1963-12-08 - Custos Immortalis
Summary: In which Dr. Strange is delivered by the gods into the care of the Scion of Chaos and reminded that, with perceived failures, comes loving forgiveness.
Related: Undying
Theme Song: None
strange wanda 

The Sanctum's wards chime with greeting — and then flare in sudden confused alarm with a tripled claxon.

In the Loft, a Gate has opened and out steps the Sorcerer Supreme onto the circular platform that rises before the stained-glass Window on the Worlds. The silvery protection spells flit short of the twin lion statues that flank the few steps leading from wooden floor to dais as if being blocked by some unseen force that presents them with a stoic, immovable palm of halting.

He walks as if in a dream, as if guided by a puppeteer's strings and not his own volition, draped in a wreathing of citrine light that drowns his aura and his eyes alike. There are no pupils, no irises, just incandescence that exists nowhere on this earth. The edges of his form writhe as if barely able to hold together, like the mirage of the hottest deserts. The crimson Cloak and every loose length of fabric on him slowly undulates. Whatever force buoys him walks him with inhuman grace and poise to the center of the podium and pauses. His chest rises and falls slowly.

The force waits.


At certain times, all the comforts of the world cannot ease the disquiet resting upon a woman's shoulders. Oils laced across a hot bath restore no sense of ease with the world. Two strong cups of tea cannot calm the flutter in the bloodstream, the restlessness itching at the tense lines of her lower back. Show me. Loose leaves at the bottom of the mug show a splattered insect crawling over fine lines. Twice.

Restlessness drives Wanda out of the tearoom and kitchen into the library, but the tome she stares at in a block of blurry text gives no succor for long. Knives taken to a wooden practice dummy while she stabs and slashes does little more than erase the effects of the bath, and she dares to wash twice in the same day, standing under ice cold water and chattering. Show me.

Sick plants weave weakly around the draining water. Darkness when something drifts in front of the doorway and blots out the light.

Wrapping herself up in a towel and that oversized robe, Wanda stalks through the bedroom and pulls on a black dress and leggings, something different from her normal attire. The leather coat goes overtop, and her fingers linger on the Cloak's perch. I miss you. Gone with its master, gone with her ma —

Static electricity sparks off her hand in sky-blue bolts. She snatches her fingers back and sucks on the digits as wards rustle awaken, pulling an eldritch head from under their wing. Then they scream and she swivels. Forget the knife on the bed, she seizes the cloth belt strung by charms on the way out the bedroom door. She will not have far to go, haste turned into a purposeful incantation to invoke a shield wreathing her hand in a lotus yantra.

"Doctor Strange?" Pause. "Merlin? Is — "

Oh gods. Them. Here.


Gods indeed.

They foist him aloft, on his feet, when clearly he would otherwise be incapable of doing so. Spattered with gore, the storm-blue battle-leathers take on hues of wine and bruises. His face is speckled with blood, stained over nearly half by an errant swipe of hand prior to arrival into a war-mask of ichor. At his left thigh, the pants are neatly split as if by blade and a newly-healed scar shows nearly six inches in length.

With eerie delayed speed, the Sorcerer turns his head to look at Wanda.

Through Wanda with those sun-bright eyes.

"Scion of Chaos."

His own voice overlapped by three others: motherly alto, tense tenor, deliberate deepest basso. His vocal chords act to appropriately downsize the deitic voices; still, the words press in uncomfortably close and distort in the air of the Loft as if not entirely accurate within this dimension.

"The Guardian has nearly terminated his existence. Rectify this."

Read as: the Sorcerer Supreme is an idiot, he overdid it again, help him out. OR ELSE.

The Gate closes behind him and the sizzling crackle is loud in the silence that follows. Then, with all of the drama of a light switch being flicked to 'off', the citrine force, cosmic light incarnate, leaves him. Strange blinks once or twice owlishly and then, with a total lack of grace, collapses to the wooden platform.

Whump. Like a wet rag.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 17


Look through her, then. Reveal what they surely already know, his name wrought upon her soul in a glowing script, his identity inscribed on the keystone of her psyche, alongside the blackened nocturne of her forefather and the silvery moonlight of her brother.

