Steve made a blanket fort. He said that he and Bucky liked to make them when they were kids, and that they’d hide and play underneath it.
Wanda pretended this one was a castle. It was a good place to hide. Lorna thought so too.
“Wanna be a princess?”
She nodded, taking her pacifier out of her mouth for a moment. Steve preferred her using that instead of having her suck her thumb since she bit herself a lot. “You can be the princess cat.”
Lorna said she’d like to be the princess cat and that she was really excited to live in the castle, but didn’t they have to go to therapy soon?
Wanda made a face. “I don’t wanna go.”
“Mommy and Daddy are gonna make you.”
That was probably true. Mommy and Daddy made them do a lot of things that according to them, were for her own good. Wanda usually just hated it. It wasn’t that she hated Dr. Samson-he was nice, he really was. But she didn’t like talking about any of the things that had happened to her, whether it was in Sokovia or on the Raft. Even if they were technically safe now, according to Tony, she didn’t feel safe at all.
“Wanda?” The door opened, and the sound of Sam’s footsteps entered the room. “Where are you?”
Wanda held her breath and drew her knees up to her chest. Lorna started purring to comfort her. Sam reached down and lifted up one of the blankets covering the fort. “Oh, there you are. What are you doing here all by yourself, baby girl?”
Wanda shrugged and fumbled a little with her pacifier until Sam gently took both her hands and said softly, “You don’t like to be alone.”
Wanda usually cried when she was alone. She felt like crying now, but she wasn’t sure if that outweighed her fear.
“Can I come in?” Sam kept his voice quiet. She nodded and moved over a little bit to make room for him. It was a bit cramped with all the stuffed animals and crayons, but they fit.
Sam picked up a bear and smiled. “I think he’s having a good time in your fort. But he might have to go out and do some important stuff today too.”
“S’okay,” Wanda mumbled. “I’m gonna stay here.”
He took a deep breath. “You know you can’t do that, baby. I’m sorry. Is something making you upset?”
She didn’t answer, so he pressed on a little bit. “I know you don’t always like going to therapy. Sometimes it hurts to talk about how you’re feeling-but trust me, it ends up hurting a lot worse to keep it all inside.”
Still quiet, but she seemed a little less closed off, moving just a bit closer to him. Sam took her hand.
“I didn’t like going to therapy either,” he said, “When I got back from the war? I didn’t want to talk about anything that happened.”
That took her by surprise. Sam was a grownup, and he always seemed to know how to do the right thing. “Why?”
He shrugged. “Because I was scared. Because I thought that the more I talked about it, the worse the memories were going to get. But you know what? It took a long time, but I did start to get better. I was really glad I went. I was so glad that I decided to do the same thing and try to help other people. I know it’s scary and frustrating-and it won’t fix everything. But it can help you learn to share how you’re feeling with Mommy and Daddy-”
“And me,” he agreed, “And your brother.”
Wanda held her arms out to him and let him carefully pull her into his lap. She leaned against his chest and whispered, “Do you talk ‘bout your feelings still?”
He nodded, soothingly rubbing circles on her back. “I still do.”
“You get scary dreams.”
“I do. I wish I didn’t. But Steve makes me feel better. He’s a great person to talk to when you’re feeling sad or scared.”
She nodded. “He gives hugs when I get dreams.”
Sam smiled. “Because he loves you very much. And would he make you do something that hurt you or wasn’t good for you?”
She shook her head.
“He doesn’t make you go to therapy because he wants you to hurt more. He wants you to get help because he knows that people done things to you that were very, very wrong and you’ve seen things that you shouldn’t have had to.”
Wanda mumbled, “It’s scary.”
“I know. But Lorna can come with you,” he patted the cat’s head, “She makes stuff less scary, right?”
That was true. Lorna made stuff way better. She was still purring.
“Lorna’s the cat princess,” she told him, “This is the castle.”
“I see that. It’s a very nice castle, baby,” he looked up, “It’s nice to have a place to hide away, right? And it’s better than you hiding in the closet.”
“Yeah,” she said rather absentmindedly, “I’m a good hider.”
“Yeah, you are. That’s why when I’m the seeker, I can never find you,” he grinned, “I have an idea. When you want to talk about something and you feel a little scared to talk about it, how about you pick one place to take me to, and we’ll work it out there? Then you don’t have to worry about it everywhere you go.”
That wasn’t a bad idea. Wanda thought about it for a moment, then said, “Can it be here? In the castle? ‘Cause it’s safe sometimes and no monsters are in here.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Sam kissed her forehead. “You can talk to me or anyone else about whatever you want, okay? Even if it seems small.”
“What if I don’t wanna talk anymore?”
He tipped her chin up with a finger. “Then you say, ‘This is too much for me, and I need a break.’ That’s it. Even with the doctor.”
Wanda looked immensely relieved. “I can do that?”
“Absolutely. Sometimes I need to stop too, when I’m talking about how I feel. And later on, I might feel better about it and want to talk about it then. It’s okay if you need to stop sometimes, I promise,” he assured her, “Do you think you’re ready to go now?”
She gave him a slight nod, still looking a little bit afraid. Sam wrapped her up in a hug. “It’s gonna be okay. You’ll be safe.”
“I promise,” he assured her, “Come on.”
Lorna nuzzled her hand. “It’s okay. I’ll be with you the whole time.”