1963-09-18 - Strange Days in September
Summary: Scarlett (Rogue) arrives at the Sanctum to visit Dr. Strange and finds him recovering from the events of the Hellmouth.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/cutscene:1963-09-17-an-unbalance-to-redress
Theme Song: None
strange rogue 


The full moon hangs heavy in the sky, a great white disk flanked by attendant clouds in silver and the distant court of stars reduced to the weakest shimmer by New York's perpetual light pollution. Benign neon signs set the damp streets glowing while Greenwich Village bathes in its own electric atmosphere, helped in part by the sultry evening and a light breeze teasing the leaves to a whispering chorus. The first signs of autumn are upon their way: her footsteps light on the ground, rustling paper grazing her side, and the faint, tangible drift she leaves in pedestrian traffic as she avoids contact with the other artists and performers drawn to this epicenter of culture.

The mansion grounds make an excellent buffer against expansion and she seeks them without difficulty. Scarlett knows the path, though she might take a more direct route. A few moments absorbing the glistening bright beauty of a city by night hurt no one, surely. Eventually the wards might capture her mystic resonance, and if not, then a tidy, friendly knock on the door using a mere wisp of her strength markedly identify her.

*

Strange is roused from his exhausted sleep by the insistent prodding of the Sanctum's wards. He wakes cotton-mouthed, bleary-eyed, and not much improved by earlier standards. He blinks slowly at his surroundings, slow to realize where he is, and groans as he slowly levers himself upright on the settee in the Loft. With closed eyes that are deeply shadowed, he 'listens' to the wards and realizes that it's Lady Scarlett, bearing no ill will and come to visit in friendly nature. He can't leave her out there, not with the harvest moon still holding court over the distant Hellmouth. Who knows what other demons escaped in his absence?

He tests the weight-bearing of his leg, hoping against hope that he can stand - and finds it stiffened nearly immobile with swelling about his knee. Uttering a disgusted curse, he scrubs at his face and takes a moment to remove as much dried blood from his skin as he can without use of a mirror. The wards seem to hover near him, attending to his raspy words, and then their minor sentience rushes down to the front door of the Sanctum.

In a shush of air with the speed of their opening, the Sanctum's doors open to admit Scarlett. Within her mind, clarion-clear and with supernaturally-precise speech containing none of his subtle Midwestern twang, comes the Doctor's voice:

"Miss Scarlett. You are welcome into the Sanctum if you so choose. Please shut the doors behind you and for Agamotto's sake, lock them firmly. I am upstairs, in the Loft. I trust you to find your way."

*

The only ill-will to speak of lies in the box of galettes conjured from a proper French bakery or the nearest thing, where one can obtain a flaky pie or a buttercream-laced cake at a reasonable price. She carries the paper bag as her habitual gift for hospitality, the soft of delicious morsels certain to whet the appetite of even the sickliest patient. Not that she may know she comes as caretaker to a patient, at this time, rather than almost-not-quite apprentice paying a weekly social call upon the Sorcerer Supreme.

That he might prefer social calls from gorgeous immortal temptresses or profound immortal spirits is not quite measured.

She steps inside, nodding to the doors or the invisible force guiding them. Detecting magic outside the immediate presence of it may be beyond her; her senses are a curious thing. Nonetheless, that 'thank you' is certainly carried along even while stopping just inside the foyer to remove her fashion-forward boots. Stocking feet will satisfy then.

"Of course, Doctor. Would you have me bring anything else up for you?" A turn will shut the doors, and she straightens up her boots, leaving everything exactly as she suspects it ought to be. Locks are easily understood, a touch too well perhaps. They end up securely fastened, a test to assure they will hold against everything short of a Sherman tank before she takes the stairs. Takes is somethig of a misnomer, in a sense.

She floats right up them, threading the central axis until reaching the loft level. It might be cheating, but scorning the earth is one of her few gifts.

