I turned on the shower and stepped into it fully clothed. I had no doubt I'd left bloody footprints all the way from the hall to our room. Blood ran off my body and down into the drain in floods. I scraped it off my hands madly and tried to focus. An old friend had just died in my arms, I had just taken someone's life with my bare hands and dictated a direct order to a New York City Chancellor. I was in way over my head.
"Damn it Blake" I said to myself and slid down the wall into a sitting position on the floor letting the water wash over me in an attempt to make myself clean.
Over the past few weeks something dark inside me had taken hold, I'd done things I'd never dreamed of. I acted tough most of the time and it helped me feel strong but now I felt weak and alone. I saw my refection in the glass of the shower, my hair was plastered to my face with water and blood was smeared across my cheek, it make me sick because I knew it wasn't mine.
There was a soft knock at the door and Pietro came in. I looked up at him and saw something break in his eyes. He stepped into the shower with me and pulled me into his arms.
"What can I do?" he asked wiping the hair back from my face. I grabbed his hands and held them to my lips
"Tell me I'm not this person, tell me I'm not a murderer." I said trying to reassure myself
"Of course you're not." he said kissing the top of my head "Why would you say that?"
"Because I literally just killed someone." I said trying desperately to get the blood off my face "In cold blood. And now all those kids...they're dead. Why won't this come off!" My face felt raw from rubbing but it still wouldn't budge.
"Blake please stop." he grabbed my hands tight but I still tried to reach my face "Stop it!" I let my body go limp and buried my face in his chest.
For a moment I thought I could hold back the tears but the sobbing came before I could even try. He rocked me back and forth not saying a word. I couldn't think of anything to say as I watched the red tinted water pool around my toes. He reached up and turned off the shower, the lack of noise was so unnerving, all I could hear was my unsteady breathing. His hand tilted my face up and I saw his hair was drenched. "You are not a murderer. You are a survivor. And no matter what the cost you are always there to protect us."
"If you're relying on me to protect you then you're all screwed." I sobbed "I didn't ask for that, I don't want it!"
"Shh it's alright." he said stroking my hair
"Is it? Look at what I just did Pietro. A good person would have done that-"
"That guy wouldn't have stopped until we were all dead. In the end he was dying anyway, what you did was mercy."
"It didn't feel like mercy it felt like revenge." I said seeing my fingers shake against his leg "I wanted him to die and I wanted to do it."
Pietro took in a deep breath and stared at the wall darkly "You're not the only one." he said. It was times like this I saw how dangerous he could be.
"I shouldn't have, not like that in front of everyone." He tightened his arms around me
"It needed to be done, you showed the officials we're not just a bunch of children, they know you can make the hard choices, do what's best for everyone."
"How could I let this happen?" I muttered into my hands "If they hadn't had my blood they all be alive right now."
"Look at me." he said in a strong voice "If it wasn't your blood it would have been someone else's don't blame yourself for their mistakes."
"I should never have left, they-Alissa needed me and I just left them with-"
"Right that's it." said Pietro grabbing my face in his hands "You're just going round in circles, don't do that to yourself, the only person it's going to hurt is you."
I sighed and nodded. He was right but it was easier said than done. "Did anyone else get hurt? Wanda?"
"No they're all fine but Blake...I'm so sorry about your friend."
"Thanks." I said barely understanding the words coming out of my mouth, I kept seeing her face swimming before my eyes as her leg snapped again. My head began to ache and I got that familiar sensation of being pulled into the past. He must have seen the look on my face because I was jerked back to the present when he stood up taking me with him.
"Fight it." he said pressing his lips against mine. "Stay here ok? Focus." It shocked me enough to pull me back. The light in the bathroom was too bright it stung my eyes but it was easy for me to zone in on.
"You should get into something dry." he said setting me my feet and handing me my dressing gown. Something dug into my shoulder and I noticed the clover pin, I unhooked it and placed it on the side. Slipping off my sodden dress I threw it into the trash. No amount of dry cleaning would get that much blood out.
I heard an intake of breath as his hands moved to my side. I finally looked into the mirror and saw the bruises across my rib cage left by Alissa, I threw on my robe so I didn't have to look at them and turned to Pietro. Maybe there was something I could do to take my mind off it.
"Let me take a look at your head." I said as he sat down on the bed in the other room
"Really it's nothing." he said as I gently pressed my fingers against the bump.
He winched slightly and I nodded. "Nothing huh?"
"Come on I've had worse against that head board." he said grinning and pointed to the bed. I couldn't help but laugh. "There she is." he smiled slipping his hands around me.
My own smile fell, who was she. I didn't feel like the same person I had when we'd met. I stepped away and ran my hands through my damp hair. Opening the window I leaned out of it and breathed in the clean air.
