When I entered the conference room the talking stopped. I'd heard the buzz of chatter a long way down the hall, but upon seeing my furious tear streaked face everyone fell silent.
"Right. Here are the terms." I filled them in on my conversation with the woman who had taken Anya. I felt a hand on my waist and looked over my shoulder to see Pietro stood defiantly behind me, Wanda close to his side. "Take it or leave it." I said looking directly at Steve.
"Its..Blake it's not that simple." he said and through my rage I saw the sadness in his eyes. "Who ever took your daughter just hit one of Stark's storage units downtown."
"And?" said Pietro his fingers tightening ever so slightly around my skin.
"They took some of his tech, tech that we can't just let them wander around with."
"So what are you saying?" I asked through gritted teeth
"I'm saying we have to strike back."
"Did you not hear me? This is what she was talking about, this is what she wanted. If we retaliate she'll take Anya away."
"And if we don't we leave hundreds maybe thousands in jeopardy, we'll just have to hope she was bluffing." said an agent to Steve's left
I broke free of Pietro and slammed my fist into the table "Hope? That's not good enough!" The table groaned under the weight of my hands and I could hear Pietro shift restlessly behind me.
"It's simple math agents I'm sorry-"
"YOU'RE TELLING ME MY DAUGHTERS LIFE IS WORTH NOTHING IN YOUR HANDS?" I yelled
He cowered in his seat and looked to Steve for help, Steve was still looking at me like he was in physical pain. "Well...yes." said the agent in a small voice.
That was it. I made to leap forward but was buffed back by a red force field that had suddenly erupted in the centre of the room. I looked over my shoulder and saw Wanda lowering her hands.
"Wanda...please." I pleaded in a wavering voice. She stepped forward and pulled me into her arms. I didn't want to look at anyone else in the room so I buried my face in her shoulder letting her hair shield my face from the pitiful gazes.
"So its decided." the agent said. I gripped hold of Wanda and felt the wracking sobs slowly return to my body.
"No." said Steve in an uncharacteristically harsh voice. "It's not." I raised my head and saw him standing in front of me. I took my head off Wanda's shoulder as he patted my arm in a fatherly fashion.
"I'm not prepared to let them get away with Stark's tech Blake, not again. But I'd never leave Anya in danger. I hope you know that." he finished with a very small smile.
"Then you have a plan Rogers?" asked Pietro pushing off from the wall and standing next to me. "Or was that all talk?"
Steve ignored Pietro's comment and pushed ahead "You said she took Anya's monitor, to communicate with you?" he asked Pietro who nodded
"How does that help us?"
"Stark." said Steve gesturing to Tony who grinned guilty back at me
"See kid, when I fitted that reactor in little Maximoff's room I put a homing device in it, and in all her monitors."
"What, why would you do that?" asked Pietro confused
"Well...in case anything like this happened."
"How could you possibly know?" asked Wanda suspiciously
"Paranoia I guess, that baby inherited all our enemies, not just your families. It's no secret we're not too popular right now. And to be honest, Anya is the easiest target. Makes sense anyone trying to get to us would go for her."
"So you can find her?" asked Wanda
"What now" moaned Pietro narrowing his eyes.
"The moment we activate it they'll know we're coming."
"Then it's no use!" I said throwing my arms in the air
"Cool it, I think I can re-route the signal to throw them off." Piped up Clint leaning forward "Make it look like it's not broadcasting, long as me and Nat can look at the tech Stark used first." he finished nodding in Tony's direction
Tony looked dumfounded by Clint's suggestion "You know what Barton, that might actually work, who knew you had brains along with those un-charming good looks."
"Enough." I said walking back over to Pietro "Can you do it or not?"
Tony's face sobered up and he nodded back at me "You got it Blake."
"Stark." said Pietro throwing a comforting arm around my shoulders "Hurry. Please." As he finished he led me out of the room and down the hall.
I sat down on bench halfway down and put my head in my hands. I could feel Pietro crouch down in front of my and stroke my hair soothingly.
"You were right." I said lifting my head "All those years ago you said we should have left."
"What are you talking about?"
"Back at Clint's house, you said we could leave this life behind. Start a family, be normal. But I wanted to stay."
"I know but it's alright Blake, I understand why-" he started taking my hands in his
"Pietro it was fair enough to stay until they needed us but...damn it, I should have quit the moment I got pregnant!" I shouted and he pulled back "If I'd just left when you said, Anya wouldn't..this shouldn't be her life she's just a baby."
Pietro took my face in his hands and shook his head "No matter where we go we will always be in danger. It's who we are, our powers and friends make it that way, its harsh but it's true. Knowing that wouldn't have stopped you having her, then and now, don't beat yourself up. She's tough, like her mother, she'll get through this."
I smiled ever so slightly "She's also half Maximoff, she's too stubborn to give up."
Pietro made a small laugh and kissed my forehead "That's my girl-"
He was cut off by Clint running up to us, he stopped breathlessly in front of the bench and stared out of the window.
"Barton? What is it?" asked Pietro getting to his feet. The alarms went off again and I jumped up.
"Ah shit!" cursed Clint and I followed his gaze. Out of the window I could see a figure float right up over the fence and drop down on the other side. Suddenly a red energy barrier shot up surrounding the facility and the figure ran off into the night.
