1963-11-09 - Strangely Familiar
Summary: An interesting proposition for Aether, an introduction for Strange, and a suspicion for the Scarlet Witch.
Related: Many Hands Make Light Work
Theme Song: Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2, Opus 18
billy strange wanda 

"People who bother me go away," Wanda replies in that sanguine tone possibly evocative of burial mounds in a forest, dust in the dumpsters, tales of vanished figures in the mist. Her manner is not at all relaxed, no more than the spotted snow leopard in the Altai Mountains ever relinquishes a sense of alertness towards its prey. Had she a tail, it would twitch; were her ears tufted and furry, they would be pricked forever for the infinitesimal sounds of trouble and shifting fate.

The walk will be, naturally, easily done and a bit round about. There is no sense whatsoever to it, following one-way streets, turning back in the same direction six times, and then ending up at a certain address on Bleecker Street wherein a handsome freestanding house appears where every mapmaker /swears/ a grocery is.

Is that the sound of Rachmaninoff's concerto Number 2, Opus 18? It is. Dropping out of the blue, twinkling notes trail in rapid arrangements into the night, probably cast through some open window. Or not.


Hardly a minute slips by before the wards have passed on word to their master. In semi-formal daywear of usual choice, the Sorcerer Supreme opens the front door and looks the short distance down the sidewalk towards the familiar signature he knows so well.

"Ah, Wanda," he says, loudly enough for the young woman to hear him, and then those steel-blue eyes narrow towards the young man walking beside her. This is…new. "I see we have a guest…?" Question left hanging, pitched with the curiosity she, in turn, should know so well.

He leans against the doorframe, arms crossed, watching them approach with all the quiet intensity of the cerebral sort, noting little details about the young man left and right. The good Doctor's eyes flash lighter still as he blinks the Sight into play and…OH - most interesting indeed.


For his part, Billy follows close along with Wanda as they make their way through the City— and it doesn't take a whole lot to get him lost. The young man is in all black with a deep red cape and hood, but when the door opens and the man greets Wanda, he lifts his hands up to push the hood back over his shoulders, clearing the shadow that somewhat hid his features. The young man has a calm sort of confidence about himself, but it begins to fade as they approach the stranger and the house: it cracks and becomes uncertainty. "This your friend?" he asks with an aside to Wanda, tucking his hands down into his pockets. That way he doesn't fidget.


That lilting melody twinkles through the intricacies of an aural Gordian knot with exquisite care, building and falling until the diminished volume lies surely out of audible reach for all but hounds and spirits. Greenwich fades into dodgier parts of the Lower East Side, eventually piercing the invisible wall into Hell's Kitchen. The way out is a fair bit nicer, to be sure, and now accompanied by a bit of a performance in the creative heartland of the U.S. Futures are made here in the spin of a dancer in the mirror, the routine performance of a guitarist, the pen on yellow foolscap scribbled by the poet, the songwriter, the playwright. Something in the energy of the atmosphere seethes and surges with possibilities, a snarl like no other, feeding and fed upon the underground leylines that converge on the greatest site of magic in the current world.


Wanda tips her gaze up, hands deep in her pockets of that sanguine coat, when the door to 177A opens. Her nod answers everything, and the teased spells fall apart that lend greater acuity in English. A crutch not enjoyed. "He has a strange story and a familiar art." Indicating Billy with a nod, she says, "He calls himself Aether. He is called Billy." Then with a half turn that puts her as the bridge to the doorway, she stills upon the first step. "Meet Doctor Strange. He expects me to have a different name, to avoid too many… people who admire me?"


"Aether." Continually interesting, this young man who now seems to cower a bit beneath the Sorcerer's searching look. Not much older than Illyana, this one. Strange glances to Wanda and seems to attempt to avoid smiling before turning his attention back to their guest. His expression softens, just a touch, and he does smile this time around, with professional detachment - no more glow about his irises, since the Sight has been withdrawn. "Nice to meet you then, Billy. Come inside then."

The good Doctor leads the way into the Sanctum's foyer, that sprawling semi-circular room graced with grand staircase and stained glass Eye of Agamotto that oversees all movements. The silvery wards, sentient spells, cavort around Wanda with the briefest ruffling of her hair before darting over to Billy. They're harmless (unless provoked) and merely grant their master unbiased opinions on first-time visitors.