*

The wards bring her question up to Strange and he remains lying back on the settee, his bad arm draped across his ribs while the other hangs with knuckles dragging on the floor. It's like a hangover combined with recovering from the worst case of the flu he ever had as a young child. After gathering his wearily-wandering thoughts, Strange replies, via the wards:

"No, not currently. Thank you, Miss Scarlett. As long as you have locked the doors, we are safe and sound." Again, with odd preciseness, the wards carry them to Scarlett's ears.

He can sense her now, her signature more nebulous than usual with his lack of steely focus, but familiar enough that he doesn't care how he looks. He actually wouldn't care if the Vishanti tramped into the Loft demanding that he redress the unbalance they proclaimed about earlier. They could go jump from a bridge. If Scarlett has anything tart to say about his appearance, he can…do something later once he has the energy.

*

Another turn brings her to the loft level and then she allows her French silk-woven toes to touch the ground, the seams doing nothing to conceal the fact her toenails are painted an iridescent shade of lacquer, the essence of a forest poisoned by pale shimmer. Her nails are similarly shining like glass, devoid of any hue.

"I thought you might care for something fresh from the ovens, and not entirely given to sweets." A cheery admonishment banishes the weirdness of their respective lives, refusing to part with a core tenet of humanity while the foundations elsewhere are crumbling, subjected to the impossible tensions where realms crush and grind on her. "The first root vegetables are coming to the fruit markets, and I thought to try my hand at something palatable. I promise, nothing terrible will happen if you eat one unless you have an aversion to roasted vegetables."

Merriment deserves to be had, especially when she takes in the complete horror of biblical plagues laying waste to the Doctor, beholding the violence with which his visage radiates a measure of ruin. Her paper bag set on the floor, she looks about for an obvious source, and negating that, sighs. "You need more than a cup of tea to remedy for that. Are you secure and well? What may I do to help?"

*

A lop-sided smile graces the good doctor's face, softening the shades of exhaustion in his expression, though not hiding them entirely. He levers himself to a sitting position on the settee and is very careful not to disturb the angle of his damaged leg; it leaves him tucked into the corner of the piece of furniture, where the back and arm meet.

"I am well enough," he says, the first complete sentence since his succumbing to the psychic attack. His voice is papery with dryness and rough with the irritation caused by the remnants of the past nosebleed, his body's physical reaction to such a blow. "More tea, perhaps, and then I can take a moment to recover more."

The smell of the galettes is both mouth-watering and gag-inducing. In his studies with the Ancient One, he developed an intolerance for most standard human faire. He's hard-put not to wrinkle his nose at the bag she brought up, but succeeds in masking it by reaching out for another satchet of tea from the nearby tea stand. However, where is his cup? He was…holding it earlier? He pushes himself forwards with a wince to see over the edge of the settee and spies the handle peeking out from beneath the edge. With a quiet sigh that holds infinite amounts of fatigue, he glances up at Scarlett. "Actually, will you please fetch the tea cup from beneath the settee? I must have dropped it when I fell asleep." He can't contort himself to reach it, no matter how he tries.

*

Far be it from her to offer unnecessary assistance to someone who may take a bruising to their pride, but neither is Scarlett heartless. She overs her hand should he need it, the gloves buttoned under her drifting sleeves assuring some hint of protection. If the Doctor wishes his companion's help, he can take it. Rather than that, she lurks nearby.

"I can fetch up a pot without any trouble. Supposing you do not have some labour-saving convenience stowed away on a shelf." She drops down to her knees and peeks under the furniture, giving the settee a solid once over to assure no little imp will jump out and bite her, or some other renegade spell threatens the security and safety of the land.

Pinching the handle, she draws the cup carefully out and then plucks a handkerchief from her pocket — indeed, she has one, always — to wipe out the contents and buff the rim free of dustbunnies and dirt-daemons. "There we are. I thought to inquire after you, and ask how you find the week. Though clearly you were engaged with a purpose earlier."