Find the amalgamation of horror and protectiveness shaken up in a volatile concoction that gives chlorine trifloride the comparative place of talc on a reactivity scale. Wrenched emotions teeter through her bloodstream, adrenaline dumped by the cartload at every pulsation of that fractured, heavy-beating heart. Her chin rises as she slows only a little to close the distance, planting her feet carefully upon the ground to soften her steps and distribute her weight in the event they — They — knock her off the landing for sport.

For Them to arise cannot be out of idle purpose, catching Strange between hooked claws and sandpapery paw-pads. "Mother…"

Gestures are not necessary. For the mystic's spellcraft, yes, but not the innate gift they name her by. "Doctor," Wanda whispers, darting forward towards the platform of his art. "Heal yourself."

The invocation may be a little too strong, reality too pliable in her fingertips, His gift altogether too quick to surface. Willpower flows out through the cracks in the self as she crashes to her knees beside him, hollow thud drowned under the power running away from her in a concussion burst blowing away from them both.

Dimmed jersey becomes a rich lustrous black. Ichor flakes away, dissolved into dust on the wind. Tears reform as margins melt together into a singular, supple shield over his thigh. Frayed ribbon gains a satin sheen, worn and knotted rawhide turns pristine. Bruises run backwards, blood sucked back into capillaries no longer burst in a quagmire of swollen flesh. Charms jostle and chime in their joyous illumination, old coins bright as the hour of their minting. Tiny scratches left upon the pedestal embellished by the stretching of cellulose forms a pristine sheen. A faint burn on her forearm vanishes. He is the centrifugal focus for a nanosecond, blood mired on the surface of his leathers lifted into the skimming whirlwind of energy banded around her. It slants on a ring round the planet curled almost protectively against his side, cupping her head to her shoulder. His pendant bites into her neck, the chain wrapped around her throat entangled with her hair.

That excess energy has to go somewhere, and she claws it right back inside before it can run amok through the ceiling to fix roofing tiles, plaster, stone, and everything else. Absorbing its presence hurts on a level that makes her back arch in a silent testimony of suffering, but at least it works.


The Sorcerer lies there prone on his back before her on the pedestal while the invocation goes about the bidding of the gods. It leaves him rather newly-minted himself. No blood visible on skin or battle-leathers alike, all brought to normalized state. But it takes a moment beyond the Saturnal swirls that dance about the Scion of Chaos in hues of life-iron and her pained withdrawal of the imminent effects of the command for him to regain consciousness.

Scarce breath causes his chest to rise until those dark lashes scrunch and then part to reveal dazed steel-blue eyes. He can't focus on the heights of the Loft's ceiling, looks very confused, and inhales as if testing the fact that he is truly alive. Movements in his limbs signal the peripheral nervous system coming back online. The fingers twitch and curl even as he lets out a soft groan. Then, the slow turn towards her, like a sunflower following the brightest sunlight, with none of the eerie touch of the gods to the motion —- only the hesitance of human muscles overtaxed from momentary loan.

"Wanda…?" he asks, voice ragged from the earlier separation into four. "When…how did I get back here? To the Sanctum?" He licks at dry lips before coughing once.

It's like his body is still catching up to the fact that it went from 'busted-all-to-hell' to 'perfectly normal' in less time than it takes to tie a shoe.


"«Beloved»," comes out as a thin, reassuring croak. "«Them»." Let him do the math.

Magic always has a price.

Reality, on the other hand, functions on debt. The backhand to the brunette internally crawls into her viscera and convulses her body from head to toe. Wanda vaguely identifies the rising sensation of her gorge and the side-splitting agonies as reconfigurations ripple through her. No grace whatsoever shows in the scramble of her feet against the floor. Her headlong charge straight for the washroom may not make the cool tile before she drops to her knees, sick to her stomach. At least she can be grateful for a largely vegetarian diet heavy on tea, for what little consolation that is. Wiping her stinging eyes with the back of her hand, she suffers the grim price owed by surging wild.

Were it not for the inconvenient timing and space-time paradoxes, Strange could certainly draw the obvious conclusion.

Doubly so for finding her hugging her midsection in a protective kneeling position on the floor, forehead to the ground. The bruises are purely internal, indiscriminately layered and proving she can absorb her own warping and hexcraft.


