1963-11-10 - Strange Recovery
Summary: Catastrophes reveal who you can trust… and whom you can't. Baron Mordo better watch his back. Forever.
Related: Old Friends Part V - The Betrayal
Theme Song: Skyrim - Atmospheres
strange wanda 

Daylit hours recede early into the bleak primal dark that never becomes cave black. Cities are the tomb of nightfall. No longer does the shadow steep into a proper, unimpeachable barrier to all light. Mankind wreathes himself in light, harnessing rivers and bulldozing mountainsides for precious coal seams. He dreads what lies beyond and turns another blind eye to the veil drawn around him in orange sodium and halogen blue and neon red. Life is all about choices. To stand in the dark, to walk in the light, to dare.

Reality parts to allow a young woman through no gateway as any sorcerer would call it, a very particular blend of magic invested in the deepest reaches of the Earth. Oldest magic, perhaps, that bestowed by life itself upon its children, carried through bloodlines and so often parent to child. Green leaves blow gently around her feet and cavort on a breeze, carried off to festoon some wrought-iron fence deep in the Village's core.

Bleecker Street is one over. She, so used to navigating by hidden signs, turns towards that inevitable direction almost unthinking. Yet no complacency ever accompanies Wanda. Not in this lifetime. By the time she ventures out from an empty doorway she has a sense of the troubles present; a man deep in drink, the scowling fellow who occupies the same bench every Thursday at 9 to 10 reading a copy of La Monde, the older woman and her sniveling daughter keeping lookout for them longhairs. A passing glance, marking cars, doorsteps, ravens, rooftops, powerlines. The city tells its denizens what they need to know, when they listen.

Not for her, walking down the street easily. She keeps to the fringes, the story of her life, fading in and out of recognition when beams of light cut the sickly pallor of a nightscape, jaunty peaks and savage arches. Collar up to shield her throat, the claret coat proves better than one might expect at melting into late autumn New York. Something prickles over her, something perturbed that tickles at her Sight and intuition, a voice long heeded.

A glimmering wisp of white behind her stares upon the yawning portal cast in beams of dour, resilient gloom. "Choose another road, stubborn child. All the warnings in the world, and for what? You wander into a storm." Harsh, crisp words come without a beat. "You do not belong here and you know it. This is not for you."

The witch raises her hand, an offensive gesture with her fingerless gloves shot over her shoulder. "I didn't ask your opinion." The steady pace splits down an alley, disturbing a cat feasting on a trash bag full of last night's chicken, and she swings through another as 177A Bleecker comes into view properly, not only its meniscus.

"You always think you know best when, girl, you ken nothing at all. Nothing. Expect no shows of gratitude for your fool notion. Blood shows in water, and they can smell your treachery a mile—"

"«Liniste, Yaga! Prin luna si stele, am ales aceasta cale. Aleg —»"

The house in darkness, a widow's walk, leaves her reeling on her heels. Leather slaps her thighs at a standstill. Eyes widen and, without staring back, she runs. In the darkness, a spectre narrows glowing eyes in a heavily lined face withered by the weight of the world.

A choice is made. Another grain lined up with a diverging path that might one day shape the world.


How long has it been…?

Blinking blearily around him with haunted eyes, Strange once more tries to wrap his mind around what he's seeing. The Sanctum is…deeply wounded. The Loft looks the scene of a riot, minus any sort of burning wreckage. Shattered relic containment boxes sparkle in fragmented glass in the moonlight that shines through the Window to the Worlds, the one remaining collection of panes that is untouched. All the rest around the Loft bear the fractures of damage, permanent spiderwebbings of near-breakage in certain corners and along certain lines of the lintels. Pages are strewn everywhere like some berserker snowfall; gutted books, half-wiped and completely blank alike, lay in piles and singularly. In small splotches, blood dries near to black. Whose blood…? His own?

Scrunching up his face in an attempt to keep his emotions in check results in the re-splitting of his lip and he slides the back of his hand along it for the umpteenth time; the salt of his own skin burns. The crimson Cloak, so patient, now attempts to goad him to moving. The fabric tugs lightly at his shoulders though it doesn't move at any other point along its being. Come on now, it hurts. I know it does, but get up. Get moving, it seems to say.

Slowly, with aches in every part of him, the Sorcerer Supreme rises to his feet. He's aided by the handholds improvised on the guardian lion statue, one of two who flank the short steps up to the circular platform beneath the Anomaly Rue window. Once standing, he lets out a ragged sigh that is mostly definitely leaning towards breaking. How to fix…all of this? Hundreds of years of work and collecting - undone in a heartbeat and by one with seemingly none to his person.

The residual burn of the Orb's collapse can be seen on the flooring of the Loft. Strange stares at it, through it, and his heart crumples more behind his ribs.


Bittersweet reunions involve no carry over the threshold, no sweeping greeting behind a shut door after assuring no casual pedestrian or busybody roommate will notice the brimming affection. Whence the wards would flutter over her and find some way to curl her straightened sepia tresses, they greet with cool silence. A measure of the master's temperament gives grounds to pause at the front door, pushing open the aperture sufficient for her body to slip through.

Wanda Maximoff dies, then. She is slain, exchanged for someone born in the blood-soaked killing fields of the Eastern Front. Footsteps no more touch board or stair than leather brushes awkwardly upon the wall. Lessons of Poznan, Budapest, and Lhasa stalk in feminine form near the fringes, capturing brief samples of the damage wrought for a better status report then peering and scrutinizing the foyer by Sight alone. So too on the move she makes a harder target to follow, especially one trained to a measure of stealth and urban survival.

