Dunamis kai Entelecheia

June 26, 2018:

Jean Grey seeks out Wanda Maximoff in a bid to speak, connect, and understand. But of all people, Jean should know: cycles repeat.

Van Cortlandt Lake, The Bronx


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Scott Summers, Pietro Maximoff, Frenzy

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

How does one track a terrorist?

The answer, when one is Jean Grey, is 'more easily than most.' Ever since that conversation with Frenzy of the Brotherhood, Jean has not rested on her laurels in the assumption that her message would be passed — or that either of the Twins would answer her call. Her work as of late has kept her in the city, conveniently enough, and so she has kept a psychic ear out in between her duties, sieving the minds of all the many humans around her in a constant read for the ones she seeks.

In the end, when she feels the barest end of a thread and tugs, it brings her to Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. More specifically… to the small lake at its center.

This time of year, Van Cortlandt Lake is girdled in fresh green, surrounded by all the lushness of summer. It's a weekday, so there aren't too many people around, a fact that suits Jean as she walks slowly along the lake's shore. She can't get a read on the faint pulse she feels, not the way she can with normal humans — something about this one seems to flicker in and out of reality, now existing and now not, as if operating under some ghostly uncertainty principle.

Jean seems unsurprised by this, given who she seeks. Her head lifts to look across the water, red hair tumbling down her back.

Even then, it is not easy to seek an audience with the Scarlet Witch.

However well her name is known — reviled, feared — few can attest seeing the mutant's face. Despite being a known leader of America's growing Brotherhood cell, she is a woman cloaked in secrecy, yielded to shadow, and well-protected.

Their top enforcer, Frenzy, is a constant wall between the world and the Maximoff twins. And beyond that, Pietro keeps a constant mind on his twin sister. She is usually cast in his shadow not in selfish taking of the limelight, but a habit of shielding her from a world that would sooner burn her on the pyre than accept her as their own. Consequently, never is Wanda Maximoff seen alone.

In truth, they happen — sometimes, like tonight, when a rare window has Frenzy busy with Brotherhood work and Pietro resting. He never needs to rest long, and never intends to — save for the times he overtaxes himself, and even his efficient body demands sleep.

Wanda is usually content to ghost the halls of her apartment, waiting for him. The least she can do when her brother spends infinities waiting for her.

But, this evening, she is troubled. Her mind wanders in a constant circle, terminating again and again on that Sentinel: that thing pulled partially from the future, and so powerful even they — even she — could not touch it. Her meandering thoughts, in their vicious cycle, have their way to tunnel Wanda on some journey, confused and forgetful of other things, and without Pietro awake to soothe her.

True to her name, when left alone and to her own devices, her own uneven thoughts — Wanda wanders.

In need of comfort, it has long brought her here. One of her favourite places in the city. Quiet, always sparse of humanity, and metered with the lapping of lakewater. Dressed down in a simple red sundress against the summer heat, the Witch is alone, curled in the grass at the lake shore. Ducks paddle around in the water, muttering to one another, dunking beneath the lake and shaking water into their wings.

There is also a duck in her lap, a common mallard, settled there comfortably, the wild animal tame to the way Wanda strokes fingers through its feathers. The motion steals Wanda's entire attention, head tilted, and eyes soft —

Until they hold for a beat, and slowly look up. The Scarlet Witch sees the Phoenix.

The Scarlet Witch sees the Phoenix — or what once was the Phoenix, at least. Outwardly she is not much to look at; Jean Grey is a beautiful woman, certainly, but so is Wanda Maximoff. In other forms of sight, however, and especially given her current company…

Well, it is a bad time to be fire made flesh. The flames of the Phoenix may have left Jean for now, but their echo remains: a conflagration of life and light shrinkwrapped in an unassuming mortal form.

But Jean Grey does not know that. She is — in equal parts politeness and caution — avoiding any too-close touch at the Scarlet Witch's mind, much less an actual read of the other woman's thoughts. It has been documented that she has some mental abilities, if not true telepathy, and who knows how she would take a telepathic outreach? What is as easy for Jean and her many children as the simple linking of mental hands might be, for Wanda, something else entirely.

