Yield Point

October 14, 2018:

Wanda, broken without her brother, wakes from near death to find herself in her father's dubious care. Magneto emitted by Pietro.

The Spire, Genosha


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Pietro Maximoff, Lorna Dane, Frenzy, Exodus, Illyana Rasputina


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The top floors of the Spire are a place few go — not even the master himself. Up there are his own chambers (he barely spends any time within them — too much work to be done), chambers set aside for his family (they do not live with him — can barely stand him half of the time), and chambers set aside for his most trusted.

Magneto trusts almost no one.

For the first time in a while, this area of the Spire finally sees life when Acolytes bear Magneto's elder daughter up to a chamber therein. They leave her in a lushly-appointed room upon a soft bed, draw the shades to stay the tropical sun from her eyes, leave her a glass and pitcher of water for when she wakes… and then, as instructed, they vacate and do not return.

After some time, the Master of Magnetism goes up himself, alone, for some unknown purpose.

Time passes.

When Wanda awakes, it will be to the feel of a warm comforter, a soft bed, and the sight of that waiting water upon a small table nearby… but beyond all those things, blank walls and a bare ceiling made of thick, featureless steel. The same is true of the floor, though there a rug attempts to soften the harshness of the metal. It doesn't do a very good job — in fact, amidst everything else, it just looks depressingly incongruous.

There is a door in one wall, also made of thick steel, which does not open. In the opposite wall, there is a window through which exit is not possible, given the heavy steel bars that grate it from the outside.

Closer inspection yields nothing within the room that could be easily broken into dangerous shards, nor otherwise used to cause self-harm. The rug does not look like it would cooperate with any attempts to transform it into a noose, and the comforter is similarly too bulky (there are no sheets — too easily twisted into long ropes). Even the glass and pitcher are made of smooth steel, and not glass.

There is no sign of her errant 'father.'

Now, as always, Wanda Maximoff sleeps without dreams.

Long hours pass, and she dozes without stirring or waking. Some part of this sources from the days' long stress on her body, but the rest comes from an Acolyte: one whose careful, soniferous gift traps the woman into safe unconsciousness. It would not help the Scarlet Witch to wake before all is ready.

And when it is, her eyes flutter open.

Not even Wanda knows how long she spends staring at what appears to be a wall, its untouched metal reflecting her blurred image back to her. She looks on silently, mindlessly, lost in that peaceful void that takes the mind before the synapses braid recent memory together. As is always her first instinct upon waking, her first and must meaningful reflex, she reaches out psychically to her twin brother.

Silence and emptiness stands where Pietro Maximoff should be.

Remembering now, Wanda closes her eyes. She concentrates on breathing though that sick wave of nausea and grief.

Without him to center or anchor her, and faced with this reality that she is truly alone, Wanda buries her face into her hands, and tries to think. She tries to remember. Time comes to her in a cyclical blur, as it always has, bringing twenty-year memories as vivid and visceral as recent, that she needs time to parse them — and force herself to navigate some linear path through its infinite, labyrinthine ends. Too many realities, stacked on each other. And now this one, suffered without him.

She remembers Illyana Rasputina, wearing demonic features. She remembers the shell of her brother, mind and soul severed from hers, bearing down with eyes that no longer knew her. She remembers being home, her real home, and feeling a trueness of dying on the same tainted soil what made her. She remembers… Joanna.

White-hot pain, ripped through her body. Wanda palms her abdomen, and feels no wound, no flesh evidence of gunshot.

Numbly, she sits up, feeling a mattress creak beneath her weight, and drawn by the sound, her eyes follow the interior of this strange, unfamiliar room. Steel encases her. Something about it feels so familiar.

Trask came for them. Did she save Joanna? Her memory is not clear. If she did —

Do they have her?

Wanda touches her own throat. There is no heavy, bridling weight of that collar, a small mercy, but still not enough to soothe the way she trembles, looking around her cage. She wanted to die. If Trask's people have her, this is an existence worse than any death.

She closes her eyes to concentrate. She tries to sense. Tries to feel. The scarlet does not answer her. It does not manifest, so matter how many times she tries to will it forward. Why would it? Wanda could never control it, much less control herself. That was always Pietro.

Pushing the comforter aside, she rises to a wobbly stand, her arms loosely crossed around her body. She takes the ten shaky paces to look out through her barred window.

The bars do not block her vision much. Through them, Wanda can see the lush tropical body of Genosha spread before her searching eyes.

The window is placed, perhaps on purpose, so Wanda's view takes in only a small part of Hammer Bay itself. Little of the city is exposed to her line of sight. Her immediate vista is of the island itself, tropical and green, sloping down to beautiful white-sand coastlines… but primarily what Wanda can see from her tower is the sea. The Indian Ocean, surrounding the island, a restless expanse of dark blue water hemming Genosha in as completely as these steel walls hem her in now.

The last time she saw it was up close. She and Pietro were going to Genosha, and he was running them across the sea, playfully letting her hair dip the waves.

There is nothing else for her to see in the room, no indication why she is here. Not even a note. Did she somehow manage to throw both herself and Joanna through, when she only meant to save the latter? And if they are in Genosha, then why… why this cage? (There is no reason to ask WHO built the cage. Some things are blindingly obvious.)

Why does it feel familiar?

Time ticks past, and no one comes. What purpose did her father have to put her here? Why does he not come? Are there truly so many more things he must see to, about his precious country, that are more important than her or her missing brother? If that is the case, then why recover her and bring her to his domain at all? Why put her in this place that is some mocking facsimile of comfort blended with imprisonment?

Question are all Wanda has, for a long time.

Then, finally, a faint grinding at the door heralds the sound of locks being manipulated. When it swings open, Wanda can truly see the thickness of the steel box which has been built around her. The metal is two feet thick, at least.

Magneto, helmless and calm, offers no explanation for that either as he steps within and bids the door shut again.

The island Genosha spreads below her, and her eyes follow the long line where its lush, verdent shore opens to an ocean as blue as she's ever seen it.

In one look, it answers where she is. It allays that mindless moment of panic that she may already be Trask's prisoner, allowed her last meal's final moments before they rip her open and pull out everything that makes her Wanda Maximoff.

