1964-02-14 - Penguins of Love
Summary: Happy Valentine's Day! Let’s celebrate a Roman’s decapitation. How romantic! What could make it better? PENGUINS.
Related: Valentine's Devisings and Viking Vices
Theme Song: Desert Rose - Sting
strange wanda 

It had been planned over a period of many days — okay, weeks. Much hemming and hawing had occurred along with multiple notes crumpled and tossed to the fireplace in the living room. Cloak had tilted its collars left and right, hovering with charming uselessness over his shoulder during the process, banished every now and then in a pique of frustration to its stand. Never one to ignore a command, it hung quietly, at least until its master reneged and they both Gated off somewhere to do…something that didn’t involved planning.

There had been some suggestions in response to him querying others.

Planting flowers hadn’t been a terrible one, but the weather hasn’t been the best.

Running amuck in some predatory guise and hunting down prey followed by a roll in most debaucherous behaviors…didn’t much appeal to him.

A gift of unwavering faith and diamond-tensile connecting strands between them imbued to a relic…this has been given.

So, it was up to him. No pressure or anything. At all. None. Hard enough to make the Witch crack a smile, how so to impress her on this day?

It starts off simply enough and that’s if she’s managed to stay in bed like he asked her to so many minutes back:

With breakfast in bed. Nudging the bedroom doors open with the outer line of his body, Strange appears again with a tray covered in all of her favorites: freshly-peeled Satsuma oranges, slices of bread spread liberally with the honey of her choice (inquired as to which before he left the room, wrapped up in his red bathrobe), a pile of honeycomb dripping still with its bounty — all that his sugar-loving Consort could wish to eat. With noted grace, he walks to the side of the bed and stands there, looking rather grave…at least until the smile begins to show.

“Your breakfast, my lady. How would you have it? Feed yourself or be fed? Also, your tea — what do you wish?”

It does not help her only calendars tend to be the luni-solar, learned by heart, something she could recite being practically anywhere on earth. Such calendars tend to be devoid of religious celebrations aside from those hitting someone on the upside of the head with a cultural stick; even Wanda knows when Chinese New Year and Christmas fall, Samhain and the equinoxes dependent on hemispherical position.

But the story of a cherub made from a gruesomely murdered saint? Not so much. The fuss lies beyond her ken, except she has legitimate reason to indulge the Sorcerer Supreme on his forays beyond dabbling in the arts and returning home with a tentacle tear in his garments, slime running down his hair, and a triumphant look.

As far as the model of sixties domesticity goes, they’re actually quite normal, or paralleling the norms as society would define it. He comes home to a pretty homemaker in a great lovely house, dinner is usually on the table in some capacity, and tea replaces coffee in their routine but it’s forever at the ready. Presumably there is some degree of a job on her part, but not an occupation which eclipses the primary role of caretaker, nurturer, and help meet.

Never mind she is a mistress over the Mystic Arts and a reality-warper, the center of a dimensional Venn diagram. Wanda gives him a focal point for family life such as three gods, twins from the future, and a highly distorted bonsai family tree goes.

Thus she remains in bed, cooling her toes by poking them out from under the sheets, giving a look to the approaching tray and the man who carries it. “Hmm.”

A pause follows, lingering a moment. “I am not so entirely hurt by the rose bush,” she announces. “Why it has a taste for blood I do not know, yet. Are we to head out again and uproot it somewhere less threatening than in front of the…” Oh dear. The lack of a right word here. “House the law people meet in?”

Carnivorous rosebushes showing up in Albany would be a problem.

“Why should I be…” Why would someone feed her? Self-sufficiency comes as second nature, but there must be a purpose to asking, one she accepts as needful almost bemused. A nod then, in that direction, though it’s wrought in uncertainty. “Surprise me to the tea. Thank you for this.” The scratches really aren’t that deep; she heals well.

Hmm. Part of the gesture appears to be lost to her, but that is okay because these moments of confusion are mild and commonplace enough that he isn’t as flustered as he used to be.

“No need to thank me, «Beloved.»” The affectionate glance is fleeting but intensely true, like the flash of sunlight from water’s surface. The food-bearing tray is set on the bed, far enough from the edge that nothing will spill but for a violent sudden rise on either’s part to disrupt its placement, and Strange then beckons as if to an invisible servant waiting in the open doorway. No servant, but the crimson Cloak, its dextrous fabrics imitating the hands needed to carry the tea tray into the room. No docile butler is it and the Sorcerer can’t help the wince against impending disaster as it curves around the end of the bed and pulls up short. Mad skills, oh enchanted garment — not a drop spilled or teapot or cup shifted much from their original placement on the surface. It hovers there, offering up the tea tray and then, as always, wiggles its collar.

“Yes, thank you,” he says with a wisp of wry humor at its antics even as he rescues the tray from it. “It’s the blend from Kamar-Taj, with the herb they call «Grace of Himavat». Mrs. O’Riley is missing it in her personal interpretation of the blend and without the acolytes there, she’ll never know what it is. I hate to provide it simply because, at one point, it will be gone.” Having properly expounded upon the rare flora, he hands off a cup to his Consort and then sits back down on the bed with his own in-hand. “Once you’re finished, we can get going.”

Oh yes, that rose bush. “The rose bush can stay there for now. Fight the lawyers for first blood drawn. Seems appropriate to leave it there, actually…” That is not at all a darkly-humored snort into his tea. Not at all.

“Mmph, right,” he murmurs before setting aside the vessel on the tea tray, charmed to float where he left it in mid-air. Picking up a half-moon of citrus fruit from its presentation upon white plate, with its oils that remind him of summer and seem like they hover on the cusp of visibly sparkling in their bright notes, he delivers it to her lips.

Without the airplane sound. Note this. Still no airplane sound. Give the man a cookie.

“I could try to raise whatever plants are needed here?” Trust a Witch of all people to know how to nurture and coax the most stubborn of plants, though African violets might be a challenge. She is no florakinetic, though certainly possessed of a gift to stir the earth to kindled life again.

The life of a tea bush, Camellia or something else, might be a find addition to the sanctum herbal garden. Surely it possesses one for all those rare components, and…

The notion strikes her, and she sits up, the silk sheet dropping into her lap and slithering off the white shirt stolen from the closet, not her side. “We could have a mountain garden.” Alpine herbarium, go! “The weather is almost right to break the earth. A few rocks and stones to make the bed, and then when early spring is here, we plant. Would it be allowed to go into the mountains and claim cuts and bulbs, introduce them?”