Green eyes stray towards the duck in Wanda's lap. They soften, and Jean projects a telepathic peace.

The peace is for the duck.

For Wanda Maximoff, daughter of Magneto, Jean bears much more caution. Will the blood breed true? "Miss Maximoff," she begins, her voice pitched low. "I had asked Frenzy to give you and your brother a message."

She does not ask whether it was conveyed. "Scott did not speak," she says instead, and there is not precisely an apology in the tone: it is a mere statement of fact. "I am Jean Grey, and I am here in his place."

The small waterfowl, under that telepathic murmur, closes its black eyes and settles, content inside the proximity of humanity.

The Scarlet Witch does not share it.

Alone, undefended, she nonetheless remains curled among the grass, making no attempt to rise or even posture defensively: perhaps unnecessary, when it comes to the Witch. Instead, between glances, her eyes change from blue to red.

They are watchful, ever watchful, pathing shapes and textures and whorls of colour only she can see. Wanda has little conception of beauty, and cares not for symmetry of the face; to the advent of her second sight, such things are vestigal to her, meaningless judgments that speak nothing to the worthiness of the flesh, the shape of the soul. Deep down, she can see others at their nexus heart of possibility. Deep down to the shifting choices that brought each being their life.

Some souls are absolutely breathtaking. Others are bland and ugly.

And Jean Grey —

Wanda shutters her eyes, the way a person does to see against a too-bright day. Even through Jean's first words, she stays silent.

Then, gently, she strokes the back of the duck one last time, and carefully picks it off her lap to coax it free. It walks its way down the embarkment and slides off to join its brothers on the surface of the lake.

The Witch folds her hands back into her emptied lap. Almost at the edges, she appears as if she's not listening, and then —

"No, he did not speak," she confirms, accented voice sharp. "Neither did he think. Cyclops was surely named well. In fact, if he ever repeats that mistake, I'll give him the likeness of Odysseus's Polyphemus. He was also a brute, did not think, and was punished for it."

The Witch smiles, and it does not reach her red eyes. "Don't you think we're well past messages, Miss Grey? Your man worked hard to burn that bridge. Though, I think, we may not be past apologies. I would appreciate you apologizing for him."

Jean Grey does not share in such dramatic changes as the reddening of Wanda's eyes. Hers are green, and remain so, even as they watch the small duck waddles its way off.

Her gaze returns to the Witch presently, taking in the way the other woman's eyes squint as if against a glaring light. Her head cants, but she says nothing. She merely allows her psychic presence to unfold just a little more, like the rustling of wings, clothing herself in layers upon layers of shields. She came without intention to fight, but that does not mean self-defense is unnecessary. Far from it.

The two of them are alone, without aid and without defenders, but if it were to come to blows, they could do quite enough damage to one another by themselves.

She begins, however, as she always has — with outreach. The Witch is unimpressed, and Jean takes in every word of her reply with a faceless sort of cool politeness. Every word — from the insults, to the threats, to the invitation to atone for Scott's actions by apologizing for his behavior.

Jean smiles. No chance of that. "Miss Maximoff," she says, with the smoldering patience of a banked flame, "I said that Cyclops did not speak. I did not say he was wrong. The damage you and your brother have done to the image of mutantkind, in just a short few months, would have snapped even the patience of men who have not worn the burden of dealing with these things for years. He chose his response to you both… as I chose mine."

Now something seems to flicker in her green eyes. They do not change color like Wanda's, but the green of them deepens and begins to flicker, moving like nuclear fire in her irises. "I made my choice to come here, because the fact you attempted to speak to Cyclops gave me cause to think you both were different from your father. Your father… whose madnesses have been ours to counter and contain for years. I believed perhaps you could be spoken to, if you were given someone willing to speak."

The smile fades off her face. "Already I question my hopes in that regard. Which seems a pity. Do we not both wish for the same end goal?"