Touch on reality. Foreign time. Chaos. The young man is given another searching look as Strange listens to the report only he can hear before he idly gestures towards the spell. "Alright, alright, get." The wards melt away into the Sanctum proper and the Sorcerer nods towards the living room. "Tea then, and you can tell me your tale, Billy." Should they follow, it's a short walk into the fire-lit room, with high-backed chairs and tea stand by the fire. This is the place where the good Doctor is presented with cases.


"Well, people who admire you and people who might bug you. If you're going to go out and try to save the world, you're supposed to have a secret identity, so you can have a real life? And also a super life." explains Billy to Wanda with a grin that reveals his dimples, even if she seems immune to them. "Like, my parents have no idea I'm out… doing stuff. So I'm Aether, and if I save someone and tell them I'm Aether, it doesn't get back to Billy, see? No one comes around my house and bugs my parents or anything like that." This is said in a bit of a rapid fire voice, a sort of aside, to Wanda, before his attention is back upon Doctor Strange, "Nice to meet you, Doctor." He says this in his most polite possible voice— and then there's… things.

Billy lifts a warding hand against the wards, though not warding in the magic sense, just the protective one. Those are… new. Billy looks wide-eyed at the spells and looks much relaxed. Not being pestered by… whatever those are, that's clearly in Billy's favor. But he follows. And looks around with high brows at all the strange things in the place.

"The problem is I don't entirely *remember* all of my tale… but tea's okay. I like tea fine."


Such beauty presenting itself never ceases to beguile, the painted glass staring over the polished wood floors and eldritch fixtures under glass, circles of salt, and shining brass. Even Wanda, unfamiliar to some of life's luxuries and jaded to its smoother edges, cannot fail to halt and gaze up at the eldritch emblem of their existence. The ward of the city, the symbol of the mantle, she turns her eyes upwards in a wordless sort of homage paid to that unstaring copper-green configuration that brings the slightest ease of tension to her. Her dark hair falls against her shoulder blades as the spells go by, the propensity to curl made all the more voluminous, and her fingers curl nearly affectionately to the spells.

Moments later the pleasure of heat, chairs, and no giant evil bugs trying to devour the goodness of the city's squalor afford her a chance to sit quietly only when indicated. Otherwise she stands uncomplaining. "Tell what you can. He is a good listener." Said no one ever at Kamar-Taj.


The rising curls of steam from three cups of tea are backlit by the glow of the fire. Strange inhales and exhales even as he stirs the first two cups - one for himself, one for the lady in scarlet. "Don't butter me too heavily now," he murmurs, glancing over his shoulder at Wanda and curving one line of his goatee. "Billy will think I'm omniscient."

He turns back to the stand by the hearth and taps droplets of tea into the cup at hand. This is delivered to the young woman with a momentary lingering pause when fingers brush and then he walks back to the remaining cups. "Take a seat then, Billy, over there," and the Sorcerer indicates the chair on the right, the Petitioner's Chair. His chair is on the left, the Listener's Chair. Wanda is free to do what she will - after all, she is no prisoner here. "Tell me what you can remember. Oh, and cream or sugar in your tea?" A beat. "Honey?"


Billy heads for the chair, and says promptly, "Honey, please. Thank you."

Then there's a long moment of thought, and he tells his tale, "I don't belong here. And I don't mean New York, I mean here in this *now*. I was in Central Park, I was… doing something. It was important. It was also big, bigger then anything I've ever done. I don't remember what exactly, or even how I was doing it, but I was… *changing something* to save people. A lot of people. Then… something interacted what I was doing." Billy frowns, and frowning shows dimples too, just dimples of a different quality, "And… next thing I know, I'm in Central Park again, there's some weird storm, but one that's quickly fading. Only… my memory is off. I don't know quite how, but it is. Yet I know where I live, and I go home, and my parents are there. Dressed… wrong. Mom never wears clothes like that. The whole house is wrong. Everything's different. I find a newspaper… 1963? I don't remember exactly *when* I am from, but it was the future. My whole life was … like…" He shakes his head slowly, "Ripped up and out and then… stitched into now. Well, most of my life. My boyfriend wasn't. But my parents were, and they don't seem to have any idea they were ever any different." He says boyfriend so casually, as if no one would really object. He hasn't gotten *that* particular difference in timelines worked out yet. "My memory of the future is… limited. I remember some things, but nothing of like… /history/ between then and now. Its like… whatever it is tried to edit my memory and make me fit in, but failed to do so."


