Unsanctioned

July 14, 2018:

Lorna goes to track down her half-siblings to compare notes. Maximoffness ensues.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Scott, Jean, Nate

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Mutant Town is distant enough from Hell's Kitchen — about an hour if one was going to try to actually walk it — that from here the devastation could almost be forgotten. Especially now that the smoke has finally stopped rising. But such things have an inevitable ripple effect outwards across the entire island, if not the entire city. Taking out Hell's Kitchen severs the West Side of Manhattan in half, cutting off the A line, disrupting traffic around the Port Authority and nearby Penn Station. A lot of people wind up having to reroute, increasing congestion on the other lines of public transportation.

A lot of people honestly just choose to walk, too, which results in the fact that even Mutant Town — a bit isolated on the far east side of Lower Manhattan — is more crowded than usual.

Only people who don't have trouble with mutants would want to walk through the neighborhood, however, which means the infamous Twins are mostly left alone even when they are out in public. For given values of 'public,' anyway — they're currently in one of the few small parks within the bounds of Mutant Town, which even boasts a very small pond.

The pond is currently home to a few refugee ducks. Pietro is watching Wanda with them, the both of them perhaps in need of some downtime after the bombing and the mission to save those captive mutants. It shouldn't be hard to find them; the Brotherhood in the area by now know to direct Lorna to her siblings if she inquires.

*

It was technically "sanctioned" that she keep up with her half siblings, or even that she speak to them. Scott and Jean definitely wouldn't approve of her desire to share notes, even on the genocidal maniacs that made up Trask or any of the other anti-mutant scientists around the US. But no one stopped her from leaving either, which was good enough. The trip into the city from Westchester involved a borrowed car, a beater if there ever was one, the paint close to peeling in places and the smell of mildew in the back was apparent.

Still, it ran, or at least moved under Lorna's command. What might've been meant for the students in shop class was the ideal for the magnokinetic going into town. Who would want to steal a car that didn't look like it could start on its own?

Perhaps she should've left Aurora at home, but the green haired woman wasn't feeling particularly convinced that the remaining kids on Summer Break could watch her daughter. Or that Marcos would be around to watch her. Bitter feelings about his disappearance lingered on her side.

Thus, Polaris, was out with a baby strapped to her chest, car parked, and a back pack loaded up on her back and walking through Mutant Town. Concern or worry about bringing her baby out in public was thick in the tension of her shoulders, the way she'd tucked both her own hair and Aurora's under hats, she was paranoid. Paranoid and powerful, the two traits she'd inherited from her father and followed every measured step of her booted feet.

Still, among the mass of the population, not many glanced her way. Those that did only helped her on her way as she made polite inquiries to where she might find her half siblings. Directions were given and even offers of escort, a few younger members of the Brotherhood even made coo'ing noises over the infant, that waved spark filled fingers at them and gurgled happily.

Lorna fiddled with the cap on her daughter's head covering her blue hair from sight, worry about the heat making her jaw clench and unclench as she stuck to the shade as much as possible, even as she stepped into the park to spot them.

*

The increased foot traffic — while not received well by the guarded, segregated population of mutants — has, ironically, been of some benefit to the Brotherhood.

The added chaos allows the advantages of easier travel — hiding in plain sight — especially with local enforcement pulled to the other side of Manhattan enough that the usual patrols for domestic terrorists have all but thinned. Mutant Town, as it stands, is a bit of a brewing powder keg.

Trespassers into a maligned group's last ditch ghetto keeps tensions high. There are not yet any outbreaks of violence — sometimes, the powerful denouement of violence and destruction can bring out a strange peace, usually born of exhaustion than anything else — but the different are keeping to themselves.

Mutants, blamed in specific for the fires that consumed Hell's Kitchen, are unlikely to trust.

The Brotherhood has all eyes out, but there is a sense of respite now — especially in the added days after their storm on Trask. As for the twins, they are taking the evening off from war, if just for a little while.

Overlooked when she's not dressed as the Witch, able to pass as a civilian in many ways, Wanda sits on the grass closest to the pond, a small duck nestled in her lap, wild but apparently permissive to being fed grains of corn. It shakes out its wings and nips the hem of her dress in its beak.

Wanda lifts her eyebrows, and glances to Pietro. Amusement crosses her face. "She says you should change your hair."

Then a new, familiar life signature — two, in fact — cross her second sight. Her blue eyes turn, finding Lorna, a little surprised to see her.

