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Runs in the Family

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Vision thinks it was Tommy who woke up first. He’s always been the more restless of the twins, but when Tommy doesn’t sleep, Billy doesn’t sleep, and Billy has a pair of lungs that would put a banshee to shame. It’s just past three in the morning, but Vision is used to this routine now. He’d phased carefully out of bed, letting Wanda’s arm fall to the mattress and hoping it wasn’t enough to wake her, before ducking over to the nursery to tend to the two crying babies.

He scoops up Billy first, lifting him against his chest and patting him, swaying back and forth as he does so. “What’s this, now,” he murmurs, still patting repeatedly, as his solar gem begins to emit a low hum. He discovered the frequency only a few days ago, and its soothing effects are immediate. Billy quiets down, and Vision leans over the crib to collect Tommy. “Isn’t that better?” Vision asks, balancing one twin on each arm. “You’ll wake your mother with all this noise. I suppose that’s what you want, isn’t it?”

It doesn’t look like either of them need changing yet, but they might be hungry even though Wanda only fed them a few hours ago. He’s especially loath to wake her when she was sleeping so peacefully—a rare sight these days. Whatever the boys’ problem is, he’ll handle it. They still seem restless, although they’re no longer crying; Vision rocks them for a few more minutes while they settle. He’ll warm up a bottle in a minute.

“Vizh?”

Wanda’s voice is drowsy and it makes Vision turn to see her, leaning on the door to the nursery in a shirt and underwear.

“I’m sorry, I had hoped they wouldn’t wake you,” Vision says.

“We both know there was no chance of that.” Wanda yawns, bleary-eyed. “They’re just relentless, aren’t they?” she says, coming over and bumping her shoulder affectionately against Vision’s. “You won’t let Mommy and Daddy rest for five minutes, will you?” she demands, tickling Billy’s forehead.

“I was about to feed them,” Vision says. “I think they may be hungry.”

“Maybe,” Wanda says, covering another yawn before wrapping her arms around Vision’s waist and burying her face in his shoulder, still half asleep. “Maybe they just wanted a cuddle. It’s a big, scary world out there. Look, they’re already calming down down,” she adds, awe in her voice. “Here, why don’t I take one…”

Vision moves to pass Billy to her, but the moment he starts to leave Vision’s arms, he lets out a noise of protest, causing Wanda to laugh.

“Oh, I see, you’d rather stay with Daddy, then,” she chuckles, taking her hands away in mock exasperation.

“I think he’s just comfortable,” Vision says, his voice quiet.

“Of course he is,” Wanda says. “Because of you.”

Vision looks down again, overcome with awe at the two little miracles in his arms. Wanda does too, over his shoulder. Two shining balls of life that they created together, that would not exist in this world without them. Wanda rests her palm on top of Tommy’s forehead and wraps her other arm around her husband. For his part, Vision doesn’t say much. It’s hard to find the words, but maybe that’s okay. This is their family, their little corner of the world, where they understand each other. Nothing will ever take this from them.

 


 

Wanda was returning from the pool. There was something to be said for having a day off in between saving the world every once in a while, she thought, slinging her towel over her shoulders as she made her way back to the mansion. Sitting under the sun, finishing that book she’d been reading…she needed this, especially amongst the chaos of their day to day lives.

She was just leaving her room after changing back into her civilian clothes when Vision suddenly appeared from the wall she was passing, causing her to start. “Vizh!” she said, laughing. “You scared me.”

“I’m sorry.” Vision seemed uneasy, which wasn’t like him. “How was your afternoon?” he added, inclining his head slightly in the direction of the pool.

“Oh, you have no idea how much I needed it,” Wanda said, stretching. It was nice talking with Jan, too. They rarely had the time to socialise outside of official Avengers business these days. “What about you? How’s that project you’ve been working on?”

Vision tensed. That was what he had come to speak to her about, but…it felt wrong, on so many levels, especially on what was otherwise such a mundane day. “The Avengers Fail-Safe Program,” he said slowly. “It is…a working title.”

