[Her agreement comes swiftly, informed by Maria’s tone and slipping seamlessly into sync with it. It’s been a long few weeks, of course it has, but the only thing keeping Sharon from falling apart at the prospect of attending another funeral is the fact that if she’s out of commission, who knows what other kind of hell would break loose in her absence.
And she couldn’t make Maria do it alone.]
Funny, right? [the scrape of her laugh is anything but humor] All that noise, all those protests, but who got to retire or disappear and who’s stuck – who’s stuck doing this —
[Her voice filters to a halt, the bitterness that’d fueled it wearing off, cooling into something heavier, harder, the next words breathed out almost like a secret.]
I hate this, Maria.
[ Eyes shift sideways, sliding into the jacket that will cover the dress, make the practicality of it, the functional simplistic beauty for which it was chosen obscure- not that it matters. Maria likes to think that every choice she makes this morning will be, on one hand, made for those they’ve lost, for those that they’re honoring with this next service.
It’s with that same attitude she’ll shake the hands of the widows, offer her condolences and those of the entire agency, the WSC and the United Nations. She’ll do her best to become a pillar against the grief they’ll both be witnessing, a silent representative of respect and shared sorrow. ]
So do I. But I’d rather it be me making the rounds than someone else. Us.
I know we’ll do it right.
[ She wears that dress like a sheath, a suit of armor that acts as such but also as a sort of softening filter over her sharp edges– ]
I do hate feeling like there’s nothing we can do to keep it from happening.
[Sharon nods in agreement, silent a long moment even though Maria can’t see the gesture. But it’s true – this is their third memorial service in as many weeks, another scheduled for next week, the larger commemorative service for every Agent lost aboard the Iliad coming up close behind. She’s never been one for funerals – is anyone? – but Sharon can’t help but feel as if lately, she’s spent more time in cemeteries than anywhere else.]
Yeah. Me, too.
[Helping herself to one of the lint rollers still in its packaging on Maria’s desk, Sharon occupies her hands peeling away the plastic, eyeing the thin layer of mingled German Shepherd and Husky hair edging the hem of her dress. A heavy sigh tumbles out before she can stop it.]
Sure getting tired of saying goodbye to good guys, that’s for sure.
[ It’s getting tiring, Sharon’s right, and Maria can’t help but feel the twinge of guilt that comes along with the thought. It’s been slathered on thick these past couple of weeks, evidence of a situation that’s slipping further and further from their grasp. So much for having a hand on the wheel– But she’s not quite ready to give it up and admit it just yet. A sigh slips out and she sits, exchanging her heels for the other pair. ]
[ The agreement drags out, cut off by the sharp clip of her teeth knocking together. She’s been worrying at the end of a thought for the past several days- and now that she’s in good company– ]
Doesn’t really seem fair–
Not that I’d wish this on the other side, but it sure seems like for the people that claim they have a lot more to lose…
[unzipping the suggested pocket] Ah, you’re a lifesaver. It’s fucking freezing out there.
Here — [tucking the package under her arm and crossing over to stand behind Maria, easing the zipper up] This is nice. [a beat, an inward breath] Bonus, considering you’re practically living in it, now.
[ Maria had sent Paige out for her dry cleaning that afternoon- despite hating using her for mundane chores ( it seemed insulting ). But she was grateful when the woman returned with her dress and a six pack of black hose, gel toe inserts for her heels- two pair, and a lint roller. She’s not stupid.]
[ Neither of them are thrilled to be in this position, clearly. A hand drags through her hair before moving toward the hem of the dress, shifting the fabric so that it settles correctly. The next exhale passes through her nostrils. ]
I’d gladly give it up in exchange for not having to do this anymore.
[ At least not for awhile. She knows what she’d signed up for, but this– was a little excessive as of late. ]
Any attempt Sharon might’ve made to literallycall off the dogs seems like too much effort, aborted admonitions rattling around her aching jaw as her eyes snap toward the doorway – the only person with any business getting in is Maria, and that assurance is the only thing that keeps Sharon’s sidearm on the coffee table. Still, her gaze settles heavily on the other woman the minute she comes into view, the cut of a half-smile tugging at the bruises already blooming beneath her eyes – making it more of a grimace.
