September 16, 2018:

Emma Frost and the Maximoff twins have a lovely and cordial meeting on the subject of the safehouse that the former has been constructing in Mutant Town. A candidate to man the project, agreeable to all parties, is discussed.

Mutant Town, New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Lorna Dane, Tony Stark

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

To say that Emma Frost does not care that today's appointment did to two other of her investments would be a grave miscalculation of the situation. However, certain things would not wait. This? Was one of them.

There is a quiet way that Emma has to send word that there's a discussion she'd like to have. And she uses it.

She gives the address of the apartment building that she's just finished rehabilitating within the boundaries of Mutant Town - gentrifying, really - and suggests it as the location to meet. After all, she reasons, if it is truly to earn its keep as a neutral ground… It might as well start today.

It's not terribly fancy on the outside, although the common brick facade has a few fancy tricks here ant there to add visual interest. And the concrete steps are a little wider than most, a little shorter, and with a slightly fancier concrete rail.

Inside, however, the halls of the lower floor are fancy Old Style New York type marble mosaic, with rich aubergine colored walls and tasteful lobby art. The apartments themselves are more neutral, but the quality is there to set it a notch above with their hardwood floors and crown moulding and closet space.

Emma waits inside a suite that will one day host a resident of some rank based upon the spacious dimensions of the room, and there is a small round table - a painted thing with a floral still life on its top - with three small chairs arranged it and three small personal tea services.

She's started moving her wardrobe in the direction of autumn, her pants longer and still white, her boots stiletto heeled with large buckled straps over the ankle, and a nearly sheer long sleeve turtle neck tunic sweater over her upper half.

And she waits.

Pietro Maximoff was both surprised and not surprised to receive communication from Emma Frost regarding a desire to meet. They're not exactly bosom friends, but he knows enough about her to know that business goes on regardless of personal feelings. What he doesn't know about her, however, means the precautions he and his twin take in accepting such an invitation are, shall we say… much more robust than usual.

You just can't really be sure with Emma Frost.

Those preparations are not anything that appear to the naked eye — except for the glamour under which they travel until they arrive at the apartment building in question, anyway. The gentrification starts to hit even a few blocks away from its doorstep, a fact which brings Pietro to look around and mutter to himself in an uncomplimentary way.

The muttering gets a little more pointed when they enter the building itself. "Typical," he says to his twin, looking around. "She cannot seem to do anything that can't be described with words like 'aubergine.'"

Nonetheless, he keeps the appointment, preceding his twin into the suite in question by long force of protective habit. If anything's going to hit, let it hit him first. This time, he's dressed in street clothes in contrast to Emma's elegance, looking indistinguishable from any other young man his age on the street — save for that hair. White as his father's, defiantly un-dyed.

"I see you completed the project to your particular taste, Miss Frost," is his idea of a greeting. He is much more solicitous towards his twin, waiting for her to choose a seat so he can pull it out and ensure she is settled. "I suppose that's your prerogative."

Gentrification within the boundaries of Mutant Town.

Pietro speaks his scathing quip for her ears, and Wanda's blue eyes answer with their silent, withering stare. Standing at the heart of that apartment lobby, she hates every little thing about it. It rings of all the places, long ago, she dreamed of having — all the places her brother could not afford.

Places that do not want their kind.

But she says nothing, does nothing, playing obedient as Pietro guides them both up to their designated appointment. Appointment with Emma Frost.

There are dangers in same, considering the company Miss Frost kept; the same company, now absent, whose tin heart was torn from his chest by Pietro's own hand. But there are some allies in this world far more valuable than any healthy sense of paranoia, and Frost is one of them.

As always, the brother enters first, exulting in his lifelong habit to weather all the initial reprisals that may be aimed for his sister.

This time, there are none. And a beat later, Wanda enters. The many times before, she's been in her gauzy, pretty red dresses, brandishing fake smiles and easy, feigned pleasantries. This time, the Witch is in black like she would be attending someone's funeral, something simple, with long sleeves and a high neck.

Wanda casts her blue eyes around the expensive room, and says nothing, up and until she's found her seat, settled with all the ready help of her twin. Pietro's breezy words earn a turn of her eyes, but her glance has no desire to brank him.

