a little unsteady | Maria & Bruce

brucegbanner:

        … he’s barely awake when he feels it, thinks about wanting to hum softly, positive and grateful; he can feel a gesture he wants to reciprocate but can barely comprehend what it is. It mercifully leaves him dwelling on the good instead of the bad as he drifts – he doesn’t want her to leave, but he only has time to think that for a second before he’s not thinking anymore.

The timeline that follows leaves Bruce a little fuzzy on the details – sleep, for an unknown amount of time. The room is dim and he answers the ringing phone before checking the ID, the time, stumbles through a conversation with Barnes. All he can put together is the man called and there were questions, questions that he (mostly) answered – but he can’t quite comprehend what the true conclusion of the exchange was yet; the hours of sleep have cleared the webs of exhaustion that had been pinning down his thoughts, but it feels like he’s still in part of a dream.

There’s enough light from the phone to locate the bedside table. The rank smell of his stolen articles of what only in the loosest sense could be considered clothing is suffocating him. A shower, that’s what he needs, warm water and the refreshing spray against his face. There’s too much grime on his body, too many reminders of the night that he can’t remember, and all the hells that it promised to contain…

Showering is nearly refreshing, and he pulls at the first towel he can get to as he steps out. Wraps it around his waist, crosses back into the bedroom – Maria’s, bedroom, where there’s a neat assortment of clothes on the side-table that actually fit him. There’s a good chance Maria has taken these from some kind of stock, some sort of bag that holds everything and anything she might need. The thought that she might have gone out and procured them simply for his use is unfathomable. But she’s laid them out in either case, clearly for his use, and pulls them on before taking the time to disconnect his cell service. It’s still not quite time to start thinking about his immediate future plans, but it’s not too early to start making himself scarce. The battery’s pulled out (she must have plugged it in, must have picked it up from the casino, his heart aches with the knowledge that she’d been thinking of him enough to pick up his belongings), the simple gestures translating to affection and acceptance, and propelling him through the door.

Electric light dissipates in the air and he knows the television’s just been turned off – and he appreciates it, offering a weak, momentary uncomplicated smile and shuffling forward. They’ve shared this couch before, but this time he’s the one laying out on it; of all the comfort he’s sought from her, all the affections they’ve shared, this still feels the most sacred place. This couch, this apartment, their presence here for them alone to know; his knee sits on top the middle section of the couch as he pitches forward, one arm pushing its way between her back and the cushions, spreading his body supine so his feet press against the far armrest. 

There’s no hesitance or polite delay this time. Nothing but an unbridled appeal for physical comfort, and he claims it without question, his head coming to lie on her lap, nose pressing against her stomach as he takes a big breathe in; he can’t remember the last time he’d let himself fold like this, vulnerable and unthreatening in accordance to some baser instinct – she’s changed her clothes, he realizes abruptly, closing his eyes and pressing a little closer.

It’d been a beautiful dress, really, and he hates that he’s probably ruined it.

          There’s so much weighing down the silence of the room like a thundercloud laden with rain, looming tall and gray and grumbly- indicative of something worse to come. But for now it’s content to hum from the distance. She shifts the laptop from her knees as he moves forward, cross the space and displacing the silence as he goes. It’s late morning, the light comes glinting through the blinds in long streaks, tiger-striping the floor in a swath that’s been slowly making its way across the room.

Arms lift to accommodate him, his hair still slightly damp beneath her fingers when she smooths it back from his temple. For now it’s just the two of them- no television news reports to intervene, the hum of her phone as it retrieves emails effectively muffled by the couch cushion. An inhale, slow and steady, his nose pressed against her abdomen, arm around her back. She drapes an arm over his ribcage, keeps her other hand sweeping in a continuous motion near his hairline. It’s not the first time they’ve occupied this couch, but there’s something more intimate about it this time around. In the silence she doesn’t feel the need to pry, only offer comfort the best she can ( and she’s such a stranger to offering any sort of solace that it feels stilted no matter how she tries ).

         An exhale, the radiating heat from his head in her lap is comforting in its own way, and she dips her chin, offering the slightest of smiles ( hopeful at best ). “Hey.” If there’s any pity in her tone it’s not directed at him. It’s reserved for the way things played out, how the night could have gone had the interaction with Tony not been so inevitable. What would’ve happened if she’d suggested– their time away from the crowd on that small outdoor alcove, wonderful as it was but what could have been if they’d just left . As far as she’s concerned there are several people upon which one could lay the blame, she may as well throw her hat in the ring. It comes with the territory.

She’s curious about the phone call, of course she is- Maria hates not knowing everything. But she won’t ask, not him, not now. Privacy might be the one thing he’s clinging to in this moment, in the aftermath of everything that’s happened.

         Comfort. It’s not something she has experience in offering. It’s not something she grew up with, not something the armed forces willingly liked to offer. All her life the act of comforting another came in the form of a hot beverage and heavy, understanding silence. So, in an attempt to dull the sharp edge of the day he would have to face, Maria spent the last several hours ( before the delivery places closed- ) going through the menus of her favorite three takeout places. There’s probably four- five? plastic bags shoved into an otherwise empty fridge. She runs the backs of her fingers from his temple to the top of his ear. “Hungry?”

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