Happy Valentine’s Day, making a vestige of his life-changing journey at home, somewhere that requires no gate so much as stepping through the doorway into an open-air swatch of space possibly covered in barrels or practice dummies or grass. Surely there’s a hidden inner courtyard with a fair bit of sunny exposure.

A solution comes as she draws out a smile, pleased by her solution. Reaching for the cup, she turns it around, the stinging heat bleeding into her callused thumbs and slim fingers wrapped around the circumference. Add a trip to Kamar-Taj along with Argentina.

An unabashed grin shines upon the helpful Cloak as much as its master, its assistance recognized in part, and her knees pull higher as she sips the tea. A satsuma won’t stand a chance, quartered and each soft crescent pulled away and nibbled, destroyed in a matter of heartbeats. Honeyed bread will follow, the fruit-thick gift one of her preferred attributes for the day.

“Just think. Those poor law men will be in a duello before they know it.” Smug Witch.

Oh, that smile. That moonbow’s curve so hard to hunt down. His scarred hands stay idle in his lap as he takes in her quiet appreciation for what he’s offered up and this — this is worth every minute of strangling tentacles and slimed hair and scrubbing madly when things get into his ears.

Her idea isn’t half-bad and the Sorcerer nods as he takes up his steaming cup of tea. “I can see asking permission to collect the bulbs and having it granted.” Because he’s, you know, the Sorcerer Supreme and all…but it’s never bad idea to inquire. “I don’t know how the plants would tolerate the summer heat here; it can get muggy. Nothing a spell can’t fix, however. Hmm — could set up a temperature fencing, anchor the charm at each corner of the plot with a resonance stone. It would be nice to see some greenery other than grass in the courtyard out back.” A small space, yes, nothing bigger than to keep, say…a flying horse content now and then, and he’s no green thumb. A touch more of nature would never go remiss. “No carnivorous plants, however. I’d like to collect herbs without needing hawking gloves.”

His cup of tea is finished with the usual aggressive toss-back and he informs her dryly, “I wouldn’t spare any pity for the lawyers, «Beloved». They’re equally as blood-sucking.” Maybe this is too much American humor for her. Still, his eyes twinkle. “We’ll plan on a trip to Kamar-Taj another time. Speaking of time…”

Strange glances down at his wrist, at a watch that is clearly not there, and pats the other palm against his thigh. “We are expected. Dress for…mild weather, though I expect that it might be a bit windy.”

Should she be finished devouring the pure energy available to her, he scoops up the tray and sets it aside as to allow her to escape the covers. Himself, he gets to raiding his closet for appropriate attire. Slacks this time, a summer’s khaki in color, and a polo shirt in kermes-red and…boating shoes. Should Wanda have any inkling as to the location that requires said get-up, maybe the light, silk-lined bomber jacket in black throws her off entirely.

Zipping up said outerwear to the top third of his sternum, the good Doctor eyes himself in the and nods. Very good, hence the grin on his face as he turns back to the Witch.

“Whenever you’re ready, «Beloved».” The fleeting spark of amaranthine light in his irises is the clarion call to the Eye, which is simply there about his neck, hidden away beneath the jacket. Beneath the polo shirt, also about his neck, the recognizable chain of another diadem as bronze key.

From the corner of the room swishes the crimson Cloak, serpentining about him before assuming the oft-utilized form of a scarf. “Oh, maybe not…yes, alright,” he reneges, and the relic slings itself about his neck like some overly-fond python — that is, until he unwinds it and encourages it to hang along either side of the jacket’s middling zipper instead. There we go. All prepared for this date.

Alas, the garments she requires for spring do not differ from autumn or summer, except in apparent weight. The black jersey shirts worn under her corset sometimes become simple black dresses, the weight of the leggings or nylons conducive to the temperature she anticipates finding outside. Her only real differences come when need calls for disguise, like adopting the saffron robes of a Buddhist priest in Nepal and Tibet. She still has those, somewhere, faded, the sole proof of watching a mountain fall and a people forgotten in time emerging into the world.

The necklace winking at her throat is worth a veritable ransom, glimmering teardrops of the gods suspended in perpetual animation to adorn her gilded neck. She thumbs the chain thoughtfully while crawling out of the nest of cool covers, leaving the hollow once occupied by her consort’s body rather reluctantly. Sleeping in is still an utterly newfangled thing to her.

How observant is she? Enough to assess the weight of matters and favour her tights rather than leggings, the same old boots, the same beloved and oft patched coat. For mere amusement, she pulls down a scandalous bit of skirt, ruffled on the diagonal cut in three sheer layers that still don’t reach further than lower thigh in the back. Trailing hanks threaten to broach the knees, though, the tail end of ribbon like additions. Shimmying into that is effortless, and then a shirt to match provides at least some coverage.

All hail the swinging sixties, full of all manner of excitement in fashion. She’s still in her habitual black, alas, but the wine-dark coat has an accessory of her narrow waist spanned by a nipped belt laced by Grecian obolus coins. If they plan on going to the Underworld, she’s got the dead paid for.

Someone really needs to introduce her into a sundress. A big hat. Something that isn’t limited to her current choices of stolen sorcerer’s garments, black on black, or very sparkly dresses to go dancing in.

“Will this do?” The question lingers on her lips, and she swivels, turning to let the skirt fluff and flare like a dark rose against the gilded stem of her legs. “Or am I not quite up to… to shape?” Metaphor or slang, her bane!

Her fingertips are held out to him to be claimed, pulling him in.


That skirt may twirl most gracefully around its wearer’s hips and it’s par for the course that the Sorcerer does appreciate every little airy flip of the garment.

Capturing her fingertips means the inevitable collision of encircling arms and aligned bodies. Even with the height discrepancy, it’s with equal fondness that he murmurs,

“You are ever in tip-top shape, oh bewitching one.” Curling a finger beneath her chin allows for a gentle upwards tilt, accenting it should it already exist. “You could wear a gunny sack and still claim my affections.” The smirk disappears upon her lips as he steals a kiss. It’s not bruising, not one for any silver screen, but the sweet coming-home of much-loved familiarity. The boys probably wouldn’t make faces since it lacks the essential dramaticism that sent them scattering the last time they wrinkled their noses. Speaking of noses, he indulges in a passing eskimo-kiss before pulling away if simply to breathe properly and add, “That will do perfectly.”

