*** I own nothing. I'm just having fun. ***
Wanda had never been so alone.
Pietro was dead. It was hard to even think about that right now, but the gaping hole in her heart and his absence from her side couldn't be denied. He was gone. He was gone, and it was her own damn fault. Her hatred and vindictiveness had led them here. She showed Tony Stark his worst fear, and her own worst fear came true. It was poetic, in a way. Justice had been served upon her, and poor Pietro had been the one to pay.
Now she had to move forward without him, and she didn't know how.
The Avenger Pietro had saved, Clint, had told her she would be an Avenger if she joined the battle, but she had her doubts about what that actually meant. Yes, she was one of them while they fought together, and they would trust her during the battle, but afterwards? She was no Avenger. She was the enemy. She had attacked and hurt them. She had caused pain and destruction. She would never be welcomed into their arms. More likely, they would now make her pay for her crimes. Soon they would come and take her to a cell, and she wouldn't fight. It was better than she deserved.
She should've died out there, with Pietro and Novi Grad. She had no reason to still be alive. If she was going to live, she should be made to pay for what she and Pietro had done, for what she had led them into. This was her doing. She should pay. She had destroyed so much.
So she sat quietly in the room they had put her in, face wet with tears, and waited for judgement to come.
Tony swept a hand through his hair and leaned back in his chair, trying to ease the aches in his body. God, he prayed to never have to do that again. Destroying a flying city was, he hoped, a one time thing.
"I'm hungry. Anyone else hungry?" he asked, to no one in particular. Steve looked up at him from across the table and shrugged.
"I want to see what Fury has to say before we settle in," Steve said.
"I'd like to know where he got this helicarrier," Nat said. "He likes to deflect questions, but I think this one needs an answer. It's a pretty big secret to keep." She seemed disturbed, and not just about Fury, Tony thought. He wondered where Bruce was. He hadn't had a chance to ask.
Thor was silent. He looked exhausted. Clint looked beaten down, and Nat kept giving him worried looks. And the Vision was just standing there observing them all. It was a bit unnerving. Tony was about to say something when Fury walked in, followed by Maria Hill.
"So. You pulled it off again," Fury said. "I knew you could."
"Yeah, you're welcome," Tony said. "This whole thing might've been easier, though, if we'd known we had a freaking helicarrier in reserve. Just saying. It would've been nice to know."
"Tony's right. We need to have all the facts next time," Steve said.
"I didn't know you were gonna be on a flying city, and I wasn't even sure this thing would be ready in time, but sure. Next time I'll be sure to tell you all the things we aren't sure we have for a situation we don't know about." Fury's flippant answers were irritating to everyone, and Tony was in no mood for this. He was sore, hungry, and just wanted to sleep for a day or two.
"So what did you want us here for?" Tony asked. "I know I'm great company and all, but I think we need a break."
"I'm here to talk about the Maximoff girl."
"What about her?" Steve said. Clint perked up, suddenly interested.
"Basically, I'm just here to tell you that we're taking her into custody. I know some of you," Fury looked at Clint, "may have other ideas about what should be done about her, but she's been a bad, bad girl, and she's gonna be locked up for a long time. Who knows, we may even learn something useful by examining her powers."
"Wait a minute," Steve said. "You're gonna lock her up and what? Experiment on her? Like Hydra?"
"Of course not," Fury scoffed, "but Hydra did some amazing things with her and her brother. We've already taken possession of his body for testing, and we need to see what we can learn from her as well."
"You took his body?" Clint asked, offended. "He deserves to be buried. With dignity. The kid isn't some damn science experiment."
"We aren't going to allow SHIELD to do this. You have to know that, Fury. There aren't going to be any more experiments on people, in any way, criminal or not. And Wanda isn't a criminal. She's an Avenger." Steve was angry now, his voice firm. Tony couldn't believe they were even having to have this discussion.
"This isn't your choice to make," Fury said arrogantly, knowing he had the full force of SHIELD behind him.
