony lowered Steve onto the coffee table in the middle of his own personal livingroom. Steve stretched out his stumpy legs and arms. How his anatomically-incorrect limbs could support his large body made no sense to him, but, for now, he was satisfied he could still move about on his own. He was still in his Captain America uniform, and his shield rested on his back (it was unremovable; Tony had tried to pry it off of him to no avail). (Open this in new tab for reference)

“Why do you think he turned you into a tsum tsum?”

“It might have something to do with our little banter beforehand. He did mention that the ray was controlled by his thoughts. He might have been thinking about tsum tsums. Honestly, I’m just glad I didn’t get pulverized.”

“No, yeah. Me, too. This is much cuter.” Tony reached out with his index finger with the intent of patting the defenseless tsum tsum plushie, but he received a bite in return. “Ouch!” He sucked on his injured finger. “Kinky.” He looked down to see Steve staring daggers at him with his beady, black eyes, and, once again, laughter took control of him.

Instead of complaining, Steve let the laughter die down.

Tony wiped away the tears forming at the corner of his eyes. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just--well, you’re--it’s just too adorable.” He took a seat on the couch in front of the coffee table.

“We have to figure out how to get me back to normal.”

“Are you sure we should do that. I mean, we could just leave you like this. Seriously, though, I like you better this way.”

“Tony!”

“Okay, fine, fine. I could ask Vision to--”

“No! No, don’t get the others involved. If word gets out that I’m--incapacitated--we could risk enemies seeing this as a vulnerability. With most of the Avengers gone, we can’t jeopardize ourselves like that. Also, Doom thinks I’m dead. We could use that to our advantage.”

“So, we just keep you hidden here until I figure out how to get you back to normal or we find Doom.”

“Yes.”

“Alright. You’re the leader.”

Tony didn’t seem convinced, but at least he was listening to him, and that’s all Steve needed right now. If anybody could get him out of this predicament it’d be Tony Stark. In the meantime, he’d have to learn how to operate in this lumpy body. He turned around and took a few steps before stumbling down, his limbs splayed out as his tummy softly smacked onto the wooden top.

Steve didn’t have to look up to see that Tony was suppressing his laughter (and failing). His face flushed red, and he buried it into the table before Tony could see it. He hoped that this would get fixed up soon.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

They were in the basement of the Avengers Tower now. Or, what was known as “Stark’s Lab.” Steve had been here countless times before, but it seemed so much larger now that he was the size of a toddler’s hand.

“Tony . . .” They had been here for hours, and Steve was certain that the time now would include “A.M.”

“Just a minute,” Tony said without a moment of pause. He continued working on whatever it was he was doing.

Steve enjoyed watching Tony tinkering about his lab. It was as if all the traits that made him Tony Stark were transferred into his creations. His movements radiated confidence. His verbal commands were exact and to the point. His methods were unique and well-calculated. It was as if he was literally pouring himself into his work. It was amazing.

“Done.” Tony placed his finished product in front of Steve. At first, Steve couldn’t tell what it was. It looked like a wooden cage, but then he noticed there was fabric inside.

“Is this--”

“It’s a tsum tsum crib,” Tony said with a smile a child gives after showing off his handmade present. “You move this lever here with your cute, little arm, and--” with a paperclip, Tony moved the lever up and the side close to Steve slid down, “presto! I made the bottom part lower so you can get in and out with ease. And, you just pull up the side until it locks into place,” he did just that, “and you have your little crib back. Now you can sleep peacefully without rolling off.”

Steve stared at the contraption before him. It was amazing he had done this while also working on a serum to counteract Doom’s tsumification, but there was one thing wrong about this.

“I’m not a baby,” Steve said straightforwardly.

“I know, but--”

“Tony. I’d be fine sleeping on the table. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myse--” Steve had turned away from Tony, but, somehow, his two back limbs had crossed one another in the process, and he lunged forward.

“You were saying?” Tony teased.

Steve let out a defeated sigh as he laid sprawled on the table. A second later, he felt himself being lifted up. His stubby limbs dangled below him. His face flushed red. He wasn’t used to people carrying him. Even in his tsumified form it felt awkward.

Gently, Tony placed Steve in his new crib. He made sure to place his face on the white pillow. The size of it perfectly complimented Steve’s rounded head. “Ooh, I almost forgot.” Tony went back to his workspace and returned with some sort of blue square.

Steve watched as Tony draped the rectangular fabric over his pudgy, oval body. He examined the blanket. “Really?” The blanket was blue with repeating images of Captain America’s red and white shield decorating it.

“I thought it’d be a nice touch,” Tony shrugged.

Steve shifted in his new bed. As much as he’d hated to admit it, it was pretty comfortable, and he quickly succumbed to his exhaustion.

As Steve’s breathing became rhythmic, Tony continued working on possible ways to contradict whatever had happened to Steve. The most logical conclusion was that Doom’s beam somehow rearranged Steve’s DNA. In that case, he’d have to find a way to sequence it so that Tsum Tsum Steve would transform back into Human Steve. There was also the possibility that Doom’s ray projected a poison or chemical that tsumified Steve, which would mean that Tony would have to find the antidote to combat it. The serum he was currently working on was nearly done. But, he’d need a test subject. Unfortunately for him, Steve was the only human to have had been on the receiving end of this particular ray. But . . .