No light accompanies her except the candy apple haze floating over her eyes, rose petals on a starless pond. Sight wedges a crack into the Otherworld and pries a board back, so to speak, giving impressions while refined skill attests to sources: explosives? Evocation? Conjured trick, twist of fate, illusion? Acid is not lightning is not embodied void. Nuances matter for they teach, as hard experience informs, about quantity and possible assailants.

She slips for the hall whence that is known, the murmured incantation upon her pomegranate mouth hearkening to the elder sister underfoot, the beckons to firstborn night in the passing. Her fingers trek to her hip holster and feel the solid metal of the Walther PPK; the knife elsewhere carries a comfort sung in blood and reforged steel. Thin filaments of spells cocoon her fingertips, nudging fortune to her favour, a blessing bestowed for a lighter touch. So will she sneak through this place, her ransacked home, like a thief in the night.

He is here, or he is not, Schrodinger's Strange. The box is open, an observer present, and his truth will be defined.


The wards whisper, so weakly to him, of something else in the Sanctum. Strange squints to listen and ends up just standing there, eyes held tightly shut.

He can't make it out, they're too badly shredded to put together words that he can understand. He can barely get the brushes of projected feeling - they're like distant flashes of light, where he can't put together the sight to the cause.

How…? How to piece all of this back together? The magic is…gone. Stolen away by callous wiles.

"Why…?" His hollow whisper echoes around the gutted Loft with sepulchral grief. He's on his feet. For now, the man remains standing, though his weight needs rest against the guardian lion statue. Slowly, like rusty gears, his brain is beginning to dredge itself up from the mire of shock and sentiment.


For reasons she learns to move in the dark, discovering the layout of a building deprived of sight for those times when it isn't an option. Even the Sight sparks dim, showing a hemisphere of torn filaments and the perfect, blinding network once thrown over the Sanctum Sanctorum diminished to a few parlour tricks and fake gilding. A snake-oil salesman's effects to move the crowd does not lie to Wanda, who floats to the casement of a doorway and peers past, measuring the state of advanced wreckage.

A normal girl's heart might pound in fear. Her breath might start sawing through her lungs too quick to be any good, not oxygenating her lungs at all. Her hands might shake, palsied by fear and age. The Maximoff twin is no normal girl; this is her element.

Chaos and wrath, vengeance and cold lessons. A lengthening stride slips her forward, wasting no energy with walking where gliding works. Periodically she drops to a crouch, touching the floor and stretching out her eldritch awareness to the utmost for all she can perceive, searching for life. Auras of magic. Anything but destruction, a cloying smoke stench, the unwanted burnt rubber and patchouli mixed with fat and rot.

Eventually she reaches the epicenter following corded bands and recollected directions, the heart of the good Doctor's power in ruin. Her face is a mask, hard and cold, eyes full of belligerent light and a slaying purpose. One enters here gravely or not at all. She hesitates for a second, and then launches herself for the stairs up to the principal core of the machine, awaiting ghosts to fall upon her in a rage. Tethered terrestrial power shoots up to charge her pattern, awaiting its mistress' whispery command to release itself in a torrential surge of life-giving rage.

A silhouette on the stairs, once mistaken as Death, joins the dusty stage. She comes upon him perhaps as he is, no apparition but flesh and blood and despair.


The movement of air brings the Sorcerer Supreme from his fugue state. Like a statue come to life, his slump-shouldered form inhales and raises his face towards her.

Pain - that's the very first thing she should read on him. Physical and spiritual alike; bleeding from split lip and cheek, knuckles bloodied, breathing hindered by a cracked if not nearly broken rib. The spiritual wound may be seen to the Sight; it's a clean, swiftly-dealt strike, right at the man's heart and that sucking gash freely weeps. Stains on his battle-leathers just as the stains on carpeting and window-curtains alike. The crimson Cloak riffles at her appearance, giving the facsimile of a faint wave.

He makes no further move, content - no, not content - paralyzed still in the wake of the destruction around him. No words of greeting escape him, no smile of fondness is granted. He's like a living corpse. Undead in his kingdom of ruin.


Deathless in Hades' kingdom, let it never be forgot who rules in that chill, forbidding realm at his eternal side. The maiden of spring, flower-bringer, whose very name means something quite different.

Light comes stirring around her as the earth supplies its gift, filling her aura in a slow, determined flood. Not as malleable as water nor alacritous as air, her chosen element acts by far as most enduring. Life rebounds on itself through angles and diverging corners, visible to the Sight in a chaotic helix, a pliable formation of leaf veins, a blossom opening at her chest.

Wanda floats up before him and halts at the base of the steps, a healthy distance back. Taking the measure of room and relic and Sorcerer Supreme in a blink, she draws breath for much too long a silence after that. What words might lie on her tongue are ashen.

What else can she do but remember how to live for one who cannot? She settles down to one knee, her palm touching the scored and spattered floorboards. Three breaths in, three breaths out, repeat. Her eyes shut, and she shunts the heavy weight of her aura into a crescent moon around her, effectively, making an empty space in the middle of her being. It hurts to do it, the weight of magic crushing to the sides. Pressurized wobbles hold, for now. A silent wisp of energy seeks the wards, whatever remains of them, teasing out in a dancing spill to tenderly strobe over the rough remains. To coax them out, if they can be coaxed at all. This is a test, no more, for response and — ultimately — interfacing.

