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They would never tell him how long it was until they found him.

He wasn't sure he really wanted to know, anyway. It could have been half an hour. It could have been two. It could have been eighteen hours, or it could have been a day, or maybe more. The team just wouldn't tell him. He had a right to know, he thought dimly. A right to know how long he'd been unconscious after one of his best - and only - friends choked him and rolled his body under a car. They did tell him, however, that it was Fitz and Coulson that found him. It was Fitz who saved him.

He knew Mack and Bob were keeping a secret from him. He was pretty damn sure of that, if he was of anything. He just wasn't positive what that secret was. He also happened to be not an idiot, even though most of the agents on the BUS believed him to be one. He knew they didn't go to a support group. That was bullshit, and he knew almost from the start it was. His suspicions on their secret were confirmed when it just so happened that Bobbi started acting strangely distant very shortly after. Screw that. (Screw her, literally, he thought.)

He hadn't really expected it to end with him being put in a chokehold by his friend and then rolled under a car for someone else to find what might have been possibly hours later. Some friend. They were talking and it sure as hell wasn't as civil as it could have been because there was a good deal of shouting. And then Mack's arm was around his neck and he was squeezing and Hunter was abruptly reminded of his small size compared to Alphonso Mackenzie but before he could fight back or do anything other than grab at Mack's arm, wonder for a handful of seconds what the hell, weakly batting at it like a kitten with a toy, everything went black as sin and then darker.

Mack held his neck for less than eighteen seconds.

Trust Fitz's stupid hands to get in the way. They wouldn't work, they just wouldn't work. The Scottish scientist found himself in the garage or the lab more often these days, which was where he was when he found Hunter. Simmons had needed a glass tube for part of her experiment, a test tube, and she'd run out, so Fitz had agreed to head to the garage and grab her an extra one. He always kept a few spares around.

He rummaged through his things until he found the test tube in question. "Aha," he said softy, grabbing it as he closed the lid to the tool box and turned around. He was walking, careful with the glass, and then for some reason, his hands just stopped working and he dropped it. He shot forward trying to catch it, but he didn't go far enough and it hit the ground, shattering and forcing the glass to sparkle in a pile.

He sighed loudly. This was at least the dozenth test tube he'd shattered since he'd... since things had happened. He decided quickly he'd just rake up the shattered glass with his hands and nudge the left over pieces somewhere safe until he could come back and pick them up. He lowered himself to his knees and began picking up them up and dropping them into his cupped palm. He reached to grab a larger shard of glass and his finger slipped, slicing open his hand on the side. He hissed softly, sucking on the wound to stop the bleeding, a few droplets of blood adorning the shimming glass shards still on the ground.

He leaned over, reaching out to grab the piece of glass, prepared to be more careful this time, when he heard it, and saw something else. It sounded like someone breathing. Someone breathing and making odd wheezing noises, as if he or she was struggling with it, whoever he or she was. He also saw a hand peeking out from under the darkness of the car next to him. A hand with the palm up, fingers curled slightly at the tips. There was someone under the car?

He frowned, wondering if maybe his stupid brain was making things up again. He dumped the sparkling bits of glass back into the pile and nudged it away with the back of his hand before laying flat on his stomach to get a good look under the car. His eyes adjusted quickly and he made out an arm attached to the body, a torso, legs... Familiar. His eyes shot up and he tried to make out the face.

Hunter. Hunter was unconscious under a car.

Immediately he reached out, pretending not to notice the slight tremor in his hand, and grabbed Hunter's arm. He snaked his other arm under to gently press his head down so it didn't knock against the undercarriage of the vehicle. He tugged the first half of the unconscious, possibly wounded man out from under the car. Light purple bruising was starting to break out on his throat and he was struggling to breath.

Frantically, the little Scottish scientist looked up.

"Jem- Coulson!" he shouted. "Mack! Somebody!"

He took Hunter's shoulders and maneuvered him out the rest of the way. He was limp and definitely looked like he'd been under there for a while. His breathing was heavy, wheezy, and then it stopped all together.

Oh, no. No no no no. His own breath hitched and he drew in a deep breath before calling out.


Fitz knew CPR. At the Academy, you had to know how to do CPR. It was one of the first things you learned how to do. He'd done it twice, on two different people, and had it done on him once that he remembered. (He didn't really want to ask if someone did it to him after... after Ward.) He didn't think. He didn't think about Simmons, or Bobbi. He didn't think about the fact his hands weren't shaking anymore. He just did.

His hands automatically went to the proper place around his breastbone as he knelt beside his fallen British friend. He stacked his hands on top of each other and started to press down and let up, again and again.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

He pumped, compressing his chest, once, twice, three times, four, all the way up to thirty, counting with every press. It took him eighteen seconds.

He moved his hands up to his head past the bruising on his neck. He pinched Hunter's nose shut and tilted his head back.

"COULSON!" he shouted again.

He leaned over and pushed his mouth against Hunter's after sucking in a deep breath. He blew it out in his mouth quickly before repeating the process. He couldn't die. He couldn't. He had to breathe. He had to.He knew what it felt like to not be able to breathe and he didn't want one of his friends to feel that.