*

It is a much-needed respite, especially when emotions conflict in the head and heart. Despite their disavowals, much of the media still likes to blame the Twins and their Brotherhood for Hell's Kitchen. Convenient scapegoats: they were there, after all. And in recent days, thinking about that, thinking 'what if I was responsible for so many deaths?' Pietro has found a personal wall, a line he does not want to cross despite his anger and violent spite. Father is on the other side of that line.

He's quickly pulled from his thoughts, however, when a duck presumes to comment on his hair. Pietro shoots his twin and her companion a deeply unimpressed look. "She," he replies grimly, "is lucky I'm not eating her. My hair is fine."

As always, Wanda feels the approach of others a moment before Pietro. Her reaction turns his own head, the young man instinctively crossing to stand in front of her before he registers who it is.

He relaxes only slightly, remaining half in front of Wanda, the defensive gesture aborted midway. "Lorna," he says. "You run a risk bringing her here. We are profoundly unpopular right now."

There is a short pause. "The captives?" he eventually asks. "How do they fare?"

*

Lorna moved only after Wanda made eye contact with her. And even then it was only until she was in a more polite distance to have a conversation. She saw, noted, and accepted Pietro's stance, unwilling to test his protective instincts as much as her own over her daughter's slight form in her arms. The grass crunched underfoot, and Lorna checked her daughter's dozing features again, before turning her gaze to the area at large, and then back to her half siblings. She released a breath, shifting her weight upon her booted feet, metal jingling with each breath. Both a fashion choice and a weapon. "I run a risk leaving her at home too. Her existence is a risk.." She drawled, her breath more of a sigh than holding any real heat to it. "Dad told me to not bring her out, to not take pictures, but she'll be gone soon and I… I.."

She broke off, dropping her gaze again. For some reason it mattered a great deal to her that the twins met her at least once. That others knew she existed, was real, that she lived, before she handed her to to the adopted couple that would raise her.

At least as Pietro changed the topic, she could breath again. "They're getting medical attention. I made copies of our reports, I thought it would be useful to share. I also have the notes on what little Genosha could provide on mutate research, if it might help. It looks like they'll pull through so far. All thirty got out at least.." Her voice trailed off as she swung her backpack down and pulled out a think stack of papers, trying to not spill the mess of baby things. A frustrated sound escaping her as a water bottle fell and rolled past her.

*

And then Pietro Maximoff gets offended by a duck.

Wanda purses her mouth briefly to quell a widening smile, in a witnessed moment of a woman unshackled from all her worries, obligations, and otherworldly hauntings —

And then family comes to pay a visit. There is many people Wanda expects to chance Mutant Town, but her half-sister does not seem to be on that mental list, telling by the naked look of surprise on her face. It disappears, not through her own mechinations, but when Pietro physically intercedes to step in front.

Her hands, running their fingers down her lap-duck's feathery back, go still. It's been some time since she's seen Lorna again in person, outside the immediate threat of battle, and there's reconciling with memory: the half-sister who was once pregnant now has a baby swaddled to her, healthy and alive.

There could be many reactions from the Scarlet Witch, notorious for her instability. But, for now, it's almost… anticlimactic, how Wanda takes it all in. There is no aggression off her, no outward hostility, not even a guardedness — just that usual, withdrawn holding-in of someone who has to keep rigid control over herself at all times. Even more so, when something as innocent as a child is about.

She lets the duck off her lap and pours the uneaten corn into the grass for it to feed, bringing her hands back together, twining her long, many-ringed fingers. "We may disagree with Xavier, but even we acknowledge his home is safe. Miss Grey would not allow anything untoward to happen." For now, Wanda thinks. Forever, she is less sure.

Of course, Lorna brings Magneto into the conversation — their shared father like a looming spectre — but calls him "dad". Hearing the pet name makes Wanda's forehead wrinkle, a little disturbed to hear it, and all that it insinuates.

When talk goes to business, Wanda, still seated on the grass, looks up to Pietro — a glance that communicates some sort of conversation. She pauses a moment, then gestures one hand. The water bottle returns to where it was, just like that. "Has Cyclops sanctioned this, we wonder?"

*

Dad, Lorna says. Pietro stiffens, a glance traded with Wanda that shares her disturbance, before he looks back at Lorna and her small bundle. "You know what I have said about Magneto," he says, and it's rather telling he doesn't also use the paternal title. It seems Pietro only wants to register him as Father when he fears becoming him… fears the shared blood breeding true in his veins.

