[dry as the desert]  Pity, mostly.

[The back-and-forth is easy, and it’s a relief Natasha wasn’t anticipating.  She always expects a certain measure of familiarity to disappear, when she does; it’s always amazing, when it doesn’t.

She empties a fifth sugar packet into her coffee and eyes Maria carefully, an unhidden assessment in her gaze.  Maria’s always worn stress well – so well, in fact, that it’s usually undetectable, and so Natasha looks for absence, looks for things that should be there, instead.]

But if it’d make you feel better, I can charge you.

[ Her expression is pinched, but still amused. ] You know I hate that.

[ Theirs is a familiarity that doesn’t need regular housekeeping- Natasha comes and goes as she pleases but their relationship never seems to wane, despite whatever circumstances. It’s the kind of consistency that she rarely gets, and so as a result she’s immensely grateful for it. 

Maria weathers Natasha’s scrutiny well, returning the gaze with one of her own, though she’s not really looking for anything specific- anomalies, if any, and she’s pleased to come up empty handed. Another sip of coffee and she inhales, the quirk in her mouth visible when the cup is lowered to meet the desktop. ]

     Can I just owe you instead? 


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