1194/Freedom Fighters or Terrorists

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Freedom Fighters or Terrorists
Date of Scene: 17 April 2020
Location: Latverian Embassy
Synopsis: Clea and Doom catch up on a decades' long association...
Cast of Characters: Clea, Victor Von Doom

Clea has posed:
How long since those encounters with a living ghost among the hidden valleys of the high Tibetian plateaus? How long since the shadows bent around a wisp of moonlight walking beneath the knife-sharp defiles into a space ruled by one. Since he could not sleep, thoughts devoured by that driving purpose buried within. Since a visitor emerged from spreading darkness far from the touch of a distant winter sun, a luminous truth wrapped in countless questions.

The answer may differ depending on who is asked, but it may seem a very long time indeed. Every second littered across an immense range of time built to staggering heights separates the first brush from the last in that breathless, gasping roof the world from now, an uncommonly cold evening settled on New York. April's flirtations with warmth end up lashed by the outgoing chill from the northeast, wind whipping the first cherry blossoms loaded on tree branches and brave daffodils turning their buttery heads to the missing sun. Stars twinkle pitilessly overhead where they might not be seen through an ambient glow of the city that never sleeps. Ice fringes the gutters and annoyed New Yorkers clutch their coats to themselves and bend into the howling, moaning raiders charging down every alley and past the stolid buildings.

Except for a young woman in a smart cropped jacket and an auroral skirt winding around her legs. She, unlike so many, refuses to acknowledge the triumph of bitter winds and ragged cirrus clouds escorted across the leaden sky. A white slip caught in her fingertips, folded once, affords an impression of quality, heavyweight paper. Referred to a single time, she looks ahead to the elegant building across the street. The bots possibly register /her/ before she notices them, though this is a toss-up. What to say of the many other systems wrapped around the titular home-away-from-home for Latverians everywhere?

The hallmarks of a very singular herald in the night never really change. She steps off the sidewalk, closing in with a tidy click of her heeled ankle boots, every step laid down with such exquisite precision it's a wonder she does not break into an elaborate volte cherished in the courtly halls of Versailles so long ago. The paper she condemns to the pocket of the cropped moto jacket barely brushing the inset of her waist, articulating an inhuman grace molded into urbane sophistication. Just a woman: but no cross-checked database scan comes up with anything more than slightest fingerprints. With some savvy attempts, a technical analyst might snatch glimpses from CCTV in London and Paris, glimpses of a broken record. Anything measuring in the IR spectrum might find her feverish, perhaps in dire need of medical assistance, but without an elevated heartrate. Should those scanners check for energy signatures... well. Well, that's another matter altogether, as they might be certain a femme-bot or nuclear reactor is about to detonate on their doorstep.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doctor Doom comes down to the main hallway, being notified of the approaching herald. Though he has not seen this being before in this form, the aura does not lie to those that can see. And while science might not discern the truth, those aware of other metaphysical aspects of reality would not fail to see the identity of the one that approaches.

And so Doom bid her passage into the Embassy proper, as debts have been paid back and forth throughout the decades until one is not aware of who might be in the position of repaying the other. An ouroboros of debt that pleases the ruler of Latveria, as he glances upon the physical form of one that he knows well... and that knows him just as much, if not better.

And then, he bows towards her, a courtly gesture, from one monarch to another. Then, he extends his hand, "I must confess, I am... unused to seeing you on this plane of existence." Though from his tone, it is still a pleasure, as it always is, to see someone that Doom can consider a peer.

Clea has posed:
Auras never lie without application of heavy illusions or transformation, and nothing of that sort envelops Clea to prevent detection. It's the equivalent of a nuclear vessel anchoring off a fishing port with all lights blazing, or a huge neon sign flicking on and off in an entirely noir environment. At least to the right people. To everyone else, a pale-haired woman approaches the front entrance of the Latverian Embassy with next to obvious reason to do so. Hands clasped in front of her make a show of modesty for someone unassuming in most other conditions, her violet eyes turned up briefly to the lintel as though she might expect to read some motto enscribed on the fine metal.

