“Not this again,” says Ava, letting him know it was not as subtle as he imagined. The way he flinched when she walked into the room. “Look, I don’t like this any more than you do.”
“Don’t like what?”
“How much time I’m spending around here,” she sighs with an expansive gesture that is meant to encompass the whole house. “This isn’t how this kind of a story goes. The bad guy isn’t supposed to end up living in the good guy’s guest room. It’s weird. Not a second goes by that I don’t know just how crazy all of this is. And you are not helping.”
There is so much genuine frustration in the way she says it he can't help but feel guilty. Because she’s been through a lot, this self-proclaimed bad guy.
The Ghost. Which wasn’t that far removed from a witch so it triggered his superstitions like crazy. Hence all the flinching – which even he could tell was overreacting.
Kurt opens his mouth to tell her as much. Possibly add something along the lines of how he’s going to try to take it down a notch when she takes a step closer. An unhurried step that is so obviously an attempt not to startle him it only succeeds in making him feel like even more of an asshole for all his unfounded fears.
“What can I do?” she asks.
“Well, I can’t do anything about what I’m assuming is a lifetime of culturally ingrained superstitions. But I have to be able to do something to make you less tense around me.”
Which makes it so much worse, of course. The way she treats it as something that is her fault and therefore something she should do something about. Instead of reminding him witches aren't real and he really needs to grow the hell up.
“I really can’t do that anymore,” she says, taking a further step in his direction. “I’m as solid as you are.”
It’s probably not the best idea to lay a hand on her shoulder to test that statement – but by the time he realizes that someone with her history might not be happy about people breaching her personal space without warning he already did it. His fingers encountering exactly as much solid flesh as they would on touching anyone else.
And, okay, knowing that does help silence some of the old superstitions his mind is forever bringing up.
“Perfectly ordinary,” Ava says, sounding tired just then. Still, she doesn't seem like she's about to start wondering how much longer is he planning on reassuring himself she’s corporeal. She just stands there, waiting for him to realize it himself. That this is too lingering a touch considering they’re nothing more than two barely acquainted strangers...
“Sorry,” he says, snatching his hand away.
She doesn't offer a reply. That seems to be a pattern with her, though. No matter how legitimate a reason she has Ava seems to be forever biting her tongue rather than telling anyone off.
It has been several days of him constantly flinching and muttering under his breath about witchcraft before she finally confronted him about it. Which spoke of impressive amounts of restraint. “I’ll try to...” he starts, not entirely sure what to end that sentence with. He’ll try to do what? To stop treating her like some kind of supernatural monster?
Try to see her as what she actually is – a very attractive woman that is. That feels like it might be a far worse idea than hanging onto his superstitious fears would be.
Not because she was the bad guy here – she really wasn’t, no matter that she seemed to believe otherwise – but because it was simply the most inappropriate thing he could do in this situation. She was corporeal for less than a week, the idea of her having to deal with someone making advances before she even gotten used to how differently her body was behaving now that it was no longer phasing was just... wrong. Beyond wrong.
“That’s all I’m asking,” she says as the silence stretches too long. Soudning like she's not having great hopes about what, if any, effect this conversation had.
“Ava, wait... Do you...” he says a little uncertain about how to phrase things. “Do you like this place?”
“The spooky old house?” she replies, catching his meaning perfectly. “No, not really.”
“Okay,” he nods, grabbing his laptop off the table. “Let’s go outside.”
“So you can see whether I burst into flames in direct sunlight?” says Ava, narrowing her eyes at him. Though her tone is not entirely unamused.
“Of course. Why else?”
It’s a lie but a lie that makes her smile and that seems worth it. It doesn’t happen a lot, even now. Perhaps because she’s constantly surrounded by people she has too much complicated history with and so she’s hardly ever at ease.
“Should we maybe make sure we walk by a mirror on the way? So you can see if I reflect in it...?” she asks. And it really is undeniable now. She is amused. Which is as good an explanation as any for why she is following him as he heads for the back yard.
Whatever the reason it does feel like a good thing that she does. It is too nice a day to spend inside what really is a slightly spooky old house. And she seems like she could use some sunlight. A moment of normalcy, however brief.
