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sister, sister

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“Ready?”

Wanda nodded slowly, registering the question but not who had asked it. “Yeah. I think.”

She stared up at the towering iron gates and brushed the handle with a finger. Through the thin bars, she could see gnarled trees unashamed of their age, interspersed with twisting paths and birdsong and five-story brownstones with ivy skirts.

“It hardly seems real,” she said quietly.

“What doesn’t?”

Wanda turned around to see that it had been Natasha speaking to her. “Any of this. This place, the fact that I’m going to art school… the fact that I’m alive.”

“I know,” said Natasha. “And any day, it all can be ripped from you. I get that. But you’re alive now. You’ve gotta hold onto that.”

“And you deserve this, Wanda,” Vision added. “Everyone in the Tower agrees—you deserve to have a life outside of us, and do something that you care about.”

“They’re both right,” said Clint. “Now get your ass in there and show the world what you’re made of. Y’know, artistically. Show your creative—”

“What if something happens?”

The question sounded as if it had come out of nowhere, but they all could tell she had been sitting on it.

“Then you come to us,” Clint said immediately, Vision nodding his agreement. “We’ll take care of it.”

Wanda shook her head, just slightly—only enough for Natasha to notice it.

“Nat, what if something happens?”

Natasha took another step forward and stuck a finger under Wanda’s chin, tilting her head up from where she’d been staring at her hands, so they were looking each other in the eye.

Clint and Vision adored Wanda; that much was obvious, and Wanda loved them back. Losing her twin was devastating, of course, and no one could ever truly replace Pietro, but it couldn’t be said that Wanda didn’t have a family now, that she didn’t have brothers.

And yet, Natasha knew full well that they had no idea what Wanda was really asking. How could they? They knew pain, and fear—Clint more so than Vis, but still—either way, they understood what it was like to be afraid of getting killed. Everyone in the Tower did.

Some of them even knew what it was like to have a history. Tony had his weapons, Bruce had Harlem, Bucky had a metal arm. But Tony had reformed his company, and Bruce had regained control of the Hulk, and Bucky’s metal arm had been replaced with a new one that had an Avengers A instead of a red star. Besides, on some level for each of them, there was something there—Tony’s naivety, and Bruce’s accident, and Bucky’s… well, Bucky’s everything —that made it, somehow, not entirely their fault.

Only Natasha and Wanda knew what it was like to choose heartlessness, choose cruelty, choose becoming a puppet, and then leave. They were alone in that way, two women who knew what it was like to have invisible scars all over their bodies from where they pulled out their strings.

They could wreak havoc on their enemies better than almost anyone on the team, but nothing compared to the havoc they wished they could wreak upon themselves, but through some silent pact, they never did. Instead, they tiptoed down the hall to each other’s rooms, knocked on the doors, and ate Oreo cookies in silence, listening to a YouTube choir sing church songs they wished they could believe.

Clint and Vision were excellent brothers; that was undeniable. But Wanda and Natasha were sisters, reared in a cradle of darkness and bad choices, and for that reason, Natasha could understand what Wanda really meant: not what if someone hurts me, but what if I hurt someone else.

“Nat,” Wanda tried again, more desperately, “what if something happens?”

And yet…

Natasha took her younger sister’s hands and smiled, just slightly. “Then you come to us.”

Wanda nodded. “Okay.”

“Good.” Natasha gave Wanda’s hands a squeeze. “I love you, kid. Come home safe, okay?”

“Still can’t believe you didn’t take Stark’s offer to get you your own apartment,” Clint interjected.

“I like the Tower,” said Wanda. “I’ll get back safe, I promise.”

“You’d better, or we’ll all kick your ass,” said Clint, lightly punching Wanda’s arm.

“I expect nothing less,” said Wanda. “Hey, Nat?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you too.”