1963-11-04 - Stop and Smell the Poppies
Summary: Barney finally drags Hilde to the ER to see about her wrist. There, they encounter a man who defies every rule Hilde knows about death. A touch of truth is exchanged.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange barney brunnhilde 

Friday morning. The ER isn't exactly total chaos but, well, it's close. It's a Manhattan ER, it's always going to be nuts. Hilde originally said she'd go, but then when they ended up getting up in the morning, she was making more than a few rumblings about the wrist 'not being that bad', she 'really didn't feel like sitting in a crazy ER' and any other excuse she could find. Sometimes, Hilde's impossible to deal with. So, slouching, pouting and still half asleep, she's let him cart her to the hospital to actually get her damn wrist seen to before it heals into being a complete mess.

She's in her ambulance uniform slacks, they were the only pants she hand on hand, but she's stolen a shirt off of him instead of bothering with her own laundry. Blonde hair down and messy, she's restlessly pacing the side of the room where they are staking out to wait. She stares across at Barney, eyes a touch worried as she watches him looking for things far different than her. "If…if you need to go, go. I'll stay. I'm here now. They'll call me eventually. Just… you don't gotta stay. Bad enough I drug you here. I'm really… a shit friend sometimes." Or whatever they were. Friends. Sure.


Barney is leaning forward in his seat, a lit cigarette between his fingers as elbows rest upon legs. He's most definitely keeping an eye out for 'trouble', that is, those who would cause him trouble, like NYDP or FBI. Mussed straight dark hair falls forward, almost obscuring his face, so there is that going for him. He pulls his head up and watches 'Hilde for a few moments as she does her pacing, "Sit down an' relax. You pacing like that is gonna get attention." Okay, so pros and cons. She needs attention. That wrist. "Just.. I'm here. You calm down. It'll get seen to and then we can leave." Sooner the better.


"And that's why don't use the tool in that circumstance."

The deep voice carries as the tall man exits the double doors to the ER room proper and pauses, glancing back over his shoulder at the small gaggle of interns that follow behind him like ducklings.

"But, sir, wouldn't you want to use — "

A curt gesture on his part and the young man falls silent.

"Trust me on this one, you don't want to deviate from the procedure, even if I have from time to time. I'm — I was one of the best," he amends, though it seems to come out hesitantly, as if Dr. Strange still hasn't left his surgical past in the past. "For any further questions, go see Dr. Palmer. She knows what she's doing."

To a chorus of thanks and wishes of good will, the man lets the door shuts and stands there for a moment before scrubbing at his face. He's not in scrubs at all, wearing a black coat now as well as a bright crimson scarf over slacks. "Interns…I forgot about interns…" he mumbles as he begins to cross the room, hands stuffed into his pockets.


"I don't want to sit. I… I hate it here. It's like death is crawling on the walls and I can't… I can't help any of them. Too many, it's all spread out… We can come back in a week if it doesn't get better." Hilde protests again, cranky enough that one might wonder if she was a decade younger than she actually is, but pain does different things to people. Apparently, it makes Hilde half impossible to deal with. Even if her eyes keep slightly flickering that strange silver he's seen from her a handful of times. Maybe it's his imagination, a reflection of the poor overhead lighting. She turns on the ball of her foot and starts pacing in the other direction. She really can't stay still.

Then *he's* there. That red scarf. The voice. But it was before she even recognized him that Hilde's head snaps around and she's staring at the Doctor, having felt that… null field. In a place of death and constant pain, he was like a strange, light breeze. A breeze that very much didn't belong. Silver ice eyes stare hard at Strange for several heartbeats before she mutters to Barney, "…I gotta talk to someone." And off she goes. Just double time walking after him, completely ignoring the fact that her wrist is still in that rough, make shift splint and purple all the way up to her knuckles with the bad break. Her mind is so far from their original purpose being here she might as well be in Timbuktu. She follows Strange down the hall, to where ever he is going, silvered gaze now narrowed. She's just trying to figure it out.


