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Only a Matter of Time

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Tony Stark woke up to at least a half dozen or more different species of alien staring at him. He shrieked, scrambled backward, and had to stop to stare. The brain takes a lot of shortcuts so that we aren’t constantly looking at trees and trying to identify them, so it puts them all in a box marked Tree and lets us sort it out later if we care to.

Tony had never seen these things before, and they were all so vastly different from one another that his brain couldn’t stop picking out the little details.

That one had huge eyes -- or what he thought might have been eyes, he couldn’t really tell, since they didn’t have irises or pupils the way human eyes did, and who knew, maybe they were radar dishes -- in the top of its face. That one had a million little wormy squirmy things on its chin that wriggled in the air around it. He wasn’t even sure that thing -- looked like a crude salt carving of a whale, by someone who didn’t know what a whale looked like, and was tiny, besides -- was alive until it moved away.

“Whaaaaaaaa?” Tony babbled, pushing away until his back fetched up against something solid, which made him scream again and roll the other way. He’d hit something -- a tree, maybe? If Trees were pink, and scaly.

“Good morning,” someone said. “So good of you to join me.”

Tony’s head whipped around so fast he thought he might have given himself whiplash.

Dr. Stephen Strange was floating, a few feet above mauve (moss? Grass? Mushrooms? Jesus Horatio Christ what even the fuck?) ground, wrists resting on his knees, legs crossed.

“Gimme an elevator pitch of what the fuck, would you, Strange?” Tony managed to even sound like he wasn’t panicking -- he had a lot of practice -- but it was probably too late for that.

“So far as I’ve been able to gather?”

God, there was something unfair about the fact that Strange had already had time to compose himself, figure some shit out, and be composedly meditating midair (had Tony mentioned that he hated that?) before Tony woke up. One of these days, he’d like someone else’s dignity to be laying in pieces on the floor.

“Speculations allowed, doctor.”

“Welcome to the Yu!anz Zoo,” Strange said. Tony wasn’t sure how he said that word, which sounded a little like the sorcerer spat up a tiny bomb in the middle.  “We’re the new special exhibit. They’ve never had humans before.”

“And you haven’t done your bibbity-bobbity-boo schtick why, exactly?”

“Can’t,” Strange said. “I can sling from one side of the room to the other, but it bounces anything further away. I’m attempting to study the shielding they’ve got on the habitat, but it’s all mirrors. All I can see… is us.”

Tony gave him a flat, unimpressed look. “I thought you were supposed to be the greatest sorcerer in the universe.”

“In the known universe, which is to say, the part that’s known to us,” Stephen said. “Also, I’m still new at the job.” He made a face, a little tip of the eyebrow and mouth that Tony should not have found cute, and did anyway.

“Always made jokes about being a zoo exhibit,” Tony said, looking out at the gawkers. There were entirely new sorts of aliens there, now, staring and pointing and rapping on the glass. “Remind me to not do that again.”


There was no way out.

The glass, Tony discovered, wasn’t glass at all. It was some sort of force repelling shield. If he threw a thing at it, it bounced it back with equal force. In fact, one of the few times he even saw their captors, he’d nearly killed them both by throwing something with enough force that the shield bounced it to the back of the enclosure, which in turn, bounced it back. The ricochet effect forced Strange to tackle Tony to the ground and cover them both with the Cloak of Levitation while the damn rock ping ponged around like a deranged kangaroo.

“Well, this is comfy,” Tony said, mostly to cover his embarrassment at fucking up. Hard. And speaking of hard…

“Stop wriggling,” Strange snarled, teeth clenched.

“Seriously, Stephen?” Tony wriggled anyway, mostly because he could, and there wasn’t anything else to do while they were wrapped up tight in Strange’s semi-sentient shoulder-wrap.


“You are…”

“Shut up and stop moving.”

“You know, I don’t think I will,” Tony remarked, casually, letting his hips rock up into that comforting warmth. “But, I mean, I suppose you could shut me up if that--”

“I hate you,” Stephen said, almost utterly without emotion, which would have been more convincing, probably, except that most decidedly wasn’t Stephen’s wand poking him in the thigh, and then that was absolutely Stephen’s tongue in his mouth.

Who only knew how far that might have gone except their captors entered the habitat and yanked the projectile to a stop. One of them poked at the cocoon that was protecting Tony and Stephen, and the Cloak leapt away, smacking at alien… oh, god, had they just been poked with an alien proboscis? Ew, gross.