He was the one shaking, not Hunter. Hunter wasn't moving at all. Fitz's hands were shaking.

"No," he told himself strongly, but when he said it, it wasn't in his voice, it was in Simmons', and she was standing behind him.

"Come on, Fitz," she said, and she put her hand on his shoulder, his curly head ducked over Hunter. "You can do it. He needs you."

"Alright," he said softly, and then Simmons wasn't speaking anymore and she was gone, even though she was never there.

Hardly any time had passed, and the shaking was more of a slight tremor now as he put his hands on top of each other and pressed down.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Sev-

He looked up abruptly when he heard footsteps pounding towards him and a familiar voice shouting.

"FITZ? Fitz! What's wrong?"

The movement of his hands was mechanical, so he kept compressing.

Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven.

He counted in his head, his eyes flicking upward as he spotted Coulson out of the cornwr of his eyes.

"H-Hunter," he said. "Found him under the car. Not breathing."

Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. Twenty-nine. Thirty.

Eighteen seconds.

Fitz leaned forward and tipped Hunter's head back again, pinching his nose, and breathing into his mouth. Coulson's hand was on his shoulder and Fitz thought he was Simmons for a moment and her voice whispered 'he's going to be fine you're going to save him' and he was shouting at someone else and then Simmons really was there and then he was breathing into Hunter's mouth again and he was pulling back to compress his chest again and then his chest moved without Fitz' help and and and-

Fitz had to be pried backward from Hunter. The rescue breaths and the chest compressions were easy as breathing himself and he didn't want to stop, couldn't stop, because what if Hunter died because of Fitz? He fell back off of his knees and skittered backwards a few inches. Coulson was lifting Fitz up off the ground, one arm under his knees and the other supporting his shoulders, and turned towards the door. The Lab.

Hunter was limp like a rag doll in the Director's arms.

Coulson left the lab with the agent, turning and shouldering the door open before bursting through. Simmons was beside him and she squeezed his shoulder before helping him up.

"Come on," she said, leading him towards the door, the direction that Coulson had taken Hunter in. She knew as well as Fitz did that he shouldn't be left alone right now, even if he wanted that.

"What happened, Fitz?" she breathed, speeding up to follow the director so she could be there to help Hunter.

"I found him," Fitz gasped, as if he'd been the one who's needed resuscitation. "Under the car. Dropped your test tube and - and I went to clean it up and he was under there and then he was breathing and then he wasn't and and and-"

Simmons cut him off.

"Fitz," she said softly. "Fitz, you did it. You brought him back. You're a bigger hero, now, Fitz."

She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead before hurrying off.

He waited.

He waited eighteen seconds, enough for him to have done thirty chest compressions, and then he waited for enough time to have done two deep breaths, from the man who hadn't been able to breathe and now couldn't think because of it, and then he thought, and then he moved.

His thoughts were muddled. All he could think of was Hunter Hunter is Hunter okay I couldn't breathe I can't breathe can he breathe is he okay and then one thought jumped to the front.


When he started moving, his feet were headed towards her room. She was his ex-wife. She would want to know what happened to him, right? She would care. It took him longer than eighteen seconds but shorter than eighteen minutes to reach her room. He'd barely knocked on the door, trembling, that stupid tremor in his hand back, when she answered, the Mockingbird dressed in a gray tank top and yoga pants.

"Hey, Fitz," she greeted, her manner casual. "How's it-"

She scanned the scientist and quickly picked up on the fact that he was shaking and his eyes were starting to go bloodshot and he looked terrified.

"Fitz," she said softly, putting her hand on his shoulder and gently steering him inside her room.

It was sparsely decorated, but there were two framed pictures on the desk. One was of Izzy, Idaho, Mack, her, and Hunter, arms around each other, grinning. Happy. The next one was a picture of a wedding. Bobbi was in a wedding dress, her hair curled and a flower in her hair, kissing a tuxedo-clad Hunter whom she'd grabbed and swung around to kiss him, like a scene in a film. Once again, they looked happy.

She sat him down on the edge of her bed, unmade, and as soon as she released him to fetch something, he buried his head in his hands, shaking. She reappeared quickly, a bottle of water in her hand. She pressed it into one of Fitz's when she's removed one from his head.

"Hey, hey," she said quietly, taking the cap off for him, crouching down in front of him and putting one hand on his knee, her maternal instincts taking over. "It's gonna be alright, Fitz. It's gonna be fine."

His hands were shaking on the bottle so she steadied them with one of her own.

"Take a drink," she urged. "You gotta calm down. Deep breaths, take a drink of water. Then when you're calmed down, you wanna tell me what happened?"

Mockingbird left her hand on top of Fitz's as he tilted the bottle up and took a swallow of it. He lowered it, still shaking, his eyes just the slightest bit too red.

"Alright," Bobbi said. "Are you good? Are you okay? Do you wanna tell me what happened?"

She looked up, into his eyes. He looked like a child. He looked scared. Fitz sucked in a breath. He'd been taking too many when he was reminded that someone couldn't and that someone could easily be him. That someone was him.

