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At Least You're Next To Me

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Coulson - Director Coulson - tells her on a Tuesday. She leaves on a Wednesday.

He calls her into his office, and it's just like before but completely different. As much as he tries to be, he's not Agent Coulson anymore. He carries the weight of his new title in his shoulders, in the creases under his eyes, and when he speaks it's with an authority she's not accustomed to hearing in his voice.

"Simmons. I have an assignment for you."

She nods, says "yes sir," and then he tells her. It makes perfect sense - SHIELD needs someone to help with intel on Hydra, and most importantly, Hydra's science division. He says more after that, explains mission parameters, but all she hears is static. Her heart flutters in her chest, well over a hundred beats per minute, her lips go numb. Then she remembers: breathing. In and out. She's supposed to do that twelve to sixteen times per minute, at least.

There's silence. Jemma's fairly sure it's the kind that means it's her turn to speak. "I see, sir."

"I'm aware that I'm asking a lot."

"It's - undercover? Inside Hydra. Me."

He nods. "If you're willing. I'm aware that things are complicated for you right now, with Fitz's condition being what it is. But I also think it might be good for you to have a break from all of this. I know that you and Skye are -" He pauses, meaningfully, and Jemma feels her ears grow hot. " - close, and that she's been a help. But we can all see the toll this is taking on you."

He takes off his reading glasses, reaching for a cloth to clean them in a gesture that reminds Jemma painfully of her own father.

"I wouldn't ask if I didn't have to." He doesn't say it outright, but Jemma knows. She knows that there's there's nobody else left in SHIELD who's qualified for this. That as much as she tries to help Fitz recover, things between them just keep getting harder. Jemma also knows that if she refused, Coulson would let her. This isn't an order.

Before she can really let herself think about what he's asking, the reality of it, she finds herself asking, "What would I need to do?"

He smiles, replaces his glasses, and hands her a dossier.




She tells Fitz, first. He deserves to hear it from her.

Coulson helped her come up with a lie - she's leaving SHIELD, going to stay with her Mum & Dad and figure out what she wants to do with her life. It sounds hollow to her own ears, perhaps because she knows the truth, but Coulson assures her that it's the best explanation. They practice in his office until she can do it, until she can say the whole thing easily, with conviction. She's better at lying than she used to be, but preparation always makes her feel calmer.

In a way, lying to Fitz is easiest of all. He can't press her the way he would have, before his accident. She can see it in his eyes, though, the hurt and suspicion, and that's almost as bad. She can still imagine exactly what he'd say, if he could, down to the exasperated sigh.

Jemma, for heavens's sake, going to find myself. I've never heard anything so stupid in my whole life.

Instead, what he says is, "are you sure?"

She nods, and tries her best to meet his eyes. "I am, Fitz. You've been doing really well, but I think - I think that maybe a break from me is what you need to really get better."

He clenches his fists, and she can see him trying to stay calm, trying to be sensible about this. She feels like she's going to be sick. "Maybe you're right. I'll be -" He taps his index finger against the table, trying to get the word out.

Jemma pulls him into a hug, because she can't bear to watch him like this a minute longer. "Fine," she whispers into his shoulder. "You'll be just fine."




She tells Skye last. She needs the practice on everyone else, first.

She puts it off as long as she can. She meets Skye in her bunk like they do so often these days, sliding next to her in bed and snuggling close while Skye sets up the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

It's still so wonderful and new, spending time together like this. She's starting to develop a taste for the casual contact, Skye's arm looped around her waist, her palm flat against Jemma's stomach. She's starting to learn the way Skye smells, the way she takes her coffee in the mornings, the little pieces of her childhood that gave her the quirks Jemma likes so much in her now.

She doesn't do this often - sex with emotions, with the messiness of holding hands and learning the intricacies of each other - but with Skye, it's always felt so natural.

It makes having to ruin it that much worse.

She tries to let herself enjoy the moment, to pay attention to what's happening onscreen and the feel of Skye pressed against her back, keeping her warm. But she can feel her stomach churning, her skin practically crawling with the knowledge of having to leave this behind. Her heart is thudding in her chest, and she knows it's physiologic; the increase in cortisol levels brought on by emotional stress leading to physical manifestations. But it's different, with Skye, and working up the nerve to lie to her is something harder than with everyone else. She tries not to think about the reasons that might be the case.

