Expiation

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: Don't own these characters. Oh the joy of finally getting around to unused ideas and developing them. Enjoy this one.

It's a sound that makes me shudder whenever I hear it. The all too familiar clap and clank of iron on iron haunts my dreams from time to time. My nightmares have gradually decreased but every now and then I hear the cold, metallic noise of deadbolts sliding into place and the inhuman howls that usually follow afterwards.

I stare down the row of high-tech cells made for prisoners who are deemed "special cases". I was a "special case" too once but unlike these men the moniker was my curse instead of my badge of honor. I didn't get nicely polished cells or fancy recreation rooms or even time off for good behavior. This maximum security facility might as well be a daycare center compared to where they put me, where he put me.

Today is June 15th. It's a day that holds significance for many and for me it has the same amount of significance but on a completely opposite end of the spectrum. Today is Father's Day and here I am in the very center of my own private nightmare to honor a father I never had.

I could be here for any number of reasons I guess. Actually that's somewhat of a lie. I am here for one reason and one reason only. I am not here because Pietro guilt-tripped me into coming because he thinks we can all be a family again. I'm not here because Todd thought it would be good for me and used whatever charm he has that makes me love him to get me to come here. I'm here of my own free will.

I suppose my reason is a very simple one. I came here to set myself free. I came here to release myself from the final heavy burden my conscience bears. I came here to exorcise the final demon inside me and dissipate the last bit of darkness that still taints my heart. I came to make amends with someone I have every right to hate for the rest of my life.

The hall is long and my pace is so slow for a moment I wonder if time even moves at all. It's funny to think that even now when I should be gloating about my father being locked inside a cell as I was he still manages to steal even that from me. I don't get to gloat because his cell, his captivity, is hardly comparable to mine.

The guard stops me for a moment. It's basic precaution, this device that looks like a high-tech airport metal detector. I feel the laser eye scroll across my body and feel somewhat uncomfortable due to its invasion. It's like I'm being stripped down of everything before I go to face him. I fancy thinking it's a lot like awaiting judgment from God.

"Gonna have to leave those here," says the guard as he points to my earrings and the various bracelets and other jewelry I'm wearing, "Can't have any metal in there." Like I don't know that. I've known this man all my life and I've seen, experienced, what he's capable of. I sigh a little as I remove the various pieces of ankh-shaped jewelry that have helped me earn the nickname Scarlet Witch and drop them onto a plastic tray. No, the Scarlet Witch will not face Magneto today. I am now Wanda Maximoff and when I walk into that cell I will face my father.

"You can go now," says the guard as he ushers me into the long plastic tunnel that connects my father's cell to the rest of the prison.

"Visitor today, Eric," says the guard. The word sounds strange to me. It's a name I haven't really heard anyone call him often. Sometimes I forget he actually has a name besides Magneto. Maybe he'd prefer it that way. Maybe, like me, he's forgotten his real name, stripped himself of the part of his soul that realizes what it's like to be a person.

"Well now," says Father as he stares at me, "this is quite a surprise." His eyes penetrate me. I can remember those eyes. I can remember the cold, disapproving looks they would cast at me on a daily basis. For a second I seem to wither under those eyes but then I remind myself he can't hurt me anymore.

"You're being videotaped," the guard tells me as he turns to leave. I nod. I had hoped for complete privacy for what I believe will be a very personal conversation but privacy is such a rare commodity these days it seems.

"Oh come now," says Father, "If she wanted to do anything she would've done it a long time ago."

"I wasn't warning her," says the guard, "I was warning you." Father almost smiles, almost. It's been forever since I saw him do that.

"Well, my dear," he tells me, "to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" He sits in his chair quite calmly, almost smug. He knew this was coming. Does he take my forgiveness as another sign of weakness?

"It's Father's Day," I tell him simply. He nods and accepts my answer.

"I confess I hadn't really known till now," he explains as he motions to a seat across from him at the glass table, "One day is pretty much the same as any other here."

