After Tony took off his helmet and dropped his bombshell - I can't pay for the Avengers any more. The Maria Stark foundation is insolvent, I'm sorry - Carol stopped feeling. Her senses slammed to numb, impervious to any sort of sensation.
While Jen screamed and sobbed, shaking the air with her rage, Carol turned away.
Her heart unfeeling, as if she'd shot it full of Novocaine, she knew she couldn't stay here, with the air oppressive, everyone in shock. She couldn't help herself, much less anyone. Carol half ran, half flew to Wanda's room, only to pause at the threshold. The force of the explosion by Jack of Hearts caused the glass in the windows to shatter, the pieces ripping through already charred and torn curtains, the crack of glass underfoot the only sound in this part of the house.
Carol blindly scanned for anything Wanda left behind. Her gloves lingered along the frilled edges of the pillow cases- Wanda had sewn the lace edges herself- with needle and thread. The delicate bone colour of her sheets, and legs suddenly feeling heavy, Carol sat at the edge of Wanda's bed, lowering her head, covering her face with her hand.
Wanda she thought, closed her eyes for a minute. Images of scarlet, fushia and red projected on the insides of her eyelids. Opened them again and she saw the leather bound tome on the night stand. Really small, Carol noted, about an A5 in size, like a book for recipes or something more intimate
After a minute of looking at it, Carol lifted it up, tucked it under her arm, moved through the mansion, down the stairs, outside the door and strolled out to the edge of the lawn. Took in the ground of the mansion one more time. She didn't need to see the shock and disgust in the other's faces when they thought about Wanda. Didn't need to be a telepath or even a Mage as Stephen Strange to know that Wanda left, or that Jack (gone again) and Scott (what will we tell Cassie?) wouldn't be coming back.
Life lurched on, the Avengers' mansion now abandoned, and she was crashing at Jessica Drew's apartment for the while. Normally, Carol would have crashed by Jessica Jones, but her friend stopped that thought cold.
"I'm seeing someone. You can't come here."
"Someone?" Carol clutched the portable phone in hand. In her other hand, she looked at Wanda's dairy - it was a diary. Leather, softened with age and special, filled with secrets.
"Does this someone have a name?" Carol asked, as she slowly stroked her thumb along its surface, feeling its aged softness under her skin.
"None of your business," Jess snapped, deadpan. "I know you think I'm paranoid, but I'm not. I'm letting it run its course, finito. The fewer people who know my booty calls, the better for everyone."
"You're such a romantic fool." Carol quipped, her heart not into the zinger.
"Well, whatever. I'm not the one poking at Wanda's diary, not wanting to open it, just because."
"I'm not," Carol shook her head.
"I won't ask, you don't have to tell." Carol heard the faint taps of finger tips striking a keyboard, and could see in her mind's eye, Jess at her desk, her fingers moving across the keys, typing up sentences as fast as thought.
"It wasn't like that." Carol shook her head, shuddering against the sudden chill, even though she had on an oversized chunky cardigan. "We weren't like that."
"You could have been," Jess replied, in her normal brusque tones. "Just because you didn't act on it-"
"Just read the diary. Open it up and breeze through. For all you know, you're so vain, you might think those entries are about you. Wanda might have had her eye on Jen instead, and all that worry for nothing."
"Goodbye, Jess." Carol clicked off, tossing the phone on the sofa, before throwing herself there too. She placed Wanda's diary across her jean clad legs. Knowing that the next time she spoke to Jess, her friend would tease her about not reading this - she took a breath, and pushed the cover open.
Today, Wanda began, her penmanship - o's and a's looping and spinning across the quadrilled pages, her cursive, as fluid and beautiful as ribbons across the faint grey grid lines. My brother and I, we're Avengers. I am grateful for the chance, to show that we're more than who sired us.
Newspaper clippings from The Daily Bugle as proof, painted over- Carol idly scratched the surface with her fingernail - as if it were white glue. The pages of the diary were heavy enough to resist cockling, the paper heavy and rich.
Carol flipped through the pages, as Wanda made details in that girlish way she had, especially when she was younger.
