In retrospect, Wanda wasn't surprised when it was Toad who managed to track her down. Asshole he may be, but even she had to acknowledge how impressive his actual intelligence was. When he wasn't being a complete dick, that is. Which was rare.
He stared at her, with something akin to disgust, and put his cigarette out.
“Were you smoking in my house?” she demanded, slamming the door closed, because in her hormone-addled state, that was what pissed her off the most, that the rude little bastard was actually smoking in her house, filling it up with dangerous carcinogens.
“Fuck you,” he muttered offhandedly, giving her another look. “Looks like someone already got there though.”
She was tempted to hex bolt him. She really was. But her powers had been out of control since the pregnancy started, and she couldn't risk blowing up the house just for a pang of annoyance at the man.
“Christ, you're fat,” he said spitefully, and she threw a bookend from the shelf at him because fuck him, that's why.
He caught it with his tongue, the bastard, and put it down on the table.
“God, I hate you,” she hissed.
“And I just love your company,” he drawled, with a roll of his eyes.
They were silent, for a moment, a stand-off that ended when Wanda gave in, just to clarify.
“I'm not fat,” she said. “I'm pregnant.”
“Are you supposed to be the size of a fucking house then?” he asked, and she could scream from frustration.
“Twins, you stupid son-of-a-bitch!” She yelled, throwing a book at him. This one he ducked, so easily it made her seethe, because it wasn't fair. It had to be Toad, didn't it? The only one strong enough to drag her back if need be, the only one smart enough to find a way. The only one who didn't give a fuck why she left.
“You complete and total cow, stop chucking things at me!” He yelled. “If you think that just because you're up the spout, that gives you leave to act like a complete nutter, you have another thing coming, you stupid cunt!”
“Don't you call me names in my own fucking house!” She screamed, and threw another book, then another.
He ducked the first, caught the second, and threw it back at her, hitting her in the shoulder hard enough she grabbed at it. It was going to bruise, she knew.
Only Toad would throw things at someone in her condition, she knew. Only Toad would think that going easy on her was an insult, not a kindness.
Her shoulder hurt.
She sunk down to her knees, bursting into tears as she did, and then when she realized she couldn't get up on her own in this condition, she cried all the harder, wrapping her arms around her stomach, around her babies, her back aching from the position, her feet burning from the walk to the grocery store for milk, the milk that was on the floor in the green canvas bag, getting warm. She cried and cried, because she hated everything and everyone, and the milk was going to spoil if she didn't put it away, but she couldn't get up to do it.
“Oh, fuck,” Toad said. “Don't do that, it's disgusting.”
“Fuck you!” Wanda sobbed.
Toad knelt beside her with a sigh, and she heard the rustle of the bag as he moved it, lifted it up. The icebox door opened, shut, and she heard movement around the kitchen.
The tap ran, turned off, and then the burner on the stove lit.
“Up then,” Toad ordered, one hand under an elbow, the other on her back, supporting her so she could stand. He touched her like it was a chore, his hands awkward, like he wasn't sure what was appropriate, and he sat her down in a chair at the table.
The tissues on the table were pushed towards her, and she blew her nose. When she wiped her eyes with one, they came away black, from her ill-thought eyeliner. She'd thought she could make it through a day without crying, but apparently that was too much to hope.
A mug of tea was put in front of her. The ginger tea she'd been drinking for her stomach.
“You look like a bloody panda,” he muttered, taking the seat catty corner to her. “You're too old to be wearing that much make-up.”
“God damn,” she choked. “Even when you're trying to be nice, you're a complete asshole.”
“Who said anything about being nice?” he asked. “I just want you to stop fucking blubbering, you stupid bint.” He sighed, raking his fingers through his hair. “What is this, then? You got pregnant, you took off?”
“Do you think living in an outpost is good for me?” she asked, and he made a face, the one he made when people were asking him questions he didn't want to think about. “Do you think it will be good for them?” she asked, gesturing to her stomach, trying to get through to him.
Toad rolled his eyes, tipping back in his chair.
“The fact that you think I care about you or your offspring says a lot about your current mental state,” he said, and she could almost feel how badly he wanted to smoke. If he even tried it, she'd hex bolt him into next week though, and he knew that. He was too smart not to. His hands stayed crossed over his chest, even if the fingers on his left hand were tapping his bicep.
“Did you already tell him where I am?” she asked, taking a long sip of tea. It was perfect, better than she had managed so far. The privileges of being British, she assumed, included the ability to brew tea.
“No,” he replied. “I wasn't even looking for you, actually. I was visiting, spotted you at the store yesterday.” Yesterday, when she'd been craving oranges so bad it hurt. “That bloke with you, he the father?”
Victor. He'd seen Victor.
“Christ,” he swore, then sighed noisily. “Why'd you run? You know how he is. You knew he'd be angry.”
“Because it's my life!” She all but shouted. “It's my life and theirs, and I want it to be a good one, a normal one. Victor and I got married, we have this house, we have everything in the world to give them, and we will!”
The tears were starting again, and Toad made another disgusted noise, turning his face away.
