Skye isn’t sure what wakes her up. Maybe it’s the unusual silence instead of the gentle hum of the bus engines that have been the background noise for months, or the cold spot on the bed next to her where she could have sworn Jemma was sleeping a few seconds ago. Skye sits up and scans the dark. The world is silent and unhelpful, showing no trace of Jemma. Skye swallows the worry trying to crawl into her brain and stumbles out of bed. There’s no way she’s getting back to sleep without finding Jemma and making sure she’s okay first.
Ever since they were pulled out of the ocean, Jemma has been way out of it. Skye figures this is normal, all things considered, and does her best to give Jemma what she needs. Jemma goes hours without talking, now that she’s stopped trailing off and waiting for Fitz to finish her sentences. All the doctors left at shield assure them Fitz will wake up soon, but Skye can tell Jemma knows all too well the science can be wrong. The nightmares seem to be their worst enemy, striking even when Skye has Jemma safely tucked into her arms. They vary, from Jemma’s own death, to Fitz’s, to everyone dying one right after another at the hands of Hydra while Jemma is forced to watch.
Skye shuffles through the playground, the anxious voice in her mind growing with each dark room. She figures at first that Jemma must be in the bathroom or making tea in the kitchen to help her sleep. When both rooms are void, Skye checks the den and the conference room because they’re closest, and then moves on to the more likely possibility of Fitz’s med pod. The lights are on in all their clinical glory, shinning down on Fitz like any shadow might be his undoing. Jemma isn’t there, and for a moment Skye is lost. There isn’t anywhere else to look.
It’s only then that Skye remembers the lab Agent Koenig had set up for Jemma in the lower level of the base. It was larger than the one on the bus, more capable, and as far as Skye knew completely unused. Jemma had refused to set foot in it until she and Fitz could set up the lab together. They hadn’t had their own labs in almost ten years, and Jemma wasn’t about to start now.
Still, Skye doesn’t want to think about Jemma being actually really for real gone just yet, so she pads down the stairs softly and wanders through the less familiar maze of halls until she finds the lab. The lights are on, the glass of the walls pristine and without bullet holes. Jemma is bent over the table in the center of the lab, hands working on something Skye can’t see. The door swooshes open when Skye reaches it and she steps inside the lab gingerly. Jemma doesn’t notice.
Instruments and samples are scattered haphazardly across the table. A stack of files sits on the desk in the corner, singed and torn and obviously from the bus. It looks like Jemma has eight projects all going at once. Skye bounces from one foot to the other, trying to figure out how to get Jemma’s attention without scaring the shit out of her. In the end the universe does it for her when Jemma turns around and catches sight of her completely by accident.
“Oh, Skye, I didn’t hear you come in!” she exclaims with a tight smile. Her eyes are rimmed red and swollen. There’s a scab on her lip from where she must have chewed it until it bled. Her skin has taken on the translucent paleness and veiny blue of exhaustion. Skye swallows thickly. Jemma is very not okay.
“What’s up?” Skye asks softly, “You, uh, you said you didn’t want to come in here.” Jemma sighs and turns towards the table again.
“I had another nightmare,” Jemma explains matter-of-factly. Her hands skim over the instruments on the table and she selects a few before turning back to her samples. “We both died this time. I didn’t want to wake you, so I decided to come down and make myself useful.” Skye blinks at her, not quite sure what to say. Jemma drops a pipette and swears softly. Her hands are shaking as she retrieves it. Skye reaches out and wraps her fingers around Jemma’s wrist. Jemma tenses at the contact, Skye’s fingers warm and steady against her skin.
“You could have woken me up,” Skye murmurs, “It’s not a big deal, y’know? I don’t mind.” Jemma nods briskly and swallows around the lump in her throat.
“You just looked so peaceful and I couldn’t stop… stop…” she takes a deep breath and gestures to the table, “I just couldn’t stop. It’s a very normal phenomenon in patients who have been through a traumatic experience you know. Their mind forces them to stay moving and active so they don’t think about it because if they do they might do something awful in order to escape and that’s never good for anyone.” Her voice is high and strained, hands working every each other in some frantic dance.
“Jemma…” Skye whispers softly. She feels helpless, like she can’t do anything but watch Jemma spiral out of control. Jemma waves Skye off, sniffling as a few tears slip from her eyes.
“Not me of course. I would never do anything so drastic or dangerous. The lab is perfectly safe,” she rambles, her voice cracking as she swipes at her eyes with the backs of her hands, “I just needed to do something to keep my mind off things and this is useful. Perhaps I can even find a way to help Fitz or the team. I haven’t really been pulling my weight around-” Jemma’s hands are shaking so hard she can’t get her fingers around the slide and yet she won’t stop trying, won’t stop blindly grasping for it. Tears fall down her cheeks freely, her voice punctuated by half-sobs and sniffles. Skye can’t take it anymore. She’s got to do something before Jemma hyperventilates or worse. Without thinking she wraps an arm around Jemma’s waist and cups the back of her neck, bringing their lips together for a long, hard kiss.
