1963-11-01 - Strange Dramas
Summary: Observations made in the dark.
Related: Strange Satisfaction
Theme Song: The Cosmos Is Yours - Alan Silvestri
wanda strange 

The best solution for a mystic hangover may be a tea brewed from esoteric components in a Tibetan pot procured to replace the one the Sorcerer Supreme destroyed while envenomed. It may not be the only solution to banish the mental vapours.

Looking nigh as worn out as the parent of an infant, Wanda is on the floor, pulling on her boots. She strains against the leather more than she normally would. Tugs drag at the shaft that catches on her calf for perhaps the fourth time; previous efforts saw her tights pulled too high, rolled up irritatingly around her ankle, and some bit of iron still hanging about. One mending spell later, she has addressed the latter but careful ballet is needed to get her boot on.

That means lying on her back, feet high in the air, en pointe like a ballerina. Her coat is absent, the habitual corset in place, and of all things a skirt added to the look. It might almost constitute formal for her.

"Doctor," she calls. "I have a present for you. Now it is safe to give you one."

Is it the view? Maybe. Is it the absence of horrid demons? Probably.

"Fetch your cloak?"


It's quite a sight.

Strange steps down to the landing outside of the Loft, sipping at the dregs of his tea. He can already feel the icicles of the headache beginning to melt, which is vast improvement to earlier. Waking up and finding himself with the worst migraine of his life - most literally - had not put his day off to a good start.

He leans on the door frame as he watches her struggle with the boot and swallows his sip of tea. The good Doctor is inclined to continue to recline and observe, his lips rising slightly.

"My Cloak then? And what's all this about a present?" The herbs at the bottom of the tea are bitter and he makes a face as he swallows them, smacking his lips.


Pray that Strange does not trip over the brunette stretched out at a right angle, the longest limb of the triangle shortened as she wills her knee-high boots the higher, scaling the curve of her calf and parallel flat of her shin. Heel flexed, toe pointed back and forth, success will come through Wanda's persistent approach.

Mayhap not leaving the most competent of impressions, however, upon her landlord.

Rolling her head to the side, Wanda fixes her golden-brown eyes on the teacup and its wielder, gaze freely traveling over the sharply sculpted contours of his face. Every day brings a little more familiarity, a little less guardedness in meeting the mystic's eyes. "The present," she announces, "cannot be brought here. We go to it."

Those imperiled moments when he looks so put out at the contents of the drink make her smile, briefly but genuinely.


Nah, no tripping over her. He has most definitely stopped short, though perhaps he does loom slightly (though unintentionally) as he leans on the vertical lintel of the doorway.

"Oh, we have to travel to it? I see." A little smirk as Strange watches her continue to fight with the boots. "Will I need my battle-leathers? You seem to attract trouble wherever you go."

The good Doctor is teasing, of course. He brings all the trouble he could ever want to the Sanctum's front landing all by himself. He'll go put aside the tea cup up in the Loft and summon the Cloak in a moment. For now, it's far too entertaining to watch her struggle. What a terrible person.


Forgiven 'ere he asks for standing over her in such a provocative fashion, the good Doctor receives a pointed look that lingers a touch too long. It drizzles in dark honey off his shoulder and following the placket of his shirt, fades on a southern path along his sternum guarded by the Eye towards his navel.

"No. Something a bit looser and comfortable. You may appreciate it when we walk." Wanda may take that threat of being secondary source of trouble as a challenge to surmount, one way or the other.

Grabbing the knotted laces, she pulls on the middle and the millimeters vanish off the boot's slack sides, conforming to her leg. Buckles fed through metal frames over the heels and knee are easy. Once successful, she rolls onto her side and hoists herself up, tugging on her skirt to straighten it. A bit of dusting the sides and back assures no dust and lint are tracked along with her.


Strange straightens a little as he, in turn, considers how she eyes him. It's always a bit of an ego-boost, even if that predatory edge always makes the hair on the back of his neck rise slightly.

"Then I'll stay in this," he replies as he turns away to retreat upstairs - this being his standard daywear of dress shirt and pants. The shift in weight is paused, if only to watch her hands glide over her sides and hips. The Sorcerer realizes he's staring - oh no? - and grins to himself even as he clumps up the stairs. The muscles of his body remind him that he's not quite recovered from the recent closing of the Hellmouth portal (channeling the raw power of ley lines does take a toll on one's general stamina, ugh), but it's not as bad as before the tea.

