HoM: Vigil

February 26, 2018:

Danielle finds Pietro after the events of The Prince. They talk about the wrongness of the world, and definitely NOT about treasonous things.

Castle Magnus, Genosha

Pietro's sad hidey hole.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Wanda Maximoff, Owen Mercer, Magneto


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Over the course of his violence-ridden life, Pietro has suffered many injuries and weathered a great deal of pain. The agony radiating from his broken wrist, therefore, is endurable; he's felt worse. It's everything else that has him heartsore and discouraged, walking slowly back to his quarters with no real idea of what he could — or should — do next.

His father wants to send Wanda away. He will send her away, unless somehow he changes his mind. And there isn't anything Pietro can do about it. There never has been anything he could do about it. In the end, his father always gets his way.

He dismisses his attendants on arrival, hiding his wrist in his sleeve from their eyes, and his bruised throat behind a collar pulled high. Once the door shuts behind them, he finally relaxes — to some extent. Sudden shooting pain from his broken wrist stops him short of fully doing so, his breath catching in his throat.

The crown prince's chambers are about as opulent as one might expect, comprising a series of tastefully-appointed, airy rooms whose stately furnishings were almost certainly NOT chosen by Pietro himself. He probably never got anywhere close even to the planning stages of these quarters.

What he did have a hand in planning is a smaller room, accessed from a door that might be taken for a mere closet, one flight up from the main chambers. From this room is absent all the decadence of vast windows, gilded scrollwork, and sweeping balconies. Lit only by one ordinary window and furnished only with plain furniture, it is unadorned save for items that would mean nothing to anything else — in fact, would seem like trash to most people, after the contrast of his rooms below.

Small things. Dried, preserved leaves. Hulls and bits of bark from trees of all the continents which grow trees. A faded doll made out of corn husks, tied into a vaguely human shape by a few fraying pieces of string. A little knife so dull it no longer bears any cutting edge. A ribbon that might have been red, once. Little things, from a life years ago.

Suffice to say, the number of people allowed up here can be counted on one hand.

Pietro sits among these things, at a small table. His princely attire clashes starkly with his surroundings. He is trying to splint his own wrist. …He's not doing a very good job, one-handed.

Owen may still be struggling to deal with what recently was shown to him. That other reality. That other life. But for Danielle Moonstar, she's quietly compartmentalized it. It's been pushed in her box and set aside. Something to think about later. Something to worry at later. For now responsibility and duty overlay much of what Danielle Moonstar is thinking about.

It's that sense of responsibility that brings her down the hallway, her stride quiet, steady. The measured click of her boots heard upon the highly polished floors. It's what brings her to the door that leads to his suites and it's what brings her knuckles upward. Her knock is done with a surety and then, like the obedient guard she can be, she waits. She waits for the general 'come in' from a servant, or even an imperious 'enter' from their 'master', but when silence is all that greets her request for admittance … a frown of concern twitches at her lips.

She reaches for the doorknob now and with a quiet click and push, Moonstar steps inside. "Sir?" She says, voice pitched somewhat low, her one-eyed gaze already searching the area nearby. The opulence held within the room no longer pulls at her attention, instead what she sees, or doesn't in this case, does.

No other guards. No other attendants. Just silence.

And silence never bodes well in Moonstar's experience.

She allows the door to shut and then the black-haired woman steps towards that unassuming door. The secret door, if you will.

Then that too is opened by Dani and up she goes. Up to find her charge. Up to see what's going on. Up to see what news is so terrible that has him there.

It's likely he'll hear her, she's not trying to hide her arrival in any sense of the word and when she arrives, she immediately sees where he's at. Sitting at the table, awkwardly trying to splint his wrist. For a split-second Danielle's expression tightens, her lips flattening to a thin line, then it's gone; replaced by her typical neutral expression.

If Owen were here he'd probably make a joke about 'lending a hand', but for Danielle all she says is, "Sir, let me help with that."

It is uncharacteristic for Danielle Moonstar to go unanswered. Even if the prince himself does not respond, his valet typically does, or else any of the many other servants that operate invisibly in the backdrop of the castle.

Outright silence has not happened often over the years, but when it does, it always indicates something is wrong.

It's worrying enough to justify entering without invitation — she is, after all, one of his guards. A glance around yields stillness and darkness, the richly-appointed rooms empty of life, the curtains of open windows fluttering in the breeze coming in off the nearby sea. Any other guard might have cause to start worrying even more, but Danielle? She knows where the prince has likely gone. That door, after all, is cracked open.

