It feels way too early for to be having breakfast, but usually she's at work by now and with S.H.I.E.L.D. gone, she doesn't have anywhere to be.
It's made her a little restless, to be honest.
She's not one of those people that don't know how to relax. She enjoys sitting down every now and then, doing something tedious and leisurely to wind down, but she's never had a whole week of it go by and it's starting to make her a little stir crazy. Her days with S.H.I.E.L.D. were stressful more often than not, yes, and she's not sure what it says about her, but she kind of… kind of liked what she did. That adrenaline rush is something you get used to after a while, but that doesn't make dodging bullets and risky escapes any less of a thrill.
And she admires civilian life. She does. It just isn't anything she wants for herself, not right now, at least.
But, sitting at an outdoor café with a mug of coffee and a warmed ham and cheese croissant on her plate is kind of as civilian as it gets.
This is the only place on the block other than Starbucks and Walgreens that's open this early, and she would've cooked herself breakfast, but her kitchen is in boxes and the moving truck Tony rented for her is coming at noon and she has time to kill time before then, so.
She's flipping through last month's National Geographic with Jane on the cover when she hears a voice ask, "Maria?"
He's walking up the block, lips tugged into that (adorably crooked) smile of his. "It is you," he says, mostly to himself, as he stops at her table.
She shrugs her shoulder a little and says, "The one and only," because it's the first thing she thinks of.
"Do you mind if I…" He trails off, gesturing to chair across from her, and she just smiles and nudges it back with her foot. A waitress comes by almost immediately after he's settled in, and Maria tucks her magazine into her tote as Steve orders a coffee and a plate of pancakes. "Sorry I just invited myself into your breakfast," he says after, sounding sincere.
"I let you invite yourself," she reminds.
"Well, yeah, but…" He grins and ducks his head, and god, a guy that looks like Steve does shouldn't be cute, right? "I hope I'm not out of line saying this…"
"Which means you probably are," she interrupts. He chuckles, knowing she's teasing. "But, go on."
"You look very pretty."
She glances down at herself. It's unseasonably warm, especially this early in the morning, and she just left her apartment in denim capris and a tank under this sheer blouse Pepper bought her that she loves a lot. Still, her hair is kind of a mess because all she did was run a comb through it and clipped it up, and she's not wearing any makeup. She doesn't think she looks all that great. But then she looks back at him and sees that he's just wearing khaki shorts and this light blue button-down with the sleeves pushed passed his elbows and…
Right, this is probably one of the few times he's seeing her out of uniform.
He's glancing over her (appropriately) and smiling, almost like he can't stop looking at her. It almost makes her blush.
"Thank you," she says softly.
She doesn't know what else to say, but then the waitress comes back with his coffee, pancakes and an extra plate of toast ("totally on the house!"). Maria hides her smirk by taking a sip of her coffee, but Steve raises an eyebrow at her as the girl's walking away.
"She's crushing on you." Steve shakes his head, looking amused. "Oh, come on. You know she is."
"She's just being nice," he insists, though his lips tugging upward give him away. "Why does everyone try to set me up on dates?"
Maria just laughs. He knows everyone is mostly just Natasha. Tony always throws girls his way when he manages to get Steve to come to some function or party Stark Industries hosts or gets invited to, but that's mostly just because Tony loves messing with Steve. Clint's dropped a few names, too, but Natasha is the only one that pesters Steve.
"A little romance is healthy, you know."
He arches an eyebrow. "I've never heard that expression before."
"Well, just trust me, then," she says, and yeah, all things considered, that kind of means a lot of things in one.
"Of course," he replies easily, not even looking up as he spreads butter onto his toast, and okay, this time she does blush, just a little. What? That kind of compliment coming from a guy like Steve Rogers means a lot.
It also makes her feel a little bit worse, if that's possible.
She didn't get a chance to visit him while he was in the hospital. Granted, he was only there for four days, which is ridiculously quick considering he almost died, but his body probably started healing as soon as he hit the water. Not that it makes it any better, because she was the reason he almost died in the first place.