*

"Thank you," Strange replies as he takes the newly-cleaned tea cup from Scarlett's hand. He coughs a few times and eventually has to hide his face in the crook of his elbow. The efforts leave him wincing and swallowing against a throat feeling sandpapered raw. "Tea first," he whispers, left with barely any voice.

He's able to reach the tea kettle, with the tea stand angled as it is, and pours the hot water overtop a soothing medley of mint and chamomile - sweet and simple and reminiscent of a mother's touch. Despite the steam rising from the water's surface, he sips at the barely-steeped brew in order to wet his throat before setting the cup back on the stand to steep.

His eyelids drift shut as he leans back against the settee and if the shadows beneath them seem to darken as he lets out a long breath of air, it's no illusion. "Engaged," he echoes with a wry note in his weak voice. "Yes, with…someone who should have never come back." He isn't sure of how much to share with his not-quite-apprentice. Most of him still stings with the prick of failure and deep, deep shame at being caught so off-guard. Granted, he knows that he carries very little of any blame: he used his magics wisely, without prejudice, and in defense of the people of New York; he didn't overly-utilize his energy reserves - each spell was cast in precision. Still, to have left his true apprentice without his aid…it galls him. Crow's feet appear around his shut eyes as he seems to wince at something within his mind. Slowly, they open to reveal glassy light-blue irises. "It is not safe in Central Park right now, much less the surrounding areas. It would be best if you returned to the Institute for some time."

*

Scarlett can prepare most infusions easily enough, and she will not hesitate to make any adjustments of furniture, even if that means nudging the kettle on its stand closer to the Doctor. She can't very well nudge him without him possibly collapsing and the house attacking her with a panoply of spellcraft.

What horrors! Instead, she settles upon the floor in a classic lotus position adopted so naturally, she may as well have been programmed at birth to do so. Legs fold and feet tuck to her thighs, giving her a classic straight backed stance of a student prepared to listen to the wiser souls and minds around her.

"Very troubling. I hope this company does not tax your concentration too much. You are free to send me upon my way, and I shan't think the worse for it." Her mouth curves a fraction at the reference to the Institute, though her eyes are fathomless and, under it all, lies the unquestionable glint of steel. "If it makes no difference, I may sleep at altitude. The Institute feels too much like a prison these days."

*

A slow blinks greets her statement about the Institute and its status in her life. Strange's chest rises and falls at least twice before he speaks again.

"Altitude will not save you from him if he comes hunting for you. But…I have learned better, through the teaching of Miss Illyana, that young people will do what they will regardless of my thoughts on the m-matter—" The last word is half-swallowed and he coughs once more before letting his head drop against the cushioned backrest. He means no insult. Merely, his normally-tactful approach to things has gone entirely with the process of recovering. He eventually reaches out to take the cup of tea, now finished steeping, and drains half the brew in one sitting. If one looks closely enough, some of the stress lines in his face fade.

In regards to company… "You are welcome company, Miss Scarlett. The Sanctum is always open in times of trial." His hands shiver, nearly sloshing the tea, and he steadies them with a squinted glare. It seems to buoy his spirits some, this simple magical effect, and he finishes the other half of the cup of tea without pausing to breathe. Once finished, he lets out a sharp sigh and glances up at Scarlett again. "If you will grant me some space, I will…attempt to regain some sense of myself," he says quietly, a ghost of a wry smile on his lips.

*

A look glances towards the wall, through it, the city at large. Her thoughts align themselves like ferrous powder responding to a magnet, pulled out. She almost darts forawrd to take the cup should the Doctor appear likely to drop it, a habit of lightning-fast reflexes and manners bidding her.

