A few months later
They were supposed to be going out for a movie when it happened.
"What do you mean, you still don't have any money?" Stephen groaned. Maya shrugged.
"I don't see you raking in a fortune, doctor." She replied and Stephen rolled his eyes.
"Would it really kill you to be serious? You know, one day we really need to talk about your lack of respect for the currencies of the world."
Maya answered in a droll voice, "Attachment to material possessions-"
"All right, I'll stop you right there." Stephen said, shaking his head.
Maya grinned and she took one of his mangled hands in hers.
"Life ain't so bad at all, when you live it off the wall." She said in a sing-song voice that had Stephen laughing.
"You know, I still can't believe I've got you quoting Michael Jackson at me now." He chortled. "I still remember when you had no idea who he was."
"Sorry but not even the King of Pop is exactly useful in saving the multiverse."
"You never know, he might have made an excellent master of the Mystic Arts." Stephen mused and Maya laughed.
"Well, I've certainly learnt not to let first impressions determine everything. But I still somehow doubt it."
Stephen grinned in answer, before he proposed, "Fine; how about we go to the half-price viewing and you break the bank for once so we can also get popcorn this time?"
"Deal." Maya smiled.
She was about to go fetch the money that they did keep at Kamar-Taj when suddenly a gong sounded from somewhere inside the New York Sanctum. The sound reverberated throughout the entire building and instantly Maya and Stephen were on alert.
The alarm. Someone who shouldn't have entered the atmosphere was somehow on Earth.
"Who is it?" Stephen wondered as Maya conjured up a tracking spell. It didn't take long to get an answer.
"Loki." Stephen muttered just as Maya pulled the God of Mischief's exact location.
"He's in downtown New York." She said with some surprise and Stephen raised his hands and began to draw circles in the air.
"Well, he won't be for long."
Thor walked up to 177A Bleecker street with an unusual amount of caution. But when one was answering the summons of a mysterious kidnapper while searching (again) for one's missing trickster of a brother on a planet and in a city where said brother had once unleashed an entire army of aliens, the God of Thunder felt that exercising control was probably a good idea for once.
Reaching the heavy door, Thor hesitated. Stark and SHIELD tended to have doors that opened when approached but he remembered Jane using what she called a doorbell. His heart panged at the thought of his ex-girlfriend and he quickly shoved those thoughts away. Looking around, he couldn't see a doorbell but this was a pretty large building. Would they hear him knock? How hard could he knock without accidentally breaking something?
Shifting the dark umbrella in his hand, Thor raised his fist and knocked once on the door. The sound was softer than he'd expected and he made to knock again… only to find himself stumbling inside. At least, Thor thought he was inside, although how he'd ended up in this attic filled with mysterious relics was beyond him.
Glancing around warily, he tensed when a voice called, "Thor Odinson."
Thor turned to stare at the figure that floated in front of a large glass dome on the far side of the room. A dome that looked exactly like the one he had seen on the roof of the building he'd been trying to enter. Had this man somehow teleported him to the attic? It had been much faster and less noticeable than Loki's earlier disappearance into a golden portal.
The man floated forwards suddenly and Thor tensed. Lifting his umbrella before him, Thor watched with narrowed eyes as the middle-aged human male dressed in blue robes and a thick, red cloak floated down in front of him.
"God of Thunder." The man eyed the umbrella dryly. "You can put down the umbrella."
Thor glanced down before he smirked wryly at the man. The man just watched him impassively as Thor set his umbrella in an umbrella stand that had definitely not been there a second ago. The moment his 'umbrella' was out of his hand, Thor jolted as he like he'd been pushed forward and suddenly he was in yet another room.
No, he realized, he was in the same room, just a different part of it. They were now in a corner of the attic and the strange man leant against the tapestry on the wall, watching Thor across a display table which held some dainty-looking pegs in a holder.
"So," Thor began casually as he plucked one of the artifacts from its holder and waved it at the other man. "Earth has wizards now?"
He smirked and made to return the relic to its holder… only to accidentally knock more from their holder. Thor ran a finger through his long hair in embarrassment as the human man watched him with a slightly raised brow. Awkwardly, and while pretending nothing was wrong, Thor attempted to fix the display only to continue to knock even more of the artifacts out of their holder.
