O Kham thaj e Ćerxai

June 03, 2018:

Pietro comforts Wanda after Atli throughly upsets them both her.

Near Montauk, Long Island


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Atli


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Continued from http://cmbeta.wikidot.com/log:7474

In that instant, there is no Wanda Maximoff. Instead, the Scarlet Witch stands tall, wreathed in her moving red energy — swept up in its current until it even bears her into the air, the tips of her toes brushing the damp soil. Her hair moves in a soundless wind. Her eyes are no more, empty, guttered out by the burn of her light.

The sea splits and bends away from them both, its powerful tide arrested short — as if the water itself were loath to touch her, to poison itself on the witch.

The whirling vortex swallows their inhuman transgressor, both goddess and her celestial animal pulls from the very bounds of this world, this galaxy — and leaving the twins behind in silence.

The Scarlet Witch says nothing. She holds in place, unmoving, circulating in her seething red as it knots and sparks threateningly, decisively, at her fingertips. Her hands flinch and flex. Wanting not to stop here. Wanting to do more. Something nudges at the back of her mind, compelling her forward — why stop now? Why stop at all? Give in, let the years finally flow free, so much hurt, so much angry, held in and pushed down —

Pietro dares into the storm of his twin sister. He confronts the widening gyre, and on the precipice of that hissing, whispering scarlet, he reaches into death and takes her hand.

Her empty eyes stare through him.

Then, they flutter, and the witch gives away. She inhales, as if to remind her body it must breathe again, and her hand tightens on his.

The scarlet fades away. Her body lowers back to the soles of her feet, her long hair falls to hang around her shoulders, the skies clear, and the sea gives way, the water tumbling out of its part and lapping its cold tide frothily in past their ankles.

Wanda droops. Her eyes flutter open, and between blinks, change from red back to blue. "Pietro," she murmurs, voice thin and brittle, sharpened into a seethe. "She made me angry. I'm not finished being angry."

Silence descends, as the over-enthusiastic Asgardian and her companion vanish. Pietro sobers in their absence, his blue eyes turned up on his sister. His head tilts, listening to something beneath and beyond the heavy quiet, something that no one but him can perceive. Wanda's fingers twitch in the midst of the flying sparks of her hex, and Pietro's head turns towards it, birdlike, in immediate response, as if some invisible tether between them suddenly pulled his attention taut.

It doesn't really take his bond-link with her to tell, however, that the Scarlet Witch is on the precipice at the moment — like a nuclear warhead deciding whether to go off — and that it could be deadly to step into range of her right now.

Pietro does it anyway. He does it, in fact, without a second thought, with the familiarity of someone who has done this many times before. He navigates the crackling void of scarlet energy with infinite patience — odd to see, on someone so typically devoid of any — and actually brushes aside some flickering tendrils of that deadly power to find her hand and take it firmly. Now, as always, he anchors her back to reality, letting himself be her tether back to the world with his presence — and a remark that makes light of the entire situation.

In reality… he thinks the situation is a little bit beyond pancakes now, though.

A few moments pass. Her hand tightens on his, and she gives in to his wordless assertion of authority. He watches her close as she deflates back into mortal realms, ascertaining that the worst has passed. Once the ocean crashes back into place and the clouds part, that seems to satisfy him that things have settled. Ignoring the wash of seawater past his ankles, and without so much as a request for her permission, he picks her up out of the surf, isolating her away into the cradle of his arms, and starts to make his striding way back to dry shore.

He glances down at her as she speaks up to him.

"The world makes me angry," is his answer. "One learns the trick of holding and wielding the anger."

Perhaps for any other soul in this world, such recklessness would be a fatal mistake.

The scarlet spins like small galaxies at the ends of the Witch's fingers. It bleeds out from her, as if her hands were drawing close to reality's skin its vast and unseen circulatory system — tangling vessels and veins of its apeiron running like blood.

Her red looks like both light and energy, but it would be a lie to call it either: those moving, spreading pathways are something far more primordial. A glance into chaos, reality unwinding itself to its initial quantum fluctuations, and held by her beckoning at some crossroads of probability.

In that swirling red holds endless permutation, bending and distorting the atoms it crosses, unravelling and rebraiding reality back to shape as it flows. And Pietro deigns to touch it.

It may as well melt the arm off anyone else. For him, however — nothing happens.

