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1300 words | PG-ish | Wanda Maximoff, Steve Rogers

The five stages of grief are meaningless in the moment.



By the time she had heard of the warning "before you go on a journey of revenge, dig two graves," Wanda had already dug more than that. It was cold comfort to know that even if she'd known of it beforehand, she would have done everything the same. Her rage had been a cold fire, burning everything it touched, and what she had been willing to do in its name, what she had done in its name... She had paid an appalling, unbearable price for her arrogance, but she wasn't sure if she could ever erase the debt of the rest.

Pietro, half of her soul and all of her light, was buried on a beautiful morning in the same cemetery as their parents with the other victims of Sokovia's endless wars. Wanda wasn't so sure about that, but Steve told her that she could not take the blame for his death.

"A very wise woman once told me that if I truly loved someone, I had to respect their agency and their choices," he said as they stood on a hill overlooking the cemetery. They'd walked up here by accident and by intent, her aimless direction and his determination to stay by her side. "Even if those choices had led them to following me where they didn't have to go and dying because of it. Or worse."

In the distance, they could see the cranes that were putting the city back together. It would take years, but that was better than decades. And Wanda still had enough of the morbid Sokovian sense of humor to appreciate that Ultron had done her country a small favor by destroying what had only stood, tottering, out of stubbornness.

"Did it help?" she asked. She'd been in his mind, had seen the crushing guilt and sorrow he carried with him, but she didn't think he was being hypocritical here. Part of her wished he was; she was raw and angry and numb and spoiling for a fight just so that she could feel something other than grief. She'd been sharp and rude to the Avengers all morning despite them taking time from their lives to bury a man they'd never really known. She still wanted to draw blood, her own or anyone else's, to make someone else feel even a fraction of the pain she was drowning in.

She'd stood at Pietro's gravesite and watched them lower his casket down and she'd felt herself go down with it and it had been all she could do to keep still, to not jump in after him or use her powers and head straight for the sun like a rocket ship. But she'd stood there, rooted to the spot, murmuring along with the prayers to a god she couldn't believe in but Pietro had. He'd had faith for them both, he'd joke, holding hers until she was ready to carry it herself. But that faith was buried with him, to molder in the ground as he would and she just wanted to make something burn because it should have been her instead, or her alongside, and not standing there watching the last of herself disappear into the earth.

"Not right away," Steve admitted with a shrug, eyes still on the gaping hole in the city's skyline. "Right after, it was just guilt and remorse and pain. It's still all of those things, don't get me wrong. But not as much and not all of the time. He chose me and if I can't ever believe that I was worth the cost of that choice, then I can, on a good day, believe that he thought I was."

She did not have the energy right now to be curious about who he was thinking of. He'd seen a lot of war and people died in war and he was... if not comfortable with that fact, then accepting of it. It was why she had crafted the vision she had when she'd fought him; his deepest fears were not of the battlefield, but instead away from it. That there were people whose death he could not accept, at least not without effort, some other day, she'd maybe ask. Right now, though, she had only time for her own sorrow.

"So you are telling me that it will get better?" she asked and she could not keep the sarcasm and the sourness from her voice.

He chuffed a laugh that spoke of no offense taken and she was both a little relieved and a little annoyed by the failure.

"It will, eventually," he said, finally turning to look at her. "Or at least it will stop hurting so much. But what I'm really telling you is that you don't get to add Pietro to your list of sins. He chose to walk alongside you and he chose to go to Strucker with you and he chose to fight the Avengers with you and he chose to join the Avengers with you. All of that is on him and it has nothing to do with you sharing blood or a womb."

She looked away from him, not wanting to see his face. Captain America was a ridiculous thing, a creation only the Americans could have come up with or gotten away with. But Steve, out of uniform, was a man almost impossible to disregard because everything the costume made tawdry and jingoistic and bombastic was still there, imperfect but unsullied nonetheless. He was much harder to ignore when he spoke as a man and not as a figurehead. And she did not want to hear his words because of what they would mean.

If Pietro had been master of all of his own choices, then he'd chosen to leave her behind.

They stood there together-but-apart for what felt like forever but wasn't. It was quiet here, away from the city, beautiful, maybe. Only the dead could afford the luxury in Sokovia. Pietro had never liked quiet; early on, it had been too much like those horrible days trapped in the rubble, later on it had been too hard for him to keep still. But he was still now and so maybe it fit. Maybe he'd have grown to love it. Maybe she would.

Steve's phone was buzzing in his pants pocket, barely audible. He sighed and pulled it out.

"Yeah?... yeah. Okay." He put it back in his pocket and sighed again. "It's time to go. You change your mind or you need something before next week, you call someone, okay? Doesn't have to be me if you don't want."

He waited for her to nod. She was staying in Sokovia to mourn, less for tradition than because she had nowhere else to go that meant anything to Pietro. The Avengers had offered her a place and a home, as if she knew what to do with either, but Sokovia was where she belonged right now.

"Pietro died saving lives," Steve said while he still had her attention. "That... that is not the worst way to go."

They had seen so much senseless, meaningless, pointless death, she and Pietro. Steve, too. And he was right, but, like everything else he was probably right about, it did not matter now.

He left her watching the horizon with only a brief clasp of her shoulder. She could hear him pick his way down the hill, dress shoes not hindering his progress on the steep dirt road. She was alone again with her grief and she wrapped it around herself like a blanket that only kept in the cold.

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Domenika Marzione

August 2017

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