“Oh, you know, I’m fantastic,” clearly her sarcasm’s working, at least, so all isn’t quite lost. Sharon clocks the bag as it trips through the air, reaching out one-handed to catch it and examining the contents –
“You’re too kind.”
It’s a good enough reason to heave herself off the suite’s obnoxiously-plush couch, at least. Unzipping the bag and upturning it, Sharon shakes three of the oblong yellow tablets into her palm – Percocet? Maybe? God, it’s been a long damn time since she’s needed anything that strong, even longer since she admitted that.
(The weeks after Afghanistan spring to mind, immediately, not for the first time today.)
She starts to shake her head, hoping to dislodge the smoky wreckage of the memory before it can take root again – her stomach’s already empty, throat scoured raw, anyway – but stops short when the movement rattles, sends the whole damn room tumbling around.
Maria’s halfway between Sharon and the minibar, but that’s not the only reason Sharon pauses beside her, hand held out in offering – mirroring the way the other woman had entered – not even bothering to come up with a reason to gauge the expression on her face.
“We’re supposed to take these with water, right?”
She’s not about to outright ask– they’re not really the sort- instead using the half-question to measure Sharon’s outward appearance as an indication of her mental state. The drape of her posture, the way she’s holding herself ( keen eyes trace the fluttered gesture, perfunctory and straightforward ). Motor reflexes are functional, as is the obvious dry sense of humor.
Hands are held free of the cold press of wandering noses, wet jowls, even though one of them has left a slime trail across the leg of her pants and Maria catches herself locking her knee to stop the shake that’s erupted there. The edges of her mind are raw, crackling like the point of a live wire each time she lights on a thought, clings to it, before it’s abruptly jerked away.
“Whatever you want.”
Her gaze has already flitted toward the minibar having come clear of the corner, navigating her way through the pair of dogs, still panting heavily and hovering around her hip. Brows are raised, offering a sarcastic lend to the answer, despite her fingertips press against the nearest surface- anything– going white around the nails in an attempt to ground herself in the space. The pill clacks against her teeth before she swallows, warding off the fresh wave of bile that threatens to ebb at the back of her throat, causing her head to crane toward the bathroom door she’d seen on her way in.
“Mind if I shower?” The acrid smell of it has been teasing at her senses, seemingly seared into her clothes as a constant reminder of what happened, the thing that she’d rather not revisit just yet, letting it settle into the base of her jaw where her molars jar together. Humor, or something akin to it (normalcy, at this point, is humorous ) has her tipping her chin downwards, addressing the canine audience for a secondary opinion in that same, scraped-out tone. “Mind if I shower?”
“K.. R.. U–” An exhale, unbidden, pushes its way past her bottom row of teeth, palm splayed flat on the table and she can feel the beat of her pulse at the base of it, thrumming at the space on her ribs that aches at each shift of her issued jacket. The woman behind the desk hums, taps at the keyboard, and finally verifies the reservation. “Right, Irma Kruhl.”
“And you are-”
“Emma Gerhardt.” The concierge nods, and she exhales, thankful for Sharon and her intuition. “I’ve got you right here. Room 503. Ms. Kruhl has already gone up.” Keys are slid across the desk, tucked neatly into a cardstock fold. Maria Emma offers a clipped nod in return, the edges of her mouth tight. Stiff, measured steps carry her toward the elevator bay, where she’s thankful to have it to herself, slumping against the back wall of the compartment, hand shaking as it comes to rest on the railing. She rides white-knuckled to the fifth floor, sliding out onto the carpet when it stops, soles of her shoes scuffing at the low pile.
The door snicks open at a brief swipe of the keycard, easing inward before Maria slithers through the gap ( hands visible- they’ve taken a hit, both a bit shaken up and who can blame them, but she’s not about to tempt fate twice ).
She’s surprised by the skitter of paws on the tile entryway, the rhythmic thud of tails meeting drywall. It registered, vaguely, when Sharon left that she’d be returning with company, but here now, all dripping tongues and personal space issues- it’s a little much. Elbows are tucked, hands held aloft, her eyes find Sharon across the expansive suite, clocking the read of her expression. Head tipped, she takes another few steps forward without regard for the dogs bobbing around her knees, fingers fishing for the bag of painkillers in her pocket.
“How’re you holding up?” Ziploc secured, she lifts it briefly before tossing it across the room. “Brought you something.”