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Drabarni and the Firebird

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Wanda's been with the Avengers for two weeks now. People have been flying in --and she means like, literally flying in-- for a few days. Wanda remembers seeing Sam Wilson arrive yesterday, showing off in his wings, his grin so wide it glinted ten feet in the air. Steve had been laughing, and Wanda had felt infectious fun trickle over her, a tug towards knowing what it was to be a part of something lighthearted. Flight had looked like a dream. She stared until Sam caught her eye and winked, and then her fingers had twitched and she'd wondered maybe, if she flicked out just the right hex...

 That was one of the good days. They're coming faster, but Wanda still feels like more often than not, it's like this: sitting on the edge of her bed and staring listlessly into space, mentally picking at the raw chasm that is Pietro's absence until it sucks her under.

These are the not-so-good days.

"Knock knock," someone says, and Wanda's chin jerks up. She sees Natasha leaning against the doorframe. Her hair is half pulled back by a clip, and she's dressed casually, in a ribbed tank top and slim drawstring pants. Her feet are bare. 

Wanda's still not used to seeing Natasha look like this, like a regular girl. She looks younger, more vulnerable, this way. With anybody else, Wanda thinks that might put them at ease. But Wanda has never been a regular girl, so instead she only feels pricking envy at Natasha's seamless ability to fit in.

Wanda doesn't know how to fit in. She's an incomplete piece without her brother by her side. She plasters a smile to her face anyway, and tilts her head towards Natasha. "What is up?" she asks.

Natasha smiles warmly and pads into the room. Wanda hasn't invited her, but Natasha moves as surely as though she has been. She sits down on the edge of the bed next to Wanda, and Wanda automatically flinches. Just as smoothly, Natasha stands up again. She paces away and sits in a hard backed chair instead, tucking one foot underneath her. "Sorry," says Natasha. "I thought that maybe you could use some company."

Wanda opens her mouth, and then closes it on something dismissive. She reconsiders. Natasha is being kind. It was startling for Wanda to realize that Natasha could be kind. She's heard of the Red Room, and she's heard of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she knows what Natasha has had to do in both places -- lots of killing, and lots of lies. 

Wanda has killed. She rarely lies. She thought these things made people angry and cruel, but Natasha is neither. Well, maybe she's a little angry -- in the way all good warriors are. But she's never mean, and she doesn't snap. Wanda appreciates that. 

So she isn't dismissive. Instead she leans back on her hands, and tries to look more at ease. "I'm fine," she says stiffly. "Lost in thought, I suppose."

"You looked it," Natasha replies. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Wanda looks at her knees. "No."

 "Alright." Natasha shifts on her chair, and lets soft silence settle over them both. Wanda breathes it in and breathes out anguish. Her nerves start to settle. Natasha is good with people. When she speaks again, it doesn't jar Wanda. Natasha says, "training starts up tomorrow," and Wanda finds herself nodding with the barest flicker of a smile. 

"Are you nervous?" Natasha presses.

 Wanda shakes her head and shrugs. "No. This feels right."

Natasha looks thoughtful. "That's not what I asked."

Wanda looks up, startled. Isn't it the same thing? She looks at Natasha, and Natasha looks like she is waiting. It makes Wanda think again.

 Because Natasha is right. Knowing that something is the right choice is not the same as not being nervous. Wanda knew that betraying Ultron was the right choice, and it terrified her. Joining the Avengers has felt like the right choice, and it has left her... not terrified, exactly, but hardly sure.

 "I feel lost," Wanda blurts out, and right away she knows that it is true. She feels lost in America. She feels lost being funded by the name Stark. And most of all, she feels lost without Pietro. Some days, Wanda doesn't know how to get out of bed without him there to squeeze her hand. She wants to shut her eyes against the world, but her vision swirls with red every time she closes them. So Wanda gets out of bed, and she stares at walls. Sometimes she laughs at jokes. Mostly, she wants to die. "I feel like I'll never stop faking joy," she adds.