She set the command for all three helicarriers to open fire on each other even though he was still aboard, and yes, he told her to do so and she knew she had to, but that moment hasn't stopped nagging at her and she's not sure why. She's made tough calls and put her teammates in jeopardy before, and she moved on from the guilt by the time she received her next assignment. Maybe that's harsh, but it was something she had to learn to do. You can't carry guilt into the next job or you'll get sloppy and risk compromising everything.
But somehow it's different this time, because it's Steve, and because she knows that he probably doesn't even think twice about it.
She almost killed him and she didn't even drop by to see him while he was recovering.
She might be a horrible person.
"Maria," he says, pulling her from her thoughts. His eyebrows are furrowed, his expression concerned. "What's wrong?"
"It's nothing." She brushes her bangs aside, suddenly nervous and feeling ridiculous because of it. "Sorry, I just sort of spaced out for a second."
"Maria," he repeats, softer this time. "Something's bothering you."
She presses her lips together and glances away, taking a sip as an excuse not to respond right away, but he looks so worried about her and she hates it. "I'm sorry," she tells him. He looks confused. She sets her mug down. "When you hit the water, that was my fault, and then I—"
"Hey," he interrupts, reaching across the table and setting his hand over hers. It's never happened before and it's kind of amazing, how comforting it is. "It wasn't your fault."
"I could've killed you."
"Don't. Don't do that to yourself." He squeezes her fingers gently. "It was the right thing to do. You saved billions of innocent people."
And, yes, she knows this is true. But she also knows that… that, if Steve really had died, those lives maybe wouldn't have felt worth it. Not to her, anyway, and she's not sure if she wants to consider why. Because there are admittedly very few things that scare her, and feeling dependent? It kind of terrifies her. She can count on one hand the number of people in her life that, should she ever lose them, she'd be heartbroken. Nick is one, and Natasha another, but that's more understandable because they've known each other for years now.
She's pretty sure her world wouldn't feel the same without Steve. She doesn't know how that happened or when that started, but it's true, and the only thing really keeping her from freaking out about it is the way Steve is smoothing his thumb over her wrist.
"I'm sorry I didn't visit you in the hospital," she says.
He shakes his head a little. "Natasha told me you'd been just as harassed as her. I know you would've if you hadn't been tied up."
"Oh, my god, will you just accept my apology, Rogers?" she asks, laughing, and she's kind of a little in love with the smile he gets on his face when he hears her laugh. He holds his hands up in a gesture of surrender, and it's stupid, really, that she misses the way he'd been holding her hand, but whatever. She's allowing herself to feel a little silly right now.
"I'll accept it if you do me a favor."
She tilts her head. "Are you giving me an ultimatum?"
"Just a little one," he says, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart. She rolls her eyes, but she's smiling, too, because shit, he's adorable. Then he says, "So, Tony told me that you're moving today," and yeah, she already knows where this is going. "Let me help you?"
She smiles, looking down at her coffee as she stirs it. "Fine," she agrees.
"Really, it was that easy?"
"Don't make me take it back," she warns, but she's teasing and he chuckles because he knows it.
She steals some of his pancakes later on, except it's not really stealing, because she was eying them a little and he cut a few pieces for her and pushed them onto her plate while they were talking about her employment at Stark Industries. She grins, stabs some with her fork and feeds herself, and he smiles but doesn't say anything about it. They sit at that table for a while, after they've finished eating and more and more people start showing up, and she's convinced the only reason they don't get asked to leave is because Steve is Captain America and all. They split the check because she wants to, and she can tell Steve wanted to just pay for her, but he didn't argue against her wish and she likes that more.
They decide to walk around, since the weather is kind of perfect and they still have time to kill, and when she pushes the button for the crosswalk and turns to ask where he wants to go, she pauses because he's giving her this look like…
He smiles, tilts his head in this way that makes a few strands of hair fall in front of his eyes. "Just thinking that I'm glad I met you," he says.
He really looks like he wants to kiss her.
That does not make her blush. …Except maybe it does, but whatever.
(Later, when they've finished loading the truck and they're heading to her car so they can drive to Stark Tower, she locks the apartment door behind her and Steve reaches over and brushes her hair behind her ear, getting that boyish smile on his face again. And when she asks what he's thinking, he says, "A little romance is healthy, right?")
(And this time he does kiss her.)