After all… she's a battery. Every living soul is. Few open a port for a transfusion, much less supply the plastic tubing, the rubber valves, the needle already connected to the vein. But so there is, even as she rhythmically flexes her fingers in that search. This could be beyond foolhardy but, for the moment, it really doesn't matter. Come out, come out, wherever you are. A child's game made deadly real. Time to eat!

Some walls and a few lengths of open pavement away, a steely matriarch makes a disgusted sound before turning away.


Wanda's sudden kneel to the blood-spattered floor of the Loft draws the first of lively reactions from him.

"Wanda…? No, stop," he rasps. His steps towards her lead him to stumble and the good Doctor is suddenly also knees to the floor, palms spread, head bowed, but all in weariness, not in an attempt to pluck at strings meant to be played with Sorcerous fingers. "Stop," he breathes again, looking up at her through his sweat-mussed fringe of hair. "The Sanctum…it responds to me alone. Don't…please don't touch it."

Will she understand? Deep down inside, the Sorcerer Supreme is terrified that his Sanctum will never again be sanctuary and safe haven. He couldn't stand to feel it buck further at helpful hands that are ultimately unknown to it. The backlash would stun him further and possible injure her. He can't take it, not right now. Not another injury.


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


How easily one can snuff out actions. A word here, a gesture there. Stray motions allow the spell to buck against the bounds of her psyche and the weight drops down, down into the hollow closing as quick as a breath. Walls collapse inwards on themselves and drain back.

An offering provided tops off the vessel for the moment, held in abeyance rather than left to drain back down the same channels. Its presence is, suitably, a distraction to her thoughts and a weight to anchor her in wild, stormy waters.

There is no room for emotion here and she allows little to break through the mental barriers. Everything is kept at arm's reach while Wanda contemplates nothing at all, embracing the talent of silence she learned on a mountaintop. Under a mountain, too.

It makes standing and waiting so much the easier, quiet. Deathly quiet.


The fingers of his right hand twitch and withdraw towards his palm. It allows him to press up, shift his weight back onto his heels. The pose is sloppy, evocative of meditation attempted while drunk, and one can see his ankles collapse outwards. Strange catches himself from falling with the other hand and pauses there a moment, breathing heavily.

"It was…" And he can't bear to finish the sentence. The crimson Cloak seems to draw closer to him still, rippling up over his thighs partially to cover the shaking of his hands, to veil the supposed weakness from sight.

"The books. The relics…the Sanctum," he tries again and peters off into heavy silence.


"Books can be written. You live." When given the hammer or the sword, Wanda conjures the scalpel. Her silence breaks at not much more than a murmur. She rarely likes to be loud, it's less so even now when sound travels easier in the crushed void.

"Spells can be cast. You live." Doubt is put to the razor edge, neatly cut with a precise, steady poise.

"Relics can be mended. You live." Her gaze skims round the shattered room, the pitiful window reflecting one intact landscape, the memories embedded there keenly felt in the throb of a heartbeat. They're set aside, an unaffordable luxury.

"The building can be restored." She remains exactly where she is, looking dreamlike, her lashes low to blunt the tawny gold simmer of her gaze upon them. Him, the Doctor, wounded; god-touched made to doubt; Agamotto's chosen made to fear. "You, Stephen Strange, live."

Proverbs might serve, some nicety meant to be icing on a bitter wound. None are given here, not with strength denied, not with fragile balances hurled. "Offend whatever did this by living. Take one step today. Another tomorrow. It will come back. Different. Better, but different."

Who else can pronounce this with such abominable statement of fact but the girl who lost everything, time and time again, but kept walking forward? She doesn't inject any pride into bald fact. "You live. You are not alone. I promise you on the Vishanti."


Bitter medicine. This is what the Witch dishes to him. The bitter, honest, insultingly-appropriate medicine of truth. What else is there to do than pick up the scraps and begin mending?

What did he do not so long ago, but work delicately to return impossible cases to brilliant life? …is the Sanctum not so different?

Swallowing thickly, he blinks - hard - and then looks around the Loft once again. Razed, like his heart. Severed and bloodied, like the nerves in his hands. But this time…no simple surgeon to suture up impossibly-detailed injuries. No - this time, the good Doctor gets to fix his own problem.

The will is there, buried beneath the turmoil, and Wanda is right. One step at a time. For now, perhaps getting to his feet once more will help. One foot dragged beneath him, then the other - where has she seen this haggard attempt before? - and then, upright and…and…swaying in place like he just might pass out after all.


He will heart. Her sympathies are with him, but there is the other great love of one's life. Magic, and protecting it, assuring its survival. Strange stands in a difficult position, split down the middle. One half the man, one half with the mantle. He is a strange hybrid creature, a sphinx or minotaur or Ganesha. Half-lives ripped from pages of horrific mythologies, human and mystic, engaged in a fearful civil war that overshadows every human transaction are surely at the root of all this.

Only when he is on his feet does she approach. She, too, is split asunder between emotional creature and mental one. The story that witches operate off passion and mages by logic is a farce; they both use the energy of the soul to impose their will on creation, but that can be as fiercely invoked by a passion as cold reason.

At the end of the day she's but twenty and change in years, so old as a survivor but so brutally ignorant on matters of heart, feeling, and trust. Trust is the currency she can't spend but in a few coins. How ironic one man guarded to task them all could rip her down with a word and a cold shoulder, snuffing the light.

It's an uneasy moth who flutters closer, child of night, embodiment of night, trudging up the steps to the sky and looking up to see whether he will accept her at all or shove her away. Nothing here is about her, and Wanda approaches that threshold unseen with a heavy heart. Heavy feet. She halts on the step and climbs one. The next, she stays on. One small hand is held out, a bit blind. She won't look up.

