Dioskouroi

October 21, 2018:

Wanda breaks her twin free from the corruption of Limbo's Queen.

The Spire, Genosha

Dad won't let them hang around forever >:(

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Illyana, Magneto, Frenzy, Exodus, Lorna

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

When Wanda is led to reunite with her brother, it is up to the selfsame room in which she herself spent the last few weeks.

It is not as she remembers it. A different prison must be built for the son than for the daughter. The thick metal and caging bars are no more, and nor is the prison Lorna made for him in which he arrived: Pietro has his ways of getting through steel. What Wanda beholds instead is a normal enough room, but with an unfamiliar device in the middle. Genoshan technology, no doubt. It holds her brother suspended in a stasis field that prevents him from making contact with any surface.

Not that he's awake to even try. Pietro was still unconscious when he was brought to Genosha, and remains so now. Exodus's command to sleep burrowed deeply into his mind. It's probably close to wearing off by now, however.

No telling what she will get when she awakens.

She can probably venture a fairly good guess, however. That eldritch armor still sticks to him like a persistent cancer… a lingering infection that has yet to be cleansed. His face is concealed to her still, the helm and obscuring visor damaged by a deep gouge — but still intact.

Even as she watches, his life signatures begin to stir in her second sight. The bond between them is still there, but weak and distant despite them occupying the same room.


They are all on borrowed time to do this.

Borrowed time until the Darkchilde breaks free from the void where the Witch exiled her, traces her lost thread of Limbo magic, and determines to reclaim the knight she lost. Borrowed time until Magneto's not-bottomless well of patience dries up, and he decides both his errant children, unfixable and lost, are no longer the gamble to stake the safety of Genosha.

Borrowed time until Wanda Maximoff's flagging constitution finds its end.

She is not so much led up those spire stairs as she is helped, guided by one of the more patient of Magneto's acolytes, no longer strong enough even to balance on her own. Even Wanda's slow, flagging pace seems to fatigue her.

The many weeks have taken their toll. The schism in her soul. The slow death on Wundagore. The gunshot, if healed, but later worked through under the hard eye of Magneto's training. His pushing of her ability to a precipice that her body has not yet developed a tolerance — so much power vesselled in so weak a container.

And now Limbo, having slipped in through that glaring break in her soul, and poisoning Wanda from the inside.

At the door, she requests, "Leave us. If this fails, Magneto will know what to do."

Wanda enters alone, and does not look back as the door shuts them in. She hobbles forward, pale and wan, her skin bleached anemic, and when uncovered by her sleeves and skirts, runs with blackened veins. Her eyes raise, taking in that infernal armor — it stings her senses so much that she has to look away, shutting her burning eyes. When they open again, they colour red.

Scarlet light reaches out from her hands, and in a starbust flare, coats the entire room — her hexed ward. None may enter, none may leave.

Outstretching one hand, she turns her hand toward that device. With a cleansing curl of her fingers, it is gone.


Magneto will indeed know what to do, should the worst come to pass. There is always a lingering question when it comes to whether he loves his children — whether he is even capable of loving them — but there is never a question when it comes to loving his Cause and all that he has built in pursuit of the Cause.

If he were forced to choose between them, it is not hard to predict which way he would go.

That knowledge is just another guillotine blade hanging over this room. It is part of what pushes Wanda immediately to ascend to see to her brother. The Acolyte who sees her up is as reverent as the rest, even despite seeing her weakened condition, as he carefully ushers Magneto's daughter back to the room in which she spent so much of the past few weeks. But even he casts her half an uncertain look when she dismisses him, as if uncertain whether her body can stay standing without him holding it up.

Nonetheless, he takes his leave. Wanda, soon enough, is alone with the shell of her twin.

Her first act is to remove his restraints. The armor that still encases him clashes harshly against the stone floor, as he drops free to his knees. He remains there a long few moments, his thoughts slowly swimming back up to their usual sharpness out of Exodus's clouding influence. Eventually, he rises to his feet, levering himself up to a stand that grows more steady by the second.

That gouged faceplate turns towards her. The husk Illyana has made of her twin approaches her, each step growing more confident, until he stands before her. Over her. He regards her from too close, his lowered visor inches from her face, as if he might remember something long forgotten if he only looked closer. He does not touch her.

"You probably should have kept me in that," he says.


With her own tired patience, Wanda waits unmoving for the armored shadow of her brother to find his feet.

And for him to do this, as all other things in his life, it does not take Pietro Maximoff long.