Today, July, 199_ Jarvis made us hot chocolate, and heavy cream cake. Almost as good as the real thing back home. Not that Pietro would admit it. But he doesn't want us to be here. I- don't want to leave. If he knew I wrote these entries in English, he'd tease, but I like the language.
Jess, Carol admitted, her cheeks flushed with chagrin - might have been right when she called Carol vain. There was nothing in here to indicate, to imply- that that moment in the kitchen had happened. The first time she truly thought of Wanda as a friend and probably more.
Sunday morning, everyone was asleep, save Carol. She turned over the bottle of Jim Beam in her hand, and told herself that it was probably too early to have a drink. She wasn't an alcoholic if she didn't start drinking before noon, right? Or well, at least not until after breakfast?
Decision made, Carol padded downstairs, hoping that Jarvis did his culinary magic and stored food in tupperware dishes found in the freezer, she could just whip it in the microwave, and call it a win. Then probably chase it down with orange juice and Jim Beam. Yes, indeed. Only to find Wanda at the stove, moving with studied care as she stirred something from the pot, spilt a bit on her hand, and took a dainty lick, the small, pink tip of her tongue lapping against her palm, Carol felt her nipples harden. She'd been a late comer to the Avengers, Wanda had already here for a while. But unlike Pietro or Hawkeye who preened in the spot light, Wanda was a moth off the battlefield. Sweet, unaffected and hid in the shadows.
"Something smells good," Carol said by way of greeting. Wanda gave a little nod and wave.
"What is it?"
"Borchst. Beet soup."
"Does it smell different now that you know what's in it?" Wanda smiled, the amusement gave her eyes (kelly green) a quiet glow.
"No," Carol waved her hand. "Just- no. When I think about soup, I think, chowder, or -"
"Oh, yes, you're from Boston. I remember."
"And you're Wundagore, right? Magneto's kid."
A dull flush stole across Wanda's cheeks, but her voice had an edge to it as she kept on stirring the ingredients in the pot. "I'm a bit more than that, I'm an Avenger,too."
Carol had enough grace to feel ashamed. She thought about her father, and flinched. "I'm sorry, I- let's start again."
"I- that would be nice," Wanda said agreeably, as she made figure eights while stirring.
"That soup smells delicious and it's called borscht. I'm sure I've come across it in my travels, but I've never had the pleasure of tasting it. Until recently, everything in my diet had to either be surf or turf for protein."
"Surf or turf?"
"Fish or beef."
"Oh." Wanda smiled, quick and friendly, as she delicately sniffed the air. "This should be done now. I'll leave it to cool and then put it away. Jarvis shouldn't have to cook all the time. I - would you like some?"
"I'd love some."
"If you sit down," Wanda gestured to the small breakfast nook tucked away in the corner of a kitchen. "I'll serve you, with some bread, if you'll like."
Wanda true to her word, did. Soup, served with a sprig of something fragrant, homemade bread with a pat of half melted butter. It was simple, the tastes sharp and clear. Wanda sat across the table from her, her hair unbound from the headpiece she wore, her form dwarfed in the bedroom robe they all had, with the monogramed Avengers A. The morning tip toed into the kitchen, the sky hinting at the promise of a beautiful day, but all Carol thought and saw was Wanda.
Interesting how that moment stayed with her, but not Wanda. Jessica might be right, after all.
Carol rubbed at her nose with the back of her hand. She was glad that Jess wasn't here. Neither of them, because how could she explain- Carol broke off with a laugh, before it bubbled into a sob. She stared at the diary again, came to a conclusion. It wasn't right reading Wanda's thoughts, writ at large for the world to see did she think about me at all? Why did she do this? Wanda...why?
That night, when she slept, Wanda's diary slipped under her pillow, Carol dreamed. Of looping cursive written in the heavy, fluid ink of fountain pens. Shades of blue overlapped with other hues of blue, or black. Feelings translucent in the flowing sentences, passions gathered at commas and fullstops, making the notations pregnant with ink. Impressions of old fountain pens with ink pots, and blotches of inks on finger tips. Of entries which were smudging with wonder along the edges.