The tea cup clinks on its saucer and he lingers to brush his fingertips along the darkly-enameled red clay tea pot that rests on the stand. It's a part of the Loft now, replacing the previous one broken all to hell. It's a part of his life. A glance over his shoulder across the open floor and to the short stairway followed by a contented smile.

There's the sound of fluttering after he idly lifts a hand in the direction of the bedroom doors. With a spritely whisk of crimson fabric, the Cloak settles about his shoulders before melting swiftly into a lengthy, wide scarf. It settles with prescient comfort about its master's neck and then Strange is stepping once more down the stairs to where Wanda waits for him in the hall. "And where are we walking to then? Or is it a surprise?"


Call it a case of professional survey, and personal appreciation. The Transian witch does not often default to open considerations, and there have been moments in the murk of twilight when she stirs from her sleep and lifts on her elbows, looking upon the slumbering man finally stripped of the heavy weight of his office.

Or Strange might well be wide awake, aware Wanda watches over him with an uncommonly careworn expression, before sinking slowly back down onto the pillow and trying to find her route into sleep.

She is ready upon the sorcerer's return, vested in her supple leather coat and that small addition at her waist, a pouch full of powdered iron that will be her constant companion in days and nights to come. Whence he returns, she says, "You will have to be my escort and find out, Doctor. Sometimes the anticipation of what comes heightens the experience, rather than going direct to it." Her mouth shapes a small, knowing smile and her gaze crackles with import. "Shall we?"

Theirs is to be a walk. She does not use the subway, at least she has never expressed stepping onto a car (not carriage, she is not American!) to whisk between Greenwich Village and outer points of the city. Line C runs straight where they need to go from West 4th Station. Instead they will have to rely upon a bus, the M5, bolting straight up to Central Park of all places. And no doubt this explains exactly why they had to wait, for they have another transfer to make at Columbus Circle before reaching their destination.

With its triumphant neoclassical façade, four huge pillars flanking the arched entrance, the American Museum of Natural History is a byword for science in the city. Bas beliefs of moose and wolves, rhinos and other animals march beneath the four life-size statues of great explorers: Lewis and Clark, Audubon and Boone. None of these hold the least interest as Wanda leads him past the iconic western gate entrance towards the copper-domed roof of the Hayden Planetarium.

"We're to see a show tonight. I may have spoken to a guard we had something to do with the gate," she murmurs to him, nodding to a rather tall fellow in a smart uniform standing by floodlight doors. A few other people mill about in the lobby. "Come."


Dressed in his black Belstaff and offering a place for her hand to rest, in the crook of his elbow, the good Doctor and his curiosity-dangling roommate leave the Sanctum. It's a brisk night, chilly, but thank goodness the weather isn't inclement. It seems that the rain has blown itself out for a while yet.

It isn't until the transfer at Columbus Circle that Strange gets a suspicion of where they're heading. At this point, he's content to travel sedately beside her and follow the gentle tug of her lead. Her response is an answer to his question of, "Ah, the Museum of Natural History - why here?"

Having had his query answered, Strange slows their walk a bit, if only to let his eyes shift around at all of the displays, stuffed and preserved animals, and inhale the lightly-dusty air of science. "Lead on then," he murmurs quietly, giving her a small smile and arch of an eyebrow as his gaze shifts from the floodlight doors back to her face.


Marble floors and sweeping staircases lead into the heart of the building, a place of pride given to the central dome. Shadows of the skyline painted in silhouette upon the vast lower walls shape out Queens to the Bronx, the distinctive high rises of the Financial District leaping in height over the flats of the ocean and the relatively low profile of Long Island. These as easily fade out beneath the rotating screens depicting nothing, at present.

The Mark IV Zeiss projector is the very cutting edge of science, a handsome oblong device on a sturdy steel tripod, balancing two spheres full of cut lenses lying to either end of a central shaft. The starballs designed to rotate independently of one another inspire their audiences from a changing axis that throws the secrets of the universe across the great smooth hemisphere balanced on a barrel vault in the finest Roman tradition. The Pantheon once collected the Olympian gods in their larger than life wonder, striking awe in the ancient world. Man repeats the feat today.