The Witch looks on sightlessly, unmoving, unbreathing, as Pietro patiently brushes aside some of her scarlet. It winds his arm briefly, no temperature to it, no texture, before it bows to him, sighing away harmlessly into smoke. The red parts to allow him closer, and when he takes her hand, it is gone.

And Wanda is back, her hand tight on his, breathing in to remember her flagging humanity through all the chaos. But there is still a burn in her blue eyes, and stressed in her voice a plea one note away from warning: she doesn't want to be stopped now. She wants to be angry.

Pietro makes his own decision for both of them and pulls Wanda into his arms. For all that display of power, she is tiny against his body, and bird-bone hollow. She exhales sharply, a sound close to one of argument — before something makes her relent, wrap her arms around his neck, and bury her face to her twin brother's shoulder. She clings to him as he bears them both out of the tide.

His words murmur through her. Wanda half-opens one eye, listening. "I don't know how," she answers. "It pulls me in. I lost control."

Her hand moves at the back of his neck, fingers curling in. "Did she touch you?"

Without hesitation, without fear, Pietro walks straight into the heart of his sister's twisting power, brushing through its swirling red chaos. He draws close, and reaches forward to brush aside the hexes spinning about her hand, in order to take it in his. For any other soul it would have been their last, mind-shredding mistake. Her power would have twisted that limb into a hundred thousand probable shapes, before it finally chewed it to pieces in a storm of possibilities.

For Pietro? It is harmless as silk. It touches him, recognizes him, winds him in a hello, and smokes away. He glances down briefly, but only with the air of someone accustomed to submission — expectant that the power around him will give way and let him through. He is not afraid of being hurt. The day his sister hurts him, is the day existence stops being worth it anyway.

As he expects, it parts for him. He steps through, his hand tightening its fingers around hers, and just like that Wanda is back. Her blue eyes stare up at him, equal parts pleading and warning. She doesn't want to stop. She wants to let it all go and see where it takes her…

Pietro takes her instead. He pulls her from her feet and into his arms, drawing her away from the chaotic surge of the surf as it crashes back into place about his ankles, and with a long-legged stride he sets back off through the swirling water. Though it is plain enough who got the lion's share of raw powers between the twins, in terms of physical strength, Pietro handles his sister with the ease of handling a doll. Her little frame barely burdens him at all, even when she finally relents and clings her arms about him, necklacing him as he moves.

She doesn't know how, she admits. She lost control. Her brother glances down at her, blue eyes regarding her. "It's like a knife," he says eventually, feeling his way through the analogy even as he makes it. "You keep it close, but sheathed. You draw it when you need it. And you apply only as much pressure as you need, to cut whatever it is you must cut." He kisses the top of her head. "You will learn how. I will control you until you can control yourself."

Did she touch you?

Pietro laughs. "No! God, no." A pause. "She tried to give me a half-eaten, melted ice cream though."

For as long as she can remember, the world has always received Wanda Maximoff in one, same way.

With fear.

It reflects among a lifetime of faces, and manifests in many ways — anger, revulsion, hatred for a witch — but underlying every permutation is fear. Wanda sees it evident everywhere, in everything, even reflected in those who would not hurt her, would not want to kill her — but at the same time, wish not to be close, or even to touch her.

She is not so ignorant not to know why, or delude herself against her own fault: what else is the reasonable, animal response to a broken, unstable girl who can pull down the heavens? Whom, every time she promises she will never again, will try to be good, she still, still, still loses control?

How can the living feel anything but fear for a natural disaster?

But even as Wanda knows, and even as Wanda expects, it always hurts. It hurts every time to witness that fear in all things — save for one.

There is one single spot in her world where it is absent, and now it reaches out to take her hand. Pietro has never feared Wanda, and just the same, she has never hurt him. The scarlet fades to his will.

And Wanda curls her arms around her twin as he pulls her into his arms. Even without his imbued, perfectly-attuned body, she is nothing to carry — little and light — though a lingering tension in her muscles makes her feel like thin-cut steel. Every so often, she shivers against him — not in terror or cold, but a body coiled too tight, unable to exorcise its fury.

She listens silently through his advice, trying to imagine for herself emotions that can be drawn then returned to their scabbards — weaponized to her will. At her call, rather then her burden. Her eyes close, tired, envious, and her hands tighten unconsciously to feel that kiss. Wanda pillows her head docilely to her brother's shoulder; many would balk to hear talk of being controlled, but to the witch, it is still a comfort.