Which is how this feels, against all odds. Exceedingly normal. Not at all strange for them to find themselves sitting on the steps of the house. In silence that is for once in no way awkward, though it is hard to say where exactly there occurred a change.
Maybe it’s because she forgets he’s here at all, the sound of his fingers on the keys fading into white noise as the simple act of sitting here enjoying the sunlight takes over most of her attention. “So how come you’re fine around Hank?” Ava says after a few minutes, just as he starts to believe she is too lost in her own thoughts to remember she’s not alone here.
“I mean... You should be all jumpy around him too. I materialize out of thin air one time and can’t live it down. Meanwhile the old man lives in a place like this. Has what amounts to magical animal helpers,” she says, counting down her points on her fingers, “he gave his daughter wings – don’t tell me that doesn’t sound like something out of a fairytale. He just got his wife back from another realm she’s been spirited away into years ago. He even looks like a he could be a wizard.”
“Oh,” he says, catching her meaning. And can’t help laughing at the observation. “Hank, he is grumpy old man. Not magic.”
“Because...?” Ava asks, quirking an eyebrow.
“If he was, he would turn us all to ant by now...”
She thinks about this for a second before nodding her agreement with that point. “He doesn’t like you guys very much, does he...?”
“As I said. Grumpy,” is the best reply he can make to that.
“Why are you helping him then?” she wonders, nodding her head in the direction of his laptop. Making a good point. Because a serious amount of his free time of late has been taken by doing a lot of complex programming – as much of it as the trio of resident scientists would outsource to someone who wasn’t in the habit of putting the word quantum in nearly every sentence...
Then again it’s strange that she has to ask. He’d think she of all people knows what the purpose of all this is. It’s not like Hank and Janet had undertaken to rebuild the machinery necessary to re-enter the quantum realm because it feels like a fun hobby to take up in their retirement.
“What?” she frowns, clearly not understanding why he’s suddenly staring at her.
And so he explains, still a little confused about the fact any of it needs saying. Because it never even occurred to him to think of all this as helping Hank Pym. That is not who this is for. No, Hank can get by just fine without those healing particles one can only obtain in the quantum realm...
“Oh. Right,” says Ava eventually. “And of course you feel like you have to do this to stay on my good side. So I don’t put a spell on you.”
He can only shake his head at that, making no reply. Because it’s preferable to saying the wrong thing and losing this. The ease with which they talk now – something that seemed an impossible prospect mere minutes ago. Never mind that playing along with her making fun of his unfounded fears is not hard. Not if that's what it takes to put that smile on her face...
“How is it going anyway?” she says after a moment, leaning over to glance at the screen mostly taken up by row upon row of code.
“Do they not tell you?”
“Not really. All I get is assurances they’re working on it. Pretty sure they’re leaving me out of things deliberately,” she sighs. ”Because there are better things I should be using my time on now that I’m... normal.”
“Oh, you know. Catching up on all the things I missed out on,” she shrugs, not sounding particularly thrilled by the prospect. “And I have been. I have banged my shins against coffee tables more times this week than I did in my entire life. That’s supposed to be a part of having a normal life, right?”
“It is,” he confirms because, well, she’s not wrong. She also sounds less than thrilled by being just another utterly normal human now that she’s starting to get an idea of all the little annoyances this new status brings.
“I should probably have a list. I spent so much of my life wishing for the day I’ll be solid again for more than few seconds at a time. I should have no trouble finding things to fill my days. I mean... I missed out on a lot of stuff,” she says, with a smile that is as joyless as it is brief. “Shouldn’t be that hard to pick something to start with.”
He choses, very deliberately, not to voice the problematic thought that crossed his mind on hearing that. Because to mention the first thing he’d be looking into investigating if he was in her position feels... Inappropriate, at the very least.
“What?” she asks, letting him know that he did a poor job of hiding he might have a suggestion for her.
“I shouldn’t say,” he replies, not meeting her eyes.
“Ah, yes. That,” Ava grins, catching up. “Well, that is on the list. Goes without saying.”
