Maria Hill paused and turned from her computer to Nick Fury. “Could you repeat that please?”
Fury frowned at her impatiently and looked down at the paper in his hands. “I said that two banks have been robbed downtown in the last week, which usually wouldn’t be a problem for the Avengers, but for the fact that when police arrived, they found the entirety of the bank vaults frosted over with ice.”
Before Fury could say another word, Maria Hill had pulled out her cell phone, notably not her work phone, and searched through her contact list. “I may have someone who can help with this,” she explained to Fury to her boss’s confused look.
“We haven’t even decided to take the case yet,” he said, although he didn’t sound angry, just curious.
A faint ringing could be heard in the quiet of the room, and after three rings, a man’s voice came on the other end of the line. “Hello?”
“Hey Br-“ Maria started, then her eyes shot to Fury and she snapped her mouth closed. “Can you hold on a second?” she asked the man on the phone. Not waiting for a response, she put her hand over the mouthpiece and gave Fury a look. “Can you give me a minute?”
Fury hesitated at first, but ended up leaving as requested.
As soon as the door had shut, Maria removed her hand from her phone and began flipping through the duplicate report that Fury had given her. “Hey, Bruce. I think a friend of yours is in New York City. Would happen to be free to lend a hand for a few days?”
“Which friend of mine are we talking about?”
“The one that has a penchant for popsicles and freezing people to death.”
There was a short pause, then, “I can be there tonight.”
“Thanks. I’ll owe you.” Immediately she started a new e-mail on her computer to Nick Fury and CC’d all of the Avengers. Subject: Emergency Meeting Tonight at 9PM
“If I remember correctly, I’ve owed you since that time in ’04,” Bruce said with a chuckle.
As Maria typed out a quick message and hit send, she bit back a smile. “Anybody would have done the same.”
Bruce wasn’t going to let her off the hook that easily. “Maria!” he exclaimed, “You went into an alleyway unarmed and took out the psychopath with your shoes.”
Tilting back in her office chair, Maria recalled that night and sighed fondly. “High heels are very effective weapons. My friend Natasha can vouch for me on that one.”
“Natasha sounds like a very interesting person,” Bruce replied slowly, choosing his words with obvious care.
Maria nodded thoughtfully. “She is. Just last week she taught me how to incapacitate a guy with my thighs.”
There was a slight huff on the other end and when Bruce spoke again, his voice was a little rough. “You’re not like most women, are you?”
“I think that’s word-for-word what you said to me that night in the alleyway, too. I can’t remember for sure, though, you were slurring your words a bit.”
“One too many drinks. I’d like to think that if I hadn’t been drunk I would have been able to defend myself from that guy.”
Her reply was a barking laugh. “You keep telling yourself that.”
“I will, thanks. I-“ Bruce started to say, then stopped short. When he spoke again, his voice sounded distant, like he was holding the phone away from his mouth. “Alfred! Can you arrange a flight for me?” Alfred said something back which Maria couldn’t make out. She could, however, hear Bruce’s response. “In the next hour.” He at least had the decency to sound sheepish at the late notice.
There was more talking from Alfred. “I’m visiting a friend.” At that, Maria thought she heard laughter. “I do too have friends!” Bruce’s voice was normal again as he put his mouth back to the phone. “Here, I’ve got to go and get packed, but Maria, will you talk to Alfred and explain to him that we’re friends? He doesn’t seem to believe me.”
Maria laughed and stood up from her desk, tucking the report under one arm and grabbing her empty coffee mug with the other. A moment later a familiar voice came on the phone, warm and slightly gravelly. “Maria?”
“Alfred, hi! How are you?” She opened the door to go out in the hallway, almost running into Fury that she had forgotten was waiting outside. She waved the report at him before tucking it back under her arm.
“Alfred?” he asked, following her as she made her way to the break room. “Who’s Alfred?”
Pointedly annoying her boss, she returned her attention to the old butler speaking into the phone. “It’s good to hear from you, my dear. Bruce was worried about you after seeing your team in the news so much recently. But I told him that you were a tough cookie and not to worry.”
Maria was stunned speechless for a second. Bruce had been worried about her? Then, realizing she hadn’t responded, she forced a laugh and said, “You keep reminding him of that. And don’t worry. I’m perfectly safe.” She walked into the empty break room and headed straight for the coffee machine. “Look, Alfred, I’ve got to go. Work calls. But we should catch up later, okay?”
“I look forward to it,” Alfred said, sounding genuine. “Be safe, my dear.”
“I will,” she replied, then disconnected and slipped the cell phone back into her jacket pocket. Grabbing the thankfully full coffee pot, she poured herself a fresh cup and asked Fury, “Did you get my memo?”
Just then, a ding sounded and Fury pulled out Stark’s latest technology. “I did.” He read through the short message and looked at Maria with an unreadable expression. “Is this unnamed contractor you’re bringing in the same person you were talking with on the phone just now?”
“Nope,” Maria said. She grabbed a few creamers from the container next to the coffee machine and poured them into her mug. “That was Alfred.”
“Who’s Alfred?” Fury asked in frustration, repeating his question from before.
Maria had to take a moment to think about the proper way to describe the older British man. “He’s an… employee of the contractor.”
“And are you going to be sharing any background information of this contractor?” Maria could tell that Fury was growing impatient with her unwillingness to share. “I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that we work at a highly secure, government organization,” he said sarcastically. When he saw that Maria wasn’t going to budge, he threw his hands into the air. “Can I at least have a name for this guy?”
“I’m not sure what to call him,” she told Fury, thinking that on the phone they hadn’t really clarified if he would be coming as Bruce Wayne or Batman. Although she assumed the latter, she didn’t want to be wrong and compromise his identity. Bruce had trusted her with the secret of his vigilante identity and she wasn’t going to betray that just because her boss with a scary eye patch was getting testy. “It depends on who he shows up as,” she said honestly. After stirring her coffee, she took a long sip and smiled from behind the mug. “Either way, this is going to be a lot of fun.”