It is a comment that lacks Pietro's usual overbearing, lecturing quality, however. Quicksilver may finally be too tired for more than a reminder on this topic, one on which the trio have already frequently disagreed.

Instead, he finally approaches Lorna, though with the cautious quality of a stag. Wanda might decline to come close at all — fearing a lashing-out of the power she must constantly concentrate to control — but Pietro is curious. One look before she is sent away. "Less a risk at Xavier's," he agrees with his twin. "But it is for the best to send her away, even from there. The lives we all lead are too dangerous. Children deserve stability."

To speak of the vulnerable, there is the matter of the captive mutants to discuss. Pietro watches a moment as Lorna struggles with the papers, before he steps forward and takes them from her to free her hands again. He glances back when Wanda looks at him, something uncanny about the way he always knows when his twin wants his eyes.

"Highly doubt it," he says, his voice taut. He flips through the papers at blurring speed, no doubt reading ninety percent of them right there. "Cyclops couldn't even hold a conversation with us before he began firing. I wonder at his priorities. His feelings are the least of mine. We have caught one or two of the Genoshan scientists. Not nearly enough. And now there is another enemy on the board."

*

A sigh of broken relief escaped Lorna as the bottle came back and settled into the backpack where it belonged. "Thanks," Grateful green eyes settled on her half-sister as she straightened up and slipped it back onto her back more firmly. She tugged the little cap off her daughter, settling down to the grass as her frame sagged, shoulders falling as she closed her eyes briefly. As disturbed as the twins were in regard to how she addressed Magneto.. she was unruffled by it. He was her father, and after months on the island 'Dad' came into play, when or how, she wasn't sure. But it had.

Nate wasn't wrong when he said Magneto was a horrible influence for one Lorna Dane. Even as he'd waved off her mentioning of her half siblings.

"The school has been attacked multiple times in the last few months. Some worse than others." Demon bear, aliens, space sharks, undead-fake-mutant-things.. The list grew ever longer. And when it came to Aurora, Lorna was thinking less and less clearly as time passed. She sounded downright exhausted, and the shadows that run under her eyes had deepened yet again.

"And Cable said, ten years.. that we had ten years and mutants would be wiped out or close to it.." Her lips thinned as she ran her fingers over her daughter's soft blue hair. "Even if we stop them this time.. they'll keep trying. It's never going to stop, is it?" She muttered, and shook her herself, blinking out of the morose well that lapped at her waking mind.

A crack of a smile followed as Wanda questioned about Cyclops, and she snorted a dry laugh. "No, of course not. He doesn't know what I've been up to at all. I haven't seen him, he's been busy." A pause as she hooked an eyebrow upwards, "But I'm not willing to play sides when it comes to mutant lives. I didn't know he'd tried to firing at you two.." Her lips pursed again, and she shifted on the cool grass. "Anyways.. do you think it's new, or old enemies with new tech? As you can see.. The X-men don't have any clear leads. We don't have any proof of who's working with who or what so far."

*

"He did attack us," Wanda confirms, though she does not share Lorna's bleak humour. The Witch seems no longer outwardly hostile about Scott Summers' violent "outreach" to them, but it may well remain a sore spot.

Jean Grey can surely attest to that.

"And, given the opprtunity, or even to see our faces, I do not doubt he would try again. And his ability to do so, I may add, is an ongoing example of our mercy," continues the witch, more than a little haughty, her eyes half-lidded. "You should be willing to play sides, Lorna. Whether or not you acknowledge them, they exist. In an ideal world, our kind would engage this war the same way, but we must endure more than humanity's treatment of us. We must also survive our own divisions, and there is no forseeable compromise."

Her blue eyes flicker, taking a glance of the baby. "Not until there is more loss. That I can sense. But playing all sides at once will not make you powerful — only exposed. Though you may have already learned that lesson."

Wanda pauses. Her lips tighten, recalling Lorna's just-now usage of "dad," and all that harkens of her time in Genosha. "Or perhaps not."

But there is little dig in her voice — like Pietro, she seems similarly tired at the corners, without her usual stomach to argue. Her gaze dances over to Pietro, seeking communion over what is right, and what not, to share. "There is an evolution of what was," she offers, in her usual, cryptic, witchy way. "And there is what will be."

