Nothing Gold Can Stay (Part Two)
Disclaimer: Don't own these guys. This one is set a few years after part one. Do the whole R/R thing and I'll love you.
It's weird how you look back on your life and can see exactly the point at which everything you knew changed. It seems like my life has been an endless series of moments like that. They all seem to have a pattern to them too, strangely enough. The pattern involves men leaving me. First it was Father and Pietro, then later it was Todd, and then after that it was John. Apparently, leaving me is like the new national pastime for males. I guess it's better than sitting around watching football and drinking beer. Yeah, lucky me.
My eyes stare vacantly at the tile floor of my room. I hate tile floor. It ranks right up there with stone in the departments of coldness and impersonality. Then again, I suppose places like this one don't make friendliness their top priority. Still, I have to admit this place is better than the asylum I was left to rot in when I was a child.
I have been living in this mental health clinic for about three weeks now. Time has an odd way of slowing down in here and since one day is almost identical to the next I've lost count. Still, I'm pretty sure it's been three weeks since I was released from the hospital and put in here. I'm getting a lot of help here though, which is a blessing compared to what I suffered through at the asylum. It's nice to get some help for a change. It's nice to be able to walk around without a straightjacket on or everyone watching you like you're a bug in a jar.
The tile floor holds no interest for me anymore so I turn my gaze to the equally bland ceiling. It's quite strange that even with all my freedom of movement I mostly just stay in my room. Most of the time I just think like I'm doing right now. Occasionally I'll read a book but sometimes it takes too much effort to do that. Numbness is a weird feeling. It's a sensation of complete emptiness, like you're a jack-o-lantern someone forgot to put a light in. That's how I feel most of the time. I feel hollow and fake. I keep trying to get over all that's happened but everyone can look right through it. They know I'm hurting but they can't help me. They can't heal me, not like he could.
It happened a seemingly long time ago, my breakup with Todd, and yet I still can't get it out of my head. I don't really know why I continue to think about it two years later but for some reason I can't dislodge the event from my brain. You never forget your first love they say. Whether or not anyone, including him, believes it anymore, he was my first love. I had to learn what love is the hardest way I can imagine.
After Todd left, things were different. I just wasn't used to John and how our relationship worked. I kept telling myself that I loved him, really loved him, but Todd's words that night echoed in my head the whole time I was with John. 'When you're ready to be with someone who loves you then find me.' They still ring in my ears to this very day.
John and I had a whirlwind courtship. After dating steadily for a grand total of three months we decided it was time to get married. After all, we were in love, right? So we did the whole "I do" thing and I became Wanda Allerdyce. How could life be more perfect? What on Earth could be better?
I stare around the room and foolishly wait for an answer to my question, an answer I know full well. John and I had problems about a year into our marriage. There are a lot of things that "could be better" than our constant fighting. There are a lot of things that "could be better" than coming home one night to a note on the refrigerator that says your husband has been carrying on an affair and has now left you for said mistress. There a huge, grand number of things that "could be better" than, that very same night, taking a kitchen knife and trying to slit your wrist because you can't deal with the fact that yet another person you care about so much has left you alone in the cold. Yeah, the list could go on and on. That night was what put me in the hospital and, consequently, what put me in here.
I miss Todd now more than anything in the world. I took him for granted I guess. I never knew how much I needed somebody's support until suddenly I didn't have it anymore. It's so stupid when I think about it, about how I broke up with him to be with John. What I had with John was passion, no more and no less. Now, that's all well and good but when all you have with someone is just physical attraction that's hardly anything to base a marriage on. I suppose our feelings for each other were a lot like the flames John loved to manipulate. Our desire was beautiful while it lasted but it was snuffed out far too easily to be considered love. I was an idiot to think you could base a marriage on something so fickle.
There's a knock on my door. It's a nurse. I can always tell because they knock. Doctors just waltz in like they own the damn place but nurses treat you like a person. I like that. It's rare that in a mental health facility I am treated like an actual human being. I can remember the orderlies at the asylum. All of them were male, large hulking brutes that resembled prison guards. These nurses are women though, most middle-aged and are hardly as intimidating. I guess things inside the system have changed since I was nine years old.