"You wished us to meet?" Wanda asks.

"Quite," Emma replies, her smile and tone trained to perfect neutrality even if what lies beneath is anything but. Not to say that she doesn't have her own precautions made, in the form of psychic defenses at full height. "I am so very pleased to hear you say that you like it." I don't really care about your thoughts on the decor whatsoever, being the very pointed subtext.

It's not really her particular style; she prefers a lighter palette with a blend of contemporary and traditional sensibilities. But there is a way in that the building is indeed built to her particular taste: in that it serves a very particular purpose.

And, if after everything they've done and threatened to undo, they are a little off-step - more than a little uncomfortable - than every last dime she invested for a color so rich as aubergine to have an extra coat upon the lobby walls was a dime well spent.

"I did," she says to Wanda, leaning forward to start preparing tea with the practiced ease of someone who knows how the thing is done without having made a life of it. A switch is turned, activating a hot water heater as the telepath sets her slender hands to work upon the low table. There are different pots, each with leaves. She will let them pick their preferred when the time comes although she's lifting lids off of pots and setting strainers in. "So I'm so glad that you could make it. As you can see, my little investment here is just about ready to begin receiving tenant applications."

I am so very pleased to hear you say that you like it.

"It's atrocious," Pietro expresses frankly without pause or reservation, though he leaves it at that — his attention is fixed mostly by his twin. Wanda and her rage, welling up from a deep spring of painful memory. He and his sister have inhabited places like this, but always abandoned places, or places to which they staked forcible claim in defiance of human ownership. Never have they come so close to dressing themselves up so with the trappings of human law and human society, and it puts a bitter taste in his mouth.

Wanda is tense under his hands. They are gentle on her as he helps her to her seat.

Only afterwards does he take his own, though he is transparently restless. His blue eyes follow Emma, narrowed, as she prepares tea. As she speaks.

"Applications," Pietro says, his voice flat. He glances at his sister, his right hand coiling into a fist where it rests on the table. His voice flints with impatience. "Do you intend to charge rent for safety? This was not part of our initial discussion. If you want our assistance, I want to know line by line how this will work."

In an indirect, ephemeral way, Wanda can sense those defences. Sense them as powerful as they are carefully, precisely locked.

With her own, chaos analogue of a psychic's arsenal, she does not push even to make cursory tests against those formidable walls. For one, she doubts she'd be able to open them; for two, she still cares for the worthiness of this alliance.

It does not take agreeing with Emma Frost's journey to still respect that their destinations may cross.

Wanda's hand lingers on Pietro's as he lets go to find his own chair, simply needing of the anchor or just wanting to keep him near. Her eyes turn away, lingering on the tea, considering it with her usual, witchy detachment.

True to her name, she seems to wander off — at least mentally — only to reanimate back on the tails of Pietro's words. His impatience draws her eye; she still makes no move to soothe or stop it.

"You told us, Miss Frost," she follows up, blue eyes back on Emma, "of your desire to make a safe place for our kind. When you fail to make a profit for your venture, and yet persist to keep it — eyes will be turned toward it. How or whom will you be charging to pay for your pretty rooms?"

He hurls his insult, and the immaculately blonde woman just continues to smile and prepare things. The pots of leaves are uncovered, and Emma knows them all by scent. She claims an Irish blend as her own, and uses the small silver scoop to fill her strainer. As the electric kettle starts to scream, she turns it off and pours it immediately over the black twists. "No, I intend to charge rent to create a paper trail."

Emma's eyes lift and, despite her few years and the shortness of the glance settled upon Pietro, there is unspoken, unvoiced, and unwilled command. He receives for his importance a potent but ultimately unforced bid. Be still.

His impatience irritates, but there is only that small spark of it that reveals itself behind pale blue eyes.