"Doctor, it would be secure and the proper route, but the Institute for me is best taken in very small doses, lest I sicken from exposure. The children are happy, the teenagers learning much about their powers," she explains quietly, "and they illustrate wholly and fully how I do not belong. 'Tis a nation I claim citizenship to and walk as a strange, the unseemly hullaballoo far outside my cares. When a professor insisted upon mandatory classes to teach me about sexual education, as if I were somehow ignorant or the subject was even appropriate given the remotest blush of intimacy with me kills another…" Her fingers spread apart and curl around her knees again in a shiver of emotion, passion flattened in burning, blazing anger narrowed to a laser beam. "The Professor and I see differently upon the social threat presented by civil rights and changes affecting us. He holds a different dream than I thought he did, and he articulated quite clearly what matters first.

"To keep the peace, I do not engage him or challenge his stance — what could I possibly say that would change a mind as vast as his, or what could I possibly do that lends credence to my words?" She shakes her head slightly, and her mouth turns down. "You give me a place to help the Earth, to help its people, and I cannot articulate how important that is. At a time when fellow students looked up to me for direction and no one else provided it I finally felt… purposeful? Given direction. It never lasted, but that gave some understanding how I might do something meaningful, no matter how small, in the betterment of my fellow people. Not just mutants, but people, however they are. Your own wounds bear truth to your commitment to your role, even when it is hard and demanding, and you place its cares above your own. Do you have any idea how empowering, how honourable that is? Some may laugh and say honour isn't going to factor into the choice. But you do something that I respect, for reasons I can appreciate."

She rakes her fingers over her hair. "I can forgive you nearly anything, even if you happen to be a bit rougher in speech or more blunt than is your wont. My bedside manner would be terrible without these allowances."

*

"I'm very glad to hear that this place brings you peace," Strange replies quietly. His gaze slides about the room, taking it the familiar placements of the glass-guarded relics and how the lines of shadow from the Anomaly Rue window stretch across the wooden floor towards them. "I endeavor to keep it so. Please, do let me know if I ever fail to preserve this." A quiet, rough laugh escapes him and when his eyes fall to Rogue again, there's a muted twinkle, some ghost of his wry sense of humor. "But don't butter me too heavily now."

With a groan behind clenched teeth, he stretches a bit on the settee and places the tea cup back on its saucer. Rubbing at his injured bicep, on the same side as his swollen knee, doesn't assuage him of the pain, but it's better than lying there like a wet rag. "If you will please draw the tea stand away, back to its placement beside the Book," and he means the heavily-warded and thickly-paged tome of the Book of Vishanti atop its intricately-carved wooden pedestal, "I need to attempt to at least heal myself of the worst of it all." At the feeling of an itch, he scratches along the line of his jaw and frowns down at the dried blood beneath his fingernails. "And then clean up a bit," he adds, more to himself.

*

"Would you so readily have me ghost about, offering my assistance in exchange for shelter from the wild energies threatening our peaceful existence?" As if New York has ever been peaceful since its founding, Scarlett's smile traces wry irony. "I hold none of the capacity of Miss Illyana, I acknowledge, though you can expect me not to peer into the library or trigger a dozen wards and seals by blundering into them."

She takes the teastand from him, wielding the metal like it weighs nothing. To her, that is very nearly the truth. Fifty tons would constitute a bit more of a challenge. She gazes at the room and gauges the right balance by some archaic principle where it should sit, placing the object down gently. "Would you be aided in any fashion if I drew you a bath or the like? Save you the time of waiting, and then you might not have to wait."

*

"The very safest thing you could do for me, in your kindness, that would not trigger any sort of warding is to draw a basin of hot water. There is a washroom beyond the statues," and he points towards the far left corner, where a dark door has been left ajar, "with some bowls and washcloths. I'll worry about a proper bath later, after I've found Miss Illyana again." His brows draw together as he slowly sits himself upright, with the one injured leg out to an angle along the edge of the settee. It leaves him panting and pale around his mouth, but Strange swallows and then nods to himself. It is time to try. What could be lost?

