Roleplaying Log: Kireji
IC Details

The Maximoff Twins meet with Jean Grey, and reminisce cannot stop lines being drawn.

Other Characters Referenced: Rogue
IC Date: March 17, 2019
IC Location: Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 28 Mar 2019 22:41
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

There are many famous parks in New York City where chess tables have been set up for public use — Washington Square Park and Union Square probably among the most notable — but in years past when they would still meet on occasion, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr never went to such heavy-traffic locations to indulge in this favored pastime. In fact, they eschewed Manhattan entirely, because Xavier was usually coming down from Westchester, and traveling all the way into the city proper is a bitch and a half if you don't cheat. Why do it when you don't have to?

Such it is that when he would reach out — perhaps once a year early on, then once every few years as time ground on — Charles Xavier would propose Pelham Bay Park, in the Bronx. New York's largest park, the wide sweep of its wild grounds gives visitors one thing which New York distinctly lacks, especially during off-peak hours: the potential to look around and see no one, from horizon to horizon. To be completely alone is a rare thing in a city of eight million.

Orchard Beach, a crescent of sand facing the restless slate-grey water of the Long Island Sound, is one of those deeply seasonal places which swarms with life in the summer, and dies down to unpeopled emptiness in the winter months. Often Charles and Erik would meet at the northern end of it, where the abuts the salt marshes known as the Twin Islands, bring their own chessboard, and retread old conversations that always — ultimately — ended in the same way. At the least, who won or lost the chess games tended to vary.

Sometimes, once in a rare while, they brought children too. That is why the children, now adults, remember the spot to this day.

It is this locale in which the Maximoff twins have finally agreed to meet Jean Grey for a long overdue conversation, after a series of back-and-forths mediated tensely by Rogue. The two of them are not on the sand; they wait on the grass of the parkland across the road from the beach, at a small table set beneath a bare-branched ash tree. The day is chill but not frigid, windless, and the emptiness of the park gives the world the timeless quality of a held breath.

Pietro, predictably, is not sitting; he stands, almost as if at guard (he is), looking out across the motionless water of the sound.

Thirteen years ago, Erik Lehnsherr brought twin children under his custodianship. They were his son and daughter, he confided only to Charles, and just one time only in a sparse, brief confession: children he thought lost decades earlier.

Despite the mystery of their birth, there was little denying they were his. The son, Pietro, was his father's carbon copy, looks and presence both.

Wanda, however, was something of her own mystery. In 2006, she was on the cusp between adolescence and womanhood, faithful to never linger far out of her twin brother's shadow, but insatiably curious. He learned English far more quickly than she did, and it seemed to frustrate her to have to rely on anyone as an intermediary — especially in America. It was a place so unlike anything she'd ever known or ever seen — and it'd not yet hurt her — so she was full of hope.

And full of other things. The world seemed to distract her at every turn, and even these meetings more than a decade ago, when her brother would be sizing up Scott Summers — Wanda would already be wandering off, wading into that same pond, lifting a muddy handful of soot and tilting her head one way, as if it deigned to speak to her.

There was a gentleness about her so different from her father. But if Jean ever dared past shoreline in Wanda's mind — spoken always in Transian — something slithered in the alleys of her thoughts.

Her ability didn't help things. Wanda could barely control herself on the battlefield. It was too much power for just one girl — and one day, she nearly devastated her father's plans just to hold herself together. In 2007, Magneto took Wanda away from all sight. Gone, never discussed again, as if she did not exist at all.

After the Chitauri came, Wanda returned. Only in Magneto's absence, and back at Pietro's side. She was changed. That early vibrancy was wrung out of her. That hope was gone.

Thirteen years later, she is a shadow beside Pietro, seated where he stands, dressed and veiled in black. Some things never change: Wanda Maximoff still tilts her head, communing with things not of this world.

Jean never had the opportunity to peer into either twin's thoughts when they were all still children.

In 2006, she was, along with Bobby, among the youngest X-Men. She and Scott carried their powers - vast and difficult to control - heavily on their shoulders. Henry and she could be tongue-in-cheek after life-and-death; laughing and/or groaning made the shaking easier to ignore. Besides flight - if 2006's awkward aerial gait could really be called such, anyway - Warren knew what it meant to be the center of attention, and after the Xavier estate became an Institute, so did she; he was much better adjusted to it, of course.

She did not - could not - share Charles Xavier's gift of telepathy, however, because he felt she wasn't ready for it then. Young, scared, and smiling through it all so nobody fell over themselves worrying about her, she kept to herself the first - quite likely only - time she and the team were brought along to— keep the twins company? Out of trouble?