"You know, I'm a scientist. Some might even say a mad scientist sometimes, and even I wouldn't go this far," Tony said. "You can't have her, Fury. She belongs with the Avengers. And her brother was an Avenger too. His body needs to be returned to us."
Steve stood up, throwing the full weight of his personality and authority as leader of the Avengers into his next statement. "You are going to turn her over now. We'll see to it that she doesn't cause any more trouble, but she's one of us now, and you don't want to take us on."
Fury stared at Steve and Tony for a minute, disbelieving. "Fine. She's all yours. Her brother too. I hope you know what you're doing."
"Better than you, apparently," Clint said bitterly. Fury stalked out, leaving Maria to make the arrangements to transfer the Maximoffs over to the Avengers.
Wanda didn't understand why she was being left in a room with the Avengers. The people who brought her there hadn't told her anything, not that she had expected them to, but she had expected a cell of some sort, not this.
The Avengers were sprawled around on various surfaces, chairs, tables, whatever could hold them. They all looked as exhausted as she felt.
"Miss Maximoff," Captain America said, giving her a little nod. "Good to see you. We need
To talk." Wanda nodded, remaining silent. It made sense for them to want information from her before they locked her up. She should've thought of that. Pietro would've thought of that. That thought nearly brought fresh tears to her eyes, but she clenched her jaw and powered through it.
"Have a seat, little witch," Stark said, gesturing broadly at the one chair left open at the table. They waited for her to seat herself before continuing. Wanda refused to glance around and betray her nerves, but she could feel all their eyes on her. She was very tempted to use her powers, but decided against it. They would tell her what they wanted to know. What did it matter?
"You did good out there today," Steve said, giving her a small smile. "I'm really sorry about your brother, and I wish things had turned out differently, but both of you were a huge help to us." Wanda's eyes widened in surprise, but she stayed silent. "Unless you have an objection to it, we want to make you an Avenger. We think you would be a valuable addition to the team."
Wanda had no idea what to say. This was definitely not what she had expected. "You wish to make me an Avenger?"
"I told you, kid. You proved yourself out there," Clint said. "You've got what it takes."
"I didn't think... I thought-"
"That we were gonna lock you up?" Tony asked, watching her closely. "Yeah, no. That's not our style. We're more into recruitment than filling prisons unnecessarily. Not that there's a prison right now that could hold you, right?" Wanda shrugged, holding Tony's gaze. "So what do you say, witchy? You wanna stick it to the bad guys, or you wanna be the bad guy?"
"I would like to try," she said quietly. Tony smiled.
"Well, alright then. Welcome to Club Kick Ass."
They gave Wanda a room, and when she checked there was no guard stationed outside of it. This was a SHIELD vessel, of course, so that didn't necessarily mean anything, but it seemed like a good sign for things to come.
She sat on the bunk and put her head in her hands and wondered just what the hell she thought she was doing there. Pietro had seemed happy to join forces with the Avengers, even if he still didn't want to team up with Stark. He had enjoyed the teamwork and excitement. He loved saving people.
SHIELD was not what she and Pietro always thought they were. It was Hydra that had been the problem. She saw that now. It was Hydra that Strucker had worked for. It was SHIELD that saved the people of Novi Grad. They had misjudged everything. What else were they wrong about?
The Avengers themselves weren't evil. They were dedicated to helping others. She had seen that for herself. They had been prepared to die with her people on that rock. How many people would have done the same in their places?
What about Tony Stark? He had put himself at great personal risk during this battle. He had been instrumental in saving the world from Ultron's plan. Without him, they could never have vaporized the city and prevented it from hitting the earth. Yes, Stark had created Ultron to begin with, but wasn't she just as culpable? She gave him the fear he needed to create Ultron. She was just as much to blame as he was. He created Ultron from some sort of misguided attempt at saving the world. At least his road had been paved with good intentions. Hers was lined with bitterness and hatred and vengeance. She had no better reasons for what she had done.