For the ceiling itself echoes that inimitable dome, framing a spectacular view of the constellations being splattered across the dark heavens from the device mounted in the equivalent of an orchestral pit. Stars dance in speckled profusion, lights burning in the infinite darkness. An usher sees the pair to their seats, a seat intended to incline with a somewhat inelegant lever at the side. They are not necessarily intended for comfort, whatever the cushions intend. A few others are about, scattered in twos and fours, never more. Each have their own view upon the dusky world painted by familiar shapes of the bears, greater and lesser, and the circumpolar star patterns emerging from their Babylonian configurations. There is the chained queen, Cassiopeia, and here the burning speck of Polaris helpfully mounted almost dead center.

When the gentleman departs to his place by the door, the closure is imminent. Soft classical strains play over the speakers, a dreamy little piece lingering upon a duet between violins and woodwinds. Wanda looks none too pleased with herself, settling into the chair and pulling her coat around herself to compensate for the cooler, cavernous effect.

"This might be, I think, helpful to relax."


His gaze flits around the room even as the music comes on and the lights dim lower still. They bring the projected sky above him into crisp clarity and even as Strange settles in beside Wanda, adjusting the coat against a noticeable chill, he can't say that he's not impressed.

"I can definitely see this being relaxing," he murmurs to her, half-turning his head to project his softly-spoken words towards her ear. His eyes still linger towards the manmade heavens. "I wonder how many people will fall asleep before it's over?"

The little pockets of other attendees are given a quick once-over, but the low lighting doesn't allow him to see much more than vague outlines and he leans back in his chair once more. "What gave you this idea?"

Catnip to the good Doctor, ever-so-curious of cats, learning new things of the young woman beside him.


The emcee in the control booth of the Star Theatre occupies a spot nudged along the outer rim of the hemisphere. From here he mans a plethora of devices connected by a spiderweb of cords neatly organized in a rather tall, deep wooden stand with expertise and panache worthy of any conductor or ring master. Wearing a handsome suit, his is the only spot in the area lit by a dim green-toned lamp meant to absorb the glow of the low-wattaged bulb. Even this he eventually turns off, once settled into the program.

"We keep ending up together in the dark," she whispers as the music fades out, the crackle of the speakers fuzzed by white noise. While Strange stares around, Wanda looks firmly towards the shut doors. Their seal is such one might not even know where they are, as soon as the circumference is well and truly rendered seamless. Even now she has to memorize the ways out, if it comes to that.

"Welcome to the Star Theatre at Hayden Planetarium," the emcee cheerfully says. He flicks on an oblong device that directs a fine, slender arrow onto the dome, indicating one star. "Tonight's special show celebrates the deepening reach of mankind into the cosmos as we turn our eyes into the interstellar darkness. In our program, we will explore celestial mysteries. The last few weeks have taught us to dread the night, when a hundred generations of mankind before us looked on the sky with wonder and yes, a little bit of awe and fear. Let us remember the lines of the 'Theogony,' the origin of the gods, when Hesiod tells us the universe is a state of chaos, the dark void, from which all else appears."

Stars flicker out and they are thrown into coal-black darkness illuminated by nothing but a single point. From that point, nothing emanates save a faint trickle of dust and the man's baritone smoothly flows around them to fill the great space with an intimacy lacking with the lights flashing. A hum comes from somewhere: the air conditioning, the Zeiss machine. "'At first, Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the immortals who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth. First came love, then Erebus and Night, then Heaven and Day.' The darkness shines with hope for the ancients, as today…"

While he talks, the witch reaches over to wordlessly rest her fingers on the arm of the chair, within easy reach.


"That's not my fault," the good Doctor whispers back, his tone carrying tease where his smile cannot be seen in the very-dim lighting of the planetarium.

Still, he settles in and adopts a pensive expression, eyes flickering from emcee and up to the central distance of the high dome above. One hand strokes at the lines of his goatee as he rests his elbow on the empty arm beside him. The other drops with a total lack of expectancy of it already being occupied.

Her hand is warm and his immediate instinct is to jerk away in honest surprise. However, his light touch never fully retreats and, instead, he gently gathers her fingers within his. A light kiss, polite and affectionate, is pressed to her fingertips and then her back knuckles, before he returns to the arm rest, their fingers interlaced.

Strange's focus then returns to the announcer and his poetic expansion of the first people and their take on the darkness between the stars.