 "That happens," Natasha says softly. She doesn't tell Wanda it will pass. She doesn't tell her it will be okay. She doesn't tell her to keep living her life, and that things will get a little bit better each day. That happens, Natasha says. Wanda likes her better for her candour.

 "What do you do?" Wanda asks. "When you feel this way?"

 Natasha's gaze is steady and even when it meets Wanda's. "I can't tell you that," she says, a little bit sadly. "Everyone processes things differently."

 "Please," Wanda replies. Her voice almost cracks at the tail end of the word. It's not quite a break, but there's breathy desperation there, and Wanda feels weaker for it, but Natasha's expression softens. For the second time that night, she stands, and moves to sit next to Wanda on the bed. This time, Wanda doesn't flinch. Natasha settles, and the mattress bends and creaks under her body as she does.

 When Natasha looks at Wanda again, it's conspiratory, a tiny smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. Her head tilts towards Wanda's, and Wanda finds herself swaying closer as well, curious and drawn in. "Sometimes," Natasha says slowly, "I do my nails."

 Wanda doesn't realize she's been holding her breath until she lets it out in a frustrated exhale. "That's it?" she asks. "That's your big secret?"

"No," Natasha admits. "But it really does help."

"I doubt that," Wanda mutters. She looks at her own nails. They're clean, but they're cracked and ignored, unbuffed, unshaped. If Wanda's ever thought about feminine luxury, it hasn't been for a long, long time. She looks at Natasha. She would have assumed the same of the Widow. But her eyes drift down to Natasha's hands, and they're blunt, but painted scarlet and shiny. Her head snaps up, and she sees Natasha watching her with a smile. "I still can't see how it's helpful," Wanda says stubbornly.

"It's mindless," says Natasha. "And it's fun. And it's... I don't know. Sometimes it's nice to do something just because it's pretty."

"My brother is dead," Wanda says harshly. "Do you honestly think I care about pretty?" Wanda looks away. "You wouldn't understand."

"Hey, I've lost people, too," Natasha replies.

You haven't lost Pietro, Wanda wants to say. There could not be a sharper loss. Nelly, I am Heathcliff. Wanda feels sick just dwelling on it too long.

Wanda wants to stare at the ground until Natasha goes away, and she can submerge her waking mind into the mire of her misery again. But she feels a tug of something that seems like it could have been guilt. Smothered, shaky. There. Wanda lifts her head towards Natasha, and shakes out her hair. If she smiles, she'll feel phony. She's pretty sure Natasha will see through her either way. 

"You're right," Wanda says, and her voice echoes in her ears with a lilt of kindness. or maybe it's witchcraft. "I'm sorry." She tries for the smile now, tentative and small. "It was nice of you to check in on me. But I am... hm. Sunt obosită.

Wanda's lashes drop, but she sees a flicker of something pass over Natasha's face in the half moment before she averts her gaze. The bed squeaks when Natasha stands.  

"I'll see you tomorrow, Wanda," says Natasha, and Wanda nods. Natasha walks out, as gracefully as she came in.

And Wanda is left alone again. She flops backwards onto the bed. She knows she's not fooling anyone, least of all Natasha. But she can't... she can't open herself to whatever Natasha offers. Not yet. 

Weeks ago, a man told Wanda that if she stepped outside, she would be an Avenger.  She went, and felt her brother die.

Wanda has killed. She rarely lies. But as she stares at the ceiling into the small hours of the night, she has the acrid tang of one stinging her tongue.

 

 

Despite a sleepless night, Wanda wakes early the next morning. She sleeps in bursts lately. She dresses and washes her face, but her brush only catches in her hair, so she shakes it out instead, leaves it bushy and wild. She looks in the bathroom mirror and wrinkles her nose. She think she looks fierce. Maybe even pretty, which makes her think of Natasha, which makes her skin tingle for a beat. On impulse, she picks up a stretchy red hairband she finds lying on the counter. Wanda winds it into her hair, where it is almost immediately lost, a flash of crimson between tumbling curls.