Their captors -- or, at least, the aliens that kept the habitat, were like giant, humanoid mosquito/moths, bulby eyes, long curled up nose that whipped out to poke and prod at them. They had thick, feathery antennae and wings that tucked close to their backs, like cloaks. Tony and Stephen found themselves backed into a corner by something impossibly strong and wrong to look at. Literally, staring at the alien hurt Tony’s brain in places it did not want to be hurt.

Every time Tony tried to dodge around the thing, or push it away, it returned him to his corner like a misbehaving child.

Finally, after the other one had cleared out all the rocks, their captor fluttered its wings at them, dusting them both with gray powder.

Tony blinked a few times and slumped to the ground. “F’ink, take… nap, now.”

“Yeah,” Stephen said.


Tony woke up, curled in Stephen’s arms, the cloak tucked around them like a blanket.

“Okay, sunshine, this is just getting weird,” Tony said, but he didn’t bother to move. Stephen was warm and for a guy who sometimes looked like a collection of sticks wrapped in wizard gear, he was soft and comfortable. He ran one hand over his hair, scrubbing at his scalp, and then-- “What is that?”

Stephen sighed and grabbed Tony’s wrist, holding it tightly. “It’s a bio monitor,” he said. “Do not try to pull it out, or scratch at it. You’ll just hurt yourself.”

“Do you have one, too?” Tony didn’t know how Stephen could possibly know that, but the feeling that there was something -- another thing -- inside him that he didn’t ask for filled him made him want to puke, want to dig it out, even if it hurt, even if it killed him, even if…

“Shhh, shh, I know Tony, I know, I’m here, it’s okay. They’ll take it out again, I promise,” Stephen was cradling him, holding him in a warm, comforting grip.

“Do you have one, Stephen?” Tony demanded.

“I don’t. I’m sorry,” Stephen said. The wizard flinched, and Tony realized he was squeezing Stephen’s hands, desperately tight, hurting scars and injuries that would never quite heal.


“Um. They think you’re the female,” Stephen said, slowly.

“What? How do you even know that?” It took him a while to let go of Stephen’s hands anyway, and to not instantly reach for the foreign thing he felt in the back of his skull.

“I’ve been studying them,” Stephen told him. “Their language is really confusing, but I think I have it down, now, at least enough to get the basics. And they think you’re the egg-carrying member of our species.”


“Well, first of all, you’re a lot smaller than I am,” Stephen said, tipping his head to one side. “Tony--” Stephen pressed a finger to Tony’s lips. “I’m six foot two and a half inches. You’re five eight on your good days. Don’t argue with me, height is fact. They don’t see differences in our facial features.”

“Awesome facial hair bros, yeah,” Tony said.

“But they’re bugs. Big ones, smart ones, but, you know. Insectoid. We don’t… they don’t recognize our primary or secondary sexual characteristics. And I have wings, and you don’t.”

“They think your walking security blanket means you’re a guy? Capes are so gay, Stephen.”

“Well, so am I, so it’s okay,” Stephen said.

Tony tipped his eyebrows. Well, he guessed he’d asked for that. “So, what then? They think I’m female and delicate and I need monitoring?”

“They’re waiting for you to get pregnant.”


“I mean, I suppose we could tell them you’re well past child-bearing age--”

Excuse me, Mr. Sorcerer Supremely grey?” Tony spluttered. Was Stephen calling him old?

“Just because some of us don’t like sitting in a salon chair,” Stephen pointed out. He had the actual nerve to flick his fingers through that grey streak on one side of his temple. It should not have been attractive. “Face it, I’m taller, and younger, and I have a cool cloak.”

“You only wish you were as cool as I am,” Tony said. He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Thank you. I’m calm. Tell me what the fuck is going here, Stephen, I am begging you.”

If he hadn’t been quite so close, he might not have noticed the way Stephen’s lips parted and his eyes darkened.

 “The really important thing is… it won’t take them too long to realize their mistake. And then they’ll trade us out for a proper, reproducing couple,” Stephen said. “Which kinda sucks, but then, we keep dolphins in fish tanks and make them do tricks, so I can’t really criticize too much. And trying to war with them would be a mistake.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I am the sorcerer supreme, even if I am new at the job. And my abilities are fully functional, inside the habitat. So, I’ve been living these next four or five days, learning something new every time. I can… sort of understand their language. It’s complicated, and the writing is horrific. The little antenna on their heads makes it pretty much impossible for us to communicate with them. I don’t even really think they think we’re sentient, at all. Kinda like… we are to bees, they are to us.”