But she has been here before. Her blood father's domain. The last paradise for mutants, as they call it. Wanda never believed in Genosha, but that does not mean she doubts its present safety.

There was a reason she, with her last moments, and her last bit of strength urged on her failing scarlet, opened a portal from Transia to send Frenzy here.

Her hands tighten against her opposite arms. Eyes heavy with memory, Wanda takes her gaze off the distant, shining sea.

At that moment, she hears the metallic rasps and grinds of an unlatching lock; the noise fills every empty pocket of the room, echoing off its steel walls. Wanda turns her head.

The door opens.

Her eyes take in the face of her visitor — her father. The man she had not seen in person for long months; the man who last visited her in a dreamscape not even of her own making.

There, Wanda stands, healthy and whole, healed from the injury that brought her here, but still wraith-like — small and brittle, like the soul was ripped from her.

"Is Joanna alive?" is the first question she asks. "I remember another, too."

Wanda's choice of first questions thins Magneto's mouth. He does not answer, at first, instead turning his gaze towards the wall. The steel reshapes and forms out into a rudimentary seat, and he takes it.

"Frenzy is alive," he eventually answers. There is no ceremony about his correction: only a statement of what reality should be in his presence. No human names for his Acolytes. "As is Exodus. Despite their best efforts to give their lives to secure yours."

His tone is distant, wry. "You are a contrary child. You are aware it is backwards for you to try to give yours for them? That is not their task. It is not what I have appointed for them."

Magneto's features are cool as the steel around them. "It is not their purpose."

He is silent a few moments, as if something about this situation retreads a memory for him as well. It may or may not be the same as it is for Wanda.

"I warned you," he finally says. They will take your brother. "Tell me what became of your brother."

Relief yields Wanda's blue eyes.

But relief is only a mayfly thing here, now… and especially in the audience of Magneto. Frenzy and Exodus were both tasked to die for the Scarlet Witch — were prepared to — and the truth is difficult to stomach.

Her gaze weighs down, turned away from her father.

Not that it stops him. Not that anything ever could. What little control Wanda ever took over her paltry existence — none of it exists here.

I warned you.

She takes the words like a dagger in the back, struck breathless. Her fingers tighten down against her own forearms, knuckles bone-white and bloodless.

The agony of Magneto calling out the palpable absence in her life — as if she does not already feel it — becomes too much to bear. Her eyes burn. She puts her back to him, body language drawing in.

"I lost him," Wanda whispers. Her voice is shattered glass, and each syllable tears it upon on a hundred edges.

She turns on him, Magda's face replicated all over — pale, stricken, pleading. "I've never asked you for anything," Wanda snaps. "Not once. I don't know what this is — what you're doing. But I don't want it. If you wanted to give me one mercy, barely even what you owe — you could just kill me."

"You lost nothing." Magneto's voice rings out like a slap, with more anger in it than Wanda has ever heard before. "He was taken. As people will continue to take from you — if you allow them."

Her shattered pleading finds no pity on her father's stark features. He speaks on, hard and cold, each syllable wrought from decades of loss and pain. "This world will always rip what you love out of your hands. Either you sit and cry, or you teach them why they will never take from you again."

He remains seated right where he is, no sign that he plans either to leave, nor rise to comfort her. "You will learn how. You've crutched upon your brother long enough."

She turns on him, agonized, stricken, angry. She pours out her shattered heart, her refusal, her desire to die. Wanda lays it all out, in front of this man who is her father but has never been a father to her. He listens until she is done, the picture of a father waiting out a child's unseemly burst of emotion.

You could just kill me, she says, with lost Magda's face. Magneto's eyes flicker, for half a second.

"Your failure to ask me for anything in the past does not entitle you to any favors now," he finally says, though his tone is less harsh. "Much less one that foolish. I will have none of my blood appear before the world this weak. I do not have time for your petulance, Wanda. I have a country for which to care. Put your sulking away, and look me in the eye."

Magneto's eyes narrow. "Look me in the eye and tell me you intend to give up on your brother. That is what all your words say to me now."

Taken, corrects the father, and Wanda shudders to absorb the word. She flinches against the slap it is.

Her stung, too-bright eyes leave Magneto's face, unable to look at him long — unable to bear seeing the ghost of Pietro in the man's features. For her, with her broken family and cloistered upbringing, the son will always precede the father.

The snarl of his voice shrinks her, her back turned and tiny body contorting down to make itself smaller — an old, conditioned response of Wanda, abused by her hostile world for all of her life. She let herself be the victim for both of them; Pietro was their vengeance. Even now, hers is a hard role to shake, cowering against a reality that was never safe for her — save for one place, in her twin.

Look me in the eye, demands the father, and Wanda draws in stubbornly, wanting to deny him. She breathes through the pain of her torn-open soul, holding onto herself, tears running her cheeks.

He says she is giving up on her brother. Pietro, who gave his life for hers, again and again. Pietro, who deserved so much — so much more.

Wanda can't meet Magneto's eye. She keeps her back turned — safer that way — and buries her face into her own hands.

"I have nothing left!" she weeps. "I'm nothing!"

Her voice breaks on the words. "If you were ever there, you would know. It was all Pietro! Everything! Everything I ever did. I'm not meant to be here. I'm not meant to be alive!

"I tried," Wanda begs, her clawing hands dragging to fist handfuls of her dark hair. "It wasn't enough. I was never strong. What do you expect, born of a mother who ran away—"

Perhaps there is a reason Magneto did not wear the helm. He knows what his familiar features do to her. There are some things against which he believes his daughter should be hardened, and the pain of her present reality is one.

He sees now her brother was too kind to her by far. With his persistent gentleness, his doting, he has infected her in turn with that same softness. That inability to meet adversity and endure past it when it finally comes.

He will fix it. They will not survive this world otherwise… nor be of any use to him in remaking it anew. And why allow them to run about if they will not be of use?

Wanda has… a long way to go before she is of any use, however.

Magneto regards her in silence as she refuses his command, starts to weep, and cries again for her twin — cries of her own weakness. She rails how he was never there, and neither was their mother. Their mother, who ran away —

The sharp ring of steel cuts her off. Magneto is standing, and what had heretofore been a seat has folded back invisibly into the steel wall.