Tony placed the lump of coal on the experimental tray. As a scientist, it was in his repertoire to always take any piece of evidence that might aid in experimentation. And, this lump of coal was another result of Doom’s ray thing. Of course, it was never human to begin with, but it was better than working with nothing. At least with this he’d be able to get an idea of where he stood.

He broke off a piece of the coal and placed it under his microscope. Then, with an eardrop, he doused the fragment with two drops of his serum.

Nothing happened for a while, and he was going to go back to square one, when he noticed a rippling in the lump. It looked as if something was trying to escape. Tony got closer to the microscope observing the effect carefully. Then . . .

A loud explosion filled the room as smoke enveloped the whole laboratory.

Exploding into a fit of coughing, Tony used his hands to feel around. His fingers hit the buttons of the desk fan he kept and jammed the button down: full blast. The smoke began to clear, and he quickly went over to Steve’s side.

“Steve?”

He had been in the middle of a dream when the explosion occurred. He awoke with a start and in a state of mild panic causing him to roll over on his back. It took him a few seconds to realize that his eyes were opened and he couldn’t see anything. Had he gone blind? In addition, everything looked gigantic. He tried to move, but he couldn’t seem to be able to roll over or sit up. He felt like a turtle laying on its back. He frantically moved his arms and legs only to realize that he had no hands or feet. His eyes shut and limbs flailing, he began to utter cries of help.

Which is how Tony found him. Tony watched him flailing about and crying for help for a few seconds. “So . . . cute . . .” Tony picked up the panicking Steve Rogers and cradled him in his palm. “Sorry about that. The, uh, serum didn’t . . . work.”

It took a moment before Steve could register what was being said to him. Then he remembered his situation. Dr. Doom. Ray. Tsum tsum. That pretty much summarized it. He let out a quiet sigh. “It’s okay.”

Tony placed him back in his crib and tucked him back in. “I’ll try to be more quiet.”

Steve was already snoring lightly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

His eyes slowly fluttered open. He tried to rub them, but his stubby forelimbs couldn’t reach that far. He laid immobile for a while wondering what had woken him. The ensuing clunking sound answered his question.

“Tony?”

He heard the shuffling of papers and clinking of tools. Then, the soft thudding of footsteps as Tony approached him.

“Hey there, Little Cap. Have a nice sleep?” Tony reached down into his makeshift crib and picked up Steve by his shield. He set him down on a clear spot on the table next to his workspace.

A small yawn escaped the still sleepy Steve, and Tony was quick to react. He patted the top of Steve’s head with his finger and uttered, “Cute.”

Steve shook his head as if to shake the probing finger away. It worked. He paced about the clear space and observed the clutter before him. There were papers scattered about and equipment both on and under the table. Tony’s clothes were covered in stains, and his hair was ruffled and dirty. He looked tired. “Have you been up all night?”

“No, well, yeah, well . . . not exactly. I did fall asleep while waiting for this thing,” he picked up a test tube filled with some sort of pink, bubbling liquid, “to boil. But, other than that, I was . . . pretty much awake the whole night, yeah.”

“Tony . . .”

There it was. Steve’s disappointed tone again. He only ever said his name in that tone, but it never failed to infuriate him. “Don’t worry about it, Cap. I’ve pulled many sleepless nights before.”

“Yeah, and how did those turn out?”

Reflecting on his past misdeeds, Tony turned away from the conversation and buried himself in his work.

“Tony . . .”

“I’m doing this for you, Steve!” His sudden movement knocked some of the papers to the floor. “Do you want to remain a tsum tsum forever or do you want me to freaking help you?!” He turned his back to Steve.

“What I want . . . is for you not to kill yourself in the process. We don’t have to overdo it.” Steve walked over to him.

“We don’t know if this is permanent. We don’t know if there’s a time limit on this before you . . . We don’t know anything. We don’t even know if we can undo it. We have to use every second we can.” Tony leaned back on the table using his hands for support.

“Whatever happens will happen to me. We don’t need to take you down with me.” Steve placed his stubby arm on Tony’s hand, but it was uncomfortable for him to stretch that far, so he opted for climbing up Tony’s hand instead.

Feeling the softness of Steve’s plush body on his hand calmed him down. “Alright.” He gently pushed Steve off of him. “You’re right.” He picked up some of the items he had dropped in his momentary fit of rage. “I’m gonna go take a shower, and then we’ll go out for breakfast. Deal?”

“Sure.” Steve offered him a tsum tsum-sized smile. “I’ll, uh, wait for you here.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to accompany me?” Tony said with a smirk.

Steve’s face flushed red, and Tony caught a glimpse of it before he could turn away. “J-Just hurry up. I’m getting hungry. We haven’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday.”

“Will do!” Tony was already headed up the stairs.

With a small sigh, Steve let his plump body fall. He buried his face in the table and uttered a muffled “Why did this have to happen to me?”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What had the beam decided on? He couldn’t remember what his final thoughts were before the ray hit the pest that is Captain America. He had been focused on turning him to ash as he prepared to fire that deathly beam, but then--

“Tony Stark!” Victor banged his fist on the metal table. He was seated on a large, black chair, the glow of the monitor illuminating his masked face.

