((Okay, everyone! Happy Femslash February! I’m going to try to do this, and do this well, wish me luck. I apologize for my first attempt at Femslash, I doubt it will be very good, but it’ll be a chance to play with some characters who often don’t get much time on the playing field in my fic. Bear with me, please! For those of you who don’t remember her, Dr. Anna Garza is a creation of mine introduced here: http://scifigrl47.tumblr.com/post/29091412546/avengers-fic-a-singular-remedy-pt-1 She is not part of the shippy set, for those who despise OCs gettin’ it on with canon characters, have no fear. 8) ))
“So, a six inch laceration on your left arm, badly bruised shoulder, bruised tailbone, lacerations on both fists, strained wrist, mild head injury, a dandy little case of frostnip, which isn’t nearly as adorable as it sounds, exhaustion and dehydration. Did I miss anything?”
Maria Hill stared at the ceiling of medical. There was a picture of a grumpy looking cat taped there, with a word bubble that read, “For God’s sake, stop getting hurt!” It was far more amusing than it should’ve been.
“I think,” she said after a moment of careful consideration, “that I need to get laid.”
Dr. Anna Garza paused, one dark eyebrow arching. “Okay,” she said at last. “I will admit, I missed that one. In my defense, we haven’t yet come up with a definitive medical test for that particular ailment, so, I’m not feeling too bad about it. I can add it to your chart, if you’d like, but it’ll be for informational purposes only.”
Maria wondered if the cat was judging her. It probably was. Anna appeared to change the word bubble often, and Maria had seen far too many of them. “What, you can’t do anything about it?”
“I’m flattered, but all I can offer you is a particularly strong prescription. As a token of my gratitude.” Anna threw herself into the nearby visitor’s chair. She looked tired, her skin drawn tight over her prominent cheekbones. She kicked off her shoes. “I question your taste, but I’m flattered. Not interested, you understand. But flattered.”
Maria allowed herself the faintest twitch of a smile. “I wasn’t hitting on you.”
“Well, in that case, you can make do with a heavy dose of ibuprofen,” Anna said without missing a beat. “Should’ve kept your mouth shut.”
“Story of my life.” Maria let her eyes close. Everything ached. She shouldn’t have stopped, shouldn’t have let herself come to rest. Now it was the weight of everything was bearing down on her, and she wanted to scream. Or sob. Not that she’d ever allow herself either.
“Your life story seems painful and violent,” Anna said. “I’d worry about that, if I were you.”
“Your bedside manner is lousy, has anyone ever told you that?”
“Only the ones who annoy the hell out of me.” She reached for her coffee cup, staring down into the depths with a suspicious look. “You want sympathy and gentle understanding? Go down to the damn psych department, they get paid to put up with this shit. Me? I’m here to keep your squishy, blood filled bits inside your body and functioning properly.”
“You do it well.”
Anna toasted her with the styrofoam cup. “Damn straight.” With the mein of a gunslinger facing down a desperado, she tossed back the remainder of the coffee, and began coughing almost immediately. “Dios mio, that’s vile.” She flipped the cup towards the trash. “So, what’s wrong, Agent Hill?”
Maria’s lips twitched. “Thought you weren’t part of the psych department.”
“I’m not.” Anna gave her a shrug. “But we’ve got a couple of seconds of downtime, and you seem to want to talk to someone. And the good thing about being in the medical department? I’m not above you or below you. I’m outside of the chain of command, on some level. I’m not saying I’m at your paygrade, but neither am I a direct report.” Despite the flippant words, her gaze was level and calm. “So? You wanna talk? We can talk, you and me, and it doesn’t have to be a thing.”
Maria shook her head. “Thank you,” she said, and it sounded too polite, too precise, even to her own ears. “But that’s not necessary.”
“Okay,” Anna said. She didn’t get up. She didn’t take it back. She just reached for Maria’s medical file and flipped through the pages, making a notation here and there as the silence stretched.
“Don’t you ever just-” Maria let her head fall back. “Just want to forget about everything and have grinding, hot, burn the bed up sex?”
Anna chuckled. “Not really my thing,” she said.
“Well, then, what do you do for fun?”
Anna tossed Maria’s medical file to the side. “Ponder the mysteries of the universe. Mostly, I attempt to figure out what’s keeping Tony Stark’s ribcage in one piece.”
