WHO: Ava, Diego and a guest appearance by Klaus WHEN: March 18th WHERE: Klaus's room WHAT: Klaus's plans to get these two talking kinda backfires. WARNINGS: Talk of death. (There's always talk of death, dammit.) Emotions. Language.
Klaus was regretting the pain in his hand that he’d done just to prove a point and actually be hurt before Diego showed up because he didn’t want Diego to actually punch him. He figured if his hand was actually cut, then he’d be fine. Only he was definitely regretting it as he stood there with Diego and Ava staring at him and a towel wrapped around his hand. “Well, I guess I better go get my hand looked at by the robo doctors. I’m sure you both have a lot to talk about. Okay. Well, I’m gonna go...Diego, she has something to tell you. She already told me, but I think she should tell you herself...so I’m gonna let her do that.”
He moved toward the door, looking back and forth between them. “Okay, bye!” And like that, he slipped out of the door, letting it shut and lock behind him. He was probably so dead.
Diego arched his scarred brow and watched as Klaus left, jaw hanging open. His brother had concocted some bizarre schemes over the years but this was the first one that left him alone with a woman in his brother's room.
A woman who had something to tell him, apparently. He finally pried his eyes away from the door and turned his attention to Ava, half wanting to comment on his brother's behavior but upon looking at her, he kept quiet. She did have something to say then. And suddenly, he had no idea what to expect, other than a sinking feeling in his stomach that suggested maybe he should avoid this all together, and leave now. Leave before he was more invested, leave before he had to tell her how he felt when he hadn't quite allowed himself to work that out yet. Leave.
Yet he didn't move toward the door.
"So…?" he prompted, with no idea what the hell he was in for.
Ava remained quietly confused, a bit tense as she tried to figure out what was going on. Because clearly this was a set up of some sort, but between the lack of waffles that were promised, Klaus’ bleeding hand, and Diego, none of it added up until Klaus’ parting words.
And oh, there was no way to pretend she didn’t know exactly what was meant by that. “Fuck,” Ava sighed, expression going from mildly annoyed to guilty. She knew she had to tell him at some point, but she hadn’t felt ready now, had kept coming up with excuses every time that they’d spent together, even though it’d been gnawing at her. “Fuck,” she repeated, turning her back on Diego briefly to assess the room. “Fuck.”
She had to figure this out quickly, trying to remember how Bill had first broke the news to her that she had a matter of weeks left. At most. She breathed out, hands clenching and unclenching. “Maybe you should sit,” she offered, trying to keep her tone calm.
"Maybe," Diego agreed, but he wasn't one to sit passively and wait for bad news. And whatever this was, it was bad. "Look, if… whatever we have? You don't want that anymore?" he offered. "Just say so and I'll leave." Because what else could it be? Why she'd told Klaus first, he had no idea. But whatever, he could deal. Maybe. It sucked. It sucked a lot. But there were things to punch and knives to throw and he could go escape if she'd just tell him. So he prompted her along waiting for that inevitable confirmation to come along, musing that they hadn't even lasted as long as him and Eudora. Damn.
“That’s not what…” Ava turned back, eyes wide and frantic, afraid he was already heading for the door. She hated the look on his face, that she put it there, and that instead of being able to say anything to make it better, things were going to get a lot worse when she told him the truth. “For god’s sake, no.” But then again, she worried that’d be the inevitable conclusion of this. Him realizing they didn’t really have much of a future together, cutting the losses short, leaving. But at least it was nice while it lasted. A nice distraction from the constant pain.
Ava sat instead when it was obvious he wasn’t going to take up the offer, staring down at her shoes. She hated feeling so cornered, but blaming Klaus wasn’t solving anything. “SHIELD never told me. Said they were working on a cure. You know, for the pain. Let me be solid again. Or at least help me control it,” she began, the edge of years of bitterness built up even as she tried to soften her tone. “Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they did and just didn’t care.” She shrugged, trying to downplay what she was about to say next. “But I started rapidly deteriorating in those years after. And at some point Bill… had to tell me that I had maybe a few weeks left to live. Before I disappeared completely.” She couldn’t bring herself to look up, already bracing herself for whatever reaction.
