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thinking out loud and acting in vain

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He looked like hell. He frowned at his reflection then leaned down to splash more water on his face. It didn’t help.

The last mission had been rough and had taken much longer than expected. It was the kind that stayed with you long after it was over.

SHIELD used to make him go to a counselor after missions like that one, but that wasn’t HYDRA’s way. No, in HYDRA you had to request a counselor, which was basically the equivalent of putting your name on the short list for “attitude readjustment”.

So it was understandable that Grant wanted to look more put together when he had to meet Whitehall for debriefing. It only took him an extra five minutes in the bathroom to wash some of the grime off and to put on a mask so he was ready when he was summoned into the office.

The meeting didn’t take long, but it exhausted Grant. It was going on two in the morning, and the only relief it looked like he could count on was that Jemma would be asleep when he got back to their apartment.

He missed her, more than anything, but it was always rough right when he got back and he was hoping he could put it off for a while with sleep.

He got to their door and could see the shine of light at the cracks. For half a second he considered going somewhere else, sleeping in one of the community rooms, anything to put off having to deal with it. But he missed her. He missed her so much he was aching with it. Like there was a band around his heart that would only release when he could see and verify that she was still there, waiting for him.

Opening the door, quietly, he let himself hope that maybe she’d just fallen asleep with the lights on. Moving silently through the apartment, he examined each room as he went, checking for changes, until he reached the bedroom.

She was sitting on the bed, eyes closed and completely unaware he was there, brushing her hair and humming lightly to herself. The band around his heart loosened and his breath caught. She was still so beautiful. He drank the sight of her in for a few long moments before retreating back into the main room. He quietly opened the door, let it swing shut loud enough that she should hear it, and put his bag down.

She emerged from the bedroom. She was waif thin and looked so small in his shirt. There were tired bruises around her eyes and he knew he was to blame for them. He was to blame for all of her pain. She stared at him for a long moment, and when he opened his arms in offer, rushed into them.

God, she weighed even less than the last time he’d come back from a long mission. He picked her up and carried her to the couch, letting her curl up on his lap.

She smiled, brightly at him, and said, “You’re back so soon! I wasn’t expecting you for another week.”

He smiled softly back and leaned in to give her a light kiss on the forehead. “I hope I didn’t ruin any of your plans.”

She giggled and tugged on the collar of his shirt until he obliged her and leaned down to give her a real kiss. “You know I’m always happy when you get back.”

He pulled back and rested his chin on the top of her head so she couldn’t see his face. “Yes. I know.” He let out a breath and started to rub her back. God, he could feel all of her ribs again. She hadn’t been eating. He’d have to make sure he stayed around long enough this time to get her healthy; she would waste away if she forgot to eat again. “What have you been doing while I was gone?”

He pet her hair and listened to her light chatter, letting her voice wash over him. Her hand reached up to touch his jaw, and her voice faltered. He looked down and realized he hadn’t done as good a job cleaning as he thought, and she had blood on her fingers.

He swore, viciously, in his mind, and gathered her close. Her voice had started up again, describing what she’d done while he was gone, but tears were leaking down her cheeks unnoticed.

His chest ached, and all he could do was hold her and wait until her tears turned into sobs. Then he rubbed her back and said, “Shh, shh. It’s okay baby, it’s no one you know. I promise. They’re all okay.”

Her crying stopped abruptly and she turned to him, tilting her head with blank eyes. “Who is okay?”

He shook his head and kissed her forehead, “Don’t worry about it baby.”

She nodded and picked up the story where she’d left off.

He knew that he should be grateful that they even let him see her, but it broke his heart every time. One of these days he would be strong enough to put her out of her misery. She was barely herself anymore, she’d been reprogramed so many times she couldn’t even take care of herself reliably. They must have done it recently too, she’d lost time. A lot of time if she thought he was back a week early instead of two months late.

Soon. Soon he’d take her away, and then without the drugs they had her on she’d die, but at least she’d die free of this place.

Chapter Text

Jemma shot Grant a sharp look. “You cannot possibly know that.”

He arched an eyebrow in challenge, “Who’s the Specialist here?”

“This has nothing to do with – look, I’m not trying to insult your masculinity or question your knowledge about weapons. But this is an alien weapon that I know for a fact you’ve never seen before,” He opened his mouth, so she raised her voice and continued, “Because you stated that five minutes ago, so there is no possible way that you can be sure that it isn’t loaded.”

He grinned. “Yes, but I do know what a loaded gun looks like, and alien or not. That gun is not loaded.”

She rolled her eyes and turned away. Behind her back his hand started to creep towards the gun. She shook her head and said in a dark tone without turning around, “Don’t you dare, Grant Douglas Ward.”

His hand froze, inches from the gun, and then was suddenly back in his pocket as he plastered an innocent look on his face and rocked back on his heels. “Don’t what?”

Lance snickered, and made a wuh-PSSSH! noise, going so far as to do the whip motion as well. He was met with frightening similar twin glares.

He laughed and reached for the gun, only to stop dead at the clear warning in Jemma’s tone. “Lance Bartholomew Hunter.”

He turned wide, shocked eyes on Jemma, and said in disbelief, “How, how do you know my middle –“ He turned to Grant and gaped, “How does she know my middle name?”

Grant shrugged, oddly smug. “She’s brilliant.”

Jemma smiled up at Grant and he smiled back at her. Lance made gagging noises. “Oh god, I’m going to be sick. Maybe it is loaded and it’ll put me out of my misery.” And while they were distracted, making goo-goo eyes, he finally managed to touch the gun.

He didn’t want to fire it, he just wanted to hold it because it looked bad ass. Maybe Jemma would take his picture and he could put it up on facebook. He needed a new profile pic.

It started to make a loud humming noise as soon as he lay hands on it, and he swore and tried to put it back down.

“Goddamnit Lance!” Grant was moving Jemma as far away from the weapon as he could, staying carefully between her and it, but he still had time to swear.

Lance sprinted after them, after dropping it back on the table.

It didn’t matter that no one was holding it. It continued to make a high pitched humming noise and then started to glow eerily blue. It fired a ray of bright blue light as the noise reached a fever pitch. There was an arc of light that blinded the three of them and ample amounts of smoke.

“If you hurt any of my samples…” Jemma’s voice trailed off threateningly as they all blinked to get the spots to stop dancing, waving hands to get rid of the smoke.

“Look, normal guns don’t do that!” Lance tried to justify himself.

Jemma was having none of it. “No, they don’t! Which is why I didn’t believe either of you when you thought it wasn’t loaded. There is nothing normal about that gun!”

The three peered cautiously through the smoke that was dissipating. There seemed to be…a tree where the blast had hit?

“What the –“ Grant took a slow step forward, and the tree moved. He froze.

The tree continued to turn, then opened wide dark eyes and said, “I am Groot?”

Chapter Text

It’s Jemma’s wedding day. She’s the queen.

She takes a deep breath and smiles.

Her knight extends his hand, and her grin relaxes from it’s slightly stiff formal version to the real version, as she accepts and he leads her out onto the dance floor.

She loves dancing with Grant. They’ve been together since they were children, together since they were teens. He was who she learned to dance with and who she’s spent every ball dancing with at least once, to get some pleasure out of the experience.

She rests her cheek on his chest, feeling safe, and looks around at the opulence around them. “We should’ve eloped.”

His chin brushes the top of her hair for just an instant, a quick code from childhood, a reminder that he’s there and he’ll protect her, whatever the cost. His voice is deeper now than it was when they were children. “I’m not sorry.” She sighs against him and nods, she knows. “You’re queen Jemma. This is what you deserve, all the riches.”

She makes a face, it’s really not, but she doesn’t have it in her to argue with him, not today. His hand squeezes her waist lightly, asking for a response, and she looks up at him and smiles, sincerely simply because it’s directed at him. “I will have all the resources to do all of my experiments, I suppose.”

He grins back, gently brushes a strand of hair away from her face. The dance is over. This is her last chance to be close to him and she’s reticent to let him go, but it’s unseemly for the Queen to dance with someone who isn’t her new husband more than once.

He hands her off to The King, smiles gently at her and bows.

Her heart breaks, and she puts her court smile back on.

Chapter Text

This was supposed to be May’s job. But she was sick with a head cold and could barely get out of bed. (Not that she hadn’t tried, when she’d found out who was going in her place, which was deeply insulting.)

They’d tried to figure out a way to get Skye to do it, but the girl couldn’t help but laugh every time she had to describe the effects of the toxin they were delivering. Jemma wasn’t sure why saying, “After masticating the artificially derived arsole toxin, they will experience formication and piloerection, whereas if you chose penetrance to deliver the toxin they are likely to only feel a tingling of the uvula.” was so difficult, but Skye could not deliver the line with a straight face despite how hard she tried.

In fact, May seemed to be the only one aside from Jemma and Fitz capable of saying it without laughing. Which puzzled Jemma greatly. She even tried to talk it through with Skye, literally saying each word before the other girl and looking around in bewilderment when she burst into laughter. (To Skye’s credit, she did once make it through piloerection, but penetrance just seemed to defeat her every time.)

She even tried to get Ward to say it, but he’d just put a hand over his face and she’d watched the flesh still visible turn slowly red and really, what was wrong with her team.

Even worse than their inability to say perfectly reasonable words, however, was the fact that there had even been talk of putting Fitz in a wig, as he was the most feminine of the men on the team. Plus he was still the only one who could say the very simple sentence. Though, to be fair, Coulson hadn’t tried. He’d just choked on his coffee when Jemma had rounded on him.

Fitz had not been amused and had spent several lengthy minutes describing how just because his masculinity wasn’t hyper, like Wards, or fatherly, like Coulsons, didn’t mean it was any less!

Jemma was the most insulted though. She knew she wasn’t the best at covers or at lying, but she had to go be a scientist. She was a scientist! That wasn’t even a cover! And okay, yes, she had to use a different name and meet with the mob, but still, it was fine! She could do it! They were just buying a toxin from her that wasn’t even remotely what she was telling them it was. In fact, it was located on top of a small pressurized box that would release knock out gas when they emptied it, hopefully at the wedding where they were trying to poison all the guests.

Which made the fact that she could tell they didn’t believe her entirely and were following her to make sure she was meeting with her boyfriend as she’d claimed all the more embarrassing. She had been practicing! And still, they’d gotten pushy about where she wanted to get to when she didn’t want to eat dinner with them and the lie had just slipped out.

She was really, really hoping that Skye wasn’t the one who was waiting for her at the pickup site.

Oh, and now it was raining. This was just perfect. She didn’t have a rain coat, she was in a white shirt because the forecast had been clear and really, this was just terrible.

Her shoes slipped on the wet cobblestones as she tried, and failed, to slow her pace. She couldn’t help it, they weren’t even trying to pretend they weren’t trailing her and it was making her nervous and –

Oh good. It was Ward.

She broke into a run and basically flung herself at him. He caught her, eyes slightly wide and one eyebrow arched curiously. He didn’t set her down but shifted to look behind her and she grabbed his face in her hands and gushed, “I missed you!” before kissing him.

She felt like she really had to sell it for the mob guys. Luckily for her, Ward was on the same page. She felt the kiss all the way down to her toes, toes that were several inches off the ground, which was probably good, because she was pretty sure her knees had just gone week.

Finally, once she was breathless, he let her go and she slid down, landing on unsteady feet. He steadied her with a firm hand against the small of her back. His eyes were dark and intense, hungry, eyelashes stuck together with rain. She smiled up at him and said, softly, “Are they still behind me? Did they buy it?”

He blinked, and confusion replaced his intensity. “What?”

She dared a look over her shoulder and let out a sigh, stepping away from him. “Oh good. I told them you were my boyfriend. I think it worked out okay, lets get back to the Bus.”

She reached out and grabbed his hand before starting towards the Bus.

He trailed after her, and she was pretty sure she heard him mutter, “The hell?” to himself, but it was hard to hear over the rain.

Chapter Text

It had been three days since Simmons had inexplicably given him the best kiss of his life.

He felt like the earth actually moved. And she was acting like nothing had changed even remotely. Plus, apparently, he’d developed a new interest. He’d started to refuse to go into the lab if he could help it because having a reaction to words was just, well it was embarrassing. He was a Specialist for fucks sake.

Thankfully, no one had figured out that he’d gone insane. Well, except for May. But he tended to assume that May knew literally everything unless proved otherwise.

His belief that no one had figured out his new, ah, appreciation lasted all of a day. He supposed he should be proud, the level of observation was very impressive and he’s her SO, but she was most definitely not using her powers for good.

Skye met his eyes over the meal that Simmons was bribed to prepare because of a bet with Fitz before purposefully turning to Simmons and asking, “What’s the fancy word for chewing you were using?”

Simmons chewed, swallowed and dabbed at her mouth before arching an eyebrow at Skye and saying, “Masticate, why?”

Grant stared fixedly at his plate as Skye continued to ask for increasingly pointless scientific words, that Simmons continued to produce with increasing amounts of confusion. He desperately wanted to get up and leave, but he was only not blushing because his blood was nowhere near his face and he was officially pathetic.

The next few days were rough. Skye continued to come up with any reason to ask Simmons about science when Grant was within hearing distance, regardless of how many extra push-ups he made her do.

He had to start wearing his tightest pants for decencies sake, and he was not happy about it.

But Grant didn’t decide for certain that he was going to murder Skye until she casually remarked that she thought he was ill and Simmons should probably check him over to Simmons.

“I’m fine.” He kept insisting. “Really, I’m fine.” But he was, apparently, not to be trusted about his health.

Simmons promptly forced him up and into the lab. He tried to tell himself to resist, but the feel of her hands wrapped around one of his forearms was pleasant and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Which was how he found himself sitting, uncomfortably slouched, in a tall lab stool without his shirt on as Simmons applied censors to his chest and arm and took his temperature and a blood sample. He’d been trained to withstand torture, and he put all of those skills to good use as she babbled science at him nonstop.

Her tablet beeped and she frowned down at it, tilting her head, then took a deliberate step away from him. She tilted her head the other way before calling the loitering Skye over. “Go stand right next to Ward, put your hand on his arm, will you?”

Skye arched an eyebrow but did as instructed, whispering, “Piloerection.” to him. He scowled at her while Simmons made a thoughtful noise. She stepped forward again and fiddled with one of the censors, and he couldn’t help but carefully watch her hand on his chest as she adjusted it, each brush of her fingers sending chills outward.

She frowned at her tablet then called Fitz over and made him poke at the electrode things while she poked at her tablet. The other man hand’s were freezing, and Grant couldn’t help but jerk away from them.

Simmons started to blush, still staring at the tablet, before flicking her fingers and looking up. “Skye, Fitz, could you give me a moment with Ward? I don’t want to discuss any confidential medical information in front of you.”

Skye grinned, brightly, and said, “Sure thing, boss lady!”

She grabbed a protesting Fitz’s arm and tried to drag him out as he loudly protested, “You’re not that kind of doctor Simmons! Don’t let the power go to your head! I need to finish my—“ And Skye had managed to shut the door behind them.

Simmons walked over to where he was and just stood there, staring at him for a long moment. He cleared his throat and said, hoarsely, “I told you, I’m fine.”

She grinned and laughed. “Yes, I know, but I just wanted to tell you, if you like me, you should just tell me. We’re a team, you shouldn’t have to avoid me.”

She leaned in kissed the tip of his nose and sashayed away. Grant could hear the tablet she’d left beside him beeping with his alarmingly elevated heart rate, but all he could manage to do was say, “The fuck.”

Chapter Text

"It was all an act." He says it just to hurt her. She’s been sitting there, just watching him, legs tucked demurely under her and hands folded serenely in her lap.

She arches an eyebrow and he paces towards the yellow line that he can’t cross. His voice is as harsh as he can make it as he says, “You never meant anything to me, you know it and I know it.”

She tilts her head, and her voice is soft but decidedly not sad. “I know.”

He scowls and points at her, finger coming just short of the barrier. “But you loved me! I know you did, you’re a terrible liar.”

Her lips tip up in a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. “I don’t think anyone could actually love you Ward, you’re unlovable.” She taps at her chin, thinking. “You were just…convenient.”

He swings around and paces, running a hand over his face. “That’s not true.”

She sighs like she’s bored and tilts her head. “Then explain to me why I left you?”

“You didn’t leave me, you were taken from me!” He snarls and gets as close to the barrier as he can, toes just barely at the line. He has to see her face.

She’s serene as she nonchalantly straightens the collar of her shirt. “I left before, just because I didn’t chose to leave this time doesn’t mean anything. I left you down here didn’t I? After you betrayed me.”

He slowly sinks to the floor on his knees, eyes not leaving her. “I had no choice, Jemma, please. It was supposed to float.”

She holds out her hands. “Well, it didn’t, and here we are.”

**

“Are you going to tell him the truth?” Coulson can hear the judgment in May’s voice, but that’s fair enough. He regretted this play as soon as he made it.

He grimaces and lets his shoulders drop a little more. “I already did. He didn’t believe me.”

They watch the vidscreen in silence for a few moments before May asks. “So you think this is a legitimate break?”

Coulson sighs and gestures at the screen with an encompassing gesture. “He’s been having this same conversation on and off for the past two days. He only seems to know it’s not real when I show up to tell him I lied and she’s not dead, and then he just tells me that he doesn’t believe me since I can’t produce her. Then I leave and it starts up again.”

He watches May frown in his periphery. “Do we let him see her when she gets back from HYDRA?”

He sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose, “I don’t know.”

On the screen, Ward continues to argue with the empty cell around him.

Chapter Text

"If you say a word, I'll slit your throat." Grant’s voice was dark and the most threatening that Skye had ever heard it.

She clapped a hand over her mouth to hold in the laughter and the words.

Jemma was calm, primly taking a sip of tea, pinky extended, and then blinking innocent eyes.

His scowl darkened further. “Don’t you dare.”

Jemma arched an eyebrow and accepted the challenge. “You are the prettiest princess.”

The four year old megalomaniac sitting next to Jemma clapped her hands and grinned, three of her teeth lost, and giggled in her tiny plastic chair. Princess Tea Party had been the only way to talk her out of blowing up all of downtown Chicago, and she’d insisted on Grant’s participation.

Grant thought Chicago was too big anyways. Coulson had not agreed.

Chapter Text

The house that he’s keeping her in is surprisingly nice. It’s a two story sprawling Victorian villa on an island that doesn’t seem to have anyone else living on it. She has the freedom to go where she wants, but given that she can’t see any other land and there are no vehicles that she can find to get off the island she’s started to not care.

He wasn’t there the first day she’d woken up. It was just her and the house without a tv, radio or computer, but with literally everything else she could want.

Sitting on the porch, currently alone, she wraps her arms around her knees and hugs them to herself. He’d been gone the first day, but had shown up yesterday again, and had been haunting her steps since.

She’s not sure where he’s gone now, but she’s glad for the alone time, even if she didn’t realize how cold it would be outside, it’s better than being stuck in a house with him.

The level of detail in the house is more terrifying than anything else, she thinks. How the lab is precisely to her specifications, how all of her favorite foods are stocked up, and even her favorite tea is in abundance.

She shivers in the cold night air and tightens her grip on her legs.

She jerks when something settles over her shoulders, and looks back to see Ward is wrapping his leather jacket around her. It’s warm, and she is very cold, but she doesn’t want it and she shrugs it off as soon as his hands are done smoothing it down.

He clicks his tongue in disapproval and she tenses, drawing her shoulders up by her ears. She’s been here long enough that she knows how this is going to go, but she knows that once she stops fighting this it’ll be easier to stop fighting all together.

The jacket gets placed back on her with firmer hands, this time he stays crouched behind her, hands on her shoulders, and speaks, “If you don’t wear the jacket then I’ll hold you, Jemma. I don’t want you to catch a chill.”

She squeezes her eyes shut to fight off the hot burn of tears and nods, knot in her throat. He caresses her shoulders one last time, drops a kiss to the top of her head then moves to sit next to her. He’s close enough that she can feel the heat of him, even through the jacket, and he looks totally relaxed, legs stretched out down the porch steps in front of him. She scoots a tiny bit away from him, and he gives her an arch look that tells her what’ll happen if she moves any more.

She rests her face back in the protective cradle of her knees, distressed to discover that the scent of him on the jacket is strong enough that it’s all she can smell anymore.

It’s still better than going inside.

He’s insisted on feeding her dinner, and he said something about needing to supervise her in the shower to make sure she doesn’t do anything drastic – even though she’s made no mention of even thinking of such a thing and isn’t at that level of hopeless.

She mostly, however, just wants the cold fresh air because it’s keeping her awake. And when she falls asleep she dreams, and when she dreams she sees Ward killing his way through her team, just as he told her he would if she tried to run. 

It’s not like she has anywhere to run, it’s a needless and cruel threat.

Slowly the heat of his jacket starts to seep into her bones, and she can feel her muscles relaxing even while she bites at her lips and presses nails into her palms to try to stay awake.

It’s a loosing battle though, and she’s in that floaty half asleep place when he lifts her up. She tries to fight back to wakefulness, but she slept poorly the night before and she doesn’t manage more than a murmured protest that he hushes.

 He carries her so smoothly that she’s barely aware she’s moving until he’s gently tucking her into the bed. He drops a kiss to her forehead as he smooths the blankets around her. His voice is so soft and kind when he says, “Sleep well Jemma, I’ll be here if you need me.” that she forgets, while she drifts off, to be frightened.

The next morning when she wakes from an undisturbed sleep she’s clutching his jacket to her chest.

Chapter Text

Jemma knows just how much blood can come out of a severed artery. Beingcovered in the hot tacky liquid is quite a bit different than knowing, intellectually. She grimaces and really hopes the dead man didn’t have any diseases, because some definitely got in her mouth.

She takes stock of herself as she pushes his dead body off of her own. Her fingers absently check for a nonexistent pulse, just in case, as she wipes at her forehead with her other arm.

 Searching his dead body only takes a moment, but he didn’t bring any weapons in with him, so all she has is her improvised shank, which is unfortunate, because now that she’s covered in blood the element of surprise is not coming back.

He ripped the buttons off her shirt, and there’s no way to fix it, so she ends up tying it between her breasts to have some sort of coverage. He locked the door behind him, which is just frustrating, but there aren’t any cameras so she’s hoping that when the next gentleman gets impatient for his turn she can at least get in a gut wound on him before the door shuts.

She kicks his dead body to the side so that it’s not immediately visible, and throws the thin blankets over the blood to hide it at least a little, before taking position behind the door.

She leans against the wall and dozes, a little, before a key turns in the lock and she tenses. She moves before she even sees who it is and of course Ward is faster and her back is pressed to his chest with the hand holding the knife caught in a firm grip before she’s gotten close to stabbing him.

Half of her wants to relax into him, knowing that at least now she’s safe from whatever faction of HYDRA had kidnapped her off the island, but the other half of her wants to scream and shout. This has absolutely been her best chance to get away from him, she’s finally off that godforsaken island and if she had managed to break out before he’d shown up she could’ve actually gotten word to her team.

He nuzzles in behind her ear and she shivers, violently, and starts to cry silently.

He takes the shank from her and she’s not sure where he moves it, and he wraps his arms more securely around her, rocking her slightly. “Shh, shh, it’s okay baby, I’ve got you.”

She makes a futile effort to pull away from him, not surprised when it doesn’t work, and cries harder. His hand smooths up her chest in a way that makes bile rise in her throat, but she knows what’s happening and is almost relieved when his hand reaches her neck and he injects her and the world goes black.

When she wakes up she’s in her bedroom at the island. Her hair is wet and she’s in new clothes and she’s no longer covered in blood but she feels dirty. She sits up and swings her legs over the side of the bed, taking stock. The shower is running.

She grimaces and realizes that though the room is eerily similar to that of hers on the island, it’s not the same. Instead of Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the wall it’s his Vase with Twelve Sunflowers. (She, privately, thinks Munch’s The Scream would be more appropriate.)

The rest of the house, she discovers fleeing the bedroom before Ward can leave the shower, is likewise uncomfortably similar to the last house, with everything being just the slightest bit off. It makes her oddly claustrophobic, like the entire world has narrowed down to just duplicates of the same house, designed to be the nightmare version of how she’d want to decorate her own home.

It’s night, and though the moon is full and the thought is tempting, she won’t go out exploring until she can at least see where she’s going. The house is set on a beach though, with a jungle-forest behind it. And she doubts it’s going to be anything but another island. She hysterically wonders where he’s getting all of them, is he threatening someone until they make him islands? Maybe he’s just killing off everyone who lives there and putting duplicate houses on their graves? (This is, it’s true, only the second house and island, but she knows Ward far better than she wants to at this point, and if there aren’t other islands she will eat her shoe.)

For the first time, looking out on the ocean, she contemplates just wading out there and swimming until she can’t anymore. She wraps her arms around herself and sobs.

When the jacket falls around her shoulders she jerks badly enough to knock it off. Ward just scoops it up and arches an eyebrow before holding it out.

She grimaces but snatches it from him before he can change his mind and decide that he has to be the one to put it on her. She cannot handle him touching her right now. She can’t handle anyone touching her right now.

He stands next to her, but doesn’t even chide her when she inches away, just saying, “They’re all dead, Jemma. I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re mine.”

She shivers and pulls his jacket tighter around herself.

Chapter Text

Jemma had been having a horrid day. One of the lab techs had left the incubator door open, which meant a huge number of experiments were ruined, including the one that she had been working on for the past two weeks and was going to rt-pcr later that day.

Because none of them had been willing to admit to doing it she’d had to lecture everyone and submit their names for re-training. She, personally, believed Lorenzo was to blame but she wasn’t willing to risk it being someone else since he hadn’t stepped forward. Which meant that they’d all been glaring at her by turns and ignoring her by others.

It was the first time she’d had to eat lunch alone since her first week, and she still felt awkward sitting at a table by herself while everyone gossiped to each other around her.

On top of that she’d spilled black tea on her favorite blouse, and while it was currently soaking she didn’t have high hopes for it. Her favorite stockings had gotten a run in them, and she’d burned her finger making dinner.

All she wants to do now is curl up in front of the TV and watch one of her comfort movies. She’s leaning towards The Princess Bride.

So it’s natural that right when she’s located the DVD there comes a loud crash of thunder, sounding like it’s directly over the building, and the electricity going out just in time for the lightning to light up the whole room for a second.

She stands there in her comfiest pajamas, one hand holding the disc towards the player, just frozen. Lightning cracks again but the lights show no sign of coming back on.

She sighs and carefully feels her way to putting the disc away before walking towards her couch. Naturally she hits her shin on the coffee table on the way over, and ends up hoping and falling into the couch. She pulls the throw off and over her face and just lays there.

She’s deeply convinced if she tries to light any of the candles they keep for just such an occasion she’s going to end up lighting the house on fire, it is certainly that kind of day.

It’s only maybe five minutes before the door opens. The rain is loud enough on the roof now that she can’t hear anything, but when she sits up she can see Grant wandering through, lighting candles and using his phone as a flashlight.

He puts a candle on the coffee table and leans in to give her a kiss. “Hi.”

She tries to smile back. “Hi.”

He runs his hand through her hair and rubs the back of her neck lightly for a moment, face contemplative, before kissing her forehead and straightening up. “Sit tight, I’ll be back.” And he disappears around the couch into the kitchen.

She bothers to try to arrange the throw blanket in a way that he’ll be able to cuddle in when he comes back. He comes back with a basket full of things that he puts by the hearth, and then proceeds to actually build a fire.

A genuine smile, finally, starts to stretch her lips as she watches Grant struggle with the lighter and the wood. But he’s never been bad at anything (besides, hilariously, bowling) and in short order there is a fire burning merrily away.

He dusts his hands off, stands up, walks over to her and with a mischievous look scoops her up and carries her to a pile of blankets she didn’t even see him accumulate.

It’s not until she’s cuddled up in the nest of blankets, back against his chest, that he finally speaks again. “Bad day?”

She sighs, nods, and rests her head against his shoulder. “Yeah, just a lot of little things.”

He presses a kiss to the side of her head. “Do you want hot chocolate, s’mores or both?”

She tilts her head so she can look at him, he takes advantage of the movement to pull her into a light kiss. Right before it descends into her moving to straddle him he pulls back and reaches out to grab the basket. She peers into it and can see he did, indeed, bring everything for both hot chocolate and s’mores.

She laughs and launches herself at him, amused when he lets out an “Ooof” but doesn’t budge.

It’s hard to think that any day that ends with him is bad.

Chapter Text

I will owe you forever if you save me from this awful date.

Jemma was texting under the table. And she felt a little bad for it, she did!, it was completely inappropriate. But if she had to speak to Lorenzo for much longer she was going to punch him in the face or throw her drink at him or…something more inappropriate then texting at the dinner table while her blind date regaled her of his accomplishments.

Most of which she was pretty sure were made up because that wasn’t how science worked. And she’d been to that conference and he definitely hadn’t been the keynote speaker.

Where are you?

Came the reply, and she tried not to furrow her brows while texting back the address. Skye knew where she was. Jemma tried not to make a face of disgust, blocking it with a sip of water. Unless Skye thought they’d already moved somewhere else. Ugh. They hadn’t even gotten their salads yet. How was she going to survive this?

She was just contemplating pretending to choke on her water to escape when there was a clearing throat next to her and she looked over. And then up. She blinked.

What was Ward doing here?

Her confusion showed clearly on her face, she was sure, and only got more marked when Ward kneeled next to her seat, completely ignoring the fact that her date was still talking.

He was giving her puppy dog eyes and she looked around in confusion as he kidnapped one of her hands. “I knew you were mad, Jemma, but are you really giving up on us?”

She gaped at him. She was positive she would’ve remembered there being an us with Grant Ward.

He had been the star of far too many of her adolescent (and onward) daydreams, she definitely would’ve remembered any chance of an us.

He pouted at her and her brain went completely blank for a moment. That just wasn’t fair.

When it rebooted she realized her phone was still in her lap, and instead of texting Skye W. she’d been texting Grant W.

And now Grant Ward was here. Pretending they were a thing. To get her out of her horrible date?

She bit her lower lip and, knowing herself well enough to know that lying never worked in her favor, just tried to look at him sadly. She could tell he was laughing at her without his expression ever changing from its sad pout.

He stood up and dragged her to her feet with ease.

She blinked up at him. “Jemma, please, give me another chance.” And then he was kissing her. Dimly she could register that people around her were applauding like it was some sort of dinner theater show.

She wanted to applaud a little herself.

Whoever had taught Ward to kiss deserved a lifetime vacation to the tropical island of their choice.

When he pulled back she was breathless and clinging to him, her date had left and he was smiling down at her, smug. “I want to collect on that ‘owe you forever’ now.”

She nodded, dumbly.

He set her back down in her seat then, to her confusion, rounded the table and sat across from her.

Oh. Well. This was much better.

Chapter Text

Skye was texting while watching TV. It wasn’t necessarily a good idea, especially since she was decidedly hungover and her brain was not processing anything particularly well.

She hit send automatically, eyes fixed on the screen and didn’t look down again until the commercial break. At which point she blinked, blinked again, then swore loudly.

S: Shit, don’t open that. I sent it to the wrong person.

Skye bit at her thumbnail, anxiously, watching the ellipsis flash. How likely did she think it was that Ward wasn’t going to look at the video she’d just sent him?

Shit. Shit shit shit.

She composed a text to Jemma.

S: So, funny story. You know the video I took of truth or dare last night?

Skye waited for Jemma to respond, still gnawing her fingernail.

J: …What did you do?

Skye winced. Her phone buzzed again and she looked in horror at the message from Ward.

W: Too late.

Skye buried her head in the pillows. She had to run away. There was no way she was admitting to Jemma that she’d sent Ward a video of Jemma’s ten minute digression into what a physically perfect specimen Ward was…if only he had a different personality.

Nope. As soon as her temples stopped pounding she was going to erase her existence from every database and go into her own witness protection program.

It would be fine.

J: Skye, why is Ward texting me about his abs? He just sent me a photo and said it absolutely made up for his personality. SKYE! What did you do!

Totally fine.

 

Chapter Text

Jemma’s phone buzzed on her bedside. She blinked, blearily and reached for it with a clumsy hand.

It took her three tries to get the phone unlocked and she actually managed to fall back asleep for a half moment before it buzzed a warning again.

The text read: Come get Taco Bell with me. No, I don't care that it's three in the morning, I'm already outside your place.

She wrinkled her nose, yawned, and made a face.

J: I was asleep, I don’t want Taco Bell.

 She started to drift off again before the next reply, but the phone buzzing in her hand woke her back up.

 L: Please Jem? We never do anything together anymore!

She scowled at her phone but did actually feel a little bad. Her work had been very busy lately, and it was definitely cutting into their time.

J: If you bring me Taco Bell I’ll make the tea and you can crash here to sober up, okay?

L: Great! I’ll see you in five!

She frowned at her phone. The nearest Taco Bell was not within five minutes, walking or driving, of her door. So he was lying somewhere. And he was definitely drunk. His texting was always much better when he’d been drinking, somehow chat speak was confusing to his intoxicated mind.

 She sighed, wrapped her rope around herself and got up to put the kettle on. He was her brother and she’d do this much for him.

Five minutes later the doorbell rang and sure enough, there was her big brother, and a very, very attractive stranger.

She blinked and Lance shoved a bag of Taco Bell in her face. She snatched it from him and scowled as the two men stumbled in, giggling.

She sighed and went to check on the tea. The Taco Bell went into the fridge, and sure enough, by the time she went back into the living room her brother was facedown on the rug, snoring.

His guest was blinking sleepily at her from the couch. His cheekbones looked like they could cut glass. “You’re pretty.”

