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My Mirror Speaks

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Her decision is probably not the best one, but it’ll work for her. She heads straight for her dresser in their bedroom, pulling out work-out clothes. Maria will work herself sore, and then probably continue well on after that. She needs the physical activity and the stress on her body will force her mind away from the dark place it lingers in, leftovers from the night terror. It seems it’s pretty often that either she or Natasha are thankful that their floors are soundproofed, since she’s sure that the noise of her screaming would send people running to her aid. Not that she needed it when warring with her own mind, her own subconscious. Her guilt over the previous day is weighing heavily against her fear for her fiancee. Maybe a good portion of her guilt isn’t warranted, but Maria can point out several points where it’s heavily justified. Her mind races in circles as she takes the fresh clothes into the bathroom to change. She’ll shower after working out, even though she’s already sticky and sweaty from her rough night. Suddenly, she doesn't want to be in the apartment any longer than she has to and changes quickly. Donning sneakers, she practically runs out of the apartment and towards the elevator. Her mp3 player and phone shoved in her pockets, she wrings her hands in frustration.

Maria Hill knows the dangers of their jobs, knows the dangers of just being who they are. This doesn’t make the situation any easier to process. Natasha proposed. Maria said yes. They are engaged. To be married. It’s just a ring, she tries to tell herself. This changes nothing, they’ve always been this close. It’s just a ring, she repeats to herself. But it changes so much. It changes everything. Maria wanted to propose years ago but she knew that Natasha wasn’t ready for that level of commitment. And now they’re engaged. And Maria’s not even sure she’ll have a fiance when she eventually makes her way to medical. She can’t get out of that head space. She needs a distraction and there’s a gym located conveniently in the Tower. At this time of night, she’s hoping she won’t encounter anyone. It’s not likely with the current turn of events, but then again, she’s not sure how the rest of the occupants are reacting to the situation. Still, there are private rooms. A lot of thought went into the Tower and she’s grateful for it.

As the elevator descends, she pulls out her mp3 player and starts fiddling with it. She needs something angry and loud, loud enough to drown out everything in her head. Maria leans up against the side of the elevator as she messes with the device in her hand. None of the playlists she’s coming up with sound appealing at that moment, until her fingers flick across the lists Natasha had made for her. A particular one catches her eye. Maybe it is just a coincidence, but Natasha was … is big on caring for her partner. In whatever capacity Maria needs at the time. They’re both like that but Natasha does things in small ways. So the set of playlists from her fiancee, varying genres and a variety of artists, there’s one that Natasha made ages ago. It’s titled something in Russian and, while Maria speaks the language fluently, her abilities suddenly escape her. Something about rage and feminine attributes, not that it matters at the moment. Maria remembers the playlist well, female vocalists in heavy and strong rock or metal songs. The playlist has a variety of languages, but the lyrics don’t matter to Maria in that moment. The tones and sounds are what she needs. Without a second thought she queues up that playlist and pops her earbuds in. The gym is dark when the elevator doors open, which is perfect. That means it’s empty. She doesn’t bother to wrap her hands and doesn’t spare a moment to consider her motives behind that decision.

Maria sets herself up and wanders around the gym for a moment, not bothering to turn on the lights. She’s not sure if she wants it dark or lit up, so she walks around the room, trying to sort herself out. When she finally cycles back around to the lights, she’s decided to keep it dim. Just a few lights for the massive room will give her enough light to see by and make sure it’s not dark enough that her fears start crawling out of the woodwork. Squaring her shoulders, she walks over to her personal favorite bag and readies her stance. She closes her eyes and lets the music flow through her before she launches herself at the bag. Maria Hill tends to be a visual person, but for once, she doesn’t imagine the bag to be anyone. No, she imagines it to be the abstract of her fears and emotions. If she can beat the crap out of that, then maybe she’ll feel less like falling apart.

The rising heat in her limbs and thin veneer of sweat start pushing away the exhaustion and fear, which is exactly what she wanted. The force of her blows on the bag is satisfying. She was glad Steve insisted they keep the old fashioned sand ones around because when she slips and hits the bottom, the pain is actually rewarding. She loves the way the sand collects and hardens on the bottoms of the bags, how a slip forces you to correct your form. With the water and gel ones you don’t get that. And she’s going at it with all of her limbs. Maria’s a brawler, she knows that. Yes, she knows several martial arts. But she fights like a tank, all fury and power. While Natasha is graceful and fights like a dancer, Maria’s style is similar to Steve’s.

The force of her blows causes the chain suspending the bag to rattle loudly. She can hear it over her music and the sound adds an extra layer of satisfaction. She starts to lose herself in the music and fighting, zoning out and letting her body take control. This normally doesn’t happen so soon into her exercises but she’s exhausted and stressed. She has a few moments of peace before her mind is drifting back to the previous day. It’s like daydreaming, but far less pleasant. As she lands each blow, the images grow sharper and more twisted. Her mind spirals down into that dark place that caused her to wake up screaming. Her movements grow more frantic as she grows more fearful, the bag swinging further back as she starts to lose control over her own strength. Maria Hill is losing the fight with her internal demons.

She replays the scene from the prior day, the wind whipping through her hair. But the perspective is wrong, she’s not in the right place on the roof. Her body moves without her commanding it and she watches the gun in her hands level its sights against Natasha. She feels her finger, and yes, those are still her hands, pull down and fire the weapon. The kick feels so real, something she’s felt thousands of times before. But the scene before it, it’s so real. She can smell the air and gunpowder. And the blood. The overwhelmingly coppery scent of blood. She stands there, stunned at what she has done.

Maria jerks back from the bag, staring down at her own hands. There’s no gun, but her hands are bloody. Her entire body is sore and she’s not sure how long she’s been in the gym. With her chest heaving, she drops to her knees, gaze still locked on her bloody hands. It felt so real, her holding the gun. She can still feel it’s weight in her hands, still feel the warmth from firing it. Suddenly, it feels like something is crawling beneath her skin. Like she’s responsible for it. Like she had actually shot her fiancee. She starts clawing against her own skin, her bloody hands leaving marks and nails leaving welts behind. Her chest heaves as she devolves into a full blown panic. These aren't tears, this isn’t sadness. This is fear and anger, so much fear. She’s not sure how long she claws at her skin but before she really processes what is happening, her hands are caught up in someone else’s.