Okay good. He'd misread the situation. Or at least, it was good for approximately twenty seconds until she started explaining how very wrong he had been and how much worse the actual news was. For a moment, he just stood there in a stupor, his mouth half formed into a smile because he was waiting for her to tell him she was just fucking with him, none of it was true.
Even if he knew better. His brain simply wasn't allowing what she said to process correctly. No. No. No no no no no. Not this. Not after Patch. Not when even being there, in space, or in Texas, or just in a world that hadn't yet had the moon blow up was a gamble in and of itself and he had no idea if he was there to stay or not.
"You're lying," he said, knowing damn well she wasn't, but desperately needing her to tell him she was.
And then what had struck him the most.
Wouldn’t it be nice if she were lying. Even though that’d be a fucked up trick to pull, she’d prefer to take it all back if that meant none of it were true. “I wish I were,” she almost snapped, knowing his disbelief wasn’t so much an accusation as it was denial. Because she’d reacted the same way. Except her denial had quickly turned into desperation to save herself, sending her spiraling out of control. The shit she was trying to avoid now. She was too resigned to go through that twice.
“That was before…” all the shit with Pym and Van Dyne, weird snippets of stories she had shared with him, about her hatred of ants, about how Scott Lang’s daughter kept calling during her interrogation of them. “Van Dyne healed me. It wasn’t a cure, but it was enough to… buy me a few more years.” They had agreed to keep helping her, before the world went to shit and they were taken out along with half the population. Seemed like a cruel irony still, and had almost broken Ava’s will completely with her one chance taken away just as quickly. “I probably got one left, two if I’m… lucky.” She didn’t feel especially lucky, felt goddamn cursed every day of her life. “I don’t know, without Bill around I…” Ava bit her tongue, looked hopeless.
“Sorry, I told you I was fucked up,” she attempted an apologetic laugh, then winced at the hollowness of it.
That was a lot to process, and he couldn't. He stood there, staring down at her for a long time, not saying a word. Everything she'd told him repeating in his head as he rearranged the words and attempted to give them a different meaning, one less dire. One that didn't have her staring down a foregone conclusion that she'd vanish into nothing.
He had nothing.
Finally, when his brain couldn't even manage that any longer, he sat down next to Ava, still without a word, reaching for her and holding her as if he could somehow will her continued existence into being, so that he wouldn't even have to contend with what she was saying, with the horrific picture she'd just painted for him, with the idea of losing the second person he'd ever felt this way about.
He wanted to say something, felt like he should, but there simply weren't words for the moment.
Ava let out a breath she’d been holding through his silence, burying her face into Diego’s neck with a small whimper of relief that she tried to muffle. She hated being weak. And she hated this, how much more real it suddenly all felt, how it was impacting the one part of her life that didn’t absolutely suck, felt like a crack in the fragile happiness she’d been trying to hide away in. Apply a bit more pressure and she felt like it might shatter, and Ava trembled, blurring around the edges.
She hated how she was facing the inevitability of her death a second time through, with even less of a viable plan than before, and now dragging somebody else down despite having known better than getting involved. Because he didn’t need to say it for her to know that he cared, even if she didn’t quite know when things had transitioned or what he even considered them. Before she’d been convinced whatever this was wouldn’t outlast her. So what had it mattered?
“I’ve asked for help,” she tried to reassure Diego, even though she knew she still hadn’t gotten far in that process, and hadn't managed step two yet. She doubted there was much to be done, but bit her lip before she could voice that.
"Yeah?" he asked. "Here? Who?" And what and when and could they fix her, for real this time because no matter where he factored in, she shouldn't have to keep going through this. And definitely not alone, though apparently she'd told Klaus. Who'd arranged this. He was going to have to give his brother credit, even if it pained him to do so.
"Would you have told me?" he asked.
Ava nodded, not sure she wanted to elaborate too much when there wasn’t much information to give. Just a name of a woman who... well, was a brilliant scientist but wasn’t exactly an expert in that specific field. She was hesitant to get her hopes up after having them crushed so many times before, and even moreso into falsely leading Diego into thinking it was more than a slim chance. And not much could even be done in the present moment anyway. She didn’t want to get worked up and anxious about something she couldn’t even control, wanted to forget about it for awhile longer.
