Absolutism, Objectivism

July 09, 2018:

The Maximoff twins talk privately in the wake of the Hell's Kitchen bombings, and suffer a rare disagreement. Pietro faces a temptation.

Mutant Town, New York


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Pietro did not think much in the first few hours after the attack. Even the official Brotherhood response he knew they needed to make was drafted on a sort of auto-pilot. So distracted was he that he did not notice Frenzy's absence for a few hours, nor her return afterwards. He did not notice much except the tangle of his own thoughts and those of his sister… a confused tide that threatened to overtake him and paralyze him — if he let it.

So he did not. He acted, as usual, from his heart.

The statement from the Brotherhood went out once done, for all the good or bad it might do: signed, sealed, and conveyed by a few eager young member-soldiers with the ability to astral project. No sense running too many risks right now, with everyone on a hair-trigger.

Eight thousand people, after all, were dead. Such things breed fear, and with anti-mutant sentiment already at an all-time high, people are apt to pull triggers first and sort things out later. Especially with the media still primed to blame the Brotherhood and mutantkind anyway, despite the disavowals.

Now, days later, the city has finally regained some semblance of quiet. The twins have, for now, retreated to Mutant Town, but their top-floor apartment is high enough that the lingering haze hanging over the smoking ruins of Hell's Kitchen is readily visible from the window.

Pietro sits curled in it, on the wide sill, gathered up like a cat. Between the two of them he is so often the physical shield against the world, the loud and angry face that confronts it… but sometimes, in private, he still folds in and huddles with the defensiveness characteristic of young children who are, too early, forced to survive in a too-harsh world.

He has a bottle of wine for company. Red, as one might expect. He is, at the least, still using a glass.

Neither did Wanda Maximoff think much in the denouement after the attack — though, for her, it was not a voluntary decision.

There is little thought in deep, persistent unconsciousness.

It took all of the Scarlet Witch's strength to hold her side of that momentary stand-off, amidst the fire and fear and furor of the devastated Hell's Kitchen. Took every last bit of her body, fallible and brittle and exhausted after what she had done. With her ability, every day the Witch makes the impossible happen, does works, does acts, but so rarely does she push herself to perform miracles.

Such as bringing a dead child back to life.

Weak from its toll, the moment Pietro ushered them both home, and out of the public eye, Wanda let go, passed out, and slept for the better part of the next day.

Days later, she is rested, has back her strength, but comes still haunted with the residual aftershocks of her miracle. Withdrawn, fatigued far more easily than usual, and simply quiet, Wanda waits at the wings, though her focus largely attends to her twin.

Pietro's feelings on the bombing, as with most things, come quick, and calcify immediately, in passion and impetus both. Among the thoughts they share, Wanda is a black mirror; usually she reflects back on her brother, siblings in perfect synchronization, but for so much of his feeling, in her, there is an absence.

It is not that Wanda cannot or does not feel. It is not sensed as some dispassionate removal from all the loss of life and destruction — she knows suffering better than most — than it is that blankness that precedes it, an arrested development: like something has stopped her from yet deciding how she should feel.

She still knows it is devastating, looking on out the window now to see the sky ceilinged with the ash of so much loss: generational homes, and lineages collected over the decades, scattered to the wind.

Her eyes come off the view and turn back on her brother, twisted up like a knot where he sits, nursing alcohol that will do nothing for him. Wanda does not know how to feel about thousands of human lives lost, but she does know how to feel about Pietro. She considers him a moment. "I could try," she offers, with a shaky surety in her skill, "to unwrite it. Make it as though it never was. There could be the possibility."


The answer is delivered instantly, without time for pause, without much thought, without uncertainty. Pietro doesn't follow it up at first, his grasp tightening a little on his glass instead. He looks out the window at the devastation in the distance, before — quickly growing restless — he unfolds from his seat, and starts to pace.

"No," he repeats. "Eight thousand lives? The permutations are too many. The calculations are too difficult. The risk to you is astronomical. I would not chance it, even were the odds of backfire much lower than they are. It is… it is not worth the potential cost."

