Tony Stark fully expected to be dead, which made waking up in a barren orange wasteland all the more confusing. He blinked in uncertainty as he looked around. Suddenly there was a tap on his shoulder.
“Mr. Stark,” Dr. Strange nodded, his hand outstretched. He seemed wildly out of place in the vast orange background. Tony briefly wondered if they were both dead and this was some bizarre form of afterlife.
“Oh hey Harry Potter, any chance you could tell me what the hell is going on?” Tony asked, his tone polite and conversational. Stephen snorted before letting his hand fall to his side.
“I'm not sure you fully understand what did Tony Stark. Frankly speaking, your an impossibility that baffles me at every turn. You should never have been successfully been able to use the Infinity Stones yet here we are. You used all six of the infinity stones and then died almost immediately afterwards. By doing this you supercharged your soul, leaving you in a rather strange state of limbo. You are unable to pass on without letting out the energy that was absorbed into your soul, yet you can't do that unless you are living. We can't bring you back to life in this universe for the very balance of the world would be at risk, yet we can't leave you as you are for you being here at all is a risk regardless. Either way, you have to go,” Stephen finished with a sigh. He looked so tired, as though the very weight of the world weighed him down.
“So what’s gonna happen here doc? You say bibbity bobbity boo and I disappear?” a self-deprecating smile sat upon his lips. Stephen rolled his eyes.
“I hope you realize that that’s not how magic works? Besides if you had listened more closely to my wording then you would have realized I said this universe,” Tony blinked in surprise as Stephen smiled smugly.
I really hope you're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting” Tony didn't know much about dimensional travel but even he knew that this seemed like a horrible idea.
“Also, didn't you say my presence was a risk to this reality? Wouldn't it be a risk to any other universe I go into as well? Not to mention that if I have the energy of the infinity stones in me won't it be dangerous if that energy leaves the universe it came from?” Tony questioned.
“Your presence wouldn’t be a risk to an alternate universe as long as it’s different enough from the universe you originally come from. Also, the energy you hold will mostly be used up when you travel to another universe with the six other people”
“Whoa, there fairy godmother. Since when are we bringing other people into this? And why six?” for every answer given it felt like a thousand more questions came up.
“Look Stark, I have calculated for almost every possibility and you need six other people to come with you if you don't want to accidentally destroy the world”
“...who’s coming with me?” Tony asked, knowing full well that he has no choice in this if the world at large is at risk. Stephen flashes a look of gratitude to Tony before continuing on.
“Vision,” Tony nodded, “Nebula” Tony nodded again, “Riri Williams,” Tony looked a little confused but nodded anyway, “Harley Keener” Tony’s eyes flashed in anger.
“I’m sorry but did you just suggest that I should bring in a 14-year-old?” Tony practically screeched.
“Riri Williams is only 15 and you didn't seem to have a problem with her” Stephen stated, his eyebrows raised.
“Are you telling me I'm bringing more than one child with me?!” somehow his voice only got louder.
“Vision is technically younger than both” Stephen argued. He didn't believe much of what he was saying but he needed to get Stark to agree.
“That's different and you know it!”
“Look Stark I get it but they need to come with you,” Stephen says tone tired.
“Why?!” and wasn't that the question of the hour Stephen thought to himself.
“Because they are the ones most likely able to survive and adapt. They also have the least obligations to this world. If you brought Captain America with you of something then you would most likely die from his inability to change. If you brought Iron Patriot then who would be the new Iron Man? If you brought me then who would be the new Sorcerer Supreme? If you brought Black Panther then who would rule his country? His younger sister that’s happier free of the responsibilities of a ruler? I've gone through the entire list of candidates and these are the smartest ones that are least likely to die should they enter a new world”
“That doesn't make it right! These kids have a right to be with their friends and families, not forced to never see they're loved once again!”
“Goddamnit Tony, I've seen their future and it's not pretty! At least this way they’ll be spared from a life of hurt and not end up dying too young!” Stephen breathed harshly before rubbing his face with his hands.
“Who else?” Tony asked, exhaustion suddenly catching up.
“Excuse me?” Stephen asks.
“Who else is on the list? We've only gone through four people,” Tony knows they'll be at this for hours if they don't just get on with it.
“Peter Parker” Tony tightens his fists in an effort not to deck the wizard.
“And Morgan Stark” and suddenly the next 20 minutes are spent in a very one-sided yelling match.
“She’s five years old you bastard!” Stephen simply weathers the storm.
“She has a loving mother that needs her after everything she’s gone through!”
“She’s going to die if she comes with me!”
“How do we know that her body will be able to handle the strain that traveling dimensions causes!” and so on and so forth.
When the questions/yelling finally came to a slow halt Stephen thanked every deity he knew. Ironic considering he was an Atheist, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
“If you're done now? Mrs. Pepper Potts is destined to die in three years, I thought you would rather have your child living with one living parent rather than none” Tony shrinks back.
“Pepper’s gonna die?” his voice was small, hesitant.
“She and your daughter” Tony sucked in his breath at that confession. Stephen looked apologetic but firm.
“I told you, everything has been accounted for,” Stephen says.
“What about Peter’s aunt? Nebula’s sister? Harley’s mom and sister? Williams’s family? God, even Vision and his thing with Wanda,” Stephen pinches the bridge of his nose. He understands Stark’s concern, really he does. But that doesn't mean that he isn't tired from this conversation, especially since he’s had it with himself almost a hundred times. Tony needs these people to come with him. If they choose other people then Tony Stark was destined to die not even a month after arriving at his destination.
Stephen respected Tony, which was why he wanted Tony to survive, to thrive. He wanted Tony Stark to live.
“Peter’s aunt dies of cancer, Nebula’s sister dies in combat, Harley’s family abandons him, Williams’s family dies in an earthquake, and Vision and Wanda don’t work out,” Stephen lists out matter a factly.
“Tony I get it, your worried and scared. But it’s better if they go with you then stay here and end up either a, dying, or b, living the rest of their life in misery” at this point Stephen was practically pleading.
Tony ran a hand through his hair, took a deep breath, and promptly dicided fuck it. Six innocent people’s lives for the rest of the universe? Steve wouldn't have hesitated. (He ignores the part of him that warms at the thought of having Peter, Harley, and Morgan with him)
“Alright Aladin, take me to a whole new world,” Tony snarked. Stephen simply smiled, he then opened the palm of his hand and a bright blue light escaped.
And then there was darkness.