Her thoughts skate to Pietro, tweaking the ends of her hair. Stop that, she would say, and he would shrug. Gotta pass the time somehow

They'd been locked together in a cell. Somehow, Pietro still made her laugh. She wonders if he'd even want her to laugh now, or if he would plead, don't forget me, sister.

Wanda turns away from the mirror and walks out of her room.

There are people awake in the base already, but Wanda expects to find the atrium empty. And it is -- mostly. Wanda walks through the bright room and her heels click against the floor. When someone whistles high above her, she almost jumps out of her skin. She has to clench her fist against flinging red lightning. She looks up.

Sam Wilson hovers in the air. Actually, he's perched on a beam near the ceiling, waving cheerfully down at Wanda.

"What are you doing up there?" Wanda shouts.

Sam laughs, open and friendly. "Come up and see."

Wanda scowls. He is teasing her. "Little high to climb," she calls up to Sam.

 Small in the distance, Wanda still sees Sam shrug. "You're the witch," he says. "Figure it out."

The witch. Wanda has been called this before. Hexe, among the scientists. Drabarni, among her people. She's only ever heard the word spit. 

Sam isn't spitting, but there's an edge of something there. A challenge. When he calls Wanda witch, the word sounds powerful, and Wanda remembers his wink, and wonders if behind it had been an unspoken dare. She feels a sudden and rusty surge of ambition. She would like to rise to meet this challenge. Wanda peers up into the rafters and squints.

"Can you fly around a bit?" she asks. "I can't see how you do it when you... roost." Wanda bites back a smile.

Up above, Sam snorts. "Anything for the team."

He swoops from one end of the room to the other in a graceful arc, and then twirls twice in mid-air. He's showing off. It reminds Wanda of Pietro, and to her surprise, that thought doesn't make her impossibly sad.

Don't forget about me? Wanda will never forget. Pietro is soaked into every leaf, every panel, every sound. No matter where she wanders, Wanda will always hear his name, in the crunch of her footsteps, in the sway of the wind. She carries Pietro with her, but she swallows that lump down, and feels it surge in her fingertips and burst out in red sparks. 

The hex shoots hard and fast, and Wanda actually feels herself lift off the ground. A laugh catches in her throat, and she stumbles. But she's got the feel of it now. Wanda flicks her wrists, and a thick hex floods from her palms. She hums into the air, stretches upwards until she is level with Sam, who looks thrilled. Wanda looks down. It's a long stretch of space beneath them. Wanda's palms still face the ground and twin scarlet beams tether her to it. Slowly, very slowly, without taking her eyes off of them, Wanda focuses her intent and closes her fists. The red columns blink out and blend back into her hands. She dips in the air, and then holds. She looks up, and feels her hair bounce back, and her face split into a grin.

"I-- I did it," Wanda says, with a touch of wonder. "I'm up in the air."

"Of course you are," says Sam. "You're some kind of superhero, aren't you?"

This time, Wanda's laugh bursts clear. "I guess I am," she admits.

Sam weaves a circles around Wanda. "So show me what you've got."

Sam shoots away from Wanda, and Wanda doesn't think. She follows. She's working out of instinct and playfulness and she's not thinking. It's nice, but the burnt, cynical part of Wanda wonders if Sam is opening up to her out of pity. Even as she flies, Wanda's flexes her mental net, casts out to sense Sam's thoughts and intent.  Her mind skims over Sam's, and she sees kindness, and curiosity, and the pang of unbearable loss. No pity, but a core of understanding, a partner ripped away too soon.

"You've lost someone," Wanda blurts in surprise.

Sam skids to a stop in middair. "How did you--" Comprehension flashes in his eyes, and then mild irritation. "Girl, stay out of my head!"

Wanda falters. It hits her that what she's just done is pretty rude. She's used to being around scientists and enemies. Or Pietro, who never minded her in his head. She's spent too few hours amongst friends since her gifts were unlocked. Wanda rolls the word friend over in her mind.

"I'm sorry," she says to Sam. "I shouldn't have done that. I'm just not used to--"

"Any of this?" Sam asks.

