Of the avengers, pepper thinks vision and Wanda visit the most(aside from Peter). Vision often spends his time in the barn with the tech, maintaining his systems without the mind stone.
Wanda loves Morgan like her own daughter, and spends hours tossing her into the air and catching her with the Scarlett magic. Morgan shrieks and giggles at the sensation and pepper watches from the sidelines, more for the entertainment than out of fear. She trusts her.
But Vision has been… odd lately. More weird than normal. He hovers at wanda's elbow permanently as though waiting for her to snap, as though she's made of glass and needs protecting at all times, and hasn't gone to the barn for the last few visits. One day, things reach a tipping point.
Wanda is employing her usual tactic, sending Morgan in summersaults through the air, tumbling and spinning. Morgan is laughing, grinning widely.
Then Wanda gasps with pain and drops her arms, clutching her stomach. Vision surges forward to support her.
With a pit of dread opening in her gut, pepper stumbles to catch Morgan. At the last second red magic flares, stopping the child a fraction before she touches the ground, then setting her down gently. Morgan was shocked into silence for a moment, faced scrunched up on that tender line between laughing and wailing. After a second she shrieks with laughter, rolling into her back. Pepper decides that her daughter is safe, then turns to Wanda, who is bent over, arms holding her stomach as though her intestines are going to fall out. Vision is rubbing circles on her back, murmuring softly. She groans, but looks up when she feels peppers hand on her shoulder.
“It's fine,” she says tightly, through a curtain of brown hair.
It's clearly not fine.
She looks on the verge of puking her guts out, and pepper tells her so. Wanda lets out a hoarse laugh, but its choked, as though she's forcing it from her lungs. She lowers herself to the ground shakily, leaning heavily on visions arm. “Why is it affecting me?” She pants, gritting out the words between her teeth. It's not addressed to pepper. Vision kneels beside her.
“I don't know. Perhaps it is the use of your magic.”
Pepper comes forward, crouching down on wanda's other flank. “What's wrong?”
Vision looks up, face uncharacteristically worried. He glances at wanda who shakes her head stiffly. “It's nothing,” he says to pepper. “It's fine.”
Pepper really wished people would stop saying things like that when they were clearly not true.
Pepper knows it's not fine, but she doesn't invade their privacy or investigate any further. She doesn't question wanda, she doesn't interrogate vision, she doesn't do the easy thing and ask friday for a full body scan. Of all the couples produced by the avengers, wanda and vision are the most secretive, the most private about their relationship. They vanish for weeks sometimes, no one knows where to. Pepper thinks this probably has something to do with the fact that any visitors that come to them only ever care about one thing: vision, and not in the good way. Wanda clings to him with the desperate strength of someone afraid of losing their soul again.
Because that's who vision is to her. She was there at his birth, her beginnings. She helped make him. She witnessed his start, and he saved her. So pepper doesn't grudge them their discretion, and she would never betray their trust.
The collapse of wanda's magic that day seemed to be a tipping point. They drop off the radar for three month's, and the next time pepper sees them standing at the front door, she knows why they went AWOL.
She also knows why wanda's magic faltered.
Pepper grins and she rushes to embrace the other woman, whos now prominent stomach very obviously shows. They both seem softer and content, and vision seem happier, a bit more human(and, pepper thinks, maybe he is).
Hearing the doorbell, tony appears seconds later, looking confused.
“Where have you been?” he asks, pretending to be offended. Vision smiles with all his teeth and waves his hand a little in greeting. Tony looks taken aback for a moment, and voices it.
“Woah, vision, you're kinda freaking me out here.” tony says. “What's with the whole…” he gestures to his own face, but his hand falls and he goes still when his eyes fall on wanda. Then he grins as well, and then they're all smiling, laughing, and wanda's crying a bit but they're all so happy .
Later, when wanda and pepper are settled in the living room and playing with Morgan(with regular toys, not magic because wanda's afraid of it cutting off again), tony and vision stand in the kitchen, cradling cups of coffee. Vision is actually drinking it, and seemingly relishing the taste(which is a new thing. He's never shown interest in caffeine or any other sleep staver-offer before) There's dark circles under his eyes which tony points out, saying,
“I didn't think that was possible.”