"What! Where is she going?" demanded Pietro
"I found where Anya is being held." said Clint offering me a tablet with a map of the surrounding woods. A red dot was marked a few miles out, there was nothing there but an abandoned warehouse. "Wanda stole the co-ordinates and took off. Said something about being 'her turn to protect her family' and that she had to keep you out of danger." he said directing his last words at Pietro whose eyes went wide
Damn it Wanda. I knew exactly what she was doing. In order to keep both me and her brother safe she'd gone to get Anya without any back up. That would have been bad enough but we had no idea what she was walking into.
"Not a chance in hell." muttered Pietro and grabbed my hand. In a second we were outside. Pietro let go of my hand and sped through the fence, well he tried to but was blown backwards and slammed into me. I rolled off him and pulled him to his feet, he looked dazed but otherwise alright.
"I don't understand." he said rubbing his arm "I should be able to get through."
"That's not our force field, its Wanda's." I said squinting at the red shifting barrier of light. "She's trying to keep us in."
Pietro raked his hands through his hair and stared out into the woods "She can't go by herself, she'll get killed." he said and I grabbed his hands to stop them shaking with anger. "Why would she just leave!"
"Pietro hey look at me, look at me." I said resting one hand on his cheek so he would focus "She just wants to make sure you're safe."
"But I'm supposed to take care of her." he said in a rough voice "She's never this reckless, why-"
"You really have no idea do you?" I said and he looked down at me a crease forming on his brow "You dying almost destroyed her, no way she's letting that happen again, to you...or our daughter. But-" I said as he went to argue "She's family, and we don't leave family behind."
"Then we should get Stark, maybe blast our way out." he said turning back to the building
I turned to the barrier and flexed my arms. My powers had grown over the past few years, I'd managed to direct my abilities into the physical plain so now I didn't just project my strength, I could manifest it. Wanda was powerful, maybe the most powerful enhanced I'd ever met but there were some instincts she couldn't defend against, like that of a mother trying to get to her child.
I took in a deep breath trying to rid my mind of all thoughts but Anya and Wanda and launched my fist at the shield. The noise was deafening as the blast reverberated up my arm with so much force I thought it might shatter bone. But when I looked up the barrier was losing colour and density, breaking apart like cracking ice. Within a second I could see the surrounding woods again. I stretched out my hand to the fence but luckily this time it didn't knock me on my ass.
"Ok." I said turning back to Pietro who was staring at me in shock "Let's go find our daughter'."
He gave me one quick smirk and caught me up in his arms.
In less than a minute we'd made it to the warehouse. There were no lights on inside and it looked completely abandoned. A door to the side of the building slammed and Pietro let go of me so I could stand freely.
We both rushed forward and I peeked into one of the broken windows. The vast room was deserted, all but for one tiny chair in the centre of the room. On it, sitting so still I thought she might be asleep, was Anya.
"An-" I started but Pietro clapped his hand over my mouth and shook his head.
Trap. He mouthed at me and took his hand away. He was about to speak again when a sound caught our attention. Someone was approaching Anya, looking over their shoulder every so often to see if they were being followed. It was so dark I could only see a mane of long brown hair.
"Aunty Wanda!" shouted Anya and ran to her. I almost laughed with relief as Wanda caught her up in her arms.
"It's alright dragomir, I've got you-"
"Wanda Maximoff." echoed a female voice making Wanda freeze in the middle of the room. "You broke our deal."
I could see Wanda looking round concerned for the source of the voice. I was half tempted to jump in myself but was worried it might make things worse.
"Show yourself." said Wanda tightening her hold on Anya
"No need, this was always the plan. And it worked perfectly."
"What plan, what are you talking about?"
"This right now, you are playing my game perfectly. Stark's tech was never the goal, just the distraction. You see, when you and the girl die, and you will. The team will be devastated, it will break them. Thus ending the Avengers once and for all."
Wanda's eyes widened in fear and she took a step forward. "You can't."
"Why not? I already have you right where I want you, you were too noble to come with anyone else, honestly I didn't know if it would be you or your brother and his girl but either way, the result is the same. Do svidaniya, Scarlet Witch."
Pietro leapt in just as a click went off in the corner of the room. In that split second I was more terrified than I've been in my entire life. An enormous ball of fire erupted in the centre of the room completely covering everything in my sight.
The scream was lost in my throat by the sheer head radiating from the room. I scrambled in after Pietro who was nowhere to be seen. No not again. I thought to myself.
The fire ebbed as I reached the spot Anya and Wanda had been standing. A weak shield of red energy covered the three figures huddled together like a protective bubble. As it sputtered out I saw Pietro crouched low to the ground his body covering Anya who was utterly unhurt. The other figure was half standing in front of them, her arms still raised.
I reached them just as Wanda crumbled to the ground.
"No!" I fell down next to her and rolled her onto her back. She was shaking and blood was oozing out of her nose. "Wanda hang on please." I cried as her eyes rolled back into her head. I looked to Pietro who let go of Anya and threw himself down next to us. Anya ran over to bury her head in my hair and grabbed onto my arm.
"Hey! Wanda wake up!" Pietro yelled cradling his sister in his arms. She still wasn't moving. "If this is payback for Sokovia" he said stroking her hair "Very funny you can stop it now." his voice broke as tears glazed over his eyes "Stop it ok!" I clung onto Anya for comfort as Pietro rested his forehead against his sisters "Wanda?"
But there was only silence.