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My Mirror Speaks

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It takes her several moments to recognize the hands. She hasn’t lifted her head, mainly because she can guess at what he face looks like. There is blood welling up where Maria scratched herself, but she can’t bring herself to care. Still, it takes more than a few minutes to recognize the overly large and calloused hands as belonging to Steve. She’s a goddamn wreck, but she’s glad it’s only the people close to Natasha, and her, that are seeing her like this. She can’t even begin to voice how grateful she is for that fact. There’s a persona Maria Hill needs to maintain, and it’s crumbling around her. But she’s safe in the Tower, safe around friends, if not family.

Steve doesn’t speak, he seems to be waiting for her to make the first move. She’s bleeding on him, though, and she’s pretty sure bleeding on Captain America is against every law written. A small snort of laughter escapes before she can stop herself. Steve’s hands tighten around hers, and she bleeds on him more. She laughs again, she can’t help it.

“Maria, are you okay?” Does she look okay? Probably not. Can she get away with lying? Definitely not. Still, she tries to pull her hands back, but matching strength against Steve even on a good day is a hopeless cause.

“I’m bleeding on Captain America.” She laughs again, at the absurdity of it. One of Steve’s hands lets go to grip her chin, forcing Maria to look at him. “No, I’m not okay, Steve. I won’t be for a while. But I think I’ve gotten what I had to out of my system.” She can still hear the gunshot echo, and if she looks at her own hands sideways, can see the blood. But she knows that those weren’t the real memories. Still, she attempts a reassuring smile. She’s doing what she, and Natasha, have always done best. Bury their feelings under layers of mental concrete. Besides, she had a good cry. And she had her mental break. It’s all par for the course, this kind of grieving. It’s not her first time through this.

“You’re not the first dame to bleed on me.” Steve says, matching her smile and letting out a reassured huff. “And I think Nat has you beat on the whole bleeding on Captain America thing.” Maria huffs a laugh and pulls her hand away, finally. The mention of Natasha is painful, but her fiance is not dead. There’s no mourning to be had, just grief.

“I’m sure she does.” Maria says softly, pulling in a deep breath. She needs to pull herself together. And she knows she can, at least a little. Maria needs to be strong for her fiance, strong to face whatever comes out of this.

“Let’s get those arms taken care of, yeah?” Maria shakes her head.

“They’re only minor scratches, I can cover them with band-aids in my apartment.” Mostly, she wants a shower and a change of clothes. And then to go see Natasha. There’s been no word, and that both worries and reassures Maria. Still, Steve gives her a concerned look. She quirks an eyebrow, but accepts the hand to help her to her feet. And then they stand there in awkward silence for several minutes. Finally, Steve ducks his head and shuffles over to one of the punching bags. She stands there a few moments longer to watch Steve, before turning to head back to her apartment.

“Thanks.” She calls back to Steve as she pops out her earbuds. She can almost picture the baffled look on his face, and when she turns, she’s greeted with just that.

“For what?” He asks and she offers him a sad smile.

“For not offering sympathetic bullshit or meaningless platitudes.” She answers, the smile turning into a smirk. He blinks slowly at her before it dawns on him and he nods, understanding.

“I know how unwanted those things are.” He says softly, and it’s Maria’s turn to nod. And then she’s turning and heading back to the elevator. The emotional roller coaster of the past twenty-four hours is definitely taking its toll, and she’s rather sick of her emotions cycling far too swiftly. She knows why her emotions are acting like this, but she doesn’t have to be happy about it.

When she reaches the apartment, phone and mp3 player are tossed on the table as she heads straight for their bedroom. She has clothes and is in the shower in record time, she still has a hard time looking at the bed. Now that her mind is clear, she starts to really think about Bruce’s words. They don’t know anything. At least, anything relating to the damage. It’s not even potential damage, Bruce sounded so sure about there being damage. That scares Maria the most, not knowing. As she showers, she tries to be realistic with herself. Part of her firmly wants to believe this isn’t career ending for her fiance, but she knows that it is. SHIELD’s not going to let her be a field agent with any sort of brain damage. And with how severe Bruce was hinting at, Phil wouldn’t take that chance. And the Avengers won’t let her run field missions, like Phil, they wouldn’t want to run the risk of actually losing her. Because that’s what Maria knows it boils down to. Concern for Natasha. It should warm her, she thinks, but it only leaves her feeling cold and empty.

“I’d give anything to make that bastard suffer.” She’s alone, in her shower, and she shouts it to the walls. She’s scared that Natasha won’t be Natasha when she wakes up. If she wakes up. But what scares her more is that Natasha will be her Natasha, but trapped in a body that won’t be able to keep up with the redhead. That’s the fear that kept Natasha awake, the fear that she voiced after every close call, after every trip to medical. The fear she only shared with Maria. And as soon as the anger comes, it leaves. Maria sags against the shower wall and leans her head against it. She repeats the mantra that she has kept going through her head, that she needs to be strong for Natasha.

It takes her several minutes to force herself to finish the shower and climb out. She dries off and gets dressed and sags against the bathroom counter, wondering if she cares enough to do something with her hair. After only a few seconds of deliberation, she decides to put it up in a ponytail and leaves it at that. Then she covers the worst of the scratches in band-aids and stares at herself in the mirror.

Her car is still at HQ, and she doesn’t care enough to go get it. Nat’s car is in the garage, and she has driven that car often enough that it won’t be an issue. Though, when she goes to grab her laptop, she realizes that is also at HQ. If she’s going to sit by Natasha’s bedside, she might as well get work done. As much as she doesn’t want to go into SHIELD, she needs her things. All of her stuff is there, and she doesn’t want to rely on others to get her stuff. With a heavy sigh, she grabs Nat’s keys and heads down to the garage.