1963-10-19 - People Are People
Summary: A fated meeting of the Twins and the Sorcerer Supreme will have lasting consequences.
Related: The Bride's Idea of a Honeymoon
Theme Song: Why Do We Fall? - Hans Zimmer
strange wanda pietro 

Life moves on, despite vampires and demons. The calculated rhythm requires even a tired young woman to trudge forth from the warmth and danger of the sanctum into the boring, mundane safety of New York streets. The requirement driving her out will be revealed when she returns two hours later, holding a plastic bag with a few soft bundles hidden inside. The lumpy shapes and the receipt flapping out suggest she finally went about replacing her torn and burnt black shirt, relying on money from….

That's a good question. Where does an expatriate without any legal representation in the country get clothing? Or funds for clothing?

Still, she comes back in, dusted by snow in her hair and a look of consternation upon her face. It should not snow outside. Nor should the ground shake but it did, in New York. Adding insult to injury, the Slavic bakery didn't even speak Transian. Two strikes, but she has something fresh to wear so that constitutes a good day. Her search for the master of the house, absent his roommates, leads to no awkward encounters on the way. It takes a few looks about, in the kitchen and the foyer and the parlor full of snakes that give questionable advice before she finds the Loft. No doubt the books float and Strange with it.

She ignores the light-headedness and the bubbles bursting in her veins. An aneurysm at her age? Impossible.


Predictability is one of the master of the mansion's defining traits, at least in the comfort of his home. It keeps him sane while recovering from the latest insult to injury in the form of compulsion that nearly led him to kill the young woman searching him out.

That she still does so, after staring into the blank eyes of imminent death by magical disintegration says words not only for her fortitude, but for the seeds that struggle to grow in light of the stormy swirls of October's effects on this reality.

She'll find Strange indeed within the Loft, dressed in normal daywear, the Cloak now a warmly-lined vest rather than scarf about him. He reads as he demi-meditates, brows drawn into a ferocious frown of concentration. It's an old text (but aren't they all here, within his collection), very old, in a language he hasn't needed to decrypt in a very long time. There's something here, something about banishing the gods, and he's after it like a ratter in a barn. Never mind that he should be resting and not taxing his system with this silly habit of lotus-posed hovering.

So focused is the Sorcerer that if she approaches, he won't notice until she speaks.


Some would say it would be the height of foolishness, a sign of nascent instability. Who rightly returns back to an abusive master or partner except someone harmed and cracked?

The critics can shut their mouths. She edges into the Loft, careful not to touch anything, her hands clasped around the bag. All those soft cloth contents shape around a cardboard box, a cube of reasonable proportions. The sight of Strange in a sweater vest gives her pause more than anything else, be those snapping, fanged books or a cloud of rainbow butterflies singing about reading. A concerned expression lasts for a few seconds, until she files away the worry under 'not your business,' drawer 17.

"I have something for you." Not even a hello, she jumps right in. "Is it safe to leave on a chair?" She points to the lumpy settee of sorts that someone could possibly be swallowed inside, then goes back to holding onto her bag.


An inhalation and a blink and then Strange glances over at her. The bruised-purple beneath his eyes of poor sleep still remains as does the slight paleness of lingering anemia.

"Oh, yes, that's perfectly fine. What—" and he laughs, looking with hesitant amusement between her and the bag in her hands. "What's all this about?"

His inside-boots make no sound on the wooden floor as he unfolds himself from the levitated pose, dismissing the slow swirl of low-grade magic around his person. The vest, crimson Cloak in another form, wriggles a little around his neck as a sort of odd hello towards Wanda and then falls silent again. His steel-blue eyes drop down to give the garment a glance of 'really-now?' in nature and then he's setting aside the leather-bound tome on the small study table before him.

His approach is respectful, pausing at least an arm's length from her, and he grants her another cautious smile. "What's the occasion? Is everything okay?"

A shadow of concern darkens his expression.


The cloak warrants a second look, as though she doesn't quite believe that intentional shift was anything of the sort. Oh, what Wanda has to learn could fill several grimoires in his fine library.

"I went out," she explains, as though even this limited amount of detail could possibly explain her purpose heading into the city. "It seemed safe. I didn't miss anything, did I?"

Idle curiosity at that intensity cannot disguise anything less than interest, no matter how casual the tone. Don't be fooled.

The bag lands with a credible thump, crinkling plastic and a clink. She gathers one of the shirts and sets it aside, revealing the slightly dog-eared box with its twine bow for decoration. "There. For you." If he wants it, Strange has to come down and get it.

Bright honey brown eyes glance up and she gives a thoughtful impression, brows lined, mouth puckered for a moment. "You still need more sleep. But the damage is less than I might have expected, so you achieved some rest. There will be no need to sit atop you to gain your compliance." Disappointed? Maybe.


"Nothing that I'm aware of." The statement is delivered with a smear of dark humor; for now and until forever, he'll never be able to say anything akin to it without a small crinkling of his nose.

The slightly-battered brown box is taken into his hands and he looks it over with an arced brow of interest before glancing up at her again. "I think three hours of sleep at a time isn't too shabby. I could have insomnia instead. Wouldn't that be a kick…?" Strange mutters, thumbing one of the loose lengths of the twine bow against the box's surface. Three hours of sleep, along with a stiff cup of tea, has kept him on his feet. Okay, a few naps too, let's be honest. He woke up with his forehead on his folded forearms earlier in the day, nearly drooling on the priceless pages acting as a pillow, before he decided that meditative hovering would require enough brainpower that he has no choice but to stay alert.

Nothing like the brief terror of gravity pulling you down to the fastest wake-up of your life if you doze while levitating.

"And no need to coerce my compliance." The innocent expression can't quite mask the twinkle in his steel-blue eyes. Noted? Perhaps.

"Really now though, what is it?" He begins slowly pulling the bow loose even as he asks. No answer and he becomes more careful as he feels the item shift in the box as he's plucking the wrapping string - clink.

He seems to be eaten away with inquisitiveness even as he flips back the two flaps of the cardboard and —

An odd lump forms in his throat even as he slowly pushes aside the wrapping paper to reveal the rest of the gift and pulls it from the box. The box clunks on the library's floor as he holds it in both hands to the light.

It's red clay in composition, he can tell, beneath the lightly-layered black glaze. The gilt is perhaps bronze (he hopes not gold?!) and scrolling designs of lotus leaves and flowers bloom across its surface. It is simple in body - he recognizes the cannon-ball style from the East, from his time in Kathmandu and then for a span of years. The handle fits within his grip like it was meant to be and even as he stares at it, the curls of reflective floral gilt begin to shine with the absorption of the simple Ever-Warming spell that the last teapot carried so faithfully.

The ambient glow fades from both decorative swirls and then from his eyes as he swallows past his heart in his throat.

"Thank you," he finally says with a faint laugh. "You…you didn't have to, I was going to replace it myself."


"Good." It is not an absolute. Was he aware when he was throwing annihilation between his hands, an avenging god? Was he certain of his purpose when stepping out from the Sanctum into the city, searching for wrath and purpose, answering a vampire lord's call? Questions unanswered, questions uncertain in the light of day, do not ease her path.

That box will stand on its own until Strange does the same, investigating the contents nestled in simple paper and newsprint wadded up into bundles. Wanda makes no great deal about the bestowing of a gift, rendering the moment devoid of pomp and circumstance it might warrant otherwise. Some would certainly make the most of it, showing off with enough fanfare to drown a Waldorf or an Astor or a Rockefeller, out to make a point of guilt or obligation. Not her.

She leans over and pulls out her shirts, looking at them. Then she pauses, holding one up, trying to decipher a fundamental question. Where do clothes go? Does she have a drawer? A closet shelf? No space of her own? Hammerspace and bags of holding are not exactly stable repositories, so she slides the shirt back into the plastic container and will worry about it later.

"Hon, yin dang yin. Yapo du? Khey rang la gabo du?" The pronunciation is precise and slightly guttural, some vowels swallowed in absence of others.

It's also fully fluent Tibetan.

« Yes, you're welcome. Is it good? Do you like it? »

Clearly even a laugh isn't certain tell from the Transian girl, and she tips her head quizzically to the side to make sense of this new puzzle, this new sense of what he might be talking about or thinking. Strange is still a mystery as much as the monasteries with their prayer flags and bells, staring at the sacred mountains, contemplating wonders.


"Hon, thuk jay chey," Strange replies after a moment, drawing on memories of the lilting language he once knew so fluently.

«Yes, thank you.»