Lain out near the edge of the lake, the skirts of her red dress pooled along the grass like a little gout of blood, her legs tucked demurely in at her side, Wanda Maximoff is the definition of disarming.

Little in every way, finely-boned, looking like the world could break her in a hundred ways — it is no wonder the brother rarely leaves his twin sister alone. But appearances can be deceiving; both women here are clear examples that their fragile flesh hide apocalyptic abilities.

Wanda holds Jean's eyes a moment too long, searching, parsing. Two women so similar, and at the same time, diametrically opposite: Magneto's inherited blood standing off against Xavier's imparted soul.

When Miss Grey speaks of the sullied image of mutants, Wanda seems to lose interest, her gaze drifting away and down to appraise a dying field daisy among the grass, wilting and dying and ready to return to the soil. Her hand reaches out to run a fingertip along its petals, red sparking off her skin. The daisy comes back to life.

"He is a burdened man," concedes the Witch of Jean's words, not yet finished to speak of Scott Summers. "Wound immeasurably tight. Even field oxen, after each day of labour, are relieved of their chains and rubbed down. Perhaps someone is derelict in her duty?"

The words come so sweetly, as she preoccupies herself with changing the daisy's resurrected white petals to blue to red and back again.

Then Jean mentions the sins of a father.

Wanda's drifting hand stops, and that red snuffs into her curling fingers. She looks up, no longer so dismissive. "Your belief is your own, and however strong you think the weight of blood. Magneto is our blood, yes, but my brother and I did not ascend to become his prince and princess of Genosha. The one who did, you care for in your home, yes?" Her red eyes are steady. "Our father was a man."

Do we not both wish for the same end goal?

"We wish not to die," answers Wanda. "Death is coming to our kind."

Ever since that warm summer afternoon when everything changed — ever since she reached out her hand to a living fire, and everything changed even more — Jean Grey has not seen the world as other people do. Like Wanda, she is not deceived by outward appearances. The world at large might see no more than a small, fragile girl when they look at the Scarlet Witch. But Jean sees, in her astral sight, an apocalypse on a hair trigger.

She did not want to think so, but it appears Magneto's blood has truly filtered down into his children. His rage to a son. His madness to a daughter. His instability to a second daughter. It makes Jean wonder briefly on her own inheritance from Charles Xavier, the man who became a spiritual father to her over the years.

And for a moment, the daughters of two very different men hold in a silent standoff. The wind teases their hair, the lake moves, and the ducks glide along its surface. The silence interrupts only when Wanda refuses to let the topic of Scott Summers go — and in a most uncomplimentary way. For all that has gone between Jean and Scott, all that has happened with them, to Jean one thing has always remained unacceptable.

Jean's eyes narrow slightly. The world ripples, in Wanda's witch-sight, to a single psychic syllable: a telepathic command aimed harmlessly — but startlingly — at a certain set of little minds.

The ducks obediently all take flight. Within moments, the lake is empty.

"Your brother doesn't have the calmest reputation either," Jean comments. "Perhaps someone is derelict in hers."

That sharpness lingers as Wanda speaks of her family. "You believe that divorces you from him, and implicates your sister?" she asks, as Wanda reminds she and Pietro refused ascension in Genosha — but someone else did not. "You and your brother simply took a different inheritance from your father. You may have eschewed Genosha, but you claimed his legacy of violence and terror instead." Jean's mouth thins. "In that, you are more like him than the sister you accuse. At the least, Lorna had a motive of peace in Genosha; to know and moderate her father, not become him." A motive Jean hopes is still there… though she will not speak of her doubts about Lorna in front of this woman.

Yet Jean does not quite leave. It is in her nature to continue to reach out, to heal what is broken, to bridge what is separated… and when all of the former are exhausted, to destroy what no longer works. Both sides of her resonate in the simple reply she has for Wanda's last remark… a remark which seems small to a woman who has seen the wheel of life cycle entire universes into ash. "Death comes to all things. That cannot be changed. What can be is how we all choose to live, before we die."