He unwinds and finds his full height in the hollow ringing of that steel dressage; they are all horrible sounds, and Wanda will hate ever hearing anything similar. They grind in frequencies beyond this world, for only her to hear — their infernal source an acid burning through all her temperance and courage.

The wraith comes for her once again.

He impressed on her this way before, and Wanda retreated, betrayed and terrified. The feelings are still there, moving beneath her skin, urging her with a flip of panic to get away.

Wanda holds her ground. Perhaps too tired to flee. Perhaps resolved, for the first time in her life, not to be afraid.

He occupies all her personal space, and leans down to bring that plated helm within inches. Before, she turned her face from him, unwilling to reconcile this abomination with her lost brother. He frightened her too much to take even one look.

Wanda holds strong now, though an instant of weakness and pain closes her eyes.

The too-close magic worsens her poisoning. She has to breathe through the pain to endure it. It's all what fear is, Wanda realizes; it is a chain, holding her back from all the things she can do.

Such as opening her eyes and facing that visor that looms down over her. From beneath it, Pietro's voice delivers his threat.

"All I have ever done is kept you in cages," answers Wanda, sickness making holes in her voice, slowing it like tears in a ship's sails. "Bound you from so many possibilities. If I should do anything, it's to set you free."


Even as no more than a wraith of his former self, there are some things about Pietro that remain constant. His impatient haste is one. Finding himself in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar situation, and faced with an unfamiliar face, he is quick to regain his feet and to aggress upon the only other person in the room he can see.

That person happens to be his twin.

The heavy eldritch armor plating him creaks and rattles with his every movement. It is patently unnatural on him, the weight and substance of it; her brother was always someone as lean and light as the wind. To place such heavy fetters on him is to critically misunderstand his nature — or perhaps to wish to make a mockery of it.

Wanda can barely endure the sound of it.

It comes closer nonetheless as the shell of her twin strides towards her. Even warped as he is, he moves in much the same way as her brother always did, his walk possessed of that familiar self-possessed grace even while burdened under corrupt steel. The chain at his back drags as he draws in close, looking at her in the same way he did weeks before. He did not remember her then. He does not seem to remember her now, even as she speaks her guilt — and what she will do now.

"No one cages me," he sneers.

He reaches towards her. His gauntleted hand takes the back of her neck, palming that vulnerable spot at the base of her skull to tip her face up towards his. Her hair catches in the seams of the steel sheathing his fingers. He could kill her. He hesitates instead.

"No one has ever," he says.


Closing metal brands the back of her neck.

The touch is so cold that it shudders the breath from her lungs, and for a moment, her eyes flutter, as if wishing themselves to squeeze-shut and deny all that exists before her.

Wanda does not. She does not fight that directing turn of that gauntlet, as it angles her face to a clear and present audience of that watching visor.

Corruption breathes up from every steel inch of him; Wanda leans a little into that bracing hold, knowing full well it intends to kill her. Limbo, itself, held to her flesh seems to take the strength out of her.

Still, she forces herself to remain on her feet. Still, Wanda looks up into the armor that seals her twin brother away, with searching red eyes that hope to catch some last look of him. Is it too late? Has his soul been consumed, as hers is soon to follow?

He sneers down on her, and she goes still. Wanda has heard Pietro sneer a thousand times for their world and all things in it, but never like this — never on her.

But where he would snarl curses down on her, or close his hand to pulp her throat in his fist — there waits only an unfinished silence. And then, his next words.

Wanda swallows carefully, then on her brittle voice, deigns to speak. "When we were children," she speaks, her language switching to familiar Romani, "the other boys finally asked you to play. They ignored you for years for how you looked, but now invited you with them. You wanted to go so badly. It made you happy." His helm reflects back against her eyes. "I wanted to come. To do everything you could. I was too weak. I slowed them down, and they told you to leave me. You would not."

Somewhere between all her quiet words, one of Wanda's hands twitch to life, daring to rise and reach the few inches between them. Blackness webs the veins in her turning wrist, as she tries to bring her fingers closer to that visor. Daring to touch.

"Everything you've ever done was for me," she tells him, with tears on her cheeks. "Every one of your lives you gave away."


With her witch's senses, Wanda has peered beyond the bounds of this reality and seen a thousand of her own deaths — a thousand of her brother's deaths. She has felt the void millions of times. Death was always cold, every time: a terrifying and complete absence of heat and motion. Her brother's hand on the back of her neck feels about that cold, in these moments.