The sound of someone ascending the steps makes Pietro drop the splint he was trying to apply. With a curse, he looks at it on the floor, clearly debating picking it up… and then deflating and just leaving it there. He knows, from the cadence of those steps, who it is approaches.

Such it is that when Danielle finally arrives, it's to find him slumped in his seat, not watching the door. Let me help with that, she says. At first he doesn't reply; but presently, he shifts in his seat, and uses his right foot to push out the chair on the other side of the table.

"As you will," he says. He's loosened his collar, and the marks on his throat are in evidence. "You've already failed to take the hint of no one answering the door." But though the words themselves are sharp, there is no true bite to them.

Moonstar waits before she enters the room fully. She waits until he offers that 'as you will'. With that permission given the Cheyenne woman steps nearer that table and the Prince himself.

Her good eye gives him the critical once over and while she doesn't say anything, she spies the marks upon his throat. That brings a tension back to her face, specifically around her one eye. The rest of that anger of hers is hidden behind the mask of professionalism. Of someone who's seen the Prince in this kind of state before.

The splint upon the floor is retrieved then she momentarily considers the chair he pushes out. Almost she sighs, but the sound is stifled as the black-haired woman sits in that offered chair. Those last words of his, about taking the hint, earns a flick of her eye. She's been with him long enough to know how to read the majority of his moods. She understands there's no real heat behind what he says. In fact, that knowledge is enough for her to murmur with the driest of tones, "You know as well as I do that procedure allows us to enter private quarters under the suspicion of a possible threat."

And while a note of humor might be found within those words of hers, her next remark return to something more grave, "May I see your arm?"

Arguably, Pietro would not wind up in this condition time and again if he did not provoke and challenge his father time and again. The king has never left a mark on his son that the latter did not earn with some smartassed comment or another.

Of course, a father should not leave marks at all. But the kind of father King Magnus is has always been in debate: as of late, much more strongly than in the past. The Twins wore rose-colored glasses about their father — once.

Danielle's dry remark to his grousing draws half a smile, though the young prince does not lift his head. "Procedure," he snorts. "Of all the things I do miss about our old lives," he continues with equal dryness, "privacy is probably close to the top. Of course, that is balanced out by the fact I now get free license to tell you what to do."

That last remark is tempered by a smirk. It's probably a good sign he can still make a joke with her… though sadly, she may be one of the last he can make such familiar jokes with. Of all those assigned to his retinue, she is the closest. They fought together when the War was still active. She was there to see the dynasty established. And she's been there to see it slowly deteriorate.

She asks if she may see his arm. "I'm clearly not going to get it done one-handed," he sighs, resigned. Strange enough that he's doing this by himself in a dark corner, instead of visiting any of the healers who could instantly heal it… though Danielle would know well the reason why. Pietro was told to hide his shame, and even if he disobeys his father in most else… he also has no interest in letting others see him weak. He only needs this splint to hold long enough for him to see his sister, anyway.

With a grimace, he gingerly shrugs out of his jacket, leaving himself in shirtsleeves. Unbuttoning his cuff, he pulls it open and lets her have his exposed forearm. The injury is not terribly obvious, save a slight deformity. No broken skin. Nothing too obvious — though extremely painful. The pain will only get worse as Danielle looks it over, but Pietro never makes a sound.

"We got everything we wanted, to start," he eventually breaks his silence. "Then somehow, it all started going wrong."

His blue eyes finally lift. The fury in them is his birthright from the man he names next.

"It's Father."

The vaguest of snorts can be heard from the woman when he touches upon balance and orders. It brings a faint smile to her lips, happier times then, before she focuses upon his arm.

The sight of unbroken skin brings a faint feeling of relief, but also anger; relief in that it's not a compound fracture, anger - anger in that a father would hurt his son so. Hurt his children so.

And while Pietro has access to the best medicine, the best mutations, the best magics, Danielle Moonstar understand why he doesn't go to them. Weakness is unforgivable and paternal dictates must be obeyed.

Her touch is quite light, but even so it's still enough pressure to cause further pain. In the beginning she would have offered apologies, but at this point she doesn't - instead she makes her examination as quick as humanly possible. Once it's clear the bones aren't misaligned, Dani goes about the business of splinting his arm.

Those initial words of his, about getting everything they wanted, earns a quick look from her. A nod even, but no words yet. In fact, she doesn't speak until he lifts his eyes and states those last two words.

It's Father.

"Yes." She agrees.

And while she could leave it at that, has in the past even, today she adds more. "What are his intentions?"

Really, her full sentence is 'what are his intentions now' or possibly 'what game does he play now', but even here in this secluded room Dani is careful of her words, her phrasing.

