1964-01-28 - Strange Orations
Summary: As a departure from the norm, Strange and Wanda have a poetry reading.
Related: N/A
Theme Song: Ode to a Nightingale - Benedict Cumberbatch
strange wanda 

"And Merlin…thank you." The heartfelt depth of the gratitude can likely be heard in his quiet words. With a silent nod of parting, Strange then turns on his heel and goes to make his way further into the Sanctum. One thing on his mind right now: reaffirming the memories that swirl about his head like colorful birds on the wing.

The Sorcerer needn't travel far. Likely she heard his distant words, sent arcing across the ethereal distances before he'd submerged himself to possibly amnesiac doom. The low thrumming of tightly-strung anxiety matches his own in a minor key is but across the expanse of the Loft, involved in taking tender care of the small bookshelf in the corner with its warded collection of titles on the various Grey Arts, those that dance the fine line of mortality.

His steps slow, hands clench and relax at his sides, and even the crimson Cloak's collars flutter a little. Gods above, she's…beyond description. He can hazard the expression he might receive and swallows thickly. That he could have forgotten how the ambient light sheens from her golden skin and catches in ruddy teases within her whorling hair; could have never recognized that proudly-delicate profile, with those lips so prone to subtle smiles and eyes that dance in glitters of scarlet and silver-violet alike; counted as unknown the way she holds herself with silent poise and readiness for the world to strike back, even now.

"«Beloved,»" he murmurs in the heavy silence of the large room, drawing attention to himself in his full regalia of the mantle, storm-blue battle-leathers, Eye, and all.


With the Sorcerer Supreme out to play, the Transian sorceress takes her duties seriously. Beyond seriously, such she puts away any notions of study and takes up another mantle, one interested deeply in the business of the sanctum on its day-to-day basis. Tidying requires far less effort when one can conjure up cleaning spells or obliterate dust with the wave of a hand. Useful parlour tricks, though less helpful searching for those cracks and damage done by time, failed incursions, and mysteries enshrouded under belljars or wards. She knows not to tamper with any seals, and the murmuring whisper of the serpents who talk and goad and tease.

Report what they will, the wards may be the only thing in existence to know what Wanda Maximoff looks like playing arcane maid. To be fair, she lacks fluffy black skirts and ridiculous aprons. Hunting down a particularly devious little spirit left free since an accident in the labs, but not sufficiently dangerous to warrant tearing the house apart, requires her attention and it now sits inside a bespelled gem, grumbling about its fate. Said stone lies with nephrite, tourmaline, and jacinth used of late for her foci.

Cleaning keeps her mind from wandering. It's a fine way to hone concentration, to stave off the unfamiliar. Truth known to her, and assuredly blasted into her awareness by the likes of Yaga. Her cloth rubs over the glass, rendering fingerprints invisible and the surface smooth. Gods, she hates cleaning. Hates it and endures it, the melodies of harp music in her head forcibly confining random thoughts. It would be easier to play, but playing does not do well here. Thus the endless movements carry her in front of the pitiless eye of the Vishanti and their guardian beasts, those too polished within an inch of their life, the floors aglow in basking light, the light fixtures too not without a glistening shade. Let it not be said she stints, and for godo reason. She knows not proximity while dipping a bit of wax from a pot and rolling it along the brackets of said glass, refining the shimmering effect. Until he speaks.

The world stands still. Time keeps marching on, but her take? Triple fast. Then her head turns and the weary tightness grooved into youthful features displays itself, transformed a heartbeat later to a measured mask. Eye and Cloak, the very man who emerged from the stygian mire made of Central Park while he hunted, and her without so much as a dagger here except the one in her leather boots. Truly, one needs to master the conjuration spells to at least give her some measure of uniform. Mind the glittering rubies and garnets in her hair, the headband pulling her hair back. "Love?"

Gods above and below can shut their eyes.


A beat of silence in which he absorbs the fractured moment of stress so skillfully hidden away in her beautiful face and another in which he wallows in the burning guilt for having caused such a state — and then the ground-eating stride she knows so well bring him to quickly close space between them.

The Sorcerer gathers her up, heedless of shining cloth or brush or pot of melted wax, likely knocked aside and forgotten for her presence within the confines of his arms. Man and Cloak alike, they hem her in and capture with the intensity of relief from a strangling fear. He'll note the cleanliness of the Loft and its surface and fixtures later; this moment is for reminding himself why he risked it in the first place.