Eight thousand lives troubles Pietro, to be sure. But even eight thousand lives weigh as nothing to him, against Wanda Maximoff's single life. The entire world and its sanctity would be as nothing to him, against the life of his sister. That much is an immutable truth for Pietro.

He abandons his glass on the windowsill, crosses the room to her, reaches to take her face in both his hands. "Even just that one life took so much out of you." His blue eyes search hers. "You feel empty."

Pietro sighs, and leans his forehead to touch hers. "I thought about claiming it," he admits. "But I saw so many children who looked like we did."

Barely even given time to contemplate those variables — all the chaos inherent in such a staggering loss of life — Wanda goes quiet.

Pietro gives his answer. While all things about him are quick and short, even this transcends his speed: an answer so immediate that there was not even a single, heartbeat capacity for contemplation or deliberation. So fast and final that Wanda has no argument to offer, obedience reflecting in the resigned opening of her hands and the tilt of her head.

Her blue eyes chase the way he moves, the brother's restlessness forever met with the sister's patience. Tension nooses all of his long lines, and seeing it shadows Wanda's face with constrenation. She suggested it to want to relieve his anxiety. Not to add more.

With guilt lingering in the set of her shoulders, and the bow of her head, Wanda demurs within Pietro's closing presence. Her face is warm to the touch; she only just rose from bed. Her eyes half-shutter, and her smaller hands ease their way to rest in the crooks of his elbows.

She feels empty, he says, and Wanda exhales with something that is not wholly a denial. Her eyes cede to his search, open and guileless. "But I still did it," she says, simply said, no pride in her voice. Such has always been their difference, and the witch has never felt confidence, much less arrogance, in her ability. To her, it would be like ascribing pride to just another autonomic process, like breathing, digesting, producing bile. As for the rest, the matters within her control —

There will never be pride there.

Her eyes close when Pietro brings their foreheads together. "You must do what is true to you," answers Wanda, already at peace with his decision. "Darkness faces all who reach beyond the shape of their soul. You will no longer see your path to know your destination." Her voice is soft, soft like that haze crawling up into the sky, smoke and ash. "And you are not him. What yet burdens you, brother?"

He can feel her consternation and guilt, to sense his increased tension. Apologetic in turn, he crosses the room to take her face in his hands. He brushes a light soothe against her skin.

"If it were safer, we could consider it," he says. Brother and sister talk of undoing a major catastrophe, as if discussing whether to pick up milk. "Even then, I would hesitate. For how horrible it is… it's happened. I do not know if such things were meant to be walked back."

He leans in to brush his forehead to hers. Such closeness reminds him of their childhood, of much simpler times. The scent of her palpably soothes him; she can feel his tension unknot. He must do what is true to him, says Wanda.

"You are true to me," Pietro says softly. "The rest is harder to say."

Talk of 'him' finally brings Pietro to pull back. He moves back towards the sill to reclaim his glass. "I am not," he agrees. "I don't want to be. Yet I wonder how far we will have to go to see our people safe." He looks down into the wine. "I made it clear that we could have done this, if we so chose."

He turns the glass in his hand. "Might we someday have to? It does not sit well. I wanted to draw the line at the suffering of the uninvolved." And yet… and yet.

"I wonder the same thing, too," confesses Wanda, in an undertone, when Pietro speaks of immutable determinism. Her eyes unfocus, pupils coming off this world to glimpse into the beyond — past the terminus of this reality and deeply into the rest. No doubt seeing the things now what used to court her as constant nightmares as a child.

Those things she sees, Wanda has never shared. Even in the open bridge of her mind, that is the only boundary ever built to barrier Pietro from entrance. A boundary forged as part of her perpetual hex, shaped off one law. Her donated soul, their joined minds — it can never do him harm. This curse, and the understanding it imparts, she suffers alone.

She closes her eyes, and exhales. "Though I am unsure. We think some things are definite, not meant to be changed — yet the possibility exists. The possibilities always exist, and endlessly so. I have never seen an ending in this world, or much meaning."

