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Playing The Game: Act II – Knights & Knowledge, Romance & Regret

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This was their last hope, really. S.H.I.E.L.D. was a name dared not uttered these days, and Mycroft was at the end of resources he could give them without this becoming an official matter of the British government. Mary had used up most of her favours in the days after S.H.I.E.L.D. had fallen, and so now they were reliant on what Natasha and Sherlock could muster up with the meager help of those on the grey edges of Mycroft’s government contacts. Molly knew burning up favours just to find Phil and his team would leave them shorthanded if an emergency arose, but finding them was first and foremost on the list to see if he even wanted their help, much less needed it.

It had been a month after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and they had traveled to damn near every continent on the planet, short of Antarctica, in search of the elusive team. She herself had tried reaching out to Leo and Jemma, just to see if they didn’t even need to use any favours, but had gotten nothing but static. This was not good. And as she hit the punching bag with everything she had, she knew they would either use up all the capital they had or…

Or you won’t be wanted. Won’t be needed. No one will care you want Ward to rot in a hole because of Victoria. They have their own hurts. They won’t care about what Victoria meant to you, the taunting voice inside her head that had been getting progressively louder said, coming to the forefront, and she countered with another pass at the bag, remembering everything Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader had taught her.

Damn Phil if he didn’t want her help, to be honest. She’d take what little help she could muster and find Ward on her own. And she wouldn’t hand him over to Phil if he didn’t need her. Ward would go to Maria and then Maria could…

But Maria isn’t with S.H.I.E.L.D., remember? the voice mocked. She went with Stark, to the nice job there. That guarantee of the hole to rot in is no good. You may have to--

“No!” She shouted, jabbing at the bag. She wouldn’t break her rule. She hadn’t done it to the bastard who had gone after her father, she hadn’t let her grandmother kill him, either, and she wasn’t about to do it with Ward. If she wouldn’t kill over family, she wouldn’t kill over Victoria. She wouldn’t break that vow over anybody.

She heard the door to the hotel’s training center open and saw Sherlock standing there, dressed in casual clothing, silently asking if it was alright to join her. She nodded and he came closer, like he knew just what she needed.

Yes, you would, the mocking voice said, and she knew she would be hard pressed to argue with it at the moment. She loved this man more than she had thought possible, more than she had imagined she ever could before they had left London. If he had seen a different side of her after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all of this, she was seeing a different side of him as well, ever since the first night in Clint’s suite, when she told the story of what had happened to her father and why she had left S.H.I.E.L.D., when they had gone to their own suite and she had kissed him, the kiss that had gone so dangerously close to being more than just a kiss. The night she knew that she loved Sherlock more than she had loved Tom and she was fooling herself if she thought when all this was over she could go back to him in London and still treat Sherlock as just her friend.

She might, under the circumstances, kill for Sherlock. Might. It would depend on the circumstances, but she could see herself doing it. And she knew he would, in turn, do the same for her.

She moved away from the punching back and went to the area where anyone could spar. It was easy to spar with Sherlock; he never held back, never treated her as though she was fragile, but he was still careful. She would be hurt at the end of their sessions, and she knew she had hurt him, but they would usually go back to wherever they were staying and take Clint’s jar of muscle rub and massage the ointment into the parts that hurt. It usually wasn’t much later that the rest of their clothing was gone and their lips found each other and they were working up a whole different type of sweat. It had just seemed so...natural and simple and she wondered why they hadn’t told each other the truth before.

Because your life was full of lies, and it’s only because of Nat you have this, the voice said. She shook her head and got into position, taking the first swing at Sherlock, which he expertly blocked before sending a strike to her side. She dodged it and then decided to see if she could do Natasha’s signature move, putting her legs around Sherlock’s neck to bring him to the floor. She used to be good at it, though never as good as Nat, but it had been a long time. He sent out another strike, but she grabbed his hand and then in a series of swift motions she and Sherlock were both down on the mat.

“Effective,” he said as she released her legs and then moved back to sit on her arse.

“Nat was a good teacher,” she said as he sat up and moved closer. After a moment she laid down, knees still bent and then looked up. “What happens if we don’t find Phil and his team, Sherlock?”

After a moment he moved next to her, lying down next to her, their arms touching. “We go back to London. You live your live with my brother pestering you to join MI-6 every week and twice on the weekends.” Molly snorted a laugh at that. “I stop using your flat as a bolt hole and we share that bed of yours on a regular basis. Eventually, we find some semblance of normality like you had, unless that isn’t what you want.”

“And if it isn’t what I want?” she asked, turning to face him as the door opened again.

“Then I go where you go,” he said simply before they heard a cleared throat. Molly pushed herself up to a sitting position and turned to face the door, expecting Mary or Natasha or Clint.

Instead, there stood Phil Coulson, shaking his head with a smirk. “Trust you to get the guy who’s supposed to be a high functioning sociopath all sentimental, Hooper. I swear, you could give an android feelings.”

“Phil!” she said, scrambling to her feet. “Do you realize you’re an impossible bastard to find?”

“When you’re supposed to be dead, it helps,” he said. “Especially when your organization is no longer official. But I think we have some things to talk about, you and me and your team.” He paused. “And you have to tell me how you managed to get Romanov, Barton and the elusive assassin Rosamund under you because I know you’re good, but wow. I just managed to get Melinda when I started the team.”

“And Leo and Jemma,” she pointed out. A look crossed Phil’s face, one almost of guilt, and Molly frowned. “Phil?”

“There’s a lot you need to get caught up on,” he said, “and it’s not all good. But if you’re here to help take down HYDRA, I could use the help.”

“Just one member in particular,” Molly said, shaking her head. “And I have the feeling you want him taken down too.”

“Grant Ward?” Phil ventured. Molly nodded. “I almost forgot how close you and Victoria were.”

“Most people do. It wasn’t like we were open about it,” she said.

“You couldn’t be, then,” Phil said. He glanced over to Sherlock. “Does he…?”

“Know that I’m bisexual?” Molly asked. “Yes. And he knows Victoria was my ex-girlfriend. It’s not something I would like the others to know, though. I mean, as far as most of S.H.I.E.L.D. was concerned, we were best friends.”

“It was open knowledge about Victoria, you know,” Phil said.

“But about us?” Molly asked quietly. Phil shook his head. “Then if she died not talking about our relationship, it should stay between the few who knew the truth. But you know why I want Grant Ward to rot. You know what it means to me to make sure her death is avenged.”

Phil nodded. “Which is why your team is part of S.H.I.E.L.D. as long as it takes to take the bastard down,” he said. Molly felt a weight taken off of her shoulders. “Get dressed and go up to Natasha’s suite. She’s usually got Stoli, right?”

“She has some,” Molly said with a nod, and with that Phil turned around and left. A moment later Molly felt Sherlock come to her side and take her hand in his. “I suppose that life in London is going to have to wait a bit.”

“Just as well,” he said, leaning over and pressing a kiss in her hair. “I didn’t want to have to deal with my brother that much anyway.” Molly grinned a bit at that and the two of them headed towards the exit to go to the room. There wouldn’t be a chance to work up a sweat today, but there was forward movement on the mission. This was almost worth the loss of the moment of bliss.