To make friends after clashing over warheads?

At least, she kept out of Pietro sizing up Scott and Scott sizing up the park's terrain, Just In Case. She kept out of whatever prank Bobby had in mind, wasn't half as interested in studying the gameplay as Henry…

The pond was quieter; Wanda, more interested in conversations Jean could never hope to hear than posturing at her. Jean would've made some cautious attempts at reaching out to the other girl when she wasn't preoccupied with soot or silt, but it was all so strange that she was just as happy to skip stones and wonder if anyone else thought so too. It wasn't that she disliked the idea of making friends; Wanda especially always seemed a half-second away from letting her powers run completely wild during their other meetings, and she could definitely empathize.

Making friends would be wonderful, but then what?

What would they all be to each other the next time they saw each other in the world beyond the Twin Islands? The next time their father and her Professor disagreed?

If only she could've kept wondering.

"Thank you for meeting me," Jean says once she's close enough to be heard.

Dressed in a black winter coat with a deep red scarf, black pants, and dark tan boots, she's at the end of a deliberately paced (borrowed, from the Institute garage) walk from a hybrid parked near the beach. Following a gentle brush against the very edges of their psyches - like psonar, enough to tell her that they're there without probing deeper - she spent it all firmly in the twins' sight line, just so they could see that she is neither shimmering nor on fire.

She wouldn't have hesitated to use their names, the last— no, the time— before— the last time— they all saw each other, but here they are, 13 years past answers she should've never wanted to begin with.

"… Pietro; Wanda," comes after half a beat, then she pushes a smile into place and extends a hand towards each of them. "I'm— "

A corner of her bottom lip curls inwards. She's had plenty of practice by now, so the smile doesn't slip, but it's hard.

"It's good to see you again," she softly goes with, because as nice as it'd feel to say, she isn't all that glad; the circumstances could be so much better. "To have a chance to talk to you again, for real. How have you… … been?" Since the last time they saw each other in the world beyond the Twin Islands.

Those were halycon days, compared with today. Days when Charles and Erik perhaps still thought they could convince one another; days long before they realized they couldn't, and became Professor X and Magneto. X-Men and Brotherhood.

That day thirteen years ago was one of the few times — perhaps the only time — the two men ever brought their respective flocks with them for these infrequent meetings. Perhaps on Magneto's side, it was a desire to confide his twins to the only man he trusted enough to tell; the man who would, in time, become his most immovable opponent. On Xavier's side? Perhaps a subtle desire to give the children a chance to know one another as children, before they completely crystallized into seeing one another only as enemy soldiers.

Perhaps it worked, to some degree… if Pietro and Scott hackling at one another, Jean and Wanda off by themselves at the pond, and Warren unabashedly asleep with boredom in a tree, were markers of success in this regard.

Thirteen years later, it is difficult to say whether it worked as well as Xavier might have hoped. Perhaps the fact this meeting is happening at all is evidence that it worked at least a little. Pietro certainly isn't as — hard-eyed as he could be, with only Jean Grey coming to them across the grass; nonetheless, he still hovers close beside his twin, as he always has, his right hand settled on her left shoulder to steady her as her mind wanders distant, unseen roads.

"Jean," he greets in answer. It's a tentatively good sign, especially after the hard-voiced exchange of codenames that characterized their last meeting. Nonetheless, he interposes slightly between her and Wanda when the hand is extended; ostensibly so he can take it first himself, though he doesn't quite get out of the way unless Wanda nudges him that she, too, wishes to take Jean's hand in kind.

"Well," he begins, with an expected efficiency, "I am glad you are no longer dead, and I do not deplore the opportunity to say so. In private." His voice is as clipped and acerbic as she would remember it, but beneath the external similarities she can feel a deeper sea change: what was once a brash and impatient shortness has darkened and harshened into something that echoes too closely of his father's cold steel. "I almost regret the near-surety that this will be a waste of your time."

He hesitates a moment. "Well. Not an entire waste. There are things we would tell you. Only you."

There is another brief moment of silence, before he seems to remember that niceties were spoken. "We've been… well enough. Father didn't — leave us with much, when he left us. He planned as if he would always be here." A pause. "We all thought he always would be."

Thirteen years ago, it took Wanda Maximoff considerable time to notice she was not alone, at the edge of the pond.

It was no malicious thing, though it could seem so, deliberately ignoring the spiritual daughter of her father's friend and rival, someone whom — skin deep — looked possessed of all the things Wanda wished for herself. But it was no conscious ignoring, rather something else: a girl lost in the shuffling decks of realities, seeing so many if thens and could bes and perhaps likelys that the What Ares are the last cards of her draw.