"We will begin again tomorrow," he says, and leaves. The door locks behind him.

He keeps his word. Food comes, and more water comes, but her father does not return until exactly one day has passed.

That same shriek of steel draws Wanda's blue eyes, the sound loud enough, sudden enough, that she forgets her own helpless self-loathing.

Silent, and bemused, she looks on — tears wet on her face — as her blood father takes leaves from her tears. Dismisses her pain, then dimisses her, as if both were beneath him. Never once in her life has, or would, Pietro ever do such a thing.

The vicious circle turns back on itself. She is the reason he is not here, lost and left suffering under the corruption of a demon. What has she left but to suffer with his absence?

Still holding herself, she absorbs Magneto's proclamation of 'tomorrow' — as if this were some sentence she has to serve. Did he not hear a single thing she said? Consider anything she feels? The wrongness of her existence? How no good act can come from a cursed being who should not be?!

"You let me out!" Wanda snaps, taking three rushed strides forward, but in that time, her father is gone. The metallic lock slides back into place behind him.

She reaches for the door and pulls on it, assured now of the fact she had not yet tested — she is locked in here. "I want out of here!" she screams unsuccessfully through two feet of solid steel.

No one answers. She grabs the metal jug of water and hurls it violently; it clatters and spills.

Fisting handfuls of her hair, Wanda howls her outrage into her cage — can they not leave her alone, can they not JUST LET HER DIE? — until the scarlet crawls back along her skin, moves through her fingers, and crackles light from her eyes.

It cannot hold.

It snuffs out when she gives up, panting, doubling over as her last moans twist into sobbing. Letting herself down to sit on that lonely rug, the woman loses herself to her grief.

The day goes by. The water is replaced, and food is left for her, but Wanda seems to care for neither. She lays on her bed, facing away, quiet.

One day later, the same time as before, the unlock and opening of that door gives way — to singing.

For a moment, it is Magda Lehnsherr's voice, back from the dead. Soft, steady, and rich — lost in the lilting verses of some Romani song. A song about a mother promising her daughter to buy her jewellery. A same song of Wanda Maximoff's past.

The door closes. But Magneto does not leave immediately.

Standing just outside the door, arms folded, head bowed, he listens to his daughter shriek and tantrum in her cage. He waits until her howling trickles down into no more than sobbing.

Then, and only then, he quietly lets go his cautionary magnetic hold over the thick steel walls around her, and descends back down to the rest of the Spire.

The day passes. He sees to business. He does not give his daughter another thought — or so he tells himself.

At the appointed time, he returns, though little prepares him for the sound that trickles out to greet him when he opens the door. It is not a song Magda ever sang — the cradle songs were different, when and where they lived — but it is the same voice which sings it.

His expression tenses.

As before, he closes the door, and locks it, and forms himself a seat. He is silent until her singing stops.

"Your brother was seen," he remarks into the quiet. His blue eyes watch her. "About the city. His face is covered, but few move that quickly."

The world is a cruel thing, and entitles itself to do as it wishes. Sometimes, it merely takes — strips one down, bit by bit, all they hold dear. Family. Freedom. Dignity. Child. Wife.

Sometimes, it gives — though its macabre charity is as vicious as its greed, and equally unwanted.

The missing Magda Lehnsherr, never found, never returned, but instead replicated in every way over her long lost daughter. Wanda wears her mother's face, and now in even worse reveal, sings with her mother's voice.

Though Magda never sang often after Poland, and her songs were never as rich and sweet as when she could be encouraged to share them as a younger girl. But, for Anya, she would forget her sadness just long enough to lullaby.

Lowly, Wanda sings her own songs, light and soft — the melody hushed like a quiet secret. And it is, in its way. Few have ever heard her sing, her only audience ever Pietro —

And now, the man come through that door. The noise breaks her singing, choking it down to silence, and she remains where she is, strewn across the bed, her back turned on the world.

Magneto's words are met, for the longest time, with silence. First, his daughter raged. Now, will she deny?

"That is not my brother," comes Wanda's low, brittle voice. Her face remains hidden. "Long ago, I bound our souls. It was to save him. To save me too. I can't feel him. I can't feel anything."

Magneto never asked for this. He never asked to see his wife again in the flesh of his daughter. He never asked to be confronted with this again, sixty years later: an image of himself and his wife of decades past, come again in the form of unexpected twin children. He almost wishes he could disbelieve the results… but the genetics do not lie.

Magneto never asked for many things in his life. This, like all the other things, he endures.

He sits, and regards his daughter's slumped form and stubbornly-turned back. Her brittle words lift his head slightly. The Twins often felt themselves to be a blend of disparate things, two halves fitting together: this man is the single place from which they both derived their split natures. Before, he spoke with Pietro's familiar hard authority.

Now? Now is Wanda's own patience to pick a knot apart and manipulate it into a new shape, turned back on her.

"Were he in your place now," Magneto finally asks, "would your brother have ever rested until he was absolutely certain?" His blue eyes are so like her twin's. "Would he have denied you?"

Silence answers such a question.

Wanda opens her eyes, burnt into their lenses the answer she knows already. Pietro would not rest; he would never rest. He would not stop until reality itself would trap him in a cage of truth — that no more could be done.

In some possibilities, he ends himself right there. In others, he still walks, though the man who wears his skin is never Pietro Maximoff again.

But in none of those has he ever denied her.

Slowly, her draped, strewn body collects itself, bid to finally move and sit up on the bed. After a beat — like a silent preparation to look on the face she knows awaits her — Wanda meets her father's blue eyes. Blue as Pietro's, blue as hers.

"No," she answers, her voice rough, papery. Her gaze casts down, then forces itself back up.

"The Rasputina woman took him. I could feel the infernal taint on her, but now it's progressed. I tried… I focused everything I had at her. She broke through everything. She turned it back on me. What else can I do?"

A faint grunt escapes Magneto's chest as Wanda finally sits up and admits — no, her brother would not have denied her. Would not have given up. It is not a sound of approval per se, but it dares close to being one. At the least, it is a sound that says: finally. Now, we can be productive.

Wanda still has her doubts, however. She still has her self-defeating thoughts. She tried. She did everything she could. What else can she do?

"More," her father says.

