I made it out of the front doors before the tears began to fall. A few people on the lawn looked at me in confusion as I sprinted past heading to the forest. I didn't stop to explain, I couldn't even if I wanted to. The anger and grief inside of me threatened to overwhelm me. Bursting through the cover of the trees I emerged into a clearing and stopped dead. The nightmares I had almost every night seemed more real today than they ever had before. His dead face flashed in front of my vision, cold and unfocused. Other unknown victims trapped under debris, fallen limps scattering the ground. The sounds of children screeching for their parents.
I screamed in anguish and threw a punch at the closest tree. It flew backwards and slammed into the one behind it making an almighty crash. I fell to my knees and began to cry, hugging myself to keep from falling apart but I couldn't stop the tears which made me even angrier. I dug my nails into the ground to steady myself and heard someone following me through the woods. I stumbled away into the forest not wanting to see anyone, but it didn't work. There was a rustle in the leaves above me and someone dropped onto the path in front of me an arrow pointing right at my jugular. It was Clint. The moment he realised it was me he lowered his weapon.
"Blake? What are you doing out here?" he asked seeing my tear stained face. I couldn't tell him what had happened, I couldn't say a word. I hugged him and buried my face in his shoulder trying to slow my sobbing.
"Hey kid it's ok" he said stroking my hair before prying me away to look into my face "Has someone hurt you?"
"No" I stammered "I can't..I couldn't.." I tried to speak but the words got lost in my throat. This was so unlike me, I never lost control.
"You want me to take you back to Nat?" he asked tentatively
"No" I almost yelled "No, not yet" I said again more quietly
"What's this all about? I thought you guys were supposed to be in training?"
"We were...I left early" I said lowering my head. My breathing was finally returning to normal.
"Oh" said Clint in a knowing tone "Don't worry, its hard at first. We get people like this every year. Nat's patient she'll help you get better."
"It's not that. Its..Clint I couldn't save them" I said quietly ringing my hands together.
"Back in Sokovia" I shivered "There were so many bodies, and children. Even...even Pietro. I couldn't save them. I'm no hero, I shouldn't even be here." I almost started to cry again. The images of the dead swarmed in my mind and I tried to blot it out.
"Hey look at me" he said in a strong voice "Look at me. That wasn't your fault, none of it. We all tried our best. There are always casualties in war. It's our job to save who we can, that doesn't make you any less of a hero, or any less worthy to be here. Do you hear me?"
I nodded and looked at him wiping my face with my sleeve. "Your first mission sticks with you, I'm not gonna lie and say it gets better when it doesn't. But you do, you get better. You train more so you can save more lives. That is why you're here." I managed a weak smile and took in a deep steadying breath.
"You always this deep and thoughtful?" I said
"Only when my friends are being idiots" he said smiling and throwing an arm round my shoulder. "Come on, let's get you back home."
"Hey Clint, can I ask you something?" I asked as we headed back towards the building.
"Why were you in a tree?"
"It's a long story kid." he said laughing
When we got back I went straight to my room and locked the door. I shoved the mess to the side of the room and kicked off my shoes before crawling onto bed. A familiar scent caught my attention and I realised I was laying on Pietro's pillow so I rolled over and pulled my own over my head to blot everything out. Why had I suddenly lost it after months of training? It was as if something changed inside me making everything more real.
I was somewhere between waking and sleeping when an annoying tapping noise started up behind my door. I ignored it until it went away but a moment later it began again only this time on the window. Remembering every horror movie I'd ever seen I scrambled up to see what it was.
Pietro stood at my window knocking on the glass. I stood there for a moment considering whether to open it but the look in his eyes broke me and I undid the latch.
"Can I come in?" he asked softly
"Depends if you've come to get me out of this room or not."
"That would be a no I guess." I moved back and he placed his hands on the sill and hoisted himself into the room.
"You weren't at lunch" he stated. I moved back to my bed and hid under the duvet
"No, I didn't feel like eating" I said and felt the mattress sag as he sat down next to me. There was a pause and I knew he was trying to think of the right thing to say.
"What can I do?" he asked "I don't know what to say." he pulled the cover down to see my face and I gave him a small smile.
"You don't have to say anything. You didn't do anything wrong."
"You are mad through."
"Not at you" I said moving so my head rested on his thigh. He winced and I jumped away. "I'm sorry" he looked surprised by how I reacted.
"Its fine, it barely stings anymore" he said poking the place the blank bullet had hit him which actually wasn't too far away from his other healed wound. "Come here." he added sitting with his head against the headboard and raising his arm to let me in.
"You shouldn't be so nice to me." I said staying exactly where I was "I got you shot today." He paused looking at me in confusion then swore in a language I didn't recognise.
