1963-10-13 - The Strangest Maxim
Summary: Demon-hunters, unite! More allies for Dr. Strange and the beginnings of something new entirely.
Related: None
Theme Song: Oath - iamBADDLUCK
strange wanda 

((NOTE - Some insinuations and connotations, folks. You were warned.))


Thank the gods it's late at night, not minutes past the chiming of the zero hour, as the battle rages in earnest beyond the spread of the Hellmouth's blight. The only members of the public to witness it are already either beyond caring, under the influence of their poison of choice, or scared enough to hastily leave and chalk up this section of the Park as 'damn haunted'.

Strange, wreathed in a hastily-summoned glamour of invisibility, dodges a scythe-like extension of one of the demon's four arms with a grunt of effort and then counter-attacks with a neutral-elemental bolt. It slams into the demon's carapace and rocks it back; the wail that emerges from the mouth is eerie, an ululating high-pitched bastardization of a whale's odd harmonics. Mandibles click shut and then human-like teeth are bared as the demon charges once again, slashing madly at the Sorcerer dancing before it. Like the enraged bull after the torero, it rushes in with its singular goal of spilling his entrails across the dew-laden grass beneath them. Nay, not just spilling, pulling them loop after loop from his shattered carcass.

The Cloak grants him a hurried edge of demi-levitation as the fight spills through the edging of reeds that lines one of the many broad ponds located in the Park. Tufts of cattail fluff scatter in the after-wind of another double casting of bolts, one tinted with twinkles of white, and the demon lithely dodges both. Its flexibility is, of course, unfairly inhuman. Strange's toes tip the pond's surface, leaving ripples that wink with reflected light from his aura, as he retreats rapidly across. He can't turn his back for an instant, this thing is too fast!!!

Solid ground beneath his feet and for some reason, the demon has paused to hover over the water, wheezing for air in sickly-sounding wet hisses. Its bat-like wings riffle the surface as it hovers, frozen-violet eyes glaring intently at him…and then it gestures with all four hands. The aye-aye-like fingers draw streams of water to swirl around the its body, obscuring it from sight — Strange has time to ready a moderately-powerful defensive spell in a crackle of neon-green about his counter-signed hands — and then the water evaporates into the thickest white fog he's ever seen in his life. It blankets the entire area around them and he can't back-peddle more than another dozen steps before his view is completely veiled.

He hesitates to breathe at first, but a quick testing sniff show the mist to be breathable if not tainted with the miasma of rotting pond water. A little gag is quickly stifled; sound is the best way for him to get killed now. Light too, so he dampers down his powers. It's risky, but it allows him to hide just as well as the demon, should the thing be able to track him by Mystical signature. Half-crouched, in a pose of patient deadliness, the Sorcerer Supreme waits with bated breath. It's too quiet, the cold mist too close, and he looks quickly around as he hears the oddly-muted sound of wing-flaps.

How close is it? Gods below, the thing knows how to use basic human fears against its prey. Take away sight and many people become easy targets.

So, trusting in his instincts and the weight of Agamotto's gem about his neck, Strange shuts his eyes…and waits. Listens. Tries to mute the pounding of his heart in his ears.


Every place has its witching hour, the nadir of control where the boundaries between dimensions drop a critical amount. Sometimes those barriers tremble back far enough to allow something to thread through the gaps, like a mouse scampering out into the dormant kitchens after Cook and the maids turned in for the night. Nothing large, of course. The skittering of little paws on the floor might attract the attention of a sleek, fat tomcat kept around specifically for such an event, but Tom's busy running after a rat chewing on morning's pie and sacks of grain in the pantry.

Who might notice another dark figure keeping to the shadows, darting between one great woody sentinel in a disrupted arbor to the next?

If Central Park is the hearthstone for all New York, then the disarray is a bad sign. Mouser and rat have their miserable tete-a-tete in the metaphorical smoke, reducing visibility nigh to naught. It's precisely the sort of scenario vermin or a bad person could take advantage of, moving unmolested through the thick, eddying coils of an atmosphere laid heavy and low upon the wreck of dying grass and fallen reeds laid out on the floor. Fading energies convulse upon themselves, oxygen and nitrogen molecules rushing in behind her, for nature abhors a void. A boot finds purchase upon these decapitated cattails, crushing one of the bullrushes flat into the spongy soil imbued by the most unwholesome smells.

One day the residents will realize all their pollution accrues in the pond beds and riverbeds of their fair city, a permanent layer of gunk that one day becomes stone to tell of their sickened, despondent era. For the moment, it causes the young woman peering down at her foot to wrinkle her nose, and briefly scowl.

Fingers braced in a triangular formation shape out a simple pyramid, weaving a red mist of power out of the aether. To mystical senses, that elaborate spell defies easy categorization, but lifts her off the ground. She lifts a few inches higher at most, nothing more than two footprints squelched into the mud proving her passage. The lack of a breeze allows her coat to hang heavily, coiled around her in a protective leather carapace without an ounce of magic to it. Still, she nudges aside the side to grasp the long, sheathed knife riding her hip, testing the draw before she pulls it free. It's not the finest of weapons one could possess, nor even all that special.

She slides forward through the mist, attuning herself to that strange flood of power that seethes through the world. The Sight guides her where her real senses might be occluded, and she stalks forward in search of where that thing is. Fear, fear the mindkiller, is no different than a girl who manipulates it herself.


It's damned eerie — and he hates it. He loathes the echoing whufts of flapping wings that give him no clear indication as to where the demon hangs in the air around him. He's heard one other sound, something like the frustrated squeal of a door hinge, some sound perhaps meant to flush him from his stance.

A meaty thud and then nerve-strangling silence. Strange lets out a slow noiseless sigh and fights against opening his eyes. Normal sight is still pointless, he tried a minute back. His steel-blue gaze found nothing but the velvety abnormal white rolls and troughs of the dome of enchanted fog.

Wet snuffling now, somewhere to his nine o' clock, and he shifts in place, letting the slickness of the grass aid in the rotation on the balls of his feet. His toes, within his boots, are cold. His hands are aching; they are a control's slip from trembling now, with how he'd had to mute the defensive spell. It makes his bones ache, holding back such a slap of raw Mystical magic, and his patience is wearing thin.