ROLL: Wanda +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 90


"«Them»?" Strange whispers, worried more about her than drawing conclusions about this multiple personage, whomever they are.

Her hasty rise and retreat to the bathroom is enough to make him roll quickly onto hands and knees before rising to his feet. His brain checks him even as his body tells him that the deja-vu of past agonies is naught but phantom pain. Even so, his chase is delayed across the Loft by the pause and then again by the speed of his jog over to the cracked door.

«Them». The Tibetan word, the specific variation meaning more than just human personages — those of the gods. The gods got him home from that multi-dimensional mishap? Where was Karl now?

The Baron is dismissed by the sight that greets him as he pushes open the door. The scent of bile is acrid and immediately, he kneels down beside her, resting a broad warm hand on the curl of her middle spine while the other brushes away hair from her face.

"You overdid it, didn't you?" he asks quietly, rubbing up and down her back slowly. "I can feel your touch in my aura."

Not a single other conclusion is drawn at the moment other than she's dealing with hex-backlash.


Or her maker has an opinion about showing up the Vishanti in their own domain, which might be a fool's wish on his part, and unfair upon hers. But the gods use their favourites hard.

Wanda lazily rests with her eyes shut against the interminable glare of illumination brighter than a single speck of light, her shoulders trembling under their strained web. Eventually the simmering dilutes enough to make her blood stop singing and the sussurating threnody in her ears cease caterwauling. Cold suits her feverish skin and the fitful chills racing up and down her extremities, radiating out with too much heat until she is clammy and dewed with perspiration. By the time Strange wanders in she is well considering pulling off her shirt, clawing at the sleeves to leave her back and torso at least bared to the relatively cooler surrounding air.

Under his hand, she burns at a blazing pitch as her immune system literally turns upon her own mutation's after effects with a vengeance, shoving out the effects aside.

"N-n-n-n-no," the chatter of her teeth breaks that word up so many ways as she worships the ground. Anything to get closer to the most forgiving of powers, whom she beseeches with a miserable sound. Even for Strange, being this vulnerable, this imperfect, goes hard. Her eyes squeezed shut show how much she hates the show of weakness. "You live. Awake. Good, da?"


The Vishanti, being primarily concerned with preservation of life, are seriously not impressed with her maker's decision. Shown up? Hardly. After all, they got their Guardian back whole and hale. Let him proceed from here, where he kneels on the cool bathroom tile beside her.

"Yes, you overdid it," Strange repeats, with the gentle consternation of someone who very much understands, if in a different facet of suffering entirely. His reach is long enough to snag one of the washcloths hanging from a nearby bar and to turn on the faucet to the sink. Cool water, not ice-cold, soaks it and he squeezes it out a few times, all the while never ceasing the rhythmic stroking of her back. "Yes, I'm alive and I'm fine. Whatever you needed to do, you did it well." The water continues to run in the background with a small stream against porcelain as he offers her the washcloth. "Here, wipe off your face and mouth. We'll try for some tea in a bit. Do you want me to heal you?"

It's what he can offer right now, succor in the face of agony. A debt returned, though it will take him some time to understand how close he came to snuffing himself out entirely. There is a delightful god-burned gap in his memory between the collapse of the dimension and the ceiling of the Loft crystallizing in his vision.


Chthon has better things to do. Showing off might also include the tidying job that got rid of a little of Mordo's spider-driven damage buffed out from certain parts of the chamber.

"No healing." It isn't an admonishment from Wanda so much as a statement. She loosens the death grip on her midsection and curls her toes as a single test to see whether her feet are still attached to her legs, not running around the building fast as fast can be without her consent. "The backlash is my…" What is the word? Her head swims through a coppery velvet fugue as she rubs her cheek against the washcloth, kittenishly weak for the moment. Its rough texture lapping at her golden skin nearly hurts, scouring the tenderness to a point almost painful, but his hand behind it will give some remonstrated tether to the dimension. Strange earns a dull nuzzle, a pale ghost of what affections sometimes escape from her. "Price paid. I hurt, world does not hurt. Tea, maybe."

Penitence is never just, but it is fair, and the definition lies in all those bruises slowly fading through places where bruises are rarely if ever formed.

