There would always be change.
Robert Frank had come to accept this fact quite early on in his life. As a young man, his world was turned upside down after a snake bite, resulting in the loss of his father, who had attempted to give him a blood transfusion with his own blood, and the sudden emergence of the ability to run at unimaginable speeds, leaving him shocked to his core. His world was further flipped when he met a beautiful young woman who had gained extraordinary powers as well. Madeline Joyce, who was gifted with both the power of flight and incredible strength, and had begun to don the moniker of Miss America. It hadn't taken much for Robert to fall for her. Their life was blessed with a short lasting bliss: he and Madeline had been married, and with a baby on the way soon after. Life, Robert had thought, was finally beginning to turn around.
Tragedy was never far behind. The news that Madeline had died during childbirth simply crushed his heart. He was left with their daughter: Wanda. It was then he vowed he would never let anything stand in her way, that he would fight for a better world for her. Madeline would have wanted it too.
Never would that promise be more tested than when the new world order was set in place. Mutants everywhere rebelled against the human hierarchy, officially trumping them and leaving them the lesser species. Robert had thought his family safe, that they would have been protected from the wrath of the disgruntled mutants. After all, he was a mutant, his powers brought about by a strange physiological reaction with the mongoose blood his father had given to him in a last ditch attempt to save his life after the snake bite. Wanda would be too, certainly? Madeline was a mutate, and a mutant father...
She was fifteen years old when she learned she would never be like her classmates.
She was fifteen years old when Robert promised her that he would fight for people like her.
He joined the emerging human rebellion, led by a young man known as Luke Cage, who, while mutant passing, refused to let his human brethren suffer at the hands of mutant tyrants. Together with a large number of humans and mutates, they began to strive for a better world.
It wasn't long before Luke, Robert, and the rest of the human resistance movement were seen as a threat. It also wasn't long before Wanda demanded she be included in the riots.
Ten years later, their influence was growing widespread, and the royal guards began to become involved, sent to hunt down the members of the resistance, destroy their work. Robert and Wanda had moved houses nearly six times in those ten year, due to his constant fear that someone may have found their hideaway, and reported them to the guards, who would no doubt come to hurt his daughter. They seemed to have no reserve, regardless of how old the protestor was, or even their family, and the overwhelming fear that Wanda could be maimed (or, worse, killed) constantly struck at his heart. The stress certainly didn't help him, as it would seem the years of living fast were not kind to him, his heart becoming weak over time.
It was also then that he had received some interesting summons. It would seem no matter how many times they moved, the royal guard always knew where to find them.
The parchment was artistic, a white, elegant color with maroon edges, the seal of the House of Magnus stamped into the wax holding the scroll together. It was handed to him by a rather surly looking guard, more animal than man, it seemed, who looked Robert over with a sneer.
"So, are ya gonna open it?" asked the guard in his rough voice, almost a snarl.
"I'm not a fool. It may be rigged," Robert snorted, forcing the paper into the guard's hands.
"Fine. Shoulda realized you'd be the paranoid type. Here, do ya need me to open it?" the guard said, rolling his eyes and not waiting for a response, instead snagging the paper from Robert and opening it fearlessly before handing it back.
Inside, in fanciful writing that had obvious care, was a summoning to the palace of Magnus. He carefully watched the guard as he read the summons, furrowing his brow as he did so.
"Does the emperor think me an idiot? Does he think I would follow you to my own execution?" Robert snarled, shoving the parchment back into the animal-man's hands.
"This isn't an execution, but no, he doesn't. Which is why we're going to have to demand you come with us," the guard said sternly.
Robert could feel himself grow anxious. His first instinct was to deny them, to run. But their arrival at their doorstep could only mean one thing: they knew that Wanda was here too, and that any sort of resistance could potentially put Wanda in danger. Without another word, Robert nodded, following the guard to whatever fate was decided for him.
Upon arrival, Robert was guided into an ornate seating area, with a large fireplace roaring in the center. Above the fireplace was a painting of the royal family: the king, his son, and his daughter, all with rather striking hair colors and stern expressions on their faces. The large, wooden door creaked behind him, and in walked the emperor himself, garbed in a more casual robe and looking a bit exhausted.
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Robert said, a rather flippant greeting towards the man who could have him executed without a second thought, Robert realized.
A grimace came over the man's face, and his eyes narrowed. "If you will, address me by my true name, Magneto, and I will be gracious enough to return the favor, Whizzer," Magneto replied, the pronunciation of his other name sounding almost like a taunt.
"Mr. Frank works just fine," Robert said haughtily.
There was a prolonged silence between the two of them, unbroken until Magneto spoke.
"Sit," Magneto instructed, gesturing towards one of the luxurious chairs placed in front of the cozy fire place, a table with a bottle of bourbon and a chess set -metallic, of course- placed in the front.