"I don't know who I am anymore." I said quietly staring out into the forest and crossing my arms over my chest. The weather seemed to be laughing at me, it was warm and a slight breeze rustled the trees, perfectly calm. I heard him get up behind me and rest his head on top of mine.
"I know who you are, I always have."
I chuckled "You sure about that? I don't think I'm the same person you met back in New York."
He gripped my shoulders and turned me to face him.
"Neither of us are. I don't think we could have come out of all of this exactly the same, come on we've both nearly died twice." I looked up at him trying to read his expression and all I got was sincerity "It doesn't mean I don't know who you are or that I don't still love you."
I stared down at my hands feeling undeserving. Why should I get love when I'd just done something as terrible as take a human life.
"Say something." he said anxiously caressing my face with soft fingers
He was right in a way, we had been through so much. But at the end of each traumatic event I felt part of myself ripped away with it. The only way I could think to keep myself together was make sure I tried my best to be the person he thought I was. A person I was scared of losing all together if I carried on this way. The emotions seemed to be weighing me down and I felt like I was going to suffocate if I didn't let him know.
"I hope I didn't let you down." I said and he looked taken aback
"Let me down? You could never-"
"I might one day, I might go too far. I want to you promise me if that happens you won't try to make me feel better or...you'll just leave. I won't bring you down with me."
I had to tell him because I was genuinely scared of what I was capable of now. I had nearly killed Evans and Chris, then today... if that happened again I couldn't bear the thought of loosing Pietro along with myself.
"No way in hell is that happening." he said and picked me up in his arms.
"I'm serious Pietro."
"Yeah well so am I. Think of what you're asking me to do, could you do it if it were me?" I thought about that and fell silent, probably not. I would fight for him until my last breath if I had to. "Exactly. For one, you could never do anything that would make me leave you, and two, if I have to tell you one more time what you did today was not murder I am going to-"
"What?" I asked raising an eyebrow as he lay me down on the bed.
"Something...bad." he said distractedly with his face inches away from mine
"I am terrified." I said sarcastically before wrapping my legs round him and pulling off his wet shirt. He crushed his lips against mine as I ripped off my dressing gown and threw it aside. I knew it was irresponsible of me but I didn't care, I needed him. So many things seemed to be slipping away from me recently I had to hold on to the one thing that I couldn't live without. The steam from the bathroom had already made the room warm but my body from the shower was hotter as it connected with his. He kissed down my neck and stopped when he came to my chest.
"We don't have to." he said looking up at me with those crystal blue eyes.
I shook my head and cut him off with a kiss "Please" I said taking a breath hoping he could see by my face I was serious "I need this."
"Since when do I need asking twice." he chuckled and slid an arm round my back "Wait." he said and I fell back on the mattress as he dashed across the room and locked the door. "I am sick of people walking into our room."
"Good call." I laughed getting up and gripping my hands tightly in his hair. I guided him to the armchair opposite the bed and he fell into it looking up at me grinning "You didn't see that coming?" I said and he pulled me down with him grabbing my thighs and fitting them round his body.
"That really is my line." he said smirking up at me. I leant down and pressed my lips to his once again. One arm encircled my waist while the other dug into my leg hungrily. I groaned quietly as my ribs ached but didn't say anything, it was worth the pain. I moved my mouth down his jaw and he stretched his head back closing his eyes.
"Blake?" he said letting out a small moan
"Mmm?" I asked my mouth on the crook of his neck. I could feel his pulse beating fast under my lips
"I really meant it, if you need some time away we-" he trailed off and opened his eyes to focus "-We can go wherever you want."
"Huh." I straightening up considering and re positioned my hips so I could look at him properly "That might be a good idea actually." I thought of where we could go, anywhere but here would be welcomed at least for a while.
He chuckled quietly "Great, but I didn't mean stop."
"Right." I replied laughing at the look on his face "How about we talk about it in the morning?"
His muscles shifted under me and he nodded grabbing hold of my hips as I moved them towards him. With each new movement I could see him trying to control himself straining against the chair, but he was getting that look and I knew he couldn't hold out much longer. Sure enough a second later he'd picked me up and darted to the bed.
I gave him an innocent smile and he grinned down at me "You are such a little tease."
"I learnt from the best remember." I said as he moved his mouth back to mine "So really, it's all your fault."
Weighing this against the events of the past day I couldn't work out if it really had been the worst birthday of my life or not. By morning he'd persuaded me enough that I thought it hadn't been the very worst.
I woke up before Pietro and got dressed quietly before leaving a note to tell him where I was going. As I left he rolled over in bed and I saw his arm twitch slightly as it found only an empty mattress next to him. A few moments later I knocked on Wanda's door and heard her alarm going off inside.