"I know you do…" 'Know' without understanding. It's a place-setter for 'I have no idea what the hell you're talking about but I'll humor you anyway'. "No, we're not gonna come back in a week." Barney rises to his feet and sets the cigarette down in an ashtray before he takes a step towards Hilde, "Look, darlin'.. when this is all done, I promise—"

And there, Dr. Strange emerges from a corridor and out, followed by his ducklings. Barney turns away, just in case, and goes to reach for the cigarette he'd placed down. Picking it up again, he takes a drag from it and in that action, registers that Hilde is now standing stock still before she sets off after him. "Hil- jesus christ, darlin'.. where are you-" Going?


The measured steps of Strange's travel down the corridor towards the front of the hospital, in the expansive room with the front desk and its myriad of waiting chairs filled and likewise empty in places, echo. It's not too busy and he takes his time as he glances around. It's all familiar to him — the ambient sounds of machines and clattering metal, the scent of cleaners and sterility, and the coolness of the air, kept lower for everyone's comfort.

Behind him, briskly-approaching footsteps and he automatically cants his pathway to one side to allow the harried hospital worker to pass him…but they don't. It seems like they align and he comes to a slow halt before turning around to give the young woman walking towards him a frown.

"The lecture finished ten minutes ago. You can direct any further questions to Dr. Palmer," he repeats, not unkindly, but also clearly disinterested in fielding any more queries as to his past procedures.


There are some days where Hilde is just close to impossible. Easily distracted, startled, bull headed determined when her mind gets set on something and not always seemingly sane. So, yes, impossible. This seems one of those mornings, only further aggravated by the pain in her wrist and the paranoia of her partner who really shouldn't be in an area that is more often than not occupied by cops. She doesn't even see to hear Barney's protests as she double times after Strange, towards the front halls of the hospital.

At least it was a little more quiet here than the zoo of the emergency room, but it was also far less easy to hide in a crowd. Not good for Barney. It doesn't seem to register for Hilde. All she has are eyes for that strange feeling from, well, Strange.

"No, look, I wasn't at your lecture, I don't care." She also wasn't the most polite of individuals. She stares at the man curiously, studying his face, trying to see if she can find some answers there, but it's just that odd feeling so. The lack of death. No one lacked death. That broke the rules of the universe. "You. I've…seen you around before. A lot. I work one of the buses. You… Why doesn't death like you? It's…it's like it can't touch you, ever…or…" How did she even have words to describe this? Her brows furrow a bit tighter, frustratingly searching for concepts that she only dimly understands. "You…you repel it."


A good number of days are those days where Hilde is close to impossible. It doesn't stop Barney from trying, however. He's the sort, apparently, that keeps on banging his head against a wall, and eventually when he stops, it'll feel better. When Hilde heads after Strange, there he is, ending up banging that ol' head against a wall.

The cigarette is dropped on the floor and he follows her, bringing himself a little more out into the open where anyone could walk in. Cops are known to take the perps that 'hurt themselves' here.. who knows what else!


And then comes the Twenty Questions.

Barney comes forward, looking a ragged mess, and reaches to take the blonde's good arm. "Sorry.. she gets into these fits." Beat. "C'mon darlin'.. let's get back and sit down so the doc can take care of that wrist of yours. Then we can go home—"


Strange is doing an excellent job of mimicking a fish currently — mouth open and closing repeatedly as he's faced with the barrage of questions that hit way too close to a sensitive topic for comfort. The arrival of the other man is a blessing and it's shown in his short sigh and stilted head shake.

"It's fine," he says, interrupting the young woman's apparent escort. "You really do need to get that wrist looked at, by the way," he adds over his shoulder to her as he turns to continue across the foyer of the hospital.

Perhaps he makes it 180 degrees before something gives him reason to pause — perhaps he makes it a full five steps. Either way, the good Doctor is perturbed. It's been a long enough time that someone called him out on his immortality (the last being Myrradin of Ruda, though it was to be expected from the unpredictably-astute old Wizard) that his first instinct is to flee the scene rather than engage. It's difficult enough explaining why Death marked him as untouchable, much less in a public setting.


To any sane eyes, Hilde and Barney look like your regular strung out druggie couple. His ragged, messy hair and somewhat thin figure, her own messy blonde hair, the broken wrist, the fact that she looks far too thin and drawn out for sanity or health. In the ER, this time of morning, she spouting things about repelling death? They'd be completely discounted as crazy druggies if the things she said weren't *true*. But they are. And she's been through this hospital a lot, just not as a patient. Always as a worker. Some of her patients probably ended up on Strange's table back in the day.