Where are you?! Just attack already!!! What a wish — it could only be a grouse from someone strung tighter than a wire, bolstered by the ego of success in battles, wanting badly to return to the Sanctum for a soothing cup of tea.

The silence is now absolute. Swallowing, Strange redirects a small stream of magic up to his mind. It's risky once again, but instead of the darkness behind his lids, a landscape painted by grotesque swirls of neon-inverted colors surrounds him. It's still fog, even to his Mystical Sight, but now he can pick out the distant menacing throb of anti-light that is the Hellmouth. There's the path of an undine within the pond, scared into its depths by their passing spat.

The demon, though — where is the demon?!

Oh gods. The hairs on the back of his neck rise.

It's behind him.


Wings catch the air and sway back and forth, damned sails swelling to catch a foetid breeze so near she can almost taste its sickening flavour at the back of her throat. That's the price of magic. No matter how simple or how powerful, it exerts a physical cost out of the hapless sorcerer caught in its presence. This time it's forcing her gorge back down through a practiced swallow, esophagus clenched around an invisible block of lingering force uneasily crawling up towards her mouth.

Nothing new, unfortunately. The life she leads allows no comforts, even fewer luxuries. A zero sum game for Wanda. Her one hand clutches the long, nastily curved knife, and the other holds a pulsating, compressed nebula within the cage of gloved fingers. Her heavy-lidded eyes trail the same wisps of ephemeral power in a shocking hue for any mortal to possess, irises ringed in garnet, the crystalline shimmer reflected from swirling storms miniaturizing the Jovian Great Red Spot, Saturn's hexagonal polar vortex.

Movement conjured from the compass rose spins her round and she follows the wetness, floating short of the broken pavement and uneven earth, almost trembling with anticipation. Every sense prickles to high alert, warnings screaming from every system. On edge, jittery, the adrenaline keys up the closer she comes. For others it's a blessing, but not when control rides a razor-thin margin right now. The park is under assault. Someone is under assault.

A plume of thin power. The acid trail of another escaping imp off to cause mischief, and the chorus of misery- and fear-spirits haunt the twisted wooded depths where children might have dreamed up the ancient old trees eat bad boys and girls. All of it is sick, speaking to a blighted illness on the face of the Earth. Insult to injury.

The injury hasn't been inflicted until the eerie blur of colour resolves into a shape bent and stooped, clear enough to be no wandering dog or grumbling bum. Wanda flings out her hand and the sphere comes tearing free, rocketing away from her as crimson bands envelope the mist-shrouded creature. The pent-up force tears a chunk of her energy away in the short-range transmission, overlapping circles locking together, gears of statistical probability biting together until they reach the eleventh hour. Hitting so hard on the outset is a foolhardy choice, but surprise is her friend.

So is the strike of the knife, wielded in her dominant hand as she steps forward to swing the full force of her arm into the slash. Momentum swings her forward and leaves a somewhat guarded position afterwards, the girl dropping back onto the ground rather than floating in space. Conservation of mystical energy applies; water splashes as she swivels, fully into the fray.


A graceful swirl of crimson Cloak and Strange's withheld defensive spell erupts like a bruised-blue firework in the mists surrounding the combatants. From the distance, to mortal eyes, it looks like a low-lying thunderstorm, complete with dazzlingly odd-colored lightning, has parked itself over a good portion of this section of Park. The translucent cobalt dome of protective magic will block all but the psychic assaults; his self-assigned homework of bolstering his mental defenses has been paying out nicely thus far.

Hindsight will grant him the knowledge that the demon's earlier cry had been unheard but within his mind, its intent truly to flush him from his hiding place. Had Strange not been toiling for hours on end, those hours would have been cut short and with gruesome finality. Unprepared souls had fallen for the ploy for centuries past.

Defenses: check. Now, to expose the demon.

The mind moves much faster than the actions about him and Strange is half-way through drawing the sigils for a massive gust of wind, the Words hanging on the very tip of his tongue, when he sees the ruddy splash outline the demon through the spell-cast veil. The impact of the magic is like a screaming missile hitting home and he winces as the teeth-gritting Mystical sound of the impact reaches him a blink later. There's the second shadow, cast backwards beyond the entrapping glowing rings of eye-searing red about the struggling demon, and then another sound of impact. It's soft and he isn't sure that it's an attack at all until the evil being lets out another shriek, this one of panicked pain.

He has an unknown assistant in this battle!

With the rapidity of experience, one Word is interchanged for another and the taste of the magic in his mouth flips from dusty to peppermint. "GLACITRABEM!!!"

The bolt of ice magic takes the demon in the pocket of its hip and spins it not only off-balance, but throws it back into the depths of the fog.

There! With his Mystical sight, Strange catches a glimpse of the stranger and —

Time slows. Deja-vu slips into his mind, leaves his mouth slightly ajar, hands frozen in place after his casting. He's seen that signature before. Where?!


The rules for demon-hunting tend to be quite simple at the end of the night.

One, take it by surprise. You might not have another chance.

Two, hit it hard as you can. You might not get a second shot.

Three, get the hell outta dodge. You might not take a hit.

The knife carves a clean line through the hardened carapace, guided by the formative bonds to weak spots. In some respects a real master might shake his head in horror at her technique, so much left open to instinct and certainties lying outside the normal span of human understanding. Her wrist tilts slightly when reaching its hide, opening a line up along the bone, and that minor correction combined to the turning of her body in opposition to its rearing retort slides the blade deep. Fingers clasped around the hilt tighten to compensate on its jarring force, and she wrests her wrist upward as hard as she can. Flesh and sinew must part to tempered steel.

Sure, it's not damascene or Toledo; it hasn't been enchanted in the fires of Tooroo Tooroo or quenched by the hand of the colossus of Iskendria. Nothing so impressive as 'made in Germany' probably stamped somewhere before the tang slid into the hilt, bolted and fixed. Nothing other than human make, defying the infernal impressions of the world. Oh, that blade has tasted sunlight twelve days running, the thirteenth sat under purified running water poured from a basin by hand as long as the sun trekked through the sky, and known the kiss of fresh earth from two counties and now the mists of time. She gives no thought to the demon while diving out of the way, pulling free several inches of tempered metal from the ragged hole left open.