What are his intentions? asks Danielle Moonstar. She keeps her words careful, and her anger and frustration in her heart. Pietro hears the caution in her voice, and it reminds him to take care. The last thing he needs is his actions to hurt anyone beyond himself.

He knows his words are treasonous. He knows his father's ears are everywhere. After that one brazen statement, he seems to run dry of much of his nerve. He pales, his jaw gritting, his gaze lowering back to the table surface — though that might also just be a response to the considerable pain that is Danielle splinting his wrist.

He thinks over how to reply. Eventually, finally, he says, "He wants to send her away for institutionalization. Somewhere designed just for her." Somewhere far away from me. "He spoke as if arrangements had already been made." Yet their father has played with words and promises before. In Pietro's voice is the careful uncertainty of a boy who no longer quite knows what to trust from his father.

"I told him there was no way she would improve if he separated her from me," he admits, in one sentence explaining his condition. "I would do anything I had to, to stop it."

His voice hushes, his eyes narrowing as he stares out the window across the gleaming city of Hammer Bay. The idyllic seat of a world ruled by mutantkind. Wrong, his sister's voice whispers in his head. The memory of her renews his anger, and he decides: to hell with caution, and his father's listening ears.

"I would bring down this world and everything he built," he promises.

He is quiet a few moments, save for the inevitable hisses of pain as she splints his injury. "It's times like this I wonder… about what my sister showed us. Everything was different… but it felt right."

The splint is made tight to hold bones immobile while they heal. Not a particularly pleasant feeling for anyone, but the bright sharpness of the pain will eventually wain to something more tolerable.

Even as she continues to splint his injury Dani brings her gaze up to Pietro's face. She waits for what he has to say, possibly knowing some of what he might say. After all, these types of conversations aren't something new to Moonstar, though perhaps with this one there's the sense of something different.

That there's more than just the threat of violence and physical pain.

And when Pietro reveals just what game his father plays, Dani can't quite stop the widening of her one eye. Surprise also flicks across her features as she considers what to say. Before she can say much, however, he continues onward.

"I agree." She begins, "Your sister is much calmer when you're nearby. To pull that stability away from her -" Well, that would be cruel, though Dani doesn't necessarily need to finish that sentence - both know how the King can be. Still, that doesn't stop her from adding, "But you know, as well as I do, that he uses this tactic to get you to react. To goad you into acting irrationally. Patience is the only sane way of fighting back, of defeating these kinds of machinations." She counsels, something he's likely heard her say many many other times before.

It's that promise of his that causes her to inhale sharply, an admonishment quick to leap from her lips, "Those are dangerous words to say. Dangerous thoughts to /have/. Even here, in the sanctity of this room." And by now the splint is finished which allows Danielle to focus her full attention upon the man across from her.

"You must be careful." She cautions, something else that he's likely heard from her, before his last words are said. That pulls a frown from Dani, though not of anger, or sadness, but a rarer emotion - uncertainty. "It didn't feel wrong." She hedges, "It felt familiar." Comes the last, a shake of her head following those words of hers.

A grunt escapes from somewhere deep in Pietro's chest as Danielle pulls the splint tight, and pain whites out his vision for half a second. It is the one vocal concession he makes to the magnitude of the agony.

There are other markers of it, more subtle. He breathes evenly, a slight sheen of sweat on his brow, and his tall figure is coiled up tense in the chair beside her, his lean frame whipcord-taut with potential energy. There is still strength there — all the strength he had during the war, unfaded. The transition from his father's right-hand warrior to the idyll of princehood has not caused the young man to go to seed, any more than his father has. Pietro has always taken strongly after Erik Magnus, and that man will bear a warrior's readiness until the very hour of his death.

Eventually, as the pain evens back out, he slowly relaxes. Perhaps he relaxes too much, because soon enough he starts to talk treason.

It starts small, with his bitterness over his father's decision with regard to Wanda's institutionalization. Danielle's counsel is good, and on some level he knows it is — knows his father has always used his and Wanda's closeness against one another to control them, telling each in their turn they are the cause of the other's suffering. Yet he cannot ever quite seem to stop himself from falling into the trap. Danielle knows the crux of the problem, and states it. Patience, she urges him, all the while knowing it is the one thing he'll never have.

"Patience!" he hisses. "While I am patient, my sister suffers shut up in a room." And his words graduate to outright treason.

Danielle hushes him. He has the grace to look mildly abashed, but his blue eyes remain defiant, with all the hot-blooded fervor that is also his bloodline's birthright. For once, the prince heels to the admonishment of his guard, and he says no more… though his blue eyes still spark with murder.