“If you don't stop doing that, I'm going to knock you out and drag you back, understand?” he asked, letting his chair fall back down.
Wanda blew her nose again, in a defiant sort of way, and glowered at him. He made a face at her, like the boy he still was, underneath all his bluster. He swore like a sailor, smoked like a chimney, and could kill without flinching now, but underneath that, he was still just a boy. Someone's son.
She touched her stomach, felt one of her sons kick.
“Why haven't you called my father yet?” she asked.
Toad didn't answer her, just tipped his chair back again, using his knee for balance against the table. He rocked back and forth for a moment, still not answering.
All four legs hit the ground with a thump, and he bent forward on the table, elbows down, head half-bowed, not meeting her eyes.
“If he ever catches up to you, this little meeting? It never happened.” He said it so firmly, but she could hardly breathe to agree. “I never saw you, I had no idea you were here. I never saw you, yeah?” he repeated, and this time, Wanda nodded.
“You never saw me, I never saw you,” she recited dully, still nodding. The tears on her face were making the skin on her cheeks tighten in an uncomfortable, messy way, making her want a quick wash. “Toad, why...?”
“If he comes here looking for you, you two will tear up the neighborhood,” he said, not meeting her eyes at all now. “People will get hurt.”
“Since when do you care?” she asked, shocked.
Toad closed his eyes tight, looking down at her table, his fingers curled in fists.
“My mum and dad live on this street,” he said the words like they were glass in his mouth, and she knew she was staring, knew that every inch of shock was showing on her face.
Out of every street in this town, she thought, every street her and Victor could have picked, they chose this one? Could it have been her powers, she wondered, giving her that little bit of reality-bending luck?
“We liked the name of the town,” she said, quietly. Toad still wasn't looking at her. “Liked the name of the street.”
“I don't care,” he spit. “I don't care why you're here, I don't care about you or your sprogs, or your stupid husband. You are not my fucking problem, do you understand?”
“Yes,” she replied, a small sound she hadn't known she was capable of. “I understand.”
She understood completely, because right now, with all his bravado gone, Toad looked so very young. He had that kind of face, she saw, for the first time, the kind that took forever to catch up with actual age. He really was nineteen, but he looked all of sixteen, maybe, if she was being generous. He was actually rather small, she saw. He filled a room when he was talking, his attitude so big it disguised that he was really only a little taller than her, and wiry, despite how strong he was.
There was a bruise on his collarbone, dark as a storm cloud. Someone had hit him hard there. And he was putting a lot of care into his left hand. She'd thought it was his normal agitated twitching, but now that she looked, she saw his knuckles were scraped raw on both hands, his left hand almost swollen seeming.
He'd been fighting for money again, under her father's nose.
And just like that, Toad had gone from being her father's lackey to a person. A young man with a mother and father he cared about, with a life that had nothing to do with the Brotherhood, or her father's orders.
“What's your real name?” she asked, her fingers warming around her mug of tea.
“Mort,” he replied.
It was a good tactic of her father's, she thought, keeping their real names hidden from each other. He claimed that the codenames they took based on their abilities were their real names, but she knew better. It was a ploy to keep a measure of separation between them, keep them closer to Magneto than to one another.
“My name is Wanda,” she offered, in turn.
“That's a stupid name,” he muttered. “'Wanda the Witch'.”
“I bet 'Mort' is short for 'Mortimer',” she replied nastily. “So you have no room to talk.”
“Fuck you,” he replied, his normal charming self re-emerging. “Bitch.” It seemed more habit than anything else.
“Do you talk to your mother like that?” she asked, genuinely curious.
“I speak French with my mum,” he replied, with a nasty scowl. “Not English. Something about my heritage, holding on to it.”
“You're French?” she asked, surprised.
“Half. Her, obviously,” he replied, shortly. “Look, I shouldn't be here.” He stood up, putting his coat back on. She hadn't even noticed he had one, sitting on the back of the chair. It was a dark peacoat, wool. All these people up here wore wool, she noticed. Wool and flannel.
Toad was one of these people. What an odd thought, to realize he belonged somewhere, that he had a culture, a past.
“Thank you,” she said, and he looked away. But he took a napkin off the table, and wrote something down on it, a few digits. An address. A name.
“This is my mum,” he said. “If you need help, ask her. She's good with kids.” He swallowed heavily, his Adam's apple bobbing. “So now you know you can trust me to keep my mouth shut. I got something on you, you got something on me, and we're both going to be quiet, aren't we?”
“Yes,” she agreed.
He left, with a backwards glance at her and her belly. He was so young, she thought. He had always been young, and she had never seen it before today.
A week later, she was being served tea in Corrine Toynbee's kitchen, more ginger tea, brewed the right way again.
“Now, how do you know my fils?” she asked, in accented English. She was a lovely woman, Wanda thought, with dark brown hair and eyes, and clear, pale skin. She looked like a mother, to Wanda. She looked a little like Toad, like Mortimer, in the shape of her eyes and the cut of her cheekbones.
“We're friends,” she replied, and knew it wasn't a lie.