Who: Wanda and Stephen What: Wanda picked up a demonic hitchhiker! 😱 When: Today Rating: Green
There was a lot Wanda had to catch Stephen up on. The demise of cult activities, for starters - once for the main cultists causing a stir, the ones who almost opened some portal to Hell or whatever it was. Another for the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh, where things ended in a literal fiery inferno.
She actually liked the side missions with Vision though. They seemed to be up her alley, and she had wanted to get back to doing good things anyway. Like in that time after the Raft and before Thanos’ goons ruined everything, in between when she and Vision would sneak away from their respective teams to be together. Now, at least they didn’t need to sneak around.
The Sanctum was always on her mind too, and she had to admit she missed the Gothic manor. It was a little like stepping foot into a museum everytime she found herself there. The would-be Avengers compound and Stark Industries were much more modern as far as design went; in the Sanctum, she could always feel just the barest thrum of something old beneath the heavy furniture and the dark paneling. Something powerful.
Carrying two pies (a frozen strawberry lemonade, perfect for the season, and a blackberry cardamom because the combination of spice and summer fruits was divine), she went to the front door and telekinetically grabbed the heavy knocker, clang-banging a few times - since she felt rude to just walk in now that she didn’t live here.
The door slowly creaked open, revealing the dimly lit interior full of aged Victorian furnishings and polished inlaid floors. Although no one seemed to be present, the interior silently beckoned her to enter, as though recognizing an old friend and welcoming them home.
"It's good to see you," Dr. Strange said as he walked out of a hallway, a book tucked under one arm. The cape was missing, as was his usual garb of a mystic master. In its place, he wore casual khakis and a t-shirt with a grey hoodie thrown over it. He looked like he was on his way to the grocery store, rather than holding a book that held the secrets of manipulating Eldritch energy through the use of certain sigils.
He eyed the pies and couldn't help but smile.
"Still trying to feed me and Wong, so we won't eat food based on a dare. Thank you, Wanda."
“I will always do this,” she promised with a wry grin, heading into the kitchen to set down her offerings. The strawberry lemonade pie was best kept cold - it was creamy, and tart, with a pink swirl as decoration; Wanda liked her desserts to look just as appetizing as they tasted.
Then she turned toward Stephen (after greeting the demon-possessed fridge, of course - she needed it to open for her to place the pie into), clasping her hands behind her back and studying him with cool blue eyes. It was good to see him too - he looked well, and she was glad he didn’t seem to be working himself too hard (or at least managed to not appear as if he was, which was likely the case).
“Vision and I completed our missions,” she said. “The cult of Cthulhu and a spinoff of that. The last thing we needed in this city was a demonic portal opened, or whatever they planned to do.” Or them calling down the Plagues of Egypt.
Stephen momentarily side-eyed the fridge when it opened for Wanda without any issues. It was a knowing but amused look, and one that said the battle would come later when he or Wong wanted some pie.
The fridge was there, immobile and now closed, ready for battle. A battle that, by all accounts, even the demon enjoyed.
At least he held up to Wanda's assessment of not looking like he was working too hard, since he had been working too hard. There was a holy relic he was hunting down, several fronts to monitor, a rift to sit lotus style in front of while on the astral plane, and some further control of the time stone that he wanted to see if meditation would address. But these tasks were for later, and for right now, he was looking very proud of his pupil, and patting himself on the back a bit for training her so well.
What? He still has a little bit of an ego. It was knocked off the ladder when he lost his hands, but he managed to climb back up a rung or two since then.
"That's good news," was Strange's reply. "The world's in your debt, and Vision's as well. I know it's only one cult out of...hundreds of thousands. But they were going to cause the most damage and loss of life in one fell swoop. That you stopped them and any cult members branched off from that is no small feat."
The world in her debt? Wanda looked vaguely amused at that. She didn’t know if she would go that far, but it was a good feeling to actually do something positive with her powers - plus she knew Vision liked working with her too, and she with him; they made a good team, a good partnership. He was perfect for her, in more ways than one.
“We got to visit Edinburgh again - it was nice to see it in real time, not just in my dreams, when we weren’t dealing with the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.” And their various animal heads, saved for later - right now it was all ash, everything burned to the ground. Nothing remained, though luckily the fire brigade managed to contain the flames before they spread. No casualties either.
But there was something else she had meant to ask Stephen about. “When we tracked the cult leader down here in the city, he had tried to open a portal - I managed to close it, but it literally - “ She motioned to the front of her, like, ka-boom. “It exploded on me. Something black and sticky, like demon blood.”
Strange meant every word of being in their debt, considering what was at stake. Even a fleeting glance at one of the Deep Ones after being unleashed from the imposed slumber of an Elder God could cause incurable madness on a mass scale. Not to mention having a gargantuan octopus, dragon, and human hybrid made of pure evil trying to wrest control of the entire world would be very, very bad for humanity. Without a cult willing to counterbalance by petitioning an Elder God, he'd probably have to go do that himself. And considering that they were tulpas, he found himself wishing he was back to fighting off Rakes and Windigos in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, like he was two weeks ago. All thanks to the kids on Creepy Pasta and Reddit. Simply put, there was no stopping the imaginations of the average teenagers.
He expected Slender Man would show up next. This universe seemed very susceptible to influence. Whether it was from a human or an Infinity Stone.