Yes. Tony Stark. That imbecile had infiltrated his brain with his mindless remarks about those idiotic little toys that seemed to be everywhere around him. This capitalist society lived off of moronic items made for worthless beings that had nothing better to do with their time and money but hoard them. It infuriated him! This world had diminished to the worship of nonliving entities. It was as if humanity was devolving. They needed to be saved. They needed to be guided. They needed a God! And, Doom was going to be the one to offer them the salvation they so desperately needed.

But, there was still one thing in his way.

The Avengers.

If he could get rid of them one-by-one, they would crumble. And, the perfect target would be the Captain himself. He had him in grasp. Now, the question was, did he crush him . . . or did he let him go?

Doom had been meditating on this question since he escaped those two annoyances and made it to his secret lair. He hated this place, but he always ended up back here. It was the only place the Avengers hadn’t discovered.

“Doesn’t matter. Even if he did survive, there’s nothing he’ll be able to do in that pathetic state.” Doom rose from his chair and made his way across the room. Using his mystical energy, he opened the large mahogany doors that led to his underground laboratory. “It’s time to upgrade my power.” He disappeared into the dark corridor.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Steve climbed out of Tony’s coat pocket and slid onto the leather passenger seat. “I haven’t seen this car before?”

“I just got it . . . thirty? . . . forty minutes ago?”

Steve’s small eyes widened. “How?!”

“I worked my magic.”

They’ve known each other for years, and Tony still managed to leave him in awe. Steve walked around the passenger seat. He felt trapped down here and wanted to look out the window. He tried climbing up the passenger door, but his limbs kept sliding down. Exhausted, he settled for the spot in the middle of the seat and laid down.

Tony looked over to see the antics of Tsum Tsum Steve. His little arms flailing about as he tried to climb the door was so engrossing that Tony almost drove onto an oncoming car. He saw Steve give up in his pursuit of the window and make his way to his seat. His beady eyes seemed to droop, and the little smile was no longer on his face. The sight of a sad tsum tsum made Tony feel bad bad. And, Tony hated feeling bad. He grabbed Steve and placed him on his left shoulder, the one next to the window.

Steve’s face immediately lit up. He made himself comfortable on Tony’s broad shoulder and enjoyed the view being presented to him. It was quite nice.

Steve remained perched on Tony’s shoulder as they walked through the busy streets of New York. He tried to remain still so as not to attract any extra attention.

“It’s okay,” Tony said. “It’s New York. People don’t care.”

And he was right. Steve began taking in the world from this new perspective. He observed the busy people rushing past them, talking on cellphones, or hurrying to some unknown destination.

“Here we are.” The small chiming of a bell was heard as Tony opened the door. He stepped in and greeted the waitress of the nearly empty diner.

“Here?” Steve was expecting something fancier. Something more . . . Starkish.

“The pancakes are good here,” Tony said as if that answered all of Steve’s questions. He walked over to a booth toward the back of the diner and slid in. “Craving anything, Cap?” He placed his open palm in front of Steve.

Steve walked onto the hand being offered, and he was lowered down until he reached the table. “Not really. I’ll just have what you’re having.”

Tony ordered a large breakfast platter, and, from there, he offered small pieces of his meal to Steve who hungrily gobbled everything placed in front of him.

“Good?”

“Mhmmph,” Steve said through a mouth full of food. He gobbled it down and added, “You were right. The pancakes are good.”

Tony smiled down at him and finished the rest of his meal.

After they finished, Tony set down a bill on the table as tip. He then grabbed Steve and perched him back on his space on his shoulder.

During the short trip from table to shoulder, Steve managed to make out the bill Tony had placed. 100 dollars. He had left a 100 dollar tip on a less than 20 dollar meal. “Wow,” Steve whispered. Tony really never failed to amaze him.

They headed back to the car. As Tony adjusted his seatbelt, Steve leapt from his shoulder to the steering wheel. He hiked up the wheel to the dash and made his way to the center of it. He turned to face Tony. “The seatbelt makes the seating a bit uncomfortable. Also,” he motioned toward the window, “bigger view.”

Tony laughed before stating “You are seriously adorable,” which made Steve blush lightly.

“Shut up,” Steve said as he turned to enjoy the larger view.

They drove for the rest of the day. Tony had to purchase some much needed ingredients for his untsumification serum along with some newer equipment. During one of their runs, they passed a store window advertising their sale of tsum tsums. Tony took a step back and saw the large array of colorful, ovularr plushies. In the middle of the plethora of Disney tsum tsums sat the Avengers section. The Captain America one seemed to be staring right into Tony’s eyes begging him to take him home. Tony looked over at the live one resting on his shoulders. He was looking back at him.

“No.”

“But--”

Steve turned away from him, and Tony continued their shopping trip. “I’m gonna order one,” he said under his breath.

They stopped for lunch at a food truck and continued with their busy day of shopping. Steve remained perched on Tony’s shoulder the whole time. Well, except in the car.

They returned home for dinner. Tony had picked up some take-out on the way back, and they settled in back at the lab. Steve climbed into his one-of-a-kind crib and let himself relax. It had been an exhausting day. Not Doom-Fight exhausting but exhausting nonetheless.

Through the bars of the crib, he watched Tony methodically work, write something down, command his A.I., and work again. “You should get some rest.”

Not taking his eyes off his work, Tony assured him that he would. “I just need to finish this up, and I’ll go get some shut eye.”

