Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. This is number 200 for me so R/R.
Dedication: I never thought I'd get this far but here we are at number 200 for me. Thank you, all of you. I hope you guys are still around for number 300.
The first time she comes into the bar, it's late. It's so late that it almost qualifies as morning but then again nobody bothers to count the hours anymore, certainly not him. Ever since Todd Tolansky got himself a real job pouring drinks at some hole in the wall, he's wondered how the old gang's been doing. He never had to wonder with her though. He could just turn on the television set and see how she was doing. She's a big-time superhero now, playing in the big leagues with guys like Captain America. So why is she slumming it in the bar he happens to call his second home?
"Sneak me a drink?" asks Wanda Maximoff. He doesn't even say anything. He just moves his hands to the bottles on the rack and stops when she tells him to. He pours her a shot and then pours himself one too while she sits at the bar. Her raven-colored curls hang droopily from her head, brushing against her cheeks before she tilts her head back and downs the shot in one gulp. He wonders where she learned to drink like that but doesn't ask.
"It's been a long time," says Toad, though these days he's learned not to answer to that name.
"Yeah," she replies and they don't really have to say much more than that.
He can't believe she's leaving. He can't believe she could just walk out of his life as if their time together didn't mean anything. Of course the idea of them as a couple had crashed long ago but Toad enjoys thinking that there's still hope. It's part of his charm, or at least that's what he tells himself. Lord knows he must have some sort of charm to have had Wanda stick with him for months. That's all gone now. All of it is dead because she's leaving them.
"Please don't make this hard," she tells him, "I just . . . I want something more, Todd. I can't just lay around that house for the rest of my life." She knows he doesn't understand. That house is his home and at one time it was hers too but that's another lifetime. She's not going to let what her father did to her control her life anymore. She needs a fresh start, a clean break from wallowing in the gray area. It's time to pick a side.
"I'll come with you," he decides because he would go to the ends of the Earth for her, even now. She shakes her head and it's as simple as that. With her meager belongings packed up into her bags, she gets on the bus and silently waves to him. He watches her go and forces himself not to cry. He fails at it miserably.
They don't say much the first time she shows up but she does it again for the next couple of weeks. It's become a little bit of a ritual and Todd enjoys it. It's not as if he has anything great going in his life, not anymore. Everything that was great about his life walked out on him years ago. He doesn't hate her, mostly because he could never bring himself to do so. Yet he doesn't consider her a real friend either. She's in some sort of emotional limbo but at least she's still in his heart. He likes to think that's important but he knows it's just his optimism talking. He was learning to let go of that. He was learning to stop hoping because apparently that was too much to ask in this lifetime. Now he sees her sitting across from him and feels just like he did years ago when they broke up and found themselves on the outside looking in once again.
"Saw you on TV the other day," he mentions, "How's being a real superhero treating you?"
"Exhausting," she admits, "I'd rather go fight Apocalypse than all the fan mail and public appearances and all that crap. I never wanted to be anybody's role model."
"Good times," he says with a smile and a nod, "Those were the days, huh?"
"Yeah," she replies and he notices the sadness in her voice.
Toad Tolansky discovered a long time ago that he will never be anything great. He will never have his name in lights, never sign autographs for his adoring public. He will never become famous. Instead, he's resigned himself to a life of mediocrity and fooled himself into thinking it's where he belongs. He's done what all teenagers do eventually when the cold, sobering realities of adulthood catch up with them. He's burned out. There's no real use in aspiring for greatness when you always fall short of it time and time again. He never wanted to be great. He just wanted to have friends, to be part of a family, to be loved. He just wanted to stay in the house until the end of time and hang out with the people who meant more to him than anything else did in this miserable world. It was too much to ask though.
"Why do you keep coming here?" asks Todd.
"To see you," answers Wanda before finishing her drink and leaving.
In the back of his head, he always knew this was coming. In a way, he's almost relieved because now he's the one who doesn't have to say it. That relief comes with a sense of dread though and a crushing pain in his chest. It's over. All the promises they made, all the tender words spoken of the future, all of it was nothing. Who were they trying to kid anyway? It was over the moment it started.
"I'm sorry," she apologizes, "I know this hurts but it's the truth. I don't love you anymore."
He doesn't say anything because there's a lump in his throat that, for once, isn't slime. Whether they choose to accept it or not, all of them are broken inside. They are damaged goods and he knew it was just a matter of time before they started breaking each other. So it comes as no shock to him that she should be the one to do the damage and he should be the hapless victim. She is, after all, incredibly good at destroying things and he's a master at getting broken by other people. This was bound to happen sooner rather than later.
"I get it," he says, feeling his heart hardening as it's done so many times before. There is no new beginning to accompany this end. Sometimes things just end and there's nothing that happens afterwards.