"Eternally," comes the murmur into her soft curls tamed by gemstoned headband, scented as always in floral notes of dark rose, others in warmed leather and the bath oils she uses, and the new flit of polish from her task at hand. Should she upturn her face, she'll see him search it carefully, his own expression conveying a silent request for forgiveness, the keen glitter in his eyes having everything to delving into a favored task at hand: memorizing her.


Vertebrae align and their spacing grows as she straightens under Strange's heavy regard, not quite reaching a parade stance, though growing as close as she might ever get. Planting her feet against the ground, Wanda tilts her chin upwards, the measured defiance and self-confidence meeting any threat. Proof no matter the situation, the hellcat lurks behind the veneer of civility, just as a farmboy and world famous neurosurgeon are harboured forever behind the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme. Can they ever escape their history, and more importantly, why would they want to?

Objects may crash to the ground, and the gem-bound spirit of no great consequence irritably rattles about its prison, but none of these elements matter. Her cloth lands upon the casement of the great window, and stony eyes observe the return of master to his consort from those mighty polished beasts frozen in their present proud aspects. Her dark sienna-crowned head tilts up to meet the thunderstorm in masculine shape and likeness, a subtle number of degrees replacing defiance with unspoken greeting and relief no word could hope to encompass.

Her mouth will just have to do the talking a different way, and those mitigated centimeters shaved off the distance separating them might be vaguely noticeable when she stands on the tips of her toes. Wreathed in scarlet and stormcloud tones, she winds her black-barred arms around his neck and more uses Strange as a platform to give voice to that soul-song sparkling on the indigo sea of eternity. Heliotrope light conceived between them whirls over her visible halo as she delivers that kiss, conjectured scents of bluebells and oak forests landing among the vibrational sussurus from the deep edges of the cosmos.

Apparently there wasn't much to forgive in the first place.


Ah, there it is, that stiffness of expression that he knows too well. Inwardly, he winces; outwardly, he waits, seeing if his presence is enough to melt the tensile strength being subtly expressed in her posture.

The kiss ameliorates everything. With how the Sorcerer counters the hang of her weight by the tightening of arms around lower ribs, she might even be lifted to her toes, drawn closer even as he replies to the mute welcoming-home in returning said kiss. The air in the Sanctum hurricanes up around them in a breath of Mystical reaction to the two stormfronts of their auras meeting and mingling, flashing silvery in places within the misting of amaranthine. Eventually, wreathed in sandalwood and rose-laced ozone, he has to retreat simply for a full lungful of air and searches her face once more as he steals oxygen from the swirling minimal space between them. In that damnably insouciant manner of his, Strange laughs quietly, the sound puffing across those pouting lips not centimeters from him, and whispers,

"I missed you too."

The Witch has every right to roll her eyes, perhaps retort dryly should she feel so inclined.


Lifting her clear off the ground would not be entirely unwelcome, her foot kicked up if that happens, though not with the intent to knee him in the groin. He reasonably could fear that sort of retribution performed in light of severe crimes committed by accident. Yet would she be here were she given over to that manner of homecoming? One hopes not.

Spanning fingertips account for the arc of his vertebra, the temperature of skin, the familiar and unfamiliar sensations possibly percolated throughout his aura. Sight need not rely entirely on visual components, and indeed, only looking hobbles a practitioner. Studies performed since early childhood afford Wanda an intense familiarity for sound, as much as tactile and gustatory components, and her efforts prove not without merit. Inundating herself in him overlaps their respective auras considerably, hers churned in the aquatic confluences with his. Sea meets greater ocean, mingled together, an antidote for countless unspoken questions shot by black Turkish roses and a gasp of rare, exotic spices and resins.

Like strikes with like. "I had not noticed you were gone."

Liar in every crush of their clothes, the quiver of the carmine relic, and a bristling of his goatee against her cheek when pressed to hers.


As he continues to hold her close, her response causes his shoulders to jump in silent laughter and accent the grip about his neck. A series of soft kisses marks a path from her cheek up to the outer corner of one eye, interrupted by the much-amused opinion of,

"You — are — a — terrible — liar — Wanda — Maximoff," and the final smooch of affection lands between her brows, at the second Chakra, and lingers there enough to impress the heat of his skin upon hers. Drawing back, the Sorcerer glances around the Sanctum and utters a short sound of surprise. Everything fair gleams with attentions, down to the wooden bases of the display cases. Gods above, she even shined the pair of lions that stand guard at the steps leading to the platform beneath the Window on the Worlds.

