Maria holds on to Natasha, watching her face, watching her breathe. Because that’s all she can do, is watch. Natasha’s unconscious, limp in her arms. Maria thinks that’s probably not the best thing, but she’s so relieved that her fiance is alive that everything else is in the back of her mind. She’s afraid to touch Natasha’s head, afraid she’ll hurt the other woman more, or do something that might screw up the redhead’s chances. There’s blood all over Maria now, but she can’t bring herself to be bothered. Maria’s gaze drifts to the side of Natasha’s head, where the damage is. The blood mixes with her hair, matting it and darkening her normal shade of red. The wind kicks up around them and Maria forces herself to look up. There’s a helicopter landing nearby, and she knows that means the medical team is there. She doesn’t want to let go of Natasha, logic is creeping back in and she knows just how slim Natasha’s chances are with a bullet in her brain. She realizes this might be the last time she even sees Natasha alive. Bending over, she presses her lips to Natasha’s forehead. Even as she hears boots running towards them.
“Be strong. Please.” She whispers in Russian while her face is still close to Natasha’s. Then she lets her fiance be taken from her, while she’s left kneeling in the pool of Natasha’s blood. She can’t bear to look up, or watch the medics work. She feels a hand on her shoulder, but she doesn’t look up. Because she doesn’t want to see, she already knows that the image of Natasha with a hole blown in her skull won’t leave her. Ever. She only dares to look up once she’s heard the helicopter take off, and she finds that the hand she felt belongs to Coulson. He hasn’t removed his hand, and she looks at him. He looks angry, at first, but his expression softens when her eyes meet his. Like he can’t stay angry. Maria finds that she’s numb again, but a different numbness than before. Like her emotions are stunted, and all she can feel is fear. Fear for Natasha. She feels like she’s made of glass, and any blow would shatter her into a million pieces. She’s not used to feeling delicate. But that is how she feels now. Broken and delicate. Compromised. Her gaze drops from Coulson’s face, she’s not sure she wants him to see her face at these realizations. And she can’t bring herself to hide behind the mask she usually wears.
“What hospital are they taking her to?” She asks softly, and winces at how broken her voice sounds. But she can’t bring herself to try those words again, because she didn’t want to utter them in the first place. The hand on her shoulder tightens before Coulson drops to her level.
“Mount Sinai. They just called ahead, there will be a team waiting for her.” He says, and Maria lifts her head. It’s a good hospital, she knows that. But she misses the days when SHIELD had their own medical facilities. Where she knew the name of each department head. She doesn’t know who will be working on Natasha, and the idea scares her. She doesn’t even know if they’re equipped to handle a meta-human of Natasha’s level. But she trusts Phil Coulson. She trusts him with her own life. And above all, she trusts him with Natasha’s life. He wouldn’t jeopardize Natasha’s life, he wouldn’t take chances. She knows that, and a fraction of a smile flits briefly across her face as she looks him in the eye. She heaves in a breath and pulls herself to her feet. She’s torn, she knows she’ll have to meet with Coulson. Answer for killing Natasha’s shooter. Debrief and close down the mission, handle her team. There’s a job to do. But she also needs to be by Natasha’s side, even if that means a hospital waiting room. She frowns at Coulson, who has stood with her.
“The building is clear of all hostiles. The threat has been neutralized and the hostages are safe.” Coulson answers before she can ask, and another smile flickers across her face. “But you and I need to have a talk. Which we will have on the way to the hospital. Barton’s taken control of your team as well as his own, and he’ll clean up here before meeting us at the hospital. I’m sure the rest of the Avengers will join us as well.” She hears the hidden statement in his words. Barton has likely already contacted the rest of their small circle, she knows the archer too well. She’s not looking forward to the talk with Coulson, she knows what she did wrong. But she doesn’t regret it, she’ll take any consequences that follow. She knows Phil, he won’t lock her up. He’ll find some way to punish her, but not like that. Taking a life doesn’t mean much in their line of work, though Maria counts each one she takes. But killing a man who had surrendered, she knows how dark and dirty that is. But she surprises herself in how she doesn’t feel guilt or regret. Coulson nods towards the stairwell and starts walking, and Maria follows. This time, they take the elevator down, and Coulson is silent the entire time. They walk out to one of the unmarked cars, and Maria watches as Coulson slides into the driver’s seat. She walks around to the other side and climbs in. They’re on the complete other side of the city than the hospital, so she knows they’ll have plenty of time for the talk she knows is coming. Without a word, Coulson starts up the car and pulls away from the curb. They drive in silence for a bit, and Coulson’s face is a mask. Maria can’t read him, and that tells her the level of anger he’s reached. She turns away and stares out the window. She doesn’t regret it, but she’ll take the punishment.