*

Pietro exchanges a glance with Wanda at the news of the repeated attacks on the school, though it doesn't quite appear to be a look of concern so much as one of vague incredulity. Perhaps contempt. "Perhaps if less time was spent on infighting and shooting lasers at each other," he observes acidly, 'the mutant race would be getting a little farther than it is. Or being attacked on its own school grounds less often, for a start."

Of course, however, when Pietro talks about a stop to infighting, he is mostly talking about doing so under the condition the mutant race falls in line with how HE wants to do things.

He lets his twin speak of the dangers of trying to play all sides. There is nothing she says that he does not agree with, after all. "Things stop when they are forced to stop," Pietro chooses to address instead. "When they are shown a cost of continuing to try, which is more than they are willing to pay." If he has lingering reservations about where that path may take him, he doesn't show them. Even if it never stops… we can't afford to."

With a last glance at the baby and her blue hair, Pietro finally takes the papers back towards Wanda to let her look. Lorna's question, and Wanda's cryptic answer, draw no immediate comment from Pietro. He just tilts his head when Wanda looks at him, as if listening.

"Both," Pietro says, perhaps taking enough pity to serve as Wanda's oracular translator this time around. "The Purifiers we saw have clearly upgraded. Might be getting funding from Trask, tech from Genosha. A confluence of our current enemies, into something new. Cable also clearly knows something about new threats, in the years to come. Upgraded Sentinels unlike anything we have seen now." He shakes his head. "There's no clues yet where the Purifiers got the means to mutate themselves in such a way, though with luck the process to do so was destroyed with the island."

"At the least, we have reason to believe Hell's Kitchen was not targeted to anything mutant," he says. "So that's one thing, at least, that isn't about us."

*

Lorna grimaced, her green eyed gaze sweeping low again as she smoothed her hands over the infant's hair. A more automatic, thoughtless gesture, as she hummed under her breath and set to rocking Aurora to keep her dosing lightly. Even as static took up residence in her hair beneath the cap. Wanda's words left a visible impact in how her younger sibling fell silent. There were no arguments, no heated refusals, nothing. It was just… as she said. Those divisions did leave her exposed. The X-men would kick her out for working with the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood needed strong leaders, strong mutants to act. Without either, it would crumble.. and Lorna wasn't entirely sure she had it in her to be that.

She did not envy her half sibling's positions in that regard.

"Luck isn't really something anyone here has. There are other facilities, I don't doubt that one of them has back ups or notes or whatever. Stamp out one, and ten more get funding from some anti-mutant wack-job.." She muttered, her voice small and fragile. For all her powers set her apart from the masses of mutants in Mutant Town. For all that she'd done and fought for.. Looking at the bottom of another hill of enemies and threats made her feel even more brittle. How had their father managed to fight and keep fighting for decades?

She was already so tired, but she knew she'd keep trying, regardless.

".. I agree, Pietro. If there weren't divisions our people would be better off in a lot of ways.." Because she was convinced it was a war now, more than ever, as she clutched her daughter close, sitting on the grass. The divisions in mutant beliefs and ideology was a mess, and one that she wasn't prepared to get into again.

"So, Hell's Kitchen was just.. some human targeting whoever was around…" She exhaled a breath, disgust laced in her voice and she shook her head.

*

Expecting resistance, Wanda holds her own moment of silence when Lorna instead… accedes.

Perhaps for that reason, she does not press the issue further; unlike Pietro, she usually isn't the type who savours her lectures.

Probably because she spent years upon years being on the receiving end of them.

Instead, Wanda accepts the papers from Pietro, piecing over their information — reading, in a way, that seems to involve her hands running the pages than any real movement of her eyes. Possibly that is how the Scarlet Witch reads? With an ear to the beyond, she does not look much like the type surrounded in papers and reports.

Eventually, she flicks one hand, curling her fingers, and the reports disappear with a crackle of scarlet light, ported away for the twins' safekeeping. Of course, with that gift of an information leak, there may be the expectation among family for quid pro quo —

And Wanda's intelligence is a lot less concrete, requiring Pietro, and his rare moments of patience, to parse it.

"This is a war of endurance," Wanda remarks, perhaps sensing Lorna's fatigue. "It may outlive all of us. It will not be finished with Trask, and his benefactors. It will not be finished with the monsters that rise to replace them. It does not mean we can ignore what they do, or who they are, but to seek change beyond reacting. That is something Xavier's children cannot see. They cannot evolve past self-defence."