Finally, in between events at the Wall and Danaerys banishing Ser Barristan, she blurts out, "I'm leaving."

It's not graceful.

Skye taps at her tablet, and the sound from the television stops. "What?" she says. She's smiling, watching Jemma with eyes full of trust and love, clarifying like she must have misheard her.

"The Playground," she says. "SHIELD. I'm - I'm leaving."

Skye's face goes white. "What? Why?"

Jemma looks away. When she speaks, her voice is distant, like she's reporting autopsy findings. She stares straight at her hands, and does her best not to fidget. "Because, things are so different now. Especially since Fitz. And I just - I think it's better for him if I go away, for a while."

Skye is quiet for a long, long while. "But that's -" she starts, then stops. Jemma can hear her take a long, shaky breath in, then out. On the television, Oberyn and Ser Gregor are duelling to the death. Without sound, it's oddly surreal. She tries to pay attention to that.

"Can't you think of any reason you might want to stay?" Skye finally says, and her voice is watery, almost childlike.

Jemma looks up at that. There's a weight behind her ribs, heavy on her heart, and she knows it's another physiological response to emotional distress but it feels like she's dying. It's worse to look but she has to know, has to see what she's done.

Skye's eyes are rimmed-red, bright with tears, and Jemma wants nothing more than to take Skye in her arms and apologize. She doesn't mean any of this. She can think of a hundred thousand reasons to stay, all of them Skye, and it's awful because she has to say this anyway. She has a mission, and she is a SHIELD agent, and this is what SHIELD agents do. They serve the cause.

She tries to speak, to spit out the explanation she planned, the one she practiced when she told Trip goodbye. But when she opens her mouth, her throat is too tight to make words. All that comes is a sob, the kind that makes her vocal cords ache. She feels the tears well up behind her eyes, spilling over as she manages to whisper, "Oh, Skye."

She can't quite manage any more, not yet. Her hands come up to cover her mouth, and she bites her lip behind them, trying to keep her tears back. She's waiting for Skye to see through her, to realize that this is all an awful lie so that she can tell her everything, to hell with Coulson and compartmentalization.

Instead, Skye's face goes flat. She's still crying, tears leaving bright, wet trails across her cheeks, over her lips, but her jaw is set and her eyes are cold. "Fine," she spits. "Message received."

Jemma realizes, too late, what Skye's assumed. "No, Skye, I - "

She shakes her head, reaching out to take Skye's hand in her own, but Skye pulls it away with a fierce shake of her head. "Don't touch me," she hisses. Jemma's never heard her sound quite so hurt, before.


She doesn't finish watching Game of Thrones. She goes to her bunk, and packs her things as best she can through tears.




Jemma wakes up with a headache, eyes still swollen. Coulson sees her off, hands her a manila envelope with airplane tickets and her new identity inside. He gives her a hug before she leaves, warm with exactly the right amount of contact to feel professional yet caring. Jemma hugs him too tightly in return.

"We'll be in touch," he says, rubbing her back with the flat of his hand.

"Of course, sir," she says. She has to wipe away a few stray tears as she pulls back from the hug, and Coulson graciously pretends not not notice.

Then, she leaves.




It's the details that trip her up, when it comes to lying. It's the details that make it hard to be alone.

Everything is too quiet. She's grown used to the hum of airplane engines, the whir of the generators at the Playground, Skye's breathing next to her. It takes her a week to learn to fall asleep again, but she does.

She creates a history for herself. Weaves in as much truth as she can, leaves out the parts that don't fit. She is Jemma Simmons, with two PhDs and a stay at the SHIELD academy. Truth. She is working for Hydra. Truth. She believes that science is a tool that should be used to further Hydra's vision of a better world. False. She pretends well, though. Pretends that she is the kind of woman who was so broken by the collapse of SHIELD that she felt right about allowing her work to be used by Hydra. Pretends that she wants nothing to do with her old life, the people she once considered family. Sometimes, when it's dark and she's lying awake, it feels like it could be close to true.

She cuts her hair. Her ponytail feels familiar and comforting, but the version of herself that left SHIELD hates when it's pulled back. She buys new clothes, ones that feel like herself but darker, more grown up. She buys shirts that fit more loosely, thinking about her one brief training session with May, and all of the places she learned to conceal a weapon. Just in case.

She buys a pistol, a small one. She joins a shooting range downtown, and practices on Saturdays until her arms and shoulders ache but she can hit a target without trembling, every time. Just in case.