She rolled her eyes and held out the sleepy time tea for him. He took it carefully and peered into it before looking back at her and smiling, “Hi.”

She rolled her eyes harder and crossed her arms. “Drink your tea. Try not to step on Lance when you wake up. And if you try to steal anything when you leave I’ll hunt you down and poison all of your booze.”

She walked back to her room as he called out after her, “My name’s Grant! Will you be my girlfriend?”

At least Lance had actually brought her Taco Bell this time. And this was the most attractive friend she’d been asked out by so far, that did get him bonus points.

Chapter Text

report to my bedroom immediately for snuggles.

 

Jemma tilts her head and blinks down at her phone. What.

 

She looks around the common area until she finds Skye, snickering to herself, drunk, and holding a phone. Her stomach drops a little, the small bit of hope she’d felt being forcefully extinguished.

 

She sighs and walks over to the clearly intoxicated girl and holds out her hand. “Give me his phone.”

 

Skye blinks up at her; her brow furrowed and lower lip sticking out. “This is my phone.”

 

Jemma sighs again and snatches it, her normally subpar reflexes more then a match for Skye’s intoxication. Red immediately crawls up her cheeks as she looks at the phone. Because it is definitely Skye’s phone, and she is apparently sexting Fitz. Oh god.

 

Jemma drops the phone and backs away. She never wanted to see that much of Fitz. Ever. Oh god. She needs to drink something. Like drain cleaner. Or bleach.

 

She gags while Skye picks up her phone and pouts at Jemma.

 

Jemma puts a hand over her eyes and falls into the nearby couch.

 

But wait. If Skye doesn’t have Ward’s phone then…

 

It only takes her thirty seconds to recover from the sight of Fitz in nothing and get to Ward’s door. There are snuggles to be had.

Chapter Text

Grant had gotten back a day early, which he was rather excited about since his plans involved making dinner with his lovely biochemist and then rechristening various rooms in her apartment.

But when he’d walked in, using the key she’d given him two weeks ago, she was slipping into a pair of heels and fiddling with a sparkly pair of earrings. He leaned against the wall and watched, eyes greedy for everything about her.

Some small part of him was tight and worried at her getting so dressed up on Valentine's Day when he wasn’t supposed to be around. They’d been dating less than a month, but they’d known each other far longer than that and he didn’t for a moment believe she would cheat on him.

She finally straightened and started at finding him there. Hand clutching her chest she let out a shaky breath and scolded him, “Mercy, Grant. Don’t sneak up on me!” But then she threw herself into his arms and so he knew she couldn’t have been too mad.

He was positive she wasn’t mad at all when she pulled him down, less far than usual due to the heels, and gave him a very lengthy kiss hello.

His hands were itching towards her zipper before it was over. He pulled back just enough to ask, “Just how important is whatever you’re all dressed up for? How about we just stay in?” He proceeded to support his argument by zeroing in on the spot behind her jaw that forced her to make the most delicious noises, but he’d only gotten in a nuzzle before she was pushing him back.

He sighed, regretfully, but kept his hands on her waist as she rested her hands on his chest. “Oh Grant, I’m sorry. It’s girls’ night. I missed the last one and I can’t miss another.”

He made a face, rubbing circles into her hips. “You’re having girls’ night on Valentine's day?”

Her grimace was adorable, but he could tell she actually felt some amount of guilt. “Well, you see…” She cleared her throat and soldiered on. “They don’t know I’m going out with you, and none of them are currently dating so we were going to go out to a nice restaurant and then head back to Skye’s and eat ice cream and watch movies and probably share dating horror stories and maybe cry a bit about being single today…”

He groaned and slouched back against the wall, pulling her with him. “Damn. Maybe we should just tell them?”

She rubbed a hand down his arm and leaned up to give him a quick peck on the lips before dancing back. “We can talk about that later, but it’s not going to stop me from going to girls’ night. I’ll be back late, don’t wait up and do not erase my shows!” She waved a finger at him, grabbed her purse and rushed out the door.

He wondered if she’d realize how smeared her lipstick was before or after she got to wherever she was meeting her friends.

Chapter Text

Fitz walked into the lab, well satisfied after a long Valentines day weekend. His lab mate, or platonic-lab-partner as Skye liked to say, was already present. He nodded absently at her and started to say, “Good morn–” when he caught sight of the teddy bear with it’s head ripped off across the central table.

He froze and shifted until he was staring at Jemma’s back where she was bent over a western blot, shoulders up by her ears.

“Jemma…” He trailed off, unsure how to continue.

Jemma made a humming noise in her throat, her shoulders inching higher.

He frowned and tapped his fingers on the table. “Do you want to tell me why there’s a headless bear on our lab bench?”

Her hand stuttered in movement before jerking back into motion, some of the buffer solution sloshing out of the tray. “No, not really.”

He searched through his memory for when the last time he’d heard that tone of voice was. But he couldn’t figure out why her parents would’ve shipped her a headless teddy bear, so after a long moment he cleared his throat and asked in a hesitant voice, “Can I throw it away?”

She whipped around fast enough that he was momentarily worried about her swirling lab coat knocking the tray off the table, but luckily it didn’t. “No!”

He blinked and took a step back, hands held up. “Okay, okay, I won’t touch your beheaded bear.”

She stepped forward and reached out for it, frowning. She moved it together so, as long as her hand was there to hold the head up, it looked like it was one piece. “Ward asked me out.”

Fitz blinked, then blinked again. Jemma was still frowning down at the bear. “Wha–” He wheezed before getting himself together, “What?”

Jemma looked up at him and tilted her head. “Ward asked me out. He brought me this teddy bear and wanted to go out with me last weekend.”

Fitz looked around the lab, hoping something would make this make sense. But he was a genius and after a moment he offered up, “But I thought you worked all weekend, getting the antiserum able to be mass produced?”

She winced. “Yes. But I may have accepted his proposal first and then, well, forgot.”

Fitz stared down at the bear. It was starting to make sense. “So he…?”

Jemma nodded, pouting. “He tore the head off the bear he got me. Poor thing.”

Fitz eyed the bear, wearily. “Maybe it’s not such a good idea to date him, that seems…alarming.”

Jemma shrugged, releasing the bear so that it fell apart and turning back to her blot. “I think he may have been under the impression you were in the lab with me all weekend, I don’t know how, but he was definitely muttering your name when he left.”

Fitz felt his knees go weak and his heart stutter. Oh god, he was going to die. At least he’d had a long weekend with Skye first.

Chapter Text

Jemma pursed her lips and crossed her arms.

Skye was circling the box, practically vibrating with excitement. “Are you going to open it?”

Jemma let out a breath, blowing her bangs out of her face. “I’m not sure.”

“Come on, you have to! I want to know what you got this time!” Skye was clutching her hands to her chest and literally jumping up and down.

Jemma rubbed a hand over her face. “I don’t know Skye, you have to admit this is all a bit…suspicious.”

Skye waved a hand through the air, unconcerned. “I’m not sure if they’re a stalker or a secret admirer, but they have great taste in gifts.”

Jemma grimaced and shook her head, approaching the box despite herself. “Why, exactly, are you so nonchalant about this?” She paused and her eyes narrowed, examining Skye carefully. “You’ve always been paranoid about stalkers. You started driving to pick me up from the lab because you were worried about the underground parking lot. You know something.”

Skye took a step back. “Wha-what? Noooooo.”

Jemma took a step away from the box and towards Skye. “You’re the only one who I told about the book, you were with me when I was looking at that microscope and you could hack my online wish list!” She pointed accusingly at Skye. “Don’t lie to me!”

Skye bit her lip and looked up at the ceiling. “I plead the fifth?”

Jemma crossed her arms, scowl firm. “Skye.”

Skye rocked on her heels for a long moment before bursting. “Okay! Okay! It’s my stupid brother. He has a crush and he’s incompetent and I was helping him and you weren’t supposed to get worried – it was supposed to be sweet! I told him it would be sweet, it’s my fault, I’m sorry!”

Jemma uncrossed her arms just in time to catch a distraught Skye who had thrown herself at her. She patted the other woman’s back and sighed. “It was very sweet. It was just…a lot. Maybe next time he should try just one thing and then asking me out?”

Skye jerked back hard enough that Jemma had to steady her to make sure she didn’t fall over. “So his creepy incompetence isn’t a deal breaker? Great! I can work with this!” Skye shot her two thumbs up. “I’m going to go tell Grant the good news! I can’t wait ‘til we’re actually sisters!” And she dashed out of the room.

Jemma stared in shock for a long moment before grabbing a pair of scissors and approaching the seventh mystery box. At least she knew it wasn’t someone who wanted to wear her skin.

Her mind immediately jumped from that to being skin to skin with Grant. She was glad Skye was no longer there to watch her blush and smile to herself.

Chapter Text

The Fire Nation man was back.

Jemma wondered if he thought he was being inconspicuous, or if he wanted them to know he was there. She didn’t like the implications of the second, but she really hoped for his sake he didn’t think he was being subtle. She knew the Fire Nation tended towards a flare for the dramatic, but this was a bit much.

She shifted her weight and looked over to where Fitz was tinkering with what looked like a pile of gears that may have belonged to a clock. Her eyes tried to make sense of the mess, but with a shudder she shook her head and said, “He’s back.”

Fitz frowned and glanced up. “Do you think he’s trying to intimidate us into leaving?”

Jemma frowned out the window and examined the very handsome man, knowing there was nothing on him that indicated why he was there. He wasn’t wearing the armband of the Fire Nation for Fire Nation group, so it was possible he wasn’t actively against them. “I don’t know, maybe,” she shook her head and turned back to her science.

She and Fitz were helping the Fire Nation rebuild with their gadgets and compounds but there were still some hard feelings about an Earthbender and a Waterbender being the ones to do it. Still, one frowning man wasn’t going to send them away.

He was back the next day, like he’d been for the entire week before.

She didn’t mention it to Fitz again, though she noticed and spent a few minutes watching him.

His eyes met hers through the window and she was ashamed to admit that she looked away first.

He was there the following day as well, and the one after that. She tried to stop noticing him.

When she woke up, however, she still looked out the window of her room above the lab just to see if he was there.

Ice ran through her veins, and not the type she created. There was a crowd gathered – all dressed in old Fire Nation uniforms and with the armband.

She rushed off to get Fitz, not even bothering to change out of her pajamas. They were both benders, certainly, but neither of them were warriors. Fitz did delicate metal manipulation for his machines and she used her water bending for her chemistry, medicine and for healing small injuries. Even if the majority of the crowd were non-benders, as was likely, she and Fitz still didn’t stand a chance.

She heard him before she found him – and there he was, standing in the door and trying to reason with the crowd.

Dear, stupid, suicidal man.

She stepped up next to him, because he was her best friend and it wasn’t as if hiding was likely to save her, tucking her trembling hands behind her back.

The crowd was angry and they all blurred together for her. A sea of eyes flashing fire and spittle flying from bared teeth.

Her view was cut off abruptly by dark red fabric. By the back of a shirt.

She looked up.

She’d never seen the back of him, but he looked over his shoulder at her and smiled.

It was brighter than the sun.

“Why don’t you two go inside, I can handle this,” his voice was smooth and amused, his eyes never left her face.

She blinked, dazed, and then Fitz’s hand was on her arm dragging her back inside. Which was ironic considering she never would have ventured out there on her own.

She had never once considered that he’d been waiting outside to protect them. But he was.

She wondered if someone had sent him. May might have done something like that. Or Coulson.

His voice drifted through the shut door, words hard to make out but his tone soothing.

The din decreased and she felt some tension leave her shoulders. Then there was the rush of flames and her blood rushing in her ears. She ran to the window and watched as he actively fought the last handful of men who hadn’t already left. The last time she’d seen Firebending had been – no, best not to think about it.

He was good. He was still outnumbered, however, and they got in a number of solid hits that made her wince before he managed to knock the main instigator out and the other four carted him off.

It was over. The crowd had vanished like morning dew.

Fitz, pressed against her side to peer out the window with her, gave a massive sigh of relief. She still had adrenaline humming in her veins.

He was walking smoothly back across the street. He should’ve been limping, she’d seen the hits he had taken.

She abandoned Fitz at the window and threw open the door before he’d walked more than three feet.

He turned at the sound, eyeing her outstretched hand.

She felt messy inside, unsure of what she was doing but sure she had to do it. “Please, come in. Let me treat your wounds. You got them defending us.”

He hesitated for only a moment before stepping forward, close enough that she could feel the heat emanating from him and took her hand. His eyes were intense as his lips quirked into a smirk and he said, “I’m Grant.”

She squeezed his hand back, dizzy with what had to be relief. “Jemma,” and she led him inside.

Chapter Text

The mission had been successful. Yet there was no celebrating or joking in the plane. Instead there was tense silence stretching from right after the first five minutes of attempted conversation from Jemma.

They were only half an hour away from base when Jemma broke the silence, saying, "I’m sorry that I got way too into the mission and accidentally kissed you passionately. I know it made you uncomfortable."

He grimaced and finally spoke, having not responded to her first four babbled attempts to talk about it. “Look, it was flattering as hell,” he shook his head ruefully and continued, “We all know you get too into character. But I am too young and too hot to die because of this.”

Jemma frowned and crossed her arms, her voice dropping in warning. “Trip.”

He tossed her a tense grin, fingers competently flicking over the control panel. “Really, Jemma. Lets not talk about it. Ever.”

She shook her head, scowl firmly in place. “I said I was sorry – it was my fault. No one is going to kill you for something I did.”

He arched an eyebrow and fiddled with something on the dash. “That’s kind of you to say, but that means either I killed him while defending myself or had to go into hiding. That’s the only way I’m making it out of this alive if he catches wind. So how about we just skip that part and never mention that it ever happened.”

She dropped her arms to her side, exclaiming, “You’re being ridiculous!” and shaking her head.

He tsked at her before flipping another switch and swiveling his chair to give her a level look. “Look, has he kissed you yet? Have you kissed him?”

She put her hands on her hips, tilted her chin up and firmly said, “Fitz and I are just friends.”

Trip scoffed, running a hand over the top of his head at her obvious misinterpretation. His voice was chiding as he said, “I am not talking about Fitz.”

A muscle jumped in her jaw as she clenched it, before very obviously forcing herself to relax, tossing her hair and declaring, “Then I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

He gave her a flat look and scoffed out a, “Really?” obviously done with her shit.

She took two carefully even breaths before calmly announcing, “No one has expressed any interest.”

“Ooooh, shit girl. You know he’s crazy about you.” He shook his head again. He had honestly not been expecting that.

She pursed her lips. “…So everyone else keeps telling me.” She paused for a moment and arched a challenging eyebrow at Trip, finishing with an angry, “He, however, hasn’t said a thing. Or done a thing. There have been no things at all.”

He shifted, suddenly somehow more uncomfortable, mostly because Jemma looked like she was either going to actually kill someone or burst into tears. He wasn’t sure which was worse, and cautiously asked, “So, that means…?” hoping like hell that it wouldn’t cause her to burst into tears.

She did not. Instead she pointed threateningly at him and said, “That means I will not lie in my report, and if he so much as looks at you wrong you can send him to me and I will make sure he knows that he has no right to do so.”

He shook his head ruefully and said, “…Yeah, you’re going to get me killed,” but he sounded lighter, because either way this was going to be a shitshow, and watching Jemma drag Grant kicking and screaming into being a reasonable human being was worth the threat of death.

She laughed, shifting her weight in her chair and offering him a slightly apologetic grin. “At least you got an amazing kiss before you died.”

He grinned back, apology accepted. “It was a fly kiss, wasn’t it?”

Chapter Text

When Jemma settles down on the floor three feet from where he’s chained, he wonders for a moment if she’s HYDRA.

After all, if Garrett could be HYDRA, anyone could be HYDRA.

That’s what had gotten him into this mess.

Apparently Garrett had some information on his body that HYDRA wanted and they’d known Grant had killed him.

Grant had cheerfully admitted, without any encouragement, that he had dumped the body somewhere into the Pacific Ocean after shooting him on Hand’s orders.

HYDRA had not been pleased. Now they were torturing him just to torture him. The physical torture hadn’t been so bad. They’d moved on from that quickly.

The drugs they kept injecting him with caused some very vivid hallucinations. He’d only been able to realize some of them were hallucinations based on how often his dead little brother and Garrett appeared. With the others he was never quite sure.

So his second thought, when Jemma settles down on the floor across from him, is surprise that it’s taken his mind this long to conjure her.

Still he has to ask, even though he knows she’s just as likely a hallucination as not and just as likely to lie either way. “Jemma, are you HYDRA?”

She blinks at him, tilts her head and says, “No…No, I am not.” She pauses and asks cautiously, “Where do you think you are right now?”

He blinks and the cell disappears.

His hands are still tied over his head, but it feels soft and he can’t feel the tacky dried blood on his arms any longer. He’s naked and on a bed.

Jemma, still the same distance away, is also naked. Her skin glows peach in the morning light coming in through the big bay window beside the bed. Her expression of soft concern hasn’t changed.

He blinks again and he’s back in the cell. Jemma is wearing a lab coat.

He licks dry lips and asks, “Can I have some water?” because sometimes there’s someone actually in there that he can’t see while he hallucinates and sometimes they humor his requests.

Jemma stands and fills a cup from the pitcher on the far side of the room before kneeling beside him and holding it to his lips.

He’s not sure if he’s actually drinking water or just imagining it, but it moistens his lips and sooths his throat regardless. “Thank you.”

She smiles at him and brushes his hair out of his face.

He’s back on the bed.

“You’re very welcome,” her voice is a purr as she places the cup on the concrete ground and leans in to kiss him. Her hand grips his bare shoulder, fingernails digging in just slightly. The pillows are starting to stick uncomfortably to his naked back by the time she pulls away.

She peels off the lab coat and straddles him, her weight pushing him into the soft mattress.

He has to curl his hands around the cold chains holding him in place to stop himself from trying to break free of the silk ties because he wants so much to touch her.

She teases both of them, rubbing against him but not letting him slip inside until he’s frantic with the need to be in her, heels dragging painfully over the rough concrete.

Finally, finally, finally she takes him in. Arching her back far enough that he can take one nipple in his mouth as she sinks down, painfully slowly.

She stops when he pulls hard enough at his silk bonds to cause a tearing noise. He kisses apologies over her chest until she pushes him back and drops down completely. His head hits the concrete and he moans.

She moves over him, head thrown back and looking like an angel in the light as she chases her own pleasure.

She slouches against him when she comes, pressing a kiss over his heart before looking up at him and reaching for his silk ties. “Was it good for you?”

He hears metal scrape over rock.

He doesn’t know where he is.

Jemma is still smiling up at him, sweetly.

He leans down to kiss her again.

Chapter Text

They find out Ward is HYDRA twenty minutes after the call to arms goes up on all their computers, when Skye sarcastically says, “Hail Hydra,” and Ward’s response is quick enough and sincere enough that even he looks a little surprised.

They tell the rest of SHIELD and quickly discover that even a warned HYDRA agents has been too well trained to resist. Clapping a hand over a mouth to hold in the words becomes tantamount to an admission of guilt, and every HYDRA agent is rooted out and locked up within three hours.

SHIELD stands, if a bit scarcely populated.

Ward is still locked in the Cage, because literally all of the other SHIELD holding cells are full, when Skye, Jemma and May decide to have a celebratory drink or twelve.

Having a slightly lower tolerance, Skye is the first to bemoan the fact that such an attractive man is evil.

Jemma wisely adds, not far behind the other girl, “All the attractive men are either taken, gay or evil.”

Skye and May both drink to that.

Jemma then proceeds to go on a ten minute rant about anatomy that Skye can only half follow, though May seems to be comprehending fine, nodding along.

Skye understands just enough to add, once Jemma is done, what a shame it is that they’ll never know what he was like in bed.

May arches an eyebrow and shrugs, taking a long drink. “Not as good as that physique promised.”

Skye and Jemma only gape for a few seconds before managing to drag story after story out of the older woman.

An hour later the two of them burst into the Cage.

Ward sits up, having been sleeping, his blanket pooling in his lap and his chains clinking noisily. He blinks at their obvious drunken disarray but doesn’t have the chance to ask anything before Jemma is pointing an accusing finger and slurring, “Never? You never went down on her? That is an absolute waste of your everything and you should be deeply shamed!”

Skye is nodding enthusiastically in agreement, holding herself up with one hand on Jemma and one on the door jam. She adds her two cents in a too loud voice, “Foreplay is a thing you know! An important thing for ladies and May is a lady and you did not treat her right!”

He blinks again and opens his mouth, but Jemma cuts him off with, “And another thing! It does not matter how impressively endowed you apparently are,” her gaze drops pointedly to his lap and he’s shifting uncomfortably, making sure his blankets covered him completely. “If you do not know what you are doing!”

Skye nods hard enough to knock herself back, adding in, “Yeah!”

Jemma continues, hand flying through the air, “My best orgasms were from a man with a penis the size of a tube of lipstick – length and width! – but he knew how to use what he had!”

Jemma nods again before stumbling out of the Cage with Skye close behind. The door shuts on Skye shouting, “You should be ashamed!”

Ward rubs a hand over his face, sighs, and wonders if he’ll be able to convince them that it was all part of his cover. Because it was.

Though…he hadn’t thought he was that bad.

Chapter Text

Grant knew that Garrett was still upset with him over their mission in Prague the moment he got his new assignment.

That had been two weeks ago.

His opinion hadn’t changed much.

The urge to kill his own charge, a recent theoretically brilliant scientist who’d been recruited with the condition of having his own ‘bodyguard’, had changed. It had increased exponentially. But Grant had never failed a mission due to killing the person he was supposed to protect and he wasn’t going to start now.

Protect from exactly what, he didn’t know. The man didn’t act paranoid at all, like he might if someone were actually gunning for him. To be fair, they only time he’d ever left a base was to transfer to a different one, but Grant wasn’t inclined to be fair.

He was nearly positive the man didn’t want a bodyguard so much as someone to loom behind him and intimidate underlings.

Grant had tried smiling at the people that Dr. Lorenzo was attempting to intimidate as soon as he figured it out. Unfortunately, that seemed to just terrify them more as he apparently had a bit of a reputation. Now he just followed around and imagined the multitude of ways he could kill Dr. Lorenzo and make it look like an accident.

He was still a specialist, even if he was acting as a glorified thug, so he was aware of the odd tension that seemed to exist on their most recent base. Not tension in general, but how guarded people tended to appear when they so much as had to pass a certain section of corridor along which there was only one lab.

They’d only been at the base for three days when a fuming Dr. Lorenzo stomped towards the lab in question.

Grant sighed, and followed him, gently catching the door before it could slam against the wall like the good doctor had intended, and shutting it after he’d stepped fully into the room.

It looked like every other lab at the base. Shining metal, white tile and machines he didn’t know the purpose of.

Dr. Lorenzo slammed the dish he’d been carrying down on one of the lab benches and the only two individuals in the lab looked up and spun around, respectively.

Both were in lab coats, the first was a disheveled woman with goggles hiding half her face, the second was a scowling man with dark grease smeared along one cheek. The woman was closer, and she pushed up her goggles and stepped lightly over to them, looking curiously at what was placed on the lab bench.

Dr. Lorenzo didn’t even bother to really look at the woman, scowling fiercely, he said, “I was told this belong to one of you.” Scorn dripped from his voice, and Grant watched the woman pull back, the happy amusement in her face fading very quickly, but not to insult as he half expected, instead it shifted to anger.

He sighed and glanced heavenward, half hoping that the woman would kill his charge while he was not really distracted but could claim he was and he’d get another job with less of an ass. When he looked back, the man was regarding him curiously, and when he offered him a smile it was immediately returned. He wasn’t sure if that meant his reputation hadn’t proceeded him, or if the scientists just didn’t care.

The woman was still staring at Lorenzo, her gaze narrowed and unwavering. He seemed to take her silence as an admission of guilt, because he rattled the dish again and announced, imperious, “You need to stop leaving dead bodies in my kitchen.”

The man’s gaze swung away from Grant to fix on Lorenzo with shock. The woman tilted her head and asked in a deceptively sweet voice, “Your kitchen?”

Lorenzo’s chest puffed up and Grant rolled his eyes again. He’d heard this speech before and he didn’t need to hear it again. He was sure he didn’t have a choice. It was the speech Lorenzo gave every time anyone at a base questioned him. He’d walk into a lab, give the speech, Grant would stand there, scientists would shrink back, and the good doctor would walk about again, smug in his importance.

And here it went. “Do you even know who I am?” It was clearly a rhetorical question.

The woman clearly didn’t care, interrupting to say, “Unless you are a new chef that has been hired, it is not your kitchen,” as she took her goggles off and straightened her hair.

Lorenzo sputtered and said, “I am Doctor Lorenzo –“

She cut him off again with, “Oh, you’re Lorenzo. Good. The director wants to see you. I’ll come with you and we can discuss this kitchen incident,” sweeping out of the lab before he could respond.

Lorenzo continued to sputter as Grant stared after her, deeply impressed. The other man stripped off the gloves he was wearing and started forward. Lorenzo stalked ahead of him when he realized the man was going to go ahead of him instead of waiting.

Grant sighed again and followed after. The man fell into step with him, eyeing him curiously before asking, “Why, exactly, are you following him like a shadow?”

Grant arched a look at him as they walked quickly down the hall, Lorenzo walking as quickly as he could to catch up with the woman without running but still never quite catching up. Grant said, dryly, “I’m his ‘bodyguard.’”

The man wrinkled his nose and asked, “What does he need guarding from?”

Grant had to bite back his instinctive answer of ‘his own stupidity’, and instead just shrugged.

The man seemed to understand what he didn’t say, and laughed before offering a hand, and saying, “I’m Fitz, by the way. She’s Simmons.”

Before he could return the greeting, Lorenzo snapped, “Ward,” and he was rolling his eyes and speeding up to stand directly over Lorenzo’s shoulder as they reached the paused Simmons. They were standing in front of a wide set of double doors made from some probably extinct species of tree. Simmons tilted her head at one of the guards at the door and they got waved in.

Grant glanced around the plush sitting room. The woman sitting behind the desk stands up and smiles when they march in. Grant braced himself for the odd fawning that he had seen Lorenzo elicit. Instead he heard, “Jemma, my dove.”

Lorenzo stopped short, Grant pausing behind him. Fitz carried forward and was greeted with a similar level of fondness from the imposing woman, even while she rounded the desk to pull Simmons into a hug. “Leo! You’ve got something on your face. What brings you both here to me?”

She still had Simmons held loosely with her hands on the scientists shoulders. Simmons – Jemma, presumably – stared up at the older woman and said, “Doctor Lorenzo told me not to leave things in his kitchen.”

The older woman’s gaze swung abruptly to Lorenzo, and to Grant who was still at his shoulder.

It took all of his training not to immediately step back.

Her gaze became a bit less threatening when it turned to him and, despite himself, he could feel his shoulders relax slightly. She tilted her head and waved them forward, not offering Lorenzo a chair or a hand, but specifically holding one out to Grant. “I’m Julianne. This is my base.”

Grant shook her hand, being careful to be firm but not too forceful. “Grant Ward. I’m guarding Doctor Lorenzo, currently. We arrived yesterday. I was told he didn’t need to check in. My apologies for not confirming that.”

Julianne waved a hand through the air and leaned back against the side of the desk. Fitz and Jemma, she looked much more like a Jemma than a Simmons, took the two chairs in front of the desk. Lorenzo stood, frowning, awkwardly.

Julianne continued to ignore him, and doing the first sensible thing Grant had seen, he didn’t try to call attention to himself.

She continued to watch him curiously for a moment before asking, “What, exactly, is this assignment punishment for?”

Grant felt flat footed and shifted his weight uncomfortably before he caught himself. “I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t know what you mean.”

Julianne grinned at him and said, “You’re Garrett’s boy, aren’t you? Either the rat bastard’s gotten more clever in his old age, or you pissed him off. Didn’t agree with how he handled a mission maybe?”

Grant, prepared now, kept his face neutral and said, “Garrett is my S.O. It wouldn’t be my place to question how he choses to run our missions.”

Her laughter was delighted. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Fitz snort and Jemma cover her smile with a hand.

Lorenzo’s self preservation finally faded and he shifted forward, “Julie, may I call you Julie? I am sure you know who I am –“

“You may not call me Julie,” her voice was ice, the change taking her suddenly enough that Lorenzo startled back a step in the face of it. “You may call me Agent Simmons.” Grant’s gaze darted to the chairs. Jemma had an eyebrow arched.

His charge was going to die.

“Mum. You’re going to make him piss on the carpet. Take him over to the corner if you’re going to yell at him. But I either want him for my experiments, or I want him off this base. He’s a hack who’s not worth the oxygen he wastes.” The similarities between the two women were obvious, now that he was looking. They both had the ability to immobilize with a look and a few choice words, for instance.

Grant wasn’t ashamed to admit that it was deeply attractive.

Julianne waved a hand through the air and said, “Yes, yes. Go. He’ll be gone or dead by dinnertime.”

The two scientists swept out of the room. Fitz giving Grant a thumbs up on his way out. Grant wasn’t even vaguely sure what to make of that.

Lorenzo had puffed himself up. Grant dreaded what was to come. Or, at least he was. Julianne spoke up before he could do more than have a passing thought. “Since I’m in charge of this base, I’m in charge of all the agents on it. Agent Ward, I’m reassigning you. Why don’t you take two hours to yourself, have a snack, try not to eat anything that’s not labeled as communal or is easily identifiable, body parts sometimes end up in the fridge. Report back here at fifteen-hundred-hours. You’re dismissed.”

Grant saluted sharply and headed out the door before Lorenzo had gathered his wits enough to protest.

Things were looking up.

Chapter Text

Jemma was cooking dinner when she heard footsteps pause outside her door. There was scraping and then a key in the lock – she only panicked for a moment before remembering that she’d recently given someone a key.

She turned back to cooking and said, without looking up, “Thanks for using the key I gave you. It’s much more civilized than crashing through my ceiling, don’t you think Cl –” she looked up and cut herself off. “…Crap.”

She hadn’t seen Ward in over three years. Not since she’d threatened to kill him, actually.

Which was…awkward. What with her partial brain washing at the time (who knew a firm bonk on the head could solve that particular problem?) and subsequent leaving of SHIELD – both real, who had done the brain washing in question, and fake.

He still hadn’t said anything.

She sighed and turned back to the stove, tipping more ravioli into the boiling water. It was probably good that she was still poor at sauce proportions since making more of that at this stage would’ve been problematic.

She asked, without turning around as she turned the sauce down to a simmer, “You haven’t recently developed any allergies have you? The EMT’s won’t come here anymore – long story – and anaphylactic shock is an unfortunate way–Oh bloody hell!” She’d turned around and he was right there.

She clutched her heart, wooden spoon leaving an uncomfortably hot stain of sauce on her shoulder. His hands were on her shoulders in a flash as soon as she tried to take a step back. “Someone was crashing through your ceiling?”

She blinked, gaze not going higher than his collarbone as she saw the bloodstains on his shirt for the first time. Her hands flew to the bottom of his shirt and she started to pull it up, seeing the end of a long untreated gash before dropping it and finally looking up into his face. “You’re hurt!”

He let go of her abruptly and she was already turning around to drain the pasta and turn off the burners, giving him orders without thinking about it. “Sit at the table and take off your shirt.”

She went to grab her ridiculously large first aid kit from her bedroom, and by the time she got back he was sitting, shirtless as directed, at her table. He looked bored, but then, at one point that was his default expression.

There was the gash which she’d seen part of, what looked like a stab wound from something narrow and a bullet graze. She made a wounded noise in her throat, knowing he wouldn’t show that much weakness, and set the kit down. She’d used her last pair of gloves patching up her landlord, so she scrubbed her hands thoroughly before getting to work.

The silence was getting to her after only a few moments, so as she cleaned and stitched – he’d stopped her from trying to inject him with pain killers much to her displeasure – she chatted about her day in the lab. She wasn’t SHIELD anymore, which meant nothing was classified and though she was sure most of it went over his head, it was nice to tell someone about it.

She smoothed the last bandage down and took a step back, staring at her work for a moment before turning away to wash her hands.

He made noise, this time, so she knew he was right behind her when she turned around again. He was still shirtless. She met his eyes squarely and arched an eyebrow.

He frowned down at her and said, “You’re different.”

She shrugged and pushed at his shoulders to give herself some room. He resisted just long enough to make the point that he was choosing to move, and then stepped back. She rolled her eyes and returned, “You’re not,” and turned the sauce back on.

She was still hungry and he’d lost a lot of blood, he needed to eat.

Chapter Text

“That was a fairy.” Skye sounded far too happy for someone who had just been jabbed at with a chopstick sized spear.

Fitz let out an annoyed breath and said, “No, Skye, I’m sure it was just…an alien we haven’t encountered yet?”

“Nuh-uh, that was definitely a fairy!” She was facing off with him, hands on her hips.

Grant ignored the others’ argument as he rubbed at his chest where the six inch naked woman with wings had poked him.

This job just kept getting weirder.

It wasn’t until nearly three weeks later that Grant realized something might be wrong.

The whole team had gotten checked over after their alien—“Fairy!” Skye continued to insist—interaction but there had been no unusual readings for any of them. Well, that wasn’t quite accurate. Simmons had gotten some particles that she’d been delighted to study, but nothing bad had been found.

But now they were in a firefight and Grant felt afraid.

It wasn’t his fear. It coiled in a place below his sternum, cold and sharp. He hadn’t been afraid in a firefight since, well, ever. The first few he had been in he hadn’t cared so much about surviving – just about killing. After he’d worked through his adolescent rage he’d been too experienced to feel more than an inkling of fear.

