A Cordial Meeting

April 17, 2018:

The Maximoff twins request a meeting with Emma Frost and Tony Stark to discuss the small matter of Trask's collars. It is as tense as one might expect given Phil Coulson's recent 'death.'

Financial District, Manhattan

Not one of Emma's favorite Greek bistros.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sharon Carter, Phil Coulson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Days have passed since Emma so abruptly left Tony Stark’s company.

It’s given the telepath time to cool down from the horror of that moment and the uncomfortable twist of sentiment that it settled into the pit of her stomach. Surely, if anyone would understand the unpleasant things that come of feelings—or unreservedly ignore them, at any rate—it would be Tony Stark.

And then there was a message sent from an unholy source: the siblings Maximoff.

A meeting they wanted. A meeting they got.

Cautiously, Emma agreed and left Tony to make his own choice about it… But she did set and buy the private evening venue in the Financial District for the occasion. A Greek bistro, well below her favored price point, devoid of people but with several bottles of Greek wine set on the table. At least their distributor seemed to know what he was doing.

She should know, as she’s already well into a bottle of Assyrtiko. As she lounges on the cheap red vinyl bench seating in the sleek silken folds of her sleeveless ivory Dior long romper jumpsuit, she alternates sipping and studying her perfectly manicured white-tipped talons from behind a partial veil of finger-curled blonde tresses.

Because this interaction had best start with a healthy dose of wine-soaked logic.

There are meetings. And then there are meetings. When he got the message from Emma, had several different reactions. A few of them were printable. Most of them were not. The man had spent days trying to piece together just what happened in that SHIELD warehouse. Days to try to pick apart the identity of the knife wielding man and got little to nowhere.

Some of it was because he wasn’t a spy. Some of it was because SHIELD wouldn’t let him in on all the details because they were (rightly) worried he might do something stupid. Some of it was because he was so goddamn pissed off.

The one thing he had come to the conclusion on though, that the Maximoffs were part of it all.

So his first instinct was to come to this meeting with a small army, vaporize the entire building, and then start talking from there.

He was pretty sure Emma would lose her security deposit. But hey that's the breaks.

Thankfully he didn’t decide to just blow everything up. Instead he walks in the door in a suit. No not that suit. Crisp and pressed black pinstriping. Just the right amount of tailoring. It likely cost him more than the annual income of a small country, especially when one considers all the little toys and additions he’s made to it. There is a quick, sharp little smile when he sees the single occupant. The bottle on the table. The type of place it is.

“Huh. I suppose I could have just blown everything up.” Is his first comment as he strolls across the floor towards the woman. There is a tired smile for her before he pulls something out of his pocket. A jewelry case that he passes towards her with a smile for inspection.

Flipping up the top would reveal a diamond and white-gold necklace, one that he offers to put on for her. “Just a little something I whipped up. Thought you might like it.”

«And it's a sonic dampener, just in case.»

If the Twins took their own precautions prior to this meeting, none of them are the sort that are visible to the naked mundane eye.

In fact, when they do arrive — a courteous few minutes after Emma and Tony have gotten themselves settled in — there is nothing about their demeanor to suggest any particular paranoia or concern on their part. Nothing about them seems functionally different from the last time they encountered either of these wealthy, powerful personages, except that perhaps there is less overt hostility. Less bravado. Less threat.

They're also not housebreaking this time. Small favors.

They're also dressed a little more nicely than usual, though at first glance they're still a far cry from Emma's elegant Christian Dior or Tony's bespoke pinstripes. Pietro in particular — given his complicated relationship with wealth and decadent extravagance — appears in nothing more than a serviceable off-the-rack two-piece suit of no particular name at all: and he's not even bothering to wear one of the pieces. The jacket is slung over one arm, and his sister occupies the other.

He ushers his sister to sit first once they reach the table, solicitous of her comfort. He does not immediately sit himself. Removing his sunglasses, he places them aside on the table surface. The aviators are the first discordant note, considering his indifference with regard to the rest of his appearance: discerning eyes like Emma's or even Tony's would recognize Cartier easily enough.

"Better circumstances than our previous meetings," he notes, as abrupt as ever. "I wouldn't mind keeping them cordial from now on, myself. Especially as matters arise that concern all of us."

As if to punctuate the statement, he places a small case on the table's surface. He leaves it closed, for now. His sleeve rides up as he does, a second discordant note peeking out for a brief moment: the steel and platinum of a Rolex. The cobalt-blue dial displays hands which are a second or two off.

"We appreciated your response in Genosha," he says to Tony, his voice low.

A famous face graces the bistro’s little gathering.

Not all eyes know it, but those that do will place it within the first moment of its humble showing: a face of careful cuts and austere edges, winking a hundred eyes under the play of the light. A face that should not be here, and does not belong. A face that burns as red as fire in apocalypse skies. A face that sits comfortably in the hollow of Wanda Maximoff’s throat.

