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Hope is what I need

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His lips are so close to hers that she can feel his breath on her face, warm and unsteady, like she is. His eyes are closed and he moves ever so slowly towards her but she jerks away at the last moment, breaking the spell. She quickly takes a few steps back, putting as much distance between them as she can but keeps looking at him.

“I can't do this. I’m sorry.” Her voice catches around the edges, gathering strength and confidence she does not feel in the slightest.

"Why?" He looks at her with sad, probing eyes.

She just looks away, out of the window, watching the sky darken and the first stars come out. What a beautiful night it could be. But nothing really holds any beauty for her anymore. It is just an all around dull, when one looks into the sun for a moment and is almost blinded by the light and then averts their eyes, they start to adjust to the things around them, but nothing is quite as bright. And her eyes seem to be left in that adjusting phase, where there are black spots wherever she looks turning everything into grey and dreary and she is left wondering if she was ever going to find the brightness that lit up her days once or go blind eventually.

“He is dead, Maria.” He says in a pained, quiet voice, pulling her from her thoughts.

She does not turn, she can't because, she is afraid to see the devastation in his eyes that she is sure reflect in hers. So in the end she just sighs after what feels like an eternity. “I know.”

“Then why? He would have wanted you to be happy; he would have wanted us to be happy.” He says while stepping closer, almost into her personal space, but her stiff shoulders and rigid stance prevents him from any impulsive touches.

She turns around at that, slowly, and her face is a mask of indifference or control, he is not sure. He has never been as good at reading her as Steve was. “I don't think I can... be happy that is. I was never really, completely happy before him, and now that I know what it's like, I am not sure I can ever feel like that again.” Not without him here- going unsaid but loud and clear for both of them. He is surprised she has said this much, especially that it involves Steve and her feelings; these are the two topics that she never talks about, avoids it like the plague if he is honest. It gives him a new resolve to push on. Because he has to know, he has to get out of this limbo of a friendship that has started to feel like so much more to him.

“You don't think I can make you happy? That I would try with every breath in me to make you smile and laugh again?” He asked with an air of desperation, stepping closer to her, crowding her, his good hand twitching at his side wanting to touch her, but afraid she is going to run.

“I know you would try.” She smiles, but it does not truly reach her eyes.

It has been two years, two incredibly long years, where they tried to find themselves again and a resemblance of the normality that crumbled at their feet and was left to ashes after the war. For some it was easier to pick up the pieces than others, to build something that can be called a life, but not for them, especially not for Maria. It seemed something inside her had died with Steve Rogers on that fateful day that not even time could heal.

“But you can't. You and I…” she trails off, looking at him like she sees everything; the past, the present, the future, and he has the sudden clarity that she is searching for something he does not have. And for a moment he lets himself be vulnerable, not that she cannot see trough his tough exterior, but he lets his armor down, allows her to see the pain that the brain washing, the killing, and Steve's death has left, allows her to see the longing and hope that she evokes in him. She looks away after a moment, and he feels desperate and terrified, and his gut lurches as if someone punched him in the stomach, because, he has the sudden feeling, that she did not find what she was looking for, or worse, she found exactly that, and it is not enough.

“You and I…” she starts again, his heart is beating like he has just run a marathon, but he does not look away, can't look away, when she finally looks him in the eye again and stars to speak.

“You and I are cut out of the same cloth. You went through horrible things. You killed people for a cause they made you believe in, you have dark corners and places inside you, where you are full of rage and hatred and death and you are terrified of what would happen if it came to the surface and I...” she looked away again for a minute to collect her thoughts.

“I have dark places just like you, even if they come from different pain or experience, you and I are similar, and I don't need any more smoldering rage that could light an inferno at the smallest trigger or ice that helps you cover the scars and freezes them so it does not hurt like hell. What I need is hope. That despite my past and the scars that I left and I am left with does not diminish me; that I deserve more than I think. When I look into your eyes, I want to see me not as I see myself when I look into the mirror everyday, but like I am everything that I could be, that one day I just might be if you stay with me, that I am worth everything. I need someone to look at me like I am worth it all. That's how Steve looked at me. And that's how you never and will never look at me, because you see me as you see yourself. And that's darkness and pain and fear. I need light, and that you can never give me.” She looks away again, bites her lip as if she regrets saying so much, and maybe she does.

He is totally off kilter, left dumbstruck by the impressive speech she just delivered, knowing she will never ever talk about her feelings again, not with him, maybe not with anyone. And the massive emptiness that starts to take hold of his insides because he knows she is right.

He cannot give her light.