He just nods because to risk any sort of reply to that feels like a bad idea. The odds of saying the wrong thing are off the charts. Even not saying anything feels like a risk, really. It is simply not a subject they should be discussing – which makes it so unfortunate she doesn’t seem to mind too much this is the one they ended up on.
“Oh don’t tell me you have a superstition about that too. What, am I going to use my arcane powers if I ever...”
“No,” he interjects before she can get any further with that sentence. “No superstition about that.”
“Good,” she says, just barely supressing a smile at realizing this might be making him uncomfortable. “I am rather attached to them. Wouldn’t want to give them up.”
She’s openly smiling now. It’s good to see, really. It is still such a rare expression to see on her face even now – and that makes this something it’s hard to regret. Still he can’t help but hope they move from this subject soon. Because it’s making his thoughts stray in some very problematic directions.
It must not show in his expression, though. Or else Ava is too polite to say anything about it. Instead she falls silent again, tilting her head slightly upwards so she can look at the cloudless sky. Enjoying this no doubt rare experience of having the luxury to just sit and take in the sunlight in silence for a time. And maybe she’ll break it again with another teasing comment about his superstitious fear of her – that was a thing of the past now, though she might not have noticed that yet – and maybe she won’t. Just more silence, if it’s this kind of silence, would be just fine with him.
Never mind that her company is preferable to the alternative. And for a moment he seriously considers telling her as much. But she seems so at peace Kurt finds he can’t take this moment away from her. So he just goes back to writing the code. Something he did promise Hank he’ll get done today. And it is hard not to prioritize helping with the project while this aware what it’s all for. This beautiful young woman who did nothing to deserve the pain that defined so much of her life...
“You really don’t mind, do you?” she asks a moment later, startling him out of his focus.
“Helping. You should, you know. It sets the wrong precedent. This gets out and everyone will start expecting getting a pass for any crime so long as they do it for sad enough reason.”
He makes no reply, only waits. Because it feels like there’s something she wants to say even if she doesn’t seem to be too sure about how to say it.
“Not to make it seem like I’m ungrateful. I get that this is all very important,” she says, waving her hand in the direction of his laptop. “But if you’re scared of me to the point you’ll say yes to anything I’ll ask. Right?”
“Not that scared,” he says.
“No, I suppose not. Terrified would be a more appropriate word,” she says through a smile. “Still means I have leverage over you.”
He doesn’t deny that. Because there is this look in her eyes that makes him wonder... “Something I can help with...?” he asks, pretty certain he’s just imagining subtext that isn’t really there.
“I think there might be. If you want,” she says, making him realize that, no, definitely not imagining it.
“You’re not saying...”
“Oh, I definitely am. I could spell it out for you if that would help,” she says, now actually grinning. “But I think you understand me just fine.”
“I... do,” he admits, though with some hesitation. “Just don’t understand why...”
“Maybe I have reasons, maybe I don’t. Maybe I just don’t like how much time I lost and want to start making up for it before I lose any more. Would that make a difference? All you really have to ask yourself is do you want to...?”
“Yes,” he blurts out before she's even done asking. Well, it's not like it's a hard question to answer...
“You really do, don’t you...?” Ava smiles, studying his expression more closely now. Seeming almost surprised at what she finds there.
“You are very pretty.”
“In the eye of the beholder, I suppose,” she chuckles, seeming no less confused by the certainty of his response. “Alright then. You should finish this first. Wouldn’t want to upset Doctor Pym. And when you’re done, well... You know which room is mine.”
It’s that simple, it seems. And maybe that does make certain amount of sense, because what she said about the time she lost was nothing less than the truth. If she wanted to start making up for all those lost years who could blame her?
Was it weird for someone who’s been their adversary only a few short days ago to proposition him? Probably. But trying to look at it from her point of view... How many people did she know, really? Never mind that he could hardly have given the impression he’d put up much of a fight...