"And to what do I owe the 'pleasure' of meeting with you today?" Robert asked bitterly as he sat down, fiddling with one of the rooks in front of him, which was promptly pulled from his hands by a metallic field.
Magneto seemed unamused by this, and glanced at the rook in his palm before putting it back in its place, letting it settle in the board by seemingly its own accord. "Please don't touch that, if you wouldn't mind," he said before reaching over to take the bottle of alcohol, pouring a meager portion into one of the crystal glasses and sliding it over to Robert. "I've asked you to come to offer you a proposition."
"And you think I want to listen? I'm a bit too fast for your guards to catch me, I could be out-" Robert began, slapping his hand on the table, suspiciously eyeing the alcohol offered to him. Poisoned, no doubt.
"Please, calm yourself, Mr. Frank," Magneto said, almost light and conversational, despite what his sneer would suggest. As a seeming show of good faith, the emperor poured himself a glass of bourbon as well, from the same bottle, and downed the entire thing in a single go before reaching for a second, sipping at this glass a bit more leisurely. His keen eyes seemed to gleam from behind the glass, which was refracting light from the fireplace a few feet away, judgmental that his offering hadn't been taken.
If the man could drink the damned thing, then Robert saw no reason he couldn't. Besides, he needed something strong to calm his nerves. Cautiously, Robert sipped at the amber liquid in his glass. Nothing tasted off, and the smell was the same as any other bottle he had at home.
"It isn't poisoned, if that is what you're wondering. I called you here as a sign of good faith to my human minority. It wouldn't serve me well to assassinate you, not unless I wanted a riot. I simply have no time for that. I have a far bigger issue with the emerging powers in Africa. As you know, it is one of the only places left that does have a small area controlled by a human leader, as well as a sizable human population, but it is their economy that is the real threat. So go on, drink. I've no interest in your petty squabbles today," Magneto said, shrugging his shoulders. "I'm here to offer your people an olive branch. My attention needs to be elsewhere, and I feel it is time to settle this unrest in my kingdom."
Suspiciously, Robert glanced over the emperor, idly sipping at the alcohol to settle his anxieties. "What are you offering?"
"I was thinking perhaps we could have a joining of our houses," Magneto replied simply, placing his glass down on the table in front of him, elbows coming to rest on his knees and long fingers lightly laced as leaned forward.
"If you think for a moment I'm giving up my principles-" Robert shouted, springing up from his seat.
The emperor cut him off with a wave of his hand. "I am not asking that. I'm asking to arrange for your daughter's marriage to my son."
Robert was completely aghast, falling back into his seat, cursing his bad heart, which was thudding heavily in sheer disbelief. He had expected several things from this meeting, but that proposition was certainly not amongst the realm of possibilities he had created. An arranged marriage? More along the lines of a planned execution, most likely, something to terrify the remaining human masses, to force them back into their homes and content themselves with their treatment, for fear that something so dreadful could happen to them. "Absolutely not! If you think I'm delivering my daughter to the hands of the enemy-" he began, only to once again be interrupted by the haughty emperor.
"I'm offering your daughter a lifetime of comfort and luxury. I'm offering her the hand of my son, Pietro, in marriage. I wish to rectify the rather... tense relations between Homo Sapiens and Homo Superior. The daughter of one of the world's most renowned human revolutionists, married peacefully to the son of emperor of the Mutant empire... It would certainly benefit the masses, wouldn't it? To see that they could peacefully live amongst each other, even live amicably, it would certainly ease the tensions in our streets, no? If we can prove to them that our kinds can learn to love one another, to see that a human and a mutant can share a position of immense power peacefully, then perhaps we can end the wars in our streets," the emperor responded with a smirk, highly amused by Robert's frustration.
"And you expect Wanda to love your son? She doesn't even know the boy," Robert sputtered, eyes narrowed and hands trembling. Damn, he needed another drink.
"I do not. But we can make it seem that way, can we not? The media will easily make everyone think so, if we can make them seem that way in public," Magneto said, cutting Robert off before another interjection could interrupt his train of thought. "She would be queen, once Pietro ascends to the throne. Not the first human royalty in our empire, but an important figurehead nonetheless, for both humans and mutants." A parchment was procured from his desk with a flick of his wrist, a small magnet attached to the edge of the paper- the royal seal, no doubt- allowing Magneto to manipulate the piece of paper towards the table. An agreement of marriage, with two blank lines at the bottom of the page. It seemed that the emperor was being entirely serious with this proposal.
"And why should I trust you? You're little more than a conniving politician. My daughter means everything to me, I wouldn't give her up for the world."
"But you wish to give her the world, do you not? And you can, quite literally. All you need to do is sign," Magneto urged, a pen following after the parchment, landing elegantly next to the parchment, just next to the blank line intended for Robert to sign.
