Mutant Court
Roleplaying Log: Mutant Court
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

The X-Men clash with the Brotherhood, as the latter attempt to publicly execute a man convicted of mutant experimentation. Billy Kaplan has an identity crisis.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: December 11, 2018
IC Location: New York County Courthouse, Manhattan
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 11 Dec 2018 05:45
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits: GM: Quicksilver
NPC: Donald Kaminsky, former CFO of IGH
Associated Plots

Nearly a year ago, last December, an R&D firm by the name of IGH ran into significant trouble when it was discovered they'd been harvesting metahumans to experiment on their powers — and creating drugs that could grant powers to normal humans. They were shut down after the discovery, most of their executives arrested, and the case was considered to be closed. Another incident, among many, which has led New York to where it is now: with metahuman registration soon to be the law of the land.

Not all the sordid details of IGH's downfall emerged fully into the public consciousness — certainly not much about the mysterious group that was responsible for outing them and taking them down, nor their connection to a man named Wilson Fisk — but given the current climate, the fact some of the executives involved are now finally being sentenced is newsworthy enough to get a run on the evening news.

It is a series of events, over a year in the making, which leads to this particular moment in front of the New York County Courthouse in Foley Square: late afternoon, a Friday, clear skies and moderate temperatures. The courthouse has the distinct appearance of a temple, due to the broad set of steps that sweeps up to the imposing Corinthian colonnade that dominates the front of the building. Topping the colonadde is a triangular pediment, with a quotation carved thereon:

THE TRUE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IS THE FIRMEST PILLAR OF GOOD GOVERNMENT.

"Wise words," muses Quicksilver, son of Magneto. "Very topical."

He and his twin stand in the crowd gathered in the square before the courthouse's steps, flanked by their people, all of them for the moment disguised by a hex down to nondescriptness. His hands are shoved in his pockets, his head lifted, blue eyes narrowed as he watches the man of the hour — Donald Kaminsky, former CFO of IGH — be escorted up the steps towards his sentencing hearing.

As the doors open to admit the man, Quicksilver exhales a breath.

"Go. Bring him down to me," he says.

He starts to walk, pushing through the crowd, up towards the base of those imposing steps. He does not speak aloud to his twin: for her there is only a thought. «Drop the lie. We will be seen for who we are.»


Frenzy looms near the Twins.

Close, but not too close so as to allow for some semblance of privacy for the leaders of The Brotherhood.

While disguised with that Hex, to nothing more than a mundane, Frenzy's eyes are still ever alert. There's no slacking on Frenzy's part. Disguised or not, she's ever alert. She keeps half of her attention upon the crowd around the group and then the other half of her attention towards Pietro and Wanda. Waiting for the word.

And then that word is given.

The man in question ascends those steps toward the open doors of justice and then true justice steps up.

"He's yours." Frenzy murmurs and then she moves to fulfill the Twins commands.

A look shifts to Neutron and as soon as Jo's eyes meets the younger woman's gaze she gives a subtle nod; silent communication. Ready. Set -

Go.

Now comes a flex of Joanna Cargill's legs and with the aid of her immense strength she leaps high upward and above the crowd. It might seem like she's flying with how far she travels as the leap takes her right into the cluster of men and women that are trying their damnedest to get Donald Kaminsky into the court house safely.

A shame that won't happen.

"Donald Kaminsky, you have been summoned for true justice this day. Tremble before it!" Intones Frenzy, First Lieutenant of the Brotherhood, and with an almost careless swipe she reaches over and grabs the man by the back of the neck. Then she lifts him up, allowing his feet to dangle in the air.

Her gaze and attention is solely on the man she now holds, completely unconcerned about the men and women that surround him or the possible retaliation they might make against her.


A hoodie and jeans melt away from the form of Lillian Lee as the hex disperses, and her response to Pietro's order is a look at Frenzy and return her nod. And then to leap. A strange sound wavers through the air as she sails through through it, low in pitch and escalating to the sudden, terrible crash of Neutron's frame against the steps with far more mass than her slender frame should provide. It craters the marble where she lands, wavers the footing of the escorts, and allows her to take hold of each man with prodigious strength.

There is no change to her expression, for hers is a cold rage, and with a yank she tosses each man sidelong, sending them each into cartwheeling spiral that ends with half a scream and a sudden crash.

As the police officers meant to work the media circus realize what is amiss and begin to draw their guns, Neutron takes fire, bullets flattening against her as Frenzy completes this part of the mission and Neutron advances on them all. Grabbing for a gun, she crushes it into the man's hand with a twist, blood and a few fingers splattering to the ground, and then throws his screaming frame towards two other police officers who thought to turn towards Frenzy, knocking them over like bowling pins.


She still remembers the first time a poor runaway from Virginia caught a glimpse of New York City. It was practically love at first sight. The scents, the colors, it was a sprawling concrete vista that couldn't be more different than the trailer parks she knew in Roanoke, and while most would claim that her love should make her all the more determined to preserve its peace, they would be wrong - in its heart, the city was chaos. If anything, whatever she has to do today is only in accordance with its true nature.

The courthouse is just one of the old-timey buildings that she loves and some part of her is determined not to damage it unless she absolutely has to, but whatever sentiment that might be there is inevitably secondary to the twins' demands. Situated in the crowd, the Scarlet Witch's blanket disguise gives her the nondescript look of one of the many gathered up the steps - a teeming amalgamation of protestors, law enforcement and press.

But the Brotherhood's people can see her for what she is, clad in a reddis-brown winter jacket lined with fur, over a soft blue plaid shirt left open over a black, midriff tube top, cut-offs pulled over black leggings and over-the-knee boots dyed in charcoal gray. A pair of aviators are perched on her nose, her blonde hair pulled in a loose, haphazard knot. It wouldn't be her without her earrings; today they are large rose gold hoops weighted down with Swarovski crystals - probably something new that she stole in one of her Fifth Avenue haunts.

With Pietro's order given, she moves up the stairs after Frenzy in an easy gait, pale fingers lighting up one by one with the familiar golden glow of her plasma. As the other woman plucks Mr. Kaminsky on the scruff like an unruly kitten, she absently rolls two dangerous orbs on the palm of her hand, pale blue eyes lifting towards Kaminsky's entourage.

"Sorry," she tells them with an easy smile. "You didn't really need him, did you? After all…" Her lashes lid; it makes her expression look languid and feline. "Weren't you all gonna let him go anyway?"

She says this while, in the background, Lilli does what she does so well. She seems particularly unfazed by the violence.

"So you have two choices. Do what I say and let it happen, or don't, and I get to be just as nice as Sugar and Friendly over here."


Wafting and coiling in a constant current, scarlet tracks leyline paths around Foley Square. Not seen — not yet — it can still be felt.

To psychics, to the ensorcered, it is like pressure behind the eyes, or an ache inside the teeth. Reality, itself, held in a dormant field, and braided with that chaos red all the way into its astral seams: the witch has her hands on the fabric's padlock, but has not yet turned its patient dials to force a new configuration.

For now, the glamour drops. And the nondescript faces in the crowd sharpen into the familiar shapes of known terrorists.

The Scarlet Witch, draped in her arterial-red dress and cloak, lowers its hood to reveal her face; dark, cold, and serene, her black hair shining with beads. As Quicksilver moves forward, as Frenzy, Neutron, and Boom-Boom see to the initial violence — she is the only one remaining still, taking it all in with her low-lidded red eyes.

The crowd disperses under the furor, and the first blood and misfired gunshots send civilian onlookers and bystanders in a fleeing panic. Only those remain are frozen there with shock, unable to look away.

The Witch pays them no mind.

"The judiciary is the will of the people," she speaks, voice clear, articulate. Every syllable controlled, as she was long taught. "We are the body of the state.

"And yet our voices go unheard. They convict and sentence this monster not because he murdered our kind. They punish him only for the shape of his design, and the gifts he carved off us to offer a new, manufactured race."

She looks up the steps, to her twin brother. "Tonight, we are all the forgotten tribunal. Tonight, we sentence a monster by our will."


Rachel is on the other side of the city when something feels wrong.

She doesn't always follow up on these premonitions. They're not really mystical or anything, as mystical as the Phoenix can sometimes be. Rachel understands them to be the equivalent of a person subconsciously noticing that something's off while consciously seeing nothing on which to blame their sudden unease. Like animals going quiet in the woods when a predator is nearby, or a friend coughing a bit too wetly before they're diagnosed.

When such things happen within the minds of people in a city as populous as New York, noticing it can feel a bit like witchcraft. Rachel has heard powerful psychics called mind witches before. She has been called one. Sometimes…

…sometimes it's all true. Sometimes, when you focus, you really do feel the panic. You find the source.

You see the Brotherhood.

The air shimmers as the Phoenix of Excalibur snaps into view, floating above the crowd in a halo of heatless flame, delivered straight from the astral plane. Rachel knows the sheer amount of metahuman firepower she's walking into. Protecting herself from being swiftly removed from action by Quicksilver or the Scarlet Witch alone requires layers upon layers of subconscious psychic triggers tied to defensive countermaneuvers. The twins, plus backup? It's suicidal.

Rachel has done dumber things in her short time on this world.

"You're making the same mistakes again!" she shouts, having heard the declarations through the eyes and ears of the crowd before she arrived. The redhead drops down into the scattering sea of people, space cleared for her by the doubled misfortunes of panicked people and an instinctive aversion to flame.

The fire winks out around her, dying down to sparks. Rachel is only a woman again: leather motorcycle jacket, yellow yank top, jeans tucked into work boots. Her gloved fists clench because she has to do something about the tension knotting inside her.


There's a saying about birds of a feather.

Rachel Summers came back to the States over a month ago. Over a month ago, Jean Grey flew out of a cocoon at the bottom of the Hudson.

