|Dr. Stephen Strange (doctor__strange) wrote in avengers_logs,|
@ 2020-02-03 13:40:00
|Entry tags:||-complete, stephen strange, steve rogers|
Who: Steve Rogers, Stephen Strange
What: Steve arrives while on a certain time-related errand. He's brought a surprise with him!
Everything had fallen apart. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Steve was a man who'd been to war, and he knew that sometimes soldiers didn't get to go home. He knew that they'd been up against a seemingly unstoppable force and that it was possible none of them would come out of it alive, but he never imagined that the battle would've taken place the way it did. The Avengers were no more; separated, divided, torn apart. Steve held that responsibility on his shoulders, but he did not regret for a moment his actions that were part of the reason it happened. Still, it'd been hard not to blame himself after seeing on the news that Tony Stark was missing and Earth had lost its greatest defender.
He'd known going into battle that they were facing impossibility. Standing with all the Wakandan fighters, their king and the royal guard, along with what was left of the Avengers team, he didn't have that feeling. The one he had when they were facing Loki's army in New York, or Ultron in Sokovia. That feeling of all the Avengers fighting together as a team to defeat whatever was in front of them. That was a hard pill to swallow, but Steve hadn't let it show. Even when Thor appeared and for a moment they all regained hope, Steve knew they were on borrowed time.
He'd looked Thanos in the eye, held him back with his bare hands until he was knocked away by a sharp blow to the head. The next thing he knew, everything had gone quiet until he heard the voice of the person who meant everything to him -- his last tie to any sort of semblance of "home" called out his name and turned to dust. Bucky. Only later did he find out that Sam was gone, too. Thank God, Natasha had made it, and Bruce. Thor was still standing. T'Challa, gone. So many were gone or missing. They'd lost. They'd lost hard, and Steve had been wrong -- the Avengers hadn't lost together.
Those who survived the Snap heard round the universe were left to try to rebuild. Steve didn't want to. It felt like when Bucky had fallen from that train, and all he wanted to do was sit alone and drink booze that couldn't even get him drunk. He wanted to hide, to stew alone in a world where nothing felt right and everything was wrong. Steve feared they would've faced the same outcome regardless, but at least if they'd shown up united as The Avengers, he'd know they gave Thanos everything they had. It would've been different. How was he supposed to move on?
Day by day, sometimes minute by minute. That was all he could do, because he couldn't give up. Steve didn't know how to give up. And when Tony's ship was brought back in by Danvers, Steve felt momentary relief. It was bittersweet; so many of their friends were still gone and not coming back. But Tony had survived, and that was at least one piece of Steve's heart put back in place. But things weren't easy. Tony was angry; understandably so. And Steve took his anger when Tony lashed out at him. He still didn't regret his choices, but he was sympathetic to why others would blame him for the things he'd done.
The rift was still there, but it settled. Tony had settled into domesticity but he, Natasha, and a handful of the others were still trying to figure out how to save the world. Save those who were lost. Time Travel. Yikes. What a mess that had been trying to figure everything out. Bruce had done his best, but they had to turn to Tony for help. Of course he flat out denied it, but in the end he'd come through as he always had. They were going to gather the stones from the past to try to bring back everyone they'd lost. Steve had no idea if it was going to work, but they had to try. And Tony -- bless him, gave him back his shield. Steve struggled with taking it, but ultimately he did.
The stones were gathered, a plan was formed. A plan that appeared was going to work, though not without its losses. Losing Natasha on Voromir was a hard, heavy blow that Steve did not think he would ever fully come back from. She was one of his closest friends someone he trusted and cared for deeply. He vowed to himself that this plan had to work, they had to keep driving forward so that her loss was not in vain. And it almost did work. Until it didn't. Thanos, a different Thanos, showed up with an army even larger than the one that came to Wakanda. Alongside Tony and Thor, Steve faced Thanos and fought hard again. He wielded Mjolnir and struck the Titan down, but not for long. Everyone continued to fall, to drop, until Steve was the last man standing. That is, until he came to realize that their initial plan did work, and everyone who had been lost in the Snap came back to life. They had an army large enough to rival Thanos and his; they were all Avengers.
