None of them understand.
The Avengers try to pretend that they understand my pain. I feel their sickening, pitying looks on my skin. Steve tells me about the best friend he lost. Even worse, Clint talks about his brother who he lost through betrayal.
I can feel their auras as they speak, as they move carefully around me. They all mean well. Some of them give me solitude; others dredge their pain to the surface for me, thinking that they have any affect on my grief. It’s kindness—a petty, useless sort of kindness. None of them can begin to feel the ache inside of me, the sucking wound of losing the person who was my very soul.
Brother, twin, beloved. Pietro was my heart, the only heart I’ve ever possessed. Together, we learned every inch of us, where we met, where we overlapped, where we differed. I owned all of our ambition, our drive, our defence. Pietro had our empathy, our kindness, our patience. Without his voice in my ear—without his heat at my side—I care nothing for the so-called kindness of the Avengers.
Two of them stay away from me: Stark, because he still fears me, and the Widow, because she knows better.
The Avengers have business to attend to, and I am shuffled off with the archer. I acquiesce, because Pietro liked him. Right now, the memory of his mischievous smirk is the only thing keeping me afloat.
Clint’s wife shows me to their guest room. They have pictures on their walls, cute mugs in their cabinets, quilts like the ones we lost when our home burned. She smiles at me, compassion in her eyes, and all I can feel is the rage that let me pluck out Ultron’s heart.
I go to sleep in a bed allocated for transience, in a home built for permanence. My heart yearns for the only permanence it has ever known, and my spirit reaches out beyond.
~ ~ ~
I wake in an unfamiliar place. It’s a bedroom suite in a curious building, one both old and new. Its bones are new, the stones of the foundation are new, but the ground knows the building of old. Some form of this structure has existed here for many years, time enough for generations of souls to pass through. This mansion remembers the people it has housed, and the ones who have died within its boundaries.
There is someone sleeping in the room, someone the room does not know. Transience. I ignore them. What use do I have for the billionth useless ant on this mortal plane?
The moon is shining, and I take in the view out the window. An evergreen forest surrounds wide, manicured grounds filled with delicate topiaries and flower gardens. A rich man’s home, I think. The kind of home that has never known war, I would think, except that the air echoes with fire, destruction, pain. Familiar echoes.
The one in the bed tosses, his mind shivering with the echoes. He was there, yet he survived. Interesting. I turn to him, reach out with my powers.
He shakes, vibrates, deep inside, where my powers come from, where Pietro’s resonated. His dreams are of the earth moving beneath his feet, enemies shooting strange weapons, fire raining down. Familiar. Yet different.
I realize that I am far from home.
In my surprise, my control slips, and his sleeping mind becomes aware of my intrusion. He wakes instantly and then is out of bed and on his feet, staring at me with his jaw dropped. He’s faster than Pietro ever was, my dear brother who held back for no one, who waited for no one, but me.
“Who are you? Why are you in my room? Are you another psychic? Does the professor know you’re here?”
Another psychic? I stretch out with my power. There are others here whose minds are like mine, but they are like ghosts. I can’t touch them, and they can’t touch me. The only person whose mind I can touch is the one who resonates like me.
He vibrates faster as I don’t answer.
“I’m gonna go get—”
“Wait,” I say. I layer my voice with power, and he trips over his own feet. He waits for me, eyes wide, and doesn’t seem to notice that I made him.
His hair is silver like Pietro’s, and like Pietro, he hangs on my word. But this one, he is innocent. His gaze is guileless, fearless. It took a mere brush of my power to control him, and he would obey me with a word.
Perhaps this is who Pietro would be if he grew up without war.
“My name is Wanda.”
He blinks, smiles. “My sister’s name is Wanda. That’s kinda weird. Why are you in my room?”
I miss you. I miss you so much my chest feels like it’s cracking every time I breathe.
“Are you okay?” he asks, a foot away from me. I flinch in surprise, and he steps back at a normal speed.
“Sorry. Are you okay?”