Was he still the same Tony Stark who had sold the bombs that killed her parents and so many other people? She had never even considered that he might be willing or able to change, not even once he became Iron Man. It seemed like yet another ploy for attention, another way to make himself the center of the universe. He was so busy patting himself on the back after he became Iron Man that he never stopped to think about all the other people in the world he could've been helping. People like the citizens of Sokovia. People like her and Pietro. While he made pretty speeches about how he was bringing world peace, people like them were stuck in a war zone. It had infuriated her at the time, stoked the flames of her rage, but that anger had burned out. All that was left in her heart at the moment were ashes.
After working with him, she was starting to believe that Tony Stark really was a changed thought was both a comfort and a torment. It was good to know he wasn't the same man, and no one else would have to die due to weapons he had sold, but it also meant everything they had done was in vain. She and Pietro had done all of this for nothing. Good and innocent people had suffered and died because of them and their thirst for vengeance, and there was really no reason for any of it to have happened in the first place. They had committed evil acts, and she was ashamed.
How horrible to know that their revenge hadn't been worth it. Then again, nothing was worth the price Pietro had paid.
Tears began to flow freely down her cheeks once again. She let them come.
Tony paused outside the door to Wanda's room and took a deep breath to steady himself. He knew he needed to talk to her and find out what her issue was with him and the Avengers. She and her brother had seemed to make it personal, and he needed to clear the air before he would fully trust her on the team, even if everyone else was already on board. He was more than ready to welcome her, and really, he already had, but this needed to be done, at least to ease his own mind. The only reason it hadn't happened first is because the twins had really come through for them during the battle. They had seemingly overcome their personal issues.
Call him obsessive compulsive, but he needed to tie up all the loose ends before he would feel comfortable moving on.
He knocked and waited an uncomfortably long time for her to tell him to enter. The reason became obvious, of course, when he saw her wiping her tear-streaked face. He so didn't know how to deal with tears right now, so he was glad she was pulling herself together.
"How can I help you, Stark?" she asked. Her voice was shaky, but she looked at him steadily. There was something about her gaze that was a bit unnerving, but he tried his best to shrug it off.
"I thought I'd drop by, chat a bit, maybe talk about why you and your brother decided to work with Ultron to destroy the Avengers. We haven't had a chance to talk about that yet." Wanda nodded as if she had been expecting this. "So what is your problem with us? I gotta tell you, I can't think of anything we could've possibly done to piss you off so bad." He dropped into a chair and waited for her to speak.
"Pietro... Pietro and I started this so that we could avenge our parents. We were ten years old when they were killed in a bombing."
"Yeah, I read your file. Tragic. I'm sorry."
"We were stuck in the rubble for two days, waiting to be rescued, the whole time staring at a bomb that hadn't exploded when it hit our apartment. Two days staring at the name "Stark" written across the side of the bomb that should've killed us." Her eyes were hard now as she recounted her story, and Tony could hear echoes of rage in her voice, but her entire demeanor changed a moment later, as if all the energy and emotion had been sucked out of her. "We blamed you for their deaths. You seemed so worthy of that blame, selling your weapons to whoever wanted them, apathetic to the violence you were fostering in the world."
She looked at Tony as he sat there, appalled, and he had the sense she was measuring him.
"Even as Iron Man, you seemed to care more for yourself than for others, and we were content to hate you. We planned our revenge. We signed up for the experiments with Strucker so that we could become strong enough to protect our people and avenge our parents." She grimaced. "I was supposed to kill you in that castle. Instead, I fed you fear. I decided to let you destroy yourself. If I had killed you, or let Pietro kill you, as he wanted to, he would be alive today."
"Well, I've gotta say that, all things considered, I'm glad you didn't," Tony said.