He veers away, into another topic. That strange other world Wanda showed them all. "That was… not the first time I have seen it," Pietro confesses, explaining his lack of considerable shock at the time. "She has given me glimpses before. It is always the same. She tells me this world is wrong, and she shows me another. And it always does feel — familiar." He uses her word. "Sometimes I have to wonder if she is mad… or if she's able to see something the rest of us can't."

He looks down at his wrist. Slowly, he starts to refasten the cuff. "You are a psychic. You know when a mind lies. How does it read to you?"

It's an invisible sword that hangs over their heads. If she were smart she'd change the subject, forcefully switch it to something else, or ignore Pietro's words out right, but she can't.

For all his ways, for all the family's ways, there's a core of loyalty deep within Moonstar and that loyalty has forged bonds. Bonds that can't be ignored or broken.

That glint within his eyes is seen and almost it causes Dani to speak again. Almost she invokes his name, something she rarely does now, but thankfully *he* switches topics and relief is felt. It's enough to cause her to close her eye briefly, nostrils flaring, before she re-opens that singular eye once more.

His explanation of just why he wasn't shocked by Wanda's vision earns a bit of side-eye from Dani. A question found there, but for now not asked. Instead the woman considers how to answer his question, her mind playing over what she was shown. In a gesture that's more subconscious than not, Moonstar brings a hand to the black eyepatch an echo of remembered sight momentarily haunting her.

However, that hand of hers drops when she realizes what she's doing. "It didn't read wrong to me." She states, her expression still holding a note of distance to it, "Like a memory at the edge of your mind blurry, fuzzy, but there and you can almost bring it forth to see what you've forgotten." There's a slow shake of her head even as her eye refocuses upon Pietro, "But it slips away before you can touch it. That's what it felt like to me."

Now comes that question, the one she didn't voice just moments ago, "How long has seen been showing you images like that?"

It is because the sword hangs over Danielle's head as well, and not just his own, that Pietro finally falls silent. He would not stop his mouth for his own sake — his injuries are clear enough evidence he has issues shutting up when he really should — but for the sake of others… he would. For all his flaws, there is a core of nobility to him that expresses itself subtly, time and again; enough of one that people follow him, despite his deficiencies in personality.

He says no more on the subject of deposing his father, of destroying his empire. That defiant gleam lurks in his eyes, but after a glance at Moonstar, even that subsides. He bows his head, and changes the subject. For now.

It doesn't escape him, the way she touches her eyepatch as she thinks over his question. What did she see, when Wanda peeled back the world and showed them another one behind the curtain? He considers asking, but the question seems deeply personal… he holds his silence for now, instead listening as she explains how it all felt in her psychic senses.

Like a true memory: one lost to time. Blurry, forgotten, but no fantasy.

She counters with a question of her own. Pietro has the grace to look a little embarrassed. He toys with the link holding his cuff closed, in lieu of immediately answering. Like all the accents on Pietro's clothes, it is ivory, not metal. "A few weeks," he admits. He does not often discuss his bond with his twin, and the words are halting. "They come across the link, even when I am not with her. Sometimes I dream her dreams instead of my own, and they are always of this other place."

He doesn't look at her. "Things weren't so perfect, there, but they… fit together better. More right." He hesitates, before he continues more slowly, carefully, "You know I can sense molecular movement. I feel matter hum, when I listen for it. Sometimes we're walking in that other place, in our dreams, and the world hums the way it should. I wake back up here, and for the first few minutes… everything I hear hums wrong. Atoms spinning in all the wrong directions."

His embarrassment causes Moonstar to glance away; trying to give him a moment of privacy.

Only after he begins to speak does Moonstar return her attention to the Prince. The answer to the question of 'how long' prompts a slight frown from the Guardian. She listens to what he has to say, a look of understanding upon her features, though perhaps a hint of her own uncomfortableness peeking through her expression. There are some things Guard and Guardian should never speak of, especially when it crosses the boundary into deeply personal. Which is where the two now find themselves at.

Still, those questions must be asked and the answers must be given.

The hesitation to his tone isn't lost upon Moonstar and it draws her attention to the man's features. She looks at him for a moment and then she likewise looks away. Such private matters this conversation treads upon, but no matter the awkwardness it evokes the revelation that the atomic spin feels wrongs is enough to bring a rise to both her eyebrows.

Her eye back to Pietro, "You mentioned weeks -" She begins, "If there is something truly wrong with this reality why is it only now that it's sensed? Shouldn't it be felt from the beginning of our awareness and onward?" Her mouth twists into a grimace, "And it begs the next question are we four the only ones aware of this possibility that something isn't right?"