Jean's sitting in a legal aid center in Mutant Town when unearthly fire begins to seethe within. If she's ever been gifted with premonitions from the Phoenix entity, Jean doesn't remember; instead, She speaks to the redheaded mutant through burning whispers, quiet urges, and temptations in a voice unsettlingly like her own. Spikes of negative emotion from minds in the vicinity are more familiar, but years of training have largely inured her to intrusions of that nature. When panic begins to sear itself into her psyche anyway, she at least has an educated guess as to why.

The suicidal, heartfelt determination thrumming in parallel to the panic, though— that is a curve ball. History's full of people repeating the same mistakes, isn't it? Jean doesn't have the luxury of pondering this sad, simple truth because it comes to her as the fire within begins to boil without, kissing the air with heat without marking the office around it. She's too busy snapping her gaze towards hands and legs wreathed in flame, too occupied with girding herself against alien emotions, with mumbling hasty apologies—

— with collapsing in on herself, leaving little more than a few wisps of white smoke behind—

— for theoretical philosophy because before she knows it, she's hovering above a practical debate. Psychic flames continue rippling over her body for several seconds more, burning away denim, a jacket, a scarf, and a 'FREE POE' t-shirt and leaving shimmering green and gold behind.

Rachel is not alone; suicidal imperative is a family affair, it seems.

Getting a replay would take precious seconds that the Brotherhood seems disinclined to give Kaminsky— or anyone who happens to be between them and him; the Phoenix of Westchester thus decides to pick a lane and focus, for the moment. She's too late to help the police being used for bowling practice, but she can erect bright magenta bubbles around other officers in sight, as a preventative measure.

Because she may not recognize all of the tribunal that's gathered here today, but she's known Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch since she was a girl; she figures it's a safe bet that if anyone needs protecting around the heirs to the Brotherhood, it's the police.

"This is absurd," she states, tense and wary and drawing her widened gaze between the twins. And Neutron, who she can't quite seem to help considering despite— because of? her unfamiliarity.


X-Gene detected.

Mutant registration: confirmed.

Billy Kaplan stares up at the ceiling of his room from his bed. He's noticed at least four different deviations in the way the paint dried that he never noticed before now. They stand out more than ever right now. Like things that don't really belong.

X-Gene detected.

Mutant registration: confirmed.

It bugs him. He's not sure why. He debates repainting the room — he's fairly sure there's some paint somewhere in the lower levels of the apartment — but right now, he just…

X-Gene detected.

Mutant registration: confirmed.

… he just can't find the will to get up.

The news is white noise to him for the most part as it plays out on his TV screen. But something catches his attention. Something he notices on the fringes of his attention span.

«"… the scheduled hearing for Donald Kaminsky, former CFO of the company, on counts of metahuman experimentation, is expected to take place…"»

Brown eyes shutter in a blink. Billy's gaze finally tilts away from the ceiling and its irregularities, to stare at the TV for a long, silent moment. He looks down at his hand. Dark brows furrow inward into a dawning knot.

X-Gene detected.

Mutant registration—

His door is slamming shut with an air of finality before he even manages to toss on his winter coat.

-*-

"… oh no."

Lost in the crowds, Billy Kaplan looks upon the dawning dramatic unveiling of the Brotherhood one by one, and realizes one thing:

He's made a huge mistake.

Swaddled in a red duffel coat, Billy takes a single step backwards as he bears witness to a very disastrous event in progress right before his eyes. He knows what he SHOULD do; he knows what he WOULD do, in any other circumstance. What he'd be eager to do, even. But he knows what's coming, even before it comes. He can feel her there before she's even there, without even knowing why, a ripple across his senses like a twang on a spider's web alerting him as the glamour fades and leaves…

"Oh no."

… the last two people he wanted to see right now.

He's not sure why he's here. He doesn't know what he's doing. A part of him screams at him to run. The rest tells him to stop being such a coward, and do what he knows is right.

But right now, Billy Kaplan just lingers in the growing panic of the fleeing crowd even as Rachel and Jean arrive, paralyzed by indecision. Paralyzed by fear.

X-Gene detected.

Mutant registration:

Paralyzed by a whole host of questions he just wants to scream and force answers for at the top of his lungs.

Confirmed.


It takes a few moments for everyone to realize just what is happening. Once they do, the crowd starts to scatter immediately, screams and intermittent shouts from the law enforcement present punctuating the cold winter air. Some brave members of the media linger, desperately filming or snapping pictures, even as they backpedal to try to get out of the way of ground zero.

Not that Quicksilver seems intent on mass destruction — this time. This time, there's only one target. With apparent full trust in the flanking Brotherhood as they circle around him, securing the accused, he walks up the steps with a deliberate slowness that — from him — is a grave insult.

The officers closest at hand to Kaminsky — those not already taken out — have their weapons leveled, but they're not equipped to handle a situation like this and they know it. Perhaps no one expected a threat of this level to take interest in a mere sentencing, though in retrospect the topic was not something the Brotherhood could ever have ignored. Backup is being called, but it'll take some time to arrive…

"He was here for his sentencing," one officer snaps back at Tabitha, though he doesn't dare fire with Frenzy grappling Kaminsky so close, "you lawless animals!"

But Kaminsky isn't going anywhere, that's for certain. With Lily and Tabitha holding off the closest officers as they try to engage, and Joanna holding him by the scruff, he's fully aware of his predicament. His initial struggles die down as shock sinks in. In the distance, the Witch speaks coolly, rendering judgment. And her twin brother steps up to deliver it, looking up to where Frenzy holds the man secured.

"Tonight," Quicksilver finishes his sister's words, "you will die." His right hand turns over in a silent request, and a scarlet hexblade winks immediately into his grasp. "One cut for every mutant you murdered. And I can be slow — "

There is a disturbance in the crowd. Quicksilver's head turns sharply to the shout of a familiar voice, the familiar sight of psionic flames. You're making the same mistakes again!

"I could say the same of you," he says, turning to stare across the panicking crowd. His eyes meet Rachel's. "Did you just come back from standing with Stark in the registration line?"

He might have said more, but the sudden arrival of another — and the protections she erects as she descends — stiffens his spine and turns his head up to where Jean hovers, wreathed in fire. Sometimes the longest of enemies end up wrapping back around into an odd sort of friendship: or into something like it, at least. A familiarity of shared experience. There is certainly half a second of hesitation when he recognizes her, a woman he once knew who died years ago — and is back again. To see that she is back is certainly different than just hearing of it.

"What's absurd is that you're spending your second chance doing the same exact thing, Jean," he replies, his voice short. "You died for them once, and they did not care. They will drag your children to be registered — and then to worse."

His eyes turn to his Brotherhood. "Keep them busy. I do not want to be disturbed in this."


Guns. Gunfire. Bullets.

None of it causes Frenzy to flinch. She knows what her body can handle and she also trusts in her fellow soldiers. She knows they'll protect her and keep her safe while she holds Kaminsky.

The cop that calls them lawless animals receives a slow head turn and a cold stare from Frenzy. "Animals." She spats, "No, you are the animals. Rabid creatures that need to be put out of their misery before you destroy everything good in this world."

Again Frenzy's eyes cut to Neutron, her look saying only one thing.

And then Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver speak and Frenzy listens. It's only as Rachel and Jean Grey appear that the Bruiser of the Brotherhood frowns - a vaguely thoughtful look.

Pietro's words of 'keep them busy' are barely needed to set Joanna Cargill on that particular path. Before she goes, however, she does do one thing. She tightens her hand around Kaminsky's neck for a few long seconds, cutting his air off with her grip, and only when he gets close to passing out does she allow him to fall /hard/ to the ground. "You will not be disturbed." She promises to Pietro.

Then the tall woman clad in red and gray steps past Quicksilver and looks to those nearby; Neutron, Boom-Boom, and then finally at Jean and Rachel.

"You will /not/ get through us."

And now Frenzy goes on the offensive and with a powerful stomp to the ground, the woman cracks the cement beneath her. It's now easy enough for her to rip up a large chunk of cement and earth and heft it upward. Then, like a would-be world-class pitcher, Frenzy leans backward slightly before she hurls the chunk of cement like a missile at Jean Grey.


There are some things that you never get used to. For Lily, it is the sudden reveal of another's powers, and as blazing fire consumes the heaven above in not one but two bursts, and verbal judgement rains down, she looks up with all reflected in her eyes with a subtle but obvious amazement, her pupils growing wide.

Then, the order comes. "I know how to keep them busy."

Her voice is such an understated thing, long devoid of the spark of life she had when she was just three years younger, and yet far more resolved. Her gaze shifts from Rachel to Jean, and then promptly to those shielded by Jean's protective field. And then she leaps. Roaring through the air, the invisible energies curling off of her body in her sudden exertion are enough to flicker phones and tickle the hairs on the arm, but are nothing compared to the raw power she will deliver to Jean Grey's will, more than sixty tons of force powering towards the horrified police officer she has shielded from her deadly attack while Frenzy attacks her head on.

She puts Jean Grey to the test. Puts these 'heroes' all to the test: I will kill them, if you do not stop me. The sound of force against force explodes outward as the physical will meets mental fortitude given physical form. And if the shield stands? Another punch. And another. Until she can kill this poor fool who dared stand in their way, or until she gets Jean Grey's undivided attention.


Against her current of scarlet — there is an undertow.

The Scarlet Witch's eyes unfocus. Their lenses go to a haze, cloudy with a moving, rolling haze of her red — as her senses momentarily evacuate the trapping of her flesh, reaching out astral fingers to run over the pulsing anomaly.

It beats life against her phantom nerves. Sameness. Difference. Variations to a constant. She has felt it before. She has known it before.

Slowly, mechanically, the Witch's head tilts, then begins to turn. Her vacant eyes creep through the crowd — running, dispersing — seeing through flesh and material nothingness, drawn irrevocably toward what calls her —

Her attention breaks an instant before her gaze finds Billy Kaplan. She could even be looking at him, in her hollowed-out, dead-eyed way, but she is not seeing. Not seeing when —

Rachel descends, and calls furiously out to them. Jean follows, and declares this absurd.