She finds things she likes: her morning run, breakfast sandwiches with extra hot sauce, the security guard at work who learns her name after she's only worked a week.

Twenty one days after she starts, she finds an import shop around the corner from her apartment. The front window is an odd collection of souvenirs - commemorative plates stamped with William & Kate's wedding photos, mugs with Elizabeth II as a young woman, smiling regally. But there's a shelf at the back that's stocked with things of real value, all the snacks that Jemma remembers from growing up. Tunnock's and Yorkshire Tea, her favourite before she left home to start at the Academy.

She hasn't been able to find it for years, and now she makes herself a cup every afternoon, when she gets home from work. Sometimes, she'll close her eyes and pretend her mum is sitting across the table, hair pinned back by her glasses, telling her all the things she used to take for granted. Things like, just be careful, dear and we love you.




She finds a coffee shop down the street, one that makes nice lattes and scones that aren't quite right, but are better than most. She makes a habit of visiting, and sends Coulson coded messages in the shape of crumpled up muffin papers.

One day - not one day, she remembers exactly, it's a Thursday and she's been gone for one month and two weeks and five hours - she looks up, and swears she sees Skye. It's out of the corner of her eye, just a glimpse of dark hair and a certain posture and red plaid, but it's enough that she hopes. She looks again, throat tight. From the back, the new barista looks just like Skye - same hair, same confident sway to her hips, jeans and a black t-shirt and that red plaid vest that Skye loves so much.

But then she turns, and obviously - obviously - she's not Skye at all.

Jemma's cheeks burn. Of course it's not Skye. That was the whole point. Deep cover, minimal contact. The girl at the espresso machine smiles, tilts her head just the right way, and Jemma gets a sudden flash of Skye's face the last time she saw it, tearstained and so, so hurt.

She gathers her things, and leaves. She doesn't go back.




The next time she sees Skye - really Skye, not the memory of her triggered by a familiar pair of shoes, or the smell of her shampoo - is in Morocco. Jemma's sure it's her, across the deck of the Maribel Del Mar.

Donny is dead - Donny is dead - and Skye is looking right at her, reloading her rifle like this is something she does all the time, now. (Which it very well might be - Coulson doesn't do the best job of keeping her up to date on anyone but Fitz.) Skye looks at her - it's hardly eye contact, she's too far away - and lowers the barrel. She can't hear the familiar voice in her ear telling her what's going on, but she sees the rifle and Bakshi and understands that this is her moment.

She wants to look again, wants to stare and then walk over to make sure that Skye really is as brave and strong and alright as she looks. But by the time she checks again, Skye is gone.




Weeks later, she arrives home, and Skye is there. In her apartment, sitting on her couch with forearms on her knees, legs wide apart, like she sits there all the time. Like they've been in a room together since Jemma lied and told her she was leaving and ruined everything.

Jemma blinks, mentally chastising herself for not noticing before she opened the door.

"Hey," Skye says, quirking the corner of her mouth into the barest hint of a smile. She's wearing street clothes - jeans and Converse sneakers and an oversized hoodie, not quite like she used to wear but close - but she's sitting like an agent, not tense but not relaxed, either. She looks good. She looks different. Jemma really likes her new haircut.

"Oh. Skye," Jemma says.

She feels a little out of breath, and it shows in her voice. It's too much - her head is still buzzing with thoughts from work, turning over biochemical formulas and the inevitable internal ethical dilemma of working to advance but not working hard enough that she helps Hydra achieve something awful. She's tired, and Skye is here, and all she can think about is how she'd managed to forget just how beautiful Skye is, close up.

It takes her thoughts a moment to find the correct track - her contact has always been Coulson, and they're due for a meeting but clearly he's not here, that's not right. A sudden thrill of panic rushes through her, but she does her best to recall her training. Breathe. Eye contact. Don't betray your emotions. She lets her brows furrow into what she hopes is only a mildly concerned frown. "Coulson, is he -"

"Everything's fine. Coulson's just busy elsewhere, but he wanted someone in the field to debrief with you." She says it casually, as though it's not a big deal that it's her. As if it could have been anyone visiting her, being her only point of contact while she grits her teeth and pretends that she doesn't mind working for Hydra, day after day. As if Jemma doesn't miss her, desperately, every single minute.