The Sunrise Ruby, unfettered of its Cartier mounting and bridled by a simple, silver chain that circles the terrorist’s neck. Stolen from its anonymous human master and now in her possession.

At the very least, she wears it well.

Arriving in careful, conscientious escort on her brother’s arm, Wanda dresses in a matching earthiness: her dress steeped in its customary scarlet, and a simple cut of no particular design or renown. Little needed with the stone that takes throne of her collarbones.

The witch, as they call her, does not look much of one — no pagan wildness about her here — stands polished and styled to the occasion and the expensive people in congress, from the neat knot of her hair to the black on her nails.

Her first introduction is a gentle, peaceful smile, like a slap of valium — as if already forgotten the prior meetings with Mr. Stark and Ms. Frost. Wanda folds neatly into the proffered chair, obedient to every last of Pietro’s countless, reflexive directives. She threads herself into their complex and constant stitching as if they were a long-learned, routine part of life.

“Miss Frost. Mr. Stark,” begins Wanda, in antithesis to Pietro’s sharply-bladed words. His have no patience to waste a syllable than what is necessary; she speaks like she has all the time in the world. “We thank you for meeting with us. We promise no repeats of our earlier introductions.”

She holds a beat of silence. “As we’ve recently learned, rage runs a little hot in our bloodline.”

Pietro’s words spoken to Tony hold Wanda’s eyes. They soften. “Unfortunately, more and more mistakes have leeched from Genosha’s shores. We bring one to share with you.”

I suppose I //could have just blown everything up.//

The words draw Emma’s languid attention in Stark’s direction, and a single lift of her eyebrow is paired with her frown in an effortless, arrogant arrangement. “They were terrible houseguests the last time,” she tells him. “I was hardly about to start trotting them out in my favorite establishments.”

But then the box is set out, and her eyebrow pricks a small degree higher. “It’s lovely,” she tells him, once she studies the gems in their box. She’d ask the occasion, but he provides it without prompting. «I thought it perhaps best to clear the area as best I could. I hope you don’t object.» Hopes, but is not concerned if he doesn’t share her assessment of the scenario.

The telepath reaches for one of the empty wine glasses—surprisingly smooth and of a comfortable weight and feel for plain glass that speak of someone with an eye for the balance of aesthetic, luxury, and price—and pours from the bottle she’s presently imbibing without asking, for surely he won’t make her drink alone.

She’d have him set it on her bare neck as he settles in—is about to ask him to—when the Maximoffs arrive. With an audacious stone and new sunglasses in tow. To put it on now would look as though she intends to compete, and she will not afford the twins that illusion.

The box is gently closed and set between herself and her fellow businessman as she leans back, crosses her legs, and then drapes her arm across her legs as she txakes another sip nonchalantly. There are glasses for them, too, but she doesn’t move to pour. A poor host. Her etiquette teacher from grade school would say its a sign of poor upbringing, her choice to make guests pour for themselves.

But they broke her teapot. To her eye, it is not a gathering of strangers or friends at this table. It’s her prerogative to indulge her own pettiness.

Her eyebrows lift, and to Wanda’s point a single syllable: “Oh?”

<Of course not. I don’t trust either of these two further than I can throw Hulk.>

That established, Stark slips into his own chair. Easy and relaxed even as Emma pulls the wineglasses closer. He’ll reach out for one, even as the pair of twins arrive. One eyebrow quirking up as he notes all the new pieces of…well…accessories that the pair of them wear. “Huh. Adding common theft to the list are you two?” He drawls out as he as well decides to pour for either of them. On the outside, Stark is his normal smirking self, but inside? Where the emotions are? There is this white hot flash of rage as Stark watches the pair of mutants walk in as if they don’t have a care in the world.

Controlled. But burning hot enough to melt steel.

His eyes turn towards Pietro first and there is a snort. “I didn’t do it for you, kid. Don’t really need the thanks of the pair that manipulated me into going in the first place to help daddy dearest.” The engineer isn’t in the best of moods it seems. As his eyes flicker towards Wanda he reaches into the inside pocket of his suit, pulling out a small disk that he fidgets with. Behind his sunglasses his eyes scan the pair as the neural link in those glasses sends dozens of scans in his brain.

“JARVIS,” The engineer subvocalises. “They so much as twitch hostile and you know what to do.”

“Yes, sir.” Comes the near-silent voice in his ear before he draws a deep breath as he looks towards the pair of them.

“Right,” His voice normal levels once again. “So I’m going to stop you two there. Before you go on with Genosha or problems or anything else like that. I’m gonna have to /ask/. Which is me being polite here. That you both prove to me that you didn’t have anything to do with what happened to Phil or this conversation is going to end very explosively for everyone.” A pause. “No I know you had something to do with it, but you just are going to have to convince me that you didn’t plan it.”

