1963-10-21 - Shatter the Self
Summary: Dr. Strange comes to blows with the vampire's venom lingering in his body at the risk of his very existence as living Sorcerer Supreme.
Related: Honey and Blood, The Sorcerer and the Bride
Theme Song: None
strange duke wanda 

((NOTE: Duke and Wanda included by proxy of mention.))

The Sanctum is silent. All of its occupants are either out and about or deeply within their tasks at hand. One remains on the edge of action – or rather, a form of inaction with dynamic unseen repercussions.

Strange lies back on the king-sized bed in his master bedroom, wearing comfortable pants beneath a wine-red smoking robe. He’s propped up against a minor mound of pillows and right now, he’s staring suspiciously at the steaming half-cup of tea and the glass containers resting within the unwrapped piece of torn silk on the bedside table. Two jars, one slightly larger than the other, one containing blood-and-honey while the other contains some sort of distilled essence of star-touched fruit. He makes a face as he reaches over to pick up the more offensive of the two glass jars, holding it up to the lamp. The contents are opaque, muddied in color – it’s going to look disturbing in his tea.

“Hmph, pixie juice,” he mutters as he glances at the second vial. With a sigh of decision, he carefully unscrews the top from the little blue jar in his hands and immediately wrinkles his nose. There’s the sweetness of the bee’s creation, but there’s also a sense of rot and wrongness that turns the whole smell towards death.

Thank the gods he made the strongest Chai he could scrounge up from his stores. If his tongue is numb at the end of this escapade, all the better. Not too much into his tea, just a slow, hanging drop or two that plops heavily into the brew. He stirs it, all the while frowning apprehensively, with a spoon – not silver, that would have harmed the contents of the medicine. The little blue jar is set back into its place on the torn silk and…he hesitates. Gods below, this will be…and he’s so tired still; he rubs at one temple before dragging his hand down his face. “Like a shot — take it like a shot,” he coaches himself as he brings it to his lips.

The good Doctor prepared as best he could, but it takes some serious swallowing and a few gurgling gags to get the half-cup of tea down. His tongue hurts from the intensity of the Chai spices, but he can’t really taste it. Not really. Okay, it’s lingering on the back of his tongue and it’s disgusting and gluck.

One last hard swallow and a quick shake of his head to dispel the taste so he can prepare himself. The cup is set aside and he lays back once more on the pillows. A blanket over his bare feet, so they don’t get cold. Hands resting palm-down on his stomach, atop one another, and he closes his eyes.

How long? he wonders to himself, staring at the black of his eyelids with apprehension. How long before…before it…tea…kicks in, WHOA.


There’s a sense of horrifying falling, as if he’s been caught napping in mid-meditative levitation, and then he hits the ground. First, he rolls onto his back, squinting up at the incredibly bright light above him. “Turn that down, ugh.” It’s a useless complaint. His psyche clearly isn’t having it. With a grunt, he presses himself up until he can rest on his knees, his weight on his heels. He can’t see beyond the cone of bright light. That’s making him nervous.

“Stephen Strange,” comes the voice from behind him. The white circle beneath his feet follows Strange as he rolls away and to his feet in a swiftly-offered martial stance. A laugh, unkind and clearly enthused at having startled him, makes him spin gracefully to face towards where he thinks it is in the stygian black beyond the ray of light. “Idiot. I could kill you before your heart beats again.”

“Try it, I dare you,” Strange growls back.

With a sound a lot like a lightbulb filament popping, the bright spotlight above him vanishes. He is surrounded by the darkness that is impenetrable to his sight. Strange swallows and remains as still as possible. His heart is ratcheted up into his throat as he listens, sight sliding left and right blindly.

“Nope, too easy. Not a challenge.” The voice from before him, not very far of a distance, and the darkness lightens just enough for him to make out the body standing not an arm’s length before him. The relative spacing would have put it standing on the dark edge of the initial spotlight. Strange has the sense of looking into a mirror even as lids rise to reveal a very familiar set of Mystically-lit steel-blue eyes. The darkness lightens a bit further, like the moon coming half-out from behind a cloud, and the figure before him wears the battle-leathers of the Sorcerer Supreme in black; his form is outlined by a facsimile of the Cloak in shadow-red, the color at the depths of a bucket of blood. He recoils from this form of himself by a full two steps, the mudras of his outstretched hands failing in a burst of fear. This Vampiric Self smiles at him with a close-mouthed coldness that Strange never thought he’d see painted on his own features and it makes him swallow thickly. “You’re frightened already. Pitiful.”

I don’t sound like THAT?! he thinks in an illogical offshoot.