Half-lives in twilight, blind and fumbling, allow no more. Terror won't allow her to bridge it further, fear gelid in her veins.


He hates passing out. He doesn't do it often, but every time, it's disturbing how quickly his sight goes from feverishly-bright to white to black.

Strange fights it, even as the weakness sucks at his consciousness. The offered hand? Grasped just as blindly as it is offered…and then yanked as his knees buckle once more. His grip is tight, perhaps grinding bone to bone in her hand as he holds on to a single point of beloved reality in the face of impending, impersonal momentary defeat. His body, quite frankly, has had enough today. The conduit of the Vishanti has burnt out his reserves.


Not knowing how to channel energy back into another person except in the most refined or unpracticed ways gives Wanda no opportunity. Reality shakes around her at the molecular level as seething pangs ripple around her, wanting to get free even as her unconscious will starts to enforce itself.

"No, no, no." Transian springs to the fore as Strange's falling deadweight plunge her forward. Little help comes as she wraps her arm around his midsection, forgetting the blood and split lip, the bruises and the wounds. He goes forward down the steps, she charges up them, and the results leave much to be desired as a soufflé: fallen, badly mixed, uttering unintelligible sounds. Her very protest forces her to float without intending to, acting on reflex.

Still, the good Doctor bears her to the ground, and she sprawls out with him, trying to find some better way to accommodate his height and weight. Their fingers don't part, however, even as it means a difficult attempt to move him, one-handed, more or less to resting in her lap with his head tucked against the crook of her arm and her corseted bosom.

There will be a time for questions later. She brushes her fingers down his scarred and trembling hand, then bends to press her lips to his brow. If it means staying all night, so be it. Theirs is the timeless pyramidal composition of mother and son, the Pieta, turned on its head again.


Vertigo tells him that gravity's draw is omnipotent and that the floor is coming up towards him in a blur of scarlet and scent of black roses and…

Blackness for a time. Nothingness. No godly conversation, no memories, no dreaming - nothing. It's like…it's like…

With a twitch and a gasp, Strange awakens from the brief moment of unconsciousness. His eyes are wide for a moment, pin-pupiled in abject gut-deep terror, before he recognizes the face that hovers above him, angled to one side. The touch of her palm that brushes aside sweat-dampened hair from his forehead, the thumb that lingers in his silvered temples, even the line of her arm that cradles his head to her chest - her heartbeat. That's the sound he's hearing now, mingled with his own that slowly decreases in volume and speed within his ears.

Haltingly, he finds one of her hands and grasps it once more.

Oh, they're on the floor, how did - oh, that's why his knees hurt so much and everything hurts and gods damn it all. He offers Wanda an attempt at a smile, but it so quickly turns into a grimace and then into a tight-lipped scrunch in the face of the present state of things. Eyes close off, averted, shuttering away the brilliantly-painful flare of sorrow within them.


One can say this in Wanda's favour: she is not bony. Maybe a bit on the slimmer side than nature intends for her, but regular food helps. On the other hand, she burns as hot as Pietro and can deplete larders in record time. More casting, more food, it's that simple.

The way Strange awakens is pillowed on her, spilled over her, gathered up into what she arguably assumes will be the most comfortable position for neck and shoulders. Her arm by now is numb, supporting the back of his head, and time to time she adjusted him to nestle against the hollow of her shoulder instead. No one needs to know how and why, only their skin shares an effervescent warmth and his pains are, arguably, hers. The good Doctor has been summarily categorized, deciphered, and reviewed top to bottom in a full indexing of his visible woes.

The clothes, at least, she can manage with the simplest of spells to banish dirt and decay, mend the tears, restore them to their proper form. That incantation is among the oldest she knows, but the four oddly shaped minerals on the ground nearby weren't there before and amount to the sum of excess she shook off and saw need to form. Morbid? No. But everyone in the community is odd about their blood.

He can complain to her corset, the black shirt smothering her tawny skin. Strange's awakening by turning away forces her limbs to adjust to his no longer slack figure, her palm meeting his. Rotation puts her torso more firmly under his, allowing a sufficient platform to rest against. It also means she can kiss his crown and rest her chin there however briefly. A vow is a vow is a vow. She swore it on his damn mantle.

And that may just have been eternal.


It would be so easy to remain there. Pliant warmth seeps into his bones in a sensate experience that he'd rather never leave. Just lie here and… But he can't. The Sanctum needs him. The phantom sense of pain from the wards is pervasive, as wispy as mist, but clearly capable of poisoning relaxation with every inhale.

"Let me…let me sit up," he mutters as he rolls to one side, away from her touch. Like it or not, that time of stygian nothingness has done a notable bit of good to him. Not only has it clearly set his current limits, but it has injected a bit of spunk into that stubborn streak that had been clawing for purchase in his psyche.

Strange doesn't go far, only onto his side and then only for a second. The weight of his body presses against fractured short rib and with a drowning gasp, he's forced himself up into a sit, grasping at the area as he grows a shade paler. "M-m-m…must fix that," he hisses out even as he meets her eyes. Split lip is tested with probing tongue, found to be open once more, and the sigh is bone-deep. "Wanda…please, tea. Somehow, tea."

It would be terrible insult-to-injury if the Tibetan tea pot has been marred or even broken in this ordeal. Drained simply of its spell? Fine, whatever. It can be re-cast. But the vessel itself - let it be whole.