Celestial fire leeches off both of them, visible to the eye, and to the Scarlet Witch — the two of them are twin conflagerations, the permanence of the Phoenix wreathing an inferno that burns and billows, unimpeded, the same way throughout a thousand possibilities.

Memories of the fire that took her mother. Fire that burned her, too, as screaming mobs doused their begging, bleeding witch with gasoline.

But her father taught her control; Wanda's psychic barrage narrows, in an instant, to a pinpoint of composure. Scarlet runs between her curling fingers like filamented threads.

"Reach, Jean," implores Wanda, something in her voice that is almost sad — as much as she fears the elder Grey, she also seems to pity. "You may even hear the screams this man helpe make. This is your justice as much as ours."

Her words are few; her eyes are on her brother, as Quicksilver speaks. As Quicksilver commands. Her gaze hoods, transmitting something silent between them.

The Brotherhood heavies go for Jean Grey; Wanda's red eyes cut toward Rachel.

And the Witch begins to move, slow and decisive, though her body bears no aggression. "The pain I sense in you," she speaks. "Something else. Something — great. We can soothe your suffering…"

Scarlet burns from her; it reaches for Rachel, like a winding, ephemeral scarf, trying to press in — test weaknesses even on her phenomenal psychic defences. "Some possibility of you — out there — that might even want this — "


Rachel is not a speechmaker. She's a young woman without a GED and more experience yelling one-liners than crafting spontaneous rhetoric. The situation is immediately frustrating to her. The last time all of them talked, she left feeling defeated — like there was nothing she could do to cross the gap.

Within this context, one may perhaps excuse the tone of her response.

"I'm not registering and you're not helping! He's been convicted!"

And then the warmth. The warmth, and the pressure. Rachel, in a very tactically unsound decision, turns and looks up over her shoulder at the wreathed figure of Jean Grey. Her silent lips remain parted.

Jean is about as old as Rachel's mother was when last she saw her. It killed her when Rachel first saw her some weeks ago. It kills her now. There are no coincidences with the Phoenix. Only impulse given form. What impulse was this?

But there is never time for hesitation when Pietro Maximoff sets the schedule. Rachel's gaze flicks back to the Brotherhood as the ground shudders from being ripped open — Frenzy. She remembers. By the time she's lifting off the ground, fiery aura sparking around her anew, the woman she doesn't recognize is roiling with energy that she unleashes on one of Jean's TK shields. A cascade of whispers flutters unintelligibly through Rachel's mind, which she doesn't stop to interrogate.

«Are you okay?!» she sends to Jean, the controlled stress she's feeling even more obvious over telepathy. «If you can hold them, I'll push!»

Rachel's hair floats in a telekinetic updraft as she extends her reach outward, probing for hexes that may stop her from simply placing a barrier field around the Brotherhood's captive target. Unfortunately for team Phoenix, the first hex she runs into is Wanda getting emotional.

Things happen when Wanda gets emotional, Rachel recalls.

"It's not just our justice, Wanda! We can't just reach in and decide —"

The voice of the Scarlet Witch is a whispered promise carried on the wind. It is the gentle disguise behind which lurks a terrifying abyss of raw potential something. Rachel has felt this before, and it is the only thing she has experienced that makes her think she could understand how others see the Phoenix.

Rachel squeezes her eyes shut. The flames spark brighter around her, bursts of light outlining ephemeral wings. The hexpower slips through the planes of reality to seek the tower of will that composes a typical psychic's defenses — and finds only darkness and ruins. There is nothing to attack. No door to find. Only —

Rachel's psychic presence is like wolves. Shapes of her will flit from blasted nothingness to bleak emptiness, luring the press of the Scarlet Witch's power ever inward even as it becomes surrounded. Her power is to bleed the invader, to hunt even when hunted. And yet, and yet, she is younger in her power, and too emotional, and there is fear even now.

A touch of Wanda's power erodes a fraction of Rachel's defenses. The feedback scatters in all directions, offering brief illumination. There is something hidden beneath this facade. This is her first line, a trained defense that hides the true, desperate fortress of her mind. More than that, the scattering travels along the skeins of Rachel's possibilities, reaching out into the endless multiverse for everything she possibly could be…

"I DON'T WANT THIS!"

The astral landscape surrounding her mind quakes and suffers terrible upheaval. In the real world, a flare of flame blooms from her and vanishes. In that brief moment, Wanda could see: no tangled web, no nest of possibilities. Only a single, lonely thread, its past snipped away, its future untethered.

Rachel thrusts her arm forward. If not stopped, Kaminsky is going to stolen away into the air, courtesy of a telekinetic barrier.


"My name is Phoenix, Quicksilver."

The reminder rings through the air as loud and clear as a bell.

Not so long before Jean Grey died—

Not so long before the first time Jean Grey died, the X-Men and the Brotherhood came together to stop a religious zealot from turning an honorable man into an instrument of genocide. That mission and the brief spell of relative peace and understanding surrounding it make up her last memories of the Brotherhood as fellow travelers in a broken world, if not quite friends or enemies. For her, their underlying devotion to the people whose hopes and fears she could feel as keenly as her own when she dared to allow it always marked them as something other than monstrous, despite their methods. Something more than the 'evil mutants' feeding a humanity hungry for terror, the ones she was trained to contain in the hopes of starving that forbidden craving.

But monsters don't have a monopoly on murder, and their intentions couldn't be plainer. Whatever they might've been yesterday and will be tomorrow, the line in the sand is glittering and molten tonight.

"And I'm not planning on letting anyone die tonight. Murdering a man in the street won't do a thing to stop them from wanting us in chains and collars, Quicksilver— Scarlet Witch,"

Phoenix's narrow-eyed determination only briefly falters. 'Wanda' would be so much easier. Sigh; the perils of adopting a hard posture.

"use your heads. What do you think this will do? Make them forget that we scare them? Yes! He's a criminal many times over; this is still not just"

Her protest is punctuated with a chunk of cement. With her attention divided between magenta bubbles and attempting to mash Convince on the twins, a fine spray of powder winds up hitting her face when the makeshift missile drags to a narrow halt inches from her nose. Red hair whips madly out of control as massive amounts of kinetic energy bleed through the uncanny link between Frenzy's projectile and Phoenix's will. Unshakable resolve translated into terrible, familiar strength sends her rocketing over rooftops until she manages to arrest her momentum and—

"— aaah!"

Unlike the concrete - safely robbed of at least some of its inertia before it stopped and she had to contend with the rest - there's nothing between Neutron's fist and the magenta field but Phoenix's desire to keep her word. Whatever sixty tons of force is when converted to psychic units of measurement, the sash-wearing redhead feels it reverberate through the steel wall of her will. It hurts, but she grew up in the Danger Room; hurting is not new—

"Aaah— hhhngh— gggh- aaagggh!"

Hurting— is not— new.

Blood trickling from her nostrils under strain is not new. Jittering in the air, grasping for warm thoughts, sobering thoughts, loving memories— anything to shore up flagging defenses as magenta force begins to crack beneath impossible pressure… it's not new.

Neutron, however, is new.

And Neutron has the elder Phoenix's undivided attention. A gold opera glove thrusts towards the ground with curling fingers.

A chunk of cement like a missile hurtles towards Lily as she reels back for another punch— quite possibly the last she'll need. The woman whose vivid hair is still rippling wildly - now carried by psychokinetic currents rather than velocity - means to stop the punch from ever being thrown by trying to make the stellar mutant flinch from the threat of being splattered across the field she's assaulting by flying cement.

It's a bluff, of course, but does Neutron know that the urban rocket will stop with inches to spare between she and it? Is the hardened mutant willing to gamble for the cause?

Whatever the answer ends up being, the missile is due to detonate within moments of reaching its target; call it insurance for the House. Obscuring Neutron and Frenzy's vision with a cloud of fine, gray powder is a temporary measure at best with the twins in play, but it's more efficient than daring them to crack a crowd full of barriers.

«Are YOU okay?!» flares through astral space amidst the chaos.

Rachel is a stranger. Rachel is her daughter. The Phoenix's daughter. Their daughter? It's complicated, but one thing is clear:

Rachel needed her, and so she's here.

«Gonna— do what I can— but it's gonna be— messy—»


Rachel turns her attention towards the rescue of the convicted Kaminsky, her hand outstretched and threads of her power, intangible, invisible, curling around him. If not stopped, he'll be gone, or get killed by friendly fire. If not stopped, their demonstration would be for naught.

A plasma ball the size of a fist fires towards the mid-point where Rachel and Billy stand, but it doesn't impact. Instead, with a single snap, it explodes in mid-air; it doesn't do any visible damage, but what it does is unleash a wave of concussive force, enough to throw bodies off their feet if they don't react fast enough, and hopefully distract Rachel enough that Kaminsky drops back on the ground. With the rest of Kaminsky's posse neutralized in the courthouse, Tabitha Smith emerges from the building, taking a few steps down from the main building.

"Ahhh, what a mess," she says, adjusting her aviators on her nose. "Don't suppose it's too late for the 'bag over the head and toss him in a windowless van' plan?"

There are some familiar faces in the crowd, the two redheads capture much of her attention and for a moment, she hesitates. She does not know them, but she doesn't have to - the Brotherhood and the X-Men have clashed enough times in the past few years to make some of them well-known within the ranks. Jean, especially. There's a sideways glance towards the twins, and then towards the missile that goes sailing past. The cloud of dust erupts shortly after.

"Don't suppose they're just here to say 'hi'?" she wonders. "No? Okay, then."

Her hands spread in readiness, that dangerous golden glow emanating from her fingertips.


My name is Phoenix, Quicksilver.

The son of Magneto looks up, and his head cants. He regards Jean as she hovers in the air, wreathed in cosmic flame. There were times, in the past, not long ago, when the X-Men and Brotherhood cooperated, and those times made thin all the differences between them. They were fellow sailors fighting the same tide, then. It was easy to understand one another.

