Author's Note: This fic was inspired by a book I recently reread. It's set between Age of Ultron and Civil War. I am notorious for unfinished fanfictions and haven't written in about five years, but I thought I should put something out there since the inspiration hit me. Thanks for reading y'all! Love ya! -Rose
The bed sank beneath my weight, a warm pillow pressing in against me from all sides. Something so soft had never been a luxury known to me. One shared, cheap mattress. A concrete floor. A hard, scratchy cot. These were the things I was used to. The new bed was almost suffocating in its heat, its embrace. After hours of rolling around, my tired mind had had enough.
A sigh escaped my lips as my bare legs met the cool air of the room. The compound was quiet as I quietly closed my door and slipped down the hallway. I had found myself having nightly forays into the empty space of the facility when everyone was long asleep. Well, not everyone.
A quick mental scan of all the quiet minds in the building showed one still working. One mind that never seemed to sleep, but stayed up late into the morning hours turning thoughts gently around in his head. Contemplative and curious. He didn't sleep. At least I didn't think he had such a need. There were few ways to find out for sure, and I was definitely not inclined to ask. Social engagement was a necessity only during training and meetings.
Opting for the microwave instead of the kettle, so as not to wake anyone, I heated some water and dropped a tea bag into it. Vision's mind echoed louder now. Soft gold thoughts against my raging crimson mind. With my tea held firmly between my palms, I made a hasty retreat back to my room. I had no desire to speak to anyone right now. Especially if it would lead to a lecture about how I should be asleep. How I shouldn't let things worry me so much. How I should be getting over it and moving forward.
Safe again, within my four walls, a shaky breath left my chest. I pressed a hand, still warm, hard to my cheek. Tears brimmed in my eyes. I wouldn't cry. I wouldn't cry again. This is the mantra I repeated to myself as the tears fell down my cheeks. STOP. Please, stop. I begged my body to give me peace. Let me have a moment where my mind didn't continue to think so much. My shaking hands set the tea down on the nightstand. My tremoring fingers reached for the quilt at the foot of the bed, yanked it off and wrapped it around myself.
From the floor of my room, I quaked, feeling the persistent press of old memories caving into my mind. The screams of my parents and our neighbors cut short by the explosion of a shell. The feeling of my brother's mind slipping away from mine. A soft cry escaped me as I tried desperately to grasp at the slipping threads that were already gone. My scalp throbbed as I pulled at my hair, curling myself into a ball on the floor. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it. I'm sorry. I screamed at the memories in my head. The tightness in my chest pulled, pulled until it was burning, and my breath was coming in short spurts. Not enough air.
It wasn't until minutes later that I could manage to fill my lungs, greedily gasping for the stolen air. My forehead pressed to the shag carpet; eyes pressed tightly shut. As my mind wound itself down, I hiccupped and wiped the tear streaks from my damp cheeks. It was not the first panic attack that had occurred since I'd moved to the compound. It was quite normal, I liked to tell myself. I was going through so many changes, so much loss, it was no surprise that I was having problems. No point in dwelling on it. No point in crying over it. Everyone had to deal with shit. Who am I to complain about my problems? Especially when it was me who put myself in the situation.
I'd been so blinded by rage. So angry all the time. Angry at Stark. Angry at American intervention. Angry at Hydra for putting us through such heinous experiments. Angry at Pietro for dealing with things so much better than me. And what did that anger ever get me? Revenge? Hardly. My one true attempt at revenge had become the catalyst for Ultron and the death of my last remaining family. The image I'd planted in Stark's mind led to the creation of a walking death machine that left nothing but destruction in its wake.
"Damn it," my voice creaked out, scratchy and quiet from disuse. My whole body felt heavy, exhausted from the episode. I briefly felt the golden tendrils of Vision's mind reaching out to brush mine. I know he could tell when I was distressed, but I also knew he was too polite to pry. I had made it clear to the team that I didn't wish to speak about it, and so he kept to himself. It was in these moments, when I felt like I was drowning, that he was brave enough to offer help in whatever small way he can. If only I was brave enough to accept. Instead, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a restless slumber there on the floor of my room.
The next morning brought nothing more than exhaustion. My fingers dusted over my swollen eyes. I knew this would cause more glances than normal. More sympathetic gazes that would ask quietly if I was doing okay. In an attempt to make the swelling go down, I wet a washcloth in cold water and pressed it against my face. It wouldn't do much, but it would help.
"Good morning, Miss Maximoff." Vision looked up from the book he was reading at the kitchen counter. I glanced at the cover: Science and Human Behavior. What light reading for 9:30 in the morning.
"Morning." I responded, grabbing a box of cereal from the top shelf of the pantry and pouring myself a bowl. I looked at the counter and thought, for a brief moment, that I might sit next to Vision as I ate breakfast. The ball of nerves in my stomach tightened, warning me to do exactly not that. Instead, my feet brought me to the empty table at the opposite end of the room. I sat in silence for the duration of my meal, trying not to look up.
I could see, out of the corner of my eye, that the synthezoid at the counter wanted to say something. He alternated between pretending to read his book and looking up at her. I almost wished he would say something. At least then I could politely respond, and he would go back about his business. Whatever it was, he must have thought it best to keep to himself, as he finally settled back into his book.
Sam was the next person to enter the kitchen. He'd already had breakfast, being an early riser. My eyes followed him as he went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. He must have been out jogging with Steve. He liked to do that most mornings, pretending he was getting better and that soon he'd be able to outrun his friend. When he looked over at me, I ducked my head back down, focusing on the last few soggy bits of cereal floating around my bowl.
"How are you doing today?" Sam asked, pulling out a chair across from me. I raised my eyebrows but didn't look up.
"I'm okay." A short pause.
"Listen, I know that you're going through a lot right now. I think it would help if you got out of your room a little more. Did some activities with the group."
A long breath. I didn't want to come off as ungrateful. The dominant part of me was aware that Sam really wanted to help. Everyone at the facility just wanted to help. I wasn't making it easy for them to do so, either. I was grateful that the Avengers trusted me enough to take me in, especially after what I'd done to them. It made it a lot harder to hate them. So my face turned upward with a weak smile.
"I'll think about it. I'm doing okay, just trying to adjust."
Vision looked up from his book. My eyes flickered over Sam's shoulder briefly. Vision knew that was a lie to some degree. I just hoped that he wouldn't say anything too telling.
"If I may, Miss Maximoff. I go to a small bookstore in the city every Saturday. Perhaps you'd like to accompany me. I have observed that you enjoy reading, and thought maybe it would be a pleasant outing," Vision spoke up from the other side of the kitchen.
My mouth opened and then shut, looking for an answer. Sam looked somewhat surprised as he glanced to Vision, then back at me. I knew that he wanted me to do something other than mope around my room. Not only that, but I assumed that if I didn't show signs of doing so, I would be forced to do some "group activity" in the name of bonding and teamwork building. No thank you to that.
"Alright," I conceded. "Good idea." My smile felt stale and fake on my lips, but it seemed to appease Sam, who stood.
"Great! This is a good thing, kid. Getting out, keeping busy. It'll help." Sam said, placing a hand on my shoulder. I stiffened a bit, but immediately relaxed. It was nice. This feeling of human contact. I hadn't realized how much I missed it.