It's not anywhere near time for a meal so I must have a visitor. Immediately I guess that it's Pietro. He comes to visit me all the time. I know he's trying to be there for me but, just like the doctors here, he can't give me what I need. Nobody can give me what I need to feel whole again. I sent away the only person who could a long time ago and he'll never come back. Why would he want to anyway? Why would he want to stand face-to-face with the monster that broke his heart?
"Ms. Maximoff," says the nurse, "you have a visitor." I got my last name changed back as soon as possible. I hate the name Allerdyce now especially when someone uses it to address me. It just reminds me of what happened, reminds me of how my happy life was completely shattered. The fact that the nurse didn't specify who my visitor is intrigues me. Everyone with two X chromosomes in this place knows Pietro by his first name. He's even tried to charm a few of the younger nurses on the many occasions he's visited me. Usually the nurses will just say, 'Your brother's here' or something to that effect.
"Come in then," I reply in a bored tone. As I return my attention to the ceiling, I try to run through the short checklist of people I know. Father's in jail, Fred sort of disappeared on us, Lance is probably still joined at the hip with Kitty, Pietro's already been marked out, and John's off with some bubbly, vapid, young girl who is, no doubt, better able to provide for his simple needs than his ex-wife who's now sitting in a mental health clinic all because he didn't have the manhood to come out and say he was having an affair to her face.
I'm so busy inwardly fuming at John that I don't hear the door open. I do, however, feel the hand on my shoulder. It's a clammy hand, whether damp from sweat or slime I can't tell. It is a gentle hand to match an equally gentle boy. It's amazing to think sometimes how something can just completely shatter a person. He's stronger inside than he looks though, than anyone could ever see. I think I'm the only one who's ever noticed it.
"Hey," says the voice quietly, "how ya been?" I look up at him. He's still the same even after two years. He still has that shaggy, brown hair in his face and that amber-colored film over his murky, green eyes. His eyes are where you can see the hidden, gentle strength that lies within him. He hasn't lost any of it after all that's happened. I thought he would've after I broke his heart, after I destroyed his innocence. I suddenly don't want him seeing me like this and I turn away. I can't look him in the eye after all I've done to him.
"I brought you some flowers," he says as he extends his offering. He's still doing it, still trying to make up for problems that aren't even his to begin with. Can't he see it? Can't he see that I'm the one with the problem? He's been everything I could've wanted even after I tossed him aside like trash. Why?
"Wanda," he pleads quietly, "Can you say something, please?" I can't. The lump in my throat is too big and the tears are running too fast. He must know I'm crying because he wraps his arms around me.
"Wanda," he tells me, "I'm so sorry for everything." This just makes me cry even more. He has absolutely nothing to be sorry about. This whole thing is my fault. I'm the one who threw away the best thing I ever had.
"It's gonna be okay," he whispers to me, "It's gonna be okay." His voice is the best medication on Earth, the only mood stabilizer I will ever need. He just keeps telling me everything will be okay over and over again and every time I hear it another piece of me believes it. His words burn themselves into my brain. It will be okay. As long as I have him by my side, I will be okay again.
"I know," I tell him finally, "I know." It's all I can manage to get out. His grip is so tight it's like he's clutching a life preserver to keep from drowning. It's almost as if the harder he hugs me the more of my demons he can banish.
I don't know how long we stay that way but I never want it to end. He's so different from John. He's tender and gentle. John never just held me. No, with us holding led to kissing which led to touching which led to other stuff. It's strange how simply putting your hand on someone's shoulder or holding them in your arms can say so much. Sometimes it's simply closeness a person needs and not intimacy.
"They're beautiful," I tell him as he finally separate and I see the bouquet of roses he's brought. It's little things that make all the difference in the world to someone. Todd always notices little things.