Only when the doors open to admit her will the tall Faltine sorceress step inside. Her bearing doesn't deviate from a charming smile or the certain calm exuded from someone so pale, hair falling in pearly waves a touch too lush and perfect to be anything but the handiwork of a high-end salon. Mostly. Light bends a little fuzzy around the sides, diffused and soft. Nebulous, almost, suggesting she might be intangible. The question is, does the doubt nibble in a legend's mind, or will it be banished in a sense?

"Such a place is remarkable," she states, looking about. Taking it all in at once is hard, but oh, Clea tries. That includes Doom himself, her escort and guide through all this realm. "It carries to much of your stamp. I would know it almost anywhere." A cascade effect then to curtsy, dipping with ease and latitude, such that her hair slides from her shoulder in a wave of moonglow and starwrack. "Esteemed One, it is fair to say I feel unused to being here. But it has been a few months. Weeks, for New York. Gather my courage and here we are, yes?" A curl of her fingers indicates a space between them.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom takes the offered hand, bowing slowly over the knuckles as if to prove to himself that she is, in fact, physical here after all. Then he straightens, his gaze piercing hers from behind his mask, "Thank you, my lady, and your observations do you much credit." He pauses, then the mask articulates a smile.

He gestures, leading Clea on a tour, though his hand remains with hers, if she allows it. Perhaps a contact to remind him that she is here, in the flesh, instead of a spiritual guide through these past decades. "Though now, I regret your beauty could not be shown in the portraits of the liberation of Latveria." He looks back at her, "You aided me greatly in that endeavor, as we have helped each other throughout the decades." Memories flash, of the Dark Dimension, and the real reason Doom left his throne.

An obligation to repay, to an ally that he rarely spoke of.

Clea has posed:
Warm: not quite feverish, but warm. That smooth flesh carries no scars or indications whatsoever that she has ever known the curse of aging, a hint of hardship. There are many women in exalted roles through history who preserved their skin with creams and potions and spells, but won't match that. Clea wears a few slim rings and little more, and absent of any jewelry other than a pendant at her throat and the moonlight literally basking in her hair like a lover's caress refusing to part ways.

"You must not think me ungracious for withholding myself from coming here. The landscape of human affairs remains strange to me, and finding one's bearings is never easy." He speaks in the third person personal; hers, the inflected third person neutral, especially when stating judgments. Call it a lifetime of practiced stealth, a visible habit sometimes used for courtesy and sometimes to save her neck. Though, she holds Doom's arm fast, almost weightless despite being very likely as heavy as he is otherwise. The surging fire buried in a mortal form has its effects after all. A spiritual guide is he, still, giving her freedom as her footsteps periodically miss the beat in longer stretches.

His words give her pause, at least audibly. Providence steers her where he wills. "Whyever regret the freedom you so long desired? In war, not all contributions can be measured equally. People rally to a banner and a figurehead." A halt there, for her to try and focus on the right word, the correct impression. "You embody the mission as a leader must. Disperse the responsibility in many places, it can be difficult to focus on who leads and take heart from how they stir fundamental emotions. I don't know of a committee that ever won a war when all of them needed equal due." She knows about committees. She really /is/ human.

"I have never forgotten what it cost you. Or anyone."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom pauses at the mention of cost, for there was such a cost. "That price... I paid it gladly, Clea. And I would do so again, if it were necessary." He feels the heat of her touch, even through his armor. Physical armor does little to dull the heat of such magics, though he doesn't seem to shy away from the fire. Rather, it invigorates, inspires his genius. Or perhaps madness, the line is razor thin between those two states after all.

He then looks at her, "I thought that my heir was capable of managing such things, while I attended to my debt to you. He was not, and paid that price, as did my country. Though I have restored order to my realm, as was required, because you know. You know the burden of leadership that falls upon your brow, just as it falls upon mine, Clea."

He stops, then, and reaches out with his other hand, a surprisingly gentle touch of her cheek with his fingers, "Though, with your experience of... other dimensions, perhaps you can assist in a... project, of mine." A slightly calculating look, not towards her, but in general, as he thinks of a plan... setting himself twenty moves ahead of a virtual opponent, sitting in a lake of fire.