"Well." That single word conveys the majority of his feelings on the matter, though he adds, "It looks pristine, «Beloved». Thank you."


"Then you know me always to be true with you, Stephen Vincent Strange." His name is inflected through the smokescreen of her native Transian accent, imparted by wisps of Greco-Latin influences. Her fingers walk up the incised collar of his tunic to the apple of his throat, streaking an anticlockwise circle before merging with the line of his jaw. "Oh yes. Hardly noticed." The lions pretty well have their own identity by this point with all the effort put into bringing them to regal majesty and one or two of the spiderweb afflictions in the area no longer exist, rubbed out of existence by sheer determination rather than warping reality.

She had time to kill. Better than practicing until a sweaty mess and worn out when the real danger came. After all, who expects the temporary Mistress of the Sanctum to be the one scrubbing the baseboards with a wax paste to bring them to fine relief? The same ones who probably protest that the Mistress isn't the Master, and will up to the point she flings a knife through their aura and consumes it.

"It was needed. You have been busy, and I have contributed to this mess now and then." Even words hold so many layers, and she gazes up on the brilliant windows depicting lush jungles and Namib deserts and a rocky shoreline dotted in greenery, hinting at northern New Zealand perhaps.

“And the sentiment is returned, Miss Maximoff,” he murmurs. Zzzip. His concise words of praise are returned with a sense of self-recrimination and he tsks. “I can’t remember the last thing you did in here that caused any damage. I have more memories of cleaning up. Again, thank you, and remember that’s not your prerogative. Job,” Strange amends as he catalogues the room around him mentally, sharp eyes darting. “The wards should be in charge of basic upkeep.”

And they are, but they are limited in sentience and by bidding. His definition of ‘basic upkeep’ likely includes a dusting and removal of fingerprints, maybe even some threading shut of any fraying spells meant to keep said relics from leaving their containments. He’s the practical sort, all pun intended, and the Sorcerer-née-surgeon would rather delve into knowledge than a bowl of shining wax any day.

He sighs, focus guided back to her by the gentle grace of palm against jawline, and he smiles affectionately. “I’d say we deserve some down-time. After all, you spent all day ensuring the demise of dust-bunnies with vehemence and the lake was uncomfortably cold for me. Make that uncomfortable and cold. Tea?” A tilt to his head. “Reading? Are you hungry at all?”

Rest assured he’d be more than happy to spoon-feed his hummingbird of the jars containing her favored golden food.


The last moments of damage originated not from malice, but mistakes; possibly a stubbed toe, a bit of water spotting from another of those vases filled by seasonal or not so seasonal greenery the witch uses to beautify the space, turning the sanctum into a proper home instead of a repository for magic items, a vault of the forbidden, and a library little used outside a few masters and mistresses of the mystic arts.

“I do what seems right.” A wave of her fingertips dismisses Strange’s rebuttal to her task of scrubbing and perfecting the sanctum’s appearance, at least in the Loft. Gods help him for whatever he finds in the practice rooms or the meditative sanctuary. The library of course is a lost cause; half those books are sentient enough to preclude actually trying to sort or organize them, and their difficult natures may so threaten Wanda’s safety and good health that she daren’t try without the assistance of a librarian. “You do not have me cast spells to help. I must give something of aid. This is my home, too.”

Bald fact, that. Did they have some apartment overlooking the Bowery or a beautiful penthouse buried somewhere in the five boroughs, she might play a little more domestic and call that place home, but just as likely not. Home is where the heart is, and a building contains no heart as great or grand as Stephen Strange’s. At least in Wanda’s eyes.

Though in point of fact, she hates cleaning. Gifts bestowed by her hands so rarely involve tidying on a scale as this, putting herself to chores.

“Tea, yes, and I have not eaten any time in recent …time.” The thought trailing off causes her to absently shrug in pursuit of other ideas, and her gaze dims as she consults the vaults of thought, plucking a notion amongst the whirlwind sieve contained therein. “A garden in Brooklyn has very pretty flowers and tea, good to refresh your energy. Not for now, but later, something to remember.” It’s not just any garden, but the Brooklyn Horticultural Society’s botanical gardens, largest in the state and probably north of Washington, D.C. Not the better Washington.