“That’s right,” Wanda said, trying to remember if he’d told her the name of it yet. She didn’t think he had. “You still haven’t told me what it’s for.” With a title like that, it sounded particularly grim, but she had learned to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“That was what I wanted to talk to you about,” Vision said, at last. “Do you—I would—Wanda, do you have a moment?”

The tone in his voice gave Wanda pause, and she suddenly looked him over with more care, sensing his discomfort. “Of course—Vision, what’s the matter? Should we call the others?” Whatever the program was for, if he had detected some kind of danger—

“No, nothing like that,” Vision reassured her. “This is something personal. You will understand when I show you…I hope.”

Wanda gave a confused sort of smile. “Is this really to do with your program?”

“Yes, but it will be easier if I show you. Will you walk with me?”

Wanda linked her arm with his without saying a word. Something was clearly eating at him, and she hated seeing him in such a state. For Vision’s part, all he felt was trepidation, and a great feeling of guilt for what he was about to do.

“My intentions were to create a program that would monitor news and media outlets in case information about new heroes were to surface,” he explained slowly, as they made their way back toward Vision’s room. “I had hoped to eventually identify a number of younger individuals capable of replacing the Avengers in the event something were to happen to all of us. We would be able to provide them with training and guidance, ideally before such an event were to take place, but in any case, it would give them something to rally around.”

“What did you think was going to happen?” Wanda asked, squeezing his arm in amusement. “One too many world-ending disasters gets the better of us?”

“I believe in being prepared for any eventuality,” Vision said, sounding put-upon, but he relaxed a little. “In any case, my plan was for most of the heroes included in the program to be people the Avengers were already familiar with, people we could trust. Then in the last couple of weeks, my detection algorithms picked something up. Two somethings, as it happens.”

They had reached the door to Vision’s room now, and he hesitated only briefly before opening it. These days, it was little more than an empty room with a number of monitors and a chair on one side. Certainly nothing to suggest that anyone lived out of here. Most of his own personal artefacts had been left behind when he stopped living with Wanda. Vision had still been devoid of emotions and sentimentality at the time, and since then…truthfully, he didn’t spend much time in here. He didn’t see much point in decorating.

If Wanda thought the state of his room odd, she said nothing. Instead, she looked up at Vision. “By ‘two somethings’, am I to assume you mean it picked up two young heroes?” she asked.

Vision hesitated. Two young heroes. It was a nice thought.

“There have been more than two, although a few were unsubstantiated. But there are two that I’d…like you to take a look at, if I may.”

He was able to interface remotely with the computers in his room; seemingly without prompting, the holographic display that Tony had installed flickered to life across the wall, covered with various images and video. Vision left Wanda’s side to approach the display, enlarging one of the entries.

“This young man’s name is Thomas Shepherd. He’s fifteen years old,” he began.

Wanda followed him over, although she folded her arms while looking up at the screen. Vision stole a glance, waiting to see…something. Recognition, perhaps? Instead, all he saw was simple curiosity. “He’s a speedster,” she commented, noticing some video footage as Vision enlarged Tommy’s profile, showing a short teen with white hair zipping around on screen.

“Yes,” Vision said, turning his gaze back to the screen. “The program picked him up following an incident a few weeks ago. His speed manifests itself in explosive tendencies, with culminated in his school being vaporised.”

Wanda turned sharply when he said this, looking alarmed, but Vision quickly reassured her. “The public was shaken but nobody was harmed, and Thomas turned himself in shortly afterward. The footage up there was taken during his trial; he was just admitted to juvie.”

“What kind of juvie could hold a child with that kind of power?” Wanda asked incredulously, thinking of Pietro. Those kinds of powers were incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands, as Thomas had already demonstrated, intentionally or otherwise.

“I needed to hack into some of their systems, but…” Vision paused. “It appears to be equipped with power dampeners and Mandroid armour. I have not been able to determine where they found that kind of tech.”

