Snap Back to the Past AKA the Infinity Stones Decide to Adopt Tony Stark Chapter Four: Between Two Lungs
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 four, but you should start with the 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!
Omg y’all have me SHOOK at the response to this story. I’ve been hiding from you ngl because I feel like I need to step it up. I also don’t have a lot more written out that is shareable because even though I “won” NaNoWriMo it was split up between the various fics I was working on at the time to all add up to 50K, even though this was the main one. I have an outline for the story but I write slowly and have a lot going on so updates aren’t gonna be as frequent as I or y’all would like, but just… thank you for joining me and infinity’s champions on this journey!! I hope y’all enjoy the ride.
Oh and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 2023 is upon us. Whew. JARVIS, play “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by Panic! At the Disco.
Chapter Four: Between Two Lungs
Loki was unsure what to do with this new chance he had been presented. He felt trapped by the potential. The whole universe was in front of him, so many of his mistakes had been undone. This was a precious gift, and it felt both incredible, and like a cruel trick. His heart was in a constant state of tension as he waited for something to go wrong, as he waited to find out what the catch was to his and his mother’s good fortune.
Preparations for Thor’s coronation were still underway, and while Loki still believed that his brother, as he was now, was not fit to be king, there was no way that he would be attempting the scheme he had before. Now that he was aware of just how badly his plans would go should he attempt them, and what lay before him in the future, Loki could not bring himself to make the slightest attempt to sabotage the coronation. This only left the question—what was he to do next instead?
More than a few of his thoughts lingered on the band of Midgardian heroes known as the “Avengers”. Thor’s dealings with them had made Loki curious. The group was as dysfunctional as they were powerful. Given a provocative enough target, they worked efficiently and their talents were extremely complimentary. In peacetime and without a common enemy they appeared to be a disaster. As Odin, he kept an eye on all the realms, and he had witnessed their so-called Civil War from the Hliðskjálf. Without an enemy to target they became each other’s enemies.
Despite his propensity for chaos, he believed that he leaned more toward the opinion of the man of iron. From the perspective of a ruler, at any rate. Loose canons like the Captain were a liability, especially when they turned on their own teammates. Part of Loki itched to help the Man of Iron as it were, but thankfully the synthezoid construct that had somehow been granted a soul was able to save him without Loki’s intervention.
Loki had told the Hawk that he had heart, but truthfully it was the Man of Iron, with the star in his chest, who had the strongest heart and will of any “Avenger.” Loki hoped that in whatever future existed wherein time had moved forward the Man of Iron had lived. He would most definitely be needed for their fight against Thanos.
Yet Loki could not let himself get lost in a future that would never be, or at least one wherein he no longer was. Shaking himself, he attempted to refocus on the present. Thanos was a threat to him now , even if he did not yet have knowledge of Loki. The Titan was dangerous, and Loki needed to focus on how he and his mother could use their knowledge to stop him before he got started. That meant finding the stones, protecting the aether from both Thanos and Malekith, not to mention preventing Ragnarok and stopping Hela’s rampage and Sutr’s destruction of his home.
Loki took deep breaths and let herself fall into a meditative trance. She generally felt very comfortable in her male form, and generally it was the form she used most frequently in public. Yet after the past few years of hard-fought battles and turmoil and torture she found that being in her feminine presentation was like a breath of fresh air that she sorely needed. Before traveling back in time, she had not been in her female form sincere Frigga died.
This form was easier to relax in simply because it lacked the associations and trauma from the experiences he had in his other form. Both were equally Loki, neither was stronger or weaker, but the change in shape was a cognitive reframing.
Eventually her calculated breaths evened out as she sank into a kind of equilibrium. Loki did not know if she would ever feel truly at peace again. Nevertheless she had hopes that one day… one day she might get there.
“Congratulations, Sir. You have created a new element.”
Tony breathed out slowly, feeling a profound sense of deja vu as he placed the Starkanium into the reactor core. If this did not work…
“Sir, the reactor has accepted the modified core. I will begin running diagnostics.”
Some, but not all of the tension that Tony felt in his shoulders lessened. This was only the first step. Stopping the palladium poisoning was important, but ultimately he needed to remove the shrapnel from his chest altogether.
He let Jarvis keep running the tests in the workshop and made his way upstairs. Contrary to popular belief, Tony did get hungry and would stop his work for food on occasion. The tests would run themselves, and he was far ahead on his timeline. If he was not he never would have paused the work to go to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving weekend. Spending the time with the Rhodes family had been the balm he did not know he needed. Maria Stark would always be his mother, but Mama Rhodes was too, and losing her in the snap had hurt. He knew that she had likely come back, but that future was gone, and here in the past he simply took the time to enjoy the family he had, knowing what he had lost.