"Giant voids and strange looking charitable endeavors arouse suspicion more quickly than half-truths," she says after a beat, her eyes turning downward once more to set the lid upon her tea pot. And then she sits back. Her doing anything more to seem of service has reached its end, t'would seem. "So, there will be some who pay rent here, and it will need to command a tidy sum. There will be some perpetually 'vacant' apartments. And then there will be those who earn their keep. This is an investment, and I believe in a very balanced portfolio. For - to your point, Miss Maximoff - there must be something on paper that will make discerning matters a little more difficult."

Emma's lack of response does not seem to trouble Pietro. Insults sometimes seem to be like breathing, for him; he drops them automatically, without much expectation of an actual engagement. Besides, his hand is still tangled with his twin's, and that seems to have a calming effect on him.

Nonetheless, Quicksilver's blunt impatience is not something that can be bridled for long — especially when the Witch is doing nothing to soothe it — and he demands details on the nuts and bolts of this operation.

Emma's first response is to lift her eyes and stare. Pietro stiffens, tensing against the nebulous blanket command behind that look. For a moment the flashing arrogance in his features — how dare? — calls to mind another visage much like this one, save older and far more refined, one with which Emma is far more familiar. There is outrage at the very demand.

But ultimately, he holds his silence and lets her speak. Lets her answer Wanda's questions.

"Hiding," he says bitterly, when it is all said and done. "Always hiding. There always comes a point when the hiding is no longer enough, you realize. But very well. You will do as you please, I suppose. We will do as we please." The outcome of that is no doubt fresh in the minds of all present. "I suppose you will want people to manage it."

Were she in better spirits, Wanda might share a private smile against Emma's look — aimed sharply straight for the heart of all Pietro Maximoff's impatience.

Be still, indeed. It might be easier to ask order of entropy. She's never seen it done in near thirty years — not with her brother.

But even if Pietro cannot be still, he holds; even if it is not with compliance, or even a generous cooperation, it's with that steely, indignant silence not unlike the calm before a storm.

Tolerant to allow him his temper this long, Wanda can sense impending danger. Impatient Pietro is nothing like rageful Pietro.

She draws a finger down his palm, with their joined hands. A small gesture, but enough, to will his attention back to her.

Wanda gives Emma's answer due thought. It's no different now, than most times before — she doesn't quite agree with the method, but she can picture the destination. And if it does end up helping their kind —

"Gentrification is like an infection, I've found," she says instead. "Especially here. It will be on you, Miss Frost, not to let it spread. I doubt any of us wish to see the laws they would pass to evict mutants from their homes. All to build their gyms and cafes."

Always hiding, Pietro says. Wanda's eyes turn at the thought, agreeing. But his last remark to Emma requires an answer, and the witch is quiet to hear it.

Pietro outrages. Bewails her decisions and her hiding, as though he were surprised by the required nature of a safe house. All Emma has for him is a look that feigns everlasting patience, completely with a fresh iteration of her arrogant, patronizing smile.

She was a teacher not that terribly long ago. A headmistress who actually interfaced with parents. Interfaced with parents in pairs. She has the skill perfected. 'Don't let gentrification push mutants out,' Wanda pleads. As though they hadn't pushed out immigrant families to make room for themselves. As though mutants were somehow precluded from having nice things.

She. Can. Do. This. All. Day.

"I will," she allows, checking her watch to time the steep of her pot and crossing her legs as she unworriedly contemplates the two in the round with her. Her pale hands settle neatly upon her knee. "Which is why I called this little tete a tete. I wanted to see if there is a name that you would like to push forward for it that be more agreeable to you than another. Since you seem to have opinions in abundance, and the person will need to be in space that you have decided is yours and yours alone."

Pietro is not surprised by the fact that hidden operations are necessary for a safe house. His anger sources from the fact that safe houses and hiding are something that are necessary at all — and from his suspicion and lack of trust in Emma Frost not to find some profit for herself from their own people in need, if she is not held in check. He might have spelled that out, if any of that had been conversation spoken flat out in the open. But then, when did Emma ever do anything out in the open?

As it is, when he calms, it is only because Wanda asks it of him with that simple, small touch. No other reason.

Transparently irritated to even share space with Frost, he pushes the conversation faster to its presumed conclusion. Is there a name they would put forward, given that such a person would be operating in their space?

Pietro exchanges a glance with Wanda. There is a sense of a hidden conversation transpiring.