Her blood-bright smile shows the same candor and muted injury. "You live. Sanctum stands. Wards hum." Short words are about the most her translation skills can muster. "Not overdone." Another pang in her head makes her tense, fighting down the sharp edge of discomfort. "Small price for you with me. What did this?"


The Vishanti are still not impressed, more pleased with themselves for cat's-pawing about such a fixing of the Sanctum proper. Happy Guardian, happy reality.

Strange holds the washcloth against her face as she seems to groom herself of her own volition. Then, medical precedence takes over his manners and he finishes out passing the damp rag over forehead, other cheek, past lips once they're done forming her response. Her smile is returned, though not without its shadowing of concern. Her pang is his sympathetic grimace.

What did this, she asks. With a rather bleak laugh, he goes from kneeling to sitting leaning back against the bathroom door. It clicks shut with the pressure of his weight. The washcloth is left hanging from his grasp as he settles his head back against the wood, eyelids shut tightly.

"It's a long story," he finally murmurs. Was that a little break in pitch? Is that a hard swallow? Crow's lines around the corners of his eyes?


Good. Chthon is having ramen noodles spliced with a tasty broth and some missing souls. Mmm, souls.

Wanda gives a fixed stare through wet lashes, a ragamuffin on the floor of the Loft, and for once every bit as young as her actual birth year would imply. Not for long, however, as she peels herself off the skin of the earth and deigns it necessary to city up. That may hurt considerably and leave her skull sloshing around with the newest sea, but she straightens her shoulders and holds out a hand only to avoid tipping over too far. The good Doctor may assess her how he will, she gives no immediate protest. By the same, she does not seek his assistance. Grudging boundaries, surely.

Her eyes travel from washcloth to his face, and any sort of statement dies, the agony an amuse-bouche for the entree festering out of sight. Dripping liquid falls in the basin out of her reach, and the witch forces herself to shuffle forward upon her knees. A palmful of water swished around and spat out cleanses her palate, giving Strange time to compose himself.

Failing that? A fairly fine view, the shirt being hauled high up her torso, sleeves dragged to her elbows. No obvious welts or lashes leave their marks. The constellation of faded orchid marks are at her upper shoulder, anyways. Water splashed over her face gives some semblance of tears, though her gaze is clear.

"Not now, then. You were hurt." She points to the leathers. "Say what you need. Not what you think I want."


The Vishanti find this disturbing. What a waste of life. Honestly, how are they related to this guy?

Of course he has the hand to offer her, once the sounds of her movement bring Strange from behind his shuttered lids. He offers support as long as she needs and withdraws it accordingly, knowing full well that hovering and Mother Hen-ing the Witch is tantamount to insult unless invited. He returns her inquiring look silently, lips set into a thin line, and when she turns about to clean herself further, the line fractures into a wrinkle of suppressed misery.

Composing takes him some time still. His innards, though healed, are more than hale enough to acidify and clench. Unfortunately, that bared skin is lost on him this time around.

He is contemplating the fact that there used to be a threaded scuff to the outside of his right boot, right above his outermost toe, where it caught on some passing surface, when she speaks. The mended leathers are noted once more and then he meets her eyes with so much quiet agony; it glitters like refracted light from obsidian edges. The Sorcerer will not shed a tear, he is in so much agonized frustration over it all.

"He's dying." Another hard swallow to keep his composure. "Karl says he's dying. I couldn't heal him."


Strange has yet to see the constant feather ruffling Pietro performs, though the protectiveness Billy demonstrates to Tommy comes close to their elders' dynamic. Wanda gets no reprieve from her big brother patching her up and tousling her dark hair. One day, shoving that line might bring out the younger woman unused to escaping the adamantine shell guarding her from the world.

A tale for another time. His own takes precedence by invitation.

Wanda settles back down slowly onto the floor, her knees tucked together, feet stretched to the side in case anyone unimaginably decides to kick open the door. She might be in a position to give a good side jab of her heel and prevent Strange from a concussion, at least being clocked solidly. No one ruins her favourite garments: no one. Least of all Karl No Respect von Mordo.

Poor Cloak will receive a good dressing up, later, but for now her attention is totally for the man an inch from her touch. She does not reach out, allowing him the same grace, to decide when he wishes connection and when he does not. Still, he cannot help but notice her there at many levels, her aura passing around him as cotton clouds and summer breezes, a promise of sunshine and forgiving warmth. Sun's daughter to moon's sun, after all.