Once he's certain that Scarlett is out of range of the spell he's attempting to enact, he closes his eyes and begins to center himself. It's hard, with the heavy weight of fatigue making it difficult to draw willpower from within, and he grows paler still. It makes his sweat-soaked hair shine like wet raven feathers and melting snow at his temples. After a fine thrum seems to fill the air around him, he finally whispers: "Changa…"

An orb of sky-blue Mystic magic seems to hover above his head, a small hurricane of light, before it descends down his body in a series of multi-starred swirls. From scalp to toes, the spell gets to work. He lets out a choked cry, half-agony and half-relief, as the spell melts into his knee and if one looks closely enough, the musculature realigns itself. It peters out at his toes and leaves the Sorcerer Supreme whole and hale if not un-godly weary at this point. His eyelids rise and fall in mis-time, leaving him looking owlish and confused. "Yes…very good…" he murmurs, before beginning the slow fall forwards of slipping consciousness.

*

The indications will work easily enough. "Had I the capacity to divine another through a silver bowl of water, I should try, though any such efforts might trigger something terrible enough. There could be worse than wards blown, there might be an interruption of Miss Illyana's privacy, which is precious to her." The bohemian throws a look over her shoulder as she treads back a step, and she frowns, wise enough in the annals of medicine to recognize when someone looks clammy and pale, their heartrate or breathing elevated. Damn well she should. Her touch slays mortals with precious little exposure, and a few scattered victims left in perpetually comatose states never to respond to the likes of modern, unassisted medicine scar her with knowledge of the worst signs.

"Though be it helpful, I can attempt the charm where it will not brook any danger. I know it can be done that way, after all." Her lips part slightly to the inquiry, and she stoops to take a towel, running it over the bowl before filling it almost to the brim. Scarlett's soul-thieving traits are well enough hidden beneath the pleasant exterior, and she takes a quiet pleasure in these simple rhythms of normalcy, a shared purpose, even if the man she assists can destroy demons and contend with the greatest threats settling upon the Earth except crying girls and their relationship problems.

When he cries, she turns. Familiarity might lie there; some of those yoga postures become almost painful as they release muscle tension. Nonetheless, she is busy filling a second bowl as a precaution when her intuition crackles into lightning-quick relief against the blasted plane of her mind. Liquid flows over the brim and scalds her wrists, tumbling into the sink. The bowl drops with a clang, no longer attended, the first teetering upon the brim.

As if some direction snaps, "Action!" in the background, Scarlett bolts at alacrity. It might seem more like an airborne leap then a run, but the parabola steeply ends where she might guess the orb to stretch to, and she drops straight into its radiant penumbra in front of Stephen Strange, sleepiest of sorcerers. "Oh no. Not tonight." Arms scoop around his shoulders and she buoys him up as though they both ride to the surface of a wine-dark sea, one stricken by copper waves and a deep blood orange current. They are weightless in a moment even if the spells threaten to bite her, or destiny take a chunk out of her battered soul. She brings his head to the safe vantage of her shoulder almost gently, probably apologetic for the wet fingers and that her bloodied dress might be unfit for general company. "You have overtaxed yourself in dealing with me. That is unforgivably bad manners upon my part."

*

The world before his eyes goes decidedly blurry and so much lighter, brighter, whiter before his senses tell him that he's keeling towards the floor. With half an effort, he reaches back at the surface of the settee for some sort of grip with one hand, but his nails scrape at the velvety fabric in failure. The other stops his most initial collapse by momentarily gripping at his uninjured leg, but even those muscles give way in a spasm of fatigue.

And then, out of the blue, with no warning, his fall is halted by small, delicate hands and arms with wiry strength. Blinking madly to clear his vision, Strange can distantly tell that it's Scarlett who's caught him simply by the scent of patchouli and peonies that wreathes the air around his space.

The Eye of Agamotto, normally Strange's personal guardian, remains silent at his chest. Clearly, the gods take no issue with a fellow mortal aiding the Earth's Sorcerer Supreme. Perhaps they understand the need for a helping hand now and then.