Ideas hum in rapid vibrations, knocking on the dense surface of other stored notions intended for a rainy day, or set aside when she could not attend upon them. “Reading which? Have you found a new book or something you would hear me say? I read English a bit better than I speak it, but I may disappoint you.”

It would not be home without her. As a parallel to the not-so-distant fear of amnesia, it does cause him to hold her a bit closer, if only for a moment that passes in its wave of intensity.

He does make the connection to the Brooklyn botanical gardens and yes, it’s an unspoken promise that, come springtime, they’ll attend the expanse with all the envious joy of a couple simply out to enjoy the sunshine. Tea will be a welcome bonus.

An idea comes to mind in light of her spoken musings. “Tea in the tea room. I’ll get the food, you go pick out a book from the library? There are a few on poetry tucked into the right-hand side of the third shelf in, next to the tomes on Rhythmomancy.” She’ll likely know the place; after all, a past gift from her resides there. Simply passing by it generally causes him to pause and consider its thin spine, gilded lettering, and then he’s able to move on, but only after being momentarily slapped upside the head by memories. “I don’t mind listening to you read. It could help you practice your English?”

He would enjoy it, truly, and probably end up giving her a ridiculously-fond look over his tea cup. When she wrinkles her nose, it’s adorable on a level untouched by all except that sock-stealing Malk kitten.

How near their scrapes come to loss, a girl cannot hope to comprehend. She wouldn’t risk him by putting her finger to that karmic pulse point except by standing on the other side of the event, peering back with perfected hindsight.

Rubbing her finger up and down the length of her nose, Wanda nods for the offering. “I practice often. It is the strange way some people speak that becomes hard. We never went to school, of course. We learn different than students in the class did.” Just a reminder of her upbringing diverging from American norms, she speaks without anger or rancor for the loss of potential, or innocence. Her fingers drop away and steal around to the back of her neck, lightly tracing adjacent parallel lines against the warm golden skin concealed beneath the loose snood of her dark hair.

Still apparently drawn by the tactile sensations she craves, she passes by Strange and runs her hand down his battle leathers, specifically the edge of his shoulder all the way down to his wrist, in a single passing sweep. Long digits catch at the underside of the pulse point and linger only a moment, but enough to impart the necessary pressure that leaves his skin dancing to the heat and mystic imprint of her aura.

“Poetry. Oh, you are unkind. I will sound like a child to you.” This will be a memory to preserve in his thoughts, held against all the other brilliant ideas crystallized in a vast matrix, so many cubbies empty and awaiting long-term preservation. She neatly sweeps out, head held high, and the lick of her violet silhouette paints along the pale wall, bruised as it covers the window casings and shelves, dancing down the stairs.

Soon enough a selected few things will be picked from the library shelves, cracked open. Shelley. Tennyson. The lords of English poetry. Their slim volumes, a Bartleby edition surely among them, will be carried off to the lesser temple of knowledge, where she and he have made for themselves a home within a home. It’s only proper to curl up on a little pillow-strewn chaise that may or may not have been there last visit.

As if the Sorcerer would laugh at her for stumbling over a word. Not his Beloved. It’s akin to learning medical terminology, all a general mess until you figure out the familiar prefixes and suffixes. Then things flow. He was once there, learning another language entirely. It was the same with Tibetan. Wong didn’t laugh either, but then again, the man didn’t even smile. Okay, he did smile, but the good Doctor is still convinced that it was ultimately a trick of the light.

His eyes follow her detachment from his arms and then grazing of her hand along what golden skin he can see through the whorls of chestnut hair. How wonderful, watching the visual interpretations of her quicksilver thoughts; the Witch is so very tactile in everything she does — which includes that lingering impress of glowing fingerprints to his wrist.

His own fingertips curl up towards her, as if to return the touch of branding, but even as he rotates in place, she has moved on, the tease of a summer evening’s breeze in her wake. He watches her go, simply to enjoy the view of said leaving, before smirking to himself. Now…what to serve a Witch with a sweet tooth?

