sometime around midnight | bruce + maria


Bruce’s hand fans out a little more, reassuring as he mistakes her hesitance and subsequent censorship for frustration and an unwillingness to relive the trauma. Either way it’s clearly something Maria doesn’t want to elaborate on, and he shifts with her; presses his leg more flush against hers, relieving the soft pressure at his tailbone – and reassuring the small niggle of nonsense in the back of his mind that suggests she might topple if he doesn’t somehow try to brace her.

Again, he has to bite his tongue against requesting permission to prove the statement for himself. It’ll heal, but what sort of break is it? The sort requiring pins, or the sort requiring a careful readjustment and a sturdy cast? Sure, it’ll heal, but what about the wounds that are open? The wounds that can’t –

         – not now, not here, no 

It’ll heal if he doesn’t make it worse, and that’s been relatively easy since the initial struggle against coherency and panicked helplessness. ‘You’re not’, she’d said before, but they were both such a far cry from ‘good’ that there was no one around to hear wolf. 

                 “It’s okay,” he tells her, echoing her words back; they don’t need ‘good’, they just need the next moment, and then the next. 

He’s smiling down at her when the noise comes, and he closes his eyes as his body tenses – a   r u m b l e   rattles through him that’s not from the transfer of force and energy through solid mass; Maria’s thumb is stark against the wave of heat he feels, and he takes a measured breathe, exhaling slowly. 

It’s fine – probably nothing. 

Nothing, or a rescue. Maria’s an important person, they’d be coming after her quickly, that makes sense. “Timmy looking down the well?” he offers, letting his hand sit back against her hip, needing to ease the anxiety that’s threatening to bubbly up again; he’d pulled it away at the sound so he wouldn’t accidentally hurt her, but he feels he’ll have more success with that if he has a reminder of why he needs to keep anything remotely like panic at bay. 

Relief slips like a trickle of ice water down her spine, replaced just as quickly with a brief flash of panic at his reaction. They’re not out of the woods yet- not even close. They can only HOPE for a rescue, but it’s almost just as likely that the sound was debris shifting and Maria’s left wondering just how many are as unlucky as they are ( or LUCKY, considering the alternate outcome ). His hand at her hip is firm but gentle, supportive in a way that she’s surprised to find it a comfort and not irritating ( because the suggestion that she might need help is never welcome ). The sudden absence of it is a searing chill against skin that’d been a touch too warm.

His reassurance, too, is something she’s surprised to find necessary. Or if not necessary, not UNWANTED. It’s different- she’s normally the one to say it’s okay ( or if it’s not- ), to placate the fears of those that look to her for orders, to conceal the worry writ across her brow with a smooth, unfaltering expression. To hear it from the other side– Maria finds herself appreciative.

“Let’s hope,” she replies easily, skating past the slight potential for disaster as if it’d never happened at all. There’s a tilting smile prevalent on her mouth when she tips her chin upward, expression illuminated by the light above them that’s now begun to buzz. “No offense.” Maria looks down quickly ( could that be– a glimmer of shyness? A facet of embarrassment? ). In truth, she’d expected this to turn out more unpleasantly than it had, and she’d realized that avoiding him hadn’t been at all fair to someone with little to no access to answers he deserved. “This isn’t my ideal hangout spot,” comes her belated ( and lame ) explanation.

In the distance, there’s another rumble, but this time it’s softer. The subtle shift of debris among the jarring, tinny sound of voices that stab at the otherwise silent tunnel. Footsteps above them, the rapid-fire bark of someone giving orders, a team moving in unison. 

“We’re here! Down here!” Her voice echoes upward, past the swaying light that flickers each time it knocks against the side of the shaft, moved by the tremors from the footsteps above them. The toe of her boot knocks against the concrete in an effort to add to the commotion and draw their attention. A half minute more, the shouts increase and she can hear the boots quicken, a loud SCRAPE as some large piece of metal is shifted away. It subsequently severs the last few remaining fibers of conduit and electrical wire, causing the fluorescent light to clatter down, narrowing missing their shoulders and shedding shattered plastic around their feet. 

“Director Hill?” The voice sounds so far away, but in the darkness she can see above a slightly lighter, rectangular opening and a silhouetted face protruding over the edge.

“I’m here! Dr. Banner is with me– We’re alright.” 

There’s a very CLEAR pause after this, a definite lack in murmured, urgent conversation above. 

“Time is of the essence, Agent.” There it is- that lingering irritation that so often seeps into her tone. Conversation explodes again, this time the group of what sounds like eight agents discussing the best course of action. The exit isn’t THAT far above them- someone lying on their stomach should be able to reach with their arms extended if Maria and Bruce lift their hands above their heads. She’ll be the easiest to remove, first, as it’s become apparent that he’s wedged in more tightly. 

Director Hill becomes obedient and allows the lead agent to talk her through the next few steps. Raise your arm ( easy, but just the right ), move away from the debris ( she leans in, a murmured ‘Sorry’ that likely goes unheard ). A stretch, a reach and she feels a hand clasp her wrist, a gesture she returns to the agent. He lifts, utilizes the back of her coat collar as an extra grip ( careful to avoid her broken limb ) while she uses the toes of her boots to help him hoist her the rest of the way out. A brief reprieve at the edge of the shaft and then she’s standing, supported by one of her agents. 

“Sitrep,” Maria says almost immediately, focusing in on her lead agent. “While you extract Dr. Banner.”


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