Still, Wanda gentles when Pietro calls her true. One of her hands lift to brush her thumb along his temple.

Eventually, he lets her go to return to his wine. She looks after him a moment, considering his shape against the windowsill — who knows how Wanda sees it, in her own private audience of this universe — before she retreats just enough to find an armchair and sit. Fatigue makes her exhale as she settles in place, as if already worn out. She considers his words, hanging in the air between them.

Might we someday have to?

"Yes," Wanda answers, honest, even if honesty in a moment like this is close to cruelty. Apology does shade her blue eyes. "We might. It may come to it. We stand against a hatred that dragged us from our home when we were children. They will offer no mercy to us to couch our reprisal. Escalation is a facet of war. Xavier's peaceful rejection is the only counter, and it has won them no victories." She threads her fingers together. "But that someday is not now."

Pietro watches Wanda as her gaze glosses and her eyes unfocus. He knows where she goes when she looks like that — into the corners of her mind to which not even he is allowed access. The parts of her mind that see and process the output of her powers. It would drive him insane to try to look upon them, without her ability to parse the things she sees.

He understands. He similarly does not let Wanda fully experience his own perception of time for that reason. She keeps him company, to be sure, but if she were to truly feel time as he did — without his adaptations to handle it over the years — it would be too much for her atop the stresses of her own powers.

Nonetheless, what Wanda concludes when she returns from that plumbing of countless probabilities brings Pietro's mouth to thin. He pulls back a little, transparently troubled. "The possibilities always exist," he says, the faint echo of an old argument in his voice. "Yet just because it is possible does not mean it should be done. The mind needs definite answers and definite conclusions to at least some things in life."

He turns away, back to his wine. His turned back frames in the light streaming through the window, all taut lines and tension. Might we someday have to do things like this to ensure the safety of our people?

Wanda gives her answer.

"I pray the day is far away, then, before I must kill children," he says, bitter.

"The universe grants no mercy to the solipsistic," counters Wanda, not unkindly. Her voice is infused with the same sort of discomfort as someone forced to apologize for their rude friend. "Those possibilities exist whether or not the mind chooses to perceive them. 'Should' is a word of our creation, our limitation. Reality never learned that word. Could, could not. Will, will not. Always, sometimes, and every so oven, never. Logic is not bound by judgment."

Gently, she curls into her chair, her head pillowed to its arm, her dark hair draping over it darkly, a resting raven's wing. Her blue eyes are watchful beneath her lashes, tracing the long line of Pietro's back. She knows him so well she knows the count of his vertebrae up his spine.

Knows when they are all tense with what haunts him — their future, as he sees it. Wanda cannot so clearly; the road for him is a spider's web for her, so many directions to so many destinations that she easily loses count.

In many of them, she senses herself missing — dead — so she tries not to see too deeply. She has enough nightmares.

The bitterness of Pietro's words bring her back from her thoughts. Wanda's heart squeezes. "It can be," she proposes, "if we choose a different path. If we leave this one. I'm not certain how the war would be waged in our absence, but it would keep our hands clean. But it is a war, my brother. None of us can expect to survive it innocent. It will taint us all."

"Call me solipsistic, then," Pietro returns, momentarily and uncharacteristically sharp. "But I prefer an existence bounded by the "limitations" of certain social constructs. Decency. Love. Personal standards of conduct. It was possible for us to have parted ways long ago. I prescribed a personal limitation that it should be impossible. I have no use for infinite possibility when it leads me to roads I do not accept. Let the universe be as merciless as it pleases."

He is silent for a time, drinking.

"I do not mean to leave this path," he finally answers her subsequent proposal. "My wish was to avoid creating more iterations of us. More orphaned children. More dead children. But any route but pure inaction will see it happen. Directly, or not."

He shrugs. "I suppose that is just 'reality.'"

The sharp bite to his words stings her.