"Zema," he adds as a buzzing afterthought, barely loud enough to be heard, as his gaze flickers from the teapot to the young woman standing before him.

She knows well-enough what it means.

Stooping, he picks up the box and walks over to the tea stand, standing in-place beside the pedestal on which rests the Book of the Vishanti. The new teapot is set centrally and his fingertips splay with near reverence across its surface as he lingers, vision overcome with a memory.

The Ancient One's voice. Just tea. With a bit of honey.

He closes his eyes, drops his chin for a second to help stifle a laugh, and then turns to walk back over to Wanda. As he approaches, the box is set aside on the settee; he'll deal with it later, one way or another. He had glanced over as he was striding by the rest of her shopping and the purchase of many new shirts wasn't lost to his attentive perusal, even with such a flash of acknowledgement in passing.

"Need a reason to wear one of them?" he asks, giving her a partially-muted smile of teasing, uncertain as to whether she'll reciprocate to his sense of humor. "There's a tea shop that my neighbor, Mrs. Turner, has been talking about for some time. It's just two streets over."


Wanda knows the meanings of the words. She cannot translate all the gestures and intentions so perfectly, though, particularly for someone still very much an unknown. In the book 'A Witch's Guide to the Doctor,' whole chapters are nearly blank or simply titled with "Research pending." Every opportunity for study and practice, however, beg her to wade out for field research and now she brings that to bear.

"It seemed the appropriate choice," she says, if a tad lamely, spreading her hands to the side. Sometimes presents stand out. Sometimes being the master of probabilities guides a girl in the right direction, landing on the proper selection.

Then he is asking if she should be wearing a new shirt. She glances to the battered seams and melted fabric over her shoulder, hidden by her coat but defining consigning that garment to the pile of rags for cleaning. "Are you suggesting you will destroy this one?"

The inciting statement comes with an arched eyebrow, the teasing met with an equally arch look. "My shirt is wounded prey. It will not present a great difficulty."

Gauntlet flung.




Gauntlet noted.

"No, I won't destroy your shirt, though it's not going to keep you warm with that hole in it," he adds, gesturing towards the bit of skin he can see from what is revealed by the coat. His eyes remain on it as he steps closer to her, making it very clear that his mind is dancing about other things entirely as he gently moves the red leather to one side. His fingertips trace the edging of the rent black fabric and draw completely around its periphery before moving slowly along her collarbone. Unerringly, they find the shadowed divot at the base of her neck and swirl idly within it before tracing up the line of her throat.

Strange's other hand slides between her arm and side, slipping behind to rest in the small of her back and pull her closer still.

Two fingers remain poised beneath her chin as he holds her eyes fearlessly.

"Were I not recovering, Miss Maximoff," - a measured zzzip on the youthful title, purr to the overall tone - "I would present you a rather…great difficulty indeed." A hum of appreciation as he takes a moment to appreciate what he sees in her face before him; his eyes darken as a consequence. "But it might be best to wait until I am entirely healed."


Remember how Strange hoped no one would discover he was ticklish? Her hair assured she already has.

Remember how she uttered a sound and gave a telling twitch of her shoulders? There it goes again when his fingers swirl around the groove in her collarbone, lacing the hollow with an incandescent spark unleashing a whole lightning storm on her flesh.

No reason to move back, though her back stiffens and her shoulders tense rather than jolting up like the string of a bow pulled back in preparation to launch an arrow. The sliding of bones closer together parallel her spine changes the way her coat and shirt fit, most certainly. The burned fabric strains, threatening to tear.

Rather like a cat, she licks her dry lips. Bruises show there, where her teeth mar the lower curve. Proof of the night's stresses and the long twilight vigil she watched.

"I am told it is an excellent tonic to undertake mild activity, rather than remaining in a bed." What fine bedside manner, too, to give advice to a doctor. But then, she is something of a healer in her own right.


It's impossible to ignore the brush of that tongue across her upper lip. It drives his pulse rate up another notch.

"Mild activity. Hmm…" It is a bald mockery of pensive thought he utters as he leans in to press a kiss against the outer gathering of the twin rubied bows, questioning, teasing - all the while, his other hand spreads broad fingers across the bow of her lower back, effectively trapping her again him.

Hot. Unlike his battle-leathers, his dress shirt is thin enough for him to register how she seems to exude heat. He feels it in every press of her body against any portion of his person. At a terse whisper of mental will, the crimson Cloak morphs shapes on his torso. Vest parts with the unnatural absence of the ripping of torn cloth along the line of his sternum in a visual of bleeding watercolors before it reforms on his shoulders as the quintessential caped garment of the Sorcerer Supreme.

His kiss should feel warm and dry, feverish, as he presses to the other corner of her lips. Wherever her hands land, they burn into his skin through the cotton of the formal shirt.

"I'm not sure that's what you have in mind…Rakshasi," he murmurs, pulling back to hold her dark eyes.

Demon-hunter, she is - lithe curves and independent of mind - razor-edged like the knives slung at her belt - reflector of golden firelight from crimson depths of gaze - hellcat incarnate. It is a nickname not lightly granted and offered with a sense of grave respect despite the circumstances of their flirtation. The last Rakshasa he fought, a male of the species, neatly removed the bottom half of one sleeve of his battle-leathers with one swipe of its talons. It had taken a special magic to return the armor to its previous state.

The two fingers, having been pressed with gentle insistence into the softness of her chin to raise her face to his, drop and join all tips to grace along the lines of her neck, simply to see her reactions. "Mild activity, medically-speaking, is restrained to simple walks to tea shops and perhaps remaining ensconced in a chair with a good book. Is this what you had in mind?"

A knowing quirk of one line of his goatee. No, pfft. No, he doubts that either of those things are what really lurks in this hellcat's mind.

But then again, how well does he know her? One speaks of research - Strange lives for projects. His goal? To ascertain how she exists, down to the littlest movement of body, cadence of speech, pattern of habit. There still remains distance, not brought on by choice, but by simple lack of experience in the mystery that is Wanda.

He'll retreat the very moment she shows signs of hesitance, even in the presence of a ragged shirt that strains against posturing.


Danger, system overload. Initiate emergency procedures, and divert all available energy to the whirlwind speed of the mind. The spin up announces itself in the smallest of tells, the thump of her heartbeat rapidly escalating in its tempo to supply the necessary energy. Memory instilled over a hundred generations keys resources where they best belong, even if she might happen to be consciously unaware of the transformations.

In ancient Egypt, it was not without reason that Hathor, the protective goddess of laughter and dance, also had the aspect of Sekhmet, furious slaughterer of all external enemies and internal threats. Everyone has the capacity to wear more than one mask.

For a girl who usually walks about as Sekhmet, the first celebrated hell cat, beloved daughter of Ra, shifting back into the moon-crowned, gentler form of herself is not reflexive or even familiar. But the signs are there. The way her coral lips soften, slowly parting to a word not fully realized. Worry seeps out from the corners of her face, melted away like so much wax to reveal the true structure beneath, and those warm eyes lift to focus on the kiss planted upon her smoothing brow.

For a moment she's almost cross-eyed following him, then eases back slightly into a more normal trajectory. She can stop looking. To be sure, Strange can probably guess she's often too focused on sight, but the preference is a complete sensory plunge. There are no halfways where she is concerned.

Which makes that treacherous quiver some point deep all the more maddening. The bubbles and glitter are and aren't nerves, not the ways that are familiar to the brunette sorceress. He unlocks something that produces a sigh, the smallest of sounds, while his fingerprints are laid all over the window into a soul forged in trial, error, and sheer impulse.

"What I thought was then." Her characteristic truthfulness isn't sugar coated, but neither is it a jagged rock candy about to rip open wounds going down. "Now, you are suggesting you are better mended than you thought. You don't need that sort of nursing. Something more invigorating to mend faster."

This is where the regimen of fresh air and clean vistas ought to be introduced. Witches like the natural world. It would be a great choice.

The tremor in her gaze, the way she bites her lip, is absolutely not going in that direction. Rakshasi he calls her, the quirk of recognition there. She survived India - - Kashmir, no less - - after all. She knows the name, the term. "You suggest I warp your good sense? First Death. Now Rakshasi. You are the destroyer, then, to accompany all that? Destroying good sense. Shirts. Vests. Composure…"


As Strange feels the brush of her locks against his knuckles, resting his hand gently on her shoulder (if only to keep stroking at the connecting tendons that the torn shirt can't hide with his thumb), he notes the glitter of droplets of water on them. Melted snowflakes, he ascertains, from a brief glance towards one of the tall windows of the library. Outside, they swirl lazily, not boding more than a dusting on the ground in the end.