That cutting remark on Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and their public marriage — comes heralded off the backs of ducks' wings.

Directed by that strong, psychic command, the flock takes flight and leaves the lakeshore empty, the surface of the water settling to crystalline emptiness. Wanda turns a red eye back to consider it.

Then, simply, smoothly, the Scarlet Witch rises to her feet.

She wears not her terrorist's habit, the corset, the beads shining in her hair — but even dressed in the civilian clothes of men, the Witch is a dissonance that never looks human. Her dress, in the low, sunset light, drips dark red like arterial blood, and her shawl, wound around her wrists, hanging by the crooks of her elbows, sheets her like a death shroud.

The Witch takes her gaze off the water, and back to Jean Grey, watchful the moment Pietro is mentioned. The chill off her eyes comes chased with a smile, always happy to discuss her dear twin brother. "This is him calm," she confesses, with a warm note of humour. "No one here has yet seen him lose his temper."

But Miss Grey has more to say — more to imply, more to retaliate, if the Scarlet Witch wants to indict the Summers family. Let the Eisenhardt bloodline not cast stones from its Genoshan glass palace.

"If you think me my blood father, so be it," answers the Witch, with some steel in her voice, as if already fatigued of the comparison. There is little adulation for their famous father within her half-lidded eyes. "I have survived inside so many shadows my entire life. One more will not burden me overmuch. Magneto turned his back on his own cause, and it would remain that way if not for us. We inherited nothing. We took the sword and reforged it as our own. If I were my blood father, Cyclops would not have been returned alive to you. Alive and whole, body and spirit."

A weariness seems to take hold of the Scarlet Witch, one she does not show or communicate aloud, but alludes to — warning only of a coming death for mutantkind.

And Jean answers.

The Witch goes quiet. Her gaze focuses, not entirely shocked — but stricken. "Is that what you truly believe?" she asks, askance straining her voice. Her expression hardens. "Is it so orderly for you, pain and grief?"

The Witch rises, and Jean's head lifts. Her eyes narrow slightly, her psychic shields tensing. The setting sun picks out the redness of the Witch's dress, shrouding her in the color of blood; but so too does it pick out the red of Jean's hair, and shine through the faint psychic energy, crimson as flames, that starts to limn her still form.

Only a minute amount, for now. Barely an outline. But it is there.

Despite that, despite the Witch's rejoinder about her twin — Jean ignores it, she is not interested in diverting down some rabbit hole of conversation about either Scott or Pietro — she still projects a receptive air, a patient waiting that seeks to connect and understand. Perhaps it will be her final doom someday — it has already been her end several times — but Jean always wants to understand.

She hears the Witch out. She lets her finish before she speaks herself.

"I came here because I believed you might not be your father," Jean repeats, patient as snowfall. "Because I thought you might have escaped the influence of his blood. For all you have taken the path of your father in some respects, in others you have eschewed it. You took his Brotherhood, you inaugurated it in violence and death at Stark's charity gala… but since then, you have made something different of it. A small difference… but enough."

Green eyes gloss with memory. "Magneto would not have tried to speak before striking. He would not have returned Scott alive after such an act. You did. For that reason, I came to repeat to you what the Professor has told his old friend many times."

Jean's eyes shadow under her lashes. "So I ask — will you listen where your father did not? Will you make the peace with us that he would not? Will you reconsider that force is not the way to unity? I ask a heavy thing of you, to bury the hatchet against those who have hurt you, but while humans know fear, there is no chance they will concede. We all wish to live, and there is a better way to ensure it."

Yet Wanda has her own question to ask. Jean falls silent, the psychic glow along her skin dimming. "It is not what I believe," she admits, her voice so low the words could almost be missed. "It is what I have seen. The truths of birth and death bracket our lives. Our only choices lie in the existences we live in between."

For the longest of minutes, waiting for her answer, the Scarlet Witch's expression walks a razor's edge.

Her eyes are hard, cold glass, and that play rots off her face: no more quips, no more taunts, no more stomach to play her eely games of insults — nothing save for that familiar, guarded, haunted way a person looks who has suffered.