“Surely there must be a better way,” Wanda said, shuddering. “He’s just a boy. I can talk to Pietro, I’m sure he could be a good influence on him, teach him to control his powers…”

“I have been monitoring the situation, and had plans to intervene,” Vision agreed, and then paused, watching Wanda’s face again, waiting. Waiting. “I wanted to show you one of the others, too,” he continued, closing Tommy’s profile and opening one of the others. “This is William Kaplan, also fifteen years old. I was only able to find him because—”

“Hold on,” Wanda said, touching one of the images to make it larger. “I know this boy.”

Vision froze. “You know him?”

There was a thoughtful frown on Wanda’s face, but it quickly disappeared into a smile. “Yes, I’m sure of it. I met him outside the mansion a few weeks ago…I think he was being bullied at school,” she added, her smile faltering. She had only been thinking about him this morning; something about him had stuck with her. “He looks a lot like Thomas, doesn’t he?”

“Virtually identical,” Vision said softly, bringing up another photo of Tommy for comparison. Even with Tommy’s white hair, it was impossible to miss. “Facial recognition detected them as a match; it’s why I found William in the first place, after it had already found Thomas. I have reason to believe he was involved in an incident at his school with a boy named John Kesler. He put him in the hospital, actually.”

Wanda covered her mouth. As soon as Vision had said it, she recognised the name. Stand your ground, and all the Keslers of the world can’t touch you, that was what she had told him. She hadn’t considered what that might have meant. “What are his powers?” she asked, turning to Vision urgently. She didn’t believe for a second that Billy was capable of deliberately hurting someone, but if he had caused this by accident, then he needed her help.

Vision hesitated before continuing. “They are…not unlike yours, Wanda. Although I haven’t had the chance to find out for sure, he seems to have some form of energy manipulation. That’s not all; he and Thomas were born on the same day.”

“So they’re twins,” Wanda said, like that was obvious. She had already figured as much, after seeing their faces. Despite everything, she gave a faint smile. “Reminds me of another pair of twins I know.”

Vision did not seem amused. If anything, he became more sullen from her attempt at a joke. “They were born in different states, more than twenty miles apart, within minutes of each other. I considered that one may have been somehow swapped with another child when they were babies, but neither of their hospital records showed a twin. They were both single births.”

“There must be some explanation,” Wanda said, trying to figure out where he was leading her. “Two mutants born on the same day, who look almost identical? That can’t be a coincidence.”

“It’s…not.”

Wanda had never thought that Vision’s voice was robotic, but it had been a while since she heard him say anything that struck her as quite so fundamentally human. He sounded tired, and it gave her pause. Vision held her gaze, something immeasurably sad settled across his face. He hated this. Hated every moment of what he was about to do. He used to wish that he could simply forget the way that she had, but with the situation at hand, he could no longer ignore it.

“What do you mean?” Wanda prompted apprehensively.

Tentatively, Vision extended a hand to take hers and sat down on one of the chairs, prompting her to sit on the one opposite. She still looked bemused, so Vision pressed on.

“Wanda, my darling…” His tone was quiet. Reverent, even. It felt like the last time he would ever say her name. “I owe you an apology, for what I’ve done, and for what I am about to do.”

Wanda stiffened, not quite responding to the touch of his hand. “Vision, what are you talking about?”

“I have been keeping something from you, we all have, and it is time you took it back.”

He had hoped that seeing the boys would be enough to jog Wanda’s memory, so he wouldn’t have to say it. The last thing he wanted was to draw from his own memory banks. For a moment, he wondered if Agatha’s spell could only be lifted by Agatha herself.

Then the colour drained out of Wanda’s face and Vision knew. They both knew.

“The children,” she said softly,

Wanda snatched her hand away.

“Master Pandemonium,” she said, jumping to her feet. “He’d taken them, I remember…I remember everything. Vision, what happened? I didn’t—Why didn’t I—” Wanda cut herself off with a strained choking sound. “All this time…”

“Agatha Harkness performed a spell which suppressed them from your memory,” Vision stood, but he faced the screen to avoid meeting her eyes. “We—the Avengers deemed it to be the safest option.”

