Her head ached. She wasn't sure if it was because she hadn't slept in nearly four days, the constant stress or the grenade that went off a few feet from her. Maria Hill pressed the button for the elevator door and decided it was probably the grenade. She had been in combat before, but she couldn't remember ever having a grenade lobbed at her. The doors opened and she was relived to find the elevator empty. She didn't feel up to any small talk that might have occurred if someone was in the elevator.
She hit the button for her deck, closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. She hated this part the most, the sudden exhaustion after an adrenaline rush. It was when she was the most vulnerable and she was glad no one had seen it. Almost no one, she amended. Director Fury, with his one omniscient eye, must have seen the exhaustion in her face when he ordered her off the bridge to rest. She argued at first, the world had just literally been saved a few hours before and there were still ton of things that needed to be done. But he just stared down at her in a way that left no room for argument, until finally she acquiesced. The second shift of the bridge crew was already coming in and after a few instructions and a final glare from Fury, she left.
She felt the elevator slow and, marshaled what was left of her strength for the long walk to her cabin. She was dismayed to see that the numbers didn't match up to the button she pushed and squared her shoulders as the doors opened to admit another rider. Large blue clad shoulders and a bowed blond head greet her eyes. She felt her stomach tighten the same way it did when she first saw him stride wide eyed on the bridge a few days ago, the way it always seemed to when he was around. He looked up after a moment and their eyes connected across the small space between them. She felt her stomach tighten more. He hesitated, shifting a brown bag from one hand to another and plunged into the elevator with nod and a quick "Agent Hill."
She managed to respond with a professional "Sir" while inwardly cursing herself for her apparent weakness towards this man. They had met shortly after he had woken up from his ice coma during one of his many welcome to the 21th century debriefings. The second thing she noticed about him was that he was unerringly polite to everyone. The first thing she noticed was his blue eyes and the way his hand engulfed hers when he shook her hand. He faced away from her and pressed the elevator button, his shoulders bunching under his suit as he did. She quickly looked away; she must really be tired if that was all it took to send exceptionally naughty thoughts through her head.
She heard him turn and she lifted her eyes to meet his again. He just opened his mouth to say something when the elevator lurched to a halt and went black. Her hand shot out to steady herself on the wall at the abrupt movement. The dim orange emergency light flicker on and he was at her side in an instant.
"Are you alright?" concern evident in his voice as he reached a large hand out on her shoulder to steady her.
"I'm fine." She answered briskly. She pushed away from him and the wall and reached for the walkie she had on her side.
"Agent Hill to bridge." She paused for a reply, while a small chant of 'no no no' began to repeat in her head.
"Bridge here." An unfamiliar voice responded.
"I'm in elevator," she glanced to elevator information page taped to the wall, "2B with Captain Rogers. It just stopped and the emergency lights just kicked in. Is there any maintenance scheduled for this unit?"
"One moment please, Ma'am." Agent Hill sighed in frustration as she waited and glanced over at the broad shouldered man. His head was down again and he rubbed the back of his neck with one gloved hand. He looked tired and she wondered if super soldiers even got tired. Her musings were interrupted by the static of the walkie as the voice on the other ended returned.
"No, Ma'am. We've been having some intermittent power failure because of that virus from earlier." Fucking Hawkeye and his goddamn trick arrows, she thought as the voice continued. "There is a maintenance team on your way to see if they can get you two out. Meanwhile IT is working on the virus."
"Roger that, keep me informed. Hill out." She dropped her walkie back into the holder and stood with her hands on her hips debating her options. She saw him lean against the wall.
"Are you hungry Agent Hill?"
She turned to face him fully confusion in her eyes. He hastened to continue. "Well, it's just, we might be in here awhile and the others and I got some Shawarma after Loki was locked up and I thought maybe you might like some while we wait." He rambled and held the brown bag up as if to prove he wasn't joking. "It's actually not that bad."
"No thank you. I could use some help getting these doors open, however." She motioned over to the closed elevator doors. "No offense sir, but being stuck in an elevator isn't exactly the way I envisioned the next few hours. Hopefully we're not in between floors."
"Good idea." He said and put his shawarma on the floor.
"I can get this side, if you can get the other." She said as she wedged her fingers into the cracks of the door.
"Agent Hill." She paused and looked up at him.