To believe, and so simply, that death in all its forms, to be treated as a same ineviability — the Witch, down to her soul, cannot seem to abide such a thing to be true.

Her red eyes study Jean Grey, though not in the way skilled humans do to judge lies: the nuaces of the face and directions of the eyes do not concern her. It is how she sees the Phoenix's soul. The fire what shapes her.

And it — dims. It gentles away, and Miss Grey's answer comes soft over the distant lapping of water against the lakeshore. The Witch listens without speaking, her eyes sharp, discerning.

Then, weary, or perhaps even relieved, they close for a beat. Wanda Maximoff exhales, low and tired.

"Then we have that in common," she concedes. "I have seen the same. Seen death in all her forms, all her faces. She is not fair, never has been. She comes peacefully to the masters, when they are old and tired, and with pain to the slaves, never ready, with their children's screams in their ears. She does not punish souls gone sick. She sold herself long ago to the system."

With that, Wanda begins to move — a slow, patient walk that does little more than stir her skirts around her legs, as she approaches Jean. There is no red at her hands, docile and human, tangled with the fabric of her shawl. "I have a question for you. What becomes of those who have no choices in that in between? Whose stations have stripped them of the right? What becomes of a girl — a child — with her throat burning from gasoline, with no power left but to beg? And she begged, Miss Grey. She begged them. Begged them, first, to stop. Then begged them, in the end, to wait. Just to wait, so she could think her good-byes, one last time. Do you think they gave her a choice?"

Heat burns at the corners of her voice, an old, unforgiven pain. "Force is not the way for unity, no. We don't want it. There was a time we did. A time my brother tried. A time I begged. They took our choice away. We must protect those who have nothing. We must wield force to take back what little choice we have. Do you not feel it too, Jean Grey?" Wanda implores, with voice, eyes, reaching soul. "Do you not see what awaits us?"

The taunts, the insults, the snipping back and forth… all that melts away, and Jean Grey is happy to let it go.

Her green eyes focus instead on the Witch opposite her. Similarly, she does not look at the woman with mundane sight, does not gauge her expressions. She reaches in a different way, her telepathic senses unfolding like the first flowers of spring, tentative and careful… but insistent to see. To take the measure of the other woman's mind and soul, even as she takes in hers.

Her senses open, she feels what Wanda feels, as she speaks of the death and pain she has seen. Of the suffering of those who have been given no choices by the circumstances of their lives. She feels the truth.

Wanda is speaking about herself.

The Witch draws close, but Jean does not recoil. She stays where she is, receptive in more than one way to the approach of a woman who causes so many others to recoil in hate and fear and disgust. Her open presence is a welcome for Wanda: to speak. To share. To ask whatever questions have circulated in her soul for all her persecuted life. Do you think they gave that tortured little girl a choice when they bound her and set out to burn her before she could say her goodbyes?

There are tears in Jean Grey's green eyes. Her own powers are their own kind of curse.

"We cannot control them," answers the woman capable of controlling thousands of minds, if she so wished. "We cannot make them do anything. Not by force, not by fear. There is always still a choice left: what we choose to do in the face of what we are given. What we choose to believe. How we choose to act. I cannot choose force. I cannot pick violence. I cannot, because of what that choice would make of me, in the eyes of those I would try to reach."

Does she not see what awaits?

Her eyes, unfocused, look back across the years of her own life. Across the lives of those she loves. "I have seen what awaits us three times, in my three children," she confesses. "All of them come from terrible futures where our kind suffers even worse than they do today. All of them are here now to dedicate themselves to preventing such things from coming to pass… and all of them saw that the catalyst of those flames was human fear and human hate."

Her gaze refocuses on Wanda. The steely anger infusing the Witch with such passion finds no mirror in Jean Grey. Only sadness for what she has suffered. "We cannot put out that fire by fanning it."

Those tears are not lost on Wanda Maximoff; her eyes hold Jean's for a heartbeat, watchful, before they turn away.