Her eyes turn, first to impart Pietro a gentle look, before her gaze casts out over the pond. "I cannot see the future. But this reality speaks to me. I see glimpses, hear whispers, and there are possibilities now that did not exist months ago. New ways which this world could turn, and some of them —"

Wanda goes quiet, deathly so, unwilling to say. She is quiet as her twin speaks of Hell's Kitchen, eyes distant with memory. "All they know is how to hurt."

*

It is not a comfortable position to be in. To force change via an organization like the Brotherhood is to accept public attention, public censure, and more importantly to accept the constant potential that one might have to cross lines to accomplish… anything, really. It is also to accept the inevitable comparisons to Magneto, a topic Lorna certainly knows more than enough about herself. Pietro struggles at times, balancing 'what must be done' against 'what he feels he can do without losing himself.'

Many of his native impulses are similar to their father's. Anger, retribution, violence. But the difference lies in how the son strives to control and rise above them — to not let himself be wholly consumed by them. It is a difficult line to maintain, but important.

Perhaps expecting resistance himself, he is similarly surprised when Lorna accedes the risks she runs by refusing to play a single side. He glances at Wanda, but surprisingly enough he has no lecture either. Perhaps he lectured himself out the past five times he's done it, and hasn't fully recharged yet. Perhaps he's just more focused on the information they are all trading, which is far more important than debate about the choices they have all made.

"Self-defense will wear us down to nothing," Pietro says, taking up the conversational thread seamlessly on the tail of his twin's words. "It is sitting by an open window in winter, and putting on more and more clothes against the cold. The solution is to shut the window. Any peace we could buy from humans by Xavier's methods still leaves them with the balance of power. We would be safe only because they chose to allow it. Better to be safe because we taught them they must allow it." He rests a hand briefly on Wanda's closer knee. "If there are other facilities, we will destroy them as well. Hell's Kitchen was an atrocity. This… is a war."

And to speak of Hell's Kitchen? "We are not completely certain," Pietro admits, "but our best guess is that it was a human. Yes. But we cannot say for what motive. And as usual, the blame is laid on us."

He is quiet for a moment. "Thank you for bringing this to us. We will see what must be done, will be. We have not always been in agreement. But there is one thing on which we may all agree. The future must be made safe for our kind."

*

Lorna didn't exactly know what to expect beyond lectures, at least from Pietro, limited as their interactions had been up to that point.. she'd learned that much about her half brother. She wasn't as certain about about Wanda, not in way, shape, or form beyond ideals.. and well, Pietro and her being close. It was a short list. The green haired woman rose, shifting upon the magnetic currents to help her balance as she got up finally.

As the reports vanished, her eyebrows climbed upwards, but she didn't remark on what happened to them further.

A glance was instead spared back to Pietro as he spoke, listening and nodding once. "We'll be investigating leads closer to home, they might have some ties to a Purifier group here that we can track down. I'll let you know if anything comes from it." She pursed her lips, as she shifted her grip on Aurora and pulled her from the sling. The baby blinked dark brown eyes around her, gurgled once and wriggled in her mother's grip. Sparks danced on her daughter's finger tips, blue and electric.

Green eyes returned to Wanda, and settled there. "You don't have to.. but I wanted to ask.. I don't know everything that your powers do, or can't do. But once you offered to bless the land in Genosha to make it grow. Can.. can you bless her somehow?" She colored faintly, settling the baby on her hip as Aurora woke up further from her nap.

*

As the twin brother speaks, the twin sister is silent — the two trading the lead, back and forth, like a seamless dance. Probably the way things become, with two lost, maligned creatures left alone, no one in the world to trust but each other.

Whatever Pietro declares of their intentions, Wanda appears in full, implicit agreement. When his hand touches her knee, hers covers his briefly, an anchoring touch that communicates her faith in the path he takes. Whatever the comparisons to Magneto all these siblings share, and must be burdened with at times, the witch believes the shapes of their souls can overcome that creeping shadow.

And as he offers thanks, the witch looks back out on the water, letting her brother communicate both their feelings forward. It is not until Lorna's request that Wanda sobers out of her distance, drawn back to the here and now, taking in her half-sister's words with an expression that is at first so confused she might be speaking in tongues —

— to realization, to understanding, to shock.

