"We're gonna get her back."
Jemma lifted her head, expecting Fitz to be there, but instead, it was Lincoln. She looked away again without responding. It wasn't that she didn't like him; she just couldn't find it in herself to like him. Probably because he was too handsome for his own good and she felt a little challenged even though she knew damn well he had his own girlfriend and Skye would never like him that way.
She shifted on the bed so that her whole body was on the bed. She leaned back against the wall and drew her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees. Her eyes were caught on the wall the bed was pushed up against. It was sort of like a memorabilia that Jemma often wondered where Skye got the time to do.
Photographs filled every single inch of the wall, filling it up to its maximum proportions. There was a photo of Trip and Skye posing back to back with a submachine gun in each of their hands, with May looking disapproving in the background; there was a hilarious photo of Hunter, face smeared with cream from the birthday cake Bobbi had baked him; Coulson and May reading a file with serious looks on their faces; Skye's selfie with Andrew before he left; Skye and Fitz and her who were dubbed as The Kids before everything went to hell. Jemma wasn't sure what to feel when there was a photo of Skye and Ward that had obviously been shred to pieces but taped back together, in a tattered state, up at the top left corner of the wall, almost invisible.
The nostalgia emerged like a sudden truck as she took in each and every one of the photos, remembering each moment and wondering about some, like how Skye got May to take a selfie with her on the Bus. That had to be impossible, but Skye did it anyway.
A gasp escaped her throat before she could stop it when she saw the photo smack dab in the middle, more obvious than the others. It was one of her and Skye. She was wearing her lab coat with that ridiculous glasses, her hair was long enough to tie up into a ponytail then. Skye was in her combat gear, a scratch on her cheek and a cast on her arm. Jemma remembered that Skye had demanded a photo then, for some reason Jemma couldn't remember now. Just before the shutter went off, Skye had obnoxiously turned her head and kissed Jemma on the cheek.
Jemma still recalled how everyone teased her for a pair of burning cheeks that wouldn't disappear until the next day.
"I miss her," she whispered, feeling the inevitable tears behind her lids. She licked her lips and closed her eyes in defeat. "I miss her so much."
Jemma couldn't even think about that moment without breaking down. Everything had gone so good and well between her and Skye for three weeks before everything collapsed.
Skye had made well with her promise and didn't just come by two days a week. She came almost every day, forcing Gordon to transport her to and fro. Sometimes, she would even stay over and have movie nights with the team. Gonzales stopped commenting and trying to keep Skye here because he'd had enough of being thwarted of his trapping plans by Skye and Gordon.
And then one day, Skye came with the brightest smile and the worst news. Her mother was apparently alive. She was just hiding out in a mountain in China to recuperate. She had urged them to join her so they could truly be together, Inhumans against the world. Gonzales obviously still didn't trust the Inhumans that much and vouched to go after them to find out everything he could about them.
Without much doubt, Skye had rebelled, claiming that they had no reason to make the Inhumans enemies. All the Inhumans had ever done since they made their presence known to SHIELD was helping them. Jemma had initially thought that Gonzales was just a bloody old man with a stubborn mind. Little did they know that he had good reason to distrust the Inhumans.
Skye left, again. Jemma, again, spent her days obsessing over samples and helping the other look for Hydra so they could get rid of it once and for all. And then, to her utmost fury, Coulson contacted Ward because he claimed that they needed Ward's information to do this. Skye came back on the Bus, saying she needed their help to rescue Lincoln who was captured by Hydra. Jemma barely said a word to the girl, choosing to focus on her tablet instead. However, she didn't forget to snatch the Hula Hoop figurine before the Bus crashed, knowing it meant a lot to Skye.
When they were done rescuing Lincoln, Gonzales and Coulson demanded to meet with Jiaying, their excuses being that they needed to know more about the Inhumans to know they weren't a danger to them because there was now too many of them instead of just a small group of eleven. Skye, having no choice, agreed.