The Eye on the chain might have other opinions, one not shared by the Cloak or the chiming Windsong of Valanye overhead, or half a dozen monsters imprisoned under bell jars throughout the room. Please don't listen too loudly to the snakes with the sistrum in the corner, snickering in sibilant murmurs at the notion of that. "Do any?"

It falls to the Maximoff to take the cup, her hand supporting underneath and her fingers curled around it, almost Russian in style. Or Central Asian, if one really wants to split hairs, influenced by Turkic tribes and wild, cold winter skies on the steppe when shamans clutched their precious traded porcelain or pierced clay mugs close and drank to the everlasting glory of creation. The passing touch is fleeting, but enough to warrant a nod. All the same, she settles into a kneeling position between both chairs unless an ottoman presents itself. Others might prefer lotus. She uses a modified position, hovering a centimeter or two above the ground. Then she is silent to let them speak, to permit what must be learned. Her task is the psychopomp who brings the soul to death in judgment; she is not the active judge.

Or so the Greeks would tell you. They also weren't the first to admit that the Underworld was the only equal kingdom they had, ruled by Spring and Winter.


The Witch's side comment is given a quiet snort. Sass.

Strange delivers the cup of tea to Billy - with the addition of honey, of course - and then settles into his own chair to listen. He sips at the tea, all the while granting the young man a mildly-distant stare that manages to still remain scalpel-edged in intensity. Processing, calculating, riffling through all of the photographic memories contained within his mind, the Sorcerer listens intently. The wording is important here. Ripped up. Stitched into now. Boyfriend. Mild nod at that; it's no new concept to the good Doctor. More than one apprentice in Kamar-Taj preferred others than women and it made no difference in spirit and intent there.

Tale finished and Strange glances down at the kneeling Wanda between the chairs. Whether or not she shares that gaze momentarily is inconsequential; the steel-blue eyes flick to Billy once again. "From the future, hmm? Tell me then, Billy, can you manipulate reality?"

Asked so lightly, with such a keen look behind half-shuttered eyes.


"No." Billy answers immediately, and without any deceit, even as he takes the cup and sips it. "I call myself Aether cuz… I don't know. I figure I might be like Zeus or Thor or some other sky god's great-grandson or something. Flying. Throwing lightning." Then he pulls his hands apart, which should have the tea falling? But it doesn't. It floats stable right there in front of him. "I just do things like that." he explains.

The thing is, to the Sight, it *is* manipulating reality and not the telekinesis it appears to be. In an almost instinctual way, Billy has edited reality to say: that cup, in defiance of all laws, IS THERE, and will stay there. He doesn't think about it that way at all, but that's what is being done to magical sight.

Taking up his cup, he sips, nodding and offering a bit of a smile to the Doctor, "It's good. Thanks, Doctor."


The inclination of Wanda's head and her eyes narrowed a fraction, enhancing their almond shape, speak volumes where she herself has learned that lesson so many of the initiates of Kamar-Taj haven't or don't. When in the presence of the Sorcerer Supreme doing supremely important sorcerous things, keep one's mouth shut and thoughts behind their teeth.

But her liquid awareness of things is so utterly ingrained, she can force her mercurial aura to stop oscillating around her in a wildfire orbit. The eddying stir goes backwards, running in reverse in the twinkling of an eye, shaping fresh stormbands and hexagonal patterns cut through by the one defiant violet-black spindle that seethes ultraviolet and sends out pulsations like a pulsar from either pole. The manic flash lends her a foxfire bright as the garnets dappling her temples. Those mental calculations done at a vastly quicker pace than she lets on have a sum. A checked sum. A triply checked sum.

And she's currently lacking her favourite knife. Pity.


With the seemed prescience of the mantle, the Sorcerer is quick to note the flick-flash of the aura just beyond his elbow. His eyes narrow further towards Billy and take on a silvery hue that begins ever so slowly to bleed towards violet.