-July 10, 19__
Dear diary, it seems terribly strange to address you as such, but Jan assures me that this is how it goes. For entries that mean something, she says I need to use this form of address. Today, the most wonderful, improbable thing happened. I will keep it in my heart and hold the memory, considering the other person might not remember I -
The day of the Avenger's party. Tonight, they were having one, for what occasion, Wanda didn't know.
"It seems that's just Tony Stark's way, sister." Pietro said, as they walked the formal gardens, arms linked, Wanda's head against his shoulder.
"Captain Ameri- Steve," Wanda's voice betrayed her excitement, "has asked us to be there. I don't know what to wear."
"You act as if you're a young avenger, as if you've just come from a creche. Demand advice, and see-"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You ask advice, not demand, Pietro." Wanda laughed at her brother's horrified expression.
Pietro is right, of course, and I did seek out someone to help. Carol is very nice, and helpful, although a bit- merry. She doesn't need the drink to be happy, to be beautiful. She already is.
"To be honest, you don't have to do much with what you have," Carol said, getting into Wanda's space, her breath sweet with the wine she'd been drinking earlier, her eyes glass blue.
"Thank you, I think?"
Carol laughed, as she put the flute of wine on the dresser with a thunk. She was already dressed, clad in a column of black, her feet bare.
"This dress suits your hair and colouring. I'll admit, Jan has an eye." Carol declared, stepping behind Wanda to help her put her dress on. Sleeveless, with a neckline that dipped worringly low. The material the colour of freshly shed blood, shot with abstract patterns of pink and silver which moved when she did.
"I look-" Wanda couldn't believe her eyes, as she raised her hand, just to make sure that it was her reflection. She closed her eyes as Carol's knuckles brushed along her spine, the dress having degrees of snugness as the zipper moved upward, tightening around her form like fingers on the handle of a sword. Each meeting of teeth made her faint, her skin goosebumped as she felt Carol's breath against her shoulder blades.
"You look lovely," Carol said at last, and Wanda lowered her eyes and looked away. Carol was a friend, a team mate, and- "Thank you," Wanda lifted her chin, and they were sharing the same parcel of air.
"You're flushing," Carol patted cool fingers against Wanda's heated cheeks, a contrast to her humid wine scented breath. "I'll get some of Jan's concealer - you're more her colouring than mine- and we'll fix you up. But you're lucky, like I said- you don't need that much work."
If I had just moved a bit closer, we might have done. I can tell Pietro most things, but not this. Mr Stark asked me the next day, how did I find the party? I could not tell him that after that moment with Carol, it was all a blur. My hex power - it did not work for me on that day.
August, 19th, 19_
I killed someone today. With terrible ease, and I am cold. I am so cold
"Breathe, Wanda, breathe."
"I'm so cold," Wanda's hands shook. "I didn't mean to- what did to Simon. I -"
"Honey, breathe." Carol's voice a low croon in her ear, her arms drawing Wanda close, wrapping her with warmth and strength. Carol's skin soft, her body thrummed with heat like a furnace. "Just, breathe."
"I can't - I have all these voices. Carol, I'm going mad." Wanda wiped the snot from her nose with the back of her hand. She could feel pieces of herself breaking away, floating on strong winds like the wispy florets from the head of a dandelion, never to come back. Carol would never understand, how Wanda struggled to stay whole.
Carol was strong, so so so strong.
"My power, I'm breaking apart, I'm splintering. I shouldn't be here. I almost killed you all."
They were in the Avenger's study, Wanda and Carol both curled up in the loveseat, the room thrown in shadows, and so cold. No fire in the hearth. Wanda raised a trembling hand, only for Carol to catch her fingers in a grasp.
"That wasn't you. Just- Wanda, pull yourself together."
"I can't!" Wanda hiccuped, the tears filling her eyes so quickly, she could barely see Carol.
"I just can't."
"Then I'll hold on, until you can." Carol's domino mask off, her eyes red. Wanda blinked away her tears, and with wonder, wiped at Carol's cheeks. "You're crying too."
"I'm a sympathetic crier," Carol smiled through her tears. "But don't tell anyone, because I'm a bad ass."
Wanda had lived in the States long enough to know slang, and appreciated Carol just being here. "Your secret is safe with me."
