1963-08-06 - Strange Tellings
Summary: Instead of taking a lunch break, Peggy finds herself drawn into a strange shop of curiosities. Dr. Strange ends up telling the woman's future and an odd alliance is formed.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange peggy 


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Sanctum Sanctorum Shop Temporary
Thu Aug 04, 1963 — Thu Aug 04 14:29:25 2016


*

The front doors to the Sanctum Sanctorum are seemingly normal, nothing more than a double set of sturdy dark-wood panels; a time-weathered half-arc of shaped metal tops them, half of a Vishanti Seal cleverly worked into its design. The doors open in to reveal not a commonly-expected foyer, but a small gift shop instead. The space is small and clean, with a soothing sense of fung shui in its organization.

Dr. Strange offers many an esoteric item for sale here. T-shirts emblazoned with various benign (and harmless) sigils, inspirational quotations, and psychedelic patterns hang on racks and are dedicated to one wall to the right. To the visitor's left lies the section of curios: artwork, pottery, jewelry, masks, and totems, all from various countries and societies. A small bookshelf houses tomes of histories and lore. A smaller shelf offers various colors and scents of candles. If the visitor looks straight ahead, they see the check-out counter. Behind it, hanging on pegs, are masks of all sizes, shapes, and expressions, from benevolent to demonic. A small blank placard sits beside the register and reads in golden flowing lettering: FORTUNE TELLING. Inquire here. No guarantees. A small silver push-bell stands beside it.


*

It's a perfectly normal afternoon at the Sanctum Sanctorum. The sun shines in through the elegantly-designed Anomaly Rue window in the loft. From far away, Strange can sense the gentle warmth of the light as it shines across his back. He's currently meditating and has been for at least an hour now. He is supremely comfortable in his current state. The tooled leather of his vest absorbs just enough heat to keep him from getting chilled as his blood moves slowly through his arms and legs. They are folded in the lotus position as he hovers three feet from the ground, eyes closed and breathing controlled.

He's been appreciating the silence around the Sanctum. With his apprentice, Illyana Rasputina currently in the experienced care of Professor Xavier and staying at his institute, this leaves Strange to return to his normal schedule and pursuits - all of which /never/ involved having an apprentice. He's still making up his mind about how to go about teaching the teenager, but for now, he is at peace.

*

With her husband off on an actual mission for work and Peggy, surprisingly, done with most work on her desk, she actually decided to take a lunch out of the office for once. A rarity for her, probably why she needed to do it all the more. Aimless wandering has taken her a few blocks north of the offices and she's only snapping out of it as she's passing, well, the strangest place. How had she not noticed this before? A giftshop in front of a mansion that looks odd, splendid, and just has this quality of otherness. In 20 years of service in the stranger things of the universe, she's learned to catch sight of that which is not normal. So, curious, she's turned in.

The Director of SHIELD steps through the gift shop doors, dark eyes peering about the place quietly. Her high heels on hard floors announce her as much as the sound of the doors opening. She's in a loose, light blue dress today, a black suit jacket thrown overtop of it to look a bit more professional, but she's not bothered to button it. Her normal brunette waves and blood red lipstick is perfectly in place. She might be pretty if she wasn't clearly into middle age and didn't have this odd air of intimidation about her. She studies the whole place like someone picking apart a crime scene, memorizing each strange detail.

*

From the same far distance as the warmth of the sun comes a gentle note of curiosity from the wards of the Sanctum. Strange begins the process of emerging from his meditation and it begins with his breathing. It increases, becoming more shallow, and he feels the blood begin to quicken in his veins. It takes another minute or so and then his eyes open. His grey-blue eyes are sharp now, devoid of the weariness that plagued him before he began his morning ritual, and he lets out a long sigh as he rolls his head around his shoulders.