"Could not? Or he would not let you?"


"Could not," Strange finally chokes out, as if it literally hurts him to admit it. His expression expresses an extreme guilt. Those scarred hands disappear away with tightly-folded arms. "We had a dimension collapsing around us. He admitted that he was dying and then I had to get us both out." It seems he means to disappear into himself as he tucks his chin, avoiding her gaze adamantly. It seems that the chill of winter lingers to his spring, even though the sun shines bright, attempting to draw him.

"It was Belathauzer. Elder God avatar. Cultists knifed him, us both. I tried to heal him. Didn't work." Not an entirely fair statement; it did heal the knife wound, just not whatever lingered in the Baron's system. "He's dying," the good Doctor spits out again vehemently, sounding like he's beginning a slide down into bitterest disappointment. "Stupid son of a bitch is dying."


"Could not then." The words cost him to admit, the words cost her to conjure. That the dusky man with the arrogant, know-it-all smile deserves any healing whatsoever speaks to the backwash effect which Strange has upon her. Nothing stopped her from pinching out lives in her way, those branded by their service or history to bend to the ugly principles she despises. Karl von Mordo, representing all she does not and too much she does, you owe Wanda Maximoff. She brushes her thumb along Strange's elbow. "What you did not do today can be tomorrow's labour." Those words are bitter on her tongue, drying up any sort of affection for the subject in question. "You do not fail. Escape comes first. Then binding the wounds. What use are you to us if you die? The healer must stay alive and well." These are simple rules applied across military theory right down to playwriting and game theory. Protect the one who guards the rest. She gently taps his chest while he tries to escape from her, and all the world. She will not release him so easily.

"You, Doctor, are our lifeline. They brought you to me." No escaping from the opinion of the Vishanti, even as her comfort is half pricklebush and half silk scarf. She gives up on the pretense of separation, her aura flowing into his against her conscious effort. Deepening light sinks into him, the hint of the wild surge of nature discerning the state of the sky in the liquid depths of her oceanic self. "«Beloved». Look at me. You have not failed because one method does not work. You can find another and hang it over his head. The good man helps the bad. Maybe it causes him to turn back on his bad path. I think your gods are setting you on a path kinder than mine would have."


It's stupid. All of it is stupid. And unfair. Frustratingly unfair. Squeak-squeak, there goes his jaw to grinding his teeth back and forth.

Frustratingly true as well. The healer stays alive first; if not, how do the troops survive to fight another day? But…but what if the healer nearly kills themselves in the process?

Strange hasn't told her…may not tell ever her…specifically of how he felt the lightest touch of a kidskin glove along his cheek when the collapsing dimension blurred in his failing sight and his heart began to falter in its harried rhythm. Obviously, it was not his time. Not just yet.

Her touch is insistent and her words even more so. The tone is so akin to motherly command, even when inundated by lover's moniker, that he feels badly denying her further. Hopefully meeting her eyes isn't taken to be a near-physical blow; there is a goodly amount of self-loathing and aggravation built up within them, turning them more towards sooty metal than the sharp blue she knows so well.

"I don't see how this is kind of the Vishanti, throwing my failure in my face," he snaps at low volume. "I knocked myself cold helping him and for what? Probably more of those f — mucked-up lessons of his! Karl can choose whatever goddamn path he wants to and I don't care if he pulled that tentacle crap to block the cultists." His aura writhes even as it's inundated with the soothing warmth of her earth-centered presence. It blows about, shredding at the edges in the gale of his emotions. "I don't care! And don't treat me like I'm some pity case, I'm the Sorcerer Supreme," he spits out.

And immediately regrets it by how he buries his face behind his hands. That was uncalled for.

The washcloth is tossed — nay, thrown to the bathroom floor like a white flag of surrender — before he disappears once more.

"Sorry…" comes the mutter from the man, who draws his knees up towards him and rests elbows on them, still hiding away behind scarred palms.


Love means a great many things. Tolerance and patience Listening rather than speaking, and a groundswell of support. It merely hurts, on so many levels, to be utterly new to the incandescent blaze inside her ribs that surges in wild yearning to be expressed in some meaningful fashion — any, a physical form of action — when the object and focus of that emotion so obviously hurts.

