1963-08-28 - Strangely Honest
Summary: Strange and Illyana go to the beach, and Amora appears to bother them both for a bit.
Related: None really. (Previous Strange, Amora or Illyana scenes referenced)
Theme Song: None
amora illyana strange 

The sun feels a bit warmer than it should from behind the overcast and hazy sky. Rolling up the sleeves of his white dress shirt to his elbows helps a little, but not much. Even unbuttoning enough of the shirt to reveal his collarbone doesn't seem to stave off the feeling of mugginess along the boardwalk. Strange glances down at his apprentice and huffs.

"It would be a much more effective use of our time to continue with your lessons on the harmonics of the magical threads of this world," he says, stepping aside to avoid a tourist buried in a map of the Coney Island fairgrounds. His side-step is graceful and manages to avoid tripping up Illyana as well. Humanity bustles around them, not so much that they bump shoulders with people as they pass, but enough to make Strange feel rather hemmed-in. He has little interest in dealing with such a crowded area and much less on a day where the cool shadows of his Loft provide much-needed shelter from overheating.

Droplets of sweat on his brow are wiped away with an absent swipe of his hand as he glances off towards the water. It's thronging with beachgoers of all types and his eyes slide over them with veiled interest. Even he isn't immune to a properly-fitted swimsuit on a buxom woman.


Illyana's wearing a short and flirty sundress that is a quick motion away from indecency, and the sleeveless affair almost resembles a shift instead of a proper lady's dress. She is barefoot— as per usual— and walks with a serious but inquisitive expression on her face, eyes flickering around in fascination at everything and everyone around them.

Unlike Strange, she doesn't politely negotiate a path— people blocking her way get elbowed aside with a 'stop blocking the way', and barely a second glance, her blonde hair swaying to her hips and confusing people about her age.

"Need to learn more culture," Illyana tells Strange. "Shot twice. I do not wish to relive experience, but begs question— what else do I not know, that I ought?" She lifts a brow at Strange. "I am hungry," she tells her mentor. "They have the … corn … dogs," she says, struggling through the words. "I believe you're the one with the money, and it /is/ lunchtime…"


One of those buxom beauties was in fact, Amora the Enchantress in all her mortal guis'ed glory. Hair the color of gold sweeps lower than the middle of her back in achingly perfect curls. She wears a thin, scrap of fabric that could scarcely be called a bikini top in a brilliant shade of green. A low slung emerald wrap of the same verdant, leafy, color wraps around her hips and stops well above her knees. She walks in golden strappy sandals, that twist up her sculpted calves. Large white brimmed sunglasses perch on her nose and she spots Strange and his apprentice. A wicked grin lits up her features and she curves her intended path to intercept the two—though her gaze lingers solely on Doctor Strange.

As she approaches from the side she saunters up to him, hips swaying. "Oh Doctor! How good to see you out and about, but in a dress shirt? Oh you poor darling, you simply must be overheating.. I could help you out of it, if you'd like…"


Strange reaches into his pocket and checks that, yes, his wallet is indeed still there. An incident years back in a lesser-known part of the world involving a light-handed street thief and a fairly epic foot-chase has left him with a minor neurosis about it.

"You wouldn't have been shot if you'd had some self-control," he mutters, expression darkening at the memories of blood-stained concrete and desperate attempts to save a life. He clears his throat, glances over at her with one brow raised, and then relents. "A corndog it is then." He's leading the way over to the nearest stand, a brightly-striped little thing lorded over by a beaming man wearing a food worker's hat, when he sees a familiar face heading towards him. His mouth drops open as he comes to an abrupt halt. He doesn't have an escape route from Amora's approach and steels himself by straightening his spine and narrowing his blue eyes at her. Her words elicit a click of his tongue and a neutral smile. "I appreciate the offer, Lady Amora, but I'd rather remain clothed. You know my apprentice, Illyana?" He prays silently that they do, in fact, know one another and know one another well enough to perhaps provide the distraction he needs to focus on buying Illyana's corndog rather than avoiding being stripped of his shirt.


