1964-10-22 - A Ring in Rutile
Summary: The Sorcerer Supreme needs a sounding board and the Shadow provides over tea.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
lamont strange 


Lamont's at home. Lindon's at work. The house is full of one Shadow and several cats, the newest of which has an obsession with Lamont's hats. Which is why, when Strange comes to the door and Lamont opens it in greeting, a gray fedora with four little feet and a tail zips past him and down the stoop.

"And to what do I owe the honor, Doc- oh, bloody hell," he says, trying to catch the kitten with his foot. The fedora is heading for the wrapped-up rosebushes along the front side of the house.

*

"Little sneak," comments the good Doctor in amusement, doing a quick about-face and quick-stepping after the wee snowshoe kitten intent on a most fashionable escape. Listen to that warbling cry of dismay — but whyyyyyyyy?! — as he scoops up Puck, hat and all. "I don't think Lindon's said you can do that," he adds, tilting up the fedora to reveal that white-whiskered face. It mews again and sniffs at Strange's scarred fingers before setting teeth testingly upon the nearest knuckle. "Excuse me?" The thunderous frown and tone of voice makes the kitten pause and roll huge eyes up at him. Uh oh; just enough 'supernatural' in that brain to respond to the warning.

"Defeated by a kitten? We'll need to discuss further lessons, I think." He hands off the bundle of troublemaker and fedora to Lamont as he steps past him and into the mansion. The crimson scarf unwinds and hangs along either side of his Belstaff's buttons in the comfortable warmth of the foyer. "I thought I would stop by and…have a cup of tea." With hands in his coat pockets, the silver-templed man looks decidedly lackadaisical. Which is decidedly not normal, surely.

*

"Please do," He does seem genuinely pleased about it, as opposed to pasting a polite face on over a genuine interruption. There's the spiderywebby almost-tickle of Lamont's wards identifying and clearing the Sorcerer, including a dozy fillip of recognition from his anti-demon tac-nuke in the basement. "It's definitely the day for it." He accepts the kitten and settles the hat on his head, the better to bear both into the house and shut the door behind Strange.

Once haberdashery and menagerie are properly stowed, he leads the way into the kitchen, the one place on the main floor not kept in that Victorian splendor. It's modern and up to date and surprisingly bright, complete with a formica and chrome table that Lamont gestures to.

*

Seating himself at the modern table, Strange rotates the chair out as to better face his host. His fingertips drum lightly on the reflective surface as he watches the Shadow prep the pot and brew.

"I appreciate you taking time out of your day, Cranston. I…" He watches the symbol form on the tabletop even as he sketches it. It's some ancient rune, perhaps partially Sanskrit, but it remains unfinished and he wipes his palm across it to erase the thinly-scripted sigil's blue glow. "I find myself in need of a sounding board." His eyes flick up to Lamont and linger, weighing in a way.

*

Which is when Strange's shoelace is viciously attacked. Should he look down, there's Puck staring up at him, huge-eyed. "I'm entirely at leisure, and at your disposal," Lamont says, gently. The kitchen has a newly cleaned look. "There're cookies, too, if you like. Lemon sugar." He's brewing Darjeeling, it looks like. The request has him looking thoughtful. "Of course, if you think I may be of use."

*

Indeed, the dress shoes are not unscathed. Wearing a half-smirk, Strange shifts his foot forwards, nudging the belly of the snowshoe baby teasingly.

"Thank you, but the cookies wouldn't sit well with me. Though if you have honey and cream, I'll take some in the tea." By nose alone, he can tell it's the blend hailing from India and the slopes of the highest mountains. "I need a set of listening ears and…thoughts on the matter, eventually…I suppose," he near-mumbles, still willfully distracted by Puck and the attack on the shoelace.

*

How dare you, sir? Puck makes the face appropriate for mock-fighting - pupils huge, jaw dropped, and he pummels the toe of Strange's shoe with soft toebeans. Lamont sets out a jar of honey and a pitcher of cream. The presence of the latter has Puck abandoning his War Against The Shoes to give the Shadow an imploring look. "Certainly," Lamont says, still mildly, as he sets the tea to steep.