He leaned over, coughing. He'd taken too many, too fast. Bobbi stood up, sitting on the bed beside him. She rubbed his back until he stopped coughing. He looked up at her and the Mockingbird couldn't get over how little he looked. He was young, yes, but he looked so much younger.

"You wanna talk, Fitz?" she said quietly, one hand still on his hand, the other one holding his shoulder.

"I dropped the test tube," he said, quietly, hiccupping, his eyes watering. "I d-d-dropped it."

He hiccupped again, his breath hitching, and Bobbi comforted him until he spoke again.

"Then I saw him. He was-was-was - He was under the c-c-car. He was un-unconscious and he had b-b..."

He traced a line on his neck with a shaking hand.

"Bruises?" Bobbi supplied, calm. She had to be.

Fitz nodded slowly and hiccuped, sucking in another breath and sniffing. "On his n-neck," he added slowly. "He - he - He stopped b-b... Breathing. Had to- had to-"

"Resuscitate him?" the agent finished. Fitz nodded again, wiping his nose. Bobbi plucked a tissue from a box beside her bed and handed it to him. He blew his nose and his hands fell into his lap.

"C-Coulson came to take him t-to Simmons' lab. He l-l-looked so small with C-Coulson carrying him."

"Fitz?" she questioned lightly, rubbing the small of his back lightly. "Who was he?"

"H-H-" Bobbi stilled.

"Hunter?" she said, her heart sinking.

"Hunter," the little Scotsman agreed.

Hunter. Oh, no, Hunter...

She didn't want him to get hurt. No matter what happened between them, she'd never want him hurt.

"Well, Leo," she said softly, running a hand through his curly mop of hair. "Once you calm down, once you're good, I'll take you down to Simmons' lab to check on him, alright? Do you want to finish your water?"

His hands were hardly shaking when he lifted it up to take a few more drinks. He was slowly calming down. Bobbi reassured him.

"You did good, Leo. You did good. You did exactly what you should have. You did amazingly, Fitz. You're a hero." She laughed softly. "Again. You're a hero again."

Fitz was still, the crumpled up tissue half under his leg and the water bottle loosely held in one hand. He was still. Still and calm enough.

"Do you wanna go see him now?" Bobbi asked, brushing a loose curl from his forehead. Fitz nodded, swallowing.

"Yeah," he said.

"Alright," she agreed. "Here, Leo, let me take these."

She took the bottle and the tissue from him, setting the bottle on her night stand and the tissue in the trash can. She came back over to the young man sitting on her bed. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead briefly before pulling away.

"Come on. Let's go, sweetie."

Fitz stood up from the bed but immediately shut his eyes and would have sank back down if Bobbi hadn't grabbed his arm.

"Does your head hurt?" she asked him. "Are you dizzy? Do you need help?" she questioned.

He slowly say back down, her hand on his arm.

"Head," he said, squeezing his eyes shut tighter for a moment before they fluttered open and rewarded her with a splash of blue. "Little dizzy."

He paused for a moment before he answered.

"I'll be fine."

Bobbi nodded in agreement, still holding his arm as the pair left her room.

Fitz would be okay. He was a fighter, a warrior. A scientist. He'd be fine.

She just hoped that Hunter would be as well.

The lab was a bustle of movement when Fitz and Bobbi arrived, the young scientist still on the older agent's arm. Coulson had set Hunter down on one of the tables they used for exams. The Director had pushed his sleeves up and was waiting nearby. Simmons was working on her patient. And Hunter...

Oh, Hunter.

Fitz had been right. He looked small. Dark purple-blue bruising was crossing over the front of his neck and someone - presumably Simmons - had fixed an oxygen mask to his face so he could breathe. She looked up when she noticed the two entering and maybe it was just Bobbi's imagination, but she seemed to smile just slightly.

"Fitz. Agent Morse. I'm so glad you're here."

Fitz was hesitant in his movements, and Simmons, bless her, noticed his discomfort.

She started to speak but Fitz blurted out, "Is he gonna be okay?"

Simmons hesitated, and Bobbi picked up on it. She dodged the question, and Mockingbird picked up on that, too.

"You saved his life, Fitz," she said instead. "If you hadn't been there to resuscitate him, he wouldn't be here for us to work on."

She peered down and made sure his oxygen mask was secure.

"There are injuries to his trachea, but he is getting air. There seem to be no other injuries on him. I'm not a surgeon, however adept I am. I can't fix his windpipe. Luckily, we were heading towards a landing, anyway. May's contacted agents there and there's going to be someone waiting to take care of him."

She frowned at Hunter sadly before glancing up at Fitz and Bobbi again.

"Fitz!" she exclaimed. "You're bleeding."

"I'm, it's -" he stammered, but Simmons headed over anyway, snapping up the hydrogen peroxide and bandages.

"Sit," she instructed, and as Bobbi watched, Fitz obeyed, sitting on the other table, his bleeding hand out.

Simmons immediately went to work, and as she did, another group of people burst in. Well, people meaning Skye and May trailing behind.

"Holy shit!" Skye yelped, covering her mouth. She pried her fingers apart. "Sorry. That was rude. I came as soon as I heard. He just found him? Under a car?"