It is not a comfortable topic for him. The bond between the Twins is not something lightly discussed by either of them. Not because it's secret or hidden — the two of them interacting over their bond is a familiar sight by now to most, signaled obviously by the gleam of scarlet light in their matching blue eyes — but because it is something private, held between them, the details of their interactions locked up only within their own heads.

If anyone were close enough to Pietro to glimpse at least the periphery of what the two share, however, it would be Danielle.

Moreover… it's kind of an important topic. And Danielle brings up some critical questions. "I don't know," he confesses. "Perhaps it's something that had to build up, over time. Perhaps something happened that made the barrier between here and there thin. But when I say only the past few weeks… it's only the past few weeks that Wanda has been able to show me anything."

His expression is controlled, bleak. "But it's not only a few weeks that my sister has been 'mad.'" Even Pietro has to admit to that: his sister has been considered insane a long time. Her talk of wrongness and lies has spanned years. "How long has she seen this, without having the capability yet to show anyone else, nor share what she feels?"

Are we four the only ones?

"Possibly," he says. "My sister sees it most clearly, and none but us have had access to her. If others have seen it, or felt it, they likely keep it to themselves, wherever they are, out of our earshot." He considers. "We should scout if others among the people have spoken of anything strange. I would begin with the telepaths, the psychics."

And Moonstar is fine with that knowledge of hers only being periphery.

Some things are best left secret.

"Perhaps." She agrees, with those initial thoughts of his, rolling those words of his through her head.

His somber expression is seen and a reflection of that look settles upon Danielle Moonstar's own features as well. When he speaks 'mad' aloud that brings a faint twitch to Dani's head, then she shakes her head.

What can she say to that? Even Moonstar has thought of Wanda as mad. Most everyone else does. Though for Dani there's also pity there for the Princess. It's enough to cause the black-haired woman to rise from the seat at that small table. A clear sign of her agitation and frustration, and perhaps self-consciousness too.

Almost she paces, but before she stifles that urge - this isn't her room, after all. Instead the woman inhales a sharp sound, before she says, "If this is what she's seen all her life." Murmurs the woman, her gaze sliding back to the Prince, "It's a wonder she's not catatonic. Most others likely would be."

As for the telepaths and psychics, Dani nods. "I'll use SHIELD resources and see what I can find out. A few added questions during psych evals and the entrance evals should hopefully ferret out others who see the same as your sister. We'll figure this out." Comes her promise.

Pietro glances up as Danielle rises from her seat. Her discomfort finally seems to register with him on a more distinct level; his back straightens and his demeanor resumes some of its regality and aloofness. There is that barrier now between them, after all — their statuses as prince and soldier beg a certain propriety — and to deviate from it too much… it is not appropriate. Ever professional, it is out of Agent Moonstar's comfort level to be so close to the prince she swore to serve. To impose on her so much of what troubles him…

There is a brief flicker of loneliness in Pietro's eyes, before he steels it away behind the mask he has learned to wear. Some things, a man bears alone.

"Yes," he agrees, when Danielle observes that it is a wonder Wanda is not catatonic, if she has known the wrongness of the world all her life. "But my sister is strong," he concludes, and there is pride in his shadowed blue eyes.

His blue gaze lowers to the table surface. With a last tug, he conceals his wrist under the cuff of his sleeve, and slowly pulls on a pair of gloves to hide the rest of the splint from sight. The Agent's assertion she'll use SHIELD resources and tweak the evaluation questions draws a curt nod. "Do so. Pool a list of those with the capability. That at least will be a beginning."

He has fully regained the bearing of the Crown Prince, by now. His spine does not touch the back of his chair, and his eyes avoid the sight of all the little collected trinkets around him. "If you find anyone especially promising," he says, "bring them immediately to me, and forego the examinations and evaluations." His gaze turns up to her, and her promise. "We'll find the truth of this," he agrees, and his eyes are softer for half a second.

He says no more, and his head turns away. "Leave me," he says. "And keep anyone else from coming back in my rooms. They like to trickle back in when I'm not looking."

There is always an ever present balancing act between agent and protectee. Professionalism and empathy, friendship and not.

It's not always the easiest thing to do but distance is best. A protection against further manipulations.

"I'll bring them right away." She says, her gaze flicking over to the man, seeing the airs of royalty settle around his shoulders again. An almost imperceptible nod might be seen from her, along with a flash of regret, but only for a moment as both of their roles reassert themselves.

"Of course, sir. Call if you need anything."

And with those last words said Danielle Moonstar comes to brief attention, then she leaves. She returns to those opulent rooms and then to the door that leads to the hallway beyond.

Outside the Cheyenne woman stands guard against any interruptions to what peace might be found between responsibilities and duties.

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