The first time a natural witch turned up on the doorstep, Wong nearly dropped her through a portal into the nearest police lockup.

To be fair, he'd been answering the doorbell of 177 Bleecker Street for weeks, only to see some configuration of teenage and pre-teen boys (with the occasional girl) running away and laughing. Some punk kid had seen him at the bodega on the corner, no doubt, and decided that he was the man they wanted to torment for the foreseeable future.

That evening, he'd just settled down after dinner to read in his favorite armchair in his own study. Strange and Hermione were out, again, probably engaging in cultural enrichment or something equally dismal. They were perfect for each other, in that respect, which suited Wong just fine. They could talk about all that stuff between themselves, and leave him out of it.

It was relatively late by then, and a feeble rain was not so much falling as merely appearing on the sidewalk outside, more like a heavy mist than an actual shower. Fog was rolling in, Wong suspected, ushering in one of those moody November nights that made the Big Apple look more like Victorian London.

Wong had entertained a vain hope that the spitting rain that night would keep those brats away, so he could have some peace for once.

Almost on cue, the bell had resounded once more, and Wong almost hadn't bothered to answer at all. Muttering about ridiculous children, he'd grumbled his way down the stairs, making no effort to hurry, in the hopes they'd just give up and go away. If not, he had his revenge planned. He was sorely tempted to let the officers of the 6th Precinct deal with them, abuse of his powers be damned. If it was the same crowd of white boys as before, he'd give it some serious consideration.

Arriving at the door, he threw it open, hoping to at least shock any remaining children into running away without the ensuing laughter.

Which is why he didn't miss it when the woman flinched.

She was clearly older than the miscreants he'd been expecting, perhaps in her early thirties. Long, bedraggled hair (which might have been blonde when it was clean) hid most of her face. Her tattered clothes were a mismatched collection of what otherwise would have been normal clothing - a dark trench coat covered a threadbare muumuu, her legs sheltered by a pair of baggy jeans, feet in fluffy slippers that had clearly seen better days.

She might have been any given bag lady on the streets of New York City, except for the aura.

It was a characteristic of the mageborn that Wong had noticed the moment he'd seen Hermione through the portal. He was fairly certain Strange didn't have the affinity for it yet, Sorcerer Supreme or not, and so Wong had kept it to himself. Let the man learn in his own time. His ego, though considerably less pronounced than when they'd first met, was still too formidable to allow such a thing as being teachable.

The scowl he'd had in place when he answered the door didn't disappear entirely, but morphed into a considering frown. "May I help you?" he half-stated, knowing full well why she was here.

"Please, sir, Hermione said to come here. Is she...here?"

The meekness in her voice gave him pause. "She is not," he stated simply, "but you may come in if you wish."

The woman hesitated, turning lamplike gray eyes on him, studying him mutely for what felt like several minutes. Then, with a nod, she darted through the gap he'd left between himself and the door. She didn't make a sound, but came to stand in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, appearing uncertain now what to do.

From the looks of her, she needed everything at once: food, sleep, dry clothes, and most definitely a bath. Wong decided to start with the most essential thing first.

"Follow me into the kitchen, and you can have some tea."

She trailed after him like a shadow.


The kitchen was perhaps the most modern room in the entire building, having been added sometime in the 1950s, if the appliances were anything to go by. It was small, clearly meant for only one cook (again, 1950s), but with just enough space for a small round table and a couple of chairs under the one tiny casement window. He indicated a chair, and the woman sat, watching him intently while he put the kettle on.

Wong was never one for small talk, and this woman didn't seem to need to speak, so the room was utterly silent except for the bubbling of water and clunk of the handthrown mug he sat down in front of her. He turned away to retrieve milk and sugar for her, as well as his own cup, which needed no augmentation.

They sat in silence, the woman sipping the hot tea gingerly. The differing scents of the teas intermingled as the cups steamed, the strong black tea faintly sweet and milky not quite overwhelmed by the heady aroma of jasmine from his own cup. It was, Wong considered, not unpleasant.

The creak of hinges heralded the arrival of the Sanctum's other two current occupants. Wong excused himself and stood, crossing to the door and sticking his head out.

Strange was apparently being witty. His face wore a sly expression, while Hermione stifled giggles under her hand. She was the first to notice him, and must have somehow sensed the importance of his appearance, because she sobered immediately.

"Wong, what's happened?"

"You have a visitor."

Her expression shifted through several emotions, before settling on concerned. "Take me to her."

"Come," he said, waving her in.

Hermione slipped past him, and Wong moved to block the doorway before Strange could enter.

The taller man frowned at him, but didn't press the issue. "Refugee?"

Wong nodded. "She is uneasy enough around me. Two men with her in a tiny room is too many."

Strange's eyes widened, then narrowed. "I see. I'll make certain she has the room next to Hermione's." Turning on his heel, the Sorcerer Supreme went to make himself useful, for once.

Wong returned to the kitchen, but leaned on the wall opposite the table, to give the two women space. Hermione had the other woman in her arms, while the woman wept into her shoulder.

Hermione lifted her head slightly when Wong came in, catching his eye. "She'll need clothes, and a bath. I presume Stephen is seeing to some of that?"

"A room, yes," Wong replied. "Adjoining yours, I believe. When she is ready, you may take her up."

Hermione nodded, stroking the woman's hair like a child's. "There now, love. You let it all out. When you're done, we'll get you cleaned up. Then Wong here can fix some supper, can't you, Wong?"

Wong rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. He knew where he was most needed now. Considering the situation, it was what he would have chosen in the first place, but there was no sense letting on about that. He did, after all, have a reputation to maintain.