Steve forced his half-shut eyes to open fully. He would not go to sleep until Tony did. He didn’t want him having some sort of mental breakdown on his behalf; however, the exhaustion was weighing him down, and he ended up immediately drifting off into a peaceful slumber.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tony was still asleep when he felt a soft pull on his ear. “Wha . . .” He awoke in a daze. A sheet of paper was stuck on his left cheek, but it fell as he raised his face from the desk. “Oh, man. I fell asleep down here again. This is not good for my neck.” This was the third night he’d awoken like this. He massaged the back of his neck as he stretched his back on the chair. He looked down and saw Steve quietly observing him. Now he realized what that tug on his ear had been. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

Steve didn’t reply to his demeaning remark this time but instead got straight to the point. “Your computer was beeping, so I went to check what it was, and--”

Tony summoned a large monitor as if through magic and began poking at the air. The holographic screen changed with each probe.

It had been over a week since Steve got transformed (eight days to be exact), and not a single sign of Doom had appeared. But now it seemed--

“Is it--” Steve had climbed up Tony’s arm and had taken his spot on Tony’s left shoulder.

Tony’s eyes widened. “Doom,” he whispered as if the pure sound of his name being mentioned would conjure up the chill-inducing villain.

Tony continued his majestic strokes as he ushered forth more information. More screens popped up next to the main one, and Tony’s attention split between them. “One of his henchmen was spotted around here,” using his finger, he traced a circle around the location, “and another was over here,” another circle. “Doom himself was here, which means--”

Tony’s voice trailed off and Steve could no longer make out what he was saying. Even if he could make out his mutterings, Steve would probably not have been able to understand him. But, he trusted Tony to tell him the important bits. So, he waited for his monologue to end.

After a few minutes of more probing and silent utterings, Tony loudly cursed.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Doom. You see these locations? This one contains a kinda--how should I put it--disposal for unwanted or malfunctioning tech. This one over here is a business I’ve visited on a few occasions. I brought up the list over here,” he turned to a smaller screen, “of the resources purchased by one of his goons.”

“I don’t get it.”

“All the items he bought combined with whatever they managed to find in that tech graveyard points to him upgrading his power.”

“You mean the mind-reading thing?”

“Exactly.”

“We have to move.”

Tony nodded in agreement. “Friday!”

“Yes, master?” The A.I.’s voice resonated through the lab.

“Is my armor ready?”

“It has been calibrated and repaired. All systems are functioning properly,” the female-like voice said.

“Paint job?”

“A new coat has been applied.”

“Let’s go. Oh, wait.” Tony turned back to his desk and grabbed a small object. It was in his pocket before Steve could get a good glimpse of it.

“What’s that?”

“Good luck charm,” Tony said with a smile. “Now, let’s go. We need to come up with a plan first. I don’t want to risk becoming a tsum tsum. I have stuff to do.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“So, what’s the battle plan,” Tony said through a mouthful of food.

They were in another one of Tony’s diners. This one was on his list for its great coffee. Steve was sitting across from him taking small bites of whatever he could grab off of Tony’s plate full of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham.

“Maybe we could start by chewing with our mouths close.” He aimed his remark at Tony.

Tony swallowed. “Okay, Mom. Now, what? How do we destroy the mechanism?”

“We can’t destroy it until he turns me back.”

“Well, what if we don’t get a chance for him to turn you back? What if my back is up against the wall, and he has his thoughts aimed right at me? No offense, but, but I can’t trust you when you fit in the palm of my hand and are made of fluff.”

“You think I don’t know that?! I can’t help it that I got into this predicament because of--”

“Because of what, Rogers? Huh? What?”

Steve hesitated. He had stopped himself before he added “you,” but the damage was clear. He hadn’t meant to say that, but the intensity of the moment had caught up with him. “I--I didn’t mean--”

“No. I know what you meant. Listen, I can fix you. We don’t need Doom and his god complex.”

“It’s been eight days, Tony, and your health is already deteriorating. How much sleep did you even get last night?”

“Stop with the sleeping! I’m fine. I can do this.”

“At what cost, Tony?!” Steve’s voice came out louder than intended.

“You know what. I don’t need this. You can’t even help me fight Dr. Doom. You’ll just get in the way.” Tony started sliding out of the booth.

“Wait. Tony.” Steve waddled over to the edge of the table. “Tony!”

Tony hesitated. Then turned back. He picked up Steve and placed him on his shoulder. It was a bit rougher than usual. They headed over to his car. Tony opened the door on the driver’s side and placed Steve on the dash. Then he shut the door and locked the car.

Steve made his way over to the door. “Tony!”

From outside, Tony looked down at him. “Sorry. But you’ll just be in the way.”

“Victor can turn me back.”

I can turn you back! We need to destroy that thing. We need to destroy Doom. I can do it.” He turned his back to Steve. “Time to suit up.” With a click of the band on his wrist, the Iron Man suit engulfed his body. It was quick. First, his jeans disappeared behind the red and gold metal plates, and then his black shirt quickly got shrouded in the iron-like structure. Finally, his face vanished behind the Iron Man mask, and, without looking back at Steve, he sped off.