Even staring down into the ripples of stone-throws over the surface of water: so many variables. So many futures forged of just one strike. It hurt Wanda to feel them come and go. That was the part her father could never seem to understand; he impressed on her focus and discipline and control and the dreaded MASTERY, but could not understand she struggled just to be.

When Wanda finally looked on Jean Grey, she could not take her eyes away. She had blue eyes, like her brother, like her father, the only bridging trait in all her dark-skinned, curly-haired anomaly.

They twitched, back-and-forth, the way the eyes do of someone reading, being fed a text beyond their control or understanding — seeing. Possibilities. Futures. Beginnings. Endings. Her complexion paled. She looked away, and remained so, not terrified, not distressed, but withdrawing.

When their father ordered them to leave, then was the first time Wanda spoke to Jean.

She did not approach too close, and she could not seem to look on her too long. Unlike Pietro, his ability offering him effortless mastery of language, with an eloquence that made him even more his father's mirror, Wanda's English remained poor.

"I am… imi pare rau," she spoke, her English folding immediately into Romanian.

She paused, and reached back for her hair, and its heavy mass unravelled as she unbound it from a simple, red ribbon. Proffering it, Wanda then balked, and laid it gently to the earth before Jean, stepping back in universal gesture. Now it is hers.

Wanda looked at her, once more, before she would disappear the next many years thereafter. "Mulengi dori," she explained in a third language — this one softer, far more apologetic.

Then she left.

Thirteen years later, Wanda still does not glance back on Jean. Instead, she sits wraith-like under Pietro's hand. Not one ounce of Wanda resists her twin's sentry, accepting it long as his gift to her, and a function of her life.

She remains where she is as Pietro takes Jean's hand; Wanda does not stand, or attempt to return the contact. Her hands are unseen, sleeved into the long folds of her cloak-like dress.

"We believed there would be many things," Wanda finally speaks, off of her brother's words. She has learned English now, and her fluency is as smooth and measured as her father would have ordered it of her. "For ourselves, and for each other. Jean Grey, I wish to begin this with a question. You do not need to answer. How did it feel for you to die?"

Jean still wears the ribbon sometimes, when she wants to remember that even though the world's always been full of confusion and terror, it's full of little bright points— if you're willing to look for them. Bright, warm points— as long as you're willing to reach out and accept them.

Her hair's in a ponytail today.

"I'm glad to no longer be dead," she briskly says to Pietro. "I've tried it a couple ways, now! This last one sucked, for sure." Rather than coomment on what a waste of time this will be—

— rather than consider whether or not he may be right—

— she just murmurs, "I appreciate that you're willing to share anything with me at all; I promise I'll listen," once he's done. "We— all—"

Wanda finally speaks. Slowly but surely, Jean's hand goes limp around Pietro's and her eyes are drawn towards his twin. They flit from her shortly afterwards, but after a brisk, deep breath—

"The first time, it was like I was falling into a volcano, only to be scooped out by the strongest arms in the world and just… … held, for months," she softly offers.

"The second time… … I don't— I remember it, but it was— I was— well, I was still— being held, you know? I think… I don't know… I was peace with it? Because it was, well— it was back into the volcano, again, you know? Back to sacrificing myself, because I had to— because I didn't know what else to do, there. Because I couldn't do anything else, because…"

Wanda and Pietro have met the Professor. She trusts that she doesn't need to say it.

"I'm not in a hurry, but I would do it again," she lowly concludes. By now, her arms are coiled around her ribcage; since she doesn't have to look at Wanda to be polite anymore, she stares at the grass for a little. Wherever she was, she's pretty sure it didn't have grass.

"I'm sorry we're meeting like this," she offers after a silent second or two, lifting her eyes to peer between them. "I'm— sorry we've ended up so far apart— it wasn't— always" Green gloved hands rise, gesturing futilely before her, " like this. It doesn't even have to be like this now, we just— " More gesturing, until she just tucks her hands back beneath her arms with a grimace.

"It feels like we're trapped, doesn't it…?"

"I know that you will listen," is Pietro's predictably abrupt reply. He talks like his father, in peremptory absolutes and assumptions, though he's much more arrogant about it. Magneto wasn't arrogant — he was confident. There is a difference. "That was what you always prided yourselves on — all of you. Listening." Only Pietro can make something sound like an insult and a fond reminisce at the same time.

But he goes silent afterwards, however, in a telling way. An instant later, Wanda rouses from her reverie. Pietro always seems to know a split second before anyone else. He lets go of Jean's loosening hand and immediately steps back beside his sister, unsurprised at her unwillingness to touch the other woman. He holds his silence as his twin asks her opening question.

