Everyone knows that ΣΙ throws the best Halloween party on campus, but Maria is still having the worst fucking night. It’s bad enough she'd let Sharon talk her into a couple's costume this year, but on top of that they'd gotten into a huge fight on the way to the party. Sharon ended up dumping her and storming out not twenty minutes after they'd arrived. Now she's stuck in this overcrowded frat house - dressed as Xena, Warrior Princess for fuck's sake! - and she's angry, self-conscious, and completely miserable.
At least there’s free booze.
Getting drunk out of her mind probably won’t make her feel any better, but it’s at least worth a try. Maria elbows her way irritably through the crowd, passing Tony Stark and a few other ΣΙ brothers on her way to the drinks table. They’re huddled around a Ouija board, laughing uproariously, and Maria tries her best to go unnoticed while she pours what is probably an unwise amount of cheap liquor into a cup. She is not in the mood to be mocked by these idiots right now.
“Hey, Red! Red!” Tony shouts, trying to get the attention of the woman leaning against the wall next to Maria. She’s dressed in an exceptionally daring Red Sonja costume made of what appears to be mostly soda can tabs. It looks incredible on her, and she clearly knows it.
The woman eventually humors Tony with a beleaguered glance over the red plastic cup in her hand. “What?”
“The Ouija board says you and Xena should fuck.”
So much for going unnoticed. Maria swears under her breath and takes a swig of her drink, trying to formulate an escape plan.
‘Sonja,’ to her credit, only rolls her eyes. “Fuck off, Tony.”
“Come on, at least make out a little. The Ouija Gods demand it!”
Maria grits her teeth, trying hard to ignore all the eyes that are suddenly on her. Sonja ignores them too, choosing instead to talk to Maria in a voice too low for the ΣΙ guys to hear. “Hey, are you okay?” Her voice is kind, concerned. “Ignore him, he's just a drunken asshole.”
Maria shrugs, trying to seem indifferent. “I'm fine. This isn’t the worst thing that's happened to me tonight.”
“Yeah, I saw you and your Gabrielle screaming at each other outside.” She winces. “Did she dump you?”
“She did, yeah.” Maria scoffs bitterly, glaring into her cup.
“That's rough, I'm sorry.”
Maria can only shrug again in response. The alcohol is already starting to hit her system, and between the buzz and the embarrassment of being singled out in the middle of the party, Maria doesn’t trust herself not to start shouting – or worse: crying – right now.
To Maria’s further humiliation, Sonja seems to notice her struggle. She rests a reassuring hand on Maria’s forearm, thumb brushing lightly against her skin. “Well, look at it this way: you're the one with the costume that stands alone. She's gotta spend the night as Gabrielle. What do you want to bet she's already tired of people asking where her Xena is?” Sonja laughs at the thought.
“That... actually kind of helps. Thanks.”
“Don't mention it,” She slugs Maria amicably on the shoulder, then adds with a small, sympathetic smile, “You're gonna be okay.”
“Oh, yeah! Girl fight! That'd appease the Ouija Gods, too.” Tony jeers at them. Sonja flips him off, but otherwise pays him no attention.
She rolls her eyes again and nudges Maria. “Sorry about Tony. He thinks he can say shit like that to me because he's dating my roommate. I'm sorry he dragged you into it.”
Maria puts two and two together. “Wait, you're roommates with Pepper Potts?”
Sonja grins. “Yeah, have been since sophomore year. How do you know Pepper?”
“She's in my major. We've had a bunch of classes together.”
“Business or Political Science?” Sonja’s eyes flash with genuine curiosity. She tucks a few loose strands of hair behind her ear.
A creeping realization makes Maria’s ears start to burn. Playing with her hair, maintaining eye contact, enthusiastically engaging in small talk... Oh god, is she flirting?
Maria blinks a few times, quickly regaining her composure enough to answer the question. “Poli Sci. I’m Maria, by the way.”
“Maria Hill?” Her eyebrows rise as she makes the connection. “As in, Vice President of the Student Government Association, Maria Hill?”
Maria hopes she can blame the alcohol for the way her cheeks flush. “Yeah.”
“Nice to meet you. I'm Natasha Romanov.” Sonja – Natasha – reaches out to shake her hand.
The name is definitely familiar. “I've heard of you. You're with the performing arts school, right?”
“Theater and Dance, yeah.”
“Two double majors in one room? It’s a wonder your dorm is still standing,” Maria teases. Maybe it’s just the alcohol, but Natasha is surprisingly easy to flirt with.