“Which? My raccoon eyes or wanda's… condition?”
“Seriously? You can say racoon eyes with a straight face but not ‘the baby’? And it's not just wandas, it's yours too. Actually, how does that work? Wait no no no, don't tell me, i don't want to know”
Vision looks perplexed. “Ok.”
They're quiet for awhile, which means tony is thinking, then vision looks up. “I feel scared.”
Tony's head snaps up. “What?”
“I feel scared. I don't know why. I feel scared, and small, as if i do one thing wrong, take one false step, i will mess up everything i've worked for.” he takes a breath, hands fidgeting on his cup.
Nervous, tony thinks. He's nervous .
“Is this what it's like to be human?” vision asks. “Scared of your own body? Sometimes i'll say something or feel something and i'll think, ‘this is it. I've ruined the one good thing in my life’. Is that humanity?”
Tony blows out a breath. He didn't sign up for philosophy.
“Yes,” he says finally. “I think that's humanity. At the very least, it's my definition of humanity. God knows i feel that way almost all the time. But it's only one tiny fraction, a splinter of what it means to be human. There's fear and guilt and shame and sorrow, but there's also joy. Hope. love. And god i sound cliche, but there's that feeling you get when you look into your child's eyes for the first time. Like you’re on the edge of a cliff, the whole world in front of you if you just dare to jump, but you have a parachute. And it's the most wonderful heeling in the world.”
Vision contemplates his coffee, swirling it around in his cup. “I know,” he says at last. “I've felt it. It makes me afraid, but….”
“It's irreplaceable.” tony finishes for him. Vision nods.
Their visits renew their previous frequency, and vision continues to smile. Hes happy, so happy, even if he doesn't know the word or can't place his finger on the definition. It's abstract. He sees pepper and tony and morgan and their life and thinks,
I want that .
He wants the peace, the stability, the home. He wants to not have to go AWOL every time they want a bit of silence.
He asks wanda about it and she smiles. He feels light.
They get a house in the mountains, away from people but not far from the starks. They prepare themselves for the complete overhaul of their lives.
Four minutes from noon on december third, tony receives a text from vision that makes him let out an uncharacteristic whoop and run across the house to find pepper. He shows her the text, and in under five minutes she has morgan buckled into her car seat and they're on their way.
The text reads, ‘ it's happening ’
It's so typically vision, tony thinks later, to understate the most monumental moment in his life. Still, at least he’s staying calm.
Vision is not staying calm.
Vision is panicking. As he drives through the streets of new york, experiencing numbing road rage for the first time because wanda is panting in the back seat, in pain and it hurts him and why won't these cars go faster , he thinks over the events of the day.
It was normal. Wanda woke up, vomited, then ate breakfast and lay on the couch groaning for a while. They watched a movie(something about pirates, vision wasn't paying attention because wanda was asleep on his shoulder, mouth open and adorable ). When the movie was over everything went downhill. Wanda stood up, yawned, stretching languidly like a cat, then froze, eyes wide and face pale.
“Vis…” she breathed, and his world shattered.
Twenty minutes later he’s standing in the hall of the maternity ward, having been pushed out by the nurses for being too ‘overbearing’(he wasn't, he knew overbearing, and that wasn't it. He was just worried. She was in pain ). His heart is racing(it's never done that before, racing is new, when Wanda kisses him it pounds, a drumbeat he can feel through his entire body) and he's panicking. He checks the text he sent to tony, about to plead for a reply when the man himself walks down the hall, pepper and Morgan at his side. Vision spins, eyes wide, and latches onto Tony's arm. He's so stressed his form is flickering but tony takes it all in stride, placing a calming hand on visions shoulder. His form solidifies into his human shape and he lets out a heavy breath.
“I must apologize.” He says finally. “I had a brief lapse of composure.”
Tony inspects his face carefully. “Uh oh,” he says, but not to vision. “I think he's really freaking out, pep. He's talking all robot- you know, scientifically detached from his emotions.”