He doesn't see her for at least a month. Then one night, there she is again. She doesn't say why she stopped showing up and he doesn't ask. They just pick up where they left off. She tells him she got caught up with work and he believes her. Then she tells him that she's met someone, or rather that maybe she's just noticed someone for the first time. His name is Simon and he's quite handsome and charming if Todd's memory of news footage is correct. He can see the signs though. It won't last because she's too broken to ever completely recover from it and be fully normal. Maybe he's just fooling himself though. Maybe, just maybe, he wants it to end badly. Playing the knight doesn't work if the damsel isn't in distress and in need of rescue. It's not his place anymore though. It's not his business what she does with her life. So why does he wish it otherwise?
"He seems like an okay guy," he admits.
"I think I love him," she tells him, "I dunno. Things are complicated." Her life has always been complicated. Few people really understand that aside from him. He knows because he's the one who helped make it complicated, or at least he feels like he is. He wishes things had turned out differently between them. He wishes he didn't hurt her while trying to help her.
"I hate myself." She says it because it's true. Ever since the asylum, she's always had issues concerning abandonment. She hates herself because obviously something is wrong with her. It's why no one wants anything to do with her and in turn she doesn't want anything to do with anyone. It's strange how time heals things, how it scabs over and scars up all your old wounds.
"Why?" he asks though at this point he shouldn't even have to. She buries her face into the crook of his arm and he lets his fingers drift through the short tufts of her hair.
"Why wouldn't I?" she questions him in return, "Everybody else does."
"I'm not everybody else," he reminds her.
"Thanks," she tells him and both of them know she means every word of it. This is one of their good moments, moments that are sporadic but are treasured by both of them nonetheless. It's moments like this that make all the arguments worth it. It's moments like this that let them remember why they love each other. It's an easy thing to forget in the world they live in, in a world that refuses to leave them alone and let them be.
It's almost New Year's Eve before he sees her again. At this point, he was starting to lose hope of ever seeing her at all. He had resigned himself to watching her run off with her new boyfriend while he stood rotting behind this God-forsaken bar for the rest of his life. Yet here she is on a cold, snowy night in December wearing one of her old coats and sitting at the bar once again.
"Things with Simon didn't work out," she tells him. It's the only explanation she gives him and for some reason this infuriates him. He's sick of seeing her and he's sick of feeling that gnawing ache in his heart every time he wants to see her and doesn't. He's sick of not knowing, sick of burning out, sick of life.
"Why do you keep coming here?" he asks her, "Why do you keep haunting me?"
"Because I don't know what else to do," she admits, her gaze forlorn as she stares at him. All the fame and adulation can't buy her happiness. All the fame and adulation can't help her the way he could once, the way he probably could again. She's scared though. It's the old problem of letting people in. It only serves as a chance for them to hurt you more when they eventually leave you. She knows it's irrational and that it's a terrible way to live your life. She's used to saving everyone's lives but when it comes to her own life, Wanda Maximoff is miserable and doesn't particularly give a damn about trying to change that fact. So why does she keep needing to see him?
"We either are or we aren't," states Todd. He feels like he used to feel when he was younger, when they were in love. Was it really love or were they too young and stupid to understand the concept? Was it really love or were they just too broken to really know what love was?
They stare at each other for a few moments, both of them trying to read the other's intentions. Life has an odd habit of moving in circles. Everything that was old becomes new again and sooner or later all of us return to where we once were. Both of them have been waiting patiently for the stars to align again, for the rotations of their lives to intersect one more time. They threw away their chance at happiness and that window is getting smaller and smaller with each passing day. Everything moves in circles.
"We are," she finally says before leaning forward and kissing him. It feels good, feels just like it used to. The circle is complete and neither of them could be any happier than they are at this point.
"How long do you think this can last?" She asks the question because sooner or later everything good in her life comes crashing down around her in flames. She wants to prepare herself for it this time so that this time she doesn't get broken like she did so many years ago. The world is a harsh place and you have to brace yourself for rejection and scorn. She's never been this vulnerable before though.
"Forever," he replies with a smile that lets her know he means it with all his heart. He knows she doesn't believe him. He wants to prove her wrong though because, honestly, this is the best thing he's ever had in his entire life. He never wants to give her up, not to anything or anyone. He never wants to lose this feeling so he does something stupid. He makes her a promise he knows he can't keep. This is going to end eventually and both of them know it.
"You promise?" she asks and she knows she's setting herself up for a fall. She knows that if she goes down this road, there will only be rejection at the end of it. She doesn't care though. Her life has always been about chance and risk. She feels like she's taking the biggest risk of her life in opening her heart to him.
"I promise," he tells her and with those two words, he seals both of their fates.
"It's forever," she tells him as they lie together in the darkness of his shabby apartment, "The two of us . . . it's forever." She says it because it's true, because after years of getting herself together she's finally ready for someone like him. It took a while for it to happen but it was always bound to happen again sooner or later. Life moves in circles and everything comes back around if you wait long enough.
"You promise?" he asks her, knowing that he's been down this road too many times to not be cautious about the disaster that could await him at the end.
"I promise," she tells him before burrowing her face into the crook of his arm like she did years ago. He doesn't say anything. He just lets his fingers lazily weave circles in the curls of her hair until both of them fall asleep in each other's arms.