"I didn't notice it was snowing," he mutters, changing topics in a dizzying flip before returning to it. "A little walk would do me good, I think. Fresh air, and then a cup of tea. Something dark, I think…a Rooibos and Chai, perhaps. Honey."

And then he leans in to seal his lips against hers in a move meant to steal the air from her lungs before summarily retreating with the most charming of smirks before Wanda could do much more than gasp. "And no, not destroying - incising, with the utmost care." Disengaging all of his touches to her senses leaves him to grant her a nod before he walks around her towards the hallway. His winter coat is downstairs, in the small closet by the front doors used primarily by temporary guests.

The crimson Cloak melts once again, this time into a thick scarf lined in gold and bronze.

"Meet me downstairs and dress warmly. After all, wouldn't want you catching a chill. You'd be bed-ridden then." Another half-lidded glance over his shoulder at her, one that travels from toes to top of her head in a clear indication that he was nearly up to snuff.

He'll wait downstairs for her, pacing slowly around the foyer, until she's ready to leave.


There lies no hesitation, no doubt, no echo whatsoever of uncertainty. Probabilities are easily enough measured, possibilities weighed; her mathematical skills are profound, if she chose to rely on them. For the game of people, though, there is instinct, the honed intuition that witches, oracles, have used for centuries. Enough for them to be simply a man and a woman.

Pushing back her brown hair behind her ear is almost unnecessary, but even that slight act of grooming and straightening hits straight back several million years and activates centres of the brain that know exactly what it means, even if she didn't know consciously. Even if he may, Wanda doesn't. Nor does she have to.

Wanda brushes her lips against his and stands abruptly on tiptoe to force him not to balance, some distant afterthought about him being in poorer condition than she — sleep lacking or not — hastening her to act. Her heels leave the ground and then she's left teetering there because he moves before she can get her hands on his shoulders. And the cloak is helping by turning itself into an abetting accessory.


Am going to spectacularly get revenge at the least expected moment.

She watches him turn away and traipse on by. Two can play at that game, then, if he's so certain of himself.

He hears fabric ripping, and the good Doctor might be left wondering what requires four tears, not one, and the satisfactory addition of a trembling thump on the floor. When he paces, she wears that favourite coat of hers, corseted up the front.


Make no mistake, the good doctor does indeed wonder what those ripping sounds entailed precisely. He has imagination enough, however, and the experience to know when to grant such a move his attention. She might have heard the little snort of amusement from the hallway as he continued downstairs.

She'll find him wearing a small pleased smile even as he turns around to watch her come down the grand staircase. No words are said at first; the main communication is in the narrowing of his eyes.

Silhouetted by the light pouring in from the stained glass All-Seeing Eye that takes up the entirety of the foyer's inner wall, she looks…delightful. Purposeful. Full of…corseted glory.

"I hope you don't catch a chill," he reminds her lightly, gaze lingering around her collarbone before rising to her face. "It is snowing after all." Strange strides to the front door and pauses with his fingers wrapped around the handle. "The tea shop isn't too far. If we walk briskly, we can be there within a few minutes."

His body tenses, balancing to place force into pulling open the front door, when —


The reverberation of an impact against the dark wood is felt from fingertips to shoulder socket and his dark brows knit even as he raises his other hand towards Wanda in a gesture of commandment to stay put.

"One moment, please," and he opens the front door about an inch to look out on the front porch.


Wanda may run, Wanda may hide. Wanda may even teleport. But Wanda will not evade Pietro forever. Sooner or later he's going to figure out where she's lurking. That she's continued to leave him in the dark has made him ..somewhat disgruntled, to say the least. Once he figures out where to look for her there is nothing that is going to get in his way.

Seriously. The world at large has come to a virtual standstill, freshly fallen snow hovering in the air like large gatherings of dust. It's a trivial matter for him to dart through the sheet steel mazes of so many crawling vehicles.

At one intersection a pedestrian is jumping out of the way to avoid getting struck by a Dodge (oh the irony) and his coffee is getting spilled out into the air. Pietro barely slows down as he grabs the slowly falling cup, scoops the coffee out of the air, drinks a fair amount of it, then slings the cup back into the air.

Somewhere else a guy is stealing out of a woman's purse. He neatly plucks the stolen item out of his hand, drops it back into the purse, then turns the thief's hand into a fist and nudges his arm into his own gut with the tip of a finger.

A street vendor loses a navy blue hat off of the display rack, quick to end up on top of Pietro's head.

There may be a missing hot dog or three somewhere in there, too.

And then..then there's the target of his current sprint. The Speedster halts in the middle of the street and gives the front door a peeved stare as if daring it to stop him now. Then he takes a running start and—


To any bystanders some weirdly dressed kid with goggles and a navy blue hat suddenly appears out of nowhere, flying backwards back into the street. Ten..fifteen..twenty feet before he lands on his keister. One car has to hit the brakes, beeping their horn at the bizarre sight.

With a shake of his head he gets back up, roughly adjusts his jacket with a grim look of determination, and..tries for round two.


"The snow was light and unnatural," opines the brunette, pulling her hair back over her shoulders and out from the folded collar of her coat. The flaring cut intended to give her the maximum ability to move also works to prove she is, in fact, a human female. Wanda tugs on the belt straddling her hips, weighed down by one of her perpetual daggers. There can be no helping the need to carry it, though she does make a point concealing the sheath better beneath the tapered fall of the split burgundy leather.

One of them has a scarf, and the other seems not to be bothered by such. Then again, the flakes ought to melt seconds after they touch her slightly dusky skin. Testing in her pockets, she comes up with her fingerless gloves, pulling them on as a precaution apparently not spared for her clavicle or face. "The distance is fine. I scrambled through worse winters than this." It could be an arrogant statement if only it weren't so plaintive and truthful. She really does seem to think nothing of that. The benefits of a roof over one's head and a good knitted scarf are luxuries, compared to the piecemeal existence experienced by some.

A collision with the door is enough to silence her, enough to halt any thoughts. The first reaction is pulling power up from her veins and sketching a lambent sigil on the air, slicing it halfway through by a forking aerial bolt. Energy coalesces around her in a transparent burst tinged ruby, and then…

"…. No." The tired protest of a younger twin the world round. They have a way of knowing things, a link that comes in the womb even if they're entirely beyond that level of genetics, now. Though like it or not, Pietro won't ever look as good in a corset as his sister does; she's wearing one for a measure of protection physically under her trademark jacket, which has the same effect when fully laced up the front and buckles positioned just so.

"Pietro!" Her voice is sharp and pointed as her blades, hitting every bit as forcefully, magic or not. "Stop it." It being him. "You are giving me a headache. If he keeps running, pull his feet off the ground." The latter, sotto voce, is plain unfair. But he's playing with two telekinetics. Serves him right.


"Pietro? Who is-"

All this said as he opens the door wider to see the young man standing just out of reach of the passing cars, wearing a blue baseball cap and…goggles? "Pull his feet off the ground?" Strange repeats even as he sizes up the silver-wearing stringbean. A check-in glance at Wanda, who has brushed past him without seemingly a care and with a sense of weary familiarity in dealing with this stranger.

The good Doctor adjusts his black coat around him (the crimson scarf adjust as well, drawing close to prevent the random incursion of snowflakes) before he closes the front door to the Sanctum. He stands just behind his roommate now on the stretch of the front porch, arching one eyebrow in an expression of curious disdain.

"And who are you?" Yes, it's an imperious tone directed down to the street, but the young man just bounced off of his Sanctorum's doors like a bird from a windowpane. Either he's in a hurry (Strange is not) or he's attempting to attack the mansion (which is a bad idea and he'll find it out sooner than later).


And the truth comes out. ..Sort of. With the door open and two figures standing just past it (one of them immediately recognized!) Pietro zips -right- up to the porch to join the others, standing real nice and close while avoiding the edge of that annoying invisible barrier.

"What are you two doing in there, huh? What is this, what's going on, did you think you could keep this secret forever? -That's my Sister- you old creep! Wanda, what are you doing!"

To say he's a little high-strung would be like saying the Sahara is a little dry.

To Wanda in particular the accusations go next, "Why've you been keeping this a secret, what's going on that you couldn't possibly tell me about?"

With the two standing right beside the doors then maaaaaybe there's a way through the barrier now..? Careful not to run head-first into the shield again he tries to zip past the two, attempting to get inside of Strange's home! Or at least give the shield another good -smack- out of total frustration.


