Snap Back to the Past AKA the Infinity Stones Decide to Adopt Tony Stark Chapter Three: Just One Yesterday
Story Summary: The Infinity Stones decide that they don’t appreciate being snapped to destruction and that it isn’t time for their favorite human to rest quite yet. An unlikely group of six is sent back in time to fix the universe before Thanos gets a chance to break it.
Note: This is chapter three, but there is a prologue! Make sure you start with Snap Back to the Past AKA the Infinity Stones Adopt Tony Stark Prologue: The Infinity Stones Adopt Tony Stark. Happy Reading!
Author’s Note: Y’all continue to amaze me! The attention that this fic is getting makes me so happy. Genuinely is sparking so much joy. I love to see other people loving the story. Thank you so much to everyone who has commented, subscribed, bookmarked, and left kudos, as well as all of you lurkers out there who are just reading along. I appreciate all of you. ❤️
Unfortunately there is no Loki this chapter 😔 but we meet the last two Champions of Infinity!
Chapter Three: Just One Yesterday
Gamora opened her eyes slowly. This was not what she expected death to feel like. She remembered the confusion, the revulsion, the despair when she realized that she was the one that Thanos loved. That he truly considered them family, considered her a daughter, and yet was willing to sacrifice her in the name of power.
And then she was falling, and then her body lay broken at the bottom of the clifface. Everything around her was a pool of hazy orange for a brief second that lasted a thousand years. But now she was opening her eyes in a place she never expected to see again, if for no other reason than how strange it was to find herself here.
She was in the bed cabin of a small space craft, one that she had not seen the inside of for years. The bed was almost unbearably squishy and yet delightful as it always had been, the sheets were a bright blue, and the room was nearly bare of personal effects, aside from a few battered paper books, which she knew if she opened one would be in a Terran language.
The biggest clue that her afterlife was an incredibly realistic trip to the past was the sleeping woman on the bed next to her. Gamora noted that neither of them were wearing clothes and wondered at what point in their relations this was supposed to have taken place.
She and Carol had known each other for years. Their first encounter was a fight of course, one of the very few that Gamora had ever lost in her years as a daughter of Thanos. After that encounter she sought out Carol again, if for no other reason than to ask why the other woman had left her alive.
They struck up an unlikely friendship, and eventually grew to become something more. The relationship, however, was doomed from the start. Thanos had too tight of a hold on Gamora, and she could never bring herself to fully betray him. She would eventually reach her breaking point, but by then Carol would be gone, tired of waiting. It was never the healthiest of relationships.
Both of them were abrasive, forceful, prone to battle. But they were vulnerable too. Perhaps that was where they went wrong. They were vulnerable at inopportune times, and missed their chance.
A large part of Gamora knew that with Quill she was settling. She was content to be with him, and she did love him, but he was not first in her heart. She knew it because of all the times she had compared the two of them in small ways.
As she stared at Carol’s sleeping form she wondered if that was why the soul realm had decided to show her Carol, rather than Quill. Was it showing her the people that she loved most? What did that say about her, when she knew Quill must be mourning her? She wondered whether Carol mourned. Did Carol even know?
As Carol came to awareness she was confused. She did not know when she had gone to sleep, and that made her wary. She could also tell that there was someone watching her. If she had been captured, she needed to evaluate the situation so that she could escape. But as she became more and more aware she only became more and more confused.
The last thing she remembered was the battle against Thanos and his armies at the Avengers compound. Then Stark snapped his fingers and all of their enemies were reduced to dust. From what she could tell based on the reactions of Pepper and the newly undusted spiderman Tony was dying as a result. Carol remembered him taking what seemed to be his last breath… and now she was waking up in what felt like a waterbed.
If muscle memory was correct, it was her bed. The one she kept in the ship she used when traveling through space with passengers, usually Skrulls, and so she couldn’t get away with her personal trick of going solo burning up in flames. Or when she had a bedmate, which considering she appeared to be naked, was distinctly possible.
Now her main question was how did she end up in her ship, which was supposed to be in the horsehead nebula, when as far as she knew she had been on Earth only a few moments ago? She could also feel hair on her neck, where it had been above her ears the last she could remember.
