[I’ve always adored Stephen’s scarred hands--so painfully damaged and yet so eloquent and beautiful, as they are emblematic of his soul’s journey. In this excerpt from ‘Friday in the Park with Stephen’, a new friend literally takes the opportunity to show him the beauty he can’t see for himself, through her eyes. On my permanent wishlist--or if I should ever strike it rich--is to commission a piece like the one Hope creates for him.]
He found a large manila envelope waiting on the desk in the study he had commandeered as his own. It was marked in one corner ‘Please Do NOT Bend’, addressed simply ‘Stephen Strange’, and had to have been hand delivered, for there was no stamp or postmark—and in place of a return address was the inked image of a small but vibrantly blue butterfly, leaving him without a doubt whom had left it for him. Intrigued, Stephen carefully slit beneath the sealed flap and pulled out two pieces of 11 x 14 cardstock that had a piece of sketch paper sandwiched between them. He thought that it must be the portrait Hope had done of him, as that sat on the grass in Washington Square Park, and he smiled broadly despite his exhaustion, recalling the pleasant way they had whiled away the day, of their evening stroll to Hope’s place in Brooklyn, of the starlight kisses they had shared—and most especially of how reverently she had held his hand against her cheek, gingerly kissing his scarred flesh...Stephen let out a slow breath, and with hands that tremored from his old injury, removed the sketch from its protective cover.
“Whoa,” was all he managed, thunderstruck by a new image which Hope has so faithfully rendered.
The paper itself was similar to that in her sketch pad, but even to his untrained eye, of higher quality. She had titled the piece The Nature of Beauty--and had depicted a beauty he had honestly not believed was there. Her Artist’s eye was truly keen, for she had captured his every minutia from memory alone. The back of his left hand was displayed as though on its side, with his right hand draped across that wrist. She had added both his bracelets (fashioned of bead and leather, gifted to him by the elders of an Indi village after he had vanquished a Blight Demon that had laid waste to nearly half their fields) and his watch; he recalled her curiosity at him wearing a broken timepiece, and how she had only nodded in understanding when he replied it held sentimental value beyond any question of time, respecting his privacy enough not to press for more.
Hope had thoroughly filled in the details, even down to the cracks on the watch face. His fingers were relaxed, though his right index finger was held just slightly bent—and upon it sat the Blue Morpho, it’s wings and body so meticulously portrayed that Stephen could almost see it flutter slightly. She had drawn the piece in blacks and greys, with the subtlest hints of color at the his beaded bracelet and his watchband--though the butterfly held the echo of it’s true color, in sky blue chalk (so like the color of the sky that afternoon) which she had treated with a some kind of fixative to keep it from smudging. He found the sketch reminiscent of DaVinci’s detailed, realistic style, in his multitude of studies of the human form—the perfection of the human form which he had ever worshipped. Lastly, Hope had placed the date in the lower, righthand corner, and her initials bordered on the sketch itself.
But his favorite detail—one he never would have guessed he would find pleasing—was her depiction of the scars upon his hands. Hope had not stinted in depicting the weals that marked them, but she had given them an unexpected softness that left him with a soft appreciation in the center of his chest. Stephen decided on the spot that he would have it framed right away, to hang above the small desk in his quarters; it would be a gentle reminder of that old axiom ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’—and of an extraordinary soul whom fate had somehow sent in his direction on a sunny, spring afternoon.
Hope had taped a note loosely on the reverse of the sketch, which he removed with care. It read:
I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I have enjoyed creating it. This is the original, of course—but I have kept a scan of it for my portfolio. At the least, perhaps it will remind you that beauty is well beyond skin deep, and others often see what we think of as our flaws in a kinder light than we see ourselves.
You may not know this, but in many cultures blue butterflies symbolize joy, beauty, and good fortune—most appropriate when I think how lucky it was that our paths came to cross that day. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of trying my best to capture the unique beauty of your hands…scars and all.
PS I promised patience, and I swear I am a woman of my word. But please do keep trying, Stephen—as I’m certain that our paths are meant to cross again. xx
۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞ ۞
[If you’ve read this in full, I thank you, Kind Reader. And if you’d like to read more, Stephen and Hope have the chance to deepen their relationship--amidst plenty of angst--in my fic 14000604 .]
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honestly all i want for the end of Wanda's arc is to absolutely feral and possibly on a killing spree. i want her to be rightfully furious with the world and how it treated her and to do bad things. i want people in-universe and out to debate whether she lost control over her powers or if she chose to do that out of free will because the writing leaves it ambiguous.
i want Doctor Strange to be there at the end, sent by whoever is in charge to kill the Scarlet Witch. i want them to have an actual conversation instead of a fight because can you imagine how powerful that would be?
Wanda has created this little Hex pocket for herself after she laid waste to her surroundings. Stephen comes floating through the barrier like it's nothing. Wanda watches him approach and does nothing. "What do you want?" "Just to talk." she regards him for a moment, then invites him to sit with her.
they sit side by side on a half destroyed building and she asks him how he got through to her. he chuckles and says "Wizard to witch, magic is a complicated thing only to those who do not know it." "that's what they call me now, a witch?" she then nods to herself "they've been treating me like one anyways."
after a beat Wanda asks if he's here to kill her. "no, Wanda, nobody--" she looks at him and he concedes, "-- thinks you can be killed." "but you know better, don't you?" "i know that everyone can be defeated."
there's silence for a moment until Wanda says that heartbreaking line from House of M: "am i a coward for not wanting to kill myself when i know i should?"
we see how tired she is. it's never explicitly stated, but the audience is given the feeling that Wanda already is defeated.
it ends there. you see the Hex breaking away and only Stephen emerging. he tells whoever sent him that it's done, that the Scarlet Witch is no more.
there's an end credit scene where we see Wanda in a small cottage, cooking some paprikash. she looks out over the side of a mountain. the subtitle says "Mt. Wundagore". her face is unreadable, and when the screen fades to black the story of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, is officially concluded.
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