The proof lies in the pudding, a mélange of features held in common. The expressions are different, of course, for being two separate sexes means the twins are fraternal, rather than identical. Dip one in the frosty bath of winter, and they come up with Pietro. Take the other and expose her to the summer sun, they will have Wanda. But the cheekbones are the same, equally high, the jawlines mirrored in feminine and masculine, even the slant of the eyes and the tip of the shoulders. He is frenetic and she contained, but in those moments when both move at a relative pace, there are still mirrors of habit and the way their hands both tend to move. Perhaps it's studied, and perhaps not.

"The Artemis to my Apollo," Wanda states quietly, putting all into a very clear sense of perspective if they have an iota of information about Greek and Roman myth. Maybe not so much the bit about Leto being spirited away or… Scratch that, it's perfectly relevant.

Should he even remotely come close to poking at her, the invisible shield thwarts that. It means when she moves as Pietro does, he misses her by shreds, tenths of an inch, but enough. Enough those barriers keep them from coming into contact, a silent warning. "My elder brother."

Then she watches the pigeon bash out its brains against the house, almost sighing if she had the capacity to feel that much. "Thirteen minutes does not entitle you to judge everything you see. Stop for five seconds, Pietro, and look. Do I seem harmed? Do I look to be held against my will? Do you think anyone could do that to me, if I didn't want them to?" Flecks of garnet occlude the steady golden-brown shade of her eyes, a bleed of mist rolling off her lashes, running off into the ether. "You did not approve of me hunting, or healing someone. I did not agree with you."

She rolls her shoulder, "The Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Pietro Maximoff. Introductions, see? Now we are civil. Brother, that is the mystic pope. Yes? Remember?" Just in case the squirrel boy forgot.


The Sorcerer Supreme of Earth is aghast. Well, he certainly looks the part as he watches the young man - no, Pietro - no, her big brother?! - disappear and repeatedly reappear to smack against the wards of the Sanctum.

Finally, with a splutter of a muffled curse, he steps around Wanda and holds out a hand.

"Alright, alright, stop! You'll going to get hurt!"

His steel-blue eyes shift to Wanda with an expression of disbelief. He'll address the comment regarding pope-dom at another time.


The Sorcerer Supreme of Earth is aghast. Well, he certainly looks the part as he watches the young man - no, Pietro - no, her big brother?! - disappear and reappear to smack against the wards of the Sanctum with a fist.

With a splutter of a muffled curse, he steps around Wanda and holds out a hand.

"Alright, alright, stop! You'll going to get hurt!"

His steel-blue eyes shift to Wanda with an expression of disbelief. He'll address the comment regarding pope-dom at another time.


Pietro can stop, making a point to stop in a way that he might try to have his back turned to Strange when he looks directly back at Wanda with goggles removed. It's less about him trying to be -completely- rude and more about it being a very personal matter, which is also why when he next speaks it's in rapid-fire Transian.

<What I see is that after running around through one European mess after another and trusting each other with every little thing that you've ditched me as soon as we've gotten to this country and placed all of your trust in someone else. We were a -team,- Wanda. All of life's trials we faced together. Our -distrust in others,- we shared. Even Agatha worked with us. -Us.- Now this?>

Maybe he was born but moments earlier than his twin. Maybe he did often call the shots and lead the way. Though for as fast as he's been moving through life he's not prepared for what feels like a sudden shift of leadership. Frankly, it feels like he's just been replaced.

<Don't talk to me about being civil. Since we've arrived here you've done nothing but hide from me.>

The part which is thought rather than said is 'How am I supposed to make sure you're safe if you shut me out?'

Leaving Wanda to process everything he just dumped onto her he spins about on his heels and gives Strange a smile which is forced and not at all sincere. "Hi. I'd say it's nice to meet you but I'd be lying through my teeth."


Indeed, the elder twin by the magic number of thirteen minutes. He apparently forsook sense for speed, as so often happens. Wanda's patience may be a fair bit longer than her tolerance for other things, such as hot dogs, demons, mad scientists, and ravenous Brides of Dracula. She returns a mild look at the Sorcerer Supreme pushing past her, casting to silence for a moment while the spin of probabilities dance in her thoughts.

« I will remind you again of what we said. 'Let's find someone else who is already trying to help these people so we can help them.' That was you. I told you I had sanction from an authority when Kurt questioned that, and my authority to hunt the infernal and the undead is the Sorcerer Supreme. You learned all that in Hell's Kitchen, hours after I held vigil over him when he lay under a vampire's curse. » Transian she is clearly fluent in with a facility and speed, the Slavic tongue a blitz of patient, even inflections rather than building up to a rage.

She won't give him the pleasure of her rage. The rage is not there.

He shifts around and she looks at him, holding out her hand, palm outward and fingers down for the left, the right with her palm raised, thumbs in both cases directed out. It's an ancient symbol, invoking the abhaya of fearlessness and reassurance, and the varadha, the giving of the boon. Both are Indian, and ancient.

« We both know what vampires can do, brother. This one's power outstrips anything I ever encountered before. You did not see the blood loss, you did not see the corruption it left riddled through him, or his will no longer his own. I won't let a vampire do that. Leaving him to his own devices, to die, was never an option. I have not been hiding, Pietro, but using every bit of art and skill Jaga taught me to stop someone from getting hurt — someone who will matter. I've foreseen it. In my shoes would you walk away not knowing the patient would make it? »

Then it's back into English. "I am sorry. We should not speak without you having a translation. He is angry at me for hiding, I set him straight that I guarded and healed you. There is some right to be mad."


Okay, this - this - disappear/reappear business without magic is something he's never seen before. Even as the twins are arguing in some language he's not entirely certain of, Strange is looking the young man up and down. He compares build to build, facial landscape, the gestures that accent the heated words, all of it. There's some similarities in the cheekbones, he supposes, as he tilts his head slightly to look at Wanda around the back of her brother's head - and then Pietro is speaking to him rather venomously.

He returns the grin (rather, baring of teeth) with less intensity and laughs, taken aback at the statement.

"I'll not lie at all then and tell you that you're just as much of a surprise to me as I am to you, Mister Maximoff," he replies with far less imperiousness and more cordiality this time. He doesn't like surprises as much as Pietro does, but years more on this earth as well as the training of the Mystic Arts has taught him to consider his reactions more carefully. To Wanda, suddenly speaking English as well, he shakes his head with an obviously-affectionate sense of a smile. "It's fine, don't worry. I understand."

His gaze shifts back to Pietro, standing so close to him, and he gives no ground. Rather, an uptilt of the face, a sense of looking down his nose to someone inclined to interpret it as such. "Your sister is correct though. I did sanction her to assist me in the removal of the demons that escaped from the portal in Central Park. It's within my purview as Sorcerer Supreme to do so."

So stand down, stringbean, he keeps unsaid.


Turning back to the twin, Pietro listens to everything that Wanda says without interruption. This isn't some petty disagreement or an argument brought on for the sake of feeling the anger flow. He chose to confront her out of his care for Wanda, out of the bond of family. It's her turn to hold the proverbial floor.

As it turns out, being those few minutes earlier into the world may make him slightly older, but does not imply that he is also destined to be slightly wiser.

At least not ALL the time. He is still human. ..Sort of. But that's another matter.

"You could have at least told me his name," the Silvery one replies in English as the fire burning within him is visibly extinguished. He doesn't like being excluded, this is nothing new to the Scarlet Witch, though he can't deny that he still can't be in two places at once and sometimes..rarely, but sometimes..things can actually move too quickly even for him.

A step back (a normal-velocity step back) lets him look between the two in equal measures. In his own mind he's making a face and mocking those last few words Strange has to say, 'within my purview…'

In actuality those beady eyes of his narrow slightly as the Speedster regards Strange. "One, you're going to keep her safe. Two, you're going to get used to seeing more of me. A lot. More. Of me. We're a team," he states while snapping a thumb over to Wanda. "and I would go into the mouth of Hell itself at her side. Maybe I don't do the mystic jumbo like you two but I fight creepy crawlies all the same."

That's as much standing down as they're going to get out of Mister Maximoff.


The hypocrisy of existence is age does not equate to wisdom. Family does not make friend. Choice does not assure right. Differences have to be made up some other way, through hard choices and tough experience.

"A choice you both had to make without me doing it for you," says Wanda, her shoulders dipping under her coat. Not that the corset allows any kind of slouch whatsoever. Besides. Waiting to hear his reaction to it will be priceless. Pietro's reactions so often are, and she's not about to lose that opportunity.

Take no note of the vixenish smirk hinted at her lips or the widening of her eyes in expectation, gentlemen. Carrying right along.

