The twins are getting old when they hear that the Captain has been pulled from the ice. They are not as old in appearance as others their age - Pietro’s enhancements let him age more slowly, and the number of healing blood transfusions Wanda had received from her brother has delayed her own ageing equally so. They are in their seventies and only look forty. They think that, after Steve seeing Peggy, seeing them is a surprise.
“Oh,” He says, when he walks into their office in the Triskelion. “You look...”
“Well?” Wanda asks, and smiles just a touch. “We thought it might surprise you. It surprised us.”
They remember Steve. They remember him as the golden-and-blue Captain, all that the Nazis and HYDRA were seeking and utterly against them. They remember him as the one who freed friends and family in the camp in the woods, and who freed them from the castle. They remember him as the one who made Peggy hide tears for years when he dove himself into the ice to stop a bombing.
They remember with crystal clarity the day it happened; the swimming miasma of grief and sorrow in the S.S.R. offices that had almost sent Wanda to their rooms with a migraine.
All the same they forgive him the pain when they see his mind shining with its own sorrows.
He goes to them, after the Battle of New York. Heads down to their office, still in armour and sits on a chair, shield leaning against his knees. At a glance from Wanda Pietro goes to get him coffee.
“What happened?” Wanda asks while her brother is gone. “We saw the news but you were there. We know the difference.”
Wanda can see the red of startling and the blue of calming mesh in his mind as he remembers they have seen as much war as he.
“I don’t know,” Steve says. “Too much. Too many people.” He pauses, thinks, takes the cup Pietro pushes into his hands as he returns. “People must have died.”
“They did,” Wanda says, a soft admission, and leans against her brother. “We haven’t got the numbers yet, but I felt the lights go out.”
Sometimes Steve joins them in their office for no other reason than company. They never knew him well, he never knew them well, but most of the Commandos are gone, Howard and Colonel Phillips are dead, and Peggy only remembers the year half of the time. Wanda’s tried all she can to anchor Peggy to the present, but psionics only do so much against biological frailties.
So Steve sits with them.
“What are you doing?” he asks one day, Pietro typing hyper-fast at the keyboard, Wanda examining something on her screen.
“Records,” Pietro says. “Collecting data for an op.” He glances over the glass panel which serves as a screen to Wanda, smiling just a touch. “Hey, maybe with Rogers back, they’ll let us out in the field again.”
Wanda’s look is a teasing frown. “You know they won’t,” she says. “Not until they can replicate what we can do, and with Howard dead we’re not letting anyone play with our biology again.” Pietro tilts his head in a slight nod, and Wanda looks to Steve. “Psych Evals,” she says. “A combination of quizzes and brainscans. I can put them together to get an idea of someone even without being in the same room.”
Wanda frowns at the one on her screen again. “More and more I don’t trust.” She taps a few keys, swipes her fingers across the screen sending data to someone else. “Pietro? We’ll be meeting the recruits at four. Bring your taser.”
The next time they see Steve he’s in his stealth suit. “Op?” Pietro asks.
“Classified,” Steve replies.
The look Wanda gives him is almost condescending. “Next to nothing is classified to us. The Lemurian Star job?”
“Good luck,” Wanda says. “And do see if you can bring Batroc in alive; I’ve been wanting to poke at his head for a while.”
Steve smiles slightly. “That’s the op,” he says. “After getting the Agents off the ship.”
“Good luck,” the twins repeat.
When Fury finds out about the locked encryption he brings his concerns to them. Wanda sends her mind spinning out, spiralling and arcing over the Triskelion. She can feel Pietro’s hands on hers, sense Fury’s well-shielded mind in the room but she is above the room now, stretching out over the whole base. She never usually did this, even Fury only permitted it when there was a leak of great significance, but he was permitting it now. Who had locked out the director?
They still remember when he was an Agent, when he had just joined, when Peggy had gently and persistently pushed for his advancement. It’s not fair, Peggy had said, To lock someone out for your prejudices when they have beaten every single one into the ground. They had not ever quite liked Fury, but Peggy had trusted him.
Peggy, they had learned quite early on, had impeccable taste in people.
Wanda spins out over the Triskelion and tames her scarlet to hiding. No one can see this, no one must know of this, as she scans mind after mind after mind. She can feel the mainland from here now, feel the great mass of minds and knows she is going to have a migraine if she stretches much further.
Her hands tighten on Pietro’s and she stretches her mind all the same.
She is pale and gasping when she pulls herself back down to her mind. Pietro is gone and back in a flash, paracetamol and water ready in proffering hands.