Bobbi stiffened. Coulson glanced over her shoulder at May who arched an eyebrow, apparently a secret code the two shared.

"Did you bring the footage I ask you for?"

Skye shook her head.

"No, but I know how to get it. Very easily."

She located Simmons' computer and skipped over, plopping down and beginning to type.

"When was the last time anyone saw Hunter?" she asked the room.

Bobbi was the first responder.

"About... 9 or so this morning?"

It was 10:15 in the afternoon. Skye got to work.

Bobbi's eyes fluttered over Hunter's limp body and, hell, she couldn't help it, but she crossed the room to his side. His hand was motionless, but she picked it up anyway. She held it for exactly eighteen seconds, and she thought about Lance Hunter and she thought about Alphonso Mackenzie and she thought about SHIELDs that weren't SHIELDs before she raised it up and have him a lingering kiss on the back of his hand. She wasn't sure if it was an apology, and if it was, if it was for something she'd already done or was about to do.

She hadn't seen Mack in a while, come to think about it. Their secret... And Hunter was getting close to figuring it out, she knew. He looked like one but he wasn't an idiot. Damn their secret, damn SHIELD. Mack wouldn't hurt Hunter, not like this. Never like this. He looked so pale.

She glanced up and behind her to see Fitz and Simmons again. Fitz was still sitting down on the table, and inch or so shorter than Simmons. Coulson was studying them, as were May, and Skye had paused for just a moment to glance over. They weren't speaking anymore, but they both appeared to just have said something. Fitz didn't move, looking up at her, and then Simmons was leaning forward and her pale pink lips brushed his, pressed against his for less than eighteen seconds. (four, exactly.)

When she pulled back, she was looking at him and Fitz's eyes were bright and he stammered something Bobbi couldn't here, but it made Simmons smile, giggle, and throw her arms around him, pulling him close to her chest. Fitz hesitated for less than eighteen seconds (one actually) before he put his arms around her and squeezed her back.

"Yes!" Skye yelled.

Everyone stopped, frowning, and turned to look at the hacker. She blushed a light red.

"Um, uh," she stammered. "I mean, I... I got the footage pulled up?" she attempted weakly.

The agents hurried over, Bobbi gently replacing Hunter's hand.

She couldn't suppress a smile. Fitz deserved that. Simmons, too.

"Bobbi said she'd last seen him around nine this morning," Skye said. Bobbi didn't specify what exactly he was doing that led to them seeing each other at nine am.

"So I pulled up the footage from then to when Fitz found him, at about 10:00ish," the hacker continued. The agents glanced up at Fitz who was stationed by Simmons' side. "Figured I'd put it on fast forward, you know? Get through it faster."

Skye hit the appropriate button and the security cam footage rolled. Mack passed through, working on a car before disappearing again. Fitz came and went once or twice. Then, around , Mack entered again, examining another car. "That's the car," Fitz said softly, but everyone heard him, and everyone knew what he meant. That was the car he'd found Hunter under. Not even five minutes later, a matter of eighteen seconds with the fast forward on, Hunter entered the garage.

Skye hit another button and footage began to play slower, at normal speed. Hunter strode up to Mack, the height difference clear. The two were talking, although Hunter was shouting more. He came right up to Mack, and Bobbi's heart sank. Hunter wasn't supposed to know. Not knowing was going to keep him safe.

No, not Mack. He promised. He promised he'd never hurt Hunter. Even if it was for the 'greater good', no matter the nobility of their deed, their loyalty to... their loyalty to their SHIELD, he'd sworn to her that he'd never touch Hunter.

They all knew what was going to happen before it happened, but it didn't make it worse, especially not for Fitz and Bobbi. Mockingbird could lip read, so she could tell roughly what Mack was saying. "I'm sorry I have to do this." Her stomach clenched as Mack lifted his arm up and grabbed Hunter from behind and Fitz's did too, and-

Skye hit the button to stop the footage, the screen flickering out.

"Mack," she said softly. "No way."

Bobbi spun on her heel, bound and determined to kick some ass for this. Mack promised. He promised her that he wouldn't hurt Lance. It was never supposed to be Lance. Greater good, her ass. It wasn't worth this.

May was gone, and Coulson put his hand on Bobbi's arm.

"She's got him," he said quietly.

She turned around and swallowed, glancing at Fitz. Mack was his friend, too, she reminded herself. Fitz had trusted him. The poor boy was as white as a sheet. Simmons steered him to sit down on her exam table that Hunter wasn't occupying again, comforting him with quiet words.

And Bobbi? Bobbi hated feeling powerless. She hated not being able to help. She went to sit next to Hunter, feeling exactly like she hated.

She wanted to say 'I love you,' and she thought for eighteen seconds how. She wanted to say, 'I never stopped loving you' and she thought for longer than eighteen seconds how. In the end, the Mockingbird tapped out three words in Morse code on the back of Hunter's hand.

May returned shortly after. She looked none of the worse for wear. Untouched, almost.

"Got him," she said. "Told him we found Hunter, that we were having to stop and get him proper medical attention. Told him what Fitz did, what he had to do."