Clea has posed:
Metal eventually warms up in proximity to Clea, as it would to any living body. She merely accelerates the process a bit. The darkness flees away from her hair, that nimbus most evident when in a darkened space. Pull her into the pooling shadows and they will end up shot through skeins of moonlight despite there being no orb riding the skies in pristine majesty. Look askance and the dull outline of nebulous flames lap the central whorl of a curl, or trail down the carefully arranged locks. It takes time to see, hiding at the periphery of vision, but there they are.

Fingers slid across her brow to push aside the heavy locks now and then. "Your heir." A beat. Two. It takes a moment to settle in, and she tilts her head. The question hangs on her lips as she assesses Doom through downswept lashes, blunting only a little those unnaturally vibrant eyes in a shade that simply isn't normal. Whatever blue overlay of illusion means to make them so fades a bit. "Is he still alive? The loss of an heir is a great one, especially if blood or carefully groomed. The pressure is on me to decide on one in the next century. My people will expect me to put an effort into it, in two or three cycles." Though as in everything, the Dark Dimension's very strange and peculiar nature of time isn't like Earth's at all. Some considerations never change, especially not among the power hungry.

But that fades when he touches the line of her cheek. Her head tilts a fraction into it, habit-forming, dangerous. Oh, he is tangible in ways so often not in an astral form. The first dance of whitefire ignites, her gaze molten gemstone, and then her hair is wreathed in the coronal emblem of birthright and legacy: the Flames of the Faltine. Ouroboros debt, spiralling to devour itself, and become again. An infinity knot of promises and urges. "Tell me, then."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom responds first to her questions about his heir, "My adopted heir, Kristoff. He... was not up to the task of defending Latveria. He is currently recovering, I saved him, but the toll... was great." Perhaps regret is in his voice, though whether it was at Kristoff for not being strong enough, or for Doom for making the mistake in judgment, is hard to discern.

Then, at her request, he steps closer, his own armor seeming to almost reflect her heat and fire, or else he burns with his own passions as he murmurs.

"My mother, for decades, has been trapped in Mephisto's realm. Wrongfully. I seek to free her. I thought science was the key, but that will... not work. At least, not within a scope of time acceptable to me. Therefore, I require aid from the mystical realm." His eyes transfix hers, and she sees the burning will, the indomitable essence that is this man.

That is Doom.

Clea has posed:
Adoption Clea understands, with an almost pinpoint clarity. Her pupils contract a fraction at mention, the realities of things sketched out in fine detail. Long does she gaze upon him, her own image thrown back by the mask unless its finish proves too matte for it. Rather that solid look superimposed over Victor's like a ghost haunting him doesn't cause her to flinch, though it might give the statuesque young woman pause to stare a little longer now and then. "Recovering. Nothing without loss, a sacrifice paid somehow." The platitude rings wrong. It forces her to reassess, the smallest of lines marring her nose while she seeks the correct response. "I am sorry that you carried such on your shoulders. Wars here... they have a special kind of savagery."

Perhaps it's something she already knows about, one learned hard as a visitor to a foreign realm. Tibet's struggles for independence and the spectre of nuclear war on the subcontinent was never far. A Russian bear stalking the Sino-Soviet borders, even if the name in theory had changed. Her mouth flattens for a moment, so mobile and so denied. "But we cannot claim to be any better where I am from. All of us have flaws, and the chance to overcome our weaknesses for something better." The mark of hope comes so easily, that she well must believe it.

The gentle pause brings forth a look again. Looking, truly, with the melodies of the spheres in her ears and a trailing wisdom rooted deeply in the other mark of who she is: a sorcerer supreme. Who he is: a man who could just be. It takes time for the request to sink in or for her response to be tendered. "Oh, that player on an ugly stage indeed. A beggar's meal disguised as a feast, weaving his sickly little spiderwebs." Shades of a Tibetan archmage skim through word choice, tempering reaction, even while the flames arc and singe gold and violet around her, giving colour where her opalescent fairness is so very not green. But complementary -to- green! "Few good things ever come by crossing his path, you must know this. Conjecturing at a deal, you would need something tremendously satisfying for him to consider it. I can already see hindrances. He knows he has something you want, doesn't he?"

