“come on guys.” teddy reiterated. “kate, really. where is he?” teddy asked peeking around everyone jokingly, was he hiding? this must have some elaborate joke. maybe billy was angry with him? teddy wouldn't blame him. billy had a right to be upset with him.
“ted, i'm so sorry.” kate said, slow and quiet. why was she crying? “he's gone, teddy.” no. no. they're messing with him. billy's probably just waiting on the ship. they are messing with him. pulling his leg. playing a joke on him.
david came close to him and put a hand in teddy's shoulder. leaning in he spoke, “when loki told us mother had you, he kind of lost it. he reminded us all that if he died, it would all go away.”
teddy might have started to cry. he wasn't sure. he was numb. “and you stopped him, right?” teddy choked out.
“we weren't fast enough. i'm sorry teddy.” he replied solemnly.
no no no. this wasn't real. billy had fooled everyone into thinking he was dead. when they got back to the ship he was going to surprise them, ‘i'm alive!’ he wasn't dead. he couldn't be.
“no.” teddy whispered as kate came forward and pulled him into a hug. “no. it's not true. it can't be. i didn't get a chance to tell him- i didn't-” teddy's throat was constricting into itself.
“it's okay,” kate whispered, “i think he knew.”
teddy was drowning. drowning on dry land.
the world was starting to crack around the edges, hairline fractures, seeping through reality.
his throat was burning. on fire. teddy didn't know why. someone was screaming. something made a smashing sound against the floor. teddy looked down. a bottle lay broken into a million pieces. had he thrown that?
when he moved to pick it up something caught his eye. in the doorway, kate stood, looking tired. fear and shock splashed across her face, her gaze didn't leave him. she had been crying again. he had been the one who was screaming. hollering at nothing and no one, no words, nothing coherent, just… noise.
“teddy.” she whispered, the first thing she'd said to him in what felt like years.
“why didn't you stop it? any of you? you could've saved him. he would still be here.” teddy snarled back, his tone biting. his eyes left hers and he bend to pick up the shattered glass.
“teddy, we tried to…” she trailed off, “please don't be angry with us.” tears had begun to slip out of her eyes again.
his hand was wet. he was bleeding. he shouldn't have tried to pick up the mess. the glass was broken like him. like all of them. and it wouldn't ever be the same. teddy fell to his knees and began to cry, uncontrollable, agonizing sobs. everything hurt. the world shattered and came crashing down around him.
“thank you for meeting me,” teddy spoke gaze resting on his glass of water.
“of course,” wanda murmured back from across the table, “i understand how you are feeling. this isn't easy. it won't ever be.”
“what if there was a way to make it easier?” teddy asked, quietly, leaning over the table.
“what are you saying?” wanda pried.
“i believe you have the power to bring him back,” wanda gave him an incredulous look, “no, think about it! all this pain could go away! i would do anything in return. anything . wanda, please. i need him. you need him.”
tears slipped out of his eyes one at a time, he wiped at them absently. “wanda, please.” he choked out.
“okay.” she replied, after a long silence. teddy's face brightened. “i'll try my best.”
teddy stood and took the few steps to her, and wrapped his arms around wanda. “thank you.” he whispered into the fabric of her shoulder.
“are you crazy?” tommy stalked up to teddy furiously, tears running down his face.
“i don't know what you're talking about, speed.” teddy answered monotonously.
tommy was shaking with anger. “uncle pietro told me everything. you're crazy. i can't believe you would ask her to do something like that. this is only going to hurt you in the end.” he stormed away from teddy and out of the room. everyone else just stared as teddy left, silently.
tears were streaking down teddy's face. wanda did it. she brought him back.
his world was slowly piecing back together. everything could go back to normal now.
teddy stepped forward to hug billy, pull him into his arms and never let go again, and suddenly the world around him shattered into pieces again.
his hands went through billy. straight through his body. he kept trying. tens of hundreds of times he reached out hoping to feel billy under his fingertips, every time, the pushed straight through him.
“why can't i touch you?” he was crying now.
“i'm not real.” billy provided the answer teddy was hoping he wouldn't. “i'm dead. you can't cheat death.”
“why?” teddy whimpered.
“i had to. i had to save you.” billy murmured back.
“there were other ways. you didn't have to-” teddy cut himself off with a sob.
“i'm sorry, teddy.” billy spoke softly, “i loved you. more than anything, i loved you.”
“i love you, still. i don't think i'll ever stop.” teddy looked at his feet and fumbled with his hands.
“i don't think there will ever be a day that goes by where i don't miss you.”
“you can't let your life be consumed by grief.”
“i can't stay forever. i think it's best if i don't stay at all.” billy spoke with an undefinable sadness in his voice and behind his eyes.
every part of teddy was cold, freezing.
he was on fire, flames licking around his body, deteriorating him piece by piece.
he was frozen, never to move again. he was burning, to the point of no existence.
thoughts consumed him, pushing along slowly, sluggishly, encasing him.
you'd think it would be painful, but he's just numb.
he may as well have started to rot where he lay.
it's been days, days since they broke the news. it feels like years. every hour is a decade , every minute a century, every second an eon.
it felt as though he'd lived a lifetime without him.
“ted.” kate was there, again, the side of his bed dipping under her, she was rubbing his back, which was turned to her.
“please eat something. or do something. please, teddy.” she was choking on her words. “i brought some food.”
she lay down next to him, hugging his body into hers. he was unresponsive. she stood after a few moments, sniffing and wiping at her eyes.
she leaned back down and kissed the side of his head. “please get better, teddy. i'm begging you. i can't lose another friend. not like this.” she whispered before pulling away and leaving the room.
he shut his eyes, letting himself drift into sleep, ignoring the plate of food on the bedside table and kate's sobs from the hallway.
it wasn't ever going to get better. teddy realized that now. they say it gets better, easier over time, but it hadn't. and it never would.
‘you can't let your life be consumed by grief.’ that's what billy had said. how could he not? how could billy know how all this feels?
how much it hurts, to breathe, to think, to sleep, to eat?
it hurt, oh it hurt so bad, more painful than anything he'd ever known. so he stopped sleeping, then eating.
he choked on every deep breath he took, but he couldn't bring himself to hold it.
it's impossible to stop thinking, teddy learned. no matter how much he tried. he became too tired of trying. he had become too tired of everything these days.
he was just tired of the pain. the pain of learned knowledge, that billy was gone. and he wasn't ever coming back.
teddy vaguely knew kate was upset. she would come to him and stay for a bit, a few times a day. he stopped noticing how she cried and begged for him to get better.
what is ‘better’? there is no better. it would never be better. never.
he stopped noticing how the sun rose and set every day. it was all one long eternity, no partition between time.
he didn't notice when his chest began to constrict, like his body was crushing in on itself.
he let himself slip away from reality. after that it wasn't hard to let himself slip away completely.
it no longer hurt to breathe.