Pietro does not seem troubled by the slight that is Emma's refusal to pour. Likely, he wouldn't even let anyone pour for his sister other than himself anyway. He brushes past the whites on display, selects a dark Limnio as red as his sister's ruby, and pours her — a small measure. No more than a finger or two. It seems brother monitors his sister's intake of psychotropic substances, and for very good reasons.

For himself, a full glass. With his metabolic rate, he would have to go through twice the amount on display on the table before he started feeling it. Tony's little barb about the stolen goods they wear comes as he's placing the bottle down.

"Theft would imply we meant to keep these things… or to deprive their rightful owners of them," he says archly, replacing the cork. "I rather think the rightful owners to be those who suffered in the mines, prising these precious metals and gems out of the earth so their 'betters' could profit. These things will be disposed, soon enough. The proceeds will go to the cause of those who suffer in the present day."

His eyes cross the box between Emma and Tony.

Mercifully, he says nothing further on that. He simply sits, studying the rage burning under Stark's skin in response to their 'thanks.' I didn't do it for you, kid. "And I didn't thank you to gain your friendship," he replies, voice sharp. "I did because it was the correct thing to do. Though allow me to make perfectly clear — it was to help our people. NOT our father." Maybe it was to help him, once. In part. But plainly the son's attitude has turned in recent days. When he spoke of Magneto before, there was distrust… but now, something like outright fury burns in his voice. Pietro seems happy to blame him for all the ways he believes Genosha was mismanaged, culminating in the wedding fiasco which left mutates dead. And perhaps for more personal things, as well.

There is a distinct pause in the flow of the conversation when Tony introduces a roadblock, however. Before they go any further, they must prove they had no plan, no intention, to kill Phil Coulson.

A distinct flinch crosses Pietro's features. He glances at his sister, then back at Tony and Emma, visibly measuring the situation. "Agent 13 made contact a few days ago to inform us he had been killed," he eventually says. "It was the first we learned of it."

Pietro toys with the stem of his wineglass, with long restless fingers. He lifts it and drains half, already agitated. "Given we believed SHIELD intended to unleash a genocidal virus against our kind, I will not regret attacking them. But we disavow intending to kill the only human in the organization who seemed likely to reach out. There was no such plan. Where would be the logic? From Agent 13, we surmised there is more to this 'virus'… that it may have been a plant by the organization's enemies, to induce us to destroy them on their behalf. We promised her our assistance to reach the bottom of this."

He glances at Emma, a walking talking lie detector. He could bring it up. He says nothing, and glances away. "How do you want your proof, Stark? Unless you have a lie detector in your glasses, you have only our word, and that of Agent 13. Question her, if you doubt."

Between moments, many years ago, the entire world changed for Wanda Maximoff.

The nightmares stalked her for some time before, like snapshots of her tortured dreamscape breathed life — the night-time fears of a child crossing over into the safety of daytime. They tormented and hurt her, those nightmares, for a time before her mutant power even manifested in its entirety.

She was in adolescence, and the reckoning came quickly: between blinks of her eye, the world shifted and was never again the same. Never again a constant place of colour, shape and texture, where the world is categorized in its familiar objects and the face recognized by familiar features. Life was no longer sky, trees, or grass, but grand, sculpting currents of life — taking mercurial forms in the varied interactions of energy. And people were no longer their bodies or even their smiles, but a grand stage dressing of their emotions, their pasts, their futures, and the shapes of their souls.

As the years went by, Wanda lost and redefined her value of beauty. It was no longer things that bloomed or shimmered or shined, but what came pleasing or even calming to the witch's sight: things and places that offered belonging, meaning, even hiding.

Pietro became all more of a sanctuary for it: on the place what used to be his face, far before she would strain to recall his vestigial features, she would first see his love for her, constant and strong.

It endures even now, sieved down to the careful rationing of her wine. She accepts and defers to that little amount he allows her; down to even these smallest of things, it seems the brother maintains total authority over the sister.

Wanda's eyes turn across the table.

In her sight, Emma's surface beauty is an afterthought: her soul is a lock, as carefully cut and polished as any well-made diamond, forged by years of incredible force and pressure and inability to yield, then lasered to razor points with a surgical exactness. But even in its tangled escher, Wanda can catch currents of her life: it flows with equal parts patience and derision. Today's etiquette is a lie; Miss Frost would pay some of her greatest enemies with a special well of diplomacy. There's something telling in that.

Tony Stark is an antithesis, and sitting next to Emma, the difference is so shocking it stings Wanda. He has similarities: locks on his soul, but not to hold himself in — rather to hold others out. But there is nothing surgical about his fury, aimed towards both Maximoffs, vast and barely-restrained.

He wastes no time to lay an accusation on the table between them: demand proof for Phil Coulson's murder.

Wanda shares Pietro's pause. It arrests her from further words, further explanation to Emma's question, and she mirrors her brother's glance. Twin speaks to twin in no more than a meet of their eyes.

