1963-11-23 - Strange Allusions
Summary: Kiss and make-up, this is not.
Related: Maxim of Family
Theme Song: Storm - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
strange wanda 

The President is dead. The news reports of rogue Asgardians claiming sanctuary as members of Earth proper and the pitchforks are no doubt being sharpened.

Normally, Strange would stand at the Window to the Worlds and observe the going-ons of the Village below him, perhaps scan the far horizon to consider the towering skyscrapers of the city proper. This time, he leans against the chill of the glass panes and metal framing and sighs heavily. Nearly all of one side of his body presses against the anchoring feeling of cold. Wearing the bruise-blue battle-leathers was an unconscious choice today, but foreboding nonetheless - there's the imminent feeling of a storm rolling in across the thrumming strands of Fate.

Fate. Precognition. He tried this morning to see beyond the events of yesterday, but they remained decidedly murky, as if hazed by a enemy fog or perhaps his own inability to truly focus on the future. The present eats at him now. His eyes open to narrow at the far height of the Empire State Building. He looks through it, beyond it, with no Sight to lighten his irises.

The weight of his mantle is heavy today, especially on his psyche. The Vishanti gave no forewarning of the arrival of the Kaplan boy or his highly-plausible twin brother, yanked along in a twist of resealed veils between worlds. What happened? Did an alternate reality get destroyed? Is a time stream permanently dammed? The gods did not intervene; if they had, the Sorcerer Supreme would have not sewn shut the portal with the dexterous and deific-empowered skill he possesses.

A scarred hand rubs at his non-supporting bicep fitfully as he shifts his weight in his pose. Then, back to leaning and glowering at some distant point. Hindsight is terribly twenty/twenty. Had he known of Billy's existence, then he could have searched the universe of Fate surrounding this Earth for the young man and better prepared himself for the arrival. But, then again, how would he have known of Billy beforehand if no one had known he was coming back, to this time and place?

Time-space continuum was a fickle thing and paradox a royal pain.

That Billy shares physical aspects of himself is a harrowing thing to consider. Possibilities abound in future form and the ones that end in a bloodline between Sorcerer and teenager are equally disquieting. The Vishanti do not share. That Wanda has not been chased off with the threat of punishment is a marvel in itself. The gods at least agree that she brings something helpful to the table in the sense of shepherding Fate. The Sorcerer Supreme would either have needed to be kept in the dark as the boys' existence or flown in the face of the triad Vishanti, likely to the result of losing his mantle. The consideration draws Strange's shoulders tighter still. Failure is not an option. Loss is never an option.

He needs to check for this blood relation somehow. His hair, black with silvered temples, is mussed out of place as he runs fingers through it and shakes his head in silent dismay. This is all one big mess, but…he's coming to conclusions and…perhaps it's not all bad.


Where does a butterfly go when it rains? Does it vanish off to an otherworld through the gateways of flowers, awaiting the next coming of the sun that glistens on the microcosmic universe of a dewdrop? A charming thought about those most fragile and ephemeral of creatures who are too fragile for the real pains of this world, that they hasten away from sin to await the cleansing of a fresh morning.

Billy departed and one sleepless morning later, Wanda stepped forth into a balmy, unseasonably warm morning under downy grey skies. Her rhythms often follow such beginnings, a cup of tea shared with the Sorcerer, a discussion for the day's cares over sharpened knives and prepared spells. Practiced forms to limber up, be that the devoted practice of martial arts as a focusing technique or a wicked fast rotation of swords and knives or bokken in thunder claps under an artificial sky. Not this time.

He has the Sanctum to himself, the current bearer of the Vishanti's mantle. No children scamper through or argue whether something is, or is not, magic. Another living candidate and former servant takes his departure through means known only to the ageless. Truly, the world waits in trembling dread for that time, that day, belongs to an irrevocable point in time. Fixed as Pompeii or the kamikaze repulsion of Mongol forces, 22 November will go down in infamy no matter how brave souls fight against it.

Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are somewhere in the heart of it. Somewhere, though their fingertips touch the strands of fate lightly. That safehouse they occupy remains a spot in the fabric of the world still shuddering.

He might have felt the distant beacon: a phrase spoken, resonating across the astral, and calling a spirit out of time to its invoker's side.

Another long stretch of hours without contact except the briefest flutter of the wards responding to the ancient, slow power of the Witch Road hops from a garden down the road to Central Park.

He ponders his fate and the greater fate of the universe, at least his, while the axial focus of this layer of creation kneels in the grass and communes silently with the gods who may hear her, but do not answer. She carries with her a bag from an English supermarket filled by wildflowers from an Iranian plateau, a handful of pink salt from the steep-slided slope of a mountain cast in ice and winter's fury where a dead city lies buried by its rightful king.

Then the wards chime their usual greeting, no doubt, to warn the Sorcerer when another enters. If they track her, they trace a weary serpentine meander through a corridor she believes did not exist last time, but it swings her right to the tearoom.

Their first creation, at least in her name by him.