"Alright." She realizes that she's still standing in the entryway fully dressed, door ajar. She tries to focus on the details - closing and locking the door behind her, setting her bag down, hanging up her coat. "Can I get you anything to drink?" she asks.

Skye blinks, surprised. "Sure, I guess."

"Excellent." Her voice rings too bright, awkward in the quiet. She hates that it's like this. She hates that this is her fault.

She crosses to the kitchen to fetch a beer for herself, one for Skye. She can feel Skye's gaze on her back, watching every detail of the way she moves, the way she carries herself. She takes a long drink of her own before going back to the living room, and tries to ignore the memory of the way Skye looked at her, hurt and teary-eyed, the day she left.

Jemma sits down next to her, not on the same couch but in the adjacent chair, giving her space. "Here," she says, mumbling a little as she passes the beer to Skye.

"Thanks," Skye says, eyes flicking up to meet hers. Their fingers brush, the pad of Skye's index finger against Jemma's fourth and fifth, and Jemma feels it like an electric shock. The hair on her arm stands straight up, and she wants to gasp. She's missed Skye so much. All of her, being touched by her, and the weight of it hits Jemma so suddenly, she doesn't know what to do.

Skye, for her part, blushes pink. Her lips part, and just for a moment, she looks like the Skye that Jemma knows so well. But then she takes a breath, brings her expression under control. She really has been training with May, and it shows.

"So, what's up?" Skye says. Her tone is all business, ready for a mission debriefing so that she can carry the information along to her fellow agents.

Jemma nods, finds her professional voice, the one she can always fall back on for presentations and expert panels. She tells her about the work she's been doing with Hydra, the feverish interest in weaponizing everything from cell phone speakers to cigarettes, how everything can always be more efficient, more lethal. As she speaks, her eyes flick to Skye's hands, notices the way her thumbnail is flicking at the edge of the label on her beer bottle, a nervous habit. Not all business, then.

She talks quickly - from nervousness and from eagerness to impress Skye, if she's being honest - and it's not long before she's out of actionable intel. She stops speaking, then, at a loss for what else to say.

Skye frowns, making eye contact. "Anything else?"

"No," Jemma says. Then, awkwardly, "Sorry."

"No, it's - it's cool. This is really good work."

It's an accurate compliment, and ordinarily she'd accept it as such. But it's Skye, and she's still not sure quite how they fit. Jemma realizes that she'd forgotten, being away, how much she likes Skye. The compliment makes her feel shy, and she reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear, a nervous habit. "Thank you."

Skye looks down at her bottle, swirling the last half-sip around and around until it foams. It's fidgety, uncomfortable. Jemma can't help but wonder if she's making Skye feel that way. A dozen different questions hover on the tip of her tongue (I'm sorry, how have you been, I was so worried that you'd get hurt and I wouldn't know, would you like to skip talking entirely and start with kissing) but she can't bring herself to ask any of them. She's not sure what else to say that's helpful to debrief, but she doesn't want Skye to leave, and Skye isn't talking, and she's always been terrible at this part.

Eventually, they're both silent for long enough that it's uncomfortable, and Jemma finds herself blurting out, "Are you hungry?" in a tone that reminds her painfully of her own mother.

Skye looks up, relieved. "Yeah, actually, I am."

Jemma's about to stand again, go into the kitchen to make something, when she remembers the state of her pantry. Unless Skye's idea of dinner is beer and stale Tim Tams, she's going to have to order something. She winces, embarrassed. "I don't actually have any food here. Is takeaway alright?"

Skye nods. "Maybe Thai?"

"Pad thai with shrimp, and hot and sour soup?" Jemma says in reply. It's automatic, Skye's usual order on the tip of her tongue, and it's only when Skye looks surprised that she catches herself. It's been months. Maybe Skye doesn't like pad thai anymore. "Unless you want something else, I can always -"

"No, no, that's exactly what I wanted. I just -" she hesitates, eyes flicking down to her bottle. Her thumb is working on the label around the neck, now, peeling it away. "I didn't think you'd remember."

"Of course I do."

Their eyes meet, briefly, and Jemma feels affection bloom in her chest. Skye gives her a smile, the shy one Jemma's always loved, and her heart feels like it does a biologically-improbable flip.


