Now that she’s alone with her fiance once more, she heaves a tired sigh and drops her face into her free hand. The other hand is still wrapped around Natasha’s, holding on like some kind of life-line. She’s so drained, so exhausted. She doesn’t know what to do, or say, or even think, that she hasn’t already in the past two days. Maria is sick of repeating herself, repeating her thoughts. Frankly, she’s sick of everything. And the fear the bubbles just beneath the surface, the cold, endless pit of fear that threatens to overwhelm her.
She can’t see her life without Natasha, even though she had convinced herself long ago that she could accept the eventuality. It was a lie, a way to delude herself into thinking they’d always be okay. This is the worst Natasha has been injured, and it’s the worst kind. She’s not sure she’ll ever have Natasha back, or that she’ll ever have her Natasha back. There’s still so much that could go wrong, the risk of losing the woman who proposed to her only a few days ago is so real, so raw, that it feels like it’s choking Maria. She feels like she’s drowning.
“Tasha—” She hates how her voice breaks, how despondent and fearful she sounds. “Please come back to me. I don’t care how, I don’t care why, but I cannot do this without you. I can’t lose you, not now, not ever. It doesn’t matter how, it doesn’t matter in what shape you come back, just come back. Please.” She knows Natasha can’t hear her, she knows that nothing she says, or even does, will effect the outcome. Maria Hill is completely helpless, and it’s not the first time she’s felt this level of helplessness, but it’s a rare occurrence. Usually, there is something. Here, she’s just useless. The only thing she can do is sit and wait, hope and beg whatever deity will listen. Natasha is dying, and she can’t save the woman she loves more than life. She’d cry, if she had any tears left in her. But she can’t, she’s too worn out, so she just sits there, face buried in one hand.
She’s not sure how long she sits there like that, her hand wrapped around Natasha’s limp one. The sounds of the machines start to drown out any thoughts, and she starts to focus on just holding Natasha’s hand. It’s at least long enough for her neck to cramp up, and she actually has to raise her head and crack her neck. Nothing has changed around her, her fiance is still prone, still lifeless and still. She knows it’s useless to hope, useless to expect something to change in the short time she’s been sitting in the chair next to Natasha’s bed. So she stares at Natasha’s chest, trying to find comfort in the fact that it still rises and falls with breath. She tries to force the voice in her mind away, the one that starts up a litany of how Tasha’s not breathing on her own, the voice that tries to bring Maria’s doubts to the surface. Maria forcibly pushes that voice away and focus on the fact that her fiance is here, that her fiance is still alive. That’s all she needs to focus on.
“Nat.” She breathes softly, taking her free hand and placing it against Natasha’s cheek. Her skin is still so cold, it bothers Maria. She wants to take Natasha and hold her, warm her up. Maria finds herself just gently stroking Natasha’s cheek, running her calloused fingers against her fiance’s smooth skin. “You’ll be okay, right? You’re too strong, too stubborn, to give up. You’ll make it through this. We both will.” Maria blinks away the tears that are starting to form. She supposes she was wrong when she thought she had no more tears to cry, but she’s not about to break down here, where other people can see her. Not yet, anyway.
The hand wrapped around Natasha’s shifts slightly, so that Maria can twine her fingers between Natasha’s limp ones. The lack of reaction, while expected, is no less disappointing. Even in sleep, Natasha reacted to that. No reaction, nothing, and it tears at Maria’s heart. She closes her eyes, nothing about this entire situation is acceptable. Maria feels like she has been torn to shreds and scattered across the floor. Nothing about Natasha’s current state, or the room is characteristic of her fiance, feels right. She feels like the room is leeching everything from Natasha that makes her fiance who she is. The smells of the room; the clinical and sharp scent of the hospital, the stillness, the sounds. She feels like she has already lost Natasha.
“I figured you wanted to surprise everyone with the news of our engagement, but you had to go and get shot. Steve noticed the ring, I’m sure everyone knows now. I guess it’s like SHIELD, it wasn’t something we were going to be able to hide for long.” Talking is good, right? Talking to her fiance might help, and she feels like she vaguely remembers something about talking to people in comas. She hopes she’s remembering that right. “I don’t have restraint when it comes to you, I guess. I killed the asshole who did this, and I don’t feel an ounce of regret. He was scum, and he did this. Phil’s not even mad, or, he doesn’t seem to be. He just seems scared, like the rest of us. We’re all terrified, Tash. You keep everyone connected, you know that? You keep that dysfunctional team sane, and I don’t know what they’ll do without you. I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” Her fingers still touch the side of Natasha’s face, but there’s no change in anything when Maria opens her eyes.
“O’Reilly got fired. Coulson had about enough of his comments, he was really ranting about you getting shot. I might’ve broken his nose. Actually, I did. I felt his nose give under my fist. Bastard deserved that. Our apartment is empty without you, you know. You may be small, but damn do you take up space with your presence. I’ve seen you command Captain America, and he’s easily a foot taller.” The world is more dull without Natasha, like Maria’s world has lost color.
“I can’t do this without you, Nat. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. All I ask is that you pull through this.” Her voice is starting to go hoarse with emotion, and Maria can’t deal with the broken sound of her own voice. She heaves in a deep sigh, she feels so tired. She’s just so tired and worn and sick of feeling like she’s falling apart.