“My brother,” I say without thought. “I lost my brother.”
Here, where I can feel the vibration at my side once again, the tears come unbidden.
“Hey, come here.” He pulls me into his arms, and it’s not the same—he smells different, he feels different—but his power shivers under his skin and there’s no one else on the planet who has ever felt like that.
He guides me to his bed. “You here looking for the professor? You’re not the first. A lot of people ended up here, after everything that happened. Other people like us. Are you like us? I think you are.”
He keeps babbling quietly as I sob into his shoulder. It’s not like Pietro’s quiet murmurs would be, but then this man never feared bombs targeting him, never had to hide from the policija. It is right that he never learned to fear silence.
It’s not long before I can feel the vibrations picking up. He’s not good at sitting still, it seems. Pietro wasn’t as a child, but he learned quickly when we needed it.
When I needed it.
I look up at him, this stranger whose spirit echoes mine. “Can you be still for me?”
His lips pull back at the corners: disappointment. “That’s not really my thing. I move. Fast. Does it bother you? I can go get someone—”
“No. I will make you still.”
His eyes widen, but I’m already pressing my hand to his chest. I pull, slowly, on the core of him, draining away the energy that lets him move faster than the world. He chokes, breath out of sync with his mind, but that’s alright. I can take care of that, too.
His mind resists me for a moment, but it takes only a hint of pressure before it lets me in. Almost like it knows me. It’s easy to match his breathing and heart to mine, to convince his body not to panic.
It doesn’t take much more than a nudge before he wants me the way he should. The way Pietro always did.
“Holy—how did you do that?” he murmurs. His eyes glaze over like he’s high, like the way Pietro did the first time we shared a few breaths of smoke with a resistance fighter in a broken-down building.
This is better.
“I’m like you,” I lie. “Do you like it?”
He looks at me like I’m something amazing, incomprehensible. Precious.
This is better.
“I don’t know how I feel about it.”
I sit up straighter, lean closer to him. I tilt my head just so, the way Pietro would have known meant I wanted him.
“How do you feel about me?”
One more small nudge in his mind, and he’s kissing me.
It’s different. He doesn’t know me like Pietro did. His kisses are less wise, his tongue more forceful. I reach into his mind again to smooth things over, point him in the right direction, and we even out. I let a bit of his power flow back into his body and the vibration picks up under his skin, just enough to be familiar, comforting.
A hand on the back of my neck, and I’m on my back, his weight pressing me to the mattress. The blanket is bunched up under me, but I barely notice the discomfort before the pressure is gone, a trail of silver in the room as he moves almost faster than I can sense.
He’s faster than Pietro.
“Wow, I’ve never really gone this fast with a girl,” he says quickly. “Are you okay with this? Maybe we should wait. I don't—”
“I won’t be here tomorrow,” I tell him. When his mind prickles with unease again, I wash it away. “I need you,” I whisper. “Please.”
He kisses me again, his hands going everywhere. I edit that, letting him know with a thought where I like to be touched. I moan into his mouth and draw my hands down his body, caressing sensitive areas, drawing my nails over his shirt. He shivers, breaks the kiss for a split second, and the shirt is gone. I push him up, and with a thought, the nightgown I was given is gone, too.
He stares at me in wonder. I lie back down as he stares, plant my feet in the mattress, and lift my body up. He swallows, but takes the cue to draw my underwear down my legs. When I’m bare before him, he returns to staring.
I hook my foot behind his head and draw him between my legs. His eyes are round as silver coins in the moonlight, but when I smile at him, he smiles back. He ducks his head and goes to work with enthusiasm, if not skill.
That’s fine. It doesn’t take much effort for me to improve that, too.
He learns fast, this one, who has never had a sister to share knowledge. He learns to read my quiet breathing and the clenching of my thighs, the pulses inside me. He doesn’t like the taste of me at first, the scent, but I take that and twist it, and soon he’s moaning quietly as he licks into me, living for every drop that his efforts draw out of me. He has clever fingers, thicker than Pietro’s, but he can move them just as fast, like my own living, breathing vibrator. When I come I don’t make a sound, but he feels it around his fingers and gasps a little.