For a wonder, he continues to hold it as Jean answers.

"It is a shame you were never taught anything but self-sacrifice," is all he has to say, at the end. "As you can see, it does very little for the willfully blind and the ungrateful. You die, Xavier dies… so many martyrs, for the cause of peace. Look what world it has brought us. The hatred runs deeper than ever before."

His blue eyes find hers. She says she would do it again. "I would rather make a world where you do not have to do it again."

He is silent again as Jean speaks. It is a rare person he affords the courtesy not to be spoken over. "I am not sorry," he eventually replies, "because meeting like this may be the cut of reality that is needed. We were always far apart, Jean. Our fathers ensured that. We just — lied to ourselves about it, for a while."

Pietro lowers his gaze to his sister. His hand twines a lock of her hair, and it is transparent the son has a much more personal stake in this than the father ever did. "If we are trapped, it is because they have driven us into a corner. The Professor's way has failed for thirteen years. Now we will speak in the only language that humans understand."

His hand pauses in Wanda's hair. "We saw what they did to Warren. What they feel entitled to wreak on someone for their mere existence. Does even that not make you angry? I assure you it is only the tip of the iceberg. They do not fear incarceration, and they certainly do not fear speeches and sad reproof. The only thing they do fear is the certainty of the exact same being repaid to them in kind. It is what they will receive — and more."

His head lifts. "It is what they are owed, for what they plan to do."

In a perfect synchronicity with her twin brother, Wanda partakes in that silence.

She is perfect stillness as Jean Grey answers — for them — a question that could not be easy. A question that is as personal a confession as few could be, in this world.

Wanda's blue eyes slip unfocused as she listens, daring to push her stressed mind just enough to imagine herself within Jean's haunting words: falling into a volcano. Held in the strongest arms. Peace.

That, more than any other of the sensations, is the most difficult for her to comprehend. Peace.

The truth is the Witch has seen farther than most, cursed with her far-reaching sight, but Jean Grey has gone places Wanda cannot even quantify with flesh and soul. She has been hurt so many times. She has been near death many more. She has felt death already gone by, and glimpsed countless scattered realities that carry on in her absence: no Scarlet Witch there, long burned or drowned or left to the elements. But she has never died.

Her head bows in wordless gratitude to learn a little more; it is not every day someone can speak, and clearly, of an experience she survived twice.

Clarity returns to Wanda within Pietro's ensuing words; he will always be her anchor, pulling her back to the here and now again and again. Her head tilts needily to his lingering touch on her hair.

"This goes beyond our father's missive," Wanda adds, her voice Pietro's antithesis. His abruptness and arrogance, that of a man forced to slow himself to the crawl of seconds, is complemented by her timelessness; her measured, careful words are like anaesthetic. "He fought mankind's inability to face what we are, what we shall soon become — and we are their apotheosis. He made war on their attempts to shackle our becoming, and keep us as their servants — as their experiments."

Her eyes, without focus, turn from one nothing to stare into another. One of her hands creeps out from her dress, palm-up. She wants Pietro to take it.

"They want to exterminate us," she declares, and there is no gentling of the word, no preparing or yielding for its cold strike. "What if the death peace you spoke of is all we have left?"

"And why," Jean softly wonders after Pietro asserts distance, "Do you think… that…"

Starts to wonder. Reflexively, she follows his lowering gaze and finds




to wonder about.

They were always so far apart, Wanda moreso; they'd practically be strangers if it wasn't for the fighting they've done.

Maybe that's why her brow's furrowing like it is, why she's got that bemused squint when she — eventually — brings her gaze back to Pietro's face: maybe she's just realizing, finally, that he has a point.

Maybe. She certainly doesn't interrupt his insistence on bloody vengeance, nor Wanda's agreement; that ugly word provokes a slight, wincing recoil, but confusion remains dominant. Wanda's final question brings her eyes snapping down to her—

— back up to Pietro as the wrinkles get a little deeper—

— back to the veil. Her arms tighten and she tries to flatten her face with a hard swallow. It's— somewhat effective.

"I don't want them to fear us— we don't need them to fear us, they already do. They need to SEE us— REALLY see us, instead of the— the monsters they make of us," she protests, soft but insistent. "And it isn't even all of them, it's— Wanda…"

She seemed so shy, thirteen years ago, and kind, besides… but Jean never really had the chance to know her, did she?