Pepper clucks and comes over, thrusting Morgan into visions unsuspecting arms.
“Hold her,” she says, then vanishes into the delivery room.
Vision hands Morgan to tony.
Tony sighs and accepts her, watching closely as vision starts to pace absentmindedly. “She's gonna be fine, vision.” He says. “I mean, have you met modern medicine? Well. You haven't met it, but have you seen it? or, have you- damn it I keep walking into these. You know what I mean.”
Vision balls his fists and shoves them in the pockets of his sweatpants. He's been practicing with the whole, wearing actual clothes thing for a while now. Its nice, but he doesn't understand how humans wear things that are so rough on their skin. Like jeans. But sweatpants he likes, none the least because they have big pockets that he can hide his hands in when he has strong emotions. Like now.
“I know.” He says fiercely. “I know . I know medicine won't let her die. I can see the whole internet, all the scientific and medicinal advances made in the last three centuries. I know she'll be fine. But somehow…”
He groans, throwing his head back. “I cannot convince my body to relax.”
“Look,” tony says, sighing. “I know how it is. When Morgan was born I was a mess. Panic attack, tears, the works. I was so afraid, for both of them. I thought, ‘what if this is the end?’ And then that wasn't even the problem. After she was born there was a whole host of doubts that plagued me for days. I didn't know how to be a father. My father was possibly the worst role model. Heck, I don't even know if I'm doing a good job. I'm probably not. Anyway, what I'm saying is, our brains defy reason when it comes to things like this. And not in the metaphysical sense. I mean in the sense that they are in total, complete denial. Like, six feet deep and the waters are rising. So I'm not telling you to calm down. I'm really not. I'm telling you to… I don't know, chillax. Hang in there. Hold on. That sort thing.”
Vision looks confused.
Wanda goes into labor a while later. Vision completely disregards Tony's advice and panics, charging into the room and pacing frantically as she howls. After half a hour of this Wanda is fed up and tells the nurses to shove him out into the hall, where he stands with his head against the wall, eyes squeezed shut. Morgan makes distressed noises from her perch in peppers arm, babbling over the sound of wanda's hoarse yells. She can't hide the way vision winces at every scream.
His heart is breaking at her pain.
A hour later, at 2:21 pm, december 3rd, Alexander Pietro Maximoff is born.
Vision cries when his tiny son is placed in his arms for the first time.
He holds Wanda and Alexander like he'll never let them go.
They named him Alexander because they like how it sounds. They also choose it because it has no ties to anyone. it bestows no legacy, no grand destiny to be fulfilled; no shoes to be filled and no deep footsteps to follow. It is a name he can make his own.
They make his middle name Pietro because how could they not? There was really no choice. Without her brother, Wanda would have died many times over, and vision knows it. He owes his life to him, in more ways than one.
He takes the name maximoff. Again, because there's no alternative. Vision is simply that, vision. An anomaly designed to be detached.
But, he thinks, he isn't anymore. Not really.
He has Wanda, he has Alex, and he has a family.
Morgan, being almost a year old now, finds Alexander fascinating. She leans over him with all two feet of her height and babbles, gesturing wildly.
He's something new.
Alex shows no signs of red magic, but there's no way to tell what factors and triggers lie hidden in his DNA. Hydra stole his mother's soul and filled it with magic, but she built her own. She will never let that happen to her son.
When vision looks at his son he feel something in his chest that makes him think he’s malfunctioning. And maybe he is. After all, no one’s chest should feel so full of pain and joy equally.
He found the word for it. or rather, the phrase. Its old, French, almost archaic.
L’Appel du vide.
The call of the void.
The feeling you get when standing on the edge, on the tenuous, slender line between all encompassing awe and sheer terror. When you don't know what to do but you do know that know matter what, you're going to fall, going to jump into the oblivion.
It makes him think of the legend of Icarus, one of those cautionary tales that mankind spins in their minds.
The temptation and heady feeling of risk, of flying too close to the sun just for the feeling of being burned.
The tipping point of a life.
It's what it means to be human.