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Casting the Shadow

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Westview was not a mistake. That, Wanda was sure of. She needed that time to process her grief. Of course, creating her own children and watching them disappear before her eyes was another grief altogether, but she felt a kind of absolution about it, knowing all of it was a bit unnatural given the two had aged 10 years in less than 48 hours. Was it intentional that she also enslaved the whole town along with her? No. She didn’t even know the whole thing was her own doing until hours before she left. She still felt incredible guilt over it anyway.

 

The mistake was trying to explain to the town that she did not share her pain with them on purpose. They didn’t understand and they never would. All they knew was pain. She couldn’t blame them for that, all things considered.

 

That was why she had to leave. No one would hear her out if she tried to explain herself, Hayward made that crystal clear, so she removed herself from the situation. Before leaving the town though, Wanda wandered into Agatha’s basement, retrieving the grimmerie she had glimpsed when captured by the woman. She needed to figure out what exactly Agatha meant when she called her the Scarlet Witch and she figured this would be the best place to start.

 

Wanda was now secluding herself in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. She wasn’t even sure what country she had fled to, only seeking out an off-the-grid reprieve from society to sort out the revelations she had discovered while in Westview. The cabin was small, only consisting of three rooms, a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, but she didn’t mind. If anything, it reminded her of her meager beginnings in Sokovia, and was comforted by that thought.

 

Wanda had been in the cabin for about a month, if her measurement of time was correct. She was not keeping track of the days that passed, having no obligation to be anywhere or see anyone, so it was only a rough guess. In that time, she managed to learn a bit more about herself and was able to practice more with her “chaos magic”, as Agatha had called it.

 

She had mastered the ability to astral project within a certain range. This made it easier for her to complete her daily tasks around the cabin while reading the grimmerie in her astral form. She knew from her brief interactions with Dr. Strange that her astral form could go basically anywhere she would like it to go, but after trying and failing to move it further than a mile, she decided she needed a bit more practice and research.

 

She couldn’t help but to think that her practice would progress much quicker if she had Natasha around. During her time in the compound before everything turned to chaos, Natasha had turned into her go-to person for help. It initially began with Wanda’s desire to learn more about hand-to-hand combat, Natasha more than happy to help her out, acknowledging the importance of not relying solely on her powers which had been a bit unpredictable at the time.

 

The two had formed a friendly relationship after practicing with each other often, Wanda finding that she sought out the older woman more and more for things she was unsure of or just for companionship after feeling so lost and downtrodden from the collapse of Sokovia and the disaster that had been Lagos. The two had some sort of connection Wanda couldn’t put a name to. They just understood each other without needing to speak, simply showing up when the other needed comfort and giving the other person space when they needed it.

 

Wanda knew Natasha would have been the best person to help her with figuring out what exactly her magic was capable of. She would probably have joked around with her saying her new suit that seemed to materialize out of thin air after completely transforming into the Scarlet Witch was tacky and laugh at the headpiece. Of course, she would do all this with a smirk, letting Wanda know she was playfully joking and truly admired the transformation Wanda had undergone during her time in Westview. 

 

A tear slid down Wanda’s face at the thought. She would never get those moments with Natasha. Not after she selflessly sacrificed herself for the universe in order for the soul stone to be retrieved. That’s who she was, a selfless person who did what she needed to do for the people she loved. She hated talking about herself like that, saying she had done bad things in her past and downplaying the person she was at that moment, but Wanda knew the real person behind the mask and had admired her with a passion.

 

Wanda wiped the stray tear away from her face, focusing on the task at hand. She decided she would try again to push the boundaries with astral projection. After reading further following the failed attempts before, she learned that to truly project, the mind needed to let go of the concept of space and time being a concrete continuum. There were multiple universes, some very similar to their current reality, some drastically different. The astral form could project to any of those universes.

 

This was not an easy concept for Wanda to understand. It was hard to think of different realities occurring when her own was difficult enough to comprehend. Wanda truly tried to understand it though, knowing astral projecting had been achieved by at least one person she knew, so this concept must have some truth in it. 

 

Wanda sat down, focusing on the boundary she had not been able to cross in her previous attempts, and felt her projection leave her physical body before opening her astral eyes and seeing the physical form still sitting in the chair. This was a good start. She moved in her projected form to the boundary, tentatively hovering to the spot she had been unable to cross previously and was delighted when she had not been forced back into her physical body. This was progress. She pushed herself forward, wandering aimlessly around the area until she decided she was at a good stopping point for the day, not wanting to overexert herself. 

