A/N: I've wanted to try my hand at fanfic for years and this is my first actual attempt at writing one. I have a few chapters completed, but it's nearly finals time and I'm not sure what to expect. We'll see how this goes~!
Unfortunately, I own none of these characters.
Kaecilius froze, stance suddenly wary, as his eyes fixed on the artifact that Dr. Stephen Strange held aloft.
Stephen hadn't expected that reaction.
He paused in surprise, glancing from the man before him to the artifact that he had just lifted from the table. Why was the corrupted sorcerer wary of a metal bowl? Okay, sure, it was more of a cauldron than a bowl and was glowing brightly with some sort of arcane golden energy, but it had seemed rather harmless when he'd grabbed it. The thing wasn't even in a case.
Kaecilius—the perceptive bastard—recognized his confusion. Instantly, his face relaxed and shifted into a superior, smug smirk.
"You don't know how to use that, do you."
Internally, Stephen seethed. No. He didn't. He was still pretty new at this, and in spite of the fact that he was advancing at a remarkable rate and holding his own against the much more experienced sorcerer and his zealots, there were still many things he didn't know about magic. For now, anyway. Dr. Stephen Strange had been the best neurosurgeon in the field and he wouldn't stop until he could say the same for sorcery.
"Uh..." He glanced at the weird cauldron thing he was about to throw at the man. What could it do?
Kaecilius's blow caught him off guard.
A wave of pure force hit Stephen at chest level, throwing his body backwards and causing the bowl that he'd held to collide—oh, that was embarrassing—with his face. Mordo and Wong would never let him hear the end of this. The sudden pain of the rim colliding with his cheekbone stunned him momentarily, and almost against his will Stephen found his eyes drawn to the contents of the cauldron.
The sensation was thoroughly unpleasant.
As the golden glow of the artifact overwhelmed his senses to the extent that Stephen was sure he'd gone blind, a gut-wrenching pull threw all concept of gravity out the window. It felt as if he was suddenly falling in multiple directions, spinning forwards and backwards and sideways and inwards until everything was lost in a frenzy of motion and pure chaos. Stephen probably would have screamed—no, definitely would have screamed his lungs out—if he was capable of the act, but as it was he had no concept of how to control his lungs or his limbs or any other part of his body. Did his body even exist? There was nothing to see except a complete lack of… anything.
He had no idea how long the horrible falling nothingness lasted or when exactly it stopped. Steven simply came to the sudden realization that he was sprawled out on his stomach, gasping for breath, with his cheek pressed against something hard, hot, and horribly uncomfortable.
Cautiously opening one eye, Stephen was just able to make out the distinctive texture of pavement before his vision swam and he squeezed it shut again. Solid ground. That was good. Gravity had apparently made up its mind to point in a single direction once again.
Stephen's inner ear, however, rebelled against the notion. For a solid few minutes, part of him was sure he would fly off the pavement and fall into the open sky. The rational part of his brain stated that this was merely caused by the residual movement of fluid against the cells in his ear's vestibular system. Another pointed out that he was a sorcerer and spontaneous flying was not at all outside the realm of possibility.
He clung to the pavement just to be safe.
A few more minutes passed and the world eventually stopped spinning. After waiting an additional few seconds just to be sure, Stephen gingerly rolled onto his side, his breathing finally calm, and directed his limbs in the overly complex motion of sitting upright.
From his new vantage point, Stephen found that he was lying in the middle of a small, quiet street, lined with low brick walls that separated disturbingly identical and well-maintained houses. The sun had set, and a small amount of light was just visible at the horizon. There were no people to be seen, but lighted windows suggested they were indoors, perhaps due to the oppressively hot weather.
He was very obviously not in New York. For one thing, the weather was wrong. It had been threatening to snow when he'd stepped outside the Sanctum just a short while ago. And this place, the very feel of it was… different.
Stephen then noticed that something else had made the trip along with him. To his left, gleaming dully in the light of the street lamps, was the Weird Cauldron. That was its name, he decided, as he rocked to the side to retrieve the troublesome artifact. The Weird Cauldron was no longer glowing, and for the moment appeared to be a normal weirdly shaped metal cauldron of unknown mystic origin. That was concerning.
Stephen rolled to his feet with minimal wobbling and—after securely tucking the Weird Cauldron under his arm—traveled to the safety of the sidewalk, eyes taking in everything as he went. There were cars parked in the driveways, all older models with steering wheels on the left side of the vehicle and license plates that he recognized as possibly belonging to England. Stephen sighed in relief. He hadn't been stranded in some random hostile dimension. He could work with this. The Sanctum in London had just been destroyed, but with his sling ring perhaps there was still enough time to get back to New York before—
Stephen stared first at his belt, then at his left hand. His scarred, shaking left hand that was now embedded with a few pieces of gravel and completely devoid of a sling ring.