“You aren’t real. You don’t exist – and won’t exist,” Strange adds quickly before this nightmarish reflection can say otherwise. A quick glance down at his body; he wears his well-worn battle-leathers in storm-blue and crimson Cloak at his shoulders. “This body is mine,” he growls again, placing his hands before him in a rallying of bravery.

“No? I don’t exist?” This other Self asks him, in a tone that indicates mocking disagreement. “What will it take for you to realize that you will never be rid of me?” A scoff; Strange realizes that this Self is clean-shaven, sharply coiffed, the epitome of self-assured Id. “Denial is for those beneath us.”

“Beneath you, not me,” Strange disagrees before he attempts to strike first, a bolt of neutral Elemental power shooting out from Art-gloved hands. The Vampiric Self deflects it with the back of its hand as easily as swatting aside a pesky fly and retaliates with a whip-lash of inverted light. It cracks against the defensive disc summoned to Strange’s outstretched hand with a spattering of embers and then they stand before one another, hands in counter-signs of opposing factions: Mystic Arts to Dark Arts, both areas of magic known to the Sorcerer Supreme.

The Vampiric Self sucks in air through bared teeth and shows Strange that he is perfectly capable of having a pair of rather white fangs in place of simple human canines.

“I will erase you from existence then,” this Self snarls. The darkness pooling at its feet is drawn in around it. Strange watches the ice-blue irises bleed to incandescent-red. “The Master will use you well, Sorcerer Supreme. He has such plans for you.”

“Get out of my body,” Strange retorts and then draws the moonlight around him in opposition to the spread of shadows licking at his boots.

Moonlight is diluted sunlight, just as dirt formed the basic material for clay. Add a little something to it, just like water, and one can build monuments. Or cast monumental spells. His Vampiric Self hisses and flinches as the silvery glow condenses and then reflects upon itself, growing and growing in power, until Strange is nearly washed out in metallic grey. Beyond the veil of moonlight, he can see his Vampiric Self gesture quickly, twice, ruddy blurred counter-signs that he recognizes and then –

Cut off, like twisting a faucet shut. Strange feels a sudden numbness come to all of his fingers and he shakes them uselessly even as the dark mirror of himself slowly straightens from the casting stance. It is a predator sensing a defensive prey’s flaw. The moonlight disperses back to its origins somewhere within the expanse of this place.

“Useless.” The whip of inverted-light is back and snaps with freezing pain perpendicular on the length of Strange’s instinctive forearm. “Stupid.” It catches his shoulder this time, offered as shield in a move to clutch his chilled arm against his chest. “Weak!” In rolling away from the impact of the spell-weapon to his back, he exposed his front and the ground rushes up to meet him.

The blood he spits is glowing, irradiated with golden light, and Strange wipes the back of his hand across his mouth after he pushes himself onto his knees. The smudge of red lingers on his skin and he realizes that the lash of the spell-weapon has split his lower lip even as he feels it bleed down his chin.

“An utter and complete failure,” his Vampiric Self purrs as it approaches, slinging the inverted-light about with a familiarity that must be from the sentient memory within the vampire venom. Strange has no skill in such a weapon beyond disarming foes. The spell-weapon sings in the still air of the battle-room. “There is no room for failure in the Master’s plans.”

Strange mutters three very choice words, an insulting connotation of self-pleasuring, before launching himself up at his foe. He takes the stinging wrap of the whip around his half-numbed forearm while he drives the other fist deep into the gut of the black-clothed Sorcerer. With a whuft of lost air followed by a croaking failure to inhale from his Vampiric Self, they both go down in a moment of tumbling legs and arcing fists. The spell-weapon disintegrates into useless anti-sparks as Strange nearly breaks a knuckle pounding into his foe’s jaw.

Forget the Mystic Arts, this is a human fist-fight, plain and simple.

Left, right, left, right – it’s a brutal pattern of battering that gets more slick on contact as skin on straddling attacker and pinned attacked breaks. Finally, gasping for air and pausing with both arms burning in exhaustion, right fist half-cranked back for another blow, Strange stares down at his Vampiric Self. The pale mirror laughs and then coughs, turning his head aside to blow out a spatter of black blood onto the cold floor.

“Look at you, attacking the fallen – betraying your mantle,” it laughs again with a flash of fangs, red irises raking him and returning to his face. “He’ll love you.” The thing takes another sharp blow to the cheek and coughs for a second before it melts into another guttural snicker. “That’s it, go on. Hit me again.”

“No.” Strange disengages with a graceful roll and stutter-step backwards that puts distance between him and the vampire venom incognito. His knuckles sting where his blood has mingled with the ink that weeps from his foe’s split face. He tiredly watches his Vampiric Self run a tongue around its teeth, collecting the gore and seeming to savor it before it rises to its feet as if drawn up by a puppeteer’s strings.