Wanda has always preferred reason over feeling, and her rigid discipline melts into dripping slag when the bending supports waver under the immense weight. Her fingers curl rather than settle into his tunic, avoiding gripping him by the collar and shaking sense into his frame or using his shoulders for a balance to pull herself into his lap and curl up. Strange has set off a storm of Saturnine proportions, screaming winds circulating around a dizzied pole, and she knows not where to begin.

First, teeth click shut. His turbulence fans the primordial fire, encourages formations of lightning quick strategy and worse, so much worse, the eager pull to saturate them both in a higher inferno burning away all the impurities while impressions rain down, a sensate's release.

"No," she says more to herself than him. The pain left by the absorbed hex should not be stirring euphoric ideas, a salve for all these pains found in a warm blanket or a good cup of tea or something absurd like… Like dancing.

The doctor burying his face yanks her freewheeling empathy out of overdrive for all of two-hundredths of a second. Then it stoops and slams into her unprepared brain again, and her eyes grow soft and glistening dark. How utterly humiliating, to be this open. Not herself. Blame Chthon, for the good it doesn't do; this is her humanity, clawing out of the carapace of an unassailable twenty-something.

"Trishul…" Her voice is soft. "You are my beloved. I said an oath. We share our cares, good and bad. Your pains are mine too." Serious as her tone is, she does not convey any barbed point of responsibility or disappointment, nor has she kindled a demanding tone. Just the facts as she sees them, supremely gentle, even for her. "Never, ever pity." The last word she does hiss slightly. Love, though, love is another province in a faraway kingdom from that sorry failed state she refuses to put a foot in.

Let him be angry. She can be patient, and let him rage or close or announce the only solution is a cutthroat game of croquet with Merlin.


From behind his disfigured fortress, he senses the sudden agitation of her aura. The heat had been slow, steady, soothingly warm, like a dip in a hot spring after a long day. Now it fizzles and sparks like the reaction of molten steel to cold.

The Sorcerer dares to drop his hands and looks steadily at her, all the while with one of the few hang-dog faces she'll ever see from him. He can tell she's unsettled, aura notwithstanding.

"«Beloved», I am stubborn…and stupid, at times." Geez, Doctor Obvious, go on. He sighs, heavily, and continues after chewing at the inside of his cheek for a moment. "I am also sorry. We do share and it's not fair of me to hold things back grudgingly when I ask otherwise of you. Thank you for…for not pitying me. I hate that." Anyone with a pride like him would detest it, of course. "Come here," he murmurs, reaching out.

It takes some careful maneuvering — and he's especially mindful to note if any of his aiding causes her discomfort — but finally, the Witch is basically balled up in his lap. His arms wrap about her, crisscrossing around from ribs to underside of thigh at the bottom, from knee around to shoulderblades at the top.

He buries his face once more, but within her silky mussed waves that smell of black roses and her rather than behind broken hands. His exhale is a humming sound that implies an attempt to center himself. Around them both, his aura begins to settle, the whipping winds dropping to a gentler, constant breeze of low agitation.

Strange won't get over this, not immediately, but her warming presence, the shift of focus from him to her, helps immensely.

The quiet is ruler for a time in the slightly-chilled washroom before curiosity breaks the surface of his psyche. There's that weird gap in his memory…

"Rakshasi," he mutters, "you said the gods got me back here. I don't remember."


The thunderstorm band of her unsettled, ebullient emotions responds positively to the contact rather than the words, fizzing at a rolling boil, devoid of any angry capacity. Her volatility mirrors uncorked champagne, effervescence rising straight up to the surface of her halo. Energy thrums around her and incorporates marigold bursts of gold and tiny whirlpools of opalescent bronze within the definiively brighter magenta hue her aura takes except where it winds around Strange's and turns an unexpectedly bright shade of hearts-blood purple.

That's the visual and tactile component of her tacit satisfaction being wrapped up in his arms. Leaning into him places the curve of her arm snug to the firm line of his chest, and the painted line of her torso scrolls down his sternum. Long as she isn't lying on her stomach, her discomfort is tolerable, minimized by cradling her legs in a loose curve. He can compact her easily, all long limbs.

