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death is an old friend

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Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D. and Master of the Mystic Arts, dies and dies and dies and dies and dies and dies -

He didn’t realize there were so many different ways to die. He hadn’t quite realized just how long this might take. Whoops. No turning back now. He was never one to self-sacrifice, before. Even just a year ago, he never would have considered giving his life over and over and over and over and over –

(He never would have done this for the world. To be fair, he hadn’t even known magic existed as he does now, but still.)

He dies thousands of times before Dormammu snaps, and he’s able to make that bargain. And then he’s able to enforce it. Dying thousands of times adds up to a few years, it turns out, and amidst dying and dying and dying Stephen has honed his skills the best he can while, well, getting impaled and disintegrated and killed in various ways he would really rather forget, thanks.

(Even if all the deaths blur into each other, Stephen still remembers them all. He still gets nightmares – Dormammu I’ve come to bargain – )

But Wong seems to think he’s good enough to become Sorcerer Supreme, and no one else wants the job, and Mordo leaves, and so.

--

Now he’s Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D. and Sorcerer Supreme. Wong and Christine tease him that if he drops his Doctor title he’d have lots of alliteration going on there, which makes Stephen insist on keeping his hard-earned title even more.

He’s not overly concerned when Loki and Thor pop up, and easily sends them on their way. But something just feels – off, after that.

It isn’t until the Hulk, till Bruce Banner, comes crashing through the roof of the Sanctum Sanctorum three weeks later that Stephen realizes a lot of shit is about to go down.

--

Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D. and Sorcerer Supreme, watches the universe die over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Fourteen million six hundred and five times, to be precise. And sure, maybe it’s not the entire universe, but half the universe is still a staggering amount of people and beings and he dies in so many so many so many –

He’s died to save the world before; that’s part of how he ended up here in the first place. But, God, the power in that Stone, and the only way they even have a chance of winning is if –

He closes his eyes as Stark asks if he’s okay, Parker and the so-called Guardians hovering nearby. The Cloak of Levitation seems to wrap itself even more tightly around him. Stephen keeps his eyes shut tight, still reeling from having lived all those possible outcomes over and over and over and over and over and over and

Stephen would’ve thought he’d be used to death by now, but it continues to take its toll.

The bill always comes due.

Is this the price he must pay?

--

Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D. and Sorcerer Supreme, said he wouldn’t sacrifice the Time Stone for Stark or the kid.

That’s still technically true. His bargain with Thanos is not really for Stark’s life. He – he – does he care? He’s watched the man of iron live and die literally millions of times, sacrificing himself for Stephen and Peter Parker, avenging them…

Regardless. Tony Stark is integral to winning the war, and to do that he cannot die in this battle. There are other ways to save him now, sure, but none that guarantee his life in the future to fight on.

Even sacrificing the Stone is risky, but. But. If everything else can just – can just go right for once –

They’ll have a chance.

Stephen hands over the stone and prepares.

There is no outcome where he survives the killing snap. But he’s done what he can to influence how this all turns out.

--

Doctor Stephen Strange, M.D. and Sorcerer Supreme, tells Tony, impresses upon him, that this was the only way. One success out of fourteen million six hundred and five possible outcomes. This is part of that. He prays that Tony figures it out, and can undo all of this. It happens. It happens once. But Stark has always defied the odds; he’ll do it again, Stephen is sure of it.

But for now, he closes his eyes as the Cloak wraps tightly around him again.

Death, at this point, is an old friend.