If there was anything in the world Sharon Carter knew well it was how to work hard. Her work ethic, her father had told her many a time, was that of her mother and her aunt combined. She had things to prove, and a legacy to uphold, yet she also knew she had to show that she was more than Peggy Carter’s niece.
It was that fervent need to prove herself that left her sprinting down the hallway past the labs at twenty one hundred hours on a Friday.
She had stopped being all sharp pressed blazer and death glares once the clocks scattered around the Triskelion had announced that it was technically after-hours. With her blouse rolled up to her elbows and blonde curls sweeping her shoulders, Sharon hurried the files that she had just collected from another agent towards their destination.
Haste overtook her footsteps and training as the files scattered in a sudden collision, the sound of glass shattering filling her ears as well-honed instinct took over.
One arm shot out to catch the other person before they fell to the ground in what would no doubt be a bloodied mess of cuts and scratches, and the other snatched the remaining beaker out of the air before it could reach the ground.
“Oh, goodness,” The voice came, flustered and distinctly British, “I am so sorry for that. Fitz is always saying that I am too clumsy to be allowed near fragile lab equipment outside of the controlled environment of the lab.”
“It’s alright, honestly,” Sharon interjected before the lab coat clad scientist before her could work herself up further, her hand still around the scientist’s waist as she found her footing, “I should have been looking where I was going, being a field agent and all.”
“Thank you for saving me, then,” The scientist smiled sheepishly, her brown eyes apologetic as lines began to crinkle around them, “From meeting the bloody fate that lay ahead of me if I had fallen onto broken beaker shards.”
Sharon removed her arm from around the scientist’s lithe frame awkwardly, cursing herself under her breath as she felt the unmistakable burn of her face colouring.
She snuck a glance down at the heart rate monitor on her wrist — she had been working on her shooting at the range just now, since there was more work to be done before she could perfect her aim — noting the blinking figure that was climbing steadily into the upper seventies.
Thrusting her right hand out, she pressed the unbroken beaker into the scientist’s hand, bending down to gather the papers that had spilled the folders she had been holding.
Drawing a paper out of the very back of the last folder — Mel wouldn’t care if the page was a little scratched or crumpled, would she — she gathered the glass shards that littered the floor between them in a neat pile before scooping it up.
Pouring the broken pieces into the glassware bin that the scientist had snatched from one of the labs along the corridor, Sharon fidgeted before she spoke once more.
“I’m Sharon, Spec Ops,” Bowing showily, she hoisted the files back onto her hip with her left arm before she stuck her right out for the scientist to shake.
A firm handshake was exchanged, complete with a bright tinkling chuckle and a winning smile — Sharon would do much sillier things than bow dramatically in a corridor of the Triskelion if it meant she could see that smile and hear that laugh again.
“Simmons,” The girl before her replied, her accent crisp and reminiscent in some ways of Sharon’s aunt, though it was about half as aggressive as Aunt Peggy liked to be at times, “Jemma Simmons. Sci-Tech, Bio-Chem.”
“You’ve got to be younger than me, are you?” Sharon questioned, taking in the youth behind the incredibly bright eyes.
“I’m twenty one, thank you very much!” Jemma replied, somewhat offended.
“Then we’re evenly matched,” Trying to suppress the butterflies that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in her stomach, Sharon bit her lip before she gestured to the files in her hand and spoke once more, “Well it was a pleasure meeting you and I wish we could see each other again soon, but I need to get these files up to Admin otherwise Agent May will have my head.”
She receives a comical (adorable, really) widening of Jemma’s eyes before the scientist ducks back into the lab with the one beaker she has left and a small smile at Sharon’s retreating form.
True to her word, not all that much time passes before they see each other again.
It’s in yet another one of those seminars that Director Fury never attends (never has, according to both Mel and Aunt Peggy), except this one is specifically for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents under the age of twenty five.
Something about them being the future or something or the other.
Truth be told there aren’t all that many of them there. Most people this age are still in the Academy and even fewer of them have clearance beyond Level Three.
This makes her, Jemma and the other half of Jemma’s brain, Leopold Fitz, the only Level Fours and Fives in the room. The other agents give them a pretty wide berth, though, recognising FitzSimmons for the stories of the boy genius and the girl who joined S.H.I.E.L.D. as a seventeen year old with two PhDs, and avoiding Sharon purely on the principle of her being a Level Five.
When Jemma introduces Fitz to her, though, the wide-eyed astonishment on his face told her that he knew exactly who she was.