It wasn’t affecting him – he wasn’t getting any of the adrenaline or flight responses that fear brought, but he could still feel it.

Once the fight was over it faded into a soft relief. It almost blended in with his own emotions, and if he hadn’t known that there was some foreign emotion there he never would’ve known it wasn’t his.

It had to belong to someone on the Bus. The timing matched up too closely to be anything else.

He was actually walking to the lab to report the irregularity when he realized how problematic it could be for him. Even if he was the only one experiencing someone else’s emotions it would lead to issues within the team. Most notably with the individual in question being uncomfortable with him, which could set him back weeks. If someone else, however, was experiencing his emotions…Well. It could set him back past the beginning. No, for now he needed to keep it to himself and try to figure out what was going on.

The first step in that was finding out exactly whose emotions he was feeling.

He snuck up behind Fitz that day and was able to eliminate him as the feelings in his chest kept buzzing away happily as Fitz clutched his heart in panic.

Later, while working out, he got hit with a burst of lust. It…fizzled in his chest, hot and heady. Simmons was bustling around the lab with Fitz, May was flying and Coulson and Skye were in parts unknown. He really didn’t want to think about why any of them would be feeling particularly lustful, so he simply put his attention back to the punching bag, unable to eliminate anyone.

They had a mission and he focused on that, not wanting to complicate matters in a way that might put him in danger. It wasn’t until he was sitting in the lab, Simmons patching him up after said mission, that he was able to narrow it down again.

The relief and comfort was warm and soft in his chest. Skye was hovering, her relief plain on her face. May and Coulson were having a hushed argument just outside the doors and Simmons was frowning and chiding him.

It had to be Skye.

It made sense. The feelings buzzing in his chest were mostly positive – happy, soft and warm – but there was an undercurrent of sadness and anxiety that lingered on the edges. That was very Skye.

Now he just had to find out if she was feeling his emotions as well.

Two days later he was lightly flirting with her. His chest was buzzing pleasantly as she threw her head back and laughed. Suddenly the warmth in his chest went dark and cold and sad. Skye continued to laugh, going so far as to punch his shoulder in jest. He returned the verbal volley, but his attention was focused inward. The sadness was swiftly replaced by what felt like forced happiness – like thinking of something else and ignoring what was in front of you. Forced happiness and acceptance.

It wasn’t until movement at the door caught his attention that he saw Simmons standing there, with a small, soft smile on her face. He smiled back at her. The feelings in his chest leapt – bright happiness – then stuttered and plummeted. Sadness and acceptance. Her smile didn’t shift. She turned away from them and went into the kitchen to make tea, her back to them the whole time.

Skye continued to laugh.

Chapter Text

Jemma realized that she stood out like a sore thumb, what with everyone else chatting and being friendly. But, well, she was just trying to get some samples of food so that they could run analysis on what, exactly, they were being dosed with. She was under very strict instructions not to converse with anyone because the team still didn’t trust her ability to keep a reasonable cover.

She huffed out a breath in frustration but looked around again. She realized there were some people, spotted here and there, not talking but instead just fiddling with their phones.

It was a relief to grab her phone. She spent a few minutes taking pictures of the food on the plate – the probably dosed food that she was absolutely not going to eat but that she was going to analyze later.

And now she had nothing to do with her phone. She didn’t have the chatsnap thing that Skye had been using to track those traffickers. In fact, she didn’t really have anything on her phone that wasn’t SHIELD issue, except for her webMD app.

She couldn’t go scrolling through SHIELD files in the middle of a potentially dosed crowd. She bit her lower lip and then sent a text off to Skye, knowing the other woman would have some suggestion of what to do.

Skye, help, I'm alone in a crowd and trying to look cool by texting you.

Skye’s response came quickly enough that Jemma had no doubt the other woman was waiting for something on her phone, though it was just a simple: so play a game! DO NOT talk to anyone, you’ll blow your cover and a little picture of a thumbs up.

Jemma wrinkled her brow and immediately texted back, I don’t have any games on my phone! insulted that even Skye didn’t think she could manage a simple conversation without ruining the opp. She’d been undercover in HYDRA for Newton’s sake!

She was so busy being insulted that she didn’t realize someone was right beside her until they cleared their throat.

She jerked and dropped her plate – he caught it in one deft hand and plucked one of the crab puffs off of it and into his mouth before she could even process that Grant Ward was standing in front of her in a tux.

She would have warned him about the drugs, if he’d waited for even a moment. So it was probably best that he didn’t wait the moment. She watched his eyes glaze and he blinked sleepily at her for a moment before tilting his head, curious, and asking, “Do I know you? You’re pretty.”

She let out a sigh, folded the paper plate and tucked it into her clutch and grabbed his arm, frantically texting Skye that she needed an extraction right that second and that she had Ward as she led the very pliable and blank specialist towards the exit.

At least she knew for sure that the crab puffs had been dosed.

Chapter Text

Jemma makes the mistake of opening her eyes before she’s finished counting to twenty. She promptly closes them again, rubs the bridge of her nose, and starts over.

“I don’t—“ she holds up a hand to cut Skye off. She needs to finish calming down before she can deal with this situation.

She counts backwards from twenty, once she reaches it, just to make sure she can have this conversation without having to tell May that she shot someone. Again.

She takes a deep breath and slowly opens her eyes, looking over the three of them. Skye looks determined with a set jaw. Hunter has the common sense the lord gave a flea and looks slightly concerned. Fitz is vibrating in place.

She takes another deep breath and enunciates, slowly and clearly, “Have we learned nothing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?”

Immediately Skye starts to protest. Jemma finds herself unable to believe “it’s not that bad” when there is a patchwork animal on her lab table, examining her with frighteningly intelligent eyes.

She shudders and looks away, only to find that the three of them have arranged themselves, clasped hands underneath their chins and puppy dog eyes on in full as they chorus, and oh, they absolutely practiced, “Please Simmons, can we keep her?”

Jemma cannot deal with this.

She promptly turns on her heel and retreats.

She is weak and their puppy dog eyes are powerful, she needs May. (She considers Ward for only half a second, but he is oddly fond of very ugly stray animals and she cannot risk him being weak in this.)

May. May will fix this.

Chapter Text

The mission goes to hell early. That might be stating it a bit mildly. Jemma heard Hunter call it “A clusterfuck of epic fucking proportions” before the com in her ear had sparked due to the olive oil that she’d fallen into (Fitz had managed to make them waterproof, but apparently they needed to focus on other liquids next – or maybe hers had already had a short).

She only had two minutes, alone, to come up with a plan before she’d stepped wrong, and due to being covered in olive oil, slipped and hurt her ankle.

She’d just managed to get standing again, having some issues holding onto anything due to being covered in olive oil, when a flash had gone off. There was something deeply embarrassing at being felled by something she had a hand in the creation of – even if no one on her team had brought the sonic staff so it had to be an enemy.

Her stomach lurched uncomfortably and she came to aware that she was moving. Her head was pounding and she could feel nausea rising. They hadn’t tried very hard at all to stop that side effect – a fact she was regretting sincerely now.

She kept her eyes tightly closed, aware that any bright light was only going to make her headache worse, and probably not help the nausea either. She took stock of herself, despite that, and when whoever was carrying her lurched a bit she wound a hand into their Tac-Vest, which meant it was either Trip or Hunter carrying her.

She supposed it could be an enemy, but she doubted HYDRA made a point of delicately cradling their captives.

She was still slimy with oil. She flexed her foot for a moment, feeling only a slight twinge that would make walking on it a pain, but it would let whoever was carrying her have a chance of fighting back if they had to – and that was important. Besides, they weren’t moving fast enough for the goal to be speed.

She carefully unclenched her hand from where it had curled and said, evenly, “Please put me down. It’s just a sprained ankle.”

He chuckled, and her brain was still stumbling over why it sounded so familiar – and yet so not like Trip or Hunter – when he said, “No.”

Her eyes flew open. She only had a brief moment to see Ward’s profile before, as predicted, the light caused her headache to spike. She clutched at her head with both hands – suddenly terrified that whoever had used the Sonic Staff didn’t get their hands on the finished prototypes, but instead one of the earlier models.

She tried to think through the pounding in her head, only vaguely aware of Ward’s concerned, “Simmons? What’s wrong? Jemma!” as her head pounded out pain, fireworks flaring behind her eyes.

It was absolutely a relief when she passed out again.

Chapter Text

SHIELD is put in charge of the Jaeger program as soon as it’s decided on as the course of action.

It takes only three weeks once they discover that a pair of pilots in neural drift is required for HYDRA to be revealed. The two fall out of sync and nearly 100 square miles of city is destroyed before the backup gets there.

They manage to keep the reveal from the public, but within the Shattershields it becomes standard practice for pilot hopefuls to have to disclose if they were ever HYDRA, or a part of any other “hate organization”. They can’t refuse them, not enough non-former-SHIELD operatives are stepping forward to take their place. But it can ruin a drift.

Some in SHIELD accept their admittance better than others, since they may have been trying to take over the world – but no one wants the Kaiju to have it, and in this they are united.

Jemma is barely a recruit into SHIELD when the Kaiju first breech. Nearly all of the other recruits flee home. She and Fitz stay. They work in the labs, watching as people bleed and die, before the start to learn how to link them.

The joke is that the inspiration came from watching her and Fitz work in tandem in a lab.

The real joke is that they test it, once, to see if they are drift compatible and they aren’t. Not really. Just enough not to drop the connection, but the system reacts to them like they are a single mind, instead of two.

Jemma is stuck in the hospital for two weeks until they’re sure she won’t have any more internal bleeding. Fitz loses half of his vocabulary for nearly three years, only Jemma can still piece together what he says.

Neither of them quit the program.

Jemma starts to train with the Ranger recruits, being stuck in the bed and unable to do anything made her sure she never wants to be that weak again. She doesn’t want to be a Ranger, she just wants to be strong.

So of course she gets singled out several years later.

Fitz, who likes to keep tabs on everyone, instantly objects. Loudly saying, “You cannot expect Simmons to be drift compatible with that – with that cephalopod!”

The same Ranger recruits who had been sniggering, “Octopus” behind their hands at Grant Ward, stare blankly at Fitz.

Only Jemma sees Ward wince and snaps, “Fitz!”

He looks away, ashamed and angry in equal measure.

Ward shifts his weight but stays silent.

Jemma turns to the Marshall, frowning, “I’m really not equipped to pilot –“

Coulson cuts her off with a sharp shake of his head and says, point blank, “We have two broken Jaegers that won’t be fixed this week or the next and one without pilots. No one else has been drift compatible with Ward, we need you to try.”

She hesitates but nods, biting her lip as she steps out onto the mat.

It would be easy to fail, so easy.

But he looks at her and she can read pain in his eyes, even as his mouth curves into a cocky smile and he says, "Don't get left behind."

She lets out a breath, centers herself, and strikes.

Chapter Text

Jemma wasn’t being mistreated. She wasn’t brainwashed. She wasn’t being tortured.

She almost wished she was.

Almost because the thought of not being herself was perhaps the most terrifying thing she could think of – and she knew she wouldn’t last long under any sort of torture. The little that had been done, light as it had been, had been enough.

She had to keep reminding herself that the team was still out there – that they would come for her.

The truth was that she wasn’t sure if they would.

Oh, if they knew she had been captured they would absolutely come.

But she’d left, again.

She ruined everything she touched, lately, and she just needed to have some success. So she’d left and started working in a civilian lab and – she’d only been at work two days before HYDRA had captured her.

And now here she was, without her lab and slowly losing hope.

She wasn’t sure why, exactly, they had captured her. Although she supposed they had to assume she was still working for SHIELD. (Did they know there were two? Was that common knowledge yet? She wondered which one they thought she worked for, if they knew.)

She knew why they wouldn’t actually let her into a real lab. Given even a quarter of the chemicals she’d need to do any sort of work it would be easy to break out. And they weren’t willing to brainwash her since, as the very threatening man had told her, brainwashing a genius often takes away the genius and leaves an idiot. So instead they told her that she’d be doing medical checkups on Agents, most of whom were in the incentives program.

She’d been too gagged at the time, if not too scared, to point out that she wasn’t that kind of doctor.

It didn’t seem to matter to them, either way.

It wasn’t like it was hard to deliver a checkup. She did have the skills for it. It was just if something was actually wrong then…But she hadn’t had to deal with that yet, so she wouldn’t think about it.

She was doing her best not to think about anything, really.

Her life had turned into monotony and she was trying to keep it that way – else she do something stupid.

So when the knock came on the door, telling her that her next patient was there, she didn’t look up from where she was arranging everything she’d need for the checkup as she said, “You know how this works, take it off.”

He laughed. It was painfully familiar. And for half a second as she looked up and saw him pull his shirt over his head she thought she was back on the Bus, in the early days, checking him over after some exposure.

Her heart caught in her throat and gave a painful bump.

She swallowed heavily and the daydream faded.

That wasn’t where she was. That wasn’t even who he was.

He smiled at her easily and sat down in the chair she hadn’t managed to habitually direct him towards.

“You look good,” he said. His voice was rougher than it used to be. She wondered, her panicked brain being unable to deal with the reality of the moment and so grasping onto any and every side thought, if it was on purpose or if something physical had actually happened to his vocal chords.

She supposed she would have the chance to find out. She fought down a hysterical giggle.

He looked good, though. Oddly naked without the beard he’d had when she’d seen him last, leaving the vault with a swagger in his step.

She reached for the syringe to draw his blood. It would be so easy to inject air, instead.

She had promised.

His hand caught hers before she could even get close and he gently pried the syringe away from her grip. He tugged her closer, and though she tried to resist it did no good. She’d given up hope already; it wasn’t coming back with the kind of speed it would need to for her to actually fight back. He was so much stronger than she was.

She tilted her head, at eye level with him since he was still seated, and asked, “Are you here to kill me?”

His jaw clenched and he glanced away. There was some strong emotion on his face, but it didn’t make sense and she ignored it, instead looking down to how delicate his grip on her hand was. She pulled and he gently pulled her back.

“No. I’m not here to kill you. I’m here to get you out.” His voice was rougher than it was earlier. It had to be on purpose. Feigned. She wondered if she could do that; make herself sound more sincere if she had to.

She shouldn’t have believed him. She was supposed to kill him, the next time she saw him. But some small part of her – the soft hope that hadn’t been as extinguished as she thought – believed him.

Her lower lip trembled as she asked, “Really?”

He brushed her hair off of her forehead and nodded. He had promised to always catch her.

Chapter Text

Lance was not having a great day.

For all that Simmons was absolutely his favorite of the lab-rats, he was still on babysitting duty. It was undercover babysitting duty, but it was still babysitting duty.

She was following some sort of signal of a chemical – chemtrail? No, that didn’t sound right. Something science-y – with her phone. She was going to collect a sample once they found it. And he was along for the ride.

She was wearing a ridiculous sun hat and a floaty dress that he would’ve been more okay with if it didn’t show so much leg.

He was sure the men who were eyeing her thought he was her boyfriend, based on how much he was glowering at all of them while keeping a hand on her back. Which would’ve been fine if it stopped them eyeing her.

It didn’t.

It was obnoxious and she didn’t even seem to notice.

She hoisted her brightly colored purse higher on her shoulder and sniffed, before taking a side street that was quieter.

And also much, much sketchier than where they had been.

Lance had a bad feeling about this.

They were jumped when they were a little over halfway down the narrow street. He managed to draw their attention and drag them far away from Simmons, and was just putting down the last one who had come at him when he saw one of them had broken away and was stalking towards her.

He swore, angry that he hadn’t been allowed to take a gun on this mission, and started to sprint, just in time to see Simmons let her bag slip down to her hand and swing.

The man went down like a sack of potatoes.

Lance stumbled to a stop and looked at the brightly colored purse and the obviously unconscious goon.

All he could manage was a confused “What?”

Simmons blinked and carefully stepped around the downed man, shouldering her purse again and peering at her phone. Her voice was casual as she replied, “Oh, I have a brick in my purse.”

Lance stumbled without having taken a step. “Why the hell do you have a brick in your purse?” he asked, sharply.

She shot him a sharp look and sniffed, before reaching out and grabbing his arm to drag him along whatever route her phone was telling her. “Because you weren’t allowed a gun and I wasn’t allowed my pepper spray,” her voice was very matter of fact.

He slipped his arm back around her shoulders and blinked, considering, before asking, “You think we could get me one of those man-satchel things before we head back to base?”

Chapter Text

Skye stopped paying attention to the briefing after she was told she’d be sitting this one out. Obviously she knows she should pay attention anyways, just in case – as is often the case – they have to abandon their first dozen plans and they need back up. But as soon as Simmons takes over, Skye knows she won’t understand any of it anyways.

She is zoned out, she’s been staring listlessly at the table for the past twenty minutes, when a word catches her attention and she jerks her head up. “Wait, what, can you repeat that?”

Simmons arches an eyebrow, but cheerfully repeats her closing statement, “And, as you know, slums mean vampires.”

Skye looks around the conference table, no one else looks at all surprised. She laughs and gets odd looks for it before waving a hand through the air. “Seriously? Vampires?”

Simmons exchanges a look with Fitz – it’s the look that says, “Am I speaking English? You understand me, right?” with the answering look of, “Yes, of course you are and of course I do.”

Skye looks to Ward for support, he is very pointedly not looking at her. May, however, is frowning at her like she’s confused. Coulson has his ‘disapproving dad’ face on, but he’s staring at Ward.

Skye clears her throat and tries again, “You are not trying to tell me that vampires are real.”

Suddenly everyone is staring at Ward, who is staring fixedly at the ceiling, not even pretending to be doing anything but avoiding their gazes.

Her laughter sounds brittle to her ears, as she prompts, disbelief thick in her voice, “Vampires are not real.”

Simmons frowns at her for a moment before clearing her throat and saying in a warning tone, “Grant.”

Skye feels even more off balance, she’s never heard Simmons call Ward anything but, well, Ward.

The use of his first name, or maybe the tone, works and Ward looks at Simmons, his face is apologetic and he says, softly, “Jem…” Skye feels like she’s entered some sort of alternate reality.

Simmons crosses her arms and rolls ahead, “You were supposed to tell her. You’re her S.O.”

Ward shifts, uncomfortably, and waves a hand in Skye’s direction. “It’s not like she’d believe me. And I didn’t want to make you have to…” he makes a broad gesture with his hand that Simmons seems to understand, and Skye can see some of the tension leak out of her shoulders.

“You should’ve told us that you hadn’t briefed her,” she chides, softly.

Ward nods and stands and takes a step towards Simmons, hand outstretched, before Skye makes a wide sweep with her hands and then brings them into the time out symbol. “Wait, hold up. Are you trying to tell me that there is a Vampire-Reveal that was supposed to happen that I missed?”

Ward rubs a hand over his face and nods, finally turning to face her and saying, “Yes. There is. It’s not necessary on all teams. But given that we have a vampire on the bus it’s important to know, for emergency procedures.”

Skye stares at Ward, aware that her mouth has fallen open. Her gaze darts to Fitz who is scowling at Ward, then over to Coulson and May, who have started to discuss something softly, gesturing at the tablets in their hands. She points accusingly at Ward and demands, “You are not trying to tell me that you are a Vampire.”

Fitz laughs, Simmons sighs, and Ward frowns and shakes his head. “No, of course not.” Skye has a moment to be relieved before he continues, “Simmons is the vampire.”

Fitz shakes his head and says, “Really, Ward? That’s how you had to do this? Unbelievable. Come on Simmons,” and drags Simmons out of the room – she smiles awkwardly at Skye as she goes – before Skye has stopped gaping.

Coulson and May retreat after them, each shooting Ward what can only be considered disapproving looks. May says, “Fix this,” to Ward as she goes, before saying, “I told you this was a bad idea,” to Coulson.

Skye gapes some more, before finally narrowing her eyes and throwing her hands in the air. “This is the worst prank ever. You’re terrible at this. Next you’re going to tell me Fitz is a werewolf,” she scoffs.

Ward rolls his eyes and shuts the door; sitting opposite her at the table again before saying, “Don’t be absurd. Werewolves don’t exist.”

Chapter Text

It was a pretty spring day. Jemma could feel the hint of warmth on her arms, but there was still that brisk breeze that kept the temperature from getting too unbearable. The sky was a beautiful clear blue with only a few scattered puffs of white. And she was sitting in a park with her best friend.

It was a good day and she was happy.

Jemma laughed and rubbed the tip of her nose before she changed the subject and said, “So, I told you about that stray I’d seen around last time right?” she shot him a guilty look and shrugged. “Yeah, I may have accidentally sort of adopted five cats. And let me tell you, Grant is not happy about it.” She laughed and bit her lip, looking away from him for a minute. “I think they’re growing on him. Though he keeps saying he’d much rather get a dog…” She shook her head and turned back to him. “I wish you could come visit and meet them – I’ve named them after my favorite physicists!”

“Jemma?” called a familiar voice.

Then footsteps sounded on the grass and she looked over her shoulder and grinned wider. She held out a hand to him and he took it and pulled her to her feet. “Grant! We were just talking about the cats!”

He smiled and dropped a kiss to her forehead before asking, “Did you have a good afternoon with Fitz?”

She smiled and nodded, tilting her up for a real kiss. “It was very good. Is it time to head home?”

He brushed her hair out of her face and nodded. “Yes,” he said and let go of her so that she could go over and drop a kiss on Fitz’s forehead, the stone cold against her lips. “The Director wants you to work on the new mines, do you have the energy for that this afternoon?”

She hummed and looped her arm with his. “Yes, of course, I am happy to comply.”

Chapter Text

It was probably wrong to feel relieved, but she did.

Guilt had been slowly eating her alive. It hadn’t been so bad at first. No, she didn’t love him and she didn’t think she ever could – but she made him happy and they were working together and it would be awkward for her to break up with him while they were still on the bus and he was so obviously in love with her. And then…Skye had so clearly been trying to not have feelings for him and Jemma just wanted to give her boyfriend to the other woman.

That was when the guilt came. Because she was still too cowardly and worried about the consequences to break up with him, but she so wanted to just trade places with Skye. (And Skye, clearly, would’ve been happy to trade places with her.)

But now, now!

He was HYDRA, he was a traitor, and honestly she didn’t feel so much betrayed as relieved. And also a bit turned on.

Which was inconvenient.

Although she had to admit that Garrett mouth breathing at her from across the lab was certainly helping her control the last bit.

She had to admit, as she tuned Garrett out, that Grant had been clever. Far cleverer than she’d expected – playing up his injuries so she had to stay behind to monitor him while everyone else went to Portland. The drugging of her tea she could’ve done without – whatever he’d used was still causing her head to pound.

She rubbed the bridge of her nose and listened to a second to make sure Garrett was still ranting about how clever had had been before tuning it out again. He’d gone on a few digressions of how much Centipede and HYDRA could help people, on and off, as well as some very interesting threats against Coulson – but he hadn’t threatened her, not once.

She sighed and suddenly Grant was leaning down in front of her, his face inches from her own. It was awkward, which she was used to. The look in his eyes she wasn’t.

His thumbs smoothed over her temples before he cupped her cheek and frowned. “Jem, baby, are you feeling okay? You look pale.”

She leaned into the hand on her cheek out of habit, then decided it was a smart strategy to let them think she still trusted him (she mostly still did, even if the look he’d had in his eyes earlier had made her feel unsafe in the most delicious way) and didn’t move back. “My head hurts from whatever you drugged me with,” she said, matter of fact-ly and without any rancor.

He straightened and pulled her to his chest, one hand kneading at the back of her neck – and now she was feeling angry and betrayed.

She’d gotten a few backrubs from him over the past year – they had been nice but this, this was amazing. She resented that he’d made the deliberate choice to not let his cover be as good at this as he was. What was the point in that? There couldn’t possibly be a strategic reason to not be amazing at massage.

She melted shamelessly into his chest and whimpered.

She felt, more than heard, his chuckle.

Garrett said something that she couldn’t make herself pay attention to – but then Grant stopped rubbing her neck. She whined and he chuckled again, before leaning down and saying into the crown of her head, “Come on Jem, lets get you to bed. You can translate your notes when you wake up.” He sounded warm and fond – but not in the awkward stiff way she’d gotten resigned to.

She tried not to enjoy that or to enjoy the way that he guided her to his bunk with his arm firm around her. His touch was possessive – and every agent they passed turned pale, moved quickly out of the way, and avoided eye contact.

He handed her one of his shirts, once he had shut the door behind them. She stripped out of her button down, jumper and brassiere and pulled it on before shimmying out of her slacks and climbing under the covers.

He was leaning against the door, watching her with predatory eyes.

She did some quick mental calculations on how long it had been since she’d woken up and turned on the alert on her watch for Fitz to track, the distance that they’d likely traveled and how long it would take the team to finish up in Portland, and only then did she pat the bed next to her. “Join me?” she asked. She wouldn’t be captured much longer – she might as well enjoy it.

And she did.

Repeatedly.

She didn’t even feel guilty about drugging him so he wouldn’t engage with May when the team stormed the bus for her – not after he’d dosed her tea.

The text message breaking up with him she did feel a bit bad about – but this Grant, unlike his cover, she was a little too attracted to and she had to nip that in the bud immediately. It wasn’t like she’d have the opportunity to do it in person, after all. And Coulson and May wouldn’t let her call him, not after her full debriefing.

Especially since she’d been unrepentant about her decision to sleep with him. It wasn’t like she’d never done it before. But they had not appreciated her glib, “Mistakes were made.” Which was fair.

It hadn’t been a mistake.

Chapter Text

On the bus he was awkward – he would stutter and stammer out a “there, there” and flee, leaving her at the tender mercies of Fitz if she was lucky and Skye if she wasn’t.

When he was dragged, half dead, into the vault and saw the angry tears in her eyes that she wouldn’t let fall – he smirked around bloody teeth and rasped, “Those tears for me, beautiful?”

On the cold floor of his cell, when she patched him up and wiped tears and sweat away with a shaking hand, he managed a fading, “No tears now.”

He smirked at her tears when she threatened to kill him.

And then, finally, after he’d killed his brother and she’d torn down Real-SHIELD from the inside out, he kissed her forehead and promised her that he’d kill everyone who she hadn’t been able to. That he’d kill the agents who had tried to kill Skye, kill Fitz, kill May and Coulson and Hunter – that he’d kill everyone responsible for Trip’s death. And she relaxed, finally. She hadn’t wanted to love them all, she knew it was her job to earn their trust but she hadn’t expected for them to become so important to her. But they had.

And Grant would always kill those who had made her cry. It had been in his wedding vows.

Chapter Text

“Ow,” he hissed through his teeth, the when she prodded again, “Fuck!”

She arched an eyebrow but didn’t say anything.

“Jemma – Ouch! – don’t be – Son of a – ow!” he tried again to get out a sentence, and failed.

She didn’t take much joy from his pain. His frustration, however, was a delight. She could see his hand flexing at his side and she was certain he wanted to grab her and make her listen. But she was removing a bullet from his shoulder and he couldn’t stop his medical treatment just to make her listen. Or, he could, but it would only serve to make her more irate.

A muscle jumped in his jaw when she finally located the bullet with her forceps. It tinged into the metal table in counterpoint to his hissed breaths.

He did grab her as soon as the last stitch was placed, thumbs rubbing soothing patterns into her shoulders. She arched an eyebrow at he tried to look apologetic. “Don’t be mad,” he pleaded.

“Stop getting shot,” she scoffed and pulled out of his grip before storming out of the bedroom.

Chapter Text

She’d known for years.

He may have been a specialist before he was her husband, but he was still her husband and she’d learned his tells. (It also didn’t hurt that the vent from his otherwise soundproofed office directed noise into the master bath if the air-conditioner was on.)

She’d been upset at first, of course. She had examined all of their interactions, everything he’d ever said to her – when he told her he loved her. She’d been distant in her suspicion for a few days, but it had been at the same time as she’d had a huge project in the works, and he was used to her getting distracted by her science.

Less than a week later she had been taking a bath and trying to talk herself into turning him in, when she heard him again, talking to someone on the phone.

“No. You have to swear that nothing will happen to her. No incentives, no brainwashing, nothing. It doesn’t matter if Jemma stays with them or goes into civilian life. You promise me this or I will do everything in my power to destroy you and everything you’ve ever loved.” He paused, for a long time, then continued with something else – some plans that she listened to habitually but didn’t actually hear.

That night he was distracted and worried – but oddly attentive. He went to bed at the same time as her, which was unusual, and held her close, whispering mysteries into her ear in Russian and Arabic and Mandarin. She loved him. And he loved her. Whatever else might have been a lie, that she believed.

She didn’t turn him in.

So when things went to hell and back at the Hub, she was upset but she wasn’t surprised. She wasn’t even surprised that he hadn’t revealed himself to the team – why would he?

So before he went to “lock” Garrett up, she demanded a moment with him and pulled him into a long goodbye kiss, only pulling back enough to whisper words into his mouth. “Don’t you dare let that man get you killed, Grant Ward – you come back for me. I love you and I don’t care. Come back for me.”

Chapter Text

Grant could admit to being honestly surprised that in a SHIELD civil war Coulson had lost.

He wasn’t supposed to care – and he tried not to, but he did anyways. Which was perhaps why when he was contacted by the tail in the cowboy had he had agreed to meet.

The other man watched him with crossed arms as he ate his pancakes.

Grant wasn’t worried. Even if Hunter had some backup, which was unlikely since he had contacted Grant for help, he had Kara standing by.

Grant managed to finish his pancakes before the other man finally spoke, “You’re a free agent now, right? Not with HYDRA anymore?”

Grant smiled and asked, “Would it change things if I still was?”

The nod and response were decisive. “Yes, because they want her dead.”

Grant stilled, dropped his cocky attitude and listened.

He didn’t vow, to himself, to tear SHIELD apart with his bare hands, however, until Simmons grinned brightly at Hunter telling her she was going to be staying with Grant for a few weeks, and replied with, “I’m happy to comply!”

Chapter Text

The first time he kissed her was on a mission. She was about to start babbling and he couldn’t risk her breaking their covers, so he kissed her. She squeaked and asked, “What?” when he pulled back.

The second time he’d been dosed with something and hadn’t realized he’d moved to kiss her until he was in the middle of it. He heard her alarmed, “Ward!” as he collapsed moments later, darkness taking him.

The third time she’d hummed and said, “That was nice.”

The fourth time: “Okay, okay, more than nice.”

The fifth: “Fantastic, I promise.

Sixth: “Don’t you dare stop!”

After that he lost track.

He started counting again when she pulled back from their nth, now new first, kiss and said, “I love you, Mr. Ward-Simmons.”

Chapter Text

“Shhh, shhh, it’ll be okay. You’re going to be okay,” Grant coos, petting her hair out of her face.

Jemma grimaces and knows he’s lying to her.

She tightens her grip on his hand and he kisses her forehead. She’s nearly positive he doesn’t know he’s crying. The tears feel like they’re burning where they touch her skin.

“It’s over now baby, nothing can hurt you,” his voice breaks and he presses trembling lips to her face again and again.

There’s noise, somewhere distant, and he looks up, shouting out, “Over here!”

She sighs and sees his face burned into her eyelids when she can’t keep her eyes open anymore.

Everything else fades away.

Chapter Text

“We should get married,” Jemma says, spread eagle on the floor, staring over her eyebrows at him.

He scoffs and kicks his heels against the wall to keep his balance in his handstand. “That’s a terrible idea,” he says and then, after a long pause, he giggles, “Lets do it.”

Jemma giggles too.

Then he snorts in his laugher and they both pause. Jemma tries to snort and fails. He falls out of his handstand because he’s laughing too loud, and then Jemma is curling around his leg and laughing uproariously.

It takes what feels like ages but is probably only a few minutes before they settle. Jemma rests her cheek on his knee and asks, “Do you think Coulson could marry us? He is the Captain of this Ship right? That’s a thing?”

Lance wrinkles his nose and considers. “Is he really the Captain though? May’s the one who flies this boat, isn’t that a requirement for being a Captain?”

She taps her chin and furrows her brow, before asking, “Does that mean that May could marry us?”

He whistles between his teeth and pats half heartedly at her shoulder. “I don’t think so. We might have to find someone else.”

She considers for a moment before scrambling over him and going for the phones on the table. Within minutes she’s crowing in success, “We have a taxi! Lets go!”

He lets her drag him to his feet and follows, barely having the presence of mind to grab her purse as they slip out of the hotel room.

It’s the last sensible thing he does all night.

The next morning dawns bright and way too clear, and there’s someone in his bed. He has a moment of panic, but a peek between his eyelids reveals it’s Bobbi, and he relaxes back into the deeply uncomfortable mattress.

He’s just drifting back to sleep when the door beeps and then slams open, and there is a very disheveled looking Jemma. He sits up, alarmed, and his eyes track that she’s definitely wearing a man’s shirt – and it might be his but he’s not sure – and she’s definitely got hickies and she’s pulling down the collar of the shirt and yup, that’s a tattoo.

He crawls to the foot of the bed and gapes. It’s his name. And a chemical formula. And a bus. What the hell happened last night?

She pokes his chest and he looks down only to discover he also has a new tattoo. It’s Jemma’s name and a gun and a puppy?

“What?”

Jemma cradles her face in her hands, and that’s when he sees the wedding ring. He repeats, louder, “What.”

It turns out it’s not his shirt, which is the only good news he gets.

Chapter Text

Jemma blows some hair out of her face and looks around the crowded square again, before mentally chastising herself and trying to focus on the book she’s brought with her.

She’s supposed to be looking unaware of her surroundings.

It’s all part of the trap for Jason Smith, Ex-Fridge Prisoner with a hero complex.

With a hero complex that usually ends up with the rescuee dead because they didn’t ‘thank him’ politely enough.