With grace, he uncoils from his current pose. His feet touch the raised sigil-inscribed wooden platform with no noise as he has foregone his normal traveling boots. Instead, he wears thin leather boots, no higher than his ankles, their ends flush to his black pants. Wiggling his fingers to test their sense of feeling, he nods and walks over to the tea stand set off to one side of the platform and next to his Eye of Agamotto. He adds a bit more steaming water to the cooled cup of old tea. Again, the Sanctum sends little fingers of alert to his mind and he pauses in mid-lift of the tea cup to his lips. Not a moment after, the charmed bell to the downstairs shop rings, its pert clarion sound traveling with clarity to his ears three floors up.

Strange stares at the floor, at the point where the bell would stand on the counter, and then puts down his tea cup with a clatter. Fine - he'll go and address this person, probably some curious magician-wanna-be, and shoo them out post-haste.

*

While the place does seem a publicly open shop, the fact that no one is immediately present makes Peggy pause for the time being. She keeps studying the area, but she doesn't completely intrude on the greater place. Just a few steps in the initial entrance way, enough that she can look around the various displays and see what most of the room presents. "…Hullo?" Her British accent calls out gently into the place. As she finds no one, her presence of mind only grows. The curiosity, and strong, intelligent presence of a mind who is accustomed to knowing most everything only grows behind the door.

*

Strange walks briskly down the halls that lead to the base floor of the mansion. His steps make minimal sound on the grand staircase as he descend it and walks over to the doors separating the foyer from the shop. He unlocks the glass-paned French doors that hide behind a set of burgundy velvet curtains and then whisks them aside. He doesn't mean to do it dramatically; the curtains themselves automatically lend some dramaticism to his entrance and it seems to awe the patrons well enough.

He was expecting someone from the younger crowd, perhaps wearing tie-dye and dreadlocks or even a monochromatic black get-up with a twiggy wand on their back pocket. He's met with the sight of a middle-aged matron dressed in a moderately-professional dress and jacket and actually slows his steps, even as he approaches. The fact that she looks so /normal/ is enough to trigger suspicion in the Sorcerer Supreme. In his world of Mystical magic, many a normal-seeming thing has come at him with the intent to kill. Still, a supposed-customer is a customer.

"Welcome, madam, to my shop. How may I assist you?" he asks, his voice deep and cultured. All the while, his eyes scan over her and around her, searching for any sign of deceit.

*

Well, apparently she wasn't alone. As those soft booted steps come down the stairs and enter the shop area, her second brow meets with the first arched one. It seems that he is as little expected as she was. She was equally thinking to see some hippie mystic promoting crystals and (probably in the back room) marijuana. But he seems almost her age, dressed in strangely timeless clothing, and has an equally professional gaze to his expression. Her redlipped smile warms a bit more. Professional, yes, but restrained. This is a woman who is accustomed to operating behind a hundred masks, even if she's never being wholey dishonest.

She just rarely is in a position where she can be fully honest either.

"I… I hadn't noticed your shop before. I work a few blocks down and was walking for lunch. Simply caught my eye, in truth. You…present an intriguing show." Peggy's clipped, still heavily British tone offers warmly. All those words were truths, even if her concern goes deeper than mere curiosity. There is a protectiveness to that concern, a woman very worried about her city and the countries beyond it. "If you are not open I…I can come again another time. I realize this is an odd hour." Lunch on a work day? The place was clearly abandoned for a reason, no tourists to poke through this time of the day or week. Everyone being industrious and good little worker bees behind their desks.

*

Strange admits to himself that she has a point. Lunchtime is an odd hour of day in the working world, where one either stays at their desk for the pay or wanders away to escape the monotony of the job. Regardless, this woman presents an interesting curiosity to the Sorcerer Supreme and he has a very hard time resisting curiosity.

"We don't keep standard hours," he replies politely as he steps behind the counter. He briefly brushes a hand over its surface to test for dust (it's spotless, as usual, per his past surgical-based habits) and also to subtly activate the anti-theft spells in the shop's perimeters. When he looks up at her again, he's hit with the oddest sense of deja-vu. He dismisses it and covers his little pause with a neutral smile. "We do offer a variety of eclectic items. Feel free to browse. Unless you're looking for something in particular?"