"He is right. We shared the same space for many months. He gets upset when not wrapped up in a sheepskin or a sleeping bag." The brunette pauses as she tries to shake the idiom out of her selectively excellent memory. "Snug as a bug in a rug. We are used to fighting together."

Her hand is held out to Pietro, even as she brushes the back of her knuckles against Strange's.


Hmm…youth. Strange's eyes narrow further at her brother. No one makes demands of him except for the gods.

He glances over at Wanda, taking in her comment about fighting together with a rapidly-churning mind. No matter how she pouts those lips or inhales in such a manner, they will be discussing her past over tea, one way or another.

"Make no mistake, Mister Maximoff, your sister is perfectly safe within my capable hands." The brush of her knuckles against his hand is returned with a subtle interlacing of his fingers between hers, sliding in and away just as quickly.

"In fact, she barely needs my help in staying out of trouble."

She gets into it all by herself, he thinks wryly, eyes flickering between the twins and back to Pietro.

"And I will see you in the Sanctum when you choose to knock on my front door rather than blast through it like a human cannonball. Outside of my home, you are clearly welcome to join us as long as you don't distract us during our casting."

Us. Whoops, Strange.


Pietro is still looking cautious. It's obvious enough that he doesn't like getting brought into this so last minute, as it were. Inside he'd like to think that Wanda is acting out of reason, and..it kinda sounds like she is. It isn't the first time he's had to have some faith in her decision and trust her lead. It's just not always so easy letting her call the shots. It had always been his job, ever since they had lost their Father.

With the offered hand he hesitates a moment longer before quickly ensnaring her in a hug that's both gentle and protective, and damn the consequences of getting soft in front of this Stranger.

It's in this hug that his expression becomes puzzled. His hands at Wanda's back shift, patting here and there. That's…

"Wanda. Why are you wearing a corset?"

He promptly breaks away from the hug, though this time he's not appearing to accuse Strange of the matter at hand. "Fancy vampire-hunting armor? Funny, I'd think that for something known for biting -necks- that defensive measures would actually bother to cover the area a little better," he verbally jabs at Wanda.

If Strange had spoken that one thought aloud Pietro would have actually agreed, she -does- get herself into trouble plenty. That's part of why he's so protective of her! Either way, he will absolutely make demands because -this is his sister darnitall.-

"Look, I get the whole 'not interrupting someone when they're casting' deal. Just so long as your hands stay focused on the hocus pocus, and so long as I know she's -not- in trouble…" he glances back her way, "I won't have reason to 'blast through like a cannonball.' Try to see this from my side of the fence a little, would ya? I'm not a -total- jerk."


Revelation: Pietro is the forerunner of the whackamole. Inspired by his appearance at the door and being repelled from the sanctum by its wards, the need to smack him as soon as his pewter, dandelion-fluff head appears creates the perfect carnival game.

Wanda makes no comment when her fingers are curled around and released by the good doctor beside her. It could be much worse. She has no oxygen in her lungs when squeezed by a ghost taking on the likeness of her twin. A wheezing sound meets with the choked "—et'o" as all the world is set aright in that little corner of Greenwich Village.

The corset has its adornments; the spiral bones. The sheathed knife. The contours of the leather coat and the reminder to Pietro his sister is not a grubby little mouse in the street.

"A demon scorched my shirt beyond repair."

True facts. She scoots a lock of her brown hair off her shoulder again, a skim off the merlot ridge leaving little of her neck too visible. Such an enticing neck it must be, olive skin and alive with blood and all. "Vampires coming at tea get the stake I carry in my boot. And we will continue to have tea, yes?"


Strange rolls his eyes while he's fairly certain that neither sibling is looking towards him and sighs. He didn't sign up for dealing with the older brother, by all of a few minutes, especially a twin. The aspect of connected psyches isn't new to him. There were a set of twins in his initiate group that amazed him with their show of predictive actions in hand-to-hand sparring. He's absolutely sure that these Maximoff siblings do indeed share a sense of unconscious communication; perhaps even something as spiritual as their souls.

"It's not 'hocus pocus'," he replies to Pietro flatly. He's completely unable to help it - non-Mystical sorts (read as: the general public) calling his studies in the Arts such mundane or mocking titles is a sore point for him. "It's the reason New York isn't drowning in demons and you're not strung up by your intestines somewhere in Central Park. There are things faster than you out there, Maximoff." Ooh, no title this time either.

His eyes shift back to Wanda, lingering on the assets presented by said bone-spiraled, crimson-covered corset, before rising to her face. "We'll talk over tea." His voice loses its edge. Clearly, he can't be that mad at her. A hand rises and brushes more hair away from her face, where a gust of chilled wind blew it back. His fingertips visibly brush along her jawline just briefly before he brings both hands into his coat pockets. "Shall we go?"

He's ignorant of any response by Pietro for that set of few seconds.


There are some who might continue to scold Wanda over this next story. Pietro, surprisingly enough, is choosing a different route. His shoulders hang with a quick sigh being pushed out of his lungs, followed by a thin smirk which -isn't- all about the sarcasm. "What am I gonna do with you, Sis."

She's a big girl, if she wants to look like that then he's not going to attempt to micro-manage. Besides, he dressed himself up like something attempting to imitate a freshwater fish. He doesn't have much ground to stand on here.

Now, with aaaaalll of that behind them, he turns to look at Strange with his arms folded anew. He'd be ready to move on with all of this, sarcasm aside, except that he's seeming awfulllly familiar toward Wanda… He'll happily interrupt the moment, too!

"So you're the authority figure on dealing with all of these vampires and demons and such? Great, because I'm getting really tired of trying to find excuses for us to not rock the boat around here. So let's either get this tea thing on the road or you two can go conjure up a room together or something while I go sign on with the Division," he 'suggests' while once more thumbing over his shoulder.

"Hey, maybe the lovely Miss Carter is feeling lonely," he thinks aloud.


Some moments for a scolding exist, and some of them evaporate like so much mist on a chilly autumn morning over a pond right as the sun makes its belated golden appearance.

In those moments, the world stands still to all the wars and crises, ideological and political, convulsing the many children of the postmodern age.

Wanda ignores the silvery scales or the goggle-eyed looks, tipping her head up slightly. Her chin to her throat forms a solid line, an open invitation with a white tablecloth to any vampire eager to sink its fangs into supple flesh. Acknowledgment travels across her somnolent gaze, a dipping of the battle standard to Strange. He too can be angry. He can choose that path and she will give him the breadth of it, same as her twin, for all those wrongs waiting to be made right. Clearly not that angry if their fingers mingle when he drops his hand away and the good PhD in Hocus Pocus and Other Timey-Wimey Things is subject to the softest of touches.

The softest of tones, too, rose petals tumbling through the current of the Euphrates headwaters. The very scent teases the air, a blackened stamp as familiar as a whisper; it's the colour of her soul, in a way.

Cutting in right when her twin spins up to yap his face off, she announces "Pietro? We both can. Now turn around."

Forearmed is not forestalled, because she stands on tiptoe and kisses Strange squarely on the mouth.



If Strange had a dollar for every time he'd made that sound in Wanda's presence, he'd be…certainly able to treat them all to the best cups of brew that this tea house could provide.

He should have been forewarned by the wintry gust that carried the honeyed scent of the black roses to his senses. The behavioral pattern isn't far from being set in his mind: roses + Wanda = something unexpected.

His hands drop to rest on her hips even as he forces himself to pull back, blinking and swallowing. "Both can what now?" His voice, normally deep and level, has an air of rough astonishment to it. His throat bobbles again even as he realizes that Pietro still stands there.

Well then.


Pietro tried, here. He really did. Wanda's made her choice, she's clearly acting out in her defiance against his protest. Pietro's not going to look away when the warning is given. He stands there, watches with a look of absolute disinterest with arms yet crossed, and patiently waits for her to finish being a jerk.

"I can do better," he promises before suddenly vanishing into the city, creating a bit stronger of a breeze to mess up Wanda's hair in passing. Just so that the good Doctor has something more to fuss over in the twin's absence.

On second thought, Wanda -is- a big girl. She can handle whatever this city throws her way without him.


O Artemis, virgin hunter, how little you understand in your shirt of fishscales and your questionable choice in shoes and hounds. Wanda would have a chance to speak if she were not preoccupied.

Tiny bit of smugness in golden Apollonia there? How could anyone tell, that her mouth firmly cants to the shape of the sorcerer's, at least long enough for an impression to form lasting bruises for her. Then she draws away, pivoting a quarter turn to still face the pair of men, as though nothing the wiser happened.

Or one. The other has rushed off.