Safest?” Wanda cried, her voice wracked with disbelief. For a second, Vision thought he saw a glimmer of red around her fingertips, but if there had been, it quickly disappeared when Wanda ran her hands over her face. “I feel sick.”

“Perhaps you should sit down,” Vision said, awkwardly extending a hand, but Wanda barely responded, her whole body stiff as a board.

“Don’t.” Wanda turned away from him, struggling to control the nausea clawing its way up her body. The image was seared into her memory now—her sons’ beautiful faces, contorted and monstrous. Pandemonium had captured them and incorporated them into his body like some kind of sick carnival show. She kept a hand covering her mouth. All this time, the entire team had known. Vision had known. And they had let her carry in in ignorance—not out of mercy, but out of fear. Fear of what she might do. Well, they were right to be afraid.

“Wanda?” Vision asked, bringing her back to reality, at least for a moment. “Are you—”

“I want to know exactly what happened,” she demanded. “After I passed out. What did Agatha do to me?”

Vision hesitated. He remembered the events with infallible clarity, of course, and it was not something he wished to share with her. “After Mephisto came to reclaim—” He could not bring himself to say their names. “—what was taken from him, Agatha surmised that the pieces of his soul which had become the twins would still be connected to you. Removing your memory of them caused them to disperse and destroy Mephisto, at least for a short time.”

“Just like that.” Wanda still could not look at him, could barely keep herself standing in place. “And afterward? You just decided to pretend it never happened?”

“At the time it seemed…logical,” Vision said, choosing his words carefully. He still hated them. “Wanda, you know what I was, back when it…when it happened.”

Wanda knew he was right. She knew, and yet his words still hurt, made her boil with anger. It must have been nice, being able to look at it so logically. “What about since then? All this time we’ve been together, and you didn’t tell me.”

“I am telling you now.” Vision tentatively reached out again. “Wanda, I have wanted to tell you for so long, but I couldn’t bring myself to. You seemed so happy.”

“And it was a lie.” Wanda did not pull away from his touch this time, but she didn’t react for god-knows how long. When she finally did, it was to look back at the screen, where William Kaplan and Thomas Shepherd’s pictures were still on the display. She stared at it for a while, trying to find…something. It was obvious now why Vision had wanted to show her this. “They’re too old, Vision. They’re teenagers.”

“I know.”

“They can’t be ours.”

“I know.”

Wanda realised she was crying. Perhaps she had been for a while.

So many people. Vision, Pietro, Agatha, the entire team. Their family. Every single one of them had deemed her incapable of handling the truth and better off living a lie. There was a part of her that wanted them to feel her pain, wanted to tear town the walls that surrounded them in a hail of scarlet and demand to know why. Who gave them the right?

Then she looked at those two boys on the screen again, and all she wanted to do was help them.

“I need time to think about think about this,” she said at last, bringing herself to meet Vision’s gaze. “I don’t know if I can be here right now.”

Vision paused before letting go of Wanda’s arm, and he realised as he did so that he did not want her to go. It felt like if she left, he wouldn’t see her again. “We can talk about this later…whenever you feel ready.”

Wanda brushed a hand across her face, calmed her breathing, and wondered if she should say thank you. She didn’t, though. “Yes,” she said at last, lingering for another moment before brushing past him in the direction of the door. There was more that needed to be spoken, but she could not say it, not right now.

Standing in place, Vision watched her leave, trying to keep the twisted feeling inside him in check. Did that go well? In a way, it felt worse than he’d expected. He could have handled simple anger; it would have been straightforward. Emotions, though, were not simple, a fact he had long-since accepted. It can be easy to withdraw.

He sank into his chair again, looking back up at the screen, before turning off the display.

What had he been afraid of when he had created the program? More importantly, what had he been looking for? If he were simply afraid of something happening to the Avengers, he would have gone to Tony and Steve, maybe compiled a list of their contacts and former members to be notified in the event of a disaster. What was the benefit of trying to find a list of complete strangers? Children, even.