When I open my eyes again he’s staring at my body, bare lust on his face. “Take your pants off,” I tell him.
He obeys, only tripping a little with his distraction, and then hesitates.
“I don’t have condoms,” he says apologetically. “I can search the rest of the mansion in just a second—”
“No.” I reach out to guide him back to the bed.
He takes my hand, but looks over his shoulder to the door. “It’s really not a good idea—”
“I know what I want,” I breathe. He stares into my eyes and I brush away his fears with a touch of power. “I want you inside me, all of you. I don’t want to be protected.”
His eyelashes flutter and he shakes his head, but there’s no resistance as I draw him onto the bed and guide his hardness inside me.
He gasps, shakes, shivers. His weight on me is delicious, and the near-electric feeling of having his power resonate through me is even better. I keep him from moving for a few seconds to savor it, before the shaking grows too much.
“Wanda, please—I need to—”
“Go.” I stop holding him back and he thrusts into me hard and fast, faster than any mortal could ever move. His eyes are closed but I keep mine open, watching the silver trails around him, like a ghost image.
Like a spirit, surrounding him.
It’s everything I need, the kind of connection I thought I could never feel again. My power washes over us, resonating in our every cell, keeping my body wet so the friction of his speed can’t hurt us. Here, now, we are one, occupying the same space in the universe, the way it always has been and always should have been. Something frozen inside me breaks loose, and my power explodes out, fierce and free and complete.
I fly above the mortal plane for brief, magical seconds, and I feel his spirit wrap around me, through me, the way it always has. He tells me goodbye, the way he never got to. We whisper I love you one last time.
And then I fall back into my body, sweaty and sticky, weighed down under a naive imitation of my beloved.
I push him and wriggle out from underneath his weight. My nightgown is on the floor. The stranger who is not my brother groans, and I look at him.
He lies on the bed in a happy stupor, eyelids cracked open, but gaze unfocused. He looks... messy. Untrained, unstreamlined. He is what my brother and I could have been, but he is not one of us, for all that we may be ‘one of his.’ Who knows what his world is like.
What I know is that I have gotten what I needed from him. For now.
Should I let him remember? I will go back where I came from, and the memory may be pleasant for him. Or maybe it will not be, if he recalls how many of his concerns I overruled, how I took his power away except for when he went where I guided him. And maybe those other psychics he mentioned could follow me home.
“Good night,” I murmur, leaning over him and kissing his forehead. With that contact, I blur the events of our time together until it will all seem like a dream. A very pleasant dream.
"Wanda," he mumbles. "Come back?"
There is something in his voice that strikes a chord in me, something I did not hear before. It's loneliness, like mine, but where my grief is sharp and immediate, his is pervasive.
I hesitate. He is not my Pietro, but... I cannot leave him behind, as I have been left behind.
"I will come back," I whisper. Drifting as he is, I don't know if he hears me.
I traveled to this dimension by accident, but it is no struggle to let my spirit flow back to my own world, where I belong. I wake up tucked under the covers in the guest room of the Barton farm, early sunlight breaching the windows. A young girl has just knocked on the door, brightly telling me that breakfast is on the table.
I lie in bed for a few minutes longer, letting my power spread out naturally. I feel more settled than I have since my home was destroyed, since my other half was taken from me. The vacuum in the center of my chest is weaker, feeling more like a deep bruise than shrapnel. My power roils, not yet used to existing without another soul for an anchor, but it no longer reaches for him instinctively. And in the back of my mind, where a link exists that trails back to that other world, I know: I am not truly alone.
I feel, for the first time, that there’s a chance I will be able to go on without my brother at my side.
The archer’s wife shouts up the stairs, telling the boy child that he’ll be late if he doesn’t come down now. I take that as my cue as well, and get up out of bed.
When I am standing, I freeze in shock as I realize—
I'm not wearing my underwear.