But in the end, it was always impossible to agree.

"Phoenix, then," he answers, and a door closes. For today — or for ever.

His head lifts to her words. "The point is not to stop them from wanting that. They will always want it. The point is to display what we will no longer tolerate.

"I do not want them to forget their fear." His father's words are coming out of his mouth. "I want them to know they have every reason to be afraid of what their actions will bring."

He turns his back. His attention reroutes back to Kaminsky. Don't suppose it's too late for the 'bag over the head and windowless van' plan? Tabitha wonders. "No," Pietro grits. "They need to see it. He always said, whether you succeed or fail — they always need to see it."

His voice is taut. Psychic senses might sip something off him almost like desperation. Here is something beyond just zealotry. Here is a son trying to prove something to a father he may never see again.

Quicksilver moves. The shape of him blurs briefly into indistinctness, for half a second. Kaminsky screams, as much in surprise as in sudden pain. A cloud of blood wisps into the cold winter air.

Half a second later, it is over, and the man wears open wounds on his face, his neck. They will not heal cleanly. They will scar. But of course — that won't matter, in the end.

"Ten," says Quicksilver, as the edge of his blade weeps blood. "And we have a long way to go, yet. You should have thought about this before you killed so many of us — "

He cuts off as a barrier starts to snap into being between him and Kaminsky. In his accelerated perceptions, he can practically see the warp and weft of the telekinetic power form its intricate weave around the man, jerking him skyward. Tabitha reacts, trying to distract Rachel from dragging Kaminsky away, and Pietro?

With a snarl, Quicksilver reverses the hex-blade in his hand and slams it point-first into the barrier. There is a horrible half-instant of feedback as the probability field of the blade interacts with the barrier and cancels out. The weapon explodes in a cacophonic shriek of unraveling reality, which tries to take the barrier with it as it collapses into nothingness.

The one saving grace is that Quicksilver is knocked back against one of the pillars by this, temporarily disarmed.


The game shifts into high gear.

Whether Frenzy shares those former warm feelings from 'long' ago, when Brotherhood and X-Men worked together, is hard to say. Her expression is all business. This isn't time for walking down memory lane, or allowing softer feelings to prevail.

Pietro and Wanda have given her and the rest of them a task and that task is all there is.

The Strong-arm of the Brotherhood sees Phoenix stop her cement projectile and Joanna Cargill frowns.

She readies herself to move again, to possibly leap upward at the Phoenix, that sits so loftily in the sky, but several things happen very close together that stops her -

Lily is targeted by the Phoenix, Rachel reaches for Kaminsky, Boom-Boom deploys a concussive blast, a cloud of cement dust blooms, and a hexblade screeches in dissonance.

It's enough that Frenzy finds herself blinded by the particles of cement and some of her senses overwhelmed by the rest of the attacks nearby. And while it stops her from leaping upward at the Phoenix, it doesn't stop her from still adding to the general noise and furor of the day. Clasping both her hands together, Frenzy raises them high upward and then slams them down hard into the ground. She may currently be blinded by the dust cloud, but she recalls just where Rachel was standing moments before, and now a crazed zig-zag of a line stretches out from Frenzy's point of impact as a focused 'earthquake' rattles over towards Rachel.


They say when you're young and think you're invulnerable, you don't have a care in the world. Lillian is young and mostly invulnerable, and she still chances a glance to her side to see the missile coming. How has her resolve been tested? She let a car hit her once. Let bullets dance upon her skin like raindrops might on anyone else. She's walked through fire and taken a punch from Frenzy and survived. And yet there is more than cement flying at her, there is legend. As little as Neutron might know about all the tangled history between the X-Men and the Twins, she knows the power of Jean Grey, the power of a legend. For anyone else, she would take it. She would kill this man and let Jean know failure, but her legend draws worry and makes her pivot, to turn that drawn punch back and bring it's terrible momentum towards the cement block.

It's a stupid move, for someone who might fear what kind of speed Jean is capable of, because it might rip her arm off, but Lillian has had far less time than the others to learn such things. Now she leans about deception, the fine dust turning into a monumental cloud, blinding and disabling. For others, it might be choking. As awkward as it has sometimes been for others to notice her lack of respiration, she knows how fortunate she is in this moment that she need not breath. And yet she is not sure what to do. Flail wildly? Try to track down their prey, as another tries to ript hem away?

Somewhere there is a concussive blast, ringing through the cloud, but it doesn't make it better. She falls to one knee, apparently taking some of the brunt of it, and then calls out. "Boomy, that you?" Lily can only hope, but the blast and dust and then the sudden shattering of a hexblade along with Frenzy's vicious stomp sends her mind racing. It is all escalation, and her former plan may no longer work.

Desperate times cause a desperate measure, and where her hand touches the ground particulate begins to swirl. Soon the dust itself swirls, a side effect of Neutron digging deep to call upon a power she has never tested on the field of battle. The ground rumbles and vibrates in the aftermath of Frenzy's stomp, an odd sound of gravitational curvatures colliding against one another rumbles through the air.

Then Lillian Lee blasts off and sends that obscuring cloud scattering to the wind, her sudden explosion skyward sending her as a fist-first Rocket towards the Phoenix, oblivious to how the battle was going, and throwing everything she's got at a legend in the sky for fear of what Jean might to do to the only family she has left.


There are things Billy Kaplan is still trying to adjust to. The tremor of psychic assaults on a plane he scarcely even knows exists except for the things he's read in ESPedia(.org) is really just the tip of the iceberg.

But when it's hammering at his senses like ten tons of dynamite, well, it weighs pretty heavily on his mind.

This, if he were to be hyperbolic (which he could possibly be, sometimes (shut up)), is not exactly the first thing he senses, however. The first thing he senses is someone sensing him. He knows who it is instantly, because it's like like using the keys to your home to unlock a door only to find out after you're inside that this is not your house, and that was not your door, and feeling the dissonance of that all come crashing in. A wrong note, in harmony with yours. That single sensation that lets you know…

she sees you

His blood runs cold. Instantly, Billy is at war again with his impulses, wanting to run away and throw himself headfirst into the madness all at once. It manifests only in the tiny tremors of his fingers. His legs feel like rubber, his knees like padlocks. He feels like he's in a nightmare where he can't run or call for help, only let out choked, helpless sounds. He hates feeling helpless. Powerless. He's felt like that too much his entire life. And now —

— and now, as Jean Grey — as THE Jean Grey, isn't THE Jean Grey dead?? but no wait, he read that Hero Finder app that said she came back or something and somehow that's weirder to him than making things spontaneously happen just because you asked for it often enough — and Rachel Summers — isn't Rachel Summers in Britain? Does she know Captain Britain? He seems like an asshole but Billy feels like he could fix him —

seeing them fearlessly wade into the fray sparks something inside of him. Something inspired. Something defiant. Something hopeful, seeing two bastions of mutant rights trying to -protect- people. Something surges inside of him.

… something that grows just a shade desperate as he feels that psychic flare blossom like a supernova on the astral plane in a surging upswell. He sees a burning ball of plasma, and for a second, he conflates the two, thinking something is just up and making a giant star explode right there at the courthouse. He lashes out blindly; a shield of blue shimmers around him, the explosion /shattering/ across its half-formed surface in a way that decimates it as it simultaneously hammers its wrath into his head.

"gnUH!" spits out Billy, his mind a raw nerve of fear and hope and anger and ANGER and —

"bindbindbindbindbind"

… and will to make the concrete beneath Tabitha's start to melt like butter and lash out in tendrils for her ankles, for her wrists, before beginning to solidify fast — fast — to attempt to bind her in place, should she not move fast enough — at the very least? It should distract her long enough for Rachel to be able to focus and not slaughter his head even more. That would be great.

"You're not hurting ANYONE. And I—"

He's terrified. He's upset. He's confused. He's about ninety percent sure he could just wish all of them ceased to exist and is that something mutants do he doesn't want to be able to do that but the option is there and he can see it —

"I."

But most of all, as he lifts off the ground, as blood drools from his right nostril, as blue light washes over his clothes to transform it into his heroic, cosmos-studded garb to spectacular, stellar effect…

"Have. Questions."

… he just can't let things lie. Not ever.


As the Phoenix insists only on her resurrected name — Quicksilver accepts, and goes cold.

Ever a mirror of her twin brother, the Scarlet Witch does the same. That searching look in her red eyes, the pity — snuffs like a hand closing over a flame.

And speaking of flames — she turns her wicked sights on Rachel, and with her gentle, careful force — attempts to push her way deep through psychic straits, where the untapped wellspring waits.

Born of violent blood, the Scarlet Witch none of Magneto's physical brutality; none of Pietro's razored, bladed sharpless. She is something else, and feels like a seeping anaesthesia, heralded in by a thousand soothes. Hers is a timeless patience, like falling snow, like a surgeon's precise cuts — meant to endure, meant to suffer out time.

Time, and so much else.

The landscape eats away at her. It is all painful; the snapping wolves — the hunting hounds — rending pieces away of her focus. In the real world, Wanda's curling hands quiver, but her eyes do not blink. She is used to pain. After Pietro, torment is her second-oldest friend.

She pares it down to that thread — and there, the Witch witnesses. A constant. Rare things. It draws her closer. Her astral hands beg to touch, even as the rest of the torrent rends an rips her apart. The glimpse is long enough, and she reaches. If she could touch, could sing to it, just a little —

Something pulls on her. Wanda turns one eye, and it's enough, and Rachel's psychic armaments tear her free. Forcibly ejected, she staggers, the scarlet faltering briefly from her hands, her mind lit with pain. She comes to as the battle still wages, and realizes what distracted her: Pietro, going for the retreating Kaminsky.