“I didn’t find all of them,” she says. “I don’t think I can.”
Fury looks at the twins, Wanda’s hair greying like her brother’s always has been, Pietro still firm by her side. “Anything actionable,” he says. “Anything at all.”
“Rumlow,” she says. “Brock Rumlow.”
Wanda goes still when Fury is attacked. She had attached a piece of her scarlet to his mind, not to read but to track, to alert when something - inevitably - went wrong.
She is going over Psych Evals when she catches a glimpse of an overturning car and police advancing.
“Pietro,” she says, and he knows that tone, knows it from every time she has warned him of a shot about to happen, every time she has told him they must get out, every time something has gone wrong. He remembers when she used it when Howard Stark died, when she had been shot on their last op, when she had used it when they had met the Commandos.
He looks up, alert and ready, and his eyes filled with the same protective intensity of their youth.
“We leave?” he asks, and Wanda nods, pushes her things into her bag, sends off a report of a migraine and a request for sick-leave. Pietro scoops her into his arms and takes them home.
Steve calls them the next day. “Something is wrong,” he says. “I’m not sure what.”
“Fury,” Wanda says, and hears the exhale Steve gives. “Take care,” she offers. “And come to us if you need us.” There is a moment's pause. “Home,” she specifies. “Not work.”
They can both hear the wry smile as Steve laughs. “I guessed,” he says. “Take care.”
Steve shows up with two others, and begging for just a moment to explain. The men are in armour, the woman in a suit and pulling on a wig as they step in.
Steve looks to Wanda. “Can I speak?” he asks. “Alone.”
Wanda bites her lip, considers for a moment. “Pietro,” she says, and taps her brow. “Help them with what they need, but stay close.” Pietro nods, and starts flying around the room. “Come on,” Wanda says to Steve. “Office.”
“It’s HYDRA,” Steve says, as soon as the door is shut, and Wanda feels her brother pause down their bond. “They’re the ones you’ve not trusted, they’ve been pushing for Project Insight, they’re the ones who tried to kill Fury, who tried to arrest me.” Wanda is barely breathing as Steve continues. “They’re launching Insight today.”
She can feel the sparkling silver anger in Pietro’s mind, feel the rising red wave of hers. “Kill them,” she says, and she thinks she startles Steve with her vehemence. “They should die,” she says. “Every last one of them.”
“Not all of them,” Steve says, and Wanda sees the image flitting through his mind.
“Barnes,” she says. “He died.”
“No,” Steve says. “They took him.”
Wanda feels the scarlet in her eyes, feels it curling like whispers over the skin of her hands, feels Pietro shaking even as he darts about finding extra ammo for Wilson. “Kill them all,” she says. “And get him out.” There is a question in the Captain’s mind, a fear and Wanda pulls her scarlet back to touch his arm without tearing his armour. “You can do it,” she says, “If anyone can. I saw your closeness when you got us out. It shone.”
“We should go,” Pietro says, when the three have left. “We should help.”
Wanda leans against her brother as they stand in the doorway of their home. “They are our nightmares,” she acknowledges, “And not any of theirs.”
“I got our gear,” Pietro offers and Wanda shakes her head.
“Barnes is the Captain’s dream,” Wanda says. “Let us not taint it with out nightmare. We have fought it for decades already.”
Wanda can feel her brother’s mind turning, wind howling and hunting through the leaves and branches of the tree of his mind. “What if they fail?” he asks. “What if Insight activates?”
Wanda leans away, stands straight, at attention as Peggy had taught them. “Then we fight,” she says. “I will warp all their minds before I let them kill the innocent.”
She had almost forgotten the battle-gladness of her brother’s mind as bubbles of laughing silver joy rise through his tree.
They do not need to in the end, but Wanda still sends arcing lines of scarlet over their neighbourhood as pieces of Helicarrier fall. Pietro shifts people out of the way - he is still loathe to carry anyone who is not Wanda - and Wanda listens as closely as she can for minds of HYDRA and minds in pain.
She tries not to feel so satisfied when she feels minds which are both.
Steve comes to them, days later. Wanda sees the empty space to his right even as Wilson fills the left.
“Oh, Steve,” she says. “We’re so sorry.”
Steve shakes his head, shows a vague memory of someone in black and with a silver arm pulling him from the river. “He’s remembering,” he says instead. “He’ll remember on his own, with time.”
Neither need to say that with HYDRA as broken as it is he will have more time than ever.
“If you find him,” Wanda offers, “Bring him to us.”