There is a silence in her head she hasn't heard in ten years.
She knows before her mind puts it into words, a terrible certainty that cuts her off at the knees, that wipes all conscious thought as she goes down. Pietro is gone.
She lets go, unleashing everything, and after, when she opens her eyes, there is nothing to left to fight. Nothing to destroy but the one thing that's responsible for all this, and when she's done with him, the silence in her mind is an oppressive, throbbing void she can't stop. Something, someone picks her up and takes her away and puts her down, and it doesn't matter anymore, because it's quiet in her head where the constant whisper of her brother's thoughts had been.
Maybe they ask her, or maybe they don't, but she just goes along anyway. People in uniforms tell her where to go and what to do and she follows, because it's the easiest way, and she doesn't think she can resist anything now. She ends up in New York, American voices everywhere and the tall tower that reaches for the sky. There's a bed and food and some clothes, so she showers and changes and lies down to sleep.
When she wakes it's dark, silent, the dull throbbing in her head, and she can't escape it until she pulls the covers over her head and goes back to sleep.
When it's light and she wakes, she sees her own face in the mirror; her hair hanging down in matted streaks and dark circles under her eyes, and she looks back without emotion. She's spent too long without vanity to truly want it now, too long living in scientists' spotlights to remember before, when her mother would comb her hair and--
She turns away, finding more clothes, different, American clothes that suit their purpose but make her feel alien. She dresses, folding the used clothes that she wore during the night-- day?-- next to the ones she stripped out of when she came here, and heads for the door.
A deep breath, and she reaches out, feeling the presence of others, the presence of metal and concrete and the whispers of thoughts that are too far away to be felt. She looks further, pushing at the silence, reaching until her head aches, seeking and not finding. It beats in her temples and rends her chest, and she wants to claw at her clothes and find her bleeding heart--
"There you are."
He's not in the uniform with the stars and stripes, the one she's learned to hate, and she turns her head to look at him, to feel what he wants.
He meets her eyes, and there's a compassion in his gaze that matches his mind. "I'm sorry about your brother," he says, and she can only nod. He seems to wait for her to speak, but she has no words, and she can't think of what to tell him. After a beat of silence, he continues. "We-- Clint-- Your brother is downstairs. Clint is with him."
She knows Pietro isn't here, feels a flash of anger so hot she wants to buckle the walls of this place and let it come down on her, let it come down on him and all of them, all the people she's hated for so long. "My brother is dead," she tells him, feeling something sizzle along her fingertips.
He glances down to her hands for a moment, then meets her eyes with the same steady gaze as before. "I'm sorry. I know you--" He clears his throat. "Clint wanted you to know he hasn't been alone."
She nods, unwilling, not wanting to be grateful to any of them. "Thank you."
"Would you like some breakfast? Or shall I walk you down to the-- to your brother?"
She doesn't know how long she's been asleep, or even what day it is, and the mention of food stirs something in her, something physical. She says slowly, "Breakfast," tasting the word on her tongue, remembering with a twist of the knife in her chest Pietro's insistence that she would forget to eat if he didn't make her sometimes. She turns away, not wanting this man to see, Captain America, the man whose orders her brother followed to his death.
He's silent behind her until she straightens up and turns to him, and then only says, "I'll show you where to go."
She eats, chewing on the flakes, tasteless like cardboard but she's survived on worse, on less, and she doesn't know yet if this is even surviving. Rogers comes for her when she's done, like he's been watching until she was. She doesn't ask him, she doesn't try to find anyone in the mess of emotion drifting around the cafeteria in the tower, closing her mind to the silence.
They walk to the elevator, and he lets her step in first, pressing a button after he's followed her in. The journey is fast and smooth, unsettling sensations in her stomach, the way she remembers it from last time she was here, last time when Pietro was by her side. She blinks when her vision blurs, blinks again until it stops.
Captain Rogers clears his throat. "If there are any arrangements you'd like us to make..."
She frowns before she looks at him. "I don't know."
He nods, slowly. "Just let me know. We... we owe you both that much."
You killed my brother, she doesn't say. The rest of the journey continues in silence until they arrive at another door, a door labelled Medical, and he taps in a code before it slides open, letting her step inside.