Silhouetted in grey, shrouded in the gloom of introspective thoughts, the Sorcerer turns towards the flitting of the wards. They coalesce through the floorboards of the Loft to cloud and then whisk to him with the report of their most beloved roommate - as emotional as the spell can be, given that it's a spell.

Pulling himself into motion is nearly as difficult as peeling a tongue from a frozen pole, but success brings the movement of blood to limbs near to tingling with inactivity. It's not hard to find her, not with the whisper of the wards, even as they disappear into the woodwork once more. Clump-clump-clump-clump, down the stairs and then around the corner down the hallway. He pauses and lingers, uncharacteristically hesitant, and swallows carefully. This is all new territory for him and he doesn't do surprises well. No wonder she's been avoiding him.

In a near-parallel to his first entrance into this new chapter of family Strange, the man steps into the open doorway of the tea room, but does not lean on the frame so casually. No, he remains standing, even as he raps his knuckles against the wood to announce himself most obviously. There's little doubt the Witch sensed him approaching; she has a supernaturally-honed set of senses, even when not bolstered by the raspberry-touch of Sight.

"Wanda," he begins quietly, voice noticeably rough. "We…need to talk."


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 20


Darkness suits her here. The sorceress desires no additional light from the paper lanterns, throwing a sprinkling of witchfire over her shoulder to seed the intimate shadows in their own time. Whispery fizz matches the spirals drawn by clusters of power as the spell discharges, following the natural eddies plied in the wake of the wards. Dual purpose: see, but also amuse another arcane construct without independent volition.

Then lies the task at hand, unpacking a few choice items from the paper grocery bag. Unwrapping a dark brown bun, dusted still by a blush of flour and dapples of powdered nuts, she no sooner pops a rather large piece into her mouth. It disappears in short order, the whole of it, whilst work continues to set a rather small, unremarkable bowl carved from a single piece of wood down, and then the pink salts end up inside it. Additional jaunts, rather than one extended hop, tap her eldritch reserves more favourably, but Wanda must replenish what she depleted in a sleepless venture.

Mostly sleepless.

A pastille joins the bun, this one thick with the memories of revolution: a honeycomb coating overtop the drops of zested orange and a flower. It dissolves away upon her tongue, reacting almost immediately to the sultry heat, and her first swallow coats her throat in the halcyon memories of unlocked summer. Summer fire and war on the march, but it's her season, as true as Pietro embodies winter in his aspect. Then the knock, and she promptly chokes, striving for breath, a swallow, words all in the same gesture. Not so elegant, girl. Yaga's voice is practically in her head, a sharp iron-willed rebuke.

Throwing her shoulders back, she sketches a hand sign against evil used by the ancient Egyptians and the modern descendants of the Roma, right down to the Aegean fishermen off Crete today. "The door is open always. This is not mine?"

Is she weeping? It could well be in that halt, that flutter of breath, that hesitation in a hung note.

After a painful pause in which she's choking down that damned candy, he might be suffering an apoplexy on the other side. Strange gets no reward in this, as she gulps for a sob of breath. "—Both. Us."


Oh. He must have been walking more quietly than he expected. Or perhaps he's actually caught her off-guard for once, which is…a major indicator of her current state of mind.

A few brisk strides and Strange is by her side. He's nearly completing the beginnings of the Heimlich maneuver, but her words are proof of a cleared trachea and the shaking hands freeze inches from her frame before being drawn back to his personal space. It's awkward, absolutely, and no doubt his facial expression agrees with the gesture. It seems that he can't decide precisely what flavor of weariness to present: uncertain weariness? Abject weariness. No, stoic weariness, the same mien shared by the watchers on the walls of every nation known to mankind. Steadfast in a storm.

"This room is ours," he says, feeling as if he's repeating something said time and time again. "It belongs to us both. And we need to talk about Billy." The Sorcerer doesn't retreat further from her, but instead waits. There is the inclination towards hesitance about all of him now, but not from fear. She seems close to bolting somehow, a startled doe in a shadowed glen of bamboo and lanterns. Not only that, but those might be tears and he might be slowly curling into a ball of pitying pain within himself at them.


Off-guard in his house. Either she is comfortable, her paranoia has overextended itself to lying fallow… or is Strange about to walk into his doom? Snow leopard activities are little understood in the wild, based on anecdote and rare observation. Legend and myth ascribe them nearly supernatural abilities, like transforming into blizzards or being all but invisible.

They are ambush hunters through and through.

His rare, regal predator is practically willing the pastille down her throat, a lozenge that travels the length of her graceful neck and lands heavier than lead shot in her stomach. Smooth muscle refuses to heed her command, utterly defiant to the bitter end at allowing her to breathe in regular tone. Her look up from that basking shadow slashed over her face, while stardust drifts around them in a modest reflection of a dance floor in the Waldorf Astoria, must surely be at odds with all else. Eyes huge and liquid honey shine at him from a face of antique gold, tears gathered in the corners — no. Not truly tears, though they have gone wet as the Mediterranean Sea for reasons unto many.