Illyana steps in front of Strange and smiles at Amora. And she's allll teeth. "Lady Amora. How good to see you again," she says, fairly purring. "It's been some time since Limbo, hasn't it?" she asks. Indeed, she's fair from the coiled, terrified waif Amora had seen there last.

A shard of glass glitters in Illyana's empty hand— a dagger, rather than her longsword the Soulsword normally manifests as— and she twirls it expertly on her fingertips, once.

"Been hoping you and I would run into one another again," she tells the Enchantress. "Particularly since my mentor mentioned he'd bumped into you. I hope you don't have any designs I should be concerned about— you know how I feel about me and mine."


Amora's gaze snapped like a cracked whip in the direction of Illyana, her brows shooting upwards at the recognition as it takes her a moment to place the young woman before her with the waif that she had met in Limbo. She blinked, and took a single, solitary, dedicated step backwards, returning a modicum of space to the good Doctor as he went to purchase corndogs. Her gaze falling to the dagger in faint amusement. Though some trace of respect might be seen in her posture.

"So nice to see you alive and in one piece," She tilted her head to the side, her long locks sweeping over her shoulder as she shrugged lightly in response to her question.

"Do you overly mind if I try to take your master to bed? He's rather handsome and I do /so/ love a man who knows his magic. Would that constitute harm to you, little one?" Her voice was calm, and oddly clear over the sea side's din of sound and noise.


While the two women have been chitchatting, Strange has managed to buy Illyana's corndog and also laugh (with painful false effort) at the stand owner's side comments regarding Amora's swimwear. He turns about to see that the buxom blonde has given space and looks thoughtfully at his apprentice. He regrets missing out on whatever brief conversation they had in his attention's absence.

"Illyana, here," he says, offering her the greasy food-on-a-stick. He doesn't mind the smell from afar, but this close, the amount of oil in the breading is turning his stomach a bit. It's been a very long time since he's had any urge to eat any sort of fairground food. His gaze sweeps to Amora and briefly along her body despite himself. "I suppose unless we can help you at all, Lady Amora, we will be moving on. I promise to show Illyana the sights and sounds of Coney Island." His tone reflects his excitement at the prospect of it all: not much at all. An umbrella stand rising from a nearby public table offers some scant shade and he shifts his posture so it covers his face, providing him much better visibility in the odd sunlight.


"Screw until the bed breaks, I just want his will intact after." Illyana cocks a pointed brow at Amora. "You've a reputation, Lady Amora. I looked into you after I took over management in Limbo." Big statement for a little girl, but— she means it. "For what it's worth—" She abruptly flashes a big, sincere smile, and even blushes a bit. "I /like/ your style."

Then Strange is coming over, and Illyana glances over her shoulder and loops her forearm through Amora's elbow, standing side by side with the curvy blonde sorceress.

"Corn doooooooog," Illyana cheers, taking it with her other hand. Rarf. She's a messy eater. "Where's the best place to start? I hear the jugglers are fun."


Whatever assessment Amora came up with in regards to the young blonde beside her, she seems more than amused at the young woman's words and the wicked, sultry grin is back upon her ruby lips in an instant. She tosses her head back as Illyana links her arm through, a full fledged laugh escaping her, before she attempted to quell it behind the back of her free hand. Her gaze settled on Doctor Strange's figure and she winked at him from over her sunglasses' rim.

"Well, Illyana here was just inviting me to join you on your seaside romp. How could I /ever/ say no to such a request? Truly, you should be proud to have an apprentice so clever with words."


"Yes…" Strange replies, drawing out the word in a short hiss. "Truly. So clever." The brief sentences barely makes it out from behind his teeth, now bared in a tight smile. Clever enough to increase her next lesson's difficult by tenfold unless she somehow makes up for this little farce. As he steps around the two women, one can see the shadows in his cheeks from his tightly-clenched jaw. "The jugglers would be this way, Illyana," he says, not caring in the least if his apprentice has heard him. Perhaps if he walks quickly enough, he can out-distance the two of them and leave them to their tete-a-tete.

Up ahead, he can see the boardwalk make an abrupt right turn and glances above the rooflines of the various shops to see the ride section of the park begin. Ah, the ferris wheel. Even as he walks, his hands jammed into his pockets and shoulders tight, fond childhood memories crop up and slowly loosen the lines of his frame. So lost is he in his memories that he momentarily forgets to keep track of the two women behind him.