Clint Barton, the archer, is at the far end of the room and he meets her eyes when she comes in. She looks at him, feeling another brief whisper of compassion echo from his side to the man behind her and back, and she lets it pass through her this time. On the last bed is a body wrapped in a sheet, and she reaches out, pushing her mind out until it hurts, pressing against her skull with the silence that eclipses everything. The sad compassion from the two men in the room with her is flooding her senses with wrongness as she searches, clawing for familiar purchase.
The harsh edge to the way Rogers says her name is wrong, and she whirls, pushing out her hand, shoving energy his way until it compresses into a wave and she watches with satisfaction as he is shoved into the wall with a thud. She hears Barton move behind her, and she turns her head back towards him. "Do you want to be next?"
He stares at her as she can feel the energy lick across her skin, undirected until she puts her mind to it. Rogers is picking himself up off the floor, just like the first time she pushed him away, not easily taken down. He says her name again, softer. "We're not your enemy."
Yes, you are. You always were. She looks over her shoulder at him, opening her mouth to speak.
"We didn't leave him alone," Barton interrupts.
She turns her head to study his face and laughs. "Do you think that matters to him now? He is dead."
She can see Barton's eyes flit to meet Rogers', and she lets the energy slide away, gives up the fight, because Pietro wouldn't want her to tire herself out for nothing. "I thought it was important," Barton replies.
She doesn't want to think about Pietro's body, only a few metres from her, dead because he followed Rogers into battle. "Nothing matters now," she says, and turns on her heel to walk out.
She sits down at the window in the room, leaning against it as she looks out over this city. Everything hurts and her eyes are dry, and there is nowhere to go from here because there is nowhere she wants to go.
A knock on the door, and she shrugs, staying put. It opens anyway, soft footfalls, the way they all walk, the soldiers. Clint Barton comes around the bed, into her line of vision, and she raises her head to show him her dry face. Let him make of that what he will.
"Hey," he says, pulling up a chair and sitting down about a metre from her. "I thought I'd come up and talk to you."
"So you can tell me how sorry you are?" she shoots back.
"Yeah." He shrugs. "I'm not gonna tell you that I get it, or that I've lost someone before, although I have, but every loss is different. But I am sorry for your loss."
She looks away to stare out at the foreign city. "It doesn't resolve anything."
"No. Mostly I think it gives us something to say."
She meets his eyes again. "My brother is dead because of you."
He looks down at his hands for a moment. "Maybe. But I don't think he loved me all that much, so it probably wasn't just about me."
It hurts when she laughs, because Pietro liked to play with people, would run rings around the scientists as they tried to measure things and do more tests and poke at them some more. Barton's face blurs for a moment, and she blinks again.
"We were all fighting for something out there, and each of us made that choice. Most of us twice over." She remembers that part. "So I just wanted to say I'm sorry, I guess, and that your brother was a good man. When he wasn't being a bastard, anyway."
She laughs again and her eyes spill over. She can feel him move, holding up a hand to stop him, but this time nothing sparks around her fingers. After a few minutes, he leaves her alone.
"I'm Maria Hill," says the woman with the dark hair who dresses like an office worker, but moves like the rest of them. "Tony Stark asked me to stop by and see if there's anything you need."
Stark's name makes her lip curl, but she nods, letting the woman into the room. "I'm fine."
Hill nods slowly. "May I sit?"
Wanda gestures absently, taking a seat on the bed herself.
"I understand Captain Rogers has spoken to you about any arrangements you may want to make for your brother's remains." She pauses expectantly, so Wanda nods. "There's also the matter of paperwork. We've-- The Avengers Initiative has applied for a visa for you as a consultant, so you can stay here for the time being, and I've taken the liberty of opening a checking account for you and depositing your consulting fee."
"Naturally, any work you do for us--"
She laughs again, the sound echoing shrilly in the room. "Work? I don't care about work." She hasn't had a job in ten years except to be studied, to perform and to hone her skills and to keep Pietro from annoying everyone too much.
"Any future employment is of course up to you and you can talk to Captain Rogers about it." Hill leaves another pause, then adds, "I thought I'd give you the paperwork. Also that of your brother."
There's a stack of white sheets of paper with English writing on it, words that have meaning but she can't make sense of. She lets it sit on the bed where Maria Hill puts it down, looks at her, reaching to see what she'll find and Hill stops short. "I would appreciate it if you didn't try to do that."