The woman tilted her head.

"He wanted to speak to you and Hunter. Before I told him. He still wants to talk to him when he wakes up. He's in one of the interrogation rooms."

She glanced over at Bobbi.


Bobbi popped her knuckles. She tapped one word on the edge of the table, and then crossed the room. She neglected to tell May that she already knew exactly why Mack had done it. (She figured later that, deep down, May probably knew all along. She knew, at least, that something was up. She was Melinda 'the Cavalry' May.)

"Let's do it."

Bobbi was verbally and mentally berating him for breaking his promise, but honestly, she was curious as to how Mack was going to weasel his way out of this one.

He spoke quickly. (He was her friend, but after seeing Hunter on that table, seeing the bright red blood from his broken nose was satisfying. He'd broken his promise. (That, and she had to keep up appearances. May didn't know, not the whole secret, not the real SHIELD, not yet. And she couldn't.) This was almost war, but there were some things you didn't touch, even for the sake of protecting secrets that maybe certain someones should have known all along.

"You almost killed him, Mackenzie," Bobbi hissed, slamming her fist against the table in front of Mack.

Her eyes fluttered up to his and they met for a moment and she got more from that look than a normal person would have.

"He was your friend and you almost freaking killed him. You should have seen him. Fitz, Leo Fitz, your other friend, had to resuscitate him there, on the spot, or he would be dead right now. Leo. Fitz. He came to my room having a a panic attack, Mack. Because of what you did to Hunter."

Bobbi paused, her eyes locked on his, and continued speaking.

"Alphonso Mackenzie, I don't care that we're friends. You almost killed Hunter. Fitzsimmons and Coulson had to move him to the BUS equivalent of the ICU right before I came over to kick your sorry ass into the next century."

May chuckled darkly, surveying Bobbi and Mack from her position in the corner.

"Go get him, tiger," she said with a dry laugh. "You got here. I'll go check on things."

Melinda silently slipped out of the room, and go get him she did.

Bobbi glanced up behind her, at the corner of the rom, and frowned. She leaned back, studying back as he winced at his broken nose.

"Damn, girl," he said softly. "Didn't have to go that far, didja?"

Bobbi sighed and rolled her eyes.

"I'm not sure I went far enough. She's Melinda May."

Formalities aside, Bobbi met his eyes again.

"Now that that's out of the way, we really do need to talk. Really, Mack? Really?"

Mack sighed.

"I'm sorry, okay, Bobbi? Really, I am. I didn't mean for it to go that far. But he was getting close, too close. I was going to come back and get him and move him back to a safe house, but I didn't get the-"

Bobbi finished his sentence.

"Didn't get the chance?" she said sarcastically.

Mack sighed again and leaned back.

"Really, I am. but you know that he can't know. You and I both know that he's not ready. He might be someday, someday maybe even soon, but not today."

Bobbi pulled out what looked like a phone from her pocket, flipped through a few photos, and held one out to Mack. The large dark-skinned man leaned back slightly further.

"Bob, I-"

Bobbi cut him off.

"Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I get it. Integrity, secrets, he's not ready. We're spies. We tell secrets for a living. I'm not going to say it's just your fault, and I'm not going to say that you shouldn't have done it, because you're right, he isn't ready, but Mack, we made a deal. One thing. I told you one thing, and it was do not lay a finger on Lance Hunter. That was our deal, and you broke it! You swore to me that the one damn thing you were never going to do was touch a hair on his head. Hunter's..."

She fumbled just slightly for the words.

"He's not a good fighter. He can handle a gun, but... If it came down to it, he needs to be protected, not to fight." Bobbi stood up straighter and started slowly walking around the table.

Mack followed her with his eyes, his head tilting slightly as he did so.

"Yeah," he said softly. "But you were right, what you said earlier. Bobbi, this is very nearly war. We can't protect everyone. Even if your everyone's him."

Bobbi stopped and stood straight.

"I can sure as hell try," she said before resuming her spot, leaning against the wall across from him.

Bobbi sighed, one hand on her forehead for just a moment, but then she looked at him again. She paused, and she wasn't quite sure if she said her next words out loud or in her head.

"Is it worth it? Is the real SHIELD worth him?"

Mack sighed, and the Mockingbird assumed she'd spoken out loud.

"I don't know, Bobbi. I don't know."

She sighed and started towards the door, pausing as she reached it. She glanced back at him for just a moment.

"We'll talk more about this later. I get that you had to do it, but dammit, Mack, keep it in your pants next time. Now I have to go a protect him more..."

And she thought she had an idea how to do that. Push him away, or pull him closer.

"And we've got to get you out of this, somehow. Just... Be more discreet next time. Or better yet, let's make sure he's ready to know and tell him."

"Hey," Simmons said softly. Bobbi Morse was leaning against the wall, blinking softly, situated in a shitty hospital chair. God, it was so cliché, but she was sitting beside her ex-husband's bed waiting for him to wake up. She had to tell him something. It was urgent, it was very urgent, and she had to be here exactly when he woke up. (She was still thinking. He wasn't ready today, but she wasn't sure if they could keep it from him much longer.) She'd been here for a few hours. Well, it had felt like days, but according that clock, it hasn't. (Skye had stopped by and dropped off a quarantine survival kit of her own making.)

