Who: Rhodey, Dr. Strange What: Rhodey arrives in a new universe When: August Rating: Green
The Multiverse was still having some residual after effects of the recent leap forward in time, and from what seemed like even more recent events in the prime universe. Dr. Strange wasn't sure of the specifics, since he knew there was no way to look at what was happening from their end. Whatever happened would be a surprise.
Stephen wasn't fond of surprises. It was why he was so utterly hyper-focused on his work protecting the world that everything else fell by the wayside. Sure, there were random times he was with Christine, but that was much like trying to keep up with his on-call neurosurgeon schedule and her shifts in the Emergency Department. Like two ships passing in the night.
When he stepped out of a portal onto a city street to meet the newest arrival, he was almost certain that this person might not enjoy random change either. They put up with enough of it for years now, courtesy of the ever random Tony Stark.
"Colonel Rhodes," Dr. Strange said as he approached the other man. "Hi, I'm Stephen Strange. I'm afraid we didn't meet officially until Tony's funeral. In another universe."
He was sure to disclose that quickly. It was the fastest way to explain how Rhodey ended up somewhere entirely different than where he was less than five minutes ago.
Rhodey was trying to figure out what was wrong with New York, because something was, and he couldn't put his finger on it. He'd been in the subway system and passed through several of the ubiquitous bright flashes--the sort that came from the lighting in the subway system as the cars passed rapidly through--but some of them had been the wrong color and the air had felt odd. Now here was Strange--and he remembered Strange--telling him that he was in another universe. "Okay," he said, figuring they'd work that part out in a minute. "It's good to see you again, I think." He reflexively put out his hand to shake.
(Strange was right. Rhodey wasn't crazy about random change.)
"I think 'again'," he clarified, "not that it's not good to have someone explain what's happening. Am I in another universe? Is this fallout from the trip into the quantum realm? Do I have an--another me--in this New York?"
Dr. Strange shook Rhodey's hand without hesitation. He knew that the other man was more to the point, after dealing with Tony in this universe. And honestly, how Pepper managed it was beyond his comprehension. Being married or friends with Tony must be tiring. Mostly though, he listened to Tony arguing and then they lobbed a few insults back and forth before agreeing they were still working together. Common goals were a good thing, even when two people with big egos couldn't tolerate each other for longer than ten minutes.
"There's a few disruptions in the Multiverse," replied Dr. Strange, but he didn't go so far as to mention instabilities just yet. One step at a time. "That includes the constant creation of multiple alternate timelines for any number of reasons. It could be anything related to manipulation of time and space. Any snap of the Infinity Gauntlet, for instance. The possibilities are limitless. You've just found yourself aware of that fact that a version of you has been overlaid onto this universe's version of you, and you're in this version of New York. Don't worry, you still exist there and everything's just fine. Think of it as a branching off point into a place that things happened a bit differently."
Beyond Tony being alive. Several Tonys were alive in several dimensions, in different ways, shapes, and forms. Different versions of New York were limitless too. While he couldn't travel into the Prime Universe and see what was happening there, every other dimension imaginable was open through astral travel. It was better to not mention that, or else the conversation tended to veer toward wanting to know about other versions of themselves or how many New Yorks were lit on fire (230 but one of them looked like it was smouldering out) or overrun by aliens after the Battle of New York (5,832,211...and 1/4th of those were still lorded over by Loki).
Dr. Strange could almost feel himself internally screaming at that thought.
"Ooooookay." Some of this at least lined up with what Rhodey had learned during the long five years between the Snap and Tony's sacrifice, but it sounded even bigger and frankly a little more concerning than what he'd understood then. But if anyone was going to figure it out, of the survivors, Strange was the most likely one. "So, wait, does that mean there's a--like a life of mine, here? That I'm going to step into? Like a home and a job and all of that? And does the military know about all this? I know I'm a special case but it seems like this is something they'd have run into before. Because you obviously have."
"Considering the general course of things, your life should be roughly the same," he told Rhodey and hoped this would be reassuring, "it shouldn't have changed in a way you would find drastically different. Tony's still keeping track of you here, and sending you out on goose chase missions to keep you from catching on to what was really happening."
What did change was Tony grandstanded enough to get in trouble, picked a fight with the wrong person (Ross) and had to legally get himself out of that hole by throwing money at the problem.
"Thanks to Tony, the Accords were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in the United States," he told Rhodey. "The rest of the world is another matter. Oh. And we took the gauntlet from Thanos here, with his hand still in it."
That was a satisfying moment, which took a lot of coordination and effort from everyone. The thought made Stephen smile, although it faded fast.
"Wait," Rhodey said, because he was still stuck on the first thing Strange had said. "Tony's alive?"
"Tony's alive here," Dr. Strange confirmed without hesitation. "We're all very much aware of what happened to him, thanks to the bleedovers. Those are like dreams which feel incredibly real."
Stephen didn't want to even imagine what that must have done to Tony and it seemed like Tony was ignoring it like it would go away on its own. He had Pepper and Morgan for support, if he chose to take it. He hoped that he did.
"I can take you to the New Avengers tower if you want," he offered. "It's near Tribeca. There's team apartments there, or you can stay in the 30 Warren building with some of the people associated with SHIELD."
Tony was alive. Tony really was alive. They hadn't lost him in the stupid war. And maybe Nat was alive too.
"We'll figure tout where I'm supposed to be later. I just--I gotta talk to Tony. Now, if at all possible. Where is he? Avengers Tower? Let's go there." Rhodey was not quite on the balls of his feet as if he could sprint there on his own without Strange getting him there. On the other hand Strange could probably just magic the pair of them right into Tony's lab, so Rhodey was willing to wait long enough for Strange to do the honors.
He could understand the urgency of wanting to see this firsthand, so he opened a portal into the newly remodeled tower and conjured one of the welcome kit gift-bags to give to Rhodey.
"It's his lab in the new tower. You'll find him there, since it's before five o'clock." Not that Tony seemed like the type to keep to a nine-to-five work ethic from what Strange noticed. He nodded to Rhodey. "I'm glad you're here. If you need anything or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me."
"Thanks!" Rhodey took the papers Strange handed him automatically, without thinking, and stepped through the portal. "Thanks! I'll let you know."
Before the portal closed behind Rhodey, Strange could hear Rhodey's voice. "TONY!"