Pietro speaks first, and Wanda holds her silence. Her red eyes are steady, watchful, and every bit not what goes on in her mind; Emma can pick up on the state of it: anger, guilt, pain, regret.

"My brother speaks the truth," she adds quietly. She reaches one hand to lay over her twin's knee, and leaves it there.

"We only planned to help ourselves of SHIELD's secrets. We decided we were entitled to them the moment they decided mutants are a disease worth curing. But the human Coulson's murder is unacceptable. We never wanted it. He was of a rare few who cared to understand. SHIELD means to cull us. Trask to handle the present, and they to guard humanity's future. We cannot ignore such an act of genocide. Coulson was bridled by monsters, but we felt nothing monstrous of him."

The two Maximoffs speak and the tendrils of Emma’s awareness stretch out towards the pair—perhaps sensed as a soft, velvety shadow at the edges of their perception as she drinks her wine, listens to words, and sends her own psychic powers out into the aether in order to come to her own conclusion about the nature of their ‘truth’. Unbidden and likely unwelcome, she searches thoughts if she finds an unguarded crack in their psyche through which to seep—to see for herself the event so conveniently dredged to the surface.

In the end, she is satisfied and leans back into her seat. “I believe them,” she says for Tony’s benefit. Then her blonde head tilts in mild perplexion. “But what do you mean, cull?”

“Huh,” Stark eyes the pair of them with a wary gaze, one hand resting on the bottom of his wine glass. A finger tapping a tempo against the crystal as he watches them both. “Well for someone you didn’t do it for, he sure loved taking credit for it.” He says with a shake of his head. “Can’t choose your family I guess can ya?” There is a sharp smile at that, fleeting as he lets his eyes cut between the pair of siblings for a long moment.

He listens to their words though, not interrupting even once as he does so. Instead he gathers the wine to himself. Drinks slowly to occupy the time that is taken by explanations and accusations.

When Emma leans back though his eyes cut towards her and there is a slight nod towards her. “And yes, I do have a full biometric lie detector built into the glasses. But I trust her more with that.” The engineer replies lightly before he blows out a sigh. “Well. You left a lot of people hating you for it, and got yourselves on SHIELD’s list of problems for it. So congratulations. You’ve been had by a spy.” Another sip of his wine. “Welcome to the wide world of fucking espionage that I hate. You’ve both been used by someone with an agenda that obviously included killing Phil, and who didn’t give a damn about you or your people. I hope you don’t expect a t-shirt.”

He pauses again, eyes slightly narrowed. “And this? This is still on you.” His voice having a harsh and angry edge to it, though the rage is less focused now. Not less strong, just they are less of a target. “Your fault. You helped set up the death of a man who was one of the good guys. If Steve were here he’d give you this speech about responsibility and I’ve got half a mind to call him and tell him about this. But right now all you have is me, so god help you all.” A smirk at that before he shakes his head. “So now the question is this, you’ve been played. What are you going to do about it?”

Emma's mind reaches out. No doubt the Twins are fully aware of it, yet there are no defenses raised, no drawbridges drawn up. Pietro seems the easier target, at a glance, a young man with no mental powers of his own, yet to touch at his mind is to feel one that races thousands of times faster than normal. Too fast to be easily read. Like placing a hand on a belt sander whirring at top speed.

It slows to something comprehensible. Pietro is inviting her to see the truth of their words in his thoughts. But further inquiry into his mind yields something even more alarming and unusual than its sheer speed.

It is draped entirely in scarlet, covered over in his sister's invasive influence.

In fact, to touch at the Twins' minds is not anything like reading two people. It is like touching a single gestalt, an entity with no boundaries between it. Each twin's thoughts flows freely into the other's, sentences started and finished, entire conversations held in the privacy of their skulls.

It is a difficult, unconventional read. But Emma divines her way through, eventually. In that mental landscape, both Twins watch her with red, red eyes as she enters, as she moves about, and as she takes her leave. She reports she is satisfied, to Tony — who reacts with no surprise. Pietro slants him a sharp glance. "So you know. I suppose that does not shock me."

Of course, Tony has a lot to say, himself. The engineer's full dissertation on how the Twins got themselves played narrows the older twin's eyes. "Just as we played you, in Genosha?" Pietro asks. "I avoided that topic out of pity for you, but you insist on walking yourself right back into it."

His expression closes. "But I am not here to discuss my father."

What do they mean, 'cull?'

"We mean 'cull.' We have been shown evidence to suggest that SHIELD has engineered a virus to murder mutants in the womb. Agent 13 insists it is not SHIELD's doing and that she and all 'true' SHIELD mean to put a stop to it, but what she cannot assure me is that it does not already exist. That it is not already ready-made, sitting in a vial, waiting to be unleashed. That it has not already BEEN used. We got ourselves on SHIELD's list of problems? SHIELD's displeasure with us is the LEAST of what concerns me right now!"

