1964-06-15 - Unhappy Returns
Summary: Strange is alerted to Kai's return from Niflheim, and thank goodness for that.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1964-06-15-loki-bound:vii
Theme Song: None
kai strange 

The ping is one of any number the Sorcerer Supreme might get during the course of his day of being, well, the Sorcerer Supreme. This one is in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. A silly little elf has done a silly little thing, and now he's shivering in the cemetery after hours, unclothed and cowering behind a headstone.

It's not just a 'oh no I'm chilly' shiver, either. It's the kind of shivering that wracks the bones and sets teeth to chattering, and the wild-eyed creature has never looked less human. What fortune that he's been brought here at night when the place is closed.


A pebble dropped beneath the surface of a pond means tiny ripples at first. The wavelets grow and eventually break upon the shore. The wash of sudden appearance is enough to bring Strange to look up from his task at hand in the Loft of the Sanctum.

"Hmm…?" A thoughtful hum follows even as he aligns his generally broadly-projected sense of reality's well-being towards a more narrow focus, the sweep of a radar towards where he thought the sensation of reality warped emerged from.

The handkerchief in his hand seems to gain heat, fibers within its weave singing his skin, and he hisses even as understanding hits him with a brutal sock to the gut. There's no missing the sparkling aperture opening upon the graveyard at night. It's the only ambient light beyond the distant streetlights and once the fireflies fade, it leaves the Sorcerer standing in the mild near-summer evening in dresswear and indoor boots.

"Seven hells," he murmurs, recognizing the shock in the small being. "Kai. Hjuki," he even tries, speaking quietly all the while, as if attempting not to spook a wild animal. Stepping into the ambient light of the city means the reveal that the sooty shirt is in fact white. He still holds the handkerchief crumpled in one tight fist.


Strange's instincts are good, because Kai does start like a wild animal for whim bolting isn't off the table, despite that he's neatly trapped himself by a gravestone in his search for shelter. He presses against it, gripping the crumbling marble, and he whimpers, again not unlike an animal.

His lips work, but words don't come at first. When they do, all traces of the beat child are gone from the rhythm and flow of his speech. "Is th-this r-real?" He uncurls to a crouch, not in any frame of mind to consider modesty or decency laws. His attention is wholly upon Strange.


"This is my reality, Kai. I am Sorcerer Supreme, Guardian of this world's Fate. Doctor Strange," he reminds carefully while kneeling down slowly. The oldest of three, it was often Strange's job to round up the errant farm animals when they escaped. Years of practice nutured the soothing tone of voice and slow but steady approach. It's the handkerchief handed out to the quivering Elf, a piece of memorobelia borrowed by the Cloak in a moment of cheek.

"This is all real. You're…alive." The words have the breath of disbelief beneath them, despite the man's worldy and otherworldy experiences. His dark brows quirk in a deeply concerned frown.


Kai takes the kerchief with a trembling hand, and for a long moment, he just looks at it. His cracked, dry lips are parted, then pursed tightly as fat tears roll down his cheeks. The sob that cuts the air is one of such despair one could swear 'you're alive' were some kind of curse.

The weeping elf presses the kerchief to his eyes, leaving sooty smudges on his face. "I did something very bad, Sorcerer. Something very stupid and terrible. Tell me…" He sniffles, and more tears slide down his cheeks. "Have you s-seen my b-beloved?"


Strange pulls back with controlled speed at the sound of the abject despair that escape the Elf's lips. He ends up resting on one heel as he listens, his frown deepening.

"Your beloved? The Prince Loki? No, I haven't." A terrible suspicion hits him to the gut again, this time rimed in ice. "…how did you escape?"


Kai shakes his head. "I didn't," he says. He dabs at his eyes with the kerchief til it's sodden, then he holds it in numb fingers and stares at it. His touchstone in the moment. He remembers this, that day in Mrs. O'Riley's. Was it a few weeks ago? A few years? Did he dream it all? No. No, this is real.

He licks his dry lips again. "I died," he says, his teeth rattle as he keeps shaking. "I was in Niflheim." He swallows hard. "I didn't know who she was. I thought she was a shade like me. I was speaking poetry, saying I would hold him to me as long as I could." Another sob threatens, pitched in his voice, and he takes a shuddering, shaky breath.

"I have to find him," he whispers. "I h-have to b-bring him b-back."


Strange's gaze rests off to one side of the Elf as he listens.

Barnes was right. The Wild Hunt did bring the chaos to its inevitable conclusion. Gods below…and Niflheim.

"Kai. Kai," the Sorcerer repeats with calm emphasis that he doesn't feel. Adrenaline does the oddest things. "Who? Who was she? What did you do?"


Kai gestures at his head, sketching out a mask? A helmet? "Like a Vanir or Valkyrie, but she spoke of sisters and like a multitude." He grimaces, and his voice comes hoarse, perhaps from the crying or the dryness of his throat. There is a dearth of water in the lifeless plane. "They said I could become a wall." He shakes his head, remembering the firmness of that no.

"They wanted to know what I wanted, and I… it must have been when I said I would hold him here for as long as I could." He lays a hand over his chest. "Like this." He closes his eyes, and his features fall. "Stupid Kai," he whispers."


