~ Part Three ~

It was late, sometime after 8 o'clock and the sun had gone down. It wasn't a surprise, seeing as it was winter and the nights were long and crept up quickly, but Ciara Duncan still longed for the warmth of the sun. It felt like an eternity since the woman had last felt anything but numbing cold...

It had been two months since Ciara had visited Stephen Strange at the New York Sanctum and discovered more of her missing past. In truth, it seemed like several years ago. . . Since Ciara had found out about her lost twin brother and her time in the orphanage, she'd felt different. She was more solemn, more melancholy, than she'd ever been. Seeing little glimpses of the past had changed something deep within her, though she couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. But Ciara knew one thing for certain: she had to find her brother Duncan.

After two months abroad and copious amounts of research and digging, the woman had found a place to gain more answers. It was a national database in Scotland with countless records and names. If there was a way to shed more light on herself and her long lost brother, the database would be the key. So she'd cased the massive government building for two days in advance, so there would be no surprises.

Now, as the darkness of winter settled around her, Ciara made her move. Her brilliant red hair, now longer than it had been in years, rippled in the wind, batting against her cheeks as she stalked toward the building at a moderate pace. She had pulled it back into a plait before arriving, but her hair was long enough where her fiery red strands had a mind of their own. . .

The Database was a technological wonder and had several major checkpoints and extensive security, so Ciara had decided that her natural or rather unnatural approach would be the best course of action. She wouldn't go in guns blazing, or try a weak disguise only to fail. This was too important. There was far too much at stake, so she would be cautious and smart about her infiltration.

In truth, Ciara was more prone to rush into situations and take what she was given, then creep about and wait. But this time, she couldn't afford such reckless behavior. If she was ever to find peace, then she would have to get her answers. And she could only find her answers if she took her time.

"Bloody pain in ma' arse, is what it is. . . But wha' choice do I have? This is the only way. . ."

As Ciara grew closer to the Database building, she stopped and fought to center herself. She took deep, calming breaths before raising both of her hands and called upon her dormant magic. She mentally pulled her strength from the depths of her mind and soul. The woman had learned long ago that magic was a balance of willpower, knowledge, and emotion. It wasn't easy, nor was it uncalculated. But for Ciara, it came quite naturally. Perhaps the Morrigan had something to do with it. . . or perhaps she'd always had the potential for magic hidden within her. . . She doubted she'd ever know for sure.

As Ciara's striking green eyes slid open, she knew her spell had worked. Having manipulated the magical energy around herself, she had managed to alter the space of her dimension. It looked as if nothing had changed, but she had become invisible to the normal human eye. No one would be able to see her, and the cameras and heat sensors would remain unaware of her presence. The perfect ticket in.

Then, she pulled on her energy again, making another spell to coexist with the first. This spell took longer, but when she was finished, Ciara was happy with her work. Invisibility paired with the ability to walk through physical constructs. No door, wall, or obstacle would keep her out now.

With renewed confidence in her step, Ciara Duncan continued forward. Her booted footfalls were silent against the pavement, and her presence unknown as she walked straight for the entrance.

The red haired beauty walked past the security guards and through the closed front door without batting an eyelash. The intent forest green eyes remained on a constant swivel, as Ciara made her way deeper into the building, though she had known ahead of time where she was meant to go.

Finally after about fifteen minutes of sneaking past checkpoints, guards, and government employees, Ciara found it. The terminal room.

The Terminal was full of countless computers and tech, but Ciara was far from intimidated. Steadily, she sat at the last computer on the aisle and once more let her magic take hold. Familiar black energy crept from her fingertips and entered into the computer, before a purple glow surrounded the screen and keyboard.

Ciara was in. Magic certainly had its perks.

Leaning back in her chair the woman closed her eyes, and began to search through the computer files with her mind. She quickly shifted through thousands of files, looking for her name or her twin's before she stumbled upon several that looked interesting.

As Ciara allowed the data to fully enter her mind, she gasped as two names stood out against the sea of information. . .

. . . . Ciara Gilbarta Blackwood. . . . Duncan Broehain Blackwood. . .

Fresh tears trickled down the woman's paled face as she dug deeper.

Twins. . . Orphanage. . . Inverness . . . Assault. . . Casualty . . . . Deceased . . . .

Ciara now openly wept as the final pieces of her past clicked firmly into place. The truth had set her free, though the sorrow that came with it was undeniable. . . She was alone in the world, and her brother Duncan was never coming back. . .

Doctor Stephen Strange, fabled Mystic Master of the New York Sanctum and certified genius, knew that something was wrong long before he heard his cell phone ring. He wasn't exactly sure how he knew that something was off, but he blamed the mystic arts for his unexplained precognition.

The air had been charged with negative energy all morning, and his hands had been hyper sensitive and sore. Even though his hands still shook and were scarred due to his accident, they never reacted this badly unless a storm was coming. Strange had learned this odd warning system was both for figurative and literal storms, so the current reason for his sore hands was still a bit of a mystery. Though he knew that it was something that he'd have to face sooner rather than later. This kind of kinetic tension wasn't random. Whatever was coming, it would be formidable.

Strange grimaced as he rubbed his hands together, fighting them from shaking. On days when the pain was this fierce, there was very little his mystical powers could do to soothe the ache. It was hard to cast magic for oneself, so he rarely did. But now, as the tremors shot through his scarred fingers, he wished it wasn't the case.

Now, as the Mystic Master continued to study the ancient scroll he'd taken from the library, he found his focus being pulled away by an eruption of noise. The chorus of September by Earth, Wind, and Fire to be exact. . . It was his ringtone. The calling number was unknown.