"You accuse me?" J'accuse in any other language still means the same. Wanda's mouth puckers into a moue, her eyebrows rising in the dark. Tension recoils after so many days learning to hate the spill of umbral shadows through alleys and streets girding this very park. No doubt others have their stomachs doing flipflops and the sick lumps forming in their throat as she does.

In a way all New Yorkers are survivors. Anyone touched by this will never be the same. It is only a beginning.

The witch knows that, even if they don't. Her fingers curl to contain the broader digits wrapped around them, and her palm presses to the scarred expanse of Strange's. She runs a fingertip up the divide between his index and middle fingers, feeling the widening rise of a knuckle, the shortened lines grooved through time. Without light, touch heightens, taste sharpens, scent becomes a living presence until itself. She knows his. Hers is dusted by a hint of tea to go with the dusty leather and the wisps of spice.

The emcee continues, lights sparkling towards the top of the dome as ancient stars form in the first concussive burst of creation. His flashlight projects an arrow up there, a name to measure each of those ancient beginnings with. Here, the universe grows and dies, stars fading, shapes changing. None of the processions of the seasons painted in the ultramarine glow of the lightshow give anything remotely familiar to navigate by: these are wonders unto themselves. The great star machine wheels and pivots, frozen in time, projecting the faint shapes of galaxies and nebula in wild dusty dances.

"… Our sky was once utterly dark and without the waypoints you know and see today. It is easy, in such times, to be afraid. We are in terra incognita, as scientists and thinkers puzzle upon those long ago, ancient days. As time progresses, stars are born in the great cradles of the universe: the nebulas. These huge clouds of dust flash alive with stars, each coming into being with a mighty flare. A great mountain burning in fire, said the ancients, or campfires of the ancestors. We have many stories for the light that travels for hundreds and millions of years to be released unto the Earth. Each beam is a message from very far reaches of space, a message of promise, written in the very same warmth that our own Sun sheds upon us. We are learning to read these messages, to understand where they come from and what sets them upon their courses."

Another press of two buttons and the lenses focus, throwing thousands of sparks in every direction that resolve to stars painted on the floor and the ceiling, suspending them in time.

"We are learning we are made of the stars," the emcee says.

And the darkness, surely follows the thought.

But for a moment, they are suspended in the cosmic web of eternity, the pulse of the universe in their heartbeats, the breath of life cycled between them. He is not alone, as it would happen, though it certainly must feel it for even the speckles splattered in diamond brightness through beams show so few other players in the celestial dance.

Just the weight of her head upon his shoulder, eyes gazing upwards to his profile and further to the endless dome of infinity. Wanda doesn't speak; this moment, this reminder, are his.


"Not accuse, inform," he whispers back, leaning a bit towards her. "You are guilty as charged - after all, it does take two to tango." Strange is enjoying the little banter. It's akin to exchanging notes while the teacher has their back turned, their chalk drawing out the spheres of the planets in their rings about the sun on the black board.

And everything in between, the Sorcerer thinks to himself with a heavy sort of amusement after the emcee proclaims their blood to run in rivulets of distant light and their bodies to contain all the dust of the nebulae.

The sudden light weight of her cheek resting on his shoulder is another unexpected circumstance in the near-total darkness and he turns his head to look at her. He can faintly see the waves of her hair, but that's about it - memory fills in the rest: cheekbones that draw attention along the lines of her jaw within a heart-shaped whole, dark expressive brows over maple-amber eyes that could draw him with the gravitational pull of a star on a ice-sheeted comet, pursed rose-petals of a set of lips whose pout is enough to send his heart up into his throat, ever laced with caution that he wishes to erase in every one of their sets.

"Yes, Wanda?" This whisper is deeper now and puffs against the hair that brushes the line of his jaw.


Even higher move her eyebrows, and the repartee has its next lunge, fencing Strange in. "The tango? I was never permitted to watch it. Yaga said that dance was too wanton for young ladies." A pause conducts a break in the conversation held in whispers, as Wanda consults the growing vocabulary pressed into her service for moments such as these. This particular volume is far too thin, supplemented more by exposure to Pietro than anything in the city so far.

"And much too salacious for me. Are you a salacious man?"