"Listen," he tells me, "the doctors say I can take you outside if you want me to. We can sit down and have a talk about stuff. Does that sound okay?"
"Yeah," I reply. It's been awhile since we talked, a very long while. I feel myself smile a little at the prospect of doing it again. I've missed our talks. Talking with John isn't the same as talking with Todd. I always felt there were some things I just couldn't talk with John about, some parts of me that I had to keep hidden from him. I can talk to Todd about anything though. He's seen me in all my various moods from enraged to bitter to confused to depressed. There are no secrets between us anymore.
"I've missed seeing that," he tells me as he gets up, "I missed your smile." I reflexively blush and give him another glimpse of what he missed.
Sometimes I forget how nice it is to be outside. I forget how a breeze feels on my skin or the smell of fresh flowers. I forget how radiant the sunlight makes things look. It's a shame to forget sensations like that.
We sit on a wooden bench under a tree on the front lawn of the clinic. It's nice and shady with the sunlight filtering through the leaves above us. There's a breeze blowing that's just the right level of coolness. I can't help but think that the past two years have all been a dream. I turn my head to look at him. If I could cast a big enough hex, I'd turn back the clock. I'd make John never exist and I'd make sure Todd and I never broke up. I want more than anything to believe that nothing between us has changed now but I know that everything has. He knows it too.
"I thought about you a couple days ago," he begins to explain, "I broke up with somebody recently and it made me remember you. Once I started thinkin' about you I couldn't stop. I had to see you, talk to you, make sure that. . ."
"That I was okay," I finish. That's typical of Todd. I don't know what I did to deserve this awkward, gangly little sap as my knight in shining armor but whatever it was I wouldn't undo it for anything in the entire world.
"That you were happy," corrects Todd. I nod. Todd's always wanted me to be happy. Looking back on things now, there were a lot of chances for him to take advantage of me and only think of himself. He never acted on any of those opportunities in the slightest.
"I got in touch with Pietro by way of Lance," he continues, "Your brother told me all about what happened with you and I had to come see you. I don't care what happened between us in the past, Wanda. If you're in pain then I'm always there for you."
"Thank you," I tell him. I was in pain and to some degree I still am. I can remember being scared out of my mind when I first came to the clinic. They put me under some pretty heavy restrictions because of what got me in here. It reminded me too much of the asylum and it scared the living hell out of me.
Of course, there was also my depression over John leaving me. I would've cut myself to ribbons if they had let me. It's such a horrible feeling when someone you're so in love with just leaves you. You always keep wondering what you did. What button could I have pushed to make him love me more? Why did he leave me? Was it something I did or said? Was it something I left unsaid or undone? Most of all, why couldn't he have told me about it?
"Wanda?" asks Todd, "What happened between us?" It hits me like a ton of bricks. It's the exact same question I would ask John if he was here. Suddenly I realize everything now. I realize why he couldn't stay. I realize what he must've felt when he saw John and I making out. I realize that once again we can relate to each other on so many levels.
"Todd," I reply sadly, "I honestly don't know. I just started getting these feelings for John, these desires. I don't know where they came from but I couldn't shake them. I knew he wanted me. He came to talk to me that night and I felt this pull, this magnetism towards him. I couldn't fight it and to be honest I didn't even want to try to. I never knew things would end up this way."
"I understand," he says even though I can see he's a little hurt. By all rights he should be hurt. It's terrible when the person you love has to turn to someone else to get what they need.
"You always do," I tell him truthfully, "You always will." He nods.
"Are they treating you okay in here?" he asks. I nod. Therapy is helping me climb out of the void. They've also put me on some medications but I want to end that as soon as possible. I hate the way they make me feel.
"Good," he tells me, "I'm glad."
"What've you been doing all this time?" I ask him.
"Working wherever I can," he replies simply, "I got my GED and I'm taking some college courses at night. I try to date too but nothing ever works out."
"Why's that?" I ask him. Has he been thinking about me? Does he still love me and maybe want to start over again? My head begins to hurt from the questions that swirl inside it.