Or, maybe not. Because she's *that* paramedic. The one who is always bringing in the dead. The cursed one. Maybe it's hard to recognize her out of her full uniform, but more than a few nurses give her the side eye. There might be a reason she and Barney have been waiting around so long to get seen — no one wants her in the patient area. She's cursed.

As Barney grabs her arm, she huffs a little, trying to pull back but he's got strength on her by far. She gives him a little glare, "Barney, I ain't crazy, I can… can *taste* it on him…" That just sounded *crazier*, but it's what's coming out of her mouth right now. She stares at the doctor's retreating back, her blue silver eyes narrowing more. "Just because it scares you doesn't make it not true. Must be damn lucky… Wonder if you could let that rub off on someone else."


They do look a pair. Barney isn't far from his next cigarette, held by thin fingers, but from the looks of it, he's not far from his next hit of acid. He keeps hold of her good arm, not letting her chase the guy down, so unless he stops? "Taste it? Immortality? C'mon darlin', but that's …" Crazy talk?

Thing is, she's not crazy. Not really. Just.. strange. And she has saved Barney more than once, and he's got some hint of loyalty. Or maybe it's that protective streak in him? "Doc," he speaks up again, "C'n you hear her out? I'm never gonna hear the end of it, an' she's only gonna keep tryin' t'search you out." He looks back at Hilde and his head ducks, "Your wrist after this." The longer he's here, the more likely he's going to be seen, and all this he wants done quickly.


About five steps, yep, and then the good Doctor stops walking. The pair get to see his chin drop to his chest as he closes his eyes tightly and presses his lips tightly shut against some smart remark.

Luck. Hmph. Depends on who you talk to. And a stalker — wonderful. Let's snip this errant suture quickly.

Turning about on his heel, Strange returns to stand before the bedraggled-looking pair and takes his time sizing them up individually. Finally:

"I'll keep it simple, young lady. Whether it's a curse or a blessing is up to philosophers. No, Death cannot touch me and no, I'm not going to explain why right now. How you know of this…" His steel-blue eyes narrow at her. He weighs a pithy comment and decides against it, keeping in mind the presence of her escort. "Hmph."

A pause and then his eyes widen a little followed by the arc of one dark eyebrow. "Hold on, you're that nurse." Turns out that he does know of Hilde after all, likely through the gossip of the staff.


Whether Hilde was driving Barney up a tree or not, the fact that he actually stops with her and backs her up with the doctor, well, it means the world. They might be the most rag tag, strange looking pair of maybe druggies in the hospital, but there actually might be a weird sense of care between them and clear support, even when Hilde's ideas are crazy. She reaches her good hand to the part of his arm she can touch, giving a small, thankful squeeze that he's actually let her stop and ask more questions. It meant a lot.

Then there is the Doctor. He finally stops and looks back, confirming what she was feeling. Her brows furrow more, skin crawling for far different reasons than it normally does around this place. When he comments about her knowing it, she clears her throat, "Like…like I said…I can…*taste* it. It's… strange. Not natural. Or…shouldn't be." But maybe it is. She didn't get the sense he was cheating. Nothing was mad. He was just so *very* different.

She huffs out a quiet breath, finally beginning to pull herself out of whatever obsessive frame of mind had taken her, she's about to turn to go when the doctor comments about her. Shoulders stiffen a bit, her ice eyes turning back to him and she bites at her lower lip. Guilty. She knows what he's taking about, even if 'that' is no real definition. "…uh…Medic. Yes… I… yeah. I'm *that* one…Work with the EMS…"


"Doc, she knows shit." Barney's voice is low. "Like.. if someone walks in that door that is gonna drop dead in the next five minutes, she knows it. And she ain't wrong." Now who sounds like the crazy guy? A cigarette. That's what he needs, and he pulls his pack out, lights one quickly and sets it back into his sling.

"And I don't like the way that was said. She's damned good at her job. Even more than just doin' it." Barney draws on the cigarette, the little tip lighting as ash builds up.

"It's okay, darlin'. Don't care what anyone says, right?"


"Taste it," Strange repeats, a squint of disbelieving interest now narrowing his eyes. He has time to consider his response before Barney speaks up and the good Doctor listens to him with that one eyebrow held high.