The good Doctor won't notice the cleanliness of his clothing, not just yet, and neither the collection of minerals. It will take time and tea.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 85


"Tea," Wanda agrees, confirming his request by shaking off her own pins and needles lassitude. Prickles of returning circulation to her extremities flash through deep discomfort, the phantom effect of her very real limb returning to this dimension and protesting all the way. Toes scrunch inside the protective sheath of her boots, and she slowly gets up, trying to find the point where one step will not send her toppling down the stairs, a statue felled before the forces of Alexander.

She only stumbles twice, a victory for numbness through her knee, and dignity takes a shaky bow. Strange may be finding his bearings, and the same is true for her. On the other hand, she brims still with all the natural power borrowed from the Earth. A small measure went into making the stones, and that vitality renders her utterly, brilliantly awake when she starts to move.

Arm crossed over her chest to hip, she looks back to him. Again, there lies no warning in what she does; no chance for him to protest or shout, but this benediction be hers to grant. A bolt of scarlet light forms overhead, collapsing around him in a rotating sphere as warm and fine as an embrace under the summer sun. Pine woods pepper the fir resin and lick of stimulating citrus, all melting like honey.

"Doctor, heal thyself," she translates, and she would be lying if it did not come with an imperative bound in mystic forms, frightened and affectionate, a weird blend that fizzes like champagne under the time-released spell. Say the word and the healing energy will sink hard inwards.

Recovering the teapot from under a bashed wall and fallen debris takes longer, and allows her to hide from consequences for a few minutes. Torn paper and dust will do nothing for the sense of order about here, but eventually the pot is pulled out, its lid located. Heating it takes a bit more skill, much less finding the right bearings of the stand dragged into the middle of the floor. But with a bit of adaptation, using a chunk of stone for a balance, there will be tea.


As any of Wanda's hexes, when received unexpectedly, the results are about as blunt as the Witch herself.

When accepted after a good minute of hemming and hawing in the face of ego's grumbling, it's still bluntly effective.

The Chaos magic, in crystalline hues of claret and cabernet, rushes into his body and the breath leaves his lungs in a 'ooof!' of sound. Seeing as it isn't precisely the same Mystical make-up as his own powers, it does sizzle through him like hydrogen peroxide on the wounds, effervescent like the aftereffects of mulled cider on a cold night. The scents, however…so warm and rich and reminiscent of sweetest heat, those are not lost to him, even within the hex's terse healing. With spiraling licks of sparks like eldritch sutures, his lips and cheek close up, leaving behind no scarring and the sense of brushing lips. The fracturing of his cheekbone beneath it knits with a stab that arcs and fades just as quickly, though it does leave Strange hissing and shaking his head sharply. Was that the ghostly impression of a palm resting against his cheek as if in silent apology?

"Ow!" Maybe she hears that sound once it gets to work on the short rib bent nearly to breaking and in severe danger of splintering into his chest cavity. It creaks back into place and then he can breathe without the feeling of an icily-agonizing stitch. The deep-muscle bruise of the Staff's passing impact to his shoulder is washed away like dirt beneath a hot washrag and then the magic grounds itself out around him. The results are a fully-healed Sorcerer Supreme, physically, though he might still admit to feeling sore, as if Helga the masseuse had been a bit too rough with breaking up knots. Still, it's a good kind of sore, tolerable, enabling him to rise to his feet without wobbling too badly. He's encouraged more still by the lingering wreath of warmest spices, sparkling citrus, and the musk of black roses.

He walks slowly over to where the Witch has indeed dredged up the teapot, intact, and the rise of steam from tea nearly done steeping is enough of a balm to make his heart quiver once more. Whether she likes it or not, she's enfolded in his arms and held closely. He might be taller, but perhaps she can sense how he's still trying very hard to assume the doughty mantle and struggling still.

"It was Mordo." Said into her curls, muffled, as if repeating the name loudly enough may summon the man in question and send the Sanctum into panic.


Chaos holds a price, a price that dances in different ways than strictly uncomfortable. In the end all magic is magic, all flavours from the inevitable source, though many mystics dispute it. Many practitioners will argue all the centuries still.

The hex imparts the warmth of the resins and oils that once dripped upon his body to knead out tension, and those impacts ignite the olfactory senses in a wave. Brilliant infusions of pure indulgence follow, canted by her whims, for healing should engage the earthbound delights. No herbs, here, but the smooth, warming friction of a hug or a warm blanket pulled up to the chin on a particularly chilly night. How a fire's presence seeps into the feet. How a kiss to the cheek at an opportune moment, timed just right, can melt away someone into an inner blush, soulfire answering like to like, leaping at a touch.

Lassitude tends to follow those deep tissue sessions with a strong East German masseuse. There is, after the ache, a deeper rightness that radiates away as all the pent up energy flows how it should through the body's ephemeral networks not yet traced by science and all the kinesiologists of the land. No longer does a burden rest in the tension zones between the scapulae, in the neck, over the coccyx, stolen from the chambers of the heart.

All the while she brews his tea. Wanda isn't rushed about that, composing herself through busywork and ritual, an exercise in patience that is hard to learn. It makes stalking her easy, creeping up on her a bit harder, and the last part of the hex's healing delivered in a sudden correction of something else bent out of shape. Them.

A muted sound bubbles to her lips, and she turns into Strange, her cheek cool and chin wobbling a moment. Only a few. Vulnerability exposed, the rise of her hands would cover it up as they span his wrist, tracing injury to mended sleeves. She guides his fingers a little to the side, under her coat, a mute awareness for preferences to hide his hands. It also gives skin contact in surer form, and turning a little assures the deep palsy tremors still fit her collarbone or her shoulder just fine.