"Yeah."

"Takes some getting used to." Sam drifts towards the rafters and perches on one, his long legs dangling in the air. "But hey, it's all worth it. We get to be the good guys."

Wanda trails after Sam, and settles next to him. She looks at her feet, and the floor far below. "How do we know that's true?" she asks.

"You're here, aren't you?"

Wanda shrugs. "Where else could I go?" she asks. "My home is in ruins. My brother is dead. I have these gifts, this purpose--" Wanda lifts her hand, and red pools in her palm "--and I know I should do something with them. I know I should-- should help the world when I can. But Tony Stark killed my parents." She clenches her fist, and the red fire snuffs out. "How can I train under his mantle?"

Sam is silent for a very long time. Wanda thinks about scanning his mind again. Her diatribe has left her just bitter enough to do it. But just as she's leaning into the impulse, Sam opens his mouth and speaks.

"I don't know Tony," he says slowly. "Not well, anyway. But..." Sam looks thoughtful. "I know the Avengers. And I know Steve. There's not a better guy out there, Wanda. He's the real deal."

Wanda scoffs. "You sound like advertisement."

Unexpectedly, Sam laughs at that, and Wanda finds herself a little bit charmed. There's something in the way Sam moves that reminds Wanda of Pietro, except -- Pietro had never been this sweet natured. And she'd loved him, loved him, for being prickly, for being overprotective, for being there and hers... but Sam is so easy to talk to. She feels a twinge of guilt, but she also hurts less.

"What about... Natasha?" Wanda asks. "What do you think about her?"

Wanda looks at Sam sidelong, just in time to see him grin. "Nat's made of that stuff too," he says.

"But do you trust her?"

"With my life." Sam's expression turns serious. "Something going on?"

"No," Wanda says quickly. "She's just. You know. I don't know. A spy."

"She was a spy," Sam corrects her. "She's an Avenger now."

Wanda makes a face. "That sounds so Orwellian," she says. "Giving up your identity for the American government."

Sam laughs again. Wanda starts to think that he finds it funny when she's bad tempered. She draws a strange sort of comfort from that.

"I take it you have a hard time trusting people," says Sam.

"I trusted scientists, and they unleashed me on a war," Wanda says darkly. "I trusted my brother, and he got himself killed. So no. Not easily."

Sam is quiet, but he looks sympathetic. He looks like he wants to say, that sucks, but thinks the words would sound too flippant. Wanda hasn't read his mind, but she has the sanguine feeling that he gets it. 

She feels some of her pain and anger melt.

"Natasha's a spy," Sam says after a moment, "But she's upfront in her way. As long as she's on my side, I trust her until the end. And well... she's never given me a reason not to think she's on my side."

"She came to my room." Wanda says abruptly. "Last night. I didn't know what she wanted."

"And you didn't just..." Sam twiddles his fingers to indicate mind-bending witchcraft. 

"No! I don't always..." Wanda makes a mild noise of protest. "But I did think she was there for something."

"Maybe she just wanted to check in," Sam suggests.

"Is that really her style?" asks Wanda.

"If she cares about someone, yeah."

Wanda turns this over in her head. Why should Natasha care about her? She almost starts to ask Sam, but there's a loud clang below when the doors open, and the murmured sound of voices.

Sam cocks his head to one side. "Speak of the devil," he says, and Wanda looks down.

Steve and Natasha stand together in the room. Natasha's red hair gleams where sun from the skylights hit it.

"Hey, Cap!" Sam shouts, and waves.

Steve and Natasha both look up. Natasha shields her eyes with her hand. Steve looks faintly surprised.

"Wanda?" Steve asks. "How did you get up there?"

"She just flew in," Sam calls down. "And boy are her arms tired." Sam guffaws at his own joke, and then looks towards Wanda. "Ready to go back down?" he asks her.

Wanda hesitates for a moment, and then nods. 

Sam inclines his head to her. "After you," he says.