Condemned all her life to being a witch, with her works spoken as hexes, curses, blights, it's the first time — other than Pietro — that Wanda has ever heard her ability called a blessing. She goes still, not unhappily so, before her blue eyes blink rapidly, and her hands begin to fidget against her lap.

"I —" she starts, and her normally patient, cryptic voice breaks into a stammer. "I'm… sorry. I offered to speak to the land. It is… it is not like a blessing. I can hear life speak to me. I can commune, negotiate —"

Wanda stops herself, her eyes turning a quick, pained look to Pietro, before something overcomes her even to drop her eyes from him. "I deal in probability, Lorna. I could suggest a path for your child, but… I can't always control it. There is always risk. There is a price to lie to reality." Her averted eyes unfocus, and her voice goes very soft, bone-brittle. "It would be safest for your little one to keep her innocent of me. If —"

She starts to say something, then stops. 'If I could do it, I would.' Wanda knows better than to wish.

*

Both twins are guarded creatures, to be certain. Slow to allow others close, and ready with their defense mechanisms. The lectures and criticisms Lorna has met from her half-brother are Pietro's; overall reclusiveness from the physical world is Wanda's. It is easier for Pietro to express himself through overbearing, controlling behavior than it is to be genuine in any way. It is how he has kept Wanda alive. It is how he has kept himself safe from being hurt. A classic example of Pietro only thinking others will be safe and on the right path if he nitpicks them on exactly how to be so.

He nods briefly to Lorna's remark on tracking down the Purifiers, on sharing if there is anything to come from the leads. "We are able to do some things that the X-Men cannot," he says, meaning heavy in his voice. "We will destroy their facilities. However many more they will try to build, we will tear down."

As Lorna makes her hesitant request, however, Pietro's blue eyes widen slightly in obvious alarm. He reaches preemptively for his twin's hand to take it in his, and it squeezes insistently when she turns her eyes even from him.

"She can do whatever is probable," he explains a little further. "But whatever is probable often includes the negative outcomes. Backfires. Unforeseen forks in the road. Take her somewhere safe, and tell no one where. That is the surest path."

*

Lorna lowered herself down slightly, to be closer to Wanda's level as she balanced her daughter on her hip, squirming and shoving a chubby hand into her mouth to gum. Lorna had let her guard down, dangerous, irresponsible possibly, even with her half siblings. Particularly with her half-siblings, who's bond was so tightly woven she could only sit on the outside and watch.

Still, as Wanda settles, looks away and trails off, Lorna nods once. "It's okay. Don't feel like you're pressured or anything. I just thought I'd ask. Like I said, I didn't know.." She offered a weak smile, and glanced down at her daughter. "If you'd like to, you can just hold her? As her aunt?" Her gaze swung upwards to Pietro and she nodded, her expression dimming slightly.

"It feels wrong.. that giving up my baby is the best.. But I agree." She didn't let on that Magneto had suggested the same. Had acknowledged that he wouldn't be able to have done the same.

*

Even to Lorna's soothing words, or Pietro's squeeze on her hand, Wanda remains unmoved.

Shame seems to cover her like some heavy shroud, heavy and burdensome, and her blue eyes remain deliberately averted, looking away out on the pond. She does not look at its swimming ducks this time, but the faceless, moving expanse of water, ripples folding into each other — creating endless permutations of interactions, probabilities so numerous it even expends her significant ability to calculate.

The witch draws away, in spirit — tensing, a little, when Lorna drops her guard and approaches her half-siblings. Tensing not in fear of what could be done to her, but seeing only the dark, terrible possibilities passing by her eyes of what she could do. No much different than the things she's already done.

There was a reason why Pietro and Wanda were chased from place to place, home to home, over all of Europe, for the better part of a decade.

She is not sure why, but there's something so strangely familiar felt when Lorna asks her if she wants to hold the child — hold her niece. She feels her head spin, and for a moment, almost feels tempted. In a different life, one where she was only human, she would say yes without hesitation.

"Lorna," Wanda speaks, head still turned away. Her voice, so strained, almost sounds pleading, heavy with guilt. "You don't understand. I once held a child. It did not end well."

*

Pietro has been watching his sisters interact carefully this entire time, his gaze as close as a hawk watching a meadow. Assuredly, he is watching in ways that are not perceptible as well — watching the shape of Wanda's moods and emotions as they change.