Jemma calls ahead, and walks over to the restaurant to pick up their food. It's just around the corner and Skye isn't supposed to exist, so it makes sense for her to stay at the apartment. It's chilly ouside, but Jemma leaves her scarf at home on purpose. On the walk over and the walk back, she lets the cold air wash over her, trying to tell herself things like it's just Skye and you're alright.

But she can't stop herself from getting shaky and nervous, too eager to make sure she does things properly. It feels like a first date, like things did when they first started edging towards each other. When she arrives back at the apartment, she gives herself a moment outside the door to breathe in, then out.

Skye is in the kitchen.

They unpack the takeaway containers together, sorting out the contents. Skye hums, breathes in deeply when she gets to her food, with a hungry-happy little smile. Another one Jemma's missed.

Jemma, for her part, can't stop talking. She moves from unpacking the containers to finding plates - she has dishes, after all, and she busies herself putting everything onto proper plates and bowls, apologizing for the state of her kitchen. It's stupid, and it makes her look nervous, and she wishes she wasn't doing it. She can almost hear May's voice in the back of her head, coaching her on how best to lie, to appear calm.

She pushes away from the kitchen island, about to put the carry-out bag in the trash, when she feels Skye's hand on her wrist.

"Jemma, it's okay," she says. "I understand. You had to be undercover, I couldn't know."

Jemma stops cold. She speaks before she can think, and this time, that's probably best. "But I hurt you. And Fitz, and everyone - I hate that I had to do that. And now you know anyway, so what was the point of all of that when I could have just told you in the first place."

Skye's palm slides down from her wrist to her hand. Her thumb strokes across, from Jemma's second to fifth metacarpal, then down her pinky finger. It sends sparks all the way up her arm, and Jemma feels herself sigh. "It was Coulson's call. That was the mission, right?"

Jemma nods. She can't look away from Skye's hand touching her own. It feels so important that Skye is touching her, that her hands are warm and her fingertips are callused in new ways and that she's lacing her fingers between Jemma's, holding her tight.

She hears the scrape of a chair against the kitchen floor, and then Skye is standing up. Then she's inside Jemma's personal space, tall in her new boots and stepping Jemma backward. Jemma's left hand is still tangled with Skye's, but her right moves to Skye's waist on instinct. Her eyes flick up, to Skye's eyes, her mouth, and then her back is against the fridge and she hears herself sigh and they're kissing.

Skye's mouth is hot against hers, and she's leaning in with her whole body, fitting against Jemma just like she used to.

The relief of it - of feeling this, of kissing Skye like this - is overwhelming, for a moment. Skye's body feels so strong, so sure, and she's kissing Jemma like she needs this, like it's been months because it has been, god.

"I missed you," Skye sighs. It's quiet, mumbled on an exhale as she breathes between kisses.

Jemma doesn't have words, not yet. She kisses Skye over and over and over again, clawing at her back, trying to pull her closer even though they're already touching from mouth to foot, tangled up. "I missed you, too," she finally whispers against Skye's mouth.

Skye pulls back, leaning away to look at her. Jemma bites her lip at the loss of contact. But then Skye reaches up to tuck Jemma's hair behind her ears, brush it away from her face. Jemma leans into the touch, catlike. "You're okay, right? Are you okay?"

Jemma laughs. "Yes. Yes."

"It's not funny," Skye says, suddenly serious. "You're working for Hydra. They're - incredibly evil, I've seen it."

"They are," Jemma says. That makes Skye laugh back, just a little. "But I'm safe. I can do this."

Skye nods, like she believes her. They both lean in at the same time, foreheads bumping together. Jemma slides her hands up, from Skye's waist to her nape, idly tracing circles against the skin there. They stay like that, still, for a long moment. Until Jemma's fingertips find just the right spot, and she watches a full-body shiver run through Skye, just like she always used to.

This, they have always been good at.

They make eye contact at the same time. Jemma sighs out Skye's name, voice needy in a way that's not entirely surprising.

"Fuck, Jemma," Skye hisses, and suddenly she's crushing Jemma's mouth in a kiss that's all teeth, rough but in the best way.


Eventually, fumblingly, they make it to the bedroom.

Skye's mouth feels like it's all over her, so eager, kissing her lips-cheeks-throat as she walks Jemma backward towards the bed. When they finally find it - Jemma first, the backs of her calves hitting the bedframe - Skye leans them both down, settling Jemma onto her back. She steps away, arms down at her waist and then she's lifting her shirt up, pulling it off. She starts to fumble with the button on her jeans but before she can finish Jemma is pulling her back, bringing her close again.

