For as long as history could remember, soulmates had existed. At the age of eighteen, you awoke with your soulmate’s name tattooed on your inner left wrist. It was no guarantee that you’d find them, of course, but Melinda May had always been a romantic at heart, ever since she was a little girl.
Her parents had been the exception to the soulmate rule- they’d met and fallen in love, despite the names on their wrists not matching; it didn’t matter to them. Melinda had been raised in a happy, loving household, inspired to break the rules and push the boundaries no matter what she did.
She does just that at the age of seventeen when she chooses to join SHIELD instead of following her mother’s footsteps at the CIA. She was one of the few girls in her class, but that didn’t stop her from immediately proving she was the quickest of the group, using her slight frame to her advantage in fight training.
Being only seventeen, Melinda’s left wrist was bare; it would be for another two and a half months, until her eighteenth birthday. She’d thought about meeting her soulmate since she was small; imagined what they’d look like, how they’d smile, what her name would sound like in their mouth. Would they be taller than her? What color would their eyes be?
She was the only member of their class that didn’t have a name of her wrist, as it turned out. A few of the older classmates had already found their soulmate, but most were still looking. Some even admitted they’d chosen to attend SHIELD because of the promise of seeing the world; a larger chance of meeting the person they were destined to love.
“Hey, Dolly Daydream,” she’s tugged from her thoughts by a voice; she blinks up into a pair of bright blue eyes and a smile that’s mostly a smirk, but just a tad shy. “Is this seat taken?”
She shakes her head, and the sandy haired boy sits down beside her at the two seat lab table. She recognizes him from the opening ceremonies, so she knew he was in her class, but she hadn’t caught his name. “I’m Phil, by the way. Phil Coulson.”
“Melinda. Melinda May,” she answers, sticking her left hand out towards him. Phil pauses, lips parting as his eyes widened like she’d caught him off guard; his gaze drifts down to her wrist and he swallows. “From the looks of it you recognize my name, so yes, I’m Lian May’s daughter.”
“That’s…” he stops and seems to shake himself, reaching out to grip her hand as he shakes the sleeve of his shirt down further on his other wrist. “That’s why it sounds so familiar. Decided not to join the CIA, keep it in the family?”
“Call me the family rebel,” she replies with a shrug and a grin, and he smiles back, warming up his blue eyes in a way that set his whole face aglow. “And what’s your story, Coulson?”
Phil shrugs, twirling his pencil in his fingers as he looks at the students spilling into the classroom just before the bell rings. “Got recruited based on some test scores from high school; couldn’t really say no, y’know?”
Melinda just nods, cut off from replying by their professor starting the lecture, diving directly into the chemistry formulas she scribbled on the chalkboard.
She finds out that Phil is in almost all of her classes, and the jokes he cracks under his breath are enough to have her sitting by him in every single one. He’s smart, too- one of the first to raise his hand when the teachers look for answers, and she likes how eager he is to learn new things, especially in their combat classes.
He approaches her the first week in and asks if she wants to be study partner- agreeing is the easiest thing she’s done since deciding to come to SHIELD, and they fall into a routine.
“Hey, Mel, do you have the notes from Fury’s lecture on undercover tactics? I can’t find mine for the life of me,” Phil said as he settles beside her, pulling out a few notebooks. Melinda held up the aforementioned papers with a only slightly-guilty look on her face.
“I may have stolen them so I could copy them,” she said, sliding them back to him. He rolled his eyes, taking them from her and tucking them into the pocket of his notebook before flipping to a newer section of notes. “Do you understand what the hell is going on in Chemistry?”
“Only because Ross gave me her notes. Bradley is the worst teacher on the planet,” Phil laments, passing Melinda the notes and looking over the sheet of paper they’d been handed in Combat Ops. “Two essays due next week? God I’m not sleeping this weekend.”
“Don’t forget we have that project for Stats and Fuller wants us to be able to fully identify all the pressure points on the model by Thursday,” Melinda adds, and Phil groans, dropping his head in his hands. “Oh, and did you finish the power point for Covert Ops? I think that presentation is due a week from Monday.”
“If Hand doesn’t sneak booze in this weekend, I’m never speaking to her again,” is Phil’s only response, and Melinda laughs, patting his hand gently.
“It’s gonna be okay, Phil. You gather the info for the Cover Ops presentation, I’ll focus on the Stats stuff, and Blake has a cheat sheet for the pressure points I’ll get off of him tomorrow during Psych,” she says, pulling out her water bottle, taking a sip. “Combat Ops we’ll focus on this weekend, since we’ve got more time until those are due.”
“I think I’d die without your organization skills,” Phil tells her, and she winks, tapping her pen against his lips. He stands up to go grab some books from the shelves, and his sleeve comes up just enough that Melinda can see the beginning of the tattoo on his wrist. She tries not to stare, but Phil notices anyway; he tugs his shirt sleeve down further, moving to grab the textbooks they need before returning, handing her the Stats book.
“Why do you never talk about the name on your wrist?” she asks, tactful as ever; Phil freezes, only swallowing thickly after a moment, shrugging.
“What’s there to talk about?” he asks, concentrating fully on the book in front of him. Melinda frowned, tilting her head as she regarded him.
