1963-11-16 - The Human Condition
Summary: Pietro is back after a herculean effort on part of Wanda and Doctor Strange, but is he still the man he used to be?
Related: Blood and Fire
Theme Song: Rag 'n Bone Man - Human
pietro wanda 

Raindrops plink on the windows, and the world shudders in the midst of bewildering, uncertain times. News headlines ring with endless pronouncements about the end times coming, the necessity of innovation, and fears for the future. In short, it's just another day. Aliens instead of Soviets, Soviets instead of Nazis, Nazis instead of redcoats: troubles are generational.

The flat provided by SHIELD is somewhere in Brooklyn, not so far west as to be expensive, not so far east as to sit into Connecticut or the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts the features of walls and a window, a mostly solid roof, and a few pitiful attempts to make it friendly for two disjointed Europeans. A rug on the floor, a coffeemaker, a cheerful bedspread count for the touches they've tried to incorporate. A few books here and there on shelves don't lighten the load much.

No wonder she hates it. Wanda has little patience for the place and practically lives elsewhere, though their slim selection of belongings still contains some of her essentials. That, on its own, might give Pietro pause but it's not like his recent nocturnal escapades have him there either.

Though the Doctor and the Witch left him here, tucked in, a fridge full of regular food rather than her constricted choices. There are at least seven twinkies stuffed in a cabinet, more junk food awaiting him.

And now a day after his curse was ripped out, there's a window sliding open and Wanda hopping in, rather than using the front door.


A flash of silver and blue (combined with a fluttering of curtains and napkins) signifies that Pietro Maximoff… is home, and… at least up and about. Another flash passes by (this time in the opposite direction), and the cabinet with the Twinkies and assorted junk-food in there is both opened and closed in an instant.

And two new Twinkie-wrappers appear on the bench.

The third flash… ends on the couch, where a shirtless (but not trouser-less) Pietro lounges, finishing off the second Twinkie. The television is off, and there are a number of comic-books and magazines strewn about the living space… under which lie some newspapers… hastily covered over. Also interesting: the newspapers all seem to be about the vampire-phenomenon of late.

"Front door is that way," the elder Maximoff states for his sister, smirking sardonically. He is not telling her to leave — but informing her of where the door located… in case she had misplaced it.

She did, after all, just climb in the window.

"Did you bring snacks?" he asks after a moment. "No drinks — not as… thirsty as I was." A lip curls.


“No.” A crooked shadow unfolds itself where Wanda straightens, her habit of claret jacket and black foundation garments — corset, skirt, leggings — not much changed now from when they ran through Isfahan so many months ago. Dirt on her boots gets knocked free and she proceeds a few steps forward. The window can stay open, fresh air never killed anyone unless they were in London in the Fifties.

Her shoulders are twitched to a higher notch than normal, and there’s a certain… caution, really, not so much for him as for the place. Inhospitable blank apartments rank right up there on the list of dangerous things she distrusts. But her hands are safely in her pockets, as reassuring as one can be.

Then she gives a small look his way, measuring up Pietro now he is death free. Now that he resembles a man once more, and not something taken out of nightmare, drawn out of horror and despondent wonder. “I am sorry. You…” A deep breath is pulled. Apologies aren’t hard, but the weight of this far away exceeds whatever has gone before. “This was my fault. When I wanted to free you from her, it wasn’t by this.”

There she stands, penitent before the couch, staring at her feet.



Her brother might be agreeing with her — about it being her fault — or he simply might be brushing the whole thing off. Likely, it is a bit of both.

"Is beer in the fridge if you want any…" he adds, a little glumly. Silence reigns for a few eternal moments afterward, while Pietro sits there, just… staring ahead.


"I killed innocent people, Sis."


The weight of the world lies upon two pairs of shoulders too slim to really bear up under what lies upon them. It's nothing new for the Maximoff twins. Rarely has a price weighed so heavily upon them, though, as a matter of their own deeds. Cuts and scrapes or broken bones osmetimes accompany their activities, caused by the dreadfully uneasy lifestyle of their dark world.

Never vampirism. Never so close to activating the dreadful promise they swore ages ago, training how to kill one another in the event they ended up a drone, mindless to commands. Cursed, turned into a weapon of Chthon. He is still alive. Perhaps her promises meant nothing.

His confession hits like a knife to the ribs. She looks in the fridge to see what passes as a drink, and finding little to her liking or current tolerance, shuts the door with a rattling firmness. The safehouse turned into their apartment lacks for much in the way of modern, elegant appliances or touches worthy of the Upper East Side. She rubs the heel of her hand against her brow. "I was there. I know." Might as well be honest, if honesty is a knife.

She turns to him, raising her hands slightly as though expecting to find him halfway across the room or out the door. "We can deal with this, Pietro. Everything we have faced, this may not be the worst. The avalanche or Poznan sound pretty terrible."


Pietro snorts.

Rubbing his bearded jaw with one hand, jaw open diagonally downward, he shakes his head. "Yeah…" the young man agrees. "It was." He puts down his hand and arches his back, cracking his neck from side to side.