"That's what this is about?"
"Not completely but yeah its part of it."
"Get over it."
"Get over it." he repeated
"How can you say that? If that had been in the field you could have died."
"And you couldn't have?" he replied quickly pointing at the bruise on my arm "You got hit too remember. It was just training, nobody got hurt."
"You shouldn't risk yourself like that I told you-"
"You know I'd do it again, I don't care, if it was me or you-"
"Pietro stop!" he did, the noise I made even made me jump. "Just...stop." I was starting to lose it again. "You died right in front of me doing the exact same thing only a few months ago! That still haunts me every day. Hundreds of people died in Sokovia but I never saw their faces, I didn't know them. I knew you though, that never happened to me before." My voice was rising "And now the more I know you, the more I care about you, the harder it gets." he was looking at me like he had never seen me before "Don't you dare tell me to get over it!" Tears began to spill down my cheeks again "Don't you dare leave me again."
I put my head in my hands feeling more exposed now than at any point last night. I felt irrational, I shouldn't have said anything. I should have kept my mouth shut but I knew I couldn't keep this hidden from him forever, it was eating me alive. The mattress shifted and he pulled me into his arms. He gently held my clenched fist in his hand so he could slowly uncurl my tense fingers. I looked up finally when I'd calmed myself and his face grounded me in a way no amount of training ever could.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked stroking the side of my face
"It wasn't really relevant." I said and he raised an eyebrow
"It's always relevant if it's making you this unhappy."
"I don't know why...why today, but I couldn't take it anymore."
"Take what? Training?"
"No. Loosing you."
His moved back and stared at me "Blake I promise I won't leave, if you don't." he said taking my face in his hands
"You got yourself a deal" I said laughed wetly trying to compose myself
We emerged twenty minutes later to get food. I got a few strange looks from recruits who clearly heard about my outburst earlier but I walked by like nothing was wrong and followed Pietro to the kitchen. Before we left I'd changed out of my muddy forest clothes into a soft black t-shirt, jeans, and combat boots. I felt better in them like I was in my own skin instead on my uniform which said that I was an agent above everything else.
It was around three so there were no people in the kitchen. I sat on a stool while Pietro dashed around grabbing anything and everything he liked the look off.
"Yep I'll have that" I said as he flew past with a tub of ice cream "Ew but not those" I wrinkled my nose at some pickles he'd just set down. "I'll stick with the ice cream thanks." He grabbed a stool opposite mine and span round on it making me dizzy. "Here" I said and I threw a chip at him. He caught it right in his mouth and went to high five me just as Wanda walked into the room.
"What, are you doing?" she asked resting her hands on the countertop looking amused.
"Eating apparently." I said looking over at Pietro who was halfway through the bag of chips.
"Hey don't eat so fast" she said slapping him on the arm "You'll choke" she glanced at me with an exasperated look. "Every time." She sat next to me and gave me a one armed hug "So how are you doing?"
"You heard huh?" I asked and she looked apologetic.
"I spoke to Emily at lunch and she said you just left, is everything alright?"
"It is now, I just needed some space."
"Well whatever you need, we're here for you." she said gesturing to Pietro, then she noticed the necklace on his wrist. "You did get him to wear it." Pietro glanced down at his wrist almost like he'd forgotten it was there. He looked at Wanda's necklace and said nothing. The look in their eyes said it all though, respect and loyalty, there were just some that didn't need saying.
Pietro smiled at me though "Thank you."
"No problem." I said back feeling a little proud of how he'd handled the situation
"Wait" said Wanda looking back and forth from me and Pietro "Are you two?" She pointed her finger accusatively at Pietro "You said you would let me know when you told her." he shrugged like it was no big deal.
"Sorry we've been a little busy." he said throwing me a grin that almost made me blush because Wanda was sitting so close.
"You knew?" I asked her "That's what I came to talk to you about the other day."
"I did think so, but I also thought it was kind of obvious so I didn't say anything."
"You two" I said with a grin "Are an absolute nightmare." they both laughed. We were interrupted by an agent entering the kitchen.
"Deveraux, Romanoff wants to see you. Right now." he said and my smile fell
"I'm not at liberty to say agent."
"Right...ok." I said putting down my spoon. Pietro grabbed my hand.
"I'm coming with you." he said
"No Maximoff, just the girl."
"Her name is Blake" said Wanda stepping down from her stool with a hard look on her face. I was worried what she might do, like her brother she was very protective. They were both stood either side of me glaring at the man in front of us.
"It's alright guys. I'll be right back." I said letting go of Pietro's hand and following the man. I looked back and saw Wanda's fingers twisting red energy around themselves. I shook my head at her and stepped out of the room.