Doctor Stephen Strange roamed the New York Sanctum, his gaze affixed to the open book he held in his hands. The last few days had been unusually quiet and so he had taken the opportunity to catch up on his reading, switching between the most recently published medical journals and thick tomes from Wong's library. He was currently engrossed in The Complete Anaxagoras.
There was a knock at the door. Looking up from the book, he snapped it closed and the Cloak of Levitation fell over his shoulders. He couldn't imagine who it would be. Most people who came to the sanctum used a portal.
Whoever it was knocked again and Strange sighed. He considered letting the door open on its own before swooping grandly in to see who it was who'd accepted the invitation but decided to save it for someone else. "Coming!" he called in a falsely cheery voice and then floated over the railing anyway because it was fun and his cloak liked the drama. It was possible it was someone looking for help who'd gotten his address from someone else he'd helped in the past. That happened on occasion though not often.
However, when he answered the door, his jaw dropped open in a way that was not befitting the Sorcerer Supreme.
"Christine?" Gathering his composure, he grinned. "What are you doing here?" After the Ancient One's death, he'd decided to keep his distance, not wanting to drag Christine into his world more than he already had. She was a good doctor and a good person and she deserved better than that.
"What, I can't visit a friend?" Christine wore her hair in a hasty bun and she looked like she'd just gotten off her shift. "Am I allowed in or are you busy with your… ah." She made a vague gesture.
Strange laughed. "Magic, you can say it. Come in. Would you like anything to drink? Tea?" He conjured up a cup of steaming green tea. "Coffee?" With an unnecessary flourish of his free hand, the tea changed into black coffee just like she liked it.
Christine laughed. "Coffee is fine," she said as she stepped inside and the door closed behind her. "You know, I will never get used to all this." She gazed around the sanctum in awe and Strange's heart swelled. It was good to see her again.
"So this is a social call?" Strange said and the collar of his cloak slapped him in the face.
Christine sat down on the sofa in the sitting room just off the entryway, took a small sip of coffee and then set the cup aside. "We're short staffed at the hospital and I've been pulling overtime all week. If I don't get some rest soon, I'm going to strangle someone."
Strange sat down beside her. "Since when did you get so violent?"
"What? Oh, I was just kidding. You know what that place can be like."
"Hectic." He knew it perfectly well. Still, he did miss it from time to time. Ever since becoming Sorcerer Supreme, he'd hardly had time for anything else though he was in the process of applying to get his medical license reinstated.
"You know, I was thinking," Christine said.
"There's a dangerous thought."
Christine rolled her eyes. "I've given it a lot of thought and I think we should give it another chance."
"Give what another chance?"
"Us," Christine said. "We gave up too easily, don't you think? It'd seem a shame to leave that mistake alone."
Strange raised an eyebrow. "Whatever happened to the Strange policy?"
Christine blinked. "Forget that. Let's just start over." She scooted closer to him.
Okay, this was weird. "I really don't think that's a good idea. I can understand it's very difficult to resist my charm and good looks, but my life is very unpredictable and I wouldn't want you to get hurt."
"But you'd protect me." She was very close now and while once he would have relished the closeness, that time had long since passed.
"Yes, but," he stuttered. "You said it yourself. The ego, the, uh…" He pointed to his head as if to indicate the complete mess he'd been in two years ago.
"You've changed, though," Christine breathed. "Don't you want to give it just…one…more…go." She ran her finger along his chest.
Strange jumped to his feet. "I think you could really use some rest. There's a bed upstairs. I know a spell that will give you the best night's sleep you've ever had and you'll be back to normal in the morning." There was definitely something wrong here.
"But I'm not tired anymore." Christine stood. "I just want you." She giggled. She actually giggled. This was a nightmare.
The phone rang which was even more odd than there being a knock on the door, seeing as he often didn't see the need to pay the phone bill.
"I love you, Stephen." Christine closed the distance between them and grabbed for his hand, placing the other on his chest. "I need you so much right now. Take me, Stephen." She'd lost her mind.
"Sleep on it," he said sternly. "I'm serious." Something had gotten to her, had changed her somehow. She wasn't herself. Strange's mind immediately went to his vast knowledge of neurological conditions for answers.
The phone went to voicemail. "Stephen, I don't even know where to start except to say what the hell is wrong with you? Telling me you love me, just like that, in front of all those people? Why? Why would you think that was okay? And after we've barely spoken for a year."
Strange's gaze was fixed on Christine.
"Oh, damn," she said.
Strange shoved her away and conjured twin, glowing tao mandalas at the ends of his fists. "I should've known."
Christine smirked and then she changed and in her place stood Loki.
"I told your brother I never wanted to see you again." Inwardly, Strange shuddered, thinking of Christine – of Loki – so close to him. In the peripheral of his focus, the voicemail was still going and the real Christine's accusations became more and more cringe worthy. He snapped out a hand and sent a golden rope flying toward Loki. When it coiled around his chest, Loki fizzled out like a hologram.
"Oh, I know," Loki said from a place farther to the left and Strange wanted to zap that smug look right off his face. He didn't even care if it would get him Thor's wrath later on, he wanted Loki gone and if that meant taking lethal action, so be it. That was actually preferable at the moment.
"You're a threat to this Earth. I'll be sure to tell Thor what happened to you."
"I'd say I'm more a threat to your pride at the moment. Oh, you should have seen the look on your face!" Loki laughed. "And you're going to have quite a time patching things up with your…girlfriend? Friend who's a girl? Honestly, it's hard to tell."
Strange gritted his teeth. "You will pay for that."
"I already have," Loki said. "That was for sucking me into another dimension. We're even now." A glowing blue cube appeared in his hand and a portal opened behind him, swallowing him whole.
Strange threw a fizzing disc of energy which knocked over the coffee, staining the carpet. And then he stood there and fumed because he didn't feel like cleaning it up.
His cloak consolingly stroked his face.
"Shut up," he said.
Somewhere between the ruins of Asgard and Earth, Thor stared out at the stars and wondered what the future would bring. He saw Loki's reflection in the glass as the trickster joined him.
"Where have you been?"
"Nowhere important," Loki said. "Just…settling a score." There was the ghost of a satisfied smile upon his face.