With Wanda in tow, fingers of one hand interlaced within her own, the short distance into the Loft is traveled and up to the raised dais beneath the Window Upon the Worlds they go. Habit, maybe some grandstanding on his part since he can open a Gate up anywhere within the Sanctum… Regardless, even as the oculus parting reality proper widens, rimmed in snapping golden lightning as always, he explains,

“I came across them when I was searching for your honey. The ones in the jars, for Christmas.” As if he really needs to clarify this, but still — he clears his throat and continues. “They’re shy, but we’re arriving in the middle of a very important time for them and I think we’re far enough into the night that we’ll be left alone — no tourists. We can see how they act naturally.”

Through the oculus comes the summer-warmed salt-laden waft of air, brisk on the edges for its passing affair with Antarctic icebergs and the open mileage of the ocean. It’s dark there, night as the Sorcerer mentioned, the ambient light other than what falls from the Gate that of the full moon in a sky as clear as can be. Leading her through it, their stepping transition is from wood to shifting sands, to dunes littered with hardy tufts of sea grass. With a gesture of ceasing, the rift in reality falls into nonexistence and leaves them standing there atop the blown mountain. Below them stretches untouched beach, a medley of granules and rolled stones at some points, graced by the shushing rush of the dark low waves with foam touched by argence. Strange inhales and exhales, no sight of his breath upon the wind.

“Mmm…I’ve been meaning to come back here. I’m glad to have a reason to.” He glances to the Witch, taking in her reactions.

Rather than decipher the riddle aloud when the Sorcerer Supreme plainly baits her, Wanda merely acknowledges his penchant for intellectual stimulation by giving him a slight nod. The Beloved earns his moments of sauciness, and baiting her with that decadent brew she reluctantly downs in a gulp or satsuma oranges at the end of their growing season earns him more than a few points.

Thus, the Windows find her reflection, if any, registered in calm. She walks through the firefly sparkler circle painted by his hands without hesitation, though warning signs alert her to any manner of activity; her fingers never stray far from her knives tucked away inside her deep, rubicund coat, anticipating trouble as oft as the Cloak languishes excitedly for a chance to pat faces.

Silvered moon renders her into argent shadow, diminishing eloquent gilt features to fair ormolu, liquid rills painted over a landscape deprived of colour and manifesting its splendours like an old daguerrotype in a hundred shades of grey. At once she throws open the gates to her Second Sight, hunting for proofs of a ghostly ship on the rocks or ancient dancers gathered under the sky to celebrate the turn of the seasons, or even the nearest leyline. That leaves her silent and profoundly still, as motion potentially guides her whilst she seeks something.

Is there something scampering? Whatever might be that lovely little noise.

Kiwis? Seems somewhat plausible, albeit the run of the surf to the beach would be appropriate. He did attend upon the southern hemisphere. Thousands of crepuscular fuzziness on the run makes the witch’s heart skip a beat in perked delight.

Tiny fairy penguins? Oh gods in their splendour, Oshtur might let her live down the squeaking descent to her knees, but Agamotto never will.

The running of the Maori? She will run away, if this be the case.

Seeing the glimmer of Sight bleed into her dark eyes makes his smile deepen and the Sorcerer Supreme blinks it over his own irises as well, stormcloud-gone-bolt-struck in hue. To their eyes, the night is expertly gilded in starlight to aid extra dimension of minor opalescence to each reflective surface. Far out in the distance, some multi-humped creature breaks the water’s surface and slowly slides under the surface once more; the ululating call reaches from a muted distance, a whale’s song far deeper in range than any living member of that family.

Here, there be serpents, if one knows where to Look.

Note too the myriad of little footprints impressed into the sand that seem to lead from the slow-rolling waves up to the base of the very dunes they stand upon. Putting a finger to his lips, he squeezes her hand and leads the way carefully down the less-acute slope on the far side.

"A little bird told me that it might be a good idea to come out during these next few weeks. It seemed appropriate on Valentine’s Day," comes the projection in his warm baritone, unheard but for by his Consort, the owner of one multi-stoned relic about her neck. "If we sit for a little, right over here, I think they’ll show again. We’ve startled them right now. They’re shy at first, but once they discover we’re safe, watch your fingers."

The stake-out place in question is in the lee of the dune, out of the immediate wind and any whipping up of sand, warmer too for the lack of breeze, and Strange sits down cross-legged. Patting the sand next to him, he glances up at Wanda.

"Have a seat, «Beloved». I can…" His eyes shift opposite from her, to his unguarded side, to what might be something more familiar to anyone who knows rabbits — or any warm-blooded digger of burrows. Even Malks. "Quick, sit!"

The faster she gets low, crouching, sitting, doesn’t matter, near to or touching him, the faster the reveal comes of beady little eyes. Out pokes first a dark-glinting beak, evolution’s touches for catching all manner of small marine fare. With jerky, tentative movements, a streamlined avian head follows, silver eyes blinking membranes over for clear vision. Dusky-blue atop, cloud-white below, perfect coloration for hiding from its predators, the little penguin, not a flightless-feather over a foot in height, bellies out onto the sand. Flippers slap as it makes its way to standing upright, peace-pale feet shuffling in place as it scans its surroundings…and freezes.

Both practitioners are given a long, hard one-sided stare before it looks dead at them, both eyes glittering with a focus that seems just this side of sentient…and then it shakes its head sharply in a corkscrewing motion. Settling feathers? Why yes, but not the sleek waterproofed tuxedo in ocean’s palette. An ephemeral layer of translucent longer feathers flick into view, solid at the edges as if drawn by an angel’s brush in ivory; panes, almost, like the glass-winged butterflies of the southern Americas. Primary and secondary flight feathers lie with natural flow along the flippers; not a short and triangular stump-tail, but one that spreads ghostly pinions wide and dusts up sand left and right like a maid cleaning the entryway. A crest lifts and settles, giving the tiny bird more the appearance of the world’s smallest harpy eagle, albeit all with the spidersilk of dream-feathers.

“Little blue Fairy penguins,” he whispers, grinning from ear to ear at Wanda.

Vishanti help a sea serpentine creature or a gargantuan whale off shore if it makes an attempt to eat a penguin in sight of the Witch. She might well fling herself into the Southern Ocean, corset or not, and sing to the waters to tune currents in her favour, compositions plundered from melodies plucked out of the briny depths.

She can move rapidly when need be, far more given to ducking out of sight when her twin flies off to cause mayhem, the dull hen left when the peacock goes out to gather up all the attention. Pulling her dark coat round her, she slides into the lee of the dune, measuring the part of the slope least likely to capsize under her sparing weight. Fragile vegetation strives to withstand punishing conditions between wave and wind, sun-beaten sand and scoured site all colluding to destroy any but the toughest plants.