Weightlessness is noted with faint surprise before he feels gravity return and the give of the furniture's cushioned lining beneath him. His eyelids flutter open briefly and then shut; in a fleeting and singular moment of public weakness, he sags partially against his not-quite-apprentice and lingers there, allowing her to coddle his head.

"No, not bad manners," he finally whispers once he finds the steely thread of stubborn willpower within himself. It sings as he draws from it and slowly sits aright. His tired grey-blue eyes linger on her. "It is my curse to run myself haggard from time to time. Were that I was Asgardian or more than mortal…what I could accomplish." A huff of a sigh escapes him as he tests his previously injured limbs with tender flexions. With the healed arm, he reaches up and grimaces as he feels how wet his own hair is as he brushes it from his forehead. "I am no fit company at the moment, Miss Scarlett." Slowly and (thankfully) with no lingering pains, Strange rises to his feet. A momentary wobble is countered by brief raising of hands and then he sighs. "Thank you again for filling the basins." He can see that there's a large puddle of water on the floor of the washroom in the corner as he approaches, but it's no hard task to clean up. A towel swipe later and the worst of it is under control. A slow burring sigh escapes his nose as he slowly stands up straight again.

The man that looks back at him in the mirror looks like two burnt holes in a wet sheet. Rode hard and put away wet. The surviving victim of a murder attempt. Quite ready for a proper nap. Tilting his head, he finds the missed line of dried blood and scrubs it away with the wetted washcloth that Scarlett had so thoughtfully laid beside the filled basin. Twisting and squeezing out the cloth leaves the water in the basin reddish and he frowns down at it tiredly. The hair is a loss, but he does at least attempt to swipe the washcloth across it. A total loss, he decides, looking at the unkempt mess of dark strands. The water gurgles as he empties the basin and then the scouring spell written into the porcelain sink scrubs it bare of any lingering ichor.

"Miss Scarlett, you are welcome to leave at any time. I ask your forgiveness, but I can barely stand." He speaks as he leaves the washroom and unclasps the Cloak from about his shoulders. The sentient cape flits back to its hanger-stand and seems to settle on it with a sigh of its own. "You may leave at any time." The corners of his lips rise in a small, self-effacing smile that, in itself, should communicate his thanks at her presence. Despite their paths crossing rarely, she has proven most supportive in the most basic human way: by simply being there. With a tired lack of care, he defrocks himself of the blood-stained vest. It leaves him in his undershirt and pants. "If you need me again, simply speak with the wards. They will wake me."

And with a complete lack of manner, he dismisses her wordlessly and stalks off to his master bedroom, located just off of the Loft, its double doors just a wall down from the washroom. The doors shut with a quiet click and, if one listens very closely, one can hear the doubled thud of his boots being removed and then a flump of his body landing with full spread across the top of bed. Strange probably didn't even tuck himself in.

*

Her strength is wiry only if one is a mosquito to a spider, and the spider is larger than the average whale perhaps. She uses very little of it to forestall a collapse of sorcerer upon his floor, the sanctum a fair less bit comfortable when prostrate and weaker than a kitten in a compromising position. That much she can at least spare his ego.

The ground is scorned thus, her feet an inch or two off the floor. For one perpetually flirting and averring gravity, Scarlett evinces absolutely no issue with contorting herself into an array of positions to best suit needs of the moment. All that concerted practice in yoga stands her in very good stead when suspended eight thousand feet over sea level, grappling with a broken weather balloon or holding up a shrieking criminal. Not that the latter happens often, but if it does, she is well and truly prepared.

Gods forgive certain trespasses, this flirtation with certain pain and suffering on a mistaken twitch. The press of fingers against the sorcerer's shoulders only serve to anchor him against slipping back down to the floor while in transport, instead of forcing him to accept a rougher wooing. Instead the slight rotation works to support him while maneuvering around the furniture, letting him effectively fall forward onto her.