Jemma’s rambling stops as soon as Skye kisses her, hands coming up to fist in Skye’s shirt. When Skye pulls away Jemma follows her, mouth seeking out the comfort of Skye again and again until they’re both breathless. Skye holds Jemma as tightly as she dares. Jemma’s somehow managed to get her hands under Skye’s shirt and is running her cold palms across Skye’s stomach. Jemma is so cold Skye can hardly believe she wasn’t shivering to begin with. Tears are still streaming down Jemma’s face and coating Skye’s cheeks in salt.
“It’s okay, Jem, I’ve got you,” Skye whispers soothingly against her skin. Jemma shudders in Skye’s arms and buries her face in Skye’s neck.
“You don’t understand,” she chokes out, “When I woke up I could still feel it. The water, it was all around me and I couldn’t make it go away. I felt like I was drowning and I was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands. I was dying and I couldn’t make it stop, Skye, over and over! Even now I can feel it. It’s not ever going to stop is it?” Skye’s heart is breaking at the hopelessness lacing Jemma’s words and the desperation rolling off her in waves.
“Just tell me what to do,” Skye pleads, “What do you need sweetheart?” Jemma fists her hands into Skye’s hair and arches up to kiss her again. The kiss is rushed and desperate and Skye can hardly breathe, can hardly think past all the emotions crashing between them. Jemma pulls back and tangles one of her hands with one of Skye’s, pushing it down in between her legs.
“I need you to make me feel alive again,” she whispers against Skye’s lips, “I need to feel warm and I need to forget, please Skye!” Skye’s breath catches low in her throat and she presses her hand against Jemma as they kiss. This is a last ditch effort, the only thing Jemma can think of strong enough to fight the demons off. Skye can make her forget, she can consume Jemma’s thoughts so entirely that nothing else will make it through. Jemma sobs, broken and frantic, and grinds down on Skye’s hand. She needs Skye to fill her up with love and life, to touch everything the water touched and leave warmth in its place.
“Please Skye please,” she cries desperately, “Make it go away.” Skye doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t even think before she lifts Jemma up onto the table behind them. Test tubes and trays go flying as they clear Jemma’s mess away to make room. Jemma’s nails are digging into Skye’s shoulders, her legs locked around Skye’s thighs. Skye runs her hands up Jemma’s sides and under her shirt to scrape against soft, hot skin. Jemma gasps through her tears and buries her face in Skye’s neck.
Skye forces herself to push Jemma back onto the table. Jemma squeaks in surprise and braces herself with her palms flat on the cool metal. Skye unbuttons Jemma’s pants and tugs at the zipper roughly. She waits for Jemma to lift her hips and then tugs the pants and the soft lavender panties under them all the way down Jemma’s legs.
Skye pulls Jemma back up into her arms and curves her fingers down through soft brown curls into the pink flesh she knows is waiting for her. Jemma makes a noise halfway between a moan and a sob when Skye reaches her center. Her fingers pump out in a steady rhythm, thumb flicking over Jemma’s clit. Jemma presses into Skye’s hand and kisses her so hard she thinks she might pass out. Jemma’s whole body trembles with the pleasure radiating out from her core, fingers working the skin on Skye’s shoulders until it’s raw.
“Oh Skye,” she mumbles as the pressure builds and builds into euphoria. Skye just kisses her again and keeps stroking, their bodies rocking together in slow deep thrusts and shuddering sobs. Skye feels dizzy, high on the feeling of Jemma clenching around her fingers and rolling into her hips. She knows Jemma is close. Her eyes fall closed and Skye kisses her forehead, whispering sweet things into her ear until she’s gasping and scrabbling for something to hold onto, twisting her hands into Skye’s hair as her body comes undone over and over again.
Skye waits until Jemma goes still to drag her fingers out and wipe them on her pants. Jemma’s breathing is even, slow and deep. She blinks several times, her eyes glazed over. Skye smooths Jemma’s hair and picks up her clothes from the floor. She gently slides them up over Jemma’s legs and helps Jemma down from the table. Jemma collapses into Skye’s side the second she’s on her feet. They stand there holding each other for what seems like an eternity. Skye’s heart is still beating wildly, her body still unsatisfied, but she forces herself to quiet.
“Come on, bed time,” she mutters into Jemma’s hair. Jemma snuggles further into Skye’s side and kisses her jaw.
“Thank you,” she whispers, her eyes locked with Skye’s full of love and sadness but mostly a quiet acceptance that Skye knows will carry her through the night.
“Always,” she replies. With a click, the lights in the lab go off, the night once again plunged into silence.