"I'm sorry, but it might be faster if I do it alone." He said sheepishly. The latent feminist in her was about to argue that she was just as strong as him until she remembered. "Right. Super strength." She said and moved away from the door.
Ten seconds later they stood side by side and stared at a blank wall with a 6 inch opening at the top that lead up to the floor above and freedom. "Well at least we'll get some fresh air." He said.
She let out a frustrated sigh and walked to the back of the elevator and sat down, her head pounding. She felt his eyes on her and looked up at him. He turned away for a second, glancing up at the gap before looking back down at her.
"I, uh, I'm sorry about Agent Coulson." He said softly as he stood in the middle of the elevator. She nodded, looking away. Shit, she didn't want to talk about this. "He seemed like a good man." Why was he still talking about this? "Did you know him well?" Anger welled up and she was about to tell him to shut the fuck up already, before she saw his down cast eyes and slumped shoulders. That was the third thing she noticed about him, his empathy.
"Well enough." She said after she tightened her jaw and pushed the anger down. "And he was a good man, well good enough I suppose." She continued after a pause. He cocked his head to the side and came to sit next to her not touching. "What do you mean?"
She was momentarily side tracked as she watched his thighs bunch under the skintight fabric as he crossed his he crossed his ankles and she missed Phil Coulson that much more. She would never get the chance to say thank you for this particular suit arrangement.
"Well, it's just that nothing is black and white. No one is all good or all bad." She paused and rolled her eyes at herself. "I must be tired if I'm talking philosophy." She leaned her head back on the wall and closed her eyes, hoping to fight off the head ache.
"I get what you're saying, but I think people tend to steer more towards one side or the other." He said and she opened her eyes to find him gazing at her thoughtfully. Ah, he was an optimist. Unsurprising, really.
"That may be true, but then there's always the point of view to consider." She crossed her arms and sat up a little straighter, warming to the conversation.
"What do you mean?" He said again and matched her position.
She paused and tried to find the right way to explain it and suddenly remembered his comment about flying monkeys. "Well take the Wicked Witch of the West, for instance." She gestured with and an open palm, head ache momentarily forgotten. "From a certain point of view she wasn't all that bad."
"Wait, wait, wait." He put up his own palm and turned to face her more fully. "I saw that movie. She was chasing Dorothy throughout the whole thing, plus she had an evil army of flying monkeys and green trolls."
She looked over at his outraged expression and for the first time in a long time she felt like smiling. "Yes, but that was after Dorothy refuse to give up the witch's dead sister's shoes. A sister who was only dead, I might add, because Dorothy dropped a house on her. I might be a little upset too."
He pressed his lips together for a moment and she was side tracked again. "You can't blame Dorothy for killing he sister. That was the cyclone's doing."
Optimist, she thought. "You really need to see Wicked, or better yet read the book."
"I keep forgetting the ice coma." She said to herself. "There's a book and a Broadway musical called 'Wicked.' It's from the Witch's point of view and she's the good guy."
He turned away and crossed his arms again. "I find it hard to believe."
Maria shrugged. "Believe what you want, Captain. But it's actually a pretty good musical."
"What?" She asked confused and he looked over at her with his blue eyes.
"Call me Steve, at least while we're trapped down here."
"I don't know if I can do that." She said wide eyed. What was going on?
He nodded and looked away with a sad smile. "That's fine. Not too many people want to talk to Steve anymore just Captain America."
There was something wistful in his voice and she wanted badly to say something to make it go away, but she couldn't think of what.
"Sir, Ma'am? You guys okay down there?" A voice said from the gap.
Maria snapped back into command mode and stood to talk to the tech above about the best way out. After a few moments she came back to sit dejectedly next to the captain. Another hour at least until she could get a shower.
"I'm sorry." He said, overhearing the conversation.
"Why? It's not your fault." She said with her head back and eyes closed.
"Yeah, but you might be out already had this happened with any of the others."
She looked over at him, her head ache making her response come out short. "What are you talking about?
"Well, Banner or Stark would probably have this 'virus' thing fixed by now, Thor and Clint could have blown a hole into the side…"
"Wait." She rubbed her eyes as she cut him off. "Banner would have gone ape shit and killed me by now, I would have gone ape shit and killed Stark by now. Thor would've killed be from the concessive blast and I'd be in the same predicament if either Barton or Romanov were here. I really don't need a super hero to get out of every jam I get into. So don't start feeling sorry yourself." She stopped and looked at the shocked expression on his face. Then she remembered that ladies didn't talk like the way she did in his time.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm not feeling well." She said, tightening her jaw again, hoping to get back the professionalism that seemed to have fled her.