Wanda is conscious of another only in the surest forms, the blue dome erupting in a stellar display warning her at least in a little. The word pours over her in a heat blast, a sirocco flattening her clothes, and she clenches her teeth as she swivels to jump out of the way.

Wet, slick ground isn't quite so cooperative and she skids through the slime, certainly out the way but forced by circumstance to stop herself like a 6-year-old who learned to accelerate in the skating rink but not stop. And there aren't any boards. Joy. She plunges the knife into the ground to act as a swivel point, undercutting reality's hold on her long enough to spin around. The saturated mists flow around her, bleeding from her eyes and wreathing both hands long enough for her to get a grip around probability. Her lips move to the incantation, weaving together the strands of cause and effect, mingling them into a veritable lance.

Still down on one knee, she hisses, "Aedhe calafiot." Contempt drips from the words and her body shudders at the spell ricocheting from between her palms, flung outward at the broadside of a barn. The mist lights up from within, an incandescent sunset pouring out from the detonating epicentre, rumbling shockwaves rushing out and crashing backwards as the spell signature compacts itself even while expanding.


His teeth flash and lips curl in a flinch as the wards around him quake in the impact of the detonating magical spell. It slams into his defenses with the force of a massive wave and he squints against the near-blinding reddish light that seems to act like a hellish null-void of sorts. The fog is blown away from its explosive point — there, the caster! Strange catches a moment's sight of a slim figure in a blood-red coat — and then the mist is drawn back past his dome of safety with a roar like the rage of a tornado. The air within his sanctuary is eerily still and he's reminded of a glass basement in a storm.

With a final cry of despair, the demon succumbs to this foreign magic, and its death is lost beyond the wall of white that slowly begins to disperse across the ruined grass. Muddied streaks where boots and talons dug in for purchase, burnt swaths of mistimed spells, the lingering smell of flesh-turned-charcoal with the overlay of pond funk — it can be read like a book by someone with half a brain.

Bad juju went down here.

"That's it…" What does he breathe, a question or a statement? It matters not, now that he focuses through the lingering mist with his Sight. The signature of the demon, once outlined in a nebula of anti-light, is slowly dying out in a rough pile, like embers being washed by rain. The haze can't penetrate his shielding spell, but that mysterious helper is still out there within it.

The defensive dome is dropped and its magic gathered back to its master's veins. The aura of the Sorcerer Supreme glows with ambient light to the Sight; it is as if he is a beacon within the thick vapor. It is the warning he grants this stranger, this fellow spellcaster with a penchant for highly-destructive magic. "Show yourself," he calls out into the whiteness beyond the reach of his arms.

It's there, on the tip of his tongue. Not a Word, but a Name…perhaps not even a Name, but a memory attached to a magical fingerprint.


The world rearranges itself with the use of magic, ambient energies poured through vessels into specific patterns of the will. Somewhat different, Wanda's permutation simply rewrites creation from the essential building blocks. Distortions of her mind can create similar distortions around here, whereas the spell energies shape things in an entirely different fashion with similarly lasting and consequential effects.

None of these grand abilities take away the horrible stench rising from the thick layer of decaying organic matter layered atop duck shit, moldering plants, and demonic ichor added to the mix for an additional offense against the nose and lungs and mouth.

She tries so hard not to breathe while standing, scraping her feet as she steps gingerly backwards for the shoreline. Grass can erase all traces of the muck slathered on the soles of her boots, heaped up against the left toe. First she has to wrench free the knife from the gooey substrata, hauling it back with a profoundly unpleasant pop. This too releases a pocket of nefarious gas to assault already tender sinuses, and she proceeds to stifle a sneeze.

It sounds exactly like a mouse blown off its stuffed settee. "Chu~u!"

How noble. Wanda covers her face in the familiar curve of her elbow, leather stifling the unwanted invasion, and she breathes deep of the comforting fragrance while getting onto solid ground again. There presumably she can wipe off the knife before the corrosive substances of the pond and the demon can eat away at perfectly good steel, and the gunk embedded in her shoes might end up summarily transferred onto grass already doomed to die like a despondent elven queen.

This is how Stephen Strange, lord and master of all mystic things, comes upon her, cleaning off the remnants of the battle. He insists he show herself, and there she is, waving a hand about to dispel the uncooperative haze licking her ankles, weaving around her legs, framing her corseted leather greatcoat in coils of dissipating silver. One shining knife and another stifled sneeze later. "Turn off the mists."


Was that a sneeze…? Strange frowns curiously in the direction of the noise, craning his neck unconsciously to try and locate its source. It certainly didn't sound masculine, so…either younger or female. If he squints harder enough, he can begin to pick out the slender shape not a dozen feet away, towards where he thinks the grass slopes down to the pond he agilely danced across earlier.

The voice confirms it — definitely female. With the tiniest of laughs, he gathers his will around him and murmurs, "Discute tenebras." The crimson Cloak and loose hair of his bangs waft in the swirl of air that constricts around his form before dispersing out and blowing back the thick wall of haze that separates him from his new quarry. It leaves behind the scent of an incoming storm.

Slowly, he drops his hand, previously upraised from sketching the latest symbol, and eyes the spell-caster before him. A thoughtful 'hmm' escapes in his sigh as his steel-blue eyes narrow at her.

That is…a lot of red.

Pot calling kettle black?

"Need assistance?" he asks, ever the gallant gentleman in tone and intent.


Waves of air spilling around the upright young woman stiffen her posture, bracing in the event they build to gale force. Statues lost in the Numidian desert might be nigh as rigid, even if their garments differ by three thousand years. A stony-eyed young woman stepping forward, hand clasped to her chest and the knife at her side, invoke those storied and ancient queens of fabled monarchies whispered in history: Saba, Punt, Sheba.

The idle motes of blood-red float on a sunlit sea in her eyes, a long gaze shot across the distance. Traces of arrogance might be read, rightly or wrongly, though also a drift of weariness after a successful engagement. The spells always demand their due, and she pays with the ebbing of her reserves. Prospects for a meal at a deli somewhere, preferably on the cheap, are pushed aside when she slides the knife back into the hip sheath more or less hidden beneath the fall of the coat. She pats the hilt to assure it sits properly, and then rests her palm against the narrowing curve of her waist. It's about as neutral as she can attain.