And Wanda feels power break over her again when she hops off the rafter. For a terrifying second, she's in free fall, and then the red hex ignites, and she's buoyant in the air again. She lands lightly on her feet, and hears the whirring of Sam's wings as he drops down beside her.

"Could she always fly?" Steve wonders aloud. 

Natasha pokes him in the ribs. "You of all people should know better than to underestimate the scrawny kids," she teases him.

They all laugh, but Wanda is fixated on what Natasha just said. "You think I'm scrawny?" she asks.

Natasha cuts out mid laugh. She looks Wanda over carefully, and Wanda feels the hair on her arms prickle. She wonders if this is what it's like when she reads people's minds. She certainly feels as though Natasha could see into her head right now. Wanda shifts from one foot to the other.

"No," Natasha says finally. "You're..." Natasha trails off, and if Wanda didn't know any better, she'd think that she was at a loss for words. "You look good, Wanda."

Wanda finds herself meeting Natasha's eyes. It's a long, private moment between them before Sam's is clearing his throat, and looking from Wanda to Natasha to Steve.

The moment breaks, and Natasha's glance darts towards Sam. "So are we gonna practice some moves, or are you gonna teach everyone else to fly?" she asks him.

"Vision already can fly," Steve points out. "Rhodey, too."

"I guess that just leaves out little old you, Nat," Sam jokes.

Natasha shoots him a very dry look. "I do okay on my own," she says.

"And Steve." Wanda cuts in. Everybody looks at her, and Wanda feels suddenly very awkward. "Um, Steve can't fly, either," Wanda clarifies. "Natasha isn't the only one left out." 

"We happy few," Natasha says, smirking at Steve.

"Hey," Steve protests. "I'm a super soldier. I can jump onto buildings from the ground. That's gotta count for something here."

"If I believed you could actually do that." Sam retorts, "Then maybe it actually would."

"I bet you a buck I can," Steve shoots back.

Sam turns to Wanda and Natasha. "Will one of you ladies please explain inflation to Captain America?" 

"That's it, Wilson," Steve cuts in. "Outside. I've got some buildings to jump onto."

"Wanna come watch Steve run into some walls?" Sam asks.

"You go," Natasha says. "We'll catch up."

Sam lopes off after Steve, who is already huffing towards the door. Natasha turns back to Wanda. Natasha looks like she's going to say something, but Wanda speaks up first.

"I'm sorry if I was rude, yesterday," she says. "You can come back to my room sometime. If you want." Wanda is worried she sounds too stiff. She tries to loosen up, when she adds, "We could do something fun. Paint our nails. Or something. If you wanted."

Natasha's mouth curls in a smile. "Sure," she says, "Sometime," and hanging unspoken in the air is soon. Natasha jerks her head towards the door, and starts to walk after the boys. Wanda hangs back. Natasha looks at her questioningly, but Wanda only shakes her head. She's done a lot today -- she needs solitude to gather herself.

Natasha shrugs, and heads out alone. At the exit, she pauses, and looks over her shoulder. "Hey Wanda? I really like your hair like that."

Then Natasha is gone, and Wanda is left fingering the ends of her hair, a bewildered smile on her lips.

 

  

Natasha is as good as her word. She shows up at Wanda's door a few nights later, a small box tucked under her arm.

 "What's that?" Wanda asks. Natasha raises an eyebrow, and Wanda steps aside, letting the other woman into the room. Natasha goes to Wanda's bed and sits on it cross legged. She puts the box down in front of herself.

"You said you wanted to do something fun," says Natasha. "I'm taking you up on the offer."

Wanda's curiosity gets the better of her.  She crosses over to Natasha and settles onto the bed, the plastic box between them. Natasha pries off the lid, and its guts are revealed: Files, small bottles of colour, nail polish remover, tiny scissors and lotions and tissues.

"You do this a lot, then," Wanda comments, looking over the well stocked kit.

"I told you, it's therapeutic," Natasha replies. "Pick a colour."

Wanda is still incredulous, but she starts sorting through the bottles of polish. "Do you not worry, that the other men on the team will laugh at you, for being so... so..."