*

Thank goodness for well-tooled and -tended leather. Even as the feisty kitten departs from beating the crap out of Strange's shoe, he's grinning to himself.

A sigh and then the man becomes decidedly serious in expression. He rests his jawline upon his hand and goes back to idly sketching incomplete symbols upon the table's surface with free pointer-finger. "I've been thinking on…things…and just over a year ago, I was banishing a demon from the Park when I came across a woman wearing a red coat. She was…beyond compare — is," he amends with a faint huff of a laugh. "She wears a diadem with pentacle in gem'd points, so…she doesn't lack for jewels or a means to…be claimed. I wrought the relic and the enchantments upon it myself." Good lord, it's like he's rusty at public speaking now for how the thoughts slowly leave in bits and pieces. "It was a present, not long after we…came across our son." Dark brows unwind momentarily to a neutral manner of acknowledgement and he sucks at his teeth behind closed lips as if mulling over how to continue.

*

The tenses in there are a little odd, but….wizards. They really mess with your grammar. He brings the teacups to the table, sits down comfortably across from Strange. There's no interrupting from him, but his brows are up, quizzical.

*

"Ah, thank you." The cream brings the tea to a warm caramel color while the honey blends in smoothly. Strange indulges in making absolutely certain that none of the golden sweetness remains on his spoon for the number of stirs and finally, he taps the excess gently on the side of the demi-tasse. A sip confirms the taste to his liking and he licks his lips vaguely.

"Wanda and I are…soul-bonded. Like as not, you've picked that up about the Sanctum. Our auras," and he gestures to his general person, "have taken on a combined hue." Indeed, to the Sight or anyone sensitive enough to detect, his is a blue tending towards the royal purple of iris petals, proof of scarlet intermingling in smoother tendrils throughout. "She mentioned wanting…a more substantial means to show our bond. The mundane cannot See what we can, what other practitioners may See easily enough." The Sorcerer shifts in his chair and manages not to spill the tea. "I…was thinking about a ring." He purses his lips and finally looks at Lamont again rather than the surface of the Darjeeling blend.

*

"Yes, yes, I have," he allows, without hesitation. It's a good thing Lindon himself is not there to ask the blunt question. "Are you going to marry her legally?" Lamont will take his place. "Although jewelry is almost always a good gift on any front. Give her something with an appropriate stone, she can excuse a ring as an engagement present….

*

"Ehhhhhhh….."

The sound lingers until Strange closes his mouth. A pop of lips and he shifts again, scratching at one silvered temple. "Legally, I…perhaps. I haven't decided yet. Though yes, I suppose we could be perpetually engaged to the mundane populace. That is a thought." Indeed, he's properly pensive for a few seconds before glancing to Lamont again. "I believe I have a proper stone, I would need it set. Of course I'd need it set, what am I talking about." And he waves his hand, retreating into his tea. Aw, how cute, a mildly-embarrassed Sorcerer Supreme.

*

The twitterpation must be grave indeed, if he's asking his queer friend for relationship advice. Though Lamont has had his innings with women. "Well, that sounds very good to me," he says, simply, stirring honey into his tea. "What sort of stone?" No doubt the eye of a god gouged out of its living skull.

*

"Sapphire. It is…completely unenchanted." Now that might be a surprise to hear, given the aspects of the other gems found in the Witch's pentacle necklace. "I thought I might…keep it simple. I mean, I might enchant it with an augmentation or a charm. I haven't decided yet." Strange winces a little. "As I mentioned, I still need it set and I don't know what metal to use, much less the style of the band, or…"

A helpless hand gesture and another sip of tea before he sets the cup aside. "Much less how to give it to her, where…when…" Sigh.

*

There's a smile, or the shadow of it, in the lines on his face. He can look warm, when he wants to. "You're already bonded," he points out, with a hint of amusement. "Give it to her on a special occasion. Christmas is coming, after all. Or an anniversary of some special event. I prefer white gold or silver for cool colored stones, but that's a personal preference." No wonder, considering his own ring.

*

Strange nods, risking a glance about the kitchen as he clearly thinks hard for a second.