His heart skipped a beat as a rush of pure dread and panic threatened to overwhelm him. His sling ring was gone. He couldn't use magic to travel. The London Sanctum lay in ruins, as did the only portal on the continent that connected directly to New York. Even the Cauldron was lifeless! He was stuck.
Stephen clung to the brick wall as his legs suddenly went weak. He was useless here. After that Master—Daniel?—was wounded, he had been the only sorcerer left to defend the Sanctum against Kaecilius and his followers… and now he had failed. What could he do? Regardless of how he traveled it would be too late to stop the destruction of the barrier that kept the Earth safe from the Dark Dimension.
And Christine. Oh, god. Christine was in New York. If anything happened to her, he… he… no. No! How could he have let this happen? If he hadn't gotten momentarily distracted by the artifact he could have stayed and fought. But no, he had to be caught off guard by the wary look in his enemy's eyes. A perceived weakness. And no, he hadn't known what that cursed Cauldron did. He still didn't. Why would Kaecilius have been so leery of an artifact that had dropped him in England? The sorcerer had just been in England, destroying the Sanctum. It wasn't something to be scared of. He had a sling ring, so… why?
Stephen paused, heart racing, staring at the dead artifact that he cradled in his arm. What had the Weird Cauldron actually done? Was he… elsewhere? Could it have transported him to another dimension after all, one that wasn't his Earth? Or… wasn't his time?
Could it have?
He clung to that thought desperately, pushing off from the wall and all but running down the street as his eyes cast about for something, anything, that would—there.
He set down the Cauldron and scooped up a discarded newspaper from where it lay in the gutter, plastic sheath slightly wet from condensation but otherwise readable. Cursing his hands as they shook worse than ever, Stephen struggled with the wrapping, his hurried panic making the act of freeing the paper even more difficult. Finally, the plastic gave way and the paper fell open at his feet.
Steven dropped to his knees, eyes frantically scanning the ink. Please.
There, in the top right corner, were the numbers that made him more hopeful than the day he had at last located Kamar-Taj.
July 30th, 1995.
Yes, the older cars. It fit.
He... he had time. Whatever the vessel had done, it had deposited him nearly 20 years in the past. Possibly even in a different dimension! While that fact should've been terrifying, Stephen let out a small hysterical giggle of pure relief. He wasn't too late. He had time. He had plenty of time. He didn't have a plan yet, but there was time. It didn't matter if he had no sling ring. He'd rip a hole back to New York 2016 with his bare hands once he figured out how. And he would figure out how. He was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an idiot. He was made for sorcery.
Stephen flexed his shaking fingers and pulled a small amount of dimensional energy into his damaged hands. There was some unexpected resistance as he formed the crackling threads, but it didn't matter. It was magic. Some intensive meditation would allow him to better connect with the energies of this place. He was Dr. Stephen Strange, after all. He would adapt. He would get back.
With a satisfied smile, Stephen settled against the wall, repositioning the Weird Cauldron so that it sat next to him. His elated mood didn't change the fact that everything hurt. His head was aching fiercely from multiple collisions with the various surfaces of the New York Sanctum (not to mention the Cauldron), and said collisions had done a number on the rest of his body. The right side of his ribcage would be turning some interesting colors in a few hours, he was sure.
While there were probably better places to rest than against a brick wall on a sidewalk in an English suburb, he'd seen worse in Kathmandu. Plus, he had no money, nowhere to go, and no one to call. Just like old times. Briefly, he entertained the idea that somewhere in this... place... Christine might be living her life, but if that were the case there would likely be a younger Stephen Strange running about as well. He sighed and firmly decided to avoid turning over that rock lest he break time or set off the apocalypse or something. Wong would kill him. Though, it might be a good idea to check once he was settled. For safety reasons.
What would he do, then? No money, no papers, no clue if this was his dimension. Though, even if it wasn't his Earth, it could be one very similar. It had an England, after all, and London was a place he'd visited several times for medical conferences. He'd even go so far as to say that he knew the area pretty well. Would the Sanctums exist here? They could be his ticket home if he could just make it downtown.
Stephen's head throbbed and he groaned. Later. He would worry about the London Sanctum later. The brick wall was feeling more comfortable by the second. This was a good spot. It was at a more secluded corner of the street, sheltered by bushes on one side and an overhanging tree on the other. The neighborhood was quiet, no one would bother him for a while, and, most importantly, there was a street lamp. He could work with this. Might as well see what information there was to uncover.
Stephen picked up the paper and started reading.