January 3, 2017
“He must do this himself, Steve.” Wanda took a spot on the sofa closest to Steve’s chair, his hands carefully flat on his knees to keep from clenching them in his worry for James Barnes. She could sense his mind, but did not mentally reach out for him. That had been a crutch for her, in the beginning. After the prison. And Steve had allowed it, despite Sam’s concern that it wasn’t healthy for Wanda. It had been though – and it was something that Sam would never be able to understand because he did not have her gift. Her curse. Restraining her power for too long left her twitchy and anxious. The collar Ross had put around her neck kept her locked down so tightly she ached. By the time Steve and Barnes had come for them, the ache had become an intense pain that she thought would never ease. Reaching out for Steve’s mind then had been the involuntary action of a wounded animal.
It had been the solid presence of his mind that allowed her to center herself. Firm. Straight. Ordered and resolute. There was regret there too. Pain and guilt – so, so much guilt. Responsibility like a crushing weight that she had to avoid examining or risk suffocation. But his conviction and unwavering loyalty to his friends, his belief in them, was a lifeline for her. It had been a solid week after they had arrived in Wakanda before she stepped out of his mind at all. Months before he had been able to leave her vicinity without her having a mild panic attack. Even now sitting in the inviting lounge area after the government had pardoned them all – with apologies – she still preferred to be where she could at least passively feel his solid presence.
Steve believed in Tony. Believed that the Avengers were an idea worth saving. Worth risking their freedom for. After all that she had seen destroyed, all that had been taken from her – the things she had done to others, Wanda had difficulty believing in much of anything, but she trusted Steve. She would do anything he asked of her, she knew that – healthy behavior or not. He deserved any comfort she could give, after all he had done for her.
His burden would be eased, she thought, not for the first time since LA, if he could be selfish and step out of his own head for a moment. I yoho nohy z yoho ust. Surely he must tire of tasting his own socks. She had to hold back a snort.
“Bucky needs to face Tony, and he needs you to trust him to do it himself,” she continued.
“You’ve been talking to Sam,” he answered with a faint smile. “Maybe you’ll be going to school for psychology too.”
That was not a new idea. Steve had been casually suggesting that Wanda should go to college. He dropped hints that she was too young to not think about other options for her future. It always made her both immeasurably pleased that he thought her capable of so much, and irritated that he seemed to believe his own future was already decided. The man had only been alive, actually alive not frozen in ice, for around thirty years give or take a few months. He was not the old man his friends teased him that he was. He was, however, deflecting.
She didn’t let him. “It will be fine, maty vedmedya. The respect you have for each other, that was not given easily, and it is not so easily lost, I think.”
Steve finally shook off the concern that held his attention and gave her an honest smile. “Pretty good advice. You’d have to be a hell of a mook not to take it.”
“Yes,” she nodded, smiling as well. There was nothing quite like someone caving to her superior knowledge.
Steve pushed on his knees to stand, but paused with his face close to her ear. “Let’s both try to be smart, eh?” He moved away, strolling across the room to stand with Sam and Rhodey. They spoke softly, and were far enough away that she couldn’t make out the words. It took Wanda a moment to puzzle through Steve’s meaning. She could only blame her surprise on the distraction of the Colonel’s legs supported by robotic braces, a harsh reminder of how they came to be where they were.
Vision. She breathed slowly before turning, doing her best to keep her face blank as Natasha had been teaching her. It was difficult. She had attacked him, used her power to control his body and his connection to the stone and send him crashing through the floor. She had attacked her friend. Anger and frustration had been riding her hard then. Time locked into her own thoughts while imprisoned on the Raft and then isolated in Wakanda had given her perspective. Vision had only ever wanted to protect her, to make certain that she would be able to live a normal life if she wanted, among normal people, and not have them stare or whisper or fear. It was a life he would probably never be able to have, and reflection had made her consider the possibility that he wanted it. Her friend, who tried to help her, to save her, who wanted the best he could imagine for her – and she had invaded his mind and cast him down. It had been utterly wrong of her.
He was standing within arms reach of her chair, and her eyes hit him at the waist. He wore dark slacks and a black belt. A sweater, a real sweater and not the clothes he could materialize for himself, in a wine color that nearly matched his skin and looked soft to the touch. She wondered what it was made from, if Tony had purchased it, if Vision had picked it out himself and a million other stupid and unnecessary things to give herself a few cowardly moments to gather her thoughts. Steve thought Vision would forgive her. She just had to ask. That was the hard part, making herself believe she had the right to ask.
“I must beg your pardon, if you would grant me the favor of listening.”
Her eyes shot up to his at that. They were as blue as they had ever been; the overlapping planes of skin and materials of his forehead were drawn together in worry. I need to pardon him? Wanda was reeling, and she stretched out her power, but instead of hitting Steve’s resolute determination, she hit Vision. Clear. Calm. Logical. Collected. Overwhelmingly tense with concern and guilt.
“What?” It was all she could manage as she sorted through the surface emotions Vision was projecting. His mind was unlike any other she had ever known, more solid even than Steve’s and operating at a pace no human could match. It was infinitely complex and fascinating but all she could focus on was how absolutely stupid he sounded.
“I understand it does not excuse my actions, but I did believe at the time I was acting as a friend should. It was my inexcusable mistake, Wanda, that I treated you as if you were not capable of forming your own opinions and making decisions. I deeply regret-”
Wanda ‘s mouth fell open. Without her consent a string of curses, some in English and some in her native language, fell from her mouth. As her brain started to catch up, she gained momentum, throwing herself out of her seat until she stood inches away from him, one finger pointed at his sternum. “Bullshit! You do not get to do this to me! I am a person, Vision, and this is not how it gets to go. I will say what needs to be said – you cannot take my apology away like some sort of- of – krasyvyy stoyik muchenyk! It is you who has to forgive me!”
“I-” His eyes were wide, but whatever he wanted to say, Wanda wasn’t going to hear it.
“No,” she punctuated the word with a swirl of red around her finger, jabbing into his chest. It was not enough to hurt him, but even in his most solid state he would have felt it. “I get to go first. I have been working up to this for months, you don’t get to steal the- the-thunder from me.” Her breath was coming hard through her nose. She could feel the heat in her cheeks and the cloud of energy that had formed around the two of them. There was nothing left but to say it.
“I am sorry, Vision.” There was a long pause. An unnatural stillness made by the taut emotion between them and the barrier of her power. His worry eased, his lips lifted at the corners.
“You have done nothing that needs to be forgiven, Wanda.” His palm fell lightly on her shoulder, and the stress that had been coiling in her for months, since she realized she would have to face him, suddenly relaxed.
“Dyakuvaty Bohu,” she murmured. “I missed you.” Her legs were having trouble holding her up. She flattened her hand against the soft knit of his sweater for balance. Red mist fell from the air, and she was conscious of Steve and the others tensed and staring at them from across the room.
“And I you,” he said, softly. “It has been quite exhausting to be at odds with a friend. I do believe I will avoid such a situation in the future.”
Wanda gave in to the impulse and threw her arms around his waist. She ignored the relief and almost smug satisfaction that Steve was exuding and instead breathed in the mild detergent on Vision’s sweater and relaxed into the sensation of his mind next to hers. She had almost forgotten how right it felt, how easy and comforting it was to mentally and physically lean up against him. “Me too.”
*I yoho nohy z yoho ust.: And get his feet out of his mouth.
* maty vedmedya: mother bear.
* krasyvyy stoyik muchenyk: beautiful, stoic martyr.
* Dyakuvaty Bohu: Thank God.