Wanda pulls herself together, and reacts. When her twin rends telekinesis with chaos, she catches him, softening his inertia and yielding his landing with trailing wisps of scarlet. She exchanges a glance with him: he must do this. He must complete this. She will make it happen.

— and turns. Her attention moves over the Phoenix, wary of her, engaging her locked in her own battle. And then — him.

Wanda's red eyes churn, their lenses crawling with living scarlet, as they fix on Wiccan. He of his stars, and cape, and — memory. Her touch. Her shape. He whispered as she did, and slid into her mind. Who is he? What is he? And why?

Red braids into blue, attempting to switch probabilities. Chalk, whispers reality against Billy's power, as the cement entwining Boom-Boom tries to gain its properties — as brittle, as breakable.

A voice speaks up at Billy's left. "You dress a witch. You speak a witch. You wish to be like us?"

The Scarlet Witch's hands sphere living red. Her eyes empty with smoking light. "BECOME."

Reality bends around Billy: it twists and reforms, as it no longer is cement and freedom, but the feel of splintered wood, chains, and unimagineable heat. She attempts to bind him as thus: the condemned witch on the pyre, as stacked wood wobbles and chips, billowing up choking smoke, fanning flames. And the Scarlet Witch's clear, cold voice: "IS THIS YOUR WISH?"

Her eyes turn. Her own power moves her dark hair. Her eyes find her brother, compelled always to look at him, be one with him. As Wanda requests: "Boom-Boom… yes."


The feeling of the Scarlet Witch caressing the edges of her astral self is precisely what motivated Rachel to throw her out in a panic. The falling numbness of anesthetic, the dull press of a scalpel on barely-conscious flesh: these are feelings that Rachel remembers and will always remember. They are not feelings that she is ready to confront.

Between the distraction and the sudden surge of strength, Rachel finds herself free — for the moment — of the touch of unbecoming. What she sees in the real world does not hearten her. The moments blur together, Jean and Pietro clinically agreeing on Phoenix and Quicksilver, Kaminsky screaming as his face is slashed, the ground quaking beneath her telekinetically-lofted feet. Rachel zips to the side to avoid the upheaval of ground, taking pressure moments for her as she tries to process too much at once.

«I don't know!»

That is her only reply to Jean. She meant to say 'working on it.' It's what she would have said to Excalibur. It just… came out wrong, for reasons Rachel can't examine right now.

Right now is saving a life. Rachel splits enough of her attention away from her own psi-triggers to secure Kaminsky, only to be immediately rewarded by one of those many nagging things she chose to ignore blow up in her face. This is a very literal blowing up in her face because life isn't great for team X right now. The concussive blast from Tabitha's distraction (just a distraction?!) wraps visibly around a TK field, filling Rachel's view with explosion and giving her enough of a shock to throw her off her game plan. Diagonal was clear — wasn't it? It was! Unseeing, she wills Kaminsky to fly upward at what she hopes is a safe angle.

The explosion is brief enough that Rachel gets to see the result of her decision: Pietro going in for the dunk with a hexblade. Rachel to hurl Kaminsky in another direction, but who flows faster than Quicksilver?

Even without the Phoenix, Rachel Summers is capable of exerting enough telekinetic force to stop a citywide orbital bombardment from a Shi'ar capital ship. The field is eaten in a messy, blink-and-you-miss-it brushfire of angry red. Rachel looks on, unable to fully hide the horror from her face, the way it widens her eyes and splits her lips.

Her relevant thought is at least easier to metabolize than some of the others she's had this fight: FUCKING HEXES.

Rachel glides backward, strengthening her personal TK field as she tries to summon up once again the part of her mind that wants to put a barrier around Kaminsky. It feels… numb, when she tries. Her heart beats faster as her body gives in to panic that her mind is trying to ignore. She can't let the Scarlet Witch—

Rachel glances between Wanda and Billy, uncomprehending. She recalls Wiccan from the time she helped the Avengers take out that Hydra base, but the strange vibe passing between the two mystics is incomprehensible to her. Fortunately for Kaminsky, the grim reality of being one of the X-Men is that Rachel is comfortable letting an 18 year old throw down with one of the world's most dangerous terrorists. She's seen Billy handle himself before. She hopes she'll see it again today.

«Wiccan!» Rachel's voice pops into his mind as she adds him to the psi-link. The sparks around her burst into a winged conflagration once more, her face obscured in shadow save for the sullen glow of her eyes and those strange slash marks. «I'm going to try getting Kaminsky out of here — call in the psi-link if you need help!»

Rachel explodes forward in a fiery line drive, the air rippling around her as she clears the way forward with a telekinetic push away. Such is the fineness of her control that the field misses Kaminsky, meaning that, unless stopped, she will in short order be sweeping him into her personal TK field and gaining altitude.

Going up didn't work so well for her last time, but it's still her best trick in this scenario because she's really, really hoping that Quicksilver can't run on air.


Quicksilver's words to her has Tabitha turning towards his silver-haired figure, lips parted to say something, but with Lilli calling for her, whatever she has to reply remains tabled, for now. "Yeah, Lilli," she says with a faint smile. "I'm here."

And sinking, apparently, when the ground underneath her starts to shift. The young woman turns at that, and tries to get away, dashing towards the other side of the street, but cement suddenly rises from underneath her like an eldritch thing from the deep, solidifying as it curls around her ankles. The forward dash and the sudden stop has bone snapping on her left leg by the ankle, her other giving way and leaving her sprawling sideways. She bites back a shriek of pain.

But the momentary bondage doesn't last - Wanda's presence is there; years being part of the twins' circle has enabled her to familiarize herself with the feel of the Scarlet Witch's powers, and she tastes it in the air before she even sees brilliant, glittering red filaments swirl over the cement shackles that weigh her down. The particles break as she levers herself upwards, her left leg useless. Situated on her knees, she shakes her head in an effort to clear it off the pain, shoving her right foot down and forcing herself upwards.

She is accustomed to broken bones. Has charted most of her life through the affliction of every break. Blue eyes glistening with tears of pain, her pale expression twists from easy to furious….

…emotions that find their encouragement in Wanda's words as she tells her yes.

Plasma marbles coalesce into being - small, seemingly insignificant glowing objects that swirl around Tabitha as they rise into the air like tiny suns. Her fingers spread as they fire across the way, shooting towards Rachel, towards Jean and Billy, scattering across their targets and some in seemingly random directions. As they streak across the air, their sizes shift. Some smaller, some bigger as she mentally calculates the specific yield she wants. Unless they're intercepted, unless they're batted away…

"Boom," she whispers.

What happens is a barrage of golden fire, these ephemeral grenades pelted viciously and mercilessly by the Brotherhood's expert demolitionist to those that are currently trying to stop them. To add to the confusion, some of them fall, embedded on concrete, the side of buildings, waiting for their mistress' command to set loose the incredible amount of damage she is capable of. She does not do this yet, her focus are the three mutants that have dared to interrupt the present proceedings. And that poor Kaminsky, flying in the air that he is, amidst the airborne minefield she had just created…


«We have this, Rachel.»

A closed door threatens to freezes shut.

«We have to have this.»

Jean hears the same words she's heard a hundred times over in broad strokes, but they aren't quite the same, are they? It's not their content or speaker — of course those differ: it's a different time, a different place, a different man from those hundred other occasions.

It's the need trailing from them— and it isn't until the Witch mirrors her brother's chill that the woman who insisted on being called Phoenix properly feels it. Violence and desperation freely roil around the courtyard, but the more empathic twin's shift renders Quicksilver's own zealous strains a white-hot beacon in the tundra. Jean draws a sharp, shuddering breath in the wake of her concrete-hurling/bursting gambit and snaps big, green eyes towards— nothing, of course. Billowing dust and flickering after-images, of course—

Kaminsky screams and the terror of a sinner facing Judgment collides with a psyche already troubled by hard choices and harder Brotherhood enforcers.

Jean echoes it and the horror of a impending death she may be unable to stop, mixed with regret for whatever it is she may have just thrown away for the dreams of a dead(?) man ripples through just about every other psyche.

«NO!"

Jean Grey floats, screams, and clutches her skull.

Jean Grey stands near Kaminsky and Quicksilver, lunging for the latter as he prepares to slam and she protests— unfazed by concussive waves and choking dust. Swift as thought, she tries to grab his shoulders and squeeze— to focus a human gesture of support through mutant psychokinesis.

"Pietro, PLEASE— this is POINTLESS! Think— THINK!» she pleads, voice warbling between natural and extrasensory ranges. Refracted orange and magenta tones give welling eyes a distinctly unnatural sparkle. «Remind them to fear us today, and they'll try to hit us harder the next time! Hit them back, and they'll— they'll just— God! This won't solve ANYTHING! This won't HELP ANYONE! This won't bring him back, Pietro…!"

"This— » She swallows a shudder before whispering, «This won't bring either of them— "

Jean Grey floats and stands; screams and pleads; clutches her skull and desperately grasps for common threads.

And all the while, Lillian Lee reaches deep within, seeking the power to establish her own legend by felling another. Launching fist-first through swirling dust, Neutron explodes

— and learns that while one punch might not be enough, it's an excellent start.

The psychic figment of Jean vanishes an instant before she can finish her whispered appeal. Meanwhile, the real one rockets right along with the angle of Neutron's blow. Tightly-woven telekinesis saves her from decapitation, but the Brotherhood's young star still draws a fresh spray of blood from a nose that's now broken. The world itself shrieks in torment and a protective devoir brings ancient flames rolling over her body. Last ditch psionics save her from crashing through an office window, but only just, leaving her reeling and burning with inches to spare between herself and nightmarish headlines. A single syllable and an array of gold balls draw her limbs in and her mind out in a protective field that cracks and struggles to reform with each new blast.