"… your father was a passionate man, and— there were things he— " Green eyes lid and an unpainted lip's drawn in for chewing. "— some of what he said, seemed to believe, it— it made sense… but even now, even after what we're about to have to deal with, it's— they don't all want to kill us. They dont all hate us— I know they don't."

Mercifully, this gives her a chance to look back up at Pietro so she can immediately qualify this with, "I know this better than either of you possibly could," with an absence of ego, "because I can feel the ones who do, if I let myself… and I can feel the ones who just don't get us, and the ones who'd like to; the ones who wish they could be us, the ones who'd fall apart if they had to do a mile in our boots. The ones who love us; the exploitative ones; the ones who couldn't care less about us as long as we aren't 'us'ing around them… the ones who don't care, period, because they have other things to worry about…"

"I can't give up on this world," quietly comes after a small beat, "because it isn't a lost cause— not yet. We still have a chance to keep it from BEING one, but not if all we can think to do with the people we're sharing it with is scare them— hurt them."

Her gaze hits the grass with a quaking breath as vague sensations - bathing in nuclear heat; exulting in a flood of shock, terror, and dismay from her loved ones; scattering herself through lunar space to spare those same loved ones from bearing the full consequences of cosmic-scale id - flicker through her psyche like a weatherd film reel.

"I am angry," she whispers. "Every day— every fucking one, since I— … I'm livid that this is what I came back to! We spent prom night almost being vivisected by AIM," her hands pop free so she can thrust them forward for emphasis, "because some ASSHOLE saw Hank's thesis on X-Gene inheritance and wanted to do a brain graft!" Her cheeks puff as she lets out a brisk breath.

"What good does it do me— anyone— if I don't point it at the people who deserve it, though?"

Green eyes meet worryingly familiar blue ones.

"Why do you think they kept us apart, Pietro?" she finally wonders, utterly sincere. "Why… why not just give us a chance to get to know each other— to trust each other? They knew they wouldn't be around forever, right…? So why not just— I don't know, give us a chance to make up our minds about each other before…"

As sincere of a question as it may be, as complicated as it is… she doesn't even have to finish it before she hits an answer. That's probably why she doesn't quite manage to finish asking, this time.

Why do you think they kept us apart?

Pietro's smile is a humorless, wan thing in the washed-out winter light. "My father answered that often enough. We were kept apart because mingling us — letting us bond, letting us talk, letting us feel one another's doubts — would have made us all weak."

For once, his tone is, very briefly, missing that ever-present anger. "We were raised by two men with very different dogmas. Do you think either of them would have accepted a dilution?"

Wanda's hand emerges from her sleeve. Pietro's immediately leaves her hair to take it, his fingers twining with hers. The easy gesture happens without thought, as automatic as breathing. He does not even look before he does it, as if the tangling of their hands is guided by something more subliminal than mere sight.

He is silent as she speaks, the twins — as always — in that perfect duality of give-and-take between one another. He is silent, too, as Jean speaks, perhaps hearing in her passion an echo of the man who was his father's only friend.

"Jean," Pietro eventually says tiredly, with the tone of a topic that has been trod and retrod, "My sister and I have been 'seen' often enough in the past. When we lived in Europe, we lived among humans, indistinguishable from them. Sometimes, we came to know the people we lived around. They would talk to us, befriend us. Sometimes they would ask Wanda to come help watch their children."

His eyes are bleak and cold as an empty snowfield. "They saw us, all right… and it did not matter once they realized what we were. The people who were closest to us were always the first to pour the gasoline and light the match. We always — ran away from them. It was all I could think to do — take Wanda, and run away."

A muscle flickers in Pietro's jaw as it hardens. "I never saw any of them stop up until our father showed up, and made them too afraid to go on. That day, it was them running away."

His gaze turns down to his twin. "Perhaps your perception is a detriment," he says, his voice losing his reminisce to grow hard once more. "It clouds you, to be able to see and feel all the people who are undecided, who do not care, who would help us if they could. It is a veil that prevents you from piercing down to what is the only thing that matters, in the end: the people who would purge us off the planet."

His hand tightens on his sister's. "Perhaps they do not all want to kill us. But they do not do nearly enough about the ones who do, and the ones who do… what means they have devised to kill us! We have seen it, Jean. It is the entire reason we agreed to meet today."

His head lifts, his eyes narrow. "If you want to point your anger at those who deserve it, point it at SHIELD."

Pietro touches his sister's shoulder, requesting something from their hex-storage.

"They have in their possession a weapon, genetically-targeted, calibrated to kill anyone in possession of an X-Gene," he says, with the finality of a falling axe. "We have discovered this. It is very close to being complete."