As he made his way to the kitchen, musing that he might actually make himself breakfast for once and flex the under-used cooking skills Maria Stark had instilled in him, the doorbell rang.
“Jarvis?” Tony tapped the earpiece that he had begun to wear, several years before they became popular, so that Jarvis would know to respond privately.
“It appears to be one of the people on your list, Sir.”
“Oh?” Tony’s eyebrow raised and his heart raced as he walked towards the door, though he kept his pace steady. “Who?”
“Doctor Stephen Strange.”
Frigga was aware that Loki was struggling to adjust more than she was. Her child had been through so much, and the worst part, for Frigga at least, was that she could not exert any punishment against those who had caused it, because none of it had happened yet.
In so many ways this new chance was a blessing, and yet at the same time it left them with innumerable restrictions. They needed to be careful with how they ventured forward; the web of time was a curious thing. How they had become tangled back so far was dangerous, and worthy of caution.
Frigga had always had the sight, the ability to see glimpses of the future. However actually living the future and returning to her past self was completely outside her realm of expertise. Worse, despite her years of experience she had no idea who to approach, and in fact thought it better to approach no one, about the issue. For now it would be much better to keep things only between herself and Loki. Given the dangers that the future held, there were many who would take advantage should they know what was to come.
Still they had been given this second chance for a reason, and they could not afford to be overly cautious. This was particularly so given that there was no indication that they were the only two that had traveled back. It was entirely possible that outside Asgard there were others like themselves. The trick would be finding out who they were and what they knew.
She could go about discovering the information a number of ways, but all of them had their pitfalls. The primary issue was that she simply did not have enough information about how they had traveled back, or from when.
While she had not said as much to Loki, the fact that they traveled back from different points, years apart, was concerning. It meant that others who may have also traveled along the same path could have done so from points earlier or later along the timeline. They also could simply be alone.
This last point is the one Frigga considered the most unlikely. Considering that neither she nor Loki knew how they came to be in the past, it stood to reason that there was someone who had done this intentionally. That someone would know how this had all happened, and hopefully they would be willing to explain to them why they were all back when they were. Ideally, this person would be an ally and would come to them and explain themself.
Yet Frigga had never been one to sit back and wait for someone to explain themself. She was thee Queen of Asgard, the All-Mother, a High Witch of Vanaheim, former Crown Princess. She loved Odin. She loved her people. And she would not let those facts stop her from doing what needed to be done. Odin’s way had seen all but one member of his family dead, Asgard up in flames, and their populace reduced to half a spaceship’s worth of refugees on a foreign planet.
She was a mother first, and she had been raised to be Queen long before she had ever considered being a wife. She and Loki would protect the universe, protect the Nine Realms, and protect Asgard, and she would not let anyone, not even Odin, get in their way.
To say that Tony was surprised to be getting a visit from Stephen Strange would be an absolute lie. In truth, he had been hoping to get one sooner. If there was anyone who could help him sort out this mess, it was the wizard.
“Stephanie! Come in, come in. Anything I can get for you?” Tony had opened the door with a warm smile at the sight of Strange, who was dressed in a suit today, rather than his usual robes, though Tony noticed that he still had the fancy ring and a suspiciously red scarf.
Red was Tony’s favorite color, but that scarf did not go with the rest of the outfit, or with the current weather outside. “Would you like to hang up your scarf?” Tony asked innocently as he gestured for Strange to follow him inside.
“Water is fine, Stark.” Strange rolled his eyes, apparently giving up the pretense of there being anything but future history between them and openly threw the scarf around his back. It flowed out and became Strange’s signature cloak.
They walked toward the kitchen and Tony did his best to not look impressed at the display. Feeding into Strange’s ego was the last thing that he wanted to do while they were in the middle of whatever odd power play this was and they established their dynamic in this new timeline, or whatever it was that had happened.
“So Mr. Wizard. What can I do for you?” Tony asked, grabbing a glass from the cabinet. “Ice?”
“No thank you. And I’m not a wizard.” Strange replied, irritation ringing clear in his voice.
Tony hummed as the water poured from the filter in the fridge door.
“But you can do magic, no?” He asked as he gave the glass to Strange.
“I am a Master of the Mystic Arts, Stark. Not a wizard. And thank you.” Strange replied in clipped tones before taking a sip of the water.
“You do magic. Therefore, a wizard.” Tony pointed at Strange emphatically, getting himself his own glass of water.
“You know what, we don’t have time for this conversation.” Strange set the glass on the counter and opened his mouth to speak again.
“Don’t forget to stay hydrated Gandalf. You know what they say. You gotta hydrate so that you don’t die straight.” Tony quipped almost involuntarily. That was it, he had perhaps been spending too much time with Darcy Lewis. He wondered what she would be like without having been affected by losing so many people in the snap.
