“I hate to think I’m wasting anyone’s time, but there were a few things I was hoping to discuss with you personally, Mr. Secretary. I was hoping we could take the time now to avoid confusion later.”
Steve doesn’t look at Sharon. He can just about feel Bucky roiling beside him. But Steve manages to find the camera that’s most likely feeding back to Pierce, and he’s locked on it.
“If your schedule doesn’t let you get away from Washington, I’d be happy to come down and speak to you.”
Sharon watches Pierce’s face as Steve speaks, assessing, waiting for the stoop of his brow that would indicate an impending response, hoping the condescension she’s seen fill his expression so many times before remains absent, this time around.
(She isn’t that lucky.)
But thankfully, Pierce manages to let Steve speak his piece, even if the other Council members begin to shift in their seats, the telling sounds of shuffling paper, sips of water indicating poorly-disguised disinterest. Bucky’s silence is deafening – but then, that might just be to her.
(Sharon wonders how it feels, to stand here, believing what he does, but —
She knows how it feels. She’s been there. And she wished it on him.
“I’d be happy to host you, Captain.”
Pierce’s words drip with honeyed politeness, a deference that in its acidity feels like a rebuff.
“I’d like an opportunity to meet with all of our Assets.”
Sharon has to concentrate on keeping her reaction tilted inward, her gaze off Steve’s face, and finally, for the first time since their meeting had begun, Sharon looks across the conference table and searches for Maria’s eyes, instead.
God, can they just get this over with?
“I think,” Sharon remains focused on Maria, almost intently, afraid suddenly that if she looks for Bucky, looks for Steve, she’ll only make this worse, betray something they’d take for hesitance when in reality it’s simply anxiety to finish this. The longer this drags on, the higher the risk of something – or someone – complicating an already-fraught situation becomes.
“Why don’t we proceed with the signing?”
Steve’s words land but are hardly considered– can see it in the forced-blank faces of the Council members, the glint in Pierce’s eye like a cat with too many mice to choose from; can feel it in the string-taut atmosphere of the room.
And he’s sorry, in a way, for what he’s about to say– what he’s about to do.
“While I’m sure it’s frustrating for things to be outside your control, Secretary Pierce….”
He forces the knot in his stomach to feel more anchoring than bottomless, pushing reservation and memory aside to do the only thing he feels he can. A reality standing stark in contrast with the silence shot through by the hum of electricity consumed by the live feed.
( he wishes he’d had time to apologize to Sharon in advance, if he’d just–
not worth it )
“I’m here to formally tender my resignation from the Avengers.” He doesn’t let himself fixate on Pierce, choosing instead to watch the rest of the Council – well-hidden surprise to indifference to furthered disgust – before settling again on the Secretary. The only tell that what he’s said has struck is the slightly narrowed eyes (reading frustration, apparent interest), that calculating look Bucky can only associate with ill intent.
But before he can say another word– before he can even think to risk a glance at Sharon or Maria (not really wanting to see what might be there; a consequence he’d rather deal with another day, but a bullet he’s tempted to bite anyway), the world skips, an ugly lurch that has him taking a step to keep standing.
( he can’t describe the sound )
It’s instant, one moment the room’s lit up and tense and normal– the next they’re in the dark, only the rotating scatter of red emergency lights and the flat static display where the Council used to be to shed light on the room, and the tension’s cut.
Bucky begins to speak and her attention snaps toward him, taut almost as though it’s a physical thing and her surprise is visible in the pull of her eyebrows toward the center of her face.
This wasn’t what was supposed to happen– god damn it, Barnes.
Mouth slightly agape, her lips press together when Maria registers the disbelief and attempts to contain it, relegating it to a point of tension at the base of her jaw. In fact, she’d been collecting her thoughts, ready to speak to Pierce in an effort to maybe give them all a chance to reconsider, to collect themselves and go over the understanding of what the outcomes of this situation were ( even though she’s sure they all know ) when the world falls from beneath her feet.
It’s an awful sensation, that sudden drop that leaves one both breathless and mindlessly searching for possible causes ( and then coming to terms with the outcome because she’s for sure they’re plunging straight into the bay ). Her line of vision jars with the abrupt halt and knees grind as though she’d just jumped five stories and landed on her feet, shock radiating upwards from the soles of her shoes. The combination of sudden drop and then a jerked stop has her keeling sharply to her left as the Helicarrier pitches. There’s movement at her back, the rustle of standard-issue body armor and boots atop the metal tread, the sound of several AR-15s chambering rounds.
A swath of red emergency light sweeps around, catching Barnes in the face before it passes over hers, eyes locking onto his. In her peripheral across the way she can make out the stark blonde of Sharon against the flanking S.T.R.I.K.E. team, the bulk of Rogers not far off of her position.
The team on her side has advanced and for the briefest of seconds there’d been a hand gripping her upper arm to ensure that the Director didn’t hit the deck- but it vanishes the split second that it was clear she was steady. A palm faced toward them signifies a holding pattern is imminent-
“What the f–”
Her words are lost beneath the alarm systems and a hand goes instinctively toward her pistol at her side as a defense against whatever threat they’re about to encounter.