a little unsteady | Maria & Bruce


                              It’s over.

Bruce comes to in chilly damp grass, shivering slightly, the night set firmly around him. The wet blades cling to his back as he sits up, groaning at the slick sensation and the added chill of the breeze at his back. It’s cold, but he’s not sure that’s why he’s shivering.

   Extremis, the casino, Tony, god, Tony –Hulk.   Bruce groans, lying back down and turning to his side, pulling his knees up to his chest and squeezing his eyes closed.  Fucked up good now. It’s a rolling nightmare, Tony’s words and his own reactions, the hollow pit in his chest; and how had he let himself put all those people in danger… embarrassment and guilt swamp his entire body, and he just manages to make it to his hands and knees before he’s throwing up bile and dry-heaving.

         All those people…  

Light-headed and weak, he wishes he had the excuse of inhibitors and drugs to fall back on. But the barrier he’d wrestled with maintaining down in the subway all those weeks ago hadn’t been an issue this time. This time, he had nothing to hide behind but his own inability to control himself.   ( to protect himself )

                At least now he knows what he has to do.
                      At least now he knows he can’t hide from it anymore.

He would never have a normal life, never be normal and pretending otherwise was an indulgence he clearly couldn’t keep up anymore. There are noises in the trees just beyond the little clearing the Other Guy’s dumped him in, and Bruce gets up quickly. The intimacy of the breeze tells him he’d well and shredded his tuxedo – he’ll pay them back for it, soon. His wallet’s missing too, his phone. No money, no clothes, no friends, nowhere to go.

   Except maybe

Clothes aren’t easy to come by this time of night, and he adds robbing a homeless man of a ratty blanket to the list of his sins. The man stares at Bruce as he tries to explain, and Bruce eventually gives up and just takes it, with a stream of apologizes. There’s a hooded sweater hanging off a railing, two teenagers indulging themselves just beyond it, nestled in the curve of a small hill. The sweater fits tight and stretches across his chest when it’s zipped, reeking of over-concentrated body spray – but it’s better than nothing. He’s sure they won’t miss it.

By the time he makes it to his destination it’s hours later and his feet are well scrapped up, leaving tiny speckles of blood behind him every few steps he takes. He’s so exhausted he’s leaning against walls and doors and anything that will give him any sort of respite. The pin-code to the front door of the building he remembers from that night, throwing the hood up over his head just in case there’s a security camera, and his presence won’t be welcome. Two flights of stairs ( tackled at much the same speed as before ) and he pauses at the end of the hallway.

      His incoherent mind can’t remember: which door…?

Given his appearance he can only hope he choses right, and his knock is hesitant. It takes a while to be answered, but it’s late, and Maria likely has a thousand things she’s dealing with right now – many of which would be direct fallout from his temper.

Of course he picks the wrong door, and he’s not even surprised when the haunting face of an older lady appears behind the chain-lock, her eyes narrowing and scandalous.

“Sorry, wrong door,” he sighs in apology, trying to stave off any inquires, but it’s too late in the night, he’s dressed like a vagrant trashcan, and as she goes off on him, all he can think is that he has no idea how he’s going to be able to talk her out of calling the police.

       The bulk of the brute destruction might be over, but the public relations nightmare for SHIELD, Stark Industries, and Oscorp is only just getting started. Hulk has gone, vanished ( as well it can ) into the night, leaving behind gaping wound in an otherwise beautiful structure. Maria is digging a comms device from her ear canal with one finger whilst navigating the debris in her heels, shoulders sagging. Their perimeter had held up well enough during the initial rampage but was now suffering a deluge of journalists and looky-loos.

      In the back of her mind she’s rough-drafting a statement, one that SHIELD’s own PR team is already putting the final touches on, but she wants to make sure she’s prepared in case she gets cornered by an over-eager reporter because her phone’s missing ( of course ), so she won’t get the briefing until she’s back at her apartment in front of her laptop, CNN on an endless loop in the background.

                 ( It’s a sad commentary on the life she leads when THAT sounds
                                          relaxing as opposed to anything else. )

      And then there’s Bruce. Tattered remnants of a tuxedo jacket are draped over her arm, pockets laden with a wallet and cell phone. He’s in the wind, untraceable at this point ( even if SHIELD had sent the team after him they wouldn’t be able to get a clear trail until daybreak- a waste of resources and personnel in her opinion, even if she was a little biased ). Something aches behind her ribs at the thought of him wandering alone somewhere without anyone at all- thinking no one’s coming for him ( or worse- that they ARE, and that he should be afraid ).

      Hill moves past the line of photographers and writers, all yelling and clamoring like seaside birds, to a waiting SUV. Considering the activity her dress is still in decent enough shape, aside from the ragged hem. There are snags in some spots but they’re minor. Despite all of this, gown itself won’t salvageable and now all she can think of is getting out of it.

      The door on the car thunks closed and effectively muffles the shouts of the bystanders. Maria lets her head fall back against the headrest; doesn’t lift it til she’s curbside at the nondescript building on ( classified ) street. She’s fishing around in the jacket pocket as she walks up the stairs, fingers glancing off the metal and plastic exterior of a mobile device- it’s off and she feels as though turning it on might be crossing a line that she normally doesn’t think twice about overstepping. Wallet, a keycard, but that’s it.

There’s noise when she reaches the upper landing- noise that’s not normally present, the low rumble of voices that has her reaching for the firearm she’s also stashed in the shredded jacket. She slinks around the corner with her hackles raised, but it’s only the neighbor woman and–


      Several steps forward, she dips to prop a shoulder under his arm, that arm slinging loosely around his waist. “Sorry, Mrs. Devonshire–” A smile like a wince, Hill’s starting to wonder if her nosy elderly neighbor isn’t some kind of plant considering how often she’s been privy to Maria’s more significant comings and goings. “–I’ll take him from here.” She steers him away before the woman has time to protest ( which she does regardless ) but it’s easier to ignore once there’s a door between them and the hallway.

             “Come on,” she murmurs, dutifully pointing them toward the rear-most door in her apartment. A pause, then quieter: “You okay?” An inane question, likely, because she knows the answer, but it comes from a place of well-meaning and genuine interest at whatever answer he wants to give.

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