Clearly she had been drugged, but the question at hand was how long had she been under, and how much of her memory had been messed with? And who was watching her? Given that she wasn’t restrained in any way, and she was perfectly capable of fighting and accessing her powers with or without clothes, Carol opened her eyes.
Gamora was unsettled by the… awareness with which Carol looked at her. Perhaps awareness was actually the wrong word. Neither was horror or fear, but they approximated. Those were only fleeting, however, before her gaze became something much more calculating.
“Why am I here?” Carol asked, casually sitting up. Well, the move looked casual, but in practice, it gave her much more leverage than her previous position, should things devolve into any kind of fight.
“Well, I’m not actually sure,” Gamora replied, somewhat startled, though she then became thoughtful. “Seeing as how I’m dead and you’re a manifestation of my consciousness I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. I’m assuming that you are asking that question to trigger introspection for me.
“I had assumed that you are here to make me grapple with my regrets over the way that we parted. I have great remorse over the fact that I never got the chance to prove to you that I am not loyal to Thanos and that you are and have been first in my heart, despite my love for Quill.” Noticing that Carol’s eyes were getting wider and wider Gamora paused. “What is it?”
“You think you’re dead and that I’m nothing but a secondary manifestation of your consciousness?” Carol asked flatly, incredibly unimpressed.
“Yes? Thanos threw me down a cliff and every bone in my body broke. How else could I explain this?” Gamora asked, bewildered.
All of the blood drained out of Carol’s face. “You’re the Gamora that died in what humans call 2018.”
“I’m not sure how it happened.” Carol interrupted her. “But I don’t think that you are dead. Unless I am also dead, and I don’t remember dying. And I don’t know why I would be in what I think must be a younger body given my hair is longer and I’m missing at least two scars now that I checked. Gamora, I think we traveled back in time.
“I’m from 2023, in a future where Thanos is dead, but a version of him from 2014 traveled forward in time and brought a version of you with him who was still loyal to him and only defected at the last minute so I thought that version of you might have kidnapped me.”
Gamora stared. And stared. And stared some more.
“Well I can accept that you are not a manifestation of my consciousness because my brain could never have come up with something that ridiculous. Though I suppose if we have traveled back in time—and I’m not saying I believe you—we should figure out when we are, and then figure out a plan from there.”
“Oh I have a plan already.” Carol replied confidently.
“You do?” Gamora asked with a raised eyebrow.
“We need to find Tony Stark. The last thing I remember is him snapping his fingers and dying with gravitas and dramatic flair. I’m 99.9% sure this is his fault somehow.”
All things considered, Tony thought that he was doing a fairly solid job of adjusting to living fourteen years in the past. The oddest thing was that it did not completely feel as though he was living in the past. He could remember living the past few months in 2009 as easily as he could remember living the past few months in 2023.
The fact of the matter was that Tony was unsure what exactly had happened. He simply knew he had snapped his fingers, had watched Thanos and all his minions and ships turn to dust, had seen Peter sobbing, and felt Pepper’s gentle hand, her telling him to rest. He closed his eyes, felt himself die, and then was suddenly in front of the press. Nothing made a lick of sense.
He recounted everything he could remember about the past — the future? Fourteen years to Jarvis, to store on his private server. Once he locked down the lab, made sure Jarvis was the only one capable of making a recording, the only microphone around, he spoke for hours, recounting every detail about his life that he could remember, leaving no stone unturned.
The raw ache returned as he remembered everyone that he had lost and everyone he had found. All the people he had grown to love, and all the people he loved who had grown into different versions of themselves. He now had years of context, years of experience, memories good and bad, rapport built up on one side that never existed on the other. There were people he knew like the back of his hand that now might never develop into those people.
And God, Peter and Harley, they did not even know him now. Would they ever know him? Should he even try to reach out? It would honestly be creepy for him to take any sort of interest without the context he’d had before. Would Peter even become Spiderman in this universe? He was only eight years old. Harley was seven. There was no good reason for him to ever approach them.
Still, Tony had never been one to sit idle. Once he finished recounting to Jarvis everything that happened, with Jarvis making a bulleted list and timeline alongside the transcription, Tony settled in on making a list of priorities. Priority one had to be dealing with the Palladium. He still had a few months until Vanko had originally attacked him, and he wanted to be able to start back up his efforts as Iron Man without killing himself this time.