“Sharon!” Jemma had called as she approached, pulling the curly-haired boy behind her, “This is Leo Fitz, my lab partner. His specialty is engineering.”
He had tilted his head as he regarded her before something clicked in his mind, his eyes lighting up and widening in a split instant.
“Sharon bloody Carter, Simmons!” He spits, his accent thickening with each word, “You did not mention even once that the Sharon you were raving over was Peggy Carter’s niece!”
The sheer amount of consternation captured in Jemma’s exclamation of Fitz’s last name distracts Sharon for a moment before the implication of what Fitz has blurted out fully registers in her mind.
“Raving, huh?” Sharon smirks as she raises an eyebrow, inwardly reassuring herself that this proves she was not the only one driven to distraction after that chance encounter.
Jemma gives her that small quirk of a smile again, the one that had her dizzy for a half hour at least after they had parted in the hallway.
Mel had thumped her on the back of the head with a file and threatened to call her mom or Aunt Peggy for how dazed she had been.
“To be perfectly fair, Fitz, she didn’t make a big deal out of FitzSimmons either, and I didn’t realise she was Sharon Carter,” Jemma reasons, folding her arms and angling herself towards Sharon rather than Fitz, “Besides, it was Sharon who had me intrigued. No matter what her last name was.”
Fitz wanders off in search of food soon after, leaving the two of them to talk amongst themselves. Dipping her head with the pale dusting of a blush on her cheeks, Jemma chewed on her lip as she shifts her weight between both her feet as the both of them search for words in the sudden silence.
They both utter hesitant syllables at the same time, eliciting awkward laughs from them both before Jemma motions for Sharon to go ahead.
“So, Jemma,” Sharon begins, twisting her hands together in motions akin to reassembling a handgun, “I totally understand if you don’t feel the same but I was wondering if you would like to go to dinner sometime this week?”
Stubbing her toe into the ground, Sharon looks everywhere on the ground to avoid raising her eyes to meet Jemma’s gaze.
“I’d love to,” Jemma replies, allowing Sharon’s shoulders to drop and release the tension that they were holding on to like a lifeline.
Her eyes take in Jemma’s grin and the crinkle of her nose, the tinkling sonority of her laugh and the gentle lilt of her voice, the cupid’s bow curve of her lips and the kindness in her eyes and she realises what her Aunt had been telling her about all her life.
That everything is brighter and it’s almost as if every feature and every smallest detail comes alive and makes everything so very beautiful.
That, just as Mel had told her during her senior year at the Academy, it was as if any and all darkness you were afraid of could in an instant fade into the background because the person was pure light in your eyes.
Two years into their relationship Jemma lay her head on Sharon’s shoulder after a long day for them both, curling one of Sharon’s gold locks around her finger as she apologises for having to leave their shared apartment and the Triskelion for a new placement.
The Battle of New York changed a lot of things for their Agency and this was but one of them. Sharon hadn’t the clearance level to know the entire story, but she had had her Aunt twist Uncle Nicky’s ear enough for him to have told her that the new assignment was on a new mobile command centre.
Jemma, on a jet millions of miles away from her at any given moment.
At least she had Fitz, that she would not be alone. Sharon was so happy for her, really, and she told Jemma exactly that when she had begun to shed tears that seeped through the cotton of Sharon’s button down.
An elite, handpicked team, spoilt for choice when it came to missions. State of the art equipment. Her own lab.
This was all she could have dreamed for Jemma and more, and at least Sharon knew Mel would do all she could to keep Jemma safe.
But Sharon was afraid all the same.
Afraid that the same things that had happened to so many agents, especially those close to her, would happen once more.
That, like Mel, Jemma would end up with a before and an after since she was going into the field now.
That this meant that there was a chance that she would lose Jemma out there.
Sharon had seen what Mel had tried so hard to hide from everyone after the Battle of New York. Hiding behind stacks of paperwork on the procedures to take when such a large number of their people fell at once in such an event.
Hiding behind condolences that she doled out on official letters to the next of kin of their fallen agents, never admitting that she had been so close to receiving one herself, if not for the cellist named Audrey or Aubrey or something like that.
She held Jemma for one last night, peppering her face with soft kisses before she had to let her go in the morning.
Jemma was trapped in the place between excitement and trepidation, unsure of what would happen out there but so ecstatic at being given the chance to see beyond the confines of the labs in the Triskelion.
As she picked up the backpack and luggage that she would be bringing on her new assignment, she left one last soft kiss on Sharon’s lips and one on her forehead, promising to call as soon as she could, as often as she could.