Bobbi blinked furiously.

"I wasn't sleeping."

Hunter was laying on the bed in front of him, slightly darker against the white sheets, hooked up to wires and things, an oxygen mask still situated over his face. He'd had some surgery that started with a 't' that she could pronounce but didn't particularly care to. It didn't matter. What mattered now was Hunter and Mack and SHIELD and their secret.

Simmons smiled and sat down beside her friend. She put one hand on her knee and met her eyes.

"Thank you," she said, the smile touching her eyes, before she pulled her hand back.

Bobbi frowned.

"For what?"

Simmons laughed softly.

"For everything. Rescuing me from HYDRA, for starters. But most importantly, now... Fitz told me. He told me what you did for him. After he found Hunter. How he came to you and you comforted him."

Bobbi smiled sheepishly.

"I did what any m- I did what any of us would've done. Fitz, he's..."

She searched for the word.

"He deserves to be protected," she said finally. "He's sweet, and kind, and brave, and... he's a warrior. He's the best of us, and hell, he deserved what I gave him. He deserves happiness. And more. So much more."

I can think of someone kinda like that, even if he doesn't act like it sometimes, Bobbi thought.

The biochemist beamed again, and wiped a thumb under her eye.

"Look what you've done," she said jokingly. "I just put on my make-up."

Bobbi laughed and wiped her eyes once too.

"But really," Simmons said. "Thank you."

She paused for a moment, hesitating before she spoke.

"Would you mind if I asked you something? A personal question?"

Agent Morse inclined her head, gesturing for her to continue.

"Bobbi, did you ever have children?"

The older woman hesitated, too, before she spoke.

"Yes," she admitted. "I did, once. With Hunter. He was a boy. 'If you love England so much,' I said, 'let's just name our son after it.'"

Bobbi laughed fondly at the memory.

"'Bob,'" she recited from memory, "'that's the greatest idea you've ever had!' So that's what we called him. England."

She paused and allowed herself to smile again.

"Our little boy. Not just England, I wouldn't let him do that. England was his middle name." She hesitated this time, glancing away from Simmons for a moment. "Our little Leo England."

She could hear Simmons' intake of breath beside her.

"He died. Before he was born, I mean. Fitz... he's always reminded me of him, Leo England. What he could have been. Always had a soft spot for him. I just did what any mother would have done."

Just then, before Jemma could speak, Hunter twitched. His heart monitor beeped loudly and his eyes fluttered. His chest moved when the first thing he did upon waking was taking a deep inhale.

"Lance!" Bobbi scrambled up from her chair and grabbed his hand.

He tried to speak, he looked a bit bewildered.

"Shh," she said. "Don't talk. For once, for once, Lance Hunter, don't talk. Just listen."

Listen, listen, please listen. I need to tell you - we need to tell you - so much more. But I have to protect you.

She looked into his eyes and she wasn't begging, because Agent Bobbi Morse didn't beg, but... She was doing something. A flutter of a frown flitted across his face.

"I was thinking, okay? I was thinking about us and I was talking to Mack, and I realized - I realized I never stopped loving you. Never. Not even when we divorced. We fought; hell, we still fight, but I've never, ever stopped loving you. And if you take the director's offer... Why not make it official? I know we're not perfect, not even close, but I want to do it. Maybe two shitty people make one not shitty person together. So damn secrets, and damn SHIELD. I want to try. Marry me, Lance. Marry me again."

Everything was quiet except for the sounds of Hunter's breathing. Bobbi was almost holding hers.

"Hunter," she demanded, looking him in the eye. "Hunter, you asshole, answer me. Something anything."

There was another sound, wheezing breaths, and for a moment, Bobbi thought she was going to have to call one of professionals that came onto the BUS to treat him or Simmons, who was right beside her, but then she realized - Hunter waslaughing. He laughed for eighteen seconds.

"Dammit, Hunter!" she swore and then Hunter blinked.

It was a long blink, followed by a quick one, and two more long ones. He paused for moment and then - one quick blink. Pause. Blink. Blink. Blink.

His answer took less than eighteen seconds.

Bobbi could have laughed. Morse code, of course! Most agents knew Morse code but Hunter had learned it as soon as he met her because he thought it was funny, with her last name being Morse. It was a simple way of communicating, but Hunter? He learned it for the irony.

The look on Bobbi's face sent Hunter into a fit of laughter that sounded more like coughing which sent one of the monitors into a frenzy of beeping, which led to Simmons - suppressing a smile - getting up and checking on him, leaving Bobbi with the perfect opportunity.

"-ck off, Lance."

