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He makes her laugh.

Or at the very least, he makes her struggle to hide a grin. Sometimes, it's almost painful trying to hold back her laughter. A deep ache in her abdomen forms as she forces herself to show her Bitch Face that she was well known for (in all her previous guises).

They banter, of all things. And she was never one for many words. But the moment he walked into her life, she felt different. She was different. She'd always read how soulmates could affect each other. Thought she was one of the 10% of the global population of Wordless until a few years ago. Some time after the Battle of Manhattan happened and the world was never the same, she found her words etched on her shoulder blade reflected back in the bathroom mirror as she dried her hair after her shower.

Of course, she went back to work as usual.

This is ridiculous. She was not a teenaged girl with hearts in her eyes and Cupids floating around her head, swooning at every sign of a certain someone. To be more precise, She was a highly trained government employee specialising in people and data management of a covert and confidential nature. Who was not swooning, hearts aflutter at every sign of a very specific individual who happens to be Director of SHIELD. The very same organisation she and her team have a yet untested and shaky alliance with for the moment.

Only, he's not just Director of SHIELD. He's into vintage cars too. Double damn.

Chapter Text

Their fourth meeting is interrupted by gunfire at a shipping port. They were just in the swing of back and forths about right and wrong and who was capable of what, yada yada (verbal foreplay?) when some Hydra goons broke the scene.

Coulson whips out a gun and fires back while they duck for cover. She reached for her cellphone and called for backup.

"Stay behind me!" He ordered, taking another shot before having to stop and reload. Rolling her eyes, she reached down and pulled a gun from a thigh holster under her skirt. And fired back a few rounds before returning to her position behind the shipping container. She turned to find Coulson with an admiring look in his eyes.

He cleared his throat. "How many?"

"Two on high, three below."

"Backup will take a while." He laid a small device on the ground. An automated self-firing dwarf he had Fitz come up with for situations like these. It would return fire to fool the enemy into thinking they were still boxed in.

"That'll hold them up for about 10 minutes. Shall we?"

They moved into position. "I'll take the two up on the container, you take the other three."

Coulson nodded in understanding before smiling.

"What?" Rosalind raised her eyebrow.

"Non-standard Walther PPK. A woman after 007's heart."

"Please, I stabbed him in the heart ages ago."

By the time she finished with the last guy he had missed, he could swear he was swept off his feet.

Chapter Text

"This place is pretty good." Coulson remarked.

"You must have really high standards if the food here's only 'pretty good'. This is a Michelin starred restaurant," she raised an eyebrow, taking a bite of the liquid nitrogen creation she'd ordered. She closed her eyes, moaning slightly. YUM.

He scrunched up his nose watching her eat. He was still feeling a bit hungry after only ordering an appetiser, not having the urge to really explore what was on offer in this sterile laboratory of a fine dining establishment. The appetiser was good but it was too intricate to really be mind-blowing.

 Michelin-schmichelin.

"I prefer simpler fare. A Thai salad topped with the juiciest ripe mangoes, some chopped peanuts for crunch, chilli and lime for sour and spice, and the most perfectly cooked medium-rare striploin that would melt in your mouth. Perfect balance of flavours."

Rosalind's mouth started to water even as she took her last bite. She glared at him for ruining her expensive and highly anticipated meal. Reservations were made months in advance.

"Don't tell me you cook."

A smug smile appeared on the Director's face. She slapped down more than enough cash (plus a generous tip) on the table and dragged him out by his tie.

---

Rosalind wakes up in bed the next morning to the sight and smells of a perfectly set breakfast tray of eggs sunny side up (runny just the way she liked it), crisp bacon with a side of toast and softened butter, a nice tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (when did he even get ahold of oranges? Her pantry and fridge were empty.) and a pot of English Breakfast tea. And, because Philip Coulson rarely does things by halves, a small crystal vase filled with out of season roses and a handwritten note for her.

 'Had to run. Enjoy your breakfast. More to come. - C'

She takes a bite of her bacon and smiles softly. She'll have to keep him now. Bastard.

Chapter Text

Rosalind Price may be a connoisseur of foods fine and simple. But if there's one weakness she doesn't readily admit to, it's that she can't cook for shit.

I'll just have to learn. It'll be a great surprise. I can do this. You can do this, Rosalind.

