Jemma makes the offer to go undercover at HYDRA out of desperation. She feels like everyone has either turned against her or is upset with her. The worst part is that she’s not entirely sure they’re wrong.
Her sins are even being told to the agents that are slowly joining them from where they’ve been hiding.
“She’s the one who was dating the traitor, secretly and didn’t even know,” they whisper loudly behind curved hands.
“Ward played her and dated her friend without her noticing, how stupid do you have to be?” they ask when her back is turned.
“She broke Fitz’s heart when he confessed. Like she thinks she can do better than him,” they accuse from across the kitchen.
And then later in the rec room she hears, “Poor Fitz, it’s good he’s come to his senses. He refuses to even be in the same room as her now you know.”
She’s not sure if the worst part is that they’re right or that no one comes to her defense. But when Trip loudly calls out the two agents who are talking badly about Skye, who is still the only one Grant will talk to, when she’s been hearing whispers all day it’s too much. She reminds herself that Trip wasn’t around earlier, didn’t hear them earlier, but their whispers follow her everywhere and she cannot believe that no one has overheard someone speaking about her.
She tries to talk to Coulson and he tells her he’s busy and can’t talk now.
So she takes a deep breath and tries to focus on her science. Science will never let her down. Even if none of the other scientists will work with her.
Hours later she has to patch up Grant from a suicide attempt. He’s mostly unconscious and half delirious, but when he calls her “Jemma,” she realizes it’s the first time in weeks someone has said her name with any kind of warmth. Trip shoots her a concerned look from where he’s patching up Grant’s other wrist, but he doesn’t say anything.
The next time she gets the order to heal Grant she’s almost glad for it. But he’s completely unconscious the whole time, and when he wakes up he only wants Skye.
She refuses to go down when he tries to break his own neck and Coulson gives her a look that’s so disappointed that she finally decides that something has to change.
So she offers to go undercover at HYDRA. She knows she can’t lie and that she was cleared for fieldwork on a technicality. Even Skye is more equipped to go into the field than she is. In fact, the only people on the base less equipped than her would be Fitz, who still can’t do anything without assistance, and Grant who is either mentally unhinged or wouldn’t so much be going undercover as going home.
She’s horrified when Coulson agrees that it’s a great idea. She’s horrified enough that she’s speechless as he outlines his only concern: that she has some unfinished projects at their base. He asks her to make sure the instructions for how to finish them are clear so that the other scientists can manage and she nods, numb.
He tells her it’ll be better if no one knows she’s undercover, just incase they have a mole, so she won’t be able to say goodbye to anyone. She doesn’t bother to tell him that the only person who speaks to her at all anymore is Trip and that she’s fairly sure he’s just checking in as the closest thing they have to a medic and not as a friend.
The shock is starting to wear off by the time Coulson puts her in a cab with her cover story and the keys to an apartment by a suspected HYDRA base. She flips idly through the cover story and she starts to get mad. She’s supposed to tell HYDRA that with SHIELD falling apart they don’t have the kind of funding she needs.
She’s Jemma Simmons. She could write a grant with just those words on it and get enough to fund anything.
Which tells her a few very important things. Coulson doesn’t expect her to succeed and he doesn’t care enough to give her the best chance to.
She thinks that if he hadn’t tried to give her such a ludicrous cover she would’ve simply cut ties and gone to work in the private sector, but now she’s mad. It takes a lot to get Jemma mad, but as Fitz would tell someone if they asked, when Jemma Simmons gets mad she gets mean.
So she grits her teeth and goes undercover. She tells them that she cares about her science and that while she doesn’t agree with the propaganda of HYDRA she does respect that with them she’ll be able to do the experiments she wants since none of them have a moral compass.
The recruiter blinks at her, shocked, and when he tries to tell her that she’s not a good fit she rolls her eyes and leans back. “Contact your boss. I’m Jemma Simmons and I promise you, whoever is in charge wants me in their science division.”
She’s not wrong.
She’s also not trusted. Which ends up manifesting itself as Sunil Bakshi hanging around her desk most of the time. When he’s not there Barbara Morse is.
She prefers Bakshi for the simple fact that he talks to her and it’s been so long since someone has spoken to her. It doesn’t hurt that he’s attractive and intelligent. Of course, she thinks Morse is probably likewise intelligent, and she’s certainly attractive, but she glares and doesn’t speak unless she has a choice.
She tells Coulson that her cover is in jeopardy and not to make contact until she initiates it. And then she waits.
After the first month Bakshi and Morse are around less, by the end of the second month they don’t hover at all and she finds she misses them. She starts a flirtation with another scientist in the lab but finds that even though she knows she’s touch starved she doesn’t want his touch.
She misses Grant.
She hates him, knowing that he was just playing her – or using her. She’s not sure which is worse. Her heart still hurts from when she realized that all the sweet lies he told her about how much he loved her and didn’t want to tell the team about them because they were breaking fraternization regulations and didn’t want to leave the Bus or see her go were just so he could work on making Skye fall in love with him behind her back. She thinks she might’ve still forgiven him for that if he hadn’t demanded to see only Skye once he was captured.