None of this is conducive to tracking the strange, perilous reunion between Witch and Wiccan, but trailing inspiration, defiance, and hope trickle into her being just fine. Buoyed by faith great enough to bring a scared teen into a warzone, green eyes and a mutant mind frantically track until—

«… Neutron,» sharply reverberates between the woman's ears while a gold-gloved fist trembles. «What you're doing here tonight is going to get more of us killed


The violent blood of Magneto flows true in his children. Both twins go cold, raised to this, inured to pain as long as the mission remains uncomplete. Or at least, to most forms of pain. But there is one thing he was never able to break out of either of them: their codependency on one another. Pietro is flung back, and Wanda immediately splits her power to dampen his impact. Wanda staggers, and Pietro is immediately distracted, taking his eyes off the firefight, lending her his strength to reinforce her own.

Her fixation on Wiccan, too, distracts him. He recognizes the boy too — the young man who seemed so drawn to his sister. For half a moment, as he pushes himself back to his feet, his attention is consumed by their interaction. The flames reflect in his blue eyes.

Then a very different set of flames comes crashing towards him, in his moment of distraction. Rachel blows past him in a storm of telekinetic fire, sweeping the very unfortunate Kaminsky into her orbit and yanking him again into the sky. The man expresses his gratitude for the rescue by screaming, quite a lot, because humans weren't meant to fly — much less fly that fast in a sheath of psionic flame. The erupting explosions of Tabitha's powers bring him to writhe desperately in Rachel's hold, trying to avoid them — not trusting her invisible and fantastical powers to defend him.

Rage flickers in his eyes, as his body coils like a cheetah gritting in its claws. He might not be able to fly, but he can leap very far with the benefit of his momentum, and he's a split-second from doing so when Jean Grey is suddenly in his face, in his head. Her hands take his shoulders. For a moment, arrested by the psychic reverberation of her denial and her plea, he does not move after Rachel.

His temporarily-open mind is a warren of emotion down which Jean can trek. It is a place of lonely, ascetic corridors and the simple pain of an overworked child; of expectations which constantly sit just out of his reach or ability to meet. There is one keystone in his mind which she can touch with her psychic senses: the thought of it is pulled to the forefront by her plea. When he comes back, and he sees what I have done, will he be proud?

It lasts a moment. Then his mental landscape grows chill. Scarlet crawls its web all across the plain of his mind, and a thousand chthonic eyes turn on Jean Grey. A single cold thought replaces all the rest: What will he do if he comes back, and I have failed?

Jean receives one last striking mental imprint from Pietro before her psychic figment vanishes: the cold sensation of metal against his chest, and a steel response: "We will hit them until they stop. If they do not stop, then we will keep going until there is ONLY US."

His eyes sweep the field and fix on Tabitha — Tabitha and her broken left ankle. His gaze tracks back to Rachel, already almost out of his range. To Tabitha. There is a decision point here, one which Magneto has tried to beat into his son over the years, against Pietro's base nature.

Frustration flames in his eyes as he turns and makes a choice. The massive crack of the sound barrier breaking heralds him leaping from zero to several thousand miles per hour. He skims up the facade of the court building in a streaking leap, turns at its apex, and launches into the sky like a hypersonic projectile, aiming to grapple Rachel back out of the sky with a collision packing a couple hundred million joules of kinetic force.

Because tackling a flaming telekinetic is smart. But Pietro is running on desperate, right now, and has given himself one last ditch effort.


As Neutron streaks through the sky her determination is as steadfast as her incoming fist, despite hearing her friend below cry out in pain, and the reward of connecting to a legend does indeed bring her some small measure of pride it is fielded with a grimace. Orders first. Keep them busy. If only her pride had to do with Jean more, and with her previous failures less. Only now does she truly live up to her training, her mentors, and her cause. And yet, Jean survives. While Lily might not have been intending to murder the woman, she would not have cared if she did. When she throws her arms out to try to and slow her progress skyward, it whips her about hair streaming in the air behind her as she tries to survey this ever-chaotic battlefield, or even track where her intended target went to.

Then it happens.

A voice in her mind.

It makes her grab her head, squint against the pressure of a voice not her own as she tries to right herself against the WRONG of that invasion. Seeing her there, wreathed in flame, not far enough away that she couldn't power towards her and try to make her stop intruding her mind forever, and seeing blood gush from her nose makes her want to do it even more.

"Show your belly to them if you want, lady. I used to hate mutants enough to know that expecting mercy from these monsters is not an option. They're going to kill us all anyway, unless they know we'll kill them right back when they try."

As much as she'd like to follow up by powering the Phoenix through a building, she looks to the battlefield instead, and takes aim not at Rachel, but the man she's swept up in her wake. She remembers what not following orders got her last time, and this time she powers towards the man, intent on wrapping his legs - and the telekinetic field around them - in a crushing hug. Sure, she might break them if she gets ahold of them. But he doesn't need his legs to stand trial, to take a thousand cuts and die a slow death. She does not see Quicksilver move, or his sudden break for Rachel, nor will she realize that if she has any success at all, it will likely be due to his attack, and not her own.


Eyes ignite with blazing blue light. Threads of sapphire probability weave between fingers. And every. Single. Inch. Of Billy Kaplan. Looks furious. Confused. Desperate. He is not in the right frame of mind for this. He shouldn't be here. He's going to make everything worse. You're going to make everything worse, Billy—

"shut up" he whispers, voice cracked beneath his breath, head shaking in a desperate bid to free himself from his damning thoughts —

«Wiccan!»

Which now have a guest.

"What??" he says at first, because this is his first time, ever, in the history of ever, dealing with someone else in his thoughts, speaking into his brain. It instantly distracts him from his reverie, at least, as wide blue eyes fade once more towards brown, gaze snapping towards Rachel in the distance. They've fought together, more than once — but it's still something that takes him aback. Fighting. Alongside the X-Men. The X-Men.

A part of him starts to think, would they be able to understand

«I-I mean — right. Right. I will. I'll — I'll make a distraction for you. Just…»

A thousand thoughts run through his mind.

Please, don't leave me here with the Brotherhood. I don't know what I'll do.

Please, I don't think I'm good enough to even be here, much less help any of you.

Please, help me.

I don't know what I am.

Please —

«-Please, be careful!»

It's only then that Billy turns.

And sees that cement, growing brittle as —

Chalk.

Billy Kaplan's blood runs cold. His gaze turns… and they fall upon the Scarlet Witch, just to his left.

In an instant, a wellspring of conflicting feelings spring up nakedly in those all too expressive features of Billy's. A war of uncertainty that seems to define everything about what Billy Kaplan is at this moment to a quantum level paints up his behavior as he pivots on his heel —

BECOME.

— a moment too late.

He can feel the chains, first. How cold they feel, and yet how rapidly they warm up until they are scalding at his flesh. And it's only then he notices it. The smell of crackling wood and smoke, the heat of flames. The binding of a witch's pyre. Brown eyes widen. Horror sticks in his throat like a cold lump.

He's stuck — trapped in a possibility — reality working a cage of potential around him — why is this so familiar — why does it feel like he could just reach out and grab the thread and unravel it all — it hurts, it hurts so much — is he going to die here? — is she going to kill him? why would she do this, she's his mo

NO!"

It's like feedback. A backlash when two of the same wavelengths act at precisely the same time. Cerulean winds through crimson.

"This isn't me!!"

And reality takes his words, his intent, and acts on it. The feedback rips through the flames, unthreading the heat like a tacky sweater unraveling at the seams. The chains begin to loose. But it's more than that. Desperation takes it so much further. If this isn't Billy Kaplan — if this isn't them —

— then what is?

Ripples of possibility rebound between the Witch and the Wiccan (not actual). What is, what could be, what has been in other places. History that isn't theirs becomes it for slices of lost time layered over their own. Memories unbidden.

Of baby twins, cherished by their mother.

Of a cruel devil, stealing them away.

Of a red witch and her brother, standing side by side with great heroes.

Of a young Jewish boy, who all those threads of possibility ricochet back into —

Fragmented possibilities — flash in the pan probability — all of them vapor, barely lasting a moment as reality revolts around them. Cars become cats. Fire hydrants explode, spewing deluges of flowers. Cement becomes mud.

Billy can't understand any of it. It all comes too fast to be parsed. He just stares at the Scarlet Witch, as if trying to wrap his head around what she is — what he is. He already came here with his entire world turned upside down, and he just wanted to know if they knew what he was, and now, and now —

— he's not sure why, but right now, he just wishes his mom was here.

Boom.

The ensuing explosion knocks him out of the sky in a rippling expulsion of unraveling potentials. He only has time to make a noise of surprise that barely makes its way onto the psi-link before he goes falling, hitting ground shoulder-first with an ugly, rebounding CRACK.

You're going to make everything worse, Billy.


In that single, psychic glance — the landscape of the Maximoff twins opens to Jean Grey.

And within it, the reality that the brother and sister, always dependent on each other, their paths intersected in a million ways… transcend far beyond blood ties. With the Witch's power, and Quicksilver's acquisence, their minds are bound together in her scarlet thread — forging old, foundational bridges to link thought with thought.

And as Quicksilver protects his sister in the real world, the Witch protects her brother in those far more ephemeral: enough that trespass earns the glance of a million red eyes. Trigger threads cross every so way, linked to errant memories, tied to persistent thoughts, and the sister's presence slithers among them. The spider does not like to be disturbed in her web.

Those same moments, Wanda freezes in place, eyes on Billy Kaplan — but no longer seeing. Her head tilts a subtle angle. Listening to something else.

The Phoenix, projecting herself close to Quicksilver — is treading dangerous ground.

Scarlet flickers at the Witch's hands. Two fingers curl on her left hand —

— and it ends, ends with Pietro's fierce confirmation, and Wanda's presence moves soothingly through his mind.

Her attention reasserts, as Billy Kaplan suffers the heat of her burning pyre. Fire reflects against the lenses of her eyes. No fury in them. No indignation. Only the cold patience of her father, reborn in his children, and the mirrors of the lessons he so taught.