Interesting indeed… With all of his past inquiries into Mystical history, he can narrow this ability down to a few select supernatural beings. He's leaning towards one in particular, but she doesn't…give off that particular aura or air.

"Whether or not the patient comes in alive or dead depends on a great number of factors. This ability could be considered useful by the more jaded members of the staff." Clearly, Strange is referencing anyone who believes that working on a doomed patient is a waste of time. Himself? He's not included. Check the records — he pulled a sizable number back from the brink. "My comment was no reflection on her job, sir, merely an acknowledgment of her person," he directs specifically to Barney. To Hilde, "Anything else you need answered?" They aren't drawing much attention now, talking in normal conversational tones. Might as well.


For a moment, Hilde turns to look up to Barney and actually gives him a quiet, almost warm smile. It's a strange look on her, she doesn't seem like a woman who was built to smile, but he manages to get it out of her. However the strange pair seemed to come together, well, they fit now. She stops fighting his arm and, instead, shifts her fingeritps up to lace her good hand through his. A small squeeze is given in thanks and quite acknowledgement of that support. It's not missed.

"Hun… it's okay. I… I don't really got the greatest reputation around here. Bring in enough dead people and they start talking. It's… alright. Don't bother me." Yes, Hilde was a great medic. She had saved Barney's life multiple times alone. But that wasn't why she did what she did. Still, she can't quite take her eyes off Strange. Even as his eyes narrow on her, she's looking him much the same. Trying to piece it together but she simply cannot. She's probably just as confusing to him, considering everything about her reads like nothing more than some strung out mortal with a shattered wrist.

"When it's someone's time… it's their time. Fighting it is of no use and often causes more pain when they… they just need peace to pass on. And no, it isn't always their time. You… used to work those miracles. I remember that. Just wasn't their time. It comes for every one, eventually. Or…" She frowns, still watching him, "Almost everyone." Not him, apparently.

"…What's your name?" It's the only other question that hits her that she might actually be able to get answered.


Hand holding? Barney looks a little uncomfortable with the affection. He's good with defending, but… fingers lacing and.. and.. and he shifts his weight a little awkwardly, bringing the cigarette back up to take another pull from it. The smoke is held before it's released, the ash cast casually in a nearby tray. He grunts his acknowledgment of the doctor's words, and that's about it.

Seems Barney has had enough speaking for the time being. Instead, he lets Hilde take up the questions she wants answered; no, needs answered. Now it's time to keep an eye out for New York's finest, just in case. The longer they stand here, the longer he stands here, the more nervous he becomes, though that only comes out with the way he looks around, blue eyed gaze landing on this person and that.. and back to the door.


"Yes, almost everyone." He's replying to multiple statements, primarily his working of miracles and the exclusion of himself from the general populace. What an odd couple. The thought makes Strange smile to himself — he's half of a rather odd couple himself, so…pot calling kettle black there, friend.

"Doctor Stephen Strange," he then replies to the nurse/Medic standing before him. A hand is extended, laced in the scars of unsuccessful surgeries. She's sure to note it, being so closely involved in the medical field herself. "I used to work neurosurgery. You've probably heard of me from the staff there."


Of course, timing is an awful thing. As eyes that shouldn't be seeing Barney are probably getting closer and closer, Hilde squeezes his hand and momentarily lets go, since the doctor is offering her a palm to shake and she only has one functional hand herself right now. She stretches her left palm over, a bit awkward as it's off hand, but she isn't so impolite as to not shake his hand at all. "Hilde… Hilde Norris… It's…" And then their hands actually touch and the whole world is momentarily on fire.

Life. Screaming, passionate, creative, brilliant, burning *life*. That's what it feels like, soul-searing and too bright. Where as death is an old, comfortable noble friend, life is too much. It's the constant press of cells diving exponentially to create a human being, the constant thriving beneath skin, the rapid beat of a heart. Life, power, tinged with ozone and electric. She gasps, stumbling back, almost if burned, her eyes having gone fully silver now as she stares up at him with the gaze of the ancients. "…there is such power in you, Stephen Strange…" Even her voice is different, no longer rasping and light. There is a depth of respect and terrible awe in her tone.