That tea cup is most definitely not floating by magic. Even Strange can pick up the subtle distortions in the air around the object, reflections of prismatic strings bent askew and twined about to void gravity's influence around the immediate area.

If it seems that the living room grew a little bit darker, and the shadows stretched a smidgeon higher along the walls…it's no lie.

But something else is. The young man's smile is returned, albeit with sudden coolness.

"Billy," the Sorcerer Supreme begins quietly as he sets his tea cup aside and places his elbows on the arm rests; his fingers fold into mudras of intent that are likely lost to one and recognized by another. "What you are currently doing is manipulating reality around the cup. That is not magic. This…is magic." The hands composed in mudras suddenly flare to light, gloved in bright red-gold. It backlights Strange's face, accenting the off-hued irises. "Are you aware that you're currently manipulating reality?"

Asked by the Guardian of this reality, Shepherd of this world's Fate, not queried without consequences depending on answer.


The coolness of the smile is noted, and Billy arches a brow. He has no idea what a Sorcerer Supreme is, or that there might be any consequences going on here. He's, in fact, woefully ignorant of all things magic and mystical. "Umm, no. I'm pretty sure you're wrong, no offense. One day I was on the roof and I fell and… well, I missed the ground." Not that anyone is going to get that reference for a couple decades. "That's when I learned I could fly. Its like, air manipulation? Its really the same thing as the cup, I just do it to myself. I learned I could teleport when some bullies were chasing me and were catching up to me: I was chanting I wanted to go home, and pictured where home was, and… then everything was white and then I was in my bedroom."

And it's all reality manipulation, just on an instinctual level.


When in doubt, consult the tea leaves. A sip of that amber brew lends a certain delicate liquor from the leaves which cannot be rushed, not by a man or a typhoon. Savouring the underlying flavour, its gossamer whispers of brandy and citrus around the black body of the tea, begs full attention. The sorceress bows her head, drinking another mouthful, until the contents are quite depleted. A glance checks whether Strange's cup is similarly empty or approaching it for her to refill, given he is in the listening chair.

"He is the greatest mage." The explanation is brief and short from the brunette in the claret leather jacket fitted to her like a dream, provocative even for someone born to the 1970s or a later cusp of the century. "The most powerful has the title. He says it is not magic." From the clipped description, terse in its way, Wanda draws a very clear line in the academic sand. Here, magic. There, not magic.

Her aura overturns, flipping in reverse again, the psychic magnetism dumped on an inverted line that saturates deeper shades of violet. White lights fade through it for any who perceive her in the Sight, and that fine, spindled line of power almost vibrates in yearning, sympathy for the damned.


Strange never breaks his focus on the guest in the high-backed chair. Not even through Wanda's notably-short agreement with him, in her singular way. The ambient light around his scarred hands doesn't increase or decrease in intensity. Only the continual darkening of the room and lowering of the fire in the Sanctum's response to the denial offered him.

"Wrong, am I?" A soft scoff escapes him as he tilts his head. "You have no idea of what you're doing, do you? It just…happens, doesn't it? No spoken spells, no mental recitation of dead languages, no gestures…"

And he idly breaks the mudras to flick wrists in counter-rotations.

The daywear burns away from its edges, flickering like sparklers in shades of fire, all towards his torso, and instead of ash-grey cloth - storm-blue, supple, the battle-leathers of the Sorcerer Supreme. With a waver in reality itself, the Eye of Agamotto appears and the diadem clicks open to reveal the citrine glow of the gemstone within. It should be bright enough to near-blind anyone on the receiving end of its Mystical glare.

And the power of the Sorcerer Supreme clicks into play with nary more than a ringing chime like a prayer bell of the mountains struck cleanly.


The living room of the Sanctum suddenly refracts into thousands of slivered mirrors. Without even moving from his chair, Strange has pulled the entire place into the Mirror Dimension. The conversion from darkened fire-lit atmosphere to cool still air lit nearly entirely by the spring-green light emitting from the Eye is shocking.