"He's that way." She nods in the accurate direction, that sense of twins knowing the relative location of one another not an idle creation. It very truly exists with them. "He will not have liked that, but if he comes back married with a child in tow, I call…" Now she needs something not English. German? "« Foul. »"

Wanda flicks a tiny bit of snow off her coat as the flakes start tumbling down again. "That was for the foyer."


In the time it takes him to blink, Strange has noticed the extreme absence of the other twin. He looks around the street of his neighborhood, far and near, before returning his focus back to Wanda.

There's a wry twist to his lips as he acknowledges her words. She's accomplished a good number of things at once, that's for sure.

"No, he didn't like that at all." A steel-blue squint off into the distance, towards where she had nodded. "I…"

His voice is cut abruptly by a sudden flash of insight. A memory, crystalline-clear and yanked up from the deep waters of his past, flashes before his eyes.

Smoke, roiling from windows. The narrow streets filled with cries of panic and screams of frightened children. Distant gunfire that makes them all flinch and duck, even as Karl is shouting commands for them to get back to the Gate. In the midst of the chaos brought on by government squads of armed soldiers, no one pays much attention to the shimmering lightning-ringed passageway back to Kamar-Taj even if they run down the alleyway and past the doorway that houses it. The abject fear will paint away any notice of it as hallucination and it cannot be seem from the street proper. Strange remembers pausing in the shadow of the narrow alleyway between clay walls as something catches his eye. A young woman, dressed in clothing that had seen better days, in the shadows of an arched doorway across the dirt street with its patches of unmelted snow. She isn't from here, skin too light to be of Tibetan blood, too dark to be that of the northern climates. He looks back over his shoulder as one of the other initiates calls his name, but then back at her in time to see what looks like the night-reflection of moonlight from demon eyes within her darkened face. Her focus is not on him, on something father down the street. His heart catches in his throat as he sees magic of a similar color suddenly wend itself around her body. Just like that, she's joined by another person, a young man with hair like moonlight. Wong's hand claps down on his shoulder and drags him by the fabric of his vest back towards the Gate and as it collapses, it closes off all sight of the mysterious spellcaster he'd seen so briefly.

With a shake of his head - surely Wanda noticed the distance in his eyes, even though they've rested on her during this flash of feedback - he looks at her closely, as if seeing her for the first time.

"Tibet," the Sorcerer Supreme whispers, looking her up and down. "During the uprising. That was you - you and your brother, in the outskirts of Kathmandu."

Another thick swallow. "That was you," he repeats incredulously.


"Lhasa. Nachu. Shigatse. Lithang. Gyantse. Ngari. Chamdo."

Names fall like leaves from a tree, forming a vocal mandala saturated by the classical high Tibetan inflections instead of those bastardized by the Han Chinese influence. The last she hovers upon, the source of a great battle that turned the tide against the Tibetans, the People's Liberation Army swept in by open hands.

"We witnessed the land confiscations and the attacks on the monasteries, the dissolution of nunneries and the common abuses of the people. I saw the ancient relics torn out of their sacred niches and carted off to Peking, or trampled underfoot. I heard the air strikes rattling the mountains to their roots, when the garrison was attacked, the riots struck. Hatred spoken towards the occupiers, hatred spoken for the serfs. Destabilization is a terrifying thing, Doctor, and we have witnessed it. But this makes poor conversation for doorways in the snow. Better to have tea and reflect on the nature of the world."

I to we to I again. Her voice marks the truths as they have grooved themselves in patterns on her life. Wanda does not smile.

Her gaze floats up like lotus petals on the water, enlightenment in a scarred lifetime, her face wrought in plaintive detail where shadow strikes one half and heightens the effect upon the other. "Yes. We were there too long, and not long enough by half."


He knows of everything she speaks of. Bitterness of emotion forms as taste in his mouth. He remembers arguing into the night with Karl, with Wong, but he never reached the Ancient One in the center of the temple of Kamar-Taj. No, the right-hands of the most revered teacher asked him to keep his council to himself. It was useless attempting to divert fate.

It had been Strange's first foray into the heart-wrenching depths of the concept of fate, something he'd never believed in. He hadn't slept through the night, consumed with impotent wrath at the unfairness of simply not being able to do anything for the people he'd seen running for their lives. At the unfairness of not knowing who that was within the chaos, casting crimson magic from the shadows.

Haunted gaze holds haunted gaze on the front porch, where the snowflakes swirl and land unnoticed upon dark hair, outer coats, and bare skin.

Finally, a sigh that fogs in the air between them from the Sorcerer. "We'll need to talk about this, you know. I can't - I can't go about my day without knowing more." He tucks his chin for a moment, closing away his eyes. "Perhaps tea inside, in the Sanctum and not at a tea parlor. Another time for the tea parlor," he repeats, as if that will aid in holding him to his decision. "Let's go back inside."

The front door of the Sanctum opens once again, letting out a waft of warmed, incense-redolent air, and Strange steps through it.


Wanda picks at a thread against her coat, invisible as any of them might possibly be. Leather has deep stitches, nothing that would come free short of a harsh cut from a blade, a tear from a particularly jagged rock. Strange might find her slowly setting herself back towards an unconscious aim at being the platonic ideal, perfected in some small way visually. A hint of a nervous trait.

"Slopes of high mountains give no shelter, and the sacred places are cruel reminders of our imperfect nature. It is better to release sorrow and desire than be subject to them, say the wise brothers. I wish it were that easy to follow them." Those distant booms of artillery fire, the crackling retorts of guns, never truly leave. No one gets used to them. They learn to suffer or deal with the fallout. "Not so easy on the ground. We were young. It is something for tea."

Emphasis then lies on the destination if not the journey, and she holds up her gloved hand to him, wherever he may choose to lead her. Through the doors and across the foyer, up the stairs into the library or that peculiar kitchen gaining a few more fruits and an odd selection of noodles? For a vegetarian, the pasta is far more nutritious and interesting than endless bean dishes. Her diet is shifting steadily Indian, where vegetarianism is accepted as near sacred. Or Italian, sans beef.

He might notice.

The incense beckons, and she follows, unwilling to quite release the memories of night for the joys of the dawn. Pietro will be back or not, and her vague sense of his direction satisfies the worry buried under a heap of other turbulent emotions entrapped together.


Her gloved hand is cool against his palm, all but where her fingers interlace with his and exude noticeable heat with skin-to-skin contact. It's still a novel-enough sensation to Strange that frissons run up and down his spine, sensations counter to the thunderous expression he wears and the swirling of his brain.

No food, at least, not for him and not right now. They end up in the Loft, with the Sorcerer pacing back and forth across the raised platform that is flanked by twinned stone lion statues. His black coat was shucked off onto some unfortunate surface, probably one of the chairs tucked away against some back table beneath one of the thin and tall windows that lets in a struggling light. Wanda's hand was dropped minutes before, in order to remove his outer garment. The crimson scarf remains looped around his neck, bright in the dim light and against the white of his dress shirt.

"What were you doing there?" he finally asks, pausing with his hands behind his back. Arbiter, detective, god-touched, unconsciously silhouetted against the stark grey-and-black design of the Anomaly Rue window. The wards swirl through the air in the broad room, stirring it and sending the wreathing incense to shifting. "Why on earth Kathmandu then?"

Fate, thou are a fickle thing, crossing their paths in ways he dredges from memories.


So many questions beg to be asked. Wanda has to suffer practicality and loosen the coat if she means to sit; or she will stand, and look tremendously fashionable, even alien, to the modern eye while doing so. A tug on the lower cording is the only opportunity that Strange has to get a word in edgewise, her constricted mobility and breath sufficient motivation to consider pulling down on those cunningly interwoven loops.

The last time such a tug happened, the results got rather surprisingly truthful. Veracity is an art form, practiced in the shades of a goddess' mudras. Fingers curl purposefully, palms poised just so opposite of one another, while she ever so slowly drags the cords free.

Such contrasts are hers, the hammered copper of her skin diluted by moonlight, the darkened fall of her hair given a brighter shade only in proximity to the berry-dark garments she wears. Below the waist, like a lamia, she evaporates into the essence of nightfall and that carries her over towards the flat surface of the platform. She can stand there, or sit. She does not aim to match Strange's motions, having neither the stamina or the wherewithal presently.

"Looking for who we were," she says. It might be easier to shift into Tibetan. She can, with some thought. Two years ago, but two years is proficient enough when she has to remember. "We followed in the footsteps of others that may know. The men and the women who came from the west years before. They had gone to Tibet, and we needed to know: why Tibet? What monasteries, what corners? They were stealing like rats in a grain building, searching."