By her fifth plate of #fantasticfail scrambled eggs, she throws her hands in the air and calls up an ATCU clean up crew to clear up the disaster zone that's become of her gourmet kitchen. She can't cook but forked out an abominable amount for a kitchen she can't even utilise beyond making a cup of tea.

Her boyfriend (always funny to see Coulson's reaction to that term) was not only an amazing lover and fighter, a kickass Director of SHIELD and former Avenger Wrangler, he was a great cook too.

She could lie to herself about the extra weight on her thighs being caused by the additional stress eating she's been doing since the Terragen crisis began but it'd only be half accurate. The rest was down to Coulson's amazing ability to feed people. In particular, his people. Since she was his Soulmate/girlfriend, she was now THE people. And it felt so nice to be pampered and showered with affection after a hard day at work. She'd never really had anyone who would go through great lengths to make her happy.

And now she can't even make a simple meal to say thank you. That thing she did after his back rub did not totally count since it was a sex thing (much as she enjoyed watching him unravel under her).

The door bell rings and she glances at the clock. It's four o'clock. They seemed to be early. She opens the door to let the clean up crew in.

Only to find her boyfriend standing with a box from her favourite bakery on the other end of the city. The smell of honey cakes makes her mouth water and her resolve weaken. He lifts the lid and she grabs a slice, moaning at her first decadent bite.

"Um, Rosalind?"

"Mm?" Her eyes are closed as she finished the slice.

"Why are your clothes dirty? Is that- is that scrambled egg in your hair?"

Crap.

Her eyes snap open and before she can think of an excuse to chase him off of her front porch, Coulson sidesteps her and marches straight for the kitchen, leaving her holding the box.

Silence fills the space as she watches him observing the chaos she'd wrought upon her poor, innocent (and expensive) kitchen. He walks to the stove to examine what was left of Scrambled Eggs No.5. She takes another slice and stuffs her mouth to cover her embarrassment at being caught. It's mildly humiliating. Not that she'd ever admit that. Thank god he brought cake.

"Were these for me?"

Rosalind chews on her cake, scowling at him for ruining her failed surprise. He chuckles at her non-verbal response and moves the pan to the sink. He takes his leather jacket off, rolls up his sleeves (yep, those arms were totally hers) and starts scrubbing.

She sighs, putting down the now half empty box on the island counter and grabs the other used utensils and puts them in the sink. She suddenly remembers that she called a clean up crew and snuck away to "get some wine" from the bar in the living room. She sends them a discreet 'mission abort' and looks at her selection of spirits on the shelf.

"Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc?"she shouts.

"Rosé, Rosalind." He shoots back from the kitchen. She snickers and fills two glasses.

She returns to find a spotless kitchen (how the hell did he do that so quickly??) and Coulson putting a pan on the stove, an apron tied to his waist (where did he get that?) and a kitchen towel over his shoulder. He waves her over. She's still holding both glasses as she walks towards him.

"I'll teach you how to cook."

"But, Coulson-"

"You can repay me in your excellent selection of wines." He takes one glass from her hand and sips, ahh-ing in appreciation before continuing.

"Sit back and relax, Rosalind. You're too tense in the kitchen." She huffs but goes to sit at the counter, taking a huge gulp of wine.

He's elegant in his movements. Efficient. But there was something about the way he moved that was so...sexy. Although he did ruin the effect a bit by juggling the eggs and waggling his eyebrows at her after catching them all.

Dork.

He explains something about Mis-en-Place, how everything that's been prepped beforehand should be in their proper place to save time and energy. His voice is gentle and calm. The stove is fired up now. Quickly and deftly, he cracks two eggs in succession into a mixing bowl, arm flexing as he whisks away with purpose, you couldn't even tell he was wearing a prosthetic. He lays the fork on a towel and grabs his glass with his now free hand. He takes a gulp, his Addams apple bobbing as he swallows.

Why is her mouth so dry all of a sudden? She downs more of her wine and watches as he puts a nob of butter into the pan, tilting it to coat its surface. He gives out more instructions but she's just too enthralled watching him. Pouring the eggs in, stirring them around with a wooden spatula, salt, pepper, something. The flame is then extinguished and the eggs are ready.

Before he's even laid the plate down, she pounces. On him.

Later, it's dinner time. By now the eggs are cold and gross. They're both a little peckish but too comfortable to get out of bed. She confesses to forgetting whatever he was trying to teach her, refusing to give him the satisfaction of hearing her admit out loud that he was the cause of her distraction.