“Tony!” Steve started frantically looking for a way out. He had to get to Doom before Tony did . . . somehow. Unsatisfied with the front of the car, he made his way to the backseat. It took extreme acts of athleticism that were nearly impossible for a body like his to get there. He examined the windows and noticed a small crack on one. It wasn’t fully closed! Maybe he could squeeze through it. He scaled up the backseat using the seatbelt until he was on the headrest. Then, he leaped up hoping that his little forelimbs would be able to hold onto the opening. They didn’t. He started to slide down, but, thinking quick on his feet, he used his teeth to hold on.

He stayed in that position, pressed against the window, for a few seconds trying to regain a bit of his strength, but his teeth were beginning to feel heavy. He stretched out his stubby arms, but they were too short. Using his legs, he tried pushing his body up through the crack. They kept sliding off the glass. He continued flailing about frantically until--

With a small pop, his head pushed through the window. He held on with his arms and pushed the rest of his body through.

The next part of his plan had not been thought through completely. As his body made it past the sliver of opportunity, he began to fall. He landed on the hard sidewalk with a soft thud. Luckily for him, his new body was able to easily absorb the shock. He stood up and continued down the path Tony had taken.

His journey took him through a dark alley. He still had no idea how he was going to get to Doom, but he would not stand idly by as Tony destroyed what was perhaps the only chance he had at getting back to normal. He spotted a staircase and decided that a higher view may be beneficial. Using a torn cardboard box as leverage, he grabbed hold of the first rung and slowly scaled up the staircase. It was a lot more difficult when the space between each rung was more than the length of your whole body.

He had reached the first floor of the building, and needed to escalate about two more, when a hissing sound greeted him. He looked up and saw something furry in front of him. He followed the dirty-brown fur up with his eyes and came face to face with a green-eyed alley cat.

The cat, claws out, made a swipe toward Steve which he dodged by jumping back. He tried taking another step back, but he was already at the ledge. He looked down plotting to make his way to the rung beneath him and losing this predator, but the cat took advantage of this momentary lapse of attention to make a grab toward him. With a hard slap, Steve found himself falling once again.

Once on the ground, Steve made a run for it. His stubby limbs weren’t fast enough, and the cat quickly caught up to him. It made another swipe with its arm. Steve managed to get out of the way. It was playing with him. The cat kept swiping, and he kept jumping back until he felt the damp wall behind him. He was cornered.

The cat arched its back, ready to pounce on its prey.

“Nice, kitty. We’re all friends here. Just let me--”

The cat leaped through the air. Steve shut his eyes. Who would’ve thought his end would come at the hands (paws?) of a dirty, old alley-cat?

Steve waited for the pain of being torn apart to come. But, it never did. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

The cat had been stopped mid-pounce by Iron Man. He held it in both arms and set it on the ground a few feet away from Steve.

“Now, scram!” Tony said as he shooed the cat away.

With a final hiss, the cat scurried away leaving the two of them alone in the dark alley.

“Tony?”

Tony removed the mask from his face. “You’re the worst, you know that?” He offered his hand to Steve who quickly made his way to it.

“I know,” Steve said with a smile as he took his rightful place on Tony’s shoulder. “What changed your mind?”

“I was thinking it through, and, you’re right. This might be our quickest shot at getting you back to normal, human Steve. I could figure it out eventually, but who knows how long that’ll take, and--” he paused for a moment wondering how to phrase his sentence, “and, well, the Avengers need you.”

Steve’s smile grew wider. “Let’s do this, then.”

The sounds of the thrusters activating filled Steve’s ears. He had ridden on the Iron Man suit before, but never as a tsum tsum. What if he flew off?

Tony must’ve been reading his mind because before they took off he motioned for him to get inside his suit. Steve ran over to the unmasked part of Iron Man and made his way in. Tony replaced the mask as soon as he was sure Steve was safely inside.

Steve found a comfortable spot on top of Tony’s head, and he rested within the masses of his black, soft hair.

When they were in the air, Steve asked him the question that was in his mind ever since Tony showed up in the alley. “How did you--”

“I installed a tracking chip in your shield when you first turned into a tsum tsum in case I ever lost you in the building . . . or a cat tried to eat you. I saw the dot on my gps moving so I figured you had escaped. Pretty handy, don’t ya think?”

“You really do think of everything, don’t you?”

“I do my best.”

The excitement Steve had endured had exhausted him, and he decided to take a nap before the ensuing battle occurred.

About an hour later he heard a gentle voice calling out to him. “Steve.”

Steve woke up, fully alert. Through Iron Man’s eyes he saw that they were hovering above a building. It looked like a mini version of OsCorp, only older.

“I’m going in.” Tony said. “You stay here. If anything happens call the others for help. I’ll leave my--”

“I’m going, too,” Steve interrupted.

“Let me tire him out first, then you can go in.”

“No. Doom is strong. I’m going.”

He wanted to continue arguing, but Tony decided to trust his Captain. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Tony landed on the roof with a soft thud and quickly examined the security. The roof was clear. Friday warned him of a couple of cameras on the inside, but nothing he couldn’t bypass. And, it seemed the only security this place had were the goons placed on the doorstep. It seems that Doom had too much faith in the location of the building to have warranted any extra security. Tony could see why, though. This might be the place Doom had always teleported back to, and it’d taken even Tony this long to find him. It was good. But not good enough.