Pietro hisses a breath out through his teeth. "I regret Phil Coulson's death. Yes — that is on me. But I cannot regret doing everything in my power to protect my people from being engineered out of existence."

What IS he going to do about it?

"The simplest and fastest thing is to simply destroy SHIELD right now, and figure out the rest later." Pietro says, his voice flat. "Is that what you would prefer, Stark? It's your lucky day, because I will refrain. You should be thanking me for stopping long enough to give Agent 13 any time to address this at all. Thanking me that I am even going to bother to confront this man and demand he answer for this, merely on her say-so. But whoever gives me the best route to seeing this virus destroyed, I will take."

He unclasps the case in front of him, unlatching it to expose — one of Trask's collars. "And that is before we even get to THIS."

But I trust her more with that, alludes Tony Stark.

It is a brief remark, but it tilts Wanda Maximoff's head, her red eyes moving from Tony to Emma. A reveal, in so little, that Miss Frost has divulged one of her best-kept secrets to the Stark inventor: so he knows she is a mutant? At least someone with abilities that transcend the limits of humanity?

Surprise lifts Wanda's eyebrows, but the witch says nothing. She would trust a human, of all things, with that? Interesting, to say the least, but a thought saved for another day.

Especially as Stark brings up a topic as loaded as family.

"Family can indeed by chosen," argues Wanda, her voice soft and tempered — like a shot of anaesthesia to the ears. "Reason enough that, despite our parentage, you will find neither of us in Genosha. Enough pain and enough suffering will lose us our birth blood, and it gives us no belonging when it's spilled at our feet. Those who are there to hold our wounds shut — who have my blood if only because it's stained their hands — would that not be true family? Our kind has little importance on it, considering so many mutants are abandoned by their blood. Humans who refuse to understand. They forge new families. The Brotherhood is one."

The words go long, that despite her facade of calm, a deep passion moves like a current through the witch's veins. She will not be lectured on the meaning of family bonds —

As, in that moments, Emma Frost's considerable psychic power steeps into the Maximoff twins' thoughts.

A glance inside is not like the work of a psionic. It is something different, the work of a power that pulls from something different than the mind, but it has still managed to shackle and lock two minds together.

Scarlet threads web one mental landscape to another, spreading with the vast, thready weaves of a spider's web, seaming consciousness together so precisely that, at first glean, the Maximoffs' could be mistaken as a single soul. The work done is old, enough that years of routine have braided their thoughts into a unconscious union. But it is a constant, calcified hex that is this bridge, a very powerful lie whispered to reality to forever tie the twins together.

There are anecdotes about twins sensing each other's feelings, thinking each other's thoughts, by virtue of their shared womb. It seems Wanda Maximoff took it a step farther. But in that astral form, she watches through her weaving, through her whispering in and through her brother's thoughts; her red eyes are on Emma, aware enough in her witch's sight they are not alone.

She does not seem to mind being read.

Beyond the mind, Pietro's response to Emma's question earns a turn of Wanda's eyes. She listens passively, in silent agreement, though an eruption of her brother's temper tightens her hand on his equal.

Equal parts brank and soothe; she keeps watch on his anger.

"That genophage compels the Brotherhood to stand against SHIELD," she adds. "We will not remain inert as they seek to erase us. If they release it, our kind will never recover."

The collar—as well—is whole different beast. Wanda lids her eyes and tightens her jaw. "We retrieved that from Trask's lab. One of the newest prototypes."

So much is said in the dangerous, wordless spaces between words. Wanda's eyebrows lift. Pietro's words feel like open accusation. And Emma could kill Stark right now for unwittingly exposing her to the place where these two upstarts seem to feel as though they have some right to their aspersions.

Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't.

Emma's lower lids lift by the slimmest margin in an open - if subtle - dare. So you know. The blonde doesn't offer a challenge or clarification. She sips her Greek vintage, swirling it languidly in its translucent confines, and waits for the answer to her question.

As Pietro explains further, Emma's demeanor shifts and then plummets to an arctic chill that surpasses her nom de famille.

The bitter, biting cold of her attention sharply and silently shifts to Tony and so too her talents as she lets her senses reach into the fuller depths of his reaction.

A genophage. She asks without asking by word or whispered thought, but by the uncertain lift of one eyebrow, Did you know?

It's an unspoken inquiry brought short by the appearance of technology most foul, set carefully in a case. And she openly sneers. "Is that what I think it is?"

Of course not, but its Fury.

The thought trickles across Stark's mind as his eyes remain on the twins. Surprise? Some. Suspicion on just who delivered the information. Mistrust, possibly not of the Twins but of their mysterious source.

The source that killed Phil apparently.

