1963-10-29 - Don't Fear the Harbinger
Summary: Try not to shoot the messenger, Doctor Strange.
Related: A Touch of Chaos
Theme Song: The Winter Day Declining - This Patch of Sky
strange wanda 

There's a lassitude in how Strange splays himself along the settee, absorbed in the finalization of his plans to close the Hellmouth. The tome, a writing on the intricacies of pentacles that rests on his thighs, is absorbed with half-lidded interest. One foot, clad in an indoor boot, angles to rest on the far arm of the couch while the other hangs to drag an idle toe on the wooden floor. The turning of a page is loud in the incense-laden stillness of the Loft. He draws a fingertip along the line of his goatee as he utters a soft 'huh' in light of new information granted to him. Who knew?

The distant chiming of his wards signals the home return of a familiar soul and smiles half to himself. No doubt she'll come in with a story.


Up early, home late. The routine Wanda keeps might not be one she likes, but these are trying times. Hell's Kitchen seethes with undead. Bespelled eternal night leaks into the tony townhouses and high rises of Manhattan. Demons strike the unsuspecting near and far. She slouches into the Sanctum, harbouring a comfortable ache in her shoulders and the burgeoning appetite that deadens the pit of fear and anxiety that never quite leaves her bloodstream, a poison of her own making. Pietro has not been about. Her other half, in flesh and soul, is riven from the younger twin and her answer to that has been to throw herself into the hunt.

Knives barely hidden speak to her work, if not the whisper of shielding and concealment spells wrapped around her. Still, Wanda makes it inside about six steps. Then she stoops to peel off her boots, unlatching the buckles, undoing the knotted laces threaded by many charms. Fewer than when she set out, but that's still good. On stocking feet she is much quieter, and pads her way through the sanctum, letting the wards announce her or rub up against her like a cat. They won't like the traces of the resonance they see, surely. Chances are they know it, under vampires and demons.

Another of the Ancient One's students.


Gasp, whisk - the wards swish around her, alert to the chaotic aura surrounding her, and rush straight through the ceiling.

They emerge like silvery smoke through the minutest spaces between floorboards and ruffle the pages of Strange's book as they engage with him.

"Oh, what, hey now - slow down!" It sounds like he's talking to himself, but this is merely an audible projection of his unspoken commands that fly at the speed of thought. "What again?" he asks aloud as he sits up, marking his place with one finger even as the wards insistent flirting in the air pushes pages overtop his knuckles.

Wanda. Undead ash. Demon blood. Darkwaters.

The Sorcerer narrows his eyes at the nebulous cloud of magic before him. "Darkwaters?"

Darkwaters, the guardian spell reports with no more or less intensity than before, the sentinel questioned by captain.

"Darkwaters…" the good Doctor murmurs, glancing over his shoulder towards the little stairway that leads up into the Loft. He's not quite certain of what the wards are insinuating. Maybe Wanda will be able to tell him more?


Routine offers some stability against the high cliff she teeters upon. Not quite the Fool of the major arcana, Wanda knows the danger of coming too close to the crumbling chalk edge. Thus the need to perform those simple rituals the way she has every day since the ashen day when Danica, bride of Dracula, crossed her path.

Remove the belts with their assortment of knives; one blade in wood, one in metal, another laced in steel. Then pause to give acknowledgment to the Eye of Agamotto done in stained glass, bowing from the waist as much as her leather corset permits, in greeting. Turn to assess the state of all before her, searching for anything amiss in the pattern before.

She walks forward then, taking to the archway that leads in deeper, seeking the stairwell to that place contemplated as her own.

Their own. The correction makes her stumble.

Only to slip onwards again, headed for the stairwell, for the man who rules this domain completely and utterly. Were it a shrine, he would be the high priest, the only voice permitted to speak with the gods.

"Doctor?" The question travels up. "Doctor Strange? I am…" A pause follows, and then she shakes her head. Not sufficient. Shoulders drooped, she conjures up a simple illusion wound of pale, buttery yellow light. It darkens through the spectrum towards a soft, dreamy blue, and she blows it away to find him on a floating edge as she seeks out the tea room. Of course, they might pass by one another. If not, the blue poppy — emblem of Tibet, a shape he cannot help but identify — guides the way there.