His arrival to the tea room presents Strange in his usual day-wear of choice, save for not a white shirt, but one in jewel-tone violet. As always, the fine weave reflects other colors in the warm light emitting from sconces on the walls, subtle golds and whispers of cobalt-blues. A tray, of course, bearing freshly-cut fruits of various assortment along with five slices of white bread and not one, but all the jars of exotic honeys gifted over Christmas. All laid out on a white linen, with butter knife to spread said golden glaze as needed, he pauses as he takes in the presence of the new piece of furniture — and its occupant.

“That does look comfortable,” he comments as he approaches her in the room. “Your favorites. I’ll be fine with tea.” Yes, yes, he needs to eat, but later. Eating is boring — and sometimes makes him nauseous. “What tea should we have with our poetry?” He’ll set the tray down wherever directed.

Discarding her garments takes a great deal more effort than meets the eye. She does not have bespelled clothing beyond the sumptuous, buttery coat cut to her sinuous proportions and possibly the corset. Shifting them off takes Wanda actual effort, undoing stays and loosening ribbons, hooks peeled apart to loosen the ironclad grip upon her sylph’s frame. Folding up the black shirt and onyx damask corset, her gentled preparations neatly turn over the clothes and leave them poised upon a tabletop, tucked out of sight. Her jacket hangs from the back of a chair in similar timbre to the Cloak hung on its peg, albeit lacking a great deal of the character.

Marabou is the emblem of the Sixties, at least the early part, and the hallmark of feminine couture along with drifty bits of fringed lace and ridiculous ruffs, transparent designs, and horrible fabrics. Where on earth she located maribou heeled slippers in a dusty silver-blue shade, some bemused girl at a department store alone knows, but they go very well with his dark silk robe tied firm around her midsection, highlighting the wasp-narrow waist and Roma hips suitable for dancing with a coin-dappled sash counting every movement.

No sign of said belt, though the jealous caress of spider-woven threads clings to her, painted off her hipbone and dripping mid-thigh at best. Long legs folded under her acquire some modesty, though her heel anchored against the inner corner of her seat allows her toes to poke out fetchingly. Thus, the marabou dangles over the floor, feathers fluttering with the least movement, heel several inches away from her own polished soul.

Witness the Sorcerer Supreme, playing at breakfast in bed, or close enough to countenance him delivering it. Her lips part for the admission of a low purr, the best hints of a smile. “That looks delicious.” Why she isn’t staring at the tray would be enough to make Tommy shriek and Lorna run away in nausea, Billy to bury his face in Teddy’s shirt, for the depths of desire and affection mingled together speak to the great weakness of Doctor Strange.

A simple question: “Only tea?”

He might want to rethink that possibility, and the flick of her tongue paints over the terrain of her plush lips to wet them again. “Your favourite blend. Allow me to taste it?” She brings out a book from under her silken hemline and waves it about, then cracks the hard covers to find her place. Clearing her throat, she draws her finger lightly along the row of text and breathes out those notes, so eternal, in slow cadence:

"Pleasure is spread through the earth
In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find."

With tray still in hand, even after processing her various answers in voice and expression alike, Strange listens to what she reads.

It seems to be a challenge of sorts, with how she’s paused — either that, or she’s waiting on him to actually put the tray down, so that’s probably the best thing to do at this point. To the tea table it goes, near enough that either would be able to reach out and snag every sampling of food and utensil alike, and then he stands before the chaise, looking down on her. Without a single button undone or sleeves rolled, the Sorcerer takes a moment to appreciate the delight she presents in robe and Maribou slippers alike (where on earth did she find those anyways?) before humming out a sigh.

“I know that writer’s name begins with a W, but I can’t remember it.” She is Beloved; she gets to hear of his follies, which apparently include forgetting the name of a long-dead poet. “If we’re having my favorite tea, that makes it the blackberry and sage blend, with cinnamon, from O’Rileys. Very nice palette of flavors, I think. Juicy, not too sweet on the tongue, just enough to avoid needing honey — though I assume you’ll want some stirred into yours.” A quirked eyebrow corresponds to a small smile. “Blackberry honey in your blackberry tea? Or one of the others?”

She found those maribou slippers at a perfectly nice, suitable department store where they charge only a leg in this city, and leave the arm to the likes of Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. Those elegant pieces mingled with the absurd are part of the sartorial fabric of the United States in 1964, something to be eyed with horror and dismay in photographs some years later when the collective drunkenness has worn off and everyone moved on to heavily rhinestone- and sequin-encrusted denim jackets, massive football player shoulder pads, and pointed-toe shoes that bring back shades of the fourteenth century.