Lessons the Scarlet Witch will now impart. If the boy wishes to be a witch, then he must suffer as one.

"You hear them," she says. Or her voice: it mantles Billy, licking up like the fire. "The whispers speak to you. You bear my curse. But it's not complete, child, without our pain."

Even in these moments, Wanda forgets Kaminsky. Who is this boy? WHAT is this boy? He feels like a second nexus, and —

This isn't me!

Wanda looks on, stricken, engrossed, her eyes seeing probabilities turn through a force not her own. Billy unmakes the pyre, and redresses reality to his chaos —

— and she is staring at herself, thirteen, howling with confusion and devastation, unable to see, unable to feel, unable to know. She cannot recognize her world, cannot even find Pietro through its knots, and the deluge is pulling her in. She can't breathe, she can't control it, make it stop, make it stop, MAKE IT STOP —

Meanwhile, Billy wishes. He wishes — his mom was here.

The scarlet at Wanda's hands shimmers, and tinges violet.

Rachel's telekinetic hit, swiftly and powerfully PUSHING danger from Kaminsky, catches Wanda in its torrent. Too busy staring at Billy's creations, she is thrown away, momentarily lost within the initial plumes of Boom-Boom's explosive symphony.

As Billy sprawls along the concrete, footsteps converge on him. Heeled shoes stop, close by.

A woman gently folds herself down to her knees. She is Wanda Maximoff. She is not Wanda Maximoff. She is not slender, ornate, and with those cold eyes; taller, stronger, the woman looks down warmly, reaching out to touch Billy's face. She tenderly takes his chin in her fingers.

"No wishes, Billy," Wanda tells her son. "Only your will."

Her fingers twitch. Realities shift. And the Scarlet Witch returns, pulling back her hand as if scalded, retreating, trembling against the hex. Her voice is broken glass: "WHAT ARE YOU?!"


COMPLICATION THE FIRST: Rachel's TK push field and psychic flame did not dissuade Neutron from tackling herself into Kaminsky's legs anyway. She realizes this a moment after blasting off into the air, which is a good reason to develop a sinking feeling that will be useful later. Her first reaction is shock that someone plowed in like that, of course, but in retrospect it will be the sinking feeling she remembers.

Rachel travels straight up, leaving fiery sparkles of flame in her wake as she goes. A woman with ten times the mass she should have is a burden, but not one that cannot be surmounted with increased exertion.

Being near Rachel without her permission is not a pleasant experience. Apart from the repulsion effect of her TK field, psychic flame does not burn flesh but minds. That doesn't just mean pain receptors. It hurts in a deeply emotional way that is a unique experience for everyone, due to the astral plane being a backdoor to the subconscious. It is not a kind thing to do to a person, but it's better than flesh boiling off.

COMPLICATION THE SECOND: Boom-Boom is peppering the sky with explosions. Rachel has far, far too much going on to weave through all of them, especially not when they're thrown with experienced maliciousness. On the plus side, Rachel ate one concussive blast to the face earlier and is now prepared to eat more. The fiery bubble around her is shown in clear relief as she is pummeled pinball-like between the, well, booms as she tries to escaping booming distance. Her will vibrates like a tense machine driven too hard.

Once free, Rachel spins midair, exchanging positions with Kaminsky so he's more above and she's more below, though she takes care not to come within Neutron's kicking range. Her eyes narrow — forming flaming slits — as she looks upon the woman with the cosmic gaze of a more-experienced soul.

…huh.

Like a star.

COMPLICATION THE THIRD: Hi, sinking feeling. Good to see you again.

Quicksilver rams into her at mach a billion, which isn't quite orbital bombardment class. That's okay, though, because Rachel is not having an orbital bombardment kind of day.

Pietro spends only a fraction of a moment within the psychic flame of the Phoenix aura. He also spends only a fraction of a moment against the TK repulsion field, but that's probably going to be the one that leaves a mark. The impact of the two is a thunderous KRACKA-THOOOOM that in a more literal world would be written across the sky. The four figures go flying in separate directions as the field bursts from surprise and overexertion, causing a chaotic mishmash of telekinetic pushes and pulls: Rachel in one direction, Quicksilver in another, and Neutron and Kaminsky in a third. The last two are only saved from immediately plummeting from the sky by virtue of needing to burn off more upward momentum first.

Rachel, on the other hand, got punted downward. Her flames gutter and spark as she spirals downward. Her astral presence is muted — shocked? Unconscious? It's hard to say.

star
child

A dozen feet from the ground, Rachel Summers bursts into starry conflagration anew. Her flight path curves upward mere inches from the pavement before she sharply regains altitude. In a near-flash of travel, she is keeping pace alongside Neutron and Kaminsky. The slashes on her face glow like talons. There is no warmth in the burning pits of her eyes. Only mania.

«You cease.»

Rachel reaches out and sharply yanks, a pulling gesture that speaks of cruelty. The star-thing within Neutron — that is Neutron — is ripped into a fragment by a hungry need. Dimmed of power, though not consumed entirely, Neutron is left dangerously more human for the time being. Rachel's hand moves to telekinetically dismiss the woman back to the ground. It is not an injurious push, but neither is it pleasant.

Rachel's burning hand turns to the screaming, flailing Kaminsky. She remains impassive.

«You continue.»

A flame-kissed bubble springs up around the man. Without a further word to Jean or Wiccan, Rachel accelerates into the distance with her prize.


She doesn't look like much - she is not like Frenzy or Neutron, capable of taking hits that would fell a building, but the fact that she rises in her own power despite her broken limbs is suggestive of Tabitha's own ability to withstand a tremendous amount of pain; the only positive thing, perhaps, she had acquired from the suffering she endured under her father's own hands. She's still glowing, like sunlight given human form, her plasma orbs like stars swirling around her as she takes one hobbling step forward. She watches Pietro fell Rachel down with grim satisfaction, turning her electric blue eyes towards where Billy Kaplan had fallen…

…and hears a shriek. It sounds familiar.

Wanda. Her blood runs cold.

She doesn't have to scream for Pietro - she has known the twins for years, already anticipates that the moment the Scarlet Witch exhibits any sign of distress, her silver-haired half will follow.

She claps her hands together, fingertips pressing in before her hands shift. Between her palms is another ball, the other floating orbs absorbed within it, growing until it becomes the size of a baseball, a basketball…

….and bigger than that…

She points her finger towards the courthouse, and it zips inside, through the double doors and floating there ominously, to law enforcement backup closing in, she turns her narrow-eyed stare towards them, her other hand tilting upwards before her fingers curl, the pad of her thumb pressing into the second knuckle of her index.

"Dead man's switch," she breathes. "Any funny business, and I'm taking out all of Wall Street. My friends and I can survive it, outrun it. Question is….can you?"

And that is how she is going to hold the status quo until it's time to go.


Will he be proud?

Even if Jean knew the answer - really knew it, and not her best approximation based on years of training to fight Pietro's father - there was no time to give it before the moment passed and Neutron cut the connection entirely. The older redhead is left with cold, steel pressure bearing down on her body and mind while another set of familiar, different words ring in her ears.

They're still there as Neutron rebuffs her. If anything, they intensify when Magneto spills from another set of young lips, creating a stereo mix of pragmatic cruelty. There's blood, but what's a broken nose before the pain of an endangered species?

Of children without a father?

A woman striking out against the small, hateful minds she once called peers?

«It isn't ABOUT whether we show them our bellies,» the older telepath protests, «or our fists, Neutron, and it never HAS been! We've never— the X-Men, the Brotherhood— ALL we've EVER tried to do is show them what's in our hearts! That we aren't their victims, their MONSTERS— that we just wanna LIVE, like they do!»

Neutron's bearing down on Rachel.
Neutron's bearing down on her daughter!
Neutron might yet be saved from a mistake that'll haunt her—!

Gloved fists tremble with the strain of holding an inferno's leash while burning wings unfold from Jean Grey's heart and soul. «You're giving them — the ones that HATE us — exactly what they»

Rachel proves herself capable of handling Neutron's aggression, then Quicksilver comes for her daughter too.

And then there is no Neutron. There's no Rachel; they're there, breathing, living, but they aren't there, where Jean can feel them.

There's just the Phoenix.

There's just the terrified audience to a tribunal gone tribal and enough defiantly charged plasma to make casualties of them all.

Just a mother and child meeting again for the first time while reality heaves and spasms around them.

chaos
reigns

Ruby tresses become burning ribbons; a golden emblem, the vent to a furnace older than stars. Baleful, benevolent emeralds sweep across the madness wrought by two men's squabbling children while muted red lips draw into a disappointed line.

her DAUGHTER. her—

There MUST be a judgment. Sifting through minds and moments to find those responsible takes an instant; screwing a burning gaze to the Witch and the Wiccan, another.

A million watchful eyes in the jittering scarlet web of the twins' twined psyches behold a flock of firebirds as the Phoenix returns. The brother is responsible, but the Witch protects him; let them BOTH burn. Let the BOY burn, lest the world continue crumbling around him; why not? There'll be more brothers; more boys. More Witches…

… more war between families…

… more blood, more death, death, death, death, death—

no.

Blazing fists that've long ceased their shaking slowly uncurl. The airborne psychic's eyes remain locked onto Wiccan as a bonfire shot through with magenta stars is unleashed upon him— upon his flailing, panicked creations—

— then cougar and a jaguar locked in mortal combat become two cars forever joined at the grill. Exploding bouquets shower the courthouse and its surroundings, defying the day's forecast. Mud hardens into a sidewalk alive with strange waves and ripple-cut craters. Heatless flame burns impossible, unworkable transformations away, leaving order in their ashes— a kind of order, anyway.

The best kind a Phoenix can manage while half of her flees and the other half bucks for control. There are cars stuck in trees, trapped on rooftops— scattered everywhere a newly born cat might think to go when its first thoughts are 'fight' or 'flight', but it'll do.