These were all important questions, and Vision was a rational man. At the time, he hadn’t thought much of it. It had seemed the most logical solution; their generation would not last forever, and the sooner they found the next, the better.

Perhaps, though, it had seemed that way because he was missing something. He didn’t deliberately set out trying to find Thomas and William—until a few days ago, he’d had no reason to think that Agatha may have been wrong in her assessment of them—but he knew then what he had lost, and he had nobody to share that with, not even Wanda. The Avengers Fail-Safe Program had given him an outlet for that, one way or another.

Did it really make a difference if Billy Kaplan and Tommy Shepherd were who he thought they were? Vision would have needed to tell Wanda the truth eventually. Getting her hopes up in this way only to chance having them taken away seemed unimaginably cruel.

Then he wondered if maybe it wasn’t Wanda’s hopes that had needed protecting.

 


 

Wanda took a few days’ leave from the mansion, although she didn’t give a reason why. She wasn’t quite ready to confront Steve and the others yet. Her original intention was to visit Pietro, but she decided almost immediately that she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing him. No, there was only one person she needed to speak with before this went any further.

Even though Wanda had not called ahead, Agatha did not seem surprised to see her. That was just her way, though. She opened the door wide, inviting her inside. “Wanda, dear, it’s been too long. Why don’t you come in?”

Pulling her coat around herself, Wanda stepped through the door. Agatha had never been particularly nurturing, but she’d always been a source of support in her life, and one whose input Wanda valued. “Thank you, Agatha,” she murmured, glancing around the room she found herself in. Agatha’s home was small but inviting, and Wanda could spot a few loose items around which indicated the practice of witchcraft.

The old woman made her way over to a stovetop, where an iron kettle was boiling. It made Wanda smile; Agatha had always been a traditionalist. “How about some tea?” she asked, already getting out a second cup. “Then you can tell me what’s on your mind.”

“I’d like that,” Wanda said, still quiet. She leaned against the kitchen counter, watching her former mentor closely.

Agatha added some tea leaves to Wanda’s cup. “I’m sure you’ve missed my herbal blend,” she continued, pouring the water. “Do you remember?” Steam billowed from the tea as she handed it to Wanda, and Wanda inhaled it deeply, holding the cup through her sleeves in both hands.

“Of course.” Wanda smiled, but kept her gaze fixed on the cup. “I tried to make it for myself while I was pregnant, but I never got it quite right,” she said, raising her eyes to watch Agatha through the steam as she took a sip.

If the old woman was surprised by Wanda’s statement, she didn’t show it, at least not immediately. It took a moment for her to respond, setting down her cup. “So you do remember,” she said at last.

“I remember everything,” Wanda said with a sigh, putting down her tea as well. “Billy and Tommy, Master Pandemonium…Mephisto.”

“Your husband told you?”

“Someone had to,” Wanda replied stiffly, “eventually.”

Up until now, Wanda had felt genuinely calm. Truly, she came here planning nothing more than a civil conversation with an old friend, but as the words left her mouth, she felt that rush of anger return.

Agatha, for her part, remained as calm as ever. “Dear child…you must understand the kind of position we were in.”

“I am not a child.” Wanda forced herself to settle. One way or another, those boys still needed her. “And you had no right to do what you did. My memories were all I had left. You had no right to take my children from me.”

“Take them from you?” Agatha asked, incredulous. “Wanda, I took nothing from you but pain. You never had children. They were not real.”

“Are these not real?” Wanda hitched up her shirt to show the thin white lines that carrying twins had left her with. “All that pain I went through to bring them into this world—was that not real? When I felt their life—when I held them in my arms—how was any of it not real?”

“Sit,” Agatha placated, picking up their teacups and carrying them over to the table.

Wanda did not want to sit, but she did so anyway, although she didn’t take her tea again. “I didn’t come hear to fight, Agatha. I want to know why.”