"See, you're pulling yourself together already." Carol's hands now against her cheeks, and Wanda moved closer, wanting that kicky moment when Carol moved near. One day, their faces would meet and she would be ready.
Not today, as Carol pressed her forehead against Wanda's and coaxed her into taking steady breaths. "Just breathe, in and out. With each breath, focus on making your pulse settle. We lived, you did okay, Wanda, you did okay. We'll fight another day."
July, 10 20_
I have no children. My children are gone, hidden. They say, they say- I made them up! A construct, a - no. I am empty, a void, nothing. I found out the truth today. There's nothing to hold me here. I press my hands against my lips, just holding the words back. I see the look in my brother's eyes, they reflect mine. He urges me to open my mouth, and speak, but I can't. I... won't. To release them will tilt the world.
"Wanda? Hey." Carol greeted, her eyes a warm blue her smile bright. She looked leaner, rested, she hadn't touched alcohol in a while, Wanda had heard. Carol was clad in 'soft clothing', a button shirt and jeans with boots."We haven't seen each other in a while."
"I'm sorry, I've been busy. Can we speak for a bit, in the garden?"
"Of course," Carol agreed, allowing herself to be led into the garden. They walked in the formal part of the gardens, with the statues and topiary of bushes forming shapes and mazes. It was hard to believe, that the bustle of New York pressed against the fences and high walls.
"I always forget this is here," Carol said after a while, of them walking, fingers skimming along the edge of the bushes, the happy chirrup of birds nearby. "That after all the ugliness, this is what we protect."
"No, although it's nice. I mean, New York. I'm a transplant here, but I love this place. Just don't tell my family. They love Boston."
"It's a lovely city."
"Hey," Carol stopped, and touched Wanda's shoulder. "What's with you, I mean?"
"I might be leaving soon. After the children, I-" you knew, you knew, everyone knew, but kept it from me. I tangle, and unravel like yarn in the night. I shatter, and gather myself with cloak and will. I can't... hang on any more. .
"Wanda, don't go."
"You left, that time."
"I had a drink problem," Carol admitted, her eyes sober. She's beautiful, because she's strong "I wouldn't have been good for anyone if I'd stayed. But you-"
Wanda took a step forward, and risking everything, folded her fingers in Carol's shirt and pressed her lips against Carol's.
Carol, not missing a beat, grabbed Wanda and held on. For the first time, Wanda didn't fear losing control, as she put every single thread of emotion into a kiss, her emotions looping out of control, ribbons tangled in the wind,black and blue cursive against grey grid lines Of Carol standing beside her in a dress the colour of blood. Carol leaving the mansion, taking a piece of her as she turned away and never looked back. Carol, when she dated Vision, Wanda tried not to be jealous, not to be hurt.
I love you, I love you, I love you, she wanted to say, but couldn't. It's too late, now. Her legs buckled underneath her, and they fell onto grass, hands skimming, grabbing, groping, kneading. Each touch rocking her core, and for the first time since forever, warmth crept into the hollows of Wanda's being.
"Wanda," Carol whispered as soon as they broke for breath, before skimming tongue and teeth along her throat. Touches so blistering, emotion pricked at her eyelids, clung to her heart, as Carol branded her, with hands and tongue.
Sun and grass, and heat. When Wanda came to, the voices were soothed and stilled for the moment. Carol sat up, hair hiding her face as she buttoned her shirt, stuffing her bra in her jeans pocket. Wanda stayed where she was, her eyes closed against the sun, watching Carol through the veil of her lashes. Carol, as soon as she gathered herself together, turned to Wanda. Pressed her lips against Wanda's in a chaste kiss.
"I wish," Wanda sighed, when they broke away, as the chill nibbled at her hands and toes. "I were braver, and stronger."
"Wanda," Carol stroked her hair. Wanda closed her eyes at the sensation of Carol's fingers on her scalp. "You are."
That night, if she had wanted to, she could have had my heart. If she had known, she would have stopped me. She never asked, because that is not who she is. In the world I will create, there will be a place for her, if she chooses to come.
In the depths of her sleep, Carol shed a tear.