“Are you telling me bees are sentient?”

“Hive mind is a pretty incredible thing, Tony,” Stephen said. “I mean, on an individual level, no, bees aren’t sentient. But a hive of bees… well, they’re pretty damn smart, actually.”

“So, what, we wait until they figure out that we’re both dudes, and, they let us go?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Stephen said.

“How long is that going to take?”

“Couple months,” Stephen said, nodding his entire body back and forth.

“A couple of--”

“Shh. Stop it.”

Tony glared.

“Time stone, Tony,” Stephen told him. “When we get out of here, I’ll just roll us back to a few minutes after we left. No one will even know we were gone. Think of it as… extended leave of absence.”

“I am going to die of boredom in a couple of weeks, Stephen.”

“No, you won’t,” Stephen said, and then he was blushing, and wasn’t that interesting.

“Okay, so what aren’t you telling me?”

“It would take a while to cover all of those things,” Stephen said. “And… really, this day is going really well. If I tell you right now and you freak out, I’m just going to have to start this day over and I’ve already done this one like five hundred and six times already.”

“You do that a lot,” Tony said.

“Yeah. There’s a reason why I’m not sane,” Stephen said, and his chin wobbled a little. “Mostly, I store all the alternative timelines in a memory box.”

“You’re getting very Harry Potter right now.”

“Magic is imagination given form,” Stephen said. “I stole that from Harry Potter because it fucking works. Otherwise, I’d remember dying over seventeen million times, when bargaining for the fate of our dimension, 14 million times dying because of Thanos. No one, no mind, could survive that. I forget. Because I have to. So, if I tell you, you have to not freak out, okay? I need to keep these memories until we get out of here, and you need to help me. Okay?”

Tony couldn’t forget a thing if he tried. Every detail of Afghanistan, every detail was etched in his brain, he relived those moments in his nightmares. He couldn’t imagine what dying hundreds of times must feel like, what sort of burden that had to be. “Stephen…” He nodded. “You can count on me.”

“I know,” Stephen said, and he smiled, sweet as honey. He cupped the side of Tony’s face with one battered, scarred and crooked hand. “I know I can.”


“What is this?” Tony reached into the box that had appeared -- literally, appeared. Their keepers had been feeding them like this for at least a week now, so Tony wasn’t as startled as he was the first time, but this box didn’t contain the food pellets. (By the way, so leaving a bad yelp review. The food there was boring and repetitive, the same three or four round discs about the size of a hamburger patty, although they tasted more like generic, doritos that someone forgot to put the flavor dust on.)

Instead, there were a few… things.

Things that Tony couldn’t identify by looking at.

One of them sort of looked like a ball of string, except the string kept changing color, and he couldn’t quite track where the piece went.

“Enrichment activities,” Stephen said. He was doing the floating thing again. “They think you’re pining.”

“For the Fjords?” Tony wondered. He poked the string and the end of it jerked away from him like he’d insulted it, and dove into the writhing mass. It was like… a puzzle? Tony grabbed for the end, trying to figure out what it did.

The end bit had disappeared, and Tony started hunting for it. Each time he spotted the end and attempted to secure it, he felt a little jolt of satisfaction. Several hours passed before he realized that he had, actually, been entertained with the puzzle. By the time he finally found both ends, he was actually feeling really good. Soft and--

“Stephen, is this thing making me high?”

Stephen glanced up. “It’s stimulating the part of your brain that makes endorphins, so, yes,” Stephen said. “Brace yourself, that’s not all we’re going to be getting tonight.”

Tony barely had time to ask what that meant before he found out. The habitat lights dimmed, cheesy seventies porn music started playing, and the habitat was flooded with the scent of roses, chocolate and… oh, god, steak.

“What are they doing?”

“Trying to get you in the mood to mate,” Stephen confessed. And he was blushing, which was weird because--

Tony’s eyebrows went up. “Trying to get me in the mood,” Tony wondered. “Not us.”

“What little they know about humans comes from some of our television signals,” Stephen pointed out. “In almost all of our media, it’s portrayed that males are always ready, and the females need to be wooed.”