Wanda pauses, because no one has ever asked before. "All right," she says slowly. "Thank you for the--" She gestures to the sheets.
Hill nods. "Let me know if you need anything," she replies, and lets herself out.
She has money and a piece of paper that tells her she is a legal resident. None of these things have ever mattered to her before and they don't matter now. What matters is Pietro's body behind the door called Medical and when she takes a wrong turn going back down there, she's not in front of a door called Medical but a door called Stark Industries computer lab IV.
She reaches with her mind, trying to find Pietro, trying to breathe, trying not to move or think of moving or breathing or hunger. The silence is deafening again and she staggers back, remembering, blinking, one word behind her eyelids. She backs away and finds her way back to the room, changing into the clothes she came with and leaving behind the American things that aren't hers.
She doesn't know how to get out but it's easy, a quick reach with her mind, a touch of her hand and she follows someone with a sudden desire for fresh air out the front door, turning left when they turn right, walking into the stale air and loud noises of New York. She walks until her feet are tired and the light is fading, and then she sits down.
It doesn't take long; someone sits down next to her, silently handing her a bottle of water and a bar of some sort. The wrapper feels smooth under her fingers when she takes it, the bottle cool. Steve Rogers meets her eyes with equilibrium, not saying a word as she unscrews the cap and drinks.
"You won't let me go," she says.
"If you want to go, you can go." He meets her eyes and she can sense he's not feigning anything. "Far be it for me to stop you. But I don't think you want to go."
She leans her head back against the brick wall. "I don't have anywhere to go."
"We could change that."
"The Avengers?" She sneers around the name. "I think once was enough."
"With everything you trained for," Rogers says slowly, "don't you want to put that to use?"
"Does it matter now?"
"I've been on the wrong side of a fight because I didn't know--" Unbidden, the images come to her along with the pain he's feeling, and she lets it in, seeing death and destruction that isn't like what she saw in Ultron's mind, but it's close. "--and what matters is that you choose the right side when you do. That you make your actions count."
"I know," he says, and the emotions ebb away. She drinks a little more water and unwraps the bar. He looks away while she eats, waits for her to finish before he continues. "You have a gift. You could help people."
She scoffs, looking at him. "We didn't choose this to help people. You have names for people like us, here. Terrorists."
"What you did back there, with the team, it wasn't terrorism."
She puts the cap back on the bottle of water and puts it down. "Why do you want me to join your team so badly?"
He meets her eyes again. "Because I'm not that different from you."
"Somewhere where there's trees and sunlight," she says the next time he asks, because they spent too much time indoors and Pietro liked the sky.
Rogers nods and Hill writes something down, and a day later they're in a cemetery, with green and sunlight and a tree, and she doesn't want to think about this, doesn't want to be here with people she barely knows. When she speaks, it's not in English, because her goodbyes to her brother are her own. She doesn't cry, not in front of Rogers and Barton, tries to remember not to hate them for getting her brother killed. Pietro, he would laugh, tell her not to be spiteful, tell her he's responsible for himself and besides, he's older than her.
It hurts, like a fine blade between her ribs, and the dry sob that tries to tear out of her chest hurts, too. She feels a hand on her shoulder and shakes it off. She's on her own, now, and no one else can touch her.
When they get back, Tony Stark is there, standing in the middle of a room, and she stops, looking at him. He looks back at her and a wave washes over her, regret, pain, guilt, things he has no business feeling, not in this place that is built on her parents' graves.
She raises her hands, directing the flow, aiming at his heart--
"Wanda!" She's pulled sideways and something to her right shatters instead. "Stop."
Rogers' eyes meet hers and she hates him for a brilliant second, hates that he brought her here, hates him for getting Pietro killed, for not seeing that Tony Stark--
"I'm sorry," Stark says.
She reaches for his mind and laughs at what she sees, laughs until her vision starts blurring, and then she flicks her wrist, sending images his way. Rogers grabs her hand, trying to stop her, but he isn't fast enough.