This was what Aunt Peggy meant, Sharon shuddered as she closed the door behind Jemma that morning, when she told me about the feeling of sending someone off and knowing they could die out there.
Jemma was her Steve Rogers, then. All Sharon could hope for was that Jemma would come back to her.
A year to the day S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, she’d begged Mel to fly the plane to D.C. just for a couple of hours. The entire team that had swiftly become Jemma’s family had come along, hungry for a day off.
The Carters and their close friends (in this business, they were often more like family, really) had come together and arranged a dinner. Aunt Peggy had dubbed it the “Sharon Stops Being a Coward Dinner”.
Mel was meant to escort Jemma to dinner with Trip (Sharon could not get over the fact that her cousin had spent more time with her girlfriend than she had over the past couple of years). She’d finally see her after way too long.
Sharon had put in enough overtime to have a good few months off while Jemma was away.
She fumbled with the square velvet box in her pocket, tightening her grip around it as she heard a footsteps on the gravel outside.
Striding swiftly towards the front door, she opened it smoothly as her face broke out in a grin the moment their eyes met.
Mel and Trip relinquished their monopoly on Jemma, the older of the two ruffling Sharon’s hair as they passed them. Sharon snarled jokingly and made to retaliate, but not before Jemma reclaimed her attention with a smile she hadn’t seen in far too long.
“I’ve missed you so much, Jem,” Sharon muttered as she embraced the slight frame of her girlfriend.
Jemma held her tightly, murmuring softly into her ear as they swayed on the spot, “I’m here. I’m safe. I’m home.”
Sharon didn’t need a heart rate monitor to tell her that her heart was racing, or that the tips of her ears were turning pink as she placed a gentle kiss on Jemma’s soft lips for the first time in months. A pliable smile appeared on both their lips, making their teeth clash as they giggled at the contact.
Flashing porch lights and wolf-whistles (Aunt Tori and Uncle Nick, I swear) made them part, Jemma bringing one hand up to cup Sharon’s cheek and Sharon tucking the shortened strands of Jemma’s hair behind her ear.
Taking Jemma’s hand, Sharon led her into the bustling atmosphere of the house, past all of the guests and family members.
“There’s someone I want you to meet,” Sharon guided her, hands over her eyes, to an armchair in the centre of all the activity, uncovering her eyes as she introduced them, “Aunt Peggy, this is Jemma Simmons. Jem, this is my aunt, Peggy Carter.”
She left the two women to talk, pacing about the room as surreptitiously as she could as she gathered the courage to complete the mission she had set for tonight.
A hand rested on her shoulder lightly, stopping her in her tracks.
“She really loves you,” Mel reminded her firmly, her voice low amongst the noise, “Every risk she’s taken, every danger she faces, she thinks first of you. She fought like hell out there so she could come back alive, to you. Don’t waste it.”
“Thanks for watching out for her, Mel,” She turned, hugging her “cousin” tightly as she spoke, “You’ve taught her a lot, and that’s kept her alive.”
Melinda ruffled her hair, extricating the box from the vice grip she had on it before querying, “How long have you been planning this?”
“As long as she’s been away. I asked her parents about three weeks after you all flew off the first time,” Sharon mumbled, receiving the box as Melinda placed it back in her shaking hands, “I’m not afraid, Mel, just nervous as hell. I can’t imagine a life without her.”
With that, Melinda turned on her heel and headed back towards where there were fewest people. Wiping her hands on her slacks, Sharon approached the armchair where Aunt Peggy and Jemma were seated.
“Aunt Peggy, can I borrow Jemma for a moment?” Sharon tried to hide the quiver in her voice as much as she could, catching the slanted grin her aunt shot her and returning it slightly.
“You two love birds go have a moment to yourselves,” Peggy acquiesced, allowing Sharon to pull Jemma to her feet and guide her to the space just in front of the fireplace.
Sharon got down on one knee, her lips pressed together as she prayed her legs would not give out. Opening the ring box that had been burning a hole in her pocket for weeks, she calmed the butterflies in her stomach as she began to speak with as steady a voice as she could manage.
“Jemma Simmons,” The woman in question grinned widely, the beginnings of tears pricking her eyes already, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to be the one you come home to, and come home to you, and grow old with you, and turn all the tales of my childhood to truths with you. From the first day I ran into you in that corridor at the Triskelion I was drawn to you, and now I know why. Jemma, will you marry me?”
“Yes, my daft sweetheart,” Jemma gasped audibly as Sharon slid the ring onto her finger and spun her around in an elated embrace, “Of course I will.”