Strange slid his pointer finger across his phone screen with some difficulty and answered the call anyway. Most of his newest associates didn't have cellphones, so receiving a call from an unlisted number wasn't that unusual.


"Stephen. . ."

At the familiar Scottish brogue, Strange sat up straighter. His brow creased with worry at the sorrowful tone on the other end of the line.

"Miss Duncan, you sound upset? Is everything alright?" His tone remained calm, though only due to his years of medical training. Bedside manner was a must when dealing with emergencies.

"I did'nea know where ta go, Doctor. . . I wanted ta. . . I needed someone. . ." She stopped, tears obvious in her voice as she broke off to cry.

"Ciara? What's happened?" His voice was level, but it took more effort than Strange would have liked. She had him worried. When she didn't answer he continued, "Where are you? I'll come and get you. Just tell me where you are and I'll be there as fast as I can."

Ciara was silent on the other end of the line, before Strange heard a heavy knocking. It took him a second to realize it was the Sanctum door, and not a sound from the phone speaker.

Understanding shone on the Doctor's handsome face, as he immediately stood from his desk. "You're already here, aren't you?"

"I'm sorry I did'nae ask in advance. I hadn't thought ta come back ta New York . . I just ended up here." She knocked again, and he could hear it through the phone speaker as well as the actual door.

Strange rotated his shaking fingers into a circle, opening up a portal in a heartbeat, before he was walking through it. It would have taken him several minutes to get to the door normally, but he knew that Ciara couldn't wait.

As he opened the Sanctum door with a click, Strange's blue eyes grew wide with concern. There on the step, stood Ciara Duncan, with eyes redder than her hair and visible dark circles to match. She was horrifically pale and sickly looking, which was a vast change from her normal vibrancy.

Ciara's bloodshot eyes glanced up from where she was hanging up her phone, and met the Mystic Masters startled ones. For a second they stood staring at each other, before Ciara broke down. It was unexpected for both of them, and yet it happened all the same. One minute, Ciara was standing on the threshold and the next she was in Strange's arms. The hug was so powerful that the Mystic almost fell backwards with the momentum, but luckily he was able to catch them both at the last minute.

Ciara wept bitter tears as she held onto Strange with all her might. At first she felt nothing, but then he was hugging her back. He held her close and she cried harder for it.

She had been alone. There had been no one in Ciara's life to rely upon… until Stephen Strange. In her blinding despair and loneliness, she had found him on autopilot. She had come back to the Sanctum without a coherent thought. She hadn't meant too. But somehow, she had known it was the right place to go to. Somehow, Strange had stayed with her in her saddest recollections.

"Shush," Strange said, pulling her hair back from her blotchy face. "Just breathe, Ciara. You're safe now."

Ciara's hands clutched at his robes, as she looked up to meet his gaze. Her sight was blurry with tears, but even so she could see his attentiveness.

"Can I s-stay with ya, Stephen? . . . P-Please? I cannae be alone right now. . . I found ma brother's gravestone in Scotland and I can't. He's deadand I. . I just can't!"

The blue eyes softened with empathy, as the Mystic brought a comforting arm around her trembling shoulders. His Cloak of Levitation wrapped around her like a safety blanket, instantly warming her chilled flesh.

"You can stay as long as you want to, Ciara. You know you are always welcome here." He gently led her inside, closing the door behind them. The woman remained tucked against his side, as they drew deeper into the Sanctum, and Strange showed no signs of dropping his arm.

"Besides," he continued. "I'm not letting you out of my sight until I know you're alright. You can stay in the Apprentice Quarters. They're currently empty and recently cleaned, courtesy of Wong. You'll have plenty of room to rest and rejuvenate. . . But first, let's get you something to eat. It'll help with the shock."

Ciara stopped walking, forcing the Mystic to look down at her again. She shook her head, letting a watery laugh escape her lips. "I knew ya were a sweetheart, Strange. But I couldn't ta guess just how much."

Strange's face flushed, but his smile was genuine as it reached up to touch his eyes. "It's a surprise to me too. I suppose it's the company I keep these days. . ."

He was trying to play off his kindness, but Ciara wouldn't let him. He was helping her and she had never been one to take such a thing lightly.

With lightning speed Ciara took hold of one of Strange's hands. Black energy instantly enveloped his shaking fingers, making the Mystic stiffen with shock. As the smoky, magical tendrils receded, Ciara reached up to cup the Doctor's cheek in her palm. His surprise at her actions was clear and she addressed it without preamble.

"I know yer hands hurt ya, Stephen. It's the least I can do, after all yeh done fer meh." Then, without more thought, Ciara leaned up on tip-toe and kissed him. It was a gentle meeting of lips that lasted no longer than a moment, but the warmth of it was undeniable.

There was a bit of mist in Strange's eyes, as Ciara withdrew her hand from his cheek. The man was silent for a time, before he pulled the woman closer into his side and resumed their mission to get Ciara fed.

"The kitchens are this way. . ."

Ciara went along with Strange willingly, and was relieved to note that his hands were perfectly steady. Not once the remainder of the day did they shake.

A/N: So this installment was in preparation for Infinity War. I hinted at the looming threat with Strange's hands giving him grief, which I thought was quite clever. lol I hope that Part 4 of this ongoing story will be in lieu with Infinity War, but we shall see. Thanks for reading everyone! If you're enjoying the story or want to see more please drop me a review! I'd love to hear from you!

Special thanks to: The Quirkyquizler femme and loulouflowerpower for reviewing! ^^