"Ohh, he's cross," Illyana mutters to Amora, patting the older woman's wrist. "Poor dear. He really did have such an excellent plan to handle you, and I think I've gone and ruined it." She gives Amora a vaguely apologetic smile. "Just… you know. Pretend to be surprised— maybe cry a little. I know you've surely seen right through him, but be a dear. It'd be a kindness for me."

She squeezes Amora's elbow with both hands, hugging her and flashing a large, open-mouth smile. "Terrific seeing you again! Come by and see my throne room sometime, Limbo's /much/ more hospitable than it was under Belasco's dominion. I have an entire rulership system based on sticking people in wasp nests."

"Doctor! Wait up!" Illyana calls, skipping after Strange merrily.


Amora arched a brow at Illyana's advice and offer to visit Limbo. She grinned and inclined her head simply once, "Oh yes, I shall. Thank you my dear. I do hope to see you again soon." She murmured, winking over her sunglasses as she pushed them back onto her nose.

A swirl of green smoke rushed up and around her and the Enchantress of Asgard had disappeared—without a single mortal seeming to notice her sudden absence.


He's made it completely around the corner of the boardwalk and actually quite a ways down towards the rides when it occurs to him, within the depths of his mental grumblings and memories past, that Illyana /probably/ shouldn't be left to her devices here. As he abruptly stops and turns around, his eyes flickering around the crowd, he can only imagine what shenanigans she could be getting up to in this instant - and with /that/ woman.

"Agamotto," he growls as he begins walking back the way he came. He's rolling up his shirt sleeves higher, ready to make a stand and cut the party short, when he sees the little blonde waif skipping merrily towards him, looking far younger than her actual age in the action. He steps to one side of the boardwalk, avoiding a small pack of tourists (oh interesting, they were speaking Italian), and waits for her in the shadow cast by a newspaper stand. The owner of the stand is talking to another person and gesturing wildly, so Strange's silent presence is never noticed by the man. "You've avoided her quite readily," he says once she's within ear-shot. "I'm impressed."


"I've met her," Illyana tells Strange, standing akimbo and facing him head on. "She showed up in Limbo… about four subjective years ago," she says, counting on her fingers. "I think. My boobs had just come in, so—" she shrugs.

"She was there to attempt to parlay passage or seduce Belasco. I'm not sure which, but it went badly for her. I realized instantly she had some powerful magic, but Limbo had shut her out quite handily. I gave her passage out in exchange for a favor."

"And with the way you have been looking distinctly uncomfortable and distracted lately, I surmised she's at least been attempting to seduce you, if not manipulate you. So, it seemed prudent to barb her ego with some vague suggestion you were two steps ahead of her— and remind her that I am far out of her league."

For a moment, she looks worried. "Was… was that proper?"


Strange listens to his apprentice explain her actions with a mild moue of annoyance; it leaves him with a faint wrinkle between his brows and thinned lips. At first, it's disturbing that his apprentice has noticed how he's been actively avoiding society as a whole, moreso than usual. He's not used at all to being put under the microscope and the tables turning on him makes him flinch internally. He's quite ready to deliver a sharp reminder about the basic concept, in this world, of 'minding one's own business and respecting elders' when she suddenly deflates a little, loses some confidence in herself. He draws a thumb across the sweep of one eyebrow as he sighs. For all her bluster and obnoxious spontaneity, she did mostly the right thing.

"Nothing can be done about it now. It's in the past," he replies quietly. With a subtle gesture and whispered Word, he veils them from the passerby and the stand owner; they aren't invisible, it's more than any inquisitive glance slides away from them as if they were quite boring. "Lady Amora is not one to be meddled with. I give her respectful distance because, yes…" and he has to force it past his lips, "she has attempted to manipulate me before and to some…unfortunate extent, succeeded." A momentary spark of Mystic energy lights up his irises. "I would rather you not associate with her until you are able to fully draw from this world. Do you understand?"


"I understand," Illyan acknowledges, calmly. She doesn't /agree/ with him— but she understands.