So she sinks into place, knees tucked under her, shoulders lowered and hands crossed over the bend of her sheltered legs. Head low, the wind barely toys with her hair caught underneath her jacket collar. Leather guarantees safety from any random chill, or pecking beak for that matter. Whilst the Sorcerer looks on, she measures the distance to the multihumped shape plowing through the waves offshore.

No, she doesn’t trust that damn thing one bit.

All the better, really, because the perception of a little waddly bird on dark, broad webbed feet comes almost at a level with it. Contrary shifts of tail pinions emphasize the tiny avian torpedo navigating the alien landbound world upright by shifting like someone trying to shuffle a box awkwardly across the uneven terrain. Behold the shining belly illuminated in fine detail under the moon, the rustle across the springing tufted sea grasses, the flappy winglets giving an even more ridiculous profile.

It’s nature’s answer to a submarine and a V-2 rocket all in one, if they were both dressed in dreamy Victorian finery.

What else can she do?

“I want one.” Of course she does. The witch peeks at the wobbly creature, its distrust equal to her own usually. Chalk up snow leopard and tiny penguin to her list of forms to learn.

Strange’s stifled snort of a laugh at her absolutely-serious announcement causes the creature to make some quiet squawking call that ends in a trill. Even as he covers his mouth against more chuckling, more of the little creatures begin emerging from their burrows. One head becomes four becomes a dozen and the waddling emergence begins.

The nearest one, having been the first out and the first to decide that the two casters aren’t going to do any dastardly, waddles closer, attention flipping from Sorcerer to Witch and back with all the flitting focus known to birds.

Greetings, Fae-kin. The nod given to the little blue is probably completely alien, seeing as humans don’t speak penguin and vice-versa, but the creature blinks at him a few times before shuffling closer. The trill seems to have a curious lilt to it. My mate. Ghostly feathers lift and fall as the Witch is eyed dubiously. Sand shifts as it waddles a bit closer, now within touching distance of Strange’s boat shoes. In the usual manner of short attention spans, it pecks a few times at the laces of said shoes before untying one entirely.

Shaking his head slowly and sighing, the Sorcerer decides that a tricksy streak is inherent in all Fae creatures.

“It’s courting season right now,” he whispers to Wanda, even as the birds begin going about their business of huddling in small groups, breaking away in what could be construed as raucous spats full of awkward yodeling and belly-flops to the silky sand as they chase one another away from potential companions. The males stand with puffed-out chests, flippers thrown wide, Fae-feather crests thrown up to full expansion, and mouths agape in silent menace. Whomever breaks first gets harried off. “I think they mate for life. I had to ask one of the locals. We’re in Adelaide, Southern Australia, in case you’re curious.” One finger slowly points towards the sky. The constellations are those of the southern hemisphere; she might recognize them, being so closely in tune with celestial bodies. “They renew their pledges to each by… never mind, just watch.” His murmur finishes even as an embattled pair bullrush past, sand flying, and the one penguin falls in an awkward bumped slump over his shoes. Brushing grit from his face, Strange watches the little blue struggle for a bit before righting itself and preening back glassy feathers into place.

No-penguin saw that. No-penguin. We cool.

“We’re not taking one home,” he adds, glancing at her with eyebrows lifted in equal seriousness, the smile rounding out the statement. “There’s Aralune. Besides, if we bring back a Fairy Penguin, Merlin is going to bring home a dragon, and «Beloved»…a dragon.” His whisper contains as much exasperation as possible.

Latticed laces on her leather boots press to the sand, flat ankle to knees, and Wanda’s soles are hidden under her jacket anyways. She presents a very low statue to those beings of modest stature, folded up neatly, bend over.

Eyes glitter at the admission these fluttery little birds are going about their courtships, picking mates to form nests with and raise the next generation, a ritual as old as the islands risen from the ocean in their rough-edged splendour. Cooling lava and barren rock are no hindrance to most of the penguin species. How soon did they leap to the remnants of the Zealandia or ancient Australia’s craton continent and form their colonies, chattering and quarreling like a great extended family, bickering in age old rhythms governing every breed of animal including man himself? Questions to ponder in the bright light cast by a tarnished moon on high, brilliant and lovely where it rides over the star-speckled night.

They sit in relative silence, judging the events before them as anyone viewing a performance might, trying to understand subtexts and actions when the whole art takes place in another language.

Angry peep-squawks mark another scuffle somewhere nearby, and she holds fast, her arms braced on her upper thighs to avoid her going totally flat or falling onto her nose in the sand, laughing at the ungainly one penguin refusing to participate at all, a curmudgeon on his fat little tummy. Burrow after burrow mark the coastline and provide shelter for the less bold of them running from the water or to it, flippers up and flapping. Queer, unfamiliar little rattle squawks play over the hiss of the waves, evoking memories of sistrums and rattles, percussion they might just add to nature’s rhythmic melody.

Something about it all may be soothing, as much as it thrills, and the time spent away from cares of horrors lured to Earth as a beacon, gods fighting over scraps of continents, or even aliens diminish on the battle of two clacking beaks and slapping flippers, little clawed feet dancing about and the shuffle waddle of the small gossamer-garbed birds seeking to earn their piece of fate in another generation.

“Mm? Yes, we had one for a bit. He slept in the forest,” she answers in a distracted measure, measuring the spill of the shoreline, the sand’s position and, perhaps, the best way to nudge along two of the quarrelsome avians. Power gathers, guided in a minor twist of a spell forged in the simplest mudra. A breath of sound passes in a whisper, forged into three implicit syllables bending luck with a benedictory hand gesture, fingers up.

Yes, Strange, his consort just blessed a fairy penguin.

A large part of him wants to whisper back, “YOU DID NOT”, but knowing his Consort, she probably did. That she goes about shifting the fates of the local seabird population is probably the cutest thing yet — and he reaches out to place light fingertips atop her wrist. Not inhibiting, just reminding her that he’s the Shepherd of Fate and nudging along his flock shouldn’t be done without very good reason.

“Let them figure it out for themselves,” Strange chides with a laugh. She’s so enamored! “Remember that some of them are already mated.”

The single penguin at his feet has been eyeing them with silent curiosity, one scabby foot resting on the end of his boating shoe, and it finally seems to come to some penguin-ish conclusion. Waddling away from them, it disappears amongst its cohorts on a pathway that leads it towards the rocky section of the shoreline.

“I haven’t figured out how they do it.” Tucking his knees up against his chest, the Sorcerer wraps his arms around his legs and glances over at his Consort. “Do you think they audition? Serenade? Dance for one another?” A snort escapes him. “Tiny penguin tango?”