"I see." Truth hurts, but doesn't shock. Then again, she has seen the nature of his soul and knows it. "I will remember this."

A tally of vengeance, two marks in chalk and adamantium on the world's record. "How are you?"


The shivering of his palms should definitely be felt against their places of concealment beneath the sturdy scarlet coat.

"Not okay."

Give him a minute. Now that he can't be distracted by the dagger-like pinch of the fractured floating rib, Strange has to sift through the tangling of thoughts that lay across his mind like a ball of yarn lost to a toddler.

"He brought me the Orb, maybe you saw it. It was on the pedestal, over by the Staff." Staff of the Living Tribunal. A short report, delivered with numb emotional inflection. "I deciphered it, unlocked it, kept it from his hands. He made a bargain with Sham-Horoth. Spiders. Webbing that sucked magic. The books and relics. The Sanctum…" And Strange buries his face deeper into her chestnut locks for a moment. A deep inhale and shuddering exhale. "I threw him into the vortex. Sham-Horoth is dead. The Staff is gone. Karl is gone."

Heavy silence, punctuated by the pat-pat of the Cloak's collar to visible cheekbones and silvered temple.

"He was a friend. I don't understand." And not understanding is not acceptable in the world of Dr. Strange.


The assumptions made that some of these names hold any meaning spell a divide between Strange and his Maximoff girl. She puzzles over the translation for Sham-Horoth, as though the name of such an entity is at all familiar. Spider gods, no. Spider demons, that's another story. Her knowledge there might start to look appalling if he ever quizzes her upon it.

Releasing her means she can fetch the tea cup, somewhere. That will take longer than the tea itself did, hunting through the rubble and avoiding a water vase. It might mean avoiding a few other dangerous relics under cracked jars, their contents free, their contents dead. Or possibly not, though she glances at one with dark, thoughtful eyes and hisses at it. Best stay away from a riled witch.

"My father said power attracts the worst in people." She twitches her shoulders up in a shrug dismissing any likelihood this is false. "Younger sons resent the prince. The heir. These are old things said. Not without truth. A friend can fall. He can want what you have. He can turn on you to have it."

The oldest lessons of human history are so often the nastiest, the foibles of trust and faith coming up short thanks to what people assume on blind trust, and what they have proven. Her teeth grit together, and she pulls out a slightly chipped mug from under a fallen pile of something, reduced somewhat to slag. It can hold plenty of tea, perfectly fine, the taste unameliorated when she rubs it out with her shirt. More liquid to cool his fears, to restore him.

"Maybe it was never you. It is what you are. What you do. What you have. My brother attacked me, not in his right mind. His nature was made different. The fallen one could be the same."


The good Doctor watches her depart from his grasp in numb silence. She's right, but that doesn't help, not really. Accusations were flung, echoes of Strange's worst fears in the darkest of night when self-confidence drops low. His gaze drops to his boots, over to a torn blanked page half-eaten away by the spatters of spider venom, back to his toes once more. A thick swallow.

The mug, once filled, is taken when offered and held in hands that continue to quiver. The golden-brown liquid, swirling with specks of herbs, ripples within the confines of its vessel. He sips at it and nearly aspirates the mouthful when he hears the side-story offered with such nonchalance.

"Wait, I'm sorry," a cough, "what? Your brother did what?!"


Tea soothes most aches and pains. It removes most problems, in truth, and will ease most concerns except the business of truth. Wanda looks up over her shoulder at Strange, mid-bend to pick up a dashed grimoire that might contain some choice materials to preserve, like the priceless volumes ruined by a flood.

She touches the cover and feels the bite into the fabric, the ragged edges tickling her fingerpad. Nails scrape over the withered, wrinkled surface, bumps skidded across. Her gaze flits up through her dark lashes, a frozen truth painted there. A truth and rendering that he knows some, but knows naught of all.

"Pietro made a man come after me. A man he bit. The fellow asked me to kill him before I left." Her shoulders tip and fall. "A week ago, maybe more, in Hell's Kitchen. My brother is driven by a curse I made, the one I will undo without sending him to death. If I can."

Choke some more if she's talking about mind-controlled drones attacking her. It's an impressive strategy!


Now this business of not telling him things? Not a good choice, especially in light of most-recent events and especially not with the young woman before him currently housed in a mansion in the throes of recovery. Attacked?!

A few movements of his mouth, soundlessly, and the tea is forgotten, held between hands that have become eerily stilled. Lightning gathers behind his eyes and Strange is hard-pressed to separate remnants of past discord from currently-blossoming frustration.

"Made a man come after you? A man he bit? You made a curse?!" All of these points need be answered. Please. Before his blood pressure hops another ten points.


Not telling him by choice, oversight or simple sleep deprivation? The consequences care not for the cause, nor can the participants stay their emotions and fundamental reactions on the basis of a footnote hastily added to a conversation.

Wanda does not turn fully away to fetch the pot of tea again, anticipating the need to replenish the oversized cup by another pour. Crackling lightning stands opposite to the heavy infusion of natural power seething through her aura, life force rather than celestial. Air stands opposite earth on the classical Greek elemental quadrants, after all. Maybe sparks hit the grounded channel, or do the opposite, elevate the already charged dynamic.