 

With the pride from her accomplishment still radiating from her, Wanda decided to go to bed and start afresh the next day, perhaps pushing the boundary further by trying to go to another country instead of just a few miles from the cabin. As she closed her eyes, she couldn’t help but to think about how proud Natasha would be of her accomplishment, though downplaying the excitement with some jokes and comments like, “it was about time,” or an exasperated “ finally .” With that thought, she closed her eyes, thinking about the woman she missed with a passion.

---

Wanda opened her eyes to dark rocks around her. The sky was an unnatural red, perhaps not from Earth at all. She wandered around the area aimlessly, wondering where exactly she was. She was at the base of what appeared to be a large incline leading to a cliff or mountain top when she heard a familiar voice coming from the peak. “For the last five years I’ve been trying to do one thing: get to right here. That’s all it’s been about. Bringing everyone back.”

 

Natasha. She knew that voice from anywhere. That was Natasha and this must be Vormir. Right before she- no, she wouldn’t allow that to happen. Not again. Wanda flew up the peak in a second, not wasting time and focusing solely on the woman’s voice she had heard. She reached the peak in time to see Clint and Natasha fighting to get to the edge before the other could. She wouldn’t let that happen.

 

“No!” she screamed. Both heads paused in their scuffle, turning towards the unexpected scream from behind them, but unable to see anything. “This is not how it happens,” a voice came from behind her. She turned around to see a man in black robes, face completely gone, revealing only a red skull. This must be the guardian of the stone.

 

“I’m not letting this happen, not again,” Wanda said, focusing her eyes on Clint and Natasha, still paused and looking around for the disembodied voice that sounded too familiar to be a coincidence.

 

“They came here for a reason, a soul for a soul. You can’t change that by coming here,” Red Skull explained. Wanda continued to keep her eyes on the pair, Natasha listening to Red Skull talking to Wanda, trying to make out the context of the situation while only being able to hear one side of it. On the other hand, Clint seemed to understand the situation. He did not know how or why Wanda was here, but one thing was clear: Natasha was distracted and this was his only chance.

 

Wanda understood what Clint was doing and knew this was his decision to make. It would hurt her to not see Clint again, but after hearing about his guilt about losing Natasha and perhaps letting her own desire to keep Natasha alive after experiencing so much pain and loss of her own, she knew she had to continue to engage Red Skull in order to keep Natasha focused on trying to decipher the other half of the conversation.

 

“I know. I’m not here to prevent anyone from dying. I’m not even sure why or how I’m here.”

 

“You’re a powerful witch, perhaps more than you even know,” he answered. “But you already know that, Scarlet Witch.”

 

Wanda watched Natasha’s eyes grow wide, Red Skull confirming the voice she had heard was in fact Wanda’s but brows furrowing when he called her “Scarlet Witch.” Meanwhile, Clint was slowly inching backwards towards the edge of the cliff, slow enough as to not make a noise to indicate what he was doing to Natasha.

 

“How can you see me but they can’t?” Wanda tried, hoping his answer would continue to keep Natasha engaged.

 

“I am not alive. I am cursed to guard the stone, which is why I am here and able to speak to any being on this forsaken rock; human, alien, witch, whatever they may be. If they desire the stone, I can talk to them.”

 

That was a mistake. At the mention of the stone, Natasha seemed to break from her reverie. She turned around to finish what she had come here to do, but it was too late. While Natasha was distracted, Clint had made his way to the edge of the cliff, too far for Natasha to reach in time.

 

“Tell my family I love them,” he smiled before falling over the edge. 

 

Natasha fell to her knees before disappearing altogether. Wanda turned her teary eyes over to Red Skull, seemingly unfazed by the woman that had dematerialized before him.

 

“It is done. A soul for a soul. She now has the stone and my work here is complete, as I believe yours is as well,” he finished, reaching out a finger and connecting it to Wanda’s shoulder. As soon as the finger connected to her body, Wanda was brought back to the cabin, shooting up from her spot in the bed, panting with hot tears streaming down her face.

 

A dream. A very realistic and frightening dream. That’s what it must be. Wanda was no stranger to bad dreams. She was plagued by them ever since the Stark bombs had destroyed her life so long ago, but this- this was a bit too real for her liking. Wanda slid her legs over the side of the bed, standing up and making her way to the kitchen. There was no way she would be able to return to sleep after that dream, so she resigned to have a very early start to the morning.

