Summary: Wanda meets the Barton family.
Notes: Written unexpectedly thanks to a request from within the flist. (Thanks for the inspiration!)
She's only been here for an hour but she already considers it the best part of this country she's seen so far. Granted, the last place she slept was the Raft, a low bar by anyone’s standards, but it’s not just the wide expanse of farmland or the clean, earthy smells that make the Barton homestead into a haven. She was told --ordered, really -- to sit on the porch and relax, and then Laura had added, “I’ll need some help with dinner so I’ll call you in then,” which Wanda hadn’t realized until that moment was exactly what she needed to hear.
A small person with a high voice is suddenly beside her. “Are you an Avenger?”
Her first thought is that she doesn’t know the answer; her second is that she hasn’t yet settled on an answer. “Yes,” she chooses, more or less at random.
The girl doesn’t pause to reflect on that. “Are you the Scarlet Witch?”
“The Scarlet What?” Wanda laughs. She shakes her head. “My name is Wanda. And I know who you are. You’re Lila, aren’t you?”
“Uh huh. Can I see some magic?”
A little show of telekinesis would be safe as houses, and more than enough to delight her audience, but Wanda can’t bring herself to do it. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I don’t know any magic.”
“Oh,” says Lila, but she doesn’t leave. “But if you’re Wanda, that means Mister Pietro was your brother, right?”
It’s like a band-aid being ripped off her soul. She had just spent nearly five consecutive minutes without absently wondering when Pietro would be back and then supplying herself with the worst possible answer. “Yes,” she manages to respond.
“My dad says your brother saved his life. My dad says your brother was a hero. He says your brother could run so fast you couldn’t even see him!”
“That’s true. It’s all true. He had...hero powers.”
“I can run fast too, do you wanna see?”
Wanda smiles and nods with enthusiasm. As Lila goes tearing across the yard, Wanda feigns shock and looks around herself. “Where did you go? You were just here!”
They repeat the performance several times, Lila dashing back and forth and looking well pleased whenever Wanda pretends not to see her. When Cooper comes out of the house, he doesn’t bother to introduce himself, but instead shouts out to his little sister, “Lila, what are you doing?”
“I’m running so fast she can’t see me!” she calls back, panting but still loud and shrill, and soon it’s both of them zipping across the yard and glancing back at Wanda every so often to be sure she’s still reacting.
Behind her, the door opens one more time. This time it’s an adult, but Natasha has the youngest Barton balanced against her hip, with a drinks-laden tray in her other hand. Wanda reaches out with her power and takes the weight of the tray so that Natasha can close the door behind her, but the scarlet streaks in the air are conspicuous, and she lowers the tray to the porch before Cooper and Lila chance to look this way.
“Thanks,” says Natasha, seating herself on the top step beside Wanda, one arm hooked around the baby in her lap. “I thought you’d like to meet Nathaniel Pietro.”
She’s right. The only reason that Wanda hasn’t asked to see him yet is that she didn’t feel right asking for anything. She holds out one hand, tentatively, and the baby laughs before it even reaches his chubby cheek. Natasha theorizes that he likes her nail polish, so Wanda makes her fingers flutter in front of his face and sings him a little Sokovian song.
“Wanda!” shouts Lila suddenly. “You missed it! I broke my record!”
Before Wanda can reply, Natasha raises her voice to call, “Lila honey you know your mom doesn’t like when you yell at grown-ups. If you want to tell Wanda something you can come here and say it nicely.”
“Sorry Auntie Nat!” Lila replies, and Cooper follows up with, “Sorry Wanda!”, although Wanda doesn’t know what he thinks he has to apologize for.
She waves to the two of them to confirm the reconciliation, then shakes her head in amazement at Natasha. “You’re no different than family to them.”
“In a sense.” Whenever Natasha talks about herself, she has a way of sounding amused and sad at the same time. “Looks like you’re good with them, too. You like kids?”
“I’ve never spent much time around them,” says Wanda, knowing it’s an evasion but unsure of what else she can say about it. Her next words come out before she can examine them: “Mostly I still feel like a child myself.”
Natasha studies her with serious eyes, over the head of the baby she’s now bouncing on her knee. “You’re not,” she says finally, and reaches for the tray that they’ve both left perspiring on the wooden porch. There are two glasses and a pitcher of something brown with ice cubes and lemon slices floating in it, and Natasha pours for both of them, maneuvering around the baby like this is something she does every day. “You haven’t been for as long as I’ve known you,” she adds.
Wanda accepts the glass and takes a sip. It’s iced tea, which she’s starting to get used to, though she doesn’t quite understand its popularity. “We had to grow up fast,” she concedes. “That’s what everyone says, ‘grow up fast’, as if time moves differently after you’re hurt young. We took care of ourselves, we took care of each other. But part of me never stopped waiting for the adults to come back and take over. I thought, that’s when I’ll grow up. When I’m not so busy staying alive, I’ll have time to finish.”
“And Pietro?” Natasha asks gently.
“Ha. He could never wait for anything. He would have grown up fast just because that’s how he did everything.”
Without warning, Natasha holds little Nathaniel out so that Wanda has to put down her drink and take him before she has a chance to think about it. He settles comfortably on her lap, and she tries dandling him, following Natasha’s example. He makes a funny vowel sound, and she decides she does like kids.
“The adults never take over again,” says Natasha. “I can’t say I know how you feel, since I wasn’t looking for them, but that much I can tell you -- once you start taking care of yourself, you won’t go back.”
She falls silent and Wanda follows her gaze, watching Cooper and Lila chase each other, throw themselves on the grass to rest, then start over again. Wanda allows what she thinks is a fair pause before suggesting, “Shouldn’t you have something more encouraging to follow that?”
“Hm.” Natasha’s eyes are twinkling with laughter, but she still comes up with an answer. “Would you really want to go back? Now? Let someone else decide what’s best for you?”
Wanda doesn’t reply. Rhetorical questions shouldn’t pose this much of a challenge, she thinks. She looks at Nathaniel, and it's comforting to see how easily he accepts his role here, and hers.
“What are they doing, anyway?” Natasha asks idly, gesturing at the two other children.
“They’re running so fast you can’t see them.”
Natasha releases a brief, melancholy laugh, and scoots back to fill her glass. “Well. That's growing up.”