“You’re asking me to trust SHIELD?” Lincoln looked at her, mouth open a little in disbelief.
Skye glared right back at him. “Last I checked, it was SHIELD that saved your life back when HYDRA was going to cut you open.”
“It’s just—” He set his jaw and shook his head. “It’s a lot to take.”
The people who had saved him, supported him, had started a war. Jiaying was dead. SHIELD knew about the Inhumans. His entire world had changed.
Skye scoffed a laugh. “My mother tried to kill me, my father has no idea I’m his daughter, and I could take down California in the big one if I lost my temper.” She gave him a look. “It’s a lot to take, sure. But there’s a lot to do.”
It wasn’t like Lincoln wasn’t used to doing things either.
She regretted ignoring Raina when she’d had the chance. She didn’t ignore the Inhumans now or the messages that Raina had brought. She was the only person qualified to help her people and the only one who they just might follow.
Skye didn’t just look to her SHIELD files when she started considering who to recruit for her new team. She brought the profiles she was pulling together to May, who sighed, and finally sent her to Andrew Garner.
“If anyone can give them psych evals like you want, it’s him.”
“Do you still love him?” Skye asked hesitantly.
May shot her an assessing gaze. She handed the papers back. “Let me know if you need anything else for these.”
Skye rolled her eyes as if she were still just a rebellious rookie and took the files to Andrew.
HYDRA wasn’t the first time Lincoln had been taken and used for his powers, laid open on a table under a knife and a clinical eye with no care for the pain it caused him, even for whether he survived. SHIELD and HYDRA were two sides of the same coin, and every instinct in his body screamed at him to return to his practice and his regular life and pray his listing in the Index never returned to haunt him. Gordon couldn’t save him now.
But this was Skye, Jiaying’s daughter, begging him to come with her, work with her, and help their people with his powers.
Good on one hand and bad on the other.
He didn’t want to look into those eyes that had seen as much pain as his. He didn’t want to think about the fact that she’d lost her entire family and somehow still wanted to do this.
“For the Inhumans. Don’t let SHIELD be the ones to decide without us.”
He sighed, rolled his head back, and resigned himself to a lost cause. “Fine.”
When Lincoln was in, he was all in, and he took Skye thoroughly off guard with his genuinely helpful suggestions on ways to do things, who to approach, and what tack to take to get a particular person on board.
“I thought you didn’t want to be here,” she finally asked him when they were on the road to one of the Inhumans who also did not regularly live at Afterlife.
She had her foot up on the dash and was sipping her coke through a straw. Lincoln was a stickler for her throwing her trash away in the on-board trash can he’d installed, but he just sighed and let the shoes go.
She turned to study him and ask, “Why are you helping so much?”
Lincoln didn’t answer at first. He kept his eyes straight ahead on the road, expression serious. “This is for Inhumans,” he said at last. “Not SHIELD.”
“I see.” She kept looking at him for a bit, took him in with her eyes in that investigative sweep May was always trying to drill into her head, as she let that answer sink down into her gut where it squirmed uncomfortably. Loyalty lines drawn firm and in stone, not that she should have expected any different, not that she had expected any different. She just hadn’t expected it to take this form or for him to be loyal to her and her cause in the firm belief she was loyal to his.
Or the firm demand.
She turned again to look straight ahead beside him. “What’s this one like?”
A long silence, then finally, Lincoln sighed. “Cautious. Let me talk at first, tell him what happened to Jiaying, explain that you’re her heir.”
Something rose up in her throat at that, but Skye choked it off and just nodded with a small, strangled noise dying before it could turn to words. She wouldn’t protest, wouldn’t deny her inheritance, even if that was exactly what she wanted to do.
The team was forming around them, electricity and earthquakes, healing and intangibility, telekinesis and telepathy. It was good in a strange sort of way that shouldn’t have felt as comfortable as it did.
Lincoln found himself enjoying the camaraderie and solidarity of those around him, of knowing exactly what it was like to experience powers like theirs and threats from those like them and those who would hurt them. He even found himself liking Mack, who would never outright trust him, and Hunter and Fitz and the other teammates Skye had surrounded herself with before discovering the heritage that awaited her.
And he enjoyed Skye.
She kept him close, asked his help in strategizing, and leaned more on him than any other in directing their team in scenarios growing ever stranger.
“We should probably call it a night,” he told her at the end of nearly twenty hours going over reports and analysis. Skye was beginning to acquire an overcautious approach to investigation and tendency to overwork.
“What about that police report from the downtown incident? What did that say again?” She reached for her laptop.
Lincoln put his arm squarely in the way and leaned on the table between them. “Doctor’s orders. You need to rest.”
He hated that nickname, though there was a surprising amount of affection in it when Mack saddled him with the moniker. Sparkplug led to Sparky, which was even worse.
Lincoln just looked at her and stood his ground. “In the last seventy-two hours, you’ve gotten maybe eight hours of sleep. Even SHIELD regulations say you need sleep to function properly.”
She tried to go around him. He moved with her.
She looked at him for a long moment, then stopped, meeting his gaze openly for once. He stared at her, hand dropping lightly to her elbow.
She flinched away. Never get close to Skye. No.
He dropped his hand to his side.
“I’ll just go to bed then.” She disappeared without a backward glance.
Skye wasn't exactly sure what tipped her over the edge they'd been hovering on for so long. Maybe it was the warm laughter. Maybe it was the popcorn and memories of good times in Afterlife when she finally convinced him to try popping it with his powers. Maybe it was the way he was close and present and loyal to her in a way that she didn't deserve.
