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Infirmity And Insanity

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A twisted metal strut catches at Maria’s heel as she tries to step over it. The unexpected catch twists her off-balance - as though things weren’t already precarious on the elevated metal walkway with six feet of well-muscled man leaning heavily upon her.

Rogers still has enough presence of mind to put out a gauntleted hand against the brick wall to catch them as they stumble to the side, but his breath catches as Maria, unable to stop her trajectory, more or less sprawls across his chest, pushing them both up against the wall.

Her fingers splay across hard muscle covered by warm fabric. The arm slung over her shoulders tightens, shifting slightly to encircle her back like he’s shielding her against harm. And Maria looks up into the bared face of a man who’s entirely too good looking for the pace of her heart.

If she was an opportunistic kind of woman, she’d kiss him. It’s the perfect moment, the perfect pose, and a nearly perfect man.

She could probably even blame it on ‘the rush of the moment’ and never have to explain herself.

Probably.

His eyes stare into hers as though searching for something. His lips curve into a smile with a faintly mocking twist, as though he knows what just flew through her mind. “You okay?”

“I’m not the one with a probable concussion.”

Laughter huffs against her hair as he turns his head a little and, under her hand, the muscles of his diaphragm jerk. “No, you’re not.”

In her head, a little set of warning lights is going off. Get things back to a familiar footing. Get them back upright. Get Steve to someone who’ll look him over and make sure he’s physically okay before getting him back to Avengers Tower where he will (theoretically) sit quiet and tight until he’s cleared for work again. Then walk away.

So she pushes off the wall with the hand that slipped around his back, levering them upright again. Or tries to. Rogers doesn’t push off with her, and his arm remains curled around her back, holding her in the crook of his elbow. So Maria goes absolutely nowhere.

“Captain.”

“You know, Lieutenant,” he says, turning a wry blue gaze upon her that does more for her pulse than she wants it to, “this is probably the only way I’m going to get you in my arms.”

It’s a comment she’d expect from Tony Stark, not Steve Rogers, and it shocks her into silence. Did she hear him correctly, or has the chaos of the day muddled her mind? And if she heard him correctly, what the hell did that concussion do to him?

“Excuse me, am I interrupting?”

Maria closes her eyes and prays for patience. Of course it would be Tony Stark who would find them like this.

She can just imagine what Stark’s thinking – just as she can imagine what would probably have happened if he hadn’t come along.

Rogers’ hand drops from her back, like a technician caught reprogramming the helicarrier systems. When Maria turns, no longer confined by his grip, Iron Man hovers in the air just beyond the edge of the metal walkway.

“Stark. Rogers has a concussion—”

“Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“—And your assistance in getting him to the medics would be appreciated.”

Maria can’t see Stark’s expression, but she’s quite sure he’s smirking behind the impassive metal of that mask. Still, she keeps her voice level and even. She might feel breathless and flushed, but Tony Stark is not going to know it.

“And do you also expect me to babysit him while he recovers?”

“Expect? No. Hope? Yes.”

Behind her, Rogers shifts, annoyed. “Do I need to be here for this conversation?”

“Nope,” Stark says as he lands, dropping from flight to foot with practised ease. “Come on, Big Blue. Let’s get you out of here.”

He ducks under Rogers’ other arm and Maria sighs as his assistance takes some of the load off her shoulders. Steve Rogers might be a hero, a good man, and a fine piece of real estate, but he’s also heavy. They limp out of the smoke and dust that wreaths the ruins of the river warehouses, and although Maria is braced for some snide comment from Stark, the other man’s conversation is informative of the situation, and surprisingly innocuous.

She relinquishes Rogers to the medics and doesn’t run away. She walks. With slow and careful precision in every step and no externally visible sign to show that the thought of kissing Captain America senseless ever crossed her mind.

If Steve Rogers wasn’t thinking straight thanks to the smack upside the head he took in the fight inside the warehouses, then it’s a damned good thing Maria didn’t compound infirmity with insanity.

-oOo-

Two days later, an email arrives in Maria’s inbox. From Tony Stark. It has no header and only one line in the message: Thought you might like a memento. The photo attachment - complete with the HUD overlay from the Iron Man suit’s vision - looks very much like Captain America holding Lieutenant Maria Hill in his arms, about to kiss her.

She closes it immediately and deletes the email from her inbox, then logs into the server and deletes the email trace.