*

As his hand brushes over that counter, as if he might be pushing something, her eyes narrow, studying the motion. But there was nothing there to push or touch, perhaps he was simply being fastidious. Still, there had been deliberate motion behind his gesture. Those are the smallest details Peggy studies, why she can read people like a book. Also what makes him all the more fascinating, because he seems a very difficult read. She takes another step closer, not in a threatening way, but in a way that says she is not scared or intimidated by his space. She is a woman just as powerful and able to take charge of a space as any man. It adds to her appeal, despite her age. There is a powerful charisma beneath that old fashioned clothing.

Then, as her dark eyes keep their study, she does catch view of that little sign. Fortune telling. That makes her brow arch again and a wider smile cross her read mouth. "You do fortune telling? Or…one of your people? It might be an interesting lunch's distraction. I can't say I'm much hungry so might as well feed the mind if not the body." She offers with a rather game face about it all. It'd also get her deeper into the shop, more time to study him, and did seem a fun pursuit. When was the last time she had fun? Too darn long.

*

Oh drat. He'd forgotten to remove that placard. Normally, his manservant was able to offer brief little tellings based on the commonly-known concept of lines on the hands. The heart line, the life line, all of the creases where one could easily draw conclusions based on their length and choice of words. It was the beauty of the thing, how the patrons defined the portents according to their personal needs, wants, and dreams.

The problem was - well, not necessarily a /problem/, more of a minor hindrance - that Strange himself had to tell the fortune now and he had an awful time lying. Not only that, but it was very hard to lie when he was able to touch the customer's palms and very literally read into their future. It was one spell that he always regretted knowing once he was in the moment of its use. The future was so nebulous. Inasmuch as he dabbled in the Mystic Arts, he preferred being correct over the payment.

"Feed the mind, hmm? I suppose I can offer you that service," he replies with some hesitance. "Normally, my manservant would provide it, but seeing as I am here, I can entertain you." His smile fades a bit. He has this suspicion borne of long experience that this will open a new rift of problems for him and it tickles the back of his mind. Still, fortune rewards the brave, and he adds, "For you and your curiosity, I'll offer it freely."

*

Manservant? Who in the world uses the word 'Manservant' any more. Peggy watches him even more curiously now, her head tilting a touch to the side with a brush of lush, dark waves over one padded shoulder. "You aren't from around here, are you?" The woman asks casually, even as her own accent betrays her as to being very far from home. But there are other hints that say she is home now — the way she comfortably walks in the city, the fact that it's a New York designer who made her shoes. Even the wedding and engagement band on her left hand. She doesn't look like a woman out of place, despite her words.

"And that is quite kind of you, but I am more than happy to pay for the services. Especially if I am getting a unique experience and not your usual offering. Please… lead the way?" She asks smoothly, like this was the most normal afternoon in the world, even if it was one of the most strange ones she'd had in a long time, and that is saying something with a parcel of Nazis now working under her nose and another baby on the way. Still, this was all refreshingly odd.

*

"From around Manhattan? No, not at all," he replies. He shifts behind the counter and folds his hands atop on another on its surface. "I was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Nebraska."

And that's when it hits him, why he's being so damnably polite to this woman when normally he'd have escorted her out by now: in the best of ways, she reminds him of his own mother. The little scritch-scratch of his own intuition in the back of his mind flares up a bit. Strange's mouth opens a little and his brows rise before he manages to compose himself. He's becoming more and more of a believer in fate as he dabbles in the Mystic Arts and now he's less than certain that he wants to tell this woman's future.

"Actually, we don't need to leave the counter at all." He clears his throat as he meets her dark eyes with his own steel-blue gaze. "You're certain that you wish this? I cannot guarantee anything regarding it." The trembling of his hands, normally well-controlled, has become more pronounced and he's glad that his palms are pressed flat against the well-oiled wooden countertop.