Rising from his chair, the Sorcerer flicks lazy fingers towards the cup of tea he'd been drinking. "Perhaps you'll see it better here." Within the confines of the Mirror Dimension, Mystical effects are harshly visualized. The silvery-blue magic that carries the porcelain drinking vessel from side table to hover overtop his upturned palm twinkles like powdered starlight. "This…is magic. I thought out a spell and enacted my will upon the energy of this world. I did not re-write its form."

Suddenly, fine cracks appear in the cup. The abrupt shattering of the object is stark and loud in the pocketed dimension. Now, the shards hover in place, hung by hundreds of incandescent fish lines of auroral threading that fade off into various places around it.

"That…is manipulating reality. Re-weaving the composition of this plane to reflect your wishes. Within here, this dimension, it isn't permanent. Out there," and Strange momentarily directs a glance and nod over his shoulder, "It can be permanent. My mantle is to shepherd that reality's fate. I ask you, Billy…be very careful of what you do within our world."

In a sudden audible clinkity-clicking, the tea cup is whole once more and the spider silken threads melt away into thin air. Strange plucks the vessel from the air even as the Mirror Dimension collapses around them to return them to the living room once more, with its deep shadows and warmth.


Billy is clearly a little confused by this entire turn of events, but he does nod slowly to the Doctor, "Yeah. It just happens. I want it to happen and it does."

Then there is a display of power, and Billy flinches, lifting his hand up to block out the nearly blinding light, and then…

Billy freaks out just a little bit. He's floating up into the air without even trying, and electricity arcs along his body and gathers as bright coils in his hands. He doesn't attack— not that he's any threat to Strange, at least not with his current set of understanding or powers, but this is him tensing up. But he listens.

And all around him is the fine near cracking and twisting signs of reality warping, done with such fine control that it is purely instinctual, but… Billy can see it, here. He looks from the cup to his electrified hands, and wills the electricity away. It vanishes instantly, simply ceasing to exist as he writes it out of existence. But still the signs of the reality warping that goes on to keep him floating a foot or so in the air.

"I… only use it to help people." he says, sounding a little bit afraid, and a little bit in awe. Okay, more afraid, really. "That's all I ever do, help people. Save them."


Immense spells flare and dance as strongly as firelight in the snifters of brandy or the glass teapots and mugs. Those amber-brown eyes capture the sparks of a spell shot by the master, facets thrown upon pupils suddenly imbued by the Sight. Even compared to most mystics, Wanda draws upon that ephemeral sense of the eldritch by habit. Her sensitivity is perpetual, an acute awareness turned up on a dial to a keen point in the alternate dimension they singularly occupy.

Sound and fury are in the vibrations of a spell. The tease of power leaves her visibly shivering, rolling her shoulders askew beneath the coat and pulling the leather panels tighter to her seated body, as if such a thing could possibly be attained through the front-laced corsetry. Hairs prickle upon her nape and the chill cascades in a reflex straight to her toes, poured off her scalp, inducing an indolent reaction not even the tea — LSD-laced honey or not — was capable of.

Silence, otherwise, lengthens while they go cavorting through the shimmering facets of the world. Her gaze takes time to readjust to the aching burn, and when it does, the belladonna width of her pupils mirrors young man and older sorcerer in luminous detail, scribing memories that are and have been and may be together into a single tableau.

"He will not harm you." Soft words might be mistaken to hold encouragement, and they might not. "« Miro cerheno » is not that way." She might be that young woman, on the surface, even as she tracks Billy. Transian comes quick, light to her lips with the inevitable inflections of a native speaker, one taught the hidden forms and slang of a nation locked behind an Iron Curtain.

"You are breaking things to your way, though. He's quite right."


It's as easy as exhaling. The collapse of the Mirror Dimension brings them all back to the living room, in Earth reality and present time. All physical rules apply, gravity included. Strange finishes off the tea remaining in his cup before setting it aside. It remains pristinely white, no trace of magic or strain written upon its features.

Wanda is granted a lingering soft look in amaranthine. "She is right," the good Doctor says now to the young man, standing there before the fireplace, hands now folded behind his back. There's a subtle smile of amusement as he looks down at Billy - perhaps he's remembering the Ancient One's very first lesson in expanding his understanding of this world as a whole. The Eye of Agamotto is closed now, dormant, its insightful moment ended. "I won't. Because you're not doing anyone any harm, not right now. He's not lying," added towards Wanda as a spoken aside, loud enough for Billy to hear, an acknowledgment of his sincere beliefs. "And you prove an interesting challenge, Billy. You can rewrite reality and you are not of this time. A man out of time," Strange murmurs thoughtfully. "You want to return to your time, I assume?"

