sometime around midnight | bruce + maria


Out of the enclosed space and surrounded by so many people – agents, so many SHIELD agents – Bruce finds himself more hesitant. Where grabbing hold of the only available source of reassurance and strength made sense before, now there’s much more space between them, people ducking in and out and weaving through it. The urge to fuss is also somewhat overridden by respect for her position as Director, and the responsibility she has to these agents. One of which seems to have said fussing under control, and his worry turns into a reserved amusement as he watches her tolerate the attentive ( if slightly overbearing ) medic. It quickly turns into narrowed unease and exasperation as she sics the medic on him.  

“I’m fine,” he tells her instantly, but the young woman won’t be dissuaded that easily, insisting with a firm but sweet voice and large eyes that it’ll only take a moment, and would he please not step away from her. 

Bruce has his eye on Maria’s cast as the medic checks him over, dutifully answering her list of questions ( if he was seriously injured, they wouldn’t be here right now ). He’s surprised to find that his right arm was oddly tender, but he attributes that to the small cascade of rocks and debris it’d been battered with. The medic catches his wince and instantly launches into protocol and medical jargon, a mix she manages to deliver with a strange sincerity. Thankfully, Maria saves him from having to end that line of reasoning himself, and he thanks the medic politely. 

    “I’ll live,” is his soft token response, but he doesn’t volley back the question – she’s tired, and she must be aching, and he doesn’t trust that her cast was able to sustain and protect against the force of the bomb. 

The agent’s attention on Maria is so keyed in and focused, Bruce finds himself wishing the guy would cease and desist a little. Barraging Maria with information isn’t helpful right now. What they both need is a moment to take a breathe, let the adrenaline and shock dissipate, and then take stock of their situation with clear minds. So he puts a hand on the car door, meeting the agents eyes with stiff determination. “I’ve got it, thanks,” he says pointedly, firmly; he turns to Maria, much less forcefully, tilting his head towards the car a fraction of an inch, the question in the gentle lift of his eyebrows, the suggestion that he won’t be leave without her in the way his feet are planted. 

Bruce has no desires to go to SHIELD medical alone, and he doesn’t want the whirlwind of activity here to suck Maria in. The agents are clearly competent ( enough ), to have found them in the first place, and organized an extraction of the other victims. The darkness of the sky suggests an unspeakable hour, and he can start feeling his own body droop from exhaustion. It’s the least intimidating and commanding he can remember feeling, and he hopes Maria will take pity and indulge him, if she doesn’t otherwise feel swayed. 

There’s a brief moment of silence, a stalemate while Agent Selden’s locked onto Director Hill over Bruce’s shoulder, waiting for an order he’ll ACTUALLY follow. A tilt of her head, as much of a nod as she’ll afford, and the agent releases the top portion of the door, pressing his mouth together. 

          “You’ll have the report in the morning, ma’am.”

A long glance at Banner before he turns and strides off, heading toward the wreckage, irritation evident in the hold of his spine. He exchanges several sharp words with another agent and they stalk off together, likely to return to the central command they’d set up in a safer part of the tunnel. Maria appreciates him for his work ethic, and his attitude that’s normally kept in check. 

Exhaustion continues to seep in while she’s considering the silent request ( because that’s what it is, isn’t it? ). A slight tilt of her head, the tired slope of her shoulders, curl of her spine. It’s not giving in if you’re making the CORRECT decision, right? It’s true: the agents on the scene have this handled. What’s the advantage to being Director when you can’t delegate when the situation allows for it?

A quarter turn has her facing the open door and it takes more effort than it should to slide across the leather bench seat in the back, so she only stops about midway ( not at all because she wants to see where they’re going ). Bruce slides in after her and Maria shifts a little, though not much. She’s settled, and aching bones and muscles tend to stay at rest once they get there. The door closes, the SUV lurches into gear and oozes away from the curb and Maria lets out a breath she wasn’t aware she was holding. 

          “Helluva night,” words are muffled when she runs a palm over her face, mussing her hair and then smoothing it back. The dashboard clock gleams a cool 03:35, putting it much later than she’d expected. Her hand settles in her lap on the outside of her cast, which is tucked in around her abdomen, fingers curled softly in toward her palm. Another heavy breath expelled through her nostrils and Maria turns her gaze on the scientist. “You’re not fine.”

Ah, the elephant in the room, or lack thereof. The Hulk hadn’t showed up at the first whiff of gunpowder, a defense mechanism ( as far as she knows ) that, for some reason, didn’t IGNITE. The trace of alien poison, he’d said. Drugs or toxins or whatever they’d used to subdue him. Lips purse, the corners of her mouth tucking downward, accompanied by the frown scrawled across her brow. “Medical can do a full work up if you want the data to look over.” A casual offer- she won’t force him, and the unspoken promise that the resulting data will be his is an off the books goodwill gesture. The back of her skull makes contact with the headrest and stays there; she’s acutely aware of the proximity of their shoulders, their knees. Traded one enclosed space for another- it’s almost HUMOROUS at this point.

          “I need a painkiller,” Maria announces, finally, as though this is news. “Or four.”


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