Jemma shudders, mind racing with the pictures that Coulson showed them, before trying to drag her mind away from that and focus on her ridiculous fluff of a book. She’s waiting for the signal from Skye to put it down and walk down the less populated street where Hunter and Trip will pretend to attack her and hopefully Mr. Smith will come to the ‘rescue’, and the rest of the team will be able to take care of him.

She hates this plan.

But she was outvoted. (Hunter will forever be her favorite, for being one of the few who kept going, “But, he kills the people he rescues…and we’re going to set him up to rescue Simmons. Does this not strike anyone else as a colossally bad idea?”)

She sighs again and turns a page in her book without reading anything. She can feel eyes on the back of her neck and she knows that she’s specifically meant to appeal to Mr. Smith and so he’s supposed to be looking, but something just feels off.

The café continues to blast painfully upbeat music, and she mutters one of the lines to herself, feeling that it fits the situation unfortunately well, “But something’s bugging me, something ain’t right.”

She pokes her phone to make sure it hasn’t somehow died, concerned that Skye hasn’t sent her the signal yet. The phone lights up for a moment, working normally, before fading dark.

The back of her neck itches.

“Something isn’t right,” she mutters to herself, flipping a page and wishing that she had an ear piece.

It’s been too long. Someone should’ve contacted her.

She checks her phone again, sure that at least twenty minutes have passed since she checked it last.

She frowns and stares at the phone. That cannot be right. It says that it’s been five minutes. The phone changes numbers right before the screen fades and she sighs. Six minutes. Whatever.

She decides to actually try to read her book when her phone finally gives the four buzz, pause, three buzz signal.

She lets out a breath, carefully packs up her purse and starts a very slow stroll towards the street where her friends will fake mug her.

She doesn’t make it to the street.

Instead a strong arm wraps around her waist, pinning her arms to her sides, and she gets pulled back into what she thought was a wall but apparently was a very well concealed doorway.

She stomps down, hard, and is met with steel toes. Before she can struggle more successfully there’s a hissed “Quiet, Simmons, you’re being followed,” in her ear.

It’s not the words that make her freeze but the voice. Behind the hand that’s securely over her mouth she mumbles his name and she can hear him puff out a laugh against her ear.

Next she tries to say, “Let go of me!” but it’s equally incomprehensible behind the wall of his hand.

He clucks disapprovingly in her ear and she tries to squirm out of his grasp. It does no good, only getting her tugged more firmly against him.

She really, really doesn’t want to, but she tries to bite his hand in the hopes that he will instinctively pull back. The way he’s cupping her face doesn’t leave much room for her teeth to sink in, however and he doesn’t pull back at all. Instead he practically purrs into her ear, “Now, now, lets save that for later.”

Jemma flushes hot, well aware that she’s blushing up a storm, and tries to tell him how likely that is to happen.

He listens to her muffled argument, laughs and says, “Relax, Simmons, I’d never force you to do anything.” There’s no reason to believe him, everything about him is a lie, but she wants to. She stays silent and he continues, after a moment, saying, “Now. Why are you all alone, dressed like that, and being followed?”

She scoffs and rolls her eyes but doesn’t try to say anything. He lets out a puff of laughter and then says, still so softly, “I will knock you out if you make too much noise. And then you’ll wake up somewhere unknown, be smart about this,” and he removes his hand.

She wipes at her mouth with her sleeve. He’s still got an arm around her waist, and when she tries to step away it holds firm. “Let me go,” she hisses, willing to be quiet for now.

He chuckles and shifts his weight, now both arms are a firm band around her middle. “No, I don’t think so. Now tell me what’s going on.”

Jemma shakes her head, taking some joy in the knowledge that her hair must be hitting him in the face, and says, “It’s none of your business. We have this under control. Let me go so I can head back out.”

He tsks in her ear before resting his cheek against her temple. “No, I don’t think so. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you.”

She goes stiff with fury, her body shaking slightly with rage it can’t do anything with and she’s unable to actually form words. How dare he. “How. Dare. You.” She manages to bite out, after a moment of wordless gaping. She twists her head fast and manages to hit his head with her own – it causes instant pain in her, but she doesn’t even care, and she’s struggling again.

He swears, warm and vicious, behind her, and then he’s pressing something into her side and there’s sharp pain and darkness.

Chapter Text

Jemma sighed and turned the page in her textbook. “No, Skye.”

She didn’t look up, but she’s positive the other girl was pouting at her, and she could practically hear it when Skye pleaded, “Please, Jem-Jam, you’re perfect for each other, I swear!”

Jemma didn’t even flinch at the horrendous nickname, being Skye’s roommate for nine months had inured her to those sorts of things. Instead she gave a fist pump, a habit she had picked up from her roommate, as she discovered the citation she needed to prove that her professor was wrong. (She wouldn’t have cared so much, except that he’d attempted to publically shame her in the last class and so now it was war. She may have been younger than the usual PhD candidates, and living in the freshman dorms because of a misunderstanding, but she wasn’t in his class by mistake. And she wouldn’t be condescended to. Especially not when he was terribly incorrect.)

When Jemma finally looked up from her scribbling, making note of exactly how wrong her professor was so she could bring it up the next day in class, Skye was staring at her with a pretty standard expression of confused amusement.

Jemma blinked and waved her pen around, asking, “I’m sorry, what were we talking about?”

Skye sighed and collapsed further into the couch. “We were talking about how you’re totally going to let me set you up on a date with my brother.”

“That seems unlikely,” Jemma scoffed, “Because I’m not going to date your brother, Skye.” She shook her head and asked, pointedly, “Why do you even want me to date him?”

Skye’s pout was, indeed, in full force as she said, “Because then we could be sisters!”

Jemma rolled her eyes and stretched her legs under the coffee table, leaning back against the couch behind her. “That is a terrible reason to date someone, and it’s not happening.”

“What’s not happening?” Grant asked, stepping into the common area and dropping his umbrella on the small patch of tile in what they claimed was a kitchen.

Skye’s pout had only grown larger. “Jem won’t go on a date with my brother because she doesn’t love me.”

Grant’s scoff was gratifying, as he sunk into the couch at Jemma’s back. “If she loved you, then shouldn’t she be dating you and not your brother?”

Jemma whacked Grant’s shin with her notebook, while Skye gave an outraged shout and continued with, “Don’t be such a guy, god.”

Grant winced and rubbed at his shin, before reaching over to ruffle Jemma’s hair. She scowled at the RA who had somehow become part of their friend group, and shifted to get away from him. “Stop that.”

Jemma had practice, ignoring the strange lurch her heart gave when Grant touched her, but it was still inconvenient. Especially when he squeezed her shoulder before settling back into the couch.

“Jemma’s too good for your brother, anyways,” Grant said, smugly.

Skye dropped the pen she’d been fiddling with and pointed an accusing finger at him. “You don’t even know him!”

Grant grinned and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. Jemma did her best not to notice how nice his arms looked with his dress shirtsleeves rolled up. “Yes, but he’s not me, so clearly he’s not good enough for her.”

Jemma sputtered and put her flaming face in her hands, mumbling, “I hate you both,” as Skye loudly protested. She didn’t see how Grant watched her, serious, for a long moment, before turning to tease Skye some more.

Skye did notice, and was increasingly frustrated that her plan still hadn’t worked. If she didn’t manage to use the brother angle to get them dating, and if Fitz managed to somehow use “science” to do it, she was going to owe him so many dinners it wasn’t even funny.

Chapter Text

Jemma knows what will happen if she rolls over. He’ll take it as permission to talk to her. She hasn’t responded in nearly a month. Twenty-nine days today. She hasn’t spoken at all, actually, in twenty-nine days.

She wonders how rough her voice will be when she finally gives up and says something.

She stares fixedly at the wall five inches from her face until her eyes burn.

The longest, before this, she’d ever gone without speaking was three days. She’d been thirteen and having a fight with her mother about where she was applying to for her doctorate. Her mother had wanted her to go to the same university she’d gotten her bachelor’s at, the one that they lived ten minutes away from. She wanted to go away. The silent treatment hadn’t worked, but she’d tried it for three days before giving up and turning to her father.

There’s a cramp in her side, and she knows she has to turn eventually.

But she really doesn’t want to.

She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and rolls over. The chains around her ankles clink together as she shifts.

She can feel him watching her.

Her imagination is always worse than the truth.

She opens her eyes.

He smiles at her, bright and harmless, and pushes a plate of scrabbled eggs towards her cot. “Good morning beautiful, how are you?” he asks, but only waits for half a beat before continuing. He knows she won’t answer yet. “I hope you slept well.”

She tries to ignore him and stares at the eggs.

She’s eaten scrambled eggs for breakfast every day since she got here two months ago. She thinks they might actually be classified as torture at this point. She already regrets opening her eyes.

She sighs and reluctantly sits up, tucking her legs beside her in the only way she can sit.

She really doesn’t want to eat the eggs. But she hasn’t quite given up enough hope to stop eating, not yet. Still, she’s not entirely sure she can stem up enough motivation to actually eat the eggs.

Ward keeps up friendly chatter for a while and she has a staring contest with the eggs, trying to tune him out.

It doesn’t work. It never works.

He pauses and she flinches, knowing she won’t like whatever’s coming.

His voice is a little sharper when he says, “You aren’t eating.”

She shoves a spoonful into her mouth with a shaking hand, eyes fixed down. She was wrong, she could come up with enough motivation – just the thought of Ward hand feeding her again did it.

His voice is gentler than before, when after a long moment he says, "I understand the whole sleep talking thing but what I don’t understand is the princess dragon dream and why I’m in it."

She freezes, second spoonful inches from her mouth, and she trembles.

No.

No, no, no, no!

She hasn’t been talking – she hasn’t! That’s been her one victory.

She feels tears burning behind her eyes and fights them back. She won’t give those to him. She shoves the cardboard food into her mouth and chews automatically.

She knows what dream he’s talking about, is the thing. Which means he’s not making it up. She doesn’t tell him that he’s the dragon. She risks a glance at him and he’s smirking.

He definitely knows he’s the dragon.

She swallows without tasting and looks down, only just realizing that she’s finished her eggs.

He whisks the plate away and the spoon out of her hand with only a small caress. “Alright sweetheart, I’ll be back in a few hours for lunch. See you then.”

And he’s gone.

She collapses in on herself and sobs, silently, for a few moments before lying back down and closing her eyes. She hopes she won’t have the dream again; she always wakes up with a scream in her throat. It’s not a comfort to know she’s narrating it.

Chapter Text

Grant had a plan. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a plan. He’d show the team that he still had a heart with how he was with Kara – even leaving her would help convince them that he wasn’t selfish but instead wanted what was best for her. He’d apologize and make them remember how good being together had been – being a family had been. He’d protect his team and keep them safe. And he’d specifically save someone.

Originally he’d thought it would be Fitz, Fitz who was still trying to attack him, despite being obviously outgunned. But then Simmons had joined the team and he hadn’t decided between saving her and Fitz, which was when Skye showed up.

Obviously he’d save Skye. She was bound to be the angriest, to need the proof of how he’d changed the most.

Except then he’d seen her powers.

It ended up not mattering. He’d told Bakshi, privately, to attack someone when he was around so that he could save them – so obviously it was between Skye and Simmons, since Fitz was with the other team.

He’d chosen to attack Simmons.

Grant had his gun drawn and was going to shoot the man, but before he could he was disintegrating before his eyes.

It took him an embarrassingly long moment to realize what had happened, to realize that Simmons had been planning to kill him.

He was shaken.

Sure, she’d threatened to kill him once, but Simmons hadn’t been able to hold a grudge ever. He’d assumed that after a few good deeds he’d have her unwavering support.

Something had happened to her, something bad.

He was surprised to find that the feeling beating under his breastbone alongside the fear was concern. What had happened to Simmons to cause this? This wasn’t her. This would never be her.

And yet…

This changed his play. If Simmons was willing to kill him, then he was seriously undervaluing how angry the team was, or he’d missed something, something big.

He spat out something about being disappointed, hoping it would shame her into not trying again.

Skye would shoot him. May would beat him. Fitz would explain exactly what he was doing but never kill him.

But Simmons, she could be a real threat. If she’d broken enough to be willing to kill him, even still, she’d do anything to make it happen. He’d seen the ruthlessness in her eyes. It was like looking into a mirror.

So he spat out something about being disappointed and he ran.

He’d been planning to leave all along; he couldn’t do what he needed to do from a cell.

He needed to find out exactly what had happened to her.

He refused to believe it was all him.

He wasn’t sure how he’d find out, but it wasn’t like he could just ask her “Why are you so angry?” and expect to get any sort of reasonable response. Except, perhaps, for her to try to kill him again.

He had to be smart about this.

Chapter Text

Jemma woke up to soft voices.

She didn’t know where she was and her memory was a mess – but the last thing she did remember was being in a firefight, so instead of sitting up and examining her surroundings she kept her eyes shut and her breath as even as she could and she listened.

“The quickest anyone has woken up from it was nine hours – and we’re talking massive body builder, she’ll be out for at least another twelve,” said a lilting feminine voice that Jemma didn’t recognize.

“There won’t be any lasting damage though? You should’ve just used dendrotoxin,” said a voice she did recognize, and she tried to move – to get away instinctively, and she couldn’t. She couldn’t move.

She struggled for a moment but couldn’t even twitch her fingers, and missed most of what was said, hearing only the end of the woman’s response. “The alien bacteria serum we created is less damaging than repeating dendrotoxin rounds and has a longer time on the knockout.”

Alien bacteria serum. That sounded decidedly bad. Especially as she was apparently paralyzed and in Ward’s company. She had to get a sample before she escaped. If she could escape. No, she couldn’t think like that, she would escape. From Ward and HYDRA or whoever he had teamed up with.

It was almost a relief that she couldn’t move – couldn’t reveal that she was awake, because when Ward sat down next to her, she could feel the material under her sink with his weight, she couldn’t move or give away that she heard and understood what was going on.

She focused on trying to wiggle her toes, which she could feel but not move, and not let panic keep her from listening.

There was a hand on her cheek. Dear God. Ward was petting her cheek.

If ever there was a time for the paralysis to wear off and allow her to fight, now was the time.

She still couldn’t move.

“I am sorry, you know. More sorry than I could ever tell you.” She felt ice in her veins at the tone in his voice – it wasn’t apologetic, despite the words, it was fierce and terrifying.

Did he know she was aware, somehow? Was he playing her right now? Probably. But she couldn’t do anything but listen. “I never wanted to hurt you, never wanted you to look at me with hate in your eyes.”

She wanted to scoff, to yell, to tell him that if he didn’t want that then he shouldn’t have sided with the Nazis! She couldn’t do any of that. She tried to send him the message with her mind anyways.

He didn’t seem to hear it as he continued, “I love you, you know. We’ll be happy together. Eventually.”

Her mind stuttered to a stop. That wasn’t – how? They had never been anything. There’d been, at most, a look once, but nothing had come of it and she hadn’t minded and – what?

He was running his fingers through her hair, it felt distressingly good. Was there some way he had mistaken her for Skye? For May even? For someone he had a history with that would explain…any of this?

He kissed her forehead and curled his hand around hers, pulling back and placing a kiss on her knuckles. “It’ll be okay Jemma, I won’t let them hurt you.”

She wondered what, specifically, he thought he could protect her against since the biggest threat was obviously him. But she was still paralyzed and she couldn’t ask.

An alarm started to blare somewhere else – she still didn’t know if she was on a base or a ship or something else – and with a curse Ward was gone, the door slamming shut behind him.

Fourteen hours later, after she’d been successfully rescued by the team and carried out by a complaining Hunter, she was able to move again. No one had bothered to get her a sample of the alien bacteria that had been used to knock her out and isolation of her own blood didn’t yield any results. She was forced to conclude that the concoction yielded hallucinations. Nothing else made sense.

Chapter Text

They had been working together long enough that Grant had started to let them see him not polished-perfect. It was a little thing, but it was important to him.

Likewise the rest of the team was letting down their walls.

Surprisingly it was Fitz who was taking the longest to relax. So when discussing a job, the thief finally offered up, “I know a forger,” the rest of the team paused for a moment in pleasant surprise.

“You sure he can manage this? It’ll be under a lot of very skilled scrutiny.” Coulson kept his voice gentle, doing his best not to accuse Fitz of being untrustworthy.

Fitz nodded and shrugged, saying, “Yeah, they’re the best,” before turning away like he didn’t care, shoulders tense under his flannel.

Coulson shared a look with the rest of the team, making sure to get a nod of acknowledgement from all three of them before saying, “Okay, you can bring him in.”

The tension in Fitz’s shoulders didn’t release at the pronouncement. In fact, it didn’t release for two days, and then he was suddenly back to his slightly concerning, but cheerful, self.

Skye confessed to May over cereal the next day, that she’d hacked him just to make sure he was really okay; and that she was a bit upset because she hadn’t been able to find out if, or even when – or even how! – he’d made contact with his forger.

The hitter had given Grant a look over her mug of tea and he’d sighed, resigning himself to dedicating the rest of his day to trying to teach Skye why she couldn’t just hack people regardless of how concerned she was.

The job continued to move along, with Grant managing to convince an entire family he was their long-lost and very wealthy cousin. However, every time Coulson asked Fitz about their forgery, the thief just shrugged and said, “It’ll be fine.” It wasn’t reassuring.

Finally, less than twenty four hours before they would need the necklace, Fitz announced, “Ward can pick it up today,” before shoving a list of instructions at Grant about how, exactly, he was supposed to make contact.

Grant arched an eyebrow, still uncomfortable with it being left so late and more uncomfortable with having to pick it up. But Fitz was being cagey and he didn’t want to upset the Scott when they were this close to getting through the mission without having to use any overly elaborate back up plan.

If it had been one of the team who was so late and not this unknown forger, he knew it wouldn’t have bothered him. He trusted them. The forger was an unknown quantity.

Still, he hadn’t said anything and neither had Coulson, though they shared a long look about it before Grant headed out to the art gallery where the drop would take place.

It was a quaint little place, quiet, with a hideous modern art exhibit on display. It was only practice that kept him from making a face when his eyes were first assaulted, instead he wandered up to the piece that Fitz had told him to head to and waited.

Per his, quite frankly ridiculous, instructions, he waited until someone stepped up next to him. He didn’t look to see whom it was, instead saying, as if to himself, “You can really see the depth of love that the artist felt when he created this piece.” It looked like a child had eaten a palette of paint and been violently ill.

There was a snicker and a scoff next to him and he turned, because that was not in the script, to see a small brunette staring up at him with a hand over her mouth and dancing eyes. “Really? Because it looks like a two year old threw a tantrum in a paint shop to me.”

She was delightfully English and even prettier when she dropped the hand that was trying, and failing, to keep her snickers in.

He glanced around the gallery. No one else was showing even the slightest interest in the painting they were standing in front of, so he had some time to kill. And what better way to kill time than by talking to a beautiful woman? Besides, he was a grifter, he could count this as practice if he could convince her of the brilliance of the hideous painting before she left.

He didn’t convince her.

She was something else. She’d refused to give him her number, but she had managed to casually mention the teashop where she went in the mornings, and it had been too pointed to not be an invitation.

Meeting her almost made up for Fitz’s forger never showing, even though Grant stayed will past the agreed upon time.

He gave Coulson a small frown and headshake when he returned. The older man’s shoulders slumped and he rubbed at the bridge of his nose before leading the way to Fitz.

Fitz blinked and tilted his head in confusion, when Coulson broke the news that his forger had fallen through. And then, without warning, he went for Grant’s coat. The coat he was still wearing. Grant tried to pull back, but Fitz had the fastest hands and had dived in and pulled out a small jewelry box before Grant could do more than twitch.

Fitz pointedly put the box on the desk and rolled his eyes before leaving.

Grant gaped at the box and patted at his coat. How? Who? When? He wasn’t actually sure which question he wanted the answer to more.

Coulson opened the box.

The necklace was perfect.

Grant froze, realization washing over him. Of course.

He stalked after Fitz, ignoring Coulson’s concerned glance.

Fitz was sitting on the dining room table, munching on an apple. Grant tried to compose himself and ask calmly, “Your forger – yay tall, pretty, British?”

Fitz looked up, finished chewing and put the apple down. “She said that you have shit taste in art, but are very pretty.” He hopped down off the table and tossed his apple into the trash before continuing in a calm voice, “If you try to play her I’ll make sure May thinks you stole her scented candles. Now go away. I have to go trade some gems out.”

Skye was laughing at him from her computer station.

He flipped her off before stalking off – his annoyed strut going eager once he’d exited the building.

She had said she sometimes got tea in the evenings too. The job didn’t need him until late tomorrow, after all, he had some time to kill.

Chapter Text

Jemma sighed and poured some more milk into her tea. She wasn’t sure why he’d insisted on meeting here, she knew he was as picky about his tea being over steeped as she was and her normal haunt did it much better.

She took a sip, didn’t bother to disguise her wince and carefully placed it back down.

Fitz was fiddling with sugar packets and very pointedly avoiding her gaze.

She let out an irritated breath that ruffled her bangs.

He still didn’t look up.

She rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair, fixing her gaze intently on him and refusing to look away. He was her chosen family, he may have been getting much better at social interactions as well as deception since joining his little team, but she still knew all of his tells.

He would crack first.

It took another fifteen minutes of her not drinking her horrid tea and not saying anything before he finally slouched forward and frowned at her. “I don’t like it.”

She tilted her head, waited, and then when he started stirring his cold tea, took her cue and asked, “What don’t you like?”

He tore open one of the packs of sugar and started laying out plans to the nearby modern art museum on the table. “Ward. You. I don’t know.”

She watched him pay special attention to the layout of the sculpture garden and frowned herself. She grabbed her cup of tea for something to do, and had already taken a sip before remembering that it was both over steeped and cold now. She made a face. He was too distracted to call her on it, which decided her. She lightened her tone and said, “You know, I understand that it’s not a requirement, but I am perpetually baffled when people in our line of work have such terrible taste in art. You really could’ve warned me about that.”

His lips twitched and he fought the smile down. He met her eyes and she pointedly looked away, letting him know she wasn’t going to press, even though there was obviously something he wasn’t telling her.

By the time she looked back he was staring at her with serious eyes, the sugar outline smudged on the table. “Do you like him more than me?”

She let out another breath and slouched in the booth. Voice firm, she said, “I’m not her, Fitz.” She tapped the tip of her nose, two short, one long, three short, and watched his shoulders loosen. She glanced away, swallowing heavily. After a moment to compose herself and to make sure her eyes weren’t moist she met his eyes again, saying sincerely, “I am not her. I won’t do that. You’re my brother and I chose you.”

He bit at his lip for a moment before asking, hesitantly, “But what if Ward asked –“

She leaned forward, suddenly fierce. “I chose you and you chose me, nothing and no one will change that. And if he were to ask anything like what you’re thinking I would have him framed for twenty jobs in twenty different countries by lunch time and you’d be feeding me hot chocolate.”

Fitz’s lips finally twitched back into a smile and he joked, “He’s very good at lying though, he’d get out of them.”

She shrugged and reached out to give his hand a squeeze. He clung to it. She let him and didn’t mention it. “That’s why I’d frame him for twenty – he may be good, but at least one of those would stick.”

Fitz smiled, letting go of her hand with one last firm squeeze, fingers going to draw rig designs in the still spilled sugar. “Alright, I guess I approve then.” He licked his lips and looked away for a moment, muttering begrudgingly, “He’s a good man when he’s not playing a part. Don’t let him not be.”

She grinned, bright, and asked, “Are we good here?”

He eyed her curiously and asked, “Do you have something to get back to?”

Her grin turned wicked and she said, “I left Ward a little…tied up when you called.”

“Ugh. New rule, I do not want any of the details!” He shook his head to dispel the images and then shot her another vulnerable look. “You still came.”

She rolled her eyes as she gathered her purse and scarf. “Of course I did, idiot, you told me it was an emergency. But I really should get back to him. If he hasn’t gotten out then he may be starting to lose feeling in some extremities.”

Over his loud objections of violation of the new rule, she dropped a kiss to the top of his head and walked out the door. She was at least ninety percent certain that Ward wouldn’t have taken her “stay right there” completely literally.

Chapter Text

Leo hates this more than words can possibly describe. Jemma is sitting next to him at the table, her lips pressed so tightly together he can see white lines, her hands curled into fists in her lap. Her fiancé is sitting next to her, ordering.

He’s managed to butcher bruschetta, gnocchi and biscotti, somehow, but it’s when he pronounces pinot grigio as “Pee-not GriGo” that Leo has finally had enough.

He puts his water glass down hard and pats Jemma’s hand. Grant Ward doesn’t even look at the noise, instead smirking at the waitress – or rather at the waitress’ chest and asking, “Am I saying that right?”

She giggles and corrects him and he tries again.

Leo clears his throat and shoots the waitress a sharp look. She scurries away and Ward frowns at him.

Leo cannot believe that his uncle approved this man as a match for Jemma. He understand there is bad blood between the families and this will settle it – but the man cannot even order simple Italian food! Plus the obvious flirting with everything with legs and ignoring Jemma! He will not stand for it!

Jemma sees the trouble before her father or mother do and reaches out and clasps a hand on Leo’s wrist, shaking her head. He frowns at her and she pleads, “Please don’t make a scene, Fitzy,” using his childhood nickname for maximum effect.

He settles.

She still cannot believe that her parents thought it necessary to insist that Leo be one of Grant’s groomsmen. Or that there was any way it would ease tensions instead of making them worse.

She suspects they think that his addition to the bridal party will protect her. Given that they’ve arranged her marriage to the eldest son in a family that they have been feuding with since her grand parent’s time, she thinks it might be a bit late to worry about protecting her.

Not that she’s worried about being in danger, not really.

Grant chooses that moment to look over at her and his lips curl in a sneer. He’s right next to her, but he doesn’t make an effort to keep his voice down as he says, “Your dress reminds me of my childhood. I think my playroom had drapes in that pattern.”

His gaze burns her and she has to clench her fists tighter and tighten her lips. She refuses to look at him, knowing what she’ll see in his gaze. Instead she drops her eyes to her plate and plots revenge.

Phil’s grip on his fork tightens, and the only thing that keeps him quiet is his wife’s hand covering his. He looks at Melinda and is reminded, again, why this is necessary.

The feud has been getting violent. This has to settle it down. Or, at least, it will keep the children safe. And Jemma is strong, she has too much of her late mother’s spirit not to be.

Melinda places his hand on her stomach and he relaxes a little bit.

When he looks at the table again he can see that Jemma has looked up and she has a spark in her eye. She’s fine. If she was not fine she’d let him know, surely.

Skye thinks that if these weren’t people she cared about, this would be deeply amusing.

The bride hisses something to Skye’s brother, she thinks it’s in Russian, and he goes very still. She’s never seen that look on Grant’s face before, but it’s intense, eyes dark, and he hisses something back. Now Jemma is fleeing the room, face in her hands.

As the only bridesmaid, it clearly is her job to follow. She tries not to, taking a calm bite of her pasta before her mother nudges her, hard, and she sighs and gets up.

It doesn’t take her long to find out where Jemma has gone – the whole hotel is booked for the wedding and it is a very posh hotel at that. Skye is only surprised that someone didn’t follow her into the very plush restroom to offer to wipe her ass.

There’s a single stall with a shut door, and Skye sighs and knocks on it.

Jemma’s voice is choked as she sobs out, “Go away!”

Skye makes a face at herself in the mirror and then straightens her shoulders. “We’re going to be sisters soon, let me help you.”

Jemma’s breathing is harsh in the quiet restroom and Skye shrugs and pulls a bobby pin out of her hair.

The door is swinging open in an instant.

A red faced Jemma stares in shock at Skye. Skye stares back in shock at the bride.

She is not expecting…this.

Skye rocks back on her heels and can only manage a confused, “What?”

***

The ceremony is long and tense, with each half of the church shooting the other half suspicious glares.

The bridesmaid has a handkerchief covering half her face for most of the ceremony as she cries about the loss of her brother. The groomsman scowls like he’s trying to set things on fire with his mind.

The kiss is awkward, fast and leaves both participants with a look of disgust.

The reception goes long into the night, but the bride and the groom cut out early, taking half a cart of alcohol with them. Each side of the now united family assumes it’s so that they can drink themselves willing.

Within the bridal suite the bride throws herself back onto the bed and laughs until she cries.

The groom smiles at her, uncorks a bottle and pours her a glass, offering it and a hand to pull her up. She tries to go for the glass but he tricks her and pulls her into his arms, grinning widely down at her.

She’s the one who pulls him down into a kiss, however.

She squeals and pulls away when he accidently tips some of the glass of Champaign and it goes pouring down the back of her dress.

She narrows her eyes at him. “You did that on purpose!”

He grins and shrugs, not sorry. “It’s hideous. I can’t believe my mother talked you into it.”

She scoffs and grabs the still full glass from his hand, taking a sip and shrugging. “Our first song was to Every Breath You Take – you picked that! You have no room to judge me letting your mom put me in this…monstrosity.”

He laughs, unable not to, plucks the drink from her hand and pulls her to him, humming a bit under his breath and pulling her around the room in a much better dance than the awkward sway they managed on the ballroom floor.

They come to a stop, eventually, in the middle of the floor. She rests her ear over his heart and lets herself relax for the first time in weeks. “We did it. We’re married.”

He drops a kiss to the top of her head. “We are. And only Skye caught on. Now, let me help take you out of that monstrosity, and then we can discuss the scandalous thing you said to me at our rehearsal dinner, hm?”

She laughs and pulls him into a deep kiss.

Chapter Text

Grant has does his best to distance himself from his family. It’s not that he doesn’t love them, he does. It’s that they’re all still living in a city with a family that is trying to kill them and they are trying to kill. It’s not how he wants to live his life.

When he first learns that the eldest Coulson child has had similar ideas and actually moved into his city before him, well, he’s unhappy about it but he doesn’t think it’s likely that he’ll run into her in the second largest city in the US.

Naturally, it only takes two years before his security firm gets called in to handle a threat, some sort of disgruntled employee talking big, at the corporation that the woman works at. From there it only gets worse, as he discovers that the lab that they’re most concerned about is absolutely the one she works in.

He grits his teeth and hopes she doesn’t know he’s in the city.

He’s expecting not to like her. So when he walks into the lab to do his fair share of “body guarding scientists” and there’s a wispy woman with dark hair snapping commands at everyone and just generally being a monster, well he makes assumptions.

It’s an assignment from hell.

He exchanges a long look with Trip before the two of them take their places around the lab and try to keep an eye on the productive chaos.

Three days later the bitch in a lab coat has gone home early, complaining loudly of a headache and blaming everyone else for it. One of the other scientists, a tiny thing who is nearly always smiling and has been the only one to successfully talk the Coulson girl down, approaches Grant.

“Hi! I’m sorry, can I ask you for a favor? It won’t interfere with your work! Well, I don’t think it will. It’s just that Cynthia has had all of the stools removed because they were in the way and I need a reagent that’s on the top shelf and, well, you’re very tall?” She smiles up at him and he can’t help but be instantly charmed.

He smiles back, slow, and watches a flush bloom in her cheeks before asking, “Where is it?”

She nearly bounces in place before leading him to the shelf and pointing it out. He maybe steps closer to her than he has to, retrieving it, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

He introduces himself as Grant, before he returns to his spot on the wall, and she tells him her name is Jemma.

She makes the job less painful.

He waits until they’ve been told the threat has been contained and they’ll not be stationed there anymore before asking her out. While he’s asking Trip calls him Ward and he has the experience of watching all the blood drain from Jemma’s face.

Jemma actually looks afraid of him as she takes a step back, and when he asks what’s wrong she seems to have to steel herself before she says, “I’m Jemma Simmons – Phil Coulson’s daughter.”

It’s not a blow he’s expecting.

He’s not sure he cares.

He falls back half a pace. “But…Simmons?”

She bites her lip and shakes her head, and he has to physically restrain himself from reaching out to brush the strands out of her face. “It was my mother’s maiden name, I changed it to get away from…everything.”

He nods because he understands, and then they’re just stuck there in an awkward silence.

He’s a little surprised to discover that he doesn’t care. He’d been so sure that Cynthia was the Coulson daughter, and she’d lived up to all of his expectations of a horrible human being. Jemma was…not that. She knew all of the guards by name and was one of the few who greeted them and would share snacks and just not, generally, act like she thought the world was trying to sabotage her.

She isn’t just a good person; she’s a kind person.

The Coulson’s aren’t supposed to be kind.

He lets out a slow breath and tries to catch her gaze before offering, softly, “I’d still like to get dinner with you, if you’re willing. But I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

She gnaws on her thumb and searches his face before asking, “What about our families?”

He shrugs and smiles slightly. “I’m not trying to date your family.”

She laughs, despite herself, and takes a step forward.

He thinks they might be okay.

**

They’re halfway through the newest Marvel movie when their phones ring – she’s been drifting off and he knows they’ll have to watch it again, but he doesn’t mind. She’s a warm weight, curled up on his chest, her ear over his heart.

She stiffens as soon as her phone makes a sound, going more tense when his follows it a moment later. They move fast and check, exchanging a look when they each see their parents names flashing at them. She squeezes his hand tightly before grabbing her phone and walking towards the bedroom.

It’s always bad news when they both get calls from their family at the same time. It means something’s happened. He sends up a quick prayer that it’s not the murder each of them is half expecting. Last time her aunt had been in the hospital and his cousin had ended up in jail.

It’s a relatively quick phone call, from his end, and as soon as it’s done he’s tossing his phone on the couch and striding into their bedroom.