Timing is truly everything. As Hilde is dropping his hand, there are a pair of NYPD bringing a 'patient' in; and Barney turns around slowly, pulls on his cigarette, and ducks his head a little, just to keep his full profile from being too obvious.

Of course, it's almost all 'in vain' when the handshake happens. Barney isn't sure exactly what the hell just happened there, but he really, really doesn't want anything like this happening right now. If he has to kill one or both of the cops, he will. Now just really isn't the best time, okay?

There is that voice. Barney spins around to look at Hilde, his Hilde, and sees that silver gaze and he holds his breath.


He'll take the off-hand to shake — after all, he did offer the gesture in the first place and hmm, her name does sound somewhat familiar, though she's always been That One Medic and —

WHOA. The vision of the hospital and his conversational partners fades out as a snow-blanketed field takes its place. The sky is grey, steel-grey, like the weapons bloodied and scattered throughout the battle that splays before Strange in gory indifference to the sanctity of the white ground. The metallic scent of fresh ichor clings to the back of his throat even as the heavy sense of being watched hits him between the shoulderblades. He can't locate the presence staring so intently at him within the vision, but he hears the clear ring of blade upon blade followed by muffled wingbeats and then the redness of flower petals — poppies, bright as freshly-shed blood.

The true reality returns to him as a rush and he's in time to hear Hilde's newly-rasped voice, take in the sight of her lightened eyes. No doubt he's showing similar coloration in his own, though his lean more towards deep-thundercloud than burnished metal. "And you, Hilde Norris," he finally replies, flexing his hand carefully at his side. "What are you?"

Poor Barney. He's probably totally out of the loop at this point.


ROLL: Barney +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 67


Normally, Hilde is actually fairly in tune to Barney, especially his paranoia about the cops. She'd been worried about bringing him here and keeping eyes open until now. Now, she's totally somewhere else. His Hilde is *gone*, if just for this handful of seconds. Staring at Strange like she's looking into another world, no fear in her eyes, no anxiety or confusion. No, when she goes like this, Hilde looks far more calm and comfortable in her skin than she ever does on a daily basis. Like she was *meant* to be this way. It might be the smile that follows which is the most unsettling. Warm, powerful, serene. It's the sort of smile statues of angels that look over graveyards keep. "…Do you smell the poppies, Doctor? You can't save them all…" Jealous death. He who snatches people from her clutches. It's like she's walking on *his* non existant grave.

And then it's gone. Like puppet strings are cut, that ancient part of Hilde slips away, back… unaware again, and she's half collapsing to the cold tile floor of the hallway. She'll hit her knees if one of the men doesn't catch her, but she doesn't pass fully out. It's just jarring, coming back to herself. Distantly, she hears that last question of Strange's. She just shakes her head, over and over, nervously now. That anxiety is back, the guilt, exhaustion and uncertainty. "…don't know… I don't…know…"


As the pair of cops move through, there is most definitely an interest shown to the trio by one of the cops. The one cop that doesn't really take notice because he's got more of the burden of walking the perp through, but the other slows to stare at the three-some, each in turn. One seems strange, as if she's fugue-ing. The other guy she's talking with, he's got a strange look on his face, and the third? The cop gives him a long look, staring, and he turns around to take a couple of steps to catch up with his partner.

Dead give away, and Barney puts his cigarette out under a boot. In her wierd state or not, he has to go, and now. In order to get to a good vantage point, to work something up quickly and easily, he needs at least a minute to three for a lead time.

"'Hilde.." is hissed softly. "Sorry darlin'… luck's run out on me." She might feel that that particular cop that slowed? It's going to be messy. "Say goodnight—"

Aw, dammit.. not now. Not. Now.

Barney reaches out with his right hand to help keep Hilde from falling just as that second cop taps the first on the shoulder and gestures back towards the trio. "Shit.. shit, shit.." He takes a step back before he turns around and starts making for the door. In the next moment, one of the cops, one that actually looked to identify him first actually pulls out his gun, spins around and calls out, "Stop or I'll—"


Staring into the face of one of Death's cohorts is enough to make the good Doctor steel himself, spine and gaze alike. "Enough to spite you, Valkyrie." His voice is low and full of warning. He can see it now, in the smile that offers benevolent peace and an end to all suffering, and in her coloring, of the Nordic persuasion. Educated guess — lucky one?

