1964-07-22 - Look At These! (A What If Tale)
Summary: What if a spell went awry causing Strange and Kai to become Stephanie and Gerda?
Related: The What If Tales
Theme Song: None
kai strange 

With his "patient" sitting on one of the heavy library tables, Strange leans upon its edge and flicks aside another page in the tome open across the spread of his fingers. Frowning, he looks up from the miniscule writing in the book and eyes the tattoos scrawling along the Moon Elf's spine.

"I'm dubious, Kai, given the runes have possibile characteristics of proto-Futhark and I can't find any other references to this fertility aspect in anything before Elder Futhark, but…since you trust me, I'll attempt to reverse their presence." The book snaps shut with a muffled sound and he then reaches out. The Alfheimian can likely feel the radiant heat from the Sorcerer's palm hovering above his skin.

The pitch accent of his Words is akin to modern Nordic, but stresses the syllables in a pattern more rudimentary. About his hand, salmon-pink braids through with the same green captured in sun-lit spring leaves and then through with the paleness of seafoam-blue, nearly white. The tattoos on the Elf's back glow and then…

The confliction in the runes and his spell collide. A blinding flash of light, the sound of someone stumbling backwards and knocking over a chair in the process, a thump of hitting the floor afterwards, and then a soft groan.

"Why in the seven hells…?! WHY." Mezzo-soprano, of course.

Kai sits on the table with his shoulders slumped. He doesn't understand all the magic talk. He only knows that Loki hates these marks. They're reminders that his elf was captured and possessed by someone else. "All I can ask is you try," Kai says. Loki does have the power to illusion them away, but he still knows they're there, that they exist, even when he can't see them.

Kai sits up straighter when the magic starts, and when he feels the glow, he grins, all hopeful he can get back to a normal life. But then he hears that voice, and he swivels around on the table to see if it is indeed Stephanie.

The young woman regarding Strange is unmistakably elfin. Her eyes are a large, luminous blue, her delicate features soft and sweet. She's pale with a moonlight pearlescence one can see when the light hits her just right. And her hair is an explosion of disheveled curls so pale a blond they're almost white. Her voice is a melody when she says, "What happened?"

The 5'5" of Sorceress Supreme lies on her back on the library floor, delicate and scarred hands over her eyes. They still sparkle with the after-effects of the spell's backfiring. No point in looking up, not just yet. Her storm-blue battle-leathers all shifted to fit her new form, curvacious as it is.

"The magics didn't cooperate. Something happened." Sitting up slowly, Strange squints around the library and then at Kai. Her eyes widen, still luminous in frosted-violet with the touch of the Arts, and then her lips, plumper in this feminine form, spread in a broad, vaguely-embarrassed grin. "Well, it's not terrible, what happened. I wondered if the runes had aspects of feminine fertility to them." Getting to her feet gracefully, she then inscribes a circle upon the air between them. Reality hardens and then projects the Elf's image directly back. "It's easy enough to undo, no worries," add Strange, looking around the temporary mirror, one glowing hand upraised in a stabilizing mudra and then other uplifted to accent her shrug. Her own hair is as wavy as it threatens in her masculine form and longer, dusting her shoulders…and still silvered at the temples.

Kai's eyes widen. She waves a hand in front of the mirror to make sure that is indeed her looking back. "I look like my mum!" she squeaks. She runs a hand through her hair. "Why do I look like my mum?" Probably because he takes after his mother in looks and father in personality.

She cups her cheek, blinks slowly, and then looks down at herself. Slender, svelte. She runs her hands down her sides to where her waist curves inward. Then she takes a gander at her breasts, with a good view of her her cleavage looking down her now quite loose shirt. She cups them and presses together. "Would you look at these!" She looks up. "Look at you! You're beautiful!"

The Sorceress laughs as she dismisses the summoned mirror into thin air. "You're too kind, Kai," comes the reply, twinkling with amusement all around, in nearly every aspect of the woman's moue. "Wanda would agree, I think, though I would rather be taller, given my druthers." Ever had the suspicion that someone's encountered this particular scenario before?

Crow's feet at the corners of her eyes remain as she walks over to stand before Kai. Her gaze travels up and down and Strange keeps grinning that same rather-devilish grin seen on her masculine self often enough.