Spell, rather than reality warp, applies here, the modest bestowal of a blessing through the simplest of fashions. Shifting about fate and fortune stand on two different spectra, as far as the child of Chaos is concerned, and giving a nudge in the right direction for a bird to find the appropriate mate is a little different than electing penguin the emperor of Antarctica and the united colonies of South Georgia, South Ossetia, and South Dakota.

“That one would not. Could you not see? It lost its mate. Or had something, gone now. The look in its… self… “ The Sight is with her, and what is to say the witch does not hear the hum of discordant Venus on the rise of its simple life pattern, glowing around its sleek body, a scar universal to any species bound to another of its choosing? Nothing. Proof she has an empathic bone in that body somewhere, anyways.

Is that little bird planning on bringing up a fish or a bit of krill as a love offering to the Sorcerer Supreme? Probably not. The threat of it courting her consort will not bring out the worst of the witch, but on the other hand, she may not let him live down the adoration of a 30 centimeter tall bird honking affectionately from a rock.

She looks up to the sorcerer supreme in all his surprisingly casual attire, forcing herself to slowly sit up rather than quickly, and risking the ache in her lower back as a result. “Love at first look. They make themselves look good to one another, their dance and their display. Beak up, and so. You did the same for me.”

In her opinion, anyways.

A bit sobered for the idea that a creature prone to mating for life might return home one day to an empty burrow, to cries unanswered, Strange watches the blessed penguin leave its bickering and disappear into the myriad others shuffling about on the sands. Wanda’s comment per her own interpretation on their initial meeting blows away the momentary gloom and he smirks at her.

“I suppose one could say that I preened a little for you.” A little, he says. That fog surrounding them didn’t need such a strong Word to dispel it. “I couldn’t resist. You were such a plumped little thing in that corset.” He must mean feathers puffed, assuredly.

That singular penguin, bravest to emerge first from the burrow, apparently finds what it’s searching for in the flotsam cast up in the tide line. Holding it in beak, it begins to make its way back towards the group in general. No krill, not a dead fish missed over by the terns or gulls, something else entirely. Something that would appeal to a Fairy Penguin. It dances back and forth, stumbling when bumped, leaning back to avoid prattling couples going on about territories and shared living spaces, and eventually emerges again.

It waddles over to the pair of humans and stops again at the boat shoes of Strange. It interrupts him entirely.

Yes? The projected thought makes the bird tilt its head towards him…and then take a few shuffling side-steps before the Witch’s boots.

Dropped at her feet and followed by a purrling croon is what appears to be a hunk of ironstone, a local rock found scattered in places throughout Southern Australia. If picked up and overturned, not dull dark rock greets the eyes of the practitioners.

No, but a flawless white opal, splintered through and through again with facets of scarlet and storm-cloud blue, citrine and amber, somehow cleaved to a flat plane and preserved against chipping or scratching by luck that only the gods know.

The Sorcerer looks from the offering to his Consort and his grin is impish. On the scale of the great trickster Puck having found a donkey-headed man lost in his forest.

“Why, «Beloved», look at this. A perfect pebble. From a Fairy Penguin no less. I would be jealous, but…he’s a fine little fellow.” The penguin in question tilts its head, silver eyes never leaving the seated form of the Witch.

“Plump? But I was not very large. I am still not.” Apparently the finer points of being preened and puffed up are completely lost, one of those statements caught in the cracks of understanding. Wanda looks oddly at her beloved, brushing sand off her knees.

Whatever the case he holds, one of those little fairy penguins marches proudly over the uneven ground in pursuit of something. Trust the Sorcerer Supreme to maintain some sort of psychic link, the gift of three-in-one. She lofts her brows in unspoken question to Strange, assessing perhaps whether he belongs to some hive mind or magic incinerates the usual barriers separating mankind and beast.

The stubby beak knocking along the ironstone warrants a bit of a curious look, though Wanda remains frozen as the short bird approaches her. All the better to present less of a threat now she’s more upright, matching Strange for position if not actual stature. The stone rolling towards his shoe warrants a tightening of her lips, shoulders quivering while lightly plucked.

Fine. She’s grinning, the mobility of her smile widening suddenly. Just wait, the blue, sleek animal will hop in his lap next and request protection from the vile sea-demon Ashtoraxyn’gah offshore.

No, instead, for once it courts her. Her eyes widen and then narrow in speculation, flicking towards Strange. Did he put the bird up to this?

Her fingers slide off her bent leg, down to the sand, slow enough not to alarm. Mind you, if those puffed feathers floating as light as spider gossamer on the wind happen to be in reach, she might just stroke one if she can. The offer to take the fairy penguin home is still valid, for all she isn’t quite serious. Still, the bird’s ransom warrants a cautious look, then picking it up.

“He wears a suit,” she murmurs. “He is very handsome.”

After a moment, she whispers, “I vascu as vraha.” Another of those blessings flowers out of the penguin’s happy dreams of warm burrow and full tummy, plentiful fish and many other bodies in the colony helping to keep warm and satisfied. It doesn’t take much to bestow a little grace on a bird, nor does it have lasting impact, other than to assure feathery tummy lies on comfy grass.

“You do like suits.” His agreement in quiet baritone, melodious for the entertainment of the whole affair. Resting his chin on his folded forearms, Strange watches the little bird and his Consort have their moment and feels…oddly content. He’d been fussing for so long about how to make this day a happy one to be remembered. Who knew that plucking out a struggling Fairy Penguin from sifting water-logged sand in the turbulent undertow of storm-whipped waves would have led to this?

It’s not a small gesture, this perfect pebble, and as the penguin stretches up tall, gossamer luna-moth feathers ribboning in the wake of flicking its flippers madly and the quick shake-down of sleek feathers, he projects a brush of a thought towards the creature.

You honor her and me. Thank you. Accompanied is a barrage of images and attempted sensations akin to what blessing the Witch bestowed upon the bird; parallels drawn to the best of his ability in the yawning gulf between the adventures of penguin-dom and the daily lives of humans. The burrow of the Sanctum, bedding warmed for shared space, two eggs with gaping demanding mouths (You hear that, boys? Demanding.) to appear once hatched, and hearing the wind blow without worry of it ruffling peace.

There’s all the time in the world to reach out and sneakily touch those fairy-feathers if she wants to; the little blue eyes the Sorcerer with those near-metallic eyes and seems to want to say something but for the ability to do so. With those moments passed, it comes to some penguin-ish conclusion and thus, abandons the two humans for the company of its own kind.

Watching the dapper fellow disappear into the crowds, hectic with the earnest attempts to rekindle the mate-bonds within each pair, Strange huffs a quiet laugh.