"Then, do not ask. Come in." Short words, easier ones, transcribe thoughts into English with a bit more fluency than she possessed in duress. Hands push against her thighs and she stands, not to spring away, but facing the Sorcerer Supreme. Not for a lack of courage does she meet his eye, her chin lifting to deliver that square on. "Billy Kaplan. That family comes from the priests who guarded Solomon's Temple. Defender of the knowledge and sacred treasure." They are strange words to have, more secure in their rhythms than some. Has she been thinking about it? Maybe. "Yes. We do speak."


Sometimes…she is…not precisely able to yank his chain, but the naturally-shortened words along with choice of word does give the impression of impatience with him. Then again, they're both rather rattled and no doubt equally as prickly. He returns the brave gaze with stoic weariness wavering towards the stomach-twisting sympathy and fights down the instinct to speak as curtly. There's the twitch of his lip as evidence to battle against a defensive sneer. An inhale to center and then he speaks again.

"Neither Billy's honor, or his family's honor, is in question to me. I wanted to…let me explain where I am currently in the matter. Let me talk." Unspoken, please don't interrupt or he may not finish. Unable to remain still any longer, he turns to pace not away from her, but back and forth before her, arms folded tightly. This won't come easy to him.

"I am not mad." The Sorcerer pauses to look her square in those glistening, amber eyes and shrugs with more nonchalance than he feels. "I'm not." It's repeated for good measure and then he gets to walking again, accenting certain points with gestures of an open palm waving back and forth before him. "It's not as if I could have known of Billy's existence. The thought never occurred to me, to search through the streams of Fate and time for a child. Not only that, but he remains part of a paradox. How would I know to look if he didn't exist in my life before now? Now, were I to look, that particular line of time may not exist at all in light of him. In order to be here, he could not be there." Strange stares down at his boots as he turns and paces back in front of her again. "I know that this isn't a joke or prank on your part because you do not think like that. You wouldn't joke about something so serious, not if we both had a critical role in his creation. Now, whether or not he's blood-related, I need to figure that out." Steel-blue eyes flicker back to her before diverting again to his toes. The pacing continues. "If so…that is…terrifying, Wanda."

The Sorcerer stops before her again and looks at her with such anxiety now, his shoulders risen ever so slightly as if to ward off some blow. "It means that the Vishanti allowed it without telling me or that I gave up the mantle. I can't…" give up the mantle, not now, not anytime soon. "If he is my blood, Wanda, I am afraid for us all. That much power, so young - I mean, it doesn't even matter if he's directly related, he has your powers and he is a teenager. He challenges me with every damn explanation I give him and gods below, I pray that I wasn't that irritating when I was learning."

Scrub-scrub at his face and he groans behind his hands. When he emerges, his eyes are haunted. His shaking, scarred hands go back to being folded away out of sight. "He is your son and by proxy mine, blood or not. I will not give either of you up. I don't care if future-you molded him from the miracle of reality itself and slapped some of my soul in for good measure, fine. I cannot lose you and it scares me. I have lost everything before. I won't have it happen again."

An audible swallow and even as he draws himself taller, retreating ever so slightly, there's the glittering of ambient red light at the corners of his eyes as well.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 26


In the witch's defense, sometimes clarity can be found better in a short sentence than an ambling statement losing its focus midway through. Her uncanny ability derives from their closeness, surely, just as he holds an armory of enchanted relics suitable to serve as her banes.

She grasps the collar of her jacket and tugs the lapels closer, as if the constriction around her midsection proved insufficient to define every curve and plunder every hollow faithfully. The notched claret leather closes over her bared collarbone, and modesty embarks on a tyrannical reign that conceals her clear to the mid-thigh except for a flash of shadow where her matte-slick pants ripple under the incision sliced to her hip for mobility. That coat will be the death of Strange one day, as much as his cloak leaves her giggling and pawing at the air like a kitten in a shaft of sunshine.

No, he has not seen that, and like the mysterious snow leopard, may never.

Given her twin's penchant for motoring through thoughts at sonic speeds, she knows to be silent. Withdrawing back to the table laid out with artifacts of arcane nature as much as practical picnicking, the brunette opens a tin of custard. Ask not exactly how without a tin key, but she does, and pokes a spoon into the obnoxiously wobbly pud. More sprinkled honeycomb from an unsealed bag forms a heap, and she mixes up the dessert while he speaks, her eyes almost never leaving him. See me as I am. That look has dared him before. It does again.

Equations meet a simple pattern: high magic, stress, tighter corset, and pure sucrose and fructose. She is literally absorbing a pure form of natural energy without tapping into a leyline to replenish herself. Pietro has Twinkies; Wanda has tea and honeycomb wafers. Who's the hummingbird now? Or the girl with the silver spoon in her mouth?

In her defense, it's an antique silver spoon of the sort collected by travelers, and the custard is fair to delectable when she is starved. Acknowledging her lack of falsehood all the same causes her relatively flat lined aura, a silent presence clinging close to her body with listless energy, to burst with flares of a solar storm churned out of a waking giant. Scarlet light lashes away from the surface, the dim hue gone bright in splotches that speak to awakening awareness. Errant thoughts collapse back with a lack of fuel into herself, and she takes another dainty spoonful. Cat, after all.