A question dogs her. He answers with a laugh.

Wanda does not laugh with. Her mouth tightens to that inane mention of ice cream. "Odd," she says, voice still brittle. She pauses. "Was that —?" Too much?

The world has always feared Wanda, except this one small corner of it: her twin brother. Pietro has never looked at her with anything but the deepest patience and affection, and that doesn't change even when he is staring down the barrel of her coalesced power.

He moves through it with the indifference of a man certain it cannot harm him. It gives way, and at its heart, Pietro pushes those last strands of power aside and pulls her up into his arms. She curls against and around him, her little frame folded easily against his chest in her accustomed place. It instills a certain peace in Pietro, too, to feel her there. It feels like all the years of their childhood, when it was just them, and he took care of her when she could not take care of herself.

She shivers with her lingering fury. He glances down, and his arms tighten, bracing her in the cage of that control he promised her he would always exercise.

His advice on the cultivation and control of anger is heard, but he can feel her exhaustion, incomprehension, and tired envy as its only outcome. He leaves a kiss against her hair, half a soothe and half a dismissal. Nothing to worry about right now.

Her question draws a laugh from him, but when she does not laugh back, he sobers. His head lowers, his eyes searching for hers. Odd, she says. "Everything about her was… strange," he says.

Was that too much?

Pietro considers that. The crimes of Atli Wodendottir, versus her punishment of being sent to the mercy of hundreds of frost giants.

"No," he decides. "I don't think so." He settles to a seat on a rock jutting out of the sand, letting Wanda either leave his arms or stay: as she chooses. "She was bothering me."

Settled against her twin brother's heart, her arms thrown loosely around his neck, her fingers curled into his hair, Wanda remains a slight, hollow, cool weight.

The latter is especially constant of her, the way she always feels a few degrees chilly of humanity, like a body failing ever to get properly warm. In part, this could be that Pietro's efficient, metabolic-quick body runs with its furnace warmth, and in turn, Wanda is always somewhat tepid to the touch; it could be other things, like her own blood and flesh forgetting life's intricacies over the years, in a witch's protracted divorce from the human stain. Or perhaps Wanda Maximoff must stay a little cold to better hold in all her scarlet.

Her thumb idly sweeps against the back of Pietro's neck. His kiss to her crown subdues her, and some of Wanda's lingering anger vents away.

"I am usually partial to the strange," she replies dully. "But not to that."

She holds a short, introspective silence, and then follows with a question she cannot fully say. Through their minds, the reason is evident: doubt, circling Wanda's mind, unsure if it should fold into guilt. It usually comes, in some fashion, every time she loses control. And she waits on Pietro's judgment.

He approves of her. She exhales in relief, some of her tension melting away. Face nudged to the cradle of his shoulder, blue eyes open, Wanda accepts that in a pensive silence.

When Pietro sits, he permits a choice. Wanda could move away, and maybe should, to find her own bearings — but, instead, her arms tighten slightly, and she persists to remain in her brother's arms, loath to leave him just yet. Though time gentles her by the minutes, his sister is not yet beyond the dark cloud of her mood, her episode — as if both have segued her towards something else.

"I still did not mean to over-react. I have dreams of separation. Of you not there. I don't know why." Wanda's heart beats into Pietro's body. "Have I become a burden?"

She is always so cool to the touch, especially against the heat of his own metabolically-optimized body. As if to try to mitigate that, Pietro holds Wanda a little closer, attempting to share some of his warmth, as he always has over the years they have spent alone and isolated from the rest of the world.

Take care of your sister. It was one of the last things their mother ever said to him. It has become the linchpin of his life.

She takes care of him back, in her way. From acts as dramatic as exiling someone bothering him off to a far-flung frozen world, to things as simple as the gentle brush of her fingers against the back of his neck. His eyes half-close as she says she is not partial to Atli's variety of strange, and across their link comes a brief dissonance. Something about that remark pulls Pietro's presence in, like a touched starfish contracting in self-defense.

Even with the connection that flows between them, sometimes what they think is not immediately evident, and it is not evident immediately what that response of his entails. Especially since his focus rests first and foremost on her uncertainty as to whether she overreacted or not. He decides she didn't, and tells her so. After all, Atli was bugging him, so of course she needed to be sent away.