Then to English, for that is easier, in the end, after she stumbles over granary. "At first it was the books. Kathmandu in Nepal and then north to Lhasa, the capital. The seat of the Lama. Outwards traveling where the rest had been. I found much about Himalayan magic." Black magic, of course. A common thread. "I found other magic too. There, Yaga… Agatha… abandoned us."


His eyes drop to the symbolic gestures, paired with the loosening cords, and then up to her face again. Not just yet, not while he's the scent of answers. Not while uncertainty circles through his mind in a wearied cadence. He watches her approach, listens to her response with unemotional silence.

Tibetan - she speaks it so easily, telling him that she spent enough time there to become acclimated to the language. Not just a clever show of intelligence earlier, when he had opened the box containing the teapot. The narrative of her tale is familiar, paralleled in many ways with his own - a hunt for answers in a place that relinquishes them to only the most intense of searchers. He found his answers.

"And did you find who you were?" he asks, so quietly, face shadowed by all but moonlight and the faint firelight emitting from the various braziers throughout the Loft. He'll touch on the subject of abandonment next if given the opportunity.


Another knot falls. The forced breath through her embraced ribs beckons, pressing out against the coat and the corset, allowing for a smidgen more room. Each smidgen is an improvement, a gasp of freedom for lungs and ribs, though it hasn't changed much of the sorceress' figure. Wanda slowly shakes her head, the movement of shadows lingering upon her cheekbones in stark relief.

Those grave, thoughtful eyes trace over Strange's face and learn, in their own way, the topography as severe as the Himalayas. The animation imbued by his thoughts may be more subtle, a piece of theatre worthy of a critic's focus upon all the minor details of staging and subtext calling her full attention to the fore.

Whatever exposition is required, the narrative belongs as much to the act of watching, an audience. She raises her hand, fingers stroking along her jawline idly. "Only pieces. Ours was a difficult life. During and after the war, times were not good. Especially not for us." Wanda flicks her fingertips against the dusting line of her dark umber hair, shot by brighter highlights, and then looks up. Iron lies hard on the words.

"Pietro, it was easier for him. He looks Soviet, Nordic, Aryan. Me? You would not believe we shared the same mother's belly at the same time." The traces of irony are not lost in the bittersweet smoke blown from her lips and the stars wink elsewhere, the firelight conjured to make the skin of her pants shine in buttered depths, oiled as a cormorant's wing. "Tibet was a great hope. A hard place. Pietro learned to protect me but he did not know from what. We are close. Sometimes though the lessons I learn are cruel and difficult. He was better at asking, finding the information where the others had gone. But the uprising changed much, shut off access, and our hunt was limited by little trust for people not from Tibet or India or Nepal. That was the worst of it, we'd come too late. So often we chase ghosts and shreds of information in hopes of more, but there we found a gaping hole of terrible darkness and …" Her hands rise. "We learned what we had been shaped by, but not for what or by whom. Not who our parents were."


For all that Strange knows of Wanda Maximoff, her instinctive motions - tracing the lines of her jaw, each creak of the corset as it gives in release against the molding of her curves - captivate him on some basic level. Tall, proud, he continues to listen to the explanation, unjudging and perhaps as daunting as a snow-dusted peak.

The Sorcerer Supreme knows what it is to chase ghosts, to grasp at realities that exist in dreams. After all, his hands still tremble from a twist of fate he could never avoid.

He holds those dark eyes, even as he asks the question that makes his stomach shrink with premonition.

"And what were you shaped by…?"


Wanda brings her palms together, folding the last six fingers together and steepling the index digits to her cheek. Blunted nails scrape down her inner cheekbone, tracing the invisible channels of weeping lines to the corner of her lips, staggering back higher, something like stock from a mining company in volatile times.

"War, Doctor. The clash of ideas that came out of that war, and I think an even older one than my brother and me." Wanda's unsmiling features are still pretty in an austere way. The topic du jour is not something she is sanguine about.

The topic she will never be sanguine about. But she can chip away at pieces without giving way to the rage or the arrogance.

She dips her chin rather than stare directly at him, evading steel instead of crossing it. Not a coward's route, not really, as she stares into the firelight. Or so she tells herself. "We do not know much of our parents. Even if Maximoff is our name, or given by the man we called Father. He took us away from the fall of the Reich. We ran for a very long time, and then he died. Pietro, saw, and I saw, no answers would come unless we looked for ourselves."

Leather makes its eloquent song when she moves, rotating away from the fire. The lack of light casts her front into darkness, licking tawny lines up the curve of her spine and throwing darts into her wild, dark hair. Ringlets sheen golden and copper, in the right glow, on a body of sienna and umber soil. Slim fingers hook around the belt spanning her waist. Finally she gives Strange the fullness of her focus, eyes rimed in garnet frost again, a glimpse of futures painted there as she taps her birthright alongside the painstaking appearance of an answer, chipped away bit by bit. She saunters towards him, not in the least exaggerated, and walks her fingernails right up the center of his chest.

"Two starving children hunting down those associates and hoping to learn, and hoping we would not learn. Have you ever had that moment of sickness in your belly when you know opening the door will change everything, or nothing?" Time is given for an answer, then she proceeds. "Every bit, every scrap, led us farther. We were shaped by monsters. Human monsters, mostly, but monsters all the same. Monsters who dream their very dark perverse thoughts and try to impose them upon the flesh. Upon the map. We know monsters because they tried to form us to their miserable, hateful ideas. It didn't work."


It's a painfully bittersweet realization to him, what she is implying, even as those digits burn like brands in a steady line up his sternum. Strange tilts his head up slightly, unconsciously wishing she'd retreat but checked by pride to silence. Her touches become measured, slow as they near the edges of his scarf. It is as staunch as its master, not moving aside an inch in the face of her approach.

Dark Arts. There is no way in all the heavens and hells in existence that she's not speaking of the whispers in the midnight corners of the Himalayas. The very thing that Wong warned him against so many years ago - the very magics that caused many disciples to lose their way. He wonders at which cult precisely got their grubby paws on the Maximoff twins and if he ever had the touch of fate to remove them from existence in his short years as Sorcerer Supreme. If not…consider their name bumped up his To-Deal-With List.

"Yep." The answer given shortly, subtle pop on the ending consonant. Then, he continues once she's finished speaking. "You are either very lucky or very strong, if their efforts did not change you," he replies, his voice as low and smoky as the swirls of the incense that disappear towards the vaulted ceiling of the Loft. "Rest assured that I will let you know if I ever see a change of that nature in you."

Threat? Promise? Offer of aid in the face of null-black rage? Let her decide.


The Himalayan arts, the darkest, aren't an unknown. Not even to practitioners, though they certainly are not the only confession to be made in front of a fire under the stony regards of the crouched lions ready to savage the unworthy.

"Pietro cannot use the arts. Yaga would have detected the signs, and he truly is about as blind to spellcraft as I am to him when he moves." She releases those thoughts as she touches the scarf, almost bidding a psychometric transferal. If only such things were possible.

"I have stories of our lineage. They could all be lies. We were born in the death camps. We were got on a German woman unwillingly. We are Roma. We were ethnic Russians in the lebensraum, we were ethnic Germans behind Red Army lines. Our father didn't much care for the truth," she says, then curtly turns and slips away towards the corner of the loft unless stopped. "He had no reason to. He was the vizier of lies, the templar of the black sun, the first of the twelve black knights. Up until the end and after, his confidence remains his own. Pietro and I are not blind. Something happened, in Transia, in Germany. It was made clear as long as I can recall we couldn't be caught. We must never be caught by the knights of the black sun, they were worse than the Ahnenerbe."


For now, he'll let her go. For now, it isn't the time for frivolous action, not in the face of such bald learning on his part. Behold, one of the most damning stakes within the Sorcerer Supreme: willful curiosity.

The scarf had remained silent to her. Such ignorance lies in its loyalty to its master, no such concept of a snub available to its enchanted sentience. Act, react, obey. That is its domain of existence. Strange watches her walk away with a sense of disappointment. This is a deviation from normalcy, a retreat on her part rather than a stubborn attempt to weave her way beneath his stern armor.

It's a mask he wears to hide the intense drive to know. Society taught him throughout his life, and especially within his years as in growing medical mastery, that silent and distant observation tends to grant more answers, especially if the subject was unknowing of their dissection.

That Pietro does not know of the Arts confirms his suspicions. The twins do not share souls in that sense. This Yaga…twice now mentioned, likely a tutor of sorts. The name faintly rings a bell, but that's a thread to be chased in the sunless hours of the early morning, when he wakes with thoughts a-whirl.