*

"I did not know that Manservants were a Pennsylvania tradition. I should travel more." Peggy states flatly, in a deadpan tone that, accompanied by the little glimmer in her eyes and a slight upturn of the corner of those red lips, implies she's joking in the most British of ways. Still, she's not mocking him. It's more so the tender bit of teasing that someone very trained with people uses to put someone else at ease. Especially when she can taste the odd sort of tension on the air and it's not coming from her, for once. After all, she wasn't on a mission here. It was random curiosity on a random Thursday afternoon.

Then he says they don't need to leave the counter and she blinks, a bit more surprised. Didn't they normally use props or baubles for such shows? No crystal ball? She lets her smile come again, a bit wider, her curiosity showing. "Very well then. We can stay right here…" Even if there is disappointment that she doesn't get to see more of the shop, she conceals it well beneath the curiosity of what he has to show her. She rests her hands on the counter, mirroring almost, but her shoulders are rolled back and at a relaxed set. She's doing all she can not to see her normal intimidating self. "I am certain. Trust me, sir…I've done far more frightening in my life. A fortune telling will be a welcome diversion." About that, she's not jesting in the least. She speaks like a woman who has seen wars because she IS a woman who has seen wars.

She's also a woman who can see every little detail so, while his hands press tight against the counter top, her eyes do flicker downwards, catching the odd pressure behind his wrists. He was keeping his hands pressed there for some reason, putting force on them. Strange. She mentally notes it and carries on with that neutral, diplomatic smile of her's. "I don't expect any guarantees. No offense, sir, but fortune telling is a children's game, is it not? I'm here for relaxation, not to predict Cuba's future actions."

*

The only sound in the shop is the gentle whir of the ceiling fan as it stirs the lightly-herbal air around them. Strange is hard-pressed to not respond harshly to the woman's careless comment about 'children's games'. He has to remind himself that he is dealing with the general public, not one of his Mystical peers, and there is little harm done in the general public remaining naive. He inhales and exhales slowly before the corners of his lips rise up. The smile doesn't reach his eyes which remain colder than before despite his efforts.

"Yes, well…Cuba's business is none of mine." He shifts into a straight-spined stance behind the counter and sighs slowly. "Clear your mind of everything. Once you've done that, offer me both of your hands palm-down. I will then take your hands and hold them. Only then can I see your future. Shall we begin?"

*

There is a trace of something in his face, something derisive, when she calls it children's games. Either he took this very seriously or he actually completely believed in the work he was doing. Interesting. Considering the world, maybe he wasn't a sham, but she wasn't quite ready to believe it yet. She just files it along with the ever growing file of notes she's keeping in her mind on him. She simply tilts her head and swares herself off in front of him, getting ready for this afternoon diversion.

"Clean my mind? You drive a very hard bargain…" Peggy teases lightly, but there is a trace of exhaution behind her voice that is the core of truth in every joke. It is hard to clear her mind. She is exhausted, she's got the weight of the world on her, not to mention family and everything else. How does she put it all out of her head. But, Peggy has agreed to try. So, she takes in a deep breath and tries to push it all out of the way, tries to focus just on breathing and the warmth of the afternoon in the quiet, herbal scented shop. It'll take another breath or two but, eventually, she gets as close to mentally cleared as she's been in ages. Then her small, calloused hands come up and rest over top of his. Those hands alone tell stories — callouses where the hold of her gun is, from years at the range at least once a day. The scar across one palm from where she stopped a knife. Her wedding ring and engagement band. The short trim of her red nails, a working woman's nails. These are hands which have seen a life. And now the warm surface hovers over Strange's palms.

*

It's been some time since Strange has interacted so personally with another human being (beyond his apprentice, of course, but every one of their exchanges has ended with increased space rather than palm-to-palm contact) and he finds himself studying the back of the woman's hands in a moment of observation. As he takes in the little details, things like her rings and the scar, it comes to him that he can use these to buffer the accuracy of his telling.