Wanda goes quiet, guilty and pained, and in many ways, unsure what it is she she wrong. Not a new trouble for her, especially when it comes to her brother; the times when he parses her words as personal insults. Pulled constantly between two worlds, his that he occupies, and the one that torments her from the beyond, the witch is never certain of her footing. All she knows is punishment comes whether she leans one way too much, too long.

She looks down, ashamed, trying to rack her mind on what next to do, to say, to mitigate the damage — to conduct herself as inoffensively as possible. Her eyes cringe at the corners, however, when Pietro turns her words back on her: his life's duty to her as a "personal limitation." Unable to look at him, perhaps she agrees with the wording. Perhaps she is a limitation.

"Reality is not fair," Wanda answers, voice thick with remorse. Perhaps thinking herself answerable for its sins by virtue of being, at times, its unwanted mouthpiece. "I… I could try to solve it. I could try to make it fair —"

As always when he gets cross with his sister, the guilt is quick to hit when he feels her curl in on herself with a cringe in response. He sighs, glances at the wine — no, there is no blaming that — and simply sets it aside.

"I should not have brought that up," he allows. "I meant it only as a demonstration that while 'should' is no more than a construct, while reality is not fair… there are still things which we decide — should they come to pass — it will never be because we consciously chose for them to happen."

He is quiet. This is one of the few arenas in which the twins do not understand one another well. Wanda, objective and farseeing, a web of infinite probability. Pietro, subjective and focused, a creature of absolutes and rigid paths. Most of the time it is a balance, a unification of opposites to result in a stronger whole. Sometimes, however…

He shakes his head to her offer automatically, though the actual shape of his thoughts does not feel like 'no.' "Could it be so simple?" he wonders. "For you to change everything and give everyone what they want?"

His blue eyes glitter with the thought. "Make it fair?"

"It is an apt demonstration," concedes Wanda, and though her voice comes too-soft with something that sounds like defeat, there is no trace of offence in or on her. "No other possibility ever came to pass."

But she does not remark whether or not the possibilities were there. After all, some nights as a child, and them alone, Wanda would regain lucidity in fits of wretched sobbing, making sounds more fit for animals than a young girl. She would never say what she saw, but it would be hours before she would let Pietro go.

Pulling her head up from the arm of her chair, she sits there, limbs loose, unbound hair long and falling down her shoulders. And, just like that, out of this small, brittle woman, comes a promise that their unfair, unequal reality could be mended.

Could it be so simple?

"It is possible," answers Wanda. She exists not in the division of simple and difficult. Only what is and what is not. "It could be done."

She speaks with little feeling on the matter; for all of the witch's passions, none seem to ever center or serve the boundless permutations of her ability. A check, perhaps, on the woman cursed with unimaginable power: born without a real impetus to ever wield it properly. Too lost to endless possibilities to ever become obsessed with just one.

"Perhaps not everyone," Wanda corrects. "But most. Yes. If you wish it."

Wanda concedes. She usually concedes when the two of them have their rare disagreements. Pietro does not answer, seeming to take her concession to him as a matter of course.

"None other came to pass in large part because I never let it. I decided early on I would never even think it." To Wanda such a statement might seem foolish, the declaration of a man certain he controls his own destiny, but wholly unaware of the many forks in his life's river down which he could have easily gone — and all without his input.

Wholly unaware of the many nightmarish glimpses Wanda saw of realities where her brother was not there.

Yet do thinking beings not all, in their own way, need to rationalize some sense of control over their own lives? To live without that belief in one's ability to affect one's own life is to succumb in the constant struggle that torments Wanda… who is aware, as few others can be aware, of the infinite permutations of the indifferent universe.

She offers to manipulate same; does not quantify it as simple or difficult, only possible or not. A muscle in Pietro's jaw jumps with something briefly akin to impatience. "All things are possible," he parrots her, sighing. "But surely not all things bear the same level of risk?"

Nonetheless — she could. If he wished it. Could rewrite reality in their desired image.

If he wished it.

Pietro says nothing. He leans against the windowsill, looking out across the scarred face of Manhattan. He waits, first, for her answer.

Whether or not it seems foolish to Wanda — Pietro's fierce declarations of his control over chaos itself — she never gives voice to the thought.