"I was thinking of even turning in favors for some….vibranium, but the pentacle is already composed of the metal and while I left on good terms, I'm hesitant to show again and ask after more. And bonded, yes, but remember — she commented about wanting such a thing to be seen by all, not just the Mystical fold. Unless you mean bonded in the sense of mentally-projected speech, in which case, the pentacle grants us this ability. Otherwise, we are able to sense…things about one another, but not with the, uh…crystal clarity of words." Shoulders roll to dismiss tension.

"I was thinking sometime within the next few weeks, before Christmas. I would have that holiday remain its own tradition, not tangled up in an anniversary. Still, it's…not a lot of time and I…ugh." He threads the fingers of one hand through his hair, disheveling it to some extent. "Knowing my luck and mantle, I'll have the table set and candles lit and Mephisto will break through in Rio, Brazil to possess some line of Conga dancers while attempting to subjugate the souls of every living being in one-hundred miles."

*

He can't help himself - he laughs, softly at that. "I know what you mean. A magical vigilante's work is never done." But there's still that warmth in his face. "And I understand wanting to keep it separate. I'd say go simple, mundane, and modify it later if you and she want. Get her a star sapphire, set it, enchant as needed."

*

Those lip rise into a half-smile. "Yes, the variation that features rutile asterism. I picked it out myself. It's not on me, it's safely stowed away where no one but myself will find it." Decidedly dragon-esque, this Sorcerer, at times. "I think…that's best, yes. There's a…symbolism in keeping the stone…plain? If you will."

He seems a little more at ease now and settles more into the chair. "I can't decide upon where to ask her, however. There's decided romanticism in something like…the edge of the galaxy or…in the central node of the Multiverse, but…then there's the Montauk Lighthouse, not far from here. She…told me that she loved me there." A light blush on those high cheekbones isn't a play of light and he manages to keep the majority of that pleased pride under wraps, mostly by avoiding looking at Lamont entirely.

*

He's pressing his lips together, trying to remain serious. No more laughing at Strange being twitterpated. None. Not even a snicker. Puck has decided that the best route to the creamer on the table will be via Strange's lap. So he's patting the Sorcerer's leg importunately. Hey. Hey, hey hey. Pick me up. Pick me up. "I think so, too. Beauty for beauty's sake. And…the light sounds good to me. Save the rest of the galaxy for the honeymoon, as it were." There's the tiniest flicker of envy - he can't display his love for Lindon to the world, even if he would.

*

The little white paw is insistent and Strange finally glances down at Puck.

"I don't think so. You talk to him." Even if the Sorcerer picked out the little monster, he's not dad — or mom. That title lies elsewhere and perhaps even in the host's chair.

"Yes, the honeymoon." The smile is lop-sided, faintly sad. "I don't know about a honeymoon, what with my mantle, but…perhaps a day snuck to myself would be possible…if not a few hours. Half a day. Maybe." His hand does a waffling gesture, committing the possibility of successfully stealing away time to be a risky thing. "Still, it's…" A swallow. "Daunting. The idea of it all." He retreats into his tea again. It'll need a warmer sometime soon for how it's been neglected over discussion.

*

Lamont gives him a dry look. "No," he says. "You need a real honeymoon. Hang out a sign on the Sanctum door, and take off. Have your son fill in for at least a week or so, or something. I'd volunteer, but I can't fill your shoes." Then he smiles again. "I think your forebrain is just now catching up to what the rest of you has known for a long time, is all."

*

"Maybe." Still, the Sorcerer finally nods and the expression of a bitten lemon retreats from his moue slowly. "I can't imagine handing off the mantle to anyone else. I mean that respectfully, Cranston. My son? …no. Youth is no friend to wisdom, as much as I wish it were so. He needs more time upon this earth before assuming that the Vishanti would consider him in my place."

He drops into silence to finish off the tea and then gives Lamont a scrutinizing look. "How would you propose to Lindon?"

*

"Why don't you ask the Vishanti?" His tone is pragmatic. "They have to have someone in mind for when you fall. You may be immortal, but there's always something that gets one of us in the end. They have to have an idea…." He sips from his tea. The question makes Lamont raise his brows. "I….sort of already have. We're not soulbonded, but we are bonded. Formally? I'm not sure. I daren't do it in public so…..here, maybe. He can't wear a ring in quite the same way an engaged or married woman could. I'd probably give him a pendant he could wear under his shirt.