"They won't find you here," he offers, a conciliatory gesture of sorts, "not within the Sanctum." Clunk-clunk, two steps down to the Loft's floor, where he pauses between the stone lions, silvered Knight of the Sanctorum flanked with feline royalty. "I will tell you what I sense in you, Wanda, if you wish me to. Do you want to hear what the Mystic Pope decrees?"

A subtle smile, more smirk, graces his lips.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 84


It isn't, not so much, if he dares to consider her departure a retreat to hide. Wanda points her fingers outwards, the graceful spread of them evocative of the double mudra she assumed earlier, akin to a gilded statue in a flower-bedecked shrine. So different now. Her fingers curl at the last knuckles, shaping flame that answers her in such a fiery jolt, one might wonder if she holds a deep and abiding kinship with his fireplace or the element itself.

Twelve rays spread out from the impact, the columns of narrowed fire forming fatter spearheads from that central point. They bend at the edges, cut on jagged angles. A ring encompasses their outer ridge, shaping the embodiment of the fire into a fully rounded wheel. "Sonnenrad."

Then she speaks a word, and the word vibrates with a power that should make the wards crack open their vigilant eyes and spin in her direction.

It is not a word a girl of her age should know.

It is a word in few books, a word in select prayers, a word that belonged once in the temples of Set, hammered by Egyptian priests and their enslaved Hittite peers. It is not a sound intrinsically harsh to the ear, for sounds are but movements of air over the trachea, a unique quality of humanity and a few other races.

The radiance from the fire remains, but the low-burning copper of its heart gutters out. All of it leeches away until the fire is no semblance of light at all but its antithesis, and her eyes narrow as she struggles to keep the energies contained enough to shift it into the impossible spectrum of black, without blowing anything up. Not the void; simply colourless in pure opacity.

"The Black Sun. Our community knows it better this way. The histories have been much distorted, but they went to the east in search of answers to support their twisted faith, their rejection of the standard mystic arts and the imported Roman faith, favouring what their forefathers followed." She looks up at the creation she forged.

"Tell me what you see, Stephen." If they aligned right, she might seem to have a pointed black halo. Not quite so now. If he were to tilt himself the opposite way, he might see the skewed beginnings of a sigil that belongs in a book dreaded as the inception of evil, even as she is its conception.

And its master, the greatest of the demon princes.


ROLL: Strange +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 75


And the master of the Sanctum's voice rings like a bronzed gong. The wards quiver with restrained fury and fervor. The very air of the Loft is electrified as if in the moment before a lightning strike.

Strange continues holding up his hand, fingers formed into a counter-sign of expert control over the ambient magic that glares at the young woman currently wreathed in the anti-light of shadow-fire. Dual fingers point towards the ceiling, thumb held neutrally, last two - ring and smallest - tucked to touch his palm. It is a parallel of saintly benediction, even as he approaches her, irises ringed in icy light. All the while, the silvery wards hover jealously behind his shoulders and ache to slice into the antithesis of their very being.

The crimson scarf melts into the crimson Cloak, reacting as is its wont to the future of violence brought against its master. Firelight catches on its stitched sigils in threads of gold on yellow.

Each step closer puts him just akimbo of the dividing line between halo and symbol. Each eyes takes in its respective visual and that is what saves Wanda from further judgment. In this instance, judiciary straddles the line between simple misunderstanding and a doomed attempt to continue in life. Strange is well-aware of portents and how to read them.

"I see…that evil has its hands within your creation." A stride. "I see that evil may have left its mark upon you." Another step. "But what I have seen, thus far, is that evil does not impress itself upon your actions." And he is standing before her, his aura pressing against hers like the drop in barometric pressure before a tornado. From a pocket of anti-reality, seemingly appearing from nowhere, the Eye of Agamotto hangs from his neck. It glows towards her in a manner unknowing in intent. "You hunt demons with a passion that is shared by few, with a fearlessness that I admire, and with an intent that cannot be controlled by the Dark Arts."

Slowly, he lowers his hand and the Sanctum itself seems to exhale in the aftermath of an averted blow within its confines. "Continue helping me," subtle emphasis on the verb, "and I will do my utmost to deserve my status within your life."

He does not need to say what will happen otherwise; the haunting of the unspoken thought shows in the crow's lines of his eyes.


It will go without saying that certain moments carve their way into the soul. That memories are forged not always in the loudest and most lauded instants, but those everybody can have, can claim.

Like the girl who steals colour from fire, and shapes it, the moment of blowing the fire back into the hearth is not special. The second death sentence in as many exchanges, and those following trying to out and out kill her, those leave marks.

He might recall a teapot or the cool cloth on his brow in the middle of the night.

Time is so funny that way.

It might be the feeling of her arm wrapped tight around him when Strange awakens from a dream, and realizes the girl beside him won't let go, even grim in sleep. Some part of her knows better, even if the mind is resolutely stuck on having to be vetted. The rest has made its choice and is busy talking.


But for the moment, she just notes quietly, "I told you I was not engaged before, and now I dwell in your house whether my brother accepts that or not." Make of that habit and gravity what he will.


Perhaps there's some backwards logic to the unspoken thought regarding her fate at his hands. Perhaps it's his mantle-addled way of offering the deepest level of loyalty he can in the ruinous cacophony of the Hellmouth-impacted times.

His compass true - "First, do no harm" - this would be a blow to a mantra that is part of his own soulsong, a weaving in the same manner of the subtle strains of scarlet notes. The Sorcerer Supreme would never recover from granting such a sentence. The sword of justice would be double-edged with deitic keenness never understood by mortal minds.

It would warp his own sense of self, shatter him into a thousand pieces that no being, omniscient or not, could piece back together.

Much like a teapot.

Her spoken words make him utter a long breath of relief. In the back of his mind, there is a gnawing that he knows to come from the influence of the Eye. The gods are more black and white than most can imagine; there is no mortal grey in their views.

"I would have you dwell for as long as you choose," and Strange offers the same hand that once shaped sanction in its lines.


It would be an evil beyond words to break a man such as Stephen Strange. If Wanda does it, she will no doubt be inadvertently fulfilling Chthon's will at a distance, by causing Gaea and Oshtur grief. The eldest gods have their own arrangements, their own view, true.

They may choose to care naught for a young woman fighting her own destiny with the crudely fashioned tools she has, intellect and raw will, which might never be enough. But for now they must be enough.

Wanda may be prepared back down the stairs and trudge out into the wet autumn night, stricken with that unseasonably early snow, though it doesn't mean she likes it. Until a decision is made by the master of this realm, she stands upon a balance beam in perilous winds, twisting her around, a weather vane turning to the prevailing current of events.

Strange might hold the warp in his soul for justice, a healthy seam, but she has the nascent instability that a hard, resonating blow might shatter. Even diamond cleaves if one hits a brittle point. It is a moment that never comes, at least not tonight, the forbidding words 'You should go' or the revulsion bubbling away, the linchpin to duty yanked away and jettisoning her back into the night for Pietro to laugh.

Her hand tentatively reaches out to take his, the tremor in his fingers nothing to the quiver in those long, curved digits splaying over the breadth of his palm. Fingerless gloves mean only the pads brace near his wrist, pressing down in a series of four delicate craters, her thumb breaching propriety to swing around to the back and squeeze the thin, fragile bones.


The founder of Connecticut wrote "The man whose heart is endeared to a woman he loves, he dreams for her in the night, has her in his eye an apprehension when he awakes, muses on her as he sits at table, walks with her when he travels, and parlays with her in each place where he comes. She lies in his bosom, and his heart trusts in her.

There is a truth to that, perhaps, in the reverse. Except hers is a contagion tempered by distrust, hope bled by uncertainty, the covetous dream and the tarnished reality that inches her closer. Within arm's reach, and a little further, until the invasion beckons capitulation of one principality or the other."


Choose and choose again. Deflect from each other's spheres in moments of god-touched power, wait face to face until someone places their life in the hands of fickle fate.

A canon played - playing - will be played in tender, tremulous strains of thundersnow and blackest roses. Strange can smell the musk of the flower in her hair and feel the static cling of the air around her as her magics play around them, dart in and out of his own cloud of Mystic Arts.

In silent, stoic apology for the tremors he feels in her hands, he enfolds her against him within the folds of his arms and the mantle of Agamotto leaves him. They are allowed their moment of simple existence within the warm shadows of the dimly-lit Loft.

Judgment meted. Recovery imperative. Reconciliation possible, even after this?

Only the gods know.

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