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom looks at Clea for a long moment, then sighs and nods, "Indeed. He knows, all too well. He has known for a while, and I will have to determing either something he wants in exchange..." He pauses, "Or I'll have to have the power to wrest it from him."

Which, well, for anyone else it might be hubris. But Doom has tangled with cosmic entities before and came out ahead of such conflicts. A faint smile as he looks over at her, hand absently moving from her cheek to stroke that ephemeral hair of hers, almost marveling at the unearthly texture there. Then he shakes off the revelry, "In any event, I would ask your assistance. The Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension has always been an worthy ally, and one that I consider a peer." Which is something that he considers few to be.

Clea has posed:
"Do nothing by half-measures. You need this engraved somewhere, a maxim you live by." Clea's suggestion holds no force, but merely the conjuration of an amusement int he middle of gravity. Her feet don't touch the ground, putting them eye to eye, perhaps her a touch taller. Folding hands together might suggest a prayerful position save no faith quite announces itself so, the long digits slipped between her knuckles so each ring gleams in a crowned hint of glorious metal. Steps closer. So near, and recklessly far. "We are far from simple strategies."

It's an open inquiry there, leaving him room to ask. Audacity is hardly unfamiliar to her. For one, the Regent of the Dark Dimension isn't there putting Dormammu in his place. She is not herding cats or bespelling a future enchantment, but standing in a Latverian embassy confiding in possibilities. "Of course, the particulars must be discussed. Ideas to be discarded. I cannot imagine you have tried without results, and those would be invaluable to understand. My methods could be contrary so hearing your stance on what is working and what has failed keeps us from retreading old ground. I don't wish to summarize options that prove wholeheartedly unsuitable and diminish any opinion you hold. The gravity of the situation is too high."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom actually chuckles at that, "Half-measures are not something that Doom does." He almost says that as a self-parody, considering he normally doesn't bother with the third person when in her presence. Perhaps feeling that it's unnecessary.

Or perhaps knowing her well enough, and she knows him, that he is not just some vague representation of Doom. Something with more depth that that. Then he smiles, "If you wish, we can go upstairs to my study, and discuss the matter further. Various strategies that could be employed, as I do have some ideas, now that I know you are willing to work with me in this endeavor." Which is something he dared not hope, but with her as his ally...

Perhaps, indeed, he might dare hope.

Clea has posed:
Two fingers salute in a sense, brushed over her hairline and flicking away one of the buoyant tresses that together form two crescent moons put back to back. It's a curious trademark almost indicative of the Flames of her regency, or the simple flames in a hearth. Combing strands away with a practiced flick of her wrist, Clea nods and nearly undoes all her work. "No. Half-measures don't seem to suit your temperament, or what I know of it." A clouded look settles into those wide, clear eyes, throwing a pall over her animated expression and smothering out some of the essential light and heat therein.

A lagging in pace doesn't mean much considering if he keeps walking, Doom literally can pull her along unless she actively remains stationary. "I accept things changed in my time away from Earth. I thought what would take a few weeks would be a short diversion, not a sabbatical like this. A jarring departure. People here, in this dimension, live almost recklessly by our standards. By many standards," she corrects herself, a fraction of a smile showing for an instant. "I am certain the Asgardians and the hidden races among you agree. Always a rush and the progress of humanity can leap forward at such unexpected intervals, compressing all their energy and snapping suddenly by a leap, a bound, a light year. I extrapolate on what I know, but you will correct me when my baselines are inaccurate or imperfect? Because perspectives formed erroneously serve no one. It was hard enough watching you all adapt to electrical power, then turn about and see you advanced to self-managed flight in a rickety bi-wing creation to finally reaching your own moon. I'm told it is pretty up there. Peaceful, silent, and beautiful to watch the Earth in its finite glory. I think the clouds would be the most impressive for all the oceans have their grandeur. Oceans appear unchanging. Clouds tell me your world lives. It -is-, a thriving and bubbling hive of active..." A hesitation, finding the word. "The insects with the stripes. Oh bother." Someone has shown her Winnie-the-Pooh but not bees? A shame. Oh well, the honey's the only commodity that ever mattered. Unless you're a hephalump.

