Disclaimer: I don't own Agents of Shield.

Summary: Maria Hill has to deal with an angry Colonel Talbot, following the events at Providence.

A/N: Spoilers for those who haven't seen "Nothing Personal."


Maria Hill had expected them to come for her sooner. In fact, she would have preferred it if they'd come sooner. She'd been in the middle of watching Supernatural when they showed up; six heavily armed men, dressed in black, rudely burst into her apartment, screaming and shouting and pointing their guns at her. She'd had just enough time to turn off the TV, before they yanked her off the couch, slapped a pair of handcuffs on her, and forced her to the floor. One man stood over her with his weapon pointed at her head, while the others began tearing up her apartment.

"I expect you boys to put everything back in place when you're done," Hill said sternly as she lay motionless on her stomach. They ignored her and continued searching.

Hill rolled her eyes. What were they hoping to find here, anyway? A mountain of S.H.I.E.L.D. documents? Alien tech stashed in the closet? A radioactive mutant sleeping under her bed? Whatever they were looking for, they were going to be disappointed.

Finally, one of the men reported (in a rather sulky manner) that the place was clear. Hill was then pulled off the floor, and marched into the apartment's kitchen. Inside, she found Colonel Talbot sitting at the kitchen table. To say he looked angry would have been a gross understatement.

"Good evening, Miss Hill..." he said, through clenched teeth.

"Colonel Talbot," she said evenly. "Nice of you to visit."

Talbot gave her a look of both anger and vicious pleasure that would have terrified most human beings. Not her, however. Compared with the threats the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent had faced over the years, the colonel was just another big guy with too much ego and not enough brains.

To her surprise, Talbot's men removed her handcuffs. Quite a risky move, given what had happened at Providence. Maybe they thought she'd be more cooperative this way. If so, they were seriously mistaken. Had she been truly worried about the current situation, she would have taken this opportunity to attack her captors, steal a weapon, and make a run for it.

But she wasn't worried. Not yet, anyway...

Talbot instructed his men to wait outside. After they left, he turned his attention to her.

"Sit down, Miss Hill," he ordered.

Maria sat down. She and the colonel stared at each other across the table, neither blinking.

"How's the head, Colonel?" she asked. "Feeling better, I hope?"

The muscles in Talbot's neck bulged. "Much better than you will. You have any idea just how much trouble you're in right now, Hill?"

Hill shrugged nonchalantly. "Please enlighten me."

Talbot leaned forward and clasped his hands together. "Well, let's see. First, there's assault on American military personnel..."

"Assault?" Hill feigned a look of surprise. "I thought that was just exercise."

The colonel ignored her quip. "Then there's theft of a military aircraft..."

"I was borrowing it."

"And of course, helping fugitives escape from custody," Talbot said, now with relish in his voice. "And considering the fact that the fugitives in question are suspected terrorists, we're getting into the category of treason here."

Maria's only response was to raise an eyebrow. "Should I be worried?"

"Yes, you should be." Talbot folded his arms across his chest and leaned back. Despite his anger, he now had a very smug look on his face. "Stark and his fancy lawyers won't be able to cover your ass on this one, Hill. So, yeah, you should be worried. Very, very worried."

She smirked. "Okay, I'll do my best. No promises, though."

Her insolence infuriated the already livid Talbot.

"I know you still like to think of yourself as Nick Fury's Golden Girl, Hill," he growled. "But let me spell things out for you: Right now, I have enough to throw you to the wolves. The CIA, the FBI, the NSA - they all want a piece of you. And when they get their hands on you, they will suck you dry of every ounce of knowledge. Every drop of intelligence. Every dirty little secret you're holding. And when they're done, they'll lock whatever's left of you in a dark, tiny, windowless cell for the rest of your life." He paused for dramatic effect. "That is unless..."

Again, Maria raised an eyebrow. "Unless...?"

"Unless you give me something. Something I want."

"I already gave you Providence, Talbot. Isn't that enough?"

Talbot shook his head. "No, Hill. I want more." He leaned forward again and looked her directly in the eyes. "I want Coulson and his little gang."

"Oh, so that's what your guys were looking for." Maria let out a belated sigh. "Sorry, I can't help you there, Colonel. Even if I knew where they were - and I'm not saying I do - I wouldn't tell you. And even if I did, they'd be gone by the time you got there."

Talbot tapped his fingers together. "You sure about that? Here's the situation, Hill. I haven't submitted a report on what happened at Providence. Right now, I've got two versions: One says that you willing aided and abetted Coulson and his team in their escape. The other says that you were taken hostage by Coulson - a fact that you'll be willing to testify about before the Congressional investigation committee."

