Nothing Gold Can Stay
Disclaimer: Don't own characters. After, or even instead of, reading this go read 'Even Now Again, Forever' by S. Mark Gunther. It's beautiful. Other than that, please R/R.
Why's life so hard? All I ever wanted was to be happy. I don't really think that's too much to ask, you know? I mean so far God's dumped a lot on me. I figure the least the Big Guy could do would be to cut me a little slack.
It's quiet in the house but then again it's always quiet at night unless you count Fred's snoring. I walk down the darkened hallways, past the closed doors of rooms. These rooms hold my friends, my brothers. This place is my home, the only one I've ever had. No more though. There is a cancer in this house now and it is eating away at me. This house is no longer my home, not while he's in it and not while he's with her.
My eyes rest on her door. I consider for a few moments going in and telling her goodbye, telling her a lot of things that I never told her before even when we were together. I shake my head sadly and walk on. She wouldn't want to hear it anyway. In fact, she's probably not in her room. She's probably sleeping in his room, in his bed. The thought of it disgusts me and when something can disgust Todd Tolensky then it's pretty bad.
As I slowly and quietly creep down the stairs, it all washes over me again. Until that fateful night, my life has been a bad form of déjà vu. I can't forget that night. Every time I see them together I relive it over again and all the stitches that sewed up my emotional wounds come undone.
The trouble started when Pyro moved in. I could tell that he had a thing for her. After all, Wanda Maximoff is the most beautiful girl in the world, right? Who wouldn't have a thing for her? It's kinda funny now that I think about it. She was like my own little secret, you know? Nobody else noticed how beautiful she was except me. I felt like I could just sorta keep her all to myself, that nobody else would try to take her away from me. He noticed how gorgeous she was though and he did his damn best to make sure she took notice of him too. I had faith in her though. I could tell by the look in her eye that when she said she loved me she meant every word of it. I trusted her with all my heart. How could I have been so stupid?
This is where things get interesting. I suppose if this were a cartoon show or a comic book, it would be here where the plot would thicken as they say. Wanda and I started havin' problems after awhile. She started distancing herself from me, stopped spending as much time with me as she had before. We talked less too. We used to have these long conversations at night. We'd just sit on someone's bed and talk for hours, never stopping once. Neither of us minded because it was so beautiful, you know? We just enjoyed spending time with each other and being around each other. It didn't matter what we talked about. Sometimes it was silly stuff and sometimes it was pretty heavy. I didn't care what it was so long as I was with her. Ever since Pyro moved in though we haven't talked as much.
I guess I should've seen this whole thing comin' a mile away. You never suspect things like that though until it's way too late. It's like being told you have cancer or that your teenage daughter is suddenly pregnant. You always think it happens to other people and never to yourself. Other people's girlfriends cheat on them, never your own. Especially when it's Wanda and you love her so much. God, I wish that was true. I wish I had never seen what I saw and that none of this had ever happened.
So yeah, it all exploded one night. I walk into her room to see if we can start talkin' again like we used ta and there they were. There was my little cuddles sittin' right on her bed makin' out with that flame-obsessed idiot. I couldn't really say anything when I saw it. It took a few seconds for it to really hit me. The only thing I could think of before I said anything was that it looked so different from the way Wanda and I kissed. Whenever I kissed her, it was always gentle, tender. You have to be that way with her a lot of times. What I saw that night was different though. It was like some sorta dam had burst. It was heavy and raw and passionate.
A million questions ran through my mind at that point. Was this what she really wanted? What could I have done to stop this? What did I not give her that he was willing to provide? If she did have feelings for him, why didn't she say something to me? There were a ton of others but I don't really remember them all now. I don't remember much of anything else except a few seconds later Wanda and I were arguing. I hate arguing with her, which is why I try to avoid it a lot. This was somethin' we just couldn't get around though.
We broke up that night. She had some line, some reason for it all but to me it sounded like crap. She kept trying to explain but I couldn't listen to it. Every single time she tried to tell me it was like someone was ripping my heart straight out of my chest. She ran through all the different ways of saying 'I don't love you anymore'. My heart was ripped out over and over again. I couldn't take that type of pain.
I thought still living in the house wouldn't change anything. I figured eventually the Aussie would screw up and then she'd come back to me. I was wrong on both counts. There's a hollow feeling in me now. Some people say when someone gets their arm or leg chopped off they can still feel part of the missing limb. It's like the nerves haven't gotten the message to stop working yet. That's how it feels when I see them now. I lost a part of me when I lost her, a part of me that still aches whenever I see her with Pyro. I watch him put his arm around her and I can still feel the warmth of her body close to mine. I watch them kiss and I can still taste her lips. It's the worst pain I can think of.
I've made it out the door now. I start down the driveway and then turn to look back at the old house. I don't really know what I'm lookin' for these days it seems. Since that night, everything I know has been turned upside down and inside out. The only thing I can do is leave now. I can't take that kind of pain forever so I have to leave them all behind. I have to because if I don't I know I'll end up hurting her and even after all the pain she's put me through I can't bear the thought of me returning the favor.