The good Doctor straightens on the settee as he sees the sky-blue illusion float up into the Loft. The blue poppy of Tibet. The tome is set aside with some haste (he'll come back to it later, he remembers what page he was last on) as he flips his legs down and rises to his feet at the sound of her faint voice. Faint, both distant and tired.

With brisk strides, Strange thumps down the steps and around the corner. It's not but a dozen more of his long-legged steps before he reaches the entrance to the tea room.

There she is, already within it. He pauses in the doorway, one hand poised in aborted reach, as he takes in the sight of her. Wanda looks…like she's had a rough day. His shoulders droop as he grants her a sympathetic smile.

"Should I see the other guy?" he asks, attempting very Midwestern American humor.


Petals tinged almost into the spectrum of light violet welcome him towards the same destination Wanda seeks for herself, the clean lines and austere interior yet seeking her touch. She has yet to leave any sort of mark here save for one, a glass bowl filled by various flowers paid for in small coins from whatever vendor outside the train stations. Their quantity is few, their quality suspect, but they nonetheless strive to add a touch of colour. Blues and reds, a few purple, one dash of white, lend their joyous additions.

Her coat slides off into a claret puddle at her feet, wine spilled next to the gleaming brightness of the floor. There she sinks, ready to take to her knees.

"Would it be wise?" The question he offers her she returns, a look thrown over her shoulder. The darkness in her eyes will not leave, but it lifts, the balance tipped a little towards amber rather than shaded sepia. "Sorcerers see when we spy upon them."

Seated, she slumps forward a little, rolling her shoulders repeatedly to ease their tense muscles. Basic stretches will do, and the black shirt she wears stretches this way and that, revealing the fresh bruises laid upon the track of skin between shoulder and neck. Those, at least, have nothing to do with violent ends.

"Did you advance well in your research today?"


The little bowl of flowers is noted, appreciated, filed away under 'example of bouquets that Wanda likes'. He'll see what the nearby florist can do. In the meanwhile, the splashing of complimentary colors is a good thing, a sign that she's accepting the place as her own.

Ahem, as their own.

Strange was all set to explain his little comment and how it pertains to her clearly achieving victory against any sort of hellish thing she crossed knives with during her outing today, but the words die behind his teeth at her response. It's a very Wanda-like response, but he's learning very quickly that the oddity of her responses oftentimes veils an answer in clear truth and communication.

"Oh, the research - yep, made great progress on that. I found the clarification I needed on setting the pentacle." He walks into the room, hands slipped into the pockets of his dress pants, and slowly circles around to stand before her. The skin on her neck is also noted with the slightest of smiles. His knee softens his quick dropdown and then he settles into a comfortable, cross-legged pose - Lotus position, perfect for meditation and listening to various explanations.

"You mentioned spying on someone, another sorcerer. Please, expand upon that."


Wandaisms, those simple truths couched in direct statements, curbed by politeness. They require a bit of tolerance, much like certain delicious Italian chocolates. Unwrap them, let them soften up a bit, and then the wit becomes clear.

The witch tries to ease herself into a deeper stretch, hands sliding in a triangle forward over the low table she settled before. Her lithe arms straighten until her stomach bumps against the edge, prohibiting any further advance. There Wanda rests, turning her head to follow Strange's progress through the stately room. Even eyes half-closed, his presence registers to her. Not quite the sun to the flowers yet… More the moon.

The tidal tug she recognizes all the same, and concentrated magnetic lines holding them in relation to one another. "Very good. The pentacle is a strong shape that will focus the barriers well. Are there any special requirements for it?" Five boroughs, five points. Not hard to imagine where her mind goes with this, to be sure.

His request begs her attention, though, and Wanda obliges after a moment of simply letting her gaze trace over him, curiosity beyond her usual suspicious reserve. "I spied on no one. You asked what the other man looked like, and he would see if you tried to divine him now. He is a sorcerer. No…" Her mouth puckers, biting into a sour lemon of a memory and finding the taste tart, unwelcome. "Warlock. The dimensional poison in him speaks to what pacts he made, but he showed such unacceptable… familiarity. The way his eyes moved over me. I did not like it. It was not much better than the demon."


He'll need to return to the pentacle at another time. This is news to him, this sorcerer and this unacceptable familiarity. His gut clenches and perhaps Wanda can see the tightening of his posture in the corners of his eyes and thinning of his lips.