"Feminine?" Natasha supplies. She laughs. "Not if they know what's good for them. They wouldn't, anyway," she adds. "Beauty, strength, and depth aren't mutually exclusive. My boys can be thick, but they're smart enough to wrap their heads around that."

Wanda stays quiet, and picks up a bottle. It's a bright, electric blue, and she drops it almost immediately. She picks another colour and examines it, turns the small bottle over in her hand and admires the way it shimmers gold underneath the surface. 

"Sam pretty much demands a manicure every week now," Natasha adds. Wanda looks up at her, and sees Natasha is grinning. "It's true! Even Thor -- I buffed his nails last time we had downtime, and he just looked at his hands and told me I'd made him shine with the soft beauty of the gardens of Freyja." Natasha adds affectation to her tone for the last words, her half-impression of Thor.

Wanda actually giggles. "He did not."

"He did!" Natasha insists. "Thor Odinson is an unsung poet of our time."

That makes Wanda laugh even harder, and picture Thor in one of the tiny, dusty coffee shops in Sokovia that she and Pietro used to sneak into as poor young teenagers. Thor, sitting on the makeshift mainstage, dressed with fashionable ennui and snapping his fingers.

When she looks at Natasha, Natasha's face is lit up, like they're sharing something wonderful, and perhaps they are. Something hums in the air between them. Natasha makes Wanda feel like everything else could just fall away. It's exhilarating, but it frightens her. Wanda's life has been shaped by grief; for her parents, for Pietro. She fears that letting go of that grief means letting go of them. She doesn't know how to reconcile her own happiness, and though Natasha's smile makes her want to try and figure it out, Wanda is skittish still. She ducks her head, and holds up a bottle of polish.

"I like this colour."

She picks red, a shade darker than her hex magic, paler than Natasha's lips. It's a true red, and Wanda likes it because she thinks it looks strong. Natasha's hand covers Wanda's and gently takes the bottle.

"Good choice," she says, and Wanda remembers that days ago, Natasha's nails had also been red. They're violet today, a hue so deep it almost looks black. Natasha shakes the bottle, and sets it aside. She reaches for Wanda, and says, "Give me your hand."

Wanda sticks out her palm, and Natasha's hand touches hers again and turns it over. Natasha cocks her head, examining Wanda's nails, and picks up a small pair of scissors. "Let's keep them short," she suggests.

"Okay," says Wanda. Her nails aren't long to begin with. She's fine leaving them that way.

Natasha goes to work. She trims Wanda's nails, head bent over Wanda's hand, files and buffs them until they are ten tiny, smooth ovals. She rubs oil into the cuticles, and smooths lotion onto Wanda's hands, and her strong fingers coax tension from the muscles in the web between Wanda's thumb and forefinger. Wanda lets out a sigh when she feels a knot ease. Natasha was right. This is soothing. Stress uncoils from Wanda's hands to her elbows, and she even feels her shoulders relax.

"People never think about how much tension they carry in their hands," Natasha murmurs. "But they should. We use them for everything."

Wanda never forgets. Her terrible power may start in her mind, but her hands are the conduits. She flexes them, and cities crumble. It's no wonder that she is melting under Natasha's admonitions. 

She feels a whoosh of loss when Natasha lowers her hands, but when she stretches them, they still feel buttery and reborn, and it's a relief that Wanda hadn't even realized she'd been craving.

Natasha picks up a bottle of opaque base coat, shakes it, and bends over Wanda's hands again, wielding a tiny brush. Wanda watches, fascinated, as Natasha brushes the coat over her nails in quick, steady strokes. It strikes Wanda that Natasha is really good at this, and then that she shouldn't be surprised, since patience and a steady hand are probably the crux of her combat training. Wanda wonders if that is part of the appeal of this for Natasha, to be able to use her deadly strengths for something delicate. She thinks she can understand that.

"Are you enjoying training?" Natasha asks, as she switches from Wanda's right hand to her left.

Wanda nods. "Yes." after a moment, she adds, "It's nice to have focus. Direction."