Arm still circled around his, she flits after the Latverian with an unnatural ease that prima ballerinas would give their opponents' left legs to accomplish, and all of it comes naturally as her auroral skirt wraps languidly around her thighs and billows in an unseen wind. "What am I waxing poetic about? You must forgive me. Of course, lead on, and we can get wonderfully entangled in the details and the visions held in that incomparable mind of yours."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom nods, "Humanity's greatest strength, and perhaps weakness, is that constant drive. Knowing that life is short, and seeking to make a difference while one still can. Though this drive takes many forms." He doesn't exactly drag her, but seeing that she's floating on occasion, he also does make sure the pace is kept steady. He does seem to relax a bit, waxing philosophical as she has that warm grip upon his arm.

At the mention of the Moon, Doom actually does smile, the mask curving appropriately as his pleasure at that is genuine, "The view of Earth from the Moon is a spectaular vision, and worthy of inspiration. I have seen it first hand, and it would be a great pleasure for me to show it to you as well. And your visions are something that many would enjoy losing themselves in, if they had but the opportunity."

He pauses, then amends, "But, my lady, you are thinking of bees. A beehive." A bit of a wry smile at that, "Far more organized than humanity could ever hope to be, but a well-taken point nonetheless. I have... attempted to unify humanity in the past, for a common goal, but that always meets with resistance. Better, it seems, to fritter away in trivialities than come together for a common goal. Though there are, of course, exceptions." His other hand comes down, covering Clea's hand on his arm and holding it with a curious and chivalric gentleness, the armor not so rough that it could not manage that feat.

Clea has posed:
The soft cadence of their progress is marked more by the swirl of silk and the slip of his soles on the ground rather than any particular patterning of footfalls mingling with Doom's. Clea is very quiet even when she is in contact with the ground, partly by a habit of perhaps tiptoeing en pointe much of the way. It makes the heeled ankle boots almost an afterthought, seeing little relevant use. No drag is really necessary while she takes in the building, so unfamiliar in its ways, but indicative of much. A stranger in a strange land, she has to absorb information from every source available. Architecture is often an excellent one, and it reveals a good deal inadvertently about the character of the occupants and their outward desire to appear a given way. Much is to be learned. "I am content to travel wherever I can. The planet has diversity and beauty to be admired, protected even." Oh, is she in for a heartbreak when she watches David Attenborough narrate the very worst of humanity's foibles. She might just lose her composure altogether watching those poor walruses. "Bees! The industrious ones. Though in many ways they are so admirable, each doing their best, contributing to their community. So many kinds, too. Though no, I would tell you this. Your nations, their peoples, are diverse. Trying to create one single nation of all of them when they are sometimes so divisive internally cannot easily set aside those differences. It's not altogether different from my people. We have so many small differences, yet everyone would see as a monolith. We are not, though. Neither is humanity." A knowledgeable viewpoint, if imperfect. Her lips soften, thoughtful. The armour that brushes against her skin isn't likely to impact it much at all, considering her inherent density and the fire within. Still, the thought counts, and she can read that better than many books.

The path is long, but the acts along the way matter most.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
And eventually, the pair arrive at Doom's penthouse, a combination of bedroom, study, and... well, just a place to relax. A place where Doom does not typically bring many, but still, old friends are an exception to this rule. "Yes, I admit that my goal is to try and unite humanity, to lead us all into a glorious new age, but... there are those who lack the vision to see where I do." A bit of a sigh at that, as he regards Clea, "In the past, I might have tried brute force, but... well, that is not a practical option at the present time." Though, he hasn't really stopped, either...

Then, he guides her in, first showing her the most important thing, to him at least, the paintings. "These are my parents. My mother... well, I mentioned already. My father was killed under a false accusation, and I had to flee. Eventually, justice was served."