The gods reserve judgment; the witch reserves comment. How he was as a teenager, how their kith or kin may be, is something which the divine keep to themselves. Questions and comments crowd together, damming larynx so naught can come forth, countless purrs and wails trapped.

He retreats. Stephen Strange dares to retreat? No. No, it won't stand. She goes after him, stepping forward, shaking her head. His scarred, wounded hands are out of reach, which leaves nothing else to go for but to touch his chest or his face. Toss up for which… chest it is, her fingers splaying out over his heart. "I am yours. Only and ever yours. Is it not clear?" How can it be any clearer? "What do you have to hear to know this in your heart? Are there words I need? A priest, a vow of your Vishanti? Do you marry me tomorrow and believe me?"


"Your honor is also not in question, Rakshasi," he replies, a broken laugh escaping him. As if drawn irresistibly to the delicate hand spread across his lifebeat, his hands emerge from hiding. Her single hand is covered with his and pressed harder still against the battle-vest. No doubt she can feel the hard thud-thudding of his heart. The adrenaline of this encounter causes it to thunder like the hooves of a barrel horse. "I don't see you causing me loss. My enemies. I'm not without them, Wanda, and you've encountered them."

Indeed, and seen the gifts they deliver with double-bladed wishes and the kindnesses they attempt to bestow with barbed traps buried just below the surface.

"It's clear enough that we belong to one another, believe me, please," he adds, almost desperately. It hurts that she would misinterpret everything he's done for her. "You don't need to do anything else because…I don't know what else I can say. I love you. That hasn't changed, not even…not even with a surprise teenage child from the future who happens to share your powers and my goddamn dimples."

Strange swallows thickly and grips her hand tightly. "I've lost all of my family. I can't lose you. It's…don't hate me, but it's easier to be alone when you're used to it. You have Pietro and I had no one for many years other than - than the Ancient One and the other students at Kamar-Taj. You are a blessing, Wanda." He reaches out and presses a scarred palm to her face. Fingers push back a stray lock of hair, thumb brushes along the velvety crest of her cheek to skim along her bottom lashes and up past the corner of her eye with ghosting pressure. "You reminded me that I don't have to be alone. And that scares me."

Please let her understand.


How do they go so very wrong? Pain in its emotional flavors is not new to either mage, although this particular lens proves almost as devastating as the filial love binding twins especially strong. That Strange speaks unimpeded, pouring out a poisoned chalice of passionate anguish, twists her viscera.

Her hand paints a vibrating line against his battle leathers, gold on blue of a certain shade to match his soul signature.

"My honour?" The thought isn't even there, for honour is a matter of class and status, and two children adrift in the world have none. They are not Roma raised, for whom a girl's virtue is all, and she turned her back on the notion the day she walked through those sanctum doors and affirmed no husband would come to drag her away. Honour is a construct for a society that she belongs to, and there are none.

Disbelief trails hard after the marks of shock and, under it, a deep ache in her heart cleaving in two for him; the thought of loneliness, so familiar, and losing everything dear. That apparently includes her.

Her hands seek his, her chin lifted and jaw tight, all the discipline she can summon at a moment's notice carving out Wanda's expression. "Your enemies are my enemies. Those who spit on your shadow offend me. Accusations on your name strike my cheek too, for we are one person," she says, voice wavering upon some of the more tricky words, her Slavic accent bleeding through the fissures to make herself understood to him in the clearest terms. Jerking his chain isn't the point. He needs more — she understands. "Trishul — you are my star of stars. These are no pretty poetry; they mean to me what words cannot say. You are the creator and the destroyer, the teacher and the warrior, defending what is most important."

The words cannot ever be enough and she struggles with them, willing him to fathom the depths that beset her darkened expression, wrought in argent, blazing emotions deeply entwined such they might not be distinguishable apart. Like the Sorcerer and the Witch.

"I love you. I am not leaving unless you make me, and forsake me." There her voice breaks, but not her conviction, a shuddering breath pulled through clenched teeth and closed throat. This is not how it was supposed to be. To go. "I want to be in your life. All parts. Your enemies, your burdens, I share. When you give everything for the safety of the Earth, without thanks, why must you be alone? Take me as Parvati to your Shiva. Your sanctuary, your living shelter. I bring nothing but me."

So her gaze doesn't leave his endless eyes, the windows over the universe, all dimensions as she is this one's fulcrum. Forget children, fate, and futures unpassed. They have their moment, and that is not now. The plea is soft, edging to the territory of a whisper. "You are not alone now or ever. I want…" Gods hold their breath, time slows to a treacle crawl on the frozen window pane of space spreading since the first explosive moment in creation. It begins or ends here, hope threatening to blow apart. "By Oshtur's blessed tear and the primal wild of Hoggoth, before Agamotto's wise judgment, and upon the earth goddess' mercy, I vow only love for you holds me to your side and pledge to stay by your side in the darkest hours. I will be there until you perish." And of course, he cannot.


Her breath stills, the weight too much, the mountain dropped on her shoulders an unbearable weight tube moment she acknowledges it. It becomes harder by the moment of silence. "I call you family. You are family. I believe you. It is what you need to believe it. I'll take your name, I will cast no more, I will give you every strength. Name it, Stephen. What do you need?"