He found a door leading to the inside and made his way in.

He was expecting it to be dark, so the brightness of the building caught him off guard.

“So much light,” Steve echoed what Tony was thinking.

“Yeah.” Tony made his way down the white corridor examining every door that appeared before them. Most of these doors led to empty rooms, but the one they were currently staring at seemed different, and, as Tony reached for it, it even felt different. This was definitely it.

He flung the doors open and burst through. He examined every corner of the room.

“There’s nobody here,” Steve uttered.

“Seems like it.” Tony walked over to the metal desk in the center of the room. It was clean. He turned on the desktop computer sitting on the surface. The screen immediately started glowing. Tony got close to the screen.

“What is it?” Steve asked. He was still perched on the top of Tony’s head, but upon hearing his voice, Tony took off his mask and placed him on the desk. “They look like blueprints.”

“They are.” Tony continued studying the numbers and illustrations before him. “Just as I said. He’s altering his armor to enhance his new weapon.”

“Tony . . .” Steve had turned away from the glowing screen and was now focusing on the huge pair of doors on the opposite end of the room.

“Shall we?”

Steve nodded. He climbed up the armor and grabbed hold of Tony’s shoulder.

Carefully, Tony pushed open the doors. The corridor before them was dark. This was a huge difference compared to the one they had just come from. Using his suit’s built-in flashlight, Tony made his way down the corridor.

He was half expecting an ambush of sorts, but they managed to reach the laboratory at the end of the corridor with ease. “This guy sure loves his hidden labs,” Tony said. “You’d think he’d consider having a not-so-secret one somewhere in the city.”

“It’s too dark. You think there’s a way to turn on the lights in here.”

“There’s a panel over there.” Tony made his way across the room and started messing with the knobs on the panel. With just a few movements, the room lit up.

This laboratory was twice the size of the one they last destroyed. “Wow.” Steve couldn’t help but be amazed. The room was filled with technology and machines unbeknownst to even Tony Stark himself. “What is all this stuff?”

Tony set Steve down on a nearby table. “Damn if I know.” He powered down his suit’s light feature.

Steve heard Tony but decided not to reprimand him on his language. Instead, he walked across the table taking in the illustrations and blueprints strewn out underneath him. “He’s a busy fellow.”

“You have no idea.”

Tony and Steve simultaneously turned to the booming voice behind them. The mask appeared on Tony’s face once again. Instinctively, they both took on their battle stance. Even Steve, who momentarily forgot about his current state, prepared for the fight that was sure to ensue.

“Doom,” Steve said. Dr. Doom was no longer wearing wires meaning that Tony had been right. He had upgraded this new mechanism, and it was now engrossed in his armor. He had managed to find a way to mold his brain and his armor into the ultimate weapon.

The Avengers’ most dangerous villain looked around the room. It took him a while to spot Steve, and even longer to register that that deep voice was coming from the small, blue thing sitting on the table.

“You’re still alive.”

“If you can call this living. . .”

“What are you up to, Doom?” Tony wanted answers.

“You’re smart. I’m sure you’ve figured it out.”

Tony remained quiet. He did have something in mind, but he was hoping he was wrong.

“Tony . . .” Steve’s quiet voice came from below.

Tony looked down at Steve who was staring up at him with those soft, black eyes. Then, he addressed Doom. “You’re trying to get rid of us first, the Avengers. You’re trying to destroy anything even remotely associated with us.”

“Go on . . .” Doom urged.

“And, then . . .” Tony paused. “Then, you’re going to use that, that mind-thing to turn the people in this country into your little mind slaves.”

“Almost right. Except . . .” Doom took a step toward them.

Tony and Steve instinctively took a step back.

“Except,” Doom continued. “It’s not just the country I’m focusing on. I am going to become a GOD! I will rule this whole world.”

“Impossible!” Tony chimed. “You don’t have enough power to--”

“Don’t I?”

Tony’s stomach churned. He had a very bad feeling about this. He looked over at Steve who was still in battle-mode. If he was not in a possible life or death situation, Tony would have reveled in this cuteness. His thoughts were interrupted by a blow from behind, and he hit the wall face first. He lost consciousness for a minute or two and awoke to the sound of Friday calling him. “Sir? Sir?”

“Friday . . . check . . . check systems.” He was still feeling dazed from the blow. He had been hit right below his neck.

“All systems are fully functional. It seems the only thing that took damage was you. And, maybe your pride.”

“Not now, Friday. What hit me?”

“It was a large source of magical energy.”

“Magic? You know I don’t believe in magic.”

“Well, sir. You might want to look behind you.”

Tony removed his body from the wall. He waited for the dizziness to lose effect and steadied himself. He was now ready to return the attack tenfold. His suit powered up as he prepared to use his repulsors. He lifted his arm, aimed in the general direction of the attacker, and--

Surrounded by his mystical, purple mist, Dr. Stephen Strange stepped forward.

“Strange? What are you--”

Another blast fired at Tony. He ducked before it could reach him, and it crumbled the wall behind him. “You!” He turned to Doom. “What did--”

“I killed two birds with one stone. I tested the capabilities of my mechanism and gained the necessary power to take control of the world. With the universe’s most powerful sorcerer under my command, I will be strong enough to enslave all of the human race and make this world perfect.”

