The world was at war again. Death was a given. Not everyone would survive this. Maria knew this. She was used to it. After all, it had been her life for so many years. Even after SHEILD had fallen, she had never taken life for granted. And she didn’t flatter herself with dreams, with hopes that would never come to light. Yet it was hard to ignore the soft touches, the lingering looks. Steve was an avenger, a soldier whose time was running out. She was an ex-agent who could never unsee the horrors of her past. No one would expect them to be more than companions, than partners in saving the world. That was all they had, to Maria it had to be enough. No matter what her heart said.
He was a hero who wouldn’t hesitate to die, to save others. He had done it before. She was a woman plagued by her past – always a spy in her heart and mind. They would never work. They couldn’t work, not in this world.
At least that’s what she told herself. What she had to tell herself. Because hoping would only result in disappointment. And yet she couldn’t turn it off.
After exhausting days, she longed to sit down and talk through her problems with a friend. Some days she did, calling up an old SHEILD acquaintance, staying late and unwinding with Pepper if Tony was out of town. But there were still many nights when she was alone. And on those nights, her tired brain would imagine Steve being there, sitting next to her. It usually only lasted a few seconds before she brushed it off, but it had still been there. Despite the fact that it could not be.
So, when Steve pulled her aside, she was ready for information, for the mission, for doing her part in saving the world. Not this. This worry about her. Not Steve asking her to stay safe.
“The world is at war, I can’t just sit aside. You know that.”
The corner of Steve’s mouth raised slightly, but then it fell. “I know. Just, be careful.”
“Oh, like you’ll be doing?” Maria chided back, but even as she said it, the smile on her face fell. He would be right in the middle of everything, and being Steve, he would be throwing himself at anything to keep the others safe.
He looked away, letting out a breath. “Yeah, well you know me.”
“I do. And I know we will both be doing whatever needs to be done. No matter what.”
Voices sounded from the other room. Time was out. It was time to fight.
Steve glanced up, and then back at her. Their eyes locked for a moment. It had happened before, a moment that came and went. Maria knew it well. But this time was different.
A quick kiss. That’s all it was. A what-if. A ‘just in case’.
“See you on the other side.”
The other side of this battle, or the other side of death. Maria knew it meant either, and she had to be okay with that. At least she had this moment. A moment when they weren’t just friends. It was a moment she would always remember.
“Yeah, see you.”
And then he was gone.