He knows she’s noticed. Of course she has. He
wasn’t exactly subtle, and then the word ‘spy’ starts to blink in huge
neon lettering inside his own head. The muscles around his shoulders
clench in an unwanted, awkward sensation. But he thinks it’ll pass. It
tends to pass… So he’s grateful when she doesn’t draw attention to
it (it’s not worth it), even moreso when she gifts him that glass of
water. Harry gives her a curt nod, a small gesture of thanks, before
putting the cup to his lips. He draws a sip, pressing his lips together
before shifting to settle into his chair.
It’s not patronizing that she asks him that. He thinks it’s
predominantly because it’s coming from her. ‘Patronizing’ was never
something he’d associated her with. Certainly not with regard to her
manner towards him, in any case… He knows what she’s after, what
she’s getting at. Behind-the-scenes content.
“I’m scraping by.”
He starts with. It’s neutral. Gets the point across.
“Doing things, keeping busy is helping…“
There’s a small, quiet quirk at the offer. Humor tingles the corners of his words.
“There is this one thing on my mind…“
“But I think that has more to do with how I can help you…“
It’s a shared trait; the pair of them are used to compartmentalizing feelings. Writing them off with a carefully arranged expression, one that’s ‘press-worthy’ enough to make it seem as though everything’s FINE. Because it was. But Maria knows better. They may head up their respective organizations, but the view from top makes it very clear that everything is quite SHORT of fine. It’s because of this that Maria wholeheartedly appreciates the honesty in his answer ( and she knows it’s true because anything ELSE would be a bald-faced lie ).
Honesty is traded like treasures among spies, and while Harry decidedly ISN’T one, Maria appreciates the gesture all the same. She runs her teeth along the inside of her lower lip, slow and thoughtful– truly she doesn’t know what he means by his question, but there’s a SPARK of humor there that makes her hopeful ( hopeful that he’ll recover from this, that they all CAN ).
“Aren’t we all? Just scraping by?” A tilt of her head.
She brings her hands together, interlacing her fingers, cast clumsy upon the desktop.
“Trust me, Harry, OsCorp has done more than enough. Your
device– it was a crucial element in winning this battle. S.H.I.E.L.D.
asks for nothing more than to continue to stand in your good graces.
We owe you a huge debt.”