Jemma is sitting on the end of the bed, tears in her eyes and her lips thin. She’s still on the phone, and she doesn’t look at him as he quietly shuts the door behind him. She’s saying, “Of course, papa, I understand. Okay, I love you too,” and then hangs up.

She looks up at him and the tears fall out of her eyes and she stops fighting the smile and then she’s in his arms and he’s burying his face in her hair and laughing and –

They’re getting married.

Chapter Text

“Ward, what are you doing?” Jemma asked, alarmed, when Ward’s hand wrapped painfully around her upper arm and he propelled her down the long hallway of the Sandbox.

In an instant she was slammed up against a wall hard enough that her teeth rattled. He leaned down until they were nose to nose and said, “Keeping you safe, Jemma.”

She blinked, taken aback by the informal address, but before she could do more than open her mouth he was dragging her further into the base.

He wasn’t shortening his strides at all, and even though she tried to keep up she couldn’t. She was most definitely going to have a bruise in the shape of his hand tomorrow. “Ow. Ward! Where are you –“ and she found herself slammed up against another wall and his mouth pressed firmly over hers.

She let out a whimper when he pulled back – she would certainly be revisiting that kiss later, but for now the reality of the hard impact of the wall and his still tight grip on her arm were more important.

“Be quiet, Jemma,” he breathed into her mouth before continuing to drag her after him.

She was dazed – from the kiss or the potential head injury she wasn’t sure – but not so dazed that she didn’t manage to participate in the next kiss when he propelled her into a small jump jet. This time he cradled the back of her head in a large palm, his fingers apologetically massaging at her scalp as he drugged her with kisses.

She woke up several hours later, tucked safely into one of the reclined seat harnesses with a note that just said, “The jet will take you where it’s safe. Tell them who you are – don’t tell them I sent you. You don’t know me, Jemma. I’ll come get you if I can. –G”

It wouldn’t be until several days later when HYDRA was revealed that Jemma finally understood what had happened that day.

It would be several months before Jemma stopped expecting Grant to appear at the small secret base she was working at.

It would be a year before she’d see him, standing with HYDRA with his gun pressed to the forehead of one of Jemma’s fellow scientists.

Chapter Text

HYDRA, Grant was disappointed to discover, wasn’t any different from SHIELD except for the more overtly controlling agenda and a tendency for daily required “Hail HYDRA”.

He had known about SHIELD since he was 14 and a recruiter had interviewed him in juvie. Military School until he’d been old enough to go to the academy hadn’t been fun, but the fact that he’d actually been emancipated from his parents and placed under the command of a SHIELD cover family had made it worth everything.

That didn’t mean he always liked or agreed with SHIELD. Bureaucracy was not something he enjoyed in any shape or form, and SHIELD had an unfortunate amount of it. So of course HYDRA had the same flaw. Being able to kill people more readily just meant there was more paperwork constantly.

It tended to make him a bit irritable, and his file had, prior to the fall of SHIELD, all kinds of notes about his piss poor attitude. “An asshole who should only be exposed to others if they deserve punishment” is what Maria Hill had written about him. She’d also noted that he was “excellent at impossible situations and could easily replace an infiltration team of three,” so he wasn’t terribly insulted. (He cheerfully pretended that it didn’t end with “which is good because no other two people will ever consistently work with him.”)

Not that he could’ve done anything about it if he had been insulted. He’d broken into the secure room that held files in order to read his own out of curiosity and to see if he could, he wasn’t technically supposed to know any of what was in it anyways.

He was pretty sure Hill knew about it anyways, but he’d never been called on it or punished, so he didn’t push. He just kept breaking in occasionally to stay up to date on his file.

He hadn’t tried to break in to see his file since before SHIELD fell.

HYDRA, he figured, would be less forgiving about it – even if nothing else had changed. Plus they were likely to take it as some sort of admission of guilt as they were, perpetually, looking for moles.

It had even been nearly a year before SHIELD fell that he had last seen his file since a mission going awry and a shattered kneecap put him out of commission. He’d been on guard duty rotation at the Sandbox where guarding tended to consist of forcibly escorting stubborn scientists out of labs that were actively on fire and not any real heavy labor when SHIELD fell. He’d still been undergoing physical therapy, though that was more about red-tape than him actually needing the time off to heal still.

It had been where he’d met Jemma. He’d only known her for a few months and was pretty sure he could convince her to go on a date with him when everything changed.

So he’d forcibly removed Jemma from the Sandbox, knowing for a fact that the whole place was going to fall and not wanting to see what HYDRA decided to do with her. No one knew he was the one who had forced her off the base, not for sure – it had taken several hours for him to arrange to have all the cameras in the area misbehaving, but he was the best at what he did and he’d managed it.

And now, now he was seeing Jemma again.

This wasn’t how he wanted to see her.

He kept his gun pressed to the forehead of the sci-tech agent who was on his knees in front of him and ordered the grunt to report what he’d found. He wasn’t surprised to hear that the base had been cleared, quickly. He was furious to find out that with Jemma there were only three other agents on base, one unconscious in the med room. She absolutely should have been a priority to evacuate, what were they thinking? Could what remained of SHIELD really be so stupid as to not understand that capturing people like Jemma was a priority for HYDRA?

He made quick count of his people before demanding with a hard voice, “Where’s Turpin?”

Smith cleared his throat and said, “She went to do one last sweep.”

He nodded sharply and lazily kicked the scientist at the end of his gun so that the man was winded and fell back. The agent who was standing between him and a horrified Jemma barely twitched. Grant appreciated that. Protecting Jemma should have been his priority. “Bring her back,” he ordered Smith, keeping his gun pointed at the scientist as he turned narrowed eyes on Jemma and her protector. “Do I know you?” he asked with a tilted head towards the African American man.

Trip narrowed his eyes, shifted his weight, and very carefully didn’t reach for his gun. “I dunno man, you ever sing karaoke?”

Grant arched an eyebrow and nudged the scientist at his feet with the toe of his combat boot until he’d curled back up. “Karaoke isn’t really my style. Now paintball…”

Trip sneered but moved to keep Jemma behind him before saying, “Yeah, you do look like someone who’d like shooting his balls at people.”

Inez and Jones both choked on laughs then froze when he shot them a look. They were both still cowering slightly when Smith came back with Turpin.

Grant regarded his entire squad before nodding to himself and holding out a hand, ordering, “Turpin, your knife.” Turpin didn’t hesitate before handing her machete to him handle first.

He smiled down at the wide-eyed scientist on the floor at his feet and then swung around and knocked Turpin out with the handle to her temple. Lorenzo took a knee shot and Trip managed to hit and kill Inez, Jones and Smith before they’d managed to do more than wing him.

Trip had his gun trained on Grant when Grant turned his attention to him. Grant dropped the machete and kicked it far away from the bodies, those still breathing and those not, and rubbed at his face.

“What the fuck, man?” Trip asked, incredulous.

Grant shrugged and said, “Hill told me to infiltrate HYDRA.” He didn’t bother to mention that his only demand had been that he be allowed to keep Jemma free of HYDRA, he was sure he’d be getting shit for ruining his cover for it this time whenever Hill found out anyways. But honestly, HYDRA with its hands on one half of FitzSimmons was a recipe for disaster. And Hill had been in a bind, barely having three days to warn him – she hadn’t been willing to let him turn down the mission.

He leaned slightly to the left so he could look around Trip and he asked, “Are you okay, Jemma?”

She stared at him, eyes wide in shock, and slowly nodded her head. He nodded, relieved, and turned away, not wanting to see the fear in her eyes. He crouched down to deal with Turpin. She and Lorenzo both had intelligence that SHIELD would be interested in; the others had just been grunts. He’d been lucky that Trip had followed his coded message, even if it was clear he still didn’t entirely trust him.

Trip was securing Lorenzo when Jemma came to check on the other scientist, who was glaring at Grant. Despite tracking her, Grant was still surprised when, after she’d made sure the other man had no broken ribs, Jemma crouched by his side and touched his arm.

“You’re bleeding,” her voice shook a little, but her hand was steady against his arm.

He’d been aware he’d been winged but it hadn’t – it wasn’t a priority. Now he joined her in staring down at his arm, feeling disconnected from it and yet wishing it was more serious so that she’d be closer. Softly he said, “I’m fine, Jemma, just a graze.”

She frowned at him and he felt weak in the knees because she looked angry and annoyed – but not frightened. “You finish…tying whoever up and then come into the lab. I think you’ll need at least two stitches.” And with that she retreated, dragging the other scientist up and after her with a firm hand on his lab coat.

By the time Grant was getting patched up, he and Trip had agreed on going to a motel to wait until Trip could confirm Grant’s orders with Hill because he understandably didn’t want to bring a possible mole after them into the still existing SHIELD. Grant didn’t begrudge him that. Especially when he was already planning to punch out whoever had okayed the order to leave Jemma behind. It didn’t matter that she’d insisted because of the injured agent, they should’ve made sure she was safe.

Not that it really mattered. He was here now. He could make sure she was safe.

Chapter Text

If Grant had to guess what Bakshi would say when he walked into that bar, “Good job converting Simmons, she’s an amazing asset,” would not have made the list at all.

For Bakshi it’s a brilliant move because it stalls Grant long enough that he reconsiders his original plan. Which wasn’t a plan that Bakshi would’ve enjoyed at all, although Grant who was always rather annoyed by the arrogance of the man – he wasn’t good at anything but buttering palms, how on earth did he get so high in HYDRA – would’ve enjoyed it immensely.

But still, he’s curious enough to delay his plans. It’s not like it won’t be easy enough to get Bakshi isolated later, if he needs to.

So he gets the address of the base that Simmons is apparently happily working away at, partially convinced it’s a trap or that she’s brainwashed or that she’s undercover. The last is the hardest to believe, Simmons cannot lie for shit, there’s no way she’s managed to fool HYDRA for long enough to come to the attention of Bakshi. He tells Bakshi about his tail, lets him take care of that, and takes his own detour to take care of his brother before heading to the base.

He doesn’t believe that she could actually be HYDRA, not until he’s leaning against the door jam watching Simmons bustle around a HYDRA lab, comfortable as can be. She’s humming that bastardization of like nine songs – it’s surprisingly catchy and a very familiar sight from living with her on the Bus. He cannot imagine that something like that would survive brainwashing.

While he watches he sees an agent in a tactical vest push in a metal tray with a sheet on it, she lifts up the sheet and looks under it before asking, nonchalantly, “Where’s the rest of the body?”

The agent bobs into a bow that makes Grant want to laugh before assuring, “I’ll get it for you right away ma’am,” and vanishing.

Then she turns and he sees that she has fuzz growing back over a quarter of her head and he can see a still healing scar. He must make a noise, or maybe she catches sight of him out of the corner of her eye, because suddenly she’s spinning around and blinking at him. And then she smiles, brilliantly, not a hint of fear, and any thoughts that she might have some sort of implant that’ll kill her if she doesn’t work for HYDRA vanishes.

“Ward!” She bustles towards him, stripping off her gloves and handing them and the beaker she’s holding off to a nameless man in a lab coat who just kind of appears to take them from her. She grabs his chin before he can move and it’s so reminiscent of their first meeting that he’s frozen in place. She clucks her tongue and then pokes his chest. “You have not been taking care of yourself.” She rubs a finger down the scar on his cheek and scowls at him. “You better have a good excuse for being gone so long.”

He catches her hand before she can poke him again and just holds it before tilting her head with his free hand. “I don’t think you can lecture me when it looks like you cracked your head open, Simmons.” He’s unsure as to what’s going on, but he’s willing to play along until he can figure it out.

She huffs out a breath but obligingly turns her head so he can see that she’s got about a months worth of growth and that the scar, while still frighteningly large, looks to be healing well. He touches it gently and is rewarded by her shiver. “I’m fine. There was an explosion and it knocked me out for a few days. I still have some blank spots in my memory, but I’m not missing anything too serious.”

She smiles up at him and he arches an eyebrow. “So you don’t remember being mad at me?” She narrows her eyes at him but shakes her head. “What’s the last thing you remember clearly?”

She sighs and her shoulders slump slightly. He sees all of the other people in the lab look over, one even takes a step towards them as if he thinks he can protect her from Grant. He reaches out to cup her shoulders and she shamelessly leans into him. Maybe they didn’t do a full brainwashing, just a little one?

“I do have other bits and pieces…but the last full memory I have is of getting ready for bed in the hotel after the incident with the Asgardian berserker staff.” She hesitates and tips her chin up to meet his gaze. “Or, at least, the first one. If there was another incident. I mean the day I had my hand in the chest of an Asgardian. That incident.”

He tilts his head and gambles off of the information he does know. “So you don’t remember me converting you?”

She wrinkles her nose and waves a hand. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I do have some flashes of when I was still undercover at SHIELD, and I remember patching up your ribs and telling you to be careful with them, but the rest I had to gather from my file here.”

He releases her shoulder so that he can cup the side of her head where her scar is. He lowers his voice with concern and leans down a little, looking at her with earnest eyes. “What’s the prognosis on you recovering those memories?”

She leans into his hand and chews on her lip for a moment. “Not good.” She brightens and continues, “But I only had a week of issues with short term memory loss, so I’m not likely to suffer anymore. According to the doctors I’m just as likely to make up false memories as to remember real things to fill the gaps at this point, so I am glad you’re back to confirm things for me.”

He smiles, slowly and presses a friendly kiss to her forehead. “Yeah, me too.” He’s definitely glad he decided to come back here instead of trying to get the team to accept him back. She’s not Skye, but Simmons – no, Jemma – has always been lovely. And she needs him.

What kind of teammate would he be if he turned his back on her?

Not a very good one, clearly.

 

Chapter Text

“It’s just another mile!” Ward is yelling back at her over his shoulder, but the howling wind is snatching most of it away.

She can still understand though. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the energy left to yell. She contemplates not trying to respond at all, but she feels like it’s important that she still makes the effort, even if it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to hear her. “T-t-t-that’s wha’ you said a mile ‘go,” she can barely hear her own voice over the sound of the wind.

She can’t feel her feet anymore. Or her hands. They’d hurt for the last few miles and now they’ve gone numb. She knows too much about the effects of hypothermia and frostbite not to be worried, but it’s not like there’s anything she can do. Or that Ward can do. She has to just keep moving.

She manages for what feels like another mile, but is probably just a few yards, before she trips on something buried in the snow and goes down. She tries to lever herself back up but there’s no strength in her arms and she can’t feel her hands. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she really hopes that Ward turns back before the snow erases his tracks and he can’t find her.

She doesn’t want to die.

She’s giving moving another shot when hands grab her under her arms and lift her up. She stumbles, snow in her eyes, and leans against the solid presence of Ward. “Simmons, are you okay?”

She shakes her head.

He swears, violently, for a moment before brushing some of the snow out of her face. “Okay. It’s just another mile. I’m going to carry you. Stay with me, Simmons.” And he picks her up in a fireman’s hold and starts walking.

She tries to flex her fingers and toes in the hopes of regaining feeling, but she’s not actually sure she’s managing it since the mittens she’s wearing are so large she can’t actually check to see if her fingers are moving. And she still can’t feel them.

Time starts to move a little funny, watching the white under Ward’s feet, and she definitely looses a chunk of time because she comes back to herself starting to shiver again in a dark cabin while Ward pokes at a fire.

He has quite a blaze built up by the time he crouches in front of her and asks, “You back with me Simmons?”

She nods, jerkily, before trying and failing to wrap her mouth around words.

He winces before standing up and starting to strip down. She watches blankly, not even vaguely appreciatively as he does. He carefully hangs his items up around the fireplace before crouching back down, and asking softly, “Can you get out of yours or do you need help?”

She tries to make a face but she’s not sure if her expression actually changes, and she shakes her head, tries to show him how her arms aren’t responding. Her mouth manages, to work with words better this time though, as she slurs, “Ne’ help.”

He nods and starts to unzip her. He’s very clinical when he’s undressing her, but she’s far too concerned about the continued lack of feeling in her limbs to really appreciate that. He’s got her close enough to the fire that by the time all but her undergarments are off, feeling is finally starting to return to her limbs. It hurts.

He stops at her bra and knickers, but she can see that they’re both wet and that’s not going to do her any favors, so she painstakingly starts to take her bra off when he disappears. When he comes back he helps her numb fingers undo the clasp once he realizes what she’s trying, and failing to do. His face is bright red as he helps her put on one of his dry shirts from his pack. She pulls her knickers off, finding that doable at least, once the shirt is on and leaves them in a puddle by the fire. When he comes back he’s in dry underwear, and then he’s guiding her down into a pile of blankets.

Her teeth have started to chatter, which is objectively a good thing, if frustrating to deal with.

She burrows against him, wincing as feeling starts to come back in painful waves. “Th-th-thanks.”

He rubs her back and she can feel the rumble of his voice in his chest, it’s kind of soothing. “Don’t worry about it Simmons. You’re not going to loose any fingers right? May’ll kill me if I don’t bring you back in one piece.”

She closes her eyes and laughs. “N-n-no. G-got ‘em all.”

He laughs and starts to say something else, but the rumble of it is soothing and she can’t make out actual words and sleep swallows her whole.

She feels almost feverish with heat when she wakes up. It’s been a while since she’s been in this position, and never with this man, but it doesn’t take her long to realize that they’d shifted at some point. Instead of being curled up on Ward, she’s now pinned beneath him. Every point of contact uncomfortably sweaty, with the blanket pile he’d wrapped around them not allowing any warmth to escape.

She spends a few minutes simply wiggling her toes and fingers, relieved she still can.

He’s asleep and still, breath ghosting over her neck where his face is tucked.

It hadn’t been much of a concern when the alternative was hypothermia, but now she is deeply aware of her lack of underwear under his large shirt.

Especially because the shirt has ridden up and his thigh is wedged high between her own.

She contemplates trying to get away, but this is Ward and she’s fairly sure he’ll wake up when she so much as twitches. And she’s not sure she wants to leave the nest. She’d just like for his leg to move.

She would just like his leg to move away from where it currently is.

There is a part of her that she does her best not to acknowledge that would really like for his thigh to move in a different way, but she manages to squash it down before she can think about it too much. Work place harassment is not acceptable. To males or females. And given Ward’s…everything, she’s sure he’s experienced it before and she would hate to contribute to that.

She’s a little afraid that if she tries to wake him up the movement will not be in the direction of freedom. And that she might like it a little too much.

She has just decided on a swift poke to the side followed by trying to draw her legs up when Ward says in a grumpy voice, “Do you need to pee or something?”

It takes her a minute to find her voice. “No,” she shakes her head, trying to ignore how his hair tickles her check and neck with the movement.

His hand moves so it’s gripping her hip and he shifts her slightly, settling himself back against her. “You can breathe okay?”

She nods, heart in her throat, and manages, “Mmhm.”

He grunts, “Good,” and stills again, seemingly going back to sleep.

She probably should’ve just lied and said she had to pee. This is definitely a circle of hell, and she’s not sure her lack of physical prowess should be punished like this.

She tilts her head back to stare blankly at the ceiling, and tries to ignore the sweaty points of contact. She especially tries to ignore where his hand is burning against her bare hip, and takes a few deep breaths.

It’s surprisingly easy to fall back asleep, safe and warm.

Chapter Text

Miss Simmons returned to her companion rather more flustered than she had left. The number of the crowd insured that no one, at least on their side of the room, had seen what had made the normally so calm lady uncomfortable.

“What ever is wrong?” asked Miss Skye Johnson, trying to look through the bodies blocking her view of the rest of the room as if whatever had upset her friend would be illuminated.

“Mr. Ward asked me to dance,” came the confused response, the normally composed lady twisting her fingers together in agitation.

Skye considered her friend before looking again and spotting the gentleman in question. Her nose wrinkled in distaste, but she’d never actually spoken to the man, beyond her initial introduction. “Does he have a reputation I’m unaware of? Or maybe he asked improperly? I’m sure you’ve been introduced!”

Miss Simmons sighed and fiddled with the cup of lemonade she’d gone to fetch. “No, he asked very properly. And there’s no reputation – at least not one that anyone will say in polite company, if there is. But there is something I do not like about him…” She shook her head to banish such thoughts.

Skye frowned and said in her normal forthright manner, “Than you should’ve refused him.”

Miss Simmons sighed and took a long sip of her drink. “Then I’d have to sit out the rest of the dances.”

Skye tried not to wrinkle her nose as she’d been lectured numerous times on how un appealing that was to gentleman – still, she wasn’t entirely sure there was another way to express how she felt about this issue. She tried with words. “You don’t even like to dance.”

Miss Simmons put down the cup of lemonade on a nearby table and fiddled with the extremely appropriate and fashionable lace trim of her glove before saying, “No, of course I don’t. But it makes papa so happy that – It’s just a dance, Skye. I’m sure it will be fine.”

Skye scowled. She wasn’t yet used to town – being a poor relation from the country that had been fetched after the recent deaths of her parents – and she thought that most of the rules were absolutely nonsense. Why should her friend have to dance a set with a man she found objectionable just because he had asked? Why couldn’t they be allowed to refuse something other than just a marriage proposal! She tried to shake the thoughts off and turn to more pleasant notions. Or at least, more amusing ones.

They passed the time well, Miss Simmons even relaxing enough to laugh and joke. They hardly noticed the passage of the evening until Miss Simmons realized it was coming up on time for her dance with Mr. Ward.

Skye tried to distract her for a bit longer, but as they watched couples form and no sign of Mr. Ward, it became clear something else was not as it should be.

Skye wasn’t sure what a snub like that could do for a reputation here – wasn’t sure who all had heard Mr. Ward ask her friend to accompany him in a dance and if they would gossip about it. She was mad though. Miss Simmons was one of the sweetest ladies Skye had ever met, and if he was standing her up –

Miss Simmons twisted her fingers together, the band was settling down and it was becoming increasingly clear that she’d been left. She was starting to glance towards the exit and Skye was prepared to take her arm and pretend to be faint – let it be assumed that Miss Simmons was helping her friend instead of avoiding the awkwardness that was about to happen.

But then, appearing out of the crowd was Mr. Grant Ward, the younger brother to Mr. Ward. He sketched a quick bow and held out a hand to Miss Simmons. “I’m sorry, Miss Simmons,” he said, and Skye was bemused to note how direct his gaze was, dark and fixed on her friend. “My brother had some unexpected business come up. Would you do me the honor of allowing me to take his place across from you for this dance?”

Miss Simmons relaxed, tension obviously going out of her shoulders as she slipped her gloved hand into his. “Thank you, I would be delighted.”

And she was whisked away onto the ballroom floor before the band had struck its first cord.

Skye had to struggle to keep herself from staring blatantly, shocked as to what she’d just seen. She’d not been coming to balls for very long, but through gossip she’d learned one irrefutable fact: that despite many a mother’s valiant matchmaking attempts, Mr. Grant Ward did not dance.

Lord Hunter – Miss Simmons’ older obnoxious brother – joined her after a moment, offering her a glass of punch and a confused tilt of his head. “Where’s Jem?”

Skye bit back her instinctive response to remind him how inappropriate calling Miss Simmons that in public was. Instead she accepted the glass and managed a dry tone, “She’s dancing with Mr. Ward.”

He winced and scanned the crowd away from the dancers. “Ah, poor Jem.”

Skye wanted to stamp her foot. Instead she asked, impatiently. “Why are you so calm about this?”

Lord Hunter arched an eyebrow and turned to peer down at her. “He’s a cad, I’ll grant you, but Jemma can’t stand him so there’s no chance of that – and she’s safe as can be on a dance floor – even he wouldn’t try something there.”

Skye scoffed and nodded, pointedly to where his sister was. “No, not Mr. Christian Ward, Mr.Grant Ward.”

Lance turned so fast Skye was afraid he was going to do himself injury. “What.”

Skye leaned back, satisfied that someone else was as concerned as she was.

Chapter Text

“Fitzsimmons?” is the first thing she says, effortlessly holding a bag that’s about as big as she is over her shoulder as she observes them from the ramp.

“He’s Fitz,” says James, and when Leo’s standard response isn’t immediate he glances over to see the other man staring with his mouth open and finishes himself, “And I’m Simmons.”

She must be Ward – they hadn’t been given a first name and now he wonders if it’s because Coulson was expecting some trouble with all the muscle being female. It doesn’t bother James, but then, he has a type and the specialist was likely to be it regardless of gender.

Fitz still hasn’t said something, which is fair, she is remarkably attractive – edgy and intense with dark intelligent eyes.

James rolls his eyes and waves a hand over towards Fitz before reaching for a pair of gloves and snapping them on. “Ignore him, he’s uncomfortable around –“

“Pretty girls?” Ward’s voice sounds friendly, but James is fairly sure it’s not.

“I was going to say people taller than him, but people prettier than him might be just as accurate.” He flutters his eyelashes and steps forward, wielding a long q-tip with intent. “It took him weeks before he would talk to me without insults, and we all know I’m the pretty one.” He is also the taller one, if just by a half inch – a fact that he is honestly fairly sure Leo has never actually forgiven him for if the slightly thicker soled shoes he tends to wear are any indication.

Ward’s eyes snap down to him and she laughs, sharp and bright. James is willing to admit to himself pretty immediately that he’s in trouble. So he shoves the q-tip in her mouth – because honestly, being awkward and socially inept is probably his best bet at not making her uncomfortable in a more serious way and they do need to be able to work together for the foreseeable future.

Ward gags and glares at him but he just takes the q-tip back to the bench before letting himself babble, “Sorry about that – it’s for these new comms – Fitz’s, they’re brilliant, very posh, but I’m in charge of the DNA coding, so!”

Leo is glaring at him and he offers him a bright smile before turning to Ward and asking, obnoxiously chipper, “So, are you excited to be coming on our journey into mystery?”

Ward stares at him for a long moment before saying, deadpan, “It’s like Christmas.”

He laughs and goes back to busying himself with the comms. Ward hesitates for only a moment and then heads further into the Bus – and then Leo is immediately there, punching him in the shoulder. “Why’d you have to do that!”

James rubs at his shoulder, more to appease Leo’s ego than because it really hurt – he may have gotten a 58% on his field test, but Leo had gotten two points lower and even though they’d both ended up on a team despite it, he knew it was going to be an area of contention for a while and he was hoping he’d be able to get them past it quickly – though given what he’d just done with Ward it was doubtful.

“You were staring, you nutter – you wanted her to think you’re going to be a creeper?” Leo makes an injured noise and punches his arm again and he sighs. “Remember Cynthia? We are not doing that again.”

And that’s when Leo tries to put him into a headlock and it quickly dissolves into a slap fight.

Weeks later, floating in the ocean, Ward will ask him, a bit edgy, if he’s going to be weird about being saved by a girl and he’ll honestly say, “I’m not sure anyone would call you a girl – but no, I’m just glad to be alive. Also I’m fairly sure if Leo had jumped I wouldn’t be – he’s never been even tandem skydiving before.” And Ward will laugh, which will light something warm in James’ chest that he won’t want to examine too closely.

Chapter Text

The base is clear – or at least clear for the moment. May and Marius, and Coulson and Porcia are doing sweeping perimeter checks, their voices in their ears keeping them updated.

Skye is fluttering around, Silvanus staying oddly docile as he examines the scene with concern.

“Can’t you rig something up, Fitz?” Skye asks.

Fitz puts his hands on his hips and narrows his eyes. “With what Skye? I’m not a miracle worker!” Aelia screeches from his shoulder in support of him.

Tatiana has her teeth bared at the both of them, lying against Ward’s side. She’s allowed Jemma to get close though – and she’s ignoring the other two as she checks Ward’s vitals.

She lets out a breath and slouches back, Valerius at her back to catch her as always, when she finds that while he’s deeply unconscious there’s nothing else, obviously, wrong with him. A concussion is always a concern, but she’s fairly sure they drugged him with something so waking him up will have to wait until they’re back on the plane and she can find out what, exactly, was done to him.

She ignores Skye and Fitz who have now involved their daemons in their verbal fight, and instead taps her earpiece to transmit. “Coulson, May, have either of you come across a gurney or a cart of some sort that we could move Ward with? Tatiana has also told me she’s injured and can’t walk – so something large would be best.”

“Well – for next time then! Make an easy way for us to move daemons without touching them!” Skye’s voice cuts through their agreement to look in her ear and Jemma rubs the bridge of her nose.

“That’s…actually not a bad idea…” Fitz sounds surprised, and Jemma knows what’s coming even before Skye’s indignant snort.

“Oh yeah, shocking that I could have one of those!”

Valerious growls at the both of them, lips peeled back to show his mouthful of pretty fangs, and it seems to at least surprise them to a softer volume.

Tatiana closes her eyes and rests her head more securely over Ward’s chest. Jemma reaches for his hand again to keep track of his pulse because something about seeing the normally alert hyena-daemon so unaware makes her more worried than she was even moments ago.

After what feels like ages, May says that she’s found a rolling table and will be there soon. Jemma lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and Valerious rumbles a soothing purr against her back.

It takes all of them to move Ward onto the table – not because May couldn’t lift him herself, but because Jemma insists that they try to keep him as steady as they can incase there’s something wrong with him she hasn’t been able to diagnose. Then they’re faced with moving Tatiana.

Marius can’t really help and stays perched on May’s shoulder as Aelia tries to help Tatiana stay steady against Valerius’ side, with Silvanus and Porcia acting as support. It becomes clear quickly that she won’t be able to walk all the way back, however, and the daemons aren’t going to be able to lift her up onto the table.

Jemma bites her lower lip and leans down so she can meet Tatiana’s slightly glazed eyes. “One of us will have to lift you up – it will be easier with more of us do you –“

“Just you.” Tatiana’s voice always sounds like syrup over sandpaper to Jemma, rare as it is to hear.

“Are you…sure?” She is honestly expecting that if anyone it would be May, or maybe Skye. It isn’t a secret that Ward and May are sleeping together, or at least were – although she suspected it is supposed to be. And usually lovers have more daemon rights than…anyone else. And Skye is clearly in love with him but…Tatiana is still staring her down and so she nods. “Alright.”

She still needs a little help from the daemons. Tatiana only weighs around seventy kilos – something she couldn’t carry for long, but is fine for a short distance – but she wants to try to keep her as steady as possible so she doesn’t get injured in the process.

With only some minor swearing, Tatiana ends up on the table and half on Ward. Jemma is surprised by how soft her wiry looking hair actually is, and she almost doesn’t want to stop touching her. But that’s – that’s not a relationship she and Ward have, so she lets go and steps back so that Coulson and Fitz can push the table while May and Skye guard them. She grabs Ward’s wrist to make sure there’s no effect of the drug on his heart overtime and walks alongside the cart.

She doesn’t want to let go of him, either, when they finally get back on the Bus.

Again, everyone moves Ward onto a bed while Jemma directs, and then she and the daemons move Tatiana onto the small cot pressed up against the side of the bed. Tatiana only snarls a little when Aelia grips too hard, but otherwise moves quietly.

And then May is off to get them out of there and Fitz and Skye, still arguing, head to the kitchen. Coulson watches her for a moment before giving her a nod and saying, “Let me know when he’s conscious – or if we need to stop anywhere.”

She nods and smiles and he’s gone and then she’s faced with Ward and Tatiana – both with their eyes closed – and Valerius giving her a knowing look.

It’s a conversation they’ll have, later, when no one could potentially wake up and hear it or walk in. Valerius gives her encouragement in the form of nudging her hip with his head until she’s laughing and then purring hard enough to shake her body before curling up on the other bed and passing out.

She’s just analyzing Ward’s blood when Tatiana starts whimpering and thrashing, and she’s there as quickly as she can, hand hovering until a particularly sad whine and then petting and soothing. Tatiana doesn’t wake up, but quiets under her murmuring reassurances and pets.

Jemma is shaking badly enough that she has to sit down for a minute before going back to her analysis.

He’s sleeping with May, or was – he’s probably in love with Skye. There is not anyone worse her heart could’ve chosen.

And yet…

Tatiana wanted her. That has to mean something.

Right?

Chapter Text

Jemma hasn’t been home in years. It’s not that she doesn’t love her parents, she absolutely does, it’s just that it’s easier to love them from a distance where she doesn’t have to worry about her mother lecturing her about tradition or her dad trying to guilt her into doing something more “appropriate” with her time.

She has had to make some allowances, however, and there are certain responsibilities she cannot ignore.

So two days before her twenty-seventh birthday she heads home.

Twenty-seven is a very important year, traditionally, and she’s dreading it.

Even worse is the knowledge that the team is heading off to deal with another 0-8-4 and they can’t delay.

She worries about them the entire time she’s home. (She knows that she’s focusing her worry on that instead of what should be, traditionally, coming because she’s trying to pretend it’s not going to happen.)

She’s doubly relieved when she heads back to the Bus.

Fitz had called her the day before and told her everything had gone fine, and her parents hadn’t brought up her duties and no one other than family had even been around for her birthday.

So everything is going much better than expected.

Three weeks later it all comes crashing down on her head.

They’ve been given two days of downtime, and so Skye drags her and May to a spa to have some “girl time”. The massage and the hot water make her feel drowsy and content, and so when she walks into the common area on the Bus it takes her a moment to realize what she’s seeing.

There’s a glass bauble in the middle of the table, and when she walks in Ward is just reaching for it.

“Wait, don’t touch…” she trails off as his fingers curl around the clear glass. “Bugger.”

Fitz looks up from the counter where he’s eating and flashes her an alarmed look – but neither of them have the chance to say anything before the room has gone dark and there’s sparks going off everywhere.

Jemma sighs as there’s a clap of thunder – even though it was perfectly pleasant outside seconds ago – and then there’s a flash of stars that she knows for a fact will stay behind her eyelids for days.

She can hear everyone else swearing – May she’s sure has gone for her gun and she can hear Coulson calling out, “Is everyone okay?”