"Your mother must be the standard of Alfheimian beauty then. I forgot how…ephemeral the women are in your World." Remembering something suddenly, she turns on the spot. Ah, there it is, slid beneath the table. Kneeling down, Strange fetches the book read from earlier for the spell. She stands before the Moon Elf and thumbs to the last page referenced. "If you'll stay nearby and don't wander off, I'll see if I can reverse your state and the tattoos in one fell swoop."

Because what could go wrong with that?!

"All sorts of men tried to court her," Kai says. She smiles and fusses with her hair some more. "I want Loki to see me like this." She pauses, then says, "Then again he might want me to stay like this and I'm not sure if I'm ready to be a lady forever." She hops off the table. "Yes, let's go out. It'll be fun."

She looks around, then down at herself, hastily holding up her jeans before they slide off. She looks up at Strange with those soulful eyes of hers. "I don't have anything to wear. My underpants are staying up by willpower alone."

With her chin tucked in translating the Elder Futhark runes on the page, Strange looks up at Kai through her dark lashes. One fingertip remains poised on the text as she completely raises her face and slowly shakes her head, a small smile lingering at the corners of her mouth.

"I have no interest in leaving the Sanctum looking like this currently. This is one of my few incredibly-effective disguises as Sorcerer Supreme. I can't be flaunting it about lightly or else I ruin the secrecy. No one seems to think that the mantle-holder of the Vishanti is shorter than six foot," she murmurs, snorting dismissively and returning her attention to the runic symbols. "I think that's the truly effective part of it. Though, allow me — "

And she whispers some Words while flicking her hand towards Kai's looser clothing. They immediately adjust to the slender, svelte form with comfortable fit. A brief visual inspection and the Sorceress nods. "That should be much more comfortable. I suggest avoiding jumping or running. Gravity has such an effect on…here," and she distractedly gestures towards her own chest. She's been jokingly compared to as Dolly Parton before by a certain Witch-in-Warlock-guise. Gravity is straight-up rude in her case.

Kai looks down at herself, and she squeals with pleasure and says, "This is great. I'll just go down to the tea shop and bring back some scones. I want to test drive this." She looks wild and fey, like some Bohemian dream. Given her svelte form, her chest isn't too much of an enemy to gravity. Some people have all the luck. "I look so pretty," she marvels, and she fusses with her hair again.

She looks to Stephanie. "So are you. I… I think I'm still gay." She has no shame to prompt a blush. "Okay, just going to get scones. Do you want me to pick up some tea fo— oh, right. She's not going to recognize me."

Kai is considered again by those keen, steely-blue eyes that weigh and measure and find precisely what they wish. The Sorceress's smile curls into being again and it's clear that she's pleased for the complimentary insinuations.

"Thank you again, Kai. I haven't figured out precisely what changes when one assumes their opposite birth-right, but the aspects of both nature and nurture don't seem to deviate much from the previous state." A shift in her weight allows her to lean on the library table again, contrapposto and sinuous and so very self-assured all in one Sorcerous bundle. "Wanda would recognize you within a few seconds. Your aura hasn't changed much," and the light of the Arts flashes through her irises in a brief double-checking of the statement. It's blinked away again just as quickly. "She'd know this, at least. One's aura is a fingerprint — no escaping it. You're welcome to pick up some tea from O'Riley's while you're there, absolutely. I do need more of the blackberry-clove blend. Be quick, though, please — I may have the answer to all of this shortly," Strange adds, reverting back to the Shepherdess so well known.

Thus does Kai— sorry, Gerda, skip out onto the street, fresh-faced and pretty. She waves at the passing car whose drive wolf-whistles. On the way to the tea shop there is one fellow who has to be told forcefully no, really, she's practically engaged and has eyes only for her boyfriend. When he doesn't get the hint, she socks him. She holds back, since her punches are still capable of flinging people into cars. This is just a love tap, and it does the trick, though he does call her some choice nasty names.

"We're pigs," she murmurs under her breath. Still, her spirits aren't dimmed. She has the privilege of being able to deliver a solid sucker punch. A youth of about eighteen walking past rubbernecks and walks into a lamppost. Gerda flips her hair. That's right, little man. Hot stuff coming through.