And then it was all a fucking mess. Gonzales shot Jiaying. Jiaying declared war. Turned out Gonzales did not shoot Jiaying. Jiaying lost her humanity after everything Whitehall did to her. Cal turned into a monster. Cal unturned. Jiaying brought her army to the aircraft carrier. Their aim turned out to be the Monolith. Skye, Lincoln, Phyllis, Raina, Dong-Hoon and Venus defected back to SHIELD once they found out about Jiaying. Jiaying tried to kill her own daughter. Cal killed her instead. Cal got Tahiti-ed, in Skye's words. Skye was asked to gather a task force of people with superpowers, but unlike the Avengers.
She didn't get a chance to talk to Skye because she was too busy being swallowed up by the Monolith because Fitz had to be his clumsy self and loosen the lock to the glass case holding the Kree artifact. And then Skye had to be her self-sacrificial noble self to try and save Jemma by offering herself up to the Monolith.
Which was how she was here and Skye wasn't, because Skye was now slowly being torn apart by the Monolith.
She still remembered, before Skye had opened the lock. Their hands were pressed against the glass, almost like they were skin to skin. Jemma had begged her not to do it. Jemma could decipher the look in Skye's eyes to know what she was going to do next. And Jemma couldn't have it.
"I'm sorry, Jem. I can't lose you." And then she opened the lock and the Monolith spat her out and took Skye within seconds. And that was it.
Jemma had cried and screamed, sprawled against the floor and ignoring everyone's attempts at getting her up. She had wailed at the Monolith, screaming at it to let Skye out, to let the love of her life out. But of course, it ignored her, silent and cold and ever so intimidating.
"We're gonna get her back," Lincoln repeated, stubborn and sad. "I promise you, Jemma, Phyllis and I will try to get her back."
"How?" she almost yelled, looking at him incredulously. "You said so yourself, the Monolith reacts to your kind differently than they do mine. It can take any of you at any second without releasing Skye. It will kill you because that's what it's supposed to do! How will you get her out?"
"We will find a way!" he insisted, his eyes red with unshed tears as well.
Their eyes stayed locked for a long moment until she tore her eyes away and sighed in defeat. Sometimes, she wondered if she would ever have to go through such turmoil of emotions if she hadn't met Skye.
Bobbi and Fitz never left her side. It was like they were taking shifts. Wherever she was, one of them would be there. If she was drinking milk, Bobbi would join her and grab a beer. If she was in the lab, Fit would be tinkering with his gadgets in the background. Sometimes, even Mack and Hunter would be there. On occasions, Lincoln or Phyllis or even Raina would try to make conversations with her – but they were too busy figuring out a way to save Skye with the rest of them.
It was like she was just a fragile work of art and they were wary of her breaking.
May came back with Andrew at her tail. Jemma was sure they were sleeping in the same room because once, she saw Andrew entering May's room in his sleepwear, but to be completely honest, she couldn't bring it in herself to care. She was exhausting herself, driving herself to the brink of passing out.
"Jemma, you're not doing this again." Her hold on the glass of milk tightened as she stared down at the white liquid. "You need to sleep."
She heaved a hollow breath and pushed the heel of her palm into her left eye as she propped an elbow on the counter. Fitz was right. She was in extreme need of sleep. She could feel the tiredness in each one of her cell, her brain slowing down, her vision blurring; all of her senses were delaying.
The last time she drove herself to the point of this; it was after she'd seen Skye for the first time in a year. Except this time, Skye didn't left. Skye put herself up to save her.
"I can't," she forced out, her voice weak and timid. The heel of her palm pressed into her eyes, forcing the black into her vision and oh how she wished she would just collapse right now.
"Skye used to sing for you whenever you couldn't sleep," he reminded her gently. She waited for the point he was trying to make. "I recorded her singing once. Do you want to try it?"
The following breath that she let loose was shuddering and feeble, further emphasizing her fatigue. A recording of Skye singing; it still wouldn't be the real thing. She still stayed frozen there, unable to answer Fitz.
"Jemma, are you afraid of sleeping or are you unable to sleep?" he asked, voicing out the question she'd been asking herself.
She hesitated whilst pondering her response to that. "Both, I guess."
He approached her with gradual steps until he was right next to her. "Why are you afraid?"