"Wand? You awake?" There came a muffled grumble from inside and I slowly opened the door. She was laying in bed trying to turn off her clock which was buzzing annoyingly. After a moment she flicked her finger and a wisp of red light knocked it onto the floor and it stopped beeping. She beckoned me into the room and rolled over.
"Ooh sorry I didn't think you'd still be asleep." I said taking a seat at the end of her bed and fiddling with book she had rested on the arm.
"No its alright I should have been up an hour ago." she said stretching and sitting up rubbing her eyes
"Rough night?" I asked as she looked at me blearily
"Not really, I'm just a bit tapped out on magic. I used a lot yesterday."
"Thank you for that." I said smiling "I dunno what we would have done without you."
"That's what we're here for." she said and I saw a hint of sadness in her eyes
"What is it?"
"I was up late as well with Steve trying to find the kids parents to tell them..."
"Wanda you didn't have to do that, I'll sort it out." she held up her hand to stop me.
"As if you didn't have enough to deal with, no its fine."
"Did you find them all?" I asked putting down the book
"All we could, at least half of them didn't have any family."
I put my head in my hands and looked up "That makes sense. No body to miss them and no body to run back to. Asshole. No not you." I said as she looked shocked "The guy I..." I got up quickly and made to leave.
"Blake, I know you're hurting." she said and I turned to look at her "But you did the right thing."
"Thank but I'm not so sure." I gave her a small smile
"Come here." she said holding out her hand. I took it gratefully and she pulled me into a hug "Know that we all love you ok? We can get passed this together."
I choked back tears and squeezed her tightly "Love you too." I let out a huge breath and felt a weight leave my shoulders. She let go and wiped away a tear that had leaked out.
"Hey don't you'll make me start" she laughed
"I better go." I smiled and she nodded sitting back against her head board.
"Hey Blake, the officials are letting us continue with our work and they and all the recruits think you're a badass."
I laughed without humour "Too bad it's for nothing good. I'll let you get up. Catch you later" I said giving her a quick hug and leaving her staring after me.
I wondered around until I found Clint. He was sat in the communications room fiddling with some dials on a headset.
"Oh hey kiddo." he said pulling me a chair up to the desk "Didn't see you yesterday after the event. You doin ok?" I sighed and sat on the chair backwards
"I swear the next time someone asks me that I'm gonna start throwing punches."
"Noted." he said smiling at me "You need something?"
"Yeah I wanted to ask you something. About your family?" I said quietly so the others on the far side of the room couldn't hear. He put down the head set and rolled his chair closer to mine.
"What about them, you heard something? I only spoke to Laura this morning."
"No no it's nothing like that, I just wondered...you guys crashed there after Wanda got to you in Africa, went to clear your heads?"
"Well, Clint I'm kinda going crazy cooped up here, after what's happened over the last week I need to get away. If Fury's Ok with it."
"You're leaving?" he asked astonished
"No not forever, just for a few days. You think Laura would be alright with that? I can't face going home just yet."
He seemed to take that into consideration then nodded slightly to himself. "Yeah I'm sure that will be fine, I'll call her to make sure but I know she wants to meet you and the kids...is it just you?" he asked looking wary
"If Pietro could come as well? Like I said it's just for a few days and I'll help out around the-"
"Yeah that's great." he said smiling "He can finally meet Nathan."
"Wow that was easy." I said grinning and he ruffled my hair
"Hey kid you're one of us, what's mine is yours and all that crap."
"Ah thanks Clint, I owe you one."
"Nah you don't, I wanna help. I'll let Laura know, I'm headed home in a few days anyway so you two can tag along. But you'll have to share a room, now Nathan's got the one upstairs."
"Don't think that will be an issue." I said laughing and getting to my feet "You wanna text me the plan and I'll catch up with you at dinner?"
"You got it." he said turning back to the tech board in front of him.
"Kid?" he called at I reached the door "I know this job ain't all it's cracked up to be but...I'm proud of you."
I didn't know what to say, he gave me a small smile and rolled over to the other guys in the room. Were people just trying to make me cry today, I shook myself and walked back towards the breakfast room. I felt my hair whip behind me as Pietro skidded to a stop next to me.
"Hey there you are, I've been looking for you."
"Sorry I left Wanda's a bit early."
"Me too, she's in a mood." he said looking sulky
"Be nice she's just tired." I said locking my fingers through his "So I just talked to Barton, you feel like getting away from this place for a few days?"
He raised one eyebrow at me "Why, where are we going?"
"Hopefully somewhere where nothing will blow up in our faces." I said feeling sceptical