"The corpse should not be here when the sun rises. Is anyone going to come like us, here?" Oh the travesties of English sentence construction, its idioms and its secrets niggling for one used to the languages of the Slavic and Teutonic branches of the tree. They simply aren't so close, even if Dutch, Frisian, and German have stepping stones to the British Isles. "Who are you? A warlock, clearly."


Strange raises one imperious eyebrow before replying, in regards to other magic users arriving on-site, "No one without a death wish." Of course the corpse is going to be gone, she burnt it to smithereens and smudges of ash with the magic she unleashed. Thank the Vishanti that he'd been within his protective dome. Otherwise, the Mystical backlash could have been monumental.

"And no, not warlock." No, nothing as simple as that. Not anymore. He alters his stance slightly, shifting from wary distrust to simply wary interest. His hands disappear beneath his folded arms as he looks her over once again, eyes meeting and holding hers without fear of the scarlet afterglow in her irises. "Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth." A slight lift of his chin and the subtle crinkle of one line of his goatee in that half-smile. It's always interesting to see how the naive ones react to his title. Sometimes his reputation precedes him, sometimes he's completely novel. "I appreciate your assistance, but I see that you're not from around here, clearly." A beat in which his head tilts, the smile deepening in charming confidence. "Nearly all of the practitioners who choose to use Chaos magic are known to me. Those who aren't are either afraid or new to the area. I don't think I'd peg you as the fearful type, seeing as how you jumped into this fight without much of a thought to your safety." A slight taste of his mentor-mindset slipping into those words.


Magic, in the end, is all the same. An older, wiser witch in a wine-red coat might gently speak to the definition of chaos magic as a pointless, almost redundant category created for the pleasure of men and women afraid of the effects of certain spells. But that dusky haired witch she might be, if time and fate are kind, is not the same as the flashing-eyed young woman defaulting to a cautious circling of two duelists, only to find out the evening's partner invented the game or has an Olympic medal.

At least give her credit for having brass under her tawny skin.

"The supreme sorcerer. I should apologize then for taking your quarry, as you call it." She makes a gesture towards the smoldering wisps of ash blowing around on the tiny dust devil, the last remnants of infernal power evaporating to nothingness. The unwinding brings a thin crescent of a smile to her mouth, though her honeyed eyes hold no warmth to speak of. An unkindness hammered in triumph, she redressed the issue of ignoring Strange for a moment or two. "Wanda." Forthcoming, isn't she? "Maximoff." She adds her surname a beat later. It probably means nothing, unless he has spoken with Agatha Harkness once upon a time. Chewing the inside of her cheek for a moment, she flows into a conversation. "Yes. I felt the disturbance and came to see what happened. Not expecting everyone would notice. So often they don't, and carry on until it's too late."

Rubbing her coat down, she pushes away a bit of a leaf that stuck to her from that whirl in the mud. No helping it; her beloved coat is going to get a fine layer of oil and a good brush down afterwards. "No more come this way. I do not think they will be deterred for long. One comes, and more follow. Has it been an infestation for long?"


"For far too long," he says, voice low and cold; the smile melts into a thin line of quiet anger. His few strides bring him closer and then obliquely to her, past her, and down to the edges of the pond. There he stands, moonlight limning the lines of his storm-blue battle leathers, along the lines of his crimson-covered shoulders. It catches in his silvered temples and brings his irises to a lighter hue.

No thought to his safety, with his back to her, and it speaks volumes to his self-assurance as well as major concern of the evening: the distance glow of the Hellmouth. The wrinkle of his nose comes from inherent disgust at his own inability to close it thus far and at the pond water, turned acrid from the touch of the dead demon. Glancing down at it, he sighs and his breath fogs out before him. "Wanda — Maximoff, was it?" he asks, giving her a brief look that turns out to be not-so-brief as he turns contemplative. "I appreciated your assistance, truly. If you'll grant me a moment, I need to fix this mess as well."

He wouldn't have been able to draw the remnants of the demonic aura from the pond a few days back. Since then…well, one could call it a miracle — a bolt of fate from the pale. He's well-rested — and let the Hellmouth see the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme and tremble. Kneeling down, he's heedless of the mud clinging to both his boots and the spread of the Cloak, sticking gummily to his one knee. Strange spreads the fingers of both hands and magic in the hues of a summer pre-dawn swirl about his digits. Luminescent ripples spread from the touch of each fingertip to the surface and he breathes, "Changa," his go-to spell for healing or realignment of any sort. The circular disturbances of water pulse in the time of his heartbeat as they ricochet from every corner of the reach of the water. A black mist, buzzing like a tight swam of a million midges, rises from the pond and gets bundled up neatly in threads of neon-cerulean light. With a pfft of twinkling magic, the demon's touch is gone.

Has Strange healed the pond entirely? No, a burden of his mantle. It may not be the pond's fate to return to its normal ecosystem. Let the people of New York decide that fate.

He flicks droplets of water from his hands, as delicately effective as a disdainful cat, and trudges back up the slope. Once he's found purchase, he turns back to face the pond and breathes a 'hmph'. "That will do for now, I suppose," he murmurs, focus flicking back to Wanda. And what do we do with you…?


All sorcerers are something like cats, jealous of their secrets and rarely inclined to share the motivations or methods for what they do. Those techniques displayed by a master are not always fit for the apprentice, and the apprentice can dream of more than buckets and mops while moving among grimaces in the library. Such a display is outwardly impressive, but the real valuable meat comes from within.

Wanda, drawn in sanguine and shade, withdraws from the pool as Strange approaches it to perform his art, and level the great equilibrium demanded by his office. She reaches up to push one of the garnet-studded clips back over her ear, a smattering of bright colours laid brighter than blood on the dark sea of her hair. Not until he is quite complete does she bother speaking, for who else would answer?

"This place is spoiled. Rotten meat and…" She sniffs, hunting for the English word. "Eggs. The yellow powder, egg yellow." Sulfur, in other words. "A bad sign for the people who live near here."

Her grimace fades away as quickly as it came, the carved lines of her face remote and those eyes far, far too old for someone that young. What has she seen through them?