She watches Stark as he sees, watches his face change and his eyes go wide as he stares back at her, and then something explodes in his mind, a wave of sensation stronger than the first-- a different missile, same logo, an explosion-- pain in her chest as it explodes-- water and she can't breathe--
"--Wanda, look at me, damn it, come on." She comes back to herself and she's sitting on the floor, Rogers saying her name, shaking her a little, his grip too tight. She catches her breath and the pain ebbs from her chest, and she stares across the room to where Tony Stark is sitting in a chair, grey faced and looking back at her.
"I didn't know," he says breathlessly.
She shapes her mouth around the words but can't get them out. "You--" She clears her throat. "Yours went off."
"Yes," Stark replies, and she knows the regret he's feeling is real.
She laughs again, feeling like the concrete and steel underneath her is soft, could give way with a flick of her wrist, and Rogers shakes her again. "What just happened here? Someone talk to me."
She looks past him to Stark and then pulls away from Rogers, and he lets her go as she gets up. "I thought I had a debt to repay," she says slowly, "but it looks like someone did it for me."
"It wasn't like that," Stark says, his voice hoarse.
"Do you want to tell me or shall I look?" she inquires.
He's out of the chair in a flash. "Stay out of my head." She holds his gaze but doesn't look, leaving him his space. "I'm sorry about your parents, about you and your brother. I don't-- I don't do that anymore."
She follows him with her eyes as he leaves the room.
She takes Pietro's picture out to look at it, listening to the silence for a bit. She's not sure what he would say about what she knows, but they always made their choices together. She puts it away when there's a knock on the door. "Come in."
"Hi," says the redhead as she closes the door behind herself, and Wanda tries to find her name but fails.
"Hi," she replies, sitting down in the only chair.
The woman takes a seat on the bed and holds out a hand. "I'm Natasha Romanoff. We haven't been formally introduced."
Wanda shakes her hand, remembering Romanoff's voice over her ear piece during the battle, watching her move. She's a soldier, like the others. "You are on the team, too."
"Yes." Romanoff smiles. "Steve-- Captain Rogers told me you were thinking of joining us."
"Romanoff," Wanda says instead, tasting it on her tongue.
"Yes." They look at each other for a long moment. "Clint says you fight well."
Wanda remembers, the things she did. "Metal was always easiest. It bends."
"So it was a good thing we were fighting robots?" Romanoff laughs a little. "You weren't too bad at the other thing, either."
"I--" It occurs to her for the first time that if she stays, she should try to make friends. "I'm sorry about that."
"We all have things in our past we have to make up for," Romanoff says.
Wanda resists the temptation to look deeper than she has before, instead opting to ask. "What are you making up for, Agent Romanoff?"
"It's Natasha. Nat to my friends." She smiles. "A lot more than you, in any case."
Clint comes to say goodbye. "You're not staying?" she asks him.
He smiles without feeling it. "I have-- other priorities for now. I'll be back when they-- you need me. Congratulations on that, by the way. I'm glad you decided to join."
"Thank you for asking me," she replies, mocking the formality with a smile.
He laughs properly at that and she's glad to see it. He and Pietro would have continued teasing each other endlessly, and ended up in a fight, probably. Her joy dies at the pain in her chest, but her head isn't aching as much as it used to.
He must have seen it in her face, because he says, "It does get easier, even when you think it doesn't."
"This isn't my first loss," she reminds him sharply.
"No, but it's different when you're a kid."
She doesn't ask him how he knows. "I don't know if I want it to be easier."
"It doesn't mean you forget." He looks at her. "When I get back, I look forward to hearing about your brother. And your parents."
Something stirs, a distant memory of candle flames, two lights reflecting in the window. She pushes it down. "I look forward to telling you," she replies, swallowing around the lump in her throat.
He comes closer and she leans into his quick embrace, returning his kindness when he had no reason to show it to her at first. "Thank you," she whispers, and smiles at his wave as he leaves.
Captain Rogers tells her to pack, they're moving, and she does as she's told because there's no reason not to. New York isn't her city, and she doesn't like tall buildings anyway, although she knows she'll come back because Pietro is here. She goes to see him one last time, tracing her fingers over the headstone that has been added.
It isn't goodbye, she tells the silence in her mind, the place where the whispers of his thoughts used to be. I don't know what I'm doing, she tells him, too. "You always made your mind up before I did."
He doesn't answer her back.
Another plane, but this time they don't go far and they land somewhere far away from everywhere, a building teeming with activity, and she glances at Captain Rogers.