“You don’t want to meet the girl whose name is permanently written on your wrist?” she asks, skeptical, and Phil sighs, some deep and long noise that catches her off-guard.
“I want to fall in love with someone regardless of the name on our wrists,” he says quietly, shrugging. “I don’t want that to be the reason someone falls for me. I want someone to be in love with me, Phil Coulson, because of the way I cook or the fact that I can make them laugh, or they for some godforsaken reason think I’m good enough to make them happy for the rest of our lives.”
“You sound like my dad,” is Melinda’s soft response, edges of her lips curling up at the corners as she looked at him. “And it isn’t ridiculous to assume you could make someone happy, Phil.”
Phil merely scoffs, and Melinda leans forward, fingers brushing the skin of his wrist briefly before they both turn back to their work.
“You need to stop dropping your hands.”
Phil groans from his position on the ground, squinting up at Melinda as she leans over him, gloves hanging at her sides. “I’m trying.”
“Clearly not hard enough. You do want to pass Hand to Hand, right?” she asks, offering him a hand up; he takes it, letting her pull him to his feet as he glares.
“Of course I do,” he answers, wiping the sweat from his eyes as he heaved a breath, setting his stance once more. “Let’s run through it again.”
They start slow, trading blows; as they gained speed they started to move, footwork moving them in a slow circle as they continued through the pattern of hits. Unexpectedly Melinda sweeps his feet out with her own, but he brings her down with a well-timed blow to the head, and she ends up straddling him when they fall, bodies pressed tightly together.
“Let’s not in the script,” he said, breathlessly, and Melinda grinned, that mischievous gleam in her eyes heating the pit of his stomach.
“Wanted to see what you’d do. Can’t say I’m disappointed in the result,” she replies, her own voice breathless, a sultry edge to it. She leans a little closer, until their mouths are nearly touching, and Phil’s gloves tighten against her waist, holding her firmer against him; she gives a breathless little laugh, chest rising and falling.
Phil takes the opportunity to roll them, hovering over her as her back hits the mat, her breath leaving her body at the unexpected movement.
“Still happy?” he asks, voice low and rough, and she shivers despite the heat in the room, swallowing thickly.
“I could be happier,” she murmurs, losing the gloves and letting her hands touch his chest, digging into the fabric of his shirt. It’s his turn to swallow before he leans down, his mouth meeting hers; she sighs, melting into it and tugging him closer. Her thigh comes up to wrap around his hip and he rocks down into her, their kiss turning hotter in seconds as they press together.
Phil breaks the kiss after a moment, both of them panting, before he swallows, looking down at her with dark blue eyes, lips pink and swollen. “Your birthday is tomorrow. What about the name on your wrist?”
“I don’t care,” she answers, slim fingers touching his face. “I like the way you cook. You make me laugh. And you make me so happy. What more could I ask for in a soulmate?”
Phil just looks at her for a moment before a smile blooms across his face, so big it’s all she can see, and when he leans down to kiss her, it’s like stars exploding behind her eyes. He’s warm and strong and sweaty over her, and she sighs, pulling him impossibly closer until every single part of them is touching, letting him wrap her up into him.
“I love you,” he says when they part before they’ve even caught their breath this time, her lips tingling from his touch, and her chest catches as she looks up at him, her back sticking to the mats.
“I love you too,” she replies softly, hands framing his face. “Let’s go somewhere more comfortable than the mats. My back is sticking to this cheap shit.”
Phil laughs, standing up and pulling her with him; tugging her against him he scooped her up, flinging her over his shoulder as she laughed, hitting at his back.
“Such an asshole,” she says, though she doesn’t fight, and he smacks her ass, eliciting a gasp from her. “Fuck you.”
“That’s the intention,” is Phil’s answer, and she hides her grin in his back, stomach warming.
When Melinda wakes up the next morning, there’s a warm body against her back, and her left wrist felt different. Heavier, somehow, though the ink that had appeared there overnight had no true weight. Phil’s arm tightened around her waist; he hadn’t taken the bandage off his own wrist, but Melinda didn’t care.
“Did you look yet?” Phil asks in a sleep-hoarse voice, and she shakes her head, eyes slipping shut again as she burrowed back into him. “C’mon, Lin.”
She sighs, opening her eyes and turning over to face him. “I don’t care what my wrist says. You’re my soulmate.”
Phil just smiles and she takes a breath, turning her wrist over; her stomach bottoms out and her eyes widened, heat flushing her skin as she looks at the name tattooed on her skin. Phillip Coulson.
She looks up at him, lips parting; her hands go to the bandage covering his wrist, shaking fingers undoing the wrapping. There on his skin is Melinda May, clear as day. “But you never…”
“I didn’t want you to fall for me because my name was going to be on your wrist,” he said softly, shrugging slightly. “I wanted you to fall for me because you liked me.”
“I love you,” she whispered, lips curling into a smile as she touched his cheek, snuggling closer. “Name on my wrist or not, I love you. Now we just don’t have to hide this from everyone.”
Phil laughed, shaking his head fondly, but it was true- not even SHIELD regulations could keep recorded soulmates apart. He kissed her forehead, tugging her against his bare chest, and she sighed, nose pressed to his neck.
“So who gets to be the one to tell Fury?”