He averts his gaze, his blue eyes staring off through the window. "There were many times over the course of my life when I thought: here is all I have to give. Here is all I can do. They were only limits I set upon myself. Limits that others set upon me." His eyes are distant with memory. "Whenever I needed to be more, I became so."

He looks back at her. "You are my daughter. That same strength is in your blood — if not more. No one has been able to quantify or measure your potential. Your manifestations of it, whatever you have taught yourself, whatever your brother has taught you… they barely scrape the surface of what you could be."

He leans forward. "You are the future of our kind. I need you to embody that potential." A pause. "Your brother needs you to."

Magneto rises from his rudimentary seat. "What is certain is that you can do nothing while you are in this state," he says. "Put aside your tears and get up. There is work to be done."

More, speaks the father.

Wanda lowers her eyes. The gesture is not to neglect or deny any of Magneto's words, but simply to look down on her own hands, watching the own curl-and-uncurl of her fingers.

Her hands are not exceptional things. On the small side, not strong, and made of the same fallible flesh and blood as the rest of her. Pietro always spoke of her hands creating miracles. And now her own, estrangled father — the same one she can count their conversations on her own, frail fingers — attests of her acts as if they transcend quantification.

It is a staggering thought. Wanda considers it with a familiar doubt; this same gift, these same miracles… all they've ever done is torment her.

But Pietro. If there is some question he is still out there — some certainty his soul is not lost to her.

Magneto leans forward, and eclipses all of Wanda's attention. Not even she realizes how closely she's watching him, unblinking and unbreathing, that same look on her face that yearning, searching look of his countless Acolytes. Broken things offered one last hope.

Her empty hands curl and close into fists.

Slowly, silently, Wanda swings around her legs, plants her feet, and rises. That same doubt weighs her like a heavy crown, one not so easily removed, but her blue eyes burn bright.

Magneto has seen this look on thousands of faces. Beaten-down things, downtrodden things, desperate things with no hope left in their bodies… nothing left to them after a lifetime of oppression and hardship. He went up to them all — his people, his beloved mutantkind — and by his own example, through the power of his charisma and conviction, he replaced their despair with a renewed fervor.

He raised all of them back up, in the end. Made them proud, and strong, and hard. And in so many of those cases, he did so by holding fast to a single belief when they could not feel it in their own hearts: a belief in their inherent worthiness as a mutant, child of a favored race. He did so by not carrying a single doubt in his own soul… by allowing his own presence to stand as an immovable beacon. A force of nature. An ideal that could always be followed with full faith.

His gaze told them that he knew who they were. It challenged them to know that, too.

That same conviction falls on Wanda now. It is familiar to her. It is a fully-matured, fully-refined version of her brother's confidence and authority; a powerful, adult version that has been tried through the crucibles of decades, and had all its flaws and impurities burned away. Wanda is no different from any of the others who have looked on Magneto and refound some shred of hope in his absolute self-assurance; yet at the same time, she is completely unlike all the others who came before.

That fact is evident in the fact that when she rises, he comes closer. Closer than he has dared to come to her before. He takes her small, fragile hands in his own, and turns them palm up, letting them fall open.

"Here is all your potential," he says, his eyes distant, lost to some old and well-trod thought. "Here is everything towards which mutantkind has evolved over the years. Take hold of it. Your people have need of you, and you cannot afford to stand idle."

He seems to remember himself, and pulls away, receding, some unseen armor going back up. His eyes harden, and he turns away. "We will begin."

The next few days are hard, grueling, without pause and without reprieve. Magneto seems determined not to allow his daughter to stop long enough to think, to cry, to begin despairing once again. He drills her for hours each day, hard lessons which focus on fortification of the mind, on self-control, on focus and strength of will. He cannot teach her as intimately as he taught Lorna, whose powers were a small photocopy of his own, but he seems determined to teach her the strong foundations upon which she may build her own knowledge.

He brings in Acolytes with more relevant powers than his own. He selects, especially, those empowerered sorcerously, and those empowered mentally, experienced on the astral planes.

"I expect you to be strong," he says, after one particularly hard day, one that nearly leaves Wanda broken. "That is the least I expect of my blood."

Sleep comes easily, after so much work. Sometimes, there are dreams of another life, a life that was like this one — but even harder still. Mercifully, in this life — unlike that one — her father never speaks of killing on command. Here, the conditions are not right.

Her eyes lift as he approaches, and Wanda holds her father's gaze.

He stands the closest to her he's ever been: never an opportunity before, with his cold remove, Pietro's protective hovering, and Wanda's own suspicious withdrawal. The is a palpable air of her that she rarely, if ever, allows others close — none save for her twin brother — the look of her not unlike a curious, feral animal lingering close to the presence of man.

Not long ago, she would have balked backward, away and out of his presence. Now, she holds. It is not trust what roots Wanda still, if such a thing is even possible; for other reasons, her shrewd blue eyes follow Magneto, their level stare trying to search something of him. An answer to a question. A direction in a storm. A light in darkness. It is not trust, but hope.

She is every inch her mother, small and frail, but still self-possessed, holding her ground to Magneto's forward step when stronger, better men have flinched and fled. Even if his daughter does not have Magda's eye colour, her gaze screens under some same, dark shroud.

For all her self-possession, for all her quiet, deliberate manner, Magda let the peace back into her gentle, careful hands, but the spectre of suffering never escaped her eyes. It was always there, like an after-image forever scoured against her lenses: tolerated after a time, but never forgotten. Wanda never suffered the way her mother did, the mother she has never known, but mirrored from her eyes is the weight of sameness — someone who knows all her life how it is to be feared.

How it is to be hated.

It is not often anyone ever tries to touch her. Not the witch who could curse them from existence with one stray thought.

Her hands, small and cold, open inside his. Her fingers obey tamely. Her eyes lower, watchful of the way her father's hands look against her own.

Even if she wanted to deny him, deny their blood, Wanda knows she could never do it now. There is no denying it. It knocks her breathless how much of Pietro he is. How much of Pietro is him. Two men so similar that, this close, she feels herself lost to the details.

Her eyes look down into the potential he speaks, secreted inside her palms.