Who knows? Billy might not. Strange might be Sorcerer Supreme, but he's not a mind-reader.


Billy isn't quite going to sit down right away, because that display of magic has him on edge. He hears Wanda's assurance and Strange's agreement, and he nods his head slowly, looking between them. There's a frown and a scrunching up of his nose as he eyes Wanda a moment, "I'm *breaking things to my way*? That sounds… bad. Like something someone shouldn't do. But I can save people, which is something someone with power SHOULD do. If I'm not some grandson of Zeus…" He shakes his head slowly, bewildered, "Then I have no idea what I am, but I have these gifts. If I don't use them, people might die."

He looks back to Doctor Strange, and nods his head emphatically, "Teddy's there, he's my < cheravo or cerhen >, but see, I don't just want to go back to the future— my *parents* are here with me, so somehow I have to undo whatever was done, so we all go back. So things are the way it's supposed to be. I still don't know what went wrong, something… *interfered* with what I was doing. It was like… everything *snapped* and settled and my life was— mostly— here."


Eyes narrowed a fraction again slant towards a truth that, four times, has been reaffirmed. She rises from her kneeling position, defying gravity with the simple assist to float into a position suitable to walk. It simply looks effortless, the transition executed with an uncanny balance and grace. Wanda stretches out her gait to bring her to the tea stand readily, and there a cup will be poured out again in short order with a minimum of fuss, burnt fingers, and unfortunate magic spiders spinning gate-webs. She reaches out to take Strange's cup in turn, welcoming that briefest of interludes from one man's lesson and another's revelations. One must be the bridge to the hallowed world of the Earth.

"Do not seek to be a god's child," she suggests, rather than inflects with ponderous weight of wisdom. The brunette isn't old enough to allow for that, even if her eyes can be ancient at times. "No happiness for men who have such a high parent. They will be in the shadow, always, of that name." Great men do not often have great children, or at least greatly happy ones, in other words. Nonetheless, her knuckles brush against the Sorcerer Supreme's hand to draw his attention to his refilled tea, the pot held still. "You wish more?" she asks of their guest.

A look flicks to Strange, languishing there an instant, and then sweeps back on an oblique angle. The firelight adores her, shining in her hair, drinking up the warmth of her skin and bronzing her at every angle where scarlet does not sink into her garments or the black boots and pants she favours. "« Cu moartea toate diferentele dispar. » My people say that it will be same same in a century." Actually, it translates to 'All differences disappear in death.' "This may be the way it is supposed to be."


It's an interesting take on a time-space paradox. Do Billy's parents exist here? Likely. But did their lives change in turn when the young man was so rudely ripped from the future and resewn into this time?

Time will tell.

"Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to help you at this moment," Strange replies to Billy, a hint of sympathy in words and expression. His eyes are nearly returned to their natural state, though floral-violet still lingers around his pupils. "I'll need to do more research and meditate on it. Oh, thank you."

The gratitude to the Witch who pauses before him, attention dragged to her by the lingering touch of warm knuckles to unwitting hands. He takes back his cup and listens to her singular wisdom even as his eyes linger on her with care unveiled. There's concern mixed into the adoration that turns the expression. There will be talk between them, late into the night.


"Oh, I don't want to have a high parent, Wanda. Its just… most my… knacks… are like sky-god-related, so I…" Billy shrugs his shoulders, but then he looks to Strange for a moment, clear disappointment showing on his face. But with a deep breath, he nods his head, and rises. "Oh, loan me a pen and paper?" And when that is done, his contact information is written down and shared with them. "If you need anything— or get any information, or have any questions, leave a message there and I'll get it." He finishes off his tea, adds, "It was nice meeting you both." Then he's heading out, and once he's outside before the door is even closed, a very neat, exactly Billy-sized hole is cut into reality and he falls through it and vanishes before the hole is sewn up cleanly behind him.

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