Hunter was getting better. Slowly but surely, he was getting better. After a day of bed rest - in which Bobbi had swooped in, quietly, and told him that when he was well, when he was ready, (she and) Mack wanted to talk to him. She didn't say what it was about, and she didn't even say that she wanted to talk to him about it, either. She asked him to trust her, and when he was ready, they would talk - he was allowed to be up and walking around. There were a few places he was not allowed to be, and Mack's interrogation room - they hadn't let him out, but they hadn't put him in a cell, because no one was quite sure what to do with him because his intentions seemed genuine, yet Hunter had almost died - was it. They wouldn't let him see Mack, and Hunter respected that. He wasn't sure what he'd say to Mack if he saw him. He wasn't allowed to talk, either. He wouldn't be for a while yet, Simmons and the doctors said. It pissed him off, because he likedtalking. He loved it, and he had a lot to say, especially now. But he might hurt his throat more, and Hunter surely didn't want that, because he still wasn't allowed out on missions again yet.

But there was one thing he had to do, and he had not properly done it yet. He had the bottle, the neck of the whiskey held loosely in two fingers and two small glasses in his other hand, his fingers holding them together. He, slightly unshaven with only an old pair of jeans, a SHIELD-issue t-shirt, and one of Bobbi's sweatshirts - he couldn't talk, but that didn't mean he couldn't do other things - approached Fitz's door. The agent hesitated when he arrived. How did he say it? Without talking, how could he tell Fitz what he had on his mind when he couldn't even use his words?

He stood outside of the door for eighteen seconds before the hand with the bottle of whiskey in it knocked on the door. Fitz answered quickly. His room was messy, sheets tangled and bits of projects strewn around. A little TARDIS sat on a bookshelf between books and Doctor Who and Sherlock boxed sets and actual books - A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking stood out - and Hunter thought maybe he'd seen a stuffed monkey somewhere. A few pill bottles were scattered about the room, too, and a blue tie was set out on the desk. (The little scientist was wearing ties again, and Hunter couldn't help but think it had something to do with him and Simmons.) It rather looked like organized chaos to Hunter.

He nodded slightly, asking if he could come in, raising the whiskey slightly. Fitz nodded.

"Oh, um, yeah, sure, come in."

He stepped back from the door and closed it behind his guest. Hunter surveyed the room once before pulling Fitz's desk chair out, swinging it around and straddling it, leaning against the back. He gestured for Fitz to take a seat and one of the glasses, which he did. With his teeth, he twisted the cap off of the bottle and poured Fitz a glass before giving himself one. He set the bottle down on the desk next to the tie before lifting his glass up in a toast.

Fitz frowned for a moment, but he lifted up his glass for a moment for taking a swallow of the alcohol. Hunter never spontaneously shared, especially his alcohol. He only shared it on birthdays, rare holidays, after a difficult mission, or when he was... Fitz trailed off in his thoughts for a moment.

When he was trying to say thank you.

"You're welcome," Fitz said softly from behind the glass, and he saw Hunter lips tilt upward in a grin, never mind the bruises across his throat. He looked happy. Fitz smiled, too, and he drained the glass.

Before he lowered it, he heard the sounds of the desk chair scooting across the floor. Hunter stopped in front of the bed, rummaging in the sweatshirt pocket. He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and handed it to Fitz, nodding for him to read it. Frowning, Fitz placed the glass on his night table and uncrumpled it, scanning the messy script.

I'd tell you this myself, but, you know, I can't. Haha. So I'll write. I need your help with something, Fitzy. It's really important this time, I promise.

Fitz looked up and frowned. "Wh-what do you need help with?"

Hunter grinned.

Lunch on Tuesdays was an important meal. Very important. It was a Coulson-instituted affair; if they weren't on a mission, or under fire, or someone in the ICU, the whole team got together and had lunch followed by a game of ultimate Scrabble. Four boards minimum were combined with all of the letter tiles.

May, Coulson, Simmons, Skye, and Bobbi were enjoying their sandwiches, in pleasant conversation, when Bobbi spoke.

"Where are Hunter and Fitz? Haven't seen them all day."

Coulson swallowed a mouthful of goldfish and shrugged. Simmons finished a bite of her peanut butter and banana sandwich before she answered.

"I ran into Fitz about an hour ago," she offered. "He was going to his room. He said that he and Hunter were working on something. A project. Said they'd show us at lunch before the Scrabble game."

Bobbi frowned, her brow furrowing.

"What could those two be working on?"

May hid her smile behind a can of Doctor Pepper.

They didn't have to wait very long, because not even five minutes (three minutes an eighteen seconds) and two Captain America jokes later, Fitz and Hunter showed up. Fitz's tie was untied and he wordless headed over to Simmons. She stood up and tied it for him before sitting down again and resuming her pile of goldfish. (Coulson was almost done with his.)

To draw attention to the pair of them, Hunter lifted his glass and tapped on it with his bottle of Jack to cause a clinking sound, even though everyone was already looking at them. Lance tilted the bottle back and took a swallow, gesturing to Fitz. The curly-haired Scottish engineer swallowed and started to speak.

"Agent Lance Hunter has prepared a speech, but due to his injury, he is unable to give it. He has appointed me, Agent-slash-Doctor Leo Fitz to dictate it."

He glanced at Hunter, frowning slightly. The British agent nodded, gesturing for him to keep going. Fitz sighed and continued speaking, looking above the agents gathered at the lunch table.

"He would like me to tell you, Director Coulson, that, effective immediately, he is resigning from his post."

