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

brucegbanner:

So many deserved apologies between them, and yet they seem inconsequential now, the heated actions and words of that morning lost in the oasis of her skin against his, her breath against his throat and the weight of her body as it slips deeper against him; the memory of their intimacy is refreshed in a staggering instant, the nefarious undercurrent of fear now subdued by her presence.  

      He has no idea what’s happened or where she’s been – but Maria’s alive and well, in one piece and breathing. The same longing that guides his arms around her, he can feel reflected in her touches as she presses against his chest, pushes through his hair, pulls the fit of his shirt tighter…

All the words that have passed between them without being said –

            “Are you okay?”

The extended absence has made their last encounter and the harsh words that accompanied it seem inconsequential, her peace of mind and body the first priority. ( what would’ve he done if she hadn’t – )

Bruce presses against the line of her body, stepping into her and trying to convey the novel of concern and worry that’s been percolating since the TV feed cut out, and the relief that’s flooding through him now; it’s a sentiment he doesn’t know how to express with words, the sheer force of the feeling consuming his core with a passion that rivals only that of the Other Guy smashing his way through.

        Before she has a chance to answer he kisses her, with the force of a lover’s last kiss, sinking the taste of her lips and the press of her tongue deep into his memory.

There’s a glaring edge to the guilt that’s seared across her subconscious- there’d been a point to her avoidance, a delicate subtext to the blank day between the crash and now. They’d served a double purpose, of course, a lucky coincidence that she was somehow able to excuse her hesitance in the name of duty. Because it had made sense- she and Sharon had needed to lie low for a bit, just enough time to clear their heads before taking on Pierce.

           It doesn’t help that the emotion welled up in his expression is so earnest, so sincere- Maria feels that twinge of regret worsen.

( It should’ve been easy. Coming home to this in the aftermath rather than slinking around, waiting in the shade to see what shakes out of the settling dust– )

           Fingers curl against the back of Bruce’s neck, holding him close, the hand at his shoulder blade sliding until she can push a finger through a belt loop to ensure that he stays there. A reiteration of the unspoken has her arcing into him and regretting the movement almost immediately when his arm tightens at her back, the pressure surprising a sharp inhale from her lungs at the sudden dull ache in her ribs.

     It’s nothing new, not an added sensation to an already days old injury, but rather a heightened sensation in a steady thrum that’s been kept at its baseline by a couple of pills here and there. Her hand shifts, pressure applied to the belt loop when she steps to the side in an effort to turn them, breaking briefly to take a breath and press a secondary kiss to his jaw. A slower, more controlled inhale scrapes the back of her throat, pushes against the worry ebbing there before she lets the breath back out again. 

                  “I’m–” Her hesitation will be noted, she knows, and there’s no real reason to keep information from him at this point. All it’ll do is make things worse. “I’ve been better.”

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

brucegbanner:

             For the past several hours Bruce has been fighting off a daze, alternating between a blank stare at the bedroom door, and a snap-focusing back to the television. There’s been no forthcoming information on the news, just a sleepless night and the trickle of worry that maybe, just maybe – something could be wrong. 

The pillow that’d been clutched against his chest slowly comes to nestle in the gap between the back of the couch and his side, mindlessness loosening his limbs for the moment. So much so the scratch and click of the key doesn’t register on a conscious plane, though it must register somehow because when he sees the shadow of a person moving through the room he isn’t startled.

        His breath catches on an inhale, pausing momentarily; he’s not sure what impedes the realization from settling, but it takes a moment, his eyes falling to his phone on the coffee table ( has he missed a text? ), right next to the one delivered by Harry ( she texted him once, maybe she would’ve again before – )

    Bruce picks himself up off the couch slowly, with a reservation that haunts people too used to expectations falling short. But it’s her, it’s Maria, sliding instead of marching, the light from the kitchen catching her face enough for him to see that the hard edge of frustration he last saw there has been replaced by a softness he’s more used to seeing.

                     The first two steps he takes towards her feel like falling, body still tense despite the sagging relief that bottoms out his stomach – she’s okay – four more steps and his hand feathers the top of her hip before slipping around her back; he pulls her against his chest, presses his cheek tight against her head and smells the faint remnants of smoke as he holds her close.

        ( his fingers shift against her restlessly: affirming, reassuring, grateful )

Exhaustion begins to settle and it’s been slow to do so over the last stretched out hours as though ( fittingly ) dust after a disaster, aloft in the air for days and choking out the sunlight before it falls to rest heavily in the recesses of her bones and sore muscles. A quick check confirms that they’re not still in the place they’d been the last time they’d spoken, the resting expression on his face a far cry from before and Maria shifts forward, meeting his chest firmly. The top of her cheek settles against his clavicle, arms wind around to rest just below his shoulder blades.