Her perfect normalcy is still bothering him on some level. It should not, but it does. His instincts and nerve-plucking need for privacy avidly support this plan of subversion. A white lie wouldn't hurt either of them.

When he rotates his hands, he breathes the willpower to remain still into them. No trembling fingers for this, it would undermine his professionalism and give the woman the false idea of nervousness. No, he is the Sorcerer Supreme and by all the gods of the realms, he would put on a good show. Their palms touch and he hopes that the woman doesn't feel anything beyond the basic warm smoothness of his skin. Mystic magic keeps everything steady from his wrists down and those sensitive to eldritch energies could sometimes feel the aura about him, much like a mysterious draft of cold air or the subtle brush of spiderwebs. It takes him only a moment after he closes his eyes and he then aligns their secondary chakras on the astral plane, the one associated with awareness and spiritual vision. It is an odd feeling to him at least, a bit like a sliding door regaining its position in its track. Perhaps she feels it, perhaps she doesn't. Regardless, he can now truly begin.

*

Strange has arrived.

*

While Peggy's breath is slower than it was before, her mind doing it's very best to remain clear, she cannot entirely succeed at being a blank slate. She is too constantly going, that protective worry for the entire world running a quiet treadmill at the back of her head almost constantly. She tries to focus on other things, the pattern of her breath, the sight of his deft, elegant hands tracing overtop of her own older, calloused palms. Smaller matters than the fate of the world, the struggles in her department, her neglected family. The way life is changing. She takes in another breath, trying to exhale those concerns and keep focused at this strange carnival of a game.

Reading Peggy Carter is probably going to come as a shock — as ever, she is, somehow, larger than life. The strength of personality practically screams from her — a woman who is accustomed to getting her way no matter what. Who has bull headed her way through every glass ceiling, the military, the SSR and now SHIELD. A woman who has proved everything women can be and then some. But, even with her determination, a mother's protectiveness fiercely lines it all. Not just for her family, but for the greater world. No matter how secretive and shadowed parts of her are, there is no doubt the things she does are out of goodness. Protection. Defense. She is doing her best to make the world a better place. But things are even less black and white than they were during the war — Captain America wasn't the only super soldier now, mutants made things complicated and, suddenly, they were working with Nazis. For all her strength, she's filled with fear these days. Fear of being infiltrated, fear of losing this new child. Fear of completely leaving behind her family. And there is a darkness in the future. That tiny sliver of sickness in SHIELD called Paperclip will turn into a great disease…

*

He lets out a slow humming sigh as her past unfolds before him. The past is an easy thing to access as it has come to be. It is set in stone. He speaks in a monotone voice, partially for show and more truthfully that it's nearly impossible to maintain any sort of emotional accent when peering into time itself. It is a hard task alone even without having to stay on one particular thread within the tapestry.

"Loss has been your shadow, my lady. It drives you daily to succeed and success means staving off loss. You bear the scars, both inside and out, of battles won and lost." He can hear the echoing far-off echoes of gunfire, mortar shells, and pained cries and now knows her to be of military ilk. "Your burden is lessened by love and…" he pauses as scenes flicker before his inner eye, velvety snippets of the present accented with the glitter of diamond rings; "…and love drives you more fiercely still. You stand as protector, leader, a beacon of gracious goodness in the shadows." He pauses as his warped view of reality changes before his Mystical eyes.

Rows - rows upon rows of snap-marching soldiers with no faces, uniforms crisp and clean and bearing insignias of shields, spread out across a blank chessboard. No, wait, they bleed through their own fabric as they march, black blood that squiggles with grotesque life of its own and forms reaching rubbery tendrils. Even in this astral plane, where nothing is set in stone, Strange is utterly revolted and quivers with fear-tinted rage at the sheer malevolent /hunger/ of the inky tentacles. He swallows loudly and continues, fighting a feeling of cotton-tongue: "You must remain alight, my lady, for a future of darkness may yet come to pass. Do not let fear guide you; let it flow around you and stand against it. Stand against it for…"

And Strange opens his Mystically-glowing eyes, now silver-grey with Power, to look Peggy dead in the face and finish with, "…your unborn child."