“They should try going to the annual Maria Stark Foundation ball, it’s like a feeding frenzy. I barely escape with my balls intact. I’m still annoyed that they can’t tell the difference between men and women. Some super advanced aliens they’re turning out to be.”

“Give them some credit,” Stephen said. “As far as they know, we could be like snails, and make little love darts to stab each other with in an exchange of sperm.”

“No stabbing,” Tony said. “I draw the line at romantic stabbing.”

“Or… some species of male octopus literally launch their penis at a potential mate,” Stephen said. “The female octopus being notoriously short tempered and apt to eat their mates.”

“There are times when I’ve considered that as an alternative to a messy breakup,” Tony said. “Bees. Bees are a good example of fucked up mating. The male bee explodes, to seal off the queen’s reproductive channels, otherwise, other males could dig out the sperm and mate instead. Talk about your dedicated daddy.”

“Snakes. Female snakes have it particularly bad,” Stephen said. “There’s one species whose mating scent is so strong, it can attract males from over a hundred miles away, and they all pretty much jump her in tandem, a little orgy-ball of fuckery. Female snakes can be, literally, fucked to death.”

“That… sounds more fun than it probably is.”

“Especially for her,” Stephen remarked. “But humans aren’t much better. Human mating habits are weird,” Stephen said. “Almost as weird as the ridiculous premises around it for entertainment. It’s a waste of time.”

“So, you’re a hey, becky, lemme smash kinda guy?”

“Romance may not be dead, but it is frequently unnecessary,” Stephen said. “Most people decide within a few minutes of meeting someone if they’d ever want to have intercourse. The rest of it is needless time wasting. Don’t you?”

“My playboy reputation was always exaggerated, and currently somewhat out of date,” Tony huffed, feeling insulted.

“I don’t mean you always get the sex,” Stephen said. “I mean, you look at someone across the room and think, even for a second, yeah, that one’s nice, I’d do that. Sex is a game of numbers. We’ve developed all this ritual around it, but our base, human biology is satisfied with passing along our genes to the most number of people, as quickly as possible. We like to pretend we’re thinking about it, or choosing to have multiple partners to increase our social standing, but it’s mostly just justification for the chemical stew in our blood stream, the monkey brain that says procreate and survive. It’s irrational, and trying to pretend we’re somehow above that… well, that’s just wishful thinking. Humans, individually and collectively, are a hot mess.”

Damn, that was both sexy and challenging. The sexy past was the way Stephen discussed a one night stand as basic biology, showing off a big, sexy brain. The logical part that always forgot that logic was just a mess of hormones and chemistry. For a doctor, a neurosurgeon, Tony would have expected Stephen to come down on the side of cold logic.

The challenge… “So, Mr. Wizard,” Tony said, as casual as he could manage. “What did you think when you first saw me?”

Stephen laughed, a soft chuckle. “We were a bit preoccupied at the time.”

“That’s dodging the question,” Tony said.

“Seems unfair for you to ask it,” Stephen replied. “What did you think?”

“Buddy, there’s like four people I’ve ever met that I wasn’t related to, that were on my Do Not Fuck, Ever list. Everyone else, I’m open to negotiations,” Tony said, stretching out, full length. “And I’ll tell ya, if they give me that steak that they’re pumping fumes for, I might be willing to fuck you.”

“I suspect they’d be more pleased with the activity if I were to…”

“Bang me like a cheap screen door?”

“Something like that, yes.”

“You get the steak… and some coffee would be great, and you can have the goods.”

“Tony, did that little puzzle go straight to your--”

“Does it matter, doc? You already said they’re not going to let us go until we prove I’m infertile to your wizardly dick. I’m hungry, I’m bored, and I happen to be really fucking horny right now. So, if we gotta do it anyway, let’s just do it.”

“And I thought that I believed romance was dead and unnecessary,” Stephen commented, idly.

“Aw, baby, do you want me to romance you?” Tony was still smirking. His pants were a little uncomfortably tight, and Stephen was looking better to him with every minute. He was pretty familiar with pharmaceuticals, and he knew, mind you, that he’d been hit up with some sort of high end aphrodisiac, but the part of his brain that rarely shut up was spinning it around. It wasn’t like having sex with Stephen would be a hardship. The man was attractive and had been weirdly kind and comforting the whole time they’d been imprisoned, keeping Tony sane and safe.