His voice is cold too, as cold and bitter as she has heard it so many times before — but never to her. Never has it turned on her. But she holds her ground as she did not weeks before, staring up into the featureless steel visor that shutters away his face, and she does not run. Makes no attempt at all to defend herself.

It would be easy for him to make this reality go the way so many others have. In so few of them do the Twins ever get to stay together, alive and happy. But he doesn't, for whatever reason. And Wanda takes that opportunity to tell her brother a story. One of the many stories she has of how much he loved her.

The sound of Romani stills him. With his face covered, there are no cues for her to follow to know if she is having any effect, but the long moments pass, and he does not move. He does not move even when she finally reaches up for that visor which conceals away his face. Her fingertips brush it. The corruption of Limbo hisses against her touch. It seethes, struggling to maintain its hold over him, but gradually it becomes clear the battle it fights is a losing one.

Wanda's fingertips press in, and with a light push she slides that visor back and bares his face. For the first time since he was taken from her, light falls on his familiar features, on his white hair, on his blue eyes which match hers so exactly in hue.

"Wanda?" her twin asks.

His hand leaves her neck and takes her raised wrist. He turns it so he can look down at the black corruption seeping through her veins.

"Who did this to you?" he whispers.


"Pietro," answers Wanda breathlessly.

The word blurts out of her, helpless to, sick with that one, small hope that has been her life these weeks — the one hope she'd not lost him.

Her fingers curl. The infernal magic reacts viciously against Wanda's touch, repelling against the endless chaos running through her flesh — Limbo's magic sources from something very different than what lay in the heart of the Witch. The place what rose the bodies of the Old Masters.

Nothingness.

The eldritch armor hisses and flickers against her hand. It might even hurt her to dare contact. But Wanda seems not to notice, or less to care, and lifts the visor to reveal her twin brother's face.

To see him, she lets go the breath she has been holding for weeks.

She spends the time in silence, simply to look at him — until he takes her by the wrist, all to look on her hand. Her skin is more bloodless now than before, like it wants to run translucent, and its fallible human veins help pull the poisoning through her. Leeching in through the break in her soul.

His question gentles her eyes.

Wanda looks back up. She pulls her wrist free, slowly, carefully, better to slip her hand up against her brother's, and link their fingers. Her skin and his steel.

"The same one who nearly took everything," she tells him, with the faintest break in her voice. She swallows. "But I can fix it now. The chains you wear, so many times over. It's why she took you."

Wanda sets her eyes, and concentrates. Scarlet burns along her fingers, running like light, and her moving touch melts the helm from Pietro's head. "For once, I can set you free."

Her hand tightens around his. She closes her eyes, lifts up to her toes, and presses a kiss to his forehead. And with that touch: absolution.

Scarlet flares blindingly out from Wanda, unleashed like a torrent, curling lines of light that sink into that armor at a thousand points. Cutting the magic off him. Pulling it from this reality — her reality — and into nothing.


That one hope carried her all those weeks. It was so faint at times, yet she clung to it. Today, she has her reward for keeping it alive, when her twin looks into her eyes and finally recognizes her.

The first thing he wants to know, even in his state of limited understanding, is what hurt her. Who hurt her.

Her eyes gentle, relief sighing out of her on a long-held breath. She links her fingers with his, even though the lingering corruption of Limbo — still reluctant to let her brother go — burns her on contact, reviling her very nature. He holds her hand passively, still half-enthralled, remembering and understanding nothing of what happened to him or how he came to be here. Only that Wanda is in front of him, promising to fix it. Only that he can trust her: completely and absolutely.

His eyes close to the running touch of her scarlet, as it pulls the last of that caging helm away to fully bare his head. He bows down closer to let her press that kiss to his skin.

Scarlet washes out from her, piercing into the hellish magic that still encases him. It pulls the infernal steel apart as if it were paper, peeling the corruption out from him, shredding it away into the void. The chain dusts away into smoke — and then into nothing. Not a single shard ever hits the floor. It is eradicated long before it ever comes close.

Eventually he opens his eyes to look at her, wreathed in scarlet, no longer afraid. His twin, found some measure of confidence and control in her own terrible powers. His gaze has a dreamy quality, the look of someone still struggling back to cognizance through several weeks worth of mental fog. The most honest things come out of a man in such moments. "You are beautiful this way," he says, his hand cradling her face so he can better see the even, measured scarlet shine of her eyes.

