1965-05-19 - Come Fly with Me
Summary: The best time of the day to ride in a hot air balloon is just before dawn. That's what the experts say, anyways — and you know Stephen Strange and his ego.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange wanda 


Rising from beneath the silken sheets was hard enough. From the Sorcerer Supreme, it elicited some sleep-roughened grumbles and scrubbing at eyes. Still, he's up - he's up, and after pulling on his bathrobe, he gets to sleepily brewing two cups of tea. It's dark and bitter, with a touch of blackcurrent and a spoonful of honey (or two) for the one handed off to the Witch. After sitting on her side of the bed and enjoying some quiet small-talk (literally; the sentences weren't terribly long or grammatically-complicated), the Sanctum sees its Master and Mistress don mundane clothing. Jeans, low-rise hiking boots, and a blue plaid button-down beneath a black blazer give Strange the look of the civilian. Note the crimson lining to the jacket itself, proof of magical relic still on his personage.

The Gate from the Loft opens upon a place very different than that of New York City or even the East Coast seaboard as a whole. The sky above spreads from fingertip to fingertip, undisturbed or interrupted by anything, its depth sprinkled with night's-end stars. Its colors at the fringes, beyond the shadowed crests of the Sandia Mountain range, have begun to lighten with the dove-kiss of dawn, still at least an hour away — for those on the ground. Before them, on a broad spread of tended grass that once appeared to be a golf course, the limp carcasses of canvas and strings still sprawl tied to their baskets. Here and there, the sudden burst of a flame is tested and then either adjusted or smiled upon. Some behemoths begin to rise, their empty innards inflating as heat is propelled within.

Strange glances over at Wanda, his teeth beginning to show in a one-sided smile far more friendly than a smirk. "Ready, «Beloved»? I've had this planned for some time. I think you'll love it." He looks away and across the expanse again. "We need to find the yellow one, with panels of orange and red upon it. The captain's name is Paul Kanell." He offers out a gentlemanly elbow for her to link or grab as necessary even as he begins walking into the conglomeration of prepping enthusiasts.


Rising around the time sunlight meanders through the framed window counts as 'sleeping in' for Wanda. The diurnal clock synchronized to the solar cycles favours the longest days of the year, and she can be trusted to stretch her arms over her head and sit up fully about the point the birds sing their mating songs to one another in the only tree for a good block and a half. Drowsing in bed counts as an unreasonable comfort, one that might be matched by folding clothes from the wicker hamper that contains her few black shirts and black skirts. What's this, a foray from the norm by pulling out a black dress? The piles make for neat squares, waiting to be ushered into a drawer, after tea and adventure. One can always come back to chores. Maybe she secretly hopes the Cloak has a relic cousin, Animated Dresser, that will take the garments into itself when no one looks.

One can dream. In the waking hour, she downs her tea a bit too fast, and may be caught licking her finger run around the bottom for the undissolved honey at the bottom of the mug. Gauche, but it's her jet fuel as much as Pietro has his own flavour of meal. She finishes adjusting her sleeves while Strange opens the Gate, and the matter of tugging her open burgundy coat into position counts for she's wearing another dress. Jingling coins on the sash around her belt presumably pay for entrance anywhere, including the Underworld. She glances at the darkness and reaches into her pockets, coming up with her fingerless gloves. "Looks cold," she says. "Scarf?"

That much she manages, because the sight before her does not translate into any known experience. Yes, there are hot air balloons in Europe — Turkey, too — and precious little opportunity in modern times to encounter them beyond the Iron Curtain. What he reveals to her still causes her a moment of puzzlement, but that's nothing new. Zipping up the coat is an essential after all, performed quickly, so she is not left behind when the sparks fly away to reveal the blank wall. Her hand swings around his, terribly cold when her metabolism eats up everything fast.


Feeling her fingers brush along his palm, he closes his warmer hand to mirror the grip. The chill lingering on them causes him to pause and gather up both of them within his own. He presses his lips to his thumbs, as if he were to call a horse from the field with a grass-whistle, and gently blows into the confined space. It grants a little warmth, more display of affection than of actual use, in the end.