A drift of her toe sets the slipper to lolling about, threatening to fall. Constant curls are needed to keep gravity at bay and tease the focus of the sorcerer, especially as she lazily draws circles around and around, anticlockwise to clockwise for no reason other than her own blithe delight. “William. Wordsworth, yes?” Her teeth sink into her lower lip, and still the blue feathery footgear flicks and sways. “Blackberry honey upon a spoon. Then a little more in the tea, another of them. Not right to let the flavour be overpowered. I like the juice and the cream too much, yes? A tea so strong it might be the fruit I eat instead.”

She licks her lips, to underline the point.

Tremulous fingers capture the corners of the little poetic chapbook, tenderly marking the edge without the penchant for flicking or dog-earing.

"By their floating mill,
That lies dead and still,
Behold yon Prisoners three,
The Miller with two Dames, on the breast of the Thames!
The platform is small, but gives room for them all;
And they're dancing merrily.

"From the shore come the notes
To their mill where it floats,
To their house and their mill tethered fast:
To the small wooden isle where, their work to beguile,
They from morning to even take whatever is given;
And many a blithe day they have past."

Ah, Wordsworth. He nods, the name springing its bevy of mental connections milliseconds after she says it.

“Easily done. One spoonful for you, another for your cup of tea, and none for me.” The Sorcerer’s smile curls a little cheekier still, but he kneels to the tea service always readied on the other half of the tea table itself. As he prepares, he listens to the reading of the poem. Lovely cadence, taking on a whole other life entirely with her accent. Certain vowels rounded, consonants hit harder or softer, and the one who stirs a heaping spoonful of fruit-laced honey into the tea before him tries hard to avoid clinking metal to inner curvature of the cup. That would interrupt the lilt of her patient exposition.

Only once she’s done does he hold up the steaming demitasse on its saucer. His own rests on the table’s surface still.

“Tea, oh nightingale? You’ll find it easier to keep your tongue loose if your mouth is wetted.” Offered up so blithely, with the light impression of a helpful notation about oration in general. In his other hand, the silver spoon with its collection of golden confection awaits. Once the saucer is accepted, thus is the spoon also delivered to her waiting lips.

Even if he’s dying to, in his heart of hearts, Strange does not, by any means, make airplane sounds.

Applying those sounds may work for a mischievous little platinum-haired boy and a dimpled brunet flailing his fists about, hocus-pocus hands in practice, but to their mother? Highly unwise. Perhaps there was an indication of that in the future, a moment gathered around a kitchen not entirely unlike the sanctum’s, or perhaps the sanctum’s itself, trying to catch up around a meal while one babe hungrily chomps through a dish of honeyed bread and the other wants to babble noisily on and on about invisible monsters. Don’t even go there. That’s what baby noises will net him.

“Thank you,” says the witch, knowledgeable to all manners, and she tips her head forward a little. Her penchant for honey is a noted weakness, and fear the hummingbird in a cloak of ruby and garnet willing to hum about the floral display in search of rich, tasty nectar. Her preferred energy source in its strongest, ripest flavour, those savory and sweet blends formed in the petals of a pretty bloom, cannot be overly denied anyways. Her tongue touches her palate, lightly cleaving upwards, and suppressing the possible thickness that prolonged speech without adequate refreshment might call for.

Waiting, he may well find her pinching the neck of the spoon and guiding it to her lips, savouring the decadent flavouring he offers. How to avoid gluing her tongue and lips together, did she get so greedy? A little flick of the tip here and there swizzles around the concoction, giving her quiet satisfaction, whilst the tea is another matter entirely. With the spoon in her mouth — the only choice — she takes the tea, and then sets that aside to preserve the book from an accident.

“Where am I? Oh, yes. This is rather bucolic, but no.” She shuts the covers and sets it aside, too, nudged against her thigh for another thicker volume bound in cloth, paper sliced and rough around the edges, thickly woven to allow for a healthy crack when she seeks what she wants. Fingers walk between the selections, blocks of black printed text swishing by.

"Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art-
Oh, and so the famous idyll begins, the high profile spun with all the sunny honey. She has to measure out the meter beat by beat, discovering which way to go, for the natural sounds and chords don't fit together upon her mind's profound voice the same way they would for him. Her finger slides under sentence by sentence, leaping among the pebbled boulders cast up by English.

"Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors-
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death."

Tea and spoon delivered thus — and chuckling muted at her momentary fight with a mouthful of sticky honey — he can attend to his own cup. There’s a bit of room, on the end of the chaise, and there Strange settles. His first sip proves the brew just shy of scalding, the perfect temperature, but what else would the enchanted teapot deliver but the utmost pinnacle of quality for said component? The next is allowed to seep over and around his tongue and his sigh hums again, nearing baritone in contentment. Such a spectrum of natural flavoring. Summer encapsulated in the bright notes of berry, the warm homey touch of herb, the exotic spice of the cinnamon — all combined to loosen him up all over in satisfaction.

The change of books is noted with silent interest and the poem begins with the ringing of familiarity. Oh…wait a tic…! OH. If at any moment she pauses to regard him overtop the edge of the volume, she’ll see recognition dawning with a glint in his eyes and lips pressed together against a foolish grin. Assuredly, he awaits with held breath until she passes the line of ‘new soft fallen mask’ and then releases it in silent relief mingled with a frisson of memory.

Attentive, her audience, as he sips at his tea, and once she finishes, he nods and salutes her with drink in hand.

“Well done, «Beloved». I believe I’ve heard that one before,” understatement of the century, “and the author is…Keats.” A flash of bright teeth to go with the sparkle of pride in his memory. “I’m not one for memorizing poetry, but…it reminds me that we all had to take a public speaking course in high school and my mother convinced me that a poem would be best. Keats as well, actually.”

Those words take considerably longer to form than some she might select, fitting through the rhythm Keats instilled upon the page. How can one possibly encapsulate the essence of a starry love between them in better language than its very master, a tempestuous libertine given to excess and grim depressions between flights of brilliant fancy?

In short, repeat, rather than attempt to replace. In this world, after all, the mighty and wondrous works of prose stretch back two thousand years and the masters delivering timeless messages and spellbinding visions need not be exclusively drawn from the living, active poets or Wanda’s own imperfect linguistic grasp to be treasured.

The grin might halt her, wither any momentum to tumble over itself as she threatens to trip, but he will not totally disarm her. On the contrary, she keeps speaking through the end even when the maribou shoe drops to the ground, clattering off the floor and flopping to a halt. Putting aside her book much later, when silence finally allows, she dares to meet his eyes.

“You are mine.”

No more, no less. Affirmation in the handful of syllables, and their inverse awaits to be spoken. She nods to the book of Keats; what he seeks surely is in there.

“And you…are mine.” Thus the response, easily said because, quite simply, it is truth. It is indelible. It is.

Setting his cup upon its saucer, he takes the book from her. It turns out two hands are needed to explore its contents and he stretches to set aside the drink on the tea table in order to thumb to the index.

“No, not that one…no…was it?” Flipping to the page in question, those dark brows knit in a pensive frown as he mouths the first few lines and then shakes his head. “No.” Back to the index. Fingertips begin the process of displacing the silvered hair at his temples and then freeze, a sign that he may have found the one in question. Farther back in the volume, this one, and Strange reads the first few lines silently, eyes flicking across and down the page — and then he grins like a Cheshire Cat. “Oh yes…” Sibilance on the end of the word announces the coalescence of the memory he needs and then he closes the book of poetry. Placing it down upon an empty space between them, he actually settles back more onto the chaise, the picture of indolent relaxation, and clears his throat.


A raise of her chin encourages him to continue for Wanda truly needs that tea, discarded as it has been all along. She picks up the saucer and the cup, the click of them together resonant through the chiming porcelain note. A finger curled around the handle allows her the freedom to cup her fingers to the curved body of the vessel, absorbing heat directly through skin-to-china contact, and her body slips harder to the side as she sinks supine into the plush seat. Architectural designs of the tearoom bespeak comfort in austerity, elegance in minimalism, and encourage the appreciation for all elements through senses attuned to the moment rather than cluttered by the white noise of regular existence.

No wonder she craves its presence so, especially when turning her attention entirely upon the good Doctor.

“You are too much pleased by this.” Observation is a simple business, sometimes, and she states the obvious. “We should do this more often, yes? A good way for you to relax.”

And that is paramount in his line of work.