It seems the most simple of things brings Wanda Maximoff the most pleasure: a found, fallen feather from a sparrow, a weed flower, a handful of pond soot — things common and taken for granted in this world, but same things that she uses to anchor herself to this reality.

Her most favourite of all is her twin brother's hand — the most familiar thing she knows of all things — and he seems to ground her on the instant of touch. Wanda exhales, her head tipped forward, the winter breeze folding together her lashing dark hair and the scarlet of her veil.

"It is a brave confession, Jean," speaks Wanda, "to say our father's words reached you. In our war of ideals, concession is supposed to read as surrender. Truth be told, my eye stole to your Professor. The dream he spoke of, and his willingness to share it with all of us — even something like me. I would have given anything to — ah."

The Scarlet Witch clears her throat, polite, apologetic, with a squeeze on Pietro's hand. "I know better than to wish. I don't think any of us want to close ourselves off. I've seen my father, in a rare moment — so weary. Weary enough that, perhaps even he would —" Memory gentles the stiff line of her shoulders for a beat. "Impossible to say. He spoke often of the waste it was for our kind to turn our gifts on each other. To hurt each other for humanity. He loathed it. But, as he taught us — the cause comes first. We all have to pick a side. It is our blood price to live in this world. As the heirs of the message. As mutants. As monsters."

Silence holds her for a heartbeat. Then, slowly, with a breeze breathing along her veils, the Scarlet Witch lifts her head.

Thirteen years later, her eyes look directly on Jean Grey again. Their irises shine as scarlet as arterial blood. "And we are monsters. All of us."

The moment breaks, when Wanda's attention seems to unravel; she seems unable to hold any long look at, or even near, the Phoenix: like a girl who involuntarily murdered her adopted mother, now forced to watch that killing flame pull out the soul again, and again, and again, torture crystallized on endless, beautiful cycle.

Her hands ghost along Pietro's, and as her twin speaks, she retreats to gently open his hand — not that she wants to be released from it, but that she wishes to trace the lines of his palm with her fingers. Life line. Heart line. Love line.

Wanda is silent as he speaks of their past.

She only rouses to the familiar name of SHIELD — and her hands go silent to the touch on her shoulder.

The Scarlet Witch takes Pietro's hand back in her right; with her left, she spreads all five fingers, turns her hand, and taps the tip of her ring finger to the stigmata point in her palm. Scarlet unravels from that contact, breathing out like smoke. And, on the table where their fathers played their game of conquest lays a considerable file, heavy with paper documentation, and digital drives.

What can be parsed of it: an incomplete formula, and a wealth of supporting trials that conclude a specific, detrimental reaction with the X-Gene.

"They were wrong!"

Thirteen years ago, Jean kept to herself because she couldn't figure out what meeting the twins meant: was it a sign of change to come, or a mere caesura in a violent, long-winded dirge for two men's relationship?

If she could, she would reach back through the years, grab that frightened girl, and shake her 'til she got the hell out of her head and did something. Maybe she wouldn't have had to come back here, now.

Her arms quickly refold after a few desperately agitated gestures punctuate her outburst-slash-admission. She drops her eyes sligh

Reflexively, Jean tries to remember the last time she held any one of her brothers' hands like Wanda's holding Pietro's.

It doesn't take long at all. After that contemplative hitch, Jean's attention snaps to the table well ahead of schedule. His story and her polite recollection ensure that it stays there while disquiet melts into jaw-clenching sympathy.

(What if she'd tried hugging them instead of just…?)

A murmured, "I'm so sorry," is the only response she can muster for Pietro. Briefly, she shifts her arms and leans forward as she says it, but it— it isn't thirteen years ago, it's—

"But you— neither of you," she continues, lifting her eyes to the veil, "none of us HAVE to be monsters just because they see us that way."

Was— she going to say something else? Her mouth's still slightly ajar because after that brief window of clarity, Wanda's not focused on anything beyond the the lines she's lovingly tracing. Still. Maybe it was a question; her eyebrow's certainly arching that way, if slowly.

Of course, 'SHIELD' brings both brows way up.

"Wh," is all she gets out before gritting her teeth and listening— and waiting when Wanda brings her finger to her palm. Waiting; anticipating…

The world shimmers around Jean as raw chaos wisps towards the table. A hint of ancient flame spirals through her right iris, only to vanish when the scarlet thread does.

The file lifts as soon as it manifests, hovers towards Jean, opens itself, and helpfully spreads some of its papers out in front of her for scanning. It doesn't take long before those brows fall with the rest of her face into an incredulous grimace.

"Where— where did you…?" she softly wonders. "How…?"