He then pauses, then sounds a bit wry as he indicates the other photo, "And this, is my god-daughter, Valeria. She's much older now, of course, but just as affectionate as she is there." He looks back to Clea, "Though I might rule now, my heart still does yearn sometimes for a simpler life, the life of the Rom, untied and unfettered, floating freely." His voice grows a bit wistful, a confessional that few would ever hear. To be honest, he would never actually /do/ it, but that doesn't mean he would never slip away for a quiet moment or three.

Clea has posed:
A place apart from the rest give an unusual glimpse deeper beyond the armour and the mask. A place that's as intimate as a diary where Doom's handwriting is scrawled in furniture and textiles, in textures and ideas painted with a broad brush. Not to mention the paintings and portraits, but staring at them would be the height of indecency. Not to be tolerated here or anywhere; Clea has far too much care for such matters even if others don't. She resides, slightly luminous, though a concerted effort to flatten the effect of her radiant hair is slowly achieved by willing the Flames of the Faltine into abeyance for now. Of course they still burn, but mostly out of sight. "It is not a bad vision. Perhaps one for the long term, perhaps an innovative way rather than political?" A matter to be skimmed over, for he is the host and she is not quite ready to broach the subject in its greater detail. "I do not blame you, though, for searching for a different method. Force is a sword that cuts both ways. Use it and it may be used against you. But finding a method to appeal broadly is far more difficult."

Her gentle touch squeezes lightly at his arm as they pause in front of the painting cycle, her eyes taking in the story. She can read well enough. "She was lovely. This is an accurate portrayal, yes? And your father... I am sorry for the loss. This brings them nearly to life." Look, but don't touch; not on his life. Not when her skills might be too likely to register psychometry or interact with a hidden barrier zapping anyone who might trouble the enemies of Doom who would pester his parents. Or the small altar in homage to them.

The wry image of his words halts her as she looks askance to him. It's so rare enough to hear. "You have a daughter?" Her head tilts slightly. "With a goddess? Should I expect to meet her at any time?" Again, some of those cultural traits not carried over. "Freedom not to be tied down is natural. It was a playwright who said heavy is the head and matters about a crown, wasn't it? I think he knew the truth. No matter how fine the power seems from outside, it has a cost. You cease to be only you, but become bigger than that. You lose yourself being all to yourself, and give up so much to those who need. They never cease, of course. A calculation many don't make well, or they think the freedom is well worth it. Maybe they are right."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom ahs, "No... I've never had any children. The term 'god daughter'... well, some human customs have people that are designated godparents. If anything should happen to the parents, then the godparent would raise them instead." He hmms, "I saved the life of Susan Richards, and her daughter, and they named me her godfather in exchange." He sounds rather proud of that fact.

Doom then looks at Clea, pivoting to stand in front of her as he says, "I would welcome the opportunity for you to meet Valeria. She is brilliant in science, but she doesn't have much of a feel for magic. Not as we do." His eyes linger on Clea, as even one such as he is unable to look away for very long from his guest.

Clea has posed:
Perhaps a little mollified under the accepting nod -- and the shock to the system nudged aside -- Clea exhales a rounded vowel. "Ah!" It rings with a clarity of purpose and compresses much in that fact. "So you are honoured because this rescue preserved the child and the mother. A charming elegance in parallel, though is it always a prize for such protection? Perhaps in special situations. But she is a comely child." She pauses, correcting herself. "Woman?" The hint of a dimple almost indents her cheek with the wry upturn of her mouth, the corner tucked in a feline curl and so giving the false impression of dimples where they don't exist. "Adulthood in your terms is so very different in mine. Perhaps in a few millennia, I can look forward to it."