“Not at first,” she admitted quietly, “Didn’t think it’d end up mattering as...” Ava was still hesitant to call attention to the fact that she viewed this as more than just casual, at least from her end. “Figured it would be over long before then.” He hadn’t expressed much either way. And for never having been in any sort of relationship before, Ava felt clumsy in her reading of the situation. She hadn’t wanted to push, hadn’t wanted to add something like this into the mix and drag them both down. “My entire life has been... fucked by my affliction,” she frowned, because it was an understatement. “I guess I liked having an escape from it.”
Which felt horribly selfish, but being the one facing nonexistence, Ava felt she was allowed at least some relief from it. “But then I realized that I- how I felt. And. It’s...” Ava lifted her head, wanting to face him more directly now, wanting to be less of a coward. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Diego watched Ava's reactions, noted she didn't seem overly optimistic. Still, there was a possibility… "Good, because there's a chance. And aside from us, you deserve a fucking chance to just live your life."
He brought a hand to her face as she looked at him, ignoring the familiar thoughts that immediately came to mind, that he was going to fuck things up. (Probably.) That this was moving too fast. (For him, yes.) That he wasn't ready to deal with another relationship because he hadn't yet dealt with Eudora's death. (Ignore!) Because when he looked at her, he knew he came with baggage and emotional distancing issues and that he was wholly unprepared for an actual relationship, and labels were terrifying anyway, but he wanted to spend his time with her and didn't actually mind she was getting to know his family because that was integrating her into his life, which was suddenly lived in far closer contact with everyone really.
He just didn't know how to say that.
"I hope you don't expect me to know anymore than you," he told her.
Ava was doubtful how much she really deserved anymore, but she attempted a smile, because it was… a nice thought. And he was trying. “No,” she agreed, because honestly she hadn’t expected anything from him at all regarding this, hadn’t been able to figure out how to fit somebody else into her coping strategies, how to balance reassuring somebody else with her own slow descent into defeat. Especially now that her ability to ignore it all completely vanished with his knowing. Diego had been somewhat of a safe place for her, and she hated to lose it.
But she knew she couldn’t take it back and that he deserved to know, if he was to make whatever decisions that were right by him. “If this is too much… If you…” she couldn’t bring herself to suggest it outright, him leaving. Like he’d suggested right at the beginning of all this. “I’d understand.” She’d be upset, but she was used to being upset. She already knew how to live with being alone, how much less complicated it was. “You already have so much to worry about,” she looked away.
"Do I look like I'm going anywhere?" he asked her.
Ava laughed, which almost formed into a choked sob before she covered her mouth, her vision blurry. But she managed to recover quickly enough, shaking her head. “Bill wouldn’t leave either.” Except he had. Turned to dust, and she missed him so badly. Ava buried her face back into Diego’s neck and quietly cried, not sure how to handle anything she was feeling.
In spite of the conversation and the dark and foreboding reality that Ava faced, the truth of which he was just starting to realize, she caught him off guard. Diego hesitated a moment, before wrapping his arms around her, knowing that as uncomfortable as he was, he still wanted to be there.
He wondered if any of this should have been a surprise, if he should have known somehow, given Ava's condition, that time was against her. But he wasn't one to probe past the surface without reason. And really, time was against them all, wasn't it? He had only narrowly escaped the apocalypse, after all.
Fuck if he knew what to do with any of it, though. So he held her, silently, pushing back his own thoughts and emotions to deal with later. (Never.) It was just easier that way.
It’d been so much simpler when she had anger to hold onto, back when she could blindly blame and resent Dr. Pym, but she had burnt through all that years ago, and he was nowhere in this world to track down again and demand solutions. The more she cried, the worse she felt about every word she’d said leading up to this point, certain all of them were the wrong ones as her fears doubled down, warping the conversation wildly out of her favor. She’d been too selfish. Too apologetic. Too forward. Too dismissive. And that was nobody’s fault but her own. God she was such a mess, and she had no idea how she must look. She needed to pull herself together. Literally, as she faded in and out.
“All I wanted was waffles,” she knew it was stupid to complain about, in light of everything else, but she preferred when that was the extent of her problems.
Diego knew about anger, knew about bitterness. He carried them around like security blankets, clinging to them to avoid other emotions, like what he was experiencing now. So when she complained about not having waffles, he had to laugh, allowing the tension of the room to break some.