"Amora is a predator." Now it's /her/ turn to stop Strange from arguing, and she holds a hand up and to the side. "I know predators. I kill many of them. Amora hunts. She sees you as prey— doubly dangerous because she is worst kind of hunter. Kills for ego, not for food or hunger."

"Well, some hunger," she admits, pinking on her ears.

"But I am not prey, and I would not feed her ego. And demonkin… we are notoriously difficult to influence." Her eyes turn into pools of jet black, iris and sclera alike. "So, I am not food, I am not target, and I have prickles— and she knows for sure I can wound her." A crystalline shard flickers in her fingertips. "Seems prudent to let her think that if I'm all that dangerous, you must be ten times worse to keep me around."


"I am ten times worse to keep you around," he replies, the smallest and most questionable hint of amusement in his tone and in the miniscule upward quirk of the line of his goatee. He's teasing, perhaps, and there are some uncomfortable truths hidden in his tease. The deities do not choose limp-spined and under-powered mortals to fulfill ordained destinies.

"And no easy prey," he adds. He then takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. Once he's fully exhaled, they open and the maelstrom of eldritch energy that had been creeping to his fingertips is once more dormant and docile within him. It no longer lingers in his irises like a distant storm. "I think that once she experiences how difficult I can be, she will become more respectful. If not, then I have surprises for her - and no predator survives being caught off-guard." With that, Strange collapses the veil with a curt gesture and steps past Illyana onto the boardwalk. "Do you have other questions regarding your experiences with others in this world?" It is a neutral track of conversation and after all, she will be learning if she chooses to ask questions as they travel towards the rides.


"Yes. Have you two had sex yet?" Illyana asks, the question delivered utterly deadpan and without any warning.

She gives Strange just a moment to choke, then frowns, walking alongside him, hands behind her. "This is something that Belasco warned me about— that purity and sexuality were dangerous gaps in my mystical defenses. All were forbidden to touch me, and I was forbidden from touching anyone. The first time I met Cat and Ororo— they hugged me. Such a simple, small thing, and yet— it was the first time in … an eternity that someone treated me like a human being."


The noise that escapes his lips is half-choke, half-scoff. His blue eyes slowly roll up towards the sun, hidden behind the hazy clouds, and Strange mouths to himself, 'Gods preserve me.' She's actually asked /that/ question, out of the myriad of other options. Swallowing, he manages to maintain the semblance of the wise teacher, even glancing over at her with concern as she explains how a simple hug made all of the difference to her in the world. Then again…it would have. It's painful to be reminded of how her current state is wondrous growth that still masks such deep psychological wounds. He travels beside her in contemplative silence for a few steps before looking over at her again.

"If you'll remember back to our lesson on harmonizing the threads of this world, you'll note how I mentioned emotions and how they influence not only the strength of the magic, but also the alignment of the magic. When…" His voice drops away as he considers how to explain it. She isn't precisely a child anymore, but he still has reservations about traipsing into an aspect of adult relationships that would be better off explained by her parents.

'If she had them,' comes the cruel monologue of reality in his head - and the ghost of sulphurous wood smoke brings prickles to his neck.

"Lady Amora and I have not done the deed," he finally says, unable to help how the awkward state brings a light blush to his cheeks momentarily. "Emotions, especially the ones involved in such an act, are deep and powerful…literally life-changing at times. Magic born from this act and entwined with its feelings is akin to the act of creation itself. With the correct circumstances and the right partner…one could bring the stars to earth itself." He kicks a half-crushed beer can out of his way. It rolls into the gutter with a clatter.

"Belasco lied, Illyana." He knows it doesn't surprise her to hear this in the least. "Touch is integral to us, as humans, and to be denied it is utter cruelty. Your…purity could become a strength, depending on your personal interpretation. Truly believing in yourself provides a strong foundation for magic that comes from you and you alone; this is a magic of special purity. The other bit…" and here he grinds to a halt again, trying very hard to remain aloof of his discomfited feelings, "It could be a gap and again, it remains up to you to determine if it is. Lady Amora…the more I interact with her, the more I am convinced that she wields it like a weapon and no doubt you've seen its damage. It is likely also her weakness, however…and not one I choose to exploit."