“And yet they continue to let us live together.” Natasha’s hips shift ever so slightly closer to Maria’s. Her laugh is infectious, and Maria finds herself grinning despite her earlier terrible mood.
“Now kiss her! Do it for the Ouija Gods!” Tony shouts, pinning the attention of everyone in the room right back on the two of them again.
Yet again, Natasha takes it in stride. “Ugh, what an asshole. Do you want to get out of here?”
Maria crooks an eyebrow. “And go where, exactly?”
“My room? I've got better booze than this party, that's for sure.”
The suggestion catches Maria by surprise, as does her answer. “Uh... yeah, okay.”
Natasha’s eyes flash as she downs the rest of her drink. “Let’s not give these guys the satisfaction of seeing us leave together, though. Meet me out front in 5 minutes?” She doesn’t wait for Maria’s response before turning on her heel and disappearing into the crowd – toward the back of the house, Maria notes – much to the groaning disappointment of Tony and the rest of his ΣΙ buddies.
For a few minutes, Maria remains rooted in place, head spinning. She nurses the remnants of her drink as she tries to make up her mind. She shouldn’t follow Natasha. She knows she shouldn’t. She’s a little drunk – they’re both a little drunk, come to think of it – and besides, it’s far too soon.
On the other hand, Sharon broke up with her, not the other way around. Would anyone really judge her for drunkenly hooking up with someone at a frat’s Halloween party after getting loudly and publicly dumped in front of everyone at said party? She’s getting ahead of herself, of course: Natasha only offered flirtation, good liquor, and a respite from the raucous, costumed crowd. There’s no harm in any of that, is there? Maria throws back the rest of her drink, nose wrinkling at the way the cheap liquor burns in her throat. Yes, good liquor is definitely in order.
Somehow, Maria manages to shove her way to the front door without drawing any more attention to herself. She half-expects Natasha to be nowhere in sight, but she soon catches sight of her standing a little ways off, her breath clouding in front of her in the crisp autumn air. Her bare skin – oh, so much bare skin – is tinged pink from the chill.
Maria raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t you cold?”
“Not really,” Natasha shrugs.
Maria remains unconvinced. “I’m cold just looking at you.”
Natasha only laughs. “It’s not that far a walk. Come on.”
She takes off across the green, and Maria finds herself jogging a few steps to catch up despite her longer strides. They pass the quick trek across campus to Natasha and Pepper’s dorm in a comfortable silence, but Maria’s stomach starts to tighten into a knot when they pause outside the door.
Natasha pokes her head into her room a bit hesitantly. “Pepper?” There’s no response, so she opens the door the rest of the way and ushers Maria inside. “You can sit down if you’d like,” she offers, gesturing to her side of the room.
“Thanks.” Maria feels a little awkward perching on the edge of Natasha’s narrow bed, but there really aren’t many other places to sit, and neither the desk chair nor the floor seems like a better option. Her eyes roam the room while Natasha rummages in her closet. It seems like an exceptionally large room, but that could just be because it’s far tidier than the average dorm room. Before she can process many of the details, Natasha re-emerges with an expensive-looking bottle of vodka and two glasses.
“Told you I had the good stuff,” she smirks and pours them each a generous amount.
Maria accepts her glass with a grin. “You weren’t kidding. Though, I’m pretty sure anything would be better than the stuff they had at that party.”
Natasha makes a face and laughs in agreement, settling next to Maria on the bed. She wedges her pillow between herself and the wall and reclines back against it.
They’re so very close to one another, and Natasha’s skin looks so soft and inviting, but Maria wills herself to keep her hands wrapped around her glass instead. Natasha hasn’t exactly given her a clear invitation, and it wouldn’t be the first time she’s misinterpreted a situation like this... Maria’s face starts to flush again and she takes a sip to cover for it, the smooth heat in the back of her throat a welcome improvement over her earlier drink.
There’s tension in the silence that stretches out between the two of them, anticipatory but not necessarily uncomfortable. Natasha breaks it first, her voice low.
“I’m sorry you’re having such a rough night.”
“It’s okay, really,” Maria insists, sounding more confident than she feels. “Thank you for rescuing me from that party.”
“You’re welcome.” Natasha shifts even closer and rests a hand on Maria’s knee. “Look, no pressure or anything, but if you want my help forgetting about your ex tonight, I'm amenable.”
Maria’s heart leaps into her throat, pounding wildly. There’s not much to misinterpret about that... She reaches up to cup Natasha’s cheek and leans in, pausing with barely an inch between their lips.
“We wouldn’t want to upset the Ouija Gods, now, would we?”