It was downtime, and they had commandeered the couch on base to watch mindless action movies, all fun and fluff, and the second had just finished with the third waiting on the coffee table. Instead of reaching for it, Skye reached out and brushed her fingers over Lincoln's shoulder. It could be construed as innocent.
He stopped and stared at her, and she was pretty sure neither of them were construing any of this as innocent.
Ward hadn't been here for SHIELD either, she reminded herself. She already knew Lincoln wasn't loyal to SHIELD.
"Sometime," she said, pretending to be casual and pulling it off a little better than she thought she would, "could you make me fly again?"
He huffed out a little laugh. "You want to be popcorn?" He tossed a kernel at her.
She laughed it off with him. "No, silly. I want to fly."
They were dancing around each other, though most people wouldn't see it that way. There weren't the aborted attempts at drawing closer or hesitant speeches, but there were looks and the interreliance stayed strong as they drew closer in their work.
Lincoln preferred to spend his downtime with her when he wasn't playing resident medical officer to the rest of the team, just as Jemma still served for Skye's old team.
But when it was time to relax, then it was nice to fall in beside her on couch or at the table with drinks or chips, and he didn't even mind having other SHIELD agents around that had nothing to do with Inhumans at all.
There wasn't anyone else around though when he was making a midnight snack and Skye wandered in and squinted at him sleepily, a blanket half-wrapped around her pajama-clad shoulders.
"Couldn't sleep?" she asked.
He shrugged, smiled. "Up late."
She stared at him for a moment, then frowned. "Which case file were you working on?"
But Lincoln shook his head. "Medical stuff. I haven't entirely given it up."
Something ached briefly, but he shoved it aside in favor of things safe to think about. He'd always wanted to be a doctor, not the person he'd become instead, and he'd never wanted to be a SHIELD agent.
"You ever think," he asked, "that you'd end up here, doing this?"
"You mean as a kid?" Skye sat up on the counter beside where he was working on his sandwich and looked thoughtful. "Yeah, actually. Not SHIELD, but finding my family, no matter what it took."
She'd found them. Jiaying. Cal. The Inhumans.
Lincoln. He wasn't family, but he was part of this thing that had waited for her forever.
"Do you regret it?" he asked.
She looked at him a moment before shaking her head softly. "No." She sipped a soda, and he suddenly realized she had stolen his.
"Skye," he started, exasperated, and wrapped his hand around the can. "This will keep you up."
"Maybe I want to stay up," she said, a faint edge to her voice.
She was staring at him again and he was staring at her, and neither of them was looking away.
He gently took the can back, and she let him. "I don't think this is a good idea," he said firmly.
Skye stared at Lincoln for a long moment. She had been too restless to sleep and this… Well, it probably wasn't a good idea, not when she was just waiting for him to stab her in the metaphorical back.
He shook his head and opened his mouth as if to say something, then couldn't seem to find the words.
"Fine," she said, sudden and heated, as she shoved off the counter and went back the way she had come, back to her room where she could hide the flaming heat in her cheeks and the hot, tight ache in her chest.
It was a bad idea, but she didn't know why Lincoln thought so. Maybe everything had been a bad idea—the Inhumans, the team, everything.
It hadn't taken Lincoln long to figure out that he couldn't get close to Skye. She shied away from him in anything personal that didn't have to do with her parents or the Inhumans, and he always figured there was a part of her that wanted SHIELD to be as much her people as they were.
They were, perhaps. But they weren't Lincoln's, and he couldn't trust them. He wondered sometimes if he could really even trust Skye.
Days later, they had settled into a professional way of working that wasn't cool, but it wasn't warm either, and sometimes he missed even the friendship that she was now offering less freely. He went to find her on downtime where she was sitting on the edge of the roof, watching the sunrise.
"You still aren't resting much," he commented as he settled beside her.
Skye shot him an unimpressed look. "Like any of us do."
They didn't. She had told him from the beginning, there was a lot to do.
Lincoln stared at her for a long moment and she wasn't looking away. He slid his palm slowly over hers, and she didn't stop him. Gently, he coaxed the electrical charge to do as he wanted, and he heard the soft sound of her breath catch and saw the hint of a wondering smile light up her face and eyes when it lifted her from the ground.
He held it as long as it felt right, then gently let her go.
She looked at him for a long moment, smile warring with a sober expression on his face that made him wonder a little what she was thinking.
"You asked earlier," he said, breaking the awkward silence. "With the popcorn."
"Yeah. Yeah, I did." She pressed on her lower lip with her teeth, then leaned her head against his shoulder, tentatively, as if afraid he would push her away.
But Lincoln couldn't find it in him to keep the distance between them as large as it ought to be. He tucked one arm around her shoulders and pulled her a little closer. "Hey."
"Hey." Skye's voice held that warm smile he'd missed so much.
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. She stopped him as he started to pull away and pressed her mouth to his for a single, heart pounding moment, then pulled back with a small but audible swallow.
"I just wanted to do that," she said quickly, "at least once."
Lincoln dropped his head to her shoulder and groaned. "That wasn't the plan, Skye. We can't—"
"Why not?" she demanded, cutting him off before he even got a chance to start. "Why can't we? I'm not asking for forever."
He drew his head up to look at her.
"Just now," she said, voice softening, eyes dark and wide and earnest. "Just be with me now. You already are."
And she was right about that. Whatever path they walked down in the future, whether she turned on him or the Inhumans or he failed whatever test she was hoping he'd pass, they were already working together, friends together, and his hands had always wanted to hold her.
"Skye…" He pressed his forehead to hers, sighed, and resigned himself to a lost cause. He finally, finally kissed her.