"It looks better. Maybe it will heal before more damage is done." From her tone, she doubts it, but one can hope. Here, the advantage of surprise is lost. "I may stay longer than a few days."


Strange nods with slight hesitance in his gesture of agreement. Still a relative unknown, this young spellcaster, and not one he will idly ignore. Too much potential; his gut tightens briefly as he wonders if Agamotto has felt need to send another loose canon his way. Perhaps this is the deity's way of keeping his hands busy enough to keep them off of other less important things in the eyes of the All-Seeing god.

"If you do, stay out of the Park." A tone that implies he's said that exact damn sentence far too many times. It's an old horse, long dead, bruised and battered. "You're correct. I'm working on it," now the undertones of a growl in that statement, as if unconsciously daring the listener to argue otherwise, "but containment has been most effective thus far. If I may recommend a neighborhood within the city, Greenwich Village is within my immediate territory. Nothing appears to have been foolish enough to trespass there. Hell's Kitchen is currently infested with vampires, according to my various sources, so." His steel-grey eyes flicker to her boots and back up to her face again.

He doesn't need to finish that sentence. Clearly, stay away — for now.

"The Sanctum, my home, is safety should you need — " And then he pauses. His gaze becomes scalpel-edged, sharp with intimate focus on her face. This is the searching look, the one he uses to ascertain precisely what Illyana was last up to when she traipses into the Sanctum with a guilty air. "Do you drink tea?"


Fingers drop to the knife at her belt. "Vampires." The edges of her eastern European accent sharpen the English, putting it closer to its native origins. "A place called Hell's Kitchen would have the risen dead. It's a bad luck name." So she has a few opinions rising around that. Shoot her.

Wanda drives her heel into the ground, pivoting around on it to cast a look back over the embankment of autumn trees wearing the shredded rainments of their dizzying summer party, bits and pieces strung like colourful cobwebs from silvering branches. Anything moving among there might be noted by those keen eyes. Her shoulders harden into a line under the merlot coat, and she shifts her weight a little from side to side, almost anticipating a blow. "Vampires infest places like cockroaches. They are almost as hard to remove. Burn the nest." Unsolicited advice comes with a flat look, no evidence of a smile anywhere.

The business of the village, though, leaves her striving to keep up. "This Greenwich Village, it is in the city? I go where I must. Probably too much money to keep a roof over my head." The bitter facts, but there they are.

"Or are you giving me my boundaries?" Worth asking. His stern look is met by one of hers, fearlessly staring back like a carved feline in the rock near Lucerne, larger than her life, but no less astute. "What person doesn't drink tea? Do I look to be a heathen?" Maybe not the best choice there, but English fluency comes a distant third to her other native languages. Maybe she's trying to crack a smile out of him.


The twitch of one corner of his lip is her immediate response from him. With a half-turn towards the upwards slope of the hill, Strange whispers a breath of willpower into a Gating spell. Like an occulus wreathed in golden sparklers, the tear in reality effortlessly parts the view of the battleground and reveals the foyer of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Firelight from the living room shines off one wall and the heat issuing from the tear is palpable.

"Not boundaries, no. You haven't needed such a warning. Not yet anyways," he adds as he glances over his shoulder at the young woman. "However…let's cut to that chase. I am the Sorcerer Supreme and this is my reality. You attempt to divert the flow of fate here, you deal with me. There. Simple." A shrug and small smirk, one conveying that it will take very little from him to exact a punishment on anyone who endeavors at such a thing.

The Cloak swirls in the briskness of his striding through the rift and into his foyer. The wards dance about him in friendly greeting before lingering about his shoulder as they always do, magical senses focused on the Gate and the immediate area surrounding it. They don't sense Wanda just yet. A lazy gesture and the mud evaporates from his clothing, leaving him looking as clean and dignified as ere he'd arrived to the Park initially.

He waits on the other side of the hole in reality, arms lightly crossed in a patient stance. "You know a scouring spell, I assume?" he asks. He must be teasing. He's teasing, isn't he? The good Doctor, concerned about muddy boots in his foyer? Or is this a test of sorts…?


All this is weathered as a statue would, except one infinitely more animated in her person. The breeze of power flaps around the dagged edges of her cloak, plundering the space around her in seething slaps of leather on flesh and empty air. Lacing up the front prevents the effect from passing further.

"Some would say you are brusque, too rude," she comments, a matter of fact statement without deep emotional inflection. "Good. Let's be direct. I am going to banish demons or devils coming from that hole in your park until you close it. Then maybe I will send you a bill to repair my knife and coat. It is a fair trade. Unless you float all day in a park and kill hellspawn."

Maybe he does. If he does, her esteem will probably jump tenfold. And if not he knows exactly her purpose now, stated very calmly. She tucks an unruly lock of hair behind her ear, the headband responsible for keeping it off her face mostly. Stepping through the void will be tricky; she pauses for a moment, and then stares at the gate, aware of the energy needed to keep such a rift open. Then it's through, and the coat she wears vibrates at the molecular level. Whatever dirt was on her, on her boots, touching her gloves turns into a cacophonous harmony: Rachmaninoff; Concerto Number 4 in G Minor, Largo.

Maybe not the most effective performance as the notes are ponderous and doom stricken, from the later half of the movement, but still audible in the most peculiar shades of magic singing their complicated tune. "I know how to take off my shoes, too."


The young woman's tart response, this time, is enough to draw a short laugh from Strange. "Quite the impressive talent," he replies with a shake of his head. As from a far distance, he had detected the musical strains of her magic in action and is quietly delighted. Discovering a new interpretation of another's magic signature is always of significance to him. It seems that this Wanda will play to his ears as she spell-casts.

The rift is collapsed with the dismissive gesture and he glances to his shoulder. "Well, go say hello. Gently," he admonishes belatedly with a frown as the wards swoosh over and around Wanda's body as if someone had just opened a huge freezer door.

Foreign. Chaos in blood. Potential. The silvery nearly-unseen creatures summarily retreat away and up into the ceiling, dispersing themselves once again throughout the various sentience of the Sanctum proper. Strange's eyes follow the disappearance of the wards before settling once again on Wanda. The good doctor's frown has morphed from an essence of admonishment to something more akin to contemplative. One can nearly see the gears whirring behind the half-lidded eyes. "Interesting," he murmurs before leading the way into the living room.