Bobbi frowned, putting her sandwich down and arching an eyebrow at Hunter. He grinned and shook his head, nodding towards Fitz.

"That being said, Agent Lance Hunter would like to add that it is his old post that he is resigning from. He would like me to tell you that he is accepting your offer, Director Coulson, and that he was going to eventually. He wouldn't leave his family."

There was no one at the table who wasn't smiling, then. Bobbi, however, had her suspicions. Lance Hunter was afraid of the word commitment. Maybe he had changed. Maybe he was ready.

"To Agent Bobbi Morse, he would like to add something to what you told him when he first woke up. He would like to say that he shares the sentiment and that he never stopped loving you, either. He requests that the wedding not be a very big deal. His only preferences are alcohol and Bobbi Morse in-"

He stopped suddenly, glancing over at Hunter.

"Do I have to say this part?" he whispered.

Hunter rolled his eyes and nodded earnestly. Fitz sighed deeply and flushed slightly.

"In any easily removable article of clothing."

Hunter grinned suggestively, winking at Bobbi. Bobbi couldn't suppress a laugh. He hadn't changed that much. He'd always be childish. (Skye was eagerly watching the exchange, Simmons offered congratulations, Coulson smiled, and May? "You've definitely got a catch, there, Morse," she said, her voice low.)

Hunter clinked the bottle and the glass together again, recalling attention to Fitz giving his speech. Fitz swallowed, shifting, his hands clasped in front of him.

"He would like to speak to Mack, and tell him to-" Fitz frowned slightly again. "Um, Hunter? Do I have to say this?"

Hunter sighed loudly. He fished a tissue out of his (Bobbi's) sweatshirt pocket and scribbled something on it quickly, holding it out to Fitz.

Fitz recited the words from the tissue.

"He would like to tell Mack something that his dictator does not feel comfortable saying in front of his adoptive parents, his sister, and his girlfriend."

He flushed slightly again and held the tissue out to Hunter who accepted it and held it in his hand for a moment.

"He would also like to add the Agent Alphonso Mackenzie that he respects that he probably had a reason, because friends don't just go around strangling people. He'd just like to know what it is."

Fitz paused, drawing in a breath.

"That is-"

Hunter shook his head avidly, catching Fitz's eye, and held out the tissue again, shaking it. There happened to be writing on the back of it, too.

Fitz turned it over and frowned at it slightly before reading.

"He would also like to say thank you to Agent-slash-Doctor Leo Fitz, who saved his life a few short days ago. Without his little brother..."

Fitz trailed off, eyes skimming over the paper, before he looked up at Hunter. Hunter grinned, and it wasn't sarcastic at all. It was genuine. He gestured for Fitz to keep reading.

Fitz did.

"Without his little science monkey brother, Agent Lance Hunter would not be here today to be giving this speech through aforementioned engineer. Thank you for your time."

Fitz lowered the tissue, his hands shaking ever so slightly, and looked up at Hunter.

"Did you really mean-?"

Hunter cut him off and nodded, mouthing, Every word.

"Oh, Hunter!" Simmons cried, and holy shit, Bobbie hadn't known Lance was capable of that kind of emotion.

Fitz blinked furiously for a moment before hurriedly saying, "I'll g-go get the Sc-Scrabble boards," and leaving.

"Oh, Hunter, that was-" Simmons began, but he cut her off.

He glanced at May and made some sort of hand gesture. The Cavalry nodded and chewed up and goldfish quickly. He moved his hands in a complicated sort of movement that equaled words.

"No problem, he says," May translated. "They've been working on it all afternoon and..."

She frowned at him and he repeated his last movements.

"Fitz memorized it."

Simmons spoke next.

"When did you have time to write what you gave him if you were together all day?" she wondered.

He moved his hands again, definitely more complicated, and May spoke as he did so.

"When Fitz went for the second bottle of Jack," she said.

Skye whistled.

"Hot damn. You two finished off two bottles? Fitz was drunk that whole time? Hell, that speech was beautiful."

Hunter grinned, and May spoke his mind without ever seeing his hands move.

"Kid's a Scot."

Skye laughed.

Coulson looked right over her head, grinning, and said, "Glad to have you on board, Hunter."

Hunter grinned, too, and nodded, pulling a chair out and sitting down.

"You know," Coulson added as Lance stole a few goldfish, "that's the longest I've heard him talk without stumbling over his words since..." (He'd had a plan all along. An elaborate thank you, helping out his little brother.)

Hunter stopped with by raising his hand - still holding the bottle of Jack, which he took a swig of - before mouthing, I know.

When Fitz returned with the boards and sat down in his spot at the table next to Simmons, the bottle and the bag of goldfish being passed around, all smiles, laughing and joking, they were all together and happier than they'd been in a long time.

For the first time in a long time, they were a family

Hunter spoke Bobbi in the dark of a room, dark enough that if one hadn't been there already, one would be bumping into things.

"Bob," he said, his voice quiet, but just loud enough. Just loud enough for her. "Bob, I think I'm ready."

She sighed softly.

"You're not. Trust me. But you'll have to be."

Their hearts beat in sync for 18 seconds.