"Welcome to the new Avengers base," he says with a smile.
She's part of this now, like this should be home, and she isn't sure it is. She steps off the jet with her head held high, refusing to feel the looks that slide her way, following Rogers inside. He leads her through locked doors and up stairs and then to a room, handing her a piece of plastic. "Your key card. Gets you most places and most importantly, in here."
"What's in here?"
"It's your room," he replies.
She holds it in front of the pad like she's seen him do and something bleeps and the door slides open. Stepping inside, she looks around. A table, a chair, a small kitchenette, and a door leading further, so she goes in there, too. Bed, a bathroom, and a window with a view of some trees and a field of green. "This," she says slowly, "is not so bad."
Rogers smiles. "No, it isn't, huh?"
She puts down her bag and looks at him. "So now I do what?"
"Relax, settle in. There's some general information in your briefing pack--" he gestures to a tablet on the living room table "--so you can get acquainted with the place. We're expecting the rest of the team over the next couple of weeks, so you can take it easy till they're all here."
"And then?" she pushes.
"Then we get started."
"Training." He frowns at her. "What were you expecting?"
She looks from the living room to the bedroom, and back to him. "Scientists, maybe. Someone to test me, to see what I can do."
His frown deepens. "I know what you can do. And you'll be plenty tested, but not-- not like that. No scientist here is going to poke at anyone under my command unless they ask for it. You got that?"
She takes a step back, but nods. "I got it."
"Good. I'll see you around. If you need me, check--"
"--the briefing pack?"
"Quick learner, I like that." He smiles as he heads out the door, and she heads to the bedroom to unpack.
She brushes her hair in front of the mirror, making the long strands shine as they untangle. The bathroom is small and comfortable, like most of her space here, larger than anywhere she's lived recently. Almost as large as where they lived as children.
She turns away, putting the hair brush down. Her clothes are in the cupboard, taking up only a little space. Maybe one day she will get more, when this feels like home. She sets Pietro's picture on the table, tracing her finger over the glass. Her bag is empty now, and she's moved in.
There's a knock on the door and Natasha sticks her head in. "Hey. Steve said you'd arrived. Wanna grab some lunch?"
Wanda finds a smile and nods. "All right."
They head for the mess, two floors down from where she lives now, and pick out sandwiches and drinks. Natasha helps herself to a can of cola. "Just can't get enough of this."
Wanda makes a face, going for tea instead and they sit in the far corner. Natasha sits by the wall, Wanda with her back to the room, but she doesn't need to see people to sense they're looking.
"You know," Natasha says as she pops open the can with a distinctive hiss of carbon dioxide, "when I first lived on a SHIELD base, I kind of got the same looks."
Wanda remembers what she's seen in Natasha's head, and she meets her eyes. "Does it get easier?"
Natasha plays with the pull tab on the can. "The novelty wears off. Whether it gets easier... it's up to you."
She nods. "I have things to make up for."
Natasha smiles. "I'd say you're pretty even."
The other woman's face closes off for a moment, and Wanda doesn't push, doesn't try to find out what she's thinking. "I have a lifetime to make up for. I was very young when I started."
"So was I." In reply to Natasha's raised eyebrow, she adds, "Fifteen."
"Your parents died when you were ten. You and your brother were on the streets?"
"Strucker's offer must have been very tempting under those conditions."
It seems so long ago now. "It was food and shelter, and a chance to..." She shrugs.
"Did you know? Who he was?"
Natasha's curiosity comes through clearly, and Wanda blinks. "He was a way to get even." She suppresses a shudder at the memory of what she saw in Tony Stark's head. "Now, I don't know."
Natasha nods, biting into her sandwich. She chews slowly. "You'll find your place here. Might not feel like it now, but you will."
Wanda wants to be as sure as Natasha sounds. She nods. "It's more than I've had in a long time," she replies.
"Wanna show me what you can do?" Rogers asks her one morning.
"I don't think--" She looks at him. Maybe it's time. "All right."
"Just the power thing." He gives her a smile. "I'm not inviting you back into my head."
"I am... sorry about that," she replies, because in a way she is, even though it came so easily at the time.
"You don't have to apologise to me. The past is the past."
She nods, following him to what is apparently the training room, a large cavernous space, metal walls that are reinforced.