"Yes, it would have been wrong to do so. I see that now." She looked at him with grief and regret in her eyes. "I wish I had not been so blind. You are not the same man you were. If I had known that, Pietro and I would have tried to let go of our anger. It is easy to hate a man that has no remorse, more difficult to hate a man who is trying to change. I see now that you have changed yourself, Stark." She took a deep, shaky breath. "If I had seen clearly before, things would have been different, and Pietro would still be alive."
"I'm sorry about your parents. You're right. I was a different man back then. I'm not proud of it. I've tried to take the company in a new direction since then. No more weapons manufacturing. I got out of the game. I had this...experience... where I saw some of what my weapons were responsible for up close and personal, and I didn't like it. It sorta woke me up, and I knew things had to change." Tony rubbed a hand over his face. "Where do you wanna go from here? You tell me. What do you want?"
He watched her think it over for a second.
"I want to let go of the hatred. You are not the man I hated as a child. You did not even drop the bombs. We can blame many other people for that. As children, we only knew your name as the source of our grief, but as we got older, Pietro and I realized that you were not the only one to blame. You were not the one who bought and used those bombs. Our bitterness spread, but it didn't lessen. I want to let it go. Hatred and revenge have brought me nothing but sorrow." Her voice was firm, confident in her decision. It was comforting to Tony that she was so sure about it.
"So you think you can work with me?"
"Yes, Stark. I can work with you. I wish to be an Avenger, and maybe do some good in this world for once."
Tony nodded. "Great! We're all set, then." He stood up and smiled sadly down at her. "I really am sorry about your parents, and about Pietro. I'd change it all if I could. I can't though, but what I can do is be here for you. If you need anything, just let me know. Anything. You name it. Anyone gives you a bad time, I'll help you out. Okay?"
"Why would you do this for me?" she asked, looking so confused that it broke Tony's heart. Did she really expect so little kindness?
"Cause it's the right thing to do, and, honestly, because it makes me feel better," he said. "You're not the only one who feels like they have things to atone for."
She looked startled at that, but said nothing.
"I'll see you around, little witch. You know where to find me now." He winked and gave her a crooked smile.
Tony left, feeling much better about the girl's place on the team, and much worse about her lot in life, in great part due to his own actions. He was gonna do whatever it took to make it up to her, though. He would take care of her as much as he could from here on out. He owed it to her, and to her family.
Wanda lay on her bunk afterwards for a very long time, just staring at the ceiling. She had been completely open with Stark, which had surprised her, but he deserved to know why they had hated him for so long, why they had attacked the Avengers as they did. In another time, she would've been rubbing his face in it, but she didn't want that anymore. She just wanted peace.
She wondered why she hadn't thought to read him while he was here. It seemed like the longer she went without using her mental abilities, the more she hesitated to use them at all. They had brought her so much pain. Her link to Pietro had nearly killed her when he died. She had wanted to die. Opening herself to others was opening herself to feeling their pain, and she wasn't sure she was strong enough to do that right now without breaking.
She was crying again, and she let herself sob it all out.
So much time spent with the Avengers. So much effort spent being a "good girl" and doing things their way, never allowing herself to peer into the minds of others, never making full use of her mental abilities. All of it was for nothing. How many people had she helped? Was it enough to make up for the number of lives she had taken? Especially now that she had spilled blood yet again, without meaning to, and with the best of intentions, but she still cost people their lives.
Nothing she had accomplished so far could make up for the things she had done, and everyone knew it. The government didn't want her free anymore. She was dangerous. The world feared her, finally seeing her for the killer that she was. She was hated now. Funny how it worked. Here she was, trying to do good things, and the world turned on her, and when she had done her worst, she had been forgiven. Oh, how Pietro would've laughed at how ridiculous this was.
She was finally reaping what she had sown so long ago. Finally, her past was catching up, tarnishing her in the eyes of everyone. Now that she had screwed up so royally on the side of the angels, they could see her for the devil she was, the monster Hydra made her to be. Maybe even before then. The monster that had crawled out of the rubble with hate and vengeance in her heart.