It'll do, so the Phoenix still present above the courthouse finally falls flaming to Earth. An instinctual TK-web cushions the impact enough to keep her from dying, but it'll hurt. Later.

When Jean Grey wakes up.


Lillian Lee is 18 years old again, and in her mother's apartment, suspended in mid-air. The men who she had thought had come for her mutant brother were not here for him at all, but for her. They hit her with one taser, then another, then one meant to stop anyone. Anything. Dark Energy flickers and flashes, snaking through the air in impossible and unpredictable patterns, a spider-web of nihilistic force that hits the floor, the table, her backpack. It hits those men too, one after another, their skin glowing from the inside as time seems to slow and she reaches out for her mother. She thinks she's screaming, but it's her brother. It's her mother. They're screaming, because they're glowing too.

It's over in seconds. Everything is gone. The apartment. Her family. The men who came for her and the building she lived in, and dozens of others who lived there too. All energized and drawn into her, to fuel a transformation. The psychic fire makes her see it again and again, cuts into her core, into her very soul. She screams this time, when she could not scream before. She screams until her lungs run out of air, and she burns in the anguish of the moment that remade her at the cost of so very much.

And still she holds on.

At least until it comes for her. Tears stream from her cheeks in the fire of the Phoenix as it comes close, as it surrounds her, and tastes of all the power that makes her live.

"—Erk!!"

Eyes rolling back in her head, Neutron begins to fall as she lets go of the inferno, her body convulsing, because the closer to human she gets, the closer she is to dying. Because her body does not change back when she loses her power, and her black blood carries little oxygen. But her body knows what to do. It does the same thing it did on the day those men came from her, and as she falls she blossoms like a star going nova. Arcing energy lashes out for matter it can consume, and the air sizzles — just before she hits the ground. In a flash the pavement turns to energy, and so do several nearby parked cars, all annihilating in a flash of light and uncanny sound that seems to snap inward and to the star girl. It is by measure of this chaos alone that no one was nearby, bystanders having fled long ago. It happens at nearly the same time that Jean's energy washes over everything else, twin explosions of creation and utter destruction.

It leaves Neutron smoldering in a crater of her own making, one that Frenzy leaps into just a moment later, having watches her fall from the sky. Seeing Tabitha's ultimatum, Frenzy picks up her fallen protege shields her gaze from he bird-flames washing everywhere, and takes stock of the chaos behind her. It's to much, leaping into the middle of it could bring her down on one of her team mates, or worse put her out of commission with Neutron in her arms. Frenzy makes the tactical decision, and with another resounding leap lands near their fallback point to wait for Pietro's next order.


Quicksilver is preternaturally resistant against impact forces. He has to be. But nonetheless… he is still not quite "nigh invulnerable while runnin'." Especially not when making a foolhardy plunging leap straight into the corona of power that wreathes Rachel Summers.

The repulsion field explodes violently on contact, and the force of the hit looses — something from within Rachel Summers. Pietro has only half a second to regret his choices — and even less to try to track where Lily winds up — before he's sent spinning straight back towards the earth, hitting hard and tumbling until a wall of the courthouse stops him dead, heavily-scorched, stunned.

…and he just stays there a few seconds, which for him is a pretty long time. The lingering psychic flames of Rachel's defenses eat at his mind, punishing him for his audacity, and it hurts like steel breaking his bones. It hurts like knowing he will never be good enough — never be what He wants.

Eventually, the same thing that always pulls him shakily back to his feet does: the sudden scream of his twin's distress, through their linked minds. He bolts upright, staggering as he struggles to stand. One look encapsulates the situation for him. Rachel — or something Rachel-shaped — streaking into the distance with her prize. Lily, falling, hurt. Tabitha, hurt.

And Wanda. Wanda, facing off with the strange boy with powers so much like hers, in a terrifying warp of shifting reality that twists the very fabric of existence around them. That brings in some things which should not be. Briefly, Pietro feels his twin become his twin but not, and the sensation makes him feel so violently sick that he stumbles and falls straight back to hands and knees.

It is thankfully brief.

Pietro has spent half his life tending his twin — and much of that involved soothing her out of her fits. To see one of those fits happen now in stereo terrifies him on a level he cannot articulate. He cannot handle two.

For that reason, the blazing Phoenix that Jean has become might almost — in the midst of her cosmic ordering — sip something from him that tastes almost of relief, to see her cancel out the chaos.

And now, as the dust settles, law enforcement is closing in in a wide, cautious circle around the devastation. The few bystanders left are being rushed away from ground zero. The heavyweights are arriving as backup… though they pause a critical few moments to Tabitha's glowing orb seated in dire threat in the courthouse — to her unequivocal threat. If they move, she'll take the entire square with her…

It buys the Brotherhood time.

Summoning the last of his strength, Pietro broadbands a command across their own shared link. It is less a psychic connection, and more a group snare in the web of the Witch, and thus it comes more in impressions than words: IT IS OVER. RUN. REGROUP.

As he always has, Quicksilver arrives for his sister in a burst of speed. "We have to go," he whispers into her ear, tearing her away from the boy who mirrors her. "Come."

He picks up Tabitha too, a moment later. The boy he is still is, beneath what Magneto made of him, still feels guilt for the choice he made.

But Magneto still made something of his son. What he left behind is in his image. "Trigger it," Quicksilver commands her lowly, as he speeds them away. "Burn it down."


Burn it down.

Picked up by main strength, Tabitha leans against Pietro's side once he has her hefted, attempting to keep weight off her broken leg. Staring somewhat stupefied at the phoenix flames all around them, she barely registers the man's grip. What she does hear, however, are the words.

Electric blue eyes lift to lock on the speedster's, and then she nods.

The yield is too big - if she commanded it to explode now, the effects would be unpredictable. She hasn't used a bomb this big since she….

She wills the mass inside the courthouse to reduce. She commands it to shift, to fly upwards and punch through the lower levels, up and up towards the ceiling.

She makes it as visible as possible.

When she finally decides to burn it down, the top of the courthouse….

…. doesn't explode.

It doesn't explode because….

"Pietro," she murmurs, face hidden into his shoulder. "Someone…"

But who?!!


Pain is the first thing Billy Kaplan is cognizant of when he debatably comes to.

It shoots like a lance of red heat through his right shoulder and it says something about how new he still is at all this that he's completely and utterly at a loss over what's causing it. His mind reels, trying desperately to catch up to the world around him.

The world… the world —

Billy looks at the chaos around him and he knows, instinctively, even in his befuddled mind, despite the Scarlet Witch's almost identical powers, that he has caused it all.

"Oh, no."

Because who else could screw things up this badly?

His shoulder. It burns so badly as he tries to lurch up, and chokes down a subsequent cry of pain. He tries his hardest to focus on something — anything —

And it comes, in the sound of clipping heels echoing in his ears.

Blue fades slowly from his eyes as he looks up. He wished his mom was here. And now, and now —

— this isn't his mother. This isn't Rebecca Kaplan. But she looks so warm, so strong, so confident — everything Billy wishes he was. Like she could do anything she wanted in the world. She feels so familiar, and he can't place why. So familiar. So comforting.

So…

No wishes, Billy.

His stinging, dry lips part. He feels like he could cough up dust. Her hand feels so warm. Everything about her feels so warm. And he thinks to himself, in some distant, small part he'd never admit,

'I wish this was my mother.'

No wishes, though. Only his will. He wants to say something, anything. He reaches out.

"Puh-please," is all he ever manages, before reality springs like an unleashed rubber band.

What was warm becomes cold.

What was strong becomes trembling.

What was confident becomes —

WHAT ARE YOU?!

— horrified.

And just like that, Billy's reality springs back too. His eyes widen. And instantly he is tearing himself -away- from the Scarlet Witch just as she does him, looking confused and almost repulsed in equal measure. His face sheet pale, he raises his arm — his good arm — forward as if he could ward away the person before him, or at least make sense of her.

"What are-" he begins, hot on the heels of her own demand. There is a flash of familiar speed. A silver streak.

"-you?!"

And she's gone.

Leaving him only feeling hollow and awful inside.

It's a feeling that doesn't abate, especially when he feels those eyes on him. He looks up, towards the blazing figure of Jean Grey as she unworks all his twisted knots in the fabric of everything that is. A small part of him feels relieved that what he did — WHATEVER he did — did not permanent damage. That it was nothing that couldn't be undone (what CAN'T be done and undone, wonders a tiny, frightening part of his brain he tries to shove deep down). Most of the rest of him, though…

"I'm sorry… I didn't… I wasn't…"

… the rest of him just feels impossibly guilty.

Phoenix falls as Billy lurches onto his knees. Rachel is gone, something about her… different. Strange. The Brotherhood are leaving. He remembers something. Something one of them said. Something about a—

— bomb —

Brown eyes widen. He feels so exhausted, so terrified, so everything. He looks towards where Jean has fallen. Wants to just wish her AWAKE so she can fix this, she's qualified to fix this, what is he even?? He wants to drag Rachel back, someone, anyone —

— has to do something —

… no.

No wishes, Billy.

Only your will.

He takes a slow breath. Closes his eyes. His hand reaches out, trembling only slightly as his mind races. Infinite possibilities.

He picks the first one he can think of.

"glitterbombglitterbombglitterbomb"

Look.

… shut up.


The courthouse crowns in the drowning light of Tabitha's time-bomb. People scream and run in all directions; the riot police shout orders and try to contain the chaos, even as they execute a hasty withdrawal themselves. There's nothing they, normal humans, can do.

But there is a lot that a few extraordinary non-humans can.

The orb flickers menacingly an instant before detonation. Tabitha triggers it, but —

Pietro, someone…

Pietro, already miles distant with his charges, demands, "What?!"

He is, of course, too far away to see the rain of glitter dusting down over Foley Square.

Though, considering it's glitter, Billy Kaplan may just have traded bad for worse. It will take the City of New York years to get it all out.

Thanks, Billy!!

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