So her mind doesn’t miss him, she won’t let it. But her heart and her body still do. She’s afraid they always will.
In the middle of the third month, Morse shows up at her apartment looking sweeter than Jemma thought the other woman capable of being. “I’m your backup, Simmons,” she says with a smile. “I’m sorry it took me this long to get you clear, but your cover story caused too many ripples, so…” she trails off with a laugh and Jemma is frozen in shock. She smiles gently, probably thinking that Jemma believes it to be a trap – unaware that Jemma is frozen for a completely different reason. “Anyways, no one is watching you now, so you can start getting information to Coulson again,” she continues.
Jemma isn’t sure what she says, but she tries to be reassuring of the other woman and relieved. She’s not relieved. She doesn’t – these last few months have been the best she’s had since SHIELD fell. She hadn’t realized just how much denial she’d managed to fall into until it comes crashing down around her ears.
First thing the next day, Jemma hunts down Bakshi. She manages to find him in his office and she shuts the door behind her before he’s even gotten to his feet. “Morse is a mole!” she says in a rush.
He arches an eyebrow at her and asks, incredulously, “You think Barbara Morse is a mole?”
She frowns at him and taps her fingers against the desk. She’s only debating how to phrase it, not coming up with lies or anything like that, but he scoffs and accuses her of being the mole.
It’s her turn to scoff at him as she explains the entire story, ending with Morse showing up at her door. She only means to tell him about being placed undercover, but somehow she gets into why she asked to go undercover, and by the end of it she’s sobbing against his chest and he’s rubbing her back and telling her that it will be okay.
It’s the first time she’s felt cared for since she found out the truth about Grant.
“Will you give them false information, love?” he asks, softly, hand petting through her hair once she’s cried herself out.
“I’d rather not. They were my friends, once. I don’t want – I’d rather not be involved in harm coming to them if I don’t have to.” She says with a small voice, cheek pressing firmly against his chest.
He makes a disappointed clicking noise and she tightens her grip on his waist and pleads, “Don’t make me go back, please.”
“Shhh, shhh,” he sooths her and drops a kiss to the top of her head, and his voice is fierce when he says, “You’re not going anywhere you don’t want to, sweetheart.”
By the end of the day he has all of the items she cares about moved out of the apartment that Coulson is funding and into one of the penthouse apartments in a building even closer to the labs that HYDRA apparently owns most of. He tells her he’s just one floor up and gives her the access code to get to his floor, in case she needs to talk.
She’s sure that he doesn’t believe her – not entirely. But since she is sincere, well, she’s glad for it all. She’s does believe, however, that he’d trust her about Morse, so she’s understandably surprised when she sees the other woman walking through the halls unencumbered the next day.
Morse doesn’t try to talk to her at all and Jemma keeps her head down. She fully intends to go to Bakshi as soon as she can, but she wants to draw as little attention to herself as possible.
So she spends about an hour fretting in her new apartment – she doesn’t want this to be like before. If he’s not going to trust her about anything than she’d rather just leave and – most civilian labs aren’t going to be doing anything at nearly the level she’s used to but she just wants to not be crushed.
When she opens her door to confront Bakshi, Morse is there, hand raised and about to knock.
The other woman leans against the doorframe and smirks and for just a moment Jemma considers that this might be how she dies.
“I’m glad you’re not actually SHIELD,” she says nonchalantly as Jemma tries to remember how to breathe.
Morse grins, smirk transforming into something more sincere and a little frightening in its newness. “Bakshi told me you turned me in and gave up your past. I’m glad you’re not actually SHIELD. I didn’t want to see you broken.”
Jemma braces a hand against the doorframe and doesn’t stop the other woman when she takes this as an invitation and walks in.
Morse has the sort of self confidence that Jemma envies – and Jemma has never been accused of not having a fair bit of her own self confidence – Morse owns whatever space she steps into and now Jemma is the one feeling vaguely uncomfortable in her own apartment. Admittedly it’s only been her apartment for a short while, but still – those are her throw pillows on the couch that Morse is lounging against and Jemma is the one who feels like she doesn’t belong.
Jemma clears her throat and shuts the door since it’s clear Morse has no intention of leaving, before asking, “Would you like some tea?”
Morse smiles, bright white and sparkling like a toothpaste ad, and says, “Just water for me, thanks.”
Jemma tries to smile back but she’s afraid it’s more like a wince, and then she heads into the kitchen, trying to taper down her panic. Surely he wouldn’t have told Morse about her unless he was absolutely sure in her – would he?
She’s not sure, honestly. HYDRA and SHIELD, while being almost offensively similar in many ways – unsurprisingly, given that they were one and the same for such a long time – are very different organizations. She spends a lot of time trying not to think about those differences.
She has a moment of pure hysteria where she wishes that Ward was there to ask. He’s the only one she knows on any personal level who was both SHIELD and HYDRA – and given what she knows about him now she’s willing to bet he’d be frighteningly aware of all the differences and similarities between the organizations, and exactly how to use that to his advantage.
Not that she wants to use this to her advantage. She would just like to not end up dead.