A truly magnificent display of bravery was put on by all, fighting with the very lives some had only just regained. Steve led the charge, but they were all equals as far as he was concerned. Try as they might, there was no gaining the upper hand. Even after the arrival of Captain Danvers, it felt they were at a stalemate. It wasn't going to end. Then, in an heartbreaking act of bravery, Tony made the ultimate sacrifice by wielding the stones himself and using them to do to Thanos and his army, what Thanos had done to them. He didn't survive, and Steve lost another part of his heart he did not think he'd ever be able to mend. No matter their differences, Steve cared deeply for Tony and always had. Losing him and Nat was rough. Gaining Bucky and Sam back helped, fill those lost pieces back, but he was always going to mourn his friends.
There was still work left to be done. The stones had to be returned, as promised, to keep the balance of Time. Steve was prepared to do that, and was ready to go. But when he stepped outside to find Bruce and collect the stones, he found himself standing on a city street instead. Manhattan? "What...?" Steve was standing there, his shield in one hand and Mjolnir in the other while he looked around at the city before him. Had something gone wrong? Were they all in Manhattan? "Shit," he uttered, with the bittersweet sound of Tony's sing-song-sarcastic voice calling out, 'Language!' in his ears. What was going on?
This universe seamlessly moved through comings and goings, a perpetually revolving door of hellos and goodbyes that was enough to make an average person's head spin while riding an emotional rollercoaster.
One person who didn't have trouble keeping track of it all was Stephen Strange. The doctor was in the Sanctum, looking over yet another book of lost relics when the spell net over the city registered another returnee. Steve Rogers. While Steve being there certainly wasn't new, Captain America was essential to several timelines, and this arrival was a curious one. The rift connecting the two universes didn't seem to be any more unstable than the norm.
"Let's go," Stephen said to his faithful cape, clothes changing from slouchy cotton sweats to the garb that the Mystics wore in an instant. The cape fluttered over, resting on his shoulders as he began opening a portal to the location the spell indicated. Within the span of one breath to the next, Stephen was walking through and met with a sight that he did not expect, at all.
Captain America, holding Mjolnir. That meant...
"Hello, Captain," Stephen said while staring down at the hammer of Thor for a more lengthy time than anticipated. He quickly looked back up at Steve's face, more than a little concerned. People walking by were starting to stare. "I think it's safe to assume something's wrong here. Could you come back to the Sanctum with me, so we can find out what happened?"
Quickly. Before passersby started taking pictures or videos on their phones.
Steve was no stranger to New York City. Granted, it’d changed a great deal since the earlier half of the twentieth century when he’d lived in Brooklyn. Standing there now, he felt similarly to the way he had when he’d woken up after going into the ice; standing there gaping at a world he didn’t recognize. Only this time, he did recognize it. It just shouldn’t be there. Not as it was right now. He felt oddly at home while completely out of place. That wasn’t new. That was sort of how Steve had always felt since waking up from his plunge into the sea, so it wasn’t particularly off-putting in that way. Just.. it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
A voice, familiar yet not one he knew all that well, suddenly addressed him and Steve was met with the sight of Doctor Strange. He knew him from the battle, and knew him better from Tony’s funeral. He’d never get used to thinking about that. But if he was here, well, that was at least something. A step in some sort of direction toward figuring things out. “Doctor,” he said, in acknowledgement. Steve could feel eyes on them and it made sense. Some big beefy guy with a shield and hammer, and another guy with a rather majestic cape wasn’t something you saw everyday even if this was New York City. “Lead the way.”
"Right through here," Stephen said, turning around to walk back through the portal opening, a ring of fire that was surely acting as a beacon of attention as well.
It was going to be an interesting conversation, so he quickly summoned two chairs and a table for Steve to set the shield and hammer on. At least this time, he was sure the Captain wouldn't be knocking everything in the relics room over with that hammer as Thor did.
Once he passed through, he turned and gestured toward a couple of wingback chairs, upholstered in worn red velvet, and arranged to face one another.
"You can sit here. I'd like to know the point of your divergence, and I'll tell you right now that you're probably not where you expected to be. You've diverged. And I'm not certain if you know anything about the Multiverse." He looked thoughtful for a few seconds before reminding himself that he was supposed to make an effort to be more personable in these situations. "Uhh...first off. Do you want anything to drink?"
He wouldn't begrudge anyone who asked for something like hard alcohol, not that a super soldier would likely benefit from that, other than the taste. At least not according to various history books or speculative medical essays. It wasn't like they had time to talk on the other side, either. Stephen couldn't remember it, even if the fate of an entire universe hinged on the actions of the remaining Avengers.