"I can imagine," I reply. Screw imagine, I know damn well what being in a cage is like and it's all because of him. I stare at him for a second. It would be so easy to kill him right now. He's just a cobra with no fangs in here. So simple, so tempting to just snap my fingers and make him have a heart attack right in this cell. No! No, I'm better than that. That's the reason I came here in the first place. I want to be better than that.

"So," he says in a casual tone, "how is everything these days?" I don't exactly know what he's trying to do or how I should respond. It occurs to me this is really the first time we've ever had an actual conversation.

"Okay I guess," I reply a little nervously, "Still living with the boys, still not going to school, not much change." He nods. I'm not really sure if he's as nervous as I am. I think he might be but it's hard to tell.

"How are things with Toad?" asks Father. I reflexively blush a little. Pietro visits Father often but I told him not to talk about me and Todd. I make a mental note to zap my brother when I get home.

"Fine," I tell Father, "I'm not about to get one of those over-protective father speeches am I?" That gets a real smile from him.

"No," he says, "I will admit he's quite an odd boy but if you're happy then that's all that matters." It's strange to see Father acting civil towards me. Maybe all that talk of wanting to start over wasn't a lie after all.

"So how are things with you?" I ask. I'm not really sure why I ask it. It's not like I expect him to have anything exciting to tell me.

"Okay," he replies, "The taxpayers are keeping me quite comfortable. I almost forget I'm in prison sometimes." Bastard. Filthy, rotten bastard. Rub it in why don't you? Go on, gloat about it. God, what made me come here in the first place?

"Why did you really come here, Wanda?" asks Father. I feel his eyes on me again. I feel his penetrating gaze pierce my soul. Why did I come here? I thought I knew but what I know now is I'm such a horrible liar. I can't forgive him.

"To talk," I reply. He seems to know my answer already. It's really the only answer I have left. He and I both know I won't, can't, kill him.

"Well then," says Father, "what would you like to talk about?"

"I'd like to know why you abandoned me," I tell him bluntly, "I'd like to know why things had to be this way." I shouldn't even have to answer his question really. He knows why I'm here.

"Wanda, for a great number of years I've asked myself those questions," Father explains to me, "and still I find I have no real answer that satisfies me. The only thing I can say is I thought it was for the best."

"That's not good enough," I tell him, "It was never good enough." In the back of my mind I know I'm getting angry. It's like watching a car crash in slow motion. You can see it happening, you know it's happening, but there isn't a damn thing you can do to stop it.

"What would you like me to say then, Wanda?" he asks, "Would you like me to say I had no feeling for you whatsoever and that I saw you as nothing more than an uncooperative pawn that had to be dealt with? Would you like me to say I'm a heartless, cruel man who has no love for his only daughter?"

"I want the truth," I tell him, "Father, please."

"I gave you the truth," he retorts, "but you said it wasn't good enough. Wanda, I told you I don't have a satisfactory reason."

God, none of this makes any sense at all. In all actuality I'd love to hear him say he hated me or any other reason along that line. The alternative is too confusing to even think about. He left me to rot in Hell because he thought it was for the best? How can that be the best for anyone?

"Then what about the memory alteration?" I ask him, "Was that 'for the best' too?" I'm getting angrier by the second. I can feel all the hate and rage rushing back over me. Who was I trying to kid? I can't make peace with this man. I shouldn't have even come here in the first place.

"Your anger and rage was a liability," explains Father although now his voice is rising as well, "I couldn't allow you to endanger my dream. I'm not proud of what I did but it had to be done."

"Liar!" I spit, "That's all you ever cared about was your damn vision! You never once thought about me and Pietro, ever!" I'm losing it now. I can't blow up in here. This cell is so fragile, it'll break so easily. Come on, Wanda, think about something happy.

"That's not true," says Father, "I did care about you and your brother. Sacrifices had to be made but it doesn't mean they were easy to make."