There is a certain breaking point he hits when he hears his twin speak with that strained guilt. He rises rather suddenly, with a tug to try to get Wanda to rise as well. Pietro has always protected Wanda, and often from her own emotions — from her own memories. Paris was a long time ago, Wanda, he sends, across their bonded link. Timisoara, even longer.

He fears his own hands less than his twin fears hers. Pietro reaches to brush aside a lock of the child's hair and see the color of her eyes, perhaps in a small peace offering. "Not today," he says quietly. If things were to go badly for Wanda again… her psyche is already such a fragile thing.

He turns a quiet, questioning look on his twin. "We should move on," he says, apparently regardless of whatever wordless answer she might give. His gaze turns back to Lorna. "We try not to linger in one place too long, especially these days." He pauses. "It is best you both are not seen too often with us. For the things we may need to do before this is over."

In some ways, it is a futile precaution. The world already knows all their names and their relations. Yet why provide even more proof of it?

*

Lorna straightened carefully at Wanda's withdrawn manner, as she tensed and turned her gaze away. "It's okay.. I.. Sorry.." She offered, mumbling as she shifted to tuck Aurora away into the sling once more. Even as Pietro made a gentle brush of his fingers against Aurora's blue, curly locks. The little girl gurgled, and kicked, blinking her gaze up around her in a curious manner. Beyond a secreting meeting with Magneto, Aurora hadn't left the mansion once. Hadn't met anyone that wasn't in the mansion regularly, or one of the few that could hold her without sustaining electrical shocks.

There would never be another time.. not if Lorna mustered the courage to hide her daughter away, and destroy her marriage in the process.

Still, she forced a faint smile, nodding once again as she sighed. She had no idea what Wanda feared so badly, had no real concept of it. Though the woman turned into bugs was a good mental picture for a hint of it.

"Yeah.. another time. Whenever you want, Wanda." She glanced back to Pietro and bit back a sigh as she adjusted the backpack on her shoulders once more. "I should head back. I'm sure someone will wonder why I went out with Aurora. You two take care.. If you need anything, lemme know. I'll uh.. I'll pass on anything that might be helpful." She tucked the hat back onto her daughter's head, and checked her own.

*

Wanda Maximoff's averted eyes do not relent back, like some self-imposed exile among her own blood family. All of them, heirs of Magneto's blood, a mutant whose power is matched by his fierce, needle-fine control, and able to replicate just the same. Pietro, who can wield and break the laws of physics, and do so with such focus as not to destroy cityblocks, neighbourhoods, lives around him. Lorna, who can similarly bend metal with such perfect finesse.

And Wanda, among them? Wanda, the anomaly, whose ability is power without control, and whose hands cannot be trusted — least of all by herself. Where does she fit in?

She does not look out of fear of being tempted, thinking she can be like them; Pietro speaks through their mind-link, and she does not answer.

Wanda's only movement is because Pietro coaxes her up to her feet. She does not fight, a boneless docility about her, lingering back, her fidgetting hands pulling at the rings on her fingers. She says nothing to Lorna's apologies, ashamed, and does nothing when Pietro interacts briefly with his niece, too afraid even to watch.

As for saying her own good-byes, the witch remains silent. Retreated in every way, broken in others — nothing ever seems easy for the Eisenhardt children.

*

Lorna might not have an idea of what Wanda fears so badly, but Pietro does. He has seen it for the past fifteen years. He has seen city blocks sicken with plague, childrens' limbs wither, cows drop dead when she passes. He has seen her nightmares spawn monsters in the world. He has seen holes rip in the sky, and the colors of the world invert into blood. He has seen corpses get up and walk.

He still stays with her. That, perhaps, is the unbreakable bond of a twin; the kind of bond that, even after all that, still brings Pietro close to kiss Wanda's forehead and whisper a soothe into her hair. Today, as always, he will take her home and comfort her again.

He glances back towards Lorna, however, as she offers her halting apologies and makes to leave. Wanda cannot bring herself to reply; Pietro glances at her, and then speaks for them both. "Take care going home. The city is volatile."

He steps towards Lorna, closer than the standoffish young man has physically come before, and hides an escaped lock of blue hair more thoroughly under the child's hat.

Within moments he is back at Wanda's side, faster than the eye can perceive. He is carefully formal, as if uncomfortable to admit to any such display. The world was never kind to any sort of weakness on his part. "We will be in touch if there is anything of importance."

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