"Belasco lied," Illyana says, looking a bit haunted. She knows it to be true— but she's got that mark on her that abuse victims carry for a lifetime. Not just confronting the lies, but having to undo the false reality that was built up on those lies. It's not a question of knocking down a few straws here and there to bring down the house, it's more akin to fixing a pattern in an ever-growing mosaic on the fly, trying to undo even one stone set wrong at the very beginning.

Illyana's had many years without someone making corrections to those first, misplaced tiles.

She glances up at Strange, then smirks. "Do not fret. I have no intention of exploring that particular area for now. I am content to be able to hug my friends and family and not be scolded."


He can't help but laugh at his apprentice's statement. He won't say it aloud, but Strange does wonder how long it will be before some other gangly teenager begins to come between her focus and her lessons.

"Likely a wise decision," he replies, smiling at her with a touch of fondness that he would have never thought possible looking back on the beginnings of their adventure in Limbo. He didn't miss the shadows in her eyes. It still hurts him in some quiet corner of his heart.

"Hugs are a socially-accepted action in this society and perfectly normal as well. I suggest asking before hugging someone you don't know well, but good friends all need a firm embrace now and then." They've reached another split in the boardwalk: left leads towards the ocean and an expanded portion of the boardwalk complete with benches, umbrella-shaded tables, and one lone ice cream stand - right leads towards the rides proper, with bumper cars, the ferris wheel, and the roller coaster that gives Strange a roiling stomach by just looking at it.


Illyana drifts towards the roller coaster. Gravity holds a special fear and thrill for her, here, in the real world— it's a subjective notion in Limbo, not a hard and fast rule of science. She doesn't board it— not yet. But she stares at it in awe, the structure incomprehensibly tall in a land where humans build things by hand and sweat and force, not out of will and concentration.

"I wonder if I'm meant to be here, Dr. Strange," she says, finally, her tone a bit subdued. "On Earth. Being… human. It's so hard. It's complicated." She rubs her bare arms, as if chilled despite the heat. "Limbo is so tempting… but every time I go there, I find it so much lonelier than I remember."


Strange is quite glad that he isn't asked to board the thing and stands beside Illy, also taking the sight of the structure. It seems structurally sound, supported by steel girding and heavily-welded bolts, and the riders seemed to be having enough fun, he supposes. Their high-pitched shrieks of terror-laced excitement ebb and flow with each turn of the ride. He rubs off-handedly at one side of his goatee as he listens to his apprentice's quiet questioning. Pity swells in his chest; he remembers similar moments of self-doubt within his growth as Sorcerer Supreme. The length of linked cars rumbles by overhead, causing him to glance up at their quickly-passing shadow. He watches them disappear along the distant track before sighing.

"I don't believe in miracles, Illyana, but I do believe in impossibilities. They are endless to those of us who can access other dimensions as well as the magics of these worlds. Being a mortal is endlessly complicated," and he laughs here in self-deprecation, momentarily flashing a broad smile, "and it becomes moreso when the gods are involved. I was sent to find you and I did. I live in this world and as my apprentice, so do you. Limbo is an impossibility that will always be there and it will always call to you." His smile becomes tinged with the weight of experience. "It comes down to your choices. We have discussed this before and the consequences. I sincerely hope you do not choose to go down the path of easy power. It is most dire," he says quietly.


Illyana's quiet for a long while, the sun overhead, gulls cawing. Kids run and shriek and play. No one comes within two meters of the slender blonde woman with the waist-length hair, barefoot, in a sundress, and capable of destroying the entire island with a few muttered gestures.

"I haven't decided yet, Strange," she says, finally. "Limbo speaks to me. It calls to me— the plane of Choas. It speaks to my soul."

"But Earth speaks to my heart. I do not know if there is room for both." She touches that strange pendant on her chest, a cracked, lumpily assembled group of five crystal lumps. Three of them are almost entirely black. Only two are mostly red.


Strange too is silent. He's watching the interplay of her thoughts move across her face in subtle ways. The way she handles the amulet about her neck makes him narrow his gaze thoughtfully. He hasn't seen much of it until late, he realizes, and vows to quietly ascertain the ways in which is works in this reality, including acting as a focus for Illyana or perhaps even acting as an unguarded access into her subconscious thoughts.