"I can't get you to stop haunting me," explains Todd, "I keep looking at these girls who are great but all I can see is you. I still care for you, Wanda."
"Todd," I tell him, "Please do something for me." I thought I knew what love was once but now I'm not sure about anything anymore. The only thing I can think of to do is see what happens.
"Okay," agrees Todd before I even get the chance to tell him what it is.
"I want you to kiss me," I tell him, "I just want both of us to let it go and see what happens. Let's not worry about what we're supposed to feel or what the other person wants us to feel. Whatever happens happens, okay?"
"Okay," he agrees. He pulls me closer to him now and gently cups his hand under my chin. I can feel the attraction, the pull towards him. I close my eyes as he presses his lips against mine. There's an explosion inside my head and my body becomes tingly as if it's electrified. Our lips are awkward at first but then they become reacquainted with each other and begin to move as they once did. Any feeling I had for anyone else is completely eclipsed by my feeling for him. All the emotions I thought were dead now come rushing and pouring out of me. Our kiss deepens for a few seconds and then he pulls away.
I open my eyes and collapse into his arms. It's as if the past two years have been completely erased from the face of time. Nothing has changed at all. I still live in that house with the boys. We are young and still very much in love. My brother still watches us with protective eyes. Lance still fills the hallways at night with unplugged guitar chords and Fred still cooks us meals. I am still Todd's little snugglebunny and he is still my slimeball.
"Scarlet," he whispers softly into my ear. It's the only pet name I actually loved to hear him call me. It's a beautiful word and until I fell in love with him I never thought someone like me could be associated with it.
"Todd," I reply, "I love you. I know we had problems but can we try again? I need you now, Todd. Please, never leave me." I do need him now, more than anyone else in the world. I can't do any of this alone. I need him with me to remind me that I'm worth something. I need his comfort and his support. Most of all, I need his love again.
"Wanda," he replies as he strokes my cheek softly, "You know I care for you and you know that I once loved you with all my heart. Please understand that right now you're trying to push a button that's been disconnected for two years. Don't expect it to work like it used to."
"Then you don't love me anymore?" I ask him hesitantly. A deep fear wells up inside me now. I feel as though I am about to be thrown off of a cliff and am expected to magically sprout wings. What if he leaves me again? What if the only person in the world who can save me doesn't want to?
"I will again," he assures me, "Give it time, Wanda. It'll be like before but it'll take some time."
"Okay," I reply quietly. We sit there in silence for awhile, how long exactly I'm not sure. By now I've completely liquefied in his arms. Before, I was a jack-o-lantern with no light. Now, I am the gooey glop you scoop out of the pumpkin. The big, nasty Scarlet Witch is a mushy pile of jelly now. As strange as it may seem, I like this feeling of complete surrender. As long as I'm in his arms I am safe and sound and no monster or demon will ever bother me ever again. I can shut down all the defenses, tear down all the walls around myself, and just lay there completely helpless. As long as he is near, I feel secure because he will never let me fall.
"Visiting time is up," he says quietly. It takes all the forces in creation for him to pull himself away from me.
"I'll come visit you every chance I get," he tells me, "and I'll call you if I don't see you." I nod as he takes my hand and walks me back inside. Being the true gentleman, he opens my door for me and I giggle slightly. Despite all that has happened, we are still very much the same people we always were.
"When you get out of here I'll take you anywhere you want to go," he promises me. I smile a little at this. Todd can be very silly sometimes.
"Todd," I tell him, "anywhere with you is the best place on Earth." There's another tug and my lips gravitate to his for a goodbye kiss.
"Be a good girl," he tells me, "and I'll always be here when you need me." With that, Todd walks out of my room. I turn back to the table where my flowers still reside. I pick up the small card attached to them and read it. 'I still care. Love, Todd.'
It's funny about life, about the moments that define it. For so long, those moments in my life involved men leaving me. My life was an endless series of being carried up and then falling back down, like a sick and twisted rollercoaster. Not this moment though. This time, one of the men, the best one, came back.