"I can summon up a scarf if you're cold. I should be fine. It won't let me be as such," and the higher collars of the blazer wiggle as a friendly dog tail might. A hail from somewhere off to Strange's right gives him reason to glance over and he lifts an arm in answer even as a man in a shearling-collar leather jacket approaches.

"Stephen! Didn't think you'd make!" The good Doctor laughs, the sound rolling even as he reaches out and returns the firm and pumping handshake.

"Paul, you have no faith in me. Where's your balloon?"

"Over yonder, behind the yellow one with the Zia Sun symbol on it." He points and one can see a specific pattern of red and orange beyond that particular balloon, almost done inflating. "She's almost ready to go up." The man's warm brown eyes fall to Wanda and he smiles, the expression crinkling at the corners of his eyes and forming deep laugh-lines of his mouth. "You must be Wanda. Nice to meet you," and he offers out a palm as a place for her to settle fingers or shake of what-have-you. "Stephen said this was your first hot air balloon ride?"


The tumbled over shapes lying sorry on the grass may be balloons at rest, a whole herd of them unaware of the predators stalking beyond the fringes of the grassland. Wanda's nose bears the slightest wrinkles upon the noble slope, taking in the lackadaisical approach to security among these most ungainly of nature's unnatural creatures. "The big cat from the clothes store parade must be around. It will eat these," she says without a trace of irony evident in her tone, the Slavic elements more ponderous than the Romantic balance of Transian. Now she must truly be ornery, out to leave Strange's ears and cheeks burning in front of his semi-professional contacts.

Her collar pulled up against the cold lends little view of her neck or the pendant hanging against her chest, warm as the heat corralled within Strange's shirt. The corresponding ring on her finger is likewise concealed by her gloves for the most part, along with the half-dozen other lesser bands serving few purposes.

"You make these? How do you keep them together? Not needles." Nope, it's not the early twentieth century and no ballooning Arctic disasters will be measured. Now would be the time for Agatha's ghost to phase in, harranging them all on the prospects of terrible balloon craftsmanship when teleportation will do. The danger is everpresent, and the cause of that trouble nods at Paul. He seems sensible. He also seems very 'country.' Hearty. Strange. Therefore her hand is slow to offer contact, and she shakes his hand. "First. Never seen."


Paul returns that shake as courteously as can be, almost courtly in how he bends a degree or two at the waist. "You're in for a treat then, Wanda. One-of-a-kind trip, watching the sunrise from one of these beauties." He jerks his head as indicator for them to follow and Strange gives his fiancee another cajoling little smile as he begins to follow in the balloon-captain's wake. "Had her certified earlier this week. Safest one on the grounds right now, if you've got any concerns," the man says over his shoulder.

"And not handsewn, no," the Sorcerer replies sotto-voce to Wanda. "The main fabric is a form of nylon or polyester, with panels held together by industrial-strength lengths. You'll see when we get closer that the material near the flame of the balloon is a fire-proof material." Paul seems to be listening in, given his slow pace, and he grins, flashing slightly-yellowed teeth again.

"Safe as can be," he reiterates, even as they approach the basket of his balloon. Two assistants have hands on the safety ropes, minding the ballasts even as the flame belches loudly. Heated air inflates the warmly-hued envelope and the panels begin to bulge outwardly. "Just in time too. Thanks, Henry. We'll get our passengers in and be on our way." The tow-headed assistant nods and steps out of the gondola to allow the captain within. Strange cranes his neck to look up at the glowing bag and grins from ear to ear.

"I hope you enjoy this," he says softly at Wanda, eyes finding hers.


Barely a touch of strength lies there, certainly nothing to infect someone with a bad impression of a woman already disadvantaged by her golden complexion. She isn't exactly coloured, but close enough to occasionally earn derisive looks. Having a hard grip would only confound matters more than anyone needs.

