the day after ; sharon + maria


“Thanks,” regardless of the mutually-discomfited gridlock of the rest of their conversation, the gratefulness is easy – after all, even when they’re functioning as the two halves that do all but keep S.H.I.E.L.D. whole (and when aren’t they) Maria’s still a friend, it’s still Sharon’s birthday, they’re still sharing a cup of coffee along with that gut-deep, burrowing sense of dread.

Sharon orders whatever the place’s facsimile of her usual would be – the largest iced latte they can make, extra hazelnut syrup, whipped cream today because maybe the fat will help with the gin hangover that’s still buzzing faintly at the base of her skull – and mirrors Hill’s posture, leant against the counter until they’re dismissed in favor of the next paying customer.  On their way to the other end of the bar to wait for their drinks, Sharon snags two straws and two of those flimsy, biodegradable cardboard sleeves meant for hot drinks – it’s just warm enough, today, that the sweat off an iced coffee seems like an additional irritant she’s just not ready to spare annoyance for.

“And by more,” she picks up the thread of the sidewalk’s conversation, seamless, and hardly spares a moment to appreciate just how much, “I presume he means everything, right?  Everything but take the credit?”

The unspoken threat is weighing heavily on Sharon’s shoulders – and hell, she wasn’t even there in person, she can’t imagine what’s running through Maria’s mind – but alongside it there’s confusion, too, and she hates that more than she hates the feeling of being condescended to.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?  Babysitting?”

“In the most glorified sense of the word, yes. When have you ever known him to be anything less than completely overbearing?” Maria talks while she pays- in cash- and leaves the change with the girl at the register. A few steps to the end of the bar, arms folded over her chest, she hasn’t bothered to take off her sunglasses. Aerators are hissing to their right, tamps are barely muffled as they’re hit full force against the damp rags draped across the baristas’ workspace. There’s a flourish of activity, conversation and the swell of a boisterous horn solo over the speakers. 

No one’s really listening to them, but that doesn’t mean Maria’s going break protocol and speak freely. Plus, that guy in the corner talking into his phone like a walkie talkie looks pretty damn suspect. 

     Was she being crazy?

The plastic cup of already melting ice and pitch black espresso is slung onto the bar and she sticks a hand out, offering an absent nod to the person behind the machine who either doesn’t see it or doesn’t care enough to reciprocate.

“Thanks,” she says, accepting the straw and sleeve, the following straw-stabbing gesture toward the cup maybe a touch more violent than she’d have liked. An about face has her pointed toward the door- the people and music in here are jarring, she’s still nursing a baby headache as a result of the night prior and her abrupt meeting this morning. Back on the street it’s not much better, sunlight slipping between her sunglasses and her eyebrows, but at least the noise is more organic, and they’ll be less likely to be overheard.

The storm’s still grumbling overhead, making a lot of noise but not really backing it up aside from a few half-hearted flashes of lightning. All it’s really doing is stirring everyone below into a frenzy. Maria’s shoulder-checked by a suit and she hardly flinches, just takes another draw from her cup. She’s not really in the mood.

“I guess stepping in to clean up the mess just makes us look guilty. Forget the fact that we were on hand and it’s sort of our job–” A low crackle from above has her looking up. Maybe that bench in the slice of park up ahead isn’t the best idea. “From what I gathered we need a tighter grip on the wheel- even though we’re technically not in the driver’s seat anymore- otherwise there’s going to be some protocol changes.”


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