Once she's inside the shop, she greets Mrs. O'Riley with a chipper hello. She doesn't score as many scones as Kai would, but it's still a goodly sum. While she's there, she buys her favorite Chai. What. Lots of people like Chai. Mrs. O'Riley is her usual self, though girls dressing like boys? What is the world coming to? "Revolution is on its way," Gerda says amiably.

Then it's back to Strange's Sanctum. She skips a bit, twirls around. Ehehehehe look how cute she is! She detours to explore some shops and tries on a few dresses. Then she buys a nice little Bohemian minidress and wears it back, adorable as she knocks to be let in again.

The silvery wards are the ones to allow the door to open to admit the Moon Elf back into the residence. They also convey the message:

"I have the answer, come to the library." Walking up the Grand Staircase gives one the opportunity to appreciate the lavish sprawl of the foyer, with its carefully-picked panels of wood to create the mosiac upon the floor. The stained-glass stylized Eye of Agamotto lets in all the colorful sunlight one could wish and this spills down the staircase like a prismatic river.

Finding one's way back to the library is easy enough and upon entering that one can also appreciate the minor chaos unfolding.

Is that Strange, in all her 5'5" of Sorcerous glory…in a mid-air wrestling match with the crimson Cloak?

"You're — cheating!" she manages to spit out, grabbing up another handful of the clothing's fabric, just beneath those mobile collars. These merely perk, like the ears on a friendly dog, and then the Sorceress is summarily burrito'd within its folds. Strange curses the air blue for a second, mostly upside-down as she is within the Cloak's folds, and then realizes that her friend has returned from errands. "Er — " and then she starts laughing again, pinked in her cheeks and with her hair haphazardly mussed. With arms pinned to her sides, there's not much else she can do at the moment. "I will put forth the claim that it started it," and then she laughs more, petted on the face by one of the Cloak's collars.

Kai wanders into the library munching on a cheesy pretzel a nice older man bought her even though she wouldn't give him her phone number. She pauses mid-chew as she sees what's going on up here. She swallows, then says, "No one's judging you for what you two get up to."

She then says, "This is great! People just give you things." She frowns faintly, adding, "Sometimes they get a little grabby. I had to punch someone." She holds up her pretzel. "But look what I scored." The bag of scones and tea are set aside, and she offers, "You want a bite? The cheese is still melty." She wanders up to the trapped Strange and offers forth the pretzel to her lips.

If the upside-down pull away of her head from the pretzel and nose-wrinkle isn't communicative enough, the Sorceress follows it with the polite refusal.

"Thank you, but no. It wouldn't sit well with me." The cheese even smells off to her nose, so very used is she to the fare of other dimensions entirely. "But wait, did I hear you correctly? You had to punch someone?" Her eyebrows rise. "I presume they deserved it, what with you using 'grabby' to describe their actions. I haven't dealt with anything like that yet, but…it's going to happen eventually in public, I'm sure." A certain Warlock has absolutely goosed the hell out of Strange when she was last stuck in this form. "If you did pick up the tea, the tea stand is over by the study table, by the window." Indeed, there are stands everywhere in the Sanctum, apparently, and this one glints in the light shining in through the window. It's off to the right side of the library, not far beyond the table.

"Oh, that's right," Gerda says. She steps back to get the scent of cheesy goodness away from the Sorceress, then takes a big bite, munching it down with a blissful look about her. Licking cheese from her lips, she swallows and says, "Oh, he deserved it. Only Loki gets to grab my bum. I'm not like that anymore."

She heads over to the tea stand. "I got Chai. I hope that's all right. I thought it might be suspicious if I got both our kinds." She sets up the makings for tea, quite comfortable making herself at home here. "Isn't this dress the cutest thing? I got one loose enough I could wear it as a shirt when I'm male again." It is a rather cute tunic dress with flowy sleeves and patterned in shades of sienna.

"It is a lovely dress." Strange then glowers at the Cloak, the expression managing a balance of 'adorable' and 'formidable' on her feminine features. "Alright, no more. Put me down. We have company." Set upon her booted feet again, the crimson relic unwraps from about her and then settles at her shoulders lightly, adjusting its length to fit her height. The Sorceress adjusts her tunic, smooth it into place again, and she is back to formal beauty.