"The preferred term is 'Master of the Mystic Arts'." The human male corrected, observing Thor's scrambling. "You can leave that now."
Thor hastily put down the artifact in his hand, trying to ignore as it rolled across the table where it threatened to fall off with a clatter. Instead, he placed a hand on his hip and demanded, "All right, wizard. Who are you? Why should I care?"
The man seemed to withhold a sigh before he responded. "My name is Doctor Stephen Strange, and I have some questions for you. Take a seat."
Thor felt a whoosh of air behind him… and then he was sitting in an armchair across from Stephen in a dark, rich study draped in emerald cloth and filled with mahogany furniture. Thor looked around, feeling a bit on edge with all the moving and especially now that he wasn't even sure where he was - he wasn't even certain if he was in the same building he'd been in earlier.
"Tea?" Stephen asked casually as Thor fixed his attention back on the darker-haired man.
Thor felt something in his hand and he glanced at the small cup he now held with mild distaste.
"I don't drink tea."
"Then what do you drink?" Stephen asked, leaning back in his chair.
"Not tea." Thor shrugged with a smug smirk, which was wiped away a second later as he found himself now holding a stein of beer.
Stephen began his questioning, ignoring Thor's shock. "So, I keep a watch list of individuals and beings from other realms that may be a threat to this world."
Thor had sniffed the beer and taken a ginger sip by this point; apparently satisfied, he guzzled the contents down while Stephen continued, "Your adopted brother, Loki, is one of those beings."
"He's a worthy inclusion." Thor grinned, lowering his mostly empty stein… before ogling as the beer refilled itself in his glass.
Stephen ignored Thor's distraction and he leaned forward intently.
"Then why bring him here?"
Refocusing away from his refilled beer, Thor explained briefly. "We're looking for my father."
"So, if I were to tell you where Odin was... all parties concerned would promptly return to Asgard?"
"Promptly." Thor agreed.
"Great!" Stephen leant back. "Then we'll help you."
"We?" Thor repeated sharply.
Stephen gestured behind Thor, and Thor turned in his seat to see a woman had been lounging on the table in the far corner behind him. It was hard to see her in the shadows, but even so Thor had the distinct feeling she had not been there when he'd arrived. Or else she was as adept at concealing herself as his brother was - the comparison was not favourable.
"Thor Odinson." Maya greeted. "I am Maya Garthe."
"More wizards?" Thor raised a brow at Stephen. "Were you that concerned?"
"Well, like I said - your brother is on my list." Stephen shrugged. Thor glanced around.
"Should I expect any more of you to pop up from the shadows?"
"Not if you are sincere in your claims to return to Asgard immediately upon reuniting with your father." Maya answered as she strode up to stand by Stephen's chair.
Thor regarded the pair for a moment, his eyes narrowed. "If you knew where he was, why didn't you call me?"
"He was adamant that he not be disturbed." Stephen answered. "Your father said he had chosen to remain in exile… and you don't have a phone."
Thor scoffed. "No, I don't have a, a phone… but you could have sent an electronic letter. It's called an email."
Maya cocked a brow while Stephen replied dryly, "Yeah, do you have a computer?"
"No, what for?" Thor asked.
"Uh-huh." Stephen sighed under his breath. "Maybe I'm doomed to be surrounded by medieval super-beings."
Maya heard him and shot him a highly amused look but Thor didn't so he continued confidently, "Anyway, my father is no longer in exile. So if you could tell me where he is, I can take him home."
Thor smiled politely as he drew his beer back to his lips. Stephen nodded, back to business.
"Gladly." He stood beside Maya. "He's in Norway."
Thor staggered, sloshing beer as he suddenly found himself standing in a library, while beside him Stephen flipped through a book he was somehow suddenly holding.
"I'm just seeing whether this incantation requires any Asgardian modifications." Stephen grinned up at Thor, shutting the book. "Nope."
The moment the book shut, Thor was jostled again as he found himself now in some kind of study. A bookcase popped up beside him, and Thor leant against it heavily as he was starting to feel a little nauseous from all the hopping around - the beer clearly wasn't helping.