She still didn't mean to go so far, she admits. She's just been dreaming of them being separated. Of him not being there. She just…

Pietro doesn't answer her final question aloud. The answer comes in a strong impression: in a jolt of anger across their link. The anger has a distinct flavor to it, a 'have I not answered this question enough?' impatience that puts sharp, jagged corners all throughout their minds.

It is shortlived, and folds back into that odd dissonance Wanda felt before. This time, she can discern the nature of it. It is a guilt and uncertainty of his own. "Have I done something to make you think so?" he asks eventually.

In the end, and always, twin brother takes care of twin sister. Down to trying to glean her some of his own warmth.

Chin nudged to Pietro's shoulder, Wanda accepts.

But, in her way, she tries to give back. She tries to do the same for him in the little ways she can; she tries to make their caring reciprocal out of her own fear of being the burden she thinks of herself on her worst days. For many years, Wanda could do so little to help Pietro, until she sought enough control to solve for him his greatest problem. Her brother, strong and self-possessed and able to survive nearly everything, was fallible in the most crucial way —

A boy, forced apart from the heartbeat of the world by the current of time, punished to feel minutes as if they were hours. And his sister, after a great many weeks of careful work, supplying him his remedy: a piece of her own soul, excised forever and given to him. A chain forged to bind them, join their psyches, and ensure never again he will be alone. Wanda, giving herself as both anchor and consort, to stay with Pietro as his time holds him still.

And Wanda, over the years, using that link to become guardian and caretaker of her twin brother's mind; in turn, girding it so none may trespass.

His peace is everything to her, something Wanda tries to ensure with the run of her fingers through her brother's hair — stopping only when she feels him react to her murmured words. He pulls away, not in body, but worse — in spirit.

Wanda freezes similarly, alerted quickly enough to shift, and turn up Pietro a questioning look. It only spearheads her own fears, worrying she's unnecessarily siphoning off him — the sister who loes control, and must be corralled — and her next question escapes her lips.

Pietro reacts.

At the speed of thought, his rage crosses their link, moves beyond his mind and sets hers aflame. Wanda tenses in surprise, apology, and worry — and tightens her hands when the dissonance returns twofold. Her mind presses into his, concerned, searching. What is he thinking?

Then that question of his. Wanda does not need to read thoughts to feel the shape of it all.

"Pietro!" she exclaims, shocked. "No! Never! How could you feel that?" Wanda's hands try to take Pietro by the face. "You're perfect. You see me that way — and you still want to touch me. Every day, you do so much — so much. Don't you dare think such things."

Pietro might well have long since drifted out of sync with the world entirely, if not for his twin. Having lived all his childhood at a normal human rate of speed, to have his powers manifest and suddenly force him to live minutes as hours, hours as months… nearly drove him insane. He didn't have the ability to control it at all, not at first; he could not step in between speeds and slow down or accelerate as needed.

He was simply stuck. Stuck on what was, at the time, his highest setting.

It was Wanda who helped him. Wanda who gave him a piece of her soul to keep him grounded. Wanda who struggled through her own lack of understanding and control of her nascent powers, and risked harm to herself to pull off this complex remedy. Wanda who keeps him permanent company in his head now, and who has — over the years — erected countless safeguards for his mind.

As he guards them both physically, she defends them mentally and spiritually.

That dominion over their shared mental landscape means he cannot hide it from her when he has those inevitable reactions to her words, her expressed fears. She talks fearfully of becoming a burden for him, and his thoughts twist first into that familiar anger of his — how can she continue to think a thing after all his promises, his proofs, his assurances — and then subsequently into an insecurity of his own.

Did he handle Atli incorrectly? Has he done something to cause her to think in such a way?

Her shock is more than enough answer to his question, before she even gets around to her verbal and physical response. His head dips tiredly into her hands, his blue eyes searching hers. They mollify a bit to be told he is perfect. "'That way,'" he repeats, deprecating of the very phrasing. "You are beautiful 'that way.' You are getting to express the real extent of your power. You are getting to show freely what sets us so apart from humans. What they'd try to take from us, because they don't have it themselves."

His right hand lifts to manacle one of her wrists. "I cannot imagine any situation where I would not want to touch you," he says simply. "Much less one in which you're getting to be what you are. Do you lose any desire to touch me when you see me run?"

There is little-to-nothing that can be hidden between either twin; Wanda would not even know how to conceive of her own mind free of Pietro's thoughts, his feelings, his moods, his reactions. They are all part of life.