“If the Vision told you everything, then you already know why,” Agatha said. “The spell you used to turn two pieces of Mephisto’s soul into children connected you to him. Erasing your memories was necessary to defeat him, by severing that connection and causing the fragments to disperse in the process.”

Necessary, necessary. “Was keeping the truth from me afterwards also necessary?” Wanda asked, meeting Agatha’s gaze.

“Wanda,” Agatha said slowly, “you had just had your entire reality turned upside down. The creatures you thought were your children had disappeared. I wanted to spare you the—”

“You were afraid of what I might do,” Wanda cut her off. “Don’t lie to me, woman.”

“Very well.” Agatha’s tone hardened. “You were born with the power to manipulate reality itself, and you did nothing to earn that power. You had just manipulated it on such a level as to convince yourself that you had created life itself, and all of that was falling apart around you. You’re right, I didn’t know what you would do, and I had a duty to protect those around you.”

“And I suppose having everyone I ever trusted just pretend that nothing was wrong, that was going to keep my grip on reality in check,” Wanda cried. “What would you have done if Vision hadn’t told me? If someone slipped up, or I remembered on my own? I lost my babies, and I couldn’t even mourn them!”

“Wanda,” Agatha said, her tone measured and careful, “please don’t make the mistake of thinking my words or my actions stemmed from indifference to you or your situation. You have always been like a daughter to me—but you must understand, Thomas and William were not real children. They were pieces of a demon given physical form by your wish to be a mother, which—”

“I’m starting to get sick of people telling me what is and isn’t real,” Wanda said sharply. “Maybe their souls started out as pieces of Mephisto’s, I don’t know. Perhaps that made them vulnerable to him, but they were alive, Agatha, I know what a human soul feels like. I could never have imagined that, not in a million years. They weren’t created from nothing. They were living things born of our love—what is that, if not a child?”

There was a split second after Wanda finished speaking before the teacup in front of her suddenly shattered, causing Agatha to startle.

Wanda stared in surprise at the rapidly cooling liquid as it spread across the table, but she kept her composure. “You were wrong about what they were. Everyone believed you, but you were wrong. My children were alive then—and they are alive now.”

Even as she said it, she felt the pit in her stomach grow. Until right now, she hadn’t realised how apprehensive she was at the thought of seeing Billy and Tommy. If they weren’t who Vision thought they were—well, she would have to face the reality of losing them a second time…and if they were, what could she ever say to them? They had families of their own, she couldn’t compromise that for the sake of her own grief.

Agatha, on the other hand, was confused by Wanda’s words, but Wanda had no interest in clarifying or explaining anything to her, certainly not right now. It didn’t matter if Agatha thought she was delusional or hysterical.

Without apologising for breaking the cup, Wanda got to her feet. “Thank you for the tea.”

“Wanda, what have you done?”

“I’ve done nothing.” Wanda folded her arms. “But I will be going now. I’m sure I’ll see you again.”

 


 

Wanda had been gone from the mansion for two days, and Vision had so far resisted his desire to contact her. Still, the waiting was unbearable. He would never be so callous as to wish for some disaster as to require the Avengers assistance, but it didn’t suit him having nothing to do, especially since he was not currently working on the Avengers Fail-Safe Program.

It was late; the rest of the team and even Jarvis had gone to bed, leaving Vision with the main living room to himself. He was seated on one of the couches, deep in contemplation with some jazz music playing softly in the background. He’d always enjoyed jazz; while he thought all music was a unique form of self-expression, there was something about the swing and the improv that appealed to him on a deeply personal level. Right now, he felt like he needed that, with everything that was happening.

“Vizh?”

The sound of his nickname caused caused him to startle, bringing him back to reality. It wasn’t often that people managed to sneak up on him. Vision glanced in the direction of the voice to see Wanda hovering in the door of the room, wringing her hands. She was visibly tired, and her eyes and nose were a little red, as though she’d recently been crying. “Wanda,” Vision said, standing and turning off the music. “When did you get back?”

“Just now,” Wanda said, entering the room but still hanging near its doorway. She hesitated. “May I join you?”