There should be some question about whether this was something he should be even considering but there really wasn’t. No question at all, no moral dilemma to get in the way of the answer he already gave her because it was the only answer he could give. And so he does the next obvious thing and gets typing with almost a manic speed. Dropping the laptop on a table in the living room for Hank to find before hurrying upstairs – all the while wondering if the minutes that passed were time enough for her to come to her senses.
Apparently not, going by the sight that welcomes him when he enters the guest room she’s been living in since the day they got into all that trouble with the word quantum attached to it.
It’s less the fact that she changed out of her clothes and all she’s wearing now is a thin satin robe than the way she’s looking at her hands. There's a frown creasing her brow, making it clear she doesn’t trust them to stay corporeal.
An expression that quickly disappears when she looks at him. Replaced with a smile that betrays no uncertainty.
And if she’s not doubting whether this is a good idea how can he bring himself to waste her time with pointless questions about being really sure about this? She clearly is. The only thing about this situation she seems worried about is her own body’s ability to remain solid.
Nothing he can say to assure her it’s not going to betray her by turning incorporeal. Nothing he can say, no, but there is something he can do. The only thing to be done to help her assure her of her new solidity.
It’s the strangest thing, how little awkwardness is there. What they are to one another – not quite strangers but in a way that doesn’t mean there’s any kind of real familiarity between them – should make this into something that’s hard to navigate. Make the space between them into something there’s easy to make mistakes in. That doesn't seem to be the case, though. Perhaps because there isn’t enough time to appreciate just how strange it is for them to find themselves this close when less than an hour ago he would flinch whenever she came near. But that kind of unfounded superstitious dread can’t survive this moment. The lust that simply doesn’t allow him to feel anything else...
There is no surprise in how easy it is to arouse her, as touch starved as she is. Her body is almost too responsive, slightest touch making her tremble involuntarily. Her cheeks grow flushed within moments and it’s becoming more and more clear that he needs to put aside his own desire to take his time. This wasn't about him, after all. And with the fact she was more than ready impossible to doubt, it seemed unfair to tease her any further.
She’s very quiet, the only hint to how she feels being the pressure of her nails against his skin and the way her breathing grows uneven, interspersed with the occasional exhale that carries the barest suggestion of a moan in it. There’s no question whether this might be a mistake. The fact his reasons were far from unselfish didn’t make it any less the right decision. Because to deprive her of this? This moment where she was far too lost in the sensation to worry about whether her body will dissolve into painful incorporeality the way it did so many times before...?
It was nothing less than what she was owed. It couldn’t begin making up for the long, painful years that preceded it but it was a start.
Even her climax comes and goes without breaking the silence, noticeable only in the shudder that runs through her. And she’s digging her nails into his shoulders in the next moment, on realizing he took that as his cue to stop. But that’s not how this is going to go, the look on her face tells him as much. Satisfying her was the point here but, well, if she insists...
“Still scared of me enough to do whatever I want,” she grins.
“Not scared,” he replies. “Under a spell, maybe...”
Her expression only grows more amused on hearing that. But in another moment it transforms into one he’s already familiar with – her eyes half-closed and lips slightly parted to let out soft, almost inaudible sighs every now and then.
“Why didn’t I do this sooner?” she says, after, as they’re laying side by side, catching their breath. Not sounding like she’s joking, exactly. More like she’s wondering out loud. “I mean... you are here all the time...”
Nothing he can say to that since it is mostly true. And not all she has to say, or so her expression seems to tell him. He waits for her to order her thoughts and say the rest.
“It shouldn’t make this much of a difference. I was solid for days now. As solid as I am right now. So why do I find it easier to trust this...?” she says, raising her hands so she can study them. The undeniable substantiality of them. “Thank you,” she adds then, turning to him with a smile that is in no way teasing, merely grateful.
And what can he possibly say to that? The words sound far too genuine for him to be able to start protesting that all he did was act on his own impulses. All he can do is reach for one of those perfectly ordinary hands, entwining his fingers with hers. “Anytime,” he can’t keep himself from saying.
“You better mean that,” she grins. “Oh but you do, don’t you? You would never risk upsetting a witch.”
“Not this witch,” he says even as he pulls her closer so he can brush his lips against her still flushed cheek. “Far too scary.”