She rubs the bridge of her nose and closes her eyes tightly in anticipation.

There’s a spark of lighting and a crack, and when she opens her eyes it’s to watch a rain of glitter fall down around the figure who’s now standing in the middle of their common area.

She grimaces.

Glitter is a nightmare to clean up and this is especially troublesome. She leans down to scoop some up, and sighs again when she sees it’s millions of little J’s, stars, hearts and 27’s.

“What is going on?” Coulson asks, his voice at its harmless best.

The figure standing in the middle of the glitter eruption holds out his arms and smirks at her, completely ignoring Coulson.

She drops the glitter and points a finger at him – which makes him frown. Everyone but Fitz has a gun pointed at him, but he’s steadily ignoring those.

“Dad. No.” She says, trying to draw up her best impression of her mother. “Leave.”

She can hear Skye choking and muttering, “Dad?” to herself, but she ignores her – putting blinders on so she can pretend that he hasn’t just ruined her life.

“My little jewel, you know I can’t do that!” He suddenly has the bauble that Ward had picked up in his hand and it’s dancing across his fingers. “You have a suitor, and he has to play the game.”

She grimaces and waves a hand through the air. “No dad, it’s not like that. He’s not a suitor, he didn’t know what it meant.”

Her dad’s smile is sharper, all of a sudden, and she can hear the click of safeties being turned off around her. “Well, he’ll learn. Besides, he could be good for you – all that darkness to balance you out.”

She valiantly resists the urge to look at Ward, who she wouldn’t have called dark even at the beginning, awkward maybe, or traumatized but not…She shakes the thought away and plants her hands on her hips. “Dad, no.”

He tilts his head to the side and says, “Dad, yes.” And then he vanishes in another flash of stars – this time taking Ward with him.

Jemma has to bite her tongue not to say the words that will summon him again so she can avoid the interrogation that she’s sure is about to take place. Instead she turns with a grimace to the disbelieving faces of the rest of the team. Well, everyone except for Fitz who got wished away by his older sister when he was very young and knows how this goes.

 

 

Chapter Text

Simmons is staring wide eyed around them for a moment before she scampers off, muttering to herself about samples. They appear to be in a, he wants to say grassy but the purple stuff on the ground is most definitely not grass, field of some kind, ringed by…tree things. He can hear the call of animals in the distance and he’s really hoping that none of them are the human eating kind.

“What – get back here Simmons!” Grant warily eyes their alien surroundings, trying not to step on anything that looks suspicious, while following her.

She scoffs and scampers from a bright blue bush over towards a tree that looks more like a skeleton than anything but a skeleton should. “I’m not going to do what you say, you’re HYDRA.”

He rolls his eyes but follows her, hand on his gun. “You didn’t listen to me when I was SHIELD either.”

“You were never SHIELD, you were just pretending. Like a – like a mimic!” She makes a cooing noise that is not adorable and trims some bark to put in a sample bag that, of course, she is carrying with her. “Why do you care anyways, if I run off?” she asks, carefully scraping something off a leaf and into her bag.

He rolls his eyes. “Because running off on your own on an alien world is how you get yourself killed.”

She finally straightens and meets his eyes. “And what do you care about me getting killed?”

He holds his hands out at his sides to show how harmless he is. “I don’t want you to die, Simmons.”

She scoffs and points a finger at him, hand on her hip, her voice is sharp but not at all intimidating as she says, “You can drop the rubbish, Ward. I didn’t believe that lie before you kidnapped Bobbi and tried to make her watch Lance die and I certainly don’t buy it now. Besides, you know I’d kill you if you hadn’t taken my gun within seconds of our landing.”

He shrugs. “Oh, Bobbi I want dead. And May and maybe Coulson. But not you.” He considers and offers her a sweet smile. “Or Fitz.”

She scowls at him and bites out, “The feeling is not mutual,” before turning back to her sample collecting.

He leaves her to it but stays close, following when she scampers to test some flowers.

He doubts that Lorelei would’ve dropped them on this planet if it’s safe – not with how she was practically foaming at the mouth over their part in her capture. (And if he ever sees Sif he is going to shoot her – not that he honestly expects better security from Asgardians, but just on principle.) Lorelei he also wants to shoot, but she’d started talking before he’d drawn his gun, and now he is kind of glad for it.

Because he and Simmons are stuck on an alien world with only each other, and if there is danger she is going to have to rely on him, plus it’s Simmons, at some point she’ll get tired of being quiet and will talk to him out of desperation. It’s really inevitable. And if they are stuck there long enough, he’ll be able to get her sympathy.

Which doesn’t mean he’s not going to shoot Lorelei the next time he sees her. But he can want her dead and be grateful.

To the left of him, Simmons makes a delighted noise when a bird thing gets scared out of the bushes and he grins to himself. It’s just a matter of time.

 

 

Chapter Text

She holds out for longer than he’s expecting. He is grudgingly impressed, despite it being the exact opposite of what he’d been hoping for.

Of course, it can’t last.

He’s just not expecting the break to come when it does – it doesn’t come when she’s patching him up after he’s managed to kill some giant scaled thing that had been trying very hard to eat them. Though he is willing to take the fact that she is patching him up as a good sign. (He did save her life, so it’s probably only fair.)

He might break a little bit, but she doesn’t.

“But did you see the horns!” He knows he sounds dazed – he might have a concussion, though she seems more concerned about the lacerations down his side.

“Yes, Ward. I saw the horns. You did very well.” She pats his uninjured shoulder and then starts to use the pommel of his knife to grind some of the leaves she’s collected into a paste. It’s the most she’s said to him in nearly a week – the first week she had lots to say, mostly weird English insults, but since then she’d started ignoring him as best she could. So it’s kind of nice to hear her voice, even if he’s absolutely sure she’s humoring him.

Feral living on an alien planet is good for her. She’s tanner than he’s ever seen her, and though her hair is greasy and combed back strictly, there’s a liveliness in her eyes and a twist to her lips that he can’t help but admire.

He blames that thought on the possible concussion as well.

He’s almost fully healed a few days later. The plants she’s been rubbing into his side are helping to almost an alarming extent. But when he asks if he’s going to get some crazy super powers from them she just gives him a dry look and points at where the thing that attacked them is roasting on the fire.

He takes her point.

She doesn’t go exploring until he’s healed nearly fully – which is a good sign as far as he’s concerned. Especially since that thing ate their guns and now all they have for defense are the weird spears and knives he made out of the things horns.

Her break comes then – when they’re exploring another section of the planet. They’ve been slowly and systematically covering it in a grid pattern, with her collecting samples as they go. (He’s still not sure how she knew to put that plant on his wound, and he’s afraid that asking would make her say she thought they were maybe poisonous, so he’s going to avoid asking.)

She’s taking point, horn knife in her hand, and he’s following, eye over his shoulder because there had been a noise, when suddenly she stops and lets out a loud cry.

He turns quickly, and gets whipped in the face by a branch for his effort, to see that she’s not getting mauled, but is instead burying herself in some vined plant. It’s all weirdly orange, including the little bulbs that he realizes she’s collecting.

“What is it?” he asks, after a long moment of her filling her satchel with them.

She grins at him, bright over her shoulder, and he arches an eyebrow. But she’s turned back around before she can see his disbelief. “I think they’re probably a relative of the passion fruit!”

He’s never actually seen one – though he’s had deserts and drinks with them as ingredients, so he just shrugs and surveys the area around them again. 
“And that’s good news?”

He’s half expecting the response she had for the first week – a sharp “I just want this! For Science! Go away!” So it’s definitely a relief when instead she nods enthusiastically, before waving him forward. “Come help me.”

This is the first time she’s asked him for help – even when she was being attacked she didn’t call for him, just screamed – and that is a very good sign, so even though he thinks he should probably keep watching for other things that might want to do them harm, he leans his spear against a nearby tree and steps forward.

She’s grabbing all of them, but some she plucks and some she doesn’t, so he reaches out for one and asks, “Which ones are ripe?”

She smiles up at him, again, wiping sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand and spreading a smear of dirt in a line across it in the process. “You can tell by weight – the heavier it is the riper it is.”

Then – and this is what he considers the break – she grabs his hand and moves him to one of the globes, saying, “See how light this one is?” before moving him to another one that looks identical to the first, but has actual weight in his hand when she cups his around it. He nods and plucks the second, she smiles brilliantly at him and then goes back to her own harvesting.

“So, why are we so excited by these?”

She hums under her breath and uses his shoulder to steady herself as she reaches up to test some of the higher fruit. He doesn’t point out that he can reach them easily. “If they are related, like I think they are, then we have something else to eat! And a potential weapon. The flesh is edible, but the seeds are a somnifacient! If I can figure out how to best weaponize it we can spread it on our knives and have a huge advantage, even over creatures much larger than us.”

He smiles at her, purposefully gentle, and teases. “I think I handled the first one fairly well.”

She glances at him, and she’s serious, but her hand is still on his shoulder and warm. “You did. I think it was a baby.”

He feels a chill down to his toes and eyes the plant again. “Right. So good news on the plant.”

She nods back at him, serious.

(It turns out the flesh is edible – and the seeds will knock either of them on their ass with a single one swallowed. She makes fun of how he swooned for days – and he scowls about it, but it’s definitely a win.)

Chapter Text

“I look ridiculous,” Jemma says, tugging self consciously at the shirt that Skye has poured her into.

“You look hawt.”

Jemma narrows her eyes at her closest friend and tries to tug the collar up a bit more. “I look like I’m going to have a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ soon.”

Skye pouts for only a moment before bouncing back to her feet, like always. “Okay, okay, I can see you’re not a fan – how about the blue shirt, you liked that one more!”

Knowing that this was probably Skye’s plan all along – to force her into some outlandish fashion just so she’d agree to the still not modest, but much more comfortable outfit she would’ve otherwise rejected – doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, and she makes a face but happily tugs the impossibly tight black tank top up and tosses it as far away as she can before accepting the v-necked shirt Skye is holding out for her.

She doesn’t even try to bargain out of the skirt – instead she simply takes it off and pulls on her own jeans – the tightest jeans she owns which Skye absolutely talked her into buying – staring the other woman down the whole time. Skye raises her hands in surrender and Jemma pretends that she isn’t probably wearing exactly what Skye wanted her in.

“Can we go now?” She sounds petulant to her own ears – forgivable because only Skye is around, and she may be working on her third doctorate, but around Skye she finds it easy to act like she’s only nineteen, and she never gets judged for it.

Skye claps, excited, much to Jemma’s dawning horror, and says, “Sure, as soon as we put the glitter on!”

By the time dusk is setting over the festival grounds, Jemma is slightly less glittery but significantly dustier and sweatier – it’s fun though. Even if she’s pretty sure her and Skye’s entire meandering path could be traced if someone wanted to just follow the glitter.

They’ve managed to fight their way to a section of the fence that’s only a little off of center, and even if Jemma has had to elbow a person or two, it’s fine and they’re settled for The Splinterbombs and Skye is practically vibrating with excitement next to her. She’s not much better – the energy of the crowd is infectious, and even if Skye hadn’t absolutely gotten her addicted to their music she’s fairly sure she’d be extremely excited right then regardless.

The lights go down and the sound of the crowd swells around her – and she shamelessly stands up on the barricade and joins them, Skye doing the same right beside her.

Slowly the noise of the crowd dies down and she feels like she’s standing on the edge of a cliff. The lights are still down but she can see movement on the stage and she’s holding her breath without meaning to. Then in a rush of heat the lights are up and there’s a note vibrating from the electric guitar and – they aren’t close enough to touch. There is an entire gulf of space where the security guards stalk, but it feels like they’re close enough to touch.

She’s not sure where to look – there’s so much to see and she doesn’t want to miss anything, but as Where Does She Hide the Gun fades into Ghosts of the Fallen, Grant Ward catches her eye. She knows it’s likely an optical illusion, that he’s not actually looking at her and meeting her eyes but she feels electricity down her spine like he is and she doesn’t even care.

She only manages to drag her gaze away from him during the main refrain of 0-8-4 and that’s because Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Morse comes on as a guest singer and she’s amazing. Bobbi stays for the next two songs (Cephalopod Love and Clairvoyant) and Jemma’s gaze remains fixed on her until she’s gone.

It still looks like Grant Ward is looking at her. (But when Antoine Triplett takes a break to drink some water and chat with the audience, Jemma can hear the girls next to her squealing over Grant looking at them, and that brings her back to earth more than anything else could’ve. Still, it’s hard to look away when he’s looking in her direction, even if it’s not at her.)

They finish their set with T.A.H.I.T.I. and leave the stage – but Jemma can see from where she’s let the crowd press her tightly up against the barrier that they leave all of their instruments plugged in, so when they come back after only five minutes of the crowd chanting “Encore” she’s glad but not surprised.

What she is surprised about is that they don’t launch immediately into a song – instead Antoine laughs into the microphone and says, “It’s a special night for us – five years to the day since we started playing together! And so we’ve decided to make it a special night for one of you!” The crowd cheers, Jemma joining in though she doesn’t understand what he means.

Then he’s hopping down off the stage and the push at her back is painful – because now he is within touching distance. He grins and comes towards her – and then leans into Skye. There’s a camera right there suddenly and Jemma can see their faces on the big screen – dazed and overly glittered.

“Hey beautiful,” he says to Skye, and Jemma is fairly sure she looses feeling in her arm with how tightly Skye is squeezing it, “What’s your name and what’s your favorite song of ours?”  

Skye doesn’t even seem phased on the screen, although Jemma is sure she’ll have bruises, as she grins and says, clearly into the microphone he holds out, not shy at all, “I’m Skye and my favorite song is T.A.H.I.T.I., so I’m good – but you haven’t played my best friend’s favorite song yet!”

And somehow Jemma ends up with the microphone right in front of her face. She blushes, a bit, but Skye’s grip on her arm is firm and brings her some comfort, so she only stutters for a moment before managing, “My name’s Jemma and my favorite song is Vault D.” It’s one of their first songs, and it’s always been her favorite – and it is completely incidental that it’s one of the few songs that Grant sings some vocals on.

Antoine claps his hands together and makes some incomprehensible gesture at security before heading back for the stairs. “There we go then – we’ll be singing Vault D as our closing song, and it will be dedicated to Jemma.” He tosses her a wink, very visible on the screen – and then the camera is focusing back on her and she knows she’s blushing up a storm but also smiling wide enough to split her face.

This time she’s sure Grant is staring at her – but so isn’t Leo, as best he can behind the drums, and Antoine and Lance – the song is apparently dedicated to her, after all. When it’s over she feels a little drunk, despite the fact that the only thing she’s had but water all day was a lemonade. She turns to Skye, cheeks splitting on her smile, and finds the other girl holding two backstage passes.

“You didn’t even notice, did you? The security guard tried to give it to you but you didn’t even notice!” Skye’s bouncing in place and Jemma doesn’t even mind the teasing because they havebackstage passes!

She doesn’t think the night could get better – but she’s wrong.

Bobbi talks to her for nearly half an hour and she thinks she might just die – and then the band is there and giving her and Skye sweaty hugs and it’s – it’s amazing.

And the band is so genuinely nice to them (and the other people with backstage passes, although Jemma would be hard pressed to give a defining characteristic of even a single one of them) and it’s incredible.

She has to admit she’s a little taken aback when she overhears a girl leaning into Antoine (“Call me Trip, please!”) and asking if he wants to get out of there – but he makes a joke and she backs off. But then she’s more aware and she cannot admit how much her heart falls when Grant looks contemplative when a girl says, “Come home with me,” to him. But he says no and Jemma looks away and doesn’t want to examine her ridiculous crush too closely.

She wants, then, to leave before anything else happens, but Skye is in the middle of a discussion with Fitz over earthquakes she thinks and she looks so happy that she doesn’t want to disturb her.

She’s glad of that, hours later, when Grant nudges her awake from her catnap on their couch and offers her a hand. “We’re going to get pancakes, be my date?”

Chapter Text

"I have multiple personalities and none of them like you."

The inhuman she’s examining stares at her with big frightened eyes, but the woman finally stops moving and sits still out of some impotent flight response.

Jemma sighs and removes the blood pressure cuff before waving one of her assistants over. “But I am a professional and despite my dislike, I won’t let anything happen to you when you’re in my care.” The multiple voices of the Kree in her head are telling her the easiest way to kill the woman, but she has practice at ignoring them. 

Strong arms wrap around her waist and every one of the voices fall silent. “Hey girl,” he says into the crown of her head and she smiles and melts back against him. 

She smiles and tilts her head back for her kiss. “When did you get back?” 

He laughs and kisses her twice, softly. “An hour ago, just finished debriefing.” 

She turns so she can wrap her arms around his neck, the voices stay silent. They know better than to try to get her to kill him, despite his inhuman status – she tends to block their noises out by having him pin her against the nearest surface and not let her up until she can’t remember her own name, until all she can pay any attention to is the feeling of him moving in her. She’s pretty sure it managed to traumatize the voices, but as long as they understand he’s off limits she doesn’t care.

“Have you eaten?” 

He drops another kiss on her upturned lips and grins cockily at her. “Uh huh, ate before I came – brought some back for you.” He tilts his head and looks around the ward. “What are you doing here, anyways?”

She wrinkles her nose and taps the side of her head, saying, “Coulson likes to make me examine the inhumans when they come in for their check up to make sure that if I get taken over they’ll know immediately, instead of after I’ve stolen a warhead or something.” 

He rolls his eyes at her and leans down to kiss her again, mumbling, “I missed you,” against her lips. 

She hums in agreement, so glad he’s back and safe she’s filled to bursting – since he appeared, coalescing after floating shapeless for months, days after her own absorption of the Kree minds, just the thought of losing him is enough to send her spiralling. She’s told Coulson that if anything happens to Trip again they are going to need to restrain her – though she only told him as a gesture of faith since the voices assure her she’ll be able to get out of anything and rain revenge on anything and anyone who has harmed her lover.

Chapter Text

“So,” she asks, head tilted like she’s not concerned that she’s chained to a chair, “have you ever considered switching sides?”

Bakshi laughs and leans forward. “My dear –“

“I’m not your dear and I’m not talking to you,” she says with pursed lips, looking the most put out she has so far. Her gaze is fixed on Grant, standing two steps behind Bakshi’s left shoulder.

He arches an eyebrow at her and she smiles back.

It is…distressingly sunny.

Bakshi glances over his shoulder, reflexively, and Grant is stone-faced again, staring forward.

Bakshi has to clear his throat, and even then he sounds incredulous when he demands, “Are you trying to steal my specialists from me? You’re hardly in a position to barter for them, Miss Simmons.”

Grant has to fight not to smile, because the look she turns on Bakshi is so unforgiving that it actually makes his spine stiffen – which is impressive for someone who up until this moment has looked like personified sunshine. “It’s Doctor Simmons, actually. I have two doctorates of philosophy, both in fields you probably cannot pronounce, have some respect Mr. Bakshi.”

Bakshi spreads his hands, friendly. “Fine, fine, Dr. Simmons. You’re very smart, we know. Which is why I’d like to discuss –“

She scoffs, loudly, and Grant has to admit that he’s impressed – her file says that she’s a SHIELD scientist, never in the field and poor at lying. So either the file was terribly wrong, or she was prepped for this kidnapping. Given how her gaze is still fixed on him, he’s betting on the latter.

“Grant, can I call you Grant? Would Agent Ward be preferable? I’m flexible on –“

It’s Bakshi’s turn to interrupt her, which he does by slamming a hand down on the table. She actually looks concerned for the first time, but it’s still a loss for Bakshi, as far as Grant is concerned, that kind of loss of composure on his part speaks well for how well she’s doing in this interrogation so far. Grant wonders if he’s just offended the pretty scientist isn’t paying attention to him.

“Miss Simmons! I can’t let you do that – you cannot possibly believe that Ward would be tempted to your side – he’s always been loyal and –“

“Is he loyal to you, though?” she interrupts with a funny little smile, though Bakshi continues to talk over her like he hasn’t heard.

“—isn’t exactly known for treating deserters well.”

She scoffs again and her gaze doesn’t waver from where she’s staring at Grant. “Point the first, The Black Widow. Point the second, The Winter Soldier. Point the thir—“

Bakshi laughs at her. “You cannot be comparing him to them!”

She blinks and her gaze drops to Bakshi. She tilts her head curiously and asks, “Why not? I’ve seen his file – and theirs. He’s an amazingly skilled specialist –“

Bakshi chortles and shakes his head. “Yes, yes, he’s very good. But he’s hardly on their level.”

She blinks and purses her lips, staring in confusion at Bakshi for a moment before raising her gaze to Grant again. “Remind me, when I’m giving you the actual sell later, to add the bullet point of giving you the recognition you deserve, would you? I’m not great at on the fly, so I memorized the sell and – honestly, I just assumed that one went without saying but…” She shakes her head like she’s confused and it’s a fight to keep from smiling at her.

Bakshi hisses between his teeth and makes a sharp gesture with his hand, which Grant knows is his own dismissal. It’s the move that should’ve been made about five minutes ago, when this started, but he still resents it. He wants to know, now, what the actual sell is. What this Doctor Jemma Simmons thinks will be so convincing that she let herself get ‘napped to try to offer it to him.

He leaves, although he can hear her speaking quickly as he does. “HYDRA had the formula that could’ve saved your mentor but they wanted to use it on their higher ups! We want you to raise charges against your brother! Our redemption program is –“

The door is heavy steel and once it’s shut all the way he cannot hear anything in the room. He wonders what she was going to say about their redemption program.

About twenty minutes later, he’ll wonder who managed to miss the panic button or tracker the scientist clearly had as the entire base comes down around their ears. He’ll be gone by then, of course, chasing his own leads about Garrett’s death. And then four days later, he’ll show up at the secret SHIELD base where Doctor Jemma Simmons works to turn himself in, and she’ll smile at him over the interrogation table and say how happy she is he decided to accept her offer.

Chapter Text

It’s been months since she last saw him. She’d like to say that it’s been just as long since she last thought of him, but even while she’s practicing lying she doesn’t like doing it to herself.

She thinks about getting a board, the kind they used to have in factories, “It’s been this many days since I’ve thought of him”, but it would constantly be at zero because just seeing it would remind her, so.

Still, some days he’s just a single thought, and other days it’s like he’s haunting her wherever she goes.

Today is one of the latter and it’s not until she’s settled back home after a long day working in the Stark Labs that she realizes why. She’s humming the song that’s been stuck in her head since she heard it in the elevator and the lyrics finally come to her.

It’s The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

It was the song they had their first dance to, at the wedding.

She drops the Scientific American she was browsing and cradles her head in shaking hands. She can still remember it perfectly. The rock patio with a sky full of fairy lights, his hand callused and sure cradling her to him, the little chuckle he gave when she almost tripped over her dress, how he couldn’t stop smiling softly down at her – how she couldn’t stop smiling soppily up at him.

Her heart aches.

He had leaned down and sung part of it into her ear, his voice soft and rough and full of emotion, “And when I touch you, I feel happy inside. It’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide, I can’t hide.”

She chokes on a sob and curls up tightly.

Lies. All lies. From when he vowed to cherish her and protect her and always be by her side to when he’d whispered to her over dinner how much he loved her – and especially when he told her he couldn’t hide from her.

He’d always been hiding from her. He’d never been real.

Her Grant was just a cover, a pale, safe imitation of the real thing. Her Grant wanted her and loved her and couldn’t hide from her.

Her Grant doesn’t exist.

She wishes he had died – that Coulson had let him bleed out during one of his numerous suicide attempts. At least that way she could mourn him, she could pretend.

Instead she’s stuck with the truth. Her Grant doesn’t exist and the real Grant doesn’t want her. (Not, of course, that she’d want the real Grant even if he did.)

She can’t find her Beatles CD’s, and so she downloads the song on her phone so that she can curl up around it while she sobs herself to sleep. She tells herself it’s like lancing a wound, letting the poison out. But she doesn’t feel any better when she wakes up with a dehydration headache and red puffy eyes.

Five days later May contacts her to let her know that Grant has escaped.

Chapter Text

She was eyeing him warily, which was fair as his hands were clenched tight into fists and there was a muscle jumping in his jaw that never meant anything good.

“Ward…I’m fine. Really. I promise,” she said, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on him. She glanced helplessly at Skye, who was still trying not to laugh in the corner. She wet her lips and tried again. This time she reached out to grab his arm, wrapping her fingers tight enough to dig in.

His gaze focused on her and she had to fight not to flinch. She was afraid that would just upset him more. “I am fine,” she said, managing to keep her voice even.

His hands framed her face in an instant, and she barely managed to avoid flinching. He tilted her face slightly so that the overhead light highlighted the bruise curving down her cheek. His voice was a growl when he finally spoke – and that seemed to clue Skye into the fact that this wasn’t a laughing matter, “No, you’re not.”

Jemma curled her hand over his on her face and met his eyes squarely. “It’s just a bruise, Ward. I’m fine.”

This was the third time the rage of the staff had reappeared, months later, in someone who had touched it. May had destroyed three punching bags before they’d managed to get another stock of the tea that she insisted helped.

Both times with Ward had been because Jemma got injured.

Last time he’d simply prowled around – but last time it had been her own clumsiness, this time the one responsible was still being debriefed.

His lip curled in a snarl and she tightened her grip on his hand. “I promise, Ward, it’s just a bruise. It was an accident. I’m fine.”

He let out a slow breath, his thumb sweeping over her hand in distracting patterns, and gave an infinitesimally small nod.

She wanted to ask if she could monitor his vitals – he was still clearly agitated, color high on his cheeks and eyes fever bright with his pulse visibly jumping in his throat – but hadn’t decided on the phrase that would most make him agree before Coulson and Mike emerged from his office in that moment. Ward was standing in an instant, shoulders tense as he stood directly in front of Jemma.

She peered around his frame and saw Mike make a face that she interpreted as half apology and half concern – she nodded at him. He’d already apologized twenty or so times, and though she was sure he’d be trying again were it not for Ward, she really didn’t need it. It had been an accident, and while it did hurt, she’d heal and it was fine.

Mike retreated towards the quarters, and Coulson headed back into his office, clearly washing his hands of this matter.

Ward waited for half a second before starting after Mike – and Jemma managed to grab his wrist before he’d taken more than a step. “Grant, don’t.”

He turned around and gently pried her fingers from his wrist before cradling her hand with one of his and tracing the air above her injury with the other. “I’m just going to talk to him.”

She twisted her hand to grab his and widened her eyes in earnest. “I’m fine. Please don’t hurt him, it was an accident.”

His thumb swept soothingly over her pulse point as he said, completely unconvincingly, “I promise that I will talk to him – gently.”

Before she could protest more he’d dropped a kiss to the back of her hand and was out the door.

Skye clearing her throat broke Jemma out of her frozen state.

The two exchanged a very worried look for three beats before rushing after Ward.

Chapter Text

Never let it be said that Grant Ward isn’t pragmatic.

Oh not his cover. His cover wishes he was pragmatic while being painfully idealistic.

He doesn’t consider the effect this might have on him until he wakes up with his head in Simmons’ lap. She’s talking into the walkie talkie, telling May something about disappearing that it takes his mind a moment to understand. There’s another bad noise in the ship and the communication device fizzles.  He keeps his eyes closed.

He wants with a startling intensity to stay exactly where he is.

But he can’t.

She’s petting her fingers through his hair and smiling down at him when he flutters his eyes open and he has to remind himself that it doesn’t matter what he wants, it never has. He has a mission and he’s managed to successfully make a play with May that’s going to keep her off his scent and – it doesn’t matter what he wants.

She smiles down at him, warm and open, and says, “There he is.”

He wants to smile at her, instead he winces and doesn’t move, wincing a bit more obviously so that he can pretend that he’s really injured. “What happened?” he asks, grimacing.

She rubs his shoulder lightly and says, voice firm, “Well, we lost communication and you were hit with a very large plumbers wrench.”

“A wrench?” he questions, before pointing out that it could be used to loosen a coupling. He pretends to attempt to sit up and hisses between his teeth.

She holds his shoulders with strong hands, frowns down at him and runs her fingers through his hair again, back where he got hit. “I read a paper on concussions, but they’re not easy to diagnose and it’s mostly just waiting and – I know there’s something to do with pupil size, or maybe being unequal size but I don’t – I don’t know what to do.”

There’s a note of panic entering her voice and he knows that if it wasn’t just them she wouldn’t be showing it – but he held her in the water while she was unconscious and he helped her up the tree and she trusts him to calm her panic.

So he does.

He removes himself from her lap and wraps his arms around her.

He gives himself another minute to hold her – just until her breathing has evened out and when she speaks it’s not with a thread of alarm.

She babbles some theory at him that he only half understands. It’s his turn to pet his fingers through her hair. He lets himself enjoy it because no one else will ever know.

The radio crackles back to life, Coulson asking about them – he tells them that Fitz is okay and working on a way to break him and Skye out, and once they’re free they’ll come for them. He also says that they don’t know where May is and Jemma makes a worried noise into his chest.

By the time the door gets opened by Coulson, Fitz and Skye, Jemma is sitting calmly next to him, not too close and not too far, and they’re discussing possible solutions to the situation.

Hours later she checks him over for a concussion.

He doesn’t object when she insists on checking on him throughout the night, however.

Chapter Text

Jemma chokes on a sob and curls in a tighter ball. The pain lancing through her is unbearable. She feels nauseated and shocky. Her skin is clammy with sweat. There is roaring in her ears and she can’t hear anything but the sound of her own blood pumping – it sounds like an army on the march, each step down causing numbness to spread, each lift up stabbing pain.

His hand against her back, meant to be soothing – comforting – reassuring, knocks the breath out of her and her mouth opens in a scream her vocal chords are unable to produce. It feels like acid pouring against her naked back and she cannot get away from it.

Eventually he must realize that he is hurting, not helping, and the hand is removed. She can hear the tone of his voice, but no words make it through the haze of her mind.

This time he touches her hand, she can see him do it through her tears – she writhes hard enough that she cracks her head on the concrete floor, trying to get away from his touch. The sharp pain helps, and for a moment everything else recedes and she can see his panicked face, her lovely Grant, as he helplessly tries to talk to her.

When he picks her up to remove her from the cell she blacks out from the pain.

It’s not brainwashing, Trip tells Grant while he watches a heavily sedated Jemma sleep in the medical bay. He can’t get past the doors. As soon as he’s within five feet of her, regardless of her level of sedation, her heartbeat increases and she cries out in pain. Her vocal chords are damaged enough that she’s encouraged not to make any noise.

Just the sight of Grant makes her sob.

It’s not brainwashing. But they don’t know what it is and if they don’t know what it is they can’t fix it.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?” Jemma rubbed the bridge of her nose and tried not to scowl.

“I go by Gabe. Look, I have nowhere else to stay. I paid my rent up front but I do have a place in a month. I just have to stay here that long.” Gabe wasn’t doing anything like puppy dog eyes, though her words were pleading. Instead she looked defiant and a little angry.  and Jemma knew she couldn’t force her out.

Jemma sighed and admitted defeat. It was notoriously hard to find housing before summer in their town, and if Gabe only needed a place for a month, well, the other places she was going to find would either be health violations or unsafe. “I’ll make sure Skye gives you half of it back if you’re willing to share with me? I mean, it is my bed. You could also use the couch I suppose.”

They decided to share the bed.

Four days later over their traditional Sunday breakfast for dinner, Jemma stared across the formica table at Fitz.  

“You’ve slept with me before.” Skye’s head shot up and she stared at her boyfriend and best friend, but Jemma waved a hand through the air. “Just in a bed, no funny business Skye, calm down.”

Fitz carefully set his coffee down. “Yes?”

Jemma scowled and asked, “How was it?”

Skye sputtered silently as Fitz replied, “The worst. You gave me bruises that lasted for days and then managed to actually push me out of bed. Remember, we thought you might’ve given me a concussion that one time?”

Jemma narrowed her eyes and poked her hashbrowns. “So I didn’t like…cuddle you at all?”

Fitz stared at her in horror and drew out his, “Noooo.”

Jemma stabbed a pancake.

Skye raised a hand and asked, “Wait, what? Is this about Ward?”

Jemma shoved half the pancake into her mouth and glared more.

Skye tilted her head. “I bet her boobs make really great pillows.”

Fitz choked on his coffee.

Skye leaned forward on her elbows. “Alright, tell us what’s really up. Ward is totally your type, at least for girls – exhibit Bobbi – so what’s wrong with some cuddling?”

Jemma scowled more. “Yes, but I knew that Bobbi was interested and I wasn’t being a creeper and cuddling in her sleep without her permission.” She rested her elbows on the table and ran her fingers though her hair before resting her head in her hands. “This is a mess.”

Fitz stole some of her bacon while she was having her moral dilemma and then offered around a mouthful of it, “So, offer to take the couch, or tell her to take the couch. Maybe she likes the cuddles?”

“I hate you.”

The next day she resolved to talk to Gabe.

Skye stayed at Fitz’s for the next week. Which was only fair since she’d been the one to rent Jemma’s room while she was gone. Jemma couldn’t regret the outcome, however.

Chapter Text

Jemma is enjoying civilian life. It’s peaceful and quiet and no one has shot at her in months. It’s really everything she could’ve ever wanted.

It was originally just going to be a break for her, a kind of vacation to lick her wounds after she failed her field test badly enough that she was told she’d never get to go into the field – made worse by Fitz barely passing his and immediately getting assigned to a team. But then SHIELD was actually HYDRA and – in any case, she really was very happy working in her civilian lab and she had made a number of good friends already. It really was wonderful.

Except…Except that she has some trouble dating because everyone is so boring. She doesn’t want to have to flee a restaurant because of terrorists on her dates or anything, but just for them to be able to talk about something other than their Netflix queue would be a relief.