Stephen glanced over at the bookcase from where he had been mixing something in a goblet Maya handed him. "Oh, we don't need that."
Thor jerked as the bookcase was suddenly back against the far wall, taking him with it. He accidentally broke the shelf as he attempted to stay upright, causing books to tumble down all over the floor. Maya fixed the shelf and restored the books to their rightful place with a wave of her hand while Thor slowly turned to the pair sourly.
"Will you stop doing that?" He grumbled, putting down his beer and shaking his hands that had been soaked when the beer sloshed all over them.
Maya smirked before waving her hand again, and Thor's hands were suddenly clean. He paused, wondering if he should thank her, when Stephen turned to him and requested, "Can I ... I need a ... just one strand of your hair."
And just like that, all feelings of gratitude vanished.
"Let me explain something." Thor growled, advancing on the pair. "My hair is not to be meddled with."
Before he'd even finished speaking, Stephen plucked a strand of Thor's hair from behind.
"Argh!" Thor turned, wondering when Stephen had appeared behind him. He glared at the other man who was pulling the hair straight, as long as it would go, before turning to glare back at Maya who was no longer attempting to hide her amusement. Thor shouldn't have taken his eyes off Stephen, who used magic to lengthen and stretch the strand of hair he'd plucked as he imbued it with magic.
With a twist of his hands, Stephen began his spell… and Thor rolled down the bottom of the steps in the front foyer of the building to come to a stop at the two sorcerers' feet.
Thor could tell Maya was silently laughing. Her amber eyes were dancing with amusement as she helped him up from the floor and Thor huffed while he dusted himself off.
"We could have just walked." He grumbled.
"Or perhaps you would have preferred to fly." Maya smiled and Thor glanced her way.
Stephen meanwhile finished his spell and he tossed it into the air where it swirled and opened into a portal.
"He's waiting for you." Stephen informed the prince of Asgard.
"All right." Thor huffed, staring through the portal. He could see the edge of a cliff at the end of the patch of moist grass the portal opened up to, and waves rolling gently below while a grey-blue sky stretched above the horizon.
Thor inhaled deeply, preparing himself for what he would find once he crossed through the portal. Would his father be in a right state of mind when he saw him?
"Oh, don't forget your umbrella." Stephen added, breaking through Thor's thoughts.
"Oh, yes." Thor remembered and he stretched out his hand, calling his disguised Mjolnir.
In the distance, they heard the sound of glass breaking, metal clashing and banging as it crashed into each other and the ground, wood snapping. Maya winced as she heard the distinct sound of a mirror breaking while Stephen narrowed his eyes as they all listened to the destruction that was taking place far above their heads.
Thor grimaced in apology. "Sorry."
There was a final clatter as some armour toppled over… and then Thor's umbrella returned to his hand.
"There we go." Thor said cheerily, shaking off glass that was trapped in the folds of his 'umbrella' and pretending not to notice Maya's disapproving look and Stephen's resignation. He was getting good at that, pretending not to feel embarrassed.
Quickly moving on, Thor reminded the pair, "And I suppose I'll need my brother back."
"Oh, yeah. Right." Stephen remembered the God of Mischief he'd trapped in a loop and he quickly opened a portal not far above Thor's head.
With a yell, Loki landed heavily on the ground at his brother's feet. And suffice to say, this Asgardian was even less enthused by the transport.
"I have been falling," he snarled, flipping his long black hair out of his face, "for 30 minutes!"
Thor on the other hand was for once highly entertained by the sorcerer's own brand of mischief and he grinned down at his brother as Loki struggled to get to his feet.
"You can handle him from here." Stephen murmured to the elder son of Odin.
"Yes, of course." Thor agreed, turning back to the pair who had in the end turned out to be friendlier than he'd feared they would be. Even if the man seemed as arrogant as Loki and the woman too quiet for his taste. "Thank you very much for your help."
He shook hands with the man and then the woman.
"Good luck." Stephen told him, never quite taking his eyes off Loki.
