Chapter 19

New York City
December

The days passed in a blur of sleeping, reading and replacing the bandages on Cleo and Strange's ribs. Christine visited frequently, bringing medicine and extra bandages. Fussing over how Strange would wrap the bandages around Cleo.

"My hands aren't what they used to be," he called out from the doorframe, as Cleo was being rewrapped. "You could have ask for help," Christine scolded, securing the wrap in place.

"You already do so much, I don't want to overburden you," Strange replied.

Looking up from her work, Christine smiled at him, "You could never," she responded gently. "Now, shoo, doctor patient confidentiality."

Holding his scarred hands up in defeat, he left the women alone, closing the door behind him. Holding a notepad and pen, Christine began her daily questioning. "Any new symptoms?" she asked, eyes focused on her notepad.

"No."

"Any discomfort still remaining in the chest area?"

"Yes."

Looking up, Christine's eyes wandered down to the black swirl still present on Cleo's chest, albeit lighter. "Can you explain the discomfort?" She asked, chewing on her lower lip.

Cleo sighed, she had already explained her pain to the doctor every day since she had taken it upon herself to treat Cleo. "The same as the day before. Randomly I will feel intense pressure around my heart." Cleo explained as the doctor nodded her head as she jotted something down. "I am going to prescribe you some additional medicine to your painkillers. Thrombolytics should help with the discomfort you experience in your chest. It should dissolve any blood clot that may be blocking the flow of blood to your heart. I still want you to do an MRI and CT scan."

"No offense, Dr. Palmer, but this," Cleo pointed to her chest, "was caused by magic. I'm not sure how successful modern medicine would be in curing it."

"I know, I know," Christine mumbled, eyes darting between Cleo's and the mark on her chest, "let's just give the medicine a go." She reasoned. Cleo nodded and thanked the doctor for all her help. Leaving Cleo, Christine exited her room and knocked on Strange's. Hearing a confirmation on the other side of the oak door, Christine entered.

"How is she?" Strange called out, back facing Christine as he looked out of his window, right hand placed on the frosty glass.

"Better," Christine answered as she stood next to the once neurosurgeon, "her physical wounds are healing well. Her body seems to heal faster than a normal person's. But that thing on her chest… I'm worried. I added thrombolytics to her list."

Strange hummed as he listened to her.

"Going at the rate she is healing at, she should see a full recovery in just a few days. You should heal in about two weeks' time." Christine concluded as Strange still looked out the window.

"Thank you," he murmured.

Placing her hand over his, Christine breathed deeply, smelling faint notes of spice and cologne. "You are going to get the guy who did this to her, aren't you?"

Sighing, Strange looked at where their hands connected. "Ideally, yes, but I'm not sure if I'm strong enough."

"Have you met the person in the other room?" Christine asked, looking up at him. Eyes meeting, Strange responded, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I don't understand the first thing about magic but if a young adult is able to recover at the rate she is going and has such a strong threshold for pain, doesn't that mean she's super strong?" She reasoned, taking Strange's silence as confirmation as she continued, "You don't have to do it alone! You never have to do it alone, Stephan. Having the weight of the world on your shoulders is unbearable. If I couldn't have been that person to help you carry it, I am happy that life has given you someone who can."

"Christine…" Strange whispered as he locked eyes with her.

"All that I am saying, Stephan, is that you have the opportunity to stop a madman, a murderer! This time, you have someone who has your back." She insisted.

Taking Christine's empty hand in his shaky one's, Strange stepped closer, "And what about you?" he questioned quietly.

With a smile that reached her eyes, Christine replied, "I am right here. Always ready to help patch you up, no matter how weird the situation is."

Chuckling, Strange brushed some loose strands of hair from her face.

"I uh… I have to go to my shift." Christine broke the comfortable silence, taking a step back from the sorcerer. Still looking at his once was, Strange opened a portal to the hospital's ER closet. Bidding one another a quiet goodbye, Christine stepped through.

Retreating to the kitchen after bidding Christine goodbye, Strange rubbed at his temples as he thought of the mountain of books he had been tackling as of late and how he needed caffeine if he was to even make a dent. Opening the door to the emerald kitchen, Strange was welcomed with scents of vanilla and nuts. "What is going on here?" he asked, seeing his curly haired student busy leaning over the counter. Fake snow falling from the ceiling, disappearing once it touched the floor. "Whatchya got there, Cleopatra?" he inquired as he tried to look over her shoulder.