She untucks Jemma's blouse, unbuttons it with sure hands. It's all Jemma can do not to beg her to go faster - they've been so far apart and she's needed this, needed her - but she holds still.

Skye leans forward to kiss Jemma's breasts, supporting herself on her arms. Jemma runs her hands across Skye's shoulders and notices the hardness of muscle that wasn't there before, deltoids and triceps showing beneath her skin. She knows, intellectually, that this is what happens through field training. One needs to build muscle to handle the job of being a field agent. But that doesn't stop her body from telling her yes, yes and arching up against the knee that Skye's planted between her legs, grinding as hard as she can.

Skye sort of groans against Jemma's chest, leaning forward so that her knee presses up against Jemma's groin, half-thrusting. Jemma whispers, "Please," reaches up to stroke Skye's hair over and over again, tangling and untangling her fingers.

Skye doesn't even take Jemma's trousers off; she unbuttons them just enough to slide one hand inside, and god, god that's almost close enough. Jemma can feel herself aching, slick with desire and so ready, every atom of her whispering please, please as she arches up in anticipation. Skye's fingers rub against her, not-quite-enough through her underwear but it makes her groan all the same. Then they're fumbling together, Jemma's hands helping as Skye finds her way under the waistband of Jemma's underwear and then it's fingertips against skin, sliding against her clit. Skye lets out a sigh, smiling at Jemma with that look in her eyes, appreciation and pleasure that Jemma is wet for her, eager for her, arching up and asking for more, god, more.

Her hand slides lower, and then Jemma is whimpering her name becase Skye is inside her, two fingers and then three, filling her up. Jemma bucks forward, trying to feel more of her, and as she moves, Skye's palm makes contact with her clit and then it's perfect. It's friction and pressure and Skye's forehead resting against her abdomen, breath hot across Jemma's skin. She's here, she's real, and it's the feeling and the realization together that tip Jemma over the edge, coming fast and hot against Skye's hand.

She comes for what feels like minutes, clutching at Skye, trying to catch her breath even as Skye's fingers curl forward, drawing every last shudder out of her.

"Oh," she whispers, as Skye pulls out of her, lets her relax back against the bed.

"I missed you," Skye murmurs in reply, crawling up the bed to hold Jemma close, kiss her forehead, her cheeks. "I missed you a lot."

Jemma is content to be kissed, to run her hands up Skye's arms, across her back, and notice how things have changed over the past few months. She's stronger now, arms more sure as she holds Jemma close, not quite willing to let her go.

"I missed -" Jemma starts, but her eyes are so heavy, and she's still foggy from orgasm, not quite sure how to find her words.

Skye buries her face in the hollow of Jemma's clavicle, not meeting her eyes. "I'm glad you didn't leave us for real," she murmurs against Jemma's skin.

"I wish I hadn't had to leave you at all." She says you like she could be talking about the whole team, but the only one she's thinking of is Skye.

Skye looks at her, eyes bright with emotion that Jemma isn't sure she wants to name. Jemma suddenly wants to make her promises, things like I'll never lie to you again and next time, I'll take you with me, but they both know those aren't promises that either of them can keep. All Skye says is, "Me too."

Jemma understands.

Skye shifts against her, cuddling so that her whole side is pressed against the length of Jemma, her groin fitting into the curve of Jemma's hip. She arches, catlike, pressing herself against Jemma's side as she runs her palm across Jemma's belly, breasts, ribs. She's trying to be casual, but there's so much need in her fingers, in her eyes, and Jemma wants - needs - to make Skye feel exactly as good as she just did.

She turns, pushing with the heel of her hand against Skye's shoulder. She's not strong enough to make her roll over, but Skye leans away as if she is, spreading herself out on her back. She reaches behind herself to undo the clasp on her bra, making it easy for Jemma to pull the straps off her shoulders and leave her bare-breasted.

There's a sense of urgency to her touch as she reaches out, thumb caressing the curve of Skye's breast, making her arch toward the ceiling. There's a feeling that Skye might disappear, that this might get taken away again. Jemma knows, intellectually, that they have at least a few hours. That nobody from SHIELD is going to swoop in through the window and take Skye away mid-kiss. But she can't seem to listen to the intellectual part of herself, not when she has Skye's skin underneath her hands. She wants to touch her forever, wants to make her sigh and cry out until her voice is all gone, and then do it again. A few hours will never be enough.