She doesn’t actually mind. Well, she does at first but she’s had a similar problem before when she was a decade younger in age than everyone else in the PhD program and a decade older in socialization from everyone her own age. So she does what she did then and she lets herself become completely immersed in the science. She misses dating, but it’s not the end of the world.

She knows what the end of the world looks like, and this is not it.

Her friends, however, completely oblivious to her history as a SHIELD agent, think it is the end of the world.

She sits through blind dates. She sits through joint dates. She sits through them making her multiple online dating profiles.

She smiles, she’s polite, she’s interesting and nearly all of the men and women she’s set up with are interested in second dates. She’s not.

Which is probably why Lizzie ends up hiring her a prostitute. She’s trying to shame Jemma into actually accepting one of the second dates from the mass of people who have asked for one.

It doesn’t work.

Jemma is used to going head to head with more stubborn people than Lizzie, and if the other woman thinks she can embarrass Jemma into something she clearly doesn’t understand her new friend very well.

Jemma is convinced Lizzie isn’t even really trying to embarrass her, not when the other woman sheepishly admits that she did hire Jemma a prostitute but she only paid the fee for him to escort her to one of the innumerable and tedious banquets their company put on and not for the actual sex portion. (Apparently she really had intended to buy Jemma a night to remember, but the amount of money had been more than she could afford.)

Jemma had scoffed when Lizzie had told her. Now staring up into the very brown eyes of her prostitute escort she regrets taking her friend’s challenge.

Because dear god.

He is, perhaps, the most attractive person she’s ever met in real life. There are certainly movie stars that are on an equal level with him, but she’s not sure she can think of anyone more attractive. But that might be because he’s real and he’s right there and he smells divine.

And he’s a prostitute her friend hired to escort her to a work function.

She has made a miscalculation. She should’ve just accepted the second date from Mark the hedge fund manager. That would be better than subjecting herself to endless sexual frustration with the knowledge that she could literally buy satisfaction – while also knowing herself well enough that even if it would feel good at the time she’d regret it for ages afterwards.

He’s still smiling down at her a little bit wickedly, waiting patiently as she picks her metaphorical jaw up off the floor.

“I’m Jemma Simmons,” she offers, weakly, and sticks out her hand to shake his.

Of course he kisses the back of it.

She feels it down to her toes.

“You can call me Grant, Jemma.”

She’s pretty sure the way he wraps his tongue around her name should be illegal. It probably falls under one of those decency laws.

He tucks her hand securely into the crook of his arm and starts walking her into the museum of modern art, which, inexplicably, is where her company is holding this event.

After only fifteen minutes – during which he is the most attentive date she’s ever had – she’s already reconsidered her stance on paying him for sex several times. She’s back to where she’s started, knowing that while she would enjoy the act it would probably bruise her feelings too much to be a good idea, when he asks her to dance.

And, of course, he’s an amazing dancer.

There’s some quote she’s seen, though she’s not sure who to ascribe it to, about dancing being like having sex with your clothes on, and if that’s the case than she can understand why Lizzie couldn’t afford to buy her more than an escort.

She takes ten minutes to herself to hyperventilate in the powder room.

Her phone chiming at her is eventually gets her moving, and she’s digging in her purse for it as she pushes open the door, sure it’s Lizzie trying to find her. She’s half resolved to see if she can buy Grant for the rest of the night.

 There are people, she can see, in the hallway, but she sidesteps around them while still staring into the depths of her bag. One of them grabs her arm and spins her around and she just has a moment to realize their black pants aren’t dress pants before they’re holding a rag of chloroform to her face.

Her last thought is that she really hopes they know how deadly the chemical can be and aren’t going to leave the rag on long enough for her to die.

Chapter Text

It was going to be tough taking charge without any pants on. But someone had to do it and that someone was going to be h—Simmons?!

“Alright you scum,” Simmons had her hands on her hips and didn’t seem at all perturbed that her light blue cotton underwear with little tiny kittens on them were on display to the entire ship of likewise unpantsed men. “This is psychological warfare and we are not going to stand for it!”

Her proclamation was met with a cheer while Skye stood back and felt way off balance. She really had assumed that Simmons would’ve been too shy in a situation where her pants had been vanished off her body to assert control.

Apparently she was wrong.

And Simmons had some nice legs.

She saw some of the men noticing and immediately stepped up, barking out, “What do you think you’re looking at!” to the now terrified crewman who was staring at the sky and mumbling at her.

Right. That was better.

They could both be in charge.

Chapter Text

"I have this completely under control."

Jemma raised an incredulous eyebrow and turned her head to stare pointedly at the metal bowl with the smoke rising from it.

Skye, leaning heavily on the counter, asked with a shaky voice, “Did…did the salad just catch on fire?”

Jemma hummed her confirmation before adding, sarcastically, “But don’t worry, because Lincoln has this completely under control.”

Lincoln scowled and reached for the bowl – though both Jemma and Skye sat up quickly and held out hands to stop him – before abruptly dropping it because the metal had heated quickly. “Son of a—“

And then Jemma was there, bodily getting him away from the still smoking bowl while Skye poured water into the remains of lettuce. Her hands were gently cradling his and he was distracted enough from the pain by her touch that he didn’t even notice when the burns started to fade – he was too busy watching her.

Finally she looked up with satisfaction, offering him a smile and only a slight blush. “There, all better.”

He cupped her face in his newly healed hands and leaned in to kiss her before echoing, “There, all better.”

They both ignored Skye gagging into the burnt salad behind them.

Chapter Text

Jemma had given up on struggling. Unlike Hunter who was rocking the chair he was tied to enough that she was quite sure he was going to knock it over, again.

It was actually quite sweet of him as most of his protestations and struggles were due to threats that were being leveled against her.

It had actually been a while since she’d last been threatened – let alone kidnapped. It was not something she missed.

Shake It Off started blaring through the room and Jemma fought back a hysterical giggle. Apparently she had managed something when she’d been trying to call someone when they were grabbed – she’d managed to turn the volume of her phone up to obnoxious levels.

As Taylor shook it off, the goons scrambled for her bag where it had been dumped on the table and, eventually, managed to cut off the noise. One of them sneered and flipped open the phone before laughing.

She scowled at them before demanding, “Well, aren’t you going to tell me what it says?”

Before one of them could ask what she’d give them for the knowledge, which she could absolutely see on the blond one’s face, the one holding the phone recited, “’Okay, you were right, this was a bad idea.’ What kind of a name is Skye? She hot?”

Jemma’s let out a huge breath of relief and collapsed on herself for only a moment – the bounds were uncomfortable unless she kept her shoulders back.

“Simmons! Simmons, what’s wrong?” Hunter demanded, trying to hop his chair further over towards hers.

She straightened back up, trying to take pressure off her wrists and shook her head. One of the creeps reached out and touched her cheek and she jerked away from him. He laughed. “Oh, we’re going to have fun with you.”

She scoffed and tilted her chin higher. “No you’re not.”

He grabbed her hair and leaned down into her face. “Oh, why not, baby?”

“Yeah, no. You don’t get to call her that,” Grant said, darkly, right before the man standing over her fell back screaming.

She could see that all eight of the other creeps were on the ground before Grant was there, blocking her view and cutting her free.

“Thanks mate, but who the bloody hell are you?” demanded Hunter as Jemma threw her arms around her husband and kissed him.

He let himself be distracted by her for only a moment before pulling back. Then he gave her one last quick kiss. “Hold that thought. Skye’s going to bring the building down in like five minutes so we’ve got to go.”

Chapter Text

"Don't act like you're surprised."

Grant continues to gape out the door that Simmons just sashayed out of before turning his attention to where Skye is leaning against the doorway.

“What?” he asks, unsure if he actually wants the answer. Simmons just walked in, pushed his book out of his hands, grabbed his ears and kissed him.

Enthusiastically. With tongue.

And then nodded to herself and left.

Skye rolls her eyes at him and crosses her arms. “Please, you cannot be surprised. You knew that was coming.”

Grant continues to gape – and then May is there, shaking him awake. Simmons is leaning over her shoulder, clearly concerned and holding a penlight that she immediately starts shining in his eyes.

“What?” he manages from a throat that is dry. He feels like someone hit him with a two-by-four.

Chapter Text

"So, how was prison?"

The woman he had been talking to paled rapidly and Grant sighed, knowing that when he turned around she was going to probably slip away. But if he didn’t turn around then Simmons was just going to make it worse. So he mentally bid adieu to the beauty he’d been chatting up and turned to look at where Simmons was leaning against the bar, grinning brightly at him.

“I wasn’t in prison,” he pointed out, eyeing her. She was looking well.

She smiled and shifted closer. “I know that, where did you go after?”

He arched an eyebrow. “You misunderstand, I wasn’t in prison because they kept me locked up in their own makeshift dungeon.”

She blinked and pulled back. “What? They caught you?”

“You’re the one who handcuffed me to the pipe.”

“Well, yes, but I expected you to get out of it. I just needed ten minutes of a lead.”

He scowled at her and did his best not to let her earnestness win him back over. “My wrist was broken, if you don’t remember.”

Her hand fluttered forward, fingers gently touching his wrist as she made a soft hurt noise in her throat that made him want to instinctively comfort her. He fought the urge back.

She swallowed heavily and her fingers settled more firmly on his wrist. “I did wonder why you didn’t come after me.”

He watched her carefully, let his tongue flick out over his lips and took careful note of how her pupils expanded at the move before asking, “You wanted me to, then?”

He had her hand trapped before she could pull back and he was gently tugging her in until he had her trapped between his thighs. She wet her lips and only had the chance to start to deny it before he’d dipped his head to take her lips in a chaste kiss.

She was the one who deepened it, a moment later.

Chapter Text

"You have five seconds to move that hand before I add it to my collection."

Jemma smiled and continued pipetting. She’d already asked the man to remove his hand, but she would need another minute in order to locate the appropriate acid to deal with the issue. Now that Grant was here she didn’t need to worry herself.

And yet, the hand didn’t move.

She didn’t bother to look over at the distasteful crunch of broken bones, or the pitiful scream and whimpers of the man in question. Grant had warned him.

Chapter Text

"The door is that way."

Grant pulled back from where he’d been pressing kisses into her bare shoulder in surprise.

She took the opportunity, and his distraction, to pull the blanket up around her and to roll away from him.

He reached for her and she stiffened, which made him hesitate, hand hovering over her covered side, “What are you saying, baby?”

She scoffed and freed an arm to point towards the door, “I’m saying the door is that way. It was fun, now get out.”

He stared at Jemma’s back, at her ruffled hair and the tense line of her spine and he knew, for a fact, that somehow she’d heard about some of the things that had been said on his latest mission. He was about to correct her – it had been for his cover he hadn’t meant it – when a knock came on the door.

He snarled, pulled on his pants and stalked to find out who was disturbing him. By the time the agent had debriefed, Jemma had locked the door behind him. So he stalked off to find someone to take his anger out on instead.

Chapter Text

"Wow, you're...really good at that."

That was moaned. Simmons was definitely moaning. Skye looked around, startled but alone so she couldn’t share her bemusement with anyone else.

She was pretty sure she should just turn back and leave. But she really wanted her twizzles and they were in the kitchen so she had to pass through the common area and…

Skye straightened her spine and stepped through the doorway.

Instead of the scandalous picture she had imagined, Simmons was sipping from a mug of something and Ward was sitting in a completely different chair.

Simmons looked up and smiled at Skye. “Oh my god, Skye, you have to try this, Ward makes the most divine hot chocolate!”

OR!

"Wow, you're...really good at that."

Jemma wasn’t even sure he’d heard her, she was mumbling into the pillow, but she didn’t have the energy to try to enunciate when she was feeling the most relaxed she had in months.

He chuckled and pressed a kiss against her shoulder. Though if he heard the words or just heard her mumbling was still unclear.

His hands continued to knead at her back, but now that most of the knots had been worked out they started to slip less innocent places, ghosting against the sides of her breasts, firm strokes all the way down her spine.

His lips were warm against her shoulder, again, before he leaned in to nuzzle the side of her neck and drop a soft kiss on her mouth. “Why don’t you roll over, baby?”

She hummed and turned over, stretching her arms over her head once she had and then smiling at him. “Hi.”

He grinned back, sharp and sure. “Hi there.”

She reached for him, but he only caught her hands and dropped a kiss first to the palm of one hand and then the other before guiding them back to her side.

“Try to relax,” he advised, and then he set his mouth to her.

And then, for a time, she was very tightly wound again. By the time she was drifting off to sleep, his arms secure around her, she was more relaxed than she’d ever been.

Chapter Text

"You're not going to freak out, and you're going to do this, and you're going to be fine."

“Probably. If you don’t faint or vomit like last time,” Lance added, helpfully.

Skye hit him. He scowled back and she hissed, “We’re trying to make her feel better, not worse, you ass!”

Across the room, Jemma paced, running her hands through her hair and chewing all the lipstick off her lips. She seemed happy to ignore the slap fight that Lance and Skye were engaging in as she contemplated the myriad of ways the night could go wrong.

Chapter Text

The bar was dingy and dim. It was the sort of place he would’ve normally felt right at home, if he wasn’t trying to hunt down one missing biochemist.

To make matters worse, this was the eighth dive bar he’d tried. It was a university town, so there was no end of dive bars – but he was certainly running out of patience.

It took two more bars before he found her.

She was playing pool and giggling – she was clearly drunk, though he didn’t know how. She looked similar to her older self, for sure, but she barely looked of age at twenty-seven, and now that she’d been de-aged to sixteen… He was a little ashamed at the bartender for being lax enough to serve her.

Not that, he admitted to himself looking around with a grimace, it looked like the place carded anyone.

He wasn’t sure about how the de-aging process worked – he had to admit that he would not have pegged Simmons for someone to wear such short skirts and flirt so much at sixteen. Hadn’t she already had two doctorates or something ridiculous by sixteen?

He was just resigning himself to waiting until she got bored when one of the assholes she was playing with grabbed her arse.

He started across the room in an instant – he tried to tell himself he wouldn’t have been as protective over properly aged Simmons but he knew that was a lie. Even at twenty-seven she was small and just brought up his protective instincts, but her at sixteen? Yeah, he wanted to introduce this man to his fist.

“Come on baby, you expect me to believe you haven’t done this before?” the man was asking, hand flexing against Simmons’ rear.

Lance flexed his hands and loosened his arms with a shake – he was two heads shorter than this prick but he was certain he’d had more training. “Hey –“ he started, only to be interrupted by Simmons – still sixteen and still smiling brightly – wielding the pool cue surprisingly well.

He and the rest of the bar froze as she felled the man with four sharp, fast raps – wrist, foot, balls and temple.

“What the hell, Simmons?” he asked, staring in shock at the completely unconscious mountain of a man on the floor.

She twirled the cue around then leaned on it and winked at him. “What, you thought I was just a pretty face?”

He managed to get her out, barely, before the rest of the bar seemed to snap back to it. He was not going to deal with one surprisingly violent, drunk, sixteen year old genius in a dive bar. He was not paid enough for that.

Chapter Text

Grant is going over some old mission reports – certain there’s some clue he’s missing and it’s nagging at the back of his mind. He’s still dusty and dirty from his mission – sore and aching. He came into his little hole of an office straight after his debrief and he hasn’t left yet because he – and his superior officer – believe they’re missing something.

He’s not expecting a knock on the door and he’s certainly not expecting one of the desk agents to peer around it and smile at him. He shifts, deliberately showing his left hand – and then mentally cursing. Because of course he couldn’t wear his ring on his mission and he hasn’t had a chance to put it back on yet. There’s not even a mark from it because while he goes against orders to wear it when he’s not in the field they have a special tan spray thing to make sure the skin looks the same as the rest. (Sometimes he gets to show that he’s not wearing his ring, but those missions always make him feel even more scuzzy.)

He considers smiling – Jemma is always on him to smile more – but the way the agent is sashaying, taking her time crossing the tiny space to the front of his desk, makes him know that smiling would only encourage her.

“What?” he snaps, irritated already and a little harsh. He hasn’t seen Jemma in, what, nearly three months now? Just the reminder has him on edge and now that he’s not on a mission and doesn’t have to play the role he doesn’t want to.

Her smile falters and she lays a pile of mail across his desk, leaning over it to give him what he thinks is supposed to be a sweet smile. “Some things for you – let me know if you need to talk about it.” He scoffs, audibly, like he’s going to accept some desk agent’s help to work through his mission. (Which is exactly what he’s going to do, if you replace desk agent with biochemist – but Jemma’s lack of field experience doesn’t affect her ability to comfort him.)

He scowls after her and waits until she leaves to rustle through the missives. Most of them are notes from other Specialists, not where they are or when they’ll be back but just quick “Gone for now, lets get lunch sometime”, and then one “Hey man, tell me when you get back,” from Trip. He smiles and considers calling the other man right then, but there’s some envelopes that are probably about future missions so he puts it off.

At the bottom of the stack there’s a thick envelope that’s not from SHIELD. He arches an eyebrow at the return address – some law firm he doesn’t recognize the name of – but slides his knife under the flap. There’s no way it’s got anything dangerous in it – SHIELD wouldn’t let that sort of thing past the first desk.

He pulls the stack of papers out, bemused, and skims.

He lets out a sharp breath and sits down heavily before starting at the top and reading every word carefully. He can feel his heart in his throat and there’s tightness like he can’t breathe in his chest and a rushing in his ears.

He reads the front page twice before flipping through the papers, a little frantic, to find where her name is written – her signature looking like a dozen jagged little points which is, not incidentally, what his chest feels like when he sees the date next to her signature.

February 29th. It’s from less than half a week after he left on his latest mission. She couldn’t have – there’s no way any law firm would’ve had turn over time that good. She had to have set it in motion before –

He can’t think.

He can’t breathe.

He puts the papers down, carefully because all he wants to do is rip them to shreds and then light them on fire but if Jemma –

He rests his face in his palms and tries to breathe through the pain and the panic.

Less than seventy-two hours ago he had eight guns trained on him while he was completely unarmed in only his boxers.

This is so much worse.

That he knew he could get out of – survive.

He doesn’t know if he’s going to survive his wife – Jemma – asking him for a divorce.

Chapter Text

"Of course I talk to myself; sometimes I need expert advice." Jemma’s voice is pitched high and nasally, but it drops to her normal tone when she adds, “What a prat.”

He watches her for a moment, always taken with how gracefully she can move around the cramped little lab. “You do know you’re talking to yourself right now, right?” he asks.

She whirls around and he’s met with her beatific smile. “Ward!” Her gaze darts over him and he allows himself half a moment of pretending that it’s something more than it is before he shifts his weight so she can see what she’s clearly looking for – the sterile white bandage wrapped high on his arm.

She makes a distressed cooing noise before ushering him further into the room and down onto a stool where she immediately starts to unwrap the bandage. He stares down at her bent head in bemusement. If he doesn’t go to the medic immediately when he comes in she yells at him for not taking care of himself, if he does go to the medic first she inevitably undoes and redoes all his work.

She caresses around the stitches, poking in a painful sort of way and he tells himself that if she decides to redo his stiches he’ll put his foot down and stop her, but he knows he’s lying to himself.

“Who’s being a prat, anyways?” he asks once she starts smearing something on his stiches and rewrapping them.

She wrinkles her nose. “My supervisor – he just got hired and is trying to prove himself or something.”

He makes a soft noise of compassion and is rewarded with another brilliant smile, before he offers, “You want me to take you away, you just say the word and you’ll never have to deal with him again.”

She laughs and cups her hand around his arm for a moment before finally patting his rebandaged wound and taking a step back. “Uh-huh, I’m sure.”

He has seven ways to get her out, only three of them involve faking a death, and each of them come with any number of possible contingency plans, but he bites his tongue on telling her that, instead he lets her take it as a joke and offers her another smile. 

 

Chapter Text

Panic is tight behind her ribs, strangling her lungs and stealing her voice and she knows – she knows that there’s no reason for it. Not anymore.

She’s safe.

Safe.

Safesafesafesafe.

It doesn’t feel real. Safe doesn’t feel real. Very little has felt real since…Since she got back.

Garner – Dr. Garner, she has to remind herself of titles now, they seem so meaningless when she knows how to kill someone with two inches of bone shard – tells her that she has PTSD.

She knows he’s right – it’s not the sort of diagnosis anyone would need any degree to make – but putting a name to it does nothing.

Telling herself it’s PTSD when she wakes up, clutching a pen from her desk that she knows she could stab someone with doesn’t make the race of her heart slow down any. Telling herself it’s PTSD when she is startled by someone moving quickly doesn’t stop her from ending up hiding in a corner, crouched down and watching warily. Telling herself it’s PTSD doesn’t make her feel any less guilty for the obvious concern that everyone watches her with.

Not that it’s her fault – she understands it’s not, just like she understands it’s PTSD.

Dr. Garner talks to her about sleep medication, since she’s still only getting it in bursts and starts and she tries it.

She doesn’t know the name of the agent she stabs, but she recognizes the feeling of blood on her hand and face when she wakes up to it. (He’s fine, Bobbi assures her, ten stiches and a sexy new scar but fine.)

There is some discussion of an anti-anxiety after that, but Dr. Garner advises that it would only be treating a symptom, not the illness, and she’s in no rush to take anything that she hasn’t made herself.

Not that she thinks anyone would let her take something she made herself – no one has said as much, but it’s in their eyes when they had cagily looked away when she asks about getting a lab space back permanently.

She understands. She does. And she has no objections to how softly they’re treating her, but she needs to be able to do something. Because when she has too much time with nothing to do she thinks and when she thinks…

They try to understand. But the one time they show her around the lab that Bobbi and Fitz are working in, all of her input is to make the weapons more efficient – stronger, faster, deadlier.

Now she has to submit a proposal detailing exactly what she needs to do her project.

It helps.

Thinking up eventualities and what she might need before she can test something keeps her mind busy, keeps her from thinking about things.

No one really understands the healing mud, but they let her make it. They’re little packets of dirt that you can wet with anything and slap on a wound for healing and pain management and to hide a scent trail.

She’s very proud of herself. It makes her feel better to have it – even just around the base. She takes to carrying some in a pocket at all times.

They don’t understand.

Dr. Garner tries to – he knows the most, little as it is that she’s willing to talk about her time….there.

Her next four proposals get refused on grounds of being too dangerous or not something that SHIELD needs at this time. 

When she goes to Dr. Garner, wide eyed because she needs some distraction, he talks Coulson into letting him take her off base for a day. He thinks some outside exposure will be good for her. 

An agent she doesn’t know, dressed in civies, tags along. Once upon a time she would’ve wanted to make friends with the other woman. Now she simply stares out the window of the plane and basks in the sunshine when they walk from the car to Dr. Garner’s classroom.

It’s…nice.

She still jumps at sounds and likes to pick a seat where she can see everyone and all the exits, but it’s good to be reminded of humanity and that she’s here now. It grounds her. She starts to tag along to his lectures multiple times a week, her shadow always with her – Dr. Garner watching her from the front of the room.

She notices that he’s watching her as soon as he starts, a week and a half into her coming. She’s not sure who he is, but he has dark dead eyes and though she’s very careful to never let him know she’s seen him, she knows she will kill him if she has to. It’s not a conscious thought that makes her bone shards start to come with her, and she doesn’t know that anyone notices.

She doesn’t think her shadow even notices him.

Which is maybe why it’s not a surprise that the other woman doesn’t follow her to the bathroom and that he does.

There is another man with him, not someone in the class, and he moves like he’s dangerous. Her ears barely register him saying, “Well aren’t you a prize, Jemma Simmons,” before she’s opened his carotid with a simple twist of her fingers. She’s on the dangerous man before he can draw the gun he’s got under his jacket, though taking him out is a little messier.

She manages to slap some mud on the cut she gets on her arm, drag them both into the mens and spray the area down with bleach she finds in the bathroom before class has let out.

She feels more settled than she has since she came back. 

Safe.

She feels safe.

She decides to wait to tell Dr. Garner until they get back to the base.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Huh,” Simmons says as she stares down at his hand in fascination.

He knows she is fascinated because she is still terrible at not showing everything on her face – and he is pointedly not looking at his hand because despite having been actively involved in several dismemberments, looking at his hand right now makes him want to vomit. “You seem remarkably un-phased.”

She wrinkles her nose and shrugs, gaze not moving from where his fingers are slowly but visibly growing back. “Well, it’s not ideal but –“

He must make a noise, although he doesn’t intend to, because then she’s staring up at him apologetically.

 

“I’m sorry, that was a poor choice of words.”

He tries to smile, though even with his lifetime experience of fooling large crowds of suspicious and bloodthirsty criminals, he’s pretty sure she sees right through it. “No problem,” he manages in a voice that’s almost normal.

She pets the wrist of the hand that’s regenerating itself and frowns up at him. “We knew the 0-8-4 was going to do something, and the hieroglyphics did seem to indicate that Osiris and Isis were implicated – so I had assumed it would be something like this. Or that your penis would turn into solid gold. I hadn’t come up with a way to fix that though.”

He forgets his horror at his fingers at this bit of news, and stares at her incredulously. She continues on, undaunted, having gone back to watching his hand regenerate as she rubs his arm. “Plus I cut myself making a sandwich earlier and the wound sealed up quite on its own. I am interested to know to what extent this recreation will still function, but I cannot think of a safe way to test it so…”

She tightens her grip on his wrist and jerks his hand hard enough that he accidentally looks. His nails are growing in. He quickly swings his gaze back to her face and fixes it there. “This does not mean that you can keep running into danger! The effects might end at any time, or their might be some horrible downside we don’t know about and – you can’t protect me – you can’t protect anyone if you’ve gotten yourself killed by thinking you’re invincible!”

He smiles at her, and folds her hand in his newly grown fingers. His skin is tingling and every point of contact feels like sparks. “I promise you, I never want to see that happen again. I’ll be careful.”

And then he’s patting her shoulder and standing up. She splutters, and he’s sure she’s about to make him sit down so she can run at least a few more tests, so he says, “And if my dick starts going gold you will be the first I tell,” just as Fitz walks in the door.

He manages to escape as Jemma tries to explain golden cocks to the engineer.

Chapter Text

There are a lot of possibilities he’s entertained for how Simmons will react when he walks through the door. Horror is the most likely, followed by shock and terror.

What he’s not expecting is for her to respond to his flippant, “Sorry I’m late,” to Whitehall, with, “Oh thank God!” and a hug.

He pats her back awkwardly, keeping an eye on his gun. Which she doesn’t even try to go for, instead she just wraps her arms securely around him and sighs, resting her cheek against his chest. He looks to Whitehall, who is eyeing them blankly, frown firmly in place, his men still aiming guns at her.

The guns make him think that she hasn’t been brainwashed – her actions make him think she has. Or she’s become a much better actress since he saw her last.

Whitehall steeples his fingers and leans forward over his desk. “Miss Simmons –“

“Doctor, it’s Doctor Simmons,” she pulls back from his chest, finally, keeping an arm around his waist and scowls at the director of HYDRA.

He doesn’t even blink. “Doctor Simmons here has been telling me about her work in HYDRA, with you, Ward.”

Practice keeps his face blank. Something isn’t adding up and he’s not sure what –

And then Simmons looks at him and drops her arm from around his waist and swears inventively, pacing. It is the most filthy string of words he’s heard outside of that gun running brothel in Cairo, and he’s not sure what it says about him that he finds it wildly attractive.

She ends with both hands on her hips, scowl firmly in place. “He’s not my Grant.”

Whitehall’s expression barely changes, though Grant can feel his own confusion stretching his face.

Simmons ignores the guns, still trained on her, and pulls out what looks like a smart phone from her pocket – all of the guns cock and she ignores that too. Before something can happen – either her theoretical sabotage or her bloody death – another Grant strides into the room.

He’s got a scar down one cheek and more stubble than Grant has left since his incarceration, and he heads straight for Simmons, barely glancing at the rest of the room.

Grant chances a look at Whitehall and is somewhat satisfied with how stupefied he looks.

At least it’s not just him.

Chapter Text

She’s not there when he’s led out of his cell in chains. He smiles at Skye, who shrinks back holding herself, but she’s not there.

He wonders if she opted not to come out because the conflicting feelings of him getting out of the Vault but also going to his brother would show on her face. He hopes it’s because she’s not there – because she’s left and he’ll find her in one of their safe houses.

It takes him less than three hours, once he’s lost his tail, to find the HYDRA base that Jemma was working at.

She’s not there anymore, which is a disappointment but not surprising. HYDRA was never for her. But there should be a clue, somewhere, to lead him to where to meet her.

It takes him the rest of the day to find that there are no clues in her abandoned apartment, no signs in her lab – though no one has so much as touched her bench.

One of the lab rats comes up to him while he rifles through her papers, obviously terrified but still protective, and demands in a shaking voice that he leave that.

He arches an eyebrow and meets her eyes. “No.”

She pulls herself to her full height, but her gaze keeps skittering away from his. “Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but you have no right to go through her stuff just because –“

He narrows his eyes and places the papers back. “I’m Grant Ward.”

The fear that flashes over her face is oddly gratifying; the anger that follows is more interesting, however. He leans back and waits, hand splayed possessively over Jemma’s notebook. The woman is clenching her jaw so hard that he’s surprised he cannot hear her teeth protesting. “How dare you,” she says in an angry hiss, “come here and go through her things after what you did to her.”

This is…less amusing. He narrows his eyes. “What, exactly, do you think I did to her?”

She scoffs and flips her hair over her shoulder. “You led her on so she’d work for your precious commanding officer, and then when you were done with her you didn’t even have the decency to break things off – you just sent out a fucking memo to the field agents that she was open for business!”

He has her by the throat in an instant, just low enough that she can balance on her toes without choking – and that’s only because she is defending Jemma. “What.”

She gurgles for a moment and he lowers her, grip still firm around her throat. She tries to pry at his hand, her fingernails digging in enough to hurt but he doesn’t care. “What.” He demands again, and finally she gives up scrabbling at his hand and answers, voice higher than it was before. “Bakshi – Bakshi brought her up and showed her where Agent Garrett had ordered you to seduce her so she’d work on the GH325 – but that was only after field agents and specialists had been coming by for weeks, hitting on her and making rude remarks and – he said he could protect her from it all and offered her dinner and the next day she was gone.”

He relaxes his grip because his other option is to kill her, and he wants information before that. “Who?” She shoots him a confused look and he snarls. “I want the names of every field agent and specialist who harassed her.” She doesn’t move for a moment and so he snaps, “Now!” And when she still doesn’t move he forcefully puts her down in a chair and shoves paper and pen at her.

“I don’t –“ Her hands are trembling but she starts to write. “I didn’t recognize all of them.” Some of the names he doesn’t recognize, some are barely legible for how badly her hands are shaking, some are only one name – some he knows only too well. By the time she’s done there are over twenty names on the list – and she shoves it at him and says, voice still wavering, “There were four or five others – I don’t – I don’t know their names.”

He nods and pushes the paper back to her, smiling gently now as he considers how, exactly, he’s going to make each and every one of them hurt. “Which ones touched her – or were more dogged in their pursuit?”

She stares, motionless, for just long enough that he’s considering crushing her fingers to get her to move, before she starts putting stars next to some of the names. This time when she shoves it at him she’s out the door moments later. It would’ve been easy to stop her, but he has what he wants.

He looks over the list again. He’s going to have to be faster than he wants, with some of them, to be sure that HYDRA doesn’t fall down around him before he can finish. But first, he needs more information.

And one name, starless, stands out, so that’s where he’ll get the intel.

Because Bishop he knows – and while the man is terribly good at seduction, he’s also completely asexual.

It takes him less than an hour to find out what mission Bishop is on, and where, and less than a day to infiltrate the same drug runners.

Bishop goes impressively pale when he sees him across the warehouse.

He gives him an hour to stew, pretending like nothing is amiss and they’ve never met before, before he corners him. Bishop immediately puts his hands up, and takes a step back. Grant decides he might make his death quick, once he gets the information he needs from him.

Bishop meets his eyes, his shoulders tight with anxiety but no sign of lying, “It was orders, man. I knew you wouldn’t do her like that – I knew but they were orders. I promise that I just asked her out – I didn’t even hit on her, and I sure as hell didn’t touch her – cross my heart and hope to die, man, I didn’t make her uncomfortable and I got a mission off base as soon as I’d gotten her a written warning, man.”

Grant just stands there, hands lax and shoulders loose, and waits.

Bishop continues to defend himself, shoulders slowly gaining more and more tension, as Grant doesn’t move.

Grant finally tips his head and interrupts the flow of excuses. “Who gave the order?”

“Bakshi. Way I heard it was that he thought she was a mole, had her followed and shit, then when he realized she was legit he asked her out and she said no. And that’s when orders came down – not to all specialists, or all field agents, just the big scary ones.”

The curl of his lip sends Bishop back another half step, and he looks over his shoulder like he’s thinking of bolting. Grant pulls the list from his pocket before he can try and hands it to Bishop. “Who’s missing from this list?”

Some of the tension leaks out of Bishop, which is foolish because Grant is still going to kill him, but he adds some names, then once he’s made sure the stars mean when he thinks they do, he stars – and double stars – a few more names. Then, he says what saves him. “She sent me a post card – thanking me for warning her. It doesn’t have an address but it might help you find where she’s hiding out?”

He lets Bishop go.

The post card shows up under his door that night, Bishop is declared MIA from his mission the next day.

Out of the thirty-one men listed, five are alive after the two weeks it takes him to work through the list. Four, including Bishop, he lets go. The last one is tied up in the trunk of the car while he bumps his way to where he’s pretty sure Jemma has been hiding out. He’s not sure what mental state he’s going to find her in, and if she has actually believed he was just using her, than him giving her Bakshi should go a long way to gaining her forgiveness.