It has never been her place, or her desire, to judge him. Not when his choices, in many cases, kept them both alive.

But the topic, itself, seems to have an effect on Wanda, uneasy around the edges, the smell of smoke still clinging to her hair and memory surging to burn, again, at the backs of her eyes. She begins to oblige an old, nervous habit of hers, compelled to pulling the menage of rings off her fingers and pooling them into her lap. She used to have to do this, as children, every night when she wanted to sleep. Take the trinkets off her hands, their mother's heirlooms, the gifts he's brought her over the years, and hide them overnight. Sometimes even to bury them, to make herself look less a target at night.

"Life is not without risk," answers Wanda. "And neither is that fair. Sometimes, the simple man chokes on his glass of water."

Her blue eyes watch the curl and uncurl of her own fingers, naked of their adornments. Then they lift up on Pietro, beseeching, awaiting direction. "A risk in this too. There is always a price."

Pietro listens to the answer. It is impossible even to rate the level of risk, she implies. Even were it small, it would still exist. Sometimes, the simple man chokes on his glass of water.

More important than the risk, she insinuates, is this truth: there is always a price.

Her beseeching eyes will find his still-turned back. Her brother mantles where he stands, somehow managing to convey restlessness even while standing still, his hunched shoulders tense and his sharp profile as watchful as a hawk. His gaze appraises the world as it is. Perhaps it appraises the world as he wishes it would be. As it could be, if he were willing to ask his sister to make that leap. To pay that price.

What might they make together?

Eventually Pietro finally takes his eyes from the outside world. He turns back towards Wanda, coming to her as he has always come to her. He stands briefly over her, regarding the rings piled in her lap. Her bared hands. It is a familiar gesture, and the reasons behind the habit hurt his heart.

"Not today," he finally says. He folds to sit on the floor by her chair, at her feet, his lean body leaned against her folded legs. His eyes close, betraying a sudden tiredness.

"Maybe another."

As always, Wanda Maximoff is one small point, so easily lost in this world. A trick of reality to instill in something so tiny, so fragile, the ability to unmake all of its laws.

A creature of near limitless potential, and still bound to the trappings and weaknesses of her own flesh, pooling her rings to want to hide them, so they cannot be taken from her. Stolen inside Pietro's approaching, looming shadow, Wanda meets his same blue eyes. In hers is unfathomable patience and unfathomable trust, awaiting with perfect faith in his direction.

In her world of changing possibility, her twin may well be her only constant. And in her reverence, Wanda is prepared to do anything he asks. It is there in her eyes; he need only tell her, and here, now, she will comply. Risk is meaningless.

But, in the end, he lets it go. Lets it all go, thought and temptation all, and relents to fold down and fetch his back up against her legs.

Head tilted, Wanda looks down. She does not question Pietro's decision. But she forgets her rings, and instead reaches for him, her cool fingers tracing his face, guiding it gently up to meet their eyes. She mantles over him, his own shadowy crown, her dark hair dangling in inky waves.

"When you wish it," she promises, "it will be yours. Reality is soulless. You may mend things with your choices." She brings their faces closer. "Thank you for choosing me."

Risk is meaningless to her. But to Pietro Maximoff, it is everything.

The risk of this is yet too great. Maybe someday, that will change… but that day is not today.

Today is the day the world finally seems to catch up with Quicksilver, however. Eight thousand lives may mean something different to someone who has seen countless catastrophic possible realities for over a decade, but for Pietro it is still something with significant impact. He folds to the floor, drapes his arms over his bent knees, and leans back against her legs.

As he has been Wanda's stability, so she is his in moments like this.

He isn't allowed to brood alone long. Soon her hands find him, and he turns to look up at her when directed. His blue eyes search hers as she promises that the option will be there for him still: whenever he may wish it.

The thought seems to gentle him. He leans into her cradling hands, as she brings herself in close. "You make it sound a difficult choice. You might as well thank a bird for loving the sky," he answers lightly, and his right hand takes one of her wrists.

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