"Chai is perfectly fine," she says as she walks over to stand beside Kai, her arms in a loose folding beneath her chest. It serves to unconsciously accent the curvature. Whoops. "I have the answer to reversing this state, at least, in case you're inclined to revert to your usual state." Her eyes rest upon the Elf. "I've spent enough time as such to become very used to it. As I said, it makes an amazing diguise in public."

Kai smiles wryly at the Cloak's antics. Dignity is not a thing the Sorceress Supreme gets to have today. Kai/Gerda glances to Stephaniie and her gaze lands right on those curves. Her eyes widen, then she looks up to her friend's face. "I kind of want Loki to see, but I don't know if I can last that long without hitting someone else."

Still, as she makes tea, she considers her options. "I take it the tattoos are there to stay," she says ruefully. "On second thought, he might not like seeing me altered further. These marks really bother him."

Strange is silent for a time, not looking through Kai necessarily, but clearly picking and choosing words within that canny mind.

"Do you see these, Kai?" Turning her head, she pulls back her hair to expose the side of her neck. Along the soft expanse of skin, two lightly-puckered and pale scars show, and they look an awful lot like some predator attempted to take a mouthful of jugular from the Sorceress. "Vampire bite. I was envenomated and nearly killed Wanda while under compulsion. She loves me no less for them." The silky hair falls back down again as she folds her arms once again. "I can continue researching on how to remove your tattoos, but for now, you are you. You are here, now, present, and no less for them."

Kai grimaces at the scars, her little nose wrinkling. "Loki loves me," she says. "Don't tell him I said this, but I think it distresses him, how close he came to losing me, and what they did. These marks are reminders he wasn't there to stop it. He doen't love me any less. They just pain him because of what they represent."

She sighs quietly. "I suppose I should see them as a badge of honor. Proof I survived even death." The dress covers the marks, even the ones at her shoulders. The tea is poured, and she offers a cup to Strange. "I kind of dig the tree, but the netting bugs me. It's an adjustment."

Taking the cup of tea, Strange nods. "I do understand how he could feel guilt over it, but the past is in the past. I don't mean to sound trite, Kai, truly, but lingering over it does nothing to change it. Water under the bridge and all that," she adds after sipping her tea. "Mmm, good choice with the Chai. I haven't had this blend before." A sigh and she paces off towards the thick wooden table and the book lying open atop it.

"Wear them proudly. I've said it before and I'll say it again: live to spite your captors. Make them writhe in their failure to quash your light." She looks up towards Kai with a small smile.

"You're not wrong," Kai says. She sits daintily and sips her tea. "But it's a wound and wounds take time. We heal the way our makeup allows, some quicker than others, some with the benefit of magic, and some without." She smiles wistfully. "I came here trying to spare him some of that pain is all, not because I don't love him wounded. I just hate to see it. I tried to circumvent the process and look what happened?" She looks down at herself and laughs lightly.

She then looks to Strange, those big eyes luminous and solemn. "I think the only way over this is through it. I'm an artist. I see beauty in pain all the time. But I'm in love. No, if I tell him to get over it, I'm abandoning him in it, and I won't. We'll hurt together and we'll mend together."

Strange nods and turns her attention to the book. She flicks back a page, forwards, and back again, frowning down at it.

"There is the Apple," she suggests quietly, glancing back to Kai with a curious light in those steely-blues. "Your relic. Could Loki not wield its powers? Remove the tattoos? Or have you tried this and they still resist the relic's abilities?"

Kai shakes her head and says, "It doesn't see scars or tattoos as wounds in need of healing. They're wounds that have already healed." She adds with a crooked, humorless smile. "And it doesn't mend broken hearts." From the sound of his voice, he's tried.

She takes a drink of her tea, eyes lidding. Yesss, Chai. Since she returned, this tea has been her salvation. Its familiarity, its flavors so well suited, and its goodness. The little things that feel like being alive. "Maybe this is what we have to go through," she says. "A forging fire. I've come out of this with no more uncertainty about how he feels, what he'd do, and what I'd endure to see him again. I don't know to what end, or why Fate would be so concerned with my love life."