She speaks beautifully and earnestly, fearful truth painted in every word and in her expression. No mind that her accent may nearly swallow some of the utterances - - Strange gets it all. Even were she be to struck suddenly mute, her body language alone would be enough to impart the utter gravity of her promise.

She's sworn by the gods, by the triad who, in turn, trust him and his vibrantly-flawed human self with the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and all the might it bestows. It's more than enough, all he really needed to hear were those three lofty words: I love you.

Not lightly said, from either side, from two very stubbornly-prideful and self-sufficient beings. Alone, they are wrath incarnate in battle. Hand-in-hand?

Let the dimensions acknowledge the pairing of Reality's harpist and Fate's shepherd. No small serendipity that the spectrum of violet reaches farthest into the depths of cosmic space. Eternal amaranthine marks them as one and shows in his irises as he lets out a somewhat dizzied sigh.

"Your presence is more than enough, Rakshasi. Your love is…perfect." Was that a ghost of a smile? "We just happen to have a teenager to raise now. I'll need your help. All of it, in all its forms." He then draws her against him and rests his chin atop her hair, eyes closed. This is what he needs, as he confessed: her. All of her and all of her aid in the face of new responsibilities. His greatest weakness and staunchest strength. "A ring is just a thing, as a name is merely an identity," he murmurs. "I don't ever want you to feel that pressure, Wanda. A soulmate is a sacred thing in the world of the Mystic Arts. Our auras will mark us as bound to all as surely as a ring."

The Sorcerer plants a kiss on her brow now and lingers there, allowing the heat of her skin to suffuse his touch. "I need you to tell me when you require my assistance as well, though," he adds, looking into those beautifully-lambent eyes, with their dark lashes and depthless emotions. "I want to support you and offer wisdom if you can't get through his thick skull." Ah, there's the half-smile, a bit stronger now. The idea of teamwork seems to be appealing to his psyche even as he discusses it. "I want you to keep being…you."

Totally not the most poetic of requests, but perhaps the plainness of it is best.


There were stories shared with Myrddin of Ruta she thought would never see the light of day. Maybe in a weekly status meeting between all the Sorcerers Supreme who are and will be, a passing reference from Merlin to Strange as they left the table to fill their plates with incomprehensible tentacle slop. Possibly a word that lodges in the brain and leaves him vaguely thoughtful until the idea germinated and takes seed on its own, eventually growing into a possibility that either ends up chopped by a scythe or nurtured enough to come to pass. No, the fates have other things in mind.

She steps into Strange's circle of presence, forsaking those haunted eyes open to all secrets, wisdom she cannot even fathom. Surrendering them is hard, so hard, even if his arms brace around her with all the assured strength and hallmark guarantee against the world hurting her, harming her. At some level she might wonder what drives her — fear of Chthon? Being home?

Her cheek rests against the hollow of Strange's throat, making a space for her nose to nuzzle into over the rimmed collar of his battle vest. The heat and spice of his skin trapped underneath is the ideal cologne, an aphrodisiac as much as a familiar note associated increasingly by so many good things. Home. A pillow. That robe she keeps wrapping herself up in when he is late or after a shower, that's practically heavy with the familiar blend of soap and his signature and even magic. They forge a link to the eldest portions of the brain, the one that more developed in men seems to recognize what they mark as their own. To any canine, those two are increasingly indistinct, another of those tells they are family.

"I know barely the least things of raising a child. At his age…" Her voice fades out, and the struggle for words is less a product of emotion, but thought, memory plundered. "It will be new to learn. It cannot be harder than I had at his age. I was brewing revolution and hunting a Nazi officer, one that slipped past Nuremberg and your sorcerer's tribunals. Surely you had them? After the war." It matters here nor there, only that the soft percussive strike of his heart is under her hand, his breathing steady under his cheek, and her arm resting upon the rise of his ribs. To lose this is unimaginable, this vestige of shadowy warmth folding around her like wings.

Her thoughts follow a raven's winging, stooping into possibility. "Maybe we meet his parents. With his permission, I think. His father is a doctor. That makes you not so hard to imagine. Pietro met him, and they get along. Reminds him of Tommy. Thomas. Speed, his… Not brother." Little facts, peace offerings, mean to smooth over surprises that go down like such bitter pills for the man whose shirt is toyed with, a sleeve pleated and curled around her fingers. It sounds normal, the impossible, when approaching it on soft pawpads and careful, light steps that dust the snowy discontent very little.

Lips press together, and there lies the seed brought to flower awfully soon, forced by sun and necessity, perhaps. "I will tell you my burdens. This one, at least, I brought to you on the spot. Yours can be shared. Perhaps there is nothing to be done, though I give you my help and faith anyways." Swallow she does, and blurts out fast as she can, in Tibetan: "«Not everyone sees auras, not even my twin. Not as far as this country is concerned, or my mother's people. I would be yours, my heart, every way you are willing to contemplate, so none can separate us.»"


