The first thing that Stephen acknowledged was that his chest hurt. It wasn’t a like any kind of pain he experienced before, it wasn’t even the sting pain constant in his hands, a pain that he couldn’t feel in that moment. It was a completely different pain, one that he couldn’t name and, at the same time, was leaving him without breath and the known feeling of panic rising in his body.
That was what woke the Sorcerer Supreme up, his breath growing more and more frantic while he tried to get more air into his lungs. And that was the moment he reached for his chest as if that was enough to help them to catch more air. What he didn’t expect for, though, was for his fingers to meet something cold and hard in the middle of it. He lowered his glance, slowly, and saw something that he kissed and caressed to many times in the past months. The Arc Reactor.
That didn’t help at all Stephen’s panic. He had no idea of what that meant and why he wasn’t able to breathe properly? He turned on the side of the bed and by that, he could see his own reflexion in the mirror. Except that it wasn’t his, it was Tony’s. And Stephen had no idea of how much a struggle for the man breathing was until that moment. He let his steady and tanned hand run on the face of the man he loved, looking how an assorted expression that didn’t look Tony’s at all crossed his whiskey brown eyes and then tried to understand what went wrong.
He was in his bedroom in the Sanctum, and he remembered that Tony was pretending not to be tired. Stephen used his “magic” to let him sleep - the special spell he used every time: wrapping Stark in his arms pretending he needed a human-sized pillow to sleep himself - and then joined him moments later. So, where the hell was Tony, now?
Trying to push another wave of doubts and uncertainty back in the deeps of his mind, Stephen walked out of his room with the only intent of reaching the library where he hoped he could find Wong, Tony, or, alternatively, some answers. He didn’t even know how to feel about his boyfriend. The muted pain that was pulsing in his chest was something Stark never told him about, but what concerned Stephen the most was the condition of his lungs. And the idea of Tony suffering the pain in his hands.
That was something that Stephen deserved, something that he willingly decided to accept and he couldn’t and wouldn’t ever share it with anyone. It was his burden to bear, and Tony had — and apparently was — suffered too much already.
He pushed that thought away and walked down the stairs the moment he heard voices came from the kitchen. One of those voices was Wong’s, while the other was deep and quite arousing. He tried not to think about that. No, he wasn’t going to think about that while he was in Tony’s body. It felt like an intromission enough and even if he had an idea about who might be the owner of the said voice, the last thing he wanted was to getting hard to someone’s voice.
He turned the corner trying not to bring the other men’s attention on him and stared for a while at the show in front of him. The face he had seen for more than forty years was standing in front of him and it wasn’t his reflexion on a mirror.
He looked at Wong and the Stephen who was very likely Tony and just couldn’t help comparing his appearances to the ones of the man he was in that moment. Tony was handsome, more than any other man he had ever met, and while Stephen knew that he had some appealing features himself, he was well aware that the way those were combined on his face made him look weird, or strange, like the more humorous people liked to say.
He stepped back, looking at his/Tony’s hands because it was too painful to look at the scene in front of him. The fact that Tony seemed completely fine with his new body made everything even harder. And then, again, the stinging pain numbed all the other feelings that were crossing his mind.
A shaking hand was on his toned arm a moment later, and then that deep voice sounded on his ears with a softened tone. “Baby,” Tony said. “Breath with me.”
Stephen tried to breath, Tony’s hand on his back, tracing soft circles on the nape of his neck.
“Like this, you are doing great,” Stephen didn’t need to look at Tony to know that he was smiling, he could recognize that tone even when his boyfriend was using his own voice. “You just have to get used to my lungs, I think.”
“And you too, with my hands, I’m sorry,” He whispered, between a slowing breath and the following one.
“Not your fault,” Tony answered and let an arm run around Stephen’s waist, keeping him close and grounded.
“Yeah, about that,” Wong said, now that Stephen was clearly feeling better, he and Tony could go back to the conversation they were having before, apparently. “Don’t force me to bring back the old ‘not significant others in the Sanctum’ rule.”
“We’ll break it anyway, just like the ‘not blowjobs in the library’ one, or the one which forbids us to have sex on Cleopatra’s bed or whatever its name is,” Tony interrupted and the simple fact that he did it was an indicator of how much he got to know Wong in the last months or so. “You can’t divide us, grandpa. I’ll marry him in secret. Do you want to marry me in secret?”
Stephen couldn’t help but smile, knowing that if Tony was joking on it, he was sure that everything was fine. But for the evident problem of being one in the body of the other. Wong rolled his eyes to the ceiling but it was clear that it was more a scene than anything. “You know what? I’ll let the Supreme Sorcerer fix this, then.”
And the problem was that Stephen couldn’t feel the others’ auras and that was a pretty simple spell. His now dark eyes ran on Tony and it took him an entire minute to understand the reason behind Wong’s words: they weren’t just in each other body, they were each other!