*

While he's in the ballpark of her life about some things, it's also all vague enough and show-carnival in a way that he could just be making good guesses. Anyone observant would realize that she has callouses from gun practice on her fingers. The ring gives that much away. She's been in the news, on occasion, when matters of SHIELD have gone public. It's all vague enough that she's not buying into it. Still, as he mentions remaining alight against the darkness, a slight chill goes through her. Her brows arch, red lips twisting into just a touch of a frown. But, she's still about to dismiss than, until the very end.

Then he brings up the child. No one knew. Four people in the whole world. There was not a single indication or any reason he should know, yet he stares her in the eyes an he mentions that much. She jerks back from him, like she'd just touched a hot stove, the whole world spinning a moment or two. Her lips open, fluttering, looking for denials but not entirely able to bring herself to lie. Her eyes finally narrow on him as she swallows back that moment of panic: "…How did you know? No one knows. That… that was a very nice amount of sound and fury with not much behind it… Until the end. How did you know?" And here, Strange encounters the skeptic. The woman who has relied on science, even for miracles, her whole life. Magic just doesn't come into her beliefs, so now she must understand.

*

Strange feels her disengage from him (the sudden loss of her palms touching his is somehow like a wake-up slap) and the glowing of his irises darkens, leaving them their normal steel-grey and him feeling the after-effects of a traipse through time. He weaves in place for a moment, needing to catch himself with one hand on the countertop while the other momentarily rests against his forehead before he draws it through the silvered portion of his hair.

"Please…please forgive me," he breathes, glancing up at her with a pained expression on his face. "That was - I should have been more thoughtful. When one aligns the second chakras and knows how to decipher the visions before…" He can't bring himself to continue talking, not with the woman standing before him looking more than ready to either run screaming from his shop or deck him where he stands. He tries hard to smile, to bring some light-heartedness to this incredible awkward situation, and his lips move about in attempts until they settle on an apologetic grimace. "Would you consider it a lucky guess…?" he asks against hope.

*

It takes a moment or two for her to push down the panic of just having her probably most dangerous secret ripped wide open. Fortunately, the shop is still completely empty. It is only these two who know. His commentary about chakras still draws a slightly skeptical look from her dark eyes, but she doesn't totally dismiss it as magical mumbo jumbo. Not any more. Especially as she catches the very tail end of those lowing irises. There was something very odd about this man. Dangerous. Wise. But he had a gift beyond carnival tricks. She takes in a deep breath and slowly lets it out through her nose, trying to calm her pulse.

"…Lucky guess? At my age, sir, even a betting man wouldn't put long odds on such a thing. How. Did. You. Know?" Peggy insists, her voice quieter now and surprisingly commanding for it. There are reasons this woman runs the most powerful spy organization on the planet. She didn't need to yell to command. She controlled entire rooms with a whisper. And now, that very force of personality has focused entirely on him and the answers she needs.

*

He draws his hand from the counter's surface and stands very still behind the piece of furniture. This woman, whoever she is and with her colorful history, wants to know /how/ he knew. That explanation would take quite a while and leave both of them with a headache. Right now, he doesn't have his past mentor's patience for carefully organizing a miniature lecture, so he decides to keep it as simple as possible. After all, she is of the general public and he's most definitely violated one of his personal rules of giving out too much information.

"How I knew, you ask." His fingertips trace the cut of his goatee as his glance bounces around the room before landing on her once again, but this time, with some intensity. "With your military history, I assume that /you/ assume that I have access to your…what do they call them - personnel files?" He shakes his head as he continues, "That is not the case." His throat bobbles as he swallows again and bites off his words abruptly. Agamotto's Eye, he does NOT want to open this sack of cats. However, with the glint in her eye, he doubts that he'll be able to end this confrontation amiably via any other way but elucidating further. "My name is Dr. Strange and I have access not to files, but to…unique powers," he hedges. "You were given more of a showing than I intended and again, I apologize for it."

