white blank page | Maria & Bruce


   Too busy?   He’d been busy lost in his war-torn mind, reconciling the monster with the human; busy finding the gait he could take the world with that wouldn’t slowly shatter every resolution he’d made and every confidence he held. He’d been busy fighting off mind-numbing loathing and paralyzing self-doubt; but not so busy as to let go the torch, however metaphorical, that anchored him to what he wanted to be. There was a goal at the end of his dark tunnel, a reward he couldn’t lose sight of, a endgame the cards had kept reminding him of.  ( he’d come to realize that the light at the end had been his own peace of mind. And only armed with that, could he have a hope of fostering this connection )

Bruce shakes his head slightly to counter her shrug – the cards speak for themselves, and he’s got a will to disapprove any other made excuse that comes up as to her place on his list of priorities. 

       There it is, the unanticipated flicker, the thin break in her guard. It peeks through at him, pushing aside the window curtains and sweeping away his nerves and doubts, replacing them with thinly veiled optimism and cautious hope. Dangerous, optimism, and he steps forward to test the waters as she shifts past him; he turns on his heel, takes a step, closes the space between the door and his body, between his body and Maria’s. The bag’s at his side, finally out of the way, Maria’s back much too close to his chest. 

“Okay,” he mutters over her shoulder, intent on the privacy the apartment will give them ( the proximity is secondary, he could argue, but it’d be a lie ). He could still be wrong, but with each moment that passes, with each micro-interaction they have, the chances of that are getting slimmer. The only thought in his mind is that of simply holding her after all this time. 

  When she turns around to let them in, she can either push him away, or give credence to his optimism. 

      The shift in closeness isn’t new, isn’t necessarily unwanted, but it’s a pleasant surprise all the same. His voice is close, the hum of it gentle just off her ear and her spine prickles lightly at the proximity and she turns her head lightly while the pins tumble, the lock is disengaged and the door swings inward. Her outstretched palm catches the light switch, flooding the main room with fluorescent light, everything just as she’d left it: tidy but with a very slight degree of lived-in disruption if one happened to look closely.

( The sweater’s gone from the table where he’d left it- the entire surface has been cleared and replaced with a bundle of junk mail destined for the shredder, newspapers and other such things that found their way into her inbox. If anything else has changed, it’s probably negligible, aside from the fresh layer of dust collecting on the flat planes everywhere that doesn’t get regular use. )

      Maria steps inside, slides to the left of the entrance and drops the bag at her feet, keys on the small pedestal there. Body turned partially away, she makes quick work of slipping her pistol from the holster at her ribs. She ejects the clip and places both pieces in the bag, before straightening and turning toward him. The whole action takes less than a minute, but she feels like the silence has lasted for longer. Her shoulders rise and fall in the slightest of shrugs, wrist swings up so she can check her watch and when the door shuts she leans over to lock the series of latches out of habit. 

         “You must be exhausted.” 

She tips forward, the momentum of her step taking her closer to him and she hooks a finger beneath the hem of his sleeve, honing in on a rusty colored spot that she knows has to be blood- Maria’s seen it enough times in her own clothes to recognize the patterning and color. She looks up sharply, brow arced.

             “Not yours?”

A silly thing to want confirmation for, especially since it’s clear that he’s fine and intact standing right here, if a little travel-weary.


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