"See. Here is the thing. I knew you two were playing me, and I went along with it because getting rid of that mess is what I do. My responsibility. So please, stop patting yourself on the back for that one."

Was it a mess? Yes. Did it get Emma /furious/ with him? Yes. Would he doing it again?

Without even a second thought.

"Second off if you think taking down SHIELD would be easy /wow/ your ego is bigger than mine and that is saying something. Fury is about a dozen times more devious than I am and I can think of a half dozen ways to neutralize you two sitting here. So…good luck with that." He takes a sip of his wine, leaning back in his chair.

There is a faint frown on his face. "Now, for this genophage thing. Well I wouldn't put it past Fury. Man's contingency plans have contingency plans. But…" His eyes flicker up between the three of them. "…I'm not saying it exists either."

His thoughts race to put together a picture of how this all went down. "So…let’s see if I got this right. Mystery guy comes to you telling you that SHIELD has some kind of genophage and he cares enough about it to want to stop it. You buy his line because you hate SHIELD and everyone else that isn't agreeing with you at the moment. You get information about SHIELD bases, hit them for whatever reason. Mystery man feeds you information that the genophage thing is going to be somewhere, only he knows where blah blah and you two get him in he can help. You all go, Phil and his team go, Phil ends up dead and mystery man is suddenly in the wind? Please fill in the blank spaces if I'm wrong here."

The collar though derails his thoughts entirely. "…great. Juuust great. Trask again, of course it’s Trask. Urgh, I'll get Pepper to step up buying his ass out." He mutters as he shifts forwards and sets a flat disk on the table.

He twitches a finger and a holographic image of a similar, slightly more crude, version appears in hologram floating over the table.

"I ripped plans for the things from my trip to Genosha." A smirk at that. They didn't really think he just went to get his own toys did he? "I've been working on a workaround for…oh…a few months now."

He glances towards Emma. "I was saving the news for a special occasion, when I actually figured out a way to break it."

A glance back towards the twins before he slumps back in his chair. "SHIELD isn't your damn enemy, not unless you make it one by keeping kicking that anthill."

Perhaps Pietro's temper would have flared out of control—if not for Wanda's hand tightening on his. It's a visible bridle, the brother subsiding to the chide of the sister. His fingers twine with hers, his head turning briefly to her so he can nuzzle a kiss against her hair. It is a needy little gesture, just one of the many ways in which the twins seem to depend on one another—and only one another—for support.

Tony's grousing turns Pietro's attention back to him, but only in a desultory sort of fashion. Brother is slow to peel back away from sister, his blue eyes watching Stark with frank dislike as he makes his rebuttal. The first part yields only a thin smirk. But the second?

I can think of a half dozen ways to neutralize you two.

"Can you?" Quicksilver asks softly, amused. His thumb runs along the back of his sister's hand, in a long slow caress.

He lets the topic slide away. Especially as Tony all but admits that he wouldn't put a genophage past Fury; a statement that narrows his blue eyes. The cold fury in his features draws out his resemblance to his father in sharp relief, if only for a moment. He actually stays silent throughout Tony's attempt to put together all the pieces in the sordid story of SHIELD and the genophage. Let's see if he's got this right, Stark says.

"You are in fact wrong," Pietro replies calmly. "He said nothing to us about the genophage. It came up in none of our conversations. In fact, we decided to make use of him because we already knew about the virus. We did not need his caring; only his intel. But I don't have the patience to sit and explain all the petty details of it to you, nor the interest in your positive regard to bother ensuring you are convinced away from your unflattering fabrication of a narrative. Believe me, or do not."

If anything could surprise Pietro however, it is the appearance of the hologram with the collar plans already in place. That stops him dead. His lashes flicker, and he presently shuts the case again. He had expected Tony Stark to go and take care of his own business, certainly, but he had not expected the man to care about not only taking the collar schematics, but about preemptively working on trying to counteract them. Unbidden. Unprompted.

"I seem to have misjudged you," he finally says. "Enjoy the admission. I will make it only once."

He says nothing on the promise SHIELD is not their enemy, however.

That kiss gentles Wanda. Her fingers curl to better lock their hands together, and she refuses to let go.

Whatever neediness exudes from the brother, it is met and mirrored with same from the sister; twins who have either long forgotten or simply refused to exist autonomous of each other. Wanda faithfully holds Pietro's eyes, devoted and obedient, until circumstance inevitably beckons him to look away.

"Indeed, it is," Wanda answers Emma, with a humourless ghost of a smile, one that will never touch the escaping horizon of her eyes. "If you would, take it as the Brotherhood's morbid gift to you. You are a woman of considerable intelligence and resources, so any study you could make into it would be invaluable. If you wish Mr. Stark here to keep and study it—your choice."

Does the Scarlet Witch consider Tony Stark to be something of a pet human to Emma?