Her gaze drifts as she thinks. Then she laughs and her attention turns to Stephanie with familiar warmth. "Aren't we the lucky ones?"

The Sorceress flicks her brows high for a second. "Lucky. Mmm. Would I that Fate keep its dirty, little fingers out of my love life," she grumbles before laughing. The merry sound has the brushings of weary acceptance in such a thing. "I wonder if the concept itself has sentience sometimes — or levels a grudge against me for keeping it in check here in this reality."

Whatever she reads in the book is of no use for how she frowns down at it and then scoffs in disgust. Pages close yet again and she leans on the cover, scarred fingers splayed wide. "It seems that I can't help without further research and since your relic considers the markings as healed…" The crimson Cloak patpats its mistress's cheek and she winces away mildly. "Stop." It's an equally mild reprimand and the relic settles again. "At the very least, I can return you to your previous form when you wish." She takes a heavy sip of tea and then sets the demi-tasse aside. "It's different…isn't it?" Strange looks herself over again with a faint laugh. "So…delicate somehow."

Kai grins as the Cloak comforts its mistress. "I think it's groovy it loves you like that," she points out. "I don't think my relic has the intelligence to form a preference. It just wants to comfort and heal. Which is nice, I suppose, and I have Kevin to cuddle me." That dog.

She smooths her short dress and says, "This is kind of wonderful. I dig it. So much less hair everywhere." She runs a hand over her smooth face. "I feel kind of naked, though. Say, could you do this again for funsies? I want to play pranks on my friends."

"For a prank?" Only the Moon Elf asks her such things and Strange rolls her eyes even as she laughs again, flashing teeth. "I am the mantle-holder of the Vishanti, Kai. I can't stoop to such things."

Even as such, she crouches a few times, as if limbering up, and then leaps into the air. The Cloak unfurls and holds her aloft. "Delicate and limber," she muses aloud, appreciating the form's inherent natures. "If you can bring me a good reason, however, for needing to assume this opposite nature…" Is that a twinkling smirk from on high?

It might be a twinkling smirk.

"Well, not with that attitude," Kai says with a hmph. She gazes up at her friend, and goodness can the Moon Elf put on the most soulful of eyes. To one unprepared for such a thing, that gaze is capable of lethal damage. "It would be funny," is her reason. "And humor is an essentially human endeavor." Hastily, she adds, "A humanizing endeavor. It teaches us, and from learning we gain wisdom." Lashes flutter.

From on high, the Sorceress's smirk deepens.

"Are you attempting to convince me still? Those are some pretty puppy-eyes, especially in that form, but you have to remember: I have to resist the Witch and her wiles." Folding her legs gracefully, Strange assumes the Lotus position and sinks to eye-level with the Moon Elf. Behind her, the Cloak frames her, providing the magical ability to hover there. "The wisdom of pranks. Do regale me." The warmth in her voice cavorts about in friendly tease. So rarely can she push aside her composure, place aside the mask of formality and gravity. Kai brings it out in her.

"You doubt the essential role of the trickster?" Kai says, aghast, a hand to her chest. "No, like, blowing someone's mind opens it up to new thoughts and experiences. Like. No matter if I'm a man or woman, I'm still me. That's an importat lesson to teach." She nods to her own words, rife with conviction. "It challenges people to question their prejudices, or even question everything they think they know about gender." She takes a sip of her tea, then adds, "And by questioning what we think we know, we gain a deeper understanding of who we are."

Strange nods slowly, consideringly. "I can see all of this," she murmurs, drawing a fingertip down where the line of her goatee used to be. She seems to realize this and brings down her hand with a curl of a self-recriminating grin. There's the spark of plucky tease again in those eyes.

"Your petition is submitted. I'll mull over the ramifications and as Midgardian diplomat between the Worlds of the Tree, I will return an answer to you as soon as I can manage." Oh man. How annoying. Not diplomatic neutrality again!

Kai inclines her head and says, "Thank you for hearing me, Sorceress Supreme." So prim. Her grandma did teach her manners, after all. It may be annoying, this diplomatic neutrality, but the idea of Strange mulling the petition over on such a grand scale makes it that much sweeter. Kai's eyes are sparkling with glee.

