“Are you sure this is the place?”
The Cloak left his shoulders to float right in front of the burly bouncer. The bouncer didn’t even blink an eye as he lifted the velvet rope to let the Cloak in. It was a clue that it was the right bar. The Cloak confirmed it three seconds later as she zoomed past the bouncer to bob her collars up and down right in front of Stephen. She even blurred as she vibrated at very high frequency.
Stephen shook his head. The Cloak often behaved very mature and protective as if she were his mother. But sometime she acted like an over excited kid that needed to be brought to the playground to spend her extra energy. Or was it more like a puppy? Stephen was definitely more familiar with the latter.
The Cloak reattached herself on Stephen’s shoulders. Otherwise, the bouncer wouldn’t let him in. The bouncer’s face still remained impassive as he lifted the velvet rope to let Stephen in.
As he stepped to through the threshold, he found a blue neon with the word “3Cs” flashing at the internal wall. So that was how they tried to be discreet. They didn’t advertise the bar name outside. Well, it couldn’t beat the “Bar with No Doors” but again not everyone here knew magic.
He didn’t even know the existence of this bar until three days ago.
Sanctum Sanctorum, 4.37 am, three days ago
Stephen was begging his Cloak to come out of her favorite place at the basement when the door bell rang. He was surprised because nearly all his visitors just either barging in or crashing through the Sanctum windows or roof. Those were the friendlies like Peter Parker or the Avengers. His enemies had even more creative and dramatic way to “enter” his Sanctum. He often wondered whether any of the wards he used actually worked with the sheer number of unannounced visitors.
He was even more surprised as he walked to the front door (as Sophie was on strike) and saw it was the God of Thunder who rang. He must be slipping not to notice his arrival. To console himself, he told himself that he only detected or at least tried to detect malevolent forces.
“Sorcerer Doctor Strange, it’s really nice to see you healthy and fit.” Thor grasped his left shoulder and squeezed slightly by the Asgardian standard. “You look like manure the last time I saw you at the battle. Thank you for not teleporting me around like the first time.”
Stephen winced both at his force and his choice of words. Thor’s voice could wake the whole Greenwich so Stephen quickly ushered him in and led him to the first study room on the right at the ground floor.
After he let Thor sat opposite him, he quickly conjured up the self-refilling beer that the Asgardian seemed to enjoy so much.
“Thank you Sorcerer Doctor Strange. You’re the best Midgardian Sorcerer that I’ve ever met and also the most generous Avengers.”
Stephen rolled his eyes. “I’m the only Midgardian sorcerer you knew.”
“Hence you’re the best.”
Stephen drew a few long breaths. It was still too early for conversation with anybody, especially with the Avengers. His Cloak was on strike. He hadn’t slept properly in the last four days so Thor was lying when he said he looked healthy. He was sure he looked like ma… shit. Shit, his lack of sleep must be catching up on him if he tried to speak like Thor. “I’m also not an Avenger. I’m sure Tony is the most generous Avenger. What do you want?”
“Your companionship and your beer.”
He glanced at his watch. “It’s 4.40 in the morning.”
“You got me there, Sorcerer. Loki said there was a tradition on All Hallows’ Eve to prank you friends. I haven’t tried it yet and you’re my first.”
“I’m so honored but I hate to tell you that your brother lied to you. Halloween is for the kids going trick or treating and for adults to dress in costumes. For us, it’s the time the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest so we must be extra vigilant in protecting this dimension. The day for pranking is on the 1st of April.”
Thor laughed heartily. “So Loki has been plucking my legs. I’m so proud of him. He hasn’t stabbed me in the last three days. He is back to his Trickster days.”
“Was it also Loki’s suggestion to ask you to visit me at this wee hour? If there is nothing important, I’ve some important matters to attend to.”
“As a matter of fact, yes, it was him who suggested it. He said Midgardian especially Sorcerers liked to be woken up in early hours. I saw friend Rogers likes to jog at 5 am so it must be true.”
Stephen pinched his forehead. He really had no time for this. Loki was one vindictive douchebag.
“I can answer for nearly everybody except for Captain America that most of us don’t like to be awakened too early, especially when we don’t have enough sleep the day before. If there is anything else, I really have a lot of things to do.”
Sophie chose at that moment to appear. She didn’t attach herself to his shoulders. Instead she twirled right in front of Thor to show her embroidery.
“Sorcerer Doctor Strange, what a magnificent Cloak you have here!”
The Cloak being a traitor she was, flew past Thor and brushed the Asgardian’s cheek with her tail.
“She is magnificent but she hasn’t let me wear her and touched her in the last four days.” Perhaps there was a correlation between his lack of sleep and Sophie’s mood. He didn’t want to think about his dependence on his Cloak.
