"I knew I should have gotten the collision insurance when I picked up the rental." Charlotte grinned at her own joke. However, the woman across the desk from her didn't seem to appreciate the humour.
"That chopper is an expensive piece of equipment, ma'am," Agent Melinda May replied almost accusingly, stamping one corner of the requisition sheet in front of her with an authoritative zeal.
"I'm sure Tony Stark would be more than happy to take care of the cost of banging out the dings and filling in the bullet holes," Charlotte replied lightly. "After all, it was pulling him out of the literal fire that's responsible for the damage. Actually, I'm fairly certain he'd throw in a new paint job—as long as you don't mind red."
Agent May made a sound, not stopping her single-minded sorting, stamping, and ticking of boxes.
Several weeks had passed since the Extremis incident, and now that things had settled down, Charlotte was at SHIELD HQ signing off on her debriefing and dealing with the paperwork that had resulted in the aftermath. There was always paperwork.
"I thought computers were supposed to be the great paper eliminators," she said under her breath as Agent May picked up another file, opening it to reveal yet more forms. .
Not looking up, Agent May replied, "And I was promised a flying car, Ms. Sparrow, but I'm still waiting for one of those."
Was the stern and by-the-book SHIELD agent actually making a joke? Charlotte almost thought she saw the hint of a smile pulling at her lips. "Flying cars? Now wouldn't that be something?"
"A little boring after you've flown a quinjet, but it would have the novelty factor going for it."
"You're a pilot?" May nodded. "That must be exciting."
"You don't fly?"
"Me? Heavens no. I think I know just enough to land a plane in an emergency…maybe"
"Yet you're the one returning the chopper." She ticked another box, initialing next to it.
"I may have signed it out, but I didn't do the actual piloting. My executive assistant is a former Marine—handy to have around."
May glanced at her. "Executive assistant? That's not something most agents have."
Charlotte waved an admonishing finger. "Uh uh uh—consultant, I'll remind you, Agent May."
She raised an eyebrow. "My mistake." Then she reached for a rather large binder, flipping it open and running a finger down the open page.
Charlotte continued, "Don't get me wrong, I love air travel as a passenger, but doing the actual flying is not my forte. Ships of the ocean-going variety are more my thing."
Now May was looking at her, for a moment, at least, giving Charlotte her full attention. "So I've heard."
"Oh? And what else have you heard, Agent May?"
She shrugged. "This and that: you and the Director go way back, a consultant when SHIELD really wants you back fulltime, Iron Man's BFF, and maybe a little something about pirates and swords."
Charlotte laughed. "Guilty as charged." She sighed. "There was a time when I could have sailed you to Tierra del Fuego and 'round Cape Horn with a bonny tall ship and a hale crew at my side. But I'm afraid that particular skill-set is something of an anachronism these days." A faraway look in her eyes, she absently toyed with the antique locket that hung round her neck on a long gold chain. "But those days? They were good ones."
"They always are," May said softly. "Until they break your heart."
"Yes, until then." Charlotte clenched the locket in her hand.
The two women looked at each other, a wordless sympathy passing between them.
"Not everyone understands," she said to Charlotte.
"Why you sit behind a desk instead of being out in the field."
"Or why you aren't the agent you used to be, that they want you to be again."
Waving a hand, Charlotte said, "Our past can be too heavy a burden to take up, even if you want to."
May nodded sharply. Then she leaned back in her chair, a smile forming. "I'm glad you didn’t get that collision insurance."
Charlotte matched her smile. "Me too."
"And for the record?"
"If you're ever looking for a crew to take that trip to Tierra del Fuego, I'd like to sign on."
Nodding, Charlotte reached out a hand. "I could use a good first mate."
Taking her hand, Agent May shook it firmly. "To fair winds."
"And to following seas."