"I'll guess I'll be doing the cooking for both of us from now on. Okay?" He asks.

"Yes, please."

Coulson kisses her on her forehead as she lays curled against him under the thick and comfortable blanket.

"Rosalind?"

"Mmm?"

"Call me Phil."

"Phil,"she whispered, trying out his name on her tongue. She hadn't really felt like calling him by his given name until now. She just felt so safe and secure, lying here in his arms.

"I'll be here when you wake up. Mushroom and cheese omelette?"

She nods sleepily with a content smile.

If he didn't know any better, he could've sworn she was purring.

Chapter Text

The betrayal comes out of nowhere.

She can feel her heart shatter as he hurls accusations at her. She slaps him out of reflex when he suggests some outrageous thought that he's been manipulated into believing they were soulmates.

The pain buzzing up her arm can't compare with the agony of being ripped to shreds by the person you trust the most. The only real friend you've had in a world that made it impossible, even dangerous, to have friends. The man who made you breakfast in bed and was a total nerd about Captain America and vintage collectibles.

Philip Coulson. Her soulmate.

The hurt turns into something else very quickly. Anger is a much easier emotion to wield. She has known this since her tough teenage years after her parents died. She also knows the price of letting your anger wield you. So she takes a deep breath and heads for the door.

But he's not done.

He's utterly relentless, his eyes seeing nothing but yet another betrayal by someone he trusted. He goes on to say that the words etched on his skin were planted while he was at T.A.H.I.T.I. And that her words were tattoed by some HYDRA approved tattoo artist on payroll. She's so angry, she does the one thing that could shut him up.

She shoots him in the shoulder.

While he's bleeding on the living room floor reeling in shock, she grabs the first aid kit. She's methodical, precise. Upon reflection, Coulson doesn't quite know what to make of the sheen in her eyes. When she's finished field dressing the wound, she goes to her bedroom, packs a suitcase, and leaves.

Chapter Text

Rosalind Price is declared officially missing in the next few days

In reality, she's in hiding from Gideon Malick. Her position at the ATCU was jeopardised the moment SHIELD agents set foot in the facility. She could no longer guarantee her safety nor that of her trusted aide, Banks.

Coulson knows her location only because she saw fit inform him, just in case SHIELD was needed. Not Phil the man. Not even as the Director. That really stung but he deserved it.

Still, he worries. He decides to write a letter, the analog fool. He writes sheets and sheets but the growing pile of unsent letters in the secret compartment of his desk only seem to deride him his fears and insecurities.

So he stops writing letters and redirects his energies into going after the real enemy.

----

The thing about soulmates is, once you find them, it's awfully hard to stay apart for prolonged periods of time. Which made it a bitch to be an agent with a Soulmate.

Standard policy was to have a ratio of at least 3:1 Wordless to Soulmated to minimise any impact on operations at any agency. Science couldn't yet explain how Soulmates come to be but it could explain the effects of separation. Whether it was down to psychology or physiology was still being fiercely debated by experts around the world.

Coulson was pushing himself beyond his limits, taking on mission after mission himself despite his position as Director. Even May, who's worked with him the longest, has never seen him like this before.

The effects of GH-325 had nothing on soulmate separation. He couldn't sleep properly with the empty space beside him mocking him for his mistakes, so he turned to sleeping in one of the holding cells. Couldn't enjoy his food like he used to so he didn't eat much anymore.

His temper kept getting the better of him and he even held Hunter up against a wall and punched through some brick for his failure in eliminating Ward.

Weeks turned to months. Sooner or later something had to give.

And that something turned out to be Coulson.

---

"If this is some kind of self-flagellation guilt thing, you can forget about it." Rosalind said in a low but heated tone after appearing out of nowhere in the doorway to his treatment room.

Coulson glared at May.

Tattletale.

The acting director shrugged it off.

"Everybody out." May ordered.

The agents in the room turn to Coulson to see if he needed anything. Possibly a bullet proof vest? He shook his head.

May led the agents out. The doors hissed as they slid shut.

The intermittent beeping from the medical machinery filled the silence in the room.

Growing increasingly uncomfortable with the tension, Coulson opened his mouth but was cut off immediately by Rosalind raising her pointer finger. At him.

Her jaw clenched, eyes burning with anger and disappointment. At him.