The rapid-fire Tibetan takes him only a little by surprise. She's right, not everyone can utilize the Sight, though by their body language, it should be obvious enough that they're an item. However, it sounds awfully like she's looking for an observable indicator of relationship.

Thankfully, the good Doctor has a sense of imagination, and a bit of forethought, sprung from intuition many weeks back, has prepared him for such a circumstance.

"As long as we do our best with Billy, no one can blame us. I remember my little brother in those years. It's not too different, I think. And those Sorcerer's tribunals were something I was not privy to; just a student then, remember?" He gives her a sad sort of smile, one shadowed with memories of whispered stories late at night in passing through darkened halls of stone temple. Back then, he'd worn plain cream and pricked the librarian's patience with his rapid consumption of material. The going-ons of the upper echelon of the Masters, beyond the city-temple of Kamar-Taj, were not his responsibility.

"Meeting his parents is a possibility, of course, but for another time." Bad pun. "I'm glad to hear that Pietro likes him. How could he not, if he is so alike to Tommy then?" Tommy. Another loose end that the Sorcerer needs must hunt down. Should the teenager exist, he needs to be brought into the fold as soon as possible. Relations to the House of Strange are particularly vulnerable in the post-history of the Hellmouth when not within knowledge of the Sorcerer.

He kisses at her fingertips before taking a step back. No release of his grip but for one hand, that dips into the inner pocket of his battle-vest, over his heart. Note the sudden twinkle in those eyes, even in the lingering weariness that leaves darker circles beneath them.

"«You wish others to know that we are together. I have a way to do it without compromising your safety. This can be hidden away as easily as zipping up your coat.»"

The closed hand appears from within the garment and is held in the space between them. His gaze drops to it and then back to her face.

Fingers curled open, one at a time, unfurled to reveal…a pendant on a golden chain. A diadem, circular and inlaid with a metallic silver pentacle, no bigger than a silver dollar. In its center, ringed once, an 'eye agate' in colors of russet and cream; it gives the impression of looking out at the young woman.

At each point of the star, a gemstone, clockwise: sapphire, diamond, garnet, labradorite, and amber.

A sapphire, bluest gemstone of truth, wisdom, and power, connected to the Third Eye.

A diamond, clear and glittering like ice, connected to aspects of relationships, love, and mental clarity - it sits nearest to her heart.

A garnet, sister to the droplets at her headband, conveying manifestation, health, and protection with its blood-red hues.

A stone of labradorite, Mystical smoky essence of magic, transformation, and intuition.

Lastly, a drop of amber, nearest to her eyes, thought to share wisdom, healing, and connected to the Sacral Chakra.

"«The pentacle itself is made of a very special metal, incredibly hard to destroy. I had to promise favors for it, but no matter. I call it the Pentacle of Mimeoc. I imbued the relic with its powers. You should find that it grants you many things: a general sense of elevation and a sense of deeper control. I may track you no matter where you go; time, space, dimension, it does not matter. The same goes with you, Rakshasi. I am not hidden to you when you wear it. Utilize the name, 'Trishul', and you may speak directly to me, within my mind, when you hold this relic. Language will not matter, seeing as we will communicate at the speed of thought proper. This is the only way to trigger it, spoken name.»" He looks from the diadem to her, wondering at her thoughts, even as he adds, "«It is for you, Beloved, from my hand and heart.»"


Somewhere, a man's hair should be going whiter than white. Another whose is white might be vibrating, his skin crawling with pent up energy. A third might find tiny details shifting and changing around him to solidify another fork, a choice in life.

It almost falls upon Wanda to ask Strange that he has a brother, yet the statement some minutes before curbs her tongue before that dark error. "So much of you is a mystery. You will one day tell me about those days?" Truth instead falls into neat jigsaw sockets where not a soul can complain for her asking about details, filling in those blanks by leaving the sorcerer the choice. Disclosure rests at his command, his discretion.

Mention of Tommy dims her smile considerably. There the punctuation marks of concern drop into place like a Carnival mask, bowing lips down at the corners and dimpling her chin. Rumpled dismay settles heavy upon her forehead, a pressure band already leaving its mark there alongside the kisses and teasing tickle brushed by his goatee every time he kisses her temple or brow. The headache will eventually pass, a good stretch of slumber in his arms replenishing the soul-sickness spreading throughout her body. Her aura tells the disturbance in ways that sight will not, edges frayed and bleached, fading to violet frost while his deeper chromatic profile may dip nearly to black heliotrope. Such a hue in a faceted stone is worth its price in troy ounces of silver and gold. Here, it means their merging, synchronized heartbeats and those pauses allowing conversation to flow.

An almost drowsy contemplation as tension finally loses its momentum endures that separation. Strange reveals the damage on his face almost as much as she does, hollowed eyes too bright in amber, lavender bruises on his sockets. Teeth worry at her bruised lip, fitting in the groove always there nowadays.

"Is my coat open too distracting?" Sardonic or mordant humour is the very lifeblood of central Europe and nations east. In death, they spout the occasional tease. No different for her, daring to breathe onto that twinkle in his eyes and give it a little tinder to feast upon. "I was unaware you could not concentrate."