*

"Dr. …Strange." Peggy tastes the name in her mouth somewhat skeptically, but she's storing all of this to be researched later. Clearly, he was going to take a fair amount more looking into, but she was practicing patience and letting him tell his story. She then takes in another slow breath, leaning her hands on that counter again and squaring off her shoulders. Calm. Professional. Respectful. That is all she is projecting now, this might as well be a business deal, not some strange bit of mysticism which has taken her most guarded secert.

"…Unique powers. You are a… Mutant then? I did not realize mutations extended to Clairvoyance. I suppose our understandings of such things are still minor." Still the practical scientist, trying to define, comprehend, categorize things that probably defy categories.

*

"Unfortunately, the last name is not an affectation," he says with a wry smile. "It is the family name. And no, not a Mutant." He paces a step behind the counter, seeming to intend to leave the small space, but then changes his mind and returns. His hands, now most definitely a-tremble, are held behind his back loosely. "However, if that is the best way for you to understand what just occurred, please, do as such."

He clenches and relaxes his hands as he takes in another centering breath. This is going well despite his trepidations. If he can just keep her calm and perhaps get on an even footing with learning her name, he can escort her out and then focus on severe self-recrimination.

"I want to offer my apologies once again, Mrs…?"

*

"There is no need to apologize. I… I did ask for it, Dr. Strange. Do not apologize for fullfilling your end of what someone requested you do." Peggy almost seems to be reassuring now, trying to calm him as much as she has calmed herself. It's the protector in her, the motherly edge, not really able to handle watching anyone beat themselves up for unnecessary reasons. She even offers him the edge of a smile.

"If not a mutation…then what?" She is ever curious, though. A spy, an intelligence officer. It's habit. She's not so paranoid that she'll be rude, though, so she unlaces her fingertips from the counter and actually offers one of her palms in his direction. "Margaret Carter… But you may call me Peggy."

*

She does have a point: she did literally ask for him to read into her future. Strange nods mostly to himself as she extends her hand towards him. It takes him a moment, but he finally does draw a hand from behind his back and returns the hand-shake with gentle pressure. The shivering in his hand is minimal; no doubt she'll notice the lacing of scars across the skin from his past car accident.

"Thank you for your understanding, Peggy," he replies before withdrawing his arm back across the counter, into the safety of his personal space. He doesn't want to continue explaining himself, but he's beginning to realize that he needs to frame it all in a way that makes sense to her highly-rational mind. "Not a mutation, merely the ability to manipulate certain physical laws and the composition of energies." There - that seemed scientific enough to him.

*

It's her turn to notice the little details — the current slight trembling of his palms, the lacing of scars. It gets a single look from her and then her eyes are back up, no emotional reaction, as if she didn't notice it at all. But she did. Peggy Carter doesn't miss very much. She doesn't keep his hand long, but allows her hands to return to her own personal space. She then pauses, considering something, before reaching into her jacket and pulling out a small business card case. She pops it open and removes one of her little back cards.

~Margaret Carter, Director, SHIELD~ with a phone number and nothing else. It's neat, minimalist, and tells nothing more than is necessary. She slides it across the counter in his direction. "Well, Dr. Strange. We… keep an interest in people who have… gifts. Especially in trying to protect the larger world from some things it doesn't understand and, maybe, isn't yet ready to fight. If you ever care to do any consulting, that is my direct line. If what you said is true… I suspect we could use all the help we can get."

*

A business card - how interesting. This was one ending that Strange did not foresee. He takes the card from her hands politely and reads the block-typed information on it. His eyebrows rise slightly as he meets her eyes once again.