But as always… her brother is fast in all things. And he is fast to awaken. To recover. To remember.

His expression twists as memory returns. It moves from disbelief, to horror, to self-recrimination, before settling inevitably back where it always does: upon anger. Pure, seething, raw fury.

"I am going to kill her," he decides.


Eventually, the scarlet opens to take them both, shrouding and consuming both Maximoff twins in its torrential light.

Chaos itself moves around and through Pietro, undressing and redressing the very fabric of reality — wielded like a surgical knife as it cuts the hellish magic from his soul. Like the many times her red has held him before, it does not hurt; on the contrary, it offers him a perfect place of safety, immune inside the eye of the storm.

Called beautiful, Wanda's eyes soften for an instant — before they slip unfocused, her pupils narrowing into slits, then folding over themselves again, and again, until her eyes are nothing but emptiness, voids of nothing that bleed her scarlet light.

The Witch lets her power go in a single, blinding, devastating flare, disappearing all in that room within its burning corona —

And then it is gone. His armor is gone. The corruption is gone. The slow poisoning is gone. Gone as she wills it so, with her last shred of strength.

The scarlet moves through them both to repair the bond. It bridges what was severed, though at the last moment, it seems to wait — wait for the reach of Pietro's astral hand to accept. His choice, as shall he will always have with her, to bind them.

A choice that comes with a steep price of knowledge. It floods in an instant, all of Wanda's memory since the moment they were splintered apart: her long three days waiting to die on Wundagore Mountain with nothing but the cold and her quiet singing, the rescue by Frenzy and Exodus, her begging Frenzy to let her go, and Cargill's fierce refusal. Their father's exacting lessons, and his steel around Wanda's throat. Her despair. Her fury. Her resolve. Directing Lorna and Exodus both to Pietro's retrieval, where they fought him, trapped him — saved him.

Pietro promises to kill Illyana Rasputin.

Wanda looks up on her brother worshipfully, and with time, the scarlet comes out of her eyes, numbing them back to their facade of humanity. She watches him, considering his words; so many souls could take such dark and violent words so many ways.

She smiles in aching relief. Her head tilts heavily into his hand.

The light dulls from her, pulling in, snuffing out, until all that is left is tiny Wanda Maximoff, tilting unsteadily on her feet. She falls into Pietro, her hands clutching onto him, body hitching with her quiet weeping.


The Witch's scarlet has been a flag of fear for so many before. For the people they grew up among, who did not understand it except as the work of the devil; for the people she inadvertently hurt, when she was young and could not control the chaos in her blood; for the people who even now fearfully wish to legislate her down into something they can collar and control.

For Pietro, Wanda's scarlet brings no fear at all. It is a part of him. It is his only familiarity and safety in a world that has always hated and put him down. It has always done exactly as he bid; it has always loved him and him alone.

It is his twin. It is the inextricable essence of who she is. And so when she hesitates at the last to force it — to force herself — upon him, holding out her astral hand and waiting for him to make the choice to accept, he reaches for her with no hesitation and no small amount of need. Even if the bond brings back painful memories; even if the bond shows him the many ways in which he has failed over the last few weeks of his imprisonment.

At first he feels shame, horror, overwhelming guilt. At first he feels keenly the full breadth of his failure. He begs her forgiveness a thousand times, soundlessly, not with his voice but with the baring of his penitent spirit for her to see. He has always protected her. To see these many weeks in which he left her alone to suffer cuts him down to the soul.

But such sentiments have a short half-life with Pietro. Murderous anger lasts a lot longer, with him.

His father was right, is all he can think in those first blistering moments of rage. He was too permissive. He was too weak. And in their unguarded moments, they were taken from one another. Separated, just as their father warned. It happened because you allowed it to them.

Pietro makes his promise accordingly. In some contexts, from other people, it could be humorous overstatement. Here and now, from Pietro Maximoff, it has the steel-serious weight of a death sentence.

With that, he seamlessly resumes his accustomed role with his twin: her protector, her avenger, her center. She can feel it — that return of the proper order of things. She looks up at him, shining with relief and adoration, before all the power winks out of her. The Witch recedes, and Wanda is left behind. Wanda, small and exhausted, clinging to him to weep out all the stress and pain of the past few weeks.

As he always has, he catches her. He folds her into his arms, hiding her from the hostile world, and his face buries into her hair.

"You are safe now," he promises her in Romani. His voice, speaking their cradle language, resonates with her earliest memories. "I am here."

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