Hill's eyes narrowed. "If you think I'm going to lie for you..."

"You need to think about your options here, Hill," snapped Talbot. "You and Fury left one big mess for all of us. Fury's dead, which means all the heat is on you now. So, you can either help us clean up the mess, or you can be mopped up with it."

"Cleaning up is exactly what Coulson and I set out to do," Maria retorted. "In case you've forgotten, we were hunting for Ward - a HYDRA agent."

"Ward?" Talbot scoffed. "You mean the same Ward who was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? One of your people?"

"Yes," said Hill, ignoring the colonel's jab. "We were trying to stop him from obtaining information for his boss Garrett-"

"Uh huh. The same Garrett who was also part of S.H.I.E.L.D.?"

"And HYDRA."

"Of course, of course... And did you and Coulson kill or capture this man, Ward?"

Hill sighed. "Unfortunately, no," she admitted. "He got away."

"So, you failed," Talbot sneered. "Which means your actions - in addition to being traitorous and criminal - were ultimately worthless."

"Not quite. We managed to save Coulson's friend in the process."

Talbot snorted contemptuously. "So there's another fugitive out there. The way I see it, all of you've done is made this mess a bit bigger."

He fixed Hill with a menacing stare. "I'm giving you one chance, Hill. One chance. Tell me where Coulson is right now. Someone's head is gonna roll for what happened today. Who's it going to be? Him - or you?" He gestured with an open hand. "What's your answer?"

"My answer is, go to Hell," Hill said disdainfully.

Talbot's face turned bright red. He stood up abruptly from his chair. "Fine," he snarled. "If that's how you want to play-"

Hill held up a hand, cutting him off. "Actually, I'm not sure if it's how you really want to play, Colonel. You can't simply throw me to the wolves, as you put it. I have to answer to Congress first."

"I know that. Why should I be worried?"

"Because," she said matter-of-factly, "I'm sure the committee will want to know exactly how a ragtag band of fugitives were able to overpower you and your men with ease. I'm also certain they'll be interested to learn how you failed to act on valuable intelligence. Intelligence that could have led to the capture of a known HYDRA agent."

Talbot stared at her. "What intelligence? What are you talking about-?"

Hill stood up. "Coulson's people told you about Ward. They told you he was with HYDRA. They told you where to find him. And what did you do? Nothing." She glared at him. "If my actions make me a traitor, then what does your inaction make you, Colonel?"

Talbot laughed. "Really, Hill? You think the committee will just let you off the hook if you point the finger at me?"

"Oh no. They won't let me off the hook. But they won't let you off the hook either." She folded her arms across her chest. "If I go down, Colonel, so do you. And right now, you've got more to lose than I."

The colonel scoffed. "Do I?"

"Your life is still intact. Your world hasn't been shattered. You aren't having to pick up the pieces and move on." She gave him a piercing look. "You sure you wanna risk losing everything? Risk becoming me?"

For the first time, Talbot's arrogant demeanor wavered visibly. "Why do you care so much for Coulson, anyway?" he asked. "You told me you didn't even agree with what he was doing."

"I don't," Maria said pointedly. "I think he's making a mistake taking on HYDRA alone. But I respect him for his choices. At least he's fighting to help others. To protect the people he cares about. What are you fighting for, Colonel?"

"I fight for this country!" said Talbot furiously. "I'm a soldier. Not some glorified spy who thinks they're above the law."

"You fight for your own career," she shot back, "even if it means going on a witch hunt. That's why you didn't go after Ward. You were more interested in squeezing secrets from Coulson and his people, so that you could get a big fat reward from the higher ups."

She stepped around the table and walked right up to him. "You really want to find Coulson and his friends, Colonel Talbot?" she said, looking him straight in the face. "I'll tell you how to find him. Start looking for the real villains in all this: Ward and Garrett and HYDRA. That's how you'll find Coulson. And if you have even the slightest shred of self-respect or decency, when you find him, you'll help him."

Not taking her eyes off him, she took a step back. "That's all I have to say. Do whatever you want. I'm done here."

Talbot stared at her for several long hard moments. Though his anger hadn't subsided, he seemed to be mulling over what she had said.

Finally, he inhaled deeply and scowled. "We're done," he agreed. "For now..."

Without another word, he stalked past her and out of the kitchen. Maria watched him and his men file out of her apartment. The door was then slammed shut.

Now alone, Maria stared around her apartment. Talbot's men had thoroughly trashed the place. She sighed and shook her head. She was suddenly feeling tired. Wearily, she walked over to the couch, sat down, and turned the TV back on.

She'd deal with the mess tomorrow.


Finished.