“Wait, you can’t -” Stephen said, but Wong’s portal collapsed at the librarian’s back and while Stephen was sure he heard him, he wasn’t going to help them. Apparently, the multiverse could work the same even if in the body of the Supreme Sorcerer of the Earth there was now a man who despised magic more than anything.
Stephen opened his mouth to say something and, at that moment, Tony’s phone started to buzz and the billionaire picked up a moment later. Steve’s face was too close to the camera at the other side of the thing.
“Oh, Stephen, hi!” Cap said. “I was wondering if you and Tony will fly by your own or we have to wait for you at the Compound.”
And, at that, Stephen and Tony shared a panicked glance.
“Wait… Fly to where?” Stephen asked, and a moment later Steve’s eye and mouth were replaced by Clint’s face.
“Oslo, today,” Barton said, with the same tone he used when his children asked him the same question over and over again. He also went this close to rolling his eyes at the sky. “The European press conference? Oh god, are you Skrull or some weird magic hit the both of you?”
“Skrull will remember about this; they can access someone’s most recent memories,” Carol piped up, sounding as annoyed as Clint was. “Seriously, guys, it’s not that hard to understand.”
“No, we aren’t Skrull. Not that Skrulls will admit it anyway,” Stephen said, and he was well aware of the fact that Tony couldn’t prove it if someone asked. But, again, that wasn’t even the point. “To… Stephen and I forgot it started today. We’ll meet you in Norway, Thor and Loki should be there already”
And probably Wong too, he thought, while he closed the call before someone could ask something else. Neither he or the librarian were technically Avengers, but they both helped with the so-called Infinity War and when Tony suggested that they had to join in the glory everyone agreed. Sorcerers, after Thanos, weren’t any longer a secret organization so they could share the spotlight with the Avengers and the Guardians. Especially considering that the world went nuts when Tony announced his relationship with Stephen.
“So,” Tony asked, once the conversation ended. “What are we going to do?”
“The windows on the second floor,” Stephen explained. “Are getaways for every place in the world, we can reach Oslo through those and then be ourselves, well…”
Tony nodded when Strange started to gesticulate between them, but the happy light in his eyes went off rapidly. “I’m sorry, Stephen, I didn’t want to…”
“Hey, it’s fine, just, you should have told me,” He brought his hand to his/Tony’s chest and knew that the other man understood what he was speaking about.
“It’s fine, something you will get used to.”
“You shouldn’t,” Stephen said, and there was sadness in his voice.
“Yeah, like you shouldn’t get used to the pain in your hands, this works both ways, Houdini.”
“Why are you with me?” Stephen asked, taking Tony’s trembling hand in his and walking toward the second floor with him. He didn’t want to look in the eyes the man he loved more than anything while waiting for an answer, but he needed to ask anyway. “You can literally have every person on this planet, why me? I’m not stunning, I’m not rich and I’m not the only intelligent person you know...”
Tony flashed him a smile that Stephen knew would have been more effective on the man’s own face. “If you are trying to sound as much Tony Stark as you can, you just have to remember that I am, indeed, rich.”
“What?” Stephen asked once they were in front of the gateways. He started to move the mechanism that allowed to the destination of each of those to change.
“Don’t stress your pretty mind over it. I love you, and you are the most handsome man I’ve ever met, that’s why,” Tony answered, before stopping Stephen’s hand. “That’s it, that’s Oslo, I’d been there once.”
They walked through the portal, and it didn’t require them long to reach the hotel in which they were staying. Wong was already there, a smug smile on his lips.
“Are you having fun?” Stephen asked. Before his friend could answer, though, a couple of girls reached them.
“Mr Stark,” One of them asked, almost shyly. Tony moved toward the girl, but Wong stopped him, looking straight at Stephen. He shook his head, standing from the chair and smiling at the girls.
“How can I help you?” He asked and could physically hear Tony rolling his eyes at the ceiling. Most of the times, Tony just pretended to be annoyed by his fans, but he was never over-polite toward them. It was part of his style or whatever.
“Can we take a picture?” The girl asked, and she was playing with her own fingers, her eyes down on those.
“Sure,” He answered, smiling and looking at the two girls. The one who didn’t speak with him was now holding her phone so that they could take a selfie. Stephen had seen the same scene happened a lot of time and had seen the photos that Tony took with his fans enough times to know what to do with his hands - seriously, hands could be extremely stupid most of the times - what he didn’t expect, though, was for the girl to stop for a moment and looking at Tony and Wong at his back.
“Dr Strange, Master Wong…?” The girl asked, and the two of them turned to look at the young women. Stephen could see the surprise in Wong’s eyes, while Tony was trying the name on his own lips. It wasn’t evident to the people in front of him, but Stephen knew him well enough to understand that. “We were wondering if it’s not too much… We’d like to take a pic with you, too.”
And that was new. Sorcerers weren’t the kind of organization that stayed in the spotlight, even after they had been exposed to the world. They didn’t move too much from Kamar-Taj and, anyway, the people were usually scared by them because they saw what they were able to do in the last battle against Thanos.