I wonder if she sees me now. I bet if he saw me now he'd be laughin' his damn head off. I know Pyro's type though. Pretty boy, heartbreaker, likes fast times and fast women. If that's what she wants from someone then fine with me. Better to look like garbage on the outside than be garbage on the inside.
I realize then it was stupid to think she'd be watching me. I turn to leave. I don't have any clue where I'll go. I just know I have to be somewhere where I can't see them. I have to find some place where there's someone who won't shatter my heart into a million pieces. I begin to walk away but my feet freeze up. I should've known she'd have more to say. I wouldn't stick around to hear it but since I have no choice I turn and face her.
"Todd?" she says quietly, "Why?" It's a good question but she's not supposed to ask it. I'm the one who should be, who has been, asking that question ever since that night.
"You tell me," I retort with a little more venom than I wanted, "Why, Wanda? Why am I suddenly not worth caring about?" I can tell that one hurt and I instantly regret it. Despite all that has happened, I cringe at the thought of hurting this girl. She's pushing it though and at some point I'm going to have to stop taking all this pain.
"Todd," she says softly, "I do care. I always will care. It's just that John is so different than you, so. . ." She doesn't have to say it. I can fill in the blanks. John is handsome, John is hot, John is sexy, John is every single thing in the world that I can never be. I thought she was better than that. Suddenly I don't know this girl anymore.
"Todd, he loves me," she explains as if that magically makes any sense. I suddenly wonder what the hell I've been doing for the past six months we were together, what I've been doing since the day she came into my life. Haven't I always been there for her? Haven't I wiped away her tears and taught her to smile again? Haven't I walked straight through hell for this girl and never once even asked for anything in return? Haven't I loved her?
"And what makes you think I don't?" I ask her demandingly. I suddenly wonder what it is he does that tells her he loves her. Is it the predatory glances? Is it the hungry eyes he looks at her with as if she is a five-star meal and he a starving man? Sorry if that's what you want, Wanda, but that ain't my style. If lovin' somebody means lookin' at 'em like they're a freakin' turkey dinner then I don't wanna love anybody.
"Todd, I know you love me," she tells me, "You've always loved me. I still care about you, Todd, but my feelings for John are more. Please understand that I. . ." I cut her off right there. She was about to say it, say that dreaded phrase that will burn itself into my brain and become repeated over and over again in my nightmares. She wants to be friends. More specifically she wants me to be a teddy bear that she can hold onto when he's hurt her. I couldn't take that if I knew she'd just run back to him after all the tears were dried.
"I'm leaving," I tell her, "You want my 'friendly' advice? Don't do this to yourself, Wanda. Don't get caught up in something like this and expect it to last."
"Can't you be happy for me?" she asks tearfully.
"No," I reply a little too honestly, "I can't when you're makin' a big mistake." Neither of us say anything. The air is still, save for the howling of the wind through the old house. I stare at her and realize it's funny the way she looks now. She's not the most beautiful and wonderful girl in the world anymore, you know? She's just a girl now, just a nameless face in a sea of equally nameless faces that will never love me. The full reality of what is happening sinks in. I am alone again, lost in the crowd waiting for someone to notice me and realize I'm worth something.
I can't help but think as we stand there in silence that this whole mess is somehow my fault. It's impossible to understand but somehow I caused this. I gave this girl everything though, everything I had. I gave her my time, my understanding, my care, my heart, my soul. I never once asked for anything in return. Never once did I ask her to help me with my problems though I would give everything to fix hers. Never once did I demand repayment for giving her all these things. I have been there every time she needed me. Every time she cried it was on my shoulder and every time she laughed I was the one making her smile. Does that all mean absolutely nothing to her now? Was I just some stupid little fling until something better came along? Worse yet, did she date me because she felt sorry for me?
"I didn't want things to be this way," she finally says, "I never meant to hurt you, Todd." She's in a full-blown crying fit now. Part of me wants to comfort her but there's another part that feels justified in staying where I am. It's not my privilege to hold her in my arms now. No, that job's reserved for him.
"Wanda," I tell her, "Please go back in the house." I can't stand to see her this way. I always hated it when she cried and now I feel doubly bad because I'm the one that caused it.
"I'm sorry it has to be this way," I tell her, "but it does. Please understand that watching you be with him is too painful for me to bear." She doesn't budge an inch. I feel the muscles in my feet relax and realize I can move them again.
"Goodbye, Wanda," I tell her, "When you're ready to be with someone who loves you then find me." I turn away and start walking. I turn my back on the only home I have ever known and leave behind the people I care about the most.
"Goodbye, Todd." It's so soft I can barely hear it. She'll forget about me. She'll run off to Pyro and forget all about me. I was just the reject, the one that didn't work out. It's a shame I guess. She'll forget all about me with time but I will never, for a single second, forget about her.
(Author's Note): There will be a second part to this.