Green eyes squeeze shut for a beat because they can't afford anymore— not with this in front of them.

"I need copies, I— this needs to be logged and analyzed yesterday, it's— I barely understand it, but…"

She's silent for a couple seconds, then the conspiracy wall parts so she can try to meet Pietro's eye again.

"This is why those people who 'cloud' me matter, Pietro," she murmurs, sounding much more tired than she did moments ago. "The ones who love us or hate us, they've made up their minds; they can be changed, but it's— it's harder, you know? Everyone else, though…? They're waiting for someone to convince them— to help them decide if they're gonna be humans, or… or monsters. If they'll support— — THIS, or do something about the people who do. The Professor knew that— he tried to keep us as hidden as he could, because he figured we'd be safer that way, but still: he knew… and I think that your father did too."

More documents slide aside until Jean can approach.

"We don't have to keep fucking up in all the ways they fucked up just to honor their memories," she quietly offers. "The Professor was waiting for the world to be ready to accept us; your dad wanted to terrify them into picking the right side… and neither of them was willing to consider that they might've been wrong, about any of it, because doing that'd mean that the other one was right."

Gloved fingers reach for twin shoulders. "Pietro, Wanda… why do we have to suffer for their bad decisions…?"

If Jean watches closely, she can behold the first hint of a distinct dissonance between the twins. Wanda speaks of them as being monsters — all of them — and his hand tightens on hers. This time, it is not in reassurance or agreement, but rather in something almost like rebuke.

"No," he says, and though he's ostensibly replying Jean, his words are obviously for his twin as well. "None of us do have to be monsters. None of us are monsters." Pietro makes no significant scene of his disagreement, not in front of Jean, but his tone is suggestive of an old argument that has been trod and retrod often in the past. "The monstrosity is in humankind. We merely defend ourselves against it. However we have to."

Today, he even has proof of the monstrosity to which humankind can descend.

The revealed file soon lifts off the table and drifts towards Jean, opening and shuffling its papers out in a display of fine telekinesis. Pietro does not blink. He's seen Jean do this often enough over the years. His attention, rather, focuses on Jean's reactions, on her expressions as she parses what it is she is looking at.

"It was given to us," he answers her first question, "by someone who has dug deep into SHIELD's secrets. It could be a lie. But can we take the chance?"

His eyes are cool when Jean meets them. "I think not."

A hand waves as Jean says she needs copies; as she says that things like this are . "That copy is yours," he says. "To investigate on your own as you will. To show to your 'undecided parties,' if that is what you truly want. Do as you please. But I do not exactly have a high opinion of people who must be confronted with evidence of planned genocide in order to learn some tolerance for their fellow creatures."

He tenses as Jean draws closer, however. Should Jean reach out to try to touch the twins, she will not make it to Wanda; Pietro will interpose between, gently but rather insistently. His sister does not take well to being touched, and things rarely go well when she is.

Why do we have to suffer for their bad decisions?

"We don't have to," Pietro says simply. A son finally free to go his own way — and still learning how. "We are choosing not to. What we do now is not what our father did. What we do now is about survival."

He turns his gaze towards his sister, reaching for her, as in a tacit signal to make ready to leave.

“I advise you to think along the same lines, Jean,” he finishes.

For all the countless, ephemeral threads that suture the Maximoff twins together — one line runs with a distinct knot, and now it pulls tight.

When Pietro tightens his hand around Wanda's in a fierce, discordant correction, Wanda makes no reaction of her own. Her red eyes turn away. She concedes to her twin brother in nearly all things, but there are some subjects even his authority cannot persuade her.

Damned a witch, a cursed blight, a disease long enough — and one day you wake up believing it to be as true as the sun, the sky, and the stars.

None of us are monsters, declares Pietro, and Wanda disagrees. In her own silent answer to that, her wandering eye slides on Jean Grey — looking at her. Looking through her. Digging deep into all the wayward things the Witch can see.

Her lid hoods down over her scarlet iris. I see you, says her stare. You see me. We, monsters, who have no place in their world.

Eventually, her expression softens, mind insistent to wander — perhaps already forgetting the here and now and Wanda looks away into the nebulous else. She lingers on the edge of talk of SHIELD, retreating into herself, leaving Pietro again to maintain his position as the prominent twin. She fixes her eyes on some unseen point, head slightly tilted, listening —

And she only renimates when Jean reaches her hands to them, trying to bid some connection — something, anything — in the generational gulf left in the wake of the missing Xavier and Lehnsherr.

Wanda tenses up.

