Christ, is she enjoying this?
Sharon wants to get pissed just about that, about the fact that Maria seems to be relishing this back-and-forth like it’s some kind of stimulating intellectual exercise. She didn’t exactly come here to match wits with the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Sharon’s not that desperate to have her ego stroked, and frankly, there are better opponents – but watching the subtle changes in Maria’s expression that reveal just how much of an effect Sharon’s words have had does stir something almost smug in her gut.
A year ago – a lifetime – they may have shared a joke or two, likely mutual bemusement at someone else’s screw up more than anything else, but this?
This is not that. And Sharon has very, very little interest in making this conversation polite or personal.
“It sounds to me like you need a refresher course on how it feels out in the field, Director,” Sharon matches Maria’s venom easily, leaning forward enough that her back leaves the chair – Christ that hurts – and crooking an eyebrow, tilting her head.
“Little too much time behind the desk? What, did you forget what it feels like to actually work for a living?”
That’s not entirely fair and Sharon knows it, but the remark about what Sharon would’ve done in Maria’s position stings just as much. Because – okay – she might not be wrong, and that’s the horrifying part. It’s easy to make the tough calls when you’re not the one who’s got to bear the brunt of them on your back.
It’s too easy.
But Sharon would like to think – and hell, maybe only now because of what Sharon’s got behind her – that decisions like the one Maria made would be harder for her. Because maybe Maria’s perfected the art of letting guilt and blame roll right off her but Sharon would like to believe that she couldn’t live with knowing that she made the same call.
(But she could. She’s kidding herself, and she knows it.)
Sharon shoves that down, deep and deeper and distracts herself with another thought just to get away from the darkness she can feel bubbling up –
What does she want?
“A year’s worth of hazard pay, I think S.H.I.E.L.D. owes me that much,” she doesn’t need it, but it’s more the principle of the thing, and fuck – if they classed her KIA then all her assets have probably been liquidated already, Jesus, what if Steve sold the house –
“And I’m taking a leave of absence.”
Pushing out a breath that she resolutely refuses to call a sigh, Sharon drags her eyes up to Maria’s face again.
“Two weeks, maybe four. But – “
She holds Maria’s eyes, and puts every single remaining flicker of resolve she’s got into the gaze.
“You tell whoever you gave my job that I’ll be wanting it back.”
Irritation begins to manifest in the folds of her mind, the back of her skull. It festers, roiling and pitching like a churning, storm-ridden sea. Sharon Carter’s currently occupying prime real estate in HER office and telling her that she needs a motherfucking refresher course on what it’s like to be a field agent.
Because EXISTING in a world full of imposters for weeks wasn’t enough of a refresher. Moving against the grain of society and hoping that the people you rubbed elbows with weren’t one of them ( or consorting with them ), paranoia nipping at your heels, the lobes of your ears. Becoming as close to comfortable as you can manage with that constant CRAWL at the base of your spine, like something’s there. A presence you can’t quite see, can’t reach. And since living in a perpetual state of suspicion and caution clearly isn’t enough, the universe had to tack on the hand to hand bouts with the enemy. Plural. An alien shapeshifter wearing the face of someone she’d STUPIDLY allowed herself to trust, lurching toward her with a haunted snarl that’ll continue to haunt the edges of her mind months onward. Clawing and fighting for her own sense of self-respect before finally putting a bullet in the thing’s skull, only to be met with its superior not moments afterward. TORSION, the sickening crack of a bone meeting the limit of its endurance. The clatter of metal and a gun in the hands of someone she least expected. Call it what it is, but if something EVER makes the mistake of thinking that Maria Hill is out of PRACTICE, there will be a whole hellstorm of regret.
Sharon doesn’t know the half of it, just like Maria is conveniently blind to HER end of things. Instead of protesting, posturing, Maria offers a thin, glacially CHILLED smile, just as sharp around the edges are slightly melted ice.
“Six months hazard pay. Generous, considering you were cut loose for FOUR.”
A deep breath, the rise and fall of her shoulders. That dull ache is returning to her elbow and she thinks about the translucent orange pill bottle in her desk drawer, right next to the Glock 17. Not yet. She wants to be lucid for a couple more hours at LEAST. There’s a layer of relief to the ensuing reaction incited by the blonde’s response. Hill won’t be responsible for losing her just yet. Maria’s response comes on the tails of a slow exhale.
“Fine. Take all the time you need.” ( She knows it won’t be long. )
She pauses, her gaze tracing the line of her posture, all angles and joints and pooled blood beneath the surface of her skin. Finally, her composure breaks- the fold of her posture collapsing by several degrees, shoulders slumping gentle to break the sharp-edged lend to her bearing.
“At LEAST see medical on your way out. You look like hell, Carter.”