Swallowing against the bitter taste of stymied aid, Strange slowly rises to his feet. The pity wells up in him and smashes against the sterile logic that his doctorate so heavily relied upon. Too late, it whispers. A bargain made with a dangerous being in another world.

"Don't leave. Don't move, just for a moment." Another Gate opens, this one upon the master bedroom and its closet. Far easier this than conjuring up clothing out of the blue; that take time and he needs must draw from the environment. A step within while Kai's eyes are shut affords him chance to grab a long-sleeved button-down, soft and well-loved, as well as a pair of workout pants, cotton. They'll be monstrously-large on the Elf, but far better than bared skin. The Gate collapses and Strange crouches down again. He sets the clothing in a rumpled pile, knowing better than to reach out and attempt to touch or get into personal space. "Put those on."


Kai nods his acquiescence to staying. Where would he go? The only one who might be able to help (and/or damn) him is right there. When the clothing is presented, Kai puts it on, swimming in the garments. The shirts sleeves fall past his hands, and he pushes them up. Though moves slowly, numb, the snap of a twig here and rustle of a breeze there draws sharp, swift attention. Giving that personal space a berth isn't the worst idea.

"He would be better off if we'd never met," he says, bowing his head. He huddles in the shirt miserably. "I only meant all I wanted to do was remember him." Those tears come again, glittering light moonlight on eyes the color of a deep ocean.

"What if I died again?" he asks with a thin wobble of hope. He looks up at Strange, who must surely know the answer to all things. "What if I just.." He glances toward the street where a latenight cab rambles by.


"Kai Alfsson, no."

Strange speaks with a finality like a solid metal length falling into place before a door. That way is barred to the Elf. Not while the Sorcerer is present.

"That is not the solution. There is always another way of solving a problem, always. First, you should be at home. Where do you call home? An apartment?" Scarred fingertips drag slowly through the grass at his side, testing the fronds, fiddling even while he never takes eyes from the shivering mess now wearing some of his spare clothing.


Kai wilts under the finality of Strange's words. Not that he's overly eager to go play in traffic. There's just that whole guilt thing tearing him up, writ on his features with a pathos only a miserable elf can capture. He only meant he wanted to remember Loki. How did that turn into this? Who knew Loki wouldn't be the cruel being taking advantage of the fact the elf just isn't made for tricksy thinking?

Kai tugs at his tangled, dusty curls as he tries to think. "I lived somewhere," he says. "With murals on the wall and a little dog. I had a little dog. What was his name? Kevin. Hell's Kitchen! That's where I lived." He looks at Strange, and his brow furrows. "You understand, I'm not alive. I'm only here to do the worst possible thing I can do."


"And what is this thing? Speak plainly to me, Kai."

Strange gives the Moon Elf his full attention and that's no small thing with the aura of the Sorcerer Supreme behind it. It's a gentle thing, the cleanliness of captured spring warmth in blades of green grass and the promise of a warm day in the air that brushes past them, all with the heartnotes of pertichor and incense.

A certain Varg would sneeze, probably.


Kai studies Strange for a moment. He's been drawn over so many planes of existence lately one might forgive him being a bit scattered, but the look Strange gives him bears with it a presence stronger than fear and misery. Stronger than death if one wanted to discuss his immortality. He's quiet over the span of a few heartbeats. The body-wracking shivers calm to mere trembling.

"I have to find Loki," Kai says, annunciating carefully, "and bring him back to Niflheim." His lower lip trembles, but he doesn't start crying again. He's hit the numb part of all cried out. "I have to find the one I love the most and take him to the land of the dead, because I'm a stupid and sentimental fool."


For all of a fleeting second, the wrappings of the Sorcerer's aura prickle with premonition and the scent of petrichor sharply jacks to a level near tasting from the air itself. Add in the sharp candlesmoke and the teeth-tinging static of displaced energy and you have the fleeting discomfited state.

As quickly as it comes, Strange mutes it with a vengeance. Now is not the time for such emotional antics. Cool, calculated logic. Yes, scalpel fine in delineating the precious information from clutter.

The educated exposition follows: "You made a bargain with a being of great power in order to return here. Did you promise it, Kai? Upon what did you promise it?"


Kai shakes his head slowly. "I don't… they were talking in circles," he says. "So many circles. I said I would do anything to give him his heart's desire, but I meant him. They took it to mean me. And I said mine was to hold him close and…" He rubs at his eyes, then whimpers, "I'm so tired, Doctor. I'm just so… so tired."


Past experience gives him regretful reason to keep the remaining questions behind his teeth — for now. He won't get much more from the Elf, not right now, not while the being seems to be fading before his eyes.

"I have a feeling that you dealt with something beyond your ken at the time. For now, home, Kai. Hell's Kitchen, with the murals." It's not a perfect Gating, given that he has a vague idea of where to open it, but it's close enough that the Alfheimian can assuredly make it to the front door of the apartment complex and into the safety of its solid walls. Strange lingers long enough to make absolutely certain that nothing of any natural or supernatural ilk follows in the Elf's wake before Gating back to the Loft.

This will require some meditation and a cup of tea — maybe more than one. The candles will burn late into the night in the Sanctum.

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