"You know, I really do believe that," she says. "About trickery teaching. Look at how every pantheon has at least one troublemaker. At least one. They may be reviled since no one likes hardship, but hardship is how we grow."

Strange snorts. "I understand the necessity for the tricky teaching, but in the end, I'm minded of that saying: once bitten, twice shy. I prefer to be frank in my lessons. There's right and there's wrong and when there's grey, there's a discussion." She nods, her belief in this bringing her away from the cavorting playfulness and back towards the gravity of her mantle.

Kai sits up straighter and says, bright-eyed, "Exactly. Once bitten, twice shy. You've learned." She settles back, and she nurses her tea along. "Of course frankness is necessary, too. Different methods teach different lessons. That's what people need to get, man, you dig me? We've all got a role to play." She gives Strange a kind look. "You're not cut out to be a trickster. Best leave it to the pros. But you're very good at that frankness thing you're working, doll."

"No? Not a trickster?" The pleased dimpling at both corners of Strange's mouth would put Wanda on guard immediately, much less anyone at Kamar-Taj. "I'm glad to hear it. It makes much more edifying when everyone thinks this."

Is the Sorceress joking or not? She has that mysterious aspect of feminity down pat, at least — or perhaps it translates well between both of her forms.

Kai eyes Strange, and she amends delicately, "By nature. Everyone can cross lines. I've dabbled in frankness a bit myself." Usually in counterpart to his beloved Loki being Loki. "Though I don't think I'm a trickster by nature. I'm a lover. I love people, I love life. I love my friends, I love strangers. I pour love into my art. But I moonlight as a trickster."

"You, frank?" Strange waves a hand dismissively at the notion and laughs. "Lover, yes, trickster…as your mask, yes. We all wear masks, I suppose." Her voice drops a bit quieter still, more contemplative, as she hovers there, cross-legged and looking oh-so-wise with her silvered temples.

With a gesture, she summons her tea cup to her hand and sips at it. "I bet you wonder if your Loki can do the same magics, change his form to suit another… I'd bet…an order of tea that he could. He has a grasp of the Arts unparalleled in Asgard, last I checked." Her expression begs Kai to argue. The Sorceress is fully aware of Lord Amore and his wily magics, believe her well.

"Maybe he can and I can try being straight," Kai says. "We'll see just how much I'll do for love." She glances down at her breasts again. "These are neat though. How do women not just play with these all day? They bounce!" All class, that's Gerda, Kai, whatever.

She considers, then says, "I won't take that bet, but I'll bet you an order of tea that not only can he do it, but if he does do it, it won't change how attracted I am to him, because he's my love." I believe love can conquer anything."

Hiding half her face behind her scarred hand, Strange closes her eyes and does not laugh. Not externally. She clears her throat in the face of such class and lifts her tea cup in salute.

"Love is a curious thing indeed. And I think they don't play with them all day long because they're used to them — and they're sensitive and…yes," the Sorceress peters off, biting at her lip only briefly. AHEM, MIND FORWARD. "But still, I have plans with the Witch in about an hour. Allow me to change you back so you can return home without further molestation."

She alights upon the library floor and sets aside her tea cup. The spell involves drawing a small mandala in opalescence in the air between them and then, with a small detonation, it clouds out around them both. The sound of coughing, much deeper, comes from within the twinkling mist, and it's Strange back as his normal cantankerous Sorcerous self waving away the Mystical fog.

"I need to refine that more," he comments in his usual baritone.

Kai sets her teacup aside and rises. "Okay, let me just put my pants on." She changes then and there without self-consciousness, trading out delicate lace panties for boxers and jeans. She leaves the dress on, because it's going to be a groovy shirt. "And one more time." She grabs her breasts, lifts them up, and bounce-a-bounce. "Okay," she says.

Then the spell is done, and there's Kai with his beard and more manageable curls, the dress now a snug-fitting shirt that still looks feminine, but hippy enough he can work with it. It helps that he's taller than his female counterpart, so it only hangs to his hips.

Looking up at Strange, he says, "Well, I'm off. Thank you for all of this." Then he's making for the door with a bounce in his step, leaving the Chai for future visits.

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