His expression tells her everything: craggy brow shading narrowed eyes that glow with a koi school of white-blue sparks. Hardened jaw, the muscle flexing, brings those angular cheekbones into formidable relief. His mouth is an attestation to being in no mood for mincing about, and surely there are teachers and apprentices scattered over the Himalayas who dread that shift of mood.

Her weight shifts to a position of greater readiness, her heels resting lighter on the step. She holds the Tibetan teapot in her hands, the heat building up almost to the point of stinging through her fingerless gloves. "I told you at the lighthouse I was upset with him. Before the Hellmouth, he was absent." Thoughts drift in lazy permutations of mist across her expression, softening the iron-grip control until the mobility of her mouth forms a line, her eyes clouding over.

"We fought a bride, one of the vampires. Yes? She gave him a ghastly wound as I cursed her, willed her from him. He healed completely. He was not the same." The opalescent weight of the moon lies on her eyes, flickering motes of dreamstuff circling around her pupils, resolving a richer red than normally is her wont. "In Hell's Kitchen he tracked the same gang I had. For different reasons. He did not see me. Maybe he did not know me. He bit a man and that man came after me. He tried."

Her fingers flex, popping anyways. This is not a happy business to discuss, not for a hunter whose shoulders ripple under her coat, full of violent promise and escalating tension. "I stopped the bitten man from attacking me. He had lost his will. His aura was full of black webs and loudness. His thoughts were wild, so he begged me kill him."


Unhappy news. This is yet another thing beyond his control and barely shy of a snapping point for an already-frayed temper.

Deep within his mind, a little voice speaks reason: Stephen, think. This is brother, blood, her only point of support for many years. Look. Look close at her. There is no spite. The Ancient One, oddly enough, perhaps stepping in as voice of reason. She did tell you at the Lighthouse. You have not seen Pietro for some time. Black webs, the subconscious logic adds…and a chilly tingling expands out from the faint scars on his neck.

Surging spring storm, meet incandescent solar flare, and hold thyself. No reason to fight. None. This…he would want this, now, in the ruins of the Sanctum.

The mug may make a loud clunk as Strange sets it aside. The slosh of scalding tea is ignored as he shakes the droplets from his hand before glancing over at her again. "Where is Pietro now?" The good Doctor tries for completely neutral and perhaps he succeeds; perhaps his past run-in with the Bride colors the words otherwise.


The ultraviolet spindle in her aura resists so much as a transformation in colour. Thinnest edges share the brightness of her life energies and go no further, and such might explain the way it rotates opposite to the eddying plunder of her fully realized halo.

Some things transcend death itself. Their bond, evidently, refuses to waste away by normal rules of passing through the tear-stained mortal veil.

Her hands cover her mouth to disguise the altering serpent line, the crumpling curvature that robs their fullness, the whitening out as teeth sink hard into the inner satin. Two shaky breaths pull in through her nose, nostrils flaring, her eyes glassy for several heartbeats. Doing this trick under observation, much less his, means performance anxiety of the highest order. Watching her under the Sight is likely to show sickly incandescence splintering the churn of her thoughts, the unreliable pools shot by countless whirlpools and unsettled bubbles. Pretty to watch, almost hypnotic, but very unhelpful for measuring actual information.

"That way." A flick of her fingertip points northwards. Not exactly comforting, given that could track through the dense core of the city all the way to Montreal for anyone knows. "I do not follow him all the time. Too dangerous. He might not even know…" The word breaks.

The thought said, in that foolish habit, means it cannot be true. Denial is not merely a river of tears between them, either.


It doesn't take much to draw away the lashing sparks from his irises and from his aura. The fracturing of the final word she speaks is more than enough to remind him that he's not the only one here suffering.

It's not all about you.

Only a few quick strides and then she's wrapped up in his arms again.

"Shh… I'm sorry. Rakshasi. «Beloved»." The word is Tibetan, spoken in his most soothing tones. Kisses are pressed to curls and forehead and to the side of each eye, even as he continues to murmur, "We will deal with him. A curse can be undone."

Said with the bone-deep confidence so inherent to his being.

Now the focus is on someone other than himself and he has a problem to solve other than returning the Sanctum to a point of balance. He would see her happy once again.

"Let me…I have to at least re-empower the wards. Empower…" Strange draws back slightly in the hug and she can probably see the distancing of his gaze as he's mentally calculating possibilities. So many possibilities and impossibilities alike. "Stay up here for just a moment."

And then, in a swirl of crimson Cloak, he's marching away and down the steps that lead onto the second floor landing and corresponding hallways. Another leap - over the banister?! - and he lands in the center of the foyer floor uninjured. Thank you, Cloak.

Immediately, Strange kneels down and places both scarred palms flat to the slightly-warped mosaic flooring. His irises, brimming with silvery-blue starlight, shut off behind an expression of extreme concentration as he snakes his will down and down and down farther still..and into the untouched Dragon ley lines deep beneath the subbasement of the mansion.


It's not all about her, either. The lesson exists to be said.

Why else throw herself against the sharp rocks of danger repeatedly? Why risk the reefs that might hole her life to strike at a dwindling population of demons and vampires? How does a single young woman of twenty-three stand to gain anything by stalking the night and all its terrors?

Might as well ask Strange why he bothers getting up in the morning.

Eyes shut under his kisses, her brow upturned to receive benedictions and promises neither of them can really afford in this very instant. Credit is a dangerous expense, the risk so high.

"He lives." A shrug follows even as she dips her head under the weighty burden hers to bear, a Sisyphean punishment for the audacity to change reality. "I can make do. This…"

A deep breath purchased at cost of her own satisfaction claws its way up the long corridor of her throat, constricted but not choked off. She levels her shoulders and wrings her hands, rubbing them together. "Fix home first. Everything else comes after."