It's warm with the fire in the fireplace and he wills the Cloak from his shoulders; it whisks over to his personal high-backed chair and drapes itself across the top with the spirit of a sigh. "The tea is black with lavender, courtesy of a good friend," he comments as he pours the hot water into the cups. One could interpret the small smile on his lips as a bit melancholy; perhaps this friend has been untouchable in their distance. The tea will brew briskly, courtesy of his enchantments on the tea stand and its accouterments. He waves nonchalantly towards the guest chair on the right. "Sit, please, Miss Maximoff. It will be steeped shortly."

Accented by firelight, Strange stands in a pose of relaxed attention before the hearth, one hand resting on his hip, the other hanging at his side; the fingers of this hand draw random sigils almost unconsciously on his thigh, the Sorcerer's foremost tic. He cannot truly stand still. "So — you're welcome to continue hunting the demons about the Park. I welcome the assistance, as I mentioned earlier. I'd be most interested to hear of what brought you to New York. Hopefully not the voices of the Hellmouth itself?" he asks lightly. He doesn't exactly hold his breath, but — depending on her answer, his judgment of her may come swiftly.


"So I am told." Boots are removed, pulled down her legs. Then she sets them aside before going any further. Wanda's hair falls down her back, swaying between her shoulder blades in an uncontrolled cloud tinged to darkness at the heart and flames at the outer edges. A ruby sheen glances over her locks, shared by the burgundy coat and wisps of energy rising off her skin.

A pause when he turns her way to say hello becomes a look of binding intensity, her pupils going garnet bright and bleeding out across her formerly amber irises. Her mouth tightens rather than opens, and the guarded position of a fencer comes naturally to her, even as she raises her hands against the unseen.

What their whims are, she can only guess. A shudder runs down her guarded body and her grimace speaks volumes. Potential is potential, raging in her blood, her soul starting to leak with the wisps of power answering the strategic summons. "Explain." The Sight grants her some vision of the whirlwind draped around her, withholding the promise that could be unleashed.

She is not so rude to deny walking over to a seat, nor unwilling to gratuitously partake of his offering of tea. She settles back into a chair, ramrod straight, rigid beyond words. Back too straight, the courtesy keeps her locked in those forms. "Very well. Sorcerer."

"Necessity," she says in plain, frank language. The way she sits is rigid, her hands braced on the arms of the chair. Give her an orb and a flail, she would make a good ancient monarch uncomfortable to the heights she has ascended. "New York City is full of holes. Monstrous beasts will come through unless stopped."


As a hunter of the hunters then, he decides. A drop of his shoulders in visible relief. "Well, hopefully you're able to put a few holes in the numbers of them running about," he says with an exasperated sigh at the fact that he actually needs this assistance. But hey, it's true. One can't delve into Mystical tomes at all hours AND deftly avoid keen-edged talons at the same time.

Her cup of tea is finished steeping and so he delivers it first, with all the politeness of the gentleman of the house. "If you'd like some milk or sugar, just — "

And Strange's knuckles brush hers.

The moment turns crystalline, feverish in its clarity, as he's hit with the feedback and his pupils dilate in response purely to the sight that fills his Mystical vision.

He's drowning in a wild hurricane of sound — of music, he realizes in the moment — that sweeps in broad whorls like the crashing of a waterfall into an abyss. A freakish parallel to the star-borne cascade that he saw tumble into nothingness from the bridge of Asgard. It rushes through his veins with a sudden burn of claret-color that leaves his heart in his mouth and its pounding in his ears, accompanying the rising strains of the music, chaotic and mind-meltingly nonsensical. Within it all, he has no footing, for the abyss yawns beneath him with shackled sentience that sets the vision-gem of Agamotto to glowing with volcanic heat; it sears at his soul before sucking back the punishing pain, leaving the space numbed and then whole once again. The music rings in ostinato, a round that builds on itself until his ears are ringing with indistinguishable echoes, one nearly identical to the carrying theme and —

He's back with a blink and an inhale, wordless and only able to stare at the young woman before him.


Confidence might be overweening where it involves the young, the certain. The stupid and the proud have fallen before fighting the damned, drawn in well and truly unprepared for what they might find. Wanda rolls her shoulder on one side, casting for a sound that's almost a bark of bleak laughter. "They will die. I or someone else will end them."

It might be a disappointment if someone else gets to. That she hasn't tasted the origins of the Hellmouth is a blessing, or else the words might be very different.

Tea brought to her can be held as rigidly as her porcelain figure, but they aren't quite to the point where she takes the saucer from the sorcerer. Strange is given a dry, questioning look.

Then her eyes go incandescent, wine red, tears racing down her cheeks and the phosphorescent glow pouring from the corners. The Sight responds almost as immediately as his impression, and she hones in on the unfamiliar aura smashing into hers. The pinot noir upwelling charges the beginnings of the spectrum where he is the far end, the shortest and the hottest wedded together, speaking of alls and nones.

"Alpha and omega," she mutters under her breath, forgetting how to breathe, uncertain anyone can even hear her. He plunges her through the smoke of the nebulae, surging waves of celestial being pushing at her soul. The initial reaction isn't to shove back, but reach out to cycle around the cyanic illumination blowing around him in a wide reflected dish. Power flickers across her blank stare, and she reaches for the edges, testing how far that spin of power goes and intermingles at some base level, rolling back and forth in a tide until violet radiance explodes along the red tide flood encountering his self.

A blink. A thousand lifetimes.

The tea might well be falling to the floor.


The warning clatter of the tea cup on its saucer is what snaps Strange back to true reality. With a deft push of willpower, he stills his hand before drawing away from her. The hand-off remains incomplete.

Retreat is instinctive; thus, the half-step away. The shivers of violas linger in his mind as surely as the incarnadine hues at the edges of his vision. "I am….sorry," he breathes, seeing the tears on her face. It's rare that he is hurt by another's backlash of power against his Sight, but this isn't the first time that he's caused pain with the uncontrollable will of the Mystic powers he wields. Like draws like, as surely as the sun rises and stars turn overhead. "This….it happens if I've never encountered a similar type of magic."