There was something romantic about it.

Tony eyed the man again, noting the blush and the way Stephen avoided his eyes. “You do… you want me to romance you,” Tony said, the realization coming over him like a tidal wave. “This… you…” Tony made a little circle in the air with one hand. “You care. This matters to you.”

“Of course I care,” Stephen said. “You’ve been living in here with me for… what, two week, in this time line? I’ve… been reliving each day multiple times. In my head, Tony, we’ve known each other for years. Inside two weeks, this has been the longest relationship of my life. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, Tony. Closeness does. I know you better than anyone. Probably better than you know yourself.”

Tony swallowed. Usually people got fed up with him after a few days, and all the money and fame hadn’t been worth it for many. He drove Pepper crazy on a regular basis until she’d finally decided that, much as they loved each other, it wasn’t going to work. She couldn’t be his mother and his girlfriend and his ceo and his personal assistant and his babysitter all at the same time, and he knew he was unfair to ask it of her. How-- “How long?”


“How long have we been together? How long have you known?”

Stephen reached out then and touched his cheek. “I’ve loved you since Titan. I didn’t throw all the memories away. I couldn’t.”

Tony turned his face and kissed Stephen’s mangled palm. “Are you going to erase today?”

Stephen was even closer, close enough for Tony to notice that his eyes were actually both blue and green at the same time, close enough to feel the heat seeping off his body. “Do you want me to?”


Their lips met in a fevered kiss. Stephen’s mouth was demanding, fierce, a counterpoint to the way his hands moved, hesitant, as if he couldn’t believe he had the right to touch.

Stephen’s hands dragged heated trails down Tony’s skin. He struggled with the fastenings and Tony had to suck air, while he helped. The Cloak of Levitation hovered over them, and Tony was almost imagining that it disapproved, but then it flapped off, giving them some degree of privacy.

Tony laid back on the soft floor of their habitat as Stephen touched and explored, kissed and tasted. His teeth grazed over Tony’s nipple, sending a flush of heat down his spine. Another kiss, this one deeper, longer, slower, a mating of lips and tongues that was profoundly intimate. Sensual. Tony considered himself an expert on kissing; Stephen’s technique might have been somewhat clumsy, but there was an earnestness to it, a sweetness, that had been lacking in many of Tony’s other kisses.

There was no doubting Stephen’s desire, not just for bodies, but that he’d had this secret for so long, and he’d never said anything, he’d never made a big deal out of it. There was something innocent about it, enough that Tony wondered if he was doing Stephen any favors.

“How many times have we done this?”

Stephen rutted against him, pulling him in for another kiss. “Not enough,” he said, mouth brushing over Tony’s with exquisite sensation. “Never enough.”

Tony could believe it had been a lot; Stephen seemed to know without being told where Tony’s most sensitive spots were. That was distinctly unfair, because who would have guessed that Tony would go weak at having the small of his back caressed with light strokes, or a warm mouth licking at the inside of his elbow could get him to moan wantonly.

Also, he didn’t know any of Stephen’s, and had to content himself with being a keen observer and eager enough to explore. Still, Stephen decidedly had the upper hand, and that didn’t even include all the magic stuff, like being able to conjure lube with a quick muttered word, or, at one point, adding extra arms and mouths. Tony had participated in any number of multiple-partner sex adventures previously, but there was something different about having one person touching and kissing him so many times.

Stephen could capture Tony’s mouth, while holding his legs spread wide. The sensation of a hot, wet throat to fuck was vivid and real and intense, but when Tony managed to pry his eyes open to look, there was only a blueish, ghostly impression. He was held down and carressed by multiple hands, while Stephen’s own, fragile and thick-fingered and trembling, touched Tony’s face, brushed through his hair.

“And I thought I had good tricks,” Tony said, and then, because everything was a contest, as far as Tony was concerned, and he had to score some points, he took Stephen’s hand, the real, flesh one, and drew his index and middle fingers into his mouth, sucking them lightly.

All of Stephen’s boojums disappeared at once, and they settled back onto the ground with a bump -- when had Stephen started levitating them, Tony would have thought he would have noticed that?

“What? Off limits?” Tony took his mouth off Stephen’s hand, but kept it cradled between his own. “Does it hurt?”