She continues, voice still gentle, diplomatic, "It was under lock and key. We found no evidence this particular… I don't know the terminology for it. Design? Has yet made its way into mass production. We're unsure why, if it's still the cost that restrains it, or if it's an unfinished work. They have said as much they intend to bridle beyond the X-Gene. Perhaps they're looking for a precursor among all metahumans, if one exists."

But, fiercely, angrily, dominating the table is the back-and-forth between her brother and Stark on the topic of SHIELD. Wanda holds her own silence, both in entreat to Pietro's authority and in trust that he is well-armed to defend himself in wars of the words.

If there is anything her twin can do, forever flawlessly, it's to argue.

Reminder of the collars' source — Genosha — darkens Wanda's eyes. The would-be mutant paradise, doing harm in all its lofty promises. Nothing blinds the eye from reality like a false utopia.

But Tony's promise — is a start. What he's already been doing, which ironically is far more at this point than their own blood father and his ilk. A human to help break mutantkind's chains. Could it be possible?

"We are of different sides," Wanda speaks, ever the strained attempts to be the diplomat, "but we all at least want to see the same end. You will have the Brotherhood's help to see it through." Her eyes watch Tony, not with her twin brother's fury, and neither with any sort of calculated coldness — simply with patience, as if she were, by eye, wishing to weigh his soul. Especially as he speaks of SHIELD as not their enemy. How things could be so easily.

"Have you ever been hungry, Mr. Stark?" asks the Scarlet Witch. There is no judgment in her voice, no derision — only that same patience. "Truly hungry? Hungry enough to turn to your own ability, uncoordinated, clumsy with your young hands, to try to create food from nothing? Even knowing that trying would attract attention, when the only safety is to hide, lie, and pretend? Anything to make the pain go away. Anything to eat. And when humanity sees you doing something — something they call unnatural, or sinful — they beat you, they hold you down, and they soak you in gasoline. Have you ever looked past their lit match into the hate in their eyes? Have you ever been hated not for something you did, not for something you said, not for how you look or who your soul begs you to be, but for what you are? What you will always be? We have enemies everywhere. Every time we forgot that, if just long enough to be hungry, we were punished."

The superficially chaste kiss, the stroke of a hand, the strangeness of a shared psychic bond… all of it draws an uneven smirk to Emma’s lips. Small and unassuming, but a smirk nonetheless.

It is fleeting, however, as she casts her gaze down to that tainted case. Whatever dark amusement she finds is swiftly snuffed, buried and ultimately lost to the crushing gravity of it. A consuming black hole.

“Tsk, children. Everyone has a story. At least anyone interesting.” Children she calls them, although she’s not too far into her years herself. “The more important and pressing question is still unasked.” Her hand slides forward to set atop what would confine and neuter her if set to its purpose, and she pulls it towards herself. The jeweled collar is lifted and set atop the other.

“Can we stop hating each other long enough to deal with it. If you can promise to stop blowing up my investments and handiwork, I think you will find I am not the enemy you think I am. Neither is Mister Stark.” A glance in his direction sees her pale amusement spark. Schematics, indeed. “Obviously.”

There is a slight smile from Stark, that confidence in his own abilities that is so very much like Pietro’s showing in that edge of a smirk. He is positive that he could stop them if push came to shove. That much is obvious in his manner even if he doesn’t say it. He doesn’t really have to say it.

“Alright then, enlighten me. Where did you get the information on the genophage thing? Then I might actually figure out where this whole mess started.” It’s a mystery, and it’s something he can dig into. It’s someone he can hit in the face for causing everyone so many problems.

However then he surprises everyone, and he /knows/ he surprises everyone. That makes me smile. He loves pulling a direction shift. Sitting back he lets people discuss the collar at the table, the words from Pietro cause him to smile slightly wider for a moment.

He totally recorded that.

But it's Wanda that causes his eyes to cut towards her. That bland stare, that question of his past. That is what causes him to pause, his mind to spiral back in time to the image of dark cave walls. Angry men shouting at him, hate and superiority in their eyes. Judgement over what he represented rather than who he is. The twin forces of gnawing hunger and fear chasing themselves around in his chest. The weight of a car battery lugged around with one numb hand, and the tortured reminder and phantom pain in his chest. The humming, sparking device the only thing keeping him alive. His eyes close as the images flood back to him, chasing each other around his mind as he reaches for the wine to drown them out.

“Yeah kid,” His words holding just the bare jagged edge of the memory as he looks back towards Wanda. “Yeah I have. Pretty much all of that. Hated for what I represent and not who I am? Well you two didn’t find out much about who I am before you decided to blow up my party now did you?” He asks as he swirls his wine for a moment before taking a sip of it. “Hated? For what I am? Hell I’m one of the most hated men in the world. Like Emma says, we all have our stories. Take some time to learn them sometime. As for the rest?”

The man shrugs slightly.