Baron Mordo can go hang and die somewhere else, out of thought a little bit.

"You have been through a long day," she points out, and the day isn't even done. The faintest shake of her hair sends another wave of rose rising off her skin, a deliberate and conscious effort to soothe his frazzled nerves. In turn the spice of his skin slowly overcomes her discomforts and slightly ruffled feathers, a strong medicine against life's ailments.

His reactions lend her a clear understanding for certain aspects of his moods. Murmuring her assent to his requests and apologies, she puts her hand flat onto his left shoulder and gently kneads at the ball of his upper arm. Gentle massage pushes down to be felt through his dusky clothes.

Lips blot and she says, "You returned to me floating, eyes full of sunlight. I could feel the divine on you. They… Spoke? Thought, through you, and warned me how deep your injuries were. I could see the blood, the cuts, the damage to your body and clothes." Doctor, heal thyself. The words hang in the air unspoken. How her heart nearly stopped, the clamor of what her status as consort means thick in her mind to the scent of sandalwood and sacred fire. "Your gate shook the house. When you did not call power, you fell and then woke."


That's…all rather harrowing to hear. She can probably feel the bobble of his throat against her scalp, near her ear, seeing as he's resting his chin atop her hair now.

"I…see." The usual response when left without immediate intelligent rejoinder. The implications make him tighten his arms around her noticeably.

It is a frisson of fear at the possibility of loss. He almost lost himself — and in turn, her.

"Then…they brought my body back here. I was possessed by the Vishanti." Ohhhhh, that is uncomfortable to admit aloud. "Banishing Karl from the dimension must have…" he peters off as his eyes cloud in attempted memory.

A flash of broken crystal wall, the rumbling of the ground beneath him in agitation. The lacing of sulfur and gore and the Baron meeting his eyes in shocked realization at their apparent fate. A weary reminder to himself that this would hurt.

"I nearly killed myself…" he whispers. Surely she feels the minute momentary quiver that escapes his hands to rush through his body.


Not dead. Not dead yet.

"I do not speak for the Three," she admits, respectful in her way, altogether aware of whose Eye often peers upon the leather stitching sculpted to her body, and sees through the strands of her aura enveloped by the gargantuan magnetosphere cast by one Stephen Strange. "I agree to their suggestion you did push yourself a little."

Stop laughing, Hoggoth; dry sardonic wit is how all her forebears deal with the situation when death comes close, hardly ruffled.

She traces her finger along silvered strands brushed through dark hair, running in an arc around his ear and looping back towards his jaw. Smooth is the touch flowing over his cheekbone, slanting down under the point of his chin. Guided up, a single point of pressure means to leave him in a position where she can rest her forehead against his lips. Forget the ticklish tease of the goatee, even if he makes her jumt that way.

"Now, think again on my statement they favour your efforts. Not punishment or mockery. What you did was good and honourable," she murmurs, leaving off the implied 'even if Mordo isn't.'

The rumble of his breath and heartbeat over the higher melody plied by her voice is all the answer she needs. Once more her hand curls at the neckline of his tunic, the only way Strange may have to discern she's not letting him go. Not for the Vishanti, not for Death, not for the mailman.


Stop laughing, gods. Geez. Omniscient jerks.

Him? Strange laughs, a soft sound, still pitched towards discomfort. A little?! Never again. Not if he can help it.

A weak promise to himself, at best, especially in lieu of his mantle. The gods will continue to test this resolve of his. How many times would he court Death himself to spare another? Only the gods know.

Clearly invited to do so, he presses a soothing kiss to that fever-warm skin and savors the closeness. She's likened to a blanket right out of the dryer, one of those most basic comforts against the chill of life.

"Yes, I suppose so," the good Doctor finally hedges, his lips brushing her as he speaks. "Though I wish they favored me with less…interest." No easier way to describe it, honestly. They use him hard.

Feeling the tug at his collar, he tenderly shifts to pry her grip from fabric and into the lacing of his fingers. Their shivering continues…and then stills, enveloped in her floral heat.

Here, listening to breath and heartbeat alike, there is life and an odd peace of sorts, even if punctuated by discomforting thoughts and bruised innards alike. The scions of the gods — they'll take what they can get, for uncaring Fate has much to push upon them in the future. The deities play their games.


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