Unbidden, her hands cup under his shining, linked offering. Wanda's steady gaze does not leave him to indulge her curiosity in full, yet. Not until he finally frees her by putting the weight of conversation in her field, where it sits like a smoking meteor in a crater, and one soul has to clamber atop the faceted, superheated stone. "You will hear my thoughts?" Shoulders lose their stiffness, slightly, more malleable as she steps forward to settle her arms around his leather-bound waist, a loose brace holding them together. "Or see the images?"

…He's going to be distracted. Oh so distracted. So horribly distracted if she forgets.


A subtle shake of his head and deepening of the tired smile. That Eastern European sass will be the death of him one day. Just like that scarlet coat. Regardless, the twinkle doesn't fade as Strange watches her take the diadem from him. He is relieved; there was the worry that such an offering would be rejected, that it was too little in the face of what she offered.

A return to his personal space signals the change in topic, rather abrupt and full of potential. "I'm sure to hear your thoughts. I don't know about images just yet, seeing as the communication hasn't been attempted. I mean, it should work, I empowered the pentacle myself, but we'll have to try it." The good Doctor laces fingers behind her back, allowing the looping of arms to rest at the small of the gentle curve accented by corset and posture. "It'll be useful if you find yourself in trouble or need my assistance."

There is a reticence to him, though it could be a passing moment of his body telling him that they need to sleep now, thank you very much, but he adds, very softly, "I'll tell you about Victor some day. Just ask. I can tell you over tea. Would you put it on, so I can see you wear it?" A sudden change to a safer topic.


Mister Doctor Strange, saviour of Earth from threats arcane and mystic, still doesn't know much regarding women, does he? The sum of Wanda's belongings can fit in a backpack or an interdimensional pocket the size of a breadbox. What she calls her own, she wears, and came into his sanctum with an extra pair of leggings and two shirts obtained by theft. Albeit theft with a blessing laid on each victim to recover their karmic loss twice over, and a trace of regret at the necessity at all.

He encountered the wrath of a god that slurped the energies from his spellbooks and left old relics empty husks, his home turned on its very head. The betrayal of his dearest friend from Kamar-Taj still leaves fresh wounds not turned to scars, and he yet made this gift. He dares to think at all it would be insufficient?

Stephen Strange, you know nothing. And a redhead need not tell you that, for your hour of doubt.

Skipping stones of a conversation are not unfamiliar to her, but she raises the gift to him when he claims what is his in a tight embrace by most standards. Her wrists shift, arm extricated back to display the warmed metal, that which absorbs the heat of her golden skin. Reluctant to release him, the request makes it worthwhile. "Then put it upon me, beloved, and be sure that it stays closed properly. I want to see your face."

Any questions left that she is properly chuffed or appreciative?


Nope, no questions remaining. The interest in his reaction allays any further uncertainty left to his name. Unfortunately, he must unlace his fingers and therefore release her in order to adorn her with the relic, but it will be worth it.

His hands tremble at first as they take the necklace, but a frown at the stubborn clasp and a wash of steadying magic into his nerves calms them enough for Strange's fingernails to pull back the miniature lever to release it. Her hair has trapped the warmth of her body and brushes along his skin as he reaches around to the nape of her neck. It's all too easy to hold her gaze, partly due to focus beyond his current line of sight, but moreso due to the jealous need to catch every micro-reaction in her face. Clasp…not quite engaged, hold on…there. Rolling the catch-point on the chain to ensure that it is closed - - it is - - the Sorcerer then draws his hands away.

Not quickly, however, with an insolent sense of slowness that may be due to tiredness. Might be. If his fingertips drift along the tendons of her neck with passing grace, it's a happy circumstance. Or is it? Those fingers intertwine once more behind the small of her back as his gaze drops to the diadem.

Yes, precisely where he wanted it to sit, framed by leather incarnadine and golden skin.

"Perfect," is his comment as he smiles at her. It's a smug little thin-lipped thing, partially quirking one line of his goatee frosted with a worn-out contentment at the outcome. After all, the initial approach was full of trepidation and high-wire tension.


Perchance being released might be worth the effort. The loss of Strange's hands from her corseted back and the leather coat allows Wanda to dispense of her own brand of preparations, shoulders deliberately lowered and flung back to permit a straighter line to the most sensitive topography of her upper body: that long neck. Any tease of scarred fingertips up the length begs a reaction, Strange certain to release the tension in a bowshot snap that will pin his quaking hand to her silken cheek or forbid its further advance towards her sensitive ear. Determination against her own weaknesses, staunch and deep, tighten her expression there.

Then it begins the staccato beat as he takes the chain, and her breath inhales on a quicksilvery rain of bubbles that might become a laugh. They have no business being so, involuntary sounds plundered by a ticklish receptivity, and her usual defenses lowered on many fronts after being stuck locked up to the bulkheads. Wanda is overengineered in defensiveness to the point of the Hoover Dam. Releasing certain floodgates at key areas to allow for the overspill to run into denuded valleys below takes time, and the rust practically flakes off. Her eyes narrow when she anticipates — not even feels, merely imagines the feel — his fingerpads whorling arcane lines to settle the necklace. Only belatedly she remembers her part in this, pulling her hair off her nape and that, that utterly will destroy her. Pupils widen further, constricting the antique gold rings around black, and her teeth scour off the rampart of her lower lip. Freed the burden, the rosy flesh springs in geostatic uplift to its native rounded fullness.