“I bet he’ll find a plump little hen of his own easily enough. He can provide. Generous too,” he adds, looking over at his own mate with her perfect pebble. Eyes still brushed with frosted-violet rise back up to her face from the white opal so secreted away in its unassuming framing. “And I know you’re wondering if I put the creature up to it. I did not. Ah, gods below, I wish I did, but…no. All I did was unstick his feet last I was here. The waves must have taken the sand out from beneath him, he was having troubles getting free.” The Sorcerer points off to the edge of the waves, now much calmer than the day he originally stumbled across the colony.

That smirk curls more. “At least he didn’t vomit fish on your boots.”


One fingertip does it, reaching for the fluttery edges of a dreamy soft bit of down, something when wet forms suitable armour for the deep-diving bird more comfortable in water than on land. She cannot resist herself. Can she be blamed, really, for longing to know whether the down is metallic thread sharp as a pin, or something softer than a baby’s hair against her cheek?

Not as though she picks up the bird and rubs it against her cheek, though the idea could be germinating there in the wild spaces of her mind. Nonetheless, the stone she tucks away in the inner pocket of her coat, somewhere secure.

For a time, she is content to let Strange decide on the proper means of communication while leaning back a little, straightening her aching lower spine, rubbing fingers deep into the light material of her dress. The stinging nettle effect of the rosebush hasn’t done her any favours, though scratches barely skim the surface.

“I am glad he did not feel sick. I am not his baby bird.” Right, wouldn’t that be romantic, beak-lock to nose and a fresh stomach of fish regurgitated upon the unsuspecting. That’s a brilliant curse. Must remember that one.

Reaching out, she runs the back of her hand against Strange’s temple down to his jaw, her knuckles cool and her fingers gritty lightly with sand. But it’s an unusual gesture for her, one speaking volumes in and of itself.

“Thank you.” There could be many words to add to that, but it acts in its own right as she leans in against him slightly. For a man with all the world’s cares on his shoulder, let this be a silent reminder sometimes she understands coming second if it means moments such as these.

Would that the world could see how the Sorcerer Supreme melts for her. What underlying tension keeps him ever ready to react to incursions seeps away. Now he can be truly relieved. The gambit for treating her as she treated him — with a novel experience rather than physical object — proves symbolic enough for the holiday in question. Who knew of the subtly momentous results of surrounding oneself with the quiet chatter and courtship of the smallest penguins, truly Fae despite a cheeky naming by the mundane humankind.

Strange leans back, both into offered hand with gracing grit and into the smaller yet no less stronger frame of his Consort. Height differences allow for the shoulder freed up to her, the uppermost curve of thick locks tucked away beneath gem-dotted headband for him to rest his cheek against.

"Thank you." Heartfelt for how she is always there. Whether he likes it or not. Accented, of course, with a lingering kiss to those chestnut waves limned in star- and moonlight.

The sea shushes, reminding them that silence is too a gift. In the curls of foam, something else begins to occur. She might belatedly realize that he's noticed it for the lessening of weight against her, his attention perked.

"What the…" Strange cranes his neck, looking overtop the many little heads that bobble about still. "The foam on the waves, look."

It glows, electric-blue, liquid lightning with each gentle impact upon the sand. His mouth hangs open for the surprise, easily allowing the grim to expand until he too twinkles. Novelty, such delight!

How precious are these fleeting moments of peace, in an era of war and change? No matter the time in human history, external threats have perpetually put humankind and other hidden races at risk. The dimension’s integrity relies totally and utterly upon the welfare of its foremost guardian, a mystic watchman stationed by the porous barriers.

Strange keeps his watch, and in turn, she watches him. The Eye certainly grants him great strength, and immortality gained by besting Death assure he suffers no dire threat as killed so many of predecessors.

Her fingers seek out his damaged hand, bringing it up to her lips for another brushed silk benediction laid across the backs of his knuckles. Where scars trace the cartography of an ancient land, an effort by Nicodemus to save Stephen’s life, she does all she can to occasionally pay homage to the pathways bringing their lives together. Silent acceptance for his difficult road to healing, too, teaching him it means nothing to her that the neurosurgeon’s graceful and flexible fingers do not matter. This does.

This, the moment spent together, while birds launch themselves into the water or search around for a small burrow, some courting and others dancing, the raucous noise filling the air. Leaning into one another for shelter while the night wears on could be a happy way to spend the future - a few hours ahead of New York, at least - whilst dusk creeps into dawn. The golden-skinned witch’s eyes start to grow heavy right about the time he stirs himself to answer prickling curiosity, unweaving whatever caparison the luxuriant experience donned.

“Mmmf?” Rumbled in a query lower than her usual soprano, she blinks awake from the reverie. Wanda flicks her gaze over to the water, watching the black mantle spread among the rocks.

Starlight on the water.

Almost faster than he might credit, she’s on her feet, ignoring the jabbing pins and needles. A rush might not end well, but no matter to her, all the more to see what the phenomenon is.

What’s so wrong about jumping into the water? Boots will dry, the skirt and the nylons are water permeable. It might make more sense to do as she does, though, making a series of sharp gestures that bend her fingers in graceful arrangements, angles opened and closed as she channels force to buoy her up. Walking on the water, then, so when she’s floating over it, she can stare.

“What is this?“

“The waves,” he repeats for the soft questioning sound that escapes what sounds like a dozy Witch caught off-guard. “It’s like — ”

Fingers untangle at the speed of a dash and Strange is left catching himself off-balance on said hand in the shifted sand while little blues scatter left and right, chattering at the rudeness of the blur in scarlet passing.

He watches the smooth undulations of her hands, oddly appropriate for the fluidity of the surface she now stands overtop, staring down with that same wonder that makes his heart skip a beat. Funny how mirroring entices interest in humans — biology is a sneaky thing.

The Sorcerer makes his way down the beach at a more leisurely pace, hands in bomber pockets, until he stands just out of reach of each glittering crest washing up upon the pale sand that serves as pristine canvas for nature’s magic. Looking down the stretch of the coast both ways, he can See that what Mystical light exists emits from the quicksilver glow of the full moon reflecting from Fae-feathers. There might be something cavorting farther down near the small peninsula that marks a jut in the geography of the region, where ancient volcanoes left black rock behind, defeated by the hissing rush of the ocean. He narrows his eyes, but it seems content to remain at a far distance, shyer than the penguins hard at work; the deep-belling sea serpent is also absent, though that means nothing. The depths provide more than enough eerie nooks and crannies for gods-know-what to escape notice until far too late.