"No, no. It's okay." He said. "I've just never seen you so..."
"Animated." He finished with a smile. She snorted and leaned back again.
"Not a fan of heroes?" He asked lightly. She kept her head back and looked at him.
"I'm not a fan of relying on a small group of people with dangerous abilities."
He nodded and reached for his brown bag. "It's a good thing I'm not a hero right now then." He opened the bag and the aroma of spiced meat came spilling out making her stomach growl. "Nope I'm just a guy trapped in an elevator with a hungry girl offering her a bag of shawarma." He reached the open bag to her and nodded. She licked her lips and took the bag.
"See, I'd take a regular guy over a super hero any day. " She said as she dug in. "I doubt any of the others would have brought food." Or would have been as fun to look at, she said to herself.
Ten minutes later they sat beside each other again, with an empty bag between them.
"So Stark said he would loan me a motorcycle."
"What's in California?"
"Nothing. I've just never been there before." He said as if that would explain everything.
"At least bring a phone with you for emergencies. It's not as safe as it used to be." She said as she brushed of the last of the crumbs of shawarma off her shirt.
"Yeah about that." He said and reached into one of his pouches producing an iPhone. "Stark got it for me, but I'm not even sure how to turn it on."
She rolled her eyes and took it from his hand, moving the empty bag and scooting closer so he could see. "Hold this button on top to turn it off and on. Press the home button here to light it up, swish this to unlock it. The green icon with the receiver is the phone, just tap it and go to the keypad or contacts to call a number. Let's see, what else. Oh, the GPS might be helpful for you."
She looked up to see if he understood, but he wasn't looking at the screen he was looking at her. Their eyes locked and for a moment all she could see was blue eyes and all she could smell was his sweat and her shawarma remnants. And she was more than fine with that. She lowered the phone down as he leaned in closer.
The lights flickered on and the elevator jolted to a start causing them to head butt each other.
"Ouch." She said mildly, the moment broken.
"I'm sorry. You okay?" He said as he stood. She waived his outstretched hand away as and pushed herself up.
"I'm fine. I guess they got it started ahead of schedule."
"Yeah." He responded and they stood in awkward silence until the elevator stopped much gentler this time at her deck.
"I'll walk you to your room." He said and began to walk with her.
"I'm fine, you don't have to."
"I know. I want to."
She stopped and turned to him to argue. "Sir."
He smiled, gently turned her around. "I was raised to escort a lady to her door after a date."
She stopped again, feeling her stomach tighten again. "This was not a date, sir."
He shrugged. "It's the closest thing I've had to a date 50 years, Agent Hill."
She pondered this for a moment, then shrugged and continued down the gangway to her room. She almost said it was the best date she'd ever had but didn't want to sound unprofessional or desperate. She glanced over at the suddenly shy man walking with her, then down at the iPhone still in her hand. What the hell, she thought. The man needed all the help he could get and she put her contact information into the phone.
"This is it." She as they came up to her door.
"Thank you for a good time." He smiled again at her keeping up the date charade. She shook her head and handed him his phone. "Here. I put my number in contacts tab just in case you get lost or Stark's mechano-bike suddenly gets a mind of its own and leaves you stranded somewhere."
He looked down at the phone in his hand then back up to her. "Thanks, Agent Hill."
"Maria." She said softly as she unlocked and opened her door.
"My contact information is under the name Maria." She said and turned towards him in the darkened doorway.
"Oh, okay." He said somewhat disappointed looking down at the phone again and she stepped in the room a little further.
"I'll see you later,… Steve." She said hesitantly.
She almost heard his neck crack from how fast he snapped it up to look at her. She wasn't sure what he saw, but whatever it was made him smile so big that she couldn't help her own lips from curling up a little for a moment, before she got them under control.
"Yeah, I'll see you later Maria." He said, still smiling.
She nodded and gently closed the door. Then turned and leaned against the closed door and did something she hadn't done in a very long time. She let herself smile, big and bold. And then she took a shower.