She moved her palm away from her eyes and stared ahead, seeing nothing and everything: of darkness, of screams, of cries, of fear, of Ward's face before he activated the pod's extraction, of Fitz's pale face when he was unresponsive to her calls, of Whitehall's face across the table, of Bakshi's gun to her forehead, of Skye's crumpled up face as she tried to control her newly gained powers, of Skye's life as she allowed herself to be swallowed up by the Monolith, and then they all were on a loop.
"When I came back from being undercover at Hydra, I used to have these nightmares," she started in a whisper. "I'd dream of being shot by Bakshi. I'd dream of Ward sneaking into my apartment and killing me. I'd dream of Whitehall brainwashing me." She paused. "But none of these dreams were more terrifying than the dreams where Skye would die or be fatally injured one way or another and I wouldn't be able to save her."
"They're just nightmares, Jemma."
She smiled bitterly and nodded. "I know. Skye used to tell me the same thing. And she would sing me to sleep whenever I had one. It was peaceful for some time. And then…the Monolith took me and everything was more vivid and louder and I just…it felt so real. The Monolith is a terrifying thing. And after I came out and Skye…" she paused and swallowed with a small frowned, "the nightmares came back and they were more horrifying than ever. And I don't think…I can't sleep." She felt the wave rising up in her chest and she inhaled harshly to suppress it.
There was a long stretch of utter silence between them, which was only broken by her and Fitz's quiet respiration. "Jemma, what you're doing to yourself right now, it's not helping you," he started. "Skye didn't offer herself up to the artifact so you could destroy yourself like this." His voice cracked at Skye's name. She figured everyone missed her as much as she did. "You need to try to sleep."
Jemma looked to Fitz who was looking at her with so much worry and love. She licked her lips and nodded. "Okay."
He displayed a bittersweet smile before gently wrapping his arm around her shoulders and leading her to her bunk. He helped her get into bed and covered her with the blanket she stole from Skye's bedroom. She nearly had a heart attack when she inhaled and the familiar scent of Skye made its way into her nostrils.
She laid there, sprawled on her left side, and watched as her best friend made himself comfortable on the floor by the bed, leaning against the bedside table. He produced his phone and scrolled through the menu. The entire room was dark except his face which was illuminated by his phone. She smiled diffidently when he made a noise of coup, obviously having found what he was looking for.
"I'm-I'm gonna play it now, alright?" he informed her, looking at her inquisitively.
She waited a second before she nodded.
"I got my ticket for the long way round/Two bottles whiskey for the way," Skye's voice softly traveled into her eyes, filling her brain with desire and desolation and bliss. "And I sure would like some sweet company/And I'm leaving tomorrow, what do you say." The tears were unavoidable and honestly, she welcomed them. A choking sob escaped her throat initially. "When I'm gone/When I'm gone/You're gonna miss me when I'm gone." Then the dam was demolished and she released a full wail, muffled by the material of the blanket.
Skye had sung that as a joke, when Jemma and Fitz had joined her and her other team for a movie night and they were watching Pitch Perfect, of all movies. Fitz had surely recorded it without Skye knowing. Maybe he thought a day like this would come where she would desperately need it.
At seeing her weeping without signs of pausing, he scrambled up and onto the bed with her. She grabbed onto his cardigan as he pulled her up and crushed her into his chest, sifting his fingers through her hair while making shushing noises. She gladly let him do this for her.
Once, she thought Skye knowingly running away from them was the worst thing that could happen. But now, now that this had happened and knowing that Skye did this just to save her, it tore a whole new hole in her and this hole was entirely irreparable. The immense pain she felt, the utter agony she had tearing through her daily; they were incomparable.
"You're gonna miss me by my hair/You're miss me everywhere, oh/You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."
Surprisingly, she fell into a deep sleep and she had no nightmares whatsoever. Poor Fitz had ended up with cricks in his neck and a pair of sore arms, but other than that, he was fine – or at least he said so. He offered to send her the records he had of Skye singing but she hesitated.
She just wasn't sure if she could handle listening to recordings of Skye and knowing that she just wasn't here anymore, not for now.
"Well, just come to me anytime you wanna hear 'em, alright?" Fitz said imploringly. Jemma agreed before shooing him out of her room so she could change.