As he fails to fear her, it is a mutual thing: Pietro's withdrawal, followed by his reflexive anger, is not met with Wanda's fear. But she answers with shock, worry, and equal hurt to feel him hurt.

His sister has always been the guardian over his emotions, his impatience, and his white-hot rages — quick and ready to soothe — and she answers immediately with the touch of her cool hands on Pietro's face. Her thumbs run his cheekbones.

Even though Wanda can feel out the shape of her twin's feelings, she cannot instantaneously trace their source, and question radiates from her half of their shared mind.

Eventually, Pietro's head leans into her fingers, fatigued and heavy, and Wanda's fingers spread to support him. Without question, she lets him have her eyes — their same, matching blue — to see down into her, to let her look back.

Wanda's brittle expression softens to be called beautiful.

But she holds her own words, listening intently — his words unfailingly captivate her, as they always have — save for the little break she makes when her brother takes her wrist. Tells her he could never abstain to touch her, no matter what. Her fine bones shut into his hand, and the contract makes her exhale in equal pleasure and belonging.

Wanda nudges closer, eyes hooded, to lean their foreheads together. Her hands drift, from Pietro's face to his crown, sifting with his hair. "No," she answers him. "Never. It's my favourite thing to see."

She is silent a moment. Her voice, when it comes, thins to a whisper. "I want to be like you. You are always in control. Even from the start. You always know what to do. It's so hard for me. I want to be strong like you are strong. I don't want you to look at me and see me — monstrous."

Pietro can feel the question in his sister's mind, but he does not quite have the heart to let her fully see his weakness. After a lifetime of being defined as the strong one, as the protector, as the elder sibling, Pietro does not easily let Wanda see it if he himself experiences doubts, or insecurities, or fears.

So he hides at first. He speaks of other things, of how beautiful he finds her when she is free to fully express her power and her nature in all its potency and glory. After a lifetime of being dismissed, persecuted, and marginalized, Pietro is so ready for vengeance — so ready to let humankind see just how inferior they truly are to the beings they have sought to oppress and destroy.

So ready to no longer live in fear, ground down at the very bottom rungs of society.

For now, however, he is content to temporarily lose himself in his twin — in the one safe place that has always welcomed and admired him, when all the rest of the world waited with insults, with derision, and with violent hostility. It's in these moments that he lets down some of his guard, and Wanda is able to see the shape of those doubts he tries to hide. They shock her, and she hastens to reassure that he has done nothing wrong. That he's not done anything that seeded those fears in her heart.

His eyes close. "It's your favorite thing to see," he explains quietly, "and so it is with me. You being what you are is my favorite thing to see."

Her subsequent whispered admissions, however, strike him silent. He could say a lot of things at this point. He could admit that he isn't always in control. That he doesn't always know what to do. That he's spent his share of time frightened, paralyzed, uncertain.. a young boy weighed down by hard responsibilities that have broken men two, three times his age. That most days he doesn't feel strong. That the only thing he was ever good at was running away…

He says none of it. Above all, he is her brother, and he must protect her. Even if the thing he protects her from is his own weakness.

"First of all," he says instead, "I could never see you such a way. Second of all… you are already strong." His hand covers one of hers. "And I will help you to be stronger."

With the binding of their minds — made that way with Wanda's first and only permanent hex, maintained that way with a partial sacrifice of her soul — Wanda sees Pietro, in both thought and feeling, as quickly as same take shape. For as weak and fallible as she feels in the world, the bearer of power that not even she can fully control, she reigns here. She keeps a careful custodian of her twin brother's psyche: a guardian who is quick to come to him, and allay any of his fears.

But even then, he keeps some of them from her. Pietro can, if so is his choosing — small, private thoughts that do not cross the bridge of their linked minds. Fears he feels would hurt his sister to know.

In a moment of peace, he lets go enough that Wanda can sense the shape of some insecurity — even if she's not fully certain its source. She has an idea; she is far more perceptive than her here-and-there mind lets on, and knows Pietro's familiar guilts. The times when humanity would find her, turn on her, in those few moments he would have his attention elsewhere: beneath his fury, beneath his bitterness, there was always blame. Sometimes it knotted, folded, and would turn inward — in a way she did not like.

"You've never been afraid," she whispers, her hands tightening briefly as they cradle his face. "Even I terrified myself. But never you."

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