Forget whatever the stars may hold in their eternal fire, kindled cyan balls capturing the smudges of vermilion and citrine dust that waver in watercolour flashes upon the ceiling of the theatre. They who dwell perched on the edges of tilted seats, curled up beside the realm's mystic guardian with nothing more than damnably hard wooden splints separating them are little concerned by the Belt of Orion dropping askew or the march of the Zodiac storming above the ecliptic. She learns nothing from the last sister of the Pleiades, too shamed to show her face for loving a mortal, though the rainy Hyades are revealed in their glory across a spectrum of stellar emissions that flash and shine.


"Salacious? A good word choice." The Sorcerer is silent for a short time, considering the announcer's lingering discussion involving a particular cluster next to the Pleiades. "I suppose if you consider the various types of tango. American can be fairly hot-blooded, though I've always felt that the Argentine people were doing it correctly."

His thumb brushes up and over the back of her hand. "I think your Yaga would consider me extremely salacious to suggest that our next outing involve dinner and dancing. The tango isn't such a difficult thing to learn…"

Strange shifts in his seat and straightens, though he never allows the angle of his shoulder to change, to continue to allow her head to rest there. "Though we could start with the waltz. It is much easier to follow," he adds with a breath of a laugh. There's a story there somewhere, it sounds like.


The resonating silence from Wanda answers much, though not the quiver that floods up her arm and tightens the way her fingers entwine around the sorcerer's. Pressure hails down upon his knuckles, sliding from the gradual slopes to the hidden ossified valleys between.

Music then takes up the course of the emcee's programs, a lilting instrumental chosen as much for the spellbinding introductions that evoke the majesty of the stars and the enormity of their distances of empty space. The tempo resonates to the dancing thrum of the chambers of the heart, fitting together, on a sonorous cascade piped through the speakers. There is a weightlessness found where the notes spin together and split apart, something only a truly gifted classical performance can obtain.

Her head remains gently cradled where it is, gaze fixed upon the stars. Somewhat. "Yaga is old-fashioned." About sixteen millennia, give or take. Maybe longer; date Atlantis' fall and keep going, that stands to when she became old. Wanda nonetheless allows a silent crackle of laughter to bounce her shoulders and shiver down into the stardust-laced centre of her being. Why does it feel so proper and good when this is a place she ought to patently dread, quaking with the memory of violence and the uncertainty of her own fate and her twin's? Guilt might taste heavy upon her tongue, though she allows a separation from that damned state for an instant of grace otherwise denied. This man offers it to her, and she will sup upon it with full understanding he can revoke the blessing and rescind her right to it at any time. "Are you asking me to dance?"

It could be she doesn't know how. Exactly at which revel would she have done it?

Her breath comes out in a whisper, flecked in thought and rasping ideas. "Or will you simply show me how? I prefer active learning, to passive, it seems. You bring out such reactions."


The jounce of her laughter, that rubs shoulder to shoulder, is noted and Strange breaks out into a full grin. That…that might have been the first time he's seen her laugh so far. Wait, not seen - assumed. After all, it's much too dark to see her expression.

"I just might be asking you to dance," he echoes back to her in a lull of the music that fills the planetarium. The softness of her curls touches more of his cheek as he leans in closer still, in order for her to hear him beneath the arcing of the violins and cellos. "We'll start with the waltz. As I mentioned before, it's easy and much tamer, graceful when done correctly, and always a great way to show off at social gatherings. I learned it simply for that, back when I was attending neurosurgical conferences as keynote speaker," he adds, smirking at the memories that flash before his eyes.

Back when his world was so much smaller and tamer.


The world has never been small or tame. A matter of scale, for a man playing with people's lives still plays with them. Just on a bigger magnitude, no?

"That is what you want, then, someone to show off? I shall be a disappointment, I think, next to your skill and power to turn heads." Because the witch is hardly showy, now is she? Harbouring another trace of bleak mirth, her voice seeps with the other tumbled blend of emotions that pour freely among the rapid cascades of buoying notes meant to open the mind's eye. Whomever programmed the musical accompaniment to the show knows the various components quite well, for the star balls twist and turn, projecting new spectacles at every angle. It may be hard to hear the hushed awe of those around them, forgotten beings adrift in the stellar sea.

Still, her thumb grazes his and speaks to willingness to try. A vibration of common purpose settles away, even as she tries to focus on whatever it was that begged for her attention before. For Wanda, now it seems incredibly remote, lost in the vastness of creation made personal and finite, tangible to the touch of fingers around their like, the pressure of leaning over an armrest to share the experience with another person. Strange might be having an effect on her, making her more receptive to these gifts and surprises.


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