The girl was a bright spot, smart as a whip. Losing her mentors had done a number on her, but then again everyone had lost someone with half the universe gone. Still, she managed to get her doctorate, and still had a brightness and energy to her that was unmatched. She would be only… nineteen now? He would have to find a non-creepy way of checking up on her. Was she doing her internship with Foster and Selvig yet?
“I am going to pretend you didn’t say that. We need to talk about the future.” Strange said seriously.
“Ah, yes. I was wondering about that. See, because I was just minding my own business, about to die in 2023, and all of a sudden I’m announcing to the world that I’m iron man in 2009. You’re supposedly the sorcerer supreme and the master of time or whatever. Would that happen to have been in one of those fourteen billion futures you saw?” Tony looked ag Strange piercingly, all traces of humor gone.
“As a matter of fact, this was not in any of the futures I saw. And I am not actually the sorcerer supreme in this timeline.” Strange sat on one of the stools next to the kitchen counter.
“Oh?” Tony asked, leaning on the counter toward Strange.
“No, The Ancient One is the Sorcerer Supreme.”
“The Ancient One?” Tony asked dubiously.
“Yes?” Strange replied, confused at Tony’s tone.
“Does this ‘Ancient One’ have a name?” Tony probed.
“Not that I am aware of, but I have not cared to ask.” Strange shrugged.
“Hmmm. I’m going to call them Tao then.”
“You can’t just— fine.” Strange stopped mid sentence as though he had encountered the argument before and knew it was a lost cause.
“I have spoken with both The Ancient One—”
“ The Ancient One and the time stone.”
“You spoke to a stone?”
“Will you let me finish!?” Strange growled and Tony mimed zipping his lips shut.
Strange took a deep breath and continued. “We are not the only ones who came back in time.” Tony’s eyes widened but true to his promise he did not speak again, allowing Strange to continue. “It is because of the Infinity Stones. I suspect it happened when you snapped your fingers and ‘died.’ Because that is the last thing I remember of the future. That is to say, I remember your death, and then I was here in 2009. That is how I knew you were one of the champions.”
“Whoa. Champions. Champions of what?” Tony asked.
“According to The Ancient One and the time stone, there are six of us. We are each the champions of a particular stone and we were sent to this timeline to defeat a great evil, which I presume to be Thanos. The universe cannot survive the complete destruction of the infinity stones. Every timeline in which they are destroyed ultimately self-destructs. The timeline we left was not one of the ones in which we won. The timelines in which I gave Thanos the time stone were often better than the ones where I did not, but the one we ended up in still was not the one I would have preferred.”
“What was the timeline where giving Thanos the time stone led to us winning?” Tony demanded.
Strange sighed. “Do you really want to know?”
“Yes!” Tony demanded.
“In that timeline the balance was such that Quill and Wanda did not get snapped, and so you and Nebula were not completely stranded on the Bennatar and got back to Earth sooner. Not soon enough to stop the snap, but you were already there when Carol arrived. You went after Thanos on his farm before he got a chance to use the stones to destroy the stones and between you all were able to take him down as between Wanda and Carol and Thor in particular you could get the gauntlet off of him. Thor went for the head, and the Hulk snapped everyone back.” Strange said wearily.
Tony stared at him for a long moment before finally speaking in what he considered to be a fairly even tone.
“So your plan hinged on the hope and prayer of the right Avengers getting saved from the snap.” Strange responded with a careful nod.
“That is a shit plan Stephanie. I shudder to think what the alternatives were. Though I suppose we lived one. Or are currently living in one.” Tony made a contorted expression. “So you did not see this?”
“Do you have any idea who these other ‘champions’ might be? And how did you know that I was one of them?” Tony asked.
“The fact that the last thing I remembered was your death and that your death had to do with the infinity stones was a pretty huge clue. I made the obvious conclusion from there. The only question is which stone you champion.” Strange replied, deciding to take another sip of his water.
“That’s fair.” Tony allowed. “Were there any other clues?”
“Well…” Strange hesitated and Tony sharpened his gaze. “One other aspect is that the champions are meant to be protectors of infinity’s chosen, the champion of souls. So whoever the champion of souls is, they have a particularly special role.”
“Right, and I’m assuming the third person means you’re not soul? What am I talking about. You’re obviously time.” Tony palmed his face.
“Quite.” Stephen smirked.
“Seriously though, how are we supposed to figure out who the other champions are? It is not as though they are just going to drop out of the sky.”
Next Chapter: Some aliens drop out of the sky
I’m too classy to be touched
I pay them all in dust
I’m stingy with my love