Two weeks after the altercation in Hong Kong...
"So, what do you think?" he asked behind her, and she threw him a look over her shoulder.
Stephen was uncharacteristically quiet and subdued today. Perhaps, it was because it was the first time after she had seen him in the OR where a mysterious bald woman had died, Christine had had encountered a levitating cloak, and Stephen had left as if going into battle. God knows, he probably did. And now he stood behind her, in a weird building in Greenwich Village no less, his hands locked behind his back, and expectant expression on his face. And by the way, he was still dressed in those freakish new clothes of his.
"Um… This place is… unique?" she offered, and he smirked lopsidedly. She had such a weakness for this smirk of his!
His eyes were intent on her, and she quickly turned away. A neglectful egotistical Stephen she could survive. And she had. She'd spent years licking her wounds, and still could remember all the times they'd been together, but she survived. An angry broken Stephen lashing out on her - she could survive as well; with more pain and more emotional scars that the Stephen who seemed to sometimes forget she existed - but still could. A courteous Stephen who invited her to 'his new place,' showed her around - she noticed that couple doors remained locked - and politely asked her if she wanted to stay for dinner - this Stephen was too much.
"I'm glad you didn't go for 'strange.' That would be too cheap of a pun for you," he murmured, and gestured invitingly towards open doors into a small living room.
She had half a thought to run. She could see a table there, all set, two plates, two glasses. There were candles, but they were unlit. Which was sending a clear message of 'I'm not pressuring you.' Christine didn't want to be pressured. Or did she? Also, it was clear that they could be lit at any moment, and then this dinner he'd invited her to would be not a 'welcome to my new weird place' dinner, but… What would it be then? And most importantly, was Christine reading too much into every little detail here? Yep, she definitely was.
She took a deep breath and marched into the living room.
The dinner was horrible. The food, not the company. Christine moved sad-looking, overcooked pasta on her plate with a fork, and then heard Stephen chuckle low in his chest.
"I suppose my new job pays much worse than being a world-renown neurosurgeon. Given it's not the price of the food. It's the manner of its transportation that ruined it."
Christine lifted her eyes at him. He was studying a soggy asparagus hanging off his fork.
"And what was that manner of its transportation?" she asked carefully; and immediately bit her tongue. She half suspected that the mumbo-jumbo explanation he'd given her in the hospital - before disappearing in a glowing round hole in… reality? Well, in the supply closet wall - was true. And perhaps he was going to give her yet another of those right now, and who was she to pry?
That was actually a good question. What was she to the man in front of her?
"I was bringing it here, and got… detained." He sighed and put down his fork. "Do you want to go out?"
"We could order pizza," she offered quickly. Somehow ordering pizza seemed more like what friends would do, as opposed to… what?
Congrats on overthinking and giving yourself a headache, Christine!
"Pizza sounds great," Stephen agreed, got up, and walked quickly out of the room. "I'll get my phone," he called from another room, and Christine let out her breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding.
She looked around. The room looked like a room in a library, or a historical museum in some small town. Rows of books, some strange mask on the wall, couple clay pots in glass cases - not too flashy, nor expensive, nor prestigious. Not at all Stephen.
"Is it still that weird concoction that you like?" his voice came from the other room. "Arugula, mushroom, and mozzarella?"
That was it! That was too much! Dr. Stephen Strange - arrogant, self-centered, 'I only eat Sekai-ichi apples' Stephen Strange - wasn't supposed to remember what her taste in pizza was! Unless he wanted something from her! But what, in the god's name could he want?! He clearly wasn't bleeding or, for god sake's, once again separating from his physical body. He wasn't wounded, he didn't need hiding - she still wasn't sure he wasn't in a cult - and unless he wanted to borrow money from her, she couldn't possibly be of any use or importance! Wait, did he want to borrow money?! Maybe, from her father?! He knew, of course, that she'd cut off all connections with her privileged past, but if he were truly desperate, maybe that's what it was.
He showed up in the doors pressing a phone to his shoulder with his ear.
"So, still the same preferences?" he asked and smiled to her.
It was a new smile. She'd only seen it once. There, by the sink, when he was leaving, and she kissed his cheek, and felt his warm skin under her lips, and his gorgeous, amazing, ever changing, slanted eyes were so close, and for a second she thought that…
Christine shook her head, trying to get rid of the memories.
"No? No arugula, mushroom, and mozzarella?" he asked, and she groaned and dropped her head on the table. "Christine, are you OK?"
She so wasn't. What was she supposed to do now?
To be continued...