What sort of anomaly was this? Steve wasn’t even sure if he could make any sort of educated or uneducated guess at this point. There were already so many concepts and things that existed that he had to catch up on to have a grasp of the modern times but even then he still felt like he was running a race to keep pace with the times. But whatever happened that brought him to this place? Steve wasn’t sure he’d get it; not right away, at least.
He followed Doctor strange into the Sanctum and took a seat when it was offered. “Oh, no thank you,” he said. “I’d say I could use one after you tell me what’s going on around here -- I’m assuming you know, or at least have an idea. But the booze won’t have the desired effect.” Steve knew that all too well. “I understand time travel, or at least, I get the basic concept about how it works. I don’t know about the multiverse, other than that I learned if you go back in time and do something to alter it, it branches off to a new timeline. I don't know if that's the same thing, though.”
Stephen sat down across from him, steepling his fingers as he pondered this new development. He knew that the Avengers went back in time to return the stones they used to defeat Thanos. It was the only way they could win, out of the fourteen million six hundred and four other scenarios he searched through.
"This is something different," Stephen said slowly. If anyone was trustworthy enough to know the full implications of a situation at hand, it was Captain America. Even as a fugitive, it was for a good cause. "The Multiverse means there are alternate realities, entire universes, including our original counterparts, in which conditions and the people we know are different to varying degrees. You've just arrived in one of them. An alternate universe."
Stephen paused there. Not for emphasis, but to let the notion settle into Steve's mind before he continued to explain how it happened, "It's branched off from the one you've left, and causes a copy of our counterparts to...exist here, for a time. It happened when I used the Time Stone to stop a dimensional entity trying to consume the planet."
That was his responsibility. Mordo warned him. That temporal manipulation could create branches in time or unstable dimensional openings, spatial paradoxes, and time loops. Unbeknownst to him at the time, it could not only cause a branch in time but could continue to carry over due to the unstable dimensional opening as well.
Steve needed to take a moment to let all of that sink in. Not process, because he wasn’t sure he could really understand all of that despite being a pretty intelligent person. There were some things that were just always going to go over his head. The multiverse was definitely one of those things. But he tried his best to pick apart at the basic message that Doctor Strange was trying to get across to him. Multiple universes. Counterparts. Parallel existences. It was a lot. This was one of those moments he wished he could drink.
“You’ll have to forgive me, Doctor, but I’m going to have a lot of questions for you. Do you know how or why I was brought here? Are there more people here I would know?” The wizard doctor had given him a great deal of information as it was, but Steve needed information he could really grasp and understand, that he could work with a little easier. “Is there a way back?”
He was ready for Steve's questions, settling back in the chair and thinking over a few new issues of his own that may arise from Steve's arrival. Those could wait. He had some things to tell Steve that would relate to recent events that would come as a surprise.
"That's fine. I'm here to try to answer these questions," Stephen replied. "There is no way back that I know of, at least not that is permanent. There is the quantum realm, but having any of our number missing leaves a gap in this universe, which needs its heroes. Furthermore, if there is a copy over there that already exists, it would put two of the same person in one universe, which isn't advisable. If that person died and were high profile, any sudden appearance wouldn't go unnoticed.
"So I don't know why anyone has been diverted to this place," he continued telling Steve. "We all seem important to the original timeline, or related to someone of import. Important either as a hero or as support for that person. The people here now have been here before events transpired, over there. Stark and Romanoff, Thor's younger brother. All alive."
There was another pause because Stephen was sure that the Captain would need time to process this information as well.
There was a lot to go through. Steve tried his best to keep up with what Doctor Strange had to say, and he had to give him credit for being able to simplify it at least enough for Steve to follow. He didn’t think he understood completely, but before he could come up with any follow up questions, a huge revelation came to light. Tony and Natasha… To hear that they were alive, along with Thor’s brother Loki, was unbelievable.
He chose that to fixate on -- how could he not? Losing Tony and Nat had gutted Steve. They’d both given their lives in the hopes that the world would be saved. Steve had been there; he’d done it in the 1940’s by putting that plane into the ocean. But that didn’t make it any easier to heal from his grief. Apparently they’d arrived before the events that occurred from where Steve was from. Before Nat gave her life for the Soul Stone; before Tony used all the stones to save countless across the universe.
“Sorry, I-- Tony and Natsha are here?” It wasn’t that he was unconcerned about Loki; he’d ask about him soon enough. One thing at a time. Friends first. “They’re okay? They’re safe?”