Then he lets go. Wanda also takes back her hands, glancing one last time at her own fingers — thoughtful, dubious, hopeful — before her attention centers on Magneto.

She is still not certain she can do this. But she answers, "All right."

The days pass, and one truth is certain: Wanda Maximoff has never, in all her life, needed to be strong.

Such a thing was both Pietro's role and sworn obligation, and every ounce of his thirty years of devotion yield palpable results. Wanda, thus far safe from the worst of the world, and innocent in so many ways. Wanda, who never needed to trust herself when she could trust her brother.

But hope is a powerful intoxicant, and its effect is clear the instant Wanda allows it in — she does not know strength, but she tries.

Beneath all her instability and reserve is a surprisingly prodiginious mind — a shadow cunning waiting beyond the fires of Pietro's impetus. Wanda listens even when she seems not to hear; she takes quickly to instruction, and learns.

But still she hesitates, she fears, and she doubts. The wealth of her understanding offers little to a woman so terrified of herself, and the things she can do. The witch who can make innocent children disappear from this world with one wrong, involuntary thought.

Perhaps fortunately, or unfortunately, the scarlet does not listen even when Wanda tries to push past those reservations, and tries to will her gift forward. It does not summon to her hands. She only ever controlled it through the medium of her brother; how could she do that now?

She feels the severance like some lock closed around a part of her soul — the ward of the Rasputina sorceress. Wanda tries to break it. Attempts, instead, break her. They leave her crippled and raw, straining for energy, tears running her cheeks.

But Magneto expects her to be strong. Wanda has never felt strength — not once in her life — to even know what that means.

It is not trust. But hope is enough, for now.

At first Magneto does not attend his daughter all the time. There is other work to which he must see… and perhaps the sight of her — her mother returned in miniature, without the fear and horror that was the last look he had of Magda's face — rings a note of danger at the back of his mind that he instinctively knows to heed.

The look in her eyes is too much like the look in Magda's eyes, the look in the eyes of every mutant he ever wanted to protect: that weary exhaustion of being feared and despised. There is danger to look too closely at something which resembles a so-cherished past. He already did one rash thing because of it.

Over time, however, after reports of how little progress is made with her when he is not there, he goes more often. Soon, he goes every time. The others are dismissed, and he alone sees to her training.

His presence there, watching over her as she strains to work her scarlet, is both like and unlike having her brother back with her. Father passed down to his son his looks in almost every way. It is like peering through time to see her brother six decades hence. Yet for all the superficial familiarity, there is no way father can be mistaken for son once one looks past the exterior — at least, not by Wanda, who has known since birth all the gentler aspects of Pietro which he does not share with their father.

With time, Magneto notices his presence seems to lend to her concentration. It does not take him long to realize why. The brother she loves so much, after all, is copied down from him, and it was her brother on whom she hinged all her strength.

Silently, Magneto adjusts his approach as he oversees her. He replaces his son with himself. One cage, one directing hand, for another.

But the father goes a step further than the son. He knows that promises to be together forever are no more than childish dreams — that reliance on another is always doomed to failure — and so he expects Wanda to learn to be strong by herself.

To do that, she must trust herself. And she fears so much the devastation she can accidentally cause…

“You are ten times more likely to cause the damage you fear if you never learn control,” he says one night, after hours of unsuccessful attempts to break her block. “A time will come, like this one, where you have nothing left to rely upon but yourself, and thousands of lives will be at stake.”

He reforms the steel hovering in the air in front of her back into a featureless sphere, awaiting her scarlet to change it.

“You know how to do this,” her father says. “I have seen you do a thousand things more complex. The only difference now is your brother is not here to take the responsibility for you.”

His features wear all the patience her brother lacks. Her own patience, reflected back.

“Learn to take it yourself.”

The realization comes fast: Wanda Maximoff is not most creatures. On first glance, nearly all who cross her would think the Scarlet Witch a wilting violet, passive and cowering.

The truth is she has never existed as her own creature. Whether it was her own choice, or something she ever wanted, remains a question; for the Maximoff twins, survival was to conceive of themselves as an operational unit, rather than two independent persons. Survival, of a sort. If Pietro had wanted to be his own man, surely he would have had no difficulty attaining it — no difficulty obtaining whatever he needed to survive, and ultimately attain, his piece of this world. He could have discovered his estranged father much sooner, and took his place within the fold. He could have married by now, had children of his own — choose a path different from this one.

Wanda, on the other hand, would have perished on her own. Independence, autonomy — freeing her doting twin of his obligation and taking life as her own — would have been a death sentence.

Pietro knew that. So did Wanda, in her way, with no small measure of guilt.

But as any split half of a broken whole, Wanda unravels without her twin brother. Empty of his presence, and no foundation to ever forge one of her own, she cannot focus. She cannot work against those blocks — those wards — Illyana Rasputina cursed into her gift.

Magneto's presence, however, helps. To have that familiar face and same blue eyes watching her, strict and implacable, do wonders for Wanda's focus. When he is near, a knot within her seems to give way, and let go. She tries — even if she yet cannot succeed.

There has never been another in all her life she has ever tolerated this long — none save Pietro. There has never been another Wanda has wanted to stay close — a request she never dares speak aloud, but still finds life in the many, small glances she turns back on her father. A silent hope — a reassurance — that he is still there.

His presence oversees, instructs, and guides — culminating to the here and now, as Wanda holds again in her steel cage, and reaches both opened hands toward that metal sphere.

Exhaustion alleys her in every way, from her sleepless eyes to the slight tremble in her fingers, but still she presses, carefully turning her wrists in the gesture she knows can reshape matter to her will.

Her eyes narrow. Her jaw grits. She sieves her attention to a needlepoint, pointing down into that wellspring she knows is there — the very nexus of chaos writ into her soul. She knows how to do this. She knows how to do this!

She — does nothing.

No scarlet comes to her fingers. No red in her eyes.

"I can't!" Wanda snaps, her voice winded from the effort, cracking with frustration. She drops her hands, curling them into impotent fists. "I barely had control before! It won't listen. It won't heed me. It never did."

Angry tears sting her blue eyes, though they do not yet fall. "It was them who called me the witch first," she sneers, her voice dripping of bitter venom — and her draught has always been self-loathing. "I am not your mutants. I was not turned on for existing. I killed children. I destroyed lives. Only Pietro made something out of all — this — sickness."