Her posture relaxes more, the tension slowly washing away, but it's a process like glaciation. Achingly slow and profound when the aftermath is determined. he stands and she, in turn, bobs up an inch or two to meet eye to eye. The motion causes her skirt to sway, her earrings to wisp back and forth, but little else. "Would she be comfortable meeting me? I of course can leave off the place where I come from. Just enough to say I'm foreign. But yes, oh very much. Clearly you think well to have her image here, and if she is this 'goddaughter' of yours. It would be unseemly not to. But I do for its own sake, too." The curling balance of her hair is a pearly wave flowing over her shoulders in a sea of stardust and moonlight, twinkling with the uptick in excitement.

"Would it please you? You do not have to do it only for politeness' sake." An opportunity for him to demure, evade. As if he ever would. He might.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom laughs, a bit ruefully, "Comfortable meeting you? She would be far too comfortable to meet you, Clea. And she is... far too grown up for my own feelings, I think. I still have trouble not seeing her as the little girl she was, which is unfair to her."

His hand shifts a bit, as he actually looks up at the floating woman, this Queen from another realm that deigned to visit him. He pauses, "I think she would have no problem understanding where you are from, though she might spend the next ten years asking you all sorts of questions." He then gently touches her cheek, "Your being here pleases me, and your meeting Valeria would do as well. Though, I must confess other thoughts on my mind." A soft cough, as his eyes look at this woman, one he would consider a peer, a friend... now on the same physical plane as he.

Clea has posed:
"Precociousness somehow seems a most human trait. Especially the bright ones." Clea's observation only comes from a thousand years of observation and consideration, give or take. "Be glad for it. Worry for it. I don't think anyone has ever ceased to struggle seeing the young come of age." She makes no mention of her own parents, but then she so very rarely does. Even as a Princess of the Dark Dimension, the matter of parentage was never explained in detail. But their marks are strewn through history, through upheavals wrought by terrifying wars and awful conquests. They scored the impossible on gluttony and a litany of sins, and from those troubled fruits falls the daughter.

"Some would be happier if I do not open a door best left shut. The Ancient One reminded me it could be more dangerous to invite curiosity. But you know this young woman, this Valeria best, and I will not second guess your judgment. Ten years asking all those questions is a pittance. Would it take you only fifteen to master all you wished to know?" Cheeky inquiry, isn't it, though Doom's hand braced to the slope of her cheekbone produces that softening to her eyes, the downward sweep of her lashes in their frosted decadence leaving her dreamy, all but sleepwalking. Except none of that is true, none of it more than an effigy. "What thoughts?"

Sometimes, it is best to ask and remain silent, almost motionless. And so she does, so very much present and not the column of living flame that her grandparents, for example, would be. An advantage, otherwise all of New York might be in a conflagration that makes the loss of Dresden seem like nothing.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom looks at Clea, his gaze intense as he feels that fire of her presence, "Thoughts of you. Here, now. I should speak of my plans, go over what I must, but it... it has been a long time since I have seen you. And never... quite like this." He pauses, as he realizes what he's saying...

But then he continues, because giving into fear is not something he would do, "I do not know if these are thoughts that you share, but seeing you here, in actual flesh and not some spirit that communed with me in Tibet, or aided me in Latveria, or whom I aided in the Dark Dimension itself..." He pauses, regarding Clea, his own internal fire burning bright as he looks intensely at the woman.

"Thoughts of you have consumed my mind like the flames you wield, Clea."

Clea has posed:
"I know not how to ask," Clea admits, the words chosen one by one though she seems little more than a girl made of seafoam and violet skies, moonlight and modern style. "It is not permitted to be direct in the Dark Dimension. As you know, we must be obsequious, unctuous flatterers never saying what we mean, only what the leader wishes to hear. I can put a sword to that and burn the custom, but still people fear. It is a lifetime for them, as for me, never to quite speak straight. So this is a trial, where you would laugh to think it more than a stone on the path, Victor." Though she speaks English well, the slant of the name comes out with that indelible watermark that makes everything sound exotic or strange. Her people's speech is a great deal different, with twists of phrase absent anywhere on Earth because the people of earth generally aren't made of bloody magic. That's not even accounting for the Faltine side.