"Truer words never spoken," she murmurs above his ear when he sits himself up, hardening his spine. "None of us be more than what we are. Asgardians look higher up their tree. Hercules peers at his father. Whom do the All-Father and Zeus Pater look at, if not greater powers than themselves? Sometimes the wish is for more, instead of gladness for what we have. But then ambition must determine our paths forward. To want is to strive." The amusement toys with a notion old and very much worn into a familiar discourse, one she's not about to beleaguer him with in such a state. Wisdom from a twenty and some woman with only a fraction of that time consciously lived is not worthy of him. She will put him down as he bids, leaving Strange to pursue his own path into the room of his choosing.

Not without his Nornsdottir watching out for a misstep, not unlike a mother observing another in the herd, as it were. Though her nature isn't maternal, not truly, so much as a guardian measuring a treasured member of society. She does, however, startle at the cape going off of its own accord.

"Wyrd and stars, did it…" The question isn't finished. It needn't. "Goodbye to you too, majestic cape? I suppose that leaves little need for other matters." Her hands rub over her face, and she stifles a girlish laugh that cleaves about twenty years off her apparent bearing, putting her somewhere a tad younger. Startled? Yes.

Then it will leave her to do something appropriate. A bowl of water, a safe space. She sits down in the middle of the loft, legs folded, and peers deeply into it. "I know you cannot show me what I wish to see," she says to none, stirring the water anticlockwise with her fingertip, "but would you grant me sight of another, that I might provide relief to the first Sorcerer of Midgard? Illyana Rasputina, his heiress and apprentice, is she hale?"

The murmur is soft, even as she stirs, and stirs the water again, pouring out her energy. However long he sleeps, she meditates upon one of two topics. Illyana is one. The other?

The gods aren't telling.

*

Do minutes pass? Hours? Only the fates know as the Sorcerer Supreme sleeps dreamlessly in his sprawl across the black covers atop the bed. No snore escapes him, but perhaps a small whimper or two, remnants of his brush with the depressive ghost demon's psychic barrage.

Eventually, something wakes him. The wards? Instinct? Oh - the presence of magic not his own. He blinks hard and then rubs a hand down his face. He feels…rested, but beyond simple need of a shower. More like dire need. Gathering his hands beneath his torso, he pushes up and rolls to the edge of the bed.

The bedroom doors open and Strange leans out, looking blearily across the expanse of the Loft to find…Scarlett, still there! He has the worst case of bed-head he's had in literal years and still not changed from his clothing. The pants bear the scuffs and stains of his impact to earth.

"Scar—" he pauses to clear his throat and tries again with a grumpy tone of voice. "Scarlett, what are you doing here? You should have gone home hours ago. What time is it anyways…?" He retreats briefly into the room to inspect his bedside clock and returns to loom half in the opening between the two doors. "Honestly. You didn't need to stay." He's groggy still and his flustered state is showing.

*

The lithe bohemian practices her arts the way she best knows how. One is instinctive, peering into the bowl in memory of another instance of scrying. Her methods here are almost purely a blend of mystical tutelage at its base level, dashes of common esoterica rooted in western hermetic magic — the easiest to find anything written about — and something much older. Asgardian by a dash here and there, proof of her confused learnings at the feet of three tremendously gifted masters. Or rather two masters and a mistress.

Conversely meditating proves so much easier, the practice of a dozen years at least. Time ticks past in a fluid course as she tries to hold fast to a slippery goal and practices the act of imposing her will over the mirror of water at least once per hour and probably more. As ever, the liquid shows her a reflection of someone torn in purpose and deeply focuses. But eventually something will catch, holding her bent over the bowl, peering down into the unknown.

The door shall open, the man shall step forth, and therein comes the crux of a truth. A slim arc suspended over a bowl in her lap, curved serpentine, peering down into the fog of time. When he speaks, Strange pulls her attention back from whatever far shore she examines. There could be nothing better to startle her into vexed awakening anon than the familiar cadence of English rather than magic. A shudder runs through her spine and she rolls her shoulders back, the tension gathered into a crack. "Mmm?"