"They're safe, and aware that they are very much alive." Stephen hoped that was reassuring. It certainly qualified as a bright side when compared to the alternative. He knew Steve would have further questions, and was waiting patiently to hear them. No soldier going into a new situation wants to get blindsided. There was a lot to consider, and Stephen - who was usually not the pinnacle of patience with others - was not going to throw away to sit down and talk to Captain America. Even he looked up to Steve Rogers when growing up. Everyone did.
"Oh. The Sokovia Accords were also declared unconstitutional. Ross and Stark had a...disagreement," Stephen added, that pause more than pronounced like that was an extreme understatement. "It's a long story, best told by Tony. And you probably have other questions that I can answer."
Steve needed to take a minute again. Two lives he’d mourned, he still mourned, but here they were alive? These were two of the most important people in the world to him, and saying goodbye had been among the hardest of things he’d ever had to do. Hearing they were alive in of itself was a blindside, even if it was a good one. It brought with him reminders of their deaths, of the sadness and pain he felt have to let them go. He wanted to jump for joy and clap his hands and cheer. But he sat still, hand covering the bottom half of his face as he took in the news that two of his friends were living.
Hearing also about the Sokovia Accords being thrown out was a relief of an afterthought. It meant Steve wouldn’t be a fugitive in this place, and more importantly, neither would those who had put their lives at risk to help him keep Bucky safe. That is, depending on who of those people was even there, if any. Bucky -- was he? The questions kept piling up, as he was sure the doctor in front of him likely anticipated which was why he said what he did.
“Yes, I -- Several questions,” he replied as he lowered his hand from his face. “Before I ask anything relevant to my personal situation, you mentioned Loki. Is he a threat to this place?”
The doctor quietly weighed out the response before speaking. It was never a case of black and white, despite never removing Loki from his list of threats to this planet. There were people on that list that he offered aid to, because everyone could be a threat, even despite their own best intentions.
Even so, he took care of that problem and an Infinity Stone at the same time. It was a good solution to keep a potential problem in check. No matter if Thor liked it or not...and he knew the God of Thunder was not terribly pleased.
"Currently? No," Stephen said with confidence. "He's on my watch list, though. And I've found a solution to that problem. Sorcerers can create pocket dimensions to keep belongings in. When I found out that Loki possessed the Space Stone, I bound it into his space, and he can only retrieve it with Thor's permission. That also means he's threatened with this universe's Thanos finding him unless he stays close to a safe harbor. He's in New Asgard, married to a Valkyrie. Based on past conversations with her, I'm certain she'll punch him in the face if he tries to overthrow any planets."
Hell has no fury like a scorned wife, Stephen thought, with a satisfied smirk.
Steve couldn’t help but to go into Captain America Mode for a second. If there was a threat to this place, then he felt he needed to know about it. Loki was a tough one to contend with, but from the sounds of things they had that situation under control. At least, as under control as someone like Loki could be. That being said, he let his guard down a little once more. “Good to hear,” he said.
It took him a moment to collect his thoughts. As he’d said, Steve had a lot of questions. Some of them, he wasn’t sure even how to ask, but he was going to give it his best try. “The people who are here, say, Natasha for example. You made it a point to assure me she’s alive so I take it you know what happens. Does she know what I know about her..?” Steve couldn’t bring himself to say her ‘death’ out loud because it was still too painful to speak of it. It made it too real, but here, she was alive and he wanted so badly to just latch onto that so he wouldn’t have to grieve anymore.
That was always going to be a touchy topic, where those who passed away were concerned. Natasha, however, seemed much more contained than Stark was. Iron Man wasn't actually made of iron, and he might work himself into the grave now that he knew what happened on the other side of the mirror, so to speak. Too much overcompensation was just as dangerous as throwing all caution to the wind.
Stephen thought over the best way to put things without sounding crazy. Then he thought better of that, since they were stuck in a crazy place. Might as well rip off the bandaid.
The connection to our counterparts remains intact," he told Steve. "We all know. We're usually filled in overnight, in dreams. Neither of them has said much about it, though. They both arrived before it happened. The other thing to know is that it's not constant or every evening. It happens at random intervals. Sometimes after a long delay, since the link between both universes isn't stable. The good news is that it's not collapsing and taking this universe down with it."
At least not yet. It may happen one day...or it might not happen at all. The only certainty was uncertainty.