A rush of foam fluffs up around the toes of his boating shoes and he watches it flash in that cyaneous hue, the summer dawn captured in an intensity found nowhere else.

“I’m not sure… It’s not magic,” the Sorcerer comments, absolutely certain about this, at least. “The penguins aren’t bothered by it.” To prove his point, one pops up from the surf and bellies in through a shimmering mound of it. Shaking the glowing water free makes it appear momentarily leonine, ruffed in glaring blue droplets, and then it waddles on, calling to another bird within the fold. Squatting down, he places fingertips to the water retreating away. Where pressure breaks the surface, more light appears as if reacting to the touch. “A natural phenomenon. Not anything to do with static, I can’t feel anything like that.” Intrigued, the good Doctor scoops up some of the next wave and the tiny puddle in his hand remains dormant…until swirled with a shifting. “Plankton…? They’re tiny creatures that live in the ocean water, part of the food chain. Hmph, reminds me of biology in high school.” A wry smile; he loved the material, not the teacher — or the rest of his class. Straightening to full height, the water is returned to the waves and he wipes off sandy palms on his slacks.

It hits him then as he glances up, in that belated sense to impart even more gravity. Time slows a bit, cooperating with the vision in front of him. She glows, lit about her by celestial silvering and melted dawn, lit from within by pure, beautiful life. This is holy, the moment wherein the Sorcerer is reminded in a sparkling wash of memories precisely why he calls her Consort — Rakshasi — «Beloved». Nothing new, per say, just…his heart doing an odd trippity-tap and a lop-sided smile of pure warmth.

Whatever may upset the penguins, they can simply deal with as the witch unabashedly stands atop the uneven level of the sea, her feet buoyed in a light tinted towards poppy rather than violet. A fine sheen surrounds her hands, giving the same impression of lotus mandalas as Strange’s own shields. Someone has been studying his textbooks to better channel energy in efficient formations, thereby allowing herself a finer degree of control and less expenditure.

Though the honey and satsumas definitely prove more advantageous to maintaining her demanding metabolism, Wanda takes not a little value in the act of floating offshore where sea meets land, thrown in dustings of white spindrift around the lumpy boulders that once aspired to be mountains and jagged defiles carving up the landmasses fed by great magma upwellings.

“«Bioluminescence,»” she says, for once revealing a little of her education in the strangest of subjects to the very guardian of the Nexus of Reality, giving him the slightest of smiles. Has he ever considered it? Likely not. Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, undoubtedly knows himself to be the guardian of this reality, yes, the locational overlap, but not the incarnation of that said overlapping planes, any more than she herself is aware of the secondary function. Still, she leans forward to scoop up two handfuls of water, and the torrential cascade rains down, glittering bits of flotsam caught up in the tumble. A comfortably satisfying return to the source, rich in sound, lively in splashes and returns.

She holds out her hands to Strange. “Come dance with me. You are not so uncomfortable yet? You will not say no?”

Perhaps something in the gyroscopic forces reshaping his entire aura at the molecular level call to the Consort, seeking the man chosen above all others. Her arms are steady, her coat flapping a little around her legs, while the penguins squeak and gronk in their turn.

Take notes, world: this is how you earn points with the good Doctor. The unexpected and absolutely correct usage of the scientific terminology brings that soft fondness back to sharper attention, not a loss by any means. Even as he watches the glittering droplets of ocean-water cascade back down, each impact rippling out and further brightening the subdued glow like cosmic lightning, Strange is reminded too that not all is as it seems with his Consort.

He’d have it no other way. They are anything but dull to one another, yet still that source of desperately-needed quiet sanity at critical moments.

Does the Sorcerer know that he safeguards the Nexus? On some level, likely kept in the stygian darkness of realization by the gods themselves, yes — it influences all that he does, all that he is. The interdimensional deities play their hands, cast their dice, and gathers their chips as their chess pieces move and a select number of them bank on the willful bonding between Shepherd and Chosen.

“How can I resist?” Aura calls to aura and warm cello’s harmony rises to intertwine within sweet violin’s strains in soul-song. A lazy mudra’s path breaks wrist to flick magic’s intent towards the boating shoes and along with a whispered Word, it allows Strange to walk out across the surface of the water to Wanda. Not the first time he’s traipsed across its translucent skein before, albeit never the ocean. What muted trembling can be found within the triad of nerves settles once he takes up those more delicate mirrors of his hands, bringing one up to rest upon his shoulder and holding the other with gentle leading pressure. Of course the other bit of direction comes from the weight of palm at the small of her back. It’s a two step, nothing demanding, not fancy. Just a simple, slow-rotating left…and right…and left…and right. No particular piece of music in mind, just to the rhythm of their heartbeats while the breeze cavorts past them to ruffle loose clothing and hair, perhaps cause an extra rush of luminescence on the beach’s sands.

“I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, «Beloved». There are still more things I can do. Dinner, a massage… Tell me, I am at your beck and whim.” The confident charm takes years from his face, nearly erases crow’s feet. Spoiling her is something he sincerely enjoys.

The Sorcerer Supreme proves the expert at dance of any sort, save sky-clad, where the witch gives him a run for his healthy dollar. Enough then they stand upon the bobbing sparkle of the sea clad in motes of auroral blue and indigo wreathed by white halos, astride the very embodiment of star clusters recreated in nature. The grand, the vast; the miniscule, the delightful.

What welcome is theirs above the shoreline’s ragged edges, the smallest height to cresting surges threatening their toes. Risking a bit of damp leather is well worth the threat. She closes her fingers around his and Wanda steps in, meeting Strange halfway, her chin uptilted to leave her face a mirror in pallid gold for the ivory moon to pick out in all its softened detail, scouring away impartial lines or weighty knowledge for heavy mystery. Veils pulled free the bejeweled headband float around her shoulders, wings of dark hair.

A slow pirouette might be suitable for dancing on waves by herself, but the meeting of lovers in reunion is different, a sacred rite old as mankind itself. Something as simple as closing her fingers around his and mirroring his palm to hers holds incredibly deep meaning, and their steps fall into ready patterns swaying to the beat of their hearts chasing one another. However many thousands of partners they mimic in that hour, they exist upon their own.

Following his lead is sometimes hard, given she wants to look up rather than away, at the birds on the shore in their squabbles or the questionable serpent in the deeps, or up at his vast eyes full of promise and nameless, unimaginable mysteries the Maximoff girl frankly has no right to imagine would be hers at all.

Not that he can see it, insufferable man. Mustn’t let him.