He pulled back and looked at her, that intermittent form in front of him a reminder of how fragile her life was, the reminder sharper than it had been yesterday. But he held steady, staring her down. (Or would be, if she'd look at him.)
"Ava, listen. We can get waffles," he told her. "We have time."
He wasn't trying to make light of the situation, only trying to remind her that they had time to find a solution. (And there needed to be a solution. He refused to believe otherwise.) And in the meantime, they could get waffles.
Her name was enough to pull Ava’s attention back, returning the staredown with a defiant glare of her own, though there wasn’t much energy behind it, entirely undercut by a final sniffle and then a pout. “I know,” she knew how quickly time slipped away too, if not used wisely, and how her estimates were probably more generous than the reality. She knew science wasn’t like in the movies, where things could just be developed overnight. It took extensive research and experiments where she’d have to subject herself to untested theoreticals that could just as easily do more harm than good, and… a lot of money and resources she didn’t have access to, especially not here. Ava wiped at her eyes with her sleeves, couldn’t remember the last time she bothered to cry over any of this, even in all the time she spent holed up alone. After a certain point it all just bled together with the rest of her pain, the sharp buzz constantly running through every nerve in her body. Better to ignore it as much as possible because it wasn’t going away.
“I…” Ava rested her hand gently on Diego’s thigh, thankful he was there, even if he admittedly had no solutions of his own. He wasn’t going to be the source of any cure, not for this, but at least he’d managed to make her feel something else for once, gave her reason to look forward to each tomorrow instead of letting the days all blur together, reminded her why she had fought so hard to stay alive before.
Her next words were difficult to figure out how to voice, even after everything else she confessed. But he knew the worst of it now, and she didn’t want to keep anything else secret from Diego. She didn’t want him to have to keep learning things the hard way, or have it gnawing away at her. She didn’t want to accidentally confess things to Klaus or anyone else first again. “Love you?” she hadn’t meant to make it sound like a question, but worry immediately took over as it left her mouth, wondering if she was dumping too much on him too quickly. But no, she refused to be ashamed of it, no matter how inept she felt to even handle this.
“I love you,” she repeated, a bit more firmly.
Waffles. Diego had channeled his brother for a moment and focused on waffles as the solution to all of life's ills, when Ava dropped her declaration. First as a question. (The answer was no. Right? Had to be no.) Then as a statement.
His eyes went wide and his jaw dropped and he stared at her for an amount of time he couldn't have measured that may have been a few seconds or maybe it was a year. Either way, time was cruel because he couldn't find the momentum to get up and leave, which is what he needed to do.
Diego didn't know love. Not outside his mother telling him she loved him and while he didn't doubt that, there were some questions in his mind as to what that even meant. Him and Patch? Patch, who had died all of a month before? Was that love? If it had been, maybe she would have been able to put up with him longer. He had affection toward Eudora, but even then saying it out loud, naming it, was an entirely different matter.
So he just continued staring. Until he realized he should speak. And the only word on his mind was what came out, only it was impossible to say.
"L-l-love?" he stammered out, inwardly cursing himself with far greater ease.
Something inside her stuttered as well, a weird coldness settling in the pit of her stomach that had been pooling as his silence stretched on. She hadn’t expected him to say it back, not after his reaction when she even said she liked him weeks before. That hadn’t bothered her much, she knew what it was like to push down emotions, keep them close to her chest. Except she had just put all her own cards on the table, and couldn’t take any of them back now. Because of him, always pushing her to be more open and honest with him than she was used to, defying her own nature to lie and evade any prodding into her personal life. This whole situation was arranged to make her divulge one of her most sensitive secrets, face it because it was fair to him and it seemed the right thing to do. Because she loved him. And fuck her if she was ready or not to face the fallout.
She wasn’t sure what it said about her complete misinterpretation of what they had between them that he seemed more bothered by this than the fact she was on the brink of disappearing. Ava felt twisted and strained, not sure whether to turn her anger on herself for being so stupid to allow herself to fall into a situation she had always known would backfire on her, because the last time she loved it led her straight into an explosion that destroyed her life. Or to turn it on him, because fuck him, except Ava had absolutely no standards to even hold him to. Never really felt like he owed her anything. Just him being there, and she was too afraid to lose him.