 

It was still dark outside, so Wanda decided she would make a cup of tea and watch the sun rise, hoping the warm drink and calming and reassuring sight of nature would help ground her for the morning after the dream had shaken her.

 

Wanda put a kettle of water on the stove, waiting for it to heat up while putting a tea bag in a mug. The familiar motions settled her down enough for her hands to stop shaking, though her mind was still preoccupied with the realistic dream. What would life be like if the events in her dream did occur? Would she have even gone to Westview with Vision’s broken body? She wasn’t sure if she would, thinking perhaps if Natasha had been there after she lost Vision, she would not have felt so lonely. She knew Natasha would listen to her and comfort her after the loss and perhaps that was all she needed to begin with.

 

She was broken from her train of thought by the screeching of the kettle on the stove. She removed the kettle, pouring the hot water in the mug and letting the bag steep in the liquid for a moment. After adding some sugar and a spot of milk, she walked outside and sat on the steps of the cabin, warming her hands with the mug while attempting to keep her thoughts from the dream.

 

She took a sip of the liquid, humming at the pleasant feeling of it traveling down her throat. Yes, this was definitely helping. She sat and continued to take small sips of the hot drink while glancing around the various trees surrounding the cabin, lost in thought. She could hear rustling coming from some bushes, but figured it was some of the wildlife going about their night and brushed the noise aside. She took another sip of her tea when she heard the rustling again, this time closer and louder.

 

She decided she would investigate and put the mug aside, standing up, hands and eyes glowing red. The rustling continued, coming closer to Wanda’s direction. Wanda hesitantly walked towards the noise, speaking out to whatever it was, hoping to learn more. 

 

“What do you want?” She spoke, thoughts racing back to Hayward’s determination to neutralize her.

 

The rustling stopped before she heard a familiar voice coming from the edge of the woods.

 

“Wanda?”

 

She shook her head. This couldn’t be real. She must still be dreaming.

 

“...Natasha?”

 

A few moments later a figure rushed from the woods and there she was. Natasha stood at the edge as if in shock, still clad in her white suit as she had been in her dream last night. The next thing she knew, she had flown over to Natasha, crashing her body into the woman’s, hugging her with such might that she was sure Natasha thought she would never let go, but she didn’t care. Natasha was here and that was all that mattered.

 

“Easy there, little witch! Or should I say Scarlet Witch?” Natasha said, body trembling from the chuckle she released at Wanda’s reaction.

 

“How do you know that?” Wanda asked, reluctantly letting go of her hold on the woman, but grabbing her hands between her own, wanting to keep physical contact to reassure herself this wasn’t a figment of her imagination.

 

Natasha’s brows furrowed. “Red Skull called you that last night. Or this morning? I’m not sure how much time has passed.”

 

Wanda’s eyes grew wide. Red Skull. So it wasn’t a dream. But if it wasn’t a dream, what was it? Then it hit her. Multiple universes could exist, but so could time travel. She was so focused on wanting Natasha to be alive that she projected herself into the past and to Vormir. It wasn’t just a realistic dream, it was reality.

 

“Oh my god. I brought you back.” She let go of Natasha’s hands, needing to pace around the ground while the gravity of the situation fell into place.

 

“What do you mean you brought me back?”

 

Wanda stopped her pacing to face Natasha. “Nat, you were dead. You’ve been dead for months now.”

 

“Wanda, are you okay? I’m clearly alive, so…I don’t think that’s it.”

 

“No, you don’t get it. You died . Clint wasn’t the one that jumped, you did. You sacrificed yourself so he didn’t have to.”

 

Wanda could see Natasha’s thoughts racing. Tears were streaming down Wanda’s face while watching, happy to have Natasha back, but heart breaking at having to explain what had happened to her.

 

“Okay, let’s say that is true. If I died, how am I here?”

 

“Red Skull was right, I am the Scarlet Witch. I don’t know fully what that means myself, but I do know it means I am more powerful than we all believed. I’ve been practicing astral projection, like Strange could do. I guess I was so focused on getting you back while I was practicing that I unintentionally projected to Vormir. That’s why you couldn’t see me.”

 

Natasha stood there for a few moments. Wanda wasn’t sure how Natasha would react. It was a lot to process after all. After a while, Natasha nodded, walking forward and grabbing Wanda’s hands in her own.