The chain lies thin and cool on her throat, the pendant pulled down, and the girl is nearly laughing. On reflex? Stress? Satisfaction? He best look to his analog deciphering ring, a relic of priceless value that the Ancient One stowed away among other treasures. One more card to be played in this hand, though, just when Strange thinks he has the trump.

Her shoulders roll slightly and her wrists flick to her sides, giving a brief and proper view of the burgundy expanse of her coat against warmed skin, the bisecting chain leveled under the shelf of her collarbone, landing whilst it wishes. Then another moment, and the coat comes undone through no apparent means, slid off of her by gravity's assured help, dragged down her arms and slithering to the floor in a spilled wine puddle while his hands are busy.

Golden skin, the leather underpinnings, and her bare arms wrapped back around his shoulders. "You have a high opinion of yourself," she murmurs into the corner of his mouth, still teased by every finely groomed hair that drives her to madness. It tickles even now, her flinch from that inordinate teasing softness unbearably sweet in its way. He'll have to mine deeper if she agrees on that front. "Luckily I love you."


"Lucky for you indeed, since you have to put up with this high opinion for a very long time," he replies, laughing quietly even as her lips pressing to the dimple of his cheek makes little goosebumps run up and down his neck and arms. That she's dropped the scarlet jacket to the floor is yet another sign he can interpret as growing trust in him; he knows well enough the psychological armor that a good coat can provide. The light tugging of her weight around his neck is enough to make him chuckle once more before diving in to capture her lips.

Mmmfff…this is how it should always be. Easy affection. Moments of blessed lassitude graced with shared auras.

"Forever is a long time, you know…" he mumbles against her cheek, even as he's delving downwards, towards her jawline.

Oops, wait — has he explained his immortality yet? He can't remember.


"It is." A lifetime not even lived yet between them will stand in good stead. "Perhaps myself in the future thought to send back our child to prepare me and us for it. How very thoughtful. I should thank myself." It has nothing to do with the Hellmouth in that particular frame of mind, no, but merely a wiser incarnation disrupting four lives and collateral for a lesson that leads to a happier future. Try not to read too deeply into the ramifications there, for Wanda's dark humour approaches nothing like a pat on her back.

Standing on toepoint, the witch's calves tighten to shortened muscles. Additional height gives some instability that a good flotation spell might compensate for, though she rather prefers this as she sways slightly from side to side, the motion carried up through her bent knees and rolling hips. Her bare arms shift against his shoulders. Nimble hands split from their clasp, widening the circumference of the embrace, so she can massage down the front of his collar. The embrace, augmented from merely wrapping limbs about his neck, frames Strange within the classical postures of subcontinental dance. It could be a reflection of her time in Srinagar and Kashmir, or further north into the Nepalese valleys when the difference between discovery and death or feast and famine might have lain in her talents to perform in the festivals. A bowl of rice and vegetables to tide them over, as she praised the gods and spun her magic, and behind the scenes, Pietro hunted.

It could be simply she dances for joy.

It could also be a fine excuse to remind Strange of the livewire he keeps a domicile with, one pulling in energy after sleepless nights. A president is dead, a world in upheaval, and for a breathless moment, they are still okay. Such personal moments are the real scope of history, not the fulcrum points of dead leaders and great acts.

He hasn't spoken of lifetimes. But she does, in her fashion. "It is good that might be enough to break the surface of our affections for one another, yes?"


"More than enough time."

It's difficult to avoid succumbing to the way she exists in front of him, but he does manage to relegate his scarred hands merely to those slightly-shifting hips rather than elsewhere.

"However, you're exhausted, Rakshasi. Don't argue otherwise. I am as well." Strange sighs and finally lets his posture reflect his state of mind: wiped. "I'm glad that we talked — as family," he adds with assuredness in tone and respectful nod to the Witch. "Tomorrow is another day. We can figure out a plan regarding Billy's parents, if it's possible to find them then."

He rakes her down…and up once more with cheekily-veiled interest. "It looks good on you, the necklace."


"We will talk more about what to do with Billy and Tommy. What all this means. I am acting upon intuition and more, a process that removes the unlikely possibilities. A discussion that requires much thought." A coat on the floor, armour shed, leaves Wanda vulnerable and open to the battering waves of what will come. It's a discussion for another day, something not to be broached without a good cup of tea and a proper night's sleep.

A look around the tearoom confirms the absence of a prepared pot, the supermarket bag of treats and the bowl with its collection of pink Himalayan salt. Nothing that cannot keep for a few hours, and the drop dead exhaustion barrier starting to encroach a little closer.

"Lucky for you indeed, since you have to put up with this pretty necklace for a very long time," she stresses the syllables at the exact point he did and then steps back, offering her hand.

"Can we go to bed?"

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