Falling in with the good doctor and following him come naturally enough. Her sharpened amber eyes hold a measured wariness for her surroundings, alert to the pitched flames belched out from miniature furnaces responsible for inflating the balloons in the first place. Pockets of hot air and baskets no sturdier, in initial appearance anyway, than the sort used for picnics warrant questioning brows. She has to manage with translating the supposed durability, skepticism heavy upon her brow.

"This falls, I expect you to say sorry." A wave of her finger paints indifference around a harmless threat in Strange's direction. Paul and his aides responsible for corralling said beast have only so much blame to measure as she looks at the balloon, then back to the man holding her eyes. He's grinning. "Is Pietro hiding in there?" He shouldn't be, but reaction and direction where he is involved can confound even his twin.


"I will be apologizing many times over if the balloon fails," the Sorcerer assures her with the smile now gone somewhat arch. As if he'd let such a thing as gravity ruin the whole event. Pfft. "And no Pietro around. That I'm aware of," he amends, his gaze flicking around; he even turns in place, as if he'd catch sight of the silver-haired speedster lounging lazily against another balloon basket and eating a pastry — likely the eleventeeth one from some box purloined from nearby Albuquerque.

"Stephen! Get in, we'll cast off," Paul shouts over the continuous low roar of the burner. Keeping his familiar hold about her hand, Strange leads them both to the basket. The low cut-out of the door is pushed open by Paul, but held by one of the assistants. A nearby referee, wearing the stripes so well-known to the position, stands ready to allow them flight once all are boarded.


Assuredly he will, to the balloon and the pilot and the bombadier assistants. Her solemn gaze marks the proximity to the ground and the rising sides of the basket they are about to enter. Flat, undaunted steps carry her in the direction fo the basket, and she waits until they open the door or whatever constitutes such a thing to allow her to pass. Into the gondola, then, takes little time. She places herself square in a corner counterbalancing where the other men stand, though her weight probably constitutes close to the least of their burdens. Look and don't touch measures a very likely maxim to live by — emphasis on live — so her hands stay very much in sight, to themselves, clasped across the flat of her stomach.

"Cast off. That sounds…" Her head shaken throws her chestnut curls into disarray, bobbing around her shoulders and plying a lean course down her back. She grips the gondola sides. So much for keeping her hands to herself. This thing might decide to rocket off into the sky at a stately speed of two hundred feet per minute.


Strange follows behind the curvaceous figure and steps into the basket as if nothing at all about the idea of wicker keeping them from free-fall bothers him in the least. Hey, believe that you're brave, it's true, yeah? Paul pulls the door shut and locks it, waving to the two assistants and the referee.

"We good to go?" He yells at the referee. The man in the stripes nods and motions for them to almost 'shoo-shoo'. Ballasts are loosened and Paul makes sure the burner is running steadily. The taller, silver-haired man slips to the Witch's side, snaking a solid and reassuring arm around her ribs. Firm lines keep the floor of the gondola from shifting dramatically for his reorientation within.

"We'll be fine," he murmurs against her forehead, where skin meets deep-red growth. //You're in good hands — // this flies across the soulbond. "'Cast off' sounds nautical, doesn't it?" An impress of a kiss against golden skin at her temple and then he's looking over at Paul as the man talks overtop the whoosh of the burner.

"Zebra says we're a go, so hold on to something if you need to." The sway of the basket becomes more pronounced as the weights are finally all loosed and the collection of hot air overcomes the pull of earth itself. Up and up they go, at a steady, almost sedate pace. A dozen feet becomes fifty — one-hundred — two-hundred. Beyond the mountains, now purpled with the hesitance of sunrise, the sky is robin's-egg blue and lightening further still as golden light begins to really show. Only Venus, bright star of dawn, lingers in the sky. The higher they rise, the clearer and crisper the air becomes.


All the shouting comes par for the course with any sort of transportation, be it rail, sea, vehicle or contraption lit by fire. The prevailing theory must be the louder the better, and for that, Wanda turns her head. She can hardly cover her ears without surfing a chance to fall when movement lurches. Whatever fears she harbours are deep and minimal about this, more a matter of the bonds with the earth snatched away. Newness delivers a certain unease to just about everyone under the sun, and so she dwells in that somewhat rigid state of anticipation mentally, less so physically.