"How can I trust you?" Robert repeated, pouring himself another portion of the bourbon. His fingers were twitching lightly with anxiousness. The emperor certainly cut an imposing figure. Robert had never been a particularly tall man, but there was something more imposing than the man's height. His bearing seemed to be almost sinister, every word seemingly hiding some ulterior agenda. Perhaps it was simply that he had spent what felt like a lifetime working against this man and his designs, but Robert couldn't help but feel entirely unnerved by him. Nonetheless, he attempted to make himself seem braver than he was feeling.
Magneto seemed to sense this fear, giving Robert an unnerving smile as he gestured towards the chessboard set before them. "Perhaps we ought to discuss. Shall we have a game of chess to keep us occupied as we speak? You have my permission to touch the pieces now."
The evening passed in this manner, several games of chess played, several glass of bourbon drunk by both parties, all as discussion about this proposal carried forward. Robert found his mind began to wander, imagining the world at Wanda's fingertips, how she could have everything he could never provide her: a safe, stable home being the first and foremost on his mind. Alongside his, Robert found himself growing vaguely paranoid around Magneto, his overbearing presence and unending persistence driving his fears. Could he even say no to this man? This man controlled what essentially amounted to the whole planet- one continent aside. The entire world just as much his to control as the chess pieces set before them. Would there be any safe place to hide Wanda if his fury became directed at her for her father's refusal?
Mind a bit fogged by the bourbon and the fear coursing through his veins- for himself, and, more importantly, for Wanda- he signed the document at the end of the night, legally binding Wanda to the Lehnsherr heir.
Only after the fact did he realize that this would require him to break the news to her.
As expected, Wanda did not take well to this development.
"You did what? Why would you? How could you?" she demanded to know as soon as he explained their predicament to her.
Robert sighed, seating himself beside her and reaching an arm out to comfort her. She was trembling in what seemed to be a mixture of rage and fear, eyes wide and breathing heavy. "I know you're upset, Wanda-" he began, only to be interrupted by his enraged daughter, a hand coming to knock his off her body.
"Of course I'm upset! You- you sold me off, for what? So we could say that we've won? So we can say that humans are now equals to mutants? You sold my freedom! I'm beyond furious! I've been sold off like- like cattle! You've simply chosen to give me away to the crown prince, and I have no choice!" she stuttered, combing her fingers nervously through her hair, eyes fixed on the table and brimming with tears. "I'm a slave to the house of Magnus, sold by my own father!"
Robert reach a hand to her, placing it on her shuddering shoulders in an attempt to soothe her. "Wanda, I did what I had to. This is no life for you. In there you could make a real difference. You could have access to their inner workings, and more than that, you'd be treated like the princess you deserve to be. I didn't do this for me, or the other humans. I did this for you..." he said honestly, guilt consuming him, gnawing at the edge of his mind. Perhaps he could change the deal, perhaps it could be undone. Seeing Wanda, the only light of his life, so distraught hurt him more than he had anticipated when he had made this decision. There was no going back now, he reasoned to himself, not when the deal has been made with the emperor of what was essentially this entire planet.
Defiantly, she lifted her head, eyes blazing and lips pressed into a thin line. "If that were true, you wouldn't have done this. I would be home, with you, papa. I'd be here, fighting for what is right, not faking smiles and posing for cameras..." she said slowly, deliberately annunciating each word to underscore her disdain, arms crossing over her chest.
She was furious with him, as she's never been before. His heart broke at that, and he thought back to Madeline. Madeline wouldn't have accepted this either, selling their daughter off like this, no matter what the circumstances. Madeline would have been gravely disappointed in him, in this rash decision, in his hurting their daughter like this. Madeline wouldn't have given in to what Emperor Magnus demanded of them, and for that, Robert felt weak. "Wanda, my little Wanda... I know you harbor resentment. But I swear upon your mother's grave that I held no ill intent when I made this choice. I wanted to give you what you need. I can't give you what you need, all I can provide you with is an inconstant home and an unceasing wave of enemies... You should have better... I know you're angry, as you well should be, but in time, I pray you can forgive me," he said gently, his own excuses sounding far too hollow to even his own ears. Even if it was the whole truth (and it was), there was nothing he could say to her (or to himself) that could rectify what he had done.
There was a lengthy, uncomfortable silence between the two of them, followed by a drawn-out sigh from Wanda, who stood up to hide herself in her room. Briefly, she turned to look at him, partially hidden behind her door and a frown on her lips. "I love you, papa, and I always will, but asking for forgiveness is a bit too much right at this moment."
Robert gave a huff of frustration as she slammed the door, leaving him to his thoughts, hands flying up to his temples in an attempt to ease the brewing migraine he could sense. Without a moment wasted, he went to the fridge for a bottle of whiskey and began to down a shot, hot, angry tears building in his eyes, blurring his vision and threatening to spill down his cheeks.
I'm sorry, Wanda. I'm sorry, Madeline.