"Plenty of room to move around," Rogers says, picking up the red, white, and blue shield she's seen him fight with. "And it's not easy to damage, either." He throws the shield, and it bounces of the walls, sparks flying as the sound echoes across the room. He catches it neatly with a device strapped to his arm, and she stares.
"How do you do that?"
"I'll teach you once you've been here long enough." His smile is easy. "Let's first see what you can do already."
She closes her eyes for a moment, calling up the energy, feeling it slide down her arms and pool at her fingertips. She moves her hands to shape it, then opens her eyes and pushes her hands out in an arc, sending it flying towards the shield.
He brings the shield up, deflecting the energy, rolling with the impact as it dissipates. She sends another wave his way, and he turns to catch that easily, too. She tries to shape it better, tries to take him by surprise, but he seems ready for whatever she sends him. She grits her teeth, pushing out more power, and it's satisfying to watch him stagger. She turns, abruptly, taking a leaf from his book and glancing it off the walls.
She judges the angle wrong and it hits him in the back, knocking him down hard. She's running before she can think about it, skidding to a stop by his side. "I'm sorry, I-- I'm sorry."
"Wanda, it's-- it's okay." He's sitting up, catching his breath. "Hey. I don't damage that easily."
"You--" She's not sure what to say.
"I'm fine." He's standing up, brushing off his uniform. "Did you ever train like this before?"
She shakes her head. "Not like this, we... I didn't practice on people."
"Well, you'll have to get used to training accidents sometimes." She hesitates, then nods. "Ready to go again?"
She takes another breath, centering the energy, and then she smiles and pushes it at his feet. He jumps, turning while he's doing it, the shield spinning away from his arm and she brings up her left hand, sending energy at it. She hears it clatter to the floor behind her, and then he raises his arm and she ducks as the magnets on his wrist yank it back to him.
"That's... very useful."
He grins. "Yeah, it is. Tony is generous when it comes to the team."
She freezes. "Stark? Stark made all that?"
"Not all of it, but yes, most." He narrows his eyes. "Is that a problem? I know there's history between you two, even if I don't understand it."
"He..." He killed my parents, she wants to say, but it's not the whole truth. "It's not a problem anymore," she answers.
"If you want to talk about it," he offers.
She looks at him. They are the same, but still very different. "Thank you."
"Anytime." He nods, face going blank again, and the next moment the shield is flying her way and she barely has time to deflect it, sending it spinning back to him, and he catches it easily.
When they're done she's breathless and sits on the floor, and he sits down next to her, handing over a bottle of water. "Not bad."
She drinks a little, glancing at him. "It's different to what-- I was used to."
He nods. "Can I ask you something?"
Instinctively she braces herself. "Yes."
"You ever look inside Strucker's head?"
"Not in the way you are asking," she says after a pause, sensing the tension in him. "He was... skilled and didn't make it easy, and he didn't... encourage it." She meets his eyes, feeling his emotions bubble under the surface with surprising intensity. "No, not like that. Just... there were other things to keep us occupied."
He nods. "Okay."
"Is there something you want to know about Strucker?"
He takes a deep breath, blows it out again, and she watches him. "Did you know about Strucker and Hydra?"
"I read your file."
She feels herself tense. "What file?"
"SHIELD kept files on-- It doesn't matter, but it said you and Pietro are Jewish?"
She bares her teeth. "What of it?"
He's looking at her and she can sense the tension in him, the way he's bracing himself against something. "Hydra worked with-- was the Nazi science division in World War Two."
History lessons; their father telling stories at the dinner table about people who weren't with them anymore; Pietro scared and angry, asking if they could come back-- their mother saying no. She scrambles away from him, standing up. "You are lying."
"You know I'm not," he replies, rising to his feet.
"I would know it," she hisses. "I-- we would have known if that were true."
He holds out a hand. "I can show you."
If she looked inside his head, she'd be sure, she'd know, and she's suddenly afraid of knowing, even as she reaches out to touch her fingers to his-- a man with a red face-- people screaming-- bombs and the end of the world-- there's a terrible certainty in her heart as she watches the ocean come up to meet her--
"Stop." He pulls away, watching her, knowing what she's seen, and she stumbles into the wall, feeling her way along it because she's not sure she can hold herself up.