Sometime during the day, her phone buzzed with Maria Hill's name displayed across the screen. Her heart leaped and she panicked for a moment, wondering what she'd done wrong. She licked her lips nervously before swiping the screen to answer the call.
"Commander Hill?" she greeted rather timidly.
A chuckle sounded across the speaker. "Please, Simmons, I'm no longer Commander anything. Just call me Maria."
"I-I'm not sure that'd be appropriate," she stuttered uncertainly.
The other woman sighed. "Will Hill be appropriate?"
Jemma narrowed her eyes with a slight grimace. "Not really."
Another sigh. "Call me Miss Hill, and that's final."
She nodded, even though she knew the woman couldn't see it. "Yes, Miss Hill," she agreed on autopilot. "What can I do for you, Miss Hill?"
"Nothing, actually. I just called to ask how you're doing."
"Look, Coulson told me all about it: the Monolith, the Inhumans…Skye." Jemma's eyes closed at the mention of Skye. "And I know she means a lot to you. So, Simmons, how are you doing?"
She fiddled with the knob of the microscope as she deliberated the words she should express. "Not well, honestly." She decided on bluntness.
Maria hummed in understanding. "Understandable." There was a moment pause. Jemma couldn't see the former Commander of SHIELD but it almost felt like she was trying to find ways to say something in the most comforting. "Okay, here's the thing," Maria shot off, "I'm really not good with pep talks. If you've heard about me at the Hub or anywhere else, you'd know that I'm a very blunt woman, so I'm just gonna be blunt about what I'm going to say, okay?"
Jemma hummed in agreement, honestly scared of what she was bound to hear.
"Buck up, Simmons." Yep, she didn't want to hear that at all. "You're wasting your life way by not doing anything productive during this time period where the Inhumans – some of whom Coulson told me joined you – figure out ways to get Skye out of the Monolith. And I'm pretty sure that girl did not let herself be swallowed up by that thing and save you just for you to mope and drag your feet around like a loser."
"No, you listen to me." Jemma shut up. "You got everyone on base so worried about you that Coulson actually voluntarily gave me your number so I can call you. I don't know why that man even thinks I can help." Jemma wondered that as well. "My point is, Simmons, you're not doing anyone any good by being the walking dead around the base and scaring everyone else, most especially Skye. I might not know her well but I will bet you a hundred bucks that if she finds you like this, she'll personally smack you across the face for wasting her efforts like this."
Jemma was, frankly, quite irritated by Maria's lack of trepidations, but Jemma was also impressed and coming to comprehension about her actions and their consequences. So, "okay."
Maria did not pursue for any further affirmations of her okay, like she knew that Jemma truly understood her point. Jemma was reminded of why she liked that woman in the first place. "Lastly, Simmons, if by any chance Skye does not make it out –" she drifted off; Jemma could predict what she was going to say next.
She sighed in dejection and cleared her throat. She didn't even want to imagine that scenario. "I understand, Miss Hill."
"Good. Now, get your ass to proper work."
Later, when Jemma was actually assessing the paperwork Coulson handed her regarding the dead Inhumans, she realized that was the most normal conversation she'd had since Skye was gone. She laughed when she realized it was with Maria Hill, of all people.
It was two in the morning. She was just getting ready for bed as she passed by the cargo hold. She stopped in her steps and opened the door leading inside the cargo hold, where the Monolith was locked in. She approached it. The door of the glass case was padlocked, some kind of added security attempt by Mack.
She stared at the stone as it loomed over her. It was so quiet and fearful. She shuddered at the memories she had of her time inside that thing. She couldn't even imagine what Skye was going through, if she was even alive.
Jemma hoped desperately that she was. She touched the glass door gingerly and heaved a weak breath. And then she started talking aimlessly about the things she'd done today and the talk she had with Maria and Bobbi's shocked face when she asked the blonde woman to train her in fighting.
"I miss you," she whispered finally. "And I love you." She swallowed and her brows knitted together in an attempt to ward off the waterworks. "Which is why I promise I will not waste away what you've done to get me out of there. And I also promise I will do everything I can with Lincoln and the rest to get you out as well."
The next morning, May walked in to find her dozing off, leaning back against the glass case. For the first time, Jemma looked peaceful in her sleep.