"Is not changing anything. I… I tried to hunt only criminals. it was hard — hunting just them. No one else. It… didn't work. Now… I have innocent blood on my hands…"

He grimaces.

"And down my throat. And that is not what bothers me most."


Wanda's fingertips brace against her upper arms, crossed over her chest, falling back to a more defensive posture that might not be construed as anything particularly troubling. More proof she's not about to hex anyone, though that can change in a heartbeat.

Lips press their faint line together, the difficulty of the situation painted in the tight lines at the corners of her amber eyes. The hollowed lines bring her cheekbones into sharp relief, much as they can be. "Pietro, we both know well what vampires become. The thirsts plaguing them are unnatural. It is hard enough for us, when our energy grows too low, but for the accursed the survival instinct overpowers everything else."

Her words sound so controlled. Whether they are remains another business entirely. "Everyone was a source. You expected full control at the outset? I do not know that is possible. The young ones are never predictable in their thirsts. What bothers you the most?"


When Pietro looks up, there are tears in his eyes.

And yet, there is also a smirk on his lips — pleasure and horror rolled into one. "I enjoyed it. No, Sis. I loved it. It wasn't just the shape-changing, the wings, the teeth — ," and he taps his incisors with a finger. "Was… the power. I could dominate anyone — well, almost anyone. Alright, a few people. It was hard to slow down enough to do it, but… I started getting used to it. One look, and…"

The silver-haired man shrugs.

"The blood tasted, how they say, 'swell', too. I loved it… very much. That is what bothers me most. That, and…"


Tears in his eyes would be enough to stand her still. It's when her silvery mind, slower than his, catches up to consequences that the blood slips away from her sunkissed face. Perpetual in her golden complexion, fading hue never completely leaves her ashen.

"The feeling of being powerful?" The question sits at the altar before him, an addition to all he has said. Wanda's fingers tighten around her biceps imperceptibly, her leather jacket punctuated by four horizontal bars like the swipe of a tiger against her unprotected skin.


The troubled young man nods his head a few times, eyes downcast.

"Is not just being… stronger, faster — you know me, and 'fast', heh." He smiles bitterly at that. "I used to be faster than this… the world stood still. I'm trying to get back to that… but, no. Is not what I meant."

Pietro takes a breath an looks up at Wanda.

"It was… pure domination. Vampires are not, how they say, 'all about the blood'; they are about domination — control. Control life with Undeath, cheat it. Control people with seduction, strength and mind…"

His lip curls and he stands up, angry now.

"They should be wiped out. All of them. I… need to be stronger. Faster. Some of them don't kill their victims right away… there could be people for to be rescued — ."

He stops, looking suddenly less angry and more guilty again.


Wanda listens to this with a somewhat opaque mask settled over her face. In Noh theatre, hers might be the role of the wise advisor or the courtier bound by the strict rules of an imperial bureaucracy every bit the damaging, constrictive experience as fabled Chinese routes. That limits so greatly what she can express in the moment as they collectively tread thin ice. One wrong move will send Pietro skittering away and her ability to buoy herself above the cracking surface depends on outsmarting him, not outwitting him. He's infinitely faster, after all, and oddly less stable.

"Why do you need this?" An inquiry made without more than filial concern lilts across the distance. Her nails stray to scratch at her collarbone, as human a gesture as there is.

Teeth sink into her lower lip. "I am still your sister, Pietro. You can tell me."


Pietro's body shudders, his head bowed as he stands there, hands clenching into fists and unclenching. "I think… I can't remember — not clearly — I think there was someone I took. Or… I saw another vampire take…"

He looks up, his eyes bloodshot.

"I can't remember! When almost I hear her voice, or see her face… it goes away, like leaves in the wind. I'm not… fast enough to catch memories. But… but I think I took a prisoner — and I don't know where she is."

He trembles all over then, threatening to fall apart.


When one's twin confesses a crime, the reflection upon their mortal echo in DNA and spirit can be equally as strong. Her shoulders tip back and her chin lifts to take the news head on. What she instinctively anticipates, the brunette sorceress might be hard-put to say in the moment, but she accepts the possibility of danger nonetheless.

"Pietro. It is easier if you slow down, yes?" She holds out her hands to him, a living bridge, a certainty the ash-haired man is not alone in the world. "We have each other. She has no hold over you, not when we are together. I will burn her out of you if some poison remains." Harsh words, but then her will is a sword when wielded properly. "You are saying there is a person you abducted. Imprisoned? And you do not know whether she is alive or not. That, at least, is good — you have a conscience. They could not take that away from you."

In other words, he's still human.


Tears fall freely now down the speedster's face, and he collapses into his sister's arms, crying. He couldn't talk now even if he wanted to; at this moment in time, he just needs her here… and so she is.

Never thought of it like that, he murmurs in his mind, sounding — feeling — a little more like himself, despite the weeping. This was too close — the whole ordeal — too close to Chthon, too close to the curse bred IN them both, too close to a fate seemingly chosen FOR them, no matter what they do…

But Wanda is right.

They still each have a conscience, and the will to act upon it. That IS something worth holding onto. Still human, the pair of them.

That's a triumph in and of itself.

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