"The view will be good." And closer to the stars, something to be praised for all the pristine desert skies over Albuquerque provide infinitely sharper definition to those mid-magnitude balls of flame invisible from New York City. A hazard of urbanization, losing touch with nature and the sky. "Boat, yes." Let them think that, instead of 'ominous' or 'hazardous' or half a dozen other descriptors. No smirking, Wanda.

"Zebra?" That last question follows right about the time sand returns and the pouring heat fills out the balloon overhead. That great weight is made nothing, as they travel like a big striped cloud into the sky. Not at all a rush, but still odd.


Up and up they go, little pennants attached to the ropes of the gondola snapping now and then as desert air dances in the pre-dawn sky. Strange glances up as the burner gouts once more, a dragon's flame pushing their ride ever higher, and then at Paul. Grins are exchanged and the captain silently looks down. The Sorcerer's eyes drop and below, the golf course is small now, no larger than a doormat. The burgeoning balloons below them look as rested fireflies, flickering and winking as their burners work to fill them with heat.

"Pretend I'm not here," the captain offers followed by a belly-laugh or two. Strange shakes his head and smirks, squinting at the man.

"Very funny, Paul," he replies before squeezing Wanda a bit more tightly against his front. The wind sets those stubborn bangs a-tremble. "Look at the view," he then breathes, almost reverently.

The mountain-range's purple is solidifying as wisps of cirrus cloud take on primastic golden tones against day-blue. Even as they hover there, singular in their patch of sky, the sudden wash of golden light hits them. A new dawn breaks upon the state and the Sorcerer closes his eyes even as he inhales slowly. To his Mystical senses, the earthly potential is beautiful, electrical, primal, and soothing all at once.

"He probably means the men responsible for getting us off the ground safely, wearing the black and white stripes," Strange murmurs close to her ear. "By 'zebras'."


The cool air receiving a glut of predawn shadows leaves Wanda shivering slightly, though the leather coat compensates some. Never mind the huge open flame skillfully tended to avoid incinerating them all casting a wide radius of heat, most of that is likely directed up through the neck of the balloon rather than outwards. The bloated sac is rotund, same as its peers, and they form arguably the weirdest seethe of insects imaginable, swarming over the mountain's face.

"You I do not see," she says to no one in particular, and the faintest film of possibility dances to an unseen, unheard command probably roused from the depths of the mind. Nope, not paying attention to Paul or the handlers below. Only the mountains in their serrated, broadbacked glory and the vast, arid sweep of a plain once found at the bottom of the sea, shaped more by wind than water, volcanism than vegetation.

Light cracks open from the treasure chest of the wilderness, overwhelming the shadows in a retreating tide that exposes all the imperfections and heights the fissures carved deep. For once, she is silent.


The captain of their airship remains wisely silent now, also appreciative of the official celestial start of the day. The brilliant glow of light fights against chill by sheer force of strength, its heat traveling millions of miles from the impossible fireball of the star.

A second arm slips about the waist contained within fine scarlet leather and the Sorcerer leans his cheek against her hair, not minded at all by any wind-tossed curls brushing against his nose or briefly blocking his appreciation of…basically everything around him. A pure, rare moment for the man nearly gone jaded with all that life had to offer before he took off in pursuit of the Arts.

"Not as beautiful as you, «Beloved»…" He murmurs, smiling to himself; the movement of facial muscles might be felt against hair. "You glow the brighter."


Once more the day settles upon the land. Once more the wheel turns, bringing an end to night and with it, releasing a swathe of coppery light that erases the harder edges laid out before them. Whorls gather in the rugged margins where the hills turn rough and ragged, and through it all, the sun conquers the foes laid forth.

And this is the sight of joy, totally lost, when Wanda places her chin to Strange's shoulder and exhales the breath of the whole world.


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