Wanda has only ever been told what to do before, but she doesn't say that. She feels a glow in the atrium when she looks around and feels immersed in camaraderie, but she doesn't say that either. 

She's used to being a subject, an experiment, or part of a screaming mob. With Pietro, a unit, opposite lungs in the cavern of one chest. She's not sure she's ever been a part of a team. She thinks she might have been, in her childhood, but too much bitter sadness and anger clouds those memories. 

"I'm glad," says Natasha. She finishes with the base coat and screws the shiny lid back on the bottle. Finally, she picks up the polish and opens it. She paints a thin red line down the centre of Wanda's index finger. Wanda watches colour bloom on her fingertips, and thinks of her witchcraft. 

Vision has been encouraging her lately to test its limits. The infinity stone she drew her power from would protect everyone, he insists. Wanda has no reason not to believe him; if anyone were a source on the infinity stones, it would be Vision. 

Wanda still fears letting go. She fears Vision underestimates her pain. She wonders if Natasha know what that is like.

"Do you ever... wonder.." Wanda begins tentatively.

"Hm?" Natasha asks. She squints as she applies polish to the tiny nail on Wanda's pinkie.

Wanda spits it out. "Do you ever wonder if you'll hurt people?" she asks. "I mean, hurt the wrong people?"

Natasha doesn't react, but she stops painting for half a breath. Wanda's not sure what to make of it.

"What makes you feel like that?" asks Natasha.

Her voice is a little too bland, but Wanda figures she's in this deep. And she wants, badly, for Natasha to understand her. 

"I feel like I have all this power," Wanda says, "And if I try to see how far it stretches, what if... what if it's stronger than me?" Wanda doesn't know how she started talking so much, but it feels important. And it's not going to get any easier, so she takes a deep breath before continuing. "When Pietro..." another pause. "...when Pietro died, my power consumed me. I killed everything around me. I-- I don't know if it would have mattered if it had been enemy, civilian, or Avenger."

"You were in grief," Natasha says.

"Is that really any better?" Wanda peers at Natasha. "Knowing that I'm capable of losing control like that, it scared me. How can I fight, knowing that I'm a time bomb? That I could hurt people who mattered?"

Natasha looks up at that. "Wanda..." she says. There's emotion in Natasha's voice, emotion that usually lays coiled beneath the surface. Wanda leans into it. Natasha catches her breath. She sets the bottle of nail polish aside, and Wanda's eyes flick briefly towards her hands. They're painted, but still wet. 

"We had someone like you," Natasha says finally. "An Avenger. Filled with terrible power and afraid to conquer it." Natasha looks wistful for a moment, and then she shakes her head and makes a face. "It clipped his wings," she says shortly. "You can't save the world and doubt what lends you strength," she adds. "It'll take your sanity or your life in the end."

Wanda sometimes thinks her sanity is already beyond repair, but she's also doubted an even-tempered mind's whole value for a while now. But her life... that she may care to hold onto yet. Such a common, simple thought, but Wanda is surprised and affirmed to realize it. At last, she thinks, she no longer yearns to die. Natasha is cleaning up the polish on Wanda's nail beds now, and her fingertips brush Wanda's skin with every stroke.  Natasha, she thinks, is a part of this.

"I want to be an Avenger," Wanda says, and means it. "I want to help people. But if I..." she looks away. "It's an long, lonely way down to fall."

Natasha's covers Wanda's hand with her own. It's not in activity, only in touch. Wanda feels a spark blaze through her at the contact, and it burns to low embers when she looks back at Natasha, who stares earnestly into her face.

"Fall down, get back up," Natasha tells her. "But you'll never be alone. Not when you have us." she hesitates for a beat, and then adds, "Not when you have me."

It's the first time Wanda's brain puts the sentence together whole. I want to kiss her, she thinks.

 

 

Natasha starts visiting Wanda often. Sometimes they do their nails, sometimes they watch a movie. Sometimes they just talk into the small hours of the night, and Wanda feels honoured to see Natasha like this, sleepy and unguarded and making jokes. Wanda falls for Natasha a thousand times every day, in her easy gestures, in the dry quirk of her mouth. And a thousand more times each night, and when she makes Natasha laugh.