An inquiry that becomes a blink. "Had you encountered difficulty…" Yes. She's saying this to Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. "I would have been there." Simple as such.

*

Hmph. Young people. Strange doesn't say it aloud, but perhaps she can sense the narrowing of his pale eyes at the middling point between her shoulderblades.

"I see." And he leaves it at that, certain that if he continues talking, he'll say something fairly insulting. He can't continue interacting without a proper shower first. Scarlett didn't break anything while he was sleeping. Surely she'll be fine left to her devices for a bit longer. His fingertips brush at the bedroom door to close it, but between the lack of force and the snag of the thick carpeting, it is left about an inch open. The lack of expected click of bar in slot is lost to his muddled state and he grumbles under his breath about various things purely to release the pent-up venom.

He's hurting - not physically, but from the fact that he is purely mortal and dealing with supernatural events beyond mortal ability. With a shwiff of fabric against skin, he pulls his rumpled shirt from over his head and pauses in the beginnings of tossing it to the hamper in the corner. His reflection looks grimly back at him from the elongated wall mirror beside his closet door. Grim and hale. A slow sigh causes his bare chest to deflate and he then steps into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

The wards flit briefly in and out of the master bedroom and return to hang near Scarlett, much like a squirrel on the trunk of a tree, and Strange's clipped words ring in the air: "No need to stay any longer, Miss Scarlett. Please shut the door behind you once you leave."

*

How dare young people approach the world politely and demonstrate a refined grasp of manners, instead of being the unwashed, unpleasant masses their senior generations have claimed since the time of Aristotle, and very likely Gilgamesh!

How dare they demonstratably show a concern for anything beyond themselves and their petty needs or the realms-spanning concern for their loved ones? Atrocious. They must be rude and unforgivably self-centered, serving nothing more than their own impulses!

That's how they get to meet Odin.

When dismissed grumpily by the lord of the house, though, they can retreat in a particularly polite and quiet fashion resembling a dormouse or hold a temper tantrum with a sword in one hand and a string of enemies' bloodied scalps flung around to make a point. She has neither of these options, being neither inclined towards a sword or prone to carting scalps of her foes into lovely warded sanctuaries not her own. Besides, imagine the effect of blood on her clothes.

Still, the girl has a modicum of intuition highly refined by experience to know when she treads where her presence is unwelcome. She rises, and will retreat to the basin where another overflowing bowl sat. Her back is stiff, muscles protesting, but she walks with an inherent sense of timing and grace absent most who do not dance professionally.

It's laid down, water dumped out, carrying away the residue of her magic. Best not to supply any indication of her actions to someone who can perform them so much better. Even as Scarlett waits, she rests her hands to either side of the basin, the angelic warring with the darker essences in her, rising up to meet their culmination in a titanic battle when the eroding self-control lies upon so thin an axis of patience. Lack of sleep and terrible worry, crossed by a wounded heart and bleeding confidence, leave her dwindled somewhat. "Do I do wrong?" A query to the Norns or the gods slips out in a murmur. Other inquiries are bitten back physically, bleached white.

She rises from the ground, taking a step back before her hands pulverize the ceramic or stone into dust, all that terrible strength concealed in so deceptively fragile a silhouette turned upon herself rather than anything inanimate. Better this way. Better than to give way to the furious tumult hollowing her out until there is no space left anywhere.

The murmuring tide of voices in her psyche start to rise, and the multitudes echo in a pandemonium shriek caterwauling through the annals of broken selves, husks of crystalline lives scattered in her wake. Go. Go. This is what she does, launching herself forward a step down the spiral axis of the staircase so she can nigh to drop through the void into nothing. Nothing at all.

Peonies tumble from her braids when she goes, and they litter the ground in bruised red and rose profusion, cryptofloran messages wrought in penmanship forgotten since the Victorians turned a fifth of the globe pink. A door will tap shut, a girl vanishing into the masses as she heads for the Flatiron District for a date appointed by the Norns.

And so, and so, and so.

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