He steps in front of her. "You didn't know. You didn't know, Wanda. Neither of you knew."
His face is blurring in front of her. "What does that matter?"
"You didn't know," he says again, and then he adds, "I know it's hard to live with, but it's about what we do now."
She laughs bitterly, feeling sick. "I am not like you."
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I know, I can't imagine... I can't imagine what it's like for you. I'm sorry."
"No, you can't." She can feel the energy under her skin, wanting to find a target, wanting to hurt him because he told her. But it isn't his fault, in the end. She sinks down to the floor and lets the tears flow.
She may never learn to live with the empty space in her chest, with the silence in her head. When she gets up off the floor, taking Rogers' hand and letting him pull her up, everything just feels numb. "I'm sorry," she manages, her voice hoarse.
She gestures. "Looking."
"I invited you," he replies, walking her to her room. People look less when she's with him. Or maybe they're looking at him more. "I meant what I said. What you do now is what counts."
She wants to ask him who said that to him, who thought that it could fix the wrongs in his head, but instead, she just nods, and goes inside.
They leave her alone for three days, and she doesn't get out of bed for the first two. On the third night, she dreams of Pietro, telling her to eat, to live, and she wakes up ashamed that she'd try to give up on the life he lost.
She showers, dresses, and gets herself some food. Midway through her eggs, Natasha sits down across from her. "Just so you know, if you'd gone another day I would have come get you from your quarters."
Wanda glares at her. "He told you."
"He had to. I needed to know." Natasha holds her eyes. "And I'm sorry."
"Does it matter now?"
"That's for you to decide."
Wanda pushes her empty plate away. "I don't know what to decide."
"We're the Avengers. Hydra is pretty much what we're up against. Do you want to be here?"
You step out that door, you are an Avenger. She takes a deep breath. "Yes."
"Then you can decide on everything else later."
One day she's walking down to the mess and she catches sight of Tony Stark and Captain Rogers, talking to each other in the corridor. She stops short, almost waiting for Pietro to nudge her, like a sign she won't get again. She heads for them, watching as Rogers catches sight of her and goes silent, and Stark turns around, face closing off as soon as he sees her.
"I didn't mean to interrupt," she says, a polite phrase she's heard Natasha use from time to time. "But I'd like to... to talk to you, if I can."
Stark looks at Rogers, who shrugs and says, "I'll catch you later," before making himself scarce.
Wanda looks around, but it's quiet, not a lot of people about.
"Okay, you're doing the mysterious thing really well, but as much as I hate to say this, you're not my favourite person, so if we could get this over with?"
"I wanted," Wanda says slowly, "to apologise."
Stark blinks. "Okay. I'd say we're pretty even after last time."
"I shouldn't..." She is still learning how to deal with this. "I shouldn't have looked inside your head."
His face is inscrutable for a moment. "Oh. Yeah. I would appreciate it if you didn't do that again."
"I'm sorry for that, and--"
"I'm sorry, too," he replies, interrupting her. "I don't do that anymore."
"I know." She's not sure how to feel about a man who stops building weapons because he became their target, but he could say the same about her, now. She holds out her hand.
He looks at it, eyes flicking up to her face and back down to her hand, and she doesn't need to try to feel the distrust coming off him, but he shakes her hand after a few seconds. "I'm not gonna be around that much for a while, so-- good luck playing with the other kids."
She smiles a little at that. "Thank you."
"Try not to get lost inside anyone's head." With that parting shot, he turns and heads down the corridor, and she watches him walk away.
"I have something for you," Natasha says, catching up to her as she's heading back to her quarters that night.
Wanda waits, taking the box Natasha pushes into her hands. "What is it?"
Natasha leans back. "I did some googling. Maybe I'm way off or maybe you just want to put them in the back of the cupboard and forget about it, but I remember-- sometimes it's nice to have something to remind you of home."
Wanda opens the box, blinking at the pair of candlesticks nestled together in satin.
"It's Friday," Natasha adds, "and I noticed you don't have any."
"Thank you," Wanda replies, her voice coming out thick, and then leans in for a hug.
She lights them that night, looking at the picture of Pietro, next to the one of their parents which she added a while ago, looking at her mother's smile when she shapes her mouth around the requisite words.
Maybe this is starting to feel like home.