"I believe that you will make the correct decision when the time comes," he says with gentle certainty. "Hopefully I have provided enough of a human connection for you to remain comfortable training at the Sanctum."


"The food could be better," Illyana says, with a shrug of one narrow shoulder. "But the company is… acceptable." She looks at Strange and smiles at him. "There's some time yet, Strange, and I do not feel the hunger to consume this reality and flee back to my home. Not yet. Belasco never really mastered Limbo, you know. He hid there— away from a world that rejected him. Limbo's been my blood and soul from the time I was born. Maybe even before," she says, a little distantly.

She shivers and folds her arms across her chest.


The good doctor is secretly relieved to hear that he's acceptable company. He's well-aware of how his hermit-like tendencies increase with stress and he's already grudgingly accepted that much younger company balks at such a flavor of companionship. He's already writing a note of thanks to Xavier in his mind. As a flock of seagulls swirls overhead, he takes note of the angle of the sun in the sky.

"A thought, Illyana, in light of talk of blood and soul. My teacher, the Ancient One, explained to me that magic comes from within us. We channel the magic that the gods grant us. How do we channel it?" He waits a beat and then smirks a little, kindly, pleased to share the answer, guessing that it might ease her concerns a bit: "The soul. The very moment you learn how to achieve harmony in the strands of magic in this world, you will access your Soul." Emphasis on the word, to give it extra meaning and a capital letter. "Perhaps the family and friends you've gained while living in this world will affect your Soul's influence on the magic itself. Who knows. The impossibilities are endless."


Illyana considers Strange's words. "It… would explain why I'm having… so much…"

She falls silent, then, pensive, and turns away from Strange for a few beats, then looks back at him rather quietly.

"I think I'm ready to leave. If… you wouldn't mind, a gate back to the Institute. I think perhaps I won't go to Limbo for a day or two," she says, quietly and more than a little withdrawn.


Strange nods wordlessly and with a small come-hither gesture, asks for Illyana to follow him. It won't do to open a gate in full-view of the general public. He finds a quiet place tucked away behind the high wall that separates the roller coaster's steel support beams from overly-interested troublemakers and once he's absolutely certain that no member of the non-magical community will come across them, he closes his eyes.

With a fluid flick of his wrist and magically-steadied hand, he parts the curtains of reality. The backdrop of the alleyway disappears as the golden circlet of lightning expands out to reveal the lush green lawn of the Institute.

"Talk with your friends here," Strange suggests. "Many of them understand how it feels to be lost when finding oneself. I know as well, but then again, it's been a long time since I was your age." He gives her another smile, tinged once more with self-aimed deprecation. "Perhaps another lesson in a day or two."


Illyana nods once at Strange. "Thank you. For the food." She pauses on the edge of moving over the threshold, then turns back and gets on her tiptoes, long enough to brush her lips against his cheek, quickly.

"And be careful of Amora. It's not impossible she'll run circles around you if you let those boobs distract you." She smiles wryly, moving to pat his cheek, and then slips into the Institute's foyer, door swinging shut behind her.


"Always with the last word," Strange mumbles as he sketches the counter-gesture in the air before him. With his other hand, he rubs at where Illyana briefly patted his cheek. Little snot. Golden lightning condenses into a fine point and then snuffs out of existence, once more revealing the grimy boards of the partition.

The breeze from the ocean is beginning to cool down the air as the sun nears the far horizon. He can hear less faire-goers beyond the end of the alleyway and blows out a tired sigh. The idea of rifting to the Sanctum seems like a good idea, but perhaps he'll walk a bit more first. With hands in pockets, he makes his way back past the roller coaster, the bumper cars, and then out onto the expanse of the boardwalk that stretches towards the water. He leans against the railing, wind blowing sections of his hair slightly out of place, and ignores everyone around him. Just as the tug and wisp of the moving air brings in the scent of the saltwater, he has the impression that the tides of fate are moving around him and he's uncertain if it's better to swim or stand firm. For now, he chooses to remain as an island of his own. Strange glances up at the sky again. He'll just have to see if the deities decide otherwise.

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