Turning around suddenly, Cleo held a tray of cookies in her hands. "Try one!" she exclaimed, a twinkle in her dark eyes.

Inspecting the snowball cookies, Strange plucked one that seemed harmless and took a bite. "HMP!" he mumbled as the cookie melted upon impact, "Cleo, these are amazing! What are they?"

"These are Kakh cookies, we would make them in the House during the holiday season. You do celebrate Christmas, don't you?" Cleo asked as she downed a whole cookie in one mouthful. Taking a seat on one of the bar stools, Strange helped himself to another cookie as he reminisced of his past Christmases. "I do, but not in the traditional way. Christmas was usually spent in the hospital with Christine, only two days a year I would work in the ER and those were Christmas Eve and Day. I would do it so Christine would have to go to a talk I would give every January." Strange explained as Cleo took the seat next to the Doctor. Listening intently as Strange stared into space, recounting his past Christmases, Cleo leaned on her hand as she listed to her teacher and friend.

As Strange continued to reflect, the cookie tray continued to deplete in quantity, until it was empty.

Taking a pause, Strange looked down at his shaky and scared hands, lost in thought.

"If you could have anything, what would you want?" Cleo asked casually as she sucked the powdered sugar off her fingers.

Making a funny face, Strange shrugged his shoulders, not wanting to share his deep desires with his student, "I'm not sure how to respond. Well… how about you? What would you want, Cleo?"

Pinky in her mouth, Cleo also shrugged her shoulders, "Well, aside from what happened to the House or the Crazy guy after me, I would probably want something new, like a new experience." She answered, eyes following the fake snow as it cascaded down to the floor.

"Put your coat on," Strange spoke, standing up abruptly, clapping the powdered sugar off his hands.

"Umm, what? We can't leave the Sanctum, remember? Crazy guy after me?" Cleo retorted.

"Who said we're leaving the Sanctum?" Strange responded, smirking. "Come on!" he called as he left the emerald kitchen, Cleo following close behind.

Marching all the way to their respective rooms, the pair equipped themselves with their winter coats. "Where are we going?" Cleo called out from behind Strange as he took her to a part of the Sanctum she had never been before. "Death by stairs, I knew it!" She sarcastically remarked as they made their way up a mountain of stairs. Once they reached the top they were met with a green door. Panting heavily, Strange stepped aside ushering for Cleo to open the door. With a confused look on her tanned features, Cleo pushed the door open and gasped. Strange had brought her to the Sanctum's roof! Stepping out, Cleo did a 360 and looked at New York from her new perspective. But that wasn't the best part. Looking up at the sky she saw hundreds of thousands snowflakes falling gently on the city. Holding her hand out, she caught a few which immediately melted once they came in contact with her body heat. Night had already settled in, which became the perfect backdrop for the little white flakes.

With a smile that reached her eyes, she turned around to look at Strange who was lingering by the green door. Opening her arms wide, she embraced him, hugging tightly. "Thank you," she whispered.

Hugging her back, Strange responded, "Merry Christmas, Cleo."

"Merry Christmas, Stephan!"

The days after Christmas were groggy as Wong came with more books for the duo and as Strange attempted to make Fattah, an Egyptian soup consisting of bread, rice, garlic and lamb.

"Did you take your oxycodone?" Strange asked as he floated the dishes from dinner into the sink.

"Yes," Cleo responded, eyes glues to the book Wong had brought, Boudica and her Bracelet.

"How about your thrombolytics?"

"Yes, Strange" Cleo responded again, growing a little irritated by Strange's nagging.

"And your vitamins?"

Slamming the book shut, Cleo looked up at the Sanctum's Master. No real bite behind her stare, Cleo's dark eyes glared at Strange. "Strange, I know that you are concerned about me. As you can see I'm healing fine," Cleo lifted her arms to make a point, her ribs almost back to normal, "It's you we should be concerned about."

"I know, I know…" Strange rattled on as he gave his back to his student making himself busy with brewing a cup of tea. Walking to the doctor's side, Cleo placed a hand on his shoulder. Strange turned to look, "Thank you for caring," Cleo said, a smile finding its way up her tanned face. "and… I will be taking that," she decreed as she took his cup of tea. "Hey!" Strange protested, as she smirked leaving the kitchen, tea and book in hand.

Making her way to the room with the fireplace, Cleo felt more at ease than she had since her capture. Placing her stolen cup of tea on a side table, Cleo sat in her favourite plush red armchair. Opening the book again, Cleo was content with remaining in front of the ever roaring fire, reading into the late hours of the night.