"A warlock." Spoken with the same distaste in the woman across the small low-set tea table from him. "And a demon?" Less important than the man, but he'll chase all the threads down in this tale. "How did you come across the two so close together?"


The business of the pentacle warrants attention from the witch, who might well gladly bury her nose in that book and parse through its eldritch chicaneries while consulting her trusty dictionary. Alas, Strange all but assures this will happen another hour. Arranging herself in a little less casual a sprawl than moments before, Wanda places her hands in her lap rather than permit them wander restlessly across the tabletop.

"I tracked a demon through a leyline, by the… impurity… it left behind." She hesitates upon that word, unsure of herself. "When the demon attacked me, this warlock appeared to give commentary on my actions. He slowed time. I think to aid me, but more likely to watch. What I did, what I reacted to. Do not ask me where he came from, there was no sign of a signature around me. But a man who can stop time and deflect the Sight by an infernal shadow-soul is not someone to approach lightly."

The moment of truth is coming. She can read it in the threads, she can see it in the eddying turbulence where her incarnadine aura coils around the edges of his, bracing for the flashpoint. "He gave his name. Among many odd statements, this much he offered. The way he spoke you would think him a king, a saint of old, like something every child would know." Her brittle tone dismisses the notion, suspicion and contempt braided together. "Mordo. This would mean something to you?"


His steel-blue eyes are fixated on her, shadowed by a frown. It was clever of her to track the demon's passage by way of the ley lines - it's something he'll have to attempt in the future, if he ever needs to track a more elusive magical signature.

Then he's told of precisely how this Warlock played his part in the fight. Already, Strange is formulating a plan to deal with this interloper to his immediate territory and subsequently either run him out or be certain that Wanda never crosses paths with him again. Both. Both would be even better. That this practitioner can manipulate time tells of his prowess and the good Doctor's eyes narrow further still. He knows of very few magicians who can do so and quickly runs down the short list in his mind. Nope, nope, nope, nope - none of them fit the description she's given him thus far.

He isn't utilizing the Sight, not right now, but his senses, so attuned to such unseen forces, feel the frisson of her aura along his. It's almost like a warning of sorts, a foreshadowing, and his stomach twists tighter still.

He watches her lips shape the sound of the name and the room blurs in a sudden rush of adrenaline. Nausea, low and disturbing, coils.

"I—I'm sorry, but…misheard. You must have misheard him," his half-numbed mouth manages to say. A flutter of movements, anxious in sum, shows in his posture. "It wasn't Morgan? The male name?"

Inside, his innards have turned to slush.


Her use of the Sight is instinct, almost invariably keyed to frissons in the great skein of fate. Witches are, after all, more than talented in reading its vagaries. Among the eldest of their kind hammered into Wanda the use of her arts freely, attuning herself, so even subconscious tremors tilt her perception into mystic edges.

Strange can flatter himself he captivates sorcerers young and old, and brings even interdimensional mages to deep, abiding unease. They placate him with threats and deep-fried pastries. They curse his name in a hundred languages. Or they wait at his beck and call in trepidation, judgment spoken through the mighty gavel of the holy trinity. She so gazes at him through her loose hair, a few strands tumbled over her headband to rest upon her nose.

"He was a male of about thirty. Dark skinned, much darker than me. Broad mouth. His gaze, it was that of burning coal, a snake, and the blackness beneath a house." Her pause is met with a warding gesture made by her hand, stirring up a small glimmer of scarlet light curving around her fingertips. She does not veer from meeting his eyes. "Nocnitsa we call the dark spirits who dwell there. They eat the life breath by ripping it from your very chest, taken out of your soul. This leering man, the dark-eater, called himself Mordo. I am certain. English I know I am not the best with, but I heard him. He announces himself to creation."

She wrinkles her nose. "I am not sure creation likes him."


Each word hammers a nail into his still-beating heart in his chest, pinning it below the gorge that threatens to rise with each breath. She'll likely notice how his pupils have constricted tightly and how he swallows hard once she's finished explaining.

"It…can't be." A whispered prayer of abject denial escapes him.

Then comes the rumble of thunder from a distance, despite the comfortable enclosure of the tea room. The air becomes dry and tight immediately around him, crackles with static in his dark hair, and lightens his irises.

With a scramble to his feet, face twisted into painful scrunched frown of denunciation, Strange turns his back to her.