But no more happens — there is no time for it — as Pietro knows to interrupt the proposed contact, and shield Wanda away with his taller body. She stands as still as death, hands at her sides, unmoving and unbreathing. The discomfort and dislike of others touching her — straying too close with their variables, their risk — underlies with a worsened glean of something else… something that, felt on Wanda Maximoff, is not unlike the precursor to raw, animal terror.

There is something in Jean Grey, and it repels Wanda straight down to the undetermined core of who, or what, she is. She cannot quantify it beyond a foundational wrongness, not in its capacity to exist, but its capacity to exist near her. It scares Wanda down to the marrow.

She remains silent through Pietro's words. Wanda only comes back to life when he gestures to her, and she steps close into the curve of his body, her arms winding his shoulders, her head on his chest.

"Inheritance is a heavy burden," comes from her, when she deigns to speak. "We all must suffer it. What child hasn't carried their parents' sins? Is it not our duty?"

I cradled this world to my breast while it cooled.
Through the heat haze of creation, I glimpsed its final moment.
My tears were bittersweet as I left it to follow whatever road would lead there.

Jean’s attention is on attempting to politely avoid paying the twins’ closeness more mind than she must, and then on SHIELD, while Wanda stares through her.

The fire grafted to her soul stares back.

How could I ever belong to this world, or any other?
The promise of life; the babel of broken circuits.
How could you ever think to compare us,

it says.

There’s something in her, something that makes her bristle beneath Wanda’s intent gaze no matter how aware of it she is; right now, though, the instinct just tells her that their fathers fucked up worse than any of them’s likely to admit to the other. That Pietro’s so quick to tank her desperate grasp at solidarity and brush the rest aside in favor of the party line only furthers this theory.

“Showing people this isn’t about teaching anyone about tolerance,” she murmurs, shaking her head while the file reassembles itself. Since both of her hands are on Pietro, he gets two squeezed shoulders instead of one. “This won’t change people’s minds about us, that’s what we do; how many people go their whole lives only seeing mutants on their screens…? Once I can verify this, though… letting it out will make them angry. It’ll poison the well— nobody who wasn’t already depraved enough to think like this is going to see it and be okay with it; if it’s real, it…”

Jean falters for a moment, then remembers to pull back from the pair and retract her arms. Thankfully, she does this just in time for Wanda to curl up against her brother’s chest.

Nothing is as certain as it was half an hour ago.

“… it won’t be a realistic option for SHIELD,” she softly concludes, trying gamely not to let the wound shine through it.

“But Pietro… this is what fear does to people. Sometimes, they get desperate; they get to a point where they’ll do anything— cross any line,”

Green eyes pointedly seek out each of the twins’.

“Hurt whoever they need to, however they need to, just to feel safe again. This is what happens when we try to scare them into behaving…”

Those eyes fall, then lid as she slowly fills her lungs and shakes her head again. Slender fingers tightly clench at her sides.

After swallowing, “You can frame it however you want,” her voice gradually rises as she draws steel into it, “but you’re trying to terrify them into submission, break their will— just like he did, and it— it won’t work, Pietro! It won’t.”

Now her gaze is fixed on eerily, ominously familiar eyes.

“And I— I can’t tolerate it the way the Professor did, I— “ The redhead pauses long enough to remember the last time - the very last time - the X-Men and the Brotherhood came together.

William Stryker’s perp walk played on every one of a Mutant Town bar’s screens.

Cue balls clacked beneath drinking songs.

Rounds flowed freely between a dozen or so tabs.

By the end of the night, Jean and her two and a half cocktails had certainly tried to make up for youthful hesitation, but beaming, blushing hugs at last call for beloved rivals aren’t quite the same as embraces shared with strangers through teenaged nerves, are they?

The telepath bites her bottom lip and tries to put the past where it belongs so she can concentrate on the future:

“I can’t sit back and see where another thirteen years of the Brotherhood gets us,” falls from her lips like air from a punctured tire. “For all of our sakes, I won’t do that, I— I have enough sins of my own; I can’t carry the Professor’s, too— I have to make them right. If you can’t be convinced to stop, if you refuse… you can still be stopped.”

The file bursts into flames. In mere moments, it’s ash and smoke raining— — curling— towards the ribbon in her hair; knitting itself into the ribbon’s substance, adding length and rapid, agitated fluttering.

“Thank you for the information. Maybe… maybe there’ll be a time, one day, when we can come together again, but until then… we have to fight.”

Her eyes shut long enough for a shiver to roll through her body, then the twins get a glimpse of doleful shimmering before she turns to make her exit.

“God, they’d be so proud if they could see us right now,” she muses, soft and bitter.

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