Magneto listens, as he has listened before. His hand closes and lowers, the sphere sifting away into metal dust.

"Do you imagine you are the only one?" he finally asks. "Many of my people came to me only after their uncontrolled powers had already shown themselves by killing everyone around them. A young lady who woke to find her town sinkholed around her. A young man who burned his family alive around him, on Christmas evening. Another young man who discovered his powers for the first time when he touched his father's face, and turned him to dust."

His gaze looks past his daughter, through her, as if disinterested in even focusing on her face at the moment. "I can call them all here, at this very moment, if it is your wish to repeat what you have just said to me to their faces directly."

He stands, in every stern line of him already the assumption that she does not wish this at all.

"I am disappointed," Magneto ultimately decides. " Disappointed that you have had the Brotherhood this long, and yet apparently have not listened to a single one of your people's stories. Disappointed, that I imagined that you valued your brother more than clinging to your narrative of self-pity."

He turns his back. "You are not prepared for this. I will not come again. Decide that you are — or do not."

The door closes.

Her father's words come like a slap across the face.

It strikes Wanda speechless, her head turned, face pale, and eyes too-bright. The picture of a woman who has lost absolutely everything of meaning in all her short life — only to discover there is still even more than that to lose. Always more.

Whatever last hope he had in her — gone the same moment Magneto turns away his eyes.

The insights he offers — nameless stories of his people, their people, who come from the same foundation of pain and loss and no control over who or what they are — eventually turns her away, as if the veracity of those words were too much to bear. The Scarlet Witch is capable of miracles, but still not above shame, and it weighs down on her, lowering her shoulders as her arms cross to hold herself.

She thinks of Joanna Cargill, prepared to die on the side of a Transian mountain for her.

Does she imagine she's the only one?

Wanda is not the only mutant who never meant to hurt others. Whose gift — curse — was never malicious, never premeditated, never wanted, even if it was also destructive. She shares a pain universal to so many others —

So why can she not believe it?

Why does she feel like an outlier? If not among the Rom, but also the mutants — an outlier among her own Brotherhood. An anomaly among her own united family. Something else in her, something different, something that shall always set her apart. She didn't mean, ever, to commit the sins she did, but there is some part of her that feels as if —

As if it were right. As if it were true of her. As if it were the reason she was born.

Why is she so different?

Because they are everyone, whispers up a thought, and it sounds like her. Sounds of her. And you are no one.

Magneto states his disappointment. When Wanda looks at him, her tears are finally shed, rolling silently down her cheeks. His words hit, and they hurt; they hurt far more than she ever thought they would, come from a man she long affirmed meant nothing to her. Casting doubt that she loves her twin brother enough. Enough.

The first Pietro was taken from her hands. Seeing his face, again, turn away and leave her of his own decision — something snaps. In that split-second, she cannot bear to see Magneto go.

"Please," Wanda begs. "I didn't — I won't — I can't — not again!" The world is his, for a moment, where his wife's voice pleads after him, cries him back. "Don't leave me in here! Don't leave me —"

The door closes. Two feet of steel. Solid locks.

Then it rips open. It splits in two and twists off the hinges, pulling violently aside in twisting spires — reforming like moving claws that rip the room right open.

The witch stands in its centre, wreathed in scarlet. Her furious, unseeing eyes burn like twin suns.

He declares his disappointment until the shame rolls the tears out of her eyes. Lorna's demands he be kind are nowhere in his mind; her words may never have found purchase in his thoughts to begin with. He had no intention of being kind. Kindness is not what the Witch needs.

A normal father would have had pity at this point. A normal father would have, struck with remorse, come to his daughter to soothe away the hurts of his flung words. But Magneto? He turns his back, and — just as easily as he did before — he abandons her to her lonely room. There is only one pang, only for half a second, and it is when Wanda sounds most like Magda. Magda, the only person who ever left him before he could leave them.

Beyond that? Nothing. After all, he is no normal father. He meant those words as weapons. He designed each one for a certain effect.

That effect explodes the door behind him when he is no more than ten feet down the hall. He stops, as if expecting this, and turns around. Blazing scarlet reflects in his cold, clear blue eyes.

"Ah," says Magneto, "my daughter. Welcome back."

A twisted fragment of steel leaps across the room to collar her neck, backing her against the far wall to staple her there in place. The metal flows seamlessly into the metal of the wall, locking her immobile as her father turns around and comes back into the room. Interest flickers in his eyes, even as he stands against one of the few creatures in the world that could possibly pose him and his a true threat. Interest, and no more. The concept of fear left Magneto a long time ago — for better or worse.

The air charges palpably, sparks of electricity arcing, as all the metal around them magnetizes, called to attention by the powerful magnetic fields and strong shields suffusing the entire room. Her father's eyes are a considering, solid white, the glow to them suggesting he is prepared to do — well, whatever he has to, should things take a turn. These are the most dangerous, unpredictable moments.

A distant part of him wonders how many times his son has faced this — and with far fewer tools at his disposal, at that.

He puts it from his mind. "It's always the anger, isn't it?" he ruminates instead, so Wanda can hear. This is where the lesson begins. "Our starting point. But it is not enough just to feel it, disorganized and directionless. You must know it, aim it, and use it."

The entire room seems to close inward. It's made of metal — maybe it does. Everything, in these moments, focuses down on the Scarlet Witch. "Now channel it," Magneto instructs his daughter. He comes closer. The metal twists until the threat of airlessness looms as an extra, nudging impetus. "Make it let go."

The Scarlet Witch lives up to the name they gave her. The name she took for her keeping.

She holds her ground, spine straight, head tilted slightly back, and her hands open at her sides. The slight, fragile heart beating with all the power of a billion collapsing stars.

Her long fingers hold, some twitching and curling, plucking the threads of some spinning loom — holding still the churning red that cooks the air around her palms. From afar, with her scarlet searing against the dark, it would be a fair mistake for some to think her power fire. Fire, like the Grey woman who can pull the undying bird from her flesh and let it cook the heavens.