“Long as you do two things for me I’ll keep working on this collar. Return whatever is left of the SHIELD supplies you stole, or at least the weapons. /Without/ hurting anyone. And promise you’ll give me what info you have on the guy that killed Phil.” A pause. “So I can talk to him.” A longer pause. “By talk I mean punch him in the face repeatedly until I feel better.” Again a sip of his wine. “You two owe Phil that much at the very least.”

Wanda speaks, and her twin keeps tight hold of her hand as she does. His fingers, twined with hers, speak to the tight bond between them… a bond explained, in no small part, by the story she tells of their childhood. Pietro's blue eyes gloss with the memory of it. His experience of it was different, of course. For him was all the rage of watching his sister tormented for her nature by lesser creatures. Beings he could have snuffed out in picoseconds, and yet who somehow still held all the power over him…

Power in numbers. Power in legitimacy. Power in the money and social structures which the two sitting before him and Wanda, even now, avail themselves of freely.

Emma is dismissive. Anyone interesting has a story, she says. "Now you know ours," he says. "In part."

Tony, however… Tony's answer is more nuanced. It doesn't take someone with Pietro's powers of perception to know that much lies behind that simple answer: yeah. Yeah I have. There is a moment where Pietro regards Tony searchingly, perhaps passingly curious, before he shrugs. "We had found out enough, at the time," he says. "Enough for anger. Since then…" He shrugs. Since then, the situation has evolved. To put it lightly.

Talk inevitably returns to business. In silence, Pietro listens to first Emma, and then Stark. He glances askance at his sister, a long silent look — though it is obvious by now it is not so silent for the Twins — before his gaze finally returns to the pair.

First: from whence the knowledge of the virus. "Knowledge of the genophage came to us from the body of a SHIELD agent, embedded among the Friends of Humanity. Since then we have sought a means to confirm its existence, but given the magnitude of the threat — we cannot wait long."

Second? Pietro's mouth thins as Tony and Emma make their respective demands. Hard ones — but they need someone to work on the collar. "Very well. Inform us what your activities are, and we shall contrive not to disrupt them, nor your empire building." Said with the greatest of disdain. "What SHIELD weapons we have remaining, we will return. As for the man in question… well, his direct usefulness seems at an end, and we are overdue for a conversation with him."

A flicker of his sister's hex-light crosses his eyes. "I assure you that afterwards: we shall know about him. The knowledge shall be conveyed."

He rises, leaving the collar with Tony and Emma, and moves to hand his sister up from her seat as well. "Now, if that is all," he says, his voice deeply sardonic, "I am certain you are as weary of my company as I am of yours."

Everyone has a story.

Wanda's eyes reflect those words, patiently, passively, before they shutter; something darkens in her lenses, and whatever moment that overtook her is over. She closes back up.

Her fingers tighten briefly back against her brother's.

The witch's lips twitch at one corner, perhaps compelled to speak, reply Emma Frost's words back — but Tony Stark has something of his own to share.

There is a faint flicker between her eyebrows to be called "kid" — kid, children, it all makes her old soul twist with agitation at the connotation — but Wanda holds her words and listens. It would be predictable that someone on her side of ideology, far beyond the point where unfairness and pain transformed into zealotry, would dismiss Stark's rebuttal outright. He comes from the ultimate position of privilege, after all: male, white American, wealthy, heir of a legacy — not to mention, human. Yet he entreats a similar, if not identical, understanding.

Her head tilts slightly, the way animals do, hearing sounds that escape their master's ears: hearing whispers of the world that only avail themselves to creatures like her. Her red eyes watch him. She could dismiss that, and him, totally and wholly and right now —

But something seems to hold Wanda at the precipice. Perhaps it's something in Tony's behaviour, and that he apparently has won the trust of a mutant like Emma Frost. Perhaps it's in his telling, and how he calls himself hated.

Wanda reveals little through the watch of her eyes and the guard of her expression. Nothing save for a rare flicker of fascination that holds her gaze on him a beat too long. She has gone through so many minds out of necessity, and his may be the first she thinks she would open by pure curiousity. Could it be true? Could a human feel the same way she has?

Deep in thought, only those requests sober Wanda back to life, and as Stark makes his requests, her eyes turn to Pietro. Meeting his, the twins seem to confer in their silent way.

The brother speaks for them both. The sister sits patiently through it, in full agreement — as always. She does not move until Pietro offers her his hand, which she takes, as reflexive as breathing. Wanda lets his power pull her from her chair.

In one last look, Wanda's eyes favour Emma and Tony both. "To answer you, Miss Frost," she finally speaks, "we do not consider either of you enemies. If we had, our introductions would have been quite different. As informal as they already were."

No veiled threat transmits from her face. Only a smile, the same as they usually are — never touching her eyes, and with just enough self-awareness to court sincerity. "Thank you both for your time, and your partnership. We will speak again in due course. Perhaps, either in this life or the next, a day may come we all find each other as friends."

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