“Yes, we can all squeeze!” Tony said, and that was Stephen’s turn to roll his eyes. If they wanted to go through that press conference in each other bodies — not that they wanted to, but apparently they had — they needed to make an effort to behave like the other. But Tony was already dragging Wong by Stephen’s side so, for now, they just had to roll with it.
The moment the girls walked away, Stephen turned to look at Tony. “We need to try to act as if we are not ourselves, I mean…”
“Got it, not funny jokes,” Tony said but bent his head so that he could place a kiss against Stephen’s lips. “I’m not doing animal balloons, though.”
“And I’m not blowing up stuff, that for sure!” Stephen’s fingers lingered over his boyfriend’s arc reactor, trying not to tap it. The last thing he wanted, was to be enveloped in a suit of armour which looked very much like a wrecked car for him to like it.
Somehow, they managed to go through the entire round of interviews without raising too many suspects about who was who. Sure, Iron Man seemed a little bit under-tone, and the Sorcerer Supreme threw winks and smirks to everyone and their mothers, but nobody asked to see the magic so it was fine. This until Bruce cornered them after the press event.
“Please, tell me this is a joke,” The other doctor said, arms crossed and an exhausted smile on his lips. He was the person who knew better the both of them, but for Wong. Stephen and Rhodey were friends, but he and Bruce were even closer, so no wondering about the fact that the person who realized something was off with them was the good doctor. Neither of them answered and, apparently, that was enough of an answer. “You really swap bodies.”
“Brucie bear,” Tony said and was weird for Stephen to hear those words in his voice. “I’ve always said you were a genius. I might have been very noisy in the Sanctum Library.”
Bruce huffed, running a hand in his dishevelled hair. “Ok, I think it’s better if you through some videos from old interviews on YouTube because otherwise, it’ll take like ten minutes to everyone else to understand what happened.”
The fact that Bruce didn’t mention that Wong could break the spell was, somehow, an indication of how Banner too was sure that they deserved it.
“Mr Stark,” Madrid was the last city of the European press tour, and Stephen was happy that after that he could close himself in the Sanctum and trying to help his boyfriend to break the spell. Being Tony was exhausting, and the constant pain and reduced lungs capacity weren't what was bothering the Sorcerer less, by now. He was used to the first one, even if he was of a different kind and after the harsh wake-up, he didn’t experience any other struggle with his breathing. The very exhausting thing to do was to keep up the show of being Tony Stark. He looked at the journalist and nodded. The man continued: “Which is the truth about your relationship with Captain Rogers after the Civil War?”
Stephen turned to look at Steve and, a moment later, his eyes went to Tony, trying to understand what he had to say. What really happened in Siberia had never been released to the public, but everyone saw how they worked on the field. Stephen ran a hand in his hair, taking off the shades Tony forced him to wear and closed his eyes, feeling Steve shuffling his weight on the chair by his side.
“Steve and I spoke about what happened in the aftermath of Thanos’s defeat,” He said. It was the most sincere he could be about the entire matter, and he wasn’t even pretending to tell what Tony would. There were no secrets, about that. “He was a friend of my father, and I respect him. We both are leaders of the Avengers, and I think we are working well enough, but, of course, if Steve has something to say about this.”
Steve smiled, nodding while Stephen pushed the mic away from him, looking immediately at Tony. The genius nodded while Rogers started to speak: “What Tony said. I realized we had never been friends, before, we were comrades, even if he hates this word, but we are figuring things out now. And I think Dr Strange had a very important role in that.”
“So,” Another journalist popped up. “There’s no rivalry or jealousy between you and the Sorcerer Supreme, Captain?”
And Stephen could totally hear Tony trying not to laugh. Even Wong’s expression was smug, at that. Steve’s cheeks were an adorable shade of purple, Nat was whispering something in Bucky’s ear and he was wearing the goofiest smile ever.
“If I can answer,” The former Winter Soldier said. “I don’t understand why Steve should be jealous of Stephen. He is the one who’s dating the real snack here.”
That had the entire room laughing their asses off, but for Steve who hid his face in his hands and was this close to disappearing under the table. “Bucky,” He almost pleaded, causing even more laughs. He waited for the room to go silent again and then continued: “No, there’s nothing such as jealousy between us. Quite the opposite, I’d say. I don’t know if this goes both ways, but I’m glad to call Dr Strange a friend.”
“Yeah, bud,” Tony answered, and that was too much Tony’s sentence to go unnoticed. At least from the people of this side of the table. The fact that Bruce facepalmed, at that, didn’t help at all.
That night, when they all were celebrating in the private balcony of the hotel that Tony rented before the beginning of the press tour, everyone heard from an extremely pleaded Wong the story of how the dumber geniuses in the history found them in each other’s body. But, maybe, they weren’t there to listen to it, because there was a thing they didn’t try that week, yet, and it was a promising as hell one.