what we lost in the fire, we’ll find in the ashes ; bruce + maria

                        She’d left the hotel late that following afternoon after affirming ( if at least for herself ) that Sharon would be alright or on her way to it. Head pounding with each step, the pain of it radiating upward through her heels, collecting in the clench of her jaw, she moves toward her building, focusing on the silhouette of it halfway down the block. Maria weighs the tangle of regret and disappointment she’d taken from her last conversation with Bruce with each slow tread of the staircase, her fingertips pressing along the bannister that finishes off the last several steps.

     There have been several hours to review and predict the upcoming scenario, so she doubts she’ll be surprised by any outcome ( and thus hasn’t let herself make the assumption of any one in particular ), and sheer exhaustion drives her forward through the door without any ceremony aside from the simple twist of the keys in each lock, the scrape of metal on metal.

( The chain isn’t fastened which helps her immediately conclude two scenarios- that the apartment is either empty or he’s expecting her, still, and Maria’s not quite sure which one it is that causes the pang in her chest– )

Her movements aren’t as spry as usual but it’d take a trained eye to recognize the stiffness she’s so dutifully concealing beneath layers of forced determination. The apartment is half-dark and it takes her alarmingly longer than it should to realize that the blue cast to the left side is due to the television being on. She mistakes the living room for empty on first glance, the sound from the set dulled considerably and Maria can’t tell if it’s because the volume’s down or that her hearing is still recovering, muted like she’d spent the night next to a bass-pounding speaker.

     Another few steps inside, moving pointedly toward the kitchen, and she notices a shift at her left- her hand instinctively twitches in the direction of her lost firearm before the figure is familiar. Relief manifests as a sudden drop of her shoulders and a shift in her expression, the arm movement stifled before the intent became obvious. Maria turns, shoulders collapsing along with her expression,



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