Tony was intimately familiar with arc reactor energy at this point, and could manufacture Starkanium in his sleep. His memory had always been stellar, he was a genius after all, but Starkanium was a matter of life or death for him, and so he had made a point to know it inside and out.
Given that this was not something he could simply dictate, Tony opened up a holographic interface and carefully began to move the building blocks he needed together. After several more hours he breathed a sigh of relief and grinned broadly as he realized that he had created Starkanium again — this time from scratch, with only the arc reactor and his memory to go on as he had not bothered to get the Stark Expo model from his office.
“May I suggest, Sir, that you have something to eat, and perhaps rest for a while?” Jarvis broke into Tony’s racing thoughts as he tried to think of the best way to come forward with his discovery.
“Huh?” he said, directing his gaze at one of the cameras.
“You have been awake for over 24 hours and have not slept since you woke up yesterday morning.”
“He can sleep on the plane. It was supposed to leave an hour ago.”
“Security breach!” Tony called out. “Pepper, what are you doing here?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m your assistant, you gave me free leave to come and go from here. It’s hardly a security breach. You have not slept for 24 hours? What have you been doing? What… is all this?” She wrinkled her nose. “You need a shower.”
“I’m making history, Pep. I just invented Badassium.” Tony said proudly.
“Badassium?” she asked dryly.
“It needs work. Starkanium is probably going to be the official term. But it will always be Badassium to me.” Tony yawned. “Maybe I should take a quick power nap. What plane?”
“Tony.” Pepper sighed. “Do you know what day it is?”
“A day that ends in Y?”
“It’s Thanksgiving Tony.”
“Eh, not so sure we should be celebrating that Pep. Colonizers have done quite a number on this country you know. We should be celebrating indigenous people and uplifting their voices, not killing turkeys and claiming that native americans were happy to have puritans come over, murder them, give them diseases, and steal their land only to destroy it. My ancestors, myself, and my company are no exception. We really should be making more efforts to decolonize and redistribute wealth and…”
Pepper stared at him rather shocked and Tony realized that he should probably tone it down. 2009 Tony was nowhere near as radicalized as 2023 Tony had been. Sifting through his memories he was pretty sure his 2009 self barely noticed racism and other forms of bigotry when they did not affect him, and even sometimes when they did. Had he ever said a word against queerphobia, even though he himself was bi? And he was probably using all sorts of language that people these days did not even use. At this point he could feel himself approaching a spiral and forced himself to breathe. Friday had been coaching him about ways to improve his mental health and ground himself in the future. Maybe he should build himself another AI that was focused on psychology? He would trust that more than a real person, at least with all the knowledge he had of the future. And the look on Pepper’s face was truly alarming.
“Right, um, thanksgiving. Oh! Thanksgiving with Mama Rhodes, of course. Are you coming?”
“I have my own family, Tony.” Pepper rolled her eyes fondly, her face smoothing away from its previous expression. She had obviously decided to compartmentalize Tony’s sudden interest in decolonization and redistributing his wealth, both things which would be very distressing to the board.
“Oh, right.” Tony’s chest hurt in a way that had nothing to do with the arc reactor. Pepper had family, and he had family, but they were not family. She was one of his oldest friends at this point, but still, she would never again be his wife and lover. He knew that he could never have that with this Pepper; not when he would always be comparing her to the Pepper of his memory, who was long gone.
“Do you think Mama Rhodes is going to kill me for being late?”
“Not a chance. She loves you too much. Now get going, there is a shower and change of clothes on the plane.”
“You know me well.” Tony winked at her, and dashed over to his cars, picking out one at random to drive to his private airport.
Pepper lingered, staring at the table top that had previously held the hologram. “Jarvis, what was Tony working on?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you without Sir’s permission, Miss Potts.” Jarvis replied politely.
“Now how did I know you would say that?” Pepper sighed. “Just tell me… is it dangerous?”
Jarvis paused in his answer for what Pepper considered to be an uncomfortable amount of time. “I think it is worth it.” Jarvis paused. “He will tell you when he is ready for you to know.” Another pause. “Nothing will happen to him that I can prevent.”
“Thank you, Jarvis.” Pepper told him. She knew that Jarvis was an AI, that he did not have the full capabilities to protect the way that a human might. And yet she felt reassured by their conversation all the same. If there was one thing that Tony needed it was a confidant. She knew that Tony had her, Rhodey, and Happy. Yet his connection with Jarvis was equally if not more important. Jarvis was right that Tony would confide in them when he was ready. And Pepper would make sure that she was ready as well.