 

“Okay, so I am here, alive, and you brought me back, but you’re unsure how exactly. Alright. Well, it sounds like we’re just going to have to figure it all out.”

 

“We?” Wanda asked, not wanting to get her hopes up. Natasha had just returned from the dead. There were plenty of people she could and should be going to see.

 

“Yes, we. You saved me, it’s the least I can do, little witch,” she smiled. “And I need to at least stay long enough to hear all about where that ridiculous outfit came from,” she nodded towards Wanda’s current attire.

 

Wanda couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her lips, so relieved to have the woman not only alive and standing a foot away from her, but joking around with her as if she hadn’t been hit with the news that she had been dead and brought back by the woman in front of her. 

“And you’re going to have to tell me how you ended up in a cabin…” she gestured vaguely around her, “in the middle of nowhere.” 

 

“I have so much to tell you,” Wanda said before holding out a hand for Natasha to take. She felt a tingle when the woman placed her hand in her own, still elated that she really was here talking to her. She held onto the hand and led her to the steps of the cabin. She wasn’t embarrassed by it, but she was realizing just how small it was in that moment. If she was staying here with her, they would have to figure out sleeping arrangements...she shook her head. That could be figured out later.

 

“We’re safe here,” she said softly, feeling the need to clarify. She didn’t know how to begin to explain what had happened, but this was a start.

 

“Okay,” was all Natasha said. Of course, just with one word the Russian could make Wanda feel less tense, less like she was preparing to be ridiculed for the things that had led her here. That was the bond they had. They just understood .

 

She led Natasha into her meager cabin, letting her walk in before she entered. “It’s not much, but it’s been just me,” Wanda started.

 

“Hey, no, it’s cute and tiny. Fitting for you,” Natasha said with a smile.

 

“You do know I’m taller than you,” Wanda said, shutting the door behind them with a grin. She missed their playful banter.

 

“A technicality,” Natasha waved her off, continuing to survey the area. Wanda watched her flop herself down on Wanda’s bed as if it belonged to her. As if they were back at the compound spending time in each other’s rooms, laying next to each other in bed and talking for hours on end about everything and nothing.

 

“You mind if I take a bit of a nap? A person tends to get tired after being dead for a few months, surprisingly,” Nat spoke up, breaking Wanda from her thoughts.

 

“Well technically this you never died, but no, go ahead. I’m just going to-” she motioned to the door before handing her some clothes to change into, figuring she wouldn’t like to sleep in the suit she was currently wearing.

 

Natasha nodded and said her thanks before unzipping the suit, shameless confidence preventing her from being embarrassed about changing in front of Wanda. She had done this many times before and Wanda wondered how she could just do that without getting flustered like she did every time it happened.

 

She shook her head clearing the thoughts from her mind and headed outside, resuming her spot on the front step of the cabin and grabbing the now lukewarm tea. Agatha was right. She certainly did not know how much power she held, but she was learning. If it could bring Natasha back though, it couldn’t all be chaos could it? This was a good thing.

 

Did she possibly mess up the timeline she was in? Probably. And she didn’t want to think about the pain Clint’s family would be going through, but it was his choice. Hopefully one day they would admire him for the sacrifice he made for everyone, just as she had for Natasha.

 

Natasha. She was here, sleeping in her bed. Their bed now, she supposed, considering there was only one in the cabin. She couldn’t say she hadn’t thought about sharing a bed with the woman before, but it was always the wrong place, wrong time. She had Vision and she was happy with that, but she did sometimes find herself wondering what a life with Natasha would have been like. Perhaps now would be the chance to find out.

 

She smiled to herself, pulling her knees up to rest her chin on. She was so consumed in her thoughts that she hadn’t heard the door open behind her until a warm body pressed against her side. Natasha had sat down next to her on the step, leaving no space between the two. She hid a grin behind the mug, taking a small sip while Natasha spoke.

 

“Hey you.”

 

Wanda glanced over at the woman, smiling when she saw how soft she looked wearing her own clothing.

 

“You look more comfortable out of that suit. Tony’s design I take it?”

 

She felt rather than heard Natasha’s laugh in response. “Yes, totally a Stark design.” She looked from Wanda to the land in front of them. “Gotta say, you picked a pretty place to settle.”  

 

Wanda glanced around at the area. “This is settling?” she asked, taking another sip of the tea.