That startled a laugh out of Maria. “Yeah? Drawn any conclusions?”
“Not as of yet, but I’m pretty sure it involves stubbornness and a complete denial of accepted rules of medical science.” Her fingers drummed out an easy rhythm. “When’s the last time you had a whole weekend off, Maria?”
She had to think about that, and thinking about it was depressing. “I don’t even know,” she admitted at last. “I don’t think I’d know what to do with a weekend off. Do any of us know what to do with ourselves when we’re not doing, well, this?” Her head tipped forward. “What do you do?
Anna grinned. “What do I do, when I’m not working? I have a book club. We meet every other week, on Tuesdays. Week one is serious literature, fussy books about real subjects, deep, meaningful books. Alternate Tuesdays are margaritas the size of our heads and reading bad romance novels aloud. We’re currently focusing on the paranormal genre, so werewolves and vampires and faeries and all that shit.” She braced one elbow on the edge of the prep table and leaned her cheek against her fist. “I’m told that my renditions sound like a stewardess auditioning for a phone sex line, it’s a point of pride.”
“I can see why it would be,” Maria said, and that did not come out sounding sarcastic. Trashy romance novels weren’t really her thing, but right about now? It sounded pretty good. Margaritas sounded even better. Straight tequila sounded best.
“Bowling league on Sunday afternoons,” Anna continued. “I volunteer at a local homeless shelter, and do free medical care at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse a couple of times a month. I have a dog. Nice dog, dumb as a post and very sweet about it. I love him despite myself.”
Maria stared up at the grumpy cat on the ceiling. Damn judgmental cat. “What do you do with him when there’s trouble?”
“There’s single mother who lives next door to me, her boys take care of him. They do a good job. Walk him, play with him, make sure he’s fed and cleaned up after. I’ve got them on retainer, so between the two of them, he’s always taken care of.” One foot tapped at the gleaming tile floor. “It’s nice to know that he’s safe, even if I get caught up in something.”
“Aren’t you lonely?” Maria asked, and she wasn’t sure why, but this felt like the longest she’d talked to someone about anything other than work in forever. Like she was trying to figure out conversation again, and it was awkward and strange and uneven.
“Everyone’s lonely sometimes,” Anna said. “But I have friends. People I can go to movies with, and watch tv with, and go Christmas shopping with. This-” She waved her hand at the room. “Is very intense. Reading people, dealing with people, babying and bullying and being part primary care physician, part emergency room surgeon, part policeman? It’s tiring. Sometimes, ironically, I want to go somewhere where no one knows my name.”
“There’s a dive bar I know in Jersey,” Maria said. “It’s horrible. I go there.”
“That is pathetic, Hill. Seriously. I expected better of you. You’re driving to Jersey for sleazy bar conditions?”
Maria shrugged. “No one else goes that far. No chance of running into another agent.” Running into people outside of work seemed awkward. On some level, she suspected that most of them thought she didn’t leave. Mostly, she didn’t. And when she did, she wanted to get as far away as she could manage.
“Point taken.” Anna leaned forward, bracing her elbows on her knees. “Is it worth it?”
“Probably not.” Maria pushed herself upright, ignoring the twinges of pain from both her hands. “It’s a long trip, and everything’s the same when I get back. There’s no escaping the fact that my job is my life. Spouse, lover, best friend.” Most of the time, she was proud of that. She was good at her job. It was a job that almost no one else could do. She knew her capabilities, her worth, the lasting legacy she was leaving behind.
Sometimes, though, it was damn cold comfort, the fact that she was good at what she did. Sometimes, she just didn’t care.
“Jobs tend not to put out much. And when they do, it’s never in a safe, sane and consensual manner,” Anna pointed out. “Have you considered a human partner?”
“Wonderful idea.” Maria gave her a look. “And where do you suppose I’d find a partner? Because Match.com doesn’t list security clearances. Which is important, because anyone who’s cleared to have an actual discussion with me is already employed by a federal agency or foreign government, and most of them can’t be trusted anyway. I’m certainly not sleeping with anyone at SHIELD, that opens up issues that I’m not willing to deal with.
“So I need someone who isn’t a security risk, who isn’t concerned about my boss calling me at all hours of the day and night, or the fact that I haven’t had a vacation in six years, or my insane work schedule, or that I might have to take a break mid-coitus to go punch a Frost Giant in the face.”