While he wanted to point all of that out, he never got the chance to put it into words. Instead, he was left squinting at her as he almost silently muttered the spell to see auras, and what he spied there was shadow moving through the ebbing crimson of Wanda's aura.
"You've been tainted by a demonic presence," Stephen said, blinking until the spell wore off. He usually cast it when meeting new arrivals, but the effect could be dizzying if he left it going all of the time. His tone and expression were serious, indeed. "How long?"
Wanda stood still, letting Stephen work his magic (literally). She too blinked, owlishly, but that was mostly from confusion - because she had no idea this had happened. The words ‘tainted’ and ‘demonic presence’ made her heart flutter anxiously; it felt like razorblades were scraping her stomach, instead of butterfly’s wings.
“About three weeks,” she said, but was quick to add, “I don’t feel any different otherwise. I just washed it off in the shower.” And then she and Vision christened their kitchen, but she didn’t think that was related or worth mentioning.
Still, it was probably wise to get rid of something that sounded dangerous. Preferably without involving head spinning, spitting pea soup, and levitating bodies. She had seen The Exorcist, it didn’t look fun. “How do we get rid of it?” she wanted to know.
That meant some of it went into the sewer system beneath New York. If there was three weeks to infest anything, it would have done so by now. Or already escaped.
Stephen sighed a little, but it was a mistake he would have made when starting out, and it was his fault for not following up with her. Now she was in danger. Whatever it was, was now a dark power woven into the very essence of her being.
"I want to tell you the full details but it might alert the presence within you. Then it would try to protect itself," was his reply. "It won't be comfortable but I'll do what I can."
To remove it, was what he meant by that. Nodding to her and hoping she understood, he held up both hands, moving them in the arcane gestures he learned from books and countless hours of practice. The very air around them sounded as though it was crystallizing, their surroundings becoming facets as though they existed within a gemstone, as he plunged them into the mirror dimension. It might make the demon stronger, but at least it wouldn't be set free to find a new host.
"Brace yourself," Stephen warned her, moving his hands to form a single large swirling sigal, and with a thrust of his hands, he sent it flying toward her.
Two things happened. First, the sigil collided with a shower of sparks against a dark mass that shot out of Wanda, like her shadow standing protectively in front of her.
The second was the sigil was blown back from whence it came, colliding into Dr. Strange and sending him toppling head over heels until he landed outside of the kitchen with a grunt.
What on earth...?
Wanda rushed to help Stephen up, her brow furrowing out of worry. She honestly thought the black goo was just that, goo, or demon vomit or something that was merely a parting gift - what else was she supposed to do besides get rid of it? She guessed she could have made her way to the Sanctum or a science lab, still covered in the stuff, and volunteer herself for study but she hadn’t been aware that a threat could be found in this form. That being tainted was even a possibility.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, feeling her cheeks burn out of humiliation and shame well up within her. It seemed like whenever she tried to do something good, she just ended up making things worse. Maybe she was cursed. “I can research how to get rid of it. I will fix it, I promise.”
"This is not your fault, Wanda," he said, letting her help him up onto his feet. That was no small spell he cast at her. It was meant to rid an individual of a demonic entity or creatures from the dark dimension. And, if anything, it was his fault that he left her open and vulnerable to a malady of this magnitude. "I'm going to amend that earlier statement about it not being comfortable. Yes, it hurt."
He rolled his head, popping his neck a little from that awkward landing.
"I don't want you to worry," he cautioned her, resting one hand on her shoulder. "But if you research this, the entity will know what you're trying to do. It's very delicate, removing a demon. And I'm afraid that either of us petitioning for a sanctioned exorcist is going to fall on deaf ears. Let me and Wong look for ways that aren't going to threaten it,and will send it back where it belongs."
That was the safest bet. To lure it back where it belonged and leave Wanda safe and whole. If she was normal right now, though, it was likely clinging on out of desperation.
Even so, he had to ask, "You aren't feeling tired or any compulsions to harm yourself or others, are you?"
A sanctioned exorcist. That sounded like something from a movie, but admittedly, Wanda’s foray into cultists activities and all her studying here at the Sanctum had gotten her immersed in that particular world - dark demon magic and evil and ancient beings.
She would do whatever she had to, in order to fix the situation. And she trusted Stephen - if he said to let him and Wong do the research, then she would.
Mutely, she nodded in understanding, considering all of this. “I do not feel tired, no. Or like I want to harm anyone, myself included.” Mostly she just felt silly - and, again, like she was cursed. It would not be so out of left field - besides, it wasn’t like her powers had come from a good place either. They’d been unlocked as a result of sinister experimentation.
“I can let you know if anything changes, though.” She was fine now, but she’d see what happened - apparently since she was tainted That really was her brand of luck, wasn’t it?
This was also Stephen's brand of luck. Where he believed he had all the answers to every problem, and something backfired or required the sort of sacrifice he hadn't intended. Having Wanda and Vision go take care of this branch of the Cthulhu cultists was a good idea. They were both adept and trustworthy, not to mention capable. But....
"None of us could have foreseen this happening," he told her, to make sure she knew this. That she knew it wasn't her fault. "Stay close to Vision or have him monitor for any changes. If anything does change, let me know. I'm going to Kamar-taj to see what we can do."
He smiled to let her know it would be all right, even if he wasn't sure of the extent of how harmful this would be. Wanda was resilient though. She wasn't afflicted after three weeks, and she didn't seem to be fighting for control. It was almost like a symbiosis rather than something parasitic, which made this even more of a unique situation.