It's also hard to be slow when Skye keeps whimpering, asking please with her whole body under Jemma's hands. It's delicious, Skye wriggling against her with the same sense of urgency, like maybe she missed this just as much as Jemma did.

It ends with both of them helping Skye get out of her trousers, her underwear. They get stuck at her boots, which take a while to kick off (although Jemma is spooned behind Skye, fingertips teasing at the spot underneath her breasts that makes Skye's hands go slack, and maybe that's not making it go faster) but they manage.

Eventually, it's Skye on her back and Jemma settling between her legs, licking into her.

It's so good, the sounds she's making. Every flick of her tongue makes Skye whimper, tense, so close but not quite there. Jemma hums in satisfaction, tracing shapes over and over across her clit. After a little while, Skye angles her hips, whimpers please and that's it, that's what has Jemma slide her fingers inside, one and then two. She curls them forward, pressing just so, and then Skye is shuddering around her wet and hot and this is everything. This is perfect.

She moves up the bed, kissing Skye's hips-abdomen-breasts as she goes. She tries to curl around Skye, but Skye shakes her head, no. She turns Jemma so that she's on her side, back facing Skye, and curls around her from behind. Skye's chin fits against Jemma's shoulder and their hips bend together, everything lining up just so. Jemma can feel Skye's mouth pressing kisses against her neck, over and over again. She wishes she hadn't been away this long. She wishes she'd taken Skye with her. She wishes they could keep doing this, every single night.

Jemma finds herself drifting in and out of sleep, Skye's arms tight around her waist, her chest. Eventually, Skye stops holding her with such urgency and her limbs relax. She nuzzles against Jemma's nape, kissing and tickling at the skin there until Jemma rolls onto her back, turning to see Skye's face.

"Hello," she murmurs.

"Hey," Skye says, eyes full with something not unlike love.

It's just then that her body reminds her that she's absolutely starving, her stomach suddenly grumbling loud enough for them both to hear. "We forgot to eat dinner," Jemma says, blushing.

Skye's nose wrinkles. "We did."

"The food is probably cold, by now."

Skye sighs. "I should eat. I should -" she looks away, like she doesn't want to say it. "I should get back."

Skye's brow furrows into a frown. On impulse, Jemma leans forward to press a kiss between her eyes, smoothing the skin there. "How long do you have?"

"A while," Skye says, eyes flicking to the clock on the nightstand. "My ride comes at four."

"Alright," Jemma says, strokes Skye's hair. "Alright."

"Late dinner?" Skye says, forcing a smile.

Jemma turns to check the clock herself, laughs. "Early breakfast."

She rolls off the bed to rummage in her closet for a camisole and slides that on, buttons her jeans back up. Skye finds her panties but leaves her trousers off, and pads to the kitchen in her underwear, barefoot.

The food isn't half-bad, once it's reheated. They eat together, tangled on the couch, Skye's leg wrapped around Jemma's hips. It feels like an ending - and it is, the team will be here soon, Skye has to leave - but when Skye is touching her, it doesn't feel so difficult to face.




Jemma wakes up on her couch, the sound of her alarm gently chirping from the next room. Her shoulder is aching, and Skye is gone.

She eases into a sitting position, pressing her fingertips against the tight muscles of her neck until she feels like she can keep her head straight. The table is empty, plates cleared, bottles gone. There's no evidence that anyone but Jemma was here the night before. Probably that's how things should be, but she can't quite keep from feeling a little sad, all the same.

She pads through the kitchen to the bedroom, hitting the off switch on her alarm clock as she passes. The bed's been made, Jemma's clothes from the night before tucked neatly into the laundry basket. Almost like Skye wasn't here at all, like they didn't spend hours tangled together, remembering each other all over again.

The clock blinks at her, 6:00. She needs to shower.

There's no trace of Skye in the bathroom, either.

She makes her morning cup of tea, pours it into her favourite mug, trying not to think too hard about the night before and whether she'll ever get a chance to see Skye again. It's not until she opens the fridge for milk that she notices the Thai food from the night before, packed up and put away. That's something Jemma definitely didn't do last night. On top, there's a note, unsigned. It's Skye's handwriting - stay safe.

Jemma takes it out, tapes it to the fridge. She'll try.