“Ah, so that’s what happened to your hand,” Anna mused. “There are ways, Maria.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Maria said, exhausted and aching. “And that is a crying shame. I’m not looking for true love here, I just want someone who can put up with my life and is occasionally up for some hot times in bed. It doesn’t seem all that much to ask.”
Anna reached for her prescription pad. “I’m just going to write you out a couple of things here,” she said. “For once in your life, get it filled.”
With a flick of her wrist, she pulled the sheet free of the pad and handed it over to Maria, who stared down at it, not sure what she was looking at. “Why?” she asked, her voice flat.
“They’re only available as medical devices in some states!” Anna grinned down at her prescription pad. She was still writing. It was worrisome.
“Is this one of these states?”
“No, New York has a sex shop on every corner, go wild.”
“Better to be prepared. Also, the idea of writing out a prescription for a dildo makes my grinding years of medical training and military service worth it.” Anna tucked the pad in her pocket, grinning the whole time. “What were you expecting, narcotics?”
“Where would I even get a prescription for a dildo filled?’ Maria asked her, mildly amused now.
“It’s an approved medical device,” Anna said, ignoring the question. “Or maybe a vibrator? Those tend to be non-judgmental and don’t care about being ignored during global crises.”
“You know what? Thank you.” Maria picked up her jacket. “Really. This has been enlightening.” She took a deep breath, ignoring how much that hurt her ribs. She pressed a hand against her side, and the pressure helped. At least a little. “I think I’ll just swear off sex, trying for it is getting depressing.”
“Maria?” She turned back to find Anna smiling at her, just a little. “Take it from someone who knows? Trying to be something you’re not, it’s wearing and it’s horrible and it robs you of your personhood. You are who you are. There’s nothing wrong with that.” She spread her hands wide, her fingers long and delicate and stark in the low light of the medbay. “You want to get laid? Do it. This job isn’t enough to sustain anyone. Not forever. Not the way we want it to.”
“I wish it was that easy.” Maria shrugged into her jacket, fastening it with fingers that ached, but it was good. It was an extra support, wearing the uniform. She knew who she was, in this, she knew what she had to do. She knew what needed to be done, and she did it. It was a support, and it was a crutch, and she hated herself sometimes for being more comfortable in it than out. She took a breath, ignoring the draw on her ribs. “But you know, if it falls through…”
“You’re always welcome at my book club.” Anna grinned. “Next week’s selection is What Do You Say To a Naked Elf?” Maria gaped at her, and she laughed. “It’s better than the title suggests.”
“It cannot possibly be worse than the title suggests,” Maria said. She smoothed her hair down. “Thanks, though. For the invitation.”
“Any time, boss lady. Remember. Margaritas the size of your head and a bunch of medicos who have no idea who you are, and even if they did? They wouldn’t give a damn. Bring pastry and you’re in.” Garza checked her watch. “Aaaaand I have a standing appointment to catch Barton before he can violate the privacy and sanctity of our air ducts in a vain escape attempt, so I’m off. If you see Coulson in the halls, could you send him up?”
“Will do.” Before either one of them could move, the blare of an alarm rocked the building. Maria’s teeth snapped together when the screech amplified the ache in her skull. The communicator in her ear chirped, and she raised her fingers to it. “This is Hill, go ahead,” she said, already running for the door.
“We have a new wave of invaders, ma’am,” the voice came back, and she bit back a curse.
“Roughly sixty, but new portals are opening,” Agent Patel said, her voice calm, controlled. “Coordinates uploading.”
“Understood. Dispatch response teams, let’s get Stark, Rogers and Thor in the air as soon as we can.”
“Copy that, ma’am. The Asgardian delegation are already on the ground facing the first wave and Stark and Rogers are en route.”
“Good, get Romanov in a jet and give her a team, Banner and Barton are out of play.” Maria was running full out, and she knew, without even looking back, that Anna was on her heels, just as fast, just as determined. “Keep Hawkeye grounded,” she snapped. “Put a needle in him if you’ve got to, but-”
“You take care of the bad guys, leave my patients to me.” With a sharp salute, Anna was gone, running down the corridor, her white coat like wings in her wake. Agents and medical staff alike darted out of her way, but she didn’t even slow down, yelling orders as she went.
Maria gritted her teeth and headed for the flight deck. This was getting tedious.