[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…
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.
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.
[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?”