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Why Did You Save Me?

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“I opened the Darkhold,” Wanda says, “and I have to be the one to close it.”

Stephen shakes his head. “We can close it together.” Because if they do it together, they can look after each other. Nobody else has to get hurt.

Wanda just shakes her head. “No,” she says, “we can’t.”

“Wanda…”

She smiles sadly. “Goodbye, Stephen.”

The building begins to shift, the support beams cracking under the weight of Wanda’s power. Debris fall from the ceiling, cascading down around them in waves of dirt and dust. The realization hits him like a punch to the gut. The whole building is going to fall apart, and they’re right in the middle of it.

“Wanda!” Stephen yells. “What are you doing?”

“What I have to.” Her voice is quiet, calm, a stark difference from the panic in his.

“It doesn’t have to happen like this,” Stephen says. “Wait for me. We can fix this together.”

“No, Stephen.” She slowly raises her hands, hovering just in front of her chest. A scarlet ball of pure energy forms between her black-tinged fingers. “We can’t.” She shoots a hand out, and Stephen finds himself flying backward, out of the Darkhold and flat on his back on the snow-covered ground.

Stephen scrambles to his feet, balling his hands into fists by his side. He’s going to get Wanda out of there if it kills them both. (He’s only saying that because he’s fairly certain he can’t actually die while dreamwalking in an already-dead body.) He doesn’t care if he has to drag her out kicking and screaming. He’s getting her out.

“Stephen!” Wong hisses. “What are you doing?”

“We’ve lost too many people,” Stephen says. “We’re not losing her, too.”

Wong scoffs. “We lost so many people because of her!”

“We all make mistakes,” Stephen says. Hers are worse than most, but his glass house is a bit too fragile to be throwing stones.

It hardly matters. The doorway collapses in on itself, and the rest of the Darkhold follows shortly thereafter. There’s nothing he can do about it now, so, with a sign, he lets his consciousness return to the other dimension, his zombified body collapsing to the ground in his wake.

Now there’s nothing left to do but wait.

~~~

Wanda’s warm.

It’s a weird feeling. She’d grown so used to the cold air of Wundagore Mountain. Her magic kept her warm enough; she’d hardly noticed by the end. But she notices now that it’s gone. She notices now that she's comfortable.

She opens her eyes, gaze scanning the dark brown ceiling above her head. She begins to sit up, but the tugging on her hands stops her. She cranes her neck to look around.

The first thing she notices is that she's been chained down to a bed. It only takes a few seconds and a bit of magic to fix that. She sits up, propping herself up with one hand behind her. The other goes to her face, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"Yeah, I didn't really think those would work."

Wanda knows before she looks that the voice belongs to none other than Stephen Strange. She feels herself deflate at the sight. He looks mostly unbothered from his seat by the door, a book in his lap that he's just closed to give her his full attention.

This wasn't supposed to happen.

Stephen puts his book on the floor by his chair, his gaze never leaving Wanda's face. His tone is light, conversational, though his body language says otherwise. "How are you feeling?"

Wanda narrows her eyes. She doesn't trust this for a second. "Where am I?" she asks, her voice tinged with hints of her nearly-forgotten Sokovian accent.

"New York," Stephen says. "And please don't destroy my Sanctum. It's going to be enough work rebuilding Kamar Taj. I don't think a second reconstruction effort is in the budget."

Oh, god.

She'd nearly forgotten about that in the whirlwind of a day they'd had. She hurt — she killed — so many people. Innocent people. And for what? To steal her kids from somebody else? From their real mother? Who wins in that situation? Certainly not her. Not them, either.

Her boys think she's a monster.

And they're right.

"Why did you bring me here?" Wanda asks.

"Well, I was going to bring you to the hospital," Stephen says, "but it's typically frowned upon to chain your unconscious patients to the bed, so…" He gestures vaguely as if to say, so here we are. It's a lighthearted remark, but she's not in the mood for niceties.

"I told you to leave me be," she says. "I told you I had to close the Darkhold. So why did you bring me here?" Her voice grows more hostile as she speaks, but she remains calm, composed.

"And I told you to wait for me," Stephen reminds her. "We could have done it together."

"It wasn't your responsibility," she says. "I opened the Darkhold, and I had to close it."

"You did close it," Stephen says. "And it nearly killed you."

"That was the plan."

Stephen's brows shoot up. "What?"

Wanda swings her legs over the edge of the bed to face him. "I have lost everything," she says, her voice low so it won't crack under the weight of her grief. "My parents, brother, my love, and now my children. And I can never have any of that back." She shakes her head helplessly, her shoulder rising in a small, uncertain shrug. "So why am I still here?"

Stephen sighs and pushes himself to his feet. "Wanda…" He sits down on the bed next to her, and she slides a few inches away from him. "I'm sorry," he says. "You've been through a lot, and I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do, but you can't change the past. You just have to keep going forward."

"And what if I don't want to go forward?" Wanda asks. "What if I don't want to live without my boys? What then?"

Stephen shakes his head. "I don't know," he admits. "What do you want to do now?"

"I want this to be over," she says. "It was supposed to be over. I destroyed the Darkhold thinking it would destroy me." She looks up at him, her eyes filled with tears that threaten to spill over at any moment. "Why didn't you let it?"

Stephen gives her a small smile. "Friends don't let friends sacrifice themselves like that." He already lost Tony Stark to that heroic self-sacrificial instinct all the Avengers seem to share. He wasn't going to let that happen again.

"But I wanted to," she insists. "I wanted it to be over. Why wouldn't you let it?"

"Because…" Stephen reaches over and takes Wanda's hand in his own. "Friends don't let friends sacrifice themselves."

"Stephen…"

"I don't know what's happened to you," he says. "But I do know that you used to be a good person. And I want to think that behind the grief, you still are." He gives her hand a gentle squeeze. "The world needs its Scarlet Witch."

Wanda's lips twitch upwards in a wry smile. "Is this part of your plan to get me back on a lunchbox?"

Stephen huffs a quiet laugh. "Consider that a bonus."

For the briefest moment, Wanda feels… okay. She's not alone anymore. For the first time in months, she's not alone. And it's a wonderful feeling; one she wishes she could hold onto forever.

But reality sinks in, and her smile slowly disappears. "So what happens to me now?" He has to have plans. He's a smart man. He won't just let her roam free. Not after everything she's done. Not with America still out there somewhere.

"I don't know," Stephen admits. "Do you like pizza? I'm thinking pizza."

Wanda raises her brows. "That's it?" she asks. "We're just going to move on?"

"Of course not," Stephen says. "We're not just going to forgive and forget. But there's not really anything we can do about it now and it's getting to be dinner time and you've been in a coma all day, so yeah, I think pizza's in order." He lets go of her hand and stands up. "What kind of pizza do you like? Cheese? Pepperoni? Don't you dare say pineapple."

Wanda cracks a smile and stands up with him. "I don't know," she says. "Surprise me."

"Gladly."