"It can't be." Louder this time, with a musical lilt of despair, as if the words bled from his lips. "No, it can't." His knuckles are white where he clenches his fists at his sides.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 56


Even a child can read the proof upon the hardened lines of his face, the way his throat contracts around a chunk of proof too big to swallow. Duress is a universal state. For all her troubles, she can see beyond herself despite whatever Pietro says.

Wanda rises on her side of the table, hastening around the side to join Strange, a cerise shadow thrown behind him when he finally does the unthinkable in turning away.

Banishment of a sort is almost a step too far. Her hands reach out and halt, fingers curled into her palm. Hesitation scores a line as wide as the Grand Canyon, almost insurmountable. The doom-crow, the bringing of ill omens, has to swallow her own pride and that very sick sense clenching her vitals. Flickerflashes burst all along the front between them, a prickling feeling that only stirs up greater agitation.

Staring at her feet, she frowns. Her room. Their place. It takes far greater bravery than she'll ever admit to face him. To very slowly and deliberately put her hand on his arm.



Flashes of light appear behind his eyelids as he curls into himself, despite remaining in a standing posture. His chin is tucked to his chest and teeth bared in unconscious defense against the warring emotions within him.

Firstly, rage, incandescent and hot as a bolt of lightning. It stems from multiple sources: her discomfort and the knife of betrayal that makes it hard for him to breathe - how dare he?! She?! It's a thought drawn forth with a foothold on illogical anger.

Also, a lancing agony that laces the fury with poisonous misery - deceived. He's been deceived by someone so near and dear to him that they are brother in all but shared blood.

Her hand alights upon his forearm with all of the tentative grace of a dove. She'll likely feel the jerk, though not completely from her touch; part honest surprise, part hypersensitivity in this fragile moment. His aura lashes about him in a spring gale, a cold and wintry aspect drawing away the warmth and replacing it with pelleted sleet that serves to strip petals from flowers.

With a slow inhale, Strange reins in the wildness of the magic coursing through him. The scent of ozone lessens.

"You're not lying, are you?" His voice is hollow even as he turns to look at her. Desolation, isolation, she'll see grief in his gaze. "Rakshasi, you aren't lying?" He repeats himself once more, needing the dreadful confirmation.


Fear perhaps stands in the way of placating him, if Wanda is even the sort to soothe a person's vexations by words. Her hand rests upon him feather-light, and that sting hurts her vibrating nerves as much as standing on the bow of a ship in the freezing spray of the North Sea would.

Pulling her fingers back is a betrayal of a sort, even as she hisses involuntarily at the piercing electricity battering her fair skin. That could be the end of it. Leave Strange be to suffer in the dark with his own inexplicable demons, have a proper meal to satisfy her knotted innards, and sleep unhappily on her side of the bed. Pretend to sleep. Count the minutes in hollow anxiety until the potent silence crushes her underheel, and sickens her to mild fever and unstable aura.

Damn it all to hell. She bites her lip hard enough to bleed and pats his shoulder awkwardly, in entirely the wrong position to offer the only comfort she knows how. Wanda isn't in a stance to let him rest his head in her lap or rest upon her shoulder. His height exceeds the obvious route. Even this is uncertain, fraught. "Who is he to do this to you?"

That hummingbird touch settles back. "How could I make this up? This man, I don't… he is someone to you? Is he Judas to all the people, or something else?"


"He is…a friend." Strange fights to finish that sentence, forcing the words from his mouth as if he were attempting not to vomit. "He was my mentor when…"

A fist suddenly thumps against the wall before him. No indent is left, but the Sanctum shakes to its foundations in a lesser earthquake, not enough to move any artifact from its place on pedestals. He exhales a shuddering sigh and inhales through clenched teeth. The hand that struck the wall loosens, presses a flattened palm to the smooth surface. "We were brothers. Brothers in the Arts. He was there when I took the mantle and now THIS?!"

A sudden upswing in volume to a roar that nearly tears his vocal chords asunder. There's a gagging sort of growl from him. He glares at the base of the wall, not quite his feet. "He swore. We swore. Swore to uphold the power of the Mystic Arts, to not abuse it. How could he turn…? How could he?!"

He drags his other hand down his face roughly, looks everywhere but at Wanda, falling into a frenzied attempt to logically dismantle the truth set before him. Her light touch is noted again, at a far distance, even as he mutters quickly, "He couldn't have. I'll meditate, hunt him out, see for myself. He just needs a reminder. What the Ancient One used to say."