With the Witch, it is never fire. Her scarlet does not lick like flames, but breathes off her like smoke, wisping and curling in a thousand sighing tendrils — fogging contrails from the pupils of her eyes.

For that single, bottomless instant, the Witch stares at Magneto.

Her fingers flinch. Matter twists and turns on itself what dares too close — the air shimmers around her, prisming vivid, shifting colour, as probability splices its wavelengths a hundred times over. The magnetic fields, themselves, flicker, calibrating themselves around pure quantum disharmony.

It worsens when he speaks to her.

"I am NOT your daughter!" Wanda snarls, her eyes blood-red. That same slight, fragile heart: hurt, betrayed, and furious. "My father would never —!"

Metal cuts her off. There is a break in the chaos. A path of least resistance. He cuts through it, and branks her with a steel collar.

Dragged backward with a struggle, it locks her against the wall like a garotte, pushing dangerously against her windpipe with a fierce quickness that the red snuffs off Wanda's hands. They are human again, human and fumbling, as they try and fail to hook on the metal banding her throat.

She struggles once, frustrated, only to feel her breathing thin when it tightens.

Wanda tries to force it away. It does not move. The room seems to narrow, curving in, its metal bowing to the will of one man — her father — who dares her scarlet storm to bear himself closer.

"Stop —" she pleads, only for the metal to choke the words away, squeezing until she feels her eyes sting and her lungs burn. She tries to breathe, only to discover it is no longer her right. Stripped of her, like everything else.

And Pietro's face, looking down on her — with that same coldness. The cold way he looked on her when he was taken. The cold way is Magneto's mirror. Always the anger, yes. Yes, it was; she thought it was fear, fear that made her this way —

But it was something deeper. It was something darker. Her genesis point. It is anger, and beyond it. Something older. Something in her, falling without end. Wronged by so many: men, mutants, the mother who abandoned her, the father who cages her, the Darkchilde who laughs between her worlds, and the worst of all perpetrators, herself. Her own self, who let her brother get taken away.

Thirty years of fury sharpens to a point. Her eyes boil over, her hands burn with scarlet, and she lifts one to gesture away the metal collar. Its atoms fragment into nothing.

As does the wall behind her. As does the air close to her skin, splitting molecules and burning away. The Scarlet Witch stands in the eye of destruction, fury without end.

For a moment, Magneto is silent as he looks upon the Scarlet Witch. He studies her with a look that is not the look of a father for a child, but something closer to the look of a scientist studying the final proof of his life's work; or perhaps a war general, regarding a nuclear warhead.

He can feel the magnetic fields themselves bending in his grasp, the warp and weft of them contorting as her power smokes the air around her. His mental fingers weave through patterns that have always obeyed the same laws of physics, sprung into being off the backs of the same formulae, as long as he has been able to manipulate them —

— and they slip on equations that suddenly evaluate all wrong. They catch on new laws which have sprung into being in his daughter's area of effect. The Master of Magnetism frowns… but only for a moment.

I am NOT your daughter, she snarls. Magneto is not listening. His attention is on the flux of reality around her, the shifting basic forces in her orbit. With a deftness born of decades of experience and the natural agility of his mind, he twists his wrist, crooks his fingers, and recalculates his own powers for these new laws. Just long enough for him to navigate a piece of metal through that chaotic storm.

It bands her throat, and buys him a few moments of time to consider her and the situation. All the metal of the room groans around them, pulled lightly by his will; if the risk becomes too great…

But he would still like to afford her a chance.

She tries to use her hands. The metal only tightens. "Not that way," says her father, this cold man who gave Pietro the face upon which Wanda imprinted so deeply. "Words will not get your brother back. Your hands will not get him back. It is your anger and your power that will cut him free."

He can see the moment when she hits her shattering point. Now is the delicate moment, the moment where she will either take control, or be washed away in a tide of her own rampant power.

Magneto walks forward. The shields around him, shields that have shouldered away the full force of a nuclear blast, wither and disintegrate like paper as they dare into her scarlet aura. He feels them go, the ordered structures of his magnetic fields sundered and scattered by the raw chaos circulating around her. He could recalculate new vectors and recreate them again, but it would be a futile task; the local laws of physics change around her with every passing second. There is no foundation upon which he might build.

The collar he holds so tightly about her throat evaporates, at a single gesture of her hand. His senses half-stumble as the metal disappears, not even atoms left for his powers to grasp or feel.

He considers all this a moment. Then he continues forward anyway. His bared head, his familiar features, are the only shield he holds forward now as he steps into the eye of the storm with her.

"Enough, Wanda," he says, lifting his right hand to touch her face. He speaks in Romani, her cradle language, the dialect her mother would have used with her if she had lived. His fingers brush along her cheekbone. Thirty years of missed caresses — genuine or not. "You have it back. Now put it away. You will need it for your brother."

The metal collar disappears from her throat.

Not twisted and warped. Not fragmented. Not even destroyed. It pours away like running sand, breaking down to a running pool of its composite elements, atom lost from atom — and deconstructed even further. Plasma winds along the air in a many-sequenced flicker of light and energy —

— and simply ceases to be. The magnetic fields lose track of the dispersed particles, as if they were wished beyond the trappings of matter and energy. Fixed on the foundational question of logic: is it something or is it nothing?

Nothing, wills the Witch.

Light burns from her half-lidded eyes. They still turn on Magneto, looking at him — looking through him — as the scarlet fans from her flesh in a curling vapor.

The collar is gone. So is the wall at her back. So is the floor beneath her feet. The Witch holds in place, supported in the air by her running currents of red, the spire opening up around her to wink in the distant vista of Genosha, spreading far and down in a fatal drop.

Matter that comes too close to her distorts, annihilates, and is lost from this reality. Even light is dragged in when it dares breach her scarlet storm. At the center of every galaxy, the heart of all entropy — therein beats the void.

The Witch stares with dead, unseeing eyes. Every so often, her fingers flinch. With the seconds, the humanity seems to cool off her — as she turns her eyes from her father and seems to see something else. Something beyond this world. Maybe the probabilities beyond. Maybe the before. Maybe the after. Maybe the residual nothingness of what all this is, and all it shall ever mean.

The scarlet circles her in its fatal torrent. It pulls on her as much as it does this world — yearns even to disperse her atoms and cast them beyond to a trillion more realities. Let themselves forsake and become. It is hard to remember. It is hard to be.