It’s not one of his safe houses – or one of hers that he knew about – but everything from the cute stencil on the mailbox to the color of the shutters makes him positive this is hers.

He brings in a box of her favorite cookies, with him, when he breaks in.

She’s standing at the kitchen table – and he’s not sure if it means anything that he does recognize the table from one of his safe houses, and has a very specific set of memories involving eating dessert at said table that make him want to scoop her up – he hopes it means she’s not mad.

She doesn’t turn around, though her spatial awareness has never been good enough as far as he’s concerned. For now, he appreciates it, and drinks her in for a long moment before bracing himself and knocking his heel against the wall.

She whirls around – a gun of some sort that he doesn’t recognize appearing in her hand. Normally he’d want to know when she made a new gun – and what it does – but he’s far too anxious about her reaction.

“Hey, baby,” he says, holding the cookies out.

She drops the gun and throws herself at him – for half a moment he thinks she’s going to claw his face and then she’s using nails in the back of his neck to drag him in for a kiss and – good. He never should’ve ever doubted that she wouldn’t see through Bakshi’s heavy-handed manipulations.

She speaks in between pressing frantic kisses to his lips, “When did you get out? How did you find me? Did it take you long? Did they hurt you?”

He laughs, overjoyed to have her back in his arms, and kisses the questions out of her mouth.

Chapter Text

She has a fever. The cold that’s permeating her bones while her skin burns makes her very sure of that, and she’s wrapped all of the blankets she could find around herself. She’s worried it’s starting to reach dangerous levels, but she doesn’t have anything available to even attempt to hinder it, let alone break it, so she’s just hoping for the best.

Febrile seizures are not, normally, a high risk for someone in her demographic, but given that an alien virus caused this fever, she’s not willing to rule anything out.

She wishes she had something to write something down – or someone to tell her thoughts to, because she’s becoming increasingly convinced that she’s going to die.

She blinks, dully at the face that’s floating above hers, and wonders why he is what her feverish mind had chosen to summon to hallucinate. “I liked the one where I thought I had two torsos and that a werewolf was eating one of them, more,” she mumbles to herself.

She can feel pressure on her forehead, like there is a hand resting there – if she hadn’t been so convinced of the two torso thing earlier, she might even believe it.

“You’re warm,” Ward says, frowning down at her in concern.

That look makes this more surreal than the werewolf hallucination, because he looks genuinely worried and not even in a way he ever looked when he was still pretending to care about any of them.

“I’m dying, I think,” she corrects.

The pressure moves from her forehead down the side of her face, and then there’s support behind her back – it still feels less real than double torsos, even though she thinks she is leaning up – and there’s something cool pressing against her lower lip.

It is the most delicious thing she’s ever tasted in her life. This, she thinks, is the water that all of those commercials for bottled water are trying to make you imagine, this liquid life that is so cold it burns but sooths the ache of her throat.

She can’t even get her hands out of her cocoon to hold it herself, she’s too weak, though she makes a valiant effort to bring it back when it gets taken away after only a few life altering sips.

“Shhh, slow and steady, sweetheart.”

There’s someone at the shoulder of hallucination-Ward.

It seems unfair that in her last moments she’s imagining Ward and someone she doesn’t know instead of people she actually cares about. She tries to make them appear by will alone, imagining May’s stern look and Bobbi’s laugh and Skye’s smile – Fitz’s sputtering and Coulson’s lecturing.

None of them appear.

Instead there’s a sharp pinch in her arm and darkness falls and she’s floating. If this is dying, she thinks, it feels an awful lot like falling asleep.

Chapter Text

Blood males live to serve. Some will wait until they can find the Queen who calls to them, others will settle for a good Queen who’s not theirs. But they don’t ever pretend that Queen they’re serving is theirs if she’s not. Not only is that connection extremely difficult to fake, but also it’s outrageously dishonorable to pretend.

Grant Ward has done it more times than he can count – and he’s damned good at it. It’s difficult, and it took years of practice to get the body motions just right – the flare of his powers, the small step forward, the look in his eyes – but he can do it now, and even convince most experienced Queens that he’s theirs.

SHIELD hasn’t realized that’s how he’s pulling off his most difficult missions, and he’s in no hurry to tell them. It’s the sort of tactic they would object to.

Garrett taught him how to do it – after he took him off the slaver his Queen mother had sold him to, the day after his birthright ceremony.

Grant thinks that serving makes males weak – gives them a tether and a grounding that holds them back, and he wants no part of it. He doesn’t have much respect for Queens – what part of him wasn’t soured by his mother was quickly turned by Garrett showing him through Queen’s courts after he had made the Offering to the Darkness.

He’s a Warlord Prince and he doesn’t want to be leashed.

Technically all members of SHIELD are circles of Hill’s court, but being a Specialist he’s well past the ninth circle and so it’s not a connection he has to even think about. He knows that some teams, on and off the field, will form their own mini courts. He’s glad to not have to work in that kind of setting.

At least, not until he gets the orders from on high to join Coulson’s newly formed team.

He reads over the dossiers on the other members of the group – and there’s one Queen. He considers, for a moment, pretending that he’s hers, but it’s unlikely that the rest of the team will form a court around her immediately, and in this situation it’ll be reasonable for him to just be one of the males when they, likely inevitably, informally form a court.

He takes the rest of the evening to make sure he’s got his aural and psychic shields in place for meeting the team the next day, he’s got everything prepared and he’s confident this mission will go smoothly.

He’s not expecting what it actually feels like when he finds his Queen. He knows how to fake it, but he’s never considered what that moment feels like –

He’s managed to greet them, a bemused, “Fitzsimmons?” before her psychic scent reaches him.

He takes another step towards her, involuntarily.

He’s lucky he’s already put his bag down because he thinks he would’ve dropped it. His hands open and close at his sides and he feels both unmoored and stuck fast to the earth.

He wants to bend a knee to her – to vow to serve and protect and to rip anyone apart for her and her alone.

He’s been a Warlord Prince all his life, and he’s never felt peace like this. Peace with an edge. He tries to remind himself that he doesn’t want this, doesn’t want to have to bow and scrape to a Queen and – she turns to him with a bright smile and a swab in hand.

But then she pauses, actually sees him, tries to offer him both hands in greeting, realizes she still has a swab in one and sheepishly offers him just the one. He pushes down, just slightly, with his palm against hers, and is met with resistance.

“Prince,” she says, and before he can find his voice to answer, she’s holding up the swab, “Can you open your mouth?”

He does, bemused, as she uses her free hand to tilt his chin down so she can gently swab the inside of his mouth.

Her hand is warm.

She’s tiny.

He sees the hourglass pendant above her Sapphire Jewel as she turns around, and he’s surprised by the fierce pleasure it brings him. Because she’s young and she’s tiny, but if she knows Hourglass Craft than she’s not as helpless as she looks.

Fitz scoffs, in the background, and he has one terrifying moment of wanting to rip the other male’s head off, before he sees the look in his eyes – sees how he’s watching Grant interact with Simmons and realizes that he, probably, belongs to her as well.

She’s bustled off to treat the swab, and so she misses the nod of acknowledgement that passes between the two of them. She looks up when Fitz scoffs again and says, “You asked him to open his mouth – just shoved it in mine!” Grant pretends he wasn’t watching her.

She rolls her eyes. “Just because you wouldn’t stop talking about that stupid robot – I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to ask you!”

Grant lets their bickering wash over him as he tries to get his feet back under him, now that he’s assured that Fitz isn’t a threat to his Queen.

By the time he’s met the rest of the team, he’s realized he can’t play this how he was planning. The thought of being softer, being more Prince than Warlord Prince to earn the teams trust doesn’t sit well with him anymore. He wants them to know that he has that edge, to be aware of it and cautious of it.

He’s going to have to pretend that he didn’t feel like he got struck by lightning when he met her, that he’s not going to put her safety first regardless of the integrity of the mission, and that he’s not going to track her with his eyes at all times – he doesn’t want to pretend to be less than what he is. Not when it’s taking everything in him to pretend that he doesn’t want to bury his nose in that spot behind her ear and just breathe in the peace of her physic scent.  

(When he was younger, being trained on how to fake that instant connection, he’d asked Garrett why he had to pretend an interest in that – Garrett, who had never felt the call off a Queen, or if he had wasn’t sharing, had just shrugged and said, “They want to, I don’t fucking know, just because,” and that had been that. He’d always assumed it was sexual, somehow, but this isn’t and he doesn’t –)

(Weeks later, holding her limp, wet, unconscious body as the Moroccan agents try to take her from his arms and he snarls at them, frosting the boat around them with his rage, he’ll realize there’s attraction there too – not just that of a Warlord Prince to his Queen, but to the woman his Queen is. He won’t have any idea what to do with that information either, though he will almost break a male who is idiot enough to try to take her from him at the moment of realization.)

Chapter Text

It’s glorified babysitting is what it is – and he’s not sure if he’s more insulted on their behalf or on his.

He considers the fact that Coulson basically told he that part of his job was telling them he was in charge right before he dashed out the door with a, frighteningly, giggling May and he decides that he’s definitely more insulted on his behalf.

He sighs and tilts his head up to the ceiling, half hoping for a bolt of lightning or an alarm or something, before shaking it off and knocking on the door in front of him.

He can hear voices behind the door, though the wood is thick enough that he can’t make out words until they get closer, and then they resolve themselves into an argument and he has to fight the urge to flee again.

“You are wrong, Simmons! She would’ve chosen him, she didn’t have long enough with – “

“Didn’t have long enough! He’s the entire reason that she saw the stars! Do you remember how devastated she was when he changed? I’m not saying that what they had was less real but,” the door opens and Simmons frowns at him, reaches out and grabs a fistfull of his shirt to drag him into the room. She manages a, “Hello, Hunter,” before continuing her argument. “I am saying that if she had a choice she would absolutely go back to nine.”

She’s in her underwear.

He tries not to stare, and after a moment of being impressed – those lab coats really do not do her justice – he pulls his gaze to the ceiling and stares up at it. Simmons’ voice fades as she wanders out of the entranceway. He’s too busy trying to mentally work through what’s going on to follow what she’s saying, but when her voice is soft enough that he’s positive she’s not still there he lets himself look back down.

Skye is leaning against the doorway with an eyebrow arched, “You okay there, tiger?”

This time he’s faster snapping his gaze back up to the ceiling.

She’s also in her underwear.

“Skye,” he says, and he doesn’t actually care that his voice cracks on the single syllable, “where are your pants?”

It’s Simmons who answers, from the doorway Skye was in. “Hunter, are you okay? You look flushed?” And then her hand is on his face like she’s taking his temperature.

He closes his eyes and prays. Did Bobbi put them up to this? Had he done something, recently, to upset her? He can’t remember, and that would upset him more except right now he’s too busy trying to erase the image of mostly naked Simmons and Skye from his memory to worry about those sorts of things. “Why,” he tries again, his voice several octaves higher than normal, “are you not wearing clothes?”

The hand drops from his face and, in the sudden silence he risks opening one eye.

Simmons has her hands at her hips and her face in a scowl and –

It’s a really nice bra and he’s shutting his eyes again now. This is either a plan that Bobbi hatched up to kill him, or it’s not a plan she hatched up but she’s going to kill him anyways.

“Are you being serious right now?” Skye sounds annoyed, which is always a concern because she might decide to shake the room down around them or something but – opening his eyes to check isdefinitely a bad idea. Fool him once and all that rot.

“Yes?” he tries, eyes still squeezed shut against temptation.

He can hear Simmons give a big sigh right in front of him and his imagination tells him that it probably looked really interesting. “No one told you.”

Someone was supposed to tell him that Simmons and Skye would be in their underthings? That does not seem like something someone else should know – unless….Nope. He is not going to think about that at all.

“What are you even thinking?” Skye asks, and he’s more than a little relieved that she sounds like she’s trying, hard, not to laugh now.


And there is no way he’s going to tell them what he was actually thinking, so he tries to demure with, “My thoughts, I confess, verge on dirty.”

He can vaguely hear Simmons’ exasperated, “Oh for –“ above Skye’s laughter, and then there’s hands wrapping around both of his and he’s being dragged forward.

The urge to open his eyes when he stumbles over a threshold is great, but since they’re dragging him and therefore standing in front of him – it’s fine, he’ll just have some new bruises, no big. He can take it.

Abruptly they let go of his hands and after a moment of what sounds like blankets being tossed around, something cloth – a shirt maybe? – his shoved into his hands. “Here,” says Simmons, “put this on and come out when you’re done.”

He waits until he thinks they’re gone to open his eyes. And sure enough, he’s alone in the room holding…a pair of boxers. “What.”

“Girls night rules! Underwear only! You can wear your own, but from what Bobbi said you’re probably not wearing any…so, you know…now come watch Doctor Who with us!” calls Skye from outside the door, and he doesn’t even want to think about how she laughs – cackles, really, like a witch – once she’s done saying it.

He considers, for a long moment, and then shrugs and starts to pull off his pants. It’s only fair, after all. Plus, he bets that Simmons and Skye are excellent Who viewing companions.

Chapter Text

She woke up not in her bed. It took a moment for her mind to process her surroundings – and then another, longer, moment to realize that it wasn’t even her house.

She was on a couch, too soft and longer than she was tall, in a brightly colored room. She had no memory of how she got there.

She felt uneasy, not just about having no idea how she’d gotten there but about something else. Something she couldn’t pinpoint.

She sat up slowly.

Her feet were bare.

There was a rhythmic click-click-click coming from somewhere in the house. It was a sound she felt she should know – it was on the tip of her tongue but she just couldn’t place what it was.

A dog passed by the open door, calm and content. Her eyes followed the leash up to an arm, to a man. He was looking at his phone, but after a moment crouched down to unhook the dog – who bounded away – and then he turned to look at her.

For a moment she thought she recognized him, and fear froze her muscles, but then the feeling was gone and all she felt was warm contentment.

“Hi,” he said, kind brown eyes fixed on her face. “How’re you feeling?”

She blinked and wet her lips. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember…” She shook her head and decided on the most immediate concern. “How did I get here?”

He smiled, and her heart leapt in her chest. It was devastating – taking him from pretty to breathtaking. “You fainted…straight into my arms.” He stood up and came forward to sit next to her, turning his body to face her. “You know, if you wanted my attention you didn’t have to go to such extremes,” he added, slyly.

She could feel heat rise to her face and she wasn’t sure what to say.

He reached out to touch her hand and softened his tone. “Hey no, Jemma, you know I’m just teasing.”

She blinked and suddenly settled. She knew who he was and where she was and – she moved her hand to grip his tightly. “I know, sorry. I’m just feeling out of sorts still.”

Grant grinned and placed his palm on her forehead. “Why don’t I make you some soup?”

She nodded and he moved his hand down her face before leaning in to kiss her forehead. She closed her eyes and tilted her face up at the touch.

He stood and walked across the large grey room.

“How many more treatments until it’s permanent?” he asked the blond woman in a lab coat, turning to watch two men carefully measure allotments of drugs into a soup bowl.

She consulted her clipboard for a moment and said, “Just one more, maybe two if recognition takes her more than ten minutes again.”

He smiled, sharp and mean, and took the bowl of soup from the two chemists before making his way back over to where Jemma sat, smiling at nothing.

Chapter Text

Jemma was terrified it wasn’t going to work.

The rock was so much smaller than the monolith that it just didn’t seem possible that it could create a portal big enough.

But it had.

And then they hadn’t let her go through, so she was just hoping and preying and –

The line was slacking! They were coming back and –

It was Will!

Her cheeks were wet with tears and she was smiling so widely she thought her face would crack.

It had been work, convincing Malick that the inhuman had taken on the appearance of one of the last group to go through, but it had worked and Will was here now!

She choked on a sob and stumbled forward, yanking her arm out of Ward’s grip when he tried to hold her back.

She reached Will just as he collapsed and lowered him, as slowly as she could, to the floor. He blinked at her then smiled, his eyes damp as he reached up to cup her cheek. “Are you real?” he asked, voice rough.

She held his hand against her face and nodded. “I’m real.” Then she leaned down to kiss him. He tasted like monster plant and dust and dirt and she was crying again.

His eyes were slipping shut but he forced them open and slurred, “Wanna dance? I wanna take y’dancing. And dinner. And wine.”

His eyes slipped shut fully, but she nodded and leaned forward to rest her forehead against his anyways, watching the minute changes in his face as he slipped fully into unconsciousness.

She was so glad it worked – so glad he’d seen her and she’d seen him and – it was surprisingly easy to steel herself for what was to come. She’d made a deal to get him back and she’d honor it. She didn’t trust Ward father than she could throw him, so there was the chance, here and now, that she’d be double crossed – that having her creating the science and technology side of new HYDRA wasn’t actually appealing to him. Or wasn’t appealing enough. But she didn’t even care. If she died, now when Malick started to realize this man wasn’t, actually, the inhuman he thought he should be, then at least she’d die on Earth and with Will.

She pressed one last kiss to his lips before sitting up and pulling the first disk from her lab coat pocket and tossing it towards the piece of the monolith. It was a modified splinter bomb, and soon there would be no access to that hell dimension.

Behind her back, Ward shot Malick between the eyes.

Chapter Text

Blood is thick on her tongue, in her throat – choking her – and she doesn’t even know if it’s hers or someone else’s. And if it’s someone else’s she’s not sure whose.

She’s not even sure who’s alive – she can hear movement and the buzz of the portal is gone so she knows it’s not one of those things.

She wipes at her forehead to keep any blood from dripping down into her eyes before raising her head and looking around. The first person she sees is Skye, leaning against the wall across from her with her hand clutching her side. “That is the tenth demon summoning this week,” Skye says. Then, wincing she moves the hand on her side and hisses, “Holy shit!”

Jemma lets out a huff of a laugh and slowly levers herself to her feet. Skye’s voice is too strong for her to be seriously injured, and no blood comes rushing out when she moves her hand, so Jemma’s guessing it’s something painful but not life threatening.

Coulson groans from the corner and says, “For the last time, Skye, they’re not actually demons.”

Jemma grabs onto the doorframe and looks around the wreck of the room. She can’t see May or Ward – she has a vague memory of one of those things throwing May through a wall but she’s not sure where Ward is. Fitz is crumpled in a pile between Skye and Coulson and she can’t tell if he’s breathing or not.

Skye snorts and takes a few careful steps to where Fitz is. “’Aliens with an unknown designation of name or origin’ just doesn’t have the same ring, A.C. It’s too much of a mouthful.”

Jemma leans against the wall and looks through the doorway, trying to see if she can find May or Ward. “That’s what she said,” Fitz coughs out and Jemma can feel some of the tension ease from her shoulders with the knowledge that he’s not dead.

She stumbles from that room into the next and finds Ward leaning against a wall, dabbing at a split lip with his fingers and wincing. He looks up at her stumbling on a piece of brick and offers her a tired smile. She nods back before asking, “May?”

He waves a hand vaguely towards his left, and when she follows the motion she sees that there’s a gaping hole in the wall. Rebar sticks up and concrete blocks litter the floor and she can’t imagine that anyone would survive being thrown through that, but someone has to look. 

She takes a deep shuddering breath before forcing herself to take a step forward, and then Ward is there, his hand warm on her shoulder. “I got it,” he says.

She squeezes his hand on her shoulder and nods, thankful, before leaning back against a wall and watching him disappear into the gap.

She can hear groans and complaints from the other room, and she lets the comfort of that new normal wash over her. Soon one of them will realize they haven’t seen Ward or May and will come to check. There’s a part of her that’s realizing how long it’s taking Ward to reappear to tell her that May is okay – she does her best to squash that part down and ignore it, taking deep breaths instead and trying to understand what the buzz of voices from the other room are actually saying.

Her ears are ringing slightly, but it sounds like Skye is trying to tell her terrible muffin joke. Which probably means that Fitz is staring at her in awe and – suddenly she’s glad not to have to witness it at least.

It’s not that she begrudges them their happiness, not when they’re all barely surviving vicious attacks multiple times each week, it’s just that she wants it too.

Sometimes Ward looks at her and she thinks…But he’s still sleeping with May. Even if Coulson and May’s shared looks have been getting longer and deeper.

The scrape of a boot on the ground brings her attention back to the present, and she opens her eyes and looks up expecting to see Ward supporting May’s weight.

He’s not.

He’s staring at her with wide eyes and there’s blood on his hands and.

“Oh god,” she chokes out and stumbles forward, trying to go to the gap in the wall.

He catches her and pulls her against his chest, hands firm against her back. “No, no, Jemma. It’s not – You don’t want to see.”

She doesn’t, he’s right, but some part of her isn’t going to believe it unless she actually sees it and so after a moment of letting his warmth seep into her skin she pushes against him, gently but insistently, and when he lets her go she makes her way carefully towards the ruined wall. He’s with her every step of the way and she can feel his heat at her back when she looks through the gap and –

Her eyes are closed and she thinks that must be where Ward got the blood on his hands because there are three broken jagged pieces of rebar through her body and she can see where her skull is cracked and –

Ward catches her, when she stumbles back and lets her hide her face against his chest again. He cups the back of her head and even though she can feel the moisture and knows what it is, it’s still comforting.

It takes a moment – Ward muttering nonsense into her hair – for her mind to catch up and realize that May has something in her hand. “Ward,” she repeats insistently until he loosens his grip and she can lean back to meet his eyes. “What she pulled out of one of them. I need it. If I can get a lock on their genetics…” She bites her lip and shakes her head, not entirely sure if she wants to try to promise what she’ll try to do. It’s never been done and there’s no credible evidence that it’s even possible but…she’s going to do it.

He doesn’t need to hear more though, he’s pressing a kiss to her forehead and pulling her – not letting her turn back around to see the ruined body of their friend – towards the other room before heading back in.

She stumbles into the other room. Coulson and Skye and Fitz are joking and laughing, but when the look up and see her they all stop, abruptly. At first she thinks it’s just the look on her face, but then she looks down and realizes she has smears of May’s blood on her, probably from where Ward guided her.

Watching Coulson break before the news has even been confirmed is, perhaps, one of the most painful things Jemma has ever experienced.

At first he tries to shake off the comforting hands of Skye and Fitz, before falling gratefully into them as he sobs.

It’s not the first death they’ve had from these things, but most of the others lost hadn’t been, well, they hadn’t been part of the team and it’s different.

Ward moves the body, sets her up so she doesn’t look like she died quite so violently, and they have a funeral for her right there. There isn’t time for an actual funeral. Not when they’re still trying to figure out how to stop these things. Jemma wants to cry, but her eyes feel hot and dry and she just sits there and watches, her heart feeling broken.

Ward passes her the horn that May had somehow ripped away from that thing that had killed her, while Fitz is patching up Skye. His stitches have gotten better and Jemma barely needs to observe them anymore, but she still does just to remind herself that they, at least, are fine.

Jemma goes back to her research as soon as it’s done. The sample that May had given her life to get them is the best chance they have of finding how to stop this. Fitz is with her for a while, they try not to be alone at any point these days, but then he heads to bed and Ward shows up to join her.

He doesn’t speak, just sits by her side while she does calculations and small-scale experiments, and she doesn’t notice at first that he’s vanished.

He comes back with a wet washcloth, and it’s only then that she realizes she still has some of May’s blood on her. Then she collapses against his chest and sobs like the world is ending.

He holds her and presses a kiss to her forehead, hand rubbing soothing circles down her back until she’s cried herself out, and then he carries her to bed. She cuddles up next to Skye, who has her arm around Fitz, grabbing Ward's hand and squeezing it once before letting him go. Coulson is sitting on the bed by Fitz's side, staring at a wall, and Ward joins him, taking up a position against the wall.

She knows with a dread feeling in her gut, that they’re going to lose more before they solve this. And she honestly doesn’t know what she’s going to do with the holes of her teammates in her heart. She closes her eyes and tries to sleep anyways.

If she can do what she thinks she can, she might be able to save them all anyways.

Chapter Text

Everyone is so relieved that she’s okay that they aren’t willing to listen to her when she tries to tell them it’s not. 

Yes, she’s alive and she doesn’t have some fearsome power like they feared – the rock doesn’t talk to her, she didn’t learn the secrets of the universe – she just got a little dehydrated and was rescued before she could be used as fuel. She’s fine. Physically. 

Emotionally and mentally she is…much less fine. 

But they’re all so relieved that they don’t hear her. Or they don’t want to understand. 

She tries to get help – to ask for support, and they tell her they love her and are so happy she’s okay but they don’t help. 

It’s partially her fault, she thinks. She doesn’t have words to describe what it was like – what happened to her. 

All she can say is, “It was very empty,” and they’re relieved

She doesn’t know how she can explain what that vast emptiness was like – how isolated and cold and small she was. How very, very empty it was. 

It’s a bit like Nietzsche said. She stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back. 

She’s empty now. Their shoulder touches and one-armed hugs don’t get to the heart of her anymore – she cannot feel anything. 

So she floats. She feels like she’s not really there, not really participating, just going through the motions because she doesn’t know what else to do and then – 

He won’t let her give him his check up. 

Some part of her rouses, at his anger, comes to attention at the venom in his voice and then – and then there’s a crack of lightning to the side of her and she’s reaching out to touch it and – 

She feels it. She feels it down to her toes and it hurts so good and she’s crying and he’s holding her and swearing. His voice filters through the emptiness, alarmed and sharp. “Why would you touch – I wasn’t going to hit you for – Shit, look at me!” 

She laughs – she can’t help it. She felt that. And then she reaches up for his jaw and stares into his eyes and says, sincerely, “Thank you.” 

He swears again and picks her up effortlessly.

By the time he’s got her on a bed in the ward the emptiness is starting to come back and she reaches for his hand, not sure how she can explain. But just touching him is enough – it’s not as strong this time but she can feel the shock through her fingers and something unlocks in her chest and she can breathe again. 

He’s frozen, now, staring at her with wide eyes.

“…It’s Simmons, right?” he finally asks, his voice hesitant like she’s never heard it.

She closes her eyes and nods, savoring the feeling.

“You…The Kree-weapon, it took you.” This isn’t a question, but she nods again anyways. “What did it do to you?” his voice is rough and sorry.

She opens her eyes and grips his hand tighter. “Nothing. It was – I was fuel. It was going to eat me up to power but it didn’t and just…Nothing.”

He shakes his head in denial and runs his hand through the air next to her face – she can feel the electric on his skin and she leans towards it until she’s tilted precariously, just to feel the faint zap of his power. “This is not nothing.”

She blinks and luxuriates in feeling. “There was nothing – it was pure emptiness and I don’t –“ she still doesn’t have words, but she tries for fear that he’ll take it away if she doesn’t, “I can feel you.”

He lets out a sharp laugh and says, “You might just be the perfect trap,” but then he sits next to her and gathers her into his arms and she doesn’t care what he’s saying because she can feel every point of contact between their bodies.

She cries.

He doesn’t let her go for over an hour, and when he does it’s only because May has come looking for her since she hasn’t finished doing her work.

He tells himself not to do it, but he finds himself always drifting close to her after that. Just the way she relaxes when their arms brush make all the distrustful stares of May and Coulson and the hurt from Skye worth it.

Considering what they want him to do – to be indexed and to help them but only after he’s been “deemed worthy” – it’s refreshing to spend time with someone who wants him for something as uncomplicated as contact. 

He doesn’t think she’s faking it. There are too many physical responses that he doesn’t believe she could mimic – at least not well enough to fool him.

When he pays attention the very energy she lets off is nonexistent – everyone creates a small amount of static electricity just by existing, it’s one of the things he can use, and from her – nothing. 

As far as he knows he’s the only one who she can feel. He knows that she could still be a trap, still be a danger for him, but he doesn’t care. He was a doctor – he wants to help people and he can’t, not when he’s on the run and hiding in SHIELD, but he can help her. And that’s enough. Well, it’s not enough, but it’s all he has so it has to be enough. 

With him she’s allowed to leave the base. Well, with him and an armed escort because apparently SHIELD doesn’t trust her anymore than it trusts him. 

Not that the escort ends up being much help when her old teammate shows up. 

They’re sitting in a diner, their escort at the tables around them pretending to be other patrons, and suddenly she twitches, her fingers tightening around the fork and he’s reaching for her hand before he’s thought it through. Her fingers relax under his grip, just enough that she drops the fork and latches on to him, and then there’s the sound of shattering glass and smoke starts to rise from three different places. 

He reaches for her, instinctively, and has her wrapped in his arms when she goes limp. 

He follows shortly after. 

She wakes up alone which is somehow more upsetting than the fact that she’s in a cell that looks distressingly similar to the Cage. The cuffs that are around each of her wrists don’t hinder her movement at all, but after several long moments of examining them she decides they’re definitely based on a prototype Fitz had made when they were still in the academy that had been put to the side because he couldn’t figure out how to make their sudden magnetization towards each other gentle enough not to cause pulled muscles or, in a few cases, broken bones. So once she’s finished looking at them she lets them rest together in her lap, small flat sides pressed together. 

Pain doesn’t help with her emptiness, though all of her experiments were of a small enough scale that no one noticed, and is just generally unpleasant. 

She’s not sure how long passes as she sits quietly and stares at the floor before someone comes in. The cuffs on her wrists seem to buzz for a moment before going quiet, and when she tries to gently pull them apart they don’t move at all and so she raises her attention to the door. 

It’s Ward. 

She feels a bubble of something in her gut – warm and sudden – and she realizes after a moment of surprise that it’s anger. “Oh,” she breathes, as delighted as she can be as she tries to cling to the feeling before it inevitably drifts away. 

“Simmons,” he says with a smirk, and then when he drops himself into a chair another man drags in for him, he adds, “Jemma,” tone warm and intimate in a way they’ve never been. 

The anger buzzes along her nerve endings and she closes her eyes to savor it for a moment, but it fades too quickly. She can only imagine what her face must look like, because his face is far too blank for him to be anything but unsettled. “Ward,” she finally says once the last trace of anger has burned away and she’s empty again. 

“It is still you, isn’t it? Or should I call you something else?” he asks with a quirk of his eyebrow.

She’s lost for a brief moment before she realizes he must have heard that rumor. She laughs, a hollow sound with no real emotion to it, and shakes her head. She would be apologetic if she had that within her anymore. “I’m not a weapon, Ward. That’s a misunderstanding.” And then because she has nothing to lose and she honestly doesn’t care, “I was just supposed to be fuel but they got me out before it could consume all of me.” 

He tilts his head and smirks and just that makes rage singe her fingertips. “So if I threaten your little buddy, what’s his name, Lincoln, you’re not going to do anything to stop it?” 

“Lord,” she whispers with her eyes closed as fear and anger and worry rush through her in a dizzying cascade that she can’t fight, “you’re infuriating.” She’s nearly panting with how good it all feels, how heady simply feeling is. 

When she opens her eyes again Ward is regarding her with something she can’t recognize from him – actual concern maybe. “So you want me to just assume you’re totally normal and give you back to the team?” 

“No!” she cries before she can edit herself, shackled hands reaching out to grab him because even now she can feel things and she can’t imagine what – “Let Lincoln go, don’t hurt him he doesn’t deserve it but let me stay. Please.” 

He pulls out of her grip easily, even though she was using all of her strength to clutch his hand, and she falls forward slightly but he’s already moved out of his chair and across the room and he’s definitely looking at her with alarm. 

He doesn’t say anything else before he knocks on the door and vanishes, but the despair he leaves behind lingers for a while behind her eyelids and in her ribs and she relishes it before it too vanishes and she’s empty again. 

Time passes.

Nameless men in tactical gear bring her food. 

She eats it because being hungry just makes her feel more empty and she hates it, even though she gets no enjoyment from it. Abstractly she recognizes that she’s being fed what were her favorite things – pancakes and spicy soup with thick oat bread and butter and sweet potato fries and aioli sauce.

More time passes. 

Her cuffs buzz but she’s already, still – always, bot them pressed together so it doesn’t matter and she doesn’t look up when someone comes through the door because it’s just going to be the guard again with food.

She feels it on her skin first – the buzz of electricity that makes her nerves burn – and she’s off her cot and launching herself at him before she’s finished looking up.

“Jemma, Jemma, Jemma,” Lincoln murmurs into her hair while both his hands soothe up and down her back and he holds her tight even through the awkwardness of her bound hands.

Ward has spent the last week interrogating Lincoln about Jemma – and then when Lincoln had finally managed to convince him that she wasn’t a weapon she was just broken, interrogating Lincoln about Lincoln.

He still doesn’t trust Ward, but had been willing to agree to just about anything to get to see Jemma and make sure she wasn’t suffering. And even as he clutches Jemma to him he can feel the heat of Ward at his back and he can’t regret what he’s fairly sure is about to happen – not when he can feel Jemma shivering against him with sensation.

Besides, he doesn’t not trust Ward any more than he doesn’t trust SHIELD and their index, it’s just a matter of which devil as far as he can tell.

Jemma shivers again against him and he can see Ward’s fingers wrapping around the back of her neck as he leans over Lincoln’s shoulder. It’s a more appealing visual than he wants it to be.

He can feel her, he realizes suddenly, he can feel the electricity she’s giving off and it’s coming from Ward and through her but it’s still hers and he doesn’t know what that means.

She looks up when Ward’s hand tangles in her hair and there are fingers under her chin and when her face is forced out of Lincoln’s neck where she’s buried it she’s met with Ward’s dark gaze and he’s smirking and god, she feels.

She almost sobs when he kisses her over Lincoln’s shoulder because she hates him but it feels so good and she doesn’t care and there’s something inside of her and, “please,” she hears herself plea and there’s a buzz against her wrist and she can wrap one arm around Lincoln’s waist and reach for Ward with the other.