The witch is unused to such a thing, someone who would weep for her stories. Derision is the normal. To dismiss her. To disdain her pain. This is something else, and it unsettles her to look on it for too long.

Perhaps a realization of Wanda to the shape of her own heart: no longer does she want empathy, something welcomed decades ago, but now too late, too late… empathy cannot mobilize, but understanding can.

Still, it seems, even in her urging talk, Wanda is reaching in her own way — reaching simultaneously to Jean Grey, unable to understand why the other mutant stops on the boundary of martial action, unable, in her own suffering, to see any solution than one writ by taking back what was stolen.

Jean's words travel Wanda's face, tightening her expression, though not yet walling off still that part determined to reach.

"And yet," she counters, "the humans mobilize force against injustice. Did you Americans not declare war on a genocide? Took up arms, murdered, fell, themselves, and return heroes? Heroes for heroic actions, ones that saved even my blood kin? Why are we not allowed to do the same? Why is it not our right to make a war on injustice? Why are we not soldiers, revolutionaries, or heroes, but terrorists?"

Furor almost touches Wanda's voice, almost cracks its soft-spoken tones at the edges, and her red eyes singe briefly with unnatural, incandescent light. The witch, a moment later, seems to remember herself, and sobers down. Control.

"We tried, my brother and I, to be peaceful," she continues, far more carefully, in a strained whisper. "We tried, so many times, if only to live our lives. We are used to being unwanted, Miss Grey. Even before we became mutants, the world made certain our station: we are filth among lambs, undesireables. Liars and thieves. We did not even ask to be welcomed among the outsiders, invited to their tables, accepted as their neighbours." Her hands draw up, curl in their fingers, in helpless gesture to her words, emotion tightening them into fists that whiten at the knuckles. "All we ever wanted, again and again, is to exist. They would not let us. They will — never — let us."

Her hands let go. Her red eyes turn over and up, resolved and resigned at the same time. Her voice tightens into steel. "Your peace is submission. If I so wished, I could daydream them from existence. They will never make me beg them, ever, ever again."

But Jean does something few would do, and even to one declared the enemy: she does not need to, but she brings up a weakness of her own. A suffering. A pain she lives, in the form of three lost children, broken by the future what awaits.

Wanda is silent, listening. It is a shocking thing to believe, but she doesn't seem to question the veracity of the story, believing it immediately true. Nor does she question any bit of Jean's pain as a helpless mother, hands tied in the past, unable to stop what will happen —

"I have seen one of them," Wanda admits gently. "The steel twisted from his flesh. It hurts my eyes." She is silent a moment. "Three, you've lost to men? And yet, you stay your hand?"

The Scarlet Witch turns to face her. "What if you were there, Jean Grey? What if you bore witness to the last choice they were allowed, whether or not to scream?" Her eyes move. She wants to know. "What would you do?"

Wanda Maximoff cannot comprehend why Jean Grey stops on the boundary of martial action. Jean Grey, in turn, cannot comprehend why Wanda Maximoff sees no alternative to it.

She can, however, comprehend the emotions that would lead one to such a path.

Her tears eventually dry, but the empathy that seeded them remains. It seeks to understand, even as Wanda speaks on, Jean's green eyes searching Wanda's hard blue gaze. "Is that what you call it?" she asks softly. "Is that what you liken it to? The destruction at the Stark Expo, the lives lost, the civilians that died when your indiscriminate violence caught them up in its crossfire…"

Her head bows slightly. "You liken that to a war fought, soldier to soldier, against evil men?"

She closes her eyes briefly. "Force should have been the last resort, even then. We came to such a juncture only because of hatred and ignorance that was never taught out of us. A hatred and ignorance that was only fed. Further violence will not teach humans to be kind to us. Further violence will only confirm what they want to see in us."

Her head lifts. "My peace may be submission, to you," Jean says. "But your violence is an affirmation, to them. An affirmation that every evil thing they believed about you was, all along… true."