It's momentary though, and then everything starts happening at once. He leans forwards to finish catching the collapsing Hilde with his other hand under her armpit and then grunts as his wrist begins to take more of her weight. The young man, supposedly her escort, suddenly bolts across the hospital foyer. Strange lets her finish descending to her knees on the tiled floor and shouts loudly, using the commanding voice so familiar to anyone who knows him still within the staff,

"Assistance! I need assistance immediately!" It's enough to interrupt the cry of the officer drawing his gun.


Hilde herself, skittish, insomniac, shy young Hilde doesn't really remember the happenings of the last two minutes. She really just goes away when that occurs, Barney's seen it more than once now. So, the last thing she remembered was that first taste of lightning and life on her fingertips when she touched Strange, and now she's on the floor. A cop has a gun out. Barney's running. This is too much. Panic cuts through her now-blue eyes, all lanky, weak limbed in Strange's grasp.

"…W-what…happened? Shit…" She breathes out shakily. Normally, she'd force herself to recover fast, to push away what happened, but the distraction is probably quite necessary for Barney to get out of there. Hopefully it'd be enough. Sharply worried blue eyes flicker over his retreating back as she plays into Strange's call for help, the swooning damsal in distress. Surely cops would rather help a half conscious woman than chase after a ghost who is supposed to be dead?


Barney is already halfway out the door before the cop can clear his holster as he's yelling. Seriously, though.. does anyone really just stop when a cop yells that? Nope. And sure as hell not the former FBI's and now SHIELD's assassin. He's out the door and down the block, mingling in with pedestrian traffic with an ease of years of experience. Gone. (And Hilde doesn't even have to worry about visions of a cop's death in the next few minutes!)

The cop, for his part, takes one, two, three steps towards the door, lowering his weapon as if to aim at the retreating back, but the shouts of first the good doctor, and then the obvious distress of the lady gains more of his attention. He's stuck now. Can't leave his partner, have to radio it in at the car.. and there is his partner.

"C'mon, O'Brien.. that's not the way you're gonna get that promotion to Sergeant. If that guy was who you thought he was, the only promotion you'd get is to night watchman at the morgue." Dead.

Though, at the calls of distress, not only does O'Brien come to help, a couple of the nurses do as well, making notice now of the badly fractured wrist. "Let's get you in.."


"Finally — it took you long enough!" The whipcrack of Strange's voice is enough to make a few of the newer nurses flinch. One nurse, Laurie-Ann (hailing from the South and with that lackadaisical pace of both speech and trustworthy skill), just gives him a flat look that he saw more than a few times during his stead as neurosurgeon on these grounds.

"You ain't a doctor here anymore, Mistah Strange, so move yo'self and let us do our work." She ignores his derisive snort (as she always did) and he gives ground to one of the few medics within the hospital. "My my, Norris, whateva did you do to yo'self?"

A few more steps back removes the good Doctor entirely from the cluster of people around Hilde and he gives the front doors a hard glare. So much for supportive friend — boyfriend? Shame if it's the second of the two options. His attention flicks back to the Medic (no, Valkyrie-in-disguise). She's given a long and thoughtful stare through the bodies that work around her, checking vitals and then helping her to her feet. The Sorcerer remains silent, hands stuffed deeply into his pockets once more. The crimson scarf about his neck seems to flutter once in a non-existent breeze.


Either Hilde is *really* good at being in disguise, or even she doesn't know about the Valkyrie living in the back of her head. She looks genuinely confused, like someone who's just come out of a bit of a seizure. A hiss of pain touches her lips and a few choice curses as one of the nurses reach for her horribly wounded wrist — it's purple and green from the base of her wrist to her knuckles. It probably should have been looked at days ago.

"…Sorry… I'm…s-sorry… Dr. Strange…" Hilde calls to him shakily as she's finally gotten down into a wheelchair to be taken back and seen somewhere. Then frantic blue eyes flicker around the room, trying to confirm that the cop is putting the gun away, that Barney has safely gotten out of there, and that no other chaos is about to break free. She looks horribly small in that chair, rough around the edges and shaken. Soon enough, she's actually being whisked away to the treatment rooms.

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