          There’s an unspoken apology in the way her body settles against his, fingers curling into the material of his shirt; the inhale and exhale that cycle through her lungs ( too much of an intake and she’ll get a sharp jab of pain for her effort, so her breaths are marginally shallow ). The pain of the bruise has lessened with each oblong pill she’s downed, and the damage to her core muscles makes moving around a sore and slow process- so standing still like this, the warmth of him radiating against her is actually a pleasant alternative.

   In another time she might think it’s stupid how much this makes her feel better– how to be held close can be some physically soothing thing to her, but it is, and she’ll take it. Her nose is pressed against the line of his throat, mouth ghosting over the pulse point as she shifts, one hand from his back coming around the card through the hair at the back of his neck.

                  ( He’s still here, even though she’d given him a very clear out)

A shift and her lips meet the top of his collarbone, fingers tightening in the fabric of his shirt.

      “You’re up late,” and her voice is ragged, quiet, but the undertone in it suggests that she’s pleased with the observation, even if her brows are knitting at the broadcast covering the wreckage of the Iliad over his shoulder.

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,

                        “Hey.”

for what it’s worth ; bruce + maria

brucegbanner:

There’s a momentary fall in her expression, the appearance of something he’s not used to seeing – pain, he’s hurt her somehow, and the aching realization douses the steady rise of frustration that’s been building since she’d called his name. It’s an argument by any means but the goal had been to convince and explain, not to cut, and if that flash hadn’t disappeared so quickly and decidedly, it wouldn’t have settled as an insidious thought over the coming days. 

       “I do – but something like this needs to have checks from the other side too. That’s how checks and balances work – otherwise there’s not a long way to fall before things become a dictatorship.”  If it was structured less like an army – they weren’t all Captain America, denied three times from joining the war effort; they were scientists and engineers, diplomatics, foreign leaders and nerdy bookish folk who had no business having their hand forced. 

It doesn’t seem like she really does get it, and his hand goes back to curling around his bicep, fingers pressing into the growing muscle there, tension through his arm. Maria does have to go, there’s no question in that, but he realizes why he’s reeling once she turns to the door, and he has to voice it ( there’s no why she can’t have realized it, is there? ): 

                      “I didn’t realize I was doing this alone.” 

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He came back here – came back to Maria – so he wouldn’t have to do it alone. Come back to New York, where there are a handful of people he trusts, so he wasn’t alone or leaving them open to dangers he might be able to prevent. 

          It’s too much to unpack right now, not when they’re both running hot while barely scraping the surface of the larger issue, not to mention the additional stressors weighing on her side of the playing field. It’s not a good time, Maria recognizes that, and had she been less frustrated she might have wanted to sit down and take the time to talk it through ( calmly, maybe with tea ). Not an option at the present moment and it might be the biting worry that’s gone acidic in the back of her brain that has her pause at the door, head cocked over one shoulder. 

   She hears him and doesn’t register the hurt that blossoms in her throat ( a thing that she imagines to be like blood in the water, that telltale bloom that’s indicative of a flesh wound ), or if she does she hardens against it, walls sliding up proactively. Maria’s hand rests on the doorknob while a number of frustrated responses welling up at the back of her throat–

( One that would have been acceptable, perhaps, was that he’s not alone, and that she hadn’t meant it to be taken that way, but.. )

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           In lieu of adding more fuel to a fire of things she’s already beginning to regret, she decides that silence is the best option, and the knob turns easily in her hand, lock snicking closed at her back after she slips through the opening. If there’s a pang of emotion regarding how they’ve left things, it’s already buried beneath the myriad of work-related responsibilities she has to deal with before she arrives on-site.

Bruce –> Maria

brucegbanner:

A half-shrug lolls his head to the side momentarily – the proposition is worth looking into further, in any case. He’ll send a message back to Bobbi in the next couple days and let her continue on from there.   The shifting of her legs is confirmation enough, and his lips fold in as he tries to keep his pleased satisfaction from looking too obvious; 

     “Would they notice a stray Dr. Banner coming and going from your office…?” 

  There’s no point in continuing on now that he has his answer ( Maria Hill is ticklish, and it’s so endearing and personal he just can’t continue sitting here just talking ) – Bruce lets her foot go, lets his hands run up her leg as he leans forward, a smile on his lips as they meet hers, his hand curling over her hip,

             “I should probably stop then, shouldn’t I?” 

     The ensuing purl of laughter, low and throaty, is stifled by his mouth covering hers, the lingering kiss just enough to help her shed those last several notches of pent up stress in her shoulders. Maria tips her head, the tip of her nose drawing along the side of his while she regards him with amusement. 

“You really think that would fly?” 

                 As if no one in a wasp nest full of spies would notice him–

     Her hand reaches out, snagging the material of his shirt to keep him close. She can feel the pressure of his fingertips at her hip, her eyelashes dusting his cheek. The line of her upper teeth drag along his lower lip and she applies the slightest amount of pressure, eyes snapping upward accompanied by a quick flick of her brows. Her smile is borderline triumphant, fingers at his shirt giving a sudden sharp tug

            “Your funeral.”