*

"Why would I ask the Vishanti about who's to replace me if I die…? That's…decidedly depressing and the worst part is they would tell me. I'm content to live in naivety in this, Cranston." Strange rubs at one temple and grimaces before sighing. "No…I'll…figure something out."

Picking up the honey spoon, he begins to fiddle with it before finally pointing it at Lamont, almost like a sabre. "I would heavily recommend a pendant, given current society's ridiculous predilections upon a relationship like yours. Asinine. It's love. Who cares if the chromosomes are identical between the pair. I'll tell you what, there are other dimensions where there aren't even matching chromosomes, much less spinal cords or conceptualized bodies and they have no issues. None." Clink, a sharp tap of the bottom curve of the spoon on the table is much louder than he apparently expected and he places it down with far more care. Oops. Must not abuse the cutlery.

*

Lamont all but bows a little in his seat. "Precisely," he says. "My thoughts exactly. And I've been to places like that. Some of them, anyway. But…." And here he sighs. "This is my home dimension, and where I must abide for now.” Puck has given up harassing the magicians to go crunch kibble sulkily in the corner.

*

"You should take Lindon to someplace like the edge of the galaxy, if you're going to formally propose with a pendant…" Look at that friendly little smile, just quirking the lines of goatee. He's much more comfortable when the spotlight's off him and the potential awkward is pointed elsewhere. "Though if you must stay within this dimension…"

Strange draws fingertips down each side of the facial hair, glancing to a most sulky Puck eating kibblets momentarily. "You could dazzle him. Find a natural wonder, or one of the Seven. Time it to a phenomenon like a meteor shower."

*

"I've already promised to take him somewhere, just travelling. He'd like it, it'd be good for him," Lamont's voice has softened. "Somewhere sunny and warm. We should go to the Mediterranean. Greece, or Spain…." He laughs softly at the idea of the meteor shower.

*

"All wonderful places to hang your pendant about his neck," Strange agrees. "That's what I intended initially, with her pentacle. A ring without being a ring. It's…as you said, time passed and while I didn't expect…or perhaps I did." He looks up at Lamont again. "I can't think of eternity without her."

Then, the Sorcerer suddenly laughs, a rill of amusement, and half-hides his mouth behind a scarred hand. "Oh, gods… You have the patience of a saint, Cranston, to put up with me. Listen to me blather on." A click of his tongue.

*

"Not at all. I imagine you have very few you can discuss that with, and I'm honored you would with me. I promise to not spoil the surprise by telling her ahead of time," Lamont says, crossing his heart with a fingertip. "And I know how you feel. Lindon healed a wound I wasn't fully conscious I had."

*

He points a scarred pointer-digit at Lamont. "I will sure as the seven hells know it's you if she does come to me before I place that ring on her finger." High brows accent the point already agreed upon, probably for good measure and to reassure himself above all else.

Settling back into the kitchen chair, Strange seems much more at ease as a whole. It appears that none of his ideas were bad ones. "I presume you mean a wound in a metaphysical sense?" He taps at his own heart in passing.

*

There's a distinct glitter of mischief in Lamont's eyes, before he lowers his lids demurely. "Of course you will," he says, tone sweet. Then he looks up again at that question, and nods. "Exactly. I'd been doing my best to carve my own heart out for the previous eight years, more or less."

*

There's a concerned furrow even as the Sorcerer shakes his head mockingly at the glint in his fauxpprentice's eyes. Hah hah. Everyone's Fate is their own. Imagine what Wanda might do if the surprise is sprung before intended. Eeep.

"That sounds decidedly painful, Cranston. Lindon did a fine job of healing such a wound up, if that's the case."

*

"He's done an excellent job. I was….better than I'd been when I'd left earth. I'd been carrying around a magical wound since the early days of the war. It was warping me. And then Margot died, and I realized something had to change, or I was in…I was very much at risk for falling into old, bad habits, let's say," He looks down into the teacup. "So I left earth and got the wound healed, though it was a near thing…"

*

Ah, it's easy enough slipping into the mode of listener, since Strange does the same thing over tea at the other Mystical mansion about town.