"Axioc Bwki."

A booming deep baritone voice spoke, echoing off the walls. Dark eyes snapping up from the book, Cleo turned around quickly, looking for the origin of the sound.

"Axioc Bwki!"

The voice spoke again, speaking in ancient Egyptian.

"Who is there?" Cleo called out, raising her fists, pooling kinetic energy into them. Back turned towards the flame.

"Worthy Maidservant."

Turning to look at the fireplace mantel, Cleo gasped as the Eye of Horus floated from its place. The room was bathed in Egyptian Blue light coming from the pupil of the relic. Frozen in place, Cleo could only gawk at the power the relic was emitting.

"Worthy Maidservant and Scribe." The relic announced again in English, "Bearer of Strength and Courage,Daughter of the High Priestess Hatshepsut and…"

"What's going on?!" Strange called out, entering the room, cutting off the relic, hands at the ready.

"No!" Cleo yelled, the relic was about to reveal who her father was!

"Master of this Sanctum, One who Endures Pain, Protector Stephan Strange." The Eye continued, the glow growing brighter. "The One who is Unable to Decipher the Book of Wadjet. Your Stubbornness and Pride will lead to your Downfall."

"Who are you?" Strange shouted, entering the room, "What do you want?"

"SILENCE!" both Strange and Cleo took a step back, fear seeping into their veins. "I am the Spirit of the Eye of Horus, Used by the High Priests of the House of Life and by the Sorcerer Supreme of Kamar-Taj. I Have Seen Eras Pass in a Blink of the Eye. You, Maidservant, are but a Speck in the Winds of Time. A Speck that Must Ensure the Survival of the Sorcerers of Earth."

The relic paused, the bright glow not receding. Mustering up all the courage she had, Cleo stepped towards the Eye. "Cleo…" Strange hissed out, still rooted in place. "What do you mean by 'Ensure the Survival of the Sorcerers of Earth'?" she asked, voice shaking.

"Maidservant and Scribe, Difficult Times are Coming. Difficult Times for both Humanity and Sorcerers. You Must Understand the Book of Wadjet, You Must Know how to Use the Eye." The Spirit answered.

"What does that have anything to do with me? I am but only a Scribe!" Cleo declared.

"Does not the Magic of the High Priestess Hatshepsut Flow in You?" The Spirit reprimanded, "Do You Not Realize the Power that Courses through Your Veins Belong to Generations of Sorcerers? You are called to Protect. You have Sat Idly By as I Fell into the Hands of the Evil Sorcerer Mordo. My Power is too Great to be Used with Wrong Intentions. Scribe, You Must Vanquish this Threat. You Must Ensure that My Power Does Not Fall into the Wrong Hands."

The crackling of the flames could be heard in the stunned silence of the room. Bathed in the brilliant blue light, Strange took a step forwards, standing beside Cleo, "And how do we vanquish this threat?" he questioned.

"I have Spoken, Master of this Sanctum…"

"Who is my Father?" Cleo asked, the spirit being cut off a second time, dark eyes challenging the blue pupil of the Eye. "What?" Strange replied. "The Eye was about to announce who my Father was until you cut it off," Cleo explained. "You ask of me to protect the Eye, Oh Spirit, well here I ask you who my father is if I am to fulfill my role!" Cleo demanded.

The Egyptian Blue light emitting from the Eye turned into an angry crimson in a blink of an eye, "Arrogant Child!" The Spirit yelled, the entire room vibrating. "You do not Place Conditions upon Me. The Powers of the High Priestess Flow through You, this Now Makes you Responsible of the Task. Until a New House of Life is Formed and a New High Priest Appointed, My Relic is Your Responsibility." The Spirit roared. The light receded back into the pupil and with a dull thud, the relic returned to its place on the shelf.

Walking to the roaring fireplace, Cleo picked up the Book of Wadjet, not having given much attention to the purple bound book before. "You asked how 'we' could defeat the threat, even though the Spirit made it very clear that it was my responsibility." Cleo pondered, eyes still inspecting the book, as if it too would produce a spirit to yell at her. "Why?" she asked.

Sighing, Strange flopped into his armchair, pinching the bridge of his nose, "When I said that together we would understand your Mother's magic, I meant it, Cleo." He responded matter-of-factly. Sitting back down in her armchair, stolen tea lay forgotten, Cleo ran her fingers over the book's binding. "I guess our sick days are over" Cleo mentioned, looking to her teacher.