Credit be where credit is, she does not cower inwards as the room shudders and possibly takes on the form of a dragon's cavern heated by a pool of magma and sulfurous steams boiling off brimstone springs. Wanda does tremble in kind, toppling into him from behind. It may not be enough of a shake to damage any possession.

Grimoires and belljars, artifacts and cauldrons do not stare into the mystic tapestry by reflex, either.

Strange then has her uttering a murmur of apology, and extricating herself. For a few moments, however, her arm is wound about his waist her and face buried in the gentle trough of his spine, below his shoulder blades. Hot breath enmeshed in his shirt's weave gives memory to summer, the essence of it bound into her very skin.

"Look in, then," Wanda murmurs, voice a low, cracked plinth of English. "I know how to keep a thought clear at the surface. You can read it?" Her teeth practically chatter, the very offer anathema for someone so intensely private. It is nothing to the sharing of their bodies. It means trust.

A permitted violation.

"Stop and please, look at me. You have been so disturbed by this. Is this a distraction? A thing to keep you from your task because he gives a message you cannot ignore? I don't like this."


Her words thread into and dismantle the incessant voicing of his mental meanderings. It's all nonsense at this point, all blurred into a dismayed miasma of aborted reactions.

Closing his mouth and clenching his teeth tightly enough to draw stark lines of his cheekbones, Strange exhales a shuddering sigh.

"What else did he say to you?"

His voice is hollowed again but for the faintest clutching at shredded stability, at the iridescent spider's string of hope within his soul.

His eyes open and he turns to face her now, making no move to disengage from her arm wound about his hips. He looks haggard, as if he's facing the knowledge of a loved one's terminal disease. "What else?"

The good Doctor shows no notion of accepting Wanda's offering. He's too rattled to notice much more than her physical presence before him.


Wanda rubs her brow, pushing away the errant chestnut waves falling over her face. However much she might temporarily tease her hair into order, nothing short of pruning will stop the disorderly fall at the moment. The master of the house turning requires her to duck under his arm to stay connected to him, even if the good Doctor's harsh expression might cow her.

It does, a little. More than that, but he won't be given a view of that.

"Dead demons are comfortably docile, living ones escape from their prisons. I had bound it with its own summoning energy, then turned back its curse on itself." She doesn't meet his eyes, her own heavy-lidded and diverted to the side where ramifications of wrath are bound to take her at oblique angles. "Dear girl. The rose he gave me, when I would not take his hand, was 'a token of admiration.'" Her teeth grit, the treatment clearly something she takes about as honestly and earnestly as an apple.

"He knew my magic. Chaos, he said. And that I had come far from my home. He wanted to know my teacher, and how long I came to New York. He was not given satisfaction to his questions. Those are rude questions." Well, arguably Strange himself asked her much the same, but the circumstances and hindsight make all the difference.

Facts are pulled down, given no veneer, and in that she might be doing a favour to the good Doctor or damning him to writhe with each hammered nail in the crucifix. "We would See more of each other. Again. Often, he thinks. I must be careful he said." An unladylike snort accompanies that, derisive as they come.

"Trust no one." That sickle smile shows nothing in eyes that glow in the dimness of the tea room, percolating filaments shining hot in a blink, a heartbeat. "It is too late. I trust no one, I am dead. I have given trust. Now I see, 'Will it burn me?' Maybe."


Courting. The Warlock may as well have been courting her. Roses, spoken admiration, inquiries into knowing her better. A pained laugh suddenly escapes him, even as he covers his face with both hands suddenly.

He's heard it spoken, but he won't bring himself to see it. Not yet. Not right now.

She grants Strange both favor and pain, each truth like a stitch ripped from its moorings.

He drops his hands to rest around each side of his neck. "Trust no one…" His voice is weary now, filled with the smoke of the dying embers of his momentary rage. Anger will get him nowhere here, within the Sanctum, within the tea room - within her arm that still stabilizes him in the wake of it all. If she looks up at him before he speaks, she'll see remorse as thick as it comes. It has been a very long time since he's lost his temper and it's unbecoming of the Sorcerer Supreme. "I wouldn't burn you, Wanda."