"I'm sorry for your loss," he offers respectfully. "It is a wound in itself to lose someone important in one's life. Were you lucky or perhaps it was a good twist of karma, making your way to relative safety beyond the confines on this reality?"

*

Lamont looks up again. "Thank you. And it was. I think….both? I didn't expect much, honestly, than to die somewhere else than here. I was so sick of this world. I met with surprising kindness and hospitality."

*

A long sigh. He drags a fingertip along the rim of his empty teacup in another absent-minded motion, focus lingering upon the thin lip of china before it slides back to Lamont.

"And here you are, full of vim and vigor." That same mysterious little smile. "And the world is better for it. Who would stand in as willing lab rat for the various relics I collect?"

*

His smile is rueful - the lines of his face are slowly becoming more kindly, less harsh and forbidding. "I blame you and Lindon," he says, as he refills his cup. "A man has to have some purpose, after all."

*

"To be my test subject? Cranston." He'll take up the pot and pour himself another cup as well once Lamont is finished. "Have a little faith in me. I am a mentor, not some mad scientist."

Still, even as Strange works in the cream and that dollop of honey, he's wrinkling his nose against a smile and that's more than clear, the attempt to avoid outright amusement.

*

"I'm not doing my old job, and I feel rather….guilty about it," Lamont says, half-seriously. "I mean, I work with the Avengers, but I'm mostly funding there. I take lessons from you, I protect my lover, I do fight what battles I come across, but…"

*

"But old habits die hard," Strange finishes out for the Shadow, tapping his spoon clear of droplets of tea once more. "I think we both know what will happen if you succumb, Cranston." His voice is gentle, but still retains that steely integrity of warning. Not an winkling of fae-light appears in the eyes that rest upon the other man. "Still, were you able to do this previous job and remain true to balancing your karmic debt? Would it risk Lindon?"

*

"It was balancing the karmic debt. It's a sentence, Strange, and I'm still serving it," He's keeping his voice light, but that strain vibrates beneath, like a drone string. "Protecting Lindon counts a little towards it. But yes, I fear diverting my attention that way…..it would. It's a change in focus, and I must just learn to adapt."

*

"You're doing well, even if bad luck seems to dog your steps." It's a opinion presented as fact by the man. Side note: woof. Watch the flick of wry mischief alight in turn just briefly through those steely-blues. What next to subject the fauxpprentice to? Something to muse on in his subconscious processes. "I would think that protection of a treasure would count a great deal more than a 'little'. Unless you've done a good number of things that would make me reconsider my mentoring — in which case, don't tell me, your tutoring is more important than the past. It's not that the past is in the past, per say, but the lessons can be learned from it and old memories set aside. Old scars healed," and Strange drums fingertips on the table. "I know enough about you to know that my decision is wise enough in turn."

*

He nods at Strange. "It's not hard to find, if you ever want to go digging. Here in New York, Shanghai, Tibet… And yes, it's enough of a debt that even keeping Lindon out of evil hands only makes a small dent in it." Lamont's not going to mince words on that subject, no more than he has to Lindon himself.

*

Strange narrows his eyes in the manner usually betoken of logical processing, that withdrawal of emotion possibly to be seen as cold or inhuman in a way.

"Yes, I'm aware of these instances, though…I would presume that a bar in Shanghai is of note in this karmic debt. 'The White Countess', I believe." He'd deliver diagnostic exactings in the same tone, rest assured. "I have done my digging. I don't intend to do it further."

*

He doesnt *quite* flinch. But Strange can see him suppress the impulse. Said digging has revealed a few salient facts: Lamont once owned it, albeit through a front, and all sorts of unsavory things were once for sale there. "Yes," he says, almost shortly.

*

A nod. "Yes," the Sorcerer echoes, agreement unspoken on the matter: the stone was lifted, the underside considered, and now let's let that boulder lie where it is. "I intend to continue offering my knowledge as a means of aid to keep you karmically on the correct path. I would rather you not deviate as well." Because a being with a ring upon his finger that wrests willpower from natural grasp in the throes of negative karmic tailspin is, quite frankly, a nightmare.

*

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