“You can go home, Hill.”
Maria looked up to see Director Fury standing over her. She hadn’t even noticed him approach, and she wasn’t sure if that was because she was so tired, or because he could be surprisingly graceful when he wanted to be. She blinked up at him through a fuzzy haze, the figures on the papers on her desk still running in front of her eyes.
“I’m fine, sir,” she said eventually.
“I know, but I’m going to need you fine for a while yet. So I suggest you go home and get some shut-eye.”
Maria only argued with Director Fury when he was wrong, so she just shrugged and put down her pen. “I’ll see you in the morning, sir.”
“Not too early, Hill, I don’t want to see you till ten o’clock, at the earliest.”
“Then come in at 10:01, sir,” Maria answered as she got to her feet. She smiled at Fury, and beneath his eye-patch he was smiling too. Maria grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair and headed for the door, wondering if Fury was even going to leave the office tonight. If this had been a year ago, or even six months, she probably would have insisted on staying with him. But now Maria had something more important to think about.
She got out onto the street and took a breath of the cool, late-night air. She always liked the city at night; less people, less traffic, less wandering tourists, it was almost peaceful, with just the orange glow of the streetlights and the soft drizzle of the autumn rain. Maria decided to walk home.
She only lived a couple of streets away, in a sleek, modern building with a doorman who knew the name of every tenant in the building. He especially liked Maria though, because he was from Vietnam and she had gone backpacking around Asia one summer in college. She had been back once or twice since, but there hadn’t been much time for sight-seeing on her work trips, and it was the college experience that she really remembered.
“Ms. Maria,” the doorman looked up as she came in and offered her a broad, toothy grin.
“Evening, Binh,” Maria answered.
“Oh no, it’s after midnight, Ms. Maria, it’s morning now,” Binh answered.
“Is it?” Maria asked, glancing at her watch. Then she looked at her phone, but no one had called.
“You have a good night, Ms. Maria.”
“Yeah, you too, Binh.”
Maria took the stairs up to her apartment. It was only six floors and it was a good way to stay in shape. So she jogged up the stairs and even before she opened the door she could hear the sound of late-night tv filtering out.
Kathy was sprawled across the couch, a half-eaten bowl of popcorn balanced on her stomach. She was watching the tv, but when she heard the door opening she twisted around to look behind her. “You’re home,” she exclaimed, and she smiled a wide smile that showed off the little gap between her front teeth.
“I didn’t realise how late it had gotten,” Maria said as she kicked off her shoes.
“Pshh, did I say a word?” Kathy asked. “I got caught in surgery anyway, I only got home half an hour ago.”
“You been saving lives again?” Maria asked, coming to stand over Kathy.
“You’d better believe it.” Kathy reached up to grab Maria’s collar and pulled her down to kiss her. “How was your day?” she asked when she released her.
Maria shrugged. “Too much paperwork.”
“You going to stay up with me?” Kathy asked. “Star Trek’s going to start in a couple of minutes.”
“Obviously,” Kathy gave her a glance. “Is there any other?”
“Well then I guess I have to stay up,” Maria answered.
Kathy shifted so that Maria could sit on the sofa with her before dropping her head into Maria’s lap, and they watched Star Trek and ate popcorn and when Kathy fell asleep, Maria fell asleep too, because it was nicer being on the couch together than in being in their bed alone.