His unspoken apology should be felt in how he wraps his arms around her and pulls her close, hugs her hard, until the lines of her corset dig into his skin. In how he presses a silent kiss to her hair.


Another time, maybe in the privacy of a locked bedroom, Wanda will tell him about the snake. Quetzacoatl, the feathered serpent, surely has some interesting implications in the language of symbology.

"It is a fallacy. A thing that cannot be done. He tells me to trust no one, I must then trust he tells the truth." Her head shaken, the glittering garnets at her temples sparking when the witch tips her chin higher. A step taken forward bumps them together, differences in height enough she can tuck her head beneath Strange's chin. "This darkness in him I saw before he much spoke to me. Too much power and that kind of veil around him tells much about trust, and he cannot be trusted. Nothing about you or I is like that."

Pulling her in makes the certainty a bit stronger, even if his arms make it so very hard to breathe, and all elements of the prior encounter stand to the side. Emotionally scoured clean, the vessel of the Maximoff girl is prepared to be filled again. "You claimed me, yes? Your decision is made. It is not something I would leave."


It is the sweetest of balms, the aria of angelic voices, the warming breath of summer to hear her pronounce him the claimant to her affections.

Strange doesn't relent at all in the pressure of his embrace, forgetting entirely that she may have trouble inhaling between her corset and his clinging to her as unspoken anchor in the midst of this calming storm.

"Thank you," he murmurs, pressing another lingering kiss to her hair and then closing his eyes as he rests his cheek atop the chestnut waves. "This -" Maybe she can hear the catch in his voice and caesura of thought before he changes tack - it's too painful still to discuss this darkness she mentions yet again. "I've gone and shot the messenger. I was wrong. I asked and…was given the answer." An audible swallow.

"What will you say to him if he searches you out again?" the good Doctor asks even as he leans away, searching for and then holding her gaze.


Strange assures the sorceress she holds some other function than courier, deliverer of distraction. Crushing the corset to her ribcage and wringing out the air from her lungs does not warrant complaints of an audible sort, for she participates in the therapeutic release of frustration and blackest dismay by her part. Wanda leans in while still holding the lion's share of her weight balanced on her toes, her cheek pressed to his shirt.

The shirt, after all, carries the scent of the forbidding man trying to crack her ribcage, defusing the timebomb of her next meeting with that wicked infidel challenging his affections. Its very scent calms her turbulent aura, the insidious unease from Strange poisoning Wanda's own grasp upon reality. Similar traces impregnate the sheets and other rarer things 'round the sanctum, those touchstones that sometimes end up causing her to gravitate in their direction.

Call her sentimental. She might not even fully reason the cause. "Quit apologizing. Last time you built me a room. Next, what? No. You are deeply upset by this. I forgive you." Lovely Slavic and Romany pragmatism, there.

It is easier for her to say that than consider what to say to Baron Mordo. Her eyebrows arch. "I had not thought of it, except in rude terms. 'Have you no manners?'"


Her answer elicits a rough laugh from him.

"That's polite in terms of other things I might say in your shoes," Strange replies, attempting to smile. It's a faltering attempt, like a one-winged bird grasping at flight, and his lips fall into straightness once more, perhaps even curved downwards. His eyes are haunted.

"Please, tell me if he contacts you again."


"Would you have me tell him my situation does not permit for his foul effusions? That I will not have him darkening a doorstep already claimed in full, for mine is a house without open doors?" Her cough stifles a black little laugh, and Wanda allows the brooding weight of Pietro's memory to wash over her. It will not ebb away, the storm of emotions abating a little as she lapses into silence. Mordo is another issue, one clearly deeper and more personal to Strange than herself.

That much she can try to hold up, ignoring her own pains and uneasiness. He listened to her, thus she will listen to Strange in the best way she can. The smaller woman untucks her head from its place beneath his chin, then gazes up at him, the changeable meteorology of his expressions.

"I will." Too short an explanation for some. In her way, it speaks to a wider range, a deeper intent.


"Then that's all I can ask of you. Say what you will to him."

He has faith in her, a deep-seated trust woven in strands of amaranthine. The grief abates from his person in a noticeable amount, though it will wash back in time and time again as the tides turn in the near future. Still, his shoulders remain hung loosely, his manner reticent, and his ability to swallow hampered by this lingering feeling in his upper chest.