Stephen was surprised by how easy things with Christine were. As it turned out, a sincere apology was all that she needed. He knew that she did not fully trust that he was genuine, but the way that he had seemingly turned over a new leaf at work as well seemed to impress her. He only hoped that this would not lead to her trying to restart their relationship.
A few years ago — a few billion lifetimes ago — he would have jumped at the opportunity for another chance with Christine. Now, however, that prospect had no appeal for him. His life was too different from hers now, and he adored having his friend back, but it was clearer to him than ever that romance between them would never work.
He had just finished a long shift at the hospital — and wow was it weird to be a practicing neurosurgeon again — when he came home to someone else in his apartment.
“I wondered when you would show up,” he hummed as he walked in the door and saw his guest. “Give me a moment to change into some more comfortable clothes would you? I’ve been on my feet all day.”
“Of course, Master Strange.” The Ancient One answered comfortably from her seat on his couch.
“It’s Doctor Strange, actually. I have yet to visit Kamar Taj in this timeline, so I am no Master. I don’t even have a sling ring. I’ll be right back.”
He ducked into his bedroom and changed from his slacks and button down to joggers and a t-shirt. He came back out to the common area and sat across from The Ancient One, posture intentionally relaxed, though he was still prepared to respond to an attack if one came.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure? A visit from the Sorcerer Supreme herself is a big deal.”
“As you know, I am the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. I have been holding and protecting the time stone for quite some time. A few days ago it… activated.”
Stephen raised his eyebrow. “It… activated?”
“Yes. The stone came into awareness and spoke to me of six individuals who had been cast backwards through time. Each of them aligned with one of the six fundamental stones of the universe. The six infinity stones have each chosen a champion in order to defeat a great evil and protect their chosen, the champion of Soul. You are the champion of Time, and thus the stone told me to find you, and make sure that you were aware of the stakes.”
Stephen hummed. He was more than a little annoyed at the idea of sentient rocks dictating his life through prophecy. The scientist in him still held tiny strains of hate in his heart for how magic worked sometimes. “And did the stone tell you who the other champions are?”
“No. This is not my battle. I can provide aid to a certain extent, but it is you who must find the other champions and unite them with the stones.”
Stephen fought the urge to roll his eyes. He forgot how annoying and evasive The Ancient One could be. “So I take it, that means you are giving me the stone back?” he could not deny that not a small part of him yearned for the stone. It called to him like a siren; they had been together for so long he felt almost bonded to it in a way that was slightly scary at times.
The Ancient One looked reluctant, but did reach for the clasp of the chain that held the Eye of Agamotto around her neck and released it, passing it over to Stephen. He placed it carefully around his own neck and felt the dead man’s spell settle in.
“You’ll also be needing these.” She held out her hand, which held two sling rings. He paused before realizing that the second was most likely for emergencies. It was not as though he could easily go to Kamar Taj and ask for a new one, not when no one else would know him.
“How are you going to explain my presence and expertise?” He questioned.
“I’ll tell the truth.” She shrugged. “You were facing a multiversal threat and got displaced into our timeline. There’s certainly precedent for it.” At the startled look on his face she smirked. “You may have done a great deal in your lifetimes, Stephen, but even you don’t know the complete history of the Masters of the Mystic Arts.” She stood up and made as if to open a portal. “I shall be leaving now—”
“Actually, there’s one more thing.” Stephen interrupted.
“Oh?” She let her hands fall, looking at him inquisitively. “I’ll need you to verify who I am to Master Drumm.” Stephen’s eyes sparkled. “There is a cloak at the New York Sanctum that has been my friend for quite some time now.”
Author’s Note 2: To be clear, Pepper has nothing against decolonization, she just has not lived through everything Tony has and thus has yet to be radicalized in the way that he was. I am living with the premise that even though COVID didn’t happen in the MCU, a lot of the other protests we have seen over the years particularly regarding BLM and racism did. I don’t really like the idea put forth in FAWS that just because half the world was gone everyone was nicer to each other during that time.
Next chapter: Each breath screaming “We are all too young to die” Confrontations & explanations.