It's an excuse, unhelpful but true. It was inevitable and will be inevitable with all magic-users and the good Doctor. After all, no metahuman is precisely alike and the magic exposes itself with the fingerprint of its caster.

The sound of the saucer being set on the short table beside her chair seems loud in his ears and he returns to the tea tray for his own cup. Like a shot of hard liquor, he downs half of it in one mouthful and swallows it thickly. The lump is hard to slide past the feeling of his heart remaining in his throat.

Potentiality hovers over him like the razor's edge of a guillotine and he can't shake the unease that this….this was just the beginning of it all.


It's the scalding sensation on her leather boots, her supple pants. The burning retort extricating one from the other.

It's the oxygen pulled out of her lungs, the celadon torn out of the rolling stormfront engaging two separate beings.

It's the smell of lavender in her head and the malachite taste on her lips, down her throat, clouding her palate beneath the primal moisture of the living forest and the dust disturbed from ancient grimoires.

It's the black Himalayan magic they share, his infinitely greater than hers, the etchings written on the underside of the cavern occupied by psychic entrails.

It's the symmetry of pulling together. The radical gravity shearing them asunder, and the sensation pulling her apart when he finds his own place over there, inches and miles away from her. It hurts, at some place it shouldn't, a deep muscle in ragged spasms forcing her shoulders back and her chin higher. Already stiff, the mage's posture is close to tearing delicate and fundamental tendons not adequately protected. She has to force herself to ease back, a task more difficult than lifting a ten ton weight.

Tears keep running down her face, power bleeds around her fingertips and drops in rose petals that scale a sonorous chord in an allegro, too quick for a dolorous requiem.


With his back to her, his slightly-stooped form outlined in blackest clarity against the burning of the logs in the hearth, no one should see how he clutches at his vest above his heart. The tea sloshes within its porcelain confines, a droplet splashing on the hand that holds to be distantly acknowledged in the turmoil of his thoughts. Another deep breath, self-centering blink, and then Strange tosses back the rest of his brew. The tea cup clunks on the wooden tea stand as he nearly drops it in placing it down.

This mouthful seems to aid in shoving the lump in his throat farther down, but still, it lingers and gnaws at his sternum with implacable anxiety.

With that skin-prickling presence, the wards swirl around him, lifting the uncontrollable flip of his bangs in their response, and he has to focus on slowing down the pulsing of the blood in his ears. "Calm…" he whispers — to whom? Himself? The wards? Their chilling presence slings itself around his neck, like the fever-breaking coolness of a wet washcloth, and it proves to pacify him on a surprising level.

Turning around, he's startled once more to see that she hasn't been able to dampen down her powers. Hesitantly, he raises his right hand but doesn't quite find the sense to summon up the banishment spell that can't force its way through the fog in his mind. Center yourself!!! The sharp snap of the Ancient One, overlaid with his own tones, provides him some clarity; it is mental muscle-memory, the focus provided by the mantra.

"Miss Maximoff," he says, in the most soothing tone he can muster, "please control your magic within my Sanctum."



The recognition of power and the burning open eye staring back, staring through all the layers built up like scar tissue over the very wound of whom she is—or is not.


The vulnerability found in a sanctum as she clutches her hands to her upper arms, protectively barred over her chest, pressing down hard into her bosom and digging nails into the leather.

The shreds of the night are still and wordless. The exhaled breath of the wards lies over her frostily. Everything is rimed in cold and burning heat, bubbles in her unsettled viscera that climb into forking lightning somewhere in her ribcage. Magic always demands its due, even the first time they open their eyes and witness one another.

Everything shines, blue-shifted, even if her gaze and her touch and her lips are witness to the lullabies by carnelian wires, plucked in deliberate couplets, a pairing of six notes with an underscored flamenco echoing what one great Mr. Cohen will discover on the island of Hydra in the Aegean in a few weeks, a few months. He's still charting his course miserably through London right now. But she anticipates the simplicity through the twitch of her long fingers, the recovery of the spell.

The peculiar thing about it all….

….it isn't magic.

She breathes in and then out, flattening the curve of the intermingling, and the music sketches into a dimmer spot with it. Her resonance shifts, the weight on the inner eye shifts, and then it fades entirely.

"I should go."


His brows shift about in a brief moment of inability to decide precisely what emotion to show her. His mouth remains partially open, wordless, unable to figure out immediately why it aches so much in his chest. The tea feels like it's curdling in his stomach.

An ache for an ache, the old familiar pain that haunts Strange in the night and has nothing to do with the demons that he sees in his dreams. Yet another mystery digging its inexorable claws into his psyche. The sight of the crimson Cloak and the weight of the diadem hanging from his neck pull him back to earth cruelly.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs again, unable to find any other sort of words to convey his warring feelings on the whole mess. He's abnormally unraveled by the whole affair. "You…you're welcome to leave. I was a terrible host." A faint self-recriminating laugh followed by his steel-blue gaze dropping to her feet and then away, off to the far distance of the tall windows on the far wall. His throat bobbles and words escape him once more. He seems ashamed and torn.

Vermilion haunts the edges of his visions, no matter how many times he blinks. Where…? Where do I know her…?


Here, in a given place and time, they are two figures figuring out how to begin while time passes them by.

Wanda stands beneath the impermeable night sky of the sanctuary, the fire flavouring the air with its smoky, brazen light. Sounds from the Village hardly penetrate this deep into a house that may be the greatest repository of magic in all Earth, full of secrets and untrustworthy mysteries condemned to censorship in his cautious care.

The microcosm of her life, and the conflict between demons and men, is squashed down into the pained laugh from Strange, the burning look from her. There is a lesson in there, if she would simply slow down enough to learn. "I never predicted I would be here," she says slowly. "In your house, as your guest."

The rising tide of her Slavic accent weaves around the words, a reasonable measure of her condition. "I'm not very good for formal company. The demon might have been better conversation." But why does she feel more alive here than in days past, even clashing knives and spells against a hated enemy?

Tea is on the ground, or nearly, and that spill matching the memories of tears and rose petals that touched the ground. They aren't there any longer, the floor pristine. Strange is given an opaque look, expression muddied, but he can still probably see through her, into the transparent fire. "What do we do then?"


