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


It looks worse than it actually is because it looks terrible – the bruised flesh seems inelegantly mashed underneath her skin, with strokes of molting colour that gently center towards the point of impact: a vividly angry mark that remains stubbornly bloodshot.

   The words of her text message flash in his mind as a pained inhale forces his heart to drop down to somewhere around his feet – war wounds he’s seen before, treated gnarled and ghastly and lost causes drawn out to provide a few more hours of struggled life –  

( but this is more akin blunt force cruelty, the patchwork of struggling cells marring the skin on yet another person he holds near and dear; and the downplaying, the minimizing, the attempted concealment – )

God,” he breathes, and he’s crouching down to get a better look at it, slipping into an analytical triage that does little to mask the concern and pain on his face, but at least cushions him from chasing down any distressing threads.  ( she said she was okay )  The area’s still slightly swollen, and Bruce trails his thumb along the nearest edge of it, feeling the furious heat it’s radiating.  ( she said that she was good )  

      There’s no doubt that it must have hurt; knocked the air out of her, likely, and he’s concerned there might be a dislodged or cracked rib underneath the bruising   ( he’d pulled her into him, he’d hurt her )  –

“Did you get an x-ray?”   The constant flicker of the television doesn’t make the lighting for this ideal, and he needs a better look.   ( this isn’t in the least fine )   “Come sit in the kitchen.”    ( ‘why didn’t she tell him’ wars with ‘of course she wouldn’t tell him’ – )  

     but he doesn’t move yet, the palm of his hand resting along her jawline, and he wants to ask ‘why’ but it turns into a selfish, affirming kiss instead, and when he pulls away he can’t help the look of confusion and hurt that flashes before he shifts back into a worrying assessment, taking her hand and moving them into the kitchen.

An exhale that catches when he drops to his knees, fingers carding gently through his hair while he offers a careful inspection of the bruise. It’s bad, but not as bad considering the alternative, she’ll maintain that forever if she has to. Still, it doesn’t help to see the concern twisted so plainly in his expression, writ in the scrawl of his brow- it’s still there when he straightens, a question in his eyes when he moves in to kiss her. Fingers are hooked into the fabric of his shirt, another breath before Bruce is leading her into the kitchen.

       “No,” Maria replies, utilizing the handle of the fridge to help herself onto the countertop- a chair seemed too low and she doesn’t want him nursing sore joints tomorrow if she can help it. “–I haven’t been by HQ yet.” There’s an implication in those words, one she knows he’s intelligent enough to get and she dips her chin a little while working her left arm out of the t-shirt’s sleeve, eyes on his face.

Beneath the light over the stove the injury is illuminated, revealing spots that may have gone unnoticed out in the fringes of the living room, lit by the flicker of the television. Her hands come to rest in her lap, legs crossed lightly at the ankles with her toes pointed toward the linoleum.

      “It doesn’t feel like a broken rib.” It’s sore, her body’s been through a trauma and needs to heal, that’s all. Her next words are a stutter step, a false start that threatens to die on her tongue. “Bruce–”

There’s a heaviness to the quiet that settles in between them, almost physical in the way it occupies the space.

              “There was a reason we took a step back.” Went off the grid is probably the better term, but Maria doesn’t want to lend a sense of drama to her paranoia ( that was always Fury’s MO, anyway ). A reason, because she wants him to know that he’s important enough to her to deserve some sort of explanation for what happened. Her tongue darts out to wet her bottom lip, internally warring with the reasoning for her abrupt disappearance- it’s like teasing out a knot that’s waiting to unravel, but for now she’s unsure just how much she can afford to let slip, and so she settles with a shoulder against the refrigerator, exhaustion rolling off of her in waves.


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