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My Mirror Speaks

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Maria watches the doorway for a bit, Barton finally filtering in and talking quietly to Coulson. May pops in and does the same, before leaving as quickly as she came. Realistically, she knows the surgery is going to take a while. And the fact that it’s taking longer is a good thing, Maria tries to delude herself with that thought. It means Natasha is still alive, she can only hope. She finally forces her gaze away from the door, and instead watches the team and Coulson. Their expressions are just as grim as hers, and she has to look down at the floor. She’s sure her own expression is a mirror of theirs. No one is even trying to maintain a poker face, not here. Not with their entire make-shift family present. Natasha’s family, at least. A hand lands on her shoulder and she turns sharply to face Pepper. The other woman is offering a hesitant smile, and Maria wants to take it. Wants to take the hope she sees in Pepper’s face. She wants to make it her own hope, but she can’t. She finally just shakes her head and glances back down. The hand doesn’t leave her shoulder, and Maria tries to take comfort in the support Pepper is offering. Tries to, and fails. She’s not sure how to rely on other people, not sure how to take support. If this had been anyone else she would have been able to force herself back together. But this is Natasha, the woman who proposed to her less than twenty-four hours ago. This is the woman who has made up Maria’s life for years, consumed the grief and sadness Maria forced herself to live with. Replaced it with everything Maria never thought she deserved. And Maria can’t find her center, can’t find her core, can’t even begin to piece herself together.

“Maria.” She snaps her head up at her name, and finds Coulson standing in front of her. He hands her a tablet and she stares blankly at it, unsure what he’s handing it to her for. “Do your mission report. And Natasha’s, as best you can. When you’re finished with that, I’ll send you the information Skye gathered on the terrorists. There are some things you’re going to want to see.” Maria nods numbly; work she can do. She realizes she’ll have to document the incident, and her actions, but she can work towards that. Coulson is giving her work to do, to distract her. She’s grateful for that, and she hopes he understands that. A small nod from him and she pulls her legs up onto the chair and balances the tablet on her knees. She plans to bury herself in mission reports, these she can do in her sleep. She gets to work on the tablet, letting the work consume her world for a bit.

Maria’s not sure how long it took to finish both hers and Natasha’s, but when she finally surfaces from the work, she finds the room is short two people. Steve and Thor are absent, and it puzzles her. She wonders how long both reports took her, and actually glances at the clock on the tablet. About two and a half hours, it seems. She looks up again, searching the room for the two blonds.

“Steve and Thor are getting everyone food. Coulson suggested we eat now, instead of waiting until later.” Pepper explains before Maria even has to ask. The brunette finds herself slowly nodding to that, Maria finds that despite everything, she is perhaps a little hungry. She thinks of the leftovers in the break room fridge at HQ, the Cassata she wonders now if she’ll even get to taste. She’s suddenly unsure if she’ll ever be able to eat it again. Her mind drifts back to that dark place where she finds herself doubting Natasha’s chances. That cold rock of fear settles back into her gut, and suddenly Maria’s appetite is gone. She swallows thickly and glances back at the tablet. Coulson said there were things she’d want to see, so she forces her gaze back up and turns to Coulson.

“Food first, then I’ll transfer the information,” he tells her and she swallows again. She’s not sure she’ll be able to eat, and she shakes her head at him. “Food, then information.” He tells her again and she sighs. She knows that tone of voice, she’ll not be able to sway him on that. Maybe she’ll be able to force something down; she’s a soldier, she can eat when she has to. Not that she’s had to worry about that in years. But she doubts she’s lost the ability. Her attention shifts when Steve and Thor enter the room with take-out containers. A container is handed to everyone and Maria takes her numbly. She opens the box and eyes the contents skeptically. It’s just a sandwich and some chips, but she knows Coulson won’t give her the info until she’s eaten something. So she picks up the sandwich and eats it without tasting it. She couldn’t even tell what was in the sandwich. Then she holds out the tablet to Coulson, who had perched next to her to eat. He eyes her and then takes the tablet and taps the screen a few times before handing it back.

For the second time she finds herself lost in work, digging through paper trails and money trails and data logs. She waits to read Skye’s notes last, she always likes to see if she’ll come to the same conclusion. When she gets to the end, she frowns at the screen. Despite the roundabout trails, it’s obvious HYDRA funded the terrorists, and quite possibly pushed them into action. She skims Skye’s notes and finds the hacker came to the same conclusion. It leaves a sour taste in her mouth, there’s no one person she can go after for this. HYDRA is scattered across the world, the new SHIELD still trying to take them out. She sighs heavily and blinks, turning her focus to the clock on the tablet. Almost six hours since they walked in, and no word. She’s unsure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. She numbly hands the tablet back to Coulson and settles for staring blankly at the doorway. She’s relieved she doesn’t have to wait long, but her anxiety soars through the roof when Bruce walks in, trailing behind a middle aged woman in scrubs. Maria lurches to her feet, unsteady. She finds a hand on her back, steadying her, but she pulls away. She needs to stand on her own two feet for this, she needs to face it. She’s already trying to read Bruce’s expression and posture. It’s hard, though. She only reads exhaustion in his features and she’s not sure whether that’s a good thing or not.