 

“It could be,” Natasha responded before putting her head on Wanda’s shoulder. Wanda smiled, glancing at the head leaning against her. Maybe this would be her second chance at a happy ending. Maybe she didn’t deserve a happy ending and maybe she didn’t deserve Natasha, but she wanted this. And after the heartbreak of losing her entire family, she needed this.

 

“It could be,” she smiled. “Do you want me to tell you everything now?” She sat back, preparing to tell Natasha everything that she had done, hoping she wouldn’t think poorly of her though having a feeling she would understand, but Natasha stopped her before she could begin.

 

“I was ready to fix it the moment it happened. Five years I spent looking for a way to bring you all back,” Natasha began. It took Wanda a moment to realize Natasha was talking about the blip and the events that occurred during it. “To fix what Thanos had done.” She continued, pulling out a vial, strung through a metal chain around her neck. “I carried you with me.”

 

“Natasha…” Wanda whispered, too shaken by the gesture to say anything above a murmur. 

 

“It was stupid but kept me sane. I was alone so often,” Natasha explained.

 

“It’s not stupid, Nat. It’s- that means a lot to me. I would have done the same if I had anything to remember you by. Instead I just created another reality,” she trailed off.

 

Natasha lifted her head off of Wanda’s shoulder in order to face Wanda. “I’m sorry, you what?”

 

Wanda let out a soft chuckle. “I guess it’s my turn to explain now, yes?” 

 

Natasha just stared at her, waiting for her to continue.

 

“Right, okay, well, after you sacrificed yourself, Vision died. We won, which was great, but we lost Tony and Vision and I couldn’t cope with it. Vision had, before he-” she took a breath to steady herself. “Before he died, he bought a house for us to have together. He knew I just wanted a private, normal life, or as normal as I can get, so he bought this land in a small town called Westview.”

 

Wanda continued to recount her story, revealing all of the pain she had been through after the initial false happiness she forced upon herself and everyone else without knowing it. She talked about Agatha and the grimmerie, how she had used the woman’s tricks against her to lead to her own downfall, and how she ultimately lost her family all over again. 

 

“So I came here. I knew people wouldn’t understand what had happened if I tried to explain so I just left. Honestly I don’t even know where here is,” Wanda said with a watery chuckle.

 

To her credit, Natasha had let Wanda recount the events of the past few months without interruptions, just nodding along with the story and placing a hand on Wanda’s knee as if sensing the exact moment Wanda felt she may fall apart again.

 

“We’ve certainly been through some shit, haven’t we?” Natasha finally spoke up.

 

Wanda let her head fall to her chest releasing a soft chuckle. “That is one way you can put it.”

 

They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, Wanda’s story sinking in with both of them. Wanda was happy with how Natasha had received it, not judging her for her actions and just going along with it. This was one of the reasons they got along so well.

 

“So where do we go from here?” Wanda spoke up, breaking the silence.

 

Natasha looked around and shrugged. “I guess that’s up to us.”

 

Wanda smiled at the prospect.

 

“You wanted me back,” Natasha spoke up before Wanda could respond to her previous statement.

 

“You can’t imagine why?” Wanda asked, lifting a brow in response.

 

“Oh, I can imagine a million reasons why,” Natasha started. “Hope has me settled on one though.” 

 

“Hope is a dangerous thing.” Wanda responded after carefully considering her words.

 

“And yet here I am.” 

 

Wanda shook her head gently, letting out a soft laugh. “Yes, here you are.”

 

“You could have saved him,” Natasha spoke up, tone not giving away how she felt about the situation.

 

Wanda took a moment to gather what she should say. She wanted Natasha to know how much she meant to her and how important her being there with her was to her. She closed her eyes and counted to 3 before leaning in and pressing a gentle kiss to her cheek, lingering for a few seconds. “I needed you.” 

 

Natasha only nodded in response, seemingly accepting of the answer for the time being. Wanda was just grateful she didn’t brush the gesture off or react negatively to it.

 

“So we stay here and make a life for ourselves?” Natasha asked.

 

“Yes, I suppose we do,” Wanda replied, looking over at Natasha and smiling, thinking of the future they would have together, free from societal pressures. Just her and Natasha in her cabin. Their cabin.

 

“I think I like the sound of that, little witch,” Natasha said, wrapping an arm around Wanda’s shoulders, pulling her into her body.

 

Wanda laid her head on Natasha’s collarbone, thinking she liked the sound of it too.