“No,” Stephen said. “No, it doesn’t, well, yes, it hurts, but my hands always hurt, it’s not anything particular that you’re doing. I’m just--”

“Not used to people touching anymore, I get it,” Tony said. He ran his thumbs across Stephen’s palm, stretching a little at the scars there. “You are so beautiful.”

Stephen did start tugging at his hands, then, the fingers curling up defensively. “I used to be,” he said. “A surgeon’s hands.”

“You’re not ugly because of your scars, Stephen,” Tony told him. “Scars are… the roadmap of our lives. They tell people what we’ve suffered. The worst ones are the ones we can’t see, that we carry here--” he tapped his own chest, covered and matted with ropy scars from where the arc-reactor had been. “But you still have beautiful hands, Stephen.”

Stephen sucked in a breath. “I have known you for thirty million lifetimes, and you still surprise me, Tony, with the depths of your compassion.”

“It should,” Tony told him with a wink. “Given that I’m not supposed to have any, at all.” It was rare that he would take any such conversations about his good points seriously; Howard had spent a lifetime pointing out all of Tony’s mistakes to the point where Tony owned everything, presented it all up front in his showman manner. If he presented his heart, already bleeding, it was rare the person who would continue to stab. Not unheard of, but rare. There were always people who needed to score points by making someone else feel small. There was something unsatisfying to a critic to be answered with “yes, I know” when they’d taken such efforts to craft an insult. It was petty, but Tony would admit to being petty. Tony knew how to deal with insults; he had a long list of character flaws.

What he didn’t know how to deal with was sincerity and compliments. Compliments themselves were easy; everyone who ever wanted something from him would shower him with whatever they thought he wanted to hear.

But the combination of knowing that there was nothing Stephen wanted from him, and that he was perfectly in earnest. Well, that was harder to hear.

The two of them stared at each other, a long moment, gauging the other’s emotional state, the depth of sincerity, and then, “I think if I don’t kiss you right now, I might die from it.”

“Drama queen,” Tony accused, fondly.

“Drama wizard,” Stephen corrected, and then they were kissing again, a desperate, greedy, clinging sort of kiss to say everything with bodies and lips and tongues that they didn’t know how to say with actual words.

Stephen stroked Tony’s cock a few times, this time with his own hand, not playing with magic tricks and distractions, but just loving him.

Tony arched into it, moaning. “Please,” he said, breathless, running his own hands down every bit of pale skin he could reach until he ended with his hands firmly on Stephen’s ass, pulling them together, feeling the slick rut as their cocks aligned and glided together and it was the best tease, the best feeling.

He hooked his legs around Stephen’s thighs and the friction for even better, the heat between them growing. And the whole while, Stephen kept kissing him, kept returning to his mouth as if to hone his skill, to taste and know and breathe in every bit of Tony that he could get.

He didn’t stop kissing even when he was pushing at the opening to Tony’s body, getting him ready -- Tony could forgive him for the magic lube, because that shit was amazing -- even if it did get a bit sloppy. Tony loved it. Wet, heated, open-mouthed kissing, tongues that slid together and then apart. Little nips along his lip. A smear of dampness across his cheek and chin, and all the while, Stephen was breathing harder and making these delicious little sounds.

“Are you sure?” Stephen asked, still working Tony open with one hand.

“Stephen,” Tony said, touching his face, his cheek, that adorable little beard, running a thumb over Stephen’s lip. “I want you with every fiber of my being, you cannot get more enthusiastic consent than this. Give it to me.”

Stephen pressed against the ring of muscle and then, slowly, slid in. Tony shifted, threw his head back, struggled for a moment to relax. Stephen’s cock was lovely, long and slender and somehow as graceful as the man himself. He heard a sharp gasp of pleasure and realized it was his own, before Stephen started to move in him, on him, over him. Stephen’s mouth opened, as if to catch the gasp, and those obscenely beautiful lips fluttered over Tony’s in a soft, ghosting kiss.

Something about that tenderness got Tony even hotter. He grabbed a handful of Stephen’s ass and impaled himself on that gorgeous cock. Everything about the wizard was so much more than Tony had expected, he had to breath, deep and steady, a few times, to regain some equilibrium.

The push and pull of lovemaking was organic, natural, the way his body always urged him to move and grip, to roll his hips and to show his throat. The way his hands would grasp the blankets to hold himself down. All the same, all the way it always was.

And yet, at the same time, so new and fresh that Tony’s very skin ached, that he felt like a snake, peeling its scales and showing something new and shiny underneath.