Wanda keeps pursuing her training with dogged determination. She lets Vision coax her into testing her power, and she feels Natasha at her back. She latches trust to her friends, and she feels her strength expanding when she explores it. She practices flying with Sam, and feels like she could conquer the sky. And Wanda would kiss them all for these gifts, but Natasha is the only one she wants to render breathless.

She still misses Pietro fiercely. She always will. But the edge is starting to fade off her grief, that bone deep schism that made every second feel like an irrepressible wail. She carries Pietro with her, and it's not enough, and it never will be, but she's learning how it can be bearable. The air feels clean again, and Wanda Maximoff would like to live. 

 

 

This is a night like any other. Wanda and Natasha are hanging out in Natasha's room, sprawled together on the bed with their backs against the headboard and their feet almost touching. It's late, and they're talking quietly, and Wanda fiddles with her hair. Natasha yawns mid sentence, and stretches her arms over her head, and Wanda doubts she has ever seen anything more lovely.

This is the night where Wanda boils over. Natasha lowers her arms, and Wanda can't sit on this anymore. She tilts her chin towards Natasha and kisses her. 

Natasha's lips are as soft, as full, as perfect, as Wanda ever imagined them to be, and for one giddy, delirious second, they press and part against Wanda's until Natasha freezes and pulls away. An icy wave crashes over Wanda when she does. She worries she's ruined this, ruined them.

But Natasha is smiling. Wanda tilts her head to one side quizzically, and Natasha reaches out, strokes two fingers down Wanda's cheek.

"What?" Wanda asks.

"You're not afraid of anything, are you?" asks Natasha. "Not anymore."

"I'm afraid of everything," Wanda corrects her. "I'm not afraid of you. I--" she pauses, nerves spreading through her again. "Should I be?"

Natasha looks her over, and there's a million things Wanda can't name in her eyes, and she wants, so badly, to know what they are, but she'd never search Natasha's mind on a whim. She's not afraid of Natasha, but she fears losing her respect -- and her trust, if she even has that.

"No." Natasha says finally. "But I never thought you'd kiss me first."

Warmth floods Wanda, and that giddy delirium again. "You wanted to kiss me?" she asks, but she knows the answer without reading a single thought.

Natasha nods. "I think I've wanted you since you pulled my head apart in Sokovia," she admits.

"Why didn't you?" Wanda presses.

"Well, you were evil at the time," Natasha says dryly.

Wanda laughs. "I guess it's true what they say," she says, "You really do like the bad ones."

"I'm a creature of habit," Natasha replies, and Wanda can't place why it charges the moment, but it does, and their eyes lock, and then she's in Natasha's arms, and their mouths touch together again.

This time, nobody pulls back. This time, their lips part and their tongues touch, and heat and passion rises until there's permeating urgency. Natasha rolls them onto their sides and tangles her fist in Wanda's hair, and Wanda throws her leg over Natasha's hip as their kissing grows thicker.

They stay like that for hours, or maybe only minutes, or maybe even days. Natasha's cheeks and her mouth are flushed pink when they break away, and Wanda's skin feels hot all over.

"I didn't kiss you because you were an open wound, and that felt wrong," Natasha tells her. "Of course I wanted you. I still want you. But only if you're ready for me to."

It's funny, that someone whose common trade is seduction could seem so vulnerable when talking about love. Or perhaps it isn't funny at all. Perhaps it's that sincerity, those pouting lips and big green eyes, that reel everyone in. Beauty, strength and depth are not mutually exclusive, Natasha had told her. Wanda sees now that's it's true. They all commingle within Natasha, and it's part of what makes her exquisite. Wanda is on Natasha's hook, without a doubt. But she doesn't feel reeled in like a catch. She feels wanted. She feels sure.

"I'm ready," Wanda tells Natasha.

They fall back into each other's kiss.