"I'm releasing Barnes." Maria stated, without preamble. Without apology. This was her decision, at the end of the day. She wasn't going to let tantrums talk her out of it.
"I see." The way his fingers curled tightly over the arms of his chair, knuckles turning white, made it plain that he didn't. "I guess I should be thanking you for giving me a heads up."
"Yes, you should." Maria told him frankly. "I don't have to. I don't report to you. This is a courtesy I am extending to you. Whatever your personal feelings regarding Sgt. Barnes may be, he has been extremely cooperative and shown no signs of untoward aggression or irrational behavior."
"So that's it?" Tony arches a brow, voice brittle in a way Maria is all too familiar with. He's about as angry as she'd expected. "He just gets to walk?"
"Yes, he does. He's committed no crimes under his own power. We can't hold him prisoner. He'll report into SHIELD once per day, until it's determined we can let him off the leash entirely."
Maria stands and heads for the door, makes it as far as turning the handle before she pauses. "I want to warn you not to interfere, Tony." She tells him, looking back over her shoulder. "There will be consequences. And I can't protect you."
"Noted." Tony bites out, and doesn't look at Maria as she leaves.
Well. That went about as well as she expected. She'll give Tony a few days to calm down before she passes down the official order. It isn't that she doesn't get it, to a certain extent. The Winter Soldier had killed Tony's parents. But over the past few months, she's come to see that James Barnes and the Winter Soldier are separate entities. She can't punish one for the crimes of the other.
Sgt. Barnes was a POW for something like 70 years. He'd endured brutal treatment and undergone forced medical experimentation. She's seen the file on Hydra's brainwashing techniques - they were alarmingly effective.
Tony Stark is a man of impulse, but also a man of reason if you waited long enough. He'll come around eventually.
Maria just hopes it's before he makes a rash mistake.