Enough, Wanda.

The words draw the Witch's eye. Her head tilts animal-like, and her fingers curl in prepared threat. Magneto has faced so much in his long life, and now he faces this — breaching the chaos torrent to seek his daughter.

Her power sloughs and strips his shields, not through any demonstration of strength, but a whisper of will — a god's commandment to pull them from her world. Her eyes smoke like lit embers, remembering their vestigial use if just to see — and look up on his face. Father's face. Pietro's face.

The scarlet whips around him, but does not touch him. Not once. He stands in a single, powerful point of immunity.

Words whisper her back in a language she knows — as her addled mind strains past the chaos to remember. It wants to strip her away, rend her down, let the insignificant flesh go that vessels a power it never should — but she remembers.

The touch to her face pulls tears from her eyes. They gentle their light. The scarlet dulls from her, taming the storm — letting the chaos release this reality and sigh away.

"Du'dera," is all she says, not the Witch, but Wanda Maximoff. Her power lets her down, feet touching the steel floor left behind — before she tilts forward, no strength left.

Even in the midst of incredible danger, Magneto still takes half a moment just to look at his daughter — truly look at her. Not merely with his eyes, but with the deceptively-thorough senses which his powers afford to him. He can feel in detail what she does to the world around herself, and all through no more than simple expressions of her will.

She does not merely manipulate matter. She reaches into the very code of reality, and flips the bits which tell things whether to exist or not — and how. Be nothing, she tells the world, and it complies. Fresh air comes rushing back in as the wall behind her and the floor below crumble away in mute compliance.

Most would be stammering and running in fear by this point. There is a part of Magneto that is distantly concerned. But on the whole, what lurks on his features — beneath that everpresent calm — is closer to a muted sort of wonder, and a well-hidden, subtle pride. Here now is proof of what he has believed almost all his life — that from mutantkind will come those first creatures destined to bridge from mortality to godhood.

Of course, some part of him thinks: it would be from his own flesh and blood, too.

Yet it is not enough just to embody the power. The power must be controlled, as well. He sees in her face that fatal detachment, that temptation to just let go and scatter herself across the infinite web of probability. In her empty eyes is a wild abandon that surrenders to the power, instead of yoking it to her will. No good. He expects more of her than this. He needs more of her than this.

He speaks. Three syllables of reproof. His voice draws her dead eyes. Some part of him reviles to see his wife's face reconstructed as the inhuman mask of some mad scarlet god.

A moment later, he steps forward. The scarlet tells his shields they do not exist, but it parts for him without touching him at all. He, too, has a familiar face. It brings him to briefly wonder how many times his son walked straight into this selfsame storm of death.

Perhaps it is that face, more than the touch, which calls her back. The light fades from her, the storm settles, and she falls forward. Her father catches her, taking her up in his arms with no trouble at all. For all the Scarlet Witch's power, her physical form is bird-light… too fragile to contain all she vessels.

Her whispered words draw his gaze down. His features do not soften, not the way Pietro's would, but what he says is uncannily the same: "Hush."

He turns his back on the ravaged, missing half of the room, walking back to the part yet intact: all its setpieces still neatly in place, in an incongruous tableau. As he lays Wanda to bed, the metal reshapes and smoothes itself out behind him, the damage she did repaired with silent efficiency until her room is a room again, her containment once again intact.

His first impulse is to leave. For whatever reason, he lingers a moment, seated on the edge of her bed. "Good," he finally says, of it all, as if what just happened did not shock or terrify — or even overly perturb — him in the least. "We will build from here."

The moment hangs like a guillotine.

The Scarlet Witch wreathes within her own light, suspended in the air, hands open, eyes open, soul open. She is a slit vein, opened by her own hand, and gouting herself out in a million fractal tendrils — pooling herself as the living blood to feed the spinning nexus.

In that moment, her own name is the crowning joke on it all — the insult men fixed to her is a lie. Witches, sorceresses, magicians: they are craftsmen, artists, makers who draw from the beyond, and weave the laws of the universe to their own cloth, or trap the dark unknown's songs to their symphonies.

The Scarlet Witch draws from nothing. She is the beyond.

Reality crackles around her, matter and energy scattering when it comes so close to her skin, and all with a sightless, mindless, careless look to the woman's eyes: as though all her life, blood, and world were already forgotten. Lost within pointlessness when one must open her eyes and see the whole. Lost, as she so badly wants to become, spread like quantum seeds among the infinite expanse, together and nowhere.

It is the father who brings her back.

The Witch turns her eye, but it is Wanda who sees out through them once more. Through the Nothing, she remembers something, one thing enough to hold her grounding with this world: she is not yet finished.

The scarlet pulls back into her skin. Reality reasserts itself. She remembers herself, her form, her body, but such things come with a price — flesh is weak. And simply to hold herself sure, Wanda collapses forward.

Caught, she slumps bonelessly, with a hollowed-out lightness to her, and strangely cold to the touch. Wanda is usually so reserved not to touch others, but her head lays heavily to Magneto's shoulder. Perhaps it is exhaustion that holds her there. Perhaps something else.

Hush, he says, and she closes her eyes, obesient.

Lain to the bed, she does not move, and seems to pay little notice to the way her father reshapes the room back to its original, holding enclosure. Her eyes stay shut, as she concentrates on breathing, on remembering what it is to have flesh and blood once more. Perhaps she expects Magneto to leave her without a word; it's all he's ever done.

But he stays. And he speaks to her.

Her eyes lash open, heavy and still unfocused, but with irises gone back to their blue. His blue. She doesn't first look at him.

Instead, Wanda looks dreamily at her own hand, left to hang half-off the edge of the bed. It turns palm-up, and with flagging energy, twitches in her fingers. Her eyes shade red, and little tendrils of light loom like threads from her fingers.

Before, she needed Pietro to call it forward, too afraid to dare it on her own. Now, Wanda draws deep, and dares a long look down into the source of her power. Now, she needs only herself.

"Yes," she answers, and closes her hand to snuff out the flicker of light. Her eyes turn and take in her father, and she looks on him as if truly seeing him for the first time. "We will."

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