Stephen alternated, deep, heavy thrusts and slow slides and quick, shallow movements, until they found themselves in the best possible rhythm, in which their heart beats and breaths aligned, until they were lost in each other’s gazes, until the world vanished and everything was feeling and sensation and love.

Stephen seemed to be everywhere around him, touching his hair, kissing his throat, gripping his ass to bring him closer.

Their bodies were heated, slick, and Tony could no longer tell where he ended and Stephen began. He stretched, reaching for his pleasure, wanting it, wanting to feel himself clench down on Stephen’s glorious dick, and then--

“Oh!” he rocked, taking as much of Stephen as he could and…


When it was over, Tony found himself chasing his breath, Stephen a warm, heated weight on top of him, not quite crushing him into the ground, but close. It should have been suffocating, but it wasn’t. He kept his leg hooked around Stephen’s back, not wanting to let go, wanting to stay there, locked together. They lay there for a long while until their pulses slowed and the world came back into focus around them.


Tony had never really had a vacation before. Not a nice, long one. Even when he’d tried vacationing before, he always found himself working, or fretting because he wasn’t working. Stephen’s reassurances that they wouldn’t lose any real time, in their real lives, made the whole thing feel just a little surreal.

“You sure you should use the time stone for something this frivolous?”

“Don’t make the same mistake Thanos did, Tony, of believing the time stones are only tools. They have their own agenda, their own purpose. There is a price to pay, the further off its path you take it. For now, the Time Stone and I walk the same road, and it helps me, as it can. I will know, when it is right to give it up.”

“You’re saying the time stone wants you to enjoy your honeymoon?”

They didn’t discuss much else that day, since Stephen decided to take Tony at his word, and they were soon too breathless and sweaty for deep conversation.

But there were days of conversation, while Tony learned the theory of sorcerery, and Stephen learned the basics of particle physics. They told each other stories of their not-entirely-dissimilar childhoods. Stephen reminisce about his medical residency, and Tony laughed through old tales from MIT and the trouble he and Rhodey used to get into.

Their keepers provided them with food -- and eventually, better food, which was nice, although, really, what sort of universe didn’t have coffee -- and enrichment activities, and all the comforts they really could want.

“I’m going to get spoiled and fat,” Tony was saying one night, laying with his head in Stephen’s lap while they explored the nearby stars with one of the enrichment devices. Looking at other planets and moons from the relative safety of the zoo was somehow pleasing.

It did still bother Tony that he wasn’t free, that he couldn’t just make a choice and leave, but it was comfortable captivity, and Tony needed it. He needed this little oasis of time and peace.

“You deserve to be spoiled,” Stephen told him.


He woke early to the sounds of muffled sobs.

“What? What, Stephen, what’s wrong?” Tony was there, his hands on his lover.

“We’re leaving today, and I knew it would be soon, but--” The cloak was nudging at Stephen’s face and Stephen absently brushed it away. “Stop that.”

“It’s all right, though?” Tony asked, not really sure what he was asking. “We’re going to go home and everything--” He swallowed around a lump in his throat, the size of a tennis ball. “--you’re not going to let me remember. Is that the plan, Stephen, because I… I did not agree to this plan!”

“You have your life, Tony, back on earth, this was-- I’ll treasure this, but--”

“Don’t you fucking let go of me, you goddamn coward,” Tony spat. “What do you think this has been for me? A lark? Goddamnit, Strange, I love you. Don’t take that from me. Don’t steal this. Even if-- if you’re done with me, I don’t want to forget it.”

Stephen reached out one battered hand and caught the tears spilling from Tony’s eyelashes.


“Did… I forget to tell you I loved you?”

“You did.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Tony said. “I will.”

“Tell me now.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’ll… okay, change of plans. We’re still leaving. But--”

“You keep me with you, right? I don’t want to forget this.”

“Okay. Okay, Tony. I’m sorry.”

“Damn well better be. I’m the best thing that ever happened to you, you idiot.”

“Tell me again why I love you?” Stephen was laughing, his blue-green eyes bright.

“Because I’m awesome, and you have good taste,” Tony said. “And you know me better than I know myself, and yet, you still fail to recognize that I might love you back. Seriously, Stephen, why give me such relationship gold? I’m going to be mining that for years.”

Stephen smiled. “Yeah, yeah, you are.”