Instead, she answers him with a simple press of her cheek to his. “Dinner. Not anything I can think of. But I would like to eat on a sheet outside. With the basket of food. You and I, under a warm blanket.” Figures the girl has no idea what the word for picnic is. She whispers this as though it’s some terrible, devious truth.

In closing off his sight, Strange savors what the other senses can tell him:

The warmth of her cheek, ever softer than his for the eternal masculine growth that requires tending; the perfect alignment of hands resting against palms, spine, and shoulder; everywhere else they might touch in passing, electric for the impulses it spreads in wake; how they move in tandem with timing very implicit of knowledge to one another’s frames.

The tang of salt-spray and the Antarctic chill from the wind loses out to the sweetly-deep scent of the Witch so embedded in her curls and within his psyche, with ink-red roses bleeding through precious woods and the scent of her skin.

The susurrus of the waves too disappears beneath the velvet of her voice, murmuring what appeals to her most in this moment — which appears to be a picnic.

The kiss bestowed before he separates their touching cheeks, simply to look down upon that face with such affection, leaves the taste of her upon his lips and out flicks the tip of his tongue to catch it. Delightful, as always, even if there is a bit of sand.

“A picnic? That is absolutely within my purview. When would you like this picnic? Today? Tonight?” Step…step…two-time and gently rocking, as smooth as the waves that pass by just beneath their feet. He nuzzles his nose against hers, knows it’s a terrible tease to keep his lips just out of reach of her and waiting for the possibility of their capture.


He leads for Strange’s knowledge of such matters of pace, tempo, and holding onto someone for a good amount of time excel beyond hers. He’s had at least another few years of clinging desperately to a whirlwind while studying magic, or that will be her absolutely ridiculous answer when they are linked together in perfect unity. Dancing is hardly Wanda’s forte. No broken shoes or torn clothes count as a very good evening indeed.

How fine to feel the shock of the cold mingling in their presence, painting them in equal stead upon negotiating the changeable terrain corralled by the moon and the spin of the sun in opposition, tides rising and falling. She countenances this as eminently suitable for the next stroke of a holiday past, putting her head upon his shoulder after that initial kiss breaks all prospect of language.

No barriers, simply the closeness of being. His undulations might lull her into a careless sleep, riveted to a dreamy somnolence standing up, risky as that is. “I do not know. Right now, all I think is this.” This and the need to wake herself up after that long slumber, hard as it is, for the sheer comfort steals away the need for constant vigilance a little more. Eager penguins embarking on their landbound voyage totter about on the tufted dunes, headed inland towards the most desirable burrows, while two humans court above the sea. Strange reversals of fortune, truly.

“Where would you want this….” It’s a new word, hard to catch in the hissing revolutions of the sea. “Food basket?”

The thoughtful hum is baritone, perhaps a bit sleepy-sounding in itself. In weaving the dream awake around them, he’s an equal recipient for the lassitude it imparts. Then again, Strange might be dazed for the ardent collision of her lips to his after that tease.

Tucked flat against her, her against him, their rotation is upon a very small circle now. It seems appropriate that they too might shuffle for the reminder of love-bonds, just as the Fae blues do on paths to their homes within the tufts of rough sea-grass.

“We could have it on the beach?” Hands upheld are hands carefully rotated as to present the back of hers along with its knuckles for him to kiss, one at a time, with deliberate timing between words. “I can — conjure up — something appropriate — I think. What food do you want in your…food basket?” Friendly teasing imparts the barest lilt of a chuckle to the terminology.

Sweet kisses follow in their stead, her need to pull Strange down slightly to make the difference diminish to no more than a thought expressed by the tug on his shoulders. She can be grateful the voluminous Cloak puts up with such attestations of adoration and need, though Wanda forever waits in fear of the hemlines smacking her away or mummifying her for a kiss of its own. One day, it might want affection of an amorous sort from its owner. Who knows with relics, especially ones as old as its enchanted sartorial self?

“Feed me.” Simple words, baited entirely, are given to him without recourse against the silvered pepper line of his goatee. What and how apparently matter less than the idea he will find some means to answer the finely-tuned metabolism with an absolutely barbaric intake of calories every day, something that might make a sumo wrestler groan about being too full when it comes to actual produce. They know one another’s dietary restrictions, trust then exists.

Draping her arm around his neck once they form another revolution, her gaze melts into the spill of her loose hair around her face, shading her profile a moment. Then the witch cannot complain for broken contact, needful to arrest any thoughts whitewashed by the surf seeping into her nylons and a salty kiss of a wave breaking over a barely hidden boulder. Cold water refreshes thoughts while dispelling the ready sleepiness descended upon her. Blinking in rapid motion, she stills a protesting sound.

A notion arises.“Dine with all the little birds around us? A court of men in suits, it would look like the best of places in New York.” They no doubt appreciate the comparison to penguins, and fairy penguins at that, though the fae eavesdropping on them might be chuffed down to their downy feathered tummies. “Where is your favourite of places? Take me there if it must be somewhere not here.”

Enamored entirely with the way her mouth moves against his, Strange surely can’t be blamed for the mildly-glazed expression that follows the two words melting into the dimple beside it. It takes him another few moments still to realign thoughts to fixing up a picnic, since thus was the request, and he too is subjected to the backsplash of cold water — into his boating shoes.

With a chuff of surprise and a brief flash of the whites of his eyes, he then keeps his laugh behind his teeth as she does make the very good point that these are not just penguins. These have connections to the courts of Titania and Oberon and all manner of Fae tricksy beings. Perhaps she can see the flicker-flash of thoughts rushing behind his eyes even as he holds hers, languid beauties that they are, and then comes the smile, so pleased with himself.

“I know just the place.” Disengaging from the slow dance atop the star-speckled frothing waves seems a bit sad, but there is the solace of the canted dip and lingering kiss, firm as the enfolding of his arms about her to prevent them both from going head over heels into the icy surf. Wouldn’t that be a tale of a fail.

Assuming she follows in his wake, hand within his, their steps lead them up the tide line and beyond the wash of the luminescent foam to dry sand. It’s a fond farewell to the busy little blue penguins, though they hardly notice the presence of the practitioners now for how enamored they are with one another and life-bonds renewed. There’s no sign of the one who bestowed the Witch with her perfect pebble or the other blessed with the dusting of luck to find another in the wake of its loss, but still, the memories will be forever treasured, no doubt, along with the gifts.

Agamotto knows you squeaked, Witch.

A Gate thrown up is a Gate back to the northern hemisphere and through it they go, hand-in-hand, off to picnic in a place that will apparently be just right.


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