“Shame,” it adds nonchalantly, thumbing away a smear of ichor from its own broken lip. “That was your chance.”

A bow-wave of null-colored magic slams into him as his Vampiric Self sharply gestures across the air between them. He’s thrown back a good number of feet and rolls to a halt. His battle-leathers smoke from the blackened diagonal strip across the fabric, from left shoulder down across his right hip. Strange rolls over onto his back, unable to do more than try feverishly to realign his vision and get to his feet before the approaching boot-steps close on him.

The boot’s ridges press down mercilessly into his neck and he gulps uselessly until he forces the boot up a centimeter with his hands, allowing his airway passage. His arms tremble as his foe kneels down, pushing down its weight with lazy increases by the moment.

“Lay down and stay down, Sorcerer,” it croons, smirking at him. “You can’t beat me. I know your weaknesses, your nightmares, even the pressure points you have yet to discover.” Another leeeeean and Strange has to shove back with all of his might to allow himself the ability to gasp. “Lay down and die like the broken man you are.” His vision reds out with lack of oxygen as he feels the boot grind his Adam’s apple into his neck and he hovers on the edge of unconsciousness. His brain registers that he’s able to suddenly breathe again even as his inner ear tells him that he’s been yanked up by the collar of his vest. His vision is doing this awful swirling triplicate of the Vampiric Self before him, clearly the one with a fist around the collar of his battle-leathers. His hands grip weakly at the thing’s wrist and find it immobile as museum marble.

The thing’s other hand curls all fingers into claws, granting Strange a moment to note the elongated nails, before it shifts too quickly for him to follow. “Not just yet.” The ghosting feeling of a scalpel’s edge along the line of his jaw from chin back, where it curves to meet his neck, and then a blaze of pain drawn across the mostly-healed bite site farther down. He jerks before freezing up again instinctively; it had only taken one time for him to learn, in medical school, to never push against such a blade. “Only fitting that you bleed a bit more,” the Vampiric Self says in satisfaction even as it licks his blood from the fingernail. It doesn’t take much more than an easy flick of the thing’s nails to separate the ties of his battle-vest and then carve a neat circle in the shirt underneath.

All five nails then center themselves over his hard-beating heart and Strange meets the vermilion gaze of his Vampiric Self.

“Stop the heart from beating, you die, your body dies – the Master wins.” He’s granted the smile which imparts that butter would never melt in the Vampiric Self’s fanged mouth. “Goodbye, Stephen Strange.”

It hasn’t been easy to continue faking weakness, but it’s bought him valuable time and that decision to show his belly in the face of imminent death grants Strange the moment he needs.


The mirror of Strange also shares its ability to be taken off-guard, startled into a moment of frozen inaction in the face of such an enraged casting.

His palm smashes will-charged hyper-concentrated moonlight (read as: diluted sunlight) into the thing’s face in a deliberate echo of his actions with the Bride. It’s sure to be felt all the way down the psychic line to the Lord and Master of this vampire venom. White light laces through the Vampiric Self, following the major veins and arteries from the epicenter of Strange’s fingers that dig blunt nails into the pale skin.

The thing doesn’t utter anything more than a creaky sort of grunt, surprise blanking out its eyes, and then it topples to the side in a slack bundle of limbs. Strange pulls his leg out from beneath the dead body and touches at his neck carefully even as he watches the body catch on fire. The color of the flames is Magnesium-white and releases sparkling flecks rather than bits of ash up into the limitless heights of the air above him.

An exhaustion makes him slump onto his side. His skull thunks against the ground and his vision remains clear just in time for him to watch the last curls of smoke cease to rise from the remains of his Vampiric Self. It all swirls and blacks out shortly after he processes this sight.


It’s a slow rise back to consciousness, as if the honey is granting its properties to his return. A twitch of his head at first, to one side, involuntary grimace at a crick in his neck, and then a huge inhale that leaves him coughing…once. Even as he blinks a few times, clearly reorienting himself, he feels…

Nearly brand-new.

A huge yawn and then a stretch from his fingertips to his toes that leaves him exhaling in a slow, purring sound of contentment —

— interrupted by the realization that Wanda sits on the edge of the bed, giving him a level, dark-eyed look.

The clipped tone is really the only warning he gains. "So this is how we are always going to wake up?" Her fingers fold around one another, cupping her knee.

With a short guilty-sounding laugh that will no doubt earn him some sort of reprimand later, Strange slowly sits himself completely upright against the pile of pillows.

“No, not quite like this,” he replies. Not again, not ever again.

Oh. The Eau de Vie, with its silvery sheen in the little bottle? He takes it soon after waking up, of course, but that’s a story for another time.

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