"The time was not right before," he says. "Now, it may be. Lorna Dane. She is a middleman we will tolerate. She and I had spoken of safehouses before, of establishing a… means for mutants to leave the country in safety should registration actually pass. She has the connection for it, should anyone wish to go on to Genosha after passing through here."

His aspect remains taut. To have to discuss contingencies like this obviously does not please him.

Wanda continues that slow, metered stroke of her fingertip down Pietro's heart line. The little work of the witch to hold her twin brother's infamous temper at bay.

Her patient eyes, blue as Pietro's, blue as their father's, watch Emma Frost. The Scarlet Witch, in truth, is not a creature of duplicity; not someone given form to feign her faces and play chess with feelings not her own. She has learned not through manipulation, but through restriction, to temper her aspect — to tighten bridle after bridle on her own feelings until what reflects from her gaze is little but the empty void.

"Of course we have opinions," Wanda answers. "You are bringing your world into our house. I think you would have opinions were we to start doing our business out of your office." The ghost of a smile haunts her mouth. "But I see your point. I suppose we do have problems with sharing. We stand by our promise that it will remain neutral ground. But, with our protection, shall always come our concerns. I suppose you anticipated as much."

And Emma did, with an offering for the twins to put their mark on the building.

She meets her brother's glance, considering. When he speaks, as always, it seems to be for the both of them.

"She does come with the baggage of being known globally — of course. If you can work with that," Wanda offers to Emma. "But she cares for our kind, above all."

Emma's golden head gently tilts a degree to the side at the suggestion, and a sculpted eyebrow pricks upwards. She watches the pair for a moment, and then tilts her wrist to glance at her watch. She exhales at thhe time. Not yet.

"Even the globally known must have a place to live, Miss Maximoff. The commendation is a good one. I can agree to it, in theory. I'll need set it before another party, and then go talk to her myself, of course."

She smiles. "As I will be of course still footing the bill. And there will need to be some other details to work out once we do settle on the appropriate person to keep an eye on things here."

That caress of Wanda's hand visibly keeps Pietro reined in. What must he be like without his sister to keep him calm?

Certainly even less agreeable than he is now.

"Whatever you need to do, then do it," he says shortly. "Our selection is on the table. Take it or leave it, as you will. Contingent — of course — on her agreement as well."

He looks to his twin, his hand tightening around hers, but it is still Emma he addresses when he states, "If that is all? We like to keep moving, these days."

For as much as Wanda can temper many of Pietro's moods, she seamlessly rhymes and reflects the rest.

Such as when he tightens his hand, a silent signal that he's had enough, she straightens up, arranging with that universal body language of 'matter closed, let us be no longer needed.'

"As always," Wanda speaks neatly, as if the hanging spectre of Tony Stark's comatose absence does not exist here, "call us if you need other further input on the details. You know how to reach us."

"Quite." If he thinks that he'll cow Emma Frost with the overly efficient end of discussion, Pietro has poorly assessed Emma indeed. Wanda is the softer of them, but just as clear.

The telepath is more than content to leave them to themselves, affording as few words as possible to communicate her acceptance of… well, what should pass as an excuse from the room. It's a very paltry offering they give her, but she smiles on as she finally leans forward for her tea pot and to pour out a measure into the waiting, dainty cup. "A pleasant day, then."

Fortunately Pietro thinks nothing of the sort and has made no particular assessment at all. He's just heard enough and is done with the conversation. Never a patient person at the best of times, being forced to interact with people he patently dislikes cuts the amount of time he's willing to spend hanging around in half. And he makes his decisions very quickly.

He's also anxious to move his sister. Ever since Stark — that shadow that hung over their conversation without once being addressed — it's been a bad idea to stay in one place for too long.

Rising, he hands his twin up from her chair in her turn. The niceties are left to her to make; she always was better at them.

He does turn an eye back once, something almost wry haunting his eyes as she wishes them a pleasant day. "We will be in contact if there is anything else," he replies, with a similar exaggerated courtesy bordering on the farcical, before he leads his twin from the room.

The tea is left, untouched.

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