If he could bury himself in the sheets without pulling a stitch and spilling blood he can't afford to waste, he would.

Not so nice being on the receiving end of the finger. Not one bit.

"No. You don't get to talk. You got to talk last time. There is no talking for Philip J. Coulson right now."

He swallowed.

"You idiot. What the hell were you thinking taking unnecessary risks like that? I swear to god, when you're not being the biggest dork, you're the biggest bastard on the planet," she fumed, pacing around before stopping to catch her breath.

The scariest thing was that she wasn't screaming at him at all. It was frightening seeing her this way. If she were shouting and ranting, he might actually die. Which would have been easier to deal with; T.A.H.I.T.I be damned.

She leaned on the foot of his bed for support and turned her gaze back to him, continuing in a gentler tone.

"We haven't even gotten to your inability to open up to anyone, let alone me. You threw the most insane accusations without giving me the benefit of the doubt, Phil. You have no idea what it took for me to trust someone again, to have them come close to me like that." She sank in the chair beside his bed, wind out of her sails.

Up-close like this, he could see the toll his actions and words had taken. Her eyes were ringed with dark shadows. She looked like she lost some weight on her already slender frame.

"I'm sorry," he said softly, his voice hoarse. She glared at him. Then came the tears.

Oh, crap.

"I was worried sick all those months you never once tried to contact me. You nearly got yourself killed, you stupid man. Any higher and the bullet might've hit an artery," she fiercely wiped her eyes. And smacked him in the arm.

"Ow." Coulson jerked his arm away.

"I'm the only one allowed to shoot you if you ever piss me off again."

"Of course. But that did hurt," he pouted, rubbing the sore spot on his arm.

She rolled her eyes and got him to scoot over gently, taking care not to reopen any stitches or staples. Squeezing into a hospital bed made for one wasn't that easy but they made it work. Her head lay on his shoulder and her hand tucked in his. Her hair tickled his face. The smell of her bergamot shampoo soothed him.

"I wrote letters, you know. I told myself it was for practical reasons to handwrite it rather than risk it leaking out via hack. But really I figured I'd try to be romantic instead of typing out an impersonal email." He said quietly.

She raised her head and looked at him questioningly.

"I never got any letters."

"I never sent them," he whispered,"I don't deserve you, Rosalind. I'm damaged goods. T.A.H.I.T.I, HYDRA's infiltration of SHIELD, my hand or lack thereof," he joked lamely, gesturing with his prosthesis.

"Don't talk like that, Phil. Before you, I didn't really have anyone to share myself with. My parents were the only ones I had until they were taken away from me. Then one day, the words appeared on my skin. Loving someone and losing them is not something I'd rather go through again so maybe I pushed it aside to focus on my work. Thought I'd have the time to fully accept the idea of a Soulmate later. But we didn't have much time together before all hell broke loose."

"I really am sorry for hurting you, Rosalind."

"You were forgiven some time ago, Phil," she sighs, wiping her eyes. "I probably would've done the same. It might've been worse for us given that we're Soulmates, whatever that means for our physical and psychological wellbeing."

"But I don't know which hurt more. The fact that you didn't trust me or that you got burned so many times that you felt you couldn't."

He doesn't know what to say that would make it better. He might just screw things even worse than before so he just absorbs the hurt he's caused and pray that he doesn't do the same ever again.

Rosalind repositions her body so she's sitting more upright and facing him. She runs her fingers in his hair and then traces his face gently; laugh lines and frown lines. All hers. He catches her hand and lays a kiss on her open palm.

"You're an idiot. But you're my idiot. And I love you, Phil."

His eyes widen at the admission.

"I-"

"No," she shook her head. "You don't have to say it just because I did. I want things to be free and clear between us. I want us to trust each other, maybe start all over with a clean slate. If that's okay with you?"

Coulson exhaled the breath he'd been holding, nodding in agreement. She lay back beside him. His beautiful, generous soulmate. His Rosalind. He kisses her brow.

Their eyes close and they enjoy the peace and quiet of his room. He wants to say the three words because he already felt the same way too but she was right. Things weren't fully settled between them.

They were Soulmates that started off as frenemies running rival covert organisations with overlapping interests that had repercussions on national and global security.

It might have made a great plot for a trashy romance novel but as a foundation for a relationship? Not so much.

"Besides, Junior here needs his dad to cook his meals. I'd probably give him food poisoning or something."