Her word choice takes him aback and he holds her gaze. We? We…we do —

"We need to figure out where you can live while you work at your task in the Park. That is, if you still intend to continue to offer aid to me." Strange folds his hands behind his back and paces a few steps away once more, over to the fire. Its heat is soothing on his face in contrast with the chill of the wards still keeping sentinel over their master. The Cloak has been oddly silent in its slung-out place across the back of his chair, but without bidding from the good doctor, it's doing what it does best: remain seemingly-harmless.

"And a reaction to two magics meeting is no good judge of company. You wouldn't be the first to be overwhelmed." No true pride in those words, more grave circumspection. It seems that he has his own variation of a friend's fangs. "Regardless…there is the YWCA. If you don't mind the odd company, they can provide you a roof over your head and a warm meal when you are not otherwise engaged."

It's there, a half-formed memory, and he's having the damnedest time extricating it from the woolly mess of his mind right now. Scalpel-sharp surgeon's logic flows undimmed at the forefront, but all the while…dig-dig-dig. Those dark eyes. Maybe if he looked into them while they weren't cloaked in crimson, he might be able to solve this mystery.


Thinking in terms of two is as natural to her as singularity is to the rest of the world. There is so rarely I, but we, always we. They are a binary system, a tandem unit, and the bits found inside her lonely orbit receive the same status. What comes so naturally is plain, given time.

She woodenly retreats to the chair and sits at the edge of it, half ready to fly off again, half ready to perch there all night long like some badly carved statuette or toy put down by a child. Stiff where her coat is smooth as buttery leather can be, her legs clad in soft trousers. A glance goes to the cloak, but it's doing its finest to evade notice.

Except she has the sight, the awareness to the blinding flows of magic. Opening the third eye, as it were, even a crack is a surefire way to be inundated by a blast of sunlight strength radiance, such that she flinches and throws her arm up against her face.

No, not telling at all. But in that moment, she's still drawing her knees up and twisted in a most intriguing alignment, hip turned outwards, torso rotated, hair shading half her face.

"Too concentrated," she murmurs in Russian, not English, traipsing over it with the utmost ease. Nearly native, better than her English. She blows out a breath.

What were they talking about? Nimble fingers loosen the stays of her jacket, the lacing no longer sealed as tightly as a second skin. It gives room to breathe, but what must he think seeing her? "I am not married or engaged." Facts dispensed while she pauses, then jerks the leather cords through the bottom portion of the coat, the top gaping open.

"Who would want a half-wild witch who hunts demonic things? No, no husband will come and claim me from you tonight or any night. You are safe. Your virtue, that is."

Eyes minted from an antique gold coin lift to consider him, briefly. But enough to remember the afterglow.


He's turned around to ascertain exactly what made her inhale so sharply and his eyes flick from her to the Cloak and back. Ah — still uncertain as to how to use the Sight. Or did the Cloak offer its own defensive flash of Mystical light in response to her prying? Most interesting.

'Behave', he mouths at the garment, narrowing his eyes towards it in warning. The Cloak doesn't offer any sort of reply. Keeping mum is best with its master, for it conveys both innocence in the matter and is a deft avoidance of guilt.

Strange is in the middle of a dismissive headshake and frustrated sigh when the ambient light reflects from deft movements by his guest, drawing his gaze. The sigh is curtailed and he straightens in sudden premonition. What is she…? The coat, what?

Well, no, of course not married — no ring on her finger — though that doesn't entail that one would be married, but it's traditional and — husband, what? She is married then — WHAT.

A frisson up his spine when those dark irises flash towards gamboge, butter-yellow mingling with the under-hues of her claret-inclined powers to mirror the firelight in a flash evocative of a large hunting cat.

That lump is back and awfully hard to swallow.

Center yourself!!!

"The Sanctum would never allow any sort of harm to come to me or my guests," he replies with a hint of a growl. On the defensive, the good Doctor, taken aback at the forwardness of her words. Never mind that he's well-aware of how much that coat gapes open. Never mind that he's effectively cornered himself; already, his hands, behind his back, begin to tremble.


The sanctum is full of magical signatures. Looking at one means looking at them all, and their combined intensity is enough to detonate a bright aura all over the place. After coming out of the dark into that, no wonder she might be overwhelmed. Cloak is only part of it; he burns, the Eye burns, every last surface shines at least a bit.

Thank goodness for dark spaces and firelight.

"No crowds outside ever shouting your name or title in anger? That makes you a lucky man," Wanda acknowledges the fact, dissatisfied, even as she works the stubborn cords free of a knot dug in by physical activity.

"Do demons try and pry their way in? They must know you oppose them."

Another twist of her wrist, and the coat slips open completely, leaving room for air to circulate and a quick inspection of any damage. None, but you can never be too careful. "I say no one will come because they wed me, sorcerer. It is appropriate for this arrangement you ask for, then. I meet with what you ask to stay warm in a bed." She holds up her hands; naked of most rings, chewed nails, strong in their way.

One of the criteria. She quietly steps forward, following him as he retreats, clad in gossamer black that shines with an infernal lustre. "You have already seen I can hunt. Now there is only the act of taking a partner. You can tell me how want to do it. I am quick to learn. Even if my experience is…" She wobbles her hand. "I usually am alone in the dark, not used to having another there. Still, it is a way to build a stronger bond, I am told. You are the Sorcerer Supreme. No one better to show me how, da?"

And there she drops into a supplicant's pose at his feet, hands resting upon her knees, neatly placed in an upright seated position, face upturned to his. Golden eyes seek steel. What he wants to know, therein lies.


He can't draw back any farther. Another step and his boot goes into the flames. As if Strange isn't already rather hot under the collar, and certainly not negatively so.

Gods damn it all. Enough! Enough of him devoting himself to the world, fighting everything alone and suffering in equally lonely silence afterwards.

His irises flash ice-white momentarily as a swirl of Mystic energy reacts to the sudden shift in his intent. It's a brush of smoky air, charged with purpose, a gauntlet thrown down in the face of such an offering.

Reaching down with steadiest of hands, he draws the young woman into a standing position before him. Her skin is warm and soft, one of life's most precious delights, and he grasps them with a pressure that communicates reciprocal capture.

"I will show you what you wish," he murmurs, holding that gaze that still remains a mystery to him.


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