“Why? I thought she chose you.”
“I forgot her birthday is on the 20th October. I tried to bake a cake for her last year but this year I was too busy so I forgot. I tried to make it up to her by buying her two cakes and let her choose the playlist in the Sanctum for one week but she hasn’t forgiven me yet.”
“Have you tried to bring her to 3Cs?”
“Have I what?”
“Bring her to the 3Cs. A bar for people with famous cloaks or capes or coats or any remarkable outwears. The more outlandish they are, the higher their social standing in the bar will be. Although it seemed they stand and sit at the same height in the bar so that was poppycock. Please pardon my Asgardian. The bar doesn’t care whether the patrons are heroes, villains, anti-heroes, anti-villains, or any of the variants. I’m not too sure about the differences. As long as you have a cool outerwear, you’re allowed in. It’s like the Night Nurse clinic that you volunteered for one day a few months ago. Loki told me all about it.”
Sophie seemed to perk up at the prospect and floated back to Thor’s right side.
Stephen closed his eyes and rubbed his face. As he opened his eyes, Thor and his Cloak were still there so it wasn’t a dream.
“Are you saying that there is a bar dedicated for outerwear? The wearers be damned! Please pardon my Midgardian.”
“Yes. It’s not for any outerwear. It needs to be flowing and impressive. Or it needs to be famous like the Cloak of Invisibility or great functionality or both like your Cloak of Levitation. The other day I was there I chatted with Man of Bat from Gotham and Man of Super from Metropolis. Man of Super reminded me a bit of friend Rogers but of course Steve won’t want any capes. Man of Bat and Man of Super’s capes are not famous but they look impressive so the owner let them in. I can guarantee that they will let you Cloak in.”
Sophie was super excited as she flew right in front of Stephen, moved up and down like an excited puppy. “Fine. If I bring you to the bar, will you forgive me?”
She bobbed her collars and flew right back his shoulders. Stephen was glad that he was never going to have a kid. Not that he had any chance with his nonexistent social life.
“I’m glad to be able to help, friend Strange.” Thor rose up. “Before I forget, do you want to come to ceremony for the 1st year celebration for the New Asgard the days after tomorrow?”
“Did you come all the way in the morning to tell me that?”
Thor shrugged. “Yes, of course. I don’t have a phone and I like to invite in person. According to Loki, that’s more polite. I flew in so it’s not a big deal.”
One day Stephen needed to get Etiquette 101 for Thor so he didn’t need to listen to Loki’s advice. Perhaps as a Christmas gift. Did the Asgardian even celebrate Christmas?
“I’m off to invite the Avengers. I’m sure the Earth Mightiest Heroes rise early.”
Stephen glanced at his watch. It was only 4.51. He’d like to see the Avengers’ faces when they were awakened this early especially Stark. He doubted they would fare better than him. “Good luck.” Apparently, he could be as petty as Loki. “Thank you for your information about 3Cs. I’ll attend the one year of celebration for New Asgard.”
“You’re a good friend, Strange.“ Stephen suppressed his pang of guilt. “I’m off now.” Before Stephen could say anything, suddenly Mjolnir flew to Thor’s hand through the air making a hole in his study. Right on cue, Thor flew right through his roof.
Wong was so going to kill him. At least this time the direction of the damage was from inside. Not sure if he could ask Gary to claim through his insurance. As much as Gary seemed to really like him, he could only do so much to claim on his behalf.
Perhaps Natasha would make Thor pay for waking them up this early. That was his only consolation.
He scanned through the occupants in the bar. There were some sorts of grouping although he wasn’t sure the connection between the people in the group. Was it because the outerwears liked each other?
The only people he could recognize was Erik Lehnsherr. He was chatting with someone dressed in black armor with a flowing cape and an elongated, skull-like mask and helmet that apparently worked as a respirator as well from the mechanical hiss he heard. The poor guy must have damaged his lungs.
He wasn’t sure where to sit.
He had done his research and knew that this bar was like the neutral zone. Visitors were not allowed to attack each other physically inside the bar. It was exactly just like the Night Nurse clinic like Thor mentioned.
That didn’t mean they were not going to attack each other outside the bar. Given his lack of social skill, it was likely he might offend someone by accident and make an enemy for life. He didn’t need more enemies.
He was about to leave when he heard a voice. “Hi, the guy in the red cloak and blue robe, you must be new here.”
He turned around to see a guy in his thirties wearing glasses and a black robe. He tried not to stare at the guy’s lightning scar on his forehead.
The guy smiled and pat the seat on his left. “It’s OK to stare. Everybody does. It’s refreshing to see someone who doesn’t know The Boy Who Lived. The name is Harry Potter. Don’t worry I won’t bite.”