Be Kind To Yourself (1)

A Pyrrhic victory. A victory that came at great cost. A cost that defined defeat. In this grand battle waged on the lives of countless many, threatening the very fabric of existence, Wanda did not know how the rest of the universe felt about it. She only knew of the Pyrrhic victory she had earned—the tears hot down her cheeks, one hand tearing Vision apart, the other hand holding back Thanos, his lethal array of Infinity Stones, and another hand wrenching her heart into a bloody pulp. She grit her teeth and never caved in, despite the pain that made her want to curl up and scream herself hoarse. Instead she poured every ounce of her will into every fiber of her being, to save the universe at the cost of yet another loved one she would lose.

Time. All she had wanted was time. She and Vision had begged for it, clung to it, scraping for every last shred of precious moments together, but they came away empty-handed. She never had the time. But she had power.

"It has to be you," he had said. So she did it.

Wanda lost all feeling to her hands, couldn't feel them drop to her sides like limp puppets. Blood seeped from her nose, filled its iron tang on her tongue, and she saw red. And, through that bloody film, saw Thor descending down a thunderbolt radiating vengeance. The god of thunder hurled a great axe into Thanos's neck. Did a head tumble down? Wanda couldn't tell. The last thing she saw was Vision, what was left of him. Remains of her own doing. Her world faded to black.

Thor's shout of triumph quickly turned into a cry of alarm. He pushed aside Thanos's headless body and ran over to Wanda, who was sprawled face-down on the forest floor. Okoye and T'Challa, the fastest to shake off the daze from their jabs at Thanos, joined his side. Together, with care, they rolled over Wanda to her back, and one look at her made the king of Wakanda shake his head grimly. "She needs medical attention. Quickly!"

Okoye called her fellow guards for assistance, some helping Natasha, Bucky, and Steve to their feet, others trying to free Bruce from the rock face, and the rest assisting Okoye in whisking Wanda back to the palace as fast as they could. The battle on the plains continued, with many of the savage mindless creatures still flailing and snarling. The Wakandan warriors made quick work of their enemies, defending the tribal grounds they held dear and proclaimed forever.

"I will lead the fight with them," T'Challa called to Okoye. "Take Miss Maximoff to my sister!" He unsheathed his claws and threw himself back into the fray. Thor, Bruce, and Bucky broke away from the group to join him, while Steve and Natasha remained by Wanda's side. No words were exchanged between the two. Both understood their feelings of obligation towards their fellow Avenger they called a kid, and neither shamed the other for it.

At the palace, Shuri could barely catch her breath from a brush with death, but the sight of Wanda carried by the guards made her utter an oath her mother would scold her for.

Shuri ran the scans and readings as soon as Wanda's back touched the operating table. Steve and Natasha, who had never flagged behind the running guards, hovered over the princess with worry etched on their faces.

"What's going on? What do the scans say?" Natasha asked.

"Multiple clots and hemorrhages in her brain. Even more fractures from both forearms down."

The X-rays triggered a collective sharp gasp. No one needed a medical degree to understand the amount of damage Wanda had sustained. Her arms were a complete mess, as if a spider spun webs along the bones, then someone rolled a bowling ball to knock those bones into shards. Her head did not fare much better. Red lights signifying clots flashed like sirens throughout the brain imaging.

"How did this happen?" Shuri asked in disbelief.

"She destroyed a stone with one hand and contained five with the other," Okoye murmured.

The princess shared her awe. "That put a huge amount of strain on her body. I had never seen anything like this."

Neither had Okoye. She had the best view of the fight. After seeing everyone else being tossed aside like toys, she still could not believe that this unassuming young woman, prone on the table before Shuri, held such power against the mad Titan.

"What can you do, Your Highness?" Natasha asked.

"Anything I can to minimize the brain damage. And repair the fractures, of course." She called for more medical personnel to help her and shooed away anyone else who would just stand around and get in the way. Steve made no objections to the princess nearly half his height.

He blew a gusty sigh and brandished his new shield. "Now that Wanda's in good hands, I'm going back out there."

"So will I," Okoye said with a tightened grip of her spear.

"I'll cover Shuri and Wanda, in case any of those things make it up here," Natasha offered.

Steve put a hand on her shoulder. "We'll make sure that doesn't happen, but I know you got their backs."

Once the captain and Wakandan general sprinted out the doors, Natasha swayed from the weight of exhaustion dropped on her. Her shoulders sagged and she leaned her back against the wall. Blood pounded in her skull. Anything from Shuri and the Wakandan physicians blurred into an unintelligible buzz in her ears. Deep down she was glad she made a good call not to jump back out there. This world, this universe, was much too big for her. What kind of sick reality made it possible to wipe out half of the universe with a snap of one's fingers?

"None of this makes sense," she muttered to herself, thinking of Clint.

Her part in this huge, crazy universe was small, but she would do her best to play it well. Thinking of the men and women working to save Wanda, Natasha straightened despite the protest of her muscles and kept an eye out, all the while hoping for the best. She was trained, however, to also expect the worst. Half of the universe being wiped out was no longer on the table…but this…would she be ready for losing one of her own? Would any of the Avengers? She could not answer that question.