Her hands drop to her sides, the woman plainly weary. But Wanda has a last question, after Jean's answer of what she has seen via her three children. How can she continue to stay her hand? What would she do if she had to watch her children die at the hands of humans?

Jean is silent, for a time. In her spirit, plain to Wanda's hex-sight, burns a cosmic fire that could incinerate stars.

"If such a thing came to pass," she eventually says, "I would know that I had failed."

Her hands tighten. "Do not mistake my peace for a refusal to fight to ensure I do not fail."

That answer reflects against the lenses of the Witch's eyes, as she considers it, and chooses how to feel.

Thoughts do not need to be read to know Wanda Maximoff is skeptical, her eyes half-hooded and her lips briefing thinning. Either she disbelieves the shape of Jean Grey's soul — burning like wildfire before her — or disbelieves in that idea of restraint, that anyone can lose so much and yet remain so concerned with concepts such as unity and understanding and hope.

"That is our difference," she concedes. "I no longer want their kindness. I no longer care how they choose to see me. Have you ever severed yourself and listened to this land? Listened to what exists beyond? Possibility sings so loudly that even life, itself, gets drowned in its chords. Humanity barely fills one note. On its scale, they are so small, and yet they think themselves masters. Yet we allow ourselves to believe their fear is what turns this world."

Wanda exhales. "They matter nothing to me save for their stake in the balance. If it means they must fall for us to rise, then it is their hubris to think themselves beyond their station. By all means, Miss Grey, if you can educate them well enough to mitigate that, and by the greater graces they learn to share…" Her mouth tilts into a disbelieving smile. "I will bow my head to you."

The witch curls her long fingers — but out of them comes not some shimmer of red, but a simple, mundane pinch of her shawl to better draw it up over the bones of her shoulders. Her ghostly step begins to bear her away, though a turn of her head keeps her red eyes fixed on Jean; somewhere, between blinks, they gentle into a pale shade of blue. Blue as her blood father's eyes, passed down like so much else.

"It will come to pass, Jean," Wanda adds, enough respect in her voice to steel into a warning. "I have seen it with my own eyes. They have pulled pieces of that future here. Minute by minute, hour by hour. We march not to that inevitability, because it creeps instead at our backs. A war comes, my friend. It will be here to take everything."

Her blue eyes search. "If you call for us, we will listen."

Jean listens. From start to finish. She does not interrupt once until Wanda is finished. Her hair slightly bowed, red hair moving across her shoulders in the slight wind, she takes her time to think before she says her first word in response.

Have you ever severed yourself and listened to this land? Listened to what exists beyond?

"I have," Jean says, her eyes distant. They seem to glow in the dying sunlight, as if reflecting distant fire. "Like you, I see this truth: that humankind is small in the scale of the universe. That they are fragile and weak in the grand sweep of the cosmos. …As are we." Her eyes flicker. "But unlike you, I don't see infinite possibilities. I see life itself, drowning all else in its universality. Life… and death. We all live, and we all love, and we all die. All of us are brothers and sisters together in that one truth."

Her eyes half-lid. "Perhaps humans are meant to fall so we may rise. Life is full of such cycles. Maybe it makes all our choices pointless, in the end… we're all headed to the same place." She smiles faintly. "But given that inexorability… those choices may be the only thing we truly have to our name, in the limited time we have." Her smile turns wry. "And so, I've made mine. Not because of what I want from them, nor how I want them to see me. But because of how I want to see myself, and what I want the sum of my life to be, when its end arrives." She exhales a breath, thinking of a man whose words inspired her many years ago. "Because of what I believe."

She sobers to talk of the future. Of the far-flung threats that have already been drawn back to this time. Of the war that will inevitably come. "I know," she says. "Better than most, I know. If that day comes, we will fight. Until then, I fight to ensure it never does."

If you call for us, says Wanda Maximoff, we will listen.

Jean's eyes gentle. She inclines her head in tacit answer, then begins to turn away. At the last, she glances over her shoulder.

"When you need us, friend," she says, "We will be waiting."

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