Steve took that into consideration and nodded. That sounded pretty jarring, to suddenly awaken with knowledge you had no control over how or why it occurred. He didn’t imagine Tony took that very well. Or Nat, for that matter. They just had different ways of expressing themselves. “I see,” he said. “So they know.” He selfishly was glad he wouldn’t have to have that conversation. At least, he wouldn’t have to reveal the news to them. He’d listen to anything they wanted to say about it though. He owed them that and so much more.
“Rather than spin my wheels asking questions about the how and why, I think I should shift to asking what we do now,” he said. “Are we.. acting as a team here? Or I guess, what’s the protocol? Are the Avengers known? How do you acclimate to this? I’ve done it before, sort of. Waking up after being on ice for seventy years but I always felt like I was still trying to play catch up. What do we do here?”
These were the right questions to ask, and Stephen nodded as though acknowledging that. The most he could do was to touch on each topic, so Steve had some idea of what he was going to be walking into. This was a situation that, sadly, Steve wasn't unfamiliar to dealing with.
"Tony's tried to do what he can," Stephen said. "He's turned the former Stark Industries building into a new Avengers Tower. That's where all new arrivals stay. The Avengers are known, but things are still tense on the government's end. I think he should answer those questions since he knows more about specifics. As for what to do here...protect this world and this universe. We beat Thanos here and have all of the stones. We're currently protecting those too. Basically, an Infinity Watch."
Anyone could return to this universe. They took the stones and gauntlet from Thanos, and there was the chance that he was dusted when Stark's original counterpart snapped his fingers. But this universe didn't work along the usual lines, and if the dead could return...that meant Thanos could, too.
Stephen frowned, and knew that it was something that Stark wouldn't stop obsessing over. Unsure of what plans were already in action, he didn't elaborate. Instead, he stared fixedly at Steve Rogers and said, "I'm only focusing on the mystical aspect. I can take you to the Tower, to a room, and he can fill you in once you're ready."
He eyed the hammer and said slowly, "That's...going to be a problem."
“Tony and I need to talk,” Steve said, and that was definitely not something he said lightly. They’d come to a sort of understanding that they never really talked in great length about after the great fall out but those circumstances had to do with Thanos and the end of the world and five years of trying to get the world back on its feet and then time travel and sacrifice and God, Steve had so much he needed to say.
The Tower, yes, he should go there and look for Tony, Nat -- Bucky? Was he there? His thoughts shifted to the person he needed the most, but he kept those thoughts to himself and his expression neutral. He’d find out eventually. It was more curious to him when Doctor Strange mentioned Mjolnir.
“I was on my way to return it to Asgard,” he said. “Back when Asgard was still around, that is. If it’s a problem -- you and I are the only ones who know it’s here.”
"I can take you to the Tower right now," he told Steve. He only paused, considering how incredibly difficult it would be to insert Mjolnir back into that timeline...if it wasn't there already. It was possible that this copy of the hammer diverted before the actual Steve finished the task of returning the actual hammer, and returning it would return two hammers into that universe. Thus the connundrum. A literal shroedinger's cat situation about if the hammer existed or not in the past...with no real way to actually check without manipulating time in the prime universe.
On one hand, it wasn't like they needed to worry about anyone else picking it up or stealing it. There were only two people who could lift it. And on the other hand, events already transpired in that universe. So it would only change something in a new branch, if anything else did branch off from there.
"I believe," Stephen mused out loud, "as long as you finished putting the other stones back, we're all ok. That hammer doesn't really belong to either of us. Even if you can pick it up and it accepted you, mystical objects form a bond with their owners. Thor needs to be told, so take that with you. He's with Jane Foster in New Mexico, and has Stormbringer. It's not exactly an urgent matter."
Steve nodded. He wouldn’t have really liked the option of keeping Mjolnir a secret from Thor or anyone. Honesty was still a core value for him. He’d inform Thor of it when he was able to do so and the God of Thunder could decide what he wanted to do with it. Personally, Steve would be happiest if Thor took possession of it. Just because he was worthy didn’t mean it was his to keep. Returning it had been his intention before he was brought to this place anyway.
“To the Tower, then? It sounds like I have a lot of conversations to have. Should probably get started.” Steve also just really… needed to see certain people. Physically see them, maybe even a shoulder pat or a hand shake or something so he’d know they were actually there. And he needed to start with Tony Stark.