Vision wouldn't let her leave her own home, because Stark said so. The man had promised her that he would support her however he could, and he locked her up here without a word. Maybe it was more and better than she deserved. Maybe she was just a freak best kept in this cage of steel and glass. The world didn't want her anyway.
It just hurt so much that Stark would do this without even a word. They weren't friends, certainly, but she had thought they had a better relationship than that. She thought he cared on some level, at least, but who was she fooling? Freedom, safety, friendship...these were all an illusion, and that illusion was crashing down around her. It was time to face reality. No one would save her but herself, and she didn't even really believe she deserved it.
Tony was having a bad day. No, more like a bad year. Maybe even more than one. It had been all downhill for a while now, and it was getting harder and harder to pretend everything was okay.
Nothing was okay right now. Nothing.
He missed Pepper so much.
And why couldn't Cap understand why the Accords were so important? Why couldn't he see that this was the only way to keep everyone safe? Did he really think the world governments were going to tolerate letting someone as powerful as Wanda run around free for very much longer? They had to be regulated to help ease people's fears so that Wanda and anyone like her could continue to live their lives in freedom.
It was better than the alternative. Just like having Vision keep her tucked away safely in the compound was better for her as well. People needed to forget her face. The government needed to understand that she could be "controlled." At least if she was there, she wasn't in some government facility or prison. Hopefully she would understand if she found out. Hopefully she never found out. It would be better that way. Wanda could be...emotional.
He could only hope that Cap came around sooner rather than later. The guy had to see sense eventually, right? I mean, right?
She should've died in Sokovia. She wished she had. It would've been better than this. She hated being strapped into this jacket, with the collar around her neck, at the mercy of her jailers. She hated being vulnerable. She hated being weak. Yet here she was.
She had undergone the experiments so that she would never feel helpless ever again. So that she could have control over her life and be strong enough to make a difference. For her anger and pain to finally mean something. And yet. Here she was. What a joke. Nothing had changed. She had only been fooling herself.
And she had gotten herself into this mess because Steve sent for her. He sent Clint to save her. Because Clint came for her at all. She threw her lot in with them because they cared when she had started to believe that no one did or would, and she didn't regret that. Not that. She did the right thing. She fought for her friends.
But this. God. She hated this. Every fucking second of it. Even if she did belong here.
The Avengers had given her a year of freedom before she was finally shoved into a cage. It was more than she had expected after what happened with Ultron. She could only be grateful for the time she had been granted. It was time to pay the piper.
This was just so much worse than she had imagined.
But prison wasn't supposed to be easy. It wasn't supposed to be a vacation or a paradise. It was a punishment. She would accept her punishment.
This was cruel and unusual punishment, and Tony reeled away from the monitor showing him Wanda trussed up in that damn jacket. He hadn't expected this. Ross was crazy. The Avengers didn't belong in this insane prison. They were heroes. They'd all served their country, and the world, faithfully up until this point.
This situation was too complicated to be broken down into "good guys" and "bad guys." The people Ross had thrown into this prison didn't belong here, and Wanda shouldn't be strapped into a straight jacket like a mental patient. What the hell was going on? When had things gotten this out of hand?
This wasn't what he had signed up for, but he could see no good way out.
She was meditating, trying to remove herself from the suffocating embrace of the jacket wrapped around her. In her mind, it was quiet, and calm, and she could breathe. She could almost believe that nothing had changed. She could imagine herself back at the facility, surrounded by her new family, feeling their warmth surround her like a soothing caress. She could almost see their faces. Sam and Clint, laughing. Rhodey rolling his eyes while Stark made another off-color joke. Natasha perched elegantly on the couch, sipping wine, and Vision smiling that silly, sweet little smile of his that always made her want to hug him. And Steve would be there, laughing as they teased him, always good-natured and humble. She could almost see them all, sitting as one big, happy family. A dream.
She opened her eyes, and Steve was there, looking at her from just outside her cell, his eyes sad, but determined. Was she dreaming? She thought maybe she was dreaming.
Then the door opened, and she cried.