True to his words and her farewell, he's gone in a flutter of crimson. She looks down at the teapot and, no heathen, won't drink directly from the spout. The cup he set aside will be replenished. Like women since time immemorial, she waits on the step for Doctor Strange, savior and defender of Earth, barrier of the gates, to finish his work.


There is the sensation of needing to manipulate a Mystical padlock to mesh together the waterfall-like flow of the ley lines to the near-empty well of the Sanctum. A little shift there, the tiniest redirection there, and… CLICK.

Every cubic foot of air within the mansion becomes hyper-charged with pure and undiluted magical power. The building itself seems to hum with the same sensation as an electrical grid, like the only barrier standing between you and the cascade of water over the edge of the dam, like the imminent contact of cosmic lighting to the earth below.

To the Sight, it's a sudden flood of auroral light that fountains up from the base of the grand staircase and splashes with merry abandon over the mansion proper. It speaks to brilliant, burning life and uncaring delight in freedom of expression in blinding arcs of undiluted Gaian blood.

Like a drowning being inhaling its first breath of clean air, the Sanctum quivers and begins to sing in a way. The Sorcerer Supreme remains kneeling, head bowed and face hidden away, even as he continues conducting the massive amounts of magic back into the building.

Stains are erased, torn carpeting sewn up, mold and grease and heavy dust wiped from sight. Pages return to books and although they remain empty, they are returned to near-previous state in terms of use. The silvery wards, vibrant with vitality, cavort upstairs and swirl around Wanda in a near-sentient display of undiluted joy, rubbing along her like the most friendly of house cats, before they get to working at the shattered display cases. Rubble is left strewn about for now. The relics are delicately lifted from the ground, any contents nudged back in gently or with sharp force, and then sequestered away once more behind reformed glass partitions. He'll catch the loose spirits another time; for now, the wards harry them like hounds after hares, chasing for the simple act of it rather than capture.

There's an ambient glow to the air that remains even as the good Doctor carefully closes off the connection to the ley lines. Slowly, he rises to his feet and opens steel-blue eyes with the barest hint of amaranthine about their centers. A look around the foyer and then up towards the banister he leapt over such a short while back.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 85


Stand before the Hoover Dam, open your arms, and close your eyes. This is no moment of the surf flying past, a foaming white surge rolling around the exposed body. The moment is empowering and, in a vital moment, absolutely terrifying for anyone empowered by the Sight.

One moment, the silence in the broken Sanctum endures as the timeless hush over the broken cathedrals ransacked during the era of Henry VIII, beautiful skeletons lifting crooked arches and demolished pillars over a nave of soft grasses and nodding flowers. Gravel bits replace pews and the ghosts of ages past haunt the violently sacked houses of faith. The building's is a ponderous, contemplative air unto itself where time weighs especially heavy and human belief is replaced by the stifling, choking burden of reflection.

The next, the glacial meltwaters of cracking mystic barriers inundate her beneath a newfound sea. Wanda's only saving grace lies to the watershed of nature energy already spindled within her, barely depleted in the hours since she called down to the channel. No volume matches what he unleashes straight from the leylines, but Strange might hear the startled cry running down the hallway, leaping through the broken windows and pouring upon the one landscape yet standing 'ere his work begins.

On it goes, a never-ending surge that brushes her to the breaking point. Her self can only expand so far before the elastic margins of containment threaten to snap back to their natural proportions, displacing all the eldritch channels carving through perception and possibly striving to locate an inlet through which they might pour, along paths of least resistance and soul-bright dynamics.

Somewhere, Pietro surely jolts to the electrified spasms convulsing his dead muscles and tickling from the inside out. Nearer at hand, the girl drops to her knees, arms spanning the diagonal width of her hips, palms flattened to her flanks. Forward bows the brunette, struggling to draw adequate breath, the shortened gasps matched by every pang tearing through her.

It's pointless to shut the third eye. Even if she could, the damage is done, a cacophony of muffled harmonies spilling from her parted lips. Slowly, she drops to the ground, curled upon the top of the steps. At times, going to the seafloor is better than fighting the living turbulence above.

Ley magic roars through the main sluice gates, washing over her in regular blasts, leaving her shivering and metaphysically soaked in a sense. Meaningless murmurs barely rise to her mouth and impart any sort of sound, given the barest hint of a sigh about their fringes.


That sounded like…pain?

The crimson Cloak allows him to whisk quickly up to the third floor and up to the top of the stairs where she lies, prone save for the continual soft murmuring. Oh. OH.

Thump-thump, Strange alights on the top step and then scoops her up with trembling arms.

No more. No more for today. It's been long enough, harrowing enough, for the both of them. He's exhausted and the tea works best when aided by the influence of a heavy sleep.

The Sorcerer Supreme pauses just outside of the master bedroom doors and looks back across the Loft. It's not perfect, by any means. The wards cannot do much for the random webbings of broken glass in some panes. Rubble from damaged beams remains, perhaps cursed by the Sanctum itself and considered anathema, unable to be returned to its previous state. How to get back the magics ripped from the books? From some of the relic that are now shown devoid of glimmer?

Glancing down at Wanda, his frown softens and he shakes his head. Let it go. Tomorrow is another day.

The crimson Cloak unclasps from his shoulders and flits to rest on its hanger. The garment is given a fond glance and tired smile.

"So be it," he murmurs even as both practitioners disappear to rest.

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