a little unsteady | Maria & Bruce


Food, right, that had been on the docket before he’d passed out – before he passed out on her ( it’s okay ). The skin along the side of his face is warm and tingling, nerves still vibrating gently at phantom touches. He smiles at the thought, that she’s been doing that the whole time, intermittently but steady. He mustn’t’ve been out for a long time, his shoulders, neck and head bathed in a warm, temperate heat that hasn’t turned to suffocating; though he’s not sure it could feel suffocating, like this.

         The ache in his stomach he’d fallen asleep to has turned into something nauseating and hollow; as much as he doesn’t want to move away from this, he shifts with her gentle ministrations, head rolling into her palm, meeting her eyes for a brief moment and letting himself sit in it for one last, final breath; he can stand, he’s sure he can, but it takes the gentle encouragement to actually get there.   Still no questions, he’s grateful, beyond grateful.  Fingers hook into hers, locking them together for a moment longer. He can walk alone now, doesn’t need the solid weight of her anchor to keep him rooted to his spot; but he doesn’t mind it, not when she can keep him firmly in this steady calm.


     And drink something, the rumbling acknowledgement from the base of his throat hitching from the sudden dryness there. He’s more awake now but Maria’s preface takes beats longer to process than it should as he blinks at the amassed takeout; the chilled air from the fridge creeps out in a seeping ooze as he contemplates, coating his feet in a cushion of cold.

             But it’s still there when his neurons finally rev up to full speed.

This mountain of food and she’s concerned with his preferences, and yet she goes for nonchalance about the obvious effort. Yet another assault on his haggard resolve, this moment such a stark contrast to every in the past where he’d woke in rubble or dirt, always destruction, too preoccupied with getting somewhere to bother with more than whatever odds and ends he could find along the way.

Bruce takes a step into the fridge, pivots slightly on his heel and reaches over the fridge door to lay a light hand on Maria’s neck, a gentle suggestion she turn her head, so he can kiss her, so he can try and express how much this means to him because there aren’t words but maybe she’ll be able to read into the desperate energy that spurs the action, the overwhelming gratitude and affection that has his head tip against hers, has him whispering,

       "Thank you,“  though it doesn’t come close to sufficing.  

His nose grazes her cheek when he pulls away, unable to break off easily or immediately. It’s a fight even with his empty stomach howling to redirect his attention, and he pulls two bags at random from the fridge with one hand, his other brushing her back as he comes around to set them on the counter.  

Ravenous hunger is the best sauce, the flimsy plastic shredding easily under his fingers; the bag has no-fuss styrofoam holding its goods, and he pops the lid open, picking up a nugget of meat coated in something dark with his fingers and popping it straight into his mouth. There’s a bed of fried rice under the rest of them – Ginger Beef, and he finishes in seconds, going for another one and leaning against the counter with a soft moan, talking, inhaling, and stuffing all at the same time,


           She watches the sleep evaporating off of him like a late-spring snow melt, the unfolding expression on his face illuminated by the soft glow from the refrigerator. A warm hand at her neck and she turns slightly to catch his mouth as he dips forward, that lingering impression, the whispered gratitude more than she needs ( it’s not necessary, not to her ). She’s got eyes on his profile when he moves away again, fishing for bags from the fridge shelf before backing out completely and repositioning himself the counter.

Maria shifts to accommodate him, movements fluid despite her apparent lack of sleep ( she operates on a three hour minimum with hardly a tremor in her fingertips ). One hand slips out and curls around a box of fried rice. He hasn’t bothered to heat anything, not that she would either, but the rate at which he’s going through the first box gives her minor concern for the status of her getting breakfast or not ( it’s also unsurprising that her refrigerator is bare save for the added carryout food ).

          There are a flood of questions just waiting, pressed against the backs of her teeth, one more important than the rest. If she doesn’t ask, someone else will. If she doesn’t ask, someone else will ask her why she didn’t. An exhale, Maria looks down and busies herself with popping the top of the cardboard container. There’s a drawer near her hip and she pulls out a fork, fusses with the rice, but doesn’t take a bite. The silverware rests heavily between her thumb and index finger.

Bruce.” S.H.I.E.L.D.’s already escaped the brunt of the publicity by handling the outcome as well as they had. She’s not under fire, but it’s unlike Hill to let any questions go unanswered. Fingertips press against the box’s exterior, she lifts it and allows it to tap gently against the countertop in rapid succession ( an anxious gesture if anything else- surely not to get his attention ). “I don’t-” Another exhale. Things like this are normally so much easier when she finds she doesn’t care for the person she’s prodding. Explain sounds too much like an order, an interrogation. Each word she weighs carefully on the tip of her tongue.

                     “Was it really the best time? And place?” The final wording is quiet, as careful as she knows how to be ( can afford ). Concern etches the arch of her brows, the nail on her thumb catches the edge on the box.

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