"He is… I don't want to believe it." A final admission of denial in the face of everything but Seeing for himself. It's weakly spoken, without much emotion.


"But you want to say more. There would be something else on your mind." Oh, it would be better for everyone if Wanda kept her finger from poking that sore wound, barely covered by a scab. At least she gives Strange his dignity to demur from the weighty matter, confirming that the opportunity and the stage are his to take if he wants it.

Her narrow arm slides out from around his waist, replaced by the other that holds them fast. Giving her wrist a good shake, she then presses her palm to the sharp line of his cheek. "It is a hard blow. You are not alone in this. I fear to look at my very own family, the only one I have. But you did not make him whatever he became. I, however, did."

It's a strange way to balance the pains, a little wisp of perspective through a tiny porthole drilled into his prison constructed from misery and blocks of regret. "Your cares are many. Firstly, the gateway in Central Park. Then Morgan. What he is did not happen in a day. It is not as though he walked into this choice while I came upon him. There will be time, consultation with Merlin perhaps? He divines well in that ball of his. You may give him a gift, not to concern himself so much with his apprentice by putting his eye upon a new trouble."

The squeeze of her long fingers pinch into his shoulder gently, a tenderness to the intent conveyed in tactile elements. "You have help. You have friends and allies here. Forget this lack of trust, and know who support you as Stephen, as Doctor Strange, and as Sorcerer Supreme. Many things. But you have me." She kisses at his chin, her technique not to distract. It is more to share in that lofty, heavy burden.


The good Doctor listens silently, all of the steam vented from within him.

In a way, this revelation is far worse than any blow he's recently received. Vampire venom has nothing on the acid burning in his stomach and the knowledge that he'll be unable to sleep tonight in the wake of strained nerves and lingering surges of adrenaline brought on by shards of sabotaged memory.

All the while, the portal in Central Park whistles merry hell to his subconscious.

"Yes, you." It's all he can muster now, sinking into the mire of heartache. Her kiss is noted and it seems he can also muster a faint smile as he glances down at her. "Thank you."


The lightbulb goes off. The thought then sparks into action, coursing into the movement of lips, her head tilted up to him. "What do you need?"

Growth, by a moment or a leap, gives Wanda the right to hold herself a little more accountable as an adult. She remains quiet as she is, placing her hand against his shoulder a little closer and stepping back to gaze upon Strange's face in full and proper.


Strange is shaken enough by it all to be unable to mask any degree of his responses at this point. Dark brows rise high in honest astonishment once more to be followed by a frown of concentrated thought, uncertainty making him wordless with subtly-parted lips.

His hands still rest on her, around her waist with familiar presence and lack of goading pressure.

Finally, a decision grounded in his mantra of healer and protector: "I need to know that you're okay. You came in looking like you won, but it was a hard fight." There's gentle apology within the troubled steel-blue gaze that rests on her, as if he knows of the chance that she may take insult to his comment regarding her current state. He means none, of course.


Quiet for a time, the question settles between them in bricks and ashes, heavy and pale. She raises her thumb to touch Strange's cheek again, skimming down to his chin, faithful to the elevated structure of bone beneath the thinned and lucid flesh. Wanda's mouth softens, losing some of the tension harboured in the dark moorings that blend into her copper-kissed complexion.

"I was offended he seemed so personal, so interested. Perhaps because now, I… That is, we are now together. The demon was easier with the aid, and the vampires not so impossible. You take this news much harder than I knew, and I would have told you from the start his name and then the rest."

Her brows crumple together, slashed over her darkly thoughtful eyes. "I am not injured. I hurt for you."


Strange shakes his head slowly even as he sighs. "No, don't hurt for me," he murmurs, even as he knows it's a futile thing to ask. Even if she cannot tell, he still aches in turn for the uncertainties revolving around Pietro. He hasn't shown it to her face, only in lingering glances between her shoulder blades, when perhaps she feels he cannot see her. "I'll survive. Karl and I will talk." Uttered through momentarily-clenched teeth, that last statement of brutal fact. "Sleep."

Yes, let them drown their current weariness in the lassitude of dreams, or perhaps dreamless rest. Strange presses a kiss to her fingertips after he takes her hand, the one resting along his cheek, and then leads the way back to the master bedroom. Sleep will claim them tonight, no matter their churning thoughts. Perhaps it will grant them peace in lieu of more restless rumbles of future fate.

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