There it is, the ruined beat, lying between them like roadkill – not as graphic as that, but it feels particularly painful and awkward after what had just happened. A huff from her and he knows that they both know it. A moment tolerated, but cringe-worthy, and she manages a little more poise than he had in the attempt to move on.
Yet she doesn’t flee at the reminder. Doesn’t seem perturbed. Slightly put out, sure, but more like if the cafe she liked had run out of blueberry muffins on a particularly difficult morning, and she’d had to settle for cranberry.
Because this is Maria Hill and there isn’t a need for full disclosure.
Because she already knows.
Because he could have killed her, very nearly did kill her – and he didn’t, she wouldn’t let him, he hadn’t let himself, and it’s stupid to think she isn’t fully aware of everything this means, the numerous implications this closeness carries.
His eyes flicker up at the intentional brush; he’s spent so long hiding that he occasionally forgets there are people who know. Who really know. Who maybe have too much faith, but who can’t claim to have been ignorant. Tony, Steve, Harry, Sheila – Maria, too, in a way, and she’d have access to the most basic information. They’d all seen the monster, in some greater sense, and they understood the dry, stifling, unbridled danger of it.
The jittery helplessness that spurs his defensive slant eases, and he rolls his lip between his teeth, watching her deftly fill out her order. Her calm buffers him, lets him knock against the wall without scratching or bruising.
He meets her lifted brows with a sheepish wash of a smile, apologetic.
“It’s okay,” he says quietly, ( ‘I’m sorry’, he means ), picking up the pencil and marking out his own selection: a beef roll, salmon and scallop sashimi. “I just…” had a moment. Forgot that I’m still raw. Vulnerable. Forgot that there was a part of him deep down that rebelled and revolted at the idea of getting close, that didn’t fail to sneak in and undermine.
( and he’s gotten far far, far too close )
His leg falls a little lower, shifting so it’s laying next to Maria’s knees, touching slightly. Not as obvious as before, but hopeful.
“And now we wait for someone to take it away,” he comments, setting the paper where it can be seen at the edge of the table. “Is this your first meal out, here?”
Calm is a defining feature. It manifests itself in the set of her brow, the line of her jaw when chaos swirls on in the background. His defensive shuffle isn’t a surprise, but she’d thought they’d made it past this. Still, if she hadn’t the ability to remain serene in the face of discord they might be in an entirely different situation. She’s witness that kind of chaos, his particular brand, and yet here she sits. But it’s okay, just like he says, and Maria tips her chin downward at the warm weight of his leg against her knees.
“It’s okay,” Maria repeats gently, the weight of her reply not quite the same as his, but they share a similar plane. The din of the restaurant seems to settle in around them- less bustling than before and somehow more embracing, not at all jarring like it’d been.
She shifts, feet shuffling against the floor resulting in her knees knocking against his leg- a gentle status check that’s far more obvious than it should be ( but something tells her subtlety might not be the best course of action right now- uncertainty is something she wants to avoid ). One elbow nocked atop the table and she rests her chin in the palm of her hand, humming gently her assent. A slight nod at the girl that drifts by and picks up the slip, disappearing without a word and hardly a passing glance.
“First meal that isn’t room service.” Her attention slides back to him when the waitress disappears. Come to think of it, it’s her first meal out in a long time- one that can officially count as a meal out, not some sorry excuse for a lunch or a dinner grabbed from a bodega on the corner when she manages to step away from the office.
A grateful nod is afforded toward the waitress when their food arrives, two dainty plates arranged with a colorful spray of sushi. Sashimi for her- bright reds and pinks of salmon and tuna, a sliver of off-white that could be eel or tilapia. Likewise for him, the salmon and scallop sashimi alongside a beautifully constructed beef roll.
“Actually-” She’s got the chopsticks in her hand now, held perhaps a touch too firmly between her fingers. “-I can’t recall the last time I’ve been traveling for work and had the time to sit down to a nice dinner. So, thank you.”
Traveling for work usually entails much more than this- her few days at the expo made her feel very ‘hands-off’, out of touch as a guest of Stark’s ( and out of control of the situation- maybe herein lay the issue ). Maria’s much more used to adrenaline-fueled, gunshot-addled power weekends that typically end in taking down a rogue scientist doing much more harm than good with his experimental biogenetic technology–
So, comparatively, this is nice.