"I fear you will very much need it." The woman added, looking right into Thor's eyes unlike her fellow. There was something in those amber depths that made Thor pause and re-examine the quiet lady; but Loki interrupted as he finally managed to get upright.
"Handle me?" The infuriated god spat, turning to face the two sorcerers. "Who are you?"
Twin knives appeared in his hands and Thor warned, "Loki..."
But Loki ignored the warning as he snarled at the other pair, "You think you're some kind of sorcerer?"
Stephen twitched while Maya folded her arms as the god began to advance on them.
"Don't think for one minute, you second-rate…"
"All right, bye-bye!" Stephen interrupted loudly, waving his hand.
His spell flew forward, swallowing the two gods into the portal before it disappeared and all was quiet in the Sanctum once more. Maya shook her head at the tall man beside her.
"You enjoyed that far too much." Maya noted.
Stephen feigned innocence but he couldn't quite hide his smugness as he let his serious facade slip now that the gods were gone.
"Well, it was nice to finally meet someone who didn't already have an appreciation for the Arts." He grinned then, unable to hide his glee any longer. "It would have been a wasted opportunity not to take advantage of that."
"You just enjoyed lording it over two gods." Maya scoffed but her own lips quirked. Stephen smiled winningly at her, but Maya narrowed her eyes back at him as she regained her stern countenance.
"And we are not medieval."
"Yes you are." Stephen retorted. "You didn't even know that flat screen TVs have been a thing for years."
"Well, you hardly need a television when you can walk a different realm in the multiverse." Maya sniped back, ignoring the arm Stephen wrapped around her waist although she didn't exactly fight it when he drew her against him.
"Just call it a TV, Maya. And admit it, you were fascinated by Netflix. And a usb."
"I think not, priya."
"And you're lying, dear. That is a punishable crime."
"I am punished enough, suffering through your various references to neanderthal entertainment."
"And yet you seem to enjoy said entertainment whenever I introduce you to it."
"Perhaps I am just a skilled actor."
"Or you could just admit you love it."
Maya's eyes flashed with amusement and teasing defiance. "Never."
"Well, maybe I can persuade you otherwise."
Stephen closed the distance between them, claiming her lips for his own. They kissed softly in the entrance hall for a long while before finally breaking apart. Stephen grinned triumphantly at the pink flush of desire he'd managed to draw onto Maya's skin, and she rolled her eyes at him even though she couldn't quite fight the grin tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Come on, or we'll be late." She sighed, removing his hands from her although she couldn't stop herself from kissing him one more time. "What was the movie you wanted me to see again?"
"It's not another horror is it?"
"No, it's not." Stephen promised. "And I think you'll like this one."
In the months since they'd started a romantic relationship, Stephen had shown Maya a vast array of movies. As a result, he had learnt very quickly after a viewing of The Shining and Silence of the Lambs that Maya was not very impressed with horror movies and generally disliked watching them. He saw her point: when one's reality was protecting the world from evil, it was neither scary nor entertaining to watch a film about persons doing exactly the opposite. On the other hand, Maya appeared to love classics, preferring the simple but elegant storylines. At the same time, Stephen had also discovered Maya had a curious interest in science fiction movies (odd given that her life was not that far from the stuff out of science fiction). In particular, she had developed a rather interesting attachment to one specific classic.
"Okay, you're the doc, Doc."
Stephen smiled as he always did when Maya quoted Back to the Future at him. It wasn't that different from indulging a child really but Stephen genuinely enjoyed when Maya absently quoted the classic movie, knowing he had introduced it into her life.
"Are you sure you want to go though, priya?" He couldn't stop himself from teasing her. "I wouldn't want you to suffer any more than you apparently already are."
She shot him a smirk. "Oh, I think I can handle it."
Her look turned sultry, and Stephen found his mouth suddenly going very dry.
"And besides, I can think of a few treats I can fill my time with if I find it too unbearable."
That shut him up and Stephen could only stare at Maya with his mouth hanging open as she strode away, swinging her hips in a way that should definitely be illegal. He definitely regretted showing her James Bond now. Well, perhaps not regretted entirely… but damn, he'd lost another round to her and he only had himself to blame for it.