Except for how much she hated herself in that moment, she was still clinging onto that feeling that brought her this far. She loved him, and Ava took several attempts to grab at his hand as her own trembled. “Hey,” she tried to say gently, soothingly, trying to calm herself as well. “It’s okay,” she knew it was a generic, probably empty statement. Nothing felt okay. She didn’t know how she could even make it okay. But. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, for all of it.
"O-oh?" Picture the word, Diego. "Okay?" He stared at her another moment, but now there was more clarity in what he was saying. He pulled his hand back from her, wishing that he knew what to do to be reassuring somehow except he didn't know what he was doing at all, only that he needed some space, some distance. Just not enough distance that he needed to leave, maybe. Not yet.
"I don't... You can't... It's been..."
He looked at her, more emotions that he could even count flooding through him which was horrific and he had no coping skills for moments like this, which he had displayed time and time again. For her sake though, he was determined to not resort to anger, but he couldn't even navigate the rest of them, even though he was trying, pacing back and forth in the limited space granted them in Klaus's room.
"You need to know something," he settled on finally.
She looked at her empty hand, then back and forth as Diego paced, trying to understand what was going wrong, where she messed up so badly. But she kept her mouth shut, her teeth sharp on her tongue, no longer trusting herself to say anything at all.
Ava nodded, to show she was listening, despite the trouble as she was having focusing. It was her turn to hear him out. She could do that. Even if her mind was ready to assume the worst.
"My girlfriend. Ex. Ex-girlfriend. Just died. Like a month ago. Then the world blew up a few days later and then suddenly I was here, and I met you and that was what? Three weeks ago?" He'd admittedly lost track of time in this place that didn't even seem real at times.
His thoughts were far from complete, but they were now flying fast and furious from his mouth.
"And now we're in space. And the only person who ever told me they loved me before was my mom. Who's a robot. Was a robot. She died too. When Vanya blew up the manor. I watched her smiling and waving goodbye at me." Which was unnerving, really. "Anyway what did that even mean?"
He stopped again and looked at her. "How do you even know?" he asked, but it was less of an accusation and more of a pained question. "Ava..."
A pause. "I'm not ready... for this."
He wanted to say something reassuring, that he just needed time, or something. Whatever you were meant to say when someone you cared deeply about told you they loved you and you reacted as poorly as you possibly could because you had no understanding of your own emotions.
But he wasn't about to lie to her, either.
She couldn’t exactly be mad at him. That was an awful lot to go through all at once and she sympathized, really. But she couldn’t properly express any of it, he’d already pulled away, and everything was unravelling faster than she could keep up with, completely thrown by the mention of an ex-girlfriend. Dying. She always figured he probably had a history, but hadn’t wanted to go digging for it, because she told herself none of that should have mattered.
Apparently it mattered a lot. She opened her mouth to defend herself, her feelings that she’d been so sure of just moments before, hadn’t been prepared to have to justify them. But she couldn’t find the will to talk anymore, already felt too exposed. Maybe he was right. Maybe she knew nothing of love, realizing how stupid she must have looked to somebody that had it and lost it while she threw the word around like some clueless teenager. And Ava laughed at his final statement, looking away, because the world was some horrible fucking cosmic joke, even when she wasn’t even stuck on it. None of this was ever meant to be for her.
“Right,” she agreed, voice flat in defeat. Because what else could she even do? He clearly didn’t want her comfort, or her, apparently. She couldn’t make him be ready. She couldn’t change his mind. She couldn’t figure out why she was even here, then, other than to spill every vulnerability like a goddamn fool. This had been so, so much worse than just being alone.
She stood stiffly, disappearing for several seconds, only partially visible as she fumbled with the door to get it open, mad she couldn’t just phase through it. “I’m busy,” she growled out, not even looking back as she slammed it behind her.
He could have chased after her. That probably would have been better. But Diego stood, rooted in place now, watching Ava disappear, the irony not lost on him. And even as twisted as he felt inside, as if someone had taken one of his knives and used it against him, he wasn't ready to deal with that yet. He had time.
He stood there another moment before he pulled out his phone to text a single word at Klaus. » Asshole.
And then finally he left the room to head back to his, hoping to find it unoccupied.