they haven’t seen the best of us yet ; sharon + maria


Sharon offers Maria the chipped edge of a smile, tight but there – the least she could do.  She contemplates the remaining tablets in her palm, considering just a dry swallow, but — 

“Go for it,” Sharon draws the attention of both dogs as she continues her journey toward the minibar – the distance seems to yawn, expanding the further she moves – free palm clapped against her thigh to bring them both to heel, unsurprised when Bryan catches up immediately but Bandit doesn’t.

“Bathroom’s nice.”

It’s offered as some kind of continuation of her thought, small and surface, a concerted effort not to trend toward the actual consideration – the realization that she only knows that because she’d spent the better part of the last hour with her cheek against the cool porcelain tiles, eyes shut tight against the spinning brilliance of the room’s gold fixtures as the whole room pitched and rolled.

Tablets get left on the marble countertop so Sharon can drop to her haunches before the silver handle of the small refrigerator, too-fast and sending her pulse thudding again, head swimming for a long moment, choppy enough that she’s got to squeeze her eyes closed against it, too wary to shake her head again.  There’s a careless shrug that finally accompanies her reach inside, coming back with two bottles of water – pristine, each in their white-linen-paper jackets, bearing another gilded logo and startlingly out of place in the bruised, scraped hand that’s clutching them – along with the first of what’ll most likely be many of the airline bottles of liquor tucked into the fridge’s door.

Bandit hovers curiously as Sharon heaves herself back up, dancing in place with a nervous wag of his tail, and Bryan nudges her thigh with his head, solid, reassuring only because she knows the movement, know he’s looking to hold her up.

“Cheers,” Sharon offers Maria one of the bottles of water, first, abandoning the small bottle of tequila beside herself on the plush bedspread when she finally comes to a stop, uncapping the bottle of gin in her hand to chase the chalk-sweet taste of the painkillers down her throat.

“— I brought you some fresh clothes, by the way.”

A hum accompanies Sharon’s words, meant in place of a reply, an acknowledgement barely mustered. Not that it matters- they’re both here, existing in this same outcome together. Their plight is shared, the aftermath shaken out along the lines of their shoulders like ash. Lingering- Maria sees it in the subtle nuances in Sharon’s posture, the small heave that brings her back up and out of the mini-fridge’s open door. She notes the pressure in her fingertips, reads into the stiff hold of her jaw. 

         “Thanks,” as fingers close around the bottle, and hiding the wrinkle in her nose at the almost too-sweet taste of it against the bitter that’s been haunting the back of her throat. Her gratitude is two-fold ( ten, twenty-fold if we’re still counting the immediacy of the Helicarrier incident- ) and she drains half the bottle, the corner of her mouth tightening at the familiar bottle set aside for herself. Maria gives the dogs a long look before swiveling back toward the bathroom, worry carved into the lines of her expression. They’re okay. Collectively, they’re all okay. And: this could have been worse. “I won’t be long.”

Not that it matters. She takes the water bottle with her, draining the other half before the shower warms up, sending curls of steam cascading toward the ceiling while she white-knuckles the sink and makes eye contact with herself in the mirror. The scalding water feels less cleansing than she’d hoped- a cold shower might’ve been the better option ( might have felt better on her ribs, too ). There’s white noise coming from the main room when she slides out of the tub, shrugging into one of the provided white robes. By the clip of the voice she can tell it’s a newscast ( of course it is ) and Maria glides toward the doorway still wringing her hair with a towel.

Eyes fixed on the screen, she takes the bed that’s yet unclaimed, sinking onto the mattress next to the spare set of clothes. A hand reaches out and picks up the phone, automatically dialing in to her voicemail. There are several from Pierce, and his voice becomes a dull buzz against her ear while she gazes at the television screen, partially watching when the coverage switches over.

       The ticker at the bottom of the screen reads: BREAKING

A fingertip comes down hard on the hook switch, still holding the handset up against her ear.

          “What the hell is this?”


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