“The world is not meant to be perfect, Doom. Humans make mistakes. That’s why we’re humans!”

“We’ll see about that. Strange! Destroy him.”

Stephen lunged at him at full force. Tony flew out of the way and crashed down on him hitting him in the small of his back. “Strange, knock out of it!” He delivered a punch to the back of Stephen’s head and pulled his arm back for a second one but was hit by one of Stephen’s blasts. Tony fumbled back but managed to keep his balance.

Stephen delivered a right hook to Tony who blocked it right before it hit hit his jaw. Tony gripped Stephen’s arm tightly and delivered a headbutt to his exposed forehead.

As Stephen stumbled back, Tony charged the repulsor ray on his palm and shot it at his chest. Stephen blocked the shot with his mystical force field and projected it back at Tony.

Tony took flight once again to avoid the incoming attack, but Stephen was quick to follow.

“Guess it’s gonna be an airstrike,” Tony said as he shot various lasers at his friend.

Stephen dodged all his attacks and delivered his own. He managed to graze Tony’s suit in a couple of places.

“Okay, I’m done being nice.” Tony set his jetboots at full power and flew in the direction away from Stephen.

Doom, who was nearing Steve, was the object of Tony’s frustration.

“DOOM!” Tony fired his pulse beams and hit Doom in the face propelling him through the wall. “Change him bac--” Tony was hit from behind and fell on his knees. “Ack!”

“Critical hit. Systems are now at seventy percent.”

A shadow fell before him, and he didn’t have to look up to know who it belonged to.

“Tony!” Steve had been watching the whole affair from his spot on the table. He had been so absorbed in the battle he hadn’t noticed Doom approaching him. But, now he was worried. Stephen Strange was the most powerful ally they had. He was a great sorcerer, and now Steve was witnessing why.

“Stay back, Steve. I got this.” Tony stood up and faced Stephen. “Come on, Strange. Is that all you got? I’d be more amazed if you pulled a bunny out of a hat.”

Stephen landed a direct blow to Tony’s masked faced, but Tony, too, landed a direct hit to Stephen’s gut. The sorcerer doubled over and regained his breath. Tony took advantage of this and charged at his opponent, but he was too quick. Stephen aimed his power at Tony’s leg and blasted him to the ground.

“Ah!” Tony’s leg (his actual leg) had sustained some damage. It felt as though it was engulfed in flames.

“Systems now at 43 percent.”

“Thank you, Friday. I appreciate that,” Tony said sarcastically.

Stephen came at him prepared to send out another attack.

“I don’t like cheap tricks,” Tony said as he fired his pulse beam at Stephen’s feet knocking him over, “unless I’m the one doing them.” He got up and kicked Stephen directly in his temple leaving him momentarily unconscious. “That’s not gonna last long.” Tony quickly made his way to the other doctor.

A ray of light came at Tony from straight ahead. He dodged it and turned to see the table behind him get pulverized. Not Steve’s table, he thought with relief.

Doom was already on his feet, and he had both arms aimed at Tony.

He fired more successive shots. Tony barely managed to dodge them all.

One of those and I’m dead, he thought.

Behind him, he could hear Stephen groaning. He was already recuperating. Tony had to act fast. He charged at Doom and landed a hit to his face but not before Doom kicked at his already injured leg.

Tony winced at the pain now coursing through his body, and that single pause allowed for Doom to deliver a powerful punch that caused him to crash through a table holding large monitors and test tubes.

Doom walked toward him, his beam ready to fire.

“Tony!” Without thinking, Steve leapt between Doom and Tony.

“Captain America!” Tony shouted and the ray hit Steve a second after.

Tony had closed his eyes and opened them to see a large figure approaching him. It got closer and closer until it was right by his feet.

“Nice to see you again,” Tony said.

“Yeah, well, I’d prefer different circumstances,” Steve said as he smiled down at him. “Need a hand?”

“No. I’m good. Just going to rest for a bit.”

Steve turned away from him and reached for his shield.

Doom had been taken aback by Captain America’s sudden appearance. “How--”

“Your little thing turns anything to whatever you’re thinking of at the moment. When Tony shouted my name, you thought about me as you fired your beam. It’s quite flattering, really.” He smiled proudly at his own witty remark. Behind him, Steve heard Tony chuckle.

“Very well,” Doom lifted his arms, “I’ll just destroy you properly this time.”

Steve threw his shield at Doom hitting him in the jaw and delivered a kick to his gut followed by an elbow to his shoulder driving Doom to the ground. He continued beating him senseless until Doom laid sprawled on the floor. Steve stood up and searched for something to contain him with, but he was met with a blow to the back of his knee. He turned around to see Stephen approaching him.

“Get him, Cap! Leave Doomsy to me. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Steve charged at Stephen spearing him through a table. They continued their onslaught of attacks on one another, Steve using his fists and Stephen his mystical bursts.

Tony was still laying on the ground. He lifted himself up to a sitting position as he leaned against the rubble he had created. He took off his mask and threw it across the floor. He saw Doom get up.

Slowly, Doom shuffled toward him. It seemed Steve had dealt a bit of damage to ol’ Doomsy. The supervillain raised his arm and aimed it at Tony as he continued his slow approach.

“Closer,” Tony muttered. “Come on . . . closer.”

