Disclaimer: Characters owned by Marvel and, in this particular incarnation, Neil Gaiman
Thanks to: Andraste, for beta-reading.
Written for: Artaxastra, with love.
Spoilers: The entire 1602 run.
Adjusting to the new life in the Roanoke Colony was not easy for any of the new arrivals, but Pietro and Wanda were more lost than most. The Grand Inquisitor had been the Northern Star who had governed the direction of their lives, and now he was gone, having asked them to learn from the man he had called enemy only a few days ago. And Javier was the only one who did not regard them with loathing and contempt.
"You might have shed your nun's habit," the one called Werner told Wanda when she, who recognised his accent, made the mistake of greeting him in their native tongue, "but I remember your face. The smoke of burned flesh clings to your hair, and your voice carries the sighs of the dying. I do not wish to hear it."
Asking Master Summerisle for tasks to do since the emptiness of hours with no messages not carry was eating at him, Pietro found no kinder reception. Scotius stared at him with his eyes hidden behind glass as red as Wanda's garments.
"Good Master Dare might find something for you to do", he announced crisply. "He did not get burned by the poison you carried from the Grand Inquisitor's tongue to Scottish Jamie's ear. We did."
At last, they wondered whether they should not dissappear into the wilderness together, to follow the stories of the Green Beast the Indians told, for surely matching their wits and strengths against a beast was better than this. But they could not forget that the Inquisitor might return, or send for them, and so they tarried, and grew more silent and resentful each day.
Then Javier asked Pietro to carry him to the beach, and bade Wanda to come as well. "Your old life is past", he said, as they watched the gulls devour a fish amid stones and sand. "Yet you are too full of fear to start a new one. Even if he does return, he will not be who he was to you before. He never is."
Stung, Wanda said that there was no new life to be begun among the witchbreed and their hate.
"My dear", Javier replied, "have you lived in the service of the Church for so long without understanding the mystery of absolution? There must be confession and penance first. Even God cannot forgive if forgiveness has never been asked for, nor a sin confessed, and we mortals are but imperfect creatures made in his image."
They both pondered this. Javier grew heavy in Pietro's arms, yet Pietro did not let him go. Saving those of the witchbreed whose abilities could not be discerned by human eyes while condemming the others to a fiery death had been the Grand Inquisitor's way; knowing that they, as well as he, would have to climb the stake if it was ever discovered what they were, they had told themselves there was no other path. They had never considered that they could question or disobey.
"We rendered to Caesar what was Caesar's," Wanda said defensively.
"So did Judas," Javier replied, not harshly, but his very gentleness pierced her soul. With a cry, she fell on her knees on the sandy beach and wept, for what, she could not say. It might have been for the dead whose voices Werner had claimed to hear in hers, or it might have been for herself, for the Church that had been her home had recognized and banished her as a devil's child, and her father in Christ was gone and left her with memories that changed colour all time and turned into red, nothing but red.
Next to her, Pietro stood still. Then, very carefully, he let down Javier, and knelt next to her.
"Father," he said, in Latin as he had been taught, "forgive me, for I have sinned."
After a heartbeat, Wanda followed suit. But even as Javier heard their confession, there was no consolation in the familiar words, and she still did not know whether the grief she tasted on her mouth was not regret for the life that had been.
"What will be our penance?" she demanded at last, as their voices had fallen silent into the gull's cries and the evening breeze.
"Start to live in the present," he told them, "and I shall see to it that the others do as well. There are wounds that need healing, and who better to administer the bindings than the hands that caused the scars?"
Suddenly, Wanda recalled the tale of the Grand Inquisitor's life, which she had learned for the first time when the messenger from Rome had bound him to the stake. A Jewish child, the other priest had said, a child torn from his people, baptized and raised by his enemies. The hands that caused the scars had formed him and clad him and made him, as he had made her.
"Sometimes, there is no healing," she whispered, "only festering wounds."
Javier looked at her, and before she could raise the power that was hers, she felt the touch of his mind as surely as she felt the warm air on her cheeks. "Sometimes," he agreed with a deep sadness.
"Yet you wish us to live with your witchbreed?" Pietro asked skeptically, and for the first time, Wanda heard a touch of the Inquisitor's sardonic tone in her brother's voice. "You wish for a community of men and women deeply divided by strife and allegiance old and new? A brave new world indeed."
"It will be", Javier said, tired, but with a conviction that was as old and strong as the mountains of Domdaniel had ever been. "Some day, it will be."