She breathes out, waiting a moment too long to compose herself. Fear is the slayer, the killer, a knife to the wrist and a pin to the zeppelin that sends all momentum skidding out of control to the ground. "You have an heir, but not of your body. You have a godchild and the godmother, but they are apart. I know enough of earthly politics and power, my lord. I understand well the enticement this holds and that you have achieved much without companionship.. I..." She swallows, trying again. "How are you not fending off admirers? Partners, even for a short time?"

Run, run while you can, but she runs not at all, drifting a step closer, if there is even a step to be had. "The usurper, and my mother, of course, would never tolerate threats to their power. I had no choice, no recourse, and no protection to give. You are not kept underfoot as I was." A mark, as she lifts up her hand, holding in between them, like it harbours the last motes of sunset before a thousand year dark. "They call this home court advantage. I believe you have it, and even should you not, we would both act like you did anyway."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom pauses, then nods, "This, is true. I have had some... interest, from others. But they are not ones that I would seek." He smiles faintly, "You, however, would be one that interests me greatly. You always have, and now... seeing you here, I would be failing if I did not menton my own interest."

He pauses, then pulls the hood of his cloak back, exposing the metal of his helmet. He hesitates, at that... but then he meets her gaze and resolve solidifies in his gaze.

There's a *snap-hiss* of pressure escaping, the airtight seals of his helmet and mask breaking as he slowly pulls off the helmet, revealing...

A young man, appearing to be a human in his late twenties. Though the youthful appearance does not extend to his eyes, burning with age and experience as he regards Clea, his voice surprisingly soft in its baritone, without the filters of his mask to screen it. "I... would want you to see me, for who I am, Clea." His lips curve into a slight smile, eyes meeting hers without a filter. No secrets hidden there, though he then adds, "Forgive me for not adhering to the customs of your people, but as we both observed, a human's life is too short for such a dance."

Clea has posed:
"I am a rebel. The conquerer. The bloody, the bloodless, the queen, the loyal." Titles are tossed with contemptuous ease, the curl of her lip expressing her opinions about the appellations. "Power is an unkind shield at times. To go from ornament to regent, I have learned trust is hard."

The slow, curling draw of breath shakes off the crackling cocoon. It burns away as she holds firm, considering Doom's words and his expression. Her own is a clear mirror; but then, it is courtly and stately, a courtier's dark skill.

He withdraws the hood, though, and the optional need to breathe stops. Her teeth catch the inner line of her lip. Shoulders straighten a bit and she draws out that sigh, gently so. "You do? I would not lie, you have been held in the most private regard, but I dared not confess to--"

Confessions. Made for a church, made for the velvet sepulcher of the sanctified ground.

Resolutions stands on tiptoe, as she does, her palm lifted perhaps to deflect or caress. To be caught in the halfway point of uncertainty. Hissing air coils out of place and she curls her fingers, the delicate spindle of magical energy spread through parted digits. "Oh, darling. You..." Of course she hasn't aged. Death may never put its hand on her for old age, only violence. "Deceptions have no place here, they never have." Hesitation doesn't linger there, missing always.

Her palm finds his cheekbone, drifting down unless he catches her. "My people's customs are corrupted by a thousand year regime of hate. They were led by a despot disgusted by them, then a tyrant hateful of her own embodiment. That thought bearing me was cause for all terrible things that befell her. Forget my people's customs, and adhere to our own." Her brow comes to rest against his, cheek brushing to his, lips just short of his own.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor sighs softly, feeling her presence so close to his, as he draws her close, murmuring, "Clea..." Her name, a soft invocation, as he feels her warmth, and now that he knows, that she feels in like fashion to how he has, all these long years...

Slowly his lips press to hers, eyes not closing as he wishes to see her, as he has envisioned her for far too long. The long years of duty, of what one or the other of them had to do. Instead finally having the freedom to do what he wished to do.

Thus, decades of passion unleashed, a fire that's been banked for far too long in his soul, unleashed and set loose to be ignited by the Faltine that is before him, arms embracing the woman as he just holds her close in that long, emotional kiss. Slowly, he breaks the kiss, and his lips curve into a warm smile, "At this point... you should call me Victor." A bit of a joke, perhaps, but even such as he can feel gladness in his heart.