A flick of his brows upwards and counter-tilt to and fro of his head. “I suppose. I’m amazed I can remember the poem to start with, truthfully. I was annoyed at how long it was, but I did get the A I needed.” A final smirk and the orator sighs. “It’s called ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, by Keats.” The Sorcerer nods to the book lying on the plush chaise fabric.

His attention rests upon her face and he tries his very best to imbue the emotional inflection needed in the performance to impress her. Vain little jaybird that he is.

His voice takes on a weary note at first, one she might have heard before when his body longs for sleep and shows in his tone.

“My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”

The tiredness fades and instead, takes on a note of distant fascination, perhaps akin to the dizzy dreamer she once saw after he’d imbibed the Water of Life. All the while, the quiet focus is on diction and painting the world around them in Keat’s vivid wonderings through gentle rolling recitation.

“O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:”

As he recites, he watches her expressions and savors them as Keats would that fine goblet of wine.

“Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”

This last section seems to take him a bit more effort. As adult now, battered by life and with a Mystical mantle at his shoulders, it is a constant ghostly worry of his, mortality — even if he is truly Tolkienian by dint of Death outmaneuvered. Still, he rallies after a beat of pause and the small smile is encouraging, even to himself.

“Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,

And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;

White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.”

A new name of endearment, perhaps? Darkling? Will she remember this moment if he uses it in passing? One thing is true and it’s that, according to his personal experiences, Keats got it wrong: Death is she. This stanza too, he works through by focusing instead on the now and the beguiled audience before him.

“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.”

It might be a bit goofy, but this part does require an eloquent hand gesture or two, and so he indulges in it, rolling a wrist to offer up a curled palm as if coaxing down said bird from its flighty perch.

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?”

The last stanza slows in its recitation, his deep voice drawing out the words until an upkick in pitch denotes the poet’s ending uncertainty. Strange drops his upraised hand to his thigh with an audible slap and shrugs, reverting back in time momentarily to that devil-may-care adolescent with gangly limbs and dirt-stained hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans standing before the class.

“And that is that.” This pronouncement is followed by a large mouthful of tea to coat his dried throat. It has been some time since he’s spoken so much in one sitting. Nonchalance is tempered by a bit of redness about the tips of his ears and the tiny bit of expectant breathlessness that makes his pulse kick up one beat higher. Did he get the Witch’s passing grade?


Oh vast and wonderful acclaim should be showered upon him, a leonine share of appreciation distributed by a rapt audience hanging on the cusp of every sound to leave his mouth in the rolling stentorian oratory of a professed student of all. How not to shiver with delight at the concoctions raised by a master poet, and spoken by the heart’s beloved?

Playing the audience, for practical and historic reasons, requires Wanda to stay quiet to provide the focal point for Strange’s eloquent, heavy words. She regards him on high, reactions mere suggestions, not evinced by loud sighs or exclamations, nor swooning hard in the upholstered chaise. She honours his efforts where it suits the pauses, her unwavering gaze upon his features sometimes going unfocused, and the hum of agreement when a particular word moves her.

But she will not interrupt, that is an absolute guarantee.

His mesmerizing gestures give pantomime an aspect of his performance along with the strictly vocal experience, and her heart drops to the thud of his meter, every pulsation landing among the beats scored in the poetic effusions of the whispery ode. What truths be captured and cultivated by a man two centuries dead that so engage her now?

A sigh, then, a listless curl of her fingers seeks the teacup when he is done, and she slowly unfolds those long golden legs to dangle fecklessly from the chair, one over the padded arm and the other spilled akimbo to test the silken robe’s capacity to maintain any sense of decorum. To move is deadly, so very revealing.

“Pretty words,” she murmurs. It’s clearly to get a rise out of him as she raises her teacup to her lips. A spoonful of honey helps the desire go down…

“Hmm. Everyone’s a critic.” His mutter is spoken into the confines of his tea cup before Strange amends, “It is a good poem. I got the passing grade that I wanted.” And so there.

At the end of the chaise, he leans forearms on his knees and looks to her, so comfortably slouched in that silk robe, and the beginning touches of amusement begin to filter back into his face.

“Your turn, find another poem? How about…something by…Tennyson.”

Would that they could spend all day ensconced in the Sanctum’s tea room. Perhaps luck is on their side and they just might not be interrupted by Fate or teenagers alike.

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