"Sacrifices?" I ask, "Was that all we were to you? Were we just extra baggage you decided to dump because you were tired of carrying it?" Happy thoughts, Wanda. You really don't want to shatter this room right now. Think about better things. Think about living with your friends or the warm feeling you get when Todd wraps his arms around you and says he loves you. Don't you dare turn this building into a crater and let him beat you again.

"You left me in Hell, Father," I tell him, "and as long as I live I'll never understand why."

"Wanda," says Father as he suddenly rises from the table, "I do not need you to come here and blame me for things I so freely blame myself. You have not seen or experienced the cruelty and tragedy I have. You have never had to bury the only person in the world you loved more than life itself and I pray you will never have to. Do not, young lady, speak to me of Hell because I can assure you my perception of it is far more accurate than yours!"

His words reverberate off the glass walls of the cell and echo in my brain. I suddenly feel very small and also very afraid. Father hasn't really yelled at me since I was little and I find myself reverting back to the old habit of cowering before him as I did back then. He sits back down and tries to recompose himself.

It is a strange thing that's happening now. I simply watch him as he calms down, not really knowing what to say. My very perception of who he is seems to change right before my eyes. I no longer see him as the father I have hated for most of my life. I see someone who is angry, bitter, resentful, and ultimately alone. I see myself in him and for the first time in my life I pity this man I call Father.

"I'm truly sorry," he says, "for that outburst and everything else I've done to you." I still don't respond. I don't know how exactly I should respond.

"I get it from you, don't I?" I ask him quietly, "My temper I mean." He looks at me and sighs as he nods his head. So that's it then. We're both simply two sides of the same coin.

"You are every bit as beautiful as your mother was," he tells me, "but you are your father's child, my child. For that I am sorry as well."

"Father, why do you do this?" I ask him, "Why do you want to start a war with these people?" It's a question I have never asked, never cared to ask. Why does this man hate a species so much that he would condone their genocide?

"I don't want to," he tells me, "but I have to. They started it, Wanda, and now I am simply seeking the quickest way to finish it." The quickest way? Perpetuating the cycle isn't the quickest way of ending anything. I think maybe at last I understand that much clearly.

"I'm sorry," I tell him as I stand to leave, "but I can't agree with that. Will you at least do me one favor?"

"Of course," he replies, "Anything you like."

"This isn't our war, Father," I tell him, "Please don't drag me or Pietro or any of the boys into it anymore. We're tired of fighting."

"I understand," he replies, "You have your own choices to make but may I remind you that the first casualties in a war are the innocents sitting on the sidelines."

"It's also those same people on the sidelines who live through the war after the two opposing forces annihilate each other," I remind him, "I'd say they're the ones who win in the end."

"Perhaps so," replies Father with a small smile, "Only time will tell I suppose." I look at this man. I won't say I love him or even agree with him but I think at last maybe I understand him a little bit better.

"Happy Father's Day, Dad," I tell him as I give him a small kiss on the cheek, "Pietro said he might be by later."

"Wanda," he tells me as I linger at the exit, "I want you to know that I'm very proud of both you and your brother."

"Thank you," I reply as I leave. I walk silently through the tunnel and then back into the first room. I take back my jewelry and shove most of it in the pockets of my jeans. I'll put it all back on later. I want to be Wanda for a little while longer.

As I step outside the confines of the prison I suck in a breath of fresh air. The sun is starting to set and it looks absolutely beautiful. It's things like that, little things you normally take for granted, that I missed dearly when I was locked away.

I stare back at the prison. I do not hate my father any longer. I don't care what he did to me; I refuse to be angry with him anymore. I feel pity for him now but there is also another feeling in me, a feeling of hope. After all, if we are one in the same and there is hope for me then there is hope for him as well. Pietro's not the only one who would like for us to be a family again. I want it more than anything.

I sigh a little as I walk back home. I feel the burden on my soul lifted and my conscience finally clear. I have ended my struggle by reconciling, in part, with my father. My only hope now is that my father will, as I have, come to terms with the demons inside him. Whatever the case I can now safely say I'm now the Wanda Maximoff I was supposed to be instead of the Scarlet Witch he helped transform me into.