He knows a little of SHIELD, mostly from any little exploits that end up in the news. He knows that it's a highly secretive business, most likely espionage, and the topic of many a side-whisper in darkened booths. He doesn't miss the implications of her interest in his gifts. He's brought himself out of the shade and into the light, if more muted than a spotlight, by uttering three simple words. Not so simple anymore.

"To consult for SHIELD would be a new endeavor for me, Mrs. Carter." He slips the business card into an inner pocket of his dusk-blue leather vest. "Would you prefer that I inform you of any /particularly/ odd going-ons or just the usual Mutant activity?" His smile is now full of secrets and a smidgeon of teasing. He suspects that she doesn't truly want to know much beyond her current scope of understanding. This Peggy Carter may know of him, but finding the good doctor if he wanted to remain hidden instead of help? Not a chance.

*

"Any…odd going-ons. Or threats, at all. Ultimately, we are here to be a SHIELD for the world. Be it how to stop things like the bombing in Hell's Kitchen, or the riots concerning mutants, or worse… That's what we are here to do." Peggy gives him a quiet, almost tired smile, and a small shake of her head, "Don't listen to all the conspiracy theorists. They like to spin stories far more complicated than what it really is. Just because we protect from the shadows doesn't mean we're doing anything beyond exactly what we say we're doing. And it means we could always use good help." Pure honesty from Peggy there, he can practically read it waves. It might be one of the most truthful things she's said today.

*

Damn his gallant streak to the grave. From the very moment she lets that hint of weariness enter her posture and he sees it reflected in the tired curve of her red lips, Strange can't help but feel for the woman. He saw her family during the telling and he already knows she has one child. Director of an famously-infamous operation, a wife, and mother - no, mother-to-be. She quickly rises in his estimation and his teasing smirk relaxes into a genuine knowing smile. He does understand what it is to be in charge of perhaps too many things at once.

"Now that I have your number, Mrs. Carter, I will use my intuition as I feel best and alert you to any odd murmurs that come into my shop. I have no consulting aid to offer you currently."

In the corner of the shop, tucked back by a small mahogany bookshelf, a tall grandfather clock suddenly breaks the quiet with its bell-like chiming. "Ah," he breathes as he steps around the counter. The sound is his release from this situation. "I realize that you must get back to your work now." With long strides that accent his lean form, he walks over to the main doors of the Sanctum and opens one to let in warm afternoon sunshine. "I appreciate your candor and understanding, Mrs. Carter. All I ask is fair warning should you need my assistance. Oh," and he pulls out one of his own cards from behind his back. It is a bit more elaborate in design than the one in his vest pocket, deep violet in hue with golden writing that seems to shine a bit more than the standard metallic type.

'Dr. Stephen Strange', it says, along with 'Medical Consulting and Esoteric Items' and a phone number.

He holds the card out to Peggy momentarily before seeming to change his mind. With a magician's sense of stage drama, he seems to rotate his business card between his fingers and out of existence with nary a swirl of smoke. "You'll find it once you need it," he explains cryptically. With a sweeping and graceful gesture towards the open door, he waits for her to exit.

*

That touch of sympathy, the greater understanding between them, Peggy can see it. In his eyes, the slight tilt of his head in her direction. It sets her a touch more at ease, considering the things he knows now. She bows her head to him in turn, "Remember… just Peggy." She reminds him with a gentle tilt to her smile. And then the clock, work, all else that follows. She nods once, "I should be getting back. But…I thank you for your candor as well. Perhaps something good will come of today after all, Dr. Strange."

With that, she's about to reach out for his card, but then it's disappeared. She blinks, arching a single brow. "…Oh. My daughter would love you." Those words are said with an appreciative but completely rueful smirk. She then chuckles, shakes her head once, and turns on the ball of her foot, stepping out into the hot summer afternoon. She won't find the card until far later than night, when removing her jacket, just before going to read Mickey a story. It's being located in that moment will inspire a different story for the night, about magicians, disappearing rabbits, and odd men in purple.

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