“Nine,” Sharon counters easily, and this is good, she can do this, bargaining with Hill was half her job before she shipped off to that godforsaken –
“And full salary during my leave.”
She knows it’s not about the money – hell, S.H.I.E.L.D. could afford it – it’s about the game, and if anything Sharon’s got a begrudging sort of respect for Hill’s fucking stubborn ass. Sure, everybody likes to win, the two of them more than most, and she can’t deny that if this were a different errand she’d enjoy the back-and-forth.
But she’s exhausted, and there’s a million other, even less-pleasant things she’s got to check off her list before she can even think about where she can crash.
Which reminds her –
“One more thing.”
Without her permission, Sharon’s voice shrinks, and she’s spent the last three days putting off this thought, pushing it far, far down because alright, okay, in the giant pile of bullshit she’s dealing with right now, this may very well be the thing she’s least prepared to face. Her shoulders sink, and Sharon drops her eyes down to her hands only to see that she’s taken up a white-knuckle grip on her knees.
She’s sure as hell got no business asking Maria for personal favors, especially not now, but –
“Off the record.”
It maybe goes without saying that Sharon’s owed one or two.
“Steve – “
(It’s the first time she’s said his name aloud in months, and it feels strange in her mouth in a way that twists sharply in her chest.)
Steve, Steve who she spent six months foolishly hoping was working hard to fix this, and since when did she want – Steve, Steve who’s the executor of the will she left behind, who’s now, legally, probably the rightful owner of the remaining Carter family assets, at least the stateside ones – Steve, Steve who never even questioned, not like she did, who just accepted –
“Captain Rogers can’t know about this, not yet.”
Because she needs time to find a way to tell him.
(She needs to decide if she wants to tell him at all.
If she can.)
“Can you do that for me? Please?”
Delivered with the air of ‘that’s final’. Maria can’t walk away from a negotiation with a subordinate without having the LAST word. It’s written in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director’s manual somewhere. Eight is more than generous. Double the amount of time Carter was in the wind, and hazard pay isn’t CHEAP by any means. She’ll survive. Definitely not in the lap of luxury, but it’s not like Maria’s condemning her to a life on the street, either. Sharon will be hitting up her neighborhood Trader Joe’s in no time and most certainly WON’T be left wanting.
—Full salary in addition?
FINE. Call it a retainer on one of the best agents S.H.I.E.L.D. has. She’ll gladly pay the cost to secure Carter’s loyalty ( sad, though, that it’s come down to BUYING a Carter’s fidelity ). Maria stiffens at the addition, waiting for the other shoe to drop with her fingertips curling over the armrests of her chair.
A favor. Not what she expected, and her expression softens slightly. Brows decrease their pinch at the center of her forehead, eyes become more round, the corners of her mouth lose some tension. They can sit here across from each other, two MOSTLY civil women, and respect what the other requests. Maria hasn’t been where Sharon is, but she’s been close, and that’s enough to sway her. A slight dip of her chin, the precursor to her acquiesce.
Despite what Carter and everyone else thinks, she’s not an entirely heartless human being. She does, however, know what she wants to achieve and now will have no problem getting the result she wants.
“I won’t tell Captain Rogers if you see medical on your way out.”
It’s a threat, but an undelivered one. Sharon can assume the rest– if she for some reason skips over seeing a medic before she leaves, Hill will dial up Steve and let him know what to expect. And probably tell him to stock up the first aid kit, add a hefty serving of painkillers. She doesn’t think she’ll have to do that, however. Hands move to the desktop, she rests the fingers of her cast arm on the edge while the palm of her good arm is planted, helping her rise from the chair, a cue that the conversation has ended and that they can both begin to move on with their lives ( evenings? best to start small– ).
“We’ll be in touch. I’ll page the med bay to let them know to expect you.”