sometime around midnight | bruce + maria


The tickle of her fingers under his hand is enough to make his touch linger, settling over hers lightly. A symbol of companionship, support, and his breath comes out with the traces of laughter – this time solely for her joke and not at all at her or her state. 

     “Tony can be a handful,” he agrees; and Bruce would rather leave to the imagination, what he might do when confronted with their current situation. But there are hotel rooms, and other, alternate solutions, though he’s holding out hope they won’t be necessary. 

Bruce knocks a knee into hers, turning his head to smile at her, innocence and earnestness, “Good thing you don’t need to.” Because he’s pledged to himself to see this through, and he watches her as her eyes close and her shoulders sink – the dark patch at her temple ruin the sweet image of her at rest, reminding him this wasn’t just an unfortunate incident. 

            They could’ve killed her, he thinks, and he leans against her as the car makes a sharper turn, her torso sliding towards him fractionally. Thankfully her head doesn’t drift the same way, held steady by the indent in the cushions. It only takes a few quiet minutes, Bruce’s eyes drinking in the sight of her at rest – he squeezes her hand as they come to a stop, releases it as he climbs out. 

There’s a brief standoff between agent and Bruce, but eventually the other man leaves. 

He’s actually impressed with her dedication, keeping half a step behind her as she climbs the stairs, arms prepared to catch her should she get tripped up with physics.  

        “Jacket?” he suggests, stopping his hand as it reaches out to check – she can check her own jacket, or ask him for help. Being a crutch is one thing, but he’s going to draw the line at invading her privacy like that. 

Thoughts are slow, sluggishly chugging toward the forefront of her mind before they fail to stick and then toddle off again, leaving her grasping at air that once contained valuable cognition. There was a slight lapse between the thought that she might need her keys and Bruce’s suggestion and somewhere in the interim it seems as though the order of the moment gets flipped ( or seems to ). So his suggestion that the keys might be in her jacket pocket just as her fingertips come to rest on the cool metallic weighting down the right side of her coat seems downright magical, and then borderline alarming.

In a great show of dexterity, Maria manages to hook her finger through the keyring and extracts it from the pocket, looking at him in disbelief. It’s hardly a passing thought, pressing the keys into his hand for safekeeping as she moves slowly by him, toward the three small steps that will get them to the front door. Focus. Three steps isn’t that bad. She’s innately aware of her condition and has been attempting to will it away for the past several moments. Three steps doesn’t take her very long ( or it does and she simply can’t comprehend the seconds that pass ) and she’s at the keypad chewing her lip. This could be problematic.

A finger lifted toward the number pad seems to move of it’s own accord- muscle memory, is an actual real thing and she catches herself blowing out a breath of relief when three-six-five-eight works.

It’s the stairs that loom across the small lobby that cause her to falter. There’s no elevator in her building ( rent was cheaper this way ), just a long string of stairs to the second floor, narrow and dated like the rest of the structure. Maria turns slowly on the spot, heels rooted to the floor and a fresh wave of embarrassment sloshing around in her stomach. He should go. Doesn’t need to see her like this, so weak and veiled beneath only the thinnest of filters between inhibition and un.

She straightens her spine, looks away toward the stairs, waves a hand, puts on a solemn and very brave expression. “I’ll take it from here.” Only the slightest drag to her words to give away the medicated sludge through which she’s trudging in her brain. Toe taps against the bottom stair, bringing her to a halting stop, hand on the railing. A glance over her shoulder says it’s unlikely that he’s moved ( he’s come this far, after all- and he has her keys, minor detail ). “Seriously.”


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