“Always.” Vision gestured for her to come over, sitting back down on the couch, and Wanda joined him there. She sat on the other side at first, leaving some distance between them. She didn’t want to push his boundaries.

“I went to see Agatha,” she said at last.

“I see.” Vision paused. “What did she say?”

Wanda sighed, before tentatively shifting closer to him. Vision didn’t hesitate before extending an arm, and she shuffled in close to his side, tucking her head into his shoulder while he put his arm across her back.

They stayed like that for a moment, not saying a word. Vision wrapped his arms around her, and she curled into him, holding tightly like he was the only thing keeping her tethered there.

When she finally spoke, it was not to answer his question. “I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did when you told me. Vision, I can’t…I can’t imagine what you have been going through. I’m so sorry.”

Vision looked down at her. “You have nothing to be sorry for,” he murmured honestly.

“I think I do,” Wanda said. “I was so angry, but that’s not your fault. I’ve only had to deal with this for two days, but you’ve been alone all this time. I just wish I could have been there for you. You lost them too.”

At this, Vision stared at the ground. “I did,” he said at last.

It was odd. His memories of those events, when Pandemonium came, were crystal clear. Better even. That kind of recollection was both a blessing and a curse—he remembered everything, the good and the bad. He remembered the pain of all the lives he had ever failed to save, but there was also happiness, too. He remembered how happy he felt the day they got married; the excitement of carrying Wanda over the threshold when they bought their house; the indescribable joy the day that they became parents…

And yet, on that day they lost everything, he had felt nothing. Everything that allowed him to feel joy, or sorrow, or grief, all of that had been stripped away, leaving him nothing more than a shell of what he once was. When he finally came back properly, months later, he had already compartmentalised that loss. Wanda had no memories, and everyone else had moved on. The Avengers had accepted the “truth”; Billy and Tommy were nothing more than a figment of Wanda’s imagination, another oddity in the long line of strange events that made up their lives. Vision had accepted that too. Maybe it made it easier, at least at first.

He noticed Wanda had raised her head to look at him, her expression soft and gentle as she reached up. It wasn’t until she was brushing her thumb across his cheekbone that Vision realised he had cried.

“We were happy, weren’t we?” she asked softly, like she could scarcely believe it anymore.

“We were,” Vision promised, reaching up to take her hand. “We were the best.”

“We didn’t deserve this.”

“No, we didn’t.”

With a sigh, Wanda returned her head to his shoulder, staring straight ahead. Could they ever go back to what they had? After everything that had happened? Honestly, she didn’t know that they could, but she knew that that wasn’t fair, to either of them.

“Do you suppose…” Wanda hesitated, trying to find the words. “They started out as pieces of Mephisto’s soul, I think I’ve accepted that, but that’s not what they were when they were born. If our spell changed them enough that they were more human than demon, do you suppose that when they dispersed, they could have found their way back to human families? Through some kind of…reincarnation?”

“We have seen stranger things happen,” Vision said.

“That doesn’t explain their age,” Wanda muttered, thinking. “They were born before our Billy and Tommy were.”

“I can’t explain it,” Vision admitted. “But we barely understand what a ‘soul’ is.”

“I suppose not,” Wanda said.

“There’s really only one way to know for sure.” Vision hesitated. “You would know them, if you saw them.”

“I would,” Wanda agreed. “I’m sure of it.”

“Then you will have to go and talk to them.”

Wanda didn’t answer right away. She wanted to say that she felt excited at the prospect, but she felt nothing but trepidation. Fear, even. She wanted her babies back—god, she wanted them back so badly—but even if they were everything she hoped, they could never be a family again. She’d have to settle with knowing that they were alive.

That would be enough, though. It would have to be. “Tomorrow,” she decided. “We’ll have to get Tommy out of juvie, he can’t stay there…and Billy walks by the mansion on his way home from school. I’ll talk to him then.”

“Good.” Vision squeezed Wanda’s hand, and she returned the gesture, smiling a little.

“Let’s go and find our sons.”