“What’s that? Are you uttering your last wishes, Mr. Stark? Well, then, I hope--”

As soon as Doom was within range, Tony placed the chip he had taken from his own lab (his lucky charm) on his gloved hand and fired it using his pulse beam. He had channeled the last of his suit’s power into this single shot, and it was successful. The chip was driven through Doom’s nearly impeccable mask.

With a single command, “NOW!,” and a click of a button, the chip started beeping. Slow at first and then rapidly. And, then . . .

“Aaaah!” Doom’s body twitched as his suit became overburdened with this shockwave. The electricity surged through his body and black smoke appeared from within his iron suit.

Steve, still in the middle of his own battle, watched in wonder. “What--”

“I created it to fry his little toy. I calculated the adjustments he’d make to it and worked from there. I figured that his suit would be the true source of power so I destroyed it from within.”

Doom laid in a heap on the floor. “You!”

“Yes, darling?”

Doom aimed at Tony once again and fired a blast, but he moved his arm at the last moment hitting the ceiling instead. The roof began to cave in and dust enveloped the men in the room. It crumbled and large pieces of it fell all around them.

As the dust began to settle, Tony was not surprised by what he saw. He had figured that Doom had not miscalculated his final shot. He had meant to aim at the ceiling, and he took this opportunity to make his exit.

Doom had gotten away again.

“Ow, my head.”

“Dr. Strange!” Steve helped him up.

“What happened?” Stephen began rubbing his temples.

“Doom turned you into one of his lackies.”

“Victor did?”

“Yeah.”

Stephen pondered this for a moment and then “Did I hurt anyone?”

Steve shook his head. “I think I hurt you more than you did us.”

“You two stop him?”

Steve nodded.

With a smile, Stephen offered his apologies and bid the two of them farewell. He conjured up his mystical, purple smoke and disappeared to his own sanctuary.

Steve approached Tony. He was in the process of taking off his Iron Man suit. With a grunt, Tony took off the last bit that was stuck to the shin of his injured leg.

“You alright?” Steve was now next to him. He offered his hand to Tony.

Tony took it and lifted himself up. Once he was standing, he stretched out his back with a loud groan. “Oh, boy that feels good.” He stretched out his leg and took a few practice steps. He had a minor limp, just as he had suspected.

Noticing it immediately, Steve asked him once again if he was okay, to which Tony replied that he was. He continued walking as if to prove to Steve that he wasn’t lying.

“Are you sure you’re alright? We could call Vision to do an analysis or--”

“I’m fine! Honestly, I liked you better as a tsum tsum,” Tony said as he started heading out of the bone-chilling building, his limp seemed to be diminishing already.

When Tony was a few feet away from him, and when he was certain he was hidden from Tony’s field of vision, Steve allowed himself to smile. It wasn’t a large grin but a sweet, small smile. Besides the death-defying moments he’d endured as a tsum tsum (he would probably never look at a cat the same way again), Steve had enjoyed the ordeal. The times he spent riding on Tony’s shoulder and dozing off on his lap were some of the greatest moments he’d ever had. Witnessing Tony’s protective and caring side, and being the object of it, had brought a warmness into Steve that he hadn’t felt in a long time.

Of course, he’d never tell Tony this.

“Hurry up, Cap. I’m getting hungry.”

Steve half-jogged next to Tony making sure to remove the smile before Tony could see it. “Shawarma?”

“No. I’m kinda in the mood for . . . cheeseburger?” Tony looked over at Steve and awaited approval.

“Sure. Umm . . .”

“I called for a chauffeur. Should be here any minute,” Tony said as if reading Steve’s mind. The tsum tsum incident seemed to have brought the two even closer together. “Hey, there’s no chance of you getting on my shoulder?”

“No, Stark.” A grin spread on his face.

“Just checking,” Tony said as he returned the smile.

They exited the building side by side and saw the black limousine approaching them a few miles down the road.

“You know,” Steve put his hand on Tony’s shoulder, “I may not be able to ride on your shoulder, but, well, maybe, you could continue the pampering. Honestly, having you at my beck-and-call was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Steve gave Tony a smirk, and a gleam crossed his blue eyes like a shooting star through a clear sky.

Tony observed the man before him. His face was so close to his that he could feel the warmth of his breath on his cheek. He took his own hand and placed it on the one Steve had on his shoulder. Then, he gently slid Steve’s hand off his shoulder. “Don’t patronize me, Captain.”

The limo was now in front of them, and, without waiting for the chauffeur, Tony opened the door and got inside. Steve followed after him.

It was nice to be able to see out a window again without being perched on Tony’s shoulder. He took in the scenery examining the buildings and clouds. “Do you think--” He had turned to Tony to ask him about Dr. Doom only to find him sound asleep next to him. Tony may have had it rougher than Steve these past few days. Steve imagined the sleepless nights he spent perched over his workspace trying to figure out how to undo the tsumification, and the time he had spent searching for Doom’s whereabouts. He had cared for Steve during this time and protected him countless times. On top of all that, he still had the Avengers to run and his own tech projects. Not to mention their battle with Doom not twenty minutes ago. He deserved this nap.

Steve himself was feeling tired as well. He looked out the window through half-shut eyes. They were becoming heavier with each ticking second. He looked over at Tony, hesitated, then placed his head softly on his shoulder. He drifted off to the best sleep he’d ever had.